Alli winced at the bright lights of the hotel hallway as she walked
towards Nick's room, humming "Vehicle" to herself as she tapped Nick's room key card against her hip. The previous morning's
experience had taught her enough about knocking on Nick's door in the early hours of the morning, so she had taken it upon
herself to get a key from him the day before. She wasn't nearly as cheerful as she had been the morning before; the combination
of a slight hangover and her anger at Nick didn't make for quite as pleasant an attitude. However, she had convinced herself
to go easy on him that morning. He'd drank a good amount more than she had, but it didn't stop her from delivering her lecture
on her position in Nick's life. She wasn't going to be "just a girl," but she refused to play second fiddle to the slut of
the moment, and she intended to make that perfectly clear. There was also the tiny part of her that hoped that Nick would
remember his promise and apologize profusely, but one too many talks with AJ had dimmed such hope. She shook her head at the
thought of AJ. He was a good friend to her, she understood and appreciated that much, but there were times when she really
hated the things he had to say.
She finally reached Nick's door and slid the key card in. To her immense satisfaction,
the light on the lock turned green and she turned the handle, opening the door in the process. She began reciting her speech
in her head to assure her point would be made effectively.
Unfortunately, no amount of AJ's lecturing or Brian's worrying
could have prepared her for the scene the greeted her once the door closed.
Her best friend was lying on the bed with
half of the covers on him and half of them off. His blonde hair stuck out in every direction, and the soft sounds of his snoring
filled the room. He looked just like a little boy when he was sleeping. All of the ego and rebelliousness that occupied him
of late gave way to a childlike innocence. In fact, Alli almost jumped up onto the bed to lie down with him like she had so
many nights as they were growing up because he looked just like the person she remembered. She almost wanted to fall asleep
in his arms again, knowing that she had a friend.
In fact, she probably would have, but then she noticed
that Nick wasn't alone in the bed, and the innocence dissipated again. She felt her stomach churning as she recognized the
blonde from the club the night before, and her heart sank to her feet. The blonde, as far as Alli could tell, wasn't wearing
much either, and Nick's bare backside lay uncovered and in full glory for the whole world to see. It took all of her willpower
not to adjust the sheets and re-cover him.
He actually did it. He actually slept with someone while I was here.
He's going to fuck admirers at night and attempt to play friend to me in the morning. The thought disgusted her completely,
and she closed her eyes a moment to regain some form of composure. Who the hell does he think he's kidding?!
surveyed the room and frowned when she caught sight of the empty wine bottles in the wastebasket and the empty glasses on
the bedside table. The smell of stale roses wafted in from the bathroom, and she cringed as her head filled with images of
what might have happened the night before. The images gradually got worse as more of the mess came into view. There was a
bra on the lamp in the corner, a pair of boxers flung carelessly across the couch, and various other articles of clothing
strewn across the floor. Her eyes stopped on a certain object, and she had to purse her lips to keep from emptying her stomach.
Lying in the middle of a pile of video games and Nick's leather pants was a damp, wrinkled condom.
another word, Alli made her way out of the room and into the hallway as quickly as possible. She could deal with a lot of
things early in the morning, but the aftermath of Nick's one night stand was NOT one of them. It only served to confirm what
she knew already; she no longer knew her best friend. He had turned into a monster that she couldn't ignore but couldn't handle.
"Damn, girl, you need some sun. Have you always been that pale?"
"Amen, honey. You look like you just saw
I must have a sign right on top of my head that says, "Yo! Over here! Bad day that needs to be made
worse! As if I don't have the insatiable need to kill people already, why don't you come and add yourself to the list?"
looked up and groaned when she saw the two figures coming toward her. There was no way they could expect her to be cheerful
after playing witness to something like that. However, once she got a closer look at her visitors, she realized that she wouldn't
need to, and the traces of a fake smile faded back to a deep frown.
AJ pouted at his girlfriend's
side. "Okay, um, feeling unloved now. Don't I get a 'hello'?"
Amanda smacked him lightly and furrowed her brow. "Age,
quit being cute. Al's upset, okay? Try to show a little sympathy, dammit." She turned her attention back to Alli and frowned
in concern. "What the hell did Carter do now?"
