Let Me Take Care of You [with Nik]

Note: Nik started this as a challenge for the HowieDorough_Slash list a loooooong time ago - but I suddenly felt like continuing this while browsing http://www.boybandfic.org where several responses to this are hosted.

Nik's part:

The concert hadn't been one of their best. Howie Dorough glanced from one face to another of his friends and bandmates as they headed by car back to their current hotel. The feeling in the car was totally hangdog.

Thank God we're not heading out by bus tonight, Howie thought, rubbing his sweat-wettened ear with the rough towel.

It had been another venue where the showering facilities failed to meet Kevin Richardson's standards. So they were all bundled up with heavy robes over their clothing and with towels either around their necks or in their laps. Heaven forbid they get chilled!

Often after a concert the guys would be upbeat and enjoying their adrenaline rush -- chatting with animation and sharing the positive experiences of their performance. But tonight they were quiet and gloomy. There had been technical problems and it seemed as if each of them had missed at least one cue -- or flubbed lyrics somewhere.

The pride of a good performance -- which had been bolstering them all for the past week -- was now suddenly behind them. Howie reflected on how mercurial that warm feeling could be. One day they could all be certain they were on top of every detail of their tour. Then a single bad night could bring them all plummeting down. Like now.

Howie felt concern as he looked into Brian Littrell's pale face. Brian seemed to be the most tired recently. Maybe he was just missing his wife. Or his dogs. The idea of Brian missing his dogs almost made Howie giggle. He restrained his grin with an effort. I could try to get him to nap more, Howie thought. Maybe that would help... I know how he hates to sleep alone. Poor Bri.

Howie turned his head toward Nick, who was leaning into the corner and had his eyes shut. Must be napping. Nick Carter could nap almost anywhere. This was the habit of years of rough hours while growing into his large man's body -- when he always seemed to need more sleep than the rest of them did. But he might be 'faking it' to avoid looking at his friends. Nick hated failure -- and seemed to blame himself if a concert didn't quite come up to snuff. I need to talk to him. Get him to lighten up and smile. Just get him to laugh -- a good laugh seemed to turn it around for Nick every time.

A.J. McLean cleared his throat for the one-hundredth time and played with the ring on one of his thumbs. A.J. had been fighting some bug since the beginning of the tour. It seemed as if every time he came close to getting over it, he'd get another chill and be sick again. Winter tours were the worst, Howie thought. It was hard not to have at least one of them down sick. I think he needs someone to warm his bed more often, Howie thought, suppressing another grin. A.J. had been unusually solitary during this stretch of the tour.

Kevin Richardson was writing notes into a small pad. He looked dog-tired to Howie and too thin. Got to get him to eat more, Howie thought. Kevin was probably trying to get his concerns about the dance routines down in black and white while they were fresh in his mind. Kevin had been subtly reworking steps since day-one of the tour. He's been even more serious than usual, Howie reflected. I should give him a nice neck rub and just let him talk things out. He's worried about the quality of the work -- and missing his wife, like Brian. I guess he needs someone to share things with.

They reached the hotel and piled out, heading quickly inside with their security team on their heels. As always, there were several fans gathered around. Kevin stopped in the lobby and posed for pictures while writing autographs. A.J. ran toward the elevator and disappeared. Howie and Brian stood together and forced smiles to their faces while thanking some rather buxom young women for their kind thoughts. Nick was gathering up flowers and other gifts and just managing a grin. Howie glanced from man to man and could barely suppress the desire to just drag them all away.

Brian's hair was plastered to his head with sweat -- and circles were standing out under his eyes. Nick's grin seemed about to crack as he used an obviously weary arm to lift yet another ridiculous stuffed animal to the pile he was cradling. Kevin was shifting his weight from foot to foot, reminding Howie that Kevin had complained earlier of pain in his calves.

Finally Howie decided they'd been tortured enough. "We really need to go," he said loudly, reaching to give Nick a gentle shove toward the elevators while offering the fans a big wave with his free hand. Kevin shot him a grateful glance. It was usually Kevin who tried to break them away -- so he must be especially appreciative that I took the initiative, Howie decided.

Then they were riding the elevator in silence to their floor. They all anxiously escaped the confines of the elevators as quickly as possible -- moving swiftly to their various rooms. Howie walked quickly to his own room and swiftly showered.

Once he had donned comfortable pants and a sweatshirt, he sat on the edge of his bed and considering. One of his friends needed him more than the others tonight. He should go to him right now.

He thought about it and smiled his famous gentle smile as he rose and headed out the door and into the hall. He just had to be with his friend right now.

And here's my take on it all:

Taking a plastic bag filled with some necessities with him Howie made a beeline for the door right across the hallway and knocked softly, not wanting to wake the man on the other side in case he was already asleep. But already after the second knock he heard a gruff voice telling him to come in, so he opened the door and was confronted by a picture of pure misery. It was so sad he almost had to laugh - who would have thought that a Backstreet Boy (dreamed of and drooled over by thousands of girls) could look so utterly pathetic?
"What? You've come in and disturbed my well-deserved to rest to _gloat_ at me, D?" Oh my, he sure was in a mood! But Howie did not let this disturb him - after all he had lots of practice in dealing with his band mates in every state of mind imaginable. Therefore he just smiled and said: "Don't be ridiculous, Aje! Now stop wallowing in self-pity and let me help you..."

