Before you judge...

The house is quiet, save for the sound of paws on the floor and pots in the kitchen. Lasagna bakes in the oven, and wine chills on the counter. The back door opens slowly, and a backpack falls to the tiled floor. He enters, tall and reserved, dressed in a short-sleeved Oxford and khakis. She runs to greet him with a hug and a kiss.

"Hey, baby."

He smiles, pulls her closer. "Hey. Dinner smells good."

"Thanks. I figured we could eat in tonight."

"Yeah, tonight definitely feels like a quiet night." He kisses her softly before pulling back and moving towards the center of the kitchen to help prepare the half-finished salad. "Did you see the primaries?"

"Absolutely," she answers, sighing. "I was watching the last of the results while I layered the lasagna. Can you believe Kerry won?"

He shrugs. "The way I see it, it was bound to happen. He's older, and the American people seem to think that makes him wiser."

"He definitely has more experience in office," she admits, "but that hardly makes him wiser. I mean, he grew up in a wealthy Massachusetts family. He strikes me more as Republican light than Democrat, you know?"

He nods and begins to tear the iceberg lettuce. "I agree completely. I'm not sure that he has enough experience as a working man to properly represent the working man. That, and I'd really like to see him focus more on domestic policy. We've got just as many problems at home right now as we do abroad."

"Especially with public education. Our schools are only getting worse. There's no longer enough funding for a proper education, and there's no standard curriculum anymore. Kids are learning less and less because there's such a shortage of teachers."

"Yeah, and California's definitely been a victim," he sighs. "Sometimes I wonder if living in LA is such a good idea. Now that we've elected a staunch Hollywood Republican as our governor, I'm beginning to question our state's right to vote."

She laughs lightly. "Are you afraid we're going to fuck up the election?"

"It's hard to fuck up now. I mean, our two real choices are Bush and Kerry. The election is more about the lesser of two evils than it is representative politics."

She smirks. "You could always cast a vote for Al Sharpton."

"A man who makes a living running for office?" He chuckles. "I think not."

"How about Ralph Nader?"

"The man's got admirable perseverance, but his entire campaign is kind of a joke. At this point, every vote for Nader is a vote that could be going to the Democratic party, and that's a tad bit dangerous in light of recent events."

She frowns. "Do you think Kerry will be able to boost the economy?"

He drops the last of the lettuce into the bowl and turns to face her. "I'm not sure, but I don't think he'll risk raising the deficit. He's not nearly as interested in military spending."

"Which would definitely be a welcome change," she snorts. "Our first problem regarding foreign policy is that we've facilitated this image of the United States as an international bully. We used to be all about freedom and diversity."

"Exactly," he nods, "and I really don't see Bush striving to return to that image of the all-accepting home of the free. He's more concerned about laying his own morals in national legislation."

"He's got an admirable conviction," she admits. "I mean, his heart's in the right place."

"But Lord only knows where his head's at. And, unfortunately, that leaves Cheney in charge of all the important decisions, and Cheney's far too right wing to truly act in the country's best interest. One only has to look at his voting record or the past four years to realize that."

"Are you sure it's just Cheney? It seems to me that John Ashcroft has just as much influence over our President, and I think we might want to watch him more closely because he's likely to be in the political circle for much longer."

"Not necessarily," he counters. "Ashcroft's had some medical problems recently, or haven't you heard?"

"I've heard," she acknowledges with a wave of her hand, moving to remove the lasagna from its heat-induced captivity. "I just wasn't aware that they were serious enough to keep him out of Washington."

"They aren't yet, but it's a possibility to consider." He frowns when she opens the oven door. "Do you want some help with that?"

"No, I'm good, thanks. You could open that bottle of wine, though."

He reaches for a corkscrew. "I don't know. I think that Kerry's running mate will do a lot to determine the fate of the election. If he chooses someone public like Dean or Clark, he's more likely to win the race than if he chooses a more obscure and unknown political figure. The party's main problem right now is that they've been so divided."

"I'd like to see him choose Clark as a running mate," she sighs. "I really liked what he had to say, and I think he's got enough military and humanitarian experience that he could do a lot of good to alter our newly-acquired 'bully' image."

"I agree completely. I was pretty pissed when Clark pulled out of the race."

She laughs. "Really? I threw a party. I mean, he obviously didn't have enough support to win. This way, he could still be chosen as Kerry's running mate."

"It'd definitely be a smart political move. If anything, it would unite the majority of the Democrats behind Kerry to ensure a closer race."

She smiles sideways at him. "That's what you're really about, isn't it? Anything but Bush."

He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "I made a mistake voting for him last time. I mean, he did a good job uniting the country after September eleventh. He just hasn't done much else. The tax cuts aren't helping the economy, he's not creating jobs, and our foreign policy is a disaster. The only reason he stands a chance of winning the race is that he caught Saddam."

"You really believe that? I mean, it seems like he's done some good things in Iraq. They've got a constitution now, at least."

"They just can't agree on it."

"But he's pro-life."

"So's Cheney," he laughs. "Hell, so am I, but I'd make a terrible president."

She kisses him lightly on the cheek. "No offense, baby, but I agree completely. Do you want to grab some plates?"

"Sure." He reaches for the dining ware. "I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see us going anywhere if we keep Bush in office."

She nods. "I know what you mean, but I'm not so sure that Kerry and Bush are all that different. They both grew up as fairly privileged people. I'm not so sure that Kerry can take us any farther."

"He might get us out of Iraq," he points out. "He might finally address the situation in North Korea. He might make an attempt to do something about the fact that the quality of our health care has decreased significantly in recent years."

"Doubtful," she counters. "Health care is too much of a risky topic for anyone to discuss it right now. Our politics today are too poll-centered for anyone to take action regarding things with risks."

"It's a shame, too, because it's something we really need to focus on."

She nods. "Are you guys going to express any of this on the new album?"

He snorts. "Yeah fucking right. We're pretty boys, babe. We look hot and sing about love because that's all the label will let us do. We're not allowed to be political."

"For what it's worth," she smiles, "I like it when you're political."

He laughs and reaches for her hand across the table. "Same to you. If they only knew, huh?"

She chuckles. "You think they'd be surprised to find out that America's most unlikely couple talks more about the election than the elitists of Hollywood?"

He rolls his eyes. "Baby, no offense, but I think they'd be surprised to find out that we talk at all."

She smiles knowingly. "They probably think we're off making more sex tapes, huh?"

"Probably. But they don't see you like I do."

She smiles, because he makes her feel more beautiful just by talking to her, listening to her, than any designer has ever made her feel with a few threads and a paycheck. "I love you, Nick."

He smiles, because she makes him feel smarter just by talking to him, listening to him, than he feels when he wins an argument with Kevin. "I love you too, Paris."

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I know what you're all thinking.  "Nick Carter is eloquent?  Paris Hilton is pro-life?  What the hell is going on?"
Actually, this story started because I've seen a bunch of posts on the tagboard at, and I'm kind of disturbed and angered by the fact that everyone is so concerned with whom Nick is dating and whether or not she's "worthy" of him. The thought is nice, but...well, he's 24. He's a big boy. I'm sure he's not dumb enough to date the first bimbo that gives him a hard on, and even if he is, it's not really anyone's business but his.  Anyway, I was thinking about the way people have stereotyped Nick and his past and present girlfriends, and I figured I'd write a story that kind of makes you think. "Faded" was an attempt to show people another possible side of the blonde Backstreet Boy, but this is an attempt to show the possibility of Nick's more intellectual side...and maybe someone else's intellectual side as well.

I hope you guys enjoyed this one. I hope you learned something, whether about politics, Nick, or his love life.