Chapter 1

(Wednesday, November 22, 2000—Plane from Germany to Orlando)

"That was a terrific show, and an awesome tour. I’m proud of each and every one of you." Steve Jacobson, the tour manager, smiled at the faces looking at him, the same seventy-eight people he had spent the last five months with. "The tour was amazing. Thank you, Chris, Joey, Lance, JC, Justin. You are all very special, and incredibly talented." Steve smiled at each of the boys, looking at them with the love of a son…or five sons. Everyone clapped, congratulating the boys and calling for a speech.

Joey was the first to stand up. "Well, thanks to all of you. Without you, we’d just be up there, singing and dancing all stupid, with no lights or mics or choreography or style--"

"Ok, Joey, we get the point." The crowd laughed as Justin interrupted Joey before he went on some more. "Yes, thanks to all of you. You are all talented and special. You’re like our family." Justin looked from person to person, looking for Anett, his girlfriend. "I love you all," he said as he caught her eye.

Chris stood up. "Well, I don’t know ‘bout the rest of the guys, but I would personally like to thank the wonderful caterers for this beautiful food." The plane’s passengers laughed as Chris stuffed an appetizer into his mouth.

"Dangit, Chris!" JC stood up and pushed Chris out of his way. "I’m sorry you all had to witness that. But, while Chris is chewing, I’d just like to thank you all for the hard work that you’ve put into this tour. It was magnificent."

"Man, it was crunk!" Justin interrupted.

"Thanks, Justin." JC smiled at one of his best friends. "Yeah, it was crunk…very crunk."

"You guys talk a lot." Lance finally stood up, shaking his head at his best friends. "Anyways, I know that we all, from the bottom of our hearts, thank all of you, and we love you. But, also, we need to thank God for this gift that has been given to us." The guys all nodded, and the plane filled with applause, and the guys hugged each other.

Just as the chatter started again, Chris stood up again. "Yeah, I forgot," he said, once he had everyone’s attention. "I would also like to thank all of our dancers. We never would have gotten the moves without you. You guys busted your arses for us, and we owe you."

Everyone clapped and cheered for the dancers. "Come on, stand up and bow!!" The thirty dancers stood up and bowed for the plane.

"Yeah? Well, I say how ‘bout a bow from ‘N Sync?"

Everyone turned to look at the owner of the voice.

"Alright, Haley!!" Eric, another dancer, said. "Let’s hear it for ‘N Sync!!"

Everyone clapped, and the five members of ‘N Sync stood up at the front of the plane, and took a bow together.

Haley Maguire snapped a picture of the guys, five of her best friends, as they stood up smiling. She caught Chris’s gaze, and stuck her tongue out. He smiled, and she snapped a picture of him.

Here’s to a good memory.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I can’t believe it! I finally get to see Sean. It’s going to feel so good, back at home with my boyfriend. But I’m also leaving my best friends. That freaking sucks. But, then again, seeing Sean’s smiling face when I walk off of this plane…that will feel so good. I wonder…

"Hey, sunshine!"

Haley smiled as she looked at her new neighbor, Chris Kirkpatrick. "Hey. Great speech."

He smiled. "I know. Those caterers are good!" Haley laughed and looked out the window. Chris leaned over and tried to look at her journal. "Whatcha writin’ ?"

Haley shut her journal and put it in her bag. "Nothing for you."

"Damn. I thought you were finally declaring your love for me," Chris said as he leaned his head on her shoulder.

"Sorry to let you down."

Chris laughed. Haley couldn’t hear him, but she felt him shake. What a guy, she thought. A couple of minutes later, Haley felt Chris’s deep breathing. She giggled to herself, and rested her forehead on the plane window. At least I got a window seat. Haley closed her eyes, thinking about what it would be like to see Sean again at the airport…

"Hey, Hails, wake up."

Haley opened her eyes to look into the eyes of her intruder: JC Chasez. He smiled at her.

"Can I help you?" Haley asked, upset that he interrupted her.

"Nah. I just wanted to thank you personally," he whispered to her.

"For what?" Haley asked, a puzzled look on her face.

"For being there for me…us, whenever we needed you. Our talks were awesome. I would have broken down without you there to lean on, to talk to."

Haley smiled at JC. "No prob. Thanks for believing in me when I didn’t."

JC leaned over the top of the seat and kissed her cheek. "Don’t be a stranger."

"Oh, don’t worry about that." Haley grinned evilly. "You’re stuck with me now."

JC laughed. "Oh, no…what have I done?"

As the two laughed, Steve’s voice came over the intercom. "Could I have your attention please? I would like to see all of the dancers and ‘N Sync at the front of the plane. Thanks."

Haley and JC woke Chris up (not an easy task) and went to the front of the plane with the other dancers and the guys. Haley stood next to Justin’s seat, and he patted her hand. JC sat next to Justin, and Chris stood behind Haley, resting his elbow on her shoulder. Steve waited until everyone was quiet.

"OK. As I said before, thanks for all your hard work. You are a fine bunch of people, and you are all going to go far in life." He smiled at the crowd. "Of course, you all know of the meeting on Saturday morning, right?" Everyone groaned at the thought. "Good. So I’ll see each and every one of you early Saturday morning. Take these next couple of days to relax. Get some sleep!!." Everyone laughed. "We land in ten minutes."

For Haley, that next ten minutes was spent saying goodbye (until Saturday) to everyone, and preparing to see Sean. She hugged everyone around her, telling them she’d see them on Saturday. She hugged JC, Justin, Lance and Joey, telling each of them that they better keep in touch. She walked over to Chris.

"Well, Dreads, I’m sorry I won’t be spending the next seventy-two hours with you, but I will be thinking of you…NOT!" She hugged Chris.

"Yeah, well, I’d hate to burst your bubble, but I may be over on Friday to get my clothes back."

"Yeah, ok, but please call first cuz…you know…Sean…"

Chris rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah, you’ve been deprived of him for a long time now. Just make sure that you come out for air every once in a while, ok?" Haley nodded. "And you better be sure you’re back to normal on Friday. I don’t like seeing that kind of stuff…"

Haley play-punched Chris. "We’ll see." She hugged him. "Thanks for everything, Chris. I love you so much."

Chris hugged her back. "Love you too, Sunshine."

The flight attendant came over the intercom, asking all passengers to stay seated and put on their seatbelts. Haley sat down beside Eric and put her seatbelt on.

Eric looked at her. "Ready for Sean?"

Haley smiled. "You bet." Haley looked out the window. I’ll be there soon, Sean. I can’t wait.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Hails?"

Haley turned around to the voice.

"You need a ride?"

Haley looked at her watch. 11:42 PM. She’d only been sitting there for about two hours. Haley looked at her friend and nodded, fighting back the tears.

"Yes, please."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Thanks for the ride. I don’t know what happened to Sean." Haley looked down at her hands, the tears welling up.

"Don’t worry about it. I’m sure there’s a good explanation."

Haley nodded at JC. "I know. Thanks."

Haley unlocked her door and went inside. JC brought in her other suitcase and put it down. He saw how upset she was. He looked around the room and saw her machine blinking.

"Maybe he left you a message," JC said hopefully.

Haley nodded at him, and JC gave her a hug.

"You be good. I’ll see you Saturday, ok?" Haley nodded. "Give me a call if you need anything or want to talk, okay?"

Haley nodded again. "Thanks…for everything."

JC smiled. "No prob. Now, get some sleep!" He kissed her cheek and walked out the door to his car.

Haley shut the door and walked over to her answering machine. She took a deep breath and pushed the New Messages button. "You have two new messages." Haley sat down, exhausted. "First new message."

"Hey Hails, it’s Sean. Look, I’m sorry I couldn’t pick you up at the airport, but Sarah’s been having problems with her boyfriend and she needed to talk. I’ll call you when I get home. Love ya."

Tears streamed down Haley’s face. "With Sarah?"

"Second new message."

"Haley, it’s your mother. Call me! I want to hear from you. Your flight got in over two hours ago. Call me as soon as you get this. I’m so proud of you. I love you. Call me!"

Haley sat there, in the dark, and cried. The phone rang, and she composed herself.

"Hello?" she asked, flicking on the lights.

"Haley! What took you so long? Why didn’t you call me? Where have you been?"

"Hey, Mom. How are you?" Haley asked after a sigh.

"Oh, I’m fine! How are you? How’s Chris?"

Haley laughed. "Everyone’s fine, Mom."

"Oh, good. Where were you? I’ve called every five minutes in the past two hours!"

"My ride didn’t show at the airport," Haley said, feeling the tears coming. "Um, Mom, can I call you back tomorrow? I’m really tired."

"Oh, yeah, sure Honey." Her mom paused. "How did you get home then?"

"JC gave me a ride."

"Oh." Another pause. "What about Sean?"

Haley closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "He, uh, couldn’t make it. I just found out."

"Oh."

"Mom, I’ll call you in the morning, okay?"

"Okay, sweetheart. You sleep well. Call me when you wake up."

"I will. Thanks, Mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweetie. Goodnight."

"You too. Night." Haley hung up the phone. She shook her head.

"Just go to bed," she told herself. Instead, she walked into the bathroom and drew a bath. She grabbed her radio from the living room, her PJ’s and a book. On her way past the answering machine, she picked up the cordless phone. Haley added bubble bath to the water and got in, playing her mixed CD. She was listening to "Lay Down Beside Me" by the Backstreet Boys when she picked up the phone and dialed Sean’s number. She got his machine.

"Hey. You know what to do. Beep’s up next."

BEEP.

"Hey, Sean, it’s just me. Well, I just wanted to let you know that I’m home. JC gave me a ride. But, yeah…call me when you get in. Don’t worry about the time. I just wanna talk to you. Love you."

Haley clicked END on the phone and dropped it onto the floor. She ducked her head under the water and started crying. She resurfaced and wiped herself off. She stepped out of the bathtub, put her pajamas on, and crawled onto the couch. She opened her journal to a new page, wrote the date, and closed her eyes.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Thursday, November 23, 2000—Haley’s apartment)

By 8:30 am the next day, Haley had already jogged for an hour, showered and called her mom. She went online and checked her mail—she had tons of letters from all of her friends, all wanting to know how she was doing and how the tour was. When she logged off of the internet, Haley looked at the clock. 9:38am.

Haley picked up the phone and dialed Sean again. She didn’t get an answer so Haley decided to go over to his place to pick up her cat Sniffy, and to see if he was okay. Haley grabbed her purse and ran out to her 2000 Jetta. When she got to his apartment, she didn’t get an answer when she knocked, but she did hear Sniffy meowing from inside.

"I’m coming, Sniffy," Haley muttered as she dug around in her purse for Sean’s key. She found it and unlocked the door. Sniffy ran into the hall and jumped into her arms.

"Oh, Sniffs, I missed you so much! Yes I did!" Haley talked baby talk to Sniffy as she shut the door behind her. She looked around the apartment. She noticed two coats--one a woman’s--on a chair in the kitchen. Puzzled, Haley held a purring Sniffy in her arms as she walked around the apartment, towards the bedroom. She heard some muffled noises, and she knocked on the door. After a second, she reached for the doorknob and pushed the door open.

There, she found Sean and his ex-girlfriend, Sarah, wrapped in each other’s arms. They both looked up at Haley.

"Oh my God, Haley!" Josh said, untangling himself from Sarah, who immediately tried to cover herself up with the sheet.

Haley looked at Sean. "No, don’t bother." Haley started laughing. "Fuck me!" Haley looked at Sarah. "No, sorry, you have Sarah for that pleasure." She shook her head and turned to walk out of the room.

"Haley, wait!"

Haley turned to face Sean again. "No. You didn’t, so why should I?" Haley was crying now. "Fuck you, Sean! You could have told me. Then, maybe I would have made other arrangements last night." Sean was putting his pants on. He walked over to her, but she turned and walked away from him. "Well, Sean, I would like to apologize." Haley turned to face him.

Sean was confused. "For what?"

Haley looked at Sean, an evil look in her eyes. "For the fact that you had to take that one minute or so from fucking that bitch, just so you could let me know that you blew me off. I’m sorry. I hope you can make up that minute sometime." Haley looked at Sniffy as she turned away from Sean.

"Sorry for leaving you here, bud. We’re leaving now." Haley walked over to Sniffy’s travel kennel and grabbed his food dishes. She turned around when she got to the door and looked at Sean.

"Hails, I’m sorry," Sean started but Haley interrupted him.

"No. Please don’t. I should have expected it. Have a good life." Haley opened the door and walked out and down the hall. She managed to make it down the stairs and out to her car before the tears started. She threw Sniffy’s stuff in the backseat and Sniffy jumped into the passenger seat. He looked at her and meowed.

"I know, he’s scum." Haley wiped her eyes and turned the engine on. She cranked the radio and looked at Sniffy. "Fuck him. Let’s go home, hun." She patted the top of Sniffy’s head before they drove out of the parking lot.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Come on, Chris, let’s just leave her alone. We’ll see her later."

Chris looked at Justin. "Look. Sam woke PooFoo up, who in turn woke us up, so we are really just passing on the wake up call." Chris turned his key in the lock.

"But, Chris, she needs her sleep!"

"Shhh…she’s on the couch." Chris looked down at the creature wrapping itself around his legs. "Hey, Sniffy. Let’s wake your master up." Chris picked up a purring Sniffy and walked over to the couch. Justin grabbed Haley’s journal up off her chest and passed it to Chris. As he was closing the book, Chris saw something that he didn’t like, but he wasn’t one to snoop. He reluctantly shut the journal, but he made a mental note to talk to Haley about it.

"Hey guys," Haley said groggily.

Chris forced a smile. "Hey, sunshine. What’s shakin’?"

Haley rubbed her eyes. "Not much." She looked from Chris to Justin, and back to Chris. "One question."

Justin sat down on the couch beside her. "Shoot."

"What the hell are you two doing here?"

Justin looked at Chris. "You tell her."

Chris took a deep breath. "Our good friend Sam called Lance this morning, and gave him a message to pass on to us, which we are here to pass on to you."

Haley looked at Justin. "Why are you two here?"

Justin laughed. "Sam wants all dancers at the studio by one o’clock this afternoon." Haley looked at the clock. Justin smiled. "Yes, we have one hour to get our butts over there. So I suggest that you hurry your pretty little ass up." Haley ran to her bedroom. Justin chuckled to himself. "Damn, I love that girl." He looked at Chris’s face. "What’s wrong, Chris?"

Chris looked at Justin, a worried look on his face. " Hails--" Chris stopped as Haley came out of her bedroom. She looked at Chris and Justin, a smile on her face.

"Ready to go?"

Justin looked at Chris, who plastered a smile on his face. "Yeah, we’re ready."

The three of them walked out of the apartment, leaving Sniffy alone.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"So, tell me again. Why are we going to meet Sam on our first day back?" Haley asked in Justin’s BMW Z3.

"We’re her slaves. She’s nothing without us."

Haley laughed at Justin’s comment. Chris looked in the rearview mirror and was glad to see Haley smiling. He smiled to himself. She’s fun to be around, Chris thought to himself. He looked at her again and frowned when he saw her eyes welling with tears. She wiped one away, and Chris turned around to look at her. She half-smiled.

"The wind’s making my eyes water." Haley looked out the window again, wiping her eyes. Chris nodded to himself and turned to the front as they pulled into the studio parking lot.

 

Chapter 2

"Okay. You guys were great over these past few months. I’m extremely proud." Samantha Potter looked at the dancers that she trained as her profession. "You guys are awesome. You all are here because I want to make a video of all of you." The dancers and ‘N Sync groaned. Haley looked at Chris and stuck her tongue out at him. He half-smiled.

What’s wrong with him? she wondered.

"So, we’ll do this now. You have a couple of minutes to figure out what you’re gonna say." Sam walked over to the stage and grabbed the video camera. Haley was sitting by herself, thinking, when Sam cornered her.

"And this is Haley, my star dancer."

Haley laughed. "I doubt that, but it is your video, so you call the shots…"

Sam smiled at Haley. "So. Let me hear about you. How you liked the tour, how good I am, anything."

Haley smiled at the camera. "Well, Sam, I had a blast on the tour. You busted my ass, but it was worth it. You are the best person to work with, and I can’t wait until next time." Haley blew the camera a kiss.

Sam smiled and shut off the camera. "Thanks, babe." She hugged Haley. "You’re the best. Can’t wait to teach you new material. I’m gonna work your ass so hard, you won’t be able to stop dancing."

Haley laughed. "I’m counting on that, Sam."

Sam laughed as she stalked Eric, her next victim.

Haley walked over to Chris, JC and Lance, who all had worried looks on their faces. "What’s wrong, guys?"

The three guys looked at her, and put on forced smiles.

"Hey, good lookin," JC said as he put his arm around Haley.

Haley reached around JC and grabbed an apple from the fruit basket. "What’s up?"

"Not much," answered Lance. "How was your night?"

Haley looked at Lance. "Oh, I’ve had better." She bit into her apple.

"So what happened to Sean last night?" JC asked.

Haley took another bite of her apple to give her time to think of what she wanted to say. She finally swallowed and took a breath.

"Well, Jace, you were right. He did leave me a message." Haley looked at Chris. "Chris, remember how Sean’s ex-girlfriend, Sarah, was always with him?" Chris nodded. "Well, he was too busy comforting her to pick me up last night." Haley put extra emphasis on ‘comforting’, hoping they would pick it up. She looked at each of the guys and took another deep breath. "So, I went over this morning to get Sniffy, and I found them together in bed."

JC looked shocked and pulled Haley closer to him when he saw that she was crying. "I’m sorry, Hails. What a prick!"

Haley stood back, wiping her eyes. "No, I’m sorry. I should have realized that this would happen."

Haley looked at Chris, her best friend since before the tour began. He was making the fish face, when you suck in your cheeks and move your lips. Haley tried to smile at his attempt, but it didn’t work. He wrapped his arms around her. Haley clung to Chris, and JC and Lance decided to leave them alone. JC patted her back as he walked by.

"It’s okay, Hails. I never liked him anyway." Chris felt Haley shaking in his arms, but he didn’t know if it was because she was laughing or because she was crying. "Hails?"

Haley sniffed. "Yeah?"

"You wanna go home?"

Haley shook her head. "No. I wanna be with my friends."

Chris pulled back and looked at her face. "You have friends?"

Haley smiled and hugged him tighter. "Well, I guess you’ll do."

"Oh, feel the love in this room." Haley laughed and Chris’s face got serious. "Yo, JC! Justin, man. Lance, Joey!" The guys looked over when they heard their names. "Would one of you guys please come over here and keep our beloved Haley company while I go pee?" Haley giggled when she saw Chris’s face. He looked in pain.

JC jogged over. "Yeah, sure. Why not?" He looked at Haley and smiled. "I always like helping a beautiful woman when she’s in distress."

Haley smiled, and Chris looked at JC. "Okay. You can start by helping me get her off of me." Haley laughed as she unwrapped her arms from around Chris’s waist.

"Thank you!" Chris started running through the crowd. "Look out! Cute guy with a bladder about to explode comin’ through!"

Haley laughed as she watched her friend. She looked at JC. He had a worried look on his face.

"You gonna be okay?" JC asked as he put his arm around her shoulders.

"I think so." Haley sighed. "I just need to be with friends right now."

JC hugged her. "Ah, then you’ve come to the right place." Justin, Lance and Joey were walking up to them. "Here, we have the babe magnet, so to say, of the group, Justin Timberlake." Justin bowed and Haley had to smile at Justin. "And, over here," JC pointed to Lance, "is Lance Bass, the gentleman of all gentlemen." Lance gave Haley a big smile and blew her a kiss. JC put his arm on Joey’s shoulder. "Joey takes on the role of the sweet talker of the group, the Ladies Man."

Joey reached out, grabbed her hand and kissed it. "How you doin’?" he said as he raised his eyebrow and smiled at her.

Haley and the guys were laughing at Joey when Chris came walking up to them.

"Damn, girl! Arms like that can really make a man have to urinate!"

The guys laughed at Chris’s joke. Haley just stood there, looking at him. She opened her mouth to retaliate but JC interrupted her before she could speak.

"Haley, this is Chris, our beloved jokester. He’s funny, eh?"

Haley shook her head. "If that’s what you call someone who is about to get the shit beaten out of him, then yes he’s funny." She looked at Chris. "You ready for an ass-whoopin?"

Chris stuck his face in Haley’s, his nose touching hers. "Oh, I’m prepared to whoop your ass, sister." The other guys "oohed" and "aahed" from behind her.

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah."

Just then, Haley felt four hands slapping her ass. She closed her eyes, trying not to laugh. She opened her eyes and looked at Chris.

"So, Chris, you don’t fight your own battles anymore? You gotta get your buddies to do your dirty work?"

The guys were all laughing behind her. She turned around to face them. "You all better shut up, or you’re gonna get a serious case of the beats." She looked at each of the guys. They all backed up a couple of steps. She smiled politely at them. "I’ll deal with you four later."

Haley turned back to Chris. He looked at her with the puppy dog look. "Don’t pull that crap with me, Dreads, I’m not gonna fall for it."

Chris stuck his lip out further.

"Chris, you suck so bad." Chris’s chin started to quiver, and Haley saw tears forming in his eyes. As usual, Haley stepped into his trick.

Haley sighed. "Okay, Chris, I’ll let you slide this time. But," Haley looked at Chris, dead serious, "I will not forget this. And I won’t be so gentle next time."

Chris smiled and hugged her. "Thanks, Hails. I’m sorry about the joke." Haley stared at him. "Okay, so it wasn’t that funny." Haley nodded. "Truce?" Chris stuck his hand out.

Haley looked from Chris’s hand, to his face and back to his hand. She put her hand in his and shook on it.

"Truce."

Chris smiled. "Great. Now, let’s break out of this joint!"

Haley laughed as Chris and the other guys started darting around people, hiding from Sam, who was finishing her video. Haley and JC waved at Sam as she opened the door. Sam ran over to them.

"You leaving already?"

Haley nodded. "Yeah, I had a rough night." Sam looked at her, worried. Haley looked over Sam’s shoulder, and saw Chris and Justin crawling on the floor, pointing at the door.

"Distract her," Chris mouthed at Haley. Haley smiled.

"Hey, Sam, have you had a chance to talk to Justin and Chris yet?"

Sam shook her head. "Not yet."

Haley pointed at the guys. "Well," Haley said as the guys stood up, "they didn’t want to leave without being interviewed."

Chris shot Haley a look that could kill her, and Justin just stood there, his mouth hanging open.

Haley smiled. "See you later, Sam," she said as she walked out the door, pulling JC behind her as Sam attacked Chris and Justin.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Yo, Haley!"

Haley turned around as she walked to JC’s Jeep. "Oh, hi Lance."

Lance ran up to her and gave her a hug. "Hey. That was mean back there. I liked it!"

Haley smiled. "I didn’t want to get Justin, but Chris deserved it."

"Yeah, I think Justin’s about ready to kill you now."

Haley laughed. "I can take him."

Lance smiled. "So what are you doing now?"

Haley looked at her watch. 3:13PM. Haley looked back at Lance. "Probably just gonna pop in a movie and fall asleep." Lance laughed. "What are you guys up to?"

"Actually, we’re free until Monday, just like you."

Haley bit her lip as she looked at JC. She took a breath before speaking. "And what do you guys have planned?"

Lance scratched the back of his head. "Well, Haley, we were kinda hopin’ that you would have a solution." He smiled desperately. "Please, Hails, don’t let them drag me out to another club! I just wanna sleep?"

"Oh stop whining Lance."

Haley laughed. "Then go home and get some!"

Lance shook his head. "Haley, you know it doesn’t work. One gets bored, and gets the brilliant idea to go clubbing, and then we all get tired. All I’m asking is for you to break the cycle."

Haley looked at Lance’s pleading eyes, knowing she couldn’t—wouldn’t—turn him, or JC, or any of the guys, down. "And just what do you want me to do with you guys?"

Lance smiled. "A movie and sleep sounds great. We’ll be there at seven o’clock." Lance kissed her cheek and ran back into the studio, leaving Haley and JC alone.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Chris, get your feet off the TV!"

"Yo, Justin, stop hogging the blankets!"

"Hey, Joey, don’t clip your toenails in front of me!"

Haley looked at her once-clean apartment. She had pulled her sofa bed out and moved the tables out of the living room. Chris was lying on the floor, his feet on the television, Justin was on the bed, blankets surrounding him, Joey was sitting on the edge of the bed, clipping his toenails, and Lance was on her bed in the bedroom, sleeping like a baby.

"Guys, keep it down. Let him sleep!" Haley walked over to the bedroom and carefully shut the door.

JC walked out of the kitchen with bowls of popcorn and chips. He set one bowl on the floor beside Chris, and two on the bed. "Yo, Joey, man. Don’t touch this bowl until you are done and you have washed your hands."

Joey smirked at JC. "You know you like it."

JC grabbed a pillow from the bed and threw it at Joey’s face. Haley laughed at Joey as he threw the pillow at JC, but missed and it hit Justin in the face.

"What…the hell…do you think you are doing?" Justin asked as he removed the pillow off his chest. He smiled at it and put it behind his head. "Oh, that feels better." Justin smiled at Joey. "Thanks, man."

Haley laughed at her friends as she made her way over to Chris with a bowl of popcorn. Chris smiled up at her and grabbed the popcorn out of her hands she cleared a spot and sat down beside Chris. He looked at Haley as he stuffed a handful of popcorn in his mouth. He smiled, spewing popcorn at her.

"Oh, you are such a Ladies Man, Dreads." Haley wiped the popcorn off of her.

"Hey, Hails, why do you always call him Dreads?"

Haley looked at Joey. "Why?" Joey nodded as he clipped his toenails. "Because Tyler, my brother, always called him Dreads, so I picked it up." Haley looked up at Joey again. "Hey, Joey?"

He looked down at Haley. "Yeah?"

Haley smiled sweetly. "Could you please stop that?"

Joey laughed as he clipped his baby toenail. "Done. Happy?"

Haley made a disgusted face. "No. Go wash your hands." Joey stood up and started walking towards the bathroom.

"Joey!"

Joey turned around. "What?"

JC pointed at the bed, and Joey followed his finger. Joey grinned sheepishly as he walked back to the bed and picked up the clippings. He looked at Haley. "My bad."

Haley shook her head and chuckled as Joey walked back to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. JC lay down on the bed, his face at the end of the bed.

"Yo, JC, get some odor eaters or something." Justin made gagging noises. "Help me. It’s attacking me…I can’t breathe…"

Chris sighed. "I’ve told you so many times, JC. It wouldn’t have been that hard to kill him off before. I’ve told you, just stick your feet in his face." He turned to Haley. "I get no respect."

Haley smiled and rested her head on Chris’s shoulder. Haley looked over to see JC’s eyes closed, his head rested on his arms. She smiled as she heard the bathroom door open.

"Ah, JC, why’d you have to steal my spot?"

Haley looked at Joey. "Shhh. He’s sleeping."

"No, I’m not, but thanks for trying." JC smiled at Haley, his eyes still closed.

"I tried. Sorry."

JC smiled as Joey sat down beside Haley.

"I really like your bathroom. It smells good."

Haley smiled. "Thanks, Joey. Glad you like it."

"Yo, people. Someone is trying to watch a movie back here. I haven’t seen ‘Three to Tango’ before."

Haley turned and looked at Justin. "Justin, the movie hasn’t started yet."

Justin smiled. "I’m preparing myself."

Haley nodded and turned around. She leaned her head on Chris’s shoulder again. The apartment grew quiet as the movie started. By the end of the opening credits, Haley heard deep breathing from each of the guys, and Lance’s snoring from behind the bedroom door.

This is beautiful. I just wish everyone could see them like this.

Haley smiled as she closed her eyes and fell asleep against her best friend.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Damn. Why is it so cold?"

Haley looked around her apartment, shivering. She found the enemy: the open balcony door. Haley stood up and looked down at Chris. She smiled as she watched him sleep. She placed a blanket around Chris and looked at the bed. She heard some noises coming from the balcony when she realized that Justin and JC weren’t there. Haley grabbed a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around her as she walked to the balcony.

She stuck her head out the door and smiled when she saw Justin and JC writing, Sniffy in JC’s lap.

JC looked up at Justin with an evil grin. "You’re goin’ down, Curly One." He laughed as he continued writing.

"Why’s he going down?"

The guys looked at Haley, then at each other. They burst out laughing. Haley stood behind Justin and read what she could of his writing.

"JC Chasez…loses…kiss Joey Fatone…lips." Haley looked at JC. "I think I’ll leave you two alone for now."

JC laughed as Haley started walking back into the apartment. Justin grabbed her arm on the way by and he pushed her into the chair between him and JC.

Haley watched them, a worried look on her face, as they laughed hysterically. Sniffy jumped into Haley's lap and cuddled in her blanket.

"Okay, Haley, I'll explain," JC said as he caught his breath. "See, we think up little bets, and we each write down what the other has to do if he loses."

Haley nodded. "And what was this bet?"

Justin smiled. "Whoever gets Sniffy to meow first, wins."

Haley looked at JC. "Can I read yours, JC?"

JC handed his paper to Haley, and she smiled as she read it. She looked at Justin. "Come here."

Justin walked over to her. She grabbed his hand and placed it on Sniffy's back, by his tail. Within two seconds, Sniffy let out a loud "Meow" and ran into the apartment. Justin and Haley laughed, while JC just sat there, his mouth open. Haley looked at him, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"That's not fair!" JC whined. "Hails, you cheated!"

Justin put his arm around Haley and the two smiled at JC. "You may as well get it over with now, JC."

If looks could kill, Haley would have been six feet under.

"You better watch your back, girl." JC stood up and stood in front of her. He looked down at her face, and saw that she was enjoying this. "You just wait. Payback's a bitch, and I never forget to pay someone back." JC grinned evilly and walked into the apartment. Haley looked at Justin and rolled her eyes before following JC into the apartment.

JC stepped over Chris and knelt down beside Joey. He looked at Haley and Justin and stuck his tongue out before grabbing Joey's face and kissing him on the lips.

Haley and Justin clapped for JC, and Joey snuggled up to JC's legs. JC stood up quickly to find Haley and Justin holding onto each other for support. He watched them, and the two stopped laughing when they saw his face.

"You two better watch every move you make. I'm not very happy, and quite frankly, you are very lucky that it's late and people are trying to sleep beneath us, otherwise I would be unleashing some serious cans of whoop ass on both your asses." JC took a breath and smiled at Haley's terrified face. "Now, I'm going to go get some fresh air." He walked past Haley and Justin, out onto the balcony. Justin shrugged his shoulders and lay down on the bed.

Haley shook her head and walked over to the balcony. She pulled the blanket tighter around her as she stuck her head out. "Is it safe for me to come out here?"

JC smiled, his eyes closed. "Yeah, you'll be safe for the night. I don't want to wake up your neighbours."

Haley giggled. "Thanks for taking it easy on me."

JC looked at her and patted the chair beside him. "Oh, just you wait," he said with a smile as Haley sat down. "I'll get you." JC winked at her. "I always do."

Haley smiled. She watched JC take a deep breath, close his eyes and lean back in his chair. Haley looked out at the stars shining in the sky. Thank you God, for everything, Haley thought. Where would I be without these guys? They're my life. Thank you for thinking that I'm deserving of such a blessing.

Haley smiled as she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.

"Hails?"

Haley grinned. "Yeah, JC?"

JC paused for a second. "Uh...never mind."

Haley looked at him, confused. He felt her eyes on him, so he smiled at her.

"Let's go inside. I'm getting cold."

Haley nodded. JC stood up and squeezed her shoulder as he walked past her.

What's up with him? she wondered.

"You comin', Hails?"

Haley shook her head as she stood up. She smiled at JC. "Yeah, I'm coming."

 

 

Chapter 3

(Friday, November 24, 2000—Haley’s apartment)

"Haley, please tell me that you have cereal in this apartment."

Haley rubbed her eyes. "What the…" She looked at Chris. "Yes, I do. Why?"

"Shh! Not so loud!" Chris pointed at Justin, who was asleep on the bed.

"Why?"

Chris looked at Haley like she was speaking another language. "You have Justin Timberlake asleep in your apartment, you knew he was staying the night, and you’re asking why I want to know if you have cereal?"

Haley sat up. "Oh my God. I totally forgot about the cereal." Haley looked at Chris. "You gotta go get some milk! I haven’t bought any yet!"

Chris shook his head. "I can’t go anywhere. Mike’s rule."

Haley shook her head as she stood up. She accidentally fell over onto the bed. As she sat up, Justin stirred.

"What the…"

Haley looked at Chris pleadingly. "It’s okay, Justin. I just lost my balance." Haley stood up and steadied herself. She ran into her bedroom and threw on some jeans and a sweater. She flew out of her bedroom and past Chris and Justin, who was now wide awake. She grabbed her purse and threw open the front door to find Mike, the bodyguard, standing there, a jug of milk in his hand.

"Got milk?" he asked with a grin.

Haley looked at Mike and threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you Mike! You are freaking awesome!"

Mike grinned even bigger. "Oh, you know it, baby girl."

Haley smiled at Mike.

"Yo. Where’s the cereal?"

Haley grabbed the milk from Mike and walked back into the apartment. Mike followed, shutting the door behind him. Haley took one look at Justin and burst out laughing. The look he threw at Haley shut her up.

"I repeat. Where’s the cereal?"

"It’s coming. Hold on." Haley dug around in her cupboards for some cereal—any cereal.

"Do I have to remind you how I can get if I don’t have my cereal?"

Haley looked up at Justin, sitting at the kitchen table. She tossed a box of Lucky Charms at him. "Here. Eat this and shut up."

Chris opened a cupboard door and grabbed the biggest bowl he saw. He grabbed a spoon from a drawer and placed them in front of Justin. Haley put the milk on the table in front of Justin.

"Have a party."

Justin stuck his tongue out at Haley as he dug into the Lucky Charms. Haley watched in amazement as Justin dumped some cereal into the bowl and drenched it with milk. Haley took a seat across from Justin, watching as he methodically dunked each piece of cereal under the milk. He shoved a spoonful into his mouth and looked up at Haley.

"Wha?"

Haley shook her head in amazement. "I will never understand you."

Justin smiled as he shoved another spoonful into his mouth. Haley laughed as she looked over at Mike and Chris.

"How’d you know to bring milk?"

Mike looked at Haley and smiled. "I knew Justin was here, and I figured you wouldn’t have any milk so I decided I would try to cover your pretty ass."

"Man, you lie." Chris looked at Haley. "I called him twenty minutes ago and I told him to bring some milk." Chris smiled. "I pretty much saved your ass." His smile grew. "You owe me big."

Haley punched Chris playfully in the stomach. "Yeah, I owe you an ass whooping."

Mike laughed. "Ah, to be young again." He walked over and flicked the TV on. He sat down on the bed, bouncing up and down.

JC sat straight up. "Yo, was that an earthquake?"

Haley, Mike and Chris laughed as JC realized where he was and what happened. He looked straight at Haley. "I believe I still owe you a payback."

Haley stopped laughing and looked at JC. He grinned mischievously. "Both you and the Curly One."

Justin looked up from his Lucky Charms, milk dribbling down his chin. "Bring it on, punk. I can take it."

JC smiled. "Oh, I hope so."

Haley was kinda worried about what JC was planning for her, so she changed the subject. She looked at Chris. "Where are Joey and Lance?"

Chris pointed to her bedroom. "You didn’t see them?"

Haley shook her head, puzzled. "No, I didn’t." She walked over to her bedroom and pushed the door open. She smiled when she saw Lance and Joey asleep on her bed, Joey’s arm draped over Lance’s chest.

Haley giggled at the sight. "Chris," she whispered, "get my camera!"

"Don’t even think about it Haley." Lance’s head popped up. "Would you mind helping me out here?"

Haley smiled as she walked over and picked up Joey’s arm off of Lance. He got up off the bed and stretched as Haley put Joey’s arm down again.

"Thank you," Lance whispered as they walked to the bedroom door. "I was stuck like that for an hour."

Haley giggled. "Sorry. I hope you slept well."

Lance nodded. "Yes, I did. Thank you."

"No prob." Haley was shutting the door behind her when Joey came up behind her.

"Thanks for the show earlier. It made my day."

Haley shook her head and walked to the kitchen. "Glad you enjoyed it, Joey, cuz it won’t happen again…for you."

Joey grabbed his chest. "Harsh." He smiled. "Keep thinking that, Hails."

Haley rolled her eyes and grabbed an apple from the fridge. She turned to look at the six guys she’d spent the last five months of her life with. She smiled at them as she bit into her apple. JC, Mike and Joey were on the bed, arguing over which cartoon to watch, Justin was on his second bowl of Lucky Charms at the table, Lance was looking through her CD’s, and Chris was playing with Sniffy.

She grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. "Okay." The guys all looked at her. "I’m having a shower now. Anyone who leaves, make sure you shut the door behind you. If you’re staying, don’t break anything." Haley looked at Chris and Joey. "I mean it." She walked towards the bathroom, and stopped in the doorway. She turned around. "And, Joey, no going through my stuff."

Haley laughed as Joey muttered to himself under his breath. She shut the bathroom door and smiled when she heard the guys giving Joey a hard time. Haley turned to the shower and turned the water on. When it was the right temperature, she jumped in, singing "This I Promise You".

Haley reached down to grab her razor when she saw Sean’s Irish Springs soap, the soap she bought just for him. Haley got tears in her eyes as she picked up the bar of soap, and dropped it when someone pounded on the door.

"Hails?"

Haley rolled her eyes and turned the shower off. "Yeah, Chris?"

"Sorry. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t die in there. You stopped singing. Sorry."

"That’s okay." Haley looked down at the soap and felt the tears coming again. She grabbed her towel and started to dry herself off. "No. He was a prick. Don’t worry about him," Haley said to herself.

"What was that?"

Haley shook her head and put her robe on. "Nothing. I just said that you are way too nosy for your own good."

"Uh…sure. Sorry I interrupted."

Haley sighed as she ran her brush through her hair. She heard the tap still dripping so she bent over the tub and turned the handles tighter. She looked down and saw the soap again. This time she couldn’t stop the tears.

Haley sat down on the edge of the tub and put her head in her hands. "Why do I do this to myself? What did I do to deserve this?"

"Haley, you okay?"

Haley quickly wiped her face off and took a deep breath. "Yeah, hold on." Haley stood up and threw the soap in the garbage. She hung her towel on the rack and took another breath before she opened the door. Haley stepped into the hallway and was pushed back into the bathroom by Chris. He shut the door behind him and leaned against it.

"What’s up, Chris?" Haley asked, puzzled.

Chris rolled his eyes at Haley. "Oh, don’t you play stupid with me, Haley Lynn Maguire."

Haley looked down at her hands. Chris was upset, and she wasn't about to piss him off even more. Chris put his hands on Haley's shoulders and pushed her down so she was sitting on the toilet. (Lid was down, don't worry) He kneeled down so that they were eye level. Haley looked into Chris's worried eyes and, when she couldn't take it, she looked back down at her hands again.

Chris put his hands over Haley's. "What's going on with you, Hails?"

Haley brought her eyes up to meet Chris's brown eyes. She cared so much about this guy, and she didn't want to put any more stress on him then there was already. Haley opened her mouth to speak, but he covered her mouth with his hand.

"You better make sure that the truth is gonna come out of that big mouth of yours." His eyes pleaded with Haley for the truth. "You know I hate lies."

Haley reached up and removed Chris's hand from her mouth. She held onto it in her lap. "Chris, I just started thinking about..."Haley closed her eyes to stop the tears. "I was thinking about Sean, and I wonder why I deserve to be treated like a piece of shit by any guy I care about."

Haley couldn't stop the tears, and Chris swallowed the lump in his throat. He leaned forward and put his arms around her waist. She slid her arms around his neck and held on, like her life depended on it. Chris rubbed her back, cursing Sean for doing this to Haley.

"You don’t deserve this. And not every guy, Haley. I'm here for good." Chris pulled back and looked at Haley's face. He wiped the tears from her cheeks and kissed her on the forehead. He smoothed her hair and looked at her puffy eyes. "Haley, Sean is a dick. He gave up the most caring, kind, gentle, fun woman, and the best friend he could ever dream of having."

Haley smiled at Chris's words.

Chris smiled. "Well, at least now you can find a guy that truly loves you and will treat you like you need to be treated." Chris kissed her cheek. "Like a queen."

Haley smiled again and hugged Chris. "You're the best, Dreads. Thank you for everything."

Chris pulled back and stood up. He grabbed Haley's hands and pulled her up in front of him. He grinned at her. "What else are big brothers for?"

Haley laughed. "Yeah, but you're not my brother."

Chris grinned evilly as he opened the bathroom door. "Ah, but I have seen the pictures of when you were in the bathtub when you were young."

"Oh, you have GOT to let me see those."

Haley and Chris laughed as Joey walked up to them.

"In your dreams, Big Guy."

Joey winked at Haley. "Oh, you know it." He looked at Haley's bathrobe, and grinned even bigger. "You know, you two were in there for a long time." He raised his eyebrows. "Hope it was fun."

Haley reached to punch him, but he ducked into the bathroom and shut the door. She laughed as she turned back to Chris. He put his arm around her shoulder.

"What a guy."

Chris chuckled as they walked into the living room. Mike looked over from the couch. (The guys had put the bed back into couch mode.)

"Hey, Mike."

Mike put his fingers to his lips. "Shh. Smoothie over here is sleeping." He pointed to JC.

Haley smiled and lowered her voice. "Where are Justin and Lance?" Mike pointed to the balcony. Haley nodded. "Okay. I'm gonna go get dressed."

Haley waked to her bedroom and shut the door behind her. She threw on a pair of jeans and a tank top before braiding her hair. She grabbed her hand cream from her night table. Her eyes landed on the picture of her and Sean on their one-year anniversary. She picked it up and rubbed her finger over his face.

"God. How could anyone so cute and loveable cause so much damage and pain?" Haley asked herself as she placed the picture face down on the top shelf of her closet.

She took one last look at herself in the mirror and walked out of the bedroom. She laughed to herself when she saw Mike, Chris, Joey and JC all asleep on the couch and chair. Haley grabbed Sniffy and walked out onto the balcony. Justin and Lance looked up at her and smiled as she slid the door shut behind her. She breathed in the fresh air and felt better. Haley looked at the two guys.

"What are you two up to?"

Lance looked up from some papers. "I'm just going over some paper work for a new act."

"But you just got home."

Lance smiled. "That's the business, hon." He turned back to his papers.

Haley turned to Justin next. "What about you, Curly One?"

Justin didn't look up when Haley spoke to him. "Reading."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Yes, I figured that much." She smiled when Lance chuckled, and she turned back to Justin. "I meant what book are you reading?"

Justin sighed and looked up at Haley. "It was on your night stand in your bedroom, so I grabbed it." He looked at her, worried. "Is that okay?"

Haley smiled. "Sure. What is it?"

Justin showed her the cover. "Interview with the Vampire."

Haley nodded. "Good choice."

Haley turned to look at the view of Orlando. She smiled and closed her eyes, running the top of Sniffy's head in her arms. After a minute, Haley felt someone standing behind her. She opened her eyes and turned around to see JC's blue eyes staring into hers. She laughed nervously.

"Tryin' to give me a heart attack?"

JC smiled. "Nope. Just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten that I still have to pay you back for last night."

Haley laughed and smiled up at him. "Well, thanks for the reminder." Haley looked around JC and saw that they were alone. "Geez, I didn't hear them leave...or you come out."

JC smiled evilly as he sat down. "I guess you should remember how good I am at sneaking up on people. You gotta watch your back better, Haley."

Haley smiled as she sat down beside JC. Sniffy immediately jumped into JC's lap. Haley shook her head. "Do you carry catnip with you or what?"

JC chuckled and looked at Haley. "All the women love me."

Haley laughed and leaned back in her chair.

"What's so funny?" JC asked, confused.

Haley smiled. "I guess you attract the odd guy too, then?"

JC looked down at Sniffy. "Well, boy, I'm not that kind of guy." Haley laughed, and JC joined in with her.

Mike opened the door. "Could you guys keep it down a bit? Justin finally fell asleep."

Haley bit her lip and nodded. Mike shut the door behind him and Haley and JC sat in silence for a few minutes. Haley closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair again.

"Haley?"

"Yeah, JC?"

JC paused for a minute. "I'll kick Sean for you if you want."

Haley smiled and looked over at JC. "You'd do that for me?"

JC smiled back at her. "Of course. I mean, you have kicked Chris and the guys so many times for me, I think that I could do this just once to help you out." JC sighed. "Besides, you're one of my best friends. I hate seeing you in pain."

Haley giggled. "I can see the headline now: ‘N Sync crooner turned Thug."

JC laughed. "Yeah, tabloids would have a hay day with that one."

They smiled at each other and turned to look at the view of Orlando. Haley stuck her hand out.

JC looked at her. "What are we shaking on?"

Haley smiled and shook her head. "No bet. It's a thank you."

JC smiled as he put his hand in hers. He squeezed her hand and stood up as Chris came out onto the balcony.

"Yo, JC, we gotta go. They're all getting cranky."

JC nodded and pulled Haley out of her chair. Chris followed them into the apartment, watching them, confused.

Inside, Haley gave each of the guys a hug and told them to behave. She was shutting the door behind them when her phone rang. She said one last goodbye down the hallway and shut the door. She grabbed telephone on the third ring.

"Talk to me."

"Hey, Hails. I forgot to tell you that Anett's gonna stop by this afternoon."

Haley smiled, even though Justin couldn't see her. "Kay. Thanks." Haley heard Chris yelling in the background.

Justin sighed. "And Chris wants his clothes back tomorrow."

Haley laughed. "Nah, he's never getting them back."

Justin chuckled. "Whatever. You tell him that. I'll see you tomorrow. "

"Bye, Justin."

Haley laughed to herself as she hung up the phone. She turned the radio on and started cleaning up her apartment. Around 1:30, the phone rang again.

"Hello?" was Haley's breathless response.

"Haley?"

Haley walked to the radio and turned the volume down. "What do you want Sean?"

She could hear Sean hesitate. "Hails, I just wanted you to know that...I'm sorry."

Haley laughed into the phone. "You're sorry?"

"Well…yeah."

Haley laughed even harder. "Sean you fucking crack me up. "She took a breath. "You're sorry for screwing around on me? That's one I haven't heard in a while." Not since Ryan, anyways, Haley thought to herself.

"Look, Haley, I just wanna make sure you know that I never wanted to hurt you."

Haley stopped smiling. "You know what, Sean?"

"What?"

"Maybe you didn't mean to hurt me, but you did." Haley's voice was trembling. "This isn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last time that I'll be hurt. So why don't you just go spend your time with Sarah, because I do not want to have anything to do with you right now. Goodbye, Sean."

Haley hung up the phone and felt the tears for the first time during the conversation on her cheeks. She brushed them away and turned the radio up again. She turned to Sniffy. "We're gonna get over him, Sniffy. We are not gonna let him get us down."

 

Chapter 4

"Girl, you look good when you clean!"

Haley smiled and stopped scrubbing the bathtub. She turned around to face Anett, Justin's girlfriend, and Haley's best friend and partner in crime since public school. "You know it."

Anett smiled. "You almost done? I wanted to go out for something to eat and maybe a movie. You game?"

Haley nodded and stood up. "Just let me get changed."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"I swear to God, Namett, you've been hanging out with Justin way too much for anyone's good."

Anett laughed as she stopped the car. She turned to Haley. "Hails, you can open your eyes now."

Haley opened one eye and looked around. "You sure it's safe?"

Anett playfully hit Haley in the arm and got out of the car. Haley laughed as she stepped out.

"You know I love ya, even if you do put my life in danger." Haley put her arm around Anett's shoulders and they walked into the Cineplex. The two laughed as they walked up to the teller.

"Two adults for...uh..."Anett looked up at the sign above the teller's head. "Two for Charlie's Angels." Anett passed the teller a twenty, grinning at Haley. "You buy the munchies." Anett grabbed the tickets and her change, and the two girls headed for the food lines.

About ten minutes later, and with an extra fifteen pounds of candy, Haley and Anett stumbled into the theatre. They made their way to the middle of the second row. They were taking off their jackets (and Haley was complaining about the lack of personal space in a theatre) when Anett pointed up and smiled. Haley shut up, and they heard "This I Promise You" playing in the background. Haley smiled and joined in.

"And I will take you in my arms, and hold you right where you belong," the two sang, totally out of tune. The crowd looked at them like they were complete idiots. So they kept singing, Haley taking care of all the adlibbing. When the song was over, "I Turn To You" by Christina Aguilera came on, and Haley smiled at Anett.

"It's our song!" They sang to each other, their arms around one another, until a busboy came up to them.

"I'm sorry, ladies, but I have to ask for you two to keep it down, or you'll be escorted out."

Haley looked at him. "Will we get a refund?"

He smiled. "If you go peacefully, they may be nice enough for that."

Haley looked at Anett. "Well, do you really want to see this?"

Anett looked at Haley and squeezed her hand. "I love our song way too much not to go."

Haley smiled and looked back at the busboy. "We'll take the escort."

The guy nodded and waited as Haley and Anett gathered up their things. When Haley saw that the guy sitting behind them was smiling, she leaned in towards him.

"I'm sorry, but our talent and love for music isn't accepted here. Enjoy the movie." The crowd laughed and clapped for the pair as the busboy led them out of the theatre. He took them to his manager, who sneered at them as he gave them their money back. As they walked away, he called out to them.

"If you're going to act like hooligans, then expect to be treated like one."

Haley slowly turned around. "What did--"

Anett covered Haley's mouth before they got in trouble. "Thanks for the advice. Have a good night." She pulled Haley out of the theatre.

"Namett, he was rude."

Anett smiled. "Yes, and payback, as JC puts it so well, is a bitch." Her smile grew. "We'll come back some time with some other guests and see what he says."

Haley smiled as she put her arm around her best friend. "No wonder you're my best friend."

They walked to Anett's car. Haley looked at Anett over the roof of the car. Anett sighed as she threw her keys over the roof to Haley as she walked around to the passenger side. Haley unlocked the car and slid into the driver's seat. She smiled at Anett.

"Where to?"

Anett smiled. "Baskin Robbins. Where else?"

Haley turned the key in the ignition and put her seatbelt on. "Great." She smiled as she pulled out of the parking lot. "You're paying."

* * * * * * * * * * * * "You ready yet, Haley? It’s starting!"

Haley ran into the living room and plopped herself down on the couch next to Anett. They laughed at each other, and Anett played the movie (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…gotta love that flick.).

About ten minutes into the movie, once Ferris had the day off, Anett turned to Haley. "Hails, are you okay?"

Haley smiled at Anett. "Yeah, I’m fine."

Anett put her hand on Haley’s arm. Haley closed her eyes and shook her head. Anett leaned over and wrapped her arms around her friend, Haley crying into Anett’s shoulder.

Anett gently rocked Haley back and forth. "It’s okay. I’m here for you."

Haley took a couple of deep breaths and pulled away from Anett. She laughed bitterly as she wiped the tears away. "Damn. You’d think that I’d be able to get over it quicker by now. I’ve had enough practice."

Anett sighed. "Fuck them."

Haley let out a brief laugh. "That’s Sarah’s job…and Liz’s…" Haley looked at Anett and shut up.

Anett shook her head. "No. I meant screw them all. To hell with them. They fucked you over. They lost. Not you."

Haley smiled through her tears and leaned her head on Anett’s shoulder. Anett sighed.

"You are going to find the most caring, loving, hot guy for you." Haley laughed, and Anett felt better, knowing that she could make Haley laugh. "You need hot, Haley. Hot is good."

Haley smiled and closed her eyes. "I hope you’re right, Anett. I’m sick of being hurt."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Saturday, November 25, 2000—Haley’s apartment

"You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Chan--"

Haley unplugged her alarm clock. "That song is gross."

Anett stuck her head in the doorway. "But you like it."

Haley stretched her body out on the bed. "How was the couch?"

"It was lumpy, but I’m alive. Come on, we gotta get to the studio."

Haley dragged herself out of her bed. She walked to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She ran a brush through her hair before jumping in the shower. She stood there, letting the water beat down on her.

"Come on, Haley! We gotta go!"

Haley sighed as she got out of the shower. She dried herself off and ran to her bedroom, where she put on a pair of jeans and a sweater over a tank top. She sat down on the bed and started braiding her hair.

"Hails, do that in the car."

Haley rolled her eyes and grabbed her Gap hat. She ran to the kitchen, grabbed an apple from the fridge and headed out the door that Anett was holding open for her.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(At Studio)

"You okay, Hails?"

Haley looked at Sam. "Yeah, I’m fine. Why?"

