That was the last quiet day Lexie and Nick would have until they began their married life together. The house and phone lines bustled with activity. The Doroughs, the McLeans and the Carters swooped in and out of their lives and wedding plans.
Kevin agreed to play piano for the ceremony and had written a special arrangement for them. Brian, of course, would be Nick's best man with Aaron and Jake. Lexie's cousin Marta being her maid of honor and her attendants were her other cousin, Aria and her roommate, Gina. Howie and AJ both would be walking Lexie down the aisle with CJ as the flower girl.
Leah, once the Backstreet Boys costumer, helped design Lexie's dress. The flowing gown was everything Lexie could have ever hoped for. It was done early and delivered safely to Howie and Leah's house.
CJ began school in the fall and Lexie began work on her post graduate degree. The holidays came in no time and as Christmas day settled into a nice family evening, Nick caught her hand and pulled her away from the family. They stood in Howie's den as the family noise rolled about them.
"What is it Nick? Is everything okay?" she asked at his solemn look.
"Oh no." he brightened. "I just wanted one quiet moment with you, that's all."
She slipped into his arms and pressed her cheek against his chest. He squeezed her tight and held on for the longest time.
"Getting cold feet?" she teased.
"No, but parts of me are getting warm." He teased back.
"I know, I know." She sighed.
"Why did we ever agree to get split up this way?" he moaned. She was staying at her parents while he and CJ were at AJ's.
"We're just trying to keep the peace, that's all. Once we're married, I'm sure my Dad will let us share a room here." She chuckled.
"I think we'd be better off at AJ's." he chuckled back.
"I doubt that." She said. "Better?"
"Yes, I am. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed." He sighed as she pulled out of his arms.
"I know. One more week and it'll all be over."
"Lord, I can't wait. We will be surfing every beach in Hawaii, I swear!" he groaned.
"We've got two weeks. I think we can hit them all." She smiled.
"You know, we can just get a place of our own here in Orlando." He said.
"Nick, let's not try to fry fish we ain't got." She joked.
"I'll be able to cut a deal soon. I've got enough material for two albums. Between AJ, Kevin and Brian I'm covered. I'm sure I can dig up 12 decent songs out of the three of them." He said.
"I'm sure you will. . ." she began, but there was a knock at the door. It opened slowly and Howie poked his head in.
"Uh, sorry to interrupt. . ."
"Oh, no. Come on in, Howie." Nick smiled.
"I'm glad I caught you two alone." He said, walking in and closing the door behind him. "I have one more thing to offer you."
"Oh, no, Howie." Nick began to protest. "You and AJ have covered everything. . ." including AJ picking up the tab for the honeymoon.
"Oh, this isn't about the wedding." He chuckled as he went to his desk. He pulled out a thick legal size envelope and headed straight back to Nick. He held it out to Nick, who took it questioningly. "I'm sure you'll want Jill to look at it, but I'm sure you'll find it's a solid offer. Lisa drew it up. Go ahead, take it back to AJ's and read it over. . ." Nick opened the envelope and pulled out legal papers.
"Howie? This is a recording contract." Nick gasped.
"Uh, yes, Nick it is. I do own a record company." Howie smiled.
"Uh. . .I can't. . ." Nick said, putting it back in the envelope.
"Why not?" Howie asked.
"I’m too much of a risk right now. I couldn't do that to you. . ." Nick stuttered, handing it back to him. Howie never reached for it.
"You're still Nick Carter." Howie said.
"Howie, please, I can't."
"Yes, you can. I'll expect you in Orlando by February 1. I got folks showing up to play on the album. . ."
"I mean it, Howie. I’m too much of a risk. . ."
"No, Nick, you're not. I didn't create this multi-million dollar record company by taking uncalculated risks." Nick was silently staring at the papers in his hands. "I know what you can do. I've stood beside you and listen to you sing for years. Take it with you. Let Jill read over it. . ."
"I don't need to do that." Nick said, reaching for a pen in his pocket. Howie caught his hand before it got out of his pocket.
