This installment is almost exclusively all-Joel. Believe me when I say it's necessary for the further development of the's heading to a bigger climax.

Disclaimer: I don't need a disclaimer for this one, I think. There's no Justin in it at all, or in fact any reference to anyone famous.

    DaraLynn has come out with the final part of her trilogy, it's called Chosen Road and you can find it under the Any Path directory. It's promises to be so good I could cry, but don't believe me, just go and read it for yourself. Incidentally, she also has a Dear Diary entry. You know what they say--great minds think alike... For Joey stories, it has to be Warmest Eyes by Scott, or Superman Can't Fly by Dayse.

    And I think I can finally start dedicating my stories to people. This one's for all my friends who are reading this: Lio, Sam--I trust you read and approve? And also to Patti, and her friend...let's hope your friend finds the happiness and the guy she deserves.

    As usual, if you don't write to me, I won't know if anybody thinks if it's a good story or not, since I can't trust my sycophantic friends (OoOoo I am so dead!) to tell me honestly. Please, you don't have to write a letter, just typing a single sentence and sending it to Will at will guarantee making my day.


Dear Diary,

    At last my finals are over. I thought I'd never make it, especially after what happened with--Him-- two months ago. But I think I pulled through, just barely. I thank God a million times for putting Katharine Richardson on this earth! Without her...I shudder to think what might have become of myself.

    Which is why I'm in New York. She's got a job here, and I'm thinking of moving here too. It's a great city...always on the go, so full of life. I'll be spending time with her a while before heading back for graduation. She's taking me on a night on the town--a mixed gay-straight singles bar, I think she said. I'm not sure if I'm up to it though. I mean, just looking at any slim blond guy still gets me thinking about what I can never have, and it fucking sucks.

    Still, I have to get over--Him--even if it's the last thing I do. Which probably will be, since I'm so lame, carrying a torch for him till the day my life is through--arggh corny ol' me!

    Kate pounded at the door. "Jojo, you ready yet?" she called out.

    Joel marked the page on his diary and carefully slid it out of sight before bounding out of the bed and opening the door.

    She was fixing her earrings, her long brown hair carefully brushed. "Come on, J," she said. "The cab's already waiting downstairs. You look fabulous," she added as an afterthought.

    "Yes, and your tits look very nice as well, hanging out of your dress like that," he replied politely, and was rewarded by stiletto heels stomping upon his foot. It was true, though. Her chest was Kate's best asset, and she knew it, and boy did she abuse that fact. She was wearing what might have once been intended as a conservative little black dress, but Joel strongly doubted Dolce & Gabbanna ever intended it to be worn quite so...revealingly.

    Nevertheless, he followed her down, where they were soon speeding towards their destination.


    "You said it was a bar," he fumed at her, looking at the place, loud music blaring from its doors. "You didn't say anything about a dance floor!"

    "I'm sorry, J. It must have slipped my mind," she murmured without a trace of apology in her voice. She headed in, and all Joel could do was follow her.

    It wasn't as if Joel had anything against dancing, or clubbing in general. It just reminded him of all the times he and Justin used to go clubbing together, and more importantly, it pained him to recall how sexy and smoothly Justin used to move when grooving. Especially at concerts or his music videos on MTV. Which, of course, was another thing Joel had given up as well.

    And now he was surrounded on all sides by the deep bass throbs and hordes of people. He had to admit it, though--he'd missed it. And the crowds, of course. His gaydar beeped incessantly everywhere he looked. Definitely a mixed crowd. I belong here, he realised, and started to relax.

    Kate got them a seat at the bar, and for a while they just sat and watched the beautiful men and women pass by or gyrate their bodies to the beat. Joel even started nodding his head and tapping his foot to the music. And also wiggle his ass a bit, although Kate kept this to herself with a smile.

    "What are you grinning at, woman?" he said to her, catching her sly smile.

