Graduation Present

Chapter Fourteen

The bus glided its way slowly through the busy streets of Orlando right as rush hour traffic was starting to dissipate. The Florida Turnpike seemed to be a less than smart idea at the moment, but the guys left it up to their driver to make those decisions. Each of them had spent the day on the bus trying to stay entertained and they were more than ready to get off of the bus for a while. They were home after a long tour. The need for a couple of months of rest was felt throughout the entire bus.

Kellen had felt much better when he woke up the next day. Though he didn’t leave JC’s side most of the day. It didn’t bother JC though. Any chance he had to spend time with Kellen was worth it. Kellen had called his friends in Orlando that morning and they promised to have most of the interior decorating finished by the time they arrived that evening. It was only several trips to Pier One Imports, and any other interior store they could think of. Jerry had called and informed Kellen that the furniture was all in place just as he’d promised. The lights of the town were passing before them and eventually, they were turning into the long gated driveway of the Compound, an infamous facility that the world over knew as Nsync’s domain.

"We are finally home," Chris said almost jumping up and down.

"Actually, Big Daddy, home for you is in Kissimmee, which is a little drive from here." Justin corrected.

"I meant the city. We are finally here, Curly. Aren’t you excited?"

"Oh yeah! I am in definite need of a break." Justin replied.

"We’ve been on this bus resting all day and I still don’t want to have to drive home," Joey said.

"Well, none of you have to go home tonight if you don’t want to. You’re all more than welcome to stay at my place tonight. It’s not like I don’t have the room." Kellen offered. "It’s not as close as some of your homes may be, but it would save you all from having to drive home. My mother, the ever-present 10th wonder of the world, called ahead and had a rental mini van delivered to the Compound so we could drive over to my new house."

"I’m up for it," Lance said. "I have no desire to drive to my place tonight. Plus, I want to check out your new place."

"Dude, I am so there." Justin chimed in.

Joey and Chris looked at each other and mentioned their acceptance of Kellen’s invitation. There was no question where JC would be staying tonight.

"Kellen, have you called to have food delivered at the estate?" Kate asked him as she put her things into her briefcase.

"Yes Mom, I called Sarah and Mikayla. They were going to have their team go throughout the house and decorate it and buy flowers, and other aesthetics for it. They also promised to fill the kitchen to the brink with food." Kellen answered.

"Good," Kate said zipping here briefcase. "I think I will make breakfast for everyone in the morning."

"Homemade breakfast! Oh Yeah!" the guys screamed as the breaks on the bus hissed and halted to a stop. The guys gathered their things and started getting off one by one. Johnny was there to meet them in the parking lot.

"Yo’ Johnny, what’s happenin?" Joey asked.

"Nothing much. We’ve just been here setting up things for the new album." Johnny said. He saw Kellen get off the bus and walked over to the young keyboardist. "Hello, Kellen. I see you made it through the first leg of the tour. I’m sorry about what happened in New York. I know it must have been very a very hard thing to deal with." Johnny said in a somber tone.

"It was, but I had the guys and my mother to help me through it."

"Oh, that’s right, your mother flew out. Is she here, I’d like to meet her." Johnny said looking around. He saw an unfamiliar woman standing and talking to Lynn Harless, Justin’s own mother. He turned back to Kellen, "Will you be joining us on the second leg on the tour in October?" Johnny asked.

"I haven’t really decided yet. My mom wants me in school, so we’ll see how things turn out. Can I let you know in two weeks? I know you’ll need time to start looking for someone else to fill the position if I can’t so I’ll give you ample time. I just need to work through some things before I make a final decision." Kellen said in a very mature, business-like manner.

"Of course, feel free to take some time to make a decision. It shouldn’t be a problem." The two men walked over to the two moms, who were becoming acquainted with one another.

"So you stayed with the boys when they were touring in Europe?" Kate asked looking at Lynn.

"Yes, Lance’s mom, Diane, and I were with them most of the time that they were in Europe." Justin’s mom said as the wind blew through her curly hair. "But then they grew up, and we moms had to back off a little to give them breathing room." Kellen and Justin walked away from their mothers and starting pulling their luggage off the bus. The guys divided into groups, one in Kate’s rental van and the other in Lynn’s minivan.

