When they returned from Maryland, Sara began to act more distant and almost depressed. JC knew there was a problem when they went to the New Years Party and her smile was forced all night. She looked like she had something on her mind and JC was just waiting for her to tell him what it was. He let it go for a day or so before confronting her, "What’s going on with you Sara? You okay?"

Sara paused for a second; "I’m fine."

JC wrapped his arms around her waist and frowned, "You’re not acting fine."

"I’m okay Jace."

"You just… since we got back you’ve been kinda quiet."

"It’s the ‘after holidays’ gloom." Sara explained softly.

"I think it’s more than that." JC lightly scratched her back as they stood in his bathroom.

She set her toothbrush down on the counter and sighed, "It’s nothing, JC. I’ve just been thinking."

"About…?"

Sara looked at him for a second, "It’s stupid JC." She shook her head and reached back to remove his hands.

"It’s not stupid if you’re this upset."

"I’m not upset." She walked out to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed to brush her hair.

"Sara… you’re upset about something, and if it’s something I can fix or help you with, I want to."

"You can’t fix it and you can’t help. So don’t worry about it."

JC sighed and placed his hands on his hips. She could be so difficult sometime and he wasn’t even sure if she meant to do it. He decided to let it go until the morning when she may be in a better mood, then he turned the stereo on before he climbed into the large bed.

Sara went through her nightly routine then switched the light off and pulled the almond colored blanket up to her shoulders. "Is it because I’m going to have to go out of town a lot when the CD comes out?" JC asked out of no where. He had planned on dropping it, but he hadn’t thought that she might be upset because he was leaving. The release of the CD had been pushed back again and they were going to have to spend a few weeks mass promoting it.

"It’s not you." Sara shook her head and sighed again. "Fine, you want to know why I’ve been cranky?"

"Yeah." He whispered.

"Going to Maryland to meet your family made me realize how much my family sucks and it got me thinking about how if I had a family like that I would never have tried to kill myself."

JC’s eyebrows shot up in the dark; "My family had nothing to do with why I tried that." He said softly.

"No, I didn’t mean it like that Jace. I know you had your reasons, and I know that you put your family first. I’m just saying that for me, for my reasons… with a family like that I wouldn’t have felt like I needed to kill myself to get their attention." She sighed and rolled over to face him. "If you’d have grown up with another family you still would have tried JC, because they had nothing to do with it."

"Sara, your family has made you stronger though."

"I know." She nodded slowly, "But now all I can think of is how lucky you are that you get to have a family like that. It’s so petty and stupid but I’m almost jealous of you." She laughed lightly and dropped her chin to her chest.

"Don’t be jealous." JC reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear. "You’re just like part of the family now too. I can share."

"I know." She nodded and wiped her eyes quickly, "But it’s not the same."

"It’s as close as you can get without being born into the family." He kissed her quickly. "So that’s what’s been bugging you?" He whispered. She nodded in response and he shook his head and pulled her closer. "Don’t be upset anymore, you’ve gotta put the past behind you, that’s what Timon says, right?"

Sara laughed and nodded as she wiped her eyes again, "You’re crazy."

"Yeah, but that’s why you love me. If I wasn’t crazy we’d have never met."

"True." She smiled as he kissed her again. "Thank you JC."

"You’re welcome, Sara bear." He snuggled closer to her and they fell asleep in each other’s arms to the sound of music coming from the foot of the bed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The CD was released almost a month later and JC took off for three weeks of coast to coast promotion. He asked Sara if she would mind staying at his house while he was away, and she was of course thrilled. She didn’t mind it at all considering her whole apartment could practically fit in his living room.

Because of all the attention he had received after the public service announcement, reporters had started circling in front of his house. JC got a new security system after he found a reporter on his front step trying to look in through the small window by his door. It was expensive but worth it, the old system just wasn’t enough any more.

He taught Sara how to set the alarm and arm the house, as well as how to work the monitors and who to call in case of an emergency. She paid close attention; the last thing she wanted was to set the alarm off herself. When he was sure she was comfortable with the new system he kissed her goodbye and left in the van for the airport.

JC called every night from the road and Sara could tell he was getting more and more tired each time he called, "So what did you do today?"

"We met with our tour manager to start talking about the tour, and we taped two special things for MTV."

"Sounds like… uh… fun." Sara tried to sound serious, but ended up laughing.

"Yeah right." He yawned. "It’s after eleven here already and we haven’t even seen our hotel."

"Oh man." Sara frowned. "Well don’t work too hard. Take a few breathers every now and then or something."

"We try." He said softly from 3,000 miles away. "How are things going back home?"

"Good, school is school… work is work. Nothing too exciting." Sara shrugged. The semester had pretty much just started and she was really enjoying her classes, but school on top of work was rough.

"Cool." JC nodded, then said something to someone on his side, "I’ve gotta get going, I’ll give you a call tomorrow, okay?"

"I’ll be here." Sara smiled as he chest tightened. She hated saying goodbye; it was harder than she thought.

"I’ll be home next weekend. I love you."

