Reluctant (11 parts)

Author's Note: English is not my first language - so please excuse all my mistakes! Feel free to point them out, though - I hate mistakes in my writing!
Note 2: I've really only written one short piece of slash fiction, but I just felt like trying my hand at another one. I don't really know yet, what'll happen - but knowing me it'll probably be fluffy... So, you've been warned! 😉

Part 1

"Okay, tell me again why I'm doing this?" Howie looked at Nick exasperately. The younger man smiled at his friend impishly and stated: "Because you simply can't say no to me, D!"
Howie swatted him in a friendly way. "You are SO full of yourself, Carter! One of these days I'm just going to refuse to take part in this and go straight to Kevin to tell him - something I should have done a long time ago!"
Nick pouted, a look he had down perfectly. "Oh, come on, D - you know it's gonna be fun, it always is! And you know you could never betray your friend Nick - who, by the way, only yesterday had the great pleasure of holding your head while you were hanging over the loo..."
Oh yes, Nick knew exactly how to get Howie to do exactly what he wanted!

"Okay okay, but this will be the last time, I swear... I'm too old for this shit - and so are you, Nick Carter!" Reluctantly Howie handed his friend, who was grinning widely in anticipation, the bottle he'd been hiding under his shirt. Then he went to the door of Kevin's hotel room to keep watch while Nick started to fill the contents of the bottle into Kevin's shampoo bottle.
"I tell you, Kevin is going to freak out! When are you finally going to grow up, Nick?" The tall blonde just ignored Howie's complaining and hummed happily while imagining what Kevin would look like with his hair all green...
He was careful to put the shampoo back to where it had stood before, Kevin always knew exactly where he kept his stuff. Then he left the bathroom and he and Howie hurriedly relocked the door to Kevin's room before running into Nick's room across the hallway. Once inside Nick collapsed against the wall, laughing so hard that he had tears running down his face. Howie was chuckling now as well - Nick was right, it was fun to play pranks on the others, lately mostly on Kevin. If only he wasn't so nervous every time they did something like that... His nerves were just not cut out for that kind of excitement!

But Nick surely deserved a friend to have fun with now that Brian had settled down and didn't have that much time for him anymore. Howie was glad he could be there for the younger man, specially since AJ and him didn't spend that much time together anymore...
And whose fault is that? Who keeps avoiding him? the nagging little voice in his head chimed in. Howie hated that voice, because it kept telling him things he was desperately trying not to think about. And the reason why him and AJ were not best friends anymore was certainly one of them!

The whole mess had begun after AJ came back from rehab as a changed man, calmer and more content than anyone had seen him in a long time. Howie had been incredibly glad that he was back and so well! They had hugged, both with tears in their eyes and suddenly Howie had been able to speak about what had bothered him for a long time: "I'm so sorry, J! I was always the one who went with you to all those parties... I should have noticed that it was hurting you, I should have stopped it!" The words were just pouring out of Howie as he clung to his friend, feeling AJ's strong arms surround him.
The other man forced him to look him in the eyes: "You have to stop blaming yourself - I am the one that fucked up!" Seemingly able to see Howie's doubts he continued softly: "I know that you could never hurt me, D... You were always there for me and I wanted to thank you for that! You're the best friend anyone could wish for - I love you, man!"
Howie felt like crying and didn't know if it was because he was so happy that AJ was back - or if it was because it felt as if his heart was breaking...

After they had said goodnight - AJ joking about them being old women for crying - Howie sat in his hotel bed for a long time, thinking what the sting he had felt at AJ's words meant.
Why should it hurt to hear AJ call him his best friend? But the problem was that he knew exactly why, he just refused to admit it to himself. He was over that, damn it! It was wrong and impossible and he was over it! It had only been a crush - that was normal considering their close relationship and all... or was it?
Stop kidding yourself, man... You are still in love with him! Howie shook his head, trying to get that stupid voice in his head to shut up. But it was futile because these feelings were all too familiar. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes, his head falling back against the headboard.

He'd had those kind of feelings for AJ for a long time, but had successfully managed to avoid the issue. He'd talked and joked with AJ, partied with him, even shared a bed with him once in a while. AJ had no idea that Howie developed a hard-on at the slightest touch, sometimes only from looking at AJ's lean body, that he had this craving to kiss him, to touch him... Everytime his thoughts went further Howie had firmly put an end to it. In his mind he was a terrible sinner, it was just wrong to lust after his best friend in that manner!
After a while he had almost convinced himself that this was only a phase, somehing he would grow out of.Yeah sure - you're 27, you're going to grow out of it... the voice in his head had taunted him relentlessly. But he had ignored it and instead concentrated on the good times he and AJ had partying, closing his eyes to the fact that AJ's drinking had started to take over his days as well as his nights... And in the month that AJ had been in rehab Howie had managed to convince himself that his feelings for AJ were once again just brotherly, nothing else.

Then why did his words hurt so much? And why have you started to avoid him - hell, you're barely talking these days!

"D? Earth to Howie! Hello - anyone home?" Nick's clear voice saved Howie from further thoughts. He smiled grateful at his friend. "Sorry, spaced out for a moment... Did you say anything?" With that he turned his back on any thoughts of AJ and the fact that he missed his best friend like crazy.

Part 2

Nick was babbling on and on about how furious Kevin would be and Howie's mind began to wander. Why was it that Nick had this obsession with playing pranks on his oldest bandmate? Had they had a fight of some sorts? Howie knew how annoying Nick could be and how easy it sometimes was to anger Kevin. Was that the reason why Nick seemed to avoid Kevin - except when he was planning new mischief?
In the old days of Frick and Frack Brian and Nick had played pranks on everyone, but had been more careful around Kevin, because Kev could be quite nasty when angered. But Nick didn't seem to mind now - it was... As if he relishes every kind of reaction he can get from Kevin... Suddenly things started to fall into place and Howie looked at Nick as if he had never seen him before. Is Nick in love with Kevin?

Howie wanted to deny it, but it just made too much sense. Little things he had seen, remarks Nick had made, the way his face distorted everytime he saw Kevin talk to Kristin on the phone... Howie had thought that Nick was angry because Kevin had started the whole marriage thing that had ultimately resulted in Brian marrying Leighanne and neglecting Nick, but now he wasn't so sure anymore. He would have to watch Nick - and Kevin - from now on, perhaps try to get Nick's mind off Kevin.
Yes, because you're very successfull in getting your mind off AJ... the voice chimed in, taunting him again. He firmly told it to shut up and turned his mind back to Nick and Kevin. Did Kevin know about Nick's feelings? Probably not. Did he have feelings of his own for his younger bandmate? Possibly... quite possibly. Howie and Kevin were close - not as much anymore since Kevin was married, but there had been this night...

They had been agreeably drunk and were sitting Kevin's hotel room. AJ was still out, Brian had already gone to sleep and Nick had just left them to go to his room, hugging them both tightly and ruffling Kevin's hair. "I love you, guys!" he had said and winked at them before shutting the door. And what had Kevin said? Oh yes - "God, why is this boy so gorgeous?!" At that time Howie hadn't been paying attention, but now he recalled the almost desperate look in his friend's green eyes. Yes, it was very possible that Kevin had feelings for Nick.

With effort Howie interrupted his thoughts - Nick couldn't know that he knew! - and concentrated again on his friend. Nick had been lost in thought as well, staring off into space. Howie touched his broad shoulder carefully, not wanting to scare him. "Hey, Nicky - you wanna go grab a bite to eat? Kevin won't take a shower until tonight after the show and we still have time to go someplace if you want to."
Nick licked his lips, then quickly shook his head, trying to cover it up. "Nah, let's stay here and order room service." Howie had almost missed the licking thing, but he was now very alert and realized that it had been caused by him conjuring up the picture of Kevin in the shower. Well, that was a very nice visual, nobody could blame Nick for wanting someone as beautiful as Kevin... Howie grinned as he turned to call room service - he really didn't have a problem with his discovery of Nick's feelings.

If it's okay for Nick and Kevin, then why is it so wrong for you and AJ?
That was something Howie really didn't want to go into - his first priority now were Nick and Kevin. With the ease acquired in years of putting other people's problems before his own Howie ordered room service and chatted with Nick, trying to figure out if there was something he could do for his two friends. And although lately Howie had had difficulties not to think of what he called âthe AJ situation', he found that talking to Nick and gently probing him for his feelings for Kevin proved to be an excellent diversion...

The next few days Howie watched Kevin and Nick carefully, finding more and more signs that his suspicions were correct. The way Kevin always knew exactly where Nick was (a fact that annoyed the hell out of the younger man when he tried to stay out of Kevin's way after a prank), the way Nick's grin froze when Kevin accused him of being nothing but a kid when he came fuming out of his room after taking a shower and discovering that his hair now resembled seaweed... The signs were there for anyone willing to see them. But the most obvious ones in Howie's opinion were the pained look in Kevin's eyes whenever Nick flirted with a girl longer than usual and how Nick always found a reason to leave the room when Kevin called his wife.

His wife... Kristin was the one reason that stopped Howie from taking matters into his own hands. He believed in the sacredness of marriage - hell, sometimes he still thought that he'd marry, too, one day...
Only sometimes? Why's that - thought you always wanted this huge catholic family? Is it by any chance because that's not exactly possible with AJ...
"Oh, shut up!" Howie muttered angrily, causing Brian to shoot him a strange look from across the room. Howie ignored him, which resulted in another glance, because that was not at all Sweet D's usual behaviour. But he didn't even notice, his mind once more on Kevin's marriage.

It was a fact that Kevin had not always been faithful to Kristin during their long relationship. Howie was pretty sure that Kristin knew her husband well enough to realize that. But that had been flings and one night stands, nothing serious - and not with men, as far as Howie knew. What was even more important was that he was by now pretty sure that when Nick and Kevin WOULD hook up, it wouldn't be a one time thing - their feelings for each other went too deep.
Could he help them admit their emotions with a good conscience? Howie honestly didn't know - he was torn between the wish to see two of his best friends happy and the genuine affection he harboured for Kristin who had stood by Kevin all those years.

