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Set You Free
Ten Guys, One Night
Happy Holidays Everyone! Thanks again for all the supportive emails and messages!
I must give a big Thank You to Justin for giving me the title Blissful Tears and for creating the wonderful image for this story in the Boy Band Screensaver. Thanks must also be given to Chris and Neo, for your chats and suggestions. You guys are all great!
Well, I'd hope by now everyone knows it, but just in case:
1. If you shouldn't be here, don't tell me and don't get caught!
2. I don't know any of the people mentioned in the story...it's fiction folks!
If you have any comments about this story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I try to respond to every single email I get!
As always, thank you for reading!
Kevin walked quietly into the apartment not wanting to disturb anyone. As he walked into the living room he froze as he saw his cousin's balled up figure on the couch. Squatting down in front, Kevin could clearly see the dried tears on Brian's face. Obviously his plan didn't work. He had arranged for AJ to be waiting when Brian returned, hoping they could work out their problems. Kevin sighed. He knew this was going to make things difficult. All he could hope for was that they make it through the rest of the tour. Some time off would give everyone a chance to regroup. He debated whether he should wake Brian up but decided just to let him sleep. Slowly he walked to his own bedroom.
The next morning Brian woke up stiff and confused. He realized he was sleeping on the couch. Then he remembered what had happened with AJ. 'Oh God, Alex, I'm so sorry,' Brian whispered to himself. He forced himself off the couch and slowly walked to his bedroom for a shower. The last thing he wanted to do was sit through a stack of interviews, but everyone had agreed to participate in them.
It was automatic responses that helped him shower and change. He walked out to the kitchen and found Kevin sitting there drinking coffee and reading resumes.
"Don't Kev!" Brian cut his cousin off. "It's over and done with. I don't want to talk about it." Brian poured himself some coffee and slumped down at the table.
Kevin stared at Brian for a moment but remained silent. He finished checking the last of the resumes for the fifteen people they would be interviewing. It was the last resume that had caught his attention earlier. He was impressed with the man's qualifications and had called to check with his previous employer. He'd found out why the man left, but decided to wait and see how the man responded in the interview.
He finished his coffee and looked at Brian again. Brian had barely had two sips of coffee. Kevin sighed and stood up. "Lets go Brian," he said quietly.
Brian blinked a few times and looked at his cousin. "What?" he asked.
"Its time to go," Kevin said. Brian nodded and stood up. He listlessly followed Kevin out of the apartment and to Kevin's car. He was silent for the entire trip to their management's offices where the interviews would be held.
As they walked into the small board room Kevin noticed AJ sitting on the far side. Howie and Nick were whispering together glancing at AJ. Kevin sighed. They obviously knew something was wrong. The three men looked up as they entered. AJ looked like he hadn't slept and after realizing that it was only Kevin and Brian, he returned his gaze to the window.
Nick quickly walked over to Brian. "Hey Bri, what's going on?" he asked quietly.
Brian shook his head. "Nothing Nick. I just haven't been thinking straight. Leighanne and I are getting married in September," he added glancing at AJ. AJ's body language didn't reveal anything.
Nick stared at Brian in disbelief. "What? Brian what are you talking about? You can't...." Howie walked over and quickly interrupted his young lover.
"Nick dear, leave Brian alone for a while. Let him get settled," he said softly and gently pulled Nick away. Nick protested, but Howie didn't release his grip. He walked Nick over to the far side of the room.
"Nicky, please. Trust me on this. Whatever happened, they are both very raw right now. We have to give them time to deal with it," Howie said, trying to calm his lover.
Nick looked at Howie with tears in his eyes. "I just want to help, sweetie. I hate seeing him so unhappy."
Howie softly kissed Nick. "I know. So do I. But we can't push them."
Nick glanced over at Brian again, then back to Howie. "I don't know what I'd do if we ever broke up," he whispered, blinking back the tears.
Howie pulled Nick into a tight embrace. "Shhh, babe. That's not going to happen. And we'll figure out something for those two, I promise."
Nick just hugged him tighter.
"Okay, guys can we get started?" Kevin asked loudly.
Brian sat down in the chair furthest from AJ. Kevin sat in the middle, while Nick and Howie took the seats either side of Kevin. The long day of interviews began.
Kevin sighed. "Okay, this is the last of the candidates guys. His name is Chris Simpson. Can we please just try to get through one more interview," he pleaded with his bandmates, tensions still thick in the room. It was beginning to grate on all of them.
The others remained silent and Kevin accepted that as agreement. He buzzed the desk asking for the last interviewee to be sent in.
Kevin stood up as the young man walked in. Kevin hadn't said anything to the others but from the resumes, this man was his preferred choice. Kevin was startled by how attractive the man was. He was about twenty-five, had short blond hair and brown eyes.
Kevin greeted him. "Hi Chris, my name is Kevin, thank you for coming."
Chris shook Kevin's hand. "Thank you Kevin, for selecting me for an interview." He glanced around at the four other men in the room. Kevin noticed.
"Let me introduce my associates Chris. Starting to my left, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and AJ McLean." The guys all greeted Chris politely. He immediately knew something was wrong between the group. "Please take a seat Chris," Kevin said, indicating the chair. Chris sat down and waited for the first question. He was proud of himself for maintaining his cool when he realized who was about to interview him. And the green-eyed man staring at him intently was even more of a surprise.
"So may I assume you know who we are?" Kevin began.
Chris smiled. "Of course. What kind of twenty-six year old gay male would I be if I didn't?" he responded, deciding to put everything out in the open right from the start. His comment certainly got the attention of everyone in the room.
Howie sat up straighter in his chair. "I'm impressed by how open you are about being gay. Do you usually take that direct of an approach?" he asked.
Chris shook his head. "No. My last job was working as an administrative assistant for a senior partner in a prestigious law firm. I was there for nearly five years. My orientation had never come up, until recently when another partner wanted to set me up with a family friend. I politely declined, but when he kept insisting, I finally told him she wouldn't be my type." Chris shook his head again, sadly. "Its amazing how quickly the firm decided to streamline and downsize," he said bitterly.
Chris realized he was getting off track. "Sorry. Anyway, I decided that from now on I would be up front, so problems don't crop up in the future," he explained.
"Have you had any interviews since you were dismissed?" Nick asked.
Chris nodded. "Yes. I've been to four interviews in the past two weeks. Unfortunately, I'm 'not exactly what they're looking for'."
"I have to admit," Kevin said, "when I read your resume, I called your former employers. I got the runaround from the senior staff, but I also talked to a couple of the legal secretaries and other AAs. They all gave you rave reviews and highly recommended you." Kevin smiled at Chris. "Just thought you would like to know that."
"Thank you," Chris said quietly.
The questions continued for another thirty minutes. Brian and AJ sat at either end of the table, not participating, both too consumed by their own personal pain.
Kevin finally brought the interview to a close. "Well Chris, you have an impressive resume and handle yourself well in an interview. Were we to hire you, would you have any problem signing a confidentiality contract?"
Chris shook his head. "No. I realize that confidentiality is important whether its for a law firm or any other organization. What happens in the work place, stays there. I pride myself on my discretion."
Kevin nodded and stood up. "I'd like to thank you for coming today, Chris. We will be in touch in the next day or so to let you know whether you have the position or not."
They shook hands, then Chris shook hands with the other four singers. Kevin watched him walk out the door then sat back down. He looked at Nick then Howie.
"He's the one," Kevin said quietly.
Howie nodded. "I agree. He's friendly and open, and qualified."
Nick agreed as well. "I like his attitude and he should fit in well being about the same age and liking the same things as us," he added with a smirk.
Kevin looked over at Brian. Brian sighed. "He's fine Kev. You'll be working most with him so its up to you," Brian said quietly, then stood up and left.
Kevin looked the other way at AJ. AJ shrugged. "Whatever you guys decide. I don't care," he said. He glanced at his watch. "I've got to go. My plane for New York leaves in a couple of hours. I'll be back in ten days for the rest of the tour."
Kevin bit his lip to stop himself from making a comment. He knew both of them were hurting. He gathered up the stack of notes and resumes on the table and stood up.
"Okay. I'll call Chris in the morning and let him know. We may as well get him started as soon as possible." With that, Kevin left the room. The others slowly got up and followed. AJ walked out and hailed a cab without speaking another word to anyone.
Nick and Howie stood in the lobby and watched their friend walk away.
"God, what happened?" Nick asked, blinking back his tears. "They are both in so much pain," he whispered.
Howie gently rubbed Nick's back. "I know dear. All we can do is hope they work it out, somehow," he said softly. They slowly walked out to Howie's car and drove home.
"Hello?" Chris Simpson picked up the phone.
"Hi, is this Chris?" the voice said.
"Speaking," Chris replied.
"Chris, this is Kevin Richardson," Kevin said.
Chris suddenly became nervous. "Oh, hi Kevin. How are you?" he asked politely, dying to know if he got the job or not.
"I'm fine Chris. And you?"
"Not too bad," Chris said.
"Oh? Well maybe I can make things better," Kevin said.
Chris' heart rate increased. "You mean?" He couldn't say the words.
Kevin laughed. "Yeah. If you are still interested, the Backstreet Boys would like to offer you the position of coordination assistant," Kevin said formally.
Chris laughed as the tension fled him. "Oh, I'm definitely still interested. Thank you so much Kevin! You and the other guys too!" he said enthusiastically. "When do I start?"
Kevin laughed at the excitement. "Well, we have a week and a half before the tour starts up again. If you would like to meet with me, maybe tomorrow, I can start to explain exactly what you will be doing."
"Great! Anytime is good for me!" Chris replied.
"Okay. Why don't we meet back at the Firm's offices? We can go over some of the basics there and see what happens. How does ten sound?" Kevin asked.
"Ten is fine. I'll see you then Kevin," Chris said.
"Alright. Talk to you tomorrow Chris," Kevin said and hung up. Kevin smiled to himself, pleased that he would get the chance to work with Chris.
The tour was set to resume for another month and a half of concert dates. The five singers hadn't all been in the same place since the interviews for the assistant's position ten days earlier. Kevin and Chris were going over some last minute details while they waited for the others to show up.
Chris knew he had to ask Kevin what was going on with the others. It hadn't taken much to pick up the tension and sadness that floated around each of the singers.
Chris set the folder on the desk and turned to face Kevin. "Kevin, I have to ask. You can tell me its none of my business, but I think I could do my job better if I knew what the hell was going on," he said bluntly. During the past ten days he and Kevin had spent a lot of time together and had quickly become comfortable with each other.
Kevin sighed and slumped down in the chair. "You're right." Kevin ran his hand over his face and Chris could see the tension in him. "Where do I start? Nick and Howie are a couple if you hadn't figured that out, although I think you have?" He looked at Chris and Chris nodded. It had been fairly clear to him that Howie and Nick had something special. "Well, they've been together for over six months. We just found out a couple of weeks ago."
"Oh?" Chris said softly.
"You have to realize, that Brian has always had a strong sense of religion. If you ever meet his parents, you'll understand. But where his parents are not open minded at all, we never gave Brian a chance to voice his opinions. We just assumed he was like his parents. AJ was the first to come out to us. No one had a problem with it. But Nick and Howie were still worried about Brian's reaction. That hurt him. Then things got even more complicated." Kevin stood up and walked over to a table with coffee and muffins. He poured himself a drink and took a mouthful before turning back to Chris.
"Weird things happened and it came out that Brian was in love with AJ, and had been for a while. AJ felt the same way. We thought that everyone was going to be happy, end of story."
"But it wasn't?" Chris asked quietly.
Kevin shook his head as he swallowed more coffee. "No. Brian went home to break up with his fiancee and tell his parents. I don't know what happened, but when he came back, he broke up with AJ. The day of your interview was the day after Brian came back."
Chris shook his head. "Both Brian and AJ are in so much pain," he observed.
Kevin nodded. "I know. I haven't heard how AJ is doing on his little mini tour, but Brian is barely living. He does what's required and puts on a good public face, but he's not happy. He's been back home this past week and I can only imagine what his family has done to him," Kevin added with a shudder.
Chris walked over and put his hand on Kevin's shoulder. "I'm sorry Kevin. You always seem to bear the burden of everything. I hope you know that if you ever want to talk, and I don't just mean about business, I'm willing to listen. I don't know if I can help, but I can listen," Chris said intently.
Kevin smiled weakly at Chris just as someone knocked at the door. "Thanks, Chris," he said sincerely and walked over to open the door.
Kevin could only stare as AJ bounced into the room.
"Hey Kev!" He said as he walked over to the coffee.
Before Kevin could close the door, Nick and Howie arrived. He gave them a strange look and nodded in AJ's direction. The two men shrugged and walked over to talk to AJ.
