My New Life
By James


This story is the sole property of its author and may not be copied in whole or in part without the permission of the author.  The posting of this story on any web site must be with the author's prior knowledge and permission. 

This story deals with the fictional relationship between the members of the musical group *Nsync and a male fan.  The sexual orientation of the members of *Nsync is not known by the author and what is depicted in the story came from the imagination of the author.

If you are not 18 years old or it is illegal in your area to view such material please read something else. 

Hi everyone. It's me, James. No, the earth did not swallow me up. I want to apologize
for how long this chapter has taken to get out. But with what has happened in the last
couple weeks, I found myself stunned and horrified at what has happening in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Writing became difficult and getting back into the correct mind set has been hard to do. My prayers go out to the families of the missing and the lost.

I need to take this time to send a few notes out to some of my readers. To
RdrOfStory(Holmes). Well here it is. I've had you racking your brain trying to figure out
what other well known all male band Marc toured with for a few months now. The
answer shall be revealed in this chapter. And to Liz, Andrew, Ed, Rick, Doug, Rob, Tim, Kent, Tee, Jeff, Barb, and Jon. I'm sorry I have not returned your e-mail. I will try to do better in the future. And to Mikey, my missing friend. I was so glad to finally hear from you. And I'm looking forward to a new chapter for your story.

Last Time:

"Marc, what's going on?" JC asked.

"Nothing," Marc answered.

"Something has changed. You seem to be avoiding us. Did we do something wrong?"  Joey asked.

"No. It's not anything you guys did. . . . Something happened yesterday that got me thinking."

"What happened?" Justin asked.

"After the photo shoot I was interviewed by the local press."

"Oh! You had to face the dreaded press," Chris joked.

"Yeah, I did," Marc said softly.

"How did it go?" JC asked.

"Not too bad. A lot of basic background stuff. And some questions about how I ended up touring with *Nsync."

"That's pretty normal," Justin said.

"Yeah, I kind of expected those questions. But the questions turned to a more personal nature. Am I married? Do I have any one special someone in my life? That kind of thing."

"What did you say?" Lance asked.

"I told them I didn't have anyone special in my life."

Lance could see the pain in Marc's eyes. Reaching across the table, he took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "That was hard to say wasn't it?" Lance asked.

Marc just nodded. Taking a deep breath Marc said, "Guys, this interview made me realize that as my career starts to move forward more and more reporters will be asking questions about my life."

"So what?" Chris said.

"Guys, sooner or later a reporter will want to know more about me then I'm willing to tell.  And they will start checking out my background and I'm afraid start talking to people back home."

"What are they going to find out?" Chris asked.

"That I'm gay. It was not a big secret at home or school. I'm sure most of my friends won't say anything. But sooner or later someone will spill the beans."

"Is that why you've been acting so strange today?" JC inquired.

Marc nodded. "Sooner or later it is bound to come out.. . . . . I'm sorry for dragging you into this."

"What are you planning to do?" Joey asked with fear in his voice.

"Maybe it would be best if I went home." ," Marc said softly as a tear rolled down his cheek.

Chapter 33
A Touch of Home

Lance's hand slipped off Marc's. Slumping back in his seat in shock Lance asked. "Are, are you leaving me?"

"God no, James! I am not leaving you," Marc declared.

"But why do you want to go home?" Lance asked.

Marc ran his fingers through his hair as he took a deep breath. "I don't want to leave. . . . . It's just I'm not sure how to handle the fact that I may hurt you guys by being here."

JC frowned. "Marc, how do you think you could hurt us?"

"If my relationship with you guys comes out for one," Marc explained.

"Marc, there is nothing about our relationship with you that we would have any problems with," Chris said.

Marc looked a little confused. "A gay guy living with you is not a problem?"

Chris now got the confused look. "No. Why would it be? We've been living with a "gay guy" for years."

Looking across the table at Lance, Marc smiled.

"I was talking about me," Marc pointed out. "Having to explain about me could be a problem."

"Only if we lie about you," JC said. "All we need to do is tell the truth. We met you while we were on vacation. We hit it off right away. And you invited us to stay with you while our van was being fixed.  We had such a great time we asked you to join us on tour."

"Of course we did not know your full musical talents until a week later in Madison," Joey added.

"By that time you had already been offered and accepted the job as of our web master and assistant to our tour manager," Justin said.

"And how do you explain me living with you?" Marc asked. "I'm on your staff.  Shouldn't I be staying with your other staff members?"

"We lived with you for a week. Six guys living at your lakeside cabin. We got to know each other really well. We became close friends that week so it is not unreasonable that we would want to continue our close relationship with you," Justin pointed out.

"You know the question of sleeping arrangements at the cabin and here on tour will come up," Marc said.

"We have been touring like, it seems forever," JC said. "And our management require us to share rooms to keep expenses down. We are use to sharing rooms and at times yes, we do share the same bed. We have all shared a room with you. And three of us have shared the same bed. It is part of life on tour."

"But the fact that I'm gay," Marc tried to point out.

"Most of us had figured out you were gay by the middle of the first week," JC said.

"You did?"

"Yeah, most of us did," Chris said while glancing at Lance.

"Thinking that you may be gay was not an issue. We did not see Marc the gay guy," Justin said. "We saw Marc the person; the guy who treated us as individuals not as members of some celebrity musical group. You connected with each of us in a way that we have not known for a long time. We knew by the second day we had someone special come into our lives and we didn't want to lose you."

"We have never told you that on the second day we each made calls to our management asking to take you along with us," Joey said.

Chuckling, Chris said, "No one knew about the others calls to management.

"Let me get this straight. You each called asking for me to come on tour with you and none of you knew the others had done the same thing."

Everyone just nodded and grinned.  "I guess great minds think alike," Chris said with a grin.

"Marc, I think I know what's going through your head right now," Lance said. "So many questions and no clear answers. And I know the prospect of being outed in an interview is scary.  But you are anticipating a question that may never come up.  And when the question does come up the way you handle it will make the difference."

"That's the problem, how do I answer the question?" Marc asked.

"I can't tell you how to answer that question," Lance said. "Only you can do that."

"But what if I say the wrong thing?"

"You wont. And however you handle it, you know you have our support,"  Lance said trying to reassure Marc.

Marc sat silently for a long time thinking about what the guys had said.

"Marc, you don't have to make any decisions tonight," Josh said. "Take your time on this kind of decision.  If this is still bothering you, you know you can come and talk to anyone of us, any time."

Marc sighed, "You're right. I don't need to make any decisions tonight. Thanks for listening to my problems."

Reaching for Marc's hand Lance gave it a soft squeeze. "You look like you're beat.  Why don't you get some rest."

"Yeah, I'm going to head on back and turn in," Marc said as he got up. Looking at Lance Marc asked, "You going to stay up for a while?"

Lance nodded, "I'll try not to wake you."

Marc started to lean into Lance for a good night kiss when Pete cleared his throat.

Marc froze realizing where they were on the bus with windows on three sides. "Oops sorry," Marc said to Pete.

"I guess I owe you one," Marc said to Lance. "Night."

Lance watched Marc walk toward the back of the bus and disappear through the curtain to the sleeping area.