"Love you too." She said softly. "Bye."

Sara hung up the phone and sank into his couch as she turned the volume on the TV up. It had only been a week and he expected to be out for another week or so. The tour didn’t start for another three months, but they had already started most of the planning for it. They would be working on the choreography and stage show for two months before the tour started, so that didn’t leave much time. He’d invited her out to New York, but she couldn’t miss that much school or work.

When the promotional tour for the new CD was done, all of the guys flew to LA to meet with a local choreographer that they were thinking about using for one or two of their songs for the tour. Sara spent a few days with the whole group, then saw them off at the airport to fly back to Florida to get more work done. She was getting used to staying in JC’s house and began to feel claustrophobic on the few nights she went to her own home.

Sara didn’t get to see or even talk to JC for several days as they were put in a lock down to firm up tour details. She finally got a hold of him on the third day and asked if he’d be able to come home for the weekend.

"I don’t think so Sara." He shook his head and crawled into the spare bed in Justin’s guestroom.

"Then I guess we can celebrate when you get back." She said softly. She missed him more than anything, but she didn’t want to bring him down when he was obviously so excited.

"Celebrate?"

"Tomorrow… or today I guess." She looked at the clock and saw that it was after eleven her time, which made it the next day for JC.

"Today?" JC’s fuzzy mind tried to remember the date.

"Man, you must be tired. It’s your two year anniversary of being out of the hell hole." Sara smiled and sighed.

"Oh man, is it the 18th already?"

"For you, yeah."

"Wow… I didn’t even realize what month is was." He laughed lightly.

"Congratulations JC."

"Thanks." He rubbed his temples, missing Sara more than ever. "I’ll see what I can do about coming back this weekend, okay?"

"Okay." She nodded, though he couldn’t see her. They said their goodbyes and Sara curled up under the covers in one of JC’s sweatshirts, just to have him close.

JC didn’t make it back that weekend, but when he did they went out to a quiet restaurant to celebrate. He was secretly glad that she had remembered, no one else had said a word. They had been so busy the last couple weeks he hadn’t really expected them to remember, but it was still nice that someone had.

"Two years huh? It’s weird, but it seems like it hasn’t been that long."

"I know." Sara smiled. "That sounds like such a long time."

"It is a long time. It just doesn’t seem like that much time has passed." JC reached across the table and took Sara’s hand. They had finished their desserts and were talking quietly over an empty table.

"You’ve come a long way, even in just the last year." Sara said softly. "I’m really proud of you, and I hope you keep on getting better. Of course, you’re damn near perfect right now."

JC smiled and blushed quickly, "You’re not so bad yourself." He leaned across the table and kissed her quickly. "Let’s get out of here."

"You know, I’ve heard that’s the most used phrase in a movie."

"What?" He placed his napkin on the table as he stood up slowly.

"Let’s get out of here." Sara laughed lightly and stood up.

"If you say so." JC smiled and laced his fingers through hers. They walked out the front of the restaurant and were immediately blinded by flashes from cameras.

"JC! Over here!" Someone shouted.

"Ignore them." JC said softly as he brushed his lips past her ear.

Sara followed blindly where JC lead her and before she knew it they were at his car. The bright spots faded as her vision went back to normal, and she laughed as JC unlocked the car and slid in the drivers' seat.

"That is insane." Sara shook her head and locked the door as she climbed in beside him.

"You have no idea." JC said, without even a hint of a smile. He rolled down the window and waved out the window as they drove out of the small parking lot. He left the window down and let the cool night air rush in as they drove back to his house.

"Man that’s weird. I mean, I know your famous or whatever, but I never actually thought they’d follow you to dinner."

"They do, and that’s why I have the new security system."

"Are those pictures going to be in a magazine?"

"Probably not." JC shrugged. "They’ll take pictures of anything, as long as someone famous is in them." He laughed lightly, "But most of them probably end up in storage or something."

"Crazy." She laughed and rolled her own window down as they headed for the freeway. "Then what's the point?"

"Personally? I think they just like to annoy us." JC laughed.

"Nice."

"Real nice." JC nodded. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and cracked up laughing. Sara could make him laugh at some of the strangest things, but he realized that if he didn't take things so seriously, he had a lot more fun.

JC left the next morning to fly back to Florida; they had a lot more work to do and very little time to do it in. Sara went back to school and tried to keep her mind off of JC. For the first time ever she understood that ageless saying, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." JC wasn't gone exactly, but she couldn't help but feel that tug at her heart when she thought about him. She truly didn't realize how wonderful he was to have around until he was suddenly gone. She'd have given anything to have him back on the other end of the couch, or in the other room… or even just in the same city.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Okay, you guys are done here." Chuck said. He was their tour manager and in charge of making sure things ran smoothly while they were on the road. "We’ve got everything under control. You’re set." They had spent 14 hours arguing over and finalizing tour plans, and they were all getting on each other's nerves.

"We’re not done Chuck, Johnny wants us to get the wardrobe set tonight." Lance sighed.

"You all like the blue?" Chuck asked.

"Yeah." They all said in unison.

"You don’t like the red or yellow with the lights?"

"No."

"Well, it’s okay." Chris shrugged.

"But you all like the blue right?"

"Yeah."

"Then what’s the problem? Blue it is." Chuck smiled.

"The blue costs almost twice as much." JC pointed out.

"Do any of you like the red and yellow?" Chuck asked the group. He was met with silence, "Okay then. We’ll cut back on something else to keep it all under budget."

"So then we need to decide on what’s being cut." Justin whined as he squeezed his eyes shut and leaned back in his chair.

"There are lots of places we can cut back. Pyro being number one. You guys had a lot on the NSA tour; you could do without a couple of those. Leave it up to me, if there are any major changes I’ll hold off till we meet up."

"Tomorrow?" Joey asked with his arm draped over his tired eyes.

"Two weeks." Chuck smiled.

"Right." JC said sarcastically.

They all laughed lightly, tired after a day’s work. "We wish."

"It’s true. Starting tomorrow morning you are all off the hook for two weeks. When you come back your minds will be fresh, you’ll be well rested and ready to start on the choreography."

"Quit bull shitting us man, we’re too tired." Chris laughed and pushed himself off the couch.

"I’m serious. I don’t want to see any of you for two weeks." Chuck smiled and stood up. "Johnny called last night and handed down the final approval. You’ve spent a month here at the compound, we’ve got another couple months of preparation to wade through and we want you lucid. This tour is supposed to be more fun than work, and if you guys are wound tight when the tour starts, the whole thing will be nothing but work. If you start out the tour with the memory of an awesome two week vacation, you’ll be a hell of a lot happier."

"But – " JC started.

"But what? I never thought I’d hear you guys complaining about time off." Chuck laughed.

"We’re not complaining." Lance and Chris said at the same time.

"We’ll take it." Justin laughed.

"I’m all about vacations." Joey added from his seat on the couch.

"Great, then get out of here. See you kids in two weeks. Have fun and be careful." Chuck laughed as he shut his planner and headed for the doors. The guys let the information sink in for a minute, then bolted from the office with vacation plans running through their minds.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

JC took an afternoon flight to LA the day after getting the news of their vacation, and was looking forward to surprising Sara. He saw her car in the driveway and could hardly wait to get inside to see her. "Hey hey baby doll!" JC shouted as he walked through the front door of his house. He dropped his bags in the entry and watched with amusement as Sara jumped at the sound of his voice.

"Jace?" Sara leapt from the couch and dropped the remote on the table. "Ahh! What are you doing here?" She crawled over the back of the couch and trotted down the hall to wrap her arms around him.

"I live here." He laughed.

"Yeah but what are you doing here?" She laughed and kissed him quickly.

"Would you believe me if I said we got two weeks off?" He couldn’t stop himself from smiling as they stood in the entry.

"Are you serious?" Sara laughed again and took a step back. "Two weeks? I thought you guys were swamped?"

"We are, but Johnny wants us fresh for the tour and stuff so he’s giving us one last vacation."

"Oh my god, this is great." She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the kitchen. "I have one more class and then I’m on Spring break and I might even be able to pull in some vacation time from work. Oh man, JC this is great."

"Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so happy to see me." He laughed.

"Oh please, if you were to walk around a mall you’d find hundreds of girls just as happy." She laughed and stared at JC. He had been away for what seemed like an eternity and she just couldn’t take her eyes off of him.

"Not the same." He shook his head and smiled. "Are you off today?"

"Yeah, I have to work tomorrow though. Man, I wish I’d known you were coming home I would have gotten it off. Oh, and Cassandra and I are going to see that new movie with Heath Ledger tomorrow night, but I can get out of that."

"Don’t cancel plans, that’s okay." JC shrugged. "We’ll have two weeks to spend."

Sara sat at the bar across from JC and leaned forward to rest her chin in her hands, "So what are your plans? Are you going to do stuff or just completely veg out for two weeks? Don't you feel like you've been paroled or something?"

"Man you talk a lot." JC laughed and shook his head in awe. "I think you've said more since I've been home than I've ever heard you say."

"I've got a lot of talking saved up since you've been gone." She laughed and blushed quickly.

"Good, I've missed your voice." He said softly before he cleared his throat, "I have some plans, but nothing 100% final, vegging out is definitely on the agenda and yes I guess it does kind of feel like parole."

"Awesome, lets go get some dinner and I can fill you in on everything."

"Everything? What's going on?"

"Nothing really, but you're here! Come on, you can tell me all about the tour and I'll tell you all about my psych paper I turned in last week. You'll love it."

"I just got back, I'd rather stay in."

"Oh, okay." Sara gave him a slight frown, "I don't think you have anything in your fridge though. I uh, I haven't really kept it stocked."

"That's what restaurants on the run is for. Call them and they'll bring you anything you want." JC stifled a yawn as he reached for the phone. "I'll go get some food tomorrow."

"Okay."

"So what do you want? Chinese or mex?"

