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...

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.

Chapter Eight: The Plan Unfolds

I awoke in the morning feeling rather rested. I looked over at the alarm clock and realized I had, once again, slept rather late. It was already after eight o'clock, and I presumed that the rest of the house was probably already moving. I rolled onto my back and let my arm drape across the bed. No Jerrica. For some reason, that did surprise me. She wasn't exactly known for being an early riser by any means. Groaning, I rolled myself out of bed and padded down to the bathroom.

Finding the door shut, I banged on it. "Whoever is in there had better hurry up!" I barked through the closed door. Within moments, the door flew open and I found myself standing face to face with a sopping wet Lance.

"Can I help you?" he said with a smile, which, I presumed, was masking his irritation at being disturbed.

"Aren't you done yet?" I said with a hint of mock annoyance.

"I'll be done in a second. Promise!" He then shut the door in my face before I could say another word. Grumbling slightly to myself about how I needed another bathroom, I ran downstairs to try that one. To my dismay, it was also occupied. Just as I was about to knock, the door flew open and I was nearly run over by Joey.

"Oh, I didn't see you there Will. Sorry about that," he said, catching me as I started to fall over.

"No problem," I replied. "No offense, but move!" I pushed him aside, ran into the bathroom, and shut the door. Finally being able to relieve myself, I was much better. Feeling a little guilty that I had pushed Joey in my haste, I flushed and yanked the door open, finding him still standing there as I had expected. I grabbed his hand and yanked him inside, shutting the door behind him.

"Well, good morning to you, hon," Joey said as he went to pull me into a kiss.

"Hold that thought," I said as I turned around, grabbed a bottle of mouthwash, and gargled some. I spat it out into the sink and said, "Oh, much better. Resume!" I pulled him toward me and kissed him long and hard.

"Mmmm. Minty fresh," he said with a laugh as he kissed me again.

"Now that is how you say good morning!" I chuckled. I was going to kiss him again when I heard a commotion outside the door. Putting my finger to my lips, I crept silently over to the door and yanked it open. Justin, who had his ear pressed against it, stumbled into the bathroom. "And just what do we think we're doing?"

"Ummm, I was just seeing if you were done so I could use the bathroom," he stammered as he turned beet red.

"Yeah, sure. We're finished," I said as I pulled Joey out of the bathroom, leaving Justin behind. As soon as we were out of earshot, I whispered to Joey, "I wonder what that was all about?"

Joey shrugged. "Heck if I know."

Justin had been acting really strange lately, and I was starting to wonder about his erratic behavior. I mean, I can understand mood swings. There are days where I am the King of Mood Swings, but this was starting to be absurd. For a fleeting second, I wondered if Justin was developing a crush on me or something, but I decided that was completely silly.

I followed Joey into the dining room and found Josh, Chris, and Lance all seated around the table. "Morning all," I said as I passed them, heading into the kitchen.

"Morning Will," Chris said brightly. "What's for breakfast?"

"I don't know about you," I remarked as I opened the cupboard, "but this kitchen is self-service only this morning, and I am having a bowl of cereal."

"Oh," Chris replied. "Well, guess I'm just going to have to figure something out then, won't I?"

"Guess so," I said. "What do you want Joey?"

"Whatever you're having is fine with me."

"Hey! How come you're fixing Joey breakfast?" Chris exclaimed.

"For two very good reasons: because I can, and because he gave me a good morning kiss. Now, if you want to do the same, then my fixing you breakfast might be open for discussion," I said with a wink.

Joey's eyebrows arched up in surprise. Chris looked like I had just slapped him across the face. "Say what?" Chris asked loudly.

I burst out laughing. "Oh, if I only had a camera..."

Chris glared at me. "I am never kissing you Will. I can't even believe you would suggest that!"

I rolled my eyes. "Good grief. Chris, get a grip on yourself. It was a joke." I turned and looked at Joey. "Wow, Joe. I didn't realize these guys had such a bad sense of humor." I was stopped from saying anything further by the serious look on Joey's face. "What's wrong?"

"I didn't picture you as the type of person who would go around offering to kiss every man you see," he said solemnly.

The smile on my face was immediately wiped clean by that last remark. "I don't. I wouldn't. I... I..." I couldn't stop stammering as I felt myself start to panic. Damn Will. You've gone and screwed everything up again. That little voice in my head was right there ready to chastise me as usual. I was literally at a loss for words. I was about to break into a long tirade of apologies when I saw Joey start to giggle. For a brief second I was completely confused, but then someone turned the lights on in my brain and I figured out I had been tricked. Well then, two can play this game, I thought haughtily.

"You all right Will?" Lance asked from the table.

"Me? Oh, yeah. I'm just perfect. Mr. Man over here," I said, pointing at Joey, "seems to think our whole relationship is one big joke Well, that's fine. Forget it. Forget the whole thing ever happened." I threw my hands up in the air and started to walk through the dining room to the stairs. Joey grabbed me as I tried to walk past him.

"Will, I'm sorry," Joey said. He wouldn't let go of me, so I couldn't move away, but I refused to look at him. "Will? Hon? Please look at me."

My emotions were running rampant. There was a part of me that was angry with Joey for starting this whole mess. There was a part of me that wanted to burst into laughter because of how ironically funny it was, and there was a part of me that felt bad because Joey was upset. I finally took a deep breath and turned around and gave him a hard look. "Not very funny, is it?"

He looked a little taken aback. "Huh?"

"I said, it's not very funny when the shoe is on the other foot, now is it?"

Considering that it was early in the morning and none of us had been up long, Joey could be forgiven for taking some time to figure out what I was talking about. When the realization hit him, a guilty look swept across his face. "No, it's not," he said at last.

"Joe, I'm not mad at you. If there is ever a problem, then we need to sit down and discuss it together. However, there are some things that are in bad taste to joke about; our relationship being one of them. Maybe when we have been together longer it would be a different story, but right now we probably ought to avoid it. Agreed?"

"Agreed," he said with a smile. We sealed the agreement with a kiss, causing everyone else to groan. Joey and I just looked at each other and laughed.

I went back into the kitchen and fixed Joey and I each a bowl of cereal. The rest of the guys fixed themselves something as well and we ate, chattering about anything and everything under the sun. I finished eating and cleared some of the dirty dishes away, putting them in the dishwasher. Joey got up and came over to help me, thus expediting the process. We were just about finished when we heard the sound of a phone ringing.

Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, glancing at the caller id. His eyes widened when he saw who it was. "Hello? Hi Eric! What's up?" From where I was standing in the kitchen, I could hear Eric, whoever that was, yelling on the other end. "Eric? Can you hang on just a second?" Chris asked. Cupping his hand over the mouthpiece, he said, "Guys, I'm going to go outside. I'll be back in a minute." He opened the door to the backyard and went outside, shutting the door behind him.

