Kevin & Justin
Peter Kamphuis
29 July 2000
Revised: 06 August 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:

Hey everyone. I'm back! <grin>

I have to apologise for the lateness of this chapter... I was hoping to have it out a lot sooner but lost a lot of my enthusiasm due to an overwhelming amount of work. It was quite a struggle to get this chapter out, and even though I have finished about three quarters of the next one, due to the pressures I'm under at work it won't be out for at least two or three weeks. Sorry about that.

Thanks for the support and encouragement you've all given me thus far; I've really appreciated it during this mammoth undertaking.

Thanks also to mh, who, as per usual, is doing a wonderful job as my co-editor. You're an absolute gem, buddy! Thanks for everything. And enjoy your time away!


Kevin's and Justin's dinner date goes off well, despite some initial nervousness on Kevin's part. However, he settles down and enjoys the dinner with Justin.

Meanwhile, Brian is acting mysteriously. He disappears from the arena without telling anyone. He ends up at the airport, waiting for two important people to disembark.

Kevin and Justin settle down on the couch after dinner, and the mood becomes serious. Kevin is unsure how to tell Justin about his feelings for him, and ends up asking Justin if he loves Josh. Justin is stunned by the question and Kevin misinterprets this as being an affirmation of his suspicions.

Justin rouses himself from his surprised stupor and sets Kevin straight, acknowledging that Josh is too much like a brother for him to ever love him.

Kevin, seeing that Justin is telling the truth, decides to forge ahead with his intention of telling Justin everything.

At the airport, Brian meets up with his cousin, Jerald, and his aunt, Ann. He's brought them out to Orlando with a specific purpose in mind. He quizzes his aunt about her dedication to their chosen course of action, and she affirms that she will go through with it; having come too far to back out now.

Kevin takes the hardest step in his life: he reveals to Justin that he loves him. After the initial shock, Justin comforts an emotional Kevin, revealing in turn how much he loves Kevin. With feelings that are overwhelming both their senses, they kiss each other for the first time...

When they finally come up for air, they relate to each other everything that has happened to them since they first met; getting all the misunderstandings out into the open. By the end of it, they're aware how lucky they were to ever reach the point of being together. They also realise just how deeply the other really loves them...

Brian and his relatives reach the arena and go in to 'face the music'. After a tense confrontation, Brian feels relieved to have made it out in one piece. The rest of the band were far from happy with his actions, and Nick, who seems to be the most devastated of all, hasn't said a single word since he saw Brian enter the dressing room with Ann and Jerald. His accusing silence is deeply bothering Brian, but Brian knows that what he is doing is for Kevin's benefit. For that, he's even willing to sour his friendship with Nick.

Kevin and Justin are lying on the couch, starting to get seriously into undressing each other, when the phone rings. It's Brian, from the arena, asking where Kevin is -- Kevin is seriously late! Kevin tells him that he will leave immediately, joking that he'll bring Justin along, then hangs up.

When Justin queries him about what he said, Kevin agrees that Justin can come along. Justin vetoes the idea though, knowing that he'd just be a distraction if he does. Then, he starts to get upset at the thought of being apart from Kevin for the rest of the tour, and Kevin has to comfort him. Kevin reiterates to his saddened love that nothing is going to stop him from being with Justin, and that he'll be back as soon as he can. Then, with Justin's proclamation of love ringing in his ears, Kevin kisses him with all the love in his heart.

Kevin & Justin - Chapter 18

Nick was lost in thought... overwhelmingly so.

So much so, in fact, that he was oblivious to the muted conversation going on around him. He wasn't even remotely aware of the less-than-subtle looks Brian was directing his way. His mind was in absolute turmoil. And he was far from happy with Brian and everything else that had transpired that afternoon.

"Uh," he said, immediately bringing the conversation to a halt with his interruption, "I'm going to get some fresh air."

