Ok I really tried to get this one out as fast as possible.  Really.  Anyway sorry for making such an awful mess out of things last time.  I promise to fix everything this time...(not).  I've just been particularly miserable lately so I figured I'd share the wealth.  I'd also like to say that this chapter is going to be a little more serious than most.  It'll have it's lighter moments too, but I just wanted to give y'all a heads up.  Don't expect to finish this feeling happy.  Send all your hatemail to zack02cool@hotmail.com.

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and is not meant to imply anything about anyone.  If you shouldn't read this then don't.  Or go ahead and read it.  I don't really care.  It's your ass not mine.

Model Romance- Part Eleven

    "Zack, everybody," Justin said slowly, "this is Sebastian.  My new boyfriend."
    For a minute nobody moved.  Zack had turned a sickly shade of white.  Britney's mouth was agape, JC buried his face in his hands and Christina seemed to be examining her feet.  At last Zack found his voice.  He took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he needed to do.
    "Well...um, I'm very happy for you Justin."  Actually his voice wasn't that shaky.  It sounded a lot better than he felt.  Barely even a tremor, at least to his ears.  "I'm glad you're back safely.  I...we were all worried about you."  Inside his stomach was doing some sort of contortionist's act and his heart seemed as if it would cease beating at any moment.  It no longer had the will to beat.  He turned to Sebastian and offered his hand.  "You're a very lucky man Sebastian I hope you two will be very happy together."
    Sebastian simply stood there examining Zack coldly.  He made no move to accept his offer of peace.  After a moment of awkward silence Zack retracted his hand and turned to Justin.  Now for the hard part.  "Justin...I'm sorry for what I did that night and I hope that you'll forgive me.  I hope we can still be...f...friends.  I'm going t..to go now."
    Justin looked at Zack as if he wanted to say something and then glanced over at Sebastian and seemed to change his mind.  Zack walked passed him slowly and didn't look back when he shut the door behind him.  Once out in the hall his strength left him.  Only the force of his will had let him be strong until this point, and now that force was exhausted.  His knees buckled under him and he gripped the wall for support.  He lurched slowly down the hall, unsure of where he was going.  His only thought was to get away and soon even this simple directive was swallowed by his greif.  This time it was really over.  Justin had moved on and he was gone for good.  He felt the earth spin beneath him and then he was falling.  Before he blacked out he was dimly aware of being caught by someone.

    When the door clicked shut behind Zack it was as if a spell had been lifted from the rooms occupants.  They all began to move slowly.  Christina  just looked from Justin to Sebastian and then shook her head.  JC got up slowly and stood behind Britney.  For her part Britney was still in shock.  How could this be happening?  It was all going to be so perfect.  Shock quickly turned to anger, a feeling she tried to avoid when possible.  Now she regarded Justin and this rude bastard he had brought in off the street with icy contempt.
    "How could you," she whispered to Justin, loudly enough for the whole room to hear.
    "Brit...I didn't..."
    "Save it Justin.  Your friends have been through hell for you in the last 24 hours and this is how you repay us?"
    "Just listen to me for a second!"
    "I don't want to talk to you right now."
    As she started towards the door she could feel JC following her.  His silent glare probably hurt Justin more than anything she could have ever said.
    "Josh I..."  He trailed off, as if realizing there were no words to fix this.  Not right now.  The wounds were too fresh.
    Britney walked out into the hall, looking for Zack.  Her anger quickly turned into guilt.  She had brought him here.  This was her fault as much as it was Justin's.  Well maybe not quite, at least she had had good intentions...  Then she saw him about 50 feet down the hall.  He was leaning heavily against the wall, sort of stumbling in the direction of the elevator.  He seemed overcome with fatigue, as if all the sleepless nights he had suffered through had finally caught up to him.  She began running towards him even as she was aware that JC and Christina were in the hall with her.  Zack slowed and his head drooped.  His legs were shaking and she doubled her pace.  Christina ran with her but JC quickly outdistanced them both, reaching Zack and catching him just before his head would have it the hard, unyielding floor.
    "Is he ok," Christina asked, breathing heavily.
    "I don't know.  I'd guess a combination of no sleep and high stress finally got to him.  But I'm not a doctor."
    "You're right.  We need to get him to one though.  Christina, call an ambulance.  JC you stay here with him.  I'll go get a cold wash cloth and a blanket.  He might be in shock.

    "...called the ambulance?"
    "They're on their way."
    "Look I think he's waking up. Thank god!  Zack?  Can you hear me?"
    Zack slowly opened his eyes and quickly blinked them shut again.  The light was much brighter than he remembered.  Opening his eyes again, he realized that he wasn't out in the hall anymore.  He was laying on a bed.  "Wha...what happened?  How did I get in here?"
    "You fell down in the hall," Britney said worriedly.  "We called an ambulance..."
    "Oh...you didn't need to do that," he said slowly.  "I'm fine.  Just a little tired.  I'll be fine.  Just let me get up and..."
    "Bullshit," JC butted in.  "You're exhausted and stressed out on top of that!"  He pushed Zack back down onto the bed easily.  "You're staying here until you see a doctor."
    "Ok JC.  I'll stay here," Zack said wearily.  "Maybe I'll just go back to sleep."  He was out as soon as he finished the sentence.

    The ambulance was there in remarkable time.  The paramedics checked Zack out and after questioning him found that he hadn't eaten in over 24 hours.  They lectured him about the dangers of anorexia and told him to eat something and get some rest.  He figured they thought he was just the typical airhead anorexic model stereotype.  Maybe they were right...
    "...and we all love you and support you.  I'm so sorry for dragging you out here and putting you through this.  I'm so sorry."
    "Britney, it's not you're fault.  I should never have left him in the first place.  I screwed this up and now I have to pay for it."
    "You're both wrong," JC growled.  "It's Justin's fault for running away like a little child and then picking up some new toy on his way back."
    "As opposed to waiting for his old toy to come back?"
    "Sorry, that's not what I meant, I..."
    "It's ok JC.  I couldn't really expect Justin to wait around for me could I?  I admire him for moving on.  It's healthy."
    "Zack, you are almost as bad at lying as your boyfrie...as Justin."
    "Yeah?  Maybe.  But then again maybe it doesn't matter.  Look I should be getting to the airport.  It's a long flight home."
    "Airport?  You're not staying," JC asked.  "I thought you were just going to hang with the tour now since you're performing with us in a week."
    "Well the situation has changed somewhat don't you think?"
    "No it hasn't," Britney said firmly.  "We all still want you here.  You're a part of our family and we will not let you run away when you're hurting."
    "Brit," Zack said slowly, "what do you think it's going to do to me to see him everyday?  I mean I'll come back for the tour but then I'll be busy.  Now I'd just be sitting around."
    "Zack don't just give up.  Why wont you fight for him?  I know you still love him and I would still swear on everything I believe in that he still loves you.  Even of he doesn't show it, he does!"
    "What am I supposed to do," he said angrily, "bust down the door, punch out Sebastian and say 'give me back my boyfriend?'"
    "Actually you know..."
    "JC shutup.  Don't even say it.  That's not what I meant."
    "OK, so then what, sing one of those cheesy love songs to him?  Maybe I can get Backstreet to back me up on "I'll Never Break Your Heart!  Oh no wait!  I've got something even better than that!"
    He began to sing.  His voice was filled with sarcasm at first, and anger, but his tormented heart quickly overcame it and his pain rang true with the words:

        Lying in your arms,
        So close together,
        Didn't know just what I had.
        Now I toss and turn,
        Cause I'm without you,
        How I'm missing you so bad,
        Where was my head?
        Where was my heart?
        Now I cry alone in the dark.

    Tears ran down his face now, but his voice was stronger than ever.  Britney was crying too.  JC simply sat open-mouthed.  His voice was pure soul, it elevated the song to a level he'd never thought possible.

        I lay awake
        I drive myself crazy
        Drive myself crazy
        Thinking of you
        Made a mistake
        When I let you go baby
        I drive myself crazy
        Wanting you the way that I do

    When he got to Justin's part he started crying in earnest, but JC took the back up, singing with him, supporting him.

        I was such a fool,
        I couldn't see it,
        Just how good you were to me (just how good you were to me),
        You confessed your love (you confessed your love),
        Undying devotion,
        I confessed my need to be free.
        And now I'm left,
        With all this pain,
        I've only got myself to blame.

    The last note was so powerful it was almost a scream.  It was pure emotion, almost to the point where you stopped hearing the music and started feeling it.  Christina and opened the door in shock with Chirs and Joey  almost falling in behind her.  Zack began to really lose it though.

        I lay awake,
        I drive myself crazy,
        Thinking of...you....
        Wanting you the way that...I...do...

         from "I Drive Myself Crazy" by NSYNC

    "...the way...that...y...you do..."  He completely broke down and started sobbing.  Christina, Chris and Joey who had truthfully been listening at the door the whole time came in and closed it behind them.
    "See," Zack said when he regained a little of his composure, "I can't even get through the stupid song, so it wont work."  He laughed bitterly.  Britney cried quietly and hugged him tightly.
    "Well," JC said in a tight voice, "I'd sing with you any time.  You're really good."
    "Yeah," Christina said a little to brightly.  "What the hell are you doing modeling?  You should be a singer!"
    Zack laughed again.  Not quite so bitterly this time.  "Yeah, I always really wanted to be a singer, but I couldn't figure out how to get into the business.  Now here I am and I can't even finish one lousy song."
    "Hey dude," Chris said patting him on the back, "if you're coming on tour with us this is your chance.  You've got too much talent to waste."
    "Come to think of it," Joey said slyly, "you're getting a little old Chris.  Maybe we should replace you.  Hey scooter how's your dance moves?"
    Everyone laughed at that, Britney even stopped crying.  "Y'know Chris is right.  I just figured out why you're not going back to New York."
    "Oh and why's that?"
    "Because you and I are going to work on some music for the tour.  How well can you dance?"
    "Pretty good, but..."
    "Oh this is going to be so cool, I want in," Christina said excitedly.  "I mean, if you don't mind Britney."
    "Um, no I'd be happy to have you with us."
    "Joey, quick look outside," Chris yelled urgently.  "Is the sky falling?  Are pigs flying?  Did Hell freeze over?"
    "Be quiet Chris.  Look Christina, I know we've had our differences, but maybe it's time to put them behind us.  Friends?"
    "Friends," Christina said taking Britney's extended hand and shaking it.
    "Damn Zack, you should sing more often.  See what the power of music can do?"
    "I'll keep that in mind Joey.  Guess I don't have any choice but to stay now.  Maybe I could refuse one gorgeous woman, but not two."
    "Are you really sure you're gay," Christina asked thoughtfully.
    "Pretty sure."
    "So it is true what they say Britney.  All the good ones really are taken or gay."
    "Hey, I got a good one," Britney said, sitting on JC's lap and wrapping her arms around him.
    "I know stop trying to make me jealous."
    "Um scuze me, "Chris said.  "But there are two very attractive and very available guys right here."
    "Where?  Are they invisible?"
    "Ha ha ha.  You're so funny.  Hey Joe, maybe we should pretend to be gay for a while and see if we get any more chicks."
    "Oh Christopher," Joey said in his best flamer voice, "I don't have to pretend."
    Zack smiled as his friends laughed.  Maybe this would be fun afterall.  Around his friends, the pain that was Justin didn't feel quite so sharp.

    The next two days passed quickly.  The concert was a huge success, which was not exactly unexpected.  What was unexpected was that Britney and Christina had started getting along, even being friendly.  Equally suprising to some was that Zack was staying with the tour.  Certain people were less happy than others about the news.  True to her word, Britney kept Zack very busy.  In return Zack managed to get JC and Britney to spend  some time alone.  During those periods Zack was usually hanging out with Christina who turned out to be a much nicer person than anyone had generally given her credit for.  If not for his recent experience with Justin, he probably would have considered dating her.  She made no secret that she was interested, but she also recognized that he wasn't ready for another relationship and that she wasn't exactly his type either.
    The bands had a five day break in LA before the next segment of their tour commenced, which would be more of a holiday show with Zack as the emcee.  This holiday tour was designed to raise money for various charities.  At each concert a few charities were going to be recognized and underprivileged children were going to be brought up on stage.  The whole thing would end up back in New York the week before Christmas for a sort of grand finale.  It was projected that the tour would raise millions for  charities around the country.  As it happened it also boosted record sales for every artist on the tour, but Jive's execs pretended like that was only an afterthought.
    Justin spent most of his time with Sebastian.  Nobody really saw either one of them except at the concert and at the daily rehearsals.  They didn't eat with everybody else, and nobody really knew where they went and nobody really talked to them.  It made things much easier for Zack to not have to see Justin very much or talk to him, but it also made it harder.  Just thinking that Justin was spending all of his time with someone else kept him awake at night.
    Nevertheless Zack worked with Britney and Christina putting material together.  They had worked with the dancers and choreographers to put on a show that would bring the house down.  Britney and Christina had taken time out of both their sets to make room for the extra material.  The were both really excited and their voices complemented each other well.  Then came the announcement from management that they wanted Zack the perform in the final set with all the bands  That meant he had to be at all the dance rehearsals and work with Justin.

