Kevin & Justin
Peter Kamphuis
( or
02 May 2000


All the usual disclaimers apply: please stop reading if you are underage or homophobic. Please note that this is a work of fiction - nothing is being implied about the sexuality of any of the people portrayed below.

Author's Notes:

Hi again, everyone.

This part's a bit longer than the others... I hope that you all don't fall asleep before the end! <grin>

Okay, in this part there'll be a concert scene. I'm pretty sure that BSB concerts don't happen the way I'm going to describe them, including the 'solo' sessions, so I've got to apologise beforehand for that discrepancy. Mind you, this is a work of fiction, and it will deviate from 'real life' quite a bit! :)

I hope you all enjoy it, in any case...

Oh, please note the 2nd email address above. If you are having any difficulties sending to my hotmail account, give the other one a go... :)

And, as promised last time, the following is the link to my (still under development) homepage: RH_CHAN's refuge


Justin talks to the head honcho of The Firm and arranges for a backstage pass to the BSB concert in Lexington. He doesn't want his bandmates to know, so he comes up with a feeble excuse that it's a 'surprise', to keep Michael from accidentally revealing it to BSB or the rest of 'N Sync.

Meanwhile, in Lexington on the day of BSB's concert, Brian tackles Kevin about his declining mental state. He argues for Kevin to 'come out' to his bandmates and family, finally convincing Kevin that it would be the best thing to do. Kevin fights it initially, but gives in, wanting to escape from the emotional roller-coaster his life has become. In the meantime, he has shed another load of tears - unaware that someone on the stage is crying in sympathy with him. His final decision is that he'll go see his mother immediately and tell her.

Earlier, in the wings, Justin had been prowling around, getting a feel for the Arena and hoping to stay hidden from the boys until 'curtain-up'. He was startled to hear someone crying in anguish and finally located the source of the anguished crying: Kevin. He started crying in sympathy, as his soulmate's grief reduced him to raw emotions.

Only when a stagehand asked him if he's okay, does Justin realise that Boo is no longer crying and races over to him.

Kevin and Brian are surprised to see him there. Kevin, in particular, can't stand to see his angel's sympathetic, and teary eyes, and races off, trying to escape him. He ends up being trapped at the door to the foyer and has to face Justin's queries about why he's crying. He lies to Justin, though not liking it one bit, so that he can ease the worry from his angel's expression. Then realising he doesn't have any time left, he departs to go see his mother.

Justin is left alone in the audience seating, but is soon surrounded by the other BSB boys, who are happy to see him - with the exception of Brian. He decides to head back to the hotel with them, but accidentally lets it slip that Kevin has taken the limo on an errand. He finds himself in the middle of a battle of wills between A.J. and Brian.

Meanwhile, Kevin is back at his mother's place, dreading what he's about to do. His brother, Jerald, lets him in and then becomes scarce, at Kevin's request. Ann soon arrives and he tells her, before he loses his nerve. She is not happy with the news, disbelieving it at first. He is adamant that he's gay - always has been gay - and she can no longer deny it.

He confesses to her that both his father and Brian knew, and that his father warned him not to say anything to her without someone to comfort him - as he feared that Ann would reject her son. She denies this, and tells him that she still loves him, but she is unable to accept what he's told her. He leaves, defeated, needing to get back to the Arena for the concert; privately devastated at the less-than-full acceptance he has received from her.

And now...

Kevin & Justin - Chapter 15

The guys were starting to get restless in their dressing room...

Kevin still hadn't made it back from wherever he had mysteriously disappeared to, and it was getting awfully close to the time they needed to get into makeup and costume. It was especially important for Kevin to be there, as the makeup artists needed to cover up the basketball scar on his face, and it generally took a fair amount of time to do so. Not that Kevin was vain or anything, but without the makeup the scar showed up rather prominently under the harsh lights of the stage.

Besides the restless figures of the Backstreet Boys, Justin was also there, pacing agitatedly; working himself up into a frenzy about Kevin's whereabouts and condition. He had impatiently waited at the hotel with the guys, hoping that Kevin would return from his 'errand' quickly, but to no avail. Once it looked inevitable that they'd have to head back to the Arena, he'd started to worry even more.

Brian, Nick and Howie had had to acquire a key for Kevin's room from Reception, so that they could pack up his clothes and accessories. A.J. had then checked them all out, and had assured the hotel clerk that 'someone' would bring back Kevin's room key before the end of the night; uncertain whether he was telling her the truth or not -- it all depended on whether Kevin made it back tonight... Or not...

None of them had been happy at Kevin's prolonged absence; especially A.J., Nick and Justin.

Each and every one of them had tried to get in touch with Kevin, but his cell phone had been turned off and he wasn't responding to the messages that they'd left on his messaging service.

Back in the unnaturally silent dressing room, Brian sighed softly as he looked across at Justin's anxiously pacing figure. He had tried to be subtle, but he knew that Justin had caught him looking over at him on several occasions.

He just didn't know what to make of Justin, or what his appearance at the Arena heralded...

Turning his attention back to his missing cousin, he wondered what could have happened to Kevin? Surely Kev would have finished telling Aunt Ann by now...?

"Kevin! Where the hell have you been, man?" A.J.'s cry brought everyone's attention back to the present.

"Umm, I had something important to do, A.J. Sorry it took so long. We should get ready." Kevin closed the door and came into the room, avoiding looking into their eyes.

"No, I don't think that that'll cut it this time!" A.J. responded hotly, his concern giving way to irritation. "Something's been bothering you for ages now, and I think it's time we got it out in the open! When your personal life starts to interfere with your professional one -- and ours -- it's not something that can be dismissed as easily as that. Besides, you're the most responsible one of us all. For you to be acting like this it must be something really heavy!"

They could all see the flicker of pain that crossed Kevin's face, and the sudden glimmering film of moisture in his eyes.

Brian was about to speak, to try to get A.J. to drop the matter, when Kevin beat him to the punch.

"Okay, there's something we need to discuss." 'Maybe it would be best to get it all out in the open now?' he thought to himself, sounding unconvinced even in his own mind.

He suddenly took note of Justin standing in the background, looking at him strangely, and panicked. Though he knew Justin was gay, he didn't know if he could 'come out' to him as well. It would be bad enough having to tell the guys and trying to cope with their reactions, without worrying about Justin's reaction as well.

"Umm, Justin can you please excuse us for a little while? I need to speak to the guys in private."

"Sure, Kev," Justin replied as he walked out of the dressing room, pausing only long enough to gently squeeze Kevin's shoulder in support. He was curious to know what was going on, but respected Kevin's need for privacy. And now that Kevin was back from his errand, a lot of the worry he'd felt for him had been lifted. He closed the door behind him, and stepped away from it, giving Kevin as much privacy as he needed.

"Okay, Kev, what's going on?" Howie asked, feeling just as concerned as A.J. and Nick about Kevin's recent behaviour. He suddenly realised that Brian had not been as concerned as the rest of them, and squeaked out, "You know what's wrong, don't you, B?"

All eyes turned to Brian, who looked startled at the sudden shift of focus. Luckily, Kevin rescued him.

"Yes, Brian knows. And in a short while you'll also know."

"Kev, are you sure about this?" Brian asked.

"Yes, Brian, I'm sure. It can't be any worse than what happened at my mom's place." He sighed in resignation.

While the others looked at each other, trying to work out if any of them had understood Kevin's cryptic remark, Brian realised that things must have gone badly at Ann's, and felt a rush of anger at his aunt. That is, until a small voice in his mind cried out, 'Hypocrite!' He felt his face flush with anger again, this time directed at himself. How could he blame Aunt Ann for not being happy with the news when he himself had found it so hard to deal with originally? Well, he wasn't about to let her get away with it! Even if he had to call her every day, he'd make sure she came around. Kevin deserved that much from him, at the very least.

"There's something that Brian knows about me," began Kevin as he sat down. He avoided looking at anyone, as he knew he'd start crying again if he did. "You see, I... I'm... gay."

He heard a gasp and squeezed his eyes shut as he waited for the inevitable rejections. And though he had prepared himself for the worst, he couldn't stop the sudden uncontrollable shaking that gripped his body.

Seemingly a lifetime later, someone's hand rested on his still shaking shoulder and his eyes flew open and up; a tinge of fear reflected in the dark green depths. A.J. was standing there, grinning down at him.

"Is that all that's been bothering you, Kevvy?"

Kevin nodded, surprised at A.J.'s reaction and at a loss for words.

"Oh, Kev... So what? Eh, guys?" A.J. said, as he turned around to look at Nick and Howie.

"Yeah, it's no big deal, Train," Howie responded, smiling at him. He walked over to Kevin and gripped Kevin's other shoulder, squeezing it tightly to show his love and support.

"Hey, big guy, don't be so sad... we still love you dearly, you know?" That proclamation from Nick, who was almost a match for him in height, did much to restore Kevin's spirits and humour. When Nick knelt down and hugged him, he felt inordinately better. The relief he was feeling at their unconditional acceptance was almost overwhelming.

Managing a weak smile, and trying to control his emotions -- he didn't want to cry, even though it would be from happiness this time -- he thanked them.

Then turning responsible once more, he cajoled them to get ready as fast as they could. The others laughed to see the return of their 'Daddy' as they scrambled to get ready.

Justin was pacing again, this time just outside their dressing room, more often than not getting in the way of the crew as they hurried about finishing their tasks.

Realising that he was just working himself up into a frenzy, he sat down well away from the middle of the walkway and thought about the events of the past few hours.

He still found it heart-wrenching to recall Kevin's painful sobbing from earlier that afternoon. He was inclined to believe that A.J. was right: nothing short of a personal disaster would have affected Kevin like that! He just didn't know what to do to help Kevin... He didn't even know what was wrong...

He sighed and looked up at their dressing room door. As if 'scripted', it opened and the guys stepped out at that moment.

Kevin's eyes locked onto the slumped figure of Justin almost before he had fully stepped out of the room. It was as if they were drawn there by some sort of sophisticated targeting system. He couldn't fail to see Justin scanning through them until his eyes finally rested on him. He thought it was sweet that Justin was that worried about him, but knew it was time to put him at ease. He didn't want his angel to be hurt unnecessarily.

"Guys, go on ahead to makeup. I'll join you shortly."

The others just shrugged, or nodded, and went on their way.

"Kevin?" Justin said, standing up quickly, "Are things okay with you? Honestly?"

Kevin, who was ready to come up with some facile story to cover his recent behaviour, baulked when he heard Justin say 'Honestly?'

He felt a sudden fury at himself for even thinking of telling a lie to a friend who was seriously concerned about him, even if that friend happened to be the man he loved and wanted to protect. So he decided to answer with the truth. "Yeah, Justin. I'm much better now, thanks. Things were a bit heavy before, but I think I'll be able to cope now. I..." He paused, suddenly shy about how to say the following. "I really would like to thank you for thinking of me and worrying about me. It means a great deal to me to know that you're such a good friend." He paused again, smiling his special smile at Justin, before letting his eyes slide to the ground and softly adding, "Thanks, Curly."

Kevin felt a warmth settle over him as Justin embraced him tightly. He silently sighed as he let himself completely relax in Justin's arms...

