When he woke up in the morning Chris was still undecided.  Joey's words echoed through his dream filled haze as the shrill ringing of the phone brought him to consciousness.  "H'lo?"  He mumbled as he brought the phone close to his ear.  "Yeah?"

            "Good morning!  This is your six forty five wake up call!  Get your ass outta bed, gramps."  Justin's laughing voice grated on Chris' sleeping nerves and he debated hanging up and choosing the other life right then and there.

            "What?"

            "Come on, its time to get up."

            "I'm up."  He looked down at his wrinkled dress pants that were unbuttoned and halfway unzipped and his slept in shirt.

            "You're sure?"

            "I'm up.  Leave me the fuck alone." Chris pulled his pillow up over his head, but kept the phone against his ear.

            "You don't sound like you're up.  You sound like you're still hiding under the blankets."  Justin's usually contagious smile did nothing for Chris.

            "I'm up."  Chris repeated.

            "Are you back to normal or is this still an alien that hijacked Chris' body?"

            Chris pressed his hands over his eyes.  He knew what Justin was referring too, but he had no idea how to answer him.  "I'm always normal."

            "Yeah, sell that somewhere else."  Justin laughed.  "Seriously though, Lance wants to meet up at like, eleven or whatever.  After we do this thing at eight."

            "For what?"  Chris yawned again.

            "To talk about last night… you know.  I guess."

            He should have known that was coming.  "Okay.  Where?"

            "His room."  Justin shrugged.  "Come on for reals.  Get up."

            "I'm up."  Chris groaned as he fought off another yawn.  He'd only slept a few hours and all he wanted was another three or four.

            "Get up!  Get up! Get up!"  Justin chanted.

            Chris reached over and hung up on him, cutting the Justin off in the middle of his insane chanting.  "Ugh."  He pushed himself up and off of the bed then stretched his back and yawned loudly.

            Chris showered and dressed quickly, then sat at his little table with his daily sheet in front of him.  He nibbled on the crackers and cheese that were left in a small basket the day before as he skimmed the page and pulled his socks on.  They were scheduled to leave for their interviews at ten after eight, which gave Chris fifteen minutes to get downstairs.  After that they had a little bit of free time before they were expected downstairs in the pressroom for two back to back photo shoots.  He sighed and blew cracker crumbs from his lips, it would take a few days to get used to this kind of crazy schedule and he knew it.

 

            Ten minutes later Chris was downstairs with the others, patiently waiting at the back doors for their vans to be pulled around.  The screams and chatters from the girls at the front of the building could be heard even around the corner.  Being official Grammy winners put them in a whole new class, and they hadn't even had twenty-four hours to get used to it yet.

            "I still can't believe they let us take the award with us… I mean… I keep waiting for someone to say it was a mistake.  Like, they counted the votes wrong or something and are gonna take it away."  Lance shook his head as he leaned against the stucco wall with dark sunglasses over his eyes.

            "Is that why you kept sticking it in your pants?"  Joey laughed and yawned while he ran his hand through his hair.

            "I did not."  Lance chuckled lightly, then slid his sunglasses down a fraction of an inch, “Shit.  Did I?"

            "Yeah, the whole time we were at that party last night."

            "Which party?"

            "The after Grammy party."

            "Which one?  I went to three I think.  Or four."

            "You… three or four parties?"  Justin asked, as he suddenly became interested.  "Where?  We were taken to that one with everyone else."

            "Yeah, but after that there were a couple more."  Lance pushed his sunglasses back up as the sun burned his eyes.

            "We didn't get out of that one till almost three."  Joey looked at Lance and frowned.

            "Oh."  Lance shrugged.  "So I had the Grammy in my pants at the official party?"

            "Wait.  Where were the other ones?"  Justin brought the subject back to what was important, and Chris just stood off to the side getting used to their voices again.

            "Um… I don't know exactly.  I know I went to that Bristol place, but then I ended up at Goldie Hawn's house."

            "What?"  JC walked over then and left Chris alone by the door.

            "She was having a party, her and her husband… dammit, what's his name?"

