(third story in a trilogy, please read "A friend in need" and "Lifeline" first)
Sara slowly opened her eyes as the sun came in through the window by her head. Had it been a dream? Had JC sat right here beside her and told her he loved her? Was that even possible?
"Im sorry, did I wake you up?" Lance asked quietly from the kitchen area. He held the box of cereal in mid air and cringed.
"Hmm? Oh, no." Sara sat up and rubbed her eyes. "You didnt wake me up." She swung her feet over the side of the couch and leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees as she yawned. A frown slowly creased her forehead; last night seemed so real. "Is JC up yet?"
"I think Im the first one up." Lance shook his head and quietly poured milk into the bowl.
"Okay." Sara cleared her throat and stood up gently, trying to keep her balance as her tired legs held her up. She kept her hand on the wall as she walked toward the bunk area yawning.
"Do you want something to eat?" Lance asked as she passed.
"No thanks." She smiled over her shoulder, then pulled the heavy curtain aside. She stood there between the bunks listening to the deep breathing and snoring of the guys around her. She lightly tapped the wall beside JCs bunk and whispered, "JC? Are you up?"
There was no response from inside, so she carefully pulled his little drape back and leaned on the waist high bunk. "JC?" She asked in a voice just above a whisper. His brows furrowed just the slightest bit at the intrusion, and she repeated his name a tiny bit louder.
"Yeah?" He asked without opening his eyes.
"JC I need to go home." Sara whispered.
"Huh?" His frown deepened as his eyes fluttered open. "What?"
"I need to go home." She said again softly.
"Youre better JC, and I really need to get back to my apartment and try to salvage my job."
"But Sara, I " He wasnt fully awake and he was having trouble absorbing what she was saying. "Last night "
"I know." Sara nodded and blushed slightly as she looked down at his flannel sheets. So it wasnt just her imagination.
JC reached up and rubbed his eyes as he yawned loudly, then propped himself up on his elbow, "Why why are you leaving?"
"I have to." Sara didnt take her eyes off the sheet as she traced the white circles on the dark blue fabric.
"You dont have to Sara. Our tour will be done in three more weeks, cant you stay that much longer?"
Sara paused for a second, then took a deep breath, "I cant do this right now JC."
"What? Do what?"
"Do this." She looked up and met his tired eyes. "Were both still messed up, the last thing we need to do is try to start a relationship."
JC reached out and placed his warm hand on the side of her neck, "Were a good team Sara." He said softly.
"I uh I know." She nodded. The shiver that went through her body when he touched her was something she had never felt before, and she tried her hardest not to swoon.
"Will you stay?"
Sara shook her head before her heart could change her mind, "No."
JC let out a heavy sigh and swung his feet over the side of the bunk, then jumped down. "Just no?"
She stepped in front of him to keep him from brushing past her; "I only got back on my feet a few months ago. I need to go back to that, to my normal life. Its not that I dont want to stay here, because this has been a great experience, but I need to go back for me. I need to save my job if I can, and my apartment." She smiled slightly and rested her hand on his chest, "You dropped a bomb on me, give me some time to assess the damage."
"Maybe thats not the best word, but JC, I need to think about this. A relationship is a huge step in the healing process and I need to make sure Im ready for that, but I cant figure that out until Ive tried taking care of myself."
"Why do you have to be so damn rational?" JC asked, letting the side of his mouth twitch into a half smile.
"Im not trying to be rational, Im still half asleep here." She smiled slowly, "But I do need to go home JC, as soon as possible."
"Are you upset?" He asked cautiously.
"No." She shook her head, "No, thats not it at all. You took me by surprise thats all. And youre doing so much better now its just time for me to go."
"Im not 100%."
"Nope. But youre a lot closer than you were when I got here."
"So call Mike or whoever and send me home. You can call whenever you need to, and when your tour is over, we can talk about the uh other stuff."
"Youre sure about going home?" He asked as a last ditch effort.
"Yeah." She said quickly. If he kept challenging her, shed cave in.
"Okay." They stood motionless just inside the bunk area, and then he pulled her in for a hug. His bare shoulder was warm against her cheek as he stroked the back of her head; "I meant it though. What I said." She nodded under his hand and forced herself not to cry. "After my tours done, Ill come see you."
