"This is the song that never ends… it just goes on and on my friend… some people, started singing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll just keep on singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends… it just goes on and on my friend… some people, started singing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll just keep on singing it forever just because this is the song that never – " he wasn’t singing loud…but it was loud enough that we heard it.

"Joey!" Chris said loudly from the seat behind him.

"What?"

"Stop singing that stupid song."

"I can’t stop it, cuz it’s the song that never ends… it’s just goes on and on my- " he started in again.

"Joey!" JC opened his eyes and banged on the seat. "Knock it off." We were more than three hours into the flight, and Joey was bored.

Lance looked back at me from my old seat, he had graciously traded seats with me after take off. "Thanks a lot." He rolled his eyes and sat back down.

I laughed quietly to myself and looked at Chris, "Is he always like this?"

Chris sighed and nodded, "Pretty much. The sad thing is that I’m usually the one singing that stupid song with him." He laughed.

"Oh God." I groaned and leaned back in the seat, "Please don’t start."

"I won’t."

"Don’t start what?" Joey asked, peering at us over the seats.

"Nothing." Chris and I said in unison. We sat back and put our headphones on to watch what was left of the in-flight movie.

"I’ll be right back." Chris said as he followed the others to where their manager was sitting.

I grabbed a seat by the window and pulled my shoulder length brown hair into a ponytail. I watched the empty airfield for a couple minutes before Chris and Justin came back to collect me, "Ready?" Justin asked.

"Yep." I stood up and tried to straighten my pink scrubs. "Um, is there somewhere I can pick up a pair of jeans or something?"

"Yeah, we’ll get that taken care of when we get to the hotel." Chris said as we joined the crowd of security guards by the door.

"Stay close to the boys." One of the security guys said to me as we headed for the door.

"She’s cool Ken." Justin said. There was no way I was letting them out of my sight. The doors were pushed open and we were escorted as a group, through the main terminal. It was amazingly quiet, not a single fan anywhere to be seen. Then again it was almost midnight. I watched other passengers give us questioning looks as they passed, and I smiled.

"This is kinda weird." I said softly to Lance, who was closest.

He smiled and nodded, "Yeah, it’s kinda cool though."

We all piled into two separate vans and drove to a nearby hotel. I stood off to the side as they boys got checked in and separated their luggage. They were going to be in New York for a couple days, so they brought all their gear with them.

"You can go let the concierge know what size you wear and they’ll send up some clothes." Chris said as he carried his bag over to where I was standing.

"Are you serious?" I gave him a look. "I can go shopping for myself, I just need to know where to go."

"At midnight, this is your best bet." He smiled and threw his duffel bag over his shoulder. "Come on."

"I can go tomorrow you know."

"No, tomorrow you’ll be busy." He said over his shoulder. "Don’t argue, come on." I sighed and rolled my eyes as I followed him to the concierge desk.

"What can I get for you miss?" The man asked.

"Really, I don’t need anything." I frowned.

He looked over my wrinkled clothes and said, "As you wish."

"Grace." Chris said forcefully.

"Fine. A pair of jeans and a T-shirt." I said finally. I gave the guy my sizes and told him I didn’t care what brand, for crying out loud.

"Jesus… what kind of girl are you?" Chris laughed as we stepped onto the elevator.

"It just, it makes me feel weird to ask that guy to go out at midnight to get me a pair of jeans." I said as I leaned against the mirrored wall of the elevator.

"He’s not going out at midnight to get you jeans. Sheesh." He smiled. "He’ll have the clothes sent up from the store thingy in the hotel, in the morning, when we get our wake up call."

"Ahh." I smiled sheepishly and watched the numbers light up on the panel.

"Ahh." He mimicked me.

I covered my mouth as I yawned, then asked, "So what do you have planned while you’re here? Oh man, I need to call work."

"Um, we’re doing TRL tomorrow I think, then Letterman. We have a couple in store promotions and Regis and Kathy Lee. The whole TV circuit thing." The doors opened and we stepped into the hallway. I followed a step or two behind him as he said, "You can call your work when we get to the room, let them know you won’t be there for a couple of days."

"How many?"

"As many as you want. We’ll be here through the weekend."

"Hrmm." I mumbled as he opened the door to his hotel room and I followed him in. I didn’t realize how awkward I was going to feel until the door shut tight behind me. "I um, can I call work from here?"

"Sure." He nodded. "I’m just going to go change."

"Okay." I sat at the little table and picked up the phone. I read the dialing instructions and dialed the nurse’s station in California.

"ER this is John."

"John, hey, this is Grace."

"Dude, Grace where’d you go?" He asked.

"It’s a long story. I’m in New York. Can you block me out for some vacation days?"

"You’re in New York?" He asked. "What are you doing there?"

"I’m just visiting some friends." I said.

"You left in the middle of your shift to go to New York to visit friends?" He smiled.

"Yes. Now come on, can you block out some vacation days for me?" I asked.

"How many?" He sighed.

"Um, well I was off on Saturday anyways… so I guess until Monday."

"You’ll be back Monday?"

"Yeah. I’ll be in on Monday." I nodded and untied my shoes.

"And you’ll tell me all about it then?" He smiled.

"Sure thing." I laughed. "Thanks a lot, John. Tell Denise I’ll call her later."

"I’ll leave her a note. Have a good one."

"You too." I smiled and hung up the phone. Wow, that was a lot less painful than I thought it would be.

"Everything settled?" Chris asked as he came out of the bathroom in his sweat bottoms and T-shirt.

"Yeah, I’m clear through Monday." I said.

"Cool." He yawned and stretched his arms over his head. "Do you want a T-shirt or something to change into?"

"No, that’s okay. These are actually really comfortable." I said, indicating my scrubs.

"Suit yourself." He smiled. "I’m beat."

"Me too." I said as he walked to the other side of the bed and pulled the covers back and climbed in.

He shut the light off and said with a smile, "Well are you coming or not?"

"Now there’s a loaded question." I joked.

"D’oh." He laughed quietly as I climbed under the covers beside him. He slid his left arm around my waist and nuzzled my neck softly. I was shocked at how comfortable it felt to be completely surrounded by him. I hadn’t been in bed with a man in quite some time, and I didn’t expect it to be this easy to fall back into the bed sharing mode.

"I can’t believe you got on the plane." He laughed quietly in my ear.

"Neither can I." I smiled.

"I’m glad you did though."

"Me too." I whispered as I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, the smell of him wishing me sweet dreams.

"Rise and shine!" Chris said from the bathroom doorway.

"Wha?" I mumbled and rolled over. I hadn’t slept that fitfully in a long time.

"Rise and shine!" He repeated. "Your clothes are in the dressing area, and the guys will be here any minute for breakfast."

"Breakfast? Here?" I sat up in the bed, slowly rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

"Yeah." He nodded.

"Okay." I crawled out of bed and headed for the bathroom area.

"You’re beautiful when you’re sleepy." Chris wrapped his arms around my waist as I walked by, and kissed me softly on the forehead.

"Thanks you too." I wasn’t even close to awake. He laughed and let me go on my way.

I poured myself into the shower and washed yesterday’s gunk off my body. I was feeling almost human when I stepped out of the shower and brushed my hair. I threw on my clean clothes that actually fit, and walked out to the main room.

"Morning." Joey smiled and waved his spoon at me.

"Hi Grace." Lance smiled from his seat at the table.

"Hi." I gave him a little smile and eyed the table. "What’ve we got?"

"Cereal and fruit and bagels." Chris said, taking a bite of melon.

"Cool." I plopped down beside the still silent Justin and poured myself a bowl of cookie crisp. "Hey." I greeted Justin.

"Hey." He mumbled, eating his cereal. JC was abnormally quiet sitting on the floor with a bagel in hand.

Chris saw me eyeing him and said, "He’s still sleeping."

"He’s asleep? Sitting up on the floor?"

"He’s amazing like that." Joey laughed.