"Mex." Sara nodded, "Enchiladas."

"Sounds good to me." JC dialed the number from the flier by his phone and placed an order for enchiladas from On the Border. "They'll be here in forty minutes."

"That is amazing. Is that one of the tricks they teach you when you get famous? SO you don't have to ever leave your house?"

"Yep. That and how to schmooze the airline people to get double skymiles so you get more free tickets."

"Like you need it." Sara laughed as JC shrugged.

"Free tickets means you can come out and visit us on tour." He reminded her.

"Ahh, very true." If only skymiles could be traded in for time off of work.

When the food arrived they sat at the dining room table and ate while they caught each other up on what they'd been doing. JC dominated the conversation telling her all the things they had planned for the tour and how it was going to be ten times better than the "No Strings Attached" tour, and a lot more fan-friendly.

They talked until midnight then retired to JC's bedroom for a much needed night in the others arms. JC stayed awake after Sara dozed off and curled a lock of her hair around his finger until it cut off the circulation, then he let it go to watch the hair spin around his finger. He played with her hair while she slept and concocted a vacation plan that would be perfect. He would have to set it all up the next day while Sara was out with Cassandra, but with a little help from Nsyncs travel supervisor, he had no doubt that he would make Sara's day.

Just as JC's eyes drifted closed, he remembered the date. "Perfect timing." He whispered to himself with a smile. Sara's two year "Wycroft anniversary" was in two days, he couldn't have planned it better if he tried.

The next day JC assured Sara that he had things to do and that she should absolutely go out with Cassandra. She left reluctantly and promised to call when she got home that night. He smiled and waved as she left the driveway, then went back inside to get himself dressed. He had a dozen places to go and lots of plans to make. It would take him all day to get everything just right, and he wanted to start early.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara called JC when she and Cassandra got home from the movies and they made plans to get together the next day to have lunch and hang out. All JC wanted to do was relax on his vacation, and that was perfectly fine with Sara. She agreed to meet him at his house at eleven and they would just take it from there.

"How was the movie?" JC asked softly as his blankets rustled by the phone.

"It was good." Sara smiled, "What are you doing?"

"I'm adjusting my pillow."

"You're in bed?"

"It's after midnight, yeah I'm in bed." JC smiled and yawned quietly.

"I'll bet your own bed feels pretty nice after being cooped up in Justin's guest room."

"It feels alright." He nodded. "Wanna come over?"

"I have school at seven tomorrow."

"So?"

"So you're half asleep right now and I have to be up in five hours." Sara smiled, though all she wanted to do was drive over right away. "We'll spend all day tomorrow together, as soon as my class is over."

"I thought you were on spring break?"

"I am, after this class." She yawned against her will. "I'm beat hun, I'll be over tomorrow around eleven, okay? We'll veg all day and I'll even pick up some movies."

"Okay fine… just leave me here all alone." He tried to pout but his smile came through in his voice.

"I'll see you tomorrow Jace."

"Good night."

"G'night." Sara whispered.

"Love you."

"Love you too." Sara smiled as she yawned and hung up the phone. Five o'clock was rapidly approaching and she had to try to be functional. She fell into her big empty bed for the first time in a week, and fell asleep almost immediately, holding a soft pillow to her chest.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

JC checked his watch for the third time in ten minutes as he looked through the videos in his entertainment unit. Sara had said she would be over at eleven to watch movies, and it was already five after. He wasn’t worried, but he opened the front door so he would be able to hear her car as she pulled into his driveway.

"Royale with cheese." JC smiled and ran his finger over his "Pulp Fiction" cassette. He scanned the tapes looking for something to watch, then he saw a plain black tape near the bottom on the left. He knelt beside the TV and pulled it out to see what it was, since every other tape there was in a movie box.

There was a single white sticker on it that just said, "Sara" on it but he knew it wasn’t a movie he had made. JC frowned and stuck it in the VCR, keeping a careful ear out for her car. The TV clicked on as he pushed "play" and stood back from the screen so he could see.

The home video showed a small auditorium half filled with people as the auto tracking fixed the fuzzy lines. JC reached over to turn the volume up and was surprised to see Sara’s image walking across the makeshift stage. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched closely as she straightened her note cards and looked toward the camera nervously.

"Hi, my name is Sara." She paused for a second as her eyes scanned the crowd. "I used to be a student here at Wycroft." The note cards in her hand shook slightly as she held them in front of her. "I spent three months here under the care and supervision of Dr. Grayson and the rest of the staff here. At the time, I would have done anything I could to get out of here. I was mean, hateful and an overall pain in the butt for everyone." She laughed nervously and looked down at her note cards. "I’m sorry, I’m not a public speaker, I work at a store." She chuckled again, as her cheeks burned pink. "Um… I don’t know exactly what they wanted me to say up here, so I’m just going to tell you all how I ended up here, and how I got myself well enough to make it on my own." Sara took a deep and shaky breath as she began her story. She launched right into her childhood of nannies and tutors, her adolescence of being a junior high misfit, her teenage years of rebellion in a private high school, followed three years of not fitting in and being bounced from her parents house to her aunts house.

