Related article: Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 18:03:20 -0700From: D S Subject: ALONE TOGETHER:Chapter 38, Far, And Away: Part 7,The Promise of a Child's FaithOkay kids, hang Nn Young Models Galleries on to your hats, because this chapter covers a LOT ofground. Nn Young Models Galleries Most of it advances already existing story-lines, but in ways thathopefully are interesting and also a bit surprising. There is some newstylistic stuff too, since you know I'm all about not just the story, buthow it's told too. For those who continue to faithfully write, I thank youall very much. For those people out there reading who have not yet written,or not written in a while, drop me a line if you want. But even if youdon't, that's okay - so long as you're still reading, and still enjoying,that's all that really matters. Finally, for those who are just a littlebit curious about when we're getting back to James and Aaron at the mailbox,it will be (drum-roll please) chapter 40. And because the next chaptershouldn't be very long, you won't have much longer to wait (althoughhopefully the wait has been worth it). If you'd like to write, I'dappreciate it. The email is denis141hotmail.com.DEDICATION: I'm not sure why this never occurred to me before, but I wantto dedicate this chapter to the real-life Lance Bass and JC Chasez. In mystory I try to depict them (especially Lance) as I imagine they'd be if inlove with each other, and living the life I describe.DISCLAIMER: I don't know NSYNC (except in my imagination), and this storyis, as a result, purely imaginary. It is also a story about two men inlove, which means it sometimes also includes sex, so if this not your thing,or if you aren't old enough, you should stop reading now.ALONE/TOGETHERCHAPTER 38: FAR, AND AWAY: Part Seven: The Promise of a Child's Faith.Be patient that I address you in a poem,there is no otherfit medium.The mindlives there. It is uncertain,can trick us and leave usagonized. But for resourceswhat can equal it?There is nothing. Weshould be lostwithout its wings tofly off upon.-- To Daphne and Virginia, William Carlos Williams"The writer by nature of his profession is a dreamer and a consciousdreamer. He must imagine, and imagination takes humility, love and greatcourage. How can you create a character without love and the struggle thatgoes with love?"~ Carson McCullers "The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is thecardinal initiation of every heroic adventure--fearlessness andachievement."~Joseph Campbell If someone had tried to write a story about everything that happened in theyear and nine months that lead up to the premiere of STAR WARS: A GatheringStorm, the writer would have had a difficult time deciding about what towrite, about what to include and what to leave out, about what to emphasizeand what to mention in passing only, or perhaps not mention at all. Thewriter would've been forced to survey and sift and sort and select fromcountless details, like a person about to move from a home with hundreds ofrooms into a tiny two room apartment. But staring at the blank and eerieglow of a computer screen, our writer might face more than his insecurity,his anxiety, his fear, he might face the source of it all, the hardest part,the part that makes a writer struggle most, and fearful most: decidingwhether to tell the story at all, whether to risk the effort required tomake a story real enough to be believed, or real enough so the reader wantsto believe, or needs to believe, so it is not just a story written (words ona page), but a story read, and a story lived, and maybe not forgotten, likeit would never be forgotten by the people who had lived it (when it wasn't astory, but real). How would you tell a story like that, wanting to remain true to thelives that lived it, and made it real, knowing that in telling it so muchwould have to be left out, so many details omitted, some accidentally, somenot, and that even if you chose each word with the greatest care, with aneye only toward trying to get it right, if even then you knew that the storywould fail in some important way to show what really happened, and what wasreally felt or thought, could you find the will to write it anyway, toproceed in the face of near-certain failure, and tell the story still - isit because the writer must, or is it because a story such as this simplydemands to be told? Take this for example: how would you tell the strange and funny story of asong, a simple song, sung by two men in love, a duet done almost as a lark,as a semi-private gift to each other, a song on an album not even yetreleased, that gets somehow picked up by an unknown user of a file-sharingprogram who was searching the internet looking for an old Pet Shop Boyssong, a user who happened to search the MY MUSIC folder on the computerowned by a young man named James, the best friend of the son of the two menwho recorded this song. Would you try to describe the surprise on thisunknown person's face, the surprise of listening to a song he (or she) hadnever heard before, except maybe as a Pet Shop Boys song, and how thesurprise gave way to a sweet kind of wonderment, a wonderment that wouldlead this person to post the song on a message board, adding the subjectline: NEW 'NSYNC SONG??? Would you try to imagine how word of the song at first slowly spread,perhaps in chat-rooms, or face-to-face among friends, picking up speed witheach successive download and re-posting, the song burned onto thousands ofmini-disks and saved and swapped and posted and shared again, faster andmore frequently, until at last the album that contains the song wasreleased, an 'N Sync album called One More Time, except for that song,Nervously, was sung by JC and Lance alone. Would you try to describe theensuing surprise of Nervously becoming the most downloaded song of the year,even though it was not released as a single, or at first played on radio,that is until the album started climbing the charts, selling more and morecopies, going gold then platinum, and Lance and JC are convinced by theirson to do a music video in which Aaron agreed to play the piano, with NeillTennant sitting next to him playing too, the two of them side-by-side, andLance and JC sing to each other while pictures of them in their youth, fromthe time they'd first fallen in love, flash behind them. Is that a storyyou'd try to tell? Or would you tell the story of how Aaron pitched his Pony League baseballteam to its first championship season. But maybe instead you'd tell thestory of the two months during the summer he spent in Dublin, living withColin Farrell while his parents Nn Young Models Galleries traveled across Spain, spending a month inBarcelona, ten days in Sitges, and then driving through the Costa del Sol toAlhambra, Madrid, Salamanca, Zaragoza, and then back to Barcelona where, ontheir last day there, they climbed the narrow stairs circling up inside thetallest of the four main towers of Familia Sagrada, Gaudi's unfinishedmasterpiece. Would you describe the slow and harrowing climb, how JC heldtight to Lance's hand, making their way slowly up the narrow well-worn stonestairs, pressed close to the interior wall, afraid to look down the tower'sdeep well, and how finally arriving at the top Lance looked out the cut-outwindow there, at the stunning panorama that was the vast view from there andsaid, turning back to JC, "Nothing is more beautiful to me than you." Knowing you could end it here, with perhaps limning a description of theJC's reaction, how JC kissed Lance, wanting nothing more than to remain inthe midst of this moment forever, embraced by it as securely as he wasembraced by Lance, knowing that even here, at the highest point in thisancient city, with the scent of sea-salt filling his nose, the warmth of sunon the back of his neck, the touch of a breeze on his skin, and the taste ofLance's kiss on his lips, he might himself, JC himself, be unable to putinto words what he felt, leaving it to you to imagine what he might think orfeel or say - would you write a poem (for him) instead, or perhaps justborrow the line from a song that he loves, having him hear it in his head,like a kind of musical refrain underscoring what he felt, I saw it in your eyes what I was looking for...And JC would kiss him, and hold Nn Young Models Galleries Lance in his arms, there high above thecity, knowing that he belonged to Lance, because you belong to the one thatloves you most, and Lance loved him most of all. Or maybe this moment is too private, too intimate to share, thismoment between JC and Lance at the Familia Sagrada, a monument to the familysacred, so maybe instead of sharing it, or telling of the trip that led upto it, with all of its spontaneous and unexpected detours, getting lost fouror five times, and how it became a game for Lance to say "This looks like anice place to stop for a break" and then they would pull to the side of theroad and make love at first in the ridiculously small backseat of theirrented car, and then later in secluded spots they'd find outside. No instead you could tell the tale of a single day - it was a Monday,you might want to point out - the day that JC had led Lance to the BarioGotic and showed him the room where he'd once lived, the room withworn-smooth stone floors, and the window that looked out across thecathedral square, the room from which on his last day in this grand ancientcity JC had watched for a women who failed to appear in the square below, onher way to somewhere he did not know, but definitely on her way. And sounlike each and every morning before, JC had stood at the window, watchingbut not seeing her, and it was the seeming sadness of this not-seeing thathad made JC feel more lonely than he'd ever felt before, and severed hislink to a place where he had once thought he might want to stay, making himwant once more to be together with Lance, and not alone. You could tell the story of how Lance had said, hearing this tale,standing there in that small cold room with JC, that they should find outwho she really was, and on that day she had not appeared. You could tellhow on that day Lance and JC managed to track down the son of SenoraIsabella Cavaziel, having found his name on the small For Rent sign postedin the lobby, he having inherited the building from his mother. You coulddescribe the three of them sitting in the musty office where Senor MiguelCavaziel tallied the receipts from the various small enterprises that werehis life's work, and his sole distraction from a painful rheumatic conditionthat no doctor had ever satisfactorily explained. You could tell this storyas if you were sitting there too, with three of them (which with you wouldmake four), and could tell how JC and Lance learned from him the truth.Yes, the truth of how on that day years and years ago it was not thatIsabella had failed to appear as JC watched for her, it was not that she haddecided to remain in her room, wrapped warmly against the cold of anuncommonly winterish Spring. No, it was that she had not decided against crossing the cathedralsquare (you would learn). It was that she had not returned from herprevious day's visit to her lover's grave, a man named Jose Miguel Arcadio,a man to whom Isabella in her youth had sworn an oath of true undying love,giving him the solemn promise of her still young heart, doing so even as shewas prevented by her mother from marrying him, this man she loved, and wasforced instead to marry the man who would become the father of her only son.(What was this man's name you might wonder. But it was a name thatIsabella's son did not utter, not out of distaste, but simply because itdidn't seem to matter to the story he was telling, and neither JC nor Lancebothered to ask). This man whose name you do not know was nonetheless (youwere told) himself well-known and respected, a man of great wealth andprestige, a man - Senor Cavaziel said - who smelled always of camphor andpipe tobacco. "My mother was very kind to him," Senor Cavaziel said, rubbing theswollen knuckles of his left hand with the shaking fingers of his righthand. "But you could see that she detested him. Her back always stiffenedwhen he was near, and her breath would reek of rotten wood. I do not knowwhy. But it did." Isabella never said a single angry word to her husband, or evertreated him ill. This is what Senor Cavaziel told Lance and JC (and you).She smiled and hummed and endured, for the sake of her son, and for thesake of her unfailing faith that, if she did endure this trial, which washer marriage to a man she did not (and could not) love, that the BlessedVirgin would one day bless her with the gift of her husband's early painlessdeath, freeing her finally to be with the one to whom her heart had promisedher, and to whom she had been by life wed in the secret still-unconsecratedintercourse of her soul. Or would you hold back from telling such a tale, unsure that somethingas darkly tragic as this - a tale in which Jose Arcadio is killed by astreet car, struck down as he was walking to meet Isabella at the small caféwhere she awaited him with the news of her husband's death, two cups ofcoffee on the table before her (coffee she had ordered before his arrival,so joyous and eager was her heart to tell him her news), but the coffee onthis fateful day would soon grow as cold as his flesh in death's grip. Could you tell this tale, and tell how that Isabella's body had beenfound three day's after her own disappearance lying on the grave of JoseArcadio, her pale thin arms embracing the cold granite of his headstone, hisname nearly indecipherable from having been rubbed so many times by herfrail white-gloved hands, tell how when they found