Comforting Lie
Chapter 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
Chapter Forty-Eight
Chapter Forty-Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty-One
Chapter Fifty-Two

"I cannot believe this!"

Theresa bit her lip to keep from laughing. "C, do you realize that this is the third time you've said that since he's gotten here? One would think that you'd be able to believe it by now..."

Cara paused in her ranting to glare at her friend. "He's an ass! As if last night wasn't bad enough, the boy looked absolutely shocked when no one made breakfast for him this morning. I mean, God forbid he actually have to open the damn cereal box and pour himself a bowl..." She trailed off and shook her head in frustration. "Ter, Aaron was never this bad. He wasn't even this bad in the beginning, and he still had girls chasing him then. Nick's been out of the mainstream for four flipping years and he still expects to be treated like royalty."

Theresa snickered. "Yeah, right. Like anyone gets treated like royalty in our apartment."

Cara let out a steamy breath. "I hope he falls on his way out the door."

"Ooh, Cara, pile on the insults, girlfriend! You're getting dangerous now..."

Cara rolled her eyes. "For goodness sake, Terry, I'm serious. I know we'd been joking about how long Aaron could handle this, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to stand this guy for more than a week myself. He's a jerk and a half."

Theresa sighed, sipping on her morning coffee. "Yeah, he's definitely worse than I thought he'd be. All in all, though, it could be a lot more hellish than it already is. I mean, he could be trying to hit on one of us."

Cara threw her arms up in exasperation. "Yeah, he could be, but he chooses to order us around instead," she growled. "Oh, even better."

Theresa stifled a snicker. "Gee, C, what happened to your positive outlook on life?"

Cara groaned. "It got washed down the drain with all of Blondie's extra hair-dye."

Theresa didn't even try to fight the laughter that such a comment evoked. "Yeah, his hair is unnaturally blonde, isn't it? I mean, Aaron's got a lot more class when it comes to fashion."

Cara's angry expression faded to an amused smirk when she recalled the good old days of Backstreet. "If memory doesn't fail me, Nick's fashion sense was always a little off."

Theresa gaped, feigning shock. "You mean he actually had any to begin with?"

Cara nodded solemnly. "Sad, isn't it?"

Theresa placed her hand dramatically on her chest, wiping away a false tear and choking back a fake sob. "Tragic. Thank God for the other pretty boys in the world that make for better eye-candy than the ghetto cowboy that just rolled in..."

"Aaron in the role of Hyde makes for better eye-candy than Older Brother Backstreet," Cara remarked dryly, smiling briefly when the light changed and they crossed the street. "Maybe we won't be late after all."

Theresa laughed. "Love the optimism, girl, but it ain't gonna get you anywhere. Carter's tantrum took some very valuable five minutes."

Immediately, Cara felt her temper rising again. She clenched her fists at her side, trying to remain calm, but every memory of that morning deepened the angry flush on her cheeks. She could just hear Aaron teasing her, telling her to take deep breaths and count to ten. Yeah, count to for each time I get the satisfaction of imagining my hand connecting with Nick Carter's face...

"You know, I don't think I've ever seen you get this mad over anything before," Theresa said, trying desperately to keep the amused tone out of her voice. She didn't want to anger Cara any further, but the girl's reaction to her formal idol was enough to leave Theresa in stitches. She erased all traces of her smile, however, when Cara whirled around again.

"Lord knows that he does enough to warrant getting angry! I mean, as if he wasn't bad enough last night, he had the audacity this morning to ask me why we didn't have breakfast made yet, and then he told me when to have dinner ready. I am not his slave, and I'm not going to stand for that! I've got half a mind to make Ramen noodles tonight just to spite him," she retorted, and Theresa giggled. She had to admit, though, that beneath her amusement, Nick's comment hadn't settled any more easily with her than it had with her best friend. The older man's attitude was already begging to be reshaped, as far as Theresa was concerned. She stroked her chin thoughtfully, proud that someone as innocent as Cara had come up with such an idea.

"You know, that's actually a possibility. A loves the stuff anyway, so he wouldn't object." She winked at Cara, and her dark blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "It's not exactly the five-star dining that Carter's probably used to, though."

Cara arched an eyebrow expectantly. "And why's that a problem? He whined about the fact that I hadn't dusted his room and now he's going to get sick." She rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the idea. "He's just sore about the whole cigarette issue."

"And the fact that Aaron told him he couldn't drink with breakfast," Theresa reminded her friend. She rubbed her hands together eagerly as they neared the studio. "Girl, if you ask me, the look on Nick's face was priceless. Aaron never sounded so bold." She watched Cara and laughed when she saw the woman smile. "And I'm sure you're damn proud that he chose that moment to take a stand."

