Comforting Lie
Chapter Fifty
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

Nick Carter was captivated. He was enraptured. He sat slack-jawed in his middle-section seat, watching intently as the music-laden story of Dr. Jekyll's fatal experiment played out before him. When the musical had begun, he had been watching as Aaron's older brother, as a friend of Cara and Theresa, as someone who had seen the show before. He'd been watching as a critic.

Yet sometime around the first scene in the Dregs--the nightclub at which Lucy sang "Bring On The Men" with all the saucy, sexy confidence of a professional dominatrix--Nick's perception of the musical changed. He stopped watching as a critic and began instead to watch as a voracious audience member. Despite his constant presence at more recent rehearsals, Nick had never actually seen the musical in its entirety, and he was pleasantly surprised at the force with which Calvert Holland's rejuvenation of the story sucked him in.

By Dr. Jekyll's gut-wrenching performance of "This Is The Moment," Nick was on the edge of his seat, completely mesmerized by the moral dilemma taking shape before him. His emotional involvement in the story increased until Mr. Hyde pulled Lucy to the front of the stage for the seductive, sinister song "It's A Dangerous Game," at which point Nick stopped merely watching the tale and started identifying with Dr. Jekyll and his inner demons.

His sense of self-identification reached its peak as Dr. Jekyll, bloodied by a bout with Hyde, took center stage alone and reached his hands out helplessly towards the balcony.

It's over now, I know inside
No one will ever know
The sorry tale of Edward Hyde
And those who died
No one must ever know

As the opening notes of "Confrontation" echoed throughout the theater, however, Nick wasn't the only person identifying with the story. Only a few yards away, Backstreet patriarch Kevin Richardson sat, equally pale and slack-jawed, stunned by the young cast's charisma and floored by the degree to which the story seemed to resemble his own life.

From the very beginning of the musical, Kevin had been thrown mercilessly into the past. He had internalized every line, every note, and perceived the entire script to be something laden with symbolism. Especially now, as Aaron's tall, lithe frame staggered downstage, Kevin was dumbstruck by the degree to which the moral dilemma playing out before him was reminiscent of the experience that had ultimately torn his extended family to shreds.

Before, he'd been so sure he was doing the right thing. Sending Nick to rehab, bringing Aaron in to run interference--he'd be so sure he was right.

He wasn't sure anymore. As a spotlight illuminated the distinctive sheen of tears in Aaron's soft brown eyes, all of Kevin's certainty slipped and shattered. He felt raw.

He'd been sure, but he'd never seen the story from Nick's side before. Logically, Kevin knew he was watching the fictional tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Emotionally, however, he couldn't help but feel as though he'd been forced to watch Nick struggle with addiction.

They'd only see the tragedy
They'd not see my intent
The shadow of Hyde's evil
Will forever kill the good that I have meant

For the first time, Kevin realized that just as Dr. Jekyll's struggle had never been about the rare drugs, Nick's struggle had never been about the cocaine.

Guilt settled like a rock in his stomach. With dampening eyes, he glanced out over the crowd for the countless time, searching in vain for a flash of the blonde hair he remembered.

Am I a good man?
Am I a madman?

The desperation in Aaron's voice, the gentle whine that echoed so clearly as a hopeless lament--it was all painfully familiar. Nick had asked himself the same questions a thousand times, and the lilt of Aaron's baritone captured the helplessness with striking accuracy. Grief's strong, thin fingers wrapped themselves around Nick's heart, and his chest began to ache with unshed tears.

Watching a bloody Dr. Jekyll emerge broken from battle to attempt one last fight with his inner demons was much more painful than Nick had ever anticipated. Because he'd had this fight before. He'd had this fight before, and he knew all too well how it ended.

It's such a fine line
Between a good man and a... *

An angry, euphoric smile crept across Aaron's features, and Edward Hyde's disturbing, bloodthirsty baritone echoed insanely throughout the theater as the battle began in earnest.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Kevin was impressed by Aaron's impeccable interpretation of the scene. In the forefront of his consciousness, however, Kevin was stricken by the realization that this fight--the most important fight of the entire musical--involved one man. Despite their proclamations of faith and friendship, Dr. Jekyll's talented cohorts had left him alone. He'd been in pain. He'd been fighting a war inside, but he had still made blatant attempts to protect his friends from the fallout. And, in the end, they had obeyed. Jekyll's parental efforts had succeeded. He was truly, painfully alone.

Suddenly, Kevin was irate. He wanted to leap into the wings and scream at Jekyll's self-proclaimed support system. "Where are you?" he wanted to yell. "There's a man dying out there, a man you claim to care about! A man you claim you'd lay down your lives for! He's fighting his most qualified, formidable foe, and he's alone! Where the fuck are you?"

He gripped the armrests and kept his mouth shut, but inside, he was seething.

It's not fair. It's wrong. Wrong. Why bother creating a family if they're just going to leave when you need them the most?

Onstage, Dr. Jekyll's battle was ending badly. The singing had progressed to screaming, and he was beginning to collapse with the weight of his inner struggle.

I'll live inside you forever
With Satan himself by my side
And I know that now and forever
They'll never be able to separate Jekyll from Hyde

The lyrics carried with them a finality that Nick refused to accept. He'd seen the end of the musical; he remembered the tragic conclusion with which his flatmates had initially regaled him, but he refused to believe that the story's morbid finale was Dr. Jekyll's only possible fate.

There has to be another way.

Nick continued to watch with rapt attention, torn between brotherly pride and personal turmoil. At long last, the eerie feeling left by Dr. Jekyll's tortured aria gave way to wedding bells, and Nick felt bile rising in his throat as Mr. Utterson emerged once more against the black backdrop.

"Henry had entered the very gates of hell and seen what lay beyond. His search for the truth had come to nothing." Utterson took a deep breath and gave a gentle shake of his head as if to emphasize the hopelessness of his friend's situation. "He knew he must leave his father in his unending darkness."

From stage left, Rob's Sir Danvers emerged in equally formal attire to continue the narration. He lifted his gaze to greet the audience of ensemble cast members and smiled wryly into the spotlight, his voice ironically cheery as he arched an eyebrow.

"Yet, back from the dead he the sound of wedding bells, ready to embrace the next--and we hope, much happier--chapter of his life."

An inexplicable fury began to build in Nick's gut. He felt his cheeks flushing, and he clenched his fists in an attempt to suppress the sudden wave of anger. Yet despite his best efforts, his eyes shot daggers at the stage.

It's not fair, he thought helplessly. It's not fair at all. He's seconds away from a happy ending. Seconds. He's going to get it right this time. He knows he fucked up. He wants a chance to make it better.

He couldn't help but think that, after all of the hell Jekyll had endured, the man deserved a chance.

* * * * *

Kevin knew the scene had changed. He knew from the way the actors gestured that they were speaking again. He knew he should be listening. He couldn't, however, seem to escape the dull roar of blood rushing behind his temples. To say that Aaron's final solo display had shaken him would have been a grave understatement. Kevin's entire body was trembling, and cold beads of sweat were slowly making their way through his hairline.

"He knew he must leave his father in unending darkness."

The words came to him as though from a dream, soft and distant and slightly fuzzy around the edges.

A nervous shiver wracked Kevin's tired limbs, and he wondered absently if this was how Nick had felt, suffering from withdrawal. He wasn't even sure he deserved to know.

The scrim rose to reveal the inside cavity of a pretty chapel, and Kevin fought the urge to groan.

You're not going to get the happy ending, he thought bitterly. You can take away the drugs, but the issues are still there, and as long as the issues remain, there is no happy ending.
Across the room, Nick shrank in his seat with measured reluctance as he watched the kind, familiar Dr. Jekyll melt into the angry, erratic Mr. Hyde. The physicality of the transformation appeared painful enough, but the tortured cries of "Oh, God!" that rang throughout the theater made Nick's stomach turn because he'd been there.

Oh, God, have I been there...

He knew exactly what it was like to become a person you didn't recognize, and he knew exactly how much it hurt to have little to no control over where and when the transformation occurred. He knew what it was like to feel like a spectacle. He knew what it was like to feel helpless.

Onstage, Dr. Jekyll collapsed by the altar, his limbs trembling violently as he cast a fervent, tearful glance at his wife. "Please help me," he whimpered.

Suddenly, Nick was blinking back tears.

He wasn't watching the altar anymore. Instead, he was staring tearfully at a hotel room with way too much brown, hating the paisley pattern on the bedspread and wondering blankly when merely existing had become too much for him to handle.

"Oh, God, won't somebody please set me free?"

Nick knew that feeling.

He hated how well he knew that feeling.

In his head, Aaron was crying. "Nick...Nick, please. Please, Nick. Come home and get better. I can...I'll help, I promise. I'll do whatever you need me to do.  I'll go with you, man. Just...please, Nick. You have to stop. You...please. Just please."

Onstage, Edward Hyde rose from Jekyll's metaphorical ashes with a devilish grin, and Nick suppressed a bitter laugh.


"Nick, please! You have to go! You have to get better! I need you!"

"I know that! Don't you think I know that?"

"So stop! Stop the drugs. Stop the...the...the cocaine." The little boy sniffled,
looking much younger than his thirteen years. "Prove that you love me more."

Nick stared wildly, his chest heaving. He felt like a caged animal. Like a beast behind bars being poked and prodded. He wanted out.

He needed out.

"There is no Dr. Jekyll! Only Edward Hyde."

Nick nodded slowly, resolutely, almost imperceptibly. He knew that feeling, too.

"Leave me alone, Kevin! You don't know what you're talking about! You don't have
any fucking clue!"

"I might, Nick. Just tell me, man. Talk to me. We're brothers, Nick.  Whatever it is, we can get through it."

He laughed bitterly, hollowly, like broken glass across concrete. "You know, I really, really want you to be right."

"I am."

"No. No, you're not. Because at the end of the day, it's just me and a hotel room and a whole fucking mess of silence. So no,
we can't get through it. There is no we. There's just me."

Onstage, Mr. Hyde had taken Jekyll's wife hostage. She was whimpering, and he was staring menacingly at the crowd of onlookers as he slowly wrapped his fingers around her neck.

The theater was so silent that the very drop of a pin would have startled the entire

"Henry..." Lisa Carew entreated shakily. "Henry, I know that it is you. And you would never harm me..."

She sounded nervous, but expectant, and Hyde's hands wavered ever so slightly in a surefire sign of self-doubt.

"Nick? Nick...what are you doing?"

Jekyll took a step backwards, his features contorting in anguish as the dastardly actions of his alter-ego began to register.

"Lisa?" he inquired fearfully, clutching his stomach in helpless regret. "Oh, God..."
She took a step forward to ease his angst, but he began to reel backwards, suddenly afraid of what he was capable of doing to her. "Oh, God, go on!" he cried, stumbling away from her. His brow furrowed in disgust. "Go on..." He stumbled to the opposite side of the stage, hunching his shoulders to avoid touching anyone else in his path. A maniacal cackle arose as he turned his back on the audience, and John Utterson reached around to his side and brandished a sword.

"Henry!!" Lisa cried.

Hyde turned around with a sinister grin. "DO it, John," he urged, chuckling lowly to himself. "Do it..."

Utterson took a threatening step forward, and Hyde's evil expression melted into the pained, hopeful gaze of Henry Jekyll.

Jekyll, surprisingly enough, continued the plea in his tormented tenor. "Do it..." he agreed quietly. "Please, John, do it!" He shook his head slowly, locking gazes with his lawyer and longtime friend. "Set me free, John, set me free." He let out a bitter chuckle. "Set us all free. Just do it, it."

The hotel bed shook beneath him, and he felt a warm hand on his shoulder blade.

"Nick, we need to talk."

"No, Brian, we don't," he replied, his voice muffled by the comforter.

"Frack, what we saw..."

"Should never be mentioned. Ever."

A heavy sigh echoed in the sudden silence. "Nick, man, you're destroying yourself. You need to talk to somebody. We...I...I can't just stand by and watch you kill yourself."

"Then either slit my wrists for me, or get out of my room."

The bedsprings creaked as an entire body's weight was lifted. Shortly after, the door rattled gently against the frame.

He was alone. Again.

He hadn't realized Brian would actually leave.

Utterson's determined expression faded to one of fear. He began to shake his head slowly, afraid of his own ill will. "I could not!"

Jekyll took three steps forward and reached out, grabbing the blade that Utterson wielded and pulling himself into its lethal line. The tip appeared behind him as rivers of blood ran down his fingers. When Utterson pulled the blade away in horror, the end of the sword was covered in glittering crimson.

Jekyll stumbled backward, staring at his hands in awe as he fell to the ground.

* * * * *

The crowd let out a collective gasp as Jekyll fell, but Kevin remained silent.  He couldn't seem to gather enough air to breathe, let alone react to what was happening in front of him.

He knew Dr. Henry Jekyll was the one dying, but he couldn't stop seeing Nick.

He couldn't believe Utterson had just held the knife out like that. What was he thinking? He couldn't kill the man, but he could hand him the blade? What the hell?

The realization hit him like a ton of bricks.

We handed him the blade. Over and over, we handed him the blade.

Suddenly, Kevin was blinking back tears. He couldn't breathe. He felt like he was

Onstage, Lisa let out a tiny, anguished squeak and rushed forward. "Henry...oh, Henry," she murmured, stroking his hair as she bent to cradle his head in her lap.

Jekyll lifted his gaze from his stained skin and offered her a breathtakingly hopeful
smile. "Lisa..."

Lisa brushed her husband's hair lovingly from his forehead, her eyes shining brightly with unshed tears. "Shh," she admonished, her whisper trembling ever so slightly.  "Rest," she ordered gently, placing a finger against his lips. "Rest now, my tormented love." **

With one last reassuring smile, she sucked in a deep breath and sang her offering of sanctuary in a lilting, whisper-soft soprano.

You are free now
You're with me now
Where you'll always be ***

Kristin reached over and laced her fingers in his in a sweet gesture of consolation, but the movement only made Kevin's heart ache. Because despite his wife's welcome presence, he couldn't help thinking that it should've been Nick's hand.

Had we done our job, had we really stuck by him like brothers, we would've come to this together. We would've all been here to support Aaron as a family.

As the music swelled around him, Kevin allowed himself a single tear for the family he had lost.

*      *      *      *      *

The instruments arrived at an ironically triumphant cadence, and the lights faded to black.

Onstage, the cast was frozen in a combination of disbelief and fear. They glanced back and forth between each other, trying to adjust to the darkness as the sudden silence weighed heavily on them.

Suddenly, it became painfully obvious that no one was moving. In fact, a paranoid Aaron was pretty sure that he could hear crickets chirping.

Theresa squeezed his hand painfully, and he winced at the realization that the show was over, and the theater was silent.

Oh, God. They hate us. They actually hate us.

The curtain creaked to life, its hinges squeaking pointedly as it began to close.

Yup. There they are. Crickets. We are so very, very screwed.

* "Confrontation" – lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, music by Frank Wildhorn
** all dialogue by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn
*** "Finale" – lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, music by Frank Wildhorn