GAMES:


ONE:


"It’s six a.m. This better be good," she mumbled into the phone leaning to turn on the light. The bright light hurt her eyes, but as she leaned to find her glasses she got used it after blinking a few times. She'd fallen into bed about two hours before and had been sound asleep when the phone rang. To any normal person it would have been early, but on Patty's schedule it was as if she'd been woken up at one in the morning after going to bed at midnight.

"Hey Cli," a male voice said with a slight laugh at the end.

Smiling at the sound of her shorted Patsy Cline nickname she turned and stared at the clock. "Curly Q? Where are you?" Her excitement was muted by her morning voice and tiredness.

"New York, I think."

"You think?"

"Well I went to sleep in Australia and woke up a few times then got up about an hour ago when the planed landed so God knows where I am," he explained, "We haven't gotten back on a plane so I think its New York."

"It must be New York then."

She heard a noise behind him and wondered where exactly he was. Most times when she'd talked to him he was on a train or a bus or in some van on the way somewhere or sometimes she'd catch him late at night his time and he'd be getting ready for a short nights sleep.

"And as far as I know New York and Orlando are in the same time zone," she said, "So why are you waking me up?"

There was a pause and Patty wondered if he was looking to see what time it was since he knew that he shouldn't call her if she'd just gotten back from work. "Oh shit. I'm sorry Cli, we just got in from the airport and since I was asleep so long I couldn't go back to sleep." There was a pause and she heard a muted groan as if he'd sat down in a chair or something after a long day then he continued. "I hate time zones. I never know what time it is."

She sighed. "It's ok Justin." She used his first name so that he knew that it really was ok and she wasn't just saying that to be nice. Sometimes he seemed to apologize more than he should, although she did her own apologizing too.

"So what are you doing tomorrow?" he asked.

"I don't know. Why?"

"I'm going to be home--"

"You're going to be in Orlando?" Patty sat up in bed as her heart rate shot through the roof.

She'd been talking to him over the phone for almost three months now, since the group had left in the middle of November on the world tour. They'd become good friends over the phone, falling into strange conversations that ranged from favorite foods to the workings of the religious community in Tennessee that Justin was a part of (when he could be). To see him again was going to be strange. They had a certain relationship over the phone and she wasn't sure how they'd act towards each other in person since the last time they'd seen each other they'd had one of those awkward kissing moments…

************FLASHBACK*************

"So you're going to be gone for how long?" she asked trying to keep a hold of Jonathan's hand while Bubba struggled in Justin's arms.

They were at the compound saying goodbye. Justin had called her that morning saying that he wanted to talk to her in person before he left so she'd driven out to the place and had joined everyone else to say good-bye. The guys would be gone for almost three months and although she thought that the moment was something just for family to attend she found that everyone seemed to welcome her into the sad crowd as if she was family.

Justin moved his head to the side of Bubba's so that he could see her and smiled. "In about three months," he said, "Although Johnny would probably like us to be out longer."

"What about Christmas?" she asked. "And Thanksgiving?"

"We're going to be home for a few days for each, but I'm going to be up in Tennessee for them."

Bubba took that moment to hug Justin tightly and he stopped and hugged his brother, emotion playing over his face. It wasn't exactly sadness that she saw on his face, but it definitely wasn't showing that he was pleased. He looked a little nautious, as if the thought of being away from them was going to leave him feeling sick to his stomach until he saw them again.

"Oh," she said trying not to sound too sad.

They were friends, but she didn't know how she would go for that long without seeing him since they always seemed to have a blast together. He'd come over a few times since the night of the barbecue and babysitting and they'd laughed forever about the silliest things, especially the jokes that were written on the string cheese packages that Patty had in her refridgerator. Patty never had known any guy to think those dumb jokes were funny.

"When I get back in February I have some time off I think, but I'm not sure because I'm going to be filming a Disney movie for a week in Canada." He finally set Bubba on the ground and knelt next to him and tied up his little brother's basketball shoe. He spoke softly to him, looking him in the eyes. "You're going to be good while I'm gone right?"

Bubba nodded his head wildly.

Justin turned to look at Jonathan. "You too right, or no more new video games?"

Jonathan nodded and gripped Patty's hand a little tighter. He'd grabbed onto her hand when they'd first found each other in the crowd. Both of Justin's little brothers seemed to have an instant connection with her. When they'd first met at the picnic that Leah had brought her to, the boys had played with her most of the afternoon. When she and Justin had babysat them a few days later the boys had treated her like a sister, hugging her and kissing her good night as if she was family. It was something strange to see considering that Patty had never had younger siblings. She was the youngest of a huge Catholic family and her closest sibling was three years older than her.

