If I Knew Then by DelphinaCarter
Past Featured StorySummary:  photo photostudio_1549522804961_zpsxyku7eqc.jpg


On his 17th birthday, Nick confesses his deepest, darkest secret to Brian. Little does he know that Brian is hiding a secret of his own.
Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: AJ, Brian, Group, Howie, Kevin, Nick
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Slash M/M
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 46 Completed: Yes Word count: 81299 Read: 34681 Published: 02/07/19 Updated: 02/14/21

1. Chapter 1 by DelphinaCarter

2. Chapter 2 by DelphinaCarter

3. Chapter 3 by DelphinaCarter

4. Chapter 4 by DelphinaCarter

5. Chapter 5 by DelphinaCarter

6. Chapter 6 by DelphinaCarter

7. Chapter 7 by DelphinaCarter

8. Chapter 8 by DelphinaCarter

9. Chapter 9 by DelphinaCarter

10. Chapter 10 by DelphinaCarter

11. Chapter 11 by DelphinaCarter

12. Chapter 12 by DelphinaCarter

13. Chapter 13 by DelphinaCarter

14. Chapter 14 by DelphinaCarter

15. Chapter 15 by DelphinaCarter

16. Chapter 16 by DelphinaCarter

17. Chapter 17 by DelphinaCarter

18. Chapter 18 by DelphinaCarter

19. Chapter 19 by DelphinaCarter

20. Chapter 20 by DelphinaCarter

21. Chapter 21 by DelphinaCarter

22. Chapter 22 by DelphinaCarter

23. Chapter 23 by DelphinaCarter

24. Chapter 24 by DelphinaCarter

25. Chapter 25 by DelphinaCarter

26. Chapter 26 by DelphinaCarter

27. Chapter 27 by DelphinaCarter

28. Chapter 28 by DelphinaCarter

29. Chapter 29 by DelphinaCarter

30. Chapter 30 by DelphinaCarter

31. Chapter 31 by DelphinaCarter

32. Chapter 33 by DelphinaCarter

33. Chapter 32 by DelphinaCarter

34. Chapter 34 by DelphinaCarter

35. Chapter 35 by DelphinaCarter

36. Chapter 36 by DelphinaCarter

37. Chapter 37 by DelphinaCarter

38. Chapter 38 by DelphinaCarter

39. Chapter 39 by DelphinaCarter

40. Chapter 41 by DelphinaCarter

41. Chapter 40 by DelphinaCarter

42. Chapter 42 by DelphinaCarter

43. Chapter 43 by DelphinaCarter

44. Chapter 44 by DelphinaCarter

45. Chapter 45 by DelphinaCarter

46. Chapter 46 by DelphinaCarter

Chapter 1 by DelphinaCarter
The room was filled with people and Nick never felt more alone in his life. It was his birthday and they were celebrating, but celebrating what? To Nick it was just another way to feel like he didn't belong. Lou kept bringing over pretty girls to talk to him but he wasn't interested. He kept excusing himself, hiding in corners of the room or outside by the pool…but people kept finding him and bringing him to be the center of attention. He didn't want to be the center of anything. Especially not today. Not one person in that room even cared to know the real Nick, just Nick Carter the Backstreet Boy. The teen heartthrob. The one who sold records. The cute one. Nick looked bitterly at the lavish party and sulked. He just wanted to be alone.

"Are you okay?" Brian asked when he noticed that Nick wasn't having any fun at his own birthday party.

"Would I be lying if I said yes?"

"You never have been a very good liar, you know."

Nick half smiled and looked at his feet. He was seventeen today but he looked so much older, as if something had been weighing down on his mind for years. Brian looked at him skeptically and Nick looked at his feet again.

“Fine, you caught me. No, Bri. I'm not okay."

Brian sat down on the couch next to him and put a hand on Nick's knee, smiling.

"Want to get out of here for a while? It looks like you want to be alone." he offered. Nick turned his head sideways and looked at him, the same way a dog would. Brian chuckled. It was one of Nick's quirks that made him endearing.

"But if you come, it doesn't count as being alone."

"We can be alone together. Come on. We can shoot hoops." Brian said with a small smile. Nick agreed and without anyone noticing they were gone, they'd slipped out of the party that Lou had thrown for Nick in New York...going to the nearest basketball court. Nobody else was around and they decided to just toss around the ball for fun.

"So...are you going to ask me what is wrong with me, or are we going to pretend we want to play Horse?" Nick asked, chuckling at Brian.

They’d been on tour for months and Nick had definitely been acting differently, at least Brian had noticed because they were so close.

“I don't know. Depends on you.” He said.

Nick smiled and passed him the ball. Brian dribbled it before passing it back. He loved playing basketball together, it was relaxing and he liked to spend time with Nick. They listened to the sound of the city traffic nearby and continued their game.

"I would have gotten to that eventually. So you wanna tell me why we ditched the party? There were a lot of cute girls there."

Nick took a few running steps and shot the ball into the basket, missing. The ball bounced and Brian picked it up.

"I wasn't interested."

Brian dropped the ball in surprise, Nick Carter not interested in pretty girls? He never thought he would see this happen, as many times when girls were around Nick put on a show for them. He loved attention. His mother always told the guys stories about how girls would gather at the fence in front of their house to watch Nick sing in their yard or play on the trampoline.

"Why not?"

"Brian, if I told you something....would you think any different of me? We are best friends, right?" Nick said. Brian walked over and put his arm around his friend's neck, hugging him. Nick's eyes were watering and he looked down in shame.


“Of course we are.”

“Cause when I tell you, you might not want to be my friend anymore.”

Brian looked at him in confusion but his face softened when he saw him crying. He was visibly upset and this was such a change from a half hour ago. What could he possibly have to tell him that would make him so upset?

"Hey, don't cry. . It's your birthday....and why wouldn't I be friends with you anymore? I could never stop being your friend, Nick. That's what best friends are for. We are here for each other. Forever."

Nick wiped his eyes and stared into Brian's, their blue pupils reflecting each other. Nick truly wanted to believe Brian but he knew that this information would probably end up destroying their friendship. He’d spent a good amount of time thinking about who he could talk to and eventually decided that Brian was the best choice. Nobody else would have understood. Or so he thought.

Brian shook his head. He was really worried now, wondering what Nick could possibly be getting at.

“Really? You mean that?”

"Nick there's no way I would ever stop being your friend."

"You promise?"

"I swear."

Nick held out his hand. "We need to shake on it."

"Frack, you're being ridiculous. I would never abandon you. Now what is it you're so upset about?"

"Just shake. Please."

Although he didn't see a need to, Brian took his hand and they firmly shook them before Nick's hands retreated to his pockets. Nick seemed to be satisfied. Brian opened his mouth to speak but before he could Nick blurted....


"I think I might be gay."

Brian felt his eyes widen but it suddenly made sense. All those times Nick was avoiding him or acting strangely around him. Avoiding the girls at the party. Dodging questions from the press about relationships. He wasn't sure how to feel about any of this and he was even questioning his own thoughts on the subject. Nick didn't seem the type to be gay. This had to be a dream, but Brian knew he wasn't imagining anything. This was real. Nick kept looking at him, expecting some sort of reply. Brian didn't know what to do. Things got very awkward and quiet and neither of them spoke.

Brian didn't say anything for a long time, they just stood there in silence, Nick chewing at his lip, his chest heaving faster with anxiety from not talking. The silence was almost deafening. He eventually picked up the ball out of nervousness and threw it at the hoop. It missed and angrily fell to the ground. Nick's eyes were watering again with unshed tears because Brian didn’t answer fast enough. He knew Brian would not accept him. He knew nobody would.

"You hate me." he whispered.

Brian felt a surge of rage rush through him, followed by disappointment. Disappointed with himself for not speaking or reacting at Nick's confession. He grabbed Nick's shoulders and looked up at him, watching tears roll down Nick's face.

"Nick. I never want to hear you say that again. I don't hate you. I could never hate you. You're my best friend. Okay?" he said. Nick nodded and wiped his eyes.

"I….I had to tell somebody. I just been feeling so weird about it and I don't know what to do. What if Lou finds out? What if the guys find out, the fans? I'll get kicked out of the group. I can't be gay…” he started rambling and punishing himself, all while crying, saying he was going to be the reason the group failed and that it wasn't normal. He said that he was ashamed and sorry.

"Look, this doesn't have to leave this basketball court. Just don't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me until you want to talk to everyone about it." Brian offered hastily, trying to smooth things over. Nick's eyes narrowed.

"But Brian, I can't just lie. Don't you see that's why I'm not happy? I'm not happy pretending to be something I am not. I have been miserable keeping this. You heard Lou at the party. I'm the group’s meal ticket. The golden boy. I can't like boys. Please help me. Help me be normal.”

“I don't know how to do that.”

Brian knew deep down that Nick was right. Lou would always say that Nick was very marketable and would be even more so when he got older. That he was the group’s shining star. Brian didn't like that idea. He could see the pressure it was putting on all of them. He wanted to tell Nick that he accepted him, that nothing would change but be knew this was a lie. This would ruin everything and he had to think quickly.

"Nick...trust me. It's better if you didn't tell anyone. I won't say anything. Just act like you've always been and maybe it will just go away."

Nick frowned, feeling sick to his stomach. He had left out the most important detail about his confession. This feeling wouldn’t simply go away no matter how much Brian tried to convince him otherwise.

That he was in love with Brian.

Nick and Brian finished their game and went back to the party, which was dwindling down. Brian seemed distant after they'd gotten back so Nick didn't tell him anything else. He kept to himself and just thought about what Brian said. Yes, maybe it was better to just hide and pretend- to play his role like Lou wanted. He was miserable but at least he wouldn't be responsible for the group breaking up.

Brian had made it perfectly clear he didn't accept him and Nick knew this would be for the best in the end. It had to be.

He didn't know that Brian had a secret of his own.
Chapter 2 by DelphinaCarter
Brian stood by the wall, leaning on it and breathing deeply. He'd been feeling kind of winded through rehearsal for their new music video, As Long As You Love Me. The routine involved chairs and a lot of steps….not that the dancing was strenuous but he hadn't been feeling well.

 

“Are you okay?” Nick asked from the doorway. He'd been napping in the next room on the couch. They were filming a few music videos that week and they were very excited and tired at the same time. Long hours were put into the shoots and sometimes they had to take a break. Nick was still young.

 

“I'm fine, I'm just…tired.” Brian huffed. His chest immediately yelled at him as if it were telling him I told you so. Some days the pain was bad, then others it wasn’t. He didn’t know what was causing it but felt there was no need to worry about it yet, no need to worry anyone else with his problems.

 

“You look like you're going to blow chunks.” Nick remarked.

 

“You always have a way with words, don't you?” Brian laughed. He stopped and stared at Nick and looked him over, he wasn't even sure why but something had caught his eye. He looked different somehow. Nick was wearing all black, his hair parted in the middle...it set off his eyes. He looked really good. Brian didn't know why he even thought that Nick looked good but shook it off. Ignoring his own thoughts about Nick, they went into the main room of the hangar where the video was being shot. The two of them tossed around a basketball to kill time.

 

“Have you seen these models they got? Pretty hot…” AJ said suddenly, bounding over. Brian looked up, he knew there would be girls in this shoot too but didn't see who was chosen. They didn't really have a say.

 

“Who cares?” Nick muttered as he bounced the basketball softly. AJ looked at him curiously but Brian acted like nothing was happening. Nick was not interested in the girls at all, he only wanted to play basketball with Brian.

 

“Nick, my friend….you need to get out more. Come on, Brian. Let's check out the girls.” AJ laughed. Brian nodded and they went out to the trailers. The girls were hanging around wardrobe, getting fitted for their costumes. Howie had just finished with his and was chatting to them.

 

“Where were you guys?” he asked. His hair was up in an Afro style and everyone laughed.

 

“Nice hair, Howie…”

 

Howie rolled his eyes and smiled at AJ, pushing him playfully. “Shut it, Jay.”

 

“Nick was moping so we left him and decided to come out here.” Brian explained. AJ thought this was very funny and laughed loudly. Brian laughed but someone caught his eye. One of the women with long blond hair down her back and a big smile. The girls came over to introduce themselves.

 

“Hi, ladies. You can call me AJ.”

 

The girls seemed to like AJ, but there was one in particular that caught Brian's attention…the blonde. He was attracted to her almost right away. Something about her caught his eye.

 

“Wow….” he whispered breathlessly.

 

 

Nick finally decided to come outside and found Brian talking to the girls…he felt a little jealous. They were very pretty but he didn't feel anything for them and it killed him a little bit inside knowing he didn't have that connection to the opposite sex. It only reminded him that he wasn't like the others.

 

Brian seemed particularly interested in the one girl and Nick didn't like it.

 

“So do you live in LA?”

 

“I am out here while I'm trying to find work as an actress, I know it's kind of a hard field to get into but I was really happy to get chosen for this shoot.”

 

Nick looked her over, she was a bit taller than Brian, long blonde hair and a nice smile. She seemed friendly but Nick couldn’t help but feel jealous.

 

Brian turned to see Nick standing next to him. He could already feel a weird vibe but pretended not to notice. Nick clearly didn't like this girl at all.

 

“This is my band mate, Nick. Nick, this is…. What was your name again?”

 

“Leighanne Wallace.”

 

“She's one of the girls that's going to be in our video.”

 

“Cool.” Nick said stiffly.

 

Brian already felt tension and wasn't sure why.

 

Leighanne held out a hand and looked Nick up and down. She smiled but he didn't smile back, he just shook her hand and was quiet.

 

“Nice to meet you. I met some of the other guys already but I've just been talking with Brian, and-”

 

“That's cool. Brian and I were going to check out the breakfast table, right Brian?” Nick interrupted. Brian turned away and continued talking to Leighanne, ignoring him. Nick walked off looking hurt.

 

“Is he okay?” Leighanne asked, watching Nick walk away.

 

“He'll be fine, he's just- tired.” he lied as he once again ignored the gentle throbbing in his chest. He didn't understand what was going on, but was sure Nick was just stressing him out. It was almost as if Nick were jealous. What confused him even more was that he was concerned he hurt him somehow by talking to Leighanne. Brian didn't like this at all, he wasn't interested in Nick like that. They were just friends, after all.

 

Just friends and nothing else. Right?

 

 

After the video shoots were done the boys were busier than ever. Brian still found time to talk to his new lady friend. Well, he couldn't very well call her his girlfriend but he liked her a lot. They'd exchanged phone numbers and emails. Long nights spent talking on the phone and messaging. It was nice to have someone to talk to that wasn't one of the guys. Someone who made him feel like Brian and not Brian the Backstreet Boy. He felt comfortable with her in a way he never did with his last girlfriend, Samantha. He'd broken up with Samantha because he was too busy for a relationship at the time. The Backstreet Boys were just starting out and he knew she wouldn't be able to handle him being away so much.

 

The difference between Leighanne and Samantha was that Nick liked Samantha. It was clear he didn't like Leighanne. Brian had even gone and asked Nick what the issue was.

 

“I was just cranky, Rok. Don't read much into it. I am happy for you. I promise.” Nick said somewhat stiffly.

 

“If you're not cool with her, I just want to know what the deal is. Cause I really like her and your opinion matters to me. You liked Sam.”

 

“Sam wasn't an actress. I just am looking out for you. Be careful. You know how me and Mandy worked out. She was a singer.”

 

Brian made sure he dropped his voice to a whisper and that nobody was around before he spoke again.

 

“Nick, you broke up with Mandy because you are gay.”

 

“That's besides the point.” Nick hissed.

 

“But you're still gay, aren't you?”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?”

 

“Well, you chose it, not me. How would I know?”

 

Nick looked at Brian as if he were offended but changed his facial expression altogether to hide it. He was definitely hurt and Brian felt bad. He knew he was making Nick feel uncomfortable.

 

“I didn't choose to be who I am, Brian. It's what I am. You're the only one who knows about it and it's staying that way. I know how much this group means to everyone. So if you want to date old what's her face….go ahead because I don't care.” Nick snapped.

 

Brian wanted to just bury himself after that because Nick refused to speak to him the rest of the day.

 

He went to sleep that night with the dull aching in his chest as a reminder that he'd screwed up and he had to make things right somehow. Brian just didn't know how.
Chapter 3 by DelphinaCarter
“You guys, this music video is going to be awesome.” Nick said, walking into the airplane hangar that they'd rented for the video shoot of As Long As You Love Me. The concept of the video had been discussed back and forth and the guys were pretty excited to see how it would all unfold.

 

“I wonder what kind of girls they got for us, huh Nick? They are coming soon. You can be my wingman since you are a bachelor again.”AJ said, elbowing him. Nick smiled but rolled his eyes when he wasn't looking. He became aware Brian was watching suddenly and he coughed.

 

“I didn't know you and Mandy split. I thought you liked her.” Brian said.

 

“Nick wants to play the field.” AJ said. Nick wanted to hit him, he'd told him that he wasn't interested in a relationship and needed to be on his own for a while. This lie was so good he believed it. The truth was, he wasn't sure what he wanted.

 

“Uh…I'm not really looking for anyone. Mandy and I just broke up like…last weekend.” Nick lied. He hadn't totally fibbed but in fact they'd broken up two days ago. It was messy because Nick had told her he just wasn't interested in a relationship right now. He was still figuring things out and a girl would just get in the way.

 

“Lame.” AJ said, shaking his head.

 

Brian and Kevin played catch until the girls got there, and he dropped the ball when he saw Leighanne Wallace. She was blonde and fair, long hair down past her shoulders. Kevin smiled as he watched his cousin walk over. Nick watched, feeling a little bit jealous and then shaking it away.

 

He doesn't belong to you. He's just your friend.

 

The voice in his head came and went.

 

Nick knew that things were about to change, and he had a feeling that it was not going to be good.

 

As the months passed, Brian and Leighanne started to get more serious. Nick went back to Mandy and gave her a second chance just because Brian had suggested that he should. Nick wasn't ready to settle down but Brian seemed like he was more than anything…he and Leighanne were attached at the hip. Late night phone calls were a common thing. Nick hated when they happened, as he and Brian usually shared a room. Gone were the days of ordering pizza and playing video games until the sun came up…Nick was often left alone. He started to gain weight and stop caring about himself. Everyone noticed his attitude changing. It got worse as time went on and Brian drifted away. He was angrier and kept to himself.

 

The tour was going on a second leg overseas and as they arrived at the hotel, they got their room arrangements.

 

“Nick, you'll be with AJ.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because he’s bringing his girlfriend.”

 

The word “girlfriend” sounded almost foreign to Nick now, especially after his relationship with Mandy ended….and he was still coming to terms with his sexuality. Things were not going well for him but he noticed over time that Brian was changing.

 

Nick honestly didn't care, but the difference surprised him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Brian and Leighanne, his hand on her waist as they laughed. They looked so happy and it only made Nick feel worse.

 

“Are you okay?” Kevin asked. Nick was struggling with a bag and had thrown it to the ground. It popped open and clothes fell out…Nick yelled in frustration.

 

“This suitcase is a piece of shit. I got it.” he snapped. Kevin jumped at the tone of his voice. Nick had never spoken to him like that. Nick continued to struggle with his luggage, having trouble with lifting it.

 

“Maybe you should work out a bit more, and stop eating so much.“ Leighanne winked. Brian began cracking up and Nick turned red. Why was his best friend acting like this? It didn't make any sense. Brian would always defend him. Nick was hurt. He was silent on the ride in the elevator up to their rooms. When he got there, AJ was already looking in the mini bar.

 

“Whoa, who's dog died?” he said suddenly, noticing Nick's expression.

 

“It's nothing.”  Nick said, flopping down on the bed and burying his face in the pillow. He hated rooming with AJ.

 

“Maybe this will mellow you out.” AJ offered, holding out a beer.

 

“I'm not old enough.”

 

“This is not America, Nick. You look like shit. Have a drink. It will make you feel better.”

 

Nick looked at the beer, hesitating. He knew how alcohol had messed up his family. He had sworn to stay away from it but seeing as he was upset…what could it hurt?

 

Brian stood in the shower, trying to relax enough to maybe take a short nap. He let the hot water run over his back, allowing his muscles to relax. The water felt good, being alone with his thoughts was even better. He was in need of some Brian time.

 

The tour was going great, but Nick's attitude was starting to kill it. Having Leighanne there was a great distraction. He loved being around her and she helped keep him grounded. Nick, however… well Nick was starting to get a bit cocky, at least Brian thought so. He seemed to enjoy the attention the new album was bringing. Brian had been watching Nick change. The kid was growing up, but he wasn't acting like the Nick everyone knew. He was heading down a dark road. Brian knew he should help but he also knew that Nick was holding him back. He wanted a family. A family would make him feel normal again, and get rid of the strange feelings he'd been having.

 

“Don't let him drag you down…” the little voice said to him often when Nick would be over sleeping, or causing some kind of trouble. He'd stopped defending him and kept to himself.

 

That night, the guys were supposed to be going out to dinner, as a group….but when it came time to meet in the lobby downstairs, Nick and AJ were nowhere to be found. Kevin was getting angry, he hated being late for anything.

 

“Brian, we gotta go see what's keeping them.”

 

Brian rolled his eyes. He was already annoyed that his girlfriend couldn't come. He didn't want to play babysitter too.

 

“Why don't you bring Howie?”

 

“I don't know what is going on with you and Nick, but fine. Howie…you coming?” Kevin said, his hands up in exasperation. Howie nodded and they went upstairs.

 

 

Nick was not feeling good.

 

“AJ…”

 

He didn't know where AJ had gone but he knew one thing, that he wanted to vomit. Then someone was knocking on their door but he ignored it. He and AJ had been drinking for a while and he felt woozy but not totally wasted yet. Nick figured it was housekeeping and ignored it.

 

“AJ? Where are you? I think we are supposed to be downstairs.” he said a bit louder this time. He opened the bathroom to find him slumped against the bathtub on the floor, a empty beer bottle next to him.

 

The pounding on the door got louder and Nick heard Kevin yell so he went to open it, finding Kevin and Howie standing there looking highly annoyed.

 

“What is wrong with you two? You knew we had reservations and you're up here fucking around.”

 

Nick hiccuped and Kevin sighed in frustration.

 

“Are you drunk?” Kevin hissed. Nick shrugged and looked down at the floor.

 

“Where the fuck is AJ?” he asked when he came into the room. There were beer bottles strewn around the room and Howie picked one of them up, looking disappointed.

 

“I dunno we had a couple of beers. He's passed out.”

 

“Please tell me you're joking.” Kevin said in an oddly calm voice, his hands pressed together and resting in front of his nose like he was trying not to blow up.

 

“I'm not dude. He's in there. I'm not his fucking babysitter.”

 

Kevin walked away and Nick could hear him trying to wake up AJ.

 

“Why were you drinking, Nick? You're underage.” Howie said disapprovingly.

 

“I was pissed off and AJ said it would help. “ Nick answered, realizing how dumb he sounded. Drinking wasn't a way to help the feelings go away, but it helped for a little while. It couldn't be that bad. Maybe there was something to it after all.

 

“Pissed off about what?” Howie asked, but Nick ignored him.

 

“Nothing that matters anymore.”

 

Nick listened to Kevin yell at AJ, leaving his own thoughts to marinate. He'd figure it all out eventually.
Chapter 4 by DelphinaCarter
The boys woke up early again the next day to shoot another music video for the song Everybody. Everyone was still tired from the shoot last night for All I Have To Give, but were ready to put in another long day.



“You ready to go down to the set?” Kevin asked them as they finished their first cups of coffee for the day. Nick seemed distant and he was right to be. All he could think about was Brian and that girl...Brian wouldn’t stop talking about her after they were done filming and he’d exchanged numbers with her. What was so great about her? She didn’t play basketball. She didn’t seem like she liked pizza or video games. Who would want to date someone like that? Just because she had boobs Brian thought she was the best thing since sliced bread.


“Man, you lucked out with her, she’s got a nice rack.” AJ told Brian before Brian went to get Howie.


“There are more to women than boobs.” Brian laughed as he walked away.


Nick rolled his eyes and continued sulking.


“I could have boobs if I wanted to.” Nick muttered to himself angrily, mocking Brian when his back was turned.


“What did you say?” Howie asked with a confused look as he and AJ walked over.


Nick scoffed to himself, ignoring them while staring at his half empty coffee cup and scowling as he tore up a paper napkin.


“Anything eating away at your soul?” AJ asked, patting him on the back. Nick made a face and pretended everything was fine.


“I’m cool.”


“You can tell me, you know. Is it Mandy?”


“Something like that.” Nick lied. The truth was, Nick was afraid that Brian was going to leave him behind like everyone else did. That he would lose the one he truly cared about. But who was he kidding? Brian wasn’t gay. He didn’t love him back. At least not that he knew.


Deep down, something told him he was very wrong.




For Nick, all of these emotions he was having were confusing him because he knew it was wrong. After all, his friends all liked girls and Brian even told him to pretend everything was normal. Why couldn’t he? He’d tried to date Amanda- well, Mandy as she preferred to be called but it wasn’t working out because he had no sexual attraction to her whatsoever. Their break up was quite messy and it had involved a huge argument that he could still hear in the back of his head. Part of him wondered if he was maybe bisexual but it was too confusing to even think of that right now. No, there was something else stirring and he didn’t know how to deal with it.


The something was most definitely what he’d been suspecting for a while, that he was just not attracted to her in the way that she wanted him to be. He hated that he hurt her but he didn’t want to lie to her. So they broke up over the phone one night and she was calling him but he did not answer any of them. Eventually she stopped trying to contact him altogether. The guys would tease him about Mandy every so often and he laughed but it bothered him how much he hurt her.


He just figured that he would make sense of things eventually and everything would be okay again.






Brian had noticed Nick’s attitude towards everyone and tried to make him laugh, tried to play and joke like they always did because there was a camera filming them for a behind the scenes video they were shooting that week. The camera had been following them through all of the video shoots they’d been doing for a all access movie they’d release for the fans. The boys were excited to share a bit of themselves with the fans that they did not get to see otherwise, but Nick seemed the most distant.


“What’s eating you today?”


“Huh? Nothing. I’m just tired from last night, remember how I fell asleep and they didn’t get me for the solo shot for All I Have To Give? Kevin was mad at me.” Nick lied when they were in the bathroom washing their hands. There was no camera here so Brian took the opportunity to ask what was going on. Nick was definitely avoiding him and he wondered why.


“You are acting weird. Is it because of Leighanne?” Brian asked.


“You just met her, and I told you I didn’t care about that. Did you ask her out yet?” Nick replied, drying his hands with a paper towel and throwing it in the garbage. They were wanted in hair and makeup soon to transform into their monster costumes for the video. Nick was mostly just excited to do the monster outfits because he’d come up with the idea and the guys liked it.


“I think I’m gonna call her later and see if she wants to have dinner on Saturday.” Brian said thoughtfully. He hadn’t felt attraction to someone like this since he and Samantha broke up and it felt great, he couldn’t wait to see Leighanne again.



Nick was silent and Brian could definitely feel the tension.


“Are you sure you are okay with me and her seeing each other, cause your opinion matters to me and I really like Leigh. She’s a nice girl.”


Brian kind of stared him down and then continued with his speech but Nick wasn’t listening.


“You just met her yesterday, what is the big deal exactly with her?” Nick blurted out.


“I guess you wouldn’t understand because you...well...you know.” Brian whispered as he looked around to see if anyone was eavesdropping.


“No, I don’t know.”


“Because you’re gay.” Brian said, whispering the last word as if it were taboo. Nick did not like how he kept acting like being gay was something to tiptoe around.


“I am still figuring things out, and I wish you wouldn’t talk about it that way. I’m not sure exactly what I want yet.”


“Sure, whatever you say Frack.” Brian said, rolling his eyes. Nick had to restrain himself from punching him because it was very clear again that Brian did not accept or support him. They were supposed to be best friends so Nick decided that to be spiteful he would lie about Leighanne like Brian lied about supporting him.


“I’m happy for you. Really. Don’t worry about me...I’m fine.” Nick smiled, putting a hand on Brian’s shoulder as they walked out of the bathroom. The camera was nowhere to be found and the two of them were kind of glad for it. Brian went to the dressing room to get his makeup and hair done and Nick walked away, thinking about a lot of things.


One of them being how all of this started.


At first it was little things like the way Brian smelled after he took a shower, or the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled real big. The way he felt when he would wrap his arms around him to hug him. Sleeping in the same bed on tour whine they were younger because he liked to hear the sound of Brian’s heartbeat next to his even though he let him think it was because he was afraid to be alone. He felt safe with Brian, something he had not felt with anyone else and he was only 17. Wasn’t he too young to fall in love?


Nick did not know the answer to this question but he felt something and he was falling hard. He was definitely jealous of Brian talking to those girls the day before. He wanted Brian to be happy so he would put on a smile and let it run its course. They were going back to Germany for shows in about a couple weeks anyway...Nick was sure that this infatuation would not last.







That night Brian asked Leighanne out and to Nick’s disappointment, she didn’t say no. They had a date for Saturday night and it bothered him because Brian seemed more interested in this girl than hanging out with him. They talked on the phone for hours, until Nick got sick of it and left the room, wandering the hotel. He thought some more, thought about Mandy, about being gay, about his feelings and about Brian. He felt sick because he did not know what to do about any of it.




He doesn’t accept or love you, you need to move past this or it will get awkward. You know it’s gotta be done.


Deep down, the little voice that constantly he constantly argued with won this round.
Chapter 5 by DelphinaCarter
Brian whistled as he got ready for his lunch date with Leighanne a couple of days later. They were going to a place in LA on Wilshire Boulevard that Leighanne knew from being a local and Brian couldn’t wait to eat. He got up early to take a shower while Nick sat in front of the TV in his underwear, eating from a open box of cereal and watching some cartoon. He almost laughed at him because he was such a kid still.

“Where you going? We don’t have to be anywhere today.” Nick commented, his mouth full of Lucky Charms.

“I am seeing Leighanne today, I thought you knew that.” Brian said, picking out some fresh clothes to wear from his suitcase. Nick turned back to the TV and rolled his eyes out of Brian’s view.

How could I forget you and boob job Barbie having your stupid date.

If Nick rolled his eyes any further he felt they would fall out.

“I’m gonna be in the shower if she calls the room or anything, then I’m heading over to the restaurant.”

“Bring me back something to eat.” Nick mumbled with his mouth full of cereal again. They didn’t have any milk in the refrigerator in their hotel room that Lou was paying for and Nick hated eating his cereal dry, but he liked the little marshmallows and was busily popping them into his mouth.

“You’re always hungry.” Brian teased, as he started to undress. Nick blushed and pretended he wasn’t staring...Brian suddenly felt uncomfortable and stopped. Nick never used to watch him and now that he knew he was gay, or possibly gay- he wasn’t sure if he should change his clothes in front of him anymore. Nick being gay confused him and although he was trying to be supportive, he would be lying if he didn’t say it made him feel weird about their close friendship. Lots of things that made sense before just felt strange to him now.


After Brian went into the bathroom, Nick heard the door lock and sat there for a minute or two, thinking of ways to keep Brian from going on his date. He truly was happy for him but there was something about this girl that set him off and he had no idea why. His eyes spotted Brian’s wallet on the dresser and he smiled.

“If he can’t pay for the lunch she won’t be impressed with him because she is probably only after his money.” Nick thought to himself as he got up off the floor. He quickly hid the wallet inside a dresser drawer and snickered, thinking of what Leighanne would say when Brian couldn’t pay.


After plotting his little scheme, Nick went back to watching the cartoons as he balanced the cereal box in his lap sitting Indian style on the floor. As if on cue, the water shut off and Brian took a while to get dressed in the bathroom, which Nick was surprised by because usually he just got ready in the room. He came out wearing a nice pair of pants and a shirt, his hair slicked back. Nick pretended he did not notice but Brian was wearing some new cologne that had a really nice scent.

“I’ll be back later, maybe we can play Mario Kart or something when I come back from lunch.” Brian said, checking himself one more time in the mirror and spraying the cologne on himself as he fixed his hair.

“Okay.” Nick muttered, drinking in the scent like it was a drug and he needed a fix. Brian walked past and chuckled at him, ruffling his hair as he went by.

“See you.”

“Have fun.” Nick said as Brian closed the door, staring at the door for a few minutes after it closed, thinking to himself.




“Hi, Brian. I’m so happy you asked me to lunch. I hope you like this place, it’s one of my favorites.” Leighanne said when she met up with him outside the restaurant.

“Sounds great, I’m hungry.” Brian smiled. They went to a comfort food restaurant called Cravings, that offered many different dishes. Brian held the door for her and held her chair out, and she smiled the whole time. There was definitely an attraction right away. They ordered their food, and started talking about all kinds of things. Brian listened intently as Leighanne talked about her acting career, her childhood and what she wanted to do as an actress. Brian talked about music and his dreams as well. They had a great conversation and ate, laughing and talking like they were old friends.

“So you think your band will be around a long time?” Leighanne asked as she finished eating her chicken. Brian had not really thought about how to answer a question like this but he supposed that he wanted to be a part of the group for as long as he possibly could. He really enjoyed doing music and making people happy, being with his friends.

“I sure hope so. The guys really want it too. I like being with my friends and my cousin...we always have a great time performing.”

“I see how close you are with them.” Leighanne smiled.

Brian finished eating his burger and went to his iced tea, smiling back. He could stare into her eyes forever if she would let him...but something about all of this did not feel complete and he decided not to dwell on it.

“Here's your bill.” the waitress said with a smile as she set down their check.

“I'll get it.” Brian offered as he reached into his pants pocket. His smile slid off his face as his hands sifted through empty pockets.

“Is everything okay?” Leighanne asked in concern.

“I seem to have misplaced my wallet.” Brian said as his face turned red. Leighanne laughed and took out her purse, paying for their meal.

The two of them left and went walking for a little while down Wilshire Boulevard, talking some more.

“I'll pay you back, I feel like such a ass. I'm so sorry about all that.” Brian apologized. Leighanne took his hand and patted it, smiling.

“Really it's not a big deal. Things happen. I hope nobody stole it.”

Brian suddenly wondered if Nick tried to sabotage the date by hiding his wallet. He suddenly felt very angry. Nick didn’t like Leighanne, would he do something like that? Signs pointed to yes. Leighanne drove him back to where they were staying because he didn’t have enough money to take a cab back and he brought her up to the room. It sounded like AJ and Nick were watching wrestling or something on TV because there was a lot of noise.

“Is there a wild party going on in there?” Leighanne laughed.

“No, just the kids messing around.” Brian laughed. He wanted so badly to kiss her but he knew it was their first date. He was on the fence about doing it because he wanted to be a gentleman.

“Did you have a good time?” he asked instead.

“I was hoping you'd ask that. I did…so is there a second date in the future for us then?”

“Things are looking good.” Brian winked. He went to say goodnight to her but she leaned in and their lips touched. They kissed and for a few moments Brian forgot about his chest pain, about Nick and about everything that was weighing down on his mind. It was like his mind was a huge garbage can and someone finally took out the trash.

“I want to see you again.” Leighanne whispered into his ear when they finally parted. Brian didn’t know how he was so lucky to find her, an older woman after his own heart. The only trouble was that the boys were about to go back on tour overseas and he hoped that she would be okay with this. He should have brought it up during the date but didn’t see a need to just now. This girl didn’t seem like Samantha so he had a good feeling she would understand about his work. She was in the entertainment industry being an actress so Brian felt that she would be okay with him being away so much.

“That can be arranged. I’ll call you?” Brian said, pecking her on the cheek before she left. Brian went into the hotel room to find not only Nick and AJ but also Howie watching a movie on the television.

“Hey lover boy, how was your lunch?” AJ called from the bed, where he and Howie were laying. Nick was sitting on Brian’s bed next to them, playing his Game Boy and did not look up. He could see that Brian had a good time without asking him, the look in his eyes was one of love.

“She’s amazing but something interesting happened on my date.” Brian said suddenly.

“You mean other than you guys making out in the hall just now?” AJ teased, as Howie elbowed him in the stomach. Nick rolled his eyes.

“Well, it went great until I realized that I did not have my wallet. Any idea where that went, Nick?” Brian snapped. Nick shrugged.

“No, not really.”

AJ and Howie watched, knowing a argument was about to erupt between the two of them.

“Nick, did you try to ruin my date on purpose?”

“No.” Nick lied, still playing his Game Boy. Brian snatched it out of his hand and went towards the window across the room, opening it. He held it out as Nick ran over, trying to grab it from him.

“You are full of shit, Nick. Tell me the truth or your Game Boy is going to learn how to fly.”

AJ found this hilarious so he started laughing until Howie hit him in the stomach.

“Knock it off you guys.” Howie shouted. He wished Kevin was here to break this up because he was better at it.

“I didn’t do anything, I swear! Your date seemed fine, what the fuck is your problem?” Nick shouted.

Brian thought for a moment and privately agreed that his date did go well but he wanted Nick to learn his lesson so he took the cartridge out of the Game Boy and threw the copy of Zelda out the window, before giving Nick the Game Boy back. Nick started crying as he saw his game flying down ten stories.

“Here come the waterworks.” AJ moaned.

“Where is my wallet, Nick?” Brian demanded. Nick reluctantly went to the dresser where he had put the wallet and gave it to Brian who sighed, feeling slightly bad as he watched Nick cry.

“I didn’t throw your wallet out the window, that was really unnecessary!”

“Why did you want to embarrass me anyway, Nick? You know I like her. What is your problem, exactly? Are you that jealous that I’m spending my time with someone else that you need to sabotage my dates?” Brian yelled. Nick looked from Brian to AJ and Howie as his own face went pale. He did not want Brian to tell them he was gay so he made up the quickest lie he could think of to save himself.

“I don’t know what I was doing. I’m sorry. I just was playing a joke…” he said through tears. Brian’s face softened and he apologized for overreacting but he didn’t buy the excuse for a second. Nick was acting strange and he knew the reason. He was jealous and couldn’t control himself. There was no other explanation.

“Let’s go downstairs and see if we can find your game.” Brian said with a sigh as they left the hotel room, the kiss from Leighanne fresh in his mind the entire way down. He couldn’t wait to see her again and hoped it was sooner rather than later.
Chapter 6 by DelphinaCarter
After their date, Brian and Leighanne decided that while BSB was in LA they’d spend as much time together as they possibly could, to Nick’s disappointment. The boys were getting ready to release their new album, and they were doing promo. The tour was about to kick off in Germany next month. Leighanne found time to see her boyfriend in between and they stole dates when they could. During this time Brian started to blow off the guys in favor of hanging out with her. Nick found himself lonely many of these times and Kevin tried to make a point to invite him places like an arcade, or out to eat and Nick appreciated this very much.


“So how does your brother feel about opening for us?” Kevin asked Nick, who was staring out of the window at the restaurant they were eating at.


“He’s excited. He really loves performing, I guess it runs in the family.” Nick lied. The truth was, he wasn’t all that happy about his brother coming because that meant his father was going to be coming on the tour with him and that meant he would be rooming with him. He also knew that this meant his parents would be so focused on Aaron’s career that he would be forgotten about as he usually was when it came to his younger siblings. It kind of made him sick how money hungry his mother was. He hadn’t noticed it until he started with the boys and then BJ wanted her modeling career that his mother was willing to find any talent her kids had to cash in on it.


“Well he isn’t coming until August anyway...so you have all of July to spend time with Brian, don’t you?” Kevin asked. Nick looked down at his cheeseburger and sighed.


“I dunno. Unless his girlfriend comes.”


Brian had been absent ever since he met Leighanne, the last couple of weeks anyway. All he wanted to do was spend time with her, not his best friend.


“They aren’t that serious yet. At least not that I know of, they’ve only gone on a couple of dates. Why don’t you try spending time with him? Maybe he misses hanging out with you too.”


Nick thought for a few moments and agreed with Kevin, coming up with an idea that was so perfect he couldn’t possibly mess it up.


“I know just the thing to do.” Nick smiled as he popped a French fry in his mouth.





The next day Nick came into the room with a pair of basketball tickets, grinning from ear to ear as Brian looked up from the TV set.


“Whatcha got there?” Brian asked.


“I got us tickets to the Lakers game tomorrow since we are leaving town Monday, my treat- well, Lou’s treat because he paid for them and I let him.”


“Really? The Lakers game? That’s amazing!” Brian said, his face lighting up as he jumped off the bed and gave Nick a big high five.


“Yes, just you and me and our floor seats.” Nick beamed.


“This is awesome, I can’t wait.” Brian said as he hugged Nick, who felt like he finally had Brian on his side again. Basketball was one of the things they loved to do together and what better way to remind Brian than going to a game? It was too perfect.




The next afternoon the boys came back from doing some phone interviews for the new album and Brian was surprised to see that Leighanne had called.



“Hey, Nick...why don’t you go get us some sodas from the machine? I’ll meet you in the room.”


“Okay.” Nick said, walking down the hall. Once he was out of the way, Brian called Leighanne back.



“Someone at the front desk said you called?” Brian asked when she picked up.


“Hi. I was wondering if I could see you tonight because I’m leaving for New York tomorrow.” Leighanne said, her voice soft. Brian almost groaned because Nick had gotten the basketball tickets and he was really looking forward to the game.


“I kinda had something planned tonight but I can make time for you.” Brian smiled as he heard footsteps outside of the room. Nick came into the room, flopping onto his bed and ignoring Brian’s conversation because he figured he was talking to Leighanne again.



“Great, I’ll come by around seven then.”


Brian hung up the phone and quickly tried to think of a excuse to get out of the basketball game, it was still early so he had time. He and Nick ordered a pizza and ate while watching TV until it was about five.


“What was on that pizza you ordered? I don’t feel so good.” Brian said suddenly, holding his stomach and pretending to look sick.


“Are you okay? You look like you’re going to hurl.”


“What time is the game?” Brian asked as he went into the bathroom.


“Seven.”


Brian spent a long time in the bathroom and made some gagging noises from behind the door for effect and when Nick came in he made sure he was hovering over the toilet. Nick was wearing his basketball jersey and a hat turned backwards so that his hair stuck out from under it.  


“Wow, you look like shit. Are you sure it was the pizza, because I feel fine. Maybe you’re getting sick.” Nick commented. He watched Brian and had a sinking feeling in his stomach but pushed that away to make sure Brian was okay. He helped him over to the bed and laid him down, making sure he was comfortable.


“Look, I’ll see if AJ wants to go to the game if you don’t feel good. Are you sure that you don’t want me to stay here with you and keep you company?” Nick asked. Brian felt horrible for lying but he wanted to spend time with Leighanne before they left for Germany. Surely Nick could handle another night of not hanging out together, he’d been doing it for the past two weeks and was fine.


“I’ll manage. Go have a good time. You have great seats, no sense in letting them go to waste.”


“All right. I will bring you back a souvenir.” Nick smiled before he left the room. Brian felt bad for lying but at the same time he couldn’t say no to his girlfriend, who he wouldn’t be seeing for a while once they were out of the country.



Once Leighanne had come over to the room, she and Brian ordered takeout and watched a movie, talking about a lot of things.


“I am going to miss you when you leave.” Leighanne said, before kissing him gently. Brian returned it and they exchanged back and forth, passion between them building once more.


“I’m gonna miss you too.”


Brian took off his shirt and continued, thinking about what would happen if Nick walked in and what he would think about all this. He’d ditched him again and he felt guilty, but not guilty enough to not have sex. Clearly sex was about to happen but he didn’t care.


“I don’t want to go.” Leighanne whispered.


“If you stay….you won't have to.” Brian said between kisses.


“Where is Nick? I thought you said you had plans.” Leighanne asked, not that she really cared. She liked having Brian to herself without Nick trying to tag along.


“He’s at a basketball game with AJ. They’ll be gone for a couple hours.” Brian said as she went heavier with the kissing and moved to his neck. The whole time he knew what he wanted, but something was holding him back. As they started to undress one another, the passion was there but that’s all there was. There was purely animal attraction and that was it, the whole time Brian thought about how he had no feelings towards her other than she was a gorgeous woman. It just didn’t make any sense.




Sometime after the sex had stopped, they’d fallen asleep...their bodies entangled in the soft sheets of Brian’s bed in the dark room. Brian lay there next to her, listening to her heartbeat until he also fell asleep.



