Three Nights

Author's Note: Secret Santa fic for Lita - hope she likes what I came up with... She wanted tour bus, I give her tour bus! LOL
Beta: Thanks to Deb for checking it through and making valuable suggestions that definitely improved this fic!


Five Men Bus

In the beginning there was Europe, where everything was so close together that they rarely rode their second-hand tour bus overnight. It was shabby hotel rooms that they had to share most of the time, and none of them were really sorry about it.

They lived in each other's pockets enough already as it was, they didn't need to be sandwiched together for the night. Having the single bedroom was a coveted privilege, one that Kevin and Howie rotated between them mostly, except when AJ rebelled and threatened to be in an unbearably foul mood if they didn't give in.

Nick sometimes pouted about never having the single -- either he shared with his mom, whose presence made him feel at home and babied to death at the same time; with AJ, who sometimes seemed to resent being thrown in with the 'baby' but always was an exciting room mate; or with Brian, who didn't seem to mind having company and never demanded the single. So it was not as if Nick was the only one who never got the precious single room, but still, the fact that no one even considered giving it to him irked him.

So Brian, who always looked out for Nick, talked to Kevin one night, and suddenly Nick found himself instated into the single.

At once he spread all his stuff out, jumped on the bed for a bit, and turned the volume of his gameboy to the max. -- just because he always got told off when he did either of those things -- and finally settled in for a night of wonderful solitude and quiet.

Everything went great and Nick enjoyed pretending to be in his own apartment, with no one telling him what to do. It was all just as he had always imagined it, the way it had been before he joined Backstreet and left his home, left the fricking continent -- right until he turned off the lights to go to sleep.

Then, Nick found himself getting antsy after just a short while of complete silence. He started to miss the little noises of Brian's deep breathing and occasional snore. Of AJ's impatient tossing and turning in search of the least uncomfortable spot. Even of his mom tugging him in and kissing his forehead despite his protests of being too old for such a fuss.

He told himself not to be such a baby -- but to no avail, Nick tossed and turned all night and finally fell asleep only a couple of hours before the wake-up call.

He never told anyone about it, not even when AJ teased him relentlessly about the bags under his eyes the day after the single room 'experiment'. It just seemed too childish to admit it to one of the other guys -- they were all so grown-up. Even Brian, who was forever goofing off but was yet considered 'mature' by the people in charge, and AJ, whose cool attitude Nick envied and found somewhat intimidating at the same time.
Neither did he ever tell anyone that he treasured the nights they spent cooped up together on their tiny bus, for exactly the reasons why everyone else was always complaining about them.

Nick loved to have all four of them almost close enough to touch, only a narrow hall or a thin bunk bottom separating them. He enjoyed hearing them move around the bus or turn in their sleep, the different rhythms of their breathing and even Howie's soft snoring soothed him, as did the muted sound of night time conversations when insomnia drove two or sometimes even three of them into the cramped living area.

It made him feel secure and part of something -- as if the five individuals that were the Backstreet Boys somehow became one single being with five extensions, breathing and moving while the bus drove through the night.

But talking about these notions was totally out of the question, of course, so he grumbled just as much as everyone else when an over night ride was announced, just to settle down in his bunk and drift off to a blissful sleep.

One night was different, though.

Nick had found himself unable to fall asleep after a particularly good show at a club. Getting tired of tossing and turning restlessly, he had finally settled down in the lounge with his blanket, watching the dark landscape through the window and listening to the sounds of the others sleeping.

He was not surprised to hear footsteps coming from the bunks -- insomnia was something they all experienced from time to time -- and turned to smile at Howie, who smiled in return and silently sat down next to Nick, accepting a part of the scratchy cover.

They were silent for a while, content to sit there and share the blanket and the night. Nick let himself relax against his friend's warm body, lying his head on Howie's strong shoulder. He closed his eyes and luxuriated in the feeling of Howie's closeness, adding a more personal note to the cherished feeling of being surrounded by the sounds and presence of the others.

It was Howie who finally broke the silence, speaking softly in order not to wake up the others: "This is nice, isn't it?"

Nick, feeling too lazy to talk, made an inquiring noise, prompting Howie to continue. He could feel Howie's voice vibrate in his chest and Howie's warm breath on his cheek was almost a caress -- he wanted him to talk more, just to enjoy these sensations a bit longer.

"I mean, I know everyone always complains about being cooped up on the bus like sardines. But truth be told, I quite like it... you know, being so close to everyone, being able to hear you all breathe." There was a note of uncertainty in Howie's voice. "Is that ridiculous, Nicky? That I like knowing that you're all right here, right next to me..."

