Sentimental Journey

by Ian McDuff

Cheers and jeers - and suggestions I may or may not take - gladly accepted at A kudos apiece to all who have written already, and the chatroom crew. Warm fuzzy feelings and all that. Seriously, thanks for the egoboo, guys.

Standard Disclaimer: If descriptions of same-sex acts, feelings, &c are held to be - by any governmental entity asserting jurisdiction over you, or by your religion or moral framework - illegal, immoral, unethical, or fattening, read no further. If you are underage according to your local laws, read no further. If you have somehow managed not to notice until now that this is a gay site, read no further (and look into either corrective lenses or remedial English classes, because you've managed to miss about a dozen different warnings to get here at all). I need hardly say that the events and personalities depicted in this story are wholly figments of the author's rabid imagination, and in no wise should be taken to imply that any actual member of any boyband, or any celebrity known to mankind, or any real person, is or conceivably could be gay - least of all the members of 'N Sync and of the Backstreet Boys, all of whom are of course straight, well-dressed, intelligent, articulate, cultured, sweet-natured, and kind to their mommies. No celebrity so much as mentioned here should be construed as having these assigned fictional habits, preferences, personality, or choice as between boxers or briefs. Major Lee also of course does not and cannot possibly exist - and I am certainly not he. (In fact, bits of him are borrowed from a lovably pompous writer pal of mine who has no idea he's gay....)

Equally, it should be evident that I have no contact with or knowledge of any of such musicians, pop stars, their agents, associates, staff, or families. It should also be relatively clear that this is hardly my first time writing fiction, though it is assuredly the first time I've written in this genre or for this nifty little site. Oh - a word about that. Obviously, intellectual property rights are held by me, and no cross-posting to any site that charges any fee for entrance or activity is allowed without prior written consent from the author. And two quick words about the story: first, of all the subgenres out here, Celeb/BoyBands was the least likely for my gay fiction debut. Some readers - who refuse to read it - seem to think that it's all wannabe fantasy, and that using characters made to order is all we can manage as writers.... But there are a number of superb and highly original stories in this genre, and I too wanted to tackle the challenge of breathing originality and freshness into what could so easily be formulaic. After all, the challenges are there: believability, the heightened pressure of closeted relationships for young men whose growing up has been anything but normal, often the collision of worlds and backgrounds.... The other warning is that this series is not going to move urgently into hot monkey sex - though, yes, we're getting there: patience; it will build, and it will I hope be something more than quick stroke-lit. Now enough prologue: let's get to the tale....



Now that the Pennant Race and the Fall Classic are over, we return to our regularly scheduled programming. With the World Series having delayed our broadcasts, we are pleased to offer a SPECIAL PRESENTATION this time around, a COMEDY SHORT prior to the new installment of our serial, 'Sentimental Journey' - a COMEDY SHORT starring our own beloved Lance.

Ladies and gentlemen, our Special Presentation, 'Mister Stealth.'



Yessirreebob. Ev'body knows they call me 'Scoop,' and ev'body knows why - on account of how JC and I are the only two know what's goin' on half the damn time. Land's sake, I'm the second youngest and somehow 'tother I've ended up keeping our schedules and lives and everwhatall straight everwhiles the other'ns fiddlefart around like debutantes in the Delta. 'Scoop' it is. But they call me 'Stealth,' too. There's a reason for that.

I love JC to death, honest I do. But not the way y'all seem to think and grin about behind our backs. I know damn good and well about all those wild-hair rumors and that - 'slash' is the term, isn't it? - that writing out there on the Net. It used to bother me, a lot. But then I noticed how much of it's written by straight women. Well, shootfire, what's the all-round best way to get a straight guy to perk up? Lesbo action, and y'all know it. Not a straight boy alive doesn't get off on watching or reading about two, three gals getting busy. So why should I get bent all out of shape to find out that straight women are getting off on the idea of me doing the wild thing with JC or Justy? (I'm sorry, I really am, but while I am willing to be understanding - I'm 'the sensitive one,' remember? - I still can't hack the idea of anybody getting happy over thinking of me with Chris or Joey. Blech.) Still and all, what's sauce for the goose....