"Wonder what that's all about?" I asked out loud to no one in particular. "And who is Eric?"

"Our tour manager," Josh answered, "and he's always having fits about something."

"Oh," I replied. "Hope he keeps an eye on his blood pressure. Screaming like that, he'll be overdue for a stroke in no time." The guys laughed, and we soon found our way back into other threads of discussion.

"Where the hell are you guys?" Eric shouted in his halting New York accent.

"Oh, um, we're staying with a friend of JC's," Chris said. That excuse had worked on Justin's mother, and he hoped it would work on Eric too.

"Yeah, so Lynn tells me. Had I not talked to her, I would have search dogs out for you by now. The next time you guys decide to go out on a lark, would you mind clueing me in first?"

"Ummm, yeah Eric. Sorry about that," Chris said. While Eric seemed to be calm now, he just knew that the next time the guys saw him face to face, there was going to be some hell to pay.

"Sorry? You haven't seen sorry yet! Now, you five need to get your asses in gear, get down to the hotel you decided to vacate, and meet me at eleven. I swear, if you are even one minute late, the five of you will answer to me, and I assure you life will be quite unpleasant." Chris gulped. Eric could be the world's nicest guy, but he was dangerous to cross.

"No problem Eric. We'll be there," Chris said, hoping the man on the other end didn't notice the hesitation in his voice.

"Good," Eric said in a much calmer voice. "I'll see you at eleven. Sharp!"

Before Chris could respond, the call disconnected. Staring at his phone, he shook his head. "That guy needs to learn to relax." Chris walked over to the back steps and sat down, trying to think. He needed to get management that tape, but he couldn't chance Joey catching him. If he did, the whole plan was shot. Just when everything seemed to be falling apart, Chris came up with a seemingly brilliant idea. He leapt up from the steps and went back inside the house.

As he opened the door, he was immediately met with a quizzical look from Lance. "So what did Eric want?" Lance asked.

"Oh, he just wanted to check up on us and make sure we're all right. You know how he is," Chris replied nonchalantly.

Josh and Justin eyed each other and burst out laughing. What Chris had just said was a serious understatement that they all knew too well. "Let me guess...he was screaming at the top of his lungs because he cares so much about us, right?" Josh said through a fit of giggles.

"Yeah, something like that," Chris said with a smirk.

"So which one of us gets the funeral today?" Joey asked with a laugh.

"Knowing our luck, all of us," Justin mused.

"This Eric guy doesn't sound very nice," I said at last, breaking my silence.

"Eric's all right, unless you piss him off," Josh said. "He's just very particular about things going a certain way - his. If they don't, then he has a tendency to blow."

Sensing I was still unconvinced, Joey said, "It's okay hon. Once you learn to ignore his temper tantrums, he's actually a pretty easy guy to get along with."

I relaxed a little, if only to give off the impression that I accepted their explanations. While I was hardly one to make snap judgments about people, especially people I hadn't met, I already had a feeling I was not going to like Eric one bit. Besides, anyone who threatened my Joey went immediately to the top of my bad list. My Joey, I thought. Wonder where that came from? No matter, I like the sound of it.

I was about to say something else when I was interrupted by a knock at the door between the garage and the kitchen. Puzzled, I walked over and opened it, revealing Jerrica standing there red-faced and sweaty. "About damn time you hauled your rear out of bed," Jerrica said as she breezed past me into the kitchen. She went over to the refrigerator, opened it, and began rummaging around inside.

"And just where the hell have you been?" I shot at her as I crossed my arms over my chest.
Jerrica paused momentarily and stuck her head out above the door. "Well, good morning to you too dear." Rolling her eyes, she resumed her foraging inside the refrigerator. Suddenly, she let out something between a groan and a grunt as she stood up, holding up a carton of orange juice. In order to confirm her suspicions, she opened it and peered inside. Her face clouded as she turned and faced the six of us.

Her eyes glazed over each person until they stopped on Justin, who was in the process of drinking a large glass of orange juice. Slamming the refrigerator door shut, she marched over to him, bent down to meet him in the eye and said, "Did you finish the orange juice?" Justin returned her stare and nodded. "And did you put the carton back in the refrigerator empty?" Justin thought for another second and nodded. He seemed to be bracing himself for the upcoming wrath Jerrica was about to unleash when, to everyone's surprise, she grabbed Justin's half-finished glass of orange juice and downed it in one gulp. Placing the glass back on the table, she said, "The glass goes in the sink. The carton goes in the trash. Remember that." She then straightened herself up, spun on her heel, and headed for the stairs. About four stairs into her ascent, she turned around and said, "And if you ever do that again, you die. Understand?" Justin just nodded as Jerrica turned and continued up the stairs.

I had been having trouble maintaining my composure, but I couldn't hold it in any longer. I burst into gales of laughter, and I was soon joined by the other five. After a few minutes, I gasped out, "I wonder which one is more dangerous? Jerrica or Eric?"

The guys got quiet for a moment. They looked at each other and, without hesitation, said in unison, "Jerrica!" This sent all of us back into raucous laughter that took what seemed like forever to control.

Once the laughter finally subsided, I said, "So, what do you guys want to do today?" I certainly had no plans, and I was hoping that maybe these guys might have a suggestion or two.

"I think you and Joey should go do something together," Chris piped up. I arched my eyebrow slightly, not quite understanding what I was hearing.

"What do you mean, Chris?" I asked, later realizing how stupid that sounded.

"It's just that, well, we're always around, you know? How often have the two of you been together by yourselves?"

I thought about that for a moment. All told, we had only been alone four times, which amounted to a total of about two hours. We really hadn't spent much time together just the two of us. As much as I hated to admit it, Chris had a point.

"Well then, what do you think we should do about it?" I was actually asking the question to Chris even though I was looking directly at Joey. Joey just kind of shrugged his shoulders, but the gleam in his eye was evident. He liked the idea of the two of us having some alone time, and I silently agreed.

"Why don't you two go find something to do, like go to the movies, or go for a walk somewhere, or something. I admit we're fun company, but the two of you need some time together," Chris said.

"The lunkhead's right," Jerrica said from the stairs as she came down. "You two need to go find a life somewhere that's not here."

I caught Joey's eye and said, "What do you say we ditch these guys and go find something to do?"

Joey laughed. "Sounds like an excellent idea to me. You know, they get kind of old after a while." He burst out laughing and ran upstairs, ignoring the nasty looks he was receiving from the other guys.

As I started to head upstairs after him, Justin called out, "You know Will, if he's going to keep acting like that, you can keep him!" I rolled my eyes and continued up to my room, leaving the lot of them howling behind me.