            "Who cares?  How come we didn't get to go?"  Joey asked.

            "I don't know.  I just followed Jenny around.  She knows everyone."  Lance shrugged.  "Where's the Grammy now?"

            "You mean it's not in your pants?"  JC laughed.

            "No."  Lance rested his head against the wall, and then frowned as his hand went to his crotch to check.  "Nope."

            "Johnny has it."  Justin said as the cars pulled up around the side of the building.  The screaming from the entrance increased so the guys hurried into the vans and left the parking lot quickly.

 

            They drove across town to the TV studio where they would be giving their interviews to be aired later that day on televisions worldwide.  There were groups of other winners there as well; they were all there for the same reason.  Chris tried to look casual as he kept his eye out for Patrick, but as expected, he didn't see the older man anywhere.

            Three interviews into the day and the guys were already tired of the same old questions.  They sat in a semi circle with Chris and Joey in the back row and JC sitting closest to the interviewer as the monotonous questions were fired at them.  Throughout the whole interview Chris could feel Joey's eyes boring into the side of his head.  He kept his own eyes straight forward and tried as hard as he could not to look over at Joey.  Justin couldn't keep his feet still so every time he kicked Chris' foot, Chris would kick his ankle and JC would laugh.  They went on like that for the whole interview, letting Lance do most of the talking for once; the whole interview had a weird out-of-body type feel to it.

            As Chris listened to Lance talk about their upcoming album, he cautiously looked around the room.  Patrick had promised to be back in the morning to find out where he wanted to go, but Chris had yet to see him.  "You wanna pay attention?"  Joey asked as he poked Chris' shoulder.

            "What?"  Chris' head snapped back and he looked right at Joey.

            "The interview."  Joey smiled and widened his eyes to say, "Don’t keep trying to prove you've lost your mind."

            "Sorry."  Chris looked at the reporter and smiled.  "Justin keeps kicking me and it's ruining my concentration."

            "And he's got a short enough attention span." JC joked as he and Justin laughed and the interview continued down the same path as the others.

 

 

            The interviews ran over by almost an hour, which by the guys standards was right on time.  They filed back out to the vans and rode back to the hotel where Chris knew he would be meeting with the guys who had put up the façade of 'everything's all right' for the whole morning.  He dawdled on his way into the hotel and dodged the impatient looks from the guards who had to wait for him while they held the side door open.

            Chris took his time walking into the hotel, but was conscious of Joey watching him the whole time.  "What?"  Chris finally sighed and turned to face Joey.  "What?"

            "Nothing."  Joey held his hands up defensively.  "Jeez, nothing."

            "Stop it."  Chris said softly.

            "I'm not doing anything."

            "You're looking at me."

            "Are you nine?  You're seriously whining because someone's looking at you?"  Joey cracked a small smile.

            "I'm serious."

            "I can tell you're serious.  But you're also getting bent out of shape and that’s the last thing you need to do right now.  We're going up to Lance's so they can talk to you about last night.  I think right now is when you need to be acting normal, not like this."  Joey leaned in closer to Chris and stared him down.  "I heard what you said last night and that's cool.  But you can't go in there talking about that."

            "But I -”

            "I know you think you saw the other side.  Or you did.  Or whatever… but listen.  You're here now and you've gotta focus on this.  If they think you've cracked, you'll be sent home faster than you can say 'fuck off'."  Joey grabbed Chris' shoulder and squeezed.  "We won a Grammy dude.  A Grammy.  It's enough to make anyone nervous, right?  It's enough to make anyone have an anxiety attack or whatever, right?"  Joey raised his eyebrows at Chris to make sure he caught his drift.

            Chris stared at him for a minute then closed his eyes and sighed, “Whatever.  I won't be here long anyway."  Chris mumbled under his breath as he turned away.

            "Nah, it shouldn't take long." Joey answered.

            Chris began to explain that that wasn't what he meant, that Patrick would be there soon and he'd go back to the life he left the day before... but instead he just bit his lip and hopped on the elevator with Joey and their guards.