Anysomehow. Everwhen we first started getting known, I've caught this flak. Oh, Lance, sure, he's the gay one.... I've been called - well, Lordy, you name it: girly, sensitive, soulful, effeminate, queer, queeny, whatall.... The 'Lance' out there on the Net and all, the character these folks have made out of their fantasies, has more sides than a county politician. Teary, mean, submissive, butch, bottom slut, leather top, lamb, bitch from hell, conflicted sweetie, total whore, Bible-thumping closet case, hard-drinking out-and-proud activist ... been paired off with all my bandmates, 98 Degrees, BBMak, BSB (usually Brian for some damn reason, hell if I know).... Half the dang country thinks of me as 'Faggot Gump,' the homo-hick. Now that I'm used to it and thought it through, it just amuses me.

Well, except for all those Ellen DeGeneres look-alike jokes. Thank the Good Lord those've died on down.

Part of what amuses me is how oncet folks get an idea in their fool heads, it is just plumb stuck in there. I could get caught in a Nevada cathouse with twenty-three different call girls at once and I'd still be 'the gay one' - oh, he's just trying to compensate, it's a closet thing.... (One thing I will admit, right here and now. All that on the Net about my package? The hung-like-a-Hungarian-racehorse rumors? That part is true, and I'm proud and pleased to admit it.)

Well, once I figured out that come hell or hoarfrost I was always going to be 'the gay one,' far as most folks were concerned, I started in to calculate just how-all to get some use out of that. Now, let me tell you straight up, I do love these guys, they are like brothers to me now. And one thing I could do - and have - is protect us all and our livelihoods. Fact is, folks have figured me for gay since the get-go and it hasn't hurt us. But there's no telling what would happen if they turned their beady little eyes towards the front of the stage.

That's right. A little old matter of our lead singers.

Chris is weird - it's those psych classes, I just know it is - and it wouldn't just shock the shit out of me if he'd experimented in college. Joey ... there's no labels for Joe. You cain't call him straight or gay or bi or anything. He's a full-bore ladies' man no question about it ... but Joey's mission in life is to share the fun of Joey-ness with anybody who asks and a fair few who don't. Plus he's such a horndog he'd hump a brushpile if he thought there was a snake in it. But when 'saw' comes to 'coo-up,' nobody would much care who the three of us woke up with.

You want management to shit green corn though, just you suggest Justy and JC are getting a little too obvious.

It's a hell of a thing. Folks ain't just whistling Dixie about JC being intense and passionate - he is, about ever'thing. Well now you can just imagine what sort of problems that can cause when that boy's in love. And he is. Has been since who-throwed-the-chunk. With a certain moptop lead singer from Tennessee whose greatest ambition in life is to wake up one morning and be - um, not be Caucasian.

It's a hell of a thing. They've had this hothouse relationship since they were damn near both in shortpants, back in the MMC days; been surprising I'd say if it hadn't crossed the line to something more'n friendship, really. Damn near incestuous: JC's been half an older brother and half a daddy to Just since the Age of Pericles. (And no I don't know if they have any 'daddy' scenes behind closed doors, and damn if I want to know. Their business, not mine, and glad of it.) Justin - well, I love him to death even if he is spoilt rotten (and that ain't nobody's fault - not Lynn's not Johnny Wright's not nobody's - 'tain't nobody's fault but JC's, 'cause it ain't the fame and the fans and the money as have spoilt that boy, it's JC who's just plumb spoilt him rotten with worship). And I will say, prick though he can be sometimes, there's one constant in his life, and that is that he worships JC right back.

Give JC credit, too. With all that aching passion, that fire, he never so much as looked at Justin funny - don't ask me what he went through, 'cause I heard it every night and tried to help but - law me - I still can't figure how he managed, bad as he had it - he never made a move until Justin turned street-legal, even though he and Just were both dying to.