"Lets call Mike." He whispered as he let her go and stepped into the main area of the bus. Lance looked up from his breakfast quickly as they walked through, but they didnt notice him. Sara sat on the couch and pulled her blanket over her legs as JC dug in his backpack for his cell phone. He called Mike and quietly explained that Sara needed a flight back to LA as soon as possible, then he called Tom to let him know that she was leaving also. He expressed concern for JC, but the younger man reassured him that he was all right, and that seemed to satisfy Tom.
Sara reluctantly called Dr. Graysons office and left her a voicemail telling her that she would be back within a few days and would come and see her. She made other necessary calls before she could change her mind, then she took a deep breath and sat back on the couch.
"Youre leaving?" Lance asked quietly from the kitchen.
"Um, yeah." Sara nodded.
"Is everything okay?" He asked with a look of concern.
"Yeah." Sara nodded again and forced a smile, "Everythings okay, thats part of the reason Im going home."
"Cool." Lance said after a moments pause. "I mean, I guess thats good."
"Yeah, thats good." JC nodded and tried to smile as the others slowly woke up and emerged from the bunk area. They fell into their morning routine as though nothing was out of the ordinary, because for them, nothing was.
JC and Sara kept quite through the morning and she didnt make a fuss about packing up her things. Just before they got to the venue, JC got a call from mike with Saras flight details, shed be flying out that night before the show, and would be in LA by ten that evening. He had arranged for her ticket to be waiting for her at the airport, and for a car to pick her up in LA and take her home.
"Your uh, your flight leaves at 5:35." JC said as they followed the others off the bus.
"Okay." She nodded and held her duffel bag from one hand.
"So well want to leave here by 4:30."
"Yeah." Sara nodded, "Wait, youre coming to the airport?"
"Yeah, of course." JC smiled and took her hand as they entered the dark backstage area. "Do you mind?"
"Well no, but I mean, dont you have your meet and greet thing?"
"Stop worrying about everything." JC laughed. "Im going to go say goodbye to you at the airport, Im not leaving the band to run away with you. They can do a meet and greet without me."
"What abo-" She started.
JC silenced her with his finger against her lips; "You talk too much sometimes." He smiled, and shook his head, "Just say okay and leave it at that."
"Okay." She said around his finger. He laughed and they continued through the backstage area where Sara finally said good bye to the others.
"Youre leaving?" Chris asked as he spun a quarter around on the table.
"After the show at least?" He asked.
"No, Im leaving in about an hour."
"But we were gonna pull you up on stage again." Justin smirked from the corner.
"Then Id say I was leaving just in time." Sara shook her head, but smiled. She was actually going to miss these guys, even Justin and Joey. She hoped that shed broken them down a little so that they would at least talk to each other and start to deal with JCs cutting.
At a quarter after four, JC and his bodyguard tracked Sara down and they all headed for the airport in the secure black van. JC sat in the back seat beside Sara and laced his fingers through hers as he stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. They didnt say much on the car ride, even though each of them had a lot to say.
They pulled up in front of the terminal at almost five oclock and the rush hour traffic was in full force. The police were handing out tickets left and right, so they had to make it quick.
Sara jumped out of the van and tossed her duffel bag over her shoulder, she had come with only a single change of clothes but she was leaving with a dozen. She took two steps away from the van before she stopped and took a deep breath. She turned around to face JC who was slowly climbing out of the van behind her. "I know youre in a hurry." She said quickly, "Call me if you need anything."
"I will. Call my cell when you get home okay?" He shoved his hands in his pockets, not entirely sure what she was expecting. She wanted to go slow and think things through, and he wanted to grab her and not let her go.
"I will." She smiled and put her duffel bag down, then wrapped her arms around his neck.
JC was completely taken by surprise at her initiation of affection, and hesitated as he circled her waist with his arms. He kissed her cheek softly and said, "Ill see you later."
"Bye." She whispered.
He didnt let her go and he wasnt sure if he could, "Thank you Sara."
"Youre welcome." She laughed lightly into his shoulder and tried to step away. "Come on JC, its not like Im leaving forever."
"I know. Just a second longer." He laughed uneasily and squeezed her one last time before releasing her. "Okay. Go before I pull you back into the van."
"Bye." She said again as she reached for her bag. She turned and walked into the airport before she could stop herself.
"So tomorrows your last show?" Sara asked as she punched the numbers into the computer in front of her. It had been three weeks and she was slowly adjusting to her normal life. JC was doing amazingly well on his own, not that she had any doubts.
"Yeah." JC leaned against the wall of the radio station where he was scheduled to do an interview. "Hows work?"