Chris watched as Joey and I left from the windows in the living room. He looked down at his watch and was surprised to see the time. Turning to the rest of the guys who were standing behind him, he said, "All right you three. You have exactly fifteen minutes to get yourselves ready and then we have to go."

"Go where?" Lance asked.

"We have a meeting with Eric in an hour," Chris said as he walked past them into the kitchen.

"We have what?" Josh asked loudly.

Chris stopped and turned to face Josh. "Oh, did I forget to mention we have to meet Eric at the hotel in an hour?"

"Yes, I think that conveniently slipped your little mind," Justin said irritably. "And what the hell were you thinking in letting Joey leave when we have to go face Eric? How are we supposed to explain why he's not with us?"

Chris shrugged. "I haven't figured that out yet."

"Well, you better figure something out quick, airhead, or all our butts are on the line." Lance said as he reached over and grabbed a pillow off the couch, chucking it at Chris.

"No worries guys. I'll think of something," Chris said as he turned and continued on his way across the kitchen and up the stairs. When he felt he was safely out of earshot of the rest of the guys, he muttered under his breath, "I hope."

Joey and I were driving around the back roads of Maryland taking in the scenery. It was another gorgeous May day, and we decided we'd start off with a drive. Joey laid the passenger seat back and stared up at the sky through the open sunroof, occasionally losing himself in thought as he watched the clouds float by overhead. We hadn't said anything to each other in a while, but there really was no need to. The fact that the two of us were alone together was enough. Why spoil it by talking?

After a half hour of driving around, I pulled into a winding drive that was the entrance to a state park. I found a parking spot and pulled in, bringing the car to a stop. I shifted into park and closed the windows and sunroof, eliciting a whine from Joey. I laughed and patted his knee, which caused the frown on his face to turn into a smile. He pulled the seat back into a sitting position and eyed me as I turned off the car.

"So what are we doing here?" he asked as we got out.

"You'll see," I said with a twinkle in my eye. I went to the trunk and popped it open, hefting out a large basket and a blanket. I handed the blanket to Joey and motioned for him to follow me. Intrigued, Joey held his arm out in a sweeping motion, allowing me to pass between him and the car. We meandered down a myriad of paths until we came to a small clearing near a gurgling brook. I had somehow managed to discover this spot on one of my many solitary adventures through the park, and found it to be not only secluded and serene but stunningly gorgeous as well. Man has created many impressive and beautiful things over the years, but no one can ever match Mother Nature. Call me a sucker for scenery, but I always find myself drawn to things of beauty, including Joey.

I set the basket down and took the blanket from Joey's arms. I spread it out on the grass and then laid down on top of it. Ready to lose myself in the clouds, my view was blocked by an even better sight. "What are we doing here, Will?" Joey asked.

"We are having a picnic," I said with a smile as I leaned across the blanket and grabbed the basket sitting by the edge. "I figured, what better way to spend time together than go somewhere no one can find us? Bring along a little food, and voilà! Nous avons un celebration! C'était une bonne idée, n'est-ce pas?" I gave Joey a big grin, but was met with a blank stare. "What?"

"Mind running that by me again, but in English this time?" Joey said with a small smirk.

My face reddened. "Oops. Sorry. Force of habit. Once I start it's hard to stop." I chided myself internally for doing that. This was not the time to have any failures in communication. I was going to have to be more careful.

I shouldn't have worried, because I have the world's best boyfriend. "Actually," Joey said, "I like hearing you speak French. I find it kind of sexy, especially since I don't know what all of it means."

I turned about six different shades of red. "Well, I certainly didn't say anything sexy, that's for sure," I said with a laugh. "I said that we now have a party, and then I asked if it was a good idea."

"It was a fabulous idea," Joey said, "but how did you manage to do all of this in such a short time, especially without me noticing?"

"Oh, I had a little help," I said with a small smile. After Joey and I went upstairs back at the house, I changed clothes and came back down. I immediately set everyone to work on making the picnic lunch and managed to finish it in the twenty minutes it took Joey to take a shower. It would have probably only taken ten minutes had Justin and Josh not started a salami war. We spent the better part of five minutes laughing as they tried to fence with the large pieces of meat. Had I not been spooked by a noise from upstairs it probably would have continued longer than it had.

I set out the food, which was enough to feed a very small army, or two very hungry guys, and laid out the plates and napkins. For ease, I made sure everything was finger food, which meant I didn't need to worry about having silverware. I then took my cell phone and his and turned them off, setting them in the basket. We were not going to have any distractions today if I had anything to say about it.

Once I was done, the whole blanket was covered except for a spot right next to me for Joey. He sat down and eyed the spread in front of him. Turning to me, he said, "How on earth did you get those knuckleheads to help you with all of this? More importantly, how did you manage to keep Justin from killing himself in the process?"

Joey picked up a small turkey sandwich wedge with the crusts cut off and popped it in his mouth. "Oh, it wasn't too difficult, although I think he may have lost a finger while making those sandwiches." Joey gulped, swallowing the food inside his mouth, and shot me an evil look I just burst out laughing and put my arm around his shoulder.

"Very funny," he said, lightly whacking me in the back of the head. I just giggled, grabbed another wedge, and fed it to him. He then lunged for my finger and sucked it into his mouth. Surprised, I yanked my finger back out and shook it dry in the air.

"My finger is not part of the lunch," I said pointedly with a playful look in my eyes.

"Okay, fine. The finger is out, but the rest of you is fair game!" Joey replied as he leaned over and kissed me full on the lips. I don't remember a whole lot that happened for the next few minutes, but I do remember that I was completely out of breath afterwards. We eventually concentrated on stuffing our faces, taking in our surroundings, and getting to know each other better. He told me about his family, about how he ended up in Orlando, and how he eventually became a part of *Nsync. I told him my basic life story, at least the parts he didn't already know, and filled him on some of Jerrica's as well.

We sat staring at the clouds, trying to decide what shapes they resembled, when he asked, "Will, when did you know you were gay?"

I didn't answer for some time, not exactly knowing myself when that pivotal moment occurred. Finally I said, "I know it's been about a year. I didn't just wake up one morning and say `I'm gay.' I think it was just something I eventually accepted as truth and continued on. Why do you ask?"

Joey sighed heavily and replied, "No reason. Just curious I guess."

"Oh, okay What about you? When did you know?"

Joey remained silent for what seemed like eons. Finally, he said, "I think it was about two years ago. I knew I was different in some way, but since we were always so busy, I never gave it much thought." He paused for a moment, and then said, "I debated it for a really long time, but the moment I saw you that night, I knew." He rolled over on his side and stared me right in the eyes. "I knew that you were the one for me, and that this was meant to be."

