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Author's Chapter Notes:
Nick finally opens up to Alyssa about Paris.
Chapter 47

The rest of the afternoon seemed to fly by for Alyssa as preparations were made for her and Nick’s little indoor picnic/camp out in her new condo. After leaving the complex, they had headed straight back to Nick’s house to gather up a few essential items that they’d need for the evening, and then it was on to a nearby Super Wal-Mart, to pick up an air mattress and something that they could cook up for dinner out on the grill on her deck.

At the moment they were both perusing the meat department while Nick pushed a shopping basket that already was filled with the air mattress and some plastic plates and utensils. For some reason the sight of Nick pushing a shopping cart around Wal-Mart like any old Joe made Alyssa almost want to giggle.

Her face must have given her thoughts away because Nick paused to look over at her. “What are you smiling about?”

“Nothing,” she convinced him with a wave of her hand as she focused her attention back to the packages of various meats in front of them. “Hey, they have shell steaks on sale! Think that we can handle that?”

Nick shrugged. “What’s so hard about frying up a steak? Don’t you just kind of put it on the grill until it’s cooked?”

Alyssa laughed as she picked up a package and threw it into the cart. “Something like that. I’m sure we’ll manage. And it’s semi-classy. Anything else you think we need?”

“Nahh… I think we’re pretty good here.”

“All right. Let’s head over to the check out counter I guess,” she suggested. “Hopefully the lines aren’t too bad.”

“It’s Wal-Mart there’s always a line,” Nick pointed out.

When they reached the front of the store, they were indeed greeted by a long line. Growing impatient after only about a minute or so, Alyssa was relieved when they finally moved up close enough to the counter where they could see the magazine racks. Reading the covers of the latest issue of Cosmo and the tabloids might just keep her amused for another minute or two. Her eyes swept over one of the headlines of the tabloids nonchalantly at first, but then she froze the minute she recognized the scene photographed on the cover. There was a picture of a very enraged looking Nick lunging at a paparazzi looking as if she was spitting out obscenities. In the right hand corner of the picture, Alyssa could barely make out the frightened looking figure of herself in the background. Across the page were big bold letters: Backstreet Meltdown! Nick Carter Assaults Reporters as Frightened Girlfriend Looks On!

How did they get this out so quickly?
she wondered. Those pictures were only taken about two days ago! And I thought that they handed over all the film to Nick? Obviously at least one of them had been hiding their footage. Or who knew? Maybe they’d given Nick just any old roll of film figuring that he wouldn’t know the difference. Whatever the situation, the photos had in fact leaked and Alyssa was sure that the story would soon be everywhere.

“What’s wrong?” Nick asked her immediately picking up on the shocked expression on her face. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Alyssa inwardly sighed in relief as she realized that Nick’s back was to the magazines and thankfully he was completely oblivious to the fact that right behind him his face was plastered in a not so flattering position. She knew that it would be nearly impossible to shield him from the story for long, but she also knew that he’d definitely be upset when he did see the articles. And she absolutely did not want anything or anybody to come between the two of them tonight, especially after all the planning they’d been doing. Besides, Nick seemed to be in a really good mood considering everything that had went down last night between him and Kevin, and Alyssa intended to keep it that way.

“Oh, I just realized what we’re forgetting!” she quickly covered up. “We should go get a bottle of wine or something to eat with dinner.”

“Well, there’s a liquor store, right next door. We can stop there as soon as we get out of here,” he suggested.

Thinking quickly Alyssa was already one step ahead of him. “Actually, you know I’m not much of a wine drinker and stuff, so you probably have a better idea than me what’s good. So, why don’t you just head over there now and I’ll take care of all this stuff and meet you back at the car?”

Nick looked at her a little oddly. “Uhmm okay… But are you sure?”

“Yes. I trust your judgment. Don’t worry I have enough money to cover all of this,” she assured him.

“All right. I’ll see you in a few then.” He squeezed her hand before he turned to walk towards the exit, which thankfully was in the opposite direction of the magazines.

Alyssa felt a wave of relief wash over her as she watched him leave. Crisis averted. Her eyes again glanced up at the copy of the tabloid in front of her. She wasn’t sure exactly what possessed her. Maybe it was some morbid curiosity to know exactly what they seemed to be saying about Nick. Whatever the reason, she impulsively grabbed a copy from the shelf and threw it into her basket.

Thankfully enough the rest of their night seemed to fly by smoothly. Alyssa safely assumed that Nick hadn’t seen the tabloids because he seemed to be in a great mood. They’d actually had a good time cooking dinner together and surprisingly the steak had come out not all that bad. Maybe there was hope for the two of them yet. They’d blown up the air mattress and eaten their dinner on top of it, since there really wasn’t any other furniture in the condo just yet.