"And you too…no more breaking glasses and cutting yourself?" he said looking up.

She felt a little butterfly in her stomach when he looked at her that way, but she pushed the feeling out of her head knowing that he was too young for her. Five years age difference wasn't something that was easily forgotten. "How'd you hear about that story?" she asked, "I didn't have my hand messed up when we met."

"JC told me about it," he said with a laugh.

"JUSTIN!!! We need to hit the road!!!"

Justin stood up and turned to find Mike staring at him from next to the van that was going to take them to the airport. He turned back and looked at her for a long moment then turned and yelled to Mike. "I'll be right there!"

JC walked by them and Patty reached out and grabbed his arm. "Not going to say goodbye?"

"Sorry," he said with a sad face. She could tell that the last week or so since the big break up had been hard on Leah, but it looked as if it had been hard on him too.

"Well give me a hug Joshua," she said.

They hugged for a moment and Patty wanted to tell him to call Leah again, but it was as if they both knew it wouldn't do any good. He'd called a few times in the last week, even going as far as to leave messages at work for her, but Leah had made her mind up and nothing was going to change that.

"I'll be fine," he said, "Tell her I said hello--well goodbye anyway."

"I will."

Lynn, Justin's mother, reappeared after excusing herself to go talk to Chris's mother for a moment. She looked sad, although Patty figured that she'd tried to clean herself up, since she seemed to have that "I-just-cried-and-now-I'm-fine" look on her face.

"Come on kiddos, let your brother go so they aren't late," she said to her two youngest sons.

Bubba let go of Justin's hand and took Patty's and waited patiently as Justin hugged his mother. They spoke to each other for a moment in a hushed tone before he turned and picked up Bubba one last time, hugged him then reached out and pulled Jonathan over to him for a moment.

Patty waited, not sure of the proper procedure for saying good-bye to the group, until Justin let go of his brother finally and they walked off with his mother to where everyone else was waiting to leave.

"So…" she said looking at him nervously. She didn't exactly know what to say to him.

"Come on and walk me to the van Cli," he said. They walked slowly and right before he turned to step into the van he turned to her.

"What?" she said when she saw the look in his eyes. It was as if he'd forgotten to do something and had just rememebered.

"Come here and give me a hug," he said. He pulled her into his arms and held her close for a moment longer than she expected then leaned and kissed her on the lips. Before she could say anything he stuck an envelope into her hands and climbed into the van….

************END OF FLASHBACK*****************

"You still there?" Justin asked.

"Yeah, sorry," she said.

"So are you going to be at the airport?" he asked.

"I have to work tomorrow night," she said.

Justin took a deep breath and let out one of his "I-hate-my-life" sighs. "Well what about the next day?" he asked.

"I have to work. I work until this weekend."

"Crap. I wanted to hang out."

"Well come by and visit some night," she offered.

"Yeah and hang out in the bar?"

Patty wanted to smack herself. She still hadn't gotten it through her head that Justin wasn't going to be twenty-one for another year. He'd just had his birthday about a week before. She'd called him and had sang happy birthday into his cell phone message machine.

"Well you could stop by and say hello," she said, "Maybe sit and have dinner, I know the chef. I think I could get you a deal."

There was a noise in the background and a moment later a different voice said, "Who dis?"

"Hi Joseph!" Patty said.

"Damn! How'd you know?"

"Duh?" Patty said.

"Anyway Justin needs to get his ass off the phone."

"What for this time?" she asked.

"It's butt o'clock in the morning you night owl…some of us need our beauty sleep," he said.

"Well you'd better sleep for the next month!" Patty playfully replied then in a softer voice said, "opps, there I go again saying stuff out loud."

"Funny Lefty!" Joey said.

At the end of his message to her she could hear the phone being ripped away from his hands. There was a scuffle in the background and Justin got back onto the phone with a breathless voice.

"I've gotta run…" There was a noise that sounded like something being knocked over and she heard and "Umph!" before Justin got back onto the phone. "I'll talk to you later this week. I'll try to stop by if I can."

"OK, talk to you later Curly Q," she said with a laugh.

She heard a chorus of "byes" then the phone line on his end went dead.


"Move over Ass!" Justin said loudly when JC fell over onto him as the plane began to make it's approach into the Orlando Airport.

"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" JC grumbled and moved so that his head was resting on the window.

"Haha, funny C," Justin said with a smart tone.

"Leave me alone," JC grumbled.

Justin smacked him. "Are you going to be this big of an ass for your whole vacation?"

"Yes," JC grumbled.

"Damn it C, you need to get off your ass and go and talk to her."

"What are you talking about?" JC asked.

Justin stared at his friend. "You know exactly who I'm talking about."

"Not this again."

"Yes this again," Justin sighed. "The last time you had girl troubles I told you to dump her, this time man I think you need to go after her."

"I tried that already and she's pissed at me and won't talk to me!"

"Well try harder!" Justin said, "You're giving up too easily."

"What do you know about it?"

"C, you've been a fucking dick since you guys broke up and if no one else is going to call you on it, then I'm going to have to…" Justin said loudly causing a few people around them to look over. He lowered his voice and said, "You haven't written a damn thing in three months, you never play your keyboard anymore and I know that you love to sleep, but this is gotten out of control…I think that you're turning into a hermit."

"Who cares," JC sighed and leaned his head against the window again.

"Most of us, or are you so into your own little punk ass world to notice that too?"

"Whatever man."

The plane touched down and as they taxied to the gate Justin leaned over to look out the window. He knew that his mother was going to be at the compound to meet him, picking to leave the screaming girls at the airport to give him a welcome home without her, but he wanted to make sure she hadn't shown up unexpectedly.

"Move over Justin or I swear--"

"Shut up JC," Justin said, "Go back to sleep or go pout or something."

JC threw an arm out and pushed Justin back and for a moment Justin wanted to hit him back. They'd always had a good relationship, except for most of the regular little brother sort of teasing that had gone on in the beginning and Justin was surprised to see JC acting so strangely towards him.

Instead of starting something, Justin sat back in his seat and got ready to be greeted by the fans. He took off his bandanna and refolded it before putting it back onto his head. He'd been growing his hair out and hated it, but the movie that he was filming at the end of February would be done after a few weeks and he'd be able to cut it down again.

He was a bit tired still from all the traveling and knew that he needed to be level headed when they headed through the airport so he took some deep breaths to calm himself down a little after the scuffle with JC. He didn't like all the screaming fans when he was tired, but he was going to have to put up with them until they got to the van.

When the plane pulled into the gate, Johnny and the security exited first then slowly the guys gathered their things. JC was the last off, after Justin hit him on the leg to tell him that they'd arrived. He'd gotten a sour look from him then heard JC moan and groan his way off the plane mumbling, "I hate Orlando."

The crowd seemed to surround them in seconds and although there weren't really that many fans there, the sound gave Justin a headache after only a few minutes. He shook hands and smiled while trying not to trip over people on his way out to the van. Although he knew his luggage and everything was being taken care of for him he still wondered if he'd get all his stuff back since the last time when they'd flown into Orlando someone had briefly misplaced his suitcase.

Once seated into the van Justin rubbed a hand over his face and tiredly looked at JC who was in the front seat already on the phone with his mother. He knew that he was talking to his mother because he looked as if he was already complaining to her about something.

"Justin move your skinny ass over!" Chris yelled into his ear.

Justin looked over to see that Chris was waiting to sit down next to him, but there wasn't enough room next to him on the bench seat.

"Sorry," he mumbled and scooted more towards the window.

As the van pulled away from the curb, everyone seemed to follow JC's lead and soon the five members of the group, as well as the five members on the security staff, were on their cell phones. Justin called his mother on her cell phone first then dialed Sweet Pea's knowing that Patty would be at work.

"Hello?" a female voice answered, "Sweet Pea's."

"Leah?" Justin asked plugging up his ear so that he could hear over the other conversations in the car. He saw that JC turned and stared at him for a moment then turned back to his own conversation.

"Justin?" the voice asked.

"Is Patty there?" he asked.

"No, she left a while ago."

"What?" he said, "I thought that she worked tonight."

"She had to run out for a minute I guess," Leah explained.

Justin scratched his head through his bandanna and looked out the window. "Ok…well tell her I'm back in town and that I wanted to talk to her."

"Ok," Leah said.

Justin was going to hang up the phone when he saw JC looking at him again. "So Lee, what's up with Sweet Pea's…still going strong?"

"Yeah," she said with a strange tone to her voice. "Justin I don't want to talk to him so stop stalling and just hang up. I'll talk to you later."

Justin's eyes flew open. "You don't have to bitch me out Leah." He hung up the phone without a good bye and wondered for a moment if he was going to be able to live through this vacation with the two of them acting them the way that they were.


 

Patty parked her truck, hopped out, and walked towards the house. Jonathan came running down the steps of the house. "Patsy!"

She hadn't seen the kid in almost three months, but she grabbed him up into a hug then saw Bubba making his way down the steps, holding tightly to the banister unlike his older brother.

"How've you been?" she asked then hugged Bubba when he reached her.

"Good," they said in unison. "Justin called and said that they are going to be here soon."

"That’s good," Patty said, "So where is everyone?"

"Inside," Bubba said, "Are you gonna have dinner with us tonight?"

