Comforting Lie
Chapter Thirty-One
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

The music stopped with a high-pitched jolt from the tape player, and the audience of cast members burst into raucous applause. Amidst whistles and catcalls, Aaron and Cara stared at each other, frozen by the gravity of what had just occurred. Both looked positively terrified until Cal's voice began to echo through the auditorium.


The two on stage turned to face him, eyes wide and mouths agape.

"I see you had the same reaction." And then the unthinkable happened. Cal laughed. "Aaron, man, I never thought I'd live to see the day when you'd turn 'Dangerous Game' into soft porn, but that was a nice transformation. There was so much sexual tension in here that I was getting antsy. That kiss isn't scripted, but...fuck, kid, feel free to improvise that. I think you scared the shit out of Cara, but it worked. Worked like a charm. I'm...I'm fucking impressed, kids, and that doesn't happen often. Cara, I don't think I've ever seen you play Lucy with so much turmoil. That was fucking BRILLIANT. I'm not sure either one of you knows what the hell just happened, Just wow. Damn." He shook his head.

Somewhere after the third wow, Cara regained the ability to blink. She sucked in a generous breath and stepped out of Aaron's embrace, looking expectantly at Cal.

"Am I done?"

He chuckled. "In more ways that one, apparently. Grab Trent on your way to the lobby."

She gulped, nodded, and made a break for it. Aaron, meanwhile, shoved his hands in his pockets and sighed heavily.


Aaron looked to his director expectantly.

"You got enough voice left to run lines with Trent for the next scene?"

Aaron shrugged and cleared his throat. He'd rather use whatever he had left to talk to Cara, but he knew from experience that Cal wouldn't go for that. He closed his eyes for a moment and nodded.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

Cal arched an eyebrow skeptically. "Great. But if you start to feel off, then get your ass offstage. I'd rather you get ridiculously ill NOW so we don't have to take breaks between takes for you to puke your guts up during the performance, okay?"

Aaron nodded. "Yeah."

"Brilliant. Trent?" The lanky brunette jogged up the orchestra stairs obediently. "Let's run it from the scene in the lab where Utterson meets Hyde."

The two boys nodded, and Aaron slumped forlornly into the waiting armchair as the techs wheeled the lab set onto the stage. Trent took one good look at Aaron and shook his head.

"You know we're gonna talk later, right?" he asked quietly, but expectantly.

Aaron laughed hollowly. "Can't wait."

*      *      *      *      *

Cara had been hoping to get out of the auditorium without running into any of the cast members. Unfortunately, her hope was in vain; Theresa was waiting for her at the doors that separated the stage from the lobby.

"What the hell just happened in there?"

Cara gulped and allowed herself the luxury of spitting the one phrase that had been dancing around her consciousness for the past five minutes. "Aaron kissed me."

Theresa rolled her eyes. "No shit, Sherlock. I saw that part. What I didn't see was whatever led up to that. What the hell motivated him to do that?"

Cara expelled a sigh and closed her eyes. "I don't have a clue, T. Your guess is as good as mine."

"So you guys haven't been going behind my back with this physical stuff?"

Cara's eyes widened. "Hell no! T, look at me! Do I look like I expected that?"

Theresa smirked. "Definitely not."

"Don't smile like that. It makes me think that you ENJOY my pain."

Theresa laughed lightly. "I wouldn't exactly call kissing Aaron Carter painful, Cara. Need I remind you of your little crush a few years ago?"

Cara's response was deadpan. "NO."

"Didn't think so."

Cara sighed. "But, T, it wasn't Aaron Carter. I wasn't kissing Aaron Carter. I was kissing Aaron, the goofy kid who came to live with us while he proved himself as a veritable musical act. Aaron is like my best friend. Aaron Carter is still some pre-teen singing sensation that puts a bunch of lucky girls through puberty."

Theresa winced. "You know, as strange as that sounded, I actually understand where you're coming from."

"Of course you do! For God's sake, Theresa, it's Aaron!"

"But you enjoyed it," Theresa countered with a smile. Cara groaned.

"Truth to tell, T, I didn't have time to. He shocked the hell out of me with that kiss. He'd been overly sexual throughout the entire song, but I wasn't expecting him to kiss me."

"That makes two of us," Theresa sighed.

"I mean, has he been sending signals my way? Should I have noticed something?"

Theresa shrugged. "C, with all the shit Nick's been putting us through, I think we'd be hard-pressed to notice anything that didn't involve cocaine."

"You've got a point." Cara sighed heavily and rubbed a tired hand over her face. "I just wish I knew what was going on in Aaron's head. I haven't had any time to really talk to him lately."

"That, and we've been avoiding him so we can deal with Nick," Theresa added. "Fucking Backstreet Boy."

"That's the thing, though, isn't it?" Cara mused. "He's not Nick Carter, Backstreet Boy, either. He's just Nick, the screwed-up older brother."