Sam smiled at her. "You only wear your hat when you’re ready to seriously practice. Do I take that as a hint?"

Haley’s eyes widened as she shook her head at Sam. "No, Sam. It’s Anett’s fault. She rushed me and I grabbed the hat. Make her do it."

Sam laughed. "I’m joking, hun. Get some sleep!"

Haley grunted at Sam as she walked away. Chris and Joey walked over and sat on each side of her.

"Morning, gentlemen."

Chris looked at her like she was crazy. "Yes, it’s morning."

Haley noticed both Chris and Joey were wearing sunglasses. She smiled at the pair. "You guys were out last night, eh?" The two nodded, and Joey leaned on her shoulder.

"Please take me home, Haley. I’ll be yours forever."

Haley laughed as she pushed Joey off of her. She stood up and stretched her arms behind her.

"Okay, Haley. I would have to ask that you watch where you put your hands."

Haley’s eyes widened as she turned around to face JC, a huge grin on his face.

"We don’t know each other that well."

Haley felt her cheeks getting hot. "Sorry, JC. Didn’t see you there…"

JC’s smile turned evil. "I’ll let it slide…this time."

Before Haley could ask anything, Steve, the tour manager, called for everyone to take a seat. Haley sat down at a table with Eric and Lisa, one of Haley’s dancing friends from the tour.

"Thanks for coming, guys. We appreciate it." Steve clapped his hands together. "The tour was exceptional. I can’t thank you enough for all your hard work…"

Haley’s mind wandered as Steve thanked everyone for everything. Her eyes wandered and landed on JC. He was concentrating on what Steve had to say, and was nodding and smiling. He felt her stare, and he turned and smiled at her. Haley blushed and smiled back.

I let him catch me, she thought to herself.

Haley’s eyes looked over at Justin and Anett. They were sitting beside each other, and Justin was playing with Anett’s hand as he listened to Steve talk. Haley smiled, happy that they were together, and that they were in love.

She looked over at Lance, who was talking to Sam. Sam was nodding at what Lance said, and was looking at the pictures that Lance held in his hands. Always working, eh, Lance. Haley smiled and turned to Chris and Joey. She barely held in her laughter when she saw Joey leaning back in his chair, his head back and his mouth open. Chris looked at Haley and smiled as he hit Joey. Joey sat straight up and looked alert.

What a group. Haley smiled. "Don’t ever change," she whispered under her breath.

Haley looked back at Steve, who was finishing his speech.

"Now, Sam needs to speak with the dancers, I need to see our five stars and technical workers." Everyone went to their parts of the room, and Anett sat down beside Haley.

Sam smiled at the group in front of her. "You guys know how proud I am of all of you. Now, I know that you are all tired, and you want to relax…but you only have one more week before we go to work again." Sam took a deep breath. "And, just before Christmas, you all…you all have to audition again." Sam nodded when she saw the looks she was getting from the crowd. "We’re cutting down on dancers, and the big guys want to see some new talent."

Haley looked worriedly at Anett, who squeezed her hand.

"You’ll be fine," she whispered.

"Right now, we have thirty dancers, but we’re cutting down to twenty. Also, there will be some new recruits brought in for the auditions."

Haley’s jaw dropped, and the people around her started talking.

Sam looked around, a worried look on her face. "Guys, I know it sucks." Sam waited until everyone was quiet before she went on. "If you work hard, put your heart into it, then you’ll make me proud. It’s going to be a hard decision when the time comes." Sam looked around. "Any questions, come see me."

A couple of dancers started talking to Sam. Haley looked over at Eric. He looked like he was going to cry.

"Hey."

Eric looked at her and half-smiled. "Hi."

Haley sat in the chair beside him. "What’s up?"

Eric shook his head. "You know I’m gonna get the boot."

Haley looked at him, confused. "Why do you say that?"

"They don’t need guys. They want girls."

Haley hadn’t thought of that. She looked up as Sam made her way over to them.

"Hi guys. Surprise. I bet you didn’t think you’d have to audition again this soon, did you?" Sam frowned when she looked at Eric. "What’s wrong, Eric?"

He shook his head. "You keeping any guys on the tour?"

Sam smiled. "Of course. The managers, and the guys, want some guy dancers on the team." She smiled at Eric. "So, that means that you’ll be auditioning against the guys that are here, and who want to come back, and the new recruits. You have nothing to worry about."

Eric smiled and hugged Sam. "Thanks."

Haley looked at Sam. "So that leaves fifteen spots open?" When Sam nodded, Haley went on. "And how many new people for auditions? Well, female."

"Um…I think there will be ten new, plus you twenty-five."

Haley’s eyes widened. "That’s thirty-five auditions, and only fifteen get in!"

Sam nodded silently, and Haley turned to Anett. "I’m screwed."

Sam grabbed Haley’s arm and turned her around to face her. "Look, you’re one of the best that we have. You’re gonna be fine." Haley nodded, and Sam squeezed her arm as she walked by.

"I hope so, Sam," Haley said to herself as she watched her friend walk away.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Lance’s house)

"So, you’ll come with me?"

Haley laughed into the phone. "For the tenth time, yes, Lance, I’ll go with you." Now, stop asking before I turn you down."

"Okay. Thanks Haley. I’ll see you Tuesday, then?"

"Of course. Have a good night, Lance."

"Good night, Haley."

Lance smiled at Chris as he hung up the phone. "She’s coming. Sweet. Now I’ll have a partner."

Chris laughed. "Oh, I pity her."

Lance threw a pillow at Chris, who laughed and returned it. Joey intercepted it and threw it back in Chris’s face. The three laughed and settled into the couch and chair.

"Hey, guys?"

Joey and Lance looked at Chris. "Yeah?"

Chris frowned and played with the pillow in his lap. "Have you guys…uh…noticed anything…interesting with Haley?"

Lance shrugged his shoulders. "No, I haven’t. Why?"

Chris shook his head and looked away. "Nothing. Never mind."

Lance and Joey looked at each other. Joey motioned for Lance to leave. He stood up and walked out of the room. Joey looked at Chris.

"Yo, C."

Chris looked up at Joey. "Yeah?"

Joey smiled. "You got the hots for her, don’t ya?"

Chris threw the pillow at Joey. "Joey, get over it. You know better than that."

Joey giggled and tossed the pillow on the floor. He leaned back on the couch.

Chris sighed. "I think I’m just being the over-protective big brother." Chris looked at Joey. "Have you noticed anything going on between her and JC?"

Joey’s eyes widened, and his smile grew. "You’re jealous, aren’t you?"

Chris shook his head. "Why would I be jealous?"

Joey laughed and snapped his fingers. "Dammit! You’re jealous that one of your best friends, who is, by the way, a very attractive young woman, may have something going on with one of your other best friends, who is a sexy heart throb." Joey smiled and popped a grape in his mouth. "What would you do if they hooked up?"

"If who hooked up?"

Chris looked up and his jaw dropped when he saw JC walking towards them. He sat down between Joey and Chris, and looked between the two a couple of times.

Chris bit his lip. "Uh…" Chris looked at Joey helplessly.

"If Haley and Lance hooked up." Joey smiled. "Lance and Haley are joining a salsa dance class together, and you know how smooth Lance is when he’s dancing." Joey smiled even bigger as he popped another grape in his mouth. "Maybe she’ll fall innocent victim to his charm."

JC looked at Joey like he was crazy. He looked over at Chris, who looked relieved. JC shook his head. "Whatever guys." JC stood up and walked over to the window. He opened the blinds and turned to look at his two friends. "Who wants to go clubbing?"

 

Chapter 5

"Seriously. That girl was stupid." Chris took a sip of his Sprite. "I mean, she had sex with him like the day she met him."

Haley stopped Center Stage and pressed the rewind button. She looked over at Chris with wide eyes. "He was her idol! She loved that guy."

Chris pointed at Haley. "Ha! She didn't love that guy." He dropped his hand. "She loved what he was on stage."

Haley smiled. "I agree with that Chris, but can you see how she saw it?"

Chris thought for a minute, then he shook his head. "No, not really."

Haley sighed and turned to face her friend, her legs crossed in front of her. "Okay, Chris. Let's say Britney Spears is your idol." Chris and Haley looked at each other. Chris frowned and Haley shivered at the thought. They both shook their heads.

"Sorry. Bad example." Haley bit her lip as she thought of a good example. Her eyes rested on her Seventeen magazine and she smiled. "Okay. Pretend Jennifer Love Hewitt turns your crank, so to say." Chris smiled and nodded at Haley before she continued. "Okay. So you get the chance to visit the set of Love's newest flick, and you meet her."

Chris nodded and leaned back into the couch. "Go on."

Haley smiled. "Oh, yeah, and you are a nobody." Chris frowned, and Haley smiled. "For this, you're not part of ‘N Sync. You are just Chris Kirkpatrick, kid at heart."

Chris laughed as he stretched out. "Love ya too," he said through a yawn.

"So. You meet her, and she likes you. She invites you out for coffee after she's done for the day."

"Okay." Chris flipped over on his side to look at Haley. "So, I'm a nobody and Love Hewitt asks me to go out for coffee?"

Haley nodded. "Yes. Now, you go to a café down the street, and she asks you to come back to her hotel for the night." Haley popped a grape in her mouth. "Would you say no?"

Chris propped himself up on one arm. "Honestly?" Haley nodded. "I want to say that it would be no, since it should be with someone special, but I probably wouldn't be able to pass that up."

Haley lay down beside Chris. "Exactly, Chris." Haley popped another grape in her mouth and looked up at the ceiling.

"Haley?"

"Hmm?"

"Who's your idol?"

Haley smiled at Chris. "Are we talking about intelligence and talent, or for who I'd be willing to have sex with?"

Chris played with Sniffy. "Both."

Haley searched her mind for an answer. "Well, for intelligence and talent, I would have to say..." Haley thought for a second before revealing her answer. "Either Christina Aguilera or...Damn! What's that guy's name?" Haley snapped her fingers, trying to think of his name. She looked at Chris. "Oh, you know who I'm talking about. He used to have these ugly braid things in his hair, he's a bit of a freak...What's his name?"

Chris looked at her. "Uh..AJ McLean?"

Haley shook her head. "No, AJ's a lot hotter than this guy." Haley smiled. "Come on, Chris, you know I adore you."

Chris smiled. "Yeah?"

Haley nodded. "Of course I do." Haley rested her head on Chris's arm. "Why else would I put up with you?"

Chris slammed a pillow into Haley's face. She laughed and threw the pillow into Chris's face. He laughed with her as he put the pillow under his head.

"So. Who's the other one?"

Haley frowned. "The other what?"

"The idol you'd have sex with?"

Haley grinned. "Pacey."

Chris slapped his forehead. "Oh I forgot about good ol' Pacey. Do you ever call him Josh?"

Haley shook her head and closed her eyes. "Pacey sounds better."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Friday December 1, 2000—Clubbing in Orlando)

"Come on, Haley, listen to the song. Move your body!"

Haley rolled her eyes and smiled at Joey as he pulled her out onto the dance floor. He stopped in the middle of the floor and started dancing with her. She laughed as Joey managed to dance with three other girls, and herself, at the same time. The song ended and Haley waved at Joey as she walked back towards their table. She turned around and ran into Lance. Haley smiled up at him.

"Oh no. If I have to go through this, so do you."

Lance pulled Haley back onto the dance floor. The song drifted into "I Do (Cherish You)" by 98 Degrees. Lance smiled as he put his arms around Haley’s waist. She hooked her arms around his neck and leaned her head on his shoulder.

Haley watched the other couples dancing together. She smiled when she saw Justin and Anett dancing together. Joey had hooked up with some chick, and Chris was dancing with Lisa, one of the dancers, and one of Haley’s friends, from the tour.

JC popped up in front of Haley’s face. "Next dance is mine, kay?"

Haley smiled. "You got it."

JC smiled as he walked away.

Haley looked up at Lance. "So do you like the dance classes?"

Lance nodded. "Yeah. It’s fun…and different. If I screw up, it doesn’t cost me anything."

Haley frowned. "Like what?"

Lance smiled as he spun her around. "God. If I ever screw up with Sam or Darren, I never hear the end of it." Haley laughed and Lance shook his head. "Seriously, Haley! I get like an extra three hours a day for routine and moves. It’s brutal."

Haley laughed and rested her head against Lance again. She looked over at Chris, who stuck his tongue out at her. She giggled when Lisa reached up and slapped the back of his head. He ducked his head down and turned away from Haley.

The song ended, and Haley pulled away from Lance. She curtsied. "Thank you, merry gentleman."

Lance bowed. "Anytime, my dear."

Haley laughed as Lance walked away. JC tapped her on the shoulder as the DJ was announcing the next song. He held his hand out to her.

"Dance, my lady?"

Haley smiled as she put her hand in his. "Why, most certainly."

JC smiled and pulled her close to him. He put his free hand on her waist, and held her other hand close to his chest. Haley put her hand on his back, between his shoulder blades. The music got louder, and JC muttered under his breath.

Haley looked up at him. "What was that?"

JC didn’t need to tell her. Haley heard Justin’s voice pouring out of the speakers, singing "This I Promise You".

"Figures." JC rested his cheek next to Haley’s, his lips next to her ear. "I wonder how bad this looks," he whispered in her ear. "I mean, the five ‘N Sync guys dancing, at a club, to their own song?"

Haley smiled. "I don’t think it’s that bad. I mean, sure, people may be jealous that you, Joshua Scott Chasez, are dancing with the most beautiful girl here. But it shouldn’t make a difference that she only chose to dance with you when your song was playing."

JC pulled back and looked at his dance partner. "You lie! You said before this song came on that you would dance with me."

Haley grinned evilly. "Yeah, sure, but all the people in this club don’t know that."

JC laughed and pulled her close to his body. "Oh, Haley, don’t you ever change. And don’t let people get you down."

Haley smiled as the song ended. She pulled away, but JC held onto her. He looked into her eyes, and Haley couldn’t pull herself away.

"You’re too good to let people get you down. You deserve better."

Haley felt tears coming, and she threw her arms around JC’s neck. He was surprised at first, but JC wrapped his arms around Haley’s waist and hugged her tight.

Haley pulled back first. "Thanks, JC," she said, smiling at him. "That means everything to me."

JC smiled and put his arm around her shoulders as they walked back to their table. "Well, Haley, I hope you still feel like that after I get you back."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Saturday December 2)

Honk! Honk!

"Oh, shut up Lance! I’m coming!"

Haley ran around her apartment, throwing on a sweater and grabbing her purse. She ran out the door and slammed it behind her. Two seconds later, the door opened again and Haley ran over to Sniffy, who was lying on the floor in the sun. She leaned down so she was eye-level with him. He looked at her, his tail hitting the floor.

Haley put her nose to Sniffy’s and smiled. "You smell like cat food." She kissed Sniffy’s nose. "You be good and I’ll be back soon."

She stood up and ran out the door, locking it behind her before running down the stairs and out into the sunshine. She smiled when she saw Lance’s F150 in the parking lot. She ran over and jumped into the passenger seat.

"Hey Lance. Thanks for the ride," Haley said, smiling at Lance.

"What? No ‘Hey JC’ or ‘Hi. What’s cooking?’"

Haley jumped when she heard JC’s voice from the backseat. She turned around and looked at his smiling face.

"Well, hi, JC. Good to see ya." Haley turned to face the front. "So. What are you doing here, JC?"

Lance sighed. "He decided to come and check it out, to see if he likes it." Lance rolled his eyes as he switched lanes.

Haley smiled and patted Lance’s shoulder. She looked at JC in the side view mirror, and saw that he had his head leaned back and his eyes were closed.

"Oh, you just wanna check out the females there."

JC’s eyebrows raised with the corners of his mouth. "You got it, Hails."

Haley and Lance looked at each other and shook their heads.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okay. Now just the men."

Haley smiled as she watched Claudia, the dance instructor, walk around the guys as they danced, tapping her stick to the beat.

Claudia stood behind Lance and put her free hand on his hip as he danced. "Come on, pretty boy! Shake that booty!"

Lance laughed and moved with her hand. Claudia let go, satisfied, and walked over to JC. He had a serious look on his face as he watched himself dancing in the mirror.

Claudia walked around him and stood in front, blocking his view. She put her hand on his cheek and smiled when he looked up at her. "Don’t look so serious. This is fun, not rehearsing for a big production."

JC smiled and Claudia patted his cheek. "I know. It's a bad habit."

Claudia smiled again and left him. She helped a couple of dancers before making her way over to Haley. "Your friends are good dancers," Claudia said as she leaned against the wall beside Haley.

Haley nodded as they watched JC and Lance fool around with the moves.

Claudia sighed. "But Joshua, he needs to loosen up."

"Ha! JC? Lighten up?" Haley shook her head. "He doesn't know how to give anything less than two hundred percent." She looked at Claudia.

Claudia smiled at the younger woman. "I think you could help him."

"How?" Haley questioned the dance instructor.

Claudia motioned towards JC with her stick. "Joke around with him. Make him feel good." Claudia winked at Haley. "Help him relax."

Claudia patted Haley's shoulder and walked to the front of the studio. "Okay, people." She turned the music off. "It's partner time."

Haley stood up and walked over to the guys. Mrs. Evans, the oldest dancer in the class, grabbed Lance's hand and pulled him away, leaving him shrugging at Haley and JC.

Haley giggled and turned to JC. "How goes it partner?"

JC grinned. "Not too bad, Haley."

The music poured through the speakers and JC pulled Haley into his arms. They moved to the music as Claudia walked around the room, pointing out mistakes. Haley looked up at JC's face. He was really concentrating on the moves. She put her face up to his to get his attention.

He looked into her eyes and smiled. "What's shaking?"

"Not enough!" Claudia came up behind Haley. She moved JC's hands from Haley's back and shoulder to her hips. Claudia put her hands over JC's. "Let the music lead you. Let her hips lead you." She took her hands off of JC's and watched the pair dance as she walked over to Lance and Mrs. Evans.

Haley looked up at JC and saw him smiling and enjoying the dancing. They laughed as they danced, and Haley was happy to see JC having fun. She looked over at Claudia who nodded and winked at the younger woman.

As the song ended, Haley curtsied and JC kissed her hand as he bowed his head. "Thank you, my lady."

Haley giggled. "Anytime, Mr. Chasez."

Lance tapped Haley on the shoulder. "You gotta dance with me. Mrs. Evans doesn't wanna stop." He grabbed Haley's hand and started dancing with her.

Mrs. Evans smiled at Haley. "You stole my partner, dear."

Haley smiled politely and pointed at JC. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Evans, but JC was really looking forward to dancing with you for this last song." Haley smiled sweetly at JC, who gave her a "look" before Mrs. Evans turned to him.

JC smiled brightly. "Hello, Mrs. Evans." He held his arm out to the older woman. "Shall we?"

Mrs. Evans smiled and put her arm through JC's. "Of course. I hope you can keep up though."

JC's eyes widened as Mrs. Evans reached around and patted his butt cheek.

She smiled sweetly. "Very nice. Let's go, sweetcheeks!"

As Mrs. Evans pulled JC away, he looked at Haley and Lance once more and gave them the "I'm-gonna-get-you-so-bad-for-this-later" look when he saw them laughing.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Oh, Sam, you should have seen it!" Haley wiped a tear from her eye. "His face was priceless!"

Sam smiled. "Maybe I should pop by next time."

JC sauntered up to Haley and Sam. He sighed "Are you done telling her about Mrs. Evans and her unstoppable hands?"

Haley smiled and took a sip of her hot chocolate. "Oh, I'm done with that. But, Sam, have you ever seen Lance and JC dancing together as--"

"Drop it now, Haley." JC grabbed the hot chocolate from her hands and walked over to Chris and Joey.

Haley shook her head. "Anyway. Sam, I was wondering if you would help me on my routine for the audition."

Sam nodded and took a sip of her tea. "Sure. When?"

Haley bit her lip. "How bout Friday after rehearsals?"

Sam shook her head. "Nope. I'm going out with Derek."

"Okay. Then when's good for you?"

Sam squinted her eyes as she visualized her timetable. "What about Sunday?" Haley nodded. "About nine o'clock?"

Haley nodded again. "Sounds great. Thanks Sam."

Sam patted Haley's back. "No prob." She gulped down the rest of her tea and ran up onto the stage. "Okay guys. I know it's the first day and all, but we have got to work hard. So, we'll start with the warmup and then we'll go through a couple of songs that need work."

Sam walked over to the stereo and popped in the workout CD. Once the dancers were totally warmed up, they ran through Just Got Paid, Space Cowboy and Digital Get Down a few times each, before Sam stopped the group and returned to Just Got Paid. She changed some of the moves to the song to help the song and routine flow better, and she made sure that the new moves were achievable for some people before she gave them a lunch break. The crowd herded to the cafeteria, but Haley hung back to talk to Sam about the audition, but Sam stopped her before she could.

"Girl, you better hope that you were about to invite me to lunch, because if you say anything else about those bloody auditions, I'll kill you myself." Sam threw her towel at Haley.

Haley grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, I know. I'm just worried about..." Haley stopped when she saw Sam's face. "Sorry." Haley ducked her head. "You coming to eat?"

Sam laughed as she grabbed her towel from Haley's hands and tossed it in her bag. She put her arm around Haley's shoulder as they walked to the elevator.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Sunday December 10, 2000--Dance Studio)

Haley watched herself in the mirror as she finished the last dance steps to Tearin' Up My Heart and she took her final stance. She looked over at Sam, who was smiling.

"Very nice, Haley."

Haley groaned. "Come ON, Sam. You know I want real criticism." Haley sat down on the floor and gulped down some water from her bottle.

Sam laughed. "Honestly, Haley, that's the best I've seen out of you all day." She kneeled down beside Haley and put her hand on her friend's arm. "You just need to relax. You'll do fine. This is supposed to be fun, not torture."

Haley smiled. "I know. It's just that..." Haley looked around the room. "Well, the guys mean so much to me, especially Chris, and I can't...no, I won't think of how life would be if I wasn't with them on tour."

Sam smiled and hugged her friend. "No worries, Hails," she said, looking into Haley's eyes. "Relax. You're gonna be fine. Have some fun with it."

Sam stood up and pulled Haley up beside her. She grinned and ran over to the stereo. She pushed a couple of buttons and 'Livin' la Vida Loca' came over the speakers. Sam laughed and ran back to Haley.

"Come on, girl! Show me some of those moves from that salsa class!" Sam shook her hips back and forth and grabbed Haley's hands.

Haley laughed as they danced. "If only we had a video camera. The guys would love to see this!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Tuesday December 19, 2000--dance class)

JC groaned. "That means I get Poofoo here as my partner?"

Lance slapped JC across the head. "Shut up, JC. It's Lance, not Poofoo. I though we were over that."

Haley giggled and stood between her two friends. "Guys. It's simple." She grinned evilly. "One of you guys dances with Susan over there, and the other can dance with Mrs. Evans."

"I call Susan!"

JC groaned again and crossed his arms over across his chest. "I hate you Lance." He turned to Haley. "You too."

Lance patted JC on the back. "Oh, come on, sweet cheeks. It won't be that bad."

Haley looked at JC and smiled. "Don't worry, JC. I'll only be in Ontario for one class. Then I'll be back and return as your partner."

JC looked at Haley like her hair was on fire. "One class?" Haley nodded and JC laughed. "Do you know how many times she invaded my bubble space during that one song before?"

Haley bit her lip to keep from laughing. "How many?"

JC sighed and rolled his eyes. "I stopped counting after ten."

Haley and Lance burst out laughing. Haley looked at JC and covered her mouth as she tried to stop laughing.

"I'm sorry JC," she said, trying to catch her breath. "It's just that...well, your ass is really very appealing. I don't blame her at all."

JC nodded. "Yeah, well, thanks. I'm gonna go now." JC turned around and walked out of the building. Haley looked at Lance, who shrugged his shoulders. Haley sighed and walked out after him. She found him sitting on the hood of her Jetta.

He looked up at her as she approached the car, grinning sheepishly at her. Haley smiled back and shoved her hands in her pockets and leaned against her car beside JC. The wind blew her long brown hair around her as she looked at JC.

"What's up?"

JC lowered his head. "I'm not sure."

Haley looked at JC, confused. "Why not?"

JC sighed and finally looked at her. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."

Haley looked at him for a few seconds before she turned away and looked around the parking lot, not willing to push him to talk if he didn't want to. "I'm here if you need to talk," she said, looking at her friend again.

JC's blue eyes stared into Haley's. "Same to you." He jumped off the car and grabbed her arm. "Let's go in. We need to shake our asses."

Haley nodded. "Agreed."

As they walked towards the building, JC turned to Haley. "Will you be my partner for the recital?"

Haley smiled. "Of course."

JC sighed in relief. "Okay. I was afraid I would get stuck with Mrs. Evans."

Haley laughed as they walked through the door to the studio. They walked into the middle of the room and got ready to start the class. Haley watched JC and Lance joke around as they waited, and she made a mental note to herself to figure out what was wrong with him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Thursday December 21, 2000—auditions)

"Okay people." The anxious crowd turned to look at Sam and the tour managers. "We're just going to go through a warmup, then a song, step by step. Then, we'll have groups at a time, doing the routine. We," Sam pointed to herself and the others around her, "will be taking notes." She smiled at the crowd. "And, for the solo auditions, ‘N Sync will be there to get a feel for the dancers. Warmup is in five minutes."

Haley made her way over to Eric. "Damn, I'm freakin’ nervous," she said as she stretched her legs. She shook her arms out and rolled her head from side to side.

Eric smiled. "Don't be. You got what it takes." He gave her a quick hug. "You show them that you're here to kick some serious recruit ass."

Haley smiled. "Thanks. You're gonna amaze all of them in there."

Sam walked over to them. "Get ready. One minute."

Haley and Eric nodded as Sam walked away. They looked at each other excitedly and wished each other good luck, with another quick hug. They joined the other dancers for the warmup, led by Sam and Darren, one of ‘N Sync's other choreographers. Once Sam and Darren were convinced that the dancers couldn't possibly get any more warmed up, they divided the group into two smaller ones, Eric and Haley working with Darren, and Lisa with Sam in the smaller studio next door.

Darren clapped his hands to get everybody's attention. "Alright. I'm gonna do a run-through of a new routine, and then I'll break it down for you."

Darren started the music and did a routine-an amazing routine-to Digital Get Down. Once he finished, he turned to the dancers and smiled. "Okay. You know how this works. I’ll go through step by step, and you’ll do each move with me. We’ll piece it together and end up with the final product for your audition. Any questions?"

Everyone shook their heads no, and Darren smiled again. "Then let’s get started."

Darren started the song again and Haley did her best to keep up with Darren and the group. When Haley messed up a couple of times on the same spot, Darren stopped the music and went through the move with all of them, until everyone in the group had gotten the move. Haley smiled thankfully at Darren as he watched her dance through the rest of the song. Darren stopped to run through some moves a couple of times for other dancers before doing a couple of extra run-throughs of the routine. Once Darren was pleased, and so were the dancers, Sam and her group came back into the bigger studio, and the whole group went through the song together a couple of times before they were given a five minute break.

Haley stood in the corner, biting her nails. She was watching some of the other dancers going over some of the moves when Lisa walked over to her.

"Hey girl. How you doin’?"

Hale rolled her eyes. "Just great. This is worse than the first time."

Lisa laughed. "Yeah, but we know how it goes." She patted Haley’s hand and smiled reassuringly. "Don’t worry. You’ll get it."

Haley smiled and squeezed Lisa’s hand. "Let’s go kick some serious ass," she said as they took their places, side by side.

Sam explained to the group how she and Darren and some other "important" people would walk around, watching the dancers, and taking notes.

The music started and Haley smiled at Lisa nervously. The routine started and Haley told herself to focus on her dancing, not on the girl in front of her who was messing up big time, or on Bobby, who kept smirking at everybody in the mirror as they danced. She focused on the moves, not what the others were doing. She made it through her rough spot of the routine, and she smiled proudly when the routine was over.

They went through the song three more times, and Haley only messed up at her hard part once, and she noticed that a lot of the other dancers were messing up too. Haley was happy with her performance, and she knew that she and Lisa were two of the better dancers at the audition.

Haley smiled at herself as she stretched out on the floor and took a drink of her water. She opened her eyes and saw Bobby sitting in front of her. "How’s it going?" Haley asked him.

"Oh, I’m doing fine. How ‘bout you?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders. "I’m satisfied."

Bobby nodded. "Me, too." He looked around the room. "So. You have some pretty good competition here."

Haley nodded. "Yeah. It’s not gonna be easy."

Bobby nodded his head and turned to face Haley. "Yes, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for you at all."

Haley sighed. "It’s been a lot of hard work, and I hope it’s gonna pay off."

Bobby took one more look at Haley before he stood up and brushed the hair out of his eyes. He held his hand out to Haley, and she allowed him to pull her up off the floor. He hung on to her hand and pulled her close to his body.

"I’m sure it’s been hard for you. I mean, being so close to the guys MUST be so hard for you." He let her hand go and stepped back from her. He looked at her face, a look of disgust on his face. "Tell Chris I said ‘Hi’."

Haley looked at Bobby confused. "What’s up with you? Tell him yourself."

Bobby chuckled and shook his head at Haley. "I’m sure he’d enjoy hearing it from his girlfriend more." He turned around and walked away, leaving Haley speechless, and very pissed off.

Lisa and Eric walked over to where Bobby had left Haley.

"What was that all about?"

Haley blinked and looked at her friends. "I cannot believe him!" Haley sat down on the floor and looked up at Lisa and Eric. "Does everyone think that I’m with Chris?"

Lisa gave Haley a confused look. "I don’t."

"Me either," Eric said, sitting down beside Haley.

Lisa kneeled down in front of Haley. "Why do you think that?"

Haley shook her head. "Well, fuckface over there," Haley said, motioning towards Bobby, "basically just told me that I’m only here because of my so-called boyfriend, Chris."

Lisa’s jaw dropped as Haley buried her face in her hands. Eric rubbed her back.

"Don’t worry about him. He’s just jealous."

Haley let out a loud laugh and pulled her hands away from her face. "And what is he jealous of?"

Eric narrowed his eyes. "You."

Haley looked at Eric, a confused look on her face.

"What our dear Eric means," Lisa interrupted, "is that Bobby, or fuckface if you wish, is jealous of you because you have the talent and you can spend time with your friends, and he hates that fact." Lisa smiled at Haley. "You know how Britney dumped him. You have him beat, cuz you have all of ‘N Sync behind you."

Haley nodded. "So. He’s just being a prick because he can."

Eric nodded. "He’s just trying to get to you. Don’t let him."

Haley smiled and put an arm around her two friends. "Thanks, guys." The three stood up and wiped their butts off. "What would I do without you?"

Lisa giggled and put her arm around Haley again. "You’d probably be charged with serious accounts of violence on Bobby’s scrawny little ass."

Haley laughed. "But that would feel so good right now!"

Eric sighed. "Yes, Haley, but then you wouldn’t be able to show him how good you are, how much better than him you are." He nodded at Haley’s smiling face. "That would be pretty hard to do from jail."

Haley and Lisa laughed at Eric, and Eric soon joined in. They settled down when Sam stood up in front of the group and told them they had a half-hour before the solo auditions would start.

Haley went to her bag and grabbed her discman. She popped in her CD and played ‘If Ya Getting’ Down’ by Five, her song for her solo routine. She placed the headphones over her ears and practiced for the routine.

 

Chapter 6

The solo audition was the dancer, Sam, Darren, some executive "special and important" people, and the guys of ‘N Sync, all in the smaller studio. The dancer was to have come up with an original routine to the song of their choice, and then they were expected to know two other ‘N Sync routines to show the judges. The last two songs would be chosen by Sam and Darren, and one of them or the guys would help out if the routine needed two people.

Once Haley was satisfied that she was ready, she sat down in a corner and turned her discman to track 7. She smiled to herself and closed her eyes when she heard Chris’s voice flowing into her ears. "I Drive Myself Crazy" had always been one of her favourite songs, and it was her favourite performance during the tour. She didn’t dance to the song, but it was one she never missed. She was always standing behind the curtain, watching them perform it. She loved the words, the harmonies-it was amazing to her. It made her feel good every time she heard it.

When the song was over, Haley opened her eyes and looked around. Everyone was getting ready for their auditions, and Haley started to get giddy. She stood up and looked around for Lisa. She found her against the wall, relaxing.

Haley ran up to her friend, pulling the headphones down around her neck. Haley grinned. "Guess what."

"What, Hails?" Lisa asked, a smile on her face.

Haley’s grin grew. "You gotta have faith."

Lisa raised her eyebrows as she pushed away from the wall. "Faith?"

Haley nodded. "Yup. Faith baby."

Lisa bit her lip. "And who tells you this?"

"Fred Durst."

The two looked at each other, huge smiles on their faces. "Well, I guess it would be nice, if I could touch your body," they sang together, laughing as they mumbled the words to "Faith" by Limp Bizkit. As the chorus neared, their smiles grew and they looked at each other excitedly. "Well I gotta have faith, gotta have faith, gotta have faith, gotta have faith! BABY!" they both yelled, head banging in the air.

Eric walked past the two, an embarrassed look on his face. "You guys suck so bad," he whispered as he avoided looking at their eyes.

They laughed and calmed down for the auditions. Sam called two more dancers, and told Bobby and Stephanie, a dancer from the tour, to get ready.

Haley watched Bobby, a disgusted look on her face. "Ugh. He makes me sick. He thinks he’s the shit."

Lisa’s blue eyes followed Haley’s gaze and she watched Bobby stretch. "Yes, he is definitely a genuine prick." An evil grin spread across Lisa’s face. "But you have to admit…the boy is hot."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Oh, just what I need. Someone to boost his ego."

Lisa punched Haley’s arm playfully. The two looked up when the door linking the two studios opened, and Bobby and Stephanie went in. Sam looked at her papers.

"Um…Eric LaPage and Caitlyn Peters next."

Haley and Lisa wished Eric and Caitlyn good luck, and waited for their names to be called. Lisa was called in after Eric, and Haley was after her. Haley ran through her routine one more time and stretched as she waited for her turn. Lisa walked out, a smile plastered on her face. She gave Haley a "thumbs up" sign as she walked by.

Haley took a deep breath before walking into the smaller studio with Jon, one of the recruits. They each took a seat across from Sam and Darren and the execs. Justin, Lance, JC, Chris and Joey were leaning against the wall behind them. Haley looked at the guys and smiled. They all smiled back, and Chris waved. Haley felt herself relax once she knew that the guys were on her side. Haley focused her attention on Sam.

"Now, you two should know how this goes. Jon, you’re first, so set your music up." Sam smiled at Haley. "Just sit over there, Haley," she said, pointing towards the corner.

Haley nodded and walked over to the wall, and she leaned against it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her eyes popped open when she heard Britney Spears pour out through the speakers. She looked over at the guys. Chris was rolling his eyes and the others were trying to hide their looks of disgust. Haley smiled at the guys and turned to watch Jon dance. She had to give him credit: he had a really good routine, and he could certainly move…even if his taste in music sucked.

When his routine was done, Jon looked over at Haley, and he shot her a weak smile. Haley gave him a bright smile and a "thumbs up". He perked up with her support, and he waited for his next routine.

Sam looked up and smiled. "Very nice, Jon. Now. Let’s see ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ and ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’."

Jon nodded and took a breath before preparing for ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’. He came to life during the routine, and he breezed through no problem.

There was a ten second pause between songs, and Haley found herself thinking that she would like to dance with Jon. She smiled as ‘N Sync’s harmonious voices filled the room, and Jon performed an almost perfect routine.

When he was done, and the "judges" were taking notes, Haley stood up and walked towards Jon. She gave him a bright smile and a pat on the back. He gave her a relieved smile as he walked to the wall and sat down, leaning against it.

"Well, let’s see it Haley."

Haley nodded at Sam before pushing the play button on the CD player. She quickly looked at Jon, and smiled when he gave her a look of encouragement. Haley ran through her routine and was happy with her performance. She stood in the middle of the studio, catching her breath while she waited for the next routines. She looked up at Chris, who was making the fish face at her.

Sam looked at Haley and smiled. "Okay, Hails. Let’s see… ‘Bye Bye Bye’ and ‘Space’…no, ‘No Strings Attached’." Sam looked up at her, a smile on her face. "Any preferences?" she asked, pointing at the guys behind her. She raised her eyebrows. "Or do I get to choose?"

Haley shrugged. "Go ahead, Sam."

Sam smiled and turned around to face the guys. "Okay. JC and Chris. I haven’t picked on you two yet."

JC smiled at Chris. "Go ahead man."

Chris grinned. "Thanks."

Haley laughed. "Great. I get the clown."

Sam laughed. "Okay. Chris’ll warm up here while you do ‘Bye Bye Bye’."

Haley nodded and turned around, her back to everyone. The music started and Haley took a deep breath before turning around to start the routine. It wasn’t her best performance, but she was satisfied. Haley took her final stance, and Chris ran over to her.

"You ready?" he whispered as they stood beside each other.

Haley nodded. "Uh huh."

The music started, and the routine went pretty smoothly. Haley messed up once, but Chris did it first, so that set her off. Other than that, it was perfect. As they took their final pose, Haley and Chris looked at each other. Chris stuck his tongue out at her and she laughed.

The "audience" clapped for her, and Chris patted her on the back as he walked past her. She looked at the guys hesitantly, and they all shot her toothy smiles. Haley smiled and grabbed her music before walking towards the door. JC gave her a "thumbs up" and Justin gave her a high five on her way by.

Sam followed Haley and Jon out of the smaller studio and called in two more dancers. Haley smiled at Jon. "Good job, Jon."

He smiled sheepishly. "Thanks. You too."

Haley waved goodbye and walked over to Lisa and Eric, and they discussed their routines.

"Well, I did my best. But I tell ya…" Haley looked at her friends. "I am so grateful I got to dance with Chris. It made me feel more comfortable and confident."

Eric wrinkled his nose. "I was stuck with Sam. I love the woman, but I hate dancing with her."

Lisa and Haley laughed and talked to some of the other dancers about their auditions. A hand tapped Haley on the shoulder. Haley turned around and narrowed her eyes.

"What do you want?"

Bobby smirked at Haley. "Oh, I just wanted to ask how your audition went."

Haley stared at him. "It went fine. Thanks for asking." Haley turned and walked to the water fountain. She leaned down and took a long drink. She rolled her eyes when she saw Bobby lean against the wall beside the fountain. She straightened her back and looked at Bobby. "What do you want, Bobby?"

Bobby looked at her, an evil look on his face. "I heard you danced with Chris in there." He looked her up and down before smiling down at her. "Must be nice to be able to dance with your lover…I mean, best friend."

Haley closed her eyes and counted to ten before reacting to Bobby. She opened her eyes and unclenched her fists. She looked at Bobby, a look of hatred in her eyes. Wow, Bobby. You can speak in whole sentences now. You’re talking a bunch of crap, but still, you’ve made progress." Haley patted Bobby on the shoulder. "Britney would be so proud," she said as she walked away. She stopped after a couple of steps and turned back to Bobby. "Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that she dumped your sorry ass." She shook her head. "My bad."

Bobby’s jaw dropped and Haley walked away, a look of pure satisfaction on her face.

 

Chapter 7

(Friday December 22, 2000—Taping of Christmas special)

Haley stared lazily into her coffee mug, watching the steam rise. "It is way too early."

Anett laughed as she brushed the hair out of her face. "Yeah, but you like this type of thing."

Haley took a sip of her coffee and shook her head. "No, I really don’t."

Sam’s voice came over the speakers. "All dancers in wardrobe, one minute."

Haley rolled her eyes and set her coffee on the table. "I’ll be back…unfortunately."

Anett giggled as Haley walked away. She took a sip of her own coffee and waved Justin and JC over to her. "Hello, boys," she said as the two sat down. Justin kissed her forehead and held her hand in his.

JC nodded. He pointed to the coffee cup in front of him. "This Haley’s?" Anett nodded and JC grinned. "Turn your heads so you don’t see this."

Anett looked at JC, confused, but turned to face Justin (not a difficult task for her). He kissed her nose and rested his forehead against hers. They looked into each other’s eyes dreamily. They were leaning in for a kiss (something they were NOT supposed to do in public) but they stopped and turned to JC when they heard some slurping noises coming from him.

JC stopped gurgling and closed his mouth, swishing the liquid around in his mouth. Anett’s jaw dropped and Justin burst out laughing when JC bent his head sown and brought Haley’s cup to his mouth. He spit the liquid back into the cup and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

Justin sat there, shaking with laughter. He took some breaths to calm down and he smiled at JC. "Classic, JC." Justin shook his head. "Absolutely classic." He turned to Anett, putting his finger under her chin and he closed her mouth. "That’s not attractive, Anett, staring like that."

Anett shook her head at the smiling JC. "You’re mean."

JC laughed. "Some may think so." He looked up and saw Haley walking towards them. She smiled at her friends and reached for her coffee.

"I need coffee." Haley took a gulp of her now-warm coffee. She put the mug back down on the table and looked at Justin and Anett as she sat down beside JC. Justin burst out laughing and Haley looked confused. She looked at Anett. "Did I miss something?"

Anett giggled as JC got up and stood behind Haley, leaning down so they were eye level.

"Personally, I like sugar in my coffee."

"Okay…" Haley said slowly, not getting it.

JC smiled at her confused look. "That’s why I had to spit it back into your mug. I couldn’t swallow it."

Haley’s jaw dropped, and JC patted her shoulder before walking away. She stared at Anett, who was laughing with Justin. "Unbelievable. My best friend let him get me." Haley shook her head as she stood up. "See you two later."

Haley got herself a bottle of water and found Eric and Lisa. "Hey," she said as she walked up to them.

Lisa smiled at her. "Hey. What’s up girl?"

Haley spotted JC smiling at her and she shook her head, turning away from him. "Oh, I’m here. Enough said."

The three laughed and mingled as they waited to rehearse for the Christmas special. The guys were going to perform a bunch of songs, and do some skits for the special, as well as the normal "get to know the guys of ‘N Sync" pieces, where people get to know what makes each of the guys tick.

The director, Simon Fartel, wanted to do some songs with dancers, which was why Haley was there. They ran through each song once before the cameras were turned on, then once with cameras.

After ‘The First Noel’, Joey turned to Haley, putting his arm around her. "Girl, I can’t wait for you the next tour. I love dancing with you."

Haley blushed. "Thanks, Joey." She took a sip of water. "I hope I’m there for the next tour."

Joey chuckled, hugging her. "You know you’re there."

Haley sighed, slipping her arm around Joey’s waist. "I hope you’re right."

The next hour, for the dancers, was spent relaxing "behind the scenes" as the guys did their in-depth interviews, so to say. Haley sat to the side, where she could see all of the guys as they talked.

The big question for the guys was what their most perfect Christmas would be like. Chris and Joey answered that being with friends and family was most important, and Lance added relaxing to the list. Justin agreed with all of them, adding "being with that special someone" to his list. But JC’s answer caught Haley’s attention.

"My most perfect Christmas would be spent, of course, with family and friends, but I also want to make a difference to someone that means a lot to me. I mean, just seeing someone’s face light up because of something I did…that makes life better." He smiled at the camera, and Haley found herself smiling with him.

She noticed that she couldn’t take her eyes off of JC, that something was going on with her. He caught her gaze and smiled. She blushed as she smiled back and turned away. Why the hell am I blushing? she thought to herself.

Anett walked over and sat down beside Haley. "Hey, chica."

Haley nodded as her gaze returned to where JC was sitting. "Hi."

Anett followed Haley’s gaze, a smile forming on her lips. "He looks good, eh?"

Haley eye’s gave JC a once-over, then a second- and third-over. She smiled when she saw JC in a bright red sweater and baggy jeans. She looked back up at JC’s face, and he had never been that appealing to her before, as he joked around with Simon and the other workers. JC’s laugh rang out through the studio, and Haley barely kept herself from letting her mind go totally into the gutter, as she thought some more-than-just-friends thoughts about JC.

Anett’s fingers snapped in front of Haley’s face. "Hello? Anybody in there?" she asked, knocking on Haley’s forehead.

Haley shook her head and pushed Anett’s hands away from her. "I’m here. I was just thinking…"

Anett giggled. "Uh huh…" Anett grinned evilly. "Would your thoughts be classified as PG or R?"

Haley snapped her head towards Anett. "I have no idea why you would say anything like that."

Anett’s grin grew. "Okay. I’ll take that as rated R…more interesting." She leaned in towards Haley. "And he is pretty hot."

Haley’s eyes narrowed as she looked at her best friend. "Drop it. NOW."

Anett’s head dropped. "Kay, Hails. It’s dropped." She smiled from behind her hair. "For now," she whispered.

Haley rolled her eyes at her friend as she stretched her legs out in front of her. She looked over at the set to see if JC was done, but she didn’t see him. Her eyes scanned the studio for him, but she didn’t see him. Haley’s shoulders slumped and she let out a sigh.

"BOO!" a husky male voice said in her ear.

Haley jumped and let out a yelp before she covered her mouth when people looked at her. JC put his forehead on her shoulder, laughing. Haley felt him shaking, and she moved her elbow back until she touched fabric.

"Whoa, Hails. I don’t know you that well."

Haley rolled her eyes and leaned forward, looking at Anett. "Hey, Namett, you wanna go find Justin?"

Anett giggled and stood up and helped Haley up. Haley turned, wiping her butt off, and looked at JC. He smiled innocently and held his hand out to her. Haley sighed as she grabbed his hand and pulled him up.

"Thanks, Hails," he said, wiping his own butt off. "You having fun?"

Haley nodded as she looked around. "Yeah. This is great."

Sam walked by, smiling. "We’re doing ‘You Don’t Have To Be Alone’ in two minutes. Find Simon for directions."

They nodded and walked over to Simon, who smiled when he saw the group.

"Okay." He pointed at Anett. "You in the shoot?"

Anett smiled hesitantly. "If you need me, I’m here."

Simon smiled as he gently pushed Anett and Haley onto the stage. "We need you. How ‘bout you both sit on the floor in front of the couch?"

The girls gave each other nervous glances as they walked over to the couch. Sam was placing Justin, JC and Lance on the couch, so the girls waited before sitting down. Haley sat in front of Justin, to the side of JC, and Anett sat in front, between Justin and Lance.

JC tapped Haley on the shoulder. "You wanna go out for some coffee after the shoot?"

Haley shook her head as JC chuckled to himself. She watched as Simon placed Chris on a chair, Lisa sitting on the armrest, her arm around Chris, and Joey sat on the floor between two dancers. Some extras were brought in to make it feel more ‘homey’, and some teenager stepped all over Haley to get closer to JC. Once Simon thought the mood was set, they went through the song. During the song, the girl beside Haley barely contained herself, bouncing up and down. When the song was over, Simon gave Haley a quizzical look.

"What’s with the face, Haley?"

Haley shook her head. "It’s just a bit uncomfortable down here. A lot of people in a small space."

Simon nodded and whispered with Sam before walking up to the group. "Okay. We’re gonna put Lance on the floor between Anett and…" He pointed at the girl beside Haley.

"Sarah!" the girl blurted out, totally over-excited.

Simon nodded. "Yes, between Anett and Sarah."

Haley moved to get out of the way. She stood beside Simon, who had one finger on his chin as he thought.

"Okay. Justin, move over to the other end of the couch, and Haley, you sit between him and JC."

Haley nodded and carefully sat between JC and Justin, trying not to kick Lance. She brought her knee up and wrapped her arms around it to give Lance and Anett more space.

"Good, Haley." Simon smiled. "Okay, now let’s see. What hand will you hold the microphone in, JC?"

JC looked at his hands. "Probably my right."

"Good. Put your left arm around Haley."

Haley got butterflies in her stomach. She looked at JC, who smiled and lifted his arm over her head and slipped it around her shoulders. She smiled at the warmth his arm gave her, and how comfortable she felt.

Simon tilted his head. "No, Haley. Turn so you’re kind of facing Sam over there, your back against JC’s chest." He nodded when Haley turned. "Good." He walked off the stage. "Let’s try this." He waved at Chris, who turned to the camera.

"Alright, now it’s time for another Christmas love song, one of my favourites…You Don’t Have To Be Alone."

The music started, and Haley had a hard time not singing to the song that JC had written. Then again, they were paying her to sit there, looking pretty, so that’s what she did. As the final note of the song was sung, the lights were turned down low, and the "fans" in the background clapped. The lights came back on, and Simon came onto the stage.

"New idea. The guys are sitting there, then the girls come in as Chris introduces the song, so they’re sitting by the time you start singing. So, girls, over here."

The girls all stood on the edge of the set. As Chirs introduced the song, Simon pushe d them onto the stage. Haley was sitting next to JC as he began to sing the first note. She smiled as she saw the sparkled in JC’s eyes, and she sighed when he put his arm around her. He rubbed her arm gently as he sang, and Haley found herself trying to get closer to him. She looked up and saw Justin smiling at her, one of those ‘Oh, I know your secret’ smiles.

The song ended, and Simon and the crew applauded the singers, the guys thanking the crew. JC kissed Haley on the cheek.

"Thanks for sitting with me, beautiful."

Haley blushed as she stood up. "Yeah, well, I only did it cuz they pay me."

JC laughed and hugged her to him. "You’re the best, Haley."

Haley smiled as she walked away. "I know."

* * * * * * * * * * * * "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!" The guys plastered smiles on their faces as the kids around them laughed and ran around. The guys and dancers smiled and laughed with the kids on the set until Simon called it a day.

Haley hugged all of the guys, wishing them a Merry Christmas, and told them that she would be thinking of them. They agreed to watch the special together, on the phone, as she would be in Ontario, and they would all be at Justin’s house.

Chris smiled across the set at Haley, and he leaned down and whispered something in a little boy’s ear while pointing at Haley. She smiled as the boy nodded at Chris and ran over to her. She leaned down to hear what he had to say.

"That boy over there," the boy said, pointing at Chris, "he…he thinks that…you’re a good dancew." The boy stuffed his hands in his pockets and kicked the ground with his foot.

Haley smiled. "Is that all you wanted to say to me?"

The boy shook his head. "He…he wants to know if...if you wanna go out for…for toffee with him before you go to...uh…away tomowwow."

Haley laughed and patted the boy on the head. "Okay. Could you do me a favor now?" The boy nodded. "Go tell that boy over there that if he wants me to come, he’s gonna have to ask me like a man."

The boy nodded and giggled as he ran back over to Chris. Haley watched him give Chris the message as she packed her bag. She heard Chris’s joyous laugh ring out and he winked at Haley.

"See you at eight?" he yelled across the set.

Haley nodded and waved as she walked out the door.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ring! Ring! (phone)

"Dammit!" Haley threw her pen and journal onto the floor and jumped for the phone. "Hello?" she said with a sigh.

"Haley, you left before I could talk to you!"

Haley slapped her forehead. "Oh, Sam, I’m sorry!"

Sam giggled. "It’s okay. I know you had other stuff on your mind. So."

Haley waited for Sam to continue. "So…" she said when Sam was silent.

Sam groaned. "Oh, woman, would you ask me already?"

Haley smiled. "Oh, yeah, you want me to ask you if I made it. I don’t really know if…"

"Haley, you made it!"

Haley screamed. "Thank you! That’s amazing."

Sam sighed. "You’re the last person that I had to tell. I wanted to save the best for last."

Haley grinned. "I know. I’m great. So. Who else made it?"

Sam took a breath, and Haley knew that she had already gone through the list a bunch of times. "Um…you, Steph, Lisa, Amy, Jon the new guy, Cait, Darlene, Bobby--"

"Ah, Bobby. Damn, he is such a punk."

Sam sighed again. "I know he’s a prick, but the boy can dance. We need him." Haley looked out her bedroom window, knowing that Sam didn’t like Bobby any more than she did. "Well, being a dancer has its consequences, and Bobby is a big one."

Sam giggled. "Yeah. The world isn’t perfect."

Haley smiled. "You’re right." Haley walked back into the living room and picked her journal up. "So. Is Eric on the team?"

"Eric who?" Sam asked hesitantly.

"Come on Sam. Is he or no?"

Sam laughed. "Yes, he’s on."

"Good."

The two women talked about the dancers and how the routines would be changing.

Haley looked at her clock. "Damn. Sam, I gotta go. My flight leaves early in the morning, and Chris and I are going out for coffee first."

"Okay. You have a good trip, and say hello to Smash for me. And make sure you watch the special!"

Haley laughed. "You got it. Merry Christmas, Sam."

"Merry Christmas Hails."

Haley hung up the phone and looked around her apartment. She sighed when she thought of the packing she had to do for her trip back to Ontario for Christmas. She picked up her journal and put it in her carry-on bag for the plane.

