Hello . . .J I had actually come to the decision not to write this thing because I couldn't make it work in my head. However, I decided to take Luke's advice (my Luke) and stop whining about life, and instead decided to get up and do something about it. So, that's what I'm doing at the moment. The worst that can happen is the story sucks, and that's not the end of the world, whatever you may think . . .J Alright, so on with the boring bit . . .J This, just like Lucky Me, is not meant to imply anything about anyone ever . . .living, dead, undecided, what have you. Yes, I will be going from this back to Lucky Me and then back to this and then back to Lucky Me and so on and so forth until this is over. I will tell you from the very beginning that it's going to be kinda short, but I also reserve the right to change my mind about that . . .J I've talked too long.

"I'm still learning things I ought to know by now." --Vertical Horizon

Don't Ever Die Again -1-

"Okay, that's it. You're goin' down, Scoop," Justin laughed as he lunged across the pool and sunk Lance by his shoulders.

Lance's scream turned gurgly as his surroundings quickly became blurred by chlorinated water.

"Hey, Justin! It ain't good publicity to drown our bass!" Joey laughed from somewhere in the deep end.

Justin just managed to grumble through his smirk, releasing his underwater grip on the bleached blonde, and Lance sprung from the water, gasping for air. "That was incredibly not funny," Lance snickered, wiping his face. "You're gonna get it for that one, little man!"

But Justin didn't seem to hear his friend. He cocked his head to one side and tried to interpret his sudden feeling. "Where's Josh?" Justin looked to Lance, then across the pool to Joey and Chris. They all recognized Justin's tone of voice; it was the tone he always spoke with when this happened.

"He's still up in y'all's room," Lance supplied.

"Yeah," Joey agreed as he and Chris swam to their friends. "Right as we were leaving, Marc called."

Chris tried to calm Justin's fears. "He said he'd meet us down here."

Lance saw the worry darting in Justin's eyes. "If something's wrong, just call him," Lance said. "I brought my phone."

"No," Justin said hesitantly. "No, if he's on the phone to Marc, I don't want to bother him." Justin felt himself twinge at the word `bother'. He didn't ever want to be a bother to Josh. "I'll just talk to him later. It's fine."

There was a thick silence while they all waited for Justin to change his mind, but he didn't.

Justin managed to come back to himself long enough to agree to a game of chicken. He was on Joey's shoulders, but he found himself only able to half-concentrate on the pool. And as a result, he and Joey were losing badly. He kept feeling a pull in the pit of his stomach telling him to go check on Josh, but he fought it.

He said he'd meet us down here. There's no reason to go flying up there to learn he stubbed his toe. He's fine. You worry about him too much, he told himself.

But a person can only stand so many bucket-fulls of water shooting up his nose, and finally Joey'd had enough. He ducked underwater and slid out from under Justin. When Joey resurfaced, Justin asked, "What?"

"What do you mean `what'? You're `what'," he told Justin.


Joey looked at him. "Justin, you're losing at chicken. You never lose at chicken." His pause set a more serious tone. "If you're so worried about him, then just go up and see if he's okay, will ya?"


"No buts," Chris said. "He's right. Just go. I'm getting tired of beating you."

Lance nodded from beside Chris.

Justin glanced to all three of his friends, and, seeing they were completely serious, quickly made his way over to the edge of the pool. The light reflected off his wet torso as he lifted himself from the water.

"Sorry about this, guys," Justin murmured, grabbing a towel and drying himself as he quickly headed for the door.

"There's no reason to be sorry," Lance called after his friend. "Do you want us to come with you?"

"I'll call if I need you," Justin yelled over his shoulder as he ran for the hotel stairs, deciding the elevator would take too long. Taking the stairs two at a time, Justin quickly made it to the fourth floor. He flung the door to the stairs open and jogged to the room he shared with Josh, but realized he'd left his keycard inside.

He knocked. "Josh, it's me. Let me in." He tried desperately to keep the excessive worry from his voice, though he was almost positive he wasn't successful. After a few seconds, the door eased open, and Josh stood there, eyes glassy

"Hey, Just. Forget your key?" It sounded like Josh wasn't aware he'd said anything.

