Some Sort of Future
Sequel to Surprise.
Howie hadn't meant to be ostentatious about it, he really, really hadn't. He and Brian had been--what, together? sleeping together, certainly--for a week. They hadn't told the others, hadn't even discussed doing so. Howie was waiting for Brian to bring it up.
In the meantime, things were going well. The sex was only getting better and better and...not that Howie had had so much experience that this should come as a surprise. In fact, seven days of sex with Brian, twice--morning and evening--on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday...he'd had more sex in that one week than in his entire life previous to it. Not that he was planning on sharing that with anyone, ever.
Howie had no idea if the sexual aspect of their relationship were affecting Brian comparably. Considering how quietly shaken it made Howie feel, as if an earthquake were slowly liquefying his bones, he rather thought not. But then, Brian was coming into this with a different objective.
And, for what it was worth, Howie could see Nick's interest now. He flirted gently with Brian, touching him every chance he got, sitting close on the sofa, staring deeply into his eyes when he talked to him. Somehow, it all just rolled off Brian's back. Occasionally he would smile conspiratorially at Howie when Nick put his hand on his arm, as if to celebrate the success of his plan. Howie didn't know how he did it. Could he really just accept that he was with Howie and shut off the lust and the love and the desire? It didn't seem possible. Still, it was nice to know that Brian was getting something out of being with him.
All in all, the status quo was a good thing, and Howie didn't want to disturb it. Certainly the few times that he considered how they might come out to the group, if Brian ever decided that he wanted to do so, he didn't picture it being at eight in the morning, Kevin opening the door to Brian's hotel room after the most perfunctory of knocks.
Howie thanked God that Brian had woken up still tired from the night before--too tired to want to do anything that would have put them in an even more compromising position--but, really, things were bad enough as they were. They'd been lying in bed talking quietly--naked, of course--Brian's head resting on Howie's bare chest and Howie's hand stroking through his hair.
AJ looked more than a bit stunned, but he recovered quickly. The other two did not. "Damn, Howie, this better be a new thing, or I'm gonna kick your ass for not telling me," he said, as Kevin and Nick gaped in the background.
"It's, yeah, it's new," Howie croaked, his lips feeling frozen. Brian slowly raised his hands to cover his blushing face. Howie could sympathize; if he were capable of moving that much, he'd be doing his pitiful best to hide from the others, too.
"New like last night or new like three months ago?" AJ persisted.
"Cool. So how'd it happen? I want details, man. Spill." To Howie's mortification, AJ started to walk closer, no doubt intent on sitting in the chair five feet from his and Brian's naked bodies and getting the full story.
Luckily, Kevin shook himself out of whatever shock-induced trance he'd been in and grabbed AJ's wrist, tugging him back. AJ yanked his arm away, his eyes flashing. "What the hell, Kevin?"
"You can torture Howie later. We should go eat breakfast and let them get...um...dressed." Kevin honest-to-God blushed, which Howie hadn't thought was even possible. He turned from AJ to talk to some point two feet to the right of Howie and Brian's heads. "We'll be in AJ's room for breakfast. Um, I guess we'll see you there."
"Why my room?" AJ whined.
Kevin smacked him, only to look instantly apologetic. Howie thought that he might be dealing with his newfound knowledge even worse than had been anticipated.
Or maybe not. Kevin was back to looking self-righteous. "If you hadn't spilled half a bottle of Drakkar Noir in my room, we wouldn't have this problem.
And just like that Kevin herded AJ and Nick into the hallway and shut the door behind him, and they were gone. Nick hadn't said a word the entire time, just stared with his pretty, painfully bewildered eyes.
Howie breathed carefully through his nose. This problem. He and Brian were a problem. Kevin disapproved of their...relationship. Howie wondered bitterly what Kevin would think of his cousin's less than platonic feelings for Nick, when he realized that Brian was shaking.
"Brian?" he asked tentatively, rubbing his back a little.
Brian just shook his head, his hands still covering his face.
Brian curled more tightly into Howie's body.
"You think maybe you can look at me, here? 'Cause I think I'm pretty much freaking out."
That got a reaction, as Howie had hoped it would. Brian wasn't the sort to let someone be miserable when there was any way he might be able to help. He let his hands drop and crawled up Howie's body so that he could hug him. "Is it my imagination, or was Kevin really not happy about us being together?" he asked, his voice a little shaky.
"I don't think Nick's about to start a fan club supporting our relationship, either," Howie said.
"AJ might," Brian snorted, and Howie shocked himself by giggling.
"He did seem a little...overenthusiastic," he admitted, and that set the two of them off laughing in earnest, which was just weird, especially when Brian's cheek pressed against Howie's and Howie could feel the silent tears wetting it.