her body, which seemed amiracle in itself, because it lay in a dim and lonely corner of aseldom-visited cemetery, a lonely shadowed place that might never have beennoticed except that a twelve-year old boy, Antonio Macondo, had on this daybeen attracted by a swirling cloud of brightly-colored butterflies hoveringnear the ground where Isabella lay, softly alighting and then taking flightagain, their parchment-thin wings fluttering like a silk fan in the face ofa wealthy woman on a hot and humid day. Would you tell how on this day hehad discovered her, Antonio who was truant from his school this day, the skyhaving been too bright and full of sun for him to pay attention to hisboring studies. So he had set out to look for adventure, and found it,attracted to the cemetery by this spectacle of ever-fluttering color, andthere he had discovered Isabella, looking as if dressed in a gown of athousand butterflies, each of which had alighted upon her cold stiff flesh,as if trying to warm her then lift her up, to carry her aloft, far and away. A fantastic story such as this, would you tell it, could you tell it,swearing along with Antonio Macondo, who when he told this story laid hishand on his heart and swore to its truth, swearing that he had seen (withhis own eyes, he swore) the butterflies carry Isabella away. Or insteadwould you stay silent, content to know that, even if you chose not to tellthis tale, perhaps afraid that it was too fantastic to believe (or perhapsbecause you wanted , your silence would not have betrayed Isabella, or thespirit of her undying love. You would know this because you would know thatAntonio would tell this tale, again and again until his ninetieth-ninthyear, the tale of Isabella Cavaziel, found on the grave of her lover, and ofthe butterflies that Antonio stood and watched disappear into the sky, eachcarrying a part of the lady's soul to meet the man she had always loved, tomeet him in a place where they might be together, always. Or you could write of something more mundane instead (mentioning JCand Lance's trips in the postcards Aaron received). Yes, you could write ofAaron, and of the time he spent with Colin Farrell in Dublin, of how Colinhad signed Aaron up to play the summer with the St. Mark's Rangers Under-14football club, and how at every game Colin shouted himself hoarse, cheeringfor Aaron and the team, and how after the game they would always go to thepub near Colin's house, the Six Arms pub, and they'd have a burger, or aone-and-one (which is fish and chips in Dublin), and a Guinness, of course,although Aaron could only have only one small glass, while Colin wouldcertainly have a pint or two. But, wait. Since you may have already done ascene where the two of them sat and had lunch, talking about their day, whatwas on their minds, about things both big and small, you might decide towrite about the match instead, the match that the Rangers didn't win, afinal match against Home Farm Athletic, a club coached by an overweight manwith thinning blond hair and sallow skin, a man named Nicky Byrne, a man whoColin seemed to know, but not particularly like, telling Aaron, "He had abit of a go as a pop star once, but nothing brilliant as your aul man had." If you were telling the story about the soccer match, about how Aaronplayed Left Wing and Nicky's son Liam played Stopper, and how Aaron scoredthe goal that tied the match 1-1 fifteen minutes into the second half,beating Liam to the ball and scoring on a left-footed kick that shot rightpast him. That could be an exciting scene, but nothing too challenging (forthe reader, or the writer) either. So maybe you'd focus on something else,part of the match, but something more dramatic, and telling too, how thematch was lost at the last-minute when the goalie for the Rangers trippedover his own feet and missed an easy block on the fifth kick of a shoot-out,giving Home Farm the win. You'd show Aaron red-faced and angry, pointing atthe goalie, jabbing his finger repeatedly in the air, and yelling "Maybenext time you best mind yer your feckin' gutties so you ain't be makin' sucha bleedin'hash of it, ya eejit!" What about Colin though? You would have to know Colin, who'd probablybeen staring in disgust at Nicky Byrne as he jumped up and down like a fool,congratulating his son Liam on the game-winning kick, that Colin would haveheard Aaron's tirade, and turned around and seen Aaron angrily kicking theturf, sending clods of grass and dirt sailing across the field like lobbedhand-grenades. It would be at this point you could show Colin runningacross the field, taking Aaron by the arm, and half-dragging him to thesidelines, all red-faced and angry, but taking a long deep breath beforespeaking, speaking in a voice so icy and stern it caused the hair to standup on the back of Aaron's neck, saying - no, hissing, and doing it throughgritted teeth - "I don't feckin' want to hear you actin' the muzzy andberatin' a mate like that ever uh-gain. Not while I be tending to you, youhear me? If your aul man had a been here, he'd been right 'shamed of you,and I be here to tell you, I be 'shamed for him, feckin' mortified." Andthen, if you wanted to tell the story true, even though this part would be abit sad actually, you'd describe how Aaron's face turned first pale, then adeep scarlet, and how stunned he looked hearing Colin talk to him this way,how ashamed Nn Young Models Galleries he felt, and how true-sincerely sorry he was, as Colin spun himaround and gave him a push, telling him "Now you go apologize proper to thatfella, and make it right wit' 'im by askin 'im along for lunch." Do you think the reader would feel sorry for Aaron, or maybe satisfiedthat he was getting the comeuppance he Nn Young Models Galleries deserved? Or maybe the reader wouldrelate to how he felt right then, being forced to walk back on to the field,knowing everyone was staring at him, waiting for him to apologize to Jackfor how he'd yelled at him, knowing that Colin was watching him too, makingsure he did it (even though Colin knew he would), apologize and try to makeit right, with Jack, and with Colin too, for it was disappointing Colin thatwould have hurt Aaron the most, true and sincerely hurt, which of courseColin surely knew, and felt bad about himself for making Aaron feel thatway, but also knowing that it had been an important thing to do, for theboth of them, a thing that Lance would have expected him to do, and donehimself, for sure. If you told this story though, of Colin and Aaron, and of all thetime they spent together in Dublin, and their adventures there, how wouldyou bring the story to an end? They have surely said good-bye before, withtears and all, so why describe that, and risk perhaps, in any case, ending abrightly happy story with (cliché) tears? So maybe instead you could endthis part of your story by describing the shocked look on Lance's face, andon JC's too, when they got back to Dublin and for the first time heard howthick an Irish accent Aaron had acquired, so thick they could hardlyunderstand him as he asked about their trip. Or maybe you'd just describethe way JC's eyes had shined with tears when on the plane home Aaron toldhim about visiting the cemetery where Colin's wife and son were buried, howhe had gone there without Colin knowing, to put Nn Young Models Galleries flowers on their graves,intending to spend a few minutes there, but then spending over an hourinstead, sitting cross-legged talking to Colin's son - His name is Cian,Aaron had told JC, just as he told him how he had sat there, in the lateafternoon, sun filtering through the dense leafy branches overhead, quietlytalking to Cian, like he was sitting right there with him, introducinghimself to him, like meeting someone for the first time, someone with whomhe wanted to be friends. And if you ended the story this way, you might evenconsider a last line like this: It was easy for JC to imagine Aaron sittingthere, in a cemetery that was for that moment no longer a sad place to be,but a place of wonder where anything was possible, even a friendship thattranscended the world of the living and the dead. Or perhaps an even simpler story would say more. For example, thestory of how Lance, wearing old clothes that JC hardly remembered everhaving seen, spent two weeks last Spring washing, scraping, sanding, andpriming each and every inch of the outside of their house, getting it readyfor painting. How Lance had then tested 41 different colors, paintinglarges swatches of each color on different parts of the house, keepingcareful track of how each color looked at different times of the day andnight, taking a digital photo of each, and printing it out and putting itinto a three-ring notebook he used to keep notes on his project. How JC hadreturned from a five-city small-club tour to find the house looking like apatchwork quilt of clashing colors with Lance still unable to decide whichone, explaining (despite JC's obvious exasperation) that it was a colorthey'd have to live with for ten years, so it was an important decision, towhich JC had replied, "Well, it's an important decision you better make bytomorrow or I'm making it for you. I'm tired of living in a house that lookslike it was painted by someone on a bad acid trip." At this point in your story (assuming you told it) you might have todecide to tell how Lance had taken Aaron to school the next day, and howonce he got back, he made JC breakfast and brought it to him in bed, and howafter eating it, Lance licked the syrup off JC's lips, kissing him, and thenmaking love with him, lolling away the morning in bed, all the while with JCwell-knowing that he was being not-so-subtly cajoled into letting Lance havemore time to decide on which color to paint their house, time that he letLance have, four more days of time, until finally at last Lance did decideon a pale slightly-green sapphire blue that JC instantly adored, saying,"It's like the water off Sitges, remember?" And here would be the easy part,because of course a good writer would choose to describe Lance's loud andprideful laugh, and how he had embraced JC and kissed him because that wasthe exact thing that he'd been thinking, and the reason he'd chosen thiscolor; it was not just beautiful, it reminded him of the ten days he and JChad spent alone in Sitges, living in a tiny stone house on a secludedstretch of beach right outside of town, never bothering to get dressedduring the day, because no one was around as they floated naked in theshallows at the edge of the beach, the water splashing over theirdeeply-tanned skin, their fingers rarely anywhere but on the other, in akind of constant making love that was their play together there, play sowonder-filled and joyous that it was like the play of a child, play solelyfor the sake of play, and for exploration. So, yes, that part would be easy, but this next part would be less so,because on the first day of painting, which Lance had insisted on doinghimself, what if he fell off the ladder and broke his arm in two places?Would you want to include that in the story, a story that could Nn Young Models Galleries just aseasily end with Lance remembering the ten naked love-filled days they'dspent in Sitges soaking in air and salt and sun and sea of theMediterranean? You might decide to leave this part out, to not riskupsetting the reader. Or you might look for a middle way, emphasizing (forexample) that the break was not serious, and that the ER physician assuredthe nearly hysterical JC that it would heal without the need for surgery,and of course there was no real risk of dying from a broken arm, that waswhat the doctor had said. Of course, to tell the story this way, you mightwant to leave out the part where JC screams, "What do you mean no REAL risk?What in the fuck is an UNREAL risk? Like one I'm just IMAGINING? Are yousaying I'm just IMAGINING this?" The other problem with this part of the story, which some readersmight find too conveniently coincidental, even though it is exactly as ithappened in real life, is that just as JC started screaming, that was rightwhen Aaron arrived at the hospital, himself upset over hearing that Lancehad been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. So maybe you'd want toleave this part out, or at least not mention how Aaron started to cry whenhe saw JC screaming and so upset, immediately imagining the worst. Instead,you might want to consider fast-forwarding a week, to when Lance is in nomore pain, and with just a cast to remind him of his injury. Or maybe afast-forward of two weeks - no three - because that way you would be closerto Lance getting his cast off, and you'd skip the week-long argument that JCand Lance had over whether to hire professional painters to finish paintingthe house, a move that Lance strongly, even bitterly resisted, and that JCjust as strongly, and just as bitterly, insisted upon. On the other hand, if you left this part out you would also need toleave out the part where Aaron suggests that he and James do the painting,and how Lance had said, instinctively, and thus without giving it anythought, "No, it's too dangerous for you to be up on the ladder," at whichpoint JC yelled, "Exactly! God damn you!" and then stomped out of the room,leaving Lance standing there red-faced and wondering what had hit him. Isthat how you'd want the reader to see him, suddenly ashamed for havingdiscounted JC's feeling because he wanted to paint the house himself, to beable to take sole credit for it? Or would you prefer to mention that Lancefollowed JC upstairs and apologized to him, asking JC's forgiveness in a waythat only one who'd spent twenty years loving but one man, and never lovinganother, could? Yes, that