Back in the hotel, a very anxious Justin was pacing the floor. "Do you think they're coming over?" Justin asked for at least the fifth time since they made it back to the rooms and got cleaned up.
The guys rolled their eyes and looked at each other. "Someone stop him before I tie him to the chair and gag him!" Chris said.
"Aw ... come on, Chris, give him a break," Joey said, elbowing him. "He's infatuated."
"Shut up, man," Justin shot back at him. "I am not!"
"Yeah right, like we all didn't see that look you sent his way," Joey retorted.
"I thought Lew was going to have to sop Mac up with a sponge," Lance said, grinning at Justin's look of outrage.
"I was just making him feel welcome!" Justin said.
"Welcome to what?" JC asked, trying to keep from laughing outright.
At the sound of a knock on the door, Justin jumped and almost ran to open it.
Lance looked over at JC, "Uhm ... Can we say anxious?"
"Who, Justin? Nah!" JC answered.
"Okay guys," Justin said, just before opening the door, "please, please don't embarrass me!"
"Who ... us? NEVER!" the guys said as several of them put their hands behind their backs to hide their crossed fingers.
Justin opened the door to find Lew. The smile on his face quickly fell. "Uhm...."
"Hi Jus'," Lew said nonchalantly walking in the door. "What? Not glad to see me?"
"Uh .. yeah ... but ... um...."
Lew grinned evilly to the others as he passed Justin who was still standing at the door, holding it open.
"Uh ... but I thought Mac was coming with you," Justin said, following Lew with his eyes.
"SHIT!" Justin jumped as he spun round to find Mac leaning against the door frame. "Why'd you do that?"
"Cause I can," Mac said with a smug grin.
Justin grabbed the front of his shirt and drug him into the room, "You're gonna pay for that one!"
"Okay then, how 'bout dinner ... my treat?"
"Ooo ... goodie!" Chris and Joey yelled. "PIZZA!"
"Uhm..." Mac said, "actually ... I wasn't really thinkin' all of us were goin'."
"Oh man!" Joey said. "He's tired of us already!"
"No," Chris said, "just you Joe!"
"Alright kids!" JC said.
"So what do ya say, Jus?" Mac asked him.
"Yeah, well I'd love to, but I dunno," Justin said, glancing at JC. "We're leavin' and all tomorrow, and it might be better for us to stick around here tonight."
JC noticed his quick glance, "Oh ... Jus, I just remembered, I need to show you something in the other room."
"Now?" Justin asked.
"Now!" JC said, throwing his arm around his shoulders as he passed him.
The two went through the connecting door into Joey's room." Jus, you're going!" JC said emphatically.
"No but's, Justin!" JC told him. "You've only got tonight to get to know him, and I can see how much you seem to like him. I'm not letting you miss out cause you think you need to stick around and look after me or something."
"Justin please? All the rest of the guys are here, and knowing that you're missin' out cause of me is gonna make me feel worse than anything else. You haven't really been out with anyone since you and Jay broke up."
"Yeah, well there was..." Justin was cut off by the look on JC's face. "Okay ... you're right he didn't really count. Are you sure?"
"Alright," Justin relented.
The two came back into the room. "Okay, Mac, I'm all yours," Justin said.
Chris and Joey looked at one another and their mouths
opened. "See ya later guys!" JC said before the two could get anything
out. "Have fun!"
"So, how's my favorite lieutenant tonight?" the man at the door greeted them.
"Tony!" Mac said. "How's it goin' tonight?"
"No complaints here," he replied. "Your usual table?"
"Nah, I think something near the back ... kinda secluded?"
"Ah, I think I've got the perfect place then." Tony led them to a quaint booth in the rear of the restaurant. "I know you probably want your usual, but your new friend here ... he probably wants some time to have a look at the menu, eh?"
"That'd be nice, thanks," Justin said, smiling as he took the menu from him.
"You'll love this place," Mac told him. "It's a little bit of old Europe. They have German, French, and Italian, all three. It's all authentic, too. Tony's dad is Italian and his mom's German, they met one another while vacationing in France, or so he says," Mac laughed.
"Kewl, I haven't had any good European food since we came back from over there. So what's good?"
"Well, the one I usually get is a little of everything," Mac grinned. "It's schnitzel, pasta, and French wine. Don't worry, I won't tell Lew if you have the wine."
Justin laughed. "Sounds good to me. You know the place, so I'll trust your judgment."
"I guess after that show you've probably got one hell of an appetite, huh?"
"Oh, yeah! Starved is more like it. Though this'll probably be the last time I pig out for a while."
Mac laughed, "What do ya mean?"
