Comforting Lie
Chapter Twelve
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

"C, watch out, I think it's taking aim."

Cara narrowed her eyes in the direction of the offending object carefully. "I think you're right. Should we get in position?"

A sigh was heard from the blonde beside her. "I don't know, man. That thing scares me. I'm afraid that my life might be in danger."

Cara smirked lightly. "Or we could conquer it."

Aaron smiled thoughtfully. "Okay, I'm in." He bent his knees carefully and bounced, opening his mouth just wide enough that he could catch whatever came flying at him. From his right, Cara's laugh echoed in his ear.

"You know, if that thing knocks an eye out, I'm really going to laugh at you."

He took a second off from being prepared to pout at her. "Seriously? You wouldn't help me first?"

She shook her head. "No way, are you kidding? Something that stupid could make headlines. Former Teen King Aaron Carter Injured In Attack Of Flying Breakfast. Dude, I can see the headlines now..."

Aaron groaned aloud and turned back to the offending object. "C, watch carefully, okay? I'm ignoring you, and you're gonna miss it..."

Before she had a chance to retort, the aforementioned flying breakfast came speeding out of the toaster, burnt to a golden brown. It came forward in a perfect arc before landing directly--Cara fought to control her gasp of surprise and grin of amusement--in Aaron's mouth. His arms flew up in triumph, and he grinned around the burning piece of bread.

"I rock! I am the man! I've finally conquered that evil, sorry excuse for a toaster!" He took the bread out of his mouth long enough to pump his fist in the air. "YES!"

Cara smirked at him, trying desperately to hide her smile. "Or maybe it just felt sorry for you because it saw you pouting last night."

Aaron made a face at her. "You're so mean, C. It's okay, though. I know you're just jealous because it only bows to my superiority."

Cara laughed and shook her head. "Whatever gets you through the night, AC."

Aaron grimaced. "Don't you mean 'whatever gets you through rehearsal'? I mean, in less than an hour, I'm going to be forced to abide by the rules of Satan."

Cara frowned sympathetically. "A, it won't be that bad, okay? Just remember that you have control over your breakfast, even if you don't have control over your life."

Aaron's maniacal grin returned as he began his happy dance around the kitchen. "Aww, hell yeah, baby! I am king of the toaster! Ha HA!"

"You know, there used to be this really cool mandatory saying that went something like 'silence is golden'," Nick muttered as he padded into the kitchen.

Aaron stopped his dance long enough to wiggle his eyebrows in his brother's direction. "Yeah, I remember. It's out of date now, though, 'cause they figured out that triumph is platinum, baby!" That said, he recommenced a horrible version of the Hammer, and Nick grimaced.

"In the eternal words of Avril Lavigne, AC, whatcha yellin' for?" *

Aaron began bouncing in place, and it was all Cara could do not to laugh at his gleeful expression. "I defeated that horrible freaking excuse for a toaster. I RULE!"

Nick winced again and squinted at his likeness. Of course, he doesn't look much like me anymore, does he? He almost shook his head at himself, but the room was spinning quickly enough already. Note to self: drinking is a bad, bad, evil thing to do on a Monday night. "Look, Aaron, I seriously doubt that this pounding sensation in my head is even remotely worth the sudden inflation to your ego,
so can you PLEASE try to keep it down?"

Cara glanced slowly in his direction and sighed. Judging by the vice-like grip he had on his head, he hadn't heeded her advice or kept to his vow to try and improve his behavior. The squinted eyes, the sallow countenance, and the obvious expression of discomfort all screamed "hangover". She sighed heavily and cocked her head to the side. "Bad night, Carter?"

Nick finally acknowledged her presence and neglected to attempt a smile. Right then, any movement hurt. Badly. "You don't even know the half of it, C. I'm never, ever going drinking again..."

"I second that sentiment," muttered a less-than-cheerful Theresa, who seemed to be an exact replica of Nick that morning. Her delicate hands were clutching her head of tousled blonde locks, and she looked like she'd gotten into a horrible fight with fate...and lost. "Light is evil," she continued before taking her place at the kitchen table. She took a grateful sip of the cup of tea laid out for her and groaned again. "Ugh, tea is evil. Heat is evil."

Nick frowned. "So is alcohol. Alcohol is infinitely evil."

Cara arched an eyebrow in his direction. "So is lack of willpower, don't you think?"

Nick held out a hand to quiet her. "No lectures. Right now, I'm only hearing roaring sounds, mumbling, and pounding, and it's NOT making me a happy enough person to engage in conversation."

Theresa gave a sneer. "Gee, that pounding thing sure sounds familiar." She looked up at Cara pitifully and sighed. "Do we have cereal?"

Aaron shook his head, thrilled with the opportunity to aggravate the two invalids. "No, but we have TOAST! And it's not dangerous anymore, because I am KING!"

Theresa clamped her hands over her ears, scowling when the noise increased the pounding in her head. "YOU, Aaron Carter, are equally as evil as light, you know that?"

Aaron grinned. "No, I'm not evil, I am KING! KING of the EVIL toaster..."

Both of the ill houseguests groaned at the ringing sensation that greeted them, and Cara had to take pity on them.

"Okay, A, I think they got the idea."

"Yes," Theresa agreed gratefully. "For the love of God and everything holy, shut the hell up and let me eat in peace."

"You might need toast first," Aaron smirked, handing her a plate. "Give me a second, and I'll see if I can triumph twice in one day."

Cara rolled her eyes at the thought. "I don't think any of us are that lucky."

Aaron's eyes widened in surprise. "Baby, it's not luck, it's talent!"

Theresa lifted her head from the table long enough to shoot a confused look in Cara's direction. "I thought we killed the ego?"

Aaron shook his head. "No, you just slightly deflated it. Cal killed it."

Theresa nodded thoughtfully. "That's right, you had to stay after yesterday. How'd it go?"

"It went," Aaron muttered dryly as he stuffed two pieces of toast into the eccentric toaster. "I just hope I don't have to go again tonight."

Cara smiled warmly at him from behind the medicine cabinet. "Just pay close attention to your breathing, A, and you'll be fine. You were doing really well before, and Cal knows that you can do it." Having retrieved the desired container, she opened the bottle and extracted four round, cinnamon-colored pills. After a short trip to the table, she placed two by Theresa's plate and another two next to Nick's coffee mug. Both turned to her with expressions of gratitude.

"You are the exact opposite of all evil, you know that?" Theresa told her, happily swallowing the pills. "God, I love you, C."

Nick chuckled, immediately wincing when his head felt the effects. "I'm not about to declare undying love, but you're definitely my hero for the day. Good God, I need these."

"When do you have to be at the office?" Aaron asked, finally acknowledging his brother for reasons that weren't torture-related.

"Eight," Nick muttered before dropping his head against the table again. "And we're meeting with more prospective artists, so I'm gonna be forced to listen to pre-pubescent screeching for at least three hours this afternoon."

"Should be lovely," Cara replied, fighting back a smile. Nick didn't bother to look up.

"It's horrendous. These people should be locked in a room and forced to listen to O-Town."

Cara shrugged lightly. "You could always just make them listen to your sister..."

Nick tried to summon the energy to glare at her. "You're evil," he declared before his head fell again. Theresa arched an eyebrow.

"Actually, Pretty Boy, I think your sister's music has more evil qualities. The lyrics are bad enough, but the fact that she's making an effort to hit notes and continuously failing kinda speaks for itself."

Aaron rolled his eyes at Theresa while Cara smirked at Nick. "I thought you said I was your hero for the day?"

Nick grunted. "I changed my mind."

Theresa slid her head so that she could see him from the corner of her eye. "Are you sure those gay rumors don't hold any truth?"

Nick grunted again, and Cara bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Man, that was forever ago. I'm perfectly sure I'm not gay. Why, you want me to prove it to you?"

Theresa sighed. "You're just more like a girl than you know, Nicky."

"Except for the ridiculous levels of testosterone," Cara chuckled. "Besides, don't gay men have fashion sense?"