The vans drove through a newly developed, rich looking gated community and then turned unto a recently asphalted road. They drove the length of the road before coming to a gated driveway. The evening sun was setting between the trees causing the all the night lighting on the estate to turn on. Everyone marveled at the mansion that lay at the top of the small hill ahead of them. Kate entered the gate code and the tall, black gates parted and opened allowing the vehicles access to the estate.

"Dude, how rich are you?" Joey asked looking out the window.

"You ain’t seen nothing yet, Bro," Kellen said smiling proudly.

"I can’t wait to see the inside!"

"You’ll like it, Joseph," Kate said as she drove the van around the circular drive in front of the estate. The van came to a stop in front of the house and everyone got out. Kellen jumped out of the van and walked over to the second van.

"Kellen, It looks beautiful," JC said getting out the van.

"Yo Kellen, how many people live here?" Chris asked.

"At the moment, just Josh and I. Why?"

"Cause I think it’s big enough."

"What can I say," Kellen said shrugging his shoulders. "Size is very important to me, the bigger the better," Kellen replied suggestively looking at Chris then winking at JC. JC blushed, and Chris shook his head laughing.

The group walked up the majestic looking steps and past he tall Roman columns to the pair of double doors. "It’s your house now, Kellen. Would you like to open the door?" Kate said holding up the keys for Kellen to take.

"Thank you, Mom," Kellen said accepting the keys. He inserted them into the lock to unlock the doors. "I can’t believe I have my own house now." He said excitedly. This had to be one of the most exciting moments of his life. He’d seen the plans many times and seen some of the progress, but nothing compared to his seeing his brand new home for the first time. He turned the knob and slowly opened the door savoring the moment.

"Dude, just open the door," Justin said, laughing.

Kellen opened it all the way and everyone walked in looking every which way. Kellen looked all the way up to see the multi-tiered crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the third floor. The space was almost over-whelming; there was 13 feet from the floor to the ceiling on the first floor alone. Everyone looked up to the ceiling of the third floor. The guys set there bags down in the foyer and followed Kellen for a tour. He showed them the common living room first. They all marveled at its massiveness. Second, they were shown the downstairs study’s. They walked back to the front door and moved to the other side of the house, and were shown the formal living room, sitting parlor, two guest rooms and then the formal dining room. This room grabbed the attention of the guys.

"How many people do you expect to serve?" Justin asked.

"Well, there is seating here for at least 34 people, but we could always add more chairs if needed. I like it because it will allow for a lot of family and friends to visit during the holidays." Kellen replied. They walked through a small hall on one side of the dining room and walked into the kitchen. "This is probably my favorite room in the whole house, so far." Kellen led them into the huge open kitchen. It was an almost rectangular shaped room with there was an island in the middle and at the other end of the kitchen, was a breakfast dining area and behind that was a huge window that allowed the morning sun to shine in. The design of the kitchen was bright and very spacious; it had a colorful feel to it that gave it a warm feeling. There were preserved vegetables in clear jars that gave the kitchen a bright feel, tropical plants lined the top of the cabinets filling the space between cabinet and ceiling. The smaller appliances were in their own place on the countertop. There was even a fruit bowl sitting on the island. It was filled with freshly bought fruit that Kellen knew would have to be constantly replenished. The lightly colored granite countertop gave a sense of style and space that matched the wooden cabinets. The larger kitchen appliances were stainless steel and had pewter accented color to them. The marble tiled floor completed the welcoming look of the kitchen.

"I like your kitchen, Kellen," Chris commented.

"Thanks, Chris. It would seem that Tara and Kaci were able to go grocery shopping for me," Kellen said walking to up to the refrigerator and pulling a note off of it. He read it then opened the fridge. "Yeah, they stocked us up," He shut the door and rejoined the group. They headed out of the kitchen to explore the rest of the house. They came back to the front foyer and began walking up the grand looking spiral staircase. Kellen showed each of them where they would be sleeping for the evening. "Most of the rooms on the second floor have the same basic design to them, and they each have their own bathroom. All of your rooms have a television and cable so if you’d like to watch TV late at night you can. Just open the armoire.

"You are more than welcome to stay with us this evening, Mrs. Harless." Kellen offered, leading the group to the other bedrooms.

"Thank you, Kellen. I appreciate that." She replied accepting his offer.

"Shall we move on? We still have the third floor to see." Kellen said leading them back to the stairs. They continued up the stairs and received a quick tour there as well. "This floor is entirely bedroom space. There are twenty-one on this floor. We can head back downstairs. I still have some other things to show you all." They walked back down to the second floor and down one of the hall to the west wing. Once there, Kellen opened a set of double doors, made of oak. The group followed him in. He looked at each of them to take in their expressions. Several 'wows’ were stated followed by hanging mouths. "This is the reception hall, or as some would call it, a ballroom."

"Nice touch," Lance said leaning over the marble railing of the balcony overlooking the marble room.

"Yeah, it is. Wait until you see the parties I throw in here." Kellen said chuckling as he turned to leave. The others followed suit, and they were back in the hallway. Being the last one, Kate shut the closed the doors. Kellen led the small group to another set of oak doors. He opened them and walked in.

"You have a library?" Joey asked.

"I do. This is one of my favorite rooms in the house. I could spend hours in here reading." He led them across the balcony to the staircase in the room. They walked down them and were once again on the first floor.

They returned to the front foyer and everyone grabbed their things and headed back upstairs to their rooms to get settled in. Kate and Kellen watched them slowly haul everything up the stairs.

"Should I bother telling them that there is an elevator to the second and third floors Honey?" Kate asked whispering in her son’s ear.

"No, let’s let them figure it out," Kellen said laughing. "Besides, it’s for when grandparents visit." Kellen paused and looked around like he was lost for a split second, then he turned around and looked at his mom who was looking at him concernedly.

"What’s wrong Honey?" She asked.

"I haven’t had any studio time since the tour started. I have to get some alone time after dinner and go downstairs to my studio." He said looking at his mom.

"You must be ready to go out of your mind; you never go that long without being in a studio," Kate said walking over to her son. She put her arm around his shoulder. "I’ll keep them entertained for a couple of hours while you take some 'you time’."

"Are you sure Mom? That’s a lot to handle."

"I don’t think it’ll be a problem. I’ll just leave them to their own devices and get better acquainted with Justin’s mother."

"Thank you so much, Mom."

"You’re welcome, Honey." She replied while patting his back. "I am going to the kitchen to prepare dinner. What do you think everyone will want to eat?" she asked.

"I saw a lot of sliced turkey, ham, and cheeses in the fridge," Kellen commented. "We could make sandwiches?"

"That’s sounds great. It’s quick and relatively easy to clean up." Kate said. She walked over to a keypad on the wall and pressed a round button among dozens of smaller square ones. The button lit up, and she spoke into the small speaker connected to the pad. "Everyone, it’s Kate. I’m getting ready to start dinner in the kitchen. It should be ready in about twenty minutes." She released the button. "Go ahead and get unpacked, Kellen. I’ll take care of it." She turned and headed towards the kitchen.

Kellen grabbed his things and headed up the stairs to the master suite. When he reached the double doors, he set one of his bags down and opened the door. He walked into the master suite’s sitting room. He walked through the luxurious room and into his bedroom. Sitting his bags down, he turned and left the room.

JC walked into his room and took it all in. 'Wow,’ he thought to himself. 'I think I will like it here, especially since I will be with Kellen. I just hope that my parents will understand when I tell them I’m not dating a girl, but a guy.’ As JC thought more on the subject, the more apprehensive he became.

"Whatcha thinking about?" a voice said from the door.

JC fears were subdued the moment he heard the voice. He turned around to see the object of his affection standing there. "I was just thinking about what will happen when I tell my family about us."

"Do you think they’ll accept it?" Kellen asked.

"I’m not sure. They’ve never made negative comments about gay people before." JC paused then continued. "Then again, they’ve never had a gay son before, and up until now, I’ve dated women." He finished. Kellen looked at him wondering if he regretted their relationship any. "No, I do not regret being with you Kellen. I really like you and I want to spend every waking moment with you." It was as if JC could read Kellen’s mind as he said it. Kellen looked into JC’s eyes and saw only love, love for him. He blushed and looked down. JC moved over to Kellen and lifted his face up. "I love you." He leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss which was quickly reciprocated.

"I love you also, Josh. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of saying this, but I can never thank my parents enough for my graduation present." They both chuckled. Kellen looked back up at JC, "Do you want me with you when you tell your parents? Just say the word, and I’ll be there, no matter what."

"I’d like that very much," JC said. He was about to lean in and kiss Kellen again, when a knock on the door pulled both of them out of their trance.

"Jace?" Lance asked opening the door. He noticed Kellen and JC standing next to each other, "Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything, but the rest of us are heading to the kitchen for dinner. Do you guys want to come with us?"

"Sure." He and Kellen turned to leave and followed the group downstairs. When they got to the kitchen, they saw everything needed to make sandwiches, chips, and dip.

"Dig in everyone," Kate said setting a stack of plates down on the counter.

Everyone filled their plates and grouped together at the kitchen table to eat. Dinner, of course, wasn’t complete without the usual playful bantering that took place. Kate and Lynn just sat back and watched the six guys bonding. After dinner, clean-up chores were assigned and the guys each did their part. After the cleaning was finished, Kellen decided to remind the guys of their trip the next day. "Guys?" Everyone looked at him. "I just wanted to remind you all to get a good night’s rest because we have to fly to Oklahoma afternoon."

"Oh yeah, we get to spend the week on the farm," Justin said in his once strong southern accent.

"Excuse me?" Kate asked looking seriously at Justin. "Kellen, what have you been telling them about Oklahoma?"

"It’s nothing Mrs. Bradley, some of the guys seem to think it is like living in a western to live anywhere remotely rural," Lance said. "I’ve had the same problems with them myself. It comes with the territory."

"Yeah, just wait until you all see it though," Kellen said. He winked twice at Kate who caught his meaning. Then he turned and walked out of the kitchen. 'I’ll show them country living.’ Kellen thought jokingly to himself. 'If they want the 'ole farm’, I give them the 'ole farm’.

"Where is he going?" JC asked getting up to follow him.

"Joshua!" Kate said getting his attention. JC turned around to look at her. "I think he’s running an errand for me. He’ll be back soon. I’m supposed to keep you all entertained until he gets back. However, you all grown men so I’ll leave you to do your own thing. You are all more than welcome to watch a movie, as I’m sure that Tara and Rachel stocked the movie cabinet when they did all of the other shopping earlier today, or whatever. I would like to get better acquainted to you Mrs. Harless, if you don’t mind that is. Would you like a cup of tea?"

"And on that note, we’ll be leaving," Chris said. The guys followed him out and they all went to do their own things. Lance had seen a computer in the study and he wanted to check his email. Josh, Joey, Chris, and Justin went to the living room to watch to channel surf the television.

Kellen reached the bottom of the longer than a normal flight of stairs. 'Ah, the basement.’ He thought as he walked passed the small gymnasium and media room, past the basement kitchenette and three extra bedrooms. He finally came to the room he was trekking for. He opened the door and walked into a rather large room that was divided into sections. The first was a lounge area complete with a couch, love seat, and two chairs with matching in tables and a coffee table. The next two sections were side by side each other and were separated individually from everything else. One was a recording room with instruments in it, and the other room was a control room complete with the most up-to-date technology anyone could hope to have. Kellen surveyed the scene as if he had laid eyes on a wondrous treasure. He walked into the control room and turned everything on. He set up the recorder and grabbed a remote. After that, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small case. He turns the lids and opened them. 'I hope these things work.’ Kellen said putting the new contacts in his eyes. he looked around satisfied that they worked as well as his glasses did. He put the case back into his pocket. Then he walked into the recording room. There it was. It was just what he was looking for; his perfect form of therapy. He picked up the instrument and placed it on his left shoulder, and underneath his chin. He picked up the bow and laid it on the strings and began to play it. "Ugh." He said aloud. It needed to be tuned. He began to tighten various strings to his desire. Once done, he placed it back in its position and began playing it. "Perfect," he said out loud to no one in particular. He stopped set them down on a stool, grabbed the remote and pointed at the sensor. He hit the 'record’ button and sat the remote back on the stool, and picked his bow up. He closed his eyes as he began to lose focus on his surroundings, only focusing on the music he was playing.

Lance closed the door to the study after shutting the computer down. He decided that there wasn’t anything important to do online and opted to watch TV with the guys in the living room. The oak double doors were partially closed but he could hear Justin and Joey laughing. He pushed the doors opened and walked in. JC looked up suddenly with a smile that faded once he saw who it was.

"Oh, it’s only you," JC said. "I was hoping it was Kellen."

"Well, I can see how much I am wanted around here," Lance said in mock hurt.

"I didn’t mean it that way, Lance. I just miss him. We haven’t spent any time together since we got here."

Well, he’s only been gone for about 55 minutes." Lance said looking at his watch. "Anything good to watch on TV?"

