Bed of Roses
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven

I remember the days when I was
So eager to satisfy you
And be less than I was just to prove
I could walk beside you
Now that I've flown away, I see
You've chosen to stay behind me
And still you curse the day I decided
To stay true to myself

Alli groaned beneath the golden sunlight and stretched tiredly before finally pushing the covers back.  Wearily, she opened one eye and stared at the alarm clock beside her bed until the neon green letters came into focus, at which point she groaned.

Who the hell is calling me at six in the morning?

When the phone persisted, she rolled her eyes and grabbed it from its cradle, dragging her sleepy form into the bathroom while she pressed the phone to her ear.



With a sharp, deep breath, Alli rolled her eyes again and looked at her watch.  She knew the voice well, and she wasn't the least bit pleased to hear from the person so early, but she did understand that her caller had a reason for calling.

"Hey, Holly.  What can I do for you?"

Unfortunately, despite the weeks spent in each other's company, neither woman was particularly fond of the other, and things were tense at best.  Alli had grown used to slipping out of the room when Holly entered because she felt intimidated by the older woman, and Holly's bright smile became a permanent frown in Alli's presence because she was offended by the younger woman's incurable sarcasm.  David had been nice enough to accompany Alli to the hospital a few times merely because he knew that his presence made things a bit more bearable for Alli, but she still was painfully unused to the idea that her father had another woman in his life, and she wasn't keen on accepting it any time soon.

Holly cleared her throat.  "Well, Alli, you know that your father's being released today.  I was, um, wondering..."

Alli sighed heavily at the tentative tone.  "What time?"

Holly's voice was still soft.  "About noon.  You're welcome to bring your car around.  It's bigger than mine, so your father would probably be more comfortable."

Alli nodded her agreement.  "Any prescriptions?"

Holly sighed.  "Well, there's some pain medication that the doctor called in to Walgreen's, so if you wouldn't mind swinging by there before you come..."

Alli waved a hand dismissively.  "Not a problem.  Is that it, or is there another reason that you called?"

There was a long pause, and Alli narrowed her eyes towards the phone when Holly finally spoke again.

"Actually, Alli, your father's worried about you.  He mentioned you staying for dinner tonight and hanging around his house.  Is there any way you could...?"

Alli grimaced at the thought of spending the entire evening with Barbie and Ken, but she wasn't about to deny her father anything after the scare her small family had just endured.  "Sure.  Do you need me to bring food, or do you cook too?"

Anyone who knew Alli would know enough to return the slight with a facetious remark of their own, but the problem remained in the fact that Holly didn't know Alli.  The older woman sounded offended.  "No, there's no need to bring food.  I'll cook.  Is there anything in particular that you'd like?"

Alli stared blankly at the wall for a moment.  "No, just no hamburgers.  Anything else is fine."

"All right."

There was another long pause, and Alli rolled her eyes in exasperation.  "Listen, Holly, if there isn't anything else, I'm going to go.  I'll see you at noon."

The woman on the other end didn't hesitate to end the conversation.  "Bye."

For what seemed like the infinite time that morning, Alli rolled her eyes and clicked the phone off.  She leaned her head out the bathroom doorway long enough to toss the portable phone onto the bed, then went back into the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face.  When she returned to her room, she glanced at the clock again and groaned.  Six forty-five.  I am NEVER up this early.  Of course, there's no way I'm going to get to sleep now.  Maybe I could call and pester Doc into getting breakfast with me...

She was reaching for the phone to call David when the phone rang again, and she jumped back in surprise.  When she had recovered, she grabbed the receiver and groaned, praying that Holly hadn't forgotten anything.  She had learned that Barbie was best dealt with if taken in small doses, and she had no intention of dealing with the woman again so early in the morning.


She heard the person on the other end take a deep breath and frowned at her own inability to check the caller ID.  If Holly was calling again and she had to listen to another ten-minute silence, she wasn't sure she could handle it.  She was about to begin her own annoyed monologue about being bothered so early in the morning for no reason when the caller finally spoke.


Her eyes widened at the voice, and she wondered if she wouldn't have preferred to talk to Holly.  There was no way that she was prepared to deal with her caller at all, and especially not at that hour.  She closed her eyes, and the annoyed edge in her voice faded to a weary tone.  Suddenly, she was extremely tired.


"It's, um..."  There was a cough on the other end.  "It's Nick."

She hated the way her heart seemed to stop when he said that.  She hadn't expected him to call, and she was thoroughly surprised that he had, but she didn't want him to know that he still meant so much to her.  She swallowed forcefully and fought to keep her tone indifferent.  "I know."

"Oh."  He paused again before clearing his throat, and Alli frowned in confusion.  Is the great Nick Carter actually nervous?  "Um, how are you?"

Alli rolled her eyes.  "Nick, do you know what time it is?"

He flinched.  She still wasn't calling him Carter, and that wasn't a good sign.  He squinted at his watch.  "Not exactly.  I just...I wanted to find out how things were."

