Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Written: 10 December 2000
Final Edit: 16 December 2000
All the usual disclaimers apply: please stop reading if you are underage or homophobic. Please note that this is a work of fiction - nothing is being implied about the sexuality of any of the people portrayed below.
Something a bit different... I hope you like it anyway.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Darwin, Australia - late September 2001
I signed off the chatroom and headed to bed, more tired than ever before. As I lay myself down, I contemplated some of the discussions I'd had that evening with my fellow chat buddies. The time difference between myself (in Australia) and the handful of people in the U.S. meant that the room was fairly quiet. In fact, the aussies almost outnumbered the yanks, which wasn't particularly hard to do at that time of the night.
I'd briefly spoken to Braan and Duckie, arranging to meet them when I finally reached Sydney, and was excited at the prospect of seeing them in real life.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot - I'm going to Sydney! <grin>
It was going to be the start of my 3 month holiday. I'd fly in to see the 'Backstreet Boys' concert, spend a day or so with friends and catch up with Braan and Duckie in the process, before flying out to the States to do a bit of a sightseeing tour. I also planned to meet up with several other chatroom buddies while in the States. I couldn't wait!
So, in addition to exchanging some info about when I'd be in Sydney, and when/where to meet them, I chatted briefly with some of the others in the room. One of the few Americans in attendance, called crunkboy, whom I didn't know very well, seemed to be extremely interested in my plans for Sydney, but I didn't give it much thought. He always appeared to be hyper and super-interested in everything that happened in the room, so I didn't think anything of his interest.
Still, I couldn't help smiling at some of the things we'd said to each other in a PM. It turns out that he was an avid reader of my stories, and we chatted about them for a short while. He'd initially been confused because I'd logged in with the nickname pete, and he wasn't sure if I was the same guy as rh_chan. When he asked me in his private message (PM) if I was he, I said yes, and we had a wonderful chat about my stories: Kevin & Justin in particular.
This happiness followed me into sleep that night, and I never had a better night's sleep.
Sydney, Australia - early December 2001
I hugged both Duckie and Braan goodbye and headed back to my hotel, glad that our first meeting at the café went so well. We would meet again later that night, when it was time to head over to the BSB concert. In the meantime, I had to get back to my hotel and get a bit of shuteye. The 7 hour trip from my hometown of Darwin to Sydney had left me with a touch of jetlag.
Just before reaching the hotel, I noticed a small 'internet café' on the corner opposite the hotel. Thinking to myself 'why not?', I entered the shop and got a docket from the person behind the counter. I sat down at a vacant machine and navigated the browser to my hotmail email account. I read through a couple of fan fiction stories from the VSPS list, thoroughly enjoying my passion for all stories 'Star Trek: Voyager', then came across a message from crunkboy.
Not only did I feel surprise at the fact that he'd emailed me - he'd never done it before - but I also felt surprise at the contents of the message, which read: 'I hope you have a wonderful time tonight. You might be in for a little surprise.'
I checked the email's datestamp, but what with time differences and everything, didn't know when it had been sent. I didn't even know if he meant tonight tonight, or yesterday tonight... Oh well, I'd email him later and see what he was talking about - I was feeling too bushed to ponder mysteries right then.
I paid for my internet usage and then hurried across to my hotel, where I spent the next three hours blissfully sleeping.
The roar of the crowd in the amphitheatre was so overwhelming I was almost instantly deafened. However, there's no arguing the pounding of my heart and the rushing of my blood as I noted the appearance of the five guys who were the 'Backstreet Boys'. I'm positive Braan knows it, because I was clutching his arm in a vice-like grip. Somehow he managed to pry my fingers off his arm, then tried to settle me down; to no avail. I was totally lost in the experience!
I sat enraptured, gawking at the guys onstage, sometimes singing along with them (only when I knew the lyrics), and taking the whole experience in as thoroughly as a sea sponge. It was utter heaven!
More than once I felt the urge to get up and dance; almost forgetting my shyness and clumsiness which precluded me from doing so in saner moments. If it wasn't for the fact that it was so ingrained, I probably would have done so and regretted it for the rest of my life. You don't want to see me dance - trust me!
Still, even with that little annoyance, I felt absolutely thrilled to be there watching my favourite group performing. I was literally floating on cloud nine.
Then the inevitable happened. Kevin - my favourite Backstreet boy - spoke to the crowd, telling them that the concert was coming to an end after a final set of songs. I wasn't the only one who sighed sadly at that announcement.
But what happened next will remain with me for the rest of my life.
"Before we start on our final set, I'd like to say a quick hello to a friend of ours who's attending this concert from Darwin." He almost mispronounced Darwin, but I was barely noticing as the shock of his words left me gaping helplessly. Braan, on one side of me, and Duckie, on the other side, were in a similar state, as they looked disbelievingly from Kevin to me.
"I don't know where he is in the crowd, but a big hello goes out from all of us to Peter from Darwin. Oh, and 'mate'," here he tried an aussie accent to the delight - and some groans - of the crowd, "when we're done, you're welcome to come and see us backstage after the show."
I sat there totally stunned.
He said hello...
He said hello to... me!
He said hello to me from all five of them!
He knew me... but how?
Duckie and Braan were shaking me by this stage, both excitedly talking a mile to a dozen. I came to and realised I'd subconsciously slumped down in my seat. I sat back up and looked up to the stage, seeking Kevin's gaze. But to no avail.
Kevin certainly looked like he was peering everywhere to see if he could spot me, but as I doubted he knew what I looked like, let alone could see as far back as the 20th row, our gazes never met. Darn!
Soon enough the concert was over, and people started filing out of the packed amphitheatre. I was trying to think of a way to do the same - unsure if I really wanted to meet the guys and find out how they knew me - when my plans were hijacked. Braan positioned himself on one side of me, and Duckie took the other. Between them, they guided me - resisting all the way - to the barrier separating the amphitheatre'a seats from the backstage area.
We walked into a large milling crowd; it looked like quite a few people were trying to pretend they were me in order to get backstage. Most were girls, who pouted and loudly declaimed they were 'Peta' ("spelt p-e-t-a, thank you very much.") from Darwin. The security guards weren't buying it. Even the guys pretending to be me were brushed off if they couldn't produce any sort of ID stating their name was 'Peter'.
I argued with my two personal guards that it was a bad idea to go any further and that we should leave, but they wouldn't hear a word of it. Pushing through the crowd, they hauled me up to the largest and beefiest of the security guards and told him I was 'Peter from Darwin'.
The guard didn't laugh in their faces, which was very sporting of him. I think I know why: he could see my reluctance to be there, and couldn't imagine any reason why I'd be so reluctant other than I was really me, and not particularly keen to meet the boys. Nevertheless, he asked for ID and patiently waited while Braan and Duckie cajoled me to remove my wallet and hand him my driver's licence.
The guard took one look at the licence and appeared to be satisfied. Not only did it have my name, but it also had my address in Darwin printed on it. That seemed to satisfy him enough; after all, how many 'Peter's from Darwin' could possibly have attended the concert? He looked at his cronies and told them I was the genuine article, and that the others should be moved off. The other guards nodded and started shooing away the gathered crowd, who invariably looked at me with hatred and/or envy in their eyes.
"Okay, squire," the guard said, once again surprising me with his Australian accent (well, aussies don't have accents, but hey, how else do I say that he was aussie? <g>), "you can go through. But these two stay here."
Braan and Duckie looked crestfallen, but acquiesced without a fight. I gave it my best shot, but couldn't budge the guard from his stance. Finally Braan told me that it was okay, and that they would wait for me right there. I watched him and Duckie move over to sit in the first two seats of the front row, and several guards walked over and struck up a conversation with them. I knew that both boys would be disappointed in not meeting BSB, but still, where they currently were, they had quite a nice view of the security guards' groins at their eye level. <evil grin>
I followed the big beefy guard backstage until we came to a dressing room door. He knocked twice, then opened the door at the call from inside.
"I have Peter from Darwin with me. You wanted to see him?"
I listened as the murmurs of the boys' voices reached my ears. "He's here?" and "He came?" floated out to me, hidden away from their view. Finally a deep sounding voice I could only associate with Kevin, said, "Please send him in."
I started to shake as I thought of what I was about to do - I was going to come face to face with my idols. I was going to be in the same room, talking to my five favourite singers! I almost collapsed from nerves as the guard turned to me and guided me inside.
Standing in the doorway, rigid with shock and fright, and mute from the same, I beheld the five guys from the Backstreet Boys as they returned my gaze with amusement. Not a word was spoken for several minutes; I couldn't think of anything to say, and they looked at me as if they were trying to match me to a mental image they had in their heads.
I almost jumped as I heard Nick's voice, and think I even said something like 'eep!' before I turned to face him directly, a confused question on my face.
"You're really Peter Kamphuis!"
