JC showed up late for group session, but he could smell the pizza from the hallway. His stomach growled as he walked through the doorway cautiously. JC looked around the room, assessing his position. Jem was sitting at the table as usual, Jessica and Cassandra were scooping up slices of pizza, Keith was scowling in the corner, and David was chatting with Dr. Grayson near the drinks. Sara was nowhere to be found.

"Hi JC, I’m glad you decided to join us." Dr. Grayson smiled when she noticed JC standing there. "Come on in."

"What’s the occasion?" JC asked as he pulled up a chair beside Jem.

"David’s going home." Dr. Grayson smiled proudly and draped her arm over David’s shoulder. "He’s actually been home all week, he just came back for a final group session. And to bring us pizza." She laughed and reached for the slice on her plate.

"Cool." JC said without emotion.

"Well dig in, I know you missed lunch, you must be starving." Dr. Grayson handed JC a paper plate.

JC took the plate wordlessly and helped himself to a piece of plain cheese pizza. He grabbed a soda before sitting down beside Jem to eat. "Where’s Sara?" Cassandra asked as she and Jessi sat across from Jem and JC.

"Hmm, I don’t know." Dr. Grayson frowned. "Jim? Can you please round up Sara, she’s supposed to be here."

"Sure thing Dr. G." Jim saluted the doctor on his way out.

"Are you feeling better JC?" Dr. Grayson asked between bites of pizza.

"Yes." JC said, staring at his plate.

"I’m sure everyone here is aware of the little scene we had in the hallway today, does anyone have anything to share?" Dr. Grayson asked.

"Why… why was she yelling at you?" Jessi asked quietly, hiding her face behind Cassandra as she blushed.

Dr. Grayson looked at JC waiting for an answer. She could wait all day, JC wasn’t talking. "She was upset with JC, over a misunderstanding." Dr. Grayson explained.

"There was no misunderstanding." Sara said from the doorway.

"I’m glad you could join us Sara, why don’t you get something to eat and a drink, and we can sit and talk about this calmly." Dr. Grayson smiled.

"I’m not hungry." Sara growled as she dropped herself into a chair beside the door, and glared at the rest of the group.

"That’s fine, you don’t have to eat, but I would like you to join us at the table. This is a group session, even if it looks like a party." Dr. Grayson explained holding Sara’s gaze. Sara didn’t move for a full minute, but Dr. Grayson never once averted her eyes.

Finally Sara heaved a huge sigh and dragged her chair loudly across the floor until she was seated 2 feet from the table. "Close enough." Dr. Grayson smiled and turned back to the rest of the students, "Now, as I was saying, there was a misunderstanding."

"No there was not. He told me he wished I was dead." Sara said angrily.

"I did not!" JC practically shouted. "And I already told you I was sorry about that whole thing. You’re just pissed right now because I told you it was none of your business."

"That’s not why I’m pissed off." Sara narrowed her eyes at him.

"Yeah it is. And it was a joke. I told you it was a joke. It’s not my fault if you don’t have a sense of humor." JC went on the defensive.

"I’m sure Sara has a delightful sense of humor, in more friendly situations." Dr. Grayson said in Sara’s defense. "This is a hard place to adjust to, sometimes a sense of humor is low on the priorities list."

"Well I’ve already apologized and I’m not doing it again. She can kiss my ass if she doesn’t like that." JC folded his arms across his chest and glared from the doctor to Sara.

"JC, I don’t appreciate the language. I know that you have apologized, and I know that Sara knows that also. If she chooses not to accept your apology, that is her right." Dr. Grayson explained calmly.

"He doesn’t have to be such a prick." Sara mumbled.

"I mean it. Watch the language." Dr. Grayson said again. "You all don’t have to get along with each other, I’ve told you that from the start. But you do have to treat each other with respect, and you will not call each other names."

Sara grumbled something under her breath and crossed her arms as well. For the rest of the group session, JC and Sara remained silent. Dr. Grayson didn’t want to push them too hard, she knew they’d come around on their own.

 

It was a couple days later when they did. Sara walked up on JC sitting on the old porch, he was busy scribbling in his little book, and she was sick and tired of being around the other kids inside. She sighed and leaned on the railing, looking down at JC. "What do you want?" He asked, without looking up.

"So why ‘JC’?" She asked a minute later.

"That’s just going to bug you till I answer you, isn’t it?" He didn’t take his eyes off the page.

