Hey, kids. What is there to say? Here comes a whole new set of interesting-type circumstances for our Retreat friends. My mucho thanks to Dru, Enis, Casey (you still rock), everyone at chat, and Karen exspecially (I hope this gets posted before you leave!). Enjoy. And if you do enjoy, or you don’t enjoy, tell me about it. Schuydncer@aol.com

Disclaimer: Dude, if you can, do. If you can’t, don’t.

Retreat 7
by Schuyler

Someone was shaking him. Someone was in his bed and shaking him back and forth. His eyes slowly opened, squinting against the light. The clock read 7:12 AM. And Justin’s bed was empty. Lance groaned and rolled onto his back, closing his eyes. “Justin, I am going to kill you.”
“All right,” said a familiar voice, “but he’s in the bathroom.”
Lance’s hazel eyes shot open. “Corbett!” She smiled at him from her spot on her knees hovering above him. He grabbed her and hugged her tightly. “What are you doing here?”
“School ended yesterday and Justin sent for me.”
“How long are you here?”
“Until I go.”
He squeezed her again, then released her. “Do the others know you’re here?” She shook her head. “My turn to surprise someone.” He dialed Chris’ room first, knowing how long it took to wake JC. His voice took on a panicked tone once Chris answered. “Chris? Get JC and come down here quick!” Lance hung up and started laughing. Justin came out of the bathroom and stood by the bed, watching as Lance dialed again. “Joey, get over here. Hurry!” Justin fell on the bed next to Lance and the three laughed while they waited.
Joey burst into the room first. “What’s wrong?” The startled expression on his face faded into surprise and then joy. “Corbett!” he yelled, rushing over and lifting her up into his arms. Corbett giggled, her feet in the air, and held on tight to his neck. “What are you doing here?” he looked into her eyes, still suspending her above the floor.
“Came to visit you guys,” she smiled.
There was a piercing shriek. Corbett looked over to see Chris standing in the doorway and JC, in front of him, screaming. JC ran towards Joey, took Corbett from him, then toppled backwards onto Justin’s bed. Chris’ laughed. “JC, that was the gayest scream in the world.” Lance and Justin laughed along.
Corbett rolled off JC. He pulled her into another hug. “Thank you,” he whispered into her ear. “We really need you now.”

After an appearance and some rest, the boys and Corbett boarded the bus to head for Baltimore. Joey tired of the video game and turned it off. Justin, still holding his controller, looked sad. “Come here.” Corbett gestured with her head. Justin padded over to the couch and curled up beside her, his head in her lap. “So,” Corbett asked, “Justin tells me you’ve got time off coming up. What are you guys doing?”
Joey caught the little panicked look in Lance’s eyes. “Lance and I are going to visit some friends of mine.” He prayed that no one would ask any questions. The cabin was still their secret.
JC piped up next with a lie of his own to tell. “Chris and I are going camping. Get back to nature, that sort of thing.” Justin snickered. Chris flushed a little. They had agreed on this fib. They were going to spend the week at Chris’ Orlando apartment, their relationship needed a lot of work and the last thing they needed was interruptions.
Corbett nudged the boy in her lap. “What about you, Just?”
“Well, since Lance is going off somewhere with Joey, I was hoping you’d come with me to Boston.”
“What’s happening in Boston?”
“Britney’s playing,” he said with a dreamy look in his eyes.
Corbett looked at Lance for approval. He seemed to be almost begging her to go. “Sure thing, Just.”
He smiled and closed his eyes. Lance yawned. “Maybe it’s bedtime for all of us.”
“Corbett can have my bunk,” JC offered with a grin in Chris’ direction.
“He won’t be using it anyway,” Joey added. Lance and Justin chuckled.
Everybody tucked themselves in for the night. JC pulled the curtain shut and closed out the world, Chris snuggled up to his bare chest. Justin curled himself up into a little ball. Joey clutched his pendant and was out almost immediately. Corbett slipped her hand under JC’s pillow and found a picture of Chris sitting alone on a beach. She replaced it and laid down. Below her, Lance took a deep breath. “Corbett?” he whispered.
“I’m glad you’re here.”

Corbett sat in the dressing room dusting lint off of Joey’s shirt. One of the roadies popped his head in. “Lance, the press is here and they’ve got questions.” Lance sighed.
Corbett stood up. “I’ll take care of them.”
Lance stopped her. “Corbett, you can’t.”
“Sit down. You’ve got a show to do. Let me handle this.” Before he could respond, Corbett was being led to he press room.
The members of the media were greeted not by a member of ‘NSync, but by a girl with shoulder length chestnut hair and fiery brown eyes wearing a tight white sweater, blue jeans, and black boots. She looked tough. They instantly rushed her. The one roadie fended them off. “Now, now,” she scolded, “you know there’s no questions until after the show.”
“Can you tell us if any of them have girlfriends?” a pushy woman in a red jacket asked.
“None of them have girlfriends. Now really, we have a show to do. I’ll need you to go back to your seats until after the show.” Grumbling and shuffling, the press filed out the opposite door to their seats. Corbett turned on her heels to go.
The roadie followed her. “I’ve never seen them respond like that. I’m impressed.”
She stopped and turned to him. “Really? Thanks.” She offered her hand to him. “I’m Corbett.”
He shook it, smiling. “Thomas.”
Corbett took the rubber band off her wrist ad pulled her hair up into a ponytail. “So, Thomas, what else is there to do?”
He whistled. “You have no idea. Come on.”

When the boys rushed off stage for their costume change an hour later, Corbett was standing in the wings with a basket of five water bottles and five white towels. “Dab, don’t wipe,” she said to them as they rushed by. “You’ll ruin your makeup.” Your costumes are in the dressing room.” They walked into the dressing room to find their costumes hung neatly beside their mirrors and promptly forgot what life was like before Corbett.

JC put Air’s “Moon Safari” in the CD player and made his way back through the bus to the lounge. Joey and Justin played cards in the corner. Corbett sat in the booth picking at a sandwich and talking Lance through the proper form of a business letter. JC sat on the sofa next to Chris and Chris smiled. There was a certain pleasure they derived from being together, but still a slight uncomfortable chill. There was still work to be done.
Lance was getting frustrated. “Lance,” Corbett said, “why don’t you go on to bed and let me finish this up.” Lance looked over at Corbett, chewing her last bite and picking up his stack of scribbled notes. Corbett was sweet, and she was good to them. She looked at him, her green eyes kind and smiling. “Go on. Go.” Lance went back to his bunk and laid down, sure that he’d get a good night’s sleep. He always slept soundly when he knew Corbett was taking care of him.
Corbett turned from the computer screen to find Chris and JC staring at her, heads tilted. “What?” she asked, suddenly self-concious.
“Just thinking about tomorrow,” JC replied.
“Do you ever wear makeup?” Chris asked.
“Not really, why? What’s tomorrow?”
“Some lesser awards show in Chicago. You’re coming as our date. We’d never leave you behind.” Chris said. “You’re coming with all of us.”
“You gave those reporters a peek today, but tomorrow is your debut to the world,” JC added.
“My debut as what?”
“As NSync’s right hand girl and number one friend.” Chris smiled. He knew he was being cheesy.
“So you’ll look your best.”
“JC’ll do hair and makeup.”
“Chris does clothes.”

After several hours behind a closed door, JC and Chris opened Lance’s bathroom door. Joey and Justin looked over expectantly. Lance hesitated a moment. “Ladies and gentlemen,” JC announced, “Miss Corbett Keating.” Then he saw her, Corbett Keating dressed in a red FuMan Skeeto racing stripe dress and red sneakers. God, but she was beautiful. Her usually bare skin was dewier now and her lips a little rosier. Her hair had been pulled back to cascade in messy curls down her neck so her sparkling green eyes stood out. She touched the chain at her neck gently but nervously and Lance’s breath caught in his throat.
“Corby!” Justin ran to her and hooked her arm through him. “You look gorgeous, let’s go.”
She paused at Lance. “Do I really look okay?”
“You’re...” he grasped for the word, “stunning.” Lance took her other arm and led her into the hall.

It was late that night when Lance and Corbett were finally alone. Justin had been herded off to bed and Lance and Corbett sat on the sofa in his room. He looked over at her, watching television in the darkened room. He had found a true friend in her, someone he could talk to, someone he could trust. Life was better, things were easier when Corbett was around. “Corbett?” He was surprised to find his voice tiny. She looked over at him, eyes wide and wondering. “Would you stay with us for the summer, as tour assistant?”
She froze a moment, then joy washed over her and she hugged Lance. “Of course I’ll stay. Thank you.” Lance held her, and was happy.