"Wow… I gotta learn that." I smiled my first real smile of the day.

We finished eating and woke JC up before Lance herded us out to the elevator area. "What’s up for today boss?" Justin asked, more chipper now that he had some food in him.

"Right now we’re meeting with Tasha downstairs to go over some choreography for the show today. Then we have TRL this afternoon and we have to be there by 1:30." He said.

"Okay." They all nodded.

"Am I going with you?" I asked Chris.

"You can if you want. I know you didn’t come all the way to New York to sit in the hotel room." He smiled.

"No, I didn’t." I smiled.

"Of course, you probably didn’t come all the way to New York to watch 5 guys sweat through 3 hours of choreography either." JC commented.

"To be honest, I don’t know why I came to New York." I smiled and we all got in the elevator. We took it to the second floor where all the conference rooms were and were greeted by an impossibly fit young lady in a sports bra and warm up pants.

"It’s about time guys." She smiled and gave them hugs as they walked past her on the way to conference room three. "Christopher! What did you do to yourself??"

"Ahh, I broke my wrist." He said, holding up his cast.

"You gonna be okay jumping around a bit today?"

"Yeah it’s fine." He nodded. "Tasha this is Grace, she’s going to hang out and watch us, is that cool?" Chris asked as an introduction.

"Doesn’t bother me." Tasha smiled and extended her hand. "It’s nice to meet you."

"You too." I smiled, and we walked together down to the conference room.

JC wasn’t kidding when he said 3 sweaty hours of choreography. I stood there watching, in awe of these 5 guys. Where they found the energy is beyond me, I was tired just watching them. In the time they were there they all but perfected a brand new dance routine for their upcoming tour.

"Man we’ve got a lotta work to do." Chris wiped his face with a towel and plopped down on the ground next to me and grabbed a bottle of water.

"Are you kidding? You guys look great." I said.

"Yeah, but this is a dry run. Wait till we throw in out costumes and singing. That changes everything." He leaned against the wall and took a drink, holding his right arm close to his body.

"How’s the arm?" I asked with a look of concern. His fingers looked more swollen than before.

"It’s all right." He said, trying to wiggle his fingers.

"It looks kinda swollen." I frowned and reached out to touch his fingers.

"Yeah, a little."

"It doesn’t hurt?"

"Not much."

"Chris…"

"What…?"

"You need to take care of that arm or it’s going to be useless once the cast comes off." I said, switching easily into nurse mode.

"It’s fine, I’ve just used it a lot today."

"And it’s only eleven." I pointed out the obvious. "It’d feel better if you elevated it as much as possible today."

"Yes ma’am." He said sarcastically and put his arm straight above his head.

"Better." I smiled. "So are you guys done?"

"Yeah, pretty much. I think so." Chris kept his arm above his head as he stood up. "We done?" He shouted in the general direction of everyone else.

"Yep, see you tomorrow. Same time same place." Tasha waved as she tossed her stuff into a large duffel bag.

"Let’s get out of here." Justin said as he walked past us and out the door. We rode back up to the rooms and the guys showered and changed into some nicer clothes. We all met up in the lobby and headed to the MTV studios in a black van with darkly tinted windows.

As we got closer to the studios, you could hear the fans outside screaming, and as we turned the corner you could see the sea of people. "Oh my God…" I whispered, plastering myself against the window. "Look at that. That’s insane." The guys sat back in their seats and smiled. "This doesn’t scare you to death?" I asked.

"No." Joey laughed, "It’s fun."

"Fun? Jesus, look at that. They’ll tear you apart." I just couldn’t believe the amount of people lining the street.

"Nah, we’ll be fine." Joey smiled.

"Amazing…" I whispered and shook my head. We drove around to the back and were escorted in through a side door where Fiona, an MTV intern, met us. She had wild red hair and big blue eyes, half hidden behind tortoise shell rimmed glasses.

"Hi guys, what do you think? Great turn out huh?" She asked, adjusting her headset.

"Yeah, it’s crazy out there." Justin laughed as JC bounced through the door.

"Awesome. Well hey, Carson is in his office back there, if you wanna pop in and say hi before I herd you over to hair and make up. Is that what you guys are wearing today? Nevermind you look great, come on." Yes, she said that all in one breath.

The guys followed like ducks in a row down the narrow hallway to Carson’s office. "I… Chris? Where, I mean, am I supposed to come with you?" I stared at the gold records and awards covering the walls.

"Oh yeah." He stopped, "Hey Fi?"

"Yes?" JC just about plowed into the back of Fiona as she stopped abruptly and turned around.

"We have Grace."

"Of course you do. Style and grace." She smiled sweetly and said something into her headset.

"No, I mean Grace." He pointed to me and I waved.

"Hi." I smiled as she noticed me for the first time.

"Ahh, I see. Grace, not grace." She laughed at her own little joke and said, "We’ve got a studio full of fans if you want to join them. Or we can stash you in the green room."

"Stash her? Come on Fi, she’s not a box." Lance smiled.

"You know what I mean." She smiled and said, "What’ll it be hun?"

I looked at Chris, who just shrugged, "I guess I’ll go out in the audience."

"Okay well come with me and we’ll get the boys settled in hair and make up, then I’ll take you out to the floor." She turned to continue down the hall and said, "We’ve got 5 plus Grace." into her headset. "Grace is the girl."

"I’m the girl." I smiled sarcastically at Chris.

"Yes you are." He laughed and took my hand. Fiona ushered all of us into the hair and make up room and assigned each guy their own chair.

"You, Grace, you can come with me, I’ll get you seated on the floor." She pointed her pencil at the door and I dutifully followed.

She held the studio door open and motioned me through. I stepped into a dimly lit corner studio with huge windows on either side of the little stage area where 6 chairs were set up. There was a small set of bleachers on either side, and a couple dozen fans sitting on the floor in front of the stage area.

"Where do you want me?" I asked, looking nervously over my shoulder at her.

"Anywhere you want." She smiled and shut the door. I was on my own.

A couple of the girls on the floor turned and looked at me, the newcomer entering through a secret back stage door. I smiled and stepped over a few people, trying to find my way into a corner.

I spotted an empty section of carpet near one of the window walls and sat indian style. "Are you here by yourself?" The young girl beside me asked.

"Um, yeah." I smiled, and looked out the window. The street below was filling up more and more as it got closer to show time.

"Me too, my friends were supposed to come with me, but their mom wouldn’t let them. Actually, my mom brought me here, but she didn’t want to come up, so she’s across the street." She laughed and pointed out the window, as if I might pick one person out of the mass.

"You have a cool mom." I smiled sweetly and tucked my hair behind my ear.

"Are you here to see Nsync?" She asked a minute later.

I debated telling her I was here with them, and decided against it. In a crowd like this, I could be in trouble. "Yeah. Don’t you love them?"

"Yeah totally. Justin is my favorite. He’s so hot, and he seems really nice."

"He is." I smiled. "I mean, he looks like he would be."

"Yeah." She giggled and bounced around for a minute. "Oh I can’t wait."

I laughed quietly and leaned back on my arms as a couple of the girls near the door I came out of started chattering loudly. I looked up to see a good looking young man walk out and say hi to a couple of them. He continued onto the stage and attached his mic to the lapel of his shirt. "Hi guys, how’s it going?" He asked. Everyone answered at once and he laughed, "Are you all here to see Nsync?" The crowd inside, and outside, went nuts. "Well I just saw them back stage there. They’re getting their hair and stuff done, so they should be out in a couple minutes, in the meantime… welcome to today’s episode of Total Request Live, I’m Carson Daly. TRL is the show where we’ll show you the top ten videos you requested, and a couple you didn’t. With that out of the way, here’s a look at some videos that almost made it to the top ten. Remember that you can vote for any of these near misses, or any other video you want, at MTV.com and click on TRL. Here’s Blink 182 with "Adams Song"."

Music filled the small studio and Carson sat on one of the chairs. "Man, I can’t see anything." The girl sitting next to me stood up and moved across the room, leaving me sitting alone by the window. I played with my shoelaces as the song ended and Carson got back in the host mode.

"That was Blink 182, they didn’t make the count down today, but if you wanna see them on there you’re going to have to vote for them. Nsync is going to be here a little later; we’ll see how they’re doing on the charts and talk to them a little about their upcoming tour. But right now let’s check out our number 9 video, falling from number 8 yesterday, here’s Brittney spears with "Oops I did it again"

I covered my mouth as I tried not to yawn, and leaned forward on my knees. "Look at you sitting over there by yourself." Carson said into the mic, looking my way. "There are some seats over here ya know." He pointed to the bleachers.

I shook my head; "I’m okay."

"You sure?" He asked.

"I’m sure." I smiled and brushed my dark brown hair out of my eyes.

"All righty then." He turned to talk to some girls sitting on the floor in front of the stage. I turned back to look out the window and the mass of people clogging the streets. From where I was sitting I could read a lot of the signs, and I could see a group of girls doing the dance to "Bye bye bye" in the middle of the street. This really was crazy.

Carson chatted for a bit and gave us some MTV news before the guys came out, met by a thunderous applause and ear piercing screaming. Joey came out first, shaking hands with girls along the way. JC came out next, he smiled and waved, then took his seat next to Joey. Justin came out, and I swear the screams got louder. Lance was next, and as he stepped onto the stage, Chris came running out and jumped on his back, laughing like a maniac.

"We love Lance!" Chris shouted as Lance shrugged him off and they took their seats. Carson laughed and high fived Chris before he sat in the chair beside him.

"So how’s it going guys? Who broke Chris’ arm?" Carson asked.

"It’s going good." JC said, from the other end of the stage.

"Joey broke my arm when we were playing Cool Boarder on his Playstation." Chris said.

"Really?" Carson asked.

"Yeah, he was all bitter cuz I beat him." Chris smiled.

"Yeah right." Justin laughed.

"Yeah right what, boy?" Chris looked at Justin.

"Yeah right you beat him." He explained.

"I could beat him. It could happen." Chris pouted.

"No seriously, what happened? Are you going to be able to dance still?"

"I was bungee jumping and I came too close to the rocks." Chris caught my eye and smiled. "Yeah I can dance still Carson, we don’t spend a lot of time on our hands you know." Everyone laughed and Chris sat back in his chair. So this was the real "Nsync Chris".

"He fell off his horse when we were filming a video." Lance said quickly, before Chris could stop him.

"Shut up Lance." Chris threw Lance a dirty look, then said to Carson, "Lance doesn’t know, he wasn’t there."

"So you were bungee jumping huh? The same guy who can’t handle being 50 feet up in rigging went bungee jumping?" Carson smiled.

"Okay fine whatever. I fell off a horse. Happy now?" He glanced at Lance who laughed.

"So seriously guys, are you ready for your tour?" Carson asked as the girls started to settle down.

"Yeah, we’re getting all the choreography worked out and everything." Just leaned forward and played with his earring.

"We’re actually heading back down to Orlando next week to put the final touches on everything." JC said.

"Can you give us any hints? What can we expect?" Carson asked.

"Expect to go home tired." Justin smiled and sat back in his chair.

"It’s gonna be crazy man, we’ve got pyro coming in, big screens, lots of cool stuff." JC explained.

"You’ll have to wait and see." Lance said softly, holding the microphone near his lap.

"Talk into the mic Lance." Justin laughed.

"You’ll have to wait and see." Lance repeated, his voice echoing through the room.

"And your album comes out Friday, what’s that like?"

"It’s awesome. It’s a whole new sound for us. We had a lot of fun putting it all together." Joey played with the cuffs of his jacket.

"We got to work with a lot of cool people this time." Chris added. Carson continued with the interview for another couple minutes, then introduced the number 8 video and stood up. The guys noticeable relaxed when the camera was off, and they chatted amongst themselves.

"So seriously, you’re okay over here? There are plenty of seats over in the bleachers." Carson said sneaking up on me.

I jumped at the sound of his voice, then smiled, "No, I’m fine."

"You can’t even see from over here. I’m sure you didn’t come all the way from…?"

"California." I answered.

"California… to get a crappy view of Nsync." He smiled and touched the monitor in his ear.

"Well actually-" I began.

"Dang Grace! You’ll talk to just about anybody!" Joey laughed from the stage.

Carson turned to look at Joey, then back at me, "You know Joey?" He asked.

I nodded, "I know them all."

"She’d talk to Busta if he’d sit still long enough." Justin laughed.

"Hey, he started it." I pointed to Carson.

"It must be your magnetic personality." Chris said from the stage.

"So how’d you meet up with that crowd?" Carson asked.

"I put Chris back together when he came into the ER." I explained.

"You’re a doctor?"

"I’m a nurse." I smiled and stood up; my legs were falling asleep.

"She saved my life man." Chris said as he stood up and stretched.

"I did not, you were fine." I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying to wake up my leg.

"She saved my life then gave me a shot in the ass." Chris said loudly.

"You saw Chris’ butt?" Carson laughed, I could see some of the girls in the crowd giving me looks, his mic was catching most of the conversation.

"Well yeah, I gave him a tetanus shot." I said softly. We had just covered this on the other morning show, didn’t these people watch TV? "I only saw one cheek." I laughed.

"Do you know what these girls would give to see just one cheek, of any of these guys?" Carson laughed and stepped back onto the stage.

"Well I’m sure if you asked…"

"No no no, no nudity." Justin laughed from the stage, a blush creeping up on his cheeks. His facial cheeks. J

"Come on Chris, you’re obviously not shy." Carson laughed and sat in his chair. "You showed… I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name."

"Grace." The guys said in unison.

"You showed Grace, and you didn’t even know her."

"Yeah but I didn’t want to. Its not like I was all, hey nurse lady I don’t know, lookit my butt." Chris laughed. "Tell him, Grace."

"He really didn’t want to." I smiled. "He’s shy."

"Yeah right." Lance said under his breath. The girls in the audience laughed, there was no way Chris could ever be described as "shy".

"But you did it." Carson pointed out.

"Well yeah I did it. Only because I had to. If I didn’t she would have pinned me down and stripped me." He argued. The crowd had a field day with that one.

"No, I wouldn’t have." I laughed. "I’d have let you go home to get lock jaw, then die."

"See? She saved my life." Chris shrugged.

"Time out wait." Justin said. "She was going to tackle you, and pin you down, then strip you?"

"Yeah." Chris said.

"And that’s bad why?" Joey asked, giving Chris an "are you serious?" look.

"Hey yeah!" Chris shouted. "What was I thinking? Hey tackle me now!" He jumped out of his chair and kind of bent over, daring me to tackle him.

"No way." I laughed and crossed my arms over my chest.

"Come on, please?"

"No way, you lost your chance." I laughed at the sight.

"Oh hey Grace! What about me??" Joey stood up and presented himself to me to tackle. "I didn’t get a chance!"

"Do you want me to give you a shot?" I asked.

"I don’t care." Joey smiled.

"Dude, don’t do it man. It hurt for days." Chris offered his advice.

"Yeah, but if I’m gonna get tackled and stripped…" Joey grinned and winked at me over his shoulder.

"Dude Joe, I couldn’t sit on my right ass cheek for a week."

"Wait, that was the shot?" Joey stood up.

"Yeah… now if she’s gonna check you for a hernia… ya know…" Chris laughed.

"No no no." I laughed and covered my blushing cheeks.

"Hey now, if she’s checking or hernias, I wanna get in on that." JC leaned forward in his chair, as if to stand up.

Carson laughed and turned to face the camera. He tried to get himself in check as he said; "You just saw our number 7 video there, rising up 2 spaces from number 9 yesterday, that was Eminem." He laughed, "Sorry about that, things just got a little personal here in the studios with Nsync."

