A/N: Sorry it took so long, I thought I could write last week, but camp took a shit-ton out of me.
Warning: The Thrace scale is going down, but is still significantly higher than I actually want it. A few more chapters of angst, I'm afraid.
Disclaimer: Still don't own. Will never own.
Turning Tables- Chapter 1
"I don't think that that's a good idea."
The blonde Jennifer sighed and threw her hair back. She turned to the brunette Jennifer (currently inspecting an art deco) as if to gain some support, wrinkled her nose, and turned back to Carlos.
"It'll work," curly-haired Jennifer stated before the other could open her mouth.
"It didn't work the last time, remember?" Carlos was resolute, arms crossed against his chest to prove his point.
"You didn't give it a chance the last time," blonde Jennifer explained, not unkindly but not nicely either.
"And it was going to work," brunette Jennifer finally popped up, smiling at the group, "because you were getting the solo. And then your producer wanted to see Kendall, and then we all fell into the room. And then you turned back to normal, so someone else got the solo instead. And then you decided to hang out with us again, and then we decided that you needed a solo. Remember?" She nodded, voice trailing off at the end.
The other three stared at her for a second before resuming their previous conversation.
"Carlos, you have to do it. You will never get the attention— and frankly the respect, you deserve if you don't."
Carlos looked unimpressed and curly-haired Jennifer sighed, removing his hands from their crossed position and placing them on her waist. She reached around his shoulders and hugged him, tightly and sincerely.
He looked up, surprised, before responding in full.
"You're always pushed into the background. You need to be front and center, where you deserve to be. You're so talented Carlos, and no one sees that because no one ever gives you the chance you're waiting for. You need to make your own chances. Show them how awesome you are. Show them that you can take the heat, take the pressure, and become a star."
"Go for it big time?" Carlos surmised, expression strangled with differing emotions.
"Yup," curly-haired Jennifer nodded, finally letting go.
Carlos looked around the room, looked at each of the three Jennifers in the eyes, and nodded. It was slight, minute, but there nevertheless.
"Okay. Let's do this."
"I would like to write one of the songs on the next album."
"Excuse me?" Gustavo turned around and stared at Carlos, bewildered, with the first traces of anger seeping into his face.
"You heard me," Carlos stood, defiant, and stared their producer down, "I would like to write one of the songs for the next album."
"No! Absolutely no way in hell will I have you, of all dogs, write one of the songs. Do you not understand how important your sophomore album is? It shows that you aren't a one-hit wonder! You will be if I let you write a song!"
Jennifarlos stood calm in the literal face of his enraged producer. "I've played the piano since I was five-years-old. I've taken a music theory class and learned how to play guitar two years ago. I've written music before, I've written lyrics before, I know I'm good. You will give me a chance, Gustavo, or I'll make sure to take every single solo that you dole out to the other guys."
Gustavo stood there for a second, gaping, before breaking out into a smirk unlike anything else Carlos had ever seen.
"You're figuring it out, kid," he finally stated, patting Carlos roughly on the back, "so I'll give you three days to write a song and perform it for me. If it passes my test, then I'll let you put it on the next album."
Carlos smiled, forgetting himself for a moment in his happiness.
"I won't let you down!" he promised, running off to a practice studio.
"There's the old Carlos," Gustavo muttered to himself, tamping down the smile he knew would break, "I was wondering where he went."
No one knew about Carlos writing a song. He, in all honesty, didn't think that anyone would want to. Carlos knew that, even with his "Hollywood Fever," the rest of the guys wouldn't take him seriously.
So he would wait. Wait until he finished the song, wait until Gustavo let them record it, wait until the cd came out with the song accredited to himself.
It was a vicious catch-22. His friends wouldn't take him seriously until he did something to show that he was serious, but if he showed them that he was serious, they still wouldn't take him seriously. His head practically spun at the thought.
And so he did what any person desperately attempting to hide what they were doing, did. He holed himself up in the Jennifers' apartment and wrote there. Even when the guys knew that he was hanging out with the Jennifers, they wouldn't dare go up to their apartment to find him.
He paused at that thought, music slowly drifting to a standstill. When was the last time any of the guys asked if he wanted to hang out with them? He contemplated that for a while, pursing his lips and blinking hard when he realized the answer.
To distract himself, he glanced over at the music sheet once more and tried a different chord.