is probably how you want to end it, moving likelife from loving joy, to caring concern, to sadness and fear, thenresolutely back to loving joy again. Considering all the many stories you might tell, and trying to chooseamong them, unable to tell them all, so maybe telling more than one, youmight find yourself growing concerned about your reader, fearing that he orshe might grow frustrated at not learning more about Aaron's friend, James,about not hearing of the semester he spent studying abroad at Cite ScolaireInternationale Lyon, studying French and music on a scholarship he hadapplied for without first asking his mother, telling her only when he hadwon, and telling Aaron even later, not wanting to see the disappointment andhurt on his face, or to explain why he wanted to go. This is a story youwould probably want to tell, because it has so much to say about Aaron too,because he surprised James by being only happy for him, congratulating him,and offering his support and encouragement, making James feel guilty forhaving underestimated Aaron, and bad for being consciously selfish inwanting to get away and on his own, to be with Stephane, and to learn betterhow to better speak French, a language that he could not speak with Aaron,and did not want to. Does this mean that something has changed in James, in how he felt forAaron? If you were writing this, what would you say? No? Yes? Maybe? You donot know? What if he simply wanted to visit France, to see the many placesthat Stephane had described in his emails to him? Maybe he found that theCite Scolaire Internationale Lyon was a truly excellent school, and that ascholarship to study there was too good to pass up? Maybe he had decidedthat being fluent in French (and maybe other languages too) was a goal hetruly wanted to achieve, the ability to travel from country to country, andin each place to be able to fit in, yes as a foreigner, but as a foreignerwho could speak the language of the place? Maybe James was coming tounderstand that he enjoyed being an outsider, in not entirely belonging toany one place, or one person, and that already, even at the age of 15, hewas growing restless, wanting to wander, to tug hard against the roots thatheld him in particularity to a given locale? Perhaps if he did not feelentirely comfortable within his own skin, a stranger to himself even, thenhe might embrace the logic of the stranger, la logique de l'étranger, thelogic of one not known by choice, because he fears he cannot be known, andbelieves he does not want to be known. Was this the elusive, at times impenetrable, at times maddening, logic thatwould find James spending six months in a medieval village that was over sixhundred years old, walking the shadow-filled stone-cobbled streets to thetrain that each morning took him to school, stopping to talk to Matthieu whoworked with his father in la boulangerie next to the station, the one whereJames bought pain au chocolat to eat on the train, the one where in the backof the store he would, near the end of his stay, kiss a boy for the veryfirst time, and begin to sink as if by instinct to his knees until Matthieustopped him from undoing the front of his pants, shaking his head no, andpulling James back to his feet and kissing him again, even more intensely,and whispering into it, telling James, "Non, je ne suis pas prêt," whichmade James laugh and loudly say, "Je suis, je suis." If you were the writer, and you told this part of the story, about Jamesand his first kiss, do you think that would illuminate him? Or do you thinkthat you might have to go further and risk disappointing the reader's moreromantic expectations, telling the reader (him or her) that James did not goback again to la boulangerie, and never sought another kiss from Matthieu,and even risk telling the reader why, that what James wanted was not to befound in a kiss, that what he wanted was that which Matthieu was not readyto give, not without coaxing Nn Young Models Galleries that James, seemingly always Nn Young Models Galleries in a hurry, wasnot prepared to waste his time, at least not right then, with less than amonth left in his stay in Lyon. Or if you wanted to be blunt, since thiswas how James thought of it, and you have divulged quite a lot already, andalready risked the reader's ire, you could explain that what James wantedwas sex, because he was not sure of love, except that he knew if would takemore time than he had, and that if he happened to find it, he'd just beforced to leave it behind when he left or - even worse - endure being apartfrom one with whom you'd just fallen in love. So, you see, this was athoroughly pragmatic decision that James made - although some people mightcall it cold, or calculating - because, of all things that James knew anddid not know, he was sure that he wanted to have sex, and to have it with asmany boys that he could, boys different than Matthieu, riskiermore-experienced boys, or even men, anyone with whom he could discover aworld of solitary sex, a world where he knew he might be the equal of anyoneelse, at least for that moment Nn Young Models Galleries when desire dictated, and not reason, nor theheart. This was how James had felt being followed home from the train station by aman Nn Young Models Galleries in his late twenties, a man who looked like he worked with his hands fora living, a man who he had caught staring at him. James had boldly staredright back, giving him a sly confident smile that seemed to say, "I knowwhat you want. I want it too." And so it was that James and this man hardlymade it inside the back door of the house before ending up on the kitchenfloor, which is where Stephane, having come back early, found his youngfriend entangled in a half-clothed, half-naked embrace, the man's cock inhis mouth, oblivious at first to having been seen, and then, when seen (orknowing he was seen), James saw himself through Stephane's eyes, sawhimself starkly, in the sad and disappointed Nn Young Models Galleries look on his face, a look thattook days and days to melt away, despite James repeated promise that hewould never be so stupid or careless again, a promise to which Stephane'ssingle reply was, "We will see, won't we?" So, now tell me: if all this hadall happened to James (and to Stephane, who had been busy writing a script,while trying too to be a good friend for James), and you described it alltrue and well, would the readerbe mistake to conclude son séjour de six moisen France was nothing more than a frolic, just an adventure for James, orwas it more a turning point? Or, worse - a portent? But wait - what about JC and Lance and their 20th Anniversary? The readermay suspect you weren't going to mention it because you didn't want to beoverly sentimental or make it improbably romantic or, even worse,melodramatic (like maybe their having a big fight, only to then make-up -oh, and of course, make love, so there could be sex in it too, which somefew people complained there was not enough of). That would be one of thereasons the writer might have to avoid this topic, a 20th Anniversary justseeming too too symbolic. And that's what Lance and JC might think too,maybe they'd make love in the shower, something they used to do nearly everyday, a ritual that had begun on tour, when they were afraid of being heard,and the noise of the water in the shower (plus the feel of the water ontheir skin) felt safer, more intimate, opening up a private place where theydid not worry about being heard or seen or discovered. And if after makinglove, with JC lying on top of Lance, both of them stretched out on the floorof the shower, the water falling like summer rain, washing the stickiness ofJC's semen from Lance's thigh and hip and arm, if there in their drowsyhalf-out-of-breath slackening embrace they said anything - in addition, thatis, to saying "I love you", or "Happy Anniversary" - if in standing up andgrabbing towels and laughing as they dried each other off, if in doing thisthe subject of how to celebrate came up, either one of them might easilyhave said, "We just did. We just did." And wouldn't the reader know thatwas true? Yes, yes, yes, he would. But the reader would also know somethingthat Aaron did not, and could not know of their conversation, after makinglove. An inexperienced or uncaring writer might fail to pay attention,having one character know everything that every other character knew (as ifthey knew all the writer knew). Yet that is not how real life is. (Right?)In real life we know only what we see, or hear, or feel, or smell, or aretold - although even if we are told, we may not know for sure. (Right?) Soknowing this, the smart reader would know that Aaron did not know that Lanceand JC wanted only a simple small celebration. From Aaron's point of view,which was his and his alone, the twenty years that his parents had spenttogether included twelve years with him as their son, and he was not thekind of boy - or should we be calling him a young man by now? - he was notthe kind of young man to forget such a thing as a 20th Anniversary, or ofthe importance of time, its passage, and its celebration. Perhaps Aaron hadalready spoken with his dad, one or the other or both, asking them what theywanted to do. And perhaps it had been decided, between the there of them,that they'd all go out to dinner together, nothing fancy, or elaborate, justa quiet dinner at the Red Fox Inn, especially now that Luanne owned it andJC could eat there without having to worry about how things were going inthe kitchen, or at the bar, knowing that just as Shirley had entrusted it tohim, he had been right to entrust the Inn to Luanne, who loved the placelike Shirley had, so that selling it to her (for a good but fair price, shehaving insisted on not getting it as a piece of charity) had been the rightthing to do. And so the Red Fox Inn it was. That was how it was going to be, aquiet dinner to celebrate twenty (or twelve) years together on a date, March11, 2018, that was nearly in the shadow of the upcoming premiere, and thesteady rise in publicity about the first Star Wars film to be released inthirteen years. Or that was how JC and Lance had probably thought it wasgoing to be, because Aaron may have had a different idea; it's possible hewanted something grander, something noisier, more celebratory andjoy-filled, something he could claim to have planned and pulled off, for hisparents, on their anniversary. If that was how he'd thought about it, hemight have then asked James to help him, and maybe he'd have called Colintoo, who had been planning to be in town soon anyway, and Eric Bana, wholived in San Diego now, and Justin and Mel of course. If Aaron had done allthat, and spent one whole day searching through boxes downstairs in thebasement to find the guestbook people had signed at their promising, whichis what he knew his dad had called it, and with Colin and Justin's help, ifhe'd arranged for them all to be at the Red Fox Inn, Lance and JC may havewalked inside to have dinner, thinking that was so, but they'd have gottenthe surprise of their life instead. Wouldn't that have been a night toremember, and something you'd be mad not to want to write about? And so, you see, that was how it may have been back then, during the yearand nine months or so that followed everyone's return home from Australia.So much had occurred, some things important, and some things not, and somany things had changed, but maybe not so much, not when you looked hardenough, and close enough, and long enough, enough to try to tell the storyhonest and true, that is, if that's possible, because, to really tell thestory of it all, or even several small parts of it, and to do it alljustice, to make it real, believable, and true - how would you tell it? How?Because, to be honest, I'd really like to know.