One Dark Night

by Rob

Standard Disclaimer: This story is a complete work of fiction. The author does not know the members of *Nsync or any other celebrities who may just happen to appear in the following fictitious account, and certainly does not have the slightest clue as to their sexual orientation. Quite frankly, the author does not care, although one does always love to speculate! Again, the scenes that follow are taken solely from the author's overactive imagination, are most definitely not true, and do not make any implications about the sexuality of the persons named. On another note, if reading such stories that depict relationships between men is illegal in your area, you are under the age of 18, or viewing such stories is against any beliefs you may have, stop reading and go do something else. Last, but certainly not least, if you are looking for a story with tons of steamy sex scenes, stop reading. You won't find a lot of that here either. Now with that said, enjoy the show!!

Last time...

"What is going on here?" he thundered.

"Joey," I pleaded, "please keep it down. People are still trying to sleep. Besides, I'm sure it's not what it looks like."

"It looked like Justin and my boyfriend were kissing, and I don't care who hears me!" he said, fuming.

"Or it might be exactly what it looks like," I said under my breath. Turning to Joey, I said, "Joey, I didn't..." I wasn't able to get any more of my apology/statement out because he cut me off.

"I know
YOU didn't Will, but HE did!" he thundered.

"Joey, you're overreacting," Justin said, but when his eyes met the steely glare from Joey, he backed down.

"Will, go sit down. My
ex-friend and I here have to have a little talk," Joey said, stepping in between us.

"But Joey, I..."

"Go!" he shouted.

Slowly I shuffled over to the table and sat down, my mind too muddled to think. I had no idea what was going to happen between these two, but I prayed it wouldn't be disastrous. As I sat down, I heard Josh's voice coming closer. "What the hell are you guys doing? Do you know what time it is?"

"Fuck off Josh. This is between me and this asshole here," Joey spat, causing surprised looks among the three of us. Joey only swears a little more often than I do, which is hardly ever. He wasn't just mad—he was furious.

Josh backed up a little and said, "Guys, whatever it is, there's no need to argue, especially at quarter to six in the morning." Disgusted, he went into the living room and turned on the stereo in hopes of drowning out the two combatants. Oddly enough, the song was rather appropriate for the moment.

(song cut)

"No, this bastard and I are going to have it out right now. He's been after Will for the past couple days, and the minute my back is turned, here he is kissing on him like I don't exist. I've had my suspicions for a while, and I even warned him earlier today, but he went ahead and did it anyway. Now he's going to pay," Joey said with a snarl.

(song cut)

"Joey, don't!" I said, flying out of my seat. Later, I would tell myself that the first rule of thumb in a situation like this would have been to dive at Justin's legs and knock him down. Instead, I jumped right in between them, right as Joey's fist was heading for Justin. Since I managed to wedge myself between the two, Joey's fist connected with the side of my head instead of Justin's face, its original target. I caught Joey's eye, who was completely horrified at what had just occurred, and then I blacked out.

(song cut)

Both Joey and Justin peered down at me, and then Justin said, "I'd hate to be you when he comes to." He then sauntered out of the room while Joey knelt down on the floor next to me, trying to wake me up. This was certainly not the way Joey had wanted to start out the morning, and as far as I was concerned, I've definitely had better.

Chapter Twelve: It's All Wright or Wrong

Joey sat on the floor and placed my head in his lap. I was still out of it, and had only shown brief signs of stirring every now and again. Joey stroked my face and ran his fingers through my hair absentmindedly as he stared off into space, lost in his thoughts. Damn! I can't believe this. When things are going well, they go pretty well, but when things get bad, it just gets nasty. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

He awoke about half an hour later with a start. I had started to shift and had emitted a few moans which had woken him up. He looked down at my face and watched as my eyes opened. My eyes met his and I instinctively began to smile when the throbbing in my head caused me to flinch. I raised my hand up to my head and pressed it against the spot where I had been hit. Besides the pain there, it has morphed into a full-blown headache.

Wincing as I touched my head, I slowly sat up and looked at Joey. "What happened?" I asked quietly.

"Well, I, uh, um... Don't you know?"

I shook my head carefully. "I remember you and Justin having an argument, and I thought you two were going to fight, and after that, I have no clue."

Joey sighed. Half of him wanted to lie and make something up, but the other half of him knew better. When Justin told his version, and he knew it would come out, it would bring about some embarrassing questions that he would not want to have to answer to later. "Um, I don't know how to say this..." Joey began.

I gave him a half-smile and said, "Just start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop."

Joey took a deep breath and stated in a monotone voice, "When Justin and I began to fight, you tried to stop it and got in the way of my fist." He looked away from me and I could see tears starting to stream down his cheeks.

Wiping them away, I placed my finger under his chin and slowly turned his head until his eyes met mine. Softly, I said, "Then I guess I just need to learn how to stay out of the way, you know?"

Joey leaned away from me and cast a confused look my way. "Huh?"

With a slight chuckle, I clarified. "What I'm saying, Joe, is that while what you did wasn't right, you weren't trying to hit me. I got in the way all by myself, and for that I have to take an equal share of the blame."

"So... So you're not mad at me?" he asked in an oddly squeaky voice.

"No, I'm not mad at you," I replied. Joey breathed a sigh of relief and went to give me a hug, but backed away when I shot him a look that clearly said, Don't even think about it. "I am, however, disappointed in you," I continued, "for thinking that the only way to resolve this matter was through violence."

Joey hung his head and mumbled, "I'm sorry."

I stood up slowly, and since the blow to my head made me a little unsteady, I had to brace myself against the wall. Joey shot up from the floor, grabbed my arm, and led me to the table so I could sit there. Before taking a seat, I pulled Joey into a hug and said, "I know you are Joe, and to be honest, I think I understand why you reacted that way. Just try to think things through a little more the next time before you decide to act in that manner."

I sat down in my usual spot at the kitchen table and Joey sat in his seat next to me. Taking my hands in his, he said, "Will, I want you to understand that I will try my hardest to keep cool in the future, but be forewarned that if anyone, and I mean anyone, tries to harm you, I can't guarantee what will happen."

I started to laugh, but stopped when my head started to ache again. "Understood. Now, let's see if we can't find some Tylenol for this headache of mine?" I got up and went into the downstairs bathroom to grab some medication. After taking two tablets with some water, I came back into the dining room to find Joey half asleep at the table. "Hey Joe? Why don't you go back up to bed? I'll be along in a couple minutes, all right?"

"Uh, okay Will," Joey said hesitantly as he stood up. "I'll see you in a few minutes." He turned and made his way up the stairs, occasionally looking over his shoulder.

When I heard the door upstairs close, I plopped back into my chair and laid my chin on the table. "How do I get myself into these messes?" I asked myself out loud. After sitting for a moment, I stood back up and went into the living room. "Josh?" I called quietly, but the only answer I received was the sound of deep breathing coming from his direction. Laughing softly, I made my way out of the room, stopping only to shut off the stereo Josh had left on.

I had planned on searching out Justin and having a discussion with him about what happened, but I decided to forego it in lieu of getting some more sleep and cuddling with my hot boyfriend upstairs. Giggling to myself, I ascended the stairs quickly and disappeared into our bedroom. Our bedroom, I thought as I went to crawl into bed. I like the sound of that.

When a more reasonable hour of the day approached, I dragged myself and a very reluctant Joey out of bed. Having made Joey promise not to pick any fights with Justin, we went downstairs to forage for some breakfast. Upon entering the kitchen, I was slightly relieved that Justin was not present. Sitting down at the table, I watched Joey go into the kitchen to make us breakfast. Lance and Chris were already eating and having a light conversation. Josh, I presumed, was still in bed asleep. I couldn't blame the guy, considering what he had to put up with earlier that morning.

"So, Will, how are you feeling?" Lance asked.

"Like I've been run over by a cement mixer," I said flippantly. "Seriously, I've had better, but I'll live."

"Yeah, as long as Allison doesn't ever find you," Chris remarked.

Lance gasped and then smacked Chris upside the head. "Chris!" Lance and Joey shouted in unison. They both turned to see me cringe at Chris' words, which upset them further.

"Could you be any more insensitive?" Lance asked hotly.

"Does your brain actually have any say in what comes out of your mouth, or is it just on auto-pilot?" Joey asked angrily

Chris had turned bright red in embarrassment. He hadn't really meant to say it, but it just popped out. "Sorry, Will. I..."

I held up my hand to stop him. "Don't worry about it Chris. I don't think you meant anything by it, so let's just drop it."


"Drop it!" I yelled, causing surprised looks from the three. In a calmer voice, I said, "So do you have anything planned for today?"

"Not particularly," Lance said, looking at his calendar. "Wow. I can't believe it's Friday. Do you realize we've been here five days already?

"Oh, is that all?" I asked in surprise. "Feels like years."

Lance raised an eyebrow. "If I didn't know any better, I'd almost think that was an insult."

"No, no, not at all," I backpedaled. "I'm just saying it feels like I've known you all for a long time, and how it's so hard to believe you just dropped into my life five days ago."

"Yeah," Chris said. "I know what you mean. I hate the fact that, at some point, we're going to have to leave."

Joey had brought me a bowl of cereal, and I had just taken a bite when Chris made his statement. It's not that I didn't know that event wasn't going to happen soon anyway, but, nevertheless, when Chris said it, I nearly started to choke on my food. Joey patted me on my back until I was able to swallow. Looking at the three of them, I said quietly, "Yeah, I know. I really wish you didn't have to, but how fair would it be of me to keep you away from all your fans?" I glanced over at Joey who had a pained look in his eyes.

"Oh, this is so not fair!" Joey said with an exasperated sigh. "Just when I finally find someone, I have to leave."

Placing my hands on his back, I rubbed gently while saying, "Joe, don't worry. It's not leaving for good or anything like that. It's just temporary." I shot him a smile, but the pit in my stomach was growing at an enormous rate. I had this sinking feeling that once Joey and the guys left, they would soon forget all about me and I would be alone again.

Joey looked up at me and returned my smile, but it faded quickly as he eyed me suspiciously. Grabbing my hand, he pulled me upstairs and into our bedroom. Sitting me down on the bed, he went to close the door and then came back to sit beside me. As best as I could, I forced myself to look him straight in the eyes, or as close as I could reasonably get without having to really look at him. He remained silent for a moment, and then said, "What's wrong Will, and don't tell me nothing, because I don't believe that for a second."

I smiled briefly. "And all this time I thought I was the intuitive one," I remarked. The sides of Joey's mouth turned up a little, but it passed as quickly as it came. He made a motion with his hands for me to continue, but I really didn't want to. I knew I was being silly, or at least I presumed I was, because there was nothing in my fear that was based on any fact. It was just a suspicion, however... "You're right," I said at last. "There is something bothering me, but it's really quite silly. I don't even know why we're trying to discuss it. It's just me having an irrational moment is all."

Joey took my hands into his and said, "If something is bothering you, there must be a reason for it. Now what is it?"

"I... I'm just afraid that when you guys go back to finish your tour, you'll forget all about me," I admitted. "The time we've had together so far, aside from a few fleeting moments, has been wonderful, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I'm smart enough to know that there is no possible way I can compete with the rest of the world. There are people who are so much more attractive than I am, and..."

Joey cut me off. "Who said anything about competing with the rest of the world?" he asked, anger starting to creep into his voice. "And do you honestly think I am so shallow that all I care about are looks?"

I cringed when he said that. That wasn't what I meant to imply, and I had now offended him. "No, but..."

"No buts!" Joey said forcefully. "Screw everyone else. I didn't fall in love with them. I fell in love with you."

"I know that. I do. I just can't help but think about the fact that I'll be here, and you'll be on the road somewhere, and there are so many people clamoring for your attention who are, simply put, better than me." Joey went to say something, but I stopped him. "Let me put this into better perspective for you Joe. Every time I leave this house, I fear that you will be gone when I return. I keep wondering if this isn't all a great dream I'm having, and that at some point I'm going to wake up only to discover it's not real. Let's face it Joe. When people are growing up and imagining their ideal mate, I'm not usually what comes to mind."

Joey laughed. That was not the reaction I had counted on. "You're right Will," he said. "When I was growing up, my perfect mate was supposed to be female, for one." He glanced at me as I rolled my eyes. "However, what I thought then and what I think now are not the same thing. For me, you are perfect. No one ever said you had to be in perfect shape to be attractive."

I leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "How do you always know what to say to make me feel better?"

Joey shrugged. "I guess I picked up a few tricks from my sexy boyfriend."

My mouth dropped in shock. "You—think I'm sexy?" I asked.

Joey grinned. "Definitely," he said, planting a kiss on my lips. We sat there for what seemed like hours, passionately kissing one another. At last, when we came up for air, Joey looked deep into my eyes and said, "And that is why you will never have to worry about losing me to anyone else, with kisses like that."

I blushed profusely. "I completely agree with that sentiment," I said. Standing up, I continued, "Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go check in on Mandy and Karri. It is Friday, after all, which means dance class."

Joey leapt off the bed, coming after me. "Do you mind if I tag along again? It was kind of fun watching you three."

I thought about it for a moment. "I don't see why not," I replied. "Hopefully, after the last class, the rest of the people have gotten used to you being there. Are you really sure you want to go, though? I would think it would be kind of boring to just sit and watch."

"Absolutely!" Joey responded in an overexcited tone. "Besides, I also wouldn't mind seeing Mama Celia again."

"Or having lunch either," I said mischievously. When he feigned a hurt look, I said, "No worries Joe. Believe me when I say having lunch at Mama Celia's is pretty much the main reason we still go to class. As a matter of fact, I think it's the only thing that keeps us going through that grueling hour with M.F."

"She is a bit of a tyrant, isn't she?"

"For lack of a better word, yes!" Noting the time on my watch, I spun on my heel, opened the door, walked across the hallway, and pounded on Jerrica's door. "Everybody up!" I yelled. After a brief moment, the door flew open. Jerrica stood there for a moment, staring at me. She then raised her hand up, swatted me on the side of the head, and then slammed the door in my face.

"Are they up?" Joey called from our room.

Rubbing the side of my head, I replied, "Yeah, they're up."

The girls got ready to go to dance class and, after repeated arguments about my emotional state, we started to head out the door when the phone rang. Running over to the phone in the kitchen, I grabbed it and said breathlessly, "Hello?"

"Hi, Mr. Robertson? This is Johnny Wright," said the voice on the other end.

"Who?" I asked in a puzzled voice.

"Johnny Wright, *Nsync's band manager."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, recognition setting in. "Do you want to talk to the guys? Duh! Hello! Of course you do. Hang on a second while I grab someone..."

"No!" Johnny said loudly, causing me to stop suddenly. "I called to talk to you."

"To me? Why? Is there a problem? Do you need the guys to come back? Look, I'm sorry about what happened the day before. You kind of caught me at a bad moment, and..."

"Whoa! Will, slow down!" Johnny said, halting my rambling tirade. "Nothing's wrong. I just wanted to talk to you about a couple things."

"Such as?" I said suspiciously. I looked over at Joey, who had just entered the room, and raised an eyebrow. He made a gesture, as if to ask who I was talking to, and I mouthed 'Johnny' back to him. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline, and a look of concern became evident on his face. Before Johnny could say too much, I said, "Johnny? Hang on a second. I'm going to switch phones." Putting the cordless phone down on the counter, I went over to Joey and Karri and said quietly, "Joe, you pick up the extension in the living room. Karri, pick up the one in the garage. When I tell you both to, you will pick up your extensions and then Karri will hang hers up. That way, Joe can listen in without Johnny realizing it. I don't know what he's up to, but I want someone familiar with him listening in."

"Are you sure about this?" Karri asked.

Glancing at Joey, I hissed, "Yes. Now go!" The two did as instructed. I picked up the cordless once again, and when I gave them the signal, they both picked up their respective phones. I heard the click of the phones being picked up, and the click signaling Karri hanging up her end. "Okay, that's better," I said after a moment. "Now, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"First, I want to tell you not to worry about what happened two days ago. You were caught off guard, and that kind of stuff happens," Johnny said politely.

Hearing that, I felt a little better. He didn't think I was a psychopath, so the chances that he would mandate the guys come back to a hotel just got that much slimmer. "Well, I thank you for the vote of confidence," I said, "and again, I do apologize for making such a scene. It wasn't appropriate."

"Forget about it," he said. "Now, the reason I'm calling is to discuss the issue raised in that argument. You see..."

"Johnny," I said curtly, cutting him off, "before you go any further, I don't really have the time to discuss this at the moment. I have a dance class at twelve-thirty and it's now already after eleven, so I'm sorry, but this is going to have to wait."

"Well, okay. Is there somewhere we could go talk afterward? I could meet you at your class and we could have lunch."

"Hmmm," I mused. Looking over at Joey, I silently asked him for input. He just rolled his eyes and nodded. I understood what he meant. I might as well get it over with. I probably wouldn't be able to get rid of Johnny until I talked to him. "All right," I said at last. "My class runs from twelve-thirty until one-thirty. Here's the address and the directions." I waited for Johnny to grab a piece of paper to write down the information I was giving him, and then told him what he needed to know. "Now," I continued, "should you happen to get there before class ends, please come in quietly. My instructor is a bit temperamental and I don't need her riding me about interruptions."

"Don't worry," he said. "You won't even know we're there."

"Uh, right," I said in a disbelieving tone. "Well, then I guess I will see you in a couple of hours. Um, have a good day Johnny."

"You too, Will. Good-bye."

"Bye," I said, clicking the phone off. I watched Joey hang up the extension, and then I leaned back against the wall and shook my head. "Oy vey. How do I get myself into these things?"

"I don't know what things you're talking about," Mandy said, "but right now, we kind of need to go, you know? Or do you want to be the one to explain to M.F. why we're late?"

My eyes widened. "Let's go!" We ran out to my car and started to pile in when I realized that there were people already sitting in the van. This piqued my curiosity, so I walked over and knocked on the window.

"Yes?" Jerrica asked after rolling down the window.

"Where are you going?"

Jerrica smiled evilly. "Why, to dance class of course!"

I backed up a couple of steps and looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "No. Absolutely not!" I barked. "It's one thing to just take Joe, but all five? We're going to need bodyguards or something for them! No, we can't do this."

"Oh, come on Will!" Justin whined from inside the van. "We want to go too! It's better than being cooped up here!"

"Well, then go find something else to do," I said in exasperation. "I just don't think this is a good idea."

"It's not like anyone knows they are coming," Jerrica pointed out. "Besides, if things get chaotic we can always leave."

I stood there for a moment, contemplating the situation. On one side, I did hate telling these guys no, and I was letting Joey come. Then again, if anything went wrong, it would drive M.F. completely nuts, which meant I would probably get punishment. However, it would drive M.F. nuts, which was one of my favorite pastimes. "All right," I agreed. "You can come. Just—try to behave yourselves, okay?"

"Who, us?" Chris said innocently from the passenger seat.

Rolling my eyes, I hurried back to my car and jumped in. "What's going on?" Mandy asked as I started the car.

"Apparently, we are going to have some company," I muttered as I backed out of the garage and began to head down the drive.

"Oh? Anyone we know?" Karri asked with a laugh.

"Yeah. Karri, do me a favor. Call Mama Celia and let her know we are going to have a few extra for lunch!"

We were about halfway to York when Karri's curiosity got the better of her. "So what was that phone call about anyway?"

"Nothing important," I said, hoping to derail this conversation before it began. Of course, I should have known better. Like Jerrica, when Karri or Mandy dig their heels into something, they aren't going to budge until they get what they want.

"Right. Whatever. Now out with it!" Mandy exclaimed.

Sighing, I looked over at Joey and said, "You tell them. I don't want to get into this."

Joey arched an eyebrow in surprise, then turned around and said, "Our manager, Johnny Wright, wants Will to sing a song with us because none of us have quite the range to do it and he does. He probably even wants him to go on tour. However, Will won't do it, and Johnny is probably coming to beg, or something like that." He then turned back around and stared out the window.

In the backseat, what Joey had said was slowly sinking in to the girls' minds. Soon, the two began to talk to each other at a mile a minute. "What is he, nuts?" Karri said at last.

"A music producer wants Will, our Will, to sing with a famous group, and he said no?" Mandy asked out loud in disbelief.

"Yeah, like I said before – 'What is he, nuts?'"

"Well, I know I would certainly do it. I can't believe he said no!"

"See! I told you he's crazy."

"Good grief. This is the opportunity of a lifetime!"

"I know. I know. He has to do it! Although, I suppose if he really doesn't want to, I'd be more than happy to take his place!"

"So would I! Why would he say no? You'd think that all he wants to do is work the rest of his life at..."

"You know," I said loudly, interrupting the two, "I am still here!"

"Sorry Will," they chimed in unison.

"Yeah, whatever," I mumbled.

We rode the rest of the way in silence. Karri and Mandy kept exchanging looks to each other, then they would both stare at me as if I had grown a second head. I know they both thought I was stupid to not jump at this, but I really didn't want to do it. Why couldn't they just understand and accept that?

Arriving at dance class shortly after noon, we all got out and entered the building. While there was no restriction on people coming to watch our class, I figured I had better warn M.F. ahead of time and save myself from any potential problems later on. I went over to her office and knocked lightly. She opened the door and ushered me in. "Well, what can I do for you today, sir?"

I had to stifle a laugh. For some reason, I found her thick Irish brogue amusing. "I, uh, wanted to let you know that we—that is to say I—will have a couple extra people watching practice today. Um, I hope that's all right?"

M.F. stared at me for a minute. "Let me guess. You have all of *Nsync here, right?"

I was so caught off guard by her question I nearly fell over. "Uh, yeah. How did you know?"

M.F. laughed. It was the first time I had really seen her laugh in quite some time. "Mr. Robertson, I may be a lot of things, but naïve is not one of them. When you are around lots of teenagers and young adults every day, you start to pick up on a few things. I recognized Mr. Fatone when you brought him in here on Wednesday." Sitting down in her chair, she leaned back and folded her arms across her chest. "If you can promise me that they won't be an interruption, I have no problem with them staying."

"Oh, thanks M.F.!" I exclaimed. "They rather insisted on coming, and I didn't have the heart to tell them no."

As I turned to walk out the door, M.F. said, "I am going to adjust practice by fifteen minutes today." When I gave her a puzzled look, she said, "I presume that some people are going to want some autographs."

My face lit up as I bounded out the door. The guys were huddled in a circle in the corner of the practice room, with Jerrica, Karri, and Mandy blocking them from view as well as they could. Running over to them, I filled them in on what M.F. had told me, and the guys agreed to sign some autographs if it meant that they could stay and wouldn't be bothered. M.F. came out a moment later and escorted the guys into her office so no one would see them until the class had arrived.

Mandy, Karri, and I went into our respective locker rooms to get changed into dance clothes while Jerrica stayed with the guys. Prior to heading out to the floor, I stopped by the office to say hello and to call Mama Celia to advise her we would be fifteen minutes later than normal. Before I could leave, Joey grabbed my arm, pulled me down so my face was level with his, and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. "For good luck," he said. The others laughed as I blushed, not that it took a whole lot to cause that to happen.

I walked out onto the floor and took my spot in the lineup. At twelve-thirty, M.F. came out and did her usual opening notes. After she finished, she looked at me and said, "We have some visitors today. One you have already met; the other four you have not. I have instructed them that they will be permitted to stay provided they will not be seen as an interruption." The look on her face and her tone of voice made many people cringe, but with M.F. that was not unusual. Smiling briefly, she continued. "Now, in order to ensure that we have a productive class, I will give you the next fifteen minutes to meet all of them and get any autographs that you want. They have been quite nice about it, so do not 'go nuts' on them. You will be back here in fifteen minutes exactly. NO EXCEPTIONS!" Most of us jumped when she barked that out, which caused a small smile to creep on her face. She loved to do that. "Now, I will go bring them out. Stay here."

She went to her office and brought Jerrica and the guys out. Jerrica, for what it's worth, played up her presence there, stating that she was their 'Publicity Director in Charge of Dance Hall Appearances.' Karri, Mandy, and I found this to be quite amusing, and we were given the evil eye from Jerrica when she heard us laughing. Ignoring us, she went to grab some chairs and pulled them up to a table at the rear of the room. I was afraid that it was going to be pandemonium and chaos, but things went quite well. Granted, there were only twenty-five of us in the whole class, and three of us were going home with these guys afterward, but you never know what people will do when they get overly excited.

After their fifteen minute allotment had expired, everyone came back to the lineup and we began class. I was quite surprised how well we did, considering how nervous many people might have been with such famous spectators in the audience. Unable to pay attention to them, I didn't notice Johnny and Tim walking in the back door. They sat down in chairs next to the guys, who just glared at them. While Joey knew why Johnny was there, the rest didn't, but they had a fairly good suspicion.

The class ended on time, and no one ended up with punishment—a new record. As Mandy, Karri, and I started to head for the locker rooms, we were intercepted by Johnny, who had the world's biggest grin on his face. "Wow, that was impressive," he said. "You're an even better find than I first realized." I glanced at Karri and Mandy out of the corners of my eyes and then rolled them. "Anyway, about what we need to discuss..."

I cut him off. "Johnny, we're hot, we're sweaty, we're tired, and we're hungry. How about we go get cleaned up, change clothes, and go get something to eat first? You can follow us over to the restaurant." Johnny looked like he wanted to say something else to me, but I didn't give him the chance. Grabbing Karri and Mandy's arms, I dragged them behind me to the locker areas.

There were only three guys in the class, aside from myself, and they had cleared out quickly. Walking in to the locker room, I found it deserted, except for Joey who was leaning next to a locker waiting for me. "Well, don't you look adorable?" Joey said with a sly grin.

"Adorable would not have been the word I would have picked," I muttered. "As a matter of fact, I don't know if that word could ever have been applied to me."

"Well, I think you're adorable."

"Joe, I'm all hot and sweaty. This is not exactly what one would call attractive."

"I think you're attractive even when you're hot and sweaty, although you probably could use a shower."

"My dear sir," I said coyly, "are you trying to tell me something?" Joey and I locked eyes and burst out laughing. Pushing him out of the locker room, I went to the shower room to get cleaned up.

Three vehicles pulled into the parking lot at Mama Celia's. Joey, Karri, Mandy, and I were in my car; Jerrica and the guys were in the van; and Johnny, Tim, and the guys' bodyguards were in their large SUV. We all got out and went inside. Upon entering, we were greeted by Celia who seated us all. That day we decided to sit at our usual table, and the table right next to ours was held open for Jerrica and the guys. I had asked Celia to reserve one table on the other side of the room for Johnny, since I really didn't want his discussion to ruin my appetite, and the bodyguards were seated wherever there was space. As Johnny was seated, I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, and I could tell he was most unhappy. I pointed this out to Joey, who thought it to be quite amusing.

"He's really not a bad guy," Joey said, "but he does tend to go a little overboard sometimes when he wants something. He's the kind of guy who doesn't like to take no for an answer."

"Obviously," I muttered under my breath. "He reminds me of a used car salesman."

"If you think he's bad, you should have seen the guy we had before him," Joey reminisced.

"How about we not think about that right now, and instead focus on something a little happier, like the food that is coming?" Mandy said with a smile.

Celia was bringing us our usual lunch—usual now that Joey was with us anyway. As she set the platters of food down, she leaned over and said, "Mister Will, I am sure this is none of my business, but the gentleman you have seated over there seems to stare at you all the time, and he makes me most nervous. I do not know what he wants, but I do not think he has your best interests in mind. If there will ever be a time you need to draw strength from Mister Joey here, right now is as good a time as any." She gave us a wink, stood up, and started to walk away. As she left, I could swear I heard her say, "They are so darling." Joey must have heard it too, because he turned as red as I did.

Apparently we weren't the only ones. Within moments, Jerrica sidled up next to me and, mimicking Mama Celia, said quietly enough so only we could hear, "Oh, they are soooo darling. Give me a break!"

"Shut up!" I fired back at her. "Just because I'm cute and you're not doesn't mean you have to get all jealous."

"Ooooooh!" Karri and Mandy hooted in unison. They had never seen Jerrica and I get into it, and I really didn't want to do it at Celia's.

"Excuse me? I am too cute! I'm cuter than you!" she exclaimed. Then, before she could think better of it, she blurted out, "Not only that, but at least I'm not trying to pass for a small whale."

That did it. As Jerrica explained to the guys when we had our last fight a couple days ago, there are no holds barred, minus a few exceptions. This was one of them, and as soon as she said it, she knew she had crossed the line.

"Jerrica!" Joey shouted at her, causing her to cringe. "How could you say that?"

I had stopped eating and was now staring at my plate, as if I was waiting for it to come to life or something else similarly impossible. "Rob, I'm sorry," she said plaintively. "I didn't..."

I was in no mood to listen to her at the moment, so I pushed my way past her and stormed out the door past a very surprised Celia. Coming over to the table, she was shocked to discover Joey staring Jerrica down, with a venomous look in his eyes so strong that one could feel his anger radiate around him. "What happened?" she asked. "Where did Mister Will go? What is wrong?"

"Jerrica's big mouth happened!" Joey barked, his eyes never leaving Jerrica.

"I'm sorry Joey! I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry!!" Jerrica cried, her eyes now streaming with tears. "I didn't mean to say it; it just slipped out. It's not like I was serious, and he knows that!"

"You still hurt his feelings," Joey said icily.

"My God Joey! How many times do I have to apologize?"

"Children!" Celia boomed. "Calm down. Things happen, and besides, you are attracting attention." The two stopped yelling at each other, but the glares they gave each other never waned. "Now, Miss Jerrica, whatever you said, it seems to have hurt Mister Will's feelings, but if I know him as well as I think I do, he will forgive you for it."

Jerrica smiled, for she knew that Celia was right. "Yeah. He's my best friend, and we've never been able to stay mad at each other for very long."

Joey snorted. "Some best friend," he muttered.

"Mister Joey," Celia continued, "that is enough. It is going to be even harder for Mister Will to forgive Miss Jerrica if you will not do it first."

Joey sighed. He knew Celia was right, but he was finding it hard to forgive Jerrica for what she had said. However, he knew that I would eventually excuse what she had said and let it go. "All right Jerrica, I forgive you," he mumbled at last.

Jerrica, who had buried her head in her arms on the table, lifted her head up and slowly turned to face him. "You—you do?"

Joey's face softened when he realized how truly broken up about this she was. "Yeah, I do. There's no sense in me staying mad at you. Besides, I shouldn't have barked at you like that. I guess I'm just a little protective of him."

"Yeah, I am too," Jerrica said with a small grin, "but every now and then my brain seems to run a little behind my mouth and I say things I don't mean."

"Routinely," I said, coming up behind them. Jerrica had seriously irritated me with what she had said earlier, but once I had taken a minute alone to compose myself, I was able to let it go.

"Rob!" Jerrica yelled out in surprise as she turned to face me. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she blubbered as she stood up and pulled me into a tight embrace.

I hugged her back, and after she had calmed down a little, I said evenly, "You went over the line."

"I know," she said. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her wallet and fished a ten dollar bill from it. Placing it in my hand, she said, "Why is it I always get hit with the 'over the line' fee?"

"Because you can't ever seem to keep certain thoughts inside your head," I replied.

"Yeah," she agreed. "Now, if you all will excuse me, I'm famished." She turned and went back to her table with the other guys, who said nothing whatsoever about what had just happened.

Joey wanted to ask, but thought better of it. Maybe that was a conversation he would have with me at another time. Instead, we turned our conversation to other things: the grueling dance class M.F. had put us through, questions from Mandy and Karri about Joey's life on tour, and so forth. The episode between Jerrica and I was soon quickly forgotten, and we all were laughing and joking loudly. At some point in time, I realized that our group was the only one in the restaurant, and when I looked over at Mama Celia, she just gave me a knowing nod and a wink. Just like a mother, I thought. Always protecting her babies.

As lunch drew to a close, I looked over to Johnny, who now seemed to be fidgeting in his seat. Apparently he was starting to become anxious about something, so I figured then was as good a time as any to go and see what he wanted so I could tell him 'no' and be done with it. Excusing myself from the table, I walked over to Johnny's table and sat down across from him, next to Tim. We stared at each other for a minute or two before I broke the ice by saying, "So, let's get this over with. I know what you want; you know what my answer is. Why are we having this discussion?"

"The kid's got style," Johnny remarked to Tim with a slight smile. "I like that."

"Uh, Johnny? I'm over here, remember?" I pointed out in slight annoyance since he had not promptly responded to my question.

"I didn't forget," he said. "Impatient, aren't we?"

"Not impatient," I answered. "I would just prefer that you get right to the point. This is, in theory, a business discussion, not a social call."

Johnny threw his hands up in the air. "All right, all right. We'll get to it then. As you have no doubt guessed, it is our intent to release that song you sang the other day as part of *Nsync's new album. It will be the first single released from the album, but instead of following the conventional method of releasing the song and then promoting it through concerts, we'd like to try a new approach. We want to promote the song from the concerts, and then release the single afterward. We think it will boost sales and the hype around their upcoming album."

He went to take a breath, which gave me just enough time to jump in with, "That's all fine and dandy, and I find it to be an interesting approach. However, why do you suddenly feel the need to use my vocals on this song? There must be someone else who can sing in my range. At the very least, couldn't you just kick Chris in the nuts or something?"

I did my very best to say that with a straight face, and the expression on Tim and Johnny's faces was absolutely priceless. "Not a bad idea," Johnny replied, "but I don't usually favor anything that might take one of my people out of commission, no matter how much I would really like to do it." He grinned at the idea, but his face quickly went back to being more serious. "I suppose there are other guys out there who sing in 'your range' as well as you do, but to be honest, you have a couple of advantages over other people."

"Such as?"

"First, and foremost, you're here," he said. "Second, we already know how you sound. Third, you are now familiar with the music we want done, and last, but not least, you have an established rapport with the guys that will make life easier on the road. After all, it is much simpler to get along with someone you know than a complete stranger."

"On the road?" I said in disbelief. "Who said anything about going on the road? At the very most, if I consent to do anything, it will be to record my vocals for the album only. That's it. At least in the recording studio, when I screw up, it can be fixed. There is no way I am going to embarrass myself on stage in front of thousands of people." I sat back in my chair and folded my arms across my chest. There was no possible way he could budge me from this position. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Celia eavesdropping on the conversation. I didn't mind. I actually felt a little more comfortable knowing she was there hearing everything.

"Oh, well, that does present a problem. You see, when I first heard you, I would have been content with that, but things have changed." I shot him a quizzical look, which only caused him to chuckle. "Of course, now that I think about it, I suppose there is no point in talking about this. We'll probably find someone better than you. You wouldn't be able to pull it off anyway. I don't even know why we bothered with this."

I stared hard at him, reading deep into his eyes. He was feeding me a bunch of lines and I wasn't falling for it. "Nice try Johnny," I said, "but reverse psychology is not going to work on me."

"Who said anything about reverse psychology? I'm serious," he retorted.

"If you're that serious," I said as I started to get up from my chair, "then I guess this little meeting is over. Good day gentlemen."

I had just managed to stand when Johnny shot out of his chair and grabbed my arm. "Sit down," he growled. "I'm not done yet." Sitting back down, he leaned back in his chair and said, "You not only are going to sing vocals on the album, but you're going to come on tour and do this song with them on stage. In addition, since our opening act for the second half of this tour has unexpectedly had to cancel, we need a replacement. I think you'll do quite well."

My eyes were as wide as saucers. I could feel myself beginning to get angry. How dare he tell me what I am going to do with my life? roared the voice in my head. "Not a chance in hell," I said at last.

"But you would be paid well," Johnny said.


"There would be some other benefits as well."

"What part of 'no' are you not getting here? Is it the 'n' or the 'o?'"

"All right then," Johnny said angrily, "you leave me no choice. Almost all of the venues we are playing at require two things: A show of a certain amount of length, and at least two different performers. Without the opening act, we would be unable to fulfill our contract, thus having to cancel the tour."

"That would be sad," I said, "but couldn't you find someone else to fill in? There are lots of people who would jump at the chance to open for *Nsync!"

"There isn't enough time for that Will. Either you go or the tour gets cancelled. I would hate to have to explain that to a certain young man over there," Johnny said, pointing behind me. As I turned around to see whom he was pointing at, my eyes fell on Joey, who was engrossed in a conversation with Mandy. I whirled back around to face him, my right eyebrow arched up in a puzzled expression. In an answer to my unspoken question, he said, "Yeah, Will. I know about that too. I know about your relationship with Joey, and think how hard it will be when he finds out that the reason the second half of his tour was killed was because of you. Not only that, but if there is no second half of the tour, they don't get paid."

I sunk down in my chair. My head was spinning. This can't be happening, I thought. How could this possibly be happening? I looked over my shoulder again at Joey, and then I looked over at Chris, Justin, Josh, and Lance. I can't do this to them. As much as I don't want to do this, I can't take their dreams away from them. At least it's only for a short time, right? Turning back to face Johnny, I took a deep breath and said, "All right, Johnny. You win. I'll do it."

Johnny smiled at me. "That's good to hear. I knew you would come around. Now, here's the contract. If you will just go ahead and sign it..."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Celia stiffen when she heard me admit defeat. Slowly, she backed into the kitchen and out of my line of view. I prayed she wasn't going to tell Joey what happened. The fact that Johnny had beaten me into submission was bad enough; I didn't want Joey to feel like it was his fault I wound up in this mess. My mind was such a jumble, and I was having trouble keeping it together.

"Well?" Johnny asked, still holding a pen out to me.

Pushing the pen away from him, I said, "With all due respect Johnny, while you may have coerced me into doing this, I'm not an idiot. I'll have a friend's lawyer over at Starlight Music look it over and get it back to you hopefully this week."

His face started to fall. "Starlight Music?"

I nodded. "Yeah. My mother is best friends with Kimber Benton. I'll have her and her lawyers look it over. Just want to make sure we all play fair now."

Johnny sighed and stood up. "Fine. I want it back by Tuesday. Tim, let's go. We have things to do." The two went to pay their check and then walked out the door. I couldn't help but laugh at the pale look on Johnny's face. I may be stuck doing this, but at least I had managed to regain some footing.

I sat there for a few moments after they left, contemplating what I was going to tell Joey. I had to be careful. I knew that if I told him the real reason why I agreed to sing, he would get upset. I had to find some way to tell them only what they needed to know without having to lie. I was shaken from my thoughts when Celia came and sat down with me.

"Mister Will, you do not look happy," she said softly.

"I'm not, really," I said. "This wasn't what I wanted, but what choice do I have? If I say no, then his career could be ruined just by canceling their tour alone. Imagine how many fans that will alienate."

"Alienate?" Celia asked, pronouncing the word very slowly.

"Piss off," I defined. "How would he ever forgive me for that?"

"How will he feel when he finds out that you have done something you do not want to do just to make him happy?" she asked.

"I'm not trying to be a martyr," I said, "by doing that, but I don't see any other way around it. Besides, it's only for the summer. Then, I can go back to what's left of a normal life."

Celia sat silently for a minute. "What are you going to tell him?" she asked.

"I don't know, but I had better think of something fast. I won't lie to him though."

Smiling, Celia said, "Good. Nothing good ever came from a lie." She stood up, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and went back into the kitchen.

Standing up myself, I put on a happy face and went back to Joey and the rest of the guys. As I approached, with each passing step I knew there was no possible chance I could not tell Joey everything. I wonder how he'll take it, I thought.

Joey, who was chattering with Karri about something, the topic of which I no longer remember, saw me walk up and halted his conversation. "So, how did it go?" he asked.

"Um, okay I guess," I replied as nonchalantly as possible. "Um, can I talk to you and Jerrica outside for a second?"

Joey arched an eyebrow into a classic puzzled expression. "Uh, okay. Sure. Excuse me ladies," he said to Mandy and Karri as he stood up. Jerrica, who had heard her name, got up and followed us outside.

"What's up?" she asked.

"I said yes," I blurted out, wasting no time in getting to the point.

"You did what?" they shouted in unison.

"I told Johnny I would do it."

"About time you got some sense," Jerrica said.

"Why?" Joey asked suspiciously.

I turned away from them, trying to find the right words. "I didn't really have much of a choice," I said.

"How so?" Joey asked, coming up to me and pulling me in a hug.

With a heavy sigh, I pulled out of his hug and recanted the entire conversation to them both, and as I babbled on their jaws began to sink lower and lower. By the time I had finished, their jaws would have been scraping the ground—were that humanly possible. "And that's about it," I said at last.

"So what you're telling me is that if you had said no, he would have cancelled the tour and blamed the whole thing on you?" Joey asked as calmly as he could manage.

"That about sums it up," I replied. "I wish he didn't have to go about it this way, but I can't in good conscience make you guys suffer just because I don't want to do something. I'm not trying to be a martyr, but I don't know what else to do."

"I'm going to kill him," Joey said evenly.

"No, Joe," I said quickly, putting my hands on his shoulders. "While I may consider him lower than dirt at the moment, that type of action is not going to solve anything. Besides, now that I've said I'll do it, I can't very well go back on my word, now can I?"

"But he's not playing fair Will," Joey shot back. "He's manipulating your feelings for me and the guys to force you to do this."

"No kidding," Jerrica piped up.

Joey glared at her before continuing. "If you want to do this, that's fine, and the guys and I will support you, but if you are only doing this to make us happy—don't. We'll handle Johnny."

"I bet that weasel Eric had a hand in this too," Jerrica said, pounding her fist into her hand. "If he didn't rue the day he met me before, he will now!"

"You know, the two of you make a much better team when you are on the same side instead of at each other's throats. It's kind of scary, but definitely better. As for Johnny, why don't we wait to decide what to do about him after I have Kimber look these over?"

"Who's Kimber?" Joey asked.

"My mother's best friend from when she was younger. She moved to California when she was ten and she became friends with Kimber and her sister who, coincidentally, is also named Jerrica. They run Starlight Music in Los Angeles."

"Wow!" Joey exclaimed. "Who knew you had such connections?"

I chuckled. "I never thought about them as connections, Joe. They're like family, but in this case, having family on your side isn't a bad thing."

"What are you going to tell the others?" Jerrica asked.

I looked over at Joey and shrugged my shoulders. "What do you think I should tell them Joe? You know them better than I do. I would like to tell them nothing until we've figured this out a little better, but the odds of us being able to keep this quiet are about zero."

Joey thought about this for a minute or two before he said, "I would come clean with them. The more they know ahead of time, the much easier it will make things. Besides, if it comes to a showdown between you and Johnny, it's better to have us on your side and enlightened than completely in the dark."

"He has a point," Jerrica said in agreement.

"I know. I'll tell them, unless you think it would be better if you do it?" I suggested to Joey.

"No, this is your issue, and you need to do it," Joey replied. "That, and I don't want to get any angrier than I already am. If I have to tell them what our no-good, low-down, dirty bas..."

"Joey!" I yelled, cutting him off and giving him a hard glare for the names he was about to call Johnny.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly, "but he is! Anyway, what I'm saying is that it's not a good idea."

"Point taken. All right, let's get this over with. There is at least one bonus from all this."

"What's that?" Jerrica asked.

"Chris finally got what he wanted, and then some!"

"You can't do this!" Chris yelled. "That's not fair!"

I had just finished telling the guys what happened, and Chris' reaction was a bit unexpected. Oh, don't misunderstand me. When I informed them that I had told Johnny I would sing with them, Chris fell out of his chair. When he came back to the table, he was all smiles. However, it was not to last. As I explained to them how it had all come about, his face began to fall, and by the time I was done, he was furious.

"Tell me about it," I said, "but at this point I've run out of ideas. I have to admit I'm a bit surprised though. I thought this was what you wanted?"

"Well, yeah, but not like this. I wanted you to sing because you wanted to, not because you were blackmailed into it." Turning to Joey, he said, "Joey, how come you're not upset? I figured you'd be halfway to the hotel plotting to kill him."

Joey shot Chris an innocent look. "Moi? Do I look like the vengeful type?"

The others glanced at each other with a look of mild amusement. "Uh, Joey? Since when did we begin using words like 'vengeful?'" Josh asked. Joey didn't answer, but just pointed at me. Rolling his eyes, Josh said, "I should have known."

"So, are we going to go pound our creep of a manager or what?" Chris asked.

"No," Joey said quickly. "We're not going to stoop to his level."

"We don't have to attack him physically," I said, "but that doesn't mean we can't toy with him a little." Glancing over at Jerrica, I shot her a big grin. She grinned back, and then began to crack her knuckles. Catching the evil glint in her eye, I could tell she was ready for some fun at Johnny's expense.

Joey insisted on paying for Mandy, Karri, himself, and me, and while I gave him an odd look, he got no argument from anyone. Lance paid for the rest of the group and we slowly made our way out of the restaurant as Mama Celia wouldn't let us leave until everyone had given her a hug. Joey and I, who were the last to leave, were swept together into a bear hug that easily rivaled Joey's in strength. She was definitely one strong lady!

Staring at us both with warm eyes, she said softly, "The other is your strongest gift. Use him." She then gave us each a peck on the cheek and walked away. I glanced over at Joey and arched an eyebrow. He just looked back at me and nodded his head. He got the message loud and clear and so did I.

As we walked out of the restaurant into the bright sunshine, Justin ran up and tugged on my arm. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked. Joey's face immediately darkened, but I cast him a look that told him not to worry. I knew he was still jealous of Justin, but he had to learn to trust his friend. In what I can only describe as a completely possessive move, Joey looked around quickly, put his arm around my shoulder to give me a quick squeeze, and walked away.

"So what did you want to talk about Justin?" I asked as we began to walk around to the back of the restaurant.

"Two things," Justin replied. "First, are you really sure about this? I mean, we can deal with Johnny. It's not right for you to agree to do something just to keep us happy."

"It's not just that Justin. Granted, that's enough in its own right, but there is something that concerns me more."

"Such as?"

"He knows about Joe and me, and that's a heavy hand to be playing with. While what happens on the rest of the tour may not matter to you all, what Johnny could potentially do with this information could. I don't have any idea how loyal your fan base is, but from what I understand, the bulk of it consists of young teenage girls. Something tells me they might not react too well if they were to find out that one of your band members is gay. That cuts down their dreams of being able to marry one of you by twenty percent!"

"Yeah, I've thought about that, but I, quite frankly, could care less. If we can't be honest with our fans, then it's like lying to ourselves."

"Justin, while I admire your faith, I don't foresee it going quite so well. Reality is far from idyllic; it's really quite the opposite. Honestly, the less they know, the better. Now, with Kimber on my side, I can probably keep Johnny in check through most of this, but he still holds the trump card. All he has to do is leak this to the media, and your careers could be ruined."

"Would you stop thinking of everyone but yourself and be a tiny bit selfish for at least one second of your life?" Justin shouted.

"I thought this was what you all wanted!" I retorted. "Besides, I am being selfish. I love Joe with all my heart, and if singing means we can stay together, then so be it."

"But what about us?" Justin asked.

I had just started to walk away when his question struck me as odd. Turning to face him, I cocked my head to one side and said, "Us? What do you mean us? Us who?"

"You—and me," he replied quietly.

It was quite difficult, but I managed not to laugh. "You and me?" I repeated. I was about to say something else when the pieces fell into place. The suspicions I had been having for some time now were finally being confirmed. Justin was falling for me—me of all people! I couldn't let this happen. I just had to find a way to do it without breaking his heart. Opening my arms, I motioned for him to come over to me. "Justin, come here."

Justin hesitated at first, but he relented at last and walked into my waiting arms. As soon as I had my arms around him, I felt his body tense up as he began to slowly sob. "I'm sorry Will. I'm sorry," he whispered into my ear.

"Don't be," I said as I rubbed his back. "You can't help how you feel, and I'm seriously flattered, but you know that this can't happen."

"But I love you Will," Justin choked out between sobs.

"I love you too, Justin," I said quietly, which caused his head to fly off my shoulder and look me directly in the eye, "but..."

"I knew you did," Justin said excitedly. "I suppose you'll want to be the one to tell Joey, of course, but I'm sure he'll understand—eventually."

"Whoa! Justin! Stop for a second. I think you're misunderstanding me."

"Yeah, he'll be crushed at first, but I think over time he'll learn to accept us."


"I just hope he won't be too angry with you for playing him like this, but—as they say—all's fair in love in war."


"What?" he asked, suddenly snapping out of his reverie.

"Please—just stop and pay attention to what I'm saying for one second. Yes, Justin, I do love you, but not the way you think I do. I love you like family—like a brother. I know you have siblings, but I'm an only child, and for the first time in my life it's nice to have someone to, you know, kind of look out for as I have with you. Justin, I care very much for you, but I'm not in love with you. I'm in love with Joey. I'm sorry if this hurts your feelings, but I don't want you to keep your hopes up for something that is not going to happen."

I continued to hold him as his face completely fell. "But...but..." No longer able to look me in the eye, he spun around and yelled, "It's not fair!" Turning back to me, he said, "It's just not fair. You're so perfect. You listen to me, and you understand me like no one else ever has, and you're the kind of guy everyone wants."


"Yeah! Someone who's sweet, caring, loyal, understanding, and always there for them."

"You're starting to make me sound like a golden retriever," I muttered.

"I don't mean it like that," Justin said as he tried to reword the thoughts inside his head. "I'm just saying that you appreciate people for who they are, not who you think they should be, or who they may present themselves to be. You see the real person inside, like..."

"Like a friend does, or maybe a brother?" I jumped in, cutting Justin off.


"Justin, let's get to the heart of the matter. Are you gay?"

Justin went a little pale. "Uh, I guess so."

"Are you sure? Are you sure you're up for some action in the bedroom with another guy? Are you sure you have no interest in girls whatsoever?"

"Well, uh, I, uh, guess."

"Justin, look, I'm sure you have the best of intentions, but I find it highly unlikely that you're gay."

"But I am!" Justin said suddenly. "I love you Will. That automatically makes me gay, doesn't it?"

"Look, I know there are many things about me you like, and my guess is that if you were to find these same qualities in a nice, attractive girl, you'd forget all about me. What you really want is some great girl to come along and sweep you off your feet, so to speak. I guess what you want is a female version of me."

"Why can't I just have you?"

I was starting to get frustrated. Why wasn't he getting it? "Justin, I'm not what you want. You want a princess, not a prince; a queen, not a king; a lady, not a lord. Justin—read my lips: What do I have to do to prove it to you? Kiss you?" The second the words were out of my mouth, I knew I was going to regret it.

"I was hoping you might suggest that," Justin said slyly.

I rolled my eyes. I hope you understand that I'm doing this for us Joey, I thought. Leaning over, I took a deep breath and gave Justin a kiss square on the lips. At first, he didn't do much but just receive the kiss, but soon he began to kiss back. As quickly as it started, I broke the kiss off and stared him straight in the eye. "See, no fireworks, no shooting stars, nothing. Right?"

Justin eyed me carefully. He wasn't sure what he felt, but he thought there might have been something. However, he had this feeling it was better to tell me what I wanted to hear and then sort it out later. Putting on his best smile, he acted as he had never done before. "No, nothing. I guess you were right Will. I guess I just wanted to believe it so much, I let myself believe it to be true."

I wanted to believe what he was saying, I really did, but I knew better. He was hiding his feelings for my sake, and I appreciated it. I prayed that he would get over his puppy-love type feelings for me and move on. It just wasn't meant to be, not like Joey and I were. "Well, I'm glad we've sorted that out," I said slowly.

Justin stared hard at me for a moment, and then said, "You're not buying it, are you?"

I shook my head. "Nope."

"Okay, okay! I felt something, or at least I think I did, but I'm going to try to ignore it, all right? I just want you to be happy." He then cast his eyes down to his feet and asked, "Do you think Joey and I will ever be cool again?"

"Yeah, eventually. Just give him time, okay?"

"Okay." I began to walk away when Justin called after me. "Hey Will?"

I spun around and walked back over to him. "Yeah Justin?"

"Thanks bro."

"Any time," I said with a smile. I bent over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "And remember, you are very special to me. It's a different kind of special from Joe, but different from the others too. You have an important place in my life, and nothing is going to change that—bro." I giggled as I said that last word, for it was a novel concept for me. The closest I had ever had to a sibling was Jerrica, but with her it's different. It's kind of hard to talk about, well, guy stuff, you know, with a girl. "Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah. It does. Now, why don't you go find Joey and then we can get out of here, okay?" Justin said, pushing me away.

"Good idea, and Justin?"


"Thanks again." I ran off to find Joey, leaving Justin behind.

"No problem, Will. No problem at all." He watched me leave and sighed heavily. "This isn't over Will," he said quietly. "I wasn't kidding when I said all is fair in love and war, and just because I lost the first battle does not mean the war is over yet."

Joey was troubled. He felt bad about spying on me and Justin, but he still didn't trust that boy as far as he could throw him. He watched the two of us have our discussion from what he considered to be a safe distance. He caught occasional snippets of conversation, but not enough to piece any of it together so that it made any sense. Then, to his dismay, he saw me kiss Justin and he felt his heart begin to crumble. No, he told himself, there must be a rational explanation for that. He sank down to the ground and propped his head against the side of the building. I just wish I knew what it was instead of imagining the worst. "I am not going to freak out over this," he said out loud, "but I just have to wonder if life is ever going to be normal again?"

He stood back up on slightly unsteady feet. He peeked around the corner again and saw me heading in his direction. Afraid of being caught spying on Justin and me, he ran for the side of the restaurant. He had just managed to slow his breathing when I appeared from behind him. "Hey you," I said with a grin as I gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Ready to go home?"

"Uh, yeah. I'll be along in a second. I need to ask Mama Celia something before we go."

There was something troubling Joey, and I wanted to ask what it was, but I had this feeling that it might be better if I just left it alone for the moment. "Okay, I'll see you at the car. Don't be too long."

"I won't."

"All right. Oh, and Joe?"


"Je t'aime mon cher. I love you."

"I love you too," Joey said with as much of a smile on his face as he could muster. As he watched me turn the corner of the building, he put his forehead in his hand and sighed deeply. "I just hate feeling like I have to fight for your love," he said to himself. "I know there's a good explanation for why you kissed Justin, and I know you love me, but why do I suddenly feel so uncertain about everything?" He leaned against the building and stared at the sky as he began to sing.

Who is he kissing, is it me?
Or is he makin' love to a fantasy?
Who is he kissing? Wish I knew
What he's thinkin' of when he looks into my eyes.

Who is he kissing, I wish I knew.
Who is he kissing, me or you?
Who is he kissing, when he looks into my eyes?

Who is he kissing, him or me?
Am I being used, tell me who he's gonna see.
Him or me?

Does he see some other boy
When he looks my way?
Does he want some other boy?

Which role should I play?

Who is he kissing, I wish I knew.
Who is he kissing, me or you?
Who is he kissing, when he looks into my eyes?

Who is he kissing?
Who is he kissing?
Who is he kissing?

Who is he kissing?

Taking a deep breath, he said, "Me, that's who, and if Justin tries to get in my way, may God have mercy on him, because I sure won't."

The trip back to my house was seemingly in good spirits. Since the mess with Johnny was on hold for the moment, that left little else to distract us. I noticed that Joey seemed to be rather quiet, but I didn't want to push any issues with him while Karri and Mandy were in the car. Whatever was bothering him would be discussed in private.

We arrived back at the house with very little time left before I had to go to work. This was Mandy and Karri's second day off, so they lounged around in the living room while I ran around like a crazy person trying to get at least one thing accomplished before I left. After ten minutes of digging through old address books, I finally ran across Kimber's phone number in Los Angeles at Starlight Music. It had been a couple of years since I had last talked with her and I hoped that not only was the number still correct but that she hadn't forgotten about me. I reached her secretary and, after much begging and pleading, she put me through.

"Kimber Benton speaking. How may I help you?"

"Oh my God! Kimber! How are you? It's Will Robertson!" I exclaimed.

"Who?" she asked in a puzzled tone.

I silently smacked myself. The last time I had spoken to her, I hadn't changed my name yet. "Uh, Robbie Williamson," I said quickly. "Anne-Marie's son."

"Who?" she asked again, but this time I could hear laughter at the other end.

"You're going to make me say it, aren't you?" I asked in a defeated tone as I rolled my eyes.

"Yes," she replied.

"All right. 'Hi Aunt Kimber! It's your favorite nephew—Robért-James,'" I mumbled, grimacing as I said my whole first name.

"That's better," she said with a laugh. "Now what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call to?"

I was going to give her some smart-aleck comment, but thought better of it, especially since I needed her help. Instead, I explained the situation I had gotten myself into, minus a few personal details I was going to try to not divulge unless I had no other choice. It's not that I didn't trust Kimber; I trusted her implicitly. The problem was that I had yet to tell my family about my sexuality and I didn't want my mother to hear it from Kimber. Once I worked up enough nerve to tell my family, I would tell Kimber as well.

"How on earth did you manage this mess?" Kimber asked. "On second thought, don't answer that. It's probably better that I don't know." I bit my tongue, as I really wanted to tell her everything, but I just couldn't. Not yet. "Anyway, since it seems like you're stuck, from what you've said, now the only thing to do is play the game as well as you can. I'd be happy to look over the paperwork that jerk gave you, but, in addition, I think it would be a better idea if I were your manager."

"My manager?" I choked out. This thing was starting to get bigger than I had originally thought.

"Yeah. You need someone to look out for your interests, and it doesn't sound like Johnny Wright is going to do that."

"Probably not," I surmised. "I'll fax the papers over to you right now," I continued, "and I'll send some accompanying notes tomorrow after I've read through the thing. What's your fax number?"

"Sounds good. It's 310-555-5665. Listen, I need to run, but I look forward to working with you."

"Same here. Tell Aunt Jerrica I said hello."

"I will. I'll talk to you later—Robért-James."

"Kimber!" I groaned as I heard the line disconnect. "Dang! Then she goes and hangs up on me." I set the handset back into the cradle and blew a raspberry at it. Laughing quietly to myself, I picked up the papers Johnny had given me and started faxing them to Kimber. I prayed that everything would work out all right in the end. I knew that only time would tell.

I walked in the door at quarter to four that morning absolutely exhausted. It had been another long day at work, and I was ready for a nice, long slumber. Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew in my house, I had traded my shift off on Saturday to someone else that night, thus giving me a three-day weekend. I was incredibly excited and couldn't wait to tell Joey. Granted, it would have to wait until morning, but that was all right. Sleep was a larger priority anyway.

I made my way up the stairs and crept into our bedroom. The heavy breathing coming from the bed was a clear indication Joey was asleep. Smiling to myself, I changed into my usual t-shirt and sweats and crawled into bed. I snuggled up close to him and listened to him breathe. It was interesting how this had quickly become my favorite sound in the world. So this is what true love is like, I thought happily to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

I woke around ten-thirty to discover Joey sitting next to me holding a tray of food. "Good morning sunshine," Joey said with a smile as he leaned over to plant a kiss on my cheek. "I thought I would save you a trip downstairs."

"Oh, you are sooo sweet!" I gushed. "You didn't have to do that!"

"I know, but I wanted to," Joey said. "You've cooked for me all week, except for that one dinner we made together. I thought it was time I did something for you. I know it's not much, but..."

I was smiling so hard it was starting to hurt. "This is the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time." I was actually starting to tear up; his actions had touched me so.

"It's just breakfast," Joey said shyly.

"Joe, it's not just the breakfast. It's the fact that you went out of your way to do something special for me. I can't even begin to describe how much that means to me." I sat up, reached over, and took his hand in mine. "Anything you do for me is special because you are a wonderful person who cares about me."

"I love you Will."

"I love you too Joe."

"So, are you going to eat or not?"

"You mean I have to feed myself?" I asked flirtatiously, bobbing my eyebrows and hoping he'd catch the hint.

"Oh!" Joey exclaimed, finally getting a clue. Picking up the fork, he scooped some eggs onto it and slowly placed it inside my mouth.

"Yum. Cheesy," I said. As Joey went to give me more eggs, I held my hand up to stop him. "I need to tell you something. I just want you to promise to listen to the whole story before you say anything."

"Uh, okay."

"I did something yesterday I'm not proud of, but I did it because I thought it was necessary."

"You mean when you kissed Justin?"

"Oh," I said dejectedly. "You know about that. I'm guessing Justin told you."

"Um, not exactly."

"Then the only other way you could have known is if you," I said slowly as the light bulb came on.

"I hadn't really planned on it Will," Joey explained. "It just kind of happened that way."

I shook my hands at him. "No, don't worry about it. What you must think of me. I promise it was not what it looked like." Suddenly a thought occurred to me. "Ooh. Déjà vu."

"Then I won't say what comes next," Joey said with a laugh.

"Thanks. Anyway, the reason I kissed Justin was to prove to him that he wasn't really interested in me, he was just attracted to my personality. I was trying to show him that he's not gay, just, uh, confused. Unfortunately, I think I made things worse." I sighed heavily before I continued. "Anyway, I wanted to make sure I told you as soon as I had the chance. One of the things that makes a relationship work is having open lines of communication. Right?" Joey remained silent for a moment. "Joe?"

"Huh? Right Will. I'm glad you told me, but could you promise me one little thing?"

"What's that?"

"That nobody gets to kiss those lips but me."

"No problem at all," I said quickly. "Wait. You're not angry with me?"

"No. I'm not. I think I understand what you were trying to do and why. Next time, could you please try not to kiss him though? I try very hard to not be jealous, but at times it gets a little difficult."

"Agreed. Now what do you say you and I finish this food, huh?"

"Sure." Joey reached behind the plate and pulled out a second fork. When he noticed my quizzical look, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Just in case you wanted some help."

"Yeah, yeah. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to finish this delicious breakfast with this hot chef/waiter who brought it to me." Joey grinned as he watched me put some eggs on my fork and feed it to him. We went back and forth doing this until the plate was clean.

"That was quite good, if I do say so myself," Joey said after taking the last bite of pancake I offered to him.

"It really was," I said as I leaned over and kissed him on the lips.

"What was that for?"

"You had some syrup there," I said with a giggle, "but it was also to thank you for making breakfast and spoiling me horribly."

Joey blushed deep red. "I was happy to do it."

"I'm glad. Now, if you don't mind, why don't you take the dishes downstairs and toss them in the sink while I get up and get ready?"

"I can do that. Tu es si beau, tu sais?" Joey said with a smirk.

"Come again?" I asked with a raised eyebrow. Maybe I had wax in my ears, but I could swear I just heard him call me handsome in French.

"I said, 'Tu es si beau, tu sais?' That is how you say it, right?"

"Yeah. Where did you pick that up from?"

"Jerrica. I asked her to teach me how to say something really nice." He then narrowed his eyes at me. "That, uh, was something nice I hope."

I couldn't help but laugh. I got out of bed and walked over to Joey. Wrapping my arms around him, I laid my head on his chest and said, "It was wonderful, just like you."

Joey's face broke into a huge grin, and then he leaned over and kissed the top of my head. "Go get ready. I'll see you downstairs in a few minutes." He picked up the dirty dishes and left the room without saying another word.

I threw myself backward onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. Unable to contain myself, I started to shriek excitedly. This was just too much for my love-starved brain to comprehend. Sighing contentedly, I gathered up some clothes and went into the bathroom.

Downstairs the guys were contemplating what to do with themselves. They were starting to get a little restless, and I couldn't blame them. Truth be told—my life is boring, at least on a normal day anyway. I could hardly blame them for a little cabin fever setting in.

"Ever have that feeling where you need to just get out and run around?" Justin asked as he sipped a glass of milk.

"Well, there's the door," Josh remarked. "Don't let it hit you on the way out."

"I meant somewhere other than here."

"I guess I understand. We've been cooped up here a lot over the past few days. Granted it's been by our own choice, but I think I agree with you. We need to get out and go somewhere."

"I hear you there," Lance said as he walked into the living room. "I wouldn't mind going out. The question is where?"

"Going out? Who's going out?" Chris asked as he entered the room.

"Us, if we can figure out where to go," Lance replied.

"When we crashed here, all I wanted to do is relax. I think I am now over-relaxed," Justin said.

"Definitely," Chris and Josh agreed in unison.

"We could go play some b-ball," Lance suggested. "I'm sure Will knows where there's a court around here."

"Excellent!" the others shouted. Then, looking over at Josh, Chris said, "Or something else."

"Don't worry about me," Josh said. "I'll find something to occupy my time. Just going outside will be good."

"It's settled then. Let's pack some food and hit the road," Lance said.

"Where we going?" Joey asked as he came in the room. He had already put the dishes in the sink and was just about to go back upstairs to check on me when he overheard the conversation.

"To play basketball somewhere. We need to get out," Chris said.

"Sounds good. Will is finishing getting ready upstairs. He should be down in a few minutes. I'm sure he knows of somewhere we can go play and have a good time. I wonder if that park he and I went to has a court?"

"Don't know. I just know we need a heavy dose of fresh air."

"Now that sounds good," Jerrica said as she walked in. "I'm ready to get out of here. Not that Will's house isn't nice and all, but I could use some fresh air and exercise. These four walls are getting a little boring."

"Why don't you all work out the details and we'll get started. Jerrica, could I talk to you in the kitchen for a minute?" Chris asked.

"Uh, all right," Jerrica replied as she walked toward the kitchen with Chris in tow. Upon entering, she turned around to face Chris and said nonchalantly, "So, what's up?"

"Well," Chris began, "I know we've been spending some time together, and I've come to discover that you are really quite a wonderful person."

"Yeah, well, I keep telling Rob—er, Will—I mean—you know who I mean! Dang, this is confusing. Anyway, that's what I keep telling him, but he just rolls his eyes at me."

Chris laughed. "You two certainly are a pair. Were you all serious when you said that you two never, uh, you know..."

"Dated? Him and me? No! Talk about weirdness. No, he and I are very content in being like brother and sister than anything else. Why?"

Chris was trying to ready himself to say the words he had wanted to say to Jerrica ever since he first met her; the same words that he had been analyzing in his head over the past week; the words that he just needed to get out once and for all. At the same time, I had finished my shower, gotten dressed, and had headed downstairs to see what the rest of the house was up to. Deciding I needed something to drink, I headed for the kitchen and spotted Chris and Jerrica already there having a discussion. I was about to call out to them when I heard Chris ask Jerrica something that completely surprised me.

"Jerrica, I like you a lot, and I think you like me too. go out with me sometime? You know, like, on a date?"

I froze in my tracks as Chris' words sunk in. Chris was asking my best friend out? I mean, come on! It had barely been a week since she broke up with Alex. Wasn't this a little soon? Besides, I didn't completely trust Chris yet, and this wasn't a situation I was ready to cope with. Thinking it would be a good idea to make myself scarce for the time being, I started to back away when my foot hit a wet spot on the hardwood floor. I spun on one foot, closed my eyes, and felt my body go sliding across the floor.

When I stopped, I opened my eyes to find myself at Chris and Jerrica's feet. The two of them were both bent over staring at me. My cheeks reddened as I waved meekly at them. "Is this a bad time?" I asked. I received no response but an evil glare from Jerrica. Jumping to my feet, I excused myself by saying, "Sorry. Continue!" I then turned and ran out of the room.

Chris and Jerrica glanced at each other and chuckled nervously. "How much do you think he heard?" Chris asked hesitantly.

Jerrica shrugged. "Don't know, but it's not like you'd be able to hide anything from him anyway."

The two fell into an awkward silence before Chris spoke up again. "You know, you didn't answer my question."

"Which question was that?" Jerrica asked in a poor attempt to play dumb.

"Will you go out with me? No. Strike that. Even better. Will you be my girlfriend?"

Jerrica's mouth dropped. She'd heard him the first time, and she was fairly confident in the answer she was going to give. When Chris changed the question, the answer was no longer quite so easy. "I...I don't know what to say."

"I'm hoping for a yes."

Jerrica stared at Chris, trying to gauge if any of this were possibly a joke. "Are you serious?"

"As serious as I have probably ever been in a long time."

Jerrica folded her arms across her chest. If he really wanted an answer, then she was about to give him one.

To Be Continued...

So what did you think? Apparently Justin isn't through with Will yet. What tricks could he have hidden up his sleeve? Looks like, after playing back and forth, that Chris and Jerrica are finally going to get together? Or are they? Will Kimber be able to keep Will out of trouble? Will life as Will has known it ever be normal again? Tune in next time to find out, and while you're waiting, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. Oh, and if anyone has any suggestions for songs for Will to sing, let me know. I kind of have a running song list in my head, but I can always use input from others!

Thanks to everyone who has written to me!! A special thanks goes out to my editors, Mandy and Dreamy, who keep me in line. Sorry this chapter took so long, but between my job and the reappearance of a television in my writing space, I kind of got distracted. Maybe I'll do a better job with Chapter Thirteen?

Want to know when this story is updated? Click here.

My Website: For all the latest info on my stories (Continual Work in progress)

Song lyrics are protected under copyright by their owners, in this case, Sony Wonder. No attempt to infringe on this copyright should be implied from this story. The character of Kimber Benton was created by Hasbro/Sony Wonder.