Kevin & Justin
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.
Well, it's been a while... sorry about that. No real excuses other than a serious lack of enthusiasm to write in my (somewhat limited) spare time. Can't blame everything on work, though. I've also discovered that I like - of all things - techno music, and I've been doing the unthinkable... I've been out clubbing! <grin>
Okay, enough of that... a couple of things to note: 1) My homepage has moved (due to my old ISP shutting down). It can now be found at http://rhchan2001.tripod.com. 2) The closure of my old ISP also means that I've lost my old email address, so you'll need to either keep emailing me at my hotmail address, or preferably, the new yahoo address. My apologies to anyone who's tried emailing me at the stormfront.com.au address.
Before I forget, I also want to say 'hi' to Drew (Sprout) of This Gift fame. He's a stablemate of mine (we share the same editor - hi, mh) and he's been riding me to get this chapter out. :) Drew's story is also one of those I look forward to reading whenever he updates. If you like 98°, then this is one of the best stories on the Nifty Archives to feature them.
Speaking of mh, thank you again my dear, dear friend for the wonderful work you've done for me so far. I really appreciate all the thought and effort you've put into your editing. Love ya, mate.
Lastly, I've been playing around with the format of this chapter... I've not made a lot of changes, as the more changes I make, the more likely it will be that I'll 'break' it on all the different browsers out there. So if it looks a bit different, that's the reason why. Not sure if I'll keep this new format, but I'm open to suggestions about whether to jazz it up further, or go back to the old look. Let me know. :)
As Kevin wings his way to Lexington to be with his family, A.J. and the rest of BSB get a call from Chris, asking them to meet up with the guys when they get back to Orlando. After putting it to the vote, the BSBers agree.
Meanwhile, back in Orlando, Justin tries to figure out what's going on with his bandmates when he receives a call. It's Kevin, telling him that he's had to go to Lexington. Justin takes the news badly, having expected to be with Kevin after the BSB tour ended. Kevin apologises and Justin seems to accept his apology. However, as soon as they hang up, Justin disappears into his bedroom, where he locks himself in and cries his eyes out. Kevin, in Lexington, drives off to his mother's house, doing pretty much the same.
When the BSBers meet with the *NSyncers, they discuss Kevin and Justin's relationship; both sides relating what they know of the situation and what they've seen. As both groups get a clearer picture of what Kevin and Justin have gone through to reach this point, their decision (and the reason for the meeting) becomes clear to them.
In Lexington, Jerald, Tim, and Ann try to comfort a distraught Kevin. The only thing he says to them is Justin's name. Tim calls Justin's cell and speaks to his step-father. After a heated discussion, he finally gets to talk to Justin. When matters become clearer, Tim suggests that Justin should fly out and visit Kevin in Lexington. Justin readily agrees.
By the time Justin arrives, Kevin has been put to bed, totally spent. Tim introduces him to his brother and mother, and then takes him up to see Kevin. Seeing the look on the youngster's face as he gazes down at a sleeping Kevin, Tim decides to leave them alone. At some point in the night, Kevin wakes briefly and sees Justin in bed with him, but believing it to be a dream, drifts back off into sleep...
Kevin & Justin - Chapter 22
The voice sounded far away; impossibly distant, in fact. It took him a while to register that, in fact, it was close by. As he heard the voice repeat, he slowly opened his eyes and looked around for the source. A face swam into view and he focused on it, blinking the sleep from his eyes. He stared up into the face of his smiling mother, and couldn't resist reflexively smiling back at her.
"You're awake," she softly said, gently caressing his arm, "How are you feeling this morning, sweetheart?"
"I'm better, Ma," Kevin replied after a moment, truthfully feeling it.
She nodded, as if she already knew he was going to say that. "I know, sweetheart. I knew you'd start feeling better as soon as he arrived."
He saw her eyes glide over to the other side of his bed, and he turned to follow her gaze, even as his mind tried to work out what her words meant. His eyes settled on the figure sleeping next to him, and he felt every single hair on his body stand on end as his mind registered in shock who it was: Justin!
He snapped his head back to his mother, confusion, worry, and disbelief warring over his features. "What? How?"
His mother smiled again and patted his arm, seemingly unconcerned by his sharing his bed with another man... with Justin!
"It's a long story, honey, and I don't want to wake him so I'll leave it for later. In the meantime, I'm going to make a start on breakfast." She rose from her perch on the side of the bed and turned to smile down at him. "Come down when you're ready, Kevin; there's no hurry. If you're still tired, just go back to sleep. We'll see you and Justin downstairs when you're both ready."
He watched her walk over to his bedroom door, where she paused and turned to face him again. "I love you, honey. And so does that young man." Her eyes left his to briefly rest enigmatically on Justin. "For what it's worth, you have my blessing, Kevin. I know that you love him..." Her smile seemed to falter for a second, as she became unsure of what else to say. Then, with a final, happier smile, she departed, closing the door softly behind her.
Kevin resisted the urge to follow her and find out what had happened. One look at the reposing figure on the mattress next to him was enough to drive such thoughts out of his mind. He lay motionless for the longest time, just looking across at his angel's relaxed features, tracing each line and curve with his eyes and mind. Justin's face was an old familiar friend to his dreams, but the real thing looked even more wonderful. Each lash, each deep-etched line, each whisper-fine hair on his cheeks and jawline was a wonder in its own right.
His heart soared ever higher as he took in the sight of his angel like a starving man. He devoured the image his eyes relayed to his brain, branding it indelibly into his heart, his soul, his entire being.
An hour passed; his gaze never wavered. All thought of external stimuli was excluded from the silent vigil of his angel's face. At long last, he felt the first stirrings of need. He needed to touch. He needed to feel. Needed to confirm that what his eyes feasted on was real, and not just the product of some extremely lucid dream. With a shaking hand, he reached out and feathered his angel's cheek with the softest of touches. Maintaining the barest of contact with the skin under his tingling fingers, he slowly trailed his hand down, caressing the strong jawline before turning back and heading for those angelic lips - the lips which haunted his every breathing moment.