Instant understanding: one of the many reasons that Amanda was Alli's
best girl friend. Alli's expression automatically drooped.
"One night stand," she muttered in disgust. "Not that I
really mind, but you'd think that he could be a little less obvious and a little more careful."
AJ's eyebrows rose
considerably high. "She's still there?"
Amanda snorted. "Good Lord, AJ, I cannot believe you..."
his eyes at his girlfriend, but his lips curled slightly at the corners. He was clearly happy to have her with him. "No, babe,
listen for a sec. They're usually gone by morning. He rarely keeps them in the room overnight. Too much commitment."
feeling of hopelessness was fast becoming anger. "You have got to be kidding me."
AJ sighed. "Al, none of us like
it, but there's not a lot we can do."
Amanda, however, was already ranting. "He's sleeping with bar sluts while his
best friend is on the road with him? He whined and whined about getting you here, and now he can't even keep his horomones
in check long enough to spend some quality time with you? How old is he, anyway? He can't honestly think that no one's going
AJ placed a tentative hand on Amanda's shoulder, which she quickly shook off. "Baby, calm down..."
can you tell me to calm down?!"
AJ turned helplessly to Alli, but the other woman only shook her head. "Oh, no, AJ.
If you think she's pissed, you ain't seen nothing yet. I'm beyond pissed. The thought that he could just use women like that..."
AJ gave her a pointed look. "You knew he did."
Alli looked at him incredulously. "I've never had to fucking
see it before! And, supposing that she doesn't mind, the thought that he'd even consider associating himself with
someone that cheap makes me want to castrate him..."
Amanda nodded her head eagerly in agreement, but AJ cringed.
"Uh, let's refrain, shall we? Al, please don't go playing Lorena Bobbit. One was enough, thanks."
She rolled her eyes
at him. "Why not? If he's not going to use it wisely, then he doesn't deserve it."
AJ sighed heavily. "Don't you want
him to be able to have children?"
Alli glared at him as though he was insane. "If he's acting like this, why the hell
would I want him reproducing?"
"Can we change this line of questioning?" Amanda interjected, too angry to notice AJ's
relieved expression. "Why isn't this phase over, anyway? Hasn't he been an asshole long enough?"
Alli sighed. "Girl,
if I had a Book of Shadows, he'd be sparkling with every anti-asshole spell there is. Unfortunately, I have no influence on
"He's definitely a kid. I mean, I can understand it when you're not here, but while you're here? I'm sorry,
Al, but I thought he cared more than that."
Alli snorted indignantly. "Amanda, at this rate, I'd be surprised to find
out that he cares at all."
"He cares..." AJ insisted, trailing off at the death looks that both women were giving
him. "He's just confused right now."
Alli groaned. "Yeah, well, he's got a hell of a way of showing it. I liked the
incessant whining and the temper tantrums a lot better than this."
AJ gave her a curious look. "Why do you care so much
anyway? There isn't an ounce of romantic attachment between you two."
Alli's glare made him feel at least half his
height. "I want my best friend back, dammit! I grew up with Carter, and I don't want him disappearing on me!"
if you're too late?" AJ countered. Alli's glare darkened.
"AJ, here's your warning: you're severely pissing me off.
If you keep going, even Amanda's going to be too late to save you, and she's only a foot away."
AJ knew the threat
was for Alli's own preservation, but he adhered in order to keep both women at bay. "Okay, point taken."
an eyebrow warningly at Alli. "You're not laying a finger on my man, understood?"
Alli rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"Fist, Manda, not finger!" She blinked in surprise when Amanda caught her in a hug.
"Gosh, girlie, it's so good to
see you. Orlando was boring as hell without you there to help me stir up trouble."
AJ smirked. "I'm sure the city
of Orlando will be forever grateful for their two weeks in peace." If either woman heard him, they made no move to acknowledge
"I missed you too, Manda. Carter is driving me up a building."
Amanda frowned. "A building?"
nodded firmly. "Hell, yeah. We passed the wall stage on the first day and a half."
"If you only
"You can tell me over lunch. I'm starving, and Age has a rehearsal to get to anyway."