Now - think a minute. 'Bout the time Justy turned eighteen, what happened? I'll tell you what happened: like mushrooms in cowshit, all these Lance-n-JC 'proof' sites, had me and JC looking awfully close, hugging and touching and strolling with his arm always around me, those sites sprung up all over the Net, is what happened. These photos ... neighbor, I tell you what, I didn't know better and saw these shots we posed, I'd swear JC and I were lovers. It is damn convincing. (Bullshit I can't act.)

And it hasn't hurt the group some at all.

Meanwhile, while I take the heat, JC and Justy are free to - well, let's put thisaway. Other bands get damage claims for trashing hotel rooms. And I mean to hell and gone, rooms tore half in two, all sorts of wildness, if you believe half what you hear in this business. We just keep getting billed every damn time for one room the wall needs replastering. You know. There where the headboard is. I mean those two are knocking the bottom out of it every night. (And meanwhile, it's innocent little Lance who's 'the gay one.')

I know, by now you're wondering, 'Lance, why do you do this to yourself? How can you stand to be in this position? Don't you get angry, being used, and yen for a little bottom-rail-on-top revenge?' Well, first off, it's for the good of the group, and it's the group that pays my bills and has made me rich and successful and a comer in the management side of the industry. It's the group that's made me rich as a Percy down in the Delta. Hell, I could buy Laurel and half of Jackson thanks to the group. I don't mind giving something in return. Just as I say, I love these guys to death, they're like family to me.

And that's a big part of it. These are my friends, I love them like they were my brothers, course I'll do what I can to shield them.

And ... well. The whole 'what's in it for me' issue. Kind of a Yankee way to look at it, but.... Fact is, 'tain't all that of a sacrifice. Serious as a heart attack about that. My momma raised me better'n to be crude, but - let's just say there're lots of little old gals out there willing to make a sacrifice to 'save a nice boy from homosexuality.' I told you there was a reason they called me 'Stealth.' And I can help the boys another way there too ... I mean, we all know that for image reasons, 'pop royalty' Justy has to have an on-again-off-again storybook match with a certain pop princess from Louisiana (and you really want to see management shit green peachstones, suggest Brit and I do a duet of a certain Conway Twitty - Loretta Lynn song...), just like JC has to use B. Now that would be awful unfair to two nice girls if they were just being used, wouldn't it?

I was raised nicer than to kiss and tell ... but just between you, me, and the gatepost, if management forces Brit and Justy to get hitched and their firstborn son happens to end up having green eyes and a dick like a Fayette County work-mule, well, don't y'all look too hard at me.

And that's all I have to say about that.


And now ... the featured presentation of these radiocasts....

Sentimental Journey: Chapter Thirteen


In Our Last Episode: Thrown together by Amtrak, the members of BSB and 'N Sync fall in with dashing young military historian and lawyer, the Virginia aristocrat Major Custis Lee. The Major soon finds himself their father confessor an integral part of their joint 'Amtrak - VIA whistlestop tour.' Unfortunately, with the best intentions in the world, the boys have dragged the object of the Major's unrequited affections, Luke deMaria, on to the tour:

Brian, who had released him, startled him with another hug. 'You find Luke attractive, don't you.' It wasn't a question.

Justin sighed. 'I don't want to.'

'But you do.'



And Now, The New, Thrilling Installment of Our Serial:


The luncheon ought, by all the odds, have gone well. With Luke there, and to an extent with Dr Keyes, the Major at last had some intellectual equals along - not that the boys were fools, mostly, but they weren't highly educated. When the Major had fallen for Luke, it was largely because the two shared a similar sense of humor, and the same tastes in French wines, Dutch art, Italian cooking, and British literature (specifically, Corton, Hals and Vermeer, Tuscan cuisine, and the Golden Age of Christie, Sayers, and Allingham).


In my opinion, even at the time, the luncheon was a disaster from the get-go - and a watershed, as it turned out, too. I had taken the ordering out of Scoop's and Kevin's hands, and managed largely to keep Dimi from horning in as well. I'd wanted it to be a decent, civilized meal that would set a decent, gentlemanly tone.

