Aftermath

Soundtrack: "Heaven" by Warrant, mention is made of "Good Morning Starshine" from the musical 'Hair'.
Note: Specially written for Seara whose birthday was yesterday - many happy returns, girl!
I've broken this into two parts so I can send it out today as you begged me to... *g* The first part is the aftermath for AJ and Howie, the second how they face the other guys...


Part 1

AJ had imagined many times what it would be like to wake up beside Howie. The scenarios had varied - at times he had his head on Howie's shoulder or the other way around, other times he spooned Howie from behind, or else Howie spooned him... AJ had countless variation of that theme stored in his head.

But what he had not imagined was waking up alone.

The spot where Howie had lain curled up against him was still warm, so he couldn't have been gone long. AJ looked around, thinking that perhaps Howie had just had to use the bathroom. But the door was open and Howie nowhere to be seen.

Hot fear rose in AJ - had last night ruined it all? What the fuck had he been thinking, acting on his feelings like that? Howie had probably just gone along with him because he had had too much to drink and now he was regretting it. Or worse, he had just wanted a quick fuck and AJ had been the convenient solution.
Thoughts were running wildly through AJ's head and he knew only one solution - to get out of there as fast as possible!

Sighing heavily he got up, looking for his clothes. They'd smell horribly from the club, he knew, but he couldn't bear to take something of Howie's. Still naked he padded to the bathroom to relieve himself, deciding to take a shower in his own room. Staring into the mirror he noticed that the glow from last night had almost completely disappeared, that his eyes looked sad and frightened and that his lower lip quivered slightly - all in all he saw a pathetic picture of complete misery.
He felt like crying - and in the shower was the only place AJ could let go like that. Should someone notice his red eyes despite his dark shades he could just say that he had gotten soap in his eyes...

He only hoped that it wouldn't be Howie who asked, because he didn't know if he'd be able to look him in the eye. And Howie always knew when AJ was lying, it was as if he had a sixth sense for everything concerning AJ - some kind of 'AJ-dar'...
AJ almost laughed, but then he realized that obviously Howie didn't have any idea of what was going on with AJ - because if he had, how could he have left him like that? It was so unlike Howie, so unlike the gentle and loving person he had fallen in love with, so unlike his best friend with that underlying sense of humour who always knew when AJ needed him. So - what had gone wrong, when had the passionate night of a dream come true turned into the lonely morning of a broken heart?

AJ was so lost in his melodramatic thoughts that he literally jumped when a pair of muscled arms were wrapped around his middle and Howie's tender voice inquired: "What're you doing staring into the mirror like that? Looking for something specific?"
AJ met Howie's eyes in the mirror and saw happiness and contentment shining there. And as the knowledge that it was really Howie embracing him, pressing against his bare backside he could see the misery disappear from his own face and a slightly dorky look of pure joy replace it.

"I.. I thought you had left..." he said softly, suddenly a bit ashamed of thinking that Howie would do something like that to him.
But Howie seemed to understand because he now planted an open mouthed kiss on AJ's shoulder blade. "I went to get us some breakfast from MacDonalds - I wanted you to wake up to the smell of your favorite food. I'm sorry I didn't leave you a note, didn't think you'd be up so early." Howie's smile was a bit sheepish, thawing the layer of icy fear AJ had built around himself after waking up alone completely. Howie had gone for breakfast! Specially for him!

With a big grin AJ turned around in Howie's arms and let a finger wander over Howie's face, lingering on his lips, then going on to draw circles on the soft fabric of Howie's t-shirt. "You got us breakfast? That's sweet, really sweet of you D! Let's see what I can do to reward your efforts..." With satisfaction he saw Howie swallow hard and although he really had not planned on more than a kiss or two - after all they had to be at the studio in about an hour - AJ suddenly had a better idea.
He took Howie's hand and led him back to the bedroom, well aware that Howie's eyes were practically glued to his naked ass. He saw two bags of MacDonalds take away standing on the table, but for once AJ didn't feel like eating his favorite fast food - not when they could put the time they had left to a much better use...

