"JC!" Chris looked stunned as JC ran down the hospital corridor. "What… what are you doing here?"

"I came to see you guys. How’s Lance? Is Justin out of surgery?" JC asked as he slowed down and walked beside Chris back to the waiting room.

"Lance is doing good." Chris said. "You can see him if you want, his mom is in there right now. And Justin just got out of surgery like 10 minutes ago, he’ll be in recovery in a half hour."

"Where’s Joey?"

"He went to the cafeteria with Tom to get drinks." Chris explained. The two friends stood in silence for a minute, it’d been a long time since they’d seen each other. "Hey man, it’s good to have you back." Chris said as he pulled JC in for a tight hug. He felt JC tense up in his arms and said, "What? What’s wrong?"

"I’m… I’m not back yet Chris. I have to go back to Wycroft tonight." JC said softly.

"Oh…" Chris looked at his shoes and blushed, "I figured since you were here, that you were uh… done there."

"No." JC shook his head, but smiled at Chris as they stepped back into the hall to go to Lance’s room. "Not yet. But I’m getting better Chris. I really am."

"So you’ll be back soon?"

"Yeah." JC nodded. "I’ve got some uh, stuff to do there."

"Yeah?" Chris smiled at the look on JC’s face.

"There’s this girl…"

"Ah ha, I knew it." Chris laughed and patted JC on the back.

"No, it’s not like that. She’s just… well, she needs a lot of help and we’ve kind of connected."

"That’s cool you can help her." Chris said as they stopped outside Lance’s room.

"Nah, she’s helping me too." JC shrugged and pushed the door open. He stepped in before Chris and saw a black and blue Lance lying in bed. "Hey trouble." JC forced a smile as he tried not to wince at the sight.

"Hey Jace." Lance moved his head toward JC’s voice. His eyes were swollen shut and the cut across his forehead looked painful. Lance’s arm was held to his chest with a thick ace bandage, but he was alive, and trying to smile.

"Hey buddy." JC said as tears rose in his eyes. He sat in a chair by the bed and put his hand on Lance’s good arm. "Hi Diane." He said to Lance’s mom.

"Hi hun." She said softly. "How are you doing?"

"I’m all right." JC smiled quickly. "I’ll be back with the guys here pretty soon."

"You will?" Lance asked weakly.

"You bet." JC looked back at Lance. "You look like a mac truck ran you over." He joked lightly.

"Nah, it was a Ford." Lance said softly through his swollen lips.

"Man I’m glad you’re okay. You got all your teeth in there?" JC asked.

"Yeah." Lance drew his lips back as far as he could to show a row of blood stained, but fully intact and straight teeth.

"Good. How’s that bass? You didn’t mess up your voice did you?" JC asked, trying to keep it light, knowing that Lace couldn’t see the tears that threatened to overflow.

"Ohh baby." Lance said in his deep bass singing voice. He made a sound that should have been a laugh then said, "The doctor came in. Justin will be rooming with me tonight."

"Ha, sucks to be you. He snores like a logger." JC laughed and wiped his eyes quickly. "Have you been able to see Justin yet?" He asked Diane.

"Not yet." She shook her head.

"It’s only one night. I can go home tomorrow." Lance said sounding like he not only had a terrible cold, but like he was half asleep also.

"Only if you get rest now." Diane said as she stroked Lance’s swollen cheek.

"I’ll let you sleep now." JC stood up and squeezed Lances good arm. "You look fantastic Poo Foo."

JC laughed lightly as Lance whispered, "Shut up C."

"I’ll see you later, okay?" JC tried to keep his voice from shaking.

"Yeah." Lance tried to nod. "Get better soon Jace, so we can get back to business."

"I will." JC nodded, "See ya."

"Bye." Lance raised his hand in a half wave as Chris and JC left mother and son alone in the room.

"Man he looks terrible." JC winced as he and Chris headed back to the waiting room.

"Yeah." Chris nodded, "But it could have been worse."

"I know." JC said softly.

"JC? Wow, what are you doing here?" Joey asked as he walked down the hall toward the other two.

"I’m checking up on you guys. I mean look at you, I leave for a couple weeks and you all fall apart." JC smiled.

"No kidding." Joey smiled and hugged JC while they stood in the hallway. "So are you out for good?"

"Um, no. Not yet." JC shook his head. "I just came to see Justin and Lance."

"Soon?" Joey asked.

"Yeah, soon." JC nodded. "Come on guys, let’s go sit down for a bit, until we can see Justin." JC led the way down the hall to the empty waiting room. He gathered Chris and Joey around the ancient looking card table and sighed, "Hey I just wanted to thank you guys a lot for all the support you’ve been giving me. I mean, the calls and basically putting up with all my crap. I really can’t thank you enough."

"No problem." Chris smiled. "We just pretend like you’re off in Hawaii or something, on vacation."

"Ha, I wish." JC smiled. "But anyways, I just wanted to say thanks. That’s really helped me a lot, knowing that you guys were here for me anytime I needed it."

"You’d do the same for us Jace." Joey said softly as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table.

A doctor walked into the waiting room, and all three boys looked up quickly, "Are you all here for Justin?" He asked.

"Yeah." Chris nodded as they all stood up.

"He’s in recovery now. You can each go in for just a couple minutes. Are his parents here?" The doctor asked.

"Not yet." Joey shook his head. "They’re on their way."

"Okay." The doctor nodded and motioned for them to follow him down the hall. The three men walked quickly and crowded in the doorway of Justin’s room. "He’s still asleep and he will be for another hour or so. When he wakes up we will move him to the other room with Mr. Bass."

"Okay." The three nodded in unison. "Can we go in?" JC asked.

"Sure. But only for a couple minutes, okay guys?" The doctor smiled as they walked into the room and crowded around the bed.

"So… so what did you guys do?" Chris asked the doctor.

"The impact bruised his liver and caused other internal bleeding, so we went in and stopped the bleeding." He explained.

"He’s okay then?" JC asked.

"He’ll be good as new." The doctor smiled. "We’re going to keep an eye on him for a couple days, but he’ll be fine."

"How about his face?" Joey smiled, "He’s our pretty boy."

"We had Dr. Jannati stitch him up for us. She’s a very well respected plastic surgeon. He may have a slight scar, but it shouldn’t be that noticeable after it heals."

"Okay." JC nodded and looked closely at the stitches running in an almost straight line under Justin’s right eye. "And he has a concussion?"

"Yeah, that’s our biggest concern right now. Now that we’ve got the bleeding under control, we’re just waiting to see him wake up."

"Was he conscious at all?" JC asked.

"He was unconscious at the scene, but when he came in he was talking to us, which is really good." The doctor nodded.

"Yeah." JC said softly as he lay his hand on Justin’s arm.

"If you guys have any questions, go ahead and have me paged, I’ll be here all night." The doctor said as he waved and left the 4 boys alone.

"Man… this has been one hell of a month huh?" Joey asked as he sat on the foot of the bed.

"You can say that again." Chris sighed.

"So what are you guys gonna do?" JC smiled and looked at the last two uninjured Nsyncers.

"Nothing. I’m gonna wrap myself in bubble wrap." Chris laughed.

"And packing peanuts." Joey added.

"Then put yourselves in a padded room?" JC smiled.

"Not hardly." Chris shook his head. "I’ve spent about as much time as I’d like in padded rooms." He laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets. "This just seems so weird." He said a minute later.

"What?" JC asked.

"That… I don’t know… that we’re here in the hospital visiting Justin and Lance who got in a freak accident and you’re technically a mental patient out of the hospital, and me and Joey are sitting around making jokes."

"Nah, that’s not weird. This is as close to normal as we’ve been in a while." JC shrugged,

"How is it normal that you have to go back to your hospital thing tonight and we have to leave Lance and the kid here?" Joey asked.

"Because we’re all in the same place at the same time, and you guys are making lame jokes about the impossible situations we’re in. Man… that’s what I’ve missed." JC smiled and shook his head. "And for the record… where I’m at might be a looney bin, but you guys are crazier than anyone in there."

"Why do I doubt that?" Chris asked Joey.

"I don’t doubt it at all. Jesus, did you even see your hair with those braids? How nuts do you have to be?" Joey laughed, and for a second JC thought about just staying here with the guys… never going back to Wycroft.

Wycroft… oh shit. Sara doesn’t know I’m gone. Or if she does, she doesn’t know I’m coming back. Oh shit. What kind of friend would just leave without telling her or at least… calling her. "Hey guys where’s the payphone?" JC asked suddenly.

"Who’re you gonna call? We’re all right here." Chris asked, casting a quick glance at Justin.

"I’ve gotta call that girl." JC said as he headed for the door.

"Dude. A girl?" Joey asked Chris.

"Yeah… he’s schmoozing this chick in the nut house." Chris explained as JC stepped into the hall.

"I’m not schmoozing anyone." JC said over his shoulder as he spotted a phone at the end of the hall by the elevators. "Do you guys have a quarter?"

"Yeah, hang on." Joey dug into his deep pockets and pulled out a handful of coins. "Here, there’s gotta be a quarter in there somewhere." He handed JC the pile of warm change and lint and smiled, "Keep the change you filthy animal." He said in his best mobster voice.

"Thanks." JC dropped the coins into his pocket and walked quickly down the hall. He pulled the phone book out of the ratty plastic holder and looked up the number for Wycroft Recovery Home. He dropped the appropriate change into the phone and listened as the recording told him the area code had been changed to 323 and to please try his call again.

JC sighed and leaned against the wall as he put the change back in the phone and dialed the number with the correct area code. He cradled the phone between his ear and his shoulder and listened to the hollow ringing for a minute before someone finally picked up, "Wycroft, this is Deena."

"Hi Deena, I’m looking for Sara. Is she around?" He asked softly.

"Sara who?"

"She’s a patient there." JC said, "A student."

"What’s her last name?" Deena asked.

"I don’t know." JC closed his eyes and sighed. "She’s… her room is beside mine. My name is JC."

"JC? Where are you?"

"I’m at the hospital visiting two of my friends that were in an accident. Dr. Grayson knows where I am."

"And you want to speak to who?"

"Sara." He sighed again and waited patiently as Deena went to track Sara down for him.

Deena knocked softly on Sara’s door and said, "Sara? You’ve got a phone call."

"Tell whoever it is to kiss my ass." Sara growled through the closed door.

"Okay." Deena shrugged and went back to the phone, "Sara’s not available right now, can I tell her you called?"

"No, I’ll be back tonight. Are you sure she’s not there?"

"She’s there alright, but she said to tell whoever was calling to kiss her ass." Deena laughed lightly.

"Will you please go tell her its JC? I’m a friend of hers." He asked.

Deena sighed and said, "Yeah, sure." She walked down the hall again to Sara’s door and knocked again, "Sara, JC is calling for you. He said he’s a friend of yours."

Sara threw the door open and said, "Well you can tell JC he can jump up my ass. He’s not my friend, he’s a stupid ass hole who has his life handed to him on a silver platter and he gets to leave here whenever he wants while the rest of us basket cases have to stay locked up until the doctor says we can leave!" Sara stormed past the nurse and into the hallway where she picked the phone up off the desk, "Screw you JC." She said into the receiver before she slammed the phone down on the base, and disconnected the call.

JC stared at the phone screaming a dial tone at him. He sighed and dialed the hospital again, this time he asked for Dr. Grayson’s office. "This is Dr. Grayson."

"Hi doc, this is JC." He said quickly, "Listen I just called to talk to Sara and she’s all upset now. Do you think you could find her and have her talk to me?"

"JC if she doesn’t want to talk I can’t force her."

"No one told her I was leaving and that I would be back. I was too rushed when I left, I think she thinks I’m not coming back."

"Well JC…"

"I mean, I’ll be back in just a couple hours, but she doesn’t know what. Can you please just go get her so I can talk to her?" He pleaded softly.

"I’ll see what I can do JC." Dr. Grayson set her phone down and wandered out into the hall. She didn’t see Sara in the hall, so she walked to her room and knocked softly. There was no response so after a minute she walked down the hall to the library where she found Sara scowling at her book. "Sara?" Dr. Grayson asked softly.

"What?" Sara asked without looking up.

"JC is on the phone, he’d like to talk to you." She said softly.

"I already told him I don’t want to talk to him." She said as her frown deepened.

"He’s coming back tonight." Dr. Grayson explained softly as she sat on the couch beside Sara. "Two of his friends were in a pretty bad car accident, so we let him leave to go see them."

"So?"

"So that’s why he left. He has not been discharged."

"If he’s coming back then why do I have to talk to him on the phone?" Sara looked up from the pages of her book.

"You don’t have to." Dr. Grayson shook her head. "But he’d like to talk to you."

Sara stared at floor for a couple seconds before sighing and saying, "Fine. Whatever." She stood up and followed the doctor down the hall to her office.

Once inside Dr. Grayson took a seat at her desk while Sara sat on the edge and picked up the phone, "What?" She asked quickly.

"Will you consider me a friend now?"

"Why? Because you called me?" She asked. "You left."

"I’m sorry I didn’t let you know I was leaving, but I’m coming back in a couple hours." JC said softly. "I had to leave so I could call you." He smiled hopefully.

"Why would you come back here? I mean, you’re out. Make a run for it." Sara said, defiantly staring at Dr. Grayson.

"I’m coming back because I’m not done yet."

"Are you a chicken?" Sara asked as a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

"Wh- no. I’m not a chicken. I can handle-" JC started.

"I meant like cooked. You’re not done yet, like cooking a chicken." Sara actually laughed as she tucked her blonde curls behind her ear.

"Oh." JC was taken aback. He wasn’t expecting a joke out of Sara at all, and certainly not when she was upset. "Yeah, I guess like a chicken." He smiled. "So how are you?" He asked a second later.

"Why do you ask?" Her mood shifted yet again.

"Because that’s what friends do." JC said softly.

"So you think you’re my friend now?"

"I called you."

"Calling me doesn’t make you my friend." Sara frowned and she chewed on her fingernail.

"What will it take then to make you my friend."

"Come back here."

"I already told you I was coming back. I’ll be back before ten." He said.

"Okay."

"So when I get back you’ll let me be your friend?" JC smiled and watched as Joey and Chris came out of Justin’s room and walked toward him.

"Maybe." She said after a moments thought.

"Okay." He nodded. "That’s fair enough."

"But why?"

"Why what?"

"Why do you want to be my…"

"Friend?"

"Yeah."

"God can’t you even say it?" He threw her line back at her, and laughed.

"Friend. There, are you happy?" She asked quickly, but with a small smile.

"I guess." JC shrugged and laughed. Chris and Joey leaned on the wall next to JC and watched him try not to flirt with the girl on the other end.

"So…?"

"So what?"

"So why?" She asked again.

"Because." JC thought of leaving his explanation at that. "Because I think you can help me, and I think I can help you."

"I don’t need help." Sara frowned and curled the phone cord around her finger.

"No, I guess not. But I need help and you need a friend."

"Fine." She gave in.

"So I’ll see you tonight." JC smiled.

"I’ll be up, you know that."

"Yep." He nodded. "Okay, I’ll see you later."

"Bye." She said softly as she hung up the phone. Sara turned and left Dr. Grayson’s office without giving the doctor a chance to say a word.

"You are so schmoozing her." Joey laughed as JC hung the phone up on the wall.

"I’m not schmoozing her." JC rolled his eyes as they headed back to the waiting room.

"You are totally schmoozing on her. Did you see that grin on his face when he was talking to her?" Joey asked Chris as they followed.

"Is she cute?" Chris asked.

"I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer." JC shook his head as he sat in one of the hard plastic chairs in the waiting room.

Joey, Chris and JC sat in the waiting room with Tom and a couple of the security guards and chatted until Justin’s parents arrived, and they all went back to Justin’s room. He was waking up a little, and starting to look around.

The guys left Justin and his parents alone for a little while, then Lynn came out and said that he wanted to see the guys before he went back to sleep. JC and Chris followed Joey down the hall to Justin’s room, and knocked lightly before they walked in.

"Hey kiddo." Chris smiled and sat at the foot of Justin’s bed.

"Hey pops." Justin smiled and pried his eyes open.

"Look who’s here." Joey smiled as JC pulled up a chair beside the bed.

"JC? Man what are you doing here?" Justin asked quietly.

"I came to check up on you guys." JC forced a smiled and patted Justin’s shoulder.

"I messed up my fro." Justin smiled and began to laugh, but stopped when he realized it hurt.

"Yeah you did." JC laughed lightly and gently touched Justin’s matted hair. "But that’s what shampoo is for."

"You gonna soap me up?" Justin asked with that certain sparkle in his eye. He was going to be okay.

"Hell no." JC laughed.

"I bet we could auction that off on e-bay though, shampoo Justin Timberlakes mop!" Chris laughed.

"People would pay to do that?" Joey asked.

"Hell they paid for his half eaten breakfast." Chris shrugged.

"True." Joey nodded.

"So you okay JC?" Justin mumbled.

"Yeah kid. I’m all right." JC said softly.

"Then can we go home when I get outta here?" Justin asked.

"Um… I don’t know about that." JC said slowly. "I uh, I’m going back tonight. But I uh… I’m doing a lot better Justin, I am."

"I know you are C." Justin nodded weakly and slowly smiled. "We’ll all be 100% soon."

"Yeah." JC nodded, "We will."

"Cool. Cuz I’ve about had it with these hospitals."

"Me too." JC smiled.

"How’s Lance?" Justin asked. "He broke stuff?"

"He broke the car." Joey said.

"Yeah he did." Justin tried to smile, but winced instead. "My friggin face hurts man."

"Yeah well you just about broke it in half." Chris said.

"No." Justin said as he reached up to touch his face.

JC reached out and stopped Justin’s hand before he touched, "Nah, don’t touch it." JC laid Justin’s hand back on the bed. "You’ve got a cut under your eye, but there won’t even be a scar." He explained. "It’s nothing major."

"What about Lance?" Justin asked a minute later.

"Lance broke his collar bone and cut his forehead." Joey said softly.

"And he broke his beak too." Chris added.

"Yeah." Joey nodded.

"He broke his beak?" Justin laughed even though it hurt like hell, "Oh man… don’t make me laugh."

"Sorry." Chris smiled and tried not to laugh himself.

"So he’s okay?"

"Yeah, you’re going to room with him tonight." JC said.

"Ha ha, sucker." Justin smiled. "He knows I snore, right?"

"Yeah, we told him. He said he doesn’t care." Chris laughed.

"We’ll see about that." Justin said as his eyes drifted closed. "I’m beat guys. Come back later?"

"We’ll be here tomorrow." Joey said.

"Um, I won’t. I’m going back tonight."

"Okay." Justin managed a slow nod.

"So, uh, gimme a call." JC said, "When you get up or whatever."

"I will." Justin said softly, forcing his eyes to stay open.

"I’m glad you’re okay kid." JC leaned over and awkwardly hugged Justin around his IV line.

"I’m glad you’re okay too JC. Just hurry up so we can get outta here."

"I will." JC smiled and said goodbye. The three men left Justin alone in his room as he began to snore. Lance was going to be in trouble.

 

JC went with the others back to the hotel and ate dinner in Tom’s room, his first real dinner in a while. "What time do you need to be back?" Johnny asked.

"Um, ten." JC said between bites of spaghetti.

"Okay, we’ll want to leave here in about an hour then." He nodded.

"Okay." JC wiped his mouth and sat back in the chair. They talked about some band issues for a while, going over their tentative schedule for their missed concerts. Everything was depending on when JC, Lance and Justin could get out of the hospital.

"Do you know about how much longer you think you’ll be in uh… in Wycroft?" Tom asked.

JC looked up suddenly pissed off, "No." He shook his head. "This isn’t like I’m painting my house and I can tell you when I think I’ll be done. I’m getting better, but I still have a ways to go. So no, I can’t give you a date for when I’ll be better." JC scowled and stood up quickly from his chair. He looked to Johnny and asked, "Can we go back now?"

"Sure…" Johnny said slowly. "Let me get my coat." He stood and went to the other room to get his jacket.

"Don’t be upset Jace, we all want you to get better." Joey said softly.

"I am getting better Joe. I just don’t know when I’ll be 100%."

"We know." Joey rested his hand on JC’s shoulder. "Take as much time as you need."

"Thanks Joe." JC pulled him in for a quick hug before doing the same with Chris. "I’ll talk to you guys soon, okay?"

"You bet." Chris patted JC on the back as Johnny came back with his jacket.

"We’ll call you as soon as Lance gets released, okay?" Joey smiled.

"Yeah." JC nodded quickly. "That’d be great."

"Cool. Take it easy man." Joey smiled and waved as JC headed for the door.

"You too. And stay out of trouble." JC shook his finger sternly at the two pranksters.

"Yeah right." Chris rolled his eyes as JC shut the door behind him.

 

Johnny and JC pulled up in front of Wycroft just before ten at night. Most of the lights inside were off already, but the front entry way was brightly lit. "You sure you wanna go back?" Johnny asked quietly as JC stared at the front doors.

"Yeah." JC whispered. "I’ve gotta."

"You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’ve seen the difference in you JC. You’re not who you used to be… and I mean that in a good way."

"I know." JC nodded and gave Johnny a little half smile. "I feel really good and everything, there’s just…. There’s some stuff here I’ve gotta take care of before I can consider myself ‘better’, you know what I mean?"

"No." Johnny smiled and shook his head, "But if that’s what you need to do, then do it. You know we’re all behind you 110%."

"I know." JC nodded and looked at Johnny. "SO I’ll talk to you later, right?"

"Yeah, we’ll give you a call tomorrow and let you know what’s up with the kids."

"Okay." JC nodded and opened the passenger door. "Thanks for the ride."

"Anytime kiddo. I’ll see you later."

"Bye Johnny." JC waved over his shoulder, then bounced up the steps and through the thick glass doors. Johnny waited until JC was inside before slowly making his way back down the driveway.

JC walked down the dimly lit hallway to the nurses desk, scary the bejeezus out of the nurse on call. "Hey." He said as he walked up.

"Jesus! You scared the living daylights out of me." She said as she held her hand to her chest. "Good lord, whooo." She laughed nervously. "What can I help you with?"

"I don’t know. I think I need to check in with you? I’m JC."

"JC?"

"Joshua Chasez." He said slowly as she looked at her chart.

"Right, oh right. You were off site for a family emergency?" she asked.

"I was… yeah." JC nodded, rather than explain that it wasn’t a family emergency.

"And you’re back now." She made a note on the chart and smiled. "Great, well have a good night."

"You too." JC mumbled as he headed down the hall to his room. He scratched his neck and looked into the library as he walked by, hoping to see Sara. The library was empty and all of the lights were off so he continued walking towards his room.

"Hey." Sara said softly from her room.

"Hey, hi." JC stopped and looked in. She was sitting indian style on her bed with cards laid out in front of her. JC leaned against the door jam and asked, "So did I miss anything?"

"Well, Jessi had a complete melt down because they didn’t make macaroni and cheese tonight, Cassandra has taken up crocheting so we’re all getting afghans, Dr. Grayson resigned and Jem spoke." She said softly, without taking her eyes off the cards.

"Yeah?"

"Okay maybe not." She shrugged and glanced up quickly, "But we really didn’t have macaroni and cheese tonight."

"Are we supposed to?"

"Yeah. It’s Thursday." She said as an explanation.

"Oh."

"So how was it out there in the real world?"

"The same as in here apparently. We didn’t have mac and cheese out there either."

Sara laughed lightly and looked up at him, "Your friends okay?"

"Yeah." JC sighed and rubbed his eyes. "They’re gonna be all right."

"Well that’s good. They’re not going to be admitted here are they?" She asked, implying that the accident wasn’t really an accident.

"Nope." JC shook his head and smiled, "I’m the only one who’s messed up in the head."

"Riiiiight." Sara said sarcastically. "I’ve seen you guys. I’d say you all have a screw loose somewhere."

"Yeah, I guess you could say that."

"You’re just the one whose screw fell out."

JC laughed and shook his head, "That’s one way to put it."

"Pretty clever huh?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and yawned. "Well I’m beat, I’m going to go hit the sack."

"Good luck." Sara said softly. "Don’t let your demons get you."

"I’ll try not to." JC waved good night and continued down the hall to his room. She’d smiled at him, and made polite conversation. Kind of like a real friend… he was actually getting through to her.

JC smiled to himself and shut the door behind him. We’re going to make it… both of us. He thought to himself. That thought kept a smile on his face as he changed into his pajamas and slid under the covers for an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep.

 

On to part 6 (the end)

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn