Hey, kids! Okay, I have to apologize for the first Chapter 13. I had obviously lost my mind and it wont happen again. This is the last Retreat (probably ;-) )Thank you all for reading and drop me an email to let me know how you liked it. As always, Schuydncer@aol.com . My very last thank yous go out to everyone, Dru and Karen, Dennis, Kat, Kelly, Enis and Ellis, Casey, and everyone at chat (Braan, Mike, CJ, Rachel, Scotty, DLS and everyone Ive missed). And a superbig thank you to David, without whom Id be telling you this story via smoke signal. Enjoy!
It was so cold in his palm, what did that say? Joey, giddy, excited Joey, pushed him towards the door. His hands didnt shake as he aimed the key into the lock. The bolt pulled back hard, and Kevin swung the door open. Joey went rushing into the apartment. He still loved Joey, Joey pushing twenty-nine, and Joey had spent nearly a month working on this three-bedroom space, but Kevin hated it already. It wasnt the apartment, the apartment was gorgeous, thirty-four stories up with a view of the Empire State Building, it was the principle. Over a year ago, when the Backstreet Boys had finally called it quits, Kevin had bought a ranch upstate for the two of them and retired quietly, waiting for his Joey. And Joey visited as often as he could while 'NSync were touring in support of what they knew would be their last album together. And the day that 'NSync announced their breakup, Joey announced that he had purchased an apartment in Manhattan for when the hideaway ranch got too boring. Now, as Kevin toured the gorgeous apartment behind his boyfriend, he saw it full of things, personal things, Joeys things, all the things that Joey had never had time to take to the ranch. And all of Kevins things were in Westchester. They were living apart again and it tore Kevin in two.
Lance was wearing his sunglasses. He looked so sexy in those sunglasses. Corbett smiled to herself. She walked beside Lance through Central Park with Evan Timberlake in her arms. It was a beautiful day, there were so few people in the park, the world was perfect. This would be the day. He was going to tell her everything, all about he felt. He reached out and took her hand. She buried her face in Evans neck and giggled.
Theyd been living in the city for the year since NSync had broken up, but they were all still together, Corbett, Lance, and Jerry had apartments in the city and JC and Chris had just bought a house close by in Connecticut. Justin lived the furthest away, in Los Angeles with his new wife Janie. But they were in Germany now, where Justin was singing alone, and Corbett was watching their eighteen month old son Evan.
Lance and Corbett sat side by side on a park bench. Evan sat in Corbetts lap and sucked on his bottle. Lance gathered his courage, cleared his throat, and spoke in his gorgeous deep voice. Corbett, she looked over at him, her brown eyes wide and curious. I feel like Ive known you forever, and I practically have. And I...
Evan dropped his bottle to the grass below him and began to shriek and wail.
Evan, Corbett sighed, leaning down to retrieve it. Lance sighed and fell back against the bench. Corbett sat up again and turned Evan in her arms, facing Lance. They looked so precious, the two of them. What were you saying, Lance?
Just that... The skies suddenly opened up into a sunshower. That had to be an omen. Nothing, its time to go home. She held out her hand and he took it, then they walked slowly, peacefully home.
Kevin was propped up in what he thought of as Joeys bed, in the Manhattan apartment, and reading a book. Joey came in, a little hyper as usual. Chris and JC are going out to hit a couple of clubs, do you want to come?
Kevin sighed. Not really, honey. But you have a good time. He hated the way his voice sounded when he lied. He wanted Joey to be happy, but he also wanted Joey to stay.
Joey came over to the bed with a pout on his face, climbing up on the bed and crawling the last few feet. Come on, Kev. Well have a little fun together. Then, Joey placed his hand against Kevins cheek, we can have a little fun later.
Kevin shrugged him off with little more than half a smile. I dont want to go, Joey. But you can feel free.
Kevin, Joey sat on the edge of the bed. Is something wrong?
Kevin felt like hed been slapped. Here he was, a million miles from the country life hed imagined for them, sitting in a high rise surrounded by Joeys things and Joey, in that patronizing, comforting tone, was asking him what was wrong. He pushed Joey as hard as he could. Just go!
Joey was struck. He stumbled backwards off the bed and towards the door. He knew that he should act, but he couldnt speak. He and Kevin had fought so few times, but they had both always understood the problem. Now he wasnt sure what was wrong, but he knew that it had to be him. And he couldnt deal with a situation like that. So he mumbled his goodbyes and fled.
Wait, explain this to me again. Chris struggled to hear his sobbing friend over the loud dance beats.
Theres nothing to explain. Kevins mad at me. Joey clutched his half full Long Island Iced Tea and cried almost violently. Hed been resolved to put his problems aside for the night, but the sight of JC and Chris kissing had brought it all flooding back.
Thats it. This place isnt helping. Come on. Chris grabbed Joeys arm and dragged him outside into the crisp November air. Half a block from the club, they settled on the hood of JCs car. Chris had messaged JC from his two way pager and knew that Josh would give them a little time before he came out. Joey, calm down and tell me what happened.
Joey sniffled, choked out one final sob, then opened his dry lips. I dont know whats wrong. I worked really hard on the new apartment and I showed it to him, and he didnt seem particularly excited, which upset me a little, but I got over it. Now its been three days weve been home and hes just been sort of out of it and depressed and now he seems really pissed.
Chris wrapped his arms around Joey. Were all going through some massive change right now. Hes been living and working with the same four guys for the last thirteen years, just like you, and now he has to go back to being a civilian. Its gonna be a little weird for all of us for a bit. Joey was crying on Chris shoulder. Plus, those guys, his brothers, his best friends, they still dont know about him, about you. Were here for him, but its not the same. He has to start over again. Joey had never felt so much pain from Kevin, not because Kevin was upset, but because he didnt understand why. He, who could usually tell just what Kevin was thinking, was suddenly completely in the dark. He was living with a stranger.
JC hugged Joey as he got out of the car. Dont give up, okay? Joey attempted a smile. There was no way he was going to let Kevin get away, not the man he loved more than the world, not the man who could melt his heart with a smile. Joey was going to fight. He was going to make Kevin happy again.
Joey tiptoed into the apartment to see that the master bedroom light was still on. He entered to find Kevin packing his suitcases. Kevin? Whats going on?
Im going home tomorrow, Joey, back to the ranch. Kevin cast a momentary, final glance in Joeys direction.
Joey didnt much want to go back to the ranch, but he didnt really feel invited anyway. His face fell. It didnt much matter, because Kevin wasnt looking at him. Oh, all right. Ill leave you to pack then.
Joey dragged his feet down the hall, feeling somewhat displaced in his own apartment. He trudged into the guest room and flopped down on the bed, hoping for sleep.
Kevin felt uncomfortable in the master bed. His Joey wasnt in his arms. That was half the reason he had finally given up the Backstreet Boys, so that he could hold Joey in his arms all he wanted. Now, less than a year later, he was without his reason.
I hate it when they fight, Lance had said, taking Evan from her arms, my best friend and a man whos like a brother to me. What kinda side am I supposed to take? Now Corbett knocked on Joeys door. He let it swing open as he wandered away from it. She closed it behind her and joined him on the couch. Joey, out of habit, scooted towards her and laid his head in her lap. Whats wrong, Joe? she cooed.
Kevins mad and he left and now hes in Westchester! Joey whined.
She stroked his head and kissed his forehead. She wasnt there to offer sage advice, she wasnt even there to talk. She just didnt want him to be alone.
Kevin was alone. He sat in a leather wing chair by a window and stared out through the night at their pastures and stables. A half-finished glass of wine rested in his hands. This was supposed to be their love nest, they were supposed to run around on their hundred acres and be in love and be happy. Kevin just felt hollow inside. Empty. He loved Joey more than he could comprehend, but Joey had hurt him. Joey had rejected Kevins two years of planning and work, Kevins dreams, and Kevins company. Instead of settling down, Joey had chosen to run off with his friends in Manhattan. As he watched the snow fall, he tried to push Joey from his mind, knowing that hed fail. Instead, he tried to set his sights on emptying his wine glass.