Chapter 8

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for choosing United Airlines. We hope you all had a wonderful flight. We will be landing within the next fifteen minutes."

Haley buckled her seatbelt and looked over at Chris.

He looked back at her, a goofy grin on his face. "Fifteen minutes, Haley! Then it’s time to see the family again."

Haley rolled her eyes. "I know I shouldn’t have let you drink that large hot chocolate this morning."

Chris patted Haley’s knee. "I’m just excited Hails."

Haley nodded. "I see that." She leaned forward and looked across the aisle at

Mike. "Hey big guy." Haley smiled when Mike looked at her. "Are we gonna have separate cars back to my mom’s house? We can let Chris go with Tyler, and my mom’ll take us."

Mike chuckled and shook his head. "I’m stuck with him. And you, too, if you’re around him."

Haley sighed and leaned back in her seat. She turned her head and faced the

window. Chris leaned over and put his head n her shoulder.

"What’s wrong, Hails? You don’t wanna spend some quality time with your best friend and your brother?"

Haley smiled. "No. Sounds perfect if you wanna lose your sanity," she said, ruffling his hair.

"Hey! Hey! Mike! She’s touching the merchandise," Chris said, pushing Haley’s hand away from him.

Mike laughed. "I’m not gonna fight with her. This is your battle."

Haley laughed and narrowed her eyes at Chris. "You gonna back out?"

Chris stuck his face in Haley’s. "Bring it on, Sunshine."

Haley smiled and kissed Chris on the cheek as the plane landed. "Just wait, pretty boy. I’ll get you."

Chris laughed and sat back. As soon as the plane stopped moving, he unbuckled his seatbelt and jumped in to the aisle. "Come on, guys. We’re here!"

Haley smiled as she watched Chris grab his bag and bounce down the aisle. Mike rolled his eyes at Haley and ran after Chris, Haley on his heels.

Just before Chris ran out into the airport, Chris stopped in the walkway and whipped a hat and sunglasses out of his bag. He smiled at Haley as he put them on and ran out to find his old friend, Tyler Maguire.

Mike came up behind Haley and put his arm around her as they walked out. "Gotta love him."

Haley laughed. "A bad habit, I know."

The two looked around the airport and found Chris attacking Tyler, Haley’s older brother. Her smile grew as she saw her mom Nancy, her stepdad Brian her cousin Laura and two of her best friends, Ashleigh and Heather.

Mike grabbed the bag off of Haley’s shoulders. "Go, frolic. Have fun."

Haley smiled at Mike and ran over to her family. Her mom grabbed her and smothered her with hugs.

"Haley, I missed you so much!" Nancy held her back at arm’s length. "Look at you! Who thought you’d grow up to be so talented and beautiful. You look good, sweetheart!" Nancy kissed Haley’s cheek and hugged her once more before Brian interrupted.

He put his arm around Haley’s shoulders. "It’s good to see you, Hails," he said, hugging her.

Haley smiled in to his shoulder. "You too, Brian." She patted him on the back before she turned to face Laura.

Laura sighed and threw her arms around Haley. "Yeah, I know, you feel bad that you never called, or emailed, or wrote…"

Haley laughed. "I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time." She turned to Ashleigh and Heather. The three of them screamed and ran into a huddle.

"I missed you!"

"Everybody’s asking about you!"

"I’m gonna kill Chris!"

The three girls laughed and stood beside each other, talking about their families and any gossip about their friends in Ontario.

"Ahem." An arm slid around Haley’s shoulders. "I’m sorry, girls, but I need to talk to this one for a minute."

Haley smiled as Tyler walked her away from the crowd. He turned her around and pulled her in to him, hugging her. "I missed you Pooh."

Haley sighed into Tyler’s shoulder. "I missed you too, Ty."

Tyler pulled away and looked at her. "It’s good to see you again."

Haley nodded and smiled as she hugged her brother again. "You have no idea. Oh, and just so you know in advance, I’m gonna be killing our dear friend Chris over there." Haley and Tyler both looked at Chris, and he smiled as he walked towards them.

"Yo, Dreads, you been giving Haley a hard time?"

Chris nodded. "Well, I’m trying. I don’t know how well it’s working though."

Tyler shook his head. "Well, try harder Chris. She’s still sane," he said, ducking to avoid Haley’s fists.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After everyone was settled in the van, they made their way to the house. Mike was sitting in the middle of the van, beside Haley. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and rubbed his hands together. He brought his hands to his mouth and blew on them to warm them up.

Mike looked at Haley when she started laughing. "What?"

Haley smiled and shook her head. "You really are just a big teddy bear, aren’t you, Mike?"

Mike stuck his tongue out at Haley and turned to face the window, mumbling about how cold it was, and wondering/asking how anybody could live in this weather.

Haley shook her head and watched the snow, swirling around in the wind. She sighed, happy to be home, even if it was for only a couple of days.
When they got to the house, Chris jumped out of the van and jumped around as he waited for the others to get out. Mike stepped out of the van and looked at Chris.

"You are crazy, boy. I do not know where you get the energy."

Chris smiled and jumped at Mike. "Oh, I know ya love me, Mikey. Well, you said you did last night when you cam over…"

Mike rolled his eyes and pushed Chris away from him. "Yeah. I came over because JC and Lance were about to whoop your sorry white ass." He turned from Chris and helped Brian carry the bags in to the house.

Chris stuck his head into the van where Haley and Tyler were talking. "Okay. Parents are in the house. Might I suggest…" Chris raised his eyebrows a couple of times at Tyler. "How ‘bout a rumble in the snow?"

Tyler laughed. "Oh, I’m ready to kick your ass, little man." He looked at Haley as he shoved his hands in his gloves. "I’ll be in the house in a couple of minutes."

Haley nodded as she got out of the van. "Please be gentle."

Chris puffed up his chest. "Gentle? I do not know that word." He grinned at Tyler mischievously. "You ready to go down, Shoop?"

Tyler laughed again, getting out of the van. "Oh yeah. You’re goin' down, cuz I’m about to lay the smack down on your sorry ass!" Tyler and Chris jumped at each other, both falling onto the ground.

Haley shook her head as she walked into the house, leaving the two men laughing and playing in the snow. As soon as Haley opened the door, she smelled fresh bread, her mother’s perfume and the fire that was glowing in the living room. She smiled and was immediately warmed by the face that she was at home…with her family.

She kicked her boots off and hung her coat up in the closet before walking into the kitchen, where she found her mother drinking tea. Her face lit up when she saw Amy, Tyler’s wife, feeding Dixie, the dog.

Haley threw her arms around her mother’s neck. Mrs. Falconer smiled as she brought her hands up to meet Haley’s arms. "I missed you, Mom."

Mrs. Falconer nodded, bringing Haley’s hand to her face and kissed it gently. "I know sweetie. I missed you too."

Haley kissed her mother’s cheek before she straightened her body, turning to face Amy. "Oh my God, woman! Look at you!" Haley yelled, eyes wide.

Amy laughed as Haley hugged her. "Hey, Haley. It’s good to see you."

Haley smiled. "Same to you." She gently placed her hand over Amy’s bulging stomach. "Why didn’t you tell me?"

Amy smiled sheepishly. "Tyler didn’t want to tell you. I did, but he wanted to surprise you."

Haley grinned. "Well, you certainly did. How long has it been?"

Amy took a sip of tea and rested her arms on her stomach. "This is my fifth month."

Haley’s jaw dropped. "And you didn’t tell me?"

Amy shrugged her shoulders, a smile tugging at her mouth. "Sorry."

Haley shook her head and sat down next her mother. They chatted about the family and plans for Christmas. Haley heard the front door open, and then Chris and Tyler arguing.

"Dude! I took you down, and you know it."

Tyler walked into the kitchen, shaking his head. He kissed Amy on the cheek before he walked to the fridge and grabbed a coke.

"Dreads, why can’t you just lose and take it like a man?" Tyler shook his head when Chris continued to whine. "I got you, fair and square. Just deal with it." He opened his coke and took a sip. He looked up and had to spit the pop out in the sink.

Haley looked up to find Chris standing in the doorway, his face red and snow frozen in his hair. She smiled as the snow dripped down his face.

Chris smiled and his gaze landed on Amy. "Damn girl! Look at you!" He grinned evilly. "If Shoop did that to me, I would definitely be kicking his ass."

Amy giggled. "If Tyler ever did this to you, I would cry." She elbowed her husband. "And then I’d get a divorce."

Haley laughed and walked towards Chris, pushing him towards the bathroom. "Come on, Sly Stallone, let’s make you presentable to the family."

Chris sighed and allowed Haley to lead him to the bathroom. She pushed him onto the toilet seat before grabbing a towel and Chris’s backpack. She closed the door behind her and sat down on the edge of the bathtub.

Haley threw the towel over Chris’s head. "Thanks for coming, Chris. It means a lot to Tyler."

Chris pulled the towel off of his face and raised his eyebrows.

"And you know I love having you here too," she added with a smile.

Chris nodded his head. "Mmmhmm. Do you know what would make me feel really good right now?"

Haley sighed. "What would that be, Chris?"

Chris grinned. "A full body massage, but I know I won’t get that from you, so…please wash my hair?"

Haley shook her head. "No. Not after last time. No."

Chris stuck his bottom lip out. "Please, Sunshine? I thought Joey and me apologized for that already. I promise I won’t squirt the shampoo down your shirt again."

Haley laughed. "Like I haven’t’ heard that one before." She shook her head. "You have to be good, or I’ll make sure they don’t find the body."

Chris smiled. "You got it."

Haley started the water and reached for the L’Oreal shampoo.

"Could you make it Herbal Essences?"

Haley looked at him. "Why?"

Chris grinned as he stood up. "Cuz I’ve got the urge to herbal," he sang in a nasal voice as he rubbed up to Haley.

Haley laughed and pushed him away from her. "Fine. But you must never EVER do that again." She reached for the bottle as Chris sat down. She tested the water before sitting on the toilet to wash Chris’s hair over the bathtub. As Haley massaged Chris’s scalp, she started singing the Pokémon theme song, and she laughed as Chris joined in with her. She rinsed the shampoo out of his hair and threw the towel over his head again as she stood up, brushing the brown hair out of her face.

"Was that as good for you as it was for me?"

Haley smiled and winked. "Oh, you know it was, baby." She opened the door and walked out. "Get ready for some visitors, Chris. Make yourself all pretty," she said over her shoulder. She walked into the kitchen and talked with her mom and Amy.

The doorbell rang and Haley ran to answer it, hoping it was her friends. She frowned when she saw Tyler on the front step. "Oh. Hi, Ty." She pushed the door open and let him in.

"Good to see you too, Pooh." Tyler passed her the trays of coffee and took his boots off. "Were you expecting someone else?"

Haley nodded. "Just some friends. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Ty?" She grinned at her brother before walking into the kitchen. She put the trays on the table and grabbed her hot chocolate. "Oh, this is heaven," she said, taking a sip of it. "The only thing that stopped me from jumping down Chris’s throat during the flight was this…Hot chocolate from Tim Horton’s."

"Take that back, Sunshine."

Haley turned to Chris, smiling politely. "Now why would I do that, Chris?"

Chris walked up to Haley and grabbed the hot chocolate from her hand. "Because, Sunshine," he said calmly as he set the cup on the table and crossed his arms over his chest, "you KNOW you were more excited than I was."

Haley shook her head and pushed the sleeves of her sweater up. She stuck her face in Chris’s. "Let’s take this downstairs, FREAK."

Chris stretched his neck back and forth and rolled his shoulders. "Oh, I’m there, Pooky." Chris turned and walked down the stairs to the basement.

Haley sighed as she took her sweater off. "This wont’ take long, guys," she said to her family. She smiled and took another sip of her hot chocolate.

"Come on, WIMP. I’m waiting. Don’t’ make me drag you down here, and then beat you."

Haley rolled her eyes. "So impatient to get the beats."

Her family laughed as she walked down the stairs, meeting Mike on her way.

"I smell coffee."

Haley laughed and pointed up the stairs. "Kitchen."

Mike nodded and continued on his way upstairs. "Go easy on him Haley. They don’t like it when I bring them back broken."

Haley laughed and walked towards the den. "You ready punk?" Haley stuck her head in the den, but she didn’t see Chris. The bathroom door opened and Haley put her fists up, ready for Chris.

"Whoa, Haley. I just want my coffee."

Haley laughed. "Sorry, Brian. Just looking for that little freak that follows me around." Haley raised her voice. "He’s waiting for my foot to connect with his ass."

Brian chuckled and pointed towards the bedroom. "Closet," he mouthed as he patted her on the back.

Haley nodded. "I’ll be up soon. It won’t take long," she said as Brian walked up the stairs, shaking his head.

She walked towards her mom and Brian’s bedroom. She smiled when she noticed the closet’s sliding doors open a bit. She flung the doors open and stuck her head in. she turned the light on and groaned when she didn’t see Chris.

"Dammit!" she whispered as she turned around. She looked around the room and saw a piece of paper on the pillow. She walked over and picked it up and groaned when she read it out loud: "Gotcha, Sunshine."

Just then, she heard footsteps on the carpet and turned to see Chris running at her, a look of pure joy on his face. He jumped at her and they both fell onto the bed, laughing. Haley tried to push Chris off of her, but he managed to sit on her stomach and hold her hands down. She gave up fighting and looked at him, trying to put a bored look on her face.

"What do you want, Chris?"

Chris smiled down at her. "Oh, nothing much."

Haley sighed. "What?"

Chris just looked at her.

"Come on, Chris! Just tell me. I have friends coming over." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Do you understand that word, Chris? Friends?"

Chris shook his head. "You don’t understand, do you, Haley?"

Haley laughed. "What? Understand that you’re a loser?" Haley wrenched a hand free of his grasp and patted his cheek. "No, Chris, that’s where you’re wrong, I’ve always known that you were a loser."

Chris closed his eyes. "Come on, Chris, count to ten before you say or do something that you’re gonna regret."

Haley could see Chris counting to ten in his head and she smiled. "Take your time, Chris. I know it’s hard when you’ve just started counting."

Chris opened one of his eyes and looked at Haley. "I’m gonna make it a hundred, for your sake."

Haley laughed, putting her hands on Chris’s chest. She pushed him back, but he didn’t move. "Come on, Dreads, let me go." She heard the front door open and then the voices of Ashleigh, Heather and some of Haley’s other friends. She looked at Chris, her eyes pleading him to let her go.

Chris smiled and grinned evilly. "What? You don’t want your friends to see that I beat your sorry ass down?"

Haley heard her friends taking their boots off. "Come on Chris! They’re here."

Chris nodded. "Yes, I understand that, my dear." Chris’s eyebrows raised when he heard Haley’s friends coming down the stairs.

Haley smiled. "You think you won, eh?"

Chris’s smile grew. "No. I know I won."

Haley smiled up at her friend as she brought her hands up to his chest again and grabbed both his nipples through the fabric. Chris’s eyes popped open and his smile disappeared. Haley took the opportunity and shoved him off of the bed. She sat up and brushed her hair out of her face. She looked over the edge of the bed and smiled at Chris.

"Never underestimate my powers, Dread boy." She leaned over and kissed his cheek before she stood up and ran to meet her friends.

"Hey guys! Oh my god. It is so good to see you!" Haley was all smiles as she kissed and hugged each of her friends.

"So, Haley. Where you hiding that hot guy from ‘N Sync?" Heather asked, smiling as Haley.

Haley pointed to the bedroom. "I don’t know if he’s the one you’re looking for though. He’s the not so popular one." Haley winked at her friends, waiting for Chris’s response.

"Man with severely wounded nipples in the bedroom!"

The group laughed as Chris stumbled into the hallway. He immediately stared at Haley. "I’ll have you know, little Miss I’m a Big Baby and I Can’t Lose So I’m Gonna Break Chris’s Pretty Little Nipples, that I have a LARGE fan base."

Haley bit her tongue and nodded. "Whatever people tell you Chris, whatever you believe."

Chris rolled his eyes and looked around, a smile growing on his face. "Hello, everybody."

Everyone nodded hello and talked with Chris.

"Chris, are you gonna be okay?"

Chris grabbed his chest and winced in pain. "I don’t know. I think I need to see a doctor." He smiled at Ashleigh. "Thanks, Smash." He threw a dirty look at Haley. "At least somebody cared about my well-being."

Haley shook her head. "You deserved it, Chris."

Chris rolled his eyes. "Sure." He raised his voice, looking up the stairs. "And I’m really glad that I had some security looking after me and my poor, innocent nipples."

Haley heard Mike’s laugh from upstairs. "That was your fight, man. I don’t mess with Haley."

Haley smiled proudly. "You should listen to the wise one upstairs. I mean he is in charge of keeping you safe."

Chris shook his head and walked towards the stairs. "Yeah, well, he’s not doing a good job." Chris started up the stairs, groaning and whining every step of the way.

Haley shook her head and turned back to her friends. She sighed. "I missed you guys so much," she said, smiling at the group. "I’m so happy to see you."

Ashleigh smiled and stepped forward to hug Haley. "Same to you, Hails," she said as she pulled away.

Haley smiled and turned to Danielle, Haley’s friend from high school. "Dan. How you doin’?"

Danielle smiled and hugged Haley. "I’m fine, you?"

Haley giggled. "I’m fine. Life’s been good."

Kevin put his arm around Haley’s shoulders and pulled her to his side. "Well Haley," he said looking down at her, "it’s good to know you’re giving Chris a hard time. Keep him…. uh…normal…for Chris."

Haley giggled and squeezed her arms around Kevin’s waist. "I will, Kev, just for you."

Haley looked around the group and smiled when she saw Andrew, her ex-boyfriend, and one of her best friends, from high school. He flashed her his heartwarming smile and she threw her arms around his neck. "I missed you, AJ."

Andrew chuckled as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "I know the feeling Hails."

Haley giggled as she let go of Andrew. She stepped back and smiled up at him. "How have you been?"

Andrew shrugged his shoulders. "I’m not complaining. You?"

Haley grinned. "Nothing to complain about."

"HALEY!"

Haley rolled her eyes and walked to the bottom of the stairs. "What, Dreads?"

There was a pause. "You coming up here soon?"

Haley giggled and shook her head. "Why? My family doesn’t wanna talk to you anymore?"

Another pause. "No, Hails. Just come up here, please?"

Haley looked at her friends, who were all smiles. "You guys wanna go hang out with a LOSER?" Haley raised her voice at the end of the sentence and she heard Mike chuckle.

"I’m ready." Ashleigh pushed past Haley and walked up the stairs, everyone following her.

"I can’t believe I’m giving into his pouting," Haley whispered to Andrew as he passed her. He laughed as he grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs behind him.

Haley followed her friends into the living room, where Chris was looking through the TV Guide that he stuck in front of his face.

Haley shook her head. "I bring you here for a visit and you stick your head in the TV Guide. That’s what I like to see, Chris."

Mike chuckled. "Get used to it, Haley. He’s a bit not right in the head."

Haley nodded in agreement. "I’ve noticed that too." Haley looked back at Chris. "What’s up?"

Chris slowly lowered the TV Guide from his face. He stared at Haley, pure evil in his eyes. "Pick a number between one and ten."

Haley raised her eyebrows and looked at Mike, who shrugged and turned back to the TV. Haley sighed. "Four."

Chris smiled. "Good choice, if I do say so myself."

Haley watched as Chris calmly put the TV Guide on the coffee table and stand up, keeping his brown eyes on her the whole time.

"Hey, Haley, we gotta run."

Haley turned to Andrew. "Why?"

He looked at Ashleigh, and she smiled at Haley. "We still have some shopping to do."

Andrew nodded. "Yeah. And you know, we’re gonna…you know…go shopping."

Haley watched her friends, confused. They all smiled at her, so she knew something was up. They all looked at each other.

"Yeah. So we’re gonna…go now."

Haley smiled. "Yeah…shopping and all."

Ashleigh hugged her. "We’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Spend some time with the loser…I mean Chris." Ashleigh smiled at Chris when he coughed.

"You know, Ashleigh, you could at least wait until I’m not in here to bash me."

Ashleigh blew him a kiss. "But what fun would that be?"

Andrew gave Haley a quick hug and followed Ashleigh out to the car. Heather, Dani and Kevin each gave Haley a hug before throwing on their coats and running to the car. Haley watched them drive away, and she sighed as she shut the door. She walked back into the living room, and she jumped when she saw Chris standing where she had left him.

"What, Chris?"

Chris shook his head and walked towards Haley. He stood in front of her and smiled before he leaned in and kissed her cheek.

"What was that for?"

Chris laughed. "You know how to make a guy feel good, don’t you?"

When she looked at him with a stupid look on her face, he smiled and pointed to the ceiling. Haley’s eyes followed his gesture, and she shook her head when she saw the mistletoe hanging form the ceiling. She looked back at Chris and smiled.

"I understand, lover boy."

Chris nodded and put his arm around Haley’s shoulders. He pushed her gently to the front door, where he grabbed her coat and threw it at her.

"What’s going on?"

Chris shrugged his shoulders and put a hat over his ears. He slid his feet into his boots and looked up at her as he tied the laces. "Having trouble, Sunshine?"

Haley shook her head. "Where are we going?"

Chris smiled as he stood up to face her. "Just get ready, Hails. We gotta be back for lunch."

Haley sighed and slid her arms into her coat. She stepped into her boots and looked at Chris. She motioned to her boots, and he groaned as he bent down and tied her boots.

"I’m the old guy. You should be down here tying your on damn boots. Don’t forget I can still beat your ass, Sunshine."

Haley giggled at Chris’s mumbling, and she hid her smile when Chris slowly straightened.

"You better not be smiling."

Chris turned to the closet and reached in before turning back to Haley. He smiled as he slid a bright red tuque over Haley brown hair. "Beautiful. Absolutely perfect."

Haley smiled. "I know I am. So. What’s up? And why did I pick a number earlier?"

Chris handed Haley her mittens before he opened the front door. "Mom, we’ll be back before lunch."

Haley heard her mother chuckle. "Okay, Chris. Be good."

Chris grinned mischievously at Haley. "Oh, always." He raised his eyebrows at Haley a couple of times before he pulled her outside. She closed the door behind her and followed Chris down the driveway.

"So," she said, sliding her hands into her mittens, "where are we going without our big tub of jello?"

Chris smiled and grabbed Haley’s hand. "We’re just going for a walk. Where we end up, we end up."

Haley nodded. "Right. So."

Chris looked at her. "So."

Haley sighed. "So why did I pick a number between one and ten?"

Chris grinned evilly. "That was to see where I was going to kiss you. Damn, I thought you would have said seven." He looked over at Haley and his grin grew. "You would have liked seven. All the ladies do."

Haley rolled her eyes as Chris licked his lips. "Uh huh. So."

Chris laughed and pulled her down the street. They walked together, talking and laughing, telling stories about their families and the guys, and getting caught up on anything new in their lives.

They were walking past Tim Horton’s when Chris grabbed her hand and pulled her into the coffee shop.

"Chris, you just had coffee."

Chris grinned as they stepped up to the counter. " I know. Now I need a donut."

Haley rolled her eyes and took off her tuque.

"How can I help you?"

Haley smiled at the server. "Hi. Hold on. My friend’s not sure what he wants."

Chris pushed Haley to the side and stepped up to the counter. "Hi, Cory," he said, looking at the server’s name tag. "I would really like a donut with the sprinkles, and my dear friend would like a boston cream."

Cory nodded and grabbed the donuts. "Anything else?"

Chris shook his head. "No."

Haley nudged Chris with her elbow. "Actually, I would like a small chocolate milk."

Cory smiled. "Sure."

Chris looked Haley up and down before looking her in the eyes. "You sure you can handle that much chocolate, Sunshine?"

Haley turned back to the counter when Cory returned with the chocolate milk.

"Is that it?" Haley nodded. "That’s two dollars and fifty-three cents."

Haley nodded and reached into her pocket for the money while Chris grabbed the donuts and headed over to a table. She rolled her eyes and smiled at Cory.

"He is such a pain," she said as she handed him three dollars.

Cory smiled as he put the money in the register and grabbed her change. Haley picked up her chocolate milk and held a hand out to Cory.

"Keep it. Merry Christmas, Cory."

Cory smiled. "You, too."

Haley waved at him and walked over to where Chris was sitting. She sighed as she sat down across from him. "You are so lucky that we are in a public place. You should have security watching your scrawny ass, especially around me, cuz I’m ready to take you out." Haley took a sip of her chocolate milk before meeting Chris’s gaze. "Not that they would do anything cuz they know that you deserve everything that you get. They only do it cuz they get paid to keep your ass safe."

Haley smiled at Chris as she took a bite out of her donut.

He shook his head and took a sip of her chocolate milk. "Haley, I’ve been wanting to ask you this question for a while now."

Haley looked at Chris, and she knew that he’d done a lot of thinking about this. She took another bite of her donut and leaned back in her chair. "I’ll answer it as best as I can."

Chris looked around the coffee shop and he waved at Cory. His eyes finally rested on Haley’s, and he took a deep breath before leaning in closer to Haley.

"Have you and JC been…getting it on?"

 

 

Chapter 9

Haley felt her cheeks go red as she choked on her donut. She coughed a couple of

times before she took a sip of her chocolate milk. She set it down on the table and looked at Chris. "You think that me and JC…Oh, Chris…why would you think that?"

Chris ran a hand over his face and through his hair before leaning his elbows on the table. He brought his eyes to meet Haley’s, and he felt like crawling inside himself. "I’m sorry, Hails. It’s just…you’ve gotten closer, and…I don’t know…maybe I’m jealous cuz he gets some of your time, too. I’ve been wondering about it for a long time, and then I saw you two at the shoot, and I started thinking about it and…"

Haley put her hand over Chris’s. "Don’t worry, Chris." She smiled gently and leaned towards him. "You don’t need to be jealous, because there’s nothing going on. We’re just friends. Got it?"

Chris nodded. "I know. But I saw how you two were watching each other at the shoot, and…Hails, I know that look." He smiled at Haley’s confused look. "It was the look of…total attraction." He saw Haley blushing, and he hated himself for even mentioning the whole thing to her. "I’m sorry, Sunshine. I just went into big brother mode again." He took her hand in his and smiled sheepishly. "I’m sorry. Forget I brought it up."

Chris stood up and threw his trash in the garbage can. He turned and looked at Haley, who was still sitting there, thinking about what Chris had said. "You in there, Sunshine?" he asked, a smile on his face. "Show me one of your rays."

Haley shook her head and smiled, trying to focus on Chris. "Yeah. I’m here."

Chris laughed and patted Haley’s shoulder. "Good to hear. I gotta go potty. I’ll be back in a few."

Haley nodded as Chris walked away. She took a sip of her chocolate milk and looked out the window, watching the snow fall. She rested her head in her hand and sighed. Now why would Chris ask me that? Haley closed her eyes, searching for an answer. What would bring him to that? Sure, we looked at each other that day…he’s a gorgeous man, who wouldn’t? I’m surprised Chris noticed it…but I don’t know if his explanation is right. Whatever ‘look’ he’s talking about…but why did he wait until now? Why would he…

"You okay, Hails?"

Haley opened her eyes and saw the snow was falling heavier than before. She nodded as she stood up and stretched. Her eyes finally rested on Chris and she smiled as she put her coat on. "It’s all good. You ready to go?"

Chris smiled as he shrugged his coat on. "Depends." He narrowed his eyes at Haley. "You ready to be honest with me?"

Haley raised her eyebrows as she slipped her tuque over her wavy brown hair. "Honest about what?"

Chris leaned in closer to his friend. "Gee, I don’t know Haley. Have you been…oh, I don’t know, LYING to me about anything lately?" He raised an eyebrow at her. "Maybe within the last five minutes?"

Haley mentally replayed their conversation before Chris had gone to the bathroom. The only thing that she could possibly be lying about was…the JC thing. She groaned and slapped her forehead. "Chris. I haven’t lied about anything." She looked Chris in the eyes. "Not…a…thing."

Chris stared at Haley for a couple of seconds before he laughed and slipped his hat over his ears. "Whatever, Sunshine."

Haley’s jaw dropped as she watched her friend walk out the door. She ran after him and jumped on his back. He stumbled but kept his balance as Haley tightened her arms around his neck.

"Um…Haley….breathing is something that I enjoy doing." Chris tried to loosen her grip on him, but she held tight. The pair stumbled towards a snow bank, where Chris turned around and they fell on their backs, Chris on top of Haley.

After Haley got over the shock, she pushed Chris off of her and stood up. Chris was struggling to stand, and she pushed him back down before he could get up.

"Haley!"

Haley jumped on top of Chris and grabbed a handful of snow. She held it over his head, a look of evil on her face, and Chris stopped fighting against her. His eyes moved frantically between her hand and her face a couple of times before he smiled smugly up at her.

"You wouldn’t."

Haley’s eyebrows raised up and down. "You don’t know me very well then, Dreads."

Chris looked around for some help and saw a couple walking past them. "Hey! Could you guys help me out here, please?"

The man chuckled and shook his head. "Whatever she’s mad about, apologize now. She may go easier on you if you do."

Haley smiled at the older man. "You should listen to him, Chris."

Chris nodded at the other man. "Thanks for your help," he said as the couple walked in to the restaurant. He looked at Haley. "Lungs…need…oxygen."

Haley sighed and dropped the snow back onto the ground. "You’re lucky I took pity on you, Dreads." She slid off of Chris and sat down beside him, rolling her eyes as he made a point of taking several deep breaths. She leaned back and watched the snow fall around her.

Chris propped himself up on an elbow, watching Haley. "I’m sorry about earlier."

Haley raised and eyebrow. "What happened earlier?" she asked innocently.

He sighed. "The whole JC thing. I shouldn’t have pushed you, but…DAMMIT!" he looked away and picked some snow up in his hands.

Haley watched Chris out of the corner of her eye, and she smiled as he thought of what to say to her.

"Hails," he began, still playing with the snow, "when I saw that look you two shared…" Chris rested his head on the snow beside Haley’s. "It just…reminded me of Danielle and me, and the look that I saw that day is the same way me and Dani looked at each other." He took a deep breath before he looked at her again. "Do you know how hard it was to witness that type of look between two of my best friends?"

Haley closed her eyes and was warmed by the thought that something that Chris and Dani had shared kind of happened between her and JC. Not that she and JC were anywhere close to being in love, but just the thought of having something even remotely close to what Chris and Dani had…That made her day.

"Don’t leave me now, Hails. I’m sorry if I scared ya, but stay with me."

Haley smiled. "Chris, it was just a look. I’m sorry, but he looked really good that day. I can’t help looking…I am human."

Chris sighed. "Yeah. Okay." He stood up and pulled Haley up beside him. They turned and started walking back to the house, both lost in their own thoughts. The fifteen minute walk was silent, and it was both nice and nerve-racking. Haley wanted to know what Chris was thinking, and vice versa.

When they made it to the house, the pair stood outside and wiped the snow off of each other. Chris held the door open for Haley and as she walked by, he grabbed he arm and looked at her.

"Just remember. That look wasn’t only your doing. There were two people."

He followed Haley into the house and shut the door behind him. Haley watched him as they took their coats and boots off, and kept her eye on him as he joked with Tyler and Mike. She hung her coat up in the closet and threw her mitts and hat on the shelf in the closet and walked in to the kitchen.

"Hey mom," she said, hugging her mother.

"Hello, Love."

"So… what’s for lunch?"

Mrs. Falconer laughed and patted Haley’s back. "It’ll be ready in a few minutes, honey."

Haley smiled. "Need any help?"

Mrs. Falconer’s eyes widened and she looked between Haley and Amy a few times. "Um…actually…"

Amy smiled. "We have it all under control." She pushed Haley out of the kitchen. "Go spend time with Tyler. He really missed you."

Haley giggled. "Sure he did." She stomped over to the couch and sat down beside Tyler, leaning her head on his shoulder. "Ty, they don’t like my cooking."

Tyler covered his laugh with a cough. "It’s not that, Hails. It’s just....they...um…"

Chris slapped his leg. "Dammit, Haley, it’s just that people like to live after eating their meals."

Haley elbowed her brother and stuck her tongue out at Chris before looking at Mike. "Can’t you send him back early? You can stay here."

Mike smiled. "I’ve thought of that many times, baby girl, but I’d lose my job."

Chris stood beside Mike and put his hand on the older man’s shoulder. "Exactly. You’re stuck with me."

Mike raised his eyebrows and looked between Chris’s hand and his face a couple of times before Chris removed his hand.

Haley rolled her eyes. "I pity you Mike."

Chris stuck his tongue out at Haley and turned to Tyler. "You ready, Shoop?"

Tyler nodded and squeezed Haley’s arm as he sat up. "We’ll be back."

Haley nodded and stretched out on the couch. "See ya…wouldn’t wanna be ya…especially cuz you’re going out with that guy Chris from ‘N Sync…that old freak." Haley shook her head and covered her face with a pillow. "Glad it’s not me."

Haley smiled when she heard Chris and Tyler walk out the door, Mike behind them. She threw the pillow on the floor and stood up. She waved at her mother, stepfather and Amy as she walked past the kitchen. She opened her bedroom door and sighed when she saw her bad, the blankets pulled back, waiting for her. She slid under the covers and snuggled into the warmth and comfort it provided. Her head hit the pillow and she smiled as she fell asleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Haley."

Haley turned away from the nose that was interrupting her sleep.

"Ha….ley."

Haley pulled the covers over her face. "Shut up," she mumbled. She buried her face in her pillow and pulled the blankets tighter around her. She felt the bed shift and the blankets slid off of her. She opened her eyes and sat straight up on the bed, hitting Chris in the stomach with her arm.

Haley looked wide-eyed at Chris and smiled when she saw him on the floor, holding his stomach. "Oh, you are lucky, boy. You interrupted a really good dream this time."

Chris opened his eyes and took a deep breath. "What dream?"

Haley grinned as she stretched. "Oh, it was one of my better dreams, Dreads."

Chris grinned and sat up, leaning against her bed. "How’d you get her this time?"

Haley yawned as she stood up to stretch again. "Let’s just say that Britney REALLY needed knee surgery when you woke me up."

Chris laughed. "You don’t like her much, do you?"

Haley put her hand s on her hips and tilted her head to look down at Chris. "Now. Why would you think that I don’t like Britney Spears?"

Chris shook his head. "Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that you tend to speak very violently and negatively about the young woman." He stood up and grinned at her. "Now, why is that?"

Haley looked at her watch. "Chris, you’re here for another two and a half hours." She narrowed her eyes. "You know that’s not enough time to explain everything and I think you should spend this time with Tyler, not listening to me bash Britney Spears." She smiled as she walked out her bedroom door. "We can do that any day."

She heard Chris laugh as she walked to the kitchen. What’s going on?"

Mrs. Falconer smiled at Haley. "Not much. Did you sleep well?"

Haley nodded. "Yes, I did, until dicksmack came in and woke me up."

Mrs. Falconer laughed as Chris walked by. "I see you’re a bit sore, Chris. What happened?"

Chris sat down in the rocking chair. "She tried to make ‘N Sync change to ‘N Ync." (pronounced in-ink)

Haley’s mom laughed. "I told you, Chris."

Haley smiled. "So. What’s on for today?"

Mrs. Falconer smiled at her daughter. "We’re gonna take it easy until Chris leaves, then we’re gonna party."

Chris stuck his tongue out at Haley’s mother. "When do we leave, Mike?"

Mike’s eyes didn’t leave the television. "Plane goes at seven o’clock."

Chris looked at the clock. "Damn. We gotta go in like two hours."

Haley leaned on her mother’s shoulder. "Please, give me strength the get through these next two hours."

"Funny." Chris yawned and looked at Tyler. "You wanna rumble some more?"

Tyler kissed Amy’s cheek before he stood up. "Can you take it?"

Chris stood up and took his watch off. He handed it to Mike and narrowed his eyes at Tyler. "Just lookin’ after my Rolex." He stepped closer to Tyler. "Wouldn’t want it to get ruined when I kicked…your…ass."

Tyler narrowed his eyes at his old friend. "Keep on dreaming, Dreads. You know you like it when I beat your ass down."

The two men stood still, staring at each other. Mrs. Falconer walked into the living room and rolled her eyes at the pair.

"Tyler, just go out and beat him already. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes."

Chris rolled his eyes and grabbed his coat. "I’m feelin’ the love in this room." He looked at Mike as he threw his coat. "Man, if you hear him," Chris pointed at Tyler, "screaming like the girl he is, don’t you be coming out there to rescue his sorry ass from my wrath."

Mike waved at Chris. "Whatever. Go easy on him Tyler."

Tyler laughed as he walked over to the closet. Chris stuck his tongue out and walked outside. Tyler threw his coat on and smiled at Haley. "This will be quick."

Haley crossed her arms over her chest and stared at her brother. "I swear to God, Ty, if you hurt him, I will hunt you down." She narrowed her eyes at Tyler. "And I know where you live."

Tyler looked down at her. "Don’t worry, Haley. The guys would kill me if I seriously hurt him…not to mention what you would do to me."

Haley smiled. "You remember that."

Tyler rolled his eyes as he shut the door behind him. Haley smiled and sat down beside her mother. She looked at Mike, who was grinning at her.

"What, Mike?"

His grin grew as he shook his head. "You know, you two are strange."

Mrs. Falconer giggled. "You don’t say."

Mike smiled sweetly at the older woman. "Well, I guess it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t quite normal but…" He looked back at Haley. "Do you ever let the poor guy know that you really do care about him?"

Haley nodded. "Yes, every time I pound the crap out of him. It’s done one hundred and eighty percent out of love." She rolled her eyes when she saw Mike staring at her. "The guy knows how much he means to me. I tell him all the time."

Mike nodded and turned back to the TV. Haley smiled when she saw Chris and Tyler jumping at each other in the snow. Thanks for staying you, Chris, she thought. You haven’t let anything change you and who you are, and I respect you and love you for that.

Haley heard Amy in the kitchen. She squeezed her mother’s hand as she stood up. She pulled Amy into her old bedroom, shutting the door behind them. Amy smiled as Haley sat down on the bed, hugging a pillow to her.

"Wanna talk, Haley?"

Haley smiled and patted the bed beside her. "Well," she said as the older woman sat down, "I wanna start by saying congrats. I can’t wait for my niece or nephew." She smiled affectionately as Amy rubbed her belly. "You excited?"

Amy nodded. "Scared, too. But it’s worth it." She smiled tenderly at Haley. "What’s up?"

Haley sighed and leaned her head against the headboard of her bed. "Okay. See, there’s this guy," she began, her eyes closed.

Amy slapped Haley’s leg. "You have feelings for that Eric guy, right? Wow, what a hottie!"

Haley opened her eyes and stared at Amy. "I’ll let that slide because you are extra-hormonal right now. No, it’s not Eric. It’s--"

"Chris?"

Haley’s eyes widened. "Don’t even go there, Amy. I love ya, but I would go slap happy on your ass if you’d gone any further with that."

Amy ducked her head. "Sorry. Continue."

Haley smiled. "So. Anyways, I don’t know what it is, but somehow, things have changed between me and JC." She closed her eyes when she saw that Amy’s eyes almost popped out of her head. "Any questions yet?"

"Loads, but I’ll let you finish first."

Haley sighed and opened her eyes. Her gaze found a picture of her and the guys before the last tour. Both JC and Chris had their arms around Haley, and there hadn’t been anything there except friendship. But now…

Amy snapped her fingers in front of Haley’s face and smiled when she saw what Haley was staring at.

Haley looked at Amy sheepishly. "Yeah…sorry…Well," she said, running a hand through her wavy hair, "I don’t know. One day after the tour, I had the guys over for a movie, and JC and I had a talk about Sean and stuff, and he told me that he was there to talk. Then, there’s the Christmas special. Stupid Chris made me think about this one." She shook her head. "First, we shared a look…or that’s what Chris called it. Then there was that song, when I was leaning against JC, and I felt so comfortable…" She sighed and finally looked at Amy. "Not to mention the flirting. God, I do love the flirting."

Amy slowly nodded. "Tell me about the look."

Haley smiled at the ceiling. "I just happened to look over at JC, who looked mighty fine, and he looked at me, and we stared for a little bit."

Amy nodded. "And who pulled away first?"

Haley thought for a second. "He did, cuz the director was talking to him."

Amy nodded. "What happened next?"

Haley smiled. "I turned to talk to Anett and when I looked back, he was gone. Then he snuck up behind me and scared me."

Amy smiled. "He’s pretty smooth, isn’t he?"

Haley giggled. "Definitely."

Amy watched Haley for a few seconds before speaking. "So what did Chris say to you about this?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "The little punk messed me up even more."

"Why?"

Haley sighed. "See, before, when I thought about what happened, even though it was really just a look, I didn’t let myself read into it. If Chris hadn’t told me that he knew that so-called look, because it’s how he looks at Dani, then I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now. Now, those feelings are popping up out of nowhere, and I can’t help but wonder what it means, how he feels, and what could happen." She covered her face with her hands. "I mean, I know I love the guy to death, but do I really feel that way about JC?"

Amy smiled tenderly at her sister-in-law. "You tell me."

Haley looked at Amy through her fingers. "I really don’t like you."

Amy smiled and leaned back to lay down on the bed. "You don’t mean that, Hails. Come on, spill your guts."

Haley sighed and chewed on her bottom lip. She saw the picture again, and she felt his arm around her, rubbing her arm. "Dammit, Amy, how can you not love the guy?" She shook her head and closed her eyes. "He is such a caring, giving man…he is the most passionate man I’ve ever met. He would never do anything to hurt he guys or anyone that he cares about. He loves life and music so much." She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling.

Amy stared in amazement at the younger woman. "Haley, I think that you--"

"Do you know how hard it was not to just turn around and kiss him when he was singing with me in his arms?" She smiled when she saw Amy’s puzzled face. "For the Christmas special." Amy nodded and Haley closed her eyes again. "That guy gives so much to his fans and his music. He never gives less than a hundred percent, and I adore him."

Amy giggled. "You got it bad, honey."

Haley sighed and covered her face with the pillow again. "I knew you’d say that."

Amy struggled to sit up, using Haley’s legs to pull her up. She pulled the pillow away from her face and smiled. "But it feels good, doesn’t it?"

Haley shook her head. "It would feel better if I understood it, or knew what he was thinking…or feeling."

Amy smiled. "You’ll find out. Don’t worry."

Haley smiled weakly. "Hope you’re right."

 

Chapter 10

(Sunday December 24, 2000)

"Haley! Chris is on the phone!"

Andrew smiled and grabbed the cordless phone. He threw it onto Haley’s lap as she put her hair in a ponytail. She smiled at her friend.

"Duty calls," she said as she pressed the ‘talk’ button on the phone. She sighed as she brought the phone to her ear. "Get in my belly," she said in her best Fat Bastard impression. She heard both her mother and Chris’s laughter on the phone.

"You two be good. Merry Christmas, Chris. It was good to see you."

"You, too, Mrs. Falconer. Don’t you be goin’ all crazy. I know how much you like to party."

Mrs. Falconer laughed. "Sure, Chris. See you later, and take care."

Haley waited until she heard the phone click before she spoke. "Miss me?"

Chris chuckled. "Not especially. See, the guys are tired of hearing me talk about Christmas and the special and the concert and--"

"Okay. I get the idea." She leaned back in her chair. "You excited to watch the special?"

"Yeah. It’s on in eight minutes and sixteen seconds…fifteen…fourteen…"

Haley rolled her eyes. "Are all the guys there?"

"Yeah."

"Haley! Popcorn’s ready!"

Haley jumped up. "Hey, Chris, talk to Smash for a minute." She rolled her eyes. "Yes, I’ll be back in seven minutes and twenty seconds." She handed the phone to Ashleigh. "Sorry. Just keep him entertained till I get back."

She ran upstairs before Ashleigh could say no. She walked into the kitchen and took a deep breath.

Her mother smiled at her. "Get rid of him already?"

Haley shook her head and popped a piece of popcorn into her mouth. "No. Just passed him on to Smash. Thanks for the popcorn."

"Haley! He’s getting whiny!"

Haley rolled her eyes and picked up the bowl of popcorn. "He is such a baby."

Mrs. Falconer giggled. "But you gotta love him."

Haley sighed as she started down the stairs. "It’s a wonderful curse, isn’t it?"

"Hurry up, Haley, before I throw the phone through the bloody TV!"

"Oh, Smash, he’s not that bad."

Ashleigh smiled as Haley returned to the den. "He told me to say it. He didn’t wanna talk to me anymore."

Haley stuck her tongue out at Ashleigh and grabbed the phone. "Can’t even get some popcorn without you people having a problem with it," she mumbled as she sat down in her chair.

"What was that, Sunshine?"

"Shut up Chris." Haley grabbed the remote out of Andrew’s hand and switched it to Fox, who was airing the special. "Is there anyone intelligent there?"

"Actually, Anett just walked in. Would you rather speak to her? Oh, wait….you said…never mind. Why? You don’t wanna talk to me anymore?"

Haley smiled as she shifted in her chair. "Of course I do, Chris, but…well...you can get boring."

"Ha! Chris? Boring! Never…"

"I have to agree with Smash on that one. Could I have an example of me being boring?"

Haley sighed. "Chris, how long until it airs?"

"Four minutes and fifty-three seconds," he said quietly after a pause.

"Need I say more?" She popped a piece of popcorn into her mouth.

"See, JC wanted to know how long it would be so Lance…he…"

"Dreads, I was joking. I’m sure that if I was one of the five most wanted men in the world, and I had a music special airing all over North America, then I would most likely know how much time remained until it aired."

"Hmm." He paused. "You just managed to waste thirty seconds on that little speech of yours. Congrats. Only four minutes and eight seconds now."

Haley laughed. "Oh, I love you Chris."

"Sure ya do."

"Truth hurts, eh?"

"Yeah…hold on, Hails."

Haley heard Chris put his hand over the mouthpiece as he talked to someone at the house.

"Sorry, Hails. You wanna talk to Anett?"

"Sure." Haley heard the phone being passed around.

"Haley! What’s up?"

"Not much, Namett. You?"

"Oh, I’m fine, Hails. Hold on a sec." Anett covered the mouthpiece. "Ugh. Haley, remember that we only have three minutes and thirty eight seconds before Chris is gonna beat my ass…or at least try to get the phone from me."

Haley rolled her eyes. "I know, he’s getting worse. He wasn’t his bad with any of the other specials."

"Yeah, but Dani hasn’t been on a special before."

Haley held the phone from her ear when she heard Chris and Anett yelling at each other.

"Haley, you still there?"

"Uh…yeah."

"Good. Sorry ‘bout that. See, Anett didn’t really wanna talk to you, as you could tell by that comment she made. So here I am again. Only two minutes and twenty-eight seconds."

"Mmmhmm. The truth hurts though, doesn’t it, Chris?"

There was a pause. "Shut up, Sunshine."

Haley laughed. "Whatever."

"Sunshine, talk to Lance for a minute. I should urinate now."

"Hey Haley."

"Hi Lance. You excited?"

Haley and Lance chatted for a minute until Chris came back.

"Just made it! Look, it’s starting!"

Haley laughed. "Good observation."

"Hold on, Hails. You’re goin’ on speaker."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Great."

"What’s up, Haley?"

"Haley, baby!"

"Haaaleeeey!"

"You still alive Hails?"

Haley laughed. "Yeah, JC. Just waitin’ for everyone to finish first."

"Oh. Kay…good."

"Anyways…Hi guys! That preview or whatever you call it looked awesome. You guys are pretty hot."

"Yeah. We know."

Haley laughed. "Modest, aren’t ya, Joe?"

"Shut up! It’s starting!"

"Love ya too, Chris," Haley muttered into the phone. She let it slide though, since she knew that Chris was excited and nervous.

She focused on the television, where the guys were singing ‘The First Noel’. No matter how many times she’d seen the guys perform or rehearse, it amazed her every time how much they put into their performances…and how amazing they were.

"Haley, you’re looking pretty good."

Haley smiled. "Thanks Joey."

"Well, I guess they gotta put the two best looking people together on tour."

"Joey! Man, do you ever stop hitting on girls?"

"JC, she knows I’m just playin’. Besides, you know that she looks good. I see you watchin’ her--"

"Shut up, Joey."

Haley’s eyes widened. "Well, thanks for the compliment, guys. You’re all lookin’ mighty fine yourselves. Not to mention how great you sound."

"Yeah, it turned out better…"

Haley half-listened to Chris and JC talk about the vocals, while she thought about what Joey said about JC watching her. Maybe there was something…"

"Shh. It’s on again."

The rest of the special went really well. The conversation pieces with the guys worked well, and the songs sounded wonderful. The credits were rolling and Haley sat forward in her chair.

"There it is!" she screamed, pointing at the TV. She heard all the guys laughing, as well as her friends around her. She sunk back into her chair and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. It’s kinda exciting to have your name on TV."

The phone conversation drifted to Christmas, and Haley wished them all a Merry Christmas, and to be safe. They said the same, and that they couldn’t wait to see her again.

Chris took the phone into the bedroom. "Hails, I just wanna thank you for yesterday. It was amazing and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me."

Haley smiled as she walked to the bathroom for some privacy. "No prob. Any day. Well, when I’m here at least. Mom wouldn’t last very long alone with you."

Chris laughed. "She’d kill me." He paused. "Well, thanks for yesterday and tonight. You looked great."

"Thanks."

"Well, I should go. I’ll talk to you in the morning, okay?"

"Yeah. Say good night to the guys for me, and you have a good night. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay? I love you Chris."

"I love you too, Sunshine."

Haley hung up the phone and walked back to the den. "Sorry. He craves attention."

Andrew shook his head. "That’s cool. We had time to get your present ready." He patted the seat between him and Ashleigh. "Now," he said as she sat down, "this is from the five of us, plus Anett, Chris and the guys." He nodded at Danielle, who pushed play on the VCR before sitting down beside Kevin.

Haley smiled when she heard ‘I Drive Myself Crazy’ and saw a clip of Chris and her at practice on the TV. The video had clips of Haley and her friends, Haley dancing, concert footage and, mainly, her goofing off her friends.

The last ten minutes of the forty-five minute video were clips of each of her friends, alone with the camera, wishing her a Merry Christmas, and saying why they loved her, and reminiscing about previous Christmas memories.

She smiled when she saw Chris’s face on the screen. "Smash, that’s your basement!"

Ashleigh nodded. "Tyler drove Chris over yesterday before lunch."

Haley shook her head. "Little bugger."

Tears started streaming down Haley’s face when, at the end, she saw JC, Joey, Justin, Lance and Chris standing on the set of the Christmas shoot, in fake snow, singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". At he end of the song, each of the guys had a chance alone with the camera, and they all wished her a Merry Christmas and good luck with Chris.

She shook her head. "Well, be happy. You made me cry."

Her friends laughed as they pulled her up to give her hugs. They talked about the video and the memories for a while until they all left.

"I’ll see you all on Tuesday morning, right?"

"Yeah. We’ll be here early."

Haley watched her friends drive away before she turned on her mom and stepdad. "You were in on it, weren’t you?"

Mrs. Falconer laughed. "I suppose you could day that. Did you like it?"

Haley smiled and threw her arms around the couple. "Yeah. It was amazing. I’m gonna cry and kill Chris for embarrassing me with those dancing scenes, but I’ll survive." She chatted with the couple for a few minutes before she slipped into her pyjamas and into her bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
(Monday, December 25, 2000—12:01 a.m.)

RING! RING! (the phone)

"You have GOT to be joking me."

RING! RING!

"Go away! It’s too dark to be on the phone!"

RING! RING!

Haley grabbed the phone and put it to her ear. "You’d better be telling me that either yourself or someone important to me is dying, or that you are Joshua Jackson and you are calling to say that you are outside my house, waiting to sweep me off my God damn feet. Otherwise, you’d better be very far away from me right now, and be hoping that I do not come into contact with you in the near future."

"Ahem. Are you done yet?"

Haley slapped her forehead and looked at her alarm clock. "What the hell do you want, JC?"

JC laughed. "See, now I’m wondering if you would go through with those threats."

Haley rolled onto her side. "You’ll find out on Thursday at rehearsal."

"I thought you were coming home on Wednesday."

"Yeah, but it’s a midnight flight, so I’ll see you Thursday."

"Oh. Okay."

Haley yawned. "Okay. So why are you calling me right now?"

"Don’t sound TOO happy to talk to me, Hails. I just wanted to be the first person to say Merry Christmas to you on Christmas day."

Haley smiled. "Well. Are you gonna say it?"

JC chuckled. "But of course. Merry Christmas Haley."

"And Merry Christmas to you too, Joshua Scott Chasez."

"Thank you." He paused. "Well, how did you like the video?"

