"You wanta explain this?"
The door burst open, and Kevin threw the front section of the newspaper at Nick.
"What the -- g'morning to you, too," he mumbled, crawling out of bed and attempting to tame his golden hair.
"How many OTHER papers are gonna pick up on this before noon? Huh? I give it ten minutes before this place is crawling with camera crews, too." He glared at Nick, daring him to refute the headlines.
Opening the paper, Nick sighed raggedly. Shit.
*BACKSTREET BOY QUESTIONED IN RECENT DEATHS OF CONCERT-GOERS*
"Damn it Nick, what have you done now?"
"Geez, Kev," he whined. "How come you always gotta give me grief?"
"How come? How COME??? Because you gotta fuck up all the time." He paced angrily, not quite knowing what to do. God, he loved Nick like a brother but it was always *something*.
"Not fair," Nick mumbled, stumbling into the bathroom and turning on the shower.
"*Fair?* Don't walk away from me, Nick. You can't hide in there forever."
"Piss off, Kev, I had a long night." He slammed the door in Kevin's face.
It was with a twisted sense of humor that Nick spent twice as long in the shower as usual. He knew Kev was gonna be fried by the time he wandered out, but he really didn't give a damn. He was sick and tired of being treated like a kid.
What he found on the other side of the door was not what he expected.
"Mr. Carter?" The large uniformed officer looked him square in the eye.
"Y-yes?" Nick croaked, and then cleared his throat.
"I must request that you accompany us to the 21st precinct."
"You do it your way, or we do it ours. Your choice, Mr. Carter."
Two hours later, the nightmare was far from over. The questioning had been grueling. These cowboys were actually serious. They had some twisted notion that Nick had actually killed several fans at the Tacoma concert venue.
This was insane. He'd never even gone backstage afterward, he'd dragged his sorry ass to the bus. He was tired, felt the beginnings of the flu and just wanted to get back to his hotel room and crash.
Now his mind was buzzing with the words being tossed about ... *charges* ... *arraignment* ... *plea bargain* ...
"You know Carter," if you just come clean we can get you a reduced sentence."
Who WAS this joker, anyway? The strangest assortment of suits kept wandering in and out, and this last one was the strangest by far.
"As your court-appointed attorney-"
"Wait a fucking minute! I have my own damned attorney. We ALL do."
"Now, now, vulgarity will NOT help your case."
"Fuck my case!" He was livid, he was frightened and where the hell was Kevin when he actually needed him?
A firm knock announced the arrival of the bailiff.
"Your case is up, buddy, let's get a move on."
"My CASE? What the-"
He was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles. As he passed the other guys he heard them mutter and saw them shake their heads. He heard Howie whisper something about it being a tragedy. So sad, someone who had their whole life ahead of them ....
AJ smirked and gave him a thumbs up. Kev was on his cell phone to someone, and Brian ... Brian just sat and prayed, rocking back and forth to a melody only he could hear.
The judge made her entrance, and damn she was hot. A petite little brunette, her hair flowed past her shoulders and her skin looked like porcelain. She glanced Nick's way and then he made a colossal mistake.
He winked at her.
*Oops. Shoulda not done that,* he thought.
"You've heard the charges-"
"Umm, excuse me, but no. I haven't. Just what-"
"It says here the case is very clear. You are hereby charged with *Death By Sex-Appeal*."
Nick burst out laughing. "You're shitting me, right?"
"Mr. Carter, for your information, I do not *shit* anyone." She glared at him icily.
He had the good sense to drop his eyes to the floor.
"Now, where were we?" The judge consulted her notes. "Ah yes ... three incidents last night alone. Quite impressive, young man." She continued to read her notes. "Hmm. Well. Um hmm ..."
"Your honor, I'd like to introduce the evidence." Suit number two stood up.
"These are the victims your honor. Two young women, ages 15 and 22."
"Two? I understood there to be three." The judge peered inquisitively over her glasses.
"Yes ma'am. This is the third. Quite unusual for a case like this."
"She appears to be much older."
"Yes, your honor. Forty-two, to be exact."
"As I said before, quite impressive, Mr. Carter. How long have you known you had this effect on women?"
Nick grinned. Kevin dropped his head into his hands. AJ rolled his eyes and slid down into his seat.
"Are you aware, Mr. Carter, that's it's a felony in this state to remain unregistered?"
"In cases like yours it is a state requirement that one must register immediately upon crossing the state line. I see no evidence whatsoever that you took the time to register either your eyes, your smile or that deliciously sexy body with any of the proper agencies."
"No excuses, young man. Just look at the heartache you have caused." The bailiff turned on the vcr just long enough to see crowd footage from the previous night's concert.
"Look at those poor girls, Mr. Carter, they're in agony. Screaming and sobbing, some are even writhing in their seats. Disgusting."
The scene changed, and now the entire courtroom was treated to a perfect view of "Not For Me". All the damning evidence was right there in front of them ... Nick, his hair everywhere; Nick, his red and black shirt billowing under the assault of the huge wind machines; Nick, ripping one sleeve from his shirt; Nick, his leather-clad hips thrusting right into the camera's lens ...
A strangled cry came from the bench. As the judge collapsed into a puddle beneath her robes, she was heard to cry, "Guilty!"
"Guilty?!" The collective gasp arose from the courtroom.
"Guilty?" Nick echoed .... "Guilty?"
guilty ... guilty ...
"Guilty" he mumbled.
"Nick!" Kevin shouted.
"Guilty!" he cried, falling to the floor.
"Carter, get your ass out of bed or you're going to be a helluva lot more than guilty. I'll fry your ass if you make us miss our plane."
Looking up from the floor of his hotel room, it took several seconds for Nick to shake himself awake. "Yeah, ok, ok. Gimme ten minutes."
Slamming the door behind him, Kevin stormed off to collect the others. Damn, this tour was beginning to get to him.
Slowly Nick made his way to the bathroom. Standing over the sink, he assessed his appearance in the garish lights.
Starting with his tousled bed head, moving on to his clear blue eyes, and finally smiling at himself, he shook his head. "Guilty, huh? Damn I'm good!"
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