"When my aunt couldn’t handle me, or wouldn’t handle me… I was dropped back at my parent’s house where they grudgingly took me in and gave me back my old room. I was there for three days before they took off for a month long business trip to Amsterdam. This might sound like I’m blaming my parents for everything, which I’m sure you’re all used to." She looked out at the sea of parental faces in front of her, "But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m letting you know the situation I was in and how I was thinking when I tried to commit suicide. In my eyes, no one wanted me. No one care enough to ask if I was okay. My parents took off for weeks at a time, sometimes without even telling me that they were leaving."

Sara took a deep breath and shuffled the cards in front of her, scanning them quickly to find where she’d left off. "That’s not an excuse, that’s a reason. When they returned from one of their trips they were home for two days before they said anything to me, or even let me know that they were home. My mother came to tell me she was going to the club, when I hadn’t even been aware that they were home from abroad." Sara stopped again, hoping she hadn’t lost her audience in the retelling of her past. She took another shaky breath then smiled nervously at Dr. Grayson sitting in the front row. Sara recounted her suicide attempt for the guests in the auditorium, stopping when she was checked into Wycroft.

"Like I said, I spent almost 3 months here, and from the day I was admitted, I hated it. Dr. Grayson can vouch for that; I had a terrible attitude and would do nothing to help her make me better. I thought for sure that I would ‘get out’ someday, or escape, or just end it all here… and I’m sure your friends and family here have felt the same way." Sara spoke for another couple minutes about her time there, and how without the help of a very special friend she met here, she may never have recovered enough to be where she was that day.

"I’ve been out of Wycroft for one year, seven months, sixteen days and…" She checked her watch, "A couple of hours." The audience laughed politely. "But every day is still a challenge. Everyday I’m faced with the knowledge that I tried to kill myself, and it’s not impossible that I may try it again. I look at myself in the mirror every morning and I wonder how on Earth I got to where I am, and how I grew to be who I am. I’ve got both feet on the ground now, and I’m working to make my life better, but I will never be able to forget what happened, which could easily be the best therapy ever. Having been there I know I never want to go back, and that’s enough for me. Your friends and family members here are in the process of learning that, and there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Grayson and her staff here will help them find that. One day at a time."

The audience applauded as Sara nervously stepped down from the podium and sat quickly beside Dr. Grayson.

JC pressed ‘stop’ on the VCR and took a deep breath as he removed the tape. He had known most of what Sara had covered, but to hear her tell a room of strangers as her voice shook was just amazing. She had come so incredibly far since they first met. She would barely look at him when they were in Wycroft, and there she was telling a room full of strangers her deepest and darkest secrets.

He was suddenly sorry he had missed it. He could have gone, and should have gone. There were ways to hide the fact that he was "JC Chasez", and to go unnoticed at public functions, but he had chosen not to. He shook his head and ejected the tape to put it back where he had found it.

The sound of his doorbell startled him and he almost dropped the cassette. He quickly put it back and trotted down the hall to the front door. He looked at the tiny monitor by the door and saw Sara standing by the front gate, he pressed the button on the intercom and asked, "Where’s your key?"

"I just locked my keys in my car." She laughed back and looked up to where the security camera was mounted, "Let me in!" She demanded with a smile.

"I can call a tow truck for you miss, if you’d like."

"Or you can just let me in and drive me home later to get my spare." Sara raised her eyebrow at the camera.

"I don’t let strange girls in my house."

"I’ve seen some of the girls you let in, they’re pretty strange."

"Yeah right, how many girls have you seen me let in here?" JC laughed and watched her on the monitor.

"Come on buttmunch, let me in." Sara looked over her shoulder at the dark street.

"Buttmunch huh?"

"I can always go down to the Virgin Megastore on Sunset and let all those teenies know exactly which house is yours." She smiled devilishly and tucked her hands in the pockets of her jeans.

"You wouldn’t."

"Ha. Try me." She laughed as the lock on the gate in front of her opened. She pushed it open and walked to the open front door where JC was standing. "I don’t like your new security system." She said as she walked by.

JC reached out and grabbed her elbow to give her a quick kiss, "You’d rather have media in my back yard and camera men hiding in my bushes?"

"No." Sara shook her head and dropped her purse by the hall table. "I really did lock all my keys in my car though, so I’ll need to go back to my place and get the spare."

"Where are your spare keys?"

"In a drawer in my kitchen." Sara said absentmindedly.

"Inside your house?" JC smiled.

"No, in my kitchen that I have around the corner."

"Well I’m just wondering how you’re going to get in your house to get the spares. I mean, if your house keys are locked in your car with your car keys." JC smiled sweetly and reached for his cordless phone.

Sara blushed and cringed; "Good point."

"Let’s call the dealer and have them send someone out to jimmy the lock."

"Don’t you have a coat hanger or something?"

"Not a wire one." JC shook his head.

"You don’t have a wire hanger?" Sara laughed.

"No, I hate those." JC shook his head and dialed information. He got the number for a local Toyota dealer and wrote it on a scratch piece of paper.

"JC, if they come out here to pop my locks, it’s gonna cost like fifty bucks. Maybe one of your neighbors has a hanger?"

"I’ll pay the fifty dollars, don’t worry about it." JC dialed the dealer then asked one of the guys in the service department if they could help him out. They told him they’d have someone out within the hour to unlock the car and JC gave them directions to the house.

"Beautiful. So now that I’ve met my quota for making a fool out of myself, what’s for lunch?"

"I have got the best pasta salad you will ever eat, in my fridge."

"Oh yeah?" Sara smiled and followed him down the hall to his bright kitchen.

"Yep, and garlic bread." JC smiled over his shoulder.

"Sounds like a little slice of heaven right here in LA." Sara laughed and pulled a barstool out to sit on at his bar. "Do you need help with anything?"

"Nope. The bread will only take a couple minutes in the microwave, and the pasta is ready." He took everything out and stuck the loaf of garlic bread in the microwave to heat it up. She made two plates of the bow tie pasta as JC poured their drinks.

"I brought some movies with me, because I think we’ve seen everything you’ve got." She smiled and took a bite. "Wow, this is delicious."

"I told ya." JC smiled and sat beside her as the bread cooked. "What did you bring?"

"Star Wars Episode One, I can’t believe you don’t own that." She rolled her eyes, "And Sixth Sense."

"Ooo, let’s watch that one. That little kid gives me the creeps." JC stood up again as the microwave beeped. He took the garlic bread out and broke the loaf in half, then broke off smaller pieces for each of them.

They ate in comfortable silence and communicated with their eyes and smiles. Both of them were happy just being together, nothing else needed to be said. When they were finished eating, they brought their dishes to the kitchen where JC loaded them into the dishwasher as the front gate bell rang. "That's the guy for your car." JC wiped his hands on his shorts and headed for the front door.

"I'll get it." Sara grabbed her purse and pulled the front door open.

"Did you check the monitor?" JC asked from the kitchen as he pulled his wallet out of his pocket.

"Yes." She sighed and rolled her eyes. Sara went out to meet the guy from the car dealer to get her keys out of the car. "Hi, I’m Sara."

"Matt, how’s it going?" The kid asked as she walked up. He didn’t look a day over eighteen as he stood there in his coveralls.

"I was doing great till I locked myself out of my car." She laughed.

"Yeah, I’ll bet." Matt laughed and pulled a device from his pocket, "I’ll have them out in just a second. Do you have ID on you?"

"Yeah, here." She pulled her license out of the car as he popped the lock and opened the car door. "The registration is in the glove box."

He got it out and compared the name on it to the name on her license and was satisfied. He got a clipboard from his truck and filled out the receipt. "That’ll be $23.49."

"That’s all?" Sara asked as she noticed JC standing by the gate.

"You can pay more if you’d like." Matt laughed.

"No, that’s okay." She opened her purse again to pay; "Do you have change? All I have are twenties."

"I’m sorry, I can only take a check or credit card."

"Oh… uh… hang on." Sara looked back at JC as he walked up with a blank check.

"I’ve got it." JC handed the check to Sara to fill out. She filled in the correct amount and handed it over to Matt. "Thanks for coming out."

"Anytime." Matt tucked the check in his shirt pocket and hopped into his car. JC dropped his arm around Sara’s waist as they headed back towards the house.

"So… movie time?" Sara asked as she looked up at him.

"You bet."

"Sixth Sense?"

"Yep."

"Cool." Sara smiled; the simplicity that they'd turned to was comforting. They didn't feel the need to be talking all the time, when looks and smiles said enough.

They sat close together on JC's large couch to watch the movie with a bowl of popcorn on JC's knee. Sara let her mind wander during the movie and mentally made plans for the next two weeks. She wanted to take JC to Venice beach to go people watching since he had never been there and he would actually blend right in if he wore his sunglasses. Six flags was required, that was her favorite thing to do with JC. If she could talk him into driving down to Coronado she'd love to take him on the harbor cruise. The only thing she dreaded was calling her boss to ask for vacation time, especially when she knew she'd want to take more while the guys were on tour to go out and see them.

She worried about it for a few minutes until JC tapped her shoulder and just smiled at her, "Why the frown?"

"Nothing." Sara said as a smile spread across her face. "Just concentrating on the movie."

"It's just a movie." He whispered as he licked the popcorn salt from his lips.

"I know." She smiled again and reluctantly turned back to the movie, letting her boss and her work slip from her mind.

When the movie was over they stood up and stretched without saying a word. JC walked over to the kitchen to get rid of the popcorn and get something to drink from the fridge. "Hey, I did some laundry yesterday and I - "

"You did?" Sara feigned surprise. "You did laundry?"

"Yes I did laundry." JC laughed, "Shit, half of it was yours."

"Nu uh, I don’t have that much over here." Sara frowned and shook her head.

"Yeah huh, that whole bag there is your clothes." JC pointed at a canvas bag by the garage door.

"What? Are you serious?"

"Yeah there are like two pairs of jeans and a shit load of shirts."

"Oh man."

"So if you want to take those home, they’re clean." JC stood up from the couch and stretched his arms over his head. "Do you want cake?" He asked out of no where.

"Cake? You have a cake?"

"I can make a cake."

Sara laughed out loud, "Someone has domesticated you boy. Laundry and cooking? I’m amazed."

"I amaze myself sometimes." JC laughed.

"I’m going to take this out to my car so I don’t forget them again, I’ll be right back." Sara chuckled lightly as she took the bag of clothes and headed for the front door.

"I’ll start the cake." JC said loudly from the kitchen as he got everything out to make the cake. He opened the cake mix and poured it into the big glass bowl.

"Chocolate?"

"Of course." JC laughed.

"Awesome, my favorite." The front door swung shut behind Sara as JC got the eggs out of the refrigerator.

"Take away my heartache, in the night like a thief." JC sang under his breath as he cracked an egg into the bowl in front of him. "She gimme love, love, love, love, crazy love…" He began to mix the ingredients together as the phone beside him rang and startled him. JC dropped the mixing spoon in the batter and quickly wiped his hands on the front of his jeans then reached for the phone. He clicked the ‘talk’ button and cradled it with his ear, "Yeah?"

"Yeah? That’s how you’re answering your phone now?" Justin laughed lightly.

"Who’s this?" JC picked up the spoon and continued to stir the batter.

"Who’s this? Dog, you’ve been on vacation for two days and you don’t know who this is?"

"Hey! Justin my man, what’s up?"

"There ya go, that’s more like it." His voice sounded tinny and hollow over the phone line.

"Where are you?"

"Jamaica mon!" Justin laughed at his own funky accent.

"Right on, how long are you there for?"

"For our whole vacation, dude, I’m getting tanned this time around."

"You can’t spend two weeks in Jamaica." JC shook his head and smiled, "You’ll never come back."

"I’m only here for eleven days, so I should be okay." Justin laughed again and said, "Hey I was just calling to say happy anniversary and see how you’re doing."

"What are you talking about?" JC fumbled as he tried to pour the batter into the cake pan, dribbling a line of chocolate batter on the counter top.

"Your anniversary." Justin explained.

"Huh?" JC frowned and set the bowl on the counter to clean up his mess.

"From, you know, getting out of the hospital."

"Wycroft?" JC asked distractedly. He tossed the now messy wash cloth into the sink and opened the oven to slide the pan in.

"Yeah."

"That was like, a month ago." JC smiled and shut the heavy glass door. "But thanks."

"A month ago? What? I thought you got out like a month after Lance and I biffed the car?"

"Nope, I got out only like a week or two after. But today is Sara’s two year’s out, so your timing isn’t totally shot."

"You celebrating?"

"Yeah, I’m making a cake." JC laughed, "Or well I’m trying to anyway. You wanna say hi?"

"She’s there? Sure." Justin laughed. Sara came back into the kitchen and hopped up on the counter opposite of JC.

"Yeah she’s here." JC wiped his hand again then held the phone out to Sara, "Justin is in Jamaica."

Sara took the phone and smiled as she crossed her legs, "Hi Justin. How’s Jamaica?"

"Jamaica rocks man, you’ve gotta talk that man of yours into bringing you down here."

"Yeah right." Sara rolled her eyes and laughed as JC turned on the oven light and peeked in, as if it’d had time to cook.

"So you living with him yet?"

"Hell no." Sara watched JC reach up to set the digital timer on the top of his stove. "I’ve still got my girl apartment."

"Still working for Ikea?"

"Yep."

"Still got dead plants?"

"Yep." She laughed.

"Still mackin down on my man?"

"Jamaica’s gone to your head boy, it’s only been two weeks since I saw you. Do you think my life’s turned backwards since then?"

"Well you never know." Justin laughed. "I’m gonna take off though, I was just calling to tell Jace happy anniversary, but I guess I over shot that. So happy anniversary to you."

"Thanks." Sara smiled; he’d come a long way in a year.

"Talk to you later."

"Bye." Sara smiled and turned the phone off, "That’s one weird kid."

"Yeah, but he’s cool." JC smiled and opened the cabinet over the refrigerator. "Here, I got something for you." He pulled out the brightly wrapped box and held it in front of him.

"What? What for?"

"For being out two years."

"Come on JC… you don’t have to get me anything." She blushed, secretly excited that he’d remembered.

"I know, it’s your quarter birthday present too."

"My quarter birthday and my anniversary for getting out of the nut house? Why don’t you just say it’s ‘just because’." Sara laughed and looked at the shoe box size gift he set beside her.

"Quit whining and open it." He smiled and stood in front of her, placing his hands on her hips.

Sara uncrossed her legs and wrapped them around his middle, then kissed him quickly, "Speaking of whining, Dr. Grayson is retiring in two months."