* * * * * "Your home is beautiful," Gabriella said, sitting across from couch onwhich JC, Lance, and Aaron sat, side-by-side, facing her and the TV cameraand lighting scrims that were set up just behind her. "Thank you forletting us see it." "You're welcome," JC said. "You've never let it be photographed before," Gabriella said. "Why thesudden change of heart?" "Oh - It's not really a change of heart," Lance said. "Actually, yes it is," JC said, firmly. "And it's not something we'reentirely happy about, to tell you the truth. But there it is." "Josh is right," Lance said. "It's not something we're entirely happyabout." "Lowering the shields a bit," Gabriella said. "Is that it?" "Well, to use a Star Wars metaphor," JC said, laughing. "Yeah." "I'd say doing this interview is really more of a compromise," Lance said,trying to explain. "It's hard to keep thing in balance sometimes, but wetry." "A compromise how?" Gabrielle asked. "It just seemed like some of the - I'm not sure how to put it..." "Media interest," Lance suggested, turning to look at JC, a strained smileshowing on his face. "Lots of it." "Yeah, media interest," JC said. "It seemed like it was getting way out ofcontrol, or it was about to. So we felt like we needed to get out in frontof it a bit." "So you called me," Gabriella said, smiling. "Yes," JC laughed. "Gabriella, Dateline Goddess, please save us." "Oh stop," Gabriella said, waving JC off. "Anyway, there's always going to be attention," Lance said. "We'd beidiots if we thought the world was just going to leave us alone. I mean, wechoose to put ourselves out there, so it'd be hypocritical to complain toomuch. But..." "There are limits," JC said, leaning forward slightly. "There has to be." "And we try to enforce them," Lance said. "For Aaron's sake, and our own." "Was there a breaking point of some kind?" Gabriella said, tilting her headto one side in what was plainly a well-practiced motion. "That made youdecide to give us a call and say, 'Okay, one big interview, an exclusive,and then that's it." "Paparazzi at Aaron's school," Lance and JC said almost simultaneously. "Yeah, that was kind of weird," Aaron said, laughing. "This guy in a bighat and bad sunglasses taking pictures of me during lacrosse practice, likewhat's that about?" "You'd be surprised what some people consider newsworthy," Gabriella said."Or what kinds of pictures the tabloids will pay for." "I wouldn't be surprised at all," Lance said. "Believe me." "Lance and I have pretty much seen it all," JC said. "Was this something you feared when you decided to let Aaron be in themovie? You must have had some big concerns." "Huge ones," Lance said. "I mean, first off, it's Star Wars, and you haveto know that that's mega. And then there's this whole new interest in 'NSync again." "Lance and I - we're used to it," JC said. "Like I said, we've pretty muchseen it all. But Aaron. That's different. For me and Lance - fine, bringit. Take your best shot. Write or say whatever you want. But for Aaron, no." "See, we understand how it works," Lance said. " "How it's kind of a game." "Is that what they've told you Aaron?" Gabriella said, turning slightly inher chair to better face Aaron. "That this is all just a game." "No," Aaron said. "Not really. But, you know, my dads are real big on mestaying like focused on school and stuff. They don't want me getting allstuck up or anything." "That'd be easy to do," Gabriella said. "Being on the cover of Peoplemagazine." "That was weird," Aaron said, matter-of-factly. "And, actually, I was kindof mad about that, to tell you the truth." "How so?" "That article was supposed to be about the movie," Aaron said, his voicegrowing more animated as he spoke. "Which it sort of was. But they turnedit more into this thing about me, and about how it was my first movie, and Iwas going to be this big star, like if I wanted to, and how my Dads are alllike famous and stuff. So that was why I was kind of mad because they tooka whole bunch of pictures of my Dad and me together, and all of us, youknow, Colin and Stephane and Eric - it was really cool." "The group photo was supposed to be on the cover," Lance said. "That was what we were told," JC added. "And so then you're out doing the shopping one day," Gabriella said. "That was exactly what happened," JC said, nodding his head and pointing ather. "I'm with Aaron in the grocery store. We've got a cart full of stuff,you know, just like always, and we're in line waiting to check out." "You do your own shopping?" Gabriella said, displaying genuine surprise. "Gabri-ella," JC said, making a mock exaggerated frown. "Of course, we doour own shopping, and cooking. Plus no live-in maid or anything like that." "We have a pool service," Lance said. "If you want all the gory details." "Aaron mows the lawn," JC said. "For a measly fifty bucks," Aaron grumbled, good-naturedly. "Which he promptly spends on video games," JC said, smiling at Aaron. "Dad - video games cost more than fifty bucks," Aaron said. "Well, anyway," JC said, going on with his story. "Aaron and I werestanding in the check-out line and all of sudden I hear someone behind me, agirl saying, 'Excuse me, but could I please have your autograph?'" "I was pushing the cart," Aaron said. "We were next up, and the dude infront of us was just done paying, so I wasn't really paying attention. Ididn't hear her." "I did though," JC said. "And I'm all thinking - okay, this is a bit of abother, and I'm already running late, but, you know, I'm thinking I need toset a good example for Aaron and all." "It was kind of funny," Aaron said. "Because I totally noticed Dad gettingready to turn around, and he totally had his I'm-always-be-nice-to-peoplesmile on, which I've seen like thousands of times, and so I'm all about itand pretty much knew what was up. Or I thought I did." "It was Nn Young Models Galleries this teenage girl," JC said, starting to laugh as he thought aboutit. "And she was way-more jumping up and down than I usually get thesedays." "She was all like squealing and stuff," Aaron said, laughing. "And herface was all pink like she'd been holding her breath or something." "She had a magazine in her hand," JC said. "And a pen, which I start to gofor, you know - to sign with. But before I can take it she gives me thiswicked dirty look, sort of like, who in the hell are you, and why are youtrying to steal my pen?" "She didn't recognize who you were?" Gabriella said, pretending to beshocked. "I guess not," JC said, looking disappointed. "It's okay sweetie," Lance whispered, as he patted JC on the hand and triednot to laugh. "You still have plenty of fans." "Oh pipe down," JC said, poking Lance in the rib with his elbows. "That was when she handed me the magazine," Aaron said. "And I was alllike, what's this about - that is until I saw my picture on the front ofit." "You hadn't seen it before?" "Nope," Aaron said. "And it was major-league freaky. I was like, whoa!" "Did you sign it?" "For sure - her name was Courtney," Aaron said. "She was pretty sweet. Imean, at least she didn't try to kiss me or anything. " "Has that happened?" "Yeah," Aaron said, blushing. "I don't much go for people trying to get upin my face with their, you know, lips and all. But I try to be cool aboutit." "It's not that people mean to make you uncomfortable," JC said. "They justdon't stop and think sometimes. But, believe me, there is pretty much not aplace on my body that hasn't been grabbed at some point or another." "The movie comes out in just over two weeks," Gabriella asked. "And when itdoes, the attention will only intensify. Any second-thoughts?" "Totally not," Aaron said, surprised at first at the question. "Surethings have changed, you know, with me being recognized and all, but makingthe movie was a really cool thing for me. I made some really good newfriends, and got to do lots of stuff that I had never done before. So, no,I don't regret it at all." "We're really proud of how Aaron's been handling it," Lance said, smilingat Aaron and then patting him on the knee. "Were you worried? I mean, that he wouldn't handle it so well." "Sure we were," JC said. "What parent wouldn't be?" "But we take it as it comes," Lance said, putting his arm around Aaron'sshoulder and giving him a gentle hug. "Together, as a family." "Well let me ask you about that then," Gabriella said. "Because it's notsomething I've heard you talk about, your being two gay men." "Yes." "Partners?" "Yes." "Almost twenty years. "Raising a son?" "Yes. An adopted son." "How's that been for you? Two gay men, pretty much out there in the publiceye, trying to raise your son and live a semi-normal life? Difficult, Iimagine." "You know Gabriella," Lance said, removing his arm from around Aaron as heleaned forward. "With all due respect, that's not something Josh or I haveever felt the need to talk about, not publicly." "Except to say that we love each other very much." "And that we are proud of the life we've made together, and of our family." "Yes we are," JC said, nodding. "But the rest is something we want to keep private," Lance said. "Notbecause we have anything to hide, but because its there just for us." "Well, let me ask it this way then," Gabriella said. "Gay rights have comea long way since the two of you first came out. Is that something you'veworked to support?" "I'm not sure we came out," JC said. "Did we Lance?" "I'll have to check our press-clippings," Lance said, laughing. "But seriously," Gabriella said. "Coming out, that had to be a big dealfor you." "We just stopped hiding who we were," JC said. "And how much we meant to each other." "But there was no press release or anything like that." "No picture on the cover of Out magazine." "Or being grand-marshal of the San Diego pride parade," JC said. "You have to admit though," Gabriella said, still pushing the subject,unsatisfied by the responses she'd received so far. "It was a risky move." "No," Lance said, firmly. "It was not. Because the only thing that I wasunwilling to risk was losing Josh. Or hurting him." "When we moved to San Diego," JC said. "We considered ourselves prettymuch retired. We'd left 'N Sync, and, I don't know, the rest was just goingto be time for us." "And I had no great hopes about a movie career," Lance said. "Not at thatpoint." "But The Ghost Road?" Gabriella said. "Your acceptance speech." "I guess that was a kind of coming-out," Lance said, after pausing to thinkfirst, and then taking JC's hand. "But that was not why I said the thingsthat night I did." "So why did you say those things?" "Sometimes the heart insists on speaking," Lance said, his voice quiet."And when it does, I've found it's best to let it." "And so we fast-forward ten years," Gabrielle said. "And now you and JChave a son, Aaron here. How does it feel to be such a prominentnon-traditional family?" "Oh-oh," JC said, covering his mouth as if to stifle a laugh. "I hate that word," Lance said, frowning. "Non-traditional - what in thehell does that mean? It's like saying our family is like a three-legged dog- it walks okay, but it's still missing something." "I certainly didn't mean to insult you," Gabrielle said, slightly takenaback. "Well, it is insulting," Lance said. "There's no two ways around it. Weare just as real, and just as traditional, as any other family with alegally-adopted son." "We are pretty darned traditional," JC said. "At times, boringly so." "How about you Aaron?" Gabriella said, turning back to him. "Has it beenhard being raised by two men?" "Nope," Aaron said, grinning at Lance and then JC. "Not at all. I got thetwo best dads in the world. So I think I'm double-lucky." "There you have it," Gabriella said, charmed by Aaron's sincerity. "Nextsubject - JC, Lance - 'N Sync winning a Grammy - exciting, right?" "It was definitely a surprise," JC said. "Especially winning for album ofthe year. But I think mostly it was kind of bittersweet." "Because of Joey?" "Yeah - that was tough," JC said, his voice softening, and his eyesbeginning to glisten as he looked momentarily away. "But your acceptance speech," Gabriella said. "That was perfect I think.Lance, whose idea was that?" "No one's really," Lance said. "We seriously didn't expect to win. Infact, I almost wasn't there. Aaron and I were in middle of post-productionup at Skywalker Ranch doing these crazy eighteen-hour days with Ang and theFoley guy. And, as usual with movies, everything was taking way longer thananyone thought." "It was kind of fun though," Aaron said, remembering it. "So I called JC and he was very cool about it. He said he didn't mind if Iskated on the award show. Still, I was feeling really bad about missing it." "He and Aaron flew down at the last minute," JC said, smiling. "We barely made it in time," Aaron said. "But Dad drove crazy-fast fromthe airport, speeding and stuff." "Lance!" JC said, having not heard this before. "Sweetie, it wasn't that fast." "It was fast," Aaron said, laughing. "So the speech?" Gabriella said. "We were walking up to the podium," Lance said. "Sort of in shock, really." "Chris, and Justin, and me and Lance." "And we all just kind of looked at each other - I don't know, it just allof a sudden seemed obvious what needed to be said." "It was simple really," JC said. "Like we knew what the point of winningit was." "And so," Gabrielle said, picking up a card and reading from it. "You said,'We'd like to thank you very much for this award, and the recognition thatgoes along with it. But mostly we'd just like to say, Joey - this is foryou." "And it was," Lance said, softly. "It really was for him, because I knowhe would have really loved the album. It was very much in his style." "It's weird," JC said, his voice serious and thoughtful. "Because whenJustin and I were laying down the lead vocals, and mixing the album, atfirst we wanted to update it, you know, keep it current. But then werealized - no, it should be old school, stripped-down ballads, lots ofacapella, like we did when we were just starting out." "Do you listen to your dads' music Aaron?" "When they make me," Aaron said, laughing. "Hey!" JC and Lance said simultaneously, and laughing Nn Young Models Galleries now too. "No, some of it's pretty cool," Aaron said. "And being in their video wasfun." Nn Young Models Galleries "Why'd you want to be in it," Gabriella asked. "Car money," Aaron said. "You're not driving until you're twenty," Lance said, joking. "Maybethirty." "He always says that," Aaron said, rolling his eyes. "So, Aaron," Gabriella continued. "What's one of the fun things you've donelately? For the Star Wars film?" "Getting scanned for my action figure was way cool," Aaron said. "I can'twait to buy one. You know, not for like an ego thing, but just to say Ihave one." "You liked that?" Lance said, looking at Aaron with surprise. "Totally," Aaron said. You had to wear this tight blue-rubber suit thingand jump around and stuff. It was Nn Young Models Galleries really cool." "What else," Gabriella said, prodding Aaron to go on. "Was there one thingyou liked best making the film?" "Hmmm...that's hard," Aaron said, pausing for a moment to think. "Therewere a lot of best things I think. Like working with my Dad, that wasprobably the best. Getting to meet Colin Farrell, that was a totally goodthing too." "You spent this last summer with him in Ireland I hear?" "Yeah, I played football - or I guess you'd say soccer - for the St. MarksRangers in Dublin. I had a blast." "And he learned to swear like you wouldn't believe." "Daaaad, it's not really swearing over here." "Well, let's not challenge the censors," Gabriella laughed. "Okay," Aaron said, blushing again. "And Lance, how about you? What did you enjoy best about making this film." "Working with Ang is always a joy," Lance said, nodding emphatically. "Buthaving an opportunity work with my son, that was definitely the best thingfor me. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I had no inkling it wasgoing to be such a joy too. He's a phenomenal talent, and I can't wait forthe rest of the Nn Young Models Galleries world to see." "That's high praise from a man who's already won two Academy Awards." "Just wait," Lance said, smiling. "You'll see." "Okay," Gabriella said, standing up and extending her hand to Aaron."That's it I think. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me." "Sure thing," Aaron said, standing up now too. "When this going to air," Lance asked, following JC and the others to theside of the room not cluttered with cameras and lights. "The Sunday before the release," Gabriella said, unhooking her microphoneand handing it to an assistant. "It's a ninety-minute 'the making of' show.We're going to talk to everyone. And show a few clips. It should be good." "Great," Lance said, shaking Gabriella's hand. "Thanks again." "You're welcome," Gabriella said, smiling.* * * * *The general manager peered at him in a way that made him know he was aboutto be embarrassed. Aaron had seen the expression many, many times, but moreso lately. It was an expression of puzzlement that gave way to recognition,to surprise, and then to a kind of knowing pleasure, like a person mightdisplay having just filled in the last word on a crossword puzzle. Aaron wasmuch too polite to show his impatience, and annoyance, at being appraisedlike this, so he hid it behind and increasingly well-practiced smile. Butthere was, unfortunately for Aaron, nothing he could do to hide hisembarrassment. He invariably blushed when someone said, and people latelyseemed to say it often, "This can't Nn Young Models Galleries really be Aaron, is it? Look how big heis!" "This is Mr. Valdez," Lance said, extending his hand to him. "He has alwaystaken very good care of your Dad and me here at the hotel." "Dad," Aaron said, finally letting a trace of impatience show in his voice."We were here last year. Twice. For the Billboard music award thing, andfor Dad's concert. Don't you remember?" "That's right," Lance said. "Look at him," Mr. Valdez said, beaming at Aaron. "I do believe he istaller than you now, Mr. Bass, nearly as tall as Mr. Chasez." Aaron seethed inside. He hated it when people talked to him as if hewasn't there, as if he was being shown off like a favorite photograph pulledfrom his Dad's wallet. He had gotten used to some kinds of attention, andmostly ignored it, or politely played along, like when people asked him forhis autograph. That he could deal with because it seemed more like a game,or a job, and people were usually nice, and he didn't want to be rude orunkind. But this fascination with how different he looked, when he didn'tfeel like he looked any different at all, that was what he didn'tunderstand. Okay, that was a lie, because Aaron remembered how shocked he'd been by thesight of himself halfway through eighth grade, in early February, not longafter turning fourteen. He'd come home from Lacrosse practice and taken ashower, just like he always did. There were only two bathrooms upstairs,the one in his parents' room, and one down the hall next to the living Nn Young Models Galleries room.He was walking down the hall after taking a shower, still damp because thebathroom was small, and it got hot and steamy in there even if he left thedoor open. The cool air in the hallway felt good on his skin, and Aaronusually dried his hair and face and under his arms as he walked down thehall, not bothering to wrap the towel around his waist. On this day, Aaron had been in the middle of drying his hair, thinkingabout his chances of next year making the junior varsity squad in all threeof the sports he played, an accomplishment he was not sure he could or wouldachieve. His face covered with the towel he was using, Aaron didn't seeLance enter the hall from his bedroom, and he ran right into him, knockingLance to the floor. Startled, Aaron dropped his towel and kneeled down tohelp Lance back to his feet. Aaron remembered that Lance had pushed hishand away after he'd helped him to stand up, and that his face was brightred in what he had first thought was anger and only later recognized asembarrassment. "Are you okay?" Aaron asked, noticing his towel on the floor and squattingdown to pick it up. "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to knock you down." "Aaron," Lance stuttered, looking him in the eye and realizing for thefirst time that he had to look up, even if only slightly, to meet Aaron'sgaze. "You should get some clothes on. You're...uh, you're a little oldnow to be walking around like that." "Okay Dad," Aaron said, confused at first. "Sorry." "No," Lance said, frowning slightly. "Don't be sorry. It's totally allright. I was just thinking maybe it's about time time we get you abathroom, you know, like connected to your room, like me and your dad have.That way it'll be more private for you, and easier for you to take showersand stuff." "Sure," Aaron said, still confused at what this was all about, and why hisDad seemed somehow unsettled. "If you think that's cool." "It'll be good," Lance said, smiling. "Now, how about you getting someclothes on. I don't want you catching a cold." Aaron had returned to his room, wrapping the bath towel around his waist ashe made his way the rest of the way down the hall. Once inside, he tossedthe towel on the floor next that day's dirty clothes. Turning around, Aaronfaced his reflection in the full-length mirror attached to the back of hisbedroom door. He was close to six feet tall, and his skin was the color ofhoney. His shoulders were broad, his chest was smooth and muscled andtapered to a lean flat stomach. His hair, having returned to its naturalcolor, was a light sun-streaked brown that Aaron wore with long bangs thathung nearly in his eyes with soft loosely-cut curls that nestled against thesmall of his neck. He was shaving now, although it was not yet necessaryeveryday. He had the beginning of sideburns, not yet trimmed or sharplyshaped (although they would be for the premiere). Untrimmed and not yetfully grown in, his sideburns looked like charcoal thumb-smudges that echoedthe concave slope of his cheeks to his square and deeply-dimpled chin.Aaron's arms were like a great swimmer's arms, long and strong but notover-muscled, his fingers hanging well below his hips when he let arms fallto his side. His pubic hair was thin but dark, like the hair on his legs.It looked shaved, but wasn't. Staring at himself in the mirror like this, something that for some reasonhe did not remember doing before, not like this, as if taking an inventory,Aaron felt the urge to masturbate, an urge he managed quickly to ignore. Hehad by now been masturbating for nearly a year, and some of its intoxicatingnovelty had finally worn off. So instead of touching himself, as he oftendid before or after a shower, instead of coaxing an erection, and massagingit to climax, Aaron just looked at himself, as if for the first time, and hewas startled at the discontinuity that he had failed to notice. There hadbeen, it seemed, no end to the changes his body had gone through; that heknew better than anyone. But suddenly the changes had coalesced, as if inone instant, to transform him into someone he hardly recognized, even thoughhe knew it was him. It was like seeing someone you had once known well, butnot seen for years. At first glance you'd know that you knew this person,but you might not at first remember their name, not until some clue wasprovided, or you recalled something you'd done together, and then - voila -it was there, the moment of recognition. That was how it was for Aaron thatday. "How do you do Mr. Valdez," Aaron said, extending his hand as Lance haddone, smiling graciously, careful to appear appreciative for the attention."It's very nice to see you again." "And you as well," Mr. Valdez said, shaking Aaron's hand. "Welcome to theFour Seasons." "Thank you sir," Aaron said, bowing his head almost imperceptibly. "Will you be having your usual suite," Mr. Valdez said, turning hisattention back to Lance and JC. "Or, if you wish, we have a nice two-bedroomsuite we've held for you just in case Aaron would prefer a room of his ownrather than sleeping on the pull-out in the living room." "Aaron?" Lance said, turning to him. "What do you think? It's your call." "I like our usual one Dad," Aaron said, shrugging his shoulder almost inapology. "It's where you and Dad have always stayed and I like it." "Suite 311 it is then," Mr. Valdez said. "Just like always."* * * * * As Toni snubbed out her cigarette and tugged at the waist of her dress,which had suddenly seemed too small, she looked across the room, trying notto appear bored, and forcing herself to smile. She'd arrived a few minutesago, having worked her way up the red carpet, signing some autographs andbeing interviewed before entering the theater. In the Hollywood food-chainscheme of things, she knew she would not be the last to arrive, not havingher name above the title, like Lance and Colin did, but she was not thefirst to arrive either. Seeing Stephane, she waved him over, not needing nowto pretend to smile. She was happy to see him, and surprised to see that heseemed happy too. Gone was his usual glower and his slump-shoulderedwandering walk. He strode forward toward her, his arms outstretched,laughing and embracing her, then kissing each cheek in turn. "Bon jour Toni," Stephane said, releasing her from his embrace. "It is mydelight to see you again." "How sweet of you to say," Toni said, blushing as she softly shoved hisshoulder, as if to push him away, but not really. "How have you been?" "I have been quite well," Stephane said. "And you?" "Working," Toni said. "Always working." "Me, I have taken much time off," Stephane said. "Staying home for achange. It is nice, to do nothing, I find." "I can't just do nothing," Toni said. "I go insane." "I thought that too. But it was, as I said, quite nice. I read quite a bit.And I started work on a script, nothing too ambitious, something small andpersonal, for a film I think I'd like to direct." "That sounds exciting," Toni said. "Any part in it for me." "There is a cuckolded wife, I do believe." "Oh lord - no more cuckolded wife-roles for me, thank you very much." "Perhaps you are right," Stephane said, laughing softly. "So weren't you lonely holed up in Chez Stephane all alone." "Ah, but I was not alone," Stephane said. "James spent just over six monthswith me, studying French, and the cello. You remember James, yes?" "Now Stephane," Toni clucked. "You know I remember James." "Well yes, I suppose you would," Stephane said. "He was your favoritemystery of a few years ago." "I don't suppose I'll bother asking for details." "But there is nothing much to say," Stephane said, continuing to smile sobrightly that Toni found it suddenly disconcerting. "Or nothing much you will say." "Yes, there's that," Stephane said, laughing again. "But I will say that Ihave found that James is immensely talented. He speaks French near-fluentlynow, and his cello-playing, it is quite moving. Often, he would play for meat night. Alas, for one his age, James remains - how shall I say - too muchin a hurry to grow up." "Some children are just Nn Young Models Galleries like that," Toni said. "When I was young, I hatedchildren my own age. My mother was endlessly shooing me out of the livingroom at her parties and telling me to go outside and play with my friends.But what friends? Childish games just seemed too tedious to me. I wasalways starved for adult conversation." "I see," Stephane said, carefully considering what Toni had said. "Of course, now I can't stand adults either," Toni laughed. "So I fear itreally is just a case of me being anti-social." "But as they say, even a porcupine must find a way to make love." "Oh - I like that one," Toni said, nodding approvingly and putting her handon his shoulder. "I must get that embroidered on a pillow at once." "You are too much," Stephane said, smiling. "Yes, I am," Toni said. "So will James be attending?" "I believe he is here already," Stephane said. "With his mother, Luanne. Iwill need to look for them soon. They are expecting me." "You've come alone then?" "Yes, as usual," Stephane said. "But I am certainly happy to keep youcompany for a little while." "Ooh, a beard of my very own." "Your what?" "Never mind," Toni said, tilting her head and looking over Stephane'sshoulder at the people milling near the entrance. "I'm here with Ryananyway." "Ryan?" "Sad but true, although sadder for him I hasten to add." "What happened with Brendan?" "Oh lord," Toni said, shaking her head. "You didn't hear?" "I do my best - how do you say - to stay out of the connection." "Out of the loop, dear. It's out of the loop." "All right, yes. Out of the loop. So, no I did not hear." "Everything was going smashingly," Toni said. "That is, according toRyan." "They seemed happy when I saw them at Skywalker Ranch." "All true," Toni said, looking at the pack of cigarettes she hadplaced on the table next to her, wondering whether to smoke one more beforeit got too crowded and made people prone to complain about the smoke. "Isaw it myself. I had dinner with them four or five times. They were allatwitter about buying a house together. Ryan had moved into Brendan's placeright after they got back from Australia. But they said they wantedsomething bigger, less of a bachelor pad, if you know what I