Life Is What You Make Of It

by DLC

This story is FICTION, people. I do not know the boy bands written about, mentioned, or otherwise heretofore alluded to, or their sexual preferences. So there. If you're under 18, don't worry... there's enough content here for even the underage to enjoy... but chappies with sex in, I'll put the usual disclaimers in, for you to avoid. If you don't like or are not allowed to read sexual material, may I suggest you leave now. All praise, compliments, and fan mail are welcome and personally read, flames ignored. Otherwise, enjoy the story!

Chapter Four

Justin leaned his head against his chair.  His shoulder still hurt like hell, but at least he wasn't badly injured.  J.C. had amnesia about his life going back for two weeks, Chris had a fractured hip, and Joey was left with a broken arm and leg.

Lance however, was still in surgery.  Justin overheard the EMTs say his condition was far from stable, and the doctors weren't telling Justin a damned thing.  Likewise, on Marty's unusual condition.  Justin was no doctor, but it looked as if Marty had slipped into a coma.

Using his celebrity and injured status, Justin wheedled the doctors into letting him into Marty's new hospital room to sit and wait out the news on Lance, rather than stare at his own hospital room walls.  However, until family was notified, the doctors refused to give Justin any real information on Marty's condition, regardless of who he is.  Justin hated not knowing, but he was grateful for what he could get.

Justin held Marty's hand, as the machine beeped it's steady rhythm.  The musician cocked his head, and tuned out the rest of the world except the beeps.  Justin found reassurance in the consistent, steady beeps that registered Marty's heart.  He began trying to clear his mind, and focus on the sounds of the beeps.  

As Justin listened, his mind began getting more and more relaxed.  The pain in his shoulder, began fading.  The world began fading.  And Justin's eyelids started drooping lower and lower, as did his head.  Until the only sounds in the room were the heart monitor, and breathing that began to become synchronized.

Justin jerked his head up.  The first thing he noticed, was that he couldn't hear the sound of the heart monitor anymore.  In fact, there wasn't a single sound, anywhere.  Justin jumped up, and felt an icy shiver run the length of his body.  

Turning around, Justin saw... himself.  Still sitting in the chair, still holding Marty's hand.  "What the....?"  Justin said, looking at the bizarre sight.

"Welcome to the astral plane, Justin." Marty's voice came from behind Justin's left ear, ever so softly.  Justin turned, to look behind him.

Marty stood there, wearing unusually long green robes, and a funny hat that looked slanted to one side.  "Marty...?"  Justin asked, more than a little confused.

"In a manner of speaking," the young man acquiesced.  "What you see here Justin, is only what your mind is capable of perceiving.  Think of me, as an echo of the person you've come to know.  A reflection, a shard of his soul."

"Shard, huh?  What's going on?"  Justin asked, scratching his head.

Shard raised an eyebrow.  "You tell me, Justin.  What you're seeing, is all things your own mind is able to comprehend.  You've always wondered, about the possibilities of life, right?"

Justin nodded, slowly.  "Well.. yeah.  I've always been able to get unusual feelings about things, sometimes warnings of danger.  But... how did I get here?"

Shard pointed at his sleeping double.  "Marty is what you'd call a natural magnetic force for the supernatural.  He even has gifts, he's only now beginning to grasp.  An indomitable will to survive, that the world has never seen before.  My standing here, the ability for you to be able to see, hear, and feel me, is because of him.  You know how a radio works, right?"

Justin nodded again.  "Sure... I've spent enough time in radio stations, to get the idea.  Radio is made up of powerful waves, that are broadcasted and received by very powerful antennas... are you saying, he's like an antenna?"

"That's right.  And so are you by the way.  You're both able to be a broadcaster and a receiver.  Put the two of you in close contact to each other, and you each amplify the other's natural gifts.  Your ability to sense and perceive things that are outside of the five basic senses, will serve you well over the years, Justin.  As will Marty's own abilities.  But right now, it's Marty's influence that helps tune you in on the right frequency, to be here."  Shard explained patiently.

"Damn..."  Justin breathed.

"Because of your natural gifts combined, I have been created.  An astral embodiment of your psychic sixth sense, and Marty's near-inexhaustible reserves of inner strength.  I know you both intimately, inside and out.  Because I have been formed, from both of your minds.  My purpose here, is to guide and protect you and your friends.  You will not be able to remember me clearly, when you wake up... that's one of the drawbacks.  Only when you are dreaming, or in a meditative state like today, can we interact."  Shard continued, perching on the end of Marty's bed.

"Oh..." Justin said.  He then cocked his head, a question forming in his mind.  "Will Marty....?"  

"...also be able to see me?  Kind of.  To him, I will look like you, just as to you, I look like him.  But yes.  That's how this shared psychic power works.  One of you has to be the anchor, while the other is the traveler.  Today, you get to be the traveler, while Marty supplies the anchor, the pattern for my... admittedly handsome good looks."  Shard said with a slight chuckle.  "Brings the phrase `talking to yourself', to a whole new level, huh?"