I chuckled slightly. "That last sentence sounds like lyrics to a song or something."

"Well, when you have such amazing inspiration..." He leaned over and kissed me again. I cuddled up against him and wrapped my arms around him as best as I possibly could, considering the positions we were lying in. As beautiful as the scenery around us was, I only wanted to watch the guy in front of me. Between Joey's steady breathing, the sound of the flowing water, and the fact that I had woken up earlier than I would have liked, I soon drifted off into dreamland, leaving the world of reality behind.

"Damn!" Chris exclaimed as he, Justin, Josh, Lance, and Jerrica sat in grid locked traffic. Looking at his watch, he noted they had less than twelve minutes before they had to meet Eric. Considering the guy was already upset with them, Chris did not want to aggravate him any further. As it were, he was going to have to explain Joey's absence, and that was going to be hard enough. The traffic moved a little further and, ducking down a side street, he was able to find a parking garage. The group piled out of the van and took off running in an attempt to make it to the hotel on time.

After a few moments of misdirection, the group eventually found their way into the lobby and skidded to a stop in front of Eric, who was intently staring at his watch. Looking at the red-faced, out of breath group, he said pleasantly, "Eleven o'clock and forty-five seconds. Cutting it a little close, aren't we?" Noting for the first time the cast on Josh's leg, he said angrily, "JC, you shouldn't be trying to run on that leg. I would have waited a couple extra minutes for you."

"I'," Josh puffed while attempting to regain his breath. Trying to move fast on crutches was not something he was used to doing. "Besides, I...didn't be...late."

Eric smiled at Josh, but his smile turned to a frown rather quickly. "Where's Joey?" he asked quietly as he felt his blood start to boil.

"He's sick," Chris said suddenly. Jerrica and the others tried desperately to hide the looks of surprise on their faces. No one had ever, in their knowledge, lied to Eric and gotten away with it. However, there was a first time for everything.

"Oh he is, is he? And you failed to call me this morning and tell me this. Why?"

"I meant to, but when I realized we were late, it slipped my mind, and I forgot to tell Lance to remind me."

Eric looked over at Lance and smirked at him. "It's hard being the responsible one, right Lance?"

"Uh, yeah," Lance said quickly, hoping Eric's eyes would shift away from him onto someone else. Eric's presence always made him uncomfortable, and right now was no exception.

Eric stared at Lance for a long time. He was such an easy person to read. Lance seemed really uneasy about the whole situation, and that alone gave Eric serious cause to be suspicious. Pulling out his cell phone, he dialed Joey's cell phone and was surprised to find it went directly to voice mail. Instead of leaving a message, he hung up and stowed his phone away. "Shouldn't be calling the poor guy anyway, especially since he ought to be asleep," Eric said in a serious tone. He then turned to Jerrica and said, "And who the hell are you?"

"Oh, sorry Eric!" Chris exclaimed. "Eric, this is Jerrica Andrews, a friend of ours. Jerrica, this is Eric Pascarelli, our tour manager."

Eric stepped forward and reached out his hand to shake Jerrica's. Likewise, Jerrica extended her hand and grasped his, shaking it hard. "Pleased to meet you," Eric said with a smile. Then, without any warning, his face went hard and he said in a cold, flat voice, "Now get out."

Jerrica's eyes widened in surprise. "Excuse me?" she said, dropping his hand from hers. "What did you say?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had problems hearing. Let me say it a little louder this time. Get out!"

"Just who the hell do you think you are?" Jerrica said angrily. Playful banter and sarcasm she could handle, but downright rudeness she would not tolerate.

Justin gasped slightly at Jerrica's remark, and Lance and Josh stood there with their mouths hanging wide open. No one had ever talked back to Eric without getting berated into submission later. Chris seemed to glow with pride at the way Jerrica was standing up to Eric. He had a feeling she was going to say a lot of things the guys had been wanting to say for a long time, but had never had the audacity to do so.

The expression on Eric's face was priceless. He seemed absolutely stunned that someone would actually dare to take him on. A smile slowly crossed his face as he moved closer to Jerrica. He drew himself up to his full six foot, four inches and arched his shoulders back a little, which overemphasized his 230 pound frame. He got right in her face and sneered, "You going to take me on, little girl?"

Jerrica stepped back away from him and glanced at the guys out of the corner of her eye. Then, in a blur of motion, she had Eric's arm pinned behind him, and the contortions Eric's face was making indicated he was in quite a bit of pain. "Are you going to behave?" she asked.

Eric shook his head. There was no way he was going to allow himself to be subdued by this girl. "One of you idiots get this chick off me!"

"Chick?" Jerrica said in surprise. "Chick? I'll show you `chick!'" Eric let out a yelp of pain as Jerrica bent his arm back even further. "Now, are you going to play nice?" Eric nodded his head sullenly. Jerrica released his arm and stepped away. "If I so much as hear that you have harmed one little hair on any of these guys' heads, I swear you will wish you were never born, because I will find you."

Eric looked past her at two security guards who were pointing at them and laughing. Apparently, they had heard and seen the whole incident and found it to be quite humorous. Some help they were, Eric thought to himself as he tried to regain his composure. We are certainly never staying in this hotel again. Looking at Chris, he said, "Damn Chris, your girlfriend is one tough lady."

Before Chris could respond, Jerrica interjected her own thoughts on the subject. "Girlfriend? Me? Please! Maybe in his convoluted little dreams." She crossed her arms over her chest and fumed. How dare this guy make an assumption like that? She glanced over at Chris and her face fell. Chris appeared to be quite forlorn, and she wondered if Chris had not only taken her comment to heart, but that he possibly cared for her as much as she believed she was caring for him.

"All right you guys," Eric said, "we have some things we need to talk about. I have a conference room set up over there." He looked over at Jerrica and said dimly, "I, uh, assume you will be joining us?"

Jerrica shrugged. "Why not? Don't have anything else better to do. Besides, Chris has the car keys."

Eric shot Chris a dirty look, sighed, and motioned for them all to follow him into the conference room. Inside sat Johnny Wright, along with a couple of Jive executives the guys either hadn't met or didn't remember. Eric and the four boys took a seat at the circular table. Jerrica, who suddenly felt uncomfortable, had to be coaxed to her seat between Josh and Justin.

Johnny eyed her as she sat down. "I see we have a visitor today."

"Uh, yeah. This is our good friend, Jerrica Andrews," Justin said as he put his hand on her shoulder. "Jerrica, this is our manager Johnny Wright, and uh..." Justin trailed off, as he didn't know the names of the other two gentlemen flanking Johnny's sides.

"Nice to meet you Jerrica. These are two of our executives at Jive, Charles and Phillip." The two men waved at Jerrica half-heartedly, wondering what she was doing there. "So what brings you here with our little group?"