"We'll do lunch
then," Alli agreed, and they turned to go back down to the hotel lobby. Before they went too far, Alli turned back around
to face AJ.
AJ nodded, trying to hide his smile at the girls' antics. "Yeah, Al?"
"Don't wake Nick up. If he's going to pull a stunt like that, he deserves to get in some kind of trouble."
grin lit up his darker features. "Babe, you got yourself a deal."
Before he could respond, the women
had turned the corner and were out of sight.
* * * * *
Amanda took a slow sip of coffee and looked over her cup at Alli.
"So you finally caught him with a conquest." She shook her head. "Damn, I really thought he had more morals than to let you
walk in on something like that..."
Alli gave Amanda a disgusted look at the nickname she had used for Nick's nightly
flings. "Conquest? Is that what he calls them?"
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Babe, he calls them a lot of things. According
to Age, he's pretty fond of bragging about the one night stands. It's like a fucking game to him."
expression deepened. "You mean he actually has nicknames for them?"
Amanda snorted and swirled her coffee around.
"How the hell else could he keep up with them?" She stopped when she saw the look on Alli's face, though, and frowned heavily.
"Al, what's bothering you so much? Much as it pisses me off, AJ was right earlier when he said that we already knew. You knew
that he acted like this, and you knew that he slept around. It's not like he just started this yesterday."
in turn. "So you're saying that, because I already knew, I don't have a right to be upset about it?"
furrowed and she shook her head. "Hell no! I mean, I'm upset about it and he's not even my best friend, but...well, I just
remember you getting all upset about this earlier." She gave her friend a knowing smirk. "Unlike me, you're not one to blow
up twice about the same thing."
Alli had the decency to blush and rolled her eyes. When she looked up again, she had
a somewhat sheepish smile on her face. "Okay, you called me on it." She paused dramatically and leaned in. "Truth?"
smiled immediately. The word was like a code for the two girls, a sign to cease beating around the bush. She too leaned in
eagerly and nodded, wondering exactly what Nick Carter had done to her friend. Damn that boy. "Yeah, truth."
was Alli's turn to sigh in frustration. "I feel like some really naive Julia Roberts character, but I honestly thought that,
maybe, once I actually got here, he'd start changing back again."
"Damn hope," Amanda muttered, and both girls laughed.
When they quieted down, Amanda took another sip of coffee and groaned. "And--let me guess--he was actually getting better
for awhile before he took a nosedive into bed with dancer chick?"
Alli rolled her eyes. "I suck. I really, really
suck. I'm just a sucker with a really bad wishful thinking complex, but...yeah, that's what happened. It shouldn't surprise
me, but it was just like I'd entered some nightmare. So I'm walking through the room, trying to avoid the smell of sex and
candy, pinching myself to make sure that I wasn't still stuck in that nightmare about the Twilight Zone..."
frown of anger returned. "Al, it's not your fault, okay? The freak goes in cycles. He gets better, then he gets worse. He
plays asshole, then he's concerned. It drives AJ nuts, I know, and it doesn't make me too happy either."
her eyes. "It drives AJ nuts, but it drives me nuttier."
Amanda grinned mischievously at the comment. "Al, you've
always been a nut."
Alli slumped back into her chair and twirled the stirrer around in her coffee. "Probably, but
I'm really going to be certifiable by the time this whole thing is over." She caught Amanda's pointed look and laughed. "If
I'm not already, that is."
Amanda waved a hand in mock dismissal. "Oh, you are. Trust me." The two laughed, and Alli
smacked Amanda playfully. Amanda held both hands up in surrender. "Seriously, though, I can understand why you would be. Thinking
about Blondie gives me a headache, so dealing with Blondie must cause some type of brain damage."
Alli snorted. "It
would certainly explain his lack of intelligence."
Amanda burst out laughing, and Alli was suddenly grateful for her
company. The other girls were just as kind to her, but Amanda had the same passionate personality, and Amanda didn't hesitate
to share in Alli's bouts of anger, loss, and insanity. The two girls complimented each other well, and Alli was thankful that
Amanda hadn't provided a reality check yet, as Leighanne or Jessi would have. She needed to rant a little bit longer before
she could actually acknowledge the situation. When she returned from her thoughts, however, Amanda was looking at her expectantly.