    "The attention you're getting!" she replied, indicating a group of young smartly-dressed guys at another table, some of whom were looking in Joel's direction and smiling. Joel threw them a quick look and blushed predictably, looking away just as quickly. As long as all they did was look, Joel was fine. He tended to shrivel up when they opened their mouths and said something to him.

    "Hey man," he turned in his seat to see a balding, middle-aged man lurching over him, cigarette in one hand and the other tucked into his belt-loops. "My friends and I, we're havin' a little talk y'know?"

    Joel just stared dumbly at him, shocked that someone would actually approach him. "Y-yeah?" he squeaked.

    "Y'see, we couldn't quite place yuh," he went on, leaning slowly closer until Joel could smell the reek of whiskey on him.

    "Place me?" Joel tried not to breathe too much.

    "Uh-huh," the man drawled, looking very pleased with himself. "Bottom or top, man. bottom or top."

    Joel's eyes widened in shock and horror, or possibly a mixture of both. Omigodomigodomigod. Is this guy for real? He glanced pleadingly at Kate.

    She had leant away from him, a hand over her mouth, no doubt to stifle her laughter. She did, however, catch his look, and bent over his face. With one smooth motion, she pulled his face to her lips and kissed him passionately, pressing her body against his, running her fingers through his black hair sensuously.

    Joel couldn't do anything except sit and get ravished by her. He didn't mind it much, although it had been years since he'd kissed a girl, and never Kate. It's not all that different from Justin's, he mused. Only softer, and fuller, and--lipstick! Ew.

    He finally managed to push her off--or more likely, Kate decided to let him go. the drunkard was nowhere to be seen, thank god.

    He wiped his lips with his sleeve and threw Kate a scathing look. "Thanks for the save, but don't you think it was a little overdone?" he asked bitingly.

    "Well, Mr. Ungrateful, maybe next time you can use your amazing powers of persuasion to talk yourself out of sleazeball-situations on your own," she shot back. He made a face at her. She knew that he always, always went to pieces when talking to strangers at bars.

    "I'm going to the women's for a while," his partner announced, grabbing her handbag. Noting the wild look in his eyes, she patted his arm encouragingly. "I'll only be a while. Turn around and stare at the bartender instead--you'll be less of a target. Maybe." Laughing, she walked away.

    Joel turned around obediently and faced the bar. She probably has to go push in her boobs or something, he remarked sourly. He was still stung at her extreme way of getting rid of the guy, and also at being abandoned, even if to answer nature's call.

    He would never do that. He'd never leave me alone and afraid. He's--arrgh. I'm so useless, he thought sadly as he nursed his vodka lime. I was never in a relationship and yet I'm acting like we broke up. Joel sank into a blue funk. He didn't even realise it when someone slid into Kate's seat.

    "Excuse me, is this seat taken?" a deeper, not-unpleasant voice asked him. Joel roused himself to look up and see the speaker. It turned out to be one of the yuppie-wannabes who were checking him out earlier. He wasn't bad at all--Joel's type, actually. Sandy, brown hair falling to either side of his cute-ish face, intelligent brown eyes hidden behind a pair of glasses. The bookish type.

    "Well, uh, yes, it is a-actually," Joel stammered automatically. Then he watched, surprised, as the man's face fell, and mumbled an apology before starting to turn away. Oh my god that was a pick-up line, you nitwit!

    Thinking quickly, Joel called out to him. "Wait!" 

    The man turned, puzzled. Joel gestured hesitantly at the seat on his other side. "But this seat isn't," he said shyly.

    The guy smiled suddenly, and Joel felt a sudden surge of warmth in his heart. Wow. He's got an amazing smile, he noted. He took the seat and stuck his hand out to Joel.

    "Hi. I'm Nicky," he said simply. "Can I, um, get to know you?"

    Joel was struck by his sincerity and frankness even as he accepted the guy's firm handshake. "Joel here. What, no more funny pick-up lines?" he teased gently, a twinkle in his eye. He was growing more confident by the second.