“Brian?”


He had no idea when he had finally dozed off but Brian was jolted away by the sudden soft knocking on the door.


“Shit…” he thought as he heard Nick's voice in the hall.


What was he going to do now?
Chapter 7 by DelphinaCarter
“That game was so great, too bad Brian had to miss it.” AJ said as they walked down the hallway towards the rooms.


“Yeah, I think I am gonna check on him ‘cause he really didn’t look good earlier. Maybe I will stay in your room tonight, so he can rest?” Nick replied, knocking on the door to make sure Brian was not asleep.


“Sure, I’ll go clear my stuff off of the other bed for you.” AJ called as he opened his own room.



Nick figured that Brian was asleep so he knocked one more time to make sure.


“Brian?”




“Shit….”


Brian stirred as he heard Nick come into the room and hid under the covers, his heart beating so rapidly he thought it might jump out of his own chest. Why was he so worried about Nick finding Leighanne there? It wasn’t just about her being there or him lying...it was something more. He knew how upset Nick would be when he found them. He had lied to his best friend.




“Brian? Are you sleeping?”



Brian lay perfectly still with the blanket over his face, looking at Leighanne sleeping next to him with his heart beating rapidly in panic. It was then he realized they were both still completely naked. He hoped that Nick wouldn’t do what he usually did to wake him up…



“Are you feeling any better? You looked like you were gonna hurl earlier. Maybe it was the pizza because I don’t feel that great either. We shouldn’t have gotten onions and mushrooms.”


Nick continued talking as if he were really listening to him, talking about the game and saying he brought back a present. To Brian’s horror the blanket started to move. His face pale, he held the blanket in place but Nick was determined to yank it off.


Brian heard the Lakers basketball Nick was holding drop as soon as the blanket came off of the bed.


“What is she doing here, I thought you were sick?” Nick asked meekly, blinking in disbelief. Leighanne woke up, pulling the blanket back on to cover herself as she laid into NIck, screaming at him.


“Seriously?” Nick said, unaware he had even done anything wrong.


What happened next, Brian wished he was dreaming. Leighanne realized Nick was there and yanked the sheets over herself, her face bright red. If she could breathe fire, she’d have probably torched the entire hotel by now. Brian wanted to crawl under the bed when she started to yell.


“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? What the hell  are you doing in here?”


“This is my room too.”


“You were trying to ruin our alone time. Again.” Leighanne shouted. Nick looked at Brian, feeling super guilty about trying to ruin their first date. He didn’t know Brian had told her about the wallet.


“I’m sorry- Brian told me that….that…” Nick stammered, blushing. Brian stared at him, pleading with his eyes. Leighanne turned on him next.


“Is he that fucking obsessed with you that he can’t be away from you for more than three hours?”


Brian closed his eyes, he already knew what Nick thought and he stayed silent. He could have spoken up, he could have said he didn’t mean it but for some reason he was silent. He would come to regret this for a long time.




Nick’s face scrunched up in confusion and he spoke very slowly.


“Wha- What are you talking about?”


“Why can’t you leave him alone and let him breathe for five minutes, Nick? It’s pretty pathetic how you hang on him all the time because your family doesn’t care about you, Brian complains about it all the time to me.” Leighanne shouted. Nick looked at Brian and had tears in his eyes, floored by this new information.


Nick blinked in utter confusion. Brian was shocked, he had told Leighanne that Nick had been acting jealous and bothering him but he honestly didn’t mean any of it, he was only frustrated. He never thought she would actually tell him what he said.


“Baby, those aren’t the exact words that I-“ Brian started but his girlfriend was in a rant. She rounded on Nick again.


“Please don’t get upset. Please don’t hate me.” Brian pled silently, his eyes moving from Leighanne to Nick as his face paled. His heart was practically beating out of his chest. He felt sick.


“Nick...I-“



“No wonder you and your girlfriend broke up, you’re pathetic! Get out of here!” Leighanne shouted, holding the sheet over herself as she started pushing Nick towards the door.


“What the fuck, I haven’t done anything wrong! Brian lied to me!”


It was a miracle nobody had come to the room to see what the commotion was about.


“Leigh, don’t do this. He didn’t mean it...” Brian said, but nobody seemed to hear him over all the fighting. Nick pushed her off of him and looked at Brian, shaking his head again.


“You know, I hope all of this was worth it.” Nick said, clearly trying to hide the fact that he was upset. He opened the door but Leighanne shoved him from behind, almost making him lose his balance in the hallway. He was still holding it together until the basketball flew out of the room, missing his head and bouncing off of the wall. The door of the room slammed shut, and he could hear her yelling at Brian from outside. He should have been happy that he might have caused them to break up but he was too hurt knowing that Brian had talked shit about him and ditched him to care. His eyes swimming, he turned and ran down the hallway towards the elevator and closed the door, shutting himself inside. It was only when he was by himself that he allowed himself to cry, sitting on the floor of the elevator with his head in his knees. He only hoped that nobody he knew would find him there when the elevator doors opened and he heard someone step inside.


“Nick, are you okay?”


Nick looked up as he wiped his eyes and saw Kevin standing over him. Nobody had hit any buttons on the elevator so they were just sitting there in silence for a few moments while Nick cried.


“Please tell me what’s wrong.” Kevin begged. He knelt down and took him into an embrace, letting Nick sob into his shoulder. Nick never answered him right away or told him what made him so upset, but Kevin knew that this was not anything to do with his family.



“I….can’t. You wouldn’t understand.”


“Do you want me to take you somewhere, then?”


“No.”



“Do you want to go back to the room? Brian’s better at this than I am. He could-”


Nick scowled.


“-or not.”


“Can you….can you help me move my stuff to AJ’s room tonight?” Nick asked through tears.


“Sure thing, kiddo.” Kevin smiled, patting him on the back as he helped him stand up once they went back up to the floor they were staying on. Kevin had a funny feeling that his cousin had upset Nick and he made a mental note to have a good, long talk with him in the morning.
Chapter 8 by DelphinaCarter
Brian thought about running after Nick when Leighanne pushed him out of the room, but for some reason he didn’t.

“He has some nerve barging in here. Didn’t you tell him I would be here tonight, Brian? Why didn’t he go to AJ’s room in the first place?!” Leighanne demanded once she’d put some clothes on and gotten back into bed. Brian was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at the door as if he expected Nick to come back but nothing happened.

“Huh?”

“Are you okay? You look like you’re upset.” Leighanne said, moving across the bed to kiss him. He didn’t return it. His heart was still pounding and his chest hurt. He wondered if it were stress or caused by guilt because he felt sick to his stomach about what had just happened. He had hurt Nick and he wondered if there was any way to fix the damage that had been done. He knew for a fact Nick didn’t like being called annoying or a burden...and Leighanne had basically told him that he was saying it behind his back.

“I think you...and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think you need to go.” Brian said slowly. The smile slid off of his girlfriend’s face so fast Brian almost laughed.


“You’re telling me to go? Why?”

“I just need to be alone for a while. I’m sorry, but you said a lot of really nasty things to Nick. He didn’t know you were here, I sorta ditched him and pretended I was sick so I can spend time with you.” Brian told her. She picked up her things, trying not to show Brian how annoyed she was but it was painfully obvious she was pissed off.

“Well, I feel kind of bad for yelling at him knowing that now...but you shouldn’t have lied to him. I love spending time with you too, but you told me all that stuff and I got angry.”

Brian keep thinking about Nick’s expression when he was called annoying. It really bothered him to see him so upset.

“I’m sorry, but I need to be alone tonight. I’ll call you.”

“I guess I’ll be in touch. Where are you going to be again? I’ll miss you.” Leighanne asked. Brian stood up and showed her to the door before kissing her quickly.

“I’ll miss you too. Germany for a while. Then we are coming back to do some festivals in the states and we have rehearsal for the next tour.”

The two of them said their goodbyes and kissed at the door. To his surprise, when Brian opened it to let her out, Kevin was standing there. He did not look happy.

“Hello, Kevin.” Leighanne smiled at him.

“Hi, Leighanne. Nice to see you…” Kevin said in a friendly tone, but his eyebrows said he was irritated. Brian knew that Nick had probably told him what happened, or that he heard it from his room.

Kevin watched Leighanne until she was heading down the hallway, then went into Brian’s room, where Brian had resumed his spot on the bed next to the empty one where Nick slept. He slammed the door shut behind him.

“What are you doing up?” Brian asked, noticing that it was almost midnight. Kevin was often the first to bed but also the last to wake up as he liked his sleep.

“Nick asked me if I could help him come and get his things after I found him crying because he won’t come near the room. What in the hell is wrong with you? He was really looking forward to that game and you ditched him for your girlfriend?” Kevin demanded, crossing his arms.

“I guess you heard what happened?” Brian asked, as if he didn’t already know he’d fucked up. His stomach was in knots because he was mad at himself.

“I am so unbelievably disappointed to call you my cousin, how could you do that to him? Imagine how he felt when he walked in and saw you with her. He just wanted to spend time with you and this is how you treat him.”

“Like you wouldn’t do that same shit for Kristin.”

“Don’t bring my girlfriend into this. I’m asking you a question.”

“Look, I made a mistake. Nick’s just a kid. He’ll get over it.” Brian waved, heading towards the bathroom to wash up a bit before bed.

“He is not just a kid. He’s your best friend and your bandmate. Do you realize how much he looks up to you? You need to apologize to him.” Kevin hissed from the doorway before he left, as Brian washed his face in the sink. Brian thought and almost considered going over to AJ’s room right then, but he figured it could wait until morning, it was very late and they had to be up early for something anyway.

That night he was kept awake thinking, wondering what he could do to make it up to Nick cause he had screwed up so badly. All he could picture was the look on Nick’s face when Leighanne dropped that bomb on him, that he was annoying. Secretly Brian didn’t feel annoyed by him, he was just tired of Leighanne complaining that he seemed to put work first and his friends first before her. His career always came first. He also wondered why it bothered him so much…Nick was just like a brother to him, wasn't he?

He's more than just a brother to you, stop lying to yourself.

“He's just my friend.” he whispered to himself, as if to shut off his own thoughts. He was supposed to be in a relationship, find a nice girl and settle down to have a family. He was well on his way to doing that and Leighanne was the perfect person to spend the rest of his life with. That's what his parents wanted for him. That was what he wanted too, at least he liked to think so. However, lately things were so jumbled that he didn't know what to think anymore. Nick was a friend….but there was something more. Something lurking that he hadn't explored quite yet because he didn't know how to. He shook it away just like the other times. When he thought of Nick those dreams of white picket fences faded. These feelings often scared him because he had no idea what they meant, so he pretended as if none of it was happening and pushed them away like he started pushing Nick away. Yes, Nick was the start of everything. This was his fault. It was his fault he felt different.

“He’s my friend and nothing else.”

Sometimes he wondered if he was like Nick. Confused about his own sexuality. But he didnt dare to even go there.

You’re just upset that you can’t be together because you know nobody would accept it. You told Nick to hide who he was and you can’t go back on that now. You can’t tell him you feel the same way. You can’t tell him about these feelings. Ever.


No. He couldn’t be gay. That was ridiculous and crazy. He liked Leighanne so it was impossible.

The feeling came and left just as quickly as it entered his mind. No…it didn't mean anything. Nick was his friend and that was it. Yet, something else lingered…another feeling, a feeling unexplored that Brian pushed away as he fell asleep, a feeling that would start eating away at his heart.
Chapter 9 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay in updating. I was kind of stuck on this chapter and had to rewrite it twice. I hope you all enjoy this and if you’d like to review, feel free to tweet me at FrickingKaos on twitter, or post in my update thread on the Absolute Chaos Discussion Boards. I love hearing your thoughts on my work.
After that night at the hotel, Nick avoided Brian for several days even when they flew overseas for the last few dates of their tour. Another tour would pick up in August and they had rehearsals at the end of July. Brian tried a few times to get him to talk but Nick would brush him off. Nick’s dad was with them for these days so they did not room together. Brian was rooming with Kevin instead. He loved his cousin dearly but at the same time, Kevin was very belligerent about the fight with Nick and making things right.

“Have you apologized to him yet?” Kevin asked, over breakfast one morning in the hotel. They had three shows overseas in a row before they’d come back to the states for some small festivals.

“I’ve been trying to, but he is avoiding me.” Brian shrugged. He wasn’t really in a rush to get Nick talking to him because it was quite obvious that he was still angry. This left Brian with quite a few sleepless nights and strange dreams that he couldn’t explain.

“I honestly do not blame him after that.”

Brian could have smacked his cousin if there weren’t so many people there, but he probably would have said the same thing. Nick looked so glum and depressed and it was his fault.

He hoped that soon he’d come up with something.



After the shows, the boys came back home to have a couple of days off for the Fourth of July so Brian decided to take Nick to the beach for the weekend. He’d booked them a room in Cocoa Beach so they could enjoy the beach and also go to the pier where there was an arcade. He planned to order them pizzas and movies as well to entertain them. Unfortunately any time he tried to call Nick at his parent’s house he either wasn’t home or did not want to talk to him, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. The night of July 3rd, Brian showed up at the house in Tampa where Nick’s family lived to pick him up as a surprise.

“Hi, Brian!” Aaron shouted happily, hugging him when he answered the door at the family house in Tampa.

“Hey, squirt...where’s your brother?” Brian chuckled, ruffling the boy’s hair. Aaron was much like Nick in many ways such as the singing. Nick often denied how much alike they were but Brian could see it.

“I think he’s in his room.” Aaron said. Brian followed him into the house, surprised that Nick’s parents were not present with young children running around.

When he knocked on the door he could hear some rap music playing softly behind it.

“Nick?”

“What is it now?”

The door opened and Nick’s eyes were wide, he dropped whatever he was holding in surprise. Brian knew the address of his family’s home but he’d never come there to visit before. His heart started to beat fast and he mentally calmed himself down so he didn’t seem eager to see him, which he was. He missed Brian if not more than Brian missed him.

“What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you too...I came to kidnap you for the weekend.” Brian said, almost laughing at the look of utter confusion on Nick’s face. None of the guys really ever visited him on their down time, it was usually Nick being dumped off at the apartment Kevin and Brian had in Orlando or Nick ending up at Howie’s house. In fact, Brian was really surprised that Nick wasn’t at Howie’s at all.

“Huh?”

“I got us a hotel in Cocoa Beach, I want to take you there for the weekend.”

Nick blushed and rubbed the back of his head the way he would when he was embarrassed.

“I thought….I thought that I annoyed you. Why would you want to hang out with me all weekend? Was your girlfriend busy?” Nick snapped hurriedly, pretending he was still angry and retreating back into his room as Brian followed. It was a typical teenage boy’s room but there were two beds, Brian assumed Aaron also stayed here. It was messy just like Nick kept his bunk on the tour bus.

“Okay, I guess I deserve that. Nick….I been trying to talk to you about that because I did not say it the way she told you.”

The whole time Brian was talking, Nick was not listening. Leighanne’s words echoed in his head over and over.




“Are you so obsessed with him that you can’t leave him alone for a few hours?”

“He tells me all the time you’re annoying!!”




“Brian, I know you love her but….” Nick started, but he was surprised when Brian stopped him from finishing his sentence.

“I am not in love. I like her very much but I’m not.”


Nick stared at him in confusion, he wondered what suddenly brought this on. Or why Brian all of a sudden wanted to hang out with him because it was very clear that him being gay was beginning to be a problem between them. Brian was clearly not comfortable with him in the hotel.

“You sure act like you’re in love.”

They sat down on the bed on the left and Brian put his arm around Nick.

“I was frustrated because things were getting weird between us and you didn’t like Leighanne. You could never annoy me, Nick. You’re my best friend. I’m so sorry. I never wanted that to happen, and I shouldn’t have ditched you for her. I had no idea the trouble you went through to get the tickets for that game so I want to take you away for the weekend. Just you and me. What do you say?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, it’s been forever since we hung out- just the two of us guys.”

It suddenly hit Nick that they were sitting on his bed in his bedroom, and the two of them were completely alone.

Brian almost smiled at how red Nick was turning in the face, redder than his Tampa Bay football jersey. It was almost a turn on how shy he could be sometimes. Shaking those thoughts away, he felt a pang in his chest again and chalked it up to stress from the album coming out and the impending tour. They needed to just get away for a couple of days, to be alone.

You just want him to yourself. To explore what these dreams mean.

Brian shook that feeling away too.

That’s dangerous territory, don’t go there.

“Please come with me to the beach. I know you miss hanging out and so do I. We are in serious need of best friend time.”

“All right.”

The two of them waited for Nick’s parents to come home and then Nick took his overpacked book bag, throwing it into Brian’s pickup. They left for the east coast of Florida, driving off into the sunset to have three days of bonding time.

Just two friends hanging out together.

Brian stared at Nick who was leaning out of the window, his hair blowing in the wind as they drove down the highway listening to the radio.

Friends, and nothing else.
Chapter 10 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey guys! Just wanted to say thanks so much for reading this story. I also wanted to add that if you’d like to review you can email me at sithhappens21@yahoo.com as well.

I always enjoy hearing feedback :)

Here is Chapter Ten, this chapter came kinda quick for me after my Friends marathon ended. So I hope to have another chapter after this one before the week is over, hope you all enjoy!
Brian and Nick reached Cocoa Beach a couple of hours later due to traffic from driving through Orlando.

“I’m glad you brought me here,” Nick smiled as he breathed in the fresh sea air once they pulled up to their hotel. He loved Florida because there was always an ocean nearby, his favorite place in the world to be. He dreamed one day of having a house on the beach to himself, or maybe with another person once he had enough money.

He sometimes wondered if he would be living with a certain someone in that house...

“Are you?” Brian asked, jarring him out of his daydream.

Nick got out of the truck and grabbed his book bag.

“Yeah. It’s been a long time since we hung out just the two of us.”

He was very right because Brian had been spending so much time with Leighanne that he was neglecting his friends. Now that he was away from her, things with Nick didn't seem so weird anymore. He was comfortable and could just be himself. The two of them checked into the hotel and Brian opened their door.

“Did they make a mistake? There’s only one bed.” Nick pointed out at the king size bed in the middle of the room. Brian could have sworn he had booked two beds but they’d shared before in the past because the band wasn’t making that much money. What could it hurt to share now?

You totally did this on purpose.

Shut up. It’s not like that at all.


“Brian? Hello, you’re zoning out on me.” Nick called to him as he was having a mental argument with himself.

“Oh. Sorry, I must be tired from driving to your house and then here. You don’t mind sharing the bed, do you? They didn’t have any other rooms left because it’s a holiday weekend.” Brian explained, which wasn’t a total lie but still believable.

Nick considered this for a minute and threw his book bag down on the floor, kicking his shoes off and letting himself fall into the bed. The room was a decent size, with a refrigerator in one corner, a bathroom and a ceiling fan. A small bathroom occupied the other corner.

“I figured we could just chill in the room tonight and have pizza if you wanted, and tomorrow we could go to the beach, watch the fireworks from the pier...have dinner at the restaurant there.” Brian suggested. They both agreed that pizza was a good option because it was Nick’s favorite so each of them ordered their own pie and gallon of soda. They decided to watch Dumb and Dumber that night, which was one of Brian’s favorites because he loved Jim Carrey.

“Florida pizza isn’t as good as New York, you know.” Nick said with a mouthful of cheese a while later. He washed it down with a swig from his soda bottle as Brian laughed at him and ate.

“I think I agree with you on that one, but this is still pretty good.”

“I wonder what makes it so good?”

“Maybe it’s the water up there.”

Nick looked as if he was deep in thought for a few moments before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and letting out a huge belch. Brian shook his head and laughed. Nick didn’t have the best manners but there was something about him that he liked and he didn’t know why.

“I love this movie, if either of us ever has to wear tuxes we should get an orange one and a blue one. It would be so funny.”

“You’re something else, Nick. I’ll do it if you wear the orange one.” Brian said, setting down the soda bottle and folding his legs so he was sitting Indian style on the carpet in front of the bed.

“Deal.”



They continued talking through the movie until it was over and then Brian decided to discuss something that was on his mind currently given all of the strange feelings he was having recently.

“Can I ask you kind of a personal question?” Brian said suddenly, as Nick picked up the empty pizza boxes to put on the table next to the television. He looked at him funny and walked back, sitting next to Brian at the end of the bed.

“Okay.”

“How did you find out that you were….well...you know.”

“Gay?”

Brian’s ears turned a little pink when Nick filled in the word for him and Nick sighed, looking up at the ceiling.

“Well, I started feeling different, I guess. It was really weird. I noticed guys more than girls. Guys make me feel more comfortable. I never really felt myself when I was with Mandy to tell you the truth. I wanted to like her but I didn’t see anything beyond her looks. I didn’t love her. It was like that with any girl I hung out with, but when I was with you and the guys...I felt like I could really be myself. I started noticing things that I shouldn’t normally notice and I would get turned on by it.”

“Like what?”

Nick made a face at Brian because usually Brian normally didn’t want to even acknowledge that he was gay let alone ask questions about it. Something was off. He’d been feeling that way since Brian showed up at his family’s house.

“What is going on with you, Brian?” Nick asked, staring him down.

Brian tried to pretend he wasn’t feeling slightly anxious.

“I-uh….er…” he started, but Nick cut him off.

“You never seemed to care about this before, so why start now? What’s wrong, Brian? What’s really wrong with you, because none of this makes any sense. First of all you tell me to hide it from everyone, then you tell Leighanne that I’m constantly bothering you and I’m obsessed with you..and now you show up at my house wanting to go away with me for the weekend? What are you getting out of all of this, are you getting some sort of kick out of it or are you just using me?” Nick snapped suddenly. Brian looked down at the floor and blushed because he deserved everything Nick was saying. What was he doing, exactly and why? Nothing made sense to him any more, his chest hurt and he felt anxious. Taking deep breaths he spoke slowly because he didn’t want to upset Nick further.

“No-nothing...Nothing’s wrong. I am just trying to understand you more, that’s all. If I am making you uncomfortable, I will stop asking questions. We just never have talked about it since you told me and I was thinking about it. That’s it.”

Nick nodded and played with a stray string on the carpet, thinking.

“You were thinking about me being gay?”

“Yes. Seriously, I mean it Nick. I seriously want to know how you knew.” Brian answered when he saw the skeptical look on his face.

“Well, it’s hard to explain because it’s not normal to be like this. You said it yourself and I realized you were right because I feel weird. I know I’m not like everyone else and I have been feeling like this for a while. I suppose since I have been going through puberty.”

He didn’t want to tell Brian that he was in love with him, or that Brian made him start noticing he was attracted to boys in the first place. He always knew he was different but being around the other guys made him notice it more.

“Different, as in how?” Brian pressed.

Nick licked his lips and Brian stared intently at him, allowing himself to slightly wonder if his lips were as soft as they looked.

“Just….different. Like I’m meant for something else. Like I’m looking for the Nick I’m meant to be instead of the Nick everyone wants me to be.”

Brian nodded as he listened and realized he felt all of these things too, the real question now was would he allow Nick to help him figure this out or would he keep denying his heart what it was trying to tell him this whole time?
Chapter 11 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey everyone! This chapter went through a few rewrites, especially the scene at the end of the chapter. I hope you do enjoy it and let me know what you think!!
That night after their talk, Nick and Brian took showers and got ready for bed. Nick got into bed first as Brian was finishing in the bathroom and all he could think about was their conversation and how strange Brian was acting. Brian had told him the reason for the questions and bringing him here but he wasn’t buying it. He kept going back to that night on his birthday when he confessed to Brian he thought he might be gay. Of course he was pretty sure now but the fact stood that he hadn’t even tried to be with a guy to see if that was what he was really wanting, or if he was simply curious. He was just shy and afraid of anyone finding out his secret after what Brian had said when he told him so he kept it to himself and left his thirst for discovery unquenched.

“You can’t tell anyone you’re gay. It will change everything. Just pretend you’re like the rest of us until you’re ready to say something.”

The rest of them? What the hell did that mean? Nothing made sense anymore, and it was then that Nick figured it out. He even let out a little gasp to himself as he looked at the closed bathroom door, the sound of Brian singing in the shower very faintly drifting between the cracks.

“No fucking way.” Nick whispered to himself, bewildered.

It was almost too good to be true. No wonder Brian threw himself in the relationship so fast with Leighanne. No wonder he pushed him away and acted weird, asking a bunch of questions to cover for himself. No wonder he didn’t love her. It was so obvious that Nick didn’t know how he hadn’t thought of this any sooner. He decided to pull out his Game Boy and play Tetris while he waited for Brian to finish showering and had to hold himself from bursting in the room to tell him that he had figured it all out because he knew he wouldn’t have wanted things to go down that way.

Neither of them would have wanted it that way. So Nick decided to wait and let Brian tell him himself why he’d been acting so strange.



The shower in the other room shut off and a while later, Brian reappeared in the room with his boxers on and a t shirt. Nick laid in bed playing his Game Boy and trying to beat the current level of Tetris he was on.

“You okay?” Brian asked, noticing the dead silence. Nick barely glanced up at him, still playing his game. He didn’t answer.

“All right, then. I’m ready to go to sleep if you are, I’m gonna turn the lights out.”

Nick shut off his game and rolled the opposite way away from Brian, leaving him confused at the sudden silence when they’d been so chatty all evening.

“Good night.”

“Night.”




They both had a pretty restful sleep but in the morning, Nick was surprised to find Brian next to him with his head buried in his shoulder, breathing softly. Nick remembered a time long ago when they used to sleep like this on the tour bus...a few years ago when it was their first time on the road. Nick was homesick and couldn’t sleep so Brian would lay with him until he finally managed to doze off, but more often than not Nick would wake up to find him next to him still. Feeling his heartbeat was comforting to him. He smiled and put his head back on the pillow, allowing himself to drift off again.

The second time he woke up, Brian was awake and dressed already.

“Morning.”

Nick yawned and sat up in bed, flattening his hair on his head because it was sticking up in all directions.

“You’re up already?”

“Yeah, I was gonna ask if you wanted to go down to the beach but I let you sleep in some. We can still go down there, I figured you would like to do some surfing or play volleyball.” Brian suggested, chuckling as he watched Nick try to fix his hair.

“Surfing sounds cool.”


The two of them made their way down to the beach which was not a long walk once they got their blanket and umbrella together from the truck. Nick had brought some things from his house because his family had them already, which Brian was thankful they were allowed to use them. Once they set it all up, Nick took out his board and went out in the water while Brian watched. Brian didn’t know how to surf so he observed. It was not very crowded which was surprising because it was a holiday weekend, but it was also very hot outside so Brian figured that most people stayed home and barbecued.

“Come on, Brian! The water is great out here!” Nick called once he’d paddled out some. Brian waved back and laughed. Sitting on the board and waiting for the right wave, Nick smiled as he stared back at Brian and thought about everything that was happening.


That night they had dinner out on the pier at the restaurant overlooking the water, listening to the waves crash as they sipped at their sodas and ate burgers followed by a delicious key lime pie. They moved to another part of the beach to watch the sunset before fireworks show happening that night and the whole time, Brian thought about letting Nick know he was possibly interested in him but it never seemed to come up.

“You okay?” Nick asked suddenly as they sat in the sand on the blanket they brought with them earlier in the day. They were both full from dinner and Nick couldn’t wait to go to bed because he was tired.

“Just thinking.” Brian said, looking up at the darkening sky. The sky was full of oranges and reds, the sun dipping just below the horizon.

“Can I ask you a question, though? Why did you really bring me here this weekend?”

After asking the question Nick looked him right in the eye, eager for the answer that Brian had been avoiding giving him for two days.

“I told you, I wanted to spend time with you. Why isn’t that a good enough answer for you? There’s literally no other reason than that. I wanted to hang out with you and make up for what happened at the hotel with Leighanne. I feel really bad about all that and you were so upset with me that it was killing me. Okay?”

“Look, I’m only 17 but I can see right through that. I think there’s something else and you’re just afraid of me. Why are you afraid? Are you afraid of me because you think I’m going to turn you gay or something?” Nick demanded. Brian had kind of forgotten how young Nick was in that moment because he was acting so wise. This was exactly why Brian was covering. He didn’t know what he wanted or who he was anymore and it terrified him. He could feel his heart racing as he tried to think of a lie. Their faces were pretty close at this point, and Nick could hear him begin to be uncomfortable just by the rhythm of his breathing.

“I’m not trying to freak you out or anything, I just wanted to know. I’m sorry, Brian. Please don’t get upset.” Nick whispered, moving to hug him. Brian felt himself calm down and steadied himself. They parted and stared at each other again.

“I’m sorry, Nick. I don’t know. I just wanted to spend some time with you.” Brian apologized again softly, looking into his eyes again. If he just kissed him now and got it over with, maybe things would start making sense. All he had to do was lean in….

The two of them did lean in and Brian closed his eyes, waiting for the kiss to happen but it was interrupted by the start of the fireworks. A loud bang startled them, bright blue and red sparks appearing in the sky. When Brian opened his eyes he saw how disappointed Nick looked, and he knew deep down he’d hurt him again. The truth was, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted. He still liked Leighanne and couldn’t hurt her. Brian looked up at the fireworks as he and Nick sat on the beach in silence, the bright colors flashing in front of them as he thought of what he was going to do.

Brian knew he would have to make a choice and it was not going to be easy. He wanted Leighanne, but now he wasn’t sure. She was easy to get and the safe option but possibly pursuing Nick had seemed exciting and he’d definitely blown his chances of that happening.

He figured he would call her on Monday after getting home to Kentucky, and maybe things would be more clear then.
Chapter 12 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the delay in this update, but I do hope you enjoy this turn that we are about to take.

Feedback is always appreciated :)
After they parted, Nick had to quickly compose himself so Brian didn’t see how upset he was. He was really feeling Brian and felt like the kiss was really going to happen until Brian pulled back. All Nick could think about was what did he do wrong, what did he say wrong, was he really as annoying as Leighanne had said?

“It’s too quiet.” Brian said, even though that was a lie with the fireworks going on above them in the sky. It was anything but quiet.

“Quiet?” Nick laughed.

“You know what I mean.” Brian said with narrowed eyes.

“No, I really don’t Brian. You seem to be giving mixed signals. I thought I knew what was going on, but maybe I’m wrong. I think you are afraid of me. You’re afraid I’ll make you feel different too.”

You are afraid of him, just tell him. You already do feel different.

Brian really wanted to but what came out of his mouth next, he couldn’t have stopped because as soon as he spoke he knew he pissed Nick off.

“I- I’m not afraid of anything. I don’t know what you were thinking you were getting out of this trip but I am not gay, Nick. I have a girlfriend. Something most guys want. Even if I wanted to be with you, we couldn’t….well they just wouldn’t understand. What would everyone say?”

Nick stood up and some people near them started to watch them. He was definitely angry, if he could breathe fire he probably would have smoke coming out of his ears. But instead he took a breath and tried to hold it together although his voice was breaking.

“What would everyone say? That’s all you care about, how people see you- isn’t it? Maybe you care how people look at you, Bri...but I don’t. I know who I am.” Nick half whispered, half shouted as his eyes watered from anger.

“Nick, please don’t….” Brian whispered, tugging on his arm to sit back down. Nick pulled away from him and walked away from him towards the hotel.

“Nick…” Brian called after him, but he ignored him and kept going.

He picked up their things and carried them back to the truck, calling Nick’s name but Nick did not answer him, he slammed the door.

“Damn it, Nick...I didn’t mean that how it came out. Please talk to me.” Brian begged when he went into the room to find Nick laying on the bed with his head in the pillow. He wanted to kiss Nick back on the beach but the decision of what to do with Leighanne still lingered in his head. He liked both of them and it was starting to make him anxious.

Nick turned over, looking at him in silence.



Brian felt the lump in his throat try to dislodge itself and coughed as he sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at Nick.

“I don’t know how to start.” Brian confessed, sighing and running a hand through his curly hair.

“You can start by explaining why you were about to kiss me.”

“I was not about to kiss you.” Brian lied. If Nick rolled his eyes any harder at that moment they’d have fallen out. Brian was not ready to admit to Nick, let alone to himself what his heart really wanted. He wasn’t even sure what that was yet and knew it would take some time to figure out.

“You’re full of shit.”

“Nick, you have to believe me. I’m feeling a lot of things right now and I need to make sense of it. I have a girlfriend that I really lo- that I really like and I want to see where it goes with her.” Brian protested.

Nick paid special attention when Brian corrected himself because he knew what Brian didn’t, that he was with Leighanne because it was considered acceptable by everyone. People expected Brian to settle down and have a family. He’d mentioned it in interviews, he’d told the guys about a hundred times that he wanted to move somewhere south and have a big house with a big yard for the kids to play in. He wanted kids more than anything, kids and a family like he had. Deep down, Nick had always been kind of jealous of Brian’s loving upbringing and supportive family. His family life was nothing short of dysfunctional and he couldn’t even tell them his secret because he already knew how they felt about something like that. His parents were close minded and were focused on Aaron’s singing career, the latest cash grab out of his siblings. They were starting to discuss Leslie too and Nick hated seeing this. He loved singing and loved everything that was about to happen. He loved being with the guys and performing, but alone he felt empty. He was hoping that Brian could fill that emptiness.

“Okay, keep covering.” Nick muttered, rolling over and facing the wall.

“Seriously, Nick. I don’t know what you want from me. I don’t want to kiss you. I don’t want to be with you. I have a girlfriend.” Brian protested.

“Whatever.”

Brian could feel himself getting angry and it was because Nick was absolutely right. It was then that he had a crazy yet brilliant idea….



“If I kiss you and prove you wrong, will you leave me alone about it?”

“Prove me wrong?” Nick asked, sitting up and staring at him with daggers in his eyes.

“Yes, prove to you that I do not have feelings for you and we can move on from this. I don’t want to keep having these fights with you and if we are going to continue being bandmates, we can’t let any of the guys think something is going on.” Brian sighed. Nick got up and walked over to him, facing him and staring him in the eyes like before on the beach. Brian suddenly became very warm, and he could feel his ears turning pink from nerves. Nick was hovering over him, staring him down.

“Well?”

Nick looked annoyed he was making him wait so long.



“I….uh….” Brian blushed, going pink in the ears. Nick smirked at him. He was being stupid, how hard could it be to kiss someone?

He’s not just someone, you idiot. He’s a guy and he’s also your best friend, your little brother. Your bandmate. You are afraid.

Before he could say anything, Nick leaned in and he felt Nick’s hand reach behind his neck, pulling him towards his face. Nick pressed his lips firmly on his mouth without warning, and he didn’t pull away. Brian’s first reaction was to push him off, but he surprised himself by allowing the kiss to happen. So many sensations rushed through his body in that fleeting moment, until they parted.

“Was that so hard?” Nick whispered gently into his ear, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He blinked, unable to speak. He’d kissed another man.

“Brian?”


He’d kissed another man.



Nick watched him now with concern because he wasn’t speaking.



He’d kissed another man just to shut him up and that was all. Nothing else. He did not enjoy it.



Except that was a lie. He did enjoy it. He wanted to do it again.


So he did.


Brian stood up, grabbed Nick and kissed him back so fast that he had no time to react. The kiss was full of fire, something he had definitely not felt with Leighanne when they kissed. It had more than animal passion. It had true feelings behind it.

He had willingly kissed another man and he enjoyed every minute of it….but where was this going to go from here? They couldn’t be together. Nobody would understand them. Nobody would accept them. He knew this in his heart. It was going to ruin everything. How was he going to explain this to Leighanne when he saw her again? That not only did he cheat on her, he cheated on her with Nick.

He would have to figure it all out soon.
Chapter 13 by DelphinaCarter
After the Fourth Of July weekend was over, the boys went right into performing some music festivals around the US, small ones where they could get the word out about their new album. They were getting impatient because they had not broken in the US yet and it was frustrating to be so huge in Europe that they needed extra security to go to Mc Donald’s- but back home, nobody even knew they existed. They could practically hear the crickets chirping when they landed back in the states.

Nick and Brian had put off talking about Leighanne and the kiss for a while and just focused on the group, although Nick wanted to know what was going to happen between them so he decided that today was a good time to talk about it.

“Do you think all this work is going to pay off soon, Brian?” Nick asked to start a conversation when they were on their tour bus after a particularly grueling show day. They had interviews and press beforehand so there really wasn’t any downtime other then when they could eat really quickly or sneak in a nap.

“I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to think we will. Remember what Lou said? We will be larger than life and living in one of those huge mansions like he has before you know it. We’ll blow our noses with hundred dollar bills and order pizza on gold trays.” Brian smiled.

Nick seemed to contemplate this for a moment before he made a face.

“Dude, that kinda sounds gross. Why would you blow your nose on money?”

“I’m not saying we really will...it’s just an expression, you goober.” Brian laughed as he nudged Nick in the side.

“I’m not a goober, you’re a goober!” Nick giggled, pouncing on top of Brian. They play wrestled until a voice made them look up.

“Having fun, boys?”

Nick stopped what he was doing when he spotted Lou, and Brian thought this was a little off considering he always thought Nick liked their manager. Lou was always friendly toward them and their families, getting them whatever they needed and throwing their birthday parties at his house. He would send them planes and limos to pick them up. It kind of gave them the taste of a much better life and after seeing how Nick lived, Brian thought that Lou’s house seemed like Disneyland.

“Hi, Lou.” Nick said in a less than enthusiastic tone.

Their manager smiled at both of them and continued to the back of the bus where Nick’s mom was tidying up the bunk area.

“Nick, is everything okay?” Brian asked. Nick looked at the floor, as if he were thinking of something to say.

“Yeah...yeah, everything's fine. No problem.” Nick sighed.

Brian made a mental note to keep an eye on Nick when Lou was around because he sensed something was definitely wrong.

“So are we ever going to talk about what happened in Cocoa Beach, or are we going to keep skirting around it?” Nick whispered, making sure that Lou or his mother were nowhere in hearing distance of their conversation. They’d resumed their seats at the little kitchen table towards the front of the bus and started a game of Go Fish with a deck of cards Kevin had left there.

“What is there to say, Nick? I told you, I don’t have any feelings for you.” Brian lied. His chest was bothering him and he brushed it off again.

“Why are you making that face? Are you okay?”

“It’s nothing.” Brian lied, feeling anxious again. He hated when people pointed out things that were wrong with him, or when he was doing something wrong. Brian was a perfectionist. Imperfection made him upset.

Nick looked around to see if anyone was listening and started whispering so only Brian could hear. They could hear Nick’s mother and Lou talking by the bunk area about Aaron and the Europe tour.

“No, something is wrong with you. You were like this at the video shoot, and at the hotel in LA - don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

“Everything is fine. Besides, we are about to release an album, go on tour, do a ton of press and things are finally about to pick up for us. I can’t have something wrong with me. Lou won’t be happy if he has to pull the plug on everything because I’m sick.” Brian whispered, once again looking to see nobody was coming. The truth was, when he was anxious, his chest would start hurting very dully and he thought it might have to do with his heart murmur. He would keep saying to himself when things slowed down and they had some time off that he would see a cardiologist, but that never happened. Lou and Johnny had so many things booked for them that there literally was no time off. They even worked holidays, putting in many long hours rehearsing dances or whatever else was scheduled.

“You really should go to a doctor, I don’t want you to get sick.” Nick said, putting his hand over Brian’s and squeezing it gently with his thumb. Brian pulled it away and picked up a card from the pile on the table.

“I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”

Brian’s sudden coldness made Nick back off and they continued their card game, not speaking for most of it. Brian excused himself to use the restroom and went to the back of the bus where he heard Nick’s mom and Lou talking with Johnny.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Lou. She is saying Nick and the other boys are tired, and you won’t give them any time off.” Johnny said quietly. Brian sat in the bathroom, listening as he used the toilet. He left the door slightly open so he could hear better.

“These kids are going to make me quite a bit of money. If they took a break now when we are about to break in the United States, they will never put their foot in the door. I put my money into this group, and I can take it away.”

“Well, Lou...if you really think they will make that much money I don’t see harm in Nick putting in extra work.” Jane commented. Brian was in disbelief at how everyone was practically salivating at the thought of how much money the group was about to make, although as the ones doing all the work they were not seeing much money from it. It just made Brian think about his managers in a different light . How much money were they earning and where was it going?

“That’s what I like to hear, Jane. I wish the other parents were on board as you were. You definitely have your son’s future in mind.” Lou said.

“I think we could look at a solo tour for Aaron after this one is over, if you want to draw up some things for me….”

The conversation was making Brian sick to his stomach so he left the bathroom as quietly as he had come and made his way up front. Nick was there waiting for him with a concerned look on his face.

“Everything okay?”

“I heard everyone talking in the back and it wasn’t good, Nick. We need to do something.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your mom, Johnny and Lou were all talking about how they didn’t care we were tired and all they want is us to make them money. They don’t care if we are sick, or dying or anything. Lou just wants to make money and so does your mom.”

“That’s bullshit.” Nick said, looking towards the back of the bus where his mom was.

“Nick, I think you and I need to do something. We are all tired. Nobody seems to care and it’s pissing me off. The only way that we are ever going to get any time off is if we refuse to do what Lou wants us to do. Everyone is afraid of him, but I’m not. What do you think?” Brian asked quietly.

“I am tired, Brian...but like you said before, everything is about to happen. We can’t take time off now. What about all the work we did?”

“True, but we need to stand up for ourselves. You became a singer because you enjoy it, right?”

Nick considered this for a moment. He did do it because he enjoyed it but he also thought that money could save his family. He wanted to help them more than anything. He never wanted to see them struggle again.

“Right.”

“You and me will stand up to him. Together.” Brian told him, banking on the fact Nick trusted him completely to make this work. If things were going to change with their management, Brian knew he needed help. If anyone would help him it would be Nick. Between the two of them, they might be able to convince everyone else that they were overworked.

“Together.” Nick smiled at him and held out his hand for Brian to shake.

“Together.”

Brian knew that the kiss would come up again eventually, but for now he was happy having Nick on his side.

Little did he know it would not last for long.
Chapter 14 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey everyone! Sorry for the delay in this chapter, I’ve been busy with work and visiting the boys in Vegas during the week. Jet lag is not my friend. Hope you all enjoy this chapter!!!
After finding out that the managers did not care about their health or well being, Brian and Nick grew tighter than before Nick had confessed he was gay. Nick had fainted during rehearsals in July and Brian kept him company in the hospital...staying through the night even though it turned out he was simply dehydrated and exhausted. Nick ended up taking a four day break from the rehearsals while the other boys went back to work harder than ever as if it were a punishment for Nick being tired. Nobody seemed to see what Brian saw in Lou, the others only saw the warm and friendly side of their manager, Brian knew he would need more support and started to talk to Leighanne more, long phone calls where he would rant to her about things he was finding out and what he wanted to do about it when he was able to. Nick was definitely on his mind as well. The feelings that rose during their kiss had gone to hide once Nick wasn’t around.

All of this was making him anxious and putting stress on his body to the point where the chest pain was more frequent.


“So when are you going to see a doctor?” Leighanne asked one night after Brian told her he was heading to bed early. They had been talking for only a half hour, and he was trying to make excuses for himself by saying they had rehearsal early.

“When we have time off, I can see if-“

“No, you need to see a doctor. You cannot keep putting your health on hold for those people. They don’t care about you, you told me yourself how they were practically salivating at the fact y’all could earn them so much money. Aren’t you being hypocritical?” Leighanne interrupted him.

Privately, Brian agreed he was being a hypocrite. But what could he do?

There simply wasn’t enough time for it all.



Finally August came and the boys were gearing up to release their first album in the United States, “Backstreet’s Back”. They were all excited for it and had a lot of press and promo in New York for the whole release, including signings in New York.

“Nick, you’re rooming with AJ. Howie, you’re rooming with Kevin…” Johnny started telling the boys when they got to their hotel.

“AJ?” Nick asked in confusion.

“Yes...Brian is bringing a guest.”

Leighanne walked into the lobby carrying a suitcase followed by Brian, and Nick’s eyes darkened. Brian had made his choice. He had chosen Leighanne and although Nick knew Brian was in denial, some part of him was hoping that he wouldn’t stay with her.