Howie's voice trailed off, and Nick opened his eyes and turned a bit to look into Howie's huge brown eyes. How come he had never noticed how...pretty Howie's eyes were? And how cute he was when he was biting his full lips nervously?

But, resolutely, he pushed these thoughts aside to be investigated later, and instead smiled, happy and a bit unbelieving. "God, Howie... that's not ridiculous at all! I thought I was the only one feeling that way." Nick's voice dropped to a whisper: "You know, I don't even like having the single, because then I can't hear you. Is that very childish of me?"

"It's not childish, Nicky, but I think your feelings about the single will change -- I'm sure soon you'll want your privacy, same as the rest of us. Especially AJ..." Howie grinned mischievously and Nick felt himself blush, at the suggestion as much as at the nick name. He decided that he liked it when Howie said his name in that gentle tone of voice.

They smiled at each other, feeling strangely connected, as if those admissions had formed some kind of bond between them. Then Howie maneuvered around on the couch, pulling Nick with him until he was nestled between Howie's legs, resting against his chest, while Howie wrapped his arms around Nick's middle.

"Are you comfortable?" Howie asked softly, his voice barely more than a breath against Nick's ear.

Nick nodded and relaxed into Howie's embrace. "Very. This is very nice, D..."

"Good. Then go to sleep now, Nicky -- who knows how long you'll be small enough for this..." Howie's soft chuckle was warm on Nick's skin and Nick impulsively lifted Howie's right hand and linked their fingers together.

It just felt right, he found himself thinking, right before doing as he had been told, falling asleep listening to
Howie's heartbeat while the bus rode on through the night.

Three Men Bus

Things were not obviously different after that night. It was just that now Nick started to see Howie. Not that he hadn't seen him before, but he hadn't been aware of him, not really noticed him, except in the way that one noticed someone one spent almost all of one's time with.

Now Nick felt connected to Howie in a special way, and he found himself interested in everything Howie did. For the first time he became aware of how sweet Howie really was, how he got along with everyone, even with AJ who was the complete opposite of Howie. Yet it was mature, well-mannered, and somewhat shy Howie D. who AJ went to whenever he needed someone to talk to.

Kevin also appeared to have a special connection with Howie -- Nick noticed that only with Howie Kevin seemed able to let down his protective 'big brother' attitude. With Howie, Kevin could talk without having to think everything through first, and Howie was also the one who made sure they got back to the hotel safe when Kevin needed to go out and let steam off in a club.

And although Brian didn't seem to need Howie the same way AJ and Kevin did, Howie's sweet temper made him a much safer target for Brian's pranks, and Nick suspected that Howie knew that Brian needed to be able to goof off in the middle of their crazy lives.

Nick himself was pretty sure that he didn't rely on Howie for any of the reasons the others did -- he had Kevin if he needed advice, AJ if he wanted to get crazy, and Brian for goofing off and everything else best friends did.

But ever since that night on the bus, Nick couldn't stop thinking about the strange feeling in his gut when he had looked into Howie's eyes after his confession. The feeling reminded him of when Brenda Myers had kissed him at Tim Gregson's birthday party last summer, only it seemed more intense now.

Nick was pretty sure that this was again something he should better keep to himself.

Maybe it would go away on its own, maybe one day Nick would wake up and not want to go look for Howie for a hug. Maybe one day Nick would look at a girl the way he found himself looking at Howie.

Only that it didn't go away. Instead it changed as Nick got older into something that Nick really didn't want to mention to anyone.

It was on a larger bus than the first one -- the 'fun bus', AJ liked to call it, as opposed to the 'boring bus' where Kevin and Brian slept. Nick missed hearing them, feeling them, but at least he still had AJ and Howie -- and the bus was still small enough for Nick to be able to clearly see Howie sleeping on the other side of the narrow hall.

He was lying on his side, facing away from the hall and from Nick. That would have been a disappointment to Nick, if Howie hadn't lost his blanket at some point and was lying there wearing only a pair of boxers and a ratty old t-shirt.

Nothing Nick had not seen before, but still -- something seemed different with Howie asleep like this, with no way of knowing that Nick was awake and watching him. During the day Howie always seemed a bit self- conscious, as if he was always careful what he was showing the world. Nick thought that maybe it had something to do with Howie being gay -- a secret, Howie had shared with all of them right at the beginning.

But now, at night, deep asleep on a dark bus, Howie seemed open, even vulnerable. Nick didn't know what it was, but something about the curve of his back, the way he was lying there almost in foetus position, made Nick want to reach over the space separating them. He imagined himself touching Howie, maybe cover him again with his blanket, or caress the untamed curls.

They were all very affectionate with each other all the time, so Nick could probably get away with something like that without problem, even should someone see him do it. But for some reason Nick couldn't bring himself to do it -- and he started to suspect that this was because once he was touching Howie, he might not want to stop.

Nick imagined himself running careful fingers along Howie's neck, playing with his hair, before letting them drift downwards, along Howie's spine. Maybe Howie would stop snoring -- a sound that Nick found he quite liked -- and mumble something in his sleep, pressing back against Nick's hand. Then Nick would furtively slip his hand under Howie's t-shirt, touching the soft skin just above the rim of his boxers. What would happen if he was then to let his hand wander around Howie's middle, to the muscled ridges of the abs Howie worked so hard for? Would Howie maybe sigh softly in his dream, his breath go just a bit faster? And then, if Nick would skim over the hard stomach, circling the slight dip of Howie's navel before going up to furtively caress Howie's
left nipple?

A low moan broke the monotone rumbling of the bus, and with a start Nick realized that it was him who had made the noise. He froze and listened for any sign that he had woken up Howie or AJ, but Howie was still snoring softly and Nick could hear AJ's deep breath in the bunk above him.

He was still staring across the hall at Howie, but his right hand was under his shirt, circling his own nipple lazily, while his left hand had somehow begun to rub his dick that was tenting his pants. There was already a wet spot, making stopping now not really an option.

Tearing his eyes from Howie's peacefully sleeping form, Nick rolled on his back and went to work in earnest. His eyes were pressed shut and he bit his lip in an attempt to keep his activities a secret. He didn't glance once across the hall as his movements became faster, didn't really need to.

The sounds of the bus covered the little noise that escaped him, and his hand muffled his breathless gasp of "Howie!"...

One Man Bus

It had of course not been the first time Nick had jacked off, not even the first time he had done it with someone else in the room (he was a teenager sharing rooms almost always, what else was he supposed to do?) -- but it was the first time that he couldn't deny who he had been thinking of.

Howie. One of his best friends. A man. Or boy, whatever. But most definitely nota girl.

And if he was honest with himself, Nick had to admit that girls had never appeared very appealing to him, except in a vague, almost abstract way. Most definitely had no girl ever taken his breath away, made his stomach plummet at the mere thought of her and caused him to try desperately to grow up quickly in order to be mature enough for her...

Did that mean that Nick was gay? Or was it just a phase -- a pretty long phase that didn't seem to want to end, but still a phase that would be over sooner of later?

Nick wasn't sure he wanted to be gay -- it seemed to awfully complicate things, because Lou had made it pretty clear in the beginning that things like that didn't fit into his picture of what they were supposed to be. And Nick didn't think that it fit into the picture even now that they had gotten rid of Lou.

But while he was trying to cope both with being unbelievably famous all over the world and with people starting to make fun of every little imperfection, imagined or real, Nick had admit that he probably didn't have a choice. Didn't even want one, not deep down where it mattered.

So Nick stopped freaking about labels and concentrated on being himself instead.

After a while that came to include him not trying to hide that important part of himself anymore, at least not where his family and closest friends were concerned. The reactions were varied, but all in all Nick was glad that he had gone through with it.

Somehow his mother's disgusted face didn't matter so much anymore when Howie beamed at him, his chocolate eyes glowing with pride, pulling Nick into his arms to hold him as if he didn't intend to let him go again.

But still, Nick kept his feelings for Howie a secret. He just felt as if talking about them would ruin them, turn them into something mundane, a stupid teeny crush -- although Nick was not a teenager anymore he knew that the others had yet to stop seeing him as one.

The only problem was that he started to get really tired of his own hand during lonely nights spent on his bus, while doing anything more than a quick blow-job here and there felt as if he was betraying Howie. Nick was painfully aware of that -- he still had a bitter taste in his mouth when he remembered his first time. Both of them, to be exact.

Not that the very first guy -- one of their dancers, a short guy with pretty brown eyes, a big smile and a soft voice -- hadn't been good to Nick. On the contrary, he had opened his body willingly for Nick, writhing and moaning appreciatively while Nick had pushed inside him, going almost crazy with the feeling of tight, oh-so- tight walls spasming around his cock. But afterwards Nick found himself wishing for the comforting sound of snoring and for that unmistakable scent that was Howie, and triumph at finally having done it turned to ashes in his mouth.

Nick had convinced himself that the disaster had happened because he had chosen someone looking too much like Howie, so the second guy -- an intern at Jive -- had been tall, taller even than Nick, with short red hair and green eyes. It hadn't really helped though.