Haley turned her lamp on and sat up, holding the phone between her shoulder and chin as she tied her hair back in a ponytail. "I love it. It means the world to me. Thanks for being a part of it."

"Any day, Hails. You’re a special person. You deserve the best."

"Thanks JC."

Another pause. "Well, I should get some sleep. If I don’t talk to you again today, Merry Christmas again, and I’ll see you when you get back."

"You too, JC. Have a good day, and take it easy."

"Oh, I plan on it."

Haley smiled when she heard JC yawn. "I’ll let you go so you can get some sleep. Merry Christmas, and I’ll talk to you soon."

"Good night, Hails."

"Good night, JC." Haley waited until she heard JC hang up before she returned the phone to the cradle. She turned the lamp off and snuggled into her blankets. "Well, JC, you certainly made a difference to me this Christmas."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Later that day)

"They got you what?" Haley slapped her forehead. "Oh, I will be killing them when I get back." Haley rolled her eyes at her mother, pointing to the phone. "Mom, do you know what these so-called smart and thoughtful guys got him for Christmas?"

Mrs. Falconer shook her head. "No, honey. What did he get?"

Haley rolled her eyes again. "Lance and Justin got him those bloody Poochie dog things, and they like to talk to each other. Then, the ever so sensible JC decided to buy him one of those voice recorders that add sound effects and can change your voice. Then Joey, the beloved vowel-sound of ‘N Sync, decided to get him a wonderful set of walkie-talkies that can work at a distance of up to a mile. Gotta love the gifts that he can torture me with."

Mrs. Falconer smiled. "But it’s all out of love, my dear."

Haley nodded. "Whatever." She shook her head and focused on what Chris was saying to her. "Oh. Yeah, Dreads. Sorry. Yeah, we’re going to Grandma’s tonight, then I’m at Dad’s Tuesday afternoon, then to Grandma and Grandpa Joe’s for dinner Tuesday. I should be back here, chatting it up with you by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

"Ha ha. You’re a funny one, aren’t’ you?"

Haley smiled and sipped her hot chocolate. "I try."

"Yeah, well, I should get going. Got the family thing to do and the guys are about to go. But I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Uh…sure. Say hi to everyone and tell them all Merry Christmas. Have a good day, okay, Chris?"

Chris chuckled. "I’ll try. Merry Christmas, Sunshine."

"Merry Christmas, Chris."

The two said their good-byes and hung up the phone. Haley sighed as she rested her chin on her hand.

"What’s wrong?" Mrs. Falconer asked, looking worriedly at her daughter.

Haley shook her head. "I don’t know. Something’s up with Chris. He wasn’t himself. Well, no, he was hyper at the beginning, but then he kinda shut up once the guys came into the room." She shrugged her shoulders and stood up. ""Oh well. I’ll find out when he wants me to. I’m gonna have a shower." She kissed her mother’s cheek as she walked past. "I’ll try to leave you some hot water."

Chapter 11

(Tuesday December 26, 2001)

5:00am.

Haley snuggled into her coat in the backseat of Andrew’s Honda Civic. "Please remind me why I am not at home, asleep in my warm bed right now."

Andrew smiled as he pulled into the Tim Horton’s parking lot. "Well, you don’t get to see us very much, so we decided to take you out for breakfast." He winked at her in the rearview mirror. "Did you enjoy your wake up call?"

Haley rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out before yawning. She waited until Andrew got out and flipped the seat forward before taking his hand and jumping out. "Always the gentleman," she said, smiling up at him.

He grinned at Ashleigh as they walked to the building. "She’s so sweet."

"Yeah," Ashleigh said, holding the door open for them. "She was really sweet when she threw that book at you and Kevin this morning."

Haley smiled as she walked through the door. "Well, if they’d gotten the lyrics right, then I may have been more appreciative."

Andrew rolled his eyes and waved at Kevin, Danielle and Heather. "You just don’t recognize pure talent."

"Can I help you?"

Before Haley could respond to Andrew, he turned to the cashier and placed his order. She sighed, and waited for her turn to order.

"Hey again. What can I get for ya?"

Haley smiled at Cory. "Hey! How are ya?"

Cory smiled back at Haley. "Not bad. You?"

"Pretty good." She looked at Andrew. "You buying?" She smiled when he nodded. "Alright Cory. My dear friend here is paying, so I’ll have…a large chocolate milk, a sesame seed bagel toasted with plain cream cheese, and a small hot chocolate."

Cory smiled at Andrew’s open jaw as he rang her order into the register. "Alright…that’s four dollars and sixty cents."

Andrew mumbled to himself as he grabbed a five from his wallet and handed it to Cory.

Haley winked at Cory. "Keep the change."

Cory nodded. "Thanks. It’ll be ready in a minute."

Haley grabbed her chocolate milk and walked over to her friends, leaving Andrew to get her food. "Hey."

Danielle smiled at Haley. "Morning. How was your Christmas?"

Haley took a sip of her milk and sat back in her chair. "Normal. Long and normal. You?"

They chatted as they waited for Andrew and Ashleigh to finish ordering. Haley smiled at Andrew when he put her tray down in front of her.

"Thanks. You’re a doll."

The conversation drifted to New Year’s plans, and Haley got up to get a knife for Ashleigh. (She always complained that the people at Tim Horton’s don’t know how to spread cream cheese.) Haley sat down again and handed the knife to Ashleigh. The conversation had stopped when Haley sat down, and she looked at her friends nervously.

"What?" she asked when they just stared at her. "Oh, just talk to me!" She closed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "Or look away. One or the other. If I pissed you off, tell me now. If I have something on my face, tell me, please."

"Why don’t you talk to us?"

Haley opened her eyes and stared at Ashleigh. "And what have I been trying to do?"

Heather sighed. "Talk to us about Josh."

"Who?" Haley asked, puzzled. She thought about it for a second before slapping her forehead. "Oh I’m gonna kill Chris." She looked at her friends. "What did he say to you?"

Ashleigh shook her head. "Don’t be mad at Chris. It’s not his fault."

Haley continued to stare at Ashleigh. "Then who said anything about him?" She looked around the table at her friends, and her eyes rested on Andrew. "Come on, Andrew, I know you hate to keep things to yourself."

Andrew lowered his head. "See, it was kind of a joint effort." He smiled sheepishly at Haley. "See…we…um…" He looked at Heather for help.

"Hails, we know you are attracted to JC…Josh, and that he is to you, too." Heather played with her necklace. "So, we didn’t say anything. Then, we saw that video that Chris brought, and he mentioned what went on at the shoot."

Haley nodded, waiting for the rest of the story.

"So, after we watched the special and we saw how…close you and Josh looked, we took the initiative and did some brainstorming…" Danielle smiled at Haley. "We know you. We saw you watching him, Hails."

Haley stared at her friends, furious that they knew her that well. She put her head on the table and looked at the marble pattern. "Guys, I don’t know what’s going on, okay?" She lifted her head and looked at her friends. "Yes, I am very attracted to him, and I do care about him, but I don’t know what I’m feeling…or what he’s feeling…" She shook her head. "I just don’t know."

Kevin laughed. "Would you have liked our performance this morning if we had actually been JC and Justin?"

Haley smiled. "Actually, I would have preferred JC and Chris…then I could kill Chris."

The group laughed and got rid of their trash out. Haley waved at Cory on their way out and followed her friends to their cars.

"So…what now?" she asked from the backseat again.

Heather smiled at Haley. "You’ll see. Just relax." She turned the radio up and

Haley sang along with her as they drove through London. They were still singing when the car stopped and Haley looked out the window.

Haley stared up at the building as she got out of the car. "Why are we here?"

Heather laughed and pulled her towards the building. "We are here to have some fun."

Haley smiled when she heard a basketball hit the pavement. "Oh hell yeah," she said, turning to Kevin. "I’m ready for some ball."

"Guys! Come on! It’s freezing out here. Come inside."

Haley smiled at Ashleigh as she ran to the door that she held open. "Is this a joke?"

Andrew came up behind Haley and pushed her through the doors. "Nope. We have the whole school to ourselves for two hours." He ran past Haley and down the hall. "Let’s play some ball!"

Haley laughed as Andrew ran down the hall.

"Let’s go Haley!"

Haley yelped when Heather and Danielle each grabbed one of her arms and pulled her down the hall towards the gym. She was laughing with two of her best friends when they walked through the gym doors. They threw their coats and bags on the bench, and

Haley stepped out of her boots and stretched her arms above her head. "Who’s playing?"

Ashleigh and Danielle sat down on the bench.

"Too early for me."

Haley nodded at Ashleigh. "Usually is." She smiled as she turned to her other friends. "So who gets to be my ass-whoopin’ partner?"

Heather walked towards Haley. "We’ll beat their lame-ass male butts."

Haley smiled and grabbed the ball that Kevin had dropped. "Perfect. It gets kinda boring always beating Chris." She narrowed her eyes at Kevin and Andrew. "Need a change of pace." She tossed the ball to Andrew. "You two’ll do."

Andrew looked at Kevin. "We’ll try to go easy on them." He took his sweater off and threw it at Ashleigh. "Hold that while I bring that ego of hers that Chris let get so big down."

Haley laughed. "Good luck boys." She grinned at Heather. "Cuz you will definitely need it."

Heather nodded. "Cuz we got the moves, the skills and the ability…" She stood behind Haley. "To beat you down."

"Yeah, well," Kevin started.

"Oh, just shut up and start the game!"

Haley laughed. "Of course, Queen Smashleigh." She narrowed her eyes at Andrew again. "Let’s rock this joint."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Haley shook her head at Andrew and Kevin. "That was the sorriest thing that I have ever witnessed." She stepped over the two guys and sat down on the bench beside Ashleigh and Danielle. "That was absolutely pathetic. The way you two run your mouths, man, I thought you guys actually had some moves…" She shook her head.

"Yeah, well, shut up, Hails." Kevin shook his head. "When you’re gone, you have Chris, the other guys, dancing, and Chris again to work out with. We only have each other here, and we’re really busy with…school and…stuff…"

Haley threw her mitten at Kevin. "Stop it with the excuses already." She ran a hand through her hair, then reached into her purse, her hand returning with a bandana. She tied it around her head, and when she was finished, she looked at Ashleigh. "What?"

Ashleigh shook her head. "Is Justin rubbing off on you too?"

Haley smiled. "It’s easy, and a good way to get my hair out of my face."

"Uh huh." Ashleigh looked at her watch. "Okay. Another hour and a half before we get kicked out of this place. What do you wanna do?"

Haley bit her lip. "Wander?"

Ashleigh nodded. "Just like the old days."

Danielle, Ashleigh, Heather and Haley made their way out of the gym. They walked through the halls, looking at pictures and into old classrooms, remembering the teachers and classic moments.

"Oh, my God, Haley! Do you remember this?"

Haley ran over to Danielle who was pointing at the wall by the music office. She looked closer at the wall and smiled, running her fingers over the tiny writing. "I can’t believe it’s still here."

"Yeah, well, Ms. Coker didn’t want to get rid of it, cuz she missed you." Danielle smiled. "She never told anyone that it was here."

Haley shook her head. "I love her. How’s she doing?"

"Pretty good. She’s getting ready for the baby."

Haley smiled. "Make sure I know when the baby’s born."

"Of course." Danielle patted Haley’s shoulder as she caught up with Ashleigh and Heather.

Haley stared at the writing on the wall. "Haley is a rebel…a rebel without a cause," she whispered to herself. She smiled as she remembered the day she wrote those words, the day she became what she called a ‘rebel’ because she wrote on the school wall. She shook her head as she took one last look at the wall and walked towards her friends. "I was such a geek," she muttered to herself.

Heather put her arm around Haley’s shoulders. "Yeah, but we still love ya."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Wednesday December 27, 2001)

"Miiiiiiiiiike!"

Haley jumped into Mike’s big arms and almost took him down.

"Whoa, baby girl! I’m tired, and our little ball of energy has been going non-stop all day."

Haley giggled as she let go of Mike. She looked around and didn’t see Chris. "Where is the little punk?"

"Um. Security, this is Pimp Daddy C. It seems we have some problems with an estranged fan of that hottie from ‘N Sync. You know, the good looking one."

Haley grabbed the walkie-talkie out of Mike’s hand and brought it to her mouth. "You mean Justin Timberlake is here? Where?"

"Oh my God! She got a hold of our only mean of communication!" Chris smiled as he walked around the corner towards the pair. "You know, Sunshine, you just managed to ruin my fun. I had this speech about what you were doing to get to me, and how you wanted my body and how you would do anything to get to me. But NO, you had to go and interrupt me with that stupid Justin comment, like he’s the shit." He shook his head. "Pity. I am so much more man than he is. Well, I guess it just sucks to be you."

Haley looked at Chris, then at Mike, and then back at Chris lazily. "Yeah. Good to see you too, Chris. You done whining yet?"

Chris smiled and pulled Haley into his arms. "For now, I’ll stop. Did you like the walkie-talkie thing?"

Haley laughed as she grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "Yeah. Sure. I’ve always wanted to go into Wal-Mart with one and go to the woman’s toiletry section and say something like ‘This is Wal-Mart security here in the pharmacy section. We seem to have had an accident. It turns out a customer wanted ultra slim with wings, but all we had was ultra thick with odor eater things. There was a big riot, items everywhere. It’s a real mess…I think we’ll need the big guys…’" Haley put her arm around Chris’s waist. "We’ll do that someday."

"Promise?"

Haley giggled and nodded. "Of course. You and me. Wal-Mart. Your sixtieth birthday. Be there."

Chris smiled as they waited for Haley’s suitcase. "It’s a date."

Once all of her stuff was together, the three headed outside to the car. Chris and Haley stood in front of the airport while Mike got the car.

"You know, I am going to kill you."

Chris looked sideways at Haley. "Oh, Sunshine, they already figured something…I just…made them think about it some more." He put his arm around her and pulled her close to his body. "It’s not like you told them anything that I didn’t already know."

Haley giggled. "Sticking to my story."

Chris kissed the top of her head as they waited for Mike. He followed Haley into the backseat of the car.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Hails, we’re here." Chris nudged Haley to wake her up.

"Tell me I’m imagining you waking me up."

Chris laughed as he pulled Haley out of the car. "Sorry to disappoint you. I mean, I’m only one fifth of ‘N Sync waking you from your slumber."

Haley leaned against the cold door of the car and yawned. "Maybe if it was a different fifth of the group I would be happier." She smiled at Chris’s shocked expression as she walked to the back of the Ford Explorer to grab her bags. "Man, if you had been Joey…"She tossed a bag to Chris. "I may have been a bit nicer." She looked around her and gave Chris a puzzled look. "Why are we at your house?"

Chris picked up Haley’s suitcase and walked to the front door. "We gotta be at the studio by seven tomorrow morning." He unlocked the door and held it open for Haley and Mike. "It’d be easier for you to stay with me so you’re not late."

"Ha!" Haley quickly covered her mouth. "Well. At least I know you make it sound like you plan on being on time." Haley walked through the open door and headed up the stairs to the spare bedroom. She opened the door and threw her bag on the floor beside the bed.

"You hungry Hails?"

Haley rolled her eyes as she ran down the stairs. "You ever think of anything other than food?" she asked, walking into the kitchen.

Chris didn’t look up from the sandwich he was making. "You want?" he asked, adding some balogna and pickles to the sandwich.

Haley shook her head. "I think I’ll pass." She opened the fridge and grabbed an apple and a Sprite. "So." She opened her pop and took a sip. "Where’s Dani?"

Chris smiled. "She was here, but we dropped her at her place on our way to get you." He grabbed the cheeze whiz from the fridge and the chocolate sprinkles form the cupboard. "What did you mean by that Joey comment out there?"

Haley swallowed the bite of her apple as she watched him sprinkle the chocolate sprinkles over his sandwich. "Well…we all know that Joey is a cutie, and the boy has got a big ol’ butt, but it ‘s the kind of butt that you just wanna reach out and squeeze. That would have been nicer than you." She took a sip of her Sprite and looked at Chris disgustedly. "Damn, PDC, did you have to go and put peanut butter and salami on that sandwich?"

Chris smiled as he managed to fit everything between the two pieces of bread. "It’s all good."

"Not together like that."

"Funny, Sunshine. Come on."

Haley followed Chris into the living room and she smiled when she saw Sniffy walking on the carpet. "Sniffs! Oh, baby, I missed you!" Haley’s eyes widened when she saw Sniffy jump onto the couch and disappear.

"Shh. The baby’s sleeping."

Haley gave Chris a funny look before she walked around the couch and saw Sniffy lying on top of JC’s stomach. Haley stared and smiled at the sight.

"He wanted to be here to say welcome back." Chris put his arm around Haley’s waist and guided her back to the kitchen. "The rest of the guys are gonna be here around six, so get ready." He smiled evilly. "And don’t worry. I’ll tell Joey what you said about his butt. I’m sure he’ll love how you really do find him attractive."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Eat your sandwich. I’m going to bed." She stood up, took one last look at JC and went to bed.

 

Chapter 12

(December 29, 2000)

"Dammit, Haley! Sam is gonna whoop your ass!" Haley said as to herself as she looked at the clock in her Jetta. "Okay. I’m only twenty-two minutes late."

She pilled into the parking lot, waving at the security guard and showing him her pass. She drove her Jetta through the open gate and parked her car. She grabbed her bag before slamming the door shut behind her. She ran into the building and to the elevator. Once inside, Haley pushed the button for the lower floor where they had set up the dance studio. She smoothed her hair out before tying a bandana around her head as she dashed out of the elevator. She ran to the studio door and took a deep breath before she opened it. She stepped inside and sighed in relief when she saw that they hadn't started rehearsing yet.

Haley threw her bag down on the floor and said hi to Eric and Lisa before she looked around for Chris and the guys. As her gaze wandered around the room, Haley noticed Jake, the PR guy for 'N Sync, Steve, the tour manager, and Dani: three people that weren't usually at rehearsals. Chris was talking to Jake and Steve, so Haley walked over to Dani.

"Hey, Dani. Merry late Christmas," Haley said, giving her friend a hug.

"Same to you."

Haley pulled back and looked at Dani's face. She looked tired and stressed out. "What's up? You don’t look so hot..." Haley smiled when Dani stuck her tongue out at her. "Well, sorry, but you look really tired. What's wrong?"

Dani sighed and sat down on the couch behind them, patting the cushion next to her as she pulled an envelope out of her bag. "Well, Haley," she said once Haley was sitting down, "I don't wanna say it but..." Dani smiled at the younger woman. "The public thinks that you and Chris are an item."

Haley's jaw dropped as she stared at Dani. "You're joking, right?"

Dani shook her head as she pulled some pictures out of the envelope. "Someone sent this to every major newspaper in Florida. Not many, but it's enough." She handed the pictures to Haley and leaned back into the couch.

Haley's eyes widened when she saw pictures of her and Chris at the airport. There were two pictures of the pair hugging, one of them laughing together and one of Chris kissing her forehead. "Oh, you have got to be shitting me," she said as she looked at the four pictures, shaking her head. "What's the story behind the pictures?"

Dani smiled. "Oh, you'll like this. See, you are Chris's mistress, and he snuck away from me that night to meet you at the airport. You two had a smooch fest, and you looked totally at ease and in love in each other's arms." She waited for Haley's response.

"What a crock of shit." Haley shook her head again in disbelief, and grabbed Dani's hand. "Dani... you don't....you don't believe this, do you?" she asked nervously.

Dani laughed and hugged her friend. "Never! I know you guys, and I know how the public takes things WAY too seriously, and they twist stories around." She smiled sweetly at Haley. "No worries here." She motioned towards Chris, Jake and Steve. "But they are another story."

Chris motioned for the two women to join them. Haley sighed as she stood up, handing the pictures to Dani as they walked towards the men.

Haley stood beside Chris and smiled at him. "Morning, Chris." She nodded at the others. "Hello, Jake, Steve. Good to see you."

Steve smiled. "You too, Haley. I can't wait for the next tour."

Haley smiled. "I know the feeling."

"Yes, well, enough of that."

Haley turned to face Jake Swanson, the PR director...the man who had to 'fix' all of 'N Sync's mistakes. "How can I help you today Jake?"

Jake smiled sweetly as he looked Haley up and down, and his smile slowly grew. "You're looking good, Miss Maguire."

Haley bit her lip uncomfortably. "Thanks...What brings you here?"

Jake continued to look Haley over, and he smirked when he noticed Chris put his arm around her waist protectively, pulling her closer to him. He brought his gaze to Chris's face. "IT seems we have some pictures out in public that people believe to be Chris and his mistress." He looked at Haley. "You two aren't hiding anything form us, are you?"

Chris rolled his eyes. "This is a bunch of shit. I told you that I picked her up are the airport, hugged her, and that's it."

Jake stared at Chris before grabbing another set of pictures off the table beside them. He held one up in front of them. "Does this look like just hugging?"

Chris pushed the picture away. "This," he said, pulling Haley into his arms, "is hugging my BEST FRIEND." He kissed her forehead. "That is called kissing her on the forehead, as I have always done, and will continue to do." He turned to Dani and smiled as he let go of Haley. "Now. If I had really been picking up the woman that I am in love with, then those pictures would give you this image."

Chris pulled Dani into his arms and covered her lips with his. She slowly wrapped her arms around Chris's neck as he deepened the kiss. Chris pulled away first, and smiled lazily as Dani smoothed out her hair and shirt.

Chris turned to Jake. "Any doubts now?"

Jake rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Whatever you say, Chris." He crossed his arms over his chest and looked between Haley and Chris. "How would you like to explain those pictures to the fans? To the press?" He smiled evilly. "People want explanations, and they want them now. What's the story gonna be?"

Chris chewed on his lip. "I need a few minutes with Haley."

Jake looked back and forth between Haley and Chris before smiling at Dani. "I suppose we can give them a minute or two." He held his arm out to Dani.

Dani looked at Jake’s arm and rolled her eyes. She gave Chris a quick kiss and squeezed Haley’s arm as she walked through the group, past Jake and across the room to talk to Justin and Anett.

Chris smiled as he pulled Haley into a corner. "Okay, Sunshine," he said, looking into her eyes.

"I know. The public has to know." Haley bit her lip nervously as she looked away.

Chris sighed as he scratched the back of his head. "Hails, I know that we didn’t want everyone to know about our friendship. I didn’t want people to think that you’re only on the tour because of me." He stood in front of Haley and forced her to look at him. "I want to protect you. I always have."

"I know, Chris."

Chris sat down on the couch. "But…I won’t let people say this stuff about you either. I’m surprised it took this long to happen, but it’s here now."

Haley sat down beside Chris and leaned on his shoulder. "Tell them. Don’t worry about me. I’m a big girl, and your fans deserve to know the truth."

Chris pushed Haley off of him and turned to face her. "Are you sure? People are gonna hound you for the inside scoop, and there will always be speculation." He searched her face for a response.

"I know, Chris. I’ll survive."

Chris nodded slowly. "And there’s most likely gonna be more rumors about you and I for a while, just like about Justin and Britney. It’ll die down, but it’ll take a while."

It was Haley’s turn to nod. "Understood."

Chris smiled slightly. "Good. Then there’s another issue to talk about."

Haley threw her head back, her eyes closed. "What now?"

Chris patted Haley’s hand. "I’m really sorry, and I really don’t wanna do this to you, but…" He took a quick breath. "I can’t dance with you at the New Year’s concert. I’m dancing with Dani."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "I missed something. Dani’s dancing? Since when?"

Chris laughed nervously. "Since we decided this morning. That’s why she’s here."

Haley nodded and covered her face with her arm. "So I get the boot?"

"Not at all." Chris pulled Haley’s arm away from her face, a sheepish grin on his face. "You are Joey’s dance partner."

Haley’s jaw dropped. "Great. I get the one with way too much testosterone."

Chris quickly hugged his friend before he stood up. "I’m gonna go tell them that we’re ready to talk to the press."

Haley’s eyes widened. "We?"

Chris nodded. "Yeah. I thought that it would be better if we talked to them together. With Dani."

Haley shook her head, her arms folded across her chest. "No."

"And why not?"

Haley shook her head again. "You go ahead. I’m not ready."

Chris stared at Haley for a minute before he walked over to Jake. She saw them talk, and Jake made a quick phone call. Chris nodded at Jake and jogged back to Haley.

"Okay. It’s just one guy from MTV. That’s it. One person." He held his hand out to Haley. "You game?"

Haley looked into Chris’s eyes and sighed as she put her hand in his. "Haley Maguire is about to make her MTV debut in an interview." She shook her head as they walked towards Jake. "I don’t like him."

"I don’t like how he was looking at you like he could eat you up," Chris whispered in her ear as they approached Jake. The pair stopped in front of the man who handled the images of the guys of ‘N Sync. "We’re in."

Jake nodded, a grin on his face. "Good. Two o’clock, my office."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Yes, Mom, I know I was on television today." Haley took a sip of her hot chocolate and rolled her eyes. "Yes, I know people think that I have something going on with Chris. But we straightened it out today." Haley closed her eyes in frustration. "You have MTV on the dish. Turn it on and wait. You can see it for yourself."

Chris chuckled. "Sucks to be Haley. Getting’ the third degree about this--"

Haley threw a pillow at Chris. "Mum, don’t worry about what’s being said. It’ll be totally cleared up in a couple of days. I hope." Haley nodded. "Okay, Mom, I’ll be good. Yes, I’ll call you if anything good happens." Haley walked into her bedroom to get away from the faces Chris was making at her. "Yes, Mom, I know what’s gonna happen now. Please don’t worry. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself. And I have Chris and Anett and the guys to help me. Don’t worry…I love you too Mom. I’ll make sure I get some extra copies of Sunday night for you, okay?…Kay…Good night, Mom."

Haley hung up the phone and flung herself down on the bed. "Why does Chris have to be my best friend?"

"Cuz he’s so loveable." Chris walked over to the bed and pulled Haley to her feet. "How’s your mom?" he asked, leading her into the living room.

"Oh, she’s just thrilled with the fact that I’m being featured on MuchMusic, MTV, Star TV…" Haley shook her head. "She’s taking it worse than I am."

Dani laughed as she came into the living room from the kitchen. "It probably scared her to see pictures of you and Chris…not to mention the story."

Haley nodded. "She’ll get over it someday."

"Kay. It’s on."

The three adults were quiet as they watched their short interview on MTV. They had fixed the mess with the pictures, had ‘come clean’ with their friendship, and managed to joke about it.

Once the interview was over, Chris smiled at the two women in front of him. "So. Are we okay with that?"

Haley smiled. "The truth is good for me."

Dani nodded. "Truth rocks. But…Chris, did you have to wear that hideous hat for the interview?" She laughed when Chris’s jaw dropped. "I love ya, but what will the FuMan Skeeto buyers think when they see you wearing that?"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(December 31, 2000)

"Hey, Orlando! Are you ready to par-tay?"

The cheers rang out at the TD Warehouse Centre in Orlando for the ‘N Sync New Year’s Eve concert, which was being broadcast in Orlando.

Haley gave a nervous look at Chris from the backstage area before she ran through the curtain with the other dancers. They did a break-down dance to ‘No Strings Attached’ before the guys came out to start the show. Haley smiled as Joey danced with her, shooting funny faces at her the whole time. After the guys performed ‘Space Cowboy’, they introduced all of the dancers. Haley stood beside Joey and waited for him to call her name.

"Alright, with me tonight, we have Haley, who is lookin’ pretty good tonight. Give her a hand!"

Haley waved at the crowd, who screamed even louder when they realized who she was. She elbowed Joey and looked across the stage to look at Chris, but he was gone. "Oh, yeah, break and costume change." Haley looked back at Joey as he finished introducing Lisa.

"Give it up for the ‘N Sync dancers!"

Haley clapped with the crowd and jumped when Joey slapped her butt. She heard him laugh into the microphone as he ran backstage and the crowd screamed even louder, after seeing Joey…touch her.

She looked nervously at Lisa. "I’ll kill him."

The pair laughed as they did another break-down, giving the guys time to change. When she saw Joey coming towards her as she walked backstage for her costume change, she put her hand in his face.

"You know you’re gonna get it, right?"

Joey grinned as he walked past her, pinching her butt cheek on his way by.

"Oh, he will pay."

Haley gave Joey warning looks during the next set of songs. She changed into her last costume and watched from the side of the stage while the guys made New Year’s speeches to Orlando. Then they introduced the mayor of Orlando and ran backstage to get into their next outfit.

"Hails, I need your help."

Haley turned t face JC, who was playing with his belt as the mayor was starting her speech.

"Can you help me?" he asked, sticking his face in hers. "I have a belt that sucks, a tie that bites and a hat to put on. Pick on and fix it."

Haley smiled as she tried to tie his tie. He squirmed to see around her arms and it was pointless.

"Hails, do the belt. It’s easier."

Haley sighed as JC pushed her hands away from his neck. She looked down and grabbed the two ends of the belt. She slid the leather through the buckle and fastened it at the first notch.

"Jump."

JC jumped up and down twice and Haley blushed when his pants almost fell down. She caught them and undid the belt before fastening it at the third notch.

JC jumped again and the pants stayed on. "Thank you, you are amazing, help me with the hat."

Haley grabbed the plastic hat. "Chin up," she said, slipping the elastic under his chin. She straightened the hat and stepped back, giving him the once over. "Not bad."

JC smiled and kissed her cheek. "You rock." He readjusted his battery pack and grabbed his mic form the sound crew.

Haley smiled. "Good luck," she said as she ran out onto the stage to warm the crowd up again.

The guys came out singing ‘Kiss Me At Midnight’. They ran through the first two verses and the chorus again before it was time for the countdown.

"Come on, Orlando! Let me hear ya! Ten! Nine! Eight!" Justin held the mic to the audience.

"Four! Three! Two! One! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"

Everyone yelled and cheered and, during the fireworks, Sam nodded from the side of the stage.

Haley turned, smiling, to Joey, who grinned evilly. "Happy New Year, Joey!"

"Happy New Year, Maguire!"

Joey grabbed Haley and pulled her close to him. He dipped her back and covered her lips with his own. Her eyes widened when he put his tongue in her mouth and his hands…roamed her backside. She finally managed to push him off of her, and she blushed when she realized that everyone was watching them. The band stopped playing the music for ‘Kiss Me At Midnight’ and Justin was the first to walk over to the pair.

"Uh…are you guys done now?"

Haley covered her face while Joey laughed into the mic.

"I’m ready…I don’t know about her though."

Haley’s jaw dropped, and before she could stop herself, she jumped on Joey’s back. Joey laughed as he carried her around the stage, while the music started again and the guys finished the song. Joey put Haley down next to JC and ran away before she could get him. JC just stared at her.

"Oh, stop it, JC." She looked around JC and saw Chris standing with Dani. She narrowed her eyes and pointed at them.

Chris shrugged and turned to the crowd. "How we feelin’ Orlando? It is now 2001! Let’s get the party started!" Chris smiled as he waved to the band, who started playing ‘Giddy Up’.

Caitlyn, one of JC’s dancers, patted Haley’s shoulder. "I’ll go with Joey."

Haley shook her head. "No. I won’t give in." She smiled at Caitlyn as she ran over to Joey to start the dance. When the song was over and the dancers had done the final break-down, they ran backstage and Haley quickly changed so she could see the rest of the concert from the side of the stage.

Anett stood behind Haley as they watched. "You know, I think you two managed to get the attention of everybody here tonight with that smooch fest."

Haley shook her head. "Totally him." She leaned on the pole beside her. "I just cleared up the Chris thing, and now I have this to deal with."

Anett laughed. "Don’t’ worry. He’ll fix it."

Sure enough, at the end of ‘I’ll Be Good For You’, all of the guys had the chance to say Happy New Year. Joey went last and he smiled the whole time.

"Fist, I wanna say Happy New Year to everybody, and thanks for coming out, and for all you people at home, thanks for watching. And, Haley, I’m sorry about that. I was just playing with the kiss. There is nothing going on between us. I was just trying to embarrass her."

"Yeah, well, it worked," Haley muttered.

Anett laughed as the guys started their finale, ‘Bye Bye Bye’. "Oh, it did, and he cleared it up for you too." She patted Haley’s shoulder. "You’ll be asked about it for sure. Just remember…Chris did it."

 

Chapter 13

"Dance with me?"

Haley looked at Bobby’s outstretched and then up at his face. "Okay," she said as she put her hand in his.

He walked her to the middle of the dance floor at the after party for the concert. He put his arms around Haley’s waist and she hesitantly hooked her arms around Bobby’s neck.

"So, Haley," he said politely. "Have you gotten everything straightened out about that whole you and Chris thing?"

Haley sighed. "I think so. We did an interview with MTV Friday, so we’ll see what happens."

"Hmmm." Bobby nodded. "And is there some hidden meaning to Joey’s actions tonight?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "He wanted to embarrass me because of something I said. Nothing other than that."

Bobby smirked at Haley. "Sure. And what was going on with JC during the mayor’s speech?" He rolled his eyes when Haley’s jaw dropped. "You two looked pretty comfy together."

Haley turned her head to stop herself from spitting in his face. "What exactly is your problem?"

"Problem?" Bobby shook his head no. "No problem. I just wonder who you’re gonna go after next." He narrowed his eyes at her. "Lance? Or Justin? Would you try to steal Justin from your best friend?"

Haley stared at Bobby, seeing red. "Actually, Bobby, just so you can get your facts straight, I haven’t had anything going on with any of the guys."

Bobby nodded. "Right," he said sarcastically.

Haley pushed Bobby away from her. "Piss off, Bobby," she said as she walked over to her table. She sat down and closed her eyes. She felt someone sit down beside her. "Oh, please be a person that I don’t want to hurt."

"I don’t think I pissed you off tonight."

Haley opened her eyes and looked at JC. "Not yet."

JC smiled. "Are you okay? You know, with the Joey thing?"

Haley looked at the dance floor and saw Joey standing there, smiling sweetly at her. She smiled back and waved. "Yeah, it’s cool." Her eyes rested on Bobby, who was dancing with Amy, one of the dancers that Haley didn’t like. "It just pisses me off how people judge so quick."

JC followed Haley’s stare and he patted her hand. "Forget about Bobby. He doesn’t get much action, so he’s decided to make your life hell."

Haley nodded. "Yeah, well, I’m about to kick his sorry little ass."

JC chuckled. "I’ll back you up." He leaned back to look at Haley. His eyes wandered from her face down to her waist (you know what that means…he is human) and down her legs before making their way back to her face.

Haley shifted nervously under his stare. "So…It was a pretty good show, eh?"

JC nodded slowly, bringing his eyes to meet hers. "Yeah. I’m satisfied for now." He grinned evilly. "You wanna dance?"

Haley took a deep breath and smiled. "Sure."

They walked onto the dance floor and she slid her arms around his neck, resting her forehead against his shoulder. He put his around Haley’s waist, his face resting in her hair.

"Haley, I’m sorry if I was rude earlier."

Haley breathed in his cologne and smiled lazily. "When?"

"When you were helping me get ready."

Haley smiled again. "No worries. You were stressed."

JC shook his head and rubbed Haley’s back absently as they danced. "No. I could have at least asked for your help. I just said do it."

Haley giggled. "It’s okay. I don’t mind. I don’t do anything that I don’t want to."

JC pulled back and grinned evilly. "You liked playing with the belt, didn’t you?"

Haley blushed and turned her head away from him. "Do you know what some girls would have paid to be where I was? Oh, I could be rolling in some serious dough."

JC laughed. "Too late now. But thanks for helping me out."

Haley nodded. "Any time." She leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes to enjoy the song.

JC wrapped his arms tighter around her when he saw Bobby watching them. He breathed in the scent of her hair and it hit him, all of a sudden, how good she smelled, and how good, how perfect and right she felt in his arms. His eyes widened when he realized that there was something inside of him that wanted her, that needed her to be with him.

The song ended and JC reluctantly pulled away from Haley. She smiled up at him and her eyes widened when he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"Happy New Year," he whispered in her ear.

Haley swallowed the lump in her throat. "Happy New Year, Jace. Thanks for the dance." She turned to walk away but she walked back to him. "And if you need help with your belt again, I’m here to help."

JC grinned evilly. "I’ll remember that, Miss Maguire."

Haley laughed as she walked back to her table. She couldn’t believe how good he smelled, and how he had been rubbing her back as they danced… She slapped her head as she sat down again. "Stop it, Haley. Stop it now."

"Stop what?"

Haley turned to Joey, who was standing beside her. "Stop talking to Joey." She smiled as Joey sat down. "Joking."

Joey nodded. "Ha ha." He looked at her nervously. "Are we…um…cool?"

Haley smiled. "Yes, we are cool. I just wish you’d warned me you were gonna do THAT."

Joey smiled. "Caught you off guard, eh?" He chuckled. "Still got it."

Haley nodded. "Yes, you certainly still have it."

"Do you wanna know why I did it?"

Haley grinned. "Of course."

Joey leaned back in his chair. "See, you made a comment to Chris about my big butt and how you wouldn’t mind giving it a squeeze. You’ve never complimented me like that before, so I wanted to….thank you, so to say."

Haley nodded. "Well, your butt is very nice….big, but nice." Her eyes narrowed when she saw Chris and Dani walking towards the table. "See, Chris is just jealous cuz he has a scrawny ass with absolutely NO sex appeal."

Chris smiled. "Love ya too," he said as he and Dani sat down. "Good show out there, guys. The crowd really liked it."

Haley rested her chin on her hand and she smiled sweetly at the couple across from her. "Yes, well, I didn’t see much action out of the two of you."

Chris leaned forward towards Haley. "Savin’ it for later, baby. No need for the public to know all of our business." He smiled evilly at Dani. "You bought the whipped cream, right?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

(January 2nd, 2001)

"Dammit, Joey, do you see what people are saying about her now?"

Haley pulled her sweater tighter around her as she walked from the guest room to Chris’s kitchen. "Hey. Good morning to you guys too. It’s always great to hear two guys having a shouting match at seven AM. I just love the testosterone level."

Chris stared angrily at Joey for a few more seconds before he turned to Haley. "Sorry, Hails. I just want Joey to realize that there are always people watching and talking, just waiting for a story." He smiled sweetly at her again before narrowing his eyes at Joey. "Things are said, rumors are started and problems are created for everyone."

Joey rolled his eyes and grabbed his jacket. "Look, Chris. You knew about it. Hell, you brought it up. Maybe it was a mistake, but it was supposed to be fun. I’ll clear everything up." He turned to Haley, an apologetic look on his face. "Hails, I’m sorry about what’s happened." He smiled at Haley’s confused look. "I’m sure Chris’ll fill you in. Just know that I didn’t do it to hurt you or anything. It was New Year’s Eve. It was fun." He threw his jacket on and headed to the back door. "I’m gonna clear your name, Haley. I’m gonna talk to some people today, send out a statement. Don’t worry." He stepped out the door and shut it slowly behind him.

Haley turned to Chris. "Well. That was fun. How ‘bout you…oh, I don’t know…tell me what the hell he was talking about?"

Chris sighed and sat down on the counter. "Okay. You remember Sunday night, right?" He smiled sheepishly when Haley rolled her eyes. "Of course you remember. Anyways…"

Haley sighed and sat down at the table, grabbing an apple out of the fruit bowl. "Go on," she said, taking a bite of her apple.

Chris ran a hand over his face and stared at the floor. "Well, Joey tried to clear it up at the concert, but, of course, people talk and rumors start, and the next thing you know…" He looked at the paper sitting beside him. He picked it up and threw it at Haley. "Page three."

Haley gave Chris a nervous look before turning to the third page of the paper. Her jaw dropped when she saw a close up of her and Joey kissing. Her eyes widened as she read the article underneath it, stating that she and Joey had shared a very passionate kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and that Joey attempted to clarify that it was purely fun.

She gave Chris a dazed look. "Well, I’m not a total nobody now." She looked at the author’s name. "At least Drew Lewis thought I was important enough to write an article about me…and Joey."

Chris gave Haley a hard look. "Oh, keep reading. Your mom is gonna be on your ass and my own for this. Not to mention Tyler."

Haley turned back to the article. She read the rest of the article once before she re-read it again and again. She sat back in her chair and looked at Chris. The corners of her mouth raised and soon her smile was from ear to ear. She started to giggle, and it took just a few more seconds before she was clutching her stomach, her laughter ringing out.

Chris stared at his friend. "Haley, this is not funny."

Haley bit her lip and tried to calm down. "Actually, Dreads, I find this extremely

amusing." She took a few deep breaths and wiped the tears from her eyes. "See, Chris, this," she said, pointing at the article, "this is funny." She sat back in her chair and looked at her best friend. Her smile slowly faded as she thought about what this meant. "People actually believe this shit?"

Chris nodded slowly. "People believe anything that they wanna believe." He jumped off the counter and knelt in front of her. "It’s something that the press was waiting for, and they’re using this against us."

Haley narrowed her eyes at her friend. "Is this gonna hurt you guys in any way?"

Chris shook his head. "Don’t worry about us. It just pisses me off that they’re talking about you like this." He stood up and started putting dishes in the dishwasher. "I’m sorry that all this has happened to you, Sunshine."

Haley stood up and walked over to Chris. She grabbed his hands as he dried them and turned him so he was facing her. "Chris, look at me." She bent her head down so it was directly in front of his. She waited until he looked her in the eyes before she continued. "I don’t really give a damn about what Drew Lewis or your fans have to say about me and our friendship or New Year’s Eve."

"But I do, Haley." Chris stood up straight and put his arms around Haley. "I knew this would happen once the public knew about you, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast." He rubbed her back reassuringly and kissed the top of her head. "You don’t know how sorry I am."

Haley wrapped her arms around Chris and leaned against his shoulder. "You know, this is how the whole problem started."

Chris laughed. "I’m surprised it took this long. I mean, you’ve been around us for over a year straight, and I was always out with you before that."

Haley nodded against him. "So, now, I’m basically the official ‘N Sync slut."

Chris pulled away from Haley and smiled down at her. "Not yet. You have to be said to be with at least three of us to be the ‘N Sync slut." He narrowed his eyes at his friend. "You have only been linked to two of us, right?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders and walked back to the table. "I think so. I mean, there was that one time at dance class when I snuck outside to Lance’s truck with him…" She giggled when Chris’s eyes widened. "Oh, leave it alone, Chris. Nothing else has happened that the public would care about."

Chris shook his head. "Oh, they care about everything. Just be careful."

Haley nodded as she took another bite of her apple. "Okay," she said, swallowing the apple. "I’ll be sure not to be seem kissing or flirting or touching….hell, I won’t even look at my behind-the-scenes boyfriend, quote, unquote," Haley said, making quotation marks in the air with her fingers. "Cuz, you know, I am no longer your mistress." Haley narrowed her eyes at Chris. "I mean, I am now Joey Fatone’s girlfriend and…" She smiled and grabbed the newspaper. "Joey Fatone’s girlfriend and playtoy of a couple of months now, reveals an inside source, a friend of the band’s," Haley read from the paper. "Haley and Joey have kept their relationship secret, along with her friendship with Chris Kirkpatrick, another member of ‘N Sync. But, as you can see, they’re ready for the public to know about them." Haley rolled her eyes as she threw the paper down on the table. "Could they get any more pathetic than that?"

Chris shrugged and sat down beside her, taking a bite of her apple as he stared at the paper. "What I wanna know," he said after swallowing (the apple), "is who is the inside source?"

 

 

Chapter 14

(at rehearsals)

"So, Haley." Bobby sauntered up next to Haley. "I guess I was wrong about you and Chris."

Haley stared at Bobby in amazement. "Well, maybe you should listen to what people tell you, instead of thinking things up on your own."

Bobby nodded. "Good idea."

Haley rolled her eyes and turned away from Bobby. "Try it someday."

Bobby laughed and followed Haley towards the cafeteria, where lunch for the group was set up. "Maybe I will." He put his hand on Haley’s shoulder and stopped her.

Haley turned around slowly, glaring at Bobby. "What the hell do you want?"

Bobby smiled down at Haley. "I’m sorry. Really, I am, Haley."

Haley stared at him for a few more seconds before crossing her arms over her chest. "As you should be."

Bobby laughed quietly and shook his head at Haley. "Yes. I’ll make sure I get the guy right next time." His eyes narrowed. "I thought you and Chris were getting busy, but I was wrong. It was you and Joey all along." He smirked down at Haley. "Sorry about that mistake. I know it caused some trouble for you."

Haley’s jaw dropped and she uncrossed her arms. "Oh, you are gonna get the shit beat out of you if you do not tell me what the hell you are talking about."

Bobby crossed his arms across his chest and continued to stare at Haley. "Come on, Haley. Did you honestly think that nothing would be said about the concert, about you and Joey? The press just needed a source to confirm anything and…BOOM." Bobby threw his hands in the air. "It’s a big story."

Haley’s eyes narrowed and she saw red when she looked at Bobby. "You have a lot of nerve, Bobby. You are a bloody prick." Haley shook her head and walked over to the window over-looking the parking lot. "Do you have absolutely no brain in that head of yours?" she asked quietly when Bobby stood behind her.

"Oh, you have no idea, Haley," Bobby whispered in her ear. He ran his hand up Haley’s arm and chuckled when she shuddered and pulled away. "See, when the press see that you have a pass to get backstage, they are all over you. Well, you know that."

Haley closed her eyes. "Yes. So where is this story going? Did you get a quick lay the other night because of your pass?"

Bobby smiled and turned Haley around to face him. "Maybe. But that’s not what I’m talking about." His eyes ran down Haley’s body, and they rested on her exposed neck and shoulders (she was wearing a tank top for rehearsal). He pushed some loose strands of hair off of her shoulder and smiled at the smell of her. "I’m talking about that story in the paper that I know you have read," he said, his eyes wandering up to her face. "The press’ll believe anything you tell them, if you have some good answers to their questions."

Haley looked over Bobby’s shoulder and saw JC and Chris walking into the cafeteria. She looked back at Bobby. "So. You fed them a bunch of bull, and they believed you."

Bobby smiled again. "I told them what I saw, then I answered some questions." He brought his hand up and rubbed Haley’s cheek. "You should be a lot more careful with what you do, Haley," he said when she pushed his hand away. "People are always watching, waiting for a story." He stepped away from Haley. "Be good, Haley. Whatever you do, just remember that people will always be watching for that story." He turned away from her and walked into the cafeteria.

Haley stood still, staring into the cafeteria. She leaned against the window, crossing her arms over her chest, and she closed her eyes. "That little shit," she whispered to herself. "What the hell is he trying to do?" She opened her eyes when she heard Anett and Justin walking down the stairs, Joey behind them, the three laughing and talking.

Anett laughed at a joke Justin had made, and smiled when she noticed Haley. "Hey, Haley. You gonna eat?"

Haley smiled and nodded. "Yeah. I’m coming."

The three waited for Haley to catch up to them, and Joey threw his arm around her shoulders.

"You know, I never told you, but that kiss…" Joey grinned down at Haley. "You have some serious talent, Miss Maguire."

Haley smiled evilly. "Oh, you know it. Sorry you took so long to figure it out?"

Joey laughed as they entered the cafeteria. "Well, some people think that we’ve been together for quite a while now. But, don’t worry. I talked to Jake earlier, and some news people today, so it should be cleared up in about a week."

Haley nodded as she grabbed a plate and got in line behind Justin. "Cool. Thanks." She looked over at Bobby, who was watching her. She rolled her eyes and pushed Justin forward. "Man, leave some food for the rest of us, would you?"

Justin reached in front of Haley and grabbed another bun from the basket. "Well, I’ve got a long day ahead of me. Gotta get ready." He winked at Anett, who blushed and turned away. "Gets her every time," he said, smiling at Haley.

Haley rolled her eyes again. "Oh, I do not need any more information."

Justin laughed and grabbed Anett’s arm as they walked to their table.

Haley shook her head and finished piling food on her plate. She walked through the cafeteria with her food and sat down between Anett and Lance. She said ‘Hi’ to the group and concentrated on her food, thinking about her conversation with Bobby.

‘Okay. So Bobby lied to the press about me and Joey. Why? Did I ever do anything to him? Did I hurt him before? Was he the one who leaked that trash about Chris and I, and then people were just waiting to see us together?’ Haley felt someone staring at her and she looked around the cafeteria. She looked at Bobby, who stared at her for a couple of seconds before he smiled and winked at her. She looked back at her plate quickly, and was relieved when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw him get up and walk out of the cafeteria.

Haley shook her head and threw her sandwich back onto the plate. She looked up and saw everyone watching her. She smiled slightly and shrugged her shoulders. "Not hungry."

Her friends looked at one another and shrugged, going back to their food and conversations.

Haley stared at her Dr. Pepper in front of her, thinking about Bobby again. ‘Why is he such a bitch to me? He is decent to everybody else, but to me…he has PMS everyday with me. I know he has a problem with me and Chris, but he’ll have to deal with that. But why would he do anything to Joey? Why?’

Haley pushed her plate across the table and rested her head on the empty space. She closed her eyes and blacked out the conversations around her. A minute later, she felt the table shift, and she noticed that neither Lance nor Anett were sitting beside her. She opened her eyes and looked under the table: only JC, Chris and Joey left at the table with her.

She slowly raised her head and looked at her friends. "Anything I can help you with?"

The three guys stared at her, leaning closer to her.

"Maybe," JC spoke first. "What’s up?"

Haley sighed and leaned back in her chair and pointed up. "The ceiling."

JC nodded slowly and looked at Chris. "Well, that was a blow off, so it’s your turn."

Chris nodded and stared at Haley. "What’s going on with you?"

Haley looked at Chris lazily and shrugged her shoulders. "Not much. You?"

Joey cleared his throat and smiled sweetly at Haley. "Is this about the article? Cuz I got it all straightened out. It’ll just take some time…"

Haley shook her head. "That’s not totally the problem."

The guys waited for an explanation and watched Haley as she chewed on her finger.

"Dammit, then what’s wrong?"

Haley smiled at JC’s outburst. "Wow. You’re hot when you’re frustrated."

JC smiled. "Thanks. You’re sweet." His smile disappeared and he leaned closer to Haley. "So what’s the problem?"

Haley stared at JC for a minute before focusing on her nails again. "Joey, thanks for dealing with the news people," she smiled thankfully at him, then turned to Chris. "Don’t you worry about me," she said, looking between Chris and JC. "I just found out who the so-called inside source is." Haley looked away from the guys and looked around the cafeteria. "It’s Bobby. He fed the press some lies, and, of course, they went with it." She shook her head. "Don’t worry about it."

Chris’s leg started shaking and he called Mike over to him. "Man, you better hold me back if Bobby comes back in here, cuz I’m about to beat the shit out of the pretty boy."

Mike nodded and looked at Haley. "What’d he do this time?"

"The little dick is the one that got the Joey and Haley story started," JC broke in. He looked at Haley. "When did you find out?"

Haley sighed. "Just a few minutes ago. Hey, why don’t you guys calm down and get out of big brother mode?" she said when JC, Chris and Joey all looked ready to pounce on an unlucky Bobby.

Joey shook his head and looked at the other guys. "Could we kick him out because of this?"

"Yeah…isn’t it a breach of contract or something?" Chris asked. "Didn’t all of you sign a contract about talking to the press about our personal stuff? We could nail him with that."

Haley shook her head. "Don’t bother. Do you actually think he’d admit that he started the story?"

JC stood up, but Mike pushed him back in his seat. "Go to the writer. He’ll tell us that Bobby was the source, then we tell Johnny, and he’s out."

Chris shook his head. "No. You know reporters don’t give out that information."

Haley sighed and ran a hand over her face. "Like I said. Don’t worry about it. I can handle Bobby, and whatever stories he tells."

Chris put a hand on Haley’s shoulder. "But he’s gonna drag your name through the mud. I can’t let him do that. I WON’T let him do that."

Haley patted Chris’s hand and smiled reassuringly. "I’ll deal with it. People are watching now, so I’ll be more careful. I can handle this." She looked from Chris to JC and to Joey, her eyes pleading them to let her take care of it. "Can you guys leave him alone? Don’t make any scenes or beat the shit out of him. Let me handle it."

The guys reluctantly agreed not to say anything or do anything to Bobby, trusting Haley to deal with it. The four of them cleaned up the mess at the table and walked downstairs to the studio. At the door, JC pulled Haley to the side as the others walked in.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked quietly.

Haley smiled and nodded. "I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it."

JC sighed. "I hope you’re right." He opened the door and held it open for Haley. "Otherwise," he said, spotting Bobby talking to Sam, "I will seriously have to resist the urge to beat his sorry ass down."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(January 6, 2001 @ Anett’s apartment)

"So, you’ll be here around eight? Great. Bring any good movies…No, Joey, no triple X movies…Yes, I’m sure…okay…I’ll see you later. Bye."

