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Author's Chapter Notes:
Nothing seems as simple the following morning...

Chapter 23

       The first thing that Alyssa felt when she awoke the next morning was a dull ache pounding across her temples. How much did I have to drink last night? she wondered as she tried to will the energy into her weary limbs to move. It seemed as if every muscle in her body ached. Maybe I'm just getting too old for this.

Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt her leg brush up against... something. She froze in shock once she realized exactly what that something was. Or rather who. Cautiously peeking out from beneath her closed eyes she noticed Nick sleeping next to her. Her mind struggled to remember how exactly he had wound up there when for the first time she looked down at herself, finally realizing she was naked.

       Holy shit... What the fuck happened last night?

Little by little her mind slowly began to fill in the details. She could vaguely remember the bar and her drinking countless glasses of vodka and cranberries. Did she really get up on top of the bar and dance or was it just her imagination? Then of course she remembered dancing with Nick which lead to her remembering that amazing kiss, and their heated taxi ride back to her apartment...

       Oh my God... she realized. We had sex last night!

       It all came back to her in every last amazing detail. And it had been amazing. Even though at this moment she felt anything, but. That probably explains why I'm sore.

       Even though Alyssa was certain that the sex last night had been great a sense of dread of having to face Nick when he woke up filled her stomach. This was exactly why she was never good at these one night stand things. She never knew how exactly she was supposed to act afterwards. And it would be even more awkward with Nick. Although she secretly hoped that after last night he realized that they were meant to be together she was also realistic. This was Nick. She'd be lucky if he agreed to stay in touch. She just wasn't looking forward to the inevitable "about last night" conversation that was certain to come up.

       She was just contemplating getting out of bed and making a run for it, when she felt Nick shift beside her. From the way he was moving she could tell that he was just about to wake up. She froze like a deer in headlights as she sat up in bed with the sheets protectively held against her chest. She was trapped.

       She watched as his eyes fluttered open and he took a moment to take in his surroundings, probably going through the whole routine that Alyssa had just gone through herself in recalling the night before. Of course he was probably pretty used to waking up beside strange girls in the morning. He sat up and rubbed his eyes before finally speaking. "Hey," he said a little hoarsely. "How are you feeling?"

       Alyssa shrugged. "Not great. I have a headache and I'm pretty sore all over."

       Nick smirked. "I know why you're sore," he teased, sliding an arm around her shoulders. "You know, a hot shower might really help all those sore muscles. We could-"

       She didn't even let him finish. She couldn't do this. She couldn't sit there and act like everything was perfect and like this was completely natural for them. Maybe she could when she was drunk, but not when she was still hung over from the night before and feeling as mixed up and confused as she was. Sliding his hand off of her shoulder she pulled away, wrapping the sheet tighter around herself as she stood up to get her robe.

       "What's the matter?" he asked her, clearly confused by her behavior. Alyssa ignored him, continuing to make her way towards her closet.

       "You know its not like I've never seen you naked before," he pointed out. "Seriously Alyssa what's bothering you?"

       What's bothering me? I just slept with my ex boyfriend who I've been trying desperately to get over the past three years of my life, and he asks me what's bothering me? Alyssa thought that she might explode. Instead she took a deep breath as she grabbed her robe and slipped it on. "Nick, we need to talk..."

       Half an hour later, the two were sitting at Alyssa's kitchen table, fully dressed, with a bag of bagels sitting between them. After Alyssa's suggestion that they talk she had gotten dressed and ran down to the bagel shop to get something for breakfast while Nick grabbed a shower. A little bit of food might make the conversation a little more bearable, she had reasoned.

       The room was full of silence as they both prepared their bagels. It was as if they were each pretending that the other one wasn't even there. She was trying so hard to block Nick out of her mind that she didn't even notice him grabbing for the creme cheese at the exact same moment she did.

       "Sorry," she apologized, her cheeks turning red. "You take it."

       "No, you can have it," Nick answered at the same time.

       Alyssa just shook her head. "You do realize we are fighting over a tub of creme cheese, right?"

       "Homemade creme cheese," he corrected. "Seriously though you take it first."

       With a sigh she gave in, sticking her knife into the creme cheese to spread onto her bagel. This was absolutely pathetic. Someone needed to say something. I WAS the one to suggest we talk, she reminded herself. Guess that means I should be the one to get the conversation started.

       "So uhmm... about last night?" she started, wincing at how cliched the words sounded.

       "What about it?" Nick asked, trying to play it cool.
       "Look, I'm not too good at these things, so I'm just going to cut to the chase. I know that last night probably meant something different to each of us. I just wanted to let you know that I don't expect anything from it," she awkwardly blurted out.
       Nick leaned back on his chair looking a little surprised by her little speech. Trying to smooth over the awkward moment he chuckled. "Well, that certainly was the most up front 'morning after' speech I've ever heard."

       Alyssa rolled her eyes. "I'm trying to be serious here Nick! I know that you do this sort of thing a lot-"

       "Should I be offended by that?" he interrupted. He smirked as he noticed her getting more and more annoyed. Okay, so it probably wasn't the best time to be a smart ass, but he had to kill the tension somehow. Besides, she was cute when she got mad.

       She sighed, obviously exasperated. "What I'm trying to say is that I don't usually do things like this. I'm not the type of person who can just live in the moment and not worry about what's going to happen next. I need to know."

       "Maybe that's your problem, Alyssa," he told her, all of a sudden sounding serious.

       "What's that supposed to mean?"