Lying down on the bed he pulled Howie on top of him, wrapping both arms and legs around him. For a while they stared at each other, unspoken sentiments charging the air between them. It just felt so good, so absolutely right, despite the fact that Howie was quite heavy and fully clothed while he was stark naked.
AJ knew with absolute certainty that this was worth everything. He didn't care if he never performed anymore - just as long as he got to hold Howie and feel his arms around him.

Seemingly noticing that AJ had gone off into his own world Howie's face broke into a smile that somehow managed to be tender and sexy at the same time. "Good morning sunshine..." he half sang, nuzzling AJ and rocking his hips slightly.
That got AJ's attention almost immediately and he grinned back, pushing up against Howie's half hard cock. "They sing 'good morning starshine', D - you really should learn your oldies..." he teased and they laughed companionably before becoming serious and closing the distance between them for a good morning kiss.

When they had to pause for air Howie, still in top of AJ, because there was no way AJ was letting him go again, smiled softly and said: " I know what they sing - but I like 'good morning sunshine' better! It just fits you better than 'starshine'..."
AJ felt a lump in his throat but kept his tone light as he replied: "So you're saying that I'm no star, D? Me, the incredible McLean?" Howie stared at him and put a hand on his forehead as if to check if he had a fever. His eyes were twinkling and although AJ had thought himself pretty damn happy he now was near ecstatic - specially when Howie kissed him quickly and said: "You might be a star to everyone else - but to me you're like the sun, Aje..."

AJ swallowed hard but couldn't stop his voice from shaking lightly as he answered with a smile that was so wide it almost hurt: "God, you're such a sap, D!" When he saw the slightly hurt look in Howie's eyes he quickly amended: "And fuck, don't I love you for it..." The smile on Howie's face mirrored his own and for a while they just stared at each other.
AJ was hovering dangerously between laughing at the pathetic pair they were or crying for happiness - instead he decided to go back to what he had planned for them before all of this emotional shit had come up. Therefore he tightened his hold on Howie and kissed him deeply. The friction of Howie's trousers against AJ's cock almost drove him crazy and he started a rhythm that Howie was quick to take up.

They both knew that they didn't have a lot of time, so Howie quickly pulled off his trousers, together with his boxer briefs, so that their erections were now rubbing deliciously against one another. Howie, hoisted up on his elbows above AJ, buried his face against the bare skin of AJ's neck, biting down with a sharp gasp as AJ's hand kneaded Howie's cheeks. "God, Aje - fuck me, please fuck me!" he groaned.
Hearing those words being said in that unbearably sexy voice AJ felt his hips buck and again lost complete control of what he was saying, a stream of curses mixed with endearments and sex talk leaving his lips.

They rolled over and AJ searched quickly for the lube from last night, only pausing to free Howie of his t-shirt and tease his nipples. When his fingers were buried inside Howie he almost came, hardly able to believe what he was about to do. But he managed to prepare Howie thoroughly, enjoying the sight of his writhing beneath him, sighing and begging him for more in that sexy voice AJ got never tired of hearing.
When he was sure Howie was ready he quickly lubed himself, knowing that he'd be lucky to last a couple of minutes as it was, without Howie's help.

Then he was there, Howie's muscles tight around his cock, his legs drawn up to allow AJ better penetration. As they had last night their hands entwined again and their eyes locked, making the act all the more intimate. Sweat glistened on both their bodies and their movements became more and more frantic. Feeling himself getting close AJ let go Howie's left hand and took his erection instead. That was all it took - with a cry Howie pushed up against AJ and exploded, taking AJ with him.

Afterwards they rested in each other's arms, AJ feeling completely content. This time no doubts marred his afterglow.

"Oh fuck!" Howie exclaimed suddenly. "Shit, we have to be down in the lobby in like 10 minutes!" But although AJ knew that Howie hated being late he noticed that Howie didn't break their embrace at once, but instead tightened his arms around him, an action that caused a puddle of warmth to form in AJ's stomach and spread all over his body.
But as much as he would have loved staying that way he sighed and sat up, kissing Howie quickly. "I'll go take a shower real quick and you call Kevin that we're on our way, okay?" Howie smiled at him gratefully and AJ felt really good about his decision to be mature about it...

