Hey, this is my first Nifty posting, so be generous with the feedback, okay? I want to thank Drew, who I bounced all this off of, Enis and Braan for dealing with me, and everyone out in the chat room. And, since this has become the fashion around here, I want to recommend my favorite stories: Josh and Just, Escape/Choices, and Next Window Please (it’s new, it’s fabulous, try it).

Disclaimer: Maybe the members of N*Sync, BSB, and 2Gether are gay, maybe they aren’t. It’s really none of my business either way. And, if you’re under 18, don’t tell anyone you’re reading this.

by Schuyler

Kevin woke up in alone in a hotel room. It didn’t really matter to him where he was, but, from the heat, he could safely assume that he was in the South. Even in February, he could feel himself sweating. The clock read 8:12. And the phone kept ringing. He was sure that had been part of his dream. He groggily reached out and grabbed it, clutching it close to his ear. “Hello?”
“Kevin, get up.” Nick sounded way too excited. “I am not going to miss my plane because of you.” Nick was going home to his new sweetheart.
Kevin’s mind clicked into “in charge” mode. After all these years, he couldn’t help it. “The car will be here at nine. Be in the lobby with your luggage at a quarter till.” He hung up and stumbled to his feet. There was a funny taste in his mouth. He’d have to brush his teeth in the shower today.

It was like directing a small but completely unorganized and apathetic army. Chris had stolen Justin’s backpack and was racing in circles around the lobby. “Ha ha ha, Curly. Catch me if you can.”
Lance took a deep breath and shouted. “Guys!” Three pairs of eyes turned to him. “The limo is here.” Justin, Chris, and JC ran out of the hotel. Joey still sat in one of the low chairs, off in his own world again. Lance knelt beside him. “Joe? We’re going now. Where are you headed?”
Joey sighed, his brown eyes focusing on nothing in particular, his expression distant. “I don’t know, maybe home.” He swallowed hard.
Lance knew that he didn’t want to go home. “Go on out to the car, Joey. Tell the guys I’ll be there in a minute.” Joey shuffled off to the limo. Lance stood and dialed his cell phone. It rang twice before he answered.
Kevin was standing in the airport, trying to shuffle his four ducklings off to three different flights when his phone started ringing. He recognized the number on the display and stepped away from his friends to answer. His voice was a controlled whisper. “Hey, what’s up?”
Lance turned towards the door to keep an eye on the boys in the limousine. “I know you aren’t going to like this but...”
“But Joey’s really depressed cause he had this fight with his girlfriend and they broke up. He should be over it by now, but he isn’t. I’m not really sure what happened between them...”
Kevin cut him off. “You’re rambling. What’s going on?”
Lance grimaced. “I was just wondering if, maybe, he could come with us, cause I don’t want him to be alone.”
Kevin clenched his teeth. “If you think it’s that important, but this has always been just us. It’s okay with me if you bring him, but he has to keep this a secret. And Jerry may not like it.”

Jerry O’Keefe stood in the front hallway saying goodbye to his girlfriend Erin. “Have fun and tell your parents that I said hello.” She kissed his cheek and was gone.
Jerry turned for his bags as his car showed up. “Jerry,” Chad came up behind him, “are you really leaving?”
“Chad, we haven’t had a break in a while. I’m just going to go visit some friends. You know how to reach me. I’ll be back in a week.” Chad just stood there looking lost while Jerry ran out to catch his car.

