"Hey, Al, what's up?"
Alli cringed at the sound of Nick's
voice behind her. She had returned earlier from lunch with Amanda to find the Boys at rehearsal, and the women had taken a
trip to the mall to satisfy the craving for "something girly," as Leighanne had put it earlier. They were finally returning
from the excursion with bags in their hands, ready to play dress-up and prepare for the show later that night. Alli was in
much better spirits after her day with the girls. To her delight, she had managed to avoid contact with Nick for the entire
day, and she wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing him at the show. The thought that she would see him sooner--she
undoubtedly would, as he was jogging towards her--caused all of her previous anger to surface again, and she hated it. Well,
there goes a perfectly good day...
With a deep breath of trepidation, she turned to face him and decided against
trying to muster a smile.
Nick frowned at the sight of her. "Whoa, why the frown? You girls
went shopping, so that means it had to be a good day, right?"
Alli gave him an indifferent look. "Well, it was a good
Nick grinned and clapped her on the back. "Oh, I get it. You're teasing me again, huh? Don't bother. Nothing
you could say is going to ruin my good mood."
Alli's features actually softened at the sight of his smile. It's
been way too long since he's looked happy like this. "Oh? Why's that?"
Nick winked at her. "I got laid last night.
And we're not just talking a quick fuck and run, Al, we're talking an all-nighter." He sighed wistfully, pulling her close
to his side. "I swear, Al, the sex was so good that I bet the neighbors had a cigarette."
Alli rolled her eyes immediately
and felt her anger returning as she brushed his arm off her shoulder. "How can you take pleasure in that?" she asked, clearly
disgusted. Nick's brow furrowed in confusion.
"It's sex, Al," he informed her. "It's supposed to be pleasurable. That's
the idea, you know?"
Amanda recognized the look on Alli's face and steered the group into the elevator before an all-out
war broke out in the lobby of the posh hotel the Boys were staying in. "Okay, guys, let's take this upstairs. We don't want
to corrupt the teenyboppers, now, do we?"
Alli gave her best friend a look of death, but Nick smiled delightedly.
"Hey, Manda, what's shakin'? AJ said you'd flown in this morning, but I haven't seen you all day, girl! It's good to have
you back with us." He pulled her into a warm hug, but frowned when she didn't return it. "Aw, man, you've been talking to
Alli, haven't you?"
Amanda rolled her eyes. "I swear, you men are ridiculous. Do you really think sex is attractive,
Nick wiggled his eyebrows at her. "I don't think, Manda, I know."
Alli snorted. "Yeah, you definitely
Nick whirled around to face her. "What's your problem? I thought you'd be happy for me! I know I acted
like an ass towards you, so I got to work off some frustration." He smiled. "See, now I won't be a pain anymore..."
smiled, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "I prefer a pain to a Playboy, Nickolas dear."
Nick winced at the use of
his real name. "Damn, you're pissed. What did I do this time?"
Alli looked at him incredulously. "Last night? The
club? Where the fuck were you?"
Nick looked at her in the manner he would if he were speaking to a slower person and
sighed. "Getting laid. I said that already, remember?"
Alli's incredulous look faded to one of complete and total
exasperation. "You don't remember. Dammit, AJ said you wouldn't, and I didn't listen. I am the world's biggest retard." She
turned to her girlfriends expectantly. "Do you think there's an award for that? Maybe Guiness could recognize me or something.
Lord knows I've got enough evidence to prove I'm worthy of recognition..."
Nick fought back a grin. "Al, you're going
hysterical on me, okay? Chill out. Now, what didn't I remember?"
He immediately regretted the question when Alli turned
a steely glare on him. The shade of her eyes did wonders to intimidate people when she was angry, and Nick was no different.
He took a step away from her for good measure, but she began speaking to him anyway.
"What didn't you remember? How
'bout the discussion we had in the dressing room after the show? How about the huge show you made of trying to make things
up to me? How about convincing me to go to the club because you'd make sure we had fun? How about your promise to make it
up to me by actually ACTING LIKE A FRIEND at the club?! You fucking promised, Carter!" She rolled her eyes at his blank look.