As his fingers rested there tentatively, he felt a movement beneath them, almost as if Justin's lips were increasing contact. He glanced up into his angel's eyes, and saw that they were open. He locked gazes with his angel, all else forgotten, as they shared their love for one another in the depths of their sparkling eyes.
Long forgotten, Kevin's fingers were gently kissed by Justin, rousing Kevin from the depths of his wonder and worship. A moment later, Justin's hand reached out to rest on his face, softly caressing him in turn.
"Am I dreaming?" Kevin whispered, trapped in the gaze of his love, and not wanting to be anywhere else for the entire world.
"If you are, Boo, then so am I," Justin whispered back, talking through his angel's fingers and kissing them again.
"There's only one way to know for sure, Curly," Kevin replied, a smile touching his lips as he tore his eyes away from Justin's with great difficulty. Then, refocusing them on Justin's lips, he moved his fingers away as he leaned in to capture his love's mouth with his own. The silken touch of Justin's lips as they met his was almost overpowering. His whole being was overcome; the sensation of kissing those lips overtaking his thoughts and senses completely.
Justin groaned softly as Kevin's lips caressed his own, then he too lost all coherent thought as he found himself returning the kiss with a passion he'd not felt before. The pressure of their lips on the other's increased until it was almost bruising, almost painful in the want - the need - for each to possess the other. Arms automatically engulfed the other in a crushing embrace, their hands wildly roaming across each other's backs, as groans mingled invitingly in the air between them.
Kevin felt the lessening of pressure on his lips and automatically leaned forward, searching to re-engage his love's lips in sweet, crushing contact. Instead, he felt Justin's tongue glide over his top lip and a pulse of almost orgasmic current passed through his body, forcing him to proclaim his pleasure in a low growl, even as he shuddered all over as the charge dissipated throughout his body.
The growl seemed to throw a switch in Justin's mind, and he started to attack his lover's lips with a yearning that shocked him with its intensity. His hunting, searching, probing tongue finally found an entrance into Kevin's mouth, and he lost himself to the new feeling of devouring his love's mouth with his tongue.
Kevin wasn't to be outdone though. The moment he felt Justin's tongue invade his mouth, he captured it and held it, sucking on it for all he was worth, and hearing his love's appreciation in the form of a low, passionate, drawn out groan. He lifted the vice like grip on the intruder, then reached out to touch his love's tongue with his own, entering into an electrifying duel with his angel.
As he reached out to run his hand through his angel's curls, Kevin was startled to hear the ringing of a cell phone. Justin stiffened in his arms, and the moment was lost. Kevin drew back, breaking their embrace, and stared into the hazy eyes of his frustrated sweetheart.
"NO! Damn it, why did it have to ring NOW?" Justin cried, grimacing, even as he turned and punched his pillow in frustration.
Kevin smiled at the display, finding a release of sorts to his own frustration. He took Justin's hand and kissed it lovingly. "You'd better answer that, love."
Justin sighed and nodded, sitting upright in the bed, before swinging his legs over and getting up. He located the phone where he'd left it the night before - on top of his overnight bag. Frowning in annoyance, he pressed the key that would answer the call and snapped out, "What? And it had better be important!"
Jerald fidgeted on his recliner as he stared at the television screen.
His mother watched him, as he nervously rested his head on one hand one moment, only to swap hands the next. Once in a while, he would absently start chewing on his fingernails, while scowling at the television screen. She endured it for the first half hour, before it finally got to her. Pressing the 'mute' button on the remote control, she turned to him and said, "Jerald, please stop fidgeting."
He glanced across at her, his face displaying guilty surprise at her request. "What? I'm not fidgeting."
"Yes, you are, honey," she replied. "The question is why?" She had a pretty good idea, but wanted to hear it from him.
"No reason." He could see her not buying the explanation and thought of what her reaction would be if he told her the real reason. When she started to glare at him, he realised that he had no option but to tell her. "I'm just worried about what's happening up there."
As Tim had left earlier in the day to head back home, that left only two other people that he could be referring to. Ann pretended to not catch his meaning, and asked, "Why? What would be happening up there?"
Jerald blanched at her question, not knowing quite how to answer it. "I... Uh..."
Ann huffed and smiled, wondering why her children thought she knew nothing about sex, even though she'd conceived and given birth to them. "Even if they are, it doesn't concern you or I. They're adults, Jerald. I cannot forbid either of them from having sex, nor do I want to. They're about to embark on a lifetime of being together; they have every right to express their love in any way they feel appropriate."
Jerald stared at her, not able to comprehend why, or how, she had changed. Several weeks ago, had she been told that her youngest son was having a sexual relationship with another man, he knew she would have reacted differently. What had changed? And why did she suddenly accept it all, seemingly without any qualms?
Ann regarded him as he worked his way through his confusion - knowing what he was thinking. She herself didn't know exactly when things had changed. At a pinch, she knew she could lay the foundation of her changed attitude on the day several weeks earlier when Kevin had come out to her. Though she'd initially rejected the idea of his homosexuality, and him as well in the process, the truth had been shown to her when she'd attended the concert that night. It was the most uncomfortable feeling she'd ever experienced as she sat in the darkness of the arena and watched her son performing. He appeared so normal; he looked like he always had - a graceful, handsome young man who had the world at his feet. He couldn't be homosexual!
Then the break for the solo performances arrived and she decided she would leave, not wanting to have to wait for Kevin's appearance as the last of the soloists. To her surprise, he appeared almost immediately and she sat back down hurriedly as he animatedly introduced one of the people from the group he had toured with earlier in the year. She heard him pronounce the name of his guest, as well as the group he was from, but promptly forgot them and didn't think anything of it until she saw the young man reach across to grip her son's shoulder in greeting.
The feeling of shock that had surged through her body at that moment was like nothing she'd ever felt before; the intensity of it froze her solid. In that single instant everything changed. As she absorbed what she saw on the stage, three facts shone clearly in her mind. First, the young man loved her son in a way very few people seemed to love one another. Second, her son loved him back in the same way. And last, though by no means least, her son's sexuality was a moot point. In the love reflecting in his eyes she knew that Kevin had found the one person he wanted to be with for the rest of his life.
She swallowed as a wave of anguish washed over her. Her beautiful son was lost to her. Not only through her rejection earlier that afternoon, but also because of the love this boy held for, and over, him. Over the next few minutes, she sat rigidly as they sang, ostensibly to the audience, but in actuality to each other. She sat and watched the love they shared and felt devastated at her loss. Her baby had been taken away from her in the space of the four minutes she sat there and watched them.
As Kevin and his young man left the stage, she quickly rose, not wanting to stay in the confines of the arena for another moment. Realising that she couldn't recall the name of Kevin's young man, she turned to face the young girl who was sitting next to her. It took several moments to get her attention; the girl was still screaming at the top of her lungs at the performance, and at Howie's entrance onto the stage. After getting her attention, Ann loudly asked over the screams, "Can you please tell me the name of the curly-haired boy who sang with Kevin Richardson?"
The girl, all of thirteen years of age by the looks of it, gave an exasperated look at her denseness, before replying, "He's Justin Timberlake, from 'N Sync!"
Ann murmured his name under her breath as she stood and departed. She knew she'd remember it for the rest of her life.
"Well, someone obviously got up on the wrong side of bed this morning," JC drawled, smiling at the snappish tone of his friend.
'If you only knew,' Justin thought, sighing under his breath at the ill-timed interruption. "What is it, JC?"
"Just wanted to know how things are, Curly. Your mom told us you'd left for Lexington last night. I just wanted to see if everything was alright?"
Justin felt himself silently laughing in frustration, almost groaning aloud with each ripple of laughter. Kevin saw the movement, as well as the grimace on his face, and could guess what his angel was thinking.
"Curly, come here," he gently prompted, indicating with a wave of his hand for Justin to get back into bed. He pushed himself upright and moved to rest against the headboard, opening his legs slightly and patting the space between them to indicate where he wanted Justin to sit.
Justin gave him a grateful smile and climbed back in, coming to rest against Kevin's torso. Kevin fitted his arms around his love's waist and held him tight, bending forward slightly to kiss Justin's temple. Justin reached down to rest his free hand over Kevin's where they rested on his abdomen, sighing at the feeling of contentment that washed over him.
"Justin?" JC queried, becoming concerned at the lack of response from his friend.
"Still here, Josh," he replied.
"Okay. Just checking..." JC answered, before asking, "So, how are you? Is everything alright?"
"Everything is just perfect, Josh," Justin replied, not bothering to restrain the happiness he was feeling from seeping into his voice.
"That's good, Curly," JC replied after a moment, almost awkwardly. "What happened, Just? Your mom was a bit vague about everything that happened last night."
"What's to know?" Justin replied, shrugging his shoulders. "I was invited here by Kevin's brother, Tim. I took the next flight out of Orlando, and here I am."
Kevin contained his curiosity, even though Justin's mention of Tim's invitation just confused him more. Still, once he and Justin had some real privacy, he would ask and find out exactly what had happened the night before.
"I see," JC replied, obviously still unsatisfied. "Whatcha up to today?"
"I just got up," Justin replied, snuggling back into Kevin's arms. "I didn't get a chance to ask Kevin what we'll be doing - you called before I'd even finished giving him his good morning kiss."
Kevin stifled a guffaw at Justin's teasing tone, knowing that JC would be feeling extremely embarrassed right about now. He looked down at his love's grinning profile, and locked gazes with Justin when the latter turned to look up at him.
"I... see," JC repeated after an extremely lengthy pause. "I... umm..."
"What's the matter, Josh?"
"I'm just trying to work up the courage to ask you something, Just."
Justin released his hold of Kevin's hands and reached up to caress Kevin's face, all the while knowing what JC was working his way up to asking. Kevin leaned into the caress, eyes closing partly, though never leaving Justin's gaze.
"Yes, Josh," Justin said gently into the receiver. "We slept together last night."
Kevin's face broke out into silent laughter, his eyes closing tightly to contain the sounds threatening to leave his mouth.
"What was that, Josh?" Justin asked sweetly, loving every moment of his teasing. He continued to caress his love's face, letting his fingers trail down to brush across Kevin's lips. The next moment, his index and middle finger were sucked into Kevin's mouth and it was his turn to exclaim.
"Uh, Josh..." Justin breathed into the phone, "gotta go. Right now! Talk to you later." Justin hurriedly dropped the phone onto the bed as he turned around to get into a more comfortable position. He felt Kevin's erection pressing into his hip, and felt a thrill as he rubbed hard against it.
Meanwhile, Kevin continued to suck on his fingers slowly, sensuously, bringing fresh goose bumps to Justin's skin, and eliciting another low moan from his angel's lips. Justin lost himself in the feelings, little realising that he hadn't hung up his cell phone.
JC, on the other end, heard his low moan, followed by several others soon after, and quickly hung up. He blushed uncontrollably, relieved that his bandmates weren't there to question him about his shameful behaviour. He'd have felt totally embarrassed if they'd known he'd eavesdropped -- past the point of politeness, and heading into the realms of voyeurism -- on his friend and his friend's boyfriend making out.
He was still feeling ashamed and embarrassed several minutes later when Chris joined him on the couch to watch some television.
Ann looked over at Jerald and saw that he was still reflecting on her change of attitude. Though it was a personal matter, she felt she owed her son an explanation. Kevin, in particular, deserved to know what had changed. But Jerald, along with Tim, had been involved in this situation from the start. They equally deserved to know what had happened to change her mind.
