Three days later Sara was laying in another dark hotel room unable to sleep. The sun was just cracking through the curtains to light the room, and she knew she had a little while longer to lie there. She yawned and rolled onto her side facing away from JC’s bed, then pushed the tiny button on her watch to light it up. She cringed when she saw that she’d already been with JC for six days, knowing she only had seven days of vacation time to use. She would have to call her work and let them know she wouldn’t be back the next week. Now was when she’d really have to make a serious decision; If her boss wouldn’t work with her, she could lose her job and that would set her back pretty far.

Sara lay in bed and thought about that for a minute, "But if I tell JC that, he’ll make me go, and he’s not ready yet." She said softly to herself.

"What?" JC asked from the bed across from her.

Had she said that out loud? "Uh, nothing." She whispered as she pulled her blanket up to her shoulder. The phone had yet to ring to wake them up, so she rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. She was learning really quick just how crazy life on the road was. She thought for a minute trying to remember what city they were in. She knew that they were in Portland Oregon the day before, but she distinctly remembered driving all night and checking in here while it was still dark.

"Sara…?" JC whispered a second later.

"Yeah?"

"What’s up?"

"I’m sleeping." She whispered at the wall.

"No you’re not, you’re talking."

"I’m talking in my sleep." She smiled to herself.

"So what’s up?"

"Nothing."

"Sara…" JC said with a fatherly tone. "I’m not convinced."

Sara flopped over to her other side and looked at JC across the gray lit room, "I was just thinking."

"About?"

"Tomorrow will be a week that I’ve been here." She whispered and scratched the side of her nose.

"A week? Wow…"

"Yeah." She nodded as he fluffed his pillow and smiled at her. "Tomorrow will be the end of my one week vacation also." She added in an even softer tone.

"Oh." He frowned slightly and let that sink in, "You have to leave?"

"No." Sara said quickly. She wasn’t sure she was ready to leave just yet.

"But what about your job?" JC adjusted his blanket and sunk deeper into his pillow. She didn’t answer, she just shrugged. "You should go home then."

"I’m not gonna argue with you about this. Honesty remember? I don’t want to leave yet."

"Okay." JC nodded a minute later.

"Can I go back to sleep now?"

"Sure." JC smiled and went to roll over as the phone between them rang. "Nope." He reached over and pulled the phone to his ear, then in his best morning voice he said, "Yeah yeah I’m up."

Sara laughed lightly and sat up in the bed to stretch. She was getting used to the whole morning routine and could definitely see why they acted as immature as they did sometimes. They had to or else they’d go nuts with the pressure they were under. Not just the pressure of being Nsync and having to be nice and friendly all the time, but the pressures of the grueling schedule as well. They were up with the sun and didn’t even slow down until midnight. Sara yawned and took her things into the bathroom, for once getting there before JC. She showered and dressed, then stepped back into the room leaving the door open for JC. "So what’s the plan for today?" She asked like she had every other morning the last week.

"The usual, breakfast, a hospital thing, radio interview, then Joey and I have a meeting with some producers to talk about the new album while the others I think are doing an online chat, then the soundcheck, meet and greet and the show. Then on to Spokane." JC said as he started the water for his shower.

"We were in Spokane yesterday." Sara continued the conversation twenty minutes later when JC emerged from the bathroom showered and shaved.

"Nope, we were in Boise yesterday, we’re in Portland today." He finished tucking his shirt in and zipped his fly.

"Are you sure?"

"Yep." JC tapped his temple; "I are smart."

"Cute." Sara tossed his backpack at him and they headed down to the room at the end of the hall to grab a quick bite to eat before they met up with everyone. Sara joined them in the van for their trip to a local children’s hospital to visit sick kids, then on to a radio station to do a short fifteen minute interview and promotion for their show that night. It was only ten in the morning when they were finished, but it felt much later.

The group was hustled back to the hotel to check out and take the bus to the arena where Joey and JC would meet with the producer and the others would do their chat thing. Sara tagged along to the arena, then stayed on the bus while they went about their work. After several nights of sleeping only three or four hours, she was pooped, so she climbed onto JC’s bunk and curled up with his pillow.

She felt something hard and flat by her hand and frowned, she didn’t want to be nosey, but at the same time she was very curious. She pulled the little book out and laughed lightly, it was her own journal that JC had hidden under his pillow. She flipped through the pages, recognizing the familiar handwriting and doodles in the margins.

Sara turned to the page he had marked and read the entry.

