nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Hi De Woe

by Terri, for SnarkyLlama

"I'm Justin Timberlake," Justin says, setting his case on the ground. "I'm working here this summer."

"Good for you."

Thrown by the gruff reply, Justin shrugs his backpack further onto his shoulder, hating the feel of damp material trapped under the strap. "They said I'd be on a list."

The guard clicks his gum and takes off his cap. He pushes back his sweaty hair and there's a red ring around his forehead, a shallow indentation that's hidden when he lets his hair fall forward. He picks up a clipboard and holds a pen between his teeth as he runs his finger down a list. Justin hopes he doesn't have to use the pen, because that would be just gross.

"Tailor, Timberland, Timberlake. There you are. You need to check in at workers' services. Take a right at the donkey derby, walk past the Seashell restaurant and through the plaza. Keep going until you see the outdoor pool. It's the first building on the left after that."

"Thank you," Justin says. He smiles, but the guard — Ricky — is already back inside his booth and sitting in front of the fan.

It's no big deal. Justin has time to meet new people. It's why he'd finished his A Levels and decided to work for the summer instead of staying at home. There's only so many holidays you can spend lounging at the Country Club and Justin wants some independence, his own money and fun. He just wishes he wasn't so hot and sweaty. Standing for hours on an over-crowded train is no way to start his summer. Still, he's here now. His home for the next three months. He knows it's going to be fantastic.

The wheels of his case bump over the ground and Justin tightens his grip as he crosses the road. He's never actually seen a donkey derby — never been in a holiday camp in fact — but it has to be the open-fronted, striped-roofed structure with the row of plastic donkeys and soft toys hanging from the cross-beams. Which yeah. Justin eyes the donkeys as he walks past and smiles at the girl who's busy sorting out a bag of spotted fuzzy snakes. She smiles back and waves a snake in his direction and Justin would stop to chat, but he needs to check in and be assigned his role. He doubts he'll be a yellow coat, he's too young for that, but maybe one of the Street Gang, or even singing in Star Stage. Whatever. It's not like he won't be amazing at whatever job he's assigned.

Justin hums as he strides past the restaurant and through the dome-topped plaza. It's a big area with a central cafe and plastic tables and chairs arranged next to a stage. There's hardly anyone here right now, just a few families sitting with their cases, but it's easy to picture it filled with chattering people and Justin slows, imagining standing up there, singing and dancing, captivating the crowd with his moves.

"Hey, kid. If you're not doing anything, steady the ladder."

Justin looks up and notices a guy standing at the top of a stepladder. He's securing the end of a string of lights around the trunk of a potted palm tree, and Justin sets down his case and moves to wrap both hands around the sides of the ladder.


The guy's upper body is hidden by the fronds of the palm, but Justin's got a perfect view of muscled calves, ragged cargo shorts and trainers that are years out of date.

"I'm Justin." Justin introduces himself, because while he'll have his own group of entertainer friends, it never hurts to talk to everyone. Who knows if he'll need a light bulb changed or a new lock put on his door?

"Chris." The palm tree fronds shake and a string of lights snake past Justin's ear. "I'd offer my hand, but I'm like, miles from the ground and don't really want to let go."

Justin looks from the soles of Chris' trainers to the tiled floor. "You're a few meters up."

"Like I said, miles."

The string sways and then jerks up and Chris' hands appear and disappear in Justin's vision as he wraps the lights around the trunk of the tree. It's soothing in the way that the fronds rustle as the string is deftly wrapped in carefully spaced spirals. Justin approves, because if something is going to be done it should be done right.

"I'm coming down."

Justin steps back, but keeps one hand on the ladder. He watches as more of Chris is exposed, a plain black t-shirt, some kind of weird medallion hanging around his neck, dark hair and eyes and a bright smile. Justin smiles in return, the one that shows all his teeth and sparkling eyes.

"Jesus, kid. Turn it down a notch. Keep it for the teens, they'll cream their knickers when they see you."

"Right," Justin says, losing the smile, because while Chris doesn't sound mean, Justin doesn't like the way he's looking at him, like Justin is amusing him somehow.

Chris pushes a roll of duct tape over his wrist and picks up the ladder, holding them under his arm. "You don't look like a typical guest. Your first day, right?"

"Yeah," says Justin, and wonders what a typical guest looks like. "I wanted to work this summer. So I auditioned, and here I am."

Chris looks directly at Justin, amusement still apparent in his expression. "And here you are."

Unsettled, Justin says "I'd better go."

"Right. I'll see you around."

"Sure," Justin says and he grabs his case, having to side-step smartly away when Chris spots someone he knows and spins around, the ladder barely missing Justin's chest.

It takes almost fifteen minutes to find workers' services. The door is hidden behind a stack of boxes and racks of plastic covered clothes. Justin runs his fingers over a yellow blazer and a pair of sparkling dungarees and hopes his costume isn't lame. Not that it matters that much. The fact is, Justin can make anything look good.

A bell jingles as he opens the door. Thankfully it's cool inside, the air stirred by two oscillating fans. There's one next to the woman sitting behind the counter and she looks over and sets down her magazine, indicating that he should come closer.

"Hello, duck. You're here to sign in?"

Justin frowns, because duck? But, ducks aside, she appears friendly, and Justin sets down his case and walks over. "Justin Timberlake. I was told to come here, I'm starting in the entertainment department today."

"Good, good." She turns toward a computer and clicks the mouse, opening a series of pages. She types in Justin's name, then hesitates when she reads the screen. "You're on here, but not as part of the entertainment team."

Hands braced against the counter, Justin leans so he can see the screen. "There has to be some kind of mistake. I auditioned and they said I'd got in."

"And you're sure it was part of the entertainment team?"

Justin is sure, and he swings his bag off his back. He's got his important documents zipped inside. His ID and blank checks from his mum, and the letter from Turplins saying he'd got a job. He pulls it out and begins to read. Very impressed at your interview...would like to offer you a position...arrive the 1st of July Frantic, Justin reads again, but nothing changes. There's no mention of him being on a specific team. "I thought. I mean. I auditioned as a performer."

The woman pats Justin on his hand. "So do most of our staff." She looks at the computer again and clicks the mouse. Toward the back of the room, a printer begins to whir. "You're down as part of the catering team. Specifically front of house catering, so no kitchens or washing up for you. You'll be on one of the stalls."

That would be a relief, if Justin wasn't reeling at getting things so wrong.

The woman disappears behind a row of metal shelves, then reappears, setting pages of forms and a key on the counter. "You're sharing a caravan on the staff field. It's five quid the first time you lose the key, ten after that. You need to meet your supervisor at five, but all that's on here." She taps her nail against the stack of print outs and then looks at Justin. "Now, uniform. What are you, a medium, extra tall?"

Justin looks at her, and says, glumly, "I guess."

Justin has the plastic-wrapped package wedged under his arm and it sticks unpleasantly to his bare skin. There's sweat tricking down the side of his face and his hand hurts from tugging his stupid case over this endless stupid field. Apparently the caravan he's been assigned is situated on the far side of the camp. Past the fairground and monorail station, through a tunnel and then straight on. For miles. He passes rows of caravans, and they're not even good caravans. They look old and some have dented sides and towels pinned up as curtains and Justin has to weave through a collection of lawn chairs and deflated balls and an incredible amount of discarded stuff covered in sparkles.

Justin hates it, especially when he steps on something squishy and looks down to see a used condom glued to the sole of his trainer.

Horrified, he scrapes it off on the grass and blinks against the burning in his eyes. It's all too tempting to turn around and just leave. He could go back home, lounge by his pool. Sip a cold drink with his mum and pretend this horrific day hasn't happened. Except for one thing. Justin's never been a quitter. He's not about to start now.

He finally finds his caravan five minutes later. It's right at the edge of the field and there's a Barbie towel draped over a nearby hedge. All of the windows and both doors are open, and when Justin steps close he almost recoils at the smell of old sweat and rotten food. Hesitantly, he steps inside.

"Hello," Justin says. He can hear music coming from one of the bedrooms and the TV is playing some show with a guy with a tan and bright smile. Justin scowls, hating anyone that can smile right now. Dropping his case he unpeels the plastic from his arm and balances the package on a stack of dog-eared entertainment guides. He looks around and there's clutter everywhere. A row of small soft toys are lined on the narrow window sill and the table is covered in burn marks and dirty bowls. Justin doesn't want to look too closely at the sink with its mountain of dirty dishes, or the bin which is so full that egg shells and used tea bags circle it on the floor. It's squalor, and Justin's skin itches as he imagines insects and germs.

"Hey, Nick, is that...oh."

A door opens and steam clouds out of the room, pulled toward outside. The boy who appears has a spotted towel wrapped around his waist, slicked back hair and an accent that reminds Justin of watching Coronation Street with his mum.

"You're not Nick." The boy looks past Justin, taking in the case and uniform package. "And apparently you're moving in."

"Unfortunately." It's not the polite thing to say, or the smartest because no matter how much he hates the idea, it seems this is Justin's temporary home.

"My mam would have a fit if she saw this place." The boy grins and pushes open a door with his bare foot. "Thankfully she never will. Let me get dressed and I'll show you your bed. Sit down, watch Neighbours, I won't be long." He enters the bedroom, and then sticks his head back out. "I'm Lance by the way."


There's some kind of muffled acknowledgement, and Justin feels stupid standing there, listening to the rustles and squeaks that's Lance getting dressed. Still, Justin stays where he is because the couch is covered in clothes that he just knows are dirty. It's that kind of place.

"Do you want a drink?"

Lance appears again. He's wearing dark trousers and is pulling on a beige polo-shirt and Justin can't help noticing the line of his back, or the way freckles cover Lance's shoulders. Looking away before he's caught, Justin says, "Sure."