"Take it home and read it. Let Jill go over it. Take your time. This is your future Nick; and Lexie's." he said.
"Thank you, Howie." Nick choked, not lifting his eyes.
"Sure thing, little bro." Howie said, slapping Nick's shoulder. "You two discuss it and get back with me."
Howie turned and left them alone in the den.
"Jesus!" Nick gasped, quickly wiping his eyes.
"Are you okay with this?" Lexie asked as he began to pace.
"Did you know about this?"
"No, I had no idea."
Nick stopped and stared at the papers. "Man. I hope this isn't some pity gig or something. . ." he mumbled. Lexie had to choke on her laugh. "What? Is it so unbelievable that he would give me a job so I could support you?"
"Nick, Dad signed you so he could make some money. He doesn't take risks and he sure as hell doesn't give out pity contracts."
He looked at the papers in his hand one more time.
"It's a record deal." He smiled shyly at her.
"It's a record deal. Time for Daddy to go back to work." She winked.
The days up to the wedding were spent making last minute adjustments to plans. Nick and Lexie barely saw each other and never alone. Lexie found her cousins cutting her phone conversations short too. Anticipation, they told her. She knew it was a Dorough family tradition to make the newlyweds go cold turkey right up until the wedding.
When the day finally came, Nick and Lexie were the calmest. Nick sat in the groom's room with Brian as he paced the floor. CJ stood between Nick's legs as he sat with his head on her shoulder.
"Dad?" she whispered.
"Hmm?" Nick hummed.
"Is Uncle Brian okay?" she quizzed.
"He's a little nervous." He said quietly.
"Uh, shouldn't you be the one pacing?" she asked.
"Probably, but I'm marrying Lexie. I'm not nervous at all." He smiled.
"Uncle Brian? You need to relax." She said to him.
"Huh? Uh. . .oh, I’m fine, really, I'm fine." He mumbled as he continued to pace. CJ just shook her little blonde head at him.
"Turn around." Nick whispered and she turned around and faced him. "I wanted to tell you how much I love you and how proud of you I am today."
"I love you too, Dad." She said.
"I know things have been really tough lately and we really stuck together."
"We did." She nodded.
"No matter what happens today. You are always going to be my little girl and I am always going to be your Dad." He said.
"I know that."
"I love Lexie, but you're my daughter. No matter what, we have to stick together."
CJ thought about it a second and smiled. She took his face in her little hands.
"I love you too, Daddy. Not distance, not time. I promise." She whispered. CJ saw her Dad's eyes fill with tears, but she pulled away in time to have them disappear. "I better go check on Lexie. I don't want Uncle AJ to make her late!"
CJ turned and ran out the door into the church. Brian was standing still as Nick looked up at him.
"If you ever question if you ever did anything right in this life, know that you taught her to love well." Brian smiled.
Lexie sent her bridesmaids to the foyer as she heard the score change before the wedding march. She could picture Kevin stooped over the keys, his brow furrowed with concentration. CJ had told her that Brian was a mess, but that Nick looked quite calm. So was she. She was almost eager to have it over with.
Let's get on with getting on! He had once said to her. Yes, her heart sang.
"I'm glad Nick is taking this so well." Leah said as CJ bounced out of the room with Lexie's cousin, Marta. "You certainly are."
"Oh, why wouldn't I be? This is what I have always wanted." Lexie smiled.
"You look beautiful." Leah smiled, helping her get to her feet.
"Thank you." She smiled back.
"Come on, your father is waiting." Leah said, picking up Lexie's train. Lexie knew that her mom only meant Howie. He was the only one she had eyes for.
Lexie entered the foyer and stopped for Howie and AJ's approval. Howie was overwhelmed with emotion and took her arms, kissing her cheek. She wiped his tears with gloved fingers and gently admonished him. AJ kissed her cheek next and took her hand, squeezing it. She slipped an arm in each of them and pulled them close. Lexie remembered later that AJ cracked some joke about it being years since someone had dressed all five of them alike.
