"Greetings," Griffin announced as he swept into Gustavo's office, flanked by his ever present assistants-slash-bodyguards. He smiled satisfactorily when he saw Gustavo flinch and drop his pen, and Kelly make a little meep! sound.
"Griffin!" Kelly squeaked. She cleared her throat, hastily straightening her blouse. "Are you here for the annual report? Or did you need to see the new song tracks we just laid down?"
"Nope," Griffin said, shaking his head. He threw his hands up in the air - the bigger the announcement, the grander gestures it needed. "My team has been doing research and we've found out a surefire way to get even more attention for the band. Relationships! And scandal!"
"Kendall is dating Jo, and he's working on his bad boy image. And everyone is still talking about the temporary shutdown of the band. So we're covered on those areas," Kelly said.
Griffin shook his head.
"No. No. What we need is for the boys to date each other." His smile grew even wider when he saw both Kelly's and Gustavo's jaws drop. "Yes. A gay boy band who are divided up into pairs. It'll be great. Just tell the boys to keep being all touchy-feely, and to maybe slip in a few kisses in public now and then. I will be checking the gossip sites to monitor your progress. Goodbye." And then he turned on his heel and walked out of Gustavo's office, giggling.
Gustavo whipped around to face Kelly. "Am I going insane or did Griffin just say we need a GAY BOY BAND?!"
Kelly nodded, bringing a hand up to squeeze the bridge of her nose, hoping she could stave off the inevitable headache. "I can't believe he thinks he can just order something like this and expect the boys to be fully on board. Does he not remember the catastrophe that was the reality show?" Gustavo shuddered, clearly remembering how the boys had cheerfully schemed how to turn the tables on Griffin.
"So what are we going to DO?" he asked, fiddling with the zipper on his sweater.
"I'll go tell the boys what Griffin told us. And we'll go from there. Maybe they'll be on board with this. Or maybe their shocked reactions will cheer me up before we try to come up with an explanation telling Griffin exactly why his insane plan won't work," Kelly shrugged. She stuffed her clipboard into her purse, heaved the gigantic black binder into her arms, and headed out of Rocque Records, mentally rehearsing the speech she would give to the boys.
They were in the apartment, playing floor hockey, slamming each other into any and all furniture in the living room, yelling and whooping and waving their sticks in the air.
They didn't react in the way Kelly had expected them to. Or maybe she just didn't understand the boys' version of shocked. Because James and Carlos immediately turned towards each other and started whispering about plans. And Logan and Kendall just looked at each other with sighs and raised eyebrows and head shakes.
(She doesn't know if she should be perturbed or not to see that the boys have just divided themselves up into two sort-of couples without even discussing it. But until Logan and Kendall sort out the problem of already having girlfriends - because Kendall doesn't stop hanging out with Jo and Logan doesn't stop kissing Camille - she'll just focus on James and Carlos, who have started groping each other with abandon anytime they're in the public.)
"All right. So, this is just like acting. And I've been personally taught by Camille on how to commit to a role," James said, juggling magazines and DVDs and bottles of water. Carlos had been sitting on his bed, toweling his hair dry, when James had barreled into the room they shared. He threw the towel into the hamper and folded his legs, so that he was sitting Indian style.
"And that will help with convincing everyone that we like each other?" Carlos asked. James nodded and threw everything he had been holding next to Carlos. "What's all that?"
"Re- ! James, is this porn?" Carlos squeaked, scrambling away from the pile.
"No," James said, laughing. "Calm down, Carlitos." He plopped down on Carlos' bed. "These are just celebrity magazines, so we can see how couples look with each other when they're at major events."
"And the DVDs?!"
"Um. I've got Brothers & Sisters and Will and Grace," James said, flipping through the plastic covers. "It'll be fun!"
Carlos gave him a wary look.
"C'mon, Carlos. You need to commit to a role! Be method. Like Camille said. Now, what do you want to watch first?"
The next day Carlos and James scrambled out of bed, determined. They had a plan. It was time to start phase one of Operation Griffin's Demand for a Gay Boy Band Team Jarlos. (They had spent a good part of the night coming up with their celebrity relationship name.)