"Why?"

"Because when I got the part on the Mickey Mouse Club there was already a kid named Josh, so I just went by my initials. And it stuck." He shrugged. "Now the only people who call me Josh are fans who think they know me, and my grandma. And my mom when I’m in trouble." He cracked a small smile and squinted up at her. She had the sun behind her, and he couldn’t make out her facial expressions but she didn’t move to leave, so he assumed she wasn’t upset.

"You’re in that boyband aren’t you?" She asked another minute later.

JC sighed; he’d been waiting for this. "Yeah." He nodded.

"So why?"

"Why?"

"Why did you slit your wrists?"

"Why did you OD?" He asked quickly.

"You show me yours, I’ll show you mine." She said softly, not quite allowing a smile.

"I don’t know why."

"Sure you do." Sara rolled her eyes at him and sat on the step.

"I don’t." He shook his head.

"That’s not good enough for me to share." She stood up and started to walk away.

"Hey wait." JC stood up and followed her for a few steps. "I really don’t know. I just thought it’d be better. I don’t know." He shook his head.

"Yeah. Whatever." Sara shrugged and walked around to the front of the building, leaving him outside by himself.

He sighed and went back to the porch to continue writing. JC was writing a journal, sort of, trying to find out why he was there. Why he went from being okay, to cutting himself. He leaned back against the railing and closed his eyes. If he could just figure it out, he could go home.

He tried to think of that night, and what was going on in his head. It was only a little more than a week ago, but he could not remember. He remembered breaking the mirror on accident, and he remembered holding the glass to his wrist and making the second cut, but he could not remember anything in between, and that scared him.

"JC? You have a phone call." Deb said as she poked her head into his room later that night.

"Where?"

"You can take it here at my desk." She smiled and held the door open for him. He stepped out of his room in his pajama bottoms and sat on the corner of the desk. He wiped his sweaty palms on the front of his pants before he picked up the receiver, "Hello?" He croaked. He cleared his throat and repeated it, "Hello?"

"Hey JC." Lance said softly. "How’s… how’s it going?"

"Hi Lance." JC gave a sigh of relief and relaxed noticeably. "It’s um, it’s going all right. How about you?"

"I’m doing good." Lance nodded and fidgeted with the phone cord. "Are you… I mean, how’s the whole therapy thing going?"

"Well…" JC sighed and picked up a pencil on the desk. "It’s all right I guess. I see the doctor almost every day, and we have sessions every other day. And then that group stuff, but that’s… I don’t like that part."

"Why not? Talking with other people who you know, have the same stuff going on, might help." Lance explained quietly.

"Yeah, but it’s a lot harder than that. I mean, come on. None of them have been through what I’ve been through. What we’ve been through. And besides, I’ve been living my life in a fishbowl for so long the last thing I want to do is share this with strangers. You know where I’m coming from Lance, we don’t have a private life, so what little privacy I can give myself, well I’m gonna take it. Especially with something like this."

"I know where you’re coming from JC, of course. But if it can help…"

"It won’t. This is shit I need to figure out myself."

"Can I help? Can we?"

"Nah… I’m cool."

"That won’t work anymore Jace." Lance smiled. "We’re all here for you, for anything. You know that right?"

"Yeah." JC said softly a moment later as tears rose in his eyes. "I know." There was silence on the line for a few seconds, before JC asked, "How… how’s Justin?"

"He’s doing alright." Lance nodded.

"Really? Be straight with me Lance. How is he really?"

Lance sighed, wondering how to put this, and not hurt JC anymore than necessary, "He’s um, he’s gonna be okay Jace. He’s seeing the doctor guy Tom brought in, we all are actually." Ha paused and took a deep breath. "He’s pretty messed up J."

"I know." JC lowered his head and wiped his eyes, not wanting to get all emotional out in the hall. "That’s the one thing I regret most." He whispered.

"No JC, he’s going to be okay." Lance said quickly. "He is. You know Bustin Justin, he’ll bounce back."

"Jesus, what was he even doing there? He was supposed to be out with Missy or whatever."

"I don’t know." Lance shook his head.

"I wish it had been anyone else but him. He’s just a kid."

"It wouldn’t have been any better if it was one of us Jace." Lance said softly. "We’d be just as messed up."

"Yeah but I mean, J looks up to us… to all of us. You know he does. And I go pull a stunt like this? Shit."

"We’re all gonna be okay." Lance said a minute later. "As soon as you get better and we’re all together again, things will be okay."

"I know." JC nodded and grabbed a kleenex off the desk to wipe his nose.

"Aww don’t go getting on soft on us now." Lance laughed softly, as he wiped his eyes.

"Shut up." JC chuckled lightly.

"I’ve gotta get going, but we’ll call you later okay? When everyone’s here?"

"Sure." JC stood up and paced in front of the desk. "Yeah, that’d be cool."

"All right." Lance nodded. "Take it easy Jace."

"I will. You too Lance. And thanks for calling."

"Anytime." Lance smiled and hung up, hoping JC got better soon. They, as a group, had fallen apart quickly over the last week. They weren’t whole without JC, and wouldn’t be able to really heal until he came back.

 

JC talked to his mom and Tom again that night, he was a busy man on the phone. When he finally hung up with his mother, it was almost ten o’clock. He yawned and shuffled down the hall towards the kitchen / cafeteria. "Can I get something to eat in here?" He asked the nurse at the admissions desk.

"Yeah, there should be something in there." She stood up to unlock the door. She held it open as JC walked in and helped himself to a nectarine and a bag of chips before heading back to his room.

On his way back down the hall he saw Sara leave her room and go into the library. He paused for a minute outside his door, thinking about following her; he decided against it and pushed his door open. He lay on his bed in the dark eating his snack and thinking hard about how to get better. This was not going to be easy.

 

A couple nights later JC awoke with a start. He threw his covers back and jumped out of bed, sweat dripping down his back and glistening off his face. He stood at the foot of his bed panting, his heart racing a hundred miles an hour. He took a couple deep breaths and wiped his face quickly with the bottom of his T-shirt. He stared at the bed as if it were on fire, his mind reeling at the memory of the nightmare. The small incisions on JC’s wrists burned, as if recently opened.

The dream was a little too real; he’d actually seen himself cut his wrist. He was there watching himself, telling himself what to do. Explaining the logic behind the move he was about to make.

"You’ve disappointed everyone. No one will care. No one who matters anyway. All those fans who think they know you, man, they don’t know shit. They don’t know you’re a bigger player than Joey. They don’t know that you claim you’re sick just so you won’t have to smile for cameras. They don’t know that you’re always so damned organized you’re annoying. They don’t know anything that you don’t want them to know. Nothing. They couldn’t even fathom that you’d be in here right now… doing this, what you’re about to do. And you are going to do it JC. You are going to do it because really, how big of a shock will this be? Out of the blue man, no one would ever expect this. Not from perfect, charming, devoted JC. Heavens no! How close to perfect are you though? You’ve got a zit kid, right there. C’mon look at the mirror in your hand. See it? Cute huh? And those teeth? Don’t get me started. You hate it when people get the wrong idea about you, but that’s all they’ve got man, wrong ideas. This will wake them up. Poor perfect JC who has everything. Everything happiness, how happy can you be staring at the same 4 faces day in and day out, never seeing your family, who by now has pretty much forgotten you’re even here. No girlfriend either, you pretty much kissed that goodbye when you banged her best friend huh? No fame… of your own anyways. You’re not famous, don’t kid yourself. *Nsync is famous but in ten years no one will remember the name JC Chasez. You have no real friends, I mean come on, the guy’s play nice because you’re in a business deal together. And what do you care anyway? In ten years, hell in five years it’ll all be over and you won’t have to see them- oh oh wait… it’ll be over sooner than that won’t it? Because you’re going to do it tonight. No more fleeting thoughts, no more disappointments. There ya go."

JC looked down to see the sliver of glass knick his skin. He wanted to stop, but didn’t at the same time. He pressed down on the glass and pierced the skin of his wrist, sending the mirror deeper. He drew the glass slowly at first, then quicker as the flash of pain hit him. The bright red droplets of blood falling to the floor entranced him. He stared for a second, before shaking away the image of himself, and making the second cut. To seal the deal.

 

JC stood on the cold linoleum floor barefoot and shaking. He quickly crossed to the door and threw it open, quietly stepping out into the cool hall. JC pressed his hands over his eyes as he breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth a couple times slowly. He removed his hands and looked both ways down the hall, not knowing exactly where he wanted to go.

"Are you okay?" The nurse at the desk outside his door asked, startling him.

"Hmm? Yeah." JC nodded and headed for the library. "Yeah."

He pushed the curtain back and stepped into the dark room. He flipped a switch by the door and the old lamps cast a yellow glow over the room. He fell onto the couch and rested his head in his hands. JC took a couple deep breaths to try to stop his body from shaking, or at the very least slow down. This was one huge realization for him, and he had no one here to help him through it or tell him what to do with it. A doctor was on site 24 hours a day, but that isn’t what he needed. He needed to talk to the guys.

JC stood quickly and went back to the hall. "Can I make a call?" He asked the nurse at the desk.

"Right now?" She glanced at her watch. JC only nodded and clenched his fists at his side. "If there’s a problem I can call the doctor for you."

"No." JC shook his head and made eye contact with the nurse. "No, I just need to call one of my friends before he leaves for work." The lie rolled off his tongue without a second thought.

"At three in the morning?"

"He lives on the east coast. I have a calling card number, please can I call him?" JC ran his hands through his sweat soaked hair, praying he’d be able to use the phone.

"Okay." The nurse said after a moment of silence. "Just keep it down."

"Thanks." JC mumbled as he picked up the phone and dialed the local hotel where the guys were staying. When the hotel operator came on the line he had to make a decision, who did he want to talk to? Who would be up? Who would help? "Chris Kirkpatrick please." He said finally. The phone rang quickly in his ear as JC sat on the desk.

"Yeah?" Chris answered the phone.

"Chris?"

"JC?" Chris asked, shocked to hear his friend’s voice at this hour. "What’s wrong? Are you okay?"

"No Chris, I need to get out of here." JC said softly.

"JC…" Chris sighed and sat on the edge of his bed. He was just getting in after clubbing most of the night away, and was getting ready for bed.

"I’m serious Chris. Dammit, please let me come home?" JC whispered as he bent his head. Embarrassed to be having this conversation in front of the nurse.

"Come on JC, you know we can’t do that. Talk to me. What’s going on?"

JC sighed, "I just need to get out of here."

"You’re not ready."

"Yeah I am."

"Not yet pal." Chris shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. "So what’s going on? Why aren’t you asleep at three in the morning?"

"I couldn’t sleep." JC pinched the bridge of his nose. "And I just wanted to hear your voice man. To talk to anyone sane." JC changed his mind about telling his dream… none of them would understand it.

"Dude if you think I’m sane you’ve got big issues." Chris smiled.

JC laughed lightly and said, "Thanks Chris. I haven’t laughed since I got here."

"Anytime." Chris smiled uneasily, knowing JC must still have a long way to go.

"Do you think I’m a disappointment?" JC asked out of nowhere.

"What? Are you serious? Come on JC, of course not."

"Okay but you’re-"

"No I’m not just saying that because you’re in the group. You’ve got talent coming out of your ears and you’ve put it to good use. You’re one of the nicest, caring and overall great people I know. You are the furthest thing from a disappointment that I can think of." Chris sighed. He was tired and ready to go to bed, but he couldn’t just hang up the phone.

"But Chris…"

"But nothing. I’m right and you know it." He stifled a yawn and said, "Just admit that I’m right so you can go back to bed."

"Will you tell me a funny story first though? Anything, please Chris?"

"Okay." Chris sighed with a smile and lay flat on his back across his bed. "Okay… remember when we were in New Mexico, and we went to that really cool Mexican restaurant?"

"No."

"Yeah you do." Chris insisted. "You said it was the best chips and salsa you’d ever had, and between you and me we finished off like 4 baskets of chips and 20 of those little salsa bowls."

"Okay." JC smiled reluctantly.

"And remember I came down with that gnarly flu right after?"

"Uh huh."

"No flu man." Chris shook his head and laughed. "I had hot-hole for three days. I spent 24 hours a day on the crapper shitting my brains out. I had diarrhea like you would not believe."

JC laughed out loud, surprised by the sound, "Shut up Chris."

"I’m serious." Chris laughed, enjoying the sound of his friend’s laugh from 30 miles away.

"That’s sick man." JC shook his head and continued to smile.

"So now will you admit I’m right?"

"You’re right." JC sighed.

"Cool, now can I go to bed?" Chris asked.

"Yeah." JC yawned. "Thanks Chris."

"Anytime Jace."

"I’ll talk to you later."

"Okay. G’night." Chris yawned and hung up the phone. He knew JC wasn’t calling to hear a nasty story about his diarrhea, but he didn’t want to press the issue. Chris kicked his shoes off and said a silent prayer that JC would be okay. That they all would.

 

JC hung up the phone on the desk, and without a word to the nurse walked straight back to the library where he pulled a book off the shelf and sat on the soft couch. He knew he wouldn’t read much, and that he would undoubtedly fall asleep before he could turn the page, but he could not make himself go back to his bed. He actually read a couple of pages before resting his head on the arm of the sofa, easily drifting back into dreamless sleep.

When JC woke several hours later, the sun was shining bright in the room and there were voices coming from the hall. He slowly stood up and stretched his arms out in front of himself before putting his book away and heading back to his room. He changed into his uniform of jeans and a plain white t-shirt, and sat on the bed to tie his shoes.

Sara woke up in a pissy mood. She wasn’t upset but she felt on the verge of tears all morning. Dr. Grayson told Sara that she wanted her to participate a little more and to not stay holed up in her room all day, so Sara made a valiant effort. She sat in the recreation room and watched it rain outside for a good 20 minutes before deciding she’d had enough "socializing" for the day. Sara grabbed her thin jacket from her room and headed outside. The rain was letting up so that it was just a light sprinkle, barely covering the back yard.

She avoided the puddles as she rounded the corner to her dilapidated porch. Sara sat on the slightly damp wooden floorboards and brought her knees up to her chest as the tears started to fall softly on the fuzzy cotton of her jacket.

She had been at Wycroft for more than a month now, and had only talked to her parents twice. Once the day after she was admitted when they’d all but demanded an explanation and an apology. And once the day before her birthday, because they would be out of town on the actual day, and didn’t want to miss it. Or so they said. She was betting they couldn’t remember when her birthday was and were hoping it was close so they didn’t look like total fools. But that’s it. Twice. She’d heard JC take almost a call a day since he’d been admitted. Just about everyone else there had received calls, but not Sara.

She allowed herself to wallow in self pity for a good hour before wiping her nose quickly and letting the anger back in. She dabbed at her eyes and licked her lips quickly as she heard heavy footsteps trodding over the soft dirt on the way to the porch.

"Hey." JC said softly, making the friendly greeting sound almost sensual. He rested his chin on his hands as he leaned on the railing of the porch.

"What?" Sara asked. Not taking her eyes off of the fingernail she’d been picking at. She scowled at her hand and refused to do anything else to acknowledge that she’d heard him.

JC paused for a second, debating whether or not he wanted to open these doors to Sara. "Have you ever-"

"No." She said quickly.

"You didn’t let me finish."

"Whatever it is the answer is no." She stuck her fingernail in her mouth and bit at it.

JC reconsidered his approach and took a second to organize his thoughts. "Last night I had a dream-"

"So? Why are you telling me? Do you think I care?" She glared up at him.

"Because the doctor has her head up her ass and if I told anyone who actually cared they’d just say that I was wrong."

"Wrong about you having a dream?" She asked sarcastically.

"Wrong about what it was that made me try to…"

"Kill yourself?" She finished his sentence. It was still hard for him to say.

"Yeah." He said softly.

"So…?"

He took a deep breath and sat on the damp wood step by her feet. "So I had this dream and it was like I was standing there watching myself talk to myself… kind of. It was like I was a third person standing in the doorway of the bathroom. It’s hard to explain. Like there were three of me." He shrugged and drew squares on the knee of his pants. "But it was like I was living it again. I felt all the same feelings. I mean, when I woke up I felt scared and angry and sad and worthless and… and… and everything. And my wrists felt like they were burning, I swear I could feel the blood dripping down my palms. I could seriously feel the glass in my hand." JC imitated holding he piece of glass in his fingers. He took another deep breath and continued, "All of these emotions just kind of fell all over me and I could feel what I felt then and it was so clear why I was doing this. It was just… just like I was doing it again, and I didn’t stop myself because I fully understood why. Like if I was put in the situation again, I’d do it again." He was talking fast as desperation took over his voice. "Is… I mean, has that happened to you?"

"Reliving the point of no return?" Sara raised her tear filled eyes to his.

He nodded slowly as tears rose in his eyes also. "Yeah." He said so softly she barely heard.

"Every night." She whispered.

 

On to part 4

 

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn