A tale of sex, drugs, rock‘n’roll, secrets, fairies and magic!
17th March 2006
It was an innocuous enough object, Brianna’s fairy princess wand; all sparkly with glitter and pink ribbons, a tiny gold star at its tip, innocent in the way of all little girl’s dress up accessories. Kelly had helped Brianna make it one afternoon to distract her from the itch of chicken pox.
How Chris came to be in possession of the wand, on a visit to Dublin, Ireland, on Saint Patrick’s Day, he had refused to say. Not that anyone actually asked him; there he was all prepared to avoid the question in true Kirkpatrick style, he had had a whole routine planned out and everything and then those boring unobservant know nothing friends of his failed to even mention the subject.
Lance and Joey, though long association with Chris, knew that they could expect a lengthy drawn out tale somehow incorporating wild tangents and side trips concerning hang gliding and superglue somewhere along the way. Yes they would laugh, for Chris was a great story teller but he was a master of diversionary tactics, never actually getting to the point. Besides, it was fun seeing their long-time friend and college try to get them to mention the wand without actually bringing up the subject himself, and so they endured the odd smack upside the head in the name of friendship and continued to let Chris mentally and verbally twist himself in knots.
Irrespective of Chris’s flights of fancy and associated tall tales, date, location, and circumstances may all have played a part in what happened next. Had they realised the havoc the twinkling wand would cause, for Lance’s sake they would have kept their mouths securely shut, lips zipped, locked, the metaphorical key melted down and well and truly thrown away.
Fate, however had other ideas; for they were soon to learn the true meaning of ‘be careful of what you wish for!’
Filming for his new movie, being taken seriously as an actor had become important to Joey. Having worked his way through various smaller roles his hard efforts were finally paying off and his latest role, while not the lead, was a strong supporting part with plenty of screen time.
Lance had had business meetings in England, Dublin was only a short hop across the Irish Sea and so he had taken the opportunity to pay Joey a visit. Chris, on the other hand, had simply turned up unannounced in Lance’s London hotel room during the early hours of one morning, muttering something about reconnecting, to whom or what he was not entirely clear but his explanation had involved a number of complex flapping hand movements and wild arm gestures. There may, or may not have been some mention of wanting to explore his Irish roots.
Whatever their own individual reasons, the three friends took full advantage of the break in filming provided by the National holiday, watching as the St. Patrick’s Day parade wound its’ way through Dublin’s streets, lubricated by vast quantities of vivid green pints of Guinness. An acquired taste, the rich brew, but the three Americans played tourist and downed several pints each in honour of the occasion, quickly getting a happy alcoholic buzz going.
Maybe it was the alcohol which loosened their tongues, maybe it was fate, but secure in the anonymity of Joey’s generic hotel room their conversation turned from Joey’s rising career to those of the two absent *NSYNC’ers, and on to Justin’s latest episode of Diva’tude.
All four of the older band members had long since acknowledged that they were in part to blame for the youngest’ spoilt manner but there was simply no excusing his current display of attitude; rudely and publicly snubbing Lance in favour of spending an evening pursuing various high up record executives, trying and failing to chase down unsubstantiated rumours that had Backstreet Boy Nick Carter looking to record a new solo album.
Bitching about Justin had become such a regular occurrence that Joey, Lance and surprisingly Chris had voted to call it quits and now only gave rein to their thoughts when sufficient alcohol was involved, JC just stayed out of it completely; whether he was entirely unaware of the situation or simply trying to stay neutral was open to debate.
That evening was no different and a fast, often loud, debate ranged from Mister Timba Timba Timberlake having fallen for his own hype, to Chris’s hysterical giggling over the British press and their persisting use of the nickname Trouser-Snake. The conversation eventually ran on to comparing other celebrity egos, the motion tabled for debate; J-Lo and Justin were they a perfect match. Chris’s opinion that the combination would be explosive garnered Joey’s desire to witness such a clash of egos.
Lance, Chris stated, had more chance of being knocked up from a one-night-stand than Justin ever facing off against the Latin Diva. Joey typically took Lance’s side, demanding to know that if that were the case then whom out of their vast circle they were going to choose for his best friend was going to get his freak on with. Unanimously it was decided that Nick Carter would be likely not only to give Lance one hell of a fun time, but carried the added advantage that such a coupling would piss Justin off. For the happily inebriated trio anything with the potential to piss off Mister Timberlake could never be seen as a bad thing.
Although Joey decided for Lance’s sake that if they were going to drag Carter into their ‘knock up Bass’ scheme it was only fair Lance would get to Top Nick as well. For such an unwaveringly straight guy Joey had a surprising level of knowledge into the complexities of alternative lifestyles. Lance’s only comment was that if he was going to be the first man to bend, if not totally shatter, the laws of nature then one-night-stand or not it was only fair he drag his sexual partner down along with him.
The idea of a pregnant Nick had Chris in fits of drunken laughter whilst trying to say ‘Backstreet baby’s baby’ over and over, the fairy wand in his fist waving erratically, ribbons tangling with the hoops adorning his ears. Due to their state of inebriation, no one would later be able to remember who muttered ‘I wish’ as the wand connected with Lance’s temple, dusting his skin and hair with glitter; although it was probably just as well all things considered.
All three mistook the shower of silvery sparkles as nothing more than light reflecting off the glittered wand, the tingle of power simply the effects of the alcohol within their blood. Maybe it was ancient Irish magic, maybe it was the fairy wand, or maybe Chris really was a leprechaun; he certainly been called an elf enough times, whatever the cause those two little words held a power above and beyond simple imagination.
The events of the night were dismissed faster than the morning-afters’ hangovers, Chris and Lance surfaced sometime in mid-afternoon, Joey having crawled out of bed several hours earlier after being woken by the persistent ringing of the telephone. Walking about the room Joey carried the phone as he talked, stepping over the slumbering bodies of his friends, leaving them to continue to sleep where they had collapsed the night before, the sound of Joey’s voice as he chatted with Brianna failing to disturb them.
Lance snored deeply in counter point to Chris’s higher snuffling, the noise reassuringly familiar to Joey helped soothe the pain of spending time away from his wife and young daughter but did nothing for the pounding in his head courtesy of the previous day’s excesses.
Eventually Joey could tolerate their combined snoring no longer, waking his buddies with a few well-placed kicks. Chris’s whining over the rude awakening failed to cover the sound of Lance scrambling to the bathroom. Unpleasant though it may be, vomiting was his body’s usual way of dealing with a hangover, which was actually preferable to facing Joey’s patented morning after cure. An old family recipe, the secret formula was strong enough to drop an adult elephant but did nothing for your hangover unless your surname was Fatone; Joey maintained that he was not responsible for everyone else’s faulty genetics.
Chris said Joey was full of it and that he should be nicer to a dying man. In reply Joey handed him a couple of aspirin, called him old and told him to suck it up. Chris response was to give Joey the finger, swallow the aspirin dry rather than ask for water then went to find out if Lance had finished hogging the bathroom as the need to pee had become rather urgent. Lance, pale face still hung over the toilet bowl scowled up at Chris, shuffled to his feet and dunked his head under the cold tap in the sink, rinsing the lingering effects of alcohol away with the chilly water.
After a late lunch Chris and Lance returned to their rooms to pack, preparing to fly out later that evening, Lance heading back to his business deals and Chris tagging along as before. As Joey was due back on set early the next morning he waved them off from the hotel lobby rather than chancing the airport for although they were no longer performing together as a group, put three members of *NSYNC in such a public arena and they were bound to attract attention. Two members proved easier to slip under the radar than three and the flight out was quietly uneventful, having left Joey with promises to get together once his filming ended, possibly rounding up JC before he ended up permanently disappeared into a studio somewhere.
Home again Lance soon settled back into his usual routine, working hard managing, networking, and generally keeping himself too busy to notice the lack of anyone permanent in his private life, only Chris appearing to drag him out at seemly random intervals prevented Lance from becoming a recluse, Chris’s words not his. Not that Lance failed to go out, he frequently attended this event or another, but that was work and work did not count in Chris’s opinion. Lance’s accompanying threats to lock him in the cleaner’s supply cupboard had simply been ignored along with offers for a free psychiatric evaluation.
Much to Lance’s relief after a couple of months Chris’s limited attention span moved on to other things and he finally stopped greeting Lance with the phrase ‘pregnant yet?’ after any event where Nick or any of the other BSB members had been in attendance.
21st July 2006
The one good thing to come out of the ‘Dublin’ drinking sessions was a resurgence of the guys’ sense of the ridiculous and an invite for Nick and Aaron Carter to take part in the eighth Challenge for the Children weekend. Both men had participated in earlier Challenges and could always be counted on to get into the spirit of the occasion. The fact that Justin would be uncomfortable around Nick was a minor, non-contributing factor.
Lance had not been looking forward to that year’s event, he shuddered in anticipation; an entire week with the ‘Divalake’ when he had an axe to grind. Lance wondered if he could convince Nick to act as a human shield. Maybe he could talk Aaron into helping too, for for some strange reason Justin appeared to be scared of Aaron, and Lance was not above enlisting help from any quarter however unexpected.
Nick flew in with Aaron a day earlier than majority of the Challenge participants, taking the opportunity to reconnect with his little brother while the members of *NSYNC were busy in last minute meetings. As predicted Justin was lying in wait trying to get Lance to ‘discuss’ why he hadn’t been invited to Dublin in March, Lance was extremely grateful to find Aaron pursuing a fleeing Nick down the hotel corridor. Justin quickly made his excuses and left Lance to the delicate care of the brothers Carter.
Later Aaron deserted his brother in favour of goofing off with Chris, the oldest and youngest automatically gravitating towards each other. By the quiet whispering and occasional sneaky looks in the direction of Joey’s suite it looked like the two were happily planning something, Lance just hoped whatever it was did not involve dye in some form or another.
When Aaron and Chris reappeared later, Lance had fallen asleep in a chair, his active laptop balanced precariously on his knees and Nick was snoring softly, curled up on sofa, a cushion clutched to his chest like a teddy bear.
Over the next few days Justin continued to try and corner Lance but somehow Aaron always seemed to be in the just the right place at the right time, helping Lance to escape Justin’s clutches accidentally on purpose on more than one occasion.
Challenge, itself, progressed well with Nick, Aaron, Lance and JC for the Knights teamed against Justin, Chris and Joey as Daze. Lance, as Knights Captain, had played with both Nick and Aaron before and eagerly awaited the annual basketball game, knowing both men had a strong court presence and would help give Justin’s team a run for their money.
Frustrated and annoyed Justin, normally *NSYNC’s strongest ball player, was clearly off his game during the warm up session. During the actual game, in an effort to steal the ball from Aaron he body-slammed into the wrong Carter, fouling an unprepared Nick, sending the older man sprawling flat on his back.
Winded Nick lay on the court until Aaron dragged him to his feet and with Joey’s assistance; he escorted him to the bench where he quietly sat out the remainder of the game. Justin was called off by the referee and lost his place on court, which did nothing towards improving his mood. The rest of the game passed with only the usual pantsing incidents, the Knights winning both the game and competition by a narrow point margin.
At the after game party, Aaron was not surprised to find his brother sticking to soft drinks, not wanting to mix alcohol with the analgesics Nick had taken to deal with the painful bruises Justin’s foul had inflicted.
Aaron, however, was rather surprised when he stole Lance’s rum and coke to find it severely lacking in the rum department. Lance was known to be quite the social drinker and probably drank more than was good for him, so now not only did the younger Carter have to worry about his injured brother it seemed Lance was acting weird too.
Lance had not said anything but he was finding that alcohol had been affecting him somewhat harder than it used to, taking a lot less to get him drunk but with harsher after-effects, after one or two beyond evil hangovers he had decided to cut his losses. Strangely enough, he had found that he did not miss drinking as much as he had expected to, defiantly not missing his well-meaning friends and their unsubtle ‘lush’ comments.
One other unexpected advantage to sobriety was that Lance no longer had to find excuses to avoid Joey’s morning after cure, something he thankfully had not had to face since the whole Dublin episode some months earlier.
31st August 2006
It was the celebrity scandal of the year that brought Lance back into contact with Nick, for once MTV featured on its own Entertainment News. The 2006 VMA’s after-party was the target for Right Wing extremists, an activist branch of a radical morality group. Targeting MTV and other TV channels, blaming them for the promotion of deviancy and immorality, for playing music videos featuring scantily clad teen princesses, acts of public nudity and encouraging sex before marriage. Basically the whole sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll package.
The scandal, how such a group managed to get past the security that should have protected the large number of high profile guests, requiring some inside assistance to get the group’s members in place. Their objective; the guests, lacing food and drink alike with pharmaceuticals that educed nausea and hallucinations within two to three hours of ingestion, the more ingested the worse the symptoms.
It was not long before the majority of the partygoers became ill in one way or another and the Police and Paramedics called in. Lance’s newest client, his reason for attending the awards, had been checked over and sent home long before Lance’s turn and he found himself waiting next in line to three out of the five Backstreet Boys. AJ and Brian being the two absent members, AJ luckily sick with flu had not attended the party, heading straight back to the Boys’ hotel after the main event, and Brian was stuck at home with his family, torrential rain storms having closed the airport and prevented his flight out.
The three ‘Boys’ took pity on a high and nauseated Lance, a fellow boybander stranded without a band. Waiting for transport to take them back to their hotel after being released to sober up, an equally high Nick proposed they fire Kevin because basses were boring and they should officially adopt Lance in his stead. Kevin calling the blonde ‘Rocky’ pointed out to the giggling idiot that Lance had the deeper voice.
It was Howie’s opinion that if Nick was Rocky then Lance as a part-time blond could be Janet, Kevin made a likely Brad, but if anyone called him Frank he was taking the van by himself and they could walk back to the hotel. A quick show of hands voted in AJ as more suited to the role instead; Howie had the legs to look better in Magenta’s maid’s outfit over Brian who became Riff Raff, before they opted to Time Warp their way out to their vehicle.
The sight of the four spaced out pop stars doing a jump to the left and a step to the right was recorded for prosperity by hovering news teams and would come back to haunt the unfortunate men for years to come, dragged out on video by their families as a never ending source of embarrassment. The resulting public message from Tim Curry was accepted in the same vein it was given.
Lance was not sure how or who decided what but he found himself staggering through the door to Nick’s bathroom where he was finally able to take care of his rolling stomach, one of Nick’s large hands rubbing circles on his back while the other held his forehead up off the porcelain. When all but the occasional dry heave had subsided, the pair made their way unsteadily to the bedroom, with a brief detour to grab bottles of water along the way.
Under strict instructions from the EMT’s to keep hydrated and mindful of Kevin’s orders to sleep off the worst effects, although Kevin’s giggles in the middle of his speech kind of ruined the effect; the two dutifully downed the water. However, Lance’s bottle turned into a purple duck midway through and he first had to persuade it to stop talking before he was able to finish drinking.
Nick could remember telling Miss Weiss and his purple ducky to go to bed, stopping them to beg Janet to get the creature to please stop singing first, besides he could of sworn that it was Lewis Carroll’s dormouse who sang ‘Twinkle, twinkle little bat” not some feathered hallucination with webbed feet. Lance decided the ducky would be happier in the bathtub and so they spent time making sure it was comfortable before retiring to the bedroom, falling in a tangle of limbs onto the room’s sole double bed.
Although it was relatively early, Lance soon drifted off to sleep cradled against the broad expanse of Nick’s chest. Neither man would remember more than brief snatches of the rest of the night, Lance retaining only faint memories of waking to the feel of a warm wet tongue and nipping teeth on the back of his neck, held tight by strong arms and the feel of hot flesh pressing into the cleft of his buttocks.
All it took was an unintentional, if minor, shift in the angle of one man’s hips coinciding with an unconscious reflex twist by the other to join their bodies for the first time. Deeply asleep, Nick rode out an intensely erotic drug-induced dream clasped intimately within the tight embrace of Lance’s body, his climax planting seed deep within Lance as Lance’s own coated the skin of their thighs.
Waking during the night to ease his dry throat Nick collected more bottles of cold water from the mini fridge; setting one on the nightstand for Lance should he wake later. Sitting down on the uncomfortably hard chair beside the bed Nick winced as the cold leather came in contact with his warm skin, he looked down at first himself and then over at the pale expanse of Lance’s back, wondering when during the night they had both ended up naked. It said something for how out of it Nick still was when he failed to realise that his pubic hair was matted with drying semen, a sticky mess which also covered his stomach and inner thighs.
Had he been more awake he may have realised that the tiny flecks of red towards the centre of the flat sheet, illuminated by a single lamp, were not the damp footprints of Lance’s duck, the thought that it was something entirely different simply never occurred to him. What Nick knew about full on gay intercourse could be written on the back of a postage stamp, and until that night, at least one if not both of the bed’s two occupants could have been considered a virgin by some.
On his hands and knees Nick crawled across the bed, following the duck’s trail into the middle of the mattress, searching for the missing quacker he ran up against the small of Lance’s back. The light dusting of fine hairs at the base of Lance’s spine felt soft against his nose, the warmth of Lance’s fair skin beneath his hands called to Nick, demanding that he caress it.
The gentle rhythm of touches he initiated soon lulled Nick into a calm state, carrying him to a place beyond the mess the drugs had created in his mind. Peacefully he had lain with another man, unknowingly shared his body and soul with someone of the same sex and not been struck down by lighting. At peace, Nick wrapped his arms around the slumbering Lance, closed his eyes and was carried away on the swift wings of sleep.
When neither man answered the phone the following morning Kevin was greeted with the sight of his band mate sleeping with the covers pulled up so far only tufts of blond hair were visible on Nick’s pillow, snuggled against a lump under the duvet, which he hoped was the missing Lance and not some other mystery person. No longer affected by the drugs in his system Kevin’s sense of responsibility was firmly back in place and with Howie and AJ’s help, roused the sleeping pair. After implementing a quick sobriety test, the trio retired to the suite’s living room to order in breakfast while Nick and Lance made use of the bathroom.
Alone again Nick was tempted by the source of warmth lying beside him, wanting nothing more than to cuddle up against it and go straight back to sleep, but that would mean defying Kevin’s order to get up and get moving and although defying Kevin could be sometimes be fun this was not one of those times.
Lance solved the problem for him, struggling out of the twisted sheets to slide out of bed, only to sit swiftly back down and hastily cover himself when he realised his naked state. Nick was granted an all too brief glimpse of muscular white buttocks, the crease below one hip and a hint of light pubic hair. The faint blush on Lance’s face drew Nick’s attention to Lance’s embarrassment, a quick check under the covers confirmed his own state of undress and he soon sported his own pink glow.
It was one thing to be seen nude by your own guys, it was a simple fact of tour life that at one time or other the five of them would end up flashing the flesh, you grew used to seeing it and nudity soon lost any effect. However it was something else to wake up naked beside an equally naked man, it would have been bad enough had it been one of their own fellers, but this was a member of another group entirely and both men were stunned.
Lost for words, Nick squirmed where he sat, slightly worried that the sheet seemed to be stuck to patches of his skin on his belly and groin, he hoped to high heaven that he hadn’t had a wet dream or done something stupid during the night. A, he was not a teenager any more, having long since grown out of such night-time emissions and B, what exactly was the protocol in asking a male acquaintance/casual friend, if you had screwed them/they had screwed you?
Nick groaned when he realised there was a chance that maybe he had been the one to be fucked and by the strange look gracing Lance’s features he seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Their eyes locked and through a short series of nods, they came to an agreement to tactfully ignore the situation and act as though nothing had happened, besides there was always a slim chance nothing had, a very, very slim chance.
However, it did not stop Nick wondering as he showered, previously unwavering heterosexual he had little point of reference, which was worse? To experience your first gay sexual encounter and not be able to remember it, or just not knowing if it, he, they, had been any good and how could he know if it was something he wanted to do again?
A sexuality outside the norm was not something he felt able to openly explore and there was no way he was going to find some anonymous trick to help him expand his horizons, the risks outweighed any potential advantages and there was also the question; did he really want to find out if he was gay, bi, or whatever?
As he towelled dry Nick decided that if he ever came to a decision there was only one person he felt he could talk to and that person was currently on the other side of the door, sitting in bed awaiting his chance to use the shower.
Lance had known he was bisexual for most of his life he had just chosen not to act on it. His guys knew almost from the moment they had gotten together, Chris having worked it out before Lance could find a suitable way to bring it up, gave him the ‘be safe’ talk, bought him condoms and offered to set him up with a nice boy. Lance had told him thanks, pocketed the box, and threatened to lock him in the broom cupboard if he even thought about trying it.
Over a decade later and he was still threatening to lock Chris up, it was a well established pattern of cupboards, wardrobes, closets, maybe his subconscious was trying to tell him something, or maybe Chris really was just that annoying.
While Lance took his turn in the bathroom, Nick went through his clothes, eventually locating two mobile phones, one clearly for business and one private. He entered his number in both as Rocky and used them to send his own a message. Retrieving his own phone, he used the messages to retrieve Lance’s numbers, which he saved under Weiss and Janet respectively. He knew it was likely he would forget whom they belonged if he used something else in an attempt to protect Lance’s privacy. This was at least a safety net in case he ever came to a decision and needed to talk.
Breakfast was accompanied by the television, muted to a local News channel and it was Lance, mouth full of toast, who spotted the segment on the VMA’s. He nearly choked to death when the film of them Time Warping played. Nick just stared open mouthed at the screen while Kevin buried his head in his hands, Howie rubbing his back while AJ just laughed.
AJ was of the opinion that after all the dumb stunts he personally had pulled he was never going to let them live this one down. Brian was going to kill them for leaving him out and JC, if he noticed would probably blink at Lance in that wide-eyed manner of his. Chris and Joey, when they eventually stopped laughing would most likely get Lance an audition for Rocky Horror, and Justin, well the least said about Justin’s probably reaction the better.
By the time Lance had returned to his own hotel he had somehow exchanged both email and postal address details with Nick. He puzzled about that on the flight home and even after he walked through his front door, he still could not figure out how Nick had talked him into it.
With their album ‘Northwards‘ holding steady near the top of the charts both at home and abroad the ‘Boys’ regrouped in Atlanta two weeks after the VMA’s to kick off the first half of the American leg of their tour. The shows receiving strong reviews and their maturity as a group and ability to adapt to a changing musical climate while remain true to their own distinctive sound; a hot topic for the entertainment columnists, was tempered by unconfirmed reports of illness within the band.
Rumours started circulating by early October, fuelled by Nick’s frequently pale appearance they persisted for months. Aided by insider reports that Nick was often seen being physically sick and a visible loss in weight triggered fears he had developed an eating disorder. The simple truth was that Nick, following a lingering inner ear infection as a result of catching AJ‘s flu, had developed an extreme case of motion sickness and spent the majority of the time on the buses feeling miserable. What little he was able to eat while they were moving often unpleasantly reappeared later, however it would also sometimes catch him unawares and he had vomited several times, hours after leaving his bus.
Anti-nausea medication and vitamins help prevented him from becoming malnourished and dehydrated but could not prevent the occasional bought of sickness and inevitably he continued to loose weight. Hotel stops, concert venues, anywhere which did not move, were all a relief and Nick took the opportunity to eat whenever it presented itself, for once in his career enjoying being able to do without being ragged on.
Somewhere along the line, he had discovered that carrot sticks seemed to help with the nausea and soon his bus fridge was stocked with an amply supply. By munching on the orange vegetables, Nick found some level of control over the sickness and soon began to look and feel a little more like his old self, as a result the rumours slowly died down.
Lance in the meantime continued to work, occasionally receiving odd packages addressed in Nick’s distinctive script. It seemed Nick found it amusing to seek out the tackiest souvenirs he could find for his friends and since he had adopted Lance, Lance was now included on Nick’s gift list. Lance found himself looking forward to the next package, always inordinately pleased when one of the carefully wrapped parcels arrived.
The packages often contained short notes explaining where Nick had found his latest ‘treasure’, his thoughts about the places he had visited and sometimes reports of humorous incidents from the tour. Over time the notes became longer and Nick started to include details of his daily life, the people around him, corresponding with Lance, venting to someone who understood the concept of ‘hurry up and wait’ from first hand experience.
If Lance was lucky, the current parcel would include a sketch; these rarely included items seemed extremely personal, an insight into Nick’s private life. Sometimes he sketched people; those around him, the fans, the crew, more frequently he drew the other Boys. The odd landscape, scenes captured from the bus window, one poignant drawing from a hospital visit a deathly thin little girl, brilliant smile lighting her face, Lance recognised the look of a terminally ill cancer patient in her eyes.
The sketches he had carefully framed and hung in his home office, away from the more public rooms in his sprawling house. The notes he replied to via e-mail, offering words of encouragement, the voice of reason, a silent and hidden mediator in rare inter-group arguments.
Lance, aware of Nick’s travel sickness did his best to understand what his friend was going through; travelling day in day out for months at a time was exhausting enough in itself, Lance having done more than his fair share of sleeping on buses just to escape boredom. Between the two they developed a theory that Boyband members manifested unusual abilities in developing distraction techniques, which with proper funding they were prepared to prove, they just needed to persuade, oh lets say, O-town to agree to become lab rats and they couldn’t fail. Accidentally discovering their plans, Chris, for a change, threatened to lock Lance in the closet.
23rd November 2006
By the time the first tour break came around Nick’s motion sickness was under the appearance of control and his eating habits back to normal, with the exception of the carrot sticks which he now seemed to be addicted to. Almost back to his pre-illness weight Nick still looked a little on the thin side which puzzled the other Boys considering he sported the beginnings of a lax belly; something he was apparently a little touchy about, which had resulted in Nick slapping the back of AJ’s head the one time he tried to poke it.
Oddly enough, Nick’s belly was not soft as AJ had expected, instead it had been solid, firm to the touch but AJ was not willing to risk another slap to try to find out more, instead he planned to send Brian on a tickle mission as soon as they re-grouped after spending the Thanksgiving holiday with their families.
Nick’s planned return was delayed by eighteen hours when the plane he was travelling on developed technical difficulties and was forced to make an unscheduled night-time landing at Miami airport. Courtesy of the airline, Nick along with the other passengers were put up in a hotel for the night, and it was in the crowded hotel restaurant Nick bumped into Lance again.
A lack of available seating helped them decide to splurge out on room service and they retreated to the Nick’s room where they were able to eat in relative privacy. Satisfied and full after a good meal Nick retreated to his bed, dragging Lance down to sit against the headboard with him as they continued their conversation. Lying down on his side, Nick explaining that since his illness he sometimes found he tired easily for apparently no reason.
There was little the tour doctors could do, having run test after test, all returning negative. Medically there appeared to be nothing much wrong with him, he was a little thin but his weight was fine, the initial ear infection had long since cleared up. Sick and tired of being poked about like a specimen Nick refused to go back to the doctor about his growing stomach paunch, choosing to simply try and ignore the hard grapefruit sized swelling for now.
Lance, his own medical history an easy point of reference, knew exactly how his friend felt and in a show of solidarity lifted his shirts, showing off the tiny paunch that no matter what he did seemed to be slowly increasing. Unconsciously Nick had reached out to lay one large warm hand against the small swell of Lance’s belly, expecting the skin to be squashy and fat instead surprised to find it just as hard as his own gut.
This lead to the two to comparing paunches, however Lance who had been fit and well for months put the blame for his stomach solely on his recently overactive appetite and insufficient exercise. They considered the possibility that Nick’s recent illness and resulting weight fluctuations had upset his body’s natural balance with some areas of his body returning to normal quicker than others.
On the day after Lance returned home, he found a surprise in his luggage. There carefully protected between the pages of a book was an incredibly detailed charcoal drawing of a sleeping Lance, bare-chested he had one hand curled protectively against the faint swell of his stomach. There was something oddly vulnerable about the pose and Lance wondered when Nick had drawn it, why he had chosen to portray Lance that way?
On the bottom right-hand corner of the drawing was Nick’s signature, not the public one thousands of fans would queue for hours to obtain, but Nick’s real signature. That in itself was different; Nick rarely signed the sketches he sent Lance, and in addition he had dated it too, which took care of the ‘when’ question. Nick had drawn this only the night before, Lance remembered talking with him then waking later to find himself alone, from the sounds coming from the bathroom Nick taking the opportunity for a quick shower when Lance had unintentionally nodded off mid-conversation.
Looking closer Lance recognised the pattern on the bedspread, Nick; it appeared had drawn this from life. Lance was stunned, did he really look like that when he slept, was that how Nick saw him?
Lance returned to work with the now normal interruptions from Chris and occasionally Joey too. Joey’s film was now in post-production and due to hit the cinemas early February but until the usual round of promotion began, personal appearances, talk shows, radio, the whole nine yards, Joey was free to spend time with his family and friends.
Lance whom Joey considered to be both and so warranted twice the attention, found himself effective kidnapped, stolen away from his office to stay with Joey, Kelly and Brianna at the Fatone home for the majority of December. Brianna was in seventh heaven, with both her father home and godfather in attendance.
Brianna who had always loved to cuddle up with either man started to spend more time with Lance, quietly observing in the way only children can. Of an evening, she often snuggled up in his strong masculine arms while watching a movie. At such times, when he was warm and comfortable, Lance would easily drift off to sleep. And there she would sit, quiet, unnoticed, waiting. Only when she was sure he was deeply asleep, would her tiny hand sneak to Lance’s torso, rubbing gentle circles against his growing stomach Brianna’s little girl voice would whisper softly of secrets, fairies, and magic.
Across the other side of the country the Backstreet Boys’ tour continued with a Nick Carter gratefully free from the motion sickness that had plagued the first leg. However that was not to say his tour was free from other problems. His health continued to be a worry to the rest of the group, and following a period of dizzy spells Nick had fainted twice in public, possibly in private too, but he refused to admit anything.
The second time it happened Brian had Nick in front of the tour doctors before he had even had time to blink. After yet another round of blood tests and a through, if somewhat embarrassing, examination later the diagnosis was a case of anaemia and slightly low blood pressure. Cause unknown, the treatment a more iron rich diet and mineral supplements in addition to the vitamins they all took as a matter of course.
Doctors sucked in Nick’s opinion, he failed to see why he had needed a full examination, bad enough the guys catching the occasional glimpse of his fat stomach without being made to bare all for some MD who to make matters worse checked his prostate. How on earth a cold finger up his butt helped the stupid idiot diagnose anaemia he had no idea and the man was nothing but a quack if he didn’t realise that latex glove or not that finger was enough to stress him, sending his heart rate through the roof and his stomach into his boots.
Nick, truth be told was not a happy bunny, no not happy, not at all. When Kevin found out what Nick had threatened to do to the Doctor, with his own stethoscope to boot, he was more than a little shocked. Shocked but nowhere near surprised; Nick had been holding it back just a little too well recently and had been overdue to blow. Still, with his own stethoscope, Kevin had winced just thinking about it, man that, well that would really hurt. Nick might look like butter would not melt in his mouth, he sang like an angel but he had to be seriously twisted to have come up with that one and boy could he be inventive when he wanted to be!
As the tour progressed Nick became increasingly sensitive about his body. He had always struggled with a poor physical self image; being too skinny way back in the beginning compared to the sculpted physiques of AJ and Howie, when he eventually started to grow he had ended up taller than even Kevin, which was pretty cool. The problems really started when he stopped growing up and started filling out, it took time for his body, messed up by a constant record, promote, tour cycle to adapt to the hormonal changes adolescence threw at him.
Being in the spotlight through his teenage years, listening to people who did not know him publicly performing a hatchet job on his appearance, supposed fans turning on him when he outgrew the little boy image they refused to let go of, hurt, caused hidden damage. When it came right down to it, it was no wonder he was a little screwy all things considered.
8th January 2007
Christmas and the New Year came and went, the tour stopped for a full three weeks, picking back up again in the second week of January, playing the remaining U.S. shows spread over a six week period before they were to head over to Europe. Nick enjoyed his time off, spending the majority of it with Aaron and their sisters while staying mostly out of Jane’s sight, he really did not want to face his mother’s opinion about his health, besides he wasn’t likely to hear something he hadn’t already heard before. Nearly twenty-seven and he was still struggling to breakaway from her shadow.
January also saw the release the BSB’s latest single, adding extra appearances and interviews to an already busy schedule. During this time it became clear to the guys that something was bothering Nick when he began to take great pains to prevent any one seeing him shirtless. They saw things coming to a head when Nick refused to wear anything but sweatpants for eight days straight except for performances and even then, they had to set Kevin on him to get him into suitable stage clothes.
What they did not see was a teary Nick pre-show, hiding behind the clothing racks trying to secure his jeans using safety pins after discovering that yet again he could not button the fly. Having hit upon a temporary solution to his expanding waist back before Christmas Nick had already substituted his trousers three times, each time swapping for a larger size without the wardrobe ladies catching on.
That trick had worked for a few months but nearing the end of January it became evident that he was running out of time, the waistband of his jeans dug into the skin of his stomach, branding an angry red line deep into the flesh across his belly and hips. Uncomfortably tight at the front the denim hung ridiculously loose everywhere else, without trying he could almost get both legs down one pant leg of the pair he was currently trying to fasten. There was simply no way he could get away with another switch, instead of hiding the problem his oversized jeans were beginning to draw unwanted attention.
Emotionally and physically off balance Nick felt unwieldy, his body alien and strange. He knew what fat felt like, had carried a few unwanted pounds before and his swollen flesh felt nothing like that now, the bulging mound was neither soft nor malleable, he couldn’t even pinch it. It was solid, which was worrying and seemed to move, on mass, while he slept.
On waking, he would sometimes find it off-centre, gravity having shifted it over to whichever side he had lain on. If he pushed gently against it, it would slowly shift back to stop when it was directly under his navel, which was unusually sensitive and seemed to be stretching, the skin immediately below it taunt and faintly discoloured.
It hurt when he had tried to press the bump flat, flatter, it was now simply too big to compress and was beginning to affect his ability to sleep, preventing him from lying on his stomach, his favourite sleeping position. To make things worse for the last month Nick had been suffering with intermittent heartburn, indigestion, an odd bubbly feeling within his guts; it was more than a little annoying.
The logical thing, the sensible thing, to do would be to see a Doctor immediately, but by that point Nick was no longer thinking logically. Having younger siblings he had a theory about what was wrong and was frantically trying not to think about it, at all, nuh-uh, thinking equalled bad idea with a capital B. As far as sensible went, well Nick was scared, totally and utterly terrified, sensible at this time could go take a flying leap.
26th January 2007
On the day Nick’s theory finally crystallised several things happened some more important than others. Events kicked off, quite literally at breakfast, which Nick ended up wearing much to AJ’s amusement and Nick’s mortal embarrassment. It seemed such an innocent thing, a bowl of cereal, drenched in ice-cold milk, defiantly ice-cold, he should know it was his lap it ended up soaking.
It was his own stupid fault, slouching down on the couch his chest seemed the ideal place to rest the bowl while he ate, except he hadn’t put the damn thing as high as he thought. Not really paying attention, he had placed it on the curve of his stomach, stupid, stupid boy, great way to draw attention to the one thing he was desperately trying to hide, and hiding something the shape and size of a distended beer belly was getting harder by the day.
There he was, bump clearly on display, might have well painted it neon green with flashing purple lights, and Howie, Howie was looking, looking right at him, a tiny crease between his brows. And then, it happened! The annoying fluttery feeling returned with a vengeance, except it was not so fluttery anymore, coalescing into a more rolling, thumping movement, less like painful indigestion and more a sort of kicking sensation.
Actually, it was exactly like a kick, a hard kick up into his diaphragm, right below his ribs, lifting the bowl, tipping it, spilling his breakfast and making him look a complete plank at the same time. AJ, who thought Nick had simply knocked the bowl over, well AJ had thought only Howie could hit notes that high, Nick proved him wrong and AJ laughed so hard he came close to wetting himself.
Howie, trying to connect what he actually saw with everything that had been going on recently began to get a clue, the same clue which had just jumped up and slapped Nick, done a little twirl, stuck out its’ tongue and scampered off to Never Never Land to taunt crocodiles with the Lost Boys.
Nick decided he was well and truly screwed. Actually had been come to think of it, such a shame he could not remember the event, must have been some night!
The clue returned, getting right in Nick’s face, called him an idiot then pranced off to draw pink smiley faces on Kevin’s underwear while whistling Dixie.
Nick thought he had never been so glad to have stolen Lance’s phone numbers in his life, and there came that blasted clue again. Oh good god, Lance! Last time they had seen each other they had compared their little sticky-out bellies. How could they have been so stupid?
Oh hang on, yes ok, Nick admitted it was possible he could, half the time he wasn’t quite on the same planet as most of the population, but then again, not his fault, besides the inside of his mind was kinda busy, flooded with thoughts and ideas, it was not surprising he sometimes got distracted.
Damn it, distracted, he had done it again. Lance, he had to phone Lance. Ack! No, clothes, he had to change clothes first, then call Lance, hell he might be a bit out there but he had his priorities right and there was no way in Hades he was going to have probably the weirdest conversation of his life wearing sodden undies.
The only problem was Lance, who, was not answering either of his phones. Nick tried phoning, text massages, e-mails, all to no response. Nothing worked until he finally remembered Lance had said he was going to visit Joey for the week, keeping Joey out of Kelly’s way while she organised a special party for his thirtieth birthday.
Great, Nick now knew where Lance was but there was just one problem, Nick didn’t have Joey’s phone number, but he knew someone that did, Chris. Chris would and Howie would have Chris’s number. Therefore, Nick did the logical thing and ‘borrowed’ Howie’s phone, planning to return it immediately after copying the number. It had been a good plan, except for one tiny thing, he forgot to include in his calculations the fact Howie was almost surgically attached to his phone and would notice its’ absence within minutes.
Apparently helping Howie search for it, Nick was actually trying to slide it between the cushions of the sofa in Brian’s room when the offending object began to ring in his hand. Luckily, Howie who was currently looking on the other side of the room with his back to Nick failed to see Nick toss it straight up in the air in surprise; coming down again to land on the back of the chair opposite. Alerted by the sound Howie eventually tracked it by following the ring tone.
After that narrow escape, Nick wasted several precious minutes covering his tracks, stealing Brian’s palm pilot and hiding it in AJ’s wash kit, AJ finding it later when he went to shower. He also helped a few more personal objects relocated themselves and inadvertently triggered the next round of their never-ending prank wars. No one ever realised that Howie’s missing phone was not the first in the series of pranks.
By three p.m. Nick finally managed to call Chris’s phone which went immediately to voicemail. Over the next hour he tried ringing several more times each with the same result, the fifth time it happened he cursed and hung up, only to realise that swearing into the answer phone was probably not the best way to get Chris to return the call. Quickly ringing back, he stuttered an apology and left a rather garbled message, panic colouring his tone.
Time soon ran away and Nick found himself bundled off to the venue where he became caught up concert preparations, his phone left backstage during sound check rang quietly to itself in an empty dressing room.
The Boys noticed that Nick seemed a little distracted, almost messing up his lines on two separate occasions and failing to join in when Brian began to goof off. On top form, Nick would soon follow Brian’s lead so when Brian started to purposely reverse his dance steps, facing to the right instead of left and turning his back instead of facing the front, he was surprised when Nick remained completely oblivious.
Sound check finished, the Boys had several hours to themselves before the concert and Nick vanished backstage disappearing into the maze of corridors, phone clutched tightly in his hand before Brian had a chance to corner him and check what was bothering his friend. Unable to track down his ‘little brother’ Brian wandered around for a while before playing ball with Kevin, hoping to catch Nick before they hit the road again.
Nick, meanwhile had retreated to the privacy of his bus where he finally managed to connect with Chris, who was more than a little curious to be getting unsolicited calls from Carter the Elder. As it turned out Nick did not need Joey’s number after all, Chris having not long arrived at the Fatone family home. When Nick mentioned his reason for ringing, expressing an urgent need to talk to Lance, Chris’s manner suddenly became serious, explaining that Lance was sick and could not come to the phone because he was sleeping.
Hearing this Nick became panicky; maybe he had made a mistake, if Lance was sick maybe he was wrong, maybe he was sick too. Before he could become too upset, the deep tones of Lance’s voice, rough with sleep, came over the line, taking the phone off Chris when Chris told him whom he was speaking to.
Finally getting to speak to Lance, Nick struggled to find a way to bring up the subject he needed to discuss, resorting to simple pleasantries to fill the silence, enquiring after Lance’s health. When Lance mentioned he had been to his Doctor, there was something in Lance’s voice that lead Nick to the conclusion; he was trying to hide something.
That was the last straw and the effort of constantly questioning his own sanity became too much, Nick cracked and blurted out that he thought he was pregnant. In the shocked silence that followed his confession, Nick clearly heard Lance gasp and then stillness filled the air.
The next thing Nick knew the line was occupied with the sound of Chris demanding to know what he had said to Lance, accusing Nick of breaking his already sick friend. Figuring that he had already lost his mind Nick said it again and was blown away when instead of hysterical laughter he heard Chris’s quiet, ‘Oh hell, not you too!’
Eventually Lance revived enough to rejoin them, Chris dialling Lance’s phone so they could carry on a three-way conversation. Lance, it turned out had figured things out first purely by accident. The unfortunate Nick had been suffering symptoms nearly the entire time, where as Lance had sailed through the past twenty-two weeks with little inconvenience.
Even after the procedure to fix his irregular heartbeat, Lance took the health of his heart extremely seriously and it was uncharacteristic fatigue, which finally drove Lance to see his Mississippian Doctor. As a small town practitioner Lance’s Doctor was used to dealing with a variety of complaints and with the help of a midwife took care of the majority of the area’s obstetric needs.
Checking Lance’s heartbeat she had picked up an unusual thrumming sound, it was a simple act to follow the sound with the stethoscope as it gradually grew louder the further down his torso she moved. To say the Doctor, let alone Lance, had been stunned when using a Doppler they heard the unmistakable sound of the rapid pulse of a foetal heartbeat, was an understatement.
Falling back on the people he trusted the most, Lance had told Joey only the day before, knowing that having lived with a pregnant Kelly his friend would likely recognise the changes in Lance’s body in addition to being a untapped source of information on the subject.
Arriving at Joey’s late last night, Chris had taken one look at Lance and bust out laughing; trying to speak through the fit the only word they could make out was Dublin, which seemed to set him off into further peals of laughter every time he managed to pronounce it.
After sleeping on it the three friends had spent the morning discussing Lance’s plans, their manner subdued in recognition of the seriousness of the situation. Lance trusted his Doctor implicitly and with her help was planning to disappear from the public eye before it became impossible to hide his condition. With Nick’s confession, it seemed that things had taken an unexpected turn and their plans would need to be altered.
Aware that Joey’s imminent film release was likely to throw the rest of *NSYNC back into the spotlight, Nick refused to let either Chris or Lance come out to see him just then. Both needed to spend what little time they could now with Joey while things remained quiet, besides Nick said he wasn’t selfish enough to take them away from his birthday bash, turning thirty was more important and would only be a single day while Nick and Lance were going to remain pregnant for a good number of weeks to come.
Emotionally exhausted Nick fell asleep almost as soon as the call ended, sleeping solidly through the sound of the growing number of fans gathering outside the venue, waking only when Brian tracked him down, gently shaking him awake. Nick openly smiled as they prepared backstage, setting Brian’s mind at ease that he had resolved whatever had been bothering him earlier.
It was not until later, replaying the day’s events in the quiet of his bunk that it occurred to Nick that Joey was not the only one whose wife had had a baby, and if Lance had figured that was all it would take for Joey to realise his condition then what was Nick going to do about Brian?
28th January 2007
The day of Nick’s twenty-seventh birthday dawned with the rest of the group crammed onto Nick’s bus, their plans to spend the travel day with the birthday boy hitting the proverbial brick wall when Nick woke with the beginnings of a migraine. The visual aura of swirling lights made him queasy and soon put an end to his participation in a video game marathon. Instead, he curled up like an overgrown child on the couch, his feet in Brian’s lap and head resting against Howie’s warm thigh.
When he began to whimper as the band of pain wrapped around his temples tightened, Howie gently rubbed the back of his neck while Brain dug through the small bathroom searching out Nick’s medication. Returning with the prescription container, he was surprised when Nick refused to take the small pink pills, confused by Nick’s softly spoken, “Can’t, not safe!”
Nick had been using medication to control his infrequent migraines for as long as the Boys could remember, it always helped to alleviate the crippling headaches so for Nick to suddenly refuse the relief he knew it would bring seemed worryingly out of character.
With an ice pack held against his forehead Nick eventually fell asleep so when his phone began to ring Howie quickly snatched it up, the caller ID displayed the name Janet but the voice on the other end sounded suspiciously like Chris Kirkpatrick, who squeaked when he heard the wrong person answer and hung up. Who the hell was Janet and why was Chris calling Nick’s phone? Confused Howie was convinced that this was just another missing piece of the puzzle.
Nick slept through the stop for lunch, finally waking less than a hour before they were due to halt for the night, thankfully his migraine had eased to a mild pressure behind his left eye and he was able to function fairly normally again. Knowing from experience that Nick would be subdued for several hours even after his head cleared, when he would be left feeling washed out with what he called a migraine hangover, the Boys chose to leave their questions over his odd behaviour until later.
Looking forward to the opportunity to shower in something a little larger than the closet sized cubicles found on the buses and with a hot water tank that would last longer than ten minutes the Boys separated upon reaching the motel with plans to regroup after they had settled in, the restaurant book in advance, Nick’s birthday cake waited for him.
Opening his bedroom door Nick was surprised to find a box waiting for him on the bed. Dumping his suitcase by the dresser, he sat on the bed pulling the package into his lap. The printed label was addressed to him care of the Motel, with no return address to offer a clue as to who had sent it.
Carefully tearing open one end, he found a bundle of material and an envelope containing a single folded sheet of A4 paper. Choosing to read the letter first he soon realised Lance had sent him a birthday present. Lance expressing his regrets at not being there when Nick need him, simply stated they would speak soon. He ended by saying he hoped he had sent the right size.
Puzzled, Nick explored the bundle, looking closely at the clothes he found, he realised that Lance had sent several pairs of elasticated maternity slacks and jeans, all carefully altered to fit a more masculine form, with zip and button flies. Teary-eyed Nick realised that Lance, aware of his clothing problem had set about solving it quietly and without fuss.
He thought about what Lance had done while he showered, deciding that he had to find someway to repay his kindness, the trousers were more than just a solution to his inability to fit into his usual clothing, they were also a lifeline, which would allow Nick to continue to hide his condition for a little while longer.
He knew that he and Lance were in a lot of trouble, there was no way a human male was supposed to get pregnant and here they were both with child. There was no way they could persist in hiding his condition from the Boys, he was going to have to tell them soon and the idea scared him, at least Lance had had no choice but to believe him.
Drying off in the bathroom Nick finally took the time to explore the changes to his naked body. Some when within the last few days his navel had ‘popped’ out, with one finger he traced its’ distorted shape. Examining his reflection in the mirror, he was able to distinguish the dark ‘Linea Nigra‘ bisecting his distended belly from navel to pelvic bone where it disappeared into his pubic hair, the brown line he distinctly remembered from his mother’s pregnancy with Aaron and Angel.
Other changes not so outwardly notable included a mass of blue veins covering his upper chest, branching out under the skin the web of blood vessels spread out from his nipples, which themselves were more sensitive especially around the silver barbell he wore through his remaining piercing. Larger now the aurora were much darker pink, his nipples a deep red bud at the centre. Gently squeezing what appeared to be tiny budding breasts Nick was surprised to see a few drops of a thin yellowish liquid leak from one nipple, surely that was not normal?
Then again, what about the whole situation was normal? Just one more thing to put on his list of questions to answer, something else to discuss with Lance, he planned on hitting the internet as soon as he got back onto the bus, thankful that his laptop would be ready and waiting to aid his research in the morning.
Nick dressed in a pair of the new slacks, semi formal black cotton; he wore a green long sleeved button down shirt loosely over the top, the top three buttons undone to show a light grey undershirt. He wiggled a little to settle the pants over his hips, the waistband slightly higher than he was used to, but thankfully no longer cutting into his skin.
The trousers were a pretty good fit; a hidden panel on each side concealed extra material that gave room for his stomach to grow and meant that he would be able to continue to wear them over the coming months as his waist expanded. Truthfully, it was a relief to be wearing something that did not swamp his legs; an end to the oversized pants meant an end to saggy butts and excess material bunching around his legs.
The Nick who walked into the restaurant that evening was one who looked smarter than he had for months, the man who surprised his friends by sticking to water through out the meal was a Nick who smiled and glowed with happiness as they celebrated the anniversary of his birth.
1st February 2007
After several days travel across state the Boys’ cavalcade pulled into the next city on the tour, with no concert that night Kevin and Howie had plans to go out while AJ simply wanted to crash and Brian had a phone date with his wife and son. Nick managed to talk the hotel manager into opening the pool for him again an hour after it would normally shut, his security guard waiting outside the door offered a sense of privacy keeping away unsuspecting hotel guests.
Nick swam several lengths before simply floating, the cool water feeling like bliss on his aching body, weightless he relaxed his limbs, the water supporting his soccer-ball sized abdomen, lifting its weight from his back, offering relief from the pressure it exerted on his pelvis and soothing the periodic sciatic pains which plagued his left leg and lower back.
Nick floated on his back, arms outstretch for balance, hips bent slightly to submerge his belly. The water around him was calm, disrupted only by the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, an occasional ripple appearing whenever the skin of his stomach was disturbed by the movements of the child within. The outline of a tiny heel appeared, travelling across the circumference before disappearing again as the baby stretched and rolled over within its’ watery sanctuary.
Quiet and still Nick could hear his pulse in his ears where the water surrounding his head amplified the sound of the blood pumping around his body. Closing his eyes he wondered if this was what it felt like for the foetus in his womb, presuming that he had a womb, although he was pregnant therefore it stood to reason it had to be growing somewhere, so why not in a uterus?
A loud clatter behind the closed pool doors broke his concentration and Nick jerked upright, his sudden movement causing him to disappear below the surface only to reappear moments later coughing and spluttering to expel the water he had inadvertently tried to inhale.
Without either contact lenses or his glasses, Nick could barely make the clock on the far wall, but by squinting, he was surprised to see that he had been in the pool for the better part of an hour and a half. It was no wonder the skin on his fingers was wrinkled, he guessed his feet were in a similar state but bending down to check was beginning to be a problem.
Deciding that staying longer would only increase the risk of discovery Nick boosted himself up onto the side using his arms only to find he could not twist at the waist to lift his lower half onto the side. With a sigh over yet another effect from his condition, he dropped back down and swam over to the ladder. After a hasty shower to wash the chlorine from his skin and hair he redressed and with security escort firmly in tow returned to his room where he planned on dinner while watching a little TV before getting an early night.
He was therefore surprised to find both dinner and Lance waiting for him. Before he could stutter out more than a simple hello the bathroom door opened and Chris appeared, holding out a cold wet wash-cloth which Lance gratefully took and place on the back of his neck with a muttered ‘headache‘.
Nick carefully seated himself opposite Lance on the bed and took a good look at his friend, shorter than Nick; Lance’s lighter build was less able to conceal his gravid state. To Nick’s experience eye he looked pale and travel tired, nothing a good night’s sleep wouldn’t cure, but if Lance was having the same sort of problems Nick was then a good night’s sleep was becoming harder to obtain.
Caught up in his observations Nick completely forgot about the other man in the room and was startled when Chris walked over and hugged him. Deprived of such simple human contact due to his efforts to avoid discovery Nick nearly cried at the feel of strong arms offering support, did cry when Lance leaned over and joined in the hug.
Held safe, Nick gave free rein to his emotions, allowing the raging hormones in his system to vent all the pain, fear, frustration, anger. A catharsis of the soul, sobbing out everything he needed to before calm settled and he was able to talk with a clear head and heart.
After the final sobs ceased Chris and Lance let go, sitting back they however remained close enough that they pressed against Nick, warm and comfortable, both giving and receiving comfort from the contact.
Chris began to curse when his phone rang, the ID showing Justin’s number, Chris simply turning the phone off. Justin, it transpired had been particularly unpleasant to Lance the day before, believing that because it was his birthday he could get away with behaviour that would not normally be tolerated. He had instead alienated the other four members of *NSYNC, Joey and Chris, standing by Lance without hesitation, and surprisingly JC, who at that point had been ignorant of Lance’s condition, had finally stepped in and taken sides.
Maybe it was the fact JC had stood up to Justin, told him off in no uncertain terms, that had caused Justin to realise exactly how he had been behaving towards the four men he supposedly claimed as brothers and friends. No matter the cause, the four had closed ranks and shut him out. Joey, taking care of Lance; they departed the party early, to much speculation, setting the entertainment press buzzing.
In the aftermath, JC had been filled in about Lance’s condition but only with Nick’s permission would be told his secret. JC had asked for and was now included in the planning committee, ready willing and able to make the two expectant men’s lives as easy as possible. Justin however they had sent to Coventry, ignoring all and every effort to contact them. It was unpleasant, like cutting off a limb, but it needed to be done for their own peace of mind and Justin had to pay the price for his behaviour for a little while longer.
Explanation to the refused phone call aside the three men worked through a considerable amount of information, discussing how the situation had possibly arisen. Nick nearly had hysterics when they recounted what had transpired in Dublin. It took several minutes for him to stop laughing, the entire farcical situation suiting his sense of humour to a T, he could not find it in himself to blame them, having had some extremely strange drunken conversations himself over the years.
When he finally settled down, Nick wanted to know that as they were pregnant when could they expect to see J-Lo enter the arena? Chris very nearly wet himself while Lance’s laughter woke his baby and triggered a series of uncomfortable kicks and punches as it rolled about. Nick, contrite, helped settle Lance’s child by softly caressing the flexing skin of his belly using a series of circular movements he had found worked when his own baby kept him awake.
The feel of the other man’s taunt stomach helped drive home that Lance, and by default Nick, was truly pregnant, that this bizarre situation was really happening and not some weird figment of his twisted imagination.
It was late by the time Chris fell asleep, but by then Lance had already explained everything his Doctor had discovered. Nick being correct about the whole uterus issue, it seemed that the baby, babies, were to get out exactly the same way the father’s genetic contribution had gotten in. Her theory that the two men would shortly experience a few further physical changes, simply continuing from those that allowed them to get pregnant in the first place, which would help facilitate the actual birth process.
Using the information obtained from Lance, she had given them an expected due date of April 24th, guessing that they would deliver around about thirty-eight weeks gestation. A normal pregnancy was forty weeks but this was counted from the last day of a woman’s menstrual period, approximately two weeks before conception. Neither man was constrained by such a time delay and knowing the date of conception had to be with a limited period of a few days from the one and only time the two had slept together she had discounted the first two weeks.
With Chris sleeping beside them the two fathers-to-be continued to talk for hours, having finished with the essential nuts’n’bolts subjects they talked about their feelings on the matter, compared the progression of their second trimester, and finally discussed what little they could remember of the night everything had started, the night of the VMA’s.
Nick, was at long last able to talk to somebody who understood his confusion over the events of that night. The mental struggle and pain it had triggered in questioning and trying to understand his sexual identity. As the cause of Nick’s self-examination had partially been his fault Lance offered a kiss, nothing more, to the still undecided Nick as a simple gesture, an experiment to try to help the other man decide if his sexuality truly responded to a masculine element.
Laying them down Lance started with a gentle press of his lips against Nick’s; gauging his response, he slowly increased the pressure. When Nick remained still Lance started to withdraw, convinced that Nick’s stillness was a negative reaction, he was surprised to feel one of Nick warm hands slowly slide along his jaw, the fingers lifting to run through the short spikes of his hair towards the back of his head. The hand settled there, gently but firmly holding him in place, Nick’s lips opening slightly beneath his own as his tongue softly probed forth, seeking entrance into Lance’s mouth.
Lance relaxed, letting Nick take the lead, he parted his lips and sucked on Nick’s lower lip as Nick’s tongue explored. Nick, breathing deeply through his nose gave up control, giving his all to the kiss, both hands now cradling Lance’s head between his palms, the feel of Lance’s skull registering to his aroused brain as different. It took him a little while to realise that it felt larger and heavier than a woman’s. Instead of being off-putting, the realisation that Lance was physically different even to such a small detail in fact heightened Nick’s arousal, the recognition that a man’s body was tougher, could take more, fanned the flames higher.
It did not take much to send Nick’s sex deprived body close to the edge, when Lance unconsciously started to rub himself against Nick’s thigh his own thigh rose to press between Nick’s legs. It only took moments for Nick to shatter, flying apart in a blaze of white light, he did not even realise that Lance continued to work against him, seeking and finally obtaining his own release echoed by deep groans of pleasure.
Exhausted and aided by the post-sex release of endorphins both men’s bodies soon relaxed and not even the sticky evidence of their spent passion damping their clothes could prevent the dark wings of sleep carrying them away from consciousness.
Chris who had been woken by Lance’s distinctive sexual moans had realised what was happening and played dead. He was a little shocked to be confronted by the pair actually having sex, of sorts, with him in the bed too. He was fully aware of Lance’s sexuality and Nick’s appeared to be following a similar path, otherwise they both would not have ended up in the condition they were currently in.
Understanding his friend’s bisexual nature was one thing, it was another to actually have ringside seats while he was expressing those feelings with another man, Lance having sex in any form was something a little more than he really wanted to know. Not that he found gay sex disgusting or unnatural, more of a case of T.M.I. like when you realised that your parents still had sex. Hell, he knew what his prostate could do, was not apposed to having it stimulated, but men simply did nothing for him, he stood more chance of getting turned on by a kick in the nuts than by a member of his own sex.
Chris kept himself occupied by counting to ten in his head in as many languages as he could remember until they finally stilled and settled. Once he was sure they both were soundly asleep he eased carefully off the bed, quietly tidied away the remains of dinner. He gently covered the two sleeping men before turning off the lights and pushing the room service trolley ahead of him left them alone.
Leaving the trolley outside the door, he waved to the two security men guarding the corridor and returned to the room he and Lance had booked. At least one of them was likely to get some use out of it tonight and this way he would not have to listen to Lance snore.
3rd February 2007
Saturday morning found the Boys still in the hotel, with an early morning appearance scheduled at a local TV station before they were due to hit the road after lunch. The previous day’s concert had gone off with only one or two minor technical problems which would easily be rectified in time for the next show.
Nick had kept his own performance problems quiet, it was not something the crew could do anything about, just another thing to chalk up to his pregnancy, the weight of his unborn child was disrupting his centre of gravity and he had stumbled several times during the, thankfully few, dance routines. He was going to have to be more careful in future, figuring he better schedule time for a couple of private solo practice sessions until he adapted.
Chris and Lance had somehow managed to stay out of sight for the entire day. Although Nick knew Chris at least had been out and about around the hotel, the security personnel made no mention of his activities. Lance seemed content to sleep for most of the day, recovering from the long plane flight down and preparing for the following day’s travel.
Lance had again spent the night in Nick’s bed, spooned against Nick’s back as much as his bump would allow, Nick was a little disconcerted to feel Lance’s baby kicking at his back while his own pushed in a similar fashion under his ribs. The dual sensation was somewhat weird, but also comforting, both his babies touching him at the same time, for he was carrying Lance’s child and Lance was carrying his.
Opening the connecting door between their two rooms to make sure Nick was up and moving, Brian nearly got the shock of his life, saved only by the thick comforter, which the two men had covered themselves with. By the size of the lump under the sheets it was clear that Nick was not sleeping alone, that and the fact the foot sticking out the side of the bed was defiantly smaller than one of Nick’s. The covers obscured anything more but Brian was pretty sure that the ankle attached to that foot sported a tattoo, its’ design unclear due to the lack of light, but something about it nagged at his consciousness.
Nick, caught in the comfortable stage of waking moaned when the tattoo’s owner shifted position, drawing Brian’s attention up the bed as Lance rolled further to lay on his back, the swell of his stomach clearly outlined in the shadowy light. Brian backed through the door into his own room, trying to process what he had seen, for not only was Nick in bed with someone, that someone was apparently pregnant. Nick had not had a girlfriend for nearly a year so who was in his bed and more importantly, was he the father of the unborn child?
Brian was quiet at breakfast, mulling over everything in his mind, he could not shake the feeling that he was missing something, something fairly important. Nick arrived late for breakfast; with a muttered sorry, he stopped to grab a few slices of dry toast before sliding aboard the van to the TV station. Eating as they travelled Nick’s full mouth prevented him from answering the questions Brian had wanted to ask.
Arriving at the station, the Boys were swiftly run through makeup and wired up to portable mic packs. The hosts took a few minutes to chat during the first advert break, ready to introduce the group as soon as the live cameras turned their way again. After performing two tracks from Northwards, they answered questions from the hosts and audience. Nick who blushed faintly when someone asked the standard query into their private lives, simple replied that there was the possibility of someone new; it was too early to say. The other Boys’ managed to hide their surprise under the noise of the whooping fans.
Nick refused to elaborate during the next break, looking uncomfortable when AJ called him a dog and slapped his chest. AJ looked nearly as puzzled as Nick when his hand came away from Nick’s shirt damp, a tiny wet spot on the material covering his left nipple.
Before anyone could say anything they were counted in and the cameras were back, taking their places before their microphone stands once again they launched into ‘Everybody’ along with silly versions of the dance steps Brian and Nick goofed about much to the fans delight. It was dancing which nearly became Nick’s undoing, catching his left foot on the edge of the low stage he twisted his knee, barely able to catch himself before he fell, his heart thudded in his chest at how close he had come to hitting the deck.
At the end of the song, out of sight of the cameras he limped off behind the scenes to collapse in the Green room, his knee throbbing in time with his pulse. The remaining Boys’ finished the interview without Nick, later finding him slumped pale faced in a chair, knee elevated and covered by an ice pack.
It was clear that Nick was not up to seeing the fans afterwards and with Brian’s help returned to the Hotel, AJ, Howie, and Kevin covering for them, their presence was however missed and those fans who had been in the audience and seen Nick slip asked about him, checking that their golden boy was ok.
