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, 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!!

Last time...

Jerrica sighed. It wasn't that she didn't want to sing, although she thought her voice sounded terrible. She didn't want to be a part of any of this, for she knew what was yet to come. However, now that she had been caught trying to escape, she had no choice but to grin and bear it. She prayed that when all was said and done, her best friend would forgive her. She flashed Will a smile and sat back down.

Satisfied that I wasn't completely alone in this endeavor, I turned back to Chris and said, "Okay. What do I do now?"

He handed me a bunch of CDs. "Pick a song and then I'll set it up."

I looked through them. There were a lot of good songs, and I was going to have difficulty picking one I liked. As I perused the selection, I started thinking. These guys have heard my higher range. Let's try something a little lower. I handed the CD over to Chris and pointed to the track I wanted. His eyes widened in surprise.

"You sure?" he asked.

"Of course. Why not? I can do something other than slow ballads, you know," I said with a laugh.

He grinned sheepishly and popped the CD in. He flipped it over to the track I had indicated and paused it. "Ready?" he asked.

"As ready as I'll ever be," I said, feeling a pit in my stomach.
What am I freaking out over? I wondered to myself. These guys don't care, even if I do sound horrible. I motioned for Chris to start. As I waited for the opening strains of Footloose by Kenny Loggins to begin, Chris nonchalantly hit the record button. It was time for phase one of his plan to begin.

Chapter Seven: The Boy Can Sing!

I was having a blast. Who knew karaoke could be so much fun? We all had taken turns singing different songs either alone or in groups, depending on what the song was. Only Chris didn't sing, as he was at the controls of the machine. I was really quite surprised at myself. It's not typical for me to just open myself up like that to people I hardly knew, yet, I felt so at ease with them. I had sung a variety of things, including a couple of songs a cappella. The funniest moment came when, for whatever reason, Justin requested I sing It's Raining Men by the Weather Girls.

"Come on, Will!" Justin urged.

"I don't know..." I replied hesitantly. I hadn't sung that song in a long time, and I remembered that the song had a ton of high notes. I wasn't quite sure I could hit them properly.

"You can do it. You know you can. Or are you just scared?" Justin asked with a devious smile on his face.

"Fine! Fine! I'll do it!" I said rolling my eyes as I stood up. I went over to the machine and picked up the microphone. With my back turned, I missed the knowing looks that passed between Chris and Justin. If they were right, and they were certain they were, if this didn't prove to management that they needed me, nothing would.

I stood there trying to run the lyrics through my head. How does the melody go again? I wondered. It'll probably come to me when the music starts. I glanced at Justin, who had the world's biggest smile on his face. I then looked over at Joey and Jerrica, who were sitting on the steps, chatting to each other and looked rather unhappy. I'll have to ask them later about that.

I took a deep breath and told Chris to start the music. The disco beat began and I started to lose myself in the music. The lyrics and melody popped into my head, causing me to smile. I can do this. I'll show that brat I can, I thought. I grinned at Justin. Just watch me. My thoughts had carried me away from the music for a moment, almost causing me to miss my cue. Taking another deep breath, I opened my mouth and began to sing, playing off the background vocals that were already provided.

Hi [Hi]
We're your Weather Girls [Uh huh]
And have we got news for you [You better listen]
Get ready all you lonely girls
And leave those umbrellas at home [All right]

Humidity is rising [Mmm... rising]
Barometer is getting low [How low girl?]
According to our sources [What sources now?]
The street's the place to go [We better hurry up]

'Cause tonight for the first time [First time]
Just about half past ten [Half past ten]
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men [Start raining men]

I looked over at Justin and gave him a wink. He dared me to this, and now I was going to have some fun.

It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Amen!

I'm gonna go out
I'm gonna let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet

It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Every specimen!
Tall blonde dark and lean
Rough and tough and strong and mean

I started to dance around a little in my spot. Nothing major, as I really don't like to dance and don't really think I can, with a couple of exceptions. However, I was just kind of getting into the music, and I suppose it's natural.

God bless Mother Nature
She's a single woman too
She took over heaven
And she did what she had to do

She fought every Angel
And rearranged the sky
So that each and every woman
Could find the perfect guy

I had made my way over to Joey and sat in his lap, which surprised him. When I sang that last line, I looked him right in the eye, causing him to blush a little. The rest of the guys hooted in laughter. For a second I thought I was at an owl convention. Rolling my eyes, I hopped off Joey's lap and made my way back to the front of the group.

It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Amen!
It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Amen!

I feel stormy weather moving in
About to begin [about to begin]
Feel the thunder don't you lose your head
Rip off the roof and stay in bed! [Rip off the roof and stay in bed]

I had now let all of my inhibitions go, and the diva in me came out running. It may have been a backyard performance, but I was giving it all I had. It was times like these when I remembered how much I missed the stage and performing. I couldn't go back though. It was too embarrassing. This was just a few friends getting together; performing in front of an audience was simply out of the question.

God bless Mother Nature
She's a single woman too
She took over heaven
And she did what she had to do

She fought every Angel
She rearranged the sky
So that each and every woman
Could find the perfect guy
Ooh it's raining men, Yeah.

I had made my way over to Justin and locked eyes with him. When I reached the line "So that each and every woman could find the perfect guy," I reached over and rubbed the top of his head. He immediately turned crimson, eliciting another round of hooting from the guys. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Justin's shorts tenting a little. Interesting effect, I thought. Justin eyes followed mine and he turned even redder when he realized he had been caught. He immediately moved his hands over his crotch and gave me a guilty smile. I winked at Joey, who had a great view of the whole situation, and he just laughed.