"Not much. The news is about to come on in about ten minutes, so anything worth watching is getting ready to end." Chris said flipping through the channels, not finding anything of real interest. The guys sat there in silence watching the TV screen move from channel to channel. After about 5 minutes of this, Chris turned to the other guys, "Do you all want to watch a movie?"

"I’ll pass," Justin said.

"Me too," JC said, suddenly he remembered something from when they had first come into the house. "When we first got here, did any of you see the stairs that led to the basement?" he asked looking in their general direction.

"No, I didn’t," Lance stated.

"Wait, there’s more to this house?" Joey asked. "Jeez, how much money does he have?"

"I’m sure he’ll tell us that when he wants to," Chris said.

"Maybe we could check out the basement," Justin suggested.

"My thinking exactly Bro. It’ll give us something to do until Kellen finishes his errands." JC said. He stood up, and the guys followed suit. They headed out of the living room and to the staircase JC had seen earlier.

"Dude, that’s a long way down," Chris commented as he peered over Lance’s shoulder looking down the flight of stairs.

"Come on, let’s check it out," Justin said leading the way. They walked down the stairs.

"Well, we know that there is a long hallway in here, don’t we," Joey said as they began walking up the hall. When they came to the first set of double doors, JC stopped and opened them. "They’re metal." He said. The light in the room came on as the doors opened and the guys each took a breath.

"Holy shit!" Chris said in a high-pitched voice.

"He. Has. A. Gym." Justin awed. "I don’t believe it. He has a gym in his basement." He walked on to the newly laid wooden floor and stood in the middle of it. The floor was almost 1/3 of full-size court and had already been marked. "He doesn’t have a goal yet." Justin noticed. "Actually, he doesn’t have anything in here. It’s just wood floor."

"Oh, about that," JC said. "Kellen and I were wondering if you would like to decorate this room?"

"Really?" Justin asked not quite believing JC.

"Yep," JC replied. "Kellen talked to me about it yesterday. He thought you could go all out with it."

"Dude, this is so cool!" Justin said excitedly.

"Hey, I wanna see the rest of this gigantic house," Joey whined. The guys chuckled at him and they turned and left the room. The lights shut off as they closed the doors. On the opposite side of the hall, they began opening doors.

"More bedrooms," Chris commented. "I bet the holidays here are a wild time."

"Hey, there’s another kitchen on this side," Justin said holding a door open. "It’s smaller than the one upstairs though." The guys each snuck a peak in the room and moved on.

"Hey Guys, I found the media room," Lance said holding a door open.

"Yeah, I can see watching a lot of sports on that screen," Joey said looking at the huge screen on one wall. There was all manner of furniture in the room. There were big, comfortable oversized chairs, a couch, a love seat, beanbags, and a coffee table in the middle of all of it.

"I should give myself a pat on the shoulder." JC thought aloud before he realized that he was talking.

"Why?" Chris asked.

"Oh, sorry, guys. I didn’t realize I’d said that aloud." He said blushing. "I actually picked out the furniture in here. I did a great job, didn’t I?" he said full of pride.

"I thought I recognized the boringness to the room from somewhere C," Joey said.

"Yeah right, Joey. I forgot, if it doesn’t have anything to do with Superman, or comics, it isn’t cool." JC said playfully.

"Hey now, Superman is cool. Don’t be dissin’ da man."

"Yeah, okay."

"And on that note, we’re moving on," Lance said. They walked out of the media room and shut the door.

"So we walk through the gigantic house and now we come to our last stop on the tour," Chris said acting like a tour guide. He stopped in front of the last door at the end of the hallway. "What’s this red light mean?" he asked pointing to a light on the side of the door.

"I don’t know. Just open the door, man." Justin said impatiently. Chris opened it and they slowly walked in. JC was the last one to follow.

"This is a recording studio," Chris said. "Okay, Kellen is now officially one of the coolest people I know."

"Speaking of Kellen, look in there," Justin said. JC was the first to walk over to the window and the rest of the guys followed. There with his back to the window, completely oblivious to the world around him, was Kellen playing his violin.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .Maybe!


Well, another chapter done. Again, thank you to everyone who has sent me emails about the story. It’s a fun story to write and I’m opening the doors for really cool things to happen as well as going deeper into a blossoming relationship. Feel free to send some feedback so that I know that you are all either enjoying it or hate it. Thanks.

Any questions or comments can be emailed to me at Josh Brandon

I would like to hear what you the readers have to say about my story. But please, don't send me flames. I would never do that to other people.

Thank you.