Well I'm getting a little better.  This one didn't take quite as long as the last one.  Still not the two weeks I hoped for, but hey, it's done!  lol  You're getting tired of me talking already aren't you?  Yeah, I thought so.  (Like any of you actually stop to read these anyway!  HA!)  Okay, okay, I know I've talked enough already ... get on with it.  GO!  READ!
Yeah ... you still know this, but someone might have forgotten: the characters in this story are just that, characters, and even though they may bear a striking resemblance to the members of *NSYNC ... they're not them! This work also doesn't pretend to imply ... ok it does pretend ... but it's not meant to be truly indicative of the actual personalities or sexual orientations of any of the group's members or any real person. Okay, enough of that....
Umm ... where's my ride?

Nightmare Before Dawn

Chapter 9

Lynn and Lew sat at the kitchen table sharing some chips and con queso dip they had 'forgotten' to take into the living room. The two of them finally had a chance to sit and just talk, something they had not had the opportunity to do in quite a while.

"I know that Justin is a good judge of character," Lynn told him, after thanking him again for reassuring her about Justin's relationship with Mac. "I think I just needed to hear it from someone not quite as biased as he seems to be." All this was still rather new to Lynn. Her motherly instincts had kicked into full swing after seeing the way her son had been reacting to Mac's calls and emails.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Lew said. "Like I said, though, Mac's just like he seems. I've never known him to be anything but honorable." He reached over and grabbed a handful of chips and put them on the napkin in front of him.

"It's just good to hear it, especially from you." Lynn touched his hand. A relationship of trust had built up between the two over the years and this newest situation had merely added to it.

Lew arched an eyebrow as he dipped one of the chips and brought it to his mouth.

"My son's known you since he was twelve," Lynn said. "I've trusted you with his education and even his life on several trips when I couldn't make it. I'm also fairly sure that he told either you or Josh ... probably both, that he was gay before he told me." Lew looked as if he were about to speak, but she silenced him with a shake of her head. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he had someone like the two of you ... someone that he was close enough to that he could be honest about his true feelings. The thought of him going through something as important as that on his own scared me more than anything else, when I first found out. Well, after I got over the initial shock at any rate."

Lew smiled and nodded, "I know exactly what you mean." He reached over and held her hand for a moment. Lew understood how hard this was for Lynn. Her son had been in the spotlight for a long time, and had missed out on much of the so-called normal childhood moments. Now Lynn was facing the prospect of letting him go in yet another way.

A sudden light shown in Lynn's eyes. "Has Mac made any plans about where he's going to stay while he's here?" A slow smile widened across her face.

"He stopped by to see a mutual friend near Panama City after he came from Pensacola last week," Lew told her, his eyebrow raising. "I picked him up there yesterday and he stayed at my place last night. When he saw the turn for Orlando, I was afraid he was gonna jump out of the car." They both laughed at the image. "He said he was planning to get a room at a hotel nearby for the rest of the visit," Lew told her, with a shrug.

"Oh, there's no need for him to do that," Lynn said, the grin now firmly in place. "He can stay with us, if he'd like." She rubbed her hands together.

"Are you sure? His stuff is still in the car ... I could just dump him out," Lew laughed. He could tell she was up to something, and he couldn't help feeling sorry for Mac. I'm glad I'm not in his shoes, Lew thought to himself.

"It'll give me a chance to ... get to know him a little better," she said innocently.

"Then it's a plan ... we maroon the fly boy!" The two burst out laughing again.

Walking into the house, Justin and Mac heard laughter coming from the kitchen and decided to head in that direction instead of joining the others in the family room. As they walked in the doorway, Lew and Lynn quickly tried to cover their laughter, but to no avail. Their grins peeked out from behind their welcomes.

"You two have a nice chat?" Lew asked, as he rose to place his glass in the sink. He gave Lynn a wink as he moved closer to the door, seeming to give the two young men room to sit at the table.

Justin and Mac looked at each other, then proceeded into the room. "Mac, you want somethin' to drink?" Justin asked. At Mac's nod, Justin took two glasses down from the cabinet and filled them with ice, then grabbed a couple of cans of soda. Walking over to the table, Justin sat the glasses and cans down and motioned for Mac to take a seat as he pulled out his own chair and sat.

"Well?" Lew asked.

The two men sat there looking at him, a questioning expression on their faces. "How about you answer a question for us first?" Justin asked. The laughter and cover up still had him puzzled. It seemed that Lew and Lynn were up to something and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. "What's up with the laughing then stopping when we came in?"