mean." "One that did not smell of past sexual conquests." "Exactly." "What was it when you saw them, a year together by then?" "Just short of it," Toni said, Nn Young Models Galleries coughing into her fist and clearing herthroat. "It was all they talked about, 'Can you really believe it's almostbeen one year' - blah, blah, blah, blah. You'd think they'd cured cancer orcircled the globe three times in a balloon. I mean, let's be serious, evenI've made it past the one year mark. Several times." "It must have seemed like a very long time to them. An achievement." "No doubt," Toni laughed. "Like walking across the room withoutfalling." "You are so cynical." "I prefer to call it world-weary," Toni said, lighting up a secondcigarette and then blowing a plume of smoke towards the ceiling. "It soundsmore sophisticated. And less brazenly callous." "So what happened - no, let me guess. Ryan came home early one dayand found Brendan in bed with the postman." "If only it could have been that classic," Toni said, her voicesoftening a bit, and a note of sadness edging into it. "And lessregrettable." "Qu'est-ce que c'est - is that sympathy I hear?" "Why yes, it is," Toni said, sounding insulted. "I am not all made ofice you know. And it's damn sad, actually. Damn sad." "Tell me," Stephane said, leaning toward her, half-expecting her towhisper. "Tell me what happened." "Ryan has AIDS. You knew that." "No," Stephane said, frowning. "I knew he was HIV positive, but..." "Well, he has AIDS. Not full-blown or anything like that.But...anyway, it's not good thing, obviously." "Brendan knew this?" "Oh, he knew," Toni said, flipping the hair out of her eyes with theback of her left hand. "He knew all right." "Because...?" "Because Ryan told him," Toni said, wondering why Stephane mightpossibly think otherwise. "When they were first together." "And Brendan did not care." "Not in the least," Toni said, taking a long and noisy drag off hercigarette, then snubbing it out like she was angry at herself for smokingit. "He was into barebacking. You know, sex without condoms. He told Ryanhe never used them, and that he was sure he was HIV positive too. He justdidn't know for sure because he'd never been tested." "Ah, if only ignorance was bliss." "I can't say I understand any of it," Toni said, shaking her head indisgust. "In a way I thought they made a perfect pair. Not a sentimentalbone in either one of them." "That is rarely true," Stephane said, frowning. "Oh, I know that," Toni said, almost angrily. "But for some reason, Iwas happy for them, you know? Ryan seemed genuinely affected by Brendan,maybe even in love, and, fuck, I don't know, it's just ..." "You wish you understood what happened. Or why." "No, I know what happened," Toni said, putting her hands on her hipsas if trying to brace herself, like part of her expected the floor tosuddenly shake. "And I know why." "Tell me." "For whatever reason - well, I guess that's the thing I don't know.But Brendan decided to get tested, and, as you would say - voila - he wasnegative." "Negative." "Yup. And that, as they say, was the end of it." "He left Ryan." "Without a word of apology," Toni said. "Nothing?" "Oh - he said good bye, sure. You know, after he'd told him about thetest results and packed all his things for him, and basically showed him thedoor." "Nice." "It gets better." "Or worse." "The little fucker's engaged now." "Dites cela encore!" "Huh?" "Say that again." "Yeah, he's engaged. Brendan's engaged. And you'll never guess towhom." "I fear to even try." "Alex Bledel." "I think I may be ill." "Oh, sweetie pie, mama ain't even to the best part." "No - it's not possible that she is..." "Pregnant." Stephane stared wide-eyed at Toni, aghast for reasons that he did not,or could not, fully comprehend. None of these people mattered to him, notin any meaningful way, but he felt both repulsed by them, and saddened forthem. It was like seeing a dog or a cat struck in the street, struck andkilled - disgusted by the gore, but also saddened by the thought that someperson somewhere might stand calling for a beloved pet that would neverreturn home. Was this why that he had so steadfastly resisted formingattachments, why he preferred to keep people at a distance, even if only anarm's length? Because he could not bring himself to contemplate the realityof losing something, someone, that had mattered to him. But there wasanother side to this he realized. He could understand the pain of this losswithout having experienced it himself. What was that? He did not know, andperhaps could not know. All he knew that suddenly he wished to see Jamesagain, and wanted this more intensely than even minutes before. "I don't know why this makes me so angry," Stephane finally said. "I'll tell you why," Toni said, picking up her cigarettes andnarrowing here eyes into a sharp piercing stare. "Because you've got aheart sweetie. That's why." "Yes," Stephane said, almost to himself. "Perhaps that much at least istrue."* * * * * "Josh is an expert at this Aaron, I'm serious, so listen to what he has tosay." "First off," JC said, putting his hand on Aaron's knee as their limousinepulled out of the hotel driveway. "You're Dad's full of it, because he wasalways better at these things than me - at least I think he was." "Josh - I was not. You know these big hoo-hahs always made me crazy. Myfirst premiere I thought I was going to pee my pants." "You did great though," JC said, reaching across Aaron and giving Lance agentle shove. "You're sincere. You can't help it. And it totally comesacross." "Well thank you," Lance said, grinning, and then leaning across Aaron togive JC a quick kiss. "I think." "Dad," Aaron said, plainly nervous. "We're going to be there in like lessthan ten minutes." "Okay," JC said. Here's the deal. You're Dad and I will get out first." "Don't get right..." "Lance - I thought I was telling him this." "Sorry." "Like your Dad said, don't' jump out right after us. Wait for Nn Young Models Galleries the noise tosettle down a bit, then get out. The photographers will want to get apicture of just you getting out of the limo. You're the new meat." "Josh!" "Sorry." "I'd rather get out with you guys." "It's okay," Lance said. "We'll be waiting like ten feet away." "We'll do the carpet and the rope line together." "Okay." "Make sure your jacket's unbuttoned when you get out of the car." "If it's buttoned, it'll squeeze around your stomach and you'll make afunny face when you get out." "This is kind of stupid." "Yup," Lance said. "But you're going to feel way better about this if you know what toexpect," JC said, his hand still on Aaron's knee. "And the good thing about the unbuttoned jacket is that it gives yousomething to do once you're out of the limo. The camera's are going to beflashing like crazy and you don't want to be looking at that right off, solook down at your jacket and button it." "Okay," Aaron said, nodding. "Look at jacket. Button it. Don't look atcameras." "Not at first ," JC said. " Not until you're eyes have adjusted to thelight." "Otherwise you'll squint," Lance added." "Right," JC said. "Then, once you're eyes are adjusted, then look up andsmile." "Like you would at a surprise party." "Like - Wow, you guys all showed up for me?' Sort of like that." "I'm starting to wish I hadn't been in this movie now," Aaron said,swallowing hard. "I don't think I like lots of people staring at me." "Sweetie," JC said, firmly, but not criticizing. "It's a little late to bethinking that. Being here is part of the job, a job you said you wanted todo. You should take this just as seriously as you did making the moviebecause you don't get one without the other." "Your Dad's right," Lance said, putting his arm around Aaron. "I know," Aaron said. "I'm just scared. I don't want to look stupid." "You won't," JC said. "In fact, you look very handsome." "Thanks Dad," Aaron said. "It was really hard to decide what to wear." "You did a good job," Lance said, squeezing the back of Aaron's neck andthen taking his arm from around his shoulders. "Why'd you pick this one?" "I don't know," Aaron said. "The other ones seemed too grown up, and likesexy. Like the Prada one, it was way too 'Look at me, look at me, I'm aplayer'. This is the one Marc Jacobs made special for me. I like it becauseit's sort of funny, like the uniform I used to wear in elementary school,with the blue jacket and badge on it, and the grey pants - you know, butit's really nice material too." JC stared open-mouthed for a moment and then shook his head. Aaron wasright. It looked like a more grown-up, but not too grown-up, version of howAaron had dressed in Elementary School, right down to the white shirt thatwas not tucked into his pants and black leather oxfords that he wore withoutsocks and unlaced. JC had always made him tie his shoes and tuck in hisshirt before taking him to school and then watched him as he walked up thesteps to the schoolhouse, pulling his shirt out from his pants and, he knew,untying his shoes once he got inside. That Nn Young Models Galleries was always how he looked when hehad picked him Nn Young Models Galleries up each day. But JC never said anything. He was amused byAaron's small defiance, and approving of it. "Dad," Aaron said, nudging JC. "You're staring at me." "Sorry," JC said, shaking his head as if to clear it, and smiling at Aaron."I was just remembering something. That's all." Before Aaron could reply his cell phone buzzed, vibrating in the insidepocket of his jacket. Pulling the phone from his pocket, and flipping thecover open, Aaron looked at the caller-ID screen and smiled. "It's Colin," Aaron said, raising the phone to his ear. "Hey Big Da!" "Yeah," Aaron said, leaning forward and looking out the window as hecontinued to talk into the phone. "We're almost there. Where are you?" Aaron turned around in his seat and looked out of the limousine's backwindow. Colin had opened the sunroof in his limousine and the top half ofhis body was sticking through it. He waved and pointed at Aaron and thengave him the thumbs-up. "Yeah, I can see you," Aaron said, laughing. "What? No...I'm not nervous.I'm not. Okay - I am, but it's cool. I'll be okay. Dad gave me the 411 onthe red carpet thing. Yeah, he's a pro. Uh-huh. Okay. All right. I will.Yeah. Cool. Later Da." "Colin said hi," Aaron said, slipping phone back into his pocket. "Hey - you ready," Lance said, noticing the limousine beginning to slow andthen stop. "We're next up." "Who's in front of us?" JC asked. "Eric and Rebecca, I think." "You going to be okay?" JC asked, looking at Aaron and smoothing the hairout of his eyes. "I'll be fine Dad," Aaron said, giving JC a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks."* * * * * "Do you have my sunglasses," Lance whispered into JC's ear. "Yeah, here," JC said, handing the glasses to Lance and then taking holdagain of his hand. "It is kind of bright." Sliding the sunglasses into place, Lance took a deep breath and looked backat the limousine. He and JC had emerged from it a few minutes earlier andcrowd had just now quieted, and the high-speed cameras had stopped clickingand flashing and whirring and their lenses were pointed away from them andat the limousine's still open door. Minutes seemed to pass as no oneemerged from inside the limousine. A puzzled look formed on Lance's face.He glanced at JC and then back to where Aaron was supposed to appear. Andthen he finally did, his face poking out with a big antic tooth-filled grin. Waving, Aaron stepped out of the limousine, looking down for a moment justlike JC had advised, and buttoning his jacket. Nn Young Models Galleries When Aaron looked up, hiseyes seemed full of fear at first, despite his big smile. But then, just asLance was about to be concerned, Aaron plunged his hands into theside-pockets of his jacket and let his shoulders playfully droop as he bentto one side, then the other, arching his eyebrows, and slyly smiling, as ifabout to mug for the cameras, but not going too far, then giving thephotographers in the press box an exaggerated conspiratorial wink, like hewas saying, "Remember the deal, you're supposed to make me look great." Thecrowd, which had loudly tittered before, went wild with laughter andapplause. Aaron pulled his hands from his pockets and held them palms up and shruggedas he rolled his eyes. It was a funny gesture and one the crowd loved. Itseemed to say that he didn't take any of the ruckus too seriously, but hestill appreciated it. He stood there for several minutes more, wavingoccasionally, and waiting for the cameras incessant shooting to stop, whichthey never did. Finally unwilling to wait longer, Aaron gave thephotographers a final good-natured wave and jogged up the red carpet, hisloose untied shoes slapping the ground, each short stride exposing a bareankle and heel. "How'd I do," Aaron said, smiling at Lance and JC, and shrugging. "You're a natural," JC said, taking Aaron's arm and giving it a quicksqueeze. "Scary," Lance said. "But true." "Thanks dad," Aaron said. "It was fun."* * * * * JC and Aaron had managed to make it up the red Nn Young Models Galleries carpet more quickly thanLance, talking to nearly as many people, with Aaron signing autographs whileJC watched. They seemed to have worked faster than Lance, who had a tendencyto want to find out more about each person he met, and to write somethingmore personal than "Best Regards" with his autograph. Glancing toward thetheater's entrance, Lance saw JC and Aaron waiting for him, and he wavedthem on, signaling that they need not wait. Aaron waved back and smiled atLance, proud of him, and how handsome he looked, and trying to show it. JCwaved too, then took Aaron's arm and led him through the throng of reportersstaked out just inside the lobby. Turning back to the crowd gathered just on the other side of the red velvetrope-line, Lance finished signing another autograph and was about to handthe pen back when he saw him. Lance didn't recognize him at first, butsomehow knew that he'd seen him before. It was a strange feeling, madestranger by the fact that it was not so much his looks that seemed familiar,but the way he was standing there, pressed up against the rope line, a bookin his hand. It was this scene, and this exact setting, that Lanceremembered. Signing another autograph, instinctively, and without muchpaying attention to what he said to the woman, or even her name, which hesomehow signed, Lance smiled at the man with the book, and the man smiledback and waved. A young boy stood next to him. He was maybe seven at themost and clutching a Star Wars action-figure to his chest. He lookedfrightened. Walking over to where the man and boy stood, Lance extended his arm andshook the man's hand. The man smiled, grateful that Lance had noticed himand took the time to stopp. The boy looked up at Nn Young Models Galleries Lance, still seemingfrightened, but smiling now too. Lance crouched down and looked at him. "What's this," Lance asked, pointing at the action-figure. "It's you," the boy said shyly. "Can I see?" "Yes," the boy said, turning the figure around so it faced Lance now. "Do you think that looks Nn Young Models Galleries like me?" "Yes," the boy said. "Can I have your autograph on it?" "What do you say Billy?" the man said, rubbing the back of the boy's head. "Please." "Sure thing," Lance said, smiling as he took the figure from the boy andsigned it with a felt pen the man had handed him. "How's that?" "Thank you," the boy said. "He's a sweet boy," Lance said, standing up and facing the man once more."Is he your son?" "Yes," the man said. "My partner and I adopted him when he was a baby,just Nn Young Models Galleries over six years ago." "That's great," Lance said, about to pat the man on the shoulder and thenrealizing who he was. "Wait - we've met before." "Yes we have," the man said, holding up the book he'd been holding underhis arm, a battered copy of The Ghost Road. "You signed this for me quite awhile ago." Lance took the book from the man's hand and opened it. On the inside coverhe found his signature and what he'd written:To Jared and Thomas,BE EACH OTHER'S HERO.Best Wishes,Lance Bass.It was hard for Lance to believe that the book was real, and in his hands,and that he was seeing what he'd signed so long ago. It had been at TheGhost Road premiere, and Jared had said that he and JC were their heroes.Lance remembered that it had stung him hearing this, because he was feelingless than heroic right then, having destroyed and lost, or so he hadthought, his relationship with JC. That was why he'd written what he wrote,or one reason. It was not just that he felt like no hero then, but becausehe had recognized that, if a relationship was ever going to last, it tooknear heroic effort to make it do so. "You're Jared?" Lance said, finally able to speak. "Yes, that's right," he said. "Thank you for signing my son's toy." "Oh, forget it," Lance said, shaking his head. "It's my pleasure. Really." "Well, thank you anyway," Jared said. "I know you should be going. So Iwon't keep you any longer." "Wait," Lance said, taking Jared's arm as he started to turn away, andstopping him. "Where's Thomas? He was with you at the The Ghost Roadpremiere." "He passed away two years ago," Jared said calmly, only the slightquivering of his bottom lip giving away the deep sadness he still felt. "Oh my God," Lance said, plainly stunned by the news. "How? I mean, if youdon't mind telling me." "No, it's all right," Jared said. "He'd had leukemia. In fact, it had justgot into remission when we adopted Billy. But it came back, and well, thesecond time we weren't so lucky. He fought hard...but, anyway, it's overnow." "Damn," Lance said. "I'm so sorry." "Me too, but we're doing all right." "Daddy, I need to go," the little boy said, pulling on the cuff of Jared'sshirt. "I better be going," Jared said. "Billy's been standing for quite awhile." "No - I have a better idea," Lance said, smiling. "Why don't the two ofyou come in with me, as my guests." "Are you serious?" "Hey Billy," Lance said, crouching down once more. "How would you like tobe the first boy in your school to see the new Star Wars movie?" "Really?" the boy said, his eyes growing wide as he looked at Lance andthen up at Jared. "Can we Dad?" "Are you sure?" Jared said, his brow wrinkled as if he was worried Lancewas kidding or would change his mind. "Because if..." "Come on," Lance said, cutting Jared off, but not sharply, and thenunhooking the section of the rope-line that blocked their way. "Let's goinside."* * * * * The momentary tumult of the film's score gave suddenly way too a deeplyeerie near-silence filled with the sound of Lucas trying to catch his breathas he raced down the corridor to where he sensed his father would be. Thequick-pounding beat of a timpani drum echoed each breath he took, and itsounded like the hard-fast beating of his heart. Aaron remembered shootingthis scene, remembered how many time he'd had to run the more than hundredyards across one end of the set, in front of a vast blue screen while aSteadicam on a trolley rolled along beside him, filming him as he ran asfast as he could, ran in long loping strides, full of fear that he would notarrive in time. But now on the screen there was no speed to the scene atall. The blue screen had been Nn Young Models Galleries replaced with a computer-graphic-image of thewall of the corridor leading to his father's office, and thefast-as-he-could running had been transformed into a scarily-tenseslow-motion scene in which his running figure was all that filled thescreen. It was as if Ang had somehow known to show, not how fast Lucas ran,but how slow it felt to him. Those viewing the film sat transfixed, sensing that two hours into it theend was near. Aaron stared at the screen, part of him not wanting to watch,uncomfortable seeing himself up there, the other part of him wanting badlyto know how the film finally ended, what had Ang decided. As his charactercontinued to run, the shot began to focus more and more tightly on his face,in profile, his eyes staring straight ahead, seeing nothing but the place heneeded to get to, the place where he needed to be: by his father's side. Hecould see himself breathing harder, and hear it. He could see the sweat onhis forehead, sweat from real exertion, and real exhaustion. Then just asLucas seemed about to collapse, from fear or fatigue, the sound of hisbreathing, and the beating-heart drum, disappeared from the soundtrack,plunging the theater into a two seconds of silence. The silence was shortlyreplaced by the lonely wail of a single French horn, the score havingreturned. It was the haunting fugue that John Williams had originallywritten as the Luke Skywalker theme in the first Star Wars, a film now wellover 30 years old. It was the theme that had played while Luke had staredinto the distance, watching the double suns of Tatooine sink slowly belowthe horizon, dreading that he'd ever be anything other than the adopted sonof two lonely farmers in the outer reaches of the galaxy. "You have for a moment my power." His grandfather's voice suddenly echoed in Lucas's head, making his eyesgrow wide and stopping him as he reached the corner of the corridor. Lucassensed that his father was near, but before he could face the truth of whathad happened, or about to happen, he paused to steel himself, hisgrandfather's voice lingering within him. "Trust yourself to use it Lucas." Reaching under his tunic, Lucas grasped his grandfather's light-saber andpulled it from where he had lodged it in his waistband. His grandfather hadgiven him this right before he died. He held it now in front of his face,staring at it with a look of puzzlement and fear. About to trigger it on,his thumb hovered just above the light saber's handle, his other fingersgrasping it. Shaking his head no, he slipped the light saber back into hiswaistband and covered it again with his tunic. Lucas then rounded thecorner, rounded it and threw his shoulders back, ready to see what was thereto be seen. Sepp Wolff held Jhon Skywalker by the throat, his blaster pointed at hishead. Lucas gasped to see his father's bloody face, and the way he hung solimply to the floor, as Nn Young Models Galleries if ready to be tossed aside once Sepp was throughwith him. Lucas stared at Sepp, grimacing at the gaze that he knew had beenwaiting for his arrival. Sepp had sensed his approach, and planned thisset-piece with Lucas in mind, waiting for him to get there before killinghis Jhon, wanting him to see final pain he was about to inflict. Lucas was fifty feet from them, and he could see his father's eyes, whichwere filled with blood, but no tears. His lips were swollen, almostdeformed. Sepp must have slammed his face repeatedly against the cold stonefloor. He could see the blood there, and the splatters of it on the wall. Asmile played slowly across Sepp's face and suddenly it was as if there wasno more warmth in the room. Lucas felt a shudder run through him, followedby a murderous hate so intense that it seemed ready to justify any Nn Young Models Galleries act, nomatter how heinous. He wanted nothing more at that moment but to kill Sepp. "Follow your hate boy," Sepp said, hissing at him. "It will take you whereI want you to go, right to the dark side." "Let my father go," Lucas said, not hiding the fear in his voice, or theanger. "Was that a request?" Sepp laughed. "Because I didn't hear you sayplease." "Let my father go," Lucas repeated, his words even angrier now. "And I ask again, was that a..." Sepp's eyes began to bulge and his face turn red. He was being choked,quickly and viciously. Lucas had not moved from where he stood. He had noteven raised his hand. But his eyes had narrowed, and his lips pressedtogether. Sepp looked suddenly frantic. He had not expected this fromLucas, from one not yet trained at Nn Young Models Galleries all in the powers of the Force. It didnot make sense, no sense at all, and it plainly angered him. Sepp had heardof young Jedi that had displayed precocious powers, but nothing like this.Never. "I will not ask again," Lucas said, but not out loud this time, speakinginstead to Sepp directly, with thought alone, in his mind. "Release him ordie." "How can this be?" Sepp thought, releasing his hold on Jhon and letting himfall to the floor. "How?" Lucas moved closer to Sepp, not yet freeing him from the crushing hold hehad on his throat. Leaning his face forward, close to Sepp's own, Lucasglared at him, his eyes narrow at first. Sepp clawed at his throat,desperate for air, his knees close to buckling as he found himself beingpushed now slowly backward down the hall by the force of will alone. Lucasfollowed after Seep, staring at him, shaking his head in disgust untilfinally giving him one last hard push and sending him tumbling backwardsinto a heap. At last able to breath, Sepp gasped for air in loud and noisygulps. By the time Sepp had caught his breath, and could stand up, Jhon andLucas were gone. "You will not prevail!" Sepp screamed. Picking his blaster up from the floor, Sepp turned and raced down thecorridor in the opposite direction from where Lucas and Jhon had fled. Hewas nearly late for the ceremony formalizing Blake Antilles' ascension tothe chancellorship. It was at this ceremony that the Prime Minister would beassassinated, putting the power of the New Republican Army solely underSepp's control, that is, once General Schirach was court-martialed forfailing to protect the Prime Minister, and Sepp promoted to take his place.It would then only take word to Windsor Fritsch to stage the putsch thatwould overthrow the New Republic and restore the Empire once and for all. As Sepp raced to the Senate Chamber, Lucas laid his father on the couchback in his office. Jhon's breathing was slow and labored, and his gazeunfocused and far away, as if he was already looking beyond this life to thenext one. Lucas felt panic grip him as he held to his father's hand,willing him to come back to him, and to not leave him alone. He was on hisknees before him, his shoulders slumped forward like a penitent. A long lowmoan escaped from Jhon's lips and Lucas leaned forward, ready to hear him,saying, "Father, I will not leave you. Do not be afraid." "Lucas," Jhon whispered, raising his bloodied hand to Lucas' face, holdingit, his fingers pressed against his cheek. "You must stop Sepp, or thePrime Minister will die." "Sepp cannot kill him now Father," Lucas said, surprised at the certaintyin his own voice. "He will be found out, I will make certain of that." "No - it is not Sepp that will do it." His words trailed off, becoming weak and listless. Jhon appeared to fadeaway. Lucas clutched at his father's shoulder's, shaking them, trying torevive him, to pull him back from the brink of death. Watching this, Aaronknew that this was the scene where Jhon had died, where he had cried so hardthat he could hardly speak his lines, it being so easy to feel what he hadneeded to feel to make this scene real. "Father!" Lucas screamed. The close-up on Lucas' face is terrifying. Tears stream down JC's cheeksseeing it, and he could hardly breathe. Lance closed his eyes, not wantingto watch. Jared clung tight to Billy, who held out his action figure, as ifto give Lucas his additional support. Colin reached forward and puts hishand on Aaron's shoulder, rubbing it twice, then letting it go. James takeshold of Stephane's hand and