After their dinner, they had both playfully joked about having to “christen” the new condo, which led to their current position tangled up in each others arms on the air mattress with only a thin blanket covering them. Candles that they had lit earlier that evening for dinner flickered in the background and articles of clothing littered about the floor around them.

They were both silent for a few minutes, just seeming to be taking in the moment when Alyssa finally interrupted with a contented sigh. “It’s really hard to believe how everything is happening so fast right now.”

Nick gave her a slightly confused look. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, if someone were to tell me a few months ago that we’d be possibly getting back together and that I’d be moving out to LA by February I’d have laughed in their faces,” she explained. “It’s just funny how things sometimes happen out of nowhere.”

“It’s pretty crazy, huh?”

Alyssa nodded. “Yea, definitely. I’m not really the type to just impulsively decide to move across the country.”

“You’re not having second thoughts about this, are you?” A look of genuine concern flashed across Nick’s face.

“No! Not at all!” she insisted. “I’m really excited about it actually. I was just saying that in a way it’s just kind of scary because you know me and how anal I am. I practically have to make a list of all the pros and cons surrounding a situation before I can make a decision. I’m just not usually the type to jump into things so quickly like this.”

“We know,” he interrupted as he playfully poked her side.

Alyssa just rolled her eyes at him, but continued. “It’s just a little strange for me. But the weird part is that I really feel like this the right thing to do. I’m not all that apprehensive about it, which is what scares me. It’s not the fact that I’m moving across the country, it’s the fact that I’m doing it and I’m not at all worried about it that worries me.” She stopped and wrinkled her nose as she thought about she just said. “Did that make sense?”

Nick held back a laugh. “Sort of. Maybe I’m finally beginning to rub off on you in a good way. Like I’ve told you before, you can’t waste your life angsting about whether or not to do something. Sometimes you just have to dive right in and not worry about getting hurt.”

The moment those words flew off his lips they echoed back at him. Maybe you should take some of your own advice, Carter a voice in his head told him. Wasn’t he the one that was afraid to really commit to a “relationship” because he didn’t want to deal with the pain and heartbreak again? How much more hypocritical could he get?

Alyssa must have picked up on the way that his words that came back to haunt him because she seemed to zero right in, giving him a knowing look. “That’s really good advice, Nick. Advice that can be applied all areas of life. Especially in relationships. You may not want to get involved with somebody because you’re afraid of only getting your heart broken in the end, but in the meantime you might be missing out on something incredible.”

The way that she said it could easily be interpreted as being a very general example, yet Nick knew Alyssa, and he knew that it was her way of trying to bring up the subject in a roundabout way. She was completely right of course, but that still did not mean that he was quite ready to have this conversation with her. Instead he did what he did best when conversations began to get to heavy for him. He changed the subject to a much lighter one. Pulling her closer to him, he dropped a light kiss on her shoulder as his hand drifted down towards her hip, tracing the outline of her tattoo. “You know… You should really get another tattoo.”

Alyssa was fully aware of what he was doing, but not feeling like getting into it, especially when things had been going so well, she let it go. She could tell just by his silence and quick change of topic that she’d gotten to him, even though he’d never admit it. Giggling a little bit she looked up at him. “What is this? You’re running out of places to tattoo on your own body, so you’re moving onto mine?” she joked.

Nick rolled his eyes in response. “No. I think I still have some room. My name’s not AJ. I just think it would be sexy.”

“Well, I have actually been thinking about it, but I don’t know what I want. I have to be really careful because with teaching and all I have to get it somewhere it won’t really be seen and if it is like on my ankle or something it has to be small and tasteful,” she explained. “I’m open for any suggestions.”

“I’d say that I’d go with you to get it done and help you pick something out, but I kind of have this problem where I can’t step foot into a tattoo parlor without coming out with at least new one. It’s kind of an addiction.”

Alyssa just laughed. “Aww… You mean you don’t want to sit there with me and share my pain?” she pouted. “We could be like one of those annoying couples who get their names tattooed on each others bodies.” Seeing the look of remorse across Nick’s face she almost slapped herself with how insensitive that last comment had been. How could she forget that she just happened to be talking to a man that had made that very same mistake with his last girlfriend? “Oh my God, I’m sorry Nick. I wasn’t thinking. I…”

“It’s okay Alyssa.” His hands immediately left her body and he rolled over onto his back. “You didn’t like mean it on purpose or anything.”

