Aaron stretched fluidly, wincing as his bones cracked to life beneath tired, pillow-creased
skin. With a loud, sleep-thick groan, he rolled over and opened one eye towards the neon green light of his alarm clock.
blinked. He stared. He was about to roll back over in annoyance when he realized that the little light signifying PM was blinking
right back at him.
One o'clock in the afternoon? Holy shit!
He yanked off the covers and jumped into
a sitting position, both feet landing solidly on the floor. The rushing of blood to his head colored the edges of his vision
bright silver. Both hands flew to his temples as his stomach threatened to empty itself. Okay, so sitting up quickly was
a dumb idea, but I'm going to be late to rehearsal, dammit! Cal's probably going to eat my head.
He began plotting
various ways to kill his two roommates as he struggled towards the door. It creaked open slowly, announcing his entrance to
the rest of the apartment. He was halfway to the bathroom when he noticed Theresa sprawled out on the floor eating popcorn.
All five feet and eleven inches of Cara were stretched out on the couch while her fingers turned the
pages of a wrinkled paperback. He bit back a smile. She never did take very good care of her books. She was forever spilling
things on them, and...
Why the hell is everyone lounging in the living room?
"Look! He really IS still
Unfortunately for Aaron, the wheels were turning too slowly for him to formulate a comeback before Cara's eyes
strayed from the pages.
"Morning," she greeted with a grin. "Sleep well?"
He thought he was glaring, but he
wasn't entirely sure. "I think. Why the hell are you guys still here?"
"Day off, baby!" Theresa hollered. "Didn't you
get the memo?"
He flinched. Sarcasm and loud noises were definitely not a good combination so shortly after waking.
come twice a week," Cara offered with a chuckle. "They're called weekends, babe."
Like a cartoon in slow motion, a
lightbulb finally sprung to life above his head. Oh...
"We decided to let you sleep. You looked exhausted."
slid to a sitting position, and Aaron crashed onto the couch, leaning his head in her lap as he stretched his tired limbs.
She began rubbing his head with one hand, running her fingers through his sandy blond hair. His eyes fluttered
closed, and the corners of his lips curved upward.
"Are you feeling any better?"
Cara's voice was tender and
"Yeah, just dizzy," came the barely-there reply. "God, that feels good."
Theresa watched the scene
with unabashed amusement. It's about time something happened between those two. She had watched them all week, waiting
for either or both to crack beneath the weight of sexual tension. Unfortunately, Aaron's persistent cold and Nick's apparent
transformation had made it difficult for the two to get any alone time.
She was suddenly tempted to move her popcorn
binge to the bedroom.
"What do you guys have planned for the rest of the day?"
Theresa and Cara shared a smile
over Aaron's head, and Theresa answered around a mouthful of popcorn. "Absolutely nothing."
Aaron chuckled. "Perfect."
feel like taking another nap?"
He groaned. "Hell no. I slept forever, man. I'm all slept out."
a delightful lilting sound that made Aaron smile. He opened his eyes, and brown locked with brown as their smiles slowly
On the floor, Theresa decided that getting up would be too obvious. Instead, she yanked a TV Guide
off the end table and began nonchalantly flipping through it.
"You have really pretty eyes."
It came out barely
above a whisper, just a gravely breath to complement the ticking of the clock, but the slight raise of Cara's brow allowed
that she had heard him.
They were so heartbreakingly cute that Theresa couldn't conceal her smile.
Aaron blushed crimson, and the embarrassment of a first-rate fancy crackled in the silence.
about this all wrong, huh?"
Cara laughed lightly, shyly, just like a girl with a crush. "Not at all."
You've just always struck me as one of those `shower me with compliments' kind of girls."
She cocked her head to the
side and furrowed her brow. "Really? How so?"
"You're just such a lady about everything," Aaron laughed. "So proper
about it all. And then there's me, and I'm just so...not proper."
"You're the sweetest not proper guy I know," Cara
offered with a shy smile.
Theresa couldn't hold back any longer. "Man, musical theater is SUCH a bad influence on the
two of you."
Slowly, the tension of a budding relationship fizzled, and the two on the couch turned towards their increasingly
cynical friend in surprise.
Theresa rolled her eyes good-naturedly at their
confusion. She'd had enough crushes to appreciate their situation, but it didn't mean that she was going to cut them any slack.
Hell, I've had to live with them like this long enough. I deserve to torment them a little. "Oh, don't play dumb.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. Do you want me to start the `Love Scene' chorus now or later?"
At the mention
of Fame, both thespians let out loud groans.
"That's just mean," Cara muttered in disdain.
Aaron agreed petulantly. "There's no way in hell I was THAT corny."
"I don't know, kiddo," Theresa laughed. "You might
"Not to that extent," Aaron grumbled. "I'm not about to break into a verse of 'I Hope I Make PA.'"
cast him a sympathetic smile. "Hon, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you're about to break into a verse of anything."
couldn't if he wanted to," Theresa fired. "Cal's orders. He's supposed to be healing."
"You can't say I'm not following
the bed-rest orders, though," Aaron retorted. "I've already slept half the day away."
"And you're looking to spend
the other half in Cara's lap," Theresa finished with a grin.
"I'm certainly not moving him."
Theresa was incredulous.
Aaron was triumphantly content.
"Ha! See? Cara loves me."
Any other female would have blanched at the nonchalant
use of the L-word, but the southern belle on the overstuffed leather simply squeezed her ailing charge and threw a shit-eating
grin towards her surprised roommate.
"Indeed she does."
Theresa rolled her eyes and shook her head, in that
order. "Y'all are gonna give me a heart attack."
"I certainly hope not."
"Yeah, we kinda like you where you
She took it as an invitation and made herself comfortable. As if on cue, the sick one let out a low groan.
man, I shouldn't have said that. Now she's never going to leave us alone."
Theresa's tone immediately altered the casual tone of conversation, and when the other two donned serious expressions, she
continued. "Are you guys really going to go through with this couple thing?"
The aforementioned pair exchanged a shrug.
hadn't really talked about it," Cara admitted. "Things have been kind of crazy lately."
Theresa knew exactly what "things"
her friend was referring to. "I'd like to go through with the whole couple thing," Aaron admitted quietly. "I mean, we might
want to wait to make sure this cold doesn't kill me, but after that..."
Cara frowned down at him. "Aaron, you're going
to be fine."
He let out an ambitious moan of frustration, and Theresa took the disastrous sound as her cue to exit.
doesn't feel like it."
Her voice was whisper-soft and maternally soothing. "I know, honey, but you're already sounding
better, and you've got a whole 'nother day of rest lined up when this one calls it quits."
When he didn't even crack
a smile at her southernisms, she knew something was really wrong.
He reached up his arms for a hug, and she obliged with a concerned frown.
her quickly, his voice muffled by her shoulder. "I'm scared, C."
She pulled back slightly. "Why?"
Opening night is in a week. I can't afford to be sick."
Her face fell sympathetically with the sigh he expelled.
serious, C. I did this for me, right? I've always wanted to do serious music, but I never thought I could. Now that I KNOW
I can, I want to prove to everyone else that I can do it. I can't prove jack shit to people if I can't sing."
constricted, and one hand began rubbing his stomach gently in consolation.
"I should be better by now."
sighed. "I know, honey, but you've been under a lot of stress lately..."
"Fuck the stress!"
Cara jumped. She
had seen Aaron in a variety of moods, especially since Nick's arrival, but she could count on one hand the number of times
she had seen him yell.
"Don't 'Aaron' me, Cara. I'm serious. Fuck the stress, fuck my sympathy, and
FUCK my stupid-ass older brother."
Her voice was soft, but firm enough to halt his temper tantrum. "Aaron Charles,
you don't mean that."
"Yeah, I do," he grunted. "I'm serious. I mean it."
"No you don't."
He hissed out
a long breath, the force of which seemed to deflate him completely. "Maybe not yet, but I want to."
She heaved a sigh.
"And shit, C, now he's showing up to rehearsals and bringing me soup and wanting to be friends again. What
the hell am I supposed to do, huh? I wish it were as simple as 'hey, Nick, you're an asshole but I love you anyway,' but it's
not. There's too much that's happened."
"And you can't just forgive and forget."
"No!" Aaron cried. "Well…the
forgiving thing is easy, but the forgetting thing...that's just never going to happen. I wish I could forget, but I wish I
could be a coldhearted bastard even more." His features darkened as he remembered all that his brother had put him through.
"That's what he really deserves."
Cara cast a half-nervous, half-sympathetic look downwards. "Do you really think that?"
laughed hollowly. "Sometimes, yeah. And then I hate myself for it, because I'm supposed to be his fucking support system."
There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "You know what I really want?"
The younger man
sighed. "I want him to admit to everything. Even better, I want him to fucking apologize for it. He never owned up to all
the shit he put us through. He just kind of ignored everyone until he felt better, and then he played the 'poor me' hand until
we started talking to him again."
Cara's brow furrowed. "Who is 'we'?"
"Me." His voice was small and tear-filled.
"You were the only one that kept coming back."
Cara took a deep breath and decided
to step out onto shaky ground. "A, maybe you should talk to him about this."
Aaron's eyes closed, and a single tear
slid through his lashes and down his left cheek. "I can't, C."
His eyes opened up to hers, wide brown
pools edged in red and reluctance. "Because, if I do that, I might never get him back."