There was a knock on the dressing room door. "I got it!" Lance said as he jumped up and headed to open it.
The rest of the guys were scattered around the room in various stages of readiness. JC and Justin were having their stage make-up applied, while Joey and Chris sat on the couch wrestling over the remote for the entertainment system. Opening the door slightly, Lance found Lew standing on the other side. His face lit up as his jaw dropped in surprise. Lew smiled, putting his finger over his lips, silently telling Lance to not let the others know he was there. Lance grinned and nodded, stepping aside to let him enter. Noticing Lance returning to his seat, Joey and Chris paused their miniwar long enough to see who was at the door. They both smiled as they watched Lew stroll over to the make-up table, careful to take a path avoiding the view of the mirrors. Lew stood stroking the hair of his goatee as he cocked his head to the side, saying, "You know, if I were them, I think I'd just give up ... you two are hopeless!"
Surprised, JC and Justin spun in their seats. Seeing Lew, Justin hopped out of his seat and ran to give him a hug, almost bowling over the make-up girl in the process. JC had slightly more tact as he smiled and offered his hand, waiting until his make-up was completed to get his hug. "What are you doin' here, man?" JC asked.
"Well, I was in town, well close, at JPL and thought I'd pay you guys a visit."
"Oh kewl!" JC said sinking onto the couch and shoving Joey toward the make-up table. Chris followed Joey, but paused to slug Lew in the arm. "Hey what'd you hit him for?" JC asked.
"I owed him for scarin' the shit outta me the other day!"
"How could you owe him from the other day?" Justin asked, sitting down beside JC. "When did you talk to him?"
Joey told them about seeing Lew online a few days earlier and how he'd scared Chris. "Yeah, how the hell was I supposed to know who 'Duckling3' was?" Chris asked. Lance thought about what Chris said for a minute, then burst out laughing. "What?" Chris asked.
"Nothin', that was just funny," Lance said. "Good one, Lew!"
"Why ... thank you!"
"Huh?" Chris said. "What's so funny about that?"
"Yeah, I don't think I get what's so funny either," Justin said.
"It's the perfect screen name!" Lance laughed.
"Think Donald and Scrooge," Joey told him.
Justin shook his head as JC started laughing, then his face broke into a smile as he said, "OH! I get it now!" They all started laughing again.
Chris sighed. "Okay, does somebody wanna toss me a clue here?"
"Uncle Scrooge!" Justin said in his best Duck Tales voice. Chris was still looking lost.
"The nephews, Chris," JC offered.
"Huey," Lance said.
"Dewy," Joey offered.
"And?" Justin said, pressing Chris for an answer.
Chris sat and thought a minute, his face scrunched, "Awwwww! And Louie! Shit!"
They all laughed at his reaction and Lew said, "Don't you guys have a show to do or something?"
"Yeah, they should be coming to get us in a," Lance was interrupted by a knock at the door and someone yelling that it was time to head out, "minute ... or maybe sooner?" They all laughed again.
"I can't believe that you haven't seen this tour yet and it's almost over!" Justin said as they all started out of the room.
"Well, I was either too busy or out of town whenever you were in town."
"Yeah, well at least you made it finally," JC said.
They led Lew to a spot where he could watch the show from the wings. He wished them a good show then sat back as they did their thing.
Just before the concert ended, a member of the guys' security team came out, collected Lew, and took him out to the buses. Joey's brother Steve was waiting just outside the door to the lead bus, the one the guys would be jumping onto. "I'm kinda glad you're here tonight," Steve said as Lew walked up, "normally I'm stuck in there for a lot longer supervising the break down for the video booth, but tonight I get to leave with the guys."
"I see you have your little friend there," Lew said as he pointed to the camcorder in Steve's hand.
"Always! You never know what those guys might do, and I don't want to miss anything," he said with a evil little grin.
"Why do I get the feeling that the guys end up not appreciating most of your videography skills?"
"Aw, now why would you say that?" Steve laughed.
They were interrupted by a squad of security officers running out the doors of the venue, passing word that the guys were on their way. One by one the guys ran out the doors racing towards the lead bus.
Suddenly there was a screamed "Shit!" and Steve got just what he had been hoping to get, a shot of the guys in a particularly funny predicament. Steve had to choose between holding the camera and holding his ribs.
"Oh man, that is too good!" Steve shouted towards the guys who promptly replied, "SHUT UP!"
Lew couldn't help but laugh. "Only you guys could have pulled that one off!"
"We don't need you adding your two cents worth," Chris said as he limped on board the bus. "Just for that, I should punch you again!"
"Come on, Chris," Justin said, following Chris up the bus steps, "it might have hurt like hell, but it was funny!"
"You can turn the camera off anytime, bro," Joey said passing Steve and attempting to take the camera out of his hands.
"No way! Don't wanna miss any of this!"
"Could you two stop wrestling with the camera on the steps?" JC said, trying to get by them. "Yeah, Lew ... they're just big kids and I'm the baby-sitter."
"Are not!" was chorused by the two 'children' as Joey gave up and climbed on board.
"Of course, you always see us at our best," JC said.
"Don't worry about it, Josh," Lew said. "It's not like I haven't seen you and Justin wrestling around on the floor a time or two."
Coming up at the tail end of the conversation, Lance said, "Not that I don't find this astoundingly interesting, but could we please get on board, my butt hurts!"
On the way back to the hotel, the subject turned to plans for the rest of the evening. Since this was their last night in LA, the guys decided that a night out on the town might be fun. With their next concert two days away, they would have more than enough time to make the two and a half hour drive to San Diego in the morning, with plenty of time to get settled in and even time to relax.
As the bus pulled up to the rear entrance of the hotel, it was decided by the majority that Steve and Joey's camera would not be accompanying them to the club. JC was elected to take it into 'protective custody' and place it in his room for the evening. They all went to their rooms and changed for the night out, then met in the lobby for the limo to take them to the club.
"So, what are you doing now, Lew?" Justin asked. "Are you staying in LA, or are you ready to go home?"
"Nah, I'm all done here," Lew replied. "I'm headin' out as soon as I make the arrangements. I left the return flight open since I didn't know if I'd be able to catch you or not."
"Do you have to leave right away?" Justin asked him with a puppy dog look.
"I don't guess ... why?"
"You know, I've heard San Diego is nice this time of year," JC suggested.
"Are you two implying something?" Lew asked them with a grin.
"No, the two dumb-asses are transparently asking you to come with us!" Chris said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh, well then, since you put it so ... eloquently, how ever could I refuse?" Lew laughed. Just then, the doorman told them that their limo had pulled up outside; so they started out for the club.
The club was fairly nondescript ... much like a thousand others that they'd been to before. Joey and Chris loved it, of course, but then they could have a great time with a jukebox in an empty diner, given the right musical selection. It was a bit too smoky for JC's liking, within an hour he had a headache and was ready to leave. Chris, Joey, and Steve started to protest until Lance reminded them that they were getting up early to head out so that they could have most of the next day free.
Once they got back to the hotel, they decided to grab a bite to eat before heading upstairs. JC, however, decided that he was in need of a second shower to get rid of the smell of the smoke that clung to him. He excused himself and headed up to his room, while the others filed into the hotel's twenty-four hour bar and lounge.
"Lew, if you're gonna go with us, you could stay here for the night," Justin said once they were seated at a table, "that way you don't have to get up so early to get here."
"Ya know, I hadn't actually thought about it."
"It would probably make things easier on ya," Lance suggested. "We could send someone over to pick up your stuff from your other hotel, too."
"Well, yeah, now that you mention it, that would probably be a better idea."
Lew gave Lance all of the necessary details, then Lance called someone to make the arrangements. They ate and talked for a while longer then headed up to their respective rooms. Once in the hallway on their floor, Lew stopped in the middle and looked around.
"What's wrong?" Joey asked him.
"Well you guys talked me into staying ... but ... where'm I gonna sleep?" Lew said laughing.
"Good question!" Lance said joining in the laughter.
"Don't worry you can stay in my room," Justin offered, "the rest of 'em snore anyway!"
"We do not!" came a chorus of objections.
"Go to bed!" Lew laughed, following Justin into his room. Once inside, Justin turned on the lights and excused himself to the restroom. Lew looked around the room. In the five or more years that Lew had known Justin, his cleanliness habits hadn't changed all that much, his room was as messy as ever. Lew laughed as he noticed a picture which had fallen off the wall. "Damn, Justin, you're getting to be more like those wild rock stars everyday!"
"What?" Justin asked emerging from the bathroom.
"You graduating to destroying rooms now?" Lew laughed, pointing to the picture on the floor.
"Hmm ... don't know how that happened," Justin told him. "I don't remember it being off the wall when I left this morning? Oh, well!" he said picking it up and replacing it on the wall. "Maybe Josh did it ... his rooms on the other side of the wall," Justin laughed.