The guys remained quiet for a long time. Chris broke the silence, "That is a side of Marc we haven't seen before."

"I've never seen him so unsure of himself," Justin softly said.

"Yeah, Marc always has the answers," Joey added. "Nothing has ever seemed to phase him."

"This self-doubt really seems to be eating at him," JC interjected.

Pete had been listening to the guys. "You all are overlooking one important fact about Marc."

"What's that?" Justin asked.

"If I'm understanding Marc's story right, his conscious life began three years ago when he woke from a coma," Pete pointed out. "As a child, we learn by trial and error. And we rely on these life experiences to give us confidence. You guys don't see what Marc is going through as that big a deal.  But you are forgetting that you have had years of life experiences to help you handle those types of questions."

"I see," Justin said. "Marc is just a child when it comes to life experiences.  I look at him and see a big brother forgetting he is only three."

"Three and a half," Joey corrected.

Lance smiled. "Twenty-two going on three and a half.

"You don't seem too surprised at Marc's reaction," Joey said to Lance.

"That he isn't the superman most of you think he is?" Lance asked. "Yeah, I've seen that side of him before. I've seen him upset over his friends coming back to the hotel drunk. And the uncertainty of how to handle the problem without losing their friendship. I've awoke in the middle of the night to find him standing at the window worrying about the interview he was to have the next day. And every time I've held him tight, listen to his fears and gave him all the love and strength I have to give. We would talk through his problem and for the most part, he would come to a workable solution. Marc's biggest problem is as Pete said, his lack of experiences. He knows what needs to be done but his self doubt gets in the way."

"I didn't realize until now how much we have grown accustom to Marc's strength," Chris said. "But tonight we saw his fears surface. Our friend is human just like us and even though he doesn't show it too often he is as vulnerable as the rest of us."

"What can we do to help him?" Justin asked.

"Just be more sensitive to what is going on with him," Lance said. "Try not to drop so much shit in his lap when he is working on his own projects. This summer he has taken on a lot of responsibility working with us. Most of it has been fun for him but some has caused him a lot of stress. And on top of all of it he has been working on his own career around our schedule."

"I still don't understand how to help him?" Chris asked.

Joey said, "I think what Lance was trying to say  was that we need to take more interest in what Marc is working on and when he is working on one of his projects not to drop our problems on him. Instead maybe take some interest in what he's working on."

Lance smiled at Joey's explanation, "Just be warned, if you ask him what he is working on you may get more of an answer than you bargained for."

As everyone headed off to get some rest Lance glanced into his bunk expecting to find Marc. The bunk was empty and glancing into Marc's bunk he only found it filled with their bags and Marc's trumpet. JC came up behind Lance putting a hand on his shoulder and chuckled, "You really didn't expect to find him there did you?"

Shaking his head Lance said, "No. Not really. I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?" Josh asked.

"We've taken over the lounge for our bedroom."

Squeezing Lance's shoulder Josh leaned into Lance's ear. "Do you hear anyone complaining? Remember we all know how much room there is in one of these bunks."

"Thanks for understanding."

"May I make a suggestion?" Josh asked.

"Sure," Lance answered.

"On our next tour. You may want to look into your own tour bus."

Lance looked at Josh with a shocked expression.

Josh chuckled, "One with a real bedroom. It will be a lot easier on the two of you."

Lance laughed softly. "We'll give that idea some thought."

Lance slipped into the lounge and found Marc lying on one of the benches with headphones on listening to a tape. Marc's eyes were closed and Lance thought he was just into whatever music he was listening to but a soft snore told him otherwise. Smiling at his lover, Lance carefully removed the headphones and slipped the Walkman from Marc's hands. Before stopping the tape, Lance heard what sounded like a marching band.

Shaking his head as he hit the stop button Lance thought, `Is there any kind of music you are not into?' Reaching over, Lance brushed the lock of hair that had fallen across Marc's eyes. `Damn it, Marc, you scared the shit out of me tonight. The thought of you leaving. . . . .it was. . . unthinkable. The only thing I do know is you would not have left alone. I would have gone with you.' Lance sat on the floor next to Marc. Gazing at his sleeping lover. `For you, my love, I would give up everything. For without you by my side none of this would matter,' Lance thought.

Gazing at his sleeping love Lance's sight became blurry as his emotions rose to the verge of tears. Then a strange feeling swept over him. A very warm comforting feeling seemed to wrap itself around him. Marc stirred in his sleep, taking a deep breath Marc softly said, "I feel the same way, James. I love you so much."

Lance realized what had just happened. Some how Marc had heard his thoughts and he had mentally reached out and gave Lance a hug. The thought of such a spiritual connection took Lance over the edge as he began to softly cry.

Marc was pulled from his dream state by the sound of soft sobs. Opening his eyes, Marc looked into the tear-streaked face of his love. "James, what's wrong?"

Sniffling and wiping his cheeks with the back of his hand, Lance softly said, "I didn't get my good night kiss."

Marc reach up and wiped a tear from his love's cheek. Frowning, Marc said, "I didn't realize my good night kisses meant so much to you."

"It's not just the kiss. . . . Tonight I realized just how much you mean to me. And the thought of you leaving the tour was almost more that I can bear."

Pulling Lance to him Marc kissed him softly on the lips. "James, I'm not going anywhere without you. I'm so sorry I upset you tonight."

Lying wrapped in Marc's arms Lance once again felt that warm, comforting feeling wrap itself around him. Snuggling into the crook of Marc's neck Lance smiled letting the safe feeling overcome him.

Marc felt the tension in Lance's body drain away and his breathing become shallower.  Stroking Lance's hair Marc leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the top of is head.

"James, I think it's time we go to bed," Marc softly said.

"I'm where I want to sleep," Lance mumbled.

"I know we've slept like this before. But that was in a bed not on a hard bench. Come on; it will only take a minute to put our bed together."

Reluctantly Lance moved off Marc. In a flash, Marc had the cushions off the couches arranged on the floor in what had become their bed. The boys met in the middle of their bed and settled down for a night's rest.

Marc's wristwatch started to beep awaking the sleeping pair. As he sat up, Marc pushed the button on his watch that would  silence the alarm.

Lance rolled over. "Is it time to get up all ready?"

"Yep, come on we are burning daylight. We don't get a free day that often," Marc said getting to his feet. "Let's not waste it."

Lance slowly started to roll out of bed mumbling under his breath. As he got up Marc gave Lance's bottom a swat. "Come on James move that cute ass of yours."

Lance popped up straight with his hand on his tingling bottom. "This means war!" Lance shouted as he jumped on Marc. Lance managed to wrestle Marc to the floor.

The racket from the lounge got everyone else up. Hearing a couple thumps and laughter coming from the lounge made everyone curious. Joey slowly opened the door to find Lance with Marc in a headlock, and both boys laughing their ass off. 

"You two have way too much energy this morning," Joey laughed.

After dressing, Marc went up to check with George. "How's it going?" Marc asked.

"We've just crossed the city limit. The high school should only be a few blocks ahead."

Justin was looking out the lounge back window. "Ah, guys. Something is going on." 

"What's up?" Chris asked.

"Our caravan is not with us," Justin said.