"Hey," he said, squeezing Brian, "This isn't the end of the world. Kevin won't stay mad for long. And, you know, if it's really a problem, we don't have to keep...doing this."
Brian pulled away a little to look at him. "What? Are you...are you saying you want to break up with me?"
"No," Howie protested automatically, "Not at all. Only if, you know, you wanted to."
"But it's the first thing you think of when we get caught."
"I just...if you didn't want to, I'd understand. I mean, we're really doing this because of you in the first place, and..."
"I want to be your boyfriend, but not at your expense, Howie." Brian's voice took on the slightest chill. "I know when I came to your room a week ago...I maybe wasn't fair to you at all. But I didn't think I'd actually pressured you into doing something that you don't want to do."
"Then tell me what you want. Don't just try to make me happy."
Howie thought about Kevin's shock--and anger, maybe, though Howie was pretty sure that Kevin wouldn't break up the band over the two of them being slightly other than straight--and Nick's hurt bewilderment. He thought about Lou and management and the fans and the possibility of losing everything they'd worked for. He didn't think he'd ever been as selfish in his life as he was about to be: "I want you," he said.
And Brian smiled so brightly that Howie had to wonder if he were really being selfish at all, even then.
Just before they reached AJ's door, Howie pulled his hand free of Brian's. "We ought to give them time to get used to this," he said when Brian turned to him questioningly. Brian nodded, and they both reached out to knock on the door at the same time, then glanced at each other and giggled.
"It figures that the two of us that actually care about respecting privacy would hook up. This morning never would have happened if one of us had been on the other side of that door," Brian said.
"Come in," Kevin called when Brian rapped smartly on the door.
Kevin and Nick were sitting quietly together on the sofa. AJ was leaning back nonchalantly in one of the chairs, his feet propped up on his bed, reading...Libération? AJ was capable of many things, but his knowledge of French was stuck at "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" He carefully turned a page.
"Howie, Brian," he said without looking up from his perusal of the journal. "Morning. Did you sleep well?"
"AJ," Kevin said sharply as Brian cringed and Howie turned red.
"What?" AJ asked innocently. "I'm only trying to be polite."
"Stop being an asshole."
"How is asking after your friends' well-being assholish? So, Howie, Brian, anything interesting happen today? Or has it been same old, same old. It is only eight in the morn--"
"Stop it," Nick said quietly, and the room fell silent. "Kevin's right, AJ. You're not funny. This is serious." He raised his eyes from the floor finally, his gaze flickering across Brian to settle on Howie. "Congratulations," he said.
Howie flinched. He hadn't been expecting this. Because, sure, it was one thing to fall in love with Nick. Nick was beautiful and funny and affectionate and a good friend and strangely insightful, especially considering that his schooling left much to be desired. But Nick was also sixteen years old. Nick had absolutely no business falling in love back.
Howie had been so sure that, despite anything Brian might choose to believe, Nick couldn't possibly be in love with Brian. Not for real. He was too immature for love, too self-centered. He was allowed--he was sixteen; all teenagers were like that. It had to be just a crush, a normal, teenaged crush on his cute best friend. Howie was wrong.
And, yes, those were daggers Howie saw before him, shooting out of Nick's big blue eyes. Nick blinked suddenly and shook his head. His eyes stopped being lethal weapons and just looked very sad and young.
Kevin cleared his throat. "We should eat; we have that radio interview in less than an hour." He looked up at Howie and Brian, still standing in the middle of the room. "I'm assuming that this isn't...a one time only thing," he said carefully.
"Already too late for that," AJ crowed.
Kevin glared at him. "What I meant was...the two of you are in a long-term relationship."
"Yeah," Brian said, his voice cracking the slightest bit. Howie nodded.
"You're going to have to be careful. Unless, were you planning on coming out?"
The sound of Kevin--Kevin--asking that in his slow drawl, carefully determined to ask all the right questions, was too much for Howie, and he snorted. Brian turned quickly to look at him, his eyes still wide with alarm.
"Sorry," Howie said, stifling nervous laughter. "We don't want to come out, Kevin."
Kevin nodded, obviously relieved. "I don't think we should tell anyone, then. Obviously it's your decision--" It almost sounded as though Kevin didn't think that he was the high overlord of the Backstreet Boys, Howie thought snarkily. "--but it's probably best if we don't even tell Lou or anyone else from management."
"Don't need to. We've got your back," AJ said, approving.
"Backstreet against the world," Nick said, still softly, but he smiled a little at Howie.
And Howie let himself hope that he and Brian might have some sort of future, after all.