The others stared at the almost wooden figure of their bandmate as he stood to leave the room; still not bothering to look at them. It was as if they weren't even there, for all the attention he was paying them.

"Frack, wait!" Brian called out, but went unheard by the pre-occupied figure of Nick.

"Let it go, Rok," A.J. said softly, staring thoughtfully at the closing door.

"No, A.J., I can't! What's wrong with him?" Brian's voice was almost pleading - trying to figure out what was happening with Nick, and what it meant for their relationship.

"I don't know, B," A.J. admitted. "But I don't think it's a good idea for you to talk to him right now." A.J. didn't bother to elaborate; they had all seen how upset Nick had become when Brian walked in with Ann and Jerald in tow. Nick hadn't exploded, or shouted, or even argued with Brian, as they themselves had, but his accusing silence had somehow been worse.

"I know, A.J., but..." Brian struggled in a vain effort to find the right words. He knew A.J. was right -- it would only exacerbate the problem if he went after Nick -- but he also didn't want Nick to be left alone in such a state.

"I'll go after him," A.J. offered, easing some of the worry from Brian's expression, and some of his own personal worry. A quick glance in Howie's direction revealed that he was also relieved with this strategy. Kevin's family, when he turned to look at them, were politely ignoring the conversation, though he could sense the tension in them as well.

When his gaze briefly returned to Brian, Brian's expression was silently thankful.

"Don't you just wish you could strangle Brian sometimes?" A.J. said softly, as he sat down, uninvited, next to the silent figure of Nick. He let his legs swing free over the edge of the table they were perched on, as he settled into a perfect imitation of Nick's slumped form.

No answer was forthcoming, even though A.J. knew that Nick had heard him -- Nick had glanced in his direction after he'd asked the question. What alarmed him, though, was that Nick was still looking at him, but without any sort of expression on his face.

"What's wrong, 'Ky?" A.J. asked in concern, speaking even softer than before. "You know how I hate it when you get into this mood. It scares me. Please talk to me."

Nick heard the strain in A.J.'s voice, as well as the old nickname he'd been given when they'd first met. Though it wasn't enough to make him smile, he roused himself to answer. "Don't worry about me, 'Xander. I'm okay. Really."

"Are you sure?" A.J. asked, struggling to hide the smile that threatened to break out at Nick's use of his old pet nickname. "I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if you were mad with Brian after that little surprise he sprung on us. If you're angry with him, let it out, 'kay? Vent away! No one can hear what you'll say except me, and I already know how stupid and insensitive B-Rok is."

This time a very small smile touched Nick's lips. "Thanks 'Xander, but I really don't have anything to vent. Sure, I'm upset about what he did, but I can also understand it in a way..."

"But...?" A.J. sighed to himself. There had to be a 'but', of course.

"But..." Nick sighed, as he pulled his legs up and brought his knees up into his chest, causing the table to wobble slightly. He rested his head on his knees, and then hugged them tightly with his arms, while staring blankly out onto the dimly lit stage. Though he and A.J. could see out onto the stage area from the table they were perched on, the table was, thankfully, just outside the audience's range of vision.

"But, I'm not sure I can forgive him for what's about to happen to Kevin."

"Huh?" A.J. said, feeling completely lost. "I'm sure Kev will come around too. I don't understand, Nicky. What's the problem?"

Nick felt his insides bunch together as he found himself on the verge of revealing a long-held secret that no one knew about; not even Brian. He wasn't sure he could tell A.J., even though he hadn't kept anything else hidden from his bandmate since they'd become close friends at the start of their careers. Being the youngest two members of the group had given them a bond that was special; something even his friendship with Brian couldn't match. But this particular secret was so big, and could cause so much harm to everyone, that he wasn't sure he could ever bring himself to reveal it.

A.J. stared at the silent figure of his friend and felt his anxiety grow. He could see the thoughts racing through Nick's mind, and the resulting expressions on his face were extremely worrisome. Something he didn't quite understand was bothering Nick; really badly. He knew it had to do with Brian and Kevin, but what could it be? "Nick? Are you sure you're okay?"

