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Author's Chapter Notes:
Nick decides to take Alyssa up on her offer.
Chapter 31

The week before Christmas flew by in a flash for Alyssa. Last minute Christmas shopping and a steady request for substitute teaching kept her fairly busy which was just fine in her opinion. The less time she had to herself, the less time she had to think about Nick and overanalyze all her feelings connected with the last time she'd seen him, only one week ago. Or at least she had thought so until she received a certain phone call a few days prior...

She'd been so shocked and unprepared to speak to Nick that just the sound of his voice had jolted her. What does he want? she found herself wondering. Why would he call me when it seemed so clear that he's only been using me? Is this another one of his pleading manipulative phone calls? Is that what we've been reduced to? Fuck buddies?

"What do you want?" she found herself rudely asking, before she could even realize how bitchy it probably sounded.

Nick seemed a little surprised by her cold response. "Well, uhmm... I was just calling to see if uhh maybe that offer about Christmas was still available?" he stuttered.

The offer about Christmas? Shit, she silently cursed herself. She'd almost forgot that she had offered him the invitation to spend Christmas with her and her family in the worst case scenario. What was I thinking? Alyssa had to ask herself. She remembered Nick saying that he really didn't have anyone to spend the holiday's with and she honestly felt bad about that, but she doubted she would've been as charitable if it wasn't for the fact that at the time she was still on a sex induced high. Besides, she'd made that offer before he pretty much threw her out of his hotel room as if she was just another groupie and not someone that he had been in a serious long term relationship with before.

"I mean I could spend it with one of the guys," he continued to ramble on. "But it’s just a little weird. I mean Kevin and Brian both have wives, so I just feel like a third wheel when I'm with them, especially with Brian now that he has Baylee and all. I feel out of place with all of Howie's family and AJ and Denise are always more than happy to have me over, but I feel like I'm constantly putting them out. You know there's no way I'm spending it with any of my family members, so yea... I just wanted to know if you really meant having me for Christmas," he ended in a big breath.

As much as Alyssa still felt funny about their last encounter, she quickly realized that there was no way she could uninvite him without looking like a heartless bitch. Deep down she genuinely did feel bad for him. It seemed like she'd be selfish not to allow him to share Christmas with her and her family when his was such a mess. So, reluctantly she had agreed to him flying back out to New York for Christmas after all. As awkward as it was going to be for her, she just couldn't let him stay out in LA by himself.

Now it was the morning of Christmas Eve and Alyssa was running around her apartment making sure that she had everything packed for the next few days she'd be spending at her parent’s house. Even though she only lived about an hour from her parents, they'd all decided that it would be easier for her to just stay over. As it was Stephanie was back at home until college started up again in January and Megan and Scott were coming up from New Jersey. It would be a crowded house, but Alyssa didn't mind. She barely saw her two sisters anymore, so she was excited to get caught back up with them again. The plan was for Nick to take a cab to her apartment from the airport and from there the two of them would take the train to Long Island in order to beat holiday traffic. Besides, after her car had gotten stolen, Alyssa had never gotten around to buying a new one. Living in the city, she hadn't really felt the need to.

"Okay... Got all my clothes... Got my makeup... My gifts... What am I missing?" she muttered to herself as she took inventory of the items that were strewn into her suitcase. "Aha! My toothbrush! I knew I was going to forget something important!" Not like it would've been a huge tragedy if she had forgotten it because she could just as easily pick another one up by her parents house, but still she was thankful that she had remembered. She just stepped out of her bathroom, toothbrush in hand, when she heard the familiar chime of her cell phone.

Holding back a sigh, she threw the toothbrush into her suitcase and grabbed her cell phone with the other hand. "Hello?"

"Please tell me that you're on your way?" she heard the familiar sound of Stephanie's impatient voice. "Mom and Dad are driving me crazy!"

Alyssa laughed, knowing exactly what Stephanie must be going through. Holidays in the Martinelli house were anything, but sane and tensions always rose during the last minute preparations. "Sorry, but I'm still trying to finish packing, so it'll be awhile before I leave yet. What are they doing though? Did Mom 'run away' yet?" It was a long standing joke that it was never Christmas unless her Mother stormed out of the house in a huff over something her Dad had said to her.