The problems began the minute the food was served. Half of those present grabbed a fork while the other half paused expectantly.

'Gentlemen,' I said warningly. Luke picked up on it immediately, and unfortunately, made an issue of it.

'Oh God,' he muttered, 'here we go with the piety.'

Justin looked at him in outrage. 'What is wrong with you anyway? The Major's right, we should have the manners to say grace first, even if I do forget mostly unless Scoopy reminds me. Weren't you brought up right?'

Before Luke could reply, I cut in. 'Gentlemen, the good Lord doesn't approve of cold potatoes either, so let's cut to the chase here. Bless, O Lord, these thy gifts to our bodies and our bodies to thy service; and make us ever mindful of the needs of others: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.'

'Ay-men,' Dr Keyes, Lance, Kevin, Justy, and Brian chimed in ('Prots,' I snorted uncharitably to myself); and, 'Ah-men,' said Joe, Howie, Jake, Dimi, and JC.

Luke rolled his eyes. 'Can't even agree on how to pronounce it,' he snorted, 'and Dimi crosses himself backwards. Sheesh.'

'What is your problem?' Justin snapped.

'Intellectual honesty, honey - something you don't need to worry your pretty little head over.'

I may have saved his life by cutting in. 'Mr deMaria, would it be possible for you to comport yourself as if you were a gentleman?'

He looked coolly at me. 'Handsome, you know I'm not one and never had time to become one. Which is another reason your nostalgie de la boue never ceases to amaze me.'

The boys were, mostly, beginning to look helplessly lost, as well as uncomfortable.

'Thank you, Miss Dian de Momerie,' I drawled.

Luke grinned. 'Anytime, Mr Death Bredon - or is it Lord Peter Wimsey? And wasn't it Miss Meteyard who said that about Dian de Momerie and Victor Dean?' There's nothing worse than two Sayers fanatics on a tear. Even at our most distant, certain things ambushed us and slammed us together, always.

I looked blandly at the others. 'I'd apologize for him, but in the first place he's not mine -'

'- Glad to hear you recognize that -'

'- And in the second, y'all invited him, not I.

'Now. I trust luncheon's to everyone's liking? Christopher? Alexander?'

Howie looked up with a faint grin. 'Any reason they got beef and I got chicken?'

Lance, JC, Justin, and I all opened our mouths to make the obvious rejoinder, looked over at Nick's being exquisitely uncomfortable, and shut up without saying anything. Dimi cut in instead: 'Those questions, sirs, should be addressed to me or Colonel Keyes, for we are now what stands between you and your former wallowing in pizza and junk food. You may thank Custis, who believes in civilized gestures, that you are granted a glass of St Estephe apiece - and blame me that it is only a glass every fourth day.'

Joey looked up in horror. 'You don't mean you're gonna fuck with our drinkin'.'

'No, of course not, sir, merely curtail it.'

'What!?! Lookit, when we go clubbin' -'


Joey looked at me, uneasily.

'May I ask you to cast your mind back to t'other mornin'?'

'Oh. Yeah. I know.... We do need ta cool it.'

'More pious-but-civilized gestures?' asked Luke.

'Man, what is with you?' Justin was pissed. 'Something wrong wit' having some faith?'

'Get over yourself, superstar. This is what I get for hanging with straight boys. FY-fucking-I, I'm queer, and FY-fucking-I, my hypocrisy level is too low to let me combine that with a belief in organized religion, even if I am an ex-altar boy.'

'You sayin' it's impossible to be gay and pious?' asked Howie.

Luke just looked at him. 'Hold that thought - if you can. I'm still waiting for the outburst of homophobia from around the table.'

