By: Dolphin Princess
Today was the first day of school. My favorite classes are choir and English. My choir teacher said that I have the best voice of all the girls and that I might get a few solos. I also met a new student in my choir class. His name is Josh and he seems really nice. He’s also in my Math class…
I can’t stand Josh. He took my solo in choir cause the teacher said it was more fitting for a tenor instead of a soprano, something about making it more richer and darker, whatever that means. He also got a higher grade than I did in Math. What’s that about??? I am so much smarter than him! Mom asked me when I got home from school if I wanted to try ballet. Ballet is for little girls. I told her I wanted to do baseball or basketball with all of the other guys but she said no. So, we compromised. I’m going to start karate next week. She also said I can do intramural sports but no team sports with the guys, then she muttered something about a tomboy…
A new school year. This is going to be such a slammin’ year. I finally made green belt in karate and I’m first soprano again this year. Mr. Hansen told me that I might even be able to go to Solo contest if I wanted to, too. Josh keeps giving me weird looks. I don’t know what’s up with him. He’s so… well… Josh. He does everything I do. Karate, but I’m better and have a higher belt, choir, and we’re in almost all of the same classes too cause of choir… I wish he’d just leave me alone…
There was a try-out held in the auditorium for some TV show on the Disney Channel today. Mr. Hansen told Josh and I that we should try-out. I said I would but Josh didn’t want to. I was thinking, YES! Something that he won’t do that I can finally do and beat him. I arrived on time and had my number and was warming up, when guess who walks in with HER, Miss Popularity, Kayla Walker. Josh. Apparently, he got talked into by a bunch of friends and decided why not try-out. Well there was only one spot to fill and HE GOT IT!!!!! I was so pissed off after I read the results on the wall. He gets everything and I get nothing… well I got runner up, like always, but still…
I can’t believe that I’m finally graduating high school. I’ve decided to go into the police academy and join the force. I’ve been so confused this year about what I wanted to do, go to college or what, and I’m going to go to school and get my two year degree in something and then go to academy afterwards. It’s so refreshing to finally know what I want to do. Prom is coming up too. YUCK! Having to dress up and be girly. Why can’t we just wear a pair of slacks and a button-up shirt like the guys do? No one has asked me to go yet either so maybe I’m worrying about nothing, although Sara told me that Josh wants to ask me. Josh… he always pops up in my life at the most unexpected moments. Just when I start to get on track, there he is to show me how much better than me, he is. He’s gotten all of the senior awards that I applied for and got the choir award that I REALLY wanted. Its just because of all of his "experience" on the Mickey Mouse Club. He even got his black belt a whole month before I did! Well at least he didn’t take my Varsity basketball MVP award. Now that would’ve been funny!!! I think its just because he’s male though that he gets everything…
Josh asked me to Prom and I accepted. The night started out perfect, we were actually getting along, but then… We doubled with some friends of his and… I can't even begin to describe what happened…I'm still shaking… why me? why? If only Josh had… but he didn't and now everything is ruined.
Erin Kinsela pulled into the Edgewater, Florida’s 7th St. Precinct’s parking lot and found a spot right in front. The building wasn’t very big but then again she knew there was a lot more down below where they kept the cells and interrogation rooms while only the offices were on the main and second floors. The building itself was traditional with steps up the front, brick and evergreen hedges around the windows to keep people from looking inside.
She checked herself in the rearview window, to make sure her short red hair wasn’t sticking up in any weird way and saw her twinkling blue eyes looking back at her. At 5’6" tall, she wasn’t the most threatening police officer to walk to the streets but she was lean and was in good shape, and could usually take on anyone that got in her way. After she was satisfied with her appearance, she got out of her dark blue Jeep Wrangler, beeped it, and headed up the stairs.
This was her new life, she thought to herself, the moment that she had been waiting for the past four years, through college and the tough year and a half, it had taken her to get through the academy. It had taken her longer then most cadets, she remembered because her instructor had wanted to wash her out because she was tinier than the other cadets, but mostly just because she was female. He didn’t believe that women were meant to be police officers, they were meant to be "at home, in the kitchen where they belonged". But, she had stuck with it and graduated finally with the second group that had come through. Afterwards, she had applied to as many precincts as there were openings and her hometown had offered her a deal that she couldn’t refuse. Rookie for a year, and if she did as well as her grades and recommendations implied, she could make detective within the next year, with a big, fat raise. She had taken the job with no questions asked.
She walked up to the front desk and asked to see Chief Flannagan. The officer behind the desk, looked to be about her age, maybe a little bit older, blond hair, blue eyes, and a really nice build she noticed with a slight smile, but then he really noticed her instead of the glance he had thrown her way when she had first walked in. He gave her an appreciative smile, with an arrogant glint in his eye, and asked, "Now what would a pretty girl like you, need with the Chief?"
"I’m not a "girl" for one, and two, because I’m your new co-worker and I need to check in with him to get my badge and uniform."
"WHAT?! A little thing like you, doing hard police work and fighting bad guys, why don’t you just head on home and let us do the hard work while you settle down with a couple of kids."
This is why she had gone away to college and a different academy than what had originally been offered for her in Edgewater. This backwards opinion about how men brought home the paycheck and the women took care of the home and raised the kids. "Now listen here you backwoods hillbilly, I’m here to work, not be harassed by the likes of you. Now, kindly inform Chief Flannagan that Officer Erin Kinsela is here to see him or I’ll just walk back there and inform him myself, and while I’m at it, let him know how kind the rest of his officers are, especially one in particular, has been so far in my welcome."
"Sure will, sweetheart. I’ll get right on it for you. Why don’t you sit down while I let him know you’re here.
Erin knew it was going to be a long wait by the way he smiled sarcastically and patronized her. She walked over to the torn and battered couches, sighed and began her wait. This reminded her so much of all the waiting and waiting that she had already done for her career and was glad that she had learned the virtue of patience and finally conquered her short fuse of a temper. Man, did she hate small towns but for the next couple of years, until she reached detective, she was going to have to live with it.
An hour later, and several cups of bad coffee later, the Chief’s secretary came back for her. "He’s ready to see you now, Officer Kinsela," she said smiling.
She followed the secretary down a long hallway, until she pointed to an office and said, "That’s his office. Go right in, he’s expecting you."
Erin opened the door and walked in to find a short, very portly, red headed man stand up from behind his desk, with a huge grin on his face. "Erin, my girl, welcome to the force. I’m sorry it took so long to get you back here to see me, but for some reason, I wasn’t aware you were even here until about fifteen minutes ago."
"That’s alright, sir, I’m sure it was just a miscommunication through the office, she said. My ass, she thought, it was the front desk officer.
"Well, anyway, here is your badge and your uniform is in locker 18 down in the women’s locker room. Marie, my secretary, set it all up for you. You are the only female on the squad but there are many secretaries throughout the building so you aren’t the only female here, just the only female officer. Also, have you found a place to stay and get settled?"
"Yes, sir, I’ve actually been in Edgewater for about a week now, getting moved in. I found a really nice…"
"Good, good. Ok, your duties are going to be walking "the beat", as we like to call it, driving around town and writing tickets for any violations that you see, and then we’ll assign you a partner tomorrow to drive with you, but until then, just assist Officer Smith, Jerry, up front at the desk. He’ll show you around, where the gym is, the break room, the locker rooms, bathrooms, interrogation rooms, and so on and so forth until your partner is assigned to you. That’s about it, Officer Kinsela, again, welcome to the force."
He held out his hand and with a firm grip, shook her hand and then she walked out the door stunned. She was to help that hillbilly out front?! Oh well, just until tomorrow.
She walked back to the front and told "Jerry" that he was supposed to show her around and get her acquainted with the building. He smiled broadly at that, called another officer over to work the desk and began the tour of her new job. After the tour, she changed into her uniform and met Jerry back out front. She was only working half the day, thankfully, to just get a feel for everything but he made it a living hell for her with his sly winks and roving eyes. For wearing no make-up, having a pixie haircut, she sure did know how to fill out the uniform. It was a tight through the chest, having been made for a very small man, but she was small all around so it would work until she could get home and make some alterations.
After a few hours of "Jerry" and his helpful "advice" on what her job REALLY entailed, she decided to call it a day and head on down to the gym to work off some frustration. She went rounds on the bag, punching, feinting, and punching again and then moved on to the mat for her karate workout. She had been in the gym for almost two hours, when all of a sudden, she heard some clapping from the doorway. She stopped in the tiger stance and turned around. It was a big, black man, wearing sweat pants, a white t-shirt, and his hands were wrapped, meaning that he had gone a few rounds with the bag also. "You look like you needed a rest, even if you did look nice out there. Hi, my name’s Mike."
"I’m Erin. It’s nice to meet you. Do you work for the force, cause Jerry didn’t introduce me to you, earlier."
"No, I used to before I took another job as a bodyguard but Flannagan still lets me use the gym whenever I want to, cause it costs so much at any other gym. Plus," he said with a huge grin, "I think he likes to keep me around for old times sake and in hopes that he’ll get me back on the force. The pansies that he has on right now, aren’t worth anything, especially Jerry. That’s why all he does is work the front desk. That’s all he’s good at."
She had to laugh at that, cause it was the truth. They had gone down to the firing range, and he had missed 30 out of 30 while she had nailed 45 out of 45 head shots before he was done with fifteen. "I saw you down at the range too," Mike said interrupting her thoughts. "I wanted to ask you something. Have a seat."
"Oh…," Erin asked, walked over to her bag, grabbed her water bottle and sat down on the mat next to Mike.
"How much training have you had and what kind?"
"Well, I’ve been in karate since the beginning of high school and graduated with a black belt. I wanted to try something different in high school, so I started kickboxing and continued until graduating from college. Also, I guess you could call the academy training. That’s about it. Why?"
"Not yet. So you can handle yourself in tough situations?"
"Yeah, usually with no problem. I had to do many multiple enemy training sessions in the academy, after they found out my belt status. They just wanted to see if they could shake me, but I won every match, and even managed to hurt some of the jerks who tried to get me to quit too. Boy was that a rush."
"Good for you. I wanted to run something by you, cause my employer is looking for a new recruit and I think you would be perfect for the job after talking with you. You’re a little small compared to everyone else, but after watching you and hearing your "war" stories, I think you’ll be able to handle everything that will arise and even teach the rest of us a thing or two, while you’re at it," he said with a huge grin, "Here’s the phone number and ask for Lou or if he’s unavailable, set up and appointment with Marie. I have to get going but at least think about it."
"Um, before I think about it, could you maybe tell me what the job is?"
"Oh yeah, you’ll be working as a…"
"There is nothing on TV!" Erin stated as she turned off the TV and went into the kitchen to grab a beer. She had been in Edgewater for three weeks now, and nothing had changed at the station. She was still treated as a delinquent housewife who had suddenly had a change of heart and decided to work after all and was in the wrong. All she was allowed to do was help Jerry at the front desk, and even then he only let her type and file. She still hadn’t been assigned a partner, and it didn’t look like she would be getting one anytime soon. She was starting to think that either the Chief didn’t WANT to assign her one cause he was like all of the other officers in their opinion of women, or no one WANTED to be her partner. She figured it was the former but in reality it was probably a combination of the two. She was really getting frustrated with the whole thing and was glad that she finally had a day off.
She went down the hallway of her apartment to her room and changed into her bathing suit. It was time to check out the beach and get some "her" time that didn’t include seventeen police officers that automatically assumed that she was "available" because she was in a man’s profession.
As she dug into her purse in search of her keys to her Jeep, she ran across a piece of paper with a phone number and the word Transcon written on it. It was the number Mike had given her about that bodyguard job that had opened up for some spoiled boy band, she remembered. After he had left, she had tossed it in her purse as an afterthought, and here it was when she at her all time low with her current job. Maybe she should… Erin tossed the slip back in her purse and decided to think about it, after all would she really want to be a bodyguard for a boy-band? She didn’t even like their music, she was a hard-core country fan after spending so many years out in the midwest, although she did like other kinds of music too.
Hours later, fully refreshed from the beach, and still contemplating that phone number, Erin decided to make the call. "What would it hurt?" she said out loud and dialed the phone number.
"Hi. Trans Continental Records. My name is Marie, How may I help you?" said a bright and cheerful voice over the phone.
"Hi. My name is Erin Kinsela and I’m calling about the bodyguard position that someone told me you were hiring for. I was supposed to ask for someone but I can’t remember their name. I hope I’m not too late and the position has already been filled."
"Oh, yes, Lou. Lou is so picky about his staff that we haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for Jim yet. See, he got Mono a couple of weeks ago and with the new summer tour coming up within a few weeks, we don’t expect him to be well in time for it and need a replacement. Would you like to apply? You’ll have to come in and talk to Lou first and then he’ll decide where to go from there. So what do you think? You sound like a lovely young lady and it wouldn’t hurt to try, would it? You can come in today, his afternoon is free. A first in a long time believe me."
"Ummm, it’s my day off today…Sure I’ll be there in an hour."
"Thank you dear. Could I possibly get your name again?"
"Oh yeah, it’s Erin Kinsela. K-I-N-S-E-L-A."
"I’ll see you when you get here then, Erin. Be safe on the road."
Erin hung up thoroughly confused but with a huge grin on her face after talking to Marie on the phone. That’s sure a change from the station, she thought and walked back to her room to change for the interview.
She arrived at Trans Continental Records 15 minutes early and decided to walk around the building and get a feel of the place before going in. "I hope I look all right for a "bodyguard" interview." Erin had on a navy blue v-neck t-shirt, khaki pants and Teva sandals, remnants from her traveling days on the kickboxing tour while she in college. As she got to the back of the building, she noticed that there was what looked like a huge gym and a basketball hoop and several other little buildings too off in the distance. She smiled at the size of the gym and hurried over to look at it when she noticed that the basketball hoop was in use. There was six guys playing 3 on 3 and one was hollering about being the king of the hoop and prancing around, so she figured the game was over. She was a big basketball fan but she didn’t feel like disturbing them and as she glanced at her watch, didn’t have time to disturb them even if she wanted to, because she was late for her appointment.
She hurried back to the main building and walked into the air-conditioned office.
"Hi, my name is Erin Kinsela and I’m here to see… Lou?… I think his name was."
"Oh yes, Erin, he’s expecting you. Head right on back and at the end of this hallway, there will be a bright red door with Pearlman written on it. Good luck dear."
Erin assumed that was Marie and started walking down the hall. On the walls were posters of the various groups, Backstreet Boys, C-Note, and ‘NSYNC were only some of the names. The poster of ‘NSYNC drew her for some reason and as she looked at it closely, one of the boys jumped out at her. "He looks awfully familiar for some reason," she thought, but just in passing, and headed on farther down the hallway. "A red door?" she muttered to herself, and boy was it red. In front of her was a regular wood door, that has been painted a bright, clown red with Pearlman written on it in florescent yellow. It was the most hideous thing she had ever seen, but it did get your attention. She walked up to the door and knocked firmly.
"Come in Erin."
She opened the door and walked in and saw an older gentleman with white hair, that kinda reminded her of Santa Claus sitting behind a big oak desk, motioning for her to come in and sit down. The room was decorated in the same color red but with blues, greens and yellows to make it more colorful and not just hideous as the door was.
"Well its nice to see a woman apply for a change," he said and before she could respond, continued, "I never know what or who is going to walk into my office these days when I put an ad out saying I need a bodyguard for my boys but you look like a nice sweet thing and because of that, I’m wondering how you could even imagine you’d be qualified."
"Sir, I have a black belt in karate, I have a two-year degree in Criminal Justice, and went through the police academy twice. I also joined the kickboxing team in college for fun, and toured during breaks and participated in various tournaments that I always placed in. I didn’t see your ad in the paper, but a… Mike?, who said he worked for you, asked me to stop in and be interviewed. He also said that I would be just what you were looking for even if I was a little short and on the "scrawny side". He also said I should be able to handle myself just fine in any situation after he saw me workout at the gym a couple of weeks ago and that I have his complete support for the position if I need any recommendations too, sir."
Lou laughed. "Mike was right, you do have spunk and would fit in perfectly with the crew. I was a little worried when he brought your name up and said you were only 5’6" tall but a demon that he wouldn’t even want to go up against after he saw you on the mat. But, after a few weeks when we didn’t hear from you, we had given up hope."
"I had to do quite a bit of thinking and decide if I really wanted to give up my job at the precinct. That was something I’ve wanted to do ever since my senior year of high school."
"I can’t work with those morons any longer. If I could find another position at another precinct, sir, I’d go after that job in a heartbeat, but as a rookie, I don’t have my picks of precincts and maybe this job will give me the experience I need to get a position at another precinct in the long run."
"Well then," he said with a huge grin, " Welcome to the team," and got up to shake her hand.
"Thank you sir, I’ll try to be the best addition that I can."
"Don’t be so formal and call me Lou. The tour starts in a few weeks so I’m going to send you to Lonny and Mike for those weeks and let you get toughened up by them and also so they can brief you on what to expect on the road and what your duties will be. Jim was JC’s personal bodyguard when he went out alone and one of the group’s when they went out together, so you’ll be filling those shoes, and I’ll let the guys fill you in on the rest. Mike and Lonny usually have their hours as M-F 9-5 on their days off from the tour and then give themselves weekends off too, well unless the boys have a shin-dig that they have to attend and then they come back on duty, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let yourself have the rest of this week since its Wednesday to get your things in order with the station and then report to the gym Monday at 9 and we’ll sort everything out then. Once again though, welcome to the team, Erin."