After three days of watching Nick and Kevin, trying to figure out what was the right thing to do and still avoiding AJ - although not as hard as before because Howie was too preoccupied to freak about those feelings he wasn't supposed to have - Kristin came for a weekend visit.
Normally Howie was glad to see her, not only because he really liked her, but also because she always put Kevin in a good mood - which in turn affected the whole group positively. But this time he was confused, one part of him wishing to see Kevin forget Nick and concentrate on his marriage, the other part wanting to see Nick happy together with Kev... This was such a mess! And he was right in the middle of it. How did he always end up like that? Must be a gift...

He came back to reality with a start when Kristin approached him, leaving Kevin and Brian talking to each other on the other side of the lounge. Nick and AJ were nowhere to be seen, but Howie was sure that Kevin knew exactly where Nick had disappeared to.
Just as you know that AJ is in his bus, trying to get a song finished... the voice in his head chimed in. Howie silenced it by concentrating on Kristin, smiling at her as normal as possible.
She smiled back at him and sat down beside him on the couch. "Hey Howie! How are you? Everything's going alright?" Soon they were small talking and Howie had almost forgotten his dread of talking to her and accidentally spilling his secret. It felt good to simply talk to someone who was not part of the group or the crew!

But suddenly Kristin looked at him with a serious expression that made Howie shift uncomfortably in his seat.
"It's - it's probably best if I come straight to the point, Howie... I've seen you watching and... I take it you know about Kevin and Nick?" Kristin's voice was calm and even, not at all mad or jealous. Howie swallowed and tried to answer as nonchalantly as possible: "What are you talking about? There's nothing between Nick and Kevin! Kevin loves you! He would never..." God, what an awful liar you are, Dorough!
Kristin just looked at him and said, her voice still not betraying any emotion besides affection - and worry: "And that's just the problem. His feelings for Nick are eating Kevin up - I tried talking to him, but he denied it flat out." Howie looked at Kevin's wife with huge eyes - what the hell was going on here?!
Somehow he found his voice again to ask astonished: "What... what are you saying, Kris? You - you want them together?" Kristin smiled a bit at his face and nodded simply.
"Yes, Howie - that's what I want. I want my husband happy and I know that he doesn't love me less just because he loves Nick as well. And I want you to help them - they both trust you, and you can do more than I could..." With that Kristin stood and smiled down at the dumb founded Howie and said softly before going back to Kevin and Brian: "Please, Howie - I know you of all people can understand how much it hurts to love someone like that and not do anything about it..."

Howie just sat there, staring after Kristin. What the hell was that supposed to mean?!
Whom are you kidding - she saw straight through you, buddy! Isn't that perhaps a sign that it's time to stop pretending and admit it - at least to yourself?
But once more Howie decided that it was best to ignore that stupid voice - even if it got harder each time... It was much more important that he now knew exactly what he should do - Kristin had effectively put an end to his uncertainty. The question was - how was he going to do it? How would he bring Kevin and Nick together?

Part 3

Howie had always been good at planning things, thinking them through and doing what was necessary to achieve his goals. He was not quite as much of an organizer as Kevin, but he normally managed to get done what he wanted. But he was also aware that there were tasks that one person just couldn't do alone - and playing 'matchmaker' for Nick and Kevin was one of these tasks.
Therefore Howie faced a serious problem - who should he ask for help? Well, the answer was quite simple, since it obviously had to be someone who loved both of his friends enough to see that they belonged together. So it had to be either Brian or AJ - and Howie was just not sure how Brian would react. Brian was not homophobic - being in showbiz made that almost impossible - but he might have objections to helping his - married - cousin and his best friend find together.

So Howie had to face the fact that he would have to get over his problems with AJ and actually talk to him - in private. It was not that he didn't want to talk to the man he still considered his best friend...
No, the problem is that you have all those *urges* whenever you're around him, the voice taunted him.
Those urges ranged from the wish to feel and taste every inch of his friend's lean body, trace the lines of every single tatoo with his tongue, over the fierce desire to be one with him, to be buried inside of AJ and to feel AJ buried inside of himself, to the ridiculous idea to fall down on his knees and ask him to be *his* forever...
He had really tried getting over it - or at least keeping it hidden deep inside, as he had done during all the years he had had those feelings for AJ with no one the wiser. But after feeling his heart break when AJ seemed bent on killing himself with booze and dope and sex with countless women (which had hurt the worst if Howie was honest) and then getting him back so much stronger and calmer... Howie just had not been able anymore to pretend that being AJ's best friend was enough. And that had scared the shit out of him.

Normally Howie was able to keep his calm at all times - and that meant a lot in the hectic and stressful business he was in. Being the mediator, the âsweet one' of the band brought a responsibility not to let his feelings get the better of him, to always offer a shoulder to cry on, to keep his head in an argument in order to be able to stop it from escalating and to give good advice when it was needed. Only with AJ Howie had sometimes been able to shake off the burden he had shouldered voluntarily and to just let go, for example after Caroline's death. But since most of the times it had been AJ who needed him, Howie had never let go enough to tell his friend about his feelings for him, not wanting to burden him with them.

But that has changed now, hasn't it - for the first time you could actually tell him...
But did he want to? Did he want to risk their friendship?
You're such a coward, Dorough - always preaching others to follow their hearts and when it comes to you you back out! Why couldn't that hateful voice shut up for once?!
Well, he didn't have to decide now - the important thing was Nick and Kevin, not him and AJ. Reassuring himself that he did it for the happiness of his friends Howie left his room and went across the hall to AJ's room.

After collecting his thoughts one last time he knocked and waited for his friend to open the door. When he did Howie swallowed hard and had to remind himself why he was here. AJ looked gorgeous - and he didn't wear a shirt! God, was he trying to drive Howie crazy?
The voice in his head suggested all kind of interesting things he could do, but with all the willpower he had Howie looked up and met AJ's deep brown eyes, looking at him questioningly.
"Hey, J - can I come in?" he forced out, although his heart rate was threatening to go through the ceiling. "Sure, D - mi casa etc.", AJ invited him in, the look on his face showing clearly that he was surprised by this visit.

Well, did you think he wouldn't wonder why you've been avoiding him?
Howie sat down on the couch and searched for words to explain why he had come over. "AJ, have you... have you noticed anything unusual going on with Kevin and Nick?" He finally began and continued when AJ just stared at him. "You know, the way they barely speak to each other... and the way Kevin always knows exactly where Nick is and how Nick follows him around at one time and at other times goes out of his way to make him angry?"
AJ nodded slowly and sat down beside him. "You mean to tell me that there's something going on between those two, D? Something not exactly, well, brotherly?" Howie let out his breath, relieved that AJ had caught on so quickly.
"Yeah, I've been watching them for some time now - and I think they're in love with each other but afraid to say anything... Specially because Kev's married - Nick probably thinks he has no chance."

The voice in Howie's head whispered: Does that remind you of someone we both know?
He quickly stopped himself from pursuing this thought - he had problems enough with AJ so close to him and looking at him so intently with those deep brown eyes, so vulnerable without dark shades hiding them...
Suddenly he noticed that AJ was talking and paid attention again. His friend was saying something about Kevin's marriage. "Don't you think it would hurt Kristin terribly if Kevin gave in to his... infatuation or whatever it is that he feels for Nick? I mean, falling in love with someone else is bad enough - but with another guy and specially with one of us..."
To reassure him Howie told him about his conversation with Kristin, how she had practically ordered him to help Kevin and Nick. "I was so surprised, all I could do was sit there and stare at her... I mean, I know that Kris is a wonderful woman - but that..."

AJ laughed his deep, sexy laugh, that sent shivers down Howie's spine. "Well, that's certainly not something you see everyday!" Howie felt himself begin to smile and soon they were both laughing, comfortable to be together once more...
But all too soon AJ got serious and it was obvious that they could not simply forget the past weeks. "What do you want, D? Lately you've hardly been able to speak to me - with no reason at all, as far as I can see. And now you come here and tell me about Nick and Kevin... Tell me what's the matter, D - how come I'm suddenly good enough again?" His voice was matter of factly, but his eyes told a different story.
Howie felt close to tears as he realized how much he must have hurt his best friend with his withdrawal. Probably as much as it has hurt you... He loves you, even if it's not the kind of love you might wish for - and you've hurt him badly!

He didn't know what to say, just sat there, looking at AJ with tears in his eyes. AJ was looking at him intently and obviously saw that Howie was not able to speak. His features softened and he laid his hand on his friend's knee. His voice was low and his eyes not once left Howie's face as he said: "It's just that I've missed you, D - and I don't know what I've done wrong... You can tell me, Howie!"
Howie closed his eyes, trying to keep back his tears as he heard that AJ blamed himself. That was not what he wanted - it was all his fault, not AJ's! "It's my fault, AJ - not yours, never yours! I'm... I'm being stupid, I'm sorry! But I can't tell you, I just can't..." He felt himself start to sob and hated himself for it - why was he crying like a baby? He was here for Kevin and Nick, not to cry on AJ's shoulder... Because the moment Howie began to cry, AJ was there, holding him tight, whispering soothingly: "It's okay, you don't have to... I'll always be there for you, Howie, always - just as you've always been there for me!"

Howie held on to him as if his life depended on it, even as his sobs ebbed away. He became aware once more that he was in AJ's arms, crushed against his bare chest and shoulders... And AJ smelled so nice - a bit like smoke, but mostly fresh and clean and a bit musky...
Who would have thought that you'd end up in his arms today...
Slowly Howie came to his senses again and sat up, although he didn't remove his right hand that was held by AJ. He smiled at the man beside him, for the first time completely relaxed, and said: "When have you become such a softie, J?"
AJ threatened him jokingly with his fist: "Don't you dare say anything and ruin my rep, D!"

They laughed, but then AJ got serious again. He looked at Howie once more with that intent look and said softly: "I've done a lot of thinking since rehab... And I've realized that I love someone - and this has made me a better person I guess. To be good enough for them I have to be good, because they are the best person I know..."
Howie felt his heart break once more - that was something he should have expected, but it still hurt like crazy. Of course someone as wonderful as AJ wouldn't stay alone forever!
It's too late - why didn't you tell him, perhaps he would have loved you back!
Howie was so busy trying to keep the hurt he was feeling from showing that he didn't notice the expectant look in AJ's eyes.