    Nicky chuckled, pushing a stray lock of hair away from his eyes. Somehow that single act endeared Nicky to Joel even more. 

    "Umm...actually this is my first time approaching another guy at a place like this, he admitted," relaxing a little himself.

    "Well, for what it's worth, this is the first time I've let someone approach me," answered Joel.

    "Okay, fair enough." There was that smile again. "Is this your first visit here?"

    "Yeah, it is, to this place...heck, it's my first time in New York..."

    They continued talking for some length. As they began to warm to each other, Joel didn't even notice that Kate was missing until she came back for her drink, all flushed.

    "Hey, J, who's your friend?" she asked, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

    "Kate! You're back! Where have you been?" Joel demanded, suddenly realising how long she'd been away.

    Kate shrugged. "I came back and saw you chatting so nicely with your cute friend so I decided to hit the dance floor. And will you mind your manners and introduce me already?"

    Both the guys blushed; Nicky at the cute reference and Joel at being admonished.

    "Sorry. Kate, I'd like you to meet Nicky. He's an entertainment lawyer at MTV. Nicky," he took Kate's arm affectionately. "This is Kate, my best friend in the whole wide world. Just best friends," he added hastily, in case the other guy was thinking something else.

    "Yeah, you told me, remember? She's why you came all the way to New York. You're very pretty, ma'am," this he addressed to Kate. She giggled girlishly.

    "Ooh I like this one, Joel," she informed him. "He just ma'am-ed me!"

    "You're such a sucker, Kate."

    Just then, Madison Avenue's "Who The Hell Are You" began to pound its beat across the club.

    "Oh my god I have to dance to this. You guys coming?"

    Joel glanced at Nicky, who looked doubtful. "I'm a pretty horrible dancer..."

    "Never mind, Joel sucks as well," Joel shot a death stare at Kate but she only continued, "So you'll have company if you feel embarrassed. C'mon."

    So they ended up on the dance floor with the rest of the churning bodies. To Nicky's surprise, not only did Joel not suck, he was pretty slick with his moves, dancing sensuously with Kate whenever they felt playful. Joel, however did take note that Nicky was quite truthful about his dancing--he truly sucked. But the way he threw himself into it, the wild abandon he felt coming from Nicky, made Joel realise that the young lawyer danced for the most real reason of all--because it made him feel good.

    "How do you dance so well?" yelled Nicky over the music.

    "What?" Joel shouted back. They were right under the speakers. Nicky just grabbed him and pulled him close till his mouth was near Joel's ear. All of a sudden Joel felt very self conscious about the heat radiating off Nicky's body.

    "I said, how do you dance so well?" he repeated right into Joel's ear. Feeling a bit daring--this was supposed to be a half-gay nightclub after all--he turned and put his face closer to Nicky's.

    "I'll show you," was all he said. His hands slid down to Nicky's hips, resting lightly on the fabric of his slacks. "You just have to--loosen your hips a little," he said a little breathlessly as he felt Nicky tense involuntarily. The warmth he was feeling just now was even more palpable--not just warmth, but also the scent of his cologne, his perspiration, his clothes. He began to sway to the music, gently pressing Nicky's hips to guide him.

    "That's it--that's good! You learn quickly," Joel praised after a while.

    "That's because I have a wonderful--and hot--tutor," said Nicky. Joel, who had been looking down all this while, glanced up at Nicky, seeing the naked, open attraction in the latter's brown eyes.

    Suddenly, all of Joel's former boldness left him. He released his hold on Nicky, not wanting to dance anymore. He felt very strange after seeing that look on his face. He stumbled away from the dance floor.

    Nicky caught up with him halfway to the bar, catching his arm. Instinctively, Joel pulled away from him, wincing as he saw the hurt and confusion in the other man's eyes.

    "Joel--did I do something wrong? Was it something I said? I mean, after what you were doing, I thought that--" he fell silent, pushing his glasses up his nose with a finger, looking for all the world like an itinerant schoolboy.