Nick recalled himself with great difficulty. "Yeah, Alex, I'm fine." The quiver in his voice belied his words, and he found himself in his friend's tight embrace almost immediately.

"Why don't I believe you, 'Ky?" A.J. whispered into his ear. "There's something you're not telling me; something that's eating away at you. What is it?"

Nick let the tears break through his weakened shields, as he tried to keep his mind from cracking with the emotions and thoughts running through it. "I can't... I can't tell you, Alex. Please?"

A.J. heard the anguish in his friend's voice and felt his heart reaching out to comfort him. "Nicky, you're going to burst if you don't tell me. You're already at breaking point. Please, 'Ky... please tell me. I don't want to see you hurting like this. What's wrong?"

The man in his arms could only shake his head as his tear-streaked face displayed the pain and sorrow buried deep in his heart. When Nick's head finally buried itself into his shoulder, A.J. could barely stand to see his friend hurting so much. "Oh, Nicky," he sighed.

Nick cried soundlessly into A.J.'s shoulder, unaware of his friend's comforting embrace. All he knew was that he couldn't stand seeing Kevin be hurt again, and Brian's actions were going to hurt Kevin, no matter what the eventual outcome. For that, he wouldn't forgive Brian...

Kevin pressed back into Justin's embrace and savoured the feeling of his angel's arms encircling him. He laid his head back into the crook of Justin's shoulder, and rested his forehead against Justin's cheek. He reached down and wrapped his arms around his angel's where they lay across his abdomen, feeling a sense of comfort and serenity flow over, and through, him.

Justin closed his eyes as he felt Kevin's torso coming to rest against his own. He was drowning in the feelings washing over him at Kevin's touch, and the realisation that he and Kevin had somehow managed to find each other, despite all the misunderstandings that had plagued them. The heat from Kevin's broad, tightly muscled back, as it rested against his chest and abdomen, was like being in front of an industrial furnace. Just this simple feeling of body heat emanating from his angel was overpowering his senses. Instinctively, he turned his head and kissed Kevin's temple, delighting in the feel of Kevin's skin against his lips, and the fragrant scent of his angel in his nostrils.

Kevin reacted to the spine-tingling touch of Justin's lips by turning his head to face him. He watched as Justin's eyes opened, and saw the smouldering look of love and devotion he had dreamed of, and prayed for, on countless sleepless nights. His heart leapt into his mouth as he locked gazes with his angel. He was losing himself in Justin's eyes, and was quite happy to let it happen.

"I love you, Boo," Justin said softly, disengaging one of his arms from the embrace to reach up and caress Kevin's cheek.

Kevin moved the bare minimum to kiss Justin's hand -- never breaking eye contact -- then reached up to entwine his own hand with his love's. "I love you too, Curly."

They couldn't help the smile that slowly stole over both their faces. Kevin continued gazing into Justin's eyes, knowing that Justin was just as lost as he was in the feelings of wonder and love engulfing them.

Some time later -- neither were aware of the passage of time -- Justin quietly asked, "What do you think the guys will make of all this?"

"Which guys, yours or mine?"

"Either, silly."

Kevin's grin grew to mirror Justin's. "My guys will probably be happy," he said carefully, hoping that Brian's reaction of several days ago had been a once-off occurrence. "Your guys, I'm not so sure about..." Kevin grinned again to show he was only teasing. "After all, they don't know I'm gay, do they?" he reminded Justin.

"No, they don't," Justin admitted. "But they won't care about that, if their reaction to my coming out was any indication. Provided I'm happy, they're happy. And the thing that makes me happy is you."

Kevin pushed down the lump in his throat and reached up to wipe a stray tear that had appeared on Justin's cheek. "I'll do everything in my power to make you happy, and keep you happy, Justin. I promise you this."

Justin returned to caressing Kevin's cheek as he let Kevin's solemn vow sink into his very being. He trusted the wonderful man in his arms, and believed he would honour that promise with every beat of his heart. It brought more tears to his eyes, but he didn't care -- he had cried so many tears of hurt that it was a relief to finally shed some in joy. "I know, Boo. I love you. You are my life. As long as you're happy, I'm happy."

Kevin adjusted his position on the limousine's seat to face Justin front-to-front. He reached out and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe away the tears on his angel's face as he said, "Don't cry, baby; you'll make me cry too."

Justin laughed through the tears and replied, "Sorry, Boo. I'm just so happy; I'm crying for joy."

Kevin briefly smiled at him, before taking him into his arms. For several minutes he hugged the slim figure in his arms. Then, when Justin had calmed down a fraction, Kevin disengaged slightly from the hug and gave his soulmate a tender kiss...

...a kiss that grew in intensity; expressing all the love he held inside for the wonderful man who'd made his life complete.

A.J. stroked Nick's hair and continued whispering reassurances into his ear, while Nick tried to regain his composure.

He was still confused by Nick's reaction to Brian's stunt. None of them had been overly happy at what Brian had done, but they'd come around to accepting Brian's so-called 'plan'. Even Nick, if his words from earlier were to be believed, had accepted the need for Brian's plan to go ahead. Or at least, that was the impression he'd got from Nick's less-than-enthusiastic reply from before...

'Okay, so he's not upset at Brian's little stunt,' he thought aimlessly, 'so it's gotta be something to do with what will happen when Kevin gets here.' He frowned as he tried to imagine what would happen, and why Nick would be so upset about it? Try as he might though, nothing really struck him as being bad enough to warrant this kind of reaction from Nick.

Then a stray thought crossed his mind, and he almost froze as the implications of it struck him fully. He tried to dislodge the thought, discounting it as impossible, or outright ludicrous, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to fit in with everything he'd observed.

"Nicky?" he said softly, disengaging to look into Nick's eyes. What he saw there was the final proof he needed. "You're in love with Kevin, aren't you?"

"What's keeping them?" Brian vented, pacing in small circles around the dressing room.

No one knew whether he was talking solely about Nick and A.J., or all three of his missing bandmates. No one wanted to know either; Brian's foul mood, on top of his infernal pacing, was starting to affect them all.

"Rok, stop pacing for Christ's sake!" Howie snapped, letting his irritation finally get the better of him. Three startled glances -- all from Southern Baptists -- had him blushing quicker than if he'd been splashed with a bucket of red paint. "Sorry," he apologised, not being able to meet Ann's or Jerald's gaze due to embarrassment.

"That's okay, Howard," Ann replied gently, almost smiling at him. "But I do agree with your sentiment." She turned around to face her nephew. "Brian, if you're going to pace, please do it elsewhere. I don't think my nerves can take it any more."

Brian sighed and apologised to his aunt and cousin, then walked over to sit on the couch next to Howie. "Sorry, D. I'm just so worked up. What if something goes wrong?"

"Nothing's gonna go wrong," Howie placated him, hoping that the betraying tremor in his voice would go unnoticed.

Brian snorted in disbelief at Howie's words, but otherwise remained silent. He didn't want to bring up the matter of Nick's reaction as proof against Howie's optimistic appraisal, even though he knew Kevin would react a lot worse than Nick had. After almost a minute of unendurable silence, he quietly said, "I hope you're right, D. I really do."

Nick stiffened in A.J.'s arms as the world was, metaphorically, pulled out from under his feet. "Wha-? How?"

A.J. grabbed hold of Nick's arms as Nick instinctively tried to pull away, ready to run. "I don't know how, 'Ky. Call it intuition." He shrugged to emphasise his own puzzlement. "But it's true, isn't it?" Though he'd asked the question, he didn't really need Nick's answer to know he was right.

