In Pieces – Chapter 12

It was nearly two in the morning when Ashleigh finally stepped back inside her and Matt’s house. Her dinner with Nick had gone much better than she had expected. No longer was she angry with him or harboring resentment towards him. Instead, she found herself wanting to see more of him, wanting to fill the gap that had come between them in the years they hadn’t spoken to each other.

Quietly, as though not to awaken her sleeping fiancée, Ashleigh made her way down to the basement. Switching on the lights, she searched through the storage room. “Where is that box?” She muttered to herself as she dug through the endless amounts of junk.

Finally, she spied her treasure atop a shelf. Pulling down the box which had once held her stereo, she walked into the den.

The box no longer contained a stereo system. Strewn about across the floor was countess books, video cassettes, magazine pin-ups, t-shirts, cds, Burger King toys and other pieces of memorabilia. Picking up a tape, she giggled as she read the handwritten label.

Backstreet TV
Homecoming: Live in Orlando
Diary of the Backstreet Boys
Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life

It was a tape of specials she’d recorded off television. Smiling, she popped the tape into the VCR and curled up on the couch. She didn’t care that she had to work in the morning, she was hardly tired.

“Good afternoon and welcome to Total Request Live.” Carson Daly said through the screen. “Today we have some very special guests in the studio with us. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Backstreet Boys.”

Ashleigh smiled as she watched the familiar footage. She couldn’t even begin to count the endless hours she and Joey had spent watching these tapes. She giggled as Nick told Carson his favourite place to go on tour had been Australia. He changed his answer every time he was asked that question.

She smiled when they performed I Want It That Way. That song had always been a favourite of hers. When the video had first premiered on MTV, Ashleigh fondly remembered phoning Joey shrieking “Turn on MTV! It’s on, it’s on!”

The homecoming concert had also been a favourite of hers. She’d watched it time and time again, re-living her concert experience.

Sighing, she fast forwarded to the Larger than Life special. It had aired after she’d returned home from the tour. She’d recorded it, but hadn’t ever brought herself to watch it. Now more than ever, she felt the need to re-live those Black and Blue concert days.

As the program started, the boys appeared on screen singing Larger Than Life. Ashleigh’s breath caught in her throat as she watched Nick dance and sing on the stage. There he was, 21 year old Nick. The man she’d once thought was the love of her life.

She grinned, quietly singing along to the music. Where had this show been filmed? AJ had said Los Angeles. Ashleigh had been at that show. It had been one of the last ones before she and Joey had to return home, as she recalled. She shuddered at the memory, her 18 year old self had no idea about the emotional turmoil that lay ahead of her.

Ashleigh continued to watch her videos, not noticing the time at all. She began to feel conflicted. Nick had hurt her terribly, and yet she still found herself drawn to him. He’d seemed genuinely sorry for what he’d done. Maybe he just hadn’t realized that it had meant something to her more than a fling.

But if to him, it had truly just been a fling, why had he been so insistent in seeing her? She couldn’t help but wonder. She didn’t want him to leave without answering her questions, without seeing him again. Her mind told her she was being irrational, that she was being silly, that it was a bad idea. Her heart and the 18 year old girl that still lived inside her told her otherwise. She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was just past five thirty, her store would be opening in half an hour. Besides, she was engaged. She already had a man who loved her; there was no need for her to continue obsessing over an old crush, boyfriend, fling…whatever Nick had been.

Standing up, Ashleigh figured she may as well get ready to head down to work. Switching off the VCR, she began to pack up her things. As she placed the videos and other things back into the box, a small envelope fell and spilled onto the floor.

Picking it up, Ashleigh came face to face with herself at 18 years of age. Grinning ear to ear, she was standing backstage with Nick who had his arms wrapped around her. She and Joey had managed to take copious amounts of pictures documenting their summer. Flipping through them, Ashleigh shook her head. She and Nick certainly had looked cute together.

She stopped at one of the last pictures. She and Nick were standing, at what she remembered to be the last night she’d been with him. They were kissing, Nick’s hand placed gently underneath her chin. How sad she’d been that night, the only thing that had consoled her was her belief that she was going to see him again.

Placing the photos back into the envelope, she put the rest of the box away and headed up stairs. After taking a quick shower and changing her clothes, she was out the door.

As she drove, she absent mindedly turned on the radio. Flipping to Cities97, she couldn’t say she was shocked at what she heard. Not after the week she’d been having.

I hold you close and it all goes crazy
If you would only be my lady
Why…tell me why
You’re everything, everything but mine

She continued to stare at the road in front of her. The sun was just starting to come up, giving the sky an orange glow. She tried to concentrate on driving, and the impending work day that was ahead of her but it was impossible.

Time takes time
It’s not too late
To tell you how I feel…

Engaged, she reminded herself. Engaged, engaged, engaged… She had wanted to go into work early to try and take her mind off things, but it was no use.

She was already heading towards The Crowne Plaza.

Silently, she stood outside of room 1508. She’d come this far, only to feel like chickening out at the last second. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door.