Anett rolled her eyes as Haley hung the phone up. "That one has a one-tracked mind."

Haley nodded as she leaned back on the couch. "Yep, and it’s always in the gutter." She closed her eyes and stretched her legs across Anett’s lap. "So. We have us, Justin of course, Chris and Dani, Joey and Lisa."

Anett nodded. "Sounds good. Justin’s gonna be like an hour late, so he’s gonna call about twenty minutes before he gets here so we can order pizza at a good time."

"Okay."

Anett stared at Haley’s relaxed face and smiled. "How are you doing?"

Haley shrugged. "I’m tired, but I’ll survive."

Anett nodded and thought for a minute before speaking again. "So. You wanna tell me what’s wrong or do I get to guess?"

Haley opened one eye and looked at Anett. "What are you talking about, Namett?"

Anett rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Haley! I know you have a problem, but you haven’t talked to me yet." She leaned in towards her friend. "You haven’t been yourself. Is it the whole Joey thing? Is it JC? Sean? Chris?"

Haley raised her eyebrows at Anett. "Okay, I can understand you asking about Joey, and Chris, maybe even Sean…but JC?" she asked. "Why the hell would you ask me about JC?"

"Well…um…see…" Anett stuttered, playing with her sweater. "See, I was kinda talking to Chris and…uh…he sorta brought up the talk that you had back in London at Christmas." Anett smiled guiltily at her friend. "Don’t look at me like that, Haley Elizabeth. You know Chris can’t keep secrets like that."

Haley shook her head and covered her face with a pillow. "Remind me to kick his ass, and yours too."

Anett patted Haley’s leg. "Yeah, well, I’m upset that you didn’t tell me about the discussion yourself." She shook her head and smiled. "Oh, you should have heard what Justin said when he heard…" Anett’s voice trailed off and she looked at Haley, and found her eyes staring at her.

"You told Justin?" she asked, clutching the pillow in her hands.

"Not exactly," Anett said, watching Haley’s hands and the pillow. "You know that the guys tell each other everything. I was with Justin when I was talking to Chris."

Haley’s eyes widened. "Who else knows?"

Anett grinned evilly. "Getting worried that a certain hottie’ll find out what you were talking about?" she asked, raising her eyebrows mischievously.

Haley tossed the pillow at Anett. "Does Jace know?"

Anett laughed as she fixed her hair. "Nervous?" Her smile grew when Haley blushed. "Don’t worry. If Chris or any of the guys say that they absolutely DO NOT want something said, it’ll stay with the right people. He doesn’t want JC to know, unless it’s you who talks to him about it when you want to."

Haley nodded. "Okay. That’s good for me." She smiled at Anett as the doorbell rang. "Let’s have some fun."

The two women jumped off the couch and ran to the door. Anett swung it open and barely got out of the way before Chris slammed into her.

"Where’s the food?"

Haley laughed and pulled Dani inside before shutting the door. "Good to see you too, Dreads."

They followed Chris and Anett into the living room, where Chris was busy getting comfortable on the couch, remote in hand. Haley shook her head as she sat down in the chair across from him. She smiled as Dani sat down next to him, and he automatically wrapped his arm around her.

‘You two are so perfect together,’ Haley thought. ‘You’re lucky to be together. Oh, Dani, you are so lucky he doesn’t talk about you in interviews and stuff. Keep it between you two…’

"Haley! Get the door!"

Haley rolled her eyes as she stood up. "Yes, Queen Namett," she said as she opened the door. She smiled at Joey and Lisa standing on the Welcome mat. "Welcome to Anett’s palace. Be sure to bow down to her." She moved aside and let them in, closing the door behind them. "Offerings to our Queen go to me."

Joey laughed as he took his shoes off. "Looking for some more action, Haley? You want an encore of New Year’s Eve?" Joey’s eyes twinkled mischievously. "I’m up for it if you are."

Haley grinned and turned away from Joey. "So, Lisa. How was your day?"

Chris laughed from the living room. "Ouch, Superman. That has got to hurt the ego. Here for less than thirty seconds, and you’ve already been shot down. New record?"

Joey rolled his eyes as he entered the living room. "Whatever." He sat down in a chair and motioned towards the kitchen. "She’s in denial," he said, raising his voice. "She doesn’t want to admit that she enjoyed that kiss. She was getting into it, but I had to pull away before it got out of hand."

The guys and Dani heard Haley’s laugh from the kitchen.

"Laugh all you want," Joey said, closing his eyes. "I know when a woman likes what I give her…"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okay, baby. I’ll see you in a few minutes." Anett rolled her eyes as she hung up the phone. "Will he ever grasp the concept of following plans?"

Joey laughed. "Good luck. Justin’s…well, he’s special. Go easy on him."

Anett nodded. "Yes, he is a special case." She looked at her watch. "Okay. They should be here in about two and a half minutes. They sounded really hyper--"

"Who’s they?"

Anett slowly turned to face Haley. "Oh. Just Justin."

Haley looked at Anett strangely. "But you said they. Who’s they?"

Anett chewed on her lip and looked to her friends for help. "Did I say they?" She giggled when Haley nodded. "Oh! I didn’t tell you? Justin’s bringing--"

DINGDONG!!
Anett smiled. "Gotta get that," she said running out of the room.

Haley raised her eyebrows at Joey. "What’s up with her?"

Joey smiled at Haley. "You’ll see."

Haley looked over at Chris and Dani. "Dani, what’s going on?"

Dani shrugged her shoulders. "I’m not a hundred percent positive." Her eyes lit

up when Anett walked into the room with two other people. "Oh! I forgot." She smiled innocently at Haley. "See, I forgot that Anett told me earlier…"

Haley stared at Dani, who looked over Haley’s head. She slowly turned around and stared at the visitors for a moment. She slowly turned back to Dani.

"And what’s the big deal about this?" she asked, popping a chip into her mouth.

"What? Are you telling me that Haley Maguire isn’t excited to see me?"

Dani laughed when Haley rolled her eyes. "I think she’s trying to hide it."

Haley crossed her arms over her chest. "You mean you can’t see the excitement pouring out of me?" Haley smiled at the familiar chuckle behind her.

"Hails, you do know how to make a guy feel welcome." He leaned down and kissed Haley’s cheek. "It’s good to see you," he said as he straightened up.

Haley grinned and stood up on the couch before throwing her arms around his neck. "It is SO good to see you, James," she whispered in his ear. She smiled at him as she pulled back. "When did you get here?"

James laughed and put his arm around Justin’s shoulders. "Well, this puff of curls picked me up at the airport about an hour ago, and then he scared me shitless with his driving."

Justin took a bow. "That means I succeeded. I can die happy."

Everyone laughed, and Haley jumped off of the couch, standing beside her old friend from Prince Edward Island, where Haley had lived for a few years. Now, James lived in Los Angeles, where he was a popular radio DJ. She slid her arm around his waist and smiled at Anett.

"Thanks, Namett. I can’t believe you kept this from me."

Anett smiled. "It was hard, but it was done." She motioned towards the balcony. "You two wanna go talk?"

James shook his head. "I have three days to talk her ear off. I wanna hang out with three fifths of ‘N Sync." He smiled at Lisa. "How’s it going, Lisa?"

Lisa smiled. "Not bad. You?"

James pulled Haley to his body. "I’m not gonna complain."

Haley continued to smile and walked James over to the couch, where she leaned on his shoulder, ecstatic to have him with her. They hadn’t seen each other in almost a year, and that was too long for her liking.

"Well, Joey," James said, his arm around Haley’s shoulders. "I was glad to see that you got some action on New Year’s." He looked down at Haley. "Were you gonna tell me about your secret relationship with him? Oh, and don’t forget about you being Chris’s mistress. We really should get together more often, to catch up on relationships and flings…"

Haley smiled as she playfully punched James in the stomach. "Oh, you are hilarious," she said in between punches. "Has your fanbase been upgraded to eight listeners yet? Or is it still the seven people that you pay to listen to you everyday?"

James laughed as he tried to block her punches. "Okay! I take it back. I know it’s not true. I just wanted to get you going."

Joey laughed. "Well, it worked."

Haley sat up and moved to the other end of the couch, her arms across her chest. "It was a cheap shot, James."

Justin laughed as he sat down between the pair. "Yeah, but you went for it," he said, smiling at Haley.

Haley slowly turned to face Justin, and she stared at him. "Oh, so the Curly Haired Wonder thinks he’s pretty smart, eh?" she asked.

Justin’s smile slowly faded under Haley’s gaze. His eyes widened and he lowered his head. "I’m sorry, Haley. Please don’t hurt me."

Haley laughed. "I’m not in the violent mood anymore, Justin. Consider yourself lucky."

The group sat around Anett’s living room, talking about James’s life and his girlfriend, Melinda, and how the guys were doing. They got caught up on everyone’s lives, and the guys, Anett, Lisa and Haley were all happy to see James again. Haley had introduced Chris, the guys and Lisa to him before the last tour started, and the guys later went to L.A. and did an interview with him. Anett had met him during High School, when he had been visiting Haley in London.

After a while, they turned on "Road Trip", and then they decided to play a game of Monopoly, which ended when Joey put a hotel in his mouth and Lisa to come and get it when she bought it.

Haley looked at James, and she motioned to the front door, and James nodded. Haley smiled at Anett. "Well, Namett, it's been a blast, but we're gonna go."

Anett nodded and hugged the two good night. "Okay. Drive safe, call me tomorrow," she said walking them to the door.

James smiled. "Oh, we'll be seeing each other tomorrow, Anett. I saw how you were looking at me. You think I'm hot. You were thinking all night about how you wanted me to be served to you, naked, on a platter, so we could have wild monkey sex all night long..."

Haley rolled her eyes and pulled James out he door, yelling goodnight to Anett and the others. They laughed as they got into the car.

"So, I hope you didn't learn how to drive from Justin," James said as he put his seatbelt on. "Cuz, if you did, then I think we should call 911 now and tell them where we're going so they'll be able to find us quicker."

Haley laughed as she turned the key in the ignition. "No, I'm not someone who goes sixty driving out of a parking lot."

James laughed quietly and he watched Haley as she drove through Orlando.

She looked over at him and smiled slightly. "What?"

James shook his head and smiled. "Have you told JC yet?"

Haley's eyes widened and she stared ahead. "Told him what?"

James chuckled. "Okay. So you're gonna play stupid with me. Got it."

Haley bit her lip and quickly looked at James. "Playing stupid?"

James smiled at Haley. "Yes. You are trying to act like you don't know what I'm talking about, when it's obvious that you completely understand."

Haley raised an eyebrow as she switched lanes to turn onto her street. "And how do you know that I'm playing stupid, cuz you seem to be the expert on me right now."

James looked out the window for a second smiling at how Haley was trying to cover herself. "You're knuckles are white from gripping the wheel too tight, your eyes have a wee bit of a sparkle to them, and you're about as pink as Joey's outfit from the BillBoard Awards. Now, you cannot tell me that those aren't the signs of someone who's holding something from me."

Haley slowly relaxed her grip on the steering wheel, and she opened her window to cool herself off. "Okay, Mr. Genius," she said, shooting a quick glance at James before turning into her parking lot, "tell me. What would I be hiding from you?"

James waited until Haley had parked the car and turned the ignition off. "Well, really, it's quite obvious," he repeated, taking his seatbelt off.

Haley nodded. "Well, of course it is. Enlighten me, though. Just for fun," she said, stepping out of the car.

James got out of the car and walked into Haley's apartment building, his arm around her shoulders. "As I said, it's pretty obvious." They walked into the building. "I KNOW that I'm not the first one to say anything about this," he said as they walked up the stairs to her fourth-floor apartment. "Haley, you should have seen your face light up when you talked about JC."

Haley nodded as she opened her door. "Okay. So I respect and adore the guy and what he does. Big deal. I mean, he is one of my best friends."

James laughed as he followed her into the apartment, closing the door behind him. "Okay. Big deal," he repeated, tossing his bag in the spare bedroom. He scooped Sniffy up in his arms and sat down in the living room while Haley grabbed some pops (Good kids, eh? They haven't had any alcohol yet... :) ). "Hello, Sniffy! Damn, you got fat since the last time, haven't you?" he said, rubbing Sniffy's back. "Yes you have. Has Mommy Haley been lying to you about her love life, and who she loves?"

Haley rolled her eyes as she sat down across from James. "Okay. To get this discussion over with, what are you thinking in that pretty, yet very thick head of yours?"

James stared at Haley as he patted Sniffy. "Have you told him how you feel?"

Haley rolled her eyes again. "Well, no, considering how I don't know what I feel towards him, but you, Mr. I'm The Shit Who Knows All." Haley leaned forward towards him. "Why don't you tell me how I feel, because it seems like you have a better idea than I do."

James took a sip of his pop and leaned closer to Haley. "You love the guy."

Haley sighed and leaned back in her chair. "Wow. And, to think, I didn't know I loved the guy that took me under his wing and is now one of my best friends."

James laughed. "Oh, I know you love him." His eyes narrowed and he stared at Haley. "But, sweetheart, you LOVE him." He smiled at her as he leaned back. "You're in love with him."

Haley stared at James for a minute before speaking. "I hate you."

"And I love you."

Haley shook her head. "Oh, and as you know, I LOVE JC," she said, emphasizing 'love' like James had before. She stood up and walked out onto the patio, closing the door behind her.

"Dammit! How can he know something like that? Hell, I didn't even know it." Haley leaned against the railing and looked out over the city. "You know, James thinks he's right about this." She shook her head. "Why should he be? Why does everyone think they know what I feel, when it's me who has the feelings?"

"Because we know what we see."

Haley turned to face James. "Do you?"

James nodded. "Haley, you know that something is there between you and JC." He pulled Haley into his arms. "You just have to realize WHAT it is, and do what you feel is right."

 

Chapter 15

(Tues. Jan. 9, 2001--@ Larry King Live)

"What’s wrong, Chris?" Larry King asked, once they were back, live, on the air after a commercial break. They had just shown a clip from ‘I Drive Myself Crazy’, a scene with Chris and Dani.

Chris sat back in his chair, a sad look on his face, not answering Larry King.

"That’s Chris’ girlfriend," Lance said, smiling, before he realized what he had said. He quickly covered his face with his hand.

Haley’s jaw dropped and she looked at James. "Oh, Old PooFoo is gonna get a beatin’ tonight," she whispered. "No one knows about Dani…well, not officially."

James smiled. "Well, I think it’s pretty much out there now."

Haley turned back to the guys, and Chris was saying how he was bummed because he and his girlfriend were no longer, but he wasn’t sure. She stared at him as he talked, confused about what he was saying about Dani.

"Did something happen, and Chris didn’t tell me?" she whispered to herself. "You’d think he’d tell me something like the fact that they broke up!" Haley chewed on her finger as she waited impatiently for the next commercial break so she could talk to Chris. "I’ll beat the crap out of him if he let her go for some stupid reason."

James chuckled and rubbed Haley’s shoulders. "I’m sure there’s some good explanation for all of this, Haley. Just calm it down." He slapped Haley’s hand away from her face. "Stop that. It’s not natural to chew your fingers to the bone. Not to mention, it’s not very attractive. I mean, if I were you, I wouldn’t want JC-"

Haley whipped around and put her hand over James’ mouth. "Stop it now before you say something, and I’ll make sure that you and Melinda are unable to have children, unless you adopt or go through a sperm donor."

"And we’re clear! Three minutes people."

Haley took her hand from James’ mouth and stepped back, straightening her sweater and hair. "Understand?"

James nodded silently.

Haley smiled. "Good. I have about two and a half minutes to find out what Chris was talking about." She turned from James and made her way through the crew and makeup people. She smiled at the guys when she finally made it to them. "Hello, boys. Good show so far. Gotta love the boxers or briefs question, eh?"

The guys laughed, glad that she was there to make jokes.

"Minute and a half!"

Haley rolled her eyes as a makeup lady pushed past her to get to Joey. "Yeah, that one needs a LOT of help," she said as the lady attacked Joey’s face with powder.

Joey quickly stuck his tongue out at Haley before the lady powdered his nose. "You’re just jealous."

Haley rolled her eyes again and turned to Chris. "So You gonna pout all night, or do I have to ask?" Haley leaned in so their faces were inches apart. "What the HELL was up with that?"

Chris sighed. "Calm down," he said, leaning back in his chair. "We had a little fight, and I don’t know…"

"Thirty seconds, people! Clear the set!"

"Haley, go sit with James, and don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to you about it later."

Haley nodded and squeezed Chris’ hand reassuringly before turning to the rest of the guys. "Okay, guys. Keep smiling. People are watching for your pretty faces, so no sad faces." She smiled at Chris before turning and pushing her way through the crowd and back to James.

"Nice pep talk."

Haley rolled her eyes. "They look really tired." She smiled smugly when the guys were perky and smiling in front of the cameras. "It worked, didn’t it?"

James laughed as Chris pointing to them, acting goofy. "Yes, it did." He stared down at Haley. "You talk to him yet?"

Haley stared at James like he just told her he was pregnant. "You ARE joking, right?"

James shook his head. "No, I’m not."

Haley crossed her arms over her chest. "And what exactly am I supposed to tell him? That I wanna be with him? That I wanna jump his bones?" She shook her head and turned away from James to watch the guys. "Uh uh. Nope. Think again, Honey. That is NOT gonna happen."

James smiled at the back of Haley’s head. "You keep telling yourself that, Miss Maguire," he said under his breath. "See how long that’ll last."

* * * * * * * * * * * * "Okay, Chris. Out with it." Haley stared at Chris from across her kitchen table.

Chris ran a hand through his hair and leaned back in his chair. "Well, we had a fight today."

Haley waited for him to go on, but she realized he wasn’t going to. She rolled her eyes. "Okay. What happened?"

Chris took a sip of his coffee before looking up at Haley. "It’s small, really."

Haley shook her head. "If you two are fighting, it’s really big."

Chris bit his lip. "Okay. I asked her to come on tour with us, so I can spend more time with her."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "And you’re fighting?"

Chris shook his head. "Hold on. So I asked her, and she was like well, what about FuMan Skeeto? And I said to bring it on the road with us. You know, think up new ideas on the bus, have a laptop for important stuff, schedule meetings in different cities when we were there." Chris paused. "Then she said that it’d be too hard to work on the bus with all the guys and stuff, so I told that I’ll get us a bus, just us and like Mike or someone, so we could work and be together." He sighed. "Then, she was talking about how she didn’t wanna put anybody out, or be an inconvenience for anyone. I tried to tell her that it would be no problem, that the guys would all understand." He shook his head. "She totally spazzed on my ass." He tried to imitate Dani. "You are NOT going to have a big power trip with your superiority cuz, oh my God, you’re Chris Kirkpatrick of ‘N Sync. Oh hell no, I’m not going on tour. None of the other guys have girlfriends on tour with them, so why should you?" He looked at Haley with sad eyes. "Then she told me to get out, have fun at Larry King, and she’d call mew hen she was ready."

Haley took a bite of her cookie to give her extra time to think before talking to Chris. "So. She blew up at you for being a loving, caring boyfriend who just wanted to spend more time with her?" She asked once she had swallowed (her cookie).

Chris nodded his head. "She called me selfish, saying I didn’t care what she wanted." He stared at his hands. "So. Do you think she’ll call me?" he asked timidly.

Haley smiled at patted Chris’ hand. "Yes, she will. Especially after the show." She lifted Chris’ head so he was looking her in the eyes. "When she sees…no, she would have been watching it, so when she saw it, I’m sure she left a message on your machine at home."

Chris nodded. "I hope so. But why would she act like that?"

Haley shook her head. "Maybe a bad day, or she has an un-welcomed visitor, I don’t know. Then again, she’s never been on tour with you guys either, so maybe she’s just nervous, or not sure if she’s ready for that." Haley smiled reassuringly. "Ask her. I’m sure she’ll tell you."

Chris shook his head. "I hope you’re right, Sunshine." He stood up and kissed Haley’s forehead before e grabbed his keys and walked to the door. "Good night, Haley. I’ll see you later."

"Night, Chris. Good luck!" She yelled as Chris shut the door behind him. "Oh, Dani, don’t screw what you two have up. He needs you, and you need him. Don’t let it end because of this."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Friday Jan. 12, 2001--@ rehearsals)

"Look. I know it’s Friday, it’s been a long week, and you are all tired." Sam brushed the hair from her eyes. "But I have a schedule to stick to, and that is the most important thing right now. You all go on tour in a month and a half. We need to work on the small things now, so that we don’t have to worry about them later." She looked at her watch. "Okay. I wanna be outta here by six thirty, so that leaves us fifteen minutes to finish. How ‘bout we run through the routine one more time, and if it’s good, we leave. If it sucks, another fifteen. Let’s go."

Haley sighed as the dancers around her were whining about being tired. She gave Lisa an exasperated look as the music started, and they ran through the routine to ‘No Strings Attached’.

Sam smiled at the end of the routine. "All right. It only took all day, but we got it right. See you all next week."

The dancers all let out sighs of relief before packing their bags, happy to have two days off. Lisa walked up to Haley, her bag over her shoulder.

"You need a ride, Chica?"

Haley shook her head. "Nah, Anett’s coming to get me. A girl’s night out."

Lisa smiled as she walked past her. "Okay. Have a good time. Call me!" she yelled back as she walked through the door.

Haley smiled as she packed her bag, humming ‘No Strings Attached’ to herself She looked around the studio and noticed she was the only person there. She took her tank top off and folded it. "If you want it, here’s my heart," she sang out loud as she pulled her sweater over her head.

"No strings attached."

Haley’s eyes widened at the sound of his voice, her cheeks on fire. She looked up at the mirror and saw JC standing in the doorway, smiling at her. "Um, hi, JC…What uh…what are you…uh…doing here? I uh…I thought I was alone."

JC’s smile grew as he walked towards Haley. "Well, you were, until I came in." he sat down on the bench next to Haley’s bag, and he watched her pack it, enjoying her nervousness.

Haley smiled slightly as she forced her towel into her bag. "I kinda figured that one out. Why are you down here? I thought you guys were recording today."

JC nodded. "Yeah, we were. We just finished. I came down to talk to Sam." He looked around the studio. "But I don’t think she’s here."

Haley laughed. "Good observation. She left like two minutes ago." She closed her bag and stood up straight, taking a sip of water from her bottle. "Why did you wanna talk to her?"

"About the resort."

Haley looked at JC, a confused look on her face. "Resort?"

JC covered his mouth with his hand. "Oops. I thought she told you guys."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "Told us what?"

JC shrugged. "Nothing." He looked at his watch. "Wow, almost six thirty. I gotta go find Lance. He’s my ride today." He stood up and walked to the door. "See ya later, Hails."

Haley grabbed her bag and ran to catch up with JC. She stood in front of him at the door. "What resort?" she asked.

JC shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea." Ha walked around Haley and through the door.

Haley turned and walked out after him. "Come on, JC. You may as well tell me," she said, walking next to him.

JC shook his head. "Don’t worry about it."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Fine. I’ll get it out of Chris later." She pushed her hair out of her eyes. "You seen Anett yet?" she asked as they walked to the elevator.

JC shook his head. "Nope."

Haley nodded as they walked onto the elevator in silence. They stood beside each other as they went up to the seventh floor, where the guys were recording and Anett was meeting Haley.

Haley shook her head as she remembered JC walking in on her. Not only had she been singing, but he had also seen her changing. It wasn’t a big deal, really. She wore next to nothing during rehearsals sometimes, but it was the fact that she had seen something in his smile that she had never seen from him, directed towards her: he had liked what he had seen. Not just because it was a free peep show, but because he liked it. Haley realized she was smiling, and she quickly tried to hide it by coughing, and then biting her lip.

JC looked at Haley out of the corner of his eye, and the corners of his mouth raised when he saw her. Damn. She is really good looking. She looked so cute when she saw me watching her. She’s such a sweetheart…JC shook his head. No, this is Haley. I’m not supposed to think about how hot she is, or how much I wanna be close to her right now…

The elevator door opened and they stepped out, walking down the hall to where the guys had been recording all day.

"Hey, you wanna hear what we were working on today?"

Haley smiled at JC. "Of course."

JC smiled back. "Good answer."

They walked into the recording room and JC took Haley’s bag off of her shoulder. "Okay," he said, leading Haley into the sound/mixing booth. He pushed a bunch of buttons and smiled when Justin’s voice poured into the booth. At the end of the song, JC turned the machines off and looked up at Haley, who was staring at him in awe.

"You like?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

Haley slowly smiled. "Very much. Who wrote it?"

JC smiled sheepishly. "Justin and I wrote it like two years ago, and we thought it would be nice for the new album."

Haley threw her arms around JC’s neck, catching him off-guard. He stumbled back until he was leaning against the wall. Haley pulled back, blushing.

"Sorry. I just…"She shook her head as she stared at JC, the look of amazement still on her face. "You are unbelievable. That song totally rocks. I am so proud of you."

JC stepped closer to Haley. "Thanks, Hails. That means a LOT to me." He stepped forward, towards Haley, who took a step back. He took another step and smiled when her back met with the glass wall of the booth. She looked at JC, surprised. He stared down at Haley as he leaned one hand against the glass beside Haley’s head.

"Um…JC…I’m not…I don’t know if…"

JC smiled as he brought his other hand up to her face, placing his thumb over her lips to make her stop talking. "You know, Haley," he said, leaning down towards her.

Haley’s eyes closed, and she waited to feel JC’s lips on hers. She felt his breath on her face, and her whole body tingled in excitement.

"JC, you here?"

Haley’s eyes opened and JC quickly pulled away from her. He looked at Lance, who was standing in the doorway.

"Yeah. What do you want?" he asked quickly, walking out of the booth.

Haley followed him out and walked over to the couch to grab her bag. "I’m gonna go find Anett. See you later." She refused to meet either Lance’s or JC’s eyes, and she felt JC staring at her as she walked out of the recording room. She started walking towards the elevator, but Anett called out to her.

"Yo, Haley! Where ya goin?"

Haley turned around to face Anett. "Oh, hey. Can we…uh…go?" she asked, looking at the door where Lance was still standing as he talked to JC.

"Okay," Anett said slowly, walking towards Haley. "Just let me say goodbye to Justin."

Haley sighed. "Okay. Go."

Anett shot Haley a confused look before turning around and running down the hall and into one of the far rooms.

Haley leaned against the wall by the elevator, confused about what had almost happened. Okay, so I almost kissed JC. Big deal. Haley laughed out loud. Big deal my ASS, she thought. She turned and saw JC and Lance walking towards her. She quickly turned away, but she still felt JC staring at her.

"Uh, see you later, Haley," Lance said as they walked by.

Haley nodded. "Yeah. See ya."

They got into the elevator and Haley looked at them. JC smiled almost apologetically, and waved at her. She waved back as the door shut, then breathed a sigh of relief.

"What was that about?"

Haley looked up at Anett, forcing a smile. "Nothing." She put her arm around Anett’s shoulders and they waited for an elevator. "So. What do you know about a resort?" she asked as they stepped onto the elevator.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Saturday Jan. 13, 2001)

"Hey Lance," Haley said as she jumped into Lance’s 4X4. "Sorry I’m late. My mom called. She had to make sure, for the hundredth time, that I am not in a relationship with Joey that she wouldn’t approve of."

Lance smiled as he drove out of the parking lot. "No prob. I’m used to it. Out of the five of us, at least one of us is usually late."

Haley giggled. "I noticed."

The two chatted about the new album and tour as they drove through Orlando to Claudia’s Studio for their last official class.

"So you liked that song yesterday?" Lance asked as they pulled into the parking lot.

Haley nodded. "I love it. I hope it makes the cut."

Lance grinned. "Me too."

They got out of the truck and walked into the studio. Lance held the door open for Haley and walked in after her.

"Remember. No more ‘N Sync talk."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Please. These people don’t care. They wouldn’t care if you were the president of Japan. They’re here to dance."

Lance nodded. "True, true. But I think Mrs. Evans is here so she can molest defenseless men."

Haley laughed and shook her head. "Yeah. You’d be better off going outside without security at one of your concerts than to be alone with Mrs. Evans", she said, putting her bag down on the ground. "You might actually be able to fend off some of the girls at a concert."

"Ha ha."

Haley smiled and took her shoes off. "I should take up comedy. I’d get more guys that way…" Her voice trailed off when she saw JC walking towards them.

He smiled nervously at her. "Hey."

Haley nodded. "Hi, Josh."

Lance looked between the two of them, knowing that something had happened, or came close to happening between them the day before, in the booth. "Hey, Josh. How are ya?"

JC shrugged. "I’m alright." He looked sideways at Haley, who was staring at him. "You, Haley?"

She smiled slightly. "Great."

Claudia interrupted their conversation (or lack of). "Hello! Oh, you guys always look so good," she said, looking them over. "Are you all coming Wednesday?"

Haley smiled and nodded at the older woman. "Of course. I never miss a chance to buy a new dress."

Claudia giggled. "Good. I know you’ll look beautiful." She raised her eyebrows at the guys. "And which one of you has the pleasure of dancing with our beautiful Haley?"

JC’s smile grew. "That would be me, Claudia."

Claudia smiled. "Very good." She turned to Lance. "And who will you be dancing with for your recital?"

Lance smiled sheepishly. "Susan."

Claudia winked at Lance. "Good choice," she said as she walked away.

Haley turned to Lance. "You like Susan, eh?"

"Maybe I do, eh?" Lance said, emphasizing the ‘eh’. All of the guys liked doing that when Haley said it, but she caught them all saying it too.

"Good for you." JC looked at Haley. "So. What colour are you gonna wear?"

Haley chewed on her lip as she thought. "Maybe red, or orange. I’m not sure. I’ll tell you when I have a dress."

JC nodded. "Okay. Just let me know so we don’t clash."

Haley smiled. "Will do."

JC stared at Haley as she talked to Lance and Susan about Wednesday night. He smiled to himself as he thought about what Haley would be wearing on Wednesday…

"JC, man, if you’re gonna dance with Haley on Wednesday, don’t you think you should practice?"

JC looked at Lance. "Yeah…uh huh."

Lance shook his head as JC walked over to where Haley was standing on the dance floor. "Whatever’s going on," he said, watching Haley hesitate before placing her hand in JC’s, "I hope you guys find out what it is, and either go with it, or stop it before it gets to be too much for either of you to handle."

JC nervously put his hand on Haley’s hip as they got ready to start dancing. He noticed she was trying not to look at him, and it pissed him off that he made her nervous around him. "So. You think we’ll be ready by Wednesday night?" he asked, trying to make her more comfortable.

Haley smiled in relief, thankful he didn’t bring the other day up. "Definitely. And we’ll kick old PooFoo’s butt, too," she said, raising her voice as Lance and Susan danced past them.

Lance rolled her eyes. "Keep tellin’ yourself that, Maguire."

Haley laughed, forgetting about the day before. She looked at JC. "You ready to kick their asses?"

JC grinned. "Oh, you bet."

 

Chapter 16

(Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2001)

"Oh, JC, would you please stop touching your hair? You look terrific."

JC grinned at Haley. "Thank you. I really wanted to hear you say that." He looked back at the mirror and tried to flatten his hair with his hand. "This one piece is stinking up…"

Haley rolled her eyes and looked at her watch. "Where’s Lance?"

JC shrugged. "Don’t worry. He’s always on time."

Haley slapped his hand away from his hair. "Stop it. You know it looks great. Come on, JC, I’m the one who’s supposed to be worried about their hair, not you."

JC turned so he was directly in front of Haley, and he took a step back. He looked her up and down, unable to hide the look of pleasure off his face. "Not bad, Miss Maguire."

Haley put her hand on her trim waist. "Not bad?" she asked, staring at JC. "Josh, I am the SHIT tonight, and you know it."

JC’s grin grew, and he stepped towards her to let a couple walk past them. "Yes. I definitely know, Haley," he whispered in her ear before stepping back. He chuckled when Haley blushed.

"Hey, guys," Lance said walking up to them with Susan. "I’m not late, am I?"

JC shook his head. "Nah, we still have five minutes."

"Yeah," Haley spoke up. "Five minutes till we dance all over you two."

Lance nodded and put his arm around Susan’s shoulders. "Darn. They think they’re better than us." He smiled at Susan. "Yeah, in their dreams."

JC shook his head as Lance and Susan walked away. "That was weak, Lance. Totally weak." He turned to Haley, holding his hand for her to take. "I wanna go show you off. Make the other guys jealous."

Haley laughed as she put her hand in JC’s. "Whatever you say, Josh. I’ll go with it."

They walked into the dining hall where they were having their recital. They walked over to where Lance and Susan were sitting. JC pulled a chair out for Haley, and she smiled as she sat down, blushing slightly when he winked at her as he sat down beside her.

They talked for the next ten minutes about the class they had taken, and Susan asked JC, Lance and Haley if they were going to join the class at the next level, that started at the end of February. The three exchanged looks, not sure if they wanted to tell Susan that she was sitting with 40 percent of ‘N Sync, and one of their dancers, and that they would be going on tour at that time.

"Actually," Haley spoke up, smiling at Susan, I can’t. I’m going on tour next month with a group."

Susan raised her eyebrows. "On tour? With who?"

Haley’s smile grew. " ’N Sync."

Susan’s eyes widened. "Wow. I heard that they’re pretty good. Why are you on tour with them?"

Haley grinned at the guys. "Well, I’ve been called the group slut, but I’m really just a friend and a dancer."

Susan smiled. "Cool. Not the slut thing, but the dancing part." She turned to Lance. "What about you?"

Lance smiled sheepishly. "I’m kinda going on tour with Haley."

Susan bit her lip. "Why are YOU going?"

Lance lowered his head, trying not to look at Susan. "It’s my job."

Susan nodded, and turned to JC. "And you, Josh?"

JC smiled nervously. "Actually, call me JC. Lance and me are the ‘ink’ of ‘N Sync. We kinda have to go on tour."

Susan smiled politely at JC. "Very cool." She turned back to Lance. "How do you make an ‘n’ sound?"

Lance grinned. "They kinda changed my name to Lansten to make it work."

Susan nodded. "And were you going to tell me that you were part of ‘N Sync?"

Lance nodded. "Yeah. I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how you’d react." He smiled sheepishly. "I kinda liked being just me, not worrying about being part of the group. It’s nice to be normal."

Susan smiled. "I was gonna ask you two on the first night, but I figured that you guys didn’t want any special treatment. And I liked being able to talk to you as Josh and Lance."

Lance’s jaw dropped. "So you knew?"

Susan laughed. "I’m twenty years old. Of course I knew who you were. I’m not blind."

Lance smiled, then leaned in and kissed her cheek. "Thanks for treating me like anyone else."

Susan blushed. "You are a wonderful guy, so that’s how I treated you."

Haley smiled as Lance held his hand out to Susan. "Very cute. Lance has a crush," she said as she watched them walk away. She looked at JC. "What? Oh, do I have something in my teeth?" she asked when JC stared at her.

He shook his head, a small smile on his face. "Nah, I just wanted to…uh…ask you to dance," he said, holding his hand out to her.

She took his hand, and they walked onto the dance floor. She rested her free hand on his shoulder, and he put his free hand on her trim waist. They danced for a couple of minutes, until Claudia walked up to the microphone to get everyone’s attention.

Claudia welcomed them, thanking them for coming. They would all perform their routines, the have dinner. After the meal, the dance floor would be open to everyone, as well as karaoke.

When Haley heard karaoke, she looked up at JC, who had an evil look on his face. She shook her head, backing away from him. "No. I will not. No. Back off, JC," she said when JC stepped towards her. "That was a one time deal. I was drunk. No. No way." She backed up a couple more steps and she ran into someone behind her. "Oh, I am so sorry," she said, turning around to apologize. She looked up and saw Lance smiling down at her.

"So. Haley. You up for some karaoke?"

Haley shook her head. "No. You have a better chance NOT getting syphilis from Britney Spears than me singing tonight."

JC and Lance each put an arm around Haley’s shoulders.

"Haley, sweetheart. We love the way you sing. It’s been a long time, and it would make us very happy." JC smiled innocently at Haley.

"Oh come on, Haley. For old times sake."

Haley narrowed her eyes at Lance. "Old times my ass. I was drunk. In no way did I enjoy it. No. I am NOT singing tonight. NO."

Lance leaned in closer to Haley. "I’ll make it worth your while." He smiled smugly. "Name it."

Haley grinned evilly. "Okay. If I sing, you get naked and do the PooFoo song."

JC laughed. "Hails, we don’t wanna make these innocent people go blind."

Lance smacked JC. "Shut up." He smiled sweetly at Haley. "You sing…" He raised his eyebrows. "I’ll dance with Mrs. Evans."

Haley shook her head. "No. I sing, you kiss Susan."

Lance smiled. "No prob."

Haley’s eyes narrowed. "I’m talking open mouth, possible tongue, on the dance floor."

Lance’s smiled faded. "I’m not gonna do that to her."

Haley smiled smugly. "Then I don’t sing." She walked away from them, a smile on her face as she sat down beside Susan.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Very good, Haley and Josh!" Claudia’s voice said into the microphone. "And that’s the last of the routines. So, enjoy the food and have a blast."

Haley smiled at JC. "Very nice work, Mr. Chasez."

JC grabbed Haley’s hand and lead her back to their table. "Not bad yourself, Miss Maguire."

Susan smiled at the pair as they sat down. "Nice job. You certainly kicked our asses."

"They’re just lucky," Lance mumbled, pouting.

"Uh, Lance, how ‘bout we go…uh…talk to Scott over there," JC said standing up.

"Scott? Why?" Lance’s eyes opened wide. "Oh! Yeah, Scott." He stood up and the two walked over to Scott, a member of their dance class.

Haley looked at Susan, confused. "Scott? They’ve never liked him."

Susan’s eyes narrowed as she watched JC and Lance talk to the older man. "They’ve been doing a lot of talking tonight. I’ve seen them talking with almost everyone."

Haley shook her head. "I don’t know. They’ve been kinda weird with me since Claudia mentioned the karaoke…"

"Uh, hey. Could we have your attention please?"

Haley’s eyes widened and she slid down in her chair, covering her face with her hands. "This is not happening…"

"Um, it seems like no one wants to start the karaoke. Well, my partner tonight is a big fan of karaoke, but she’s feeling kinda shy tonight. She’s nervous to sing in front of all of you. So, what we were thinking was that, maybe, if we all cheered for her, she’d come up and sing. You guys cool with that?"

The crowd nodded, and Haley looked at Susan from between her fingers. "Is it over yet?"

"Come on, everyone! Tell Haley to come and sing!"

The crowd cheered and clapped for Haley. She looked up and saw Susan smiling and clapping.

"You suck."

Susan smiled. "Actually, I think it’s fair to say that you suck more right now. GO! Get it over with."

Haley sighed as she stood up. "Remind both of them that I will get them back." She smoothed out her dress and slowly turned to face the crowd. She waved at them as she walked towards the stage where the karaoke was set up. She caught JC’s gaze and held it as she walked up the steps onto the stage. She grabbed the mic out of JC’s hand. "You are going down, hot shot." She looked at Lance. "You too, PooFoo."

JC smiled brightly. "Remember that time at your place, when you helped Justin cheat?"

Haley nodded. "Yeah…"

JC patted Haley’s shoulder. "I told you payback’s a bitch. Here you go."

Haley smiled. "Good one, JC. Now, get off my stage before I call security."

JC and Lance quickly walked down the steps and back to their table to watch.

Haley brought the mic up to her face. "Well, my wonderful friends have taken it upon themselves to embarrass the crap out of me tonight. So I’m gonna get it over with. Here’s a little bubble gum pop for you guys. Hope you like." She nodded at the DJ to start the music, and she laughed to herself when she heard the music start.

"Crazy," she sang into the mic. "Baby, I’m so into you," she sang in her best nasal voice, as she sang ‘(You Drive Me) Crazy’ by none other then Britney Spears. She sang the rest of the song, adding her own ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as she went. The song ended, and the crowd cheered for Haley. As she walked back to the table, people patted her back and hugged her. When she finally made it back to her table, she held her hand up to her friends.

"I do NOT want to hear it. JC, you little punk, get your pretty little ass out on that dance floor, because I am going to work the shit out of you."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

JC watched Haley out of the corner of his eye as he drove to her apartment. She sighed and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the headrest.

JC turned the radio off. "Haley?" he asked quietly, as he turned onto her street.

She smiled as she turned her head to look at JC. "Hmm?"

JC turned into her parking lot and parked his Jeep. He turned the engine off and turned in his seat to see Haley better. "I had a really good time tonight. Thanks for not killing me about the song."

Haley laughed. "You got me, as you promised you would. No hard feelings." She closed her eyes again, exhausted.

JC smiled as he stared at Haley. His eyes roamed her body again, and his smile grew as he took her in. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl, but she definitely had some good qualities. The orange and black dress complimented her curves, and her hair was half pulled back, an orange flower hiding the barrette.

Haley opened her eyes and smiled at JC. "I should go in. I’m dead." She sat up straight and grabbed her purse.

JC reached out and grabbed her hand, holding it in his. "I just…I had the best time tonight, and I hope we can do it again some time."

Haley smiled. "Definitely." She took her seatbelt off and leaned over, gently kissing JC’s cheek. "You looked awesome, and it was one the funnest nights of my life. Thank you."

She opened her door and started to get out when JC grabbed her arm and pulled her back to him. He stared into her eyes, totally mesmerized.

"Something’s here, between us, I can feel it," he said, licking his lips. He leaned closer to Haley. "You know what I mean."

Haley nodded, staring at his lips as they got closer to her own. "Yeah. I do." She closed her eyes, lips slightly parted, waiting to taste his lips.

JC smiled slightly as he brought his head to hers and gently brushed his lips against hers. She brought her hand up to his face, deepening the kiss. JC moved his hand from her arm to her waist, to get more comfortable. He knew this was more than he’d expected from her, and that it was taking it too fast, but he couldn’t bring himself to stop something that felt so good.

Ring! (phone)

Haley and JC pulled away from each other at the sound of JC’s phone. Haley brought her hand up to her mouth as JC fumbled with his phone.

"Yeah," he said quickly, out of breath. "Dammit! Justin, what do you want?"

Haley’s eyes widened, and she grabbed her purse. "I’ll…see you…uh… tomorrow," she stuttered, unable to look him in the eye.

"Haley, wait--"

Haley jumped out of the Jeep and half-walked, half-stumbled to her apartment building. She fumbled in her purse for her keys. When she was safe inside the building, she leaned against the door.

"Oh, God, what am I gonna do now?" she asked, covering her face with her hands.

Chapter 17

(Thursday January 18th, 2001)

"I loved you forever in lifetimes bef-"

Haley slapped her alarm clock, turning it off. "That is NOT what I need right now." She stared at her ceiling in silence, thinking about the night before, in JC's jeep, when they had kissed. She relived the scene in her head, feeling his lips on hers, and his hands touching her...

"No!" She slapped her forehead. "Don't think about it." She sat up on her bed. "But why not?"

Sniffy jumped on the bed beside Haley, and rubbed her hand with his head. She smiled as she picked him up and sat him in her lap, his paws on her chest.

"Well, Sniffy," she said, rubbing his back. "Guess who got some action last night?" She leaned her head against the headboard, a smile on her face. "Okay, so it wasn't any serious action, but it was definitely enjoyable...not to mention something I'd like to repeat in the future..." Haley sighed. "Today is gonna be weird."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(in her car)

"If I could grant you one wish, I wish you could see the way you kiss," Haley sang to the radio as she drove to the studio. She realized what she was singing and turned the radio station, to an oldies station. "Sayin' I love you is not the words I want to hear from you."

Haley snapped the radio off. "Figures that I would pick the exact moment to switch radio stations when they are playing not only one of my favourite love songs, but also a song that the man I kissed and really really liked it remade when he just happened to star on the Mickey Mouse Club."

She shook her head as she changed lanes. "Stupid. I'm being stupid. I don't know how JC feels right now, if he has any feelings for me whatsoever, or if he totally regrets that kiss." She reasoned with herself as she pulled into the studio parking lot. She turned the engine off and sat in the car.

"Alright, Maguire. You are going to go in there and be yourself. Don't bring anything up to JC, let him talk to you. If he totally ignores you, then tell him it was a mistake."

After her pep talk, Haley got out of the car and walked towards the building. She got in the elevator with Steph, one of the dancers. "Hey Steph."

Steph smiled. "Morning."

Haley smiled back, not in the mood to talk to her. She kind of turned her back to Steph and leaned her shoulder on the wall of the elevator. 'Oh, God, this is gonna be strange. How the hell is he gonna act? I know that I'm gonna try not to be weird around him, but I know I will be. This is gonna screw me up so bad! I know he's gonna pull some crap with me...probably ignore me or act like nothing happened...'

"Um...Haley? You coming?"

Haley looked at Steph. "Yeah. Sorry. Just thinking."

Steph nodded as she got off the elevator, Haley behind her. Steph walked ahead of Haley, who took her time walking down the hall to the studio. She paused with her hand on the door and took a breath.

"Here we go, Hails. Just remember what I said. Take it easy."

She pulled the door open and walked in. She smiled as she looked around and saw her friends talking and dancing. "Okay. It’s just a normal day. Nothing happened last night," she said to herself as Chris walked up to her.

"Talking to yourself again, eh, psycho?" he asked, smiling as he put his arm around her shoulder. "I’ve noticed that you do that a lot. Some people may think that you’re crazy, but it just makes me love you even more."

"Yeah, cuz it means you’ll know someone in the padded room next to you," Justin said, ruffling Chris’s hair as he walked up to them with Lance. "So, Haley," he said, slipping his arm around Haley’s shoulder. He gently pulled her away from Chris. "I heard that you had a good time last night."

Haley nodded. "Yes, I did. Thanks."

Justin nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, of course. I also heard that you were more than overjoyed to entertain the crowd last night."

Haley rolled her eyes. "You really suck," she said, looking at Lance. "See, JC got up on the stage, told the people that I was too nervous to sing, and that if they cheered for me, maybe I would do a song for them. And, knowing that I can’t say no in front of people, he got me back for that night at my place, when he…you know." She smiled as Joey joined them. "Hey, gorgeous."

Joey grinned. "Hey, baby. How was last night?"

Haley laughed. "Good. Embarrassing, but good."

Joey opened his mouth to speak but turned around when someone tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, Sherry," he said, smiling at the woman. "You ready to get me fitted?" he asked, raising his eyebrows playfully.

Sherry rolled her eyes. "Nah. Big Mary’s fitting you guys."

Joey’s eyes widened. "Oh, hell no. She’s rough when she does it. She tugs really hard, like she wants to rip it off and keep it for a souvenir."

Haley stared at Joey. "Okay. I am now scarred for life with that mental picture." She turned to Sherry, her back to Joey. "Hey, Sherry, I’m Haley. I don’t know if you remember me…"

Sherry smiled warmly. "Of course, Haley. You were one of the best to work with." She looked at Joey. "Unlike some people I could mention."

Haley smiled. "I forgot that Sam said we’d be getting fitted today." She waved at Lisa behind Joey. "I gotta go. But, Joey," she said with an evil grin, "tell Big Mary to be gentle." She patted Joey’s arm as she left the group, walking over to Lisa.

"Hey! How was your night?"

Haley sighed as she sat down beside Lisa. "The recital was great." Lance was walking by with Chris and Haley raised her voice. "And two little punks decided to use the crowd against my weakness, and I ended up singing Britney Spears."

Lance stopped walking just after he and Chris had passed the two women. "Wait, Chris, did you hear someone whining?"

Chris nodded. "Yeah, and it was a very annoying voice." He turned around slowly and raised his eyebrows at the pair. "Oh, Haley. Didn’t see ya there, but I heard you whining, so I knew you weren’t far."

Haley gave Chris a bored look. "Funny."

Chris smiled goofily before sitting down beside her. "I know."

Lance sat down across from Haley and stretched his legs out in front of him. "So Did you have a good time last night?"

Haley bit her lip as she smiled. "Yeah. It was a blast. How ‘bout you?" she asked to get the attention off of her.

Lance smiled brightly. "Very fun. Susan and I had a great time."

Lisa’s eyebrows raised. "Susan? Oh, I want details," she said as she stood up. She grabbed Lance’s hand and pulled him up beside her. "Let’s get some coffee and talk."

Haley giggled as they walked away. "So. How’s Dani?"

Chris smiled at her. "She’s good."

"Okay," Haley said slowly. "How are you and Dani?" she asked, being more specific.

Chris sighed. "We talked last night. She doesn’t really know what her problem was, but she thinks that she was just nervous about going on tour officially with us, so she took it out on me." He smiled slightly. "We’re spending the weekend together to see if we can work it out."

Haley slipped her arm around Chris. "You will."

"I hope so."

Justin, Anett and Joey walked over to them and sat down.

"Hey, Hails. How was last night?"

Haley smiled at Anett. "It was good. A lot of fun. And you are the last person that will ask me, so it’s all good."

The group talked about the recital and the new wardrobe for the concert.

"You met Robin yet?" Justin asked, looking at Haley.

"Robin?" she asked. "No, not yet. Why? Who is she?"

Anett rolled her eyes. "Remember when you joined the tour, how JC was going out with that Robin chick?" Anett sighed. "Well, she’s part of wardrobe now…She’s Sherry’s assistant."

Haley bit her lip. "Okay. And the problem is?"

Justin rolled his eyes. "Anett thinks that JC’s gonna get with her again, and she doesn’t want him to make any mistakes."

"Well, it didn’t work out before, so why would it work now?" Anett asked.

Haley spaced out, looking at the all over Anett’s head. ‘Oh, God. The ex-girlfriend is here now. That’s just great,’ she thought to herself. ‘So. Anett thinks that JC might get back with Robin. What if he does? It’s gonna suck. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’

"Oh, as if. Do you know how much I DO NOT like here?"

Justin put his arm around Anett and kissed her forehead as he stared at something over Haley’s head. "I know, sweetheart. But nothing’s happened yet…" His voice trailed off, his jaw dropping as he stared behind Haley.

"Oh, she did NOT just do that." Anett brought her hand up to her mouth. "What did I say, Justin? Look at them.’

Haley knew she didn’t want to, but she turned around to see what everyone was staring at. Her eyes widened and the colour drained from her face at the sight of JC and a skinny, and very pretty brunette. The girl was hanging off of JC’s arm and smiling up at him. Then, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him gently on his cheek, right next to his lips. She smiled again before saying something (which made JC smile and nod) and she walked over to the other wardrobe people. JC stared after the girl, smiling for a couple of seconds before he clapped his hands together and waked towards the group.

Haley slowly turned around to face her friends.

"Whoa, Hails, you look like you’ve seen a ghost."

Haley smiled weakly at Joey. "No, I’m okay." She cleared her throat. "So. I take it that was Robin?"

Anett nodded. "That was her." She nudged Justin with her elbow. "Nothing’s happened yet, huh?" she said, shaking her head. "Maybe not much, but you know what’s coming," she whispered as JC sauntered up to them.

"Hey guys," JC greeted them with a smile. He looked down at Haley, his smile fading a bit. "Hey, Hails."

Haley nodded, not meeting his gaze. "Hi."

Chris looked between Haley and JC. "SO, JC--"

"Okay, people! I want the guys over here, girls in the other studio," Sam cut Chris off. "Let’s do this fast. We still have to rehearse."

Haley sighed, relieved that she wouldn’t have to face JC. She stood up, ignoring JC, and grabbed Anett’s hand. "Let’s go," she said, pulling her friend towards the smaller studio.

"Um, Hails, I can walk on my own."

Haley rolled her eyes and continued pulling on Anett’s arm until they were inside the smaller studio.

"Well, Haley Maguire, you sure have my attention now." Anett grinned evilly. "So. What’s up with you and JC?"

Haley gave Anett a hard look. "First of all, it’ none of your business." She paused.

"And secondly," Anett continued, her grin growing.

Haley sighed. "It’s REALLY none of your business. So drop it."

Anett giggled. "Ooh, you know it’s really good when you tell em to drop it." She leaned in closer to her friend. "Well, discuss at lunch."

Haley rolled her eyes and turned to Sherry. "We starting soon?"

Sherry nodded at Haley. "Yeah, hun. Go see Robin over there," she said, pointing at the girl who had kissed JC.

"Thank," Haley mumbled as she walked away.

Anett followed behind Haley. "You really suck. You have to work with Robin." She lowered her voice when they were next in line to get fitted. "She’s a severe slut."

Haley smiled, knowing that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t like Robin. Not that she’d given the girl much of a chance.

"Hey, Anett. How are you?" Robin asked, bubbily.

Anett nodded. "Good. You?"

"Oh, I’m great. I’m happy to be back." Robin smiled at Haley. "And you are?"

Haley smiled slightly. "Haley."

