One Dark Night
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, nor intends to 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!!
Still looking into his eyes, I saw that sparkle I had seen before when we were singing. It was a look of love and caring. I was falling fast. It was only a matter of time. We moved closer together, if that was humanly possible, and continued to gaze into each other's eyes. Our heads slowly moved together until our foreheads rested against each other.
"Will?" Joey said breathily.
"Yes, Joe?" I replied.
"I think I'm in love with you." With that he leaned forward and kissed me. At first, I wasn't sure what to do, but my thoughts were quickly tuned out of my head as I closed my eyes and kissed him back. We stayed like that for a minute at least until my lungs signaled my brain that air was required. I broke the kiss and looked him straight in the eye.
I think I love you too Joey," I said quietly. I leaned back in and kissed him again. My mind was a flurry of thoughts. I told him I loved him, and he loves me!! Oh, this is too good to be true. Pinch me, I must be dreaming. I love him. I do love him, with all my heart. It was true. I did love him. I meant what I said. Every word. I didn't want to think about anything else at the time. All I wanted was to stay there wrapped in Joey's arms forever, and as far as I was concerned, a tornado couldn't move me from that spot. I snuggled in closer to Joey as we sat and watched the sun set on the river. For the first time in many years, I actually felt safe and protected. I hadn't felt that way in a long time. I could stay like this forever, I thought.
Joey looked down at me and smiled. I could stay like this forever, he thought to himself.
I slouched down into his lap a little and pressed my head against his chest. I listened to his heartbeat and smiled. I hadn't been really happy in a long time, and happiness had finally found me. It was a dream coming true. Just never let it end, I thought as I drifted off to sleep.
Joey watched me as I fell asleep. "You are an angel," he said quietly. "My angel. Thank you for rescuing me." He laid his head down on top of mine, and soon he too was fast asleep.
Chapter Five: The New Couple/A Plan Is Hatched
"Well, is this a Kodak moment or what?" I heard a voice in front of me say. I slowly opened my eyes to see Jerrica standing there with her arms crossed. "You certainly look comfortable."
It took me a moment to realize where I was. We were at the river and I was nestled into Joey's arms. I looked up at Jerrica and grinned. "You better believe it girl," I said.
I turned around to face my Sleeping Beauty. He was out cold. It hadn't really occurred to me how draining today had been for all of us. I looked up at the sky and watched the stars twinkle. I shifted my gaze to the full moon hanging high in the sky. Full moon, I thought. Today could only happen with a full moon.
"Don't you think you should wake him up?" Jerrica asked. "It's starting to get late and the guys are getting a little worried. You've been gone over an hour."
"Oh crap!" I exclaimed. "I hope someone had enough sense to take all the food off the grill."
"No worries," she replied. "We were just wondering what had happened to the two of you. First you disappeared, then Joey came after you, and then you didn't come back."
I briefly felt kind of bad. I never wanted anyone to fret over me, considering I did enough panicking for the entire mid-Atlantic region. I looked at Joey and then at Jerrica. "I suppose I should wake him up, huh?"
"That might be a good idea," she said. "Besides, if you want anything to eat at all tonight, besides each other, you might want to hurry it along."
I froze. Did she just say what I thought she said? I looked back at her and saw a cheesy grin plastered on her face. "I'll get you for that later," I muttered.
Turning back to Joey, I momentarily debated waking him up at all. He seemed so at peace. Then an idea flashed through my head. I bent over and kissed him full on the lips. It took a few seconds, but soon his eyes opened in surprise. "Well, hello to you too," he said after we had broken apart. He started to kiss me again when Jerrica clearing her throat interrupted him.
"Okay guys, no offense, but I don't really feel like watching you two make out," she said, shaking her head.
Joey looked slightly panicked for a moment. Even though consciously he knew that Jerrica wanted them together as badly as he did, he still was nervous about what she thought. After all, she and Will had been friends for a very long time and he knew that Jerrica's opinion mattered a lot to Will.
"Well darlin'," Joey heard me say as I started to get up, "you're just going to have to deal, aren't you?" I turned around and offered Joey my hand, pulling him to his feet.
"Maybe I don't want to deal, you ass," Jerrica shot back at me. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don't like watching my best friend make out with his boyfriend?"
I stopped short for a moment. We weren't heading into one of our usual arguments. This was different. "You miss him, don't you?" I said softly. I walked over and pulled her into an embrace.
"I do. I know it seems silly, but I do. Or maybe I don't. Maybe I'm just afraid of being alone. God, this is crazy."
"What's crazy about missing someone?" Joey asked, approaching us slowly.
"Joey, it's too hard to explain..." Jerrica trailed off, looking at me intently. I knew what that look meant. I knew what she was thinking.
"Oh, darlin', don't feel like this. You know you always have a special place in my heart," I said, stroking her back.
I looked at Joey who had a very confused look on his face. Of course, if I had been terrible at reading people, Joey reaffirmed his facial expression by saying, "Okay, now I'm really lost."
Jerrica pulled away from me and broke into laughter, occasionally sniffling as she calmed herself down. "Sorry Joe," she said, wiping her eyes. "Some people swear we're telepathic, but we're not. We just know how the other one thinks." She wiped her eyes again and said, "All right, let me explain. When we decided we were best friends, we made a pact. We swore that if times ever got bad for either of us, no matter what, we would be there for each other. It was kind of a safety net. I always knew that if I ever fell, my best friend would be there for me. I would never have to worry about truly being alone. Now he has you and..." She trailed off again and I could see the tears coming back to her eyes.