"No clean glasses, figures." Lance's hair is sticking up in damp spikes, and he sighs as he crouches and opens the small fridge. Looking inside he takes out two cans of pop and passes one to Justin. "It's not usually this bad, but Jason got a new job at Frontins. It was his leaving party last night."

"Right," Justin says dubiously, because seriously, this mess is clearly more than a day old.

"And truthfully, some of the others are slobs."

Which is nothing that Justin hasn't already figured out. He says nothing, just snaps open his can and takes a long drink.

"So, I suppose I'd better give you the tour," Lance says without moving. He holds out his arm, using his can of pop to point. "Lounge, it's communal space so anything left out there is fair game. Fridge, two people share a shelf, you'll need to put your name over Jason's. Bathroom, first come first shower and a tip. There's a lot of us sharing one toilet, so don't drink any yellow liquid in a bottle."

Grimacing, Justin hopes Lance is joking, but somehow knows he's not.

"Take it from someone who knows." Lance frowns and points at the door at the end of the caravan. "That's Nick and Brian's room, next to it Jack and Maxwell's, then there's us."

Lance steps into the room he'd gone into earlier. Justin follows and finds himself in a stifling hot room that's smaller than his walk in wardrobe at home. There are two narrow beds with a tiny gap between, and a row of cupboards attached to the wall. Lance's bed is obviously the one next to the window. He's got piles of clothes arranged on the covers, an open comic book wedged under the pillow and a caricature of himself taped to the wall.

"Home sweet home," Lance says, sitting on his bed.

Justin sits too, elbows on his knees as he slumps forward. He's too hot, tired, and he's still got to go and work. Right at this moment all Justin wants to do is go home. His real home with his mum and his own room and things.

"It gets better," Lance says suddenly, and when Justin looks up Lance is looking right back at him. "My first day was horrible. But I got to know people, and you will too."

"I guess." Justin sits up straight and takes another drink. Rolling the cold can between his palms, he admits, "I thought I was coming here to perform, turns out I'm selling food."

"I thought I was coming to sing, and ended up inside the Alfred the alpaca costume," Lance says.

"Sucks," Justin says and thinks, maybe his job isn't that bad after all.

By the time Justin has unpacked — as best he can anyway, most of his clothes don't fit in the tiny cupboards and have had to be left in his case — there's only thirty minutes before he needs to be at work. He eyes his schedule, and then carefully folds and shoves it in the back pocket of his black chinos and fusses with the collar of his polo shirt, making sure it lies flat.

When he leaves the bedroom he sees that Lance has made a space for himself on the couch and is watching some kids' show that seems to involve a lot of shouting and mess. He's also talking to someone who's lying sprawled on his back on the piles of clothes, bare chested and wearing yellow shorts, blond hair falling back to expose tanned skin and a sunburned nose.

"Hi," the stranger lifts his hand and waves lazily. "Nick."

"Justin." When he walks into the main room Justin wrinkles his nose and sees a bag from Burger King lying on the floor, which explains the smell of grease and onions which is mixing with the strong scent of chlorine.

Shifting a little, Nick lets his head hang off the edge of the couch and grins an upside down grin. "Want a burger? Brian gives me the waste stock." He twists around and pulls a burger out of the bag, stuffing the whole thing in his mouth. He grins around the bun and patty, swallowing when Lance reaches out and tugs at his hair.

"Seriously, can you be any more gross?"

Nick purses his lips, as if he's in deep thought and Justin is caught between wanting to know what he's going to say, and not wanting to at all.

"You know those socks you like? They're great to jerk off into."

Lewdly, Nick humps the air, but Lance just looks coolly back at him. "That stain on your shorts? It wasn't mayonnaise."

"I knew it!" Nick laughs and lifts his head so he can look at Lance. "I can go better. Last week I tea bagged Brian when he was asleep. Dangled the boys right over his nose."

"Impressive. You could have lost your balls on the inhale."

"You know it." Nick fists the air, his smile blinding. "I'm the grossest of all."

Lance pushes himself to his feet, says, casually. "I've had sex in the Alfred Alpaca costume."

"Dude. Respect." Solemnly, Nick holds his hand up and high-fives Lance. "You win."

"Like it was in doubt." Lance grins and looks at Justin. "I'll walk over with you, if we go now you might escape Nick's rant. He hasn't had anyone new to listen to it for a while."

"Rant?" Chewed up burger flies from Nick's mouth. He swallows hard. "It's not a rant, it's a valid complaint. Be a lifeguard they said. You'll be by the sea they said. You can still surf they said. But did they say that sea was the north sea? No. It's cold and grey and...."

"Has no good waves and there's things floating in it," Lance interrupts, obviously following a well recited script. He grins at Nick and pulls Justin by the arm toward the door.

A last look at Nick, because — tea bagging? — Justin follows Lance outside. Thankfully it's cooled down somewhat, the harsh midday sun replaced by a gentler heat and shadows that are just starting to stretch across the ground. In the distance Justin can hear the thump of music and the excited screams from the direction of the fairground. The sound of people talking as they lounge on the grass, looking up and sometimes waving as Justin and Lance walk past.

It's nice, peaceful, like Justin's been given a buffer before plunging into work.

"You'll be working under AJ, he's a good guy." Lance smiles as they pass a caravan with a werewolf painted on the main window, a skinny guy sitting texting on the steps. "As long as you get the work done he doesn't mind if you watch the shows, until you get sick of them anyway."

"I won't get sick of watching." Performing is all he's ever wanted to do and while watching is second best, he can't imagine not wanting to see.

"Tell me that in two weeks when you've listened to Puppet Man so often you can hear it in your sleep. I don't know how they stand it."


Lance side-steps an empty pizza box. "The Street Gang, they do those shows three times a day, six days a week. It would drive me mad." He looks at Justin then. "Have you ever worked at a place like this before?"

"I've volunteered at a beauty pageant."

Eyebrow raised, Lance looks at Justin.

"Close, but you need a crash course on holiday camp survival. One, always remember the kids are vicious. Don't be distracted by how angelic they look. If they have a chance they'll be on you like a pack of savage beasts. Two. Keep smiling. It doesn't matter if you're having the worst day, the guests don't want to know. Three. Watch out for the jailbait. The last thing you want is to be bagged by a hormonal teen. Four. Don't turn your back when Geek's around. He's a maniac."

It's good advice, but Justin can't understand how he's supposed to keep an eye out for a geek. Half the people they're passing fit that label with their sweat-stained uniforms and hair pulled back with a variety of hair accessories, all of which seem to sparkle in some way. Justin's even seen three people wearing glittering springy dealy boppers. Obviously you take a job here and style goes out of the window. It's fucking scary.

Lance keeps talking. "Geek's one of the Street Gang. The one wearing a sparkly blue wig, blue and green make-up and dungarees."


"It makes him visible at least. Until he gets in the middle of the vicious hordes of kids anyway, then he blends in with all their flashy glittery crap."

Hands curled into fists, Lance kicks at dandelion, making it explode into a cloud of seeds.

"He sounds like an ass," Justin says.

Lance shrugs. "He is, he's cool though. He doesn't mind me hanging around, not like some of them. Elitist jerks. Just because they get to dance and sing."

"So we don't get to mix with the entertainers?" Justin says, dismayed.

"Some of them. Joey's cool. He's a yellow coat. So's Howie. Kevin's teaches ballroom dancing, but he's Brian's cousin so we see him sometimes. Then Chris and JC."

"And that's it? Out of everyone." Justin can see his hopes of integrating himself with the entertainers washing away. How's he supposed to charm them if he doesn't get time to shine?

"That's it."

They're leaving the staff field now, joining the steady streams of people heading toward the plaza. There's a mixture of people. Adults dressed up, their kids hanging onto their hands, chattering in their best dresses and shining shoes. Others who haven't dressed up at all and those that seem to want to be anywhere but here. They all keep walking, clattering heels, the thud of sneakers and childish laughter. Buggies with Alfred Alpaca balloons tied to their handles and babies asleep with bare feet and chubby faces.

It helps create an atmosphere of expectation, that something exciting will happen when they reach and enter the giant dome and the further they walk, the more excited talk and laughter he hears, the easier Justin feels, until the tight knot that had taken up residence in his chest begins to fade.

"It's got a feeling of its own hasn't it?" Lance stops walking before they enter the arcade. "I'm going to meet Joey and get suited up. Watch out for me later, I'll give you a wave." He grins and briefly touches Justin's arm. "Good luck."

Justin suspects he'll need it. The dome is crowded with people now, all the tables full and he has to squeeze past the queue waiting to get into Star Stage. He walks past a stall selling hot dogs, another with popcorn and a table surrounded by kids getting temporary tattoos applied by a short man with a beaming smile. Next to them is a man sitting on the ground, his dark hair falling into his eyes as draws a caricature of a woman sitting in a folding chair, and then, finally, the pancake stall.

There's a man sitting on a stool. He's got tattoos up both arms and is wearing a white shirt and tie. He looks over dark sunglasses when Justin approaches and then deliberately looks at his watch.

"You're on time, good."

Justin looks at his own watch. He's actually five minutes early, but despite the temptation to point that out, he keeps quiet, and just goes to stand behind the stall.

"Can you mix batter, pour it onto a hotplate without burning yourself, add fillings and serve to a ravenous horde?"

Fixed with a direct stare, Justin concentrates on the actual words trying to cut through yet another new accent. He looks at the hot plates, the boxes of batter mix and tubs of fillings and while normally the au pair or his mum makes meals for him. Surely this can't be too hard?


"Good." The man smiles then and pats Justin's arm. "AJ. I think you and me are going to get on just fine."


