THE STUDIO IN THE COUNTRY, Part 11
DISCLAIMER: The story that follows is a work of fiction. Some characters may be based on real people, but this story should not be considered accurate or truthful representations of any actual person. This story is not intended to reflect the behavior, work habits, personal hygiene, sexual proclivities, or real feelings about Whitney Houston of any real person, living or dead.
WARNING: This story deals with homosexual themes. If this offends you, read no further. If you are under 18 years of age, read no further. If accessing this story causes you break any laws applicable to your location, read no further.
FEEDBACK: Send any comments, compliments, criticisms or really good Crépe Suzette recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 11 - Friday Morning
We'd left the drapes open last night. Now the sun came in and roused me from a very dirty dream. I awakened to find it wasn't entirely a dream. In my sleep, I'd straightened out my left arm so that it went under the crook of Brian's neck over his left shoulder, and I'd bent my right knee so that it was between his legs. My right arm was still around Brian, but my hand had reached down to cup his left side below his ribs. I hugged him to me, and I could feel my hard-on rubbing against his butt. God, it was comfortable! When was the last time I did this? I wondered.
I buried my face into his neck and lay there, enjoying how I felt. Warm, comfortable and very turned on. I thought briefly how nice it would be when Brian woke up to find me wrapped around him.
I was settling back to sleep when a thought nagged me. Am I leading Brian on? I mean, there's no way we're going to have a real relationship with him leaving on Monday. But he's confused. All this is new to him. I don't want him to think it's more than it is and then hurt him. And I sure as Hell don't want to let myself get too attached: the boy is leaving in a few days. The last thing I need to do is to let him become too important.
What I need to do, I decided, is to keep everything casual. Make sure Brian knows that we're just friends, that there's no pressure on him. That way, he won't feel like I want too much from him. And he won't make more of this than it is. A lot of guys do that when they first come out: they fall in love with the first guy they're with, and it just causes problems. If I keep everything light and superficial, he won't get hurt.
I smiled at my own wisdom and relaxed a bit. As I snuggled up to him again, I realized that it wouldn't hurt to remind myself now and then that things were just casual. After all I don't want to get hurt either. Memories of Chad threatened, but I pushed them down and went back to sleep.
I woke later to find my arms empty. Brian was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, smiling at me. "Well, it's about time you woke up," he said.
I smiled back. "What time is it?" I asked him.
"About 7:30," he said. "I couldn't sleep anymore." He smiled a narrow smile at me for a second before adding, "When I woke up, you were wrapped around me. It was very cute."
My smile continued, but I closed my eyes. "I noticed that too. I woke up earlier and saw us. I would have got up, but someone was in my way."
"Sorry," he said. "But there's nothing stopping you from getting up now."
"What's the point?" I asked him. "The others won't be up for hours. We might as well sleep some more too."
"Well," he began slowly. Too slowly. It worried me, and I opened my eyes. "I kinda had something I wanted to talk about," he finished.
"What is it?" I kept my voice neutral, not knowing what was coming but remembering my earlier resolve to not let things get too complicated.
"I've been thinking about Kevin," he said. I frowned, thinking of how Kevin had acted yesterday and of what I'd overheard last night. "He's not taking this well, and I should talk to him about it." I nodded. "I don't know what's bothering him exactly," Brian went on, "but if he's going to act like this, I'm really worried about telling my parents." Brian's voice was soft. He looked down toward the sofa, not looking at me directly.
I knew what he was feeling. I remembered feeling the same way. All had gone well for me, but I didn't know his family. I couldn't tell him that everything would be okay: I didn't know that it would. "Y'know, you don't have to tell them yet." I said as I put my hand on his shoulder. "I do think you need to straighten things out with Kevin because you see him everyday and he's obviously having a problem, but you don't have to tell your parents until you're ready."
His blues eyes were looking at me now, distracting me for a second. "But I'll have to tell them eventually. But I don't know how I ever could." His voice had gone from concern to almost desperation.
That's when I had an idea. "Why don't you tell my parents?"
Brian got that confused look again that I thought was so cute. God, I love doing that to him. "What good would that do?" he asked me.
"Well, you could practice on them," I started. My mind was looking for reasons why my idea was a good one. "You could see what's it's like to tell parents, even if they're not yours. And they could tell you what it was like for them when I told them the same thing. They could give you the parent's point of view." The more I thought about this, the better the idea sounded. "Even if they're not your parents, they could tell you what it's like for a parent to hear their son is gay. You could see it from your parents' point of view, sowhen you do tell themyou'll know better how to deliver the news."
He seemed to consider it. "Well, I guess that's a good idea." He emphasized the word "guess" a bit. "But they're not my parents. They won't react like my parents. They're not the same people, and I don't mean as much to them as you did."
"Still, though," I countered, "it was hard for my dad to hear that his oldest son was gay. Your dad is gonna feel a lot of the same thingsit's a guy thing. He can at least tell you what that's like for a father. And Mom can tell you what it was like for her." I could tell I wasn't convincing him. "At the very least, you'll have told two more people, people you can trust. And every time you tell someone, it gets easier."
Brian thought some more. "I don't know," he finally said. "Let me think about it?"
"Sure," I told him. "However you want to do it. It's up to you. Just know it's an option."
Brian did seem to want to talk anymore. He turned and sat with this back against the front of the couch. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and pulled myself to him. I gave the side of his head a quick kiss before I whispered in his ear, "What are you thinking right now?"
He reached up with his right arm and stroked my arm. "I was just thinking how much easier life would be if I were straight."
I laughed. "Welcome to the family, my friend." I was glad to hear him laugh a bit too. "Brian," I said, "you're going through a lot right now. But you're handling it all really well."
"I just wish I knew what was up with Kevin," he said. "He's a little distant with me, and I really didn't like the way he was treating you yesterday."
"He wasn't rude or anything," I defended Kevin. "He didn't say anything unfriendly."
"He wouldn't," Brian said. "That's not the way Kevin does things. If he doesn't like someone, he just tries to pretend they're not there. And he did that with you all evening." I thought about the night before. There were a couple of times when I'd said something to him. Once I got a terse response, but most of the time he acted as if he'd thought I was talking to someone else. Two or three times AJ or Howie had answered me instead. In fact, they seemed uncomfortable, like they were covering for Kevin.
"Don't get mad at him, Brian," I pleaded lightly. "I don't want to be the cause of any problems. After Monday, I won't matter anymore and you'll still have to see Kevin everyday."
Brian turned his head and looked at me. "Yeah, I guess that's true," he said slowly.
I was tired of being so serious. "Well, I'm awake now," I said, as I sat up. "I'm gonna sneak in and get a shower."
"I'll get one after you," Brian said. "Then maybe we should order breakfast."
"Sounds good to me." I stood, walked to the bedroom door, and slipped in quietly.
After the sunny living room, the bedroom seemed very dark. It took a minute or so for my eyes to adjust. Eventually, I could see my way to the closet where our bag was hanging. I fished out my clothes from Robby's and Mike's then turned to grab my backpack from the dresser.
It's a good thing that I hadn't shared a bed with Robby. He was splayed out across the entire mattress. Glancing over at the other bed, I saw Mike lying in a similar position: flat on his back with his arms spread out wide. But Nick was curled up next to my little brother, his head on Mike's bare chest and his arm around Mike's waist. They looked cute together, but it was unsettling to see my youngest brother sleeping with a guy wrapped around him. "Well, Baby Brother," I said quietly, "you and I will talk about this later."
The warm shower felt great. Hotels showers are always heavy on pressure and heat, and I love the feel of both. I stood under it for far too long, letting it wash away what little soreness I had from sleeping sideways on a sofa. Eventually, though, I had to climb out from under the spray. I dried and dressed and slipped quietly back into the bedroom. Mike and Nick were still where I'd left them. So was Robby, but he was awake now.
"And where did you sleep last night?" he asked in a whisper.
"On the couch," I told him. "I fell asleep in front of the television."
He grinned. "Alone?"
I stepped over to his bedthe bed I was supposed to have slept in last nightand sat down on the edge. "No, I slept with Brian."
A huge grin crossed his face, making his three little dimples appear. "Well, that sounds cozy!" he said quietly, but with obvious amusement. "Did you two...?" He trailed off, letting my mind finish his question.
"No," I said. "We just slept. But speaking of 'cozy," what about those two?" I gave a nod toward Nick and Mike in the other bed.
Robby raised up and looked over at our brother and his friend. "I noticed that just before you came in. They do look awfully friendly, don't they? But I don't think they did anything. Mike was asleep before I was done brushing my teeth. Nick went to bed after that, and I didn't hear anything all night but snoring. I think they just slept."
"Well, it's interesting anyway," I said. "If Mike was asleep, then that arrangement could be all Nick's idea."
"Maybe. We'll have to see if he's upset when he wakes up."
He was interrupted by a light tapping on the living room door. The door opened a crack, and Brian peeped in. Seeing me sitting there, he whispered, "It's about time you got out of the shower. I have to go to the bathroom."
I made a sweeping "welcome to it" gesture with my hand. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Robby mimic me. Brian smiled big and stepped quietly into the room and crossed toward the bathroom door. On the way, he glanced at the two sleeping boys. He frowned and said, "That's interesting."
"We were just saying the same thing," Robby said.
Now Brian looked curious. Not as cute as his confused face, but still pretty good. "Is Mike..."
"Asleep?" I finished. "Yeah, I think so."
Brian grinned at me. "No, I mean is he..."
"Gay?" I supplied this time. Looking down at my sleeping brother, I added, "I didn't think so. He would have told me." I looked back at Brian. "But, then, maybe Nick was just too cute to resist."
"Maybe" Brian grinned back. He turned and went into the bathroom.
I wandered into the living room, drying my damp hair with a towel. I knew it would end up kind of spiky today, but I was okay with that. It was short enough that it looked okay standing up. I sat on the couch and picked up the remote. I was thumbing throught the channels absently when Howie came into the room. He flopped heavily into the armchair and grunted something I guess was "hello."
"Well, and 'good morning' to you too," I said, laying on the cheerfulness with a trowel.
He looked at me, his eyes half open. "Phone," he grunted. "Call. Coffee. Now." I laughed and reached for the phone. I was dialing room service when Brian came back into the room.
"Boy, D," he said, "you look like crap!"
"I was just calling room service," I said. "Tarzan here wants coffee."
"Why don't we just order breakfast at the same time and start getting people up?" Brian asked. "I'm bored with sitting around here, and half of us are already awake."
"Whatever," Howie shrugged. "Coffee now. Call."
By the time the breakfast Brian ordered arrived, Kevin was awake and taking a shower. Howie had roused himself enough to put music videos on the television, but now seemed to be sleeping back into something like an open-eyed coma.
While Brian was letting the room service carts in, I went to the last bedroom to tell the little brothers about breakfast. The door opened as I got there, and Robbie stepped through it and pulled it closed behind him, halting me with his other hand. "Don't go in there right now," he said. "Mike's awake, and he and Nick are talking." He emphasized the last word, definitely for emphasis but I was confused about his meaning.
"Do you mean they really are talking," I asked, "or they really aren't?"
"Oh, they're really talking," he replied. He looked over my shoulder at Brian and Howie. Neither were paying any attention. "Mike woke up and found Nick wrapped around him. He was surprised, but I can't tell if he'd unhappy or not."
This could be bad, I thought. Mike was usually a very happy guy, but once someone upset him, he was really slow to cheer up again. And he almost never forgave anyone for anything. "Let's keep an eye on them," I told my brother. "If Mike's gonna be mad at Nick, we should keep them apart as much as we can."
"Yeah, well, good luck doing that in a van."
I mentally review our seating arrangements from the day before. "Mike can sit up with you. I'll sit in the back with Nick."
"What are you guys whispering about?" Brian interrupted.
I was about to make one of my oh-so-clever remarks when Robbie beat me to it. "Ben was telling me how cute you are when you're asleep." Brian didn't smile. Instead he glanced over to where Kevin was standing in a doorway, drying his dark hair with a towel. Kevin wasn't smiling either.
We didn't talk or move for a second, but it seemed a lot longer. Brian looked at Kevin. Kevin looked at Brian, then me, then Brian again. Robby looked like he wished he kept his mouth shut. The silence was not fun, but Howie came to our rescue. "Did he drool?" Everyone looked at him. "On the bus, when he falls asleep he does this little drooling thing. It's cute. Like an Irish setter puppy."
Well, the silence was broken. Robby laughed as Brian started protesting being compared to what he called "a big, stupid, red-headed dog."
"And smelly," Howie added. "Don't forget smelly."
"What's for breakfast?" Kevin asked, crossing to the two breakfast carts.
I heard Brian say "the usual" while I retreated into the bedroom. Just before I opened the door, I heard the shower come on again. That had to be either Nick or Mike. Or was it Nick and Mike, I wondered. Just for a second, I selfishly hoped it was: it'd be nice to have someone to share Kevin's ire with.
It was Nick. Mike was still in bed, sitting up with his back against the headboard. When I entered the room, he was yawning wide and scratching the little patch of blonde hair in the middle of his chest. Of all of us, Mike was the only one with hair on his chestsomething he pointed out whenever he felt the need to assert that he was more manly than we were. Robbie and I would usually say something about being more evolved from our ape ancestry than Mike was, but he usually pretended not to hear us.
"Mornin'" he mumbled, finishing off his yawn.
I sat on the corner of his bed. "This place is crowded, so we may not have a lot of time to talk," I said seriously. "So, are you okay?"
He looked confused. His confused look was cute too, but he's my brother so it was nearly as distracting as Brian's. "Why wouldn't I be?" he asked.
"You woke up and found Nick sleeping lovingly in your arms. Are you okay
"Yeah, I guess so." He sounded a little unsure, but no more so than he was about most things. "I mean, it's no big deal, right? I knew Nick was bi when I offered to share a bed with him. And he didn't do anything really."
"No, not from what I saw." Since Mike was taking this so well, it seemed okay to start the teasing early, before Robbie came in steal the best jokes. "Besides, you two looked so cute together."
Mike smiled. "Of course, we did. We could so cute separately, we'd have to look twice as cute together."
We laughed briefly, but then I put my hand on his shoulder. "Seriously, you're okay with this?"
"Well," he began, speaking very slowly, "actually..." A pause. Was he kidding or was this going somewhere? "...actually, it kind of turned me on a little."
This surprised me for a second. "And how do you feel about that?" I asked him.
"Well, I'm okay with that too."
"You realize that you're an eighteen-year-old guy, don't you? You're a walking hormone. A grandmother rolling down her knee-high support hose would turn you on a little."
"Not our grandmother," he laughed. "But I don't mean it like that. I mean, I liked having Nick's arm around me. And everytime he exhaled I could feel his breath move the hairs on my chest." My little brother was blushing now. We were alone in the room, but he leaned forward for privacy and whispered, "It really made my dick hard."
If I'd been surprised before, now I was floored. "Mikey, I've known you your whole life, and never once have you ever mentioned your dick to me."
"Well, this is new to me," he said, "and you're the perfect person to talk to about this."
It was my turn to lean forward. "Are you telling me you think you're gay?"
"Oh, Lord, no!" He leaned back. "I mean, the thoughts I have about Brittney Spear's right tit alone could get me arrested, let alone what I think about the rest of her body. But, still, I felt.... I don't know what I felt."
My hand was still on his shoulder, and I patted him as I said, "What you felt was a hard-on, and you're not really sure why? Was it morning wood, or should you be Homecoming Queen at Fire Island High School? Don't agonize about this too much, Baby Brother. You're a smart guy. You'll figure things out."
"Thanks, Benji," Mike said warmly. While he was smiling back at me, I heard the shower stop.
"Just give it time, okay?" I retracted my hand and stood up. "Don't do anything before you're sure you're ready, one way or the other." He nodded and I added, "Andas long as I'm giving adviceget your pimpled ass up and get dressed."
There was a tapping at the door just before Brian opened it a crack and peeked in. "Everybody decent?" he asked.
"Would you still love us if we were?" Mike asked.
Brian rewarded him with a smile. "Nick in the shower?" he asked.
"He's out now," I told him. "We heard the water go off."
"Then he doing 'the hair' now," Brian nodded. "We've got a good twenty minutes before we'll see him again. You guys come eat."
"Food?" Mike asked excitedly. "We have food!"
Brian laughed. "Enough to feed three or four Nicks. Come on!"
Mike climbed out of bed. He was wearing sweatpants, and he reached for a T shirt to pull on. I stepped toward the door. As I approached Brian, he looked at me seriously and whispered, "Don't let Kevin get to you."
I tried to smile. "I won't. I've dealt with lots of 'Kevins' before. I'm worried about you."
"Don't be. I told you: he's gonna be okay with this. I just have to wait him out."
Mike came up behind me. He wrapped his arms around me shoulder high and rested his chin on my left shoulder. When did he get to be as tall as me, I wondered for a second. "Is Kevin still mad at you?" he asked.
"He's not mad at Ben," Brian said "He's uphappy with me, and he doesn't like that I told Ben all about it."
"Oh," Mike said. I could almost hear him thinking for the next couple of seconds, but he didn't share his thoughts. Instead he upwrapped his arms from me and asked, "So, where's this food I've heard so much about?"
The population of the living room had increased to include AJ and Stacey. They were wearing matching white robes with the hotel's logo embroidered on the pocket. Between the expanse of white cloth and how close they were sitting to one another on the couch, it was hard to tell where one of them stopped and the other began. Stacey was leaning back against AJ's chest. He had his arms around her, and she was holding a plate full of food, periodically reaching up to feed him by hand.
"Well, this looks like the 'morning after' to me," Mike said. He enjoyed the shocked look Stacey gave him.AJ just smiled at us.
"Shouldn't you two be smoking cigarettes?" Brian asked slyly.
Stacey said, "I don't smoke," more out of habit than an attempt to to be witty. But it was AJ's turn to look shocked. I laughed when I saw his expression.
"What surprised you, AJ?" I asked him. "What Brian said, or the fact that it was Brian that said it?"
"Brian," he said. "Our boy doesn't say things like that. You and your brothers are corrupting him."
"Okay," Mike said. "You're on to us. We've been secretly paid by 'NSYNC to corrupt you all one at a time. We just started with Brian."
"And we can't corrupt you," Robby added, looking straight at AJ. "You're already pretty twisted."
"You have no idea!" Stacey said, smiling up at him. AJ blushed, and we all laughed. Well, all but Kevin. When I glanced at him, he didn't even look mildly amused.
"So, what time are we heading back to the studio?" Kevin asked.
"Kev, what's the hurry?" Howie asked. "It's only nine in the morning, and we don't have to be there until late this afternoon."
"Yeah," AJ added, "we're in the big city now. There's got to be more to do than there is out in the middle of nowhere."
AJ's face fell when he realized what he'd said. The room got quiet for a second, and it felt like the Boys were looking at Robby, Mike and I. Robby laughed. "I know just how you feel. I get a little stir crazy out there too. I come to Dallas every chance I get. And Stacey comes up here just about every weekend."
"Well then, we should leave about two o'clock," Kevin said. "What do we want to do until then that we can't do at your place?"
The conversation became chaotic as everyone started talking at once about places to go and things to do. At some point, Nick came in and joined in between bites of breakfast. I didn't have much to add. I didn't spend as much time in Dallas as all my brothers did. I knew a few cool shops in Deep Ellum and on Greenville Avenue and some clubs in Oak Lawn, but not much else. I'd be hard pressed to find a McDonald's from where we were, so mostly I just listened.
Eventually, movies and tourist attractions were rejected, although Nick seemed a little curious to see the Conspiracy Museum at Thanksgiving Square. None of us had ever gone. I knew that Dallas is in the American history books only once, but JFK's assassination never fascinated me. And we'd never asked our two former-Hippy parents to take us when we were teenagers and thought violent things were cool.
In the end, the guys decided to go shopping. We talked about hitting Deep Ellum and seeing some of the cool, avant garde shops there. But Stacey told us that most of them didn't open until afternoon, and the idea of taking the Backstreet Boys to Deep Ellum made me nervous anyway. Maybe it's the shy, country boy in me, but I didn't feel completely safe there myself.
In the end, Stacey decided we'd hit Northpark Mall. It was clean, safe and full of interesting stores. The Boys could indulge their materialism to their hearts content, and we could all have good lunch when we got hungry. My brothers and I knew Northpark pretty well. It was my parents' favourite place to shop in Dallas, even though we passed a couple of closer malls to get to it. We usually found it full of teenage girls, but today was a school day, so there shouldn't be much of a problem.
Our destination decided, we started to get ready in earnest. It was already nine-thirty, and only Nick was fully dressed. While I was getting dressed, Robby took a quick shower and Mike waited for his turn.
"Is there any kind of grocery store near Northpark?" Mike asked me.
I thought about it, but couldn't remember one. "I don't know," I told him, "but there must be one somewhere."
"I'm gonna ask Stacey," he said, jumping up. He was out of the room before I could ask him why he needed a grocery store.
I finished dressing and was headed out to the living room when Robby came out of the bathroom with wet hair and wearing jeans. "Ok, Mikey, you can..." He looked around the bedroom quickly but couldn't see our little brother. "Where's Mike?" he asked me.
"He said something about a grocery store and ran to ask Stacey," I told him. "I'll get him."
In the living room, Nick was stretched out on the couch watching television. "Where's Mike?" I asked him. Without turning his head or saying anything, he pointed back over his shoulder in the vague direction of Stacey and AJ's room. "Are you too interested in what you're watching to speak?" I asked him, laughing a little.
Nick sat up, and I could see the plate of food he'd been holding on his chest. "Ahh'mm eee'innng," he said with his mouth full. I laughed some more and went to knock on the bedroom door.
AJ was tucking his shirt in when he opened the door. Stacey was in the little alcove that led to their bathroom, putting on her makeup, and Mike was sitting on the bed talking on the phone.
"Come in," he said. "You won't be the first."
"Oooo, nice room," I said to AJ as I walked in. "I should have slept in here with you two."
"No way," Stacey called out. "When I sleep with a man, I want him to be paying attention to me."
"C'mon, Stacey," I said, winking at AJ. "I would have distracted AJ from you completely." While I was talking, I was waving to get Mike's attention.
He noticed me and gave me a "just a minute" sign while still listening to the phone. After a second to two, he said, "Okay, Mom. See you this afternoon." He paused slightly, then added, "We will. ' love you." before he hung up. Then Mike looked up at me and asked, "Is Robby out of the shower yet?"
"Yeah," I said absently. "Why were you talking to Mom?"
"Oh, no reason," he said standing up. He was grinning, which meant he had a reason and I'd have to work like Hell to get it out of him. I didn't rise to the bait.
"Well, get your shower then." I glanced at AJ who was tying his shoes and added, "You're the only one not ready yet."
"Not the only one," AJ said, nodding toward where Stacey stood, mascara wand in hand.
"Hey! I'm just trying to make myself look beautiful for you," she protested. "Women aren't always as naturally good-looking as men."
I grinned. "I figured that out year's ago."
It was maybe twenty minutes later when the nine of us were all dressed and ready for our shopping adventure. Everyone was packed and waiting in the living room. I decided to check the rooms for anything that we might have forgotten. In our bedroom, I snagged one errant sock from beneath a bed. The rest of the room and the closet were clean, so I headed into the bathroom. I opened its door and stepped just a second before Kevin did the same thing from his side.
"Uh," he began hesitantly, "sorry. I was just making sure no one forgot anything."
I smiled at him. "That's just was I was doing. A big brother's work is never done."
He didn't smile back. "Well, if you check in here, I'll go look at the other bedroom." He started to back out when I tried to stop him.
"Kevin!" I said quickly. He stopped and looked at me. I had his attention: now what the Hell was I going to say? "Have I offended you somehow? We got along pretty well a couple of days ago, but since yesterday you haven't said two words to me."
He didn't speak right away, but I just looked him in the eye and waited. Finally, he said, "This isn't really a good time to talk."
"I know," I said, "but it's the first time I've been alone with you since Tuesday. We don't have to talk now, but please promise me we will talk sooner or later. I can deal with it if you hate me, but I can't stand not knowing why."
With the words "hate me," he got a surprised look on his face. "I
don't...." He stopped himself, paused, then said softly, "Yeah, we'll
talk. But not now, okay?"
"Okay," I said. I used my very best "reassuring big brother" tone with him and gave him a slight smile.
Kevin glanced down at the floor before he looked me in the eye again. "Well, I'm gonna check the other bedroom," he said quietly before he closed the door and was gone.
In the living room a few minutes later, I found proper homes for Mike's sock, Robby's toothbrush and a small plastic attachment to Nick's hair dryer. In the bathroom, I'd also found my toothbrush, which I slipped into my backpack without mentioning it: after all, no reason to damage my reputation for perfection.
Kevin had had similar luck. He'd found a bottle of contact solution in his bedroom and a small bag of makeup in the larger one. Holding the bag up to AJ and Stacey, he asked, "Whose is this?"
AJ laughed. "Not my colour, man! I'm a Spring!"
"Well, let's move!" Brian said. Everyone picked up luggage except Stacey. AJ gallantly offered to carry her bag while he wrestled with his suitcase with the other. Nick and Mike in the lead, we headed out the door.
"Why can't we get a luggage cart?" Nick whined.
