It's been almost 6 months since Dottie flew to New York to tell Nick she loves him. Since then, life seems to be more beautiful to her. Not long after that, Nick, Brian, AJ and Howie had convinced her to take over running their day to day lives again.
She takes care of doctor's appointments, travel plans for family members, dry cleaning, everything. And being honest with herself, she loves it. The best part of it is she gets to travel with Nick. They get to be together all the time.
Sometimes she still can't believe she's with Nick. Almost a year ago, she got out of prison. She had spent a year being incarcerated for stealing from the Backstreet Boys. Her boss, of all people, had set her up. He's now serving a 4-year prison term for embezzlement and perjury. Nick always said he should get life for the suffering he put Dottie through. If he only knew.
Some of her happiness evaporates when she thinks about the past. Everyone thinks she's over it. That she's let it go and moved on. Even her best friend Amy thinks so. But she's so wrapped up in Brian and their budding relationship she hasn't seen the shadows that creep into Dottie's eyes sometimes.
Closing her eyes, Dottie tries to push thoughts of prison away. She learned how to meditate in prison, but it doesn't always help now. In prison she was surrounded by so much bad stuff, it made her bitter. Meditation was an escape. She's not bitter now. She's surrounded by laughter and love and the most important people in her life. When thoughts of prison life creep back in, she ends up having panic attacks that she's managed to keep hidden. The last thing she wants or needs is everyone hovering because they are worried.
Hearing laughter outside the bus, she opens her eyes, smiling when she sees Nick and AJ coming across the parking lot, play fighting. She smiles as she watches them, some of the tension from her earlier thoughts leaving her shoulders. She knows they can't see her. Nick had figured out early on that claustrophobia was one of the side-effects of her incarceration. She can't stand feeling boxed in anywhere. So he had blacked out all the windows on the bus and had the blinds removed, making it more open. They can see out, but the world can't see in.
It helped so much during the day but sometimes at night, it still bothers her. She tries not to let Nick see it, but sometimes he does. These are the times he distracts her with his kisses and caresses.
Pushing everything else from her mind as they close in on the bus, she turns back to Brian's schedule and confirms his reservation by email. He had come to her earlier asking if she could help him plan a romantic evening with Amy on their next day off. Dinner, dancing, the whole deal. She was glad to do it. Amy's been Dottie's rock through it all. Knowing her best friend is falling in love with Nick's best friend somehow seems poetic.
When AJ and Nick climb onto the bus, she looks up at them with a smile. Nick drops down beside her and says, "Hey Sweetheart, what are you up to?" He kisses her cheek and nuzzles her ear, eliciting a giggle from within her.
She says, "Helping Brian. What have you two been doing?"
AJ says, "Playing ping pong. I love it when the arenas have games in our dressing rooms."
She laughs and says, "Who won?"
AJ says, "Neither of us. Brian and Howie kept butting in."
She laughs and says, "I thought you guys were all about golf. Never knew ping pong ranked on your fun things to do list. What else do you like?"
Nick looks at her and says, "You're behind the games being in our dressing rooms, huh?"
She looks at him and bats her eyes, saying, "What makes you say that?"
AJ says, "Come on, D, you behind all our fun?"
She says, "I look at it as keeping you relaxed and focused."
Nick puts his arm around her and says, "This is why we can't live without you."
She says, "You can't live without me because I have ping pong in your dressing room?"
Her smile let's Nick know she's teasing him. He says, "That and pinball."
She laughs and says, "I'll look into that."
AJ says, "What's the deal with Brian? What's he got going on?"
She says, "He wants to do something special for Amy on your next night off. I was making reservations for him."
AJ says, "Do you ever get tired of dealing with all our shit?"
She laughs and says, "No, AJ, I love it. I like taking care of you."
He leans across the table and kisses my cheek and says, "You're the best. I'm so fucking glad you're back." When Dottie blushes, he says, "I'm going to go up to the fence and meet the fans. I'll see you guys later."
After he leaves, Nick says, "Can I make a request?"
She says, "Sure, how can I help you Mr. Carter?"
He chuckles and says, "Can you work it out that my girlfriend is off the weekend we are off when we're in LA?"
Opening the calendar on the computer to check their schedule, she says, "That's in a week and a half. I think I can do that. What did you have in mind? Need me to make reservations."
He says, "Oh, no. This one I'm planning all by myself. I don't want the information to leak out."
She laughs and says, "Well, if you need help, I'm always here."
He says, "What I need is to kiss my girlfriend. Is that unprofessional?"
Closing her laptop, she says, "Not while she's on her break."
He gently wraps his arm around her, pulling her against his body and covering her lips with his. He teases her lips open with his tongue, gently probing her mouth until their tongues are circling each other. Her hand slides up to his neck as she presses her body more firmly against his, aching to be all wrapped up in his arms.
When her lips leave his, she nuzzles his neck. He holds her as close as he can and says, "Did I tell you I love you today?"
She says, "You've mentioned it a time or two. Did I tell you I love you too?"
He says, "Oh yeah. I got that loud and clear, but feel free to remind me often. I love hearing you say it."
She says, "I do love you Nicky. More than I ever thought I'd love anyone."
He glances at her watch and says, "What if we spend the hour before sound check cuddling? Do you think that would get you in trouble with your boss?"
She laughs and says, "Nah, he's a good man. I think he'd understand."
Nick takes her hand and leads her to the back of the bus. They fall across the bed in each other's arms, continuing to kiss each other deeply and sensually. But it doesn't go any further than that. Contrary to popular opinion on the tour, they have not had sex. It's not because of lack of desire. They both want each other more than anything. But Nick's afraid of pushing her into something she may not be ready for and Dottie's afraid she won't be able to please him. They have talked about it and decided when the time is right, they will make love. For now, she shares his bus, his bed and his life. They are the two halves that make up the whole. For now, just being together is enough. They are happy.