I went to console her but I wasn't quick enough. Joey had pulled her into a hug and was quietly shushing her. "Don't you ever think that I'm taking your best friend away from you. Think of this as gaining five new friends. Trust me when I say that with the six of us around, you'll never be lonely." They had stopped hugging and I could see a smile reappear on Jerrica's face. "As a matter of fact," Joey continued, "I daresay that after a week of us you'll be trying to get away!"
Jerrica's grin widened. "No chance of that, buddy. It's more likely going to be the other way around."
They stopped trying to outdo each other on who was going to get sick of whom first and glanced over at me. I was beaming from ear to ear. I knew there was a reason why I loved Joey so much. He truly had a heart of gold. "I love both of you so much, and never forget it," I said as I hugged them both. I peeked at my watch to check the time. It was after 9:30pm. "We better get back to the house."
We began walking back to the house when a thought occurred to me. "Hey, Jerrica? How did you know where to find us?"
"It wasn't that hard. I watched Joey run off into the woods. When we started getting concerned, I went to the spot where I saw Joey go and found the trail. I just followed it until I found you. Besides, when I heard the river, I knew that was where you went. Remember when you lived in Michigan, that spot on the Grand River you always used to go to? I kind of assumed you had done the same thing here."
"Okay, so I'm a creature of habit. Fortunately, there's a trail or people would get lost," I stated as we turned from the river back on to the trail leading to my house.
We walked in silence for some time. It wasn't really an uncomfortable silence, but it was enough to drive me crazy. Jerrica always said I loved listening to the sound of my own voice, and I was never one to handle extended periods of quiet.
"So, Jerrica..." I began, "How long should we expect to see your bright and shining face around here?"
Jerrica looked somewhat surprised by my question. "Why? Did you need me to leave?"
I was a bit taken aback. I never expected that answer. "Just curious," I mumbled. We continued to walk for a moment before I stopped abruptly. It wasn't a conscious thought to do that, so I had to forgive Joey for walking into me and knocking me over.
"Oof!" we both yelled as we fell on top of each other.
Jerrica burst into laughter as she watched us tried to untangle ourselves from each other. "You guys are too much!" she exclaimed as she rolled her eyes.
"Will, are you okay?" Joey said, eyeing me from head to toe as he brushed the dirt off of me.
"I'm all right Joey. Really. I promise," I replied as I held my hand up in a three-fingered salute. "Scout's honor."
"Well, if it's 'Scout's honor,' then..." he started to say with a slight grin on his face, but the evil look I shot him wiped it clean off.
"Don't go there Joe," I said, narrowing my eyes. He looked a little guilty, but he wasn't the one I had issues with. I turned back to Jerrica who was still chuckling to herself. "As for you, little missy," I said, looking Jerrica straight in the eye, "Why in the hell would you ever think I wanted you to leave?"
Jerrica stared back at me, eyes unwavering. "Well, now that you have a boyfriend, I don't want to intrude. Besides, I did drop in uninvited."
"Like I care, Jerrica! You know me better than that. When was the last time you ever came to me for help and I didn't nearly drop everything?" I was starting to become a little upset. Is this the same person I always called my best friend? I wondered. "Now, I can't speak for Joey or any of the other guys, but I think they would feel rather offended if you left simply because you thought they didn't want you there. Seems to me they've all taken quite a liking to you."
"Absolutely!" Joey said, breaking his silence. "I know the guys like you...a lot. Besides, you give Chris someone to have a battle of wits with. I should warn you though, he has a tendency to battle unarmed." With that, Joey burst into giggles.
"That's all fine and dandy," Jerrica said, still not breaking eye contact with me, "but I know that I'm just going to be in the way. As a matter of fact, it was a dumb idea to come here in the first place."
"Do you honestly believe that?" I asked, moving closer to her. "Say that again. Look me straight in the eye and say that again."
Jerrica opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out. She closed her mouth and turned her eyes away from me. "I know, I know. I just didn't want to find myself in the same situation you were in when I was with Ricky."
I involuntarily shuddered at the mention of his name. Joey came up and put his arms around me. "What's wrong Will?" he asked with great concern.
"Remember when I told you about her psycho ex-boyfriend who tried to run me over with his car when I was at work because he blamed me for destroying their relationship?" Joey thought for a second and then nodded. "His name was Ricky. He was only slightly less deranged than Allison, but not by much."
I thought for a moment and could understand how Jerrica could see herself in the same position I had been in a few years earlier. "Jerrica, this is not the same. Joey is not a psycho freak," I said, casting my eyes momentarily up to him and smiling, "and he knows full well that if he ever hurts me you're going to kill him. Therefore I wouldn't worry too much."
"Damn skippy," Jerrica replied, looking straight at Joey. Joey looked slightly concerned, if only for a second, but then shrugged it off.
"No worries, my dear Jerrica. He's in great hands," Joey said as he rubbed my shoulders. I could definitely get used to this, I thought.
I pulled away from Joey and began walking down the trail next to Jerrica. After about a minute, I turned and swatted her. She jumped in surprised. "What the hell was that for?" she asked, rubbing her arm.
"Do you really think I'm that callous?" I asked in anger.
"It wouldn't be the first time you've ever blown me off before."
"Name one time!"
"Well, there was the time when I needed help with my French homework which you promised you'd help me with. Oh no, suddenly, you had to go off with the bitch and left me high and dry."
"That was NOT my fault!" I retorted. "We had a history presentation due. Besides, you'd had that assignment for a month and asked me to help you at the last minute. If you had asked me three weeks before that, it wouldn't have even been an issue!"