Nick was caught between terror and stunned amazement. He couldn't speak, even though he wanted to refute Alex's claim. But there wasn't any point; the look in A.J.'s eyes was resigned, almost fatalistic. Alex knew, and there was no point in lying. He slowly nodded his head, not knowing if he could say anything without his voice breaking, or even worse, squeaking.

"Oh, Nick." A.J. sighed as he thought of the innumerable complications this revelation would cause.

"Don't worry," Nick said urgently, finding his voice at last. "I won't tell Kevin, and I want you to promise me that you won't tell him either."


"No 'buts', Alex! He can never know about this." Nick vehemently shook his head to emphasise his determination. "No matter how much I love him, he and Justin belong together. You're not blind, and neither am I. I know that what I feel for him is a pale echo of what he feels for Justin. And though it hurts me to not be with him, I'd rather endure it than make life miserable for all three of us."

A.J. stared at Nick, his mouth hanging partly open, as he absorbed Nick's words. "Nicky, I can understand, sorta, what you're saying, but..."

"I said 'no buts', Alex, and I mean it. You know how much Kevin loves Justin; you've seen it first hand, and so have I." He clasped his hands together subconsciously, rubbing them nervously. "And though I haven't seen it personally, you've seen what Justin feels for Kevin, haven't you? Those two belong together! I'm not going to do anything to spoil it." He paused, before sighing heavily and adding, "Besides..."


"Besides," Nick looked down at his knees, his voice softening by the second, "it wouldn't work out anyway."

"Why?" A.J. leaned in close to caress Nick's back comfortingly, confused at the abrupt change in Nick's demeanour.

"Because I'm not gay."

At that startling proclamation, A.J. almost fell backwards off the table; though mostly because of the way it had been delivered in Nick's matter-of-fact tone, rather than the admission itself. "What? How...?" he said, completely stunned.

"I'm not," Nick interrupted, looking up into A.J.'s eyes. "Kevin's the only man I've ever had these feelings for. I haven't so much as looked at another man, let alone thought about being with one. Just the thought of doing... something with another man turns me off. I don't feel the same way when I daydream of Kevin and I... doing it" -- Nick blushed furiously as he related this bit of information -- "but I guess that's because I love him. It wouldn't feel so strange if he was the one I was with."

A.J. continued to stare at Nick, almost mesmerised by his admissions. "So, if you're not gay, that means..."

"Yep," Nick replied, almost sounding like his old self, "I like girls." The smile that crossed his face was full of mischief. "And though I care for Kevin deeply, he can't give me the one thing I really want."

"And that would be...?" A.J. asked, though he had a fairly good idea he already knew what it was going to be.

"A family," Nick replied matter-of-factly. "I love him, but I want the whole nine yards: a wife and kids, the house with the picket fence, and everything else. I know I'll always love the big lug, but I also know that one day I'll find the right woman to share my life with. That's why I'm not going to be selfish and wreck any of our lives; his, mine or Justin's."

A.J. rocked backward and forward a bit before a smile touched his lips. He reached out and tousled Nick's newly shorn head of hair, before turning to briefly hug him again. "You're a saint, Nick."

Nick grimaced for a moment, before the words sunk in. Before he knew it, he was laughing hysterically. Between loud guffaws he managed to get out, "Saint... Nick... that's... so... funny!"

Alex's laugh merged with his, though thankfully their merriment went unheard by the audience - who were making enough noise of their own in the arena proper. A.J. could only shake his head in exasperated amusement as his buddy laughed until he was almost crying. Then, when they had both settled down somewhat, he reached out and ruffled Nick's hair once more. "C'mon, goofball! Let's get back to the others."

Nick nodded and stood up. Before he'd taken a single step, he remembered Alex's original question to him. "Oh, 'Xander?"

"Yeah, 'Ky?"

"I probably don't need to tell you this, because you can probably guess it by now, but the reason I got upset with Brian, and his stunt, is because I know how much Kevin is going to be hurt by this. And I don't want to see him hurt anymore. That's why I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive Brian."

