Alli grinned widely as a slim figure with tanned skin, violet eyes,
and brown hair pulled into a sleek bun walked up to them. She had decided to meet her friends at the venue so that she wouldn't
have to deal with Nick, and she was thrilled to see her the older woman that Howie called his girlfriend. The two shared in
a tight hug before turning back to the show.
"When are they going on?" Jessi yelled above the thumping bass and infectious
pop of Mandy Moore, one of the opening acts. Alli shrugged.
"Not soon enough!" she yelled back. "I think my ears are going
Jessi laughed at Alli's pained facial expression and leaned in closer so the younger woman could hear her
above the music. "So how's life with Nicky?"
Alli rolled her eyes and glared at the stage before turning back to her
friend. "Let's just say that if I weren't a damn good friend, I wouldn't be here right now," she returned hotly. Jessi raised
her eyebrows to convey her surprise.
"That bad, huh? What'd I miss?"
Alli had to chuckle. Jessi was definitely
Howie's girl. She was fun and funny, but she was first and foremost the peacemaker of the girlfriends, as their little group
was called. Though Alli hadn't ever dated Nick, she had always been a vital part of their circle. She smiled at Jessi and
"Oh, we went to the movies and he tried to use me to pick up chicks. I had to fend the poor girls off and
warn them about Carter before they got themselves into anything that they wouldn't want to handle." She paused a moment, looking
out over the massive crowd. "Jess, I know he loves to do this. I remember when he'd sing karaoke to me in the backyard. Nobody
knows more than I do how much he's wanted to do this. But, now that his dreams have finally come true, it's changed him. He's
not my Carter anymore."
Jessi shrugged. "Man, Al, I don't know what to tell you. I don't remember how Nick was before
all of this. I mean, the closest you'd probably come is Kristin. The rest of us came after the boyish blonde became Nick the
Player. I do trust you, though."
Alli rolled her eyes. "I never wanted that to happen to him."
her friend a pointed look before leaning a bit closer in. "Yeah, but that's not why you're so angry right now. He said something
else to you, didn't he? Al, what happened with Nick to make him like this?"
Alli shrugged. "I don't know! I went off
to college when things got really big, remember? I could only tour in the summer, darn it! Then he became somebody with absolutely
no respect for women, and I was left trying to figure out where the hell I went wrong. I mean, I live in his city and I have
absolutely no influence on what he thinks of girls in general. He knows he can get anyone he wants, and that's his problem.
What Nick needs is a girl that he can't get."
Jessi laughed. "Yeah, that'll be the day. They're the Backstreet Boys,
Al. That's not easy to come by, you know that?"
Leighanne squeezed in next to them. "Are we talking about Nick again?"
Alli sighed. "Yeah, but they're about to come on, so let's stop now. I actually do want to see this. AJ said that
he'd wave to us."
Jessi shot a discreet look at Leighanne, who gave a small nod before intervening. "Al, I bet that
Nick waves at you. He always does."
Alli turned to Leighanne with her patented smirk. "Leigh, babe, I got news for
you. That isn't my Carter. That's some cheap replacement. And I'm not giving up until that is Carter up on that stage."
girls watched in awe as a hush fell over the stadium and the theme to Star Wars boomed through the speakers. Alli
couldn't deny the rising in her chest that she felt as she saw her five friends emerge from the smoke on their surfboards.
They truly were her family, and there was no denying that, regardless of what conflict might ensue. Just as promised, AJ waved
to her when he came around to her side of the stage, and the girls all waved back frantically. Howie blew a kiss to Jessi,
whose smile immediately grew infinitely. As Kevin belted out his famous intro of "Are you ready to par-tay?", Kristin covered
her face with her hands so that the girls couldn't see her blushing. To her dismay, they teased her anyway. Alli found it
hilarious that the fans still thought of Kevin as "the serious one." When they reached "Don't Want You Back," she wouldn't
deny that she watched Nick intensely. It seemed to hit Alli all of a sudden that he wasn't just a boy anymore. The way he
moved, the way he teased the crowd...it all shocked her at the very least. Nick had always been a rather shy child, and she
wasn't prepared for anything that she saw, but it gave her a reality check. By the next song, she was so shaken that she watched
AJ for nearly the entire rest of the show. However, when they all came back out and did "I Want It That Way," with Nick and
Brian tossing the basketball back and forth and Howie dancing and Kevin being crazy, she couldn't help but watch them all.
They looked like the five guys that she knew she'd find in the dressing room soon. They looked like the people they were,
and the combination of their dreams and the reality she knew of them was striking. She couldn't hear the screams above her
own pride at the sight of them. At that moment, despite everything that she and Nick had endured that day, she was proud to
be their friend.
The show ended all too quickly though, and the four females rushed backstage to greet their guys.
Well, with the exception of Alli, who hung behind because she didn't want to see Nick. She was positive that he'd still be
mad at her, though Leighanne, Kristin, and Jessi finally managed to convince her otherwise. One by one, the guys ran down
the steps and into the small room, wiping their faces with towels and hugging their women. AJ was down before Nick, so he
scooped Alli into his arms and kissed her on the cheek. He pulled back, beaming.
"How'd you like the show, Al?"
grinned. "Oh my gosh! J, you guys kicked some major ass out there. I am so proud of you..."
He laughed. "Man, you're
almost as happy as Amanda usually is after a show." He winked at her and pulled away to take a sip of water from his bottle.
"You ready to go to the club?"
She stared at him in surprise. "We're going to a club? But I thought that we agreed
to meet back at the hotel..."
AJ laughed. "Oh, yeah, we'll change first, but then we're off. Duty has already called,
and we answered. It's time for some fun now."
Alli shrugged and heaved a sigh. "Then I guess I'll come..."
frowned at her as he removed his shirt. He knew that his actions couldn't faze Alli, so he wasn't particularly worried. "What
do you mean? You're always up for a good time," he countered, and Alli shrugged again.
"I just really don't feel like
watching anybody get plastered tonight," she said with a frown. "You won't drink too much, will you J?"
"Well, I usually go light when Amanda's not here, but Nicky goes all out. Good luck getting him to do anything after we get
back. He'll be out like a light."
Alli groaned. "Yeah, well, that's what I was afraid of."
between the two halted when Nick walked into the room, a towel slung around his shoulder, behind his neck. He glanced quickly
at Alli before shaking his head and walking towards the showers. Alli sighed and looked back to AJ with an almost apologetic
gaze. "He's still pissed at me, huh?"
AJ shrugged and watched Nick disappear behind another door. "Yeah, looks that
way." He turned back to Alli quickly with a reassuring countenance. "But don't worry, Al. He'll be so drunk soon that he won't
remember his own name."
Alli groaned and put a hand over her face in disgust. "Whatever happened to the Carter that
didn't like the taste of alcohol?"
AJ blew out a stream of air and took another sip from his water bottle. "He found
That statement in itself was enough to convince Alli to go to the club with them. She was determined to
break Nick's facade. She knew that, somewhere, the Carter that she remembered was still tucked away. With another sigh, she
turned to AJ and nodded.
"Fine, I'll go to the club. But I won't drink." She paused to wink at him. "Somebody's got
to tell the limo driver what hotel we're staying in tonight."
AJ laughed and clapped her on the back. "Babe, you got
yourself a deal."