Justin let himself breathe again. He could tell by the look on Josh's face that whatever was wrong wasn't life shattering—but it was something. "What's wrong?" Justin asked, stepping through the door and putting his hand on Josh's bare shoulder. He felt the familiar electricity, but ignored it for the time being. Justin searched his best friend's eyes for . . .anything, but all he saw was that scary blank look. "Please, Josh," he whispered. "Tell me what is it? What's happened?" The towel had been forgotten when he'd seen his friend's glazed look.

Josh made his way over to sit on his bed, and Justin sat beside him, awaiting his friend's answer. Josh shook his head. "Nothing serious," he said. "It's just . . ." he sighed. "Marc and I broke up." He fixed his gaze to a spot on the carpet in front of him.

Justin felt paralyzed. He couldn't make himself react. It felt like someone had rammed a brick through his sternum. He couldn't make himself say anything—do anything to comfort Josh. All he managed was a croaky, "What?"

Josh turned his head at his friend's lack of response. "We broke up. He called, and we just . . ." he exhaled. "It's over." He turned his stare back to that spot on the carpet.

The brick of shock firmly implanted itself in Justin's chest, impeding his natural response greatly, and almost arresting any response at all. But something far more instinctual kicked in, and after a few seconds' hesitation, Justin reached over and slid his arms around Josh in a hug of consolation, which Josh whole-heartedly returned.

It was the first time since entering the room that Justin had really accounted for the fact that Josh was clad, just like himself, only in a pair of swim trunks. He'd been going with them to swim when Marc called; Justin had forgotten. The amount of electricity, resulting from Justin's contact with so much of Josh's skin, was so great that it almost hurt Justin just to hold his best friend. But Justin was used to it by now, and, certainly, enigmatic electricity was not of the utmost importance at the time.

"Do you want to talk about it, Josh?" he asked. He still felt the weight in his chest, but somehow Justin managed to talk around it. He managed to breathe and move around the mass inside him. But the shock of it all was not forgotten.

Josh pulled away from the curly-headed youth and took a shaky breath. "It's been bad for months, now. There's been a problem for a long time, but since he and I spent so much time apart, we never really addressed it." He exhaled. "It was getting too hard to keep him happy, and I . . .I stopped wanting to try." He tried to shrug.

Justin didn't know what to say, so he just reached over and put his hand on Josh's.

"It was inevitable, really," Josh continued, squeezing Justin's hand. "I should have seen it coming."

"You don't expect things like this," Justin whispered, squeezing back

"No, I guess not." Josh sighed. "I mean, I know I'm happier without him. I know I am." And by his tone of voice, Justin was convinced. Josh closed his eyes and shook his head. "It'll just take some getting used to, I think."

"You were with him for almost a year. You probably need a little time to readjust."

Josh nodded and laughed a sad, little laugh. There was a knock at the door, and Josh got up a little quicker than Justin expected, saying, "I'll get it."

And in those few seconds between Josh rising from the bed and him opening the door, Justin felt the weight smack him in the chest again, full force. He felt uncomfortable with something. Like there was something he wanted to run away from. But what? What was wrong with him?

Justin managed to shake himself out of his confusion and focused on Lance, Joey, and Chris, who'd just come into the room.

"We just wanted to make sure you were okay," Joey was saying to Josh.

"Yeah," Lance nodded. "Justin was acting like something was wrong, and we got worried. You alright?"

Josh smiled sadly and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, I'm okay."

Chris cast a look to Joey and Lance, then back to Josh. "We just want to help, buddy."

"I know," Josh sighed. "But I'm fine. Really."

"At least tell us what happened," Joey said, eyebrows furrowed.

Josh looked up at Joey, then blinked, looking away again. "Marc and I broke up." But before anyone could inhale in preparation to say anything, Josh held up his hands. "I'm really okay, though."

Lance recognized Josh's tendency to avoid talking about his emotions. "Okay, JC. You know we're here if you need us." A thick pause. "Are you two coming to dinner?" Lance blurted when the quiet had become unbearable for him.

Josh shook his head immediately. "I'm not really that hungry. I think I'll just stay in and read or something. Maybe I'll go to bed early. Anyway, no, I'm not going."

Lance looked past Josh to where Justin still sat on the bed. Justin just shook his head. "Alright, then," Lance said. "I guess we'll see y'all tomorrow. Don't forget we've got a photo shoot at ten. Be at the limo by nine-thirty. Don't forget."

Josh shut the door behind his three friends and turned back to look at Justin, who was sitting on the bed, knees pulled up to his chest—and staring at him.