There's an awkward moment when Justin doesn't know if he's supposed to pat back or hug or something, but AJ doesn't seem to notice, just flicks switches and crouches as he pulls out a jug of prepared batter from the small under-counter fridge. He sets it down and picks up a giant ladle and brandishes it near Justin's face.

"One scoop of this equals one pancake. Wait until the hot plate is hot, scoop up the batter, ladle it out and watch until it browns then flip. Easy."

Demonstrating, AJ quickly pours out a scoop of batter before picking up a spatula. Hip propped against his stool he waits a moment before flipping the pancake with expert grace. It does look easy, and Justin's reaching for the ladle when AJ holds up a hand.

"Hold it. Hat and apron first."

AJ unhooks a stripped apron from the side of the stall and takes a hat complete with attached hair net from its pocket. Resigned, Justin holds out his hand. It seems to take forever before he manages to cram his curls into the net, and Justin can feel how his cheeks are flushing as AJ hops onto the stool and eats the pancake, ripping it apart with his fingers.

"Looking good, baby." AJ chews slowly as he looks at Justin, seemingly satisfied. "Give it a try."

"Okay," Justin says. He repeats the steps in his head. Scoop, pour, wait, flip, serve. It's a simple five point routine and he feels confident as he picks up the ladle and sinks it into the batter.

Things don't go well. Justin's first pancake is more blob shaped than round. The second burnt black on one side. And the third is lying on the ground after an enthusiastic flip sent it flying through the air. Pancakes are harder to perfect than they look, and Justin's all too aware of his audience. The caricature artist who's trying to hide his grin behind his hair, and the one next door who's applying tattoos and making no attempt to hide his giggles. Justin hates them all.

"Ignore them, they're dicks. You'll get it," AJ says.

He's bent over, scraping pancake from the floor which makes his trousers pull tight around his arse. Justin turns away before he's caught looking. He's got no problem with people knowing he's gay, but perving over his boss is no way to start his first shift. Plus, looking just makes things uncomfortable and Justin gets tired of feeling like a perpetually horny teen. Which granted, he is, but still, he likes to maintain an image that he's always fully in control. It's why he straightens his shoulders, picks up the ladle, and approaches the hot plate, determined to succeed.

This time the pancake is perfect, and Justin grins as he slides it onto a paper plate with a deft twist of his wrist, bowing slightly when his audience applauds.

"Told you," AJ says. He stands and looks solemnly up at Justin. "Now my young apprentice. We learn the fine art of toppings."

It turns out that squeezing chocolate sauce and sprinkling various toppings is a no-brainer. In fact, soon Justin's enjoying the sound of sugar crunching as he dips his spoon into the container, the rattle of chocolate drops and the cool feel of the can as he squirts whipped cream onto the disgusting concoction that AJ's just ordered. Picking up the plate he attempts to hand it over, but AJ shakes his head and curls his lip.

"It's not for me." He slides off his stool and stands on the low wall that backs the stall, looking towards the doors to outside before jumping back down. "It's for JC, though how he can eat this shit and still look the way he does I'll never know."

Justin holds onto the plate and looks at the crowds of people that are walking through the plaza, trying to spot JC. Which is stupid because he's got no idea what JC looks like, just knows that he likes disgusting pancake topping combinations and if it's the same person Lance mentioned, is one of the entertainers. Which he has to be. Surely there's not more than one person called JC in a place like this?

"There's the fucker now." AJ points and Justin's summer suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. JC is gorgeous. Tall and thin with loose curls that bounce around his shoulders as he walks. He's carrying a backpack shaped like Animal from the Muppets, and is wearing obscenely tight jeans and flip flops with a yellow flower on the toe strap. Justin thinks he's in lust.

"Is that for me?"

Up close he's even better, with brilliant blue eyes and an easy smile as he holds out his hands and makes gimme gestures.

"Greedy bitch." AJ pushes his sunglasses to the top of his head and levels a look at JC. "One day your frankly disgusting pancake won't be ready, and then what will you do?"

JC grins and takes the plate from Justin. "You're breaking my heart, man. Don't be threatening to withhold the pancakes."

"Pancake," AJ stresses. "There's only so much spillage I can account for to feed your skinny ass."

"You're a prince among men," JC says, and then takes a bite of pancake. It's a gross sight as he eats the whole thing in two bites, cream oozing from the corners of his mouth. Except when he's finished he sucks at his fingers and Justin has to busy himself levelling the chocolate chips in their container. It's either that or brand his dick on the hot plate, and wouldn't that be the perfect ending to this day?


Fingers snap in front of Justin's face, and he turns to see that AJ's staring at him, looking amused.

"This is JC, he tries to sing and dance in Star Stage. JC, Justin. He's my new pancake bitch."

Which is something Justin would protest, except it's becoming readily apparent that it's true, and really, he's been called worse.

"Hi," JC says. He smiles and then runs his finger over the plate, scooping up the last swirls of cream and chocolate. "It's good, did you make it?"

"Yeah." Justin feels himself beaming, and he would tone down his smile but it really has been a sucky day. If he wants to take pleasure from a compliment on his pancake making skills from a hot stranger he will.

AJ tsks and takes off his sunglasses. "Nice ego, kid." But there's no malice in the remark, and Justin keeps smiling as AJ tucks his glasses in his pocket and looks at his watch and asks, "You ready?"

Justin's not sure what he's supposed to be ready for, but he nods anyway, and then jumps slightly when loud music suddenly fills the air. It's a mixture of thudding bass and trumpets with, bizarrely, jingling bells. The sound seems to energise the crowd and as children begin to run, settling themselves down on the floor next to the stage, their excited squeals mingling with the sound of drums. It's barely organised chaos, and Justin can't help staring.

"It gets worse, man." JC drops his empty plate in the bin and looks at the rapidly increasing mob of children, all of whom seem to be waving some kind of illuminated toy, either swords or flashing balls on sticks that turn their faces red and yellow and green, Justin can't imagine how it could possibly get worse, but AJ's nodding an agreement.

"Wait until they start screeching." Shuddering, he turns to JC. "You sticking around to see Chris?"

"No," JC says, and he shrugs his shoulders so Animal is situated higher on his back. "I see that fucker enough. Anyway, we're meeting for drinks after shift. You should come with, you too, Justin."

"That's....thanks. I will." Internally, Justin groans. He couldn't sound like a bigger dork if he tried, but JC doesn't seem to notice, just waves as he steps back, letting the crowd carry him away.

"Time to open up."

Thoughts of intimate drinking sessions with JC abruptly interrupted, Justin looks at AJ who flexes his hands before taking the closed for training sign off the counter.

Within minutes there's a queue of people at the stall and Justin's kept busy adding toppings to the pancakes AJ slides onto paper plates. It's not hard work exactly, but Justin does have to concentrate to understand the variety of accents, some of which are so broad that he struggles to decide if they really want strawberry jam and cheese or if he's hearing things wrong. Mostly he is. On one horrible occasion he wasn't.

They're so busy that Justin doesn't even get the chance to watch the show. Just has an impression of brightly coloured figures on the stage and a lot of screeching from the kids. It makes Justin's ears ring, add that to the fact he's exhausted and his feet are aching and it's no surprise that he doesn't notice the maniac that suddenly launches himself at Justin's back.

Yelling, Justin spins around and he would call for security but AJ seems more long-suffering than anything, and anyway, the glittering blue hair and heavily made up face would be a give away that this is someone from the entertainment staff.

"Hi," the maniac says, and he presses a kiss to Justin's cheek. "I'm Geek."

Which, of course he is. Aware that he's been watched, Justin pulls on a smile and doesn't flinch when Geek kisses his other cheek and tightens his knees.

"My feet hurt, take me to the stage."

Biting back a response that contains words that the watching children don't need to hear, Justin looks at AJ who shrugs and goes back to making pancakes. "Take him, but straight back."

Geek isn't heavy, but his knees are hard and he's snuffling in Justin's ear, which is all kinds of disgusting, and Justin wants to get to the stage as soon as possible, but somehow they've acquired a tail of kids who're following close behind, laughing as Geek pretends to twirl a lasso and yells, 'yeehaw'!

It's not the impression Justin wants to make at all and he's working up his temper when he sees the caricature guy give him a beaming smile and the tattoo giggler a thumbs up and Justin realises to them this is normal. More a badge of acceptance than anything and Justin's bad temper melts away and he can't resist trotting a little, smiling as he approaches the stage and Geek jumps off with a last smacking kiss.

"Thanks." Geek winks, his blue mascara sparkling in the light, then climbs up on stage, joining the rest of the gang who immediately break into song. It's tempting to stay and watch, because while the costumes are ridiculous the performance is good. Justin can see the talent and professionalism under the thick make-up and insane hair. It's something he appreciates, but he doesn't stick around, all too aware of the line that still snakes away from the pancake stall.

Stepping between two tiny girls who're watching the show with rapt attention, Justin blinks when he sees a giant alpaca appear from behind a door marked staff only. The alpaca is wearing a cropped yellow top and no pants and has a smile that makes it look more deranged than anything. It also seems to have a body guard, one of the yellow coats who's holding its hand as they step into view.

Instantly a small boy yells, and another begins to cry, sobbing as his parents crouch down and urge him to wave at Albert. He doesn't, just sobs louder until they relent and take him away. Justin doesn't blame him for being afraid. He's a little taken aback himself when the alpaca begins to wildly wave in his direction.

Justin waves weakly back, and is about to head back to the stall when the alpaca plods close and bends its furry head next to Justin's.

"How's it going?"

"Okay," Justin says. He takes a step back, worried that the alpaca is coming on to him somehow. Because Geeks, alpacas, such is Justin's life lately.

The alpaca puts its hands on its hips and laughs, a muffled sound from deep inside its head. "Justin, it's me, Lance."

"Right. I knew that."