"Thanks Lou and I’ll see you on Monday. Oh I have a quick question…"
"J.C.? Is he the only one in the group that needs protecting or are there a bunch of them. You haven’t told me their names or anything about them and I’m a little curious."
"Oh, I’m sorry Erin. The group is ‘NSYNC and consists of Chris, the oldest and most possibly the least mature, J.C., the serious one, Joey, the ladies man, Lance, the shy one, and last but certainly not least Justin who is the youngest but definitely the group’s shining star. Is there anything else that you’d like to know about them?"
No, I think that’s a good start and anything else, I can either learn from Mike and Lonny or figure out on my own once I get to know them."
"Well then, let’s sign these contracts. Sign here, here and…oh yeah, right here."
"What exactly am I signing my life away on?"
"Just a few inconsequential things."
"Just that anything and everything that you see and hear while on tour and working for TransContinental Records is confidential and we basically own you lock, stock, and barrel."
"I’m just kidding. Everything is to be kept confidential, you will work the entire tour and however long it takes Jim to recover unless you too become deathly ill and can not work, and…that’s it."
"I signed my name three times. I don’t have a problem with the other two, but what’s the third one?"
"Just a stupid one that the "image" people have us make all of the employees sign so its not a big deal."
"Well, what IS it?"
"No dating within the crew," he said quickly, "A lot of employees have a problem with this one, but its not so much as a lighting guy can’t date a make-up artist, so much as it is to limit anybody we hire from trying to get hired just so they can date the "guys"."
"So anyone who would want to get hired for that reason, wouldn’t sign the contract in the first place?"
"Correct," he said somewhat relieved.
"No problem. I don’t plan on dating anyone anyway. I’m here to work and that’s it."
"The rule isn’t strictly enforced for the employees but if one of the guys does start to date someone within the company, we usually sit down and talk about it and make sure the person, female, isn’t just trying to get publicity by dating him. Its a precaution. We also usually make them keep it silent so that rumors don’t spread."
"It’s all about the image, right, Lou. Plus, that way the female doesn’t get her publicity, if that’s what she wants in the first place."
"Well, you don’t have to worry about me."
"Good. I’ll see you next week then, Erin. Good-bye and Welcome to the team."
Erin shut the door behind her and stopped by the "NSYNC poster again on her way out. She just couldn’t figure out why that guy looked so familiar. Its probably nothing, she thought and shook it off. If nothing else, she’d find out soon enough when she met them in less than a month when the tour started. She said good-bye to Marie when she made it back to the front desk and said with a smile, "See you Monday, Marie," and walked out to her Jeep to head home.
Monday morning, Erin crawled out of bed and put on her workout clothes; sweat pants and a tank top over a sports bra. She put a bottled water in her bag, with her hand wraps, towel, brush, and extra clothes depending on what was going to happen today. She didn’t have an inkling of what to expect but after last week, she could handle anything. Telling the police chief that she had found a different job was hard and he had yelled loudly about how no one walked out on him and she wouldn’t receive a good recommendation from him if hell froze over. He definitely wasn’t what she had thought he was that first day. As she walked out of the station, she heard Jerry mumble something about "Good Riddance" and "Heading back where she belongs", if only he knew what she was really going to be doing on a daily basis.
She pulled up in front of Transcon and immediately headed out to the gym to wrap her hands and get limbered up before Mike and Lonny got there, cause she didn’t know what they were going to do first and she wanted to be ready.
After a good, short brisk warm-up with the bag and then out on the mat, she heard male voices and footsteps. Two guys walked in and they looked to be about her age. One had dreadlocks which were white and black, was maybe a little taller than herself, and the other had bright red hair and a goatee, and was about 6’ tall. "Oh I’m sorry," the red head said with a huge smile, "We must be in the wrong room for practice today. Sorry to disturb such a fine looking lady who just glistens at almost ten in the morning."
"Um, thank you. I think."
"I’d love to stay and chat with such a lovely lady, but practice is calling, and I don’t want to make any of the other guys mad if we’re late."
"Joe, quit making eyes at the lady and get moving. It was nice to meet you… We didn’t catch your name?"
"A good Irish name for such a beautiful…."
The dreadlocked one smacked the other one, Joe, on the arm and they turned around and left. Erin just rolled her eyes and hoped that the red head would be far away from her because that charm was lethal. A few seconds after they left, Mike walked in with a blonde haired man, who she assumed was Lonny. "Lonny, this is Erin, our new recruit," Mike said with a smile.
"Its nice to meet you, Erin, and I hope that you’ll do well with us and the guys. It’ll definitely make life more interesting to have a female on tour with us and if what Mike says is true… a very lethal one at that."
"Well, I’m going to try my hardest to do well and I’ve always loved a challenge. From the sounds of it, being a bodyguard for an up and coming boy-band will be probably one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever had. So, lets get to work, I’ve only got a couple of weeks to get up to speed on everything and to learn what you guys have known for years. I want to be better than or at least as good as all of you by the time I start," she said with a smile, that showed that she joking but serious at the same time.
"You were right, Mike, a real go getter and a definite asset to the team."
"How many people have you told about me, Mike?!"
"Oh just a few, well maybe all of the bodyguards, Lou, Marie…did I mention it to the guys? No, I think they were the only ones I didn’t mention you to," and with that everyone cracked up and got down to work.
"The first and most important thing for a bodyguard to know and use," Mike was saying, "is your brain. It won’t just be the fans and other personnel, but the guys themselves as well. They love to sneak out and have a good time, even if it puts them at harm’s way so you always have to be a step ahead of them at all times."
He then went into a number of stories about the guys getting into trouble and them having to bail them out. The stories ranged from them sneaking out to the clubs, sneaking out to go sight seeing, to just basically ditching their bodyguards to do who knows what. Lonny told an impressive one about Lance’s first time being kidnapped by the guys in Germany, they apparently had stolen one of the buses and gotten lost, so Mike and Lonny went and found them and brought them home, but they’ve never let them forget about it since and the guys haven’t stolen a bus again, just the vans.
"Sounds like I’ve got my work cut out for me."
"Well you said you wanted a challenge, Erin."
"Thank you, Lonny."
Over the next week and a half, Erin learned crowd control and how to use the opponents momentum to push them back against the crowd and away from her and the guys. She also learned how to check building security, entrances and exits, and also how to maintain security throughout a show or event. Lonny and Mike stressed professional relationships with everyone, but they told her the guys would make a point of be-friending her because A) she was female and B) because that’s just how they were, but work came first and to make sure that they were safe.
The last week of training was dedicated to honing her skills and refreshing ones that she already had. Lonny and Mike decided they wanted a fun day, so they were going to go through the defensive driving course and then out to the range for some shooting practice. They don’t normally carry guns with them, but they always travel with them for safety reasons. The defensive driving course was fun. There were dummies all over the place and cars and vans that looked like they had been hit one too many times.
Mike made some remark about how he had already driven once today with his girlfriend and that female drivers scared him, so that put Lonny in the passenger seat with Erin. He told her that the point of this was to make sure that if a situation arose and they had to get out of an event quickly, that the driver or bodyguard could get out quickly but without hitting anyone or anything. He then told her to hit the gas hard and get through the track. They made her drive it three or four times and she only hit one dummy, a few cones, and the back of the van but only after she took her eyes off the road and saw Mike cracking up at Lonny’s horrified expression that he had plastered to the window.
After that, they headed over to the range where Erin proved what a crack-shot she actually was. The guys thought because she was a "she", they would show off their expertise a little. "Now, Erin, I’m sure they taught you how to shoot in the academy but protecting innocent people and the guys in a large arena or stadium is different. You have to be accurate and quick."
Lonny and Mike demonstrated for about a half hour on techniques and different approaches, and Erin just stood by and let them talk. She wanted them to feel good about themselves before she actually started shooting and plus she was getting a kick out of hearing them ramble on. "So, guys, can I try now?"
"Sure, now stand like this or maybe you should…"
"Just hand me the gun and let me try and then you can correct from there, K," she said with a smile. They nodded the go ahead and she focused on the target and in quick succession with her 9mm Glock, shot off the entire clip into the head of the target. When they brought the target back, all the wholes were in a nice tight circle right between the eyes.
"Damn girl! How did you learn to shoot like that?" Lonny said incredulously.
"My dad takes me out to the range whenever he can, and has since I was a little girl. The police academy helped me to tone it up and become more accurate, but basically what made me the shot that I am was practice. I just try to practice whenever I can, and become as accurate as possible."
"Well, just so we can keep our egos in place, we won’t let anyone know you’re better than us."
"Ok, Lonny, you’ve got it. I don’t like anyone knowing how good a shot I am anyway. It takes any advantage I have over a situation away, the minute they know."
"You’ve got a point, girlie."
The last couple of days were spent going over communications, the walkie-talkies, headsets, pagers and cell phones that each team member had to wear or at least know how to use. They had her memorize each password and know the electronics inside and out. Next, came the basic medical CPR and first aid. They had to be reviewed and by the end of the day, Lonny looked like a mummy and Mike as if he wouldn’t want her near him with a ten foot pole if he was wounded. But, they all knew she had gotten it and that she was just joking. "If anything happens, Erin, we’ll just call the paramedics. You may do more harm than help, if we let you near anyone."
The last thing that they went over was escort drills. This is the toughest thing in their profession that they have to deal with, they were saying, because fans want to get a piece of anything that has to do with the group and if that means a piece of hair or article of clothing, they’ll go for it. Also, as the bodyguard, you have to put yourself in-between the fans and the guys and more than once, you lose your own clothing and hair because you are the guy’s bodyguards and are associated with them. Bruises will become a part of your life but you get over it, heal and move on.
Erin was finally a part of the team and had passed Mike and Lonny’s hilarious but grueling three weeks of training. It was now time to move on and apply what she’d learned to protecting these "boys", as she thought of them and imagined them to be after Mike and Lonny’s descriptions of their antics and escapades. Tomorrow night was the party at Lou’s, and then on to the tour. This was going to change her life, she thought. She actually felt comfortable for the first time since she could remember, well since her senior prom that is…
Erin pulled up in front of Lou’s place and checked the address one more time to make sure that she was at the right place. "1203," she read on the paper and sure enough 1203 was written on the house. She got out of the Jeep, smoothed down the skirt of forest green dress, and walked up to the front door and knocked. "I’ll get it," she heard someone yell from somewhere inside and then a stomp of feet as if people were racing throughout the house. "Hel…," Erin almost got out but the momentum of the other people behind the person who answered the door forced everyone to run into her and topple into a big pile of legs and arms.
"Whoever is on top, needs to get off!" she heard mumbled from a little ways above her.
"I think it’s Lance."
"Lance, get off."
"Its not me, its Chris."
"I’m moving, I’m moving, You guys forget that it takes me longer to do things than you youngens."
"Yeah right whatever, old man. Just move so we can get up."
Everyone finally sorted out what limb belonged to whom and brushed themselves off. "We’re sorry for running into you, miss, but we were expecting someone else at the door. Someone who probably expected us to come running into them."
The person who spoke was tall, with gorgeous blue eyes, dark hair, and had a way of making Erin feel comfortable in a way she had never felt before around another person, but he also looked a little familiar. "My name’s J.C. by the way, and these guys are Lance, Chris, Justin, and Joey."
"We’ve met," Joey said, "I’d never forget a beautiful woman like you, Erin. Remember, Chris, this is the girl that we met at the gym."
"Oh yeah, the one I told you not to go after cause she could kick the sh…"
"Good one slick," Justin piped in, "It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I’m Justin and you are?"
"Erin Kinsela. Your new bodyguard."
Everyone was stunned but J.C. had the most stunned look out of all of them and she could only think it was because she was female and he didn’t agree with that. "Someone left the door wide open… Oh Erin, finally, you’ve made it and I see you’ve met the guys."
"Yeah, we were just getting acquainted."
"You look a little mussed, dear. Is everything alright?"
"Oh yeah, I tripped coming up the steps, and these nice, gentleman all leapt at once to assist me, but caused a big pile of arms and legs instead. We’re all fine, Lou, don’t worry." Erin smiled over at the guys, making it known that they owed her one.
The guys blushed and fussed over themselves and then everyone made their way inside for the party. Erin was introduced to so many people, from road crew, to management, to parents of the "boys", who were really men she realized, and also the families of everyone. Lou introduced her to Johnny Wright, who she remembered also started the New Kids On The Block. "I was so in love with the New Kids, Johnny," she was saying, "Thank you for bringing that cutie, Joey Joe, to the limelight. He was the man I was going to marry at the age of ten, marry and have twins with eyes his color."
Everyone started laughing cause, being management and working with boy bands, they realized how true that was in the world. Nine year olds and up were proposing marriage and offering to bear the guys children in letters and e-mails and it could be unnerving to say the least. "Erin, I’m glad I could be of service to provide you your first crush."
That started another round of laughter through the group. Erin was laughing so hard, she had tears in her eyes. She wiped her eyes and glanced over her shoulder and realized that JC was staring at her again. He had been all night and it was really unsettling. Maybe I should go talk to him. I am afterall going to be working directly with him, she thought to herself and headed over to the snack table where he was standing.
"Hi," he said very guardedly.
"I don’t mean to be too forward, but do you have a problem with ME being your bodyguard or is it just because I’m female?"
"Actually its you. I have a problem with YOU being my bodyguard and I don’t want to work with you at all. Don’t you recognize me? I’m sure once you do, you’ll be finding another job as soon as you can, cause I know you won’t be wanting to work with me either." He said disgustedly. She wasn’t sure if it was with himself or her though.
"What do you mean, "recognize you"? Should I?"
JC cracked up right then. He said, "Ah Sela, of course you should. It certainly hasn’t been that long since I kicked your ass at our last karate tournament and then went to Prom."
"In the flesh, Sela."
"I can’t believe it. I mean, you look so differ… I mean you’ve grown up and I thought… umm… weren’t you going to go into the music industry?"
"I am in the music industry, Sela."
"No, I meant… Don’t call me Sela either," she said sharply, "anyways…"
"Erin, shut up. This isn’t going to work and you know it. We’ve never been capable of small talk, so we shouldn’t even try now. Ever since high school, we haven’t been able to look at each other, let alone speak to one another. Prom screwed everything up and I’m sorry about that. But, you lied about my friends and what happened that night. I can’t believe I misjudged you that much. This job isn’t going to work, we have to trust our bodyguards, and I don’t trust you. I’d have to watch my back, not just from the fans but you. Who knows, you’d probably make up some story about me too, and ruin my entire career just for a kick!"
"I can’t believe you nerve," Erin said angrily, knowing she was about a breath away from losing her temper. "Where do you get off?! Why are you still defending them after all this time. I bet you don’t even keep in touch with them anymore. I have never lied to you in all the years that I’ve known you. I may have been slightly temperamental around you because I was jealous of you, everything came so easily to you and I had to work so hard to keep up, but I have never twisted a thing to hurt someone else. That night and what happened was not a figment of my imagination and I wish you would just accept it and move on."
"Thats not true, you…"
"I don’t want to rehash it."
"Good so for once we agree. I think since we can’t seem to get along, nor want to, it would be better if you found another job."
"I... I can’t. I signed a contract and I’m not about to quit."
"Well then, maybe we can switch you with Lance’s bodyguard, Randy."
"Where did we go wrong, Josh? Can’t we just agree to disagree on this topic, and try to move on and maybe find the friendship that we once had?"
"I thought we agreed to never discuss this again?"
"We did, but I just wanted…"
"Its all about what you want, isn’t it Erin, just like always." Josh was starting to lose his temper too and she knew that would be disastrous cause she was starting to calm down now, and if he did, she’d have to fight back.
"No, its not. Forget it. I’ll leave you to your delusions about me and won’t trouble you a minute more. Good bye Josh." Erin gave up. The same old argument had come up and she knew Josh was never going to forgive her for sending his best friends to jail the day before graduation for something, he still swears up and down, they didn’t commit.
Erin turned and walked away and made it to where Lou was standing, saying goodbye to some of his guests. "Lou, I talked to JC and we both decided that it would probably be better if I switched with Randy and guarded Lance instead."
"No, I’m sorry Erin, you were assigned to JC and that’s the end of it. Trust gets established between bodyguards and the people who they protect, because that person is placing their life in their bodyguard’s hands. Lance and Randy have that trust. JC will just have to learn that Jim is gone for the time being and you are his replacement. Again I’m sorry Erin, but I’ll have to talk to you later about this. Good-bye Mr. and Mrs. Albert, thanks for attending tonight," he said switching his attention from Erin to his guests.
Erin waved goodbye to Lou and decided to go home because dealing with Josh had caused a migraine to rip through her head and all she wanted to do was go to sleep. She closed the front door and headed over to her Jeep. Out of nowhere, a hand grabbed her arm and swung her around. She leaned into the swing and knocked the guy off balance. She sideswept her leg, knocked the guy on his butt, kneeled into chest and said, "If you want to keep any vital parts of your body, you’ll put your hands where I can see them and don’t speak unless I ask you something."
"Erin," she heard mumbled softly, "Its me, Lance."
"Oh I’m sorry," she leaned down and helped him up.