With that Howie proceeded to clean AJ's bed from the tissues, cough meds, inhalers and other things AJ had used in an attempt to feel better. "Hey! And how am I supposed to use this stuff if you put it on the other side of the fucking room?" AJ inquired, obviously not ready to come out of his bout of peevishness. But again Howie knew better than to respond in kind. He simply smiled and quickly caressed AJ's cheek. "I'll get it for you if you need it, don't worry." He stopped his fussing long enough to catch AJ's eye. "But I think that you actually need some physical closeness more than meds..." He ended the sentence with one of his famous short winks and grinned at his friend.

That caught AJ's full attention, surprise evident in his expressive brown eyes. He tried to figure out whether Howie was joking, but his friend returned his gaze unwaveringly and continued: "You've been so alone during most of the tour - and I think that's simply not good for you. Perhaps you can't get rid of this stupid bug because you're feeling low all the time. That's not good for your immune system, I've read - and I believe it's true because I for my part get sick more often when I'm down."

After this speech Howie quickly finished cleaning, well aware of AJ's stare following him. But there was no way Howie would be able to relax properly in this mess! Then he proceeded to take some candles out of his bag and scattered them across the room. The next thing from the bag was a lamp for scented oils - Howie swore that eucalyptus banned every cold. Having thus set the mood he quickly stripped down to his boxers.
AJ was still staring at him, obviously in shock. Somehow he mustered enough concentration to say: "Emm, D - what are you doing?" He tried to keep his voice from shaking, but the view of Howie's half naked body that almost seemed to glow in the flickering candle light affected him, no matter how many times he had seen his friend change.

Howie smiled again his infuriatingly tender smile and slipped into bed with AJ. "I'm making you feel good, Aje - that's what I'm doing. I've started by setting the right mood - and now it's your turn..." His voice suddenly seemed seductive and AJ couldn't suppress a slight shiver. It didn't matter that they had shared a bed on countless occasions, that he had held Howie's warm body more often than he could remember - the man sharing his bed now was not D, his best friend, but D, his soon-to-be lover... Because that was what he wanted, AJ realized as he finally relaxed. He didn't want Howie to just hold him and comfort him - he wanted more, wanted all of him. Did Howie know this? Had he perhaps planned all this just to seduce AJ?

But all questions were postponed as Howie took the last item from his bag - a big bottle of massage oil. AJ was almost disappointed - a part of him had really hoped that Howie had brought lube and condoms. But the disappointment turned quickly into something a lot more agreeable as Howie freed AJ of his t-shirt, turned him on his stomach and proceeded to give him a thorough massage. His strong fingers dug into AJ's neck, working the knots forcefully. "Sorry if this hurts a bit, but I really want you to feel better - and I promise that you will once I'm finished..."

Did his voice hold a promise? AJ couldn't decide if it was real or just his imagination running wild, so he let it go and concentrated on the wonderful sensation of Howie straddling him and kneading his neck and shoulders, then moving downwards and working his whole back. Afterwards Howie shifted around and began to massage AJ's legs, from foot to butt. They were still a bit cramped from the show, because AJ hadn't really bothered with stretching.
It was pure heaven and AJ felt his lids grow heavy. There were no words spoken for at least 20 minutes, except for some satisfied noises that escaped AJ as his muscles relaxed. He was almost asleep by the time Howie decided that he had achieved his goal and patted AJ softly on the back. "Okay, done - how do you feel, Aje?"

AJ muttered something, not willing to come out of the comfortably half sleep he was in. But aware that Howie deserved more than that he managed to repeat it more clearly: "I feel absolutely great, D - thanks a lot, man!" He turned and propped himself on one elbow, looking at Howie with a warm smile. "Truth be told I haven't felt so good since... probably since the tour started. I really appreciate you coming over and taking care of me!" He ended his speech with a big yawn and stretched luxuriously.

Howie couldn't hold back a soft giggle. "I take it you'd like to sleep now, Aje?" he asked with a grin. AJ met his eyes and nodded: "I guess so..." But when he saw that Howie moved as if to get up he reached out a hand and stopped him, saying almost shyly: "Please - don't go, D! Emm... did you - did you mean that what you said about physical contact? Because it'd be really... mmh, nice if you could stay and... I mean we don't have to do anything, just if you could hold me... and..." He trailed off, painfully aware that he had been babbling. You sounded almost like Nick, he berated himself. What's he gonna think of you now?

But Howie just smiled widely - a smile that almost seemed to light up the room. A faint blush spread across his cheeks as he replied softly: "I'd like that a lot, Aje..." He settled back down on his side beside AJ, looking at him but not touching him, seemingly trying to think something through. Finally he said, reaching out a hand to caress AJ's cheek: "And I wouldn't mind at all doing _more_ than just holding you..." With that he leaned over and touched his lips to AJ's.
He let it linger just long enough for AJ to register it and for his hands to wander over AJ's bare back and pull him closer. When he pulled back a bit there was a flush creeping up AJ's face, he was smiling almost wistfully and his eyes were shining. Howie thought that his friend had never looked more beautiful and swallowed hard, answering the smile with one of his own.

For a while they stared at each other before moving in unison, closing the distance between them. This time the kiss was hungrier, conveying a need neither of them had really been aware of. Their bodies were pressed against each other, their arms and legs tangled as they lost themselves in the kiss. Their hips began to grind against one another of their own volition and they could each feel the other's arousal grow.
When they finally had to break apart for oxygen AJ said huskily, panting slightly: "God, I need this, D! I've wanted you for so long..." Howie rested his forehead against AJ's and replied, also a bit breathlessly: "I... I need this, too, Aje..."

These were the last coherent words spoken for a long time as their lips met again and their hands began a journey of discovery. And while they got to know each other's bodies and heard the breathy sounds of love for the first time the line got blurred between who was taking care of whom...

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