    Joel sighed, realising his screw-up. I gave him all the vibes and led him on, then i ran out on him. "Gosh, no, Nicky. You were wonderful It's not you--it's me."

    "Yeah, that's what they all say," he muttered darkly, beginning to realise it wasn't his fault after all.

    "I think--I think I should explain some things to you about myself. That is, if you're still interested in me--I mean, in getting to know me," Joel blushed at his faux pas. That broke the tension between them, and earned him a small smile from Nicky. They found a quiet (or relatively so) spot in a corner and sat down.

    "I've just--" Joel began to say before he thought better of it. How to explain to him about a devastating relationship that never was? It really sounded silly now, out in the open. He looked at Nicky who was waiting with an expectant air. "In my past--my recent past, I...made some mistakes and ended up...hurting myself," he said slowly. "And after what happened just now, I just...I don't know. I just feel afraid I might repeat them," Joel looked down. Oh man, I've never been this honest with myself before. Oh wait. Why should Nicky care? I mean, if he's only looking for one thing..."And quick fucks are one of the mistakes I made too," he added, a trifle harshly.

    "Joel," Nicky hesitated, before laying a comforting hand on Joel's shoulder. "I just want you to know that i really really respect you for what you just did. I know not many men in this world would have been as forthright and honest as you. I've done some pretty regrettable stuff in my time too, but I think that...moving on is part of what life's all about. And yes, I agree with you on the...quick fucks thing. I assure you, I'm not into that."

    Joel was nodding even as Nicky finished his speech. He took the latter's hand from his shoulder and held it in his own. "Thanks for your understanding," he said, smiling.

    Nicky squeezed his hand in answer. "I'm glad I met you, Joel."

    "And I'm glad you picked me up, Nicky," laughed Joel. Grinning, Nicky removed a card from his pants pocket and handed it to Justin.

    "This is my business card. Do-do you have--I mean, could I have--" he stuttered.

    "My number? Here let me put it in your cellphone for you," he took Nicky's phone and saved his number in the phonebook. "Let me guess--asking for a guy's number--"

    "--is another first for me, yes," said Nicky, relieved.

    "Well, at least you have the guts to do it. I'd never have the nerve to approach someone..."

    "Well, now that I've found you, you don't have to, anymore!"

    "Oh, cocky, are we?" Both of them laughed.

    "Umm...I think I have to go now. My friends are probably waiting for me outside," said Nicky. But his hands were still glued to Joel's, as if to drop them was to lose him forever.

    Finally it was Joel who extricated himself. "Go on, then. I'll talk to you--tomorrow?"

    Nicky nodded vehemently. "Yes. Yes! Tomorrow, definitely. And say goodbye to Kate for me, too," Joel just smiled at his goofiness and nodded.

    He sat back down as Nicky left, smiling encouragingly now and then whenever he turned back to look at Joel. He didn't feel much like analysing his feelings right now. Joel was just content to revel in that fact that someone was interested in him, and even more surprisingly, the fact that he might be interested in someone too.

    And that was how Kate found him later--smiling stupidly into thin air.


    In fact, he spent much of the next few days with the same goofy grin  plastered on his face, it just seemed to get wider and bigger every time he spoke to Nicky or met him, which steadily became more and more often in the next couple of weeks of Joel's holiday.

    "Well, it's kinda 'coz I'm still a Junior in my department," Nicky explained one late night at his cramped but cozy, one-bedroom apartment. He was explaining why he seemed to have so much free time while other fresh law graduates were busting their asses off. "I'm just learning the ropes, so to speak, so I don't get much responsibility, and hence, overtime."

    Joel merely nodded. He'd been hearing a lot about Nicky's life in the days they had spent together. Nicholas McKenzie was just about as normal a guy as one could get in New York. Standard middle-class upbringing and education, discovering being gay in college (a favourite place to discover one's sexuality, Joel noticed), falling in and out of love. So normal. So safe. Joel wondered how he'd perform in bed. Would he be normal? Or safe? He giggled at his own naughty thoughts. How far he'd come in just two weeks. Before meeting Nicky he hadn't so much as glanced sideways at another man. And here he was now, wondering how well Nicky would dance the bedroom bop. Hopefully not anything like his club-dancing.