"Yeah, Blondie, I guessed that," A.J. said, having nodded through most of Nick's explanation. "And I can't blame you; I'd have done the same thing if I was in your shoes."

Nick smiled softly then started heading back to the dressing room, A.J. striding in step by his side. "Promise me something, 'Xand?"

"I won't tell a soul about what you've told me, I promise," A.J. said, pre-empting Nick's request. The loving look that Nick directed his way was more than enough thanks for A.J.

Nick reached across to squeeze his shoulder, as he whispered a heartfelt, "Thanks, Alex," to him.

Kevin slowly became aware of the tightening of the muscles of Justin's chest and abdomen, where they touched the broad expanse of his back. He had almost roused himself from his euphoric trance to ask Justin what was wrong, when he caught a glimpse of Justin's profile.

Justin was looking out of the limo's tinted windows at the rapidly approaching outline of the Orlando Arena. The smile that had been on his face only minutes before had fled, leaving a scared, thin line behind. His whole expression had turned sombre, almost miserable, and his eyes were on the verge of shedding further tears.

Kevin turned around to face him fully, then gently reached out to grasp his chin, turning Justin's face away from the external scene. The expression on Justin's face, so lost and miserable, was enough to bring his heart to a standstill. He reached up and caressed Justin's cheek, as he stared deeply into his angel's eyes.

A wealth of emotions and feelings seemed to pass through them, as they each instinctively became aware of the other's thoughts and fears.

"Justin, please don't," Kevin pleaded. "I can't stand seeing you looking so upset. Please, love, don't dwell on it. I know how hard it will be to remain apart from each other, but we will be together again, soon. I love you, and I'm not going to spend a single minute apart from you unless I can't help it."

Justin nodded mutely, not trusting himself to speak, and felt his spirits lift slightly at Kevin's determined words. Soon, he had composed himself enough to say, "I love you, too, Boo. I'm just so scared that this is all a dream, and I'm gonna wake up and find you don't love me. I'm so scared, Kevin. I don't want to lose you..." his voice dropped until he whispered, almost inaudibly, "...ever."

"You won't, Curly. Not ever!" Kevin replied, his voice rough with emotion and conviction. "I've only just found you; I'm not gonna let you go, or ever stop loving you. You're my life, Justin. My life. Without you, there's nothing for me; there's no point in living. I'll spend every remaining moment of my life thinking about you. You'll always be with me, whether in my heart, or in my mind, or right beside me. I love you, my sweet angel, never doubt that."

Justin let himself be gathered into Kevin's embrace, and returned the love he felt emanating from within Kevin's wonderful body. His eyes were flowing with bittersweet tears, but for once he didn't care - Kevin's profession of love was all that mattered to him. Kevin had expressed exactly what Justin felt about him. Just knowing that Kevin felt the same way as he did, was enough to put his doubts aside.

The only problem was going to be surviving until he and Kevin could be together again. He wasn't sure he was up to the task. It loomed over him like an insurmountable cliff.

"I know, sweetie; I feel the same way," Kevin said softly into Justin's ear, surprising him from his rumination. "It's gonna be really hard, Curly, but we'll survive somehow. I have faith in you. And in us! We'll make it."

Justin pulled back and looked into his angel's eyes. Everything he had ever wished to see shone clearly in Kevin's eyes. All the love in the world couldn't compare to what he saw in his angel's eyes, and all of it was for him. He leaned forward, bringing his forehead to rest against Kevin's. Reaching up, he gently cupped both sides of Kevin's head. Then, with the slightest of pressures, he pulled Kevin's face forward, aching to feel those angelic lips against his own.

Kevin obliged him with all of his heart.

Brian looked up at the sound of the door opening, and almost jumped up in relief when he saw the expressions on Nick's and A.J.'s faces. Nick wasn't upset anymore, from what he could see. He had to remember to thank Alex the next time they were alone...