"Jerald, honey, I know you're having a hard time with this. It's been a shock to you to find out that I know about Justin, and Kevin's feelings for him, and now this..." She pointed vaguely upwards, indicating the possibility that Kevin and Justin were consummating their relationship.
"You could say that, Ma," he replied, slightly aggrieved. "I've known about Kevin being gay since he was 19, or maybe even earlier. And it bothers me that he and Justin might be up there having... sex." He paused, having found it difficult to speak the word in front of his mother. "But you've only known about Kevin since he came out to you, and you don't seem to be worried that he and Justin could be doing... it... up there, even as we speak. It's just... so... so..." He gave up, throwing his hands up into the air.
"I know, honey," she replied gently, trying with her voice to moderate his elevated feelings. "It's not that I don't have trouble with knowing what could be happening up there; because I do. You know my feelings about sex before marriage. And that applies equally as much to Kevin, as it does to you and Tim. I would have preferred for Kevin to be married to Justin - impractical and impossible as that is - before he and Justin had a sexual relationship."
"Then what's going on, Ma? How can you be so calm about it?"
She sighed, before replying. "It bothers me, honey, but I also know when it's right to step in and stop it, and when to let it go. In your brother's case, I knew what I would do when this moment arrived, as soon as I saw him with Justin at the concert."
Jerald gave her a perplexed look. "I don't follow, Ma. What could you have seen at the concert that would make you decide to allow them to..." He silently sighed in frustration as his conditioning took effect and he found himself unable to speak freely to his mother. If it had been Tim he'd been talking to, even though Tim was a minister, he knew he could have said anything without feeling self-conscious, embarrassed, or... unclean.
Ann sighed again, leaning heavily back into the couch, before she caught and held his gaze. Over the next half hour she told him what she had seen and experienced at the concert. He remained silent, feeling inadequate and uncomfortable as she related some of her deepest feelings, thoughts, and impressions.
The silence that settled between them stretched out for a long time. Finally, shaking himself loose from his thoughts, Jerald sighed and looked over at his mother's expectant gaze. She could see that he understood; his eyes displaying his understanding clearly. Still, she was surprised when he haltingly asked, "He really loves him that much?"
She blinked away sudden tears as the question took her by surprise. Though she didn't know whom Jerald was referring to as the 'subject' in his question, it really didn't matter. Whether it was Kevin or Justin, they each loved the other in a way that she knew very few people were lucky enough to experience, let alone find. She smiled and nodded, gathering her voice to softly respond, "Yes, they really love each other that much."
Jerald kept gazing at her, his concern at her sudden tears evident, despite the smile showing on her face. But, despite what she'd verbalised, he knew there was an undercurrent - a worry - that she'd kept hidden from him. Knowing this didn't help... it only troubled him more.
Ann looked away from him, fearful that he could fathom her terrified concern for both Kevin and Justin. She knew that she couldn't tell her sons of her fears. This was something only she, and possibly Justin's mother, could understand. Tim and Jerald had an inkling of the bond between the two, but only Justin's mother and she would know just how strong it was. And how that very strength could prove to be the most dangerous aspect of their relationship.
She wiped the tears from her eyes, and stood. Passing by her silent son, she wandered off to the backyard to tend to her plants and trees. Hopefully, though she didn't hold out too much hope, it would take her mind off her concerns. She silently snorted to herself at that impossibility.
"What's up?" Chris asked, having endured JC's silence for close to an hour. It hadn't bothered him at first, as he'd been engrossed in the cartoons playing on the television. But as soon as the mid-morning programming had replaced the cartoons, he'd became more aware of his surroundings.
"Pull the other one," Chris deadpanned. "You've been almost comatose over there."
"It's nothing," JC replied, starting to get annoyed. Couldn't Chris see that he didn't want to talk about it?
"Bullshit, Josh," Chris persisted, turning to face him fully. "Something's up. Otherwise you wouldn't be so defensive. So give!"
"Why don't you just fuck off!" JC yelled, surging to his feet and stomping over to the front door, fuming all the while. He slammed it shut behind him, then took off in his car, the gunning engine noise indicating he was speeding away as fast as he could go.
"What the hell crawled up his ass and died?" Chris asked the empty room in an aggrieved tone.
Kevin rested his head against his lover's chest. He listened in solemn worship as his lover's heart rate started to settle, feeling reverence at the privilege. Nothing had prepared him for the emotional overload of their first physical joining. At its height, he had forgotten everything except the feverish, sweat-covered body of his angel as it pressed against his suddenly over-sensitive skin. He'd forgotten where he was, and the fact that his bedroom door was unlocked. He'd forgotten that his family were only just a short flight of stairs away. All he knew at that moment was utter bliss as his love for his angel manifested itself in a very physical way.
He brushed his hand softly against Justin's exposed skin, and delighted in seeing goose bumps form across the surface of his skin. Justin's nipples, no longer strangers to Kevin's touch, also peaked as he continued to rub sensuously across Justin's chest.
Justin groaned. The hand he had resting against Kevin's head slipped down to firmly rub Kevin's shoulders, the pressure in the caress increasing by the second. "Oh Boo," he breathed.
Kevin smiled and stopped his caressing, giving the skin beneath his lips one final quick sensuous kiss.
"Why'd you stop?" Justin asked at the end of a long sigh.
"We have to shower and make an appearance downstairs before they start to suspect anything," Kevin replied regretfully.
"Do we have to?" Justin pleaded. "I wanna stay here with you."
"Yes, we have to," Kevin replied, raising his head to look into Justin's eyes. The love and warmth shining back at him left him spellbound and breathless.
Justin continued to caress his lover's shoulders, enthralled with the touch of Kevin's skin under his seeking fingers. His love for the older man seemed to grow with each passing second. And though he'd been inexperienced before their lovemaking, he hadn't felt anything but love and support from his partner. As he gazed into his angel's eyes, he expressed his feelings the only way he knew how. "You're my everything, Kevin. I love you so much, I can't think of being apart from you for even a moment."
Kevin could only gulp and nod, finding himself choking up at his lover's quiet heartfelt declaration. After a moment, he replied, "Me too, Justin."
"Where is he?" Chris mumbled sotto voice, hanging up his cell phone once more. He'd tried countless times to reach Josh on his cell, only to be informed 'the number you are dialling is either not in service or the customer is not in a calling area.'
"He'll be back soon, sweetie," Lynn said, rubbing his arm in understanding. Nearby, Paul watched on in silence as his wife tried to comfort the distraught singer.
"I hope so," Chris replied softly, feeling a sense of guilt and worry settle over him. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, perching his head on his hands. Beside him on the couch, Lynn leant across to hug his shoulders in sympathy, sparing her husband a worried look in the process.
Paul silently sighed. It looked like his and Lynn's plans for the evening would need to be revised. 'One crisis averted, only to be visited by another,' he thought ruefully. 'Seems like we can't win.'
Dinner at the Richardsons' house that night was a big event.
Not only were Jerald and Ann present, but so were Tim and Tracy. Kevin gave his sister-in-law a crushing embrace in welcome and introduced her to Justin with a puppy-dog enthusiasm that had Tracy laughing at his antics. Nevertheless, she warmly hugged Justin and welcomed him to the Richardson fold, telling him that she was pleased to meet the man who had finally captured her favourite brother-in-law's heart. Nearby, and only pretending to be hurt by her words, Jerald played the wounded party much to Justin's and his family's amusement.
Justin, having barely spoken two words to any of them before that night, with the exception of Tim, took some time to get comfortable around them. He was aided by their loving and open support of his and Kevin's relationship, and by Kevin himself, who never let go of his hand for a single moment that evening.
Dinner was wonderful, and Justin became more relaxed by the moment. By the end of dinner, he was smiling and talking to everyone at the table as if he'd known them all his life. Even Kevin's mother, whom he was still slightly afraid and unsure of, had gone out of her way to make him feel comfortable.
Whenever he and Kevin talked in private, the whole room seemed to disappear; they virtually inhabited their own little world. He was unaware of the looks that he and Kevin were getting from Kevin's family at such moments. He was also unaware of how the love they shared seemed to float around them like a visible aura.
When dinner had finished, and Kevin brought his hand to his lips for a kiss, the whole room fell silent. Ann had found each display of affection harder to deal with, but the moment she saw the love blazing out of their eyes at one another, she felt her eyes becoming water-logged once more.
Jerald and Tim were awe-struck as they gazed at the almost visible love flowing between their brother and the youngster from 'N Sync. Tracy couldn't help the sad little smile that crossed her face. With a pang of envy, she realised that Kevin and Justin had found a love stronger than any that she had ever experienced.
Kevin and Justin continued to gaze intently at each other, joyous smiles lighting their faces, oblivious of the impact they were having on the rest of the Richardsons.
Chris paced the living room, slowly wearing a path in the carpet with his restless feet.
JC had been gone all day. He hadn't answered any calls left on his messaging service, nor had he called anyone else.
Joey and Lance sat on the couch in Lynn's living room and watched Chris pace endlessly. From time to time they looked at one another and seemed to communicate their concern to each other telepathically.
Lynn and Paul had finally gone out for the evening, having arranged the night out several days previously and unable to cancel at such a late stage, but had left instructions for the boys to call them if JC wasn't back before midnight. That time was rapidly approaching...
Joey yawned and was about to speak when both he and Lance heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway outside. They looked across at their pacing bandmate and noticed that he too had heard it.
All three looked up expectantly as the front door opened, and were relieved to see JC standing there. JC, in turn, stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he noticed his bandmates in the living room.
No words were spoken for several moments. Then, against his better judgement, Chris said, "Where have you been?"
A strained silence befell them as they regarded each other. JC still hadn't moved from the landing near the front door. Chris was standing only feet away from him, with his back to the other two. As for Lance and Joey, they briefly gave each other a worried look before turning back to stare at the standoff between their bandmates.
"We were worried about you; Lynn and Paul almost cancelled their evening out."
JC momentarily appeared sorry to hear that but soon returned to his closed off expression.
"Josh, is there something wrong?" Lance asked, hoping to ease the tension between JC and Chris.
JC turned to face Lance and concentrated on the worried expression of his bandmate, finding himself unable to think of an answer as his mind went blank.
Lance blinked at the long silence, then made a leap of faith. "You're having second thoughts about what we've decided to do, aren't you?"
Chris jerked around to gape at Lance before spinning around to view JC's reaction.
They could all see Lance's direct hit on JC's suddenly slack features. Before another word could be spoken, JC's tight control of his emotions broke, as all the pressures and uncertainties that had plagued him that day came rushing forth in one massive tidal wave; releasing themselves as hot stinging tears and almost silent sobbing.
Chris was instantly by his side, hugging him tightly and whispering reassurances in his ear. JC seemed to collapse into his embrace, suddenly losing all strength - both physical and emotional. Within seconds both Joey and Lance had reached them and started consoling their emotional bandmate.
Kevin closed the door behind him, and locked it, before turning around to face his angel. "What's wrong, Curly?" he asked, seeing the concerned look on Justin's face.
"Umm, Boo, should I be here?" Justin asked, indicating Kevin's bedroom. "What will your mom think?"
Kevin smiled before walking over to stand in front of Justin. Reaching out to caress his face, he gently replied, "Don't worry about it, love. I had a talk with Jer a short time ago."
"What does Jerald have to do with this?" Justin asked, totally thrown by Kevin's response.