Theresa sighed. "Personally, I liked him better when he was some pretty poster boy for the pop wave."

Cara rolled her eyes. "You and I both, babe."

"So what are you going to do about Aaron?"

Cara heaved yet another sigh. "I have no idea. None. He shocked me today, and I've got to go eat dinner with Nick tonight, and I have NO idea how I'm going to manage to do either without pissing off one of them."

Theresa frowned and held up a hand. "Whoa, halt. You're going to dinner with Nick tonight? Is this, like, a date or something?!"

Cara took one look at Theresa's horrified expression and burst out laughing.

"What? Cara, it's not funny! I know you want to help him out and all, but you don't have to date him! Especially not when his brother is apparently crushing all over the place..."

Amazing how easily Cara sobered after that remark.

"Relax, T. It's not a date. I woke up this morning to find a barely-coherent older Carter sprawled out on the couch watching David Hasselhoff ruin Jekyll & Hyde. He said he had a hard night. Said he wants to get his life together. Said that he wanted me to teach him 'No One Knows Who I Am,' and then Aaron hollered for me and we agreed to meet for dinner so we could discuss the reconstruction." She furrowed her brow meaningfully at her friend. "I'm just trying to help him out, T. When you get right down to it, his behavior hurts Aaron more than it hurts anyone else. If I can help Nick put his life back together, then maybe Aaron'll stop hurting, and then it'll all be worth it."

"Provided that he doesn't find out we've been hiding all of this from him," Theresa added with a pointed glance. "I mean, shit. If he finds out about Nick and the cocaine, we're totally fucked."

Cara groaned. "No joke."

"So what's your excuse tonight?"


Theresa expelled an exasperated breath. "When Aaron asks me where you are. After that display in there, you know he's going to want to talk to you. What do I tell him?"

Cara groaned. "Beats me. Make up something."

"Dinner with a friend?"

Cara chuckled. "Yeah, right. All of my friends are in the musical."

"Dinner with a relative?"

She frowned. "Wouldn't I have mentioned that earlier?"

"Dinner with an old friend from college?"

Cara sighed. "I guess that could work. I don't know. You're good at I said, just make something up. I'm going to scram before Aaron has a chance to come looking for me."

With that, she headed out the door and onto the streets of New York.

*      *      *      *      *

At long last, Cal tired of harassing Aaron and Trent, and Cara was called back onto the stage to run lines with the rest of the girls from the Dregs. As the director hollered instructions about poses and intonation, Aaron and Trent ducked backstage and ventured down into the rec room Aaron had previously discovered. When the door shut behind them, Trent turned an expectant gaze to his younger friend.

"Okay, man, out with it. What the hell happened out there with Cara?"

Aaron groaned. "Man, I don't know..."


Aaron rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Come on, man! You saw the expression on my face. I was as shocked as she was."

Trent cocked his head to the side skeptically. "Not for the same reasons, though."

"No," Aaron agreed with a soft chuckle. "Not for the same reasons."

"You've been thinking about doing that for awhile."

It was an observation, not a question, and the nature of the remark wasn't lost on Aaron.

"Yeah, I have been. Was it obvious?"

"Before today? No. Cara wouldn't have been so shocked if you'd been obvious."

The younger man flinched at the memory of his friend's face. "Man, she was shocked, wasn't she?"

"Shocked?" Trent laughed lightly. "Dude, she was scared shitless. I don't think she knew what the hell was going on. None of us did. We were sure all the sexual stuff was part of the act until you actually hauled off and kissed her. Hyde wouldn't have done that."

"No," Aaron agreed with a small smile. "But I would."

"You did," Trent corrected.

"I did."

"Do you regret it?"

Aaron laughed. "Man, I don't know. I won't know until I talk to Cara. Whether or not I regret it depends on her reaction. If she flips shit, I'm going to regret it. If she reciprocates..." Aaron trailed off to wink at his friend. "Well, that's a different story."

"Tell me about it," Trent muttered.

"Yeah, you would know, huh? How long have you and Tabitha been dating, anyway?"

The answer came immediately. "Ten and a half months. Almost a year."

Aaron shook his head in amazement. He could probably count on one hand the number of relationships he'd had that had lasted longer than a month. "Wow."

"You think that until you find the right girl. With Tabby, the time seems to pass too quickly, you know? Like it's never enough."

Aaron sighed. "Yeah. And you guys are still in the stage where you can't freaking keep your hands off of each other."

Trent grinned broadly. "Between you and me, bro? I hope that never stops. She's fucking amazing."

"Yeah, you two are good for each other."

There was a long pause before Trent dared to venture into more dangerous territory. "Thinking about Cara?"

Aaron expelled a breath. "Kinda. I've always thought she was amazing. I just...never really saw her as accessible, I guess."

"And you do now?"

