"So, was I cuter then than I am now?"
"What's to say that I ever
thought you were cute?"
"Ouch! Damn, girl, hit where it hurts..."
"Yeah, 'cause that was my intention and
"Which hairstyle was better? Long or short?"
"If you're using girly ponytail holders, it's too long.
There are a select few who can pull that look off, and you're not one of them."
"I like my hair!"
think of it, you never did have much fashion taste..."
"Don't you have anything nice to say?"
"I am being
nice! If you want to see mean, then keep asking me questions," Cara retorted, turning to glare at him. "Do you have any idea
how annoying you are?"
Nick grinned. "Well, you know what they say..."
She rolled her eyes as she continued
to move around the kitchen. "No, I don't, but I have a feeling that you're going to tell me anyway."
"Try and you
She frowned. "I thought it was 'If at first you don't succeed; try, try again'."
"Are you annoyed yet?"
She arched an eyebrow expectantly in his direction. "How's 'hell yes' for an answer?"
chuckled. "Well, then, I guess I won't have to try again."
"No, you nailed it when you walked in the door," she agreed,
dropping the cube of noodles into the boiling water. "And now you've got that song stuck in my head." As if on cue, she began
humming the old Aaliyah song while Nick groaned in her ear.
"We're having Ramen noodles again?"
leveled him with a steady glare. "Look, brat, if you want something else, then you can cook it yourself."
widened in protest, and his deep voice rose slightly. "But I'm a guy!"
Cara rolled her eyes to convey that she was
unimpressed. "Your point?"
"Guys don't cook!"
She smirked up at him. "You obviously don't know your brother
very well, then."
Nick grinned as the thought of Aaron brought him back to his original topic. "Maybe not, but he
certainly knows you." He giggled again, ignoring the newfound rasp. His bass voice was quite an improvement from the whisper
of the days before. "So, Cara, tell me; what was it that turned you onto me? The gorgeous looks, the infectious giggle, the
Cara groaned. "How big of an axe would I need to deflate your ego?"
Nick frowned. "What's
that supposed to mean?"
She rolled her eyes again, barely containing her temper. "None of the above, Nick. Go bother
someone else." She was exhausted from the day's rehearsal, and the barrage of questions had gotten old ten seconds after walking
in the door. Nick had been waiting for the trio when they had returned home, and he had immediately followed Cara into the
kitchen to pester her about having been a Backstreet fan. She groaned again at the memory and tried to calm the throbbing
in her head. Things to do: Kill Aaron...
Nick clucked his tongue in disapproval and shook his head in mock
sadness as his eyes sparkled with amusement. "Oh, come on, Cara. There had to be something that inspired you to become a fan.
What was it?"
She sighed heavily and began to stir the noodles. "Well, it definitely wasn't the intelligence factor..."
She turned to him and pursed her lips. "Hand me those frozen green beans, would you?"
He obliged with a mischievous
smile. "Oh, so you don't think I'm smart? You're breaking my heart, Cara, dear. I'm actually quite intelligent..."
chortled as she snatched the package from him. "Compared to what? A first-grader?"
Nick pretended to be indignant.
"I'll have you know that I passed first grade with flying colors."
Under normal circumstances, she would've cracked
a smile, but she was too tired and annoyed to even consider it. "And when did you pass first grade, Nick? At age fifteen?"
He rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "No, Cara. You're just bitter because you didn't pass it until you were sixteen,
She arched an eyebrow, but decided against the effort of glaring at him again. "I'm not even going to
dignify that with a response."
Nick grinned evilly. "Should I try asking the question again until I'm successful?"
Before Cara could retort, Theresa entered the kitchen and began singing Aaliyah to herself. She wandered over to the
stove and stole a green bean from the boiling water, winking at Cara when the other woman chuckled.
Nick chuckled. "Not half as good as I looked back in the day, right Cara?"
Theresa bit back a laugh
at Cara's annoyed look and offered an amused smile in Nick's direction. "Hey, Nick. Feeling better, I take it?"
shrugged. "The day is over, and that in itself is cause for celebration."
Theresa nodded as an overwhelmed expression
crossed her features. "Yeah, that I can agree with. One more day of rehearsal, and then we get the weekend off. I can't wait..."
Nick leaned back against the counter and decided to leave Cara to her own devices for a minute while he focused on
Theresa. After all, Theresa was civil to him. "Does Cal really work y'all that hard?"
Theresa laughed. "Oh, gosh,
you have no idea. He's a slavedriver, that man. No matter what, we've always got to.." She paused dramatically and
frowned in a perfect imitation of their director. "Do it again! And make it worth my while this time. We're actually charging
people to see this. Don't make them demand a refund."
Nick laughed lightly. "That's horrible! He doesn't actually
say stuff like that, does he?"