To cover the turmoil he was in Howie blurted out: "I'm... I'm so happy for you, AJ! You deserve happiness, I'm glad you found it!" He quickly got up and walked to the bathroom, needing some time to get his emotions under control. "Sorry, I have to... After we can talk about Nick and Kevin, okay? Or we could talk about your girlfriend..." With that he closed the door, leaning heavily against it, feeling completely drained.
He hadn't noticed the light disappear from AJ's eyes and didn't see his friend burying his face in his hands as if defeated...

Part 4

When Howie had calmed down a bit and felt collected enough to go out and faced the man who had just broken his heart again, he took a deep breath and opened the door, wishing with all his heart that he could somehow avoid this meeting and just hide in his room and die. But since that was not an option - at least not yet - he concentrated on the reason why he was here in the first place. He could go in and face AJ! He had to - it was about Nick and Kevin who he both loved with all his heart. They deserved their chance to be happy and he would help them!
Closing his eyes briefly, sending a short prayer to the God he had always relied on, Howie left the bathroom and put on a smile for AJ.

AJ looked up when he came in, smiling back at him. It was strange, his smile seemed so sad and disappointed. Why was that? Hadn't he just confessed that he was in love and happier than ever? Howie was confused but decided to think about it later.
"Hey J..." His voice was soft, almost turning the single letter into a caress. "Hey D..." Shivers ran down Howie's spine as he heard AJ's deep voice echoing his own. What was happening?
What if he was talking about you? What if he loves YOU?
No, Howie dismissed that thought quickly - having his hopes crushed once more was more than he could bear, so it was better not to let his thoughts wander in that direction at all!

Quickly he broke the strangely tense atmosphere and started talking about Nick and Kevin. AJ seemed a bit distracted at first but soon they were planning the best way to get their two friends to admit their feelings.
"Kevin doesn't want to talk about it - he even denied it to Kristin when she tried talking to him..." Howie explained why they could not simply confront their older band mate. "Perhaps if we hint that Nick is having feelings for him..."
AJ fell in, something that happened quite often when they were talking. They just seemed so in tune sometimes... He said: "That could help - but *you* would have to talk to him, D. He would never believe it if it came from me!"
Howie grinned: "You have that gift to drive Kevin absolutely crazy, AJ - he would think that you were making fun of him and kick your sorry butt!" AJ had to laugh as well. "My bad deeds are coming back to haunt me..."
They decided to let Howie talk to Kevin, not to confront him but rather to drop some hints about Nick being in love with someone and that that someone might be Kevin. "Sneaky sneaky, Mr Dorough!" AJ complimented laughingly. "He'd never think that you were trying to set him up - you with that sweet face of an angel..."

Content with that part of their plan they went on to phase two: Nick. Their youngest band mate was easier, being much less close mouthed about his feelings when prompted the right way.
"I know just what to do with our little Nicky - I'll make him confess his feelings for Kevin! I can do that - I'm extremely good at making a nuisance of me and pestering people until they tell me what I want to..." AJ gave his best badass smirk, causing Howie to almost double over with laughter.
"Oh yes, that you are, that you are, my friend! You've proved yourself a terrible nuisance on countless occasions - and you certainly are one hell of a pest sometimes!"
"You know me too well, D!" AJ watched Howie laughing and as always couldn't help joining in - Howie's laughter was just too infectious!

It took them quite a while to calm down because they set each other off again and again until they hardly remembered what had been so funny. It was just so good to spend time together again!
See, you can't live without him. You haven't laughed so full-heartedly in a long time... The voice in Howie's head was right - as it always seemed to be. And slowly Howie began to think that it might not be a bad idea to listen to it....

"Oh, D - I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! For some reason I can't help myself when I'm with you..." AJ was speaking breathlessly, obviously just saying what was on his mind.
Howie looked at him astonished - was that a coincidence?
He answered softly, smiling a bit timidly at the man beside him: "Me too... You have that effect on me as well, J..."
AJ's dark eyes met his gaze and for a while that seemed to last forever they just sat there, smiling at each other, drinking in the other's presence, trying to preserve that perfect moment.

But of course reality intruded - in form of AJ's cell ringing. Reluctantly he broke the silence and answered it, speaking shortly to the person on the other side. Howie saw his handsome face break into a mischievous smile and he knew that AJ had a plan of some kind.
Expectantly he looked at him after he hung up. "What's the matter? Come on, spill - who was that and why are you looking like you've found a gold mine?"
AJ grinned. "Ya know - our little plan was just a bit unfinished, left too much to chance. But that was my driver, informing me that my bus broke down and won't be finished until we leave tomorrow..." Howie looked at him uncomprehendingly, so AJ went on: "Now I was thinking - what if something similar would happen to Kevin's or Nick's bus..."

Suddenly Howie understood and started to grin as well. "That would be too bad, wouldn't it? If I had already agreed to take you in - wouldn't that sort of force Kevin and Nick to share a bus as well? Specially since Leighanne is on Brian's bus..."
The two men were grinning at each other like mad as they saw the perfect opportunity to fulfill their plan. AJ said, smirking wickedly: "I for my part don't think they'll last a whole night on the same bus... Seeing Kevin's half naked gorgeous bod after taking a shower and nowhere to run and hide that wood our little Nicky will be sprouting... And the same thing goes of course for our big bro Kev - I know for a fact that he's sporting a hard-on as soon as Nick comes closer than three feet..."
Still smirking the two conspirators high-fived each other before once more collapsing against each other in helpless laughter. That was just perfect!

When Howie was able to think clearly again a terrifying thought crossed his mind: Not only Kevin and Nick would have to spend the night in close quartes with the one they loved - he would have to endure that as well!
All blood left his face, just to rush back and heat his cheeks as Howie blushed furiously. Oh no, how was he going to survive that? His mind was already taunting him with the picture of a freshly showered AJ wearing nothing but a tiny towel...
He felt his blood leave his face to rush downwards. Quickly he sat up and crossed his legs, not wanting AJ to feel or see his excitement.

But AJ didn't seem to have noticed, being lost in thought and just as unwilling to look at Howie as Howie was to look at him. Watching him out of the corner of his eye Howie saw that his friend was fidgeting around on the couch and finally pulled a pillow on his lap.
What the hell...
Perhaps he's having the same... uhm, problem you have? Perhaps thinking of spending the night on your bus turns him on as well?
Howie swallowed hard, causing AJ to look at him. Was it possible? Was there hope for them?
Well, you'll probably find out tomorrow night... after setting Kevin and Nick up.

That reminded Howie and he got up - careful not to let AJ see the bulge in his pants - and smiled down at his friend. "So, you're going to confront Nick while I'll tackle Kevin - okay? And who's going to bribe one of the drivers? You or me?"
"Well, since I have the bad boy rep anyway - why don't you let me handle that? Tom'll think that I'm playing another trick on Kevin and he'll be glad to have a day off..." They grinned again at each, the tension dissolving somewhat.
But since his erection had not yet completely subsided, Howie decided that it would be best to leave. "I have to do some paper work... See you at dinner?"

AJ nodded and teased: "I can't believe you - even with that life changing night to plan you're still thinking about your work... Relax, man!"
Howie just grinned and left the room, but the voice in his head was teasing him relentlessly.
Working? Is that what they call it today? Come on, admit it, you're just going to your room to jack off and imagine how next night could changeY*your* life as well...
But for once Howie didn't mind - he was too busy imagining AJ with wet hair wearing nothing but a towel and an inviting smile...

Part 5

Once in his room Howie lay down on the bed, desperate for release. His erection was painfully hard and he quickly opened his fly and pushed his trousers and briefs down, freeing his cock from its confinements. He hissed when the cool air hit it, closing his eyes and wrapping his hands around it, slowly starting to pump it.
He imagined that AJ was sitting between his legs and caressed him, his eyes black with desire. "Oh yes - J!" Howie moaned, almost feeling AJ's hot breath on his hard length as he pictured him leaning down and engulf him in his mouth. Howie pumped faster now, feeling his balls tighten as in his fantasy AJ deepthroated him while his hands played with his sacks. "Oh fuck, J - harder!"
Howie's eyes were clenched shut and his hands moved furiously over his cock, lubricating it with precum. He knew he wouldn't last much longer and prepared himself for his orgasm, panting and moaning AJ's name over and over until he came with a low cry, his body shaking as he pictured AJ swallowing his cum and smiling up at him. "I love you, J..." He whispered still trembling from his high. And in his mind AJ looked him deep in the eyes and said: "Love you, too, D..."

For a while Howie just lay there, before he felt like moving again. He grabbed some kleenex from the bedside table and cleaned himself up. But he had managed to soil his shirt, so he took it off and decided to take a shower before heading over to Kevin to talk to him before dinner. He already felt much more relaxed now and a nice warm shower would help him collect his thoughts for the task lying before him. If Kevin suspected that he was up to something he would shut down completely. And Howie knew that he was a terrible liar.
But you're not actually going to lie to him - Nick *is* in love with him and all you do is help him realize that...
For once he completely agreed with the voice in his head as he got out of the shower. He looked into the mirror, glad that his shorter hair didn't need any elaborate fussing to look presentable, and then carefully selected what he wanted to wear.
And it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you will see AJ again at dinner time, now does it...

After finishing his preparations he took a deep breath and stepped out of his room - and almost collided with an all too familiar figure... "J! Didn't see you, sorry!" "Nah, was my fault, didn't look where I was going..." They looked at each other and smiled, almost a bit shily.
Howie felt his heart rate speed up and groaned inwardly - there went his calm... He looked at AJ's outfit - tight black leather trousers and a tight black and red top, revealing his muscled and tatoo'd arms. He looked just fucking hot! "So," he broke the silence, "where are you heading?"
AJ swallowed and it seemed to Howie as if he was staring at him, altough that was hard to say through AJ's black shades. "Nick's - and you?" "Kevin's." They looked at each other silently, neither willing to look away.