    "You're not listening to me anymore are you?" asked Nicky curiously, without any trace of anger or irritation. That was Nicky for willing to forgive, so unassuming and low-key.

    Joel felt bold. He gave Nicky a vicious grin. "Nope. 'Coz I was trying to imagine you without your shirt off."

    Stunned silence followed his last statement. Have I gone too far? Joel wondered.

    "Well, why didn't you just ask then," said Nicky huskily, in a low tone. He hadn't shifted his position at all, with his hand thrown casually over the back of the couch. But his whole poise suddenly exuded a very different feeling now.

    To his own surprise, Joel found that he wanted this to happen. He wanted this man, this Nicky, in a way he thought he'd feel for only one other person in the world. Joel moved close, very close, to where Nicky was watching him intently, looking deeply into each other's eyes.

    Their lips were barely inches apart when Nicky whispered to him, "Do we really want this?"

    "Is there a we?"

    In response, Nicky merely bent forward and placed his lips on Joel's. The kiss they shared was tender, and--dare he say it? Loving. Tongues met hesitantly, then with growing confidence, explored each other's mouths. A part of Joel's mind groaned with satisfaction of finally being able to be intimate with another man since--

    He pulled away from Nicky. My gosh, what would Justin think of this! He suddenly felt like he was cheating on Justin, irrational though it may be.

    "Uhm, I've been wanting to do that ever since--" he caught the look on Joel's face. "What's wrong, Joel? Oh god, was it me? Was it my kissing--?"

    That broke the spell. Joel felt disgusted at himself for even thinking of it. I'll bet he doesn't think of me at all when he--when he does anything like this! He looked at the person before him, the sweetest guy anyone could ask for, and he thought how lucky he was to find someone like him. Justin doesn't even deserve to be thought of in Nicky's presence. He smiled reassuringly at the distraught lawyer, and gently removed his glasses.

    "Of course not Nicky. I loved your kiss," he watched as Nicky's face creased to relief. "I'm sorry to have spoiled the mood."

    "Oh, I wouldn't say it's been completely spoiled," growled Nicky. He leaned forward and spoke into Joel's ear. "There are other things I've been dying to do ever since I met you."

    Joel felt a delicious shudder run down his spine at Nicky's words. He'd been pretty aggressive by his standards so far, but now he merely allowed himself to be led by Nicky's hand, into the bedroom, their eyes never breaking contact.


    "Move in with me," asked Nicky as he stroked his lover's bare arms with one languid hand, propping himself up with the other, gazing at Joel's soft features. Joel lay before him, both hands under his head, staring dreamily at his newfound boyfriend. He'd earlier told Nicky about shifting to New York to be with Kate, but this was happening very fast.

    "I know we may be moving too quickly on this but--I think it's the right step to may be the only way to make our relationship work properly," he explained further. Joel just stared into his chest, now absently running his fingers over the scattered brown hair there.

    "I won't lie to you, Nicky," he said finally, his voice hoarse with emotion. "I'm still not sure about it, but...I'm willing to try. Anything to," he told him with a smile, and was answered by another gentle, loving--definitely loving--kiss.

    "And yes, there is a we. For sure."

    I had to rush this a bit to post it tonight, I hope it doesn't feel rushed, though. It's all Joel, I know, but I PROMISE that from the next chapter onwards, it'll be Justin all the way. So far, if you've noticed, things have been told by Joel's POV, and I plan to change that. This is in the boyband archive after all.   

    By the way, this will be the last chapter I'm posting daily. I have only plotted the rest of the story but it's not actually written out. Don't you worry, it'll be ready in a couple of days. I'm very, very free these days...

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