Shock does not begin to describe how I felt at that moment.
They knew about me! The online me! The me who wrote slash fiction! I couldn't believe it.
"I... I... I..." I stuttered, before giving in and shaking my head, swallowing nervously. "You know about my writing?"
"Do we ever!" AJ replied, smiling at me in a friendly way. "Man, ever since I started reading your story I've been hooked. I love everything about it - even though we're not really like the way you portray us in the story."
I nodded stupidly, trying to smile back at him. "Yeah, sorry about that. It's just fiction. I... I don't know you guys in real life, so I have to imagine you... ummm, imagine how you'd react and.... everything."
"Here, have a seat," Brian gently said, patting the cushion next to him on the couch. I gulped once more before nervously heading over to sit next to him. He smiled at me, and patted my knee, trying to reassure me. "We're not going to bite you, Peter. Uh, Peter is your name, isn't it?"
I loved the way he pronounced my name, and was lost for a second before I hastily replied, "Yeah, it's Peter." Brian nodded and smiled once more, happy to see me relaxing.
"Well, Peter, I'm Brian. Over there is Nick. That's Howie. AJ's that guy over there, and I guess I don't need to point out who Kevin is, do I? After all, your story is about him."
I blushed so heavily I was positive my face was a bright lobster red in colour. The guys laughed at me, though not in a cruel way, and I felt myself relaxing again. I looked around at each and nodded at them, speaking a quiet, 'Hey <insert name here>. How are you?" to each.
I'd already heard Nick, Brian and AJ speak, so I was used to their voices. Mind you, seeing those three are the main lead singers in the group, I was used to their voices long before I met them. Howie was softly spoken when he answered my greetings, but his smile was pleasant and genuine. Of them all, though, Kevin was the one I found it hardest to greet in a normal tone of voice.
He didn't immediately answer me. He looked at me for a long time, his face revealing little of what he was thinking. Then he stood and approached me. As I looked up at him with growing concern, he extended his hand to me. I hesitated for only a moment before I reached out and gripped his hand. He shook it for several seconds, then softly replied, "Nice to finally meet you, Peter. I told you you'd be in for a surprise tonight."
I stared at him as my mind screamed out that Kevin was crunkboy, and he couldn't fail to see my slack-jawed amazement. Smiling softly, he tugged on my still captured hand, and I found myself rising up to stand in front of him.
I was significantly shorter than he, but felt like the tallest man in the world when he engulfed me in his embrace.
Hesitantly, I hugged him back, and felt a wonderful feeling of comfort settle over me.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"For what?" I asked him equally as softly, concerned at his sombre mood.
"For everything. For being you. For writing your story about me."
"It... It's nothing, Kevin," I replied, feeling overwhelmed at his sincere words.
He chuckled softly, before letting me go. "Thanks, anyway."
I smiled at him, then took my seat back on the couch. He bumped his cousin over and sat down next to me, grabbing a hold of my hand and holding it tight.
Over the next few minutes we got a few things cleared up; including the fact that none of the guys were gay, especially Kevin. I knew deep down that that was the case - after all he married Kristin over a year ago and they were expecting their first child soon - but I needed to have it confirmed out loud.
It seems that Kevin has always been interested in fan fiction, and during his travels came across a wide variety of categories. At one point, someone had recommended him to visit the Nifty archive, and, unbeknownst to him that it was a gay erotica site, he checked it out. At first he was reluctant to read anything, having found out what sort of fiction was hosted in the archive, but once he came across the boybands section, and noticed so many stories, he thought he'd try reading one or two of them to see what they were like.
He coloured in embarrassment when I asked him when he started reading my story, and he admitted that it was many months after he'd started reading the stories on a more regular basis. He told me that his embarrassment was partly because of the long time it took for him to come around to my story, as well as the fact that he wasn't sure he was keen to read a story about himself. We all shared a chuckle at that point, and he continued speaking.
He went on to say that when he finally started to read my story, he felt captivated with the storyline and the portrayals. So much so that when he finally came across the heavier emotional scenes concerning Brian and AJ, he felt compelled to show them the story.
Brian and AJ jumped in at that point to relate how confused and 'weirded out' they were to be told that Kevin read gay erotica, and even more so when he wanted them to read my story. Nick and Howie also related their experiences, though of course, they found out about the story a while after Brian and AJ.
Though I found out a lot talking to them, I was still intrigued about the crunkboy persona, and asked Kevin if he was in fact crunkboy?