"Look, I'll go slow, because I know intelligence isn't your forte, but you're a few weeks late," Alli deadpanned sarcastically.  She wasn't in the mood to be kind and forgiving anymore.  If there was anything she had learned from the tour, it was that she needed to stand her ground with Nick.  Did he just gulp?

"I know, Al, and I'm sorry..."

Alli cut him off.  "I'm not in the mood for small talk, Nick."

He sighed heavily, closing his eyes in disappointment.  She wasn't going to make it easy for him.  He certainly hadn't expected her too, but he had a bad habit of hoping for the things that he knew wouldn't come.  "I wasn't trying to make small talk.  I just want to apologize.  I know you've been going through a lot of shit these past few weeks, and..."

Alli bristled at his words, and her expression faded to an icy glare.  "You don't know what the hell I've been going through, Nickolas.  Don't insinuate that you do."

He flinched.  "I didn't think you wanted to talk to me..."

"What makes you think that I want to talk to you now?"

Nick groaned.  "Let's say I was feeling particularly hopeful...I miss you, Al."

Alli laughed bitterly.  "Newsflash, Nick:  I've been missing you for quite a while now."

He sighed.  "It's a lot lonelier without you than I realized it would be."

Alli fought the urge to scream at him with all her might.  "Oh, cry me a river."

Finally Nick was the one to roll his eyes.  "Al, I'm being serious, okay?  I miss having you around.  I miss talking to you.  And I'm kinda going against my macho pride to admit all of this, so can you try to show some compassion?"

Alli wasn't in any way affected by the pleading tone in his voice--or so she was trying to convince herself.  "Where were you for the two months I was on tour, Nick?  Was that not compassionate enough for you?"

Nick bit the inside of his cheek out of nervousness.  He absolutely hated having to be vulnerable, but he knew that Alli valued honesty above all else, and he was willing to go to extremes to talk to her again.  He felt like he was destroying himself without her.  He needed her faith and friendship more than anything.  "What would you say if I told you that I was too much of an asshole to notice?"

Alli's reply was quick.  "I'd agree with you."
Nick's eyebrows rose and fell.  "Yeah, well, you'd have reason to.  I'm trying to be better, but I don't think it's..."

"Nick, why did you call?"

Alli's interruption came as a huge surprise to him.  Before, she had always been happy to let him talk to her, offering advice once all sarcasm was put aside.  He loved joking with Alli, but he also appreciated the fact that she could be serious when she needed to be, and he missed the comfort that came with knowing her wisdom and caring was only a phone call away.  Knowing that he had damaged his own chances at reclaiming his sanity left him feeling extremely lonely all of a sudden.  He needed to repair things between them--if not for her benefit, for his own.  He sighed heavily.

"I got sick of pretending that I wasn't worried about you and your family."

He heard the sharp intake of breath on Alli's end and knew that he had hit some sort of nerve.  He was curious as to what the others hadn't told him, but he knew better than to press Alli.  He was lucky that she hadn't disconnected them yet.  Her bitter laugh, though, came as another surprise.

"What family?"

Nick's frightened expression became a full-out frown.  "Al, are you okay?"

She shook her head, cursing herself for her inability to hold her tongue.  "Yeah, Nick, I'm fine.  Ignore me.  Dad's great, comes home this afternoon, and he should be out of his casts by New Year's."

Nick nodded, leaning against the headboard of the bed in attempt to make himself more comfortable.  The edge in Alli's voice wasn't so apparent, and he could tell that she was slowly warming up to him again.  Things were nowhere near where they used to be, though, and it scared him that they could've lost it all so quickly.

"I take it he went through surgery okay and everything?  No complications?"

Alli shook her head before realizing that he couldn't see her.  "Nope.  He came out with flying colors.  You know Dad."

Nick had to smile slightly at that.  He could remember John Lacey well, and he'd always looked up to the man.  "Yeah, I do."  He frowned when a small length of silence ensued.  "Al, how are you?"

Her answer was all too quick and clipped.  "Fine."

He knew the autopilot answer, but he wasn't about to press her.  "How was your Thanksgiving?"  She had planned to spend the holiday with him and the other Boys, but her father's accident had kept her from joining the party.  

"Quiet.  Dad was still in the hospital and sleeping off the pain meds, so I had dinner with David."

Nick's eyebrows hiked considerably high on his forehead at the mention of her ex-boyfriend's name.  He remembered the other man well, though he hadn't heard the name in a good number of years.  The three of them had been good friends during Alli's high school years.  "Like David, ex-boyfriend David?  The guy we used to hang out with before you graduated?  What's his last name?"

Alli smiled slightly at the thought of David.  He hadn't seen her in years, but he'd been her best friend over the past week.  "Rastrelli.  David Rastrelli."

Nick nodded.  "Yeah, how is he?  Wow, it's been forever since I last heard anything about him..."

Alli laughed slightly.  "He's fine.  He's up here on business, and he rang me a few weeks ago for the first time in years.  He's been really nice to talk to while Dad goes through all of this."

Nick felt a strange tightening in his chest at the nostalgic tone in her voice when she mentioned David, but didn't think anything of it.  "That's good."

Alli's nostalgic countenance contorted when she remembered to whom she was talking.  "Yeah, it is.  It's nice to know that, even when your supposed best friend is a jerk, your ex-boyfriend can help ease you back into a comfortable mental state."

Nick flinched again as he caught the meaning and the hurt in her words.  "Al, I already apologized."

Alli sighed.  "And it really didn't mean anything."  She figured that she could at least try to be cordial before she hung up on him.  "So, how was your Thanksgiving?"

Nick groaned.  He obviously had more groveling to do before she was willing to give him another chance at repairing their friendship.  "It was nice.  Everyone had a nice, big dinner and talked."  He wasn't about to tell her that he'd been too drunk to remember much of it, or that he'd slipped out early to bring a girl up from the bar.

Alli groaned in return.  "It was 'nice'?  You're starting to make Backstreet sound like the Brady mean nothing interesting happened?"

Her tone was bitter, but Nick had to fight back a smile at the familiar sarcasm.  She was still furious with him, but the wit was fully intact.  They sat in silence for a few more minutes before Alli broke the tranquility.

"Okay, so now you know how we are, and you can stop being curious.  Don't you have somewhere to be?"
Nick shook his head.  "No, we're actually off until eight this morning."

Alli arched an eyebrow skeptically.  "So, um, if you can bum around until eight, why are you up so early?  Shouldn't you be nursing a hangover?"

Nick visibly grimaced at the hostility in her voice.  Truth to tell, his head was killing him and his stomach was churning, most likely due to the number of shots he'd had the night before.  "Actually, I am.  I just had to see the chick from last night out before Kev came in the room and had a fit.  Everyone's been really testy since that hospital thing."

He knew once he said it that it would make her mad.  However, he couldn't help but think that, maybe, a tiny part of him wanted her to get angry because it would prove to him that she still cared, and he needed someone to care.  He didn't, however, expect the response that he got.

"Yeah, I mean, heaven forbid that they actually care enough about you to try and help you.  Heaven forbid they refuse to take your shit and actually care enough to try and save you from yourself."  The bitter chuckle returned.  "Of course, some of us have enough experience in that area to know better than to try again."

Her blood was boiling at his lack of consideration for the people around him.  She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so angry with him.  When he'd first called, she'd had the tiniest suspicion that he might have called because he'd finally decided to turn himself around.  Of course, she'd just come back to the conclusion that hope was a stupid, stupid thing.  It wasn't supposed to hurt for him to be so nonchalant, but she could clearly remember crying for him that night a week ago, and she could remember the worry in Kristin's voice.  She hated the thought that Nick would continue on the path of self-annihilation when people cared so much about him and his well being.  She shook her head and rolled her eyes at herself.  This is Nick the Asshole, Alli, not your Carter.  He doesn't care about anyone but himself and his dick.

Nick, on the other hand, was painfully trying to suppress the guilt he could feel mounting at her words.  He hadn't ever meant to hurt Alli, and it killed him to know that she had given up when he was trying to make her believe in him again.  He wanted to yell at her for making him feel guilty when he felt that he'd finally earned his right to explore the nightlife, but it was more of a habit than it was fun anymore.  He wanted to make it up to her, wanted to prove that he could be strong, mature, and the friend that she needed so that he wouldn't make her cry anymore, but his head hurt too badly to get into the discussion that they needed to have.

"Al, I'm..."

Alli rolled her eyes.  "Yeah, you're sorry.  You know what, Nick?  I am too.  I'm sorry I picked up the phone this morning.  I'm sorry that I was actually worried that night when you collapsed, because you obviously weren't.  I'm sorry you aren't taking care of yourself, and I'm sorry that you don't appreciate any damn thing that your friends are trying to do for you, but I can't help you.  I've got father to attend to and people that care.  When you find Carter, give me a call.  Until then, don't bother me.  If you want to screw the rest of the world and drink yourself into oblivion, that's your prerogative.  I don't want any part of it."

Nick snorted angrily.  "So you're just going to walk away again."

Alli's eyes blazed an ash gray.  "Maybe if you cared a little bit more, Nickolas, you wouldn't find yourself so alone all the time."

Nick groaned.  "Come on, Al, would it kill you to give me a second chance?"

Alli's tone softened ever so slightly.  "No, Nick, but it would kill me to watch you killing yourself.  Good luck tonight."

Nick was pleading now, and he hated himself for being weak enough to do so.  "Alli...remember when you said we'd always be there for each other?  What the fuck happened?"

Alli's reply was wary.  "People change, Nick."

He was getting angry.  "You didn't," he snapped.

"No, but you did."

Nick moaned at the impossibility of arguing with her.  "Alli, don't do this.  Don't hang up on me and refuse to talk to me again.  Don't end what we have."

Alli's tone was bitter.  "Oh, but don't you understand, Nick?  You already did."

Nick opened his mouth to contradict her, but was all too quickly interrupted by the dial tone.

Alli had hung up on him.  He was lonely again.

God, I hate being lonely.

With an angry sigh, he slipped his cell phone in his pocket and walked out of the room and down the hallway.

"Shit On The Radio (Remember The Days)"
lyrics and music by Nelly Furtado