'Lucien,' I said coldly, 'there's a whole laundry list of reasons to dislike you right now without getting past demeanor and manners and into sexuality. You're making a remarkably unpleasant spectacle of yourself, and I for one am about tired of it. I -'

'Well, you know what I'm "about tired of"? I'm tired of lies and evasions, I'm tired of hypocrisy and bullshit, I'm tired as shit of your impossible standards of virtue, and my God am I tired of this - hell, you're doing it right now - I am so tired of your staring at my mouth when I talk, every second I'm talking, like the only thing you can think of is obsessing over something oral I don't even want to imagine -'

'Okay,' snapped Kevin, 'that is enough. We'll get back to the rest of this, but for someone who's supposed to at least be Custis's friend and colleague you are plumb disgusting, deMaria, and that whole issue of his staring at your mouth chaps my ass - you dumbfuck, he stares at everybody's mouth when they're speaking -'

'I do?'

Everyone just looked at me and nodded.

'- And it's pretty obvious why, and it ain't about sex -'

'Not hardly,' Howie cut in, 'fact it's the same reason we're sneaking off to a suburban highschool in Clarion suburb tomorrow for an impromptu -'

'What?' I looked at him in horror. 'You mean there is a Clarion as well as Clairton and I screwed up -'

'Oh jeez,' Luke snorted, 'don't tell me the world's greatest military historian can't read a map -'

'God you're a prick -' AJ started to get up, as did Chris.

I cut across the uproar. 'AT EASE. Alexander James McLean, chill. Chris, stop quacking.' (He really does, bless him: when he's agitated, he gabbles his words like a mallard endowed with speech.) 'Are y'all saying I misheard -'

'Custis.' Lance looked at me gravely. 'You've spent your life with guns and stuff, and then the Army. You can still hear music, but when there's the least background noise, hon, you are lip reading.'

I blushed.

'I didn't know,' Luke muttered.

'You didn't care,' Lance spat out. 'Some friend you are to him. He has some hearing loss, okay, and why not - he at least lost it in the service of this country. So what if he has to lipread, or messes up Clarion and Clairton - and we were soooo not going to let him know, and embarrass him, until you horned in - or he gets names a little off -'

'And with that accent on top of it,' Howie grinned, 'he not only makes it sound like it's Durrough instead of Dorough, it comes out all FFV and classy as Djurrah.' I blushed still harder.

'But we don't care because we've known him a couple of days and we love and respect him - what is your fucking problem, then?' asked Lance.

'Listen, girlfriend -'

Lance just stared at Luke.

'Oh, puh-leeeeze. When I call the Major "hon," I know why I do it, 's because I am queer as a rainbow windsock. So when you do it, twinkie, I assume you are Family.'

I looked over at Keyes, who had been silently and stolidly working through his lunch. 'Excellent steak, this,' he said blandly. 'And a very good St Estephe. Montrose '94?'



'Colonel, things are about to get damned uncomfortable here, so....'

'I'm not leaving until after the creme brulee, Custis. And I'm perfectly comfortable. Luke is gay. Fine. So are you - dear boy, I'm not a fool, of course I knew. Fine also. So are others at the table, all of whom, gay or straight, are ready to kill Luke out of loyalty to you - which is not fine, though the loyalty's sweet and the provocation's extreme, especially since Luke right now is acting out and making a spectacle of himself for one reason only, which is to provoke you and them into leaving him strictly alone.'

'Excuse me -'

'Be silent, young man. The Major has a crush on you. Fine. You don't reciprocate. Well and good. But he's not a fool or an ogre, and this way of trying to drive him away won't work: he knows that you are deliberately distorting your true self in an assumed persona to try precisely that, and all you're doing is causing both of you to look right foolish, you more so than he. No one can imagine for one moment that you are really like the person you're coming across as right now: the Major would never have cared for you at all if you were. That being obvious, the attempt to drive him and his friends away by offending them is doomed. The real question is, What are you afraid of? That the Major will continue to have feelings for you? That doesn't harm anyone but the Major - unless in fact you care more about him, as a friend who wants him to stop hurting, than you let on.'

Luke dropped his fork, pushed his plate away, and buried his head in his hands.

Dr Keyes nodded, meaningfully. 'Luke. It's all right.'

Luke shook his head, face still hidden. 'No it isn't. In addition to everything else I've made a total prick of myself in front of ten absolute gods....' He was trying hard to joke through some tears.