"Sure you did." Lance rests a furry hand on Justin's shoulder. "The moron in the yellow coat is Joey."

Joey grins, and when he speaks it's like Justin's back in London, wandering the shops of Soho. "Lance tells me you've moved into the cess pit."

"I guess," Justin says.

Lance swats at Joey's head with his paw. "Like your caravan is any better."

"Is Nick still keeping that burger in his room to see how far the mould will spread?"


"Point proven." Joey pokes a finger against the alpaca's belly and looks at Justin. "I swear, you need a hazmat suit to go into Nick and Brian's bedroom." He suddenly turns in place, smiling as he wags a finger at a boy who's creeping up close. "No kicking Albert, you'll make him sad."

"Fucking kids," Lance says, so softly only Justin can hear. "I need to go to photo ops, I'll see you later, okay?"

He walks away, Joey at his side and Justin goes back to the stall, mouthing a sorry at AJ's pointed look.

When Justin cleans the last jug he's ready to drop with exhaustion. It's been a long night and what he wants to do is crawl into his bed and sleep. Especially as he feels so gross. His shirt is clinging wetly to the small of his back and when he tugs off his hat he knows his hair will be in sweaty curls that are plastered against his head. Which is never an attractive look, and really it would be better if Justin just went back to the caravan already. Not that he will when there's people to be met and hot entertainers to look at.

"Ready, Pancake Bitch?"

Justin takes off his apron and looks at AJ. "You do realise I have an actual name?"

"I do," AJ says. "I'm just not going to use it."

Which is fair enough. It's not like Justin can force his new boss to do anything, and the honesty of his answer is oddly endearing. Still, he has to provide some kind of token protest and adopts his best annoyed expression. AJ looks right back, at least Justin assumes he does. AJ's eyes are hidden behind his dark glasses and he could be looking at the ceiling or at tattoo guy who's chatting on his mobile as he packs up his stall.

"So, Ringos." AJ takes off his own apron and stretches before untucking his shirt. Taking off his tie he shoves it in his pocket and undoes his top buttons before pulling on a black beanie. "It's not a staff only place, but most of the guests stick to the bigger venues so we tend to get left alone. Especially as it's adults only."

Which is fantastic news because Justin likes kids but he's about had his fill for one night. "So it's like, the place to hang out?"

"If by hang out you mean drink pissy larger and share plates of chips, yeah." AJ looks over his shoulder, what for Justin doesn't know because the plaza is nearly empty now. Only a few stray guests and tired-eyed employees cleaning tables and packing up their stalls. "Fucking Kevin's always late. He's probably gone to Kristen's caravan, horny fucker."


"Brian's cousin, Kevin. He's a ballroom dancer instructor," AJ says.

Justin tries to remember if he knew this already, but he's been told so many names today that they're all running together. Though he does remember Brian. "Brian, right. The one Nick tea bagged."

"That him," AJ says. "If he ever asks you to touch his finger say no."

"Isn't it pull your finger?" Justin asks.

AJ pushes his sunglasses down his nose and looks at Justin. "It's where his finger has been you have to worry about. He's king of stink finger."

Which is so many kinds of wrong that Justin can't even begin to count. "Will he be at Ringos?"

AJ looks over at Burger King and shrugs. "He's a burger flipper but I can't see him working. That doesn't mean he's not off screwing Nick somewhere. Don't worry, there'll be people there."

"Good," Justin says, relieved that he's spending the summer with people who won't care who he sleeps with. He also feels his reserves of energy kick in at the prospect of hopefully meeting some of the entertainment team, and of course, JC.

It turns out that Ringos is on the outskirts of the camp. It's a small building with light-up cacti arranged around the doors and plastic chillies hanging from the ceiling, looping around the glass lamps that hang above the booths that line one wall. A bar and tables fill the rest of the space. Near the back of the room, three of the tables have been pushed together and he sees Lance and Joey sitting together, their chairs close. Across the table is Nick, and someone sitting plastered to his side, which has to be Brian, small and blond with one of the biggest smiles Justin has ever seen. Then further back, at the end table, JC. He's leaning forward talking to someone who's leaning in too, and Justin can't help smiling, because JC's as hot as he remembers. Hotter even, and Justin heads in his direction, wanting to talk.

Then stops. Because from this angle he can see that JC's not actually talking but sucking on some kind of pink stick held by the light-stringing janitor. Which is mystifying in itself, but JC seems to be enjoying it all too much, his cheeks hollowed and as Justin watches he sees a flash of tongue as JC licks along the stick and over the janitor's fingers. It's an intimate gesture, and Justin can't help feeling uncomfortable, but no one else seems to care, even when JC slides his mouth off the stick so he can kiss the janitor on his mouth, his eyes sliding closed when the janitor licks over JC's lips.

"Jesus, public place here." AJ pulls out a chair and sits opposite JC. "You'll make Pancake Bitch blush."

"No, it's okay," Justin says, and tries not to stare.

JC pulls back with a last smack of his lips, says, grinning. "Chris bought me rock." He grabs the janitor's hand that's holding the rock and holds it up, presenting the spit-slick pink stick. "Want to lick my stick?"

"Hell no," AJ says. Justin considers it first, but it really does look disgusting, one end a faded pink and anyway, even hot guys have germs.

"It's good," the janitor, Chris says. He grins then bites the end off the rock, crunching it between his teeth. "Hey kid, thanks for the ride earlier."

At first Justin doesn't understand what he means, because all he did was hold a ladder. Then realisation hits and he imagines Chris' dark eyes surrounded by blue shadow and sparkles, his mouth coated with blue lipstick, the jeans and t-shirt swapped for dungarees. "You're Geek? But you were stringing lights."

"You were?" Brian asks, and he leans forward so he can looks along the tables. "I sense a losing bet."

Chris leans back in his chair. "I bet Bob I could get five numbers."

"And?" Brian prompts.

"And I only got four."

"Sucks to be you, man," Brian says, laughing. "Tell me you got the number of the red-head with the sweet rack at least."

"As if I wouldn't." Chris digs in his front pocket and throws a scrap of paper onto the table. Which seems to be a signal because everyone is rummaging in their own pockets and wallets and soon the tables are covered with telephone numbers written on everything from a beer mat to a gilt-edged business card. JC, Justin notices, has one of the biggest piles of all, and he presses a kiss to Chris' cheek before picking up his glass and holding it in the air.

"To surviving another week."


It's the rain that wakes Justin. The drops hitting the metal roof creating a thud of sound that has him squinting at his watch before pulling the blanket above his head. It doesn't help, even muffled the noise is horrendous and eventually he admits defeat and crawls out of the bottom of his bed, bypassing the jumble of clothes, comics and discarded blankets that are lying in the gap at the side. He gives a last resentful look at Lance, who's curled up and unmoving under a white sheet, and then pushes open the door. Seeing the bathroom is empty he goes inside, pees and then washes his hands. Still half asleep he stumbles to the main living area, and sees Nick sitting on the couch, legs tucked underneath him as he eats cereal and watches the muted TV.

"Hey." Nick chews slowly and sighs when the weather forecast comes on screen. Black rain clouds are covering half of England and it doesn't look like they're going anytime soon.

"If you're hungry I think Jason left some stuff in the fridge. Not that I'd recommend eating it." Nick frowns down at his bowl, like the milk has pissed him off somehow. "Or you could have a burger, I didn't finish them yesterday."

Justin's stomach churns at the thought of eating cold greasy fast food for breakfast. "No man, but thanks. I'll get something at the shop."

"Any time."

Nick drains the last of the milk out of his bowl and sets it on the floor. "I'd better go, pools to watch and whistles to blow." He stands and steps into a pair of flip flops and pulls on a yellow Turplins coat. With his matching shorts he's almost glowing, and he laughs when he catches Justin staring. "I know, I look like some kind of fisherman."

"A fisherman with jaundice," Justin says.

Nick looks at himself in the mirror that's propped on one of the narrow shelves. "I make jaundice look good." He grins and winks at Justin. "If you see Jack tell that fucker he's a wanker."

Nick pulls up his hood and leaves before he says why, not that it means much because Justin hasn't ever seen Jack and wouldn't know if he passed him in the street. If it wasn't for the rustles and soft voices from the bedroom the night before he would have been doubting if Jack and Maxwell existed at all. Deciding not to worry about the message, Justin sits on the couch so he can look out the window. Watching Nick until he's nothing but a yellow shape, the splashing rain blurring any distinct lines.

Justin feels lethargic, sleep still lingering as he yawns and looks at the TV. There's a new show beginning now, something that involves a lot of kids, their mouths open with muted yells. Ears ringing with remembered sound, Justin looks away. He picks up an old newspaper and flicks through the pages, scanning news that's already out of date. When he finds himself reading about a protest about beach donkey rights he puts the newspaper to the side.

Momentarily he considers tidying up a little. Nick's bowl is on the floor and there's a new layer of dirty dishes on top of the ones he saw the day before. It's all kinds of disgusting and Justin's skin itches when he imagines what might be crawling through the rubbish or growing on the plates that are stacked in the sink. It's that thought that makes him sneak back into his bedroom. Grabbing a pair of trousers and a hoodie he dresses and then pulls out his oldest trainers and rain coat, putting them on before stepping outside.

Within seconds Justin's drenched, his hair plastered to his head and his trousers clinging to his legs. But it's not a bad feeling, because for the first time in days Justin feels cool and he's humming as he walks on the drenched grass. The heavy scent of flowers fills the air and he feels energised, alive, and he can't resist jumping into a puddle, sending water flying to all sides.

"It's the kind of day that needs an umbrella and a pole."

Justin stands still and water seeps through his trainers and he can feel rain stream down his neck. He runs his hand over his forehead but there's no point trying to tidy himself up, because of course he'd bump into JC while looking like a drowned rat. Of course. Because Justin's not like JC, who's just as wet but looks good anyway. His hair slicked back and a thin chain belt wrapped around his hips. It's not fair and Justin tries to think what to say while trying to work out what JC means, because an umbrella and a pole?

Smiling, JC mines putting up an umbrella. "You know, like in Singing in the Rain? Days like this are made for spinning around a lamppost."

If Justin's honest, he'd say rainy days are for grilled cheese and tomato soup, but if JC thinks singing, well who's Justin to disagree? "Spinning is good."

"Spinning is fantastic."

JC holds out his arms and spins once, and Justin's got no idea what's happening, if JC is taking the mick somehow or if he genuinely likes spinning in circles in wet fields. Then decides that yes, apparently JC does when he runs to a nearby lamp post and grabs hold. Turning in a circle, he begins to sing Singing in the Rain, water splashing under his feet as he sings loudly, uncaring of who can hear.

As a veteran of the child audition circuits Justin had thought he'd seen everything, but this is way up there as the most surreal. It's obvious that JC's enjoying himself, holding up an imaginary umbrella and attempting tap moves that really don't work but do create arching splashes of water. Then there's his smile, bright and wide and when JC looks at him Justin can feel his stomach clench at how good JC looks. He's one of the most beautiful and fascinating people that Justin has ever met.

He wants to talk and ask if JC dances in the rain often, find out what music he likes and why he's working at a holiday camp when after just this short burst of song Justin can see he's capable of so much more. Justin has a thousand questions, but each time he thinks about asking he remembers Chris. How he was feeding JC rock and how they left together, Chris' hand casually against the small of JC's back.

JC stops spinning. One hand still wrapped around the pole he looks at Justin and asks, "Do you sing?"

It's the opening Justin's been waiting for and there's thousands of words on his tongue. How he's sang for years and how he's determined to break into the business one day, even if that means starting from the bottom up. But the words remain rooted in his mouth, blocked by the observations of how JC's t-shirt is clinging and how tiny droplets of water sparkle on the tips of his eyelashes. Justin can't help taking in every detail and he feels tongue-tied and younger than he's felt for years.

Finally, when things are heading toward awkward he says, "A little."

"Cool." JC says. "Come sing with me."

Justin taps his foot gently, feeling the squelch of soggy earth. Normally he wouldn't hesitate about singing, but here? In a downpour in a field surrounded by caravans with the hottest guy he's ever seen? Justin can't help feeling a little hesitant.

It's a hesitation that costs. Before Justin can open his mouth to say yes, JC's grinning at something over Justin's shoulder and when Justin hears the sound of footsteps he turns to see Chris. He's holding a small ladybird umbrella above his head and his jeans are soaked to the knees. He's also unshaven and his hair is flat against his head apart from one tuft at the back. Really, Justin doesn't understand what JC sees in him.

"Hey, Justin." Chris stands next to JC and lifts his arm so the umbrella is almost covering them both. "You left your coat and I saw you dancing, one day the men in the white coats will take you away."

"At least I had my clothes on," JC says.

"One time.One, and you still bring it up."

"What do you expect?" JC laughs and rests his arm over Chris' shoulders. "It's legendary. Debbie from guest services is still traumatised."

"She shouldn't have been looking."

"She didn't have much choice considering you were dancing outside her living room window." JC is laughing louder now, and he turns to Justin, ready to launch into a story. "We had this party, right. Celebrating the end of Easter week, because seriously. Those religious types are the worst. Not that I'm against organised religion, everyone's entitled to do their own thing and if that means worshipping God in an organised way, well, good for them, but each year they bring all these spawns of the devil. Like, demons in child form. I did a show and one of them threw a Snickers bar at me. Like, so much for Christian values you know? Because I know the bible doesn't say to throw chocolate at performers."

"Before we all get wet rot, what JC's saying is we had a party when they went."

"Hey," JC protests and jabs Chris in the side with his elbow. "I was coming to that. So yeah, we had a party and Chris got plastered, so much so he ended up dancing starkers in the rain. I'll show you the pictures one day. Not that there's much to see."

"Hey, rain and cold," Chris says. "And you know you couldn't have done a somersault naked."

Which isn't a mental image Justin wants at all, and he's feeling very much like the third-wheel as Chris and JC grin at one another as they remember moments that Justin can only second-hand share.

"I need. Erm, stuff. From the shop." Justin starts to walk away and immediately JC and Chris follow, moving so they're either side of Justin. Chris is still holding up the umbrella, stretching up so it's over Justin's head. Not that it gives much shelter because Chris seems incapable of actually holding it still. Instead the spokes keep poking Justin in the head and he keeps having to duck as JC and Chris talk around him.

Not that he minds because it's actually an interesting discussion, and despite the lingering feeling of being the outsider, Justin enjoys listening to JC bitch about the stage director and Chris describe the new routine he needs to learn. He's especially scathing about the use of new props.

"Because seriously? What am I supposed to do with a space hopper? I know I've got a fine arse but I don't want to parade it by bouncing on a giant fucking ball."

Despite himself, Justin looks down, and yeah, Chris does has a good arse.

"I don't know, I think a routine on space hoppers could be good," JC says, grinning when he sees where Justin's looking.

"So you do it then. Leave the bright lights of Star Stage and come dance with us again."

JC snorts. "As if."

"If you all had space hoppers you could do some cool weaves." Justin runs his hand over his head when both JC and Chris look at him, waiting for him to say more. Imagining the Street Gang on space hoppers, Justin tries to explain what he's seeing. "Like, criss-crossing on the stage, and if all five of you were doing that it would have fantastic visual impact. Like a moving ocean of colours."

"Right," Chris says, and he sounds dubious, but he keeps looking at Justin, considering. "It could work. I'll mention the idea to Wade."

It's more than Justin expected and he can't help feeling pleased, especially when JC flashes him a quick thumbs up. "Like a sparkling rainbow ocean."

"Or five idiots in weird costumes playing on kids toys."

JC sighs and reaches around Justin to dig Chris in the side. "Way to shatter the illusion."

Chris raises an eyebrow. "That shattered years ago."

"It's been years, you need to get over the fact that Kevin wasn't hung like a horse."

Justin blinks and tries to keep up with the conversation. "Kevin? Like ballroom dancer, Kevin?"

"That's the one," JC says. "Chris slept with him two seasons ago. Camp gossip said Kevin was hung, but it turns out he's more pony than horse."

"I was so disappointed." Chris shakes his head sadly. "But one thing, he knows what to do with it."

"We know. He made you howl like a monkey and come so hard you about passed out." JC leans close to Justin, talking directly into his ear. "Tell you a secret. It doesn't take much. Chris doesn't have much stamina."

It takes all of Justin's willpower to keep his expression blank, because seriously? He's known Chris and JC for all of a few days, and they're discussing their sex lives as casually as they would the weather. Justin's used to his friends bragging as they allude
to things they've supposedly done, or the euphemisms as said by his mum. Not this blatant sharing of intimate details that force him to think of Chris having sex with JC.

"I heard that you bastard," Chris says. "No coffee for you."

"Just kidding, man." JC holds up his hands, but his broad grin makes a lie of the placating gesture. "You're like the little engine that could, always keeping going."

Chris frowns. "Did you just compare me to a steam train?"

"I did. You're compact and sturdy with a fiery center and a tendency to being noisy."

"Right," Chris says, and gives JC a long look. "I guess I can live with that. Maybe I will buy you a coffee."

"And a muffin too?"

"Bleed me dry why don't you?" Affecting a long suffering sigh, Chris looks at Justin. "Are you coming with?"

Justin hadn't intended to. He'd planned to go to the shop and stock up on some basic groceries before heading back to the caravan. Still, he's not about to say no, even if he does think Chris is a dick. Well mostly. Justin has to admit he's funny sometimes. When he hasn't got his hands on JC anyway, which is like, eighty percent of the time.

"Are you buying me coffee too?" Justin can't resist asking, and he's glad he did when Chris shakes his head, his mouth curling up into a smile.

"Cheeky toerag, I shouldn't, but yeah."

They're at the entrance to the plaza now, and when they walk inside the floor is slippery and the air muggy from drying clothes. Justin wipes at his face and wrings out his hoodie over the mats on the floor and take a jump to the side to avoid being speared by Chris' umbrella when he folds it up. The only guests are queuing to get into the restaurant for the first breakfast sitting, but the small cafe is open, the guy from the werewolf caravan leaning over the counter as he sends a text message on his phone.

JC waves as they walk to a table, selecting one that's close to the cafe but also sheltered by one of the potted palm trees. He sits and uses his t-shirt to wipe at his face, not that it does much good as it's soaked through. Justin changes direction and grabs a handful of napkins, giving them to JC.

"Thanks, man." JC starts to mop at his face, dropping the soggy napkins on the table when he's done. He looks over at Chris who's blotting at his own clothes, the umbrella hooked over his arm and talking to the guy behind the counter, who keeps drinking from his own mug of coffee as he scalds milk and selects muffins from the case.

It's not exactly comfortable sitting in wet clothes, but Justin's enjoying the easy atmosphere, the way JC's leaning back in his chair, head back as he looks up at all the balloons that are gathered at the top of the dome. There are unicorns and Alfred the alpacas and one lonely Thomas the Tank and Justin wonders how they get down. Like, is there someone who walks around with a pellet gun?

"They drift down on their own," JC says suddenly. Justin looks at him, suspecting mind reading abilities. JC just smiles. "You were looking at the balloons and everyone asks eventually. They just come down eventually, then they're binned."

Justin had watched the balloon seller the night before, the way he walked around the plaza, holding tightly to the strings of the huge bunch of balloons that floated above his head, and remembers being astonished at how much they cost. "It's a lot of money for something that's no real use."

"They're pretty and make people happy, that's all the use needed sometimes."

"I guess," Justin says, and he pushes out a chair with his foot when Chris walks over carrying a tray with three coffees and muffins.

"Mikey added some vanilla shot shit, he says you'll like it."

Looking pleased, JC grabs the cup with the smiley face drawn on the side and takes a sip. Then another. He looks over at the counter with a big smile. "I love it, thank you!"

The guy smiles back, the slightest curve of his mouth and then goes back to texting. Justin picks up his own coffee, Pancake bitch written on the side, and takes a drink. It's bitter and scalds his tongue and he'd say that normally he takes milk and sugar but he reminds himself he's a grown up now, and grown ups drink black coffee. He takes another sip and tries to hide his grimace.

"For fuck's sake." Chris stands and goes for a handful of little plastic pots of milk and packets of sugar. He hands them to Justin. "None of you have good taste in coffee."

Justin ignores him and concentrates on making his coffee drinkable. He takes a sip and this time his coffee is perfect. Which, another plus for Chris. Maybe he isn't bad after all.


Three days later and Justin's just finished work when he meets Lance and Joey waiting outside the plaza. They both smile and Justin can't help feeling nervous. There's something suspicious in the way they're looking at him and Justin slows down, trying to work out what's going on.

"Justin." Joey wraps his arm around Justin's neck. "There's certain responsibilities in being a member of Turplins staff. It's time you faced the first."

They start walking, and Justin's unease increases when they take a path that goes nowhere near the caravans or pub. It snakes past the children's play park and the paddling pool and Justin wants to shake Joey and demand he says what's going on already. But Joey remains silent, and there's just the sound of breathing, muffled music coming from Star Stage, distant laughter, and then, the unmistakable sound of a goat.

"The fuck?" Justin stops walking, and Joey's hand is warm against his back, keeping him in place as Lance turns so he can address them both.

"If you've read your orientation pack, you'll know back in 1906 Terrance Turplins went on a great expedition to the Andes. While there disaster struck and he was lost in the mountains. Weak and alone he staggered through snow storms and rugged terrain, finally collapsing on the morning of the fifth day. Knowing this was the end, he waiting for death. Which is when a local tribe found him. Loading him onto an alpaca, they took him to their village and nursed him back to health. As he lay on a blanket made of the finest alpaca wool and sipped alpaca stew, Terrance vowed when he returned home he'd build his own village where the people of Britain could experience their own adventures." Lance steps forward, resting his hand on Justin's chest. "That village was Turplins."

"So, what? You're giving a spot quiz?" Justin says, because he has read that story, he just doesn't understand why it's relevant now.

"No, but there is a test," Joey says.

They start to walk again, and when they get close to the goat pen, Justin sees it's surrounded by people. All the people he's met in the last few days; including JC.

"I don't understand."

"That's because you haven't undertaken the rite of the goat." Chris steps out of the crowd. He looks solemn, his eyes smudged with the remains of his stage make-up. "Do that and you too will understand."

"Do what?" All Justin wants is answers. He's heard about this area, how the pen used to be filled with alpacas until they were poisoned by the sweets and crisps provided by years worth of children. And how it was decided a more hardy animal was needed, which led to the goats. Vicious goats with an addiction to sugar so strong they're kept in a fenced off pen. Justin also knows the people he works with, and goats plus that knowledge is a worrying combination.

"It's nothing that bad," JC says. He crouches down and takes a bottle out of a plastic carrier bag that's lying at his feet. "You drink this, you get naked, you run through the goat pen. We've all done it."

"We have," AJ agrees, suddenly appearing. He holds up his arm and points to one his tattoos. "I got this to hide the goat bite scar. The fucking thing took a chunk out of my arm."

"At least you're not Wade."

There's a hiss of sound, and everyone cups their hands over their dicks. It doesn't help Justin's nerves, and when JC holds out the bottle of Jack, Justin immediately unscrews the cap and takes a long drink.

It's been hours since he ate last and the alcohol goes straight to his head. As the others clap, Justin drinks again, and again. He looks at the goats, who are looking back with their beady eyes. They have mean looking mouths. Justin shivers and works out the fastest route through the pen, because this is tradition. No way will he not run. The only worry is the naked part, and he takes another long drink before he toes off his shoes and socks and unbuttons his polo shirt. Another drink and he pulls it over his head, hanging onto his cool while his audience cheer.

When the bottle is nearly empty, Justin shimmies out of his trousers and boxers and with a last drink, he climbs into the pen.

Justin escapes with a nipped arse and a lack of dignity. As his new friends crowd around, he knows it's worth it.


The next week goes from frantic — Justin can make and serve a pancake in less than a minute now, which is good because the queue is never less than three people long — to time spent doing nothing at all. Justin's clothes constantly smell like sugar, and he spends hours hanging out on the grass outside his caravan, chatting to the people that pass by. He's got friends now, and while the job he's doing isn't what he expected, it's not like it's difficult. Really, things could be much worse.

"I've just been talking to Joey." Lance appears around the edge of the stall. He's just finished a shift as Alfred and his hair is damp and his cheeks still flushed. Justin feels hot just looking at him and bumps AJ aside with his hip so he can get a bottle of water out of the fridge. Justin holds it out to Lance. "Thanks, man." Lance takes a long drink and then hands back the bottle. "Kevin's holding a party tonight, he won a championship or something."

"And he invited us?" Justin is dubious, because while Kevin's been nice enough the two times Justin's seen him, he's also never gone out of his way to become friends, so the thought that he'd ask Justin and Lance to his party is puzzling.

"Well, he asked Brian, who asked Nick, who asked me. And now I'm asking you."

Justin flips a pancake and readies a paper plate. "So basically we're gate crashing."

Lance shrugs, looking unconcerned. "No, because caravans don't have gates."

"Tell that to Kevin when he's booting our arses out of the door."

AJ shakes his hand and squirts cream on a pancake and then adds sprinkles. "Kevin won't mind if you turn up, don't let the brows fool you, he's a pussycat."

Which is easy for AJ to say, because he's already told Justin how he's been friends with Kevin since they joined Turplins together years before. He won't get booted out for gatecrashing.

"Seriously, it's not a big deal, the parties are a roll up with a bottle kind of thing. Get a cheap bottle of plonk from the shop and you're laughing," Lance says.

"What? Like a good Chardonnay?"

"Well, you could," AJ says. "But the way these parties go you might as well take Lambrini."

Scooping batter, Justin remembers his mum carefully selecting wine at Marks and Spencers. She'd always head for the expensive bottles but it's a luxury that Justin can't afford, and if AJ says he doesn't have to splash out, well Justin has no problem buying something cheap from the 24-7 shop. "Fine, I'll see you there?"

"Yeah, Joey's working the Fab Club tonight, but he's finished in an hour so I'll be going over with him." Lance starts to walk away, then stops and looks back. "Want me to get your bottle? You can give me the money later."

"Yeah, thanks." Justin scoops another pancakes and steps back to avoid the light-up plastic sword a young boy is jabbing at his side. He waves at Lance then ad
ds raspberry jam, chocolate and marshmallows to the freshly cooked pancake. Which frankly, looks delicious, and Justin wonders when something so sugary and so obviously unhealthy became an acceptable meal. Simple answer being, within days of working here when he realised lack of money and more importantly, no mum meant he had to eat what he could when he could. Stomach rumbling, Justin passes over the plate.

"Hungry?" AJ asks.

"I could eat a scabby horse."

Technically it's against the rules to eat at the stall. In actuality AJ's fine with it as long as no one sees. In a rare break when no one is queuing, Justin gets his Mars bar out of the fridge and takes a big bite. He chews fast, teeth coated in caramel and chocolate and finishes off the whole thing in less than a minute. Crumpling up the wrapper he pushes it into his pocket and is waiting, poised next to the jugs of batter before the next customers starts to approach.

The remainder of the night is more of the same. Justin cooks and serves multiple pancakes and rescues an Alfred the alpaca balloon that gets tangled in one of the nearby palm trees. Which is a nice break and also results in caricature guy — Gerard — handing over a drawing of Justin flying through the air, a cape fluttering behind him. Of course AJ sticks it on the stall and Justin pretends to protest while hiding his smile.

Justin also ends up with Geek plastered against his back, but that's a nightly thing now. He's used to wiping smeared blue make up off his cheek and steels himself when he hears the whoop of sound that means Geek has him in his sights and is about to pounce. It's just their thing now and it feels second nature to set off for the stage, Geek's knees tight around Justin's waist, his face tucked against Justin's neck as a line of children follow and yell.

Normally Justin drops Geek off at the stage, but tonight Geek slides down but grabs hold of Justin's hand.

"Kids. Who wants to see Justin dance with us!?"

Confused, Justin looks back at the stall. The queue is small right now and AJ looks over and shrugs as Geek heads to the side of the stage, pulling Justin behind him. Waving and grinning at the children who have followed, Geek pushes open the staff only door that lets them back stage. As soon as they're inside and away from anyone watching, Geek's smile fades and Justin sees Chris, looking tired under the plastered on make-up.

"Sorry, J. There's been a fuck up with the routines. One of the space hoppers have gone missing and Wade's doing his end. We need a filler while they look for it and I figured you'd be game. You know the party songs, right?"

Justin does know them. At least he remembers watching them at the end of term discos, too cool to actually join in but laughing at those that did with Trace. He's also seen how the yellow coats perform the dances every day since he arrived and Justin's good at picking up routines. He knows he'll be fine.

"I know them."

"Good." Chris grins and the sparkles under his eyes sparkle in the dim light. "Let's go entertain some devils' spawn."