 

            They rode up to their floor where the others were already milling around Lance's room with the door open.  Joey and Chris walked in and Joey pulled the door shut behind them while Chris headed for a chair in the corner.  "So we're here to talk about me?"  Chris sulked.

            "Don't you think we should?"   JC asked.  Chris just shrugged in response and tried not to sigh.  He'd done plenty of talking the night before and wasn't in the mood to have them all look at him the way Joey had been staring all morning.

            "I talked to him last night and he's cool now."  Joey said.  "He's cool.  You're cool, right?"  He looked over his shoulder at Chris and gave a slight nod.

            "Yeah."  Chris nodded as he bit the inside of his cheek.

            "Yeah, so that's it."  Joey slapped his hands on his knees and went to stand up.

            "Whoa, hang on.  That's it?"  JC asked as his brow furrowed into a deep frown.  "Uh uh, what happened last night?  I mean, I know we all have our moments or whatever… but in the middle of the Grammy's?"

            "I'm sorry about that."  Chris said quickly.

            "Listen, there's no media hoopla over it so no one even noticed." Joey shook his head and silently pleaded with Chris to not say anything.  He knew that if he started spewing off at the mouth about seeing the other side and all that crazy stuff he'd been talking about the night before, the other guys would have him committed.

            "We noticed."  Lance said softly.

            "I'm okay now.  I just had a…"  Chris paused and looked at Joey.  "A panic attack kinda.  There was… you know… a lot of excitement and stuff and I just kind of panicked."

            "A panic attack?"  Justin looked at Chris curiously.

            "Yeah."

            "And you're okay now?"

            "Yeah."  Chris nodded and continued to bite his cheek.

            "You're not going to have another one of these 'panic attacks'?"  JC asked sarcastically.

            "What were you saying about Jenny?"  Lance asked quickly, suddenly remembering that little bit of information from the night before.

            "I'm not planning on it, no."  Chris answered JC.

            "He was just rambling."  Joey said to Lance.

            "Why don't you let him talk for himself?"  Justin looked at Joey.

            "Why don't you guys quit giving him the third degree?"  Joey frowned.

            "It's okay."  Chris licked his lips.  "Listen guys..."  He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair.

            "Chris."  Joey reached for his elbow to stop him.

            "Let him talk.  Shit Joey, just leave him alone."  Justin pouted.  He looked up at Chris and nodded.

            "Listen... I... "  Chris started.  "I don't know what was going on last night.  I don't know what I said or what I meant."  He shook his head and continued lying to make it easier for everyone.  "I just… out of nowhere I felt like my whole world was turned upside down and maybe it was just the excitement of getting the Grammy or whatever, I just… I don't know.  I'm fine now though.  I'm fine."  He made eye contact with each of the guys and nodded briefly.

            "Do you… should we have Johnny get a doctor?"  JC asked.

            "No."  Chris shook his head.  That was the last thing he needed.  He laughed softly to himself; "I am a shrink."  He thought silently.  "I'm okay."

            Joey chewed his lower lip for a second as he watched Chris carefully.  Chris sighed, “Let’s just put this behind us.  I'm sorry I fucked up your night or whatever."

            "You didn't fuck it up, but you wigged and freaked us out."  Lance said as he nervously picked at his fingernails.  "We're not mad Chris… we're just worried."

            "Don't be."  Chris shook his head.

            "You're not on drugs?"  JC asked.

            "No.  Dammit Jace, I'm not on drugs.  You know me better than that."  He scowled and tried not to be angry at the suggestion, he was sure that he must have looked like a lunatic the night before.

            "Well hey, I'm just asking."  JC held up his hands.

            "I wasn't on drugs.  I'm not on drugs.  I told you… I just kinda had a mental moment.  I'm fine now though.  Back to normal."

            "We don't want you normal."  Justin said with a sly smile.  "We want you the way you were."

            Chris grinned before he could stop himself, then Justin snorted softly.  "Shut up."  Chris shook his head and looked at the others to see them each trying to hide a smile.

            "Come on you guys, you can see he's fine now.  Let's just get over this.  He's cool and it won't happen again."  Joey said after a few seconds of silence.  "Come on, this is eating into my naptime already.  Let's just be done with it."