Well, mostly mature at least - because when he felt Howie's eyes follow him to the bathroom he grinned and put a small wiggle into his step. He was rewarded with a low groan and a thud that sounded suspiciously like Howie hitting his head against the wall. AJ's smirk got wider. Why should he be the only one regretting that they had to leave their bed?

Part 2

When he came out of the shower after what had to be his quickest shower in history - he was after all known for never showering on the tour bus because he liked to take his time - Howie had disappeared again, along with AJ's clothes. This time, though, there was a note laying on the desk in Howie's neat handwriting:
Went to your room to shower, took your dirty clothes with me . Come over when you're done ... Love, D.

AJ couldn't suppress a goofy grin as he read the last two words. "Love, D." Could this day get any better?

Considering the rest of the message he discovered one major flaw - how was he supposed to get to his room with no clothes on? But then he saw that Howie had laid out sweatpants and a t-shirt for him. Of course - Howie always thought of details like that!
Before putting them on AJ couldn't resist burying his nose in the soft fabric, relishing in the warm, slightly spicy smell of Howie that lingered there, mixed with some fresh scented fabric softener. Putting on those clothes was almost like being hugged by Howie...

When he caught himself getting all mushy about wearing Howie's clothes AJ couldn't help but chuckle. God, he was absolutely and thoroughly whipped - and enjoying every minute of it!

Shaking off these thoughts he quickly looked around - he didn't want to leave Howie's room in a mess, that just wouldn't do. Seeing that Howie had already straightened everything out - probably while talking to Kevin at the same time - he left the room where he had spent one of the most amazing nights of his life and went over to his own room.

Howie had thoughtfully left the door slightly ajar so AJ could get in without his key card and the noise of the shower brought some very nice images to AJ's mind. But knowing that they really couldn't afford to get side tracked again he got dressed quickly, trying to ignore that Howie was moving around in his bathroom, a strangely erotic thought.
He put on a pair of camouflage pants and looking at himself in the mirror decided to keep Howie's black t-shirt on. It was looser than his normal stuff, due to Howie's broader frame, but he liked the thought of having a part of Howie next to his skin.

"You're going to wear this?" Howie leaned against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest, watching AJ with a smile.

AJ looked down at himself and fidgeted a bit. Perhaps that had been a stupid thing to do. "Yeah - if you don't mind, that is..."

Shaking his head Howie closed the distance between them to kiss AJ, his hands slipping under the t-shirt as if of their own volition. "No, I actually kinda like the idea..."
AJ grinned into their kiss at the slightly breathy sound of Howie's voice. It was good to know that he was not the only one affected by it.
But all too soon, in fact before AJ had been able to do any exploring of his own, Howie's responsible streak kicked in, much to AJ's dismay. He really admired Howie's ability to stay on the good side of people, specially of Kevin, but not when being irresponsible promised to be so much more fun.

"We really have to go now, Aje..." Howie used a tone of voice AJ knew all too well, he always felt like a toddler when on the receiving end of it and he knew that he might just as well go along with it, since it meant that Howie had made up his mind. And Howie could be very stubborn when he wanted to.

So five minutes later they entered the lobby where everyone else was already waiting. Seeing the worried looks everyone shot him AJ began to have some dark suspicions. "What exactly did you tell Kevin, D?" he inquired, well aware of the edge in his voice.
Howie flushed a bit and mumbled something. "What? I didn't hear you, D..." Again mumbling - and they had almost reached the others, so AJ took Howie in a friendly looking headlock. "Please, D - repeat that in a way that I can understand!" "Itoldhimthatyoualmostdranklastnightandthatwestayeduplatetalking..." Howie managed to meet his eyes and added sincerely: "Sorry, but I really couldn't think of anything else that would stop him from murdering us..."