       "You worry too much. You're always so uptight. Sometimes in life you don't always know what's going to happen next and its not the end of the world," he pointed out. "Last night I had such a great time with you because for the first time since we started talking again you just seemed so relaxed and carefree. You were fun to be around. I wish you could be like that more often."

       "I was also drunk last night," she replied, refusing to fully digest Nick's explanation.

       "Whatever it was, you were happy. Is that such a bad thing?"

       Alyssa reached upwards to massage her pounding temples. "Look, we went out last night, had too much to drink, and we just carried away in old feelings okay? That was all. Just like what you told me when you kissed me on your tour bus. It's out of our systems now."

       Just by looking at her, Nick knew that she was lying. It hadn't been meaningless to her at all. Hell, it hadn't been meaningless to him either, but he still wasn't sure how he really felt about it. He was just the opposite of Alyssa. He tended to not think about the consequences of his actions until he was literally forced to. For once he was speechless. He didn't know how he should react to that. Maybe it was better for him to just go.

       Realizing that Nick had nothing to say to that Alyssa continued. "Not like this can really go anywhere even if we wanted it to. You're out in LA and I'm here in New York. I don't even know how this friendship is going to work."

       "Why wouldn't our friendship work out?" he asked, sounding confused.

       Alyssa stared at him like he was completely stupid. "Are you kidding me? How can it? We're so hung up on the past that we keep trying to recreate something that isn't there anymore." Her voice broke slightly as if she were trying not to cry. "Maybe we need to stay away from each other for a while."

       Stay away from each other? The idea sounded ridiculous to Nick. He'd finally started to make the realization that he needed to turn his life around with her help and now she was telling him they shouldn't see each other? It sounded so cruel of her. But she sounded so lost and confused that Nick had to admit that maybe that would be for the best. I should've never let things get this far, he criticized himself. Look at how bad I fucked things up? This is all my fault.
       "If that's what you think is best Alyssa," he gave in with a sigh. "I'm heading off to Europe next week for the tour anyway."

       "What?" she exclaimed. "What about Europe?" This was the first she had heard about the tour. Of course she knew that he'd eventually be doing a European leg, but she didn't know it was going to be this soon. "No one ever mentioned Europe to me."

       "I thought you knew," he confessed. "We're only home for a free weeks before hitting the road again and we'll be in Europe for about a month and a half. So I guess that kind of takes care of the staying away from each other problem."

       Alyssa was still in shock. She couldn't believe that he never told her he'd be going to Europe. "You always do this," she muttered.

       "Always do what?" he asked.

       "You come into my life for a few days, turn it upside down, and then you just leave," she sniffed. "You're always going."

       Nick sighed. "I can't help it, Lyss. This is my job. You should know the way it works by now."

       "I know! I just wish it wasn't this way."

       "Me too," he told her, clasping his hand over hers. Glancing over at her clock he realized just how late it was. He hated leaving things this way, but his flight was in a few hours and he still had to go back to his hotel to pack up and check out. "Listen, I got to get going. How about you come with me and see me off at the airport?"

       Alyssa just nodded as she wiped her tear filled eyes. "I'd like that."

       A few hours later they were sitting in JFK airport killing the last few minutes they had before Nick had to go through security. The entire cab ride there had been awkward to say the least. The two had sat practically as far apart in the backseat as possible, which seemed ironic after their performance last night.

         I think I've already had a lifetime full of emotional airport goodbyes, Alyssa thought to herself, knowing that the time was drawing nearer.

       "I really had a great time this weekend Alyssa. Honestly," Nick told her, killing the silence.

       "I did too," she admitted. "Despite everything."

       "Did you really mean that about me staying away from you for a while?"

       Alyssa shrugged taking a deep breath. "I don't know. I think we both just need some time to think about what happened and where this is all going. Because I don't want to have keep going through this."

       "I understand that. I won't call you then if that's what you want. You can call me when you're ready to talk."

       "Okay," she agreed as she stood up. "You better get going before you miss your flight."

       Nick stood up and reached into his wallet for some money. "Here. Take it for the cab ride back to your apartment."

       For once Alyssa didn't argue with him. "Thank you," she said, slipping it into her pocket. "Well, I guess this is it..." She wrapped her arms around him in an uncomfortable hug. "No phone calls, right?"

       "No," he painfully agreed, as he held her in his embrace, not wanting their weekend together to end. As soon as he got on that plane reality would be slapping him in the face. He'd have the tour and Europe spread out in front of him making everything that happened with Alyssa feel like just a distant memory.

       Not wanting to let this moment escape him, he reached down to tilt her chin upwards, half afraid that she'd pull away. Realizing that she wasn't going to, he pressed his lips against hers softly, drawing out the kiss for as long as he possibly could, before pulling away. "Good-bye Alyssa."

       "Bye Nick," she echoed, her fingertips already tracing where his lips had just been. Her eyes filled up with tears as she watched him head for the security gate.

       "It's so nice to see a young couple so in love, like a scene right out of the movies," a voice beside her replied.

       Alyssa looked up to see an older woman beside her. If only she knew... she thought, as she smiled weakly at the woman before turning around to walk away as the tears finally began to fall against her face.

       A few minutes later she found herself in the backseat of a cab on her way back to her apartment. Staring out of the window she realized that she was more confused than ever about her feelings for Nick. She hadn't been as drunk as she let on. She remembered everything.

       The only thought that echoed in her mind the rest of the ride home was, How can something so that felt so beautiful make things so damn complicated?