"Excuses, excuses. Besides, that's not the only time! Remember when..." Jerrica and I continued to argue as we walked back to the house, with Joey trailing slightly behind. Here we go again, he thought as he watched the two of us go at it. Had Will not told him that this was normal behavior for them, he would have been seriously worried. Had he not seen with his own two eyes that Will and Jerrica really did care for each other, he still would have been a bit worried about how much the two of them fought. As it were, not five minutes into their lengthy back and forth tirade, the two were hugging and laughing like old friends should. This is going to take some getting used to, Joey thought. I just hope we never have cause to argue like that.
"Where the hell are they?!" Chris exclaimed, eyeing his watch. It had been nearly forty-five minutes since Jerrica went to look for Joey and Will, and they guys were starting to become a bit frantic.
"They'll be back," Lance said soothingly. "Besides, if you're really that worried, have you tried calling Joey's cell phone?"
"No, but I'm going to!" Chris said, pulling his own cell out of his pocket. He pushed a couple buttons to speed dial Joey's cell phone and listened. "Shit! Voice mail," Chris said, sighing as he hung up.
"Maybe we should go look for them," Justin piped up from behind. "It is after dark now. Maybe they're lost or something?"
"No offense Justin," Josh said, eyeing the blond as he chose his words carefully, "but that's the last thing we should do. We certainly don't know anything about these woods and are more likely to get us lost than track those three down. Hopefully they've all found each other and are with Will. I would assume he knows this area pretty well, having lived here."
"True. You're right. Forget I said anything," Justin said quietly, plopping himself down on one of the back steps.
"Jus, it's not that we don't appreciate you trying to help. Any ideas are better than none. We just have to make sure we don't make the problem worse," Lance said.
"Whatever," Justin said. He stood up and stalked off into the house.
Lance sighed. "What next?" he wondered out loud, throwing his hands up in the air. He turned his attention back to the papers in front of him, which were spread out over the picnic table. "I just don't know how we're going to pull this new one off..." he muttered. He continued to pore over everything until he was distracted but a growing din coming from the woods.
"MY FAULT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY FAULT?"
Lance's head snapped in the direction of the voice. Josh and Chris, who had been quietly playing solitaire stopped their game and turned in the same direction. Coming from the woods were Jerrica, Joey, and myself. Jerrica and I were still arguing over everything and nothing. We were on argument 17 or so... I had lost count after two.
"Why do I always get blamed for everything?" I said, glaring at Jerrica as we continued to walk across the backyard.
"Because," Jerrica said with a half-grin.
"Because I said so!" Jerrica yelled, waving her hands in the air.
"That's not a good reason, and stop waving your damn hands in my face," I said, putting my hands on my hips.
"I'll wave my hands in your face whenever I feel like it!" she responded, putting her left hand right in front of my face.
By this time we had attracted a crowd. Lance, Chris, Josh, and even Justin had come over to see the spectacle. Joey just stood behind us and watched, shaking his head in disbelief. Josh made his way over to Joey with a confused look on his face. "What are they so upset about?" he asked with concern.
"They're not upset. At least I don't think so," Joey responded.
"Well, what are they arguing about then?"
"Ummm...I'm not sure. I think it started with who was going to have to do the dishes after dinner tonight, and then..." Joey bit his lip, trying to remember. "Oh, yeah, and then they started arguing about who started a dressing room war when they were in drama in high school. After that, I kind of lost track." Josh looked absolutely surprised. He knew that Jerrica and I fought, that this was a natural part of our friendship, but I suspect he believed it was tamer than this.
"You know, for once you could start trying to deal with your own crap on your own. Everything is about you. You, you, you. What about me? You hardly ever make time for me. It's always about your own crap," I said hotly. Jerrica's hands started to clench into fists. Things were getting really hot now.
Joey sensed things were getting a little too out of control, so he positioned himself near me in case, as he suspected, Jerrica might lash out at me. Josh came over and stood next to him. Chris and Lance stood near Jerrica for the same idea - in case I lashed out at her. Justin just stood there and watched the whole thing escalate and wondered how the same person who had been so sensitive and caring earlier could be so quick-tempered now.
"My crap? What about your crap? Don't act like you are Mr. Saint. I dealt with a lot of your crap too, so stop being such an egotistical prick and get over yourself!" Jerrica shouted.
I slowly balled my hands into a fist and stared at her. She stared back equally as hard. Then, to the surprise of the five around us, we grinned at each other and said in unison, "Game over." Unclenching our fists, we embraced each other and burst out laughing. We turned to see five very stunned faces around us.
"Would someone please explain to me what just happened here?" Chris asked, looking very puzzled.
Jerrica laughed. "Well guys, we did warn you about this earlier. This is how we blow off pent up frustrations. We figured out a long time ago that we provided a great vent for each other. There are mostly no holds barred. There are a few exceptions, which we won't go into here, but it helps. When someone starts to get really mad and clenches their fists, that's the signal it's time to stop. When the other does the same, we just wait for one to start smiling and then say 'Game over.' We hug, and that's it. We don't dwell on what was said, because it's now history. If anything is still irritating us, it comes out the next time."
The guys relaxed a little, but still didn't look entirely convinced. "It's true guys. This is how our friendship has survived over the last ten years without disintegrating completely," I said. "Sorry, but this is one of those small things you'll have to get used to when the two of us are around. Besides, if you ever need to let off steam, it really works wonders. Just remember that what is said during the argument stays in the argument, and that when it's time to end, you end it."
Still unconvinced, Joey put his hand on my shoulder. "You sure?" he asked.
I looked back at him and smiled. "Yeah, I'm sure."
To the surprise of everyone there, including me, he leaned over and kissed me square on the lips. When we broke apart, I was blushing bright red and Joey had the world's biggest grin on his face.
"Well," Chris said with an even tone, "I see some people certainly don't waste any time."
Joey looked a little surprised. "What do you mean by that?" he asked, anger evident in his voice.
"What do you think I mean?" Chris asked sweetly.