Kevin smiled again as he recalled the quick exchange he'd had with his brother only minutes before. "Just trust me, love. Both he and my mom accept it, and know that I want to be with you always. He even told me that Mom knew about what we were doing this morning, and that she was okay with it." He smiled to ease Justin's sudden embarrassed tenseness, then stepped forward until his body was pressed against Justin's. Tilting his head up, he kissed Justin's forehead, even as his arms reached around to embrace the younger man in an enveloping love-filled hug.
Justin returned the embrace before laying his head against Kevin's shoulder. He closed his eyes as he let the feelings of love suffuse every fibre of his being. Even something as simple as an embrace from his sweetheart was sending his mind reeling with the knowledge that Kevin was all he ever wanted or needed. Nothing mattered more than being with him. Nothing mattered more than loving him.
Kevin remained silent as he held onto Justin and rested his cheek on Justin's curls. All he ever wanted was currently resting in his arms, and he never wanted to let go of him.
Lance watched from his seat on the recliner as JC began to get his emotions under control. To either side of him, Chris and Joey were bent over him, speaking in soft reassuring voices and rubbing his back in constant reassurance.
Lance sighed, thankful that JC was alright, though he wondered how his friend could have maintained his cool all day with the uncertainty and worry that had plagued him until he'd returned home. He also sighed in relief at having reassured Lynn and Paul that JC had come home - they'd almost cut short their night out until he'd called them.
He stared at his bandmate and wondered what had triggered this change of heart? After their meeting the previous night, JC had been one of the most vocal proponents of the plan, though none of them had actually been totally opposed to it...
A few minutes later, noticing that JC was in control again, he decided to broach the subject. "Feeling better?"
"Wanna tell us why you're having second thoughts? I thought you wanted to go through with this?"
"I did, Scoop. I do. But..."
JC closed his eyes and sighed. "I talked to Curly this morning."
Lance was not the only one who took in a deep breath. Before he could respond, Joey beat him to the punch. "What happened?"
JC turned to look at Joey and shrugged. "He was in bed with Kevin."
It was almost as if all three of his listeners were whipped; they all jerked back in surprise, eliciting a small smile from Josh. He nodded as each began to comprehend what he'd said.
Chris cleared his throat nervously before saying, "That doesn't change anything, does it?"
All four bandmates looked at one another, wondering at the truthfulness of Chris' words. After a while, JC replied, "I think you're right, Chris. This doesn't affect anything."
Lance frowned, before sighing heavily under his breath. He hoped that Josh was right, because once they put their plan into action in the morning, it would be too late to stop it.
"Wake up, sweetie."
"C'mon Justin, we don't have a lot of time." Kevin's words were immediately followed by a tender kiss to Justin's forehead.
Justin opened his eyes, looking blearily into the sparkling eyes of his angel. He smiled as he gazed upon his lover's smiling face, then broke into a laugh as he took in Kevin's bed-head.
"What's so funny... chum?" Kevin asked in mock anger, spoiling the effect by smiling broadly.
Pointing upwards to Kevin's head, Justin replied, "Bed-head," before sniggering again.
"Well, love, I hate to point this out, but you've got a serious case of it yourself. And I bet yours looks a lot worse than mine does," Kevin replied, before adding, "what with all those curls and everything."
Justin immediately fell silent and reached up to check his hair, prompting Kevin to laugh. "Not vain, are we?"
Justin snorted then mock punched Kevin's arm, before saying, "I still love you, even with bed-head as bad as that."
Kevin smiled again as he replied, "Good. 'Cause I love you too, and your bed-head is probably ten times worse than mine!"
They both broke into laughter. After a while, Justin leaned up and pecked Kevin on the lips, bringing Kevin's laughter to a halt.
"You know you shouldn't have done that," Kevin said, smiling down at this lover. "Now I'm gonna have to retaliate."
"You and what army?" Justin replied, raising an eyebrow challengingly at Kevin.
"No need for an army," Kevin replied, confidently. "All I need to do is this." Delivering on his promise, Kevin leaned down and captured his angel's sweet lips in a hungry kiss.
Justin surrendered without a fight.
The airport was packed, as families in full holiday mode awaited their respective flights to other parts of the country.
Hiding under his disguise, Nick followed his bandmate and the singer from 'N Sync to the relevant airline counter to collect their tickets. After they'd collected them, they made their way to the waiting area outside the departure gate.
He glanced over at his tight-lipped bandmate, and realised that Howie was under a lot of strain, even though he was valiantly trying to hide it. He glanced over at Lance Bass, and even under the disguise of baseball cap and sunglasses he could see a similar strain on the blond singer's face.
Several minutes later the announcement for their flight came over the public address system and both Lance and Howie turned to look at him. He smiled encouragingly at both, before stepping forward to shake Lance's hand in farewell. Lance returned his smile and shook his hand, before turning and walking over to the smallish queue forming in front of the now opened departure gate.
Nick turned his attention to Howie and smiled as well. Howie was unable to return it. Nick could see the flickers of doubt that passed over his features.
"Howie, it has to be done. For Kevin's sake. Okay?"
Howie glanced at his blond bandmate and wondered how Nick could be so certain they were doing the right thing. He was about to speak when Nick continued.
"I know how much it's gonna hurt him at first - and you don't know how painful that's gonna be for me to endure - but we have to do it."
Howie couldn't see Nick's eyes behind the darkened glass of his shades, but he knew that Nick was on the verge of tears. Feeling his resolve become firm, he nodded and smiled. As he moved in to hug Nick, he softly whispered, "I know we have to do it, but Kev's gonna kill us."
Nick returned the hug, a smile once more crossing his lips. "I know."
Howie chuckled and broke the embrace, reaching up to flick the brim of Nick's Yankees cap. "Take care, Nicky. And thanks for driving us here."
Howie smiled again, then picked up his overnight bag and headed for the open gate, joining the queue of passengers waiting to board. After several minutes, he finally reached the front of the queue and handed over his boarding pass, sparing Nick a quick smile and wave, before proceeding down the air-bridge as soon as his pass was returned to him.
Nick sighed softly and let his smile slip. Now that he was actually alone, he let his own deep-seated doubts come to the fore, and almost wept aloud as he contemplated what Lance and Howie, on behalf of the eight of them, were about to put into motion. He silently whispered, "I hope you'll forgive us some day, Kevin."
Turning on his heel, he left the airport, thankful for once that his disguise concealed more than just his identity. No one could see beneath the lenses of his shades at the burgeoning tears ready to fall...
"You said we'd be late."
"Huh?" Kevin replied, stroking his lover's back in long gentle arcs, with his face only an inch away from Justin's.
"When you woke me this morning, you said we'd be late. Late for what?"
Kevin's stroking died mid-movement. "Oh shit!"
Justin almost fell out of bed as Kevin's frantic lurching to get out of bed rocked the mattress violently. "What's wrong, Boo?" he called, even as Kevin continued to swear beneath his breath.
"I forgot all about it!"
"Forgot about what?"
"The reason I woke you was so that we could go into Lexington with Tim and Tracy. They arranged it last night. I wanted to go shopping so I could get Christmas presents for everyone. Tracy suggested they could give us a lift out there as she wants to spend a bit more time with us..."
"Oh," Justin replied, suddenly appreciating why Kevin was hurriedly getting dressed. "And they're already downstairs waiting for us, aren't they?"
Kevin's frantic nod didn't help. "Sorry, Curly. I forgot all about it. I..."
"Don't worry about it, Boo," Justin interrupted, getting out of bed and looking for his own clothes. He knew that it was just as much his fault that they'd ended up making love again; not that he'd ever regret spending time with Kevin in that way. "I hate to ask, Kev, but will I have time for a shower? No offense, but I did work up a sweat just now."
Kevin smirked as he looked at the grinning face of his angel. "Probably not, but have one anyway. I'll just go downstairs and let them know we'll be a little while longer."
"Well, yeah," Kevin replied, as if it was obvious. "I'm going to join you in the shower. I need someone to scrub my back."
Justin could only shake his head as he silently laughed.
Kevin smiled as he left the room. It was finally time; he needed to speak to his family urgently. He needed their co-operation for what he planned to do that evening. And just as soon as he was sure that they understood his requests, he would join Justin in the shower. His smile grew even wider.
Several hours later they met back at the parking lot of the largest shopping complex in Lexington. Tim and Tracy had been waiting beside the car for close to twenty minutes before Kevin showed up. Several minutes later an apologetic Justin also joined them, explaining that he'd had to make a pitstop.
Kevin was the only one who didn't really buy the excuse; he could tell that Justin was hiding something from him. However, as he, himself, had purposely lost Justin over an hour earlier, he couldn't really blame him; it would have been a shade too hypocritical. He had his own reasons for hiding his activities from the younger man, so it was fortuitous that Justin had not tried very hard to find him. Besides, he knew that he could trust Justin implicitly. If and when Justin was ready to tell him where he'd disappeared to, he knew Justin would tell him.
They settled their shopping into the trunk of Tim's car, before climbing into their respective seats. It was only after they'd left the confines of the very public parking lot that both boys removed their disguises and reached out to grab each other's hands.
"Will you have dinner with me tonight? Just the two of us?"
At the softly spoken request, Justin turned to gaze at his sweetheart and smiled. "Yes."
"Good," Kevin replied, still speaking softly enough that only Justin could hear him. "Mom and Jerald will be staying at Tim and Tracy's tonight. So tonight it'll just be you and me at dinner."
"Why? What's the occasion?" Justin queried in confusion.
"Does there have to be one?" Kevin replied, rubbing his thumb across the back of Justin's clasped hand. "I just want to have some time alone with you. We haven't really had a chance to be alone with each other."
Justin smiled. "A good enough reason, Boo. Not that I mind your family, 'cause I don't. I think they're all wonderful. But it'll be nice to be alone with you for a little while."
Kevin nodded before bringing Justin's hand up to his lips.
Tonight was going to be a night to remember...
"Hello. New York Times. May I help you?"
"Uh, hi. I'd like to speak to someone."
"In regards to...?"
"A story. I've got some information that I think your readers would like to know."
Justin patted his pocket for the hundredth time, and breathed out a relieved sigh.
Nearby, in the bathroom down the hall, Kevin finished combing his hair and checked himself in the mirror. It was finally time; he had been waiting for this moment all day. Opening the door, he walked down the hallway to his room and knocked. Justin opened it a few seconds later, and Kevin found himself hard-pressed to remember to breathe.
Just like himself, Justin was dressed to impress. He cut a suave figure in midnight black trousers and black long sleeved shirt, with a navy blue tie completing his ensemble.
Justin was just as deeply impressed with Kevin's attire. From his black slacks right through to his midnight blue long sleeved shirt and silver tie.
"You're so beautiful," Kevin whispered, gazing with blinding love at his angel.
"Not half as beautiful as you," Justin breathed in whispered wonder.
Hands automatically found each other, and a moment later each was leaning in to seal their love in a tender kiss.
When Kevin finally parted from Justin's lips, he gently cleared his throat and said, "We'd better head down; dinner will get cold otherwise."
Justin nodded and stepped out into the hallway, closing Kevin's bedroom door behind him. Hand in hand, they made their way to the dining room.
"Do you think he's done it yet?" Tracy asked her husband excitedly.
"Maybe." Tim smiled fondly at this wife, seated next to him on the loveseat, before turning to face his mother and brother. "What time will you head back home in the morning?"
Jerald leaned forward in his recliner and shrugged, before saying, "We didn't really discuss that with Kevin, did we Ma?" Ann shook her head slowly in answer. "I guess we'll head back a little before noon. That should give them plenty of time to be awake before we arrive."
Tracy smiled speculatively - she somehow doubted it.