They finished up the interview and announced "Bye bye bye" as the number 1 video, then we were on our way again. They did Letterman that night, but kindly left me out of it. I sat in the very back of the audience and didn’t say a word to anyone.

It was after midnight when we were finally shuttled back to the hotel, and we were beat. "Chris dear, I have no idea how you do this all the time." I yawned and leaned against the elevator wall.

"Lot’s and lot’s of caffeine." He smiled.

"At this point, I don’t think even that would help." I closed my eyes and let my head fall back.

"Come on sleeping beauty, you’re almost there." He laughed as the doors opened and we stepped off. We made our way down the hall, saying our good nights as we went.

I collapsed on the bed as Chris turned the lights on and peeled his jacket off. "How come you’re so tired when I’m the one who’s been singing and dancing all day?" he laughed and sat at the table to untie his shoes.

"I don’t know." I sighed. "You’d think I could handle this after pulling 12 hour days in the ER huh?"

"You’d think." He smiled. "But that’s okay, get your sleep. You’ll need it, we have to be up early again tomorrow."

"Okay." I said into the pillow.

"You might want to change out of those jeans, they don’t look too comfortable."

"I will. Just give me a second." I said, without really moving my lips. Chris laughed and headed to the bathroom to change. He came out a few minutes later and said, "It’s all yours." He pulled the blankets back on his side of the bed as I pushed myself up and carried my lazy bones to the bathroom to change back into my scrubs, the only thing I had to sleep in.

I came back out after brushing my hair and teeth and found my way in the dark to the bed. I slid between the cool sheets and sighed deeply as my head hit the pillow, and I was asleep.

 

 

The next morning the guys had to be up early to work with Tasha on their choreography, which meant that I had to be up early as well. The guys joined us in Chris’ room again for breakfast, but they were all running late. By the time we all finished eating and cleaning up, it was a quarter after six.

"We gotta hustle. We were supposed to be there at six." JC stood up and yawned as the phone rang.

"That’s gonna be Johnny." Lance said reaching for the phone. "We’re on our way." He answered it. "I know, we’re leaving now. Okay." He hung up and faced the group; "We’re getting a talk when we get there."

They heaved a collective sigh, and headed for the door. I threw the laminated badge in my pocket, just in case. They were quiet for the short trip to the conference rooms. When we walked in Tasha waved "Hi" from her corner of the room and Johnny waved them over to the corner where the table was set up with the boom box.

"We’ll be right back." Chris said softly. I nodded and walked over to where Tasha was stretching.

"Okay guys, you know I’m usually not a bite in the ass about being late to choreography, especially only fifteen minutes. But today we’re on a tight schedule, and to be honest, you guys need all the practice time you can get. You looked like hell yesterday." Johnny said in a gruff, but not necessarily mean tone.

"We know Johnny, but-" Lance started.

"I know you know. That’s why it makes me upset when you know you’re supposed to be here, and you know you need the work, and you’re still late." He looked over to where Tasha and I were standing. "And if this has anything to do with the girl, I want to know now."

"Grace?" Chris asked as he looked up.

"Is that her name? I’ve seen her around for a couple days now. Nice of you to introduce us."

"I’m sorry, I guess I forgot." Chris shrugged.

"If she’s going to be a distraction, she needs to leave."

"Johnny it’s not like that." Justin argued.

"It’s not huh? Fine. Then get the lead out of your pants and show up on time. I’d tack on another hour today, but we’ve got too much to do. You owe me time tomorrow morning."

"Okay." They nodded in agreement and scattered to do their stretches.

"Meeting adjourned." Johnny waved as he headed out the main door.

"Okay guys, you’re all mine. And for being late this morning guess what?" She smiled devilishly.

"No…" JC moaned.

"Oh come on Tash." Joey whined.

"Nope. You owe me." She smiled.

"Double time?" Justin asked.

"You got it." She laughed and slid a new CD in the player. "Stretch first, then we’ll get down to business."

I grabbed a seat on the floor and watched the guys stretch out, then line up in formation. It turns out their "punishment" was to do one of their old dance routines to "Here we go" at double the speed, and they all had to get it right, or they had to do it again. It was almost silly to watch, but they were shiny with sweat after only their second time through the song.

They eventually got it, then got to work on the moves they started the day before. Tasha added some new steps toward the end, and I had to admit they looked good. After three hours Justin came over and collapsed at my feet, "This isn’t fun anymore, can I go home now?" He asked, smiling around his water bottle as he took a drink.

"Sure. First flight tomorrow." I smiled and messed his hair.

"Yay." He said weakly, then forced himself to stand up.

The door opened and Johnny poked his head in, "You guys looked better today. The bus leaves here in 5. Grab what you need and let’s go."

JC grumbled under his breath and ran his hands through his sweat soaked hair, "No showers today kids."

"Gross. Man I hate this." Lance pouted.

"No you don’t." I smiled and walked over to him.

"I hate not taking showers I mean… not this." He gave me a quick smile and grabbed his bag.

"Where are we going now?" I asked.

"Regis and Kathie Lee." Chris said as he walked up and draped his arm around my waist.

Lance gave Chris a surprised look and said, "Wow…"

"I pay attention every now and then." Chris smiled, and hugged his right arm to his chest.

I sighed, "Chris, let me see it." I took his casted arm in my hand and looked at his fingers. "You need to keep this arm raised, I’m not kidding." I lifted his arm over his head as we exited the conference room.

"That’s attractive." Justin laughed as he walked by on the way out to the van.

"Shut it, curly." Chris laughed.

"Does it hurt?" I asked.

"Nope." Chris shook his head. "It just itches like crazy."

"I know it does. You only have another 4 weeks of it though."

"I know, I know." He sighed and held the van door open for me, his right arm high in the air.

We all piled into the van and headed toward the studios. I was wedged between a very sweaty Chris and a very chatty Joey. "You should have seen it, it was crazy. This dude put a light bulb in his mouth and then, I swear to god he swallowed it. It was insane! Me and Justin were watching it going "No way man, no fucking way!" and then after that they had a guy on who swallowed a lock and a key and some ladies ring, then he coughed them back up and the ring was locked like, in the lock. Insane." He shook his head.

"What show was this?" I asked.

"That Ripleys Believe it or Not show, I don’t know, it was on at midnight or something. There was nothing else on." He shrugged. "But it was cool. They had this other guy balance about 150 glasses on his chin, weird stuff like that."

"And that one chick did summersaults for 12 miles and over a bridge. I’d have been sick." Justin added as we wove through traffic.

We showed up at the studios shortly after nine thirty, and were ushered quickly down the hall to a big room for hair and make up, they were late again. The guys lined up at the sink and doused their heads before the ladies could get to work. It took them less than ten minutes to become presentable, which is just amazing. We were shooed over to wardrobe next, and instead of taking their time to go through the racks, an outfit was chosen and handed to them as they walked through the door.

"You come with me." A lady with a headset and clipboard said as she touched my arm. "I’m Nancy, an assistant producer."

"Hi, I’m Grace." I followed quickly behind her.

"We’re on commercial right now so I’m going to seat you."

"Okay." I nodded.

"Sorry everything’s so rushed, it’s been busy morning." She smiled sweetly over her shoulder. "If you need anything just flag me down during a commercial break."

"Okay, thanks."

"The guys are staying till the end of the show, so I’ll come and get you after, okay?"

"Yeah that’s fine." I said as we passed through a huge doorway and into the back of the actual studio. We walked almost to the top of the seats and she found me a chair.

"Here you go hun, I hope you can see all right, I wasn’t told there would be guests. Oh well, enjoy." She smiled again, then hopped down the stairs as they came back from commercial break.

Regis introduced the boys, and showed clips from their first appearance on the show almost a year ago. The audience laughed, then the guys came out. There was a small group of girls in the front with signs that just about lost their mind when as the guys took their seats. They were dressed and cleaned up, and looking very relaxed. Not bad for arriving only 10 minutes before!