"Oh, I've just been kidnapped by an internationally famous boy-band and am being held for ransom. My understanding is that I will be released if payment of four bags of M&Ms is made promptly." She smirked as she sat back in her chair while Justin, Josh, Lance, and Chris all gave her the evil eye. The room was silent for a moment until Johnny burst into laughter.

"Girl, I like you. You certainly seem to know how to liven up a tough room," he said as the others chuckled lightly. "Now, down to business. First of all, where's Joey?"

"He's not feeling well," Eric said. "Apparently the poor thing is wasting away in bed, or so I'm told." He cast a furtive look at Chris, who was deliberately avoiding his gaze.

"Well, I hope the boy gets better quick. It's bad enough having one man down," Johnny said, looking over at Josh, "let alone two." He shuffled some papers and then, turning to Lance, said, "Have you looked over the sheet music for the new song I sent you?"

"Yes, I have. We all have. There's something I don't understand though. Why are we releasing a new song in the middle of a tour? Shouldn't this wait until we're ready to release our next album?"

Johnny shook his head. "It's not always that simple Lance. In this particular case, we want to get something new out while we're waiting for the next album to be completed. That, and it gives your fans something to look forward to. We're going to promote this as the *Nsync song you can only hear first at your concerts. Once the tour is over, we'll release it to the radio stations and then issue a single. Of course, it will also appear on your next album." He went silent for a moment. Then, casting his eyes from one end of the group to the other, he asked, "Is there something wrong with it?"

"It's a good song Johnny, but..." Josh trailed off, not exactly sure how to put it.

"But what?"

"It's a little out of range for us," Justin finished.

"Well, certainly Justin can..." Johnny stopped his thought as all five shook their heads.

"Or Chris..." Again, the heads shook Johnny went silent for a moment. He had not anticipated this problem.

"We do have an idea, though," Chris said at last.

"And what is that, exactly?"

"Do you have a tape player around here somewhere?"

"Not in here, but we can get one. Why? What are you up to?"

"Just get it and you'll see," Chris retorted in slight annoyance. Johnny sighed and picked up the phone that was sitting next to him on the table. He dialed the front desk and requested that they bring in a tape player as soon as possible. After a few minutes, a hurried hotel employee burst through the door carrying a small radio.

"I hope this will suffice. It's the best we could come up with on such short notice," the woman said as she handed the radio to Johnny.

Johnny smiled at her and, noting her name tag, said, "This will work fine Stefanie. Thank you for being so prompt." Stefanie smiled and scurried out the door, off to attend to some other urgent matter. Turning back to Chris, he said, "All right, Mr. Kirkpatrick, care to fill me in on what this is all about?"

Chris walked over to Johnny, picked up the radio from the table and plugged it into the wall. "We already know that alone we can't do this song proper justice, but we do know someone who can."

Johnny and Eric's eyebrows both shot up. "Who? Her?" Johnny asked, pointing at Jerrica.

"Me? Oh, hell no. Besides, the guys said you all didn't want a female voice on this song," Jerrica said.

"It's not her," Chris said. "It's better than that." He pulled out a tape from his pocket and inserted into the tape deck. With a grand sweep of his arm, he pressed the play button and music filled the room.

It was starting to get late, and as much as I hated to end it, the realm of reality was setting in. It was now quarter after three, and the realization that my weekend was over hit me like a ton of bricks. As much as I hated to do it, I had to go back to work. Joey and I had long since awoken from our little nap and had spent an hour or two walking along the river bank, skipping stones and talking some more. With every sentence I found out more about this complex man, and I discovered that I hadn't met anyone like him in my life, fame notwithstanding.

We cleaned up our picnic lunch and made sure we left no litter behind. We traipsed back up the trails to where we had left my car and, with a heavy heart, proceeded to leave the spot where we had finally gotten to know each other a lot better. We remained silent most of the way back to the house. I wasn't sure if it was because we had a lot on our minds or were just talked out, but since it didn't feel uncomfortable, I paid little attention to it.

We arrived at the house around four. The guys weren't back yet, so we still had a little bit of time to ourselves before it was time for me to leave. Joey looked really tired, so I gave him a kiss on the cheek and sent him off to bed to lie down while I went and took a shower.

The warm water felt good as it cascaded over my body. I knew I didn't have a lot of time, or else I would have stayed there all day. I washed myself quickly and turned off the water. At that moment, I once again had that feeling that I wasn't alone. I started to get upset that someone would once again invade my privacy. I grabbed a towel from the towel rack hanging besides the shower and wrapped it around me. I flung the shower curtain open and nearly fell over from what I saw.

I backed up against the wall, trying to distance myself from the sight in front of me. "It can't be. It can't be possible," I stammered.

Chris switched off the tape player and scanned everyone's face for reactions. Jerrica, Josh, Justin and Lance remained expressionless. This, of course, was nothing new to them. Jerrica was beaming with pride inside. Josh still had trouble believing that the same guy who wrote such clever mystery novels was the same voice coming from that tape. Justin thought Will had never sounded better in his life. Lance was starting to think that maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all, and Chris could hardly maintain his excitement.

"So what do you think?" Chris asked.

Johnny, Eric, Charles, and Phillip just looked at one another. Finally Johnny spoke up. "Whose leg are you trying to pull? The first song was obviously a guy, as were a couple other ones, but the rest were definitely sung by a girl."

His comment went over like a lead balloon. Soon all four *Nsyncers and Jerrica were in fits of laughter. "Oh my God!" Josh said between giggles. "Will is going to freak out something fierce if he ever hears you say that."

Johnny, Charles and Phillip looked incredibly confused by Josh's last remark. Who was this Will guy and why would he be upset? As for Eric, he was starting to get angry again. "Okay you hyenas, what is so damned funny?"

It took a moment, but Jerrica was finally able to regain her composure. "I can assure you that at no point on that tape was any female singing. That's my best friend R..., uh, Will. He's a rather high tenor, as you've just heard."

"As much as I'm inclined to believe you," Johnny said, standing up, "this is something I think I need to hear personally. You guys have some studio time tomorrow here in Baltimore. Just because JC is down for a couple of weeks doesn't mean we can't get some things accomplished. Have him come around ten. As for you guys, be there at nine. Here's the address." He handed a sheet of paper out to the four which detailed the location of the studio, how to get there, and the schedule for the day. "As far as I'm concerned, this little meeting is over." Johnny and his crew stood up and gathered their things before heading out the door. Just as Johnny was about to leave, he called over his shoulder, "Oh, and give Eric your friend's address and phone number JC. I like knowing where my guys are all the time." He then left the room, leaving the guys and Jerrica alone again with Eric.