Humidity is rising [Humidity is rising]
Barometer is getting low [It's getting low low low low low low low low]
According to our sources [According to our sources]
The street's the place to go

Cause tonight for the first time [First time]
Just about half past ten [Half past ten]
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men [Start raining men]

I hit the high note on the end, which caused everyone's eyes to widen. When I slid up to the top note, all their eyes bugged out. I wanted to laugh, but couldn't without missing the next verse. Will, 1. Justin, 0, I thought with glee. How was I to know I at the time I was being set up?

It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Amen!
It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! Amen!
It's raining men! Hallelujah!
It's raining men! [Amen]

It's raining men [Hallelujah]
Tall blonde dark and lean
Rough and tough and strong and mean
[She fought every Angel and rearranged the sky]
[It's raining men]
[Find the perfect guy]

The song ended, and everyone was silent, but it took me a moment to realize it as I came down from my performance high. Everyone's mouth was wide open as they stared long and hard at me, except for Jerrica, who just sort of smiled. I wondered if I had done something wrong. Had I gone too far with my little stunt with Justin? Had I crossed a line I shouldn't have? They all seemed to think it was funny when I did it, I thought to myself. The longer the silence continued, the uneasier I became. My face had now lost it smile, and I could feel panic start to set in. Jerrica, bless her, sensed what was going on inside of me and nudged Joey hard.

"Oh. My. God," he said, never taking his eyes off me.

Ever the master of misperception, I interpreted that to mean that I had in fact screwed up royally. The microphone in my hand fell to the ground as I stood there, incredibly confused. I didn't know what to do. Every instinct in my body told me to run and not look back. The old phrase "fight or flight" came to mind, and I was a professional at the latter. Oftentimes, when I get into a sticky situation, I spin on my heel and go the other direction. I tend to avoid conflict as much as possible, especially when I know I'm going to come out on the losing end.

While I was having an internal battle, Jerrica was watching me with a worried look She had hoped that Joey would say something more comforting; what he said was not what she expected. She looked at my eyes, which had not only lost their sparkle, but had become rather dark. Furthermore, they were shifting from side to side. She knew that look, and she knew what I was about to do. I was planning my escape route. Leaning over to Joey, she hissed in his ear, "Say something, you dork. He's about to bolt."

Joey came out of his little reverie and started to speak, but he was about four seconds too late. I still hadn't made up my mind as to what I was going to do, so my stomach decided for me. A wave of nausea overcame me and, putting my hand over my mouth, I ran toward the woods. I reached the forest line and revisited my taco salad. It's just not the same the second time around, I thought glumly.

I felt a hand on my back as I continued to retch. I had my eyes closed, trying to will my stomach to stop its' revolt, but I knew who it was. My stomach didn't much care what my brain wanted as I continued to toss up everything it had been holding. Eventually, my body decided I had been punished enough as my gagging sounds were replaced with heavy panting. I was quite tired from singing and being sick, so I just backed myself up a few feet and sat down on the grass.

I opened my eyes and found Jerrica's staring back at me. She placed her hand on my forehead and moved my hair out of my face. She sighed and said, "It's not what you think."

"What are you talking about?" I asked between breaths.

"You think they hate you, don't you?" she asked point-blank.

"I crossed a line, Jerrica. I shouldn't have messed with Justin with like that," I said sullenly. "And Joey. My God, what he must think of me!" I buried my face in my hands. "I thought he thought it was funny, but I guess I was wrong about that. Now he's going to think I'm just a big tease!"

"That's not it at all Will," Joey said from behind me.

"I thought I told you to stay put," Jerrica said, glowering at Joey.

"Like I'm going to stay put when my boyfriend is hurting!" Joey shot back. He was a little annoyed with Jerrica to begin with, especially when she had told him to stay there while she came to check on me. Best friend or not, no one was going to keep Joey away from Will. No one.

"Or any of the rest of us," Justin said, walking up behind Joey with the other guys in tow. "Will is our friend too!" I sighed as I listened to Justin's words. I had called way more attention to myself than I had wanted, and once again my instincts to run away were starting to resurface. I was too tired, though. Too tired to run, too tired to think, too tired to do anything. I was just going to have to suck it up and face this.

"I'm sorry Justin," I said quietly. "I really am."

"Sorry for what? You don't have anything to be sorry for," he said with a confused look

"I don't?" I asked, bewildered.

"No! What would ever make you think that?" Josh said from behind Justin.

"Well, I... What I mean is... I thought you guys thought I went too far when I was messing with Justin. You all just stared at me with your mouths open, and then Joey said what he did, and I just thought..." I trailed off. It was kind of hard to explain what I had been thinking.

"You just thought what?" Joey pressed gently.

"I just thought you guys would think that I was wrong for Joey and that I'd eventually lose him," I said morosely. "So go ahead and get it over with. Might as well kick me while I'm down. It'll hurt less in the long run."

I braced myself for whatever was going to come, not that I had any clue what it would be. The next thing I knew, I was being hoisted to my feet and enveloped into a powerful bear hug. "Don't you ever think I would leave you for something like that," Joey said forcefully, trying not to be angry. "Do you really think I am that stupid to not understand you were just playing with him?"

It was a bad choice of words. If I hadn't offended him before, I had now. I wrestled myself out of his grip and burst into tears. I was about to run for the house when Jerrica and Lance grabbed my wrists. "Let me go!" I howled.

"No. We are not done yet," Jerrica said. "Lance, don't you dare let go of his arm."

"Jerrica, let me go! Now!" I said vehemently.

"No! Now would you stop being such an idiot and listen?" she said irritably. She hated it when I got like this. I was usually quite a rational person, but when my emotions get out of whack, I have a tendency to become a bit unreasonable.

"Fine! Say it! It doesn't matter! I'm probably not intelligent enough to understand it anyway," I said in disgust.

"And he calls me a drama queen," Jerrica said to the guys, rolling her eyes.

Jerrica and Lance let go of my arms, which I immediately crossed over my chest. I scanned all six faces, waiting impatiently for someone to say something, anything. What they did say absolutely blew me away.

"My God, you're incredible," Josh said at last. I was stunned. Huh?

The others soon chimed in. "Unbelievable," said Justin. Chris thought I was outstanding. Lance thought I was fabulous. Joey thought I was amazing. As for me, I thought I was an idiot.

"You... You thought I was good?" I stammered, still in shock.

"Hello?" Justin and Lance shouted in unison.

"But... Why didn't you say anything? Why did you just stare at me like I had grown a second head or something?" I asked, still unsure of the situation.

"We were just kind of stunned. I mean, we knew you could sing..." Lance began, but he was cut off by Justin.

"Damn! Who knew you could sing like that?" Justin said with a laugh.

"I did!" Jerrica piped up. Then, looking at the guys, she said sweetly, "Told you so."

"Jerrica, what have you been telling them?" I asked, eyeing her carefully.

"Nothing. Just that most female singers have nothing on you," she said with a laugh.

"I don't know if I should take that as an insult or a compliment," I said ruefully.

"It was a compliment, hon. Take it as that," Joey said as he pulled me into a hug. He continued to hold me, and I wasn't in any mood to have him let go. My mind was still rather muddled. They don't hate me? They...liked me? They didn't think I went too far? As if he were reading my mind, he said, "And by the way, that has got to be one of the best stunts pulled on Justin in a long time."

I backed away from him and looked at Justin, who, even though he was slightly red, was laughing with the rest. I soon joined in. After all, it was funny. It made me think though. Why did Justin react in that manner? I had heard off and on that he was dating Britney Spears, but maybe that was wrong. Even still, I didn't think he would have any of those type of feelings for me. After all, he was straight and I was anything but. Then again, who knows?

I stopped laughing and announced, "And the award for Best Dramatic Performance in a Backyard Revue goes to... drum roll please... me!" The others half-smiled at my attempt to lighten the situation, but they didn't laugh.

"Will," Joey said seriously, "the next time you feel like that, say something, please! There's no point in making yourself sick over something that might not even be true." I sighed. Here we go with the lectures, I thought miserably. "I'm not lecturing you," he continued, which caused my eyes to widen. How did he know that's what I was thinking, I wondered. "I know that's what you're thinking, because I can see it in your face," he said, answering my thoughts.

Wow. It only took him two days to learn how to read me, I thought. It was kind of weird, because I am usually very good at hiding what I am feeling and thinking. I'll just have to be more convincing next time.

"Well, now that we have had our dramatic feature for the day, can we get back to doing what we do best?" Chris said with a sly grin.

"What? Have fun?" Josh asked.

"No! Sing!" Chris said, looking directly at Jerrica. "If memory serves, the lady of the house is up next."

"Oh, good God no!" Jerrica screeched. We all laughed. No matter how sick I was or might be, I wouldn't miss this for the world.

I had sat out for quite a while as I let my stomach resettle itself. I had drunk a few glasses of water and munched on some crackers in order to help absorb all the acid in my stomach. I had enjoyed watching Jerrica and the guys make fools of themselves. Most of the time, they did it deliberately, but every now and again, something would just go wrong. Josh had been singing a song from Mary Poppins, and he was doing quite well until his voice cracked. We all burst out laughing and Josh turned beet red. He was a trouper, though, as he finished the song anyway amidst all of our howling. He gave a little curtsy at the end, which really sent us over the edge. I don't think I had laughed that hard in years.

We finally had enough clowning around and went inside, packing the equipment up inside its' case and storing it away safely. We decided we were too tired to do much of anything, so I suggested we sit down and watch a movie. I must admit, my DVD collection wasn't that extensive, but I figured I had to have at least one movie everyone could agree on. Their choice surprised me and embarrassed Josh. Yep, you guessed it. They chose Mary Poppins.

It never ceased to amaze me how childlike these five were at times. Throughout the entire movie, they horsed around, sang along with the songs, made up their own lyrics or song keys for some, and just had a grand time. Jerrica and I couldn't help but be drawn into their fun, and we all were laughing and joking along. Poor Josh was ridiculed once again when the movie reached the Feed the Birds scene, as that was the song he had sort of embarrassed himself on. Eventually, the movie ended, but we were in no mood to do much else. "So now what?" I asked as I popped the DVD out of the player and put it back in its case.

"We could watch more movies!" Lance suggested. This idea was met with resounding agreements from the rest.

"Okay, we can do that. I don't know what else I have you guys might like to watch. I suppose we could always go rent something, maybe get some pizza..." I didn't have a chance to finish my thought, as I was overpowered by the cheering. "Hmmm... I take it that's a yes?" I said with a laugh.

"Whoo hoo! Movie night!" Justin said, doing a little happy dance.

"And everyone tells me Justin has all the moves. If those are them, you guys are in more trouble than I thought," I said with a giggle.

Justin glared at me. "Hey! Nobody disses the moves, all right?"

"Touchy, aren't we?" I said with a wink. Justin tried to look mad, but a smile was slowly creeping on his face. "Now, if we are over our temper tantrum," I continued, which caused Justin's face to slightly sour again, "I need you to decide what type of pizza we're going to get. I don't really care, as long as it has no fungus or fish."

"Darn! And I wanted anchovies!" Josh piped up.

A look of disgust crossed my face. "You must be kidding me." I realized I had been had when Josh's face screwed up into a big grin. "All right, whatever. Justin, there's the phone and the number. Put the order under Will, and it's for pickup" I said, pointing to the kitchen.

Justin went and placed the order. He returned with a funny look on his face. "They said it would be about 30 minutes, and he wanted to know if you were stocking up or something?"