"Oh, please," Brian said, a little mock disgust in his voice. "The nine of us can carry what little luggage we have."
"I wasn't thinking about me," Nick countered. "I was just trying to think of AJ. Carrying Stacey's bag and half of his wardrobe at the same time."
"Oh, ha ha," AJ said. "Just you wait, Blondy."
"Just don't start with the 'dumb blond' jokes, AJ," Nick said, looking at my brothers and me. "You're outnumbered this time."
"Does 'dumb blond' still count if the blond comes from a bottle?" Mike asked. He punctuated his question with an "ow!" as Nick playfully punched him in the stomach.
"Sshhhh!" Nick said with exaggerated concern. "That's supposed to be a secret."
"Please, Nick," Howie laughed. "You couldn't keep a secret if it was locked in a metal box and sewn into your underwear."
"Really?" Robby asked. "I'd think it'd be pretty safe in Nick's underwear."
"If not safe exactly," Brian said, "it would be lonely."
"Yeah, talk about solitary confinement," Howie laughed.
"Well, not many people would look for something valuable there." AJ added.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Nick said a little loudly. "Can we please talk about something other that what's in my underwear?" In the quiet hallway, it came out louder that Nick had intended. We were all quiet and smiled politely as we made for an elderly couple to walk past us. They were maybe twenty feet away before the grins and giggling started
By now, we were all standing in the hallway, bags in hand. I had been one of the first ones out, so I was a little further down the hall when the last of us, Kevin and Brian, came out. Kevin was holding the key cards, and Brian was about to close the door when we heard the phone ringing. Six or seven of us droned the word "pho-one" as Brian dropped his bag and ran back in to answer it.
We could hear Brian pick up the phone and say "hello." Kevin had his serious face on again as he craned his neck to listen. His serious face looked like his usual face, only even more serious. Brian didn't speak for a few seconds, then said "thank you" and hung up. We waited as he emerged from the dim suite and into the hallway, but he didn't say anything.
He was retrieving his bag from where he'd dropped it, when AJ said, "So, who was it?"
Brian grinned. "Oh, well, evidentally, it's time for us to get up."
Two minutes later we were stepping into an elevator to ride down to the front desk. AJ had already put on a cap and sunglasses, and Nick and Brian were about to do the same. As the doors slid shut, I heard Mike ask, "Howie, where's Fire Island?"
With this installment, I go from simple TXT files to using HTML. I'd avoided it for a while because I thought it might be a problem for the archive. I hope there are no problems, and that everyone was able to read this as easily as before. Please let me know if you had difficulties: contact me at email@example.com. (Of course, if you couldn't read the installment, you can't read this message either.)
THANKS to all the people who have sent me email in response to this little story of mine. I have fun writing it, and I love putting up a new installment, but the most fun comes the next day when I check my email and there's something there.
Special thanks this time go to DLS, both for his encouragement and support and for his having actually recommended my story in his wonderful story, "Brian & Me" I haven't seen anyone recommend my story beforethanks a lot, guy. (If you haven't read "Brian & Me,"do so. When I read it, it meant a lot more to me than the writer can realize, and I want others to enjoy it just as much.)
OTHER STORIES worth your time arein no particular order"Kevin and Justin" by Peter Kamphus; "Lance in Shining Armour,"a long-standing story by Scotty T, whom I think is one of the most original of all the Nifty writers;"Forever," a newer story, written by DJ; "Some Kind of Bliss" which Braan has revived; "Lance and Michael" by Michael McCall; and "Boy Meets BSB" by Lucky Lou. "Boy Meets BSB" stopped getting updated in October, and it left off at a bad point (Grrrrrrrr!) but it's a good story, well told.
I READ THE Boy Band Story Award nomination form. Why not "Best Punctuation," huh? Don't my semi-colons and tastefully subtle use of ellipses count for anything? Seriously, these are gonna be fun, even though I now have a lot of reading to do in order to nominate people. My thanks to Curlybrok for doing all this work.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: that guy claiming to be Nick Carter has not admitted that he's not Nick Carter (Hear the audience say, "Duh!"). I'd really suspected as much all along, but the fantasy was a nice one. And my mentioning it seemed to get attention: at least four people asked me about my email from "Nick." And someone else wrote saying they were Kevin, but I doubt Kevin Richardson is a Moslem living in Malaysia (Yeah, you know who you are. *EG*).