Bed of Roses
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

Never made it as a wise man
I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing
I'm tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick of sight without a sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me
This is how you remind me of what I really am

"I think that twelve-year-olds can actually reach a pitch higher than that of any fifteen-year-old."

"They can. What tipped you off?"

"Oh, I don't know...the fact that my ears are still ringing?"

Amanda laughed. "That's pretty pathetic, chica, seeing as we're only halfway through the concert."

Alli groaned. "Man, I'm starting to regret ever coming to this thing..."

"No, you're not! How could you regret coming to see the younger Carter perform for a flock of prepubescent females?"

"Because they all seem to have mouths bigger than Steven Tyler!"

Amanda clucked her tongue in disproval. "Now, Al, that's not know full well that NO ONE has a mouth bigger than Steven Tyler."

"Except you?"

Amanda wagged a finger playfully. "Now, Al...quit hating. You're just ticked off because I made sure that all of these little kiddies around us knew what kind of connections you have."

"You're right," Alli sighed. "I'm not starting to regret coming to this thing. I'm starting to regret bringing YOU with me."

Amanda smirked at the darkened stage. "Oh, trust me, chica, you won't be regretting that in a minute."

Alli arched an eyebrow doubtfully in her friend's direction. "Oh? And why is that, pray tell?"

"Because I have Kleenex."

"You think I'm actually going to need Kleenex." It was more an incredulous statement than an incredulous question.

Amanda turned to wink. "Correction, babe: I know you're actually going to need Kleenex."

Alli rolled her eyes. "Now you've really lost your marbles, Manda. I mean, Aaron's a good singer and all, but there's no way in hell the kid could move me to tears with his adolescent lyrics and bubblegum crooning."

"Maybe not," Amanda agreed evasively. "But I know someone who can."

Before Alli could ask Amanda exactly what she meant by that, a single spotlight flickered on, and a slow, familiar piano riff began to echo out across the arena. Alli turned to Amanda in complete surprise as she recognized the chords.

"Aaron is NOT going to sing this song..."

"You're right," Amanda chuckled. "He's not."

"Then why...?"

It was Amanda's turn to roll her eyes at her friend's antics. With a knowing smile, she nudged Alli and pointed back at the stage as a figure slowly began to rise out of the floor. "Just watch."

Her eyes were glued to the middle of the stage as she recognized Nick's figure among the instruments and stage equipment. As he brought the microphone to his mouth, his eyes scanned the front until he locked gazes with her, and she gasped when his smile bloomed beneath the spotlight.

"Oh my God..."

Oh, I'm thinking about all our younger years
It was only you and me
We were young and wild and free
Now, nothing can change what you mean to me
We've been down that road before
But that's over now
You keep me coming back for more

Somehow, during the verse, he had managed to move down from the stairwell and onto the edge of the stage until he was standing on the opposite end from Alli and Amanda. She wanted to hate him for turning his back on her right before the chorus, but the beauty of the music was too much for her to compete with, and the passion in his voice brought tears to her eyes. As soon as the first tear spilled over, however, her vision was blinded by a rather annoying piece of white cotton, which she gratefully snatched from Amanda's grasp.

"I hate you," she informed her, attempting to glare as she dried her eyes.

"Sure you do," Amanda retorted. "You love me. Maybe not as much as you love him, but you love me."

Silently, Alli agreed.

Baby, you're all that I want
When you're lying here in my arms
I'm finding it hard to believe
We're in heaven
And loving is all that I need
And I've found it there in your heart
It isn't too hard to see
We're in heaven

She wanted to watch the screen because she had always loved to watch his facial expressions as he sang, but something inside her wouldn't let her turn her eyes away from the figure moving across the stage. He hadn't come near her section yet, but she could see him clearly from where she stood, and she was mesmerized by the grace and charisma with which he commanded the attention of his audience.

Oh, once in your life, you find someone
Who can turn your world around
Bring you up when you're feeling down
Now, nothing can change what you mean to me
There's lots that I can say
But just hold me now
`Cause our love will light the way

Baby, you're all that I want
When you're lying here in my arms
I'm finding hard to believe
We're in heaven
And loving is all that I need
And I've found it there in your heart
It isn't too hard to see
We're in heaven

I've been waiting for so long
For something to arrive
For love to come along
Now our dreams are coming true
Through the good times and the bad
I'll be standing there by you

He continued to dance around the stage, banging his head along to the guitar riff, and Alli couldn't help but smile through her tears. There was something so beautiful about Nick when he was performing, and she was caught in the spell along with thousands of other girls in the arena. The way his eyes lit up with love and the way his face contorted with each emotion was enough to fill her heart until she thought that she'd burst with pride for her best friend. He was everything to her, even after two years, and she was more grateful than ever that she'd finally taken the plunge on that January afternoon.

Her thoughts arrived back at the arena, however, when she noticed Nick making his way to her side of the stage.

And, baby, you're all that I want
When I'm lying here in my arms
I'm finding it hard to believe
We're in heaven
And loving is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart
It isn't too hard to see
We're in heaven
Whoa, oh, oh...

You're all that I want
You're all that I need

She knew from the intense look on his face that he hadn't noticed his slip, but she giggled nonetheless. Her words from two years before came to mind immediately, and she couldn't help but think that Nick truly could always make her smile.

Despite the years, very little had changed, and she was just as glad for his friendship now as she had been before.

She felt Amanda's elbow in her side, and refocused on the stage in time to see Nick point his finger directly at her and offer the most sincere smile she'd ever seen.

And, baby, you're all that I want
When you're lying here in my arms
I'm finding it hard to believe
We're in heaven
And loving is all that I need
And I found it there in your hear
It isn't too hard to see
We're in heaven

The final chords sounded, and Nick made his way back to the trapdoor from whence he came, disappearing into the floorboards amidst screams and cries of adoration. While the teenagers around her burst into a tearful frenzy, Alli heaved a deep breath and dried the last of her tears. She glanced nostalgically toward Amanda, who understood the meaning behind her expression immediately.

"Oh, go on! For God's sake, Al, he's probably waiting for you backstage by now..."

She didn't have to be told twice. Within seconds, she was sprinting for the backstage area, dodging the teens that were scrambling to see Aaron's re-entrance. Thanks to speed and stamina, Alli had reached the gate before Aaron's next song began. The big, burly bodyguard in front of the entrance recognized her immediately and smiled.

"Did you enjoy your tribute, Al?"

Alli's eyes flashed warmly. "Billy, if I find out that you knew about this and didn't tell me, I'm not going to be happy..."

He chuckled. "But you know it was better as a surprise!"

She shook her head. "Carter is a bad influence on you, you know that?"

He nodded slowly. "But with all due respect, Miss Alli, I believe you're probably worse."

She rolled her eyes good-naturedly before ducking under his arm and into the backstage area, calling threats over her shoulder. She was so focused on her comebacks, in fact, that she ran directly into a moving figure behind her.

"Oh, shit. I'm sorry..."

The figure reached up and removed the towel from its head, revealing its identity. Immediately, Alli had crushed it in a dynamic embrace.

"Oof! God, Al, it's nice to see you too..."

She pulled away as quickly as she had lunged, smacking him in the process. "You! I can't believe you didn't tell me you were going to do that!"

Nick's eyes twinkled in amusement as he watched her. "Why would I tell you?"

Her patented breadbox look appeared immediately. "Because I'm your girlfriend?"

He laughed. "No, Al, that's why I wouldn't tell you..."

Finally, she collapsed against him with a contented sigh, and he had to wrap his arms around her to keep her from falling as she swooned.

"You sang our song..."

He chuckled heartily at the stars in her eyes. "Yeah, Al, I sang our song."

"For me?"

He shook his head in amusement before looking at her pointedly. "Yes, for you. For my best friend in the whole wide world."

She shook her head back at him. "That was such a sappy thing to do. You know that, right?"

He laughed. "Yeah, I do. But I also know that you loved it."

"How do you know that?"

He winked at her. "Because Amanda said that you would, and Amanda is NEVER wrong when it comes to you."

Alli quirked an eyebrow skeptically. "You know, if you don't stop saying things like that, you're going to make her ego bigger than yours."

Nick's jaw dropped in surprise. "Alli!"

Before he could reprimand her, though, she dissolved into giggles and hugged him again. "That was so sweet! I can't believe you did that!"

His eyes twinkled mischievously as he began to tease her. "Yeah, well, I can't believe you cried..."

She groaned. "Oh, shut up. You knew I would."

He giggled again, the high, girlish giggle that she loved so much. "Yeah, I did."

Alli rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Dork."

"Hey!" Nick stuck his tongue out in protest, and Alli crossed her eyes at him in retaliation. They continued to make faces at each other until both dissolved into giggles and excused themselves for another hug.

Anyone walking by at that moment would have commented loudly on the fact that some things never change.

Alli folded her arms across her chest in mock petulance. "You know what else I can't believe?"

Nick tried unsuccessfully to hide his smile. "What?"

"That you waited until the very end to sing to me! What was that about?!"

Nick shrugged, smiling knowingly. "I figured I'd save the best for last, I guess."

"Oh, you did, did you?"

He nodded. "Yup! It makes things that much sweeter. Besides, I figure we're pretty good at that."

Alli frowned. "Pretty good at what?"

Nick's smile widened to a broad grin. "Saving the best for last."

Alli sucked in a breath. "Well, correct me if I'm wrong, Carter, but the last constitutes the end, and this isn't exactly the end for us."

Nick pondered the theory for a moment before nodding his head in agreement. "Eh, true. It's probably not the best either."

Alli giggled in triumph. "So your theory is total bullshit!"

Nick shook his head in mock seriousness. "No, follow me here. We may not be a fairy tale, and we may not be perfect, but we've done pretty good so far."

Alli smiled. "Yeah, I'll agree with that."


She laughed. "I still don't think this is the end, though. We'll get a happy ending, but not for a bit longer."

Nick shrugged. "Probably. All I know is that I'm happy right now, and that's enough for me."

"Me too," Alli agreed, wrapping an arm around Nick's waist. "After all, knowing us, the best is yet to come."

"How You Remind Me"
lyrics and music by Nickelback
* "Heaven"
lyrics and music by Bryan Adams
(slips courtesy of Nick on Aaron's PPV Special)