He dusted himself off, then looked up with a smile. "Remind me never to do that again or to piss you off."
"Alright, but what did you want?"
"I just wanted to make sure you were alright cause you were leaving so early and to also apologize for JC. I kinda overheard the two of you talking, nothing specific though, and wanted to say sorry for him being such an asshole, and that he’s probably just tired and will see things clearer in the morning. Things will be ok, and I just didn’t want you driving home upset."
"I’m fine Lance, but thank you for caring, I’ve never had someone to worry about my welfare before. As for JC, he’s stubborn, I’ve known him for years and on this topic, he won’t change his mind. I’ll live though. Thanks for caring again, it’s nice to have a friend around here."
"And now you have three more friends…," that’s when Erin noticed the three bodies that were trying to stay hidden behind another car. She waved to the guys, hugged Lance and said, "I’ll be fine, and thank you all," and climbed in, put the Jeep into reverse and drove home.
"We have to make sure those two get things worked out, otherwise this tour is going to be hard on all of us, and plus think about it," Justin said as they went back inside, "She’s the one protecting JC. That could get really messy if he ever REALLY pissed her off."
"You are not a kidding, oh wise youngen, we’ll just have to make sure that they get along and get things worked out for the better," Chris said and closed the door behind him.
Erin’s alarm went off at 6 AM sharp. She rolled over, grabbed the offensive machine and threw it against the wall, silencing the loud ringing. "One more thing I’m going to need to get when I get back from this tour," she thought to herself, grimacing, and rolled out of bed, "besides my sanity." After her run in with Josh at Lou’s party the night before, she couldn’t seem to sleep for more than an hour at a stretch. Morning had certainly come early. "OH, I mean J-C. At least that’s what he goes by now," she thought sarcastically.
She grabbed the clothes that she’d laid out the night before and rushed through her shower. She remembered his looks of disgust the entire night and the fight right before she had left last night. Who would’ve known that I’d run into him again after all these years and have the contempt for each other still there, except the contempt she had felt for him all these years wasn’t really present anymore, she realized suddenly. When did I stop hating him?
"Erin, I’m really glad that we were able to set aside our differences and have a good time tonight. Maybe we can become the friends we were a long time ago before our competitiveness got in the way, and as for that," he said with a grin, "I’m sorry for beating you today in the tournament. It’s always been either you or me who has won, and the better man won today."
"Josh, I’d really like to get to know you again too. I was real hesitant at first when I found out that you wanted to ask me, but now I’m glad you did," she smiled, "and as for that tournament, I demand a rematch!"
"A rematch it is then. Erin, I’m glad I asked too. You look real nice tonight, by the way," he said as he held the door to the limo open. That’s when she noticed the other people in the car.
"I didn’t realize that we were going to double or triple with anyone?"
"I’m sorry this was last minute. Tim and Gary asked their dates late and everything else was pretty much taken with the other high school having the same prom weekend as us, so I invited them along and just asked the restaurant to increase our reservation number."
Josh helped her into the limo and she said quietly, "That was nice of you." He introduced her to Tim, his date Lucy, Gary and his date, Marie. The girls seemed nice enough, but Erin had never gotten along with Tim and Gary. Gary had always tried to get into her pants since freshman gym class and Tim was always right there with him, egging him on. Neither of them cared about anyone but themselves and she was surprised that Josh was friends’ with these jerks. Made her wonder why Tim and Gary had hooked up with them tonight.
After dinner, she had managed to lose most of her nerves. Tim and Gary were behaving better than usual and were actually being decent to her and their dates. They decided to go to Prom and then afterward figure out what to do then. Tim and Gary were bragging about the rooms they had for the evening while their dates were in the restroom, and even offered to let the two of them have leave of it early if they so desired. Josh just laughed and said no, that they were going to spend their time at the dance and then figure things out from there, maybe take a walk on the beach or go out for coffee or something.
The dance was great, the music was thumpin’, everyone was dancing and before long Erin was really beginning to enjoy herself. "I can’t believe how much we actually have in common!"
"I know. Who would’ve thought that with how much we thought we hated each other, we’d actually get along and be two peas in a pod."
"Well," she said with a smile, "I wouldn’t go that far, but I think we can move past hostility and maybe toward friends."
"I’d like that. Want some punch?"
"Yes, please. Oh and can I ask you something?"
"Why did you ask me to Prom?"
"Ummmm, I… guess, I… can I answer that later tonight. How about we discuss this after the dance. It’s… it’s just not something, I, uh, want to get into right now. How about that punch."
Josh headed toward the punch bowl and that’s when it happened. Gary came up behind her and grabbed her arm, saying something about Lucy having a rip in her dress that needed tending and neither them or Marie knew how to fix it. "I’ll see what I can do, but there’s no guaruntees," she said and followed after him.
Josh saw the two of them walk off, Gary’s arm wrapped around her waist, threw the punch in the trash and walked off to find another dance partner. "Gary said she was hot for him, but I didn’t believe him," he shook his head and asked a stacked, blonde named Amy to dance, "if I hadn’t seen them walk off together I’d never have believed it. What was I thinking… I was thinking I really liked her and that maybe we could get to know one another better, but Gary was right, we are better off as acquaintances. Nothing more, nothing less. Stupid! It was stupid of me to think that I even had a chance with her after all these years."
Meanwhile, on the way up the elevator, Erin asked Gary where they were going. "My hotel room."
"What? I thought you said she was in the bathroom?"
"Oh, Lucy is out dancing with Marie and some other girls. Tim and I wanted to christen my hotel room with you first. A little one-on-one if ya know what I mean…" he said ogling her. She went to throw her fist at him, but he grabbed her arm before anything could happen and wrenched it behind her. "I know all about your Tae-Kwon-Do stuff and its no match for me. The two of us are going to have ourselves a little fun and then Tim wants some of the action."
The doors to the elevator swung open and he pulled her to the room across the hall. "Gary this will be rape. Let me go now and I won’t press charges…" she said pleadingly.
"It won’t be rape because you’ve been teasing Tim and I since freshman year. We just want a little bit of what you were going to give Chasez tonight and then we’ll be done. Just a taste of what we’ve wanted for years."
His hand clamped down on her mouth, strangling her with the stench of sweaty palms and too much cologne. No else was in the hall to see the struggling twosome as everyone was downstairs enjoying the dance. He dragged her into the black room, kicked the door shut, and threw her on the bed. Tim was there with a couple pieces of rope and proceeded to tie her hands and feet to the bedpost. Gary had placed a gag on her as soon as she had hit the bed and had moved to the zipper on the side of her dress.
She couldn’t remember what else had happened after that, except when morning came, she was still tied to the bed, naked, bruised, and bloody. She didn’t get released until the maid had come in the next morning to clean the room. Security and the police were called and they took her statement.
Afterwards, she remembered the trial and how Josh had testified against her, how she had willingly gone up with Gary and it didn’t look like she was struggling at all. She tried to talk to him, thinking that they had made progress at the Prom but he had closed himself off. She was the enemy against his so-called friends. The two of them had only been friends for one night, while he and the guys had been friends for years. "Loyalty is everything in a friendship," he had screamed at her the night after it had happened. She had run to find him after she had called the police and Tim and Gary weren’t anywhere to be found. "Gary and Tim told me everything before they left. They wouldn’t lie to me. All they could do was brag about how hot you were in bed and then the remorse you felt afterwards and how you were going to cry rape. And you did not twenty four hours later."
Erin walked to her jeep, pitched her bags in the back and started to drive to the studio. "This is going to be a long tour," she thought. After Josh and her had talked that long ago night, she had broke down in tears and run home. They had never talked to each other again after that night. He thought she was guilty and she had let him go on thinking that. Tim and Gary had been sentenced to Juvenile Hall for four years until they turned 21 and then had to go counseling for another two years while in federal prison for pre-meditated rape. With the evidence of the ropes, gags, and blood found in the hotel room, the jury had found them guilty. But, there were still many, including Josh, who believed that S&M was part of her sex life and that she had set out to humiliate Gary and Tim because of her guilt and vindictiveness. She grimaced and thought to herself, "What a crock! Why is the woman always to blame."
She saw the tour buses ahead of her as she pulled in, the families saying goodbye to each other, friends standing off to the side waiting for their turn, and then the crew hurrying around, trying to get everything on the busses in time. "It’s time for everything to come together and for the past to finally be laid to rest," she thought, climbed out of the Jeep, grabbed her bags and left the memories of that horrible night where it should be, in peace.
Erin didn’t see much of the guys the first few days of the tour since they were traveling non-stop to their first show. She and the other bodyguards and crew traveled in their own bus ahead of everyone else so that they could get settled and ready for action before the guys arrived. "Hey Erin," she heard from the front of the bus, "you ready for this."
"Just to let you know, there are going to be ten million teenage girls out there, screaming for their favorite guy, and its only 5 AM."
"I know and I’m ready." I just hope Josh is ready.
The bus pulled up in front of the hotel and everyone got their room assignments and threw their suitcases in their closets. Erin was just sitting down at her laptop to check her e-mail, when the call came in that the NSYNC bus would be arriving any minute and for everyone to be ready to get them inside. She became nervous for the first time about her job. What if I’m not ready for this. What if I can’t protect them and everything goes to chaos.
Mike, Lonny, Erin, and the other private bodyguards found their positions at the bus, while the crew tried to clear a path through the crowd. Who would have thought that this many girls would be up at this hour. The doors opened and the screams intensified. Lance and Chris came out first. "Lance, will you marry me?"
"Chris, I love you!"
"Hey Erin, Randy, Guys, ready for a couple more months of this?" Lance said as he walked down the steps.
"I sure am! I’m ready for years of this, as long as 10 and 11 year old girls keep on lovin’ me for who I am and not what I am." Chris joked as he followed Lance.
"Guys, let’s just get you inside," their guards laughed and ran the gauntlet with them through the crowd. Next came Joe. "Alright, look at all the weemen."
"Joey, I’m yours, take me please."
"Sorry Joe," Lonny laughed, "She’s way too young for ya." The two of them had a good chuckle as they followed the others into the hotel. Last, Justin and JC came out. They always came out last cause the fans took to them more, and whatever pleased the fans, they tried to do for them.
"Hey Mike, I’d like to make it in one piece if we could today. That bald spot on my head from last tour really pains me, man. I’m too young to go bald!"
"Justin, my boy, with that fro on your head, you’ll never go bald."
"Ah, your just jealous, my friend, just jealous of this wonderful FULL head of hair that I have."
"Justin," Erin cut in with a laugh, "No would want your bleach blonde roots cause it’d kill their brain cells to have to bleach it as often as you do."
"Y’all’s just jealous."
"On that note, let’s head in and get a good nap in before we have to head to the radio station, sound check and the concert tonight," JC cut in angrily and headed straight into the crowd without waiting for Erin, Justin or Mike as escorts. I guess this thing between us will be resolved sooner rather than later. Erin took off after him at a dead run and managed to cut what looked like a 13 year old girl wearing way too much of her mother’s make-up off before she could grab him. She knocked him off balance, grabbed him by the arm, hustled him into the lobby past security just as Justin and Mike got there right behind them.
"What the hell was that about, Chasez?" She spit out at him angrily.
"I don’t need you, nor do I want you around. So, I’ll be taking care of myself until a much suitable person can be employed. I thought we had gone over this at the party last week." He said smoothly, which only managed to make her even more infuriated.
"Um, guys," Lance said casually, "Can we take this upstairs so that we don’t make an even bigger scene than the one we have already managed to create between Erin’s flying leap and the yelling in the lobby." Everyone nodded their heads as reason set in and the two adversaries just glared at each other and headed for the elevator.
Once they reached their floor and Mike and Lonny posted themselves at the stairs, the two of them lit into each other again. "Chasez, I think you need to grow up and become a little mature about this whole situation and learn to live with it. I have."
"LIVE WITH IT? I don’t think I can learn to live with having a little manipulative whore bodyguarding me for four…" Erin just hauled back and hit full face before he could finish his sentence.
"NO one calls me a whore and gets away with it. Before you go around judging people, maybe you should learn to get the whole story."
JC just held his eye and with his good one glared at her. "Or maybe, I should know when to stay away from lying manipulative…"
"Don’t even say it again or you won’t be able to even walk, let alone dance at your show tonight, Josh. That’s a promise, not a threat."
"Guys," Justin cut in.
"Stay out of it!" Both of them yelled at once.
"We are finally going to get this out in the open, Justin," Erin said, "it’s four years coming."
"I’m not getting anything out in the open. You want to air dirty laundry, that’s fine, but do it without me. I’m going to bed."
"No, you aren’t Chasez!" Just as JC turned to head into his room, Erin leapt on him, knocking him off balance and both of them into his door. Both groaned from the impact and got up, settling in to argue some more. "This isn’t even close to being finished."
"I have something to say and I’m going to say it, even if everyone’s looking on." She glanced around and noticed that indeed they did have an audience, the rest of NSYNC was there, the bodyguards, and some of the crew were all outside their rooms watching the drama unfold.
"That night that you blame me for, was the worst night of my life. You have no idea of what really happened in that room. No one was allowed to speak of it cause the trial was closed to everyone except the prosecution, defense and the witnesses on the day that they had to testify. I let you believe that Gary and Tim were innocent because they were your friends, but I’m not going to let this go one any further than it has, because you are endangering yourself and everyone on this crew with your dislike of me."
"You mean Hate of you." He bit out caustically.
"Shut up, Josh, I’m not finished. What everyone was allowed to believe about that night was that I was tied to that bed and raped. That’s all that I really know that happened about that night too, since I was unconscious or something through the whole course of events."
"See, you can’t even back up…."
"I SAID, I’m NOT Finished! What people don’t know is this…" With that, Erin turned around so that only JC could see her back and lifted her shirt. Scars criss-crossed her back in dark, white lines, showing the extent to which she had been beaten. Some scars were long, some short, but all had been deep and had obviously hurt badly. She turned back with tears in her eyes.
"That’s why I don’t remember anything that night. They beat me first while I was tied to the bed cause I wouldn’t stop struggling and the force knocked me unconscious. After they were finished with me, they whipped me until, I guess, they got tired. The bleeding kept me out until morning when the maid came in to clean the room. That’s the REAL story, J-C. But, you’ll believe what you want. You always do." She turned around and ran down the hall to her room, slamming the door behind her.
"Good one, man," Chris said on his way to his room. Justin just gave him a filthy look as he followed Chris into their room and shut the door.
"I’m going to go check on her," Lance said, "see if she’s alright," and headed down the hallway to Erin’s room and knocked on the door softly.
JC and Joe went into their room and JC sat on the bed, heavily. "I can’t believe… after all this time… and I thought…"
"JC, man, I can understand, what you believe you saw. I mean, you told us what happened and everything from your side, but I never could see how you believed those guys. Women don’t asked to be raped."
"I know, I just…I just believed the worst of her cause I wanted to. I didn’t want to believe that two good friends of mine had raped someone that I grew up with. We had always fought and hated each other, it was just easier to stay on that same path than to be there for her. I still… What they must have done… How did she survive… I…"
"You should go talk to her, maybe this tour won’t be the nightmare that you’ve been thinking it would be from the beginning. Maybe if you two could smooth things over and move past that night, then maybe, just maybe, you could start becoming the friends you were starting to become at Prom."
"Yeah, I’ll talk to her after the show tonight. Maybe we should switch guards for the rest of the day though, I’d kinda like to see the rest of the afternoon in one piece."
"Yeah, and you might want to put some ice on that eye, otherwise, you might run into one of us on stage and the fans will think we did it. I’d hate to look bad in front of the ladies, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I know," JC laughed and went back into the hall to get some ice.
"Erin, are you alright?" Lance sat on the bed next to her crying form and rubbed her back. "I know you don’t know any of us real well right now, but I’d at least like to try being friends. AND, you know what friends do, they check on each other and make sure everything’s alright. So, why don’t you sit up and give me either a cheeky grin like I’ve seen you give Mike or at least sit up so that we can wash your face and begin anew."
"Lance, you’re a bastard you know that. BUT, I could really use a friend now. Thanks."
Erin sat up slowly and gave him a big hug. "You, guys, are determined to become friends with me no matter what, aren’t you?"
"Yup," he said proudly, "and furthermore, we want you better so that you can go out with us after the show tonight."
"I don’t think that’s a good idea after what just happened."
"Everything will be fine. First days are hard on a new tour. We’ll have someone fill in for you for the rest of the afternoon and tonight and then, you’ll be our chaperone tonight at the club. How about it, Erin, pleeeeeaaaaasssseeeee."
"Alright, alright. For you, Lance, only for you. BUT, only if you promise me a dance."
"I promise, madam. You might live to regret it, but I promise. But seriously, are you sure you’re alright though? Do you wanna talk about it, or just sit here and think?"
"I… I’ve never actually spoke about what happened that night with anyone. I lost all of my friends over it, cause they believed like Josh did, that I was bluffing. I just threw myself into karate, self-defense, pretty much anything I could to learn to defend myself better. If you’ll listen, I’ll tell you everything that I can remember…"
Lance settled down on the bed and listened to Erin’s heartfelt confession of Prom night.
She started crying again at the end when she showed him her back and Lance just held her until she cried herself to sleep. He tucked her under the covers and shut the door quietly behind him as he headed back to his room with Justin and Chris.
"How is she?" They pounced on him the minute he came through the door.