            Chris tugged at the hair by his temple for a minute, then turned around to leave the room.  He stopped with his hand on the doorknob and sighed.  "We're done?"   He asked as he looked over his shoulder.

            "Yeah."  The others nodded then one by one they smiled up at him and he knew everything would be all right.

            "Cool."  He said softly as he stepped out of Lance's room and headed down the hall to his own room to rest a little before their next appearance.  He knew that as soon as he left the others would talk about him, but he didn't care.  All he wanted was to be alone and think for a few minutes.  Patrick was bound to show up any minute and he had to make up his mind.

            Chris dropped himself diagonally across his bed and hung his arms over the side by the window.  With a heavy sigh he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the mental image of Melanie's face.  He let himself daydream about her and the girls, feeling their little warm bodies in his arms and the kick of baby Kathryn through Melanie's blouse.  Those images weighed heavily on his mind as he kicked his two lives back and forth trying to make up his mind, because Patrick would be there any minute.  He was sure of it.

 

            There was a knock on Chris' door just when he thought he'd made up his mind.  He frowned deeply and waited for a minute, hoping whoever it was would go away.  He had another two hours before he was expected anywhere and he wasn't in the mood to be pulled out of his down time.

            "Chris?"  He heard JC's voice softly through the door.

            "Damn."  Chris grumbled under his breath as he pushed himself up and headed for the door.  He could never ignore JC, no matter how annoyed he was.  Chris pulled the door open and stepped to the side.  "Hey."

            "You got a minute?"  JC asked.  Without waiting for an answer he brushed by Chris and into the room where he fell into the warm spot Chris had vacated on the bed.  He lay flat on his back with his hands laced together across his stomach.

            "Sure."  Chris sighed, as if he could just say 'no' and make JC leave.

            "I was gonna talk to you last night or something but…"  JC stared up at the ceiling.  "You're really okay now?"

            "I'm fine."  Chris mumbled as he dropped his chin to his chest.

            "Okay."  JC sighed and craned his neck to look out the window.  "I need some advice."

            "And you're coming to me?"

            "I need a grown ups advice."  JC clarified.

            Chris couldn't fight the smile that appeared on his lips.  "And you came to me?"  He asked again.

            "You're older than me, you'd know better."

            "You need your head examined."

            "Can you help me or not?"  JC looked back at Chris and gave him a look that said he was serious.

            "I… yeah.  I can uh… I can try."  Chris lay on the bed beside JC, just far enough way so that their shoulders weren't touching.  "What's up?"  He propped himself on his elbows and looked at JC.

            "I've been thinking."  JC sighed softly.

            "About…?"

            "About Alicia."

            "Keys?"  Chris smiled.

            "My Alicia."  JC smiled back and looked at Chris upside down.  "I think after this next tour and stuff I'm gonna see about getting married."

            "You're gonna see about getting married?" Chris laughed.  "What does that mean?"

            "I'm gonna ask her to marry me."  JC said after a minute.

            "You are?"  Chris' heart skipped a beat; marriage was never something any of them had mentioned before.

            "Yeah, I mean… I think it's time."

            "Time?"

            "Yeah.  We've been together like… forever now.  I love her a lot and she's willing to put up with all my stuff."

            "And she loves you?"

            "Yeah."  JC sighed with a grin.  "So anyway, I think it's time.  I'm not getting any younger and… well we never know where this is going to go and I can't make her wait forever."

            "Would she?"

            "Yeah."  JC smiled.  "Which is why I can't let her go."  He paused for a second and took a deep breath before getting to the part where he needed advice.  "I can do it though, right?"  He asked softly.

            "Do it?"  Chris was beginning to sound like a myna bird instead of a friend, repeating everything JC said.

            "Get married."

            "Sure."  Chris frowned and shrugged at JC.  "Why not?"

            "I don't know."  JC sighed.  "I just mean, I can do it all right?  I can get married and still do this?  Kind of like Kevin and Brian?"