Robin’s face lit up. "Oh! Haley. JC was talking about you earlier. You guys had some dance class together?"

Haley bit her lip and nodded. "Yup. We did."

Robin’s face fell with Haley’s abrupt answer. "Cool." She smiled again "Alright. Let’s get you fitted."

Haley followed Robin into the bathroom, leaving Anett with Lisa. Robin quickly took Haley’s measurements, then made Haley change into seven different outfits, writing down necessary adjustments.

"Alright, Haley. That’s all I need from you today," Robin said, walking ahead of Haley into the studio.

Haley rolled her eyes at the back of Robin’s head as she grabbed her sweater. She gestured for Anett to follow her as she walked to the far corner. "Well, I officially cannot stand her," she said, popping a piece of gum into her mouth.
Anett smiled. "Told ya." Anett sat on the counter beside Haley. "So. What happened with you and JC?"

Haley closed her eyes. "Shut it now."

Anett giggled. "I knew something happened. Now I just have to figure out what it was."

Haley nodded thoughtfully. "Huh. Well, good luck," she said, walking away from her. "Cuz you won’t get it out of me."

Anett grinned. "Or so you think."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Um, Hails…can we talk?"

Haley’s heartbeat quickened at the sound of JC’s voice. "Yeah. Sure." She moved over on the bench of the picnic table so he could sit down.

JC smiled slightly as he sat down beside her. "How are you?"

Haley nodded. "Good. I’m okay. You?"

JC nodded. "Pretty good."

They sat in silence for a minute, neither one knowing what to say. Haley picked at the fuzz on her pants, and JC played with a flower from the tree beside them. All Haley could think about was how JC’s leg was touching hers and how yummy he smelled...and looked.

"So," she said, trying to start the conversation.

JC sighed. "Okay. I know last night was…weird for you and me too. It’s just…"

"It just happened," she said slowly, hating herself for saying it, but she had to. "We had a fun night, and it just happened." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "It was one of those things. It meant…" Haley paused, not wanting to lie to him. "It meant nothing."

JC stared at the side of Haley’s face. "Um…yeah… I guess so." He stood up and handed the flower to Haley. "Thanks," he said at her surprised face. "Thanks for being my friend and being honest with me. I’m sorry about last night. But, like you said…" He smiled weakly. "It was nothing, something that…just happened." He opened his mouth to say something else, but changed his mind, shutting his mouth and walked back to the studio, mumbling "See ya" on his way.

Haley closed her eyes to stop the tears. "Well, Maguire, you just fucked up big time." She laughed at herself. "Nothing my ass. Damn! Why am I so stupid? I basically just gave him to Robin…didn’t fight for anything…Just handed him to her on a platter." She looked at the flower in her hand. "You are going to regret what you just did, Haley," she said as she twirled the flower in between her fingers. "You already do…you gave up without a fight."

She took a deep breath and stood up. She walked slowly towards the studio, watching the flower in her hand. "This is going to be a living hell…and you’re the one to blame."

 

Chapter 18

(Friday, January 26th, 2001—Disney Special taping)

"Okay. We go out onto that stage in ten minutes," Sam said to the twenty-five people in front of her. "We need a hundred and fifty percent from everyone. Show that crowd why we’re here!"

The dancers cheered as the five guys that so many people made the trip to Disney World to see left the room to go through their hackey sac routine before the show.

Haley smiled at Lisa. "This rocks so much."

Lisa nodded excitedly. "You got that right."

Haley looked around the backstage area, waiting to be called out to start the show. Her eyes landed on Bobby, who was standing in the corner across from her. She quickly rolled her eyes and turned back to Lisa. "So, Li--" Haley was cut off when a hand covered her mouth.

"Lisa, I need to borrow her for just a minute."

Lisa giggled as Dani pulled her away form Lisa and the others.

"Hey Dani! It’s been a while."

Dani smiled. "Too long. Where’s Chris?"

Haley motioned towards the dressing room. "Hackey."

Dani nodded. "Okay. I’ll just wait and see him after the show."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "Not gonna watch the show? It would make his day to see you out there."

Dani smiled warmly. "Maybe I will," she said, the love she had for Chris shining in her eyes.

"You know you will."

The two women caught up for the next couple of minutes, until Sam called the dancers to her to get ready for the show.

"I’ll see you out there, Hails," Dani said as she walked out with Lonnie, one of the bodyguards.

Sam ushered the dancers to the stage, giving them a pep talk on the way. "And have fun," she added after reminding them of costume changes and certain moves.

The dancers waited behind the curtains for the music to start.

"Hey Haley," Bobby said from behind her.

Haley rolled her eyes. "Hi."

"So…what are you doing after the show?" he asked, leaning towards her. His face went red as the music started and Haley ram onstage without answering him.

Haley had a blast dancing with Joey, and the concert went pretty well. The previous four days of practically non-stop rehearsals were worth it. The crowd loved the show, and they cheered for the dancers during the break-downs.

Haley stretched her legs out on the bus as she waited for the rest of the dancers to board. She closed her eyes, glad to have the next two days off, whole the guys would have to prepare for the Superbowl half-time show, when they were supposed to perform with Aerosmith.

"Haley."

She opened one eye and sighed when she saw Bobby leaning across the aisle. "What?" she asked, closing her eye again.

"You didn’t answer me earlier."

Haley opened both eyes and stared at Bobby. "I have one question. Why would I go with you?"

Bobby grinned as he looked her over. "Why?" His eyes stopped on her legs. "Well, it just seems natural that two very good-looking people would go out together."

The bus shifted and Haley looked up the aisle, a smile forming when she saw Justin and Lance.

"Haley! Let’s go. The guys are all waiting."

Haley smiled at Lance. "Where?"

Justin grinned as he walked down the aisle towards her. "We goin’ clubbing, baby," he said, grabbing her hand. "Come no, everybody’s waiting for you."

Haley grabbed her bag and stood up, allowing Justin to pull her to the front of the bus. "Oh, Bobby," she said, stopping at the door and turning to him. "Granted, you are cute, and I am hot, but why would I go out with you when I have five serious hotties to go out with?" She walked off the bus and ram to Lance’s silver 4X4, leaving Bobby alone on the bus.

She climbed in the back of the truck and smiled at Chris and Dani. "Thank you for saving me."

Justin laughed from the front seat. "What was that all about?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "He had the balls to ask me out."

"Who?" Chris asked.

"Mr. Shit himself, Bobby," Lance said from the driver’s seat as he drove out of the parking lot.

Chris’s jaw dropped. "Bobby asked you out?"

Haley nodded. "He asked me just before we went onstage and I didn’t answer him." She put her seatbelt on. "Then, he asked me again on the bus saying that two good-looking people should naturally go out together."

Justin shook his head. "C, you should have heard her. I told her we were all going clubbing, and she turned to Bobby and said," Justin paused to get the words straight and the voice right. "Sorry, Bobby, but it makes more sense to go out with five hotties than just you."

The truck filled with laughter, and the conversation changed to how the concert had gone. Haley smiled when Chris slipped his arm around Dani and kissed her forehead, and remembered how happy he had been when he saw Dani in the crowd. Haley looked out the window, leaning her head against the cool glass and she watched the cars go by as they drove through Orlando.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Joe, I’m gonna go sit down," Haley yelled at Joey two hours later. Joey nodded and started dancing with the redhead beside him.

Haley smiled and shook her head as she walked to their table. She smiled at Lance, Anett and Justin. "I swear, that boy really is Superman." She sat down beside Anett. "I am so tired," she said, leaning her head against Anett’s shoulder.

Anett laughed and pushed Haley off of her. "But you’re having fun."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Oh, this is great fun." She looked around the club and smiled when she saw JC walking towards them. He waved at her and she waved back, but her smile faded and she stopped mid-wave when he reached his hand behind him and pulled Robin out in front of him. "Oh, God, no," she muttered, sinking down in her seat.

Anett looked up to see what Haley was hiding from, and her face turned bitter. "He just HAD to bring her, didn’t he?"

"Hey, guys. Good show, eh?" JC asked as he reached the table.

Haley forced a smile. "Terrific."

JC pulled the chair beside Haley out for Robin, and Haley rolled her eyes at Anett. JC sat down across form Haley.

"Hey Haley. How are you?"

Haley smiled slightly and nodded. "Good. You?"

JC smiled. "Great."

Haley turned to Robin. "How are you, Robin?"

Robin smiled sweetly. "Couldn’t be better. You looked great out there tonight, Haley."

Haley blushed slightly at the compliment. "Thanks, Robin. It was your work though." And why am I being nice to you? Haley wondered.

Robin giggled. "Well, that’s what I’m paid to do."

Haley nodded and looked at Lance. "Dance, Lance?"

Lance started shaking his head no, but smiled when he was kicked from under the table. "Of course, Hails," he said as he stood up.

Haley walked around the table and grabbe dhis hand, pulling him onto the dance floor. She stopped in the middle of the floor and turned to Lance, slipping her arms around his neck.

Lance sighed. "I take it you don’t like Robin."

Haley shrugged, leaning her head on his shoulder. "I don’t know her well enough."

Lance nodded. "I understand." He paused. "Nice fake being nice to her back there."

Haley looked at Lance sheepishly. "Was I that obvious?"

"Oh, no," he said, spinning her around. "No, I don’t think it was obvious that you practically jumped on your first chance to get away."

Haley blushed slightly. "Oops. My bad."

The song drifted into ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith, and a finger tapped Haley’s shoulder.

"Can I cut in?"

Haley smiled weakly at JC. "Why not?" She turned to Lance. "Thanks, PooFoo."

Lance rolled his eyes as he walked away, making both Haley and JC laugh. JC casually slipped his arms around her waist, and she clasped her arms around his neck, refusing to look into his eyes.

"So. You have fun today?"

Haley nodded. "Great. You?"

JC nodded. "Not gonna complain."

Haley closed her eyes when JC’s cheek rested against hers. ‘Oh, no,’ she thought. ‘Why am I dancing with him?’

"What do you think of Robin?"

Haley mentally kicked her own ass when he asked her the question she knew was going to be asked. "She’s very sweet."

JC chuckled. "That she is." He paused taking a deep breath. "I take it you heard from everybody else about her."

Haley shrugged. "I heard that you went out before I knew you, then I found out that she’s in wardrobe."

JC sighed. "I know Anett doesn’t like her."

It was Haley’s turn to sigh. "Yeah well, she doesn’t wanna see you get hurt." She pulled away as the song ended. "Neither do I." She turned and walked back towards the table.

JC grabbed her arm. "Wait. I think you should know that…" He paused, trying to think of what to say. "We’re back together…me and Robin." He waited for her response.

"Hmm. Good for you." Haley turned again and took a step. "I hope you’re happy," she said, her eyes closed, before making her way back to the table, stopping off at the bar for a drink. Her table was empty when she sat down, something she was thankful for.

"Here’s to stupid mistakes," she said, taking a gulp of her drink. She watched Robin dance with JC, and her tears threatened to be exposed to the world. Haley quickly rubbed her eyes. "No. This is stupid. Don’t think about that." She shook her head. "It’s not gonna happen."

"You always talk to yourself, Haley Maguire?"

Haley rolled her eyes at the voice. "Please tell me that I imagined you saying that."

Bobby laughed as he sat down beside her. "And why is such a beautiful woman sitting alone?" He looked her up and down, smiling at her tight leather pants and tight tank top.

"Just having a drink. And what brought you here?" she asked, crossing her arms.

Bobby shrugged. "Nothing better to do." He smiled at Haley. "Wanna dance?"

Haley shook her head. "No. I’ve been dancing all day."

Bobby nodded. "I see. Well, I’ll just sit here with you." He leaned back in his chair and looked around. "So. Where are those hotties you were going clubbing with?" he asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

Haley pointed towards the dance floor. "Getting jiggy."

Bobby smiled. "And you don’t wanna dance?"

Haley shook her head. "Not in the mood."

He nodded. "Okay." He took a sip from his drink. "So. What do you think of Robin?"

Haley bit her lip to keep Bobby from seeing her reaction. "She’s nice."

"Yeah. And JC really loves her."

Haley shrugged, trying to look unaffected by Bobby’s words. "They have a history."

Anett, Justin and Chris walked over to the table, laughing.
"Hey, Sunshine," Chris said sitting beside her. He looked quizzically at Bobby. "Hello, Bobby." He gave Haley a confused look. "You almost ready to go?" he asked her when she pinched his leg under the table.

Haley looked at her watch. "Yeah, it’s late." She smiled gratefully at Chris as she grabbed her purse. "I’ll see you later, Bobby," she said as the four of them walked away.

Justin went to find the other to tell them they were leaving, while Haley, Anett and Chris walked outside to Haley’s Jetta, Justin meeting them a few minutes later.
"So, what was up with Bobby?" Anett asked as they drove to Justin’s house.

Haley shrugged. "No clue. He scared the shit out of me."

"I think he has a crush on you," Chris said after dropping Anett and Justin off.

Haley shot Chris a confused look as she backed out of the driveway. "Who?"

"Bobby."

Haley shuddered at the thought. "That’s just plain disturbing."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(January 28th, 2001)

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Joey, happy birthday to you!"

Joey smiled as his friends sang him Happy Birthday, a cake with twenty-three candles in front of him. He blew the candles out, leaving three lit. "You are one of those, Hails," he said, grinning at her.

Haley rolled her eyes as the lights were turned on again. "In your dreams."

He raised his eyebrows up and down. "Dreams are supposed to come true on your birthday."

Haley laughed. "Not this one, sweetheart."

The small group waited for the cake, then talked about the earlier performance with Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Nelly and (unfortunately) Britney Spears.

Joey was all smiles. "That was one of my best gifts," he said to the group. "Singing with Aerosmith." He grinned evilly at Haley. "I can only think of one more thing that would be better."

Haley shook her head. "At least you never give up." She gave him a hug. "Happy birthday, Joe."

He sighed as she pulled away. "So I’m not gonna get any action with you?"

Haley giggled. "Not this year." She walked over to Anett, who was talking to Chris and Susan, who came to see Lance. "Hello."

Anett smiled. "Joey’s still charming ya, eh?"

Haley nodded. "Yep. He’s persistent." She bit her lip as Britney walked past them. She shook her head. "I can’t believe she wore a sock on her arm."

Anett giggled. "Well, she’s a special person. Let it go."

Chris shook his head. "You guys are rude."

Joey bounced over to them. "You ready to go yet?" he asked impatiently. He stared at Haley. "I hope you’re ready to party, because I’m looking forward to getting down with you."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "Oh, I hope you can handle me, Big Boy."

* * * * * * * * * * * * "Hey, Haley." Robin sat down beside Haley, who was resting before dancing with Joey.

Haley smiled slightly at the other woman. "Hi, Robin. You having a good time?"

Robing nodded. "This is great. I really missed the guys," she said, watching them on the dance floor.

Haley nodded. "I know. I love being around them."

Robin smiled as she watched JC dance with Lisa. "You know, this past week has been amazing. I mean, I have my best friend back with me, and I love him more than ever." She sighed. "Our love didn’t die, and I know now that it never will."

Haley looked away as she rolled her eyes. "I hope you two are happy." Which was half-true. She wanted JC to be happy, but not with Robin.

Robin giggled. "Never been happier."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Monday January 29th, 2001)

Haley stared at her ceiling. "I hate her. She doesn’t deserve him." She laughed at herself. "And like I do. I freaking lied to him! I pretty much let her have him." She covered her face with her blanket. "Then again, I don’t know how he really felt either. I made up excuses before I realized what I was doing. Maybe he never had any feelings for me, so I really didn’t give him to her."

Haley uncovered her face and sat up. "Could I be a bigger moron? Why did I lie to him?" She rolled her eyes. "Duh. Cuz he looked really happy with Robin. So I got stupid. Never have been very smart when it comes to love," she said, throwing her feet over the side of the bed. She slipped her feet into her fuzzy bunny slippers and stood up, walking towards her bedroom window. She opened her curtains. "Holy shit!" she yelled when the sun poured into the room, blinding her.

"I am pathetic," she mumbled, walking into her bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror and leaned against the sink, staring into her blue eyes. "You know, this really sucks," she said to her reflection. "You may have had a chance to at least try something with JC, and you passed it up because of another woman." She shook her head. "Another stupid woman. The only thing she had over you was her bloody history with him."

A tear slid down Haley’s cheek. She wiped it away quickly, then washed her face. "You know what sounds good?" she asked Sniffy as she dried her face. "How ‘bout a bus runs Robin over, going eighty miles an hour?" She smiled evilly at the thought before she shook her head, trying to get rid of the idea. "That’s wrong, Maguire. Don’t think about killing her. It’s not healthy."

RING! RING!

Haley sighed as she walked into the living room. "Better be good. You’re interrupting my pity party for one." She rolled her eyes when she looked at the Caller ID before answering the phone on the third ring. "Seriously, it’s my day off, and I just wanna relax, Sam."

Sam laughed over the phone. "I’m good, you?"

Haley sat down on the couch. "Yeah, yeah. I’m just hunky dory. What do you want?"

Sam sighed. "I guess it’s not a good time for you. Sorry I bugged you."

Haley smiled. "Don’t worry. I won’t kill you. What’s up?"

"Just wanted to say hi. You didn’t look too happy last night."

Haley sighed. "I wasn’t."

Sam paused. "You don’t like her, do you?"

Haley giggled nervously. "It’s not obvious, is it?"

"No, not really." Sam paused again. "I don’t blame you at all. I mean, I don’t want JC to get hurt again, and it’s inevitable." She sighed. "I just…I’ve never liked her, and I never will. I can’t like or respect anyone that hurts one of my boys,"

Haley smiled, a tear sliding down her cheek. "I know, Sam. I know. I just wish that he was with someone who would never hurt him, someone who would do anything in her power to keep anything from hurting him."

Pause. "Like who?"

Haley closed her eyes. "Not her."

 

 

Chapter 19

(Wednesday January 31st, 2001)

"Hey, Justin!"

Justin turned to face Anett, a gorgeous smile on his face. "Hey, sweetcheeks."

Anett brought a Polaroid camera to her face and snapped a picture of her boyfriend. "Hi. Havin' a good time?"

He grabbed Anett's hand and pulled her to his body. "It just got better," he said, leaning his head down to touch his lips to hers.

"Oh, get a room." Haley laughed as she walked by the couple. "I know it's his birthday but..." She trailed off as she reached the dance floor area of the banquet hall they had rented out for Justin's birthday. And, at the birthday boy's request, no press was allowed inside.

Haley made her way through the crowd to dance with Joey. "Hey, good looking."

Joey grinned and moved closer to her, ignoring the blonde that had been hanging off of him. "Hey gorgeous! When'd you get here?"

Haley shrugged. "Like twenty minutes ago." She motioned to the girl behind him. "I think you pissed her off."

Joey shrugged, a grin on his face. "She'll come back later. They always do," he said, raising his eyebrows at Haley.

She laughed. "If telling yourself that makes you feel better, then go ahead. I'm not going to stop you."

"Ha, ha."

The song drifted into 'Kiss From A Rose' (Seal), and Joey grinned evilly at Haley.

"You up for a dance with me?"

Haley smiled and slipped her arms around his neck. "I don't know, Joe. Will I be able to control myself?"

Joey chuckled as his arms wrapped around her. "I can't guarantee that."

Haley smiled and rested her forehead against Joey's cheek. "I've been kissed by a rose on the grave," she sang quietly as she watched the couples around her dance.

"Still thinking about that kiss?"

Haley's eyes fell on JC and Robin. She felt a pang of jealousy when Robin laughed at something JC said, and she pulled his head down to hers, kissing him. "You have no idea," she whispered.

The song ended, and Haley went in search of Justin, to wish him a happy birthday. She found him talking to Anett and Trace, one of his old friends. "Hey," she said as she joined them.

Justin smiled. "Hey yourself."

Haley smiled at Trace. "Hey, T. How are ya?"

Trace nodded, looking Haley over. "Not bad. You?" he asked with a smile.

Haley nodded. "It's all good." She turned to Justin. "So. You're twenty."

Justin nodded, taking a sip of his 'punch' (still not legal.). "And?"

Haley grinned evilly. "Are you ready for your gift?"

Justin raised one eyebrow. "Okay," he said cautiously.

Haley turned to Anett. "Can I do it, Namett?"

Anett chewed on her lip. "I'd rather you didn't."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Come on. It's not all that bad."

"Um...What the hell are you two talking about?"

Haley turned to Justin. "Your gift." She looked at Anett. "This is the only chance I'll have. Please?"

Anett sighed and grabbed Justin's hands. "Hun, I apologize now." She kissed his cheek and walked away. "I can't believe I just did that."

Haley grinned at Trace. "This is gonna rock." She grabbed Justin's hand and pulled him towards the stage with the DJ...and karaoke machine. "You sit here," she said, pushing Justin onto a folding chair in the middle of the stage.

"Um, Hails, I don't know if I'm gonna like this," he said nervously as Haley talked to the DJ and grabbed a microphone.

Haley smiled at Justin. "Just sit there, looking pretty. I'll do the rest." She turned to the crowd and brought the mic to her face. "Okay. I need everyone's attention now." She waited until all eyes were on her before smiling at the crowd. "Alright. As you all know, today is a certain hottie's birthday. Justin's twenty now, so my gift to him is special. I ask for your patience, and feel free to applaud at any time." She turned to Justin. "Please don't hate me for this, J. It's done out of love," she whispered before nodding at the DJ, who started the music.

Haley winked at Justin when he realized what song it was and he shook his head in disbelief. She smiled as she brought the mic to her face. "Me with the floor show, kickin' with your torso, boys getting high and the girls even more so," she 'sang' in her best Robbie Williams impression. "Can I kick it?"

She stuck the mic in Justin's face and he closed his eyes. "Yes you can," he said into the mic.

"I got."

He sighed. "Funk."

"You got."

"Soul."

"We got."

"Everybody."

"I got the gift, gonna stick it in the goal, it's time to move your body." She sang the rest of the hook pulling Justin to his feet. "I don't wanna rock, DJ," she sang, thrusting her hip to the right, nudging Justin gently. "But you're making me feel so nice." She thrusted to the left, winking at Justin. "I don't wanna stop, DJ, cuz you're keeping me up all night."

Haley pushed Justin back into the chair and sang the second verse. "Singin' in the classes, music for your masses." She stuck the mic in his face again.

He closed his eyes, a smile on his face. "Give no head, no backstage passes."

The crowd laughed and Haley finished the verse, walking over to the DJ's table, where he handed her another microphone. She walked back to Justin and handed him the mic. She pulled him to his feet again as the chorus started.

"I don't wanna rock, DJ," they sang together, both thrusting their hips to the right, then the left, to the right again, and the left. After they went through the chorus again, Haley patted Justin's shoulder. "Alright! I'm gonna let Justin take over. He's the funniest during this part!" She winked at Justin and stepped back.

He shook his head and smiled, the mic at his face again. "Pimpin' ain't easy, some of them fleece me every night. Pimpin' ain't easy, but if you're sellin' it..."

Haley slid up next to Justin to help with the harmonies. "Sellin' it, sellin' it!"

"It's alright." Justin laughed and put his arm around Haley's waist as they sang the last chorus together. They bowed for the cheering audience, and he turned to Haley. "Well, I thought that we only did that when we were bored, but thank you for embarrassing me the crap out of me, Hails," he said, hugging her. "I'll remember this when I'm thinking about your birthday present."

Haley laughed and kissed his cheek. "Ooh, big threat from a little man."

Justin's jaw dropped and he followed Haley off the stage. "You know, I am SO going to remember that the next time you need my help."

Haley nodded. "Sure. Good plan." She smiled at him and walked onto the dance floor. An arm slid around her waist and pulled her to a strong body.

"So. You really wanna get backstage? Cuz, you know, I'd be more than willing..."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Wow, Joe. You've never been that blunt with me. I'm beginning to think you're seriously coming onto me."

He laughed in her ear, turning her around to face him. "Yeah, that was kinda out of character for me. I apologize."

Haley smiled. "No need for it. You're keeping me on my toes."

Joey nodded. "Good job up there."

She sighed. "I had to embarrass the guy."

They danced for a couple of songs before Haley sat down at their table. She took a sip of water before she leaned back in her chair, rubbing her head.

"Hey, Haley. Good job."

Haley smiled at Robin as she sat down. "Hey. Thanks."

Robin nodded and smiled. "You're great with the guys."

Haley shrugged. "They're five of my best friends. I have to be great with them."

Robin nodded again, watching the dance floor. "I used to be really close to the guys. But, when JC and I broke up, they kinda all shut me out." She sighed and smiled a little. "But now I have him back, and the guys are back in my life. I couldn't ask for more."

Haley nodded. "So. Now you have not only your loving boyfriend back, but your best friends too?"

Robin bit her lip at Haley's sharpness. "Yeah, I guess," she said slowly.

Haley stared at Robin for a minute before standing up. "I'm sorry, but you must be one of the...stupidest people I know. You not only let your best friend, and four of your close friends go, but the man you loved too." She shook her head. "I have no respect for you right now." She took a few steps away from the table before she stopped and turned back to a confused Robin. "And, so you know, if you ever hurt him again, in any way, I will be seeing you again."

She walked onto the dance floor again, leaving Robin alone at the table, her jaw hanging open. She pushed her way past the couples dancing and was walking towards the door going outside when JC grabbed her hand.

"Where you going?"

Haley swallowed the lump in her throat and forced a smile. "Outside."

JC smiled. "I kinda figured that. You wanna dance with me instead?"

Haley but her lip, knowing she couldn't say no to him. "Yeah."

JC nodded and pulled her onto the dance floor, his arms encircling her waist. "The song was really good."

Haley smiled weakly. "Thanks. I tried."

JC sighed in Haley's ear. "You know, I really wanted to apologize for...that night after the recital."

Haley closed her eyes, wishing her would drop it. "You don't need to, Jace. It's done. Don't worry."

JC sighed again. "I know. It's just..."

"JC, it's cool, okay?" she said, staring at him.

JC stared back at her and finally nodded. "Yeah, okay."

Haley smiled and rested her forehead against his cheek, her eyes closed. A tear formed in her eye and slid down her cheek. She wiped it away quickly, and opened her eyes to see Robin walking towards them, staring at Haley.

Haley pulled away from JC when Robin tapped him on the shoulder. "Well, I'm gonna let you guys dance. I'll see you later." She walked away before JC could protest. When she reached the door, she looked back and saw the pair dancing and talking. She shook her head and walked outside. She waved at a couple of people as she made her way over to the pool. She slipped out of her strapless heels and sat down, dipping her feet in the water. She sighed, leaning her elbows on her thighs, and rested her head in her hands. "I am sucking major crap right now," she said to herself.

"I don't think that sucking major crap is very healthy."

Haley turned to face JC. "Yeah, well, I really do suck."

JC laughed and took his shoes and socks off. He rolled his pants up and sat down beside her, his feet in the water next to hers. "And why do you suck?"

Haley sighed. "Because I'm a complete moron. Leave it there."

JC nodded. "Okay." He paused, looking at his hands. "Can I ask what you said to Robin?"

Haley closed her eyes and kicked her feet in the water. "I told her she was stupid for letting you go before, and that if she hurts you again, I will be paying her a visit."

"So she wasn't exaggerating."

Haley giggled. "I didn't mean to be a total bitch, but I tell ya." She looked at JC. "I will get back at her if she hurts you again."

JC smiled. "Thanks. It's good to have you on my side, even if you are threatening my...girlfriend."

Haley nodded and watched the water move with the wind. "Jace, are you happy?"

JC nodded slowly. "Yeah, I am."

Haley nodded again, a tear forming in her eye. "Good for you." She stood up and shook her feet off before sliding her feet into her shoes.

JC stood up beside her. "Are YOU happy?"

Haley looked up from her shoes and focused on his forehead. "Uh...not really, but I'll survive." She smiled weakly and turned away walking back towards the building.

JC followed a few steps behind her. "What's wrong?" he asked, grabbing her arms.

Haley closed her eyes and slowly turned to face him. "It doesn't matter anymore, JC."

"Why not?" he asked, confused.

Haley took a deep breath. "I made a huge mistake, and now I'm paying for it." She shrugged his hand off of her and turned back to the banquet hall.

"What mistake, Haley?"

She turned to face him again, a tear sliding down her cheek. "It doesn't matter. I can't take it back, and I hate myself for it." She wiped the tear away and refused to look him in the eye.

"There you are, Josh."

Haley's eyes widened when she heard Robin's voice. She looked at JC and shook her head. "Please don't worry about it. It's my problem, I'll deal with it. Just...go have fun with her. I mean, she's the one who’s so God damned thrilled to have her best friend back. Go make her happy." She turned away so she wouldn't see the hurt and confused look on JC's face, and in his eyes. She walked over to Robin and stopped in front of her. "I'm sorry if I scared you before. I didn't mean to be a complete bitch. I just wanted you to know that he in a hell of a guy, and I will see if you hurt him again."

Robin raised her eyebrows. "You're awfully protective of him. You guys ever have something going on?"

Haley smirked. "A, that's none of your business, and B, he also happens to be one of my best friends, too. You hurt him, I'm a bitch. As JC puts it so well, payback is a bitch." She pushed past Robin, said good night to Justin and the guys and walked outside to the parking lot. She walked to her Jetta and pulled the keys out of her purse.

"Haley, wait. Don't go."

Haley rolled her eyes. "JC, it's been a long day, and I'm tired. Leave me alone." She unlocked the door and slid into the driver's seat, slamming the door shut behind her. She shoved the key in the ignition and groaned when the passenger door opened and JC sat down next to her.

"What part of leave me alone did you choose to ignore?"

JC sighed and stared at Haley, his blue eyes boring into hers. "What aren't you telling me? Why do you not like Robin?"

Haley pulled her eyes away from his and rested her forehead on the steering wheel. "I don't wanna see you hurt, Jace. And I'm afraid she's gonna do it."

JC smiled weakly. "I know you feel that way, and I thank you for it." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Please, look at me."

Haley sighed and turned her head towards him slowly, bringing her eyes to meet his.

He smiled again. "But don't worry about me. It feels better just knowing you're on my side."

Haley nodded. "That's right, JC. I'm the ever reliable best friend, always there for you to cry on." She turned away from him, the fresh tears in her eyes blurring her vision. "I'm glad you can think of me like that."

"What's wrong with you?" JC asked, a worried look on his face. "You've turned into a bitch around Robin, and you're constantly spitting out bull shit." He shook his head. "You're fucking scaring me, Hails. You used to talk to me, but now..."

"Oh, cry me a fucking river!" She yelled at him. "Just....get the fuck away from me, please! I need to think."

JC nodded slowly and got out of the car, leaving Haley alone.

Chapter 20

(Wednesday Feb. 7th/01 @ Studio)

"Why did Justin want you to bring him a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Mountain Dew?"

Anett shrugged her shoulders. "No clue. Who cares? If the boy is happy, then he'll record the song faster, and then I spend more time with him." She smiled at Haley as the elevator doors opened. "It works for me."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Well, that makes perfect sense to me." She reluctantly stepped out of the elevator, playing with the sleeves of her cardigan as they walked towards the recording studio.

Anett sighed, stopping Haley outside the room in which the guys were recording material for the new album. "You haven't talked to him yet?" She rolled her eyes when Haley shook her head. "Why not?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders as she leaned against the wall. "I don't know. Maybe because I don't want to?"

Anett shook her head in disbelief. "Well, he's in there. You gonna be a baby, or are you gonna go in there?"

Haley took a deep breath. "I'll come. Gonna have to face him some time."

Anett nodded and knocked on the door before she pulled Haley in beside her. "Hello, boys. We are here to save your asses from the young one's constant whining."

The guys smiled at Anett, and looked at each other worriedly when they saw Haley.

"Hey guys," she said, a smile on her face.

"Hey Haley," Lance said before shooting a nervous glance at JC.

Haley followed his gaze and she swallowed nervously. "Hey, Jace."

JC nodded. "Hello."

The others watched this greeting in silence, then exchanged worried looks. Chris caught Haley's eyes and motioned towards JC.

Haley sighed and looked back at JC, who had turned back to the papers in front of him. "Um...JC, could I talk to you? Please?"

JC stared thoughtfully at her for a few seconds before he nodded. He pushed his chair away from the table and stood up. He walked past her and out the door.

Haley closed her eyes, hating herself for upsetting him that much. She gave the others a nervous look before she headed out the door behind JC. She joined him in the elevator and was grateful for the two other occupants, some management people. They rode the elevator down to the studio and Haley had to practically run to keep up with JC. He led her into the dance studio and he leaned against the mirror, staring at her.

Haley sat down on the bench across from him and looked anywhere but in his eyes. "Okay. I know I've been kind of...ignoring you this past week, but I needed time to think." She played with the sleeves of her cardigan again. "See, I'm sorry about what I said to you. It's just..."

"You can't talk to me anymore?" he cut in. "Dammit, Haley! Why not? Did that kiss change you that much?" He walked towards her and sat beside her, his eyes gentle as he looked into hers. "God, if I did this to you, I'm sorry, Haley. I am so sorry."

Haley stared at JC. "Actually, yes, it's about the kiss. Why did it happen?"

JC ran a hand through his hair. "It was just one of those things. It happened. That's what you said."

Haley nodded. " Guess I did." She stood up and walked towards the door. She leaned against it and turned to JC. "I'm sorry I've changed, JC. And I'm sorry about what I said to you, and Robin. Please, just don't bug me about not being the person you're used to having around. I just really need some time to think." She turned and walked out the door, leaving JC alone, with no choice but to do what his friend asked.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Friday Feb. 9th/01 @ Justin's house)

"Please, God, do not let Robin be here. I can't stand being around her, and I don't wanna upset JC because I'm a bitch." Haley sighed and grabbed her sweater, purse and car keys. She stepped out of her car and the shut the door with a groan when Robin pulled up in the driveway behind her. "You know, not all unanswered prayers are what we really want." She nodded at Robin and walked into the house.

"Haley! How are ya?"

Haley smiled at Lance. "I'm good. You?"

Lance nodded from the chair. "Terrific."

Haley nodded and looked around the room. She saw JC reading a magazine, and she gave the others a weak smile before she took a deep breath and stepped towards the man that was ignoring her. "Um...Jace?" she said nervously.

JC raised an eyebrow, but didn't look up from his magazine. "Hmm?"

Haley sighed. "Okay. I know you're kind of upset but..."

"Okay! I'm here! Oh, I am so excited."

Haley closed her eyes and threw herself onto the couch beside Joey. "This is gonna be a long night."

Joey put this arm around her shoulders as Robin walked into the living room. "Don't worry. I'll help you through it," he whispered in her ear.

Haley rested her head on Joey's shoulder and closed her eyes when Robin kissed JC. "I hope I make it."

As the group got ready for the special to air, Haley kept one eye on JC and Robin, and she noticed he wasn't being affectionate to Robin, although she was leaning on him, touching him and whispering in his ear. Robin was clearly getting frustrated with JC, and she caught Haley's eye, giving her an evil look. Haley rolled her eyes and stood up. She walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table, gazing out at the pool in Justin's huge back yard.

"Oh. I didn't know you came in here."

Haley smiled weakly at JC. "Here I am."

JC nodded, his blue eyes staring at hers. "Yeah." He opened the fridge door and reached in, his back to Haley. He came back out with two Sprites, and he turned to Haley. "It's on in a couple minutes."

Haley nodded. "Thanks. I'll be right out."

JC nodded and turned away, walking back into the living room.

Haley slapped her forehead when he was gone. "Stupid! God, Haley, just apologize already."

"Talkin' to yourself again." Chris shook his head as he walked to the table leaning over Haley. "Just go talk to him. You'll feel better."

Haley sighed and allowed Chris to pull her onto her feet. "Easier said than done. I pissed him off and I don't know how to fix it."

Chris smiled as he slid his arm around her shoulders. "Yes, you do. He'll listen to what you have to say," he said, guiding her into the living room.

She nodded and smiled thankfully before sitting beside Joey on the couch.

"Oh, shit," Robin said, pulling her pager from her pocket. "Damn, Jace, I gotta go. Sarah got into a fight with her boyfriend, and I told her to page me if she really needed me." She kissed JC slowly, knowing Haley was watching. "I'm sorry, hun. Walk me out?"

JC nodded and walked her out to her car.

Haley took a breath when they were out of the room. "Oh, thank you Lord. You just saved me." She smiled at the group as they stared at her. "You know what I'm talking about."

The all nodded and went back to their conversations. Joey moved from beside Haley on the loveseat to the chair that JC had been sitting in, leaving Haley alone. JC walked into the house and rolled his eyes when he noticed that the only empty spot was beside Haley. He sat down on the opposite end, avoiding her.

Chris smiled. "It's on soon." He noticed the papers in Haley's lap and strained his neck to see them. "What's that, Hails?"

Haley rolled her eyes and folded the paper over so he couldn't see it. "Mine, not yours. Go away."

Chris shook his head and turned back to Dani. Haley sighed and went back to doodling on the paper.

"Could I borrow a piece? And a pen?"

Haley raised her eyebrows at JC. "Sure," she said, handing him the paper and a pen.

JC nodded in thanks and went to writing. Haley shook her head, puzzled, and focused on the special. During the first commercial break, JC continued writing while the rest of the group criticized the performances so far. He stopped writing during the actual special, and continued during the commercials.

During the third commercial break, JC folded his paper in half and held it in his lap. When the special came on again, he leaned towards Haley and dropped the paper in her lap. She looked at him, confused, and he nodded, pointing at the paper. She swallowed nervously as she picked it up and unfolded it.

Haley,

Well, I'm not positive where exactly I'm going with this. I know I want you to know that I'm not upset for what you said to Robin. It makes me feel good knowing that you would stand up for me like that...even if you did scare the crap out of her.

Now. I've been thinking this past week, and I'm lost. I don't know why you're acting strange, or why you're not telling me the truth, or at least what you're feeling. How am I supposed to be your friend and help you through your problems if you don't talk to me?

I just want to know how to help you through this. Tell me why you're different around me, and then, if you're up to it, we'll talk about Robin and what you don't like about her.

Please, let me help you.

Josh

Haley reread the note, biting her lip. She turned the paper over and grabbed her pen, not looking at JC, although she knew he was staring at her. She took a deep breath before putting the pen to the paper, letting the words flow onto the paper to read.

Jace,

I am so sorry about scaring Robin. I just get really protective of my friends. I'll do anything I can to stop them from being hurt.

As for how I've been acting...See, I was talking to Robin, and she was saying how happy she was to have her best friend back. Well, you know what I said to that. I just don't believe that she deserves you after what she's done to you - if she was that hurtful then, what makes you think she's not anymore?

When we kissed that night, I got totally confused - I didn't know why it happened, and I still don't. I was kind of worried that our friendship would change, and I think that's why I've been weird with you.

I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused you, or if I confused you.

Forgive me?

Haley

Haley sighed and folded that note again, and she slowly slid her hand across the couch, so she wouldn't attract any attention to herself. JC's hand slid down his thigh to the couch to take the note. His fingers gently brushed against hers, sending shivers through her body. She quickly pulled her hand away, and she blushed when she saw him smile slightly at her reaction.

She tried to focus on the TV as he read the note and began writing again. Oh, God. What is he writing now? Grr! What if he hates me for what I wrote? Damn...I can't stand this. He is too damn cute…

JC poked Haley's leg with his pen and smiled when she looked at him. He handed her another note, then turned to answer Dani's question about the special. Haley opened the note and smiled as she read his words.

Hails,

I know you were confused, maybe you still are, and I am SO sorry. I never want our friendship to change - it's one of the best things in my life, and I don't wanna lose you. You need to know that you can talk to me about anything.

As for Robin...again, I thank you for caring about me that much, but I can deal with her alone. I just want you to be there for me if it happens.

And, of course, I forgive you.

Jace

Haley smiled, a tear threatening to escape. She wiped it away, and looked at JC. "Thank you, JC," she whispered.

He smiled at her, then slid closer to her and slipped his arm around her shoulders. "Don't be afraid to talk to me. You mean too much to me, and I don't wanna lose this."

Haley nodded against his shoulder, happy to have him back...even though she didn't have what Robin had.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(February 9thy/01 on Plane)

"Psst...Haley."

Haley shook her head against the plane window. "Nope. I'm asleep."

Lance laughed as he sat in the seat beside her. "Well, it's time to talk to me."

A blue eye opened and stared at her visitor. "About..." she said slowly.

Lance turned and looked at Haley, his green eyes staring at her. "You."

Haley raised an eyebrow, then closed her eye, snuggling closer to the window. "Okay."

Lance paused, still staring at his friend. "Actually, it's about you and your love life."

"Ha!" Haley opened her eyes and stared back at Lance. "Or lack there of?"

Lance smiled. "Whatever."

Haley waited for him to go on, and rolled her eyes when he just sat there and grinned at her. "Anything specific?"

Lance shrugged his shoulders and leaned his head back on the head rest. "Well, yes." His eyes twinkled mischievously, and the corners of his mouth raised slightly. "What happened between you and JC that night after the recital?"

Haley's eyes widened and her cheeks grew red before she could stop herself. She closed her eyes and lifted her sweater over her head so he couldn't see her. "What are you talking about, Lance?"

Lance laughed and pulled the sweater down, so he could look at her. He forced here to look at him, and he frowned at the tears in her eyes. "Okay....I guess that justified my feeling that something happened." He grinned evilly when she turned to face the window again. "Oh, you know I'm gonna get it out of you, so you may as well just tell me and get it over with."

Haley bit her lip, searching her mind for an excuse...explanation...anything. "Well, since you had a feeling, why don't you share it with me, and I'll let you know how close you are."

Lance nodded and leaned into the aisle. He rolled his eyes when he saw Robin and JC cuddling together at the front of the plane. "Well," he said, lowering his voice so only Haley could hear him, "I was talking with the young'un the next day, and he said something about JC answering the phone really flustered, and pissy, and then asking you not to leave."

Haley shrugged her shoulders, not looking directly at Lance. "And the significance of that is..."

Lance chuckled at Haley's attempt of not cracking in front of him. "You two are definitely attracted to each other, and I think that you two had a bit of...more than just friends interaction."

Haley nodded, frustrated that he could figure this out. "Hmm. And what sort of interaction are you talking about?"

"I'd say you kissed, no tongue though, and there may have been hands putting on some miles."

Haley's head turned sharply, her eyes connecting with Lance's. "Who have you told?" she asked, her voice a hoarse whisper.

Lance grinned and put his arm around her. "I've talked to Justin and Joey about it, but we haven't mentioned it to Chris."

Haley sighed. "Thanks. I don't know how he'd take it." She leaned her head back against Lance's arm. "I made a huge mistake, Lance."

He rubbed her arm absently with his hand, cursing JC for getting back with Robin, knowing how hurt Haley must be. "Yeah, but we can fix it."

Haley shook her head. "Not really. I lied about how I felt, and now he's back with her."

Lance sighed. "So you're not gonna tell him that you're in love with him?"

Haley closed her eyes to keep the tears in. "I don't know if I can."

 

 

Chapter 21

(Tues. Feb. 13/01 - in Hawaii)

Haley adjusted the sunglasses on her face as she flipped over onto her back, soaking in the sun. "Anett, why did we wait this long to discover Hawaii?"

Anett giggled from beside Haley. "We must have been crazy. We are so coming back here after the tour." She sat up and watched the guys playing frisbee on the beach. "But can we leave Joey at home? It's kind of embarrassing when he strikes out so much." She covered her face when she saw a blond in a hot pink bikini turned and walked away from Joey.

Haley shook her head and closed her eyes. "Does he ever give up? I don't know how he can get rejected over and over again and STILL go after another girl."

Anett giggled. "The world is full of mysteries."

The pair settled back into the sand, both determined to have killer tans by the time they left for the tour. They watched the guys on the beach, and Haley giggled when Chris dove into the sand, trying to catch the frisbee. An object blocked the sun a few minutes later and Haley shook her head no before anything was said.

"I am here to relax, have fun, and be lazy. Get out of my sun," she said without opening her eyes.

"Possessive, aren't ya?"

Haley grinned up at Justin. "Yes I am. Now get out of the way before I make you sing like Chris."

Justin nodded. "Threat understood," he said, stepping to the side. "You sure you just wanna lay around all afternoon? I mean, here we are in Hawaii with a frisbee on the beach...we could use some skills, and you two have them." He grinned at them while nudging Anett's leg with his foot. "You can pretend the frisbee's Robin's head."

Haley threw her sunglasses on the towel and stood up, wiping the sand off her body. "We're game."

Anett rolled her eyes as Justin pulled her to her feet. "My God, woman. Just tell the man how you feel. He'd get rid of her in a freakin' heartbeat."

Haley shook her head as she walked towards the guys. "It's not gonna happen, so drop it." She sauntered up to the group. "Hello, boys. Let's get the party started."

Joey looked Haley up and down, a smile on his face. "Damn, girl! I knew you were hot, but..." His voice trailed off when Chris threw the frisbee at Joey's stomach. "Sorry."

Haley smiled. "Thanks, Joe." She turned to the rest of the group. "So....Who's my date for tomorrow?"

Lance grinned as he slipped his arm around her waist. "That'd be me. Cuz, you know, the taken ones are taking their masters, I mean, girlfriends," he said with a smile, "and Joey somehow got Lisa to go with him, so I claimed you."

Haley raised her eyebrows. "Claimed?"

Lance shrugged his shoulders. "You know what I mean. JC got you for the recital, so I wanted you for this."

Haley crossed her arms across her chest as she turned to face Lance. "JC got me?"

Lance rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean."

Haley nodded slowly and turned to Chris. "Let's play some frisbee before Lance shoves both feet in his mouth."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Wed. Feb. 14/01)

"I can't believe this is our last night here," Anett whined as she finished applying her makeup. "And stupid Robin just had to come to be with Jace...Stupid Valentine's Day."

Haley rolled her eyes as she rubbed perfume on her neck. "Get over it. You'll be too busy with Justin to worry about her." She stood behind Anett and smiled into the mirror. "I'll have Lance to talk to. He'll keep me from knocking her out." There was a knock at the door and Haley smiled. "Cuz, you know, he claimed me and all."

Haley walked over to the door to the suite she was sharing with Anett at the resort in Hawaii, a vacation for everyone in the show before severe practicing and rehearsals started. Jive paid for the getaway and Haley was more than content with spending four days in Hawaii.

She smiled at Lance and Justin, both in tuxedoes. "Hello, 'N Sync boys." She opened the door wider and smiled as they stared at her. "Yes, I know I am the shit, but feel free to remind me."

Justin grinned. "Not bad, Maguire." He looked at Anett, and his eyes took in her strapless black gown, and her hair curled and pulled back with baby's breath. "Girl, you manage to do it every time." He walked to her and gently caressed her cheek. "You are the most beautiful angel to bless my eyes." He kissed her lightly. "I love you, Anett. And I always will. Thank you for being here with me."

Haley blinked back the tears in her eyes and turned to Lance. "Well, thanks for claiming me Lance. I'm glad you're my date."

Lance chuckled and put his arm around her bare shoulders. "I know I'm not the one you want, but I'm here for a good time."

Haley sighed as she watched Anett and Justin. "Just keep me away from you know who, and I'll love you for life."

Lance grinned. "Sounds good." He pulled away form her and looked her up and down, letting out a quiet whistle. "Damn, Haley. You know Joey's gonna be all over you tonight." he shook his head as he looked her over. "But you're with me. I'm gonna LOVE showing you off."

Haley rolled her eyes as she grabbed her purse. "Have fun. Let's go, lovers. I'm gonna need some serious alcohol to keep me sane." She grabbed Lance's hand and pulled him out the door. "Let's get a head start."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"And I would do anything for love, but I won't do that," Lance sang quietly into Haley's ear as they danced together at the club at the resort. "No I won't do that."

Haley smiled and rested her cheek on his shoulder, her arms tucked around his neck. "And what is your that?"

Lance chuckled. "If I tell ya, I have to kill ya."

Haley rolled her eyes. "Now, THAT was original." She sighed and let her eyes wander around the room. "You don't know? Or you won't tell me?"

"Don't know yet," he said after a pause. "You?"

Haley gasped when her eyes fell upon JC and Robin dancing, and JC's eyes ran into hers. She held his gaze, unable to break it, and her heart beat faster when he wouldn't look away. She held her breath under his intense glare, and she held herself back from running to him and showing him how much she loved him.

JC continued to stare at Haley, and he didn't understand what he saw in her. She was absolutely beautiful to him, and he was seeing more and more every day how much she meant to him, and that alone confused the crap out of him.

"Josh."

JC bit his lip and reluctantly broke away from Haley's gaze. He looked at Robin and tried to focus on her. "Yeah," he said, looking over her head at Lance and Haley, and his eyes met Lance's before he looked back down at Robin, thinking about what he saw in Lance's eyes.

Robin slowly turned in JC's arms and noticed Haley and Lance dancing together. She waved at Haley before she turned around again and kissed JC fully on the lips, knowing Haley was watching. She pulled away, breaking the kiss, and smiled at JC before wrapping her arms around him again and resting her head on his shoulder.

JC sighed and held her to his body. He looked up and, when his eyes met with Haley's, he felt a pang of guilt when he saw her wipe a tear form her cheek. Oh, God! What am I doing? What' s happening with me? Why the hell do I feel this guilty about kissing my girlfriend?

Haley sighed as she wiped the tear away. "Alright, PooFoo," she said. "I've had enough crap for tonight. She was all over him at dinner, she managed to squeeze her way between us in that group picture earlier, and now she is stinking her tongue down his throat." She grabbed Lance's hand and pulled him towards the bar. "It's time to have some fun." She grinned at Lance. "And you're paying."

After three rum and cokes, Haley was having a good time, forgetting about Robin. She had a good time dancing with Joey and Chris, and she managed to stay away from JC all night.

"You know what?" Haley asked as she and Lance sat on the beach.

"Hmm...What?"

Haley sighed as she dug her feet into the sand, looking out over the ocean. "My that...I would never jeopardize the person I love's happiness or relationships just so I'm happier. That's my that." She threw some sand behind her.

"Damn. First you ignore me all night, now you're throwing sand at me."

Haley's eyes widened at JC's voice. "Well...shit happens."

JC sighed and sat down beside her, taking his coat off. "That it does."

Lance rolled his eyes at the awkward silence that followed and he squeezed Haley's hand as he stood up. "Well," he said, wiping the sand off his butt. "I wanna go talk to Meredith, so I'll be back in a while." He walked away before either of his friends could say anything.

Haley ran her hands through the sand and buried her feet, not sure what she wanted to say to JC.

"You having a good time here?"

Haley nodded. "This is what I'm gonna miss the most," she said softly, her eyes taking in the ocean, the beach, the trees and flowers. "This place is beautiful, and I'm gonna have a hard time leaving tomorrow."

JC chuckled. "I know how you feel." He looked out at the ocean, then watched her out of the corner of his eye. He smiled as the wind blew her hair all around her face, and realized how her perfume almost overwhelmed him. He allowed his eyes to roam her body, taking in her slim neck, strong yet delicate shoulders, and tan arms before his heart beat faster when his eyes rested on her strapless and very fitting navy blue gown. He licked his lips as his eyes took a long time roaming over her finely toned legs, which were exposed by the long slit in her dress.

""So...What's up?"

JC shook his head and turned to Haley again, concentrating on her face. "Uh...not much. What were you saying to Lance before? Something about your that."

Haley chewed on her tongue as she thought about the question. "You know that meatloaf song? I Would Do Anything For Love?"

JC nodded. "Yeah. They played it inside."

Haley nodded and turned away from him to face the ocean. "Well, he never says what THAT is in the song, and it's up to us to decide what our that is." She sighed before continuing. "My that, the one thing I would never do, is sacrifice the happiness of the man I love, just so I could be happy." She felt JC's stare and refused to meet it, not knowing what she'd see in his eyes.

JC nodded slowly, staring at the side of her face. "I've never thought of it before. My that would probably be something like yours...if they're happy, then I'm happy. Their happiness means the world to me and, even if I know they'd be happier with me, I don't think I could bring myself to hurt them or make them sad."

Haley stared ahead, willing the tears in her eyes to go away. She swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded. "You're a good man, Wipeout," she said with a smile. "I hope you remind Robin every day how lucky she is to have you by her side."

"Oh, he doesn't need to remind me."

Haley's eyes widened and she bit her tongue before yelling out some profanities. "You just remember how good he is, Robin." Haley stood up and brushed herself off. "I need to go find Lance. You two...have a good night." She lowered her head as she turned away, so neither JC nor Robin would see the tears ready to spill. She walked away, leaving the man she loved with the woman that didn't deserve him...but had him anyways.