"Don’t change the subject." JC reached for the box and set it in her lap between them. "Come on."

"Fine, okay." Sara smiled and tore the wrapping paper off. "Oh thank you JC, a pair of Vans, that’s just what I wanted."

"Yeah yeah, come on. Do I have to open it for you?" He raised his eyebrow and made a move toward the box.

"No! No, I’ll do it." She lifted the lid off and pulled out the top piece of a two piece bathing suit. It was dark red with a yellow and orange flame licking across the front, "A bikini huh? You’ve got high hopes." She laughed and pulled the bottoms out, glad to see that there actually was a bottom, and not just a Band-Aid sized piece of fabric.

"Keep going."

"There’d better be a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt in there to wear over this." Sara laughed and removed the tissue paper. She unfolded the little note and read it out loud, "Congratulations Sara Bear, I hope you know how proud I am of you, and how I never would have gotten this far without you. I know you’ve said you don’t like to travel, but I hope you’ll reconsider and come celebrate with me. Love always, JC." Sara smiled up at him, "What do you have up your sleeve young man?"

"Open it." He said softly as she removed the purple tissue paper.

She pulled out a plain white envelope and tore one end open. Sara shook the contents into the box as sand and airline tickets fall out. "Cute." She held the tickets in front of her as her jaw fell open, "Hawaii?"

"Yep." JC laughed.

"Really?!"

"I would have taken you to Paris, but you said Hawaii was your dream vacation."

"Oh it is! Wow… really? We’re really going to Hawaii?"

"Yeah, Maui." He laughed. "I can’t believe your parents never took you to Hawaii. They travel all the time."

"Yeah, they travel. They’ve never taken me anywhere." She frowned slightly, then decided not to let that get to her. "Ahhh! We’re going to Hawaii!" She threw her arms around his neck as the box fell from the counter, tossing sand over the hardwood flooring.

"If I would have know that one little trip would make you giddy, I’d have taken you a long time ago." JC laughed, but she didn’t release her grip.

"This is perfect, thank you so much." She giggled and kissed his cheek quickly. "Oh my God! When do we leave?! I have to get vacation time and everything." Sara frowned quickly as JC shook his head, "No?"

"We leave tonight, at 5:20 and I’ve cleared it with your boss. We’ll be gone for 9 sun filled days."

"Tonight?! Oh man…" She shook her head and couldn’t get the smile off her face. "JC! I have to pack!"

"I know." He smiled. "Which is why I had to give it to you now."

"It’s almost two already! I have to pack my stuff for a week?"

"All you have to do is go home and throw some shorts in a bag with a hairbrush and deodorant. Maybe a tooth brush and a pair of shoes."

"I need more than that JC." She tried to frown, but her huge grin won out. "I have to go. I’ll be back in an hour." She kissed him quickly, "Oh my God, thank you!" Sara peppered his cheek with a dozen kisses before she grabbed her keys again and ran down the hall.

Sara returned an hour and twenty minutes later with a backpack and a small suitcase. She let herself into JC’s house and ran down the hall and through the living room to his bedroom, "I’m back! Are you ready?" She asked as she leaned on the doorframe.

"Yep, just about." He nodded at his bags by the door.

"We’re seriously going to Hawaii today?"

JC looked at his watch, "We’ll be in the air in two and a half hours."

Sara gave a little squeal and bounced up on her toes, "Wait, who’s going to watch your house?"

"Mike. He’s on the security team." JC said as he pulled the blankets up on his bed. "He’ll be over later tonight."

"I’m so excited." She giggled and could not stop her feet from tapping on the floor.

"Even though you don’t love flying?"

"Oh I don’t even care! We’re going to Maui!"

"Maui for five days, Waikiki for four."

"Hawaii is Hawaii, that's good enough for me." Her stomach did cartwheels as she thought about spending more than a week alone with JC, she was nervous, but in a good way.

"Let's go." JC smiled and picked up his bags, "Where's your luggage?"

"It's by the front door. Come on come on!" She grabbed his little carry on and ran down the hall.

"Are you going to act like a three year old the whole time?" JC asked with a smile as he stopped and put his hands on his hips.

"Yes. Come on." She laughed and hopped out the door. "Did you call a cab?" She shouted over her shoulder.

"We're going to take my car."

"You're going to leave it there for nine days?"

"Yeah, long term parking."

"That costs something like thirty bucks a day."

"Are you gonna argue? Because I can always return the tickets." He pretended to threaten her.

"Well we should just take a cab."

"I don't want to take a cab." JC shook his head and opened his garage. He piled their suitcases into his car and waited patiently for Sara to climb in. They left her car in the driveway as they back out and headed for the airport.

"I can not believe we're going to Hawaii. Cassandra is going to freak. Dr Grayson is going to freak. She always says it's hard to learn about yourself when you don’t change your settings every now and then. I think this would count as a setting change, what do you think?"

"I think so." JC laughed as she looked out the window with a big smile. If she was that happy at just the thought of going, he couldn't wait to see how she was once they got there.

 

On to the next part…

 

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn