The characters in this story are just that, characters, and even though they may bear a striking resemblance to the members of *NSYNC ... they're not them.  This work is not meant to be truly indicative of the actual personalities or sexual orientations of any of the group's members, or any real person ... this is just a story.

Nightmare Before Dawn

Chapter 19

"Southeast ATC to Cessna seven-one-Charlie, be advised, weather service has indicated a squall approaching your flight path," the air traffic control center told them, when Mac contacted them after takeoff.

"Cessna seven-one-Charlie to Southeast ATC, copy that," Mac answered. "Southeast, if you read any change on that track, please advise."

"Roger Cessna seven-one-Charlie," the voice on the speaker said, "will advise."

Justin soon resigned himself to the fact that they were doing all that they possibly could to get to his family. He sat back and watched Mac in his element. His motions while controlling the plane were perfectly fluid, like Justin's own actions when on stage.

"Squall?" Justin asked, looking over at Mac. "We're not gonna have problems like in that White Squall movie are we?"

"Well," Mac said, grinning, "for one thing, they were on a sailing ship and we're in a plane." Justin sneered at him, then stuck his tongue out. "That's it over there ... the darker clouds in the distance," Mac said, pointing out his window. "We should be well clear of the area by the time it gets here, though."

"Oh, okay," Justin said.  "I just didn't really wanna have to go down with the ship like the guys in the movie did."

"Hey," Mac said, "what is it with you and movies with cute guys, today?" Mac tried to look angry, but his smile was peeking through.

Justin grinned and shrugged, then said, "Well, I can't just stick with Top Gun all the time, can I?"

Mac allowed his smile to break through completely, and reached over to take Justin's hand. "You can watch any movie you want," Mac said, "just so long as I get to be there for the real life stuff."

A slight shudder ran through the plane, making the hairs on the back of Justin's neck stand on end. Mac's brow furrowed and his grip on Justin's hand loosened.  His hand then left Justin's lap and grabbed the controls. Justin squinted his eyes, questioningly at Mac, then suddenly it felt as if the seat had been pulled from beneath him. "Mac!" Justin yelled, scrambling to grab hold of something.

"Just hold on!" Mac yelled over the engine noise. "Hold on!"

"Oh my God!" Justin yelled, as the plane entered a nose dive. 


The Timberlake family sat in their living room with a small stage, made from blankets and sheets, set up in front of the fireplace. A four year old Justin and two of his cousins stepped onto the bricks of the hearth and began to sing a bluegrass song his father's group often sang. His parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all his other cousins began clapping when the trio finished and took their bows.

Fourth grade -- it started out at a small school talent show. Justin and four of his friends did a New Kids On The Block number. First lip syncing, then actually performing a song with Justin doing the lead vocals. A teacher from a nearby school, who was attending the show, saw them and invited them to perform at her school. Now, the group of youngsters found themselves barricaded in her classroom as a hallway full of girls outside chanted their names.

"Man, they must think we're the real thing!" one of the boys said, laughing.

"Yeah, I wish!" another agreed.

"Well, I think I could get used to this," Justin said, going to look out the window in the door. The girls outside squealed as they saw his curly top peek over the wood in the door.

"Oh, yeah," his friend yelled, "no need to worry about dates for dances for us!"

"I guess," Justin said, shrugging.

"What?" his young friend scoffed. "You don't want girls hanging all over you one day?"

Another shrug from Justin. "This hiding out ain't all that great," Justin said, "but I sure would love people watching us perform."

"Justin, son, come here and sit down," Randy said, as Justin entered the living room.

"What is it, daddy?" Justin asked. The serious looks on his parent's faces sent a sinking sensation through him, as he took the seat across from his parents.

"Justin, honey," Lynn said, "we need to tell you something." Though she wanted to reach out and pull him to her, she folded her hands in her lap.

"What's wrong?" Justin asked, a pleading look in his eyes.

"Justin, we've talked about this for a long time now," Randy said, then glanced at Lynn. "Your mom and I have made a decision, one that's going to effect you in a big way."

"We don't want you to think that it's your fault or anything," Lynn said, taking Justin's hand. "Justin, honey, your dad and I are getting a divorce."

"But ... why?" Justin said, tears clouding his eyes. "Where are we going to live? Where am I going to...." The tears now streaked down his cheeks.

