Aaron watched his friends closely. They were talking and laughing as though
nothing was wrong, but he knew that the question would come inevitably. Despite his best acting efforts, he knew that they
would catch on. They knew him too well to accept that he was just being cordial. He continued to watch as Theresa chewed contentedly
and swallowed, catching her eye once she was finished. Yup, here it comes...
"So, A, why did you really bring
us out to dinner? I mean, you drag us away from rehearsals, into a pizza parlor--our favorite, I might add--and offer to pay
for as much as we'd like to eat." She smirked as she continued. "Boy, if I didn't know you, I'd think you were hitting on
us. However, I do know you, so I can only conclude that this is bribery of some sort."
Cara nodded her agreement as
she set her piece of pizza back on her plate. "Yeah, no kidding. What's up? Nothing that I can think of would call for this
kind of butt-kissing."
Aaron laughed nervously. "What makes you think that I'm not just being nice?"
leveled him with a disbelieving gaze. "Aaron, we've been living together for months. We're way past the 'nice' stage, okay?"
Cara smiled mischievously at him. "Really, dude. We've seen you in your boxers, remember?"
smirked. "Just think, millions of girls would pay to be in our place."
Aaron shot her a glare. "I'm not in that kind
of position anymore, remember? How do you think we can sit here without being interrupted twenty thousand times?"
shrugged, munching thoughtfully on a breadstick. "The millions of girls finally came to their senses?"
his eyes. "Not funny."
Cara watched him with growing interest, fully aware that he had something he wanted to discuss
with them. Theresa loved to tease, but the woman hadn't been kidding when she'd said that Aaron wouldn't go to such trouble
just to be nice. "Really, A, what's up? Terry's right...we know you too well for you to fudge this. You might as well tell
us whatever you need to before we forget that you paid for dinner tonight."
Theresa waved a hand dismissively. "Oh,
don't worry, C. I'm sure Air won't fail to remind us the next time it's his turn to do the laundry."
grateful for the distraction from the chance to announce the topic that had been plaguing him all evening. "Terry, dear, I
don't do laundry."
Cara stifled laughter. "Yeah, Ter. He turned your white shirt purple when he mixed the whites with
the colors." Theresa's eyes narrowed at the memory.
Aaron laughed again, throwing his hands
up in defense. "Hey, that wasn't my fault. How was I supposed to know you had to separate them?"
Theresa rolled her
eyes. "Common sense, you retard! The colors bleed together."
"So I found out..." Aaron retorted, but Cara only laughed.
"Yeah, Terry, go easy on him. He was a spoiled superstar when he came to our humble abode, remember?"
chuckled. "Oh, yeah. Little Prince of Pop learned to survive in the real world from us, didn't he?"
Aaron rolled his
eyes, blushing slightly. The two girls loved to tease him about his former naivete in all things domesticated. He had to admit
that their stories and teasing held some truth; he hadn't been quite as humble when he'd first moved in with them. Every now
and then, they still battled traces of his former ego. He prided himself on his quick adaptation to New York society, however.
"I'm a lot better than I used to be," he finally argued, knowing that they'd have to agree. Hell, even I can admit that
much. And watching Nick does wonders...
"No argument there," Cara agreed before tossing her napkin on her plate
and leaning back into her section of the booth casually. "Man, I'm stuffed."
"Me too," Theresa agreed, following Cara's
example and leaning back against the booth as well. "That was some damn good pizza, though."
Cara laughed. "Terry,
you always say that."
Aaron rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Yeah, it'd better be since you guys
ate two whole pizzas."
Theresa glared at him and wagged a finger in his direction. "I don't want to hear it, Carter.
You ate some of that too. It wasn't just C and I." She paused a moment. "Besides, we didn't get lunch. And, if you're trying
to bribe us to do something, then you don't get to whine."
Aaron's silence said it all. "You know what? Let's get
the check and head back to the apartment. I got a movie for us to watch, and I got some popcorn during my break today."
chuckled lightly and turned to Theresa in surprise. "Terry, girl, are you getting this? He must be serious about whatever
this is. The kid is pulling out all the stops tonight."
Theresa nodded. "Yeah, you aren't kidding." She directed
her attention back to Aaron. "What's going on that inspired you to go to such amazing lengths? I mean, don't get me wrong--I
love this, but it doesn't make sense. Just yesterday night you were trying to con me into doing the dishes for you."
knew that they wouldn't buy a seemingly honest answer, so he widened his eyes innocently and smiled. "Theresa, you must be
mistaken. Would I ever do a thing like that?"
Her answer was deadpan and without hesitation. "Yes."
heavily, knowing that he didn't pull off the charming attitude half as well as Nick did. Ultimately, it made him glad that
he was more real than Nick was. "Okay, okay. I get it! You just don't love me anymore..."
He feigned a pout, and Theresa
rolled her eyes. "Fine, I'll quit pestering you for now." She eyed him pointedly. "For now," she stressed for good
measure, and Aaron grinned appreciatively.
She arched an eyebrow. "What movie did you get?"
Aaron smirked lightly, knowing that his roommates would be impressed with his choice. He'd put a lot of thought into
his selection, knowing that, if he had intended to butter them up before dropping the bombshell, he'd have to do it perfectly.
Cara's eyes widened. "Okay, now I know you're up to something. No guy voluntarily
grabs that kind of movie."
Aaron laughed and tossed the bill and tip on the table, not alluding to anything. "Just
be glad that I'm in a generous mood tonight, and don't make me hand you tissues at the end, okay?"
Cara held up her
right hand like a girl scout. "You have my word," she solemnly promised. Theresa burst out laughing.
She'll say that now, but she'll be a puddle of tears by the end. Mark my words, Carter. You keep pulling out movies like this,
and you'll have to buy stock in Puffs."
Aaron looked at Cara expectantly. "You promise you won't make me put up with
the girly stuff? I don't mind, but I really don't want to be the sleeve you wipe your mascara on."
Cara rolled her
eyes at him. "I promised, didn't I?"
Aaron nodded reluctantly as they made their way to the car, trying to ignore
Theresa's knowing smirk. "That you did."
* * * * *
Two and a half hours later, Aaron was halfway between a smirk and a whine.
"I thought you promised that you wouldn't make me hand you tissues in the end?"
Cara dabbed at her eyes, tossed a piece of popcorn at him, and tried
to muster a glare as the ending credits rolled. "You offered, Aaron. It's not like it's my fault that you put them
on the other end table."
Aaron tossed a piece of popcorn at her in retaliation. "Yeah, well, you could have gotten
up to get them yourself."
A piece of popcorn flew in his direction. "Your kindness astounds me."
one back at her. "You're just lazy, and you're acting like a girl again."
She threw two pieces at him that time. "I
am a girl. I reserve the right to act like one. Besides, it's such a cute ending!"
Theresa grabbed Aaron's
hand as he was winding it back to throw more popcorn. "Someone's going to have to clean this mess up, and it's not going to
Cara leaned back against the sofa. "Make Aaron do it. He's whining about tissues, and he's the one who rented
the movie in the first place."
Theresa sighed, eyeing her male roommate. "A, she's right. You knew she was going to
cry. You get to clean up."
Aaron giggled. "It's gonna be me," he sang teasingly, giggling again. "Oh, that's funny.
That shouldn't be that funny..."
Cara peered at him with curiosity. "No, it shouldn't be," she agreed. Suddenly, another
thought struck her and she sat up straight. "Oh, by the way, what did you want to talk to us about?"
onto the coffee table, sitting Indian style in front of Aaron with wide eyes. "Yeah, why'd you butter us up so much? There's
got to be something that you have to spring on us."
Aaron bit his lip uncertainly, knowing that he couldn't avoid
the subject any longer. "Right."
Cara chuckled. "What is it, Air? It can't be that bad..."
Aaron sighed heavily.
Now or never, man, he coached himself, fighting the urge to groan. God, I wish it were never. I really don't
want to bring this up. He cleared his throat. "Okay. Well, see...Nick..."
Both girls' expressions turned sour.
Aaron cringed, but continued. "He's coming to New York on business soon."
Theresa's eyebrows rose expectantly. "We
have to do a courtesy dinner?" The girls had been living with Aaron for quite awhile, but they'd never met Nick. They knew
enough about him from Aaron, though, and they didn't necessarily like what they knew. Theresa frowned when Aaron didn't answer
Cara recognized the tone immediately and braced herself. "Out with it, Aaron."
Aaron closed his eyes. "He wants to stay with us for a few months while he's in the city. He's heard that we have
an extra room, and he's psyched because he won't have to pay hotel fees. He's also upset because he never gets to see me,
so he's determined to spend a lot of time with the three of us. He seems to think it's a great idea."
in the air like an impending doom. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Aaron tentatively opened one eye. "Um, guys? Any
Cara sighed heavily. "Aaron, I..."
She didn't have to say anything before Theresa finally regained
the ability to form a complete sentence.
"Are you out of your fucking mind?"
As far as Aaron was
concerned, she could lose the ability. He preferred her silent, anyway. He exchanged a nervous glance with Cara and groaned
inwardly. I'm going to kill my brother...
"NO! Aaron, let's face it, okay? You
hate the guy. Well, you really dislike the person he's become. You whine about how much he's changed, and when he calls, it
ruins your day. You can't spend more than ten minutes at a time on the phone with him. What makes you think you can live through
a few months of rooming with the two of us and your older brother?"
"Nothing. In all honesty, I doubt I'll be able
to stand more than a week of it without a breakdown or an explosion," Aaron admitted. Theresa threw her arms up in exasperation
and began to rant, but Cara continued to watch him with a curious look.
"...and he acts like an ass, according to
you, so I just don't understand why..."
Cara rolled her eyes, and Aaron smiled at the gesture. Cara inwardly groaned,
wondering exactly what effect the conversation with Nick had had on Aaron to make him actually consider such an idea.
shut up." To her surprise, the woman actually listened. Theresa halted mid-rant and folded her arms across her chest, looking
expectantly at Cara, who was still studying Aaron.
"A, why are you really doing this?"
"Honestly?" Cara nodded,
and Aaron sighed heavily before locking gazes with her. "C, he sounded like he actually wants to be friends again. He sounded
like he actually regretted the way he's been acting."
Cara's eyebrow arched in disbelief. "The truth, A. Just yesterday,
he was being a jerk like he always has been."
Aaron's eyes softened and appeared sad as he looked at Theresa and Cara
in turn. "Guys, I guess there's a little part of me that hopes that we can be the reality check he needs. I feel like I could
help him if he were closer." His lips curled at the corners in a slight smile. "And I guess I'm hoping that you two could
do for him what you did for me."
"Send you ego crashing down on your head?" Theresa clarified with a smirk, and Aaron
had the decency to blush.
"Yeah, that," he agreed. "Lord knows he needs it."
The two women looked at each
other for a moment, allowing an unsaid understanding to pass between them. At long last, Cara looked back up at Aaron, speaking
for the both of them. Her tone was soft as she acknowledged him.
"Okay, A, Nick can come stay here for however long
he's going to be in New York."
Aaron smiled and reached our to hug both girls gratefully. "Thanks, guys. I really
Theresa chuckled wryly. "A, man, you might want to hold on that thanks. I'm not sure you're going
to feel that way after awhile."
Aaron closed his eyes against the reality of her words. Yeah, Terry, that's what
I'm afraid of.