Corbett sat by the window with Evan in her lap watching the buses go by. Lance just watched her. Justin and Janie Timberlake came out of the guest room with Evans things. Okay Corbett. Well be at the Parker until Sunday if you want to hang out or something. Janie lifted Evan up into her arms. And thank you again. Justin kissed her cheek.
Bye Evan, Corbett called. And they were gone.
Corbett turned to Lance, a whole Friday night ahead of them. So, what do you want to do now?
The words fell out by themselves. Theyd been bottled up too long. I want to be with you.
There was no mistaking it for Corbett. Lance didnt mean this in any innocent, friendly way. Without meaning to, a tear rolled down her cheek. Lance? Her voice broke just a touch.
He ran to her, kneeling before her. I didnt mean for it to come out like that, but you have to know. I love you, Corbett Keating. All that time you were with Thomas, he never really cared about you the way I do. He was scared. Corbett could tear him in two with just a word now. Hed never taken this kind of a chance before.
She touched his cheek, warm and flushed. I love you so much, Ive always loved you. She fell to the floor, into his arms, and he kissed her. It was heaven, just as theyd both imagined it, soft, sweet, perfect. She leaned back, smiling. Now what?
There was an excited, alive spark in his pale green eyes. Lets get married! She looked puzzled for a minute. CK, weve loved each other for a million years. If the point of dating is to get to know someone so you can decide if you want to marry them, then Im done. I want to marry you.
She smiled. Okay.
Lances cell phone rang before he had the chance to kiss her again. He held up his finger, motioning that hed only be a minute. Corbett fell back onto her heels. Kevin was on the other end. Kevin! Lance shrieked. Were getting married!
Who? Kevin, despite his own problems, sounded excited and happy for them.
Me and CK, of course! I told her everything and she feels the same way and were getting married.
Kevin resisted the temptation to scream like a girl. When are you gonna do it?
I dont know. He turned to Corbett. When are we going to do this?
He spoke to Kevin again. Definitely this weekend. Corbett came up close, letting him hold her tight to his side, hearing Kevin too.
Then come and do it at the ranch. Weve just had snow and its beautiful.
Lance turned his head to Corbett for confirmation, and she nodded vigorously. The ranch it is. Well be on the four-thirty.
This will be a real party then, Kevin said, thankful that he would no longer be alone. Invite everyone.
After calling the Timberlakes from a cab, Corbett and Lance were knocking on Joeys door. Are we sure this is wise?
Im not going to let their spat ruin our wedding. Joey is one of our best friends and hes coming. Each knew what the other was thinking, that this might be an opportunity to get the feuding men back together again.
Joey opened the door to see Lance and Corbett looking completely happy and excited. Were getting married! Corbett exclaimed.
Joey broke into an involuntary smile, screamed like a girl, and lifted Corbett up into his arms. Corby!!! Im so happy for you. As soon as he set Corbett down, she headed off towards his bedroom. Where is she going?
Were getting married this weekend. So pack your bags. Were going to the ranch.
Joey was shocked, turning his head back and forth between Lance and the door from which the sound of zippers and drawers opening and Corbetts humming could be heard. No, I cant go up there, not now.
Lance was absolutely calm, telling, never asking. Joe, youre one of me and CKs dearest friends, like a brother to us. We wont get married without you there, but we are getting married this weekend. Joey was quiet, feeling defeated, unsure of whether this was good or not. Go on, Joe. Help her. Joey started slowly towards his own bedroom.
Corbett was on the train before she had a free moment to call her sister. She sat bundled up beside Lance and dialed with her gloves on. This is Colby. Corbett just shrieked. Corbett, is that you? Colby was getting excited. Whats going on?
Im getting married!
To who? she squealed.
Lance! It was unintelligible to anyone but the sisters. Lance had his ears covered and Joey was just laughing.
Both girls were screaming. God, Corbett, Im so happy! Then more screaming. When?
This weekend. Can you come down? Please?
Oh, Corbett, I cant. Im up in at the Canadian vineyard with Peter and its harvest time. But the boys will take good care of you. Dont worry. Can I talk to Lance?