Back at the hotel Brian helped the hobbling Nick inside his room, sitting him down on the edge of the, luckily, Lance free bed. Wondering where his erstwhile bed mate had disappeared to, Nick failed to pay attention when Brian asked if he needed assistance removing his pants so they could ice his knee properly. Agreeing without really thinking Nick lifted the bottom of his shirt and unzipped his fly.
Brian’s swift tug on the legs of his jeans sent Nick tumbling backwards, his shirt flipping up to reveal the curve of his distended abdomen, complete with outtie belly button, Linea Nigra, and silvery red stretch marks. It was hard to say which of the two men was more stunned, Nick knew that Brian was intimately familiar with the visible signs of pregnancy and if that was not enough to convince Brian, the baby, disturbed by the motion of Nick’s backwards movement, chose to display its’ presence by throwing out its’ limbs, the outline of tiny hands and feet pressed clearly into his skin from within his belly.
With a thump, Brian sat down heavily on the carpet as his legs simply gave out beneath him. Nick suddenly nauseous, tumbled off the opposite side of the bed, legs caught in his jeans he scrambled on his hands and good knee, reaching the bathroom just in time to lose his light breakfast.
It was on this frozen tableau that Lance and Chris walked in, immediately accessing the situation Lance hurried in to the bathroom, drawn by the sound of Nick heaving. Chris carefully made his way to the silent Brian, making sure not to startle the stunned man he sat on the floor beside him, reaching out to place a warm hand against the chilled skin of Brian’s arm.
Brian jerked seeming to come back to himself at the gentle touch, everything suddenly making painful sense. The months of ‘motion’ sickness, strange eating habits, localised weight gain, body image problems, oversized clothes, more than usual clumsiness, even today’s wet shirt. Nick, his little brother, his Frack, a man, was going to have a baby. It was just as well he had already fallen down, Brian decided; otherwise, he probably would have fainted.
When Lance lead a shaky Nick back into the bedroom Brian did not know where to look first, at Nick, now wrapped in a towelling robe, the belt ends barely meeting around his waist, to Lance. Lance who was dressed much the same as Nick had been earlier, his shirt pulled tight across his chest as he supported Nick clearly defining his own baby bump.
Brian took everything in silently, finally making the deductive leap between the man before him and the pregnant ‘woman’ from Nick’s bed, that ankle tattoo, the design which had nagged at him, Lance’s *NSYNC flaming star. Nick’s admission of a possible relationship, he had to have meant Lance. Things were getting more than a little weird and Brian longed for the simple comfort of his wife’s embrace.
Supported by Lance’s grip, Nick came close to panic, the desire to flee held back only by the strong arms wrapped around his chest, the gentle movements against his back as Lance’s baby moved helping to ground him, to fight the feelings. This really had not been how he had imagined telling the person closest to him, Brian not responding how he perhaps naively had hoped.
The four sat silently for what felt like hours before Brian found his voice, his simply query, a plaintive how?, opened the flood gates and words spilled forth, running freely from Nick’s lips as he explained to his Frick, faltering and stuttering at first his voice carried clearly in the still room. In less than fifteen minutes, Nick managed to explain, sticking to the basic facts, avoiding the complicated mess of emotions that simmered below the surface.
When Nick finally fell silent, Brian expressed a desire to see Nick again, trying to use the evidence of his own eyes to back up what Nick had said, and fight the logical voice in the back of his mind that insisted that men could not have babies. With Lance’s help Nick untied the robe, slowly pushing back the material to reveal his naked torso, sitting in just a low slung pair of boxers he allowed Brian’s hands to touch his taunt skin. Lance’s hands pressed gently over Brian’s, holding them in place as the foetus within stretched and rolled, innocently performing for the men.
Fortuitous, or not, it was hard to tell but it was this scene that the rest of the Boys walked in on, the intense expressions of the faces of the seated men barely registering to Kevin, Howie, and AJ. Scarcely realising that Chris was even there they stumbled to a halt just inside the bedroom door, stopping half in and half out of the living room.
AJ’s yelped ‘Frickin Hell’, preceded Kevin’s loud demands to know exactly what was going on. Howie remained silent, receiving the confirmation that his solution to the ‘Nick’ puzzle had indeed been correct, thankful that he really had not been losing his mind.
The sound of raised voices was the final straw for Nick, in an already trying day, and he turned into Lance, burying his face in the curve of the other man’s neck as he burst into silent tears. His twisted upper body forcing his gravid belly further into Brian’s hands as Lance’s fell away to lift and wrap around Nick’s shuddering shoulders, one hand lifting to cradle the back of his head, fingers gently rubbing soothing circles on his scalp.
It was Chris who broke the building tension, quietly interrupting the awkward scene, explaining once again the situation that Nick and Lance found themselves in. It was the unusually serious expression on his face that registered with Kevin, while he tried to understand something so patently impossible, that finally convinced him that the four men were not involved in some elaborate prank.
Exhausted by his emotional outburst Nick fell asleep in his lover’s embrace, tears still slowly rolling down his cheeks from his closed eyes, while Brian’s hands continued to support his belly. Barely able to keep his own eyes open Lance lent his head against Nick’s and allowed unconsciousness to claim him, the two men only held upright by leaning on the other’s body. When Nick shifted slightly the pair slowly leaned over to lay on the thick carpet, rolling face to face, their arms wrapped around their bodies pressing them as close together as their swollen bellies allowed.
Unable to leave the other four Boys allowed Chris to herd them to the far side of the room where they settled to watch the two sleeping men. Knowing Nick and Lance’s thoughts and plans Chris quickly brought them up to date with the rest of the planning committee, setting his phone to speaker he rang both JC and Joey, using the three-way function to first inform JC about Nick and then acted as committee chairperson as they tried to work out what to do next.
Kevin’s suggestion to cancel the European leg of the tour was vetoed by Chris, knowing that Nick was determined not to let his condition affect business as far as was humanly possible, he wanted to complete the tour before having to disappear. Nick had debated long and hard with Lance the pros and cons of continuing to work and had finally decided that as they only had another three weeks performing in the US and four in Europe, he would be approximately thirty weeks along when the tour ended. Six weeks before they were due, an eight month belly would be harder to disguise but it would still be possible and after they had checked with various airlines they realised that it would still be safe to fly for another four weeks, by which time they would both be safely hidden away.
It was decided that they needed to come up with a way to protect Nick on stage; today had proved that dancing was a problem. The show contained fewer fast routines than previous tours but still involved some choreography and the trapdoor entrance would have to go altogether. There was no way Nick would allow them to take away his guitar sections so they did not even consider it, their only thoughts on the subject centred around his ability to reach around his belly as it became larger.
Some things they touched on were put to one side to be discussed at a later date simply because Nick was an unknown factor. There was no way they could currently predict how he would react to a given situation now let alone in a couple of weeks time. Brian knew from first hand experience that the effects of pregnancy hormones simply could not underestimated.
Two things they all managed to agree on, one, someone inconspicuous needed to be with Nick at all times, someone they could trust and unlikely to draw media attention, which counted out any of the *NSYNC guys including Lance, whom needed to stay out of the spotlight himself.
And, two, Nick needed to be checked by Lance’s Doctor. It was dangerous to bring too many people in on the secret, the Doctor; already possessed detailed knowledge had proven she could be trusted. Kevin would e-mail copies of their schedule to everyone and JC was given the task of speaking to the Doctor, arranging an appointment and flying her out to Nick as soon as possible. If she found anything wrong, the tour would be cancelled, despite Nick’s wishes, his health and that of the baby he carried was more important.
Back to their first point Nick needed someone with him who could keep an eye on his condition when he was not with the other Boys. Europe would not be quite as difficult as the US as they were only going to have two buses instead of one each, but they still had their own hotel rooms. AJ ventured the opinion that Aaron would be ideal for the job, since he and Nick frequently tour hopped when the other was performing and Aaron was currently at home with Jane and bound to be looking to escape soon.
Nick was going to have to let his family know something soon, even if it was not the complete truth, it was simply not fair to spring a newborn baby on them with no warning. The media was going to be a problem too, but they could work out a press release where by Nick, as a single parent would not come off leaving him looking irresponsible for getting some girl pregnant in the first place. They tossed ideas around, seriously debating if they could get away with a tragic accident leaving a serious girlfriend in a vegetative state, the pregnancy reason for keeping everything secretive, which could also be used to someway explain Nick’s ill health.
Lance, as a figure more in the background would not need quite as complicated plans. Able to continue working from home he had already set in place structures within his companies to allow the majority of his work to be delegated as and when required and was planning on using video phone conferencing when the need for his presence was unavoidable. He had already prepared a press statement, just in case it was needed, outlining a failed relationship and claiming undisputed sole custody of his child.
Further conversation was prevented by the checkout warning call; the buses would soon be ready to depart. It was quickly decided that Howie would ride with Nick and Lance, to discuss the group’s ideas without crowding them, and to find out Nick’s feelings about letting Aaron join them. Chris meanwhile would join Kevin’s bus, the two oldest men planning on working out some the finer details and deciding what parts of the schedule would need to be altered.
Both Chris and Lance planned to stay on the tour for the next few days, helping to organise as much as possible before they drew any unwanted media attention to their presence on a rival group’s tour and before Lance’s plans to voluntarily ground himself, disappearing to one of his more secluded homes where Nick would later join him.
As usual Nick’s belongings had liberally scattered themselves around his hotel room and due to circumstances beyond his control, he had not had the opportunity to pack. Deciding it was better to let the two pregnant men sleep for as long as possible the others quickly cleared Nick’s room, packing his bags for him while Chris sorted out those items of Lance’s that had made their way into the mix.
When the call came to head out Chris gently roused Lance first, then helped him wake and dress a subdued Nick. Helping them both out to join the mass exodus, while managing to merge in with crowd, finding his current appearance allowed him to slip past the waiting fans without reaction. There was something to be said for no longer having to remain in perfect performance fitness and Chris had defiantly enjoyed the freedom to finally look his age, at thirty-five his knees were also thankful.
19th February 2007 A.M
Chris and Lance departed the Northwards Tour a little over a week after they had joined it. Both managing for the most part to remain below the radar with only Lance being recognised by fans just before departing from the last hotel. They stayed long enough to introduce Lance’s Doctor when she flew in from Mississippi to examine Nick.
Shutting him away in his room she had carefully palpitated his stomach, checked his vitals; heart, pulse, blood pressure, detecting only the Postural Hypotension which had erroneously been diagnosed as low blood pressure and attributed as the cause of his past dizzy spells and fainting fits.
Her luggage produced a bulky but portable ultrasound system, designed for easy transportation in remote areas it took only moments to set up. Using the incorporated Doppler, she quickly located the foetus’s heartbeat, the rapid whooshing noise filling the otherwise quiet room, before falling quiet when she moved on to the actual ultrasound.
Unprepared for the chill of the cold conducting gel that she liberally applied to his stomach, Nick yelp in surprise as it hit his skin. With a deft touch, the Doctor positioned the wand and after a few minor adjustments, the grainy image of his baby appeared on the tiny monitor.
As he watched the baby raised a hand to its mouth and began to suck its thumb, stunned Nick simply stared at the image while the Doctor took various measurements. Unable to look away from the screen he was mesmerised by the tiny but perfectly formed human being that by some miracle was currently growing inside his body.
Saving the clearest images to a disc, the Doctor printed several copies for Nick, placing them carefully to one side as she packed away the equipment while Nick wiped away the remains of the blue gel which was smeared over his stomach.
Next came the part Nick had been dreading, as the Doctor snapped on a latex glove and coated her fingers with lubricate he spread his legs, exposing his naked nether regions and squeezed his eyes shut. At the impersonal feeling of one finger carefully entering his body he vowed never to speak of this internal exam to anyone, one finger changed to two and then three as she gently probed within, confirming that his cervix was both present and currently un-dilated and the birth channel would be able to accommodate the baby when the time came.
Satisfied she withdrew her fingers, accidentally brushing Nick’s prostate as she did so, sending a burst of intense sensation directly into his flaccid penis, causing it to stir, lifting as it started to fill with blood. Embarrassed beyond belief by his body’s involuntary reaction Nick quickly grabbed his discarded boxer shorts to cover his groin, not knowing where to look he kept his eyes lowered as his cheeks flamed scarlet.
Snapping off the used glove and disposing of it in a yellow medical waste box, the Doctor gave him a moment to recollect his scattered dignitary by turning her attention to her notes, privately impressed by his semi-hard erection all the same.
Happy with the progression of the pregnancy and confident that he presented no complications she gave the go ahead for Nick to continue touring. Departing with Chris and Lance she left a strict set of instructions of what to do in an emergency and general day-to-day instructions on rest and nutrition, with orders for Nick to stay off his feet as much as possible and elevate his legs if the swelling in his ankles got any worse.
After the awkwardness of his examination, Nick was quite happy to see the back of her. Although he knew that she would be responsible for his pre-natal care once he returned home, he would not be seeing her for nearly a month and he hoped that would be enough time to get over his embarrassment.
A week later, the day before Brian’s birthday, Aaron arrived unexpectedly with his twin Angel in tow. The original plan had had Howie collecting Aaron from the airport where he, as the one least likely to play pranks and therefore stood more chance of being believed, was to try to explain to the younger man before he saw Nick. However, Angel, sick of home and Jane had tagged along and unable to get another seat on Aaron’s flight the twins had simply moved to an early flight, planning to surprise Nick they had forgotten to inform the Boys.
Arriving at the stadium early and unannounced the pair passed though security into the maze of tunnels backstage. It was Brian who spotted Aaron, too late to even call out a warning to Nick; he was unable to prevent the younger Carter from jumping onto his brother’s back. Unprepared for the attack Nick’s legs buckled under the added weight of the nineteen year old and he collapsed onto the hard concrete floor, twisting as he fell going straight down onto his knees carrying Aaron along with him.
Aaron was surprised to find himself on the floor next to his brother, who remained shockingly quiet. Brian, however more than made up for this, panic colouring his tone as he tried to get Nick to speak to him. It was Angel who rescued her confused twin from the floor, taking in the pained look on their older brother’s face and Brian’s worried attentions the pair backed up against the wall when it became quickly evident there was a problem.
When Nick dropped forward groaning to lean his hands on the ground Brian bolted, running straight into the dressing room at the end of the corridor, returning moments later dragging his cousin along behind him by the arm.
With Brian’s help, Kevin first straightened Nick up then scooped the marginally taller man off the floor. Staggering under his weight he carefully made his way into the dressing room where he settled Nick down on a wide recliner. Angel followed Brian; while holding on to Aaron’s hand, his fingers squeezing hers tightly, having evidently hurt his brother the young man began to feel guilty. By Nick’s bandmates’ behaviour, it was clear to the twins that something was wrong but both men were too busy with Nick to be able to answer the worried teens’ questions just then.
With his eyes tightly shut and clearly in pain, Nick simply lay back in the recliner while Kevin fussed over him, not even twitching when the older man reached over and unfastened his jeans. Taking Nick’s weight in his arms he lifted his hips up allowing Brian to gently remove his pants, both taking great pains to move Nick as little as possible while at the same time trying to shield his body from view, much to the bemusement of Nick’s siblings.
With his jeans off it was clear that both Nick’s knees were bruised, already discoloured a mottled purplish hue, which continued to darken even as they watched. His left knee, the one he had twisted only a few weeks ago, was rapidly swelling too, the skin hot and puffy as fluid became trapped in the flesh around the joint.
The injuries looked extremely painful and Aaron’s guilt grew exponentially, he had planned to surprise his brother not cripple him. It was not as if he had put on weight and although he had caught Nick off guard Nick had always been able to support their combined weight before. He was used to Aaron jumping all over him so what had gone wrong this time?
The two other men continued to work with Nick, helping him raise his legs, producing from somewhere sufficient ice to pack around both knees in an effort to limit the damage. Nick’s only conscious movement was to wrap both arms carefully around his stomach as though protecting himself, a single tear slide down his left cheek when Kevin was forced to reposition one of the ice packs, although he tried to be as gentle as possible doing so.
Aaron was rapidly becoming worried, his fear transmuting over to Angel, remembering the problems that had plagued Nick during the tour, was he sick again, were the Boys hiding something from his family?
Returning from a drink run, where they had been unsuccessful in obtaining cranberry juice to help Nick’s current problem with cystitis caused by the baby’s kicks bruising his bladder, Howie and AJ found Nicks siblings pressed together in the corner of the room. A few whispered words between the four Boys quickly established the situation and having finally done all they currently could for Nick, Kevin and Brian remembered they were not alone and realised their reactions to the incident could have well have worried the two teens.
Seeing the fear evident on the twins’ faces, it was clear that it would take a careful explanation to return control of the situation. Knowing that Nick had given permission for Aaron to be advised of his condition, it seemed cruel to make him keep that information from his sister. Hating to disturb Nick, but urgently needing his consent, Brian leaned over and whispered into Nick’s left ear, quietly asking if it was ok to tell Angel, receiving a small sigh and nod in response.
Getting Angel and Aaron to sit down proved little problem, both already quiet and withdrawn, they settled on the couch, practically sitting in the other’s lap they sat so close, drawing on their bond for comfort. As they realised what Howie and then Kevin were trying to tell them their joint gaze drifted away from their brother to stare in shock at the other men.
Movement from the recliner broke the silence that had settled over the room once Kevin finished speaking, everyone finally noticing a pair of pain-filled blue eyes observing them. Without saying a word, Nick slowly lifted the oversized football shirt he was wearing, revealing to his brother and sister their, as yet, unborn niece or nephew.
Why was it, he silently wondered, that every time he let someone else in on the secret he had to flash the bump, he was beginning to know how a stripper felt. Why did the whole process seemed to involve a ridiculous amount of drama, couldn’t he just once let somebody know without getting hurt into the bargain?
The seven of them sat in silence, the five Boys watching the two teens as they stared at Nick’s belly, both jumping when the baby clearly kicked Nick. As before, when Brian had accidentally stumbled onto the truth, the baby’s movements convinced the watchers that this was not an elaborate prank. Howie, AJ, and Kevin, not having seen the phenomenon before were clearly fascinated as well.
Aaron stood, dragging Angel with him by their joined hands, pulling her over to Nick’s side where unable to find sufficient words he spread their fingers against the ridged expanse of Nick’s exposed skin. It was warm beneath their palms, pulsing occasionally from within under their touch as the unborn stretched inside his womb.
When Aaron finally found his voice, he blurted out something that the four Boys had not had time to think about. His tone faintly coloured with a confused mix of disgust and awe, he asked Nick if he had been lying to them, if he had always been Gay?
Having had seven months to think about it, Nick was certain he was Bisexual, and had been waiting for the last few weeks to answer questions about his sexuality that until then had not been forthcoming. The Boys had simply been kept too busy, trying to re-organise everything to protect their youngest member, to stop and think about how both he and Lance had gotten pregnant in the first place.
Nick, breathing carefully around the pain in his knees, looked his brother directly in the eyes, the truth behind his reply clearly reflected on his face. He also took time to reassure both of his siblings that just because he had suddenly been forced to acknowledge what he had hidden from himself for most of his life, did not mean that were too.
The circumstances surrounding his formative years had drummed into him that being attracted to those of his own sex was simply not acceptable, to his mother, to Lou, to management, to the record company, to the fans and so he had blocked off that budding part of his sexuality before it had even had a chance to make itself known.
It had taken the effects of one drugged night to force him to start to shrug off the programming and face himself. Once free, he had found that he was happier with his mental perceptions of himself than he had ever been before. All this was clearly evident as he spoke to Aaron and at the same time Nick spoke directly to his sister and each of his adopted brothers, without once breaking eye contact with the younger man.
The room degenerated into silence once again as its occupants mentally digested Nick’s words, all realising that in some part they had received a similar message about sex. With the exception of Brian, who had been outside the world of performing until joining Backstreet, they had all received cultural programming as part and parcel of their careers. It was one thing to be openly gay in the entertainment business, it was acceptable amongst actors but for singers, especially young male singers it was something of a taboo subject. Using George Michael as a leading example, being outed had had a detrimental effect on his career which had taken him some time to recover from.
The occasional outing, forced or otherwise, still raised a few eyebrows but it was extremely rare for anyone to come out as Bi. It seemed to be an unspoken rule that you were either straight, in the closet, or gay, Bi simply was not a factor. The rumour mill was always speculating, being in a Boy Band automatically opened you up as a target from the word go. Lance and JC having been prime targets at the height of *NSYNC’s popularity, admittedly JC’s often flamboyant appearance did not help matters.
It was the growing puddle of fridged water pooling under his butt as the ice packs melted, that force Nick to break the room’s silence. The steady stream of water now freezing his genitals was somewhat difficult to ignore for any length of time. It was Kevin who immediately removed the remaining packs, a guilty look on his face for inadvertently ignoring Nick. With help from Aaron, he lifted the younger man revealing the sodden state of Nick’s underwear and shirt as water dripped onto the floor. With a swift apology they stripped him and wrapped a towel around his waist while AJ located dry clothing from his bag.
Embarrassed by her bother’s nakedness Angel turned her attentions to wiping off the recliner, spreading a second towel over the seat before Kevin set Nick back down. Up close, it became apparent that while the ice had helped reduce the bruising Nick’s left knee was visibly swollen and still hot to the touch.
Knowing that they had a sound check party in less than an hour and a two-hour concert later that evening they had no option but to call in the tour Doctor as even without medical training they could see that there was no way Nick was going to be able to stand. The majority of painkillers were out of the question due to Nick’s gravid state, realising this Howie telephoned Lance’s Doctor to consult with the tour Doc, who was clearly curious as to why Nick was unable to follow normal procedures and unhappy about being kept in the dark.
Despite being denied an explanation, he remained professional and soon had Nick’s left knee immobilised in yards of elasticated bandage and the promise of a wheelchair to help Nick get about when he saw that the bruising on his other leg would not allow Nick to walk with the crutches he had provided.
Unwittingly Aaron had managed to provide Nick with the very excuse he needed to help conceal his condition from the outside world, a valid reason to sit out the choreography on stage. Realising that he would not have to lie to the fans any more than was already necessary, Nick grabbed his brother in a headlock, giving him a smacking kiss on the forehead with his thanks which went a little way to easing Aaron’s guilt at hurting him in the first place.
19th February 2007 P.M.
With the examination and treatment taking up what little reminding free time they had had before sound check, the Boys suddenly found that they had to be on stage long before the promised wheelchair was due to arrive. With a little help from the stage crew a director’s chair was located and set up next to Kevin’s piano, a low table placed before the chair with several different sized cushions for Nick to choose from if he needed them.
There was a friendly rush to wash and make last minute adjustments ensuring they were presentable before the problem of manoeuvring Nick onto the stage could be considered. Deciding on a simple solution Kevin and Aaron linked wrists, each holding one of their own and one of the others’ interlocking to form a seat on to which Brian helped Nick sit. With both his arms locked about their shoulders they manhandled him down the corridor and onto the stage.
The audience of select fans were first puzzled and then shocked by their idols’ strange entrance. The long shorts Nick wore in no way concealing either the bruises on his right knee or the bandages that swaddled his left leg from mid-calf to half way up his thigh.
It was Aaron who explained the reason for Nick’s current state, feeling under the circumstances that it was the least he could do. The fans lapping up the whole sibling interaction, ah’d in sympathy, cooing over the younger Carter brother as he set out his plan to surprise Nick. Nick let Aaron flesh the story out a little hopefully letting them both come off looking not quite so stupid in the process, knowing that in a matter of hours the whole episode would be winging its’ way into cyberspace and into the annuls of Backstreet/Carter history.
Settled in the director’s chair with both feet propped up upon the table, resting in one of the large cushions with a smaller one pressed into the curve of his spine in a vain attempt to prove a little lumbar support, Nick soon reassured the fans that despite the current impairment to his mobility he was still perfectly able to sing, gracing the audience with the beautiful sound of his voice.
If the sound check party lacked a little of its usual sparkle, with slightly fewer incidents of physical interaction between the five men, then the fans chose not to notice. Each one taking away something special from the experience, reassured by the way Nick’s Backstreet brothers and his siblings had rallied around him showing that they all truly cared deeply for the blond.
Between sound check and the concert the Boys were scheduled for an afternoon radio interview with a couple of hours to themselves later at the hotel before they had to return to the stadium. Depositing Nick in his hotel room with snacks, water, games, the television remote, and his mobile phone all within easy reach the remaining four men departed for the radio station where they played down the severity of Nick’s injuries, stressing that although he would have to stay seated for the show that night the concert itself was under no risk of cancellation.
While the Boys worked and the twins settled into their respective suite, Nick, alone in his room was bored almost to tears. Unable to settle, the pain from his knees prevented him from sleeping and would not allow him to get into any of the many films or channels the hotel television provided. The games had proved pointless and he had given up trying with those when unable to concentrate he had died for the eighth time in less than ten minutes.
An overwhelming need to pee finally brought him to take action, unable to walk unaided and still no wheelchair in sight he carefully dropped his upper-body over the side of the bed, walking his hands along the carpet until he could clumsily roll his lower-half down onto the floor where he proceeded to shuffle backwards on his behind using only his arms for leverage.
By the time he made it into the bathroom he was fit to burst, symptoms of the cystitis causing his bladder to compete with his knees for acknowledgement of pain when he realised that he was on the floor and would not be able to stand to relieve himself. Banging his head in frustration on the closed commode lid did nothing to help the situation, but provided a temporary outlet for his feelings. Somehow, he needed to get up and if unable to stand then he would just have to sit, it was not like he could really see his dick anymore anyway, what with the baby sitting all front and centre.
Pushing his shorts and boxers down his legs was a little awkward seeing as he was sitting on them but he managed to get them down past the bandage on his left leg. The cold tiled floor freezing against his naked buttocks and testicles gave an added incentive to get up as quickly as possible. With one hand, he lifted the commode lid and then with his back against the toilet’s side he braced both hands flat against the seat, using the strength in his upper arms he slowly lifted his body up and back, to eventually slide onto the seat.
Swinging his legs around to the front he finally settled in place, arms shaking from exertion, it took several moments for Nick to remember why he had gotten out of bed in the first place. After a somewhat sharp reminder from his aching bladder he came back to the task at hand, except a hand seemed to be the next problem, most of his lap was now taken up by the baby and as he did not want to pee on the backs of his own legs he needed a hand to help direct the flow, except he could not quite reach around the front of his belly to do so.
With a few tricks a contortionist would be proud of he managed to tip his body over to the right, putting most of his weight on his better leg Nick was able to slide his left arm down the side and under his belly, reaching between his spread legs. A huge sigh of relief accompanied the release of pressure in his groin as he was finally able to take care of business.
Getting back to bed was not quite as challenging, even washing his hands turned out to be fairly simple. Nick for once glad of his height, was able to reach the taps on the sink while sitting on the floor. Turning them off again was a little harder but he managed it none the less, before sliding across the tiles to the door and over the carpet where he did a reverse roll, getting onto the bed feet first.
Once settled back against the pillows he added one more thing to rack up against the ‘Embarrassing; Never To Be Mentioned, To Anyone, Ever!’ list, although he was privately quite please at his accomplishment.
Sore from his exertions he soon became bored again, squirming about on the bed trying to get comfortable his thoughts ran to Lance, how was his friend, or should that be lover? He decided that he was not in the right mood to think about that right then. How was Lance coping with being pregnant? Nick had not seen the other man in over a week and although they had spoken briefly on the phone several times since then they had mostly stuck to confirming various plans and making arrangements.
Due to the necessity of hiding his condition, Nick had not been able to go shopping for the tacky souvenirs he usually sent his friends and he had not sent Lance a package for several weeks. He missed writing to Lance and receiving the delightfully sarcastic e-mails that he would get in response, something Nick decided he had to rectify at the earliest opportunity.
All his thoughts of Lance began to cause a physical reaction, as a certain area of Nick’s body started to take an unexpected interest, pushing his thoughts away from speculating about the other man to reliving memories, although somewhat brief ones, of the couple of times they had been intimate.
Those depressingly few incidents had been the only form sexual release, other than with his own hand, that Nick had had in almost a twelve month. Taking a break from dating after his relationship with his last girlfriend had bombed out and bored with random hook-ups Nick had been celibate for several months before the VMA’s, and with the whole need to re-examine his sexuality immediately afterwards on top of touring he had neither the time nor inclination to do more than occasionally masturbate.
Due to the effects of the changing levels of hormones in his blood, sex had been something during his pregnancy that until recently he simply had not felt the desire for. However, since finding Lance in his room a few weeks back he had found his thoughts returning time and again to the night of the kiss that had turned into something a lot more, and he had begun to wonder what sex with Lance would be like.
Unable to remember more than flashes from the VMA’s Nick had resorted to researching gay sex on the internet, getting thousands of hits to his searches which panned out to be little more than porn he had despaired of finding help. One link he had high hopes in turned out to be a front for one of those disgusting cult like religious programmes which claimed to be able to cure homosexuality, but in truth were little more than brainwashing aimed at and run by bigots of the worst sort.
Eventually his persistence paid off and Nick found what he was looking for. Not only did the site have well written home page, but pages of factual information, helpful descriptions and clear diagrams, and important Do’s and Don’ts. There was a guide to sexual positions, with ratings for experience level, one position, which looked especially eye-watering, was helpfully rated in red, not for beginners. Nick decided beginner or not that one was safely staying out of consideration.
As an added bonus, the site contained both a forum and chat, which allowed members to post with complete privacy, the moderators keeping a close eye out for unwelcome flamers, all in all maintaining a friendly and helpful site with a definite sense of community. Exactly what Nick had hoped to find, he signed up the same night, in a fit of good humour he refrained for using Timberlake as his ID and settled for a less sensitive JT, knowing that Lance at least would get the joke.
Taking the members’ guidance to heart Nick looked forward to introducing Lance to the site once the tour ended, hopefully getting to know Lance a little more intimately before they both became too large for such activities to be rendered impossible, provided of course that Lance wanted to continue that area of their relationship.
Alone, bored and now horny and half-hard, Nick took matters into his own hands, quite literally. Sliding out of his shorts and t-shirt he lay on his right side, taking one pillow from the head of the bed to prop under his protruding belly he retrieved the small tube of lubricate he kept in the bedside drawer, having long ago discovered that a little slick helped make the ride of his hand against his dick a little more pleasurable.
Starting out slowly Nick set about exploring his altered body, gently tugging the silver bar through his left nipple he found that the sensation was greater than he had expected, sending a shiver down his spine on a direct connection to his penis, which jerked and continued to swell with blood. Deciding he liked the feeling he twisted and tugged at the jewellery, the red bud of his nipple hardening to a ridged nub in response, a tiny amount of fluid forming at the tip, pearling to drip and run onto his chest. As he continued to excite the dark red flesh more fluid appeared and soon a slow but steady stream leaked free.
Curious, Nick ran his index finger into the warm liquid and without thought brought it to his lips, his pink tongue darting out to taste, sweet, the straw-coloured colostrum tasted a little like milk, but with a lighter flavour.
Taking time to favour the other nipple, Nick soon found that both of his ‘breasts’ produced the thin stream, which he smeared over the reddened flesh, enjoying the heightened sensitivity until the throbbing of his groin drew his attention away.