 

Chapter 22

(Feb. 18th/01 @ Los Angeles)

"I'm at the Grammy's."

Anett rolled her eyes and turned away from and over-excited Haley. "Get her away from me, or knock her out or give her some freakin' ritalin before I beat the crap out of her!" Anett yelled at the people around her.

"Anett, calm it down." Justin walked towards the pair. "You were like this last year, so leave her alone." He slid his arm around her waist and walked her away from Haley.

Haley watched them go, and she turned to face Joey. "Hey, you."

Joey nodded and smiled nervously. "Hey. How are ya?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders. "A little giddy, but I'm not hurting anyone."

Joey sighed in relief. "Good to hear. Anett didn't hurt you, did she?" he asked, gesturing to Anett and Justin in the corner.

Haley rolled her eyes. "She's just pissy because Justin totally screwed up his hair, and she didn't wanna actually tell him how ugly she thinks he looks, so she took her frustration out on me because I'm a teeny bit excited to be part of the Grammy's." She took a deep breath and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I think I'm gonna go get some prozac."

Joey chuckled as he pulled her to him. "Yeah, well, it's alright to be excited. She is, too, but she doesn't want everyone to know."

Haley nodded against his shoulder. "This is gonna be awesome."

A finger tapped Haley's shoulder. "I need you for makeup, Haley," Linda said when Haley turned to her. "And we'll need you in about ten, Joey."

Haley nodded and followed Linda to a dressing room, nervously chewing on her finger. She sat down in the chair and continued to chew on her finger.

"Oh, stop it, Haley," Linda said, slapping Haley's fingers away from her mouth. "You're gonna be fine," she said as she applied the makeup. "Unless you're too nervous to stand still..." Linda's voice trailed off when Haley stared at her. "Well, you're done. Good thing, too. Joey takes a lot of work," she said as she gathered her supplies.

"I heard that!" Joey said from across the hall.

Linda rolled her eyes and patted Haley's shoulder. "Good luck. And have fun!"

Haley nodded and followed Linda into the hallway, her hand snaking up to her mouth nervously as she looked around for Anett.

"You should really stop that. It's not very attractive."

Haley rolled her eyes as JC walked up beside her. "Get over it."

JC slapped her hand away from her mouth with a smile. "A bit nervous?"

Haley stuck her tongue out at JC and brought her hand back to her mouth. "You should be nervous. I mean, performing at the Grammy's. That's a big deal."

JC chuckled and grabbed her hand away from her mouth, holding it in his hand. "Yeah, well, it's just a song, right?"

Haley looked into JC's eyes and mentally kicked herself for not noticing how nervous he was. She squeezed his hand reassuringly when the stage director told them they were on in two minutes. "Kick some ass," she said as she quickly hugged him.

JC's arms tightened around Haley and he sighed into her hair before letting her go. "Thanks. See you out there."

Haley nodded as he walked towards the other guys and she sighed nervously. She smiled as Anett walked towards her. "Hey chica. You ready to stand still for almost a whole song?"

Anett laughed and hugged Haley quickly before leading Haley to the stage. "More than ready. Let's kick some motionless ass."

The pair went onstage in the dark while 'N Sync was being introduced. They stood still on the platform while the guys sang 'This I Promise You' and they were more than relieved to move again when the lights turned on near the end of the song.

As they stood together, pointing at fictional people and items, Haley's mind focused on JC's voice, and the words he was singing. Her heart warmed as he hit the soulful notes and she couldn't help but feel even more love for him then.

When the song ended, and the lights went dim, Haley and Anett hurried off the stage after the guys, wanting to see them before they returned to their seats in the audience. Haley's eyes searched for them, and her smile grew as she ran towards them. She threw her arms around Chris, then Joey, Lance and Justin, telling each one of them how proud she was.

She allowed Anett to hug them as she looked around for JC. She saw him drinking from a bottle of water, and she grinned at him as she walked towards him. He started to smile at her and put the bottle of water down as she got closer. He opened his arms to embrace her, and his eyes widened when Robin pushed past Haley and ran into his arms.

Haley stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Robin in JC's arms. She'd thought that JC had wanted to hug her, but it had been Robin. She tore her eyes away from the couple and slowly turned around. She choked back the tears as she walked towards the dressing room.

Lance saw the whole scene, and he swore under his breath when he saw the tears in Haley's eyes. He left the group when he saw her walk towards the dressing room. He stood in front of the door and waited for her.

Haley made it to the door and smiled half-heartedly up at Lance. "Oh, fuck, do I ever suck," she said, the tears spilling down her cheeks.

Lance bit his lip and pulled her into the dressing room, shutting the door behind them. As soon as the door clicked shut, he pulled Haley into his arms, rubbing her back as she cried into his shirt.

"Sh....it's okay, Haley. Shh..."

Haley took a few calming breaths and pulled away from Lance, wiping the tears from her face. "I'm okay. You go. You need to be out there."

Lance sighed. "You promise?"

Haley nodded and opened the door, pushing him into the hall. "Yes, Now go."

Lance shook his head and reluctantly walked back out into the audience. He caught the nervous and worried glances of the guys and he nodded at them as he passed them. He sat down beside JC.

"Is she okay?"

Lance gave JC a lazy look before returning his gaze to the stage. "Yeah. She just needs to talk later. It's under control."

JC nodded slowly, knowing that Lance knew something, and was pissed at him for some reason, but he understood that Lance wouldn't tell him if Haley didn't want him to...and it seemed like JC wasn't about to be told anything.

Back in the dressing room...

"Fuck, Maguire, why don't you just let the whole damn world know how you feel? I can imagine the questions forming in everybody's heads right now...Well, it's certainly going to be a fun party."

Haley stood in front of the mirror and stared at her reflection, her eyes focusing on the tears on her cheeks. "Well, if I wasn't sure how I felt before, I think it's pretty obvious now." She wiped the tears away with her hands before turning the cold water on. She cupped the water in her hands and splashed her face with the liquid. She grabbed the towel off the rack beside her and dried her face. "So," she said to her reflection. "How are you gonna explain this one? The only person who actually knows is Lance, and he doesn't even know everything. Anett thinks she knows, and she is gonna be up your ass over this one."

"Haley! Open this bloody door! We need to talk."

Haley rolled her eyes at Anett's voice. She took a deep breath and opened the door, staring at her best friend. "So. You really wanna know what's up?" she asked as she opened the door wider so Anett could come in.

"Damn straight." Anett pushed her way into the dressing room. "Let's hear it." She sat down on the counter and stared at Haley.

Haley sighed as she sat down in the makeup chair across from Anett. Her eyes wandered around the small room, reluctant to look directly at her friend.

"Haley, I'm not gonna bite you."

Haley bit her lip and dragged her eyes up to meet Anett's. "Well, I don't exactly know how to say this." Haley closed her eyes and sighed. "You know how much I don't like Robin. I know you don't like her either, but I think...you and me....we kinda have different reasons." Haley's eyes opened and she looked at Anett through her tears. "Dammit! She doesn't deserve him! He is way too loving and caring and generous and...JC for her! I hate how people like her get what they want."

Anett watched the tears slide down her best friend's cheeks, and the realization hit her. "But he doesn't love her like he loves you."

Haley covered her face with her hands. "But she still has his heart."

Anett jumped off the counter and kneeled on the floor in front of Haley. "But he isn't in love with her." She wrapped her arms around her friend and let her cry.

Haley took a deep breath after a minute and pulled away, nodding at Anett. "I'm okay. I just...need to get over this." She smiled weakly at Anett. "I'll meet you in the audience next break," she said quietly before slipping out the door.

Anett shook her head. "Keep telling yourself that, Maguire. you wait until he realizes just how in love with you he is. Then you'll be crying tears of joy...cuz Robin'll get the boot, and you'll be happy...and completely in love."

 

Chapter 23

(Wednesday Feb. 21/01 @ 6A.M.)

"Alright, people." Sam clapped her hands together as she spoke to everyone involved in the actual entertaining during the show. "We have seven days before we leave for the first show, and we need to have everything absolutely perfect. You all belong to me now. You are mine from six a.m. to nine p.m.. I know it's a harsh schedule, but that's the way life goes." Sam stared at the people in front of her, her hands on her hips. "Yo! Haley! You sleep now, I own you even later tonight."

Haley's eyes widened and she pulled her head off of Chris's shoulder to face Sam. "I'm here. I heard every word. Six to nine." She waved at Sam. "Got it."

Sam rolled her eyes and paced back and forth at the front of the room. "Well, I'm glad you understand that, Haley, cuz there is a crapload of work to be done." She nodded at Darren who pushed play on the stereo and turned the volume up. "Now," she yelled over the music, "today we're focusing on Digital and Space Cowboy. Everybody up."

Haley groaned as she stood up. "This blows."

"What was that Maguire?"

Haley plastered a smiled on her face and looked at Sam. "I said, why is the music so slow?"

Sam rolled her eyes and smiled. "I know it blows, but it has to be done." She clapped her hands. "Fifteen minute warmup."

Haley looked at Lisa. "I think the week of hell is an appropriate name for this time."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"And the mushroom said, why not? I'm a fun guy!" Joey smiled as he talked to the new dancers. He rolled his eyes when they just sat there, looking at him. "Get it? A fun guy? A fungi? Like a mushroom?" He shook his head and walked back to Haley. "I can't believe they didn't get it."

Haley giggled at his frustration. "I think it was over their heads," she said as she patted his back.

"Okay! I need all the women over here! We need to check the costumes."

Haley rolled her eyes and sighed. "Damn. I have to spend even more time with her?"

Joey grinned excitedly. "I'll help with the outfits."

Haley shook her head as she walked away from him. "Sorry, Joe, we don't need anymore testosterone in there." She walked next to Lisa.

"That's what Robin's there for."

Haley wrapped an arm around Lisa, a huge smile on her face. "My thoughts exactly."

Robin smiled at the pair as they approached her. "Hey Haley, Lisa." She led them to the back room and found their costumes on the rack. "Alright. Lisa, Mary's gonna help you. And, Haley, you're stuck with me."

Haley forced a smile and grabbed her clothes out of Robin's hand. "Great. I'll be out in a minute," she said as she walked away.

As she changed, Haley wondered how she would act towards Robin. She knew Robin didn't like her relationship with JC, but she wasn't going to change anything or stop being his friend because Robin wasn't happy.

There was a knock at the door. "Can I come in, Haley?"

Haley rolled her eyes and unlocked the door. "Come on in. Let the fun begin."

Robin smiled. "I know, it's not the funnest." She nodded as she looked Haley up and down, and she forced a smile. "Not bad." She began to tug on Haley's outfit to make it fit better, and so Haley could dance comfortably in it. "You look great in this."

Haley smiled down at Robin. "Thanks."

Robin finished the outfit, then left so Haley could change. After five more outfits, they were moving onto the last one, and Haley would never forget the look on Robin's face when she walked in and looked at Haley. She had walked in, and her jaw dropped when she saw Haley standing there in a yellow diamond-shaped tube top and black hiphuggers - it wasn't something that Haley had never worn before, but her tan from Hawaii was still dark, and the contrast of the top and her skin made her look even better...not to mention her muscular arms, trim waist and flat stomach.

Haley smiled at Robin. "You like?"

Robin stared at Haley for a moment before nodding. "Yeah. Looks good." She looked away from Haley's face and started adjusting the fabric.

Haley grinned down at Robin's head, ecstatic that Robin was jealous of how she looked.

Robin finished quickly. "Alright, Haley, you're done." She walked out of the dressing room. "Thanks for your help."

Haley smiled. "No prob." She shut the door and jumped in the air excitedly. "Oh, yes, I am the shit," she said as she changed back into her dance clothes.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Thursday March 1st, 2001 in Orlando)

"I am going to miss you so much. I'm gonna be so lonely without you." Haley wiped a tear from her cheek. "Mrs. Harless is going to take good care of you. You like going to her house."

"Haley, we need to go. Hurry it up."

Haley rolled her eyes at Sam and put her face up to the traveling kennel that held a sad and frightened Sniffy. "See what I'm leaving you for? I'm crazy." She stuck a finger through the wire and rubbed his cheek. "I gotta go. Be good for Lynn." She waved goodbye to Sniffy and hugged Justin's mother. "Thanks, Lynn. Take good care of him."

Mrs. Harless laughed. "I'll make a deal with you. I'll take care of your baby, and you look after mine."

Haley smiled and hugged the older woman again. "You got a deal. I'll see you later. Be good!" she said before running to her bus.

"Man, you'd think she was saying goodbye to the love of her life."

Haley rolled her eyes as she walked past Eric. "Keep it up, smartass. We've got a relatively long bus ride together. Don't waste all your wit this early."

Meanwhile, on the 'N Sync bus....

"Oh, I'm so excited. I haven't been on tour with you guys for a long time. I missed it."

Lance rolled his eyes as he looked away from Robin and JC. "Dammit, JC, would you just realize how in love you are with Haley, and get rid of her?" he muttered as he closed his eyes to catch some sleep.

"You noticed too, eh?"

Lance nodded. "Justin, have you seen Haley? She's not telling him because she thinks he's happy. She won't tell him because..."

"Cuz she's afraid of him being happier with her?"

Lance sighed as he looked at Justin. "She just doesn't know that much yet."

Justin shook his head. "She has been hurt so much in the past, and she doesn't want it to happen again."

Lance sighed again. "She just has to realize that he won't do that. He has to show her that he loves her."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Sunday March 25th, 2001 – clubbing)

"Yes! I love this song. Let's dance, Jace!" Robin yelled as she grabbed JC's hand and pulled him onto the dance floor.

Haley rolled her eyes and turned to Justin. "Why didn't Anett come?"

Justin shrugged as he sipped his bottled water. "She's tired. I mean, she DID just shooting four episodes of Dawson's Creek," he boasted, proud that Anett had finally caught a break.

Haley nodded. "I'm proud of her." Her eyes scanned the club's dance floor, and she sighed when she saw JC and Robin 'getting down' on the dance floor.

Justin watched Haley watch JC, and he felt bad for her when her knuckles turned white from gripping her drink, and he saw her blink back tears. He put his hand on her shoulder and grinned when she looked at him.

"What?" she asked slowly.

Justin raised his eyebrows. "You wanna make them jealous?" he asked, nodding towards JC and Robin.

Haley shook her head. "No. Justin, why would I do that?"

Justin rolled his eyes. "Do you actually think that I haven't noticed how completely in love you are with him? And how much you despise her?"

Haley blushed and took a sip of her drink. "How would we make them jealous?"

Justin grinned mischievously as he grabbed the drink out of Haley's hand and put it on the table, grabbing her other hand and pulling her up. "We go out there and show off your...moves."

Haley rolled her eyes as he pulled her onto the dance floor. "Why? So someone can take pictures and call me your personal whore?" she asked as he started dancing with her, his hand on her waist.

Justin shook his head. "No. See, JC'll see you lookin' good, and dancing like you do..." His voice trailed off when Haley stopped moving and stared at him. "No! I meant the moves you have. You're a good dancer." He sighed in relief when she started dancing again. "See, he'll be watching you, and Robin'll wonder what he's staring at, and she'll see you."

Haley nodded and placed her hand on Justin's shoulder as they danced. "And..."

"And she's jealous that he's watching you and not her."

Haley grinned and rubbed her hand through his buzzed hair. "Good thinking, Not Curly."

Justin laughed. "Thanks."

They continued to laugh and dance, and JC watched them from across the dance floor. His blue eyes watched Haley laugh and his eyes focused on Justin's hands on her waist. He suddenly remembered how they had danced together at the recital, and the scene in his jeep played over and over in his mind, and he could feel her lips on hers, and the smell of her hair...

"Jace? What's up?"

JC blinked and looked away from Haley and down at Robin. "Uh...nothing. I just didn't think that Haley would be dancing tonight. She said she was tired."

Robin raised her eyebrows and looked over at Haley and Justin, her eyes narrowing when she caught Haley's eye. She turned her face up towards JC and smiled. "Whatever," she said before kissing him.

Haley's smile faded as she saw Robin kiss JC and she closed her eyes. "I'm getting tired," she told Justin as she stopped dancing and walked towards their table.

Justin sighed as he followed her and sat down next to her. "At least you got to her."

Haley nodded. "Yup. Then she turned it against me and kissed him." She smiled weakly at Justin's sorry face. "Thanks for trying, though, J. I do appreciate it."

Justin nodded. Dammit Haley! Realize how he looked at you! He remembered something, and it pissed Robin off, which is good for you. It means you got to him...and he knows it.

 

Chapter 24

(Monday March 26, 2001 on 'N Sync bus)

"Don't let me be the last to know, don’t hold back..."

"Whore," Haley muttered as she muted the TV, which was on MTV. "You can tell a porn director had a say in that video, Britney. Without the sound, you can see the porn angle. We could easily dub in some other sounds, and we've got a number one porn film."

Joey's eyes widened as he listened to Haley bash Britney. Not that it was something new, but she just kept going. "Well," he said as he stood up, "I'm gonna go bug Mike and Lonnie." He walked towards the front of the bus and sat down with the bodyguards, and across from Lance. "Yo, Lance," he whispered as he leaned across the aisle.

Lance looked up from the papers in his lap and looked lazily at Joey. "What, Joe?"

Joey looked towards the front of the bus and saw Haley still muttering about Britney. "Something's wrong with her," he said worriedly, shaking his head. "I think something happened."

Lance watched Haley for a moment and nodded. "I'd say so. I'll talk to her."

Joey nodded as Lance stood up, but he stopped him, putting his hand on Lance's arm. "Don't let her give up on him," he said quietly.

Lance smiled weakly. "I won't. But it's hard with her," he said quietly. He motioned to JC and Robin asleep on the couch. "Haley doesn't think she has a chance, and Robin's rubbing it in her face."

Joey sighed. "I know." He gestured towards the back of the bus, where the bunks were. "Take her back. J's asleep, and Anett, but Chris is with Dani."

Lance nodded and walked down the aisle to where Haley had moved on to bash Britney's dancing skills. "Hails," he said quietly, grabbing the remote out of her hand. He turned the TV off and held his hand out to her. "Come with me."

Haley raised an eyebrow. "Getting kinky on me, Lansten?" She sighed when he stared at her, and she followed him to the bunks. He opened the curtain to his bed and she crawled in, leaning against the wall, her knees pulled up to her chest.

Lance sat beside her, and he closed the curtain. "So. What happened since our last conversation?"

Haley bit her lip. "Guess."

"Okay. What happened last night?" he asked, trying to be more specific.

"What happens every time?"

Lance rolled his eyes. "What did she do?"

The curtain opened and both Justin's and Anett's heads peeked in from the top bunk.

"We were dancing, Haley got his attention, and Miss Bitch got jealous," Justin whispered. "And, of course, our best friend's woman got worried and felt the incredible urge to kiss him."

"Slut."

Haley giggled at Anett's 'outburst'. "Guys, don't be rude. And don't talk about her when she's on the same bus as you."

"And WHY is she here?"

Justin kissed Anett's forehead. "Same reason you're here, sweetie. Girlfriend."

Anett rolled her eyes and jumped off the bunk. "At least people like me." She sat down on the edge of the mattress. "That's a better reason than just being JC's...I don't even want to know anything about that stuff."

Haley closed her eyes and rested her head on Lance's shoulder. "Great. One more thing to think about."

Justin jumped down beside Anett. "Don't worry about that. I don't think Jace is that serious," he said as he adjusted his clothes.

Haley nodded. "Good try, J."

Justin sighed. "At least you got to him last night. And her too."

Haley opened her eyes and smiled weakly at the younger man. "Thanks, J." She smiled at Anett and Lance. "I know I'm being difficult, but I'll get over it soon. I hope."

Lance nodded and looked from Justin to the front of the bus and back a couple of times.

Justin took the hint and grabbed Anett's hand. "Let's go bug Joey," he said, pulling her towards the door.

"Um...okay." Anett waved at Haley as she closed the door.

Haley shook her head and elbowed Lance's stomach lightly. "I take it you've discussed everything with Justin."

Lance shrugged his shoulders. "He put two and two together, and he came to me." He narrowed his eyes at Haley, and rested his hand on her arm. "Hails, I know this is hard for you, but have you talked to Chris about any of this?"

Haley shook her head. "Not yet. And I'm scared to. He'll be pissed because I didn't tell him before, and I don't know how he'd react to this. I don't really wanna bug him with it either. He and Dani are working their problems out, and doesn't need me to stress him out any more."

Lance nodded. "Well, you won't know until you tell him."

Haley smiled weakly. "I know. And I will...sometime."

Lance chuckled and the pair sat in silence.

"Haley, I have an idea to get to JC. I don't know if you'll like it, but it'll work. And when you get to Jace, you get to Robin."

Haley stared at Lance, confused. "Okay, you have my attention."

Lance smiled. "Just remember that it be a show for them, strictly platonic. I'm doing it to help you get him." He turned to face her. "You interested?"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Tuesday March 27, 2001 - East Rutherford, NJ)

"No! Haley, please, let me go!"

Haley grinned evilly from the driver's seat of the bus. "What's wrong, Robin? Scared?" She pushed her foot down on the gas and sped towards Robin, whose feet were held in place by cement. She laughed as Robin tried to free herself from the cement, and then froze, caught in the headlights of the bus...

RING! RING! (phone)

Haley sat up straight in her bed., "Holy shit! I'm a bitch."

RING! RING!

Haley fumbled for the light in her hotel room. "Holy fuck. I just attempted to kill Robin in my dream." She stared at the phone. "I need serious help."

RING! RING!

Haley rolled her eyes and looked at the clock beside the bed: 2:38 PM. "Damn. Twenty minute nap. Not bad."

RING! RING!

Haley reached for the phone and brought it to her face in the middle of the fifth ring. "You've reached Queen bitch. How can I be of service?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Uh...Is this Haley?"

"Yes," Haley said slowly, trying to put a face to the familiar voice.

"Oh. It's...it's Sean."

Haley's mouth went dry and she closed her eyes. "Oh. Hi."

Sigh. "Hi. How are you?"

Haley rubbed her eyes. "Oh, just peachy. You?"

"Good." Pause. "How's the tour?"

"Not bad. Look, is there something that you want? Cuz I'm kinda supposed to be getting ready for tonight," she lied.

"Um...actually, I just wanna tell you that...that I'm sorry about what happened between us. I mean, how you found out."

Haley sighed. "Sean, you don't need to apologize. It's happened to me before."

Sean took a deep breath. "And that's why I'm so sorry. I mean, I knew about Ryan, and I went and did the same shit. I hurt you, and I don't know what else to do other than apologize."

Haley nodded. "Well, thanks for apologizing. It's a bit late, since the pain can't be taken back, but the apology is nice." She paused, feeling guilty about being such a bitch, but it still hurt to think about. "I gotta go, but I want to say I'm sorry for being such a bitch on the phone that day, but I wasn't ready to accept that you fucked me over. But that's in the past."

"Don't apologize, Hails. I fucked up."

"Yeah, you fucked something alright."

Sean sighed. "Okay. I deserved that." Pause. "Um...do you think it would be possible for you to maybe...go out with me for a coffee or something when you get back?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "We'll see. I gotta go, Sean. I'll talk to you later." She hung up the phone and shook her head. "Fuck you, Sean." She stood up and walked out of her hotel room. She walked down the hall and knocked on the door of the room Lance was sharing with JC.

JC opened the door, and his face lit up when he saw Haley. "Hey. What's up?"

Haley half-smiled. "Can we talk?" she asked nervously.

JC nodded and opened the door wider for her to come in. He closed the door behind her and sat on the bed beside her. "What's up?" he repeated when she looked at him, a completely confused look on her face.

Haley stared at him for a moment before speaking. "Have you ever had someone cheat on you?"

JC's eyes softened when he saw tears in her eyes and he fought the urge to hold her to him and kiss the tears away. "No, I haven't," he said quietly.

Haley nodded and looked away. "Why'd you and Robin break up before?"

JC sighed and silently thanked God for not letting Robin be in the room. "She wasn't ready for a relationship with me AND the music AND the fans."

Haley nodded again. "So she never cheated on you?" she asked, staring at him again.

He shook his head. "No."

Haley sighed. "Sean called," she said, staring at her hands. "He apologized for fucking around on me."

JC's heart broke as he watched her fight the tears and he hesitantly put his hand over hers. "I'm sorry he hurt you. And I'm sorry for Ryan too. I can only imagine how it would feel to know the person you love would screw around on you, and I know that it probably feels a thousand times worse than what I think."

Haley wiped the tears away and slowly turned her head to look at JC. "And I hope you never go through it."

JC smiled weakly. "And I'm sorry you had to go through it. I will do everything in my power to keep it from ever happening to you again."

Haley stared into JC's eyes, and she slowly reached her hand out and ran a finger along his jaw, and her thumb caressed his bottom lip. She gently touched the skin under his eyes, every movement done with love. "You have beautiful eyes."

JC's breath caught in his throat at her whispered words. "Same to you." He stared into her eyes as her hands continued to trace the features of his face. He grabbed her hands and held them in his lap, his head leaning closer to hers.

Her lips parted and her eyes fluttered closed as she anticipated the contact. She felt his breath on her lips, and she had a flashback of when she walked into Sean's bedroom and found him with Sarah. She quickly opened her eyes and pulled away, turning so her cheek was facing him.

When JC felt her movement, he slowly opened his eyes and saw Haley staring straight ahead, like she'd seen a ghost.

"I can't. We'd be just like Sean and Ryan."

JC cursed himself for letting himself get that close to kissing her. "Yeah. Sorry."

Haley nodded and stood up as the door opened.

"Hey, Josh. Ready to..." Robin's voice trailed off when she saw Haley. "Haley. What are you doing here?"

Haley took a deep breath and forced a smile. "Just chatting it up with my friend." She nodded again at JC and walked to the door. "See you at the show," she said as she closed the door. "Bitch," she muttered as she walked back to her room.

 

Chapter 25

(Saturday April 14, 2001 in Cleveland)

Haley closed the window of her AOL account. "Well, I think I'm gonna make a new email address," she said to Anett. "How about....Haley the 'N Sync slut at whoremail dot com."

Anett rolled her eyes and grabbed the pictures form the printer's tray. "Who sent these to you?"

"Some chick. I wonder if she knows I'm the webmaster for perfect nsync world. Cuz if she did," she said as she grabbed the pictures from Anett, "then it would be a good way to piss me off." She looked at the pictures of her and Lance laughing and dancing in Hawaii on Valentine's Day, and sighed. "This is hell. First Chris, then Joey, and now PooFoo. In the past three and a half months, I have gone from being Haley, back up dancer for 'N Sync, to being the 'N Sync slut."

Anett smiled at her friend. "It's hard, isn't it?"

Haley rolled her eyes dramatically. "No, it's cool that all of 'N Sync's fans think that I'm a whore who's getting it on with all the boys." She sighed and walked away from the hotel computer. "Sorry. I just...why do people pull this shit with me?"

Anett sighed and looked at the pictures again. "Who do you think it was?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders. "It could've been anybody. All the dancers were there, the guys, Robin." She shook her head. "I'd say Bobby, but that would be so very stupid on his part...which makes it completely possible that it was him."

Anett stared at Haley. "Okay. Think about the people you named before."

Haley mentally went down the list in her head.

"Damn, Hails. Robin! She was there, and she had every reason to post these pics on the net." Anett stood in front of Haley. "She knows there's something with you and Jace, and she's scared. She wants to hurt you. And this is a good way of doing it."

Haley shook her head. "Robin wouldn't stoop that low."

Anett raised her eyebrows. "You think?"

Haley sighed. "I hope."

* * * * * * * * * * * * Haley sat in the dining room at the hotel, watching the people around her eat and talk. She sipped her coffee and thought about the pictures that someone had used against her. 'At least their only on the internet. It'll be a day or two before they’re in the news or the paper, so we can try to fix it up before.'

"Hey. Can I sit down?"

Haley shook her head and stared ahead of her, ignoring Bobby. "Not in a million years."

"Why not?"

Haley rolled her eyes and stood up, walking away from the table. "I'm walking away before you get a fist connecting with your jaw, or a foot to your balls." She walked out of the dining room, ignoring the looks from the other occupants, and headed down the hall to the elevator. She pushed the 'up' button and waited, jumping into the first elevator that arrived. She pushed the button for the fourth floor, and almost screamed when Bobby ran into the elevator. "Dammit, Bobby, I warned you. I'm in a severe bitch, and I could easily take you out."

Bobby stood in the opposite corner of the elevator and smirked at her. "And then I'd charge you for assault."

Haley nodded. "Not before I got you kicked off this tour."

Bobby nodded slowly, the smirk disappearing from his face. "Okay. Have you seen the pictures?"

Haley smacked the 'stop' button on the panel and stood in front of Bobby. "I told you not to fuck with me, yet you do it. I do not need to be reminded that someone is fucking with my life, and 'N Sync's too. So why don't you shut the fuck up." She walked to the panel and pressed the button again. "You are lucky I didn't kick you, Bobby. I wanted to, but I stopped myself."

Bobby nodded. "Do you know who it was?"

The elevator doors opened as Haley stepped in front of him again and brought her knee to his...special area.

"I warned you, fuckface," she said as she walked out of the elevator. She smiled at Chris down the hall as the elevator doors closed again, Bobby still inside.

"Hey Sunshine! What's up?" he asked as he pulled her into his arms for a hug.

Haley sighed as she pulled away. "I just got back at Bobby. I don't think he'll be too happy tonight."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Saturday April 21st, 2001 - Ontario - day off)

"Welcome to the town of Clinton, Ontario. The heart of Huron County, the home of radar, population three thousand...and my home town." Haley smiled over at Chris as she parked her car in front of her grandma's house. "Okay. We only have ten minutes before bowling, so make it short."

Haley got out of the car and sighed in relief when her grandma's car was gone. She unlocked the door and ran inside before Chris was out of the car. She locked the bathroom door and laughed when Chris came in and yelled at her.

"Hails, I really gotta go. You suck!"

After grabbing some food and using the bathroom, Haley and Chris headed to the bowling alley.

"Hey, Diane," Haley said, hugging the owner of the bowling alley. "How's it going?"

Diane nodded. "It's good. I can't complain. I'm going to Mexico in the summer, so I'm happy."

Haley smiled and looked around the building. "It hasn't changed too much."

"Wanna check out the apartment?"

Haley nodded and followed Diane through the back room to the stairs leading to the upstairs apartment. "It's pretty much the same," she said as she looked around the apartment that Haley's father and stepmother had lived in when Haley was younger. "Use the attic at all?" she asked, pointing to the door in the ceiling.

Diane shook her head. "I don't go up there. Nothing's changed since your dad and Karen moved."

Haley smiled at Chris as they walked downstairs again. "Alright. Long enough walk down memory lane. It's time for me to kick your ass."

Chris rolled his eyes. "Good luck, Sunshine. Cuz I have the skills, and you have nothing."

Haley giggled. "All talk, no action."

LATER ON...(swimming pool in Brucefield, Ontario)

Chris shook his head. "You rigged it."

Haley laughed. "You are in complete denial."

Chris sighed and swam over to her. "Is Laura coming in soon?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders and kicked her feet as she floated on the mattress. "Soon. Flip me and die."

Chris backed away from Haley and leaned against the wall of the pool. "I'm too tired to mess with you."

Haley laughed. "Good."

There was a pause in the conversation, and Chris watched Haley as she floated.

"Sunshine...why...how..." Chris struggled to find the right way to ask his question.

"Spit it out Chris."

Chris sighed. "How do you feel about JC?" he asked quickly. "I mean, there's something, and I know it's not nothing, because all the guys talk about it, but not with me. I hear them mention you and JC and then they shut up. I just wanna know why I don't know anything."

Haley's eyes widened and she rolled over off the side of the mattress and into the water. When she resurfaced, she brushed the hair out of her eyes and leaned against the wall of the pool across from Chris. She slowly brought her eyes to meet Chris's, and she knew that he knew, and she felt guilty for not telling him. She sighed and swam over to him. "I'm sorry, C. I didn't mean to keep you in the dark about anything." She stood beside him and sighed again. "I don't know how it happened, or when it happened, but...things have changed between me and JC." She nervously stared at him.

Chris nodded slowly. "How so?"

Haley bit her lip. "We kinda kissed."

"Kinda?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "Okay. We kissed."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know. I mean, we didn't exactly plan it, and I wasn't sure how you'd react if I told you, so we kinda kept it a secret. Then, I told Lance, cuz he was on my ass, and then Justin and Anett found out, and Joey just got it out of one of them. I don't know why everyone's talking about it. I mean, he has Robin now, so it's not important." She smiled weakly. "Do you hate me for not telling you?"

Chris shook his head. "No. I could never hate you. I'll be pissy for a while, but I don't hate you." He sighed. "I'm sorry you were scared to tell me, but it hurts that you didn't. I can take it."

Haley nodded. "I know. I suck. I'm sorry." She held her hand out in front of Chris. "Forgive me?"

Chris stared at her hand for a moment before grinning and pulling her into his arms. "Yes, I forgive you. But I'm still gonna be a bitch."

Haley laughed. "I guess I can deal with that."

"Are you guys ready to par-tay?"

Haley and Chris grinned at Laura as she cannonballed into the pool at her house in Brucefield, ten minutes outside of Clinton.

"Definitely ready."

Chris smiled at Haley. "You're going down, Sunshine," he said, his eyes narrowing at her.

Haley raised an eyebrow, the corners of her mouth raising slightly. "I thought you were too tired."

"That was before I was in a bitch," he said as he splashed her and pushed her underwater.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Sunday April 22, 2001 - Toronto)

Ashleigh grinned at Haley as they sat down at their table in a downtown Toronto club. "Good show tonight, Hails."

Haley smiled as the guys ran out onto the dance floor. "It was awesome. It feels good to be home."

Ashleigh nodded, the goofy grin still on her face. "Yeah, it must have felt good to mess up in front of all of us."

Haley blushed. "Everyone has their days."

Ashleigh nodded. "And Joey laughing into the mic when you tripped over your feet made my day."

Haley shook her head. "I can't believe he was laughing for a whole chorus."

Ashleigh giggled. "And yet you can still show your face around town. That was some serious humiliation."

Haley rolled her eyes. "I'm gonna go out there and find a hottie to dance with," she said as she stood up.

Ashleigh raised an eyebrow. "A certain blue-eyed hottie?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders. "I think Anett's claimed J for the night," she said as she disappeared into the crowd. She found Eric and Lisa, and started dancing with them, and they were soon joined by Chris and Lance.

Lance stood behind Haley and put his hand on her hip as the song drifted into 'Days Like That' by Sugar Jones (Canadian Popstars). "You ready?" he whispered in her ear.

Haley's eyes widened and she turned to face him. "Are they here?" she asked, looking around.

Lance nodded. "You up for it?"

Haley took a deep breath and moved closer to him as they danced. "Yeah, just give me a minute."

Lance nodded and kept his hand on her hip as they danced. He watched the other people dance, and he was thrilled that he and the guys hadn't been bombarded by fans. The club was about to close, and people were going home, so he was more than happy to have a relatively sane night.

"Okay, Lance. I'm ready."

Lance sighed when she whispered those four words in his ear. "Okay. Remember what we said."

Haley nodded. "Of course I do. And thanks for doing this. You're risking a lot."

Lance shrugged his shoulders as he moved his hand to the small of her back, and he held her hand in his free hand. "No prob. This'll work. I know him."

Haley smiled up at him as she placed her free hand on his chest. "Hope so."

Lance felt more comfortable with her words, and he kept his head close to hers. "You didn't tell anyone?"

Haley shook her head. "Nope. Almost told Chris, but I stopped myself."

Lance nodded. "Kay. So we'll have lots of explaining."

Haley's breath caught in her throat when she saw JC and Robin standing behind Lance. She quickly turned to face Lance, and started giggling, and her grip tightened on Lance's hand. "Okay. Here it goes."

Lance let go of her hand and brought it up to her neck. He licked his lips as he leaned in and placed his lips over hers. He broke the contact, and his eyes apologized, and he held onto her hand again. Haley kept dancing with him after the kiss, and she looked over her shoulder and saw JC staring at them, and Robin was trying to get his attention.

"Mission accomplished," she whispered in his ear.

Lance sighed in relief. "Good. Now we just have to go through the third degree, get him away from her, and our work is done."

 

 

Chapter 26

"What the hell was that, Maguire?"

Haley covered her face in Ashleigh's Miata, where she and Anett were hounding her about the kiss. "It was planned."

Anett raised her eyebrows. "So you planned to kiss Lance, and not let us know before hand?"

Haley sighed. "I would have, but we needed everyone to be surprised."

"Surprised the shit out of me," Ashleigh said as she pulled into the Tim Horton's parking lot. "Explain."

Haley got out of the car and walked towards the building. "He wanted to help me out, and we agreed on that little scene tonight."

Anett covered her mouth to stifle a scream. "Oh, that boy is an angel," she said as she hugged Haley.

Haley nodded as they ordered. "I love him so much. He's going to be the godfather of my children."

Ashleigh laughed. "Great. I am so proud of you," she said as they sat down to drink their coffees. "Putting up a fight for the man you love."

Haley sighed. "But I don't know what we've accomplished. I know we shocked Josh, but the other guys were totally surprised."

Anett shook her head with a smile. "Don't worry about it. We'll take care of it. But I don't know how Lance is gonna be once the guys get a hold of him."

"And he's rooming with Jace."

Haley nodded. "I hope they don't hurt him."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Monday April 23rd, 2001)

"Lance! How are you?"

Lance half-smiled at Haley. "I'm fine, but we need to talk."

Haley's eyes widened and she let Lance into her room. "You okay?" she asked after closing the door behind him.

Lance nodded. "Fine. It's just...they broke up."

Haley's jaw dropped. "You're shitting me."

Lance shook his head and sat down on the bed. "No, I'm not. He was really mad at me in the van coming back here last night, but he didn't say anything to me cuz Robin was there."

Haley sat down in the chair beside the bed, and stared at Lance. "How 'bout the other guys?"

"Anett called Justin this morning, and she told him everything, and he let the others know. Except JC." He ran a hand through his hair. "I was in the room last night, and he had gone to Robin's room, and I was in bed when he came in. He just got ready, got in bed and said 'we broke up, I will talk to you in the morning.' So I got the hell outta there when he was in the shower."

Haley covered her face with her hands. "Oh, this was a bad idea."

Lance shook his head. "No, it was good."

Haley rolled her eyes and uncovered her face. "How do you figure that?"

Lance grinned. "I was in the dining room, and Robin was talking to Mary, and she was saying that he was too concerned about the whole...you and me situation, and she didn't wanna deal with it, and he broke it off."

Haley's jaw dropped. "He did it?"

Lance nodded. "Yup."

Haley’s jaw slowly closed, and the corners of her mouth raised until her face was completely lit up. "Oh, yeah, I’m upset that I’m somewhat a…factor in the ending of their relationship, but…damn!"

Lance laughed, glad that she finally happy about something. "Okay. I’m happy you’re happy, but we need to discuss something."

Haley nodded. "What we’re gonna say."

Lance nodded. "Right. Do we go for the truth, or work it up some more?"

Haley bit her lip as she thought. "Well, the others know the truth, but Jace can’t exactly know. So…we’ll say it just kinda happened?"

Lance nodded again. "Okay. Just happened. I was a little tossed, and it was my fault."

"You’re willing to say that?" she asked unbelievably.

Lance grinned. "Won’t have to say it for long. Just until you get with him. Then we can tell him the truth."

Haley rolled her eyes. "May take longer than you think."

Lance chuckled. "Well, like Fred says…you gotta have faith."

* * * * * * * * * * * * "So…it was Lance?"

Haley nodded at JC. "He had a bunch to drink, and he kissed me. No big deal."

JC nodded at Haley as they sat down backstage before the second Toronto concert. "Okay.

Haley stared at him, hating lying to him. "I’m sorry about you and Robin."

JC nodded again and took a sip of water. "Well, she was getting jealous of you, and she was taking it out on me. I had to save my sanity."

"Hey guys. Haley, I need you. You’re on in ten."

Haley nodded and followed Sam to the back room. "Sam, I know I’ve said it many times, and I will definitely repeat it in the future, but damn!" She slapped Sam’s ass on her way past. "I am the shit."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Tuesday April 24, 2001

"Alright. Welcome back to our Intimate and Interactive with special guests, ‘N Sync who have been in town for the past couple of days. We only have a few minutes left with the guys, and we’re gonna head outside for some questions."

Rick Campanelli led the guys outside to see the fans, and Haley watched the TV screen in Ashleigh’s apartment.

"Damn, he is looking good."

Anett rolled her eyes. "Tame the hormones, Maguire. He’s getting over a relationship."

Haley grinned. "I know."

That night, 3 AM…

KNOCK KNOCK!

Haley’s eyes opened and she lay still on the bed. "Oh, God, Robin is here to kill me." She turned on the lamp beside her bed and stumbled to the hotel room door. She opened it a crack and raised an eyebrow at JC. "You do know what time it is, right?"

JC smiled sheepishly. "I couldn’t sleep."

Haley stared at him. "Sorry to hear that."

He rolled his eyes. "That’s my way of asking you to let me in so I can bore you to death."

She stared at him for a few moments before shrugging her shoulders and walking back to her bed. "Shut the door behind you," she said as she crawled under the blankets.

"Thanks." He slipped into the room and closed the door. He made his way over to the chair beside her bed and sat down quietly. "Did you like the I and I?" (Intimate and Interactive)

Haley nodded against the pillow. "Yes I did. It would have been better with me, but oh well."

JC chuckled. "We’ll remember that for next time." He watched her with her eyes closed, and he fought the urge to reach out and touch her skin. He smiled when he heard her breathing deepen and he watched her sleep, fascinated by everything about her. His eyes slowly closed, but they shot open when he heard her move, and he saw her on her side, her face to him.

‘Oh, God, what am I doing here? I just broke up with Robin, and I’m in Haley’s room, just watching her sleep…and wondering what it would be like to kiss her again, or just touch her.’ JC shook his head and leaned it back against the chair, staring at the ceiling. ‘What is going on? I know I love her, but does she feel the same way? How do I tell her? How will she react? Stupid Lance had to go and kiss her. Man, that fucked me up. It shouldn’t have, but I’m glad it did. Robin was pissing me off. She was so jealous of Haley, but there wasn’t anything to worry about…okay, maybe there was, and I’m sorry Robin went through that. But it’s nice to be rid of her. Oh, that sounds bad.’ He looked back down at Haley and sighed deeply.

Haley opened her eyes and smiled at JC. "Do you always watch your dancers sleep?"

JC half-smiled. "Only if they’re special."

Haley smiled again. "So. What’s up?"

JC pointed upwards. "The ceiling," he said, staring at her.

Haley rolled her eyes. "Funny." She narrowed her eyes at him as his blue eyes bore into hers. "You okay?" she asked gently after a minute.

JC shrugged. "Just thinking."

"About what?"

JC sighed. "Everything."

"You wanna talk?"

JC paused. "Don’t know."

Haley nodded against the pillow and rolled over onto her back. She reached across the bed and pulled the blankets back before she mover into the empty space and gestured to JC. He smiled and kicked off his shoes before he crawled into the bed, covering himself and Haley with the blankets.
Haley turned onto her side and faced him. "So. What’s up?" she repeated.

JC sighed. "I’ve got some problems."

Haley nodded. "Talk to me," she said as she yawned.

JC stared at her as she fought sleep. "See, there’s this girl that I have a lot of feelings for." He paused and smiled when she snuggled closer to the pillow, and her curled up, rubbing against his leg. "And I’m scared of telling her."

Some strands of hair fell in Haley’s face, and JC chuckled when she scrunched her face. He reached his hand out from under the blankets and gently brushed it out of her face, and his heart warmed when she smiled at his touch and moved closer to him.

JC took a deep breath, anxious to get his feelings out in the open, even if she was asleep and wouldn’t remember what he had said. "See, she means the world to me, and I was stupid not to tell her when I first knew I was in love with her. But then Robin came along," he said softly.

He lightly kissed her forehead. "I am in love with you, Haley," he whispered before resting his head against the pillow and let sleep take over his body.

A few hours later…

Haley’s eyes opened as she woke up. She sat in the chair beside the bed and watched the sun rise through the window while thinking about what she had heard JC say as she drifted off to sleep…at least she thought he had been talking to her as she fell asleep.

"Probably wishful thinking," she muttered as she turned to watch him sleep. She smiled as she took him in: his hair going in every direction, his arm behind his head, his sweater pulled up over his belly button, and the blankets piled under his legs. She sighed as she etched the features of his face into her memory: his lips, his jaw line, his cheek bones, his bright blue eyes…

Haley’s eyes widened and she felt herself blush when she realized that JC was watching her check him out. "Um…morning, Wipeout."

JC grinned evilly. "Like what you see?"

Haley smiled. "Not bad."

JC chuckled. "So. You always watch the members of a band sleep?"

Haley rolled her eyes as she stood up. "Nah. The drool on the pillow drew me in. I’ve never seen that much come out of one person."

"Ha ha."

Haley grinned as she walked into the bathroom and changed into a pair of worn jeans and a sweater. She walked back into the room as she put her hair in a ponytail, and she found JC lying on his side, staring at her. She raised an eyebrow. "Did I grow a second head?"

JC half-smiled. "Not that I can see. I was just…watching you."

Haley nodded. "Noted." She grabbed a pair of socks out of her suitcase and sat down in the chair. "Sorry I fell asleep last night," she said as she her foot into a sock.

JC rolled over onto his stomach and turned his head so he was looking at her again. "No biggie. I was just…talking."

Haley stuck her other foot into the second sock and gave JC a curious look. "What were you talking about? I kinda don’t remember."

JC stared at her for a few moments before speaking. "A girl."

Haley raised an eyebrow and tried to hide her excitement. "Who?"

JC shrugged his shoulders. "A girl that I have serious feelings for."

"Hmmm." Haley stared back at him for a minute before moving over to the bed, where she sat down beside him. "Who’s the girl?"

JC sighed. "A girl."

"Do I know her?" she asked impatiently.

JC smiled, glad she was anxious to know it was her. "I think so," he said as he rolled over onto his back and stared up at her. "See, she’s a dancer, and I screwed it up with her."

Haley sighed and played with the sheets. "How?" she asked quietly.

"I let her go when I shouldn’t have. Then Robin came into the picture again, and I got back with her when I should have been with the dancer."

Haley raised an eyebrow. "What if the dancer thinks that she fucked up with you?"

JC put his hand over hers and his eyes searched for her true feelings. "The we both fucked up."

Haley smiled. "Like a joint effort?"

JC nodded. "Yeah." He held her hand in his and absently rubbed the back her hand with his thumb. "I am so sorry about the whole Robin thing. Can you forgive me?"

Haley bit her lip as she pulled on JC’s hand until he was sitting up in front of her. "Only if you forgive me for lying to you that day on the picnic table," she said as her free hand played with his hair.

JC nodded. "Forgiven."

Haley smiled. "Forgiven."

JC stared into her eyes, ecstatic to know how she felt. " So. What now?"

Haley raised an eyebrow. "You have to ask?" she said before covering his lips with hers, and she barely held in a moan when his arms wrapped around her and held her to his body. She broke the contact when she felt herself getting dizzy, and she rested her forehead against his as they caught their breath.

"That…that fucking rocked."

Haley laughed and kissed him lightly. "Damn straight it did." She licked her lips and stood up, not trusting herself to just sit there and NOT attack him." She stood next to the window and smiled at him. "So. What are we?"

JC smiled. "We’re Jace and Haley." He stood up and walked towards her. "Two people who …want to start a relationship?" he asked hesitantly as he stood in front of her, his fingers gently brushing against her cheek.

Haley smiled at the goosebumps that his touch created, and she nodded. "Sounds perfect to me."

JC grinned. "Good," he said before lightly touching his lips to hers for a brief second. "Cuz it’s been in my mind for a while." He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Now. Can you tell me about the whole Lance kissing you incident?"

Haley laughed. "Oh, I hope you don’t hate me for this." She leaned her head against his shoulder and kissed his jaw, sending shivers through his body. "See, Lance was interested in getting you to realize that you had feelings for me, and we kinda planned the kiss. I honestly didn’t think that it would…contribute to the ending of you and Robin, but I was interested in getting to her. I’m sorry, but she really pissed me off."

JC nodded. "Me, too. I’m sorry for all those times she kissed me cuz I was watching you and she was jealous. I’m sorry for Valentine’s Day, I’m sorry about the Grammy’s…" He kissed her cheek and sighed. "I’m sorry for hurting you by getting back with her."

Haley closed her eyes and covered his hands with hers. "Don’t worry about that. It’s in the past."

JC nodded again. "Okay. New subject."

Haley sighed. "Let’s keep this between us. I don’t need everyone in my business, and Chris doesn’t need the stress of two of his best friends hooking up."

JC groaned. "That’s hard to do, keep it from them." He leaned his cheek against hers and sighed. "But I know C doesn’t need it. He and Dani need it to be there time."

Haley nodded. "For now, it’s best." She turned in his arms and smiled up at him, glad to be the one receiving his love. "We’ll tell them when we’re ready."

 

 

Chapter 27

(Thursday April 26th, 2001)

JC grinned at Haley as they rode the elevator down to the lobby of the hotel to meet everyone before leaving for Minneapolis. "Thanks for last night," he said as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her forehead. "It was nice."

Haley pulled away from him, but he held her to his body. "Nice? That's all you can say? A night like that, and it's just nice?"

The elevator doors opened and the pair quickly stepped away from each other as the rest of the guys walked past them. She grabbed her bag and gave JC a hard look before walking behind the group.

JC sighed and followed her outside to the waiting buses. "Hey, Haley, you riding with us?" he asked as they loaded their bags onto the buses.

Haley stared at JC, a smile slowly creeping onto her face. "You know, that would be NICE, but I'm kinda not in the mood." She waved at the guys and stuck her tongue out at JC, whose jaw was hanging open. She took her seat at the back of the bus and waited until they were on the highway before she leaned across the aisle. "Psst. Eric. Can I use your phone?" she whispered so she wouldn't wake any other people up.

Eric nodded. "Yeah. Keep it short though," he mumbled as he grabbed his phone out of his bag and handed it to her.

Haley smiled in thanks and settled back into the seat before dialing the familiar number.

"Hey hey," JC answered on the third ring.

"Hey. It's me."

Pause. "I'm mad at you. That was mean."

Haley giggled as she watched the fields pass by. "Well, you started it."

JC sighed. "You know what I meant."

"Explain it to me. Please," she said quietly as she snuggled up to the pillow between her shoulder and free ear.

"It just felt good, having you there with me." Another pause. "It WAS nice. What else can I say?"

"How 'bout that it was the best night of your life, and you wanna have a night like that every night with me, and that you can't stop thinking about me." She looked around nervously and grinned when she saw that nobody was listening.

"You know how much it meant to me, and how much I liked it, and I will do it every chance that is ever given to me." He paused before continuing. "And I can't stop thinking about you."

Haley smiled and wished that she was in his arms. "Good to hear. Now, get some sleep, because you didn't get much last night. I'll see you later."

"Okay. Bye."

Haley hung up the phone and set it on the seat next to an unconscious Eric before staring out the window as she thought about the night before. She and JC had spent the night in Haley's room, just watching TV and movies and talking, more than happy to be together. They had talked until the early hours of the morning, when JC had pulled her into his arms and they fell asleep together, her head against his chest.

They had agreed to keep the relationship a secret, and they knew it would be hard, but they thought it was best. The rest of the guys didn't need to be in their business, and Haley didn't feel the need to tell them. The guys, of course, would assume what they wanted, and Haley and JC had agreed not to give any definite answers if approached.

Later that afternoon, before the show, Haley was warming up with Sam and the dancers when she saw Robin talking to Lance and throwing dirty looks her way. Haley turned away and waited until Robin was gone before jogging over to Lance.

"What the hell was that?"

Lance shrugged his shoulders. "She's asking about JC, wanted to know if you'll be at the party."

Haley bit her lip and nodded. "Kay. It just looked like she wants me dead."

Lance sighed. "She's worried you have JC."

Haley raised an eyebrow. "I have him?"

Lance grinned. "Do you?" he asked as he walked away.

Haley held in a surprised laugh and rejoined the dancers backstage. "Alright. We almost ready?"

Sam nodded. "About a minute."

The minute soon passed, and Haley ran onstage after Eden's Crush was finished performing. Throughout the concert, she felt JC's eyes on her. As she ran backstage for the last costume change, JC was waiting to go back onstage. He smiled at her and blew her a kiss behind Justin's back before following him onstage. She got goosebumps all over her body from the gesture and was singing 'It's Gonna Be Me' while she changed costumed. As she walked towards the stage, she ran into Robin (literally).