"Look, I thought we had this discussion already..." Joey began, but Chris cut him off.
"Joe, it's not that I have a problem with you or Will. It's just that this has happened so fast, and you didn't even say anything to me. Why did I have to be the last one to find out what is going on in one of my best friends' life? Lance knew, Justin knew, Jerrica knew... I bet even JC knew! Why couldn't you tell me?" He walked over to the picnic table and sat down.
"Chris! Chris, wait." Joey ran over and sat down next to Chris. "Look, I'm sorry that you felt left out of my life. Yesterday, I didn't even know how to tell you guys the truth. Yesterday, I wasn't even completely sure what the truth was. Yes, I understand that this has happened all very quickly, but I've never felt like this before. I've never felt so sure of anything in my life. I... I... I love him Chris. I do. I can't explain it. Call it love at first sight. Call it whatever you want. I just know that the minute I saw him when he came to rescue us last night that he was the one I was looking for."
Joey fell silent waiting for Chris' response, but it was not quickly forthcoming. I went over and put my hand on Joey's shoulder and squeezed it. He put his hand on mine, but his eyes never left Chris'. Chris sighed and said, "Joe, I love you like family. Strike that. You are family, and I care about you. I just worry sometimes, okay? Like I said, this has all happened so quickly. However..." He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and continued, "...if there was one person in the world that I think would never hurt you, it's Will. I don't think there is a false bone in his body, which he has proved to us time and time again. If he is the one you want to have a relationship with, I'm for it."
Joey burst into tears. I wrapped him in a hug and looked on with concern. I shouldn't have worried. He had the world's biggest smile. "Thank you Chris. I was pretty sure before, but I know now that I love him."
If I had been red before, I was looking more and more like a lobster with each passing minute.
"Joey!" I hissed in his ear. "You're embarrassing me!"
He started laughing and I soon followed. Within a minute, we were all laughing. I guess laughter really is contagious. I stood up and spied the grill. I sighed. "Well, there goes the idea of having a grand cookout tonight, huh?"
"No worries guys," Josh said. He let out a rather large belch and smirked. "We already ate. Actually, if you check over there on the table, I think Justin may have left a few crumbs."
"Leave me alone Josh!" Justin said as he stalked off into the house.
"What's with him?" I asked.
"Don't worry Will," Lance said. "He's just being temperamental again."
I wasn't convinced. "Oh, okay," I said, feigning acceptance. "Would you all excuse me a second? Mother Nature's on the line, and she won't hold."
"Well, that's one way of putting it," Josh said as I ran into the house.
Of course, my reasons for going inside had nothing to do with using the restroom, not that a pit stop wasn't a bad idea anyway. After finishing that small matter of business, I set myself to a more important task - finding Justin. It had become dark, so I started turning some of the house lights on for when everyone would come back inside. I went upstairs and checked in the bedroom he had been using, but he wasn't there. I checked the other bedrooms, but he wasn't in those either. I started to go back downstairs when someone nearly ran me over.
"Justin? Are you all right?" I asked. He was shaking and wide-eyed. He was stuttering, but I couldn't understand a word he was saying. "Justin, calm down and talk to me, all right?"
I escorted him up to my bedroom and sat him down on the bed. He just sat there and stared at me. "Will?" he finally said, nearly inaudible.
"What's up Jus?" I asked, trying to decide what was bothering him.
"I.... I.... I... no. It can't be," he stuttered.
"What? What's wrong? Did you see the ghost or something?" I asked jokingly, but was met with a serious look
"This house is haunted??" Justin exclaimed wide-eyed.
"Well... supposedly. The last owners sold the house because they believed it was haunted. I was rather surprised that a prime piece of property like this had been for sale for over a year and sold for as little as I bought it for, but apparently they were really quite anxious to get rid of it and no on else seemed to want it. Anyway, I have yet to see anything along those lines. If this house is haunted, they don't bother me and I don't bother them."
"Will, I saw a ghost. I swear I did. Downstairs, by the bookshelf," Justin said quickly. "Come on. I swear. I'm not crazy!"
"Justin, calm down, okay? I believe you. Honestly." He was starting to try my patience a little. Ghost or not, something had definitely freaked him out.
"You... you don't think I'm crazy?" Justin asked.
I smiled. "No, I don't. This is an old house. It's been here since the 1700s. It was even a stop on the Underground Railroad. It has a lot of history. Besides, it really could be haunted. However, I've lived here for three years and have never been bothered by a ghost. I think they're harmless. Now, what else is going on?"
"What do you mean? There's nothing wrong, besides being half scared out of my wits," he replied.
"No. I know better Justin. Don't try to lie to me," I said, staring right into his eyes. "Let's start with the real problem. Why do you feel like you aren't appreciated?"
Justin's eyes widened in shock. "How did you know..."
I laughed. "Honey, been there, done that; nearly wrote the book. You see, I was always the youngest in my circle of friends, and I oftentimes was the 'scapegoat' for everything. Furthermore, I always thought no one took me seriously because I was 'the kid.' This happened especially after I got out of high school and was around mostly people a lot older than I. It was hard. There was one place I worked where I was a supervisor. I was barely taken seriously by my co-workers, let alone the customers because 'I looked too young to be a supervisor.' I finally grew a beard just to make myself look older. Needless to say, it didn't last long!" I laughed, remembering that bad idea.
"What's so funny? What's wrong with having a beard?" he asked, rubbing his chin.
"Nothing, if it looks good on you. I look much better with a baby face. However, we're getting off-topic. What's the deal Justin?"
"It's just that... the guys, well, they always treat me like I'm a little kid. I'm 21 years old for God's sake. They never listen to anything I say, or just dismiss it as silly. I know sometimes I think without speaking, but they don't always have to treat me like an idiot."