    "Ok that's a wrap!  Good work everyone."
    Zack grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat from his forehead.  Anyone who thought what these performers did was easy was very wrong.  Across the room he saw Justin talking to Sebastian.  Probably because he was about the only person who would talk to Justin.  All of his bandmates had been giving him the cold shoulder.  Even Britney wasn't talking to him.  He tried to pretend like he didn't notice, but Zack could tell it was beginning to wear down his former boyfriend.  It was time to put an end to this, no matter how hard it was.  And there was his chance, Sebastian appeared to be leaving, obviously pissed off about something.  Zack walked over to Justin.
    He turned around, the sweat glistening on his forehead and dampening his wife-beater that was stretched tightly over his sculpted chest.  He looked at Zack with those big blue eyes and for one moment he was sure he saw some remnant, a memory of what was, maybe even a desire for what might have been.  Then Justin lowered his eyes and concentrated on his shoes.
    "Hey," he mumbled.
    "Look, this needs to stop.  It's not doing anyone any good."
    "What are you talking about?"
    "You know what I mean.  Don't try to pretend like you haven't noticed that all of your friends aren't speaking to you."
    "Hey, that's their choice."
    "Yeah, but I feel like it's my fault and I can't handle that."
    "Why?  Everyone's already decided that I'm the one to blame.  You're the new golden boy, why don't yo go enjoy it," he said angrily.
    "I don't want to start a fight with you.  I just wanted you to know that I'm going to ask Britney and the guys to stop being mad at you and give you another chance."
    "What?  Why would you do that?  Don't you hate me too?"
    "Justin, I could never hate you, and neither could they.  I wont pretend like it doesn't hurt to see you with somebody else, but I think that I can learn to deal with it eventually.  I have to.  And if I can accept it then so can they."
    "Oh.  Thanks.  Zack...I," he hesitated, obviously unsure of what to say.  He glanced over his shoulder in the direction Sebastian had gone, but he made no move to leave.  It was almost like he was making sure Sebastian was gone.  "I...never meant to hurt you.  That was the last thing in the world I wanted.  Please believe me?"
    "Of course I believe you."
    The relief was evident in his face.  It seemed to make the words come more easily to him.  "I didn't go out looking for a new boyfriend.  I was just sitting at this cafe and Sebastian found me and we started talking, and I told him about what happened."
    "Just like that huh?  You told a random stranger your life's story."
    "That's not fair," he said in a pained voice.  "You don't know what I was going through.  It was just so good to have someone to talk to that was outside the whole mess.  He was so understanding, so caring, I just..."
    "Do you love him," Zack said quietly, dreading the answer.
    There was the hesitation again.  And again he looked over his shoulder.  At last he shrugged.  "I don't know.  I guess.  He says he loves me, but I don't know.  I thought I loved you too."
    Now it was Zack's turn to be hurt.  "Thought you did?"
    "Oh shit, I don't know.  How can you expect me to sort out these feelings.  Zack, when you were there it was like the best thing I had ever had, and then it was all gone.  It all happened so quick.  All my emotions got mixed up."
    "Yeah.  Well for what it's worth I never stopped loving you."
    His mouth opened to say something, but no words came out.  His eyes glistened with unshed tears and then Sebastian was there.  When his hand fell on Justin's shoulder he jumped like he had been shocked.
    "Sebastian!  You scared me."
    "Why?  Been doing something you shouldn't," he responded coldly.
    "No, I..."
    For some bizarre reason Zack felt the need to jump in and save Justin.  "We were just talking Sebastian.  I wanted to ask him about some of the choreography."
    "Well if you're done Justin then lets go get some lunch.  Unless of course you'd rather stay here?"  There was something in his tone that implied that that might be a dangerous choice for Justin.  Or at least one he'd regret.
    "Yeah, I'm done."  Justin gave Zack one quick, guilty glance and allowed himself to be escorted out of the arena.
    Zack watched them go, and as he did he felt something.  It was like a shadow over his heart, vague but impossible to ignore.  Something was wrong with that picture and it wasn't just him being jealous.  The retreated figures looked more like a stern teacher and his errant pupil than two lovers.  It was time to talk to Britney.

    "So what are you saying?"
    "I don't know, I just know something's wrong Brit."
    "Wells there's the obvious..."
    "No it's not that.  I mean yeah, of course I'm kind of jealous, but that's not it.  Brit, I'm not sure that Justin wants to be with Sebastian."
    "What do you mean," JC asked.
    "I don't know," he admitted with a helpless shrug.  He did know.  Deep inside he did.  He couldn't turn his feelings into words, but his heart knew that something was very wrong.
    "Look, I'm the last person to stick up for Sebastian, but from what I've seen he's really good to Justin."
    "Sure JC, but how often do you see them?  Or haven't you noticed that they spend all their time alone?"
    "Actually," Britney said, "I thought we made it clear we didn't want to hang out with him."
    "Yeah, that's the other thing I wanted to talk to you about.  I want you guys to stop treating him like that.  I can't stand it anymore."
    "What?  After what he did to us?  To you?"
    "JC if I can deal with this then so can you.  We have to for the sake of NSYNC and this tour.  What you guys have is too good to give up over something like this."
    "If that's what you want," Britney sighed, "the I'll try to forgive him for what he did to you.  Josh?"
    "Yeah, fine.  Alright.  I guess I can't stay mad at my best friend forever."
    "Good.  Now will you do me one more favor."  He paused, waiting for them to nod before he continued.  "Will you just watch Justin when he's with Sebastian?  I don't know what's going on, but I know it's not right."
    "I still think we should just make him disappear.  Joey was telling me..."
    "No, I'm not going to do that.  If you rip Sebastian away from him Justin will just wind up hating us all."
    "As you say wise one."  JC made a little mock bow.
    "Alright.  I'm beat and I'm going to bed.  I'll see you guys in the morning."
    "Night," Britney called after him.

    "Nn..n...nothing Sebastian, really.  He just wanted to ask me about the dance moves and..."
    SMACK!  Justin's thoughts were interrupted by the impact of the back of Sebastian's hand into his jaw.  It sent him reeling backwards and he ran into the bed, tripping and falling on it.
    "You think you can lie to me little boy," his boyfriend asked dangerously.  "Now you tell me what he really said or I swear to god you wont walk for a week."
    "H..he w..want..ted to..." Justin stuttered.  He was trying so hard not to cry, but it wasn't working.
    Sebastian's fist came down hard on his gut.  Justin grunted in pain.
    "Shut up and stop blubbering.  I want to know what he said, and I want to hear it without any of your whining and crying you stupid baby!"
    "He...wanted to get everyone t..to stop being m...mad at me.  He s...said that he's trying to deal w...with...us and that if he could everyone...else c...could to."
    "Better.  And is that all?"
    "Y..yes, I mean no," Justin yelped as Sebastian raised his fist threateningly.  "He...he s...said he...s...still...l...l...loves...m..me."
    "You stupid cocksucking slut," Sebastian said in an icy voice.  "I should have known you wouldn't just give him up so easily.  So you thought you could have us both huh?  I'll bet you've been sucking his dick behind my back this whole time haven't you?"
    "No, no Sebastian!  Please, that's not true!  I'd never do that."  Justin's voice was quick and panicked now.
    "Don't you lie to me with you filthy cocksucking mouth you dumb slut.  Get up.  I SAID GET UP!"
    Justin got off the bed slowly.  He didn't come any closer to Sebastian, but he managed to avoid his first instinct to run away.
    "Now come over here.  Come over here and take your medicine."
    "Sebastian, p...p...please.  I swear I never..."
    "Shut up bitch.  You had better get over here now because if I have to come over there this will be ten times worse."
    "N..no you have not right to..."
    "I have ever right!"
    "No you don't!  I didn't do anything!"
    Sebastian sighed.  "Maybe you're right.  Maybe you aren't lying.  I'm sorry.  Come give me a hug."
    Justin walked slowly towards Sebastian, thankful this was over.  He had been really scared for a moment.   Just as he got within arms reach, Sebastian's fist struck him below his eye.  It knocked him down onto the floor and he made no move to get up.  Sebastian's foot sailed into his stomach.  He curled himself up into a little ball and wept.  Maybe this was what he deserved.  That thought was accentuated by Sebastian kicking him in the ribs.
    "That's for talking back to me.  Look what you've made me do.  You stupid dirty bitch.  I'm going out for a little while.  I just can't stand to look at you right now."
    Justin didn't say anything.  He just wept quietly.  It must have been his fault.  Sebastian was usually so gentle and caring.  What had he done to change that?  It was all his fault.  Eventually he fell asleep, curled up in a ball on the cold, hard floor.

    I warned you.  I know it looks bad now, but it'll get better I promise.  Comments are always welcome.