"Better," he murmured to himself, scratching out the previous notation and replacing it with the newer one.
He heard the door open and looked up, smiling when blonde Jennifer appeared.
She rolled her eyes at him and put her purse down, taking off her shoes while she was at it.
"You know that when we said you should get a solo on the next album, this wasn't what we had in mind, right?"
"I think this will do more to improve my reputability," he shrugged, strumming another chord, shaking his head once it faded out, "besides, I like actually writing the song. It's therapeutic."
"Yes, well," blonde Jennifer sniffed, haughtily like the rest of her pose indicated, "it will do you no good when you don't actually sing the song you wrote, will it?"
"I'm getting to that," Carlos replied calmly, "it's simple, really. Once Gustavo likes the song, I just tell him that to get the exact emotion correct, I have to sing it. I say that if I don't, it jeopardizes the song's integrity. Simple."
Blonde Jennifer hummed in agreement before looking at the clock and groaning. She slowly put her shoes back on and walked back to the door.
"I have to go and meet the other Jennifers for an audition. Will you be okay by yourself?"
Carlos nodded absentmindedly, pick in his mouth, already focused back on the music.
He glanced up when he heard the door close, losing himself once again in his thoughts.
It was late. Not late enough for him to get in trouble for breaking curfew, but enough to where dinner was already finished and cleaned up. He walked into the apartment, quietly and watchfully, breathing a sigh of relief when he didn't see anyone in the main room.
He placed his guitar down in the corner of the room, and turned to scrounge through the fridge for leftovers. Or, he would have scrounged if, when he turned, there hadn't been the determined figures of Kendall and Logan waiting for him at the kitchen table.
"Hey, what's up guys?" he asked cheerfully, voice only wobbling in shock for a split-second.
"Where have you been?" It was Kendall, straight to the point as always.
"Out," he replied, making his way over to the fridge and opening the door, grimacing at the measly options within.
"Out where?" Kendall asked, voice toned low so he was demanding, not asking.
Jennifarlos rolled his eyes and turned to face the two of them.
"With the Jennifers," he stated evenly, his slight smile betraying the only emotion on his face.
"You know that they won't date you, right? That you can't date the three of them?" That one was Logan, voice perpetually raised as if poised to give a lecture.
"Contrary to popular belief, Logan," Jennifarlos started, voice dripping in condescension, "I am not an idiot. I don't want to date any of the Jennifers, nor will I ever."
"Dude, he was just saying-"
Kendall was interrupted by Logan's hand on his shoulder. Logan nodded to Carlos, urging him to keep speaking.
Carlos stopped, eyes ping-ponging between Kendall's still angry stare, and Logan's sympathetic eyes. He paused for a second, wondering if this was the moment that he had been waiting for. If this was the moment where he could tell his friends everything he had been wanting to say. If this was the moment that he could finally trust someone other than himself and the three girls that had become his salvation.
"I just-" he started, "I just- I- I don't-"
He was interrupted by the door opening and James' giggling voice calling out a goodbye to Dak.
He shut his mouth, hiding his face in the fridge once more, waiting for James to just leave the room so he could talk to Kendall and Logan before he lost his nerve. He stayed there while James chatted about his date with Dak, stayed there when Kendall and Logan tersely replied, obviously attempting to get him to go away as well, stayed there until he heard the noise of boots clattering into their bedroom, the soft click of the door behind them.
Carlos turned back around for the last time and faced the questioning stares of Logan and Kendall.
"Why don't you want to talk to James as well?" Logan asked, voice soft as if trying not to scare an injured animal.
Carlos let out a strangled bark of a laugh and shook his head. He hoped that would put his point across.
"It's about James," Kendall stated, effectively sapping out the words Logan was about to utter.
"Or, at least some of it is," he added at Carlos' raised eyebrow.
"It's about a lot of things," Jennifarlos conceded, nodding minutely, "I suppose you could say that James was an initial reason."
"What are the other things?" Logan inquired, eyes wide and bright with suppressed sadness.
"Lots of things. Things you wouldn't understand. Things I don't even understand, to be completely honest. Just, so much."
And with that he turned away and started walking to his shared room, nerve lost in the eyes of their pity.
"You're not really in Hollywood Fever anymore, are you?" Kendall called out from behind him.
"I never was." It was simple, stated so quietly that Kendall and Logan had to strain to accurately hear it.