"You didn't have to lie to them, Josh," Justin whispered from his place on the bed.

"About what?"

Justin raised his eyebrows in question.

Josh's shoulders slumped, and he dropped the act. "Okay, fine, I was lying. I'm not okay. Alright? I'm upset, alright? Is that what you wanna hear? Is it?" Josh fumed.

Justin got up immediately and put his arms around his best friend—electricity and all. "Josh, it's me. It's okay," he said as he stroked the man's hair.

"I'm sorry," came Josh's muffled apology from where his head was bent to Justin's chest. "I didn't mean to snap."

Justin felt a snag in his friend's breathing, and shortly thereafter, felt a drop fall onto his chest. He pulled back just slightly. "Josh," he asked, "are you crying?"

"No," Josh said immediately, and there was another drop on Justin's chest. Sighing, Josh pulled Justin tighter into the embrace.

Crying was something Josh rarely did, and only in front of Justin. The tears were quiet. His breathing was a little erratic, and there were a few gasps, but mostly there was only the silence and the drops landing on Justin's midsection, as the two best friends held each other.

But eventually, there were no more tears, and Josh raised his head from its place on Justin's chest. "I got you all wet," Josh tried to say, but his voice didn't respond very well.

"It's okay," Justin said with a little smile as Josh tried to wipe away the salty-wetness. "It's okay," he said again when Josh didn't stop wiping. "Josh." Justin reached up to stop Josh's hand with his own, and it must have caught Josh by surprise because he quickly looked up into Justin's face—it felt like an accident—their gazes locked together.

The second stretched on into forever before Justin managed to mumble something about a shower and retreated into the bathroom.

What the hell was that? he thought to himself when he'd shut the bathroom door. What the hell was that? What the hell was that? He was panicking but didn't know why. Taking a deep breath, he caught his own eyes in the mirror. "What's wrong with me?" he whispered to his reflection.

The brick that had been shoved through his sternum had opened into a deep, empty, cavernous void within him. He felt as if he couldn't breathe.

* * *

Josh raised an eyebrow at the bathroom door Justin and just disappeared into. I wonder what that was all about, he thought to himself. He finished drying the tears from his face and sighed. Oh Marc, why did you have to do that? He walked out to the balcony and leaned on the railing, overlooking the view of the city. What city is this, anyway? He tried to think—attempted to recall some sort of schedule in his head, but he couldn't. The only person who ever keeps up with this stuff is Lance. I don't know how he does it.

It was just the pretense that bothered him. All the emotions had been real. He was happier without Marc. But he was a little upset. Everything had been real except the way Justin thought it happened. Josh hated lying, especially to Justin. That's what bothered him.

And as Josh stood there, in the odd lighting of dusk in a big city, he recalled the first time Marc had witnessed Justin's ability. It had been about six months ago, when Marc was visiting Josh on tour. Marc's visits had been the only instances that Josh and Justin had ever slept in different hotel rooms, and even then the rooms were adjoining—the door between which was always kept unlocked.

Marc and Josh had gone to dinner that night, just the two of them. Josh's meal wasn't cooked right, or something, because he woke up in the middle of the night, sick to his stomach, and ran into the bathroom. He remembered that Justin was there, kneeling beside him and rubbing his back, before Marc had even been awake. It was a few more minutes before Marc stumbled into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes, to ask what was happening.

They'd tried explaining to Marc how it was that Justin had known Josh was sick. They tried to tell him that Justin had always been able to sense certain things about Josh—but that hadn't made Marc feel any better. In fact, Josh suspected it had only made Marc feel worse; he had gotten very possessive the rest of that trip. That was when he'd first started asking.

After Marc went back to Orlando, each time he'd call Josh, he'd ask him to stop sharing a room with Justin. It caught Josh off guard at first, and he'd asked about it. But Marc had always refused to explain himself. He kept saying, "I'd just be happier if you didn't sleep in the same room with him." Josh had always refused—had never thought twice about refusing.

But that day, just as he'd been ready to go swimming with the rest of the guys, his cell had rung. This time, Marc didn't ask; he demanded.

"JC, stop rooming with Justin. I'm not taking no for an answer."

"Well, that's the only answer you're getting. I'm not gonna stop, Marc. I've told you before."

"Why not? It's not much to ask."

"It's a lot to ask. He's my best friend in the entire world."

"Your significant other is supposed to be the most important person in your life, JC."