Randy pulled him into his lap, then said, "We love you, son. Justin, you're the most important thing in our lives."

Lynn wrapped her arms around him. "Justin, this is our decision," she told him. "We've just decided that we would all be better off if your dad and I were no longer married. This is something we've thought about for a long time. We really think this would be best for all of us including you ... especially you."

"But ... do you not love each other anymore?" Justin asked.

"It's hard to explain, Justin," his father said. "We do ... in a way ... just not in the same way. There's a difference in the way adults love each other and the way a mommy and daddy love their children. Though the love between the two of us can change ... our love for you will never change. You will always be in our hearts, no matter what."

"We'll always care for each other, in a way, but we will always love you," Lynn said, pausing to kiss his cheek. "We just think this is the best way for all of us."

"I know it's hard to understand, kiddo," Randy said. "Just remember, this will never change how we feel about you."

"Okay," Justin said, sniffling as his mom wiped the tears from his cheeks.

"Mr. Randall ... Justin Randall?" the production assistant asked, sticking her head into the dressing area. "You're up next. Don't forget, since you're the challenger, you'll just go over to stage right to meet Mr. McMahon and the champion after your performance. After that, they'll tally up the votes and announce the results."

"Thank you very much," Justin said, before taking a deep breath. "I hope dad doesn't mind that I dropped my last name for this."

"No, honey," Lynn said, "your dad knows why you did it."

"Yeah, I guess," Justin said, shrugging. Looking at himself in the mirror, he wrinkled his face. "You don't think this shirt is too much, do you, Mom?"

"Honey, it's a country song," Lynn said, "you look great. Things are going to be just fine. Just go out there and do your best, like always."

"Okay, Mom," Justin said, walking over and giving her a hug.

"Okay, who was next?" the producer said. There were four of them seated at the large table in the Nashville convention center.

Justin walked over and handed the group at the table his portfolio. The lady in the red dress asked him to step over to the small performance area they had set up.

"So, Mr. Timberlake," the producer said, "is it alright if I call you Justin?"

"Sure, sir," Justin said, giving him one of his winning smiles.

"Great," he said. "Well, we're trying to make these auditions as easy as possible for all concerned. We heard your audition tape, and saw the video that you sent in, but now we'd like to know if you can do it live. Could you sing a little something for us?"

Justin walked over to the piano, and took the sheet music that the pianist offered. She began playing and he sang the song they had provided. After he had sung a few more songs, they asked him to improvise a couple of skits.

About week after his first audition came the call back and the trip down to Orlando. Justin sang a few more songs for a different group of people. A fast song, a slow one, and one with a few more kids. They had him act in a little skit for them, bringing in a few of the older kids already in the cast.

"Hi, I'm Josh," the darker haired teen said, shaking his hand. "It was Justin, right?"

"Yeah," Justin said, "nice to meet you, Josh."

"Hey, Justin.  I'm Josh, too," the taller brunette said, as he offered his hand. Justin looked between the two young men, comically shaking his head before they all began laughing. "I know ... really confusing. That's why most of the guys call me JC, guess they didn't want both of us jumpin' when they yelled."

Justin laughed again, then said, "I guess that would probably help."

As they acted out the last of the few scenes they were asked to perform, JC was felled by a fit of laughter when Justin left Josh standing speechless after an improvisation. Being one of the senior members of the group, Josh had always seemed unshakable, but the uninhibited acting from the younger man had taken him completely by surprise. His embarrassment came full circle when he realized he had just lost the bet he had made with the others, believing stage fright would have Justin cowering in a corner.

A hand clapped Josh on the shoulder, "Guess that means you're buying the pizza." The young woman grinned at him happily.

"Oh, hush," Josh said, then took another appraising look at Justin. Turning back to her, he said, "Ya know, that kid's got somethin'." Nodding her head, she agreed.

A few hours later came the words he was longing for and dreading at the same time, "Well, Justin ... welcome to The Mickey Mouse Club."

"Justin ... telephone!" Lynn called from downstairs.

"Thanks, Mom!" he called back, as he picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

"Justin ... hey, man, it's Chris Kirkpatrick," the voice said. "Don't tell me you don't remember me."

"Chris?" Justin asked. "Oh, yeah ... I remember you! You were in that fifties doo-wop group, right? I think you'd be a little had to forget!" Justin laughed at the disgruntled snort from the other end of the line.

"Thanks..." Chris said, "I think. Anyway, I was thinking about trying to start up a group of my own. I was wondering if you'd like to be in it?"

"Your own group?" Justin said, excitedly. "Yeah ... I'd have to ask my parents, but ... sure, I'd love to!"

"Great!" Chris said, laughing at Justin's enthusiasm. "Yeah, we'll definitely have to ask your folks ... but you're in?"

"Are you kidding?" Justin said. "Of course! Do you have anyone else for it yet? What kinda style were you thinking?"

"Naw, man," Chris said, "you were the first person who came to mind. I don't really have a plan on what style group, but I think it would be great if we could get enough guys to do some five part stuff. I was kinda hoping that you might have some ideas for other people."

"Oh, man, five part would be great!" Justin said. He laughed at himself as he realized that he was yelling almost every other sentence. "Uh, other singers ... oh, man ... oh! Josh would be great! From MMC...."

"Josh? You mean Ackerman?" Chris asked. "I thought he was planning on acting."

"No ... yeah ... I mean..." Justin said, then started laughing. "Lemme try that again. No, not that Josh, but yeah, I think he was concentrating on his acting."

"Not that Josh?" Chris asked, trying to remember any other Josh's from the cast. "Oh! Chasez? JC, I got you now. Yeah, he'd be great. Now, we just need a couple more and we'll have a group. You don't know anyone who sings bass, do you?"

"Not off the top of my head," Justin said. "I'll try making some calls, though."

"You might better ask your mom first," Chris said, laughing.

"Good idea," Justin said, joining his laughter. "Hey, do you have Josh's number, or do you want me to see if I have it when I go ask Mom?"

"I'm not sure," Chris said, "so you can check just to make sure. Oh, here's my number, too...."

JC sat looking out the window at the dismal streets outside their hotel in Germany. His solitary thoughts were interrupted by the knock at his door. "Who is it?" he called.

"It's Justin," came the muffled voice, "are you busy? I kinda need to talk to someone."

"Sure, Jus', hold on a sec," JC said, jogging over to the door. He opened it to find his younger friend a bit haggard looking. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I just..." Justin said, shaking lightly.

JC took Justin's hand and pulled him inside, then closed the door. He placed his arm around his shoulders and brought him over to sit on the side of the bed. Nothing should have a kid that's barely sixteen this shaken, JC thought, eying his friend with concern.  "Are you a little upset with your mom back in the states?"

"No, I know she had to go back to check on Aunt Sara," Justin said. "It's not that."

"Jus, what is it?" JC said, reaching up to gently squeeze the young blond's shoulder.

"I ... I've been thinking a lot," Justin said, staring at his feet. "I think I've figured something out."

"Is it about what's been eating at you the past few weeks?" JC asked, taking Justin's chin in his hand and drawing Justin's eyes toward his own.  It had been obvious that something was bothering Justin over the past few weeks.  Only recently had JC come to suspect what it might be.

"Yeah, I guess," Justin said. "I think I need to tell someone. I don't know ... maybe I should just go, though."

Justin started to get up to leave, but JC grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the bed. "Justin..." JC said, "it's okay, you can tell me anything. I mean it ... anything, and it'll be okay."

Justin looked away again as he began to tremble. "You say that now ... but you don't know," Justin said, sniffing and wiping at his eyes. "You'll hate me."

"Justin," JC said, pulling him into a hug, "I mean it. There is nothing that you could say or do that would ever make me hate you. Except maybe kill my cat." As Justin looked up at JC, the frown on his lips slowly spread into a smirk. "What's wrong, Jus? I want to help ... if you'll let me."

"Okay," Justin said, wiping at his tear stained cheeks. He looked away, staring at a nondescript place on the far wall. "Josh ... I'm ... I'm gay."

JC was silent for a few moments, then Justin turned to look at him. JC was smiling at him, and said, "There ... was that so hard?"

"You ... you're not ... you don't hate me?" Justin stammered.

"Of course not!" JC said, pulling him into another hug. "I told you, there's nothing you could ever say to make me hate you."

"Except killing the cat, that you don't have," Justin said, laughing.

"Hey, I might get one someday!"

They were all seated at the table for the meet and greet. Justin had wound up on the end, with Lance beside him. Justin mused at how the compliment of the gatherings had changed over the past couple of years. There were more guys now, some of them even getting bolder. The one coming toward him now was very interesting.