"God, you take the cake, you know that? I've met some pretty big jerks in my life, Carter, but you're right up there with
the best of them. Not only do you make a habit of screwing up ROYALLY, but you don't even remember when you do it!"
arched an eyebrow inquisitively. "I promised?"
Alli's eyes widened. "What, did I stutter? Do you want me to run it
by you again?"
Nick frowned. "Alli, I really don't remember that discussion. Besides, you know me and clubs. Did you
really believe that I'd remember anything like that? Al, I pick up chicks at clubs. You know this..."
around to face Amanda and the others again. "Okay, you know what? Add idiot to my list. Add Most Hopeful. Add whatever else
there is that has to do with being so stupid that I actually believe my best friend when he makes a promise. Because, hell,
not like that MEANS anything, right? It's just a PROMISE..." She turned back to Nick. "You said you loved me the other night
too. Should I believe that or not?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Alli, I was drunk. That's not fair, and you
Alli arched an eyebrow in his direction. "Oh, right, my bad. I was drunk last night too, Carter, and I
think I said I cared about you. Guess I should take that back then, huh?"
Nick sighed heavily. "Al, you're not making
any sense. So I promised you that I'd spend the night with you. As I recall, you spent the better part of the time at the
club with AJ. It's not like you didn't have anyone to talk to."
Alli groaned. "Okay, first off? AJ sat with me out
of pity and because he didn't want me to do anything stupid. Why, you ask? AJ is a FRIEND, Carter. And second? I'm impressed
that you were actually sober enough to remember how I spent my night..."
Nick chuckled. "Like I'm going to get drunk
and miss getting laid? No thanks, girl. I'd rather be sober enough to remember stuff like that, thanks."
"So you were
sober enough to remember what I did last night, but you conveniently forgot your promise to me. That tells me one of two things,
Carter. Either you didn't really care and ignored it because you knew that AJ'd hang with me and cover for your ghetto ass,
or you didn't really care enough about the promise to remember in the first place."
Nick rubbed a tired hand over
his eyes. His face lit up when the elevator opened, however, and he hurried out. He reached his room in record time, but not
soon enough to shut out a very angry-looking Alli. He groaned when she slammed the door behind her.
"What the hell
am I supposed to say, Al? Either way I look bad."
Alli stared at the ceiling and scratched her chin for effect. "Funny;
that's exactly how you looked last night when you were dry humping Barbie."
"Her name was Giselle," Nick snapped,
and Alli chortled.
"Whoa, you remembered that too? Well, fuck me..."
Nick smirked. "Funny that you should
offer, Al, seeing as you don't usually go for that stuff."
Alli rolled her eyes. "Can you blame me? I don't like my
men used and abused by other women, and I don't get into beds that reek of sex and candy."
Nick rolled his eyes in
return. "Quit being dramatic, Al. You don't even know if I brought her in here last night. For all you know, I could've spent
the evening at her place."
Alli laughed bitterly. "Really? I think walking in on you two this morning kinda cleared
things up, actually."
Nick's surprise was evident in both his expression and his tone. "You walked in on us this morning?!
How the hell did you get in here?"
She leveled him with a pointed look. "You gave me a key, dumbass. Just be glad
I didn't step on your wrinkled condom..."
Nick winced. "Look, if you're pissed because you actually saw me in bed
with another girl, then get over it."
Alli's eyes widened to twice their size. "You think I'm jealous?!" she cried.
A sinister smile crossed her features. "Oh, that's rich, Carter. Exactly how big is your ego, anyway?"
her with a pointed look of his own. "Okay, if you aren't jealous, then why are you pissed?"
Alli graoned. "Carter,
does the word 'self-respect' mean anything to you?"
Nick closed his eyes and flopped back onto his un-made bed. "I
have self-respect, Al. If those girls don't, that ain't my fault."
"So you whore around and take advantage of them?
Explain the logic to me, Nickolas, 'cause I'm not getting it."
Alli sneered. "Then find a damn
teddy bear or ring me up."
Alli's expression turned ominous as her voice grew louder. "Then buy
a damn Playboy and jack yourself off!"
"It's not the same..."