Theresa rolled her eyes with a wry smile. "Oh, you'd be surprised. He gets on to all
of us individually too. You ought to hear him..." She trailed off and knitted her brows, deepening her voice in an exact mimick
of Cal. "Diction, Cara! This is not Mercury Nashville, and you're not Shania Twain! You may dress like her, but that's as
far as the similarities go. And Aaron Carter, don't let me see you acting pop star again. When I told you to check your ego
at the door, I meant it. Jekyll may have confidence, but he's defeated. As for Hyde, he's an asshole. I'm sure you can find
it in you to pull the character off without acting cocky about it. Now, Theresa, we've been over this role. You're an innocent
girl. I don't care how many guys you play around with when you walk off that stage, but Lisa is innocent and loving. You leave
the whorehouse act to Cara and we'll all be better off. When I say I want a long, heartbroken face, I want it done right.
Don't go smirking in the middle of it. You're actors, dammit, so put on a show."
Nick's boyish laughter filled the
kitchen. "You've gotta be kidding me! He actually talks to y'all like that?"
Theresa nodded fervently. "Hell, yeah.
On a daily basis, in fact. You learn to get used to it, though, because he really does mean well. As soon as rehearsal is
over, he's a great guy."
Nick arched an eyebrow doubtfully. "Man, he sounds like the exact opposite. People like that,
people that serious...they don't know how to have fun, you know? They're a lost cause."
Cara rolled her eyes and brushed
against him on her way to the sink. "No, Nick, they aren't. They just don't like to have your kind of fun, and they actually
know the meaning of working hard."
Nick opened his mouth to say something as he felt his temper blaze, but closed
it just as quickly. If he'd learned anything about Cara, it was that he couldn't take anything she said too seriously. She
was the only person who didn't really approve of him, and he tried to take it all with a grain of salt. After all, she had
been a fan. She probably still expected the squeaky clean image that his management had tried for years to create. He sighed
and clucked his tongue chidingly.
"Now, Cara, don't get your pants all in a wad...I was only kidding."
whirled around to look at him for a moment before rolling her eyes. "God, you're infuriating!"
"Really?" He chuckled.
"And here I thought I was just plain annoying..."
Cara seemingly ignored him as she continued to wash dishes. "Aaron!
Come and get you brother, or I'm going to try and shove his head down the garbage disposal!"
Aaron shrugged lightly
as he entered the kitchen. He looked at Nick for a moment and bit back a smile. "Fine by me. I don't really need him for anything.
Just be sure to clean up when you're done..."
Nick's eyes widened and he looked at Aaron in disbelief. "Man, some
brother you are! See if I stick around after dinner."
Cara looked up hopefully. "You're leaving soon? Oh, thank God."
Nick's eyes glinted mischievously in the bight light of the kitchen. "Of course I'm leaving, Cara--I leave every night.
But don't be too upset...I promise to stay until you tell me what exactly made you a fan."
Aaron rolled his eyes immediately
when he saw Cara's exasperated expression. "Nick, I told you not to bug her about that..."
Cara turned around
to face Aaron and her eyes shot daggers as she glared at him. "That's right. It's your fault that he won't leave
me alone. Aaron Carter, you'd better lock your door tonight..."
Aaron waved a hand dismissively. "Aw, C, you don't
mean that. You're all bark and no bite."
Cara gave him a doubtful look. "Yeah, well, I've never had the heart of the
Backstreet Ego follow me around for an hour."
Theresa fought back laughter and raised her eyebrows in Aaron's direction.
"I don't know, A; she's got a point. I'd run if I were you."
Aaron jumped up onto the counter and proceeded to swing
his legs back and forth. "Naw, Cara doesn't scare me. She's just a little thing."
Cara's eyes widened indignantly.
"Little? I'm almost as tall as you are, thank you very much!"
Nick laughed at her indignance. "Yeah, but Aaron's taller,
and so am I. Now, Cara, you never answered my question. Why did you become a fan?"
Cara groaned inwardly, feeling
her patience thinning. She'd been concerned about his feelings at first because of her discussions with Aaron, but she was
too tired and too annoyed to care. She whirled around to face Nick and turned the stove off. As she reached for bowls for
the noodles, she glared at the former Backstreet Boy.
"First off, Nick, I was never a fan of yours only; I was a fan
of the whole group. And, for your information, I was a fan of the music. When it stopped being about the music, I stopped
being a fan." Her eyes hardened. "And, believe me, I stopped being a fan long before you all stopped being a group."
eyes widened at the venom in her words, and he tried to focus on which club to visit that evening. Something about the look
in her deep brown eyes made him uneasy, and he immediately turned away from her gaze and began serving himself. For once,
he was startled into silence. He had wanted to know why she'd become a fan, but he hadn't wanted to know why she stopped enjoying
them. He already knew too much about the end, and he shuddered as the thought processed. However, by the look in her eyes,
he couldn't help but wonder exactly how much she knew about the end, nor could he help but wonder how much she really cared
about the music and the people that had created it.
He sighed heavily and shook his head as if to clear it. With one
last glance in Cara's direction, he moved to sit down at the table for dinner.
He didn't know, nor could he help but
wonder. There was only one logical solution: he'd have to find out.