"No, not yet, but I'm expecting that to be any minute now," Stephanie reported. "Right now we're trying to make sure the house is perfectly clean and of course while Mom and I are polishing every piece of furniture in the house, Dad's got his little dustpan and broom and is pretending to meticulously sweep the stairs even though they're perfectly clean already."

"Sounds like Dad," she giggled. For as long as she could remember her Dad had also been the "stair sweeper" so that he could get out of doing most of the other more tasking holiday cleaning chores.

"Yepp. You're so lucky you don't live here anymore. You and Meg have it easy. All they've done for the past twenty-four hours is fight about everything from the tree to the bathroom not being clean yet," her sister told her. "And when they're not fighting the hot topic around here is you and Nick."

"Me and Nick?" Alyssa asked, sounding surprised. She knew that she had probably opened up a can of worms by inviting him for Christmas, but she didn't expect it to be this whole big scandal. "There is no me and Nick," she clarified, swallowing hard as she said the words.

She could practically picture Stephanie raising her eyebrows over the phone just by her curious pause. "Well, they just think its a little funny that out of the blue your ex fiancée is all of a sudden your best buddy after three years of being apart and now he's spending Christmas with the family? They have all sorts of conspiracy theories going on."

Alyssa inwardly groaned. She should've realized that inviting Nick to New York for Christmas would cause these kinds of problems. She hadn't mentioned her and Nick's new found friendship to any of her family members, so she could see how it could seem suspicious to her parents. When she had called up her mother to let her know that she would be bringing Nick with her, she had sounded surprised and tried questioning Alyssa who had expertly dodged her evasive questions. Not like it had fooled her mother. She'd just try to pump her sisters for information. She knew her parents were not thrilled with the idea, but she hoped that they could at least treat Nick somewhat civilly since this was after all Christmas.

"They keep asking me every 20 minutes if I know anything about what’s going on with you and Nick and how long the two have you been in contact again," Stephanie continued. "I told them the truth. That I'm just as in the dark about the whole situation as they are even though I live in the same city as you. It really hurts that my older sister can't even share such a major event in her love life as this."

She rolled her eyes at Stephanie's mock disappointment. She'd have to at least come somewhat clean in order to make the next few days run smoothly. Of course she wasn't going to tell Stephanie the whole story. Stephanie had a big mouth and never was good at keeping secrets. She might be able to explain the complicated situation to Meg, but definitely not Stephanie. "It has nothing to do with my love life," she insisted. "I just wound up getting back in touch with Nick through a mutual friend and we've decided to be friends. He's not looking for a relationship right now and honestly I'm much too busy for one myself right now."

"So in other words you're fucking him?"

"What?!" she screeched, her face already turning red at her sisters blunt question. Was she really that transparent? "No way... I am definitely not fucking him!" she lied.

"Uh huh... Exes never get back together after a few years to just be "friends," Stephanie pointed out. "Although, I must admit if the two of you were just fucking why would you want him to spend Christmas with your family?"

Alyssa sighed. “Maybe because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go for the holidays. His family is so screwed up that he wants no part of them and he feels like bad imposing on the other guys and their families for every holiday. I felt bad for him, so I asked if he’d want to spend Christmas with us. And that’s all there is to it.”

“Well, it’ll certainly be interesting around here. Honestly, I could care less whatever you have going on with Nick, as long as you’re happy. I just thought you might want to be prepared as to what Mom and Dad are thinking about the whole situation.”

“Thank you,” she told her sister, believing her to be sincere. She knew that in her own way, Steph was only trying to help. Besides it’s not like it was that big of a secret that her parents were not big fans of Nick.

“So, when are you getting here?” Stephanie excitedly asked, changing the subject.

“Whenever Nick gets here. His plane was supposed to land not too long ago, so hopefully it’ll be soon.”

“Good. Meg is supposedly on her way. She and Scott hit some traffic on the George Washington Bridge, but by now they should be past there.”

Alyssa nearly jumped out of her skin when a knock on her apartment door reverberated throughout the room. “Hey Steph, I got to go now. I think Nick’s at the door.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a few hours. Can’t wait!”

“Same here. Bye.” She pressed the end button on her phone, nervously ran a hand through her hair, and reluctantly approached the doorway. She drew in a deep breath before slowly opening it.

