Search For Solace
Chapter Two

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Nick awoke with a start.

He sat straight up in bed, his heart pounding and his blue eyes wide with fear. The first thing he saw was a mirror image of himself, and he relaxed slightly when he realized that he was still in his hotel room. Slowly but surely, his eyes scanned the room, leaving nothing untouched until he knew that he was alone. He closed his eyes softly and slowly, trying to calm himself, but the images from the nightmare returned instantly and his eyes snapped open again.

He'd had nightmares before; they all had. When they'd started out as a group, none of them were used to being away from home, and the unfamiliar territory had taken its toll on them all. However, Nick had often felt that their bond was stronger because they'd been forced to turn to each other. In a way, they were family now. Over the years, the nightmares had subsided, only surfacing when they were particularly homesick or troubled. He'd definitely had his fair share.

He hadn't ever had a nightmare like that before.

He shook his head to clear it and rolled over until he was close to the edge of the bed. He sat up and put his feet on the floor, then pushed himself into a standing position. He winced as the room spun for a moment and frowned. Okay, I know I wasn't drinking last night...

At long last, his surroundings stilled and he moved sluggishly to the bathroom. He showered and dressed, grabbed his room key, and started to Kevin's room. The group had agreed to have breakfast together that morning, and one glance at his watch warned him that he was probably going to be the last one there. When he arrived at the door, he only had to knock once before the door opened and Kevin Richardson smiled warmly at him.

"Hey, man, come on in. We were about to come looking for you..."

Before he could say anything more, a raspy voice erupted from inside the suite. "Yo, Kaos, get in here! We're going to waste away waiting for your pretty ass to get up in the mornings, you know that?"

Nick suppressed a smile at the typical comment. He quickly stepped inside and let Kevin close the door behind him before finally acknowledging the tattooed man that was bouncing up and down in front of him.

"AJ, you take more time to primp than I do! At least I don't shave some mosaic on my face for half an hour only to fill it in with mascara..."

AJ McLean groaned aloud. "Oh, please, Carter. You put enough gel in your hair to keep my girlfriend happy for six months."

The two took one look at each other and burst out laughing as Nick moved to join AJ on the couch, taking the room service menu from the smaller man in the process. "So, what's for breakfast?"

Brian Littrell yawned loudly and stretched in the arm chair beside the couch. "Same as every other morning. Cereal for me and Kev..."

"'Cause you're cousins, right?" AJ interjected, and Brian shot him a glare.

"Well, maybe there won't be any breakfast for AJ..."

"AJ's hungry!"

Brian smirked at the man's frown of protest. "You're always hungry, Bone."

AJ winked and wiggled his eyebrows seductively. "Hungry for you, church boy..."

Howie Dorough winced from his spot on the opposite armchair and shuddered. "AJ, man, it's too early in the morning for you to be teasing Brian like that."

Kevin rolled his eyes and grabbed the menu from Nick, scanning over it quickly before tossing it onto the coffee table. "He shouldn't ever be teasing Brian like that." He looked at each Backstreet Boy in turn. "So, what are we ordering?"

They each shrugged and looked at each other before turning back to Kevin and reciting in perfect unison. "The usual."

"And a bottle of bourbon, baby!" AJ hooted.

The oldest Boy rolled his eyes and went into his room to order, leaving the other four to their own devices. Brian, Howie, and AJ immediately struck up a conversation, but Nick's brow furrowed as AJ's last comment rang in his ears.

Bottle of bourbon...why does that sound so familiar?

Immediately, the images of his nightmare came rushing back.

The label on the bottle. Oh my God...

He remembered feeling cold, surrounded by glass on all sides. Suddenly, he had been tipped sideways, taunted by a large throat, soft tongue, and monstrous teeth. In an instant, he had been sliding down the coarse throat, traveling through intestines, milling with the other contents of the stomach, and then swimming into the warm red of the bloodstream. Before he had known what had happened, he could see a woman before him. She had looked tortured and pained. Her breathing had been ragged, and her eyes had been wide with fright.

"Give me the bottle, dear. It'll be all right. If you go to bed, you can sleep this off in the morning, and..."


He remembered his heart hammering in his chest as he searched for the source of the voice. It had seemed to reverberate throughout his entire being, and he cringed when he realized that the words were slurred and the man was drunk. Before he could locate the voice, however, a large hand had reached out and slapped the woman in front of him. His own eyes had widened in horror at the sight of violence, and they had seemed to widen even more so when he had realized that the hand had appeared to come from him. Good God, I did not just hit that woman...