"Marc, don't do this. Please, don't do this."

"Enough bullshit, JC. Choose. It's him or me. Who's more important to you?"

"Goodbye, Marc."

Josh stood there on the balcony, looking over the city. Why was I crying just now? he asked himself. I didn't love Marc, so why was I crying? Marc hadn't given Josh a chance to love him. Before Josh could build any true feelings, Marc had become possessive and overbearing, and too undesirable to fall in love with. He was just asking too much of me. So why was I crying? And as a car whizzed past beneath him, he realized it.

Because he was someone. With him, I didn't have love, but I had someone. "Who've I got, now?" he asked the streetlights.

Josh stood straight from where he'd been leaning on the railing and stretched a little. Then, still looking out at the city lights, he wondered what was taking Justin so long in the shower.

* * *

After stepping into the room from his shower, Justin saw Josh standing on the balcony. Without thinking, he slipped on a pair of baby blue, silk lounge pants, and headed for the balcony door, intent to join Josh, but he stopped himself halfway there. He pictured himself just talking with Josh. It made Justin ache. The void within him pulsed.

He stood there watching him for a long time, longer than he ever meant to. He was a bit startled when Josh stood up straight and turned to walk back into the hotel room. Josh flashed him a small smile as he stepped back onto the carpet and slid the door closed behind him.

"Nice shower?" Josh asked quietly, avoiding Justin's eyes.

"Uhm, yeah. Yeah." Justin turned, watching Josh cross the room, barely noticing as he changed into his burgundy lounge pants. Justin was noticing something else; the air was thicker some how. Justin wasn't used to this, not with Josh. The air had never been thick between Josh and himself. There was . . .tension. There had never been tension before. "Uhm, Josh . . .I—" but he stopped himself. All of a sudden, he wasn't positive the tension could be separated from the void that throbbed inside his chest. They were both new to him, and he didn't know where either of them came from. He hated this feeling. He had always been so sure of himself with Josh. He hated this new feeling. He hated feeling.

So he just shook his head. "Never mind," he mumbled.

Josh was rifling through one of his bags. "Hey, you seen my book?" Josh asked, throwing a pair of jeans over his shoulder.

Dodging the airborne slacks, Justin said, "Uh, yeah. I put it in the side pocket of your bag when we were packing yesterday."

"Oh, side pocket," Josh mumbled, digging some more. Book in hand, Josh settled himself on his bed, intent for a little reading. "I'm sure glad we're staying here for a couple of days," he commented off hand. "I hate packing."

Still standing in the middle of the room, trying hard not to look like he was staring at his best friend, Justin said, "How would you know you hate packing? You haven't packed a bag in four years. What you hate is not being able to find your things in the bags I packed."

Josh looked up, smiling a little. "Yeah, somethin' like that." He noticed Justin's forced nonchalance. "You alright, Justin?"

He laughed nervously. "Me, alright? You're the one that just got dumped, and you're asking me if I'm okay?" Justin ran a hand through his hair, his nervous habit.

Josh opened his mouth to correct him—to say that he hadn't been dumped, but he thought differently. Maybe it's best just to let him think that for now. If I told him the truth, he'd feel responsible. So Josh turned to his book, but after a few seconds, he looked back up at Justin, who was now sitting on his own bed, staring at him. Josh said, "You don't have to skip dinner just because I'm not hungry, Justin."

He took a serious pause. "Josh, you only lose your appetite when you're upset, and I'm not leaving you alone when you're upset."

Josh couldn't help but smile. "I'd be fine for half an hour while you ate."

"I'm not leaving you alone when you're upset."

Josh sighed. "I'm not upset."

Justin raised his eyebrows.

He folded. "I'd be okay, for a little while. Go eat."

"I'm not hungry." Justin's tone definitely ended the discussion.

Josh scrutinized his friend for a long time, almost glaring at him, before turning his eyes back to the book in his lap. He says he's not hungry; he's always hungry. I hate it when he does this. Josh stole a glance at Justin out of the corner of his eye. I wonder what's wrong.

To Be Continued . . .

Well, folks there ya go. I would love comments . . .because I had a lot of trouble with this. Just ask DLS and ScottyT...J My e-mail's the same, Lauren2993@aol.com. Drop me a line and tell me what you think...J Okay, it's back to Lucky Me now...until next time, loves --Lauren aka Pook