Eric groaned inwardly. He had been hoping Johnny would drag their asses back to the hotel where he could keep an eye on them. Instead, he had given them free rein, once again, to do whatever they liked. Granted, they weren't children, but they certainly did act like it most of the time. He took out a piece of paper and set it down in front of Josh. "Okay JC, you heard the man. Name, address, and phone number."

Josh momentarily stared at the blank page. He didn't have the slightest clue what Will's address and phone number was. Fortunately, Jerrica came to the rescue. "Here you go Eric," she said, handing a piece of paper to him.

"Thanks," he said through gritted teeth. He wondered why Jerrica knew it and Josh didn't, but he decided against posing any further questions lest he annoy Jerrica again. One run-in with her a day was more than enough. The guys started to assemble themselves to head out when Eric said without thinking, "Oh and guys? Remember what Johnny said. Nine o'clock, or your asses are mine!"

Josh and Justin shuddered a little while Lance and Chris rolled their eyes. Jerrica, not one to mince words, said, "All right Eric. We'll see you at nine tomorrow. If you want their asses, that's fine, but if you take them, I'll have you castrated. See you later!" she called as she pushed the four shocked boys out the door. She closed the door behind her and the reality of what just occurred finally hit them like a sack of potatoes. If they were ever uncertain about whether Jerrica or Eric was the more dangerous one, that question had now long since been answered.

They all waited to say something until they had left the hotel. Justin was the first to speak. "Oh man Jerrica, if looks could kill you would be dead multiple times by now!" The others chimed in their agreement. Jerrica, not used to being the center of attention, just blushed and tried to change the subject, but the others wouldn't hear of it.

"That was awesome Jerrica!" Lance said excitedly. "I've never seen anyone stick it to Eric like that before."

"Girl, you are something else," Chris said, his fondness for Jerrica growing by leaps and bounds every moment.

"All right, all right, I get it. Now, can we drop this subject and go find something to do?" Jerrica said in annoyance. She was usually a very docile person, and she hated having to show her brusque side all the time to these guys, especially to Chris.

"Well, it's a nice day, and the Inner Harbor is a few blocks away. What do you guys say we go take in some sights?" Josh said thoughtfully.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Lance said. Justin nodded in agreement.

"Okay, the harbor it is. Let's go," Jerrica said abruptly and started walking away from the hotel.

"Jerrica? The Inner Harbor is this way!" Josh called out to her as he pointed in the opposite direction from the one she was heading in. Jerrica rolled her eyes and turned around, wondering if it was possible to embarrass herself any more than she already had.

I know I had been told numerous times, but I had never really believed it until now. Standing, well, hovering, in front of me was a ghost, for lack of better phrasing. While a minute ago I would have been upset if it had been Joey, I was suddenly wishing he was here instead of this apparition.

"Wha...what do you want?" I asked. I then chided myself for doing so. Was I really expecting an answer?

"The ones who love you will betray you. Be forewarned," the ghost said.

"Huh? What does that mean?" I asked. I was trying to cement a mental picture of the ghost, so as to try and continually convince myself later that I wasn't seeing things. It was a young man, about six foot tall. He had a slender build, and I guessed his age would have been around eighteen or so. I shook my head a little. Ghosts don't have ages, I thought. Ghosts aren't even supposed to exist!

"The ones who love you will betray you. Be forewarned," the ghost said again, and then vanished out of sight.

I blinked a few times, trying to picture the ghost still in front of me. No, it was definitely gone now. I decided I must be really tired to be hallucinating, but was it actually a hallucination? Realizing that I was still naked with a towel wrapped around me, I stepped out of the shower and proceeded to get dressed. This was turning into one strange day after all, and it had hardly begun.

I walked into my bedroom and closed the door. I sat down at my computer and logged online long enough to check my e-mail. Seeing nothing worthwhile, aside from a note from my mother that I could read later, I shut the computer down and glanced over at the clock. It was quarter to five, which meant I was in the shower a whole lot longer than I realized. I turned the ghost's words round and round in my head. The ones who love you will betray you. Be forewarned. How cryptic, I thought. Who is going to betray me, and how?

I didn't really have time to dwell on that much, since I needed to get ready to leave for work. I looked down at what I was wearing and decided a change in wardrobe would be a good idea. I put on a pair of dark slacks and a light green shirt, and then I sprayed on a couple squirts of cologne. Standing in front of the mirror, I fussed with my hair until I decided it was a hopeless cause and gave up. I then wrote out a couple notes, one for Jerrica, one for Joey, and one for the rest of the guys and placed them in spots I knew they would find them. Checking my watch and seeing that it was now ten after five, I decided I needed to leave. I ran back upstairs to my bedroom, grabbed my employee identification and door badge, and ran back downstairs to the car.

I jumped in the Saturn, which I had left parked in front of the house, and took off down the drive. I turned onto Briar's Run and sped down the street headed for the highway. Along the way, I passed the van with Chris and crew presumably headed back to the house. I waved as I drove by, but didn't know if they had noticed me or not. I shrugged to myself as I cranked the radio and hit the gas pedal. Something told me that it was going to be a long eight hours at work until I could get back home to my boyfriend. That's the problem with weekends; they go by way too quickly.

Thoughts of Joey, Jerrica, and the guys were pushed out of my mind as I resumed my daily ranting and raving at the bumper to bumper traffic I was stuck in. I kept staring at the clock on the car radio as I slowly made my way in. Arriving at the office, I jumped out of the car, pushed the lock button on my remote, and dashed in. I raced for the time clock and swiped my badge with three minutes to spare.

"Whew!" I said with a sigh of relief, knowing that I had managed to not be late.

"Running a little late are we?" my friend and co-worker Amanda Reinhardt called out to me from the cafeteria. If I were straight, I would have snatched her up in a heartbeat. Five foot, seven inches tall, flowing dark hair with an obvious Hispanic complexion to match, and a body most women would kill for, to call her good-looking wouldn't be paying her a high enough compliment. Fortunately, she was quite grounded and took her stunning good looks in stride. She always said it was what was on the inside that was more important than what was on the outside.

"Yeah Mandy, traffic on 29 was horrible. There was an accident blocking part of the on-ramp from 70, and considering traffic at this time of day, that doesn't help at all."

Mandy chuckled. "So, how was your weekend, besides the getting stuck in traffic thing?"

I was about to tell her everything when I paused for a moment. Thinking about all that had happened in the last two and a half days, I realized that no one would ever believe me. So, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "It was okay." I looked down at my watch and realized it was 6:29. "Whoops! Time to go log in! Talk to you later!" I said as I dashed into the locker room, grabbed my headset, and then made a beeline for the reservations floor. Finding an open spot next to another friend of mine, Karen, I logged into my computer and phone with seconds to spare. Sighing, I hit the available key and took my first call of the night. "Hi, this is Will. How can I help you..."

Eight and a half hours later, I slowly trudged out to my car and got in. It had been a hard night. The passengers were in rare form, which led me to wonder if it was still a full moon. I started the car and flipped on the CD player. Miracles Happen began to play, and for a moment I was hit with a sense of déjà vu. This time, however, the on-ramp to the Beltway wasn't blocked, and I knew that the guys of *Nsync were at my house safely asleep.

I sang along with the music as it was the only thing keeping me awake, and I was never so glad when forty-five minutes later I turned into the drive of my house. I pulled the car into the garage and shut off the engine. Closing the door as quietly as I could, I hit the lock button and opened the door to the kitchen. I walked in and closed the door behind me as gently as possible, since Josh was presumably asleep in the next room. I went over to the refrigerator and opened it, searching for a can of Diet Coke. Just as I was about to shut the door, I started to turn around and nearly jumped out of my skin. Josh was standing right behind me.

"Don't do that!" I hissed as I clutched my chest, feeling my heartbeat racing a mile a minute.

"Sorry Will," Josh replied. "I heard you pull in, so I thought I would say hello before you went off to bed."

"You did? For some reason I got the impression you were a fairly sound sleeper."

"I am, I guess. I've just had a lot on my mind tonight, so I've been up and down for a while."

I sat down on one of the stools and opened my can of Diet Coke. I set it down on the counter and looked back at Josh, who I could now see much more easily as my eyes had grown accustomed to the very low light. "Anything you care to talk about?"

Josh didn't answer right away. "No, it's okay Will. It would take a really long time to explain. Besides, you must be exhausted after being up all day with Joey and then working all night. By the way, where do you work anyway?"

I swallowed my pop and said, "Oh, I work for..." I was cut off by a thud coming from upstairs. "What the hell?" I said as I jumped up from my stool and raced upstairs. The bathroom light was on, and Joey was sprawled on the floor. I immediately rushed to his side. "Joe, are you all right?"

Joey looked up at me and once again thought he was seeing angels, with the way the bathroom light was shining around me. The sight startled him a little, so he slid back away from me and kind of cowered in the corner. "Go away," Joey said as he pulled himself into a ball.

"Joey, it's me, Will. What's wrong hon?" I asked as I moved closer to him.

He stared at me for a few seconds until recognition started to set in. "Will?" he whispered. I nodded at him, and then was scooped into a powerful bear hug. "Oh Will," he blubbered. "I have never been so freaked out in my life."

I broke out of his embrace and sat down on the floor next to him. "Come here," I said soothingly, patting my lap. He looked at me in surprise, but he eventually got the hint. I spread my legs out and he sat in between them. He laid back into me as I wrapped my arms around him. For once, it kind of felt good to be the consoler instead of the one being consoled.

We had been sitting there for only a few moments when Josh's head appeared in the doorway. "Is everything okay?" he asked, concern evident on his face.

I shrugged, not knowing what was wrong with Joey. I tried to stifle a yawn, but had no luck in accomplishing it. Josh gave me a sympathetic look and said, "Will, I know you want to stay here with Joey, but you need to get some sleep. Why don't I sit here with him while you go get some rest, all right? You're not really much good to him if you're about to pass out from exhaustion."

I wanted to tell him no, that there was no way I was leaving with Joey like this, but my body cried out in resistance. I finally gave in to my overwhelming need for sleep, but I want to state for the record that I did not go willingly. "You're right Josh. I'm about to fall asleep right here, not that this is a horrible place to take a nap," I said with a sly grin. I unwrapped my arms from around Joey and scooted back away from him. I heard him whimper a little as I stopped holding him, and it nearly made my heart break in two. I got up, walked around, and knelt beside him. "Joe, look at me. I know you want me here, but you need to talk to someone who's not going to fall asleep on you. I promise I'll talk to you in the morning, all right? Stay here and talk with Josh, okay?"

Joey nodded and mumbled something that sounded like "Okay."

Sighing, I got up and walked over to Josh. "Take care of my man, all right?" I looked back over at Joey and felt tears come to my eyes. I went back over, bent down, and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Good night, my angel," I whispered in his ear. He smiled, if only for a second, and then resumed his melancholy look I gave Josh a hug, whispered "Thank you" in his ear, and then trudged out of the room heading for bed.

I was met in the hall by a worried Justin and Jerrica. "What's going on?" Jerrica asked.

"I don't really know," I replied, stifling another yawn. "Joey's freaked out about something and Josh is sitting with him. Josh kind of nudged me out to go get some sleep. I hate leaving him though."

Justin and Jerrica nodded. "He'll be okay, Will," Justin said. "He's a strong guy. Go get some sleep." He clapped me on the shoulder and pushed me in the direction of my bedroom. I watched as the two of them headed for the bathroom. I knew that Joey was going to have a lot of support tonight, and it pained me I wasn't a part of it.

I walked into my room, sat down on the bed, and glanced at the clock. It was nearly four in the morning, and I had been up for almost twenty hours. I kicked off my shoes and laid back on the bed for a moment, intending to get back up and change into some sleepwear. Like many good intentions, this one didn't happen either. Within a couple of minutes I was asleep, completely dead to the world.

Joey was still a mess, and Josh didn't seem to have much luck getting through to him. Not long after Will left the room, Jerrica and Justin came in. The three sat on the floor surrounding Joey, trying to get him to talk. Finally, he mumbled one word: "Ghost."

"Ghost?" Josh repeated back with uncertainty. "Are you saying you saw a ghost?" Joey nodded, and Justin shivered a little. "That can't be," Josh continued. "There are no such things as ghosts...are there?"

"Yes there are!" Justin exclaimed. "I saw it too!"

Josh looked a little uncertain, but decided for now he'd throw his skepticism to the wind and find out what was bothering his friend. "So is that what's bothering you? You saw a ghost?"

Joey started to nod, and then shook his head. "It's not that," he said, barely audible to those around him.

"Well then what is it?" Josh pressed gently.

Joey looked up at him, his face streaked with tears. "Close the door," he said. Justin got up and shut the door, since it was easier for him to move than for Josh with his sprain. He came back and sat down, waiting for Joey to speak. "The ghost spoke to me," Joey said at last.

"This ghost can talk?" Josh said in surprise.

"Josh, quiet!" Jerrica hissed. Turning to Joey, she said, "What did the ghost say?"