It was Howie who couldn't bear looking at AJ any longer - he was afraid he would break down and jump his bones right then. And that would be wrong because...? the voice in his head asked matter of factly, but Howie had already looked away and said in a low voice. "Well, I better go..." AJ watched him a while longer before sighing silently and answering: "Yeah, me too. See you at dinner..." Howie smiled at him and laid a hand on his arm, ignoring the spark he felt as he touched him. "Yeah - and good luck, J!" That caused AJ to grin at him openly: "I think the one who needs luck here is certainly not me! You're the world's worst liar, D - don't go and spoil our perfect plan! I want them on that fucking bus tomorrow, so don't freak Kev out!"
Howie laughed and patted AJ's arm reassuringly. "Don't worry, I won't fuck up - I'm sick and tired of always standing guard when Nick plays another prank on Kevin instead of fucking the living daylights out of him the way he wants to!" With that he went over to Kevin's room, followed by AJ's throaty laugh.

Part 6

Kevin was in his suite, playing softly on the piano he had asked to be put there. Howie could hear him through the door and smiled as he knocked. There was no reply and figuring that Kevin hadn't heard him Howie opened the door and entered Kevin's room.
The older man still didn't notice him, he seemed completely lost in his music. He was playing somthing he must have written himself, a heartbreakingly beautiful ballad. Howie watched him for a while, reveling in how vulnerable Kevin looked, how young - so different from his normally tightly controlled posture. He didn't want to disturb him and considered leaving before his friend noticed him. But then he realized that the sad tune Kevin was playing had probably been inspired by the unfulfilled longing for Nick - and as beautiful the song was, Howie wanted Kevin smiling and happy, not sitting in a dark hotel room playing the piano for someone he thought he could never have.

Having made up his mind Howie cleared his throat and said softly: "That was beautiful, Kev!" The older man looked up, surprised by his audience, and smiled slightly - but the smile didn't quite reach his expressive green eyes. "Thanks, D - just something I wrote when I was feeling a bit low..." Then he seemed to force himself out of his sad mood and gave Howie a more genuine smile. "Is there a reason for your visit, D? We haven't really talked in quite some time - you always seem a bit preoccupied these days..."
Howie smiled back at the man he admired and loved so much. "Well, I've had some things to think about..." "And? Have you found answers?" Kevin inquired, always ready to listen to other people's problems. Howie shrugged: "I'm not sure... But there was something I wanted to talk to you about - perhaps you can find a solution." He took a deep breath and went on: "It's about Nick..."

With a look of concern Kevin interrupted him before he could go on: "Nick? Is something wrong with him?" Howie almost smiled at the way worry erased the mask of slight annoyance Kevin normally sported when it came to their youngest band mate.
He decided to use that to his advantage and answered seriously: "I'm not sure..." The hell you are! the voice in his head interrupted but he didn't pay it any heed. "I've been watching him for some time now - and something's definitely going on with him, Kev. He's moody and distracted, things that used to be important to him aren't anymore." With a certain satisfaction Howie sah Kevin's green eyes cloud with worry. He could almost hear him wonder how he could have missed that.

You're enjoying this - you're an evil man, Howard Dorough!
The accusing voice was right, it gave him a certain satisfaction to manipulate Kevin to react exactly the way he wanted him to. Not much more and Kevin wouldn't be so sure anymore that denying his feelings was right!
Howie let Kevin worry a bit before going on, somehow finding exactly the right words: "I... I think he might be in love, Kevin..." Shock registered in his friend's eyes and Howie quickly continued: "And... oh, shit, Kev, how do I say this?" He paused shortly, congratulating himself silently for his act. "Well, I.. I think he might be in love with you." The look on Kevin's face was priceless, but Howie didn't let on that he noticed anything out of the ordinary. "I know that's hard to believe - but it just fits too well. Have you ever seen how he seems to avoid Kristin when she's here? And he almost always finds a way to leave the room when you call her, you know. And the way he always plays pranks on you..."

Kevin seemed to be in shock, unable to say anything, so Howie decided to give him some time to think about it. "I know that's probably difficult for you to believe, man, but I thought it was best to tell you. It's tearing Nick apart and perhaps you can help him move on - or whatever you think best..." The last part he uttered without a trace of irony, hoping that Kevin would catch his meaning.
Not getting a reaction apart from a mumbled "Oh... okay. Thanks, I guess..." Howie went to the door. He had already opened it when Kevin called after him: "Howie, could you tell the others that I can't join you for dinner? I have to think about what to do now..." Howie smiled at him and said that he would find an excuse. Kevin smiled at him gratefully and the last Howie saw before closing the door was the tall form of his friend moving to lean his face against the window, lost in thought.

Satisfied with himself Howie walked down the hall in order to wait for the others in the hotel restaurant. He felt he deserved a drink after all that had happened today. He was quite sure that Kevin would not be able to fight his feelings once he and Nick were on the bus together tomorrow night. If AJ's talk with Nick was as successful their plan would almost *have* to succeed...


After seeing Howie knock on Kevin's door AJ walked slowly to Nick's room on the far side of the corridor. He was still chuckling, feeling as relaxed and content as he hadn't in quite some time. Howie's reaction to his declaration of love had hurt like hell - but since then he had been getting vibes from Howie that told a different story. And when he had touched his arm AJ had almost jumped, so sexual had that innocent little touch felt to him.
AJ shook his head to clear it - being around Howie had lately had a definitely clouding effect on his ability to think. Specially when he was looking as gorgeously fuckable as just now!

"Damn, McLean - get a grip on yourself!" AJ muttered, trying to concentrate on his visit with Nick. Heading off any thought about Howie he quickly knocked and heard Nick calling him in.
"Hey AJ - wanna play?" The tall blonde was sitting in front of the TV, playing one of his countless video games - but obviously with his thoughts someplace else. Well AJ knew just where that might be and decided to cut short the bullshit.

Decidedly he stepped in front of Nick, effectively blocking his view, causing Nick to shoot him an annoyed look. But AJ was not one to be intimitated so easily - not even by someone taller and bigger than him. He had proved to his friend on countless opportunities that although Nick could always beat him at video games he should never underestimate AJ when it came to wrestling with each other. So AJ just stood there, his arms crossed in front of him, staring levelly at Nick until it got too much for the blue eyed man and he broke the silence with a cross "What the fuck's the matter, Alex?"

AJ looked at him a bit longer, causing Nick to shift uncomfortably in his seat. Inwardly AJ smirked, satisfied with himself - he could stare anyone down! Well, except Kevin, but who was talking about Kevin right now?
Finally he relented and told Nick bluntly: "Spill, Carter - what's up with you and our dear band daddy? - And don't give me no bullshit!" Satisfied he saw Nick blushing deeply, his piercing blue eyes anywhere but on AJ. "Well, *come* on - I don't have all day, ya know! You wanna fuck our stick-up-the-ass Kevin? Or would you prefer to be his little bitch?"

That caused Nick to finally meet AJ's shaded gaze as he rose angrily from the couch and took a stop toward his impertinently grinning friend. "It's - not - like - that!" he grated out from between clenched teeth.
AJ taunted him further - this was going better than he had hoped for! No one was a match for the Bone! "No? So what's it like then, Nicky-boy? Have you fallen for our glorious leader?"
Nick was fuming more and more with every insult AJ threw at him - specially the way he was making fun of Kevin angered him terribly. With a low cry he flung himself at the smaller man in front of him: "Shut - the - fuck - up! Don't you dare talking about Kevin that way!" He accentuated every word by shaking AJ violently. With force he pushed him to the ground and made ready to dive after him and beat the shit out of him.

AJ swallowed a bit nervously - sometimes Nick had a vicious temper and lost control. But he knew that Nick was only seconds away from admitting his feelings, so he just smirked up at him and said: "I admit Kevin has a fine piece of ass - but do you have to overreact like that, little Nicky?" That did it! Ready to beat AJ to pulp Nick launched himself on top of his friend, shaking him roughly and blurting out without thinking: "I told you to shut the fuck up, McLean! It's nothing you fucked up bastard could understand - I love him, I'm in fucking love with Kevin!"

Once he had said that AJ began to grin: "See, that wasn't so hard, was it, Carter?"
Nick looked at him unbelievingly, still holding AJ's top with his clenched fists. "You sorry little motherfucker - that was what you wanted?" AJ grinned at him openly and nodded, before carefully freeing his top from Nick's grasp. "Yep - AJ McLean, matchmaker extraordinaire! And note my great personal effort here... I tell you, Carter, if you've ruined my favorite top..."
Nick was still looking at him in shock. "But... why? Is this some sick game of yours? Some entertainment for your convenience?"

AJ took his friend's big hands into his own and looked him in the eyes seriously, pushing his dark shades up: "No, Nick - but now that you've said it out loud you can't deny it any longer... And perhaps if you're not busy feeling sorry for yourself anymore you'll see that you don't really have a reason to be lovesick like that..."
Having accomplished his mission AJ got up from the ground, straightening his clothes and covering his eyes once more. Nick was still sitting there, looking wide eyed at him. In his normal gruff voice AJ said over his shoulder: "It's almost dinner time. You coming, Carter?"

Nick just shook his head. "No, I'm... I'm not hungry..." AJ smirked: "What? Did the Earth just stop turning?" When he didn't get a response from the young man on the ground he shook his head and left, muttering to himself: "Hopeless, absolutely hopeless! A lovesick puppy..."
But there was a satisfied smile on his lips as he made his way to the restaurant. Nick wouldn't last through tomorrow night!

If Howie had been as successful? AJ felt his stomach flutter slightly just from thinking of his band mate. No way that that were butterflies - he was hungry, that was all, dammit!

Part 7

Dinner that night was very strange for Brian. When he and Leighanne had come down Howie had already been sitting at the bar, looking very satisfied with himself for some reason. He had informed them that Brian's cousin had a headache and wouldn't come down tonight, then continured to smile while refusing to tell the couple the reason for his good mood.
Then AJ arrived and thing got even stranger in Brian's opinion. AJ was also grinning like the cat that ate the canary as he told them that Nick wasn't feeling hungry at the moment. Brian almost spit out his coke at that - *Nick* not hungry? What the hell was going on here? And why had AJ just given Howie the thumbs-up?

Those two were having secrets, that much was clear - but Brian couldn't for the life of him see what those secrets could be. They had been together almost 24/7 lately and Brian had noticed that things seemed a bit strained between Howie and AJ. But now they were forever stealing glances at each other when they thought no one noticed - and that air of self-satisfied secrecy, like two school boys who had pulled a prank together... Well, Brian would check his bed tonight for any kind of icky stuff - and the shower as well, he added silently, remembering the prank Nick had played on Kevin.