"I'm sure that's not how they think of you. Take it from someone who has been in your position more times than he cares to count. Sometimes other people forget that you have important things to say and that you should be taken seriously. Just because they are older doesn't mean they know better than you." I pulled him into a hug. "Don't let it get to you Justin. It's not they don't care about you or that they don't care what you think. They just get wrapped up in themselves and don't think beyond the end of their nose."
"You've got that right," he said. He hugged me back. "How do you always know what I'm feeling? It's kind of creepy, you know."
"Sorry, but that's my little secret," I said, laughing. "Let's just say it's not hard to figure things out when you've been there yourself."
Justin just smiled and then broke into a wide yawn. "It's getting kind of late, don't you think?" he asked. I glanced at my watch. It was after 10pm.
"You know, we probably ought to go to your hotel and pick up your things. After all, you can't stay here for two weeks in only one pair of clothes." I remarked.
"True. I'll have everything sent here." He started to grab for his cell phone when he stopped abruptly. "Where exactly is here, Will?"
I burst out laughing. That was the best line I heard all day. "Unless you're familiar with this area, it's a little tricky to find. Is there any way we could just go and get it?"
Justin mused over this a moment. "I suppose so. It would depend in part on how many fans are wandering around as to how easy it would be."
"Don't hotels usually have like a back door or special entrance or something we could sneak in? We just need some way to quickly get in and out is all. We should be able to do this with three people - me, you and someone else. I figure that should be sufficient. We also need to rent you guys another car. My Saturn isn't going to work for the seven of us."
I watched as Justin turned a little pale. "Not another SUV this time, okay?"
"Okay, no SUV. How about a minivan?" I asked.
"A minivan?" Justin echoed. "Talk about being on the wrong side of cool!"
I rolled my eyes. "Justin, it has nothing to do with being cool or not. It has to do with being practical. You guys wanted to stay out here instead of downtown. That means you have to be able to get around easily. As I'm sure you've noticed, we're not exactly in the middle of a bustling metropolis, now are we?"
Justin nodded. "I know, but a minivan?"
"Come on, you. Let's go." We stood up and went back downstairs to recruit the third in our group.
"I wonder what's taking Will so long," Joey said as he looked over Lance's shoulder.
"Don't know," Lance replied, occupied with the papers in front of him.
"What are you looking at Lance?" Joey asked. Peering further over his shoulder, he saw the blond-haired man flipping through some sheet music. "New song?"
"Yeah," Lance said, sighing. "Only problem is, I don't know how we're going to pull this off."
"What do you mean, Scoop? It can't be that bad," Joey said, taking a seat next to Lance.
"Yes, it can. Here's why," Lance said, pointing to the music.
Joey's eyebrows shot up. "Oh. Umm.... Well. That might prove to be difficult," he remarked. "Management knows what our ranges are. Why would they give us something like this?"
Lance shrugged. "I don't know. It seems that this piece was written for a co-ed group, with the parts being obviously split. We're okay through most of it, but the part I showed you isn't the worst." He flipped toward the end and pointed. "That is the hardest part."
Joey's eyes widened. "I don't think Justin can hit that." Lance nodded in agreement.
"What are you guys looking at?" Josh and Chris asked, coming up behind them with Jerrica in tow.
"Sheet music for a new song, but there's a problem," Joey said.
"Problem?" Josh echoed.
"Yeah," Joey said as he pointed to the sheet music. "Right there."
Josh looked closer at the music and gasped. "What are they thinking? I don't think Justin can hit that."
"That's the whole point. At first, I thought they were just going to get some female backup singer to do it, but they said it wouldn't sound right with the rest of our voices. They want a guy to do it," Lance stated, shaking his head. "If Justin can't do it, then they'll have to find someone who can. Who knows how long that'll take?"
"Lance, would you quit griping? You're giving me a headache," Chris said. "Besides, what are you worrying over? So what if Justin can't? We already know someone who can."
Lance looked at Chris with an intrigued look"We do?"
"Hello? Weren't you here a couple of hours ago?" Chris asked. He threw his hands up in the air. Sometimes his friends were a little oblivious to reality.
After a moment Lance's eyes lit up, but before he could say anything Jerrica cut him off. "Don't even think about it Lance."
"Huh?" was Lance's only reply.
"Don't bother asking him. He's going to say no. The fact that he sang for you here in private was surprising enough. I'm amazed he continued once he got caught. There is no way he is going to sing in front of millions or allow himself to be recorded. He's too nervous about singing in public, especially the higher end notes. I don't know if you realize, but he's a bit self-demoralizing at times, which drives me up the wall to no end."
"But...he's good. Really good!" Josh said, with Chris and Joey speaking up in agreement.
"I know guys, I know," Jerrica said, her tone unwavering, "but he gets really nervous singing in front of people. One year he got a big part in a production. He had his lines memorized and his songs. He never had a problem until performance night. He went up in the middle of his solo and almost wouldn't go back onstage. Ever since then, he refuses to sing in public."
"Then we'll just have to convince him," Josh said.
"Good luck on that," Jerrica muttered.
"Won't need luck," Chris piped up, smirking at everyone. "I have a plan."
"Something tells me this isn't going to be pretty," Jerrica said as she leaned in and listened to the plot that Chris was hatching. By the time he finished, even she had to agree it was a pretty good idea. If it worked, Will wouldn't know what hit him.
"Hey guys!" I said as I exited the house. "What's going on?"
The five jumped at the sound of my voice. "Nothing much," Lance said as he started shuffling his papers together.
"Uh huh. Okay," I said suspiciously. "Anyway, Justin and I are going to pick up a rental and go to your hotel to pick up your things and bring them back here. Who wants to go? We're going to need at least one more set of hands."
"I'll go," Chris said quickly.
"Okay. Anyone else?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'll lend a hand," Jerrica said, getting up from the table.
"All right then. Let's go," I said as we made our way to my car.
The three jumped in the Saturn while I made a phone call to reserve the van. Finishing that amount of business, I got into the driver's seat and began the trek over to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to pick up the rental car. Along the way, Justin, who was sitting in the passenger seat, flipped on the radio and started surfing through the channels. Finding nothing that suited him, he started to look through my CDs.
"What's on these?" he asked, looking at a number of unmarked CDs.
"Just a collection of songs," I said. "I usually only like one or two songs on each CD, so I just record the entire CD onto my hard drive into mp3 format and then burn it into a CD player readable version. That way, instead of carrying tons of CDs with me, I only have to have a few."
"Makes sense to me," Jerrica said from the backseat. Then, quite loudly, she said, "20 bucks says there is at least one Amy Grant song on every CD."
I blushed. Justin turned to look at me and raised an eyebrow. "Amy Grant?" he asked with some amusement in his voice.
"What?" I said with slight annoyance. "Do you not like Amy? I'm sure she'd be devastated to find out."
Justin tried to backpedal. "No, it's not that. Actually, I like Amy. She's a very nice person. We did a benefit with her in...Nashville, I think. I guess I was just surprised that you would like a Christian singer."
I was rather jealous that Justin had met one of the few people I really wanted to meet. Of course, being who they were, it was no surprise that they had met before. "Actually, I started following her music when she switched to Contemporary. I was nine years old and was flying by myself to go visit my grandmother in California. It was the first time I had ever been away from home and I was freaking out. I cried half the way from Detroit. I was listening to the in-flight radio and they kept playing Every Heartbeat. I found I really liked it and it calmed me down. Ever since, I've been a big fan."
"Wow Will. You know, those are the kind of stories we performers love to hear about - you know, when our music really reaches someone," Chris said from the backseat. "Have you ever sent her a letter to tell her this?"
I turned a little red. "No. I keep meaning to, but I keep thinking she'll never see it. I mean, you guys get fan letters in sacks, I'm sure. How many of them do you actually see?"
The two remained silent for a moment. "You're right. We don't see everything," Chris said quietly. "The thing is, though, that a lot of the letters are the same thing. 'Oh, I love you. You're fabulous. Marry me. Can I have an autographed picture?' Most of those get a fairly standard letter with whatever they requested, and they're happy. More personal letters do make their way to us, and we do write back."
We remained silent for some time, until Justin couldn't stand it any longer and popped a CD in and set it to shuffle. To my embarrassment, the first track it went to was Amy Grant's Good For Me.
"Ha!" Jerrica exclaimed. "I was right!"
"Oh shut up," I replied. As I continued to drive along, I unconsciously began to sing along as I usually do, ignoring the fact that I had an audience.
Justin turned around and shot Jerrica and Chris a knowing look The other two smiled and joined in. The addition of their voices surprised me for a moment, but I didn't stop. Quite honestly, we all sounded pretty good together.
We arrived at the Avis Car Rental counter and went inside. Usually I can just go in, get in the car and leave. This time though, I needed to add the three as registered drivers. The clerk, who couldn't have been more than 20 or so, was dumbstruck when Justin and Chris handed over their licenses.
"Ummm.... Wow. Okay. Yeah. Sure. No problem. We can do that. Ummm.... okay. Uh, sign this please," the clerk stammered.
Justin, ever the flirt, flashed her that award-winning smile of his as he signed the forms. "There you go," he said, handing the pen back to her. Chris stepped forward and signed next, with Jerrica signing last. Completing everything, we were ready to go, but our clerk looked like she had something on her mind.
"Is there something you wanted to ask them?" I asked her, watching her eyes shift between Justin and I.
"Well..." she hesitated, "I kind of wanted to get their autographs for my little sister, but..."
"But what?" I pressed.
"Well, they kind of frown on that here. I'd get in trouble for sure," she replied.
"No worries. How about I ask them for you?" I said with a slight smile. She looked a little surprised, but just nodded. "What's your name?"
"Becky. My little sister's name is Meghan," she said.
"Guys, would you mind giving Meghan your autographs so Becky looks like the world's best sister?" I asked in my sweetest voice.
Justin and Chris just laughed. "Sure. How about this? Becky, if you'll give us your address, we'll send Meghan a signed photo of each of us and along with a note. Is that all right with you?" Justin asked.
Becky was thrilled. "Absolutely! Here you go," she said as she scribbled her address down.
"No problem. No problem at all," Chris said as he pocketed the piece of paper.
"Hey Becky, thanks for the help, but it's getting late and we need to run. Which way is the van?" I asked.
She pointed out the door and toward the right. "Go all the way down to the end of the row. Spot B-37."
We thanked her again and walked out the door. Finding the van, Jerrica and I jumped in while I handed Chris the keys to my Saturn. They waited for us to exit the parking lot and then followed me to their hotel in downtown Baltimore.
Pulling into the driveway, I jumped out and ran inside with Justin in tow. Fortunately for us, there were no fans staking out the hotel, so we entered with relative ease. Speaking with the desk clerk, Justin advised her that the guys were checking out immediately and would be clearing the stuff out of their rooms. Then, we proceeded up to their suites to clear out their belongings.
Walking in the door, I was a bit taken aback. "My God. It's almost as big as my house!" I exclaimed. Apparently if you have enough money, you can get a room of any size in an upscale hotel.
"Yeah, well, it works. Sometimes they split us up into different rooms, but sometimes it works out where we have a multi-room suite so we're all together," Chris said as he went into one of the bedrooms.
"Fortunately, we weren't here for very long, so it didn't give us much time to ummmm...make a mess of things," Justin said.
Chris came out of one bedroom struggling with four medium sized bags. "Okay, that's all my stuff," he said.
My eyes widened in surprise. "That's all just for you?" I asked.
"Remember, my dear sir, that we are on the road for six months. You should see how much stuff we have to have shipped home while we're on the road!" I could only imagine.
"I'm thinking we're going to need a cart or something to handle all of this stuff," I said. "Let me go grab one from downstairs."
"I've got a better idea," Justin said. "How about I call down and have them bring one up while you and Jerrica help us pack?"
"Okay. That works too," I agreed, wondering why I hadn't thought of that.
Justin grabbed the phone and called downstairs while I went into the bedroom Chris was in. "What would you like me to do?" I asked, surveying the room with a quick glance.
"Let's see. This is Lance and Joey's stuff. Why don't you pull everything on that side together and set it out in the hall. That should all be Joey's," Chris said as he started pulling some clothes out of the drawers.
I walked over to the other dresser and started pulling things out and putting them into the empty suitcase nearby. "Ummm Chris? Care to explain this?" I said holding up a pair of Superman boxers.
Chris just doubled over in laughter. "And you call yourself a fan," Chris said in between giggles.
I put my hands on my hips and just glared at him. "I never said I was a fan, Chris. I'm surprised you have already forgotten that less than 24 hours ago, I barely even recognized you. As it were, I thought Josh and JC were two different people!"
Chris tried to stifle himself, but it wasn't working. He burst into raucous laughter, which caused Jerrica to come and investigate.
"Just what is so funny? I can hear you all the... Will, what are you doing?" Jerrica asked in surprise. I had forgotten I was still holding Joey's underwear in my hand. "My, my, my. On an underwear raid already? You sure don't waste any time!"
I couldn't think of a snappy response, so I just chucked his boxers at her. Needless to say, the response was worth any beating I might receive later.
"Ewww. Are these even clean?" she asked. I shrugged and shot her an evil grin.
"Great. Let me guess. Those are Joey's right?" she asked.
"I guess so. I didn't have time to check them for a name or anything," I retorted.
"Well, you two definitely do make a pair. Him with Superman and you with Tigger," she remarked, causing Chris' head to pop up from the other side of the bed.
"Did I hear that right?" Chris asked. "Did you say 'Tigger'? As in Winnie-the-Pooh Tigger?"
"Yeah. Got a problem with that?" I sneered as I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Oh, and I thought Joey was bad. This definitely takes the cake. Wait until I tell the others!" Chris hooted as he finished packing the rest of Lance's stuff.
"You know, if they took five seconds and actually looked at my house, I think they would have already figured it out by now," I remarked, recalling that I had Tigger stuff everywhere, and I do mean everywhere!
"Hmmm. Guess I hadn't paid much attention. So, are you wearing Tigger undies right now?" Chris asked, waggling his eyebrows.
My own eyebrows shot up. "Gee Chris, didn't realize my underwear was such a hot topic for you. Besides, if I am, and I'm not telling you, it would be none of your business anyway."
"Well, there's one way to find out!" Jerrica said as she walked up behind me. Before I could do anything to stop her, she had grasped the back of my pants and gave me a wedgie.
"Hmmm...sorry to disappoint Chris, but not today," Jerrica said with dramatic flair.
Chris was turning five shades of red, as was I, but for entirely different reasons. I readjusted myself and glared at Jerrica. "You do realize I'm going to have to kill you now," I told her. "Five seconds."
She knew what that meant. Five-second head start. Normally I would have been sporting, but today I only gave her two. She had always been faster than me and probably would have succeeded in escaping had she not tripped over the bags in the hallway and went flying.
"You okay?" I asked as she rolled onto her side.
"Of course. I'm always perfect when I land on my face. What do you think?" she said as she slowly made her way to her feet.
"Come on. Let's get finished so we can get out of here," I said as we went back to the bedrooms. Chris had already packed Lance's things and had finished most of Joey's since I just wasn't fast enough, according to him. Justin had already finished packing his things and was almost done with Josh's. We were only interrupted once more with the arrival of the luggage cart. Jerrica and Chris started piling bags on while I finished packing Joey's things. Soon all the bags were loaded and we were on our way out.
We split the luggage between the two vehicles - Josh and Joey's ended up in my Saturn while the others' went in the van. Jerrica opted to ride with me in the car while Chris and Justin followed. We had just merged onto the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) heading north when Jerrica broke the silence.
"Did you know Josh is a big Robbie Williamson fan?"
"Really? That's nice. Has he seen my little library downstairs?" I asked in an even tone.
"Yep. He seemed rather enthralled by it. I told him I would try and get Robbie to stop by and say hello. He asked for an autograph, and I told him I was sure I could get him one," she said, looking at me pointedly.
"Do we have to have this conversation now?" I whined. I knew it was coming, but that didn't mean I liked having it nonetheless.
"You're going to have to tell them, you know. At the very least, you're going to have to tell Joey, which I'm guessing means the rest will find out anyway. I've been very careful since I've arrived, but I've almost slipped a number of times. What's with the pseudonym?" she asked.
"It's not a pseudonym," I mumbled. I was already yearning for that time two days ago when life was simple. How did things get complicated so quickly? I wondered.
"Rob, what's going on? What do you mean it's not a pseudonym? What aren't you telling me?" Jerrica asked in a plaintive voice. I hated keeping secrets from anyone, especially Jerrica. I hadn't told her because it never seemed necessary.
"I had it legally changed right after I began publishing," I said with an exasperated sigh.
"So...why?" she asked pointedly.
"Allison," I said, not intending on discussing it any further at that point. "Look, I promise when I tell the guys you all will hear the story at the same time, because, quite honestly, I don't feel like telling it to begin with and I certainly don't want to have to tell it more than once."
"Okay," Jerrica said meekly as she looked out the window.
We remained silent for the rest of the trip. Internally, I groaned as my stomach started doing flip-flops. It's okay Will. Really. You can do this. They're not going to think any less of you; at least not once they hear everything. I had hoped that I had shut the door on certain chapters of my life when I attempted to reinvent myself. Apparently, I forgot to lock it, too.
Traffic was, of course, very light at that hour so we made really good time getting home. Upon our arrival, Joey and Lance met us and helped move everything in. Jerrica went to her car and unloaded her bags and carried them inside. My living room suddenly looked like Grand Central Station with luggage everywhere.
"Well, in order to sort these bags down, we need to decide on sleeping arrangements. There are three bedrooms upstairs, one of which is mine, the sofabed down here as well as the futon. I take it no one minds sharing?" I asked. I was met with heads shaking all around, except for one. Joey looked incredibly uncertain about where this was going. I wonder if he thinks he is expected to hop into bed with me already? I wondered. I hope that is not what he's expecting, because I'm not ready for that. I'm not even ready for where we already are!
I swallowed hard and prayed that what I was going to say next wouldn't offend Joey if he thought he was bunking with me right away. "Let's see. Jerrica will crash with me. Just like the good old days, right?" I said, laughing. I caught Joey's expression out of the corner of my eye, and if I didn't know any better, I would say he was relieved. "Now, as for you five, I think Josh should get to decide first, since where he sleeps is going to determine everything else. Do you want to manage the stairs or not?" I asked Josh.
"To be quite honest, no. There's a bathroom down here and I slept on the sofabed this morning and found it to be comfortable. I'm cool staying down here," he replied.
"Well, then that just leaves you four. How do you want to arrange them?" I asked, looking at Joey.
Joey seemed a little tongue-tied. He opened his mouth a few times but nothing came out. "Joey and I will take the room across from yours, if that's all right," Lance said, "and Chris and Justin can take the one on the end of the hall."
"Works for us," Justin said as he started to grab his bags.
Everyone took their respective luggage and trudged off to their room. Jerrica unfolded the sofabed for Josh while I went upstairs and grabbed some extra padding for it. Before heading back downstairs, I swung by my bedroom and grabbed a book out of my closet. It was my latest novel, The Cat and the Countess, which wasn't due to be released until June. I flipped it open and, grabbing a felt pen, left the following inscription:
>From one fan to another
May you always find success
Down whatever path life takes you
I tucked the book under my shirt and went downstairs with the padding. Jerrica and Josh were talking in the kitchen and ignored me as I walked past them into the living room. So much for help, I thought. It wasn't really a problem. Besides, it gave me a chance to slip the book into Josh's bag without being spotted. I would tell them everything, as I had promised to Jerrica and myself, but that didn't mean they had to know just yet.
I placed the padding onto the sofabed and then put the sheets on. After a couple minutes, I had made the bed up and was quite pleased with the job I had done. I called Josh in and had him give it a test rest. "Comfy?" I queried.
"It'll work," Josh said, giving me a big grin.
"In that case, my work here is done. I am going to bed. Darlin', you coming or are you going to burst in and wake me up right when I'm about to fall asleep?" I gave Jerrica the evil eye. She had a tendency to wake me up right as I was about to fall asleep.
"Can I get back to you on that?" she asked with a serious face.
I rolled my eyes. "Whatever."
I started to trudge over to the stairs when a shout from behind startled me. "What the hell?"
I turned around and spotted Josh holding my latest novel in his hands. "Something wrong, Josh?" I asked, trying to not let my smile give me away.
"Oh my God. I don't believe it. Jerrica, how did you do this on such short notice?" he asked, looking at Jerrica adoringly.
I felt rather slighted, since it was my idea. However, I was going to have to let this one pass for now. "What is it?" I asked.
"It's the new Robbie Williamson mystery," Josh said excitedly. "I saw you had it, but I didn't have time to read it. Jerrica said you two were friends of his, which is how you got your copy, I assume. I just never expected this. Look! He even signed it!" Josh looked like a kid at Christmas. It made my heart glow with warmth. I just hope he can forgive me when I tell him the truth, I thought. Tomorrow. I'll have to tell them tomorrow.
I stretched my arms and yawned. "That's fantastic Josh. Happy reading, but don't stay up too late now. Sorry to cut this so short, but it is time for me to go to bed."
Jerrica and Josh both called out 'Good Night' as I left the room. I went upstairs and was about to enter my room when Joey stuck his head out the door.
"Hey Will? Can you come here a second?" Joey asked sounding confused.
"Sure," I replied. "What's up?"
I entered the room and froze. Sitting on top of the dresser were my old high school yearbooks, which I had conveniently forgotten were inside the top left drawer. I had stuck them there a couple years ago when I moved. Don't know why exactly, but I figured they were as good a place as any. I didn't have a whole lot of bookshelf space, so since they were treasured items I assumed they would be safe there. It never occurred to me that someone else might ever open it.
"Will, could you explain this?" Joey asked. He had opened my senior yearbook and was pointing to my picture. Underneath, it clearly read "Robert Williamson."
To Be Continued...
So what did you think? Will's got one more big secret, and it looks like he got caught! Will anyone else care, or is this going to cause a problem? What is Chris plotting, and will it work? What else is going to happen? Please, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.
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Thanks to everyone who has written to me!! A special thanks goes out to my editor, Mandy. Thanks darlin' for all you do!