"Well, since that was the last show of the tour our regular exercise routine is canceled," Justin laughed.
"Oh, come on, you look great! You don't have a thing to worry about!"
Justin blushed at the compliment. "Yeah well, when we're on break Josh can eat anything he wants and he still stays thin as a rail. The rest of us get down right fat if we don't hit the gym, and who wants to do that while they're on vacation?" Justin laughed.
When Tony came back, Mac gave him their order, asking Justin about some of his likes and dislikes as he did so. It was so refreshing to have someone who didn't automatically assume that they knew what he liked because of some bio that they'd read.
"I still can't believe you do that every night!" Mac told him, as Tony took their orders back to the kitchen.
"Yeah, well I guess you get used to it after a while."
"Get used to girls going into a feeding frenzy at the mere mention of your name?"
"Oh man, I'm really sorry about that!"
"No, it wasn't your fault. I just can't believe that you have to deal with that all the time. I mean you're cute and anyone would love to get to know you, but to go to that extreme."
Justin rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"Ya know, I think you look better without the contacts. You're eyes are great on their own, you don't need them strengthening the color so much."
Justin blushed again and hung his head bashfully.
"You did it again!"
"I'd think you would be used to a compliment by now, but every time I give you one, you blush or something. People must tell you how hott you are every day!"
"Well, yeah, but it takes lots and lots of make up and stuff to get me done up so pretty," Justin tried to laugh it off.
"Don't sell yourself short, man. You're hott as hell even without the make up, and remember, I've seen both ... and after that little thing during the show ... damn you almost had me screaming with the girls!"
Justin burst out laughing as their meal arrived.
They began eating. Justin complimented Mac on his choice, both of setting and food. After a little while, Mac asked him, "What's on your mind? You look like you wanna ask a question."
"Oh ... I was just kinda wondering something," Justin said. "It's none of my business though."
"No, go ahead."
"Well, you're in the military," Justin said. Mac nodded, agreeing. "You took us to that bar last night, and the patrons were mainly gay. Now we're here, and from the way Tony's been talking, I'm not the first guy you've brought here on a date. Oh man, I didn't mean that like I think it sounded. I just didn't think the military particularly liked gay ... I guess sailors in your case."
"They don't," Mac shrugged, "and I know you didn't mean it that way." Mac smiled to ease the tension he felt coming from Justin.
"You're not worried about it?"
"Nah ... well I used to be. I hardly ever went out or anything."
Justin continued eating as he hung on every word.
"Well to start with, I know Tony and Pete and most of the regulars, too, and I trust them. Hell, Pete's a former Green Beret." Justin's eyes widened with shock. "Yeah, funny isn't it. Well, I just got to a point in my life that I was tired of hiding. If I did it one more day, I'd go absolutely nuts, so I went out to a bar. Turned out to be Pete's." Mac smiled. "Got lucky, I guess. After I got grounded though, it was easier. It's just a job ... I mean I love it ... but if they find out some day and make me leave, I'd find another one."
"Man, I wish I could do that."
"What do you mean?"
"I wish I could just not care ... not worry about it. Some days I'd just like to scream. It just gets to me ... the hiding, the pretending. But then I look at the other guys and know that if things turned out bad I would probably take them down with me, so I swallow it again."
Mac reached across the table and took Justin's hand, "You're not alone, Jus."
"Thanks, man," Justin told him giving his hand a little squeeze. "Sometimes it's hard to remember that."
A small silence settled over the table. The clink of silverware being the only sound.
Justin took a sip of his wine, then cleared his throat, "I didn't mean to bring up any bad memories when we were talking about your job."
"The accident that grounded you ... it seemed like it bothered you when we were talking last night."
"OH ... no," Mac told him. "I just miss it every once in a while. Don't worry ... it's fine, I don't mind talking about it."
"You sure? I mean if you crashed or something ... I don't wanna bring it back up or anything."
Mac started laughing. "I didn't crash, though that might have been better!"
"Huh? What do ya mean?"
"I was grounded cause I had an accident while riding my bike!" Mac laughed.
"What?" Justin said, the laughter growing contagious.
"I was riding my bike around the neighborhood one day, and some poor jerk lost control of his car. He hit the curb and his hubcap came flying off. It hit my front wheel and sent me sailing over the handle bars. Somehow, and that one I still can't figure out, I hit my knee as I wrecked. I had to have surgery and it didn't heal up well enough for me to meet specs and still qualify for flying fighters."
"You mean..." Justin chuckled, trying to hold back his laughter.