Nick had enjoyed -- more than enjoyed if he was honest -- the feeling of being pressed into the mattress and strong hands preparing him gently, before a hard cock had entered him and, after the first short pain, had sent him into oblivion almost without touching anything else. Only after the guy had left had Nick allowed the tears to come, feeling as if he had given something away that should have been special, should have been Howie's.

Therefore Nick had stopped trying to find a substitute -- and grew increasingly irritable as his young body demanded to be satisfied. He went out with AJ, only to discover that something had happened to turn his friend into someone who was almost a stranger. He snapped at Brian when he received yet another invitation to spend time with him and Leighanne. He cold shouldered Kevin when he attempted to bring Nick to calm down.

That was when Howie sidled up to him after another sold out show that had left Nick tingling all over, and asked with an almost embarrassed smile: "Would you mind riding on my bus tonight?" He paused and the blush coloring his cheeks made Nick bite his bottom lip in frustration. "It's just that it's so lonely, all by myself... I miss having you close, Nicky."

Declining was not an option, not when Howie asked like that and Nick was extremely tired of the privacy of his own bus. So that night, after taking care of his usual after show hard-onin that venue's shower -- there was no way in hell Nick was going to jack off on Howie's bus -- Nick found himself on the big couch in the lounge of Howie's bus.

They had been talking about everything and nothing, and for the first time in what seemed like forever Nick had just relaxed and allowed himself to savor Howie's closeness.

Sighing comfortably, Nick curled up against Howie's side, a move Howie welcomed with a wide smile and an arm around Nick's waist. They were quiet for a while, listening to the noise of the bus and looking out into the black of the night. At one point Nick looked up at Howie to find the brown eyes trained on himself.

Nick smiled, and when Howie's smile mirrored his own, Nick had a moment of absolute clarity, almost of precognition.

His heart sped up a bit with the sure knowledge that this was it, that after all these years the moment he had dreamed of had come. He was going to kiss Howie, and Howie was going to kiss him back. He just knew it, the way he knew Brian's little half-snore, AJ's tossing and turning and Kevin's deep breaths.

So, without a moment's hesitation, Nick leaned over and let his breath mingle with Howie's, rejoicing in the surprised gasp as his tongue darted out to taste Howie's full lips for the first time. They tasted sweet and were soft and pliant beneath Nick's, the way he had known they would be. Addictive, he thought, as Howie got over his surprise and their tongues started a slow dance of promise and recognition.

Then Howie pushed him away, but Nick knew better than to fear rejection, so he just smiled and waited for Howie to catch his breath.

"Nicky..." Howie's voice was like silk, and Nick decided that he liked the nick name even better uttered in that tone of voice. He had a feeling that he'd like it even more cried out in passion...

"Nicky -- let's go to bed, okay? We don't need to give the driver a free show..." The sexy smirk, so unfamiliar to Nick, sent goosebumps down Nick's spine and the warm hand on his leg seemed burning hot.

Suddenly Nick's throat was dry and all he could do in the face of the fulfilment of his dream was smile so wide his face almost cracked and breathe: "No, not really..."

He knew that this time there would be no bad aftertaste.

And there wasn't.

Not even about not waiting for Howie to be his first, not when Nick managed to make Howie cry out "Nicky!" in a really high and incredibly sexy voice, gripping his hips strong enough to leave marks.

There was a lot of passion, but mostly there were kisses. Deep and slow and sweet. There was Howie holding Nick down, whispering hotly into his ear: "No need to rush, Nicky -- I want this to be special." There were the familiar planes and curves of Howie's body, now exciting and new. There were hands, a mouth, a body trying to explore every inch of Nick's skin. And there were gasped words of want and need -- and of love. Those were the words that ignited something inside Nick, something that had lain waste for too long.

Afterwards there was nothing but happiness and something akin to shock that all this had really happened, had been something Howie had wanted as well for quite some time.
"You know -- for the first time I'm really glad that we have our own busses! Just imagine what AJ would have done if he had caught us like this..." Nick tightened his hold on Howie to emphasize his words and felt laughter shake his lover's body.

"See, I told you that you'd be grateful for your privacy one of these days," Howie grinned, turning around in Nick's arms and kissing him softly. Then he settled down with his head on Nick's shoulder, their bodies fitting together perfectly, as Nick noted with satisfaction.
He felt Howie fall asleep like that, his snores somewhat muffled by Nick's neck, his heart beating against Nick's side.

Nick smiled into the darkness and let the rumbling of the bus lull him to sleep. Howie had been right -- it was nice to have your own bus.

At least if you had someone to share it with.

---

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