"She’s going to be fine. I got her to come out with us tonight and I’m going to clear it with Mike to give her until then off."
"He’ll agree. He saw everything in the hallway," Justin said quickly.
"Dude, I think everyone in the hotel saw what happened," Chris piped in.
"JC just needs to get his head on straight and talk to her. If he could just get past his hate for her, maybe they could become at least acquaintances, if not friends after awhile."
"She said that they were starting to become friends that night. If those two could get past what happened, I think they could become the friends that they almost were that night. They’re way too much alike not to be."
"Maybe if we…"
"Justin!" both friends cut in, "You will not play matchmaker with them."
"They have to deal with this on their own." Lance finished.
"But, if we…"
"Ok, ok… after the concert then. Plus, knowing JC, after whatever she showed him on her back…"
"It’s pretty bad, Justin, I saw it too. She showed me when she told me what happened."
"After the concert, JC’ll go talk to her. I’m sure of it, he’s too much of a gentleman not to," Chris said knowingly.
"I just hope things work out and it’s not as tense as this past week has been traveling here with those two."
"Yeah, it’s been hell. Every stop, you could just feel their animosity…"
"Oooh, big word, Chris!"
"Justin, shut up. Anyway, you could just tell that they weren’t getting along and that something was bound to happen sooner or later."
"They’re too explosive to not have had this come to a head early on."
"You said it, Justin, now let’s get some sleep before our radio interview at noon. We’ve got at least two to three hours to get rested up."
"What do you think we should do tonight?"
"Justin, we’ll figure that out later. NOW GO TO SLEEP!"
"GOTCHA!" Everyone laughed and shut the lights out.
Beep Beep Beep "Welcome to radio station KISZ 102.7, next on our evening hour of all 80’s, New Kids On The Block rock the airwaves with The Right Stuff." Erin rolled over and threw the alarm clock against the wall. "Well that’s two. How long have I been asleep?" She glanced at the broken clock and saw that it was blinking 5:50. "I sure slept a long time." She crawled out of bed and walked over to the dresser to look at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were all puffy and red from crying and she had dark circles under her eyes from tossing and turning. How did Josh and I get to this point?
She went to go and take a shower when she noticed something white on the floor, near the door. It was an envelope with her name written in black ink on it. She picked it up, opened, it and read:
I don’t really know where to begin. You and I have known each other since I first moved to Edgewater in the sixth grade. Do you realize how long that is? Almost twelve years. And in all that time, we have never gotten along once, except that night at Prom. I still don’t know why you even accepted my invitation, but right now that’s beside the point. Joey tells me, I’m getting off the subject. Shut up Joey. Anyway, I first want to apologize for my behavior since Lou’s party and also for my lack of faith in what happened four years ago. It was wrong of me to judge you based on only their statements and to not get the whole story. You were right that night at the party, when you stated that "I bet you don’t even keep in touch with them." You’re right, my so-called friends and I haven’t spoken since right before their sentencing. You and I, I believe would have kept in touch over the years. What am I trying to say…. I guess what I’m trying to say Erin is that I’d like to start all over and get to know you better, take off where we left off on Prom night and try to become friends. We already know we have a lot in common and have similar interests. Maybe that’s why we couldn’t stand each other, we were TOO similar, in personalities as well as interests. This tour is going to last for another four months. I’d like it to be bearable as well as fun for everyone that is on it for the duration, and from what I’ve been hearing for the last few hours, we (I) were making people’s lives hell. So, what I’m asking, is that would you please forgive me for being stupid, ignorant, shallow, unintelligent, trite, stereotyping… OK Joey, I think she gets the point, no more helping me with synonyms. Please Erin, please forgive me and give us a chance to start over and become friends. I was going to do this in person, and I realize this is a very cowardly way to apologize, but with my schedule today and you getting the day off due to my awful behavior, I wanted to give you a chance to rest and calm down before my other eye all of sudden decided to match my other very colorful one. We do need to talk this out and get things in perspective but I thought this might pave the way at least. I’ll call when we get back to the hotel from the concert.
P. S. I’m told to inform you that we’ll be going to a club to go dancing so be ready with your dancing shoes. The guys all plan to dance with you, including me, if you’ll let me.
Erin sat down on the bed hard. I can’t believe him. He thinks he can just change our status from enemies to friends with a letter?! No, he did say that we would talk, but I don’t know how to act around him or how to talk to him without… no I stopped hating him a long time ago, I just don’t know if we can ever BE friends. She walked over to her suitcase and grabbed a few things for her shower. As she stood under the spray, she couldn’t help thinking back to Prom and the beginning of the evening. We tried and almost succeeded at liking each other, can we do it again?
"JC, man, calm down!"
The concert was over and everyone was heading back to the hotel. The adrenaline rush was still there for everyone and for JC, it was causing him to pace the length and back of the bus, but for him, it wasn’t just the adrenaline either. It was the knowing that Erin had read the letter by now and he had no idea what was going to happen or how she would react.
"JC, man, if you don’t sit down, I am going to make your skinny ass sit on that couch cause you are making me DIZZY!"
"Chris, What if she hates me? How am I supposed to act around her now? Will she stay on the job? She did sign a contract after all, but that hasn’t stopped people before and she has cause to break her contract. OR, what if she’s already left and she never got my letter? What if…."
"JC, SIT!" JC finally fell into one of the chairs and put his head in his hands.
"Boy, have I screwed this up!"
"Listen," Lance started, "You didn’t know, she didn’t let you believe any differently, it was all a big misunderstanding. When we get back to the hotel, go up to her room and talk to her. You, two, can figure things out from there."
"I have no idea what to say to her, every conversation we’ve ever had has been an argument with one of us either being thrown or hit."
"Ummm, I don’t think you two taking karate together was such a good idea."
"Joey, you aren’t helping."
"Look, JC, we’re just pulling into the hotel lot. Do you want any of us to go with you for moral support or… do you want to go alone?"
"We’ll come with you," Justin broke in, "cause what affects one, affects us all. Plus, after looking at your eye right now, I wouldn’t let you go into the lioness’ lair by yourself if you paid me a million dollars. Boy, has she got a right hook."
"Actually a left hook, she’s left handed."
"Joey, how in the hell do you know that?"
"She’s female. I notice things like that."
The guys headed up to her hotel room and all but JC stepped back to let the poor soul knock on her door. "Erin, uh, it’s me JC… and, uh, the rest of the guys…"
The door opened and all of them immediately became speechless. JC couldn’t believe his eyes. He had to blink several times and he could have sworn his heart had stopped momentarily. Her short red hair was styled messily, kinda like Meg Ryan’s in Addicted to Love, the spaghetti strap, burgundy, tank top complimented her hair perfectly, and then she had on a knee length black skirt and matching burgundy heels. "Does this look alright for the club tonight guys, or am I too dressy?"
"Uh…" Five stunned guys answered, but Justin recovered first. "Yeah, but we haven’t even been to our rooms to shower or anything before we leave, so you’ll," he had to swallow, "uh, have to wait a little bit."
"Oh, that’s fine. I woke up at six and had nothing to do so I got ready. Do you guys want to come in, or stand in the hallway all night?"
All five nodded their heads and followed her in. Chris shoved JC forward once he got his voice back. "He wanted to talk to you." Good one, Chris, REAL intelligent there.
"I know," she said a little self-consciously, " I got his letter, but why did all of you come?"
"Well, Justin didn’t trust you not to blacken JC’s other eye, and well, I, personally, don’t think we all really trusted him to do the job correctly either."
"Well, Lance, at least you can be honest." Erin laughed, "Well, JC, what did you want to say exactly?"
All JC could do was stare at her. She was beautiful. He didn’t think she was this beautiful in high school, her hair was a lot longer then and she was a lot younger, but she absolutely radiated right now. Her blue eyes just stood out against the dramatic make-up that she had put on. It looked liked she had out-lined her eyes in black eye-liner and then put glitter over her lids as eye-shadow and then left everything else neutral with a clear gloss on her lips. Her lips….
"JC, man, snap out of it! What’s wrong with you?!" Justin said puzzled and slapped his friend up side the head.
"Let me go first. All of you sit."
The six of them sat and talked for almost an hour. JC and Erin cleared up what they could about Prom night, with the others asking questions about it, trying to understand both sides. With that out of the way, and everyone smiling and feeling much better about the situation, they decided to get ready and head to the club. "Erin, you beautiful Irish flower, we will meet you here in a half hour and then escort you to one of our favorite dance clubs."
"OK, Joey, a half hour."
He leaned down and whispered to her, "I think things are going to work out now, don’t you."
"Joey, I think things will be fine until the next major disaster drives JC and I against each other in combat," she said with a mischievous grin.
"Are you sure you two just don’t like fighting and never really hated each other at all… foreplay, so to speak," he winked at her.
"Get out of here and go get ready, you big Italian Stallion," she said as she shoved him out of her room.
"AND, Don’t you forget it."
"Oh dear, what am I to do with him?"
JC and I…Never hating each other… Foreplay… I…nah, Joey’s just imagining things.
The tour went a lot smoother with JC and Erin getting along, and the subject of her rape and Prom was never broached again after that night. He never gave her any problems with her job, in fact, he was very courteous and even tried to help her out in times by using her as the shield from fans. She couldn’t stand those times though cause it always felt like he was teasing her for being short and she never let him forget it. To her, it felt like he didn’t trust her enough to do her job and that him being the "stronger" had to step in and play hero. It frustrated her to no end and she never let him forget it. Every time it happened, the guys usually had quite the show back at the hotel. She always lit into JC about how she could handle the fans, that she wasn’t small, etc., etc. and the fight always ended with a huge wrestling match between the two to see who was the more fit to protect the other. Justin figured it was just a ploy for JC to be able to hold Erin without screwing anything up, but no one listened to him being the youngest and all.
The guys began to view Erin as a little (older) sister and even treated her as such. She went on a few dates here and there and every time she returned, there was always either 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 "dads" waiting to grill her and her date to make sure everything was fine and that the date hadn’t lasted longer than it should. She always "had a big day tomorrow and had to be in tip-top shape for it". It didn’t bother her at all that they thought of her this way, but sometimes she’d get a feeling in the pit of her stomach that this wasn’t the way it should be, but then it would go away and everything would be fine again.
About two months into the tour, everyone got a few days off between shows as they traveled to the other side of the country. Their next stop was in California and Justin was just itching to get to the hotel to play some basketball. "I haven’t played in days, guys. I NEED to play."
"Justin, settle down, kid, we’ll be there in an hour and then you can play to your hearts content." Erin sighed, "I’ll even play you if you want."
"Nah, that wouldn’t be a challenge. Now, if I could play one on one with…"
"NOT a challenge??? Boy, I dare you to play one on one with me when we get to the hotel and we’ll see who can school who."
"Erin, I’m half a foot taller than you. It would be WAY to easy to win, babe."
"OK, kid, put your skills where your mouth is headin’ and lets take it to the court. In fact, just to make it a tad bit more entertaining, lets make a bet to see who will win."
"A bet huh…" Justin said with a grin, "Why not."
Erin, back down, girl before you lose something you definitely DON’T want to lose," Chris interjected into the conversation. "I’ve seen him play and he’ll win."
"Ah, no faith. OK, Justin, if I win… I get your… no, if I win…, if I win, you dye your hair blue for Monday’s concert and act like the Cookie Monster for the entire show in between songs, cookies and all."
"And, if I win… you have to be my personal bodyguard and slave for all of next weeks concerts, not just Mondays show."
Both shook on it, while the other guys just leaned back and groaned. "This could definitely make for an interesting next week, guys," Joey said, "And with such an interesting bet, I’m not sure which one I want to win."
An hour later, everyone was on the court in the gym getting ready for the big one on one match. Justin was on one side of the court practicing his shots when Erin walked out of the girl’s locker room. Justin ran up to her just as she walked beneath the hoop and dunked it over her head. "You can back out now, if you want to, girlie. I’ll be nice and call off the bet."
"I won’t." Erin grabbed the ball from him, turned around and Swish, the ball went through the hoop. "Did I forget to say that I played high school varsity four years, was MVP my senior year, and then played two years college ball. I may be short, Justin, but I CAN play."
"I do believe you did forget to mention that, JC as well." He looked over at JC who was sitting on the bleachers with the rest of the guys. JC just shrugged with a half smile on his face, as if to say, "Did I forget to mention that? Sorry."
"We can definitely tell who’s rooting for whom from that one."
Chris and Joey decided to play the referees and JC and Lance were each side’s cheerleaders, with Lance on Justin’s team and JC on Erin’s.
The game took longer than any of them had thought it would. Justin and Erin were pretty evenly matched, but Justin had the height advantage so he scored quickly to make the score 3-0 in no time. "Hey, girlie, you should have given up when you had the chance," Justin laughed as he waited for her to check the ball. They decided to play street ball, half court, with whoever scored 21 points first, a point a basket, winning. Anything went to a point, the guys had decided, to help make the match a "little more even". She told them that she didn’t need it, but all they saw was her height and stature and told her to take the advantage it was the only one she’d have. She just smiled and said, "OK, if that’s the way you want it."
"Justin, I DON’T give up." With that she checked the ball to him, and when he tossed it back, she shot from half court and made it. "3 pointer! But, it only counts as one… oh well. Your shot, Justin."
"Justin, pick your jaw up off the floor and check the ball."
The game went on, Justin scoring, Erin scoring, both sides extremely tired by the time the score was 20-20.
"Why don’t you guys just call a tie and let’s eat. I’m starving! You guys have been playing for hours…" Joey yelled.
"NO!" Justin and Erin yelled back.
"One more point, Timberlake. Ready for some hair dye? I’ll buy the cookies, don’t worry, my treat."
"Erin, I am going to have so much fun making you eat your words. First, I think you’ll do my laundry, second, oh yeah, full body massage, third… oh this will be so much fun."
Erin looked over at the rest of the guys, who had in the beginning been really into it but when the score had reached 15-15, all had sat down and decided to wait it out. JC was fast asleep on the bleachers, Lance was on his cell phone, Chris was writing in what looked like a journal, and Joey was clutching his stomach as if he hadn’t eaten in days.
"Hey, Joe," Erin called out, "You want this over with?"
"Yes," Chris, Joey and Lance said in unison.
Justin checked the ball to Erin, she checked it back and when Justin charged down the middle to make an easy lay up, she body checked him, stole the ball, took it out and free throw shot it mid court, to make the score 21-20. She walked over, picked up the ball, chucked him under the chin and said, "Oh and Justin, if ya want, grow some fuzz on your chin and we’ll dye that too," then she headed straight to the locker room to shower. Justin, however, still hadn’t moved.
"Uh, guys, I lost."
"Yeah, Justin, buddy, but you played a good game. Probably, one of the best I’ve seen you play in a long time."
"NO, Chris, you don’t understand, it’s alright that she beat me, but I lost the bet. I LOST THE BET. My hair?! She knew exactly where to get me. My hair?! How am I gonna face everyone with BLUE hair." He was pacing around the court by the time he was finished, waving his arms in the air like he was trying to fly or something.
"Justin…" But, before he could think of anything to say to make the younger man feel better, Joey cut in.
"Justin, that show is going to be awesome. Would you mind sharing your cookies with me though?"
Everyone groaned and headed to their hotel rooms to get ready for dinner. JC woke up shortly thereafter, looked around and said, "Where’d everyone go?" and hurried back to his hotel room.
Monday night’s concert started off without a problem. They moved the guys into the arena and handed them over to their hairdressers and costume people. Erin and the rest of the bodyguards moved into position around the stage. Mike and the guys usually stood up front, but Erin tended to be in the wings cause that was one area that she couldn’t do, she couldn’t push the crowds back away from the stage. She usually got crunched in the process. That was the first concert. The crowd had pushed her right up against the stage where she had tripped over a cord and fallen under several teenage feet. Mike and Lonny had managed to pull her back up, but not before she had obtained several bruised on several parts of her body along with a nice set of footprints on the back of her shirt. Everyone had laughed about it for days afterward, well after they had realized there wasn’t any permanent damage done.
Erin stood in the wings, watching the crowds scream for their favorite NSYNCer, holding signs up with several different "Will you marry me?s written, I love you so and so, God must have spent…, We Love NSYNC, etc, etc,. She couldn’t imagine having to deal with this kind of adoration day in and day out without getting either the most humongous ego or being afraid to go ANYWHERE in public. She then noticed a sign that didn’t fit. It read, "NSYNC will die". Erin couldn’t believe her eyes. She rubbed her hands over them and then looked again. The sign was still there. She ran backstage to find Lonny or Mike before they were planted permanently in front of the stage for the evening, but when she couldn’t find them, assumed that they were already stationed.
She made her way to the guy’s dressing rooms to tell them to be on the look out for anything that seemed out of the ordinary when the door opened. Out walked Lance and Justin, but not before she had gotten quite the, uh, show from within. Josh had been standing directly in the mirror’s path so that she could see everything in its entirety with no problem. "Hey Erin, aren’t you supposed to be…"
Erin turned bright red and stuttered, "I… I … was, uh… looking for you guys because… I uh… saw a sign…" Erin tried not to glance back into the dressing room but couldn’t help herself. That was one fine looking…
"Erin, girl, what’d ya see?" Justin asked, while Lance looked back into the dressing room to see what had caught her attention. He started laughing and shut the door before JC realized that he was giving the hallway quite the show.
Erin turned even redder when Lance shut the door but managed to get a hold of herself and spit out what she had seen. Both guys said that they would be on the look out and that they would warn the rest of the guys and the band before they went out on stage too. When she was comforted that they would be fine, she then noticed Justin for the first time. He had tried to grow a beard but instead just had patches of hair on his chin and cheeks. The "beard" and the hair on his head had been dyed a bright blue, courtesy of Lance, and he had a bag of cookies strapped to the side of his costume with a blue string. The amazing thing is that the hair color managed to bring out the blue in his eyes and he actually looked pretty good for a cookie monster.
Erin cracked up. "Juuussst… I… Oh MY GOD! I…" The next thing they knew, Erin was rolling on the floor laughing and clutching her sides, with tears streaming down her face.
Lance helped her up, laughing at her and Justin. "I did a good job, didn’t I?" He said proud of himself.
"Oh, the crowd is either going to kill us or love us." Erin said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
The rest of the guys came out of the dressing room, ready to play hackey sack before they went on stage. They noticed Erin there and said HI. Erin told them good luck and to break a leg before heading back to her spot. She then made the fatal error of looking Josh straight in the eye. She turned red again, stuttered out, "Good… um… Break… a… Just have a good time dammit," and walked off. JC just stood there wondering what was up with her, and looked around at the guys, but no one was any help. JC just shrugged and continued to play hackey until it was time to go on stage.
On stage, the guys could see the sign, but no one around it. JC looked over at Justin and pointed out the sign but he just shrugged and mouthed, "Don’t worry about it, it’ll be taken care of."
Meanwhile, Erin was making her way over to that area to see if she find the people holding the sing. She finally made her way there through the throng of teeny boppers when she noticed the change in the people around her. She fit in quite nicely with her backstage outfit, everyone around her was wearing pure black. They had on black, long-sleeve t-shirts, black jeans or pants, black boots and all were sporting freshly dyed black hair, several even had facial piercings and tatoos. Another thing she noticed, was how young they were. They couldn’t be older than her by a long shot, in fact they all looked to be around Lance and Justin’s age.
Two guys were holding up the sign and were laughing about the reactions they were getting on stage. A guy next to them had binoculars so that he could see the stage and was relaying the worried expressions of the guys and crew to the rest of the people around them. They didn’t look dangerous to Erin, just like they were trying to spook the guys and get a good laugh out of it in the process. She wandered up to the guy holding the binocs and said, "Hey, what’s up? Good show down there?"
"The best! You should see the looks they keep shooting up here. I wish I was closer so that I could photograph them. The pics would’ve looked great on my hate site."
These were just kids trying to have a little fun at others expense. "Well why don’t you and your buddies here make a quiet exit and let everyone else have a good time too. You’re making the audience a little nervous too and it’s my job to make everyone have a good time."
"You work for that bubble gum group down there?" He said looking her up and down. "I can think of much better ways for you to live your life, sweetheart." His grin changing to more of a leer.
"Well, you’re a little young for me, kid, but thanks for the offer. Anyways, you couldn’t afford my salary. Now, lets pack it up and move on out, K."
"Nah, dearie, I don’t think so." The next thing she knew, an arm snaked around her, cutting off her air supply and a gun was pointed to her temple. "We haven’t finished our fun here for the evening yet and now that you’re here, you can see it all up close and personal like instead of from behind the scenes."
When that was said, the guy, obviously the leader, motioned for another guy to come up front. This guy had a rifle with a sniper scope on top with all the trimmings. "We’re going to give these guys a little taste of reality instead of all this pop jumbo, they keep feeding everyone."
The guy with the rifle focused on one of the guys down below, but before he could get off a shot, Mike grabbed the gun and slammed it into the kid’s gut. "I don’t think that would be a very smart idea."
Erin slammed her head into the guy’s behind her and kicked his legs out from under him, holding him down. She looked up at the guy she had talked to her earlier and reiterated her statement from before. "Like I said, take your little friends and get out of here, before someone gets hurt."
"Ok, we’re leaving, but in the words of someone we all know and love, I’ll be back. Oh yeah and you ain’t seen the last of us."
The guy and his friends packed up and left. Erin counted about fifteen maybe sixteen of them and then noticed for the first time that everyone was armed with something from a knife to a rifle. Mike came over and offered her a hand. "Nice work, but next time… ask someone to tag along. JC was worried when he didn’t see you backstage and asked me to find you. Figured you’d pull a hero stunt like this."
"I didn’t pull…"
"Yeah, you did Red. But, seriously, what would have happened if I hadn’t been there?"
"I don’t know, Mike. I don’t know and I don’t even know if I want to know."
"What do you think?"
"They’ll be back. I’m worried, maybe we should tighten up security at these things. Also, How in the hell did they get those things in here?"
"I don’t know but I’m aiming to find out and kick the ass who did."
After the concert, the crew was briefed on what had happened and was put on serious curfew until the situation was resolved. "We can’t be having these guys killed on stage!"
"We understand that Lou, but there’s nothing we could have done there except what we did. No one thought anything about it until the last minute and we checked it out. Case closed, it’s over."
"I want those kids found and taken care of."
"Lou, we’re looking for them but I don’t think we’ll find anything. I did hear one of the guys talking about pics for a hate site. Maybe, just maybe if we can find their site, they might have some info on who they are and what they were planning on doing."
"Good idea, Erin. I’ll get someone on it right away." Lou left the conference room, leaving only the guys, Mike and Erin. Everyone else had been left out because of security leaks. This was to be kept quiet.
"Do you know who that guy was aiming at?"
"No I don’t. I’m sorry."
Everyone went back to their rooms that night thinking about what had happened or could have happened. Justin’s antics and costume was forgotten in the events that had taken place and everyone was frightened. JC couldn’t sleep. He kept tossing and turning, thinking of a rifle trained on him without even knowing about it and about Erin. She could have been killed up there with a gun to her head. What was she thinking? She was thinking about saving our asses is what. But, she shouldn’t have been there in the first place, in that position. It’s her job, it’s what she’s trained to do. She could’ve been hurt and then what would I have done… WHOH!!! What am I thinking? I would have gone on and been concerned as everyone else would have been, but nothing extreme. LIAR! She’s gotten under your skin, like you knew she was starting to back in high school. That’s the reason you asked her out in the first place back then. She’s just a friend. I… There’s nothing between us. What was up with tonight at the concert though, she was look at me like…We are friends. Got that Chasez! Nothing more, nothing less. But, what if she’s feeling… she’s not feeling anything cause you aren’t feeling anything either. You are JUST FRIENDS! JC rolled over and hit his pillow.
"Hey JC" Justin called out, "Having problems, man."
"When can’t you NOT sleep?"
"Since tonight. Now, go back to sleep and forget about me."
"Sorry, with you tossing and turning, you’re keeping me up. Get some sleep and I’ll get some sleep." Justin rolled over, giving JC his back and the hint to go to sleep.
"I’ll try." JC rolled over and Erin popped back into his head,
"Dude! Forget about Red and get some sleep. You’ve got a thing for her. Accept it and move on."
"Huh?! What… How…"
"Everyone’s noticed but you and her. Now get some sleep. I can’t believe I’m telling JC to get some sleep." Justin mumbled as he laid his head back down and tried to catch some much needed and uninterrupted sleep.
I like Erin. What do you know. I finally said it after all these years, I mean weeks. Maybe there is a thin line between love and ha… OK, Love??? I need to get some sleep. Things are being said or thought that definitely DO NOT need to be said. JC finally settled down and started to drift but not before one last conscious picture of her all dresses up to go dancing. He settled into his pillow with a smile that would give Cheshire the Cat a run for his money.
Concert after concert, city after city, NSYNC continued traveling on their new arena tour across the United States. Everyone was packed into their buses as they traveled to Washington State. Erin was traveling with NSYNC on their bus just for fun and plus the bus she traveled on was all female and also the guest bus, meaning she rode on the guest bus cause she was the only female traveling on the tour. She was busy playing with her laptop when JC walked up and sat down next to her. "Whatcha workin’ on?"
"Well… I first got on, just to check my e-mail and catch up with some friends from school and then I… I thought I’d check out those kid’s web sites."
"You already did that an hour ago. Justin walked through and saw you on. What are you writing?" He leaned over trying to see her laptop but she shut it before he could see.
"If you must know, I’m writing in my journal. I try to write every night but I got behind with our schedule and all so I’m just writing down what’s happened so far and getting some thoughts down."
"Are we in there?" JC said still trying to see.
"Of course, moron. I kinda spend every waking minute with you guys so it would be kinda weird if you guys weren’t." She sighed and shut down the computer, putting it back in her bag.
"Is anyone specifically in there… I mean, do you tend to write more frequently about someone more than someone else…"
She looked up at Josh with a quizzical look on her face and noticed the bright red flush on his cheeks. "No, not really, just depends on what happens. Why are you so curious about my diary?" She ruffled his hair. "Curiousity killed the cat, you know."
"No reason, just curious about your dates and the guys you’ve been seeing."
"Oh them, nothing serious."
"Have you ever had a serious relationship?"
"Actually now that I think about it, no. No one has ever caught my fancy before so no guy has ever really gotten past the first date with me. I don’t mind though, I get to meet a lot of people, well guys, and until I meet the right guy, I’ll keep dating."
"No guy has ever caught your "fancy"?" JC couldn’t believe that she had never had a serious relationship. "No one at all?"
"No. Usually I get nervous after the second date and run off."
"You do not."
"OK, boss, you know me so well."
Justin decided to make an appearance in the kitchen at that point, yawning and digging through the cupboards looking for something to eat. "Justin, its 4 in the afternoon, you’ve already had your cereal so you CAN speak."
JC and Erin both laughed. "I can’t believe even after an hour nap, you aren’t coherent enough to speak before eating."
"Uh, crackers." Sounds of munching filled the small kitchen area. "What city are we going to by the way? I always get so mixed up while on tour.
"Seattle." Lance said as he came in.
"Guys, there is not enough room in this kitchen for everyone."
"Oh, people are eating. Can I have some?"
"Joey, is that all you can think of?"
"Yup, Justin hand me some crackers."
Everyone started talking at once and the noise level rose as people either began to eat, talk, or find a place to sit all at once. "Ok, that’s it, I’ve got to get out of here. I’ll be in the back if anyone needs me," Erin said and started toward the back.
"Wait. You didn’t tell us what you found on that web site, Erin."
"Uh… I don’t think you guys really WANT to know. With that, I’ll be in the back." She tried to make a bee-line for the Entertainment room but Chris grabbed her arm on her way by.
"What aren’t you supposed to tell us?"
"Erin, come on." JC spoke up, "Wouldn’t it be better if we knew what we were dealing with instead of keeping us ignorant."
"OK." Erin walked over to the table and pushed Justin and his food over to make room for her laptop and herself. "I’m not supposed to tell you guys anything until we can get a handle on these guys, but I agree you should know. I know, it would kill me if I couldn’t find anything out on the people who were trying to ki… I mean harm me."
"Were you just about to say ‘kill’?"
"Let me just show you what we found and let you interpret it as you see it." With that she logged on, and clicked on the page she had bookmarked for future research. The web page that came on was pitch black with animated flames and Do Not Enter link on front. The Do Not Enter had a password lock but was easily bypassed.
"Erin, how did you know this was the site and I don’t WANT to know how you got in." Chris said as he scooted in next her.
"Actually, I just went through all the NSYNC hate sites and came up with this one. Once I got in… Well you’ll see." She bypassed the password and pulled the main index page. In red writing across the top was "I HATE:" and had a long list of their hates that included schools, bands, specific people and more. Next to each hate link, was a date, next to NSYNC had the last date of their tour in Canada written down. She clicked on the link and a schedule came up. Each day had a phrase or short description about what was to happen on that day. The date from three weeks ago had "the game begins" written next to it. No other phrase was written until a week from now and "See How They Run" was written there. "See How They Run?"
"If you notice, some have actual phrases, others are titles and then some are song lyrics. Mike, Lonny and I haven’t been able to figure out any of them yet, but we have Wesley and Randy working on ‘em too."
"What does that blank next to our last concert mean?" JC asked.
"The only thing I could think was that they haven’t finalized exactly what they want to do yet so an appropriate phrase hasn’t been looked up yet."
"That makes sense, but what are we going to do about all this?"
"Honestly, Chris, none of us know yet. All we can do right now is increase security and anyone that we don’t know and trust will no longer be able to be backstage."
"Backstage passes will no longer be issued?"
"Not without either background checks or us personally knowing them."
"That’s absurd, Erin!" Justin broke in. "We can’t do that to the fans or anyone that supports us."
"It’s your neck, kid." She slammed the laptop shut and walked to the back. "We can’t protect you, if you won’t at least abide the rules, Justin." Nothing else was heard from her as they heard one of the extra bunk’s curtains being slammed shut. No one knew what to say after seeing the site. "See How They Run"? What do you think that means?" Joey asked.
"It could mean that they are going to put us on the defensive."
"Guys, I think we should really listen to Erin and Mike on this one." JC put his two cents in. "They have our best interests at heart and won’t do anything to harm our careers or our necks."
"JC, man, think with your head on this one and not something else."
"Shut up Chris!"
"No I mean it, our careers as well as our LIVES are on the line, I understand that. BUT, I agree with Justin, we are too much in the public eye to just cut the fans out. There has to be a compromise."
"If we could just figure out what that line means…" Lance said. He grabbed Erin’s laptop and booted it back up. "Let’s see what we can find about "See How They Run."
Two hours later, the guys were still there going over books, songs, cliches, and whatever else came up. "Seattle in another hour, guys," The bus driver yelled back at them. All they could come up with was that something was probably going to happen to make them either run from the tour and cancel it or… heaven forbid, run for their lives.
"Everything that we come up with has to do with disguises and government conspiracies and…"
"Too much X-files Joey."
"My advice to us all is to lay low until this blows over and listen to people who know what they are doing."
"We should get things cleaned up since we’ll be at the hotel shortly," Lance said and headed to his bunk, everyone following except JC.
Erin’s laptop was sitting there taunting him. Just one little look wouldn’t hurt, would it? The computer was still booted so he flipped through her folders and documents looking for her journal. He finally found something of interest when a folder titled ‘My Life’ came through on one of his searches. He opened up the folder and found entry after entry starting back from junior high school up until present day. She must have either gone back and written from memory or copied her journals from back then onto this machine, it’s pretty new. He didn’t have enough time to read the college entries and the ones leading up to the tour like he would have wanted but what he wanted to know would be a couple of weeks back right after their huge fight. I just want to know how she feels about me. He opened up an entry from about a week ago when all of them had gone to the Hard Rock Café.
Do they ever grow up? We hadn’t been sitting down for ten minutes before Joey, the hormonal adolescent, was off and running after some stacked blonde down the aisle. Chris and Justin were still in the game room, trying to beat some record at pinball. After Joey, got up, Lance went after Chris and Justin to see what they wanted to eat, but I think he just was trying to leave JC and I alone for some reason. After that night with those guys in black, I still have a hard time looking at JC without seeing him in the dressing room. Boy, does that guy have a body worthy of worshipping. But, I’m not allowed to think things like because of my contract and our history. If only these thoughts would go away, then I could do my job right without thinking of jumping the poor guy every time I touch him to move him out of the way of a fan or whatever the accident prone guy gets himself into. Although… nah he’s not smart enough to do all this to get my attention, is he? Anyway, back to the Hard Rock, everyone was eating when all of a sudden an onion ring flew into my lap. Everyone looked real innocent, and knowing Justin, I figurede it was him and threw it back at him. Well to make this story short we got kicked out for having a food fight in the middle of the restaurant. BUT, not before JC got his beloved menu. I thought I collected weird things but that has got to top mine with no problem. My collection of throwing knives is just… dangerous, not obsessive. It always comes back to him. I need to get him out of my head before he gets into my heart.
He then clicked on today’s entry.
I am going NUTS in this bus. I don’t know how the guys handle it. I’ve done everything I can think of to keep myself busy, short of killing Justin for looking over my shoulder every ten minutes trying to figure out what I’m writing. He’s getting to close, I’ll be back. OH that boy, go away. I am so glad he finally laid down and took a nap. While he was out here, I took a look at the hate site that Lonny, Mike and I had found last night. I tried to get into the page after the schedule but I can’t seem to crack that code. I’m assuming that page has the detailed instructions for every concert they plan on attending and their agenda. I’m really scared that I won’t be able to protect them and that I’m going to lose my best friends. Joey… who’s going to feed my ego when we go out and no one asks me to dance. Justin… the little brother I never had. Lance… my conscience and heart. Chris… no one else can certainly make me laugh like he can and JC. JC is my rock, or at least has become one for me. I can tell him anything and I’m so comfortable around him. Who would’ve known after all these years that I would fall for him? Not me certainly. I am going to do everything that I can to protect those boys, even if it is for a very selfish reason that I’ll be able to call them or be able to see them after the tour and not in a hospital room. They didn’t see the weapons those kids were carrying and they certainly don’t know what it’s like to have a gun to your head and know its there. Oh, here comes JC… why do I always get interrupted on my private time. Well, diary, I certainly don’t mind him interrupting me though… he is one fine… and I’ve got the memory to prove it. OK, I’ll write more tomorrow, he’s looking over my shoulder.
JC couldn’t believe his eyes. She did feel what he had been feeling. He quickly shut down the folder and closed the computer. He didn’t know what to do now. Eavesdropping never solved anything. JC just sat there stunned. I wanted to know and now… now I don’t know what to do about it. She’s never had a serious boyfriend let alone a not so serious one. Never made it to the third, not to mention the second one either. Play it cool, work on her a little here and there and just let things happen. Maybe after this whole hate thing is taken care of. But… she’s… just let things happen.
Everyone arrived in Seattle without any problems around 10. The crew went to the arena to start setting up for tomorrow night’s concert while everyone else went to the hotel to get prepared for the radio interviews, photo shoot and the Meet and Greet before the show, not to mention the show and the after party. Erin was still not talking to any of them after the kitchen incident but JC wouldn’t let her ignore him for long since they still had to make it inside the hotel and she was guarding him. "Erin, before we go in and go to our hotel rooms…"
"Ummm, would you want to go with me to the After Party tomorrow night."
"Just friends, so nothing for you to run from."
She slapped him in the arm lightly. "Like I could run from you, living in such close proximity to each other. Um… yeah sure why not. Pick me up at my room when you’re ready. Ok hotshot, it’s past my bedtime. Let’s head in"
They rushed inside past all the screaming fans and the entire way, JC had the biggest, "I can’t stop grinning", grin on his face. No one mentioned it but everyone certainly noticed, especially Justin. Those two could already start a small lightning storm on their own, but if they were to get together… things could certainly start to light up and he wasn’t about to miss one scene of it.
"JC, man, it’s just a concert. Sit down and take it easy. You’ll be able to pace the length of the stage in no time, while you dazzle all the pre-teen beauty’s with your voice." Chris joked while watching JC pace in their dressing room.
All five of the guys were sitting in their dressing room an hour before the show getting some down time before they went out. Justin was reading some of his fan mail, while Lance read over his shoulder and kept asking him if this was the lucky soon-to-be wife of THE Justin Timberlake. Joey was watching TV and munching on some carrot sticks and Chris was watching JC pace around the room. "JC’s not nervous about the concert, Chris, he’s worried about AFTER the concert." Joey piped up.
"I am not."
Justin looked up at that point. "You are so. It’s your first "date" with Erin and you have no idea how its going to turn out."
"Technically, it’s my second date."
"Let’s not go there, Chasez. You and Erin, both, would be better off forgetting about that entire night."
JC nodded and finally sat down. "OK, so I’m a little nervous. I told this was just as friends, but I don’t want it to be."
"We know how you feel, JC, but do you have any idea of how she does?"
"Chris, don’t hurt yourself playing psychiatrist again." Lance broke in, causing everyone to laugh, "And, I can personally say, she has the hots for our man, JC, here."
"How do you know that, Lansten?" Justin asked.
"Man, you should have SEEN her face when she came backstage that one night and saw JC in his entirety. She couldn’t stop looking and I had to close the door before JC noticed and embarassed himself further."
"Lance, run that by me again. What did Erin see?"
"You, ALL of you. Oh man, it was no wonder she couldn’t look you in the face without turning red for a couple of days."
JC turned three shades of red before settling on burgundy. "You mean…"
All four of the guys answered, "Uh huh. We all knew, how come you didn’t?" and immediately started cracking up.
"JC, its cool, she’s alright with it now, and don’t let it get to you. If you didn’t know about that, how did you know that she liked you?"
"I… uh… read her journal on the bus yesterday."
"You read what none of us could get our hands or eyes on in the last two months?" Justin asked incredulously. "She NEVER leaves that alone. I’ve tried for weeks to read over her shoulder with no luck."
"Well after we were looking at the sites and you all went to pack, I peeked a little."
"AND…" Four guys asked with bated breath.
"Nothing. Just that she had been thinking about me and was beginning to develop feelings for me."
"And then you asked her out when we got to the hotel."
"Yup, do you think that was smart?"
"Reading her journal or asking her out?"
"Reading her journal… NO. If she finds out, JC, she is going to kick your ass and ask questions later. Can I watch???"
"But, as for asking her out… Yeah I’d say so. What can it hurt?" Lance said.
"Yeah, what can it hurt."
The guys figured it was time to ready for the concert and kicked the hackey around and went to do their concert. Erin saw them run onstage start the show. The show went really well. The crowd went insane when Justin sang ‘When God Must Have Spent…". She noticed that when JC sang the chorus ‘You Got It, I Want It’, he kept glancing in her direction and it was making her nervous. Finally the show came to and end with the finale of "Tearin’ Up My Heart’. She breathed a sigh of relief that nothing had happened and left the wings of the stage to head back to the busses and head to the After Party.
Erin paced her room, glancing at the clock every now and again, focusing on the fact that only a minute had passed since the last time she looked. She was dressed in black pants, a dark green tank top, black boots, with her party make-up on, black sparkles on her eyes, dark shiny lipstick with her hair all mussed. She’d been ready for twenty minutes, waiting for JC to come and get her and the more time that passed, the more she was thinking she was going to be stood up. It’s not a date, therefore, I wouldn’t be stood up, but then again, I’m used to being stood up by friends and dates.
Erin jumped about a foot in the air and raced to answer the door. She stopped herself just in time, waited a few seconds then calmly opened the door. Her jaw hit the floor. So much being calm and composed about this. Josh was wearing a green button up shirt, khaki pants, and brown dress shoes. He had recently showered so his hair was still damp, but the smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes, told her that he was definitely liking her outfit too. "Well, we definitely have the same taste in colors. Should I go change into black pants and we’ll match completely." He joked and held out his arm to her.
"I think we can be different for a change."
"Good choice. I don’t think dates should match when they go out."
"I mean when friends go out."
Good one, Chasez. "Well, should we go?"
"Definitely. I’m looking forward to dancing."
"I hear they have a karaoke machine down there too." He said with a sly grin.
"Josh, I’m not singing."
"Why not, I know you can."
"I haven’t sang in years and I’m not about to start at a party dedicated to a music group. They’d laugh me out of town."
JC started laughing. "Erin, sweetheart, you don’t give yourself enough credit. Plus, If I know the guys, you can protest as much as you want, but your beautiful ass WILL be up on that stage."
"I’m not going to argue in the elevator. We’ll just have to see who’s right and who’s wrong. AND, I can tell you right now, that you’ll be eating your words."
Erin was the one that ended up eating her own words. JC and her had been dancing for about an hour with a few breaks here and there having a wonderful time, when all of a sudden a spotlight shown down on her. Lance voice filled the party, "Everyone, Sorry to interrupt your good time, but it has come to our attention that a very special friend of ours has decided not to participate in the festivities in the next room. She’s kind of shy, but I’m sure JC will be willing to stand up onstage with her while she sings a few songs to give her some well deserved confidence. Erin, dear, your presence is requested in the next room. Don’t worry, either, Justin and I have picked out your songs. Thanks for your time, everyone, hope you enjoy the rest of the party and please continue with what you were doing." The spotlight clicked off, and with a smile on his face, JC walked Erin across the room to the small room where they had set up the game and karaoke room.
Justin was standing on stage with Lance and motioned for them to come up. "Hey, Erin, glad you could join us." They started laughing at that point and she just walked over and hit him in the arm.
"I should kill you now, Timberlake, but I’m going to wait and get you back."
"Oh no, girlie, this is paybacks for the blue hair and all the articles that appeared in BOP, TEEN, and every other TEEN magazine that somehow got pictures from that concert."
"Fine, but I did like how you managed to grace the cover of BOP and the article talking about whether or not Justin Timberlake was on drugs or if he was just trying out a new look for their new tour." She said with a smile.
"Paybacks, that’s all I can say."
"So, what are the songs…"
"Well Lance picked one and I picked one. You have your choice between the two or you can sing both. We have ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ by Shania Twain or my pick, ‘Wanna Be’ by the Spice Girls."
"I’ll take country for a thousand, Alex." Erin grabbed the mike and walked up on stage.
Justin walked over and sat down next to JC. The guys were all in the front row watching Erin adjust her seat and mike stand. The gleam in Justin’s eyes told JC that he’d been planning this for awhile and was really anticipating her failure to sing. "Bounce, there’s something I need to tell you about Erin."
"Yeah what, well we took Karate and stuff together but we also took…"
"Shhhh," Lance interrupted, "She’s about to start."
Justin rubbed his hands together and watched her take a deep breath as the first strains of the song started.
"I’ve known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart.
But, you’ve got being right down to an art
You think you’re a genius – you drive me up the wall
You’re a regular original, a know-it-all"
Erin began to get into the music and all her years of performing in high school and college came back to her. She remembered the little band that her and a few friends had tried to make it big in and had failed miserably, playing only at local clubs and bars. She switched into entertaining mode and decided to give the guys quiet a show, since they had tried to embarrass her. They were going down in flames and with such a perfect song too.
"Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else
Okay, so you’re Justin Timberlake
That don’t impress me much"
When she said that line she wandered over in front of him and ruffled his hair. The guys hooted at him and she just smiled waiting for her next victim on the next verse, JC.
"I never knew a guy who carried a mirror in his pocket
And a comb up his sleeve-just in case
And all that extra hold gel in your hair oughta lock it
‘Cause heaven forbid it should fall out of place
Okay, so you’re JC
That don’t impress me much
So you got the looks but have you got the touch
Don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much"
JC just sat there and smiled at her. Man, can she perform. It’s too bad that we both couldn’t have won that audition to MMC. She looks natural up there.
Erin walked back up on stage to finish the song and her performance for the evening.
"OK, so what do you think you’re NSYNC or something…
That don’t impress me much."
After the last note faded away, she took note of Justin’s expression. He had the most stunned expression on his face and all she could do was smile. She jumped off the front of the stage and walked over to the guys. "So…"
Chris gave her a huge hug. "You were awesome. Girl, why didn’t you tell us you could sing?"
"And embarrass myself in front of you, big time stars. Nah, it was my little secret."
"Well, you certainly shocked the kid over there and he had such high hopes of ruining you in public."
Erin walked over to Justin and chucked him under the chin. "Oh, kid, you aren’t even in my league for paybacks. Keep trying."
Joey and Chris jumped up on stage next and did a rousing rendition of Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff. They had the entire room in fits of laughter. JC walked over to Erin and asked her for the last dance out in the ballroom. "Sure" She said and smiled.
They walked out to the floor. Most everyone had taken off or gone to bed as it was almost 2 in the morning and another concert in Tacoma was planned. The last song of the evening ended up being "God Must Have Spent…" As they danced, JC hummed along with the music and when it came to his part, began to sing softly. "In all of creation, all things great and small, you are the one that surpasses them all, more precious than any diamond or pearl they broke the mold when you came in this world and I’m trying hard to figure out, just how I ever did without, the warmth of your smile, the heart of a child, that’s deep inside leaves me purified." He kept humming after his solo, and looking deep in her eyes started to lean down and kiss her.
Erin had never had anyone look at her like that in her life. She did the only thing she knew to do and had done before. She ran. "I’m sorry, Josh."
She ran for the elevator and had it opened before he could even react. Whaaa??? She just left. She left!
Erin raced down the hallway into her room. She leaned against the door after she shut it and started crying. She slid down the door, hugging her knees and just let go. Those bastards! Why can’t I just forget what they did and not let it affect EVERY relationship I have, let alone every date. Everytime, I start to get close, all I can is their eyes and faces staring down and laughing at me. When Josh asked me why I had never had a serious relationship, I played it off. It’s really because I can’t stand to be touched when I know someone’s attracted to me. I just freak. All I want is to be normal and forget what had happened, or at least be able to move on and live a normal life. A normal existence, what a concept. It’s been four years and they still affect my life. If only I could get my…
"Erin, open up!"
"Go away, Josh!"
"Erin, open up, otherwise I’m going to go and get security and make them open your door."
"I AM security, Josh or did you forget that."
"Erin, I’m warning you." Slam His fist hit the door. "DAMMIT! Open this door."
She ripped open the door and said, "Are you happy now?!"
He looked her up and down. Her hair was even more of a mess from her running her hands through it, her mascara and eyeliner was smeared all around her eyes and they were bloodshot from crying. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. "Erin…"
"Josh, go away. I don’t want you around right now. Didn’t you get the hint downstairs?"
"Why did you run?"
"Tonight was supposed to be ‘Just Friends’. What in the hell did you think you were doing by trying to kiss me?" She said, putting herself on the offensive.
"Can I come in and talk about this?"
She swept her arm, inviting him in, and took a step back. He walked in and gently closed the door behind him. "Erin, I’m sorry." He walked over and sat on the bed, placing his head in his hands. "It just seems like nothing goes right for us."
‘Josh, we were getting to be pretty good friends, let’s not go and ruin it."
His head shot up. "Is that what you thin would happen if we got together. It would ‘ruin things’."
"No, I would ruin things for us. I told you before that I don’t do serious relationships and you would want and deserve someone that could give you that."
"Why what?" She said starting to get defensive.
"I don’t believe you. Why do you push guys away? It’s not a matter of anything having to with relationships at all, is it?" He stood up and walked over to where she sitting on the floor. He hunkered down and took her hand in his. He noticed her flinch and caressed her cheek with his other hand. "What are you so afraid of, Erin?"
She pushed him away and walked to the other side of the room. "Nothing, JC. Did it ever enter your thick skull, that I just don’t like you like that."
Her back was to him and he walked over and turned her around. "That’s a load of bullshit, if I ever heard it. I’ve seen you look at me and I know for a fact that you feel the same way as I do. Just take a chance, Erin. I think I’m falling for you."
Her mouth dropped open and she couldn’t think of a thing to say.
"May I kiss you, Erin?"
She looked up at him and searched his eyes. She looked for any gleam or sparkle in his eye that didn’t match with his tone. All she found though, was honesty and sincerity in his eyes and she nodded slowly. I’m going to regret this in the morning but at least I can enjoy the moment. As his lips met hers, that was the last coherent thought she had until he lifted his head.
"That wasn’t so bad, was it?" He said with a small smile. She could tell that he had been just as affected as she had by the kiss.
She turned her back to him again and said softly, "Josh, I think you should go."
"What? We aren’t finished talking yet."
"Yes, we are. I’m sorry, Josh, but…"
"Please leave." Don’t you understand that I’m damaged goods. I’m no good for you or anyone else.
"Don’t do this, Erin."
She turned around and said, "I told you to leave. Now get out before I throw you out." Oh, Josh, I’m no good for you. You need someone who’s good and pure. Not someone like me. I’m sorry, so sorry for the look I’m putting on your face and what’s to come.
"JOSH! Leave me alone. From now on, it’s just work between us. This is too much for me. I don’t feel the same way for you, lust and love are two very different emotions. Just because I want you in my bed, doesn’t mean that I want anything more. Sorry, we mixed up the two. Now get out." Liar.
"You’re lying." He said quietly. "I don’t know why, but you are. I’ll find out why."
"I know, I’m leaving." He walked to the door, threw it open and slammed it shut behind him.
I’m so sorry, Josh, but this is for the best. Erin crumpled to the floor and cried herself to sleep. She finally made it into bed at about six but the pounding on her door at seven to load up came way to early. She grabbed her still packed bags and headed down to the busses. When she made it down to the lobby, she noticed that Wesley was now guarding Josh instead of her. Joey was standing off to the side waiting for her. "Guards have been reassigned, Erin."
"It’s for the best, Joe." And with that said, the second half of the tour started.
Erin laid in bed, not able to fall asleep. The last concert before their month long break was tomorrow and she was on edge. She knew something was going to happen but wasn't sure what. The kids in black hadn't pulled anything for the past few weeks like they were supposed to and she still wasn't talking to Josh. In the beginning, he had made a few attempts to try and work things out, but all she had done was look him up and down, lick her lips and then shake her head no and walk off without speaking a word. She had to make distance to between the two of them cause she wasn't sure if she could handle anything between them that wasn't platonic. Plus, if anything happened to him because of those kids…
She sat up in bed and immediately hit her head on the ceiling. It's not platonic! She grabbed her laptop out of her bag and booted up this evening's entry.
Josh and I haven't spoken in three weeks. I don't know how much more I'm going to be able to do this. Every time I see him, I want to go up to him and throw my arms around him and cry. Cry for everything that's happened now and for all the events that led us to this point. I really thought I could put Prom behind me but every time I see attraction in a guy's eyes, I think of them. I think of their hands, mouths, taking… taking everything that's good in me. I'm not good enough for anyone. I have to be tough to make up or lacking in every way imaginable. Mom keeps telling me to go see a psychiatrist and just talk about what happened and learn to trust again. That's my problem in a nutshell. I trust people, guys, to a point and then everything shuts down when things go past a certain point. I know Josh would never do anything to hurt me, but my heart doesn't. I finally called a doctor that my mom recommended and when the guy's are recording, I;m going to take that time to see him. See if any improvement can be made.
Erin re-read what she had written earlier and started up again:
Something is going to happen tomorrow night. I'm not sure what but I can feel it in my bones. Someone is going to get hurt and I think it's Josh. Don't ask me why. I have to talk to him and make sure he'll let me protect him. I'm the only one that knows what those kids are capable of and what they look like. They won't be dressed the same, won't be pulling the same stunt as last time. I just wish I knew what they were thinking and planning… who's behind this and why???
While Erin was awake and typing in the next bus, all of the guys were talking in their bus. "OK, JC, spill it man. Why has Wesley been your best friend and Erin, Joey's?" Chris finally asked. The four of them had cornered JC in the back and informed him that he was to sit and spill the beans before they went psycho on his ass. Everyone had sat their for about twenty minutes silent, until Chris had broke the ice.
"Erin and I had a disagreement that couldn't be resolved and appropriate measures had to be taken to ensure that no blood was spilt." JC shook his head yes after that, sat back and folded his arms in front if him.
"WOW, JC, that was quite the sentence. Are you speaking to Lou or us right now?" Justin asked him.
"Save it. What we know and have put together is that something happened on the dance floor and she took off. We all saw that and then saw you take off up the elevator after her. What happened after that we don't know… talk to us, man."
JC slumped down in his chair, close his eyes, and rested his head on the back. "I followed her up to her room, pounded on the door until she let me in and kissed her."
"She told me to take a flying leap off a short cliff."
"Actually, she informed me that she had mixed up lust and like and that, Yes, she wanted me in her bed but anything more than that was out of the question and then proceeded to toss me out in the hallway."
"That doesn't sound like Erin though." Lance said concerned. "What else happened?"
"Well I found her crying… and every time I touched her besides the kiss, she flinched…"
Lance interrupted, "She was scared of you?"
"I kinda got that impression too but then it went away when we both lost out tempers and…"
"Does anyone know if she got help after her rape?"
Everyone looked at each other and then it was like one giant light bulb had gone off. "You think…."
"Yeah, JC, it sounds to me like the classic rape victim. Did she say anything about damaged goods and not being good enough for you?"
"She thinks that she's been damaged and that she's now unattractive or non-girlfriend material because she's not 'pure'. Plus, I'd bet the farm that anytime a guy gets close or in a frame where she's not in control, she freaks."
"Chris, you don't own a farm."
"Shut up Joey."
"Anyway, JC, I'd just give her time. After our break, maybe try and talk to her. Give yourselves some space for now and let her get a grip."
"So, what your saying is that I should keep Wesley as my bodyguard until after we start the tour again?"
"That's my advice and in the meantime," he looked over at Justin and Lance, "The two stooges will try and talk to her and make sure she gets some help. She trusts you two, for some unfathomable reason."
"What about me?"
"Be her friend, Joey." JC said and sighed, "Be what I can't seem to be right now."
The next day was bustling with excitement, they were back in Florida and the concert was in Ft Lauderdale. The crew went along with their business as usual and Erin and Joey sat next on the edge of the stage watching. Erin kept fidgeting and looking around the stadium. "What's wrong, Red? Need me to take your mind off things… if you know what I mean." He said wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
"We can't keep an eye on the entire place. I need to talk to Mike and set more guards at the entrances and in the aisles." Her eyes scanning the arena not even listening to him.
"Erin, nothing is going to happen. They were supposed to do whatever a few weeks ago. It's over, they aren't coming back. They were just playing with us."
"See How They Run…"
"That's it! What do you do when you train something… you watch it. They haven't done anything but they have been at every concert. I'd stake my life on it. They are just waiting for the perfect moment and plus, now they know every move you guys make on stage, where to be to get the perfect shot off and how to disappear. They know our rounds, where we’ve been, and our places during the show. DAMN!" She ran her hands through her hair and jumped off the stage to pace. "I should've known. I should've… I knew all along, it was staring me straight in the face. We expected something bigger but we should have been looking at the little details." She turned to face Joey and noticed the glazed look in his eyes. "Is there any way to change your stage show?" she said and grabbed his arms.
"No, not without completely changing the choreography of the show and we don't have the time."
"OK, Mike, Wesley, Randy, Lonny, and I need to talk and change the rounds and security. I knew last night that something was going to happen." She turned to go and find Mike and ran smack dab into JC.
"Watch where you're goin', sweetheart."
"No time and watch yourself." She hurried off to find Mike and left a very upset JC behind.
"Watch myself? She ran into me!"
"No, JC, its tonight. We figured out the saying on the webpage."
Everyone was gathered backstage, talking about what was to take place in less than an hour. "I want guards set up everywhere that they CAN be set up," Erin was saying.
"That's impossible. We can't hire anyone else tonight, so we'll just have to be extra cautious and watch out for the men in black."
"Will they be carrying ultra high tech weapons, a phaser pen for erasing memories, and really cool shades?" Chris asked deadpanned, while his leg was bouncing from sitting in the dressing room for too long.
No one paid any attention to him and kept discussing the show. All the guys were planted on the couches in their dressing rooms, Erin was pacing the room, and Mike and the rest of the bodyguard's were standing around the room in various stages of relaxation. "I want on stage." Erin said calmly after a long silence.
The room erupted in denial. "I'm the smallest and can't be out front or in the crowd for reasons already established, so I'm the likely choice to be on stage, in case anyone needs to get thrown down in a hurry. You guys up front have no way of jumping the stage in time."
"It makes sense, guys."
"What if she gets hurt while protecting us?" JC asked.
"That's my job, Josh."
Everyone was silent and watched the look pass between them. There was definitely feelings there that weren't being acknowledged. "OK, how do we put Erin on stage without making her too noticeable?" Mike asked.
They planned the show around getting Erin on stage and moving the guys around more. She was to be put in any costume that the crews usually used for the show, she was to be the only girl on stage for "The Girl Who Has Everything", and then when there wasn't a place for her, she'd hide in the back and pretend to be in the band, meanwhile, the guys were to stick to the choreography when they ,must but for the most part to spread out more, change positions and just basically MOVE more then they already did.
The show started on time. B'Witched opened for the guys and while they were on, Erin took the time to walk the arena and to see if she could find anyone that looked familiar. She didn't expect them to be dressed in black but to be in more of a chamoflaged outfit and to fit in with the crowd better. She noticed a huge group dressed in baby blue and FuBu jerseys, but they didn’t look threatening. She walked along a little more but something made her turn around and take one last look at the group. One of the members was staring straight at her, grinned slyly, and gave her a thumbs up. He looked really familiar and couldn't place him. She shrugged it off and headed backstage.
The guys show was high energy. The crowd loved the new moves, changed choreography and the people in the front got more attention from the guys as they bent down and chatted with the crowd in an attempt to not be standing up the whole time. Erin was sitting on a stool as JC serenaded her "For The Girl Who Has Everything." He kept looking at her as if he meant every word and it was beginning to get to her. She tried to focus on the arena and the balcony in particular, but she couldn't help making the same exact looks back at him. I'm in so much trouble. All I can think of is him and there are a bunch of psychos watching our every move. He stepped in front of her line of vision, his back to the crowd, picked up her hand, and kissed the inside of her wrist. No one could see except everyone behind her, the band, but it was still unnerving. It was almost as if he was placing his mark on her.
Nothing happened for the remainder of the show. The guys ran backstage to change into their costumes for the finale and Erin sat in the wings, waiting and praying for this night to be over. I can still feel that something is going to happen. I just wish I knew what. She was still wary about the whole kiss thing on stage and didn't know how to deal with it. They still weren't talking to each other unless those two sentences they said earlier in the dressing room counted some way. The fans were screaming and yelling, trying to NSYNC back on stage. She took her cue when a roar of applause broke out and made her way back stage. Lance was telling the crowd about how good a night they had and that their last song would be "Tearin' Up My Heart". The opening strains of the song started and the guys reverted back into their old routine. Nothing had happened all night and they weren't expecting anything to happen this late in the show. Sweat started to bead on her forehead and she knew it was going to happen. Her gut never failed her on this.
She made her way out of the wings and watched the guys. The routine was down pat, they had performed it so many times that it just came naturally to them. She then glanced up at the crowd and saw a red beam, looked like a laser pointer, aim straight for JC's chest. She took off at a run, pushed Chris out of the way and just when the shot rang out , pushed JC out of the way, but not before the bullet went through her shoulder. "Erin?!"
Everyone was silent, the band had stopped playing, the guys had stopped singing, but then pandemonium broke out. No one had heard the shot, probably because of a silencer, but all of a sudden an unconscious female was laying on the stage, bleeding. Someone yelled for someone to call 9-1-1 and the audience ran for the exits. JC knelt beside Erin, and pulled her head onto his lap. "Erin? You awake?" He said worriedly.
"Ugh. It hurts." She said coming out of her faint slowly.
"You didn't get hurt?"
"No, I'm fine. Thanks to you. How's your shoulder?"
She groaned. "It could be better."
Two paramedics ran up with a stretcher. They loaded her up and started to wheel her out. "Erin, you're going to be fine." Lance called after her.
"I'll go with her." Justin called out to the guys and hurried after the stretcher. No one argued with him since he had become the closest with her and they could tell this had hurt him a lot.
Joey ran after the trail of people heading to the ambulance, yelling the entire way, "Are the nurses cute? How about any young, female doctors? Can I come if there are some?"
JC stayed back and packed up the stage with Chris and the crew. Chris walked over to him and slung his arm around him. "She's gonna be fine, man."
"I know, it's just…"
"She was doin' her job."
"It was supposed to be me though, not her."
Chris grabbed his arms and turned the younger man around to face him. "Listen to me, this isn't your fault. She knew the stakes and she did her job. She's here to protect her and you've got to get over your protective instincts for her, otherwise you'll get both of you killed. You were lucky tonight and so was she. She played the hero and got hurt, but from what I heard, it's a light wound and she'll be fine in a couple of weeks. Perfect timing on her part, I think."
"WHAT? Chris you idiot… what are you…"
"She'll be ready to go for the next half of the tour. She's on vacation now and can rest up and be ready to rally in no time."
"Only you, Chris."
"They aren't going away, are they?"
"We should head over to the hospital and make sure she's OK, too, don't you think?"
"I don't know, Chris, we might be in the way."
"You won't sleep until you know she's fine."
"I know she's fine, Chris. I don't have to see her to know that, I can feel it. I'd know if something was wrong."
"Dude, you've fallen hard."
JC looked down at his feet. "Yeah, that's a mild way of putting it."
JC sat on the sidelines watching his fellow group mates play basketball. Justin was yelling at Joey about something, while Lance and Chris watched and waited for the game to continue.
"JC, man, you come be my partner. Joey can't play worth beans, he's too busy complaining about how hungry he is." Justin yelled over at him.
"I'm not complaining about being hungry. I'm just stating that since we're losing we should head over to the house and eat something and let them finish the game."
"UGH! I play with morons!" Justin threw his hands in the air and stalked off the court toward the house.
"Well I guess that's that." Lance said and walked over to where JC was sitting to grab his water bottle and warm up coat.
"I'll race you, Scoop." Chris yelled, ran, grabbed his stuff and headed toward the house after Justin.
Lance just shook his head and sat down next to JC. "Still haven’t heard anything from her?"
"She can't just have disappeared. Could she?"
"I talked to management, and they said that she came in after she got out of the hospital and asked for some time off until the second leg of the tour started. No one knows how to reach her since she's not answering her phone at home nor her cell."
"I take it, that's from experience?"
"Lance, I even raided the personnel files trying to find her address and went over but she didn't answer her door either. She's gone."
"Well, our vacation and recording time is almost up, another week, and then we'll find out how she is and what's up."
"I still can't get over the fact that the day after she was shot, she walked out of the hospital and disappeared. It's been three weeks!!! Doesn't she realize that people care if she's alright or even just where she is?"
"Probably not. Justin mentioned something about her parents."
"Yeah her parents weren't the best. Apparently in high school, they kicked her out a couple of times cause she wasn't the perfect daughter. They tried to mold her into this society girl and as you can see that didn't happen. She moved in with her grandparents and they supported her until they passed away her senior year and after that, I don't know what happened."
"She'll turn up. She's got a contract and I doubt that she'll back off on these guys, especially since they shot her. I have a feeling that she's gonna want to pay them back ten-fold or something."
JC stood up. "Yeah, she is definitely not the type to back down from a fight, that's why I just don't understand what happened between us. Maybe, she was telling me the truth and I just misread the entire situation."
They started toward the house. "I think she's scared and that's why she took off."
"I just hope she's alright."
Erin walked out of the clinic, stretched and headed toward her jeep. The past three weeks had been tough. The last week of the tour, before the shooting, she had broke down and called her mom and asked her about a psychiatrist. She and her parents rarely spoke and when they did, it usually became an argument, but on this topic, they all had agreed that this was for the best.
Lou had okayed the time off when he had come to visit her in the hospital. She hadn't explained the whole situation, just that she wanted time to recover and he thought that was wise. The next day, without a word to anyone, she had checked herself into this clinic and begun treatment for rape victims. She hadn't realized that there were so many girls and women in the world that had similar things happen to them, and some were even worse than her experience.
Thinking back to the first day, all the ladies were out in hall, all trying to fit themselves into the tiniest bit of space to hide in. The doctor had come out, assigned rooms for those who were staying and talked a little about the treatment. Erin had her own room and her group therapy sessions consisted of four other women. One was a girl, barely 15, who had been date raped on the night of her winter ball. Another woman had been raped by a stranger on her way home from work and the other two had been forced at knife-point by either their ex-husband or boyfriend. Erin and the younger girl had formed an instant bond since their situations were similar and had even hung out and talked after therapy. Their talks started with small talk but always ended with their ordeals and how therapy was going. Amy, the younger girl, had come to therapy because her mother had asked her to after she had flinched and ran crying from a male cousin, who in conversation innocently had slung an arm around her shoulder. Erin never discussed NSYNC and JC with the girl. She still wasn't sure what her feelings were and she also figured that the girl was a fan and didn't want to take any chances. Her reasons for therapy were private and intended to stay that way.
The last day before they were deemed sane by society's standards, the doctor had come up to her and taken her into her office. Doctor Johansen had sat behind her desk, folded her hands in front of her and looked her directly in the eye. "Erin, I'm very proud that you came in and accomplished your goals. I'll be honest and say that I was expecting you to fail. Most ladies that we get in here have been raped within the last year and are dealing with fresh pain. You, on the other hand, have been dealing with it on your own for over four YEARS. It's hard to let go of that pain. Most women wouldn't have been able to have done what you did. They usually never have a normal relationship and live through life scared of men. You have come a long way. I wish you luck."
With that she stood up, shook Erin's hand and smiled. "Thank you, Doctor. I certainly have a lot to thank you for. I can honestly say, that without you, I'd still be looking over my shoulder and jumping at every touch that I didn't have control over."
"You'll probably still be that way for awhile but it WILL get easier. Good Luck."
Erin had left her office, feeling good for the first time since she had come here. She had gone back to her room and packed, ready to go back and face everyone. Face everyone as a much stronger and more self-assured person. Heaven help JC if I figure out if he's what I want now.
She gunned the engine, left the top down and roared back to Orlando with the wind in her hair and a smile on her face.
She walked into her apartment a couple of hours later and noticed that the answering machine was blinking.
BEEP "Hey, Erin, JC here. Just making sure that you're alright. This Saturday, Justin's Mom is having a BBQ to honor us being back in town and we thought you should come if you don't have any plans. Later."
BEEP "Erin, chica, Joey here. Where ya at? It's been forever since we last saw you. Well, actually only a week but it still seems like forever. The guys wanted me to remind you about the BBQ since we hadn't heard from you. So, tomorrow night, 6 PM, got it. See ya there!"
BEEP "This is ridiculous, Erin. Why aren't you returning our calls? Justin, here. Girlie, we're really worried about you. Call me when you get in."
20 messages later, Erin sat down and shook her head. I guess I was more important to them than I had thought. The first few messages had been about plans and as a week and then another had gone by, messages had turned frantic and then angry. The last message was from all of them, and had detailed her death if she didn't return their call the second she walked through the door. She didn't know what to do. I have two days left before the tour starts, things to get in order and packed and a trip to the gym to get in shape after three and a half weeks of not working out. No time to call, I'll talk to them later, when I'm ready to deal with five angry men.
The next day, Erin headed over to the gym early in the morning. She went through her routine and was working on the bag, when Mike walked in. "Damn, you’re a sight for sore eyes!"
"Hey, Mike. It's been a while." She said turning around, wiping off her forehead.
"How's the shoulder?"
She rolled her shoulder and winced a little at the soreness. "It's a little stiff but will be back in form in no time."
"That's good to hear. Now that the niceties are out of the way…" He walked over, grabbed her around the waist, and threw her over his shoulder. "I have specific directions to deliver you to a certain Chasez and Co. if I were to see you while I was in here."
"How did they know I'd be here today?" She mumbled into his back as she was face down.
"They didn't. Those have been standing orders since they figured out that you had disappeared over break."
"What, you too good for us now? We don't even deserve a phone call after you walk the day after you were shot?"
"I had things to take care of. Mike, please put me down. I'm not ready to see them. I'll see them soon enough when the tour starts up." She looked down and noticed that they had gone through a doorway and started pleading more. "Please Mike, Please. Just put me down and let me walk on my own."
"Nope, you'll run." Damn, the guy's good.
"Well, I'll let you…"
Erin was starting to lose her temper. "DAMMIT! You can't do this to me! I'm a grown woman and I'll see them when and where I want to and right now I DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM!"
"Well ain't that just too bad, cause we sure as hell want to see you." Great.
She was unceremoniously dumped on the floor in the middle of the guy's recording studio. She glared up at Mike. "You could have at least told me we were almost there so I could've kept my mouth shut."
"We heard you all the way down the hall, girlie."