            Chris paused.  "Sure.  Of course you can."

            "And you guys would be cool with it?"

            "Well you're not getting married this weekend, so yeah I'm sure we'll get used to it."

            "Okay."

            "Okay."  Chris whispered.

            "I just wouldn't want to go messing up the mix or whatever.  You know what I mean?  Me getting married would affect the band too."

            "Yeah, I know."  Chris bit his lip.  For an irrational moment Chris thought that JC knew everything and was only saying this to show him that little decisions can change the whole dynamic of the group.

            "But like you said, it's not this weekend." JC sighed.  "It won't be for a while yet."  He stretched his arms over the side of the bed then stood up.

            "Yeah."  Chris forced a quick smile as JC ambled toward the door.

            JC paused as he pulled the door open and looked over his shoulder.  "Thanks Chris."

            Chris blinked rapidly a few times then nodded and said, "Sure, no uh… no problem.  Thanks… thank you too."

            The door shut softly behind JC and Chris let out the breath he'd been holding.  He sat heavily on the corner of the bed and pursed his lips as his brow creased.  "If JC can do it… if he can think he can do it… then I can too."  Chris whispered to himself.  It didn't have to be right then, but he knew that he could still have it all.  Just like Joey said the night before.  Just like he'd just told JC he could.

            JC met Alicia after Nsync started, and she was perfect for him.  It was possible to find that soul mate in the middle of this life he was living.  Realizing that it was possible added a whole new twist to Chris' confusion.

            Chris closed his eyes to block out the other thoughts that plagued his mind, and instead fell asleep for a short, and well deserved nap.

 

            When the knocking began on his door, Chris had no idea how long he had slept for.  It could have been hours, it could have been mere seconds, but he didn't feel very rested.  "What the…?"  He grumbled before he cleared his throat and stumbled toward the door to make whoever was on the other side stop with their knocking.  "What?"  Chris pulled his door open mid-yawn. 

            "Attractive." Joey smirked.  "You ready?"

            "Ready?"

            "We've got the photo thing downstairs like… now."  Joey tapped his watch.

            "What is it with you guys?  Miranda is usually the one with the wake up calls and the 'you're gonna be late' lectures.  I had the kid calling me this morning and now you?"

            Joey just shrugged and pushed the door open.  "Yeah, well… someone's gotta whip your ass into shape.  Come on.  We're not gonna be late, we are late."

            "I'm not dressed for it." Chris looked down at his baggy shorts and t-shirt.

            "That's what wardrobe is for.  I swear, you'd think you'd never done a shoot before."  Joey pulled him out into the hall by the sleeve of his shirt and asked, "Do you have your key?"

            "Yeah."

            "Great."  He pulled the door shut then playfully shoved Chris toward the elevators.  They rode down in silence as Chris' frustration grew.  He hadn't seen Patrick yet and the longer he had to wait the more time he had to keep changing his mind.

            "Dammit."  Chris grumbled under his breath as he looked back over his shoulder.

            "What?  Who are you looking for?" Joey asked as he followed Chris' gaze.

            "No one." Chris said quickly as he faced forward.  "JC."

            "No one or JC?"

            "JC."  Chris licked his lips and cleared his throat.  He couldn't tell Joey he was looking for a guy named Patrick who was supposed to come and change his life all around.

            "JC's at the thing already.  We're the late ones."  Joey smiled and quickened his pace to keep up with the two security guards that were leading the way.

            "As usual."  Chris tried to smile as apprehension grew in his stomach.

            "You okay?"  Joey asked as minute later as the security opened the door to the pressroom where the others were waiting.

            "Me?  Yeah.  Yeah, I'm fine."

            "You're sure?"

            "I'm sure."  Chris nodded and stepped through the doorway.

            "Okay."  Joey sighed, but he didn't sound sure.

            "It's about damn time!"  Justin laughed from the far end of the room where he was sitting on the floor tying his shoe.

            Joey gave him the finger as he walked in behind Chris and headed over to the wardrobe racks to see what kind of monkey suits they'd be put in for the shoot.

            "Who is this?"  Chris' face lit up as he spotted a stroller by the snack table to the left of the door.  "Hi!"  He leaned over the stroller to make faces at the little girl.

            "I'm sorry about that, my assistants babysitter canceled.  She won't be any trouble."  The photographer shot a glance at his blushing assistant.

            "It's okay."  Chris smiled and reached for the strap holding her in.  "Can I hold her?"  He asked as she raised her little pudgy arms to be lifted up.

            "I…"  Her mother looked from Chris to her boss, then back.  "Sure, yeah of course.  She's uh… she's a real people person."

            "I'll bet she is.  Hi there!"  Chris smiled at the toddler and bounced her on his hip as his chest clenched.  She was smaller than Lauren was, but the warm weight in his arms was so familiar.  "What's her name?"

            "Nicole."

            "Hi Nicole!  Hi!  Who is this crazy guy that's got you?  Who is this?"  He raised his voice and talked baby talk to her for a minute as she giggled and showed off her two tiny teeth that were just coming in.  "You're not going to make noise today are you?  It's okay if you do though because that's what babies do.  Babies make noise and they giggle and they cry sometimes."  Chris made a sad face as Nicole reached up and touched his goatee.  "No crying today though.  We're going to have fun today."  Chris carried her over to where Lance and Joey were standing.

            "Whoa, hey…"  Lance took a step back as Nicole's slobber covered hand reached for him.  "Whose is this?"

            "The assistant photographers."  Chris nodded in the direction of the table where she was organizing the films.

            "She brought a kid?" Lance made a face.

            "Her sitter flaked."  Chris gave Nicole a surprised look and held her out in front of him.  "So she gets to play with us!"

            "Yay."  Lance sighed and tried not to roll his eyes.  "When did you become such a fan of kids?"

            "He's always liked kids."  Joey said quickly.

            "Yeah, but liking them and going nuts over one are totally different things."

            "She's just too cute to leave alone."  Chris spun around and listened to the little girl laugh so hard she got the hiccups.  She jerked every few seconds in his arms, but never stopped smiling.

            "You're gonna make her barf."  Lance smiled and leaned against the wall to be out of the way in case he was right.

            "No I'm not."  Chris shook his head and stared down at Nicole with a sigh.  His heart ached with the need to see his little girls again.  All he wanted was to scoop Jenny up and give her a hug, or kiss Lauren goodnight.  Instead he closed his eyes and hugged Nicole to his chest as they made their way back to her stroller.  "I've gotta go to work now sweetie, you can watch from here."  He set her back in the stroller, then knelt beside her to strap her in.  Chris handed her one of the little teething toys that was in the seat behind her then kissed the top of her head quickly.  "Bye bye baby." He whispered.

            "You're really good with kids."  Her mother said.

            "Thanks."  Chris blushed slightly and bit his lip.

            "Do you have any?"

            "I uh…"  Chris' heart sped up in his chest.  "No.  No… not yet.  Eventually."  He nodded.  "I want kids."

            "You've got plenty of time."  She laughed and reached into the diaper bag to get Nicole a little snack.

            "Yeah."  Chris ran his tongue over his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets.  "Thanks for letting me play with her."

            "Anytime."  She mom smiled up at him, then turned all of her attention to the baby.

            Chris watched for a minute, then turned quickly and walked over to where JC and the others were standing around looking at the marks on the floor.

            "I get to be 'A' this time."  Joey laughed as he jumped onto the 'A' mark, front and center.

            "I never get to be 'A'."  Lance whined as he bumped Joey off the masking tape mark and stood on the red letter.  JC giggled lightly as he flipped through a magazine, not caring who was front and center because as long as it wasn't him, he was happy.

            "You were 'A' once.  I remember that because that's all we heard about for the next like, three weeks."  Joey playfully shoved Lance off the mark and stood his ground.  "It's my turn today."

            "Chris?"  Justin asked.  "How about you, you could be 'A'."

            "Nah, that's your spot pretty boy."  Chris threw a playful look at Justin and took his place on the 'D' mark where he usually stood.  "I'll just hang out back here."