"Are you okay, Jus?" Lew asked as Justin turned.
"Yeah sure ... why?"
"I don't know ... it's just that you've been acting funny," Lew told him. "Well not really funny, but like you have something on your mind."
Justin shook his head, "Am I that transparent?"
"Well, just to someone who really knows you," Lew said with a smile. "So, what's botherin' ya?"
"I dunno, it's nothin' really. I just have my ups and downs, and I guess this is a down time," Justin told him with a half hearted laugh. Lew smiled and patted the seat beside him. Sitting down, Justin continued, "I know it sounds dumb. To most people I guess I have it all ... and I guess I do, but sometimes...." Justin frowned and drifted off. "I mean I see the others guys, Josh with Melissa, Chris with Dani, and they're so happy together. Then I walk out and there's this huge crowd of girls all yelling for me ... and holding up signs saying they wanna marry me and stuff." Justin sighed, "Ya know, if they really knew me at all, they'd know they're not exactly my type!"
Lew gave him a reassuring smile. "Do you still miss Jay?"
Justin wrinkled his nose. "Not like you might think. I'm long over Jay. I mean, sure, I miss the relationship, the closeness I thought we felt, but the way he ended it.... You know he says he was never even bi in the first place?" Lew gave him a disbelieving look. "Yeah, after his mom freaked out, he told her he was never even bi, just confused. What the hell does that say about what we had?"
"Oh man, Jus, I'm sorry."
"Nah, it hurt like hell at first ... well it still does sometimes ... but I've dealt with it. He's just not worth it. I just have my moments when I wonder if I'll ever find anyone else."
"Aw, Jus, you will. You see all the girls out there waving those signs ... there's probably a bunch of guys lined up behind them that you just can't see for the signs."
Justin laughed, "You know we have had a few guys actually come up at meet and greets. You just knew they were interested. Of course, there was no way to show 'em that I was interested, too."
"Well you could've."
"Oh yeah! I could just see management now! 'What the HELL did you think you were doin'?' Oh man. Well I think I'm ready for bed, how 'bout you?"
"Yeah, sounds good to me, we gotta get up pretty early in the morning."
"You're not gonna have a problem sleepin' in the same bed with a gay blonde guy, are ya?"
"Well, first, you're not really a blonde," Lew laughed. "And second, if I had a dollar for every time I've dreamt of that scenario, I'd be a very rich man!"
Justin stared back at him with a shocked expression, "Now that was not exactly the answer I was expecting!"
Lew laughed at the look on his face, "You mean to tell me that in all the years you've know me, you didn't know that I was bi?"
"Well ... yeah ... but you've never actually talked with me about sex before," Justin said laughing. "I guess I just wasn't expecting it!"
"Well, it was never quite appropriate," Lew told him. "You were either too young ... or you were one of my students ... or something like that and ... well it just never came up."
Justin laughed again, "I guess you're right ... I'm kinda glad it did now, though. I mean, I could talk to Lance I guess ... but he's got his own stuff to deal with. It's just good to have someone to talk to, ya know?"
"Yeah, I can imagine, and a fresh perspective is always good. So, I guess the question now is, are you gonna have a problem sleeping with an older bi guy?" Lew said with a grin.
"Nah, you just stay on your side of the bed and I'll stay on mine!" Justin laughed, stripping down to a pair of boxers and a wife beater before turning back the covers.
"Night Jus," Lew said as he also stripped to his boxers and climbed in beside him.
"I'm glad we talked you into stayin' around for a while."
"No problem, kiddo. Night."
The next morning, Lew was roused from his slumber by the incessant ringing of the phone on the bedside table. When he was finally conscious enough to register his whereabouts, he found Justin draped over his chest. He chuckled to himself, then reached over to answer the phone. "Hello?" he said, his voice still a bit gruff from sleep.
There was a hesitation on the other end of the line, then the voice finally answered back, "Uhm ... oh Lew!"
"Yeah, Lance, what's up?"
"Sorry, I forgot, I was expecting Justin," Lance laughed. "I was just callin' to tell y'all that we're having breakfast downstairs in about forty-five minutes. We're gonna jump on the bus from there and head south."
"The bus? We're only taking one?"
"Yeah, since this is our last ride and we fly out of San Diego, we're gonna send the others back to be serviced and put into storage."
"Oh, okay, I'll get Jus up and see ya down there in a few."
"Alright, lemme finish tellin' the others. See ya in a bit," Lance said, then hung up the phone.
Lew replaced the phone on its cradle and looked down at Justin. The blonde was snuggled around his chest and there was a slight trickle of drool coming from the corner of his mouth. Lew couldn't help but laugh at the sight. "Justin," he said as he shook Justin's shoulder slightly. "Jus ... come on ... wake up buddy, it's time to get up." Justin slowly roused, but only slightly and mumbled something about five more minutes, causing Lew to laugh again. "Justin ... come on it's time to get up ... we have to get going and get downstairs for breakfast so we can hit the road."
Justin was slowly inching his way toward consciousness, finally managing a groggy, "Huh?" His eyes slowly opened and his position registered. Justin blushed slightly as he wiped at his chin, saying, "Sorry about that man."
Lew laughed and mussed his hair as he said, "Oh, that's okay ... I hear drool is a good moisturizer."
"I didn't do any thing I shouldn't have last night, did I?"
"Naw, man, you were a perfect gentleman," Lew told him
with a smile. "Come on, Lance just called and said they were doing breakfast
downstairs in around forty-five minutes, so lets get ready so we can head
Joey stood outside JC's door and knocked. "Hey, JC, you
in here man?" he called as he tried the door. Joey entered slowly and looked
around the room. Hearing the shower running in the bathroom, he went over
to the door. Cracking it open slightly, he was greeted by a thick plume
of steam. "Hey, Josh, Lance was trying to call you to tell you breakfast
is downstairs in about a half hour. Damn man, got it hot enough in there?
Oh, where'd you put the camera?" he asked, turning from the door. Joey
scanned the room once more and found the camera on the chair beside the
bed. His eyes were drawn back to the bed, wondering why JC had bothered
to remake it. They were leaving today and housekeeping would be along
to strip it anyway. Joey soon shrugged it off and left to finish packing
so he could meet the others downstairs.
Lance was sitting at a table looking over some papers, sipping his coffee when the others began to trickle in. He smiled as Lew and Justin joined him at the table. Justin sat down and started digging into his bowl of cereal. "Morning Curly!" Lance said in an overly chipper tone.
"Whatever," Justin managed to grunt between spoonfuls. Lew just grinned over at Lance.
"You two had to share a bed, didn't you?" Lance said with a grin. "I'm glad to see that he didn't drown you, or has he finally given up the drooling thing?"
Lew chuckled as Justin paused long enough to glare at Lance before he went back to shoveling the cereal into his mouth.
"He's so fun in the mornings, isn't he?" Lew laughed.
"Loads ... at least until after that first dose of sugar!" Lance laughed back.
The others quickly joined them after stopping off at the buffet to load their plates. Each in turn found their place at the table and mumbled a "good morning." It was getting close to departure time, but JC still had not joined them. "Hey, Joey," Lance said, "you did tell Josh that we were meeting down here, didn't you?"
"Yeah, he was already in the shower, he should've been here by now," Joey said with a shrug.
"Oh, there he is," Chris said as JC silently entered the room and crossed to the buffet. They watched as he grabbed a cup of coffee, then headed back out toward the busses. "And there he goes?" Chris said looking back at the others. "Wonder what's up with that?"
The others shrugged. "Did he say anything when you told him about breakfast?" Lance asked, looking at Joey.
"No, he didn't say a thing," Joey told him, "I just told him, grabbed the camera and left, but I know he had to have heard me cause I opened the bathroom door."
"Oh, well, guess he'll tell us later," Lance said.
They all finished up their meals and headed out toward the busses. The guys climbed aboard expecting to find JC waiting for them, but they didn't see him. As they piled into the playroom at the rear of the bus, they looked around, but there was still no sign of him. Lew decided to head back to the bunk area to check and see if JC had just gone back to bed. He found him curled up in his bunk facing the wall. JC flinched as Lew touched his shoulder. "Josh, are you okay?" Lew asked with concern.
"Um ... yeah," JC answered in a muffled voice. "I just didn't sleep well last night."
"Sorry I scared you," Lew told him. "We were just worried when you didn't show up for breakfast. I'll tell the guys that you're gonna try and get some more sleep. Okay?"
"Yeah ... thanks," JC said almost in a whisper.
Lew made his way back to where the others were. "Is he okay?" Justin asked.
"Yeah, he said he didn't get enough sleep last night."
"He never gets enough sleep," Chris laughed.
The bus finally headed out and they began their trek for San Diego. What began as a friendly round of video games, turned into a competition which degraded into an all out war. This eventually led to cracks aimed at one another abilities. Steve quickly brought up the fact that he wasn't actually in the group, so he wasn't quite as klutzy as the rest of them. He offered their after concert performance from the day before as proof. As they each started blaming the others for what had happened, Steve smugly pointed out that they did have video of the true culprit.
"Oh yeah! Bring it on!" Chris yelled. The others laughed as Joey fished the camera out of his bag and connected it to the television. He rewound it, then began fast forwarding to find their exit from the venue. They all watched as each of them came running out the door. Joey was first and for some inexplicable reason, his feet were suddenly no longer beneath him. Joey ended up flat on his face. Lance, who was looking over his shoulder, didn't see what had happened until it was too late. He tripped over Joey's legs and tumbling head over heels, landing on his butt. Lew and Steve could be heard on the tape laughing as JC, seeing what had happened tried to stop causing a domino effect as Chris and Justin slammed into him. All five of them ended up in a heap a few yards from the door of the bus.
"See! It was Joey's fault!" Chris yelled. "And he's related to you by blood, so you have to have inherited at least part of it!"
"Nah, actually Joey got all of it!" Steve laughed, gaining a prompt smack from his brother. In retaliation, Steve chucked a pillow at Joey, which he deflected hitting Justin. Justin, of course, tossed one back and an all out pillow fight began.
The war was interrupted a short time later as they began hearing moans coming from the direction of the television. They all stopped and looked at the screen, then turned to look at one another. "Um, Joe? Did you tape over your stash or somethin'?" Lance asked him with a raised eyebrow.
"Nope ... not mine," Joey said, then turned to look at Steve.
"Well don't look at me!" Steve shot back.
Lew sat with an eyebrow arched and his mouth open, as Justin tilted his head first to one side and then to the other trying to figure out just was on the screen. "Oh my God!" Lance said. "It was a new tape, right? You recorded that stuff at the venue and then ... JC took it back to his room."
"Oh shit!" Chris yelled. "Oh yeah! I wonder why he was so tired! Daymn!"
"Oh my God!" Justin said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Naw!"
They all started laughing.
"Tired my ass! He was just worn out!" Joey laughed.
Suddenly aware of a presence at the door, Lew turned just in time to see JC enter. JC glanced around the room trying to figure out what was going on when his eyes locked on the television screen. His eyes grew wide and his breath caught in his throat. Lew saw the veins in his arm begin to stand out and followed them to the hand he had gripping the door frame. His knuckles turned white showing the desperation in his grip.
"Oh man ... Josh!" Lance said as he noticed him in the doorway. JC just turned and headed toward the front of the bus.
Justin started to stand, but Lew stopped him. "I got it," he said, following JC.
"Oh man!" Joey said.
Chris started laughing, "Well, if he didn't want anyone
to see, he shouldn't have taped it!" They shook their heads at him as Lance
swatted his knee.
Lew checked JC's bunk on his way to the front of the bus, but didn't find him. Continuing on, he found JC curled up on the bench in the corner of the eating area. "Josh, are you alright?" JC flinched at the sound of Lew's voice. "Josh?" Lew cautiously sat down beside him. "Josh, please?" He reached over to touch him and, instead of drawing away, JC turned to him throwing himself into Lew's arms, clinging to him as if his life depended on it. Lew wrapped his arms around him and sat stunned for a moment.
"Josh ... we're sorry ... we didn't know that was on the tape." JC was now crying uncontrollably into Lew's chest. Lew rocked him slowly back and forth, whispering in his ear trying to reassure him. With each passing moment, he grew more and more concerned about JC's reaction. It was painfully obvious that something more than just embarrassment had brought him to this. Fear began to grip Lew, he couldn't imagine what could garner such a reaction, then suddenly he froze. His breath caught in his throat and a tear rolled down his cheek as the question formed in his mind. The question that he didn't want to think about, didn't want to ask, but the one that was looming, begging for an answer.
"Josh ... you did want that ... didn't you ... the stuff that was going on in the tape?"
There was no answer, JC just continued to cry, shaking uncontrollably.
"Josh?" Lew asked as his voice cracked. "D .. did," Lew stopped and tried to clear his throat. "Did you say no?"
JC gripped him more tightly and Lew felt him nod his head against his chest.
Lew began to cry as he said, "Oh God Josh! Oh my God, I'm sorry."