The young man made his was down the table. He was impeccably dressed, very classy, yet still comfortable. His dark hair cropped short, and his eyes, a beautiful dark brown. He was chatting Lance up, there could be little mistaking it. Oh my Lord, he did not just wink at Lance, did he? Justin thought to himself as the prime specimen came to stand in front of him.

Justin exchanged pleasantries with him, signing the items he had brought with him. After the young man took back the last piece, he shook Justin's hand. As his thumb gently rubbed over the back of Justin's hand, he winked at him. Justin looked into the man's eyes and felt his mouth go dry, while his senses went into overdrive.

"My number's on the back," the young man said lowly, as he nodded to the card he had left in Justin's hand, "give me a call if you're interested." The young man then turned and walked away.

Thankfully, he was the third to the last person in line. Justin quickly completed his duties and excused himself.

Lance watched Justin grab the jacket from the back of his chair, tying it around his waist as he ran out the door. His curiosity piqued, Lance decided to follow him into the private dressing room area.

"Are you okay, Jus?" Lance asked, closing the door behind him.

In the bathroom, Justin turned off the water at the sink and said, "Yeah, I'm fine! Just gimme a minute!" He dried his face and hands with the towel and placed it back on the bar, then tried to adjust his pants before going out to greet his friend.

When Justin emerged from the bathroom, Lance was sitting on the sofa waiting for him. "Are you sure you're okay?" Lance asked. "Did that guy say something to upset you or something?"

"No," Justin said, quickly shaking his head, "what would give you that idea?"

"I don't know," Lance said, shrugging. "You just left kinda fast after he came up." Glancing down, Lance noticed the slight protrusion in Justin's pants. Though Lance had, at first, thought that the young man, who had made a pass at him earlier, had done the same thing to Justin and upset him, he was now getting another suspicion. "Justin ... that guy at the meet and greet. He made a pass at you, didn't he?"

Justin shrugged, still not looking directly at Lance. "So ... it doesn't mean anything," Justin said quickly.

"No, of course not," Lance said. "You enjoyed it though, didn't you?"

A shudder ran through Justin as he shook his head. Lance took his hand and pulled him to sit down on the sofa beside him. "Is it that obvious I'm gay?" Justin said, avoiding Lance's eyes.

Lance smiled at Justin, then said, "Not until I came in and noticed how he'd gotten you a little overexcited ... but then that could have been the tart with her boobs hanging out just before him."

"But you assumed that it was him, not her," Justin said, finally looking up and frowning. "You noticed it right off, am I that transparent?"

Lance pulled him into a hug, rubbing his back. Turning to whisper into his ear, Lance said, "Only because I was looking at the same guy you were."

Justin slowly pulled back, trying to make sense of Lance's comment. Justin looked into Lance's eyes. "Do you mean ... you're gay, too?" Justin asked, his eyes growing wider as it sank in.

Lance shrugged. "Well, I like girls, too," Lance said, "so I guess I'm bi, but...." Justin began to cry. "You're not alone, Jus," Lance said. "You'll never be alone. Does anyone else know?"

"I..." Justin began, then paused to wipe his face before continuing. "I told Josh a while back, but he's the only one that I've ever told."

"Well, now you've got me, too," Lance said, smiling. "And I guess I've got you. We can check the guys out together."

Justin laughed, and said, "Yeah, that could be fun." The two slowly began inching closer, then finally their lips met. That first kiss was brief, but the one that followed was filled with burning desire. When they finally broke apart, Justin reached over and ran his hand lightly over the side of Lance's face. "Thank you," Justin whispered.

"Guys this is Jay," Rob said. "Jay, these are the guys!"

"Uh .. uh .. uh .. n .. nice t .. to m .. meet you," Jay said, stuttering.

"As you can see, he's a little nervous," Rob said, laughing. "He's a fan."

"It's ok," Justin said. "We won't bite ... hard!"

Jay laughed and finally began to relax. He started to dribble the ball and went onto the court to warm up, as Rob went to talk privately with Lance.

Justin stole quick glances at Jay. He was unable to put his finger on what exactly attracted him to Jay, but something was definitely piquing Justin's interest. Whatever the cause, he would be smart to not allow himself to be distracted by it. The odds favored Jay being off limits anyway. "Let's get this game started!" Justin yelled. "Jay, you take the ball out first!"

"What we playin' ... 21?" Jay asked, going to the top of the key.

"Yeah," Rob said, as Jay passed the ball to him.

They played several games, and Justin had to fight to maintain his concentration. As they paired up, he easily managed to get Lance to guard Rob, leaving him to guard Jay. Now, as their bodies brushed briefly here and there, Justin was unsure that the idea was an intelligent one. He was beginning to suspect that his rapid heart rate was not attributable to his workout.

"I'll leave the door open," Justin said into the receiver. "You just come up and I'll be waiting."

"Okay, I'm in the lobby now," Jay said, "I'll be right up."

Justin went into the bathroom to check himself in the mirror a final time, as he began to undress. He waited on the bed in his boxers for the few minutes it took for his new 'friend' to arrive after their phone call.

Jay walked in and, after closing and locking the door, ran directly over to the bed, kissing Justin passionately. "We gotta hurry, before any of the guys get back!" Jay said, breathlessly as they broke the kiss.

"Don't worry, they won't be back until way later," Justin said. "Does anybody know you're here?"

"Nope, nobody," Jay said, looking into Justin's eyes.

"Good," Justin said. "It's probably better that they don't know."

"Just shut up and kiss me!" Jay said, pulling Justin to him.

As they started to kiss again, Justin found himself unable to wait to feel Jay's skin against his own, and began undressing him quickly. It had been a long time since he had experienced the sensation of another's flesh caressing his own. When Jay was bare as well, Justin relaxed into the sensual touch of his lover's hands. The feeling was so intense that Justin's burning passions exploded into action. Pushing Jay onto his back, Justin crushed his lips to Jay's. Their moans of desire flowing deeply into their partner's throat.

"Slow down," Jay said, panting, as he pushed Justin back a bit.

"I have to have you, now," Justin said, pleadingly, his voice almost a low growl.

"Calm down," Jay said, as he started to kiss down Justin's neck. "You will ... just be patient."

Justin savored every second, as the fantasy he had been dreaming of since the two had met on the basketball court came true. Reversing their positions, Jay forced Justin onto his back and began making his way down Justin's chest.

Nearly an hour later, they both fell to the bed exhausted. Though Jay soon fell asleep, Justin lay there pleasured, but still unsatisfied. The sex had been amazing, but something was missing. Turning away from his sleeping lover, Justin stared at the far wall as he considered how he was feeling. There was an emptiness inside him. In that moment, he made a decision that would affect him for the rest of his life. No matter how horny he might get, he would never again take a lover for the sex alone. He needed love.

"Justin, you know that I love you more than any other person I've been with," Jay said, his eyes speaking of what was to come. "I can't deny that, but ... with everything that happened yesterday, I...."

"Don't you even say it!" Justin said, shaking his head.

"I need to..." Jay said, taking Justin's hands.

"Jay!" Justin yelled, snatching his hands form Jay's grasp.

"Just for a little while..."Jay said, dropping his head.

"I can't believe you!" Justin exclaimed, fighting back the tears that threatened.

"Justin, please," Jay said, hoarsely. "This isn't easy!"

"You're breaking up with me?" Justin said, the single unchecked tear rolling down his cheek.

"No.... Yes.... I mean...."

"You are, aren't you!" Justin said, his face flushing with a mixture of anger and hurt.

"Just for a little while," Jay said. "I just need to figure some things out. Like I told Rob, earlier, I don't like shutting you out, but I just need to. I have to think, and I can't do that clearly if I'm worrying about what I'm going to tell you, or how I'm going to explain something." Jay paused, as Justin backed away shaking his head. "This isn't permanent, and I do love you. I do want to be with you, but right now, it's just too hard and confusing!"

"Get out!" Justin said through gritted teeth.

"Justin, please!" Jay begged.

"Get out!" Justin yelled. "Get the hell out of here!"

"Justin..." Jay said, reaching for him.

Justin shoved him away, then turned and walked toward the window saying, "Don't make me call Lonnie!"


"Go!" Justin said, staring at the horizon far beyond the window.

"Fine..." Jay said. He moved to the door and paused briefly to say, "But I still love you!"

"Leave!" Justin screamed. Jay did as he was asked, leaving Justin alone in the darkening room. Justin moved over to the bed and collapsed onto it. Curling himself into a ball, he cried himself to sleep.