The sullen tone of his voice was enough to convince her that it was in fact not okay. Nick had taken the comment personally and for once Alyssa found herself being the one having to fight for the right words to remedy the situation, something that she wasn’t the greatest at. “I honestly didn’t mean it seriously or anything. In fact, I almost completely forgot all about it. Yea, I remember reading about it in a tabloid or something, but you have to admit it’s a pretty crazy thing to do. I mean after all we’ve been through together I’d never tattoo your name across my ass like some people and that’s saying a lot.” Finally she took a breath, realizing that she was beginning to babble and by the expression on Nick’s face she was burying herself deeper and deeper into the hole. “Shit… I’m not helping much, am I?”

“You’re right… It was a stupid thing to do,” he grumbled after a few moments of tense silence. “I can’t believe how dumb I was. Like I seriously did not even think twice about what would happen if we didn’t work out.”

“Nick you don’t have to explain yourself to me. It’s in the past now. You made a mistake and you learned from it. I’m sorry I brought it up,” she tried apologizing again.

But the door was already open and Alyssa could tell just by the glazed over expression on his face that he wasn’t going to let the subject die. “That’s the way it was with her though. She had this way about her that made me do the craziest of things. Like tattooing her name across my wrist. When I was with her it was like there were no such thing as consequences.”

Alyssa shifted uncomfortably away from him not at all pleased with where this conversation was heading. Oh, God. Don’t tell me that I just opened up the ex-file she silently pleaded. The very few times in which Paris’s name had come up had been pretty awkward and thankfully enough those moments hadn’t lasted very long, but somehow she had a feeling that this time was different. She tried one last attempt at closing the subject. “We don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.”

Nick looked slightly insulted. “I can talk about her, you know. I don’t like to do it very often and I can only talk about it with people who are really close to me, but it does come up every now and then. As ugly as it turned out to be, it still happened and I’ve learned from it. Sometimes it really pisses me off when people assume that just because I was hurt in the end that I can’t talk about it.”

She sighed, realizing that she had no choice, but to listen to him. “All right. I’m sorry that I thought it was too painful for you or something. If you want to go ahead and talk about Paris, talk about Paris.”

He shot her a thankful glance and took a deep breath before continuing. “At first, I really thought she was the one, you know. I’d been single for over a year at that point. I’d had my chance to go off and do my own thing. Since you, she was really the first woman I was interested in sharing anything long term. I thought that maybe since I’d had my time and she practically just fell in my lap that it was a sign. I’ll admit, it was a pretty big ego boost for me when I heard that she was interested in getting to know me. And it was a relief knowing that she obviously wasn’t only with me for my money or my fame like most of the other girls I’ve been with.”

Hello? What about me? Am I only with you for you fame and money? Alyssa wanted to shout, but managed to keep herself quiet even though it was difficult. She had to play the supportive girlfriend role here as much as it sucked at the moment.

“At the beginning of our relationship things were amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen that hard and that quickly for somebody before. I know it probably sounds like we’re talking about two completely different people here, but at first she seemed completely different from the person that she was perceived as being. I began to think that maybe it was all just an act in front of the media and when you really got down to it she was really a nice, normal girl. She did a lot for me at first. I mean she even cleaned my place up to surprise me, one time. It made me think that it could be something deep and meaningful,” he confessed.

Oh, gag me with a spoon. Alyssa found herself fighting the urge to roll her eyes. Even she wouldn’t clean up a guy’s house for them. Hell, she had a hard enough time keeping her own apartment clean.

“And like I said before, she was very impulsive, but it was kind of exciting actually. She’d decide to do something and then drop everything and do it. It was always an adventure with her.”

“So, basically she was the exact opposite of me right?” She hadn’t even realized that she’d spoken out loud until after the words were said. Then she silently cursed herself for sounding so damn insecure in front of him.

Nick stared at her a moment before slowly continuing. “I guess you could say that,” he finally admitted. “But at the time that’s what I thought I wanted.”

Her voice was cold and flat. “What changed your mind?”

“It was a slow process. The first two months or so were great! But then little things began to change. Like I noticed she was trying to get me to dress a certain way or act a certain way. At first I didn’t think too much of it because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I mean people do tend to change a little bit in relationships. Then she began running hot and cold with me. One minute she’d be all over me, but then the next when I tried to be affectionate with her, she’d be shrugging me off. I was very confused. I thought maybe I’d done something wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it could be. Again though, I ignored the signs and chalked it up to PMS or something I guess.”

Alyssa listened carefully, beginning to feel maybe a tiny bit of sympathy towards him. It sounded as if Paris hadn’t known what she wanted, but then again she couldn’t feel too sorry for Nick if he’d just made excuses to explain the way she’d treated him.

“Then we began to fight. Man, did we fight. You know how I can get when you piss me off, and she was just as brutal. Things would get really ugly between us and we’d say some pretty horrible things to each other to put it mildly. I don’t think any woman has got me so angry where I seriously wanted to hurt them, but I never laid a hand on her. As tempted as I was sometimes, I held back because you know I’m not like that. Anyway we’d have this huge blowout and just when you think that we’d done so much damage that it couldn’t be repaired, we’d make up. It was a cycle that continued for months.”

“You had to know that wasn’t a healthy relationship, Nick,” she pointed out. “Why stay with a person who is obviously trying to change who you are? If they’re not happy with who you are as a person, than obviously they can’t truly love you.”

Nick looked away, a little embarrassed. “I guess I put up with it because I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t do any better. At that point in time I thought that I should be lucky that a woman of her status was interested in me. And I desperately wanted it to work out because the connection I felt with her in the beginning was so intense that I couldn’t accept that it was only lust. Combined with my parents divorce, I figured if this didn’t work out than maybe there really is no such thing as a solid relationship.”

“Or the fact that you have very poor judgment when it comes to character?”

He sighed. “Like I said, she was a completely different person in the beginning. Like she did whatever she could to reel me in, and once she had me it was a complete one eighty. I began to really believe the things she said to me and my confidence began to fall apart. It was almost like being in an abusive relationship in a way. I knew I had to break it off with her, but I wasn’t sure if I had the courage to withstand the backlash that would be sure to follow.”

Seeing the sadness in his eyes, is what broke Alyssa’s heart and it was then she realized that she did in fact have sympathy for him, which led to a bigger realization. All this time where she’d been passively brushing off his explanation of his relationship with Paris, she’d missed the bigger picture. He was finally opening up to her! This is what she’d wanted, right? It was huge progress on his part and all she could do was sit there and pout like a jealous child?

She slid closer to him again and wrapped her arms around him. “But you did find the courage to break it off with her.”

“Only with the help of the other guys. They could see how much I’d changed for the negative since I started dating Paris. They never liked her very much. Then I heard rumors that she’d cheated on me, which was new to me because usually I’m the cheater in relationships, not the other way around.”

I can vouch for that from experience, she mentally added. “So, is that when you broke up with her?”

“Nahh, actually I had to be some macho jerk about the whole thing and cheat on her as some sort of revenge, but it kind of blew up in my face. She found out and of course when I confronted her about her cheating, she denied it, and made me look like the bad guy in all of this. It got to be a pretty big mess and after a very heated argument I basically told her to fuck off.”

“It was about time. I’m glad that you finally did the right thing.”

Nick shrugged. “I wasn’t too sure about it at the time. Especially when only a few days later she conveniently comes out of nowhere with these giant bruises all over her body claiming that I was the one responsible for them, and that was why she dumped me.”

“Did you ever figure out where they came from?” Alyssa asked. “I mean I heard she got into a bar fight with Tara Reid. Is that true?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me, but if you want my honest opinion? I think it was all makeup. Because two days later she looked fine and if she had been beaten up that bad she’d have been bruised up a lot longer, especially with her skin tone.”

“Well, I hope we don’t run into her out here in LA,” she told him, putting on a tough girl act to make him smile. “Because if we do, she’d better watch out or else she’ll have more than bruises to worry about. You know I know people who know people, if you catch my drift.”

It worked. Nick rolled his eyes with just a hint of a grin on his face. “Yea okay, Meadow Soprano.”

Alyssa pretended to look hurt. “What you don’t think I could take her?”

“No, just the opposite. I’m afraid that you could and I’d have to bail your ass out of jail. And I think I’ve given the tabloids enough material for one week, thank you very much.”

Alyssa laughed, but then turned seriously as she snuggled up against him. “Thank you for telling me all this. I know at first I really didn’t want to hear it, but I guess it needed to be talked about at one point or another, right?”

Nick just nodded. “Yea, I guess so. Thanks for listening. Even though I know it made you uncomfortable.” He turned towards her and dropped a light kiss on her temple. “We should get some sleep. Tomorrow is New Years Eve, so it’ll be a late night.”

“You still haven’t told me where we are going or what we’re doing,” Alyssa pointed out.

He stifled a yawn. “It can wait until tomorrow. I hope you bought something fancy with you though.”

“Like cocktail dress, fancy?”

“Yea, that’ll do. I’ll let you know all the details tomorrow, but right now I’m falling asleep.”

“Ok, goodnight.” Alyssa closed her eyes trying to figure out exactly what they were doing tomorrow night and very thankful that she’d packed that red cocktail dress at the last minute.