"And we are slowing down," Joey added.

The bus pulled into a lot and stopped near several other busses. As the guys made their way to the front of the bus they saw the door open and Marc jump out.

The guys soon followed Marc off the bus then stood there wondering what was going on. They stood in the parking lot of a high school watching Marc jog off toward the football field. "What the shit is going on?" JC asked.

Lance started laughing as he pointed to a nearby bus. On the side of the bus was "Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, Madison, Wisconsin."

Shaking their heads the guys followed Marc. They found Marc in the grandstands about mid way up on the fifty yard line watching the drum corps take the field.

Taking seats all around Marc, the guys watched as the band on the field turned to face the other side of the field. "Are we on the wrong side?" Justin asked.

"No. They face that side of the field for their warm up," Marc said.

"Okay, Newman. What's the story? And is this what you have planned for us today?" Chris asked.

"The story," Marc said. "Well, these guys are the Madison Scouts."

"We could read that off their busses," Joey said.

"I marched with them the last two years," Marc said.

"You did! Why aren't you marching with them this year?" Justin asked.

"I aged out," Marc answered. Seeing confused looks Marc added, "In junior drum corps, you age out at twenty-one. I was too old to march with them this year."

"So we are not the first band you have toured with?" Joey asked with a smile.

"No. You are not my first band to tour with," Marc chucked.

"And not your first all guy band either," Lance pointed out.

"No. I do seem to have a knack for hooking up with all boy bands."

The band had finished their warm up and had turned back around and was taking up their positions to start their show. Most all the band members were dressed in shorts and were shirtless.  Hours of practice in the sun had give each of them a dark tan.

"So coming on tour with us was not really that new to you as we thought?" Justin asked.

"No, traveling with you has been a cake walk compared to traveling with the corps," Marc said.

"How?" Justin asked.

"Their season starts on Memorial Day weekend. Before that, there are band camps one weekend a month starting after the first of the year. The first three weeks of the season is devoted to everyday 8-hour rehearsals. And you are expected to put in another four to six hours practice on solo and ensemble pieces. During the first three weeks the band will make appearances, parades and concerts, around the Madison area.  Being in the Madison area also means we can stay at home or for those who don't live in the area they are put up with host families. Most all host families either have someone in the corps or have had someone in the corps. When touring starts, that all changes. Your home is a seat on a bus. And you sleep in gymnasiums, each night. A sleeping bag is your bed. If we are lucky the gym will be air conditioned but most of the time they aren't."

"Shit!" Chris said.

"Competition days are a lot like you're show days. Breakfast,  then a run through of the program. The different groups break up and work on their parts with their director and coaches. After lunch, it's back onto the field for another four hours of rehearsal. Then they break for a light supper and to get cleaned up and in uniform for that night's show. Around five everything is loaded up and they head for the competition site.

Most competitions start around seven with six to twelve corps competing. Madison is ranked nationally in the top ten. This usually makes them one of the last corps to perform. After the competition everything is loaded up and they head for their next competition."

"How many competitions a week can they do?" Lance asked.

"Four is about normal. But there have been weeks where we do seven competitions and several parades, each in a different city."

"Wow!" Justin exclaimed. "And I thought our schedule was rough."

The band was set and the drum major climbed a shaky tower. 

The attention of the guys in the stands turned to what was happening on the field. The field exploded into a tapestry of sound and motion.

Marc watched the field intently. As the show played out, Marc's head and shoulders dropped. Lance noticed Marc's change in posture. "What's wrong?" Lance asked.

Shaking his head Marc said, "They sound awful. What have they done to my music."

"Your music?" JC asked with surprise.

"Yeah, my music. I wrote the arrangements for three of the numbers and the rest of the show is my own work," Marc said unhappily. Getting up, Marc started down the bleachers to the field. "I'll be right back."

Going down to the field Marc started moving among the marchers on the field moving with different sections as they moved through their routine. As the drum line moved down to the edge of the field, they  went into their drum solo. Marc took up a position in front of the drum major facing the drum line during their solo. Before the end of the solo, Marc turned his back on the drum line and seemed to glare up at the drum major.

"Has any one ever seen Marc lose his temper?" Justin asked.

"Only once," Lance said. "When he went to get you out of jail."

"He looks really pissed," Justin said.

"This may not be too pretty," Joey added.

The drum major glanced down at Marc and gulped and ended the performance abruptly.

"I've heard enough," Marc said. "Bring everyone in."

As the members of the Madison Scouts moved to line up along the sideline, Marc
walked over to a group of men to have a brief conversation. Some type of agreement was met and sealed with handshakes all around. Returning to the field, Marc climbed upon the tower. Gazing down on the line of young men before him, Marc called out loudly, "Stand at ease.". "Good morning, ladies." Marc got no response. "I said good morning, ladies!" he bellowed.

"Good morning, sir!" came the roar.

"It seems by your scores this summer you are having a bit of a problem with this year's show," Marc stated. "And from what I hear you seem to be having a problem with remembering the music, because what I heard was not the music you learnt in camp"

A nervous laugh rolled through the assembled corps.

"Now, ladies, I want to see the brass at the north end of the field and percussion on the south end. Color guard will have the center of the field. We are going to be getting back to basics. I want to hear clean, clear tones for the brass. Tighten up the sound. I am hearing way too many big egos and the sound is getting sloppy."  Marc turned his attention to the drum line. "And the ladies of the drum line, I will be your worst nightmare. We are going to take a step back in time to our first camps. To see if we can get back to what we had at the beginning of the summer."

Marc turned the corps back over to the director and his staff to get things moving.  Marc returned to where the guys were sitting.

"It sounds like you have your day all planned," Joey said.

"Yeah, I'll be here all day," Marc said. "Now George will take you all to the hotel. It should be safe for you guys to go shopping around town most of the day. The corps will  all be in rehearsal most of the day. It won't be until late afternoon when some of the smaller corps will let their people free."

"What about tonight?" Chris asked.

"I have made arrangements to use the press box at the stadium. Security has already checked it out and they don't see any problems."

"Will we see you at the hotel later?" Justin asked.

"I'll meet you at the stadium. I'll come over with the Scouts. The stadium is only a couple blocks from the arena. I'll clean up and change on the bus," Marc said.

Marc walked the guys back to the bus. Chris, JC and Joey climbed aboard eager to start their free day.

Lance and Justin had hung back talking in low voices. "Ah, Marc. Would it be ok if
Curly and I hung around here with you today?" Lance asked.

"Sure if you want to," Marc answered. "We are going to be out in the sun all day. You two better get your shades and a hat."

"Great! Be right back," Lance said as he and Justin scrambled aboard the bus.

Pete stepped off the bus. "Are they going to be safe here with you? Or should I send security over?"

Marc thought for a moment. "There shouldn't be a problem while we are here. It would be a good idea to have a van waiting for us when we get to the stadium."

"Will do. Give me a call when you're on the way," Pete said as Lance and Justin bound off the bus.

After watching the bus pull out, the small group turned back toward the football field. As they were walking across the parking lot Justin's stomach rumbled.  Marc chuckled, "I think we forgot something."

"Yeah, breakfast," Lance laughed.

Another rumble came from Justin.

"Come on," Marc said. "I know someone who may take pity on us and give us something to eat."

Marc led his friends over to a group of trucks parked near the school. Coming up behind a large woman bent over a worktable. "I hear the best cook in all the world could be found here," Marc said.

The woman stood straight up and turned around. Spotting Marc, the biggest smile spread across her face. "Marc, child! Come and give Pearl a big hug."

Marc went to Pearl and was almost crushed by Pearl's bear hug. Marc could only get his long arms part way around the woman. A good foot separated his hands from clasping behind Pearl.

"Marc, baby, how did you get here?" Pearl asked breaking her hug.

"I came on a bus," Marc answered.

"Were you on that fancy bus that pulled in awhile back?"

"Yeah, that's the one I came in on," Marc said as he noticed Pearl's glances at his friends. "Pearl, these are my friends Lance and Justin. It was their bus we came in on."

Looking the boys up and down, Pearl heartily laughed. "Them are two white boys."

Marc grinned, "And I'd like keep them that way. You wouldn't happen to have any of
that magic sun block of yours handy would you?"

"Of course child. I never travel with out it," Pearl said as a loud rumble came from
Justin's stomach. "I think your friend has a problem."

"Yeah. . . .we all have the same problem. We were left here before we had breakfast. I was hoping you might have something left from breakfast."

"You boys have a seat and mama Pearl will fix you right up," Pearl said.

Taking seats at a nearby table, Marc had a mischievous smile as he looked across the table at Lance and Justin. "Pearl, how about a western omelet with a stack of hot cakes," Marc said.

Pearl swatted Marc on the back of the head. "You will eat what ever I fix," Pearl said sternly. Looking at the two snickering boys across from Marc, she asked. "How did you two ever get hooked up with this idiot?" 

"He ran into us while we were on vacation last month," Lance said.

Looking down at Marc with a raised eyebrow Pearl asked, "You just happen to ran into them?"

"I was biking at home and I lost a break cable coming down a hill. Their van just happen to be in the intersection when I ran into them," Marc explained.

"Wasn't it fortunate that you just happen to hit a van driven by two members of your favorite music group," Pearl pointed out.

"You know who we are?" Justin asked.

"Child, when my boys aren't out marching and playing most of them are listening to your music."

"Pearl, I didn't just run into these two. I ran into the whole group," Marc said with a grin.

"Honey child, you must have been in heaven," Pearl chuckled.

"Yeah, when I realized who I hit I about shit my paints," Marc said.

"You acted like you didn't even know who we were," Justin said.

"If I would have acted on my feelings you guys would have bolted," Marc said. "By playing it cool I got what I really wanted. To get to know you guys."

"Pearl, you said when your boys aren't out marching they listen to our music. How many kids do you have in the Madison Scouts?" Justin asked.

Laughing, Pearl said, "Child, this year I have 120 boys marching in the Madison Scouts."

"Pearl is surrogate mother to all the members of the Scouts. Both of her boys marched in the Scouts and now her grandson marches in the drum line," Marc said.

"When my boys wanted to join the Scouts I looked into it. My husband died the year before and without a man in the house I thought the structure of the Scouts would be good for them," Pearl chuckled. "Little did I know I also would be joining the Scouts. For the last eighteen summers I would have been Mama Pearl to over a thousand boys."

"Every drum corps has someone like Pearl," Marc said. "Someone who gains the trust of the members. Pearl would never judge us. She is always here for us to talk to. And we knew what ever we talked to her about it would never get back to the management staff or director."

Justin smiled and said to Marc, "Just like what you do for us."

Marc blushed at Justin's statement.

Pearl smiled proudly at Marc. "I will get you boys something to eat," Pearl said giving Marc a pat on the back.

Pearl dropped off a unmarked bottle at the boy's table. "What's this?" Justin asked picking up the bottle.

"Pearls sun block," Marc said. "You two need to get some on you."

Opening the bottle Justin poured out some and started applying it to his arms and face.  Lance did likewise. Marc got up and came around to the boys. 

Taking the bottle he said, "Take off your shirts I'll do your backs."

"Why?" Justin asked.

"Because we are going to be out on the field most of the day. It's going to get hot and you are going to shed your shirts," Marc said. "Believe me,"

Pulling off their shirts, Marc started to apply the sun block to their neck and shoulders working down their backs. "Stand up. I need to get the backs of your legs," Marc ordered.

Starting with Justin Marc applied the lotion starting at his ankles and working his way up. As Marc got the leg of Justin's shorts Justin looked down with a sly grin.  "Watch those wandering hands there, Newman," Justin said.

"You only wish," Marc said. "Switching to Lance he did the same working his way up Lance's legs, ending a little ways up under his shorts legs."

Clearing his throat Justin said, "Now it your turn. Off with your shirt."

Marc removed his shirt as both boys started to put lotion on him. Lance started on Marc's back while Justin applied lotion on Marc's chest.

"Yuck!" Justin said.

"What's wrong?" Lance asked.

"Sun block and a hairy chest don't work to well," Justin said.

"You just have to rub it in," Marc said.

Justin applied more pressure as he rubbed the lotion onto Marc's chest. As he rubbed the lotion on Marc's pectoral's, Justin noticed the nipples getting hard. Looking up, Marc had a shit-eating grin on his face.

"Ah, Lance how about we switch places," Justin said.

"Why?" Lance asked.

"Because your boyfriend is enjoying this too much," Justin whispered.

Lance stepped around Marc seeing the grin on his face then looking down noticing his erect nipples. "I'll take over," Lance said. "You and I will have a talk tonight," as he gave Marc's nipple a tweak.

"Why? I didn't do anything," Marc said in his defense.

Pearl showed up with a plate of sausage, egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches and a large pitcher of orange juice. The sandwiches were devoured quickly. Each boy gave Pearl a hug of thanks then they were off to the football field.

Their first stop was the north end of the field where the brass was working with their coaches. Marc walked among them correcting posture problems and getting everyone to hold their horn up properly. Marc pulled several members aside for some one-on--one coaching. Lance watched these sessions as Marc talked to each boy. Though he couldn't hear what was being said, but the boy Marc was talking to seemed to be ready for a confrontation with Marc. His body language showed a lot of tension but whatever Marc was saying to him visibly dissipated that tension. The boy would listen to Marc intently nodding in agreement. Each session ended with a pat on the back as Marc sent the boy back to take his place.

While Marc was working the north end of the field Justin's and Lance's attention was drawn to what was going on in the middle of the field. The boys slowly moved toward a group that was working with colorful flags and rifles. As rifles were tossed high in the air, Justin commented, "Shit! . . . How do they do that?"

"Many hours of practice," a voice came from behind them. Turning, they saw a boy that looked a little older then themselves. "Hi, I'm Eric," the smiling boy said by way of introduction.

"Hi. . .I'm Lance and my friend here is Justin," Lance said.

"I know who you are," Eric said. "Is it true Marc is working for you guys?"

"Yeah, he's working with us," Lance said. "Do you know Marc?"

"Shit, everybody here knows Marc."

"Then you've marched with him?" Lance asked.

"No. I aged out the year before Marc joined the Scouts."

"If you aged out what are you doing here?" Justin asked.

"After I finished getting my degree last year I've returned to the Scouts as assistant color guard choreographer. Once you get drum corps in your blood you can't just walk away."

"Is Marc also on staff with the Scouts?" Justin asked.

"Yeah, he works part time as our arranger and composer. Without Marc's help I'm afraid we would be doing last year's show again," Eric said. "The director and Marc spent a whole weekend last winter arranging the three main numbers for brass and percussion. Then Marc showed up the next weekend with the remainder of the show.  All original compositions synced to the movements of the band members."

"What do you mean synced to the movements?" Lance asked.

"Every step a band member takes on the field is planned out to exact detail. For example, we know exactly how many beats or steps there are from the beginning of a number to the end and how many beats between numbers. The music must match exactly to the movement on the field. Marc's music had to fit exactly. Not one beat more or less."

"It seems we have found another side of Marc we didn't know about," Justin said to Lance.

"What do you mean. Another side of Marc?" Eric asked.

"Marc's interests are a constant source of amazement," Lance said. "Marc is a an enigma. Every time we think we have him figured out another side of him emerges."

"We've seen his classical side," Justin said. "His jazz, rock, pop, and country side. . . .But this side was a total surprise."

"I don't see what is so surprising about him," Eric stated. "He loves music. Most all kinds of music."

"We haven't run across any yet he doesn't seem to be into," Justin said. 

Eric laughed, "You haven't hear his opinion on rap yet have you?"

Marc approached the trio. "Hey, Eric," Marc greeted.

"Hey, Marc."

"I hope you aren't telling them a lot of lies about me," Marc said with a grin.

"Who me? You know I don't tell lies," Eric said.

"That's not what I heard."

"What did you hear?" Eric asked.

"Earlier in the season I heard you had a thing for a choreographer with the Phantom Regiment. I heard you tried to get her attention with the rumor of your "python"," Marc chuckled.

"Python?" Justin asked. "You have a pet snack snake on tour?"

Eric and Marc bursted burst out laughing. "Yeah, Justin," Marc laughed. "He takes it everywhere he goes. He keeps it in his pants."

Justin looked confused for a moment then a light came on. "Oh!" Justin said as he blushed.

"Well it worked," Eric said. "She wanted to see for herself it the rumor was true."

"And did she run off screaming when she saw your Python?" Marc asked.

"No! She didn't run off. Actually she was quite intrigued with what she found," Eric said with pride.

"I think what she told her girl friends was, `I was ready to handle a python but I found a cute little garden snake," Marc laughed.

"Who told you that!" Eric demanded. "I have more then enough to satisfy her."

Marc put his arm around Eric's shoulder. "Now come on and admit it. You kind of exaggerated the size of your python."

"Maybe just a little," Eric softly said.

Giving Eric a pat on the back Marc turned to Lance and Justin. "I'm headed over to the drum line. Don't believe everything Eric tells you."

Marc spent the remainder of the morning working with the drum line. Working with each section Marc brought them back on course. Bringing them back to the music he had written and away from what they had improvised over the weeks following the last band camp.

As the morning wore on, the temperature increased steadily. It must have been well over 90 ° and there was not a cloud in the sky. Glancing over where the guard was working out he saw Lance and Justin had shed their shirts and Eric was showing them the dance steps to the number they were working on. Of course Justin kept improvising whenever he forgot the steps. The goofing around ended quickly when some of the members lost their concentration watching Justin. Marc just shook his head as he turned his attention back to the drum line.

Marc was watching the drum line move through their percussion solo from across the field getting a rear view of their movements. A strange feeling swept over Marc pulling his attention to another part of the field. Marc broke into a sprint across the field.

Justin and Lance were standing at the edge of the field watching the guard go through their routine. Justin felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Scoop, you all right?" Justin asked as he looked at a pale Lance.

"I'm not feeling so good," Lance said as he became light headed. Slumping forward Lance softly called, "Marc."

A strong arm grabbed Lance before he could go down. "I've got you," Marc said.

"What's wrong?" Justin asked.

"We need to get him out of the sun," Marc said as he picked Lance up and carried him over to the food tent.

Pearl saw Marc carrying Lance as they approached the food tent. "Marc, what happened?"

"Too much sun," Marc said as he put Lance down on a table.

"I'll get the compresses," Pearl said.

"Justin can you move that fan over here?" Marc asked.

"Sure," Justin said. "What's wrong with him?"

"Heat exhaustion," Marc said.

Pearl returned with a pan of water and a stack of towels. Wetting each towel, she handed it to Marc. Marc quickly applied the wet towels to Lance's chest, legs, and arms. Lifting Lance's head he placed towels under his neck and head.

Catching Marc's eye Pearl nodded toward Justin.

Looking at Justin Marc said, "Just, come over here."

"What's wrong?" Justin asked.

Marc put his hand to Justin's face and arms feeling his clammy skin. "Sit down," he ordered. Taking wet towels Marc draped them over Justin's head and shoulders.  One of Pearl's helpers came over with several bottles of water. Marc opened one and handed it to Justin. "Here get this into you."

Marc picked up a cool towel and gently dabbed Lance's face.

Lance's eyes fluttered open. "What happened?" Lance weakly asked.

"Too much sun and heat," Marc said. "How are you feeling?"


"Think you can sit up?" Marc asked.

Lance nodded. Marc helped Lance sit up, turning so his legs hung over the edge of the table.  Opening another bottle of water Marc handed it to Lance. "Try to get this down," Marc said.

Marc finally sat down and let out a long sigh.  Pearl handed Marc a bottle of water.

"You boys stay right here. I'll have lunch ready in a half hour."

"Thanks, Pearl," Marc softly said.

Pearl returned to her work. Lance reached out and touched Marc's arm. Feeling Marc tremble Lance asked, "You all right?"

Looking up Marc nodded. "You scared the shit out of me, James."

"Sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen," Lance said softly.

Taking Lance's hand Marc gave it a squeeze. "I know."

Looking at Marc from under his towel, Justin asked. "Marc, I saw you clear across the field a minute before Lance got sick. How did you know he was in trouble?"

"I don't know. . ." Marc said. "I just knew I needed to get to him."

Pearl overheard the boys exchange giving Marc a knowing glance.

To keep Lance and Justin out of the sun Marc offered Pearl their help with the lunch.   Pearl gratefully accepted their help and put all three boys to work. When the band broke for lunch Pearl had Lance and Justin working the serving line while she and Marc kept the food coming.

As the last of the boys were being served, Pearl and Marc took a break. "I'd like to keep those two around," Pearl said. "They are good workers."

Marc smiled, "I think there are several other people who have plans for those two."

"What are your plans for those two?" Pearl quizzed.

"Me? The only plan I have is to make it through the end of this tour."

"And after?"

Marc laughed. "A couple weeks of rest then I start working on my career. I'll be working in New York getting ready for my debut with the New York Symphony in September. Then after the first of the year I have a series of concerts in Japan."

"And will he be going with you?"


"The cute one. Lance."

"Ah, . . . No. They have an album to record and a new tour to plan. Why do you think he would be going with me?"

Pearl laughed, "Child, you may try to deny it but those two boys are more than just friends. And the connection between you and Lance is something special."


"Baby, some people search their whole life time for that special someone and never find them. You have found yours in that boy haven't you?"

Marc looked at his feet for a long moment then let out a long sigh. "Is it that obvious?"

"No. It's not that obvious. I didn't pick up on it until your friend needed help," Pearl said.  "Marc, baby, you knew when he was in trouble, didn't you?"

"Yeah. . . . I don't know how. I just knew he needed me."

"Could it be because you have found your soul mate?"

"I never thought of our relationship in that way. I just know he means the world to me."

"Child, not everyone is lucky enough to find their soul mate and when you find him you do everything in your power to keep him. You never know how much time you will have with him so saver every moment you have with him."

"Pearl, have you found your soul mate?" Marc asked.

"Yes, baby. I found my soul mate a long time ago. Yes my Jonathon was everything I ever wanted."

"Was Jonathon your husband?" Marc asked.

"Yes, and I cherish every minute I've had with him," Pearl said remembering her Jonathon.

Marc saw Pearl's moist eyes. "I'm sorry if I brought back any sad memories."

"Oh, no, child. All my memories of my Jonathon are good memories. We only had seventeen years together but we filled every moment with our love for each other."  Pearl said.

Looking out over the mass of eating boys Marc said, "Looks like everyone has been fed."

"Now it's our turn," Pearl announced. "Boys, fix yourself a plate and let's eat."

Pearl and Marc took their trays and sat with the "adults", i. e. the instructors and coaches.

Justin and Lance took their trays and sat with members of the Scouts. Marc watched with interest where they sat. Feeling a hand on his arm Marc turned his attention to Pearl. "Relax, baby, they are safe."

Marc gave a weak smile as he dug into his lunch.

Because of the heat it was decided that the lunch break would be extended an extra hour. Most of the Scouts hung out around the food tents taking turns asking questions of Justin and Lance.

When it was time to return to the field, Justin and Lance volunteered to help Pearl clean up after lunch. Marc thought it was a good idea for them to stay out of the hot mid day sun.

Back on the field the recombined corps took the field. Bits and pieces of the show were gone over time and again, until each segment was flawless. A short break was called around three; word quickly spread that after the break the whole show would be put together.

Lance and Justin joined Marc once again in the stands sitting in the row below him.

"Are they ready?" Justin asked.

"We'll see," was Marc's only response.

Taking the field, the Scouts went into their warm-up then turning took up their opening positions. Within ten bars into the opening number the director called a halt to the program and had everyone take up their opening positions again. The flags along the rear of the field had not been ready and came in several beats late.

The Scouts once again started the show. This time everything clicked. Marc's attention moved from the field to watching Justin and Lance. As the show was coming to an end, the entire corps had moved down to the sideline nearest their seat. They were lined up from thirty-yard line to thirty-yard line. The brass made a slow turn to the grandstand and the next four notes surged forth with power.  Watching Justin and Lance's reactions he saw goose bumps come up on their arms. "Yeah!" Marc thought to himself.

Lance and Justin followed Marc down to the field. Marc went to the drum majors stand while Justin and Lance joined Eric standing with the other coaches. Replacing the drum major on the stand Marc motioned for everyone to move in. As the corps moved in they tried to read Marc but he neither smiled nor frowned.

Looking out over 120 questioning faces Marc loudly said, "It has been a long, hot day.  You have shown me that you can give a 110%. Gentlemen, I think you've finally got it."

A cheer went up. As everybody congratulated each other, a loud voice came up from the crowd, "Marc, lead us in our song."

A silence fell over the field. "Oh, shit," Eric said under his breath.

"Who was that?" One of the coaches asked.

"Toby," Eric sighed. "He's new this year. He doesn't know."

Marc saw who had called up to him. Jumping down from the stand Marc strolled up to the boy. All the other Scouts stepped back from Marc and Toby.

"I can't watch this," Eric said. "Marc ate lunch didn't he?"

Lance and Justin grinned at each other exchanging winks. "Yeah, he had lunch.  Actually I think he went back for seconds," Lance said.

"Oh, shit!" Eric moaned.

Walking up to the boy Marc asked, "You're Toby, right?"

"Yes," Toby nervously answered.

Smiling, Marc put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "How about we sing it together?" Marc asked. The corps members around them took another two steps back.

"Sure," Toby said noticing the growing space around them.

Marc smiled as he stood directly in front of Toby; lifting his hand he gave a downbeat.

"When you walk through a storm, . . hold your head up high . . ." Marc and Toby sang out.

"And don't be afraid of the dark . . ." Marc and Toby looked around at the others.

"At the end of the storm, . . . there's a golden sky . . ." other voices joined in.

"and the sweet silver song of a lark. . .

Walk on . . through the wind, . . walk on . . through the rain . . . though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, . . walk on, . . with hope in your heart . . and you'll . . never . . walk . . alone

You'll . . never. . walk . . alone."

A second chorus of the song was sung by all.

"What the heck happened?" Eric asked.

Lance and Justin broke out laughing. Regaining some composure Lance said, "Marc has gotten over his singing problem. He now sings really well."

Pearl had a light supper waiting when the Scouts left the field. Marc, Lance and Justin joined them for the meal. Lance and Justin's novelty among the Scouts seemed to have disappeared. The other boys at their tables would talk with them but they no longer were the center of attention. Everyone was in his pre show mind frame.  Slowly the members of the Scouts wondered away to prepare for tonight's show.

Lance and Justin joined Marc and Pearl at their table. "Where is everyone going?" Justin asked.

"Getting ready for tonight," Marc said. "They will all be getting cleaned up and dressed for their show. Equipment is being checked and rechecked. Then everything gets loaded onto the trucks."

"Will we be riding over to the stadium with them?" Justin asked.

Marc considered the question for a moment. "I think it would be safer if we had security pick us up here."

"Why?" Justin asked.

"I knew you guys would be safe here. With it being an all male group I didn't have to worry about you getting mobbed," Marc said. "But when we get to the stadium there are corps that have a lot of girls in them. There's even an all girl corps from Canada competing tonight."

"Yeah, I can see where there would be a problem," Justin said sadly.

Marc pulled out his cell and gave Pete a call. Hanging up a few minutes later Marc said, "Pete is sending a van for us. It should be here in twenty minutes."

"Will you be hitting the road after tonight's show?" Lance asked Pearl.

"No. We are staying over. Tomorrow is a play day," Pearl said.

"Play day?" Lance asked.

"Several times during the tour there is scheduled play days. A kind of day off where the different corps compete in games," Marc said. "It's one of the few breaks they will have this summer to just kick back and have fun."

"Will any of the corps be around to attend our concert," Justin asked.

"No. . . By late afternoon everyone will be heading out for their next competition.  Anyway most of the kids don't have any extra money for a concert," Marc said.

Lance and Justin looked at each other as though they were sharing a thought. "Marc, how much time do we have before the van arrives?" Justin asked.

"About ten minutes. Why?"

"Ah, we just want to say good-bye to some of the guys," Lance said as he and Justin got up.

"K, just don't  wander too far away," Marc said.

Time passed quickly. The van arrived to pick them up. Marc went to Pearl and gave her a good-bye hug. Justin also said his good-bye to Pearl and received a bear hug.

Lance was the last to say his good-byes. Pearl pulled him into a tight hug.  As they broke their embrace she softly said. , "You may not realize how lucky you are to find someone like Marc. Cherish every moment you have with him and love him every day."

A little surprised at  Pearl's remarks, Lance smiled. "I will love him till the day I die."

"Eddie, any idea where the others are?" Marc asked as they drove to the arena.

"Yeah, I dropped them off at a restaurant just before getting your pick up call. After dropping you guys off I'll go pick them up."

Walking into the arena Justin and Lance wanted to check out the progress of the set up.  "Looks like they have been busy," Justin said.

"Not everyone gets a day off," Bobby, one of the stagehands said as he moved a crate across the stage.

"Looks like everything is about ready," Justin said.

"If we wanted to go to tonight's competition we had to hull ass," Bobby said over his shoulder.

"Were we the last to find out about this?" Justin asked Marc.

"No. After dropping us off this morning Pete announced what was planned for tonight to everyone else."

"So everyone is coming tonight?" Justin quizzed.

"Yeah, we needed to fill the three rows of seats in front of the Press Box so your presence will remain a secret from the crowd."

"Won't people see us coming into the stadium?" Lance asked.

"No. We will be coming in the back way. Everyone will be safely in the press box before the gates are opened," Marc said. "Let's go get cleaned up."

Finding the guys dressing room, inside they found their small carry on bags waiting for them.

"Ah, you guys go ahead and take a shower first," Justin said.

"Ah, Justin, I hope you don't take this wrong," Marc started out. "But, you need to shower with us."

"Ah, I don't think so," Justin said.

Marc chuckled, "It's not what you are thinking. The sun block we put on this morning needs to get cleaned off. If you don't get it all off, in another few hours you will start smelling like a old gym shoe."

"Really?" Justin asked.

Marc nodded as he got undressed.

"Justin, it's not like we haven't showered together before," Lance pointed out.

"I know. . . . But you two must promise to control yourselves," Justin said with a grin as he got undressed.

"Why? Are you afraid you may enjoy watching us getting it on?" Marc teased.

Lance gave Marc a slap on the arm. "Quit teasing him."

JC, Chris and Joey strolled into the dressing room looking for their friends. "They aren't here," Chris said.

Joey bent down and picked up a pair of boxers. "I think they are."

JC looked around and saw three piles of clothes. "I hope what is going on is not what I'm thinking."

Laughing could be heard coming from the bathroom. The guys exchanged looks then sat down on the couch.

The sound of the running water ended and laughter could be heard coming from the bathroom. Lance could be heard shouting a warning, "Marc, watch out!" Then there was a loud POP.

"I'm going to get you for that!" Marc shouted.

The door flew open and Justin ran out followed by Marc. They both skidded to a stop when they saw the others sitting there. "Hi, guys. When did you get here?" Justin asked nervously.

Lance came out with towels, handing Justin and Marc one each.

"Ah, guys have a seat," Chris said. "I think we need to talk."

Justin, Lance and Marc wondered what was going on as they took seats on the other couch.

"What's up?" Marc asked.

"That's what we'd like to know?" Chris asked. "It seems that the three of you have been spending a lot of time together. And we were wondering if something is going on?"

Justin's face was turning red with anger. "What makes you think something is going
on," he demanded.

"Well the three of you showering together does raise a big question," Josh said.

"What kind of question?" Justin asked. "Do you think because I spend time with Lance and Marc they may be turning me into a queer?"

Lance and Marc's had pained expressions when Justin glanced at them. Instantly Justin regretted using the word queer.

"Justin I'm just worried that you may be experimenting with something that could hurt
you," Chris said.

"What the fuck do you think was going on in there?" Justin asked with anger.

"We don't know what was going on in there. But the three of you showering together means something probably was going on," Chris said.

"You're right, Chris. We were having a orgy in there," Justin snapped.

"Justin!" Marc said. "Calm down."

"Why should I calm down? They have already made up their little minds. It wouldn't matter that we were showering together in order to wash off the sun block we put on today."

"Sun block?" Joey quizzed.

"Yeah sun block. We spent the whole day out on the football field. And so we wouldn't burn Marc had us put on sun block," Justin said. "It was hot on the field so we took off our shirts. Without the sun block we would have been burnt to a crisp."

"In order to get all the sun block off someone had to wash Justin's back," Lance said.

"And that's what we were doing in there," a calmer Justin said. "Lance washed my back then they washed each other's. There was no other touching going on other than what we did to ourselves."

"So there is nothing going on between you and Marc?" Chris asked.

Justin glanced over at Marc and sighed. "There is something going on. . . . I've developed strong feelings for Marc. I love him."

"What?" Josh exclaimed.

"I love Marc," Justin said. "And I know he loves me."

Everyone's attention shifted to Marc.

"He's right; I do love him," Marc said. Seeing shock spread across his friend's faces Marc added, "And I love Joey. And I love Josh. And I even love you, Chris."

"But what about Lance?" Joey asked.

Marc smiled, "Oh him. I don't love him. I'm in love with him."

"Now I'm totally confused." Chris said.

"Chris, for the first time in a long time I have someone in my life who likes me, for me,"  Justin said. "Marc sees, me.  He cares for, me.  And he doesn't expect anything in return. He is the first friend I've made in the last five years that I can truly trust."

"Guys, no matter how much time Justin spends with Lance and me it will not change him into someone he isn't," Marc said. "You are what God made you. In Justin's case, I'm afraid he's just a horny, teenage, heterosexual male."

"Hey! I'm not horny all the time," Justin protested.

Everyone laughed at Justin's comment.

"I think we owe you three a apology," Chris said. "We should have trusted in you more."

"I think we can see where you were coming from," Lance said. "And I think we would have been worried if you hadn't said something to us."

"Guys, if we are going to get to the stadium on time I think you three had better get dressed," JC said.

The three went to their bags to get dressed. Marc dropped his towel to step into his boxers.

"Shit, Marc, Justin really got you good," Joey said after seeing the large red spot on Marc's right ass cheek.

Justin turned to look. "Marc, I'm so sorry," Justin said. "I didn't think I snapped you that hard."

"Hey, Curly, don't worry about it. Even though I may walk with a limp for the next month I still love ya."

"Wow! What at view," Justin exclaimed looking out the window of the press box.

"Probably the best seats in the house," Marc said.

"Hey, look," Joey said as he looked over the large table of cold drinks and snacks.

"Why the spread?" Justin asked.

"Because like it or not you guys can't leave the press box," Marc said. "And it would be a good idea for you all to stay away from the windows until the competition starts."

"Why? There is only our staff out there." Justin said.

"In another five minutes they are going to open the gates and the stadium will start filling up," Marc pointed out. "A good part of the crowd will be corps members who perform later in the program. If any of them spot you there could be a riot."

"But won't there be members of the Madison Scouts in the audience? They already
know we're here," Justin said.

"They've been asked not to say anything about meeting you two today," Marc said.

"Pete, it looked like the arena is all set for tomorrow night," Lance said.

"Yeah, they really busted their rear ends getting everything set so they could come

"Guys," Justin said. "Today we got to talk to a lot of the Scouts. We found them to be like us, passionate about their music. I admire them for what they are doing. Like Marc said earlier today our tour is a cakewalk compared to what these kids are going through this summer. And believe it or not they have to pay to be a member of their corps."

"I like that idea," Pete said.

"Don't get any ideas there," Chris warned.

"During their tour there are not many free days. And when they get one most of them don't have the money to do much," Lance said.

"That's why on free days like tomorrow there are organized games between the different corps," Marc said. "It gives them a chance to lie back and unwind."

"Lance and I have this idea we'd like to present to you," Justin said.

"What do you want us to do?" JC asked with interest.

"Well. Since the arena is all set for tomorrow. We thought that if we did our sound check in the morning we could have all the corps kind of sit in," Justin meekly said.

"You think we could do it?" JC asked Pete.

"The sound check is no problem," Pete said. "But security will be a problem. We won't have the extra people available until tomorrow night."

"If you guys are willing to do that for these kids. I think I know were to get the extra security," Marc said.

"You sure?" Pete asked.

"Yeah, before the competition all the band directors have a meeting. What if I ask if the directors and their support staff if they would act as security in exchange for their kids getting to sit in on your sound check."

"If you can do that I don't see any reason why not," Pete said.

"Well?" Justin said looking at his band mates.

"Let's do it," JC said.

"Yeah, let's go for it," Joey agreed.

"Sure, why not," Chris said.

"Ok, I'll go see what I can set up," Marc said as he got up to leave.

The stadium began to fill and the guys stayed away from the windows.

"Any sign of Marc?" Lance asked Pete.

"Yeah, he's coming up the steps."

"What's taking Marc so long?" Justin asked.

Pete smiled as he looked out the window. "I think if he would stop talking with people on his way up he would make better time."

Lance edged near the window to take a look for himself. Marc was talking to a small group of people, and then he would take a few steps and was stopped again.

"He's getting awful touchy feely down there," Pete pointed out.

"I think they know him," Lance observed.

Marc finally made it back to the press box. "It's about time," Lance said upon Marc's return.

Marc grinned at Lance. "I had a little trouble getting back up here."

"Well if you wouldn't stop to hug and kiss everyone you met coming up you would have made better time," Lance pointed out.

Marc shrugged. "I know a lot of people here. Most of them I've marched with."

Marc was spared any further grilling from Lance as the first corps took the field. After the warm-up, the judges were introduced. While waiting for all the judges to take their place, all attention in the press box was drawn upward when they heard footsteps.

"What's going on?" Chris asked.

"That's one of the judges," Marc said. "He is judging visual effects."

When everything was ready the first drum corps stepped off beginning that night's competition.

Marc enjoyed watching his friends experience their first drum corps competition. He watched their wide-eyed wonder as the pageantry of the night unfolded before them.

"Was that the last corps?" Justin asked.

"Yeah, that was the last one," Marc confirmed.

"What happens next?" Lance asked as the last corps left the field.

Marc pointed over to the edge of the track where the competing corps were gathering.  "As soon as they get lined up all the corps will enter the stadium and take up positions on the field."

Finally a cadence was played by the last performing drum corps, which just happened to be the Madison Scouts, as the colorful mass moved onto the field. The whole mass passed in review before the grandstands before breaking off and taking up positions each on one of the ten yard lines. With each corps in position the drum majors were called to center field to receive their scores.

"What's going to happen now?" Joey asked.

"They will be given their scores. The drum major of the winning corps will then lead the assembled corps in America The Beautiful/O Canada. Then each corps will play themselves off the field passing in review of the winning corps," Marc said. "The winning corps will then do an encore."

"Will they do their whole show again?" JC quizzed.

"No. It will be done in concert formation on the track. After the encore the winning corps will then pass in review and exit."

"Then is it all over," Justin asked.

"Yep. And everybody can go home."

There were a few preliminary awards given out. Madison Scouts took best visual and best percussion. And in the final tally they also took first place with a score of 82.70.

The drum major of the Scouts made his way up into the stands but instead of turning to the assembled corps he turned and looked up to the press box.

"What's going on?" Justin asked.

"I don't know," Marc said as he stepped closer to the window.

The drum major pointed up to the press box then down to the spot beside him.

"I think he wants you down there," Lance said.

Marc was grinning as he left the press box. Bounding down the steps Marc joined the Madison Scouts drum major. After a hand shake the drum major presented Marc his baton so Marc could lead the mass drum corps in America The Beautiful/O Canada.  As impressive as each drum corps is as individual units, the combined sound was awe-inspiring.

Marc went down to the field and stood with the Madison Scouts during the retreat. Marc was asked if he would direct the Scouts during their encore but he graciously declined.  Marc joined his friends for the remainder of the show.

"That was awesome," a bubbling Justin said as the group exited the elevator.

"I'm glad you all had a good time," Marc said.

"I'd like to go to another competition if we ever get a chance," Joey said.

Chris said, "What's the chance of running across another competition with our schedule."

"Did anyone of you happen to look through your program tonight?" Marc asked.

"Yeah, why?" Justin asked.

"Did you notice the list of corps listed?"

"No," Justin answered.

"If you would have looked you would have seen the corps Magic of Orlando listed," Marc pointed out. "I believe that's where you guys live. Isn't it? I thought the words Orlando and Magic would have caught your attention, Curly."

"I really didn't look at the program that close. There was too much happening on the field," Justin said. "Right now I think I need to find my bed, I'm exhausted."

"I know what you mean," Marc agreed. "See you all in the morning."

Lance and Marc showered together but they both were so weary that fooling around was the last thing on their minds. After drying each other they went straight to bed.  Snuggling up to Marc, Lance said, "Thank you for today."

"You're welcome."

"Marc. . . Do you miss not marching with the drum corps?"

"Yeah. But working with them as their arranger helps."

"But it can't be the same as marching with them."

"No. It's not the same. But if I would have marched this year I would never have met you."

"In a way I'm glad you didn't march this year," Lance said. "And I can see how hard it is on you not being able to march again."

"Who said I can't march again?"

"Well you aged out. So you are too old to march with a drum corps."

"Wrong, love of my life. I may be too old for junior drum corps but there still is senior drum corps."

"Senior corps?"

"Yeah, for us old guys," Marc said. "And it just happens that there is a senior corps in Orlando."

"There is?"

"Yep. The Heat Wave. So if I get bored with hanging around pop boy bands all the time I can go play with the Heat Wave."

Lance frowned. "You think you are going to get bored?"

"Never with you, James. Never with you."

"Good. I think I'll keep you too," Lance said as he snuggled close. "Good night, love."

"Night, James. I love you," Marc said as they both drifted off to sleep.


An added note: I do need to give some credit where credit is due. In this story I had to deal with what it is like to be a member of a drum corps. I have never been a member of a corps but I have been a fan for many years. 
So I turned to several sources for my information: 
Drum Corps International: 
Madison Scouts:  

If you ever get a chance to see a drum corps competition I strongly urge you take the time and attend. It will be an evening that you will never forget.

If  you have any comments feel free to contact James.   E-mail