by Ian McDuff
Cheers and jeers - and suggestions I may or may not take - gladly accepted at email@example.com. A kudos apiece to all who have written already. Warm fuzzy feelings and all that. (And speaking of fuzzy feelings, Scotty, you can always have my lap in the Boybands chatroom, but try and keep your sweater from shedding on my khakis, okay?) 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 taste in brands of guitar picks. 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....
Sentimental Journey: Chapter Eight
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, who soon finds himself their father confessor and, um, fairy godfather, becomes an integral part of their joint 'Amtrak - VIA whistlestop tour,' and just when he has things squared away, has to intervene in a renewed bout of fighting between the boys:
'Do y'all know why no one takes y'all seriously as musicians - or adults? It's not a lack of talent, y'all have talent out the ass! What you do not have is discipline! By God, even your idea of work is one long session of playin' grab-ass, and as for Personal Time, look at yourselves! You'd each drop your so-called friends and brethren in the grease to satisfy an appetite, for cock, for pussy, for cheap whisky, for forbidden sugar, for a plate of cookies that take your mind off being poor, poor you! Every damn one of you - this isn't a unit, this isn't a team, it's a collection of prima fuckin' donna diva bitches! The hell with being sensitive and understanding with y'all. Grow a pair of brass ones apiece instead of whining all the time, all of y'all! Because y'all ain't never going to amount to shit otherwise - have your heads so far up your asses you don't know whether to shit or sneeze! Well, by God, until you learn the difference between the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way, I've less than no use for y'all. I did my best for you little pricks when I didn't know y'all from Adam's off ox, but by God, at this point I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire, any of y'all.
And I strode back into my suite, the door slamming behind me like a HEAT round against an Iraqi tank's turret. It was at that point that I realized that early on, doubtless in showing Justin or Brian the Army method of unarmed combat, I'd lost the robe, which was doubtless in the middle of the corridor. I'd given them the whole dressing-down whilst undressed.
Big John and Jake just looked at each other. 'Nothing left here but rounds cooking off, burnt-out tanks, and scattered turret rings,' said Sergeant Johnston.
'What the fuck was that?' Lenore asked in awe.
'That, ma'am,' said Jake, 'was the United States Cavalry confronting indiscipline. The Major has never right particularly cared for indiscipline and self-indulgence, ma'am. Welcome to boot camp.'
And Now, The New, Thrilling Installment of Our Serial:
The boys were growing up already - to have admitted they were wrong, and so swiftly, was itself proof they were starting to get it right.
Things were still right tentative, and the atmosphere subdued, when we all met up to watch Patton on DVD. In fact, just after George C. Scott's opening rant, Kevin hit the pause button.
'Kevin, it's still Custis, all right? Yeah I tore y'all a new asshole apiece, but I wouldn't have bothered if I didn't really care. Y'all just needed an attitude adjustment.'
'Well, Custis, I see where you picked up the mannerisms.....'
I grinned. 'Hell, son, that's an Army tradition that goes back all the way to Baron de Kalb. You ever play "Six Degrees"?'
'What - like "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," that sort of thing?'
'Yes, but with history. Listen, as a young boy, Georgie Patton used to listen to war stories from Confederate cavalry guru John Singleton Mosby. Mosby served under R. E. Lee. Lee's father Light-Horse Harry was Washington's cavalry commander, and of course R. E. Lee was married to Washington's step-granddaughter. There's an unbroken chain all the way back to the Revolution, in just a few steps..... See?'
'I think so. But ... Custis ... you were really mad at us, I mean, really mad....'
'Yes, I was. If y'all didn't matter, I wouldn't bother.'
'Custis?' It was Nick's nasal Yankee tenor this time.
'I was scared.'
'Hmmm. Surely you didn't think I'd hurt y'all....'
'You could have,' Brian grunted. 'I know, I know, we jumped you. Man, you have got to teach us those moves, though. Remind me not to pee you off in the meanwhile.'
'Doubt you will, son, long as you keep your shit straight and work on some self-discipline. Now. Nick. Did my usin' a parade-ground voice scare you?'
'S- sorta. Yellin' - older guys yellin' - I, I have some issues, I guess.'
'I'm sorry. I'll bear that in mind.' I would also bear in mind that this went hand in glove with his 'daddy' complex. I threw Howie a glance, and was relieved to see he was thinking along the same lines.
'But ya know what really scared me, Maj- Custis? I was scared you were gonna leave us and not help us no more, and that, that you didn't like us....'
I got up, went over, and hugged Nick and Howie as they sat there sharing a chaise longue. I then stood up, looked squarely at the whole group, and said as firmly as I could without raising my voice, 'I'm here for each and every one of you, here on out, whenever and however. You read me, troops?'
Lenore had slipped out to give the boys and the Major a chance to talk, once they'd stopped the film. It was time to release the schedule for the Whistlestop Tour. And amazingly, it was going, apparently, to by-God work, after all.
I looked at the boys, who were still sheepish, but doing better.
'All right, troops, listen up.
'Nick. I realize it's early days yet. But I really think you and Howie are going somewhere, okay? And - Howie, stop me if I'm overestimating you - Howie's not interested, seems to me, in just your looks or your fame, right? He loves you just the way you are.'
'Verdad,' Howie said, kissing Nick.
'Same token, Nick, I know you want to be the best for him you can be. I know that hormones and loneliness screwed you up for a while, but that's going to change. You've got Sweet D now, you can stop dating Little Debbie and Otis Spunkmeyer, comprende? You're going to be doing PT every morning at oh-dark-thirty with me, Big John, and Jake.
'Now. The rest of you are welcome to join us, and I encourage - ahem, strongly encourage - y'all to do so. Especially as y'all aren't dancin' and doin' dance practice, this trip. A few exceptions to y'all joining us, though. Chris?'
'I don't want you crash-dieting, with your blood sugar. And you'll do calisthenics with us and some resistance training - Kevin can help, and Josh, and I, and hell, lots of us lift a little - but I don't want you running right now. Fact is, Chris, you're not the only one here with borderline Type II, okay? Here on out, pal, you'll be ordering off my menu, bar the drinking - and when you're ready to drink a little again it won't be those sugary pansy candyassed umbrella drinks, either.' That broke them all up. 'Meanwhile, goodbye dessert, hello lots of steak.'
'Justin. You won't be doing PT with us a while either, but then, you don't really need to, Mister "Kevin-In-Training." Alternate days, James, Josh, Kevin, Big John, and I will be working with you on organization. Justy ... you're an absolute sweetheart, okay, and I'm sorry I had to yell at you. But what chapped my ass about seein' your room in that state was what it said about you: about not caring about yourself or others, and about a touch of the bighead that just is not good for you, and about the way it reflected an equally disorderly mind. I care about you just as I do for all the others, and far too much to let you go on like this not getting your shit squared away.'
I paused. 'Okay, now tell me I'm out of line taking over like this.'
'Shit,' said Josh. 'You're what the doctor ordered, seems to me.'
'Fuckin' A,' said Joey. 'I know AJ and I were way out of line....'
'Outta control,' AJ corrected.
I looked at them. 'Well, men, if you're going to drink like men you need to learn to hold it like gentlemen. Fair enough?'
'You gonna teach 'em, Major?'
Jake grinned. 'That one, boys, has the damnedest head for hard liquor you ever did see. Seen him drink British officers, French Foreign Legion noncoms, and a couple Airborne pukes clear under the table, various times. And on the good stuff too - sort that puts hair on your chest.'
'Well that part certainly worked,' Brian snickered. 'Was that a rug on your chest or what.'
'Lordy, Major,' James laughed, 'never thought I'd see you turn this red....'
'And we saw about all there was to see,' AJ put in. 'Almost enough to turn me queer -'
'Yeah, and - am I right about thinkin' Lenore had a sudden latent het moment?' asked Joey.
I just looked at them, trying not to blush worse than I was - or worse yet, crack a grin.
'Funny thing was,' Kevin said, 'while it was going on I don't think any of us noticed, any more'n Custis did -'
'Oh, I think someone may even have noticed at the time,' Joey said, patting Justin's hand with a big paw.
'I did not!'
'Joe -' I warned.
'Naw, Custis, 's okay, you don't have to be guard dog,' Justin grinned. 'Though I kinda like it....'
Oh Lord, here we go again.
'Chill, Custis. It's cool. I know I'm not in your league -'
'No, you're headed for Cooperstown and I'm still in Triple-A for life.'
'Yeah right.' Kevin rolled his eyes. 'Nobody ever lets me finish. What I was saying was, after it was over, I think there was plenty of noticin' goin' on....'
Suddenly I wasn't the only one blushing. Even Bri and Kev were, let alone Just, D, Nick, James, and Josh.
Bri looked up. 'What?' he asked, defensively. 'Y'all know I'm otherly committed - y'all also know I think everyone who's honest will admit they've had the occasional wild thought.'
'I know,' said AJ, softly. 'No one's on your case, dude. You're, um, right.'
'Hell,' Joey grunted, 'even I thought it was kinda scenic - from a purely æsthetic point o' view.'
'Joe?' Chris's eyes were wide.
'Jeez, Chris, chill. I'm not going to be jackin' off over it.'
'And for that I am most heartily grateful,' I grinned. Joey grinned back and shot me the finger, while Chris muttered something about how he'd merely been surprised Joe knew the word 'æsthetic.'
'Nope.' I declined Joey's 'invitation. 'Not with straight guys. Besides, I'm sure y'all understand, y'all must surely get creeped out when you let yourselves think about fans obsessing over you....'
James shuddered. 'Sometimes, yeah. Why we try not to think about it. But ... sometimes, you feel awful hypocritical....'
Josh looked at him with a wry but tender face, in mock shock. 'Honey! You mean I'm not enough for you?'
James went red as rubies in a bonfire. 'Sugarpie, I, well, of course you are, all I meant was that before, uh -'
Josh grabbed him, pinned him, and shut him up very effectively. When they broke the kiss and James caught his breath - eyes still glazed, mind you - Josh said, 'Darlin', I was just kidding you. It's too tempting because you're so sweet ... and then we get to make up like this. But - no more kidding. Fact. Everyone has the occasional fantasy - we're just lucky enough to have our fantasy to wake up to every day.'
'Uh oh, diabetic shock, too much sugar,' said Chris.
Justin looked at me with a twisted grin. 'You ever fantasize about celebs, Custis?'
'Not really. Seems disrespectful somehow, to do it seriously. Now, surely I do think the occasional "Damn he's hot" about someone, but I keep a lid on it past that.'
'Not even about me?' AJ pretended to pout.
'Rough trade with tats? I don't think so, sonny boy. Actually - and don't anyone get offended - I never did, and sure as shootin' won't now, fantasize about y'all.'
'What are we, chopped liver?' Joey had to keep the joke rolling.
'You really don't want an answer to that one, Ralphie Kramden. I -'
'Um, serious question here.'
'You really, truly never, um, I mean - God this sounds arrogant but - so many people do -'
'Josh, I "really, truly never" fantasized about y'all - not even about Lansten,' I grinned. 'Figured I'd leave that to you.' They both blushed and giggled.
'Who - I mean who, famous - do you think is hot, though?' Justin asked, equally seriously. I looked at him, wondering why he wanted to know, and hoping I was guessing wrong. The straight guys all rolled their eyes while we Family members just grinned: after all, this was one of the All Time Top Ten Gay Conversation Subjects. It was just odd having the conversation with so many of that topic's usual subjects.
'Justin ... I'm a trifle embarrassed here. As I say, I make serious efforts not to do that, it just seems - to me: I'm not judging anyone else - discourteous to the unwitting objects of one's passing lust....'
'Look, we're going to be livin' in each other's pockets for months,' Kevin interjected reasonably. 'We may as well all get comfortable with each other. Just as long as nobody mentions my or Bri's fiancees....'
'All right, on those terms, I'll answer. Bearing in mind that I'm talking simple eye candy here, since it's other qualities that, um, are more important to me, qualities of heart and of mind.' I paused. This was unexpectedly and exquisitely uncomfortable. Sensing that, Justin jerked his head in my direction and I was suddenly overrun by an unprovoked Group Hug. 'We'll tell, too, if you will,' said Josh. 'Kev's right about our all needing to really get to know each other, instead of the way we just, well, drafted you to be our father figure.'
I hugged him back. I closed my eyes - that was some help, not actually looking at anybody when I said this. 'Welllll ... merely as eye candy ... Mike Mussina ... Brad Ausmus, of course, I mean damn ... Mike Hampton ... Biggio ... Snow and Kent and Travis Lee ... Vina ... Luis Gonzalez, in a gawky sort of way ... Pudge Rodriguez ... uh -'
'That's it,' Justin laughed, 'I'm takin' up baseball.' Uh oh, I thought, but the guys just held me tighter.
'Okay, so I'm a baseball nut, deal with it. But outside the big leagues, um, well of course one recognized that John-John, God rest him, was, in the abstract, cute, though hardly my cup of tea - I'll be damned, that's it!' My eyes flew open.
'Sorry. Just suddenly realized who Josh reminds me of.'
James did a doubletake and whistled. 'Lordy, Major, you're right.'
'Hello? Some 411 here please?' Chris looked lost.
'JFK Junior, Chris. Look at JC and tell me he's not a ringer.'
'Man, don't diss my pal tellin' him he looks Irish,' said Joey. 'Better a Frog than a bogtrotter.'
'Basta, paisan. Spoken like a real geep, Fatone. You can be such a Guido at times.' I prodded him in the gut.
'Well, okay, if he looked like JC, not that I ever noticed, he's - he was - automatically cute,' Joey grinned. 'Uh, I have to say that 'bout JC or Lanceypoo won't schedule me any time to go clubbin' for honeys.'
Josh just shook his head. 'Okay, that's enough of that. Custis, we'll let you off the hook for now. Justy - it's your turn, you started this.'
'Uh.... Hoo boy. Okay..... Well - present company excepted.....' (I winced.) Justin went on, also not meeting anyone's eyes. 'Other'n crushes on all you hotties here, from Custis to JC to Kevin, even -'
'Smartass,' Kevin laughed. 'Stay true to your own damn band.'
'Yeah whatever,' Justin snickered. 'I guess I have the same naughty thoughts about Damon and Affleck everyone else does....'
'Including Damon and Affleck, I bet,' said AJ. We all snickered.
'And the street-legal Lawrence brothers, and both Lacheys -'
'Oh, stop,' groaned Nick, 'TMI there pal.'
'Little close to home there Nicky?' Howie asked.
'Not with you around, handsome. Now let Justy talk.'
'Um, well, Christian Laettner -'
'So why are you such a damn Tar Heel fan? Your dreamboy went to Duke - what is it with you and North Carolina colleges anyway?' Brian yelped. 'Go 'Cats!'
Justin elbowed him in the ribs. 'Shoot, Duke's like Kentucky: they'd recruit Lansten just for the gate receipts, even though the only time Poofu dribbles, well, it ain't on the court, is it, JC?'
There was a brief interruption whilst James and Josh dealt severely with their friend. Headlock, noogies, tickling, surrender. 'Anyone else, Just?' James asked, once Justin got his breath back. 'Or do we have to tickle it out of you?'
'Well,' said Justin, 'I don't care how old he is, I still get the hots for Kenneth Branagh....'
'Chris! Henry th' Fifth? That other Shakespeare one with Alicia Silverstone?' AJ had never struck me as big on the Bard, but....
'Hey,' said Joey, 'if JC looks like JFK Junior, the Major looks a lot like - um, never mind. Anyway, who's next? Kev? Howie?' He was fighting hard to make a recovery.
'No one,' I said. 'We can pick this up on the train - if we must. I still agree with what Lu-, ahem, with what a friend of mine said about the whole issue, that he - that anybody has a right to have some say about in whose dreams they spend the night. Right now, though, it's head 'em up and move 'em out. Boots and saddles; time to pack. James, Josh, Kev, I'd wager y'all are already mostly done, how 'bout giving Justin a quick survey of Packing 101?'
Chris, Joey, and AJ had, as usual, packed swiftly by the simple expedients of packing messily and traveling light - which always gave them an excuse to do still more shopping (the Major was soon to state that they shopped more than any three straight guys he'd ever seen). Now they were engaged in their other notable pastime: shooting the shit.
'Curly has it baaaaad for the Major, looks like. Rebound bad, after having it bad for JC all this time.' Joey was obviously concerned.
'An' I don't think the Major has it for Curly. You, AJ?'
'Shit no. I mean, he obviously cares, but....'
'But not that way - or if he does he refuses to give in to it.' Chris thought about it. 'I mean, I believe the Major when he says he cares more about the personality than the physique, he's the sort who would. But I also notice that while our little Justy only has pin-ups in mind, the Major has a specific type mostly, an' it isn't Justy - not to mention the age thing. I wonder if that's what JC and Kev were trying to draw out about sos Justin would realize that.'
'Hope it wasn't to subtle for him.'