A confused look crossed my face, and then I burst into laughter. "Those guys," I said, shaking my head. "Ummm... I'm kind of well known down there. Let's just say there are many nights where I just don't want to cook. I keep telling them they'll go broke if I ever get a chef," I said, winking at Joey. He blushed, which caused everyone to chuckle. "Now, who wants to go with me to get the movies and food?" I asked.

"I'll go," Lance and Joey said.

Chris rolled his eyes. "You would," he said, smirking at Joey. Joey smiled back, but I frowned. I wasn't quite sure how to interpret that statement. I wanted to say something to Chris, but I decided that I should stay out of it. This was between them, and I didn't want to appear overprotective. Besides, Joey was a big boy and could fight his own battles. This didn't seem to be the start of one, so I dropped it. Maybe I'm just reading too much into things, I thought.

"Okay you two, let's get the lead out," I said as I walked into the kitchen to pick up my keys. I opened the door leading into the garage and hit the remote twice. All the doors unlocked and the lights flashed. The marvels of modern day electronics, I thought. Joey and Lance hopped in the car and I followed soon behind. It was still warm out, so we rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof. Oh, if every day could be as gorgeous as this. I backed the car out of the garage and headed down the drive. Joey, who was once again in the passenger seat, was staring out the window lost in thought. I grabbed his hand and gave it a little squeeze. In the end, this was still going to be a good day.

We had some time to kill before we had to go pick up the pizza, so Joey suggested that we drive past some of the houses he and Josh had seen and show Lance. Lance was just as impressed as Josh had been, which, for some reason, surprised me as it had before. However, I didn't have very long to dwell on that, as the scattered conversation we had been having turned to one of my least favorite subjects: me.

"So Will," Lance said out of the blue, "what's your family like?"

"Not much to tell," I replied. "No sisters, no brothers, no dad. For a long time it was just Mom and I, and then Mom met Kate, and it's been that way ever since."

"Kate?" Lance echoed. "Who's Kate?"

"Mom's partner," I said softly. I knew that this answer was going to open a lot more questions, some of which I didn't want to get into.

"Your Mom is a lesbian?" Lance asked in surprise.

"Yeah, and my father is gay," I snapped. I didn't mean to really, but I'd had this conversation numerous times in my life and it always seemed to go badly in the past. Most people, when hearing this, made snap judgments about me because of it, whether they were accurate or not. I was always afraid that when a person found out I was gay, they would say, "See. If he hadn't grown up in a gay house, he wouldn't be gay." Now, those of us with a half a brain know that having gay parents doesn't automatically make you gay. Unfortunately, there are a lot of narrow-minded people who think otherwise, and being gay with gay parents only seems to further cement their notions.

Joey looked slightly confused. "I thought you just said you didn't have a dad?"

"I don't," I said bitterly. "I have a father, like everyone else, but I don't have a dad. All it takes to be a father is a dick and some active sperm; to be a dad takes caring, love, understanding and a whole range of other things including a desire to actually see your children." The car grew incredibly silent for a moment. This was a rather hot topic for me. My father is actually a very nice person, but he was never meant to be a parent. I'm rather thankful that he didn't want a whole lot to do with me over the years, although there was a brief stretch of time when I almost felt like I had a dad.

"Maybe I should explain a little," I said, sensing a little bit of worry coming from Joey. "You see, for all intents and purposes, my father was basically a sperm donor. It wasn't through a sperm bank or anything like that, but in the end I suppose it amounts to the same thing. My mother never prevented him from seeing me; in fact, she encouraged it. When I was older, she told me she used to call him before my birthday and Christmas to remind him to send a card, but other than that, we had very little contact.

"At the age of nine, I started writing him and calling him more frequently, and we seemed to be getting closer. We took a vacation together to Minneapolis when I was fifteen, and it appeared that all was well. At the end of the trip, he took me back home to Michigan and dropped me off. I called him a couple of months later, but he said he was busy at the moment and would call me back. Let's just say I'm still waiting," I said with a sigh.

"So he just up and left without a word?" Lance asked after a moment.

"Basically," I said. "At first I was hurt, and then I decided I didn't want to be hurt anymore. So, I just kind of closed that door of my life and locked it. I haven't spoken to him in eight years, and quite honestly, if I ever saw him again, it would probably be too soon. Don't get me wrong. He's not a bad person, but as I said before, he was never meant to be a parent."

Joey looked at me with sad eyes. "Wow Will. I can imagine how that would have hurt," he said quietly, grabbing my hand and giving it a squeeze.

"Don't worry about it Joe," I said, sighing again. "I'm not. It's taken a lot of time to work through, and besides, I have two very loving parents. Mom and I have always had each other through thick and thin, and when she met Kate, it was the best thing that ever happened to her. They've been together for twelve years and are perfectly content."

"I can't wait to meet them," Joey said with a smile. Meet them? I thought. Now that would be an interesting get together. I wasn't really sure how to respond to that, so I changed the subject. Soon we were talking about all sorts of things, some more fascinating than others. I was starting to come out from under my dark cloud when Lance touched another nerve.

"So, Jerrica was telling us you had gotten the lead in a play back in high school. I didn't know you were an actor. What play was it?"

"Ummm, Oliver. I played Mr. Bumble. To be honest, I think I was typecast because I was heavy, not because I was any good," I said with a laugh. I noted we were about three minutes outside of town and sped up a little, hoping our arrival at our destination would cause this new discussion to end quickly.

"I'm sure that wasn't it at all," Joey said defensively.

"Whatever," I said, my cheeks burning bright red. It's one thing to have to defend yourself, it's another thing to have someone else defend you from yourself. "Besides, even if I thought I was, I proved otherwise. I screwed up in the middle of my solo and embarrassed myself in front of hundreds of people."

"That kind of thing happens Will," Lance said. "I mean, look at us. We're not perfect. We've all made mistakes on stage at one time or another, but we just go with the flow."