"Hey, Boo, that's what friends are for. You don't need to thank me," Justin whispered, feeling elated at having Kevin's special smile bestowed on him once again. How he had missed it!

"Okay, okay, Justin.... I hear you. I still want to thank you anyway, so live with it, okay!" Kevin said, pulling himself out of the hug and grinning at Justin. "So what're you going to do? Just watch us from the wings?"

"Yeah, that's about it. I didn't really plan this trip very well. I just wanted to surprise you -- uh, I mean all of you -- tonight." Justin hoped that the heat he felt bursting across his face was not a visible blush.

"Well, think again, Curly - you're going onstage tonight!"

Justin's expression changed in the space of a heartbeat. The happy expression on his face gave way to a completely surprised and astounded expression. "Oh no," he said, shaking his head in emphasis, "No way I'm going onstage!"

"Yes, you are," Kevin replied, smiling broadly. "I owe you one, so you can join us for a single number, okay?"

"Kev, no. Please! Other than 'Larger Than Life' and '10,000 Promises', I don't know any of your songs well enough to perform them onstage! And I doubt your band knows the music to any of 'N Sync's songs."

Kevin's face showed surprise at the songs that Justin had mentioned. He gently whispered, "You know the words to '10,000 Promises'?"

"Yeah," Justin admitted, moderating his tone to match Kevin's. He turned slightly red as he replied, "It was one of my favourite songs from your second album. Hell, it's still one of my favourites!"

He refrained from telling Kevin that he had acquired a pirated CD containing 'live' versions of their songs; including a rendition of '10,000 Promises' that Kevin had sung solo. He had liked that CD, and that song in particular, even before he had met them during their joint tour.

"Justin, can I please ask you a big favour?" Kevin said, his voice radiating barely controlled excitement.

"Sure, Boo. What is it?"

Kevin smiled, despite himself, at the comfortable way in which Justin had said his nickname. "Curly, can you please sing '10,000 Promises' with me tonight? Just with me?"

Justin thought about it for a millisecond before replying with a big grin, "Sure. I love that song, and singing it with you would be a blast!"

"Thanks, Justin! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" As Kevin thanked him he hugged Justin quickly and released him, excitement radiating from every pore. "It's one of my favourites as well. I have to run and catch the band and tell them of the change of songs. Then I have to go to makeup..." Kevin stopped babbling suddenly, and Justin could see that he was thinking furiously. An evil glint came into Kevin's eyes as he said, "How 'bout we surprise the guys?"

Justin immediately guessed what Kevin was planning and readily agreed. Kevin spent several minutes instructing him on what to do, unknowingly touching Justin on quite a few occasions, and ignorant of the thrill that overcame Justin with each touch. He then left to catch the band; he had a lot to arrange, and not much time to do it in!

Justin smiled openly and felt his heart lift for the first time in a long while. He walked over to the dressing room door with a light step -- he had to get ready.

He also had to deal with a certain body part which had decided to 'rise' to the challenge as well...

Oh yes, indeed -- he would need to deal with that little problem before he even considered going near Kevin again!

The boys returned to the wings of the stage, after having finished their first set, and shed their head-mics in preparation for their solos. The solos were always performed with hand-held microphones -- it felt more natural that way, especially as the were going 'one-on-one' with the audience.

Before anyone could make a move -- Howie was supposed to be first up -- Kevin stage-whispered, "I'm going on first, tonight. Sit back and enjoy!"

The guys turned to look at him as if he'd just lost his mind. They were further surprised when the music started playing before he'd even left the wings. They all recognised the opening notes for '10,000 Promises', and knew that the band must have been advised of the change in lineup well in advance. They could also tell that the band was in a 'stalling' pattern: basically playing the same few measures again and again, until Kevin indicated he was ready.

Kevin approached the stool which had been placed on the stage, and sat down on it, after picking up the microphone. He looked out at the crowd, raised the mic, and spoke. "Hello, Lexington! How are y'all tonight?"

He waited for the roar to die down before he continued. "As you may be aware, I'm originally from Lexington, and I really enjoy coming back here to perform in my old hometown."

Again there was a loud roar of cheering and applause. Kevin smiled and waited it out. "Thank you. Tonight, I have a big surprise in store for you!" He looked across to the other side of the stage and nodded. One of the crew brought out another stool, and another microphone, and placed them within touching distance of Kevin's stool.

The guys, standing in the wings witnessing this strange turn of events, were starting to wonder what was going on?

Howie, feeling his shoulder suddenly twitch, began to sense that someone was standing close behind them. He turned around to look, and was startled to see Justin standing there, wearing one of their older costumes and looking as if he'd been 'made up'. He gave out a tiny gasp, as understanding hit him, bringing the attention of the other three to their silent guest.

Before anyone could utter a word, Kevin's voice drifted to them from the stage. "Tonight, I'll be joined by an old friend that we made during our last tour. Tonight, singing along with me, is none other than Justin Timberlake from the group 'N Sync!"

There was another roar from the crowd, slightly louder because of the surprise rippling through the audience, and Justin used this as his cue to walk past the stunned quartet. The cheering got louder as he approached the stool. He picked up the microphone and quickly squeezed Kevin's shoulder before sitting down.

In the wings, A.J. suddenly grabbed Brian's arm and pulled him away to the closest vacant room he could find; ignoring Brian's vehement demands to know what was "...going on?!".

Onstage, Kevin settled himself down on the stool and gave the band the cue to start in earnest, smiling blindingly across at Justin. Justin smiled back at him just as hugely.

For the course of the next few minutes they lost themselves in their duet, and in each other...

The raw energy of the performance sucked them in and carried them off to a new high. Both felt a surge of intense pleasure to be performing with the other, something they'd never felt before when performing with their own bandmates, or even when both groups had performed together. Not only were they feeding off each other's vibes, and the haunting melody of the song, but more importantly they were singing with the one person in the whole world who meant everything to them.