Their sharp intakes of breath confirmed that they did, indeed, hear, and Carlos continued walking.
He stepped into his bedroom, vaguely noticing James bopping along to his iPod while reading a fashion magazine. He gave a short wave, things not being all that comfortable between them ever since James' confrontation with the Jennifers. James gave a curt nod in return, glancing up for only a split second, before his eyes flickered down to the glossy pages once more.
Carlos sighed, inaudible, and set off to get ready for bed. He had been exhausted lately, and while he knew why, he didn't acknowledge the inevitable truth as actual fact. He sluggishly pulled off his clothes and replaced them with pajama pants, falling into bed without brushing his teeth.
One more day, and he wouldn't have to hide anymore. One more day, and he could stop thinking about chords all hours of the night. One more day, and he could stop worrying about it being perfect, because the deadline meant it was as good as it was going to get. One more day, and he could sleep with minimal ease again.
He wanted to be a songwriter so bad, but if every song took this much out of him, he didn't know if he could conceivably manage having that job. Of one thing was for certain, though, he commended Gustavo for being able to still do it after so many years.
"Are you all right, man?" It was James, earbuds out and voice lilted to imply that their brief dispute earlier that week was all but forgotten.
"I'm fine," Carlos smiled, tilting his head over so he could see James.
"Are you sure?" James asked, sitting up slightly in his bed, magazine falling to his lap.
"Totally, man. Why do you ask, though?" Carlos made his voice upbeat for that, attempting to stay in a character he barely remembered.
"Nothing, I guess. Just wondering." At that, James laid back down, eyes confused but not saying anything regardless.
"How are you?" Calos blurted out, wincing at the pathetic tone of 'please, please notice me' that must have come out of his mouth.
"Hmmm?" James looked at Carlos for a second before responding, "Oh, I'm okay. Hanging out with the guys."
"You had a date tonight." Carlos pointed out, mentally groaning at his stupid question. He did not want to hear the answer, so why was he so masochistic?
"I did," James nodded to himself, as if he forgot, and paused before finishing the rest of his statement, "Jennifer was right."
"What do you mean?" Carlos asked, bewildered and more than a little surprised.
"What she said about why I was dating Dak. She was right."
He hastened to explain at Carlos' blank face, mistaking it for confusion.
"She said that I was only dating him because I wouldn't care if we broke up. That I would be okay with it, because while I like him, I'm not emotionally invested in our relationship." He shrugged, staring hard at his bed sheets, refusing to look in Carlos' direction.
"That can be good, though," Carlos started, rolling his eyes because, seriously, why was he giving James advice on how to keep a relationship going?
"What do you mean?" James asked.
Carlos sighed and brutally admonished himself inside of his head. "I mean, because sometimes you need fun relationships, right? Because you're not ready, and the other person isn't ready for a real one, but you both want the benefits of being in one. There's nothing wrong with being in a relationship with someone that you like, but aren't willing to take the plunge with."
After that he shrugged, a blush on the tips of his ears the only thing giving away his embarrassment.
"I guess." James looked at him oddly, the same look he gave Carlos when he walked into the living room and asked if he wanted to hang out.
"What?" Carlos asked, voice pitched low and steady, as if being scrutinized didn't make him supremely uncomfortable.
"Nothing." James shook his head, eyes going back to normal once more.
"Okay, whatever man. G'night."
And with that Carlos turned around to face the wall, slipping his covers to his shoulders, and closed his eyes.
After twenty minutes of Carlos hearing James' steady breaths and slowly falling asleep to them, he was awoken by the sound of rustling sheets. Footsteps padded towards his bed, and he tensed when he felt his mattress dip with the weight of another person.
"You're so different and I can't figure out why," came James' voice, obviously thinking that Carlos was asleep.
Carlos held still, keeping his breathing pattern regular, and listened to the rest of James' speech.
"It's like, sometimes you're Carlos, my best friend who I can play hockey with and wrestle, but other times it's like you're this entirely new person. But, it's like you're not actually new, but trying to be. It's confusing. I don't like it. And I want to figure it out, but you know I'm not good with people, so-" he cut himself off, chuckling dryly and moving back to his bed.
Carlos drifted off to sleep once more, thoughts and James' words swirling throughout his head, making him uneasy in their truth.
"Sometimes I just miss my friend," he heard James mutter.
'Sometimes I miss mine too,' he thought, before falling asleep for the final time that night.