* * * * *
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."
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.
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?"
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?"
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?"
"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..."
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
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?"
smiled devilishly. "Oh, you'll see. Ramen Noodles."
Nick frowned. "Don't believe I've ever heard of that...is it any
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..."
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..."
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
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."
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
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."
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."
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?"
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.