High Speed

Note: At first I wasn't sure what pairing to use here, I was actually tempted to write an introspective Nick fic - but since already in the last story nothing really slashy happened I just couldn't give you another fic with no actual _action_ in it... *g*

Nick felt like one of those action figures sometimes - not like a real person but like something made from plastic. He suspected that there had to be a life size mould somewhere - boyband heartthrob model 7, Nick Carter. And if anything should ever happen to him they would simply make another one, "fully functional"...

Most of the time he really enjoyed this feeling - he could do things most people couldn't, go places most people didn't get to see, he had more people being nice to him than he could wish for and there were always girls around who were a lot more than just _nice_... And of course performing was his life, was all he had always wanted to do - there was nothing quite like the rush a good performance gave him, nothing as exciting, as intense, as close to perfection. When he was high on adrenaline Nick loved the incredible speed with which everything seemed to happen.

That was on good days. On bad days he felt cut off from reality, trapped in being Nick Carter, living a fantasy life surrounded by people trying to keep him inside their bubble gum colored world. And everything just went by him too fast, too quick - as if he was watching a movie in fastforward. Perhaps there was a script somewhere saying exactly what he was supposed to do at exact what time of his life.

Whenever this feeling of surreality threatened to swallow him Nick would go and do something crazy or dangerous, stuff he _knew_ would give management a heart attack. But he needed this, needed to feel like his own person, to be as removed from the circus that was Backstreet as possible.

But this strategy didn't always succeed - the attention the press gave everything he did made things even worse for him. Reading about "Nick Carter's latest exploits" in the newspaper just proved that he was nothing but a case for PR. He didn't want to be forced to explain actions he did to prove that he was an independent being - it made him feel like a kid, or worse, like Nick Carter, pop star in trouble...

When he was younger Brian had been his anchor. Their friendship had been the one thing in Nick's hectic life that he could be sure of. It was not that they weren't friends anymore now - but growing up had changed things. They were no longer attached by the hip, the days of Frick and Frack were officially over. Brian was still fun to be with, but of course as a married man Brian was not able to spend as much time with Nick anymore.

For a while Nick had been a bit lonely. Of course he still had friends outside the group, but it just wasn't the same. The other guys had all their own lives, just Nick sometimes felt as if he didn't have anything besides Backstreet. Which of course strengthened the feeling of not being real, of not being _anything_ besides Nick Carter, Backstreet's cute youngest singer.

So he had watched the others with envy. Brian, completely wrapped up in Leighanne. Kevin, always organizing stuff, keeping track of everything and everybody along with his marriage. Howie, who had his huge family, the DLF, his business - and AJ.

Watching Howie and AJ had been the hardest. Nick and AJ had been so close at one point, the two babies, growing up and coping with fame at the same time. But at one point AJ and Howie had hooked up - perhaps at a club Nick had been too young to go to (AJ never had that problem because he looked older and also because his mom was not around so much) or while rooming together.
So Nick and AJ had drifted apart, which had not been so bad at that time, because after all Nick had Brian. And when Brian got married AJ and Howie had still been together, although things hadn't been going so well for them since AJ's excessive partying had gone farther than Howie would have liked.

Nick could still remember the day when he had found Howie crying in a back room during sound check for one of their Black & Blue concerts.
Hugging him Nick had asked what was the matter and Howie had explained that he had broken up with AJ. "I just can't take this anymore, Nick! I just can't..." The rest had been swallowed by sobs and Nick had spent the next 10 minutes comforting Howie.
When they came back onstage Nick had noticed that AJ looked like shit but also had obviously decided that he could very well live without Howie. From then on his drinking had gotten even worse and Nick had seen him using hard drugs more than once.

After that day things had changed for Nick. Had anyone asked him beforehand what he would do if Howie and AJ broke up he would have answered without hesitation that he'd spend more time with AJ. But what happened instead was that him and Howie grew closer. It happened so gradually that Nick hardly noticed it. He just knew that one day he woke up on his tour bus with his head in Howie's lap and realized that he didn't miss Brian so much anymore.

Things had stayed that way for a while. They had lived their fast lives and been friends. When AJ had gone into rehab Howie and Nick held on to each other. Howie had even moved into Nick's house so they could keep one another company. And one day they had kissed.

Nick didn't even remember who had initiated that first kiss, but he remembered perfectly how good Howie's body had felt under his.

AJ had rejoined them and they had gone on tour again. For a while Nick had felt a bit weird and had wondered whether Howie would want to be with AJ again now that he had cleaned up. But AJ's relationship with Sarah had become more serious, culminating in their engagement. And Howie had shown no sign of getting tired of Nick, although Nick sometimes felt as if he was a very difficult person to be with, with tons of faults and insecurities.

And of course a person who managed to get himself arrested.

When it happened Nick had felt as if in a dream - this couldn't be happening to him, could it? That familiar feeling of living in a bubble grew and grew in the following days. Every newspaper, every TV station seemed to have nothing more interesting to talk about than that "Backstreet's Nick Carter" had been arrested. When he heard all the rumours flying around Nick sometimes wasn't sure anymore what was real and what just invented by some scandal loving reporter.

Howie came over when Nick didn't answer his cell phone, asking him what was wrong. And Nick told him. He told him everything. He didn't care anymore if Howie thought that he was ridiculous, he just needed someone to reassure him, to tell him that he was more than a comic figure invented by some PR guys and the media.

But Howie didn't laugh at him. He just listened to Nick seriously, holding him close, his hands drawing soothing circles on his back. And while he was still talking Nick realized with absolute clarity that Howie didn't have to say anything because Nick had already found his answer.

When Howie cried in his arms for AJ, Nick knew that he was more than a headline.

When Howie kissed him deeply, their noses bumping into one another, Nick knew that it was okay to make mistakes.

When Howie pushed slowly inside him, their bodies melting into one, Nick knew that not everything had to be fast and quick.

When Howie screamed his name in ecstasy, his fingers digging bruisingly into his hips, Nick knew that he didn't live inside a bubble.

When Howie told him he loved him in a sleepy voice and curled up around him, his feet ice cold between his legs, Nick knew that he was real.

Coldplay - High Speed

Can anybody fly this thing?
Before my head explodes,
Before my head starts to ring

We've been living life inside a bubble,
We've been living life inside a bubble

Confidence in you,
Is confidence in me,
Is confidence in high speed

Can anybody stop this thing?
Before my head explodes,
Before my head starts to ring

We've been living life inside a bubble,
We've been living life inside a bubble

Confidence in you,
Is confidence in me,
Is confidence in high speed
In high speed

In high speed, you want,
High speed, you want,
High speed, you want...

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