The four of them were talking comfortably while eating and if Brian hadn't known that something was up he wouldn't have noticed Howie blushing furiously as AJ mentioned casually that his bus had broken down. "I'll sleep with D - uhm I mean *on* D's bus tomorrow", he added and Brian thought he saw the colour rising in his cheeks. AJ blushing? No way... Alexander James McLean didn't blush! He had to imagine things. And why would he anyway - they all had shared busses on countless occasions, even if it wasn't the rule anymore.
No, Brian really didn't understand what was going on!

After dinner no one seemed to be in the mood to go out, so they headed upstairs again.
Brian was quite sure that he wasn't supposed to see the way AJ and Howie stared at each other before going to their rooms, so he decided to ignore it. He had had enough weirdness for one evening! Even Leighanne commented on his band mates' strange behavior when they were in their room - and she thought all Backstreet Boys were slightly wacky anyway... Well, Brian would find out soon enough what was the matter with his friends, no one could really keep secrets in their close-knit group.

But the next day seemed even stranger to the clueless Brian. His cousin as well as his best friend were behaving *very* peculiar indeed. Both answered his concerned questions about their health with a distracted "I'm fine, Bri" and then went off to their own worlds again. And they seemed forever to be watching each other, trying not to let anyone notice. Brian thought about getting at least one of them to tell him what was the matter, but they had to give one interview after the other and he just didn't catch either one alone all day.
Howie and AJ were continuing their strange behavior from the night before, sharing secret looks and watching Nick and Kevin with identical expressions of satisfaction. And Brian saw AJ talk to Kevin's bus driver, waving his arms animatedly, causing the other man to laugh and pad his shoulder. When AJ came back he had once more that Cheshire cat grin on his face and went straight to Howie and they high fived, laughing like crazy. Brian really wanted to know what was going on, but they kept avoiding him, sticking together all the time. Well, at least they had obviously settled whatever had kept them apart lately...

Later that day Tom, Kevin's bus driver, came and told them that Kevin's bus had broken down and wouldn't be fixed until the next day. Had AJ had anything to do with that? But Brian could for the life of him not see what reason AJ would have.
Kevin just nodded, saying that he would just share with Howie. Brian remembered what AJ had told them yesterday at dinner and spoke up: "No, you can't - AJ is already spending the night there. His bus broke down as well." Not knowing that he was doing Howie and AJ a big favor he continued: "You can just share with Nick - he's alone on his bus." Curiously Brian noticed that Kevin blanched visibly at his suggestion while Nick turned bright red. What the hell was the matter with his band mates? Had they all lost their minds suddenly? Brian decided he had had enough of that for today and wished the others a good night. He would go and spend the evening with his wife - seemingly the only sane person around!

Part 8

Kevin couldn't believe it - he would have to spend the night on Nick's bus... A night in close proximity to the man that haunted his dreams with his sparkling blue eyes, his warm smile - God, those lips! and that gorgeous body! those well defined arms, that broad chest - and of course the infamous ghetto booty! Kevin didn't know if he should thank or curse his luck for putting him in that situation. And somehow he got the feeling that luck didn't really have anything to do with it.
He didn't know how or why Howie and AJ had had their hands in it - but their grins were just a bit too satisfied with the recent developments for it to be pure chance. Perhaps Howie wanted him to talk Nick out of his feelings for him? But why would AJ grin as if it all happened thanks to him?
Kevin groaned inwardly, but tried not to let anyone see the turmoil he was in. After Howie's little talk he had spent the night agonizing over what to do. Was Howie right, was Nick in love with him as well? And if he was right - should Kevin tell Nick that his feelings were mutual? He was a married man after all... Even if Kristin *had* let some pretty obvious hints drop about how unhealthy it was to deny your emotions. He was torn - and the conflict got worse when he began to notice all those small signals Nick was sending out around him. How could he not have seen that before?
As Kevin packed his suitcase to join Nick for the nightlong drive he was a bundle of nerves. He had the strong feeling that if Nick should decide to put the moves on him he wouldn't be able to keep his control and cave in. And quite a big part of him was hoping that Nick would do just that...

When Kevin entered the bus he heard the TV running. "Hey, Nick - anything good on?" He joined him on the couch, giving him a half-smile as Nick simply pointed to the screen where a cartoon was shown. Nick's love for cartoons was a running joke in the group, only topped by the jokes they made about his passion for video games. But Kevin was not in the mood for joking - he had to fight the urge to kiss Nick senseless right then and there. Why did he have to do that? Didn't he know how fucking adorable he was when he was chewing on his lower lip like that?
With a silent sigh Kevin settled into the couch. Oh man, that was going to be a *long* night!
They didn't talk much during the first hour. Nick seemed completely caught up in his cartoon - but sometimes Kevin thought he caught him looking at him sideways, as if contemplating how to say something. Kevin himself was contemplating much more carnal things and had to practically sit on his hands to stop himself from jumping Nick.
After a while he couldn't bear it anymore and got up, asking Nick if he wanted something to eat or drink. To his surprise Nick declined - when had Nick ever passed by an opportunity to eat? Specially on his bus where Kevin knew for a fact there was not a single healthy eatable thing.
But at least it gave him an excuse to get away - and perhaps convince his erection to subside a bit.

He looked at Nick on the couch who seemed to have grown roots there. Perhaps he could use that and relieve some of the tension in the toilet? The TV should drown out his noise - the opportunity was just too good not to be used, Kevin decided.
Once inside he quickly opened his fly and let his raging hard-on spring free, glad that he had gone commando today. He started stroking himself, picturing Nick in front of him, smiling up at him and licking his lips sexily. He bit back a groan and went faster. Did Nick have any lube here? There was some lotion on a shelf and Kevin used it to make his hands glide on his hot flesh. He imagined that it was Nick's hands that moved expertly over his cock, teasing his balls until Kevin moaned the name of his dream lover, going faster and faster.
As soon as Nick's name left his lips in another strangled cry the door opened and Kevin was faced with a grinning Nick, looking happier than he had in a long time. He stood there, frozen with shock, not able to move to cover himself or say something in the way of an explanation. Nick took a step closer to him, his sparkling eyes not once leaving Kevin's face. When he was standing so close that Kevin could feel his warm breath on his lips he said almost triumphantly: "You said my name!" All Kevin could do was nod dumbly, the power of speech had completely left him. Nick didn't seem to mind, he continued undisturbed: "You want me! I can't believe you want me!" Then he suddenly seemed a bit unsure of himself and asked: "Please, Kev - are you in love with me as well?"

All Kevin heard were the words âas well'. He was in love with him - Nick loved him! His face must have shown his excitement - he was probably grinning foolishly - because Nick's eyes seemed to glow again and he embraced him impulsively. Finally Kevin was able to move again and he hugged the man who had just made him happier than he ever remembered being: "Oh, Nicky - I love you more than you could ever imagine! I've been hurting for such a long time, thinking that you could never love me back..." Nick tenderly took his face in his big hands and whispered: "You will never have to hurt again, Kev - I'm here now and I'll never let you go again!"
They stood like this for a while, looking at each other with wonder in their eyes. But suddenly they both became aware of how close their faces were and slowly but surely their lips moved to meet for the first time. The kiss was almost electric - Kevin felt Nick's touch throughout his whole body as their tongues started to dance with each other. Kevin felt a bit light headed as he pulled Nick closer to himself - no kiss had ever shaken him like this! Suddenly he was very aware of his still hard cock pressed up against Nick's jeans and he felt Nick's own arousal clearly through the denim. He moaned into Nick's mouth, his hips starting to move against Nick's, trying to relieve some of the tension. Nick groaned as well and mirrored Kevin's movements. It felt so good, so right!

With effort Kevin broke loose and stood panting. Nick looked at him confused, his faced flushed, his lips swollen from kissing. To Kevin he had never looked better. "We should move this to the bed, love", he explained and saw Nick's face break into another radiant smile. "You just called me âlove'... that is so sexy, Kevin!" Nick almost whispered, his voice rough - if from arousal or emotion Kevin couldn't tell. And he didn't really care because Nick was pulling him out of the bathroom to the bed.
Once there they fell on top of it, their arms and legs entwining as they resumed their passionate kissing, only stopping when they had to get up for air. Nick's hands were playing with Kevin's hair and he murmured somehing into the kiss, causing Kevin to pull back slightly and look at his new lover questioningly. Nick repeated, grinning a bit shily up at him: "I wanted to do that for a long time. I love your hair!" Kevin grinned and teased him: "Just my hair, Nicky?"
Nick blushed and started to protest, but Kevin shut him up by kissing him again. When they came up for air he smiled and said: "That's something *I*'ve wanted to do for a long time!" Nick grinned at him impishly and replied in his best snotty voice, that always drove Kevin crazy: "Why didn't you?"

They looked at each other and suddenly the desire they had hidden for so long took over and they stopped thinking and there was only feeling - so much feeling that they almost lost themselves in it...Tongues were dancing, hips were undulating against each other, seeking pleasure long dreamed of, hands explored bodies they had seen so often but never imagined touching like this... Suddenly their clothes were gone and there was just flesh against flesh, touches almost feverish with want and need. There was no speech left, only moans and groans and the occasional four letter word. But with almost superhuman effort Kevin tried to regain at least a semblance of control - this should be special and pure, not a thoughtless mating like two animals in heat.

"Nick..." Kevin managed to get out, pulling back a bit. "We don't have to hurry. We have the whole night - and so many nights afterwards..." Nick looked up at him, his eyes almost black with desire. His breathing was just as ragged as Kevin's as he said softly but decidedly: "Yes, I know, Kev - but I don't want to wait anymore, don't want to be patient... I want you now, Kevin - so much that it hurts! So please don't make me wait any longer... Make me yours, Kevin!"
Kevin swallowed hard and knew that it was a lost battle he was fighting. He wanted - no, needed -Nick just as much, so he gave in, closing the gap between them once more. But before their lips met he whispered: "I'll give you what you want, Nicky - I'll make you scream my name in pleasure when I cum deep inside you... But only if you promise to make me yours as well tonight." Nick's answer was a strangled groan and two strong hands pulling Kevin's body down to him.
Their hips rocked against each other as their tongues mated and Kevin almost forgot Nick's request, but was reminded again when suddenly Nick's hand slid down his chest holding a condom that he rolled over Kevin's painfully hard erection, causing him to gasp. Somehow his other hand had found a bottle of lube and he moved to prepare his soon-to-be lover. But Kevin stopped him, taking the bottle from him. There was no way he would last if Nick's skillful hands touched him once more!
He cut the other man's protests short by kissing him once more while he lubed his cock.
Then Kevin took a pillow and put it under Nick's back. "I want to see your beautiful face..." he whispered as he slowly inserted first one, then two, finally three lubed fingers into Nick's opening. He prepared him carefully, making sure to hit the prostrate with every movement. He looked down at the face of his beloved, contorted with pleasure and he thought that it couldn't get any better.

But it did get better. Strong hands stopped his fingers and a voice rough from holding back screams of pleasure said: "Please, Kev - I want to come when you're inside me..."
Kevin obeyed gladly but was careful not to hurt Nick too much. He pushed himself further and further inside, pausing until a look into Nick's impatient eyes told him to go on. And then he was home... That was the only word Kevin could think of to describe the heavenly feeling he experienced when he was sheathed completely inside Nick's tight hole. He wanted to savor the moment, but Nick grew tired of waiting and began to move his hips. Kevin started moving as well, quickly finding the perfect rhythm in and out, hitting his lover's prostrate while stroking his cock until Nick couldn't hold back anymore and came, screaming Kevin's name. It seemed to Kevin as if had never heard anything sexier and he began to lose control himself, moving almost frantically now, his body and soul screaming for release. Nick clenched and unclenched his interior muscles around Kevin's erection and he held onto his lover until he felt him shudder and empty himself deep inside him, repeating his name over and over, almost like a prayer.

Afterwards they lay on Nick's bed together, both feeling complete and happy for the first time in years. Kevin's head lay on Nick's chest and he could feel the younger man start to chuckle. "What's the matter, love?" he inquired, his drawl stronger than normally. Nick felt shivers running down his spine at the soft sound of his lover's voice. He would have to tell him one of these days what his voice alone did to him - but not just now... Instead he answered the question: "How much do you think Howie and AJ had to pay your bus driver to pretend your bus had broken down?" Kevin coudn't help but laugh as well as he said: "Yeah, those two certainly were playing matchmaker for us, weren't they..."
They lay silent for a while, until Nick felt himself getting aroused again. Being close to Kevin had that effect on him - and now he didn't have to hide it anymore! Nick leaned over, planning on tasting every inch of Kevin's delicous body. But before his lips closed over Kevin's he whispered: "I wonder what Howie and AJ are doing on *their* bus..."

Part 9

The atmosphere on Howie's bus was relaxed and good - much to Howie's surprise who had expected it to be uncomfortable and tense. But instead they had climbed the bus laughing like school boys who had successfully played a prank on their teacher. The look in Kevin's eyes as he boarded Nick's bus - a mix of dread and excitement - had been priceless and the two friends collapsed onto the couch in the living room area in one of their famous laughing fits. Those used to be a common occurence during the times when Howie and AJ roomed together and they were both secretely excited to have that connection back.
After calming down they were both too relaxed to allow the tension between them to spoil the atmosphere. Since he quite enjoyed cooking AJ went and made some of his special spaghetti while Howie kept him company after setting the table for two. They chatted amicably about everything and nothing and just felt comfortable with each other.
This continued all through dinner, and afterwards AJ demanded with a wide grin that they played something since he wasn't in the mood for watching TV. "Why not play âquestions'?" he said. "We haven't done that for ages - and perhaps now we really have stuff to ask..."
âQuestions' was what they called one of their favorite ways of spending the long bus rides. AJ was right - they hadn't played it for a very long time and Howie thought that it fit perfectly into this evening that reminded him so much of the old times...
Nick had invented the simple game when he had been sick one time and not allowed to watch TV or play video games. They asked each other questions and they had to say the truth. It was a fun way to kill time - and since they spent so much time together finding questions had become quite a challenge.

Howie looked at AJ's smiling face and nodded. "Yeah, we can do that - it'll be fun! But let's finish here first and get ready for bed - we can make ourselves comfortable on my bed, it's big enough..."
Those words had hardly left his mouth when Howie wished he could take them back - he had been so relaxed and now he would share a bed with AJ...
You're getting careless, Dorough! the voice in his head teased him, adding: But perhaps that's what you want? You're finally man enough to face your feelings and AJ?
"Hey, D - where have you gone?" AJ's voice interrupted Howie's thoughts and Howie quickly concentrated on his friend. "Sorry, spaced out for a moment... Do you wanna take a shower now?" Yeah, just what you need now - this man is practically sex on legs anyway and you picture him taking a shower...
But AJ didn't seem to notice the sudden flush coloring Howie's cheeks, he just shook his head and said: "Nah, I'll shower in the morning at the hotel - then I'll have more hot water." Howie smiled - that was what AJ always did, he hated not to be able to take his time.
And since Howie felt the same they just brushed their teeth and changed into their night stuff - bronze colored chinese style silk pajamas for Howie and red boxers and a grey wife beater for AJ. Was he imagining things or had AJ checked him out when he changed? Howie didn't say anything about his suspicion because he had been guilty of the same thing...

They flopped down on Howie's bed - glad that they didn't have to sleep in bunks anymore. Howie leaned against the headboard and looked expectantly at his friend, trying to ignore how close they were. The silence was deafening as their eyes locked once more and something almost electric passed between them. Howie had to avert his eyes or else he knew he would have done something stupid. What was happening? To cover his confusion he got up and put on some nice jazz, a music they both liked and found relaxing. Then he joined AJ once again on the bed and avoided his eyes as he said: "So, Alex - since it was your idea I think you should begin..."
AJ laid his head back against the soft pillow and closed his eyes, obviously thinking of a what to ask Howie. A grin lit up his face as he turned to his side to fix his mischievous gaze on Howie: "Okay, D... And remember, I want the truth!" He paused and said with a twinkle in his deep brown eyes but in his most serious tone, that told Howie exactly that he was about to be terribly embarrassed "Did you really throw up all over Kristin's favorite dress at that last party at Kevin's and tried to cover your sorry ass by hurriedly buying a new one - but in the wrong color? I could never get Kevin to tell me if Nick was telling the truth... And I want details of Kris' reaction!" Howie groaned - AJ would have to pick one of the most embarrassing things he had ever done! But it would be his turn next...
With that they began their game and soon they were laughing again wholeheartedly as they thought of yet another question to ask.

After perhaps an hour the gap between their questions became longer as they both began to feel comfortably lazy and content to just lay side by side, breathing in the other's scent and feeling the closeness of their bodies. They started to ask more serious questions and Howie felt so happy and secure he hadn't in a long long time. Suddenly he heard himself ask: "Have you ever been really in love with another guy, J?" As soon as he had said that he wished to be able to take it back. What had he been thinking to ask that? Well, that's called a Freudian slip - and we don't even want to pretend that that's not what you wanted to ask him all night long! The voice in his head was obviously thrilled that he was just making a complete fool of himself! Howie wanted desperately to run and hide - but where should he go, they were on a fucking *bus*!
He was so busy panicking that he almost missed AJ's quiet "Yes." His head shot up and he looked astonished at the man beside him. AJ was looking at the ceiling, his cheeks burning as he avoided studiously Howie's big eyes. Suddenly it seemed so easy for Howie to ask "Who?", even if his voice wavered a bit. But AJ turned around to rest on his side, a faint smile showing on his still burning face. "Nono, D - you had your question and now it's my turn..."
He looked into Howie's expressive brown eyes where hope was fighting with fear and asked quietly, the same conflicting feelings in his own eyes: "Who did you write âHow Did I Fall In Love With You' for, Howie?"

Howie looked at him, his heart filled with emotions - but slowly hope won out and he answered slowly, a timid smile on his full lips: "I... I wrote it for you, J." He saw AJ's eyes widening in surprise - his friend had obviously expected him to avoid the issue. Howie felt his heart soar with sudden joy and his next words were absolutely sincere - he had been hiding long enough! "I know I've been treating you shitty lately - but it was only because I was afraid that I couldn't hide my feelings anymore. I'm so sorry, man!"
AJ just looked at him, obviously trying to find the right words. But Howie was not afraid anymore, the broad smile on AJ's face told him more than thousands words could have. The voice in his head was exultant, whooping with happiness - and a certain smugness. All that time you knew you didn't have anything to be afraid of - but you didn't want to listen... Howie didn't let this bother him, he was way to happy to care.

AJ's soft words interrupted his thoughts as his friend simply said "You." Howie looked at him questioningly and AJ explained: "You are the man I'm really in love with. I've been for quite some time now, but I've only realized it after rejoining you..."
Their eyes locked once more and this time Howie didn't fight the electric current starting to flow between them. Without breaking eye contact he pulled AJ against him, wrapping his arms around the body he had dreamed of for so long. He felt AJ's strong arms circle around his waist as he whispered: "So much time wasted..." Before their eyes closed for their first kiss he saw AJ's face split into the familiar grin: "Ya know, D, for someone who went to college you are remarkably dense - I've been giving you signals for months!" Howie grinned back and said softly "Oh, shut the fuck up, McLean!" Then their lips met for the first time and words suddenly seemed unnecessary.

Howie had always considered himself a romantic - and the part of his brain still able to formulate a more or less coherent thought as he felt for the first time AJ's lips mate with his own supposed that he really wanted romance with AJ. But not just now.
Now it was all about passion - a passion they had both denied themselves for too long. So it was sweet Howie D who crushed AJ's body against his own as their tongues began an erotic duel for dominance neither really wanted to win. AJ responded by moving his hips against Howie's, letting him feel just how much he wanted him. Their erections rubbed against each other while their hands explored each other's bodies, trying to caress every bit of skin they could reach.

Howie's strong hands tore AJ's grey wifebeater apart, not wanting to stop kissing him for even one moment. The taste of AJ became quickly addicting to him and made him wonder what AJ would taste like in other places... AJ was having similar thoughts as he opened Howie's pajama top and revealed the muscled torso AJ had seen so often but never like that, never offering himself to him this way. He couldn't help himself and broke their kiss, making his lover moan from the loss. But the protest turned quickly into appreciation as AJ began to kiss his way down Howie's neck, over his chest, sucking on his nipples.
Howie's head fell back against the headboard and he had to fight to keep his eyes open to watch AJ as he inflicted sweet torture on him, teasing him, tasting him, sometimes even biting down lightly. His hips lifted from the mattress as he tried to ease the state of arousal he was in by rubbing against any part of AJ he could reach. Gone was the always calm and in control peacemaker - Howie hardly recognized himself as he writhed under AJ's expert touch and heard himself beg his lover to move his ministrations downwards.

AJ himself was in heaven and he felt enormously pleased by seeing, hearing and feeling how he made Howie lose control. He was also having quite a hard time to stay at least in a semblance of control and only managed because he put Howie's pleasure before his own.
He slid Howie's pants down his muscular legs, skimming lightly along his sides and then holding him firmly as he finally let his lips close over the weeping tip of his lover's hard cock. AJ had never swallowed cum before, but the moment he tasted Howie he knew that with him it would be different. He had to chuckle at the thought that he wouldn't have any problem never to touch booze again if only he could taste Howie. The sound vibrated against Howie's thick member and his hips lifted off the bed again. AJ fought hard to keep Sweet D from gagging him, and Howie panted breathlessly: "Sorry, J - but... FUCK!" He lost the ability to speak completely as AJ deepthroated him while massaging his tightening balls. It was too much - screaming his lover's name Howie came into the warm mouth enveloping his shaft and AJ swallowed every last drop, until Howie pulled him up and kissed him deeply, tasting an exciting mix of himself and AJ's unique flavor.
"I love you so much, J..." he said between kisses and felt butterflies flying loopings in his stomach as the man in his arms replied sincerely: "I love ya too, man - I'm afraid you won't get rid of me anymore..."

Part 10

After Howie had recovered a bit he became more and more aware of AJ's still boxer clad erection poking into his thigh. His hands skimmed down AJ's back, caressing him until he reached his lover's supposedly non-existant butt. In Howie's opinion AJ's butt was just perfect and he longed to see it bare. He whispered teasingly: "You know, you're way too overdressed for this little party, J..." With that he pushed him onto his back, kneeled onto the bed beside him and took the offending garment off. His breath caught in his throat as he saw AJ lying naked before him, his cock jutting up against his flat stomach, his eyes almost black with desire but waiting patiently for Howie to take action.
When he saw the look of awe in Howie's eyes AJ felt a distinct lump in his throat - his beloved had had to wait such a long time for this moment... He wanted him to take his time, to make this perfect for him - but he was so aroused it was painful, he hadn't thought that Howie just looking at him could make it worse but it did. AJ had to do *something* or he might just explode...

He said softly, his voice even raspier than usual: "Please, D... Make love to me!" Howie's eyes widened and his tongue darted out to wet his suddenly dry lips, causing AJ to groan. It took everything he had in him not to stroke himself - but he had enough of substitutes, now he only wanted Howie, nothing else would satisfy him. His dark eyes begged Howie to do something, anything, to put him out of his misery.
Finally Howie seemed to be able to move again and he gave AJ a smile so bright it was almost blinding. "Later, J - I want you in me first... I've dreamed of it so long - and it seems that you're more than ready." AJ swallowed and was afraid for a moment that he would cum from only thinking about being inside Howie, who was looking at him expectantly. And he was not disappointed when he saw the look of raw want in AJ's eyes and noticed that his breathing got rugged. It pleased him that he had this effect, that his own need for AJ was mirrored in him.

With a sexy grin on his face that AJ had never seen before and that almost took his breath away, Howie finally leaned forward and touched him, his hands skimming softly over AJ's chest, carressing his nipples before moving downward and closing tenderly over AJ's hard shaft. "Come here, lover..." he commanded softly as he leaned forward to kiss his man who was completely lost in his touch. Eagerly AJ complied, wrapping his arms around Howie's neck and playing with his dark curls. He sucked lightly on Howie's lower lip, causing him to moan into his mouth as their kiss grew more passionate.
AJ lost his fight to let Howie take his time - he couldn't take any more teasing! Decidedly he rolled over, taking Howie with him, forcing him to let go of his shaft. AJ explained breathlessly: "Sorry, D - but if you want me... to make love to you... you have to stop teasing me like that... not that I mind having your hands on my cock but..."

Howie smiled up at him and sealed his lips with another hot kiss that left them both gasping for air. Yes, kissing AJ was going to be his new favorite pastime he decided. Well, among other things...
He broke away from their embrace for a moment to take a condom and lube from the drawer of his bedside table where they had been waiting for a long long time. But Howie didn't have time to dwell on that because suddenly he felt AJ's fingers probing his opening gently after putting a pillow under his back. He sucked in his breath sharply, which made AJ smile and take the lube from him, coating his fingers with it. "Just wait until I'm inside you, D..." he promised, hardly believing that soon he would be buried deep inside that fine butt.
But there was no way in the world he would want to hurt Howie, so he fought to stay in control and prepared him carefully. And he seemed to be doing it right because his lover had thrown his head back and was gasping with pleasure every time AJ's fingers hit his prostrate, his hands grabbing the sheets. A fine coat of sweat made his dark skin glisten and his cock was weeping precum. AJ thought he had never seen anything as beautiful in his whole life and he slowly began to stroke Howie's erection, wanting him to lose control again. He was rewarded with a heated look from chocolate brown eyes and a rough: "Fuck me already, McLean!" AJ felt shivers running down his spine, from the commanding tone Howie used as much as from what he said.

He was aching to be inside the tight opening so he obeyed gladly. AJ settled between Howie's thighs and rested his legs on his shoulders, looking deep into his lover's impatient eyes. He bent down to kiss him as he slowly pressed his hard lubricated shaft into the hole. He had to break the kiss to gasp Howie's name because he was so tight that AJ thought he would explode right then and there. And then he was all the way inside and felt as if he had died and gone to heaven. Howie's gaze mirrored his own awe as their eyes locked in an exchange of love and fulfillment. They didn't need words to express the feeling they shared, the feeling that this was where they were supposed to be - forever.

But all too soon their bodies grew impatient and the need to move became prominent. Seeing that Howie was more than ready AJ let go of all restraint and began to move, pulling almost completely out before plunging back in. Howie gasped and started rocking his hips in time with AJ's thrusts, their eyes still locked as their movements became more and more frantic. They were both making incomprehensible noises, lost in the exquisite sensations spreading from the point where they were joined through their bodies.
AJ felt his balls tighten and grunted: "Almost there, D - god, so *good*, so fucking good!" With that he pushed once more into Howie's tight opening, hitting his prostrate once more, before cumming with a low scream.

The feeling of AJ's cock emptying itself deep inside him and the look of rapt pleasure on his lover's face almost pushed Howie over the edge again. AJ was still buried inside him and although he was still shivering from the intense high he had just experienced he noticed the look of raw want in D's chocolate brown eyes. With a soft smile he pulled out of the older man's body, shushing him when he started to protest. "Just a little while, lover, then I'll make you scream..." he promised and turned him on his stomach, motioning him to prop himself up on elbows and knees.
Howie had not the slightest idea what AJ was planning - but he was shivering in anticipation. Suddenly he felt something wet at his entrance and realized with excitement that it was AJ's tongue. His lover was rimming him! Howie felt himself getting closer, his balls were getting tight as he pushed against AJ who was licking his puckered hole, tasting an enitcing mix of Howie and his own cum. His hands were kneeding the perfect cheeks in front of him that he had admired so often and he decided that he was on his way to develop a fetish for Howie's ass...
AJ knew the other man was almost there and he penetrated him with his tongue as far as possible while his right hand moved to jerk Howie's cock, enjoying the velvety hardness covered by precum.

With a cry that probably would have made the bus driver go deaf if it hadn't been for the sound proof walls Howie let go and exploded all over his satin sheets. Exhaustedly his arms gave way and he collapsed onto the sticky wetness, too tired to care enough to move. But at once he felt AJ's strong arms surround him and pull him a bit to the side. Then he felt his lover's lithe body curl up around his own and a pair of silky lips caress his neck. He managed to put his hands on top of AJ's and to turn his head around so he could look into his eyes as he whispered tiredly: "That was incredible - thank you! I love you, Alex..." He hardly heard AJ murmur tenderly "Love you, too - and you're more than welcome!" before his eyes fell shut and Howie fell asleep, safe in his lover's arms.
AJ stayed awake a little while longer, revelling in the feeling of D's warm body against his. He was happier than he could remember ever being and before sleep claimed him as well he promised to himself that he wouldn't fuck up this time. He knew that Howie would scold him for still beating himself up over the past, telling him that he had put that part of his life behind him - and AJ silently vowed to do everything in his power to prove him right.


On Nick's bus him and Kevin were in the meantime recovering from another round of passionate love making. Nick's head was resting comfortably on Kevin's shoulder - his new favorite sleeping position. He was lazily drawing patterns on his lover's stomach and chest as they quietly talked.
"When did you know you're in love with me, Kev?" Nick inquired curiously, looking into the older man's green eyes, realizing that for the first time in weeks those gorgeous eyes were clear again. It made him incredibly happy that it was him who did this - him who made Kevin complete. He knew that he would always have to share the man he loved with Kristin, but as long as he could make Kevin's eyes shine like that he was content to have him when they were on tour or promoting or recording - which was most of the time anyway.

He was so lost in thought that he almost missed Kevin's answer: "I think I've been having those feelings for you for years - since you turned into a man before my very eyes. But it took me much longer to realize that that urge to look after you, to protect you, to always be there for you, had become something completely... wrong for an older brother... I think it was at the first video shoot for Drowning - when I saw you standing there all wet and almost came just from watching you... That pretty much opened my eyes." Kevin smiled into his lover's sky blue eyes, amazed at the emotions he saw in them. Nick had actually tears in his eyes - *Nick*, who never cried... "Hey, Nicky - everything okay?" He kissed him softly, still having troubles believing that he could do that now, could simply kiss him whenever he wanted to... Well, at least when no outsider was around, he corrected himself.

Nick was responding to Kevin's tender kiss, his tears drying as he realized that this was not a dream, that this was real, that he was not going to wake up alone. He gave the other man one of his radiant Carter smiles - one of those that made thousands of girls swoon - and said sincerely, not wanting Kevin to worry because of his tears: "Oh yes, everything's just perfect! I'm just so happy that you're finally here now, Kev..." With a sleepy grin he nestled his head back on Kevin's shoulder to go to sleep completely content. Now he didn't need to dream of Kevin anymore - now he had him and he planned to never let him go again.
Kevin's thoughts were following similar lines as he did what he had always loved doing - watching over the man who was sleeping peacefully in his arms, looking like an angel... Kevin smiled softly at the thought: A sometimes very naughty, at times incredibly annoying and at the moment very naked angel - but he was *his* angel and he didn't want him any different.
With that Kevin closed his eyes and for the first time in weeks fell asleep at once, as if he hadn't a worry in the world.

Part 11

The next morning found the Backstreet busses parked outside the hotel they would be staying in after the show that night. Normally Kevin would be up and out of the bus the moment they arrived, but this time he was nowhere to be seen. The staff weren't the only ones wondering why Nick's bus was still dark with no sign of life - Brian worried about his cousin as well as he left the bus he shared with his wife and found himself the only Backstreet boy in sight.
He knew that Kevin had been preoccupied lately and not been looking too well - but so far he had always followed his routine, sometimes to an extent that drove the other guys nuts. A sudden dread filled Brian as a thought popped into his head: What if Nick had played *another* prank on the older man - perhaps tied him up on his bus or something?

Leighanne saw the look of sheer horror appear in her husband's eyes as he ran over to Nick's silent bus and began pounding on the door. She smiled faintly, careful not to let Brian see it - she had a pretty good idea as to why both Kevin and Nick were still dead to the world... She had actually only realized yesterday what was up with her husband's cousin and his best friend. She had seen Howie and AJ elbow each other with wide grins when Kevin had to be roused from his contemplation of Nick answering an interviewer's question by a concerned Brian shaking him gently. Then it had all fallen into place - but knowing that Brian would have laughed at her for suggesting something like "Honey, I think your cousin is in love with your best friend..." Leigh had kept her mouth shut. She loved her man dearly - but sometimes he just had some blind spots. Also she couldn't wait to see his face once he was faced with undeniable evidence...

As he didn't get a reaction to his hammering onto the bus door Brian decided that he would go in there - Kevin would *never* sleep through something like that! He got the key from Nick's bus driver and opened the door, closely followed by his curious wife.
He thought about calling Nick and Kevin's names but decided against it. The bus was so quiet that Brian suddenly wondered if he had just been making a whole lot of unnecessary fuss... Perhaps Kevin was really still asleep, as unusual as that would be. He would just have a quick look around, making sure that everything was alright and then go to breakfast with Leigh. It was rare enough that they had a morning off and there was no reason why his friends shouldn't enjoy it.
On his way to the back, where the bedroom was located, Brian looked into the spare bunks, thinking that Kevin was sleeping in one of them. When he didn't find him, some of the worry came back and he almost gingerly opened the door to Nick's bedroom, not knowing what he should expect... Well, it certainly was not what he saw when he looked inside!
Leighanne heard a sharp intake of breath and saw Brian's shoulders tense. It seemed as if she had been right... "What is it, honey?" she inquired as her husband remained silent, frozen to the spot.

Brian's mind reeled as he tried to let what he saw sink in. His cousin was indeed still asleep - peacefully and completely naked, curled around Nick's equally naked body. They looked gorgeous together, as if that was the way they were supposed to sleep. - WHAT?! Had he just thought that his *cousin* and his *best friend* looked *gorgeous* together in bed, after a night of who knows what?! Brian shook his head slightly - this was just too much for him! He felt a small hand on his shoulder and finally managed to turn to his wife, meeting her concerned gaze. It calmed him down, as Leigh's presence always did, and he felt the color return to his cheeks.
"I... they... in there, in bed..." he stuttered, not knowing how he should say it. Leighanne just smiled at him and took his hand, pulling him outside. "Let's give them some privacy, honey... You can tell me all about it over a nice cup of coffee and a bagel."
Gratefully Brian followed his wife - she was right, that was just what he needed: coffee and a talk with his beautiful, understanding wife would enable him to think clearly again. That way he would be able to look both Kevin and Nick in the eyes when they decided to get off the bus. And he SO didn't want to think about what they would probably do before coming outside...

So, although they didn't know that, Kevin and Nick had Leighanne to thank for the smile on Brian's face as they finally left their refuge on four wheels to face the world.
Kevin had been quite nervous about telling his cousin about them and was holding his lover's hand tightly. Nick was feeling a bit braver - but only because he was too happy to let anything spoil the afterglow of another exhausting round of love making he was in. With Kevin by his side he was ready to face everything - and he trusted his best friend to come around to the changed situation once he had gotten over the initial shock. But he was just as surprised as the older man when Brian greeted them with a smile and a hug for each of them.

As it happened frequently Nick spoke before thinking and blurted out: "Who are you and what have you done to my Frick?"
Leighanne promptly burst out laughing, which caused her husband to shoot her a fake annoyed look before answering: "Well, I did have some time to get used to the idea..." At their incomprehending looks he explained, getting a little red around the ears. After finishing, both his friends were laughing hard and after a while Brian couldn't help but join in - the whole thing *was* pretty funny now that he had had time to get over the embarrassement.

After they had calmed down a bit Nick and Kevin joined the other couple at the breakfast table - although it was almost time for lunch now. They sat side by side, their thighs touching under the table and their fingers frequently caressing every body part they could reach. Kevin was smiling, letting Nick tease him and reciprocated by ruffling the younger man's hair and calling him âNicky'.
Brian watched in awe how comfortable they were with each other, how obviously being together made them happy. Kevin normally had quite a short temper with people who teased him too much and Nick usually hated it when people treated him like a child... It was as if they both had found what they had been looking for.
Brian glanced over at Leighanne beside him, noting the wide smile on her face as she watched two of her closest friends. She was genuinely pleased that they seemed so happy and Brian realized once more how lucky he was to have found her.

He was so lost in contemplating both his and his friends' relationship that he missed Nick nudging Kevin to direct his attention to something happening on the parking lot. They were facing the glass front of the private breakfast room the hotel had provided on the first floor, while Brian and Leigh were facing the door. Thus only Kevin and Nick saw Howie's bus come alive and their two friends walking across the parking lot to the hotel.
Nick was sporting the famous Carter smirk and Kevin's eyes went wide as a lot of things fell into place, alerting Brian that something was happening behind his back. He craned his neck trying to see what it was, but Howie and AJ had already entered the hotel. "What's up?" he inquired as he saw the look of sudden comprehension pass between his cousin and his best friend.
Kevin swallowed and looked at Nick for help, but the younger man had obviously decided to just sit back and enjoy the show with a wide grin on his face, leaving Kevin to answer: "Well, cuz... I know you've already had to swallow a lot today... But I think I should warn you that it's not over yet..."
Brian interrupted, saying jokingly: "What is it? Have you and Nick decided to adopt or what? I don't think there's much left that could shock me any..." The words died down and his face went first white and then red as the door to the breakfast room opened to admit their missing friends.

Kevin and Nick turned around to see the reason for Brian's stunned expression and Leigh's wide eyes. They saw what they had already seen on the parking lot - AJ with both arms draped around Howie, nuzzling his neck in a completely inappropriate public display of affection that would have given management a heart attack.
Howie's steady gaze registered the looks on his friends' faces, ranging from complete shock (Brian) to open amusement (Nick). He made no move to break out of AJ's possessive embrace, on the contrary leaned even more into it, covering AJ's arms with his own, enjoying the feel of soft lips on his skin. He had been ashamed of his feelings long enough. No more hiding for him - although he knew that they would have to tone it down in front of the public. He just didn't want to pretend around his friends and family - and if AJ's behaviour was any indication, his lover didn't want that either.

Howie smiled contently and broke the silence in his normal sweet voice: "Good morning! Everyone slept well?" He winked at Kevin who replied with a wide smile. Nick couldn't be quiet anymore and jumped from his seat, enthusiastically hugging his two friends. "I knew it, I just did!" he pronounced with a satisfied smirk. "And I think it's great - after all you did for me and Kev... How much did it cost you to bribe Kevin's bus driver?"
AJ, his head still resting on Howie's shoulder, just snorted: "You don't think I paid him, do you? When I told him that it would help to dislocate the stick Kevin's had up his ass lately he was ready to pay *me*!" Kevin couldn't help but join in as Nick broke into infectious giggling, followed by AJ's barking laughter. It was true, he had been insufferable lately - but those days were over...

Howie fought back a smile as he looked at Brian who was still sitting there, staring at them wide eyed. He saw with a good deal of relief that Leighanne had one hand on her husband's arm and was smiling at him and AJ, telling him without a word that she was okay with them.
"Rok? Can you live with J and me?" he asked softly as Brian's blue eyes met his worried gaze. He wanted him so bad to be okay with it!
Brian looked at Howie and AJ, seeing the same kind of contentment he had seen in Kevin and Nick. How could he begrudge them the happiness he himself had with Leigh? He knew that both of them had been looking for that kind of fulfillment - and they had obviously found it in each other. Howie was literally glowing and AJ's love was burning brightly in his unshaded eyes.

Seeing Howie's face begin to cloud over with fear of rejection Brian surprised him by giving him a wide grin, also catching AJ's eyes as he said: "Damn, now I'm the only straight Backstreet boy! That must be the best joke ever!" His laughter was genuine and affectionate as he stood to embrace his brothers warmly, hearing their relieved laughter as Nick and Kevin joined them in a big group hug.
Howie felt warmth flow through him and fill him as he realized that it would be okay - they were together, a group, a family...
"Don't you dare cry, D!" he heard AJ's raspy voice in his ear and felt him squeeze his hand tightly. "Otherwise I'll cry, too - and Nicky would *never* let me live that one down!"


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