Near the end of the song Justin found himself shedding blissful tears and looked across to see that Kevin was in the same state as he. His voice almost cracked for the first time in five years, as his emotions washed over him.

Even before the final chords had died, the crowd had erupted into a deafening roar; which went up a notch when Justin and Kevin stood up to hug each other.

Turning around and waving to the crowd, they both placed their microphones on the stools and left the stage. They walked up to a still applauding duo of Nick and Howie.

"Wow guys, that was so great!" Nick exclaimed. "That's the best I've ever heard that song sung! Kev, you've never sung it better!"

Howie was quick to give his praise as well, before Kevin reminded him that the crowd was waiting.

Howie, looking mortified for a moment, ran quickly onstage. He picked up the microphone from the stool -- the other stool and mic had been removed by this time -- and started off with a, "Wasn't that duet just amazing?" The response was another roar and Howie grinned, carefully turning to look across at the embarrassed duo in the wings. He then spoke to the crowd a bit more before settling himself down on the stool and starting to sing his solo.

Justin looked into Kevin's smiling eyes and felt content for the first time in months. "Kev, I'm going to change. I don't feel comfortable wearing this costume and I want to get rid of the makeup. Can I borrow your dressing room and shower?"

"Sure, Just. Go ahead. I'll see you shortly."

Justin walked off, leaving Kevin and Nick alone.

"Hey, Nicky, where are the other two?"

"Don't know, Kev. They disappeared a short while ago. Neither D or I saw where they disappeared to." Then, he hastily added, "But I'm sure they'll be back soon." 'They'd better be,' he thought to himself.

"Oh, okay," Kevin said, shrugging inwardly. He just hoped that they'd get back before Nick had finished his solo...

"A.J., what's the big deal?" Brian asked, in irritation.

A.J. closed the door of the makeup room and turned to look at him.

"Kevin loves Justin, doesn't he?" he asked without preamble.

Brian's surprised look gave way quickly. "Yes, he does... What about it?" Brian wasn't sure he was doing the right thing by admitting it to A.J., but he felt that the time for secrets was over. Now that Kevin had 'come out', there was nothing to be gained by hiding anything else.

"Well, why hasn't he done anything about it then?" asked A.J. in exasperation. "You know Justin is gay, right?"

"Yes, I know he's gay. I've known almost from the start... But it isn't that simple!"

"Why not?"

"Because he doesn't love Kevin."

"Bullshit!" A.J said explosively. "If there's one thing I know for certain, it's that Justin loves Kevin!"

Brian stared at A.J. for a second before replying. "Well you're wrong, Alex. There was a time even I thought that, but not anymore! Not since Kevin found out that Justin and JC are together. Hell, even I walked in on them once, and saw them together. Up until that point I thought that maybe Kevin had got it wrong, but not after that!"

"What?" asked A.J. in surprise. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard. From what he could recall of that night in Kevin's room, he was absolutely certain that Justin loved Kevin! He couldn't believe that Justin could be in love with someone -- anyone -- else...

"A.J., Justin and JC are a couple. Both Kevin and I walked in on them, and heard them say they loved each other. They're an item. It's a fact. Both Kevin and I have accepted it."

"There must be some other explanation, B... Maybe you and Kevin just got the wrong impression?"

"I wish it was that simple. But even if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, then what Kevin heard on the bus would have clinched it for me."

"Heard what? On what bus? What happened?" A.J. asked in confusion.

Brian furiously thought of a way to explain what had happened, without revealing anything about his and Kevin's lie. There were secrets, and then there were secrets... This was not a secret he was willing to reveal.

"Just before our first concert, do you remember that JC, Justin, Howie, Kevin and I went back to the bus to sleep, while the rest of you went shopping?" A nod greeted his question. "Well, Howie and I had dropped off to sleep and Kevin had almost done the same when Justin and JC boarded the bus. He didn't open his eyes, as he wasn't ready to deal with them -- this all happened shortly after he discovered they were together. Anyway, he kept his eyes closed, and overheard them talking..."

Brian shook his head absently, as if trying to come to terms with what he knew happened next. Kevin had recounted it to him several days after it had happened, mostly because he had continued to pester Kevin for the details until Kevin had given in. Even now, several months later, it still seemed somewhat surreal.

He looked up into the anxiously concerned expression of his friend. "Alex, not only did he hear JC call Justin 'sweetie', but he also heard Justin tell JC that he loved him. And then he heard them kiss."

A.J. couldn't believe his ears! He shook his head as he tried to reconcile what he was hearing with what he'd (thought he'd) known.

"B, I don't know how to explain it, but I still think that Justin loves Kevin. With all of his heart! He's loved Kevin practically since the start of our joint tour."

"Even if that's true, A.J., Justin's made his choice. There's nothing we can do about it while he and JC stay together. Besides, if Justin really loves Kevin, then his course is clear. He'll have to leave JC to be with Kevin. But he hasn't done that, so either he lacks the courage, or he loves JC enough to stay with him. Either way, there's nothing we can do about it..."

Brian trailed off and watched the battle raging inside A.J. -- as Alex struggled to come to terms with everything he'd just learned.

A.J. fought against his instinct that Kevin and Justin were meant to be together. Though he felt with every fibre of his being that they were truly soulmates, Brian's revelations cast the whole situation in a different light. Brian was right. Even if Justin loved Kevin, they couldn't be together while Justin was in a relationship with JC. There wasn't anything that he, Brian, Kevin or the others could do until Justin and JC split up.

He felt a sense of anguish overcome him. Knowing that they were soulmates and should be together, but couldn't be, was so heart-wrenching...


"Yeah, Brian?"

"A.J., you'll need to keep this to yourself, okay? Kevin is still recovering from the wounds. And having Justin here, tonight, will not be helping him any. Please promise you won't say anything to him, or Justin?"

"Okay, Brian. I can see your point. Even though I desperately want to get the two of 'em into the same room and make them see how much they're supposed to be together!"

Brian nodded slowly, understanding A.J.'s reaction completely. After witnessing all that he had, he had no doubts in his mind that there was only one person that Kevin would ever love. And even though Justin had caused Kevin an enormous amount of pain, Justin's love would be the only thing that would make Kevin happy.

And he deserved all the happiness he could get...

Justin left Kevin speaking with Nick, and walked back to the guys' dressing room. Once he'd removed most of the makeup, he stripped out of the borrowed costume and hit the shower. He luxuriated under the warm spray, as it removed the sweat he'd acquired while singing under the bright lights of the stage, and the last residue of makeup.

When he felt sufficiently clean, he turned off the water, wiped himself dry and gratefully got back into his own clothes. Checking his watch, he noticed that he only had an hour left before he had to be back at the airport. He sighed as his heart clenched tightly. He didn't want to go back. He wanted to stay with Kevin...

...But that was a dream that could never come true.

A.J. and Brian got back with less than a minute to spare -- much to Nick's relief. He had not enjoyed the prospect of stalling the crowd while the others searched for them...

Brian went on first, passing by the extremely relieved Nick Carter, while A.J. nervously kept out of Kevin's way. He didn't want to have to explain to Kevin where he and Brian had disappeared to, or what they had discussed.

By the time it was his turn to perform, he had started to become concerned again, but for a different reason -- Kevin had totally ignored him. In fact, Kevin seemed to have become lost in his own thoughts and wasn't paying attention to anyone or anything else.

Brian noticed the same thing when he got back into the wings of the stage. Nick and Howie were quietly talking while keeping an eye on A.J.'s performance, but Kevin seemed to be oblivious to everything.

A.J. finished his solo and came back into the wings. They had to get ready for their last set, soon, but they had several minutes to spare. A.J. was not the only one who grabbed a quick drink of water to re-hydrate his parched lips and body.

Brian looked back at his cousin and noticed that Kevin was still 'out of it'. He put on his head-mic and picked up Kevin's head-mic as well. He walked over to his catatonic cousin, and softy said, "Kev? We've got to head back onstage now. The next set is going to start any second."

"Oh, okay, Brian. Thanks," Kevin mumbled in a distracted voice, rousing himself sufficiently to look over and nod at his cousin. He took the head-mic from Brian's outstretched hand and placed it automatically on his head.

The music started playing at that point, and they walked back out onto the stage.

After a while the guys couldn't help but notice that Kevin's mind had started to wander again; even Nick and Howie picked up on the change in his performance. He was slowly losing the rhythm of the choreography, and there were whole passages of songs where he didn't bother singing; thankfully none of the songs contained lines he was required to sing solo...

And every so often, although increasing in frequency, they saw him looking towards the wings of the stage, as if searching for something, or someone.

As soon as he spotted Justin's figure in the wings, and saw the smile directed at him, it was as if a switch was thrown on inside Kevin.

Suddenly, he was back to his best, if not better -- even if he did pay more attention to the wings than the audience. Brian was not the only one who noticed what had occasioned the change.

Thankfully, after a handful more songs, the concert concluded and the relieved group took their bows, ignoring the calls for encores. Kevin rushed back to the wings and dragged a reluctant Justin onto the stage to take a bow as well. After a few more bows, and several firm 'Good nights' and 'Thank yous' over the microphones, the group was able to get off the stage.

The guys gave each other knowing looks as Kevin stuck close to Justin, never venturing far from his side. They switched off their head-mics and removed them, placing them on the same small table on which they'd rested them before.

"Hey, Justin, I gotta thank you for being here tonight. It was great! Especially the way you sang with me - I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Curly."

Before anyone else could comment, a voice said, "And I enjoyed it too. If I had known you were going to do that, Justin, I would have flown you over myself!"

They all turned to see Michael smiling at them.

"Oh, hey, Mike! Thanks, but it wasn't why I came down here. I was more surprised than anyone when Kevin pressed me into doing the song with him," Justin said, smiling hugely at the executive. "I see you made it down to the concert. How did you enjoy it?"

Michael's smile wavered for a second before it came back strongly. "It was most entertaining. It's been a long time since I've heard an audience react like they did tonight after '10,000 Promises'. Kevin and you did a wonderful job on that."

Justin grinned at the reply. Then remembering that he had to leave soon, he looked at Kevin and said, "Kevin, can you please walk with me a bit? I've got to head out soon or I'll miss my plane, but I'd like to have a chat with you before I go."

"Sure, Justin. Let's go."

As soon as they were out of earshot, Michael turned to the others and asked the question they had all been dreading to hear. "What the hell happened tonight?"

Another voice rang out from behind them. "I'd also like to know the answer to that!" They all turned around, to see Kevin's brother, Jerald, staring at them.

Justin walked next to Kevin in silence, trying to work out what he wanted to say to Kevin.

Kevin could see that he was thinking, and didn't interrupt him. He just kept glancing across at Justin; drinking in the sight of the angelic-looking man striding next to him.

Finally, Justin stirred himself to speak. "Nothing's really been resolved, has it, Boo? I know you say everything's okay now, but somehow I don't believe that's completely true."

Kevin could feel his hard-won composure crack in an instant. Without any warning, moisture started to appear in his eyes. He felt Justin move quickly to embrace him in a warm, tight hug, but the nearness of Justin was just another factor contributing to his mounting pain.

Justin let him weep quietly, giving him all the time in the world to calm down. He gently, and slowly, stroked Kevin's back and whispered, "It's alright, Boo. Everything's going to be okay. You wait and see - I'm never wrong."

Kevin managed to calm himself enough to pull out of the hug.

"Justin," he whispered, while sniffling, "thanks for caring about me so much. You're such a good friend."

Justin flushed a bit and said, "Kevin, of course I care! You're one of my best friends, and I don't have many of them. I can't just sit back and watch you suffer like this without trying to help." Looking Kevin directly in the eyes, he gently asked, "Do you want to talk about it, Boo?" He suspected he already knew the answer, but had to ask anyway.

"No, thanks for thinking of me, Justin, but I can't really get into this right now."

"Kevin, do you know how much it hurts me to hear you say that, when I know how much pain you're in? Do you know how much better you'd feel if you just got it off your chest?"

"Yeah, I do know, Just, but I've got to deal with this on my own..." He could still see the worried and hurt look in Justin's eyes, and felt his heart clench tightly. "I promise, Curly, that if it gets too bad I'll call you and talk to you."

"Okay, Kevin," Justin acquiesced. "But I'm not going to just sit around waiting to hear from you -- if you don't call me in a day or so, I'm going to call you. Okay? If there's anything that's bothering you, that you feel like talking to me about, please do!"

"Okay, Just. I promise," Kevin said, a genuine smile lighting his face.

"You're going to be in Orlando in around five days time, right?" Justin asked, suddenly changing topics.

"Yeah, we've got two shows in Tennessee and then four more shows in Florida. Orlando will be the first show in Florida. Why?"

"Is it okay if I visit you when you get there?"

"Sure." Kevin smiled broadly now, his heart lifting at the thought of being with Justin again. "But, you gotta promise me that we'll go out to dinner, okay? Think of it as my way of thanking you for all that you've done for me."

It was Justin's turn to smile. "It's a date, then." He turned slightly red at his choice of words, but joined in with Kevin's laughter.

"Are you going to be able to make it to the airport in time?" Kevin asked, in a more serious tone.

Justin peered at his watch and gasped. "Oh sh...ugar. Not if I don't find a cab straight away!"

Kevin smiled at him and said, "Larry's waiting outside in the limo. He can take you to the airport -- just tell him that I said it's okay. Go, quickly, before you miss your plane."

The tour bus was also waiting outside the Arena, so they didn't need the limousine in any case, but he had asked Larry to hang around when he'd been dropped off earlier. At the time, he'd thought that he'd need the limo to go collect his belongings from the hotel, but the guys had told him that it had already been taken care of. He grimaced inwardly as he realised he'd forgotten to tell Larry that it was okay to go. Oh well, it had worked out for the best in any case.

Justin said a quick, "Thanks, Boo!" before hugging Kevin swiftly and sprinting for the Arena's backstage door.

"No, Curly... thank you," Kevin whispered, staring longingly at Justin's departing figure and revelling in the lingering feel of Justin's hug.

Brian sighed and indicated to his bandmates that he would handle this. A.J., Nick and Howie read his signal correctly and headed off to the makeup room. Brian looked back at the inquisitive expressions on Jerald's and Michael's faces, and sighed again as he struggled to think of what to tell them.

"Umm, maybe we should wait for Kevin to get back before we get into this? If you'd like, we can wait in the dressing room?"

Michael indicated his willingness to wait for Kevin. Jerald, however, looked at his cousin and said, "Brian, can I please speak to you in private? It's about my mom."

Brian suppressed a look of annoyance, as he wasn't sure he wanted to get involved in this particular discussion either, but he nodded his head. Michael took this as his cue to wander off to the dressing room to wait for Kevin.

"Brian, do you know what Kevin and my mother talked about this afternoon? When I met Kev at the door, he was acting like a nervous wreck. He asked me to leave for a short while, and when I got back home, Mom was crying her eyes out and wouldn't talk to me! Then when I told her that I'd be coming to the concert, she cried even harder.

"And to top it all off, when I see Kevin onstage tonight, it's as if I'm seeing two different people! One morose, and the other sublimely happy! What is going on here?!"

Brian knew that he was heading for a major migraine, but he thought he owed his cousin some sort of explanation.

"Cuz, there's a reason why both your mother and Kev are acting this way. I can't guarantee that the same reason applies to his scratchy performance onstage tonight, but I'm willing to bet it's somehow related."

"And what reason would that be?" Jerald asked in exasperation.

"For that, I'm afraid you'll need to speak to Kev. I can't tell you on his behalf, nor would I, even if he asked me to. It's too personal for me to get involved."

Brian could see his cousin seething at the lack of information, but he wasn't about to budge an inch. Kevin would need to tell him himself. He headed back to wait with Michael in the dressing room. Jerald followed a short time later, wondering if his youngest brother was about to tell him what he and Tim had always suspected?

A few minutes after Brian and Jerald had taken a seat, Howie, A.J. and Nick entered the dressing room.

Hot on their heels appeared Kevin. He took one look at the delegation waiting for him, noted with surprise the addition of his brother to the group, and indicated with his head that they should leave the others to change in peace. He was surprised to see Brian get up and follow them out of the room.

"Let's go to the makeup room," he suggested, taking the lead. "Brian, will you be able to help me remove my makeup? I don't want any of the makeup people to listen in to this conversation."

"Sure, Cuz, but you're gonna have to help me, too."


When they reached the makeup room, Michael shooed away the makeup artists before Kevin had a chance to ask them, politely, to leave. Gauging this as an indication of Michael's current emotional state, he settled down in a chair and turned to face them. He patiently waited for them to sit down as well: Brian taking the makeup chair next to his, and Jerald and Michael sitting on the couch against the back wall.

"Okay. Mike, Jer, I'm..." He paused, fear making him wary of what their reaction might be.

"You're gay, right?" Jerald said, unfazed.

Brian and Kevin looked at him in surprise. Michael swivelled to face him with a stunned look before turning back to Kevin. His eyes told Kevin that he would not appreciate any further evasions.

"Yes, that's right. I'm gay. How long have you known, Jer?"

"Wait a minute!" exclaimed Michael. "Before you get caught up in family matters, explain what you mean, and what happened tonight."

"No, Michael! I'm sorry, but at this moment my family is more important than the concert or the group. I'm 'coming out' to my brother, not to The Firm. Once Jer and I have finished talking, I'll be happy to explain what happened tonight. As my sexual orientation is not a concern of The Firm's, unless it relates to my public image, this doesn't directly involve you. For the moment, please let me talk with my brother."

Michael was so stunned at being spoken to in that way, that he soon discovered he had lost the advantage: Jerald was already speaking.

"I guess Tim and I've always known," he said, noticing the raised eyebrows on his brother's face at the mention of Tim knowing as well. Brian was going through a similar reaction. "From even before you were engaged and called it off." Jerald shrugged and thought some more. "Is that why Mom's acting this way? Did you 'come out' to her tonight?"

"Yes, I did. And though it didn't go as well as I'd hoped, it wasn't a total disaster either. How is she?"

"Bro, to be honest, I haven't seen her cry so much in a long time. I think the last time she was this upset was when Dad died." Jerald and Kevin became sombre at the memory of their mother's anguish after their father's death.

"I should go and see her, shouldn't I?" Kevin said, though not knowing what he'd achieve by doing so.

Michael chose that moment to butt in. "Kevin, I'm sorry but we just don't have the time. You need to be on the bus by midnight, at the latest, or you won't be in time for the concert in Knoxville. And besides, we still have a few issues to discuss. Like what happened out there on stage tonight!"

"Kev, I'd like to know too. Brian mentioned earlier that he didn't think it was all related to you 'coming out' to Mom tonight."

Brian squirmed in his seat as Kevin and Michael both turned to look at him.

"I don't know what Brian's talking about," lied Kevin, hating himself for doing it. But he wasn't about to tell management -- even Michael, whom he genuinely liked -- that he was hopelessly in love. His face flushed red, and even though Brian and Jer knew that he'd lied, neither jumped in to correct or question him.

Kevin continued, somewhat truthfully. "I was slightly down during the first part of the performance because of Mom's reaction. After the duet with Justin," he paused and smiled gently at the memory of their duet, "After the duet, I became even more down. The song affected me, I guess. I just couldn't concentrate..." He paused to take a breath. "But once I saw Justin smile at me from the wings, I guess I got over the negative feelings and started to concentrate better. It really helps when you have good friends that support you."

"What?" Brian suddenly yelled in surprise, misunderstanding Kevin's words. "You told Justin that you're gay?!"

"No!" Kevin responded, with a gasp of horror. "I couldn't tell him that! The only people I told tonight, besides Mom, Jer and Mike were the guys."

Michael groaned at that revelation. He had hoped that Kevin had at least kept it hidden from the others, but now it seemed everyone knew. "How'd they take it?" he asked in resignation.

"They just about laughed in my face!" Kevin replied in amusement. "They were wondering why I was getting so worked up over it. They couldn't care less that I'm gay; they still love and respect me. We're family." At the mention of 'family', his happiness nose-dived once again. He couldn't forget how much his mother had hurt him that day by not accepting him without reservation.

Jerald and Brian both got up and consoled Kevin as Michael watched on, guiltily. He knew that Kevin was right and that it was no concern of anyone's how he expressed his sexuality, but in the 'entertainment business' there are certain things that an entertainer just doesn't reveal if he wants to be successful.

"Kevin, I can promise you that your 'other' family, The Firm, fully supports you. We love and respect you, too. But do I need to caution you about the effect such a revelation will have on your career, and the group's career as well?"

"No, Mike, you don't. I promise to be discreet, and to always be aware of how my actions could affect the careers of the guys. You don't have to worry about that."

All three of them stared at Kevin; each privately thinking that, if anything, he'd sacrifice his chance at happiness so that the others could be happy. Brian, in particular, could feel how big a burden Kevin had taken on. It was for Brian's benefit, as well as Nick's, Howie's and A.J.'s, that Kevin would do all in his power to make them happy and successful -- regardless of how unhappy he would be. Brian had never felt such awe for his cousin as he felt right at that moment.

Michael felt a coldness and resentment with the industry (in particular), and the world (in general), for their close-mindedness. He knew that if anyone deserved a chance at happiness, it was the self appointed guardian of these lads. Kevin had given a whole lot of his heart, body and soul to ensure that the group had become one of the biggest and the best in the world. All without any thought of personal reward at the end of it. He deserved all the happiness he could get, and then some!

Jerald just stared at his brother and knew that he loved him more than ever. If anyone had shown him the importance of loyalty and honesty, it was Kev. With tears running down his face, Jerald hugged his brother and said, "I love you, bro. I love you so much! When Mom comes round she'll be just as happy and proud of you as she's always been."

Kevin hung on to his brother, weeping his own tears at his brother's love for him, and his confidence in their mother.

Clearing his throat, and wiping away at the moisture accumulating in his eyes, Michael got up and shook Kevin's hand. "Lad, I hope it all works out for you. I really do."

"Thanks, Michael," Kevin replied.

"Oh, I'll have to let Jeff and the others know about this, but don't worry. They love and respect you as much as I do."

"I appreciate it, Mike. Thanks again."

"Think nothing of it, Kev. Good bye, Brian. Say 'good bye' to the rest of the gang for me. Good bye, Jerald. It was nice seeing you again."

They all said their farewells to Michael, then Brian stood up and started removing Kevin's makeup without any prompting.

"Something tells me that you already knew what I wanted to speak to Mom about," Kevin said to his brother.

"Yeah, I figured that you'd be telling her soon. Remember when you were still living at home?" Jerald waited for Kevin to nod before proceeding. "Well, Tim and I would see how unhappy you'd look whenever she would bring up the 'When you're married, Kevin' speech. It got to be really hard for me -- for us -- to stay silent, knowing that you were hurting. Mom didn't see, or maybe she just couldn't see, what effect she was having on you. But I could tell you were getting less and less happy each time. It hurt me to see my favourite brother enduring so much pain!

"I'm actually surprised you didn't crack much earlier," Jerald said, grinning weakly at Kevin's reflection, and not knowing the huge part that Brian had played in getting Kevin to 'out' himself to his mother. He continued, once he saw an answering smile on Kevin's face. "In fact, it was almost a relief to see you turn up today with that determined look on your face. I knew, or at least I hoped, that you'd finally tell her and get it off your chest... if only to get the relief from unburdening yourself. I know how much this secret has been eating away at you-"

"Kevin?" Brian asked suddenly, interrupting his cousins' conversation.

"Yeah, Bri?"

"I don't mean to pry, but why didn't you tell Justin about you being gay?" Seeing the confused look on Kevin's face, he elaborated, "When you got back to the Arena... In our dressing room..."

Kevin quickly recovered from the unexpected question, and in a quiet voice spoke the simple truth; surprising even himself with the answer. "I love him too much, Brian. If I had 'come out' to him, I would've told him everything. Especially how I felt for him. I wouldn't have been able to stop myself. And the last thing I wanted to do was to hurt him like that."

Tears slowly fell down his cheeks while Brian stood back and contemplated his words, with an unreadable expression on his face.

Jerald, after his initial shock, stood up and hugged his brother again, consoling him as he digested this new piece of information...  'Kevin's in love with Justin?!'

After tossing and turning for a good half hour, and unable to get comfortable in his bunk bed, Kevin gave up on the idea of sleeping and just stared at the roof -- or rather, the underside of the bunk bed above his.

Whenever he allowed his mind to wander to Justin, he couldn't help but feel his insides bunch up and his eyes start to water.

Finally, deciding he had nothing better to do, he got up and looked for his Discman and a particular disc from his collection. Putting the CD into the unit, he placed the earplugs into his ears and started playing the first song on the CD. He hit the 'repeat track' button, so that it would continuously play the same track over and over.

He settled back into his bed and listened to the music; humming, and singing along softly to certain verses, and taking the liberty of changing a single word (see below). He lay there, motionless, for over an hour, thinking constantly about Justin, and the evening he'd spent with Justin, before he fell into a contented sleep with a mumbled, "Love you, Curly..."

In the background, barely audible, even in the heavy silence of the bus, were 'tinny'-sounding voices singing: 'Tearin' Up My Heart'.

     It's tearing up my heart when I'm with you
     But when we are apart, I feel it too
     And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     with or without you

     Baby I don't understand
     Just why we can't be lovers
     Things are getting out of hand
     Trying too much, but baby we can't win
     Let it go
     If you want me girl(boy), let me know
     I am down on my knees
     I can't take it anymore...

     It's tearing up my heart when I'm with you
     But when we are apart, I feel it too
     And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     with or without you

     Baby don't misunderstand
     What I'm trying to tell ya
     In the corner of my mind
     Baby, it feels like we are running out of time
     Let it go
     If you want me girl(boy), let me know
     I am down on my knees
     I can't take it anymore...

     It's tearing up my heart when I'm with you
     But when we are apart, I feel it too
     And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     with or without you

     Tearin' up my heart and soul
     We're apart I feel it too
     and no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     With or without you

     Tearin' up my heart and soul
     We're apart I feel it too
     and no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     With or without you

     It's tearing up my heart when I'm with you
     But when we are apart, I feel it too
     And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     with or without you

     And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
     With or without you

In Orlando, after having touched down and having made his way home, Justin was just about ready to drop off into an exhausted sleep. He undressed in the darkness of his bedroom, as he recalled the evening he'd just spent with his Boo.

He was grateful it was late enough that neither his mother and step-father, nor Chris and JC, were still up. He didn't know what he'd have done, if he'd had to face any of them, or their questions, just then. He was still buzzing from being with Kevin for the past several hours. He wanted to savour those memories and feelings, in private, before he had to 'face the music' for his actions...

'Why do I have to 'face the music'?' he silently wondered, feeling angry with himself for thinking he'd done something wrong. 'I've done nothing wrong. I don't have to apologise for anything, let alone what I did last night!' He smiled to himself, as he found a new resolve to face the inevitable scene he'd have to face in the morning.

Before getting into bed, he turned on his personal stereo and placed his special pirated CD of BSB's 'live' music into the unit. He quickly queued up the correct track, pressed 'play' and then pressed the 'repeat track' key. He adjusted the volume so that it would be just loud enough to reach him in bed, but not loud enough to reach as far as the bedroom door or the hallway beyond.

He then stumbled over to his bed and got in, pulling the covers over his exhausted body, and sighing in pleasure as his body started to relax. Then, unknowingly echoing the words of his soulmate, Justin murmured, "Love you, Boo..." as he dropped off into sleep; the stereo playing '10,000 Promises' into the silent, heavy night...

On his end-table, resting where he had left it the day before, his cell phone remained powered off.

End - Chapter 15

To be continued...