Theresa ducked under the table for a glance at Nick's Roadrunner boxers and chuckled with her friend. "Yeah, point taken."

Nick somehow found the energy to pout after draining half the cup of coffee. "I'm insulted now. What's wrong with my fashion sense?"

Aaron snorted in Nick's direction. "Don't you mean lack of which?"

Theresa's snort was identical to Aaron's. "Dude, we don't have time for a list that long. The Slavedriver of all slavedrivers is expecting us in half an hour."

Nick frowned. "Still, man, I don't get it..."

Theresa shrugged. "How is this different from any other day?"

Nick glared at her. "Damn, girl, I like you better when you're hung over..."

Theresa laughed bitterly. "Oh, I'm still hung over. Thanks to the Advil, however, I no longer feel like the subject of your boxers is battling his archenemy inside my head."

Nick's glare became a scowl. "You know, it's funny, but you kinda look like Wylie Coyote. I bet you can't take a hint either."

The two continued to bicker back and forth, and Cara and Aaron exchanged knowing smiles before attempting to stifle their giggles. When a loud creak came from the corner, however, Aaron's expression grew solemn and he turned to Cara with all the seriousness of a Navy Seal.

"C, watch out, I think it's taking aim."

Cara shook her head at his antics and made a point to step out of what seemed to be the toaster's line of fire. "Here we go again..."

*     *     *     *     *

The door slammed, and Cara came running through it only seconds later, reaching a hand out to Aaron to still him. When he whirled around, she fixed him with a smirk and took a deep breath.

Not every day my friends and I
Has gents like you just dropping by
Before you go, you'll know just why you came here

She finished the line with a coy wink, and Aaron had to fight to keep the serious, disturbed look on his face, fixing her with a small, pitying smile instead.

Of that my dear, I've little doubt

He trailed off with a look of intense concentration before his eyes strayed to Cara hopefully. She remained coy and interested, however, knowing that any change in her facial expression would result in another lecture and, in the eternal words of Henry Jekyll, they'd all "had enough for one day". ** However, the look in Aaron's eyes was enough to inform her that he'd forgotten his lines again, and she fought the urge to wince as his frown darkened to a look that more closely resembled Hyde than Jekyll.

"Dammit," he cursed. "Okay, C, I give up. What is it?"

She sighed heavily. "One only has..."

His eyes lit up in recognition, and he waved his frustration away before resuming the position. "Okay, let's go. I've got it." He took another deep breath and began again.

Of that my dear, I've little doubt
One only has to look about
It isn't hard to figure out the game here

"The game, however, involves learning your lines, Mr. Carter," Cal snapped impatiently from the front row, signaling to his assistant to cut the music. With a roll of his eyes, he vaulted up onto the stage and glared at his little blonde star. "The words, Carter, are 'It's not too hard to figure out the game here'. Perhaps if you studied harder, you'd remember. It's imperative that you remember, though, because Ms. Lucy is not going to be able to help you with your lines come opening night when half the critics in this city are watching your every move." He groaned aloud and turned to Cara in frustration.

"Now,'re a whore, Cara. I don't know how many times I've got to tell you this, but you can't be gentle. When you grab him, really grab him, okay? I don't care if we turn the little freak black and blue, but this scene has GOT to be believable." He turned back to Aaron, who was mimicking him behind his back. "Carter, you can continue with the comedy session when you've mastered this scene. Until then, I can assure you that none of your fellow cast members are going to be laughing, because I am completely capable of making this rehearsal hell. I want you to open your eyes, and I want you to turn slowly. You do not whirl. You're not fucking Tara Lipinski, and this isn't the Ice-capades, okay? Watch what you're doing, and stay in character. I saw that smirk before you remembered the pitying smile, and I don't think the audience is going to be pleased if both Jekyll AND Hyde turn out to be assholes, agreed?"

He didn't even wait for an answer before whirling around and glaring downstage at the few cast members chatting in the audience. "Theresa!"

Theresa glanced up from her conversation and grinned sweetly. "Yes, Cal?"

