Bed of Roses
Chapter Eight
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

You say you'd love to run home
But you know you ain't got one
'Cause you're living in a world that is best forgotten
Broadway is dark tonight
A little bit weaker than it used to be

"Well, ladies, here's the latest: Leigh, you and Brian are expecting, Alli and Nick broke up again, Howie and I are engaged, and Kristin and Kevin are getting married." Jessi looked up at her friends with a small smile of amusement before continuing. "Oh, and Amanda's taken to abusing to AJ again."

Alli rolled her eyes. "Damn that girl. Never could keep her hands off him."

At the ridiculous comment, the four women burst into laughter and Jessi took a seat beside Alli and Kristin at the round table in dressing room of the arena. The Boys had been rehearsing for quite awhile, and the girls had taken the liberty of checking the internet lists for the latest news. Nobody else could ever understand the kick they got from reading the rumors that spread like wildfire among the Backstreet community. Leighanne was first to recover her ability to breathe as she took a sip of iced tea and grinned.

"Yeah, didn't I tell you girls? Bri and I are having puppies."

Alli put on a false congratulatory smile. "Oh, Leigh, that's wonderful! I'm so happy for you!"

Kristin rolled her eyes. "Yeah, Kev and I'll get married...never? That boy couldn't settle down into a family for the life of him. He's too much of a free spirit."

Jessi shot Kristin a look that clearly showed she didn't believe the older woman. "Kris, he'll pop the question soon. Sooner or later we're gonna start making bets."

Alli winked at the other three. "Yeah, well I get dibs on Valentine's Day."

Leighanne grinned devilishly. "Christmas!" she called out. Kristin rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out.

"That was mature," Jessi muttered. "Just for that, I'm taking New Year's Eve."

Kristin put her head in her hands in attempt to conceal the blush that was creeping up her face. "You guys are retarded, you know that?"

Alli laughed at her friend's embarrassment. "Well, we may be retarded, but you're in loooooooove..."

Kristin's head rose and a smirk soon faded through the blush on her cheeks. The look in her eye was enough to worry Alli as the older woman shot her response, trying desperately to look sympathetic. "Oh, but Al, you must be heartbroken. I know how much you and Nick were hoping for it to work this time around..."

Alli groaned. "AH! How many times have we gone out now? I lost count."

Leighanne laughed. "Well, to our dismay, last time I checked we were still at zero."

Alli rolled her eyes and put a fake smile on her face. "Well, gee, no wonder I lost count! We never started!"

Jessi shook her head at the absurdity of the rumors. "I can't believe they think Howie and I are engaged. The two of us talked about that a long time ago...we're both too young for marriage." She turned to Kristin with a good-natured snort. "And you think Kevin's a free spirit..."

Leighanne laughed at the expression on her friend's face. "Trust me, girl, you don't have a thing to worry about. We all know Howie, and he isn't going anywhere without you."

Alli laughed. "Yeah, let's hope not. When you're not here, he makes sure to let us all know just how much he misses you."

It was Jessi's turn to blush, and the deep crimson spread over her cheeks as she fought to hide her smile from her three friends. "He's so sweet. Do you know how much I love that guy?"

Kristin nodded, feeling her own smile bloom at seeing Jessi so happy. "Yeah, kiddo, I think we do."

Alli moaned and dropped her head back in her hands as each of her friends drifted into the la-la land for lovebirds. "I need a boyfriend!"

Leighanne looked over at Alli and raised her eyebrows in an amused fashion. "Now, Alli, what in the world would you do with a boyfriend?"

Alli wiggled her eyebrows and grinned at the blonde woman. "Leigh, trust me when I tell you that you don't want to know."

Jessi rolled her eyes playfully and laughed. "Yeah, she's definitely Nick's friend..."

Alli frowned and leaned into the table, concern etched into her graceful features. "Guys, is he really that bad?"

Kristin arched an eyebrow and looked at her friend pointedly. "Al, you've seen him in action so far. What do you think?"