'Hey, Alex, he's young but he ain't stupid, capisce? We don't wale on Nicky -'
'Not what I meant, Joe. I think you guys's baby boy is smart, which is maybe more'n I could say for ours sometimes, frankly. I just mean he's got it that bad that subtle may not get through to him.'
Joey looked at AJ and dipped his head. 'Sorry I got you wrong. You guys have some smarts too I guess.'
AJ grinned and tapped Joey on the shoulder, forgivingly. 'Don't tell the press, man, you'll fuck up my image.'
James, Josh, and Kevin were giving Justin a crash course in neatness. Justin grinned ruefully. 'Damn, Lansten, nobody told me I'd have to turn all neat-freak and anal when I came out.'
'So that makes me only half-neat?' asked Kevin. 'Little dude, it ain't about anything but efficiency.'
'Or as the Major put it, "good order an' discipline,"' James said.
'I know, I was only foolin' witcha. Though Kev, you are way more than just half-anal about things. But I was just giggin' ya.'
Josh mussed his curls. 'We know that, bro. What we were doing back. Listen - c'mere. You know we're all here for you, and when you hurt we hurt, right?'
Justin was silent for a minute, just holding his first crush whilst knowing his second was not to be either. 'I know. I just wish - why does everything have to come so tough?'
James and Kevin wrapped themselves around Justin as well. 'Justin ... only the worthwhile stuff doesn't come easy,' said James.
'Uh, Lansten, babe, you're my friend an' I love ya but excuse me, that is bullshit, I mean look at you and JC....'
'Oh, Just - man have I got some stories we'll have to share with you, right, Josh?'
'You bet your sweeeeeeet ass, hon, we do. Justy, if you think this was easy ... we'll have to talk, about things James and I have never talked about 'cept with each other.'
'You - you'd that for me? Just to help me?'
'Of course,' James and Josh answered simultaneously, in matching tones of disbelief that they'd even been asked. Justin hugged them tighter.
'We all would,' said Kevin. 'Even to talking about, well, things I don't even talk to Bri or Krissy about much. That's what it means to be real friends, okay? And there's not a one of us, including Lenore and the Major, who isn't there for you that way.'
'I know,' Justin whispered. 'I do know that really. I just wish there was someone here for me, well, the other way....'
'Give it time, bro - you've been out, to yourself even, for under forty-eight hours.'
Justin gave James a chaste kiss on the cheek. 'Thanks, Mom. I know. Guess that's what the Major meant about patience and discipline and not expectin' things handed me on a silver plate, huh?'
'Could be,' smiled Josh. 'Now don't backtalk James like that again.'
Kevin cleared his throat. 'Sounds to me like the Chasez-Basses need to have The Chat with Junior here, especially if he thinks Lansten is, um -'
'Don't say it,' Josh grinned. 'Maybe except on nights he insists I top him, I should bake cookies and wear a Donna Reed apron?'
Kevin and Justin both groaned. 'Bad mental image - delete, delete,' said Kevin. 'I better leave you three gay boys before I forget which team I signed to bat for.'
'Okay,' said James, 'but you're still a switch-hitter, pal. And we love you anyway. Just 'cause we do, I'll let you get out of here before Josh and I tell Justin about the French maid outfit I'm getting Josh -'
'You wouldn't, you perv - would you?'
'Wait and see, dear, wait and see.'
Jake and Big John had been moving down the hallway and had now reached their suite. They thundered on the door. 'One half hour! Shake a leg!'
Kevin slipped out into the hallway, and Josh followed him. 'Kev? I have an idea, if James thinks it would be worthwhile -.' He stopped, seeing Chris and AJ and Joey coming down the hall, looking for them.
'Cool, just who we needed,' said AJ. 'You two Big Daddies of the group ... we been thinking, and we had an idea.'
JC leaned over and whispered to AJ, who did a doubletake and started nodding vigorously. 'Duu-ude, that's what we been thinkin'. Sharp. Maybe that's why you two and Lanceypoo run things so well.'
'Not a word to Justin or the Major,' Kevin warned. The five solemnly shook hands on that, pleased with their cunning.
Join us next time for another thrilling installment of Sentimental Journey. What brilliant idea have the boys come up with? Just how badly is it going to backfire? Are we finally out of the woods as far as group dynamics go? Who knows what evil lurks - um, never mind. This exciting drama is brought to you courtesy of your Local Franchise Cord Auto Dealers. We now return you to our studios for the latest episode of Amos 'n Andy.