Running his left hand down he briefly massaged the swell of his belly, tracing the Linea Nigra from his inverted navel down under the elastic of his boxers into the crisp curls of his pubic hair, which he gripped and tugged on gently, running the wiry lengths through his fingers before gripping a new handful to tug on again.
Slowly he worked his fingers lower, bypassing his penis for now he followed the trail of hair down to his balls, the hair there sparser and shorter in length. Releasing a last handful he curled his fingers loosely around his testicles, rolling the plum shaped masses gently within the lose skin of their sack. Gently tracing the delicate vessels inside, the flesh cooler than the rest of his groin warmed slightly in the palm of his hand as he played with himself.
The feel of a few dewy drops of pre-cum cooling on the material of his boxers finally brought Nick’s attention back to his neglected cock, which pulsed with heat beneath his hand. With a wriggle of his hips he pushed the grey boxers down and off, leaving them pooled on the mattress by his sock clad feet. Again using his index finger he swiped at the pearly liquid beading on the head of his penis, curiosity again demanding that he taste it, sharper, saltier than the colostrum, he savoured the bitter liquid all the while wondering whether Lance would taste the same. Would Lance even let him find out?
Almost distracted with thoughts of tasting Lance and by the feel of his finger tips massaging the head of his cock, Nick managed to bring his mind back to the task at hand, so to speak. Using his free left hand he opened the lubricant, squeezing a small amount onto his fingers which he rubbed together, warming the cool gel before running his hand over his erection from tip to base coating it with the shining gel. Carefully releasing the swollen flesh he let it go, feeling it settle comfortably against the distended curve of his belly.
Having prepared his penis, Nick reached for the tube again, applying more lubricate to his left hand. Warming it before reaching behind him, searching out the tight entrance hidden between his legs. Lying on his right arm he still managed to wrap his hand loosely around the shaft of his cock, briefly enjoying the weight of it as it lay in his palm.
Using the middle finger of his left hand he ran the slick tip against the muscle, exploring the feel of the furled entrance, squirming slightly when he triggered sensitive nerve endings. Taking a deep breath he slowly exerted pressure against his sphincter gently inserting his finger into his body, something only doctors had ever done to him before.
Stopping at the first knuckle Nick analysed the sensation, noticing a difference this time, the lack of the impersonal feel of a medical exam. The muscle was smooth and tight around his digit, the sphincter formed of two tight rings, each giving way under gentle pressure, welcoming his finger with little flutters.
Comfortable he pressed a little deeper, the muscle giving way easily while still gripping tightly against the intrusion, wet heat greeting his questing finger. Now fully immersed he carefully move his finger around, seeking out that spot Lance’s doctor had hit. Ignoring what was evidently his cervix he found his prostate by pure chance, triggering a burst of sensation that shot straight to his penis where he held it in his right hand.
His hips jumped forward, thrusting his cock into his hand causing his grip to tighten involuntarily sending a further wave of pleasure through the turgid flesh. The muscles of Nick butt flexed in reaction, sending ripples deep inside, gripping his finger tight as his arse contracted then relaxed, tugging his finger deeper to rub over his prostate again.
Each time he triggered the tight bundle of nerves it set off a chain reaction, jerking his hips forward, each thrust forward pushing the shaft of his penis into his hand and pulling his finger out of his body. Relaxing again he would push back and down onto his left hand, starting the cycle again.
With each flutter of muscle, Nick felt the need for something more grow until his entire body yearned for it. Barely able to think, pleasure having short-circuited his higher brain functions by that point, Nick withdrew his middle finger. Squeezing it tight to his index; he carefully pressed both back into the aching void of his anus, the pulsing muscles practically pulling them in.
Hooking his fingertips he set about massaging his prostate in earnest. Jolts of pleasure firing directly into his brain with each motion, he felt like he could cum simply by maintaining the action however that was not Nick’s intention, he wanted to explore, wanted more.
Two fingers stilled and became three, the muscle a little less welcoming this time, its tightness practically squashing Nick’s fingers together where they entered his body. With advice from the web site in mind, Nick carefully moved his fingers apart and back, helping the sphincter to relax, finally allowing him to try thrusting them into and withdrawing them from his anus, simulating anal intercourse.
Fingering himself in this manner was slightly less satisfying than playing with his prostate, however he soon established a rhythm, timing his thrusts with his fingers in to backwards thrusts from his hips, pulling on his penis as he did so, before reversing the action and pressing forwards into his hand and away from his fingers.
Each pull on his cock could be felt inside too, the hidden root of his penis beneath his skin moving forward into the tug, each pulse of pleasure causing the muscles to clench and relax repeatedly, to flutter in reaction in the brief pause between each movement.
As his arousal heighten a slightly harder push of his fingers caused Nick to unintentionally punch against his prostate, setting of sparks of pleasure in his mind, his testicles drawing up tightly to his body and before he could brace himself, Nick fell into orgasm, mouth open in a silent scream he ejaculating in long pulsing ribbons over the flushed sweat soaked skin of his belly. Unable to stop, his hips rolled freely, thrusting his penis repeatedly into his tight grip, milking himself dry.
It was only when the head of his cock became overly sensitive was Nick able to stop, his fingers sliding free of the hot embrace of his anus, his arm falling limply to the bed. As his harsh breathing settled and his racing heart slowed he became aware of the world outside of his passion. His left wrist ached at being kept at such an awkward angle for so long, his arse burning slightly as the muscles contracted back, lube slick and messy between his cheeks and semen cooling unpleasantly on his skin.
Freed from beneath his body Nick’s right arm tingled unpleasantly as the circulation returned, however there was one more thing he needed to do before he could clean himself off. Taking the fingers of his clean right hand he swiped them across his belly, gathering cum, taking the time to slowly lick them he compared the taste, sucking them clean, he wondered what it would be like to give Lance a blowjob.
Dopey from the release of endorphins Nick barely managed to clean himself using a handful of the wet wipes he routinely travelled with, tossing them in the general vicinity of the rubbish bin before sleep overtook him. Naked with the sheets barely covering his dignity Nick managed to sleep through the Boys returning, only waking when Aaron roused him to prepare for the concert.
A little over three hours later, he was back in his hotel room with the long awaited wheelchair, the concert over, the fans reacting favourably to the show, despite Nick’s inability to provide them with his usual level of performance, his gimp status provided a whole host of new opportunities for the Boys to interact with him.
While Nick ordered dinner Aaron helped him pack, preparing for Brian’s birthday the next day and another long bus ride to their final US venue then four days off before flying out to Europe.
20th February 2007
The day of Brian’s birthday morning dawned horribly early for some, including Nick. Waking him just after 7am his bladder once again demanding respite from an excess of fluid, however this time taking care of the problem was much easier, simply sliding sideways off the bed on to the wheelchair he then pushed himself into the bathroom and over to the commode before turning his attentions to other less pressing matters.
Opting for the easiest course of action, Nick settled for a flannel bath rather than risk a shower. Sitting naked in his chair before the sink, he was determined to manage without any help. Using a little of the hotel supplied shower-gel, instead of his own which Aaron had already packed for him the night before, he lathered his exposed skin, paying careful attention to his sensitive stomach and groin. Suffering from a hot flush the feel of the cool flannel against his overly warm skin was wonderful; exactly what he needed to start what would most likely be a very hectic day.
Dried off and seated in front of his dresser Nick squeezed an ample handful of specially formulated moisturiser onto his palm, leaning back as far as the wheelchair back allowed he carefully massaged the lotion into the skin of his stomach. The cream was supposed to help reduce the formation of stretch marks however Nick was not entirely sure it was having much, if any, effect.
Stretch marks on a man would be hard to explain as anything more than from excessive weight gain or loss and he had had enough problems with being called fat in the past to want to provide evidence, so he continued with the daily massages. Besides Brian, who had provided the bottle, said that Leighanne swore by it during her pregnancy. If it was good enough for Brian’s finicky wife then it had to be good enough for this Backstreet Boy.
The baby at least seemed to enjoy it, softly moving under Nick’s hands, its’ tiny limbs pressing up into them gently. Its movements gentle little flutters from within rather than the hard kicks and jabs it had taken to favouring him with. Nick took the time to further his bond with his unborn child, mirroring its movements, caressing each bump as it raised on the surface his skin unconsciously humming under his breath as he did so.
Deeply immersed in the act of communing with the foetus Nick failed to notice Aaron’s entrance, the younger man having let himself into the suite using the key card Nick had given him the day before, when Nick failed to respond to his knock.
Standing quietly in the bedroom doorway Aaron watched Nick with a sense of awe and faint disbelief, still finding the strange circumstances somewhat hard to digest. Clothed Nick’s body just looked out of proportion, carrying a beer-belly on an otherwise lean but fit and muscular body; little body fat had survived the months of motion sickness. However naked there was no way you could mistake the beer-belly for anything other than what it truly was; a miracle in human reproduction.
There was something in Nick’s face that shook Aaron, a look of utter peace enhanced by a tiny curve of his lips every time the baby pushed against his hands. A feeling of serenity blanketed the room centred over the pregnant man, his joy in communicating with the unborn making him appear nearly luminescent. It almost hurt to watch his brother without looking for it Nick had found something to make him complete, something outside of his previous existence which filled in the missing part of his soul, something Aaron at barely nineteen was still searching for.
Aaron stood silently for over half an hour watching Nick, waiting until his motions slowed and eventually stopped altogether when the baby fell asleep. Lulled by caresses and the steady beat of Nick’s heart, slow and steady his pulse reflected the oasis of calm which surrounded Nick. With a soft cough Aaron made Nick aware of his presence, moving into the room slowly so as not to startle his brother. Nick greeted Aaron with a smile so sweet he momentarily was stunned and in that moment, Nick was truly beyond beautiful, his soul shining in his eyes.
It was a revelation to Aaron, his brother’s joy wiping out the lingering doubts and fears in his mind. Aaron blinked, that was his brother before him, the big brother he had loved from the moment he had drawn his first breath, the brother he idolised and imitated following him onto the stage. There was nothing he would not do for this man, blood of his blood, and with the blink of an eye Aaron’s love for his brother shattered the conditioning of years. If his brother was attracted to men then so be it, if he had found such amazing happiness because of that attraction then who was Aaron to stand in his way?
Letting go of his fears Aaron stepped forward into Nick’s open arms, hugging his naked brother tight to his chest, his hands pressed firmly against the tattooed skin, holding him close, offering his love. Feeling Aaron’s acceptance Nick returned the embrace, his face pressed tight to Aaron’s still scrawny chest glowed with emotion.
Neither man was aware of anything outside of the emotional cocoon they built around themselves, time passed without notice, how long they held each other they could not say but the bond which had been weakened by the shocks and guilt of the last twenty-four hours grew, strengthening to become more than it ever had been before. Each would willing give up their own life for their family and the Boys, however, if it ever came down to it they would without hesitation kill to protect the other and both knew it.
They finally drew apart when Aaron was unceremoniously poked by Nick’s stomach, the sleeping baby experiencing hiccups causing it to jerk, sending ripples of movement through Nick’s womb and into Aaron’s body through their embrace. Reaching up Nick took Aaron’s face in his hands, pulling the younger man down he feathered a light kiss on his forehead before releasing him.
With little sound they drew apart, Aaron pushing Nick’s chair over to the bed where his clothes for the day were laid out. Nick had decided on semi formal attire for Brian’s day, picking out the smartest pair of slacks that Lance had provided he planned to wear them with a dark blue button-down shirt over an aqua t-shirt.
Seeing the maternity wear Aaron dissolved into a heap of giggles, rolling around on the bed he barely managed to squeak out that women were always trying to get Nick into their pants but he didn’t think that was quite what they wanted. Unable to resist Nick burst in to laughter, his eyes squeezing shut as his whole body shook with mirth.
Pausing in the hotel corridor AJ heard the sound of their laughter carry through the door, behind his sunglasses his eyes shone, everything was all right again in the Carter brother’s world.
Disrupted by the odd lingering snigger the two brothers managed to dress Nick, Aaron stripping off the bandages and re-wrapping Nick’s knee before helping him pull on his slacks. The bruising on both legs looked slightly worse than the day before and Nick’s knees had stiffened over night but they finally had him looking presentable. Well as much as could be expected anyway with Nick deciding to go barefoot, it was warm enough and it wasn’t as if he was going to walk anywhere.
With Aaron in control of the wheelchair they vacated Nick’s room, his bags packed and left in the corridor ready for collection, his backpack slung over the back of the wheelchair; they headed off to join Angel for breakfast.
In his bedroom Brian awoke to the gentle caress of his wife’s hands, Leighanne having flown in with Baylee especially to surprise Brian for his birthday. With Baylee sleeping in the main room Brian made good use of this unexpected present, rocking Leighanne’s world with their enthusiastic lovemaking at one point almost snapping a bar in the headboard.
Not wanting to wake their son the pair muffled their cries of pleasure in the others’ mouth, lips and tongues mating to the same frantic pace as the rest of their bodies. With a final soul deep moan Brian carried them both over the edge, replete their sweat soaked forms relaxed and cradled in each other’s arms they slipped into a light sleep.
The ‘Do not disturb’ sign on Brian’s door signalled to Kevin that his cousin’s family had safely arrived as he transferred his luggage to the corridor. Noticing AJ’s and Nick’s already in place, showing that for once both men were already up and about, hopefully staying out of trouble. Brian was currently occupied, Howie either still asleep or packing, AJ was heaven knew where but Nick, he guessed was with his siblings, most likely talking about the baby.
The baby, now that had been one hell of a shock and sometimes Kevin still doubted the truth, wishing that it was just another Frick’n’Frack prank, knowing that Nick would be better off if it were. His body was simply not built to accommodate the growing foetus, as shown by the problems he had already experienced, his twisted knee just another in a growing list. Kevin worried about his ‘little brother’, the pregnancy was against all laws of science and nature and there were still a few months to go before the actual birth. Even thinking about that made Kevin wince in sympathy and he really did not want to think about the coming event.
Like Chris, Kevin knew what his prostate could do and so that aspect of the situation, Nick’s late blooming sexual identity, was more of a non-issue with the eldest Boy. Kevin had already reached adulthood before the audition that had shaped the last fifteen years of his life and had had many opportunities to explore and experiment. Being with another man was a pleasant experience but not something he had wanted to try again, been there done that and got it out of his system. However if that was what Nick wanted then he was happy for him and would do anything to protect him and the group.
The click of a door opening further down the corridor broke into Kevin’s musings. Howie appeared to greet the morning, his luggage quickly transferred out of his room, he waved to Kevin all the while taking to his mother on the phone clasped to his ear before disappearing back into his room. Leaving the door ajar as an open invitation for any of his ‘brothers’ to join him. Kevin, having already double checked the arrangements of Brian’s birthday lunch had nothing of importance left to do before they checked out so making sure he had his room key he closed the door behind him, joining Howie for a couple of hours.
Having spent most of the morning in Aaron and Angel’s suite discussing the situation at hand amongst other subjects while avoiding the whole issue of Jane, Nick had finally settled on a cover story for the future presence of the baby in his life. Unhappy with the draft provided by the planning committee the three siblings had kept the basic idea but ran in another direction.
Nick was going to be an unexpected but willing parent; having privately agreed to be a donor for a couple of close friends who could not conceive unaided, an accident would result in the death of the husband while leaving the heavily pregnant wife on life support. In their grief, knowing that the baby was not their son’s; the husband’s family would reject the child. The wife would have no close relatives, her injuries combined with the delivery would prove too much to survive and at her request, Nick as the genetic father would step in rather than let the baby go into care.
The scenario would offer few loose ends, a request for privacy for the family, refusing to release any names would hopefully cover up the fact there was no family. Giving the press as little information at possible to go on. Lance had already looked into all the legal aspects and Nick had several homes around the country so they could successfully hide where the baby had come from, a DNA test would safely prove Nick’s parentage and offset the risk any State interference.
The pair had long since decided to use feminised forms of their own names for the birth certificates, their children’s mothers would be Lucy Elizabeth James and Jean Nicholson. And with the help of Lance’s doctor, they would get to give birth and raise their child as they saw fit.
Aaron could not resist teasing Nick, privately calling him Jean whenever the opportunity presented itself, Angel was more restrained, simply giggling and thwacking her twin on the back of his head.
Waking alone in Brian’s living room Baylee soon found the door to the bedroom where both his parents were napping, however exploring the hotel room offered a greater pull to the toddler’s short attention span than his snoring father. The little boy played for sometime, hiding behind the sofa, using it as a fort in his childish games, the bathroom escaped his notice, accessed from the bedroom, somewhere he avoided knowing that if he woke his mother she would most likely stop his games.
Leighanne had sensibly locked the exterior door, preventing her son from accessing the corridor but she had forgotten to check the connecting door between Brian and Nick’s rooms, which out of habit the two men had left on the latch. Reaching up the little boy managed to pull the door open and his parents and fort playground were soon forgotten as he explored the mirror image set of rooms, the connecting door slowly closing behind him, the latch dropping with a firm click as it locked.
Thirst finally drove Baylee to halt his games, calling out for his mother he searched for her when he failed to hear Leighanne’s familiar voice. Thirsty and alone the little boy sniffled as he realised he could not find his parents, fat tears running down his cheeks when he realised that the connecting door was now locked. With a bump he sat down on the floor, curling up in a tiny ball of limbs he cried in misery.
Returning to his room for a lie down, Nick pushed himself backwards through the door unaided, keeping his legs clear of the frame, having already learnt that going forwards risked unpleasantly jarring them if he caught one of the wheels. Swinging around he shut the door behind him, deciding to get a drink to help take the mild analgesics he was allowed for the pain, the noise of his movements alerted Baylee to his presence and before he knew it, Nick found his already full lap crowded by the sobbing little boy.
It took several minutes for the scared toddler to calm down enough for Nick to be able to discern his words, big sobs muffling his speech as he tried to speak and cry at the same time. Finding protection in the familiar feel of Nick’s arms the little boy snuggled tightly into Nick, undeterred by the cramped space offer by this particular adult’s lap.
Eventually unravelling Baylee’s story Nick set about getting him a carton of juice from the mini-fridge which was not an easy task with the toddler’s arms wrapped snake like around his chest impeding his movements. With his thirst satisfied and fears calmed by the masculine scent of Nick’s body, exhaustion from the long flight and emotional distress soon helped the little boy fall asleep, leaving Nick with a dilemma with Baylee sharing the wheelchair with him there was no way he could open the connecting door.
No doubt, his parents if not already missing him soon would but the pregnancy and the pain of his injuries were taking their toll on Nick’s energy levels, he was barely able to keep his eyes open and with out realising it he allowed them to close. Sat up in his wheelchair, arms cradling the sleeping child, Nick’s head dropped to his shoulder and in a position that would mostly cause him a stiff neck he joined Baylee in sleep.
Later, this was how the searchers found them, after a frantic Brian and Leighanne had woken to find their son missing they had roused the other Boys and the Carter twins, doing a room by room search, checking everywhere on their floor before wanting to alert security. Knowing from past escapes that the little boy was the master of hiding in hotel rooms, security although always willing to join in looking for Baylee preferred that the obvious hiding places were checked before causing panic by alerting the hotel management.
There was something innocent in the faces of the sleeping pair, one with the inherent innocence of a child, the other pure and childlike. Baylee’s tiny fist clenched in the material of Nick’s shirt, damp where the little boy had dribbled around the thumb in his mouth. The position of Nick’s body seemed awkward to Leighanne, but she thought little of it, simply putting it down his knees which Brian had already warned her about, explaining the previous day’s events to his wife in the short time after they had awakened before realising their son had pulled off another escape attempt.
Carefully lifting his son, Brian shielded Nick from Leighanne’s view, handing her the little boy as he turned back. As much as he hated keeping things from his wife, this one was Nick and Lance’s secret and they all had agreed that for their safety only those two could decide who needed to be told. Wives, girlfriends, parents and family were all, with few exceptions, strictly off the list at the moment. The Carter twins were the current sole exception, even Justin, primarily due to his current status as ‘person non-gratis’ was still in the dark and likely to stay there until Lance relented, which could be a long time coming.
The removal of the child shaped furnace from his lap slowly filtered into Nick’s brain, the cool feel of air against where Baylee had lain pulled him from sleep, his blue eyes fluttering open to find his living area crowded by Boys and family. His confused expression soon changed to a wince when lifting his head to right his vision caused his neck to crack loudly, alerting everyone to the fact he was awake.
Rubbing his sore neck, Nick explained to Brian what had happened, how Baylee had managed to escape this time. He jokingly said he should have bought Brian a tracking device for his birthday instead of what he had. It was mention of his birthday that brought their attention back to the time and that the search for Baylee had taken longer than they realised. It was nearly time for the special lunch and they would have to rush if they were to join the crew in the private room reserved in the restaurant.
Baylee, sleeping quietly through most of the meal and noise woke just in time for the cake, much to his delight, left over pieces of which were taken to Brian’s bus before the convoy headed out back to Florida for the final show.
Leighanne and Baylee accompanying Brian, stayed mostly on the bus for the next day. Although having little opportunity to interact with anyone else, Leighanne could sense something was off around the Boys themselves, seemingly centred around her husband’s best friend and more than his poor knees.
24th February 2007
Today was Saturday, Saturday meant the second leg of the US tour was over, the final concert in Orlando had been Friday and the Boys had rocked the house. But today, today was Saturday and that meant everyone from the lighting crew, truck drivers, wardrobe, right up to the band and the Boys had a full four days off, time to go home, do laundry, read through months of mail, touch base with family and friends, a short breather before flying off to Spain, the tour heading to Barcelona to kick off the European leg.
Due to a conscious decision during the planning stages, the Boy’s had split the Northwards tour, giving them several breaks between legs, the longest four months, between the end of the European dates and the start of the Asian, specifically Japan and Malaysia, was by sheer coincidence perfectly timed to allow Nick two months to recover after the birth.
It had been a relief to all involved, to learn that the impending due date fell during the long break, not only would it give Nick and Lance time together before and after the births. But they would also have time to recover and allow their cover stories opportunity to circulate and be absorbed by the media and fans alike and coincidently no concerts would have to be postponed or cancelled; something that was actually more complicated and time consuming than most people realised.
Provided Nick’s delivery proceeded without problems, at two months old baby Carter was scheduled to join Nick on tour. Despite opinions voiced against the idea Nick had put his foot down, refusing to be separated from his baby. Although there was a lot of air-miles involved in the Asian leg, baby C was likely to sleep through most of the tour and with help from Aaron Nick insisted he would be able to cope.
Starting life with his child as he meant to go on, Nick planned to be as much of a full time parent as circumstances would allow. Lance could always be counted on to share responsibility seeing as he was the other part of the genetic equation, but Nick had already bonded deeply with his unborn and the thought of being separated while the baby was so young, even for a day let alone a month, sent him into a full blown panic attack.
Angel left the tour as soon as the buses had hit Orlando, heading to Nick’s Marathon home to prepare not only for her two brothers but to open up guest rooms for several of the *NSYNC men, including Lance although he would be sharing Nick’s room.
Saturday morning found the Boys sleeping in, with plans to head to their respective homes after a late brunch; each making sure Nick promised to contact them immediately if there was a problem, no matter how small.
Angel found herself running last minute errands, picking up groceries and rival band members. Lance arrived with his constant companion Chris, the pair bickering after being stuck in a car together for two hours with Chris driving; Lance having had problems getting behind the steering column had had to relinquish control to the older man. To make matters more unpleasant Lance was suffering from a hot flush when they became trapped on the freeway, an accident reducing the traffic flow to a crawl, then Lance became desperate for the bathroom with no opportunity to go.
By the time they reached Nick’s security gate Lance had been in agony holding back, the pain was simply indescribable, no matter what position he sat in after a few moments he had to move, and moving caused further pressure to be exerted on his already over full bladder. With tears of pain and frustration leaking from his eyes he had taken to punching Chris’s leg to take his mind off the pain, having already tried hitting the passenger seat, however that just jolted him and made matters worse.
The closer he got to Nick’s front door the more Lance was convinced he would not make it in time, throwing open the car door almost before Chris had engaged the handbrake and turned off the engine, Lance found he could not stand up straight, his stomach muscles having held tight for too long trying to prevent an accident simply refused to let go now he had to walk. With Chris’s help he hobbled to the door, Angel whom having buzzed them through security gate letting the car up the drive had opened the front door and stood ready to welcome the other half of the baby-making puzzle.
At the look on Lance’s down-turned face, she quickly ushered them towards the closest bathroom, which for Lance’s grateful thanks was just inside the hall. Leaving Lance to his own care the two stood in awkward silence waiting on the other side of the door. They stood there for sometime before hearing Lance whimper, the effect of holding back for so long was that he had to convince his muscles that it was now ok to relax, but they simply would not cooperate.
Desperate to go Lance couldn’t. The pressure in his groin was also having an unfortunate side effect, making him half-hard, even if he could go he was going to have trouble. Standing with his legs spread either side of the bowl to balance his belly, Lance held himself with his right hand while leaning his head on his left where his arm rested on the wall. Tears of both pain and frustration continued to beaded his eyes, pathetic whimpers broke free from his throat to accompany them.
Giving in he staggered upright, leaving his jeans around his ankles, he turned to the sink where he turned on both taps, holding his fingers under the water trying to trick his body into complying. Resorting to the time tested theory of listening to running water and imagining waterfalls and babbling brooks proved to the tiebreaker. Suddenly everything relaxed, giving Lance bare seconds to get back into position before the barrier broke. The force of his stream was unprecedented; Lance had never gone so fast in all his life, his bladder emptying in just a few moments under the extreme high pressure.
Lance’s legs nearly gave way with relief, the almost instantaneous cessation of pain causing his earlier whimpers to change tone, and Lance unconsciously let loose a deep orgasmic groan, clearly heard beyond the closed door.
Chris simply grinned over the various noises from with in, giggling first at the sound of running water and again at Lance’s groan, knowing from long experience and thin hotel walls that this friend sounded almost exactly the same when he came. Angel just stood there embarrassed, at first worried by Lance’s state and his whimpers, then realising exactly what he was doing, at the groan she blushed violently when the sound triggered the thought that her brother had made that sexy voice groan out under much different circumstances.
Weak at the knees, Lance remained propped against the wall while his body returned to normal, having to pee once again when the urine backed up in his kidneys flowed into his abused bladder. At least he knew he would not have to go again for a little while. Tidying himself and tucking his penis back in, Lance zipped up, flushed and washed his hands. Taking a look in the mirror over the sink he saw clear tear-tracks down his cheeks, his eyes were damp and pink tinged. Running more cold water he splashed his face, washing away the evidence of his distress and erasing the effects of the long car journey.
By the time Angel left to collect JC, Chris had slung his bag onto the nearest bed and deposited Lance in Nick’s with stern instructions for the younger man to go to sleep. Surprising Lance followed orders, which shocked Chris almost as much as his own out of character actions.
The other members of his group had long since developed a theory that the reasons for Chris’s often childlike behaviour were similar to Nick’s, both men making up for their lack of a normal childhood, however Christopher knew that in some way it was based on having to be an adult as a child, but also as an adult, and the oldest he had right from the beginning been placed in charge. Unlike Kevin who had Howie only two years younger, Chris had been in charge of four men who were essentially and legally minors.
It was unsurprising therefore; that whenever his subconscious deemed a situation safe it turned off the adult areas of his brain, reducing him to the same mental level as the four people he spent the majority of his time with. The only problem was that as they each grew up and matured, Chris remained stuck in the dual rolls of parent and eternal man-child. The two should have been incompatible but Chris’s personality absorbed the paradox, shook it up, standing everything on its’ head and carried on regardless.
Now older and finally allowed to act his true age Chris often found he did not want to, being a kid was something he had eventually out grown on his own, but it was still in character for him to exhibit a much younger mental age.
Nick’s circumstances although similar in several ways still had significant differences, where as Chris had always been the eldest, first among his siblings and then his group, Nick had gone from the eldest to the baby and this had thrown him for a loop. A stage kid, a performance veteran he was instantly the little kid and experience counted for nothing. It was the long break before the release of Never Gone, which finally let Nick mature, his solo efforts continuing to this day but now with the full support of his brothers.
However if his first album had gone down with the Boys the same as his second he may well not have become the same man he was today. The unpleasantness and emotional distancing had been painful at the time but when taken in context it had been necessary in shaping the boy into the man, forcing him to let go and stand on his own two feet. With no one watching his back he was able to discover his true potential and the Nick of today was a much more confident and stable person than the one spit out into the world by the collapse of the Black and Blue tour. The youngest Boy had truly become a man, and was now about to take the next step and bring new life into the world.
Angel was used to being surrounded by famous household names, but there was something about JC which made her insides flutter, the boy-bander voted most likely to be Gay was still a mystery to many, gone were the spazzy days of flamboyant sparkly outfits and long curls, gone too the reactionary hyper-sexed JC of the Schizophrenic album days. The testosterone soaked first album had been a rather unique way to shake off the Boy-Band image and establish himself as an artist in his own right, killing the Boy and declaring his status as Man.
No longer danced into the floor night after night, JC’s body had filled out, he still retained the wiry musculature of his younger form, but this now offset a more mature looking body, losing at long last the half-staved look. Where as you used to expect him to disappear whenever he turned sideways now he had a physical presence that screamed out with masculinity. Despite everything, through all the changes the man who would be JC Chasez remained Josh to Chris, Lance, Joey, and Justin, and there was nothing he wanted to do to ever change that.
Greeting Chris in Nick’s comfortable games’ room there was a hint of the younger, bouncy JC who swung into the room, dropping his bag inside the door and sweeping Chris off his feet in a hug. Chris half expected the other man to squeal in excitement.
Lance’s presence in Nick’s home was straightforward, he wanted to see Nick, needed to be with the one person who understood the weirdness that comprised his current place in the world. He wanted to talk to Nick in person now before Nick left for Europe and hit constantly changing time-zones, most of all he wanted his friend and lover.
Chris as always continued to tag along, inviting himself where and whenever, using excuses and bold faced lies to flit between Joey, who was still caught up in the media frenzy of his film which had risen straight to the top of the charts, bringing with it a flood of offers and keeping him from his best friend’s side. To keeping tabs on JC who if left to his own devices could possibly disappear into a studio one day and never surface again. To Justin, who although they were all outwardly ignoring the young man, they still kept an eye on his comings and goings.
To Lance, Chris gave the appearance of randomly appearing to interfere in his brothers’ lives however there was a solid plan which he followed, knowing just when each of the four men needed someone to shake them up, stopping them before they got stuck in a rut. At the moment that plan was on hold, Lance had become Chris’s main concern. If there was something Chris had learnt from his mother’s many relationships it was how to take care of a pregnant woman, he just never expected to be using that knowledge on Lance. Strong, sensible, and without a doubt male, Lance.
Chris had learnt to expect the unexpected with *NSYNC, frequently bailing out the other three idiots but Lance even before the living hell out of which they had walked free to produce No Strings Attached, Lance he could depend on to either A, not get himself into trouble in the first place, B, try and talk the others out of what ever insane plan they had cooked up this time, or C, to sort out his own screw ups with little fuss or circumstance.
Not to say he was boring or staid, paired with Joey all hell could break loose, but there was something about Lance that demanded respect. Between the gravel deep voice and the freaky pale green eyes Lance had a presence it was hard to ignore and once he had been allowed to ditch the platinum bleached look, which Chris affectionately referred to as the Mississippi Albino days, he became a force to be reckoned with.
It was not hard to see how Lance had landed Nick in his bed without even trying, but heaven help anyone if the pair turned their minds to pulling pranks, should that ever happen Chris had privately vowed to permanently move to Alaska to escape the fallout.
JC, now JC was there for several reasons, for Lance without question, plus the whole baby issue fascinated him, sparking myriad thoughts in his brain, curling around random notes, striking melodies, linking with words and spawning lyrics. JC was there for Nick; having always been drawn to the younger man, knowing that they had nearly been ‘Mice’ together had simply been the starting point.
JC was there to turn Nick’s wildly scattered homes into baby safe environments, childproofing and helping Nick to convert his carefully drawn plans for each nursery into reality. Nick welcoming the artist inside JC had emailed him his designs; prevented from painting the rooms himself JC had been his first choice to translate his sketches into the murals he wanted to adorn the walls.
Each of Nick’s homes was to have a room set aside for the babies which JC would work on in turn, decorating each to Nick’s specifications. Lance had already completed the conversions on his properties, having conferred with Nick at length they had settled on a format both were happy with. Neither saying anything but subconsciously hoping that their burgeoning relationship would get the chance to grow, they planned the rooms for their children together as a couple.
Each home would have facilities for the two babies, somewhere along the line both men had picked up the thought that the arrangements for their confinement before the births would carry on past that event, in effect living together. Unless they wanted to come out it was going to prove an interesting experience to say the least, between them, they had two separate and involved careers, more money than an entire football team could blow in Vegas on a drunken weekend and enough properties to start their own hotel chain.
Some of those houses were to be sold, but until both had enough time to work out which to keep JC would simply decorate those that they used the most. Between them, Nick and Lance had yet to decide where they would be based long term, where they would call home. Lance needed to be able to access his businesses and stay in circulation, where as Nick could work from anywhere with main route airport access he preferred to be near the coast.
Security was a big issue for both men, keeping their growing family safe and maintaining a degree of privacy was a point neither man was willing to forego. Either together or apart only time would tell where they would eventually call home.
Lance was still asleep when AJ’s car pulled up in front of Nick’s house but with help from a hyper JC the two men managed to transfer Nick and his luggage from the vehicle to the living room with little effort. They did have a hard time keeping Nick from escaping his wheelchair, but with the arrival of Aaron who had driven Nick’s car back, the blond man soon found himself under the watchful eyes of his sibling acting as a baby-sitter.
Realising that the overly protective group were not going to let him get away with exerting himself in any shape or form Nick settled for the role of supervisor, bossing Chris, AJ, JC, Aaron and Angel about in a good-humoured manner. His dirty washing was soon sorted and the first of many laundry loads started, randomly obtained odds and ends were found new homes or were disposed of. His bags containing clean clothes and bathroom kit were left outside his bedroom door so as not to disturb the sleeping Lance and presents picked up for family and friends were carefully set to one side to be delivered in person or by Angel later.
With the help of four people used to the end of tour luggage mess everything was sorted and put away in a much faster time than Nick could ever remember it taking before.
Later Aaron took a break from keeping an eye on Nick to give his twin a hand preparing dinner for six people, while Nick talked JC through the changes he wanted for his home, showing him the room he had picked out on the upper floor for the nursery.
The large airy room next to his own was currently occupied by twin beds and other bedroom furniture, which could easily be shared between the other guestrooms, the only item they planned to retain was one of the two beds, just in case.
The east facing windows were wide and opened onto the rear of the property. A simple change to the left-hand wall would provide access into the bathroom on the other side, Nick had already arranged for contractors to carry out the work, under JC’s supervision, the following week.
Once the builders had finished the alterations and installing an intercom/baby monitor system, Nick had decorators booked to paint the walls and ceiling, providing JC with a clean plain background to work on. Lance had been busy conferring with Nick over the last week and they had ordered the new furniture online, which was due to arrive before Nick left so that he could check their choices in person.
Chris was left in charge of the utility room, keeping a steady supply of clothing running through first the washing machine and then the dryer. By the time Lance woke and joined Nick and JC, Chris had finished all but the final load, leaving several baskets of freshly laundered t-shirts and jeans ready to be put away, items all currently too small for Nick to wear.
Lance had taken the precaution of bringing an entire suitcase of altered maternity clothing for Nick to choose from to take to Europe, knowing that the other man probably would not have had the time to sort out his own. However, there were several items he thought Nick might need which he planned to get in the next few days, having discovered to his own cost that getting the wrong size could be quite painful.
Reading up on pregnancy from both the internet, books and maternity magazines, Lance was convinced that his ‘breasts’ would likely need some form of support soon. Although currently still somewhat flat by female standards his chest was slowly growing and Nick, he guessed, was likely in the same situation.
Shopping for a bra alone had been humiliating, the sales staff in both the stores he had tried clearly had not believed his cover story of buying for a girlfriend especially when he kept holding various styles up against himself to judge size. Their blatant stares clearly marking him down as a transvestite, he was lucky that he had not seemed to have been recognised. He really needed to have taken a woman shopping with him, but other than his doctor, Angel was the only woman who knew their secret and he was not about to drag anyone else into the situation simply to spare his feelings when buying lingerie. Angel on the other hand would be an ideal companion for Nick’s little shopping trip.
25th & 26th February 2007
Wednesday would be the Boys last day at home, their flight to Spain scheduled for nine at night. A night flight selected to allow the singers to catch some sleep before they arrived, hopefully leaving them reasonably awake to begin a lightning fast round of appearances and promotion before Friday’s sold out concert. The theory was to keep jetlag to a minimum, but like all theories, it was opened to interpretation and the distinct possibility of failure.
Nick’s day would be spent, as usual, checking and re-checking his luggage making sure that he had packed everything essential. Everything else he had learnt not to worry too much about; there was always someone on tour who’s assigned duties included acting as a buyer, run out of shaving gel no worries, Fred, Bert, Ernie, Tina, whoever, would get you some.
All things considered, it looked like it would take less time for Nick to double and then triple check than it normally would. His choice of clothing was slightly more restricted and without the contents of his overflowing wardrobes to select from washing and re-packing proceeded at a much faster pace. Nick was stunned Sunday morning by Lance’s gift of maternity wear, literally stunned speechless by the thought behind the gift. As Lance had correctly surmised Nick had not only not had the time to sort out his own, but had not even realised that he would need to do so, quite content to live in the same pair of jeans until they literally fell apart around him.
Lance had evidently learnt much about his lover in the short time they had been together, the clothes he produced had been carefully matched to Nick’s casual style, none of the items would have looked out of place along sides his everyday clothing. Lance had even found music t-shirts for several of Nick’s favourite bands. Somehow, someway, Joey had managed to sneak a couple of his comical shirts in too, Heaven knew how considering he had not seen Lance in person for weeks. Nick proudly slipped the ‘Boy Bands Suck’ one over his plainer shirt just as soon as he stopped laughing at Lance’s expression, pointing out that Lance’s ‘My nuts have dropped’ one was little better, and at least he wasn’t planning on wearing it in public, unlike other people he could and did mention.
Adding to the trousers Lance had sent for his birthday, Nick selected several pairs of jeans and causal slacks. Picking out knee length shorts as well, seeing that they were easier to get on and off over the bulk of his still bandaged knee.
Both formal and causal button down shirts had been subtly altered to remain well fitting across his back and shoulders, but extra material skilfully inserted along the side seams and front panels allowed the cotton to flare away from his stomach and when Nick stood the eye was drawn higher to his upper chest, away from his bump. The cut of the cloth managed to hide some of the bulk of his gravid from making his stomach appear smaller and flatter. When worn over a t-shirt, simply fastening the lowest buttons deflected the eye, angling up towards Nick’s broad shoulders instead.
Nick had no idea how Lance had managed it but his new, temporary, wardrobe was simple but highly effective. Lance, being Lance, gave credit where it was due, explaining that Chris had offered to help with his own clothes and had in fact been responsible for the majority of the alterations, using Lance as his model and guinea pig.
The wheelchair did reduce the effect slightly, seeing that Chris’s designs worked best on a standing figure; however the simple addition of a random object in Nick’s lap worked just as well, if not better at hiding the baby. Something they found out Monday afternoon when Lance managed to talk Nick in venturing out to shop for a bra with Angel. The bags containing Angel’s purchases made an ideal shield and in addition, by dumping them on Nick it saved his sister from having to carry anything. Incidental payback for the embarrassment of being forced into underwear shopping with a close male relative.
Not knowing the first thing about bras, other than how to get them off, someone else that is, Nick was distinctly uncomfortable even mentioning the subject to Angel. When they both eventually got over their embarrassment Angel set about directing Nick away from the more eye catching lace and slinky bits which as a man, naturally caught his eye. Not knowing exactly how much his bust would fill out proved a bit of a hurdle in their quest in finding the correct size before practicality over passion won out when they realised that Nick’s wide shoulders would make the majority of styles impractical.
In the end, Angel gave up on the puzzle of cup sizes all together and turned her attention to finding something that even remotely looked like it would wrap around Nick’s masculine rib cage. Bored now that he was denied the pleasure of provoking his sister by seeking out the most ridiculous and flimsy scraps of material that if one squinted really hard and threw in a pinch if disbelief, could be considered practical, if one was say an exotic dancer, Nick wandered off wheeling his chair off towards the sports wear section.
Having exhausted the last of the selection in the store Angel was ready to admit defeat when she realised she had misplaced her brother. With a snort of annoyance and muttering to herself something dire about short attention spans, she eventually spotted him parked up in the computer and electronics department, his blond head buried deep in a rack of gaming magazines. With his back to her Angel failed at first to spot the bag in his lap bearing the department store’s logo.
Clapping her hand on his shoulder Angel drew his attention away from the latest wonders in the world of digital dreams, turning his head he looked startled at first but his handsome features soon relaxed and a warm sheepish grin spread across his face at being caught out.
With a shrug he indicated the bag containing his purchases, not the hot new chart game she was expecting but several plain sports bras, the label indicating they were suitable for sizes A to C. Proving once again that he had been listening to her even while doing a passing impression of your typical dumb blond, an act he had perfected years ago. It was surprising what you could get away with when everyone consistently underestimated you based solely on the artificially enhanced colour of your hair.
Even knowing her brother as well as she thought she did, Angel had easily been caught out by the act. Struck by surprise at her own stupidity at falling for his duplicity Angel failed to notice the emerald green silky piece of material at the bottom of the bag, the wispy scrap of nothing which would undoubtedly cover just about that much too. Heck, Nick had figured, spotting it on the display, even hulking female shot putters wanted to look sexy from time to time, who would have imagined finding a silk sports bra? Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth he had given into the impulse with out a flicker of protest and added it to his purchases. Besides, he figured that he was going to be the one stuck wearing the stupid things so why the hell not have a little fun along the way!
Having already used one of their four days off to make sure Nick got home safely and offering a token, non-Carter BSB presence in face of three fifths of *NSYNC, AJ had driven himself home the previous afternoon. Leaving Nick to the tender mercies of his siblings and Chris. JC, AJ trusted to be about as effective as a cobweb in a hurricane when it came to causing any trouble and Lance he knew had Nick and their babies best interests at heart.
The expectant pair stumbled around the kitchen, with Aaron’s interference, putting together something remotely edible; unless you were also pregnant, then Lance’s scrambled eggs on toast with glacier cherries and side order of Greek yogurt, into which Nick kept dipping his carrot sticks, well if you were pregnant too then most likely you would find nothing amiss with such a spread.
Later on, while JC rattled about starting the task of converting the babies’ room, Lance and Nick sorted the last of Nick’s packing. They carefully set aside everything Nick might need for later which Lance would arrange to take back to his, their, home in Mississippi. Meanwhile Chris, with Angel’s help collected Lance’s doctor from the airport and drove her to Nick’s house, ready for Nick and Lance’s next pre-natal appointment scheduled for the following morning.
27th February 2007
The day commenced with a late breakfast for Nick and Lance. Their Doctor, Chris, JC, Aaron and Angel having already eaten before either man surfaced from their bed. The Doctor, leaving everyone else to their own devices, with Chris’s help set up her portable equipment in Nick’s room while Nick and Lance ate, both somewhat uncomfortable seeing as they were not allowed to use the bathroom until after their scans.
As before, Nick was fascinated by the picture of his unborn baby on the ultrasound’s monitor, however this time he was not alone in watching the foetus. With everyone joining them he and Lance viewed the scan, it was quite a squeeze to fit them all around the tiny screen but the fuzzy image was clear as day to Nick. Hooking up the scanner to Lance’s powerful all singing, all dancing laptop allowed them to record the event for prosperity on a DVD, so that Nick might share it later with the other Boys.
Freezing the image the Doctor asked Nick if he and Lance wanted to know the baby’s gender. Barely glancing over at Lance Nick almost immediately replied with a negative shake of his head, coincidently matching Lance’s actions realising that they both wanted it to be a surprise. Understanding their desire she smiled gently before turning back to the image.
Taking careful note of various measurements she later compared them to Lance’s once his turn came up, announcing that Nick’s baby was currently the smaller of the two, but both seemed fully formed and healthy much to their parents’ relief. Nick especially, as after catching a program on the horrors of the drug thalidomide had worried that the anti-nausea drugs he had been forced to take early in the pregnancy for his motion sickness had unduly effected the baby, worries that had thankfully proved groundless.
Once the gathered watchers had been ejected from the room both men, after escaping to separate bathrooms, underwent the more unwelcome aspects of the check up. Nick this time managing to avoid any further embarrassing prostate incidents.
Knowing that the rapidly approaching births would rob them of dignity in front of their friends and family both Lance and Nick chose to allow the other man to remain during the examination. They were both in the same boat now and somehow having the other there during the worst was actually comforting in a way. Nick, now familiar with the internal exam was less tense this time, although how you could describe lying with a doctor’s hand half inside your butt as she prodded you in a non-sexual scenario as anything but tense Nick could not imagine.
Finished, her notes all safely tucked away the doctor left the two men with something to mull over; mentioning that if whatever process had created their ability to conceive remained after the births leaving their new reproductive organs intact, then both would need to make themselves aware of an area of health care traditionally unique to women, the joys associated with routine gynaecological exams.
Both men blanched when the implications of her words became clear, that they would be subject to all the benefits and risks associated with the female reproductive system from cancer screening smear tests to menstrual cycles. The first was bad enough, having to submit while a doctor cranked you open with a speculum and removed a layer of cells from your cervix with something that looked like an oversized wooden fish and chip fork, but the second, eeeew! Both had sisters and past girlfriends, and even being that close, if second hand contact with the effect of a woman’s cycle was something men in general tried not to think about.
Sitting on the end of Nick’s bed, paused halfway while getting re-dressed Lance looked as pale as Nick felt. With a shared glance that spoke volumes they shelved the entire topic, now was not the time they had more pressing things to think about rather than something which remained a theory at present.
During the exam Nick had brought up the subject of his ‘breasts’, relieved if somewhat embarrassed to learn that the yellow fluid they leaked when stimulated was nothing more than the normal production of colostrum, something the doctor was actually glad to hear. The babies would need the pre-milk just after birth to help with their developing immune systems and it was a good sign that Nick at least was capable of providing for that need.
On the subject of milk and breastfeeding the doctor was of the opinion that the men’s small breasts would prove to be fully functional, if somewhat limited in producing milk in quantity. Suggesting that if they wanted they should try to feed naturally as much as possible, but to know they would most likely have to supplement with formula too.
Lance blushed deeply during the discussion, looking down to hide his glowing face not wanting to admit that he had been too uncomfortable with his new ‘breasts’ to even touch them other than when showering and even then it was a rapid soap and rinse action. Out of the entire male pregnancy deal the breast issue was the one he was having the hardest time adjusting too; bringing back difficult memories from the early *NSYNC years when people at first glance often mistook him for a girl, long before he grew into the high cheekbones and wide hips that contributed to many of the Dyke jokes.
Alone, each man caught up in his own thoughts remained unaware that while their conscious minds where busy processing the facts as they had been presented, even the ‘icky’ aspects, their bodies knew what they needed and they leaned into each other. Pressed together from shoulder to thigh, even their feet and ankles touched, allowing them to draw strength from the others presence.
Being the taller of the two Nick leant a little further over to maintain his connection with Lance, unconsciously pushing the older man backwards a little bit at a time, until reaching a point where the weight of Nick’s bump pulled him far enough sideways to overbalance, pressing him into Lance, toppling them both flat onto the bed. Side by side, they fell onto their backs still touching from shoulder to knee where the connection was severed by the new lighter bandages that the doctor had applied to Nick’s injured limb. Stiff and still swollen, his right leg refused to bend easily and Nick spent most of his time with it elevated rather than force the issue.
Turning his face towards Lance, Nick could not stifle the giggles that their appearance triggered, looking nothing more than a pair of stranded whales caught on the beach by a low tide. Lance’s low bass tones soon joined Nick’s higher pitched mirth, his face turning towards his partner in crime. When his unusual coloured eyes met and locked on to Nick’s his voice died, cut off as his throat constricted with emotion. The beauty that simple laughter brought to Nick’s face, his soul shining clear in his eyes, broke something deep within Lance’s chest and he sort to capture the essence of the vision before him.
Nick’s giggles gently slowed as he realised that Lance was no longer laughing along with him, stilling completely when Lance reached over. The other man’s warm hands holding Nick’s smiling face between his palms, leaning in Lance pressed his lips into Nick’s. The heat in Lance’s chest grew, expanding to carry the burn of passion through his blood and on into Nick through the kiss. Eyes wide Lance stared as the kiss continued, losing himself in the sensation, barely noticing when Nick’s hands gently began to explore the pale skin of his arms.
Leaning bodily into the kiss both men rolled onto their sides, facing each other their hands lazily ran over warm flesh. Sliding over and under clothing, easing the restrictive material out of the way until naked skin was exposed. Breathing heavily they simultaneously broke off the kiss, their lips gentling each other’s as they dropped off the pressure.
Sliding back precious inches Lance took the chance to examine the gloriously naked man before him. In the achingly few times they had lain together like this neither man had had the luxury of time on their side. Now was their chance, a chance to explore, to map and learn the form that held such potential to excite, arouse, to possibly love, that nurtured their own futures within; their children.
Hungry hands continued to roam even as each lover watched the other, touching, caressing, sending shivers down spines and the heat of passion to loins. Scared beyond belief to be intimately touching another man, his Lance, again, taking their relationship seriously beyond the bounds of his frankly limited experience, experience all gained directly with Lance, and Lance only, Nick felt the last of his childhood conditioning breakdown, giving way under the beat of his pounding heart.
Peppering Nick’s face, neck, and chest with kisses, Lance worked himself down the bed until his face was level with Nick’s budding breasts. Getting a good, close look at his bust, a chance for Lance to come to terms with his own. The warmth of Lance’s breath blowing gently over the tender flesh caused Nick’s already hard nipples to tighten further, flushed dark with blood they formed little peaks as Nick shuddered at the sensation. With the tip of an index finger Lance traced the web of blue veins under Nick’s skin, slowly drawing ever closer to an aurora and the nipple at its’ epicentre.
Caught up in his exploration Lance was caught by surprise by the feel of hot wet fluid running over his finger tip, blinking he mentally took a step back into the scene, realising that Nick’s nipple was leaking just as he as described to the doctor. There was something stimulating in the sight of his lover’s body adapting to provide for their child and he swiftly fastened greedy lips over the wet nipple, sucking on the tight bud, drawing forth more of the sweet fluid as he ran his teeth and tongue over the swollen flesh.
Beneath Lance’s skilled attack and roaming hands, Nick moaned, trying to resist the urge to flip them over and plunge himself deep within Lance. A move he knew was currently impossible, and even if it was not presently beyond their combined gestating bodies, Nick was aware from his internet research that without a little foreplay and preparation sex between two men could be painful, something when it finally happened between them he wanted done right. Much as he might desire to bury himself within Lance, or ache to allow Lance to take him body and soul, circumstances ruled that they would have to wait just a little while longer to take the final step.
Considering that neither man could really remember the night of the VMA’s they had decided separately and later together that although it was their first time, both experienced as a couple and individually the act of anal sex, it did not count, they wanted their next ‘first time’ to be something to really remember.
Although, before Nick, Lance had never acted on his feeling of attraction towards men he was not a complete novice in the art of gay sex. There was much books and self-help guides could teach and using his own body as his classroom, Lance had learnt the differences between pleasing a woman and a man. Ok the experience had not been without its’ problems and the day Joey had found a sex toy in his luggage while looking for, of all things, JC’s missing left sneaker, which Chris had stolen while he napped, had left Lance red faced and trying to become invisible by sheer force of will alone.
Joey had later produced the slim purple gel vibrator during a friendly evening playing cards on the two-man bus, depositing it in the middle of a bowl of popcorn as a joke, JC had broken the ‘boys club’ laughter by calmly picking it up, turning it on, and using it to stir Justin’s drink, stunning the rest of the group into silence. Needless to say, Justin had turned a little green, Chris had been impressed by JC’s nonchalant poise and stove to break him to little effect. Lance learnt to hide his toys a little more carefully and Joey resolved never to try that one again; especially when Lance later glued all this underwear to the ceiling of the other bus, well that and substituting scented lubricant for Joey’s hair gel on thirteen separate occasions, he would never forget his mother commenting on the ‘fruity’ scent of his shampoo the final time.
Fully immersed in the feel of the warm body currently driving him to distraction with busy hands and lips, Lance had long since blocked the memory and simply concentrated on his present goal of wringing more delightful moans of pleasure from Nick’s throat. The hot little sounds, soft moans and the occasional whimper, accompanied the large hands kneading the flesh of his buttocks in frantic desperation, heightening Lance’s own arousal as he continued to suckle the nipple within his mouth, his fingers flicking over its’ twin, plucking the taunt peak wet with fluid.
With a cry that sounded suspiciously like his lover’s name, Nick broke free of the pleasures of Lance’s mouth and fingers, using the hands on his buttocks for leverage; he pulled the shorter man back up and claimed his lips in a crushing kiss. Just as suddenly leaving Lance breathless and panting, the blonde’s head ducked down to begin his own assault on Lance’s chest, drawing his nipples into aching peaks with a talented tongue and wicked teeth, stopping only when Nick smirked with satisfaction when one swollen nub finally let lose a tiny drop of yellowish fluid.
The deep moan that burst forth from Lance’s throat when Nick ventured to wrap tentative fingers around his erect penis, sent shudders running up and down Nick’s spine. The rich sound vibrating through Lance’s chest, carrying shivers of pleasure down to where Nick’s hand joined them, long elegant fingers grasping the heated flesh of his erection.
The rough guitar string calluses on his fingertips struck sparks on the sensitive head as Nick slowly pumped the swollen velvety skin. His grip strong but not too tight, a shocked extra squeeze the only sign when Lance wormed his own hand through the crisp hairs guarding Nick’s groin before wrapping around Nick’s penis where it lay tight against the curve of his pregnant stomach.
Matching rhythms, the two worked to bring the other closer and closer to orgasm, swollen bellies pressed tightly together as their arms moved in tandem in the cramped space. Fists closed around hard flesh, rubbed over taunt stomachs, following the exaggerated curves, sliding back and forth, pumping pleasure with each smooth jerk and squeeze.
Blue eyes stared into green as the two lovers moved towards completion, breath stuttering in one chest as the first teetered on the edge, penis hardening even further as his scrotum pulled his testicles tight to his pelvic bone. Panted breaths pausing for a second as the wave crested and pulled him under, hot seed spilling forth as Nick screamed deep and low in his throat, dragging Lance along for the ride as his hand unconsciously tightened and squeezed a little harder on the next stroke, triggering Lance’s own orgasm, his vocalisations quieter if no less explosive than Nick’s.
In the next bedroom, JC blushed as he sketched onto the walls.
28th February 2007 A.M.
Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning saw little of the pregnant couple outside of Nick’s bedroom. After their pre-natal check up and the following expression of hormones both men had fallen asleep, the air conditioning directing refreshingly cool air over their passion heated skin allowing them to comfortably snuggle closer. Their naked bodies pressed together sharing the same pillow side by side from shoulder to hip, legs and feet tangled as one beneath the sheets.
Once sufficient time had elapsed Chris figured it should be safe to check of them without interrupting something private or risk seeing anything outside of his safety zone. His soft knocks were greeted by the sound of Lance snuffling in his sleep, forced to lay on his back a position that always caused him to snore, a sound Chris had grown used to hearing over the last few months whenever Lance’s condition had compelled him to nap.
It was not too bad at night, when bedroom doors and a corridor separated them, plus Lance had access to a whole nest of pillows, much to Chris’s relief. However, during the day Lance tended to drop off at a moment’s notice, often seated at his desk or laying on the sofa where his head would fall back and then Chris would often wish for earplugs.
Pre-warned to Lance’s current state of unconsciousness, Chris was still not prepared for the sight that greeted him. Stretched out alongside Lance, Nick lay naked, the sheet barely covering his dignity, it draped across his legs. The sharp crease of his hips jutted above the edge of the cotton, however where normally the golden skin would merge into his waist it swelled into the dome of his belly, silvery red stretch marks chronicled the rapid growth of the child within. The peak of tiny breasts developing among the scarring, where tattoos had once been on his smooth hairless chest was a strangely perfect combination of both feminine and masculine elements.
Oddly enough, Chris found the sight of the pale-skinned Lance equally enticing. Stomach distended to accommodate the larger of the two babies, his shorter frame was softened by the laying down of fat reserves to provide milk for the child, creating smooth curves enhancing the hard won musculature.
Seeing the two gravid men lain out so peaceful and calm, snuggled together in sleep, the skin of their bellies stretched taunt with the occasional movements of their unborn children, surrounded by the healthy glow of the expectant, memories of Chris’s mother’s various pregnancies carrying his sisters pulled at him. Although happy memories they also carried a hint of long buried pain, with each birth there had been another mouth to feed. Circumstances for the younger Chris had been difficult, but the sense of family had always remained strong through bad and good.
Chris knew he was not getting any younger, at thirty-five and still single the desire to settle down and spread his own roots was becoming more urgent year by year. Lance and Nick had seemingly found an unexpected and unique solution to the lack of a wife or girlfriend in producing the next generation. Although it was now apparent that they were growing closer together, starting their own family and as a couple they intended to share the responsibility and joys of childrearing.
While frankly envious, Chris could not bring himself to begrudge their happiness. In fact he welcomed it freely, knowing that Lance had struggled for a long time to find someone to share his life with, someone secure in their own sexuality and sense of self to accept the restrictions that the life of a celebrity imposed on an alternative lifestyle. Who better than another celebrity to understand?
Joey had Kelly and Brianna, Justin had Cameron, Brian had Leighanne and Baylee, Kevin had Kristen, and now Lance and Nick had found each other. AJ seemed just as happy either single or with his current flavour of the month and JC seemed not to notice or really care that much whether he had someone or not. This left Howie and Chris unattached, although Howie seemed to be keeping busy enough with his Lupus charity work and as yet seemed to show no signs of wanting to settle down.
Chris had tried to find a place in the business world, his efforts with Fuman had not been quite the disaster everyone painted it as. His continued presence in the music scene, if somewhat on the fringes now, had taken the place of his defunct company, filling the void that the end of *NSYNC’s performing days had left in his world. But his soul still ached for something more, something he had yet to find, had thought he had found with Dani and mourned the idea of more than the actual relationship when it ended. Chris was ready to begin again; he just needed to find the right person to share his dreams with. Until then he would continue to hide behind the clown persona and live voraciously through the men closest to him, his band brothers.
Dreaming, Nick twitched in his sleep, moaning a little when the movement flexed his bandaged knee. The twisted sheets shifting over his legs revealing the still painful looking bruising on both. The skin of his left knee, the un-bandaged limb, was mottled purple but with more yellows and greens appearing in the mix as it healed. The right knee, what skin was visible above and below the edges of the crepe wrap was a much darker purple, with hints of almost black and flecks of red over the remaining swelling. Looking at the damage, the first time Chris had seen the true extent, he was not surprised that Nick was unable to walk let alone stand. The next few weeks of the tour were going to be interesting to say the least and Chris did not envy the Boys or Nick in the slightest.
Disturbed by Nick’s movements, Lance shifted on the bed rolling into Nick’s right side, his head dropping from the pillow to Nick’s shoulder. The soft snores ceasing as he settled into the new position, one arm reaching over his own chest to lay his hand in the centre of Nick’s sternum, the comforting rhythm of Nick’s heart beating beneath his palm.
Movement caused the sheets to shift with the motions of the sleeping men, enough to confirm to the hovering Chris that Nick really was a true blond, before strong morals caused him to tear his eyes away before his gaze could land somewhere only Lance was privileged to see. Not that Chris normally ogled naked men, although he had seen Lance and the rest of his group in various states of undress over the years, but there was something about the two men’s pregnancies that almost demanded closer examination. Faintly embarrassed by his inadvertent voyeurism Chris beat a hasty retreat before the situation could deteriorate any further.
Chris escaped to the relative sanity of Nick’s games room where Aaron was locked in a battle of sibling rivalry against Angel on one of Nick’s many games systems. Relaxing with a medical journal she was occasionally reading, Lance’s doctor watched over the pair amused by the playful banter between the two teens. Sinking down into the nearest chair Chris drained half the iced water from his glass before speaking, settling into a intense conversation with the lady doctor which carried them through a multitude of topics over several hours. Pausing only for a late lunch when Lance and Nick put in a brief appearance before they returned to the sanctuary of Nick’s bedroom to continue the exploration of their relationship, building on the bonds that they had started forming over seven months ago.
Aaron and Angel used the afternoon to finalise plans for the next four weeks. Checking Aaron’s luggage was packed and ready and working on their back stories; Angel due to remain in the house with JC for a couple of days before moving on with him to Nick’s other homes, needed something ready just in case their mother decided to check up on either of the twins. Hoping that by keeping moving around the country Angel could keep out of Jane’s notice for as long as possible. Aaron had already called home, letting Leslie know that he would be travelling with Nick, knowing that she would be able to redirect Jane if it come down to it.
As a trial run the twins had run the sperm donor cover story by their elder sister, who informed them it was workable even if she had worked out that it was a cover. Unwilling to push for the truth, knowing that Nick and the twins would only produce such a lie if there was truly a need to do so.
Jane, she assured them would fall for it without question, although Bob might not be such an easy target. Nick would be the one to contact their parents to break the news, after the birth, so that they would not shoot themselves in the foot over the dates. The idea was to allow the ‘Rents’ to absorb the story days before an official press release, knowing that Jane would be onto the press just as soon as she recovered from the shock.
Morning came to a reluctant household, knowing the pair of lovers would be forced to separate before the day was done the other occupants of Nick’s house seemed loathed to disturb the cocoon they had built against the outside world. However the Tour would wait for no one, performer or otherwise and so reality forced its’ way back into Nick and Lance’s haven.
Having had to settle for flannel baths for the last few days, Nick was desperate to have a proper wash. A shower was out for the same reason he had been washing in the sink in the first place, his knee would simply not support his increased weight, the danger to both Nick and the baby from a fall was not worth the risk. Instead, bathing called to him. The large tub in his private bathroom the solution; however, there was the minor problem of getting him in and out of the water.
Lance, due to own pregnancy could not help, their doctor backing up the decision having already cautioned both men to avoid lifting anything and risk unnecessarily straining themselves. Although JC and Chris were capable of providing assistance, Nick was not comfortable enough with his body, even on a normal day, to expose himself to them; he was twenty-six weeks pregnant, defiantly not what you could describe as normal.
Angel was out, if Nick was uncomfortable at the idea of being naked in front of either JC or Chris then his baby sister was completely out of the question. Aaron, was thankfully the perfect choice, Nick had shared a room with his brother when they were younger and when they toured together. There was little between the two that they found unacceptable. Aaron decided it was not much different from skinny-dipping in Nick’s pool, only this time Nick would be the one in his birthday suit.
Stripped of everything, including the bandages from his knee, Nick wheeled his naked self into the bathroom where Lance and Aaron both waited. Getting his first real look at Nick’s legs, a remnant of guilt flashed over Aaron’s face, after a week the evidence of the damage was still pretty bad. Seeing his brother’s emotional pain, Nick once again stressed that it was an accident, nothing to forgive as far as he was concerned. They had both done worse damage to each other in the past, wrestling games going that little bit too far, bloody noses and bruised heads not unheard of.
Getting over his momentary awkwardness brought on by the display of bruised flesh under the harsh bathroom lights, Aaron helped Nick slide sideways off the wheelchair seat onto the edge of the bath. Supporting his brother’s back with his hips and thighs Aaron waited while Nick managed to get his left leg in the water, only requiring help to lift his stiff right leg.
Once both Nick’s legs had been swung up and over the edge, feigning ignorance of the scent of sex’s musky tones on Nick’s skin, Aaron wrapped his arms around Nick’s chest from behind while avoiding his burgeoning bust-line and with great care lifted him over and down into the water. Nick settled back with a sigh of pleasure as the warm water rose over his chest. Checking that neither Nick nor Lance needed anything for the moment, Aaron rolled Nick’s chair out of the way and perched himself down on the closed lid of the toilet.
Leaning back Nick let out a stream of air bubbles as he submerged, dunking his head completely under the surface to wet his hair, both hands running through the blond strands as it wafted around his head. Opening his eyes under water, his gaze focused on Lance’s face where he leaned over the edge of the tub. A cheeky grin spread over Nick’s face as he occasionally blew bubbles, holding his breath for an impressive period of time. Quietly he watched his lover before surfacing, grabbing a sneaky kiss for a few seconds before dropping back.
With Lance’s help, they washed his back. Lance spending longer than truly needed to wash over his tattoos, tracing over the inked skin with a gentle touch. It took considerable effort on Nick’s part not to let the caress result in a visible response, mentally clamping down on his libido. Although, a long session of mutual exploration and masturbation ending less than an hour before went a long way in suppressing the erection that he could feel half-heartedly trying to form. With Aaron in the room there was no way he wanted the embarrassment getting hard would trigger, even though no one would be able to see beneath the curve of his belly the idea was still uncomfortable, as brothers they were close but thankfully not that close.
The urge slowly passed and Nick’s penis settled with only an occasional twitch to remind him that his libido was only resting; the desire for his partner was still there, silent for now but not forgotten. Washing as far down his body as he was able, Nick’s ability to bend was restricted by the bulk of the baby which had steadily stolen his waist. Lance was in a similar situation and was unable to offer much in the way of help when it came to Nick’s legs.
Aaron took over flannel duty and with a few rude comments proceeded to help his invalided brother wash his feet. Any embarrassment any of the trio felt quickly disappeared when Lance commented, somewhat dryly, that if one wanted practice bathing a baby using a six foot substitute was not as good idea as it sounded. The resulting laughter echoed around the tiled bathroom walls.
When they had recovered it was time to get Nick out of the water. As much as he had enjoyed the bath and desired to stay in the water there was much he needed to get done in a relatively short period of time. Nick wanted the chance to spend as much time with Lance as possible before he had to leave for the airport.
Although a tad wetter than getting Nick in to the bath, the reverse process was a little easier and with a little assistance from both his helpers Nick was warm and dry in no time. One thing they discovered once Nick was back in his chair, was that the heat from water had worked a spot of magic on his right knee, reducing a little of the swelling and allowing it to move without some of the stiffness that plagued him.
While Aaron helped Nick dress Lance quickly threw himself through the shower, washing off the lingering sweat from their earlier sexual activity. In next to no time all three headed down for a meeting over breakfast. Confirming everyone’s schedules for the next few weeks kept them all busy for the next hour during which numerous rounds of toast were consumed along with a mountain of pancakes and various cereals and in Lance’s case Greek Yoghurt on his pancakes to accompany Nick’s continued obsession with carrot sticks.
Keys to Nick’s homes were provided for JC along with instructions and codes to operate each security system. Angel would be travelling ahead to each house a day before JC, opening them up and co-ordinating with the housekeeping service to deal with preparations for builders and the like. Chris would be accompanying Lance, who now planned to pull off his disappearing act, Chris had elected himself as Lance’s indentured man-servant staying with him until future notice. Anything Lance was not able to deal with over the phone or online Chris would take care of, including grocery shopping it turn out. Something he was surprisingly good at if you ignored his habit of stocking up on items on special offer, whether they were needed or not.
Lance’s doctor would be travelling with the pair back to her practice in Mississippi, planning on regular visits to Lance during his confinement. Both as a doctor and a friend, having become more than a little fond of the younger man, although going by the looks that had been passing over the last few days between Chris and the lady in question she may have had one more reason to visit. Lance was hopeful something was developing between the two, having not failed to miss the look of longing which often appeared on Chris’s face when anyone mentioned family or whenever Chris’s attention was drawn to either his or Nick’s bumps, something that was happening with increasing frequency.
JC was already at work on preparing several of the walls in the new nursery, transferring Nick’s designs from paper to rough sketches on the paint to get a basic idea of how to proceed. Although until the builders had been there was little he could actually do, even his sketches were due to be painted over in a few days, until then he contented himself with drawing on the walls, getting a childlike enjoyment at doing something out of the ordinary.
28th February 2007 P.M.
After breakfast was finally finished and the dishes washed and put away, the doctor gave Nick’s right knee one final check, deciding that the bandages he had left off after his bath were no longer needed. Instead she fitted him with a sport style support designed to offer a greater range of movement but still provide essential support while his body healed. Instructions on how to continue to look after the injury were provided for Nick and repeated separately for Aaron.
Nick would to continue to use the wheelchair for the next few weeks, slowly working back strength into the limb with a series of physiotherapy exercises designed to have him walking again before the tour was over. Nick was under no circumstances to try and dance, however standing for short periods on stage was allowable. Normally restrictions for such an injury would only be for a short term however Nick’s unusual condition played a major part in deciding his treatment and the foetus would soon be due for its’ final growth spurt; the potential weight gain for both ‘mother’ and baby would put extra stress on healing ligaments.
Understanding that Nick needed to continue to hide his condition as far as humanly possible she considered that the wheelchair was an excellent smokescreen so Nick was to carry on using it in public even once he was able to walk again unaided. Crutches had already been supplied by the tour doctor and would be kept in the storage compartment on one of the two buses until such time as Nick was ready for them.
Worried that as his stomach continued to expand someone not in the ‘know’ would notice, Nick with the Doctor’s help tried to come up with a backup plan, a viable excuse for his swollen appearance. Eventually they settled on something, which hopefully could use without worrying the fan base unduly and the press could not overplay. Nick just hoped that he would not have to use it. But it was always better to be prepared on the off chance, rather than stumble around after the fact and make matters worse. Nick decided he wanted to let the rest of the Boys and Aaron know about the backup, once they reached Barcelona.
After a final check confirmed that Nick and Aaron had finished their packing their luggage was transferred out to the car to save time later. Angel would drive the pair to the airport, leaving Nick’s house around six p.m. to give them at least an hour to get to the terminal, allowing for the two hours suggested for check-ins for international flights. Even though their celebrity status granted them perks such as a private VIP lounge they still had to complete the full security procedures that all passengers were subject to, protocols brought in worldwide in the wake 9/11.
Chris was driving Lance and the doctor to the airport the following day and returning the rental car at the same time, subsequently picking up Lance’s recently purchased people carrier from the long-term parking lot when they landed. Until then, Lance was free to do as he pleased, and what he pleased was Nick. The pair made themselves scarce for several hours as they discussed the latest developments in their relationship, while neither was ready to bring the ‘L’ word into the equation both had strong feelings towards the other, above and beyond those brought on by their shared circumstances.
There was the obvious deep bond they had formed with the children they carried and to a lesser extent with the other’s child. Both children would be brought up knowing the other was a full sibling and once old enough to understand the circumstances of their conception and birth would be explained.
A special set of emotions was always reserved for an expectant father towards the mother of his unborn baby, so what if in this instance both mother and father happened to be of the same sex, the feelings were valid but at the same time bore no relation to those already developing between the two lovers.
Sex between them was something they had only just begun to truly explore within the last few days, limited as yet to heavy petting and mutual masturbation, neither was quite ready to contemplate oral sex. As with all relationships it was a matter for each partner as an individual to decide on, some never became comfortable with the act of performing fellatio. Between two men the situation was a little more difficult, it was one thing to enjoy receiving a blowjob but it was a big step to be on the other end. Time would tell whether or when the two would be ready.
Unfortunately, even before the pregnancy discoveries the pair’s relationship had been unusual, a long distance courtship constructed mostly by letter and e-mail with irregular telephone calls. The last four days had been the most time the two men had spent together since Challenge last July, when perhaps at least for Lance the first hints of attraction had begun to surface; it had been his idea to invite both Aaron and Nick.
It was obviously going to continue to be difficult for the pair to work on their relationship while separated for the next month, even more so than before now that they had finally managed to spend some quality time together. However, they had managed before and were confident that the separation would not ultimately prove harmful to the relationship. At least they had a reunion to look forward to at the end of the European leg of the tour, then a whole four months to re-bond. Before that could happen, Nick would have to leave, today, and as the day drew on both lovers withdrew a little emotionally and physically from everyone else.
Lunch was held slightly earlier than normal, extra cooked meat set aside for later to provide a cold buffet supper for those heading to the airport, knowing that they would have several hours hanging around before they would board the plane. Airport food was not the most satisfying but it at least ranked above that which would be served on the plane itself, however, home cooked won out every time.
With his right leg propped up on the games room coffee table, Nick snuggled into the corner of sofa. With Lance wielded to his side, their hands locked together drawing comfort, silently observing everyone and at the same time absorbed almost entirely in each other.
Excited to be heading back on tour Nick loved to perform, but to do so this time meant leaving something important behind and he was emotionally torn. It was not as if Lance could have accompanied him, even without being pregnant Lance’s presence, an *NSYNC’er on a BSB tour, was something that would attract unwanted attention.
In an ideal world the issue of a person’s sexual preference would in fact be a non-issue. An ideal world would not care less that two members of the biggest pop groups had paired off, unfortunately this was not an ideal world and they would be forced into hiding as a way of life unless they wanted to risk the hostile backlash coming out would cause. However out of the public eye and in front of trusted friends and family the two were free to be themselves, sloughing off the veneer of the performer to revel the true men beneath.
As the clock ticked away the lovers’ remaining hours and minutes, Nick’s unborn child began to react to his internal agitation, its’ movements becoming restless and more frequent. Nick’s ribs and bladder taking the majority of the punishment. It was not long before he breathlessly declared that he might as well take up permanent residence in the bathroom, for all the good it would do. He just hoped that the little one would settle down before the flight, there was no way he would be able to keep struggling in and out of the tiny plane toilets.
When a stray limb kicked out, pushing on Nick’s side hard enough to connect with Lance’s stomach and wake his sleeping baby, he decided that Nick was going to need help to calm down and he had the perfect idea on how bring the desired state about.
Persuading Nick to slide back into his wheelchair provide effortless when he caught the look on Lance’s face. With a yelled, ‘Tally ho’ from Chris the pair disappeared out on to the back patio, the warm afternoon sun heating the slate tiled area already beginning the process of settling Nick. Moving towards a secluded corner, Lance parked the wheelchair locking the brakes to hold it in place; he gently pushed Nick’s shoulders forward away from the chair’s back, giving him room to move.
Sliding Nick’s shirt up to expose his back and shoulder blades, Lance set his fingers to work, digging deep into the bunched muscles beneath his hands, working out the kinks in Nick’s upper spine and neck one vertebra at a time. Concentrating mostly on Nick’s upper back and shoulders, he soon began to feel Nick’s responses change from relief to stirrings of arousal, Lance’s touch changing from massage to caress to match.
Stepping back, Lance came around in front of the wheelchair; taking Nick’s face between his hands he sealed their lips in a long and passionate kiss. Nick’s hands sliding up under the edge of Lance’s t-shirt to stroke over the taunt skin of his stomach, the muscles over his ribs and lightly rubbing his nipples and bust.
Finally breaking off the kiss, Lance carefully settled onto his knees, kneeling between Nick’s legs which had spread to accommodate his lover. Lance’s hands grasped and kneaded the flesh of Nick’s inner thighs, slowly working towards his groin. His fingers plucking at the zipper on his jeans, sneaking inside to discover Nick’s centre. Beautifully manicured fingers wrapping around Nick’s penis, hot and hard beneath Lance’s palm as the velvety skin rolled and flowed under his direction, gently tugging and pulling pleasure from the turgid shaft.
With his left cheek pressed into Nick’s hot thigh, Lance had a close up view of Nick’s groin. His breath blowing over Nick’s penis as his hand maintained a steady pace, little puffs of warm air stirring the hair on his scrotum with each exhale, the sensation adding an unexpected source of pleasure.
One of Nick’s fine boned hands gripped the arm of his wheelchair tightly while the long fingers of the other wove themselves among the gel-spiked hair on Lance’s scalp; occasional light tugs corresponded to tiny moans wrung from deep within Nick’s throat as Lance worked his lover towards release.
Between Nick’s legs watching the smooth ride of his hand over Nick’s erection, lubricated only by occasion drops of pearly fluid forming at its’ head, Lance could feel his own penis hot and engorged with blood, trapped inside his jeans. The material pulled tight over his muscular thighs as he knelt, holding his dick firmly against the curve of his stomach. As he worked to pleasure Nick the regular movements of his forearm shifted his balance back and forth, rocking him and rubbing the sensitive head of his penis between the soft material of his boxer shorts and the hard flesh of his distended stomach, sending sparks straight up his spine into the pleasure centre of his brain.
Eyes close, his head thrown back, Nick made a sound half groan half whimper as he felt the building pressure begin to peak, his testicles drawing up tight as his penis stiffened further, becoming harder still heralding his release. His hips jacked forward, pushing his pelvis up into Lance’s fist, once, twice, before pausing. With a quick sharp breath then a long exhale, Nick shuddered, cresting and falling apart under Lance’s ministrations, orgasm tearing down through his spine.
With his head hovering so close to Nick’s groin it was inevitable that seminal fluid from Nick’s ejaculation would end up on Lance’s face, droplets of semen flecked across his cheek and nose, splashing his chin and neck as it landed. Panting through his own mounting release, Lance wriggled, dropping his free left hand to his lap, pressing the flat of his palm into the bulge of his groin. It took only moments for his rhythmic motions to bring him over the edge, coming off inside his underwear in hot pulses, ribbons of semen soaking into the denim at his crotch.
Sighing, Lance slowly came down from his orgasmic high, still gently cradling Nick’s softening penis in his right hand. Nick released one final soft groan as his rapid breathing returned to normal, his dancer’s body quickly reasserting a slower natural resting pulse rate. Relaxing his grip from Lance’s hair, fingertips dropping to caress the smooth skin of his face, pausing when he encountered evidence of his ejaculation.
Feeling Nick’s fingers falter, Lance carefully released Nick’s penis. Reaching over to Nick’s hand he surprised his lover by wrapping his lips around his fingertips, agile tongue licking off the cooling semen. It was all Nick could do not to whimper, eyes wide, the sight of Lance sucking on his fingers combined with the sexual afterglow caused his spent penis to twitch.
Releasing the fingers from his mouth, Lance smiled up at his lover, a wicked expression on his face before dropping his head to press a kiss on the tip of Nick’s penis. Pulling a tissue from his pocket, he clean off Nick’s groin and stomach as well as he could, ignoring his own sticky lap for the moment knowing that he needed a complete change of clothing to set that to rights.
Bracing his hands against Nick’s thighs and with his assistance, Lance struggled to his feet, both knees clicking as he pulled himself off the ground. Retrieving a discarded towel left out on a lounger, most likely by Chris or Aaron, Lance wet one corner in the swimming pool and using the damp material he wiped away the remnants of Nick’s orgasm from their skin before tucking Nick’s penis carefully back in his pants. When he finished the only outward evidence of their actions was their flush skin and glowing faces, and the wet mess comprised of Lance’s jeans and underwear.
Nick’s high-pitched giggles carried to the other occupants of the house as once again in his bedroom the pair set about pealing the wet denim from Lance’s legs, the look of disgust on Lance’s face as the cold clammy material of his boxers clung to his body setting off another round of giggles. Slinging both items of clothing into the sink, Lance washed himself clean before rinsing off his clothes, hanging them over the glass door of the shower stall to dry.
Naked from the waist down, Lance wiggled his butt as he dug around in his suitcase for fresh trousers. The smooth pale flesh of his buttocks proved to be irresistible and Nick made no effort to avoid temptation, copping a feel and nipping at one of Lance’s hips playfully with his teeth. With a squeak of surprise, Lance wriggled further into Nick’s hands.
Seated, Nick’s wheelchair held him at the correct height to wrap his arms around Lance’s hips, without either of their baby bumps getting in the way. Had they not just experienced ‘Le Petite Mort’ together and at a more advanced stage in the relationship, Nick may have taken things further with oral sex. However, neither was quite ready for that, nor would Lance have been able to become hard again quite so soon as after several days of rather intense sexual activity it was taking the spent pair slightly longer than usual to recover. Instead, Nick settled for pressing a quick kiss into the light brown curls of Lance’s pubic hair, inhaling the unique scent of his lover from his skin.
The couple held each other, Nick’s arms staying locked around Lance’s hips, his cheek pressed to the curve of Lance’s stomach listening to the rapid thrumming heartbeat of the foetus within. Lance’s arms dropped to encircle Nick’s shoulders, eyes closed as he savoured the moment, saving the memory up, storing it away to keep him warm over the next four Nick free weeks.
From the moment Lance had taken matters into his own hands, Nick had begun to calm down, as soon as the sun had hit his face there was little that could have stopped the process. Although Lance’s method had been a little unusual, it had done the job and as a direct result Nick’s unborn baby was no longer reacting to its’ ‘mother’s’ stress level, no longer using Nick’s internal organs as a punching bag, the foetus had at some point fallen asleep.
Letting Lance go to allow him to get dressed, Nick sat back to enjoy the view, unashamedly watching Lance’s backside as he slide his underwear up his thighs and firm buttocks. With a sigh he watched Lance dress in fresh jeans, grinning and suppressing a giggle as Lance unconsciously adjusted his package, tucking himself to the left.
Before they knew it their time had run out, Angel was getting her purse and keys together, ready to drive Nick and Aaron to the airport. After JC’s calm farewell, Chris’s bouncy playfulness was a bit of a shock if not completely unexpected. The doctor settled for a polite handshake, unable or unwilling to top Chris’s smacking kiss. In a show of compassion, they allowed Lance to say good-bye in private, a difficult good-bye that left both flushed and semi-hard.
Arriving first at the airport, Nick and Aaron unfortunately ended delayed at check-in, long enough for their security personal to meet up and Nick’s bladder demand attention. By the time he returned from the bathroom AJ and Howie had already made themselves at home in the private VIP lounge. Over the next hour both Brian and Kevin arrived separately, having flown in on different flights.
When the call came to begin boarding the first class passengers, bored and already missing Lance, Nick had been quietly sleeping for nearly an hour, passing the wait examining the inside of his eyelids. It seemed a shame to wake him but an unavoidable evil, Nick having to board first due to his wheelchair. With Kevin and Aaron’s assistance he was soon settled in his seat, the belt securely fastened in his lap safely below the curve of his stomach. Tired, he was asleep again before the plane had even taxied on to the runway, unaware he slept through both take off and landing, not even rousing for the in flight meal.
In Nick’s house, curled up on his large bed, Lance stayed awake long into the night. The cool sheets felt empty without Nick by his side, even surrounded by their friends Lance felt alone in the house, Instead he took comfort from the gentle movements of the baby within his womb, fighting off hormonal tears knowing that things would get worse long before they would get better, he had four long lonely weeks to get through first.
6th March 2007
Lance was home, except it was not home, not really. It was his house, one of several. Just a house, Laurel in Mississippi, not even his primary residence, more a guaranteed place to stay that was not a hotel, unchanging between visits. Taken care of by a Housekeeping service in his absence, which did exactly what Lance paid a considerable sum of money for. Maintained in pristine condition, food supplied and removed again by people paid to do so. But unless Lance was visiting, you could not really call it living there, so unless he was visiting the house stood empty, lifeless, unused, sterile.
The house had been opened up, aired through, made ready by those same people, and yet it felt cold, musty, soulless. This house was just that, a house, with no one to love it, live in it, care for it as anything more than four strong walls and a roof to protect against the elements, no family to bring it to life.
He had never noticed it before. How lonely it felt, how lonely he was. His bedroom was the worst, emotionally dead, that is how it felt, a void.
Lance hated it.
Even Chris’s guestroom had more character than the rest of the house put together, like Chris it was a paradox of organised chaos, alive with a warmth Lance felt was missing from the rest of the house, preventing it becoming a home.
Lance wondered if he was like the house, cold, empty, waiting for a family to come along and fill the quiet spaces.
For days after arriving, Lance had wandered the house, roaming from room to room, searching for something, someone. Unable to settle he had come to the conclusion that he was haunting his own house, and yet the one place he avoided was the one place that held the potential to bring joy back, to engineer a sense of homecoming. The nursery door remained closed, locked off.
Chris cooked and cleaned, well sort of, while keeping an eye on his friend. Holding whispered telephone conversations with the doctor, who he had finally learnt was called Alison.
Lance was in a period of adjustment, trying to cope with an almost unfamiliar location, he had barely spent any time in the house before the pregnancy, which was hard enough on the human body in itself, and then, the real reason for his restlessness, separation from his baby’s father, Nick.
Unlike Nick, who practically had no time to himself to think, kept in constant motion by the creature that ruled his life, the Tour; a monster with a life of its’ own, Lance had already off loaded his responsibilities. Delegating his business almost in its entirety to trusted individuals, relying on them to manage his company, to live up to his exacting standards. So far, they had not let him down.
With his business taking care of itself, requiring very little input from Lance and JC had already completed alterations to this house, even the smell of new paint had long since dissipated, there was no one to take care off but himself. No one to manage, to organise, Lance found himself at a loose end, he had never really had time for just himself before.
It took nearly a week of moping before Lance finally broke out of his depression. Chris found him curled up on the floor of the preciously undisturbed nursery, sound asleep with dried tear tracks marking his cheeks, a stolen t-shirt of Nick’s clutched to his chest. How long he had been there Chris was not sure, but it was the middle of the afternoon and he had not seen Lance since dinner the night before, although he had heard Lance pacing the corridors at some point after midnight.
Chris’s heart went out to him, but the sight of Lance finally sleeping soundly loosened the horrible tight feeling that had been building in his chest. Nothing right then seemed more important than watching his band brother sleep and so that is exactly what he did. Quietly taking a seat against the wall, his legs drawn up tight to his chest, Chris rested his head on his knees and watched.
Lance finally began to stir sometime before dinner, coming awake slowly he groaned as his body protested his carpeted bed, the soft pile of the rug beneath his face confusing his sleep addled brain.
Coming to, to find Chris Kirkpatrick’s face inches from your own was always a bit of a shock. Once Lance recovered, he gladly accepted Chris’s help in heaving his ungainly body off the floor. Much to Chris’s amusement, he found that using the hard floor as a mattress had pushed his stomach flatter on one side and his entire baby bump was off centred. Over the next hour it slowly returned to its usual position.
Satisfied that Lance while not exactly better, he was feeling more like his normal self acting once again like the man he knew and loved, Chris retreated to the kitchen to try out something Mama Bass had suggested some time ago but he had never had the chance to make.
Having washed and changed, carefully folding and putting away Nick’s t-shirt, taking one final inhale of Nick’s personal scent before returning it to the dresser drawer, Lance felt ready to enter the world again. It was strange but as he moved through the house something felt different, maybe it was the house, maybe it was something within Lance himself, but the previously chilly atmosphere seemed a little more welcoming like the house was awakening after a long hibernation.
Pouring himself a large glass of iced tea, Lance left Chris trying to avoid incinerating his kitchen, retreating to his study where Chris informed him he had left a delivery. Lance was pleasantly surprised to find a familiar looking parcel, place centre stage on his desk. Nick’s over the top usage of parcel tape and messy scrawl on the address label instantly recognisable.
Setting his glass down to one side, Lance immediately set about splitting the tape open. His actions hasty but careful, even in his desire to find out what Nick had sent this time he was ever mindful of the contents, not wanting to risk any damage.
Under several layers of protective bubble wrap, which would later fall prey to compulsive urges and be burst popped one bubble at a time, laid a charcoal sketch in a cheap picture frame. Puzzled Lance read the attached note before the sketch finally made sense, the note simply said ‘thought you might be missing these by now’. The picture had been drawn sometime during their four days together; in a typical example of Nick’s particular brand of humour, he had sketched a bird’s eye view of Lance’s feet.
The rest of the package contained a few of Nick’s usual silly gifts and a fairly lengthy letter, his pain at their separation clearly showing, even through his descriptions of Barcelona. Lance recognising several places in the city he had seen himself, the perpetually slow growing and as yet unfinished Cathedral, the musical fountains, the Ramblers with its street performers and its light-fingered Gypsies and pickpockets, the Football and Olympic stadiums, all bore witness to his lover’s angst.
Feeling Nick’s pain deeply echoing his own made Lance ache in empathy and feverently wish that the remaining three and a bit weeks were just a figment of someone’s twisted imagination.
Clearing away the rubbish Lance almost missed one final separately wrapped item. Unlike the main parcel, this was wrapped with almost tender care. Peeling back the scotch tape and brown paper, Lance found inside two tiny pairs of baby socks, one pair white and one pastel green. On the inside of the paper wrapping Nick had written, ‘one pair for each concert’. Sealed inside a plastic bag Nick had attached one pair at a time to the back of his guitar, so that it rested against his chest as he played, keeping his music and new family both close to his heart.
Chris found Lance later, clutching the soft material to his cheek as fresh tears dried on his face, his light green eyes shining with moisture. However, instead of exasperating his depression, Lance was smiling, not a wide grin, but the corners of his mouth lifted in a gentle secretive curve.
The smile stayed in place through out dinner, despite Chris announcing that although he had managed to keep the kitchen from burning down, one brave plastic mixing bowl had given its life to the cause; all that remained was an unfortunate bubbled blue blob, which given a massive dose of imagination one could possible see its original form. With a quick salute, Chris consigned its remains to the garbage, complete with eulogy.
Sometimes, Lance decided, Chris really was just too weird for words and the group had often loudly speculated when the Mother ship would be returning for him. Perversely they also believed that given the chance, he would make a great father one day.
After a pleasant meal and one outward bound e-mail later, Lance willing took himself off to bed after Chris found him beginning to dozy off on the back patio. That night he slept better than he had since Nick had left, his dreams warm and sunny, full of hope. Both tiny pairs of socks safely kept under the bottom most pillows in the nest that surrounded his gravid form.
Satisfied by the return of some sense of normality, if not sanity to the situation, Chris watched the younger man sleep. Checking on him several times before retiring himself, making sure that after nights of Lance wandering about during the small hours, he was safe and sound.
In the time between settling down for the night and actually falling asleep, Chris planned on how he could keep Lance distracted, wondering exactly how many of Lance’s kitchen utensils he could sacrifice before Lance became suspicious. Burning down the kitchen, he supposed would be taking things a little too far.
Several hours and many thousand of miles away, somewhere in Spain heading North West towards France, Nick’s e-mails slowly downloaded to his laptop care of the internet connection rigged up using a mobile phone as a modem. Currently sharing a bus with AJ and Aaron, while Brian, Kevin, and Howie had the other, he valued the small amount of time they were able to set aside for him.
Still invalided by his knee, when not performing on stage, being interviewed and the like, Nick worked on his physiotherapy with almost religious devotion. Being the one thing he could do unaided, everything else from bathing to getting dressed required assistance. Bathroom trips were becoming easier with practice, provided they could find a disabled toilet and hotels with their elevators and large rooms were manageable provided security kept the fans under control.
The bus however was another matter all together. There was simply no way Nick could use the wheelchair on board, it was a matter of available space, or lack thereof. He either had to rely on someone to carry him back and forth from bunk to couch to kitchen to bathroom and back again, or slide on his butt up and down the narrow isle. With a baby sitting on his bladder 24/7, dignity was the last thing on Nick’s mind. When he felt the need to pee then nothing was going to stand in his way.
Performing still held all the attractions it did PL, (Pre-Lance), complete with the thrill of being on stage, singing in front of thousands of screaming fans. Ok his knees currently put a major damper on the dancing aspect but the guys had worked around that, rather than bring the wheelchair up on stage, Nick spent most of the time on a high-backed stool, with his legs spread either side of the seat and his left leg bent up not only could he lean forward and incidentally hide his baby bump but it let him lean into the microphone stand, much to the delight of the fans.
The Northwards tour was much more relaxed then earlier tours, carrying on the more informal atmosphere from the up close and personal series of concerts prior to the Never Gone tour, and as such multiple changes of stage costume were a thing of the past. Comfortable t-shirts and trousers the order of the day, not necessarily what they would personally wear off stage, they had however chosen the wardrobe from everyday brands.
Costume changes now comprised of adding or removing jackets or over shirts. Props had become an almost permanent feature, such as fedora hats, Nick doing his own version of the hat dance from his stool. Nick’s favourite prop was his guitar, allowing him escape into the music. Each night before his set, Nick removed a zip-lock bag from the back pocket of his jeans and with gentle hands smoothed the tiny cotton socks within. Clear scotch tape secured the bag to the body of the guitar. He knew it was a risk, a chance someone on the crew might see and wonder what he was doing, but it was a connection with Lance and Lance’s baby and he was unwilling to forgo that link with home.
No one knew where Nick was getting the pairs from, he certainly had not brought them with him and his ability to get out and about had been severely curtailed due to his physical condition, but at each show a new pair appeared. Always a different colour, Nick was apparently working his way through the spectrum. As a quirk, it was rather cute and if it helped him to cope with the whole separation deal then far be it for anyone to interfere.
As mysteriously as the socks appeared, they vanished again in the same manner, although being the one to help Nick shop for his souvenir parcels, Aaron noticed a few small unidentified packages earmarked for Lance which were about the right size and weight.
That knowledge helped Aaron later when Nick turned sad blue eyes away from his computer, knowing then that Lance had written. Never one to worry about personal boundaries, having learnt the same lessons as his older brother, including: there is no such thing as personal space and thou doest not require permission to climb over thy band mates, Aaron wrapped gangly arms around Nick, providing comfort where it was most needed and incidentally feeling the baby roll and stretch within Nick’s stomach.
Held tight against Aaron, Nick began to realise that the warm feeling in his chest was also slightly damp. Breaking away they both looked down, noticing a rapidly spreading wet area covering Nick’s bust, it would seemed that his occasionally ‘leakage’ problem had expanded.
It appeared that Nick had finally found a use for his bras; one padded out went some way to keeping his t-shirt dry for a bit but after awhile the fluid saturated the tissues and started to soak through again.
With AJ’s help they tried several different paddings, cotton wool proved to be the longest lasting but would eventually circum. Explaining the problem over the phone to Brian on the other bus garnered the information that leaking to such an extent was normal but should prove intermittent right up until the birth. Brian also informed them that what Nick really needed inside his bras was something called breast pads which they could obtain from a pharmacy.
There was one tiny problem; they were in the middle of nowhere halfway to their next stop and experiencing a severe lack of available pharmacies in the near future. At their next meal stop, AJ managed to come up with a temporary substitute, AJ being the only one brave enough to wander the isle of the motorway shop containing female hygiene products. Slapping a packet of panty liners down on top of Nick’s ham baguette, AJ smirked as he simply pointed to the box which stated among other features a waterproof backing.
As an act of revenge, Nick vowed to make AJ the lucky person sent shopping for his pads just as soon as they reached the next hotel. Until then he made do with the panty liners which he soon discovered hurt like hell when you caught body hair on the sticky side. He just hoped his armpit hair would grow back soon as he would hate to have to shave the rest off to even things up, mostly because from past experience of being forced to shave the darn stuff itched growing back.
11th March 2007
Another Sunday rolled around and at long last the Boys were stationary long enough to indulge a little personal time, laundry being the order of the day and a source of unexpected risk. Up until that point the ladies in charge of Wardrobe had not pushed the issue of Nick’s missing clothing, but when the four other Boys regularly sent not only their stage wear but also personal items to be cleaned without risking the inherent lottery of using hotel laundry services and finding your underwear listed on eBay the next day, someone was bound to notice the omission.
How did you explain that you would rather cart around a couple of weeks worth of dirty clothes than risk exposing those about you to a dangerous secret, for undoubtedly the knowledge of a pregnant man was a dangerous fact.
Realising the brewing situation just in time to stave off certain disaster, Kevin came to the rescue, working swiftly with little fanfare. Living in each other’s pockets for months at a time it was not unusual for clothing to get misplaced and be picked up by someone else, t-shirts, jackets and the like often worked themselves from one person's suitcase to another’s on a fairly regular basis. Simply borrowing or pinching (a.k.a. taking an unofficial loan), helped the circulation of many items to the point that at the end of any given tour you could end up taking home luggage containing nearly a third less of your own clothing than you had started out with, while on the same hand later having to figure out just how you had ended up with three pairs of tiger-striped underwear.
It was this fluidity of ownership that Kevin employed to scrounge up enough of Nick’s own, pre-maternity wear to satisfy Wardrobe, successfully putting the good ladies off the scent. Kevin’s own suitcase revealed several pairs of Nick’s more formal shirts, while for some reason Howie was found to be in possession of three pairs of jeans. Something that defied logic, being somewhat shorter and narrower of hip and waist than Nick. There was no way even using the most secure belt that Howie could have worn them and hoped to either A, keep from committing an act of indecent exposure, or B, tripping over the leg bottoms and breaking his neck in the process.
Whatever the reason behind that piece of bizarre luggage reassignment the end result was a nigh on complete set of interchangeable clothing which could be worn by one or other of the Boys in Nick’s place over several days and sent to be cleaned without undue suspicion.
Nick’s real clothes were a different matter altogether. A milky residue on a number of t-shirts due to continuing leakage problems meant that Nick spent more time than he expected hand rinsing his clothes. It had taken three days before AJ had succeeded in obtaining the required breast pads. It was worse than buying condoms when they had first hit it big back home, at least then when shopping for personal items they could always bribe someone, usually one of the bodyguards into obtaining them.
To add to the problem AJ’s understanding of French was not up to the same level as his Spanish and wandering aimlessly around the isles of a pharmacy, hunting through the maternity and baby care section without arousing suspicion from either his personal security, the store’s own, or heaven forbid being spotted by a fan, was a chore he would rather not repeat.
Thankfully, due to a stiff breeze AJ had chosen to wear a jacket that day, the sight of a heavily tattooed man, especially one being followed by a six foot six walking wall of muscle was enough to force even the most inattentive person into a double take. With his distinctive body art hidden and bodyguard hovering at a discrete distance, AJ was after some effort able to find a product that fit the somewhat vague description provided by Brian from memory.
A few embarrassed words with the attractive shop assistant confirmed AJ’s choice, playing up the blush his stumbling enquires in less then fluent French triggered, he was able to convince the woman that he had lost a bet and was on a weird form of scavenger hunt.
Obtaining the elusive breast pads and figuring out exactly how to use them was another matter. It was only through trial and error, mostly error, that Nick was able to work out when his current pads were reaching saturation point. However, it was not an exact science due to a widely varying amount of flow and several times he had been caught by surprise, soaking through both bra and t-shirt on an embarrassingly frequent basis before he finally caught on.
His bras in themselves were another matter, there was simply no way Wardrobe or anyone else was going to get their hands on those. All he needed were rumours of phantom girls leaving underwear in his room, or worse, stories of cross-dressing to leak to the public.
Okay yes, Nick was the first to admit he, tall, broad shouldered, golden boy, baby Backstreet, male with a few added extra’s, Nick, was wearing women’s undergarments, but it was not as if he had a choice in the matter. All right, the satiny green bra had caught his eye in the store, but he had been thinking of Lance at the time and as far as the voices in Nick’s head were concerned it was for Lance and that made everything ok so stuff what anyone else thought.
So Sunday was laundry day, in so much as Nick’s hotel bathroom was covered in drip-drying bra’s and reusable fabric bra pads, while Howie as today’s sacrificial victim, was out hunting down an anonymous laundrette to take care of the rest of Nick’s used clothes. Thankfully, Nick’s boxers and socks, when he wore any, were the two items which he had not stopped sending care of the Wardrobe team. Much to the other Boys’ relief, hand washing the other man’s dirty skivvies was simply above and beyond the call of friendship.
Two weeks into this leg of the tour Nick was doing his best to keep up with the programme, plus working hard to regain his mobility, pushing the limits of his energy reserves. With another two weeks to go before they were due to head home, he had surprised everyone by walking onto stage the night before, much to the crowds’ appreciation. However euphoric, the experience had left him drained and the afternoon found him napping instead of exploring the local shopping centre while his washing dried.
As much as he loved his brother, Aaron was fully aware of his faults and was glad that Nick had given into the Sandman’s call, he needed the rest and running himself ragged over an injury Aaron still felt responsible for causing was not in Nick’s or the baby’s best interest.
With Nick safely tucked away in their shared hotel rooms, Aaron was free to indulge in a little pampering of his own, making good use of the hotel’s spa and flirting unashamedly with the staff, young and old. The Carter charm working in overtime he soon had the women slaved to even his smallest whim, leaving later with more then one phone number slipped in his pocket and a relaxed smile upon his face.
An otherwise uneventful day passed fairly quickly for the six men, small personal chores were taken care of and several of the group managed a little sight seeing. Awaking alone, Aaron still making good use of the hotel’s fully equipped spa, Nick felt calm and rested as he ordered a light lunch, resisting the urge to smother everything in sight in Greek yoghurt.
Just as he was returning the used dishes to the service trolley, unworried by how clumsy he appeared banging about on crutches in privacy as he cautiously balanced plate and flatware, the room phone rang. Answering it cautiously, for it was not unusual for fans to track down their room numbers; Nick was pleasantly surprised to hear his lover’s low tones from the earpiece.
They were still talking nearly two hours later when Aaron clattered back into the suite, later Nick could not have said what they had talked about, the topic swinging freely from one subject to another as they reconnected, simply he was glad that Lance was picking up the tab for the call, Nick might be wealthy in his own right but management would have raised hell over the bill had it been charged to his room.
As much as he enjoyed hearing Lance’s voice over the line, it was no substitute for hearing it in person and try as he might there was something about the contact that worried Nick, a faint sense of something not quite right. Shrugging the feeling off, putting it down to ongoing separation anxiety he turned to the one thing he had to do before the day was out; packing, with Aaron’s help. Returning his luggage to travel readiness; fitting away items that had inevitably made their way into various drawers and over surfaces after two days in the same location.
Freshly washed and pressed jeans and t-shirts, care of the privately run Howie D door to door laundry service; motto shirts and socks with a smile, fought for space with clean boxers, sports bras, and tacky souvenirs for suitcase space.
One final errand before they finished sent Aaron traipsing off to the lobby, entrusting a familiar package to the concierge to post to Mississippi in the morning. Nestled deep within the plain brown paper wrapping, three tiny pairs of cotton socks, in mauve, lilac, and lemon yellow, ready to wing their way by international courier to add to Lance’s growing collection of baby wear.
Tasks completed they made their way to the dining room, joining the other Boys for a casual dinner. Aaron assisted Nick in manoeuvring his wheelchair with practiced ease between the irregularly spaced tables and chairs, navigating the other diners seemly effortlessly. Although happy to walk with the aid of crutches on stage and the privacy of his own room, Nick was not quite ready to take his newly reacquired ability to walk into more crowded areas, well that and the wheelchair was still serving its’ secondary purpose in camouflaging his gravid condition.
With a fairly early start the next morning, Nick chose to retire to bed not long after ten, knowing that finding a comfortable position to sleep in was becoming a nightly battle. However once finding the elusive state where his swollen belly was supported and his back and hips no longer protested the combined weight of his womb and the child within, he slept soundly only mildly disturbed by foetus’s movements when it awoke roused by the cessation of movement from its parent.
While Nick had eaten somewhat calmly and then slept deeply, many miles away Lance had found himself being entertained by and at the same time at the mercy of one Christopher Alan Kirkpatrick.
Having decided early on that they would share kitchen duty, partially on Lance’s behalf to try to spare the expense of re-building the kitchen after fire damage and Chris’s quest to survive Lance’s somewhat eccentric menu choices, it was currently Chris’s turn to cook.
While lunch and later dinner had proven to be more than passable, Lance was not sure if he wanted to repeat the experience of Chris trying and almost succeeding on using all the pans in Lance’s well-stocked kitchen. By the time Chris’s explorations into the culinary arts had taken over the majority of the marble worktops, Lance had been glad of the industrial sized dishwasher he had the foresight to install when he had refitted the house.
One final act of skill had surprised even Chris, who had been frankly amazed that with enough persistence or as Lance would say ‘bloody mindedness’, even a stainless steel spatula will ignite. Heaven only knew what he had done and Chris doubted that even under controlled conditions that he could recreate the accident, but the sorry looking blacked object attested to the fact that Chris was a danger to all innocent utensils.
Although the kitchen had been slightly warmer than the rest of the house, it had not been hot enough for Lance to write off the slightly damp sensation in his underwear as sweat. For the last couple of days he had been noticing the wet feeling through out his waking hours and although it continued when he lay down to nap the amount of moisture seemed to reduce.
Not wanting to worry anyone unduly, he had kept the information to himself. Having extensively read up on the whole pregnancy deal he had a strong feeling that he was losing amniotic fluid and had resolved to talk to the doctor in the morning. Alison had proven sympathetic to his worries about random aches and pains in his back and legs; setting his mind at ease over his body’s natural reactions to the pregnancy without making him feel stupid for worrying and so, he felt he could trust her with this latest development.
He knew that if his theory proved to be correct he might be in for trouble, but until told to do so he resolved not to panic. Striving to stay calm in an already stressful situation with surprising success; long years of practice while travelling, performing, and managing the group had gone a long way building the man whom Lance had grown into.
From the moment Alison had confirmed the unusual pregnancy Lance had known that it could result either his or the foetus’s death, both in a worse case scenario. However, damp boxers were not a reason to start shopping for a burial plot and Lance being Lance refused to even consider it. Yes, he more then likely had a problem but that was no reason to go off the deep end. In a testament to his strength of character, he was willing to take the rough with the smooth and acknowledge that even the brightest day could not be spoiled by a few clouds on the horizon.
14th March 2007
Thursday, middle of week three, dawned bright and cheerful with the buses on an over-night haul completing the last of the journey from Italy through to the first stop in Germany. Lulled by the hum of the road beneath their wheels the morning gave no indication of heartache one simple phone call was about to cause.
With little to do before their next stop the Boys spent a lazy morning resting, relaxing quietly each in his own individual manner, preparing for later when they all had to be ‘on’ again. The schedule had the Boys arriving directly at the venue mid-afternoon where they would spend time with competition winners from a popular teen magazine, a chance for the fans to get a personal view of life behind the stage.
Pulling into a truck stop orders were taken for a late breakfast and those who needed to made good use the facilities; the simple joys of a bathroom floor that did not rock beneath your feet should never be underestimated.
Currently exempt due to his circumstances from making the food run, Nick found himself temporally alone on the second bus, with even the driver taking the time to stretch his legs. Used to the expensively muffled noise of powerful engine and the muted sound of the tires as they sped along, the lack of either was disconcerting without the benefit of the auditory experience of the AC and Alex double act.
The sudden ringing of a phone was welcome if somewhat startling interruption to Nick’s quite musings on the antics of his brother and friend. Recognising the ring tone as coming from his own phone, specifically the tone he had assigned for Lance. He briefly panicked when initially unable to locate the slim-line model, it looked likely that he would miss the call. However, with a flash of memory he remembered tucking it in his jacket pocket earlier, the jacket currently hanging off the arm of the sofa.
Rummaging through its pockets soon revealed the silver phone and he answered it somewhat breathlessly. Lance’s returned greeting was slow in coming, his voice flat and lacklustre which immediately grabbed Nick’s attention and caused the odd feeling from Sunday to come crashing back full force.
With mounting trepidation, Nick spoke to his lover, worry colouring his tone and causing his voice to lose volume. Awkward, both men stumbled over simple small talk until Lance finally gave in and revealed the reason for his unexpected call. Quietly explaining about his problem with the dampness he had been experiencing, his decision to seek Doctor Alison’s medical opinion and her subsequent tests leading to a diagnosis of PPROM, Premature Preterm Rupture of Membranes, the primary symptom being the seepage of amniotic fluid from the womb.
Stunned Nick sat and listened as Lance clarified that although excessive fluid loss, i.e. losing fluid at a greater rate than the body and baby naturally replaced it, could be harmful to be baby’s lung development and pose higher risk of difficulties during birth, Alison had confirmed that at present the leakage was fairly slow and baby was developing at a normal rate. However, the condition did carry an increased risk of infection to both parent and child.
Due to the unknown risks involved simply by being male and pregnant, the Doctor had monitored Lance for several days and when he continued to lose fluid, Alison had prescribed strict bed rest. Ordering the unfortunate Lance straight to bed there and then, where he was to remain until the birth only allowing him up to use the bathroom.
Although his pregnant body was proving increasingly difficult to manoeuvre and he had been spending much of his time either laying on the living room couch or in bed, it had been by choice, now even after only a few hours with that choice taken away Lance was extremely restless and unhappy with the entire situation.
Chris became Lance’s arms and legs, on top of taking over all the cooking and making sure the house continued to run smoothly, he found himself having to find new and interesting ways to keep the suddenly chronically bored younger man occupied.
To make matters worse, Angel had called earlier to warn them that Justin had bumped into JC while the other man was out replenishing his art supplies. Having popped out to get a new 0.3 brush and several tubes of paint which he was running low on, JC had been struck with inspiration. Ensnared by the creative display of colours he had spent longer than intended in the store, leaving the Mall just at the wrong moment, just as Justin’s car had pulled over to the curb.
Trapped by the need not to make a scene in public, training ingrained after too many years to break on such short notice, JC bit the proverbial bullet and faced his band mate. Refusing to be drawn on the issue of the strained distance between the five friends and remaining strictly polite, anyone not knowing the history between the two would have been easily fooled into thinking JC was talking to a stranger.
However, the drop off zone outside a decent sized shopping mall was not the ideal venue for the two estranged men to talk and it did not take long for their celebrity status to be recognised, driving Justin to back off and allowing JC to make his escape. The brief contact only helped fuel Justin’s frustration at a situation of his own making, increasing his need to repair the damage his actions towards the four other members of *NSYNC, and especially towards Lance.
Something that was proving a lot harder than he expected, having been spoiled somewhat due to his status as the youngest of the group and more lately pandered to by ‘Yes men’ by those more interested in what he could get them than in Justin himself. To have suddenly been cut off by those closest to him, their continuing wall of silence a proverbial slap in the face, was testing his resolve to the limits but having taken long enough to come to his senses he had no choice but to stick it out.
And now with the chance meeting with JC he felt the renewal of hope, though stilted and short, their conversation proved that at least one of them was not completely opposed to communicating. The wall of silence was finally showing signs of crumbling; now if he could only get to Lance maybe by starting on the hardest candidate he stood a fair chance of gaining forgiveness from all involved. With a self-satisfied grin Justin climbed back in his car and drove away, completely forgetting why he had gone to the mall in the first place.
JC had arrived back at Nick’s house in a mess, looking frazzled, it took Angel several minutes to calm him down enough to get an explanation out of the irritated man. JC was annoyed at himself, for the relief he felt when he had managed to get away from Justin. The four had known that the lines of communication would have to be repaired at some point before the next Challenge, but when they were ready and not when Justin decided.
They had been steadfast in their resolve to force the younger man into learning that he could not continue treating them as he had been, to setting right his mistakes, but JC knew that he was the weak link in the chain.
Chris could be counted on stubbornly outlasting them all just for the sheer hell of it, he had proven this many times in the past, even when, unlike now he was justified in his actions. Joey had always been Lance’s most stanch supporter, his daughter’s godfather part of the extended Fatone family and heaven help anyone who hurt his family. Lance himself, had proven time and again his strength of will although as his pregnancy had progressed JC had noticed that the other man seemed to be paying less notice to the issue of Justin as his attention increasingly turned inwards, focusing his considerable mind on the rapidly approaching birth. Living in a self-imposed exile there was little chance that Lance would inadvertently come into contact with Justin anytime soon.
Knowing that if he stayed in the area there was a chance of running into Justin again especially as the other man was now alerted to his presence, JC was pleased that he had nearly finished the last of Nick’s homes; it was getting close to time to pack up and get the hell outta Dodge. Another week and the last of the alterations should be completed, while the nursery murals only required another one, maybe two days work after that and he would be done.
JC just hoped that Justin had not been paying attention to the gossip columns, having been spotted more than once out with Angel during their home makeover project, all they needed was one more photograph and someone was bound to make the link to JC, Nick’s baby sister and the fact they had been spotted together and on their own in every town Nick was known to own property in. If Justin made the leap of logic that JC had not been answering the phone or responding to messages left at his own house because he was staying at Nick’s then there was a pretty good chance Nick knew something which could help Justin track down his elusive friends.
Although not overly impressed by Justin’s recent behaviour, Nick knew without it a certain wish would not have been made and he would not soon be due to become a father twice over. While trying to stay neutral so as not to further aggravate the situation, Nick respected their right to privacy in intra-band politics regardless of his own opinion on the matter, he still would not be pleased if Justin came after him for information.
Time was running out no matter which side the various involved parties were on, it was just a matter as to who would be the one to make the breakthrough. But whether that would happen before Lance gave birth could not be said, and that event was the one thing holding a tenuous deadline over the situation.
Forewarned is forearmed, however the warning barely registered in Nick’s thoughts as he strove to process the information that Lance’s pregnancy was not running smoothly. Hearing over and over in this mind the risks associated with PPROM, the very real chance that Lance could go into preterm labour or an infection compromising the foetus. What really scared him the most was the chance that despite being placed on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy, that the rate of fluid loss would increase, the condition advancing into Oligohyrdamnios; a state at which the levels of amniotic fluid become too low to support a healthy foetus.
Regardless of how developed the baby’s lungs were, the lack of fluid could pose other serious risks. If at any point the remaining fluid was unable to support the foetus, preventing it from floating freely, it could become entangled in the umbilical cord and if the baby were to sit on the cord it could effectively cut off its’ own blood supply and suffer damage or even die from oxygen deprivation. Not to mention the secondary and as equally important risks to the mother, to Lance.
It was hard but Nick managed to reassure Lance that despite an almost overwhelming need he would not jump tour and grab the first plane home, that he would stick out the next nine days. Although he felt bad for upsetting Nick, Lance perversely felt better at letting his lover know of this latest development, sharing his own heartache. Lance was fully aware that he could have kept the information from Nick with very little effort, but it seemed wrong for Nick to find out when he returned home, at least this way both could come to terms before they reunited.
It just came to show how far Lance had grown up, in the past he would have kept the information to himself, like he had with his heart condition. But he had seen how that had turned out and he realised that the pain they were both experience now was considerably less than if he had waited until Nick came home. There would be no ‘why didn’t you tell me’ accusations this time, no feelings of betrayal or a lack of trust.
They were still on the phone when the rest of the group returned with breakfast, which was now closer to brunch, their conversation so quiet the others did not initially realise Nick was talking. Nick seemed to be barely aware as they moved around him, setting out food on the table and retrieving cutlery from the tiny onboard kitchenette.
Shut away in a world that for the moment consisted only of Lance, Nick realised that he could finally put a name to the feelings that he had been growing towards the Southern born singer, ‘I think I love you’ ringing out clear in his thoughts. From the sudden moment of silence just as their call came to end there was a good chance that he had whispered them aloud, but as the dial tone sounded signalling the broken connection it was too late to ask Lance if he had and too late to say it if he had not.
With that startling revelation foremost in his mind, Nick half-heartedly picked at a piece of toast, worried about his lover he remained quiet, a subdued island in the sea of chaos of bus mealtimes. He ate what was set in front of him but could not later have said what he ate, or if he had actually eaten at all. With a degree of empathy Aaron and AJ recognised that something had happened during the telephone conversation that Nick needed to work through before he was ready to rejoin the outside world and so they worked around him. Tidying away the remnants of the meal and retreating to the lounge, they left him, shutting the door behind them to provide the illusion of privacy.
Nick was not ready to talk by the time they reached the venue and so while Aaron clued in the other Boys, AJ ran interference with the crew as they were herded through the concrete maze of tunnels backstage to their dressing room.
Although the competition winners were supposed to see the real backstage preparations it was clear that Nick was in no fit state to cope with getting ready in front of an audience and at the same time successfully hide his condition, therefore the group made a decision to take matters into their own hands, getting him dressed ahead of schedule. Although the fans would most likely be disappointed to find him ready and safely ensconced in the wheelchair once again he allowed Aaron to manhandle his body, doing as his brother directed with no complaints.
While Aaron helped Nick to stand long enough to swap his baggy shorts for jeans it became clear that the baby’s continuing growth had caused Nick’s ever expanding waistline to reach the point where his trousers were becoming tight again and so with a certain amount of fumbling the two men managed to release the hidden clips along the waistband of the jeans. Releasing enough material from the expandable side panels, Nick held the front in place while Aaron secured the clips on either side. Locking them into their new position, Aaron received a thump from a tiny foot or elbow in the process when he inadvertently pressed against Nick’s belly.
Even knowing for months now that Nick was going to have a baby and with the unmistakeable physical evidence of his pregnancy, it still seemed like a dream at times. Feeling the baby’s movements often shocked Aaron, a sharp reminder that there was a new person growing within his brother’s body.
This latest set of movements from the baby obviously tickled Nick and his giggles soon echoed through the corridor, signalling his return to greater awareness. Although still somewhat subdued he was no longer the silent presence who had departed from the bus, a little of his normal personality showing through again before the competition winners were escorted in.
As the winners were shown in a minor mishap caused Nick’s wheelchair to shift unexpectedly, someone having forgotten to apply the brakes on both sides instead of just one and Nick thumped his bad leg against the edge of a table.
Although it was only a slight bump and failed to jar the injury the girls put his off character mood down to pain, fussing over him almost to the point of annoyance. But he soon realised that whenever he twitched as a result of a particularly powerful punch or kick to his innards they mistook the reaction to one of pain from his knee. Realising the once again his accident was offering a plausible excuse, allowing him to hide in plain sight; Nick was not the only person to quietly sigh in relief.
Making a conscious effort Nick tried to pay more attention to his surroundings, interacting with the girls and their companions with practised ease, slipping into his public persona without further thought. If he seemed to pay more attention to one woman, no more then nineteen years of age, quietly sticking to the back of the group, than any other no one noticed. Nick barely noticed her until she started to become agitated, looking about for something. It was only when she turned sideways he recognised the swell of her belly hidden under a bulky jumper for what it truly was, her agitation for the ‘I need to pee’ dance of the pregnant woman.
With a tilt of his head, he managed to catch her attention and with a wiggle of his eyebrows and a subtle movement of his hand, he pointed to a door over his right shoulder. When she appeared reluctant to leave the room, he mouthed for her to go, offering quiet reassurance that she would not get into trouble. Making her decision, she swiftly took the chance and returning a few minutes later, the relief on her face was clear.
Even if she never worked out how Nick had guessed her need, she was deeply impressed by the man’s kindness, his softly voiced questions drawing out her story right down to her due date. If months later returning home from the hospital with her newborn daughter she was surprised to receive a parcel containing gifts for herself and her baby she did not show it. With no return address and not wanting to risk a thank you to the black hole of fan mail sent via the record company, she posted her message on the bulletin boards of the official web site, for all to see, hoping that Nick would get the chance to read it and remember a teenage fan’s gratitude.
Back in the present Nick focused his attention of the young woman, his kind attention and unquestioning acceptance of her gravid state helped to keep him from brooding over Lance’s condition. Keeping him focused on the here and now, letting his subconscious mind to digest the news. Although he did not realise it his non-judgemental attitude towards the woman’s pregnancy helped the teenager to come to a decision regarding her baby, realising that although thrown over by her baby’s father she still had the support of her family. Not understanding it at the time, later when the announcement came about Nick’s own fatherhood she would realise he had had to face some of the same choices.
Surrounded by the competition winners for several hours, then performing, changing and heading back to the buses for dinner while they travelled on to the next city, there was a dearth of opportunities for Nick to speak with the others. It was several days before he was able to sit down in privacy and explain, although the location was not ideal the VIP lounge of a German airport became the scene for this talk. Nick hated to keep them in the dark but circumstances prevented them all being together without the presence of outsiders until this gap in the schedule, while waiting for their delayed flight to Sweden for the last week of the European tour.
17th March 2007
Saint Patrick’s Day, one year exactly from the day that started Lance and Nick down the route to motherhood. To them it was no longer just an Irish National holiday, or an excuse for those of Irish extraction to get blind stinking drunk, although one excuse is as good as another if that was your intent. No, this day now carried a private meaning for the two men.
Separated by many thousands of miles but connected heart, mind, and soul, they ended up celebrating in a remarkably similar manner; surrounded by their closest friends with a quiet meal and a toast made with soft drinks all round; in view of the pregnant hosts and in respect of AJ’s hard won sobriety.
If the Tour crew noticed the Boys odd celebrations nothing was said, although it was noted that Nick seemed in especially good cheer and somewhat playful, his actions leaving more than one person smiling in his wake. After the problems that had beset the youngest of the Boys throughout the last eight months it did everyone good to see him enjoying himself even if with Aaron currently in charge of steering Nick’s wheelchair you were at risk of finding your toes flattened.
Back in Mississippi, Lance was treated to breakfast in bed, which was no different from any other day since his restriction to bed rest. However, in a fit of culinary inspiration, Chris had managed to prepare a meal entirely in shades of green, which could have been nauseating had it not smelled so appetising. Although the glass of green dyed milk had given Lance a few moments of concern and they both decided that orange juice really should not be interfered with in that manner, the resulting colour had looked more like a child’s school science experiment.
The latest parcel from Nick had arrived the day before, containing amongst the usual elective assortment of items, a soft package with a note that it was not to be opened until Saturday. Ruthlessly squelching his own curiosity and keeping the package out of Chris’s inquisitive paws proved ample distraction for the bed bound man, helping keep the ever-present boredom at bay.
The festively wrapped object provided Lance with hours of speculation, let alone for the fact that it was a puzzle as to where Nick had managed to find shamrock embossed wrapping paper in Sweden of all places, somewhere not exactly noted for its’ Irish connections.
Choosing not to open his present until later in the afternoon, Lance hoped the anticipation would help make the day pass faster, and so it sat on his bedside cabinet silently watching, demanding attention away from Lance’s carefully scheduled program of television viewing.
However, Lance’s best-laid plans were sneakily interrupted by the none too quiet arrival of clan Fatone. Brianna’s childish giggles were the only indication that Lance’s bedroom was about to be invaded, without further warning a short, pink clad, fairy princess, complete with star topped wand and tiara, came barrelling through the open door to leap upon the foot of the bed amidst continuous giggles.
The little girl’s amused parents soon followed and watched, smiling, as she squirmed her way into Lance’s nest of pillows, only to be immediately attacked by strong hands, tickling her podgy little stomach as a form of mock punishment. Despite wriggling and squirming playfully under the assault, Brianna was careful to keep her knees and elbows away from Lance’s side.
Soon out of breath from the vigorous session, Lance collapsed back into the mound of pillows he had built up to support his gravid form, the little girl tucked to his side. Still smiling Brianna crawled up the bed to whisper in his right ear, sharing a secret of her own, letting her favourite person, besides her beloved father, know that she was getting a baby sister.
Questioning, Lance turned to Joey, who was surprised that his daughter knew, let alone that she had shared that information with his best friend, especially as a home test had only confirmed their suspicions a few days ago. Brianna seemed to just as happy with the unexpected news as the three adults and having shown in the past that she seemed to be exceptionally accurate at predicting the sex of babies, so if she said Kelly was going to have a girl then her parents were inclined to believe her.
Turning an innocent but knowing smile towards Lance, the little girl patted his stomach and told him that the baby did not want him to know its sex. Worried that Brianna had just let loose his own secret to the hovering Kelly, Lance and Joey were surprised in turn to learn that Kelly had known all along, apparently Joey who talked in his sleep had said enough since Lance had stayed with them last year for Kelly to have pieced it together.
Coming further into the room, she approached the slightly shocked Lance. The sight of the gravid man’s form, although expected still gave her a moment’s pause, knowing he was pregnant and seeing it with her own eyes was another thing.
Having ascertained that the morning’s revelations had not unduly alarmed the poor man, she entrusted her daughter to her husband’s care and shooed the pair out of the bedroom door with orders to find Chris and keep him company while she and Lance talked.