Justin stifled a laugh.  Shard mirrored that smile with one of his own, filled with warmth and understanding.  "Good.  I was beginning to worry about you, for a bit.  You've got quite a lot on your mind, and I'd say you needed something to smile about.  You're making part of my job today, easier than I thought."

"What job?"  Justin asked, curious.

"For starters, cheering you up.  Things have been entirely too serious today, and you've been needing a good laugh.  I'm also here, to give you some of those answers today, that even the doctors don't know.  I'm here, to bring you some hope for the future." Shard said, with a small smile.

"Boy, that would be good...."  Justin said, looking at himself asleep.  Looking a little puzzled, Justin turned back to Shard.  "You know the future, because you're linked to my psychic sixth sense...." Justin asked, starting to understand.

Shard nodded.  "Exactly so, Justin.  Exactly so.  When you would get a feeling about something... for example, when you knew Lou Pearlman was up to no good when there wasn't yet tangible proof... that was part of your gift.  You can pick up instinctively, on what's most likely going to happen.  Because of events that have transpired now, or events that are about to happen because of a bunch of little choices, that interact.  Your mind interprets these signs better than the average person does, and it gives you a huge advantage over most of the people in the world, who stumble by purely on guesswork and dumb luck.  When a person looks at the clouds, even before they change color he can tell that stormy weather may be on the way, and be able to prepare for it.  In the same way, the pattern of life is as easy to predict, if you know how to read the signs."

Shard got up, and beckoned Justin towards the door.  "C'mon.  There are a few things I think you might want to see."

The two walked through the door, and instantly found themselves, in the hospital lobby downstairs.  Like the room they just left, time also seemed frozen.  Nobody moved, nobody even breathed.  "How come everything's frozen?"  Justin asked.

"What is time, on the astral plane?  Time literally has no meaning here, Justin.  Just as it has little meaning, when you dream.  Consider this vision, something of a snapshot of time.  There are a bunch of little things happening right now, that will impact your lives and you would ordinarily miss them if time flowed normally here, as it does in normal life.  So I froze time, for you.  To illustrate some of these points, and see what signs you can interpret from them.  I'm trying to teach you, how to read signs even when we're not together like this." Shard said, completely unruffled.

"So what's down here, that's so important?"  Justin wondered.

Shard turned, and his gaze fell on a tall man with long silvery hair, who held a watch in one hand and who was looking directly across the room at the ER entrance.  Shard gave a brief smile of recognition, and Justin cocked his head as he followed Shard's gaze.

"Who's this guy?" Justin asked.

"Marty's uncle.  Notice that look, on his face?  Tell me, what his body language suggests to you."  Shard instructed, standing back to let his pupil observe.

"Hm.... well, he looks concerned.  But I don't think he's concerned about Marty, though.  He looks like... like he's waiting for someone?"  Justin observed, connecting the watch with the direction of the man's gaze.  "Somebody's coming."  Justin predicted, a slight shiver coming over him as he touched Marty's uncle's shoulder for a second.  "Someone... cold.  Unpleasant.  And he's here to protect Marty from whatever's coming... brr."  Justin wrapped his arms around himself, still feeling that unpleasant tingle.

"Exactly.  Someone IS coming, and I'd like you to be on your guard, like Marty's uncle is.  Because Marty is going to be in no condition to deal directly with this brewing situation, and I'll show you why in a few minutes.  You'll find out who he's waiting for, in good time.  Sooner than you might think, actually.  But come. There is more to be seen, and you will need to know this before you leave here."  Shard instructed, beckoning Justin to come over to him.

Shard snapped his fingers, and the room faded away to reveal another room.  Doctors and nurses were frozen in place, and a body lay on an operating table.  Shard stepped aside, and Justin saw the face of the body lying on the table.

"Ohmigod... Lance."  Justin choked, feeling extremely worried.  "What's going on here?  Do you know what his condition is?"

Shard nodded, and took a deep breath.  "Yes, Justin... I'm afraid I do.  Lance has some serious injuries, from being banged around in a confined space.  On top of which, he's lost in a sense.  Trying to find his way in the world.  And I think you've known this, although never said it aloud."

Justin nodded, swallowing.  "Yeah.  He puts on a brave face for everyone, but it's not easy for him to be free with who he is.  We've been accepting, but the fans...." Justin trailed off, shaking his head.

"I know.  You can't ever please everyone, but sometimes there are some more than others, you wish you could.  And it weighs on you."  Shard remarked, a deep tone entering his voice.

"Sounds like the voice of experience.  Marty's?"  Justin hazarded, curious.  Shard's silent nod, confirmed it.

"I think I understand.  What's happening to Lance... what's happening to Marty.  It's all connected, isn't it?"  Justin asked, beginning to pace the room.  Looking at Lance and then Shard, Justin thought about the events he had witnessed.  "My God... that's it, isn't it?  The person... the person I sensed was coming.  It's someone who isn't approving of Marty.  And Marty... he's in a coma because of Lance.  But why?"