As they walked to the basketball courts behind the Palmwoods, jabbering about whether they would play HORSE or just one-on-one basketball, Carlos reached out and linked his fingers with James' hand. James faltered a little bit and he looked down at Carlos, who was grinning widely, eyes practically sparkling. His heart thudded. Carlos' hand was warm in his and suddenly the day seemed fantastic and he really wanted to keep that smile on Carlos' face. He was giving him the same look that Carlos had given Gustavo's statue, when he thought it was a helmet rack. Mischievous and delighted, like the subject of his delight was the best thing ever to happen to him. It was nice. Really nice.
He didn't even hear the telltale click of a camera across the park, capturing the first official shot of Jarlos.
The rest of the day James kept experimenting, to make sure that his heart was thumping because of Carlos, not just because this was the first time he'd put the moves on a boy. So any chance he got, he touched Carlos' hands, arms, shoulders, back... it wasn't like it was the first time the two boys had invaded each other's personal space, but now it was different. Now James was more aware of just how good looking Carlos was. And how many times Carlos touched him back.
Soon enough, Scuttlebutter blows up with the hash tags #JARLOS and #omgBTRgay. JustJaredJr immediately uploads a picture of Carlos and James, with their arms around each other, grinning hugely at each other, walking down Rodeo Drive, a shopping bag hanging from Carlos' fingers.
"Excellent," Griffin declares, pleased as he scrolls through his phone. "Now where are pictures and news about the other two boys? Are they Logandall? Or Kengan? How does this naming thing work anyway?"
Kelly looks vaguely exasperated. "It's Kogan. And the cameras probably haven't gotten anything yet," she says wearily, looking over at Gustavo. She raises her eyebrows and jabs a finger towards Griffin, using her clipboard as a shield against Griffin. Gustavo furrows his brows and shrugs his shoulders, mouthing what? at her. She rolls her eyes and turns back to look at Griffin.
"Listen. Griffin, is there anyway you would be happy with just James and Carlos canoodling?" she winces the moment the word 'canoodling' leaves her mouth. Gustavo sniggers behind his hand. She shoots him a death glare.
"No. A boy band does all things together. And this is a great publicity opportunity. Isn't Logan the smart one? Let him mull over that," Griffin says. He slides his phone into his pocket, stands up from behind Gustavo's desk, and makes his way to the open office door. "I am still expecting regular updates." He turns on his heel and strides down the hallway, whistling.
Kelly brings her arm up and smacks her forehead with her palm. She definitely needs a raise. Or at the very least, an IV full of espresso attached to her arm, to properly deal with Rocque Records and the boys.
Kendall whistled as he made his way towards the Palmwoods pool, smoothies in each hand. He scanned the deck for Jo, and grinned when he saw her gigantic straw sunhat. She was lounging on a pool chair, laughing and talking with Camille, who was sitting next to her.
"Blue smoothie for milady," Kendall announced, bending down and offering it with a flourish to his girlfriend.
"Thanks!" Jo said brightly. She glanced at Camille, then back at Kendall. "So. Are you ever going to tell me what's going on with the band? And why James and Carlos haven't left each other's side for a week?"
"And why Carlos is putting suntan lotion on James instead of a girl?" Camille asked. She lowered her sunglasses and stared pointedly at the two boys in question who were sharing a pool chair across from them.
"It's a long story," Kendall sighed, taking a seat at the end of Jo's chair. "Kelly and Gustavo told us that Griffin wanted to change the band's image. Into a gay one."
Camille let out a peal of laughter. "That is fantastic! I knew James and Carlos had a thing for each other!"
Kendall gave her one of his patented looks of disbelief. The one where his eyebrows shoot up into his hair and his mouth drops open and he flails his hands in the air. "What are you talking about? They're just putting on a show. They don't really like each other." His voice was getting higher and higher pitched with each word. "Back me up, Jo."
"Well..." she drew out the word. "You four do like to touch each other a lot. And hug each other. And jump into each others' arms. And you have to blind not to see the way Carlos looks at James."
"Yeah. And it has been a while since James went on a date," Camille said thoughtfully.
"That's - that's because we're really busy!" Kendall spluttered.
"Hey. So does that mean that you and Logan are supposed to get together?" Jo asked, smiling. Camille laughed even harder. When Kendall just looked at the two of them, his mouth opening and closing, Jo patted him on his knee.
"It's okay. I promise not to get jealous," Jo teased.
"Do you want some chapstick? Logan's a really thorough kisser," Camille grinned.