Nothing.

Again, she knocked.

“Howie, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be as intimidating as Kevin.” She heard Nick’s voice call out. Giggling, she knocked on the door again. After a few moments, she heard Nick walk towards the door.

“We don’t leave until noon, give it up Howard.” Nick stopped as he realized it wasn’t Howie at all that was rapping at his door at six in the morning.

“Ashleigh.” Nick said, surprised that she’d actually come back to see him. He hadn’t expected that, especially after how upset she’d been with him. Yet, she hadn’t pushed him away at all either. Not once they were talking comfortably. “Come in.” He gestured, opening the door a little wider.

Ashleigh blushed. She was all dressed up, and here was Nick wearing only a t-shirt and boxers. Not surprisingly, this only fueled her returning attraction to him. “Nick…” She started, sitting down on his bed. She hadn’t exactly planned out what she was going to say to him. She didn’t know what she’d expected to come of her visit, all she’d known was that she’d needed to see him again.

Nick sat down beside her, instantly awake. She’d come back, maybe things weren’t so perfect with her fiancée after all. Or maybe she’d never really gotten over him. He tried to search her face for clues, but came up with nothing. She just looked at her feet, not knowing what to say or do.

“Nick.” She tried again. “Your favourite colour is blue… you only say it’s green because Kevin and Brian had already claimed it for their own.” She stated.

He looked at her skeptically. Where was she going with this?

“When you get a meal at McDonald’s, you always eat your fries first, because a burger can be reheated if it gets cold. You drink half your coke before the meal, and half after. You like watching weird Asian slasher movies, you love unsweetened iced tea and always forget that they don’t have it in Canada until it’s too late and you’ve already ordered it with your food…” She rambled, looking up at him. “You yell at the TV when you’re losing one of your games and when you’re playing Mario Kart you lean to the side as if it’ll make a difference.”

Nick didn’t say anything, he just waited for her to continue. It was endearing to him, to hear her say such quirks about him. Things that only people who had been close to him noticed.

“I don’t know why I remember all of that stuff, I guess it was just things I noticed about you. Before I met you, you were Nick Carter…this super hot guy who I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance with. Then I did and you became Nick.” She said, stressing his name with anguish in her voice. “Still a super hot guy but so much more than just some cheesy poster on my wall.”

“When we got together…I didn’t think it was going to end. I’d never even heard the word breakup before you came along, and we didn’t even break up, we were never even together in the first place. After a while, I managed to forget about you and move on. But now I can’t stop thinking, what if it hadn’t ended? What if you wanted me just as much as I’d wanted you? And I know it’s so stupid, and you must think that I’m just really stupid for showing up here like this…” She stopped, looking up at him. She couldn’t read his expression. He just looked at her, waiting for her to continue. She wasn’t sure what else she should say.

“You’re really freaking me out, Nick.” She said. “Say something.”

He sighed. He hadn’t expected anything to come out of his fling with her at all. Yet, here she was, confessing her past love to him. Part of him wanted to tell her that he’d felt the same way about her, but he knew that wasn’t true. Back then, he really had only been concerned with having sex and having something to come back to after a show.

Now, he wasn’t so sure. What if it hadn’t ended, what if he had given their relationship a chance to develop? She was nice, genuine, and she didn’t quite take things lightly. Maybe someone like her would be good for him.

“I don’t know what to say, Ash. I was kind of a jerk back then. If I could make it up to you, I would.”

She laughed a little. Now he was willing to fix things. Now, when she was unavailable. Yet, she didn’t really care. A stupid decision, maybe. Again, her mind screamed at her to leave and never look back…and her heart disagreed. She didn’t want to look back in another eight years and wonder what might have been.

He touched her face gently, his fingers tracing her skin. “What can we do, Nick?” She asked softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “Nothing. I’m engaged.”

He kissed her delicately and she didn’t push him away. Instead she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer to him. “Engaged aint married.” Nick pointed out in between kisses.

As much as Ashleigh wanted to agree with Nick’s logic, she couldn’t. Still, she didn’t stop him. This entire situation was wrong, and she knew what she was about to do was awful, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop.

Nick’s lips moved down to her neck, and stopped at her collarbone. Slowly, he unbuttoned her blouse, revealing her lacy white bra. Tossing her shirt to the ground, Nick leaned back and pulled Ashleigh on top of him. His hands explored her back as he continued to kiss her. Slowly, he moved his hands down to her pants and tugged on the elastic band around her waist.

Almost effortlessly, Ashleigh wiggled out of her pants and soon, they were joined with her shirt on the floor. She ran her hands down his sides, slipping her hands underneath his cotton t-shirt. Pulling him to an upright position, she straddled him as she pulled the shirt over his head.

Nick didn’t waste any time. He pulled her close to him, enjoying the feeling of her soft skin against his. He fumbled with the clip of her bra, mentally cursing. He always seemed to have trouble with those things. After what seemed like an eternity, Nick finally managed to get it off.