They did their short interview, basically covering everything for the 100th time this week. They broke for commercial and stood up to get ready for their performance of "Bye bye bye". Johnny snuck in a side door and stood beside the assistant producer as the guys bounced around the stage a little, to get psyched for the performance.

When they came back from commercial they went right into the song and sounded great. It seemed like every time they sang it for an audience; they made tiny variations to keep it fun for themselves. After the song and dance, they sat back on the couches with Regis and Kathy Lee and talked a little more about the upcoming tour.

As soon as they were finished, Johnny swooped in and rushed them off the stage and down the hall. I stood up to see where they were headed when Nancy ran up the steps to me. "Let’s go."

I followed her down the steps and across the stage area, "I thought we were staying till the end?"

"I thought so too." She said over her shoulder and she quickened her pace. "But since everything got behind this morning, they’re on their way to wherever it is they have to be next."

"Oh man." I sighed as I trotted down the hall behind her. I made it through the small crowd that had gathered at the back door and flung myself in the open van door.

"Jeez…" I sighed.

"This is how it’s going to be all day unless we make up time somewhere." Lance said as he watched the crowd of fans grow smaller as we hit the end of the block.

"Which isn’t going to happen, cuz we’re so tight today." JC said as he took his jacket off and balled it up to rest his head on.

"Are we having fun yet?" Justin asked as he leaned his head back on the headrest.

"No." Chris mumbled from my side.

"Will you tell me when we are?" Justin asked.

"Yep."

I took Chris’ casted arm in my hands and looked, "It looks good."

"For once." He said as he wiggled his fingers. "So what are you doing tonight?" He asked.

"Hmm? I… I don’t know." I gave him a look. "I’m kind of at your mercy this weekend."

"Oh yeah." He smiled. "Man I need a nap."

I laughed and nodded, "So I don’t know what I’m doing tonight."

"Well after everything’s done here, do you want to grab something to eat?"

"I think food is a necessity, yeah, I’d like to eat."

"I’m going to stop talking now before I shove my foot any deeper down my throat." He looked out the window and bounced his knees.

I looked around at the guys to see JC sleeping with his head on his jacket against the window, Lance was zoned out watching the passing cars, Joey was untying his shoes and loosening the laces, Justin had his walkman on and was bopping his head to the beat, and Chris was fidgeting like a 3 year old.

"Where are we headed now?" I asked Chris.

"I think either an in-store promotion, or a photo shoot. It’s gotta be one of those." He explained.

"Photo." JC said, without opening his eyes.

"Yikes." I cringed, looking at the half dead, mostly sloppy boys in the van with me.

"Yeah, yikes." Chris yawned.

We drove up to another warehouse looking building with a parking lot filled with a couple other vans, and a big bus. "We’re here." The driver said as he pulled up beside the other vans.

JC peeled his eyes open and rubbed his face with his hands as he crawled out of the van. Justin followed, not taking the walkman off, and Lance climbed over Joey, carrying his jacket over his arm. Chris and I hopped out and followed the caravan into the building, while Joey stayed in the van to re-tie his shoes.

When we walked in Johnny was waiting. How he got everywhere before the guys was beyond me. "Great, right on time." He smiled at the guys as we walked in, then went back to his conversation with another person on the staff.

"You must be tired, and bored out of my mind. Your mind. Bored out of your mind." He smiled. "Man I really need a nap."

"No, this is interesting." I said as I looked around the warehouse. "What is this for?"

"I didn’t even know we were coming, I have no idea what it’s for." He looked around. "But that’s the guy who did our shoot for TV Guide though, so maybe it’s that."

"Hmm."

"You gonna stick around?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Not really, I guess not." He smiled. "Wanna help me pick out some clothes?"

"Sure." I followed him across the room to where the racks were set up. He walked right up to his and started flipping through.

"Hey Gracie." Lance called from two rows over.

"Yeah?"

"Red or yellow?" He asked.

"Pants or top?" I smiled.

"Top."

"You don’t have white?"

"White? Let me look." He ducked back into the rack. "Nope, no white."

"You don’t have a white shirt over there at all?" I asked, standing on my tiptoes.

"No, I have a white jacket." He held it up.

"No." I shook my head. "Who chooses these clothes for crying out loud."

"I don’t know." Chris said slowly as he held up a black denim jacket with blue rhinestones decorating the sleeves.

"That is so wrong." I shook my head as he hung it back up. "Wait. Here." I pulled a white T-shirt off of Chris’s rack and tossed it to Lance.

Lance caught it, but then stared at me like I had grown another head. "This is Chris’s." He said.

"Well yeah, but he’s not going to wear it." I said as I rifled through the rack in front of me.

"But it’s Chris’s." He said again.

"Uh huh." I nodded.

"That’s mine." Chris said.

"Chris, you’re not even going to wear it." I argued.

"Yeah, but we wear what on our racks." He said. "No interchanging."

"That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard." I frowned. "Just wear it."

"Okay." Lance said as he sat the shirt aside and looked through the pants.

"Oh dude! Check it out!" Joey said loudly as he held up a pair of jeans with multi colored patches all over them. "These are hot, I wanna keep these." He laughed and laid them across the top of his rack.

"I’ll never understand that boy." I smiled and shook my head.

"This?" Chris asked, holding up a pair of baggy jeans.

"Yeah." I said. "And these." I tossed him a plain red shirt and a flannel to layer over it.

"Red huh?"

"I think so."

"Is this Lances?" He laughed.

"No, it was here on your rack." I smiled.

"All righty then. I’ll go get changed." He looked around, and I followed his gaze, not seeing anything that could pass for a changing room.

"Where are you guys supposed to change?" I asked.

"We usually just throw it on right here." He said, looking down at the selection of shoes near his feet.

"Oh." I said. "Oh. Okay. I’ll uh, just be over there." I smiled and made my way over to where the food table was set up. I helped myself to a bottle of water and leaned against the wall.

"Are you an assistant?" A young man asked as he walked up and grabbed a soda.

"Hmm? Oh, no. I’m not, sorry." I smiled.

"Ahh, a girlfriend?" He smiled and looked over at the guys.

"Umm, not exactly. I don’t know. I guess maybe." I stumbled over my words.

"I see." He gave me a reassuring smiled. "I’m Mike, this is basically my shoot."

"It’s nice to meet you Mike, I’m Grace." I shook his hand and immediately felt more relaxed.

"Well hey, these shoots can be pretty boring, especially if you're not smiling or holding a camera, I hope you’re up for it."

"I hope they are. They’ve been going all day."

"No, they’ll be fine. You’ll be amazed what they can pull out of their hats when the camera turns on them."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. These guys are the easiest shoots ever." He smiled and looked over his shoulder at the guys. "In fact they look like they’re about ready, I’ve gotta get over there."

"All right." I nodded.

"And if you want to come up close and watch, feel free."

"I won’t be in the way?"

"Not at all. Just stand beside me, you’ll be fine."

"Okay, great. Thanks." I smiled and sipped my water.

"Great." He walked over to where the camera was set up on a tripod and began messing with the settings.

"You guys ready over there?" Johnny shouted across the room.

"Yeah."

"Just about."

"Uh huh." Came a chorus of answers as the guys slowly made their way over to the backdrop.

Within minutes they had the music turned on and they were posing like pros. "What is this for?" I asked softly, standing beside Mike as he snapped pictures.

"Um, Teen People." He said, not taking his eyes off the boys. He removed the camera from the tripod and took a couple more shots, holding the camera at different angles. "So what’d Chris do to his hand?" He asked me.

"Um, he fell off a horse while they were filming a video."

"Ouch." He winced and smiled as he switched the flash on the camera.

"Unless you ask him, then he was bungee jumping and came too close to the wall." I smiled.

He laughed out loud and said, "Yeah right."

"Hey, it’s his story, he can tell it any way he wants." I laughed and watched the guys goof off, like they were on stage.

"What’d he break?"

"His wrist. In two places. And he dislocated all of his fingers."