squeezed it tightly, and Stephane leaned hisshoulder against him. Ryan slumped forward in his seat, and Toni rubbed hisback up and down his spine as he cried softly into his hands. Lance's backstiffened as the close-up lingered on Aaron's crying face. Glancing back atColin, smiling weakly, Lance put his on Aaron's knee and held it. The movie cut suddenly from the tight shot on Lucas' face to a close-up ofJhon's eyes, which seemed to move slightly, flutter, and then flicker open.Taking a long deep breath, Jhon looked up at his son. "Father," Lucas murmured, fighting back tears. "Son, it is another," Jhon whispered, barely able to speak. "It is ourfriend and ally Cassell who will be blamed, and I. So you must go." "I can't leave you, father. I can't. And I won't." "You must," Jhon said, sitting up, finding the strength somewhere, andstartling Lucas with steely force of his words. "There is no hope otherwise.And if there is no hope, there is nothing to live for. Nothing." "But father, if you die..." "If I die, you must go on, my son, go on to be the greatest Jedi ever.Promise me, Lucas. Promise me." "No, I can't." "You are afraid," Jhon said, holding Lucas' face with both hand now,staring up into his pleading fearful eyes. "I am afraid," Lucas said, through a choke of Nn Young Models Galleries tears. "I am only a boy." "You are more than that Lucas. You are my son, and a Skywalker." "But Father..." "Lucas, it is all right to be afraid," Jhon said, his voice stronger now."It is the conquest of fear that gives the courage of life. Find yourcourage, and you may find life, for both of us. Now go." "I love you father," Jhon said, standing up, tears streaming down his face,cutting tiny rivulets through the bloody handprints there. "You will always be my son Lucas," Jhon said, his eyes growing dim. "And Iwill always be your father. Do not forget that." "I will not," Lucas said, standing and straightening his back. "I promiseyou that. And I promise that I will become a Jedi, as you ask, and I willmake you proud." "I know you will," Jhon said, his eyes slowly closing. "Now go."* * * * * The last fifteen minutes of the film were so raucous and so thrilling thatit hardly seemed real. Sitting on Jared's lap, Billy clung to his father'sarms, thrilled and frightened, but still rapt. Unlike Jared, who feared thefilm was going to end in a way too intense and too upsetting for a boy ofseven to see, he watched almost out of the corner of his eye, afraid of thetragedy that looked as if it was about to ensue. Billy had no such fear, hebelieved that Lucas would succeed, that he would fight through his own fearand save the New Republic and his father too. Aaron had neither faith norfear, only dread as the story rushed toward its finale, gasping as hewatched Senator Ribbentrop slipping his blaster from where it had beenhidden in the long loose sleeves of his ceremonial gown and put the triggerat ready, waiting for Sepp's signal to him. Sepp had arrived by now, standing next to Blake Antilles, supposedly as hisbody-guard, but secretly as his lover instead. Lucas had made his way tothe level above where the ceremony was taking place, having just got Nn Young Models Galleries there.He edged out onto one of the narrow stone ledges that connected eachsenator's station to the next, forming a spiraling ring of discs and ledgesthat rose in circular layers like lichens on the inside of a huge hollowtree. Watching carefully to see if Sepp sensed his presence, he at the sametime concentrated on General Schirach, speaking in his mind to him, tellinghim that he was there, and that he should be prepared to move. Then just asSepp winked at Senator Ribbentrop, giving him the signal to kill the PrimeMinister, Lucas jumped, his tunic flapping behind him like wings. He seemedto soar in a near-perfect arc, landing on Ribbentrop as he pulled thetrigger on his blaster. At the same time, General Schirach pulled the PrimeMinister out the of the way, the blaster firing into the middle of BlakeAntilles' chest instead. Pulling his Grandfather's light-saber from inside his tunic, Lucas tookposition next to General Schirach, ready to fight side-by-side with him, andback to back, as a group of Dark Jedi appeared seemingly out of nowhere,determined to kill those who had foiled their plot. Lucas could feel hisgrandfather, Luke Skywalker, within him, guiding his hand, but not entirely,and giving him strength, but not all of it. At first trying to push hisfear away, Lucas let it fill him, and flow over him, like water, and hiseyes darkened as he began to fight. Schirach was nearly distracted by theferocity of Lucas' fighting. He had never seen anything like it because itwas not how a Jedi Knight typically fought, which was with a cold andfocused concentration. But Lucas was passionate, intense, and angry, but notout of control. It was frightening but fascinating too. It was as if Lucashad dared to let that which had for ions fueled the Dark Force flow intohim, but not overcome him. He joined the two, and was suddenly more powerfulthan either alone. Ignoring the fighting, Sepp carried Blake Antilles' limp dead body awayfrom the battle and to the top of the building. His half-brother, Clasen,waited there for him with a battle-cruiser, and it with that they made theirescape, Sepp unable to speak, wracked with grief and already thinking ofrevenge. They would make there way back to Sluivan where there they wouldbe for a little while safe. Aaron took Lance's hand as the scene cut away from the shot of the battlecruiser and returned to Lucas and Cassell Schirach walking the long corridorback toward Jhon's office. The contingent of Dark Jedi defeated, SenatorRibbentrop had been arrested, and the Prime Minister was safe. Now all thatremained was for Lucas to find out whether his father Jhon Skywalker wasstill alive. As Lucas reached the door, he stopped and turned to faceCassell Schirach. "My father has given me his blessing," Lucas said. "To begin my training." "You must go to Bespin then. And soon. Before the Dark Jedi regroup." "I wish to train with you," Lucas said. "To be your Padawan." "I cannot." "Because you are afraid of failing me?" "I was too close to your father," Cassell said, his eyes brimming now withtears. "His death saddens me too much to think clearly enough to be yourmaster. It would feel wrong of me." "But Cassell, my friend, he is not dead." "He..." Cassell did not attempt to finish his sentence. He turned toward the door,pushing it open with his foot. Inside the room, Jhon lay still stretchedout on the couch, alive and attended to by his mother, Mara Skywalker. Shehad somehow known to come, called by a voice that had seemed to speakdirectly to her heart. Jhon rose up weakly from where he lay, lifting hishead and then his shoulders. Lucas rushed to his side, kneeling before him,and holding his head, and taking his hand. "No father," Lucas said. "You must rest." "He is right Jhon," Mara said. "You are very weak, and nearly died." "Thank you for coming Grandmother," Lucas said, looking up at her. "I could do but nothing else," she said, smiling at Lucas and resting herhand for a moment Nn Young Models Galleries on his head. "When I felt your call to me." "It was grandfather too you know," Lucas said, bowing his head for amoment. "Yes, Nn Young Models Galleries I know," she said. Lucas looked back to his father and smiled. Jhon managed a weak smile inreturn and then reached up and touched Lucas' cheek, still smeared withblood. "I knew you could do it," Jhon whispered to his son. "I had such faith inyou." "That is why I could do it," Lucas said. Sitting quietly on his father's lap, Billy smiled as he clutched theaction-figure to his chest and nodded, yes, again and again, nodding as ifhe was trying to say that, yes, he had known too, known all along, with thefaith of a child, a faith that believed that good will prevail, if it hasthe courage to do so. Jared wrapped his arms around his son's chest andheld him close to him, resting his chin atop his head. At the same time,Lance slipped his arm around Aaron's shoulders, pulling him closer. JC tookhold of Lance's hand and squeezed it, tears fogging his vision as he watchedthe final scene played out, a scene that was nearly like the one thatstarted the film, but in reverse, with this time Jhon the one standing aloneon the roof of the tall building in which he lived, watching an X-Wingfighter not this time arrive, but to depart. Watching the ship climb the sky, streaking across the horizon, and thencircling back low to fly once around the building, low enough for him to seehis son inside, his hand waving in a kind of final salute, Jhon waved back,trying to smile, but looking only sad instead. He knew there was noguarantee that he would see his son again, that in the world in which theylived anything could happen. But this was the risk he was willing to taketo see his son grow into manhood, to succeed and reach his potential. Andso Jhon waved, and he smiled, as the ship turned and disappeared into thedistance, far and away. The close-up of Jhon's nearly tear-filled eyes faded into a final close-upof Lucas at the controls of the X-Wing, the shield on his helmet up, and hisown eyes, nearly tear-filled too. Flipping a switch that would send theminto hyper-drive, Lucas glanced over his shoulder, smiled and said, "Youready R2? Great. Let's go."* * * * * "You have everything you need?" JC asked, eyeing Aaron's new messenger bag,the one he'd bought for him last week. "Yeah Dad," Aaron said, smiling. "I've got everything, and then some." "Are you sure you don't want me to give you a ride?" Lance said. "BecauseI'd be happy to. It's no hassle at all." "Dad," Aaron said, rolling his eyes, but only a little. "I told you thatJames has his license now and he's going to be picking me up. He's probablyalready here." "All right," Lance said, frowning. "But make sure he doesn't drive like amaniac." "We're talking James here Dad. He's like the most careful dude in theworld." "All right," Lance said again, not sure what else to say. Aaron wore baggy blue corduroy pants, a long-sleeve gray t-shirt, and blacksuede puma trainers that were, as his shoes almost always were, unlaced.Looking at his watch, which he wore with the face under his wrist, ratherthan on top, Aaron frowned and then looked again at JC and Lance, andsmiled. "I'll be fine guys," Aaron said, leaned forward and giving Lance, then JC,a quick kiss on the cheek. "It just high school, okay?" "Yeah, okay," Lance said, a little sadly. "But it's not like we've donethis before, you know. So..." "I know Dad," Aaron said, putting his arms around Lance and giving him ahug. "I guess we'll see you when you get home," JC said. "I've got lacrosse try-outs after school," Aaron said. "So it'll be closerto four-thirty or five." "Five?" Lance said, surprised at first. "But...yeah, okay, that's cool.You're Dad and me will see you then." "We can order some pizza for dinner," JC said. "That sounds good," Aaron said, turning toward the door. "Bye Aaron," Lance said. "Have a great day at school." "I will, Dad. Thanks." Aaron walked to the door and pulled it open, pausing for a moment at thedoor's threshold, as if unsure whether to walk across it. Seeing thisslight hesitation, JC looked at Lance, took his hand, and together theyturned around and walked toward the kitchen. Hearing the sound of theirfootsteps, Aaron knew that they were returning to their coffee, thenewspapers that waited to be read, and whatever chores they had planned forthat day. Aaron also knew that when he got home, they'd Nn Young Models Galleries be there, waitingfor him, maybe a little nervously, wanting to hear all about his day. Thatwas a good thing to know, he thought, smiling as he closed the door behindhim, and then headed down the driveway to the gate at the bottom. As he'dexpected, James was waiting there for him, like the other bookend to hislife, his parents on one side James on the other, holding him up, keepinghim stable and cared for, appreciated and loved, and feeling normal. Watching Aaron appear from around the final bend of the driveway, Jamessmiled at him and waved. He'd only been waiting five minutes and didn'tmind. He figured that Lance and JC had made a big deal about Aaron's firstday of high school, way more of a big deal than his own mom had made, sinceshe had hardly noticed. James laughed as he saw Aaron roll his eyes, mouththe words 'I'm sorry', then shrug. Pretending to make light of somethingthat actually mattered a great deal to him. It was an aspect of Aaron'spersonality that had come to puzzle James, not because he didn't understandit - because he definitely thought he did - but because it was sounnecessary. It was as if since being in the Star Wars film Aaron fearedpeople taking him too seriously. If asked what it was like, he tended nowto shrug and say it was no big deal. Suddenly everything was no big deal.And this was the part that James understood, the desire to keep realfeelings hidden. But Aaron had never been like that before, and it was whatJames had always loved most about him. Nn Young Models Galleries Not that he loved him less. It wasjust that he'd depended on Aaron to be the more outgoing of the two, themore spontaneous, the person who pulled him by the force of his personalityfrom his own shell. Maybe Aaron was just hunkered down, like when a stormpassed over, waiting for it to end. James hoped that this was true. Hetruly did. Sliding into the front seat next to James, Aaron smiled at him and pattedhim on the shoulder. "You ready James?" James nodded and smiled, happy to see Aaron, and suddenly touched by theforce of the attention now focused on him. "Great," Aaron said. "Let's go."