When they got up to their rooms, Nick slammed the door and flopped onto his bed dramatically, as AJ walked in a few minutes later.

“What’s eating you?” AJ asked, throwing his bag on the floor.

“I thought we weren’t allowed to bring any girlfriends or whatever. Didn’t the label say nobody was supposed to know we had them or something?” Nick sighed. How could Brian do this when they were supposed to be rooming together and teaming up to take down their manager? They were going to save the group together.

“I guess they let him do it. Come on, don’t you wanna be my roomie?” AJ said, planting a big wet kiss on Nick’s face as he wriggled away. Nick wiped his cheek and acted like he was disgusted by it because as of this moment, only Brian knew his secret and he planned to keep it that way. With this press tour, things were about to take off and Nick wanted to make sure that nothing screwed it up.

He would put his feelings to the side for now and that would be good enough.

It had to be. At least that was the lie that he told himself.




“How do you like the view, baby?” Brian asked when he saw Leighanne by the window looking out at the street below.

“It’s great, but I really think you should have seen a doctor during your couple days off instead of fighting to get me to come to New York with you.” Leighanne said thoughtfully.

Brian looked at the floor, sighing. Nick had been pushing him to go to a doctor as well but he was ignoring both of them because he simply did not have time. Or rather that was the excuse he told himself. The thought of going to the doctor made him anxious on top of everything else that was going on, the stuff he was uncovering about Lou and about the album release. He was already under a lot of stress and it put stress on his chest to the point where even the pain killers were not helping him anymore. He knew he couldn’t keep putting it off but he had to, or at least that was what he decided. The group was first, he was second and it had always been that way.


Brian held Leighanne’s waist and kissed her on the cheek, holding her and hoping that it would all work out for the best.



“So what do you want to do tonight? We don’t start any interviews until tomorrow morning...we could hit up some clubs or something.” AJ asked, watching Nick play his game boy in bed. They’d taken naps and were getting bored quickly.

“Jay, this isn’t Europe. I’m not old enough to go clubbing and neither are you. You’re only 19.” Nick said, not looking up from his video game.

AJ scoffed, looking annoyed that he couldn’t drink here.

“I bet I could still get some beer if I bribed someone to get it for me. You in?”

Nick was about to answer and tell AJ that it was a bad idea when a knock came at the door. It was unexpected and abrupt because Kevin was out with Howie shopping, Brian had his girlfriend there and their management was at meetings. Who would be knocking at this time in the evening?

“You get it.” AJ said, tossing a pillow at Nick’s head as he ducked. He walked over to the door and hoped maybe it was Brian, saying he was bored with his girlfriend and wanted to hang out for a while.

Nick was shocked to see Leighanne at the door…..without Brian.

“Brian’s not here, if you’re looking for him.” Nick said without thinking. Leighanne laughed, motioning for Nick to come out into the hallway and he obliged, shutting the door behind him. He was really nervous because Leighanne knew that Nick didn’t like her, and she didn’t seem to like him very much. This was the first time they’d even really talked without either yelling or without Brian in the room other than greeting each other in passing.

“Nick? Can I talk to you about something...but not here, in private?” Leighanne asked as if she’d spent some time thinking about coming over to see him.

Nick nodded and followed her down the hallway. His heart was thumping from nerves, was she about to tell him to fuck off? Was she going to tell him she didn’t want him to hang out with Brian anymore?

“So what’s up?” Nick asked when Leighanne made sure nobody was there to listen to their conversation.

“I’m worried about Brian. Has he told you about any chest pain he’s having?”

Nick thought back to the bus and at the hotel, at the video shoot when Brian thought he wasn’t paying attention. Brian was definitely uncomfortable and hiding it.

“He’s been hiding something from me, but won’t tell me what’s wrong. When I ask him, he gets angry and pushes me away.”

“Yeah he does that to me too. What do you think it is?” Nick sighed.

He followed Leighanne down the hallway and they stopped at the end where there was a big window near the elevators.

“I think he’s getting sick and it’s because your management won’t give y’all time off. Brian told me you were in the hospital. I don’t want to see him end up in there because he is too proud to admit that he needs to put himself first. Do you think there is any way we could put our differences in the past and convince Brian to go see a cardiologist? We both care about him and there is strength in numbers.” Leighanne said, taking his hand. Nick blushed and looked down at it because he was so uncomfortable. How could he convince the girl that was stealing Brian away that he was now on her side? How could he put his feelings to the side for their relationship?


It definitely seemed that Leighanne Wallace loved Brian and he didn’t love her back, and Nick almost felt sorry for her because she had no idea. As far as Leighanne knew they were both falling in love. Nick knew what she didn’t, that he was not in love with her whatsoever.

“All right, I’ll try talking to him too.” Nick agreed, and they shook hands. Nick hoped that this truce would last but deep down he sensed that joining forces with Leighanne was only going to complicate his friendship with Brian further.
Chapter 15 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
So sorry for the delay in this update, but I have been busy with work. I do hope you enjoy this chapter as I had to go over it a couple times to get it just right. thanks for reading :)
August was a very busy month for the Backstreet Boys with their US debut album releasing. All of a sudden everyone realized they existed and they were booked solid for most of the month. Once Canada started playing their song Quit Playing Games With My Heart, it suddenly got picked up by radio stations in the US and things straight blew up. The summer seemed to go great with the small festivals they were doing and by the end of August they were back overseas, Leighanne coming along for the ride because Brian needed her company.


Rather, she almost insisted she come and only she and Nick knew the reason why. They were trying to convince Brian he was getting sick but he was still being stubborn. Another thing was becoming apparent with the group as well, the fact that Lou Pearlman had taken another singing group under his wing.


“This is such bullshit, I can’t stand it. Why doesn’t anyone else see a problem with what he’s doing?” Brian hissed when he came in the hotel room to find his girlfriend watching TV, or trying to watch TV in German.

“What is the matter? Come here.” Leighanne said softly, motioning him over to the bed. Brian was very angry, more angry than she’d seen him in a long time. She immediately began to massage his shoulders as she let him rant. His shoulders and back were so tense it was like feeling a wooden plank and she worried about him even more than she did before. Brian was running himself ragged.

“That fat bastard is not only doesn’t give a shit about our health, but he is managing another group like us. He pretty much told us they think they’re better than we are, too.”

He breathed in and exhaled, feeling his chest throbbing from the stress. His anxiety was high today after seeing Lou and Johnny talk about the other group when they thought nobody was listening.

“Babe, you need to calm down. You are going to worry yourself sick. If you would just go see a doctor, you-“

That was the key word. At the sound of the word “doctor” Brian got up, pushing her away. The last thing he needed was another lecture like Nick was always giving him, the ones where Nick would pester him and ask him what was wrong. The truth was, he was getting worse and there wasn’t enough time to figure anything out. They were in the middle of a tour, and were in the process of scheduling more US shows for their first real tour there. Rehearsals would come after that, and then recording another album. There was literally no option to take any time off, no option to rest or even go to a doctor. He had to keep pushing forward for the group even though it was killing him.





“Hello, boys. Sleep well?” Lou asked them all at breakfast one morning, at some big restaurant in Germany. Everyone was getting settled at the table and sleepily exchanged greetings with Lou, who sat at the head of the table. Brian rolled his eyes and nobody noticed but Kevin, who nudged him under the table with his foot.

“Everything is great, Lou. What’s new? You said you wanted to talk to us about something?” Kevin piped up as the waitress took orders.

Brian almost spit out his coffee in disbelief at his cousin going along with their manager after he’d been trying to convince the other guys that Lou wasn’t what he seemed. Nobody seemed to be listening and it frustrated him beyond belief.

“Boys, I am arranging a basketball game between you and my other group, NSYNC- for charity.”

A collective groan escaped from everyone.

“Look, I know they don’t like you but you have to do this event. It’s good press. It will make a lot of money for charity.”

“More like make money to line your pockets.” Brian thought to himself sourly. He kept wondering the whole time if the money would actually go to charity or not. What else was their manager hiding from them? Brian had been poking around and what he was finding was unsettling. He hadn’t been telling the guys much but he wanted to talk to Lou privately and maybe get him to make things right before it got worse and they all walked. Brian could definitely see himself quitting the group if the others did not agree with the fact that their manager was screwing them over.

“Do we have to? I don’t like them, they’re stupid.” Nick said as he rolled his eyes. He preferred playing basketball when it was just him and Brian.

“Fuck those guys.” AJ agreed.

“Now, now. That isn’t very nice. Even after all the nasty things they’ve said about you, you should still act professional at this game.” Lou said. The guys all exchanged looks, they were indeed frustrated with this other group competing for everything they’d been working so hard for the last five years. Lou was always telling them that the members of NSYNC hated them and made fun of them, that they worked harder than them and sounded better. He would compare the two often and it pissed everyone off, especially Kevin who was a perfectionist and would go along with it.

After everyone ordered their breakfasts, the conversation turned to paychecks and schedules.

“So we have the tour into the fall and then we can go into the studio to record the next album right away if we work things the way we’ve been doing...and look for a release early next year sometime. Sales are going up in the States so there will be more demand…” Lou droned on.

“Wait, wait….so we won’t be home for the holidays at all?” Howie asked suddenly, setting down his coffee. Howie was looking forward to the holidays and seeing his parents because he’d been away so much.

“You’ve already missed a few holidays, what’s a couple more? I let you boys have the Fourth Of July weekend off which was more than generous. Don’t get greedy,” Lou said. Nick exchanged looks with Brian, who pretended he wasn’t thinking about their kiss at all. Brian could feel his chest start to tighten because he was so anxious.

“Lou, we hardly see our families.” Howie said softly.

“Well, I’m afraid that’s part of this business. You knew there would be a lot of work and being away for periods of time.”

Howie looked down at the table, feeling defeated.

Nick watched Brian closely and he could tell that he was holding back but close to exploding so he nudged him, but Brian pushed him away and scowled.

“Periods of time? Lou, we’ve been working our asses off for five years. We are all tired, doesn’t that mean anything to you? We just want a little break.” Brian protested. Nick started kicking him under the table to tell him to stop talking but he ignored him.

“If you want to be successful, you have to sacrifice sometimes. We can’t all get our way. What is all this complaining now? My other group doesn’t ask for so much time off, you know. You are getting paid and be grateful for it.” Lou snapped.

Brian started counting backwards from ten in his mind, trying to calm himself down but it wasn’t working. Anger was boiling inside him.,

“A paycheck that you take your cut from….” he muttered.

“What was that?” Lou said, looking up from his many plates in front of him.

“You heard me, Why don’t you tell everyone what you and Johnny are up to, or why we aren’t getting paid what we should be getting paid. I’d like to know what’s going on.”

“What exactly are you accusing me of?”

It was getting very heated at the table, Howie was watching and looked as if he wished he had some popcorn. Kevin’s mouth was hanging open and AJ was busily chewing on his bacon but trying to listen to the conversation. Nick’s plate remained full as he was still trying to stop Brian and forgotten all about his food.

“Brian, stop….” Kevin whispered, but Brian ignored them. Lou was casting a very angry look in their direction and Johnny looked uncomfortable. Everyone was dead silent after Brian spoke but they kept eating and avoiding eye contact with one another.

“I do not appreciate this after everything I’ve done for you. Either you stop or I can pull the plug on this tour right now. Is that what you want? To ruin everything you all have worked so hard for?”

Brian looked at his plate of sausage and eggs and sighed, he didn’t want to ruin the group, he simply wanted to make things right.

“All you have to do is make things right, Lou. That’s it. Just make it right. Please.” Brian begged. Lou got up and left, without a word but Brian could tell he was getting to him. Just like that, breakfast was officially over and everyone was uncomfortable. Kevin turned to him, furious.

“Brian, why did you have to start shit like that? He’s going to take everything away….”

“Kev, he is up to something. I heard things, and I’ve seen that our pay isn’t what it should be. If he’s doing this to us, he’s gotta be doing it to this other band. I’m going to talk to them at the game.”

“Personally I wouldn’t bother with them but do whatever you want. We have a good thing going here, I suggest you don’t screw things up further.” Kevin scoffed, going back to his food.

Brian turned to Nick, who had finally started eating in silence.

“You and I are going to do some investigating….”

Nick looked back at him and smiled. Things were definitely about to go down.
Chapter 16 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
This chapter took me a bit to edit so I apologize for the late update. Hope you enjoy.
The night of the basketball game, Brian was nervous for a number of reasons. He’d gone to get Nick before they all went over to where it was being held to talk to him in private, because he was fully into getting the conversation with the other group.



“So you’re going to come with me to talk to them, right?” Brian asked in a hushed voice so that AJ wouldn’t hear him. Nick seemed a bit distracted and then focused.


“Um...yeah, I’m coming with you. Are you sure this is a good idea, though? Lou said they hate us. I don’t feel like fighting with them.”


Brian placed a hand on Nick’s shoulder and reassured him they’d be fine as long as management didn’t try to interfere with the conversation, which he had a feeling might happen. Nick stared at Brian the whole car ride to the venue, thinking about the  things Brian had been saying to him the last few days. That they were a team, that they were unstoppable together and how he trusted him completely to help him. However, he also heard Leighanne in the back of his mind begging him to help her convince Brian to go to a doctor about the chest pain….and he agreed with her to the point where he meant to bring it up but it never seemed to happen. He knew Brian wouldn’t appreciate him and his girlfriend talking about him behind his back because he didn’t like when Brian and her did it to him.



“You okay, Brian?” Nick asked suddenly, causing him to look back at him.


“Huh? Yeah, I’m just thinking about things.”


“Like what?”


Brian shifted in his seat as he watched the passing traffic from the window. He had so much that he wanted to say to Nick but he held back and just blurted out what his brain was thinking, not his heart. His heart wanted to tell Nick that he lied to him back in July and it was bothering him. The truth was, his heart and his mind had been wrestling with these new feelings for Nick and the fact that the proper thing to do was stay with Leighanne because he should be. He felt bad for lying to her too because he liked her, but he wasn’t in love with her as Nick had not so nicely pointed out on multiple occasions during angry outbursts.


Yet now Nick and Leighanne were acting friendly and this left Brian even more confused than before. At least when they were at odds he didn’t feel obligated to be swayed either direction. Brian just wasn’t sure how to put how he felt to words and he knew it was going to take some time to deal with it. Sometimes he wanted to ask Nick how he came to the conclusion that he was gay, how it all started...the truth. The feeble explanation Nick gave back in July didn’t seem to be the full story. Something was missing.


“Just got a lot on my mind about the tour, about Lou…”


Nick nodded thoughtfully.


“Sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, it’s just a lot and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Like if I go up against Lou, he goes to the label - and the label drops us...what do we do? We’ve all worked so hard. I don’t want to ruin that for you guys. Lou is literally stealing from us, you should see what my parents helped me dig up after I overheard him on the bus talking to your mom that day. I found out so much crap, Nick. It’s making me so sick that he’s taking advantage of us and that other band. I have to say something to them, what if they don’t know? I’ll never live with myself if I don’t say something.” Brian confessed softly.


“Really? Lou’s stealing from us?” Nick asked.


“That’s just the tip of things, but yes.”


“I knew he was up to something, but this is...this is not what I was thinking at all.”


“Yeah...he’s taking our money and giving us crap. I just want him to make things right, Nick. I want him to pay us. We did the work. Not him. I’m just scared, I guess. What are we going to do if nobody believes me?”


“We will get through it together. Just like we are now.” Nick smiled, putting a hand on his knee. Brian shifted away, staring back out the window.



Nick stared at him dejectedly and the car ride was continued in silence, nobody speaking until they reached the venue where the basketball game was being held. There were some press and fans there, the boys stopped for photos and interviews but went inside to get ready. Brian could feel himself tensing up thinking about talking to NSYNC...were they as horrible as Lou said? Lou had told them many times that the other group would make fun of them, that they hated them and thought they were better than the Backstreet Boys. Lou said that there was no way they’d ever consider each other equal.


“There they are,” Nick whispered when they came out onto the court to do the introductions, he could see the other five guys from afar and they were avoiding eye contact at all costs.


“We gotta talk to them somehow.” Brian whispered back, sizing them up. He wondered how they were going to do this with so many people watching. As the game went on, Brian felt like talking to them wasn’t going to happen because every opportunity he had, there were distractions. He’d tried to get their attention but it seemed like they were ignoring him on purpose and it was pissing him off.


“Well?” Nick asked tentatively after another failed attempt where Brian tried to sneak into their locker room after the game. Brian looked defeated and tired. He was also hungry. Things didn’t look too hopeful right now but part of him didn’t want to give up completely yet.


“I don’t know, Nick. Maybe we could find out where they’re staying and try to get them at their hotel? I’m out of ideas.”


“Ya think we could come up with something after we eat? I’m starving, all that running around made me hungry but it’s getting late and like nothing is open.” Nick said, rubbing his stomach and making a face.


“Are you boys hungry? We are going over to McDonalds.” Johnny called over when he heard that they were looking to eat.


“Who’s we?” Brian asked when they’d finished getting their stuff together.


“Justin and JC, I’m going with them so you might as well come...we can share a van- if everybody stays civil.” Johnny said as if he anticipated a full out brawl in the back of the minivan.


As soon as the words left his mouth Nick and Brian looked at each other and smiled.


“Okay, we’ll go.”




The van was silent as the four boys, Johnny Wright and the driver went over to the nearest McDonalds. Everyone was trying to avoid eye contact with one another, Nick and Brian sitting in the first row and the other two boys sitting in the back. Brian was just gathering the words to start talking when Nick nudged him, nodding towards the other two.


“Talk to them.” Nick whispered.



Before Brian could speak, one of the NSYNC boys did.


“You guys can’t even wait until we aren’t around to talk shit about us?”


“Excuse me, we aren’t even talking about you so chill the fuck out.” Nick snapped at the one with the curly hair. He had earrings in his ear and looked angry.


“Nick, don’t.” Brian cautioned. Nick was getting red in the face as the conversation went on and he was about to lose his temper.


“Sure sounded like it. I bet it was bowl cut over there that said it too.”


Brian had to hold Nick from jumping into the backseat.


“I’ll kick your ass right here. Pull the car over. I can take him.” Nick shouted.


“Boys, knock it off.” Johnny called from the front, rolling his eyes.



“If you fight like you sing, I’d say that you don’t stand a chance against me.” Justin sneered. Nick looked like the vein in his forehead was about to pop, Brian held him back and shushed him.


“Justin, knock it off. Johnny is gonna be pissed if we fight here.”


“No, I’ve had it with them thinking they’re better than us and saying shit, you heard what Lou said. I’m done with this crap, JC. They can’t keep trashing us.”


“We haven’t said anything about you!” Nick shouted. It was then that Justin and JC looked genuinely confused.


“You haven’t?” Justin asked.


“No, dude.” Nick said.


“Then why would he say that you guys did?”


Brian looked at them with a bewildered look on his face, blinking. It was then that things seemed to click…Lou did it so they wouldn't talk to one another and find out what he was doing.


“Wait, hold up...what exactly  did Lou tell you we said?”


Justin looked at JC, still angry but softened his expression a little when he saw that the other two wouldn’t retaliate anymore.


“I think we need to have a long talk.” JC said as they pulled into the McDonalds parking lot and Johnny told them to get out to go in and order.



After everyone had ordered, the guys all sat down and waited for their food to be ready. Brian was floored at some of the stuff Lou had said to the guys from NSYNC and they were equally as shocked by the information they got from Brian. Nick stayed quiet for the most part, scowling because of the comment that Justin made about his voice. When they got their food the conversation continued.


“So Lou gave us each a check at this big dinner recently, and when we opened it we saw that it was only 10,000.” JC said, opening his hamburger and taking a bite out of it.


“10,000? That’s it?” Brian asked, getting pissed off again. He could only imagine how much was being taken from them too.


“Isn’t that a lot of money?” Nick chimed in.


“When you think about all the hours we worked, missing holidays and working all night long rehearsing, performing...the shows we have done and appearances...it should really be a lot more.” JC told them. Brian nodded in agreement, all of it was starting to make sense to him.


“Have you talked to him about all of this?”


“Well, we haven’t exactly tried yet. We’re afraid that if we do he will take everything away. He’s pretty much told all of us if he feels we aren’t going to make him any money he’ll pull the plug.” Justin explained.


“Lou told me that too.” Nick said suddenly. He had never mentioned any conversations that he had with Lou to Brian before, usually when the subject of their manager came up he was very quiet and uncomfortable.


“What did he say to you, Nick?”


“He said if you kept going on about this money thing that he was going to have the label drop us. He said that his other band doesn’t question him and he doesn’t want to manage a band that won’t trust him. Then he told me to keep an eye out for him but I am not doing it. He’s stealing from us...I am not helping him.” Nick confessed.


“I can’t believe he asked you to spy on me, but I appreciate that you didn’t do it.” Brian smiled at him. Johnny came over to them to tell them they had to leave, so the boys decided to continue talking in the van in hushed voices. Johnny looked somewhat worried and Brian enjoyed seeing him be nervous. He was pissed off and it was far from over, he was pretty sure he was going to sue their management now, all he had to do was get the other guys to go along with it.


He figured once they got back to the hotel he would have a talk with everybody about what he found out and it would persuade them.


Ignoring the chest pain he was currently having, Brian was excited to get things in motion for the band to get what they deserved, no matter what the cost.


Even if it was costing him his health.
Chapter 17 by DelphinaCarter
When Brian and Nick were dropped off at their hotel, Nick followed Brian into the elevator and his mind was racing. They’d just found out a whole lot of information about their manager and he couldn’t believe it. There were things he had a idea about because of conversations his mother and Lou had but he didn’t put two and two together until the talk with NSYNC at McDonalds.

“I’m so fucking mad, Nick. I can’t see straight.” Brian ranted as they waited for the elevator to go to their floor.

“I don’t blame you. Are you feeling okay, you should probably calm down…” Nick suggested.

Brian glared at Nick, who decided to back off for the moment.

“I’m fine.”

“Look, I know that all this stuff with Lou is going on, but I have to ask….are you considering going to a doctor? Even during the game you looked exhausted. You can’t keep putting yourself last. I don’t want you to get sick.” Nick said softly.

“I’m not getting sick. You sound a lot like Leighanne. Is she putting you up to this, Nick? I don’t need the two of you telling me how to take care of myself. I’m an adult. I do not need you to coddle me.”

“We just care about you, that’s all. Maybe you should listen to what she’s saying. She’s worried and so am I. The chest pain is not normal, Brian. You need to take care of it before something happens.” Nick protested. Brian ignored him and they were silent the rest of the way to their floor. The elevator dinged and the two of them stepped out, heading down the hallway to Kevin’s room to talk to the rest of the guys. They also stopped to get AJ and Howie, to bring them into the discussion. AJ was drinking but not drunk yet so they were able to talk him into coming.


“Would you mind telling me where you two went off to after the game and why we are calling a meeting without our managers present?” Kevin asked, standing in the room in his boxers and a shirt with his arms crossed. He had been about to go to bed and was annoyed that his cousin and Nick had disturbed him because they had to be up early the next day.

“Shut up and let me talk, Kev. You can nap later, this is important.” Brian hissed as he closed the door once AJ and Howie were in the room. Kevin opened his mouth again to argue back but he decided not to.

“Okay,”

“First of all, I want to say that the reason our managers are not here is because this is about them. I went….well...rather Nick and I went and talked to NSYNC after the game. Johnny took us all to McDonalds.” Brian explained.

“I knew I smelled French Fries on Nick’s breath.” AJ said, as Howie laughed and Nick scowled.

“Did not.”

“Did too.” AJ laughed.

“Enough. Anyway….” Brian continued, interrupting before the two of them started bickering. He went and started telling the others what Justin and JC told him about Lou, the whole time everyone was silent and in shock. Brian went on to tell them what he was finding out on his own with the help of his parents back home.

“So what are you saying, Lou is stealing from us? He’s been stealing from us this whole time?” Kevin said finally, sitting at the end of the bed and looking at Brian in complete disbelief.

“Yes, he’s taking one sixth of everything….as if he were a member of the group. I want to pursue a lawsuit against him but I can’t do it alone. I need you guys to back me up because if we don’t he’s gonna keep taking advantage of us for the rest of our careers. We deserve to get paid what we earned. End of story.” Brian told them. He could see Nick trying to catch his eye but he ignored him.

“All right, but what happens when we try to sue him? Lou’s said if we left the label nobody else would pick us up.” Howie asked.

“We considered this too, and he’s full of crap. Look at how our album sales are doing right now, we are starting to get noticed over here….someone will definitely sign us to their label. We have to do something, guys. Are you with me?”

Everyone looked at each other and to Brian’s surprised they all answered yes one by one. Brian was ecstatic...now all he had to do was reconnect with the lawyers he’d had his parents talk to back home and it would get the ball rolling for the group. He knew it was going to take time but it was worth the wait if they’d get what they deserved.






After the confrontation with Lou and the meeting with NSYNC, the guys hardly saw Lou for much of their tour in Germany. He usually tagged along for some of the shows, inviting them to large, expensive meals but not this time. He had stopped talking to them and asking how they were doing as well. Nick preferred not being bothered by Lou and just wanted to spend time with the guys on their downtime, which they did doing some sightseeing together and Kevin would film it for his family back home. Nick had to laugh at these mock documentaries, wondering what he was going to do with the footage when they got older. He also noticed that Leighanne and Brian seemed somewhat distant and he felt bad for them, because Leighanne genuinely loved Brian. He decided to talk to her about it because he figured they could come up with something together.

“Is everything okay between you and Brian?” Nick asked, and she shook her head softly, watching for the door to make sure Brian wasn’t coming. They had just gotten done with a show and they were all looking forward to getting some sleep in as the next day was their day off.

“He’s pushing me away, because I keep asking about his chest pain.”

“I been trying to talk to him, I don’t know what else to do, he’s definitely getting sick. Brian’s just so hung up on getting Lou to give us our money that he’s not paying attention to himself. You can see that he’s not feeling good. He had to take two breaks today during soundcheck and he was out of breath after the show.” Nick explained as Brian walked over to them looking annoyed.


“Having another meeting about me?” Brian snapped at them, and Nick sighed.

“We are worried about you,” Leighanne explained. Brian rolled his eyes and started to walk away but came back.

“There is nothing wrong with me. I keep telling both of you and you won’t listen to me.”

Leighanne looked concerned as Brian began to raise his voice.

“I SAID I’M FINE.”

“Brian, not here….” Nick begged, trying to direct him towards the elevator so they could continue the talk upstairs, but Brian pushed him off. His face was red and he was getting angry.

“Why do I have to hide how I’m feeling, but you two are having an open discussion about me in the middle of the hotel? No, Nick. The two of you got to talk and now it’s my turn. I do not have anything wrong with me, I’m just tired.”

“Because you’re in denial….” Nick started.

“I’m not in denial about anything.” Brian hissed, glaring at Nick who didn’t mean it the way it was taken. Brian had been pushing any feelings he had for Nick away since July in a last ditch effort to convince himself he didn’t have them in the first place. It seemed the more he shoved his feelings away the worse he felt, the more he thought about them. The more he thought about them, the more stressed and anxious it would make him. He was literally making himself sick with stress from everything so he asked Leighanne to come to the tour to see if she would help. Inviting Leighanne on the road in Europe was supposed to help but that wasn’t working either. How long could he keep this up for? He wondered how Nick was handling it, pretending he was something that he wasn’t. It was exhausting.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Nick whispered in protest.

The elevator opened and the three of them stepped inside, Brian jamming his finger into the numbers for their floor in frustration.

“Well then what is this about? Because like I told you, I feel fine. Stop bothering me about this.”

“We can’t keep watching you hurt yourself like this, babe. I don’t want you to get worse. Please….”

Brian turned around to face her, his eyes full of fire.

“Shut up!!!”

“Hey, don’t yell at her.” Nick shouted, getting between them. Leighanne cowered in front of him and looked as if she were going to cry when the elevator opened again, and the three of them got off. Nick tried to ask her if she was okay but she didn’t answer. Leighanne took off running towards the room, slamming the door behind her.

“Go and apologize to her, she’s just looking out for you, ya know. Like I am.” Nick said, shaking his head. When Brian got to the room, he saw Leighanne packing up her stuff. He felt terrible for yelling at her and Nick when he saw their faces, this wasn’t like him at all. He was becoming so angry and he hated it. He had to fix things and he had to do it now.

“Leigh…don’t do this...don’t go. I need you. I’m sorry I yelled at you, I was just upset.”

“I don’t want to hear it, Brian. I can’t do this anymore...I can’t watch you get sick like this. I can’t watch you get so upset.” Leighanne said, crying as she packed a suitcase on the bed. Brian sat on the other bed, running a hand through his hair and sighing. All of this stress was certainly making his chest pain worse. He didn’t know how to deal with it all but he knew it was time to finally admit he needed help.

“Okay, maybe I don’t feel 100 percent...but I don’t have time to go to the doctor with this schedule they’re giving us. We are going to be busy the rest of the year-“

Leighanne stood in front of him, tears in her eyes as she made Brian look at her. It was then that she said something Brian would never forget for the rest of his life….



“Either you go get checked out, or I’m walking away.”
Chapter 18 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
I want to apologize for the late update this week, I meant to update this on Monday but I’ve had a lot going on personally. Hope you enjoy this chapter even though it’s a bit short. Thanks for all the feedback as well, it makes me really happy to see people are enjoying this as much as I am enjoying writing it.
“Either you go get checked out, or I’m walking away.”



Brian gaped at Leighanne when she spoke, in utter disbelief that she would give him an ultimatum like this.

“Walking away? Y- you want to break up with me?” Brian stammered, as if he’d been dunked in cold water.

“I don’t want to but I can’t watch you do this to yourself. You’re becoming so angry all the time. You’re getting sick. You’re not the Brian that I met at the video shoot anymore. I don’t know you anymore. It’s like you’re becoming a different person.” Leighanne sniffled, wiping her eyes as she zipped up her suitcase and put it on the floor. Brian had to privately agree with her, he didn’t even know who he was anymore himself. How was he going to fix everything? It was all fine until Nick came along and made him feel different. All of this was Nick’s fault.

“Baby, please don’t leave. I’m sorry…I’m afraid...I don’t know what to do.” Brian begged, starting to cry himself. He was so stressed and her leaving him wouldn’t help. He knew it would only complicate things more. Finally admitting to himself and to his girlfriend that he was afraid was definitely a huge step.

“So will you see someone?”

“I don’t know.”

Leighanne held up a Polaroid that they’d taken on their first date and gave it to him, smiling sadly at him with tears in her eyes. She was so disappointed in him and knew that she had to do something drastic if she was going to get Brian to start taking care of himself. Nick had suggested that they do an intervention of some kind, but Leighanne took this idea and decided that she needed to make him see that if he didn’t get help he’d lose everything, including her.

“When you find this Brian, you’ll know where to find me. I think I need to go.”

She picked up her bags and left him, left him alone with his thoughts. As soon as the door closed, something happened, it was like a switch flipped in Brian’s head and he felt numb. He didn’t love her but he felt rejected, ashamed of himself. He didn’t want her to leave. He started to panic, he had to catch her somehow.

“Leigh!” Brian called, jumping up and running for the door. He caught her in the hallway and held onto the handle of her suitcase to keep her from wheeling it any further.

“Brian, I have to do this. Let go.”

“No. I’ll….I’ll see someone. Please...please don’t leave. I don’t want to be alone.” Leighanne’s face softened when she saw him crying. Brian looked like a scared child. Part of her wondered if he just didn’t want her to leave solely for the convienence of having someone there with him. He’d been acting so strange the last few weeks.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me. I don’t know what to do. Help me.”

Leighanne leaned in and kissed him gently on the cheek, touching his face with her hand.

“The only person who can help you is yourself.”



Brian decided that Leighanne and him needed some time apart so he helped her out to a cab to the airport and then went back upstairs, feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, but when he laid down to sleep he couldn’t. The room seemed so much bigger without his girlfriend or Nick there. It was too quiet, and he hadn’t slept alone in a long time. It was almost suffocating.

The next morning, Nick came by to check on him because it was their day off.

“You look like shit, dude. What the hell happened?”

Brian let Nick into the room, the bedsheets were a jumble on the bed as if Brian had spent the night tossing and turning.

“Leighanne went home because of the fight last night and she wants me to go see a doctor about my chest pain.”

“She has a point, Brian. I don’t want to see you like this either. If you don’t want to do it for her….would you do it for me? For your family, for the group? You need to see someone. I care about you.” Nick said softly as he watched Brian sit down in the chair by the door. Brian looked at Nick, who was really looking concerned about him, just like Leighanne was.

“I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m angry all the time now. I yelled at my girlfriend, Nick. I yelled at you. That’s not like me. This Brian...I don’t like him. How can I fix all of this? I wasn’t like this until after we went away this summer. How did things get so bad?”

Nick looked at the floor, was Brian really blaming him for being sick?

“You haven’t felt good for a while, Brian. The only reason you’re finally acknowledging it now is because you have been stubborn and ignoring it this whole time. This has nothing to do with me. We aren’t doing anything today, why can’t you see a doctor now?”

“I...I don’t know, Nick. I guess I’m scared.” Brian whispered.

“You’re afraid to go to the doctor?” Nick asked in awe. Brian was always the strongest one in his eyes, he always put him on a pedestal and thought he was like Superman. To see him so vulnerable and openly admit his fear was shocking. Brian was always the strong one, now it was Nick’s turn to give him the extra push he needed.

“I guess. There’s just so much going on right now.”

“You won’t know if something is wrong or not unless you go and find out.” Nick said.

“Okay. I’ll see if Johnny can have someone come to the hotel or if I can go to one.”

Nick smiled at him as he went to go and find their manager to see about a doctor’s appointment.

He just hoped that it was nothing serious.



Nick went with Brian to a doctor nearby, they were brought there in one of the vans the group had been using on tour.

“How are you feeling?” Nick asked softly.

“What are we going to do if there really is something wrong with me? What about the tour?”

“You just worry about yourself and how you are going to deal with this. I’ll be right here when you come back out.”


Nick waited for what seemed like forever in the waiting room. Patients came and went, nurses filed in and out. The whole time Nick thought about him and Brian. Would Brian ever accept who he was? Nick knew what Brian didn’t know. He knew that they were the same. He had feelings for him, strong feelings and he saw them in Brian’s eyes when they kissed. Part of Nick was hoping that if he helped Brian see that he was denying who he was, they in turn would grow closer together. His hope diminished when Brian came out of the doctor’s office with a solemn expression.

“Well, what did the doctor say?” Nick asked, standing up and walking over to him.

“He wants me to get some tests done. Something is not right, Nick. The chest pains are a warning sign…”

“Of what?”

Brian swallowed hard, tears in his eyes and he spoke with a shaky voice.

“Something is wrong with my heart.”
Chapter 19 by DelphinaCarter
Now that Leighanne was out of the picture for the remaining dates of the Backstreet Boys European Tour, Nick found that Brian seemed to cling to him more than ever after his doctor’s visit. Brian had found out that something was most definitely wrong and had to go for more tests when he could, to find out exactly what the problem was and how they would go about correcting it. Brian decided to wait until they were back in the states so he could see a doctor he could understand better. Nick kept an eye on him the whole while, which Brian didn’t seem to mind.

“So have you scheduled your surgery yet?” Kevin asked when they were all in the back of the tour bus, watching some movie on the TV back there. Brian gave Kevin a look as if he wanted him to stop talking, but Kevin shrugged like he didn’t care.

“Surgery?” Nick asked. Brian looked at the floor, he hadn’t really been discussing anything that was going on with his heart since he’d seen that doctor in Germany.

“They found another hole in my heart, Nick. That’s why I’ve been having the chest pain. When I had surgery to correct my heart murmur when I was younger...they didn’t see there was more damage and it’s been eating away at my heart. I have to have open heart surgery to fix it or it’s only going to get worse.”

Brian decided to call the others into the back of the bus so they could all talk together because he felt that they needed to hear what was going on.

Howie and AJ walked in and sat down as Brian was mentioning the surgery, the bus shaking slightly from the highway.

“When are you getting the surgery done? We are in the middle of a tour.” Kevin said, throwing Brian off guard. His own cousin seemed like he was more worried about the tour, which upset him but he stayed quiet.

“I tried to schedule it for the end of this year, but we don’t have any time where I could do it so I told them I would have to reschedule it another time. I don’t know when it will be, but it has to get done, guys. If I don’t have this surgery I could die or get so sick that I cannot even perform. Either way, it’s going to affect the tour.” Brian said softly. The whole time he talked everyone was pretty quiet, avoiding eye contact with one another.

“Did you tell Leighanne?” Howie asked. Brian looked at the floor because he hadn’t talked to her since the day she left other than a very awkward phone conversation, where they tried to discuss what was to happen to their relationship but she had to go and he didn’t get to finish what he wanted to say.

“She doesn’t know but I figured when we get back to the states I can see her,”

After talking to everyone, only Nick and Brian were left alone to finish the movie in the back of the bus, laying on the couch and watching the screen with the lights off.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were getting the surgery?” Nick asked suddenly, grabbing the bag of popcorn off Brian’s lap and taking a handful.

“I’m sorry, Nick. It’s nothing personal.” Brian lied, although the real reason he didn’t tell Nick was because he wanted to tell everyone at the same time. Heart surgery was such a big subject and he felt it was better to tell all of them because it would impact the group. He’d already rescheduled the surgery once and had to postpone it again because of the tour that never seemed to end. They’d been touring non stop for a few years with very short breaks, and it was starting to wear down on everybody. Brian wondered how long they’d be able to keep doing it.

“It’s okay, I just thought we were best friends and we could tell each other anything.” Nick whispered, leaning back into the couch cushion.

“We can.”

“Well, you’ve been hiding stuff from me and I’ve been completely honest with you. I told you my biggest secret, I thought that meant something.” Nick said, taking some more popcorn. Brian felt terrible about this because Nick was totally right. He’d been pushing their friendship away because he was afraid, because his pride took over and the lie he was living made him so uncomfortable. Nick had never made any advances on him and he knew that.

“It does, I’m sorry, I just felt weird about the whole….well...you know. I don’t want you to think that I don’t accept who you are. I do. I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I mean, why did you tell me on your birthday out of everyone? I know we were alone together but you didn’t have to. You could have kept it to yourself and made something up about being upset.” Brian said.

Nick laughed and sat up, brushing his hair out of his face.

“You’re right. I could have, but I trust you. You’re my best friend, Brian. I just felt like I had to tell someone. I mean...it’s very confusing for me too but this is who I am. I’m not going to like….start making out with you or Howie or something.”

Brian almost wished Nick would make out with him and he shook it away, feeling anxious. He knew these feelings were not natural and he had to sort them out before he acted on them again.

“Right. Well...I’m glad that you told me, I guess. I just don’t want you to ever think that I hate you.”

Nick smiled at him, a genuine smile for the first time in a while. They’d been going through ups and downs but at the end of the day they were friends and it felt good to talk about things.

“I don’t think you hate me. I just felt like I freaked you out or something. I felt like I scared you. I don’t want to ever make you uncomfortable...if I do you can tell me. I won’t force anything on you that you don’t want. Like that kiss. I am sorry for pestering you about it.” Nick said quietly, making sure the others weren’t around to hear it. Nobody knew about the kiss and he wanted to keep it their secret, even if he knew Brian wasn’t ready to admit who he was just yet.

“No, I just have a lot of stuff going on. It’s not you. Besides, I was proving a point with that kiss, it really didn’t mean anything.” Brian lied. Nick was lying close to him on the couch, and he wanted to be next to him. His head started to hurt and he felt confused. How was he going to figure all of this out?

Only time would tell.
Chapter 20 by DelphinaCarter
The weeks went by, tour seemed to drag and it was now October. The guys had been on the road all year, with the exception of rehearsals and stopping for appearances here and there. Brian knew that after the European tour was over, they had two weeks before the American leg started. They’d have ten days of rehearsal and a bit of a break, Brian was hoping to schedule a doctor’s appointment in between and maybe talk to Leighanne, who he’d only had conversations with on the phone. He hadn’t told her about the surgery yet but he did know he screwed up with her and she decided to give them another chance because he seemed less stressed. When the guys were in LA doing some TV shows, he made sure to come by and see her as soon as he was able to.


“Hey, you.” Leighanne said warmly, letting Brian into her apartment in LA. It was small but cozy. They’d been talking on the phone after that day she had left in Germany, Brian told her all about the heart problems he was having and they ended up patching things up. It was as if no time had passed between them when they got back together.

Brian kissed her and was disappointed that he felt nothing, did not feel the spark he did last time they kissed...but he didn’t show this on his face at all. She returned the kiss and led him further into the room, still kissing. Leighanne was very happy to see him and he was happy too, but something felt different this time. The kiss he shared with Nick felt more real and he pushed it away as he and Leighanne exchanged kisses.

“I missed you so much.” Brian breathed into the crook of her neck as his lips moved there.



“You don’t have any feelings for her.”


Brian ignored the little voice in his head as they moved to the couch.

“I missed you too.” Leighanne kissed back.


“So how are you doing?”

“Pretty good, I’ve been going for tests to find out what’s wrong with me, Nick kind of talked me into going when we were in Germany. He went to the appointment with me and everything, he’s been really supportive.” Brian explained. As he talked about Nick he started wondering again if Nick did it because they were friends or because he had ulterior motives. Brian hated thinking this way but he was wary of everyone these days, especially after finding out what a scumbag and a liar Lou Pearlman was. It was hard for him to trust anyone anymore.

“He did? I guess I’ll have to thank him next time I see him then.” Leighanne said smiling as she leaned in again, but Brian pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“Why would you have to thank Nick for taking me to the doctor?” Brian asked hesitantly. Leighanne seemed flustered all of a sudden as if she were trying to hide something.

“No reason. We were both worried about you. What matters is now you are getting help and can get better. Nick and I just want what’s best for you.”

Brian decided to calm down and he agreed with her, but he made a mental note to talk to Nick as soon as he saw him.



The opportunity presented itself only a day later when Nick took him to the Lakers game that night, and Brian agreed to go even though he was still annoyed with him. The two of them didn’t have the floor seats Lou had given them when Brian blew Nick off for Leighanne but they were still pretty good anyway. The two of them sat down with their snacks and sodas, waiting for the game to start when Brian decided now was the time to ask him about what Leighanne had said.

“I told Leigh about the surgery.” Brian said as he took a sip from his soda.

“That’s great. I bet she was happy you are getting the help you need to get better.” Nick smiled, but as soon as he saw Brian’s expression the smile slid right off his face.

“You’re mad at me?”

“Nick, you told me that you didn’t like my girlfriend and now you guys are talking about me behind my back? What else have you told her? What have you guys talked about when I’m not there?” Brian said quietly so nobody near them could hear.

“That’s not fair at all, dude. You told her I was annoying and clingy! Don’t be a hypocrite.” Nick hissed back. Brian could feel his temper flaring up already even though Nick was absolutely right. He did talk about Nick behind his back. He did make fun of him for being clingy in front of Leighanne to cover the fact that he liked Nick in a way that was beyond friendship. He hated himself for it. He didn’t want to feel different. He wanted to feel normal again, how he felt before all of this started.

“I’m a hypocrite?” Brian scoffed. The game started but they were not paying attention to it, they kept arguing.

“You’re a hypocrite, Bri. You wanna tell me I’m going behind your back….at least it was because I fucking care about your health and not because I’m lying to myself and my girlfriend about my feelings.” Nick said. Brian’s face turned beet red and he couldn’t even think of a comeback to that comment. The fact he wasn’t being fully honest with Leighanne and Nick called him on it pissed him off even further.

“I’m not fucking lying to myself about anything, Nick. I don’t care if you wanted something to happen from that kiss or not. It’s not going to fucking happen. Never.”

“The fact that you keep pushing me away tells me otherwise.” Nick retorted. At that point people around them seemed to be getting annoyed by them arguing and a guy behind Brian tapped him on the shoulder.

“Dude, can you argue with your boyfriend after the game?”

“HE’S NOT MY BOYFRIEND!!” Brian practically shouted as Nick snickered into his popcorn. It was almost funny how agitated he got at the mention that he might be gay.

“Brian, come on.” Nick said gently as he tugged on Brian’s shirt to sit down.

“Can you believe that guy...assuming that we...that you and I are…”

“That we’re what?”

“Nothing. Look, I’m sorry for getting angry with you. You’re the one who’s been with me this whole time with my heart stuff. I really appreciate that. When I do finally schedule the surgery...you'll come visit me in the hospital, won’t you?” Brian asked. He had been talking with some doctors about having the surgery at the Mayo Clinic and had not set any dates yet because he still needed to settle it with management. This, the lawsuit among everything else was stressing him out and Brian just wanted to fix everything and be happy again.

“Of course I will. Why wouldn’t I?” Nick asked with a smile.

“I dunno. I just feel safer with you there.” Brian replied. Nick looked at him and tried to forget their arguement because while it was stupid and Brian was being an ass, Nick coudn’t help the way he felt.

“I’ll always be here for you.” Nick promised.

The two of them ignored the cheering of the people at the basketball game around them and looked each other in the eyes, smiling and for a split second...there was nobody else in the room. Brian’s face turned red again and he looked away, Nick shaking his head after.

Nick hoped that one day Brian would come to his senses and realize what was in front of him before it was too late.
Chapter 21 by DelphinaCarter
“Have a good Thanksgiving, Nick.” Brian said, when they got to the airport. The boys had a couple of days off for the holiday and everyone was looking forward to seeing their families even if it was for such a short period of time.


“I guess.” Nick shrugged, adjusting the strap on his backpack and sighing. He was going to miss the boys because he didn’t look forward to seeing his own family. At home he felt out of place but with the Backstreet Boys he felt like he finally belonged somewhere, for the first time in his life he didn’t feel so lonely. This was how he felt when he was Brian, even if he didn’t return his feelings.


“You okay?” Brian asked, hearing his flight to Kentucky being called and getting his carry on bag.


“I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me.” Nick said with a smile. He and Brian said their goodbyes and Nick watched him go, the last of the guys leaving him by himself in the airport terminal.



“Nick’s home!!” Leslie called when Nick came in the door, after his father had picked him up from the airport and ranted about how he couldn’t wait until Nick had his own driver’s license so they didn’t have to cart him places anymore. BJ came running into the room and Leslie followed her to greet their big brother. Brushing off what his father had said in the car, he ignored him and looked out the window while he thought of everything that had been happening the last few months. How he wanted so badly to tell Brian how he felt about him but knew he never could. Brian simply did not accept him even though he said he did many times, he was afraid. Nick was pretty comfortable with his feelings and who he was but there was still a lot to figure out and hiding everything was taking its toll. Now that he was home, all Nick wanted to do was go to bed and sleep for the next two days until they were off on the road again doing something else.


“Hey BJ.” Nick said, putting his arms around his sister and hugging her as she giggled. He loved his brother and sisters but sometimes he liked the peace and quiet of the tour bus when the other guys were asleep and everything was still.


“We missed you, Nick. Are you staying home now?” Leslie asked, following Nick and BJ into the kitchen where he looked to see if there was any food. He was starving after the flight and ride home. His two sisters watched intently as he looked for something to eat, but he just grabbed a soda and opened it.


“I missed you guys too, but I’m only here until Saturday.”


Nick hated how disappointed his sisters looked.


“Now, don’t give me those faces guys. I am trying to help mom and dad out...you know that. They need money and I’m the reason we have this house. I’m the reason we aren’t living in the back of Dad’s pickup.” Nick said, remembering when he was very young and the stories his mom would tell him about living out of the truck while they looked for a place to live. Now that he was the main breadwinner, and Aaron was kicking off his career they could afford a bit more, but sometimes his family still struggled. At least Nick thought they did because his parents often fought over money and Nick felt that if BSB became more successful he could save them. He wanted the type of family Brian came from. A perfect family. The type of family that he watched on TV shows in black and white, the ones that didn’t have any problems. The ones that didn’t have a son that was secretly gay. Nick almost chuckled to himself at that last part because he knew what Brian didn’t want to admit.


“I know. I just miss you.” Leslie told him, hugging him around the waist.


“I missed you too.” Nick smiled.


“It’s better when you’re here because Mom and Dad are not home as much.”


This statement made Nick so sad that he wanted to scoop his sisters and Aaron up and find their own place to live, where they wouldn’t have to hear the fighting or feel like they were burdens anymore. He wanted to save them.


“It’s nice to be home.” Nick replied as he heard his parents fighting in the next room. He wondered what Brian was doing and hoped that he was going to have a good holiday so that at least one of them would.


Nick went into his room where he closed the door and laid down on the bed, throwing his backpack and suitcase on the floor. After everything he’d been going through with Brian the last few months and touring…the stuff with Lou, his own feelings...all he wanted to do was sleep but his brain wouldn’t shut off. How was he going to tell his family that he was gay? How would he tell anyone after Brian acted the way he did? It was then that Nick knew this was something he had to continue to keep to himself. Even if it meant having a fake girlfriend to throw people off, like Mandy…but would she take him back? He knew he couldn’t wait around for Brian forever. Part of him knew that Brian was going to take a long time to admit to himself what Nick had seen in him and he wondered maybe if he wasn’t so available Brian would finally come to his senses. He didn’t want to date another girl but didn’t know any other guys his age that were like him and had no idea where to look. He couldn’t exactly take out an ad.


He laid there in his bed for a while, his brain buzzing with thoughts until he allowed himself to finally fall asleep.





“Hey, you’re home!” Brian’s mother greeted him when he arrived at the house. He kissed her on the cheek and went into the house, where he smelled something cooking from the kitchen.


“Yeah, I just got in.” Brian said wearily.


“You must be tired, why don’t you take a nap before we eat and we can talk about everything?” Jackie told him sweetly, helping him with his bags to his bedroom. Brian hadn’t felt tired until his mother said he looked tired, so he decided that a nap was a good idea.


“Hm, I suppose I am a bit tired.”


“I’ll call you when supper is ready.” Jackie called from down the stairs. Brian went into the guest room where he was staying...he had not lived home for some time since he’d graduated high school, in fact he lived in an apartment in Orlando with Kevin and Howie. When he’d first heard they were getting Thanksgiving off he called his parents right away and told them he wanted to come home and have Thanksgiving dinner.


When Brian laid down he felt so tired, yet his brain was going a mile a minute. He wondered what Nick was doing, and then shook that away to think about his heart surgery that he was trying to schedule. He also thought about Leighanne. He thought about his mother downstairs and how disappointed she would be if he was gay, not to mention he’d been lying about it. Brian knew what Nick knew and hadn’t fully admitted to himself that he had feelings for Nick, that his heart fluttered when they had kissed back in the hotel room that summer night. He didn’t want to tell Nick that he was wrong for making him hide who he truly was, that what he felt was wrong. Brian felt horrible for doing so and knew that he was a giant hypocrite just as Nick had told him at the basketball game. Brian hated himself for what he was doing to Nick and he had no idea how to make it up to him. He also had no idea what he was going to do about his relationship with his girlfriend, that was getting pretty serious. They’d even started some talk about what would happen if they ever decided to settle down, but Brian knew they were not ready for that yet. It was too soon and he didn’t want to rush it if his heart wasn’t in it. He had to sort out his feelings for Nick somehow, even if it meant either Nick or Leighanne getting hurt. Someone was definitely going to get hurt when he made his decision and Brian wasn’t looking forward to doing that.


He finally drifted off to sleep, the faint smell of food drifting into his nostrils. There would be plenty of time to think about all this later.


Or so he hoped.
Chapter 22 by DelphinaCarter
After Thanksgiving, the rest of the year seemed to fly by. The Backstreet Boys did more shows and the tour was in Canada by the end of December. Everyone was getting tired and couldn’t wait for some time off but it didn’t look like they were stopping soon now that the group was getting more and more attention. Sales were doing great and the next album was already being discussed. They were in talks with a few people about the next tour too, but truthfully everyone wanted a break.

“So what are we doing for New Year’s Eve this year, fellas?” AJ asked as they came out of their bus to go into the arena in Montreal to do rehearsals.

“I dunno. Maybe we should stay in this year.” Nick suggested, not feeling like partying. Thanksgiving and Christmas had been pretty uneventful so he was a bit burnt on holidays, especially because he’d tried to get in touch with Mandy and failed horribly. It was then that Nick decided that he couldn’t fake a relationship and wondered how Brian was doing so well at it, but supposed that Brian was still in denial so it was easier for him. Even if Mandy had wanted him back he couldn’t do that to her or himself. She deserved someone that loved her, just as Leighanne.

“Leighanne is going to be in town so we are probably looking to do something.” Brian said, looking forward to seeing his girlfriend for New Year’s.

“So is Kristin.” Kevin chimed in.

“So where does that leave me, AJ and Nick...because we don’t have girlfriends.” Howie asked with a chuckle.

“Have a threesome?” AJ joked, elbowing Nick who held back a scowl. He fake laughed and then coughed because he was uncomfortable.

“Maybe we could just have a night at the hotel and watch the ball drop on TV...order in some pizza and just hang out.”

Nick genuinely liked this idea, but he didn’t want to have to watch Brian slobber on his girlfriend at midnight. Secretly he wished he could be the one kissing him and nobody else would be there, just the two of them alone on some rooftop or another romantic place. He started to daydream and then noticed everyone staring at him.

“What?”

“You’re zoning out, Nick. I asked what you thought of staying in this year.” Kevin asked.

Nick started to blush. “I don’t care, I’d rather stay in anyway. I’m not old enough to go out.”

“That’s ‘cause you’re still a baby.” AJ teased, ruffling his hair. Nick hated being called the baby and scowled as everyone laughed.

“You’re still a baby too. You’re not 21.”

“I’m still older than you.”

“That means you’ll become an old man before me.” Nick said bluntly, which seemed to irritate AJ and he thoroughly enjoyed his expression afterwards.



“Okay so we are all staying in then.”

“Does that mean I can drink?” AJ asked, and everyone rolled their eyes at him, all shouting at the same time.

“Shut up AJ!”



The guys had a show on New Year’s Eve so they planned to go back to the hotel afterwards, and only Kevin’s girlfriend ended up making it because she was on the road with the guys already. Leighanne’s flight from LA got canceled and she couldn’t come so Brian was in a poor mood all evening, yet he put on a smile for the crowd at the concert. Secretly Nick was very happy she couldn’t make it but he felt bad for Brian. He also hoped somehow they would end up alone but knew that wouldn’t be possible with how much Brian was in denial. It was then that it also hit Nick that he was about to be 18. It had been almost a whole year since he had confessed his secret to Brian, only to be told hiding it was the best thing to do. Nick wanted to tell everyone. He wanted to be honest with his friends and family but if they all acted the way Brian did, he didn’t want that. Nick knew that it was best kept to himself but he also didn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life. Hiding who he wanted to be was slowly eating away at him and he knew it but there was nothing he could do.

He suddenly wished that he could just go to bed and ignore the start of the new year.

“You okay?” Brian asked, noticing how distant he was.

“I’m fine.” Nick lied with a smile. Yes, smiling to hide how he was feeling would work. Nobody ever seemed to question it anymore, he could easily fool them into thinking he was happy but the truth was he could sometimes feel like he was drowning. Brian’s words echoed in his head sometimes.

“Don’t tell anyone, they won’t accept you. Pretend you’re normal.”

Pretending he was straight was easy, pretending he didn’t love Brian was the hardest part. Nick had finally started to find the place where he belonged but then when he realized he was gay, it was snatched from him. He never felt more alone in his life, because he had nobody to talk to about these feelings. He had almost opened up to Lou, in one of the private meetings they had at his house once. Lou had made him feel very uncomfortable and he left, but he didn’t tell anybody about that experience. Something about Lou had made him uneasy and when Brian started poking holes in their trust in their manager, it really made Nick think back to that night. Was it normal for their manager to offer shoulder massages or let them watch pornography in his house, especially when he was a minor? It was during these pornography viewings Nick started to wonder if he liked boys more than girls. He had started to explore and found that he did get attracted to men, including figuring out his feelings for Brian went beyond simple friendship or brotherhood.


So many questions had come up and Nick stayed silent because he didn’t want people to freak out on him or start asking questions. He was afraid if anyone knew he would get in trouble, or the band would lose their record deal, that everything could get taken away.

Too many questions made him nervous. He was afraid if they kept asking he would have to tell them his secret. For now, it was better if just him and Brian knew.



Later on that night, the guys were all at the hotel room minus Kevin. Kevin said he wanted some alone time with Kristin so it was just the four younger members of BSB, and some liquor along with pizza and whatever junk food they managed to get back to the room. Nick was quiet most of the time, just watching whatever music act was playing on Dick Clark.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Brian asked again, looking at him skeptically. Nick once again put his smile on and reassured him he was just tired. At some point he managed to sneak away, and onto the roof of the hotel to look at the stars. He just wanted to be alone and think, away from all the noise from the others. It was very cold out but he didn’t mind, as he had a heavy coat and his hat on as he stood outside on the snowy rooftop in Canada, wishing he didn’t have to hide away. He wanted to shout from the rooftop how he felt and who he was.





“I thought I might find you up here. It’s freezing, Frack. Why don’t you come inside?” Brian’s voice said suddenly, startling him. Nick wiped his eyes and put on another smile.

“I just needed some air, that’s all.”

“Are you crying?” Brian asked, surprised to see tears in his eyes. It was like Nick’s birthday all over again, when he cried in front of him.

“What is with...what’s with all the questions?” Nick asked, trying to hide that he was clearly upset.

“Come on, I’m not stupid.”

“I don’t know about that. You seem to be acting pretty dumb lately so you had me wondering.” Nick half chuckled, wiping his eyes and shivering.


“What the hell is wrong with you?” Brian asked, stunned that Nick was calling him stupid although he had to admit he was once again right.


“I’ll be fine. I was just thinking, that’s all..thinking about the last year.”


“It’s been a great year for the group, why are you sad?”


Nick had to laugh again, shivering because he was starting to get cold.


“Sure, for the band it’s been great, but not for me. Remember when I told you my secret?” Nick whispered.


“Yes, Nick...if this is because I told you to pretend that you were not gay...I’m sorry for telling you that. I shouldn’t have said that. I was an asshole for saying it. If you’re gay I support you. I told you that in Cocoa Beach. But don’t get this romantic idea in your head that I’m going to leave Leighanne for you and fall in love with you. You are gay but I’m….I’m…”



Nick stared at him, waiting for him to finish but he didn’t for a long time. He raised an eyebrow at him and Brian blinked.



“I’m not.”


“That’s not what I’m thinking about, but since you brought it up...there is no if. I’m gay. I am gay whether people know it or not. Actually. I might be bisexual but I lean more towards men. Women do not interest me. That is why I broke up with Mandy. That’s why I’ve felt like I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t fit in. Probably never will.” Nick said as he began to follow Brian back into the hotel where it was warm. They went down the stairs and a hallway towards the elevator to go to the room where everybody was watching TV.




“You don’t need to stand out, Nick. You’re fine the way you are.” Brian protested, hitting the button for the elevator.


“Don’t start that shit, dude. You said it yourself. It’s not normal. Nobody is going to love somebody like me.”



“That’s not true.”



Brian ignored the voice in his head as they boarded the elevator.

“I’ve accepted it. I pretty much accepted it back when we kissed. If you don’t even feel anything towards me…”

“Nick, I promise you. You’re only 17...you have your whole life to find love like I’ve found with Leighanne. There is someone for you.”

Nick rolled his eyes as the voice in Brian’s head persisted and prodded to make him act on his feelings. Once again, he pushed them away and hid them. His stomach was doing backflips as he kept suppressing his feelings.

You’re looking at him.

Don’t even go there...after all the pushing away you did, he won’t want you now. He’s starting to give up on love. You need to show him he’s wrong.

As the elevator dinged towards their destination, Brian had a fleeting thought that since they were alone together and he had a strong desire to kiss Nick then and there, he should kiss him and get it over with. He wrestled with this for a few moments and finally decided he would go for it, but he held back because the elevator reached the floor they were on. He suddenly had a crazy idea.

When the elevator door opened, Nick moved to get off but to his surprise the door closed again. He turned to see Brian hitting the close button and hitting a random floor number. Brian smiled sneakily at him and then the next thing he knew…Brian had pushed him up against the side of the elevator wall, his lips engulfing Nick’s in a fiery passion.

“What…” Nick barely gasped between breaths as Brian kissed him. He returned it, not caring what anyone thought. Was this really happening?

It was definitely an interesting night.
Chapter 23 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay for this chapter. I was away earlier this month, then I got sick and have been busy. I hope you all enjoy this chapter. Thanks for being patient!
Nick was breathless when the elevator dinged and opened again, and Brian hit the button for their floor. It was silent but Nick’s head was swimming. He could only hear the sound of the elevator moving and the two of them breathing, it was so quiet.


“So...um…” Nick started but stopped, blushing. He had to suppress the laugh he was holding in because he’d been wanting to kiss Brian but wasn’t bold enough to just go ahead and do it, knowing that Brian didn’t want it. He would never just kiss him without knowing the feeling was mutual out of respect.


Brian looked at him, blushing too. Nick smiled in spite of himself.


Nick opened his mouth to speak but Brian leaned in and kissed him again. The two of them went for a while until Brian pulled away, blushing again.


“What was that?” Nick asked, blushing as well. His face felt very warm and Brian’s was turning redder by the second.


“I...er-“ Brian stammered. He literally had nothing to say because he couldn’t believe he even went through with the kiss, then continued...and now he knew Nick was going to have so many questions. He didn’t want to answer anything, he just wanted to find out why he had these feelings and what he could do about them. He didn’t even care about anything else at this point.



The elevator reached their floor and they got off, wanting to get to their room and not even go to AJ’s to watch the countdown. This was more important than that.


“Hey, where are you two going?” AJ called down the hall after them, when they started to duck into their room. Ignoring AJ, Nick slammed the door behind them and ripped off his coat, tossing it on the bed.


His head was swimming with so many thoughts right now, about the kiss and about Brian. They really needed to talk and now was the perfect time to discuss their feelings, because clearly Brian had just showed he reciprocated them. There was no denying that Brian was attracted to him after what had just transpired in the elevator.


NIck moved closer to Brian, thinking about starting up again with the kissing but Brian turned away and left him confused. The passion they had just a moment ago seemed to vanish in an instant. Nick could feel himself getting anxious.


“What’s wrong?”


“We need to talk.” Brian said suddenly in a serious tone, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. He was still blushing from before and his mouth felt dry.


“I would say we do.” Nick stated.


Brian started pacing back and forth, trying to figure out what he wanted to say. He knew that this couldn’t go further with Nick because one...there was no way he could be gay- and secondly, he was already in a relationship. Brian was already internally punishing himself for allowing to show Nick how he felt, when he knew nothing could come of any of it. He was also still with Leighanne and he had just cheated on her. The guilt was making him sick to his stomach and he could tell Nick was feeling uncomfortable with all the silence.


“You’re making me nervous.”


“Nick...about what just happened-“


“I thought you said you weren’t gay?”


“I...I don’t know anymore. That’s the thing, Nick. I don’t know and it scares me, okay? I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I don’t know who I am right now, or what I’m doing but that kiss just felt right for some reason and now I’m confused.” Brian confessed. For the first time since summer, he felt lighter but he was still scared. He was scared of people not accepting him, about losing everything that he’d worked for.


“You don’t need to be afraid of me, Brian. I told you that back in July. What are you so scared of?” Nick said matter of factly.


“I’m not afraid of you,” Brian protested, sitting down on the bed across from Nick and looking at the floor. He felt nauseous and his heart was racing.


“Well, what are you afraid of then?”


Nick suddenly seemed so much wiser than he was and Brian was almost embarrassed by the fact that Nick seemed to be handling everything better than he was. Even though he was so much younger, Nick knew.How could he be so stupid? His pride hurt.


“I really don’t know, but the thing is- the thing is that you’re a minor. I can’t fool around with a minor and I shouldn’t have kissed you, I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that.”


As soon as the words left his mouth he knew Nick would know he was full of shit. At this point Brian really had no other cover for even having any romantic feelings towards his best friend and he was now backed into a corner. Nick scoffed so loud that Brian thought the guys would hear them down the hall arguing so he dropped his voice and continued to say that there was no way anything could continue between them, instead of telling Nick how he felt.


“So that’s the excuse you’re going with? That I’m underage.” Nick said slowly as he crossed his arms with a somewhat bemused expression.


Brian just sat in silence, shrugging dumbly. He could tell Nick was upset but hiding it, although his eyes were throwing daggers.


“You know, I’m going to be 18 in a couple of weeks.”


“I know that. I don’t want to complicate our friendship, Nick. I don’t want to screw everything up with this, I just want to find out what all of it means. I didn’t mean for anything else to happen, and I suppose I gave you the wrong impression.”


Nick looked extremely displeased.


“You are so full of shit. The wrong impression?! Look, if you don’t want to admit that you felt something when we kissed in July or even when we kissed just now...that’s fine- but..”


Brian’s face was redder than before because he was starting to get angry.


“But what, Nick?”


For a moment, Nick thought about telling Brian but then decided that he didn’t deserve to know he liked him because who was he kidding? Brian would never want to be with him. Brian couldn’t admit to himself who he was because he was too afraid. Brian was toying with him because he didn’t know what he wanted and Nick didn’t want to subject himself to this. It wasn’t fair to either of them.


“Never mind.”  Nick sighed, crossing his arms in defeat.


“You think you know me so well.” Brian told him, turning away and looking at the wall behind the TV set. He knew he’d fucked everything up, yet again. He wanted to be with Nick, wanted to tell him that he was wrong and that he did feel something when they kissed but he knew that if they were together it could ruin everything. If the two of them told everyone it would be over. Their careers would be finished.


“I know you better than anyone, Brian. That’s because I care about you. You’re my best friend. I just want you to be happy. If you would just be honest with yourself you’d be happy.” Nick said softly.

Brian considered this but there was no way he could even admit anything to himself. He just wasn’t ready...although he almost told Nick tonight, he just wasn’t ready to tell anybody because he had no idea what he wanted yet.


“I don’t need you to tell me who I am, I know who I am. I’m just confused.”


Nick scoffed and rolled his eyes.


“Okay, have it your way then.”


“Have it what way? Do you think I want it this way? I don’t.”


There was no reply because Nick had walked into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. Brian could have sworn he heard Nick sniffling.


Nick leaving left him feeling more alone than when he found out he was spending New Year’s Eve alone. He thought about calling out to Nick and saying he was lying and he was sorry, that he didn’t mean anything he’d said but the bathroom door slamming was the only reply. Staring at the empty hotel room, Brian sighed and for the first time he truly hated himself for the way he was behaving.


He’d fucked up big time this time.
Chapter 24 by DelphinaCarter
New Year’s went and as the weeks passed and tour went on, Nick started to distance himself from Brian slowly because he had enough. He was tired of waiting. When his birthday came around they filmed an episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and did some stops in New York that week. The guys were in pretty good spirits, and Leighanne had rejoined Brian for the tour, to Nick’s disappointment. He was hoping that he and Brian would spend his 18th birthday together but it didn’t look like that was happening after all.

Nick kind of moped around most of that morning even though the guys took him out for breakfast, and Leighanne was quick to notice his change in mood when they got back to the hotel. Brian didn’t seem to care as he had other things on his mind, kissing at her earlobe as they walked in the lobby.

“Babe?” Leighanne said, gently moving so that Brian could focus on their conversation.

“Mmm?”

“I think we should take Nick out tonight for his birthday.”


Brian looked at her skeptically before Leighanne continued to tell him they should take Nick out to dinner so he wouldn’t be alone.


“We all just went out. I haven’t seen you in weeks, baby. I wanted to spend time with you tonight.” Brian lied. To be honest, he wanted to take Nick out but with his girlfriend here his focus was back on what he thought his life was supposed to be. He cared for Leighanne very much but their love was pretty one sided. It frustrated him to the point where he could feel his anxiety bubbling to the surface when they were together.

“I know, but he looks lonely. We could take him out for a while, I think it would be great for him.” Leighanne said kindly, smiling. Brian liked that they were getting along but the last thing he wanted to do was hang out with the two of them together. They’d never done that before.

“Where do you suggest?” Brian asked, finally agreeing. Leighanne was the one who went to Nick and asked him to join them for dinner, which to Brian’s surprise he accepted. He knew the two of them were getting along lately but it was weird to see them being so comfortable.

The three of them ended up going to a restaurant that had an arcade inside, something that Brian had ended up suggesting because Leighanne wasn’t sure what Nick would like. They got dressed and ready to go, taking a taxi to the place and settling in.

“Thank you so much for taking me out, you didn’t have to.” Nick said as he put his coat down on the booth where they were sitting.

“Don’t be silly, I didn’t want you to be alone for your birthday. Especially after the big party Lou threw you last year. AJ was telling me all about it. That must have been great.” Leighanne replied. Nick looked down at the floor, blushing.

“Um….yeah. Well parties like that aren’t really my thing.”

"That's surprising. I would have thought you liked parties."

"Not really. It's more AJ's style."

Nick looked at Brian and they locked eyes for a few moments as he thought of his birthday last year, where he had told Brian his deepest secret.




“I think I might be gay…”


It was then that Nick also remembered what Brian had said a few weeks ago at New Year’s. Brian had told him nothing could happen between them because he was a minor. Nick suddenly smirked, he was now 18 and the excuse would not work anymore. He decided tonight he would finally make a move and didn't care if Leighanne was there. He was determined to see if Brian was really full of crap about his feelings towards him or not.




The two of them had sat next to each other in the booth and Leighanne on the other side of the table opposite Brian so Nick used this to his advantage. He started flirting with Brian subtly so that Leighanne wouldn't notice, but it was clear that it was turning Brian on.



"Let’s see you try to wiggle out of this."
Nick thought as he smirked. Ignoring Nick, Brian and his girlfriend started to order their food. Nick went to work rubbing his ankle up Brian’s shin to see if he could get a reaction. He watched Brian squirm slightly but nothing else happened but him moving his foot away.




“Not here.” Brian whispered to Leighanne, behind the menu so that Nick couldn’t hear.

“Not here what?” Leighanne asked in confusion.

Brian looked at her like she had two heads and put the menu down after they ordered so the waitress could take it.

“You know what I mean.”

Nick eyed the two of them, trying to hide his smile. Brian was getting frustrated already.

“Not really, sweetie.”

Brian decided to leave it alone as they waited for their food, ignoring it for now. Something was definitely going on but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Why don’t we check out the games while we wait?” Nick asked innocently. The three of them decided to play some skee ball and although Leighanne wasn’t really into sports the three of them still had a great time, Nick making sure to keep subtly flirting as time went on. So far Brian was resisting, because Leighanne was present and wanted to keep up the facade. It was during dinner, however that Nick finally upped the ante because Brian nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his leg under the table.

“I thought I told you earlier, not here. You can’t wait until we get back to the hotel?” Brian whispered to his girlfriend, who was starting to eat her pizza. Leighanne looked genuinely confused. Brian could feel himself getting turned on as the hand shifted again, rubbing against his inner thigh. It traveled closer and closer to his groin. Brian jerked back, his face red because he was getting flustered. Nick smiled and retracted his hand, his face calm as if he had no idea what was going on. He continued to eat, trying to hold back a smile.

“Will you knock it off. I’m trying to eat!” Brian hissed. Leighanne didn't hear him. The hand seemed to know exactly where to touch and how, he got aroused pretty quickly and he hated it because he was out in public and couldn’t do anything about it.


“Baby, what’s wrong with you? I haven’t done anything.”



Suddenly the hand was there again, and he could feel himself getting turned on once more, the bulge in his pants growing bigger by the second...only this time when he looked across at Leighanne he noticed both of her hands were occupied. Horror struck he moved his gaze to Nick who was now smirking at him and letting his hand continue to wander. He hated that he was getting so bothered by this because there was absolutely nothing he could do without giving himself away.

“I….er...I have to go to the bathroom.” Brian said suddenly, getting up and leaving the table, his face bright red and sweating with frustration. Nick held back another laugh as he watched him storm off, continuing his dinner as if nothing had happened.

“Is Brian okay?" Leighanne asked, looking after her boyfriend. Nick set down his soda and decided now was the perfect time to execute the next part of his plan.

“I'm sure he is fine. Maybe I’ll go check and see if he’s okay?”





Nick wandered off to the bathroom where he indeed found Brian, cursing his name under his breath into the mirror.

“I thought I might find you here.” Nick said sweetly, standing in the doorway with his arms crossed.

“Fuck you, Nick. What the hell is wrong with you? Do you think this is some kind of game or something? In front of my girlfriend?” Brian snapped angrily, his eyes darkening.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Nick. I’m not interested in being with you. I told you that.”

"I'm not a minor anymore so what's your excuse this time?"

"Nick, I don't have feelings for you." Brian stammred.

Nick smirked again, knowing how full of shit Brian was in that moment.




“Your boner says otherwise.”



Brian started shaking because he was so angry, his face red. He put up a finger in Nick’s face as if he were about to tell him off and then retracted, sighing. He knew he had no argument.



“Nick, this can’t happen. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but…”

“But what? What is so wrong with you allowing what you feel? It’s obvious that you feel something.” Nick protested.

“Okay, fine. You’re right...but you and I both know that this isn’t natural. I am not like you, Nick.”

“If you stop being afraid and let me help you it will start to make sense.” Nick replied.



Brian simply shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets. They talked for a while before agreeing that Leighanne was probably wondering what was taking so long and they should head back to the table to finish dinner.

“So what are you going to do about your little problem? You can’t walk out there with a boner.” Nick laughed. Brian wanted to deck Nick for how he was talking to him because he’d never done this before and for some reason he was getting turned on by it. The feelings were so confusing for him because out in the restaurant sat a beautiful girl that he cared for, yet being here with Nick was all he wanted. None of it made sense.

“What am I going to do?” Brian wondered.

“I could help you if you let me."

Brian rolled his eyes and then finally looked at Nick expectantly, waiting for him to make a move.

Nick didn’t answer, he locked the bathroom door and lifted him up onto the counter where the hand washing sink was, setting him up there while he leaned in to kiss him. This was different from the time Brian had kissed him in the elevator because there was more than just sexual tension behind it. There was feelings behind this kiss. Deepening the kiss, he moved to his neck, down to his shoulder blade where he’d pushed back the button down shirt he was wearing. Ripping the buttons apart, Nick continued down as he felt Brian lean back, allowing him to continue.

“Are you sure about this?” Nick asked.

Brian looked into his eyes and nodded slowly allowing him. Their breathing was synching together. Nick was completely shocked that he didn’t push him away when he kept going. He gripped Brian’s back as he went back up to his lips, his short fingernails grazing his spine underneath his shirt.

“Yes…." Brian moaned. He felt Nick's grip on his pants as he pulled them down gently, the only sound in the room was them breathing. Steadying himself on the counter, Brian was afraid and shaking but strangely calm while Nick took care of his erection, feeling strangely satisfied. He wondered again if this was really right as he thought of the woman he had now cheated on twice…wondering what was going to happen now that he allowed his feelings to compromise not only his relationship, but now his work and his friendship as well.

The sinking feeling in Brian's stomach told him his suspicions might come sooner than later. He just hoped that they were wrong.
Chapter 25 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey everyone. Sorry for the delay in this chapter. I figured I would try and update before I leave for my cruise this weekend. Hope you all enjoy the update.
After their secret rendezvous in the bathroom on Nick’s birthday, he and Brian decided to continue acting like everything was normal between them but they both knew that it wasn’t. Nick had fallen for Brian like a ton of bricks and he was pretty certain that Brian felt the same way about him. Somehow he managed to get Brian to experiment with him but he wanted Brian to be honest with his girlfriend and Brian was too afraid. They stole moments alone when nobody was paying attention, when Leighanne wasn’t around to catch them. It felt even more exciting to Nick that they were breaking the rules.


They hid their secret romance during the tour and while it was amazing, Brian was growing more and more anxious that his girlfriend would find out he was cheating on her. While experimenting with Nick was fun, part of him still wanted to be with her even though the romantic feelings were not there at all. He was still seeing Leighanne even though Nick insisted he be honest with her and just break things off. Brian wasn’t ready to fully commit to Nick because he was still very insecure about his own sexuality, not to mention the repercussions of anyone finding out he and Nick were fooling around. So far they had been careful. For Brian it felt great because Nick was helping him quench that lust he had been pushing away. Nick was helping but he also was making him worry about what would happen if they were caught. What would everyone say? Brian would mentally punish himself and give himself anxiety due to all of the doubts he had about being gay. He didn’t understand how Nick could be so comfortable with it and he wasn’t.



Another thing that worried Brian was his impending surgery in May. He’d broken the news to management and they weren’t happy about it. Brian somehow knew this would happen but he didn’t care. He’d promised Leighanne that he would go through with the surgery and he wanted to at least keep one thing he promised her. He could give a shit less what Johnny and Lou thought. As far as he thought, Lou was no longer his manager once the lawsuit went through. This was several months away.



“You guys are in the middle of a tour and have so many things coming up, and you want us to halt everything for you?” Johnny asked during their meeting.


“Johnny, I need this surgery. Unless you want me to collapse in the middle of performing because my heart stops working. I don’t care about the tour. I don’t care about anything but getting better. That won’t happen unless I have the surgery done to fix the hole in my heart.”



“I don’t think you quite understand how much money we lose the more time you take off for this surgery. People want all five Backstreet Boys. They don’t want to see four of them. You’re also one of the lead singers, we can't afford to lose you. Think of the group. What about the other four members that work just as hard as you do. You’re being a little selfish.”


“SELFISH?”


“Brian…don’t.” Nick whispered, tugging on him as he stood up to slam his hand on the table. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest with anger.


“You do not need to raise your voice at me, Littrell.” Johnny snapped. Brian shoved Nick off of him and went around to the other side of the table.


“I will raise my voice if I want to, you have no right calling me selfish. Do you not understand that if I do not have this surgery, I could die?”


The others looked on in silence, watching Brian yell at Johnny.


“The label doesn’t want to hear it. You signed a contract with Lou. He has the say, you do not. We will give you a few days off for the surgery and that’s it but you have to come back to work.” Johnny said, unfazed by Brian’s sudden temper.


“I don’t give a shit what that fat bastard says. How does he expect me to perform after having open heart surgery? That’s madness.” Brian protested.


“Did Lou really say that?” Kevin asked. Brian was looking around at his bandmates for support during this argument. He was a bit disappointed that nobody was saying anything because they were supposed to be a team.


“Yes, he did. You have things scheduled the week of his surgery, which I was going to get to until Brian decided he wanted to interrupt me. I suggest you sit down and shut up because you have no say in your schedule. These things have already been planned.”


“How can you sit there and tell me that I’m going to be okay to perform after major surgery? You have no idea how serious this is. I’m having the surgery and I’m taking time off whether you guys like it or not. I don’t give a crap at this point. If it comes down to it, I’ll walk.” Brian said, sitting back down next to Nick at the table.


“Now, lets not do anything hasty.” Kevin piped up.


“They don’t care if we are alive or dead as long as we make them money. Don’t any of you see that this is a problem? It was bad enough that Lou was stealing from us and now you want to look away when they’re clearly abusing us too? We are human beings and need rest. All of this is only making my heart condition worse and none of you seem to give a shit.”


“That’s not true,” Howie protested, but fell silent. They all looked at the floor, feeling guilty because Brian was absolutely right. They were all being treated like crap and didn’t seem to notice until their friend poked holes in everything their management was doing.


After the meeting, tensions were high and Brian didn’t speak to anyone the rest of the day but Nick tried to cheer him up by playing a game of basketball.


“They don’t care about us, Nick. We are dollar signs to those people. I wish I’d never signed that stupid contact.” Brian said through gritted teeth as he threw the basketball against the backboard, causing it to bounce off and hit the ground angrily. Nick caught it and dribbled the ball, listening to Brian rant.




“But if you didn’t sign that you wouldn’t have met me.” Nick whispered as Brian rolled his eyes.




“That’s not what I meant at all. Don’t make this about you. I am just frustrated because nobody seems to care. None of the other guys want to help me take them down and make things better for us. We do all the work so why do we get treated like cash cows?”


“We are suing them so things will be better. We don’t have to deal with them for much longer. I just wish there was something more we could do in the meantime.” Nick replied sadly. Nick agreed with Brian and was trying to do all he could, but Brian just wanted to push everyone away. He was angry all the time. Nick just wanted to fix him and make him better. He wanted Brian to be Brian again, like when they first met. Before everything changed. Before he told him he was gay. Nick sometimes wondered how things would be if he had never told him but was thankful that Brian was starting to get comfortable and warm to him and the idea now. He just wished he didn’t have to share him with Leighanne because he wanted Brian all to himself and no one else.


“There’s nothing we can do right now. You don’t get it because you’re perfectly healthy, Nick. You aren’t teetering between life and death. I am. I just wish I didn't have to do it by myself.” Brian hissed.


“I’m trying to help you. Don’t take it out on me.”


Brian started to feel bad because Nick had been sticking up for him and helping him, had gone with him to the doctors appointments and sat with him many nights listening to him cry because he was so stressed about everything. Nick was there for him the whole way. He didn’t want to push him away now.


“I’m sorry for yelling at you, Frack. I’m just so frustrated with everything. It’s so confusing.”


Nick smiled at him and took him in his arms, bending down to kiss him on the forehead.


“I understand.”


Nick leaned in and kissed him gently, before Brian leaned against his chest, listening to Nick’s heartbeat.


Things were bound to keep getting better, weren’t they?
Chapter 26 by DelphinaCarter
“So what did you want to do for dinner tonight?” Nick asked as they walked into the recording studio that morning in New York City, thinking maybe he and Brian could steal some time away from the others instead of doing a group meal. Kevin’s girlfriend Kristen was in town so they were doing their own thing.


“I know what you are thinking. We can’t go out to eat. Someone will get suspicious.” Brian whispered, making sure that nobody could hear them. Nick made a face because he was tired of hiding their budding relationship. The two of them used to go out to eat before, why was it a problem now? This was all part of Brian’s paranoia and Nick rolled his eyes.


“Stop being afraid. I keep telling you there is no reason to hide anything. Have you told Leighanne yet?”


Brian took off his jacket, sitting down in front of the sound board as they waited for the other guys to show up.


“Nick we have been through this a hundred times.“


“Okay, and I’m going to ask a hundred more times. She deserves to know, Brian. She really likes you and you’re just stringing her along. It’s not fair to her.” Nick said with his arms crossed. The thought that he was being strung along as well never occurred to him, but it did to Brian. Brian was stringing Nick along just like he was stringing Leighanne along and he hated himself for it.


"Fair? This whole thing was your idea, and I’m not telling her that I’m- that I’m-“


“Gay? Bi? Multicolor? Purple? Jesus, it’s not like you’re going to explode if you tell someone you like men, Brian.”


“You haven’t told anyone.” Brian shot back, and Nick blushed.


“I told you.” Nick said softly.


Brian loved seeing Nick being shy because when they were in private he was anything but. Nick was so comfortable with himself yet he tended to put up a wall and Brian knew it was because of his family. Nick was having a lot of problems with his mother, who was currently trying to publish a book. Nick wasn’t very happy about it because he was worried what she would write in it about him. He hadn’t told his family his secret for this reason and just kept it between himself and Brian.


“Yes, you told me. But are you ever going to tell anybody else? Or are we just going to keep hiding this from everyone? You and I both know we can’t do it forever.” Brian reasoned. This caught Nick off guard because he was constantly telling Brian he shouldn’t hide who he is, yet he was doing the same thing. He felt like a hypocrite.


“You’re right. I just want you to be honest with your girlfriend. Leighanne is a good person and she deserves to know that you and her won’t go anywhere. You owe her that at least. Do you want to keep cheating on her, because I don’t like doing this to her either. I just want you to tell her. Either you break it off or you and I can’t be together anymore.” Nick said, his hands in his pockets as he leaned against the countertop. Brian looked at the floor, thinking. He knew Nick was right but he still cared for Leighanne, even though he wasn’t in love with her. Yet he was having so much fun with Nick, why stop now? He was starting to warm to the idea of who he really was and he felt there was no harm in experimenting. Leighanne was none the wiser.


The two of them were silent for a few moments,


“Please promise me you’ll tell her.” Nick whispered as they heard the guys start walking in. Brian shushed him as AJ and Howie came followed by Kevin.


“Are you guys okay?” Kevin asked, noticing a change in the air. He could sense some tension between them.


“Yeah, let’s get going though or we’ll be here all night like last night.” Brian said, recalling how they were recording until well after 2 in the morning the night before. NIck gave him a look as if he were trying to say he wasn’t done talking to him and they would finish later. Brian just focused on the recording session, trying not to think about everything but it was hard not to be distracted. So many things were on his mind. Leighanne, the lawsuit with Lou and his surgery. It was making him anxious and he wasn’t sleeping well because of it.



That night they ended up getting back to the hotel somewhat early so they ordered pizza and ate in silence before Nick started their discussion again.


“Brian…”


“I don’t want to talk about that right now, Nick. I’m so stressed that I just need to take my mind off of it for a night. Can’t we do something else?” Brian begged, finishing the last slice of pizza and rubbing his stomach in content.


Nick smirked at him.


“I know what would relax you.”



The two of them got undressed and went into the bathroom, stepping into the shower.


“Kinda a tight fit.” Brian laughed when they were both inside. Nick ignored him and turned the water on, letting the shower fill with steam.


“I’m sorry I upset you earlier today. I just want you to be honest, that’s all. I know you have a lot going on.”


“It’s okay, Nick. I just have so much on my mind.”


Nick got the soap and started to wash Brian, letting his hands slide up and down Brian’s biceps. He massaged his shoulders gently, moving down his back in a circular motion. Brian’s back was so tense it was hard to get any reaction from him.


“You feel really tense. Loosen up some,” he coached him gently, letting himself kiss Brian’s neck as the hot water ran over them. Brian started kissing Nick back, washing him as he had done, and then allowed his hands to follow the lines of Nick’s love handles to his groin. Nick shuddered with pleasure as he felt Brian’s soft,wet hand on his growing penis. His hand moved swiftly yet slowly at the same time while they kissed...Nick’s erection growing the whole time. Brian had never made the first move since they kissed on New Year’s in the elevator in Canada. Nick hoped this was the start of Brian accepting himself for who he was.


“Oh ...Nick…” Brian groaned as he allowed Nick to turn him around and start grinding slowly. It was the first time they had sex. They’d fooled around but not like this. This was different. Different than any kind of sex that Brian had before. At first he shuddered uncomfortably when Nick’s girth entered his backside but he relaxed.


“I’m not hurting you, am I? I’ve never done this before, I only saw it in a movie.” Nick whispered in his ear. Brian shook his head and they continued until they felt pruned from being under the shower too long.


“I take it you’re feeling more relaxed now?” Nick smiled. The two of them got out of the shower and dressed for bed, opting to lay together in Brian’s bed tonight. Brian rested his head on Nick’s chest, feeling a lot less stressed than he had that morning.


“Everything is going to work out, Brian. Don’t get upset.” Nick assured him, stroking the small of his back. Brian sighed contentedly.


“I’m trying not to, Nick. It’s just I feel so alone, like that day in the meeting. Nobody backed me up. I just don’t want to face anything else alone. I’m scared to death of this surgery...then there is the lawsuit. It’s a lot of stress.”


“Look, I’m sorry for not speaking up during that meeting. You have every right to be upset with our management. We all need to band together and get rid of them as soon as this lawsuit is over. Maybe even get a new record label, Kevin said that people will be lining up to sign us if we left RCA.” Nick apologized. Brian nuzzled into his chest more and they talked until Nick fell asleep, but Brian lay awake worrying.


Brian nodded and felt a bit better but the surgery was still worrying him more than anything now that it was getting closer and closer to the date. He knew Nick was there for him the whole way until now...but something was keeping him from leaving Leighanne and he didn’t know what that was. Was he in love with her or was he just fooling himself? As he lay there with Nick, he wondered if he was doing the right thing or not. This felt right but deep down he knew it wasn’t natural and it bothered him. He was stringing both Nick and his girlfriend along and he had to make a choice, but for now he decided to just live in the moment and worry about things later.


Fooling around for a little while longer wouldn’t hurt.
Chapter 27 by DelphinaCarter
As it neared Brian’s birthday, Brian got increasingly anxious because he was still cheating on Leighanne and hadn’t made his decision yet. Going over the pros and cons for the last week since he and Nick had sex didn’t make things any easier, especially knowing that Nick possibly had strong feelings for him just as Leighanne did. Recording in New York for the new album was going well and he loved what he did, it was just everything else was weighing him down. Many nights he couldn’t sleep and was thankful he had Nick to talk to. They lay together in bed after their recording sessions talking until they couldn’t keep their eyes open anymore. Brian wished he was as comfortable with himself as Nick was and often wondered how he did it.


Oh, how wrong he was.


Nick didn’t say much during these discussions, he just let Brian vent about everything and kept his own problems to himself because he didn’t want to burden him with any more anxiety. He was happy that Brian had never questioned where Nick saw movies of gay people having sex, because he knew he’d freak out when he found out. AJ and Howie knew though. Not that Nick was gay, but the movies. The three of them had watched many movies at Lou’s house including lesbian porn and gay porn. Something about the gay porn had stirred some thoughts up in Nick and later he realized he was not like the others. It wouldn’t be until later that he discovered he was gay. Even Howie stared at the girls making out with wide eyes because none of them had seen anything like that before. Lou assured them that this all was normal behavior and told them not to tell anyone what they’d seen. They all agreed, and everything went on as usual...well except for Nick being curious. He’d asked questions when the other boys weren’t around because he was so curious. His curiosity lead to discovery and pursuing his feelings for his best friend. He was even more thrilled to find out that Brian had his own secret waiting to be discovered.

While Nick appeared comfortable with himself to Brian, he was in fact anything but. Every time he was home he would be reminded by his parents how he could never come out to them because they would not accept him, or at least he knew his father wouldn’t. His dad was not the loving father type, he had an anger problem. He was an alcoholic and often yelled at his mother, or the children. His mom was not much better, but she tried to take the kids to their auditions and manage Aaron’s career when she wasn’t being an alcoholic herself. His siblings would often beg him to stay home because their parents were civil when Nick was around. When he wasn’t there they’d fight over money, or the kids. Nick hoped that when the group hit the big time he could buy his family a big house and they’d never have to fight over money. His home was very dysfunctional and he would give anything to have a family like Brian did. Brian’s parents seemed so much nicer and understanding even though Brian himself had said how religious they were. So Nick would often convince Brian it was okay to tell someone that he too felt different even though he wouldn’t. Somehow he felt that if either of them could do it, it would be him. It was kind of stupid but he hoped that if he saw Brian be okay with himself he would be able to do it too.

“Nick, are you all right?”

Nick was surprised to see Brian awake.

“Um...yeah. I was just thinking.” Nick said, shifting and making himself more comfortable.

“Anything you want to talk about? I’m sorry I was kind of a motormouth tonight. I didn’t ask you if you wanted to talk too.” Brian apologized, nuzzling his head into Nick’s chest where they slept. Nick smiled down at him, playing with his hair. Since they started fooling around they were sleeping in one bed, often waking up to one spooning the other, cuddling until the sun came up. The two of them had gotten very comfortable and Nick liked having that comfort available to him every night. He almost preferred this more than being intimate with Brian, and Brian seemed to enjoy it just as much. Not that the sex was bad...but this was pretty good too.

“Nothing important. Go back to sleep. I know you are tired.” Nick whispered with a smile to reassure him. Brian looked at him skeptically before closing his eyes. Nick moved his hand down, tracing down to the the small of Brian’s back with his thumb until he could tell he fell back asleep. As he listened to his heartbeat he could hear that it was irregular and it was even more real to him that Brian was about to have the surgery to fix the hole in his heart. He knew Brian was worried about the surgery so he decided not to tell him anything that would upset him more. Listening to him snore softly, it wasn’t until dawn that Nick allowed himself to finally rest.



“You all right, Nick? You look so tired.”

“Huh?”

Nick didn't realize he’d fallen asleep sitting up at the restaurant where the guys were all having breakfast that morning.

“Oh, I’m okay Kevin.”

“You don’t look like you’re okay to me.” Kevin said, raising an eyebrow. Nick ignored him and finished his food as the others were talking. Nobody else brought it up again and it was just fine with him.

That night when their recording session was done, Nick was headed up the elevator to the floor where their rooms were when Kevin held the door open and smiled.

“I’m coming up. Do you mind?”

Nick didn’t say anything, he just nodded and Kevin stepped on. It was just the two of them alone and for a minute, nobody said anything. Nick felt so anxious about lying to Kevin because he wasn’t fine at all.

“Kev…”

Kevin turned to him, raising an eyebrow at the sudden sound of Nick’s voice.

“Can I talk to you?” Nick asked wearily. Kevin smiled as the elevator reached their floor, putting his arm around Nick’s shoulders and leading him to his room at the end of the hall. He closed the door behind them and Nick sat on the bed, sighing.

“What’s bothering you?”

"You won't ever tell anyone but me about your secret. You're a hypocrite."

Brian's voice came and went, Nick shook it off. He had to talk to someone.

"You can talk to me about anything." Kevin smiled.

Nick sighed again, running a hand through his hair because he was nervous. Kevin didn’t know everything. How was he going to explain the situation when most of it revolved around him and Brian being together?

“It’s hard to explain...I don’t know where to begin.” Nick said as Kevin sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing him to reassure him everything was fine.

“You can tell me anything, Nick. I promise.” Kevin repeated.



“Okay.”



Remembering back to when he told Brian his secret, Nick decided not to make Kevin do a pinky promise. He knew Kevin wouldn’t understand so he decided to just come out with it, but it was hard for him. Nick had not told anyone but Brian...how was his cousin going to react when Brian had told him to hide it from everyone?



“I guess it all started with Lou…” Nick began, starting one of the hardest conversations of his entire life.

Nick told Kevin everything...even some things he never told Brian. How it had all started when he joined the group and for the first time in his life he felt comfortable with other men. He told Kevin about Lou’s movies, about things Lou said to him in private. Things that would have made Brian very angry if he found out during the lawsuit. He told him everything, except the biggest detail of it all, that he was in love with Brian.

Nobody was going to know that secret until he was ready to tell Brian how he felt about him.

“Well? What do you think I should do?” Nick asked after a long pause. Kevin didn’t say anything for a long time, he just seemed like he was thinking about everything.

“So you and Brian have been...um- together?”

Nick nodded.

“This is some problem,” Kevin chuckled.

Nick started playing with the hem on his t shirt, feeling anxious as he continued.

“I mean, I had to mention it because it’s part of my problem. I’m sorry you had to find out this way about your cousin. I don’t want to say he is gay because he doesn’t even know yet and it’s not my place to out him. That was not my intention, and I’m sorry if I’m freaking you out, we can pretend I didn’t say anything and just act like it didn’t happen if you want to.” Nick said quickly, blushing even harder. Kevin could tell he was getting upset and he raised a hand for him to stop.

“No, it’s fine. Nick. I never want you to be ashamed of who you are. I want you to know that I am proud of you for being so brave and telling me. I’m going to help you.”

Nick blinked at him in surprise, not expecting this type of response after how Brian had reacted. Kevin put his arms around him and hugged him, it felt like a weight lifted off of him to tell another person his secret.

It felt even better that Kevin accepted him. At least that was a start.

Now all he had to do was figure out the situation with Brian and everything would go back to normal again.
Chapter 28 by DelphinaCarter
Brian’s birthday was not long after Nick had talked to Kevin, and it had come up faster than everyone was expecting. Nobody had made plans to celebrate as they’d been recording in New York for the past week. Nick had no idea what to buy Brian for his birthday and started asking strange questions about what he might like. Everyone was acting strangely and Brian wondered why. Leighanne had called him the night before, deciding to come to town for his birthday and he didn’t have the heart to tell Nick he’d already made plans. He didn’t like lying to Nick again but Nick was harping on him to tell Leighanne the truth so much, he needed a break from him for a while.


It wasn’t that he did not enjoy Nick’s company, he did. It was that Nick was nagging him about a lot of things and Brian preferred to be independent. He didn’t like Nick meddling even though he had good intentions.


“For the hundredth time, Nick please drop it. I told you, I don’t need to go to the damn doctor. I am probably just getting a cold.” Brian hissed when they came off the elevator together and Nick heard Brian sniffling. Brian rolled his eyes and thought it felt like he had two girlfriends because of how smothering Nick had been that day. Brian liked fooling around with Nick but that was the extent of their...well whatever it was. Brian didn’t really want to call it anything because he felt like the word relationship didn’t cover it at all. They had sex once in a while and mostly cuddled in bed or kissed, to him it wasn’t anything serious and he wasn’t sure where it would go.



Or if he wanted it to continue.




“What’s going on with you and Nick?” Kevin asked after he observed them bickering in the hall on the way down to their rooms.


“Oh, hey. Nothing really. Nick’s just bugging me about my cold, that’s all.” Brian said, waving it off.


“I see.”


“He is just worried because of the surgery, I guess. I told him to drop it. Leighanne is coming tonight and I don’t want her to join him in nagging at me.”  


“Leighanne’s coming? Did you tell Nick she was coming for your birthday?” Kevin asked suddenly, raising an eyebrow as they stopped outside of Brian and Nick’s room.


“Why would I need to tell Nick she was coming?” Brian asked as he turned around to face his cousin. Kevin seemed to be holding his cool but he could tell that he was hiding something from him.


“I don’t know,” Kevin shrugged.


“I don’t believe you.”


“Cuz, whatever is going on with you and Nick isn’t my business….”


Brian blinked at him, his temper rising. It was in that moment that he had figured out what Nick had done. He had told Kevin about them messing around, or confided in him that he was gay and Kevin was now assuming. Either way, Brian was pissed off. Kevin thought quickly and they ducked into his room before anyone else heard the rest of the conversation.


“First of all, there is nothing going on with me and Nick.” Brian protested. Kevin was silent, allowing Brian to speak because he was clearly upset and agitated as he paced back and forth across the room.


“Look, please don’t be mad at Nick. This is my fault.” Kevin assured him.


“How is it your fault, he is the one telling people lies about me.” Brian said, even though he knew he was just lying to himself. He was mad because someone else knew and would treat him differently. This was not what he wanted. He wanted to keep everything a secret until he figured out what his feelings were and what was between him and Nick. It was obvious that it was more than friendship but he couldn’t define that just yet. Nick had just ruined everything.


“What was the lie? He confided in me Brian, it’s okay if you are gay. I accept you.”


“I’m NOT.”


Kevin stared at him skeptically and this made Brian even more flustered. He sighed in frustration and ran a hand through his hair, groaning. Suddenly it all came spilling out.


“I don’t know what to do, Kevin. Nick told me on his birthday last year that he was gay. He told me how he was feeling different and then I realized I felt different too and I had these feelings that I couldn’t explain. He has me all confused. I’ve been keeping this secret of his for a whole year and then last summer...last summer he and I- well, we..” Brian stammered, his face turning red.


“We kissed.”


Kevin sat there silently, listening and nodding. It was pretty much what Nick had told him except Nick was more accepting than Brian was. Brian was afraid. He was terrified that anyone would find out and judge him.


“Okay, fine. We had sex too. A couple times but it’s nothing serious.”


“I would say you have a problem. You might not think any of this is serious but to those two people, this is not a game. You need to be honest with three people before anything else happens because you put yourself in this situation. Only you can get yourself out of it. I want to help you and I want to help Nick, but you need to talk this out. I feel like he’s been hesitant to tell you things because you are so stressed over the surgery and the lawsuit that he didn’t want to burden you. Nick is scared just like you are but he’s better at hiding it and he just wants you to be honest.”


Brian licked his lips and sighed again.


“What three people?”


“Well for one, you’re cheating on Leighanne with Nick. Two, Nick is not comfortable helping you cheat on her with him. He wants you to be honest with her and especially him. He’s frustrated because he doesn’t know what to do or how you feel.” Kevin explained. Brian didn’t say anything, he just nodded the whole time as his cousin spoke.




“So who’s the third person?”



Kevin raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Do I need to spell it out for you?”




Brian considered this for a few moments. How stupid he had been. It was then that he realized what Nick had been doing. He’d been sparing him more anxiety by keeping quiet. Brian felt horrible. Yet he also felt angry because Nick had told their secret without his consent so he was conflicted.



“Nick told you all that?”


“In not so many words, yes. He has been holding it all in for months and I guess he finally felt comfortable enough to come and tell me what’s been bothering him. I think you and him really need to talk, because someone is going to be hurt in this equation.”  Kevin said. Brian kind of felt hurt that Nick hadn’t told him any of this during their nightly talks before bed. He always made a point to allow Nick a chance to speak and he never took it but he never thought to question why.


“Why couldn’t he just tell me that then? We literally talk every night.”


“Like I said, maybe he feels you’re under enough stress. He’s worried about you and quite frankly all of us are. You are so moody sometimes that most of us back off. That’s why Nick pesters you, because you won’t talk to anyone else about what is bothering you. You and Nick are more alike than you realize. He does the same thing to us too.”





Thinking about what Kevin had said, Brian went to his and Nick’s room and saw Nick playing his Game Boy.


“I got a bone to pick with you.”


Nick set the game down and watched him carefully, noticing the anger in Brian’s voice when he slammed the door shut.


“Okay.”


“Why did you think it was okay to tell Kevin about us? That I’m gay? Nick, I’m not ready to tell anyone yet-“


“Hey, don’t yell at me.” Nick interrupted. He hid his smile because Brian had just said he was gay, something he hadn’t done before.


“I’m not fucking yelling at you. I am still figuring things out. Now I got Kevin up my ass on top of everything else and you just made things worse. How are we going to keep this a secret, Nick?” Brian snapped, his face growing redder.


“You just said you are gay. So are you, or aren’t you?”


Brian wanted to punch him in the face but he was right. He had said it without realizing.


“I don’t know, Nick. I’m still confused. I don’t even know what is going on between you and me because I don’t know how to define it.”


Brian sat at the end of the bed and Nick sat up with his legs crossed. They were quiet for a few minutes.


“I really like you, Brian. I like you a lot but Leighanne is also my friend and you owe it to her to tell her the truth. If you don’t want to be with me, I understand but at least tell her.” Nick said softly. Brian felt horrible at that moment because he knew he was stringing Nick along and here he was, putting his feelings aside for him constantly to make sure someone else was happy. Nick didn’t even care if he himself was or not.


“Nick, what have I done to deserve you? Because I don’t think I do. You’re so patient and I’m being an asshole.” Brian chuckled. Nick smiled at him, getting up on his knees to crawl across the bed to where Brian was sitting and kissed him on the lips.


“At least you admit it. You know, you’re kinda cute when you’re angry.” Nick whispered, his hair falling in his eyes as he laughed. Brian pushed his hair back and kissed him back, smiling.


“Maybe I can give you your birthday present if you still want it.” Nick whispered soothingly in his ear. Brian chuckled and they started kissing again as if they’d never fought in the first place.




It was unfortunate for the two of them that they did not expect what would happen next.
Chapter 29 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
Hey all. Sorry for the delay on this chapter.
I was sick for some time and very busy, too busy to write regularly. It took me a bit to get this chapter together so I hope you like it.

“Husband?”


Brian didn’t know how long he’d been asleep for, but he was surprised to hear a voice other than Nick’s trying to wake him. He stirred, allowing himself to sit up and yawn as Leighanne called out, more impatient this time.


Brian’s eyes fluttered open in confusion, seeing an older looking Leighanne at the foot of the bed carrying a small fluffy white dog under her arm. Two more fluffy dogs ran around at her feet, yapping excitedly. Brian was so confused because he was not in the hotel anymore, and Nick was nowhere to be found.


“What did you call me?” Brian asked as he blinked again. He was in a large king sized bed, in a gaudily decorated bedroom that looked like one of those you would see in a designer’s magazine. The type of bedroom you’d see on Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous.


“Don’t be silly, I called you Husband like I always do. You’ve overslept, it’s time for breakfast.”


Before Brian could question her again, she was out of the room. Brian sat tangled in the satin sheets of the bed, still looking around the room for a clue as to how he’d gotten here. Where was Nick? Why was Leighanne calling him Husband?


Brian started to get up and noticed that he had a huge gold ring on his hand, covered with diamonds. This had to be a dream, but he wondered what it meant. Why was he married? He didn’t love Leighanne, at least he didn’t think he did.  He wandered out of the bedroom into the hallway, and his mouth fell open. The wall was covered with awards, gold and platinum records. All of them had pictures of him and the other boys on them from different albums they had done. Was he seeing the future?


“Husband, are you coming or would you like a written invitation?” Leighanne’s voice called from down the stairway. A trophy case was at the end of the stairs to the kitchen filled with various awards that the Backstreet Boys had won. Something he noticed was that Nick was not in some of the photos as if he’d left the group. Brian didn’t understand what was going on or why he was seeing this, but if he and the boys had all this success and he lived in such a lavish place...it couldn’t be all bad.


“Sorry, I must have still been tired.” Brian apologized as he rubbed his eyes again to see if he was still seeing everything he was seeing. He kept wondering why Nick was missing from those photos. Did something happen?


Suddenly he felt light headed, and his chest hurt as if his heart had suddenly decided it didn’t want to work properly anymore.


“Are you feeling okay?” Leighanne asked. She looked at him with concern, but before he could answer her he fell to the ground, clutching his chest. Something was wrong. What was happening? He tried to get air but it was like someone was standing on his chest, holding him on the ground so he couldn’t move.


“I-” Brian whispered as his eyes watered. He choked on his own breath. He couldn’t speak.


“Brian? Are you okay? Answer me, Brian!!!”


“BRIAN!”


Leighanne’s screams were all he heard as everything went black.




“Brian? Are you okay? Answer me, Brian!”


“Brian!!”


Brian’s eyes fluttered open and he was back in the hotel room, Nick looking at him as if he’d seen a ghost. He was sweaty and panic stricken.


“Wh-what’s going on?” Brian asked wearily. He felt like he had been asleep for a lifetime.


“You scared me. You were breathing funny when you had your head on my chest and when I tried to wake you up, you wouldn’t answer me so I panicked.” Nick said breathlessly.


“I’m fine.” Brian lied, clutching the blankets. His chest was hurting a bit but he figured it was from the dream giving him anxiety. He rubbed at it absentmindedly, thinking.


“I’m fine.” Brian repeated shakily.


“You don’t look fine to me.”


“Nick, I’m fine. Okay? Just drop it.” Brian snapped, getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. On the way he grabbed what he hoped were his underwear off of the floor. His hands were clammy and he was shaking with nerves. He knew he wouldn’t calm down unless he was alone and away from Nick’s line of questioning.



“Brian…”



Brian answered him by slamming the bathroom door and locking it behind him so Nick couldn’t come in. Nick watched him dejectedly and lay back down against the pillows of the bed in silence.



Brian didn’t think he was in the bathroom that long but when he had come back out, Nick was asleep again. He felt bad for snapping at him again but he would apologize in the morning. Sighing, he decided to go for a walk after getting dressed to clear his head and left the room without telling Nick because he didn’t want to disturb him.



“Oh!”


Brian opened his eyes after he ran into the person in the hallway, he was surprised to see Leighanne standing there with a bag. He had completely forgotten that she was coming to town for his birthday and as a result, he hadn’t told Nick as he’d promised Kevin he would.


“Sweetheart, are you okay?” Leighanne asked, noticing how unsettled he looked.


“I’m so sorry, I should have been looking where I was going. I had a weird dream and I wanted to take a walk, I guess. I’ll be okay.” Brian stammered quickly.


Leighanne looked at him the way Nick did.


“Maybe you need to lie down? You look like you’re going to faint.”


“No, I think I need to just take a walk.”


He looked back at Leighanne and thought about his dream. Maybe it was trying to tell him he should be with her. Maybe the dream was showing him his future.


“You mind if I take a walk with you? Maybe we can find someplace and get a coffee?” Leighanne asked. Brian thought about Nick sleeping back at the room and decided that conversation could wait until later. Right now he felt that being with his girlfriend was the right thing to do.


“Sure, let’s put your bag in the room and we can go.” Brian smiled, taking her bag for her. They started towards the room but Leighanne stopped when they reached the door.


“Wait, are you and Nick still sharing rooms? Maybe I should just get my own room. I don’t want to disturb him if he’s sleeping.”


“Yeah, you could say we are.” Brian said, rubbing the back of his head because they’d had sex earlier. Leighanne said something about getting coffee and just putting her bag in Brian’s room until they came back.


Brian thought quickly, because he didn’t even really want to put the bag in the room and wake Nick up. He knew if Nick saw him fully dressed and with a suitcase he would start asking questions.


“Let’s let him sleep then, and I’ll stay with you tonight.”


Brian decided he could figure out this whole thing in the morning when he felt better, because right now his anxiety was telling him that was a better idea. He felt sick to his stomach but maybe spending time with Leighanne was what he needed. After all, she was in his dream and they were happy. Being with her seemed like a better option than dealing with Nick anyway. It was his birthday and he wanted things to go well, surely it would be okay with Nick if she was just visiting.


At least he hoped it was.
Chapter 30 by DelphinaCarter
Author's Notes:
I know it's been a long time. But I finally updated :)
"Hey birthday boy." Nick laughed sleepily as he leaned over to wake Brian a while later with a kiss. The smile slid off his face when he pulled back the lump of blankets to find Brian wasn't there. Nick got up and stretched, looking for his underwear on the floor but frowning again when he realized they weren't there either.

Where could Brian have gone in such a hurry that he grabbed the wrong underwear off the floor?

Nick chuckled at the thought as he pulled a fresh pair out of his bag. Some things were better left to his imagination.



"Brian…."

Brian and Leighanne were busily getting reacquainted a couple floors down, kissing and touching each other wherever their hands could reach. It had been some time since they were last together, a few months. Brian missed her and she missed him just as much if not more. It didn’t take long for them to get hot and heavy and move things to the bed. Brian thought it would be nice to be with a woman again after fooling around with Nick for so long. Maybe a night with his girlfriend was what he needed to make sense of things.



He was very wrong.



Leighanne started undoing her blouse and Brian tried not to look nervous, but he was not hiding it well. She looked at him in confusion, but Brian was more concerned at the fact that he didn’t feel an erection. He wasn’t hard at all. Leighanne continued to stare. She could tell that he wasn’t being himself. Something was holding Brian back but she didn’t know what it could be.

"What's the matter?"

“I...uh- sorry.” Brian stammered, feeling confused himself. He’d seen women naked before and it didn’t bother him before, why would this start now? Then it suddenly occurred to him that he’d only been in bed with a man for the past few months, this was all Nick’s fault. Nick was trying to make him forget he liked women. That had to be it, Brian mused as he went back to kissing her. He continued, determined to snap himself out of the spell Nick had put on him the past few months. Leighanne seemed to notice something was off as well because she stopped kissing this time.

“Are you sure you’re okay, babe? What’s wrong?” Leighanne asked. Brian felt himself getting nervous and had no answer for her. What was he supposed to say, that because she didn't have a penis, he wasn’t turned on by her? He knew that would not go over well. He instead kissed her neck, listening to her orgasm and feeling guilty. How was he supposed to continue sex with his girlfriend when the physical attraction wasn’t there.

"I’m fine. I guess I just had a weird dream and I’m still a little confused by the whole thing.” Brian mumbled between kisses. He allowed her to undress him. This wasn’t like when he had sex with Nick, it was so different. This was purely animal passion, the real feelings just weren’t there. Brian hated himself for not feeling anything. He felt like a freak.

“We...can- we can stop, if you don’t feel up to it tonight. I just figured since it was your birthday, you might miss me.” Leighanne said, nuzzling into his neck and sighing. Brian kissed the top of her forehead.

“I’m sorry, Leigh. I do miss you. I- er...everything is just such a jumble lately and I’m still sorting it out. I’ve been so stressed with my surgery, the group, the lawsuit with Lou. Everything.” Brian said softly. They kissed briefly again.

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I understand you're under stress.” she said.



But was it? Brian privately wondered. He had no problems with an erection when Nick was with him. When they were together it seemed that a spark within Brian ignited and he felt the heat rise inside of his body. However, now….


Now there was nothing.

Brian knew he was in trouble. He missed Nick. He felt guilty for leaving him sleeping and being off with Leighanne. He missed the way his lips felt on his, the way his hands felt. All those times in the shower. That was nothing like this. This was all Nick’s fault and Brian hated that he fell for him when he had promised himself he wouldn’t. Now he knew he had to make a decision between them because this dual life couldn’t continue, as long as he had feelings for both of them.



It was his birthday morning and the guys had planned to take Brian out for breakfast to celebrate, as they had the day off from recording. None of them knew Leighanne was in town so they were surprised to see her on Brian’s arm when they came down to the lobby to meet up to go and eat. Kevin’s smile fell when he saw them walking off the elevator together arm in arm.

“H-hello, what a unexpected surprise. We didn’t know you were in town. When did you get in?” Kevin asked.

“Hello, Kevin I just got in last night, Brian didn’t tell you I was coming?” Leighanne said brightly and he greeted her with a warm smile. They hugged and over her shoulder Kevin gave his cousin a dirty look, because he knew when Nick found out what was going on he would be upset.

“No, I guess he forgot to mention that,” Kevin smiled.


“What’s your problem?” Brian whispered when his girlfriend had gone to talk to Howie.

“Does Nick know she’s here? Did you tell him she was coming?” Kevin asked, crossing his arms. Brian looked at his feet, remembering how he’d left Nick asleep and not told him a damn thing. It wasn’t his business anyway. It wasn’t like they were dating or something. Yet why was he feeling so guilty about it? It was then Brian decided that it didn’t matter. That dream he had the night before was as sign, he was meant to be with Leighanne.

“Kevin, I don’t have to tell Nick anything. He knows that him and I are just messing around. It means nothing to me. I have a girlfriend and I love her. I’m not leaving her for him if that’s what he thinks.” Brian fired back. It was then he looked up and saw Nick standing there, his eyes watching Leighanne and then looking to Brian after hearing him speak. His eyes had fire in them but he put a smile on for everyone else. Brian felt guilty.

“Oh hi, Leigh. What a surprise. When did you get in?” Nick asked, trying not to sound like he was angry, but Brian could see right through it. Nick was not good at hiding his feelings, especially when he was mad. Things were starting to get uncomfortable, and the other guys fell silent as they watched the conversation.

“Last night, I hope it’s okay that Brian stayed with me in my room. I came to town for his birthday. We didn’t want to wake you up.” Leighanne said with a smile.

“Of course. Are you coming to breakfast with us? I’m sure you are hungry.” Nick said warmly.

Leighanne smiled at Nick, then at Brian. Brian knew that this was going to be a disaster because Nick couldn't handle his jealousy. He wondered what the hell Nick was up to by inviting her to breakfast.

“I’d love to.”



Brian eyed Nick suspiciously, what was he up to?


All of them ended up going to breakfast at a restaurant nearby, where they all ordered and sat around talking.


“You guys have been dating for a few months, haven’t you?” Howie asked Brian and Leighanne when the waitress had brought their drinks to the table. Nick looked at Brian, waiting for the answer. Nick decided to screw with Brian’s mind to get back at him for not telling him his girlfriend was coming to visit. He felt like being petty today.

“Uh..er- yes.” Brian muttered. His cheeks turned a light shade of pink as he felt Nick’s foot gently sliding up and down his ankle.

"Do I hear wedding bells soon, then?"

Brian didn't know who he wanted to smack first, Nick or Howie. Leighanne and him were not ready for marriage and he knew that. They hadn’t even talked about it because they saw so little of each other due to touring that Brian didn’t bring it up. Lost in his thoughts, he was jarred back to reality by the sensation on his leg again. He could feel himself getting excited by Nick's foot, and as the seconds went he became more and more uncomfortable to the point he was about to start squirming.

“No...not for a while.” Brian said softly, grabbing Leighanne’s hand and smiling at her.

“We aren’t ready yet, maybe eventually. I would like to.” Leighanne replied as she squeezed his hand back to reassure him. Nick rolled his eyes but only Brian saw and they all continued with their breakfast, chatting and having a good time. As the food came and went, Brian kept wondering what was going through Nick’s head that whole time. They headed upstairs to their rooms after breakfast when they returned to the hotel. Leighanne wanted to check her room for messages and Brian wanted a change of clothes for dinner so he had an excuse to go to see Nick. He was very surprised to find that his key card didn’t work for their room. He was locked out.

“Nick, open the door please. It’s me.” Brian asked, pounding on it with his fist. There was no answer. This made Brian very angry, so he banged harder. Nick ignored him.

“Goddamn it, Nick open the door. I need my clothes.”

The door suddenly flew open and a suitcase came flying out from behind it, knocking Brian back to the floor.

“Take your shit and get away from me.” Nick snarled at him, throwing a pair of basketball shoes at Brian. He just sat on the floor under the weight of the suitcase, stunned at how Nick was acting because he had never seen him like this before. Nick closed the door and Brian knew this was his chance. Pushing the suitcase off of himself, he managed to get up and put himself between the door and the door jam, prying his way into the room. He was disappointed that Nick locked the other door so he still couldn’t get into the hotel room.

“What the hell, Nick. What is this about? Why were you acting the way you were at breakfast? Let me in the fucking room, please let me talk to you.” Brian begged.

“I have nothing to say to you. I don’t mean anything to you? You said that, didn't you? We were just messing around, weren’t we? You would rather be with boob job Barbie anyway, take your shit and go stay with her. I’m not your side piece. I’m not someone you can just experiment with because you are too much of a pussy to admit to yourself who you fucking are. I’ve been real with you since day one, why can’t you do that for me? Are you going to keep lying to me and her? She doesn’t deserve this either.”

“Who I am? Who I am? Nick. I know who the fuck I am. You’re trying to make me just like you. I’m not you. I love my girlfriend. When will you get that through your head?”

“Being with me the other night didn’t seem to bother you, did it? What changed?” Nick demanded.

“Nothing changed. You and me can’t happen, Nick. Nobody will understand us. Nobody will accept us.”


“I accepted you, Brian. I accepted us. Kevin accepted us. You’re just making excuses fo yourself. You told Kevin you didn’t need me anyway, so why don’t you go back to your fucking girlfriend then. I'm not helping you hurt her. She deserves better.” Nick said from behind the door. He didn’t sound as angry this time so much as hurt. Brian sighed and walked away from the door to go and pick up his belongings in the hallway. He was surprised to see Leighanne there.

“I came up to see if you needed help with anything, you were gone a long time. Is everything okay?” she asked.

Brian didn’t say anything, he just took his clothes that had fallen on the floor and threw them in his bag, sighing as he looked at the closed door.

How was he going to get out of this mess?
Chapter 31 by DelphinaCarter
After their fight on his birthday, Brian couldn’t stop thinking about everything Nick had said. He knew he was wrong for stringing both of them along. He knew they both deserved better because he didn’t know what he wanted, or what his heart wanted. It was all confusing to the point where he couldn’t even perform in the bedroom with his girlfriend anymore. This made her concerned, but Brian managed to convince her that he was just under a lot of stress and not to worry about it. This was also putting unnecessary strain on his heart and making him have pain, more than he usually had. He was looking forward to finally getting the surgery in May so it could stop, but that seemed Iike a lifetime away. Leighanne would be concerned when she would see Brian hold his chest or look winded for no reason. He hated having anyone fawn over him so he pushed her away and pretended that he was fine.

He was far from fine.


“I only ask because I care about you, you know that?” Leighanne said, kissing him gently before she continued to pack her overnight bag. She was going back home in the morning and Brian wondered where he would go since Nick threw him out of their room. He supposed he could always room with one of the others, maybe Howie since they seemed to get along well most of the time. AJ was another possibility, or even Kevin. He knew Kevin would just nag him about the situation with Nick, so he decided to try rooming with Howie. He brought his things there that night, so there was no hassle when Leighanne went downstairs to check out.


“Thanks for letting me stay with you, Howie. I know we aren’t in the city for much longer before we go to Italy.” Brian said, bringing his suitcase into Howie’s room.

Howie helped him with his other bag and they carried them into the room, shutting the door behind them.

“It’s no problem. Usually I room with Kevin or AJ but the room arrangements were so weird this time. I’m sorry that you and Nick aren’t getting along right now. What happened exactly?”

Brian hesitated, standing there with his bag. He couldn’t tell Howie what was going on so he had to think quickly and make up a lie. He hated lying to yet another person, but what choice did he have?

“Oh, its stupid. He and I were supposed to hang out but I went out with my girlfriend. He’s just being jealous and stupid about the whole thing so I left.”

Brian walked in and set his other bag on the floor next to the one Howie put down by the bed near the window.

“That’s weird. You guys are usually so close.”

Brian looked at his feet, thinking that nobody even knew half of how close he and Nick were. It was then he started to feel guilty again for hurting him, all he could picture was the look on Nick’s face as he threw his bags at him in the hallway. He wondered what was going through his mind now. He thought about going down the hall to apologize but he didn’t know if Nick would even talk to him, so he went over to the bed and sat down.

“I guess. Sometimes things change, ya know?”

Howie left Brian to his thoughts and sat down on the bed next to him, turning on the television. Brian stared out the window, sighing. He wondered what was going through Nick’s mind even now. Would they ever be okay again? Maybe he’d go down and talk to him a little later when things cooled down some. He’d go down to the room with a pizza and apologize for being stupid, and Nick would take him back. It wasn’t much of a plan but he knew it would work. NIck usually didn’t stay mad. Or so he hoped, anyway.



Nick laid on his bed down the hall, tossing a hacky sack and catching it as he stared at the ceiling. He knew kicking Brian out of the room was the right thing to do to send him a message. He knew he was in the right and Brian was wrong. He also wondered if he should just talk to Leighanne himself, but he was afraid. He sat there, thinking about the arguement. It was their second huge fight and although he knew Brian deserved it, he wondered if he was too hard on him. He knew this stress was not good for Brian’s heart condition and he even debated going down the hall to check on him before he decided to lay down. His thoughts were startled by the sudden knock on the hotel room door so he got up, sitting upright with his legs dangling off the bed and sighing. He stared at the door and listened for the knock again, licking his lips out of nerves because he didn’t want to appear like he’d forgiven Brian or was being too soft.

“Nick, are you there? It’s me. Open the door?”

Nick squinted when he heard someone talking from behind the hotel room door. He wondered if Brian had come to apologize, but it didn’t really sound like him.


“Don’t go right away, you’ll look too eager to talk to him.” Nick coached himself. He slowed down. Stopping to run a hand through his hair, he breathed deeply before opening the door and opened it to find Brian’s girlfriend standing there instead of him. He was thoroughly confused by this turn of events.

“Oh, hi. Er- um. I thought you were going home?” Nick asked. He let her into the room and they sat down at the little table near the window.

“Well, I still am going home...but my flight is in the morning. I just needed someone to talk to. I didn’t wake you or anything, did I?”

“No, you didn’t wake me. What’s wrong? You said you needed to talk, is everything okay?” Nick asked with a smile. Leighanne rubbed her shoulders, sighing. Something was going on all right, and Nick had a suspicion it had to do with Brian.

“I would like to think it is but Brian’s been acting weird. I was wondering if there was something wrong with him that he wasn’t telling me, you know he has a habit of hiding things from people. I just have this uneasy feeling.” Leighanne said.

Nick stared at her, listening. Leighanne started telling him about the night before his birthday, when they’d gone to her room. Nick had to hold restraint as he listened but he was shocked by the things she told him. All of it was only further confirmation to what Nick knew already, that Brian had developed real feelings for him and liked men to the point where being with a woman now made him feel strange. Nick also felt guilty because he was to blame. He’d tempted Brian to the point where they were fooling around behind her back. He helped Brian cheat on his girlfriend who genuinely cared for him. The guilt was becoming unbearable.

“It was like he was embarrassed to see me...well, naked. We usually don’t have problems making love but he just acted so strange.”

“What kind of problem is he having?” Nick asked, trying to keep his composure.

“He couldn’t perform in the bedroom.”

Nick didn’t say anything, he just stared at his feet and thought about the other night in the shower when they were all over each other. He shook it away.

“I’m sure everything is fine, maybe he’s just stressed.”

“Nick, if something is going on….you would tell me, wouldn’t you? I am worried, I know his surgery is coming in a couple of months. He won’t tell me anything and I know I can trust you.” Leighanne smiled, touching his knee. Nick didn’t say anything for a long time, the last words echoing in his mind. He just nodded at her, staying quiet.

I know I can trust you….



He thought of the shower again. The first time he felt Brian inside him. His stomach churned with guilt.


I know I can trust you….


The image of him and Brian in bed laughing and fooling around under the covers played in the back of his mind. Laying in bed, kissing. Nights when they fell asleep in each other’s arms.


I know I can trust you….



“Leigh, there is something going on with Brian. There’s a reason why he’s been acting strange with you.” Nick said finally, feeling the bile rise to his throat. He felt sick to his stomach.

“What is it?” Leighanne asked, looking at him because his face was so pale.


“Brian has been cheating on you.” Nick said slowly. She stared at him, her blue eyes glistening.

“Cheating?”

“He’s been cheating on you with me.”
Chapter 33 by DelphinaCarter
After New York the guys had to go to LA to attend the Grammy Awards and Brian started to notice Nick was acting strange around him. The whole time it was as if the past months had not happened, and it was like how things were before Nick had confessed that he was gay. Even more curious, Leighanne didn’t seem to be excited that he was in town for the night when he called her from their hotel. So much of the awards show, Brian was lost in thought. He was distracted and Kevin noticed. Kevin also noticed that Nick kept to himself. So on the flight to Italy that night, Kevin made a point to talk to Brian on the plane ride over since they had a long trip ahead of them. 


“So, how are you doing?” 


Brian looked up from reading his book and eyed his cousin strangely. They were drowned out by Howie snoring loudly in the seat behind them. 


“Not much for being subtle, are you?” 


“Well? Are you going to answer my question or not?” 


“Things could be better, I suppose. Why do you ask?” 


“You’ve been reading the same two pages for the last hour. So what’s on your mind?” Kevin chuckled. 


Brian stared hard at his book and didn’t answer.


Well gee, Kevin. What’s on my mind. Let’s see. I am lying to my girlfriend about my feelings for her, lying to Nick about my feelings for him. Lying to myself about what I want, lying to management and my family. I’m literally drowning and I’m afraid that I’m in over my head. But golly gosh life is peachy frikking keen right now. How about you?


“That’s a loaded question. I guess the lawsuit, for one. My heart surgery, Leighanne didn’t want to see me in LA when I called her place.” 


“Ah, that would do it. All of that considered, why wouldn’t your girlfriend want to see you?” Kevin asked, raising an eyebrow. Brian frowned, closing his book and setting it on the tray in front of him. 


“I don’t know. We had a nice time for my birthday and then she had to go back home. I just figured we could grab dinner or something while i was in town for the day. She wouldn’t even answer the phone. Did I do something wrong?” 


“Do you really want me to answer that question, cuz?” 


Brian rolled his eyes. 


“Brian, you have been lying to her for months. You’ve been lying to Nick too. You’ve been lying to a lot of people. Eventually that is going to catch up to you.” 


Brian excused himself to go to the bathroom and avoided him for the rest of the flight, because he knew Kevin was right. 



When the boys got to the airport, Kevin made a point to get talking to Nick while they waited for their luggage in Italy. He hadn’t had a chance during their flight because Nick was so into his game boy or was sleeping. 


“Hey, kiddo.” 


Nick looked up and took his headphones down because he had been listening to his Walkman. 


“What’s up?” 


The conveyor belt started moving signaling that their bags were coming off the plane. Nick started looking for his bag as suitcases tumbled down the chute. Brian was standing with Howie on the other side. 


“Just wanted to ask how you are doing, is everything okay? You seem quiet.” Kevin said. 


Nick looked at him cause he had seen Kevin talk to Brian on the plane and even though he couldn’t hear what they were saying, he was a little suspicious. Did Brian notice that he was starting to pull away? 


“Everything is fine. Just haven’t felt like talking, that’s all.” Nick said as he rewound the tape in his Walkman so he could listen to the last song again. 


“How are things with you and Brian?” Kevin whispered, making sure nobody within ear shot could hear their conversation. He knew that Nick didn’t feel comfortable with people knowing his secret yet, and respected his wishes. It was up to Nick to tell everyone when he was ready to. 


“That’s a loaded question, Kev.” Nick chuckled as he spotted his bag coming down the conveyor belt. He reached out and grabbed the large green duffel bag, swinging it over his shoulder. They continued to wait for Kevin’s suitcase. 






“I kind of told Leighanne about me and Brian.” Nick half whispered, shifting uncomfortably as he looked to see if Brian was looking at him. He wasn’t. 


Kevin raised an eyebrow as he spotted his suitcase, and the two of them waited for the others to get their bags. 


“Did you? So what happened? Is that why the two of you have been avoiding each other?” 


Nick sighed and fixed the strap on his backpack. 


“That’s the problem. Brian doesn’t know I told her anything. At least, I don’t think he does. It’s better if I just keep things professional between us anyway. What about our career? We are just finally getting big back home. I don’t wanna fuck it up because I’m selfish.” 


The two of them started walking around to the other side of the baggage carousel where Brian was just picking up his bag and Johnny walked over with AJ. As usual, one of AJ’s bags had gotten lost. It wouldn’t be a trip to Europe unless one of their bags disappeared, Kevin laughed to himself. 


“You’re not selfish, Nick. You really like him and he likes you. I think Brian just doesn’t know what he wants yet. He needs some time.” 


“I know that, but he won’t allow himself to feel anything. That’s not fair to me or Leighanne. My feelings don’t matter right now, but he is in love with her. You heard him the other day in the hotel lobby back in New York. Brian is in love with Leighanne. He owes it to her to tell her the truth. So I might have helped the truth along a little big and fucked myself over, but I just want him to be happy. I don’t care if that means that I am miserable. I just want him to be honest with himself.” Nick sighed. 


“So how did she react to what you told her?” 


Nick winced as he thought of her threat, the threat that she would tell everyone he and Brian were gay and having a affair. That she would ruin everything they’d worked so hard for. She’d destroy them. 


“She didn’t really say anything but I just think it’s a good idea if I back off. I already told them not to have me room with Brian at this hotel for this show. If I’m not in the same room with him he won’t be tempted. I’m staying with AJ.” 


Nick and Kevin went to join the others and Kevin made a point to sit next to Nick in the van so they could continue talking in hushed voices.


“I think you are making a big mistake with this. Denying yourself what your heart wants can lead to nothing but a broken heart.” Kevin whispered. 


“Can’t break my heart if I’m the one doing it.” Nick reasoned. The rest of the ride to the hotel was quiet. At check in, Brian even looked confused that he and Nick were not rooming together. 


“Wait, I’m rooming with Howie?” Brian asked, staring at the room key. 


“Nick asked to be with AJ.” Johnny explained with a shrug, handing everyone their room keys and going to his own room. Nick brushed past them and headed to the elevator but before he could close the button to go upstairs, Brian stuck his hand in the door to keep it open and stepped on. Nick didn’t look happy about it. The two of them were silent for a few moments until Brian spoke up. 


“Are you avoiding me?” 


Nick looked at him and shrugged. “What would give you that idea?” 


“Well you haven’t talked to me since New York. What did I do, are you upset at me because I can’t fix things if you don’t tell me what is wrong.” Brian said, crossing his arms. 


“I just think maybe it’s in our best interests to not continue this little game you are playing with me.” Nick said. He looked at his feet and tried to keep himself from getting upset as the elevator slowly dinged closer to their floor. 


“I’m not playing a game, Nick. I thought you knew that. We went over this the other night when you said I could come back to the room. Don’t you remember that? What changed?”


The elevator door opened but neither of them got out.


“I just think we should cool it right now.” Nick shrugged, still not making eye contact. Did Brian hear sadness in his voice? Why was he acting so peculiar?


“Well, okay….if you are sure. I mean, if that’s what you really want.” 


“It is.” 


“Okay then.” 


“Fine.” 


“Fine.” 


“You didn’t get out.” Brian said when the door closed on them. 


“Well, I was letting you go first.” Nick retorted, stuffing his hands in his pockets while his ears turned slightly red. He wanted to kiss Brian, tell him he didn’t mean it and fuck whatever Leighanne said. 


“So go then.” 


Nick sighed in exasperation and jammed his hand on the button to open the elevator door, before stomping down the hallway as Brian laughed at him. The laughter only stopped when he heard the slamming of the door to the hotel room, and Brian was left with quiet. 



Nick closed the door to the room where he was going to be staying with AJ, who was already there. He’d already claimed the bed by the window so Nick took the empty bed.


“What’s up, roomie?” AJ said brightly, hugging Nick around the shoulder with one arm and shaking him gently. Nick looked at AJ and immediately started to cry, leaving AJ stunned. 


“Are you okay, you look like your dog just died.” 


“I’m fine. I’m fine. Really. Sorry, AJ. I’m just stressed out, I guess. No biggie..” Nick lied, wiping his eyes. 


“Don’t worry if you’re not, you and I will have some fun tonight after the show and I will make you forget all about whatever is bothering you. I’m here for you, bro. We’ll get you and me a couple of beers and have a good time.” AJ promised, hugging him again. Nick cracked half a smile, but he knew that he wasn’t going to be happy again just from a night of drinking. He knew that pushing Brian away wasn’t going to be good for him either, but he had to do it to protect them both. 


“Sure, AJ. Let’s do it. You and me.” 


“Okay, great. We can go get our supplies before we head to rehearsals tonight for the show.” 


Nick wiped his eyes again and smiled at AJ, watching him go into the bathroom and close the door. Everything was going to be okay, he just had to keep pretending. Yes. Keep pretending just like Brian was doing. If it worked for him, surely it would work for Nick too. He just kept telling himself he was fine. 


He was fine. 


He was going to be fine.


Hopefully they both would. 
Chapter 32 by DelphinaCarter
“Brian’s been cheating on you with me.” 


The words sounded strange and foreign coming from his mouth, like it was playing in slow motion. After he spoke, Nick waited for her to freak out. He waited for her to start yelling and blaming him, but she said nothing. 


Nick watched her face, her eyes were focused on his as she kind of froze up. She was quiet for some time and then started laughing which startled Nick out of his thoughts. 


“I-I’m sorry, but what is so funny?” Nick stammered in confusion when she laughed at him. 


“It’s just so ridiculous. Cheating on me with you? Brian wouldn’t cheat on me. He’s not like that. Besides, for him to cheat on me with you would mean that he is gay….he’s not gay. You’re not gay. This is a joke to me.”  Leighanne said, giggling and shaking her head. Nick sat there, blinking at her in surprise. 


“It would be funny if I was making this up, but I’m not. Brian’s been cheating on you and I’ve been helping him. I tried to tell him to tell you and be honest with you-“ 


“Stop. Just stop. I’ve heard enough. It’s bad enough that Brian won’t tell me what is going on with him and now you’re helping him to make up lies?What is really going on, Nick?” Leighanne demanded, interrupting him. 


“I’m telling you the truth. Brian has been hiding this from you for months. I came out to him last year on my birthday and we’ve been fooling around…” 




Leighanne looked as if she was going to breathe fire but she took a breath as if she were trying to compose herself. She put up a hand to signal Nick to stop talking. 


“Nick, is all of this because you think I’m taking him away from you? Is that it? Because Brian said he thought you were jealous of me. I’m not here to steal him from you. You are his best friend. This obsession you have for him is just not healthy.” 


“Excuse me? Obsession?” Nick asked, gaping at her. 


"Isn’t that why you made up this ridiculous story? You are trying to get me to leave him to keep your friendship, but trust me...I’m not here to take him from you.” Leighanne snapped. Nick went from being confused to being angry. He wanted to do the right thing but now he wondered if it was right after all. 


“That’s not it at all. I am trying to do the right thing here and be honest with you. Brian has been hiding things from you. He’s been cheating on you. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s up to you. I am telling you because you’re my friend and I don’t like lying to you anymore. I hope you have a safe trip to wherever you are going in the morning.” Nick said after they continued to argue for a few minutes. He let Leighanne out into the hallway and they said goodbye before shutting the door behind her.



“That could have gone better.” Nick muttered to himself, laying back on the bed to collect his thoughts. 





Brian was getting ready for bed when he decided that maybe he should go to at least talk to Nick and try to work something out between them. He hated having Nick angry at him. He hated going to bed upset. It was then he decided he had to go. 


"Where are you going?" Howie asked when he noticed Brian heading for the door. 


"I just...need to go for a walk." 


Howie chuckled as the door closed, he knew exactly where he was going. 




Brian half walked and half ran down the hall to Nick’s room, his heart pounding because he was anxious. Nick was so angry before, would he even talk to him now? Would he just slam the door in his face again? 


“Nick?” 



Nick sat up in bed when he heard knocking at the door again. It came again, louder this time. 


“Nick? It’s Brian. I want to talk to you. Please….” 



Nick’s heart skipped a beat, should he answer? He felt horrible after blabbing to Leighanne Brian’s secret. He felt guilty because he’d betrayed him even though he deserved it. 


“Nick?” 


Knocking came again, louder still. 


Nick finally got up and went to the door after fixing his hair because he was nervous. 


“What do you want?” 


“Listen, Nick. About earlier. I wanted to talk to you.” Brian said, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. He wasn’t expecting Nick to be so cold, but little did he know that Nick almost smiled. Brian was always bad at two things. Lying and apologizing when he was wrong. He hated being wrong even when it was shown to him flat out, he was just stubborn. 


“Okay, so talk.” Nick told him flatly. He was trying to act like he was still angry because Brian needed to learn his lesson.  His expression didn’t change. 


“I should have told you my girlfriend was coming to town for my birthday. It’s just, she kind of surprised me at the last minute. I knew like the day before or something like that. I had lots of time to tell you. I just didn’t know how to. I fucked up, Nick. I know that. I spent the night with her because we didn’t want to wake you up. You were sleeping when we came back from getting coffee so we decided it would be better to let you sleep.” Brian explained. 


“After that I went to her room and we made love, or tried to but all I could think about was you...how I hurt you. I made a mistake Nick. I have been so wrapped up in everything and in myself that I didn’t consider your feelings. I know you and I have been fooling around but that’s just what it is right now. I’m still figuring things out, just like you are-“ 



“No, Brian. You are not just like me. I know who I am. I am gay. I know what I want. You do not. You keep playing with her and playing with me like this is some kind of game. Is that what I am to you, a game? I’m not a toy, Brian. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t hurt her, she’s my friend and she trusts me. You said downstairs that I meant nothing to you. So was everything the last few months a lie? Or were you lying to her about your feelings like you were to me?” 




“I don’t know. I love her…” Brian said finally, but the words sounded so odd coming from his mouth that he didn’t even believe them. 



The truth was, he didn’t think so but Nick didn’t need to know that small detail. He knew he wasn’t in love with his girlfriend the way she was with him. There was attraction but that was all, as it became evident when he couldn’t get into sex with her. He wasn’t attracted to her beyond looks. However, with Nick it was so much more. When he was away from Nick there was a yearning within himself that he couldn’t explain. Even now he drank in his scent and tried to resist the urge to press his lips on Nick’s. 



“So that’s it then, you’ve finally made up your mind? You are choosing her? I mean that is what you said downstairs in front of Kevin. That’s what you just told me. You love her.” Nick demanded, crossing his arms. Brian wanted to throw up from anxiety alone. His stomach was churning and his heart was beating out of his chest. He had to restrain himself from holding his chest because he was distressed and uncomfortable, Nick would only worry. He didn’t want that. Not now. 


“Nick, I was put on the spot. You know I didn’t mean any of that. Of course you are important to me.” 




Nick glared at him, his eyes still crossed. 


"Look. You made your decision. This isn't about you and me and what we were doing. I don't expect you and I to be together because we both know that won't happen. However, you need to be honest with yourself. Whether you like it or not, you have feelings for both of us and you need to figure it out. You need to be honest with Leighanne, because honestly she deserves better." he snapped. Brian nodded, he hated that Nick was absolutely right. He was just so conflicted. 


"I'm sorry, Nick. I just feel so lost right now and I am trying to navigate this. I don't know how it's so easy for you. This isn't easy for me. You need to understand that." 


"I do understand. Believe me. It wasn't easy for me….but this isn't about me. She doesn't leave until morning. You need to go and talk to her, you owe her that.” Nick said. He knew Brian would be angry when he found out he told her about them fooling around, but he didn’t care. She deserved to know the truth even if it ended up with himself being miserable. 



Brian nodded again. He didn't want to have this conversation with Leighanne right before she went home. He wanted to give her time to react and process everything. He also wasn't about to break up with her because he did care for her, even though he didn't love her.


"Thanks for talking to me."


"I wasn't going to, you know. I'm still mad at you, but I am also worried about you. I don't want you to feel like I am abandoning you. I'm not. I just need you to figure things out." Nick replied. His face softened a little and he smiled slightly. Brian smiled back at him and they hugged. Nick leaned down and kissed him, not thinking to check if anyone was in the hallway. 


"Would it be completely out of line to tell you that you're really sexy when you're angry? The way you threw me out was kind of…hot." Brian chuckled softly into his ear. Nick's ears turned pink and he smiled. 


"I hate you." 


“No, you don’t. You could never.” Brian teased. Nick knew he was trying to distract him so he brought the attenton back to the subject. 


“Are you going to talk to her, then?” 


“Absolutely. So, would you mind if I brought my stuff back over and gave Howie his extra bed back?” Brian asked hopefully. 


“Sure. Howie needs the room for his hair products anyway. He has to organize them by brand name and what he uses it for.” 


They stood there for a moment, laughing. 


“I?” 


“No more lying. Please. I don’t like being mad at you.” Nick begged as he kissed him. 


“I promise.” 



Nick rolled his eyes and kissed Brian again, smiling before heading back into the room and closing the door. Brian smiled as well, turning to go to Howie’s room for his bags. He knew Nick was still mad at him but he was ready to start making things right. Talking to Leighanne could wait. There was no sense in upsetting her right before her flight home, now was there? 




The next morning, Nick went downstairs to get an extra room key to give to Brian now that he was back to sharing a room again. He whistled as he waited at the desk. 




“Nick, I didn’t expect to see you down here this morning.” 



NIck almost jumped when he heard Leighanne’s voice. 


“Oh, are you checking out?” 


“Yes, my flight is in a couple hours so I’m off to the airport. Join me for a coffee real quick?” Leighanne offered. She smiled at him warmly but her eyes were like ice. He’d never seen her act unfriendly towards him since the time he walked in on her and Brian in the hotel room in LA. Nick didn’t see any harm in having a coffee with her, after all they were friends. Weren’t they? 


The two of them got their coffees and sat down, sipping at them silently for a few minutes. 


“Nick, I had some time to think about what you said to me yesterday and I’m sorry I snapped at you the way I did. You were just trying to be honest with me, weren’t you?” 


Nick blinked at her. 


“Of course.” 


“Now it’s my turn to be honest. I saw you and Brian in the hallway, I was on my way to your room to discuss what we talked about and to ask your advice but it’s clear to me that this is your fault.” Leighanne said softly, staring him down. Nick shifted in his chair uncomfortably. 


“My fault? What have I done?” 


“You have poisoned his mind and you’re trying to steal him from me.” 


Nick almost spit out his drink in her face at the accusation. After all he had been doing to make sure Brian was honest and that Brian told her the truth, he was to blame? Poisoned his mind? 


“Excuse me? Leigh, I’m not trying to steal him. A person can’t be stolen unless they allow themselves to be stolen. I’ve done nothing. This was all his decision. I never once pressured him to do anything he didn’t want to do.” Nick explained. He wondered where she was going with this conversation.


“Now the question is what to do with the information that you have given me. You have told me that not only you are gay, but so is Brian and you’re basically having a secret fling together. I’m sure that your management would love to hear about this. Maybe even the media if I gave them an interview-“ 


Nick’s eyes went wide and he shook his head. 


“No, please….you can’t…” he whispered urgently. He was about to start hyperventilating. 


"This is your fault and you need to fix it. You're going to ruin his career and yours because you are being so selfish. Either you take care of it and stop putting ideas into his head, or I make a phone call…and trust me. You don't want me to do that."


Nick opened his mouth to speak but he closed it and took a breath to calm himself instead. This was not how it should have gone. This was not what he wanted to happen. Leighanne had shown him her true colors. 


"O-okay…."


"I don't care if you are working together but you're going to pull away from him and stop making him think. You're going to stop talking to him about your abnormality. if I hear about or see anything like I saw in the hallway last night again, you will regret it. Do I make myself clear?" 


“Abnormality?” 


“Nobody will ever accept you, surely you know that? It’s wrong. Men loving men is not normal.” 


Nick nodded slowly, his face red because he was trying not to cry. He couldn't say anything because at this point he knew he fucked himself over.


"What about Brian. Did he ever talk to you? He said he was going to talk to you, I told him he needed to." he asked slowly. 


"Don't put this on him. He is confused right now and you are not helping. Leave him alone. He was fine until you started putting ideas in his head. Now, I have to catch my flight. Have a nice trip to Italy, and remember our little chat." 


Nick got the answer without her telling him. Brian had lied to him again. He was heartbroken. 


With that, she picked up her suitcase and headed out of the coffee shop into the street. Nick sat at the table with his coffee going cold and thinking. He thought about how Brian was upstairs asleep in his bed, and how he was now going to have to act like nothing had happened just now. He felt sick to his stomach as he threw away his coffee and took the key cards up to the room. He didn’t want to ruin the group with his selfishness. He knew what he had to do next and he didn’t like it, but it was the only way. It was the only way things could possibly normal again. 
Chapter 34 by DelphinaCarter
The Backstreet Boys were performing at the San Remo Music Festival in Italy. Nick had a great time but inside, he wanted to throw up. All during the performance he kept looking over at Brian, wondering what he was thinking. He thought of all the times they'd been together intimately, when it was just them and nobody was there to judge them. It made him happy but sad at the same time because he knew he was protecting their group. He was doing this so that their hard work was not ruined. 


"So what's everyone doing after the show?" Brian asked backstage when they were getting ready to leave. 


"Nick and I are hanging out, right roomie?" AJ said brightly, putting his arm around Nick. Nick gave a half hearted smile. 


"That's cool." Brian said. He couldn't help but feel a little bit jealous that Nick was going to be spending time with someone else. 


"Hanging out responsibly, I hope?" Kevin asked, raising an eyebrow at them. Everyone knew as soon as they'd get to Europe AJ would be partying since he couldn't at home. 


"Of course! Would I lie to you?" 


Kevin and Brian exchanged looks because AJ was the worst liar in the whole group. Nick smiled nervously again and disappeared along with AJ to the van that would bring them back to the hotel. 


"I don't like the sounds of that." Kevin muttered when he and Brian were in the other van with Howie. 


"Sound of what? They're just going to be in the room. How much trouble could they possibly get into?" Howie laughed. 


"I think you're being paranoid again."


"Well I didn't like the sound of it either. The three of us know AJ doesn't hold his word and now he's going to drag Nick down with him? I don't think this is a good idea. Especially because Nick is depressed right now-" Kevin said before he stopped himself. Brian looked at him incredulously. 


"Nick's depressed? Did he tell you that?" he asked. 


"I…well, er- he didn't really say-" 


"Did he say so, or didn't he?" 


They got to the hotel and Kevin didn’t answer until the two of them were in the elevator. Howie had stayed behind to have a drink at the bar downstairs. 


“You didn’t answer my question.” Brian said after a minute of awkward silence. 


“He didn’t say. I just assumed cause you two are avoiding each other right now. So please don’t shoot the messenger. I worry about both of you. He’s been going through a lot of stuff and so have you, I don’t think alcohol is the answer.” Kevin explained. 


“Did he tell you why he’s been avoiding me since my birthday? I keep having this feeling like something happened and I don’t know what it is. He won’t even talk to me. Should I just go talk to him? He wouldn’t say anything this morning when I confronted him about it.” 


“I think you should just leave it alone until he’s ready to talk, you know how he gets when you push him. He’s like you.” Kevin chuckled.


“No, I think I need to talk to him before he does something stupid. I don’t like him hanging out with AJ.” Brian said, jamming his finger on the button for their floor after realizing he had never pushed it in the first place. 


“Do I sense a little jealousy, perhaps?” 


Brian’s face turned several shades of red.


 “That’s ridiculous.” 



In reality, that’s exactly what it was and Brian hated every second of it. He hated the fact that Nick wanted to spend time with someone else, especially AJ. Sure, AJ was closer to him in age but they didn’t have much in common except that they came from shitty family backgrounds. What would Nick possibly find attractive in him? 


Don’t go into those thoughts, those are dangerous. 



That nagging voice in the back of his mind came and went just as it usually did when he was trying to convince himself that he was not falling for Nick. The voice that told him he was in love with his girlfriend and not his best friend. The voice that reasoned it was not normal to love another man. He had been pushing that voice aside until Nick stopped paying attention to him. Nick ignoring him was driving him crazy and he knew it, he just didn’t want to admit that to himself until now. He wanted to take Nick and remind him who he was.



Now he just had to convince himself to actually go and do it. 





“So what are we going to start with first, AJ? I am not the drinker here. I mean, my parents owned that bar when I was like two...but I was two. I didn’t know what I was doing.” Nick said, looking at the various bottles of alcohol laid in front of them. 


“I usually go for the one in front of me and go from there. There’s not much to think about it.” AJ shrugged. He took the beer bottle in front of him and chugged it before sighing contentedly. He gave Nick a funny look when it finally registered what he said.


“Two? You drank at two? You serious?” 


“Mhm. I mean, it was an accident. I would sometimes crawl downstairs from our apartment over the bar and play the arcade games. One of their customers left something out and I drank it. I never told anyone about that, actually. My parents would rather nobody know, so I guess that’s a secret between you and me.” Nick chuckled, taking the beer in front of himself and drinking from it. AJ was already on his second. 


“I hope you know I’m not good at keeping secrets, bro.” 


“I know that, but if we get drunk enough tonight, chances are we won’t remember this conversation anyway.” Nick laughed. 


“I’ll drink to that.” AJ said, and they clinked their bottles together. 


"We both kind of have shitty parents." 


"At least your dad is around."


Nick took a drink and looked at his feet because AJ wasn't wrong. He had recently found his birth father but their meeting didn't go as planned. 


"I'm sorry that didn't work out the way you wanted." Nick offered.


“It is what it is. I try not to think about it. That’s what these are for. They help me to not think about anything.” AJ said, reaching for another beer.


They continued drinking, silent for a few minutes. 


“We never really get to hang out like this, just you and me.” AJ said finally, his words starting to slur a little bit. Nick had lost count a while ago at how many they'd had. He knew what he had to do but he knew it would take him a couple more beers before he brought himself to actually do it. 




A couple hours later, Kevin was getting ready for bed when he heard someone at his door. He was fully expecting Brian to be on the other side but instead, it was Nick. Nick was clearly drunk and hardly able to stand so Kevin helped him into the room and got him some water. 


“Nick, what are you doing here? You shouldn’t have left AJ by himself.” Kevin said, when Nick had finished his water and relaxed a little. He looked as if he’d been crying again. 


“I know, but I had to talk to you….I-um...I lied to you at the airport.” Nick mumbled. 


“You lied about what?” 


Nick wiped his eyes because he started tearing again. Kevin handed him a napkin. 


“I told you that everything is fine between me….and Brian…..but I lied.” Nick whispered, half laughing. He was so intoxicated that he could hardly get out full sentences but Kevin let him continue because he was curious. He also worried how drunk AJ was if Nick was this hammered. 


“Nick, it’s okay. I promise.” 


“No. It’s not o-okay. Leigh….she told me...she said…” 


Nick stopped and belched right in Kevin’s face. He wanted to throw up. It smelled awful. 


“Don’t push yourself. Do you need to lie down? Here. Let’s go over here to the bed.” Kevin said, leading Nick to the bed across the room. He stumbled but Kevin managed to get him into the bed and take his shoes off. 


“Klevin...Lee said that…she saw me and Ryan kiss….and that...that...she’s gonna tell everyyybodyyy.” 


“Leighanne threatened you?” Kevin asked. He tossed the shoes on the ground and sat on the other side of the bed, listening to Nick mumble. He was surprised when he started crying. 


“I’m sorry…” 


“No...shhh. No It’s okay. Don’t get upset, you’re just drunk right now. You just need to sleep it off and then figure things out in the morning.” Kevin said, consoling him. He let Nick cry until he finally fell asleep. They had to fly back to LA the following day so Kevin made a point to sit with Nick, who was still nursing his hangover. 


“Kevin, I don’t really feel like talking right now. I feel like I’m going to hurl.” Nick said, his head against the seat to keep himself from throwing up. 


“Do you remember anything from last night?”


“Vaguely.” 


Kevin made sure nobody was listening before continued. 


“Is it true Leighanne threatened you?” 


Nick sat up, feeling even more nauseous than he had been a few moments ago. He kept hearing her words echo in the back of his mind every time he even got near Brian, and all he was doing was making himself more and more upset. 


“Yes. She saw Brian and I kiss after I told her I helped him cheat on her. She said that I needed to back off of him, or she is going to tell everyone that Brian and I are gay and having a fling. Kevin, do you know how bad that would be for everyone if she tells people I’m gay? That would ruin everything. I don’t want to be responsible for that.” Nick said softly, holding back tears. 


“Honestly, fuck her. I can’t believe she is doing this to you. I know you feel you are doing what is best for the group but I don’t want to see you like this.” 


Nick excused himself to go to the bathroom and on his way he exchanged looks with Brian, yes his heart was hurting but he’d worked way too hard to get to where he was to throw it all away now. Love would have to wait. Whether he liked it or not. 
Chapter 35 by DelphinaCarter
March had come and the Backstreet Boys were about to be very busy with their European tour for Backstreet's Back, so they were in Ireland for rehearsals. Things between Nick and Brian were still awkward, and Brian was trying to get Nick to talk to him. Nick only spoke to him when it was related to the group or work and it made Brian very upset especially when he saw Nick hanging out with AJ more these days. Even during rehearsals, Nick avoided him like the plague. 


"How are you doing?" Brian asked when he caught Nick in the elevator of the hotel they were staying at one night in Dublin, Ireland. Nick looked particularly exhausted that day as if something had been weighing him down and he was holding it in. 


"I'm fine." Nick said coldly. He was getting tired of these nightly attempts by Brian to make conversation. All he wanted to do was take a hot shower and go to bed. Brian was even more insistent today than he was usually. Nick didn't even have the energy, he was exhausted. He had even blown off Kevin, who he usually confided in. He was just so tired. All he wanted to do was sleep. He even wished he had his own room because now AJ was asking questions. It had to be bad if AJ was worrying, but Nick just put on a fake smile as he always did and pretended everything was fine. It worked for Brian. Brian was great at lying and pretending. It would work for him too. 


"You don't look fine." 


"I said that I'm fine, okay?" Nick hissed. 


"You know you are really not a good liar, Nick. What is wrong? You don't talk to me or any of the other guys anymore. You've shut out me. You shut out Kevin this morning. You've gotten so withdrawn. Have I done something wrong? Everyone's worried about you." Brian asked, the elevator dinging. He wasn't lying, because everyone was noticing a change in Nick's behavior. He had become moody and didn't talk much, if at all. They got off and Nick sighed as he stepped out. 


"I'm just tired. Okay. I'm tired. " Nick lied. Leighanne's voice echoed in his head and he shook her away. Brian was just too much for him right now. 



Oh, how Nick wanted to tell him everything and lay next to him in bed…feeling his heartbeat like he used to. There were no longer peaceful nights for Nick now. He had nightmares about people discovering his secret and his friends hating him. Nightmares of things that Lou had done to him, things he’d never told anyone about and was afraid people would find out. He often wanted to tell someone about Lou, the movies that Lou had him watch, and even things he had said or tried to do. Lou had never actually touched him but he had come close a couple times. The most recent was after breakfast when Brian confronted Lou about their money those months ago. Luckily Kevin came and knocked on the door before anything had happened but Nick wondered if just a few more minutes had gone by…..


He wished there was someone else that understood. Brian almost understood at one time but he was so far in denial right now that Nick doubted he would ever come to his senses. 


"I thought we were best friends. You used to tell me everything. Is it Lou? One of the guys? Is it your parents?" Brian asked, almost jogging to keep up with Nick's long strides down the hallway. Nick was almost running to get away from him. He turned around when he got to the room, sliding the room key in the slot while he faced Brian. He looked completely exhausted. 


"It's none of that. Please just leave me alone. It's for the best." Nick said softly, opening the door to his and AJ's room. Brian put his hand in the doorway and stepped in front of him, blocking his way inside. Nick rolled his eyes. 


"Brian, get out of the door. Leave me alone."


"No. I'm not leaving you alone. Ever. You're stuck with me." Brian snapped. He stood his ground. 


"Move." Nick said again, pushing against him with his chest. 


"No." Brian said, forcefully this time. Nick forced himself past and made a beeline for the bathroom. 


When Brian entered the room , AJ was sitting on the floor, checking out the mini bar. He'd gotten into some of the snacks and was busily eating while he opened a bottle of Coke. He nearly dropped the bottle when the door to the bathroom slammed behind Nick. 


"Shit, you scared the fuck out of me.” 


"AJ, can we be alone for a while?" Brian asked.


“No offense, but you aren’t my type.”


“I mean with Nick. He won’t talk to me.” Brian said, rolling his eyes. 


"What's with Nick? Is everything okay?" AJ asked, his mouth full of some kind of potato chips. 


Brian looked at him desperately. 


"AJ, please?" 


"Fine, fine. I'm going. I'll go find Howie." AJ said, holding his hands up and leaving the room, holding the potato chip bag with his teeth. Brian shook his head and then went back to the bathroom door that was now locked. 


Locking bathroom doors was definitely a Nick thing to do, he'd been doing it since he was twelve. Whenever he was upset or was angry he'd lock himself in the bathroom until someone finally talked him out. Brian lost count of how many times Nick hid in bathrooms.


"Nick, please talk to me. It's just me. AJ left. Come out of there." Brian called from behind the locked door. He heard Nick sniffling on the other side. 


"You need….you have to go." Nick said from behind the door. His chest felt tight. Even being near Brian was hard for him right now. 


"Please open the door." 




Nick sighed and opened the door to see Brian still standing there waiting. 


"Nick…." 


"Brian, we can't be together. Don't you get it? You have your girlfriend. You chose her. You love her. You don't need me, okay? If anyone finds out about us the group is over. It's done. All that work we did-" Nick started, but he was cut off by Brian's lips being pressed against his. He was pushed against the bathroom door before he could react. He was so surprised by the force Brian used that he didn't do anything. He just stood there, allowing the kiss to happen. He wanted to push Brian off, tell him no…but he didn't move. He continued to kiss him. He hated himself for wanting more. He was addicted and needed his fix. So he returned Brian's passion with his own passion. 


After a few minutes, the two of them finally stopped to catch their breaths because it got heavy very quickly as if nothing had ever changed between them. Nick finally broke free and tried to stop him from kissing him again. 


"I can't…" Nick gasped, feeling ashamed of himself. 


"Why can’t you? I thought you wanted to be with me? I missed you, Nick. You hanging with AJ was driving me crazy. I miss you. I need you…" Brian said, ignoring Nick and kissing him anyway. Nick almost chuckled at the fact that Brian was jealous of AJ. 


"Brian-" 


Brian pressed a finger against Nick's lips to stop him from talking and kissed him again. 


"I don't care about the fucking group right now, okay? I don’t care about Leigh. This is between you and me. Not talking to you has been killing me. You hanging out with AJ instead of me is killing me. Not being with you is killing me. I can't be without you, Nick." he said between breaths. Nick stood there in stunned silence, his heart pounding…blinking at him. 


Nick wanted to say so many things but all of a sudden he heard her voice again. It was deafening. He saw Brian's mouth moving but all he heard was Leighanne's disembodied voice. An image of her from the coffee shop in New York appeared before him where Brian stood but it was grotesque and looked nothing like her.



"Stay away from him or I'll tell everyone. I'll ruin everything. You'll be finished. It will be your fault."


Nick's eyes started to well up with tears and his heart beat even faster. His face turned red and he was shaking, trying not to cry. 


"I-c-can't…..we can't do th-this…." he sputtered shakily. Brian looked at him with concern. This was the first time he'd been assertive and Nick broke down completely. The coldness melted away. Brian put his hand down and watched in disbelief as Nick started to cry. He went to hug Nick, but Nick shrank away from him and slumped to the floor, crying into his knees. 


"Nick?"


Nick didn't answer. He only heard Leighanne telling him to stay away. Stay away or everyone would be destroyed. 



Nick missed Brian too and it was killing him just as much, but feeling his lips on his own again only broke his heart more because he knew that they couldn't be together. Not as long as Brian was with Leighanne. 


"Don't cry," Brian whispered, kneeling down next to him and putting his hand on Nick's shoulder. Nick was still shaking. 


"I miss y-you t-too…I'm sorry. I just can't help you cheat anymore."


"Then why don't we see if AJ will just room with Howie and things can be like they were? I just want to be happy again, I just want us both to be happy." Brian asked, his voice breaking. 


"Aren't you h-happy with Leigh-Leighanne? What do you need me for?" 


Brian sat on the floor next to Nick, putting his hands on Nick's shoulders and made Nick look at him by shaking him gently. 


"Nothing makes sense with her, Nick. It only makes sense when I'm with you. Please just help me. Help me figure things out. I'm so lost right now. You're the only person who understands." he said, his eyes boring into Nick's. Nick sniffed and nodded because he understood. Sometimes he was lost too, even though it appeared he had a handle on things. Brian didn't need to know that though. 


"I know that, but you said you love her. We can't be together...she's your girlfriend. I won't help you cheat on her, I told you that." 


"I get that. We can still be friends, can't we? We don't have to do all the other stuff. Just be friends. Help me figure all of this out. I don't want to lose you." Brian said, hugging him. He stayed there with Nick until he started to calm down. 


Nick sat there with his head on Brian's shoulder and felt like he wanted to throw up. Could they really just be friends and still share a room, with those feelings they had still present. Nick wasn't sure if he could. He still very much loved Brian. 


"Are you sure? You just kissed me….you said that it killed you to be away from me-" Nick started. 


"If you don't want us to continue like before, we don't have to. I respect your wishes. I won't force you to do anything that you don't want to do. I just want us to be able to talk and be friends like we were. Can't we do that at least?" Brian interrupted. He almost sounded disappointed. 


Nick pushed his hair out of his face and wiped his eyes again, feeling a little bad for giving Brian false hope. He knew this was a horrible idea, but there was no harm in them just being friends. Leighanne surely wouldn't mind that, as long as Nick kept his distance. Yes…that would be just fine. 


"Okay." Nick said, getting up off of the floor. 


"Okay?" Brian asked hopefully. 


"We can share rooms but as friends. Friends and nothing else." Nick told him, even though he knew this was going to end horribly wrong. He knew that they'd end up doing something but for some reason he went along with it anyway. When AJ came back to the room they all talked and he agreed to room with Howie while the rehearsals in Dublin were going on, at least for now. Things finally got a little less awkward with Brian and Nick, at least for the moment. For the moment, everyone was happy. Happy for mending friendships and happy for the new tour, but little did they know that their happiness would be short lived. 
Chapter 36 by DelphinaCarter
“So I guess you and Nick worked things out, huh?” Howie asked when he and Brian were in line at McDonalds in Ireland one night. Rehearsals for their tour were winding down and everyone was tired, but in good spirits. Tour was starting tomorrow and pre show jitters were definitely back. Brian and Howie got their food and started for the van, food in tow. Brian had gotten Nick a couple burgers because he figured that he would be hungry. 


“Oh yeah, things are great.” Brian said wistfully when they closed the van door and headed down the road into traffic. He was happy that he and Nick were on speaking terms again, but he didn’t like that Nick kept his distance. He still wanted to fool around but Nick was not having it whatsoever. Brian was in touch with Leighanne again as well so it seemed that things were back to how they used to be for everybody. 


“That’s great because it would be so awkward on stage, wouldn’t it ? I mean, if you weren’t speaking.” Howie said. Brian frowned because their personal lives had never gotten in the way of them performing before, why would they now? 


“Do you think things are different when we aren’t speaking on stage? I didn’t notice anything. I only noticed it when we weren’t performing.” 


“Well, Nick didn’t seem himself when he was upset. Sometimes it translates to his performances. It’s not hard to notice. I’m just glad things won’t be awkward anymore.” Howie shrugged. 


Brian thought about this the whole way back to the hotel, and when he got there he called out Nick to tell him that he brought him food. Nick had been in the shower. 


“How did you know that I was hungry?” Nick laughed, drying his hair because he’d just showered. Brian took his scent in as he walked in from the bathroom in nothing but a white tank top and his boxers, he smelled of fresh soap. Brian hurriedly looked down and mumbled something, blushing as Nick walked past. Nick pretended he didn’t notice. 


“I just had a hunch. Got you a couple burgers.” Brian offered, showing him the bag. Nick grabbed a burger because he was hungry. 


“Score. We can eat and watch some TV. AJ showed me how to fix it so we get free cable.” 


“Nick, we are in Europe. I don’t think that is going to work on this TV.” Brian laughed.


“It should work with all of them. Aren’t all of them the same anyway? I can totally do it. Watch.” Nick said, grabbing a cheeseburger and starting to shove it in his mouth while he messed with the television.


“I don’t think this is such a good idea.” 


“If AJ can do it, I can do it. I’m just as smart as he is.” 


"I didn't say you weren't." Brian chuckled. 


Brian watched Nick jump back from the television suddenly and the cheeseburger fell to the floor. The TV shut off and Nick stood up, wiping his hands on his boxers. 


“SHIT. Okay….well that didn’t go so well.” 


“Are you okay?” 


“Yes. I think so. I just got shocked a bit.” Nick said casually. 


“Obviously, Mr. Wizard. Are you trying to kill yourself?” Brian said, cracking up laughing and throwing a fry at Nick, who laughed as well. He threw it back. 


“No. Well, not tonight anyway.” 


“So now we don’t have a TV and Johnny is probably gonna yell at us because you broke it and got ketchup on the rug. You dropped your burger too.” 


“I can fix that.” 


Nick picked up the burger, still half in the wrapper that had fallen on the floor and started to continue eating it while Brian made a disgusted face. He then used the wrapper to clean the ketchup off the floor and threw it in the garbage can near the desk.


“That’s nasty.” 


“What, there’s a five second rule.” Nick reasoned. They laughed again and continued to eat. Brian wondered how he ever found Nick sexy to begin with, because some of his habits were disgusting. 


“Why do I like you again?” Brian laughed. 


“Because I am awesome, and you’re a dork.” Nick said with a mouth full of cheeseburger. Brian smiled at him because he sounded just like the old Nick again.


“Excuse you, but I’m not a dork. Take that back.” Brian protested, shoving Nick playfully. 


“Nuh-uh.” 


It was suddenly like old times because Nick shoved him back, the two of them laughing until they both were on the floor, wrestling with each other just like they used to do. Like they used to do before everything got in the way. They rolled around for a while like this, laughing until Brian was on top of Nick pinning him and they stopped. Nick looked into Brian’s eyes as he hovered over him, almost wishing that he’d kiss him. For a second, it seemed like Brian was going to. 


“Uh…um-” Nick said slowly. His ears turned pink. 


“Sorry,“ Brian blushed. He helped Nick off the floor and silently cursed himself. He and Nick were supposed to be distancing themselves and he was already letting his head get in the way. Resisting Nick was going to be harder than he thought it would be. He thought that he was doing a good job of doing it so far, but every so often they would have moments like tonight that ended up being so very awkward. The attraction was definitely still there. 


“It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean anything by it. We were just screwing around.” Nick chuckled before he continued eating his food. Either he was very good at acting like he was oblivious or Brian could have sworn that Nick wanted to kiss him. Either way, he pushed those thoughts to the side and kept quiet about it.


“Sure.” Brian said, looking at the floor. 



Not long after Ireland the Backstreet Boys were doing their European Tour, along with a very special taped show in Germany. Everyone was excited about the show because it was an all acoustic show, minus the lights and microphones and such they were using. It was very low key and all of the boys were into the performance. 


“This is going to be so freaking cool.” AJ remarked when they walked into wardrobe that night. Their outfits were dark colors, suede coats and dress shirts with slacks. 


Brian almost spit out the water he was drinking when Nick walked in after getting hair and makeup done. His hair fell around his face and looked so soft that Brian wanted nothing more than to run his hands through it. He looked totally different from the dork he was hanging out with a few nights ago that nearly electrocuted himself on a television set. He looked like a completely different person when he was dressed up. 


“Brian, are you feeling okay?” Howie asked. Brian shook off the fact that he was trying to undress Nick with his eyes and coughed. 


“Yeah, I’m...uh- I’m fine.” 


Nick couldn’t help but stare back at Brian, all the feelings he had been pushing away these past few weeks came rushing back the second he saw him in his clothes too. Even during their performances he kept subtly looking over at Brian, simply admiring him. He caught Brian looking at him a few times from the other side of the stage. 


"That was a great show, guys." Kevin said backstage afterwards. They were all headed for the bus in a hurry because they were off to Norway that night.


"Yeah, great show." Brian agreed, still thinking of Nick. They got on the bus and picked at some food that one of the roadies had gotten for the crew but nobody was really hungry, just tired. Most of the other guys went to bed right away. Brian looked around for Nick and happened to find him in the back of the bus on the couch, looking out the window. 


"There you are." 


Nick looked up in surprise as if he'd been deep in thought about something. 


"Everybody else went to bed. You alright?" Brian asked. 


"I didn't feel like sleeping yet." he confessed, smiling. There was a sketch pad with some drawings on the couch next to him and colored pencils. Sometimes Nick liked to draw or write to pass the time on the bus when he wasn't playing video games.


"Mind if I sit with you? I'm not tired either." Brian asked and Nick nodded. They sat in silence for a while as the bus began to move. 


"You looked really good tonight." Nick blurted out suddenly, blushing. Brian smiled. 


"So did you."


More awkward silence. 


"Nick, I miss you. I miss how we were. Doesn't part of you miss it too?" Brian asked. Nick looked away, thinking and Brian knew what he was thinking. He was clearly missing things too but putting on a front about it. 


"We can't be together, you know that. You can't have everything." Nick said hesitantly, running a hand through his hair and sighing. He missed Brian too and wanted nothing more to kiss him right now. Brian wanted to kiss him too because he looked so sexy. He could tell Nick wanted to as well. 


Brian hated that Nick was right. He couldn't have everything, no matter how much he wanted to. He would eventually have to choose. He didn't say anything. 


Nick looked away for a second, licking his lips because he was nervous. He sat still again and then moved closer to Brian on the couch before slowly kissing him, his thumb resting just under Brian's ear. 


"Nick?" he whispered. 


Nick broke away, blushing. 


"I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. You just look so good right now…"


Brian didn't say anything and kissed him back. Neither of them were worried about anyone finding them in the back of the bus because most of the guys had gone to bed. They kissed for a long time. Brian ran his hand through Nick's hair and it was just as soft and silky as  he had imagined it would be. 


"I missed you, Nick. I missed just sitting here like this with you."


"I missed you too," Nick whispered into Brian's chest when they sat there, cuddling. He knew they shouldn't be doing this but his heart had gotten the best of him tonight. Where this would take them, he didn't know. All Nick knew was right now, they were happy. 



He hoped that it would last, but he had no idea how wrong he would be. 
Chapter 37 by DelphinaCarter
Shows came and went on the European tour and everything was still going pretty good for the guys. There weren’t any issues between them or anything, and everyone was in good spirits- just everyone was getting burnt out a little bit. Brian was getting nervous because his heart surgery was coming in a few weeks. He knew that everything would be okay, but part of him felt empty somehow and he couldn’t explain why. Sometimes he thought back to that dream he had months ago about Leighanne and wondered if she was really what was missing. He finally got in touch with her because their music video producers were looking for girls for their next video and he knew she would be perfect. Surprisingly she replied back, and they had been in touch by phone when they could to Nick’s disappointment. They’d be on the phone for a while each night and Brian would roll his eyes at the fake gagging motions Nick would make while they talked. 


“Aren’t you getting a little old for that?” Brian asked one night when he got off the phone. Nick sat up in bed, reading some comic book that he’d brought along and doodling in his sketch pad. 


“You’re making me wanna barf with that baby talk. We never did that shit.” 


"We weren't dating." Brian reminded him, and Nick rolled his eyes again. 


“You’ve been with a girl before, what’s the problem? Or is it just because you’re jealous?” 


Nick blushed. “Hardly.” 


“You’re a horrible liar.” Brian laughed, throwing one of his pillows at him. 


“No, really. I’m happy for you. I suppose you’re going to go see her when we go back to LA next week to film our music video?” Nick said, half lying. He actually wasn’t happy to be seeing her again and hoped Brian wouldn’t bring her around. Part of him wanted to tell him about her threats but kept quiet. That was a whole other mess he didn't want to start now that things were so good between them. So Nick put up with the baby talk on the phone and the fact that he'd lost again simply to save their friendship. 



Brian felt bad for lying, but it wasn't really a full lie, because he hadn’t told Nick that Leighanne was going to be in the video. There was enough tension without that bit of information getting out. 


"Sure, I'm going to see her." Brian smiled. 


Nick looked away, a little disappointed but he knew it was bound to happen once they got back home to the states. At least Brian had someone he could rely on other than the other guys in the group...Outside of the group, Nick had nobody. When he was 18 he legally separated from his parents and moved out his things during downtime back home. He was still looking for a place but crashed on the couch at AJs apartment from time to time. When he was all by himself, it felt very lonely and he often wished he had a real friend that didn't just want to be friends because he was Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys. Being gay didn't help matters either, it wasn't like he could walk into a gay friendly place looking for friends. Nobody knew his secret and for now, he intended to keep it that way. . 




"Baby, I missed you." Brian said softly as his lips touched Leighanne's. They were busily getting reacquainted back at her apartment across town. 


"I missed you too. How are you feeling?" 


More kisses. Brian didn't answer her. He didn't feel like discussing the upcoming surgery. 


"Fine." he replied with a smile as she gave him a skeptical look. 


"Okay, I'm just tired. That's all… I feel winded sometimes and my chest hurts a little bit but no more than usual. Nick asks me the same thing. I am gonna tell you the same thing. I'm fine. No need to worry." 


"Brian, I know you say you're fine, but I can tell you're not fine. It's okay to not feel okay, you know? You aren't Superman. I won't think anything less of you if you feel sick." Leighanne said sweetly, kissing him. She ignored discussing Nick for now because that was the last person she wanted to talk about. 


“I mean, other than feeling winded like I said, everything is great. I promise. I wouldn’t lie to you.” Brian said, feeling that sinking feeling in his chest. Why couldn’t he just tell everyone the truth? 


"So are you excited about the video shoot?" Brian asked instead, changing the subject as they walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. 


"Yes, thank you for telling them to have me audition. What did the rest of the guys think about it?" 


Brian looked away for a moment because he hadn't really told anyone yet and thought up a fast lie. 


"They can't wait to see you." 




Nick was deep in thought when he left the recording studio the day after they got back to the states. He was thinking a lot about him and Brian and what the hell he was thinking kissing him back in Ireland when he had promised himself he wouldn’t. He had disobeyed what Leighanne told him not to do, and was terrified she would find out that they had kissed more than once the past few weeks. 


“Stupid, stupid.” Nick muttered to himself, his hands in his pockets. 


“Hey, Nick...where are you going? I thought we were going back to my apartment.” AJ called to him, startling him from his thoughts. 


“Ohhh. Sorry, AJ. I think I’ll go for a walk. I’ll find a way back, your place isn’t far anyway.” Nick said absentmindedly. AJ shrugged and headed to his car before driving away. Nick decided to go down to the beach and listen to the ocean to clear his head. He took his shoes off and held them as he walked down the beach, thinking for the longest time. What was he going to do? He knew that being in the band and having feelings for Brian was going to be trouble. He knew that it could possibly ruin everything and it would all be his fault. Then what? Sure, he could probably have a solo career if he wanted...Johnny had already tried talking him into one and he turned them down, saying he wasn’t ready to venture on his own just yet. He was still very young and had to figure out some things first. All Nick wanted was a sign, something that would guide him in the right direction because he felt so lost. He loved Brian, but he couldn’t allow himself to keep waiting for Brian to leave Leighanne. Deep down he knew that he would never leave her. Leighanne’s claws were dug in him too deep. 



After sitting on the beach for a good hour and getting a leg cramp from sitting in the sand, Nick decided to walk home. He was getting hungry anyway. 



“Nick, is that you?” 


Nick turned around and was surprised to see Lance Bass walking out of a coffee shop nearby. 


“Hi, Lance. How are you? I was just walking to AJs place.” 


NIck had stayed in touch with some of the NSYNC guys after the meeting at the Mc Donald’s with Brian, Justin and JC. He became good friends with Lance and Joey especially and they texted now and again. 


“Doing great. I didn’t know you were in town.” 


“We just got in yesterday. I would ask if you wanted coffee, but I guess you had some already?” Nick asked. 


“Yeah, I just did. Where are you headed? I could give you a ride.” Lance offered, and Nick took it. 


“So is everything good with you, Nick? You seemed distracted when I saw you before. I actually waved at you from the window but you didn’t see me.”


“Yeah, I just got a lot on my mind but I don’t think you’d get it.” Nick said, looking out the window. They actually weren’t far from the apartment but Nick didn’t feel like waking anymore after his leg had cramped up. 


“Try me.”


“It’s kind of, well….complicated.” Nick said, feeling a bit nauseous. He didn’t know why he was feeling so nervous all of a sudden, but he felt like that any time someone was close to knowing his secret. He’d only told Kevin and Brian, and Leighanne knew but was threatening him so he held off on telling anyone else out of sheer terror. He was terrified of management finding out he was gay because he knew none of them would understand. Management already kept telling him he couldn’t  have public relationships because it would upset fans. 


“Try me. I feel like you really need to talk about it. You can trust me, Nick. I won’t judge you, whatever it is.” 


They parked outside of the apartment building where AJ lived and Nick sat there, looking out of the window. Sure, Lance was his friend but could he really trust him? 


“Okay, well there’s someone that I really lo- like and we kind of- well not dated, but we have been off and on fooling around, and-“ 


“Is it Brian?” Lance asked suddenly, throwing Nick off guard. Nick blushed and Lance smiled. 


“H-how did you?” 


Lance looked away, blushing himself and Nick eyed him curiously. 


“I’m gay too. I kind of picked up on it but I didn't say anything."


Nick’s mouth dropped open because he was not expecting this at all, but in a way he was relieved. 


“You are? You’re gay, really?” 


“Yes. That doesn’t freak you out, does it? I mean you are too...aren’t you?” Lance asked softly. 


“Well, I just came out last year but this...I mean- wow. Have you told anybody? Or is it just me? Do the guys know? How long have you known you were? I just have so many questions.” Nick stammered. Lance turned off the engine of his car and they sat there for a minute in silence. 


“I have known for a while that I was, and I haven’t told them yet, no. Nobody knows but you. I hope I didn't freak you out or something.” 


“No, not at all. I really appreciate that you told me first. I was the same way when I told Brian. I told him because I thought he would understand the most."


"Yes, that's why I told you. I knew you'd understand. It's not that I'm not close to the other guys or anything, it's just that they wouldn't get it. I am so afraid that they'd kick me out. So I kept quiet." 


"I understand that completely. I felt that if I told anyone I'd lose everything. So if you don’t mind me asking, why have you not told the other guys in your group? Are you afraid of what they’ll say? Or is it because of how you think other people will react, because that was my concern. I’ve only told Brian and Kevin." Nick said. 


"It's like I said, they just wouldn't get it. Something like this is not easy for others to understand. So for me it was easier to just keep quiet, but sometimes I felt like I was going to burst from not telling them."


Lance seemed so much more at ease about this than he did and he was a little jealous. They talked for a long time in the car, and Nick ended up telling him everything. Everything about him and Brian and the past year, even the stuff about Leighanne. It all came spilling out. Stuff he'd been holding in for months. 


"So she said she'd tell everyone?" Lance said finally. He didn't look pleased. 


"Yes, she said if she ever found out I was doing anything again she would tell everyone and ruin us. I don't know what to do, man. I've tried pushing him away. I tried keeping my distance, but one kiss and I am right back to where I fucking was before. I can't get him out of my head. Am I an idiot? What's wrong with me? I just want to be happy." Nick sighed.


"Stop saying that. You're not stupid. You're in love. I hate to say this but he's stringing you and her both along. It sounds like she just wants him for his money and he's allowing it. He is so in denial that he's okay with her because being with you scares him. He's never going to leave her. You need to put yourself first. What do you want out of it? Do you really want to be with him, or are you just afraid of being alone like he is?" 


Nick thought about this and nodded because Lance was right. He was waiting for Brian to make a decision and it was blaringly obvious that he'd already made it. Nick was afraid of being alone because being with Brian felt safe, even though it was hurting him. 


Nick said goodbye to Lance and said they'd stay in touch. He walked into the apartment building feeling much better than he did earlier, and now he knew he had a lot to think about. The big question was, was he going to expose Leighanne for all she was doing or let Brian find out on his own? Would their friendship survive this time? He knew things were going to come to a head soon, but he just didn't know when or how. He figured he would cross that bridge when he came to it. 
Chapter 38 by DelphinaCarter
After the talk with Lance, Nick was starting to feel a little better about things even when he saw Leighanne at the video shoot the next day. He was not surprised but at the same time, Brian hadn't told anyone she was coming along. 


"So she's in the video?" Nick asked, trying not to sound disappointed. Leighanne glared at him because she saw right through him. 


"Yes, we all have scenes with girls so I thought it would be perfect for her." Brian beamed. Nick wanted to throw up. He wasn't crazy about the intimate scenes with girls himself, he was very nervous. 


"What's wrong, Nick?" Kevin asked over the buffet table. They'd had lunch set out for them, and Nick was busily eyeing the foot long sub sandwich. AJ was in hair and makeup still so everyone was waiting on him. 


"I don't know about these girls." 


Kevin nodded thoughtfully. 


"I forgot to take that in consideration when we accepted the video treatment, I'm sorry we didn't talk about it first, Nick." 


"It's fine. I just haven't been this close with a girl since before I knew…before.." 


Nick was talking about his ex girlfriend Mandy, who he'd broken up with almost a year ago. He had only been close with Brian since. Part of him was okay with that, but another part longed to be with someone and hated being alone. He felt empty and alone. 


"It's normal to feel like that, but you can't let that stop you from finding someone that truly appreciates you. I know you like Brian but you can't wait for him forever." Kevin said, echoing Lance's advice. Nick watched Brian and Leighanne kiss across the room and felt sick to his stomach. He knew that Lance and Kevin were right. He couldn't wait forever because Brian would never leave her. 


"So what do you guys think?" AJ asked as he walked over towards them. Howie laughed and the others joined in. 


"You look like a skunk." Nick giggled as AJ rolled his eyes. 


His hair looked like they tried to dye it but stopped halfway, part of his hair was brown and the top was blonde in a large stripe across his head. Nick kept cracking jokes at it during the shoot. 


"They ran out of bleach, I'll make it work. It looks cool. I mean it looks better than yours, Nick." AJ said, also laughing. None of them had the heart to tell him AJ it didn't look cool at all and hoped that years later he would look back and realize how stupid he looked today. 


The video shoot ended up going pretty well and they worked late into the evening, everyone was hungry and tired. They were all discussing if they wanted to grab food but Nick was distracted by his phone. He and Lance had been texting off and on all day. Brian pretended he didn't notice but he wondered who Nick was talking to. 


"Why are you smiling? Something funny?" AJ asked, as Nick pocketed his phone and blushed. 


"N-nothing. I was just talking to one of my friends." Nick said, which wasn't a lie because nothing was going on between him and Lance. Not yet, anyway. Right now they were friends, but occasionally they'd flirt. It felt refreshing to talk to someone new, that was comfortable with themselves and wouldn't judge him. 


"You have other friends?" Leighanne said, and Brian laughed with her. Everyone was suddenly uncomfortable. Nick wanted to punch her in the throat.


"Why is that so hard to believe?" he asked. 


"Because you're so obsessed with Brian that I didn't think you talked to anyone else." Leighanne sneered. Nick felt the anger boiling up but took a breath instead. She was trying to get a rise out of him and he wasn't giving her the satisfaction. Nick wanted to burst out and tell everyone how she threatened him but he didn't want to open that bag of worms today. 


"That's not true." Brian half mumbled. Leighanne ignored him. 


"I'm not obsessed-" Nick started before she cut him off. 


"That's not what he told me on the phone. I know you all work together, but you don't need to be together 24 hours a day. Isn't that a little excessive?" 


"We are like a family. We work together and live together on the road. That's how it's been since we all started." Kevin replied. 


"So what are we doing about food?" Howie asked, desperate to change the conversation. Nick went back to his phone and asked Lance if he wanted to meet up because he wasn't in the mood to hang out with everyone tonight, especially with how Leighanne was acting. The sight of her was making him sick to his stomach. 


"I'm not really hungry," Nick mumbled. Everyone went their separate ways and Brian watched Nick leave, wondering what he was up to. 


"What are you looking at?" Leighanne asked, walking up next to him. 


"Nothing, I just thought Nick was acting kind of strange." 


"No more strange than he usually is. I'm sure he's fine, let's go eat." she said. 


"Is everything okay with you two? I thought you guys were friends. What happened?" Brian asked once they got in the car and were headed to the apartment. Leighanne didn't answer right away and now Brian knew something definitely was going on. 


"Honey, don't you think this obsession he has with you is a bit much? You told me last year how you felt about that, and I'm just looking out for you. The least you could do is stand by what you said when you told me he was annoying and clingy." 


Except that wasn't the case and Brian had different feelings, much different than he had a year ago. He didn't know what they were but he couldn't stay away from Nick. He couldn't stop thinking about him. 


"Yes, at the time that's how I felt-" 


"Now you don't feel that way?" Leighanne interrupted, extremely displeased. 


"No, I don't. He's my….my best friend and I care about him. I can't just stop talking to him. We work together. We share hotel rooms together. He's like family. You don't understand." 


Brian turned left at the traffic light, getting lost in his thoughts. Was Nick really just family to him? There were other feelings there for sure, they'd been intimate together many times. They'd shared a lot more than just simple friendship. He was in love with Nick, had been for a while but never admitted it to anyone. He had a big decision to make. They stopped at a diner and were about to get out of the car when Leighanne tapped Brian's shoulder. 


"Isn't that Nick in there?" Leighanne said suddenly. Brian stopped and they looked in the window, it was Nick sitting at a booth alone.


"Yeah, that's him. Think we should ask if he wants to eat with us?" Brian asked. Nick looked like he was waiting for someone. Leighanne scoffed at the suggestion. 


"Let's eat somewhere else. He can be on his own for one night." 


Brian sighed and put his seat belt back on, but when he looked up he saw Lance Bass from NSYNC sitting down at the table with Nick, the two of them hugging as if Nick were expecting him. Like they were old friends, or something more. Brian felt like bursting in there and asking what the hell Nick was thinking but he couldn't do that with Leighanne there. He couldn't say anything. He didn't even know Nick was talking to any of them after that night they hung out with Justin and JC. Why hadn't Nick told him? 


"Babe, are you okay?" Leighanne asked when she noticed Brian staring for a long time. 


"Oh….yeah. I'm fine. I'm kinda tired. Maybe we can just go home instead. I don't think I'm hungry after all. I- I uh, lost my appetite." 


"Hm, I suppose Nick isn't alone after all." Leighanne smiled, enjoying how angry Brian was. Brian didn't say anything, he pulled out of the parking lot of the diner and left, not speaking for the rest of the night. 


Leighanne's plan to drive Brian away from Nick was working. 







Brian thought about Nick hanging out with Lance all night to the point where he couldn't sleep. He didn't understand why this bothered him so much. The next morning, everyone was supposed to meet at the recording studio to do some more recording for the new album. Brian was the first one there, and Nick showed up second looking tired. 


"Good morning." Nick said with a smile. Brian felt pissed as soon as he walked in. 


"Morning. You look tired. Have a late night with your friend?" he demanded. 


"Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean?" Nick asked. He took off his jacket and placed it on a chair and went back to drinking the coffee he had set down on the table. 


Brian rounded on him again, not even thinking to keep his anger in check. He just kept picturing Nick and Lance together. Laughing, hugging. It was making him see red. 


"I asked if you were out late. So who did you hang out with?" 


"Why is that any of your business?" Nick asked. He sat down and drank from the coffee cup as if he didn't care, which only made Brian more angry. 


"I saw you out with Lance." 


"Okay. You saw me with Lance. So what? We were just having dinner. He's my friend. Why do you care anyway? I'm not your boyfriend. You don't own me. I can hang out with anyone I want." Nick snapped. 


Brian snatched the coffee out of Nick's hand and threw it, the contents spilling everywhere. Nick got up, licking his lips and trying to stay calm. He wanted to punch him in the face. 


"So you're just gonna act like nothing happened? Stealing our gigs wasn't enough for those guys, now they want to take you too?" Brian yelled. 


"What the hell do you mean? Brian, I don't know what bug crawled up your ass and fucking died…but you are acting completely out of line right now and I suggest you fucking chill." 


"So why were you out with him? Just answer the goddamn question. You know how I feel about that group and you hung out with him anyway." 


"I don't owe you an answer. Why are you so jealous of Lance? You were jealous of AJ and I hanging out too. I thought I didn't mean anything to you. Why are you acting like this?" Nick pointed out, almost smirking. He loved seeing Brian so jealous.


"Fuck you, Nick." 


"Oh yeah, fuck me. Yes. Fuck Nick because he is the only one who calls your ass out on your fucking bullshit, Brian. The only one who tells you what you need to hear, but fuck me. I bet you'd listen to HER. So what is it? Do you want to be with me, or not? It's either her or me, Brian. I'm not playing this fucking game anymore." Nick snapped. 


"You're making me choose?" 


"Yes. Right now."


"What is your problem with her? She's been nothing but nice to you from day one, and you have been an asshole." Brian pointed out. Nick threw his head back and laughed. He scoffed so loudly that Brian was sure anyone outside could hear him. 


"She's nice? You really don't have a clue, do you? You don't know her. She is NOT a nice person, Brian. She hates me. She doesn't even love you. She wants your money. She wants your name. You only want to be with her because being with me scares the shit out of you, doesn't it? You don't love her." 


"I can't believe you are talking about her like that. So is he gay? Did you finally get someone to be like you because it didn't work on me?" Brian asked. He hated that Nick was absolutely right. He hated that he was jealous Nick was spending time with other people. His chest hurt like hell right now from all the anxiety and stress that their argument was causing. 


"I never made you do anything that you didn't want to. There's nothing going on with me and him. We are just friends. He understands me. He doesn't tell me to hide who I am." 


"He understands? Did you tell him how much you hate Leigh?" 


Nick was half crying and half yelling because he was so frustrated. Brian was just not listening. 


"You are just so blind that you don't see how evil that woman is. I am just looking out for you before you get hurt. She-" 


Brian got right in Nick's face, shaking with anger because he was about to explode. He'd never heard Nick talk about anyone like this. 


"I don't need you to look out for me, Nick. I don't need you to fucking tell me shit, because I know who she is. She's the best thing that ever happened to me and I cannot believe you're so jealous of her that you want to break us up. Maybe she's right about you, Nick. Something is wrong with you. No wonder nobody wants to be with you. Maybe the problem is you, it's not me. You're pathetic.” Brian snarled. The door to the studio opened and Kevin walked in just as Nick leapt onto Brian, knocking him to the floor. He started yelling incoherently and neither of them noticed that they now had company. 


“What the hell are you two doing?” Kevin shouted, running over to pull them apart. Nick was just lost in a rage. He wanted to hurt Brian, make him feel what he felt. 


"Get him off of me! He's insane!" Brian screamed through a bloody nose. 


“Fuck you!” Nick yelled between tears as Kevin tried desperately to get him off of Brian. 


AJ and Howie walked in, stunned to see the scuffle that was taking place inside the studio as their management walked in behind them. Johnny looked very displeased when he saw Brian’s bloody nose and Nick’s black eye. 


“Are the two of you finished?”


"I am if he is." Brian mumbled.


"Nick?" Johnny asked, and everyone turned to look at him. He was crying. He didn't know what else to say. 


"I hope you're satisfied, Brian." Nick wiped his face and broke free of Kevin’s grip, picking up his coat and walking out of the room. They all watched the door slam and then all eyes were on Brian. 


“What in the hell was that all about?” Howie asked, still stunned. Brian held a wad of tissues up to his nose, it was already starting to bruise. 


“I-I don’t know.” Brian said. He kept looking at the door and expecting Nick to walk back in, but he never came back to the studio that night despite their management calling him, and Kevin calling him. He refused to talk to anybody and Brian only had himself to blame. He had finally made his choice and now he had to deal with it. He was on his own. 
Chapter 39 by DelphinaCarter
“Hey, AJ. Is Nick here? I just thought maybe he came home last night. He turned off his phone.” Brian asked the next morning when he went to AJ’s apartment to look for Nick. He didn’t sleep a single wink the night before after their fight in the studio because all he thought of was how much he hurt Nick. Leighanne had told him not to worry about Nick and that he was a grown man that could take care of himself, but Brian felt completely responsible. 


“No, when I came home all of his stuff was gone. I tried texting him but he never answered me back. Nobody has heard from him. I hope he’s okay, he was so upset.” AJ said. Brian looked at his feet, the situation was becoming more and more distressing. 


“Yeah, I tried Howie too. I was hoping he would have at least come back here. Thanks anyway.” 


AJ closed the door and Brian went back to his car, sitting in the parking lot of the apartment building and thinking. Where could Nick have gone? Was he even still in LA? What if they never spoke again? 


All of these questions came and went as Brian aimlessly drove around for most of the morning, looking for Nick in places where he thought he might be but he didn’t have any luck. He finally went back to Leighanne’s apartment feeling defeated. 


“Did you find him?” Leighanne asked when he walked in the door sighing around lunchtime. She made him something to eat and they sat down at the kitchen table. 


“No. Nobody’s seen him, Leigh. He turned off his phone and won’t talk to anyone. I’m so worried about him. What if he’s hurt or something? It’s all my fault.” Brian said, looking at the sandwich on his plate. He couldn’t eat because he was so worried about Nick that food seemed like the last thing on his mind right now. 


“I’m sure he’s fine. I don’t know why you are so worried. He’s not a kid anymore. I know his parents left you in charge of him before because they didn’t want to take care of him, but he’s not your responsibility anymore. He’s 18.” 


“It wasn’t that his parents didn’t want to take care of him. We were overseas a lot. His parents have other kids too. They couldn’t be in two places at once.” Brian argued, slightly annoyed that his girlfriend was taking the moment to insult Nick yet again.  


“Baby, this is serious. He’s missing. I thought you and him were friends? I’m really worried about him. This isn’t like him to just disappear like this. I was really mean to him yesterday. I said some things that I really shouldn’t have. I feel awful.” 


Leighanne stopped eating and set her sandwich down, licking at the corners of her mouth. 


“I’m sorry for sounding harsh, but its just that Nick isn’t a child anymore. I’m sure he’ll turn up. You have your surgery in a few days, shouldn’t you be thinking about that?” 


Brian frowned, and the anxiety he had about the surgery bubbled up again. He was trying to take his mind off of his impending surgery, but his concern for Nick outweighed everything else. He knew this was even more confirmation of how much he actually loved Nick and it made him even more confused than he had been about his feelings for him. He thought about all the times they’d been together, nights when they laid together in bed and nothing else mattered in the world. Nights when he would lay awake after Nick had long fallen asleep, listening to him against his chest. Brian had never felt like this about anyone before. It made sense why he was so mad about Nick hanging out with Lance, and that was when Brian realized he loved Nick. He realized that Nick was right, and he had been very wrong. He wanted to talk to Nick so badly about all of this but Nick was nowhere to be found.


“You really should eat something.” Leighanne said, snapping him out of his thoughts. He looked at his phone but there were no messages. He decided to text Nick again anyway and went back to his lunch just to please his girlfriend, even though he didn’t feel hungry. 


A couple hours later, Brian was surprised to hear his phone vibrating in his pocket, so he took it out to find a text message from Kevin. 





Nick is fine, he is at my place. Don’t come here.





Brian breathed a sigh of relief and he decided to drive over to Kevin’s house that he shared with his girlfriend, Kristin even though Leighanne disapproved and Kevin told him not to come. He didn’t care. He was determined to make things right. 


“What are you doing here?” 


“Where is he?” Brian asked when Kevin came to the door. Kevin looked angry. 


“I told you not to come here, Brian. He’s still really upset. He turned up a little while ago crying  and asking if he could stay here. He wouldn’t tell me where he was or what he was doing all night. He just said he needed to sleep.” Kevin said quietly. 


“I have to talk to him, Kevin. I made a huge mistake and I want to apologize. I leave to go to the airport to fly home soon. I don’t want to go into surgery knowing that I upset him like this. Please let me talk to him.” Brian begged. 


“Brian, I had to talk him out of quitting the group. I don’t need you coming here and upsetting him again. You really hurt him. Not just physically….you broke his heart. You’re lucky that I don’t punch you in the face right now for what you pulled yesterday.” Kevin said, dropping his voice to a whisper. Brian’s heart sank. 


"He was going to quit the group because I broke his heart?” 


“Yes.” Kevin nodded. 


Brian looked at his feet before he decided to leave. He felt horrible and his chest hurt, his stomach did somersaults all the way back to his girlfriend's apartment. He didn't go in right away, he stayed in the car thinking of the fight yesterday and how he had talked to Nick, who had been so patient with him the last year. 



“Still haven’t found him?” Leighanne asked when she saw Brian come back a second time looking upset. His eyes were red as if he’d been crying. 


"No."


Leighanne didn't say anything, because Brian didn't give her the chance to. He went to bed without dinner and just kept to himself the rest of the night. 





A couple of days later, Brian was getting ready to be prepped for surgery. The whole morning all he could think of was Nick and their fight, how he'd walked out and slammed the door. 


"Are you nervous?" Leighanne asked. She had come to the hospital with him. His parents were going to arrive a bit later. 


"N-no." Brian lied, feeling a lump in his throat. He had taken an anxiety pill the night before because he had a panic attack just thinking about today. What if something went wrong? What if he didn't come out of this? Nick still wasn't speaking to him. What if that was the last time they'd ever speak again or see each other again? He didn’t want to think about that because it literally made him feel sick. 


"Sweetie, it's going to be fine. You're in great care here, remember?" Leighanne said, leaning down to kiss him gently on the cheek. He turned away from her and she looked disappointed that he cared more about Nick then her being there. 


"Where's my phone? I need to try Nick again." Brian asked. Leighanne rolled her eyes and got his cell phone, handing it to him. He tried calling but it still went to voicemail. Usually Brian would just hang up but he left a message this time. 


"Nick, I know you don't want to talk to me. I know you're upset and you're hurt. I don't like that I am the one who hurt you. I didn't mean any of those things that I said. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, Nick. I wouldn't be getting this surgery if you didn't push me to. I just wanted to tell you that if I don't make it that I'm-I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you and I'm sorry." Brian said before hanging up. He handed the phone back to Leighanne. She looked like she wasn't happy with the message. Brian didn't say anything, he didn't have time to question her because the nurses came in to take him.


"If anything happens...if Nick calls…t-tell him-“ 


"Don't worry, baby. I'll take care of everything. You’ll be fine." Leighanne said as they put him on the gurney to bring him to the operating room. She gave his hand a squeeze and he felt his chest tighten. He laid in the gurney looking up at the ceiling. He was terrified. 


He went through the doors and out of the room where he'd left Leighanne and started crying. He cried for the first time in a while because he allowed himself to. He felt so vulnerable and alone. Nobody was there to comfort him but the nurses. He wanted to vomit from anxiety as the lights overhead passed by one by one, inching him closer and closer to the operating room. When they started to give him the anesthesia, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, keeping Nick in the back of his mind. He just wished and wished to see him again. 


“Just breathe deep, Brian. 3….2...1…” the doctor said gently, as Brian’s eyes started to droop. 


Everything went black.





“Brian?” 


“Mmmh?” 


“Brian, come on. Wake up!”


Brian opened his eyes but he was not in the operating room, and Kevin was there shaking him gently. He was laying on a couch in a dressing room but he had his shoes on as if he’d fainted or simply nodded off. 


“Wha-what’s going on? Where are we?” Brian asked. They were both wearing all white, white shirts with white jackets and pants. The only thing that was not white was their shoes. Kevin reached out for his hand and helped him up, leading him out of the room. They appeared to be backstage somewhere but Kevin looked older. Everyone’s voices echoed, out of sync with their mouths. It was like the dream he had about being married to Leighanne, except she wasn’t here. 


“Come on, the show’s about to start. Nick’s looking for you.” Kevin said, pulling him along. 


“What? What show? I thought I was having heart surgery. What is happening?” 


“You fell asleep. I’m just glad I woke you up.” Kevin replied. They were going down a hallway, their silver shoes echoing on the floor. 


Brian had never been more confused as he was right now in his entire life. He looked wildly around, there were so many people in the backstage area of wherever it was they were.


“Where is Nick?” 


Kevin looked back at him and smiled. 


“Out there.” 


Kevin opened the curtain they’d stopped in front of and Nick stood at the end of a long walkway, under a spotlight. He had his back facing him and Brian could hear him talking but it was garbled, until he got closer. Nick finally turned around, smiling at him. He looked like an angel, the white light shining above him while he wore the white suit, his hair falling in his face. He looked older too like Kevin, but his face still looked as if he hadn’t aged. 


“Nick…I-“ Brian breathed. 


Nick didn’t say anything, he simply smiled and leaned down to kiss him. The rest of the lights came on, revealing an audience cheering loudly for him and Nick as they kissed, blissfully unaware of anything that was going on around them. 


“I love you.” Nick mouthed, but Brian couldn’t hear him over the cheering crowd. 


“I love you too.” Brian whispered into Nick’s lips as they kissed again. Everything was so perfect, and Brian knew this was not real but didn’t care. He was perfectly fine with never waking up if he could spend the rest of his days like this in Nick’s arms. 





Unfortunately, he was disappointed when he did wake up some time later. When he woke up, the first face he saw was a face with blonde hair. 


“Nick?” Brian whispered groggily. He blinked and someone squeezed his hand. He heard his parents talking softly. 


“No, sweetie, it’s me…..Nick isn’t here.”


Reality had hit him almost immediately. Nick wasn’t here, and he wasn’t sure when he would see him. He was stuck here. 


He almost wished he had never woken up. 
Chapter 41 by DelphinaCarter
“You’re crazy for going to see him.” Kevin said, watching Nick check out from their hotel in France. 


“I know what I’m doing, Kevin. I have to see him. I don’t care what she said.” Nick scoffed. He adjusted the strap on his backpack again and made sure he had everything. Part of him knew he was crazy too and he was possibly making a huge mistake but it was worth the risk. He had to try. 


“I just think you are just walking into fire right now.” 


Nick rolled his eyes and they all left for the airport, because they were each going their separate ways for a while until their show in Jamaica in a couple weeks. Nick had bought a house in Florida but was barely moved in and didn’t care. He just wanted to go and see Brian.


He didn’t care about the outcome.




Brian was eating his lunch at the hospital when Leighanne came to see him that afternoon the day after the surgery. He was happy to get out of the bed for a little while because the doctors said that he had to try and move around when he could. He knew he was in great care at the hospital but he missed the other guys, especially Nick even though they were fighting right now. He tried not to think about that because he was warned to control his emotions and that stress could make him not heal properly. It was so much all at once and Brian was feeling overwhelmed to the point he wanted to cry. He wanted to cry even when he saw Leighanne because he just kept thinking of how she was the reason he fought with Nick, and she was the reason Nick was angry at him in the first place. 


“Hi, sweetie. How are you feeling?” Leighanne asked, leaning down to kiss him. He was picking at the tray in front of him but nothing looked like it was eaten. 


“I’m okay, I was just having some lunch.” Brain said dully. 


Leighanne sat down in a chair near him and they were silent for a few minutes. 


“So my agent told me that there’s a good chance I might get a part in that one movie I auditioned for….” 


Brian tuned her out halfway through what she said, he was staring at the food in front of him and thinking. 


“What do you think?”


“Huh?” Brian asked. He had zoned out without realizing. 


"Never mind. You should eat, keep your strength up." Leighanne chuckled softly. 


"I don't feel like eating. I honestly don't feel like anything right now." Brian answered. He didn't understand it but while he was feeling a little better through the little pain he had, he felt overwhelmed and sad. He was told that depression could happen and that it was common but he didn't understand why he felt like this. He felt just overwhelmingly sad, like he wanted to cry. He knew this anxiety was not good for healing and tried to boost his own mood but nothing seemed to help. Something was missing. He should have been happy to see his girlfriend but even that wasn't helping. He wished he knew what would help him feel better. 







Nick had landed sometime that evening and didn't even stay at his hotel long even though he was tired from the fight from Europe. It was a seven hour flight and he felt like crap, probably even looked like crap- but he didn't care. He stopped at a gift shop in the airport and got Brian a present and a card then dropped his luggage off at the hotel. All the way to the hospital he felt nervous. What was he going to say? Would Brian want to see him? Unfortunately that's not who he saw first. 



"Nick?" 


Nick turned around and his heart sank because he was hoping he wouldn't run into Leighanne. She had spotted him. 


"I-I'm here to see Brian. I flew here from France." Nick said, trying to sound confident.. This was the first time he'd been alone with her since she threatened him in the coffee shop in New York. Even now she stated him down with daggers in her eyes. 


"Visiting hours are over for the day, and he isn't feeling well so he doesn't want to see anyone. He’s sleeping." she said icily.


Nick stared at her, trying to control his anger because he knew she was lying. 


"I still want to see him." he said, moving past her to go to the elevator up to Brian's room. 


"I'm telling you the truth, Nick…he doesn't want to see you." she called after him. He rolled his eyes at her and she grabbed his arm. Nick tugged it away and went for the elevator, ignoring her. He jammed his finger on the button and it closed before she could follow him inside. His heart was beating so fast that he thought it might jump out of his chest. 


When the elevator opened, he went slowly down the hall, feeling nervous. He wasn't sure what he had to be nervous about but he was coaching himself until he got to the door of Brian's room. It was closed. 


"You can do this." Nick whispered shakily to himself. He gripped the stuffed bear he'd bought Brian and took a breath before putting his hand on the handle of the door. 


"Excuse me, can I help you?" a nurse called out to him, startling him. 


“Oh, this is my friend’s room. I’m just nervous.” Nick smiled at her. She smiled back and went back to her rounds, leaving him alone. He went back to staring at the door. He took a breath again and was about to grab the door handle, before someone yanked him back. 


“Stay away from him!” Leighanne shouted, pulling him away and making him drop the stuffed bear he was holding.


“I deserve to see him just as much as you do. He’s my best friend, Leighanne. You can’t keep me away from him.” Nick snapped, yanking his arm back. 


“I am going to tell everyone what you did to him. You tried to make him...make him like you. You tried to turn him against me, he loves me.” 


Nick laughed. Nobody was in the hallway, the nurse who’d questioned him had gone somewhere, into another room or something. It was just the two of them in the hallway outside of Brian’s room. 


“Leighanne, I didn’t MAKE him do anything. Nothing he did with me was against his will. I don’t care if you tell anyone anything. I want to see him. You’re not stopping me, and I’d like to see you try.” 


Leighanne looked like she was going to explode. The nurse that had addressed Nick before came back out in the hallway again, pushing along a little cart of medications. 


“He doesn’t want to see you.” 


“I don’t give a shit, I’m not scared of you. You seem to do a lot of talking for him. Does he know that? Why don’t we find out from him what he wants?” Nick almost shouted, his temper starting to get the best of him. He went for the doorknob again but he was interrupted by the nurse, who had heard part of the conversation and was now staring both of them down. 


“Is everything okay out here? What is all this racket?” the nurse asked in concern. 


“Can you call security and have this man removed? He’s harassing me and my boyfriend. I’ve asked him to leave Brian alone and he came back anyway.” Leighanne said, pretending to cry. Nick’s mouth fell open. 


“You can’t be serious!” he shouted. 


“I can’t have you disturbing the patients, young man. If you do not leave right now I will have you removed and you will not be allowed back.” the nurse said, her hands on her hips. 


The nurse stood there waiting for Nick to make a move. Nick knew he didn’t want to get arrested and he didn’t want to be banned from the hospital. 


“Okay, fine. I just hope he finds out you’ve been hiding him from everyone so you can keep him for yourself. Do you even love him? Or is he just a prize to you?” Nick snapped. 


“Of course I love him. What kind of stupid question is that? I love him and he loves me.” 


“I am just asking because anyone that already had love from someone wouldn’t go to these lengths to keep what’s theirs, that’s all. I just want him to be happy.” 


“He’s happy. He has me. He doesn’t need you.” Leighanne shot back. Nick sighed, knowing he was not going to get into that room with Leighanne and the nurse there. He walked back towards the elevator and hit the button, feeling defeated as he went to call for a cab to the hotel. 




Early the next morning, Nick decided to try again and went back. He had to talk himself into this several times because he was afraid. Why he was afraid, he didn’t know. He wasn’t afraid of Leighanne. He wasn’t even afraid of the nurse that threatened to call security. No, this fear was something different. He went down the hallway to Brian’s room and opened the door. He was hesitant to go inside at first but pushed himself to do it before Leighanne or someone from Brian’s family showed up.


“Brian?” he whispered. 


He almost gasped when he looked at the bed, Brian looked so small. He looked different somehow. He was asleep but looked so frail that Nick was afraid he’d hurt him if he got too close. Nick didn’t know what to do because he was getting emotional, but he knew he couldn't stay. Brian stirred a little in his sleep and Nick panicked. He flung open the door and ran out, running down the hallway and back to the elevator. His heart was racing a mile a minute as the elevator opened and  an angry looking Leighanne was standing there





“What are you doing here? I told you not to come here.” Leighanne asked. She was definitely not pleased. 


“I-“ Nick stammered. 


“Do not ever come here again. I’m warning you, Nick. You do not want to tangle with me, you’ll wish you hadn’t.” 


“I’m not afraid of you.” 


“You should be. Remember, I can take everything you love away just by making a single phone call to your manager. Or did you forget that?” Leighanne laughed.


“Fine. Can you at least give this to him for me?” Nick asked, holding out the stuffed bear and the card he’d written a letter in. Leighanne took them but rolled her eyes as she did so. Nick once again held back from decking her like he wanted.


“Of course.” 


As soon as Nick turned his back and had disappeared, Leighanne threw the card in her purse and took the bear with her to Brian’s room. She smiled because she had won yet again, and this time she was going to make sure Nick didn’t get what he wanted. Before she left the hospital that day, she made sure that Nick could not return. 


She was determined to keep Nick away from Brian and was willing to do that by any means necessary.
Chapter 40 by DelphinaCarter
Nick spent a good amount of time sleeping on the flight to France a few days after his fight with Brian. They were performing at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo without Brian since he was having his surgery back home. To say Nick was worried about him was an understatement. He picked up his phone a few times, thinking of calling him but after what Brian had said to him in the studio he didn't. 


"Hey, how are you feeling?" Kevin asked, noticing he was awake. Nick shrugged and sat up in his seat, allowing Kevin to sit next to him. 


"I feel like I want to throw up all the time. Is that normal?" Nick said softly as he held back more tears. Even being around the other boys was hard for him right now, all he could think of was Brian...which was why he wanted to quit the group. He wasn’t sure if he could even continue with them now after what Brian had done. It was more than what he said, it was just dealing with his own feelings for Brian, not to mention keeping his secret from all of them. He wanted to tell them. He wanted to be free, free from judgement or worry that people would or wouldn’t accept him. It was clear to him that Brian didn’t accept him. Why would any of the others? Sure, Kevin had been supportive of him but what did he really think? 


Nick sighed and wiped his eyes again, wondering if he could manage to find somewhere to disappear where he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. 


"I know it's hard, but this is something that you're just going to have to get through. I'm worried about him too, he's family. I'm glad you decided to come."


"We all worked so hard. I don't want to ruin things because I made a mistake." Nick said, looking at his phone again. He couldn't make calls here anyway but he was thinking. Thinking of Brian. 


"You didn't make a mistake, Nick. He just needs to figure things out right now and so do you. I think this will be a good time for him to do that when you're away from each other." 


"I just wish he'd have at least tried to talk to me before we left. I'm so worried about him with this surgery. What if something goes wrong and I never see him again?" Nick said. 


"He did try to talk to you. He showed up to my house when you were sleeping. I didn't want to bother you."


“Thank you. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk to him then anyway, it’s just that I-  I feel so stupid, Kev. I feel stupid because I was always honest with him. I told him everything. I showed him the real me. I put everything on the table for him. Risked it all, and he threw it away for that evil woman he is with. She doesn’t like me, Kevin. She threatened me. You know this. She saw us kissing and said that if she caught us doing anything, that she would tell everyone I’m gay. I don’t want that, Kevin. I don’t want that for either of us, so I lied. I lied to him so I wouldn’t ruin everything that we had worked so hard for. That’s what I’m upset about. I chose to live a lie so he could be happy. When he said those things, he really hurt me, Kevin. He said I was trying to turn him gay. I never asked him to do anything he didn’t want to do. I would never. I care about him too much to do that.” Nick sighed. 


“I am so sorry, Nick. I just want you to remember that no matter what, that I accept you. You’re my little bro and I love you very much. I support you.” Kevin said, hugging him. Nick sniffed, wiping his eyes again. 


“I just want him to be happy, Kevin. It’s not going to happen if he stays with her.” 


Nick looked out the window, hoping that whatever Brian was doing, he wasn’t feeling any pain and that he was indeed happy like he wished. 




The plane finally landed in France and the boys all went to their hotel. Nick was so tired that he just wanted to take a nap and a shower, because he felt gross after the long flight from LA. Nick had a room by himself for the first time. It was large and had a king sized bed. He ran and jumped on it, taking in the soft blankets and pillows. Laying in the sheets after rolling around on the bed, he took out his phone from his pocket and thought about calling Brian. He wrestled with the idea for a few minutes before he got a notification that he had a voicemail and a bunch of texts. Most of them were from Brian asking him if he was okay, begging him to call him back. Nick’s heart sank. What if that fight was the last time he would ever speak to Brian again? 


“God damn it, Brian.” Nick muttered, going through the messages. He thought back to the night they fought and when he’d slammed the door after leaving the room. He had gone to AJ’s first, and grabbed his things because he fully intended on leaving right then and there. He’d called home, crying into the phone when his family didn’t answer the phone. They were likely not around as Aaron was working on his own music career now and his mom was his manager. 


After calling home had failed miserably, he’d tried to go to Lance’s. Lance was going to let him spend the night but Nick felt so guilty after Brian was mad at him for doing this the night before. He ended up leaving before Lance woke up in the morning and going to Kevin’s where he stood on the porch crying as Kevin let him in, begging him to just let him sleep. 



As Nick stared at the voicemail icon on his cell phone, he sighed deeply and went to listen to it, but could only get through part of the message before he started crying and deleted it. He couldn’t bear to listen to his voice. He decided to take a shower, hoping maybe that would make him feel somewhat more human again. 





“Are you okay? Johnny’s pissed off because you are late to rehearsal.” Kevin asked when he saw Nick in their dressing room. 


“Sorry, I didn’t mean to. I’m fine.” Nick lied. He felt sick to his stomach and all during the rehearsal the first night he felt like throwing up. He knew Brian's surgery was the day after tomorrow. Part of him thought about calling him. He wasn't sure if Brian would even care after their fight. He had Leighanne with him, he clearly did not need him. 


That evening when he went back to the hotel room after dinner he once again realized how alone he was. So he picked up his cell phone and decided to call Brian's number. His heart leapt when it started to ring. 


"Please pick up." Nick whispered, as he paced the floor. 


"Hello?" a voice answered, sounding annoyed. 


"Brian! I'm sorry for calling at a weird time. I just -" 


"What do you want? Brian is sleeping." Leighanne snapped from the other end. Nick's heart sank. He wanted to throw up when he heard her voice. 


"Can you please let me talk to him. I just wanted to tell him-*


"I know perfectly well what you wanted to tell him. It's not going to happen. His surgery is tomorrow and I don't need you upsetting him right now. He doesn't want to speak to you anyway." Leighanne said. Nick felt his temper rise but he knew that's what she wanted. She wanted to make him angry. It wasn't going to work this time. 


"Okay, fine. Can you please tell him that I said good luck tomorrow? We are in France right now, but when we come back I will come and visit him." he said calmly. 


"Don't bother coming here. He doesn't want to see you." 


"Leighanne, just please tell him what I said. Please. That's all I ask. Tell him I am sorry." Nick begged before hanging up. He knew damn well Leighanne wouldn't tell Brian anything because she didn't want them to speak. Nick knew that there was only one way he would get to talk to Brian, and that was to go and see him in person if he was going to get him away from Leighanne. He wanted Brian to know that he still cared about him. He wanted to tell Brian he loved him. He just hoped he wasn't making a huge mistake. 
Chapter 42 by DelphinaCarter
When Brian was finally allowed to go home, everyone was celebrating but him. He acted happy for them so they wouldn’t worry, but he couldn’t help but wonder why none of the other guys in BSB came to visit him. None of them called or tried to check up on him, even though he’d texted them when he got home from the hospital. The only one who seemed to care was Kevin. However, he was family so Brian didn’t think anything of that. It was nice to not be in the hospital anymore but he still didn’t find his mood changed much now that he was out. He felt empty and sad as if something was missing. 


“I’m sure you’re fine, honey. We are all here for you. Don’t be sad.” Leighanne had said, kissing him gently one afternoon. 


“It’s not you guys, everyone’s been great. I just thought that maybe Nick or one of the other fellas would have at least tried to come and visit or checked up on me, that’s all. Do you have my medicine? I need to take it before I have dinner.” Brian asked. 


“Sure, it’s on the dresser. I will go and see how your mom is doing with dinner, if she needs any help.” Leighanne replied, hugging him and kissing him on the cheek. Brian had a couple of medications that he took daily, and then one as needed for pain. He had bought a pill organizer for them which they kept in the bedroom on the dresser, and moved it as Brian moved around the house. He was advised to keep moving around and not stay in bed, although most days all he felt like doing was sleeping. He chalked that up to the depression that was slowly taking over. He hated feeling like this but there was nothing that seemed to help it. He tried meditation and everything else that was recommended but he still felt empty. Part of him wondered if it was performing that he missed, being out on the road and seeing his fans...seeing the other guys in the group who he’d spent the last few years on the road with. They were like his family. 


Brian slowly walked into the bedroom and bumped into the dresser, knocking over Leighanne’s purse and the box containing his medication. He picked up the medication first, luckily none of his pills had spilled out. However, when he went to grab the purse something caught his eye. A blue envelope with his name in Nick’s handwriting, he would recognize Nick’s sloppy scrawl anywhere. Looking to make sure Leighane wasn’t coming, he set the purse down and took the envelope with him over to the bed. He sat there for a moment, feeling nervous. Why did his girlfriend have a letter from Nick in her purse? 



"Baby?" 


Brian stuffed the letter under his pillow on the bed and stood up slowly when he heard his girlfriend calling from the other room. She stopped in the doorway, noticing that his face was red and he was breathing a bit heavily. 


"Yes?" 


"Dinner is ready. Is everything okay?" Leighanne asked in concern. 


"Yeah, everything's fine. I was just sitting down for a minute to do my calf exercises. I'm coming now." Brian lied. 


All the way through dinner, Brian thought about the letter. How would Leighanne had gotten it? This raised so many questions. The letter had no address on it or stamps, meaning she had to get it in person. He knew he had to read it because it was all he thought about all evening even after he'd gotten ready for bed. It was under his pillow, taunting him. Leighanne was asleep next to him, and she didn't stir when he got up to reach for the letter under the pillow. He tiptoed softly to the bathroom, locked the door behind him and sat on the toilet seat, staring at the letter he held in his shaky hands. He tore it open and took a breath, opening his eyes again to read it. 