She had screamed in pain, and her hand had immediately flown to the reddening cheek. Her voice had trembled when she spoke to him. "Dear, please. Just put the bottle down and we'll go to bed..."

"I donwanna go to BED! Leave me the HELL alone!"

Before she could say anything else, the hand had reached out again to strike her down. This time, however, it had not stopped at a slap. He had been forced to watch in horror as the voice beat the woman senseless. With every connection his limb made with her body, a tiny noise had warned him of the damage done. When he lifted her limp form and threw her against the wall, however, he hadn't needed to hear the sickening thud to know that her head had hit first. The red blood that had spilled from her temple had been enough of a sign that she was near death.

An angrier, more ominous voice had echoed through his thoughts at that point.

<My work is done.>

He shuddered at the memory.

"Yo, Carter, are you actually planning on eating some time this century?"

Nick looked up in surprise to see that the food had already arrived, and the other four Boys had wasted no time in consuming their respective orders. AJ had asked him the last question with a mouthful of bacon, and Nick's shoulders relaxed with relief when he recognized his surroundings as Kevin's room. It was just a nightmare. No reason to freak out, right?

"Yeah, sorry man. I guess I spaced. I've just been really tired lately."

Howie smiled in understanding. "I know the feeling, Nicky."

Brian, however, studied his younger friend more closely and frowned in concern. "You sure you're all right? You look like you hardly slept a wink last night."

Nick offered a small smile. "I had a nightmare, actually. I'm blaming it on those screams I heard in the hall last night."

Kevin's brow furrowed, and his big eyebrows loomed more closely to his green eyes. "What screams in the hall last night?"

Nick's eyes widened in amazement. "You mean you didn't hear that blood-curdling scream around two o'clock this morning?"

Kevin gave a small chuckle. "Nick, man, no offense, but we were all pretty dead last night. Did some fans get up on this floor or something?"

Nick shook his head slowly. "I don't think they were fans. It sounded like some girl was in trouble, actually."

AJ swallowed a bite of eggs and frowned. "You sure it wasn't just some little girls that got out of control? I mean, we probably would've heard about it if someone was seriously hurt, don't you think?"

Nick nodded. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I mean, I was walking down the hallway and I heard this scream, then some girl walked out of the room and down the hall. I tried to call after her, but she..." He shook his head again, not wanting to admit to the others that she had vanished before his eyes. "She just kept going."

Howie shrugged. "Some girls are private like that. She probably saw a bug or something and wanted to go get one of the hotel employees to clean her room." He winked at his younger friend. "We are in the luxury section of the hotel, you know. I bet we're sharing the floor with a couple of rich snobs."

Nick did laugh at that and took a bite of his bagel. "Yeah, maybe so. I don't know; I was tired as it was, so I could've dreamed it up. It scared me enough to give me some pretty weird dreams, though."

Kevin looked at him with a paternally sympathetic expression. "We've got an hour or so today before the show where you could probably take a nap. It wouldn't kill you to get some extra rest, and I doubt you'll have any nightmares when the sun's still out."

AJ nodded. "Yeah, Kev's right. Nightmares definitely suck, but you don't even dream during a nap."

Nick laughed with them, trying to set aside the feeling of uneasiness in his stomach. He could feel Brian's gaze on him, and he knew that his best friend could see through the facade. Brian always knew when something was wrong, and Nick was usually comfortable telling him. He sighed heavily. Maybe I'll take some of that free time to talk to Brian about what I think I saw...

"Frack, you sure you're all right?"

Nick met Brian's inquisitive gaze and smiled at him. "Yeah, I'm cool. I'm just not totally awake yet. I'll be fine once I get some coffee and the day starts up."

They were done with breakfast shortly after, however, and the day began. The five Boys were escorted out of their hotel with their bodyguards and then led into a radio station where they were to do a courtesy interview to publicize the show. As the Boys joked around and answered the typical questions about boxers, briefs, and girlfriends, Nick soon forgot the nightmare and lost himself in the business of the afternoon.