Cara shrugged. "You know what? He's the one who got the idea that we could whip Nick into shape. It's his operation, and I'm not doing anything until Aaron starts to get through to Nick."

"What if he doesn't?"

Cara smirked at Theresa knowingly as she pulled open the big wooden doors to the rehearsal hall. "You ever heard of the CD Black & Blue?"

Theresa nodded slowly, still uncertain of where Cara could be going with the idea. "Yeah..."

Cara chuckled to herself and strode through the doors to the stage entrance. "Well, T, Nick's going to be a living example of what they meant if he keeps acting like this."

Theresa let out a satisfied whoop and grabbed the door just before it closed behind Cara. "You go girl!"

* * * * *

Exactly twelve hours later, Aaron, Theresa, and Cara were lounging lazily in the den area, unsuccessfully trying to get dinner underway.

"I'm too tired to move," Theresa announced, sliding a bit lower into the corduroy chaise she had taken a liking to. "Rehearsal has never been that bad before."

Aaron nodded. "Oh, God, you aren't kidding. If I have to sing 'Alive' one more time, I'm going to start feeling a bit evil myself."

Cara rolled her eyes. "You think that was bad? You weren't the one getting draped across Kyle's lap in three-thousand different ways just so 'Bring On The Men' wouldn't have any problems." She sighed tiredly. "We haven't even practiced singing the damn song, and he's already freaking out about the choreography. If I have to lift my skirt up one more time, I'm seriously going to start eating men for breakfast." She leveled a lazy but stern gaze on Aaron from her position upside down on the leather armchair. "Starting with your brother."

Aaron cracked a small smile. "He's pretty bad, isn't he? Did you hear him grumbling when I told him that he couldn't take his cigarettes this morning? And when he found out that all we eat for breakfast is cereal...damn, I thought he was going to keel over or something."

Theresa rolled her eyes and waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, please. He'd better get used to this kind of lifestyle, because I'm not upping the luxury any just because King Heartthrob moved in."

Cara eyed her roommate doubtfully. "King Heartthrob? Terry, after getting a good look at his hair this morning, how can you honestly use that title?"

Theresa grinned mischievously. "Sarcasm, Cara dear. I'm buying the boy a comb tomorrow."

Aaron doubled over in laughter. "I hope it comes with directions, otherwise it wouldn't do him any good..."

Cara sighed. "You mean he can actually read the directions? Aaron, I'm impressed..."

The three continued to laugh gleefully for a few moments before Theresa finally caught her breath.

"Oh, lordy...guys, we really should be nice to him. After all, we did take his cigarettes away."

Cara's eyes widened in mock fright. "Oh, the horror! Imagine Nick Carter not being able to smoke!"

Aaron eyed her with amusement from his position on the couch. "He really ticks you off, doesn't he?"

Cara glanced dully at him. "Is it that obvious?"

"Just a bit..."

She nodded. "Guess I'll have to work on it, then. Certainly wouldn't want to bruise his ego or anything."

Theresa brushed her hand back and forth across the carpet as she studied the exhausted expressions on her friends' faces. "Speaking of the older Carter, he's going to be home soon, and he's going to want dinner. What are we eating?"

Cara's eyes glinted gleefully in the dim light of the den. "Ramen Noodles."

Had Theresa been drinking, she would've choked. She immediately sat up and widened her eyes upon hearing Cara's answer. "You were serious?"

Cara shrugged. "Why not? It's not like we're serving bad food or anything. Besides, if he wants to live here, then he can get a taste of what 'roughing it' can be like in NYC."

Aaron nodded. "Fine with me. I love that stuff, anyway. It's warm, it's easy, and it doesn't require many dishes. Not only that, but I can eat it without having to exert a lot of effort in getting it from the plate to my mouth."

Cara smirked at her best friend. "A, you've got such an admirable work ethic..."

Aaron snorted. "I don't want to hear it, girl. You weren't up there running lines for the glass crashing scene for an hour and a half because you couldn't say 'transformation' in just the right way to evoke suspense."

Theresa grinned. "No, A, but C got the 'you didn't have a satisfactory education' lecture for half an hour because she kept slipping back into a British accent."

Aaron laughed. "Did I tell you guys that Nick uses a bourgeoisie accent over the phone when he talks to me? He thinks he's being funny."

Theresa burst into giggles, but Cara rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Oh, God, what a moron..."

Before anyone else could get a word in edgewise, the door to the apartment creaked open and the giggles halted. Each of the three friends watched as Nick made his way through the door, looking tired and overwhelmed. When he turned and saw the other three lounging in the living area, he offered them a small smile.