'Lotsa who cain't chunk any rocks 'cause of living in glass houses,' said Justin softly, all anger sped. He and I both have a soft spot for the wounded and the underdog.

'Why don't we start over,' I said quietly. 'Gentlemen, this is my friend Luke. Luke, these are my friends JC, Kevin, Lance, Brian, Chris, AJ, Joey, Howie, Justin, and Nick. Let's have lunch.'

Luke looked up and wiped his face. Hunter Keyes just looked at him, inscrutably.

Luke shuddered and slumped down, his eyes shut. 'Hi,' he said softly. 'I'm Luke. I'm scared shitless of all of you, I've crawled up from a no-name town and a dirt-poor family to go to college and work on Capitol Hill but I'm still deep-down scared I'm not ever gonta be good enough and that I'm just a pathetic small-town faggot nobody likes, I like your music more than I'd ever admit 'cause I want so bad to be sophisticated, I'm insecure about a lot of stuff, including being gay, so I overdo things a lot, so ignore me if you can when I do, and by the way I'm sorry I've been a prick, I do that to hide and build walls when I'm scared.'

He huddled in his chair, waiting for all hell to break loose, I reckon.

'Oh,' said AJ. 'We got people like that.'

'Bone!' Nick yelped.

'Frack - what makes you think he meant you?' Kevin asked.

'Sorry, Boo,' Nick muttered.

'In fact,' AJ went on, 'without reference to Nicky, I am people like that. Glad you could make it. Now you try and relax and show us why the Major thinks so highly of your ass.'

'You might want to rephrase that,' I drawled.

'Hey,' Luke grinned, if still uneasily, 'it's a damn fine ass, sexy.'

'Oh, now you're flirting with him? Complete one-eighty there -' Joey was taken aback.

'Yo, Fatone, I'm Italian too - hellooo?'

'Oh. Yeah. We do that, don't we?' And when Joey gave in and guffawed, we all broke down and laughed.


Luke was tentative and tremulous, and subdued. Had he planned it that way, he could have done nothing better calculated to achieve Justin's forgiveness - and concern.

As dessert was being brought in, Justy leaned over to him and said, 'Hey. Dude. It's okay now. Things were kinda crunk early but we cool now, 'kay?'

Luke just nodded, silently. 'Thanks,' he managed to choke out after a pause. 'You guys must think ...'

'I'm telling you, dude, 's all right now. It's all good. You'll see.'

Luke looked at him shyly. 'Um, you guys cool with having a real faggot along for the ride, a while?'

Justin jutted his jaw and his eyes glared. 'Hey, watch that word, man. Ain't cool.'

'Well, damn, I am one, I oughta be able to say it. You're one sensitive, open-minded straight boy, ain't ya?'

'Excuse me, but who said I'm straight?'

Luke knocked over his coffee. Everyone looked over in alarm, and the rest of the boys, still distrustful, tensed, ready to come to Justin's or my defense. Justy waved them down. ' 'S okay, guys, I just startled Luke when I came out to him.'

Luke was still doing a good imitation of a gaffed fish. 'Y- you're gay?' he managed to get out.

Lance laughed. 'Shoot, the word for Justy is, questioning. Now, me and JC, that's gay.'

'Or me and Nick,' Howie hastened to add, loud and proud.

'Showoff,' Josh smirked.

'Aw, you two just want the whole spotlight,' Nick replied.

'Holy shit,' breathed Luke. We couldn't help it: we all broke up, staring at his staring at them in awe. After a long moment, he broke down too, giggling helplessly, and suddenly found out for himself just what was entailed in a Whistlestop Tour Group Hug (patent pending).


After luncheon, the Major headed out to take a stroll and smoke a pipe. The Major detested cigarettes, and could never understand why, where smoking sections survived at all, it was cheap cigs and their papery stench that were permitted, while Dunhill's No. 5 English Market pipe mixture or a good Macanudo were banned.