Alli sighed heavily. "Truth to tell, I've been trying to convince myself that he was abducted by aliens and that my Carter is on his way back to earth in a stolen spaceship."

Leighanne rolled her eyes good-naturedly and swatted Alli. "Girl, you are too weird."

Jessi smiled sympathetically. "In Alli language that means that she's trying to avoid coming to terms with the fact that the menace onstage is Nick."

Alli shrugged. "He's not the guy I knew. That player upstairs is a girl's worst nightmare. I didn't raise him to act like that."

Kristin looked at Alli skeptically. "You sound like you're his mother."

Alli groaned. "I feel like it sometimes. The way he acts now isn't something that Jane would be happy with, that's for sure. I guess I feel responsible for him because we grew up together."

Jessi, ever the peacemaker, reached for Alli's hand sympathetically and gave it a gentle squeeze of reassurance. "Al, I'm sure he feels protective towards you too. You're his best friend, no matter what. You guys have a bond that'll outlast whatever phase he's going through, I know it."

Leighanne sighed. "Al, Brian's worried about him too, if it's any consolation. He's trying to be patient, but Nick's been really aggravating lately. It's not your fault, though. It's a phase that they all have to go through at one point."

Kristin rolled her eyes and nodded in agreement. "Yeah, Lord knows Kevin did."

Alli looked at Leighanne doubtfully. "I don't remember Brian ever going through a phase like this."

Leighanne winked at her. "That's because Brian's my perfect little baby."

Alli groaned. "No, that's because Brian's whipped, isn't it?"

Jessi laughed. "Hey, I'm not arguing. Howie went through it, but it wasn't quite as bad."

"Of course it wasn't as bad. Howie's not as stupid as Nick is," Alli muttered to herself. She looked up at them each in turn, smiling hopefully. "I'm ridiculous, aren't I? See why I need a boyfriend? I worry about that blonde lug way too much."

Leighanne patted her friend's arm with a smile. "I don't think you need a boyfriend quite as much as you might need a pick-me-up. Dealing with Nick takes a lot out of anybody these days."

Kristin saw her chance at dissolving the remaining discomfort in the room and winked at Alli. "Yeah, you do need a pick-me-up. After all, you just broke up with Nick Carter. The horror!"

At the mention of the rumors, the girls once again dissolved into a fit of giggles and fell back into the relaxed and playful banter of good friends.

* * * * *

AJ turned wearily to Nick and gave him a lopsided glare. "Look, dude, if you step on my toes with those big-ass feet of yours one more time, I'm going to rip them right off your ankles," he warned. Fatima groaned audibly and threw her arms up in the air as a sign of surrender.

"Fine, fine, I see that you're all exhausted. You guys are all over the place! Take ten, and be ready to work when I get back," she warned before exiting the stage calmly. As soon as the arena's doors slammed behind her, Howie frowned and jogged over to the two to avoid another argument.

"Yeah, Nick, you've been a bit off all morning. What's up, man? You look like you're a thousand miles away."

Brian looked up and walked over to the group, then shot a concerned look in Nick's direction. "How'd the talk with Alli go this morning?"

Nick moaned at the mention of Alli. "God, she's pissed. I'm surprised she didn't beat me to a pulp right there in her hotel room."

Howie wrinkled his nose. "That bad, huh?" Nick nodded in affirmation.

"Most definitely that bad. I thought she was going to live up to her nickname and start spitting fire out at me."

AJ laughed. "Man, are you sure that she could've taken you? You're just a little bit bigger than she is, you know."

Nick rubbed a hand over his face and collapsed onto the stage, his limbs sprawled out in different directions as the other four formed a circle around him, sitting or squatting at their own preference. "I told you, J, she was pissed. Never underestimate Alli when she's pissed. The girl can do some pretty damn good damage when she sets her mind to it."

AJ let out a low whistle. "Don't fuck with Alli, huh?"