"I don't have to put up with this," Kendall said. "I am going up to the apartment and forgetting this conversation. Good day!" He ignored the peals of laughter coming from Jo and Camille.
Across the pool, Carlos finished massaging the suntan lotion over James' shoulders, clicked the cap shut, and handed the bottle back to James. He rubbed his fingers across James' back, his movements slowing down as he became oddly transfixed by James' shoulder blades and the weirdly appealing line of his spine. As if he was in a daze, he dragged his index finger down that line. He drew back immediately when James froze.
"Sorry- I-" Carlos stuttered. He scooted back a little bit, and pinched himself, sternly reminding himself that James was a boy and Carlos liked girls, so fondling James and wanting to kiss him right between his shoulder blades didn't make (much) sense. James slowly turned around and stared at Carlos, who blinked, because, um, he and James were sitting really close together, close enough that Carlos could marvel at how long James' eyelashes were, and could smell the sunscreen that he'd just applied.
"Let me try something," James said softly. He leaned close, placed a tentative hand on Carlos' thigh, and then kissed him. Right on the lips. Both of their eyes were still open, so it was a little weird and Carlos' eyes crossed a little bit, but then James' eyes fluttered shut, and he opened his mouth a little, and when he touched Carlos' tongue, he let out this tiny moan and grabbed at Carlos' arm.
Carlos really liked this. A lot. So he closed his eyes too and mimicked the amazing things James was doing right now to his mouth. He dragged his tongue across James' bottom lip, and then gently nipped at it, catching his lip between his teeth.
Jo poked Camille's arm, and pointed silently at the boys across the pool.
"Ohmigod. That's...really hot." Camille blinked and then started fishing in her tote for her phone. She grinned at Jo, snapped a picture, and texted it to Katie.
Katie looked up from the stocks she was managing on her laptop. She flipped open her phone to see what Camille had texted her about. Usually she ignored all calls during her two hour interval of perusing through her portfolio, but she and Camille had made a deal that Camille would never text her unless it was really important. (Because, really. Katie was a firm believer of talking, not texting. She wasn't able to analyze someone's inflections through a text as well as she could when she was speaking directly with them.)
"Excellent!" Katie laughed when she saw the picture of James and Carlos kissing as if their lives depended on it. She connected her phone to the laptop, opened a new internet window, and began composing an email to the several gossip magazines she'd cultivated close relationships with. After she'd gotten wind of Griffin's plan, she immediately went to Kelly to draw up a contract that outlined the details and the percentage Katie would earn for helping publicize the romances developing within Big Time Rush. Because wasn't it her duty as the band's little sister to control the kind of publicity they would garner?
"Well. There is still no Kogan. So I want you to tell the boys to switch it up a little," Griffin announces, shoving Gustavo's office door open. Both Gustavo and Kelly jump up. It is nine o' clock in the morning and they had just settled into Gustavo's office, going over the day's schedule.
"What do you mean, switch it up?" Kelly asks slowly.
"Surprise me!" Griffin grins and then turns to leave. Then he swivels around and points a finger at Kelly. "But I better see exclamation points."
Kelly hears Gustavo bang his head against his desk and nods weakly.
James took in a deep breath before pushing open the bedroom door and walking over to Carlos and poking him in the shoulder. He was sitting in bed, headphones on, softly singing the lyrics to the new song Gustavo had wanted them all to work on over the weekend.
It had been two hours since he'd leaned in and kissed Carlos at the pool and he was getting antsy. After he was pretty sure his head had blown off, he had...kind of...shrieked and broken the kiss, scrambling off the chair and throwing himself into the pool. Which was stupid because when he'd surfaced, Carlos was nowhere to be seen. And now this was the longest they'd gone without talking to each other. And James really, really, really wanted to find out what exactly the hell was going on.
Carlos looked up, smiling, and pulled off his headphones. James guessed it was a good thing, that Carlos was still smiling, instead of glaring at him and silently plotting revenge on the boy who had seemingly rejected him.
"Um. So. What happened at the pool. Um." James stammered. He inwardly groaned. What was wrong with him? He was the king of cool. The one with the swagger. Why was he turning into one of those romantically inept boys? Why was he turning into Logan of all people? (At least he wasn't saying bleep-blop-bloop yet, thank god.)
Carlos chewed on his lower lip, pulled off his helmet, carefully set it down next to him, and straightened his shoulders. He reached out to grab the front of James' shirt, tugged him down, and kissed him. James couldn't keep the smile that was threatening to overtake his face, and shakily laughed a little bit against Carlos' mouth. Carlos pulled back, his face falling.
"What? I thought -"
"No! I wasn't laughing at you!" James said quickly. "I- I'm just glad that we're really doing this. That it's - that's it's actually for us. Not for Griffin. Or Rocque Records."
"Yeah?" Carlos asked, his beautiful face lighting up.
"Yeah. 'Cause I really like you," James said softly. He closed the small distance between them, placed a hand on Carlos' shoulder, and kissed him again.
"I like you too," Carlos murmured, trailing his hand up to cup the back of James' neck. He knew that James was prone to taking acting roles seriously, and he didn't want this to be another method acting thing.
Ever since Carlos had found out the difference between boys and girls, and realized that he far preferred a sweaty James over giggly, confusing girls, he knew the only person for him was James. And it was hard, especially since they'd gotten to Hollywood, and James, Kendall, and Logan had obsessed over girls. He'd just went along with it, oohing over their fans and the girls they would meet once they got famous - because, well, it was better to hang out with James and be roommates with him than effectively ruining their friendship by blurting out that he had a huge crush on him and babbling about his future plans of the two of them living together and cuddling and playing hockey and raising two dogs. When Kelly had told them about Griffin's plan, his heart had jumped into his throat and it had taken all of his resolve not to immediately tackle James and start their "relationship" right then and there. And now. Now James was kissing him, when it was just the two of them, alone. Without the excuse of cameras or possible publicity opportunities.
He couldn't remember the last time he was this happy.
James gently pushed at Carlos' shoulder until Carlos leaned back until his back hit the bed and James followed, lying right on top of Carlos.
They spent the rest of the day in Carlos' bed, finding out just how awesome it was to make out. (And no wonder James had had no problem getting girlfriends. He was great at making out.)
When Logan had hesitantly agreed to James' and Carlos' plan, he didn't really know what he was getting himself into. Mostly because when they'd asked him, they spent a lot of the time laughing and giggling and shoving each other and not really explaining what the plan was.
So that's why he couldn't be blamed when he let out a yelp of surprise when James randomly shoved him against a tree in Palmwoods park and stuck his tongue down his throat.
"James - what - Carlos -" was what Logan meant to say, but because his lips were currently busy doing other stuff, all he'd managed was "mmmph." And then his brain sort of...short-circuited. The only person he'd kissed before was Camille (hey, being a hockey head and a genius in Minnesota didn't allow for lots of dating. And the double dates he went on with James were usually just an awkward hour and a half of trying and failing at finding common ground to talk about with a girl who was clearly more interested in James than in him), so the fact that the second person to kiss him was a boy was a little startling. Even more startling was the fact that he wasn't totally hating it. (But maybe he was just distracted by James' hand, warm and possessive, on his hip. And that James was crowding in front of him, so that all Logan could make sense of was the rough tree bark at his back and James' body in front of him radiating heat.)
But all the groping in the world couldn't distract him from acknowledging that James was a really good kisser.
And then he was blinking, his lips and front not attached to James anymore, his hands gripping air. He was vaguely aware of James rolling on the ground in front of him with Carlos. Where had Carlos come from?
And then Kendall was jumping on the two wrestling boys and wrenching them apart.
"Why must you choose Logan over me? Aren't you happy with me kissing you?" Carlos wailed.
"I was just exploring my choices, Carlitos! Stop suffocating me!" James said, clutching his heart.
"I will never forgive you!" Carlos said, crossing his arms in front of his chest and pouting at James.
"You guys are really dramatic. And sound like you're reading from a script," Kendall announced. He and Logan had been looking weirdly at the little spectacle unfolding in front of them. Carlos shushed him and shoved a scrap of paper into his back pocket. Then just as suddenly, instead of straining against Kendall's arms, Carlos and James weren't so much as punching each other as they were grinning at each other.
"I think they're gone," Carlos announced. "Want to play video games and eat some pie?"
"And make out?" James asked brightly. He pulled away from Kendall, ducked under his arm and went over to hug Carlos.
"I don't think I understood what just happened," Kendall said slowly. "But you guys are okay now?"
"Yup. Griffin said he wanted SCANDAL." Carlos wiggled his fingers in the air. "Really, Logie, were you not listening when we told you about Operation Trick the Paparazzi into Thinking that James Wanted to Stop Kissing Me and Start Kissing Logan?" Carlos asked. He felt his phone buzz and dug into his pocket to pull out his phone.
"Wow, that was fast," he said. "Look. We're already trending." He showed them the Scuttlebutter page, which was already littered with #TeamJogan and #TeamJarlos.
"How could I listen?" Logan shrieked. "You guys kept giggling and saying "yeah, yeah!" and babbling incoherently!"
Carlos walked over and patted Logan on the cheek. "Well, anyway. That was some good acting on your part. Now my man and I are going to have guy time."
"And by "guy time," he means we're going to make out," James explained, slinging an arm around Carlos' shoulders. "I have a one track mind and I will not be deterred!" He stabbed his finger towards the sky for emphasis. Carlos slipped his arm around James' waist and hooked a finger around his belt loop. James looked down and couldn't keep from smiling. He squeezed Carlos' shoulder and leaned down to drop a kiss onto Carlos' nose.
Kendall grimaced. "Must you tell us every time you decide to suck face?"
"Yup!" Carlos grinned, still staring up at James. "'Cause it's fun. You and Logan should try it. You did get Camille and Jo's blessing." He laughed when Kendall shoved him. "You never know. It might turn out great."
"Excellent, Gustavo!" Griffin practically crows, popping his head into Gustavo's office. Then he popped back out and left Kelly and Gustavo to stare at the open door.
"Do you smell sulfur anywhere? Or brimstone?" Gustavo frowns, fumbling around in his desk. He pulls out a spray bottle of Febreeze and hands it to Kelly, who wearily starts spritzing his office.
A week later, Kendall was still talking about the kiss between Logan and James. And frankly, Jo was getting a little tired of it. Every conversation the two of them had - even if they were talking about what they would be grabbing for lunch or what kind of superhero power was superior - digressed into Kendall abruptly changing the subject to what the heck Logan was thinking, just letting James kiss him. And every time Jo asked Kendall what the heck was wrong with him, why he was so fixated on something that was obviously just James and Carlos being the perpetual goofballs they were, he either started sputtering or pointed towards James who had innocently walked past the smoothie bar they were at or just stared at her, shocked that she wasn't taking this issue seriously.
"Kendall," Jo interrupted her boyfriend right as he launched into his thirty-minute tirade about the innocence of Logan and the unfairness of the scarring episode upon his little brainy self.
"What?" he asked, smiling at her.
"I think we should take a break."
"What?!" Kendall asked, his smile slipping off his face. He furrowed his eyebrows. "Is this about last night? When I took your tomatoes off your plate? I promise I won't do it again! Just - they were just sitting there, and you were done with your chicken and -"
"Calm down, Kendall," Jo laughed. She placed her hand on top of his and patted it for good measure. "I think you need to reevaluate what you want with our relationship. And what you want with Logan." She paused, letting Kendall gape at her for a few beats. "I know Camille and I have been just taking this whole boyfriend issue as just another Griffin-related insanity...thing...but I think you feel something for Logan. Something that goes above and beyond just best friends and bromance."
"Jo - Jo -" Kendall sputtered. She gave him a reassuring smile.
"Kendall. It's okay. I love you and the other boys, and I know you like me, but." Jo cleared her throat. "I don't want to pressure you into staying with me just because it's normal, or...expected. I know Griffin is crazy, but he's done a lot of good to you guys. Not intentionally. But you know. You learn what you really need after dealing with him."
Kendall stared at her. He looked down at their hands, and he felt his heart do a weird stuttering flip.
"I might not come back," he said quietly.
"I know," she nodded. "It's a chance I'm going to take."
Kendall breathed in deeply, pulled his hand back, and then stood up. He tucked his hands into his pants pockets and looked down at Jo. He leaned down, kissed her softly on her cheek, whispered "thanks," and walked away. He didn't look back, so he didn't see her close her eyes and wipe the tear that slipped down her cheek.
Six months after the initial hubbub about the Big Time Rush boyfriend scandal, after the public had accepted that it was only James and Carlos who were happily out and dating, a second wave of palpitations overcame the masses.
TMZ caught footage of Kendall and Logan holding hands as they left a 18-years-old-and-older club.