“Imagine that, Nick Carter unable to take off a girl’s underwear.” Ashleigh giggled, continuing to kiss him.

“Quiet.” Nick smiled, flipping her onto her back. He placed a trail of kisses down her chest and over her stomach. He smirked to himself, noticing her underwear. She’d always had a thing for wearing those boyshort style panties. He’d always thought that was cute. Slipping them off of her, he spread her legs.

Ashleigh took a sharp breath as Nick’s tongue touched her. “God, Nick…” She moaned, enjoying the sensation Nick was giving her. Instinctively, she reached her hand for his. Their fingers intertwined, and Ashleigh arched her back as Nick flicked his tongue against her.

She trembled as Nick sent pleasure throughout her body. “Nick…please…” She moaned, practically begging for him.

Nick obliged. Pulling his boxers off, he grabbed a condom off of the bedside table. He’d learned very quickly that was the best place for them. Ripping the package open, he placed it on himself. He hovered over Ashleigh for a few moments, looking intently at her. Pieces of her hair were in her eyes, which were covered in significantly less makeup than Nick remembered her wearing in the past. No glitter this time either.

Ashleigh put her hand on Nick’s lower back, guiding him inside her. Nick moaned as their hips touched. “Ash…” He said softly, brushing the hair out of her eyes.

Ashleigh wrapped her legs around Nick’s waist, and pulled him closer to her. He kissed her forehead lightly, almost afraid to move. She placed her hands on the back of his neck and kissed him deeply. “It’s okay Nick.” She whispered.

He began to roll his hips against hers, slow at first wanting to make the most of their time together. Ashleigh buried her head in Nick’s shoulder as she moved against him. Everything about this was so wrong on so many levels but she didn’t care. She’d been waiting for this day for eight years, and now that it was here she wasn’t going to let it slip away from her.

Nick closed his eyes as he sped up his pace. He felt ridiculously guilty, having sex with her only to break her heart again. Of course, he hadn’t known back then how she’d been feeling. Nick dismissed that as an excuse, even if he had, he probably wouldn’t have cared. Now, being close to her, remembering the two months they’d shared together, he cared.

Finally, he understood what she’d been talking about earlier. His fame had drawn her to him, but over the short time they’d spent with each other she’d taken the time to get to know who he really was. Selfishly, he hadn’t noticed. He’d only been concerned with making himself look not so pathetic in front of Kevin and Brian. In his selfishness, he hadn’t realized what was right in front of him. She’d been star stuck, she’d been immature, and over the time he hadn’t seen her, she’d grown up.

And now, she was with someone else. Not that it really seemed to matter to her, as it was his name that she was breathing, his eyes that she was staring into, his neck that she was kissing. She tightened around him, kissing his neck softly. “Nick…” She moaned, feeling herself approach her climax. “Oh God, Nick…”

Nick continued to thrust hard against her, until he reached his own orgasm. “Ashleigh…” He panted, slowing down. Her hair was in her eyes again, and again, he brushed it out.

Neither one of them moved or spoke for a moment. Ashleigh closed her eyes tightly as Nick leaned down to kiss her once more.

Rolling off her, Nick quickly got rid of the condom and turned to her. She held her knees to her chest and her head down. What had she done? She had spent the last eight years of her life trying to forget about him, only to have every single feeling come rushing back in a matter of days? She disgusted herself. If Nick leaving her once and broken her heart, twice would surely kill her.

Nick didn’t know what, if anything, he was supposed to say to her. He could only imagine how she must be feeling, having just cheated on her fiancée.

Luckily, he was saved by a loud knocking on his door. “Nick! We’re going to go for breakfast before the flight. You wanna come with?” Rang AJ’s voice through the thin hotel walls.

Nick rolled his eyes, and Ashleigh looked up and smiled at him. Quickly, she got dressed and Nick pulled on his boxers and t-shirt. Opening the door a crack, he faced AJ. “Not going.” He said quickly, before closing the door.

But AJ didn’t let him. He gave Nick a questioning look. “Dude, what were you doing?” He laughed, taking note of Nick’s dripping hair and breathlessness.

“Nothing.” Nick stated, attempting to close the door again. Instead, Ashleigh came up behind him.

“Bye Nick.” She said, fully clothed and ready to leave. She pulled him in for a quick kiss, praying that this time wouldn’t hurt as much as it had before. Squeezing out through the door, she smiled at AJ. “Bye, AJ.” She said, and began to walk down the hall.

AJ stared at Nick, wide eyed. “That isn’t…?”

Nick nodded. “Yeah.”

AJ put his hand on Nick’s shoulder before walking back to his own hotel room. “Oh my fucking God. I’ll wait for you for breakfast, because I have got to hear about this.” He said, and Nick shut the door without a word.

He leaned against the door. She wasn’t angry with him again, was she? No, she had been smiling when she’d left. Nick hit his fist against the door, how he had let her escape him before, he would never know. Not this time, he assured himself. This time, he wouldn’t let her get away. This time, he would call her.

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