Amanda smirked. "Let's play another game of truth, Al."
Alli looked uncertain.
"Exactly how pissed off are you?"
Alli groaned. "I'm feeling a lot more helpless now that most of
the pissed off part has actually worn off."
Amanda nodded her understanding. "Yeah, I tend to hold my pissed off act
a little longer than you do." She looked at Alli curiously. "So, if you aren't pissed off, what are you thinking?"
almost regretted asking the question when she saw the crushed look on Alli's face, and she immediately frowned in concern
when Alli turned to face her.
Alli sighed. "What happened to my Carter?"
rolled her eyes in anger. "He became a single guy, Al. Guys are morons. It was only a matter of time..."
pitifully toward her friend. "Can't we change him back?"
Amanda bit back a smile at the typical Alli question. "Not
until you get him a girlfriend. He's a guy who needs to feel really Tarzan. I'll bet you AJ's goatee that Nick sleeps around
to feel more like a man. It's sick, but it's the way their minds work."
Alli feigned surprise. "Amanda! Girl, when'd
you go all Freud on me?"
Amanda winked. "I make it my business to know men, babe." She laughed with Alli, then arched
an eyebrow. "Seriously, though, trust me. I know men, and I know Nicky pretty well. It'll take a really special girl to bring
him out of this."
Alli rolled her eyes. "Now, see, I was so used to Disney endings that I actually thought I could
be that girl."
Amanda studied her friend careful for a minute over the rim of her cappuccino. "As a friend, Al, there's
no way in hell. However, as MORE than a friend..."
Alli interrupted her with a glare. "I won't be more than a friend.
Not with Carter."
Amanda sighed and leaned back in her chair. "Then, with the asshole attitude he's pulling, you're
"Just like that?"
Amanda gave an affirmative nod. "Just like that. I swear, Al, it's like male PMS.
He's good until he realizes he's being good, and then he'll be bad again. He's severely infected with Ridiculous Need to Display
Testosterone. As of now, there are very few known cures. The girlfriend thing isn't even guaranteed."
"Okay, Dr. Laura, you're the expert. What do I do?
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Al, there's not a lot you can do. Just
hold onto the good spells like hell and try to set him up with someone who's more than a good fuck."
Despite her best
attempt to keep the conversation light, Alli couldn't help but look pained. "So I just hold on until there's nothing left
to hold onto?"
Amanda clenched her fist at her side and fought back the urge to march into Nick's room and smack him
until he realized how much he was hurting Alli. "Babe, much as I hate him for it, there's not much else that you can do. Men
are terminally stupid. They have been for a long time." She caught sight of Alli's mouth, which had opened in protest, and
continued before anything could be said. "I know you grew up with one who didn't seem so, but there are few exceptions to
the rule." She looked at Alli sadly. "It's better that you learn it now."
Alli growled at the table. "And what about
the girls, Manda? Am I supposed to kick back and watch him fuck his way across America?"
Amanda leaned back in her
chair and shrugged, sighing exasperatedly as she thought of Nick. "Al, if you've got any suggestions, I'm open, but I don't
see what else you can do."
Alli's eyes widened, half in anger and half in protest. "I don't know, Manda, but I've
got to do SOMETHING! I can't just ignore it. I'll yell at him, shake him up, smack him around, or whatever, but I just can't
kick back. He's still my best friend, and I can't just let him do stuff that he's going to regret."
in indignation. "Like he'll listen? Al, he doesn't care."
Alli stared defiantly at her own untouched mocha latte.
"Well, I DO."
"He doesn't deserve it."
"Does it really matter whether or not he deserves it?"
eyed her warningly. "He'll have you sent home if you annoy him too much."
Alli's gray eyes darkened with determination.
"Then I'll do it in moderation. He needs a reality check."
Amanda chortled. "I thought you said he needed a friend?"
Amanda shook her head slowly. "Al, you can't be both."
Alli's eyes flared again. "I can
and will. There is more than one type of friend, Manda."
Amanda arched an eyebrow expectantly. "And?"
I'm going to be the friend that tells the truth."