            "Don't speak… I know what you're saying…"  Joey sang impossibly off key as he took two steps back to stand beside Chris.  The two boys broke into song while Lance laughed and joined in a few seconds later.  Pretty soon they were all singing and playing air instruments, just having a good time without even noticing the photographer snapping off pictures left and right.

 

            They had fun during the shoot and as promised, Nicole remained quiet the whole time.  The guys filed out of the room, then scattered like rabbits hitting the open foyer.  "What's the plan for dinner tonight?"  Justin asked when Chris fell into step beside him.  He had his hand under his shirt and was loudly slapping his belly to a hip-hop beat in his head.

            "I don't know.  Where's JC?   He'd know."

            "He and Lance had business to take care of."  Justin rolled his eyes.

            "Business?"

            "FreeLance stuff.  I don't know."

            "JC has FreeLance stuff?"

            "I.  Don't.  Know."  Justin stopped walking and turned to face Chris.  "I don't know."  He said again.  "They just said they had business to do and took off and Lance was saying something about needing advice on a conference call."

            "Oh."

            "So you don't know what's on for dinner?"

            "No."  Chris shook his head as his stomach growled.  "Shit, we never got lunch."  He frowned and stuck his tongue out like a tired dog.  "Did we?"

            "Nope.  But I snagged some chips from the craft services room on the way down." 

            "Thanks for sharing."

            "What?  Like you can't go in there yourself?"  Justin rolled his eyes and stepped onto the elevator.  Chris looked over his shoulder again.  He was keeping an eye out for Patrick but didn't really expect to see him.  He had said he'd be back in the morning for Chris to make his decision but it was already close to four thirty and Patrick hadn't shown himself.

            "Chinese."  Chris said when they stepped off the elevator on their secured floor.

            "Huh?"

            "Chinese food sounds good."  Chris smiled and fell into step beside the younger man.

            "Yeah it does."  Justin smiled.  "You think we can have some delivered or something?"

            "Probably."  Chris shrugged.  "Hey Lonnie!  Can we order up Chinese?"

            "Sure."  Lonnie shrugged, he didn't care.

            "What time do we have that thing tonight?"  Chris asked.   Lonnie was always on top of when and where the guys had to be.

            "You don't have a thing tonight.  You're home free till tomorrow at three forty-five."

            "In the morning?"  Justin whined.

            "Yep."  Lonnie laughed.  "Joe said something about hittin' the Whiskey tonight, but that's optional."

            "Ugh, no thanks."  Chris made a face.

            "I brought my X-Box up."  Justin smiled like a child and did a little happy dance.  "Lets get Chinese then you can come over and I can kick your ass at Halo."

            "I'll come over for Chinese, but there's no way you're gonna kick my ass."  Chris laughed and shook his head.  He may not have played in a couple months, but the little punk wasn't going to win.  "I'm the Halo master."

            "Dream on old man."  Justin laughed and draped his arm over Chris' shoulders.  "Lonnie!"  Justin shouted after the guard.  "I'll buy you dinner if you order up for us."

            "What do you want?"

            "Sweet and sour pork and orange chicken."  Chris said.

            "And lots of rice and egg rolls."

            "Oh!  And get some of that noodle stuff."

            "Noodle stuff?"  Justin gave him a look.

            "Lo mein?"

            "Cool, yeah get that too."  Justin smiled down the hall at Lonnie.

            "You guys are gonna get fat."  Lonnie shook his head but smiled.

            "And get whatever you want too."  Justin pulled his wallet out and tossed it down the hall.  "It's on me."

            "Oooh, you're gonna be broke tonight.  Food for me and Lonnie and losing a Halo bet?"

            "We're betting on the game?"  Justin asked as he pulled his room key out.

            "Fifty bucks says I win."  Chris nodded.

            "Oh you're on.  I could use the cash."

            Lonnie disappeared into his room near the elevators and Chris noticed a quick movement out of the corner of his eye.  Justin continued to ramble on about the game and how much ass kicking he was going to do that night, but all Chris could hear was the pounding of his heart.  For the moment that he thought it was Patrick, Chris' mind went blank.  But when he saw that it was Joey he knew that he had to talk to him.  Chris looked back at Justin as they got to his room and tried to jump back into the conversation.