Dear Brian,


I’m sure you are wondering why I wrote you a letter instead of coming to talk to you at the hospital. You need to know the truth. I flew all the way from France to talk to you. Your girlfriend won't let me near you. She's made it clear that she doesn't want me around and you do not need me. I didn’t know how else to get you a message where she won't see it and prevent you from hearing what I have to say.


I know you and I have been through a lot in the last year, and I know half of this is my fault. I want to apologize. I am sorry if I ever made you feel like you didn’t belong. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you were any less than normal, or made you have anxiety because you didn’t know how to feel or what to think. I’m sorry that I made you start looking at yourself and start searching for answers. I’m sorry that I made you feel like I feel. Believe me, I am going through it too, more than you know. One day, I will tell you everything...the full story. I just wish I was strong enough to do it now. I wish I was strong enough for both of us. 


I know you think I'm trying to make you be like me. I know you don't love me. I know we won't be together. None of that matters to me. All that matters is that you are happy. You won't be happy if you stay with Leighanne Wallace. I don't care about anything else. I want you to be happy with yourself and be able to look at yourself and love yourself. I know that is scary to think about because believe me, I'm going through it too. It scares me too. I don't love myself, and I’m not happy- but the closest I have ever come to feeling love is when I am with you. When we are alone together, talking until we fall asleep. I know this might be a surprise to you because you always say that you wish you were half as comfortable as I am, but the truth is that I'm terrified. Admitting to myself what I want scares the crap out of me. I may not love myself, Brian- but I know one thing-


I love you. 



“Brian, are you in there?” 



Brian almost jumped out of his skin when he heard the doorknob jiggle. 


“Y-yes. I’m in here.” 


“Are you okay? It sounded like you were crying. Why is the door locked?” Leighanne asked from the other side of the door. She sounded very worried. Brian realized he indeed had been crying while reading Nick’s letter. He quickly wiped his eyes then washed his face in the sink. He put the letter in the pocket of his pajama pants. 


“I’m fine, baby. Go back to bed, I’ll be there in a minute.” Brian sniffled, drying his face with a towel that was on the counter. He heard Leighanne’s footsteps going away from the bathroom door and heard her get back into bed. Standing in the bathroom and looking at himself in the mirror, he was becoming angry at the fact that Leighanne had purposefully kept Nick from visiting him. She had kept his friends from finding out if he was okay, and here she was putting on an act. How long had she been doing this for was the question now. Was she ever fully honest with him? He wanted to burst through the bathroom door and tell her off right then and there. He was all ready to do so, but something made him stop and think. 


It suddenly dawned on Brian that he hadn’t exactly been honest with her either. Nick had been right in telling him to tell her the truth. He'd been lying to Nick and lying to Leighanne, lying to himself and it was all catching up to him. His chest started hurting because he made himself upset. 


Walking out of the bathroom, he took some pain medication and went over to the bed. He was tired. Confronting Leighanne would have to wait until morning. 




“Good morning, sweetheart. How are you feeling today?” Leighanne asked, helping Brian get his breakfast. He sat at the table, thinking about the letter in his pocket. It had been on his mind since he woke up. 


“I’m fine, but I need to talk to you about something.” 


“Sure, what is it?” 


“When were you going to give me this?” Brian asked, holding up the letter. Leighanne almost dropped the plate of food she was holding and her face paled. Brian could tell she was quickly coming up with a lie. 


“Tell me the truth.” 


“Wh-where did you get that?” Leighanne stammered. Her eyes gave away that she was panicking. 


“It doesn’t matter where I got it. Why have you been keeping Nick from visiting me? Have any of my other friends tried to visit or talk to me? How long has this been going on?” Brian demanded. He was trying not to lose his temper because he knew that he had to keep his emotions in check. 


“I was just looking out for you. You told me that you and Nick had that fight and I didn’t want him to upset you by coming here. You have to watch your blood pressure and stress.” Leighanne said almost a little too calmly. She was right about that but it didn’t matter. 


“Leigh, don’t start that crap. What is your problem with Nick? Tell me the truth.” Brian asked, as she set the food in front of him and sat down next to him at the kitchen table. 


“I saw you kissing him. I'm not stupid, I put two and two together and I was afraid you would leave me. You've been lying to me, Brian. Why am I not enough? Why didn't you tell me you were cheating on me?" she asked, her eyes watering. 


"Don't put this all on me. I was trying to figure things out…" 


"You still cheated on me. I don't blame you, I blame Nick. Nick is the one with the problem. Nick made you do all of that. He pushed his abnormality on you. That's why I was willing to be with you, because it's obvious that you're confused and he manipulated you." 


"Manipulated? You mean like you're doing to me now? Did you ever love me? Or am I just a prize to you because you chased him away?" Brian asked, still trying to stay calm. 


"I don't want to do this right now." Leighanne said, rubbing her temples. 


"Me either. You need to go." Brian told her as he tried desperately not to make eye contact. 


"Excuse me?" 


"You need to go. You need to leave. This is just not going to work, Leigh. I need to figure some things out, and I can't do that if I stay with you.This relationship is holding me back." 


"So you're dumping me for him? Are you in love with him or something?" Leighanne spat at him. 


"Yes. I think….I think I am. I'm-I'm in love." Brian smiled, feeling a new wave of emotions washing over him. It felt so strange to say it out loud but that was how he felt. He loved Nick. That was what was missing. He was missing his other half. Without Nick he felt empty. 


"You what?" 


"I love him. That's why I've been feeling so down on myself. I miss him."


"I can't believe this!" Leighanne shouted, storming out of the kitchen. She ranted something about him regretting what he was doing and that he was making a huge mistake, but Brian didn't hear her. His breakfast had long gone cold but he didn't care. 


Leighanne ended up leaving before lunchtime with her suitcases all packed, without saying goodbye. Brian smiled as he watched her from the bedroom window getting into the taxi for the airport. For the first time in a while, things were definitely looking brighter. 
Chapter 43 by DelphinaCarter
Nick was not sure if he was excited or not when he heard that they were having rehearsals for tour at the end of June. Part of him wondered if Brian would be up for it after his surgery a month and a half ago. They hadn’t really talked much since Nick had given Leighanne the letter. Nick knew that Leighanne wanted him to stay away, and he did for the most part. He and Brian had texted a little bit but it wasn’t much, it was mostly asking him how he was doing. Nick didn’t ask about Leighanne and didn’t bring up the letter because he was afraid. He was afraid that she had done what he thought she would do, and he didn’t want the awkward conversation that would follow. So he kept quiet. That day in June when Brian walked into the rehearsal hall, Nick didn’t go up to him right away. He watched the others to see what kind of mood Brian would be in on his first day back. 


“Hey, look who it is!” Howie exclaimed, walking up to him and giving him a high five. Brian looked thin still, pale but not the way he looked in the hospital bed. Nick sat on the stage, his legs dangling off the side as he observed. 


“Hey, D. I missed you guys so much. You should have come to visit.” Brian said, not making eye contact with anybody. He was looking over at Nick in the corner, feeling nervous. Nick looked good, almost the same as he did the last time they’d seen each other in the recording studio when they had that fight. 


“Oh, I actually thought about it. I called your phone but Leighanne said you were resting so I didn’t want to bother you.” Howie explained. 


“I’m sorry she told you that. I’m coming to find there was a lot she was keeping from me while I was home and recovering. I’m so sorry, Howie.” 


“No, you don’t need to apologize to us. All we wanted was for you to get better. Nick was the one who worried the most, I think. He wouldn’t stop talking about you.” Kevin interrupted. Brian stole another glance at Nick, who was desperately trying not to look like he was staring at him. He laughed at how stubborn Nick was. He was not good at hiding and lying at all. 


“I also blame my girlfriend for a lot of it. I am really sorry.” Brian said again. Kevin hugged him and leaned in to whisper in his ear.


“Nick’s really nervous about seeing you so I would hold off for a little bit.” 


Brian nodded. He knew why Nick was so nervous. 


“I noticed Leighanne isn’t here with you. Did she decide not to come?” AJ asked. 


“No, she didn’t come with me.” Brian said, deciding to not tell anyone they’d broken up for now until he told Nick. He just needed to get Nick alone and away from the others so they could talk but he knew that would not be easy. Nick didn’t say more than one or two words to him during their rehearsal, which Brian was frustrated and sad about. They took things easy at first because nobody knew how Brian was going to respond to their dance steps or singing again, having had the surgery and been out of things for two months. 


“Are you okay? Do you need a break?” Kevin asked when he saw him looking a little winded. 


“Yeah, I’m fine. I just need some water.” Brian said, wiping some sweat out of his eyes. He had been working up to today while at home, using a treadmill and even walking or practicing at home in addition to his therapy that he was doing. He wanted to prove to himself that he was ready to resume the tour. He wanted to go back on the road and perform more than anything. He knew he couldn’t rush things and had to take them day by day and it was even harder when he did most of it on his own. Once Leighanne had left, he was able to simply focus on healing and making himself better. That was one of the reasons he had not contacted Nick right away or tried to reach out to him, he needed some time to himself to figure himself out. In that time after his girlfriend left, he’d done some self discovering. 


After the guys were finished rehearsing, everyone was getting ready to call it a night. They ended up stopping a little early because Brian felt a little winded and Johnny was a bit concerned in pushing Brian too hard because he wanted him to be able to go on tour. Brian almost wanted to laugh at this considering Johnny and Lou had objected to his surgery twice and the third time he had argued with them until they let him have the two months to rest and recuperate. Brian saw Nick outside, looking at his phone and decided to corner him. 


“Hey.” 


Nick looked at him for a moment, pocketed his phone and started to walk away. The hotel everybody was staying at was across the street, so Brian decided to follow him. 


“Hey.” Nick said softly. 


Brian was put off by how stiff and withdrawn he was. Like he was afraid.


“How are you?” 


“Okay. How are you?” Nick said, his hands in his pockets. He was walking a little faster, his face turning slightly pink. 


“Doing a lot better, it’s good to be back. I missed you.” Brian replied. Things were getting awkward very quickly. 


“You missed me? What does your girlfriend think about that?” Nick asked without thinking. He suddenly blushed and then apologized. Brian decided it was a good time as any to tell Nick the good news. Nick had started to walk away again, obviously annoyed. 


“We broke up, Nick.” Brian called after him. 


Nick stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to look at Brian. A clap of thunder alerted them that it was about to rain but neither of them rushed to get inside the hotel, they just continued talking. 


“You what?” 


“We broke up. I dumped her. I- er- well I told her to leave. I ended it.” Brian said, looking at the ground. Rain drops were starting to fall around them and it thundered again. Nick stood there and stared at Brian, trying to process the information that was just given to him. He stood there in the rain, blinking. His heart was doing somersaults. Brian had finally gotten rid of Leighanne. He’d had to have read the letter, the only question now was did he read all of it? Did he read the last line? Nick’s head was swimming. 


"I-" Nick said, but Brian held up his hand. 


“I read your letter, Nick. I read everything you said, and I- I’m sorry.” Brian confessed. His heart was beating fast. Nick didn't say anything. 


“I’m sorry for what I said at the recording studio. I’m sorry I made you feel like you weren’t normal and you were trying to push something on me. That was wrong. I’m sorry that I listened to that- well, I’m sorry I listened to HER. You were right, Nick. You were right about everything and I should have listened to you. I’m sorry I didn’t sooner. You were right about me. I was in denial-“


“Brian, I’m sorry-“ 


The thunder crashed again but the two of them didn’t move, water running down their faces. They were face to face now. Nick was about to start apologizing for the hospital and then for not trying to get in touch with him afterwards. He knew he had nothing to apologize for but he felt guilty anyway. He felt guilty for spending time with Lance as well. After the hospital he had tried to date Lance but they realized that it wouldn’t work because of their schedules and came to a mutual understanding. Nick was happy they could remain friends. So he had spent the last two months figuring himself out and coming to terms with a lot of things. He’d bought a house in Florida and was spending some much needed alone time there. 


“No, Nick. You don’t have to apologize for anything. I was the stupid one. I was an idiot. I was….I was so in denial and desperate to be something that I wasn’t that I pushed you away. You are the best thing that ever happened to me, Nick. You saved my life by telling me that I should get that surgery. You saved me. I can’t thank you enough for what you did. I love you, Nick.” 


“You love me?” Nick asked. They were both soaking wet. 


Brian nodded. “That’s what I’ve been missing. I was missing you.” 


Nick stayed quiet, he just leaned in and kissed him, as the sky opened up around them. The rain was wet and cold but neither of them cared. They finally decided to go inside and Nick let Brian into his hotel room to dry off. They took off their wet clothes and let them hang near the radiator to dry. Nick had given Brian a shirt to wear, although it was big on him. 


“So why didn’t you come back to the hospital, Nick? I know in your letter you said she kept you from seeing me.” Brian asked, while Nick brought them both some hot tea. 


“That’s not everything, Brian. It was so much over the last few weeks, since your birthday. I don’t know how to begin to explain it.” Nick said. Leighane’s voice echoed in his head and he flinched briefly. 




STAY AWAY FROM HIM OR I WILL TAKE AWAY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE.



“It’s okay, she can’t do anything to you. Please tell me. I found out she was lying about a lot of things. I want to know the truth.” Brian begged. He put a hand on Nick’s knee to reassure him because Brian could tell Nick looked nervous. 


“She, well….she brought me into the coffee shop near the hotel we were staying at while we recorded around your birthday. She said that she saw us kissing. She then told me that if she caught me being like that with you again, she’d tell our management about us and that I’m gay. She told me it’s my fault you were cheating on her. That I pushed my abnormality onto you, so I pushed you away and tried to keep things professional between us. What I did to try and break away wasn’t enough. When we were in France and I was away from you, all I could think about was you. So I came up with this crazy idea to come see you. The first time I went to see you in the hospital, I didn’t get to because Leighanne tried to have security remove me. The second time, I brought that letter to give to you and I tried to see you. I looked at you in the bed, and you looked so small and helpless that I panicked and left. I ran into Leighanne in the hallway again. She had me banned from the hospital so I couldn’t go back. ” Nick explained after taking a deep breath. 


“Why didn’t you tell me that she threatened you, Nick? I would have left her. I don’t care what happens, she had no right talking to you the way she did. I’m so sorry.” 


“I didn’t care about her threats after a while. That fight we had, I felt so horrible after what you said that it was all I could think about. In France I tried to listen to your voice message, but I couldn’t get through it. I started to cry. I cried because I was scared to death that I would never see you again. Being without you scares me and that also scares me. I ran. I was being a coward. So I went to see you because I couldn’t be afraid anymore. I flew from France and even that wasn’t enough. I left that letter in hopes that you would read it. Hearing you say you love me just amazes me. I never thought I would hear anyone say that.” Nick smiled through tears. Brian realized how much he and Nick really had been going through the same thing without knowing it. The two of them came together and kissed again, as if time had not gone by since the last time they were together. 


“Can we really do this?” Nick whispered as they moved to the bed, laying there for a while and talking. The two of them felt 


“Nick, I want to try. I love you.” 


Brian kissed him and Nick returned it, staring into his eyes. It was still storming outside and they could hear the rain against the window of the room. 


“I love you too.” Nick breathed into Brian’s lips as he went in again. 


“You love me?” 


Nick nodded, his thumb behind Brian’s ear as he kissed him. Their kisses got deeper and deeper. They spent a good part of the night getting reacquainted before falling asleep next to each other. Nick listened to Brian’s heart beat and smiled because it sounded normal again. 


For the first time in a few months, both of them were happy. 
Chapter 44 by DelphinaCarter
Rehearsals for the tour were still in full swing but the boys still had their days off. Since Brian had told Nick how he felt, he and Nick had been spending a lot of time together. The only difference this time was that they were closer than ever before.

"We should do something for the 4th of July. Like when we went to Cocoa Beach." Brian said when he came out of the shower in their hotel room. He'd been thinking about doing something for Nick to prove he was serious about trying to be in a relationship with him, because Nick was skeptical. He still didn't trust him fully and Brian knew it was because of the lingering damage Leighanne had caused. Nick felt like the rug was going to be pulled from under his feet at any moment. Brian hated that he felt like that. He knew he had to do something big to gain his trust.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Are you sure?” Nick asked skeptically, playing his Game Boy in the bed. Brian was a little thrown off by the fact Nick had just turned him down, but could he blame him. He knew how much he had hurt Nick and he wanted to show him that he wouldn’t do it again.

“I think we could both use a weekend to ourselves. Besides, I’ve already booked it so you can’t back out.” Brian winked. Nick didn’t say anything, but went back to playing Zelda. They went to bed and the next morning they began the drive to Myrtle Beach in a rental car that Brian got. Nick didn’t say much on the three hour drive to South Carolina from Charlotte. All he could think about was the last time they’d gone on a beach trip together, when they’d gone to Cocoa Beach for a weekend just like this one. Brian had acted so funny then. He’d cornered Brian for acting so odd.



“What is going on with you, Brian?”

“I-uh….er….”

“You never seemed to care about me being gay before, so why start now? What’s wrong with you? What’s really wrong with you, because none of this makes any sense. First you tell me to hide it from everyone, then you tell Leighanne that I’m bothering you and obsessed with you, and now you show up at my house wanting to take me away with you for the weekend? What are you getting out of all of this?”

Brian took several deep breaths before he spoke. Nick knew that he was just doing it to not make him more angry, because he could tell Nick was angry.

“No-Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I am just trying to understand you more, that’s all. If I’m making you uncomfortable, I won’t ask any other questions. We just never have talked about it again since you told me and I was thinking, that’s it.”

Nick nodded, playing with a loose string on the carpet.

“You were thinking about me being gay?”

“Yes.”


Nick hadn’t thought much about that conversation again until now, but after knowing everything the last year or so, it suddenly made sense. Brian didn’t know what he was feeling. He was trying to sort things out just like Nick was trying to do and Nick felt bad for expecting Brian to figure it out at the same pace he did.

“You okay, Nick? You’re awfully quiet.” Brian asked him, jarring him out of his thoughts.

“Sorry, I was just thinking about when we went to Cocoa Beach.” Nick smiled nervously.

“Our first kiss.” Brian said, keeping his eyes on the road.

“Why didn’t you just tell me how you felt then?” Nick asked.

"I didn't know how to express it then. I still don't. I mean, I know that I love you...but everything is so confusing for me. I don't want to hurt you, Nick. I just want to be with you." Brian replied as he made the turn into Myrtle Beach towards their hotel.

"I just don't want to be hurt again." Nick said, looking out the window. He didn't say much more during their ride to the hotel on the beach.

"This is a bit nicer than the other hotel." Brian commented, when they got checked in and went to their room. Of course they were making more money than they were a year ago so Brian could afford a bigger hotel room. It was a suite with a king sized bed.

"Wow." Nick said, setting his bag on the bed and touching the blankets. It was the softest bed he'd ever seen.

“So I was thinking tonight we could grab dinner, maybe take a walk down the beach. Something simple?” Brian suggested, tossing his bag down on the floor.

“Okay, sure. I’m hungry.” Nick said.

“You’re always hungry.” Brian laughed. Nick laughed because it was a fact.


The two of them got dressed and they went to a restaurant on the beach that was near their hotel. They sat outside and ate their food, watching the water and listening to the sea gulls. Brian knew the ocean was Nick's favorite place so they had a great time just sitting there and talking. They talked about all kinds of things, Brian’s surgery, Nick’s new house and what he was up to while Brian was recuperating from surgery. Brian was surprised to find that Nick was living on his own because Nick hadn’t even told him that he had left his parents place in Tampa.

“I was just ready for a change, Brian. My family and I just don’t mesh sometimes. It was not a good place for me to be. You know how they are. I can’t be myself there. So I packed up all my stuff and bought a place of my own in the Keys. It’s beautiul there, you should come and see it next time we are in Florida. It’s on the water and I was thinking of buying a boat so I could go fishing and stuff like that. What do you think?” Nick said. He stopped and saw Brian listening intently, just admiring him while he spoke.

“Sorry for rambling.” Nick blushed.

“Don’t be sorry. I would love to see your house and I think you should definitely get a boat.” Brian smiled. Nick smiled back and they continued eating.

“This is really nice, we never get a lot of time to just be ourselves and have time alone.” Nick said as he ate his steak. Brian wished he knew what Nick was thinking but all he could think about was how nervous he was.

"I thought you'd like it. The beach here is really nice too. There's a pier near here, I figured we could go and check it out after we eat." Brian suggested. Nick agreed that was a great idea and they went for a walk down the beach where the pier was. A humongous ferris wheel sat in front of them. This had been Brian's idea the whole time, to take Nick on the ferris wheel as the sun was setting but he was afraid of heights. He could feel his nerves settling in already but took a deep breath and climbed into the basket where he and Nick sat as it climbed higher and higher to the top. Brian tried his best to not look over the edge.

“I’m really surprised you came up here. I know how much you hate heights.” Nick pointed out. The sun was nearing the horizon and the sky was a beautiful mixture of colors, it was a perfect evening weather wise.

“I thought it would be nice to come up here and watch the sunset.”

The two of them looked at each other and Brian leaned in to kiss him. They kissed until they were at the very top of the wheel.

“Thank you for taking me here, Brian. I’m sorry if I sounded like I didn’t want to come, I just am scared.” Nick confessed, taking Brian’s hand in his.

“Don’t apologize. I hurt you before. If I knew then what I know now, and how you had really felt I would never have told you I didn’t need you. I wouldn’t have told you that you have to hide who you are. You don’t. I don’t. The truth is, I do need you. You don’t sugarcoat things for me, and you put me in my place. I need that. I haven’t been the best friend that you’ve been. I just want a chance Nick. I want a chance to show you that I’m serious about being with you and that I love you. I’m not going to hurt you again. I won’t leave you. I mean that.” Brian promised, squeezing Nick’s hand gently with his thumb. Nick kissed him.

“Thank you. I just sometimes wonder if things are too good to be true. I want to be with you too. I don’t want to hide. I want to scream things from the rooftops but you know how people are about this kind of stuff. If we tell people, what happens if that ruins everything? I love you too but I also love performing and I don’t want to ruin it.” Nick said, looking out at the sunset.

“I don’t care what happens. I want to be with you. I don’t want to hide anymore. I spent enough time doing that and so have you.” Brian said, kissing him back. They embraced and kissed again.

“I won’t break your heart, Nick. I promise.”

The Ferris wheel started to go back down for another trip around and Nick sat there, thinking about everything Brian had said. He knew that Kevin supported them and supported him. Would the others? Would anyone? That fear had been constant for months and he’d even talked about it with Lance, who had those same fears he did. Lance said that when he was comfortable with himself and only then would he be ready to come out to everyone else. This was part of the reason he moved out of his parents house, because he was terrified of what they’d say when they knew his secret.

“I’m glad I chose you to tell first.” Nick said softly, kissing Brian gently.

“So when did you decide you were going to tell me? How long did you know you were gay before that?” Brian asked once they were off the Ferris wheel and walking down the beach towards their hotel. They held hands as they walked through the edge of the waves.

“I knew for a little while. I mean, I always felt differently than everyone, like I didn’t fit in. At school before I joined the group I got beat up and picked on for being into theater and acting. I would always leave school early for auditions. The other kids didn’t like that and would bully me. So I got the audition for the band and I got really close to AJ and Howie, and we would hang out at...at Lou’s house. He would play these movies for us.” NIck explained. Brian’s eyes narrowed at the mention of their former manager.

“What happened at Lou’s house?”


“We would watch these movies. It was pornography, but men with other men or women with other women. When I watched them, it stirred up these feelings inside me that I couldn’t ignore. I was attracted to you. I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere. I kept it to myself but at that birthday party Lou threw for me and AJ...I just couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. I was miserable that day. Here all these people were to celebrate my 17th birthday. They were there to celebrate me and none of them even knew the real me, and all I could think about was how I was never going to be like any of them.” Nick said, his eyes watering. Brian thought back to the day that Nick told him his secret and how he told him to hide. He wished he had never done that.

“Lou made you watch those movies? You were only 11.” Brian said.

“There’s a lot of things about Lou that I didn’t tell you. He was not a good person and I’m glad you put it into motion to get rid of him. You saved me, Brian. In more ways than you know. So I am glad I could return the favor. That first night last year when we cuddled in bed together at the hotel, I laid my head on your chest while you slept and it sounded horrible. That was when I realized something was really wrong with you. I put aside my objections to you and Leighanne to try and get you to go to the doctor. Hearing your chest sound like that scared me. It scared me that I might lose you. Without you I’m lost.” Nick replied. He went into more detail, some things he’d held back. Brian’s mouth just fell open, no wonder Nick had been confused about himself and hesitant when they were first together.

“I never knew any of this, Nick. I’m so sorry that I made you feel like you had to continue hiding. I was just so confused when you stirred up the feelings in me that I didn’t know how to deal with any of it. I threw myself into the relationship with Leighanne and into denial because that was all I knew. Then when we were fooling around, I felt nobody would love me if they knew the truth. You helped me see otherwise. I’m sorry.” Brian said. They stopped and kissed as the sun finally dipped below the horizon.

“Thank you for taking me out today. Sometimes I just wish we could be normal and just be together. I’m willing to give it a shot if you are serious about this.” Nick said when they got back to their hotel room and into bed. He kissed him, his thumb resting behind Brian’s ear, rubbing gently at the back of his head. Brian nuzzled into him as they cuddled and kissed.

“I just wanted to show you what things could be like if we were together. I want to be with you, Nick. That’s all. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. Having that surgery made me realize how short life is. I missed you. I want you to be mine, all mine.”

“I want to be yours too if you will be mine.” Nick whispered into Brian’s neck. They kissed slowly and laid there together until they fell asleep in each other’s arms, blissfully happy now that everything was out in the open and all the cards were on the table. Nick listened to Brian’s heart and for the first time he heard it as it was supposed to sound. Things were going to be okay, and he slept peacefully for the first time in two months.
Chapter 45 by DelphinaCarter
It was the first day of the US tour, two months after Brian had gone through the surgery to fix the hole in his heart. He’d been going through rehearsals but tonight was the real thing. 


“How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous?” Nick asked him when they arrived at the venue. Brian had stopped to wave at the fans waiting outside and he stopped for some fans that found their buses outside the arena. Nick had joined in too, keeping an eye on him from afar. Nick could see that Brian was feeling anxious. He’d thrown up twice the night before and had to take an anxiety pill to go to sleep, Nick rubbing his back until his eyes were closed. He almost didn’t eat breakfast that morning but Nick insisted. Brian protested that he was fine but Nick wouldn’t hear any of it. 


“I can’t eat, Nick. I feel like I want to blow chunks as you would put it.” 


“You either eat or I won’t have fun with you tonight after the show like I promised you when we woke up.” Nick said, raising an eyebrow at him while he pouted.


“That’s not fair.” 


“I don’t give a shit, now eat.” Nick demanded with a smile as he ate his own breakfast. Brian chuckled at him and went to eat his toast. 



At the venue, the other guys all greeted Brian. There was an ambulance waiting outside in case Brian needed it because nobody knew what was going to happen with his first show. The ambulance being present did not ease Brian’s feelings about the whole thing. He wondered if he was doing the right thing going back so soon, it had only been two months. Was he ready to do this? What if something happened while he was performing? 


“How are you feeling, bro?” AJ asked, interrupting Brian’s thoughts.


“Like I want to barf.” Brian confessed.


“You’ll be fine, the paramedics are backstage and we are all here in case something goes wrong.” Howie added, patting Brian on the back. Brian gave them a weak smile as Kevin came over and also asked him how he was doing. He was doing his best to hold it together, but he couldn’t take his mind off of the fact that it was his first show back and something could possibly happen. Luckily Kevin provided a welcome distraction by changing the subject of the conversation backstage. 


“So where did you two go off to last weekend?” Kevin whispered, nodding towards Nick’s direction when AJ and Howie were out of ear shot. Nick was sitting on the couch in the dressing room playing on his game boy. 


“We went to Myrtle Beach. I got a hotel room for the weekend.” Brian whispered.


“Really? What about Leighanne? Did she know you went with him?” Kevin asked. 


“There’s something I need to tell you guys about that, but it’s gonna have to wait until later.” Brian said. He knew that he and Nick would not be able to hide the fact that they were together from AJ and Howie for long, so he wanted to talk to Nick before addressing the situation with the group. 



“Hey, Nick...before we go on, can I talk to you?” Brian asked while they were waiting for the others to get ready to go out on stage. 


“Are you okay?” 


“Yes, I’m fine. I wanted to talk to you about something else. I was thinking tonight we could tell the other guys about what happened between me and Leighanne. I just wanted to ask how you felt about that first because I know how important all of this is to you and I don’t want to out you if you aren’t comfortable.” Brian said softly, making sure nobody was within earshot. Nick sighed and looked at his feet, his eyes searching. Brian was worried he'd offended him but after a minute he spoke. 


“I don’t know, Brian. I mean, I know Kevin accepted me and he accepted you. What if they don’t?" Nick asked shakily. He was afraid that everything would be ruined and it would be his fault, as Leighanne had told him in New York. Ever since New York, Nick had become afraid of anyone finding out. He hadn't told his family, either because he knew his parents would never  be okay with him being gay. 


"Do you want me to leave out the part of your letter where you told me you loved me and stuff? I will do that if you want. I can change the story a little bit and we can keep this secret." 


Nick made sure nobody was around to see before leaning in and giving Brian a quick kiss. 


"No, I think I'm ready to tell them." 


"Are you sure? Just the guys, right? Not everyone?" Brian asked in surprise. Nick nodded and took Brian's hand in his, giving it a little squeeze. 


"Just AJ and Howie for now. I can't live in fear anymore. If they don't accept me then that's their problem. I should really take my own advice. I guess all that stuff with Leighanne- I just forgot that I could be brave. I needed you to remind me."


"After the show we will tell them on the bus." Brian smiled. 



The show went along as well as Brian could have hoped it would go. He was very anxious the whole time but having the guys looking out for him really did make it a lot better for him. Seeing all the fans happy to see him, hearing their reactions when he sang and seeing their faces really gave him the boost of serotonin and confidence that Brian needed. He was genuinely happy and it showed through his performance that night. When they all left the stage that night and went to the tour bus, Brian couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. 


“That was a great show, Rok.” AJ commented, patting him on the back when they got on the bus.


“Thank you, AJ. It felt so good to be up there again.” Brian grinned as he grabbed a bottle of water and began to head towards the back of the bus. 


“Are we going to do this now?” Nick whispered, appearing from the bunk area. Brian took a deep breath and nodded, taking Nick’s hand in his and closing his eyes. Nick smiled at him reassuringly. They gathered everyone and went to the lounge area at the back of the bus, everyone looking a little confused. 


“What’s going on?” Howie asked when they were all in the lounge area and Nick had closed the door behind them. 


“I wanted to talk to you guys about some stuff. Since we were apart for two months and all that. There’s just some stuff that happened.” Brian said softly. He looked over at Nick again, who nodded to reassure him things were okay and to continue. 


“It’s nothing about your surgery, is it?” AJ asked. 


“No, no. It’s nothing like that. I’m sure you guys are wondering why I didn’t bring Leighanne on the road with us this time. The thing is, me and Leigh-“ Brian started, feeling a rush of nerves wash over him. 


“Leighanne and I are not together anymore.” 


“I know that was hard for you, but it was for the best.” Kevin smiled. Nick chuckled at the sight of Kevin smiling because Kevin knew the truth. 


“The best? She was using him.” Nick laughed. Brian laughed too and the others joined in.” 


“We didn’t want to say anything, we knew you liked her.” Howie pointed out. Privately Nick was a little annoyed that he was always the one to point out when Brian was being stupid and the others just wanted to be yes men. 


“Honestly, I wish that you’d have told me sooner. I was just so into being in a real relationship with someone that I pushed things that I wanted aside, that I acted like someone that I wasn’t. I pushed my best friend away and I said some really mean things that weren’t true. I am so sorry to all of you and I hope you forgive me.” 


A collective agreement that nobody blamed Brian rang through the five of them and Brian smiled. Nick patted him on the back. 


“The next thing I want to talk about is...well- the reason that I broke up with her is because someone opened my eyes to some things that I was blind to for the last year or so. I found a letter that Leighanne was hiding from me. In the letter was someone’s true feelings for me. That letter made me realize I was making a huge mistake and I need to stop denying who I am. That it’s okay to feel different and not to worry what anyone thinks.” Brian smiled. 


“Who was the letter from?” Howie asked. Nick licked his lips, feeling nervous himself. 



“It was from Nick, telling me that he loved me. Over the last year, I realized that I also love Nick. I realized that the two of us had even more in common than we thought and that I am in love with him.” Brian said, taking another breath. Nick stepped towards him and held his hand, expecting the backlash from the others. 


“I love Brian and he loves me, and if anyone has a problem with it….that’s too bad. I don’t ask you to approve but just for you to accept us.” Nick replied sternly. 


Kevin stood up and started clapping. AJ and Howie joined in.


“Wait, you aren’t upset about this?” Nick asked, bewildered. He had envisioned being thrown off the tour bus in the middle of the highway, and had even made sure his bags were packed in case he had to leave after the discussion. 


“Nick, you are our baby brother. Of course we support you.” Kevin said, hugging him. 


“Yeah, exactly. You are our brothers. I accept you and I love you just the same.” Howie agreed. A rush of relief washed over Nick and Brian as the other guys congratulated them and hugged them. For the first time in years Nick felt free. He didn’t have to keep his secret from them anymore. They all knew and understood. He would have to keep things secret from the rest of the world but for now, this was good enough for him.    


“So is this why Nick was crying in the bathroom that one night you asked me to leave the hotel room and I said you weren’t my type? You made this face and made me leave the room? I kinda had a feeling something was going on but I didn’t want to assume.” AJ pointed out, laughing. 


“Is that why you were so insistent to talk to Nick when you said you were going to room with me because you were jealous he was staying with AJ?” Howie added. 


Nick looked at Brian and laughed. “Did you do that?” 


“Yes, that is what happened. Nick and I had an argument that night. I didn’t know that Leighanne was threatening the group to tell everyone he was gay. I didn’t understand that was why Nick was pushing me away. He was doing it to save everything we’ve been working for. I wish I had known then what I know now. If I knew then...I wouldn’t have acted the way I did about the whole thing.” Brian said, putting his arm around Nick’s waist and hugging him sideways. Nick rested his head on top of Brian’s and simply smiled. He smiled because he was so happy. Happy that things were looking to be just fine and he wouldn’t have to worry. 


“It didn’t help that you’re as stubborn as a mule either, Brian.” Nick giggled. 


“Am not.” 


They all laughed and finished their bottles of water before getting ready for bed. 


“Joining me?” Nick asked, motioning towards his bunk. Brian smiled because it was the first time they’d been together on the tour bus and wouldn’t have to hide anything from their bandmates. 


“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”


The two of them climbed in the bed and closed the curtains, Brian resting on Nick because he was shorter. They cuddled behind the curtains and talked until they fell asleep. Nick was grateful to have such good friends and Brian was even more grateful to have them too, because he didn’t know how he would have gotten through anything if it wasn’t for them being by his side.


He listened to Nick sleeping and smiled because he was so happy. Happy to be alive, happy to be successful and happy to be in love with the right person. 


He was never going to let Nick go again. 
Chapter 46 by DelphinaCarter
As the US tour started, Nick thought things would be smooth sailing now that he and Brian had come out to the other boys, but he was wrong. They still had to hide their budding relationship from the public. The other guys were very supportive of them and gave them their space when they needed to be alone, which Nick appreciated. He was still nervous about anyone else finding out about them, and would be skittish when they were in a venue and stealing kisses in the dressing room. 


"Brian we really need to get ready…" Nick laughed between kisses. They'd already been interrupted once by AJ coming into the bathroom. 


"Hold this until later, then." Brian whispered as he kissed him again. Nick laughed as the door knob to the dressing room made noise, startling them. 


"Just the two I wanted to see. Am I interrupting anything, boys?" he said, looking at them angrily. Both of their faces were bright red because they’d been caught. 


“It’s not what it looks like…” Brian started, but their manager put a hand up. 


“Save the bullshit, Littrell. how stupid do you think I am? Sit down.” 


"Please let us explain-“ Nick interrupted, his face redder still. 


“Let me say what I need to say first.” 


"Our offices got a call this morning from your ex girlfriend. She had some interesting information to share with us." Johnny replied. Brian exchanged looks with Nick because they’d both been dreading this since Brian dumped Leighanne two months ago. 


Nick felt as if he were going to throw up, like he had gotten punched in the stomach. He knew what had happened already. 


“Johnny, let us explain…” Nick started again but their manager didn’t want to hear any of it. He was angry. Usually Johnny had been the calmer of their two managers, but now that Lou was out of the picture most of the responsibility had fallen onto Johnny. He’d become mean over the last few months since BSB had started the lawsuit against Trans Continental Records. When Lou was fired they had taken Johnny as their manager but now Nick and Brian were seeing that this was a huge mistake. 


“Judging by the looks on your faces and what I just saw, I would say her information is true. How long were you planning on keeping this a secret? Do you know what this could do to your careers right now?” Johnny shouted. Nick looked as if he were near tears and it only angered Brian. 


“We don’t care about that. We want to be together. I broke up with Leighanne because she was using me. Nick helped me to see that. I love him. I don’t care what you do to me. Fire me if you want to. I’m gay, Johnny. I’m gay, and that’s not about to change.” Brian shouted, getting in Johnny’s face. 


“Brian, remember what the doctor said about stress…” Nick whispered, pulling Brian’s arm gently to seperate them. Brian tugged it back. 


“Not now, Nick. He needs to hear this. I told you the same thing, I’m done hiding. This is us. This is who we are. If he doesn’t like who we are, then he can manage another band.” Brian snapped. Nick realized that Brian was right. He needed to stop hiding too.


“Don’t you have anything to say, Carter?” Johnny asked.


“I am gay. I love Brian, he loves me and we don’t care what you think about it. Take it or leave it.” Nick said sternly, taking Brian’s hand in his. 


Johnny raised his eyebrows. 


“Okay, gentlemen...so what do you propose we do about this situation? You dumped that woman and she’s going to expose everything if we don’t act on it right now. Your secret is about to leak out. She didn’t just tell us. She’s going to press. They’ve been trying to contact us for statements all day.” 


“So you’re blaming all of this on me?” Brian scoffed.


“Brian, we are gonna have to tell everyone eventually anyway. It might as well be now.” NIck reasoned, to Brian and Johnny Wright’s surprise. 


Nick knew this day would come as well. He knew that eventually everyone would find out his secret. He knew that they would discover his relationship with Brian so the natural thing to do right now was not to hide, but face it. 


“You’re right, Nick. So how are we going to do it?” 


“We could announce it on television, or do an article for a magazine and sell the exclusives. Have a photoshoot. We could go on a radio show, whatever you decide you want to do. I just need an answer after the show, right now you gotta go.” Johnny said, leaving them to finish getting ready. The other guys joined them and the two of them were pretty quiet.


“Is everything okay?” Kevin asked, noticing the awkward silence before they did their pre show prayers.


“Johnny told us that Leighanne is threatening to tell the press about Nick and I. She made calls to our management like she said she was going to do. So Johnny wants Nick and I to make some kind of statement to the press before this gets blown out of proportion.” Brian explained. Nick looked at his feet, hating himself for causing all of this. If he’d only kept his mouth shut and not told her anything, she never would have threatened them. None of this would be happening. Sure, he wouldn’t have Brian but his career wouldn’t be in jeopardy. Nick couldn’t help feeling guilty. 


“I’m so sorry, you guys. I’ve ruined everything.” Nick said, holding back tears. 


“Nick, none of us blame you for this. Don’t get upset. Please.” Brian begged, giving his hand a squeeze. 


“It’s just, if I hadn’t told her you were cheating on her….if I had just kept quiet-“ 


“I already told you that isn’t important. She would have found out anyway if you told her or not. I was the one who dragged you into it. I led her on and I cheated on her. I should have just been honest from the beginning. This is my fault. Not anyone else’s.” 


"Brian, I think we should do the interview. I know you're worried about what people will think. I'm scared too. I'm scared to death people will judge us." 


“Are you kidding? I’m terrified. If I could just barely be able to admit it to you, and even these guys- how am I going to do it on live television? Maybe we should just do the magazine.” Brian said thoughtfully. Nick agreed that the magazine interview was probably a better way for both of them and their anxiety because even Nick agreed that he could never go on live television and come out to everyone like that. At least with an interview it was one on one and people could read and just judge for themselves. So after the concert that night, Nick and Brian talked to Johnny and told him that they wanted to set up the interview with People magazine. They did a photoshoot and took several pictures together. It was the first time they’d really kissed in front of anyone for a picture and Brian was nervous, but Nick helped him get through it. Brian was really thankful to have Nick there because Nick understood all of the emotions he was going through with coming out publicly. Having someone going through the same thing made it more bearable. 


One afternoon while the boys were on the road, Nick was looking at some magazines when he spotted the People magazine cover with him and Brian on it. They’d used the picture of them on the boat in Argentina that he’d given them to use, with the title This Is Us on the cover. He ran up to the cashier and paid for his sodas and the magazine before running back to the bus shouting for Brian. He was surprised that the cashier didn’t say anything to him or recognize him. 


“BRIAN!!!!” 


“BRIAN, WHERE ARE YOU?!”


“Geez. Where is the fire, Nick?” Brian laughed, poking his head out from the bunk area. 


“Did you get me a Coke?” AJ asked from the couch. 


“Of course I did, but never mind that! We made the cover!” Nick shouted, waving the magazine in his face. Brian dropped what he was holding and ran over to see it, the two of them flipping through pages of their pictures from the shoot. 


“How is everyone going to react when they read this? What if they don’t like us anymore? Then what?” Nick wondered. 


“Then that’s their problem. I love you. I don’t care what anyone thinks about it.” Brian said, kissing him on the cheek. Nick kissed him back.


“I love you too.” 


“Whatever happens, we will get through it together.” Brian promised, and they kissed again. Nick looked at Brian and smiled. 


“Together.” NIck repeated, sighing because he was so happy.



As the months passed, things got even better for the Backstreet Boys. The lawsuit Brian had started earlier in the year ended up settling and they split with Lou, Donna and Johnny Wright. They decided to find new management and take some time to work on a new album while figuring out what direction they wanted to go for the next record. On New Year’s Eve they found themselves in Orlando, where they began...to film a concert special because it was their Homecoming. When the filming was done they decided to wind down at their hotel and not have a huge party to ring in 1999. 


“Hey guys, it’s almost midnight!” Howie said, noticing nobody was paying attention to the television set. Brian was sitting on the couch in Nick’s lap, Kevin had already fallen asleep and AJ was pouring himself a glass of champagne to get ready to welcome the new year.


“So what is your new year’s resolution, Nick?” Brian asked, looking up into Nick’s eyes. Nick laughed, his hair falling in his face. 


“I don’t have one. I just never pictured we would be like this a year later, after how last new year’s went. I thought we would never be together and I’d have to hide who I was from everyone for the rest of my life. It’s just been crazy the last few months. Things are exactly how I want them to be. I have you. I have the group. We have success. There’s literally nothing else I could want.” Nick replied. 


“That’s so sweet, I’m going to get a cavity.” AJ said as he rolled his eyes. 


“You’re just jealous because I have a cute boyfriend and you are a loser.” Nick teased, sticking out his tongue. Brian laughed. 


“I don’t have a resolution either, Nick. Everything is perfect. I have my health, and I have everything I could want right here in front of me. I love you.” Brian said, and the countdown to midnight began. Nick leaned in to kiss Brian in the first few minutes of 1999, feeling like there was no better way to start the new year than with his boyfriend and his best friends. It had been a crazy time these last two years and Nick was happy that things had turned out the way they did. He no longer had to be afraid and could be who he was without caring what anyone thought. 


NIck smiled as he looked around the room and closed his eyes, feeling completely content.


He and Brian would ring in the new year on their own once they got back to their room and Nick couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. 
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