Sitting on a pillow free area of the bed, she questioned Lance about his pregnancy, freely offering up the voice of experience in return. From their conversation Lance quickly realised she thought that he was going through his term alone, not counting the support his bandmates were providing. But it was clear that Kelly was not in possession of the full facts and was completely unaware of Nick’s own condition, let alone that he was the other parent. Or rather had not been until Lance replied to a question about the father by mentioning that Nick would be joining him soon, cutting himself off mid sentence just as the words ‘tour ends’ slipped out.
Realising that he had just put his foot right in it, Lance watched Kelly’s face as she quickly put two and two together to successfully reach four. Understanding crossing her features along with empathy, having had to spend most of her own first pregnancy with Joey away from home. Seeing his reluctance to talk about Nick, Kelly allowed the conversation to be steered on to other topics by a clearly uncomfortable Lance.
Later, while an unhappy Brianna refused to be comforted by anyone but her mother, Lance was able to talk to Joey, who apologised profusely despite Lance’s assurances that he was not blame. Eventually Joey’s guiltily conscious, in bring Kelly along while forgetting that she was not supposed to have known about Lance, was appeased and Lance was able to warn him that Kelly did not know the full story and although Joey did not like lying to his wife, Nick’s secret was not theirs to give away.
Chris arrived with his and Lance’s lunch not long after, finding both men engrossed in a behind the scenes documentary based on Joey’s last film, with the sound turned off the two were providing their own amusing and somewhat blue running commentary.
While Lance made use of the bathroom, Chris set out the tray he had carried up from the kitchen. A brief conversation with Joey and Chris was brought up to date with the latest with who knew what, just in time, as Brianna preceded her mother into the room. Kelly carried a tray of her own, helping Chris to ferry the rest of lunch upstairs after he had explained in the kitchen that Lance was on bed rest.
Grabbing a blanket from the hall closet Joey soon had it spread over the floor, partially to protect the carpet from his daughter’s sticky hands where she had already started on her sandwiches.
With typical childish enthusiasm Brianna helped set up the indoor picnic, although she was momentarily disappointed when Lance could not join everyone else on the floor, she soon bounced back and instead of sulking turned her attention to making sure he was personally served. Even with her plastic tiara slipping down over one eyebrow and hair escaping from twin plaits her happiness at the new game was contagious and the adults found themselves smiling each for their own reasons.
Seeing the family bond between the three members of the Fatone clan, and the easy acceptance of the growing cluster of cells that would eventually become their forth member, Lance was hit by a painful longing for Nick and his baby, unconsciously running one hand over his stomach. Taking comfort from the hard mound, he gently caressed his child’s foot when it pressed up into his palm.
Returning from the kitchen with dessert, a green iced marble cake, Chris watched the two separate family units interact. Quietly taking in Lance’s self-comforting motions he felt an ache in his chest, missing his own close knit family and realising that he could not continue substituting his friends varied relationships for the lack of his own. Covering his disquiet with a happy face he helped Brianna serve the cake, leaning back against the foot of Lance’s huge bed to eat his own piece his lonely thoughts turned to Alison, as true smile curving his mouth as he wondered what the tiny woman was doing, realising at last that he was more than a little interested in the strong willed ‘Doc’.
Dessert finished Brianna’s attention turned towards Lance again as the adults cleared up the remnants of their meal. Kelly took charge of the clean up, brushing crumbs from Lance’s sheets onto the blanket on the floor, which she then carefully folded and took with her. Stepping out the open doors into the balcony that wrapped around the rear of the house, she flipped the blanket over the railings and shook it clean.
With a deep breath of fresh, smog free, air she took in the view over Lance’s garden. Wide green lawns and carefully planted boarders still wet from the morning’s rain, not yet dried by the sun, sparkled in its’ light. A medium sized swimming pool set off from the patio area directly below the balcony, glinted invitingly azure blue in the mid-day sun, surrounded by comfortable looking outdoor furniture grouped loosely around its tiled edge.
Faint evidence of recent alterations to the pool and patio area remained only with the fresh looking marks under a low black metal fence and gates that bisected the original tiled area. Effectively surrounding the pool with a childproof screen and helping hammer home the changes Lance had initiated to his highly organised life to accommodate the coming baby. By making changes to even this, a house he rarely used highlighted just how seriously he was taking this unusual situation.
Returning to Lance’s bedroom, the blanket now folded over her arm, Kelly was greeted by the sight of Brianna lying with her head pressed to Lance’s abdomen listening carefully to the baby’s heart beat and occasionally giggling when a random limb brushed against her cheek. Lance although awkwardly leant back to accommodate her daughter seemed perfectly at ease with the little girl’s curiosity and Kelly had to admit that despite the utter impossibility of Lance being pregnant in the first place it seemed to suit him. It was not hard to imagine him curled up in the same bed cradling an infant to his chest, a glow of happiness surrounding the vision.
From her prone position Brianna had a clear view of the bedside cabinet and her curiosity soon found a new target, swiftly latching onto the forgotten present sitting there, waiting its turn in all its shamrock covered glory. To her question of “what’s that?” Lance’s attention was brought back to the parcel, and with a shrug he invited her to help him find out.
It was debatable as to which of the pair was more enthusiastic in unwrapping the surprisingly well-wrapped package, sheet after sheet of paper torn free to reveal yet another sheet like some strange game of pass the parcel. All ready lightly laughing at Nick’s over the top wrapping skills and thankful that he had not used too much tape to secure each layer, Lance burst into amused gales of laughter when his prize was finally revealed. Drawing the attention of both Chris and Joey back from the kitchen where they had been setting the dishwasher and tidying away the last of the lunch items.
Laughing because Lance was, Brianna none the less looked a little puzzled when the object of his mirth was displayed to the other occupants of the room. Taking something from the nest of paper Lance sat back in his pillows and place a Lance bear on his stomach, tiny emerald green baby socks covering its paws, holding a tiny note, ‘eBay strikes again!’
Somewhere in Norway, Nick felt a sudden burst of warmth and an almost irresistible urge to laugh. If the interviewer wondered about the brilliant smile that swept away his polite professional expression, then she chose not to say anything. Instead simply basking in the presence of the five handsome men who answered her questions, keeping her reaction to the happy blonde strictly to herself.
23rd March 2007
London, England, the location of the final two concerts of the European tour and the scene of Justin’s comeuppance.
Pure coincidence placed the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Lopez in the BBC studios on the same day, filming for separate shows their appearances were scheduled at different times in different areas of the large complex. However, the distant ripples of ‘The Wish’ had been renewed and strengthened by the recent anniversary.
Due to flight delays and a missing suitcase, Justin arrived at Gatwick airport with barely enough time to catch his breath and collect his relocated luggage before being swept out a private entrance to a waiting limo.
Tired, grumpy and in need of a shower the young singer was less than please when the car became trapped in a traffic jam, the grid locked roads slowly eating away at the time he had to stop at his hotel. Minute after minute steadily slipped by, along with Justin’s temper as he fidgeted in travel worn clothing.
It soon became obvious that his carefully planned schedule had been blown to hell by the series of delays as the time for his 7pm appointment the BBC quickly approached. As Justin came to the conclusion that he had a choice of continuing on the hotel and being more than fashionably late or skipping the hotel and hoping that he would have enough time to freshen up at the studios, the decision was taken out of his hands by the driver.
A short telephone call had the man pull the vehicle out of the stationary row of traffic, down a narrow side street and back across town away from Justin’s hotel. Sticking to one way streets and back roads the driver skilfully navigated the large vehicle through a maze of crowded streets before cutting back onto a main route before stopping outside a different hotel.
Due to collect Madame J’Lo after dropping off Justin, it had become apparent to the chauffer that the accident, which had caused part of the city’s transport network to grind to a halt, would in turn cause both celebrities to be late for their appearances. So, a last minute change of plans by the Powers That Be, redirected the limo to collect the Diva with Justin tagging along for the ride. For surely having one person on time and one marginally late was better than having two people considerably late.
The only problem was that no one thought to inform the two stars or ask their opinions on the matter.
So now pissed off, late, travel weary, wearing somewhat ripe clothes, and utterly confused, Justin was none to pleased to find the car door suddenly yanked open and his privacy invaded by the Latino singer. To say the lady was happy about sharing the ample space with a scruffy and fragrant Justin would also be an understatement.
Retreating to a seat as far away from Justin as she could manage, J’Lo wrinkled her nose and cracked open a window with a distinct lack of subtlety. The ride to the studios was spent in an uncomfortable silence with both passengers wishing the other far, far away.
Finally, although not soon enough for some, they reached their destination however, as the limo pulled to a stop in front the main entrance the gear shift stuck in first gear so instead of the engine dying smoothly as the driver set the hand brake and turn the ignition off. The vehicle hopped forward slightly as he released the clutch peddle, the unexpected movement throwing the two passengers off balance.
Justin, impatient to escape the hostile atmosphere within the car and already shifting in his seat preparing to exit as soon as they stopped, was thrown forward by the sudden motion. Moments later the chauffer opened the door to find the two singers in a rather compromising situation, with Justin sprawled full length of the floor with his arms bracing the seat either side of J’Lo’s hips and his head buried in her lap.
If things had not been bad enough the entire embarrassing moment was caught on camera courtesy of a lurking film crew currently filming a behind the scenes segment for a popular entertainment programme. Also caught on film was the open-handed slap J’Lo delivered to the right cheek of Justin’s already bright red face.
An undignified scrabble separated the two and both were soon whisked away deep within the inner corridors of the UK’s premier broadcasting house, J’Lo already on her phone contacting her publicist and PR team. Justin just trailed after his assigned intern, a stunned look on his face as he struggled to piece together what had just had happened.
Across the city safely ensconced backstage, at the new Wembley arena, the Boys were busy with last minute preparations for their second to last show. In unusually high spirits, Nick was making Aaron’s life extremely interesting as he tried to keep up with his older brother.
Wheelchair abandoned in the quiet room, Nick was flitting from room to room, using only one crutch, more for balance than actual support. Having progressed to the point where he could walk unaided several days ago, he continued to keep the single crutch for the added sense of security it brought. The wheelchair had been relegated to purely public use, now solely required for camouflaging Nick’s recently rapidly expanding gut.
While Nick seemed compelled to wander the backstage area, Aaron gamely followed in his wake, setting to rights the chaos left behind by the elder Carter male. Nearing mid-point of his eighth month, Nick was beset by an upsurge in his energy levels and while that was fine while he was on stage, at all other times he struggled to find suitable ways to burn it off, hence the restless wandering. The last week had the crew glad that the tour leg was almost over when confronted, usually second hand, by the mischief that seemed to bleed off into anyone caught close enough to the over energised man.
Aaron was glad when the Boys hit the stage, at least then he could get his breath back with Nick out of his hair for the better part of an hour and a half. Instead of driving him up the wall his brother was driving the fans into a frenzy. Even deep backstage Aaron could feel their screams competing with the rumble of the bass sound as it vibrated through the air. Aaron just hoped the host of the show the quintet was due to guest on later that evening was suitably prepared for an already hyper Nick boosted by the after performance adrenaline rush.
Exiting the venue before the last cords had died away a freshly showered and changed set of Boys and the younger Carter later slipped out of their hotel unnoticed by lingering fans and made their way without incident to the BBC studios.
Arriving in good time the six men made their way to the green room where a passing Justin, finally finished filming his own programme, heard the unmistakable tones of Nick’s voice on his mobile phone. Lingering while he waited for his escort to finish talking to another of the show’s crew, Justin was shocked out of his unintentional eavesdropping when he heard an amused Nick demand a certain Kirkpatrick to stop harassing Joey and give the phone back to Lance.
Just as he was ready to burst through the door to demand why Carter was talking to ‘his’ bandmates, when he himself could not even get them to answer the phone, his escort returned and ushered a very reluctant Justin to the exit.
Arriving at his hotel, Justin still had the hassle of checking in before he could retire to his room, in which he proceed to collapse in front television where he absently minded watched the Backstreet Boys, and especially Nick, keep their host on his toes through a very fast paced and amusing live interview.
The day’s events running on a continuous loop through his subconscious, Justin shuddered over the whole limo episode. Something about Nick’s telephone conversation niggled in the back of his mind and he struggled to put the pieces together; however, it was like trying to put a jigsaw together in the dark without the picture and all the edge pieces missing.
Eventually the day’s events caught up with impending jet lag and the first signs of a pounding headache drove Justin to an early bed.
25th March 2007
Sunday started later for Nick, Aaron and the Boys than for Lance and his house guests, but after the frantic energy of the last day of appearances and final concert everyone from the drivers and crew to the BSB themselves were taking full advantage of the opportunity for a well deserved lay-in, grabbing a few extra hours in bed before facing the circus of the airport and the long flight home.
After two days of building anticipation, manifesting as restlessness and mischievous behaviour, which had bled onto the stage and consequently produced two of the best performances of Nick’s career to date, a buoyant but exhausted Nick had return to his hotel room and crawled into bed, sleeping soundly right through his morning wake up call.
Luckily, Aaron woke at the sound of the telephone, without opening his eyes reflex allowed him to lift the receiver to answer it, causing the irritating ringing noise to cease. The temptation to roll over and go back to sleep was strong and he lay quietly savouring that pleasant state between sleep and true wakefulness for several minutes before the soft sounds of Nick snuffling in his sleep registered on the drowsy nineteen year olds returning consciousness.
Cracking open sleep crusted eyes Aaron soon identified the familiar bulk of his brother under the covers of the room’s other bed. Although able to easily afford individual rooms or a suite with two bedrooms the men had instead chosen to share a twin room, not only allowing Aaron to assist Nick while he recovered from his sibling induced knee injury but the brothers truly enjoyed spending time together as clearly shown by their tight bond.
With the covers pulled up almost to his nose and his face buried in a mound of soft pillows it was hard to tell whether Nick was awake. Tufts of blond hair poked free of the linens every which way indicating a severe case of bed-head, several sections drooped down to lay across Nick’s face. The fact his brother had not brushed away the hair covering his eyes and the sound of him trying to breathe with a pillow squashing his nose shut confirmed Aaron’s suspicions that Nick was still out like a light.
Standing Aaron stumbled free of the sheets and made his way to the en suite bathroom where a shocking vision with hair in complete disarray greeted him in the mirror. Only the reflection’s gangly limbs and his own tattoos convinced him that he was seeing his scrawny looking self rather than his brother’s more muscular form, and that Nick had not some how managed to silently sneak up behind him. If he had been more awake, he would have realised that in his current state Nick could no more sneak, quietly or otherwise, any more than the response of last night’s fans could have been said to have been subdued to AJ’s liquid hip movements.
Having showered the night before he saw little point repeating the process now; knowing that they faced several hours travelling to and from the airports in addition to their actual flights, and would no doubt need to freshen up once they reached Lance’s home he quickly took care of business and stripped off his nightwear, settling for a quick wash using a wet flannel.
Clean and hair tamed once again he shut of the bathroom light and wearing nothing but a towel wrapped securely around his lean hips he went in search of fresh clothing. Dressing in layers, he solved the problem of air travel from the cool of spring in England to the much warmer and humid Mississippi, realising that he could simple discard one layer at a time once they reached the States.
Although he was comfortable with his still developing body, even wrapped under multiple garments he still looked overly thin compared with his brother’s solid physique. Like Nick before him, he had been a skinny child and gangly adolescent, taking time to stop growing up and start filling out. Although Nick had spent a few years adjusting he now had a body which he was proud of and Aaron could only hope that the pattern would continue with his own development. It was about time he started looking like the adult he had at least legally been since petition the court years ago.
Dressed and at last ready to face the day Aaron debated whether to order breakfast first or tackle the task of rousing the sleeping monster currently masquerading as his brother. A loud yawn followed by the sound of several joints popping as Nick stretched signalled that the choice had been made for him.
An equally loud groan followed as once again, Nick forgot and tried to sit up too quickly, although how he kept forgetting he was pregnant with a permanent reminder welded to his front was a complete mystery to the younger Carter. Nick’s back and hips complained at the attempted manoeuvre and so he groaned and flopped over onto his back where he soon found himself stranded, trapped by the weight in his womb he floundered unable to roll onto his side to try to get up the correct way.
Used to Nick’s sleep addled brain pulling the same stunt almost every morning over the last month, Aaron took his usual position beside the bed and with one hand on Nick’s side and one on his hip he proceeded to provide the leverage needed to help Nick roll over. Going around the foot of the bed to the other side he then offered his hands and hauled his brother up to sit on the edge of the mattress.
Given that Nick still had nearly nine weeks to his predicted due date Aaron privately worried about his brother. At the moment, their sharing a room allowed him to assist Nick like this but tonight Nick would be sleeping with Lance once again and Aaron could not see how the other man was in any less of similar state.
While away from home they had all learnt to wear at least a t-shirt and underwear to sleep in, as you never knew who or what would manage to find its/their way into your room. It was bad enough finding a stranger watching you sleep without giving them a view of your naked butt into the bargain. Although admittedly a fan probably would not complain at the sight, they often came armed with cameras and the chance that nude photos would find their way to the media, or worse onto the internet was not worth the risk. And as Nick had once put it, the crew and their personal security had enough to put up with without getting a glimpse of AJ’s non-existent behind.
Knowing that Nick slept naked at home and would most likely be doing so with Lance was not something Aaron really wanted to visualise. How Lance slept was his own business but having helped Nick bathe for weeks he knew the changes going on with his body and the thought of all that combined nakedness was just a little too much for early in the morning. It had nothing to do with Lance and Nick both being male, Aaron had quickly come to terms with his brother’s sexuality; it was more to do with the pregnancies. Had one of his sisters been in Nick’s place he fully expected to react exactly the same, stretch marks just grossed him out.
Speaking of Nick, while Aaron had been ordering breakfast, Nick had shuffled off to the bathroom; the click of the door opening signalled his return. Unable to get the ends of the hotel towel to meet around his waist he had forgone wearing his stretched out and dirty nightshirt and as naked as the day he was born he limped over to the dresser and proceeded to search the drawers for suitable travel wear.
Finding what he wanted he tossed several garments over his shoulder onto the bed before lifting out the remainder and dropping them into the empty suitcase he had left open on the floor. Leaving the clothes in a crumpled heap, figuring that as they were heading home he need not worry about wrinkles, he made his way back to the bed where he sank carefully down, ever mindful of his stiff leg and sore back.
The next step required Aaron’s help and without needing to be asked he help slide the medical support up Nick’s leg and settled it in place covering his bad knee. Then came a pair of anti-DVT flight socks, something he suffered wearing purely on the grounds of his pregnancy and not because of his excessive frequent flyer miles.
Keeping his gaze on Nick’s feet and lower legs Aaron managed to avoid looking at the silvery red strips of skin covering his swollen belly, which made him shudder to see. Nick’s inability to bend at the waist due to the size of his belly meant that he now required Aaron’s help to get dressed and so the younger man soon found himself tugging up the waistband of his brother’s maternity jeans, the soft faux denim covering his braced knee without problem.
Unphased by his brother’s lack of underwear, accepting that even when it had not been a struggle to find boxers to fit, Nick frequently went commando. Nick hated to be constricted by clothing and often went bare foot or sockless for the same reason. However today’s reason for free balling stemmed from the lack of a suitable garment rather then by conscious choice. Easily able to turn a blind eye from years of familiarity Aaron paused to allow Nick to tuck and adjust himself before sliding the fly closed and securing the snap fastener.
Leaving Nick to finish dressing in peace, Aaron set about completing his own packing while waiting for their food to arrive. It did not take him long to empty the bathroom, where he rounded up one of Nick’s bras from the shower rail where he had left it to dry overnight.
One nearly identical was currently adorning Nick’s head while he pulled it down into position, grateful once again, that he had picked out ones that did not require fastening at the back. It was enough of a struggle to get it settled without having to go though the gymnastics he had seen girlfriends of old go through. Finishing that task, Nick set about filling the extra space in the cups with the soft breast pads he retrieved from the box on his bedside cabinet.
A blue over-shirt soon covered the telltale lines of his bra straps outlined by the soft cotton t-shirt he had slipped over his chest. A quick check in the mirror confirmed all evidence had been carefully concealed.
Taking the nearly full box of bra pads Nick took out enough to cover any emergency changes and tucked them inside the rucksack he was using for his in-flight hand luggage, the remainder of the box soon joined the rest of his luggage in the bottom of his suitcase. With Aaron’s help, he settled on to the floor in front of the open case and packed away clothing and other items as Aaron handed them to him.
An MP3 player, phone, and hand held game console were soon added to the paperback books and parenting magazines already tucked away in his rucksack, along with other assorted items including his keys and wallet. A couple of bottles of water for on the plane were the final items packed and Nick zipped up the pack just as there was a knock at the door, signalling that breakfast had arrived. Nick chose to remain on the floor, hiding his body behind the bed, while Aaron answered the door.
Across the hotel, spread out over several rooms the other Boys repeated the packing ritual, getting dressed and eating breakfast at their own speeds, some quicker than others. Luggage safely delivered to the bellboys and carted off to the waiting vans the Boys migrated towards Nick and Aaron’s room until all six men sat around on the messily made beds while they waited for the call to ship out.
Lance had not been allowed the luxury of a leisurely waking, having first been jolted from sleep when the small form of Brianna pressed cold feet into the small of his back sometime during the early hours of the morning. Unable to get back to sleep after waking in a strange room the little girl had sought out comfort in the form of her parents, but getting confused in the dark she had opened the wrong door and ended up in Lance’s bedroom. Loving Lance nearly as much as her father she chose to scrabble onto his bed instead of continuing her search and saw nothing wrong with snuggling up to his warm form under the covers.
Unable to roll over to see whom the freezing appendages belonged to Lance settled for reaching over and patting behind him, recognising the small form of his god-daughter instantly he spoke quietly, questioning her only to receive a tiny snore in reply from the already sleeping girl. With a sigh of resignation, Lance struggled to get back to sleep himself but Brianna’s feet were extremely cold and his movements seemed to have woken the baby who was now enthusiastically rolling about, pushing against his internal organs and generally kicking the living daylight out of his bladder.
There was only so much of this his body could take and soon an urgent call of nature forced Lance to struggle upright and shuffle carefully into his bathroom. Pulling the light cord without thinking he soon found himself blinded by the halogen bulbs. Cursing under his breath so as not to wake Brianna he waited for his eyes to adjust to the bright light before walking to the toilet.
Unable to clearly see his feet anymore over the curve of the baby beneath his skin he misjudged his steps and soundly kicked the porcelain. The impressive string of expletives that followed were loud enough to wake the rest of the household with the sole exception of its youngest occupant, Brianna, who proceeded to sleep through both the sound of Lance swearing at some considerable volume and the sleepy arrival of both her parents and Chris.
For Joey and Kelly the sight of the pregnant Lance clad in only a pair of oversized boxers which hung precariously on his hips, was something of a shock and quickly helped bring them to full wakefulness. At thirty weeks, the size of his naked belly was quite a surprise, although the pair were fully aware of Lance’s condition they had previously only seen him fully clothed and sitting in bed, now standing in next to nothing under the bright bathroom light nothing was hidden from their gaze.
Even Chris, who by now was used to the sight of his band mate’s condition, the vision of glowing pregnancy Lance presented was enough to make him take a step back in wonder, however the same familiarity helped him shake off the stunned silence faster than the married pair and after a brief explanation from the still cussing Lance he helped him take a seat on the edge of the bath tub. With a wry grin, he bent down to get a look at Lance’s injured foot, noting that the nail of his big toe had torn down one edge and was bleeding sluggishly.
The hunt for a pair of nail scissors took a few minutes during which Lance finally calmed down and the bass sound of his voice stopped turning the air blue and started murmuring to the baby instead, trying to gentle it into settling. Unfortunately wide-awake it continued to stretch its limbs and treat his bladder as a football, electing fervent wishes that it would cease and desist from its parent.
Lifting Lance’s foot once again Chris quickly cut away the broken shard of nail, trying to cause as little pain as possible as he was forced to cut into the still live areas to remove a sharp fragment. The newly exposed nail-bed shone pinkly before slowly turning red as tiny beads of blood welled to the surface. The bathroom cabinet surrendered gauze and a roll of tape, which Chris proceeded to use to bind the wounded toe.
At last satisfied that Lance was in no risk of bleeding out all over the floor, Chris helped him to stand and tried to herd him back to bed, but the reason he had ventured into the bathroom still held and the need to relieve himself was now more urgent than ever.
Refusing to leave the younger man alone Chris came to a compromise, sending Joey and Kelly to collect their daughter and return to their own room. Chris remained behind insisting that Lance not be left alone, much to Lance’s annoyance, he did however turned his back while Lance did what he needed to and washed his hands.
Deep down Lance appreciated Chris’s mother hen act, however he could not help but feel a little irritated by it at the same time, he had only bashed his toe not fallen over and smashed his knees like Nick. Nick had been given a much bigger reign of freedom over his convalescence than Lance felt he was getting. Endless days of enforced bed rest were beginning to get to the young man and he conveniently forgot the number of times Nick had complained that he felt like he was being treated like a well-loved baby by his brother and band mates and even the crew at times.
Having been awake for too long Lance struggled to return to sleep and so insisted Chris stay with him and talk, rambling on about everything and nothing. Lance was able to express his dissatisfaction at being confined to bed, his nervousness and worry about Nick’s imminent arrival and their growing relationship.
Using the supportive silence of his friend as a sounding board Lance voiced his fears over how he and Nick were going to cope with the next few days, with the next few weeks. Eventually talking himself out as the sun rose over the horizon dawning the new day, Lance fell asleep using Chris as a pillow. Chris however was wide-awake, quietly mulling over in his mind the words and worries of his friend, looking to the dawn’s light to provide answers only time would bring.
Back in London, in another hotel room, Justin unashamedly used the celebrity-spotting network of fans to follow the departure of the Backstreet entourage and was surprised later in the afternoon to find that Nick and Aaron had not returned to LA as he had been expecting them to, to meet up with JC, whom he had tracked down to Nick’s home, but instead the pair had boarded an inland flight to Mississippi.
Finally, the pieces of the puzzle started to click into place, although unknowingly he had a few in completely the wrong order, but Justin did manage to reach the correct conclusion that the brothers Carter were heading to Lance’s Southern home. Cursing the fact that he was under contract to remain in the UK as part of his promotional jig for the next few days he set about re-arranging his plans, changing his flight home to one to Clinton, deciding it was time to tackle the problem of Lance head on.
It was late evening when a taxi deposited a sleeping Nick and exhausted Aaron outside Lance’s front door. The driver leaving Aaron to wake his brother while he removed their luggage and Nick’s wheelchair and crutches from the car boot. It was an extremely groggy and travel rumpled Nick who fumbled to get the shiny new key into the lock, eventually settling for leaning on the doorbell instead.
One look at the pair convinced Chris now was not the time for an enthusiastic greeting, Nick especially looked out on his feet, balancing precariously on his crutches surrounded by their combined bags and suitcases.
Quietly ushering the two into the hall he helped Aaron haul their luggage into the living room, trying to keep noise to a minimum so as not to awaken the Fatone clan who had not long gone to bed, although Brianna had fallen asleep hours before while insisting that she was not tired and wanted to keep Uncle Lance company. Lance himself struggled to remain awake too, wanting to welcome Nick home, even if he could not answer the door himself, however the morning’s events conspired to work against him and despite his resolve he eventually slipped into a light slumber only to wake at the sound of the taxi followed by a long ring of the doorbell.
Leaving the majority of the bags until morning to deal with, Chris showed Aaron to the closest free room with a bed before carefully assisting a listing Nick along the corridor to Lance’s room. The soft light from a single lamp illuminated a sleep rumpled Lance propped up against the headboard waiting for his lover’s arrival. Chris thought it was debatable which of the two looked more awake, or rather, which was least asleep at that moment.
With a mumbled ‘hi’ and something that sounded like ‘be right back’ Nick disappeared into the bathroom with his backpack slung precariously over one shoulder. A short time later, he reappeared and forgoing Chris’s offer of assistance proceeded to strip off his clothes. Chris soon leaving when it became apparent he was heading for naked skin and his sole intention was to hit the sheets as fast as possible. The soft click of the bedroom door signalled Chris’s exit, however neither of the two men inside seemed to notice.
Intent on his task Nick soon stood slightly wobbly clad only in a bra and knee brace, leaning on one crutch he let the other fall to the floor with a soft thud as it hit the thick carpet. Stopping only to retrieve something small from his jeans pocket, he gratefully settled onto the bed beside Lance, the second crutch joining the other on the floor with a clatter.
Without a word, Nick pressed whatever he was holding into Lance’s left hand freeing up his own to gently grasp Lance’s face between his palms he tilted his chin up and pressed their lips together in a sweet kiss, merging their breath as they melted against each other. It was several minutes before Nick was able to break the connection, only an urgent need for oxygen forced them apart.
As a greeting, Lance had to give Nick ten out of ten as his chest heaved in an effort to draw air into his lungs once again. Only as their breathing returned to an approximation of normal did Lance become aware that he was tightly clutching something soft in his left hand. Lifting it he opened his fingers to examine the contents, finding two tiny pairs of baby socks, the final two pairs, resting on his palm, one in pastel orange and the other a rather bright red.
With a suspicious glint of moisture in the corner of his eyes, he turned awkwardly away to lift the bottom most pillow to reveal arranged in rows all the socks that Nick had sent over the last weeks, including the green pair which had previously graced the paws of the ‘Lance’ teddy bear which sat pride of place next to the lamp on his bedside cabinet.
A sound like a sob broke the silence but it was hard to tell from which man it originated. With a careful hand, Lance laid the new socks beside the rest and set his pillows back in place before taking Nick’s lips in another breath-taking kiss, welcoming his love home.
29th March 2007
It was four days before anyone other than Lance saw more than a glimpse of Nick again, surfacing only to eat and pee he spent the majority of the time deeply asleep. Having been hit by an extreme case of post-tour exhaustion, he had simply crashed on reaching Lance’s home.
If it were not for the fact that all those, bar Brianna, currently residing under Lance’s roof had experienced the phenomenon first hand, they might have had cause for concern. While Nick slept through the coming and goings of the household, the frequent changing visitors to Lance’s bedroom. The others continued to keep Lance company as they had been, Chris still proving all Lance’s meals to the bed bound man. Somehow, Nick managed to sleep through the commotion caused by Brianna at play with her favourite Uncle and the rattle of Lance’s breathing whenever he snored.
As it was, by the middle of day four Chris was debating checking in with the Doctor, although Chris knew that Alison would be calling in for Lance’s weekly check-up Friday afternoon anyway, he was noticing an increasing tendency to seek out the woman’s company whenever she was around. Not wanting to think about it too hard, Chris tried to ignore his growing attraction, choosing not to acknowledge the number of mutual glances passing between them for fear that they were only reacting to the stress of the unnatural situation.
However, before anyone could decide if he was suffering from something more than general jet-lag enhanced exhaustion exasperated by the strain of pregnancy on a body not designed for it, Nick dragged himself through the bathroom while Lance settled down with Brianna for a mid-afternoon nap. Appearing in the kitchen sometime later, freshly showered and shaved, fully dressed for the first time since his arrival in Mississippi, glasses perched on the end of his nose combined with baggy shorts and lose t-shirt he looked years younger than his true age of 26.
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