Aaron and Theresa smiled at him in return, but Cara couldn't muster enough willpower to actually smile. She did, however, nod in his general direction as a greeting.

"How was work, bro?"

Nick sighed heavily when Aaron's question registered, and he turned to look his brother directly in the eyes. "Long, man. I definitely do not miss the paperwork that it takes to release an album. We've got this artist on the label right now, and all she does is whine about her contract. We had to revise the whole damn thing three times before it was finally good enough for her." He yawned and set his coat on the old-fashioned coat hanger by the door. "As if that isn't enough, I've got a presentation in two days about the efficiency of this new line of equipment, and I've got to finish mixing this other song by Friday."

Aaron nodded his understanding and stroked his chin thoughtfully. "The mixing shouldn't be too bad..."

Nick leveled his brother with a doubtful look. "Oh, really? We've got to re-record all of the vocals because some tech intern misplaced them." His eyes traveled briefly to the ceiling. "Fucking students ought to keep their noses out of the important stuff. They don't know what the hell they're doing. Not only that, but I've got to do a seminar at NYU for the Intro to Music Business class Thursday morning at seven fucking o'clock." He shook his head. "I can't remember the last time I got up before then."

Theresa offered a small sympathetic smile. "If it makes you feel any better, we have to do it everyday," she interjected, and Cara nodded.

"Yeah, we feel your pain. Grab a cup of coffee and you'll feel a thousand times better."

Nick nodded. "I'm going to be living off coffee in these next few weeks." He looked around the room expectantly. "Is dinner ready?"

The three roommates shared a knowing smile, but only Aaron answered. "No, but it should be done in about ten minutes. If you go wash up and change out of that suit, we should be ready by the time you're done."

Nick offered a half-smile in thanks. "Great. What are we having?"

Cara smiled devilishly. "Oh, you'll see. Ramen Noodles."

Nick frowned. "Don't believe I've ever heard of it any good?"

Aaron nodded eagerly. "I love it. It's quick, easy, comes in a plastic bag..."

The three watched with growing amusement as Nick's features twisted in a horrified expression. He slid his tie out with obvious uncertainty and eyed each of them in turn. "What exactly is this stuff?"

Theresa grinned. "Don't worry, it's the official food for the struggling college student. Seeing as we're low on cash because of the limited time, it's the perfect food. It's got vitamins and it's dirt cheap."

Nick didn't even bother to mask his disgust as he began the trek to his room. "Lovely..."

"Not as lovely as you are, pretty boy!" Theresa called in return, unable to resist one last crack before the door slammed behind Nick. She giggled quietly with the other two when she heard him muttering to himself. "We are pure evil..."

Cara's eyes were bright with laughter. "My goodness, did you see the look on his face? He must think we're trying to poison him!"

Aaron smirked. "He's just not used to food that hasn't been reviewed by Bon Apetit! and starred appropriately."

Cara's eyebrows rose as she lifted herself wearily off the leather chair and dragged her tired limbs into the kitchen. "He'll learn to love it just the same."

Aaron chortled as he removed the packages of Ramen from the pantry and smiled at Theresa as she boiled the water. "Not like he has much of a choice. It doesn't look like we're going to be able to afford five-star meals anytime soon."

Theresa rolled her eyes good-naturedly and smacked Aaron as he passed her to set the noodles in the water. "Oh, please, A. We all know that your bank account has enough to feed the homeless for a good year and a half."

Aaron winked at her. "Yeah, funny how it isn't enough to feed my brother..."

Cara laughed as she emptied the flavoring packages into the steaming pot of ingredients. "I guess we'll find out, huh? Hope he likes it."

Aaron covered his face with a hand to keep from laughing too loudly. "That poor child is going to get a really big reality check."

Cara nodded and began stirring. "Yeah, and maybe he can cash it in for a smaller ego. The way things are now, I'm surprised they can both fit in one room."

Theresa began setting the table, whistling to the tune of "Bitch, Bitch, Bitch" as she did so. When the table was finally set for four, she looked up and smiled proudly. "Can you believe it, Cara? We're going to mother another one back to the land of the painfully normal."

Aaron puffed his chest out in pride. "I survived, man! Look at me now! I'm as normal as that guy who nearly tried to run us over on his bicycle on the way home tonight."

Cara arched an eyebrow doubtfully. "You're as normal as someone who goes biking at ten o'clock at night? In that case, A, I really do wonder about you."