Alli closed her eyes and took a number of deep
breaths to calm herself down. When it didn't work, she re-opened her eyes and glared at her best friend. God, does he
even deserve the damn title anymore? "Are you listening to yourself? You sound just like a child, Carter. Real men know
better than to fool around with women."
Nick groaned and opened one eye to look at her. "This is just like you, you
know that? You're always finding something to yell at me about. You can't ever just accept me for me. You're always pissed
off about something."
Alli's features softened slightly. "I'm worried about you."
"No, you're pissed at me.
You don't like that I'm not your little Carter anymore, and you hate the fact that you can't order me around."
sighed heavily and made her way over to the desk chair. She removed some of Nick's clothing before sitting down and fought
back a small smile despite her anger. He always was a slob when it came to his room. She looked up at him and frowned, lowering
her tone. "Is that what you really think?"
"Isn't it obvious? I just said it, didn't I?"
Alli sighed again.
"Look, Nick, you said you were lonely, right? Well, so am I. I miss my best friend."
Nick's own tone softened when
he heard the hurt in her voice. "I'm right here, Al. I didn't go anywhere. You don't have anything to miss." He hated how
weak he sounded, but he hated the pain in her voice even more. Dammit, she's screwing with my head...
changed," she insisted. It was his turn to sigh.
"I'm still me, Al. I've grown up a lot, but I'm still me."
shook her head sadly. "No, you're not. A promise used to matter to you, and a night together used to be enough."
rolled his eyes. "God, Al, you make it sound like we're married or something! I was lonely, I was horny, and there was a cute
girl. I admit I should've kept my promise, but you knew I wouldn't. Don't pin this on me. You're asking me for things that
I can't give right now, okay? If you can't deal with the fact that I can't give you what you want, then I can't help you."
Alli nodded her head in understanding. "You think I'm overreacting." It was more a statement than a question.
chuckled bitterly. "Babe, in this case, 'hell yes' would be an understatement."
Alli shook her head slightly. Amanda
was right. Why does that not surprise me? I could keep arguing with him, try to show him how wrong he is, but then I'd lose
him. I can't do that. "Maybe I am."
Nick chortled. "Maybe?!"
Alli mustered a soft smile. "Okay, I'm overreacting."
Nick sat up and smiled lightly at her in return. "Yeah, definitely.
But you're a girl, so I'll let it slide."
Alli rolled her eyes. "Oh, gee, thanks. Your mercy astounds me, Carter."
Nick winked. "I know! You should be glad that I'm so nice." He looked at her seriously. "I'm usually not, you know."
You never are anymore. "Then I'll just have to be extra grateful, I guess."
The two laughed gently,
and Nick looked up at Alli.
"Look, Al, for what it's worth, I know I should've kept the promise."
"Just...don't make promises you can't keep, okay?"
Nick grinned. "Yeah, and I'll lock the door next time so you don't
walk in on that again." He chuckled. "Man, had that been one of the guys, I'd be super-embarrassed."
"You mean it doesn't embarrass you that I walked in?"
Nick winked at her. "Best friends share everything, right? Now,
while I didn't think that included the morning after, I admit that I could be wrong..."
Alli rolled her eyes. "Oh,
Nick laughed. "Hey, Al?"
"If best friends really do share everything, then could we...?"
He let his question trail off and thrust his hips suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows as he did so. He cringed immediately
afterwards, just in time to avoid seeing the smack he knew would come.
"Carter, I swear! You are such a pervert, you
know that? How can you even suggest...?"
Nick chuckled, holding his arms up in an attempt to ward off her continuous
assault on him. "Damn, Al, I was kidding! Chill out! I'm about to make you share in my pain if you keep inflicting it, you
Alli smirked. "No, you wouldn't do that."
Alli smiled innocently. "Because
best friends don't cause each other pain, remember?"
Nick groaned. "You are SUCH a hypocrite. What do you call those
slaps you just laid on me?"
"A few thumps to serve as a reality check. I was just keeping you in line."
laughed. "You can't keep me in line. I'm bad to the bone, baby."
"You just keep on thinking that, Carter." 'Cause
I will learn to keep you in line. In the meantime, I'm going to have to learn to play matchmaker. If Amanda's right, then
I just might have a way out of this...