"Oh shit that had to hurt." Mike caught my eye over the eyepiece of the camera.

"No kidding."

"Hey stop the chit chatting and take our pictures all ready." Chris shouted from the floor.

"Shut your cake hole kid, I’m working here." Mike winked at Chris and inched closer to me in a mock flirty way.

"Watch it dog… " Chris frowned at Mike, then busted up laughing. "Come on, come on, let’s get a move on it, we’re tired and hungry."

"Quit your bitching." Mike laughed and reloaded the camera.

"Hey can we do a pyramid again?" Joey asked.

"No." Justin and JC said in unison.

"No." Mike smiled at Joey and shut the back of the camera. Johnny stood off to the side of the backdrop with his arms crossed, watching the guys carefully.

Mike started snapping pictures again and the guys started to goof off. Chris picked Joey up piggyback style, while Lance and Justin held JC in front of them while he pretended to sleep. I was laughing at them as they imitated MC Hammers dance when "U can’t touch this" came on.

"Come on guys, look at the camera. Remember, this camera equals more than a million readers." Mike said, trying to get them to focus on the shoot. "Joey, lose the jacket."

Joey tossed his orange highway workers jacket off to the side and sat on the floor in front of the others. They continued taking some pretty fun looking shots for another hour, while Johnny stood like a statue watching. I pretty much kept my mouth shut, and laughed at them.

"All right guys, you looked good. Go change into those black gray outfit things and meet me back here in 20." Mike said as he and an assistant adjusted the lighting.

The guys headed straight for the food table and munched on the stuff they had sitting out. Chris grabbed a bagel and came over to me with his mouth full. "You doing okay?" He asked.

"Just fine." I smiled. "That looks like fun out there."

"Yeah, only it’s hotter than hell under those lights and we’re starving. Other than that, it’s a blast. But dude, I’m running on fumes."

"I’ll bet." I laughed.

"Hey Just!" Chris shouted to Justin who was making his way back to his rack with his hands full of bottled water and a makeshift sandwich that was falling apart as he walked.

"Yeah?" He asked.

"We’re having fun now." Chris laughed and sat on the end of his footlocker.

"Ha." Justin rolled his eyes and took a bite of his sandwich.

"Chris." Johnny called from the end of the rack.

"Yeah?"

"Can I have a word with you?"

"You can have two." Chris smiled and took another bite of his bagel.

"I’ll go see what Joe is up to." I said softly as I disappeared between the racks.

"How’s Tracey handling all this?" Johnny asked as he sat beside Chris on the footlocker.

"Tracey?" Chris frowned and examined his bagel. "You mean Grace?"

"Grace, right." Johnny continued.

"She’s doing all right. There’s nothing really to "handle" though."

"She’s been here a couple of days now."

"She came to New York with us, yeah." Chris nodded.

"I just need to be sure she’s not a distraction." Johnny said slowly.

"She’s not." Chris said, not sounding the least bit defensive as he picked a raisin out of his bagel.

"Because, you guys can’t afford to have any kind of distractions right now."

"We don’t." He looked directly at Johnny, almost daring him to say otherwise.

"If she becomes a distraction, you’re going to have to send her home."

"Johnny, she’s not a distraction. You know that JC would say something if she were. He’s the one person you should be asking about this. As for me, she’s not a distraction." Chris shrugged and used his good hand to pull his shoes off.

"JC, come on over here." Johnny called. JC came over shirtless, carrying his dark gray hooded shirt in his hands.

"Yeah?"

"What do you think of Grace?" Johnny asked.

"Grace? She’s great." JC shrugged and pulled the shirt over his head. "Why?"

"I just want to make sure she’s not a distraction." Johnny said carefully.

"Nope. She’s cool." JC smiled and began to tuck the shirt in. "In or out?"

"Out." Chris said, as he turned to grab his pants off the rack.

"Is that it?" JC asked Johnny.

"You’ll be sure to say something if she becomes one?" He asked.

"Johnny, you should know by now that if anyone, in any way, shape or form, became any kind of distraction, at all… you know I’d be the first to tell them to go home." JC said seriously. "You know that."

"I know that." Johnny nodded.

"Then don’t sweat it. She’s cool." JC smiled and headed back to his racks to finish getting dressed.

Johnny went back to sulk in his corner, as I returned to Chris, "What was that all about?"

"Nothing…" He mumbled as he pulled his old shirt over his head and reached for his black one.

"Was he mad?"

"Yeah, I guess. Well not really. He wanted to know if you were a distraction for us."

"Am I?" I asked after a moment’s hesitation. "If I am, tell me, I’ll go home. It’s no big deal."

"You’re not." He forced a smile and kissed my cheek. "You’re not."

"Well if he’s going to be all upset…"

"He’s not. Don’t worry about him."

"Would you tell me if I were being a distraction?"

He thought about that for a second, "If I didn’t, JC would."

"Would he?"

"In a heartbeat. He’s the most focused out of just about all of us. The minute he says someone or something is taking our attention away from the task at hand, the person, or thing, is removed. As harsh as that sounds, that’s how it is."

"But that’s a good thing." I smiled. "You guys need to be focused."

"I know. And we are." He pulled on another pair of shoes, and I leaned down to tie them. "The guys like having you around, really. We’ve got along better this past week than ever before. Joey hasn’t has his life threatened once." He laughed, "If there were any way you could come with us on tour, I’d ask you today."

"Whoa… Chris I don’t think-"

"No, I know. You can’t. Because then you would be a distraction." He smiled. "You would be in the way, and you would hate it." I frowned at him and tied his other shoe. "I’m just being honest with you."

"I know." I nodded, without looking up.

"In other words, stay here with us for the weekend, like planned. We’re leaving for Florida on Tuesday, to get to work on our tour stuff, so you can go home then."

"I have to be at work Monday morning." I explained.

"Oh yeah. Well then Sunday night?"

"Yeah, I’ll be here till then." I smiled and helped him button the fly of his jeans.

"Careful with the zipper, I sing high enough already."

"I got it." I laughed and pulled the zipper up.

"Thanks." He said in an exaggerated squeaky high voice. I laughed as he and the others gathered again on the backdrop.

The rest of the shoot went as planned, Mike took individual shots of each boy with what I was told was black and white film. I could hardly wait to see the pictures, and in black and white… wow.

As soon as the shoot was over, the guys changed back into their street clothes and we were ushered back into the van. We sped across town, yet again, for a meet and greet in a huge record store. The van pulled up behind the store, and I saw a mass of girls screaming and clawing at a tall chain link fence. That thin fence was all that separated them, from us.

"That doesn’t scare you?" I asked. I had seriously, never seen a crowd of girls that big, or that set on bringing down a fence.

"No." Joey laughed. "It’s cool, watch." He looked over at the fence and waved his hand over his head, then blew a kiss. I hadn’t thought it possible, but the fence actually seemed to move closer.

"Joey, if that fence goes down, you guys are goners." I kept a cautious eye on the fence.

"Yeah... but what a way to go." He laughed as the door in front of us opened and we were rushed in.

We were met just inside the door with more producers, who ushered the guys to a green room type thing in the back of the store. They flopped down on the available couches and took the water that was offered to them.

"Hey, this is going to take a couple hours, do you just want to go back to the hotel and hang out there?" Chris asked quietly as I sat on the arm of the couch.

"Are you sure that’s okay?" I asked.

"It’s better than sitting around here."

"True." I nodded and looked around.

"The van can take you back." He noticed my confused look.

"Okay." I smiled.

"Then when I get back we can go grab some dinner or something."

"That sounds great."

"Good." He smiled. "Hey I’m sorry this sucks for you. But I’m glad you came anyways."

"So am I." I kissed him quickly and asked, "Will it just be you and me tonight?"

"Yes, finally." He laughed and brushed my hair off my forehead before kissing me softly. "Here, make yourself at home." He reached into his back pocket and handed me his room key.

"Thanks." He waved one of the bodyguards over and explained to him that I was going back to the hotel.

The man nodded and smiled at me, "Hi, I don’t think we’ve been officially introduced. I’m Pete."

"Hi Pete, I’m Grace." I smiled and shook his enormous hand.

"Let’s get you out of here before it gets too crazy." He nodded toward the entrance we came in through. I followed him through the door and across the pavement to the van. He stood close to me and rested just his fingertips on my elbow.

"Thanks." I waved as I got in the van and reached for the door, expecting that to be that. I was surprised when he slid in the front seat and turned around.

"There is going to be a crowd at the hotel when we get there, I want to make sure you get in okay." His dark brown eyes sparkled as he smiled. "All them girls saw you on TV the other day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were out for blood."

"Are you serious?" I asked, imagining what a crowd like that could do to me.

"Like I said, it wouldn’t surprise me."

"Are you… I mean, is it going to be okay? With just you?" I was getting worried for my own well being at this point.

He laughed a deep solid laugh and said, "Honey, you’ll be just fine."

"Okay…" I stared out the window watching this unfamiliar city whiz by. Before I knew it we were back at the hotel, and Pete was opening my door.

"Let’s go." He smiled as I hopped out and looked around. As the crowd of girls by the entrance saw the dark van pull up and they went crazy, but when I stepped out, they calmed down, and turned their attention back to the front door. Pete held me by my elbow and led me up to the front entrance.

The girls, seeing the bodyguard with me, and my now familiar face, stood in stunned silence for a moment before shouting at me. I didn’t hear all of what was said, but what I caught wasn’t malicious at all.

"Are they in there?!"

"Where’s JC?!"

"Are you dating them?!"

"Tell Justin Katie loves him!"

"Where’s Nsync?!"

I didn’t know what to do, so I just didn’t say a word and let Pete drag me inside. Once in the lobby I turned to Pete and laughed. "I can not imagine what they’d do if I was one of the guys."

"You don’t want to know. Why do you think they have to come in the back? Those girls would try to maul them."

"Try?" I asked with a smile.

"Well with me and the others around, ‘try’ is about as far as they’d get." He grinned and held the elevator open for me, then followed me on.

He walked me all the way to Chris’s room and watched as I opened the door. "You’re okay then?"

"Yeah, thanks a lot Pete."

"Anytime. If you want anything to eat or whatever, just have something sent up, and meet them at the elevator. And whatever you do, don’t lose your badge." He smiled and waved as he headed down the hall.

I shut the door behind me and surveyed the room. It was just as we left it, the cleaning crew wouldn’t get a chance to clean up until after we left. I picked up a little bit, then sat on the little couch to read one of the many magazines that were laid out on the table.

A little while later I helped myself to a soda from the in-room mini bar, knowing full well that this 12 oz soda would probably cost $3 but I was dying of thirst, and I didn’t think I could leave the floor.

I was halfway through the third magazine, reading a Nsync article when there was a knock on the door. I laid the magazine face down on the chair and stood to answer the door.

"Who is it?" Hey, you couldn’t be too careful.

"It’s the boogey man." Chris shouted through the door. "And you have my only key in there with you miss Grace."

"I don’t let boogey men into my hotel room, sir." I smiled.

"Your hotel room?"

"I’m in it." I laughed.

He thought about that for a second before saying, "Come on Grace. I’ve gotta go." I laughed and pulled the door open. "Thank you." He said as he used his left arm to pull me into a tight hug and spin me around. He set my feet back on the floor and kissed me as I tried to regain my balance.

"Well hello to you to." I smiled and took a step back. "You’re pretty peppy for a guy who’s running on fumes."

"They gave me Pez." He smiled and ran his hand through his hair, before disappearing into the bathroom.

I sat back in my chair and resumed reading the magazine interview. I was learning a lot of interesting things about these five crazy boys. When Chris came out a couple minutes later he was wearing his Nike warm up pants and a white FuManSkeeto t-shirt.

"You don’t wear underwear?" I asked, not taking my eyes off the magazine.

"What?" He laughed and came to read over my shoulder. I pointed out the phrase in the interview "Underwear? What’s underwear? – Chris responded, in answer to the infamous boxer or briefs question." He tilted his head back and laughed, "Oh man, they really will print anything." He laughed again and said, "Yes I wear underwear. Some of the time. Most of the time. Except not in the shower. And not when I’m wearing bike shorts."

"You wear bike shorts?" I asked.

"Okay, not in the shower." He smiled and asked, "So are you hungry?"

"I am starved."

"Good, let’s go." He stretched his arms over his head.

"We’re going to be able to leave?"

"Yeah, I rule like that."

"Right on." I put the magazine on the table and stood up. I took my hair out of the ponytail and ran my fingers through it to straighten it out. "Do you have it all planned?"

"Pretty much." He took my hand and we left the hotel room.

We escaped with Pete down to the lobby and out the back door to a waiting cab. The cab took us back over by the Regis and Kathie Lee studios to a little Italian restaurant down a side street.

"How did you ever hear about this place?"

"Joey recommended it. I guess his cousins neighbors best friend’s nephew owns this place. Or something."

I laughed and followed him through the doors; Pete pulled up the rear. Chris and I were seated immediately, in a small dark booth all the way in the back by the kitchen, while Pete took a seat at the bar.

We examined the menus, then ordered and made small talk till our food arrived a little while later. As we ate, Chris talked a little about the upcoming tour, "So JC wants all this pyrotechnic stuff, and Justin want to drop from the sky again… the shit head. But I don’t know for sure, this is stuff we have to make definite when we go to Orlando."

"How long do you guys have to prepare?"

"We’ll be in Orlando for 6 weeks before the tour starts. We have to get all the dance moves and skits and stuff down perfect in that time, which is going to be hell considering we have an eleven song set. Then once the stage set up is confirmed we have to do a couple weeks of practicing actually on the stage."

"So your cast will be coming off right before your tour starts."

"Yeah, about two weeks before. So that’s good."

"Yeah… but you’re going to have to have physical therapy so you can use your right hand and wrist again." I said.

"I know, I don’t know how I’m going to swing that."

"You need to though." I switched into nurse mode. "How’s it doing today?"

"Fine." He sighed. "It doesn’t hurt any more, and it doesn’t feel swollen. I can actually move my fingers now, look." He wiggled them to demonstrate.

"Well that’s good." I nodded.

"Yeah. But I still had to sign all those autographs today with my left hand."

"How does that come out?"

"Like a loop and some squiggly lines. You can kind of see a C and a K so I guess that’s good enough. That’s about all you can see when I do it with my right hand too, so…" He shrugged and laughed.

"You should have been a doctor."

"Yeah, but then I’d have to look at blood and needles all the time." He winced. "I guess could have been a doctor though. But instead I decided to be a rock star."

"A rock star huh?"

"Hey, it’s my life, I can be what I want to be." He pointed his sauce covered fork at me and laughed.

"Whatever…" I smiled and we finished our meal. "How far is it back to the hotel?" I asked as we stepped out into the cold damp air.

"About, 15 blocks. 20 blocks, something like that."

"Can we walk?"

"You want to walk?" Chris looked at me funny.

"Well yeah, if it’s not too far."

"Considering I got up at the butt crack of dawn, danced for 3 hours and haven’t stopped even once for a breather, I’d say it’s too far to walk." He smiled and wrapped his arm around my waist. "But how about if we take a cab ride?"

"That’ll work." I leaned my head on his shoulder as Pete walked up beside us.

"Hey Pete, would it be all right if Grace and I took our own cab back?"

"Sure thing." Pete said. "But if you’re not going to be right behind me, I want you to call me before you get to the hotel so I can meet you outside."

"I’ll call you." Chris smiled as Pete hailed us two cabs. Chris and I got in one, and he got in the other. "Can you just drive us around for a little bit?" Chris asked the cab driver.

"No problem, mon." He said with a thick Jamaican accent.

"Cool." Chris said under his breath, with a smile. He sat back in the seat and pulled me over closer to him. He kissed me softly in the darkness of the backseat and nuzzled my neck.

"I’m going to miss you while you’re on tour." I said softly.

"I’m going to miss you too." He smiled, his face an inch away from mine. "But you’ll be able to come out and visit, whenever you want."

"Yeah…" I said softly, knowing in my heart that wouldn’t happen. After hearing road stories and about how little time they actually had, it almost wouldn’t be worth it. Almost.

"And we can call and e-mail and all that stuff." He forced a smile, wondering when he’d find the time to turn on a computer.

"I know."

"Besides, that’s not for a couple more weeks. We don’t need to worry about that." He sighed.

"Okay." I laced my fingers through his and sat back in the seat.
"I’m sorry we’re so busy here…"

"It’s okay. I'm actually having fun. I mean, do you have any idea how many girls out there would kill to watch you guys undress between the racks?" I laughed.

"Yeah I bet." He smiled. "Or zip my zipper, I’m sure they’d be lined up around the corner for that one. Or watch JC sleep, or be accosted by Joey in the hallway."

"I haven’t been accosted by Joey in the hallway." I frowned.

"The night is young." He laughed.

"Sounds like something I’d dig though."

"You’d dig?" He gave me a look, and laughed.

"Yeah, I think I’d dig it." I laughed and made a face. "Oh stop it, you’re such a product of the 80’s… don’t tell me you’ve never dug something."

"I can honestly said I haven’t digged anything. Digged? Dug? Whatever."

"What a shame." I shook my head and looked out the window as it started to rain. "Oh lovely."

"Are you made of sugar or something?"

"Yes." I raised an eyebrow at him. "Didn’t you know?"

"Hmm, let me see." He leaned over and nibbled my neck, "No, not sugar… but still good." He continued to kiss my neck and on up to my earlobe.

"Um Chris?"

"Hmm?" He mumbled.

"I think we should go back to the hotel." I caught the driver watching us in the rear view mirror.

"You got it." He leaned forward and gave the driver the name of our hotel, then sat back as his butt rang. He pulled a cel phone out of his pocket and flipped the mouthpiece open "What up dog?" He answered with a smile. "Who’s this? Yeah. We’re on our way back to the hotel. Tomorrow? Right on, yeah that rocks. Okay. Okay. Dude, that’s hot. Okay, hey let Pete know we’re heading back. Yeah he wanted me to call so he could meet us downstairs. Oh yeah? Lovely, we’ll go around back. Thanks man. Okay hang on." He held the phone out to me.

"Hello?" I held it to my ear.

"Gracie baby!" Joey shouted.

"Hey Lance." I joked.

"Heeeey now." He pouted.

"I’m just kidding. What’s up?"

"You get to go shopping tomorrow."

"I do? What for?" I asked, throwing Chris a questioning look. He just smiled.

"For because we’ve been invited by MTV to go to the premier of Kevin Smith’s new movie tomorrow night, and you can’t wear jeans." Joey smiled.

"Wow… are you sure I can go?"

"Of course you can. Sheesh, you have to go. It’s a rule. It’s a new Joey rule, Grace has to go."

"A Joey rule?"

"Yeah."

"How many Joey rules do you have?" I laughed. Chris rolled his eyes and laughed.

"Um… three."

"And they are…?"

"Number 1 - Don’t eat ice cream when you’re wearing brand new leather pants. Number 2 - Never give Chris Pez. And number 3 - Grace has to go."

I laughed and said, "Those are good rules. So for reals, we’re going to a premier?"

"For reals." Joey laughed.

"And Johnny knows I’m going?"

"I don’t know. I doubt he’ll care." Joey said, confused.

"Well you might want to check with him. I get the feeling he doesn’t like me much."

"Nah, you’re going. We’re allowed to bring dates."

"Okay well I mean, I’m not going to argue."

"Cool, so go shopping tomorrow. I’ll see you in a few."

"Okay."

"Put Chris back on."

"All right, bye."

"Bye."

I handed the phone to Chris who said, "Yeah? Okay. Hey you know what you need to do? No... Remember Kat? In Chicago that one time? Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure. Okay." He clicked the phone shut and smiled at me.

"What?"

"Nothing." He pulled me close to him again and I rested my head on his shoulder.

"What are you guys doing tomorrow?"

"We have another meet and greet thing in New Jersey, so we’ve got to drive down there first thing tomorrow morning, and then a radio show thing, I think."

"So while you’re doing that I’ll go shopping?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. At least you’ll get to sleep in."

"Yay." I said softly as the cab pulled into the back parking lot at the hotel. We pulled up beside where Pete was standing, and he opened the door for us.

"Did y’all get lost?" He smiled.

"Yep. You know me, I can hardly find my way to the corner half the time." Chris laughed as Pete leaned in and paid the driver.

The three of us walked into through the back door and Pete lead the way through the halls to the elevators. We rode up in silence, but Chris just kept smiling.

When we got off the elevators, Pete said good night and headed in the opposite direction towards his own room, while Chris and I walked toward the east end of the hall. "Hey you know what? I need to go talk to JC for a minute." He pointed across the hall.

"Oh, okay…" I said.

"I’ll just meet you at the room."

"Okay…" I frowned and continued down the hall. Hang on a second… he was going to go talk to JC? Mr. I-sleep-as-much-as-humanly-possible? At almost 1 in the morning, I don’t think so. I started to turn around to stop Chris from knocking when a flash of green, blue and red sideswiped me.

I landed in a heap on the floor, laying across Joeys midesction, "Jesus! What the hell’s wrong with you?" I laughed while I tried to push myself up. I used one hand to balance myself and the other to push my hair out of my face.

"Hi!" He smiled, lying flat on his back. I pushed myself up on my hands using his chest as a push off, and tried to right my feet. "Watch your knee, sweet cheeks." Joey smiled, and looked down. My knee was dangerously close to his "delicates".

"You’d deserve it." I punched him in the chest and laughed.

"I’ve never seen anything quite like that." Chris laughed as he came over to help me up. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine." I stood upright and straightened my shirt.

"Keep it down out there." A very sleepy Lance said from his doorway, three feet from where Joey lay on the floor.

"I was just saying hi to Gracie." Joey laughed and sat up.

"Hello Gracie." He smiled through sleep crusted eyes and waved.

"Hi Lance." I said, trying to keep my voice down.

"Good night Gracie." He shut the door and we heard it lock. Chris and Joey broke up laughing and high fived each other.

"Are you boys finished?" I asked with my hands on my hips.

"Oh come on, we’re just having fun." Joey pouted.

"At one in the morning?" I tried to look mad, but I couldn’t. I smiled and socked Joe in the arm again, "Next time aim lower, I think you cracked all of my ribs."

"Next time huh?" He smiled.

"Next time on someone else." I laughed and reached for Chris’s hand. "And you, you turkey… you knew he was going to do that."

"Well it’s only fair. You said you had never been accosted by Joey in the hallways, I figured it was about time." He gave me a sweet smiled and kissed my forehead quickly, before we headed down the hall to our room.

"Good night Joey, go to bed."

"I will… I will." He waved and opened his door at the end of the hall. "See ya tomorrow."

"That boy is nuts, you know that right?" I laughed as we walked into the room. "He should really be committed."

"I know, but if they sent him away, they’d have to send me away too." He yawned and shut the door. "He gets it from me you know."

"I know." I copied his yawn and smiled. "I have no idea why you’re still standing."

"Neither do I." He said as he fell face first onto the bed.

"At least go change into something more comfortable." I slapped his leg as I walked by on my way to the bathroom. I changed into my ever so sexy scrubs again, and brushed my hair. When I stepped out of the bathroom, Chris was snoring lightly on the bed; he hadn’t moved an inch since he fell. I smiled and turned the light off before I covered him with the blanket, and followed his example.

 

On to the next part…

 

Copyright 2000 Amy Lynn