"Yeah, I got grounded by a flying hubcap!" The two burst out laughing. "Well I say grounded," Mac said, after he managed to control himself, "I'm still a pilot ... still have my wings and even a civilian license, they just won't let me fly fighters."
"Well, that's kewl anyway. How'd you end up doing the simulators instead of flying?"
"While I was recovering from the knee surgery, I decided to take some classes. So I went on temporary duty at the Academy and took some computer classes. That's where I met Lew. Some kind of applied calculus as used in array theory or some such, don't even remember now. But Lew was cool, and we kinda clicked."
"Yeah, he's like that."
Mac laughed. "I liked it, stuck with it, then found out they needed someone here in that field and transferred. Kinda sneaky on my part, cause as part of the job I have to go up in the trainers to make sure the simulations we design are accurate," he said with a wink. "Sometimes I can talk the guys into letting me take the controls while we're up."
"Ooo ... that's the ticket!"
The small talk continued through the rest of the dinner. The conversation staying for the most part light. Every once in a while, a look would pass between them and one or both would blush.
Justin leaned back from the table, "Mac, that was the best dinner I've had in a long time. Not to mention that the company was great."
"Is this where I ask you what time your 'dad' wants you home?" Mac joked with him.
"Hey now, they aren't that bad," Justin laughed. "Wait ... yeah they are!"
Mac gave him a look that said more than words, "You should have seen some of the looks they were giving me right before we left. I was starting to wonder if body armor was gonna be necessary to date you."
"They're just ... protective. I guess it's just the way we get after everything we've all been through together."
"I can't say that I'm upset about it. At least I know that when you're away from me you'll still be safe."
"Oh ... now who's being protective?"
Mac blushed, smiling shyly, "Let's get out of here."
They stopped by the counter on the way out. "Hey Tony," Mac said, "we're gonna get going. It was a great meal."
"Glad you enjoyed it ... hope to see you in here again," Tony said, directing the last part to Justin.
"I think you might be able to count on that," Justin said. "When I tell my friends about this place, I'm sure they'll want to come by, too."
After waving their good-byes, the two men walked out to Mac's car and got in. Mac put the keys in the ignition then leaned back in the seat.
"Something wrong?" Justin asked.
"No, nothin' wrong," Mac said. "Well, ya see ... uh ... well. Damn!"
"Just say it," Justin said grinning.
Mac turned in the seat and looked into Justin's eyes. "This night's been wonderful, it really has..." Mac drifted off.
"What is it, Mac? What are you trying to say?"
Mac looked down at his hand in his lap and then back up to Justin's eyes. "I want to kiss you," he whispered into the silence.
Justin smiled tenderly, took Mac's hand in his own, and squeezed it reassuringly. "I'd like to kiss you, too."
Ever so slowly, they both leaned in until their mouths were inches apart. Mac stopped short, "You're sure?"
Justin answered him by taking Mac's face in his own hand and bringing their mouths together.
Their kiss was a tender brushing of their lips at first,
which moved into a tasting of each other's mouths.
Mac waited as Justin slid his key into the lock then pushed the door open. Justin stuck his head in and looked around almost expecting to find the room full of people, but it was deserted. "You wanna come in for a sec?" Justin asked him.
"Sure," Mac nodded.
Justin pulled him inside. Leaning forward against him, Justin pressed Mac against the wall. "Would I sound terrible if I said I didn't wanna go home?" Justin asked, leaning his head on Mac's shoulder.
"No," Mac said as he smiled and wrapped his arms around him. "I'd love for you to stay, but I think your family might not like it very much."
"To hell with them," Justin said with a little laugh. "They'll keep for a little while longer, I'm on vacation."
"Now, I know you don't mean that," Mac said, laughing with him.
"Yeah, but it sounded good at the time." Justin pulled back to look into his eyes, "I'm really gonna miss you. You're gonna write me, right?"
"Only if you promise to write me back." Mac smiled then leaned in and kissed him tenderly. Mac hesitantly broke the kiss a few moments later. He looked at Justin with sad eyes. "I guess I should go. You have a flight in the morning and you need your sleep."
Justin knew he was right, but didn't want to face it. He leaned into Mac's body again, holding on to him. Whispering against his chest, Justin said, "You aren't gonna disappear on me, are you?"
Mac worked his hands up over Justin's back pulling him away from his chest. "Look at me."
Justin looked up into his eyes.
"I'm not going anywhere. Remember, I'm only a phone call away," Mac said as he drew Justin's face to his. They kissed once again before Mac turned toward the door and reluctantly left.
Justin wanted to watch Mac until he got on the elevator, but Mac pulled the door closed as he walked through it. Justin leaned his forehead against the door and sighed.