Standing on the other end was Nick wearing a jacket that looked no heavier than a sweatshirt and a skull cap over his blonde hair, clutching a large duffel bag. “Merry Christmas,” he greeted her, stepping forward to give her a light kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks you too. How was your flight?” she asked.

Nick shrugged. “Hellish. It was pretty crowded with all the holiday travelers, but I made it.”

“Yea. The train station is probably going to be a zoo today too,” Alyssa agreed before stepping back and critically eyeing his appearance. “You did bring another jacket didn’t you?”

“No,” he told her. “Why is there something wrong with this one?”

“No it’s fine, but this is New York in December. It’s a lot colder here than in LA. You’re gonna freeze,” she warned him.

“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “I never get cold.”

“Yet, you’re always sick,” she teased. “You know considering that you were born upstate I thought that you’d know all about cold winters.”

“I’ve repressed all my cold winters once I moved down to Florida,” he shot back. “So, are you almost ready to go?”

“Yea, I just have to throw a few more things in my suitcase and then we can go. Stephanie has already been bugging me about what time we’re getting there. Apparently my parents are driving her crazy or something.”

“It’ll be good to see her again. And Meg. And your parents too of course,” Nick added.

If only they could say the same about you, she thought to herself as she headed back down the hall to finish her packing. Something told her that this was indeed going to be an interesting Christmas.

As expected Penn Station was swarmed with people who had the same idea as Alyssa and Nick when it came to their idea of how to get home for Christmas. Alyssa was glad for the crowd though. With so many people rushing to catch trains and fumbling with large pieces of luggage no one seemed to have the opportunity to notice that she was accompanied by a Backstreet Boy. Of course with his skull cap pulled low over his forehead and his ipod dangling from his ears, he easily blended in as just another New Yorker.

Just to be on the safe side though, Alyssa let him take the window seat once they had boarded the train, so that he could remain better hidden then on the aisle where he would be more visible. Normally, she was very possessive over the window seat, but she’d much rather make the sacrifice then to have some teeny recognize Nick and harass them for the next hour.

Not long after the train had pulled out of the station, Nick had leaned his head against the window of the train and promptly fell asleep. He has to be jet lagged from his flight, she realized as she watched him sleep. With nothing better to do for the remainder of the ride, she dug into her bag and pulled out her own ipod. Adjusting the ear buds she turned it on and leaned back against the seat trying to relax.

The song that filled her ears sent a chill through her as she listened to the lyrics and realized just how close they seemed to hit home as she gazed over at Nick beside her.

Something ‘bout the way you looked at me
Made me think for a moment
That maybe we were meant to be
Living our lives separately
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately

Alyssa knew damn well, that Nick was bad for her. It was bad for her to be around him because lately every time she was alone with him, no matter how hard she tried to fight it, she found herself giving into him. It wasn’t healthy at all and it frustrated her to no end. Why couldn’t she just ignore her feelings? She really knew that she was only hurting herself in the end, but just one look from him could make her clear levelheaded self vanish and leave a wild and irresponsible person in its place who did crazy, stupid things.

You looked my way and said, “you frustrate me”
Like you’re thinking of lines and times
When you and I were you and me
We took our chance out on the street
Then I missed my chance
And chances are it won’t be coming back to me

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately
So desperately

Was she just caught up in the idea of what could have been if they had in fact worked out as a couple? Was she just clinging to false hopes and illusions? Or was this something different? Maybe there really was something between them. Maybe it wasn’t just completely one sided. Deep down she realized though that as long as they continued to be friends they were going to fall into the same cycle over and over again. He’d be charming and do something to make it extremely hard for her to say no to him, she’d give in, they’d have sex, and then she’d just wind up confused and unsure of where they stood until the cycle repeated again.

Oh why can’t I ignore it?
I keep giving in but I should know better
‘Cause there was something ‘bout the way you looked at me
And it’s strange that things change
But not me wanting you so desperately

Alyssa sighed, laying her against Nick’s shoulder. Why did this have to be so complicated between them? She needed to stop, but she knew she wouldn’t. He was like an addiction to her. A dangerous addiction.

So now that she came to that stunning realization the question was what was she going to do about it?

I want you so desperately
I keep giving in but I should know better
I keep giving in but I should know better
So desperately
I want you so desperately

-Desperately by Michelle Branch