"Go warm up. We're re-marking the scene of the engagement party next, and you'd better be ready. If we have to run lines until midnight, people, we're going to get this done, understand?"

A chorus of groans and nods briefly filled the auditorium. Theresa rolled her eyes and jogged towards a private room where she could practice, and Cal turned back to his victims of the moment, who were giggling over something that the rest of the cast wasn't aware of.

"Okay, Aaron and Cara, you've had your playtime. You are now Henry Jekyll and Lucy Harris. Act like it, would you? I'm getting really fucking sick of this scene."

Aaron nodded lightly before moving back to his place behind the door and turning to Cara. "Damn, he's not the only one. We've been rehearsing the same scene for almost an hour, now."

Cara smiled sweetly at him. "At least you didn't have to whore yourself out to half the cast for the fifty thousandth time during 'Bring On The Men', okay? I'd treat you to an impression since you were out in the lobby, but I don't want my butt kicked."

Aaron chuckled lightly. "Save it for later, 'cause I'm dying to see this." He winked at Cara, and the two shared a smile before Aaron finally turned his attention back to their demanding director. "Okay, Cal, we're ready. You can start the music

The music began, and Aaron walked swiftly out of the door, slamming it behind him. Only seconds later, Cara burst through it, running up to Aaron and reaching a hand out to still him. When he whirled around, she fixed his with an alluring cross between a smile and a smirk and took the obligatory deep breath.

Not every day me friends and I
Has gents like you just dropping by
Before you go, you'll know just why you came here

Aaron's disturbed, thoughtful look became a pitying smile slowly as he examined the woman in front of him. She had arched an eyebrow coquettishly, and he knew that Cal would appreciate the touch. Never one to be outdone, he reached for her hand and brushed her knuckles lightly with his finger, acting the part of the perfect gentleman as he took his own deep breath.

Of that my dear, I've little doubt
One only has to look about
It's not too hard to figure out the game here

He paused thoughtfully, and the disturbed look slightly clouded the smile he'd worn moments earlier. His own eyebrow arched slightly, and he cocked his head to one side, examining her a second time before taking up his cue.

And yet I sense there's more to you

She cut him off with a thrilled, girlish giggle/gasp, and brought her hand to her throat in imitation of a woman with more experience than her age should allow.

You flatter sir, you really do
With half a chance...

"Cut, cut, cut, cut...just fucking cut." The director, perched onstage with his arms folded across his chest, shook his head in disgust. "With half a chance, we won't be tomato target practice and the entire audience won't demand a refund after seeing the pathetic likes of you two gracing the stage in some ridiculous cat-and-mouse game. This is a chase, yes, and they are flirting, but...good God, Cara, what the fuck was that? He hasn't strangled you yet, my dear. Be calm and stick to giggling, or I might as well recruit Claire Danes to cough up hairballs in between sobs for me." He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Can you avoid the gasp?"

Cara bit back a smile at the allusion to Claire Danes's horrible sobbing in Romeo + Juliet and nodded. "Absolutely."

He sighed and nodded in return. "Good. Now, just because I haven't gotten to torment the engagement chorus yet, we're going to go ahead and start from where we left off." He looked expectantly at Aaron. "I want that same expression. You were in character that time, and it worked. Did it kill you?"

Aaron managed a tight-lipped smile. "Nope."

Cal nodded again. "Lovely. Cara, I want a giggle, understood?" As soon as she nodded her understanding, he waved back to the sound technician. "Resume!"

Aaron arched his eyebrow again and cocked his head to one side, studying Cara intensely before taking a breath.

And yet I sense there's more to you

She interrupted him with a light laugh reminiscent of any seductress and trailed her finger lightly along his jawline before quirking her own eyebrow.

You flatter sir, you really do
With half a chance

Aaron allowed a hint of amusement to creep into his expression as he watched his shy, quiet best friend personify everything he'd ever known about female sexuality.

What would you do?

She tossed her head back in a mix of shame and amusement before catching his gaze and giving her head a tiny shake and belting the next lines.