Stepping on stage is a rush. Justin loves seeing the crowd of people looking up at him, and grins when Geek cart wheels to the front of the stage. "Hey, kids! I want you to meet my friend. This is Justin and we're going to teach him some of the Turplins party dances. Can you help me do that?"

There's a surge of sound as kids waves their arms and yell. It's not enough for Geek. "I said are you going to help me do that?!"

They yell louder, stand and stamp their feet and Geek encourages them on until Justin's ear are ringing and all he wants to do is yell too. So he does, jumping in place when the music for the first dance begins.

Ten dances later, and Justin's buzzing from running and jumping and having the time of his life. His apron is crooked and he can feel sweat slide down his nose but when he gives a last wave and jumps off stage he's more sure than anything that performing is what he wants to do.

"You looked like you were having fun," AJ says. He's busy cooking pancakes and sorting toppings and taking money and Justin feels momentarily guilty as he takes his place behind the stall.

"I did."

AJ hands a plate to Justin and says, "Good, but it's pancake time now."


Kevin's caravan is set in an area exclusively for the entertainment staff. He's got the luxury of sharing a four berth with only Howie D, one of the yellow coats. No one seems to know why this is, it's just accepted as fact that Kevin's got one of the best caravans, and that if there's a fuzzy pink bear in the window it means Kevin is there with Kristen and it's best not to go in. The bear is in the window often. Howie spends a lot of time in Chris, Joey and JC's caravan.

"It looks like half the camp is here," Justin says. Music blares and people are spilling out of the caravan doors and sitting on the grass or dancing in groups or individually. There's a barrel full of ice and cans of cheap larger and someone is passing around a joint, the end glowing in the darkness.

"What can I say? Ballroom dancing makes you popular."

Justin's not actually sure if AJ's joking. It's not like he doesn't know Kevin has friends, but he didn't expect anything like this. It seems too frantic for Kevin who tends to come across like the poster boy for uptight control freaks everywhere. Which is why it's such a surprise when Kevin suddenly appears and is obviously pissed as a newt. He's laughing as he staggers down the stairs, arm over Howie's shoulders and holding on.

"AJ! My man! Hi!" Transferring his hold from Howie to AJ, Kevin nuzzles his mouth against AJ's cheek.

"You reek," AJ says, but he obviously doesn't mind being slobbered over, just encircles his arm around Kevin's waist and props him up.

Kevin turns his head and breathes in AJ's face. "Do I smell like pussy? I was going down on Kristen earlier."

Justin makes his escape before he has to hear anymore. Grabbing a larger from the barrel, he snaps the tab and takes a long drink as he looks around for anyone he knows. He recognises a few people. Mikey the coffee guy talking to Frank from temporary tattoos. Joey dancing with Britney from the Donkey Derby. Justin considers joining them but decides to keep walking, find someplace a little quieter for a moment because Justin's head is thumping. Or, if he's honest with himself, he's looking for JC.

Sighing, he takes another drink. The crush on JC is ridiculous, but Justin can't seem to get over it. Which always makes him feel like shit because now that he actually knows Chris he likes him a lot. So perving over his boyfriend is a shitty thing to do. The problem is, Justin can't seem to stop. JC's just so JC. Hot and talented and wonderful.

On the outskirts of the party now, Justin walks between two caravans and sighs when he sees two people making out in the shadows. Which is annoying because they get to grope in the darkness and Justin hasn't even had a wank for weeks, not when Lance sleeps less than a foot away and there's always people wanting the bathroom. It's especially frustrating because Brian and Nick make no attempt to muffle the noise when they're having sex. Which is every night, and morning, and one time in the afternoon. It's not right that Justin can't rub one out but knows what both of them sound like when they come.

About to creep away before he's seen, Justin stops when he recognises Chris. He's backed against the wall of the caravan and has his hand tangled in the dark curls of someone who's definitely not JC.

Angry, Justin wants to go and pull them apart and ask Chris what the fuck he's doing. Instead he shoves his hands in his pockets and watches as the guy kisses Chris and wiggles a hand down the front of his trousers, making Chris gasp and surge against him. It's a sickening sight and Justin hates Chris right now, because not only does he have JC, he has him and cheats on him too.

It's inexcusable in Justin's mind, and he turns, hurrying away before he does something he'll regret. Back in the open, Justin throws away his can, and almost bumps straight into JC.

"What are you doing here?" Justin takes a step back and thinks desperately how he's going to stop JC seeing Chris.

JC's got light-up bracelets around his wrist and inexplicably he's wearing sparkly dealy boppers that swing when he laughs. "It's a party, where else would I be?" He looks at Justin, then pulls off one of the bracelets. "You look sad, have a bracelet." He slides it onto Justin's wrist, looking satisfied. "There. Now, have you seen Chris? He's got my key."

"I think I saw him heading toward the beach."

"Figures," JC says. "He's never where he's supposed to be." He leans in and the strands of the dealy boppers tickle against Justin's ear as JC kisses him on the cheek. "I'd better go find him before he loses the key again. I already owe Madge in Worker's Services fifty quid."

JC walks away and Justin twists the bracelet around his wrist as he watches him go. Lying to JC had been instinctive but now the initial urge to protect him is over, Justin's furious at himself for helping maintain Chris' deception. But also, if he's honest, he feels a little guilty too. Because the fact is, some of that anger is due to missing the perfect chance to land JC. To comfort and be there for the inevitable break-up. Justin putting his arm around JC, leading him away while telling him things will be okay, there's plenty more fish in the sea.

It's easy to imagine that scene, and Justin's stomach feels sour at missed opportunities. In combination with the anger it makes him feel hot and frazzled, and Justin needs a drink - now.

He hurries back to the main party and scoops a can of larger from the bin. His hand tingling with cold as he snaps the tab, he drains the larger in one. It feels good, cooling, but it's still not enough and Justin pulls out another can. He drains this one too, and the next, and when someone pushes a plastic glass into his hand it makes sense to drink that too, the warming liquid melting the ice in his chest.

"Another," Justin says. He holds out the glass and someone wraps their hand around Justin's, steadying it as the glass is filled. When it's full to the brim he gulps it in one, stomach burning and cheers ringing in his ears. The attention makes Justin feel invincible, powerful, but he knows if he erases the lingering guilt he'll feel even better.

The floor seems to waver as Justin moves, the grass rolling and shifting under his feet. But it's no match for Justin, and he heads off to find JC, determined to admit what he's seen.

He doesn't find JC. Justin finds a lamp post that jumps into his path and an Alfie Alpaca balloon that refuses to tell him where JC's hiding. He also finds Chris, who's sitting in a deck chair outside of Kevin's caravan, eating a packet of crisps like he's done nothing wrong at all. Anger surging, Justin runs forward, then comes to a clumsy halt when the long-haired slut appears.

"You scum-sucking cunt-faced whore-slag-cheating-bastard!" Enraged, Justin leaps, pulls back his arm and clenches his fist. He puts everything into the punch and feels satisfied at the crunch of knuckles impact against bone. "That one's for JC!"

"Justin. The fuck?!" Chris jumps to his feet, the deck chair going flying as he grabs Justin's shoulders and shoves hard. Justin falls, the breath knocked out of him and he's sure he's about to take a boot to the head or side as Chris glares down at him. All Chris does is turn away so he can kneel next the other cheating bastard.

Nauseous, Justin looks away from the stars that are spinning overhead. He watches how concerned Chris looks as talks softly and takes a napkin from someone, pressing it against the other guy's nose. It quickly turns red, and Justin feels sick, rolling onto his side as he starts to throw up everything he's drank, soaking his shirt and someone's abandoned shoes.

Things get hazy after that. Justin curls around himself, cheek against the soggy ground. Words fade in and out, Chris crouching next to him, his hand on Justin's shoulder and touch gentle despite his obvious anger. Kevin yelling when he finds his shoes.

Flashes as someone takes pictures, then Lance and Joey, holding on as they try to ease Justin to his feet, then giving up and just carrying him home.


Waking up the next morning sucks. Justin hurts. His head feels like it's too big for his body and his stomach is sour. As for his tongue. It's grown fur overnight and Justin staggers to the kitchen and uncaring of the mess, fills a glass and takes a long drink of water. Filling it again he shades his eyes with his hand and sits carefully on the couch, convincing himself that he doesn't need to barf.

"Here." A hand appears in Justin's vision, and he gratefully takes the two pills. He swallows them and sets down the empty glass, looking at the lipstick mark around the rim.

"Thanks," Justin says. He looks at his hand, seeing the faint red of his knuckles. "About last night, sorry."

"I don't think it's me you should be saying sorry to."

"I'll say sorry to Kevin, too," Justin says.

"Good luck with that," Lance says. "But I didn't mean him. Seriously, Justin. Ray?"

Confused, Justin looks up, because he doesn't even know a Ray. "Did I barf on him, too?"

"No, you just about broke his nose. Remember? You punched him out and he's got no idea why."

"He doesn't know why?!" Justin's head is pounding even harder now. Obviously this Ray has everyone fooled about his cheating ways. "How about I saw him making out with Chris?"

"That's kind of what boyfriends do," Lance says, as if Justin is some kind of moron. Which is unfair, because Justin knows that's what boyfriends do, the same way he knows you make out with your own boyfriend, and not someone else's.

"I know that, but this Ray isn't Chris' boyfriend, JC is."

"What!?" Lance turns and looks directly at Justin. "You think JC's with Chris?"

Lance sounds incredulous, and Justin can't help feeling defensive. "They're always hanging out together. They're always touching. JC was eating chips off Chris' plate yesterday."

"But that's just them, it doesn't mean anything. I mean.... For fuck's sake Nick, put on some clothes."