AJ pondered this. "So you used my status as alcoholic to explain why we were both late this morning?" Howie nodded, obviously suffering from a guilty conscience. He looked adorable, so AJ decided to let him off the hook: "That was pure genius, D! If we weren't in public I'd kiss you - I really didn't feel like another lecture on the virtue of punctuality from Kevin!" AJ grinned broadly and after realizing that he was not mad Howie grinned back.
They had reached the others and seeing their relaxed faces a lot of tension disappeared, making AJ feel almost bad for worrying them. But when he thought of the alternative he decided that he could live with it.

"Okay, okay - we're finally here! Sorry to have kept you waiting, guys", he announced. "Well, you're here now - so let's go!" That of course came from Kevin, so everyone got up and prepared to leave.
Brian stopped AJ, who was hot on Howie's heels, wanting to get the seat beside him. "So you're okay, Bone?" he asked, concern evident on his face. Again AJ's conscience twinged, but just then Howie turned and mouthed "Later", giving AJ's one of his infamous winks. AJ firmly suppressed his urge to confess and simply smiled, covering his eyes with sunglasses as they left the building. "Yeah, I'm great - thanks, Rok!"
Brian seemed convinced, but, shooting AJ an unreadable look, added: "You know, whenever you need someone to talk - about anything at all..." AJ nodded and hugged him quickly - he was grateful to have such supportive friends, even if their interest meant that there was no chance in hell Howie and him could keep their new found relationship a secret...

That reminded him of something important and he raced after Howie, almost bowling over Nick in the process, which earned him an annoyed "Fuck, AJ - look where you're going!" But AJ could have cared less about any of his bandmates right now. He jumped into the car, climbing over Kevin, getting another angry and slightly confused look, before settling down next to Howie.

Leaning close so Kevin wouldn't overhear he blurted out: "Are we in a relationship now?"
Howie's eyes widened in shock - he obviously had not expected AJ to ask something like this with everyone else around. But much to AJ's relief he nodded and smiled at him warmly, taking AJ's right hand, that was lying between their thighs, into his left one, shielding the gesture by turning slightly in his seat and crossing his legs. AJ couldn't help but admire the stealth with which his boyfriend did this - he would probably have been caught in the act. He felt conspicuous enough already with the Nick-esque way he had behaved in his haste to get to Howie and with the completely atypical smile he felt creeping onto his face, no matter how many times he schooled his features.

And the fact that Howie's thumb was drawing small circles on his hand didn't help at all.

Recording went surprisingly well. Surprisingly so because AJ knew that everyone was wondering about what the hell had gotten into him. But he didn't care, he just felt like goofing around - and draping himself all over everyone gave him the opportunity to drape himself over Howie, too. And Howie seemed more than happy to offer AJ something to lean on.

AJ ignored the confused glances he got - but he was well aware that it was borrowed time. And rightly so, because peace lasted only until lunch break.

Everyone except Backstreet and their security had left and they all enjoyed the freedom of being among themselves, away from prying eyes. AJ saw Howie leave for the bathroom and hastily declined Nick's and Brian's offer of a round of Basketball. He had some very interesting ideas about Howie and bathrooms...
But he didn't get to try them out right away, because one glance at Frick and Frack's determined faces told him that they were burning with curiosity. He could only wait for them to pounce.

Predictably enough it was Nick who couldn't stand AJ's fake innocent look anymore. "Cut this crap, Bone! Even I have noticed you acting weird - and after all they call me the dumb one - so just tell us why you... well, behaved like me today!"
Brian nodded and AJ felt kind of like an animal trapped in a corner. "Nick's right - you were a lot too cheerful today. And you were all over us all day long, much more than usual... We're your friends and we're just concerned - because, in all honesty, the only times you behaved like that in the past were when you were high..."

They were both really serious now and AJ felt the familiar mix of guilt and resentment rise. How many times would he have to prove himself worthy of their trust? When wouldn't their first thought be anymore that he was on something?
Taking a deep breath AJ calmed himself. If he lost his temper Brian and Nick would only become more suspicious. "I appreciate your concern, guys - but please believe me when I tell you that I've been sober and clean ever since going to rehab. I'm just in a good mood today, that's all!"