He blushed then nodded. "Yeah. I started hanging out in the #boybands chatroom soon after I found out you visited there as well. I was under another nickname back then, and lurked a great deal. It was only when I started hearing you saying you would attend this concert that I made plans to introduce myself to you."
I smiled and mock punched his arm. "You prick! You set me up."
He chuckled before nodding. "Yeah. I knew this opportunity was too good to pass. When I heard you say to Braan that you were definitely going to attend, I started chatting with you in hopes I'd get a bit more info. I wanted to make sure that we'd meet. I wanted to see the guy who wrote a version of me that is so much in love and in so much pain. I could feel all those emotions you portrayed me feeling, and I wanted so much to tell you how much you've touched me. Thank you."
I almost missed his final whispered words, but only gulped and stroked his arm in understanding.
After he seemed to get himself under control, I ventured to ask something which I wasn't sure would be well received. "Speaking of Braan... he's outside, with Duckie, waiting for me. Would it be too much to ask if they could come in for a few minutes to meet y'all?"
I know I botched the delivery of the 'y'all', but they all laughed anyway. Kevin nodded, much to my relief, and said he'd get the guards to bring them over. Then turning to Nick, he said, "Braan wrote that story where you're the main character."
Nick immediately came alive and said, "Some Kind Of Bliss?" At my nod, he smiled broadly and said, "What are we waiting for? I wanna meet this guy!"
I laughed and watched as Kevin walked to the door and called out to the big beefy guard on the other side. I heard him call the guard 'Darryl' and frowned, not expecting in a million years to have guessed he'd have a name like that.
Nevertheless, Darryl did his duty and several minutes later, the smallish dressing room was packed as Duckie and Braan joined us. I watched in amusement, deliberately forgetting my star-struck attitude of before, as they almost gawked and stammered and stuttered their way through introductions and questions.
Nick took Braan to one side, and, much to the delight of the aussie writer, spoke at length with him about S.K.O.B. I eavesdropped when I could, and felt gratified to hear Nick saying to Braan how much he'd look forward to reading more of the series - even though Braan hadn't written anything for it in over a year. "You tell him, Nick," I whispered to myself, delighting in the embarrassment and modesty showing in Braan's face and posture.
Duckie and I shared the other guys, and Duckie soon got over his awe at being with, and talking to, the Backstreet Boys. He amicably chatted to them about his home city, knowing they'd be spending a couple of days in Sydney, and suggesting places to go, places to eat, and sights to see.
In all this time, Kevin stayed seated next to me and held onto my hand as before. He spoke very little, and what he did say was more often than not directed at me. I found myself doing the same, and before long we were in our own separate little world.
A chorus of coughing brought us back to the room, and we looked up into the amused expressions of Kevin's bandmates, and my online aussie buddies.
"Train, we've got to go," Howie said, smiling apologetically at me.
"Oh, okay," Kevin replied, obviously caught unprepared. "Can y'all give me a few minutes alone with Pete?"
Howie, Nick, Brian, AJ and the two aussies smiled and left the room, leaving Kevin and I alone in silence.
I looked into his eyes and saw burgeoning tears there. I was so lost I couldn't even find my voice to ask him what was wrong.
"Pete," he whispered.
"Yes, Boo?" I replied, almost tripping over his nickname.
He smiled at me, sadness still plainly visible in his eyes and on his face. "Though I'm straight and can't love you the way you deserve to be loved, I still love you nonetheless. You've become an important part of my life, and I know I'll always love you for what you've done for me."
I felt my own eyes starting to bleed tears, and could only nod.
"I know it's not enough, but this is the only thing I can give you. And never forget that it comes from the deepest part of my heart."
With that, he leaned in and captured my lips in a gentle, chaste kiss, before clutching me in a tight embrace. I trembled all over at both the kiss - knowing the significance of the action to a man as honest and special as Kevin was - and the embrace. I knew I was about to walk out of his life, and never see him again. And though nothing was spoken between us, I knew that crunkboy would not be making any more appearances in the chatroom.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I bent down and covered my eyes in the folds of his shirt at the nape of his neck. I wept and wept, knowing that he understood implicitly what I was feeling, and what this meeting had meant to me.
Then with a final sniffle, I kissed him on his cheek and got up, maintaining the slightest of contacts between out still entwined fingers. "I love you, Boo. Goodbye."
"Goodbye, Pete." His hand slipped out of mine, dropping to rest against his leg. "I love you too."
I smiled a smile that was anything but, and left the room - never to see my Boo again.