“Lance, I feel really weird about crashing on your friends.” Lance and Joey drove through Nevada in a rented sport utility vehicle. The snow was piling up around them.
“Look, I hate that I have to do this, but we need to talk about this trip. I sort of lied to the guys, and you know how much I hate to do that, but I didn’t want them to find out about this.”
Joey got a little nervous. “What’s going on here?”
“Some friends and I have a place we go to sometimes when we’re feeling pressured and burned out. Just to talk and be normal people. And give support, you know. And the place is gorgeous, so I thought it might be good for you.”
“Who are these friends? Anyone I know?”
Lance tried to smile. “You’ll find out.” He was still a little nervous about the reception Joey would get. He trusted his friends, but these trips were their little secret.
It was almost three when they drove up to the cabin. Joey was in absolute awe. It was a large slanted roof log cabin. There were no neighbors in sight, just a stand of evergreens and a high snow covered hill. He could just glimpse a trickle of a freezing stream behind the house. Lance spotted the red pickup truck in the drive and sighed, parking their car. “Come on in, Colby’s here.” Lance and Joey grabbed their bags and trudged inside, leaving their snow covered shoes in the entry. “Colby!” Lance shouted.
A pretty, smiling brunette in a fleece sweater appeared at the top of the staircase. “Hey Lance, I was just customizing the place for you. There’s cocoa on the stove, come on up.” And she disappeared again.
Lance turned to Joey. “Let me show you to your room first.” The kitchen, the living room, and the den were up the rough wooden stairs. The bedrooms were all lined up downstairs by the front door. He turned down a long dark hall. Joey’s room was the first on the left, the one that usually stayed empty. “Here you go.” Joey trudged in, more uncertain now than depressed. Lance continued on to his room, two doors down. He had wanted the master bedroom on the first trip, but had lost it in a game of rock paper scissors. By the end of that first week, he had become too attached to the little yellow bedroom to give it up. He set his luggage on the window seat, gazed out for a minute at the endless snow and trees, and then went back to collect Joey. “Come on,” he called into Joey’s room. Joey was just standing in the center of the green room, looking a little sad. Lance reached in and grabbed Joey’s arm, pulling him along behind.
Upstairs, Colby was just coming out of the den into the kitchen. “Hey Lance.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Everything’s all set, just like always. And there’s a little something special in the wine cooler.”
“Thanks. Colby, this is Joey.”
She reached out and shook his hand. “You boys have fun, but I gotta jet.”
“Where are you going?” Joey asked, the question coming out a little more childlike than he had intended.
“Home,” she laughed. “I’ll see you in a week. Have fun, and tell the others I said hi.”
Joey turned to Lance, “Who are these others?”
A voice came from behind him, strong and wonderful. “I think he’s asking about me.” Joey turned on his heels and was looking directly into the eyes of Kevin Richardson, who had just let himself in the front door, missing Colby by a minute. Kevin drew in his breath, trying to look calm. Something had just happened. He’d met Joey a few times before, in passing, but Joey had always had this shield up, this “I’m cool and women love me” attitude. Now, that shield had fallen, and Kevin was left staring into two of the sweetest eyes that he’d ever seen. There was this vulnerability that Kevin saw, and Joey was trying to force a smile through it. “Hi.”
“Kevin, hi.” Joey reached out his hand, Kevin took it and pulled him into a hug.
Kevin’s eyes rolled back in his head at the feeling of Joey in his arms, so strong, and yet so soft, strangely perfect. He could almost feel Joey collapsing into his weight. What had happened to this boy? Joey breathed in the scent of Kevin’s hair, such a simple thing, but the mere idea sent his senses into overdrive. This is what he’d been trying to explain to Alexa, the feeling of something so strong in your arms, something so masculine.
Kevin broke away and turned to Lance. “If that boy doesn’t loosen up, he won’t make it through the day here.” Lance hugged Kevin tightly. And a little nervously. Kevin could read his friend like a book. “Don’t worry, I called Jerry,” Kevin whispered. “We both trust your judgment.”
“Speak of the devil,” Lance smiled. Kevin turned around to see Jerry at the top of the stairs, snow still on his shoes.
Jerry had a broad grin on his face. “Someone looks left out. Hey Joey.” Jerry hugged Joey, Joey turned back to Lance and finally smiled, he felt comfortable here. Lance smiled too. Jerry gave hugs to Lance and Kevin, then turned back to the group. “Are we ready?” Kevin and Lance nodded and reached into their pockets. All three pulled out their cell phone chargers and plugged them into the power strip that Colby had left on the counter. Then they plugged their cell phones in and set them in a neat row. Joey looked slightly confused. Jerry laughed a little. “The phones stay here all week. If one rings and we’re around, then we’ll get it. But if we’re out having fun, they stay here. The guys can fend for themselves for one week.” Joey was about to feel a little angry at Lance for dropping the guys who knows how many times to run around in the woods, but then he looked at the three men in front of him, who already looked relaxed and happy. These men were burdened with the lives and careers of twelve others. And no one could understand that like they could, so no one could support them like they could. Joey was smiling again, which made Lance happy. He moved next to Joey, nudging him gently and smiling back.
“There’s cocoa on the stove,” Lance offered.
“Did we miss Colby?” Jerry asked, a little frown on his face.
“Yeah, but she says hello and she’ll be back in a week.” He turned to Joey, explaining. “This is Colby’s house, she just lets us rent it from time to time. She actually lives just over in Truckee on Lake Tahoe.”
Kevin had a little smile on his face. “Did Colby leave us anything else?”
Lance rolled his eyes. “Yes, in the wine cooler.”
Kevin ran behind the counter and opened the little stainless steel door. “You don’t understand, Joey. Colby is a wine importer. She has the most incredible taste. Ooh.” He held the bottle up to the light. “A 1997 Merlot.”
“With dinner, Kevin,” Lance gently reprimanded him.
“I’m not one of your little boys, Lance.” Kevin smiled jokingly.
“And we are all off-duty this week,” Jerry said, hopping up on the counter. “Kevin, pour me a cup of cocoa.”

Kevin leaned over to Lance as he came around the dinner table with Colby’s Merlot. “I don’t know what you did, but it worked.” Joey and Jerry were talking quite animatedly about basketball and Joey had a smile on his face, the same smile he’d worn all day. Kevin sat in his chair and held up his glass. “I’d like to propose a toast. To Joey. It’s just been the three of us for about a year now, and we’ve never had anyone else, but I think we just gained a new member. Joey, welcome.” They all clinked their glasses together and started on the wine.
Each man had two glasses of the incredible Merlot. They didn’t like to get drunk on their little outings, it wasn’t about that. Reaching for dessert, Joey spilled the rest of his glass down his front. He shyly told the others that he’d had enough fun for one night and was going to head to bed. Kevin watched him until he was gone, then leaned conspiratorially over to Lance. “Lance, I gotta ask you this.” Jerry and Lance leaned in too. “Do you think it would be okay if I, you know, made a move on Joey?”
Lance was going to automatically respond that he didn’t think that Joey was interested in men, when something stopped him. He realized that he wasn’t sure. Kevin was his only gay friend, but he couldn’t be sure about Joey. He responded with a shrug. “Sure, I guess. But be careful.”
“Goodnight, then.” Kevin rose from the table and headed off to his room.
“Do you know about Joey?” Jerry asked.
“No, but I guess Kevin’s gonna find out.”

Joey was laying on his bed, staring at the moonlight reflected off the snow that filled his room and thinking. What was it about Kevin? Why had he felt that way? Sure, he’d felt that way about men before, but it was more with Kevin. It was this sudden sense of...perfection. Kevin felt so good and so perfect in his arms. Then it had grown. They had talked all afternoon and through dinner, and they clicked. Joey knew that Kevin could see the fear and sadness behind his eyes, and, behind Kevin’s, he saw concern and real caring. More than he felt from Lance, different somehow. He felt like Kevin wanted to make all of the pain and the fear go away, even though he didn’t know what caused it.
He looked across the room and saw a dark figure in the doorway. Kevin smiled at him. “I knocked and you didn’t answer. I just wanted to see if you were asleep. Can I come in?”
“Sure.” Joey sat up.
Kevin closed the door and padded softly across the floor to sit next to Joey, leaning against the headboard. Joey could feel his weight, comforting and close. “Are you having trouble sleeping?” Kevin just stared ahead at the door. He was so relaxed. He felt like he already knew what was going to happen.
“Lance was worried about you. Do you want to tell me what happened?” Neither would make eye contact. It was like the confessional.
Joey took a breath, and then started. “Alexa and I had been seeing each other for a couple of weeks, it wasn’t anything really serious. A couple of nights ago, she’d come to Houston to see me. After the show, we went back to my room, and I just couldn’t do it. She got angry. ‘Don’t you find me attractive anymore? Is it someone else?’ I tried to explain it to her rationally and calmly. I was finally sure of the answer, so I thought Alexa would understand too. I explained that, while I liked her a lot, and thought she was really beautiful, and a lot of women are really beautiful, I needed the feel of something stronger in my arms to really want sex. It’s not that I don’t like women, I just don’t find them sexy enough to go all the way anymore. I need someone with muscles. I don’t want the softness of women, I want that chiseled smoothness of a man.” He sighed and fell a little, everything off his chest. And then he was, for a moment, scared. Kevin hadn’t spoken, hadn’t moved. Joey suddenly realized that he’d just come out of the closet to someone he hardly knew. He started breathing again when he felt Kevin’s hand close around his, tight and warm. “Thanks.”
“No, thank you.” They sat still for a while, not thinking about anything except their hands twined together. Then Kevin spoke softly. “I think that you want to hold something strong and masculine in your arms, right?” He could see Joey nodding out of the corner of his eye. “Have you ever thought about having something masculine wrapped around you?” His voice was calm, not hinting at anything. Joey looked a little unnerved. Kevin smiled. “Calm down and come here.” He brought one leg up to his chest, and then dragged Joey in front of him, lowering his leg to hold Joey in. Joey was resting between Kevin’s legs, leaning against his chest, his arms closing around Joey’s torso. Joey knew in that moment that he was right. All those things that he’d told Alexa had been theories, he’d never actually tried it. But he was so happy in Kevin’s arms. Not just because it was some man, but because it was Kevin, and it felt so right. He sniffled. Kevin leaned down and pressed his dry cheek to Joey’s wet one. Joey could feel him smiling. “Everything’s going to be okay now. Shh.” Kevin held Joey there until they both fell asleep.

Jerry and Lance were sitting at the counter when Kevin popped in, bright and cheery, and poured himself a cup of coffee. The two gave each other little smiling looks. “So,” Jerry asked, “what happened?” The three had always been interested in each other’s romantic exploits, even after Jerry and Lance found out that Kevin was gay.
Kevin looked up at them, with the most innocent possible look on his face. “Nothing. He’s hurting, and I respect that.” Jerry and Lance both wore their “Yeah, right” faces.
Joey came into the kitchen whistling. “Morning, Kevin.” He brushed Kevin as he poured a cup of coffee. “Hey Lance, Jerry, I’m bi.” Joey took his cup of coffee and headed back to his room.
Jerry took a deep breath and then turned to Kevin. “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin to do.”

Kevin returned to Joey’s room fifteen minutes later to find Joey sitting by the window, watching the stream slip past. Joey looked up to see a big smile on Kevin’s face. “What was that all about?” Kevin asked.
“Once I told you, I just felt so, so free, so unburdened. I want to be honest with my friends now. There’s no reason not to be.” He blinked slowly, a little shyness creeping into his face again. “And I want to thank you.”
Kevin walked over to Joey. “No thanks necessary.” He leaned down to hug Joey. He felt a certain warm sensation slide up his spine and smiled. Joey had to have felt it too. “Get dressed, we’re gonna go sledding.” Kevin let go and went out the door with one last smile back at Joey.

The men were collected in the den, zipping up their jackets and putting on their boots when a phone began to ring. “Damnit!” Jerry shouted.
“Hey, Joey,” Kevin said, “play phone jockey, tell us who’s won this time.”
Joey ran over to the counter and looked down at the three phones. “And the lucky winner this time is...Lance Bass!” He held Lance’s phone out to him.
Lance trudged over to the phone and answered it. “Hello?”
It was JC, but he could hear Justin yelling in the background. “Lance, it’s me. How are you?”
“I’m good, I was actually just heading out. What do you need?”
“Well, we wanted to know how Joey was doing.”
Lance smiled a little. “He’s feeling much, much better.”
“Great. Also, when are we going to be home again, and when does the tour start?”
Lance’s smile faded and he rolled his eyes. “We’ll be home again in about seven weeks. We tour starts in twelve days, but we have practice all next week. And write that down, I’m not going to tell you again.”
“Okay, Lance. Settle down. I’ll talk to you later. Have fun.” Lance hung up the phone and turned to the door. “Let’s go sledding.”

Joey wondered if his toes would heat up faster if he stuck them directly in the fireplace. Jerry sat on the couch under a blanket and Lance was curled in a chair, trying to conserve body heat. It wasn’t the sledding that had done them in, it was the prolonged snowball fight and, in Joey’s case, a deserved dunking in the chilly stream. Kevin came into the den with four blankets, fresh from the dryer. “Here you go.” He tossed blankets to Lance and Jerry and then bent next to Joey, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders. Lance and Jerry smirked at each other. “Are you okay?” Joey nodded. “Good, cause you really deserved that trip in the stream.” Kevin smiled and stood up, sitting on the couch with Jerry.
“Joey,” Lance started cautiously, “don’t feel like you have to, but if you’d like to explain what happened this morning, I’d be interested to hear.”
Joey tucked his feet into the blanket and swiveled around, only to find himself sitting in front of Lance and Jerry, the star display. He swallowed and then looked over at Kevin, who only nodded. “Well, it started with Alexa. I guess I just don’t find women, um, exciting enough to sleep with anymore. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t want one right now. Alexa flipped out and I guess I got nervous that everyone else would too. That’s why I kinda retreated for a while. But I was talking to Kevin last night and it just came out.” He paused for a moment, afraid that he would hurt Lance by admitting that he told someone he hardly knew before he told Lance. “And it felt really good, like I didn’t have to hide and people would still like me. And I just wanted to tell everyone. Well, you Lance cause you’re one of my best friends. And Jerry, cause you just were really welcoming when I needed it. So, thanks, and I hope you’re not really mad at me.”
Lance smiled, “Joey, I don’t know why you’d think I was mad at you. You’re still the same Joey, you’re still one of my best friends. And I’d hug you, but I think my limbs are frozen in place.” Even Joey laughed.

The guys had stayed up late that second night, talking about music and management and serious stuff. Even Joey had to admit that it was a welcome change from the video games and goofing around of touring with N*Sync. Now he sat backwards on his bed, watching the snow fall soundlessly and icicles forming on the overhang. Jerry and Lance were fast asleep in their rooms. Kevin was restless, unable to sleep, unable to stop thinking about Joey. Joey felt so right in Kevin’s arms and Kevin had felt so right holding him, finally right, finally good, finally loved. That was the thing that Kevin couldn’t get out of his mind, this inescapable knowledge that Joey loved him. They had only just met, but there was something there that Kevin had never felt before. Kevin rose from his bed and walked slowly down the hall.
Joey felt the bed weigh down behind him, felt Kevin’s arms wrap around him, and exhaled, his eyes closing gently. “Couldn’t sleep either?” Kevin asked.
“Got a lot on my mind.” They sat quietly for a while, watching the outside.
“Can I ask you a question?” Kevin whispered. For the first time, he was nervous.
“Did you love Alexa?”
Joey gave off half a laugh. “No, no. I see people from time to time, have a little fun, you know how lonely it gets on the road. And Alexa was fun, a lot of fun. But I think I want more now, I think I’m ready for more.” Kevin was going to make his move when Joey turned to him. “Can I try something?”
Kevin was a little stunned and shook his body a little, trying to respond. “Sure.”
Joey smiled. “I’m not going to bite you.” He scooted back against the headboard, just like Kevin had the night before. “Come here.” Kevin smiled back and crawled up between Joey’s legs and turned around. Joey shifted uncomfortably for a while until he got his arms fastened around Kevin’s taut, muscled midsection. He let his fingers trace around on Kevin’s bare stomach. Joey was suddenly frightened that he’d pass out, the most gorgeous man that he had ever met was in his arms in only a pair of black cotton boxers. He momentarily scolded himself. He had no idea if Kevin was gay or just being helpful.
Kevin settled back against Joey’s chest, suddenly more comfortable. “Joey, are you interested in me?”
Joey tried not to appear frightened, but he was. He was afraid that Kevin was trying to let him down gently. He blinked back tears. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I think I’m falling for you. Scratch that, I think I’ve fallen.” Kevin looked up at Joey, smiling through unnecessary tears, and knew the answer. He pressed a hand to Joey’s cheek and leaned up to kiss him, pressing their lips together. It was heaven. Joey loosened his grip on Kevin so that Kevin could turn to face him, then slid down on the bed. Kevin hovered above him, grinning. “You never answered me.”
“I think I love you. If I didn’t before, I sure as hell do now.”
Kevin smiled and kissed Joey’s neck gently. “Maybe now we can sleep.” Kevin peeled Joey’s white t-shirt off and slipped behind him, spooning him, finally feeling skin against skin. Kevin fell asleep with his nose tucked into Joey’s hair.

Kevin walked into The living room three days later to find Jerry and Lance playing cards. “Why are all of your clothes hanging in my room?”
“You weren’t using your room,” Jerry said, “so we thought we’d find a use for it.” Kevin smiled and threw a pillow from a nearby chair at Jerry’s head.
“Joey’s still asleep. I’m gonna go out for a while, but tell him I’ll be back by lunchtime, okay?” Lance nodded and Kevin headed out the door.
True to his word, Kevin came up the stairs just as Joey was setting the table for lunch. He kissed Joey’s cheek before sitting down. “Where have you been?” Joey asked.
“You’ll find out later.” He had that certain mischievous smile that Joey knew meant something good was coming.
Lance and Jerry knew that something interesting was going to happen, so they excused themselves after lunch to do some snowmobiling at the nearby resort. Kevin silently took Joey’s hand and led him downstairs into their bedroom. He sat Joey on the bed and took a seat facing him. Kevin licked his lips nervously and kept his grip on Joey’s hands. “Kev, is something wrong?”
“Joey, we’re going back in a few days, you’ll be touring and I’ll be recording and I don’t know when I’ll see you again. I wanted to give you something, to ask you to be mine alone, but a ring just didn’t seem to be right.” Joey noticed for the first time the dampness on Kevin’s hands. Kevin let go of Joey and pulled a little jewelry box from his pocket. “Joey, will you go steady with me?” Kevin suddenly realized how incredibly corny that line had been.
Joey thought it was sweet. He watched as Kevin lifted the top of the box to reveal a tiny silver Superman pendant, a red S on a blue background. “Kevin, of course.” He leaned over to kiss Kevin before lifting the necklace out of the box.
It felt rough on the back. “I...I had it engraved,” Kevin stuttered. Joey turned it in his hand to read the back. A little heart separated KR and JF. Joey looked up at him, a curious smile on his face. “It’s all that would fit.”
“It’s perfect. I love it. I love you.”
Kevin smiled bigger now, taking the pendant from Joey and leaning towards him to fasten it around his neck. His fingers traced the chain down to Joey’s chest. “It looks wonderful on you.” Joey smiled before laying back on the bed, pulling Kevin with him.
Lance and Jerry walked in the door an hour and a half later. Lance tilted his head a little at the sounds coming from Joey’s room. “That’s a new sound, isn’t it?’
The air was pierced by a distinctly Joey growl and a little yelp. “Definitely new.”

Joey sat on his bed in a hotel somewhere in Canada holding the phone to his ear. Kevin was on his couch in Orlando. “Have you told the others yet?” Kevin asked.
“I told them about me, but not about us. I guess I don’t think they’re ready for that. And I don’t want them to find out about your little retreat.”
“It’s our retreat now. And no, I haven’t told the boys about us. I haven’t even told them about me yet. So this is our little secret for now.”
Joey loved the sound of Kevin’s soft breath. “Ours and Lance’s and Jerry’s.”
There was a pause while they both just savored this being together. “When do you have a break?” Kevin asked.
“In about five weeks I’ve got some time off. Five days or so.” He heard Chris slip his key into the door and sighed sadly. “I have to go.”
“It’s okay. I’ve got some stuff to get done. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Joey hung up. Kevin set down the phone and then picked it up again. He had to call Colby.