Kevin sometimes wished he could turn off his instinctive alarm bells; especially when he was deeply involved in doing something that he was thoroughly enjoying. Like right now, when he and his soulmate were kissing with all the passion they could muster.

But, time and again, it had saved him, or the others, from a fate worse than death. The number of things that they'd narrowly avoided revealing, to fans, or reporters, or even their own stage crew, was astounding. And like on every other occasion, the alarm bells almost rang too late.

He became aware of them only seconds before the door was pulled open. In those precious few seconds, he managed to pull himself away from Justin, casting him an apologetic glance as he did so, and sat down next to his love, leaving a respectable distance between them.

He frantically pointed to the door, even as Justin was opening his mouth to speak, and was glad to see Justin's dawning comprehension as the door was opened from outside. He looked at the chauffeur, and said, "I'll be another couple of minutes; we've still got a few things to discuss. I'll open the door when I'm ready to leave. Thanks." He smiled ingratiatingly at the chauffeur in apology.

The chauffeur's response was lost to both he and Justin, but neither of them cared as the door sealed them back into their own private world.

"What do we need to discuss?" Justin asked, confused.

"Nothing," Kevin replied, smiling broadly at his love with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "I just wanted to finish what we were doing."

Justin was more than happy to meet him mid-way. They resumed their kiss, knowing it was the last taste and touch of each other that they'd have for several days.

As the limousine pulled away, taking Justin back home, Kevin silently watched it depart until he could no longer see it. Then remembering what he was supposed to be doing, he hurried into the arena, cursing the lack of time he'd had with Justin. 'Justin.' A slight smile crossed his lips at the thought of his beloved, but he wasn't consciously aware of it as he made his way into the interior of the arena.

He rounded a hallway and finally spied the door to their dressing room. As he picked up his pace, he noticed that the door was opening. He faltered as he saw Nick, Howie, and A.J. step outside, wearing their stage costumes.

Howie was the first one to take note of his presence. "Kevin!"

The other two looked up and over, and stared at him the same way that Howie had - almost as if in shock.

"What?" he asked, confused. 'Why are they already dressed, and where are they going?' They usually didn't leave the dressing room until they were all ready. 'And what's with the staring routine?!?' he wondered to himself, perplexed. "Sorry I'm late, guys. I'll get ready as soon as I can."

The three costumed figures exchanged glances, with a slightly more significant one passing between A.J. and Nick, but none of them seemed to have the courage to warn him of what awaited him in the dressing room.

Kevin, more confused than ever, began to worry about their silence, but knew that he didn't have time to waste on it right then. He quickly muttered, "Excuse me," before walking past them and on to the dressing room door.

A.J. gave his companions shooing motions, urging them to continue on to wherever they were going before Kevin had appeared, and turned around to follow Kevin back inside the dressing room. He knew that his presence would be required, if only to keep Kevin from running out of the room. He sighed to himself as he entered the dressing room on the heels of his bandmate.

JC put down the book he was trying to read, and didn't care when it flipped shut, losing the page he was on. It didn't matter anyway. He had spent over an hour trying to get past a single paragraph, only to find that his concentration would flee him, and that he had to start reading it all over again. He somehow never managed to get past the first three sentences...

Pushing the book away from his splayed body, he didn't even notice when it dropped off the side of the bed and hit the bedroom carpet with a dull thud. He just stared up at the ceiling blankly, his mind a million miles away, while he patiently waited for Justin's return. He would be home soon, and whether or not the dinner with Kevin had gone okay, Justin would be a bundle of emotions.

And whether or not Josh liked, or approved, of Justin's decision, he knew that he had to be there for his friend.

If only he really knew what he felt about the whole situation...

Justin stared through the limousine's tinted windows at the passing cars and people, but didn't really see a thing. All he could see, blotting out everything else into insignificance, was the love shining in Kevin's eyes. It made his heart beat faster in joy -- and partly in uncontrolled fear. The intensity of Kevin's feelings were so overwhelming. It didn't matter that he felt exactly the same way for Kevin; it was still a shock to see those feelings in someone else. And not just any person, but the man whom he loved with all his heart and soul.