"Well, that's good. I'm glad you can do that. As for me, I've been laughed off the stage once, and I am not going to do it again," I said in a definitive tone. Lance was about to argue back, but we had just arrived at the video store. We all got out and I went inside, with Joey and Lance bringing up the rear far behind.

"Lance, I don't think we should push him. He seems dead-set against ever performing, and this plan of Chris' is just going to make things worse. I... I think we should just forget it," he said quietly so I wouldn't overhear.

"So what are we supposed to do Joey?" Lance asked.

"Let management figure it out. That's their job, not ours," he replied.

"I thought you'd want Will to be with us on tour," Lance said pointedly.

"I do, but I want it to be because he wants to, not because we pushed him to. Besides, how on earth are you ever going to get him to agree to this? I don't think this idea is going to work. All it's going to do is make him mad," Joey stated. After a moment, he said, "You know what? I'm putting an end to this. I'm going to talk to Chris and see if I can't reason with him."

"All right," Lance said at last, "but reasoning with Chris may be harder than reasoning with Will." The two fell silent and entered the video store. The topic was soon forgotten as the three of us perused the hundreds of selections, laughing and joking as we finally made some decisions. We then checked the videos out, went to pick up the pizza, and headed back home.

Josh, Chris, Justin and Jerrica were sitting in the living room listening to the tape Chris had made of me singing. It was quite a variety of music, ranging from slow ballads to upbeat dance/pop, from low to high range and beyond. Chris was quite pleased at how well it turned out. They had just finished listening to me singing It's Raining Men when they heard the car door slam. Chris shut off the stereo, grabbed the tape and ran upstairs. He stuck it in the top drawer of the dresser he was sharing with Justin in their bedroom and went back downstairs.

We were already seated in the living room and opening the pizza boxes by the time Chris rejoined us. We settled in to watch another movie, Legally Blonde, and ate until we were about to explode. From time to time, Chris would arbitrarily get up and go upstairs for a few minutes every half hour or so. In my head, I decided he just needed to use the bathroom or something, although I wondered why he didn't use the one downstairs.

After watching Blast From the Past, which stars that little hottie Brendan Fraser and that cutie Alicia Silverstone, I looked down to see that Joey had fallen asleep in my lap. I caressed his hair and smiled. He looked so angelic asleep, and I didn't have the heart to disturb him. I was starting to get tired. It was, after all, nearly ten o'clock. Aside from my little mini-dramas of the day, it had been relatively calm and relaxing. The guys, who had looked incredibly tired ever since they arrived, now no longer had bags under their eyes and looked rather rested. I guess this was the break they needed, no pun intended. I was sorry that it had to come at the expense of Josh getting hurt, but in the end, it was necessary downtime.

My leg was starting to fall asleep, so I gently pushed Joey's head out of my lap. I stood up and waited for the blood to begin circulating in my leg. Justin and Chris slowly made their way up to the room they were sharing, wishing us all good night as they left. Lance helped me clean up the pizza boxes and assorted trash while Joey, who finally awoke, helped Josh pull out the sofabed.

It had been a long day, and my body was starting to feel it. The dull ache in my backside had returned, and I quite frankly was ready for bed. I looked over at Jerrica, who was passed out in the easy chair, and smiled. Even she looked like a little angel when she was asleep. I guess it must have something to do with being in such a vulnerable state. During the day, she was a feisty piece of work, but asleep she didn't look like she would even harm a fly. I walked over to her and shook her awake. She grumbled as she trudged half-asleep up the stairs to the bedroom she was sharing with me. I figured she would be back asleep in minutes.

Josh had already climbed into bed and had flipped open my book, picking up where he had left off that morning when I interrupted him. Lance helped me haul the trash out to the bin in the backyard and then bid me good night as he went back inside and upstairs. I watched him go as I stood out in the warm night air, feeling a momentary sense of solitude. As much as I loved having these guys here with me, I enjoyed my little private moments.

I walked out into the middle of the backyard, a good hundred feet or so from the house and laid down in the grass. I looked up at the stars and lost myself in them. It never ceased to amaze me how small I was in the grand scheme of the universe, even if I did have an internationally famous boyband staying in my house and was dating one of them! I closed my eyes and let my mind wander, listening to the sounds of nature all around me. The crickets chirping, the trees swaying in the wind, and hundreds of other little sounds one just never notices until they actually stop and take the time to listen.

I'm not quite sure how long I had been laying there when I felt someone else's presence nearby. I opened my eyes to find Joey standing over me with a goofy grin on his face. "Is this a private party, or can anyone join?" he asked quietly.

"Well, I suppose I could make room for one more," I said with a smirk, "but you'll have to lay close to me as there isn't a lot of room." Joey's eyebrows arched up into his hairline. Did he just say what I think he said? Joey wondered. Well, he certainly was no one's fool. He couldn't ask for a better invitation than that. He laid down in the grass next to me and snuggled in close. He slipped his arm under my head and I did the same under his, providing an extra cushion for each other. We just laid there for some time without speaking. I had preoccupied myself with trying to locate the Little Dipper when I heard Joey's voice.

"You know, living in New York, you'd never even know there were stars up there," he said. "All of the lights from the city kind of block them out. They certainly have no idea what they are missing."

"No kidding. I like to just sit and look at the stars and let all my troubles float away, if only for a while," I said.

"Will?" Joey said after a moments pause, "I hope you weren't offended earlier by Lance bringing up the subject of you performing. It's just that, well, you seem to enjoy it so much. It seems like such a shame that you won't do it anymore." He knew he could be opening up a big can of worms here, but he was looking for more answers than I had given. He prepared himself in case I got angry. Fortunately, it was not to come.

I sighed. I did like to perform, but my own anxieties prevented me from doing it. "I guess," I said at last. "It's not that I won't; I just can't. I can't allow myself to go onstage and make a fool out of myself. Not again. Allison was right when she said I had no talent." I turned to look at Joey. "Besides, I'm very grateful that you guys say such nice things about me, but it's not necessary. Don't worry, I'm not going to kick you out if you don't butter me up. I can take the criticism. I mean, you guys have me made out to be the next Céline Dion or something, and we both know I'm nowhere near that good."

"But you are," Joey argued. "You really are. Have you ever stopped to listen to yourself?"

"Every day, like it or not," I grumbled.

"Then you should know how great you sound. You don't need other people to tell you that; it's something you should be able to recognize in yourself," Joey said. He was a little impressed with himself. Joey could be deep when he wanted to be, but every now and again he surprised himself with how philosophic he sounded.

"I can't see something that isn't there Joey. I'm not good at anything except being dull, boring old me. What you see in me I will never understand, but I am immensely thankful that you care so much. I've had so few friends in life, and even fewer friends that weren't out to take advantage of me in some way. Now, can we end this discussion?" I was starting to get angry again, but I didn't want it to spoil the moment. After all, it was the first time really all day that we had to spend just the two of us together. I rolled over and planted a big kiss right on his lips. His eyes momentarily widened in surprise, but it was short-lived. He returned the kiss and, parting my lips with his tongue, we played a momentary game of tonsil hockey.

I pulled away from him out of breath. I was seeing sparks fly everywhere, I had never felt like this before in my life. I stood up quickly and nearly fell over from dizziness. It might have been the blood rushing from my head, but I daresay that Joey Fatone was just making me weak at the knees. He caught me as I started to fall and held my head against his chest. I listened to his heartbeat as he stroked my hair. I looked up into his eyes and saw nothing but love and compassion in them. I was amazed at how expressive his eyes were.

Standing me fully upright, Joey said, "Okay, so no public performances, but will you still sing for me? I know you think you sound terrible, but I still disagree. I think you sound terrific, and I would be horribly disappointed if I never got to hear you sing again." He looked so forlorn when he said that. How on earth could I ever say no?

"All right, all right. You win. I'll still sing for you," I said, which caused Joey's face to light up, "and the guys," which caused Joey to frown a little, "but that's it. Okay?"

"Okay," Joey said. "Will you sing for me now?"

"Now? Here?" I asked in surprise.

"Yes. As a matter of fact, Mr. Robertson, may I have this dance while we're at it?" Joey said, backing up a little and holding out his hand to me.

"Why, Mr. Fatone, I would be delighted," I replied, taking his hand in mine. He put one hand around my waist and the other on my shoulder. I did the same as we started to sway to the rhythm of the outdoors. "This dance wouldn't be complete without music," I said with a small smile. "What should I sing?"

"I have an idea for a good song for us to sing," he said, emphasizing the word us.

Before I could ask him to clarify, he began to sing:

Love, like a road that never ends
How it leads me back again
To heartache
I don't understand

I almost burst out laughing. He had picked one of my all-time favorite songs, which, of course, just happens to be sung by Amy Grant. Oh yeah, and Peter Cetera, but who cares about him? I presumed he had chosen that deliberately, apparently knowing about my affinity for Amy. Something told me Jerrica probably had a hand in this, as Joey hadn't been there when he had this discussion the night we picked up the van. I would have to thank her later. Smiling widely, I moved my hand off of his shoulder and put it around his waist. I leaned my head against his shoulder and sang the next verse.

Darling, I
Put my heart upon a shelf
'Til the moment was right
And I tell myself

Next time I fall in love
I'll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love (ooh, oooh, ooh)
The next time I fall in love
The next time I fall in love
It will be with you

We looked each other in the eyes as we sang the last lines. That look of love I had seen before was there again. It was hard to describe, but there was something in his eyes that was so different when he looked at me like that versus any other time. His eyes were so full of life and sparkle, and he seemed so carefree, as if nothing else existed in the world except he and I. Needless to say, I really love that look! As I began the next verse, I sang it with as much emotion and conviction as I could possibly muster.

Oh, love, as I look into your eyes
Well I wonder if it's wise
To hold you like I've wanted to before
Tonight, ooh I was thinking that you might
Be the one who breathed life in this heart of mine

Next time I fall in love
I'll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love (ooh, ooh, ooh)
The next time I fall in love
The next time I fall in love
It will be with you

I had started losing focus on the words, and had to keep averting Joey's eyes in order to keep my mind on my spot in the lyrics. I had definitely never felt like this with anyone in my life, and I found it both exhilarating and scary at the same time. What if I didn't meet his expectations? At that moment, I didn't really care. As long as Joey was holding me, the world could be ending and it wouldn't matter. As I sang, I listened to Joey's rich baritone and wished I could sound like that. I was starting to become sick of being a high tenor, of routinely being confused with a female on the telephone, of being me in some cases. I wished I could be more like Joey.

Next time I'm gonna follow
And if it drives me crazy
I, I'll know better why
The next time I try

Next time I fall in love
I'll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love (ooh, ooh, ooh)
The next time I fall in love
The next time I fall in love
It will be with you

We were still dancing, sort of. We were barely moving at all, but I felt like I was floating on air. We were no longer just singing; in fact, we had been singing directly to each other for the past minute or so, embracing the words as they were sung as if they tangible. In my head, I knew the end of the song was coming and I was already becoming disappointed. I didn't want it to end.

Next time I fall (next time I fall) in love
(oh, whoa, whoa)
Next time I fall in love
(ooh, ooh, ooh)
The next time I fall in love
The next time I fall in love
It will be with you

We stopped singing and once again stared into each others eyes. Slowly, Joey leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. The electric charge I felt was so strong I nearly came in my pants right there on the spot. Joey soon tried to break away, but I wouldn't let him. We continued like that for another half-minute or so until we nearly passed out from oxygen deprivation. I was just about to go for round two when a noise caught my attention. It was...applause? I turned my head in the direction of the house and spotted Chris, Lance, Justin, and Jerrica on the balcony outside Joey and Lance's room clapping and cheering like crazy. I flushed and turned away while Joey, never one to pass on a moment to ham it up, took a bow. I tried to avoid looking at anyone, but Joey would have none of that. Soon, with a smile on my face, I turned around and took my own bow. Laughing, I swore I would wring somebody's neck in the morning, but for now, I would let it go.

"All right guys! Show's over!" I yelled up to the balcony.

"Aw, man!" Justin said, snapping his fingers and laughing. Now, call me crazy, but I could swear I heard some genuine disappointment in his voice. Then again, I could have been imagining things. It wouldn't be the first time.

"Talk about an interesting performance!" Chris said with a laugh as they went back inside. Joey's face immediately clouded. He had forgotten about Chris' plan when he and I were singing, but the word "performance" had jogged his memory. He was going to have to have a little talk with Chris, but first he knew there was something else he had to do. He had to get that tape.

"Well cutie," Joey said to me as he finished watching the little group go inside, "I think we should call it a night. What do you think?"

"Yeah. I agree. Sleep sounds kind of good right about now," I replied, reinforcing my statement with a rather large yawn.

Joey laughed. "All right, Let's go to bed. I'll see you in the morning."

"You too handsome," I said, kissing him on the lips. Joining hands, we walked across the backyard into the house. We never let go of each other until it was time to go into our respective rooms. Joey kissed me again and went into his bedroom and closed the door. I was completely exhausted, so I quickly changed into a t-shirt and sweats and climbed into bed next to Jerrica, falling fast asleep.

Joey knocked on Chris' door, trying to figure out what exactly he was going to say to him when he opened it. In the very beginning, Joey had thought this little idea of Chris' had been a rather good one, but now he knew better. In the end, this was only going to make Will very upset, and Joey just couldn't have that. While he knew that Will was just the person the guys were looking for, he couldn't subject the poor guy to all of that.

Justin opened the door and smiled at Joey. "What's up man?" he asked.

"I need to talk to Chris now," Joey replied quietly. "It's important."

"Yeah, sure. Come on in," Justin said, opening the door wider to allow Joey to enter.

As Joey walked in, still uncertain what he was going to say, he could feel anger bubbling up inside of him. He couldn't believe he had ever thought this was a good idea, and he further couldn't believe that everyone else was willing to go along with it. Completely ignoring Justin, Joey zeroed in on Chris, who was sitting on the bed. "You and I have to talk," Joey said in a brusque tone.

"Ummm, okay Joey. What's going on?" Chris replied.

"This is going to stop. This is not going to happen. I will not permit you to do this to him," Joey said briskly. "It's wrong, it's deceitful, and worse, all we're going to do is drive him away from us, and I, for one, can't allow that. He has made me happier than anyone else I have met in my life, and this whole scheme of yours ends here." Joey fell silent and stared hard at Chris, waiting for a reaction. There wasn't one. Chris just stared back at Joey stony-faced. No movement, no expression, nothing. Breaking the uncomfortable silence that was developing, Joey said flatly, "Where's the tape?"

Chris blinked at him and said in as innocent a voice as he could muster, "What tape?"

"Your Janet Jackson tape," he said sarcastically. "What tape do you think I'm talking about? Hand it over Chris! I'm not about to play games with you!" His voice was slowly starting to rise in pitch and volume as anger started to encompass him.

"Joey, come on man. You don't know what you're doing, and besides, if you don't keep it down, you're going to wake everyone up," Chris said.

"I don't care. Give me the tape, Chris," Joey said, moving closer to the other man. Chris backed up a little. Joey very rarely got angry, but when he did, he was definitely someone whose path you did not want to cross. Joey moved closer to Chris and said, "Where is it? Here?" He opened the dresser drawer and pulled out a tape.

"Give that back," Chris said, lunging for the tape in Joey's hand. "I said, give it back!"

"Not a chance in hell!" Joey shot back, holding the tape out of Chris' reach.

"Joey, I'm warning you..." Chris said menacingly.

"And just what are you going to do?" Joey said, narrowing his eyes. Chris was slightly startled, if only for a moment. He had never seen Joey this angry before, and common sense would have dictated that he back off now, but sometimes people don't always heed good common sense.

"Don't make me take it back from you!" Chris said, raising his voice.

"I'd love you to see you try," Joey spat back.

Like a ballistic missile, Chris shot up from the bed and lunged at Joey, knocking the larger man into the wall.

I had been sound asleep, and believe me when I say it takes a lot to wake me up. I used to live near a very frequented rail line, and trains came by at all hours of the day and night, blowing their whistles. I quickly learned to sleep through them and everything else, including, to my regret, my alarm clock most of the time. I had just been having a great dream involving me and this gorgeous guy dancing in the clouds when my dream was shattered by what appeared to be a small explosion inside my house. "What the hell?" I said as I sat up in my bed. I listened for a moment and decided that whatever was happening down the hall prompted further investigation.

I threw off the covers and ran into the hallway. The door to Joey and Lance's room opened and Lance stuck his head out. "What's going on Will?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Haven't a clue, but I think we're going to find out." He followed me down the hall to Chris and Justin's room where it sounded like a boxing match was taking place. I pushed the door open in time to see Chris take a swing at Joey. Thankfully, he missed, but it immediately pissed me off. "Okay, what the fuck is going on in here?" I yelled.

Everyone froze. Lance and I had been the last to enter the room, as Jerrica and Josh were already inside. Jerrica had told them that I almost never swore, and when I did, it was a very, very bad sign. I put my hands on my hips and stared at everyone, taking in the scene. Joey was sitting on the floor with his head leaning back against the wall. Chris was leaning over him about ready to strike. Justin was standing near the dresser looking extremely pale. Josh was propped up on his crutches next to Justin looking incredibly distressed, and Jerrica was halfway between the two groups, apparently intent on breaking up this little altercation.

I had six pairs of eyes all focused on me and no one was saying a word. "Okay, I'm trying to not sound like a broken record here, but what is going on?"

Chris straightened up and glanced at me, but he would not meet my eyes. "Nothing," he mumbled.

I walked further into the room and stopped about five feet from him. "Nothing? You guys are certainly making a lot of noise for doing nothing. For a second I thought I was in the middle of a California earthquake."

"It's no big deal Will," Joey said, slowly rising to his feet. "It's just a misunderstanding." He glared at Chris, trying to send an unspoken hint to play along. I wasn't fooled, by any means, but decided I would see how far they wanted to dig this hole for themselves.

"Oh?" I said innocently. "About what?"

Joey and Chris glared at each other. Joey was starting to feel sick to his stomach. While he was certain he was madly in love with Will, Chris was one of his best friends and had been so for years. He hated being in the middle.

"Joey wanted to, uh, borrow my Janet Jackson tape but I wasn't done with it yet," Chris said.

"You're telling me this is over a cassette tape?" I said in complete disbelief.

"Ummm, yes?" Chris said unconvincingly.

I looked over at Joey who had remained silent. "Is that true?" I asked.

Joey nodded. "Yes," he said quietly. It's technically not a lie, Joey told himself. He asked if we were fighting over a tape, and we were. The fact that what he thinks is on it is different than what is actually on it isn't relative, right? Justifying this to himself, he felt a little better, although it still felt like a lie to him.

I rolled my eyes. Looking at Jerrica, I said, "And people think we fight over dumb stuff," I said with a chuckle.

This caused the tension to break a little and everyone smiled. Jerrica walked over to me and smacked me in the shoulder. I surveyed the scene again. I knew that there was a lot more to this situation than what met the eye, but if they didn't want to tell me, that was their prerogative. Something also told me that Joey was hiding something from me, and I wondered what it was. My gut instinct said I should confront him on it, but at the same time, I was worried that by doing so would drive him away from me. We hadn't known each other very long, and I considered our relationship to be in a very fragile infancy. There were so many things that could go wrong that I wasn't willing to rock the boat very hard.

Trusting that they would work things out, I said, "All right guys, could you at least keep it down to a dull roar?"

I was met with a chorus of "Yes, mother!" from the six, which caused me to roll my eyes again. Apparently, Josh's little joke had spread to the rest of the group. Well, if they thought I was bad now, they should just wait and see what happens when I really get into overprotective mode! I shrugged off their little joke and walked over to Joey, planting a small kiss on his cheek. Ignoring the new chorus of "Awwww" from the rest, I spun on my heel and bid everyone good night as I went back to my bedroom. Climbing into bed, I shook my head and laid back down, wondering what I was going to do with these people. My thoughts were pushed aside as I fell asleep, resuming my dream already in progress.

In the other room, the tension resumed once I had departed. Joey looked at the tape in his hand, and, before Chris could react, snapped it in half. He then pulled some of the tape out and tied it into a knot, thus rendering it completely unusable. He looked at Chris and said, "Well, I guess that ends that."

Chris cast him a wide-eyed look as Joey tossed the remnants of the tape into the trash can beside the nightstand next to the bed. Satisfied that the issue had been resolved, Joey shot Chris a smug look as he exited the room. The others just looked at Chris, unsure of what to say or do.

"Now what do we do?" Justin asked, closing the door. "Are we going to try again?"

"Nope," Chris said, causing all eyes to shift to in his direction. He went over to his bag and pulled out a tape. "I had a feeling this might happen. Let's just say sometimes it never hurts to carry a spare or two."

The others chuckled slightly, if only to cover up the storm of confusion raging in their heads. They all knew that the results in the long run, should everything go according to plan, would be the best for everyone. At the same time, there were so many things that could potentially go wrong that it was a bit worrisome. After a little bit of debate, it was decided that things would continue as planned. Jerrica still thought the whole thing was a bad idea, but every time Chris smiled at her she felt a little weak at the knees. She chided herself a few times, since she wasn't supposed to be falling for another guy so quickly after she had just left Alex, right?

The impromptu meeting broke up and Jerrica returned to the bedroom she was sharing with me. I was already sound asleep, so I didn't hear her come in. She got herself ready and walked around to the other side of the bed. Gently slipping in beside me, she smiled as she watched me sleep. Pangs of guilt washed over her as thought about what was to come. You'll forgive them in the end, she thought as she rolled over. She prayed her thoughts would come true as she slowly fell asleep.

To Be Continued...

So what did you think? Joey has turned against the group's plan, which means one more person to keep things quiet from. How will the guys make all the pieces come together? What about Jerrica and Chris? They both seem attracted to each other, but will anything come out of it? Then there's Justin. Is there more going on with him than what meets the eye? Wow, this was a hard chapter to write. It just did not want to write itself. Apologies for it taking so long, but I hope the end result was worth it. I'll try to get Chapter Eight out a little faster. Please, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Thanks to everyone who has written to me!! A special thanks goes out to my editors, Mandy and Dreamy. Thanks for all the two of you do! Thanks also goes out to Wildheart and Rye, who help keep me inspired to continue writing.

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Extra disclaimers: Song lyrics used in this story from "It's Raining Men" are copyrighted by Columbia Records and "Next Time I Fall" are copyrighted by Warner Brothers Records. No attempt to infringe on this copyright should be implied from this story.