"I don't know. I have to go back to work, but maybe I can stay for a while."

Patty didn't have a clue what had made her take her lunch break and drive out to the compound, but she'd found herself already at the gate before it hit her that she didn't really have any reason for being there.

"Hi Patty!" a voice called from the porch.

Patty looked up to see Lynn standing on the porch with an iced tea in her hands. "Hi!"

Jonathan and Bubba took that moment to grab her hands and pull her up the stairs and into the house. "We gotta cake!" Bubba yelled as they pulled her into the huge living room where all the mothers, sisters and brothers had gathered awaiting the van full of people to reach the house.

Patty waved nervously at everyone as if she'd just given them all a false alarm by arriving when she had. She saw Tyler and Heather playing cards with Chris's sisters and was going to go and say hello when Jonathan broke away from her and ran over to the front window.

"THE VAN!!! THE VAN!!!" All he would have needed was a little white suit and he could be Tattoo from Pleasure Island.

Everyone got up from their seats and made their way onto the porch. Patty held onto Bubba's hand nervously. "Up!" he finally said, "Up!"

She leaned down and put him onto her back piggy-back style then went out to see what was going on. Everyone was milling around now and the guys were giving out hugs to everyone. She hadn't been to a family reunion in a while and the scene made her miss her parents and other siblings.

"Go!" Bubba said into her ear a little too loudly. "Go!"

"Hold your horses Bubba," Patty said calmly. She carefully made her way down the stairs and joined the crowd.

"Justin!" Bubba yelled.

When Justin turned and looked in their direction she saw an instant change in the look in his eyes. He'd looked tired, but excited to see his brother run up to him and hug him and greeted everyone with smiles as all the other siblings and parents welcomed him home, but the look in his eyes when they were on her almost scared her. If she didn't know better she would have said that there was love in his eyes. She wondered for a moment if she was making it up in her head, but when he came over to them and hugged both Bubba and her she knew that there was something different going on between them.

"I thought you had to work," he commented.

"I did," she explained as Bubba crawled over her shoulder and into Justin's arms almost falling onto the cement. She pushed her hair out of her face. "Shh…I'm cutting class."

"How long do you have to stick around?" he asked as Bubba latched onto his neck hugging him almost to death.

"Just enough time to say hello then hit the road again," she lied. She had a half-hour or so but didn't want to overstay her welcome. She really had only wanted to stop by to see what Justin's reaction was to seeing her before she headed out again. She'd been pleased with her little experiment.

"You closing tonight?" he asked.

She looked at her watch then back at him wanting to make a quick escape. She knew that if she stayed too long something would happen between them that she wasn't sure they were ready for and at the moment she didn't want to ruin their friendship by acting on an impulse that they both knew would hurt them more than help them. "Yeah," she said, "Every night."

"Give me a call when you get out," he said, "I wanted to talk to you about something."

She stared at him for a moment, seeing the serious look on his face and wondered if he wanted to talk about them. She didn't know why she was getting so worried about talking to him, but something told her from the look in his eyes that their conversation was going to be a serious one. She hoped it wasn't what she thought it was going to be about. She didn't want to have one of those "so-whats-up-with-us" conversations. She wanted to be his friend, no matter how cute he was. She knew it would be dangerous to get to close to him. She already knew way too much about him and she found it strange for him to know that she knew all about him and have him still want to talk to her.

"Sounds good," she lied again. She leaned and hugged him then kissed Bubba's slightly chubby cheek. "On the cell?"

"Yeah."

Patty patted Bubba on the back as he still hung to Justin then made her way away from the group and got into the truck. Rolling down the window she paused for a minute to put on her sunglasses then watched Justin hugging the rest of his family before she backed the truck up and did a three point turn and made her way down the driveway again.


Justin was on the porch when Patty's truck disappeared down the street from the compound and as Bubba and Jonathan pulled him into the house with the others he bumped into JC who was standing with his mother talking over something.

Without waiting for a reaction from JC, Justin apologized, "Didn't see ya man."

"Was that Patty out there?" JC asked.

"Yeah," Justin said.

"I don't think you two should hang out," JC said.

"What?" Justin came back with quickly. "Since when do you give out girl advice?"

"She's five years older than you J," JC said.

"Yeah well we're just friends so it doesn't matter anyway. You have--" Justin stopped and took a breath and smiled at JC's mom. "Never mind…anyway…we're just friends and she stopped by to say hello, but she had to go back to work and I'm sure you're not going to be seeing her any time soon so don't worry about it."

JC stared at him for a second then turned to his mother. "Excuse me mom…Justin and I have something to talk about really quickly."