Justin looks up and wishes he hadn't when he sees Nick standing stark naked in the kitchen. He's looking through the cupboards and finally selects a bottle of vegetable oil and when he moves Justin can see Brian kneeling on their bed, waving cheerfully as if he's not naked with his arse in the air.

"Sorry," Nick says, not sounding sorry at all.

"Nick," Lance says. "Tell Justin who Chris is dating?"

"Ray," Nick says immediately. Still holding the vegetable oil he leans against the counter, hip cocked and looking intrigued. "Why, is Justin wanting to move in on him, because Justin, dude. Have you seen Ray's thighs? I don't think Chris will give them up in a hurry."

"I don't want Chris!"

Wandering out of the bedroom, Brian stands next to Nick. "Why? I know he's annoying but he's a nice guy."

Justin's mouth is open but he's got no idea what to say. Because how is this his life? Sitting in a caravan facing two naked men who apparently have no shame at all. Justin keeps his line of sight at eye-level. When he does that he doesn't have to see how Brian's rubbing his dick against Nick's thigh, and especially how Nick's responding.

"I think he wants JC," Lance says thoughtfully. "But he thought he was dating Chris."

"But Chris is dating Ray."

"So I've heard," Justin says shortly, and reminds himself it's not Brian's fault that Justin got everything so mixed up. But still, what was he supposed to think? It's like everyone here can't see how JC and Chris look together. It has to be something that comes with working at Turplins which in itself is a seething mess of tangled relationships.

Nick walks over to Justin and crouches down, looking sincere. "So, now you know what's up, what are you going to do?"

All too aware there's dick pressing against his knee, Justin looks somewhere past Nick's shoulder. "I'm going to talk to him and ask him out. After I've said sorry to Ray, anyway."

"Good." Nick pats Justin's arm and stands. Justin abruptly looks to the side. Which only shows him how Lance is making no attempt to hide his grin at all.

"That's a good plan, but you need to change first," Brian says.

Justin looks down at himself, and has to agree. He's still wearing the clothes from yesterday and along with the stains, they reek.

Lance pushes himself off the couch. "Come on, I'll help you pick an outfit."

"He looks good in white," Brian says, already on his way back to his bedroom.

"Yeah, and something tight."

A last smile and Nick follows, shutting the door to their bedroom. Leaving Justin to go to his own room where Lance is putting Justin's case on the bed.

JC's caravan is close to Kevin's which means Justin has to walk past the empty barrel and a mountain of empty cans. His stomach rolls alarmingly, and he swallows hard, steeling himself as he knocks on the door. Finally Joey answers, he's in his yellow coat uniform and looks disgustingly perky until he sees who it is, then his smiles fades.

"I didn't expect to see you here."

"Me either," Justin admit. "I'm here to say sorry to Ray."

"Good." Joey smiles again then. He steps back, ushering Justin in. "They're in the front."

It's the first time Justin's been inside. It's tidier than his own caravan, but not by much. Though at least here the mess is more clutter than actual squalor. There are CDs scattered everywhere and a games system in front of the TV. Zebra stripped cushions are arranged on the couch and instead of net curtains there's Mickey mouse and Manchester United towels tied to the curtain rail.

Chris is sitting in the corner of the couch, and when he sees Justin he scowls. "If you try something again I'll fuck your shit up. I like you but you only get one chance."

Justin stands his ground. Chris looks fierce, but he's got every right. "I've came to say sorry to Ray. Lance said he'd be here."

"Good." Still frowning, Chris yells. "Ray!"

Guilt is immediate when Ray appears. His nose is red and both his eyes are bruised. He looks at Justin, expectant.

"I'm sorry I hit you. I was drunk and stupid and I thought Chris was cheating on JC with you."

"You thought I was with JC!?"

"What was I supposed to think?" Justin whirls to face Chris, and maybe he shouldn't be reacting like this, but how can none of them see? "He was sucking your fingers. You kiss him all the time. He was sitting in your lap yesterday."

"He's one of my best friends. We touch."

"But friends don't touch like that. Not where I come from," Justin protests.

"Or mine," Ray agrees. "It took me weeks to ask Chris out. He was always with JC. Sharing one drink."

"Or a plate of chips," Justin adds, knowing exactly what Ray means.

"Or one chair. I swear I don't think JC knows what an actual chair is."

Which is when JC steps out of one of the bedrooms. His hair is a tangled mess of curls and he's dressed in pyjama pants and an Albert Alpaca t-shirt. He yawns, says, "Of course I know what a chair is." A statement he proves by sitting on the couch and swinging his legs across Chris' lap.

"What's going on."

Chris wraps his hand around JC's ankle and shakes his head. "Apparently Justin thought we were dating."

"Again? I swear, you're the biggest cock block ever." Rubbing at his eyes, JC looks at Justin. "I've been there, done that, have the t-shirt that says never again. I love the guy, but no."

"So that means I could ask you out?" Justin says, determined to take this chance.

"If we go for coffee will you buy me extra shots of vanilla?"

"As many as you like."

"Well then, I'd love to. Is tonight good for you? I'm playing Buttons in the pantomime, but after that I'm yours."

"That's fine," Justin says, and he forces back his grin as he looks from JC to Ray. "I really am sorry about punching you."

Gingerly, Ray touches his nose. "It's okay. Just buy me a pint at the pub one night and we're even."

"I will. Two pints," Justin says, because he really does feel guilty. "And a packet of pork scratchings."

"I'll hold you to that," Ray says.

"Good." Backing toward the door, Justin waves, and when he's out of sight, he can't help punching the air in triumph.


When Justin arrives for their date JC's signing autographs for a bunch of pre-teen girls. He's crouched over, scrawling his name in their Albert Alpaca autograph books, and when they walk away they're all giggling and clutching the books to their chests.

"Will you sign something for me?" Justin steps close and holds out his arm. "I haven't got a book but if you sign here I'll never wash it again."

Playing along, JC uncaps his pen and takes hold of Justin's arm, steadying it as he writes JC Chasez, Turplins Star Stage followed by a smiley face. "There."

"I'll treasure it forever," Justin says. He runs his finger tip along the signature, tracing the lines. "I should get this tattooed on, then when you're a famous singer I can show it off and say I knew you back then."

"You could," JC says, and Justin expects him to carry on with the joke, instead JC looks nervous as he lets go of Justin's arm. "Justin, I really like you, and I think this could be something good, but I need to tell you something first."

JC looks distressed, and Justin can't help imagining all sorts of things, none of them good. "Just tell me. It can't be that bad."

"It's not, well, some of it is. For me anyway." JC stops speaking and takes a deep breath. "Okay, I'm just going to tell you, but not here."

He starts toward the café in the middle of the plaza. This late there's only one table occupied and Mikey's busy closing up, packing up left over cakes while texting at the same time. When he sees them coming he takes two chocolate-chip muffins out of a box and puts them on a plate, then picks up a mug and starts to fill it with coffee.

"JC wants a double vanilla shot," Justin says, and watches as Mikey adds the shots and then pours out another mug, this one with extra sugar and milk. "Thanks." Taking the loaded tray, Justin goes to their usual table, where JC is waiting.

Sitting in the chair next to him, Justin sits, takes a sip of his coffee and waits.

"I don't know where to start. I guess the logical place is to tell you my real name is Joshua Turplins and this camp will be mine one day."

It's not what Justin expected at all. He'd steeled himself for JC changing his mind or wanting a threesome, anything but this. "So, you're like, a millionaire?"

"I wish." JC laughs, more bitter than anything. "More I'm expected to run the company one day."

"And you don't want to do that?"

"Do I look like a businessman to you?" JC indicates his outfit, from his usual flip flops to his silver pin-stripped trousers and paint-splattered vest. "All I want to do is sing."

"You're a good singer," Justin says.

"Thanks." JC smiles, genuinely this time. "Dad said I could work as a performer as long as it was here, learning the business from the inside out."

"So, what? If you'd gone somewhere else you'd have been disowned?" Justin can't help feeling angry, because that's bullshit. Families are supposed to support you, whatever you want to do.

"I guess," JC shrugs and takes a drink. "I didn't push it that far. It's not what I want to do but they've my best interests at heart, and I love them. They're my family and sure, granddad's a bit obsessed with alpacas, but he's got reason."

"Wait. Your grandfather is Terrence Turplins? The one that got lost in the Andes?"

"Adopted grandfather, and didn't I just say that?"

"Well, yeah," Justin admits. "But your grandfather is Terrence Turplins He's got his own statue."

"He does," JC says. "We decorate it every year for the Christmas period."

"And that's it? You're not going to tell me your mum's Felicia Fontins or something."

"Nope. I'm just JC. Grandson of the founder of the Turplins empire."

"That's all. Right." Justin reaches under the table, groping for JC's hand. "I guess I can cope with dating someone important and it explains the freebie food you get, and the keys."

"Not really." JC's expression is serious as he squeezes Justin's fingers. "None of the staff know because I only tell the people I date. So like, that's AJ and Howie. Kristen and Kevin back in the day, after Chris slept with him though, if it was before I'd have so warned about the dick issue." Looking into the distance, JC counts names off on his fingers. "And there was that week with Brian. But that was a short term thing, nothing, like, serious. But I told him anyway because he looked so adorable in the mornings. All smiles and crinkly eyes. Erm, Bob too, who else?"

Justin doesn't say a word, just sips his coffee and tries not to laugh when Mikey looks in their direction and rolls his eyes as he mouths everyone knows.

"Oh, and Chris of course. But I would have told him without the sex. That was just a bonus."

Which of course it was. Justin has to smile, because not only has he landed himself a potential boyfriend, he's got one that's the heir apparent to the whole Turplins empire as well as one coming with a harem of ex boyfriends and a firmly attached best friend.

Somehow, Justin suspects, this summer is going to be interesting.


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