Just like Kevin, Justin started to smile at the thought of his soulmate, totally unaware that he was doing it.

Now all he had to worry about was how to tell his mother and the guys about what had happened. Somehow, he didn't think that they'd believe him. He found it hard enough to believe himself. But what would their reactions be? Unlike Kevin's confidence in his fellow BSB bandmates, Justin wasn't so sure of the same thing in his own bandmates. Especially with regard to one Joshua Chasez...

His mood soured for a moment, before he realised that it didn't matter. Regardless of Josh's feelings on the matter, his life now belonged to Kevin, just as Kevin's life belonged to him. Both were inexplicably intertwined. Nothing, and no one, was going to change that - not even Josh.

For the first time since leaving Kevin's presence, his heart lifted. In just a matter of days he would be reunited with Kevin. And the thought of that promised meeting, the knowledge that he and Kevin would finally be together, was enough to give him the courage to face any amount of pain and heartache in the meantime.

Howie looked across at Nick and tried to figure out why Nick's mood had altered once more. After Nick and A.J. had re-joined them in the dressing room, Howie had been relieved to see that Nick looked better, and appeared more alert. But that had all changed with Kevin's appearance. Howie just didn't know what to make of it.

"Are you gonna be okay, Kaos?" he tentatively asked.

"Yeah, D. I'll be fine. I'm just worried about what's happening in there. Kevin's probably freaking right about now. And I can't say I'd really blame him if he is."

"Yeah, Nicky, I'm with you on that one. But we'd better get out there; they're probably wondering what's happening."

Nick simply nodded as he followed his friend to the wings of the stage. He saw Howie motion for him to stay put, and stopped walking before he got out onto the stage.

Howie continued on, and was met with a roar from the crowd. He lifted his hands and made hushing motions, and soon the crowd settled down - though most probably because the rest of the group hadn't come out with him. He steeled himself for the ordeal, and started the spiel he and the guys had rehearsed while waiting for Kevin to turn up.

"Sorry for the delay, everyone. One of our group was delayed getting here tonight; he wasn't feeling too well." A murmur, growing steadily in volume, greeted this pronouncement. "He's fine now," Howie continued, having to speak slightly louder to be heard over the crowd, "but until he gets into costume, the concert will not be able to go ahead as per normal. So we're going to change the order of the concert slightly. We'll be starting with our solos first. Once again, we apologise for the screw up, and we'll make it up to you by performing some extra numbers at the end."

The crowd's murmurs turned into full-scale shouts and screams, as they realised what Howie's words meant. Howie let them get the excitement out of their systems, hating himself for blatantly bribing them, before shushing them again. "We'll kick off the solos right now with me, followed by Nick, and then the others."

He turned to the band, and told them the number he was going to perform, deviating from his usual solo routine. His choice was the longest solo song in his repertoire; he hoped to buy Kevin as much time as he could. But even if they all did the same, chances were that Kevin wouldn't be ready to perform before it was his turn on stage. He silently groaned, cursing Brian all over again for bringing Ann and Jerald to Orlando. Well, there was nothing he could do about it now -- it was all in God's hands.

Nick, in the darkness of the wings, groaned silently in concert with Howie -- Brian had a lot to make up for before he'd ever be forgiven!

End - Chapter 18

To be continued...

Some additional notes:

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who 'guessed' (or worked out) that Nick was 'smitten' with Kevin. I tried to drop subtle hints here and there, emphasising the closeness of their friendship, and Nick's fervent desire to help Kevin out at any cost, but I also hoped that it would come as a bit of a surprise. I'd like to know if I succeeded or not.

Many thanks to all of you who are still reading this story, and who are writing to me about it. I appreciate your kind words and praise, and hope that I will not let you down for the faith you've put in me. Thanks again.