Dear JC, Sunday 8:53pm

Well, you called me tonight, thank goodness. You sounded busy, and I guess that’s how it goes. I’ve been busy too. Dr. Grayson has me coming to Wycroft a couple times a week now to meet with her "new class" as she puts it. She keeps threatening to retire, but I think she’s bluffing.

When I told Dr. Grayson I was still writing here in my journal, she seemed surprised. She also said that this may be good therapy for me, but I didn’t tell her I was writing to you. To JC I mean. That might denote the therapy hahahah, naming my book JC and writing to it like a friend? C’mon, that’s just weird. Anyways, she said I should be sure to write out my feelings about Keith because when she asked, I didn’t feel like talking about it with her.

But you wanna know why? I’ll tell you, I can trust you right? You won’t go babbling to everyone? Hahah, no I know you won’t, books don’t talk. Okay, here’s how I feel about Keith killing himself. At first I was pissed off at him for doing that. For coming so far and busting his ass to get out of fucking Wycroft, and then pissing it all away one night for nothing. That’s just bullshit. Then it made me doubt myself you know? Shit if Keith lost it how the hell am I supposed to survive? But then finally, I felt triumphant. (look at me use my big words tonight) I felt like I was better than that. That he had failed no one but himself, and while that’s a sad thing to happen for the survivors, for Keith maybe it was the best thing. How do you tell your shrink that you think someone killing themselves is a good thing? There’s absolutely no way to rationalize that to her. I wouldn’t wish that he was dead, and I’m not happy that he is, not at all. But… I guess it’s hard to explain. As a suicide attemptee, I think maybe I see it a lot different than Dr. Grayson does. If his life was that bad, or even if he just saw it that way, then wherever he is he’s gotta be happier than he was here. Unless you believe in hell, in which case… well I don’t want to think about that. Let me live in my little fantasy. Keith is happier, so I’m happy for him. - Sara

 

Sara shook her head and closed the journal. She had given it to JC because she didn’t want to revisit the past, so she shouldn’t have even picked it up. That was nothing she wanted to live through, or even think about again. She marked the page and slid it back under JC’s pillow as she lay her head down and closed her eyes.

Lying there alone in his bunk, she had plenty of time to think about her situation and what she could do to help the other’s cope with JC. They were doing well, all of them were, but until they all started to work together as a team, nothing would ever be completely resolved. JC had told her that he and Joey talked, and that things were smooth there, but Joey was still being standoff-ish with Sara and that continued to make everyone uncomfortable.

Sara sighed deeply and tried to push her worries from her mind as she breathed in JC’s scent from the pillows and let herself fall into her dreamland.

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

"Hey Sara." Lance smiled as he climbed onto the bus and looked toward the couch where Sara usually stayed. He frowned quickly when he didn’t see her, then headed for the back "Sara? Are you here?" Lance noticed that she was lying down and quickly lowered his voice, "Sorry, I didn’t know you were sleeping."

"It’s okay." Sara yawned and sat up halfway in the bunk.

"Where’s Jace?"

"I’m not sure. He was meeting with Joey and some other guy about something. I wasn’t paying much attention." She rubbed her eyes and smiled.

"They could be a while then." Lance glanced around the tiny bunk, then met eyes with Sara again. "Chris and I are going to grab a late lunch at Fridays, do you want to come?"

"Um…" She checked the tiny alarm clock in the corner of the bed. It was after two, and she was starving. "Sure." She hopped off the bunk and followed Lance off of the bus. Two security guards walked with them over to where Chris stood with his own guard, and they decided to just walk the three blocks to the restaurant.

The three friends stood around making small talk as the guards cleared it with everyone else, apparently they needed three levels of authority to approve them walking up the street.

Across the parking lot, JC and Joey hopped out of the van and stretched; they had been in a meeting all morning and it had not gone well. All JC wanted to do was grab his stuff off the bus and hop back in the van to go to the hotel to sleep for a few hours. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned as he caught sight of Sara standing off to the side with Lance and Chris. Lance smiled down at Sara and she blushed as she laughed and looked away, then shook her head and asked Chris a question. Chris in turn laughed and slapped Lance on the shoulder. JC couldn’t hear what was being said, but he felt himself getting agitated at the sight.

Sara glanced from Chris to Lance as she followed their conversation back and forth, then looked up and saw JC. She looked surprised for a second, then smiled and said something to Lance as she pointed over. He nodded and she walked over to where he stood, "You’re done early."

"I never said when we’d be done." JC said softly.

"Well no, but Lance said that a meeting about the album would probably take all day." She smiled and bounced up on her toes.

"You seem like you’re in a good mood."