Everyone had adjourned to the suite, and were watching him from a window, as his figure, foreshortened, strode along at a brisk military clip. Kevin noted how people instinctively cleared a path for him, their body language indicating not fear or unease but an innate respect.

'Yep,' said Jake. 'Y'all could walk out with him and you wouldn't hardly need us. Something about the Major just naturally demands respect and a bit of distance.'

'I guess,' Howie mused, 'that's why it's so easy for him just to stand up and, well, come out to people who matter to him.'

Dimi, Jake, and Luke all three looked at the boys with a sort of uneasy pity.

'The Major, sirs,' said Dimi, 'does not find that easy at all. He felt he owed it to me to tell me some time ago, as he wished me to have the knowledge so that if I were made uncomfortable by it, I could decline to serve as his trainer. Of course it did not affect me, but it was obviously difficult for him.'

'Custis,' Luke said flatly, 'had probably come out to a total of five people in his life when he met you guys, and came out to them only when he really trusted them. Never to people he'd just met.'

The band members stared at Luke, taken aback.

'Yeah,' Luke said, 'shocked the shit out of me too. I asked him on the phone before I came, and he said, "They needed to know, it had to be done, so I did it." Just like that. You guys underestimate him a little.'

Justin gave Luke a long hard look that said as plainly as day, And you don't? But Kevin nodded, slowly, and Brian said, 'Dang if I don't respect that man more every hour.'


I walked slowly through a pleasant little park, enjoying my pipe, letting the Latakia and the burley soothe me. There was something still wrong about the situation with the lads, and as between them and Luke. One of the most important things in the world is to have a nose for an ambush, a sense when the picture is too pleasant and plausible. My nose was twitching mightily.

The problem was simple enough to state. Things were going too well. The turn-around in the group over the past few days. Their lamb-like response to my assistance and guidance. The lack of any fight over various measures. Luke's one-eighty, and their swift acceptance of his apology.

No sir, I didn't trust it for shit.


The rest of them were still thinking and talking about the Major - not Luke's favorite subject, but he was too embarrassed to say so.

'It's the same thing as that which makes people simply melt away from his path,' said Dr Keyes, reverting to what Kevin had first noted from the window. 'The Bard put it perfectly, as ever. "There's that in his countenance -"'

'"I would fain call master,"' AJ said quietly.

And Chris chimed in also: '"What's that?" "Authority."'

Luke slewed round and looked at them in a whole new light. 'You see the Major as Lear?' He thought for a moment. 'And what, I guess me as Goneril, right?'

'Naw,' AJ grinned. 'Regan.'

'Who's Cordelia then?' Chris wanted to know. 'Lancey-poo?'

That got a laugh from a few of the men, and incomprehension from the others: Shakespeare was not big on their list. But Luke was more animated than they'd seen him, and Dr Keyes made sure he kept the ball rolling, determined to weave the ties of at least a shared literary interest between Chris, AJ, and the Major's difficult friend.


When I returned, it was to find Dr Keyes, AJ, Chris, Luke, and a more than slightly bewildered Justin talking English lit in a corner of the lounge while the usual kicking-back went on around them, unremarked. Joey had gone off with Bri and Kev to watch my Patton DVD; D and Nick were nowhere to be seen - ahem; and JC and Lance had vanished, their places taken by a cuddling, couch-sprawled Josh-and-Jim, whose TV-watching seemed to be losing focus on a fairly regular basis, interrupted as it was by periodic making-out.

It was a markedly peaceful scene. I distrusted it more with every passing second.

Wisely. Everyone else jumped when Jake and Big John burst in with Lenore and am agitated member of the hotel management: I had no more idea than anyone else what was wrong, but I was prepared for there to be something.


Join us next time for another thrilling installment of Sentimental Journey. Is the Major just being paranoid? Will everyone settle down and get along? Will Justin and Luke get along too well? Who knows what evil lurks - um, never mind. This exciting drama is brought to you courtesy of the Huey P. Long Campaign Committee, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We now return you to our studios for a special post-Series analysis, with Casey Stengel, Red Barber, Heywood Hale Broun, and Pee Wee Reese.