Joey's bottom lip quivered a little. "He said... He said..." Tears started to fall from his eyes again as he finally said, "He said, `Your betrayal will be known, and you will lose everything you hold most dear to your heart.' He must have been talking about Will. I'm going to lose him Josh! I know I am!" He buried his head in his hands and began to sob loudly. Josh went to put his arm around him when the door flew open with a bang. Josh turned around to see me standing in the doorway with a panicked look on my face. I ran in and, pushing Josh to the side a little, wrapped my arms around Joey.

"I'm sorry I walked away from you. I'm sorry," I kept babbling over and over.

"Will, I thought you went to sleep?" Justin asked.

"I did, for a minute anyway. All of a sudden I woke up and knew something was wrong, and that I needed to be in here." I turned my attention back to Joey and tried to shush him. "Shhh. It's going to be okay, Joey. Whatever it is, it's going to be okay."

Joey looked up at me with tired, teary eyes. "Will, can I stay with you tonight?"

I'd had my eyes shut while I was holding him, but they popped open the second those words left his mouth. Things between he and I seemed to be moving faster than I wanted to begin with, and now he wanted to sleep in the same bed with me? My initial instinct was to say no, but then a part of me realized he wasn't asking to have sex with me; he just wanted to be close to me when he was hurting. Smiling, I said, "Okay Joe, if that's what you want." I turned my head slightly and looked at Jerrica, who, as usual, was reading my mind.

"It's all good Joe. I'll go crash with Curly over here for the night," she said. Turning to Justin, she continued by saying, "And don't get any ideas."

Justin looked a little insulted at first, but then a smile slowly grew on his face. "Who, me? Please, I may not always be the brightest bulb on the block at times, but I'm smart enough to know that I wouldn't be alive for very long if I tried anything." He yawned widely and said, "I don't know about you all, but I am going back to bed."

"Same here," Jerrica said as the two stood up. "Night guys."

"Night," Josh and I said in unison as the two walked out.

"Joey?" I said quietly. "Why don't you go in my room and lie down? I'll be there in a moment." Joey just nodded and stood up, trudging slowly out of the room. Once he left, I stood up and helped Josh to his feet. "Thanks Josh. I'm sorry I pushed you when I came back in. I didn't mean to..."

Josh cut me off. "It's all right Will. To be honest, I didn't expect you to be gone long. For some reason, I have this notion that you always know how other people around you are feeling, even when they aren't right nearby. You did that with Justin on more than one occasion, you've done that with me, and now with Joey. It's almost like you're empathic or something."

I chuckled slightly. "Maybe I am," I said with a sly grin. "I'll admit that I'm rather perceptive at times when it comes to reading people, but most of it is just based on observation. People give off vibes that tell the rest of the world how they are feeling. I've just gotten very good over time at learning how to read them."

Josh shook his head. "It's more than that. Somehow you know what's going on in people's heads. It's hard to explain, but I'm starting to become glad that you do. I don't know if anyone else has said this, but Will, thank you for being you. You really are a true friend, one the group of us have been needing for a long time now."

Josh then grabbed me and gave me a large hug, which I returned. Suddenly, I was struck by a stray thought. I pulled back from him and asked, "What are you feeling guilty about?"

His eyes widened in surprise. "Uh, what do you mean Will?" he stammered.

I stared at him intensely. "Something's up here, and it doesn't have to do with Joey, or does it? You've got some serious guilt building inside you. What is it?"

Think fast Chasez, Josh thought to himself. "I just wish I could help Joey more than I have. I mean, I've known the guy for years and can't get through to him. You walk in the room and he immediately calms down. With this busted leg, I can't seem to be of much help to anyone anymore."

There was more to the story than this; I could just tell. I decided not to push him, as I could sense some pangs of jealousy in there as well. "Josh, I am not trying to take away your best friend. You will always have a special place in his heart, and you know that. Now, why don't you go to bed, and if you want, we can discuss this later in the morning?"

Josh smiled. "Sounds like a plan to me," he said as he turned to hobble out of the room. That was close, Chasez. A little too close. I'm going to have to be more careful next time, he thought as he made his way down the hallway.

As he was passing Chris and Lance's room, Lance stuck his head out door. "Hey Josh, what's going on?" he asked sleepily.

"Oh, just a mini-crisis, but it's over. Go back to bed."

"Okay. Keep it down next time. Night," Lance said as he closed the door.

Josh just shook his head and laughed as he made his way back down the stairs. He crossed into the living room and plopped down on the sofabed. Lying back on the bed, Josh's mind raced as he thought about what Joey had said. Your betrayal will be known and you will lose everything you hold most dear to your heart. Josh shuddered slightly at the thought of those words. It couldn't mean what I think it means, could it? he wondered. Nah. It's probably just Joey overreacting about something.

Deciding this was the truth, Josh rolled over and started to drift off. Just when he was about to completely fall asleep, a thought occurred to him and he sat up quickly. "Joey doesn't know about the second tape," he thought out loud. "How could..." The more Josh thought about it, the more it made his head hurt. Trying to clear his mind, he laid back down and tried to sleep. After all, everything would be answered in the morning.

Upstairs, I was sitting on the bed, stroking Joey's hair as he fell asleep. Something had certainly scared the heck out of him, and I kept wondering what it was. Joey didn't seem to be the easily scared type, so it must have been something major, like a ghost. A ghost? Maybe he saw the ghost too?

My brain started to reel as I attempted to imagine the scene. I placed my hand on top of Joey's and cleared my mind. I tried to picture the scene as it might have unfolded while getting a feeling for Joey's emotional state. All I could sense was a severe amount of anguish and frustration, as if he were fighting an internal battle with himself. I pulled my hand away from his and stared at him, wondering what could have happened to cause so much distress. I wondered if maybe the ghost had said something to him? What could it have said that was so disturbing?

I laid down next to him and draped my arm across his body. He was sound asleep, which was somewhere I really wanted to be at the moment. I decided that this little episode was definitely going to be a two-parter, so hanging the "To Be Continued" sign on my brain, I snuggled up against Joey and fell into a deep, peaceful slumber.

To Be Continued...

So what did you think? Chris and crew have gotten the tape to management and they're interested in Will. What will happen when Will finds out, and can they even get him to go to the recording studio in the first place? We've definitely seen an interesting side of Jerrica, and apparently it's a side that turns Chris on. Are these two ever going to become a couple? We've met Eric, who is a jerk in his own right. Will he become a pain in everyone's side, or has Jerrica tamed him? What's with the ghostly visitor, and do his warnings have any implication on what is to come? Last, but not least, Joey and Will are finally in the same bed! Is this a sign of things to come? So many questions, so few answers. Tune in next time to find out! 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!

Want to know when this story is updated? Click here and enter your e-mail address in the box at the bottom.

Yes, folks, Chapter Nine is on the way. I know I made this promise the last time, but Chapter Nine will be out a lot faster than this one was (I hope).