"We're closer now," Aaron pointed out. "We've been friends for awhile, we're living together...we know each other a lot better. Hell, I know what she looks like when she first wakes up. I've got a handle on her idiosyncrasies and everything. Before, if I'd made a move, it would've been total uncertainty; I could've walked into the world's worst situation. Now, it's different because I know that I like her for who she is and I'm kinda confident that things could work between us."

"This is dangerous too, though," Trent pointed out. "If you guys try to have a relationship and it doesn't work, you could end up screwing up your friendship."

"That's what I'm worried about," Aaron admitted. "As a friend, I love Cara to death. She's been wonderful, especially with Nick being in town and everything. I don't know if we could ever be IN love with each other, though."

"But you're willing to try?"

Aaron chuckled lightly. "Well, if I wasn't willing, I wouldn't have kissed her."


"Between you and me," Aaron added with a wink, "she's a damn good kisser, too."

Trent rolled his eyes. "Great."

"Hey, man, no complaints. We have to watch you and Tabitha every day."

Trent chuckled. "Yeah, that's true. Not that we have the same kind of vibe going that you and Cara had onstage today, but..."

"You mean the soft porn vibe?"

"So you knew exactly how physical you were being?"

Aaron grinned. "Of course, man! Normally, I wouldn't have acted on all of those impulses, of course, but DayQuil does funny things to you."

"Is that what you're going to tell Cara?"

Aaron shrugged. "Something along those lines. She knows me well enough to know that the majority of that display was way out of character." He paused for a moment. "The kiss wasn't, though. I think that's what threw her for a loop."

"Among other things," Trent retorted. Aaron grimaced.

"Yeah, I was kinda sexual up there, huh?"

"Understatement," Trent deadpanned, and the two men shared a laugh.

"She knows I like messing with her, though. She's so freaking conservative..."

"Which you find attractive."

Aaron looked mildly offended. "Of course! Man, I've seen and dated the other kind of women. The loose ones. They just...they aren't worth it. A girl who's been around the block that many times isn't worth it to me. I don't care if they're willing to put out. It just doesn't appeal to me anymore."

Trent nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I know what you mean. After awhile, you just want someone to settle down with."

Aaron looked up in surprise. "That's not meant to say that I don't want to have lots of sex..."

Trent burst out laughing. "Man, do yourself a favor, okay?"


"DON'T give Cara that disclaimer."

Aaron chuckled. "Yeah, I hear ya. She's too sweet and innocent."

Trent heaved a sigh. "How long have you liked her, dude?"

"Honestly? Since Nick came to town and I got to see Cara try and get him back on track. She's so patient with him and he's such a shit...but for a little bit, he was better, and it was all because of her. She's got a way with people. It's cool to see."

Trent nodded his agreement. "Just make sure you don't expect her to be your Superman. She may have worked wonders with you, but that doesn't mean she can do the same for your brother."

Aaron sighed. "I know. Believe me, I know. It's just the fact that she tried."

"Is she still trying?"

The younger man shrugged. "Hell if I know. I try to avoid Nick. After T accused him of taking cocaine, I washed my hands of it. I just...there's only so much I can handle where Nick's involved."

"What if he really is taking coke? Would you want to know?"

Aaron bit his lower lip and stared forlornly at the floor. "I don't know, man. Before, I would've said yes, but now I really don't know."

*      *      *      *      *

"Larkin, I want you sleeping on that script tonight. I don't care if you have to learn by osmosis, but I want your lines fucking PERFECT by tomorrow. Aaron, you need to go straight to bed with a cup of tea. I know you're a trooper, but you need to get better, and it needs to happen fast." The aforementioned cast members nodded sagely, and Cal heaved a satisfied sigh. "Okay, kids, you're free to go. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning."

The dismissal was followed by the usual rush of cast members up the aisles, but Aaron stayed back for a moment in an attempt to find Cara.

"A? You ready to head out?"

He glanced up to find Theresa staring at him expectantly and sighed. "I guess so. Where's C?"

Eating dinner with your brother so they can talk about his coke addiction. "She ran into an old friend from college while she was getting lunch today, and they agreed to meet up for dinner."

Aaron frowned in confusion. "Why aren't you with her?"

Theresa chuckled bitterly and convincingly. "We didn't exactly run with the same crowds in college. I doubt I'd be welcome."

Luckily, Aaron seemed to accept the answer. "Man, that sucks. I really need to talk to her."

"Yeah, you do," Theresa agreed pointedly, tossing an arm around Aaron's waist. "However, you need to explain this shit to me first. What the hell happened onstage this morning?"

Aaron sighed. "I'm not really sure, T. That's why I need to talk to Cara."

Yeah, you and your brother both. "There will be plenty of time for that later, babe. For now, let's get you home. We're going to pump you so full of herbal tea that you'll piss an entire ocean before opening night."