Shard cocked his head, contemplatively.  "Just as you and Marty share gifts of a psychic nature which magnify in each other's presence, so Marty and Lance have a bond that has the potential to be equally as important.  Or to be more specific, the seeds for that bond, are about to be planted."

Shard began becoming transparent, an approving look crossing his features.  "Here on the astral plane, is what we see... shadows of what may yet be?  Or are we the shadows, of what merely is?  Perhaps by re-starting time here, you will find your answers Justin.  See you... out there." Shard's voice echoed off the walls as he vanished, leaving Justin standing in the frozen operating room.

A heart monitor began beeping.  Justin blinked, and watched as a tray passed through his body when a nurse moved towards the table.  Justin moved quickly to the side, to watch as the doctors continued working on Lance.  

As Justin watched, he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye.  Justin turned.  Shard, Justin thought at first.  Then he paused, and raised both his eyebrows.  No!  That's Marty!  Justin realized, now able to tell distinct differences between Shard and Marty.  For one, Marty was wearing the same hospital clothes his body back in the bed was wearing.  Two, Marty seemed completely oblivious to Justin's presence, yet Justin could also tell that this was an astral vision, not a real one.

"His pulse is weakening!"  one of the doctors cried.

Turning back to Lance, Justin watched as Marty floated over and slid his hand into Lance's.  Leaning in, Justin listened as Marty spoke.

"I know you," Marty whispered to Lance.  "I've seen you in my dreams.  With fog all around you, and glowing eyes in the shadows.  With no food, no water.  No hope.  Give me your hand, take my strength into your own.  Make your life, a good one."

Marty brushed his hand against Lance's cheek, and leaned in to kiss him.  As he did, Marty's astral body began to glow, and Justin had to close his eyes.  The only thing Justin could hear, was the sound of the monitor beep.  And then... everything except the beep faded away completely.

Justin yawned, and opened his eyes.  Marty's hand was holding onto his, and Justin had the impression that something had just happened, though for the life of him, he couldn't remember what.

Feeling extremely disoriented, he blinked and yawned again.  Marty groaned.  "Marty?"  Justin asked, squeezing his friend's hand reassuringly.

"Shut that damn thing off... I have a headache." Marty complained, weakly.  Justin bit his lip, trying not to laugh.

"Shut it off yourself.  How are you feeling?"  Justin asked, as Marty's left eye cracked open enough to look around.

"Ohhh... Justin.  So it wasn't a dream."  Marty coughed, and finally opened both his eyes.  "Your bus DID transform my car into a piece of modern art."

Justin blushed.  "Guilty, sorry.  Do you need anything?  Should I go call the doctor?"

"Ugh... no.  No doctors.  I'm fine, Justin.  Just tired, that's all.  They'd tell me to get bed rest, anyway.  Not that I'm about to complain... climbing out of that smoked sardine can of yours', took more out of me than I thought." Marty commented, trying to get comfortable.

"Well, look who's finally awake..." came the nurse's voice as she came in to check on her patient.  "And how are we feeling, tonight?"

"WE, in the royal sense, are ticked off.  Ow.  And sore.  Can you turn that heart monitor thing off, or at least down a little?  That beeping is getting on my nerves."  Marty complained.

"The doctor will have to decide that, when he comes out of surgery.  Which will be in a few minutes, as a matter of fact.  Oh, and good news, Mr. Timberlake.  Your friend pulled through surgery just fine.  He's finally stable, and will be moved in here when he gets out of recovery."  The nurse said with a pleasant smile.

Justin blinked, as he processed that piece of good news.  "Wh... oh.  Yeah.  Lance.  Thanks, ma'am.  Nice to get some GOOD news, finally."

Justin turned his head back as the nurse left, and caught Marty's quizzical expression.  "Lance had to go into surgery?"

"Yeah," Justin acknowledged.  "They had to stabilize his vital signs.  If you hadn't gotten in there when you did... well, the bus exploded, Marty.  It was awful.  And you collapsed.... the doctors weren't telling me anything, until your family came in..."

"Great... well, I'm fine now, you can quit worrying.  So's Lance, according to the nurse.  You wanna be helpful?  Go downstairs, and see if you can't get me some herbal tea.  With sugar, if you can find it.  Chamomile sounds nice.  Usually helps, when I have a headache.  Ow."  Marty groaned, feeling his head again.

"I'll see if the cafeteria's still open.  STAY PUT."  Justin admonished his friend gently.  Marty just waved him off, and began grumbling that the bed must have been designed by Torquemada as he tried to adjust himself with the buttons.

As Justin made his way towards the elevator, he stopped his head back in his own room, and smiled at J.C. sleeping softly.  Across the hall, Chris and Joey were up.  Justin stuck his head in, and gave the good news that Lance was out of surgery and stable.  After checking to see if his friends needed anything from the cafeteria, Justin continued his trek downstairs.

As the elevator door dinged open to the first floor, Justin blinked and had the strangest sense of déjà vu.  Something vitally important nagged at the back of his mind, but he couldn't place what it was.  A feeling, mostly.  A foreboding, of possible danger.  Shaking himself off, he got out of the elevator, and made his way across the first floor to find the cafeteria.

"...wouldn't surprise me if he set the whole thing up, just to meet those boys.  Charlie, don't give me that look.  I know my son, he does what he wants to do.  Gets it from his father." A woman's voice carried over the din, and Justin found it hard to ignore her rising tone of voice.

"For God's sake, Joy.  Can you try to keep your voice down in the middle of a hospital emergency waiting room?  Your son is considered a real hero today, and this is what you have to say about him.  The only reason I called you, is out of consideration for Marty.  And so help me, if you say one single word to him in his current condition like what you just said right now, I'll.... I'll sedate you myself.  Do you get what I'm saying?  Nobody deserves to be put down by their own mother."

"Don't YOU tell me how to speak to my son, old man.  You don't even have children of your own.  Talk to me when you actually HAVE some.  I was in labor for thirty-six hours....."

"Of which as I recollect, you REFUSED any offers of pain medications.  If anything, Marty takes more after his mother, in the independence department and you know it." The man said in softer, yet more irritated tones.  "Mama was right about you, you only like things when they go your way.  One or two little things go wrong, and you wash your hands of it.  Or complain to high heaven, so that everyone else in your little universe, is a miserable as you are."

"Ugh.  Mama should have simply drowned you at birth.  You are an irritating smart-ass, and I'm going back to my hotel, I don't have to listen to this."  The woman identified as Joy spat, turning on her heel and storming out.

"Well God, one thing you can say about my sister, Joyce..." the man muttered as he watched her go.  "The fastest way to get her to leave, is make her deal with herself.  Should've known something was wrong with her when we were kids, and her imaginary playmates, wouldn't play with her."  He chuckled softly.

Justin stifled a chuckle at the scene, and the man turned his head in Justin's direction.  "Oh, hello..." the man said.

"Hi.  Sorry, couldn't help overhearing you and your sister.  You're Marty's uncle, aren't you?  Justin asked, curious.

"If you're referring to the same Marty you... ran into this morning, then yes.  Professor Charles Brown, at your service.  Justin, right?"

Justin nodded.  "Yeah... well, I just came from seeing him.  He's awake, the doctor hasn't checked in on him though.  He asked me to find him some herbal tea."

Marty's uncle chuckled.  "Yeah, that sounds like him.  Headache, right?"  Justin nodded.

"Well, the cafeteria's still open, why don't we go get some dinner.  I'd like to know, what happened out there."  The scientist suggested.

A few minutes later, they found a table and began talking.  Justin described the situation, and how Marty was the one to get them all out of the bus.

Marty's uncle nodded his head knowingly, as Justin described the scene of Marty rescuing Lance from the exploding bus.  "I figured he'd do something dramatic like that.  Marty has a knack, for... being at the right place at the wrong time, and turning a bad situation into a chance to do some good."

Justin blinked as he processed that information.  "So, you're not surprised that he went in to help us?"  Justin asked, curious as Professor Brown sipped his coffee.

"Not really... Marty works for me as my assistant, but he also does volunteer work as a rescue worker.  Climbing into an overturned bus about to explode, is normal enough for his line of work.  I wasn't even worried that he was injured, when the bus hit his car.  Marty has an interesting ability to sense danger, and get out before he gets seriously hurt." The scientist explained.

Justin shook his head in amazement.  "Whoa.  Heavy."  Glancing at the clock, Justin got up.  "Well, what do you say we give this tea to him now?  The doctor's probably finished seeing him, by now."

As they entered Marty's bedroom, Justin's eyes lit up as he saw Lance sleeping quietly in the bed next to Marty's.  Marty was sitting up, and smiled when his two visitors came in.  "Hey, Justin... get lost down there?  Hi, Uncle Chuck...."  Marty hissed quietly, gesturing that he wanted to talk low so that Lance wouldn't wake up.

"My apologies, Marty... I'm afraid I'm to blame for waylaying your friend from a speedy return.  Since he had just come from seeing you..." Uncle Chuck began.

" wanted to hear from the eyewitness.  I figured."  Marty finished, nodding his head understandingly.  "It's no problem, sir.  The doctor says he wants me to stay for observation, though."

"You don't seem too let down at the idea of staying..." the scientist observed.

"No, I guess I'm not, for a change.  Besides, I'm in good company, for the next couple days."  Marty joked as Justin handed him the tea Marty had asked for.

At Justin's curious glance at Lance, Marty smiled.  "They just brought him in about a minute or so ago.  He's still under sedation, so I wouldn't expect him up and quoting Macbeth until sometime tomorrow.  How's the car, sir?"