"Oh, sorry," Haley muttered as she walked away.

"Sure," Robin said. "Whatever."

Haley rolled her eyes as she ran back onstage. "Oh, I'll take you down, Robin. Just try to fuck with me."

* * * * * * * * * *

(Thursday May 3, 2001 - St. Louis, MO)

"Jace, we gotta get up. They're gonna be here in like eight seconds." Haley grunted as she attempted to push his arm off of her waist. "Come on, Chasez. We gotta go."

JC pulled her closer to his body and kissed her shoulder. "They'll knock."

Haley rolled her eyes and managed to get out from under his arm. "Sure. I gotta go to my room." She grabbed her shoes and walked to the door as JC stumbled out of the bed. He followed her to the door and held it open for her.

He grabbed her hand and stepped out into the hallway as he looked around. "Clear," he said with a grin as he leaned her against the wall and, with his hands on either side of her head, he leaned his head down and their lips connected, making Haley's knees go weak.

After a long minute, Haley pushed on his shoulders and grinned, ducking under his arm and heading down the hall to her room. "Not bad, Wipeout," she said as she opened her door with her key card.

JC shook his head. "Oh, God, I am loving this," he said, scratching his head as he walked back into his room, not noticing Chris standing at the end of the hall, staring at the spot where he had just seen two of his best friends...kissing.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Friday May 4 2001 – St. Louis still

"Seriously, someone should have uninvited her. Do you see her?" Anett pointed at Robin who was dancing with Bobby. "And him. Why are they here? No one likes them."

Haley smiled as she took a sip of her drink and scanned the crowd at Lance’s birthday party. "Yeah, well, all help was invited, and believe it or not, they are help."

Anett rolled her eyes. "Yeah. They help me wanna kick their asses."

Haley shook her head. "No violence. It’s PooFoo’s birthday, and we aren’t gonna ruin it."

Anett stuck her tongue out at her friend. "Party pooper," she muttered. Her scowl turned into a smile when Justin appeared in front of her. "Hey, hottie."

Justin grinned. "Hey, sexy."

Haley rolled her eyes and pointed at Chris and Joey. "I’m gonna go over there before I hit one of you," she said with a smile as she cut through the group and made her way over to her friends. "Hola, chicos."

Joey grinned and hugged her. "Hey hey. How are ya?"

Haley shrugged. "Not bad." She turned to Chris. "Hey, C. What’s up?"

Chris shrugged his shoulders slightly. "Not much."

"Is Dani here?"

Chris nodded. "Somewhere."

Haley chewed on her lip as she thought about Chris’s attitude. "Okay. Anyone wanna dance?"

Joey nodded excitedly. "I’m there." He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the crowd. "So. What’s up with Chris? He’s been pissy all day."

Haley sighed. "No clue. Are he and Dani okay?"

"I think so. Maybe he’s just tired."

Haley nodded and the pair danced for a few songs before Joey left her for a blond, and Haley was left alone. She turned around and yelped in surprise when she ran into a hard chest and two arms supported her.

"Sorry ‘bout that. Thought you knew I was here."

Haley grinned up at JC. "I do now. What’s up?" she asked, her hand resting on his chest as they danced.

"Not much," he said, casually resting his hand on her hip. "Do you know how much I want to kiss you?" he whispered in her ear.

She bit her lip when she felt his lips brush against her ear. "The feeling is completely mutual, but it’s not a good time."

JC sighed. "Chris."

Haley nodded. "Something’s wrong, and I don’t wanna surprise him with this…us."

JC nodded. "I know. It’s just hard."

Haley grinned as she walked away. "Soon enough."

LATER ON…

"That fucking wench."

Haley almost choked on her drink and she stared at Anett. "That was harsh."

"Do you see her? She’s all over him."

Haley followed Anett’s gaze, and she felt a pang of jealousy when she saw Robin standing beside JC, practically hanging off of him. Her mouth went dry, and she caught JC’s eye as she took another sip. His eyes pleaded with her to not be mad, but he couldn’t just brush her off and go running to Haley, because then it would be kind of obvious.

"I’m going outside."

Anett nodded and watched Haley walk out the doors leading to the pool and gazebo. "Think you’re fooling me, eh, Maguire? I know what’s going on. You all of a sudden get all happy, JC too, and you think we don’t notice how you two look at each other?" Anett sighed and smiled at Justin. "Hey sweetie," she said as he stood between her legs and kissed her forehead. "When do you think they’ll tell us what’s really going on?"

MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE…

Haley sighed as she sat down on the big wooden swing beside the gazebo. She stared up at the stars and sighed loudly.

"Stressed out?"

Haley smiled as Chris sat down beside her. "Slightly." She watched Chris out of the corner of her eye. She opened her mouth to say something but Chris beat her to the punch.

"What’s up?"

Haley shrugged her shoulders. "Everything."

"Could you be anymore vague?"

Haley rolled her eyes. "Sorry." She paused as she picked imaginary fuzz off of her skirt. "I’ve come to a conclusion." She nodded at Chris’s raised eyebrows. "Uh huh. Being jealous is totally not fun."

Chris nodded slowly. "And what are you jealous of?"

"A girl."

Chris rolled his eyes. "What girl?"

Haley sighed, not sure what to say, or if he’d understand. "A girl who doesn’t deserve what she wants."

Chris slowly turned to face Haley. "And you’re afraid she’s gonna get what she wants, right?"

Haley wiped a tear away as she stared at Chris. "Yes, I am. If she gets it, I don’t know what I’ll do."

Chris put an arm around Haley as they stood up. They walked back towards the building, and Haley stopped outside the door. She stood outside and stared in, watching JC and Robin.

Chris sighed when he realized what he was staring at. "You know she won’t get him. He loves you and only you."

Haley’s eyes widened and she turned to face Chris. "How do you know?"

Chris rolled his eyes again. "Oh, stop it. Do you think I haven’t noticed?" He shook his head. "You know how he feels. Stop hiding it."

Haley sighed when she saw Robin’s hand touch JC’s cheek. "I don’t know…"

"Yes, you do." Chris pushed her inside. "Now go."

Haley took a deep breath as she stood on the edge of the dance floor. She saw Robin laughing and touching JC’s arm, and she saw JC smile uncomfortably as he looked around. His eyes found Haley’s, and a smile slowly formed on his lips as they stared at each other. Haley smiled nervously and took a few steps towards him.

"You have him! Just go get him!" Chris said as he pushed past her and disappeared onto the dance floor.

Haley’s smile grew and she stood up straight, her eyes focusing on JC. She walked towards him and they were both oblivious to Robin’s attempt to get his attention. JC leaned back against the bar as he watched Haley get closer to him. Haley stopped just in front of JC, and she felt her cheeks go red when she realized that people were watching her.

She cleared her throat before she could change her mind, and she ignored Robin’s dirty looks. "Joshua Scott Chasez, if you get with me, I makes you the happiest twenty percent of the ‘N Sync corporation."

JC’s jaw dropped at her words and, before he could react, Haley was standing between his legs and pulling his neck towards her. She brought his head to meet hers and, standing on her tiptoes, her lips made contact with his. His hands made their way around her waist, and he pulled her off of her feet, trying to get her closer to him.

Haley began to get dizzy, and she reluctantly broke the contact, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her head in his neck when the people around them started clapping and cheering.

"Thank you," he whispered in her ear. "You have no idea how much that meant to me."

Haley pulled away and rested her feet on the ground. "Anytime, Wipeout." She kissed him lightly. "Anytime." She looked around and felt relieved when she didn’t see Robin. "Oh. Did the wicked witch leave?" She grinned and pulled JC onto the dance floor. "Shucks."

 

 

 

Chapter 28

(still May 4th)

"You are amazing."

Haley smiled at the voice in her ear. "I know."

JC chuckled as he lowered himself onto the bed beside Haley. "Yes, you do." He sighed happily when she curled her body against his and rested her head on his chest. "It’s good that everyone knows. We don’t have to hide it now."

Haley nodded against his chest and sighed in happiness when JC’s hand rubbed her back. "I know how you feel." She traced an intricate pattern on his chest with her finger as she thought. "Chris saw us yesterday. That’s how he knew."

JC nodded. "He told me earlier. And Lance apparently figured it out too."

Haley giggled and kissed his chin before yawning. "Yeah, well, Lance knew a lot before, and he just put two and two together."

JC kissed her forehead. "I’m gonna be the one you turn to now, right?"

Haley smiled as she wrapped her arms around him. "Most of the time."

"Most of the time?"

Haley kissed him quickly before burying her face in his chest. "I can’t go to you about everything. I mean, you’ll know about the sweet things you do for me. Anett needs to hear something juicy." She squirmed when his hands came to her waist and tickled her.

"Say it."

Haley shook her head and continued to squirm. "No. Why would I say it?"

JC raised an eyebrow. "Cuz you know it’s true. Are you actually daring to say no?" he asked as he wrapped his arms around her body and held her on top of his. "You sure you don’t wanna say those three precious words?"

Haley’s eyes widened and she tried to get out of his grasp. "I’m sorry, Wipeout, but I won’t say it."

JC chuckled at her attempt to get free, even though he knew she liked it. "Oh, come on. You know you want to."

Haley shook her head. "No, I don’t. Let me go."

"Say it…or I won’t kiss you again."

Haley raised an eyebrow at the challenge. "Big threat for a guy who loves to kiss me."

"Wanna bet?"

Haley nodded. "Yeah. You go an hour without kissing me, and I’ll say those three words that mean so much to you."

JC stuck his hand out and grinned evilly as she shook it. "Deal. Sixty minutes until I hear those words."

Haley grinned and sat up against the wall. "You won’t make it ten minutes," she said before pressing the POWER button on the remote. She found a station playing ‘The Goonies’ and she settled herself on the bed, JC lying on his stomach.

About ten minutes later, JC stood up and walked into the bathroom with a sigh. He came back into the room a few minutes later and returned to the bed, sitting beside her. His foot started bouncing from side to side, and Haley knew he was going to crack. She slapped his hand away from his mouth when he started to chew on his nail, and held his hand in hers.

"Dammit," he muttered.

"What?" Haley asked, turning to face him, the smile on her face telling him that she knew he was giving in.

JC smiled pathetically. "Oh, screw it." He pulled his hand away from hers and brought his head to hers, his lips covering hers. "Yes, I am a fool. Those words mean a lot, but…I couldn’t stop myself," he said with a sigh, stroking her cheek.

Haley laughed and kissed him lightly before laying down, her head resting on his stomach. "It’s all good, Jace." She mentally kicked herself for saying it, but he was too cute when he got what he wanted. "And…you da shit."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Thursday, June 21, 2001)

"Alright. As most of you know, Haley decided to embarrass me a lot on my birthday. And, now, I will be repaying her the favor." Justin grinned at Haley. "Please don’t hate me. It’s done out of love."

Haley raised an eyebrow as the words she had once used were thrown back in her face, and Justin waved at someone in the back. The lights dimmed, and Haley slid down in her seat when she saw a huge TV screen in the middle of the room. The screen was suddenly filled with her face, and she rolled her eyes when she heard ‘Baby One More Time’ (care of Britney Spears). She blushed when she saw footage of her goofing off with people, and the song faded into ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, showing footage of Haley in rehearsal and during some concerts, mainly parts when she screwed up. And, as the screen read ‘Love Bites’, Haley had to laugh when the clip form the New Year’s Eve concert of her and Joey kissing filled the screen before fading of footage of Haley and JC kissing in the dressing room before a concert, and on the bus, and in the hotel room. Haley made a mental note to beat Justin up for following them with a camera. Finally, the screen went black, but Haley knew it wasn’t over.

Sure enough, in big bright green letters, ‘Haley at her best’ flashed across the screen while the music slowly got louder. Her eyes widened when she saw herself on the screen singing ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ at the recital. She covered her face and laughed at herself until the video was over and the lights were on again. She looked around JC’s living room as people laughed and clapped, and she nodded at Justin.

"Well done, little man."

Justin grinned from across the room. "I told you I’d get you."

Haley rolled her eyes and walked over to him. "Now, I gotta get you back," she said as she hugged him. "And you know I will." She waved at the group and walked out into the backyard, where JC had left at the end of the video. She saw him sitting on the swing and walked towards him, a smile on her face.

"That was good. Did you beat him up yet?"

Haley shook her head and stood in front of him. "Nah. I’ll save it for his birthday." She kissed the top of his head and sighed when he pulled her in between his legs and hooked his arms around her waist. She ran her hands through his hair as the wind blew around them.

"I love you."

Neither of them believed it when those three words were whispered, and they slowly brought their eyes to meet, both smiling at the realization.

"I love you, too."

JC pulled her closer and she bent her head down to meet his, their lips locking in a simple kiss, both glad to know how the other felt, and ecstatic to be open with each other.

"Happy birthday, Haley."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(June 30, 2001 – Orlando)

"You have mail."

Haley grinned as she clicked on the mailbox on the screen. "People love me," she said when she noticed three new messages. She scanned the first two from Ashleigh, then laughed at the joke Joey sent her. She clicked the ‘next’ button, and the smile slowly faded as she read the message. Her heart beat faster, and she suddenly got cold. She looked at the email address of the sender, and she didn’t recognize it. Her hand shook as she reached for the mouse again. She pointed it at the ‘print’ button and signed off the internet as it was printing. She sat in her chair and stared at the paper in the printer’s tray.

RING! RING! (phone)

Haley turned her head sharply and looked at the phone. She took a deep breath and reached for the phone beside her. "Hello?" she said quietly, her eyes on the paper.

"Hey. What’s up? Were you sleeping?"

Haley cleared her throat and turned from the paper. "No. I’m just tired. What’s up with you?" she asked, rubbing her forehead.

JC sighed. "Not much. We’re at the hotel now. I just wanted to say good night."

Haley bit her lip to keep herself from telling him about the email. He didn’t need to know about it right now. "Okay. DO you want me to pick you up at the airport tomorrow?"

"If you don’t mind. I haven’t seen you in almost a week."

"Kay. I’ll be there around three."

"Can’t wait. Have a good night, Haley. I love you."

Haley closed her eyes, wishing her was with her. "I love you too. Good night, Wipeout."

"’Night."

Haley hung the phone up and slowly turned to the printer. She grabbed the paper and took it to her bedroom. She put it down on the bed before letting Sniffy inside from the balcony, and then she locked the door. She took a quick shower and changed into one of JC’s big sweaters and her Modrobes, putting her hair in two braids, keeping an eye on the paper. She sighed before grabbing it and reading it again:

Haley,

I can’t believe that you are actually with him. Do you actually think that a popstar like him will want you forever?

Let me tell you: You two may be happy together now, but it won’t last. You’ll realize soon enough that you aren’t good enough for him…unless he realizes it first, then you’ll feel the pain. You better watch your back, cuz there are new possibilities in every city, around every corner…

Good luck in keeping him happy.

Haley pulled the blankets around her and threw the paper on the floor. "It was just someone who thinks they know him, and me too. Leave it there." She sighed as she closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall asleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(August 12, 2001 – Orlando)

"We’re going back to Toronto?" JC grinned as he turned into Haley’s parking lot. "Let me tell her, okay, Joe? I won’t be able to not tell her." JC nodded, even though Joey couldn’t see him. "Got it, Joe. I’ll call you later." JC hung the phone up as he stepped out of the Jeep and walked towards the building. "Oh, she is gonna shit her pants. Back to Toronto for three days, and we don’t have to work…much." JC grinned as he opened the door to her apartment, being careful not to wake her up.

He looked around her small apartment and smiled at the collage of pictures on the wall – pictures of her family, the guys, and the newest pictures of her and JC were in the middle.

"Meow." (cat)

"Hey, Sniffy. Where’s our favorite woman?" JC asked quietly as he picked the cat up off the floor. He walked into the living room scratching Sniffy’s head, and he found Haley sitting on the couch, her legs curled up to her body. Her face was blank as she stared at the wall ahead of her, her brow furrowed.

"Hey, sweetie. What’s going on?" he asked gently as Sniffy jumped out of his arms and landed on the floor. JC sat down beside her and brushed the hair out of her eye, a worried look on his face.

She slowly turned to look at him, and she forced a smile, but her lip started to tremble when he put his hand over hers. "Oh, Jace. Why do people hate me?" she whispered as tears slid down her cheeks. "What did I do wrong?"

JC’s eyes softened as he watched the woman he loved break down in front of him. "What are you talking about?" he asked, putting his arm around her shoulders and pulling her to his chest. "Nobody hates you. Why would they?"

Haley closed her eyes and pointed at the computer across the room. "Go look."

JC kissed her temple before he stood up and walked to the computer, a confused look on his face. He sat down in front of the monitor, the color draining from his face as he stared at the images in front of him.

Haley’s website was in the open window, and someone had hacked into the site, ruining all of the pictures and graphics. Written across the screen was ‘WENCH’, which blinked in big, blood red letters. Then, in place of her welcome message with the latest updates was a not-so-pleasant message, again in blood red:

You are so lucky to have him, but if you know what’s best, you’ll leave him alone. Enjoy it while you can, because it won’t last…it’s hard to be with something when you’re not around.

Enjoy it while it lasts…it will end, Haley. Don’t think it won’t.

JC’s mouth went dry as he read the message, and he shook his head in disgust when all of her banners, made by Ashleigh, were ruined by words like ‘bitch’, ‘whore’ and ‘slut’, and he had to remind himself to breathe when he saw a picture of him with a big heart around it, and Haley’s name beside it was crossed out and replaced with ‘slut’.

"Who did this?"

Haley shook her head as she watched him. "I don’t know."

JC logged off the internet and shut the computer down before walking back to Haley. He sat beside her and ran a hand through her hair. "It’s not true. I’m here for good." He wrapped his arms around her and held her to his body. "I am so sorry, Haley. I am gonna find out who did this, and we’ll take them down."

Haley closed her eyes and reached a hand into her pocket. "I got this a while ago," she said, handing him a copy of the email from June. She watched him read it, and she saw his eyes flash with anger. "I didn’t think it was…anything to really worry about, so I didn’t tell you." She leaned into his chest. "Why would someone do this to me?"

JC sighed. "Because you are happy and they aren’t." He kissed the top of her head as he rocked her back and forth, rubbing her back. "Okay. I’m gonna try to make you smile. Guess what I found out today?"

Chapter 29

(August 23, 2001 – Toronto)

"We in Toronto, we gonna party," Haley sang to herself as the plane finally stopped moving down the runway. She grinned goofily at JC. "Guess what, hon."

JC smiled back. "What?" he asked, happy to see Haley excited again. She had been kind of distant since the hacking, and she still hadn’t fixed her site, although she did email the people on her list and told them that it would be ‘under construction’ for a while.

Haley leaned closer so no one else would hear her. "I love Toronto," she whispered, her lips gently rubbing against his ear. She giggled at his slightly disappointed sigh. "And I love you, too." She kissed his neck working her way up to his lips where she smiled, hovering over him. "You do understand that this is the last time I will see you until the Live At Much."

JC nodded and licked his lips, staring at her lips. "Yeah, I know, so please, tell me, why are we still talking?"

Haley looked at her watch, a sly grin on her face. "That’s about five and a half hours, and I won’t be able to be this close to you until then, cuz, you know, the fans and all."

JC nodded quickly, moving his head towards hers. "Got it. Stop talking."

Haley tilted her head back and sighed when he kissed her chin. "So, technically, it’ll be at least six and a half hour, probably closer to seven before we will have another opportunity like this."

JC rolled his eyes and placed and hand on each side of her face, bringing her head to his. "Sweetheart, just shut up." He placed his lips over hers and smiled against her lips when her hands attacked his hair.

"Oh, seriously, I did not need to see that."

Haley giggled as she pulled away from JC and rested her forehead against his. "Well, we managed to piss Chris off."

JC nodded and caressed her cheek. "Yes we did." He grinned evilly. "Wanna do it again?"

"You do not have to ask me twice," she said as she claimed his lips again.

"Seriously! You two are so bloody horny."

Haley pulled away from JC and slowly turned her head to stare at Justin. "And how many times have you and Anett sucked face in front of all of us?"

Justin’s face reddened and he walked away from the couple. "Carry on," he said as he walked down the aisle to enter the airport.

Haley grinned at JC. "Thank me later," she said before kissing him again. "We gotta go," she said as she stood up and grabbed her bag.

JC sighed as he stood up and followed Haley down the aisle. "And why aren’t you coming to the press conference?" he whined.

"Because I already know the answers to the underwear question, I’ve already heard everything I could possibly hear about the new album, and," she stopped him at the door and kissed him lightly before fixing his hair, "I need to catch up with Smash." She smiled brightly as she walked down the walkway.

JC shook his head and followed Mike and Haley into the airport. "So you’ll be at the Live At Much?" he asked before they reached the terminal…and the fans.

Haley turned around and quickly blew him a kiss. "Yes! I will be there. I love you!" she said before disappearing into the crowd.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At Ashleigh’s…

"Haley! You gotta go! There’s only like ten minutes left of the pregame show."

Haley rolled her eyes from the bathroom as she finished applying her lip gloss. "Relax. It takes less than five minutes to get there," she said as she walked back into the living room. "Okay. I’ll be back later tonight. Watch for me! Buh-bye!" Haley grabbed her purse and jacket and ran out the door.

She got settled in Ashleigh’s navy blue Miata and she grinned when ‘Digital Get Down’ poured out of the speakers. "Good taste, Smash," she said as pulled out onto the street. She was stopped at a stop sign and was singing to the music when she was suddenly jerked forward. She rubbed her sore neck and looked in the rearview mirror, and she saw a blue Honda Civic behind her. She released her seatbelt and opened her door.

"Dude, you fucked up my friend’s car!" she said as she rested her foot on the pavement.

"Oh, shut up!"

Haley froze at the voice. "What the hell?"

CLICK.

Haley slowly turned her head, and the colour drained from her face when she was looking down the barrel of a handgun. She fearfully brought her eyes to look at the owner of the gun, and her mouth went dry.

"What do you want?" she barely whispered, her voice shaking with fear.

"Get the fuck out of the pretty car, bitch. We’re gonna go for a ride. Get your purse."

Haley swallowed the lump in her throat and grabbed her purse before stepping out of the car.

"In the car," the gun owner said, pointing to the Honda Civic. "We’re gonna do some visiting."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Yeah, we are very proud of the album. We wrote most of the songs, and we produced all of the tracks, so we’re more than proud of our new creation."

Rick Campanelli nodded at Chris and smiled into the camera. "Thanks Chris. And we’ll be back after this break with ‘N Sync."

As soon as they were clear, JC made his way through the crowd to Anett and Johnny. "Has she called?" he asked, looking around the Much Environment.

Johnny shook his head. "Not yet."

JC pulled his phone out and sighed when there was no message from Haley. "She’s forty-five minutes late, and she hasn’t called," he said as he dialed her number. "Damn. It’s off." He ran a hand over his face and looked at Anett. "Will you call Ashleigh?" he asked quietly.

Anett nodded and grabbed her phone, automatically dialing her best friend’s number.

"What do you want?"

"Hi. Is Haley there?"

"No. She left almost an hour ago." Ashleigh paused. "She’s not there?"

Anett sighed. "No, and JC’s freaking out." She looked worriedly at her friend who was trying to concentrate on a fan asking about their dream date.

"Did you call her phone?"

"Off."

"Shit." Ashleigh sighed. "I’m gonna go look. I’ll take a cab. Maybe the car broke down. She’s been kinda chuggish lately."

Anett nodded. "Kay. Call me."

"Of course."

Anett snapped the phone closed and shook her head at Johnny. "She’s gonna go look." She shook her head at JC’s distant answers. He was obviously thinking about Haley, and she knew what was going through his mind.

The next commercial break, all of the guys checked their phones, and JC was visibly frustrated when no one had a message from her.

"Guys, don’t worry. Just finish the interview, and we’ll find her," Anett said when she saw their faces. "We have to do this, and Ashleigh’s looking. Do this, and we go."

The guys reluctantly left their phones with her and finished the interview, trying their best to appear happy for their fans. As soon as they could, the guys left MuchMusic, JC, Chris, Mike and Anett in the rental car, and the others in the van.

Anett’s phone rang as she was pulling out of the parking lot. "Yeah."

"Shit. Anett, get to the store. Now."

Anett’s heart dropped. "What is it?"

"Just get here. Bring JC."

Anett nodded. "Two minutes." She hung the phone up and threw it at JC beside her as she sped up and drove to the store down the street from Ashleigh’s. Her heart beat faster when she saw a police car, a cab and Ashleigh standing next to Ashleigh’s Miata, the cop taking notes. She parked the car and ran to Ashleigh, JC, Chris and Mike right beside her.

"What happened?"

Ashleigh looked sadly at her friends. "I don’t know. The car’s a little smashed, her purse is gone, but her jacket’s still here." She bit her lip as the fear got to her. "Guys, she doesn’t go anywhere without it. Something happened." She shook her head. "She would have taken it."

"It looks like someone hit her from behind, and the other driver left the scene." The police officer sighed as he looked at the young people in front of him. "The car wasn’t ruined. It works fine."

"Then why would she leave?" JC asked, searching for answers.

The police officer walked over to his car and returned to the group with a plastic bag. "I found this," he said, holding the bag up for them to see. "It’s for a small handgun. I found it on the road, in the glass. I’m not saying that a gun was involved, but it looks sort of…connected."

JC’s eyes widened as he stared at the bullet, and he sat down on the curb next to the Miata. "Do you…do you think someone took her hostage?" he asked, his head in his hands.

"It looks like that’s a possibility. Would there be any reason for someone to take her hostage?"

JC looked around the group and closed his eyes. "There’s someone that wants to…hurt her, but I don’t know who." He bit his lip as he thought how to tell the cop about the email and hacking. "See, she’s gotten some threats…"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Alright, bitch. We’re gonna have a little chat."

Haley’s eyes widened in fear as the other cars on the highway were left behind the Honda Civic. "Why are you doing this?" she asked quietly.

"Why? You have the nerve to ask me why?"

Haley winced at the hate she heard in her captor’s voice. "I think I deserve to know why you’re doing this to me. I can only think of one thing, and if that’s it, then you need some serious help."

"You have balls, Maguire. Telling me that I need help, and I’m driving down the Trans Canada highway at 120 miles an hour. Not smart, but very gutsy." The captor grabbed Haley’s phone and turned it on. "Damn. Thirty-two missed calls." The phone was thrown back into the purse. "Popular girl."

Haley stopped from rolling her eyes. "What can I say. People like me."

"Hmm." The car switched lanes and exited off the ramp. "We’re gonna grab you some extra clothes and some grub, and then we’re on the road again."

Haley nodded and watched the city of London, Ontario fly by. When she realized that they were going to her parent’s house, she closed her eyes and silently prayed that her mother and Brian were home to help her, but her heart dropped when she saw no lights on and no car outside the house.

"I checked ahead. They’re out with friends," the captor said at Haley’s disappointed face. "I did my homework, Haley. Now, don’t try anything cuz I will use the gun."

Haley nodded and followed her captor into the house she had lived in with her mother and stepfather.

"Go to the bathroom. We aren’t stopping for a while."

Haley nodded again and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. She quickly did her business and washed her hands before staring at herself in the mirror. "Oh, fuck. I have a woman ready to kill me, and no one knows where I am."

"I wouldn’t say no one. I found you."

Haley turned to the now open door and smiled hopefully at Robin. "Oh, Robin, you don’t know how happy I am…" Haley’s smile faded and her eyes widened as Robin pulled a gun out from behind her. "You’re in with her?" she whispered, her hopes falling.

Robin waved the gun in Haley’s face, an evil grin on her face. "Of course. Sarah’s one of my best friends. When she came to me with this idea, I said, ‘Of course I wanna hurt Haley.’" She smiled sweetly and grabbed Haley’s wrist. "Now let’s go talk to Sarah and see what else is planned for today." She pulled Haley out of the bathroom and dragged her down the hall to the kitchen. "Hey, Sarah, she was kinda shocked to see me." She pushed Haley down into a chair beside Sarah. "I think she’s kinda scared."

Sarah grinned evilly. "Good."

Chapter 30

"Where are we going?"

"Full of questions, eh, Maguire?" Robin shook her head and looked at Sarah in the backseat. "You hear her, Sare? She wants to know where we’re going."

Sarah leaned forward, her head next to Haley’s. "Where do you think we’re going? I know you have to have a hunch by now."

Haley turned to face the window. "People will see you. It won’t work."

"And what won’t work?" Robin raised an eyebrow at Haley. "What do we have planned for you?"

"You tell me."

Sarah grinned and patted Haley’s cheek, giggling when she flinched at the touch. "You really wanna know how your life is gonna change today?" Sarah leaned back in her seat. "You are gonna pay for what you did to us."

Haley’s eyes closed in fear as she suck into the passenger’s seat when she saw the sign welcoming them to Clinton, Haley’s home town. "I didn’t do anything to you."

"Ha!" Robin turned into the parking lot of Clinton Crown Lanes in Clinton. "You fucked my life up," she said as she parked the car next to the front door. "Get inside. Try anything, and you’ll have two bullets chasing you."

Haley nodded and stepped out of the car, clutching her purse in her hands. She followed Robin through the open door and flinched when Sarah slammed it shut behind them. Sarah pushed Haley up the stairs to the apartment behind Robin, who threw her bag and keys on the kitchen table.

"Sit down, wench," she said, pointing at the kitchen table. "We have some shit to talk about." She sat down on the counter, leaning towards Haley. "You need to understand what is gonna happen today, and why."

Haley raised an eyebrow as Sarah sat down next to her. "Go ahead."

Robin blew a bubble with her gum as she stared at Haley. "Alright. See, Sarah was happy with her boyfriend when he suddenly broke things off with her, telling her that he found someone else."

"He left me for you."

Robin nodded at Sarah’s comment. "Yes. For some fucked up reason, he wanted you over her." She leaned back. "You stole the love out of my best friend’s life." She smirked at Haley. "That’s one reason."

"And, of course, I’m sure you understand Robin’s motive. I mean, you are kinda smart."

Haley’s eyes narrowed at Robin before she answered Sarah. "I’m glad he fell in love with me. Nothing could ever change that," she said, never taking her eyes from Robin’s.

Robin’s eyes closed and her fists clenched. "He is not in love with you," she hissed through clenched teeth. "You do not deserve him. He is too good for you. He’s not in love with you!"

"Hmm. I guess that’s why he spends every night in the same bed as me. Cuz, you know, he doesn’t love me."

Haley’s eyes closed and the room echoed the CRACK that was made when Robin’s fist connected with Haley’s jaw, and her hand delicately rubbed the side of her face.

"Don’t be a smartass with me. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you continue to tempt me." Robin stood up and grabbed her wallet out of her bag. "Sare, we need some food, and gas," she said, tossing the wallet to her friend. "And pick him up."

Sarah nodded and stood up, pushing her way past Haley. "Gotcha. Don’t be afraid to beat her ass down."

Robin waved goodbye and sat down in the chair across from Haley. "So. What’s up?"

Haley rolled her eyes, and hope was sparked inside her when her eyes fell on the attic door. "Robin, I gotta pee."

Robin raised an eyebrow. "I guess you can go." She pulled Haley out of her chair and pushed her towards the bathroom. "No funny shit."

Haley nodded and shut the door behind her. She relieved herself again and washed her hands.

"You almost done?"

Haley closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Yah. Hold on." She took a few steps from the door and said a quick prayer before she pushed herself against the door and felt it connect with Robin. She jumped over Robin’s body and turned the corner, reaching for the attic door. She pulled it open and crawled inside, shutting the door behind her. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dim light as she carefully stepped over the beams, until she was out of sight, and still had a clear run for the door. ‘Okay. Bitch comes up, I run when I get the chance, go to…go to Grandma’s. It’s only a five minute walk…two minute run. I can do it.’

Her breathing stopped when the door opened again, letting light into the attic. She saw Robin’s head appear, and then the gun in her hand.

"I know you’re here. Think you’re pretty smart, eh?" Robin yelled as she stepped in the opposite direction of Haley. "Well, it’s too bad these bullets can run faster than you," she said as she disappeared from Haley’s view.

Haley took the opportunity and jumped out of her hiding spot, bolting towards the door. She kicked it open and feel to the ground. She shook her head and pushed herself off the floor, and the wind was knocked from her when Robin landed on top of her.

"Gotcha, bitch!" she said, pulling Haley to her feet. She pushed her onto the couch and went to her bag. "I guess you’re in a feisty mood." She took a roll of duct tape from her bag. "Sorry to put an end to it."

MEANWHILE, IN TORONTO…(an hour before)

"Okay. So now I’m pissed. Where the hell is she?"

Anett ran a hand through her hair. "Jace, I wish I knew."

RING! RING! (phone)

JC’s hand flashed to his phone and was at his ear before the second ring. "Haley?…Oh, Mrs. Falconer." JC turned away from Anett and Ashleigh’s shocked faces. "What? Her wallet’s there? Anything missing?" JC sighed. "Will you be home all night?" He nodded at her words. "I’ll be there in half an hour."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(in London)

JC stared at Mrs. Falconer’s crest fallen face. "I’m so sorry," he whispered. "I swear I will find her."

Mrs. Falconer nodded and patted his hand. "I know you will."

RING! RING! (phone)

"Haley?"

"No, it’s Robin."

JC ran a hand over his face when he heard Robin’s voice. "Hi. Have you seen Haley?"

"No, I just got into Toronto. Why? What’s up?"

"We can’t find her. The car she was driving was in an accident, and she left it." JC sighed and closed his eyes. "There was a bullet by the car. They think someone took her."

"Oh my God." There was a pause. "Jace, I’m so sorry."

JC nodded. "Well, if you hear from her, let me know."

"Of course. Bye, sweetie."

JC’s free hand reached up to end the conversation when he heard Robin’s voice again.

"Haley, that was your man--"

The colour drained from his face when he heard Haley’s name, and what sounded like a grunt. He flipped the phone closed and looked at Mike behind him. "Get Mary on the phone."

"Mary?" Mike asked, confused.

"Mary from wardrobe. Now!" he yelled when his friends just stood there.

Mike moved frantically for his phone where he searched the directory. "It’s…494-8296."

JC waved at Mike as he dialed the number and walked out of the door to the backyard.

"Hello?"

"Mary?"

"Yeah…who’s this?"

"JC. I need you to do something, now."

"Okay. What’s wrong?" she asked, worry seeping into her voice.

"A lot, please, just call Robin’s phone and find out where she is. Please."

"Okay," she said slowly.

"Don’t let her know why, just say you need to talk about a contract or something. Just find out where she is and call me back."

"Of course."

JC thanked the older woman and hung up, turning to the worried faces behind him. "She’s with Robin, but she said she wasn’t. Robin said something about talking to Haley’s man, and I heard a grunt before Robin hung up," he said quickly as he looked from face to face. "Mary’s gonna find out where she is, then we’re gone."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Whoa! What happened in here?"

Robin stared at Haley as he friend walked into the room, and she felt satisfied with Haley’s horrified when Ryan Young followed her. "She got all worked up and pissed me off. So I got even." She patted Haley’s knee and stood up. "I called JC. He’s really worried about her. She was asking a lot of questions, so I taped her mouth shut." Robin turned and nodded at Ryan, who was staring, horrified at Haley. "Ryan, nice seeing you. Did you have a nice trip?"

Ryan shook his head. "What the hell are you doing?" He took a few steps towards Haley, but Robin put the gun against his temple and he stopped. "Liz, leave her alone. Haley, are you okay?"

Haley nodded and stared at Robin, the woman Ryan had called Liz.

"Ryan, it’s Robin now. After we broke up, I changed it back to Robin."

Haley’s eyes widened and she stared at Robin, fear overtaking her. She was looking at Robin, but after really looking at the woman, Haley realized, that it was without a doubt Liz Warner, the girl that Haley had caught Ryan with three years before. Sure, that was before cosmetic surgery, cut and dyed hair, and coloured contacts, but it was her…it was Liz…and now Robin.

Robin grinned when the realization hit Haley. "Wow, it only took you like seven months to realize it. Now, do you think you can understand why I’m doing this?" She took a few steps closer to Haley. "You fucked me over when you broke me and Ryan up."

"She didn’t do it. I wanted out."

"Shut up." Robin held the gun towards Ryan. "Just shut up." She turned back to Haley. "So. You ruined my relationship with Ryan, and I was like, whatever. But, then, you fucked Sarah up, and, again, you worked your way into my relationship with JC." She shook her head, staring at Haley with hatred. "Never again, Haley. Never."

"You won’t get away with anything."

Robin raised an eyebrow at Ryan’s comment. "I beg to differ." She looked back at Haley. "Here’s the plan. You, my dear, will end things with JC, leave the tour and move out of Orlando." She pulled the tape off Haley’s face. "But not yet." She pulled Haley to her feet and led her to the bedroom, Sarah pushing Ryan behind them. "Now, it’s picture time." She untied Haley’s wrists and pushed her towards the bed.

Haley looked worriedly at Ryan. "What are you doing?" she asked quietly.

"Well, Haley, sweet Ryan here, the caring friend, agreed to come here and do me a favor. He’s gonna take some pictures with you." Sarah patted Ryan’s shoulders. "What a guy."

Haley’s eyes narrowed at Ryan. "You’re in on this?" she asked, her voice full of pain and anger.

Ryan shook his head. "No! Haley, she told me she really needed me, so I came. I didn’t know about this."

"The guy’s telling the truth." Sarah nodded. "Anyways, he’s here, you’re here. Let’s get rolling."

Robin grabbed the camera from the dresser. "Okay. Both of you need to lose the clothes."

Haley’s eyes widened and she crossed her arms over her chest when she realized what they had planned. "No!"

Robin raised an eyebrow. "You really want to argue with a pissed off chick with a gun?" She shook her head. "Come on. Take off your clothes and get in bed." She rolled her eyes when the pair just stood there and she stepped towards Haley. "Now."

Haley hung her head and kicked off her shoes, Ryan doing the same. She slowly lifted the shirt over her head, her hands shaking. She brought her hands to her belt and unbuckled it before slowly unbuttoning her pants. She slid the material down her legs, and stood there, her arms covering her stomach. Her eyes drifted to Ryan, and she saw him standing there in his boxers.

"Good. Now, let’s see some action! Get in bed, Ryan," Robin said as he sat on the bed beside Haley. "Start with some touching, then kissing, and we’ll go from there."

Haley’s eyes closed her eyes and sat down beside him. Her brow furrowed when she felt Ryan’s fingers lightly touch her shoulder, and she bit her lip to keep from crying, or yelling. Ryan’s lips gently brushed her shoulder, and she stared straight ahead, picturing JC’s face and imagining the pain and hate in his eyes if her saw what was happening.

"I’m sorry, Haley," Ryan whispered in her ear. "They have guns. I’m sorry. I’ll get us out."

Haley nodded slowly, hating herself for letting this happen, but it was either this or die.

"Maguire, come on. Touch the guy. You didn’t have a problem with it when you took him from me. Don’t you want JC to be able to see you in action?"

Haley’s eyes slammed shut at Robin’s words, a swing of the gun, and the flash of the camera. She hesitantly rested her hand on Ryan’s chest as he kissed her cheek, and their lips connected, causing a few flashes of the camera. Oh, JC, she thought. Please don’t hate me for this.

AN HOUR LATER…

"Not bad, Maguire," Robin said as Haley put her clothes on quickly. "I’m sure JC’ll enjoy pictures of his woman getting it on with another man."

Haley pushed past Robin and walked into the living room. "Fuck you."

Robin laughed evilly. "Nah. I’m not in the mood." She followed Haley into the living room. "Okay. The pictures are being developed as we speak, so let’s discuss what will happen now." Robin took a sip of pop and stared at Haley. "We…well, you are going to call JC and tell him it’s over, or I will personally deliver the pictures to his bunk on the bus. Sound okay?"

Sarah walked into the room. "He’s out." She grinned at Haley. "Not bad, Maguire. I’ll have to remember some of those moves."

RING! RING! (phone)

"Hello?" Robin said into her phone. "Hey, Mary. What’s up?" she asked, rolling her eyes at Sarah.

Haley’s eyes widened at hearing Mary’s name, and she hoped that JC had heard Robin talking to her. She was sure he had, because she didn’t hang up the phone until Haley had grunted. Hearing Mary’s name brought hope to her again.

"No, I’m just visiting people in Clinton. Okay, I’ll be there on Monday morning. Okay, see ya." Robin hung the phone up and gave Sarah a confused look. "Why do you look so angry?"

"Robin, do you know what you just did?"

Robin took another sip of pop and shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah. I followed the plan."

Sarah rolled her eyes and grabbed the phone book off the floor. "You told Jace we were in Toronto, and now you said we’re in Clinton." She grabbed the phone and looked at Robin expectantly. "Where else can we go?"

Robin’s jaw dropped as she realized what she had done. "Oh, shit. Oh that house in Brucefield. The Mustard’s."

Haley’s eyes widened when she realized they were going to Laura’s house, and she watched Sarah dial the number, nod and then smile. "No one home," she said as she hung the phone up and threw it on the floor. "Let’s go."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(in car)

"Okay. We’re in Clinton, we know they have her. Where do we look?" Chris looked at the faces in the van as they drove towards Clinton. "It has to be somewhere Robin knows."

"Haley’s grandma’s house. We had that party there."

JC shook his head. "No, they’d be home."
There was silence in the van as they drove through Brucefield, no one noticing the small blue Honda Civic pulling into the driveway they had just passed.

JC’s eyes focused on the sign of the bowling alley as they entered Clinton. "Pull in there." He jumped out of the van as it stopped, and he swallowed the lump in his throat when he saw the door left open, and no cars in the parking lot. He ran inside and ran towards the lanes, yelling at Mike to check the apartment. His eyes searched for a clue, anything that said that Haley had been there.

"Upstairs!"

JC turned and flew up the stairs. "What?" he yelled when he saw Mike standing in the doorway to the bedroom.

Mike shook his head. "A guy’s passed out. I think someone hit him on the head, hard."

"Guys! Let’s go!" Chris ran past them and down the stairs. "Get some cops over here, and to Laura’s." He handed a wallet to JC. "It’s Haley’s. The phone book’s open to Laura’s page. That’s where they had to go. They took her to Brucefield."

 

Chapter 31

"Hurry up, Maguire. We gotta move fast."

Haley grunted as she reached under the deck, grasping the key in her fingers. "Take it," she said, throwing it at Robin.

Sarah grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. "Let’s go, pretty girl. We have some chatting to do." She pushed Haley into the house and shut the door behind them. She pushed Haley down into a chair and towered over her as Robin turned her phone off.

"Okay. Here it is." Robin sat down across from Haley and leaned towards her. "You are going to break it off with JC, or he sees the pictures."

"Never."

Robin closed her eyes. "Oh, come on!" Robin flipped through the pictures in her hands and whistled. "Damn! He is not going to like this. After everything you’ve been through, and you still fuck around on him." She smiled. "You ready to call? Because, if you don’t, the pictures will be found, and Sarah will take your place as a dancer. And, seeing how beautiful and funny she is, Justin will lose interest in Anett, and Sarah will have him to herself."

Haley shook her head. "They love each other too much to let anyone come between them." She narrowed her eyes at Robin. "And I will not let anything come between them."

"Wanna bet?"

Haley stared at Sarah. "Love is a strong thing. If they don’t wanna let it go, it won’t leave."

Sarah raised an eyebrow. "I beg to differ. I mean, you and Sean loved each other, but I still managed to get into his life…and bed."

Haley’s fingers gripped the arms of the chair. "Shut up, Sarah. He loved me."

"Yeah. And he loved fucking me."

Haley turned her face from Sarah and stared at the pool in the backyard. "If it’s easy to get, why not go for it?"

Sarah jumped onto Haley, her hands around her throat. "He loved me too!"

Robin pulled Sarah off Haley. "Settle down." She turned back to Haley. "And you shut up and listen." She pulled Haley to her feet and led her to the back door. "You are gonna tell JC that it’s over, then leave Orlando."

"And if I don’t?" she asked, barely a whisper.

Robin opened the door and walked towards the pool, pulling Haley behind her. "Your life is over and JC is mine."

Haley’s eyes widened as they reached the pool. "I won’t do it. I wont hurt him like that."

Robin nodded and pushed Haley into the pool, jumping in after her. "Then you are done," she yelled, holding Haley’s head under water.

Haley’s arms thrashed around as she tried to get Robin off of her. Her mind was going black from lack of oxygen, and her movements stopped, too tired to fight. She heard voices yelling over the water, and she hoped that help was there to save her.

Suddenly, the pressure was off of her neck and head, and she was pulled from the water.

"Oh, Haley, breathe! Please, hon, I need you!"

Haley felt the water freed from her lungs, and her eyes fluttered open as she coughed, air re-entering her lungs. She wrapped her arms around her friend’s neck. "Oh, God, thank you!"

Chris stood up with her in his arms and a blanket was placed around her body as he helped her stand on her own. "No prob. Anytime you need me to save your life, I’m here for you."

Haley smiled as she hugged him again. "Good to hear, Dreads."

"Haley."

Haley’s heart warmed as she turned to the voice, and tears erupted when she was pulled into JC’s arms. "I missed your show."

JC nodded and kissed her forehead as a tear slid down his cheek. "Don’t worry. It’ll repeat."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(August 24, 2001 – London Ontario)

JC gently pushed the bedroom door open and stepped inside, closing it quietly behind him. He padded his way over to the side of the bed and caressed Haley’s cheek, smiling when she automatically moved closer to his touch.

"Haley," he whispered. "Haley, I love you." He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Thank you for not leaving me. I can’t believe that I almost lost you. I’m not ready for that. I never will be."

"And that’s a good thing."

JC smiled into Haley’s eyes. "Morning."

Haley grinned. "Morning, Wipeout."

The pair stared at each other, both thinking about the previous day, and how everything could have been lost.

"I love you."

JC smiled and lightly kissed her lips. "And I love you." He sighed as he stared at her and brushed the hair out of her eyes. "I have a question."

Haley nodded. "Go ahead."

"Why didn’t you give in and just do what they said? I wouldn’t have let you go, and I would’ve found out."

Haley bit her lip as her eyes took in his features. "Jace, I love you. That will never change." She placed her palm on his cheek and smiled. "I was not going to let her think that I wouldn’t fight for you."

JC nodded slowly. "Thank you."

"Any day." Haley looked at the clock. "I take it the food’s ready."

JC grinned and kissed her again before standing up. "Yup. Enough food for an army."

Haley laughed as she stood up and pulled her hair into a ponytail. "Good old Mum," she said as she pulled him out of the bedroom. She stopped at the doorway to the living room, and she smiled lovingly at the sight of Justin and Anett holding each other, and the rest of the guys goofing off.

JC wrapped his arms around her from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder.

"Jace, I am so sorry," she whispered.

JC turned Haley around so he was facing her. "Sorry about what?" he asked, a confused look on his face.

Haley closed her eyes. "The pictures," she said quietly. "I felt so dirty. I did what they did," she said, tears flowing from her eyes. "Do you still love me?" she asked, staring at his chest, unable to look him in the eyes.

JC cupped Haley’s cheeks in both of his hands, forcing her to look at him. "Haley, I don’t like the fact that you had to do that." He sighed and leaned his forehead against hers. "I know that you didn’t want to do it, but it was either that or…God knows what!" He kissed her lightly and wiped the tears off of her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. "You did it, it’s in the past. Forget about it."

Haley took a deep breath. "Do you think any less of me?"

JC shook his head and pulled her into his arms. "I love you so much, Haley. No, I don’t think less of you. You more than likely kept yourself alive. It’s just some pictures that were burned, negatives too, and I know it meant nothing." He kissed the top of her head. "I love you. I always will."

Haley smiled and kissed JC’s chin. "I love you too."

The pair walked towards their friends and continued to watch them be happy.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(August 26, 2001 – Toronto)

Haley tossed a set of keys to Ashleigh. "Check out the parking lot."

Ashleigh raised and eyebrow and ran down the stairs. "Oh my God! It’s silver!"

Haley laughed and smiled at JC. "We just made her life."

JC grinned and pulled Haley to his chest. "Good." He looked at his watch. "We gotta go."

Haley nodded and the pair joined Ashleigh downstairs, both laughing at their friend who was sitting in her now silver and repaired Miata.

"I love you guys so much!"

Haley grinned and hugged her friend. "I know, I’m great. We gotta go. Make sure you watch!"

Ashleigh narrowed her eyes at JC. "I better see her sitting next to you, or I will kick your ass."

JC held up his hands in defeat. "That’s what I have planned." He grabbed Haley’s hand and led her to the rental car. "She is not leaving my sight."

"Okay, I feel like I’m in lockdown."

Ashleigh laughed. "Good. You are. I want you back here for dinner."

Haley waved at Ashleigh as she opened her door. She smiled when JC only let go of her hand long enough to get in the car, and his hand was covering hers before his door shut. The drive to MuchMusic was quiet, and Haley felt much safer and at ease with JV next to her, but as soon as they were in the Environment (studio), Haley was biting her fingers and her leg was bouncing. She waved at JC from the audience, and she nodded when he raised an eyebrow at her. He smiled back before turning to Rick Campanelli.

"And five, four three…"

The clapping started and Haley knew there was no turning back.

"Alright. Now, I’m here with JC Chasez of ‘N Sync." Rick nodded when the crowd cheered. "Now, the guys of ‘N Sync were here a few days ago, and a few of you may have noticed that the guys seemed kind of…nervous and distant. JC is here to discuss it today, because the fans deserve to know what was going on." He turned to JC. "Okay. I’m gonna be blunt. What happened?"

JC took a deep breath and turned to the audience. "Well, I think the fans should know about a very special woman." He stood up and walked towards Haley, a smile on his face. "This," he said, his arm around her shoulders, "is Haley Maguire, one of our dancers." He nodded when the girls around Haley gasped, now realizing that this was the girl who got to kiss Joey Fatone on New Year’s Eve. "Haley is also my girlfriend, and she was involved in a...situation last week, which had all of us worried." He sighed into the microphone and stared down at Haley. "Someone wanted to hurt Haley because she was with me. They managed to smash her friend’s car, and then she was taken to London, Ontario, and then to her hometown. But we tracked her down, and she’s safe with us."

Rick’s facial expression showed how shocked he was that something like that had happened. "Could we get Haley a mic?" he asked, looking around at the cameramen. A microphone was placed in Haley’s hand and Rick nodded. "Did you know the people that did it?"

Haley nodded. "Yeah, they were an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend, and one was JC’s ex-girlfriend," she explained.

"Ouch. And what happened to them?"

Haley took a deep breath. "They were charged with assault, illegal possession of a gun, and kidnapping." She smiled up at JC. "And they are now in jail, no chance of bail."

"Good to hear." Rick looked out into the audience. "Are you guys okay with that?" he asked the fans. He was met with screaming and clapping, and Haley took a small step back, her back leaning against JC’s chest.

"And, we’re sorry about the interview. We were just scared for Haley, she means a lot to all of us. We didn’t want it to affect our answers, but I know it did. I hope that, when we come back, we can make it up to you." JC laughed when the crowd screamed even louder at the news that they were going to come back. "Okay, I guess you’re all cool with that."

Rick laughed and looked at Haley. "Okay, Haley, we have you here, and all of the fans are dying to know…what’s it like having a popstar like JC Chasez as your boyfriend? I mean, it has to have some pretty low spots."

Haley stared up into JC’s eyes and smiled. "You know, it has it’s low points, like last week, but at the same time…spending one more day with him is so worth going through that again." She glared at the camera. "But I will not be a happy camper if I have to do it again."

 

Epilogue

(January 6, 2002)

"Morning."

Haley smiled into the pillow and snuggled closer to JC. "Is it?"

JC chuckled. "Yes, it is."

Haley groaned. "Pretend it’s still like two in the morning."

JC kissed the top of her head and pulled away from her, stepping out of the bed. "I’d love to, but I have to get to the studio."

"Or you could just stick around here."

JC grinned and leaned over her, kissing her lightly. "Ew. Morning breath."

Haley rolled her eyes and pulled him back onto the bed. "Just a few more minutes," she said, throwing her leg over his waist.

JC grinned and turned to face her. "I love you."

Haley grinned. "I know. I love it."

"You rock," he said, kissing her gently.

Haley stared at him for a moment before speaking. "Jace, I have a question."

"No, Lance and Kathie Lee Gifford are not secretly dating."

Haley grinned slightly. "Seriously."

JC nodded and caressed her cheek. "Okay."

Haley paused. "Will you still love me when I’m old and wrinkly and saggy?"

JC smiled as he kissed her, wrapping his arms around her. "Yes I will, Haley Maguire…soon to be Chasez….Yes I will."

 

 

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