Don't ask me

That said, she removed her hand from his grasp and walked around him slowly before pressing herself up against him and beginning a tune of her own.

Here's to the night
Here's to romance
To those unafraid
Of taking a chance

Aaron, no longer amused, gave her a tight but courteous smile and removed her from him gently but forcefully, sending her back a few steps. He shook his head and began turning away from her, back to his original destination.

I think I've taken enough for one day
And I have learned to my cost
It's not the fun that it might be once you have lost

Cara, completely swept away in the relentless character of Lucy, rushed in front of him with the same coy smirk and grabbed his shoulders, pouting lightly before smirking again.

Oh, what a shame, if you only knew
The games we could play, the things we could do
Yet I can see you're not up to the chase
But if you're ever in need
I am the girl, and this is the place
Come to me

She ended her powerful solo and suggestion by stepping back slowly and turning to walk back into the nightclub. However, Aaron became relentless in turn, swifty catching up to her and touching her shoulder in a way that made her saunter around slowly to face him. His frown was still in place, but there was a hint of compassion in his eyes that seemed to soften the expression as he handed Cara what looked to be a business card.

It's getting late, I have to go
If any time, you never know
You need a friend

He trailed off and turned slowly around, leaving Cara with the same thoughtful frown as she stared down at the business card. In measured steps, Aaron walked quickly offstage, leaving the spotlight on Cara, who cocked her head to one side, all coyness forgotten in light of her new gift. "Henry Jekyll," she read. "Forty-six Harley Street." Before she could continue her musical number, she heard the familiar sound of Cal's slow, sarcastic applause.

"Said in a perfect British accent," he called out with a slight sneer. "Congratulations, Eliza fucking Doolittle. Won't Professor Higgins be proud?"

Cara groaned inwardly, knowing immediately that she'd forgotten the trademark bourgeoisie accent. She looked up meekly to meet Cal's fiery gaze and swallowed forcefully. Damn. This is never going to be over. He smiled gently at her.

"Cara, darling, what is Jekyll's name?"

Cara bit back a grimace. "Doctor 'enry Jekyll. Forty-six 'arley Street."

Cal's smile faded. "Can we do it right this time?"

She nodded. "Yeah."


She winced. "Yes."

He nodded and jumped down from the stage to cue the music. "Well, go on, we're waiting. Resume."

She rolled her eyes lightly and assumed the same confused position, staring down at the business card where Aaron had written in his chicken scratch "bourgeois...whatever. You know what I mean." She bit back a smile and inwardly shook her head. How cute...

She cleared her throat quietly and began to read, brow furrowed. "Doctor `enry Jekyll. Forty-six 'arley Street." She gazed amusedly in the direction that Aaron had gone and smirked to herself before turning around to re-enter the club. She took a quiet breath.

If any time, you never know
You need a friend...

She trailed off and began humming accordingly, just as the script had said to do, and finally escaped the stage before pocketing her only prop. When she descended the stairs, Cal was waiting for her at the bottom with a genuine smile.

"Nice work, loved the humming. How did it feel to go back to the street, Eliza?"

Cara did smile at that. "Lovely."

Cal nodded. "Let's not forget for tomorrow, okay? Now, scram. I've got to torment Aaron a bit more, and Theresa hasn't nearly had enough to do today."

Cara shook her head. "Are you going to need me for anything else?"

Cal shrugged. "Not sure. I'd stick around."

She nodded and went to her seat, smiling to herself when she heard Cal begin his descent on the engagement party chorus. The members of the cast were all looking less than pleased when the music finally cued, and she sat back in one of the chairs to watch. When Cal began another rant, Aaron winked at her from the stage, and she winked in return. Rehearsal was never pleasant, but she loved performing with her friends. As the scene progressed and she watched her friends work, she hummed quietly to herself and smiled.

Yeah, this is the life.

* "Complicated" - lyrics and music by Avril Lavigne, on album LET GO
** "Lucy Meets Jekyll" - lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, music by Frank
Wildhorn, from the music JEKYLL & HYDE