"I am. It’s been a good day so far." She continued to smile as she glanced back over her shoulder at Chris and Lance. "Hey, we’re going to grab lunch at Fridays up the street, do you want to come?"

"Nah, I think I’ll just go on back to the hotel and carve my name in my arm." JC said with a smirk.

Sara’s smile fell from her face and she glared at JC, "Don’t say that."

"I’m kidding." He held his smirk and raised his eyebrow at her.

"It’s not funny." She said softly. JC just shrugged and looked around nervously, then cleared his throat and looked back up at Sara. "What’s wrong?" She asked softly.

"Nothing." He crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head, looking over Sara’s shoulder to where Lance and Chris were waiting.

"Don’t give me that." Sara crossed her arms and stared him down. "That’s not something to joke about, you know that."

"Fine, okay, I won’t joke about it. I’m going to go back to the hotel and watch a movie." He said sarcastically.

"Fine, then I’m going with you." Sara took a few steps toward the van and sighed.

"No." JC turned with her and fell into step beside her. "I want to be by myself.

"Too bad." Sara kept her eyes forward and set her jaw, trying to hide her anger.

"I want to be alone Sara."

"I don’t care." She stopped and whirled around to face him. "You can’t come out and joke about cutting yourself and then expect me to leave you alone for the afternoon."

"I was kidding around. Jesus Sara, where’d your sense of humor go?"

"You think that’s funny?!" She kept her hands in her pockets to keep from choking him. "Oh sure JC, that’s really funny. I’m just gonna go out to lunch with Lance and Chris, and maybe for dessert I’ll take a handful or two of the vicodan you’ve got stashed on the bus." JC stood perfectly still, grinding his teeth slightly as he tried to maintain his composure. "You think that thought hasn’t crossed my mind?" Sara asked with a surprised look. "The fact that you’re joking about it proves that you’ve thought about it JC and that scares the hell out of me. I’m not leaving you alone this afternoon, and you don’t get a say about that." She turned on her heel and stomped across the small parking lot to the black van.

Sara climbed into the back seat and huffed to herself as she collapsed into the vinyl and pulled her seat belt across her lap. JC watched her climb into the van, then sighed and followed her. He grudgingly climbed in and sat in front of Sara, then scowled as they rode back to the hotel in silence. Sara got out of the van first and pounded her feet all the way up the walk and through the small group of fans that were waiting by the front entrance. She didn’t slow down as she pulled the door to the stairwell open and took to the stairs.

JC followed her slowly out of the van and stopped to visit with the young girls for a minute before his security escorted him into the hotel and to the elevators. Sara was just emerging from the stairs when JC stepped off the elevator on the fourth floor. Their eyes met and they walked side by side down the hall in cold silence.

Once in the room JC grabbed one of the chairs and dragged it out onto the narrow balcony where he sat heavily and shut the sliding glass door behind him. He sat with his back to Sara and chewed on his thumbnail, casting dirty looks at the empty city before him.

Sara sat at the foot of the bed and calmed herself down considerably just by making herself sing "100 bottles of beer on the wall" in her mind. She waited in silence for almost an hour before she sighed and walked over to the sliding door. She pulled it open halfway and stared at JC till he looked over at her, "Are you ready?" She asked.

"I don’t have to be anywhere until four." He frowned.

"Okay, so what’s going on."

"Nothing." JC shook his head and looked back out over the parking lot.

"Well we’re too high up for me to be chillin on the balcony, can you come inside please?"

"We’re only four floors up."

"Yeah, and that’s about three too many." Sara attempted a small smile. JC didn’t make a move to stand up so she sighed and pulled the other chair over to the door. She made sure all four legs were inside, and she leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, "You know, you’re gonna make it miserable for yourself if you don’t talk because I’m not going to let you out of my site until you do."

JC sighed and rolled his eyes and said, "It’s just been a crappy day."

"Okay, how? Why?"

"I don’t know."

"Ah ha, you’re starting to sound like me." Sara chewed her lip in concentration. What would Dr. Grayson say? "You’ve chosen me to be here to help you, and I’ve gladly stayed, but if you’re not going to meet me halfway then what am I doing here?"

"I just… it’s been a bad day." He repeated softly, then looked down at his hands in his lap.

"You seemed okay this morning, it wasn’t till after your meeting with Joey and the other guy about the new album that you became upset. What happened there?"

"Nothing." JC shook his head.

"What happened to the honesty?" Sara asked a minute later.

"I’m being honest, nothing happened at the meeting." JC looked over his shoulder, directly at her.

"Then what?"

JC leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the ledge of the balcony, "You’re supposed to be here for me."

Sara blushed suddenly, "I… I am here for you." She managed to say a minute later.

"I mean me. Not the guys."

"JC… I don’t know what you mean."

"You were taking off to lunch today with Chris and Lance."

"You were in a meeting, and they invited me to go with them." Sara frowned.

"Then you invite me to come along as a sixth toe? Come on."

"You’re jealous of them?" Sara’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Are you serious?"

JC got defensive and quickly placed his feet back on the floor, "What if I had been serious about cutting myself?"

"I’m here aren’t I?" Sara held out her arms to prove her point. He scowled and turned his face away from her. "Where is this coming from JC? I’m with you guys on this tour for you. Not for anyone else. But in order to help you get through the crap in your head, the other guys have to be a part of the process, which means I’m going to have to talk with them too." She sighed as the breeze picked up and tossed her hair over her forehead, "Chris and Lance are my two helpers as far as Justin and Joey go."

"I know." JC said softly.

"Then what?"

"Lance has a thing for blondes."

"He what?"

"I think he likes you." JC kept his face turned away.

Sara laughed to herself, "But JC… that’s… that’s silly."

"No it’s not." He turned to look at her and licked his lips.

"I’m not interested in Lance, JC. He’s a sweet guy and everything but…" She shook her head and smiled. "With all the girls out there to choose from, he’s got to be able to find something better than a bitchy nutcase."

Neither spoke for a minute before JC stood up and carried his chair back into the room as Sara moved out of the way. "I wasn’t thinking about cutting myself, I just wanted a reaction out of you." He rattled off the words so quickly she wasn’t sure she heard.

"Well you got it." She said softly as she set her chair beside his.

"I’m sorry."

"It’s okay." Sara nodded and took a deep breath.

She hesitantly reached out and took his hand in hers, a move she couldn’t remember doing on her own before. "I don’t know why you’ve stayed around, I must drive you nuts." JC smiled slowly, then blushed, "I mean…"

"I know what you mean." Sara laughed and nodded, then squeezed his hand. "But see, I’m already nuts so to me, you’re my sanity."

"Scary thought." JC laughed and pulled her into a hug, "I’m sorry I pissed you off this afternoon."

"It’s okay, and you don’t have to worry about that. I’m not out here to find romance." She smiled and checked the watch on his arm, "You’ve gotta get going though."

"Shit, you missed lunch." JC said suddenly.

Sara’s stomach growled in agreement and she smiled weakly, "I’ll grab something at the arena."

"I’m sorry." He said again.

"It’s okay, just don’t… don’t kid around like that again." Sara squeezed his hand, "If you want my attention just pull me aside."

"I’m –"

"Stop apologizing." She laughed lightly.

"Are you coming to the show tonight?"

"Yeah." Sara nodded, "I got a good nap this afternoon, so I think I’ll actually stick around and watch it. If that’s okay I mean."

"Sure, yeah that’s fine." He nodded and pulled her toward the door, weaving his fingers through hers. They held hands all the way to the elevator and then out to the van, flanked on each side by a security guard. JC smiled at the group of girls waiting by the entrance, and waved with his free hand as they slid into the backseat of the van.

They rested their hands on the seat between them, still locked together, for the short ride to the arena. Sara had never been one for hand holding but with JC it just felt right. It was the most intimate contact she’d had with another person aside from the hugs she’d received from JC. Holding his warm hand in hers was in fact more intimate, it was a physical hold where before they had only an emotional hold. Sara’s hand tightened on JC’s as she blushed and realized how nice it felt to hold and be held onto.

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

Over the next two days Sara spent her time trying to get JC to spend time alone with the guys one on one. Even if they didn’t talk about JC’s cutting at least they were getting individual attention, and Sara thought that it wouldn’t hurt. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was supposed to be doing to help, but that seemed like the next logical step.

Dr. Grayson kept in contact to keep an eye on their progress and was delightfully surprised to see the work Sara was putting into helping. Mark Matthews was no longer with them; he’d met with JC at Tom’s request, and found that JC was well on the road to healing. If he thought that Sara was the right person to help him, Mark couldn’t find anything wrong with that. He too was available to consult if things got out of hand for Sara, or if she hit an obstacle that she couldn’t work around.

Sara called her work on the eighth day to let them know that she had personal issues that needed to be addressed and she would either have to quit, or take an extended leave. They couldn’t grant her the leave, so she regretfully quit and decided to deal with that when she got back. She also called Cassandra and asked her to get her mail and basically keep an eye on her apartment while she was away.

Cassandra wasn’t thrilled to hear that Sara was going to be gone for a couple weeks, but she was supportive and almost envious of what Sara was doing. JC had his staff call around and get Sara’s car towed to her parent’s house back in LA, so that it wouldn’t have to stay in the hotel parking lot in Arizona. Her parents were out of the country again, and most likely wouldn’t even notice the car when they came home.

By the time they got to Sioux Falls, Sara had given up trying to remember where they were, and was only reminded when she’d see it taped up backstage somewhere. She was spending more and more time backstage because she was beginning to feel like a moocher just hanging around the bus watching movies when everyone else was working their butts off. She made her presence known backstage and ran small errands for everyone as the need arose.

"Hey Sara? Can you do me a favor?" JC shouted down from the stage. They were in the middle of their soundcheck and Sara was sitting halfway back on the floor to get a feel for what it was like during the show.

"Uh, sure." She stood up quickly and wiped her suddenly sweaty palms on her jeans.

"I left my spare battery pack in the dressing room, can you go get it and bring it to Frank so he can charge it?" He stood with his hands on his hips, looking totally comfortable up on the stage giving orders.

"Sure, where is it?"

"Um, you know where the rollers are?" He asked. She shook her head, she didn’t spend a lot of time in their dressing rooms, "Okay when you walk in go straight back, you’ll see five huge wardrobe rollers, find mine and it’ll be inside the case thing. Probably hanging up inside." Sara smiled as he talked, noticing just how much he talked with his hands.

"Okay." She nodded and skipped around the side of the stage and headed toward the dressing rooms nearby. She pushed the heavy door open and stood with her hands on her hips as she looked around for the rollers he was talking about. Off to the left she saw five huge cases with clothes strewn around the floor, "That must be them," She said to herself as she started back. None of the racks were marked very clearly, but she could tell by the clothes in the first one that it wasn’t JC’s. She continued walking down narrow aisle looking for clothes that might be JC’s and trying not to trip over the overflowing piles of clothes. She was concentrating on her feet when Joey stepped out from between two racks and almost knocked her over. "Whoa, sorry." She stepped back quickly and instinctively reached out to touch his arm for balance.

"Sorry." He grumbled under his breath. They stood in silence for a split second before he brushed past her and headed for the door.

Sara sighed and continued down the aisle, finally coming to JC’s area where she recognized his favorite sneakers with the pen drawn designs on the side of the sole. She found the battery pack right where JC said she would, so she tucked it in her back pocket and turned to head out again.

"Hey." Joey said from the doorway when he saw her coming.

"Hey." She said softly as she slowed her pace. A feeling of nervousness crept up from her stomach and she became very aware that they were alone in the room. Some irrational part of her brain kicked to panic mode even though consciously she knew she had nothing to be afraid of. Joey may not like her, but he wouldn’t hurt her.

"You uh…" Joey started to talk, but ended up looking at his shoes. "I heard what you did for JC the other day."

"What?" Sara asked as she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

"When he was joking about uh, you know… um, hurting himself?" Joey cleared his throat and looked up at her, "How you hung out with him and stuff, even though he was just kidding."

Sara shrugged and tucked her hands in her pockets, "I didn’t think it was a funny thing to joke about."

"It’s not." Joey shook his head in agreement. "So uh, that’s cool that you would do that. Talk to him and make sure he was all right."

"He’s my friend, you would have done the same thing." She smiled slowly and met his eye.

"I hope so." He shrugged and tilted his head to the side.

"Nah, you would have." Sara nodded. "You guys don’t give yourself enough credit for the friendship you have. Relationships like yours take a lot of hard work on everyone’s part. I can see that now, having been out here with you all for a while. You’re all pretty amazing." Compliments will get you far in life, especially when they’re true.

Joey nodded silently and pushed the door open. He stepped out, then stood to the side and held it open for Sara. She stepped through the doorway and walked back to the stage with Joey, the feeling of apprehension was gone completely.

Joey stopped just before he reached the top of the stairs to the stage and turned around to face Sara, "I uh…" He was having problems swallowing his pride and talking at the same time. "I’m sorry I was a prick, and I’m glad you’re here to help JC when we can’t." He let the words spill from his lips at an alarming speed, then turned and jumped up onto the stage.

Sara stood there speechless for a minute before a slow smile crept up onto her lips; she’d broken through to the last one. She did a mini-cheer in her mind, then stepped onto the stage to give the battery pack to Frank. She took her seat back in the ocean of empty seats and watched the rest of the soundcheck with a smile on her face.

 

On to the end…

 

Copyright � 2001 Amy Lynn