By My Side

This was my first real song fic - I know a lot of people don't like them, but for me music has always been an inspiration...
Author's Note: I love Ben Harper, seriously, his music is great and I listen to it all the time (almost as often as to my Backstreet CDs) - that's why I just had to write a song fic with one of his songs! This one has a happy ending (as you can tell from the first sentence) - couldn't torture you with another sad fic, now couldn't I? Also Howie deserves to get some loving... my Howie muse was adamant! lol
Sorry, I'm not making much sense - I'll get to the fic now! Just note as always that English isn't my first language, so forgive my mistakes!

Howard Dwaine Dorough of the Backstreet Boys was happy, absolutely and completely happy. There were many reasons for his happiness - their still big success, the DLF, Tabu, his friends, his family... He knew he was blessed to have so many things to be grateful for - but if he was honest there was one thing more important to him than everything else: he was in love. In love with his best friend, the incredibly sexy and unbelievably crazy Alexander James McLean, better known as AJ or Bone.
Howie smiled to himself, the secret, pleased smile that he could no more stop from appearing on his face at the thought of his lover than he could have stopped the earth from turning. Who would have thought that the year that had brought so many bad things would also bring the best thing that had ever happened to him?

As always when he thought of the time before AJ went into rehab his heart grew heavy with grief and guilt for the horrible experiences the man who now made him so happy had gone through. He knew that AJ didn't want him to feel that way - but Howie couldn't help himself.
AJ had time and again tried to tell him that if it hadn't been for the chance to start over he would never have had the guts to commit himself to Howie.
"So you want me to be grateful that you now will have to battle your inner demons for the rest of your life?" Howie had asked at one time unbelievingly as they were chilling at his place, in front of the fire place.

Don't you get ahead of me
and I won't leave you behind
if you get unhappy
show me a sign

AJ had just looked at him for a while, his eyes for once not hidden behind protective shades, because he knew how much Howie loved to see them. "Perhaps that's just what I wanna say. Or do you think I would have been ready for us before all that shit happened? And it's over now - with you in my life I don't have to be afraid of my demons."
The only answer Howie had known for that was a tight embrace. It still amazed him how naturally the embrace turned into something more intimate. The taste of AJ, his smell, the feel of his body against his own... And the thought that this was the way it would be from now on made him happy.

They melted against each other, hands beginning to wander, clothes falling to the ground. Howie loved to trace AJ's countless tattoos with his fingers or his tongue just as much as AJ loved to have him do that. But a man could only take so much teasing and as Howie seemed inclined to continue his journey of discovery forever AJ finally had to take steps and flipped them around so he was on top. "I want some of that sweetness, D!" he growled and Howie felt shivers running down his spine as AJ began a journey of his own.

Soon it was Howie who was begging for release - and AJ relented, since his own arousal was bordering on being painful. He straddled his lover and, his every movement followed breathlessly by Howie's big shiny eyes, lowered himself onto the throbbing cock beneath him. He waited a moment to adjust to the intrusion, then began to move, his eyes never leaving Howie's. His hands played on the muscular chest beneath him, teasing the nipples and skimming along the sides.
Howie's fingers were holding AJ's hips, caressing his butt and travelling to his hard shaft. It felt so good being one like this and Howie soon felt his release nearing. "God, you're so tight, Alex!" he moaned, trying to make it last but failing miserably as AJ replied huskily: "Feels so fucking good, D, you're so big inside me! Cum for me, lover, cum now!" That was too much and Howie came with a low scream, his hands tightening around AJ's cock and taking him right over the edge with him. The younger man collapsed on top of Howie, not caring about the sticky wetness between them. "God, that was amazing!" he mumbled before sleep overcame him. He didn't even hear his lover's soft reply: "You're amazing, Alex!"

Howie smiled contentedly - that was the way it was supposed to be: He would take care of AJ and AJ would take care of him. "Promise me that you'll tell me when you are afraid of relapsing? Even if it means that I've once again failed to see it for myself?" he had asked his lover as they had woken up because it was getting uncomfortable. And AJ had promised by placing his hand over his heart in a gesture that would have looked ridiculous from anybody else. But from AJ it was just sincere and Howie felt relief wash over him.

there's no love like lost love
no pain like a broken heart
there's no love like you and me
and no loss like us apart

It had not always been like this - as AJ had begun to pursue Howie the older man had at first refused to believe that his crazy friend was serious. AJ had pulled so many mad stunts in the past - why should this be any different?
The truth was that Howie knew he could fall for AJ - fall deep and hard in love with him. But he was afraid of getting hurt, afraid that for AJ it was only a phase, something he would get over. He knew that it hurt his best friend that he didn't trust him - but there was nothing he could do about it, the fear of having his heart broken once more by AJ was too strong.

How many times had AJ come on to to him when they were both drunk - and how many times had he pushed him away the next morning? Every time Howie had vowed that it wouldn't happen again. But when he was buzzed and seeing AJ move smoothly across the dance floor to stand close to him and say huskily "Let's get outta here, D!" he got up and followed him anyway. It was hard to resist AJ - and when they were together it seemed so right, so perfect. Howie never felt so free and uninhibited as he did when he as with AJ and he got the feeling that AJ felt the same and that that was the reason why they ended up in the same bed so often. Until the next morning when AJ pretended that nothing had happened and his body felt used and dirty and his heart broken.

He had known that it was different now that AJ didn't drink anymore - but knowing something rationally and actually believing it emotionally were completely different things.

promises promise is
only a word
and when softly spoken
is never heard

It really surprised Howie that AJ was so persistent - he actually 'courted' him, both in the old-fashioned romantic sense and in his unique slightly crazy AJ style. It had all started with a huge bouquet of red roses in his hotel room. On the note attached to them it had simply said: 'Let's get outta here, D!' Reading this Howie had known who the flowers were from and why AJ had been strangely quiet around him after rejoining them.
Since he hadn't known what this was all about he had gone over to his friend's room, only to find him waiting for him with an untypically shy smile. "What's this supposed to mean, Bone?" Howie had wanted to know and had been surprised when he saw AJ blushing. He didn't think he had ever seen that before, not when he was only 15 and not when they were engaged in the wildest sex imaginable.

"It's... it's to show you that... that our nights together mean a lot to me", AJ had said slowly, obviously wanting this to come out just right. "I know I've treated you like shit afterwards - but that was not me, not the real Alex, ya know... I was scared to death to let you in, to admit that there were feelings behind my attitude. But now - I think now I'm ready to, ya know, admit it and try to convince you that... that I will never hurt you again like I did. And that... I love you..."
A part of Howie had wanted to embrace the man in front of him, to tell him that he didn't need any convincing - but the bigger part of him hadn't believed that AJ would actually stay true to his word this time and he had told him so. He had seen the hurt in AJ's unshaded eyes and he felt some satisfaction that this time Alex was the one hurting and not the other way around.

But AJ had not let Howie's words stop him. He was convinced that all D needed was time to let himself believe his words.

and a heart
is not a stone
and is fragile
when alone

The other guys had soon realized that something strange was going on with their two band mates. AJ followed Howie around, most of the time without saying a word but always ready to silently lend him a hand when he needed help with anything, to just be there for him whenever he needed someone. When Howie went out AJ did, too, when D wanted to stay in, so did AJ - even if that meant spending the night on his own because Howie didn't want his company.

Howie wanted to be annoyed, wanted to be mad and drive AJ away as AJ had driven him away countless times. But every time he was ready to tell him to go to hell he would find little somethings in his room or in his luggage, stuff AJ knew he liked and that he went through all kinds of trouble to find for him. It was so unlike the old AJ to be considerate like this - he never pressed Howie to accept his company, he never expected a word of thanks. AJ was trying his hardest to make amends, to convince Howie that this time he wouldn't send him away.

Howie felt his resistance crumble, specially when he was lying in bed late at night and his mind wandered to the man who, if he was honest with himself, possessed his thoughts and perhaps even his heart.

by my side
by my side
won't you be by my side
by my side
by my side
won't you be by my side

After two months of inner turmoil Howie had woken up one morning in his condo and just knew that this was it, that he was not afraid anymore. He got up and showered and got dressed humming softly to himself, feeling carefree and excited. He pictured AJ's face when he told him what he had always wanted to tell him, what had been on his mind every night they had spent together. "I love you, Alex!" he whispered to himself, smiling at himself in the mirror.

He gave AJ a call, knowing exactly that at this time he was always on his morning run. "You have reached the Bone's den - the man himself is at the moment unable or unwilling to answer your call, so leave a message and he might get back to you... if he feels like it!" The whole thing ended with a crazy cackle that made Howie smile as he pictured his friend laughing his ass off recording the message. Beep. Howie had thought carefully about what he was going to say and kept his voice light and even as he said: "Hey, Alex, this is D. Do you have time to help me with this song I'm working on at the moment? Just come over to my place around five, okay? See ya!" With a smile he hung up, knowing that if it was in his power AJ would be there at five.

The day had gone by almost painfully slow as Howie tried to concentrate on some business letters he had to write. But finally it was half past four and he got everything ready for AJ's arrival.

my care for you
is from the ground up to the sky
it's over under up above
down below and to the side

When AJ had reached Howie's condo he let himself in as was their habit with each other's houses. "D?" he called as he searched the strangely quiet rooms. He was nowhere to be found, not in the living room, not in the small recording studio, not in the bathroom. AJ got a bit worried and stepped out onto the veranda to see if Howie had perhaps fallen asleep outside. He looked down at the beach - and his breath caught at the sight before him...

Howie was standing there in the sand, wearing a casual cream colored suit with an emerald sweater underneath while his feet were bare. He looked absolutely stunning! All around him were candles and he was smiling up at his astonished friend. "You coming down here or have you grown roots?" he called up teasingly, waking AJ from his reverie.
A grin spreading over his face AJ almost flew down the steps to the beach and came to a stop in front of the man he loved. Howie looked at him, his eyes soft, reminding AJ of all the times he had woken up beside him - before hurt had replaced the love.

Without uttering a word Howie closed the gap between them and pressed his lips against the other man's, his tongue sneaking out to ask for entrance. AJ happily complied, opening his mouth slightly, still having trouble believing that this was real - that he was standing on the beach with Howie in his arms and that they were kissing, slowly, leisurely, full of love. It was so different from the kisses they had shared before! The part of him still able to think more or less coherently realized that this was because it was the first time they were both sober.

But all too soon they had to break their kiss to breathe. They stayed in each other's arms, as close as possible and just looked at each other. AJ broke the silence: "I'm so fucking happy right now! I had almost given up hope for you to come around..." Howie smiled and moved a hand to trace over AJ's familiar face, revelling in the little sound of pleasure that involuntarily escaped the other man at his touch.
"I tried to, Alex - I really tried to push you away... But there was this small part of me refusing to give up on us, telling me that you were serious and that I should let myself believe you." He paused, mesmerized by AJ's closeness. This was so much better than those nights they had spent together and yet apart, where passion had taken the place of love.
"And I finally decided to believe this little voice... because deep down I knew that I could trust you, that I could love you..."

no use in pretending
no use in saving face
my love is never ending
you are my saving grace

And ever since that evening at the beach they had been together. The change in them had been obvious to their band mates who had been more than glad to see AJ's eye sparkle again and to hear Howie sing to himself as he only did when he was truly happy.
They had always known that there was something between them that went deeper than being best friends. They had seen how hurt Howie had looked some mornings after going out with AJ and how AJ had closed himself off from them more and more. And of course it had been pretty obvious that AJ had tried to make things up to Howie after returning. Nick and Brian had actually had a bet going on how long Howie would be able to resist and Nick could smirkingly pocket 400$ - until AJ caught him doing this and forced him to give the money up so him and D could have a nice candle light dinner.

Of course there were obstacles and not everyone was happy for them at once. But Howie had made his decision and he planned on following it through. He trusted that if people really loved them they would see that this was real, that this was not just a fling or an experiment - and if they didn't they were not worth his time.
Sometimes AJ could hardly believe how his lover stood up to everyone for him, for them, for their love - the same Howie who had always been so worried about what everyone thought of him. But when he told him, Howie just smiled at him and said softly: "I just don't want anyone to ruin what we have."
Then he kissed him and things were the way they were supposed to be - he took care of AJ and AJ took care of him...

by my side
by my side
won't you be by my side
by my side
by my side
won't you be by my side

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