Dinner was superb. Both Kevin and Justin enjoyed it, revelling in the magnificent food that Ann had prepared for them while they were out shopping.
Kevin looked over at his angel, and marvelled at how lucky he had been to find him. Everything about Justin enthralled him. Every single movement he made, every single breath he took, every single word he spoke, every single loving look he sent his way; they all combined to leave him utterly besotted and obsessed with him. And more than anything else, his own feelings for the youngster told him that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him.
"Justin, I want to ask you something."
Justin reached across the table and planted his fingers on Kevin's lips. "Kevin, before you do, there's something I want to ask you first."
Kevin watched curiously as Justin stood and came around to stand next to him. Before he could ask what was happening, Justin went down on one knee and withdrew a small box from his trouser pocket. Kevin felt his breath catch as Justin opened it and removed a pale gold band from inside.
Justin looked up from the ring into his angel's surprised expression. Without hesitation, he held the ring out towards Kevin, and reverently asked, "Kevin Scott Richardson, will you do me the honour of marrying me?"
Gigantic presses screamed for paper to feed them.
Minutes later newspapers began appearing on the conveyor belts heading off to the packaging and shipping department of the New York Times.
A quality assurance officer sauntered up to one of the conveyor belts and pulled a random paper off it, examining it closely for any imperfections. Nothing appeared to be wrong with the structure of the paper, as far as he could tell, and he was about to place it back on the conveyor belt when he finally noticed the headline. His eyebrows quirked in surprise, and he thought to himself that the morning's edition would sell like the proverbial hotcakes.
Justin's outstretched hand faltered for a second and he almost dropped the ring as his fingers became lax. Kevin hadn't said a word since he'd proposed to him more than a minute ago...
"Kevin?" he asked, his voice trembling slightly.
"Yes?" Kevin replied throatily, finding his voice at last.
"I... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that."
Kevin looked at his angel's hurt expression and felt his heart clench. "No! No, Curly, you don't understand."
"I... It was too soon, wasn't it? Uh..."
"Listen to me please, Justin," Kevin pleaded, reaching out to capture Justin's still outstretched hand in both of his. "You caught me by surprise, that's all."
"Really?" Justin asked, his voice pleading for assurance.
"Yes, really," Kevin replied, smiling blindingly down at him.
"So, you will marry me?" Justin asked, hope filling his voice once more.
"Of course, silly," Kevin replied, slipping out of his chair to kneel opposite his love. "Otherwise, why would I have bought this?"
Justin looked on in confusion as Kevin let go of his hand and reached into his pocket to extract a small box similar to his own. As Kevin opened it and extracted a ring that looked identical to the one Justin still held towards him, he raised one knee off the ground, ending up in the classic proposal pose; similar to Justin. "I love you so much Justin, that my life has no meaning without you. I want to always be with you." Then, as a tear formed and rolled down Kevin's cheek, Kevin asked, "Will you do me the honour of marrying me, Justin Randall Timberlake?"
Justin's radiant smile was everything and more than Kevin had hoped for. As Justin nodded happily, he found voice to exclaim, "Yes, Boo, I'll marry you!"
Kevin slipped the ring on Justin's finger, his hands tingling with excitement and shaking worse than he'd ever seen them before. Several moments later, his hand was captured by Justin, who performed the same time-honoured ritual for him. Justin's hands were in no better condition.
At the same instant they both looked up from their ring-encircled fingers and faced each other; their expressions wreathed with bliss. Again, almost as if sharing the same thought, they stood and moved forward to capture each other's lips in a sweet, tender, loving kiss.
Tim Richardson locked his car and entered the same shopping complex he'd visited the day before. This time, however, he was alone. He and Tracy had bought quite a lot of presents the day before, when they'd taken Kevin and Justin shopping, but there were still a few he needed to acquire while he had the chance to be alone. It was no fun buying Tracy's present when she was around to see it. And in addition to her present, he wanted to look for something special for both his brother and Justin: not only a present for each, but also a combined present for their status as, hopefully, an engaged couple. He hadn't heard from Kevin since the day before, but he couldn't think of any reason why Justin would have refused his proposal.
He smiled absently as he recalled the times over the previous two days that he'd seen his brother and Justin together. It never failed to amaze him how committed they were to each other. He didn't think he'd ever get over seeing the aura of love and devotion that surrounded them. He didn't think he'd ever get used to it, either.
His smile grew, as he took in the festive decorations in the complex, and heard the Christmas carols playing over the audio system. He stopped at various shops and window shopped, although he purchased very little, until he found the perfect gift for his wife. Less than an hour later, he had also found suitable presents for both Kevin and Justin as well, but was minus their combined present. As he was weighed down with gifts already, he detoured to his car where he deposited them, before heading back into the complex in search of that special gift for the couple.
He was passing what appeared to be a very busy newsstand, when his eye caught sight of a billboard containing the day's top headline. He almost fell over, as his feet suddenly lost mobility in shock. With a gasp, he quickly strode in and unceremoniously grabbed the topmost copy of the New York Times, not bothering to notice the dirty look a woman gave him as she found herself having to reach for another copy.
He stood there staring at the headline, and though it displayed a slightly different choice of words, the message was plain and clear. Scanning through the first few paragraphs with shaking hands, he realised it wasn't a joke.
A voice sounded from behind him, startling him. "You'll need to buy that if you want to read any more. We're not a charity."
He glanced into the eyes of one of the shop's employees, then nodded in understanding. Pulling his wallet out, he walked over to the counter and paid for the paper, before hurrying outside. All thoughts of looking for Kevin and Justin's present fled his mind as he walked quickly back to his car and took off in the direction of his mother's house.
Next to him, on the passenger seat where he'd deposited it, the paper's headline stared back at him:
BACKSTREET BOYS AND 'N SYNC CALL IT QUITS!
End - Chapter 22
To Be Continued...