Corbett passed the phone to Lance and immediately leaned across the aisle to begin squealing with Chris. Lance looked at her and smiled. Hey Colby.
Well, your sisters a special girl.
And no one deserves her more than you. But you guys will take care of her this weekend, right? I can trust her other family to give her away properly.
Of course, Colby.
Now, have you thought about the honeymoon? You could always take her to the cabin.
Id feel weird, Colby. He switched to low whisper. She still doesnt know about my little retreats.
I know. But its there if you want it.
Goodbye, Lance. And good luck.
Goodbye. And Colby, he took Corbetts hand in his. I promise Ill be good to her.
You dont have to promise, I know you would anyway. Lance smiled and hung up.
Nine people poured into the log cabin at the ranch, with Joey straggling last. Kevin greeted them all with hugs, except for Joey, who evaded him. Now, if I remember correctly, youve furnished five bedrooms so far and thats just enough, Corbett said.
But we have an extra room, dont we? Justin grinned. Cause Lance will be sleeping in Corbys room.
Corbett and Chris looked horrified. Justin, she is getting married tomorrow, Chris scolded. The groom cant see her before the wedding. Justin threw his hands up in defeat.
Kevin just chuckled. Come on, Ill show you to your rooms.
At the end of the long hall, there was only one room left, the master bedroom. looking almost bare even with all of Kevins things. Kevin swallowed hard and led Joey in. Joey set his suitcases down on his side of the room and turned to face Kevin. Kevin shifted uneasily, then sighed. Someone had to take the first step. Ive missed you, Joe.
Joey broke into a wide grin and was going to throw himself into Kevins arms when Chris head popped through the doorway. I need my team downstairs now. Weve got a wedding to plan. Chris was gone just as quickly.
They turned to face each other again, polite grins on their faces. For the wedding, Joey stammered. Im on the team.
Well, Ill be here.
Joey bounced nervously on his toes. Okay, be back.
Night had fallen and only the track lighting about the island counter was on. Chris team sat clustered about. The tea was poured and Corbett clutched her mug, beaming like a star. Chris had promised to raid everyones suitcases for the perfect bridal couture. Janie had jumped at the chance to do hair and makeup and Joey was taking care of the legal stuff. And flowers. And cake. Now it was time for the big decisions.
In the next room, Kevins study, Lance was having what passed for a bachelor party. He was drinking brandy with Kevin, Jerry, Justin, and JC. Okay, Lance. Explain why the hell Im here, Jerry said. I get this phone call, be on the four thirty train to Kevins, Lance is getting hitched. Kevin and Lance laughed.
Honestly, Jerry. I dont even know what happened. We were sitting there, I told her that I loved her, I always have, and the next thing I know, were racing off to get married. He had a pleasant smile on his face.
What do you mean, always? Kevin asked, teeth still clamped around his cigar. You've been dating girls since before Corbett. And Corbett was with Thomas for almost four years.
But I always loved her, even if I didnt know it. And I think she loved me.
I have to say it. Its about damn time. The others around the counter looked up at Joey. Im sorry, but you two have been too perfect for too long. Believe me when I tell you that this was meant to be. Corbett, far from stunned, leaned over to hug Joey.
Justin and JC had gone to bed, and the others were yawning. Kevin was still smiling around his stub of his cigar. Okay, Kevin, you look too happy, Jerry said. And considering you were crying on the phone last night, I know that somethings gone right.
It was stupid. It was a stupid, stupid fight. I felt uncomfortable and Joey felt bored or something. I just dont think were used to the day to day of living together, of not just doing any damn thing we want without talking about it and we just should have talked to start with. They heard the footsteps of the others heading up to bed and Joey leaned against the pillar beside the study for a moment, smiling at Kevin, before heading to their bedroom. I think were going to talk now. Goodnight, boys. Lance raised his glass to Kevin. Jerry chuckled.
Kevin opened the door to his room to see a beautiful sight, Joey, smiling and slightly giddy, sitting on his side of the giant rosewood bed in his flannel pajamas with the star print. Are you coming to bed?
Kevins reply was breathy, he felt faint in Joeys presence. Yes. Kevin took off his shoes.
But were gonna talk first, right?
Yes. He unbuttoned his shirt. Joey just sat patiently, something childlike, innocent and hidden, and waited for Kevin. Kevin stripped down to his boxers and climbed under the cool sheets. He sat beside Joey, both quiet for a moment.
Youre not going to like this question, but I have to ask. Joey looked down at his hands. Why are you upset?
Kevin sighed and slumped against the headboard. I spent a lot of time working on this place. I love you and this place was supposed to be for us, our home, somewhere where we could be ourselves and together. Then you run off and buy this apartment, a very beautiful apartment, in Manhattan and move all your stuff there instead. Kevin paused to force back a sob. Joey was silent. Its like you were moving out on me.
Joey heard a little noise in Kevins throat, a muffled cry. He took Kevins hand in his. I would never leave you, he whispered. Kevin felt almost that hed begin crying, but found himself smiling instead. I love it here, and I love the town and you promised youd teach me to ride horses. But the guys are all down in the Manhattan area, and sometimes I at least will start to crave clubbing or a concert or something high energy, so I just bought a little place so that wed have somewhere to crash. Manhattan is fun, but Im getting sick of that green stripey wallpaper in Corbys guest room. Staring at the bedspread, they both laughed. Then they turned to face each other. I love you, and Im not leaving you. And dont you ever forget that. We just have to get used to this new life. He ran his fingers through Kevins hair and cupped his ear. Kevin leaned in just a touch, a signal that this was okay, then Joey kissed him. And the kiss was heavenly, a reminder of everything they had and everything they shared. Joey smiled. Goodnight! He clicked off the light.
What?! Joey was smiling in the dark, giggling to himself. All that and then ... Joey was silent. You arent even gonna take off your pajamas?
Goodnight, Kevin. He was snickering now. Kevin muttered under his breath and snuggled up to Joey, his arm around Joeys waist. Joey twined his fingers with Kevins. Kevin slid his arm under Joeys shirt to feel skin on skin.
Kevin, Lance, and Jerry were out for a horse ride before the wedding. Jerry was quiet, amused at Kevins air of Kentucky dignity, playing patriarch in New York State. Lance was dying with anticipation, but a little sad too. He hadnt seen his bride-to-be since the previous night when hed scooped her, already sleeping, from the loveseat in her room and tucked her into bed. Shed clutched his hand in his sleep and it had taken him an hour to bring himself to leave her side. Tears formed in his eyes, but he was happy. Finally, theyd be together.
Corbett had awaken at eight AM shrieking. Rings! She ran out of her bed and was banging on Chris door. He opened it, still groggy, his hair matted on one side, to see Corbett standing there in her little kid blue print pajamas. Rings! she shouted.
Oh my God! His eyes opened wide. We forgot the rings!
They ran downstairs after a phone book to find Joey already dressed and making scrambled eggs. Hey, whats up? he smiled.
Corbett and Chris paused for a second, stunned by Joeys presence. What are you doing up? Corbett asked.
Couldnt sleep. Too excited. Our little angel is getting married. He was beaming. Eggs?
Corbett remembered why she had come. Joey, rings!
Oh no. Well, dont worry. I know a jeweler in town. Decide what youre looking for and Ill pick something up while Im out getting the cake and the flowers. Chris and Corbetts jaws dropped involuntarily. Joey was so ... on top of it. Now sit and have some eggs.
Chris had asked Lance to choose a color for the wedding. He had chosen green. So now he stood in front of a full length mirror, looking at what hed wear to be married. I guess I always thought Id be more dressed up on my wedding day. He looked down at his olive sweater and brown slacks.
You look great, Kevin said, standing beside him.
Hes gay, Lance, Jerry said from his armchair. If theres two things he knows, its clothes and men. Trust him. They all smiled.
Meanwhile, in the master suite, all was chaos. Janie had Corbetts hair in rollers and was running color over the brides lips. Chris stood over the clothing hed collected and tried to choose outfits. Joey burst through the door with a bouquet of white flowers and green leaves. For you, my precious. Corbett giggled and took the flowers from him. The cake is upstairs and Justin has the rings.
Do you have a ring bearer? Janie asked.
Yes, Joey said smiling. Justin.
Kevin came out of the master bathroom in his black sweater and khakis. Joey sat crosslegged on the bed in a green sweater and green and brown cargo pants. Kevin! The color of the day is green!
Kevin smiled at him. Shouldnt Chris have you working? Or did Mr. Anal Retentive finally give you a break? Kevin moved closer to Joey.
Hes choosing the brides outfit. Weve got a couple of hours. Kevin began kissing Joey, pushing him onto his back.
There was a knock on the door and then Justins voice. Kevin! Lance has no shoes!
Joey sighed. How long till theyre out of our house?
Kevin kissed his forehead. Just a couple more days, max. Then its just us and the snow. Joey moaned. Kevin smiled and left the room.
Final checklist! Joey called after Corbett was dressed. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
Well, my underwear is blue.
Really? Joey asked.
You cant see it, Joe.
And the skirts new! Janie added. We bought it just last week.
But something borrowed? Corbett asked.
Here, Justin offered, fishing in his pocket. I carry it for luck. He held out his original bejeweled white bandana. Corbett smiled and raised her skirt. Janie laughed and covered Evans eyes while his father tied it on to Aunt Corbett like a garter.
And something old? asked Bridget.
Oh! Corbett stood up and turned around, lifting her top a little and revealing a symbol five years old. My tattoo!
They were gathered in the atrium, each beside their partner, Evan in his mothers arms, Jerry beside Lance. The doors opened and there stood Corbett, dressed in a white ballroom skirt and a cream fleece vest over a long sleeved FuMan Skeeto logo tee. Her hair was half pulled into a ponytail, gently curling. She looked a little nervous. Joey and Chris glanced at each other and then, in unison, began humming Mendelssohns Wedding March. The others joined in. Corbetts face glowed as she suppressed a laugh. Lance thought she looked so young, twenty, when hed first fallen in love with her. God, had it been that long? He was beginning to tear up at the thought of how long hed waited when he looked down and saw Corbetts white bedroom slippers peeking out from under her hem. It was his turn to suppress a laugh. She took his hand in hers and looked up into his eyes. Afterwards, theyd sign the license and make it official, but this moment was just for them. Both missed the Justice of the Peaces opening remarks.
And now, he said, I think Corbett and Lance might want to say some words of their own.
A surprised Corbett and Lance looked over at the Justice, then back at each other. We forgot to write vows, she said. Whatll we do?
He smiled calmingly at her. Just make something up.
She handed her flowers to Chris then turned to her groom, holding both of his hands. Lance, Ive loved you since the day I met you. Our relationship is built on trust, friendship, and love. And Ive never been more sure about anything than I am about this.
Corbett, you mean everything to me. I thought the long road to this moment would somehow detract from it, but it has only made it sweeter. I thank you for every moment weve shared and for every moment we will share. They just smiled at each other for a while, basking in the warmth.
Do you, James Lance Bass, take Corbett to be your lawfully wedded wife, for better or for worse, for as long as you both shall live?
He responded confidently. I do.
And do you, Corbett Wren Keating, take Lance to be your lawfully wedded husband, for better or for worse, for as long as you both shall live?
I do. A tear ran down her cheek. He tenderly wiped it away.
The rings please. Justin gave one ring to each of them. Repeat after me. With this ring. They repeated in soft, sweet voices. I thee wed. Corbett guided the plain white gold band onto Lances finger. With all that I am. Lances hands shook as he held the tiny white gold ring. And all that I have. He slid it onto her finger. It was sealed. And all that I ever shall be.
By the power invested in me by the great State of New York, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride. Lance bent down slowly and kissed her, his lips sliding over hers, his wifes, and he knew that he never wanted to leave. Her arms held him close; she felt as if she could fly, but she wouldnt have moved for anything. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. James Lance Bass.
Instead of applauding, the guys, with Kevin filling in for Lance, began singing Corbetts favorite song, I Thought She Knew. The Basses separated a hair and held each other nose to nose. The couples paired off, JC holding Chris and Kevin finally holding his Joey while singing, and first kiss became first dance.