Lexie listened to the chords change under Kevin's fingers and then there was the pause. As the march quietly began, the doors opened and her attendants left one at a time with CJ out front. The door closed one more time as the three of them got them in place for the walk down the aisle. The pause came again and the march was louder as the doors opened up on them. Lexie looked up and only saw Nick and that was all she would remember of the whole ceremony.
Nick's breath caught in his throat when he saw her at the end of the grand old church. The candlelight sparkled off of her dress like magic dust. The bodice of the dress accented her slim waist. Her veil was held in place by a tiara that was small and styled in a manner that reflected her Hispanic heritage. Her hair was woven though the delicate piece and laid gently about her shoulders.
She locked eyes with him as her small gloved hand slipped into his after Howie gave her to him. He never saw Howie or AJ at all.
As they stood before the priest and performed a traditional wedding ceremony, Nick suddenly felt the sacredness of what he was doing. He realized that all the words he had said before meant nothing until he said them in front of others. He realized what a responsibility he was taking on and for a moment, his eyes slipped from hers to CJ standing behind her. He was creating a family, although he had been a father for years. He had no doubt he and Lexie would have other children. He was responsible for them and for a second he doubted his ability.
Brian's finger in his back broke his concentration and he heard their friends laugh has he started. He laughed with them and turned to take the ring from Brian. He took the ring and turned back to her, posing the ring over her fingertip.
He spoke his vow and slipped the ring over her finger. She turned and got his ring and repeated her vow to him; slipping his ring over his finger. They turned back to the priest and completed the ceremony, hand in hand.
When he turned to kiss her, he slipped one hand behind her head and brought her to him. He paused for a heartbeat to confirm her choice in him in her eyes and then brought his lips gently to hers.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. I proudly present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Nickolas Gene Carter." The priest announced joyfully and the church filled with applause.
Nick and Lexie were followed out the church by Kevin's beautiful music and their attendants. There was a quick rush to the waiting limos, past press and security, until they were finally alone with the final thump of the doors closing.
"Oh my god." Nick laughed.
"We did it." She laughed too.
"Mrs. Nickolas Gene Carter. I like the sound of that." He smiled, leaning over to kiss her. "Mrs. Nickolas Gene Carter, you are beautiful tonight."
"You have never looked more handsome, Mr. Nickolas Gene Carter." She smiled, leaning in to accept his kiss.
"Do you think they'd miss us at the reception?" he teased, his forehead leaning against hers.
"I think so." She sighed.
"I love you, Lexie." He whispered. "I promise."
"I love you too. I promise." She whispered back.
Nick and Lexie's first dance together was to a slow piano version of "As Long As You Love Me" that Kevin arranged from his orchestra. It took several strains before Nick and Lexie realized what Kevin had done. Nick pulled her close and Lexie whispered in his ear.
"I can't believe he did that." She said.
"He is a master arranger."
"How many times is that song going to be redone?"
"As many times as it takes." He said to her. "For us to get it right."
The song was nearly over when Howie and Leah cut in, then his parents, then AJ and his mom, then Aaron and Jill, then her grandparents, then Lexie's Uncle John brought CJ on to the dance floor. By then countless other couples had joined them.
The evening's entertainment were Brian's girls, the Backstreet Boys, and even a solo from Aaron. The duet between CJ and AJ had to be the prize of the night, seconded only from CJ playing her new song for her Dad while sitting on Kevin's lap. He had to work the pedals.
When midnight came and the New Year was cheered in, Lexie found herself bound in Nick's arms and his heart. She and Nick escaped the party an hour later and made their way upstairs to the honeymoon suite, before their flight the next morning to Hawaii.
AJ had booked the suite and went all out for them. Champagne, candles and soft music.
"It's just incredible." Lexie sighed as Nick set her down after carrying her across the threshold.
"AJ hasn't lost his romantic touch." Nick chuckled at the scene before him. Nick went and uncorked the champagne; she held the glasses as he poured for them. He settled the bottle back down in the ice and took a glass from her.
"To my one true love." He smiled softly.
