Note: Still not SweetBone - what is _wrong_ with me? *g*
This was inspired by "Antimatter", a Justin/Lance fic by Synchronik. I'm not really into NSync (and most certainly not into Lamblove), but there are a number a damn good writers in NSync slash land and I would be stupid not to read them just because I don't like Justin... 😉

Nick had crushes. That was a well known fact inside Backstreet, so well known in fact that no one really took them seriously anymore. That was why Howie couldn't suppress a laugh when Nick cornered him outside the recording studio, twisted his hands in Howie's sleeve, looked down at him with hardly contained emotions in his eyes and said a bit nervously: "I'm... I'm in love with you!"
Howie just couldn't help it, laughter just bubbled up and spilled over, leaving him leaning shaking and breathless against the sun warmed wall. He reached out and patted Nick's shoulder, managing to say between to fits of giggles: "That's... that's nice, Nick! Thanks for telling me!"
Nick flinched away, red coloring his cheeks. Quickly he turned away, shoulder hunched, and murmured: "Yeah, right... Glad I could make you laugh, D!"

Howie looked after him, his laughter suddenly gone to be replaced by a bad conscience. But then he remembered the countless times Nick had come to him, his face shining with excitement and happiness. He would drape himself over Howie and announce in all sincerity: "I'm in love, D - I think I've finally found 'the one', and it's such a fucking great feeling!" For the next couple of weeks Nick would be bubbly and giddy with happiness, talking about nothing but how perfect the object of his affections was. But as quick as they had appeared Nick's feelings would evaporate again - until the next crush came along. Howie saw no reason to take this one more seriously than all the other times.

It was not even the first time Nick had had a crush on one of his band mates. Hell, Howie was the only one that _hadn't_ been pursued by him.
Understandably enough Brian had been the first one. Nick had been fourteen and head over heels in love with his best friend. To say that Brian had been surprised and shocked would be an understatement - he had not even known that Nick liked guys as well as girls. There had even been an emergency meeting of the three older Backstreet Boys to decide how Brian should handle the situation. There Brian had confessed, his face flaming, his eyes glued to the floor, that he had kissed Nick back when he had made his move during one of their Nintendo battles. "He's just so cute - and he was so natural about it, I couldn't help myself..." Brian had tried to explain. After recovering from their shock they had decided not to do anything about it and Kevin had told Brian that he didn't care what they did as long as it didn't affect the group. And it didn't. Nick and Brian had experimented a bit for about a month, but then things had somehow reverted to the way they had been before and Nick's next crush had been a giggling German girl with nice eyes and braces.

Kevin had come next. Nick had always hero worshipped the older man a bit, although he had resented still being treated like a baby with sixteen. But Kevin had been everything Nick longed to be when he was not happy with being Nick Carter - he was really handsome, in a dark, grown-up way, he always knew what to do and made people treat him with respect, all things Nick longed to be do and be. So it had not taken a lot until Nick was convinced that Kevin was _the one_ for him, his perfect soul mate. Kevin had let him down gently, hugging him tenderly and kissing him, quick and dry kisses that were completely brotherly. Nick had moped around the bus for a couple of weeks, nursing his "broken heart", until a pretty blonde boy in their crew caught his eye.

There seemed to be a rhythm to Nick's crushes on his band mates, because another two years went by until he fell for AJ. AJ was wild and free, he didn't care about other people's opinions and could pull off stunts that would have gotten Nick in serious trouble. Besides, with 18 Nick was finally old enough to go out and in some countries even old enough to drink legally, and partying with AJ was a lot more fun without the threat of Kevin's wrath hanging over his head. It was easy to sidle up to AJ on the dance floor and begin to grind with him, specially when they had both a nice buzz going. And when Nick confessed his love AJ had only laughed and ruffled his hair before pressing him up against a wall until Nick forgot all about his emotions because he was to busy _feeling_. After that night AJ had not behaved any differently towards Nick, but he had been careful to take at least one of the others with them until Nick had moved on to one of their dancers.

With Howie Nick had broken his two year rhythm and during the last year, when so many things had happened, Nick had seemed quite happy being single. Howie had thought that perhaps Nick had outgrown his crush phase - but obviously not. The only strange thing was that this time Nick behaved differently - no open displays of happiness, instead he seemed withdrawn and lost in thought most of the time. And he watched Howie.
Whatever Howie did, he always felt those blue eyes on him, not teasing or angry but with a seriousness and intensity that sent shivers down Howie's spine. The others noticed as well, specially because suddenly Nick stopped draping himself all over the others. And the closeness that had developed between Howie and Nick during the last year seemed to disappear from one day to the other.

It was AJ who cornered Howie and demanded: "What the fuck did you do to Nick, D? Did you two have a fight?"
Howie looked at his friend and said honestly: "I have no clue, Aje - he came to me and told me that he was in love with me, and..."
"And what?" AJ prompted him to go on.
"Well, I laughed... and thanked him..." Suddenly his reaction seemed a bit cruel to Howie and he continued quickly: "I know that this was not the perfect reaction, Aje, but what was I supposed to do? I thought he had outgrown having crushes - and he's never been interested in me that way!"
AJ looked at him long and hard and Howie's gaze dropped to the floor as he mumbled: "I mean, why should he? He's Nick Carter - and I, I'm just good old Howie D, a shoulder to lean on..."
He felt AJ's hand on his shoulder and raised his eyes, blushing a bit when he saw the compassion in his friend's dark eyes. "You're not good old anything, D - specially not to Nick! You should go and apologize - and give Nick some credit, okay? He's not a kid anymore."
After AJ had left Howie stared after him blindly, his thoughts racing. Coming to a decision he turned and went to find Nick.

He finally found him at the basketball compound, shooting hoops by himself. "Nick..." Howie's call made Nick stop for a moment, but then he went back to playing, ignoring Howie completely. But Howie was patient and sat down on a bench to watch, waiting for Nick to be ready to talk.
He couldn't help but admire the way Nick's muscles moved under his tanned skin and the grace with which he moved - looking at him like this, no one would have thought what a klutz he could be at times! 'But that's only because he's so tall', Howie reminded himself - and lately Nick had appeared to slowly grow into his man's body.

After perhaps 15 minutes of silently watching Nick play Howie decided that he had waited long enough. "Nick, please... I'm here to apologize!" This made Nick finally stop and walk over to Howie. He stood in front of him and Howie had to crane his neck to catch his eyes. "I behaved like an ass - I really shouldn't have laughed at you!"
Nick's eyes were unreadable as he replied: "No, you shouldn't have." But there was a catch in his voice that made Howie get up and look at him intently. He reached out and took Nick's hands in his, marvelling at their softness. He decided to ignore the almost electric spark he felt as he touched Nick - it was just that he hadn't touched him for a couple of days now, nothing special...
"I'm really sorry, Nick! I didn't want to hurt your feelings! But it just seems so... fantastic that you should love me..." Nick's eyes seemed to burn into Howie's and Howie suddenly found it hard to swallow. Nervously he repeated what he had told AJ: "I mean, why should you? You're... you, gorgeous and sexy you - and I, I'm only good old Howie D, nothing spe..."

Nick interrupted him, putting his hands on Howie's shoulder and squeezing them gently: "But I told you - I love you! Fuck! I'm _in love_ with you, Howie - why don't you see that?"
Howie looked at him, surprised the hear such passion in Nick's voice. "Perhaps because you've also claimed to be head over heels in love with Brian, Kevin _and_ AJ... Why should this be any different, Nick?"
Nick groaned impatiently. "I was just a _kid_ then, Howie! I didn't know what I wanted! But I do now... I know what I want, have for a while now..." His eyes sparkled as he leaned closer to Howie and Howie's breath hitched in his throat as he willed himself to stay still, concentrating on anything but Nick's closeness.
"You still don't believe me?" Nick asked, his voice soft. He was so close that Howie could feel his warm breath on his face. All he could do was look into those eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Nick smiled, a smile that made Howie bite his lower lip in an effort to hold back a moan. "Then I guess I'll have to show you..." Nick's voice was husky and Howie had difficulties to breathe.

And then he felt Nick's lips on his and himself being lifted against the wall. Reflexively he wrapped his arms around Nick's neck and moaned into the mouth he had dreamed of for so long. Their bodies fit together perfectly, as if they were made for each other. As if Nick had heard Howie's thoughts he broke their kiss quickly to say breathlessly: "Fuck, Howie - I was right, you _were_ made for me!" Passion and love were shining clearly in his eyes as he closed the distance between them again and Howie's last conscious thought was 'How could I have mistaken this for a crush?'.

This time there was no denying the sparks that charged the air around them.

Coldplay - Sparks

Did I drive you away?
I know what you'll say,
You'll say "Oh, sing one you know,"
But I promise you this,
I'll always look out for you,
that's what I'll do

I Say oh...
I say oh...

My heart is yours,
it's you that I hold on to,
that's what I'll do
I know I was wrong,
But I won't let you down,
Oh yeah I will, yeah I will
Yes I will

I said oh,
I cry oh.
I saw sparks
I saw sparks,
I saw sparks,
I saw sparks

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