JC's mom gave them both a strange look, but didn't seem to protest when JC grabbed Justin by the arm and took him out onto the front porch.

"What the hell is your problem?" Justin asked.

"You." JC crossed his arms across his chest and stared at him. "I don't want you bringing up Leah and I don't think you should be seeing Patty."

"I'm not "seeing Patty" and besides it's none of your business," Justin said.

JC stared at him for a long moment not saying anything and Justin could see that his friend was trying to hold back a tantrum that had been building for almost three months now. "Just stay away from the two of them."

"C, you really need to chill out." Justin leaned against the railing, "You're gonna have a heartattack or something if you don't relax a little."

"I'll relax when you aren't flirting around with someone who is old enough to babysit you."

"Whatever JC," Justin said. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were smoking something because you sure are talking funny."

"What?" JC asked.

"You've been like this since the breakup. You have a short fuse with everyone and have been a complete asshole to almost everyone on the tour. You need to break down and beg for that girl back before everyone kills you for being so moody."

"Me beg?" JC stammered out.

"Yes, you know that thing where you go to someone and tell them that you love them to death and that you're miserable without them and that you are going to loose your job if you can't be with them and that the world--"

"I get the picture," JC said madly turning away from him. Justin watched his friend's shoulders scrunch up.

"Just go and see her again, you never know--"

"Leave me alone," JC snapped.

Justin watched JC for a moment then turned and went into the house. He'd known JC long enough to know that the guy was upset. He hadn't wanted to fight with him, but he knew that if he didn't get the guy mad enough to go and solve whatever problem with Leah that there were going to be bigger problems between him and the group. When it came to fights and the group Justin was a little over protective. They had yet to have a huge fight between the five of them, and he wanted to keep it that way, especially now that their fame had kicked from neutral to a hundred miles an hour over night. They needed each other and without JC around he knew that things would fall apart.


TWO:


"I saw him today," Patty said as she walked back into the bar when she saw Leah behind the counter. She'd walked in a little later than she had planned to, but decided that it was worth getting in trouble. She hadn't seen Justin in a long time and after her short visit she thought she'd make it through the rest of the week ok.

Leah turned from where she was ringing up a drink for a customer. She pushed the cash drawer closed and leaned a hip against the counter. "What are you talking about? Who'd you see?"

"I saw JC today," Patty said casually hoping that Leah wouldn't break out and scream at her.

Patty had managed to avoid the subject for the last few months. She hadn't even really told her much about how she and Justin had been talking; figuring that Leah wouldn't want to hear anything about the group. She'd planned on keeping it that way until she'd seen how depressed and moody Leah had become while away from JC. It had been one thing to have Leah become a hermit after her parents' deaths. She had been so alive with JC and no matter how bad Leah hated to hear it, JC was good for her and from what Patty had heard from Justin it was a two way street. JC had been the same way with Justin and the others.

Leah's half smile disappeared. "And I want to know this?" She made a face. "Because?" Leah asked with a curt tone to her voice.

"Oh give me a break," Patty said frustrated with Leah's cold reaction. "You know that you've been waiting for them to get back to town."

"Yeah right," Leah said sadly.

"Jesus!" Patty called out.

Leah grabbed her arm and pulled her into her office. Patty knew she was in trouble, but couldn't help, but to smile at her reaction to hearing about JC. She'd been right all along about Leah's feelings for JC. No one would be that overly hyperactive about someone if there weren't feelings behind everything.

When the door was closed Leah turned to her and madly asked, "What are you doing?"

"Give it up Leah."

"Give what up?"

"Come on," Patty said, "Like you enjoy going home to Tahoe every night instead of seeing him."

Leah stared at her with a shocked look on her face.

"You were in love with him Leah and you let him go and now look at you…. You're a mess."

Leah still stared.

"I've put up with you for the last three months and I haven't said much about the two of you, but really, can you just go and get him back because if not I think I'm going to have to quit because I cant stand to see you like this."

"Like what?" she finally asked.

"I mention his name and you cringe and look at you…you're almost crying just at the thought of him."

Leah reached up and wiped her face, although there were no real tears there.

"I saw him today Leah and he looks like shit and from what I've heard through Justin he's been as miserable as you."

"Whatever," Leah said and turned to leave.

"I swear to God Leah if you don't talk to him now that he's back I think I'm going to have to lock you in a room with him. I plan on staying friends with Justin and I know that he and JC are going to be close and if you act the way you did a minute ago when Justin shows his face in here---"

"Patty just leave it alone and get back to work," Leah said pulling the door open she exited the office, slamming the door shut behind her.


 

Justin was lying in bed with the TV watching the end of a late episode of Real World when his cell phone rang. He rolled over and grabbed up the phone from where he'd left it on his nightstand and softly said, "Hello?" He got up and shut the door to his room then went back over to his bed knowing that the rest of the house was already asleep. It was almost three in the morning Orlando time, but on his strange sleep schedule he felt as if he should be running around outside. Going overseas always did that to him, but he tried to be as quiet as possible knowing that his parents were on Orlando time.

"Hey Curly Q," Patty's voice came over the line sounding stressed out and tired. She rushed her words and he could tell that she was hyper about something that happened at work.

"What's up Cli? Long day?"

"Don't get me started," she said, "I swear to God I think I'm going to quit."

"What? Why?"

"Leah and I got in a fight."

"About what?"

"It was stupid," Patty said. She let out a sigh. "She just needs to get laid."

"So you had a conversation about JC again?" Justin said with a laugh. He lay back down in bed, propping his head up so that he could talk. "JC's been acting the same way."

"Anyway…" she sighed. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Actually I have two things." He stared at the signed poster of Janet Jackson on his wall, the one she'd given him while they were on tour together, and took deep breaths. It was nice to be back in his own room, but at the same time he almost felt like he should be at a hotel since he'd spent the last three months in different ones.

"So shoot…I'll talk about anything if it'll get my mind off how pissed I am at Leah."

"Well maybe one of the things I have to talk to you about will get that little situation cured."

"OK, you've got my attention," Patty said.

"You heard about Lance and Nicole's wedding at the end of the month, right?"

"I knew about that…"

"Well I was thinking that if they don't get together on their own that you should take JC and I'll take Leah and we'll get them together."

"What? Force them together at the reception or something?"

"Yeah."

"I don't think it'll work."

"Why not?"

"Stuff like that only works in the movies," she said.

"Well we have to try something," he said, "JC and I almost got into a brawl this afternoon and I know that the other guys are pissed at him for being so moody."

There was a pause. "Let me think about it," she said, "What else did you want to talk to me about?"

"I…" he said.

"Spit it out Curly."

His heart raced and his palms were actually, literally, sweating. He actually was experiencing stage fright. He took another deep breath. "I wanted to know if you wanted to go out this weekend."

"Sure, we should go play some hoops or something?" she said, "We still have that bet going on…right?"

Justin remembered their conversation on the phone about playing basketball sometime, but that wasn't what he had in mind. "I meant like go to dinner or something."

There was a pause and Justin put a hand to his forehead. He could tell from her silence that he'd just messed up whatever friendship they had. He'd been thinking about asking her out since they'd first met. At the barbecue Patty had been real with him. She'd been bold enough to tell him things that most girls wouldn't. Honesty was her thing and it was nice to hear for once. She didn't kiss his butt or try to get something out of him. She just wanted to hang out and play cards and party without the expectation that there was more to come.

"I guess we can go out," Patty said, "But isn't it sort of hard to…I mean with your fame and all?"

Justin smiled at the sound of her answer. "There are places we can go…things we can do and still have fun."

"Like what?"

"I don't know…I hadn't planned anything yet," he said.

"Well if you want to go do something then plan something for Thursday," Patty said, "I have that day off."


"What do you think you're doing?" Patty asked as he leaned over from where he was sitting on her couch to undo the laces on his basketball shoes.

"Taking off my shoes," he said with a curt tone.

"Why?"

"Cuz I don't want to sleep in them."

"Sleep in them?" She looked at him kind of funny. They had been sitting around in jeans and t-shirts watching movies for most of the evening which had been pretty relaxing, but when she'd gone to change into her pajamas she figured he would have gotten the clue that it was time for him to head home. Now that he seemed to be settling in for the evening, she wasn't sure if she wanted him to stay, although the thought had crossed her mind more than a few times.

"You don't expect me to drive home after drinking do you?" he asked.

"You had a beer."

"Well if I have a beer and get pulled over I'll have a ticket and maybe get a-rrested." He smiled as if he'd just made an extremely profound comment.

"Whatever Curly Q," she said. "You can sleep on the couch I guess."

"But my back…" he whined.

"You should be glad that I don't call your mother and have her come over here and get you," Patty teased.

They'd been acting that way since he'd picked her up that morning around ten. They'd played around at the compound before lunch then went and grabbed pizza at Gino's, where they found themselves saying hello to Nicole who was working the counter, then they'd driven to get some movies to watch and had hung out at her house most of the evening.

"Oomph!" Justin put a hand to his chest as if he'd been shot. "Had to use that "MOM" card didn't you?"

Patty smiled widely. "There are some blankets in the TV cabinet. I'll get you a pillow."

"Thank you."

His mocking tone and cheesy smile made her smile as Patty went down the hall to her room and grabbed one of the pillows off the bed to bring back to Justin. She did feel a little bad making him sleep on the couch, but she knew that it would be safer for the two of them if he stayed in the living room than in with her. He was too young for her and she had to keep that in mind when trying to deal with him or she was going to find herself in some kind of relationship before she knew it.

When she returned to the living room a few moments later Justin was spread out on the couch underneath the blue blanket that she'd left in the cabinet for such occasions. He was watching television with a half smile on his face but sobered up when he saw her.

"Make yourself at home why don't you?" Patty said throwing the pillow across the room to him. It hit him a little, but he managed to make it land on his lap.

"Aren't you going to tuck me in?" he asked.

"What?" There had been sexual comments flying all day, along with the flirtatious smiles and hugs, but Patty hadn't let it go farther than that.

"It works for Jonathan and Bubba. You tucked them in when we babysat them."

"Don't push your luck Justin," Patty said with a glare.

"Can't a guy get a break?" Justin whined.

"Oh yeah, right…THE JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE looking for a break?" Patty laughed.

"You wanna take this outside?" he asked.

"Sure, duke it out in the street over a good night kiss," she said.

"Hey, I just wanted to be tucked in." He leaned back and looked at her with an innocent look. "Kissing isn't in my contract." Justin sat up a little, plumped up his pillow and lay back again, "But I'm always open for renegotiations."

"Whatever Curly."

"What? Are you chicken?"

"Me?" she said with an offended tone, "Chicken?"

Justin made a clucking noise.

"Stop it and go to sleep," she warned.

Justin continued to cluck and now wiggled his fingers in a "bring-it-on" motion.

"You're not going to let this go are you?"

"Not until you kiss me." He gave her a cocky grin and she felt herself giving into the challenge.

"Fine. If it'll shut you up then you can kiss me," she said and walked over to him.

"OH NO!" he said, "You have to kiss me."

"But I'll be taking advantage of you since you did have a beer," she stood staring down at him for a moment.

"It was just a beer," he said and in one moment had sat up and pulled her into his lap.

"One beer?" she asked with a laugh.

"Yeah," he said taking her arms and resting them around his neck then he placed his hands on her hips.

"So…do you want a movie star kiss or a regular kiss?" she asked nervously stalling the inevitable.

His eyes were staring at her face closely and for a split second she wanted to know what he was looking at. Her question was answered a second later. "You have really nice lips."

"What?"

He was trying to be romantic and she didn't want things to get serious. They'd had too good of a time to ruin it with drama.

"I like watching you lick your lips," he confessed with a soft voice. His tone was even and his eyes glanced up from where they'd been gazing at her lips to make eye contact with her.

Patty felt herself moving her tongue to lick her lips and stopped when she saw a smile form on his face.

"Awe," he said in a sigh, "Why'd you stop?"

"Leave me alone Justin. You want your kiss or not?"

"Yes please," he said with the innocent tone of an altar boy. He gave her another one of his smiles.

"Well close your eyes because I'm not going to kiss you if you keep staring at me," she said, "It creeps me out."

"Thanks," he said as his ego deflated a little.

"Just close your eyes," she repeated.

"Fine." Justin's lids closed and his eyelashes found their place on his cheeks. He tipped his chin up a little. "I'm ready when you are."

Patty stared at him for a moment trying to gather her courage. She had to do it. Get it over with. Then move on. Taking one last huge breath she leaned towards him slowly trying to calm her breathing so he couldn't tell how nervous she was. She tipped her head to the side slightly to the side and moved in more trying not to hit her nose into his.

When her lips met his she let out a breath and captured his bottom lip in hers. Her hands moved up and held his cheeks close as the kiss deepened. He was a great kisser, somehow knowing just how much pressure to put on hers. He moved his lips in time with hers, holding the kiss as long as she kept her mouth to his.

When she felt his hands gripping the material of her T-shirt she forgot where she was for a moment. His hands pulled her shirt up a little and he moved his hands against the small of her back, holding her close as the deep kiss continued.

Patty was enjoying the kiss, but when his hands slid below the waistband of her pajama bottoms she pulled back. His eyes instantly flew open and he stared at her. The sleepy romantic look in his eyes spoke volumes. It scared her to see him so head over heels over a kiss, but they couldn't deny the connection they had. The tingles. That electrical feeling that still ran through her veins causing her heart rate to go through the roof.

His hands never left her waste, but she felt trapped there somehow. When she saw his lips begin to move to speak she put a finger to his lips to hush him. "Don't."

Justin silently replied to her request by kissing her finger. "Goodnight?" he said, almost asking if their evening was over.

She nodded and moved to get up, but he didn't let her right away. A glare at him fixed the situation and soon she was on her way to go to bed alone.


"What's HE doing here?" Leah asked Patty the next day at work.

Without acknowledgement to her she asked, "Who?"

"JC just walked in with Justin," Leah explained.

Patty's heart rate went through the roof as Justin's name was mentioned and while she should have been standing there worrying about Leah's reaction to JC's entrance, all she could think of was her reaction to seeing Justin again. "I don't know. Maybe they had a lunch break?"

Leah checked her watch. "At eight at night?" She stared at the duo for a moment then turned away from the bar. "I'll be in the back."

"Fine," Patty said without looking over at her. Her hands were shaking knowing that Justin was walking over to her and she was trying her hardest not to drop the glass in her hand. He looked good that day. He must have gotten a chance to go home and change after their night out together because he wasn't wearing the clothes he'd been in when they'd parted ways that morning.

"Hey Cli," Justin greeted her a moment later. He gave her a smile while JC proceeded to push his hands deep into his pockets and tip his head in silent acknowledgement of her.

Not making eye contact with either of them she nervously rearranged the napkins on the counter and pretended to make sure that all the people at the bar had what they needed. "What's up boys?" she asked.

"Nothing much, just wanted to stop by," Justin explained. Patty watched as he nervously leaned against the bar.

"This wasn't my idea," JC mumbled then looked at her with wide eyes. "No offense."

She smiled back at him. "None taken."

"You don't work on Valentines Day do you?" Justin asked.

"No," she said then looked down at the napkins again. Why was he asking? They'd gone out once, but there wasn't supposed to be another date after that.

"I wanted to know if you wanted to hang out that night," he said.

"I guess we could do that," she said, "Although I'm sure your date wouldn't like that."

"I don't have a date," Justin said with a pout.

"What about you JC?" Patty asked just as Justin was starting to stare at her with a longing look. She got a dirty look out of JC, but delighted in seeing his eyes drift to the closed office door.

"Why don't you come and hang out with us on V-day?" Patty offered then looked at Justin, who didn't look pleased, but kept his mouth shut, "We can have a "no-date-night" like on that one episode of FRIENDS."

"I think I missed that episode," JC mumbled.

"Come on," Patty whined. She prayed that JC would say yes because she didn't know if she could handle being alone with Justin again. "Please, we'll watch movies and play cards and get drunk and be single together."

"I'll think about it" JC said.

"Good enough," Patty said.

She left to go help a customer and when she returned the guys were gone. The woman who had been sitting next to where they'd been talking looked over. "The young one left this for you."

Patty stared at the folded napkin that the woman handed her and thanked the woman before moving away from the counter to read the letter that was written in sloppy writing across the blank paper.

 

 

Patty wanted to laugh at his comment about doing something special together but didn't. She was afraid that he was serious about making plans for an evening together. She didn't need that type of drama from him.

To keep her mind off of Justin Patty went and knocked on the office door to release Leah from her hiding spot. "They're gone."

Leah answered the door and returned to her seat at the bar. "What was that all about?"

"Justin and I made plans to have a "no-date-night" for Valentine's Day." Patty cleaned the counter. "You should come and hang out with us. You know…get a good buzz on and watch movies and forget how single we are."

"I'll think about it," Leah said with a skeptical look on her face.

"Good."


"So what the hell is going on with you and Patty?" JC yelled over the sound of wind and traffic as Justin maneuvered his new Boxster through the streets.

Justin smiled at the mention of her name. He had wanted so badly to hug her hello or kiss her earlier in the bar, but hadn't. There were two rules in his life. No PDA's and no PDA's in front of JC. He couldn't really be attached to anyone in public, because of his image and all, and secondly he knew that JC was going to have this conversation with him sooner or later and it seemed as if sooner had arrived. "Nothing's going on right now…but I'm working on it."

"If Johnny hears about this--Hell if your mother hears about this--you're gonna get a--"

"You worry about you," Justin warned. "My mom has met Patty before and likes her. The two of them even went out shopping together while we were gone."

"That doesn't sound like your mom."

"Patty babysat Jonathan and Bubba. That put her in good with the 'rents." Justin turned the car towards home with a frown on his face knowing that the conversation was far from over.

"Did you tell your mom where you were last night?" JC asked.

"No," Justin replied. "And she doesn't need to know--not that anything happened. I fell asleep on her couch."

"Sure."

"It's true."

"Whatever."

"Hey. I may want the girl, but I know not to--"

"Oh here it comes," JC grumbled.

"Here what comes?" Justin asked.

"Your whole speech on how you're such a little angel," JC said, "You're starting to believe your own hype."

"I am a little angel," Justin said.

"In your dreams Timberlake," JC said.

Justin stuck his tongue out and sped up.


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