"To my sweet love." She smiled back. They clinked their glasses and took some sips. Nick took her glass, put them aside, and took her hand.
"Let's go check out the bedroom." He winked. She blushed prettily and followed him in.
There were more candles and roses everywhere. Lexie let out a low whistle. "No wonder my mom fell for him."
"He's AJ." Nick smiled, as she stepped into the room past him. "Let me help with this." He said, beginning to unbutton the gown in the back. Lexie reached up and began to pull the pins from her hair. She pulled the tiara and veil from her head and loose dark hair fell across his knuckles as he unfastened the buttons at her neck.
She laid it aside and unclasped the pearls AJ had given her and her mother. They sat in her gloved hand as Nick's hands continued to travel down her back. He paused after he had run his hands up her back and she hadn't responded.
"Baby?" he asked, catching her staring at the pearls. "What's the matter?"
"I just wish my mother was here." She said quietly.
"I know. Me too." He said. She looked back at him. "Remember, I knew her too. She would be very proud of you."
"I hope so. I miss her so much." She choked.
"I know." He nodded, gently resting his hands on her shoulders. She finally gave them a shrug and the gown slipped down her body and she stepped free of it.
She peeled off her gloves and walked them and the pearls to dresser. She spied their luggage in the corner. She turned back to Nick and laughed.
"Why am I the only one in my underwear?" she laughed.
"You're far better looking in yours than I am." He smiled. She put her hand on her hip and pouted. "You can come over here and help me out."
"No, I think I'll just sit here and watch." She took up a seat on bedroom seat. She crossed her stockinged legs and waited.
"You can't be serious!" he laughed.
"Take it off, Nick." She hummed.
"Lexie. . ."
"Now, Nick. Start with the hair." She smiled. He had it clipped in the back, just like always. She could tell he was getting embarrassed as he reached for it. The clip snapped in his hand and he put it in his pocket. "Now, give it a little shake."
"Lexie. . ."
He rolled his eyes dramatically and then gave his head a modest toss.
"The bow tie. . . then the jacket and vest."
He sighed and rolled his eyes some more, but did as she told him. He tossed them all dramatically on the floor behind him.
"Okay, cufflinks, then the shirt."
"This is nuts. . ."
"And do it with a minimal amount of bitching." She said, raising an eyebrow at him. He began to comply and didn't wait for instructions after the shirt. He was down to briefs when he finally stopped.
"There, now we're both in our underwear." He smirked.
"Well, well, we are, aren't we, Mr. Carter." She giggled.
"Okay, come on."
"Oh? Come where?" she teased.
"I have a wedding night to perform."
"OH! How brutal!" she groaned. "There will be no more Grammies in your future with that kind of attitude."
"Uh, I have never won a Grammy."
"We'll have to work on that, but later! Go get the champagne, come on, be romantic!" she teased him. He was getting into the drama, went, and got their glasses and the bottle. He came and stood before her, then went down on both knees before her. He handed her the glasses and to her delight, poured for both of them again.
"Is m'lady pleased?" he smiled wickedly.
"Not yet, but I’m sure you'll take care of that." She smiled back, taking a sip. He had laid his glass aside and began running his hands gently up her legs. She gasped at his incredably gentle touch.
He straightened up on his knees and leaned in closer to her, "Have I told you yet how beautiful you are tonight." Something in his tone told her he was not joking around anymore. "I can't believe this, Lexie. I can't believe we're together and we're married and. . . you love me."
"Nick, believe it. How else could it possibly be?" She whispered as his hands explored her. "When I first saw you outside Alex's room that night, I felt it. I remember watching you get to your feet, like it was in slow motion. The hall lights gave this shine to your hair. . ." and her hand went to his golden head.
"We've been through so much." He groaned as her fingers wove themselves through his hair.
"What else could possibly happen?" she moaned back.
He hands caught her slender waist and brought her to the floor with him. He began to kiss away her undergarments and pressed her naked body against his. She begged for him as he continued to learn her body and what she craved. They made their way to the bed and made love for the first time as husband and wife.
And as soul mates.