Okay, they looked a bit less suspicious, but Nick was obviously not yet satisfied. "But why? Howie told Kev that you almost broke down yesterday and that he had to comfort you almost all night long - and today you're all happy... I just don't understand that."
AJ knew how hard he had taken it all and he understood Nick's need to be reassured that it wouldn't happen again. Should he really tell them the truth?

In the end he decided on a half truth: "Last night was really special to me... Howie was there for me - and I think with his help I managed to resolve several things that had confused me for a long time. I guess I'm just really relieved and happy about it..." Brian smiled at him and Nick also seemed to believe him, so AJ decided to go find Howie now. They really had to decide what they would do - if they should tell the others or try to keep it a secret a bit longer.

Right then Howie entered the room and AJ couldn't help but smile at him, specially when he saw the way Howie's face lit up as he noticed him.

In the short moment - AJ was sure that it really couldn't have been longer than a minute - that he had locked eyes with Howie a very strange gleam had appeared in Brian's eyes. He obviously was not finished with AJ and AJ groaned inwardly. He really wanted to get Howie alone now!
The silent groan turned into an audible gasp as Brian glanced over at Howie and said casually: "You're in love with him, aren't you, Bone?"

Through his shock AJ saw that Nick's jaw had also dropped to the floor - at least he was not the only one surprised...
"What?! How did you get this idea, Rok?" he managed to say, but his voice didn't sound very convincing even to his own ears.

"I just put two and two together. One, you are wearing Howie's shirt, something you wouldn't be caught dead in normally, and two - you really should stop looking at each other that way. It's a dead give away!"
"What is a dead give away?" AJ's stunned face had obviously woken Howie's curiosity. "The way you two stare at each other lovingly", Brian explained, still completely calm and collected, as if he had not just discovered that two of his bandmates were in love with each other.

AJ noticed that Howie didn't seem to be as shocked as him and Nick. He just smiled his calm smile and took AJ's ice cold hand in his own, saying: "You're probably right - but it's still so new, we have not yet learned how to hide it..."

The feeling of holding hands with Howie in public - well, in front of two people at least - was surprisingly nice and AJ began to smile again, leaning over to kiss Howie quickly. Even Brian seemed a bit surprised at AJ's bold action - but he should have known that AJ never passed off the chance to shock people...
Nick's voice was slightly choked as he finally managed to get over his surprise enough to talk: "So, it's true? You two are... a couple or something?"

AJ smirked at him and snuggled closer to Howie, whose arms seemed to wrap themselves around him almost instinctively. "Yeah, or something, Nicky... Got a problem with that?"
But Nick surprised him by starting to laugh and pulling both him and Howie into a hug. "Nope, no problem at all... I've been wondering how long it would take you!"
AJ felt another familiar body join their hug and knew that Brian had joined in. "I don't really understand how you can be in love with a man - but already today I saw that it makes you two happy, so I'll support you guys all the way!"

AJ could literally feel the love and understanding coming from Nick and Brian and he relaxed into that Kodak moment. He had never dared to imagine that things would go so well - that was just not the way things went for AJ McLean. Specially not in relationships!
But here he was, in the arms of his lover and two of the most important people in his life - and everything was perfect. If only he could get rid of the nagging suspicion that things wouldn't stay so perfect...

But determined AJ pushed all those negative thoughts to the side - this relationship would be okay, he had finally found someone he could be with and he refused to let his stupid doubts influence it!

When they pulled apart emotions were still running high, but Brian effectively broke the tension, the way he knew best - with an easy joke: "But I swear to god, guys - if I ever catch you doing anything nasty ... If you won't do it for me, at least think of the kid here and refrain yourself from scarring our innocent little Nicky for life!"
Nick swatted Brian, crying: "Hey, I resemble - emm, resent that! You're just jealous because I actually have a regular sex life - unlike other people in this room..." Of course Brian took offence and they were soon in the middle of a wrestling match, with Howie and AJ standing there, laughing their asses off at their antics.