A smirk grew on Nick's tired face and he grinned at the ceiling. "Well, fucking with Alli could be tempting, but I don't think she'd let me get close enough to touch her without biting my fucking hand off."

Kevin rolled his eyes and swatted Nick before issuing his own question. "So, you won't be hitting Alli or at least attempting it again anytime soon?"

Nick furrowed his brow in obvious distress and closed his eyes. "Man, I don't know what that was. I don't think I realized just what I was doing until after it had happened. Scares the shit outta me that it did, but I definitely won't do it again. That ain't right, and I'm not gonna pretend that it was. I was just really hungover, and everything had twice the effect on me, I guess. My temper's not so hot when I'm not hungover, anyway."

AJ snorted in disagreement. "Man, I'd say the problem is that your temper's a little too hot."

Nick nodded his agreement. "She just set me off. It pisses me off when she tries to pull her smartass act on me. She can be such a little kid sometimes..."

Kevin frowned. "But that was always why you two clicked so well. Al's still a kid at heart when she's around you, and you're just crazy in general. You guys are like two halves to the same whole."

Nick shook his head in disagreement, his blonde locks swishing against the floor of the stage as he did so. "No, see, that's just the problem. Al has this warped idea that people don't change, and she keeps looking for the person that left her four months ago. I've changed, you know? Alli's the same. We don't fit anymore."

Brian rolled his eyes at his friend's ignorance. "Frack, I find that one a little bit hard to believe."

"Think what you want to think," Nick shot back. "Truth is that Alli and I are lots different than we used to be. She wants me to be perfect, and I ain't giving her that. I'm young, and I want to have my fun while I can. If she can't deal with that, then I say it's her loss."

Kevin looked to the others and they exchanged worried glances as he searched for the right approach. "Nick, don't you think that maybe there's such a thing as too much fun?"

Nick gave a little chuckle. "You mean as in drinking too much and feeling like the walking dead the next morning?"

AJ fought the urge to snort indignantly. "Yeah, that and fucking every groupie's brains out until you've lost count of how many girls you've done the deed with."

Nick raised his eyebrows in distaste. "Bone, if I'm careful, why the hell do you care how many girls end up in my bed? You can't tell me that you've never played the field."

AJ chuckled bitterly. "Kaos, there's a difference between playing the field and going down the line."

"It's my life, J. What the fuck does it matter to you?"

Howie shot AJ a warning look, which he politely ignored. "Nick, man, chill out, okay? I'm not trying to tell you how to live, I'm just trying to give you fair warning. There's no reason to fuck a girl just because you can. Sex isn't always meaningless, you know."

Howie gave a little laugh and poked AJ in the ribs. "Oh? This from the Bone Daddy himself? Can you say 'whipped,' AJ? Come on, repeat after me..."

AJ shot him a mock glower. "Oh, shove it, D. We'll call Jessi in here and see who wears the pants in your relationship, man."

Howie grinned at the mention of his girlfriend. "Yeah, but Jessi's a great girl. You don't let women like that slip through your fingers."

AJ looked at him incredulously. "Man, what do you think Amanda is?"

Kevin chuckled wholeheartedly and smirked at AJ from his side of the circle. "A miracle, judging by the change in you since she's been around."

Brian laughed. "Don't leave Leighanne out of this! The girl rocks the world!"

"No, the girl rocks your world, B," Kevin corrected. "I've got Kristin, remember?"

All of them looked up from their playful bickering when Nick let out a loud groan. "Man, I ain't never gonna be like y'all are. You guys are acting like a bunch of whipped old married men."

Kevin arched an eyebrow and gave the blonde a dirty look for fun. "Are you suggesting that there's something wrong with being old, whipped and married?"

"Hell yeah!"

Before any of them could ask Nick to elaborate, Fatima returned and demanded that they get back to work. The guys obliged immediately, and the practice ran much more smoothly during the second half.

lyrics and music by the Goo Goo Dolls