After weeks of avoiding any kind of outing with the others, Justin had finally agreed to go out to a club with Joey, Chris, and a few of their security guys. Little more than an hour later, Justin had gone missing.

Entering through the back entrance of the hotel, in order to bypass most of the fans, Joey made his way up to the guys' floor, then walked to his room and tossed his jacket and the rest of his stuff inside on the bed. He crossed the hall to Justin's room, hoping to find his friend back safely. "Justin?" he said, as he knocked and opened the door. His jaw dropped at what he found. "What the hell?"

"Hey, Joey, just in time, man!" Justin said from the bed, a crooked grin plastered on his lips. His shirt was open, and his pants pulled down to his knees. It was easy to see that he was completely wasted.

The girl, who was bobbing up and down on his cock, paused long enough to say, "Yeah, man, the more the merrier!"

Joey stood dumbfounded for a moment trying to decide just how drunk he must be. "Justin?" he finally managed to get out. "Uh ... miss? I think it's probably time for you to be going," he said, going over and gathering her stuff, then offering it to her.

"You sure, big boy?" she said, reaching up to grope Joey's crotch. "I mean, there's plenty to go around."

Joey jumped, shocked by her forwardness. Taking her hand and pulling it away from his groin, he said, "Yes, very sure." Grabbing her arm almost roughly, he pulled her up from the floor and shoved her things into her arms, before escorting her through the door. Hearing the elevator chime, Joey looked up to find Lonnie walking through the open doors.

"Did ya find him?" Lonnie asked, walking toward him.

"Yeah," Joey said, pushing the girl out in front of him..

Lonnie stared in disbelief at the bundle of young woman in his arms. He had just become comfortable with the fact that Justin was gay, and that he would probably be seeing him with guys. Now, seeing this tart, for lack of better description, being escorted out of his room, he was beginning to get nauseous.

"Could you make sure that she gets back to the lobby okay?" Joey said, nodding toward the girl.

"Yeah, sure thing, Joe," Lonnie said, then took her to the elevator. After they were gone, Joey walked back into Justin's room, closed the door and turned to Justin.

"What the fuck do you think you're doin, man?" Justin snarled from the bed, as he finished pulling his boxers and pants up. "Who do you think you are bargin' into my room like that and kickin' out a friend of mine?"

Joey stared in disbelief. "No, Justin, who the hell do you think you are? And what did you think you were doing? Justin, you know better than to bring somebody back to the hotel with you like that!"

"Yeah, like you've never done it," Justin scoffed, as he zipped his pants. Leaning over the side of the bed, he grabbed the bottle from the floor and took another drink before placing it on the night table. The careful way he maneuvered the bottle onto the flat surface had Joey shaking his head.

"No, Justin, I haven't!" Joey said, grabbing the bottle from the table. "And neither have any of the other guys!" Justin tried to intercept him, and Joey had to make a quick catch to keep him from falling flat on his face. After propping him against the wall, Joey took the bottle to the bathroom and emptied the rest of its contents, then tossed it into the trash can.

Justin staggered over to the sofa and turned on the television. He was silent for a bit then said, "Guess I fucked up again, huh?"

"Yeah," Joey said plainly. "Yeah, you did and you know it. I mean giving us the slip like that was bad enough. You know it would kill Lonnie and the guys if anything ever happened to you." Justin hung his head and sighed. "And bringing her back here for sex? What, without protection or anything? That was just stupid! I'm gonna completely ignore the gay-straight thing ... I think I'm probably too damn drunk to even try to figure that one out!" Seeing a tear roll down Justin's cheek, Joey softened his tone. "Look, Curly, I know you're hurtin," he said, taking a seat beside Justin and putting an arm around his shoulders. "We're all here for ya, you know that, right?"

They sat in silence for a minute or two, as Justin sobbed. "C'mon, why don't you try and get some sleep. Hopefully, you'll feel a little better in the morning," Joey said, then led Justin over to the bed. Joey got him settled in, then pulled the blanket over his younger friend, gently tucking him in as his own older brother had done for him countless times before. "Night, Jus," he said, stroking a few stray curls from Justin's forehead.

As Joey walked out, Justin curled into a ball and started crying into his pillow. Outside in the hall, Joey leaned on the closed the door shaking his head. Hearing the elevator chime, he turned to find JC, Melissa, Lance, and Rob step off and start down the hall, returning from their movie.

"Hey, Joey, how's it goin, man?" Lance said, noticing him.

"Fine," Joey told them, his voice less than convincing. "Uh ... Josh ... could I talk to you for a sec?"

The strange look on Joey's face had JC quickly agreeing. "Sure, Joe," JC said, then glanced at the others. "You guys go ahead and I'll catch up in a few." Though Melissa looked at him questioningly, he kissed her quickly and gave her a slight push toward the others.

JC followed Joey into his room and closed the door behind him. He found Joey sitting on the sofa on the far side of the room, and walked over to join him. "Is everything okay, Joe?" JC asked, taking a seat beside him.

Joey gave him a little shrug, looking as if he were not quite sure what to say. "Is Justin okay?" JC asked, remembering that Joey had been leaning against Justin's door.

Joey looked up into his eyes, then back off into space, shaking his head. "I don't think so," Joey said, absently.

"Did something happen at the club or something?" JC asked, trying to get any clue as to what might be going on.

"Not exactly," Joey said, sounding lost.

"Joey, could you be a little less specific?" JC asked, the frustration getting to him.

Joey sighed, shaking his head once again as if to clear the cobwebs. "I'm sorry, Josh, I'm just confused and I'm not sure how to say this," Joey said, looking into JC's eyes pleadingly. He ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm nowhere near drunk enough for this."

"It's okay, but you're kinda startin' to scare me here," JC said, placing his hand on Joey's shoulder. "Tell me what happened, Joe. Just start at the beginning."

"Alright. Well, we went out to the club and everything seemed to be going fine. We had a few drinks. Justin looked like he was having fun ... he was even flirting with people and stuff." JC nodded, as Joey continued, "Well, after an hour or so we lost him."

"You lost him?" JC asked, barely controlling his urge to yell.

"More like he lost us, I guess," Joey said, shrugging. "We were lookin' around for him, then I came back here to see if he'd decided to call it a night or something. Lonnie and the guys stayed to have one last look around for him."

"Why was Lonnie not lookin after him in the first place?" JC asked, clearly disturbed by the news.

"Josh, this is Lonnie we're talking about!" Joey said. JC nodded, then calmed himself enough to listen. "He had his eye on him the whole time. When Jus went into the bathroom, Lonnie waited for him, but he never saw him come back out. He went in to check on him, but Jus must have found a way to disguise himself or something and slipped out."

"Oh man!" JC said, bowing and shaking his head.

"Well, I came back here and..." Joey said, then drifted off.

"Well was he here? Is he okay?" JC said, getting worried.

Joey took a deep breath, then continued, "Yeah, he was here ... but I don't think he's okay." JC started to say something, but Joey stopped him. "Josh, please, just gimme a second. I'm tryin' to get this out, I'm just not entirely sure how." JC nodded and let Joey continue. "Well, I got here and went to his room to check and see if he was back. He was...." Joey looked as if he were searching for the right words, then he took a deep breath and blurted out, "He was in there leaned back on his bed, with his pants around his knees, with some chick blowin' him."

It took a few seconds for what Joey had said to fully register, then JC said, "What? Joey are you drunk, man?"

"No, not nearly enough, unfortunately," Joey said, rubbing his temples.

"A girl?" JC asked, confusion evident in his expression.

"Yeah," Joey said, nodding. "She already had his shirt half off and his pants down. Her dress was open and her panties were on the floor."

JC was stunned to speechlessness. "Man!" was all he finally managed to get out.

"I got her stuff together and made her to leave. Lonnie got back about that time, so I got him to take her downstairs."

"Did he at least have some prot..." JC's words dropped and he sighed as Joey shook his head.

"Not that I saw. God only knows what mighta happened if I hadn't walked in," Joey said, as he brought his hands up only to drop them back to his lap.

"Oh God, Justin, what's goin on in that head of yours?" JC said, his head falling back. "Is he still over there?"

"Yeah. Sorry to dump this all on you, Josh," Joey said, apologetically. "I just didn't wanna say anything in front of all the others, especially Rob and Melissa, since they're so close to Jay. I really thought that they'd get back together by now."

"Yeah, I know, Joe," JC said, standing up and patting Joey on the shoulder. "I hoped so, too ... this is so stupid!" JC said, shaking his head. "Look, get some sleep, man, and thanks for telling me. I'm gonna go check on him."

"Night, man," Joey said, as he walked JC to the door.

"Yeah, night," JC said, exiting Joey's room. He walked across the hall to Justin's room and paused to take a deep breath. Knocking softly, he waited for an answer.

"Just go away," came the hoarse, almost weak, response.

JC opened the door and slipped inside. He saw Justin curled up in a fetal position on the bed, sobbing. "Jus?"

"Please..." came the hoarse whisper. "Josh, please, not right now. I don't think I can handle you yelling at me right now."

JC walked over and sat on the bed beside him. "Justin ... look at me?" he said softly. Justin didn't move. "I'm not gonna yell, I promise."

Justin rolled over and looked at him through blood shot eyes. "I fucked up bad, Josh."

"Yeah, Joey told me," JC said, his eyes conveying his concern for his young friend.

"Oh God, he told you all ... and now they'll tell Jay ... and he'll never..." Justin said, beginning to cry again.

JC pulled him into his arms. "Shhh. It's okay, Jus," JC said, rocking him slowly back and forth. "I'm the only one Joey told, it's up to you whether you want to tell anyone else or not."

"Oh God, what did I do?" Justin said, between sobs.

"It's okay," JC said, then pulled Justin back and looked him straight in the eye. "Justin, I want you to promise me something. Don't you ever do anything like that again? Please?"

"I can't believe I did that," Justin said, seeming caught in his thoughts.

"Just promise me?" JC asked, his eyes pleading. Justin nodded and JC eased him back onto the bed and laid down beside him.

"It hurts, Josh," Justin said, burying his face in the older man's shoulder.

"I know, Jus," JC said, wrapping his arms around the younger boy. "It'll get better, eventually. It just takes time."

Justin stood with Lew outside the door of a northern San Diego apartment. It was nothing too flashy or trendy, but by no means a slum, either. Lew reached out and rang the bell, then stood back to wait for the answer. They heard a muffled, "Just a sec!" A short time later, the door opened to reveal a young man, probably somewhere between Justin's and Lew's ages. He was clean cut, very much so in fact, and looked as if he had just stepped out of the shower, since his dark hair was still wet. Justin's eyes glided over him then locked on his eyes, they were a brilliant green. It took some effort on Justin's part, but he did manage to keep his jaw from dropping.

Once they were inside, their host asked them to have a seat. The apartment was fairly average, but still nice in its own way. There was a definite male influence ... a bachelor pad, so to speak, but it was still tastefully done.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Lew said, "my manners are out the window today! Justin, this is my friend Nathan ... Nathan, this is my friend Justin," Lew said, indicating the two in turn.

"Call me Mac," he said, shaking Justin's hand.

After waving their good-byes to the restaurant owner, the two of them walked out to Mac's car and got in. Mac put the keys in the ignition then leaned back in the seat.

"Something wrong?" Justin asked.

"No, nothin's wrong," Mac said. "Well, ya see ... uh ... well. Damn!"

"Just say it," Justin said, grinning.

Mac turned in the seat and looked into Justin's eyes. "This night's been wonderful, it really has..." Mac drifted off.

"What is it, Mac? What are you trying to say?"

Mac looked down at his hand in his lap and then back up to Justin's eyes. "I want to kiss you," he whispered into the silence.

Justin smiled tenderly, took Mac's hand in his own, and squeezed it reassuringly. "I'd like to kiss you, too."

Ever so slowly, they both leaned in until their mouths were inches apart. Mac stopped short, "You're sure?"

Justin answered him by taking Mac's face in his own hand, and bringing their mouths together.

Their kiss was a tender brushing of their lips, at first, which moved into a tasting of each other's mouths.

"Teens around the world were in mourning today, as the body of teen idol, Justin Timberlake, was laid to rest in a cemetery outside of Memphis, Tennessee," the newscaster said. "The surviving members of Timberlake's group, boy band 'N Sync, were all in attendance at the service, along with his long-time girlfriend Britney Spears.  Extra security was brought in to assist Timberlake's family, Spears, and the remaining members of the group in leaving the area.

"The pilot of Timberlake's plane, former naval aviator Nathan MacKenzie, is scheduled to be laid to rest near his parent's home in Maryland later this week.

"Investigations are still underway into the crash that killed the two, and pilot error has yet to be ruled out."

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