The door had barely closed behind the weary trio when Cara leveled Aaron with a Mommy-caliber
"Go to bed."
Aaron opened his mouth to protest, but Theresa jumped in before he could get a word out.
there's not a chance in hell that you're gonna talk your way out of this one, okay? You've still got sleep in your eyes from
when you passed out on the fucking floor of the auditorium. Hell, you've got enough flu medication in you to power an army
of addicts for at least a month. Do yourself a favor and go the hell to sleep!"
Aaron opened his mouth, but closed
it just as quickly. Theresa and Cara both had a habit of talking way too fast and way too metaphorical when they were angry,
and the mass amounts of Robitussin in his system were making her words sound strangely like a train wreck.
you missed any of that," Cara added slowly but sternly, "here's a recap: go to bed."
Aaron blinked. "Yeah, I got that
"So what's wrong? Did the tranquilizers numb your nuts or do you still have carpet fibers in your ears?"
Blink. "Y'all are mean."
Theresa watched in concern as Aaron started to sway back and forth. "You can't even stand
up straight, babe."
"And, no offense, but you're not stringing together any awe-inspiring sentences either," Cara added
with a discreet smile. Aaron folded his arms petulantly across his chest. After a deep breath, he closed his eyes and let
loose with a whine worthy of a temper-ridden toddler.
"But I'm hungry!"
"No you're not," Theresa muttered. "You're
exhausted. You can barely keep your eyes open."
"I'm tired," the younger man pouted. "But I really am hungry. I need
food in my system to fight off infection, right?"
Cara and Theresa exchanged knowing looks. They certainly couldn't
argue with that.
Cara's glare turned pleading. "A, if I make you a sandwich, will you go to your room and get under
He shook his head petulantly. "No."
His voice, while hoarse, offered no room
for contradiction. "I want to know why Nick was at the auditorium today."
Theresa rolled her eyes and stalked into
the kitchen, waving her arms around in surrender. "He's all yours, C."
Brunette and blonde faced off.
Nick's not here right now. Why don't you go to sleep now and ask him about his visit tomorrow?"
"Because we both know
damn well that I'll forget by tomorrow," Aaron fired back. "Even I know that I've got enough drugs in me to fuel
the entire fifth fleet."
"So what makes you think you're in any shape to have a heart-to-heart with Nick?" Cara asked
expectantly. Aaron groaned.
"I just...I mean..." He coughed loudly, raising his friends' eyebrows in the process. When
he spoke again, the fight and fire had left his brown eyes. "I just want to know what's going on, C. I hate going back and
forth with Nick. Today, he acted like he cares, and I want to make sure that this is just a temporary thing."
voice was soft as she guided the younger man to the sofa. "Why do you want it to be temporary, Aaron?"
He coughed violently,
and a single tear made its way down his cheek. "Because then I know not to hope that he's changing."
All at once, Cara's
tough Mommy-mode demeanor shattered, and she pulled him into a bone-crushing embrace as he hiccupped into her shoulder. "Oh,
The door to the apartment opened and closed quietly.
"Oh, you guys are still up."
up at the gentle, raspy voice. "Yeah, we're having some trouble getting this one to sleep."
Nick studied his brother's
shaking figure with obvious concern. "Oh." He looked helplessly towards Theresa and held up a large brown bag like a peace
offering. "I brought food in case anyone's hungry. Rehearsal looked kinda rough, and I figured you guys wouldn't want to cook."
is it?" Theresa asked dryly.
"Chinese," Nick answered tentatively. He directed his gaze towards Aaron again. "I brought
Sniffling, Aaron raised his forehead from Cara's shoulder. "Hot and sour soup?"
"Yeah." Nick managed
a small smile. "I figured, you know, since you've been sick...it always used to be your favorite..."
Another tear strolled
down Aaron's tanned cheek, and the two women watched as Nick made a fragile attempt to bridge the distance. Watery brown eyes
found blue as Nick held out a hand to his younger brother.
"C'mon, man, you need some sustenance in your system."
an encouraging squeeze from Cara, Aaron took the outstretched hand and allowed Nick to bring him to his feet. Together, the
Carter boys trudged towards the kitchen table. They were silent as Nick and Theresa unloaded the food, and then...
looked up at his brother and smiled. "No problem."
Aaron cleared his throat. "Not just for the food, Nick." He looked
up from the table, where he'd been tracing circles with his index finger. "Thanks for stopping by today. I'm not sure why
you came, but I'm glad you did."
His brother's smile widened. "Honestly? I wanted to see your world. You guys are always
talking about the musical and the cast and Cal, and I never know what you mean. I just wanted to put faces with names."
watched closely as Aaron's facial features relaxed. When he chanced a glance her way, she winked at him and the corner of
his mouth tugged upwards.
"What'd you think of Cal?"
At first, it wasn't apparent who was more surprised by
the initiation of conversation: Aaron or Nick. The latter quickly recovered, though.
"He's...harsh," Nick finished
lamely. "He's a perfectionist."
"Almost to a fault," Theresa laughed. "He was nice today, though."
agreed. "Letting me off the hook like that...he didn't have to do that."
"It's good that he did, though," Cara interjected
quietly. "You really didn't need to be singing."
"Thank you!" Theresa hollered, easing the tension a bit. "I've been
telling him that for the past three days, but the little shit never listens to me."
"You had a pretty good day today,"
Nick remarked casually. "I wouldn't have picked you for a first soprano."
"Yeah, well," Theresa mumbled, "we all have
our shortcomings. I would've loved to have been an alto."
"You would've loved to have been a whore," Aaron shot back,
and the two shared a smirk.
"Not as much as you love playing a tormented doctor," Theresa retorted. "Besides, you wouldn't
have half as much fun playing Jekyll if you didn't get to tease Cara with the character."
"I think I tease her more
with Hyde," Aaron chuckled, gladly accepting the bowl of soup that his brother offered. "Did you see how freaked out she was
the other day when we ran 'Dangerous Game'?"
"I wasn't freaked out," Cara muttered. "I was...surprised."
Aaron corrected. "I thought you were going to kill me."
"So did I," Cara chuckled, and the two shared a smile.
glad you didn't," Aaron admitted.
"You sure?" the brunette joked. "It would've saved you from today's rehearsal."
Aaron agreed. "But then Nick wouldn't have gotten to see lovesick Theresa."
Nick bit his lip to keep from smiling as
he sat down. "I'm kind of anxious to see Cara as a whore, actually." He cast a tentative glance at his brother. "I'm anxious
to see you as a murderous Hyde also."
Aaron's eyebrows rose appreciatively. "You know the story."
Carter blushed slightly. "I did some studying, yeah."
"Studying, soup, and a surprise visit to rehearsal," Theresa
recounted incredulously. "Man, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that there's a transformation underway."
up in surprise, sure that such a statement would shock both Carter brothers, but Nick sent her a small, albeit reassuring
smile. Aaron simply spooned more soup into his mouth.
"I'm getting better with the names and songs and things," Nick
"You don't have to."
Aaron's voice was surprisingly firm, but Nick's blue eyes were equally as
determined when he delivered his gentle response.
"I want to." When Aaron didn't make a move to protest, Nick continued.
"Who knows? Maybe, by opening night, I'll even be able to sing along."
Cara looked up just in time to see the tiny
flicker of hope that dashed across Aaron's features. Theresa glanced up just in time to see the resolve in Nick's blue eyes.
The two women locked gazes and shared knowing smiles before returning to their dinner.
Neither Carter brother was any