Uncle Chuck shook his head.  "I haven't had a chance to really examine the vehicle yet... but I suspect that the frame itself survived more or less intact.  Actually, I think the car may yield some excellent readings for stress and high impact, that I would ordinarily have never been able to test for back in the lab.  So the car's hardly a total loss, thankfully.  When you're up to it, we'll start running scans and diagnostics back home."

Marty's eyes lit up, and he grinned.  "Great, Uncle Chuck.  I can't wait to start poking around inside her."  To Justin's blank stare, Marty explained.  "Uncle Chuck here, is a physicist.  He helped design the Matrix, and works freelance for automotive companies.  When I graduated high school, we started our own consulting firm.  Basically, he invents and I do the road tests."  Looking back at his uncle, he cocked his head in curiosity.  "Any ideas why that first jolt set off the early warning system?"

Uncle Chuck nodded.  "I think the initial impact jarred a loose connection I hadn't set completely to the off position.  And the sudden forceful blow to that rear area, simply turned it on again., causing it to go hysterical."

"Well, whatever happened, it saved my bacon.  After the car engine stopped, the seatbelt came loose, just like we'd planned it to when the engine is stopped after a collision.  When the bus came around the corner, I was already halfway out of the car.  If the system hadn't engaged, I would have still been struggling with the seat belt, in panic."

Marty's uncle smiled.  Justin came over, and sat down in his seat.  "So, what did the doctor say, Marty?"  Justin asked.

Marty rolled his eyes.  "They want me in for observation for a couple of days... they were a little concerned that I didn't wake up right away, after getting you guys out of the bus.  Just wait until my medical file gets in.... then they'll REALLY want to observe me!" the young man joked half-seriously.  "What is it they wanna observe me doing, anyway?  Using the bedpan?" he grumbled good-naturedly.

"Hey, if the doctor says you need to rest up, don't argue man."  Justin said reassuringly.  

"He's right, Marty..." Marty's uncle chided.  "Besides, you know you'd want to rest up anyway, back home.  At least here, you can get some sleep.  You know what it's like, when I'm working in the lab late at night...."

"Yes, and so do the fire department, the electric company, the glass companies, and almost every emergency room in the county."  Marty teased.  "Blowing the fuses, causing small fires, breaking the sound barrier and accumulating countless scrapes is typical for our house, you see."  Marty explained to Justin.  "Once Uncle Chuck gets a new idea, it gets a little noisy sometimes."

Sighing in defeat, Marty raised his hands in surrender.  "Alright, alright... you guys win.  Bed rest for a few days, it is."

"Yay!"  Justin cheered softly.  Justin yawned, and Uncle Chuck glanced at his watch.  

"Marty, I have to check into a hotel for the night.  Oh, and your mother stopped by while you were unconscious.  You'll probably be hearing from her in the morning."  Uncle Chuck explained, patting his nephew's shoulder reassuringly.

"Great... something to look forward to..." Marty groaned slightly.

After Marty's uncle left, Justin and Marty just leaned back, not really saying much.  Finally, Marty spoke.  "You were here while I was unconscious, weren't you?"

Justin nodded.  "Yeah... really couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be, really.  Lance was still in surgery... the guys were mostly all zonked out and not really up for company.  The press was still hounding around for a statement, and I just couldn't sit in my bed.  Besides..." the singer shrugged, and smiled.  "You saved our butts, you know.  I really couldn't think of a safer place to hang out."

Marty smiled, softly.  "Thanks." Was all he could say.

"Ut-uh.  It's us who oughta be thanking YOU, Marty.  You volunteered to climb in after us, when the rest of the people there didn't know how to get inside.  YOU figured out how to do it, and YOU found the escape hatch.  We'd all be crispy critters by now, if it wasn't for your quick thinking.  Especially Lance, you stayed behind to get him out.  So on behalf of the guys... thank YOU."  Justin said, beginning to choke up a little.

Marty patted Justin's hand, and nodded reassuringly.  "Okay, okay... let's not get maudlin, here.  Change of topic.  How'd you get rid of the press?"  Marty inquired, trying to get Justin cheered up.

Justin's eyes brightened, and he sniffled a little.  "Well, after you passed out, I borrowed a phone from the ambulance driver, and called Johnny Wright... he's our manager, you see."  Justin began.  Marty nodded, remembering the name from previous news reports about the band.

"After I told Johnny I was okay, that everyone was being brought into the hospital, he put out an official statement about everything, to reassure the fans we were all still alive and kicking after that crackup.  And talked to the emergency people and then the hospital staff to make sure our exact conditions weren't leaked out to the press until he had a chance to get here and we could deal with them when we were ready to." Justin continued.

Marty nodded again.  "Good idea.  Give everyone a night to get some sleep first, THEN do the press conference with the wolves."

Justin nodded.  "I also called everybody's folks... the Mom Brigade is already on the way here."

"Correction, sunshine..." a female voice said from the doorway.  The boys turned their heads, and Justin smiled as he recognized the women outside.  "We're already here.  Aww... give me a hug, already!"  Diane Bass said, with a warm smile.

"Diane... mom..." Justin said, running over to the two women.  Marty gave a small wave, from his bed.

"Where's everybody else?"  Justin asked his mother, who also received a big hug.

"Well, Karen, Phyllis, and Beth are all seeing their boys, and when I didn't see you in your room, I figured you'd be in Lance's room."  Justin's mother Lynn Harliss explained.

Marty smiled softly at the happy expression on Justin's face.  "Good guess," he complimented.

"And you must be Marty," Diane said, coming over to introduce herself.  "Diane Bass, I'm Lance's mother.  Justin told me about the accident... and how you helped get the boys out."

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am."  Marty said, shaking Mrs. Bass' hand.  "I'm glad I could help, that's all..."  Marty began blushing, slightly.

"Mom.....?"  A weak voice called out from the other end of the room.  Diane's head turned, and everyone looked at Lance's bed.

"I'm here, sweetie..."  Diane said, walking over to Lance's bed and pulling up a chair.  Everyone else just watched silently, as Diane gently held her son's hand and tried not to cry.

"W...where am I?"  Lance asked, wincing when he tried to move.

"Shh... don't try to move, okay?   We're in the hospital, James.  You were in a bad accident."  Mrs. Bass explained softly.  Marty was already quietly moving out of bed, a concerned look on his face.

"Th... the bus.  It was moving too fast..." Lance said, trying to remember.  "I... I was in the bathroom.  We... we hit something.  I... ow.  I think I hit my head.  I remember seeing.... an angel.  I think it was an angel... with an axe?"  Lance's face scrunched up in confusion.

Justin bit off a laugh, as he came over too.  "How're you feeling, Scoop?"

"Crappy.  I... oh, God... I was on the toilet when we hit... I never pulled my pants back on." Lance said, a mortified expression on his face.

"They didn't see anything, though."  Marty spoke up, nodding reassuringly.

"Who're... who're you?"  Lance asked.  Lance couldn't take his eyes off this handsome guy that was coming over to his bedside.

"My name's Marty.  Marty Jones.  I'm the guy whose car your bus hit, actually.  I wasn't really hurt, I wasn't even in the car when the bus whaled it."

"Yeah... you should have seen him!  He figured out how to get inside the bus, when the emergency people got there... he got everybody out, too!"  Justin grinned, patting Marty on the shoulder.

Everyone turned back to Marty, as he explained what happened.  "When I got into the bathroom to find you, I saw you were... well, not quite presentable.  So I slid the pants back up, before I got you out."

"Yeah, and he got you out just in time, too... the whole BUS exploded!!"  Justin said, shaking his head in amazement.

Lance closed his eyes, and then moved his hand over to Marty.  "...thanks."

Lance shook Marty's hand, and gasped.  He could feel such warmth and caring, in Marty's hand.  The feeling coursed through Lance's body, and Lance started feeling like some of his aches were already healing.  Taking a minute to absorb the tingling sensation, Lance pushed himself up in his bed, to look at Marty closer.  He frowned.  "The... the angel with the axe.... it was you I saw, wasn't it?"

"Well... I did have an axe..." Marty chuckled.  Up close, Marty couldn't get over how cute Lance's green eyes were, looking at him.  Diane got an odd look on her face, and cleared her throat bemusedly.  "Lynn, I'm going to go next door, and tell everyone the good news that Lance is awake now.  Honey, I'll be right back... I just want to say hi to your friends in the other room, and I'll be right back."  Diane said, patting Lance on the shoulder and then moving away, giving Justin and Marty more room to visit with her son.  Glancing over at Lynn, she gestured for her friend to follow her outside for a minute.

"Lynn... did you see what I just saw?"  Diane whispered, standing by the door.

"No... what is it?"  Lynn whispered back, curious.

"Lance, and that boy Marty.  They like each other."

"You think...?" Lynn asked, cocking her head back and looking at the three boys.

"I know it.  A mother always knows.  And those two have looks on their faces, like the ones my husband and I had for each other, when we met years ago.  I never told you how I met Jim, did I?" Diane asked, gazing amusedly at her son as he began talking to Marty and Justin.

"No, how did you meet him?" Lynn asked.

"Car accident.  My car smacked into his, and he was the one to get me out of my seat belt, when it got stuck."

Lynn shook her head, realizing the similarities.  "Incredible..."

Diane smiled, feeling a little more relieved.  "Some things are just meant to be... I'm going to tell the others Lance is awake.  AND tell them to not come in until tomorrow morning."


The next morning dawned clear and sunny.  As the sun shined through the open blinds, Marty realized he'd fallen asleep in a chair.  What's more, that an arm was draped around his shoulders. And that someone was snoring in his ear.

Marty slowly disentangled himself from the gentle arm that was resting on him.  Lance and Justin were both still asleep, the card game they'd started abandoned as the three friends dozed off, both Justin and Marty falling asleep leaning over Lance's bedside.

"Good morning," Diane's voice said, as she came in with a cup of coffee.

"Oh... hi.... were you here all night?"  Marty asked, pouring himself some water from the pitcher by his own bed, and massaging the crick in his neck from the way he slept.

"Mmm-hm," Diane affirmed, sitting back in her chair.  "You three were like that when I finally came back from the other room.  I didn't want to disturb you, so I got the blankets for you and Justin."

"Thanks," Marty said, climbing back into his own bed and actually feeling comfortable in it, this time.  Marty glanced over at Lance, and smiled a little bit.  Then he sipped his water.

"You three seemed to have a lot to talk about, last night..."  Diane observed, watching Marty's face as he watched Lance sleeping.

Marty chuckled.  "Yeah... war stories, of most unusual accidents while on the job.  I had no idea, that so many accidents happen during a concert tour."

Diane shared Marty's smile.  "Tell me about it.  I don't even get fazed anymore, by one of the boys needing to check into a hospital.  If it's not slipping off a stage, it's playing basketball on a day off...."

Marty merely sipped his water, his gaze falling back on Lance.  He was so distracted by his thoughts over the blond boy, that Diane's next comment totally threw him by surprise.

"He likes you, Marty." Diane said, knowingly.

"Wh... huh?"  Marty asked, not sure he'd heard Lance's mother correctly.

"My son likes you.  And you like him, don't you?" she asked, smiling softly.

"Well.. I... uh..."  Marty stammered, taken a little off-guard.  Then, he looked back at Lance again, and realized that since Diane had brought it up, it was only fair to face his thoughts.  "Yeah... I kinda do.  How'd you know?"

"Ever since my son came out," Diane explained, raising her hand at Marty's surprised expression.  "I knew that some day, he'd meet someone special.  I only had no idea, that the circumstances between how I met his father, and how he met you, would be so similar.  But I know my son, very well.  He took one look at you, and his entire face lit up.  And I watched you, as you guys talked.  You instinctively knew what to do and say around him, to make him feel better.  And you have the same look right now, that I had for his father."

"And... you're okay with it?" Marty wondered, amazed at this conversation.  Even his own mother, wasn't this insightful.

Diane nodded.  "I'm an excellent judge of character, Marty.  And you have a very strong one indeed.  Very brave, and very loyal.  I suspect, that you and my son will have much in common.  Don't be afraid, to tell him you like him.  When the time is right to."

"But... what if there's never a right time, Mrs. Bass?  I mean... we only met, because of a freak accident.  Once we get out of the hospital, what's to say that they won't go back to their tour, and I'd go back to my life?"  Marty asked, voicing his fears.

"Marty, I think you're selling yourself short, here."  She paused, then pointed at Lance's bed.  "Look at them, Marty.  Right there, that's because of you.  My son wouldn't be lying in that hospital bed, if you hadn't gone in after him when the bus began catching fire.  He'd be lying in the morgue."  She turned to Marty, and smiled warmly.  "You saved their lives, you put your own life at risk to do so.  What happened yesterday, was a secret.  And thus, everyone knows about it.  As a matter of fact, the press got wind of the full story sometime this morning, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that when *NSync goes downstairs later to issue a press conference, that the press will expect you there as well, to answer questions."  

Diane patted Marty's shoulder, reassuringly.  "What happened yesterday, was meant to be.  And because of this, not only has your life changed, but so has theirs'.  Now, Marty.  I know those boys, and my son, extremely well.  And they owe you, their very lives.  WHY would they simply ignore you, once they're on their feet again?  Justin told me on the phone, that he absolutely refused to leave your side for a minute after you collapsed.  I don't know how to tell you this... but I think you're stuck with them, now.  Trust me... the right time will come.  And you'll see for yourself, that Lance is interested in you, just as you're interested in him."

Marty reflected on Diane's words.  "Thanks.  Hey, what time is it, anyway?"

Diane glanced at her watch.  "Um... 8:30, Marty.  Why?"

Marty nodded, and got out of bed again.  "Because.  I'm gonna sneak downstairs, and see about getting everyone breakfast.  Anything special, that they like?"

After writing down the list of foods Diane mentioned, Marty headed out and explained to the nurse at the station, that he was going to need some help bringing up food from the cafeteria for his friends.  Handing over the list, Marty then turned his attention to getting JC, Chris, and Joey up.

Marty knocked on the door, and JC moaned.  "Scoop, go'way.  I don't wanna know if we're late for a sound check... this is the first real bed in weeks, I want to enjoy it, thanks."

Marty chuckled.  "I have good news, and bad news.  First, I'm not Lance.  Second, you're not on tour... you're in a hospital room, dude."

"Whu...?  JC jerked awake, blinking at his surroundings.  "Who the heck are you?"  JC asked, eyeing the new arrival.  "Where's Justin?"  JC glanced at Justin's unslept bed.

"Passed out in my room after Lance beat the pants off us at cards, last I checked.  Up and at `em, breakfast is near Lance's bed, in 15 minutes.  Chris and Joey are in the room to your immediate left, Lance and my room is across the hall from you.  Think you can help me get the Dynamic Duo into a couple of wheelchairs?" Marty asked, taking JC's hand as he climbed out of bed and yawned.

"Marty, right?  Diane mentioned you were rooming with Lance.  J.C. Chasez, but I guess you'd already know that..." J.C. introduced himself with another yawn, running his hand through his hair.

Marty smiled.  "Right.  How's the head?"

"Like I was mistaken for a mailbag at the post office.  Well... anybody who could face Lance's naked albino ass without flinching, is alright in my book."  J.C. joked.

"You wound me, sir... I happen to think Lance has a very NICE tookus."  Marty grinned, wagging his finger at J.C.  J.C. just raised an eyebrow at the comment, and dropped the subject.

"So you remember more about yesterday?"  Marty asked, as they made their way to Chris and Joey's room.

"Yeah," JC admitted.  "Had some interesting dreams last night, that helped me remember most of it anyway.  And our moms told us the rest."

Nodding in understanding, Marty knocked on Chris and Joey's door before opening it.  "Mr. Fatone, Mr. Kirkpatrick, wake up this INSTANT." Marty said, imitating a voice that Lance had coached him on the night before, and smacking the door open.

"Gaaaaaah!" Chris and Joey both screamed, Chris coming dangerously close to falling out of bed.   JC just stood there in amusement, and surprise.

"Now HOW did you know how to imitate our old tour tutor....?"  JC whispered to Marty, watching as Chris and Joey tried to compose themselves.

"Lance and Justin told me a little about him, when I lost a hand and had to demonstrate my ability to do voices of other people.  They spent an hour coaching me to get the right tones and inflections... that was the price of losing.  I had to play this joke on them."  Marty explained.  JC groaned good-naturedly, and shook his head.

"God!  What a nightmare!!!"  Chris grumbled.  Joey merely grunted.  

"C'mon you two... it's nearly breakfast time.  We're having it in Lance's room, this morning.  The cheerful voice you heard waking you up, is none other than Lance's new roommate, Marty Jones." JC said, walking over towards Joey's bed.

"Morning, boys..."  Marty said in his normal voice, grabbing one of the two wheelchairs in the room.

"Should have known... Scoop's revenge, by proxy." Chris growled to Joey.  Joey just chuckled softly, as JC helped him into his wheelchair.

"Easy does it, now..."  Marty chided as Chris insisted he could get in the chair himself.  After getting them situated, Marty and JC wheeled them into Lance's room.

Lance was awake, and Justin was staring into space, looking like a zombie from Return of the Living Dead.  At Marty's amused expression, JC whispered an explanation: "Justin isn't himself until he gets a bowl of cereal in him."  

Lance gestured for Marty to sit down near him.  "'morning, Marty!  Have a seat, Mom went to help the nurse bring in the food."  Once Marty had sat down, Lance whispered to Marty.  "So... did you do it?"

"Mm-hmm.  Scared the crap out of them, too."  Marty hissed back, enjoying the chance to look Lance in his attractive green eyes.

"My mom seems to like you," Lance said softly, looking back at Marty just as intently.

"Yeah, your mom's a pretty interesting woman, I'm glad I had the chance to meet her." Marty commented.  Lance gave Marty a smile.

"She said you were pretty interesting, too, while you were gone..." Lance trailed off.  Marty blinked.

"You talked with her about me....?"  Marty asked, wondering if Mrs. Bass had sounded out her son on her suspicions of how Lance felt, or let slip Marty's own feelings for Lance already.

"Shh... later."  Lance said reassuringly, sliding his hand over to Marty's.  Taking Lance's hand, Marty noticed with quiet surprise that Lance wasn't immediately letting go of it very quickly.  Taking the silent cue from Lance, Marty didn't let go, either.  Nobody else noticed, involved in their own conversations.

"Knock, knock..."  Diane's voice came in through the door.  At the rattle of a cereal box, Justin immediately devoured upon the food trays, acting as if he hadn't eaten for a month.  Everybody laughed, as Justin fixed himself his morning cereal bowl.

"Okay, kids... dig in!  Lance honey, the nurse said that you shouldn't be eating anything heavy, after your surgery.  Marty, what'll it be?"

"Oh, just some tea, a muffin, and a banana is fine with me Mrs. Bass..."  

"Diane, please."  Diane corrected warmly.

"Diane, then."  Marty agreed, as the tray was put down next to where Marty was sitting.  Diane caught Lance holding onto Marty's free hand, and winked at them both.  Diane then positioned herself so that her body was blocking anyone else from noticing it, and Marty blushed.

Well, another chapter ready for posting!!!  I hope you like it so far, because I've already started work on Chapter Five.  Sounds like Marty and Lance have a lot to talk about, don't they?  Email all praise/suggestions/comments to  
Until next time!   -DLC.