Aaron rolled his eyes. "Oh, you're just too funny..." He grabbed a bowl from Theresa and began filling it with the freshly made Ramen. "This stuff even smells incredible. How could he resist?"

Theresa snickered as she took the serving spoon from Aaron and served her own bowl. "Well, let's see, A. Did you have to mention the part about it coming in plastic bags?"

Cara grinned and high-fived Aaron as she reached for her own bowl. "Dude, that was awesome. The look on his face was great."

Aaron nodded his thanks, smiling equally as widely. "Thanks. And, yes Terry, I did have to mention it. I had to see what his reaction would be."

"He's going to avoid it like the plague," she interrupted in a sing-song voice. Aaron pondered the statement for a moment before sitting down at the table and shaking his head.

"No, he'll get hungry soon enough and then he'll eat it anyway."

The other two girls joined him at the table and the three laughed long and hard before hearing the slap of Nick's shoes against the hardwood floor. Everyone looked up at his entrance, and they all saw him just in time to catch his disgusted expression upon seeing the food for the first time. However, he spooned a bit of the soup into a bowl anyway and joined them at the table. He was dressed rather casually in a particularly flashy blue shirt and leather pants. His hair was pulled into a lower ponytail than before, and the light scent of men's cologne mingled with the scent of Ramen. They all continued to watch as Nick dropped his napkin into his lap and began to spoon some of the soup into his mouth. At that point, all thoughts of his appearance vanished and Cara arched an expectant eyebrow in his direction.

"Yo, Carter, does the word 'grace' ring a bell?"

Nick reluctantly joined hands with the rest of the table and bowed his head as Aaron gave the prayer, then continued to eat slowly once they were finished. The group sat in silence for a moment before Aaron studied Nick curiously.

"You okay, man?"

Nick looked up and shrugged, swallowing the remainder of his mouthful before offering an answer. "Throat's a little sore, but I'll be fine. I'm anxious to get out into the strip, though. I'd like to see what kinds of clubs you guys have here in New York."

Theresa smiled knowingly into her soup. "Oh, you'd be surprised."

"Worth the trip?" Nick inquired, already feeling more accepted by the blonde than by the brunette. Something about Theresa's demeanor put him at ease and reminded him of someone he had once known. Of course, he was better off avoiding those kinds of thoughts.

"Definitely worth the trip if you've got a clear schedule in the morning," Theresa said with a smirk. "The parties, the music, and the dances are the bomb, but hangovers are a bitch in the morning."

Nick smiled to himself. "Yeah, well, I've got aspirin. I'll be fine."

Aaron looked up expectantly from his dinner. "Nick, man, if you've got a girl, don't bring her back to the room here, okay? Go to her place."

Nick looked surprised for a moment and opened his mouth in protest, but one glance at Cara's expression was enough to make him close it. God, what is it about that girl? "You got a deal, AC. I doubt I'd pick someone up on the first night, but..." He paused to wink at his onlookers. "You never know."

Cara fought the urge to gag, but wisely kept her expression neutral. Another thought struck her, and she actually glanced tentatively in Nick's direction before clearing her throat softly. "Uh, Nick?"

He looked up in surprise, but patiently awaited her question. "Yeah?"

"I really hate to ask this, because it completely inconveniences you, but would you mind bringing a spare shirt in your car to change into later?" She smiled gently and sheepishly. "Unfortunately, Theresa wasn't kidding when she said that I'm allergic to smoke, and I'd really appreciate it."

Nick stared at her for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, sure thing. Listen, I meant it when I said I'd quit..."

She nodded, shooting him a grateful smile. "I know. Thanks."

As soon as it had come, the gentlemanly exterior was gone. "I didn't say I was doing it for you! There's just no place to smoke anywhere around here, and I'm gonna go crazy trying to find the time to catch a smoke. Besides, it can't be that hard."

Aaron and Theresa rolled their eyes at each other from across the table while Cara inwardly seethed. For a moment there, I was actually convinced that he could be a nice guy...

Her thoughts were interrupted by the scraping of Nick's chair against the floor. "Well, guys, I'm out. I'll see y'all tomorrow morning."

Aaron nodded his acknowledgement as Nick slid out the front door. "See ya." Cara gave a slight wave, but her eyes narrowed angrily towards the bowl on the table. The jerk can't even put his bowl in the sink, and he can't say thank you either. Lovely.

"I hope he comes back soon," Aaron said with a sigh. "I don't want him getting into trouble."

"He'll get into trouble anyway, A," Theresa gently reminded him. "People don't change overnight."

The two continued to make small talk as Cara seethed. As far as I'm concerned, the man can take as long as he wants to. If I don't see him in the morning, it won't be a loss.