But Brian's remark had reminded AJ of his earlier plans and he whispered into Howie's ear: "What do you think - shall we leave the kids to their games and go do something nasty as Bri said?" Howie's answering grin almost split his face in two and without another word they took off.

When they passed the bathroom AJ pulled Howie into it, quickly checking whether it was empty.
"Aje, do you think that's a good idea? Anyone could come in..." Howie looked a bit doubtful, but AJ saw the gleam in his eyes and knew that he would get to try some of his ideas...

"Oh, come on, D - it'll be fun, I promise!" AJ almost purred, knowing very well the devastating effect of his voice. And really, Howie stopped resisting and almost pushed AJ into a stall.
Once inside all thought of caution flew out of the window as their mouths met, their tongues immediately starting to battle. AJ cupped Howie's ass and pulled his hips against his groin, the rubbing sensation shooting through his body, setting his veins on fire immediately. Howie moaned into his mouth, his hands sliding under AJ's, no his t-shirt, caressing his chest, playing with his nipples.

Everything seemed to be happening very quickly, almost as if in fast forward. At least that was what AJ felt They had hardly started and already their motions became somewhat desperate. And when Howie's mouth latched on AJ's neck, sucking and licking, AJ didn't mind that he was probably going to leave a mark - on the contrary, he wanted him to, wanted Howie to mark AJ as his, to brand him as his possession. Howie's hands moved to AJ's back and slipped into his pants and suddenly breathing got hard and AJ knew that if he didn't do anything drastic it'd be over in no time at all.

So with one determined move, that took Howie completely by surprise, he shoved him against the opposite wall, dropping to his knees and removing Howie's trousers and boxer briefs with one fluid motion. And before Howie could say more than "Oh, fuck, Aje!" AJ had already engulfed his hard cock with his mouth, sucking and licking, trying to drive Howie as crazy as Howie drove him.
Looking up he saw that Howie's head rolled back, his eyes falling shut. Then a pair of strong hands gripped his head and forced him to concentrate on the matter at hand. But he didn't need to see Howie to know that he had accomplished his mission - the steady stream of moans and the bucking of Howie's hips were proof enough. He dug his fingers into Howie's soft flesh and revelled in how different from the rest of his skin his cock felt and tasted. He could almost come from just sucking Howie, trying to take as much of him in as possible.

His work was rewarded soon by the unmistakable signs of Howie approaching the edge and with one last effort AJ relaxed his throat and took Howie in all the way. He tasted Howie's come almost immediately and swallowed, hearing Howie scream his name, his voice almost as high as when he sang.

That was a mistake as it turned out, because suddenly a very familiar deep Southern voice exclaimed: "What the fuck?!" And AJ knew that all his bad premonitions were about to come true. He felt everything freeze, his mouth still wrapped around Howie's cock, Howie's hands gripping his hair. Then the door to their stall, that they obviously had forgotten to lock, flew open, setting everything in motion again. But by that time it was of course too late and Kevin caught them in the worst possible position.

Well, if they had been fucking - that might have been worse, AJ concluded and tried to convince his muscles to cooperate and let him get up to face Kevin's wrath. Because there was no doubt in AJ's mind that Kevin was livid - the whole atmosphere was charged with it, he didn't need to look at Kevin to visualize the look of rage and shock on his face.
When he heard Howie's soft voice say "Kevin", sounding suddenly very small, AJ finally found the power over his limbs again. He raised himself to stand, his hands never leaving Howie's skin as he moved to cover his nakedness with his body.

He was scared - but protecting Howie took precedence, even if Howie probably didn't need protecting. Kevin's rage would be directed at only one person - and AJ knew that this person wouldn't be Howie. He was glad for that - he didn't think that he could bear to see those green eyes burning with cold fury directed at sweet, gentle Howie.