"Good." Sara smiled. She had groveled at the feet of her old supervisor and gotten her job at Ikea back, but shed been stuck with the data entry crap instead of customer service. "Its fun having somewhere to go every morning, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." JC laughed.
"So how are things going for you?"
"Okay." JC nodded and bowed his head.
"Yeah?" Sara asked with a hint of concern. "Did you talk to Tom?"
"Yeah, were cool."
"No come on. Did you tell him?"
"Kind of. I told him that I wasnt ready to go public yet, not by a long shot. But that I was thinking about it."
"Whatd he say?"
"Hes worried about the media backlash." JC pinched the bridge of his nose between his eyes. "Which, I mean, I can understand that. But eventually Ill need to say something."
"And the longer I wait the harder it will be for the fans and everyone to accept it."
"You dont have to." Sometimes she felt more like his counselor than his friend. But at the same time it was hard to tell, her feelings had changed so much since she came home. The kisses they had shared on the tour bus were still fresh in her mind, even though they were never mentioned.
"I know. But someday someone will find out and say something, and Ill look like a liar."
"Its your personal life."
"Whats that? I dont have one of those any more." JC laughed softly. "Dont worry, its all good. Im not going to do anything until Im ready."
"Okay " Sara said reluctantly. She stapled the receipts together and started in on the other registers tapes. "How about everything else?"
"Everythings going great. Joey, Lance and I are at some radio station for an interview, then on to the venue for the show and things there."
"Sounds like fun." She laughed, secretly grateful that she was missing the hectic schedule he lived with.
"Are you going to be home later?"
"Like I dont know, midnight here, so nine?"
"Yeah, I get off at seven so I should be home by then. Whats up?" She asked.
"Theres been a slight change of plans, but Ive gotta go, so Ill tell you all about it when Im done with the show tonight."
"Oh." She said softly. "Okay."
"Ill uh, Ill call you later."
"Okay, bye." She said softly as he hung up his end. She set the phone back on the cradle and sighed, "A change of plans huh?" She mumbled to herself.
At ten minutes to nine that night, Saras phone rang by her feet. She adjusted her thick cream colored robe and snatched the phone off the couch, "Hi there you." She smiled.
"Hey trouble." JC smiled and kicked his shoes off as he lay across his hotel bed. "So hey, theres been a big change of plans. Tomorrows our last show and I know I said Id come out for a few days after that, but weve just been given a month off."
"A month?" Saras jaw fell open.
"Yeah." JC laughed. "We dont have any commitments for 27 days, so almost a full month."
"Wow." Sara said softly. She wanted to see him, that was for sure, but for a whole month? She wasnt sure about that.
"Yeah, and um Justin and I are going to go to Barcelona." He stood up and pulled his shirt over his head then unbuttoned his jeans.
"Spain??" That wasnt what she was expecting at all. She may not have wanted to spend a month straight with him, but she did want to see him.
"Uh huh. For a couple weeks."
"Oh I uh wow, okay."
"I know you wanted a couple weeks to think about everything, so Im just going to give you a couple more. Ill see you when I get back." He shimmied out of his pants and tossed them toward his suitcase, then pulled the blankets back and lay back down on the bed.
It had been three weeks since she left him on tour and shed done a lot of thinking and soul searching. "So I uh, you wont be out here for another month?" Her heart sank.
"Three weeks, were not staying the whole time." He smiled. It was going to be hard giving Sara the space she needed, but he was determined to win her over. "We leave from Florida in three days, so Im going to have some packing to do. Im working on a surprise for you though, kind of. Ill have to show you when I get back."
"A big surprise." He laughed.
"What kind of a big surprise?" Sara asked as nervousness crawled into the pit of her stomach.
"The kind of big surprise that youll have to wait to see." JC laughed. "Dont worry, its nothing bad."
"Well I didnt think youd surprise me with two tons of elephant crap." She laughed lightly.
"Uh. No." JC smiled and shook his head; "Youll like it."
"Im sure I will." Saras forehead creased in thought, what could he possibly have to surprise her with? "So what are you doing tonight?"
"Talking to you." He mumbled in a very sleepy voice. He tucked the pillow under his head and switched the light off. "And thinking about sleep."
"Sleep is a good thing." Sara said softly.
"Yeah it is." He yawned. "Itd be better if I wasnt alone." He thought to himself, but he stopped before the first sound left his lips. Space. She needed space.
"Ill uh, let you go then."
"You dont have to." JC said quickly.
"Well youre tired, I dont want to keep you up." She said softly. "Youre doing okay?"
"Yeah, Im doing good. Actually Chris read an article on suicide or something so we sat and talked about it last night. It was pretty cool. I mean, not cool, but you know, it got us talking."
"Yeah, hes probably the last one Id expect to sit and talk about it, but he brought it up. Justin saw us talking too, so that may have helped with the kid."
"Thats awesome." Sara smiled and meant it. "Those first little hurdles are the hardest, thats great that you guys talked about it. Youll be surprised how much easier it gets."
"It wasnt that hard. Chris was cool about everything, and he asked a lot of questions. I guess hed been saving up." JC laughed softly and yawned.
"I heard that." Sara whispered. "Im going to let you go to sleep now."
"Okay." JC said reluctantly.
"Call me before you leave, okay? I dont need you flying across a huge ocean without saying goodbye."
"Ill call you before we leave, I promise." He let his eyes drift closed and licked his lips, "Gnight Sara."
"Good night JC." Sara whispered and sighed as she heard his phone disconnect. She pressed the off button on her phone and held it in front of her for a minute, staring at the numbers. She checked her watch and sighed, it was too late to call Dr. Grayson that night. She made up her mind to go see the doctor the next morning to try to get her feelings figured out, so that when JC got back in three weeks shed have made some kind of a decision.
Sara walked through the familiar front door of Wycroft and cringed inwardly as she did every time. When she was student here she swore she would never voluntarily come back through those doors, theyd have to knock her out and drag her through. And yet there she was, completely lucid and pulling the door open herself.
She waved quickly to Ann at the front desk and gave her a questioning look; "She's in her office." Ann nodded sweetly and stirred a sugar packet into her coffee.
"Thatll stunt your growth you know." Sara said softly as she leaned on the counter.
"Im five foot nine already, I dont need to grow any more." Ann laughed lightly and blew on the hot coffee before she took a sip.
"Ugh, what I wouldnt give." Sara shook her head and headed down the hall to the doctor's office. She knocked lightly and waited for Dr. Grayson to answer.
"Its open." Dr. Grayson said from inside. Sara pushed the door open and stepped in, then shut it carefully behind her. The doctor looked up from her steaming mug and raised an eyebrow at Sara, "Good morning."
"I think I have a problem." Sara said softly as she dropped herself in the chair opposite Dr. Grayson. It was just after nine in the morning and Dr. Grayson had just poured herself a fresh cup of coffee.
She removed her glasses and laced her fingers on the desk in front of her, "Whats up?"
"JC was supposed to come out to LA to see me when the tour was done."
"His tour ends today. He was supposed to come out for a couple days, but now he tells me he has a whole month off and "
Dr. Grayson interrupted her; "A month is a long time to visit someone."
"I know." Sara said slowly. "Hes not coming out though."
Sara shook her head, "Hes going to Spain for three weeks, then hell come out to see me and he said he had a surprise for me."
"So he is coming out?"
"Yeah." Sara nodded sadly.
"Okay whats wrong then?"
"Well I dont know." Sara frowned. "I havent felt like this before and its just weird. I havent seen him for three weeks, and now I wont see him for another three weeks."
"You miss him." Dr. Grayson smiled and brushed her thin gray bangs out of her eyes.
"I guess but I went like, a year without seeing him before." Sara whined. "And I missed him then."
"Yes, but that was when you were still trying out this whole friends thing. Now youre comfortable with being friends, and you just spent a couple weeks working very intimately with him. Theres a special connection there now."
"I guess." Sara sighed. "But "
"But he said that he thinks he loves me and I have no idea what to do about that. I mean, we met in a loony bin, were both still all freaky in the head. What is he thinking?"
"I dont know." Dr. Grayson shook her head. "How do you feel about him?"
"I dont know." Sara sighed. "Its like I like him Dr. Grayson; were good friends, even better friends now, but I just Ive never done this kind of thing before really. There are just a lot of issues with JC. Were not ready for any kind of relationship."
"Well then there you go."
"But then how come I feel sick to my stomach when I think about going another three weeks without seeing him? I mean, is this normal?" Sara rested her head in her hands.
"Yes its normal, because you like him." Dr. Grayson smiled. "He broke down that brick wall youve had up for years, and on one hand you feel invaded, and on the other hand you feel happy."
"Ugh. Why is this so hard?"
"I dont know, kiddo. I dont know." Dr. Grayson shook her head and smiled. Sara was in love with the boy and it was only a matter of time before she realized it.
On to part 2
Copyright © 2001 Amy Lynn