Kevin turned to look at his bandmates. He found Chris studying him and he smiled weakly. He could hear Howie and Nick asking about the Johnny NoName tour that AJ had done.
AJ's description was his usual animated self. Then the conversation turned. "Ooh, you guys should have seen the hot one I found in Detroit. Fuck, the ass on him was..." AJ's voice faded as he noticed the new figure standing in the doorway. All eyes turned to find a wide-eyed Brian staring in disbelief at AJ. AJ shook his head. "Well, anyway, he was hot man. Unbelievable."
Chris knew that things were near a breaking point and he coughed. "Can we get started guys?" he asked loudly. All eyes turned back to Chris as the five men found seats.
Chris went over the information that Kevin and he had worked on. This second-leg tour was to run for forty-three days covering the eastern seaboard and Canada. He went through a list of cities and where they would be staying in hotels versus staying on the bus.
Howie asked a couple of question when the meeting ended and Kevin clarified a few points. The guys had to pack and meet the bus at seven that evening. Without speaking a word to anyone, Brian left as soon as the meeting was over.
He wandered outside, without thought got into his car, and started to drive. 'AJ picked up a guy on his tour?' he said to himself still not quite believing it. Had AJ got over him that quickly? 'But that's what you wanted Brian,' he scolded himself. 'But it still hurts!'
Brian found himself driving near a park and pulled into the lot. He leaned his head against the steering wheel and sobbed. He didn't think his heart could break more than when he told AJ they were over, but he was wrong. It hurt even more to think of AJ with another guy. How would he survive the rest of the tour, stuck in the close confines of the bus for hours at a time with AJ?
Brian shook himself and wiped his tears. He would survive because he had to. He had to continue with the travesty to ensure that his dearest friends were happy. Despite his own sadness, he'd noticed the close working relationship between Kevin and Chris. Kevin had never said one way or the other. Brian just hoped that if the relationship became more, that the two were happy. His cousin deserved it.
AJ watched Brian leave the meeting room. A small piece of him felt bad as he thought about Brian's stricken expression when he'd overheard AJ's conversation. But his anger was still the most powerful emotion. 'Too damn bad Littrell!' he thought as he collected his things and went to the lobby to wait for a cab. 'Besides, I never said I slept with the guy, I just said he had a nice ass.'
AJ didn't want to face the truth. Sure, a number of guys had offered over the past week, but he hadn't felt like it. He was too tired, or had to go to another city. The truth was that he wasn't even interested in screwing anyone else. None of the guys came even close to his Brian.
AJ jumped into his cab for the ride to his apartment. He made a vow to himself to forget about Brian. He would go out and have a good time. If he met someone new, all the better.
The next forty-three days were hell for everyone involved. Howie and Nick could only sit back and watch the chaos around them as their friends withdrew into their own worlds. Publicly, the five singers were still one big happy family, but they all knew the truth. Slowly the group was self-destructing.
Kevin, Nick, Howie and even Chris tried to draw Brian into some activity. Every time, he politely turned them down. He refused to go to the mall, or play video games or even basketball. On the bus he would withdraw to his bunk and listen to a CD while reading a book. At mealtimes, he would get his food and return to his bunk or go to the lounge if it was empty.
While Brian withdrew into himself, AJ became the total opposite. He began to live up to his reputation as the 'wild-child'. In every city they had a night free, AJ was out clubbing. He would often get phone calls at all hours of the day from one of his new friends.
None of the other three could remember Brian and AJ saying more than two words to each other. At least if they were fighting, yelling and screaming, they would know how they were feeling and hopefully working through their emotions.
Kevin felt he was being torn in two. He hated to see his cousin so quiet. Brian had always been hyper. They had nicknamed him wolfman after their one video when Brian was made up like a werewolf. He had always been goofing around, doing backflips and making everyone laugh. And AJ. Kevin had always been so proud of how much AJ had matured since their early years. But now, it was like he was regressing. After the first couple of times, Kevin stopped trying to 'father' AJ. AJ just ignored him anyway.
Chris was his only salvation. As the weeks went by, Kevin found himself spending more time with Chris than with his bandmates. Chris had settled into his new job perfectly. At times, it was like he could read Kevin's mind. He always had time to stop and talk when Kevin was feeling down.
Read more about Chris and Kevin.