Lynn got up suddenly from the table and busied herself with putting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. "Justin, I don't know what you're talking about. It was only a little joke," she said, making sure to keep her face turned from the men at the table.

"O..kay," Justin said, sharing a look of disbelief with Mac. "Our 'chat' went just fine, thank you."

"Anything you'd like to share with the class?" Lew asked, as he returned to his seat at the table. He fixed his eyes on Justin, making his former student squirm in his seat.

"Man, don't do that! You make me feel 12 years old again!" Justin looked to Mac for support, but he just shrugged his shoulders. "Let's just say it was a very positive experience. Well ... expect for Mac bein' worried about the 'competition'." Mac looked away from the group, a blush staining his cheeks. Justin jumped and mouthed 'ow' as he looked at Mac's profile, then nonchalantly reached down to rub his shin.

Lynn leaned against the counter and grinned at Justin's discomfort. "What competition?" She liked the way things were looking between the her son and his young man. They seemed to have worked some things out between them and she was determined to find out more about it than they were willing to say right now.

"He asked me if there was anything serious goin' on between me and this other person," Justin said. He glanced over at Mac who looked ready to do more bodily damage to him.

"And just who is this competition supposed to be?" Lew asked, narrowing his eyes. He looked over to Mac, but Mac simply shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Britney," Justin replied.

Lew and Lynn sat for a moment, not sure if they had heard him right. Lynn looked over to Lew who was looking back at her. Slowly, Lynn began shaking her head as if to clear it, then started laughing quietly. "I'm sorry, Mac," she said. "But Britney?" No longer able to control her giggles, she pulled out the remaining chair and sat down covering her mouth.

A chuckle had been heard from Lew at the beginning of Lynn's fall into hilarity, but at the mention of Britney's name a second time he lost all semblance of composure and joined Lynn.

Mac looked over at Justin, an indescribable look in his eyes. "You're gonna pay for this," he said, then smiled wickedly.

Justin smiled back, his best 'innocent young boy' look plastered on his face. "I didn't bring her up ... you did," he said, beginning to chuckle himself. He reached under the table and took Mac's hand in his own, squeezing it gently in apology.

Mac's look lessened and he genuinely smiled at him, shaking his head. "You're still gonna pay for it," he said, then leaned close to Justin's ear. "But I think I can promise that you'll like the price." Justin blushed as he shifted in his seat.

The tramp of many feet coming toward the kitchen and Chris saying 'What's so funny?' brought even more laughs from Lew and Lynn. The rest of the guys and Melissa came into the room, almost filling it to capacity. "Looks like the party's in here, guys," Joey said, looking around the room.

Lew tried to quiet himself long enough to talk, but one look at Mac and Justin, both blushing, sent him off again. He sucked in breath between his chuckles long enough to get out an agonized, "Mac's worried ... that Justin ... might ... get stolen ... by...." Just the thought of the final word was more than he could take and he doubled over holding his ribs while he laughed.

Lynn, who had been biting her lip and gripping the table to keep from laughing, completed his sentence, "By ... Britney!" Her laughter overtook her once again as she caught sight of the stunned looks on the faces around the room.

"Britney?" Steve said. He looked at Justin and shook his head. "Now ... uh ... what?"

"No way!" Chris said, as he started laughing. He turned and threw a wadded five dollar bill at Joey. "Man ... I lost again!"

The others soon joined in the laughter, and JC reached over to pat Mac on the shoulder. "Don't get upset. We were all waiting for you to ask about her. We just didn't think you'd actually believe she was competition."

Mac sat, looking decidedly uncomfortable. "Come on, I didn't really think she was competition. It was a joke!" he insisted. He looked around him, then stopped to shoot another look at Justin.

Justin gave him his patented 'puppy dog' look and leaned over to put his head on Mac's shoulder. "I'm sorry."

Shaking his head, Mac put his arm around Justin. "Okay ... the joke's on me."

Joey walked over and patted Mac on the shoulder, "Hey man, don't worry about it. You're family now ... we wouldn't mess with ya if you weren't."

"He's right. It's how we show our love," Chris said, making a sickeningly sweet face. He crossed over to the counter to deposit the glasses he had brought from the living room. The stacked glasses swayed, nearly falling. Lew dove for the leaning stack, grabbing them as they tipped even further.

"Well, if you kept your mind on what you're doing ... you wouldn't be the butt of so much of our love," Lew told him, shaking his head.

Laughter burst upon the scene once again, as the attention was taken off Mac and placed firmly on the shoulders of Chris. Chris for his part, helped Lew get the glasses into the sink, then turned to the group and put his hands up in surrender. "Okay ... okay, that's enough. I've gotta go anyway, my lady's waitin' for me. Don't you think this is over, though, I'm gonna get each and every one of you back for this," he said.

"Ooo ... we're so scared," Lance said, pretending to shake. His smile took the edge off his words and Chris grinned back. "You've got the right idea though, I've gotta get going, too," Lance said. He turned to JC and Melissa, "Are you two ready to go?"

"I think so," JC said. "Mel's already grabbed our jackets."

She handed the two men their coats, then turned to give Lynn a hug. "Thanks for everything," Melissa said, for Lynn's ears only.

Lynn returned the hug, then pulled back. "Melissa, you know I love you and Josh. I'm not sure what's been eating at him, but I know the two of you can fix it together."

Slowly, they all made their way toward the front door, several of them stopping off to grab their jackets and other things along the way. The scene at the door was one of family love as each of them hugged the others, promising to be careful on the way home, or wherever they were going. Soon, Lynn, Justin, and Mac stood waving good bye to the last of the departing cars.

Suddenly, Mac turned to Justin, saying, "Uh ... is Lew still in the house? I'm ... well ... I was supposed to be going with him, at least I thought I was." Mac looked around for Lew's car. "He was parked over there ... wasn't he?"

Justin looked over to where Mac was gesturing. "I didn't get outside, so I have no idea." Justin turned to his mother, and saw a small smile creeping over her lips. He rolled his eyes as he shook his head. "Something tells me you've been had, darlin'."

Mac saw where Justin was looking and turned to Lynn, "Okay, I'm lost again. What's going on?"

Lynn grabbed them by the hands and began pulling them inside. "Don't worry, Mac, you haven't been forgotten."

As they walked in the door, Lynn let go of Mac's hand to point to the travel bags set off to the side of the hallway. "Justin, would you grab those and get Mac settled in?" Justin grinned broadly as he picked up the bag closest to him. Mac went to grab the other, but Lynn stopped him. "Oh Mac, let Justin take care of those and we'll go wait for him in the living room."

Mac sent a longing look to Justin as he was pulled toward the living room. Justin laughed, shrugged, and picked up the other bag on his way to the stairs. Mac followed along after Lynn, not sure what was in store for him. Lynn hadn't seemed to be upset or worried, but she had seemed determined.

In no time, they were sitting on the couch facing one another. "Mac, I've heard so much about you from Justin, but I wanted to have a few minutes to talk to you myself. I hope you don't mind." Lynn settled back against the arm of the couch, making herself comfortable.

"Of course not, ma'am," Mac said. He tried to appear relaxed, but every instinct told him this could be a very important conversation. "I should apologize for not taking the time to properly introduce myself to you earlier. My only excuse would be that I was extremely happy to see Justin again."

"Don't worry about it, Mac," Lynn said. "It's not like Justin wasn't ecstatic to see you as well. He did the unthinkable ... he walked out on a basketball game!" Lynn laughed quietly and Mac joined her. She could tell he was worried, but she thought that might be a good thing for right now. Keep him a bit off balance, she thought to herself. "Justin said you're mom and dad live in Maryland near Josh's family ... Annapolis, right? What are they like?"

Mac smiled, "Yes, ma'am, about a half hour drive from what Justin's told me. Well, let's see ... my dad's been in the military since before I was born, as was his father before him. So, I'm a second generation military brat. My mother has put up with all of us for twenty plus years now. She's a wonderful woman. I have no idea how she made it through my brother's and my childhood. My brother is also in the military ... the Navy." Mac stopped talking abruptly, feeling that he had started rambling. He sent Lynn a shy smile.

"It's okay, you sound very proud of them, and I can tell that you must love them very much," Lynn said, putting the younger man at ease. "Please, go on." Lynn watched how animated Mac was when he talked about his family. He was all smiles and gestures as he spoke of them.

With a self-conscious smile, Mac continued. "As you can imagine, we did a lot of moving around when I was growing up. We never stayed in the same place for more than two or three years. It wasn't easy making friends and losing them in such a short time. The best thing to come out of it though was how close my brother and I became. He's my best friend. He's based out of Norfolk right now. It was a lucky break for him to get an assignment so close to our folks, especially with me so far away." His face had taken on a far away look as he talked about his family, something Lynn was both pleased and somewhat worried to see.

Out in the hallway, Justin quietly came down the stairs and stood with his back against the wall, next to the door to the living room. He knew he shouldn't eavesdrop, but he was also unable to walk away and leave Mac alone.

A serious look came to Lynn's face. "Does your family know that you're gay?" She watched his face and body language to see how he would react to this bald question. This was one of the most important questions Mac needed to answer for her. Mac stared at her for a moment, then closed his eyes.

Justin jerked as he heard the question his mother had just shot at his boyfriend. He bent over, taking his head in his hands. God, mom! Could you have asked that any worse? Talk about puttin' him on the spot. Damn! A mental battle raged within him; should he go in and rescue Mac or let him take care of it on his own. Justin knew what Mac was going to say, but the idea of Mac facing the third degree made Justin want to be there with him.

Mac's eyes opened, then he looked directly into Lynn's eyes. "My father and mother don't know, yet. My brother does. He was one of the first people I came out to, and he's been nothing but supportive. He says I should go ahead and tell them, but I just haven't found the right moment. Somehow, 'The turkey's great, by the way I'm gay, could you pass the gravy,' didn't seem to like the best dinner conversation last time I saw them." They both smiled slightly. Emotion caused Mac to lean closer to Lynn as he became serious once more. "Mrs. Harless, I know about Justin's last relationship. I struggled with my sexuality for a long time, but when all was said and done, this is what feels right. Aside from flying ... my sexual preference and my feelings for your son are the only things in my life that I'm sure of. Nothing's going to change that. There is no way that I could ever hurt him like that b... like he did." With difficulty, Mac bit back the word he would have liked to use to describe the other man. He had expected this question to come up sooner or later, but her blatant way of asking had him answering in the same fashion, with nothing held back.

Lynn reached over and took his hand. "Thank you. You have no idea how you have put my heart and mind at rest. And I told you that it's Lynn." A movement by the door drew her attention, and Lynn glanced up quickly.

At that moment an arm encircled Mac, causing him to tense. He took a moment to look up at Justin, then his eyes turned once again to Lynn. As he saw her smile, he relaxed into Justin's embrace. Justin tenderly kissed his cheek, then whispered in his ear. "I love you ... you know that, right?"

Mac looked over at Lynn for her unspoken permission, then turned to kiss Justin lips. "I love you, too." Gripping Justin's arms, Mac pulled Justin over to sit between himself and Lynn.

Justin turned to his mother, "I love you, too. But, please, don't ever do that again."

"Oh Justin, you know I wouldn't do it if I didn't love you and worry about you," Lynn told him, as she tussled his hair.

"Mom!" Justin said, moving way from his mother's hand. "Not the hair!"

The three of them sat talking for a while, before Lynn decided it was time for her to go to bed. Justin and Mac stood as she got up. Justin kissed her good night and Mac hugged her, feeling more comfortable around her now. He had a feeling that soon he would be looking on her as a second mother and she was sure to be treating him as one of her children.

They sat down once again as she passed out of the room. Mac pulled Justin over to him, laying him against his chest. "That went far better than I could have hoped," Mac commented, his breath blowing gently over Justin's hair.

Justin snuggled into his arms. He loved being able to lay his head on Mac's chest and hear his steady heartbeat in his ear. "Yeah, I almost came in here when I heard her asking you if your rents knew you were gay."

Mac had been rubbing his hand over Justin's arm, but stopped. "When you heard her? Justin were you listening in?" Mac pushed Justin up a bit in order to look into his eyes. "How long were you out there before coming in here?"

"Well ... I didn't want to interrupt y'all." Justin tried to use his 'puppy dog' look again, but it had no chance of working this time.

"Justin!" Mac exclaimed, looking shocked.

"Oh, come on. Do you really think I wouldn't want to know what was going on? Besides, I was worried about you." Justin ran his hand up Mac's arm, then laid his hand against his neck.

"Worried about me? What did you think was gonna happen?" Mac began rubbing his hand over Justin's back. "You should've known I could handle it."

"I know ... I know," Justin sighed. "I think I was worried more that something would happen and you would want to leave." Justin lowered his head, looking at Mac's chest, then began playing with the buttons on Mac's shirt. "I didn't want you to go," he said quietly.

Mac cupped Justin's chin and raised his eyes to his own. "I didn't want to go either. I want to spend all the time I can with you." Slowly, Mac brought his lips to Justin's in a slow, sensual kiss.

After a time, Justin pulled back. "Maybe it is time for bed."

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