            "I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here man."  Justin laughed and pushed his door open.  Chris didn't hear the first part of whatever Justin had said, but he knew he'd heard the important part.

            "I… what?"

            "Well I mean if you weren't I'd be stuck playing with JC or… god help us, Lance." Justin rolled his eyes and shrugged out of his zip up sweatshirt.

            "Heh."  Chris gave a short laugh.  "Hey, I'm gonna go see if uh… if Joey wants to come over."

            "Joey hates X-box."

            "Yeah but it's better than the Whiskey."  Chris mumbled as he backtracked out the door.  He didn't care where Joey went, but he had to talk to him.

            Justin shrugged and reached for the TV remote on his bed as Chris let the door shut then took off down the hall towards Joey's room.  "Hey." He called just before Joey's door shut.

            "Me?"  Joey stuck his foot in the door and leaned out into the hall.  "Oh hey Chris."

            "Hey…"  Chris walked up and ran his hand over his mouth. "Can we uh… talk?"  Chris asked Joey softly.

            "Talk?  Sure, whatcha need?"

            "I… remember what I said last night?"

            "About the whole other life thing?"

            "Yeah.  I was supposed to decide today what I wanted to do."

            "Okay?"  Joey gave Chris a look and took a step closer to him.  "You chose us?"  He let a little smile appear at the corner of his mouth.

            "No."  Chris shook his head.  "I… I didn't get the chance to.  I mean… the guy never came back."

            "Well was he prompt when you chose to go to that other place?"  Joey rolled his eyes and played along for a moment.

            "No.  I… he didn't ask before, I just woke up there."

            "Well maybe you just woke up here then."

            "I know I did.  In the middle of the Grammy's."

            "Right but you said you had to choose today?"

            "Uh huh."

            "So you didn't have to physically, like, really choose the other times… so maybe this is the same?"

            "But what if I was going to choose the other life?"

            Joey took a deep and shaky breath.  "I swear to God Chris… you've gotta go see Johnny or something.  You can't just… you can't keep thinking like this."  He looked down the hall as his eyes shined with what promised to be tears.

            "I'm serious Joey; you're the only one who knows about this."

            "And you're scaring the hell outta me."  Joey looked over at Chris and for the first time Chris saw just what it was doing to him.

            "I'm sorry."  Chris said softly.  "I don't want to scare you, but I feel like I'm stuck here."

            "If this dude showed up right now, what would you do?"

            "I don't know."  Chris said, though that wasn't completely truthful.

            "Wanna know what I'd do?"  Joey licked his lips quickly.

            "Hmm?"

            Joey pulled him into a tight embrace and sighed.  "I'd hold on tight and not let you go.  We need you here Chris.  I don't know how to make you see that and I don't know how to make you choose us over… whatever…"   He placed a quick kiss on Chris' forehead and smiled.

            Chris' breath caught in his throat when he tried to speak.  Nothing came out but his thoughts were loud enough.  Through everything he'd seen that day, and everything Joey had said the night before… his mind was made up.  His mind was made up and he didn't even realize it.

            Chris was where he was supposed to be.  Being in Nsync would open up a world of possibilities and also help with finding someone to settle down with eventually, to try to find that one person that made everything worth it.  Someone like Melanie, who could make him feel complete.  He would always remember his girls, and the way their little faces would light up when they saw him… but he knew that one day he'd have that in this life as well.  Eventually the feelings he had would fade and he wouldn't miss them so much.  Someday.

            Until then, he'd spend his time living his dream and searching for that someone who would understand that Nsync would always be a huge part of his life and that sometimes, that had to come first.  Having seen both sides of what could have been, Chris knew that the path he had originally chosen was the right one.  This was who he was, this was how he was, this was what he had always wanted… and this was how everything was supposed to work out for him.

 

            He was happy… and he wouldn't change a thing.

 

 

 ~end~

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2002, Amy Lynn