So AJ finally turned to face Kevin, meeting his gaze defiantly. And to his surprise he saw Howie doing the same - normally Howie tried to avoid open conflict whenever possible. But now Howie wrapped his arms around AJ as if to say 'He is mine - and nothing you say can change that!" It was almost with awe that AJ realized that Howie felt as protective of him as the other way around. It almost made him smile, this knowledge that no matter what would happen they'd make it through.

But only almost - because Kevin still hadn't said anything, just stood there staring at them. And that seemed worse than screaming would have been. AJ had expected screaming - Kevin's rages were famously loud. But a silent Kevin... AJ had no idea how to deal with that.

It was Howie who finally had enough of it all, as AJ should have known. After all, Howie was the mediator, even if he happened to part of what had caused the problem. "I.. I'm sorry you saw this, Kev. AJ and I certainly didn't plan on letting you know that way. But it has happened and I just want you to know that this is our first day as a couple. We didn't hide it from you, we were just waiting for the right time. I'm not sorry for sharing this experience with AJ - I'm just sorry that you had to witness it."

When Howie stopped AJ was in awe at his ability to find the right words. He would probably have yelled at Kevin, lost his temper and made things even worse. But Howie had said everything that needed saying - now it was up to Kevin.

AJ could almost see Kevin think, see him trying to figure out what to do, how to react. When he did he was composed, his voice serious and a bit sad, as if he regretted that he couldn't say what he would have liked to say. "I... I think I need some time to process all this. Don't think that I hate you or something - but I can't accept it just like that. At least not yet."

And with one last apologetic look Kevin turned and left.

AJ exhaled loudly. "Shit, that didn't go well!" Howie shook his head, moving to pull up his pants again. "It could have been worse", was all he said and AJ didn't quite know what to reply.
He opted for an apology. "I'm sorry, D - the bathroom was my idea. I should have fucking known that someone was bound to come in! And now things will be all weird with Kevin, perhaps even mess up the group..." He felt anger rise - why did he always do such stupid things? He always messed up, he should know that by now!

Just as AJ was about to really start to blame himself he felt Howie's soft fingers under his chin, forcing him to look up. "It's not your fault, Aje! I wanted it, too - and hell if I didn't enjoy it as much or probably even more than you!" He laughed, his eyes soft and surrounded by soft lines AJ had never noticed before. He decided at once that he loved them - just as he loved everything that made Howie Howie.

His answering smile was still a bit timid, but he felt that it was a start.

"You know, Kevin won't stay mad forever", Howie said, serious once more, entwining their fingers. "He'll think it through and come around in the end. It might take him a while, but he will. Because he loves us."

AJ nodded, knowing that Howie was right.

This was just the beginning, there was still a long road ahead of them.

But how did the saying go? 'Every long journey begins with one small step.'

They had taken that first small step.

Now he just had to see where it would lead them.

~~~
Warrant - Heaven

Got a picture of your house
And you're standing by the door
It's black and white and faded
And it's looking pretty worn

See the factory that I worked
Silhouetted in the back
The memories are grey
But man they're really coming back

I don't need to be the king of the world
As long as I'm the hero of this little girl

Heaven isn't too far away
Closer to it every day
No matter what your friends might say...

How I love the way you move
And the sparkle in your eyes
There's a color deep inside them
Like a blue suburban sky

When I come home late at night
And you're in bed asleep
I wrap my arms around you
So I can feel you breathe

I don't need to be a superman
As long as you will always be my biggest fan

Heaven isn't too far away,
Closer to it every day. (oh-oh)
No matter what your friends might say...
We'll find a way

(Whoa, yeah, babe)

Now the lights are going out
Along the boulevard
The memories come rushing back
And it makes it pretty hard

I've got nowhere left to go
And no one really cares
I don't know what to do
But I'm never giving up on you

Heaven isn't too far away
Closer to it every day (oh-oh)
No matter what your friends say
I know we're gonna find a way

Heaven
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh
Heaven
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh Oh
Heaven
It's not too far away
Oh-oh
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh
Yeah

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