* * * * *

It was late in the evening when the Boys finally returned to the hotel. Their supposed hour of break time had been cut short by an overly verbose reporter that just "had to have to entire scoop" during their interview. All of the Boys were completely exhausted by the day's events, and most had voiced their intentions to rest for the remaining half-hour of down time. Even Nick was exhausted, and he knew better than to exude too much energy before the show that night. The tour had been successful so far, and he intended for it to stay that way.

Despite their exhaustion, the group did stop briefly outside the entrance to the hotel to sign autographs for the fans. They stood in the sea of hands and flashes for minimal time, though, calling thanks and greeting before making their way into the lobby of the hotel. When the doors closed behind them and the screams could no longer be heard, Brian cast a tired smile in Nick's direction.

"Can you believe they have all that energy?"

Nick laughed. "Man, I have no idea where they get it. They've been out there all day."

"They're definitely dedicated," Brian agreed, and they shared a smile.

"Dedicated is probably an understatement," AJ muttered with a laugh. "Man, they were trying to steal my hat again! Did you see that?"

Howie rolled his eyes and tweaked AJ's hat to annoy him. He wrinkled his nose in disgust at the velvet cowboy hat. "I'm still trying to figure out why they'd want it. Your taste isn't exactly impeccable, Bone."

AJ's jaw dropped in protest. "I've got great taste! You're just boring, D."

Kevin's baritone voice broke through their playful argument. "Guys, can it. I'm too tired to listen to the two of you go at it for the entire ride up the elevator."

Nick was in the midst of stifling a triumphant smile when he felt someone bump into his right side. He fell back slightly from the force of the blow and shook his head quickly to clear it. He looked up quickly, hoping to apologize to whomever he'd managed to walk into, when he found himself lost in the most amazing pair of violet eyes that he'd ever seen. His eyes quickly scanned the thin, proportioned body to see pale skin, light brown hair that fell just inches above sloping shoulders, and full lips. The violet eyes burned knowingly into his, and his mind reeled with the sudden realization.

"You," he whispered, his eyes wide in surprise and fear. Before he could say anything more, she turned away from him and began walking towards the groups of fans outside the hotel. Nick tore away from the group immediately and walked just as quickly after her.

"Ma'am...listen, are you sure you're okay? Just let me talk to you for a sec. Last night, man, you scared me..."

Before he could catch up with her, the glass doors to the lobby had slid shut, and she was lost in the sea of fans. He turned to Billy, his bodyguard, in desperation.

"Billy, man, did you see that girl?"

Billy arched an eyebrow curiously at him. "Nick, dude, I think it's time for a nap, okay? I think you're hallucinating."

Nick rolled his eyes. "Come on, Bill, work with me. Did you see her or not?"

Billy sighed heavily. "Yeah, I saw her. I also saw her walk into the fans. There's no way you're going out to look for her."

Nick's eyes sparkled hopefully. "Maybe you could go get her for me? Just this once? Bill, I've got to make sure she's all right." He didn't dare mention that he had to satisfy his own curiosity. The woman had vanished into thin air--he was positive that things like that rarely happened, if ever.

Billy's eyes widened in amazement. "Are you nuts?! Kid, I'm not going to sift through that evil mass of teenyboppers to find some chick for you. Get into the elevator before they close the door, okay?"

Nick was about to plead further when he caught the warning glint in the burly man's eyes. With a sigh of defeat, he hung his head and went to join the others in the elevator. Billy wasn't far behind him, and soon they were on their way to the floor that the Boys had primarily reserved for their stay in the city.

As an afterthought, Nick shoved his hands in his pockets to avoid pouting. He frowned, however, when his fingers brushed across something coarse in his right coat pocket. Upon further examination, he noted that the object felt strangely similar to paper. Well, that's bizarre...

He parted ways with the Boys as soon as the door closed, agreeing amicably to be on time for the trip to the venue. After calling goodbyes to the rest of the bunch, he slid inside his hotel room and closed the door, eager to examine whatever object had found its way into his coat pocket. He pulled it out carefully, and his brow furrowed when he noticed that it was, indeed, a slip of paper. A coaster, to be more precise. He noticed that it bore the logo of the bar adjacent to the lobby of the hotel and flipped it over incuriosity. In slanted, capital letters, someone had scribbled a message:


The note gave no clues as to who might have sent the message, but his sudden run-in with the brunette from the night before flashed through his mind, and Nick smiled slowly.

He couldn't go after her, but she had found him. And, with any luck, she might have the answers he was looking for.