"Red, we're wounded. Why wait when you can get a good look at this good looking Italian specimen."
"Joey, shut up and quit being nice. Where the HELL have you been?" JC jumped in.
Lance walked over to her and helped her up. "How's the shoulder doing?'
"It's alright, once I start working out again, it'll be better." She said grateful for at least one friendly face. She focused on Lance and ignored the others. He slung his arm around her shoulder and pushed her to the couch. So much for being close enough to the door to run.
She looked around the room and noticed that each had positioned themselves around the room to keep her from running out of the room. Lance was sitting next to her and Chris sat down on the other side. Mike was in front of the door and Justin and Joey were leaning against the walls, staring at her. JC, couldn't stand or sit still, and was pacing the room. "Look, guys, I understand that you're upset…"
"Upset, does not even begin to describe it." JC cut in. "Do you realize that we have been TRYING to get a hold of you for over THREE WEEKS!" He said stopping in front of her and glaring.
"What JC is trying to say…" Lance said.
"Girlie, are we not "important" enough for you to just give us a damn phone call and say "my shoulder is fine and I'll be back in town in a few weeks"?"
She glared at Justin and JC since they were the ones closest to losing their tempers if not already. "You, all of you, are NOT in charge of me and I don't have to answer to you. I had things to do, I got them done and now I'm back. Get off my back!"
JC bent down until he was about an inch away from her face. "What you do, IS our business and you had better not forget it. We're your employers and we need to know the where, when, how, why, what and who of everything that you do."
"JC, take a step back before I give you another shiner."
"If you hit me again, I'll fire you."
The entire room got silent. Tempers quickly faded except for Erin's and JC's after that last exchange. "Woah, JC, I think you should calm down before you say anything else. Go run around the gym and cool off before you REALLY say something you're going to regret." Chris said.
"JC, we're not her…"
Erin cut Lance off. "My employer huh. You think you could fire me? We'll just see about that. I seem to remember that I was JOEY'S bodyguard NOT yours when the tour ended. So if anyone fires me, it's Joey. You, on the other hand, have no say whatsoever in ANYTHING that I do." She was screaming by this point. "If you see me as an employee, I could have you written up and fines for sexual harrassment if I wanted after that after party we went to."
"That was mutual and you know it." They were in each other's faces yelling and Erin swung at him. The guy's saw it coming and Justin tackled JC to get him out of the way. Erin fell to the ground from the force of her own momentum and not hitting anything but air.
She stood up slowly and noticed that everyone was staring at her and JC and that Justin was still sitting on JC to keep him from coming after her again. So much for therapy helping us, guess I was just a fool to think that we could move on and become anything more than whatever we are. Tears started coming to her eyes and she turned and headed to the door. Mike moved out of the way and whispered I'm sorry. She grasped the door handle and said, "I think the best solution at this point would be for me to hand in my resignation but I can't do that as long as those kids are out there. I have my own little personal problem with them. BUT, I don't that we should speak to one another again. Joey, I'll do my best to stand by you, but we can only discuss work. Personal lives are now out of it. See ya in a few days, bosses."
The door shut behind her and the guys just sat there. Mike just gave them a look that said good one, boys, and walked out the door behind her. "Ummm, guys?"
"What just happened?"
"I think that Erin's way of telling us to go hang ourselves." Lance said.
"DAMMIT!" Justin shouted and hit the wall. "How did that get so out of control? Weren't we just suppose to confront her and make sure she was OK?"
They all turned and looked at JC who was sitting slumped on the ground.
"What the hell were you doing?" Justin grabbed him and shoved him against the wall. "She was becoming a close friend and you made it sound like we were just worried about how to send her paycheck to her."
"Because, I can't stand looking at her and knowing I can't have her." He said looking up at them with watery eyes.
Justin let him down and sat on the couch. "JC, you've gotta do something about your feelings."
"I can't believe that she won't let us speak to her again."
"I am SO looking forward to touring again. Thanks JC." Chris stood up and walked out the door. They could hear him singing down the hall but couldn't make out the lyrics. Lance and Joey left shortly thereafter, leaving JC and Justin alone in the studio.
"What WERE you thinking?"
"I don't know. When she walked in or came in I guess, yelling and screaming about how she didn't want to be near us, I saw red. Then, I guess I just lost my temper and honestly, I don't even remember half the things I said."
"Instead of telling her how you really feel, you pushed her so far away, that I'm not even sure that you'll be able to fix this one. I can't believe that you told her that we were her employers and were entitled to knowing everything about her."
"I kept imagining her being off with some other guy." JC said softly.
"You did and said all that out of JEALOUSY?!"
"Oh boy, this is going to be a long couple of months." Justin muttered and left the studio too. "Dude, just tell her how you feel."
JC got up and started working on one of their new songs, but his heart wasn't in it. What did I just do? Am I going to be able to fix it? Why do I see red every time I'm around her? He packed up his stuff and headed out to his Jeep. After today, he wasn't going to get anything done, not with his mind on Erin.
"Mr. Fatone, could you please get out of my path. I'd like to go into my room." Erin told Joey as they stood in front of her door. The second leg of the tour had been going on for about two weeks now and they were in New York again. Erin still wasn't talking to any of the guys, unless it was professional circumstances only.
"Erin, enough with this nonsense. I am not moving unless I can get some kind of emotion out of you. This has gone on for too long."
"I don't believe it has, Mr. Fatone. Also, as of right now, I am off duty until tomorrow morning so please refrain from talking to me unless I get overtime for it."
"Red, C'mon, this is me."
"Sir, please remove yourself from my path and its very unprofessional of you to refer to me by 'Red', my name is Erin, please use it." Erin was getting really frustrated with Joey. Why won't they just accept it? Ever since, "the fight", the guys, excluding JC, wouldn't leave her alone. They just kept picking and prodding and she knew she was going to lose it soon.
"OK, you are forcing me to take drastic measures, Red. I hope you understand that this is for your own good."
"Wha…" Joey leaned over, grabbed Erin's arms and kissed her. He kept kissing her until he knew she was good and mad.
"I ought to kick your ass right here and now for that, Fatone." Erin said very quietly.
He smiled. "Well, at least you aren't calling me Mr. Fatone."
Erin just shook her head and pushed him out of her way and entered her room.
Joey walked back to his room, whistling. He walked in to find Justin and Chris watching ESPN. "What put you in such a good mood? The ice queen speaking to you yet?"
"Well, she referred to me as Fatone instead of Mr. Fatone, so I think I'm making some head way with her."
"How'd you manage to do that?" Chris asked looking up from the TV.
"I kissed her."
"You did what?"
"I kissed her."
"Oh boy, don't let JC hear you say that."
"Too late." Everyone whipped around to see JC leaning against the doorjamb. He stood up and walked over to Joey. "She's pretty good at it, isn't she." He sat down on the bed next to Chris and started watching TV.
"JC, it wasn't like that…"
"Moved on, has she. Couldn't stand to have one member of NSYNC, now she has to work her way through the group."
"Man, JC, you're so jealous you can't see straight. It's your fault we're in this mess with her. Joey was just trying to get a reaction from her. Right, Joey?" Justin looked over at Joey.
Joey just nodded. Oh boy, I am in for it.
"JC, you're the problem here, not Joey, not Erin, not any of us, just you."
"Look, obviously, she and I…"
"Shove it, JC. The reason why you two aren't getting along is because you're so jealous and scared of your feelings that you can't see straight and you're pushing her away. In the meantime, she's also pushing you away and us with you. She's one of our good friends and we have to trust each other. Otherwise, if we keep fighting like this, those guys are going to have real easy shots at us and we'll be easy to pick off. We have to stick together and you need to pull your head out of your ass and deal with your feelings. Go over there and apologize!" Justin was practically shouting by the end of his tangent.
"Apologizing isn't working, guys, we've all done it and all she does is look us right in the face and say "Is that all, sir, I do have work that I need to get back to'." Chris said imitating Erin's high voice. "What we need to do is get her attention…" a sly smile started forming on his face.
"Oh no, Chris, everyone time you start to plan something I end up making a complete fool of myself." Justin said backing up. "Plus, shouldn't Lance be in on this…"
Chris grabbed the phone and dialed up Lance's room. "Get your butt over here Scoop, I've got an idea on how to get Erin talking to us again."
The guys sat around Chris and Justin's room, coming up with what was now known as Project Forgiveness. "Ok, first JC needs to…."
"Hold up. Why me?"
Four pairs of eyes turned and looked at him. "OK, nevermind. I know. What am I supposed to do again?"
The plan finally came together and two straws were cut into five pieces, shortest getting to put the plan into action. Lance drew the shortest and with a nod at everyone, headed down to Erin's room.
"I'm off duty so whoever it is go away." Erin yelled out, typing away at her laptop. She'd finally gotten back into the kid's webpage, only to find out that it had been taken down.
"DAMMIT! I'm coming."
She opened up the door to find a very sad looking Lance standing there. "Uh, Hi, Mr. Bass. How can I help you?"
"Erin, can I talk to you?"
"Uh, sure. Come on in."
"Thanks." He walked over and sat down on the bed. "We all want to go out tonight but none of the other guards will go. Will you take us out tonight, Erin?" He looked up at her with puppy dog eyes.
"I'm sorry, I don't get paid for after hours." She turned and walked back to the desk.
"Please. Just for a few hours. Plus," he said plotting, "it's stated in your contract that whatever we do, you have to do. With or without you, we're going out."
He stood up and headed toward the door. He silently counted 1-2-3. On three, Erin spoke up, "Fine, I'll be at your door in thirty minutes."
Lance smiled and went back to his room to tell the guys that Part 1 was in motion.
An hour later, they pulled into a karaoke bar and got out. "This is what you guys just had to come and do tonight?" She shook her head and walked in.
The guys just looked at each other, smiled, and walked in behind her. She was starting to loosen up and hadn't called any of them mister since they had left the hotel.
She found a back corner table and sat down. She didn't want to be around anyone or anything. She was still furious with all of them over the spectacle that had gone on in the recording studio and for the pain JC had caused. She still couldn't believe how hurt she still was. The waitress came over and she ordered a rum and coke. She nursed it for awhile and watched the guy's dance, joke and have a good time. I wish I could forgive them but…
"Everyone, your attention please." Her head shot up when she heard JC's voice on stage.
"There is someone in the audience tonight that has been having a rough past couple of weeks and there's a bunch of us here that are the cause of it." Four heads shot up and glared at him. "Uh, well, actually, its all my fault and so I'd like to sing this song in hopes that she'll forgive me and stop sulking, I mean, ummmm, stop…."
"JC, just sing the song." Just yelled at him from the dance floor.
The opening strains to "I'm a Creep" by Radiohead started and when it was finished another song started. All the guys were on stage at this point and started a chorus line rendition of "I'm Sorry, So Sorry." Chris looked over at Erin and saw her laughing. He shoved JC off the stage and pointed to Erin. "Go get her, loverboy."
JC walked over to Erin and noticed his hands were shaking. He shoved them into his pants pocket just as he reached her table and said, "Remember this is for you." With that said, he got down on one knee and took her hand in his. The whole bar was quiet thinking he was going to propose but what was said, was even more astonishing.
"Erin Kinsela, I am saying this in front of approximately a hundred witnesses. I am sorry. You are a goddess and I am your lowly servant, you are beautiful to my ugliness, intelligent to my stupidness, always right to my wrongness, brave to my cowardliness, you are my queen and master and as the scum beneath your feet, I ask for your humble forgiveness and allow you to do anything you want to me just as long as we, all of us, can be friend's again." The whole time he said this, he looked directly into her eyes and when he was done, he noticed that there were tears trickling down her cheeks. She reached down and gave him a hug.
The entire bar erupted into applause and the guys decided that it was best for them to get out there now. "Let's head back now, guys."
Erin was practically bawling by this point and JC put his arm around her and ushered her to the door after the guys. "I c-c-can't believe that you guys did that for me."
"Erin" Just bent down and looked her in the eyes, "We consider you one of our best friends and we couldn't stand the past few weeks having you mad at us. Or one of us, I guess. We missed you." He gave her a big hug.
"Group Hug!" Chris yelled in the parking lot and grabbed them both. Everyone hugged and that only made Erin cry harder.
"Red, what's wrong?" Joey asked worriedly.
"I'm sorry I didn't call you guys. I just… I didn't want…. I didn't think…"
"Erin, spit it out, it's alright that you didn't call us. We were just worried about you."
"I went to therapy." She said quickly.
"WHAT?" Five guys said at once.
"After I left the hospital, I went to rape therapy. The doctor didn't think I'd get through it if I talked to any of you and that's why I didn't call." She looked directly at JC when she said that.
"I couldn't stand the way that I was looking over my shoulder all the time, flinching every time someone touched me when I wasn't in control, pushing people I liked away. I just couldn't live like that anymore so I called my mom up and asked her to recommend a doctor for me. That's where I was." She had tears running down her face while she talked and Lance put his arm around her shoulders.
She looked JC in the eye and said, "That night, all I wanted to do was be held by you and to be able to accept what you were trying to give me. When you asked if you could kiss me… that was the first concession I've made in four years. But, I wasn't ready for anything, I couldn't trust myself not to freeze up and I couldn't trust you in my head, even though I knew in my heart you wouldn't do what they had done."
JC's eyes started to well up too as well as the rest of the guys. Erin took a deep breath and continued. "That night was engraved in my life, my head, and my heart ever since it had happened. After the trial, I moved on with my life and never dealt with anything that had happened. I threw myself into my karate, kickboxing, and police career hoping that would help alleviate the pain. If I could take care of myself, I would never be placed in that situation again. It's not like that though, I knew that if someone ever tried anything like to me again, I'd freeze and it would happen all over again, because that's where I was vulnerable, it was my weakness because I had bottled it all up inside and hadn't sought any help."
"I'm not finished." She took a deep breath. " Josh, you're the reason why I went to therapy. You're not the only one who's fallen over this tour. I think I'm ready now for what you were offering two months ago, if the offer is still open."
JC couldn't breathe. He knew how much this had cost her emotionally and honestly was speechless. Justin shoved him forward and the rest of the guys walked over to the van. "I… ummm…"
She looked down and sighed. "That's what I thought. I'm too late. Thanks anyway, Josh. Thanks for at least making me want to change and move on with my life. I'll always be grateful for that."
She turned to walk away and he grabbed her. He looked her in the eyes, memorizing the color and how right now they matched a pond covered in ice because she had been crying, the way her hair curled around her ears now from her growing it out, the freckles that lightly dusted her nose, and how she fit perfectly right under his chin. "Erin, I…."
She put her finger up to his mouth to silence him. "Shhhhh. Don't say anything, just answer me this. How do you like to be kissed?"
"I like to be kissed by you." He slowly leaned forward and softly kissed her, not long, just a small, feathery kiss. He started to pull back, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened it. They continued to kiss until they heard a wolf whistle coming from the van.
"Hey lovebirds, do you think we can go back to the hotel now so you two can find a room? It's freezing out here!"
They just kept at it until Joey walked over, grabbed JC by the shoulders and dragged him back to the van, with Erin in tow since JC had grabbed her hand in the process.
"Thank God, things are finally back to normal and you two are getting along and are finally where you belong, together." Justin muttered as they climbed in the van.
"Yeah, but now what?" Lance asked.
"The tour ends? I dunno. Maybe we all live happily ever after now that they're together."
Chris was sitting in the back of the van, trying to sleep when he heard the youngens talking. "Ten bucks says they're fighting by next week." He said without opening his eyes.
Justin looked back at him, with a gleam in his eye. "You're on."
Erin sat on the guy's bus, writing in her journal. JC was asleep in his bunk, Chris, Justin and Joey were having a Nintendo marathon in the back and Lance was up front on the phone, checking on one of his proteges. It's sure nice to get some peace and quiet for a change. She smiled cause she knew she wouldn't trade it for the world though. It had only been a week since JC and her had got together, but it was great just the same. They had decided to leave her as Joey's guard, so as not to mix business and pleasure.
JC… Oh what to write. He's everything I ever wanted, ever needed, and I can't seem to get enough of him. I catch him looking at me all the time and every time I catch him I just seem to melt. He always winks at me and blows kisses while they're practicing. I hope this feeling lasts forever. I know it's only been a week but honestly I really can't remember…
She glanced up from her writing and closed the laptop down. "Sorry, Lance. I'm not sharing."
"Oh well. It's not like I really wanted to read all about your love life with JC anyway." He said with a smirk.
Erin blushed a bright shade of red. "Uh…. Anyway, How's your kids?"
"The kids? Oh, they're doing great. Ken just got out of recording and Bruce said that the session went great and everything is golden."
"Sounds like a good thing."
"Oh yeah, he has one more recording session before he's done and then we should be able to get the CD out on time."
"Erin, there's something I wanted to talk to you about…"
"The guys and I, well, we… we're getting a little worried. Those guys…"
"I know we haven't been keeping everyone up to date but that's because we don't have anything. We lost the site, we haven't heard or seen anything. To be honest, I'm a little worried too. We can't track them if they've disappeared."
"So, the only thing we can do is wait huh."
"Yeah kiddo, that's all we can do."
"Thanks for being honest." Lance stood and headed toward the back where the shouts and name-calling were getting louder and louder.
Erin re-opened her laptop and found her e-mail icon blinking. She double-clicked it and found an anonymous message. There wasn't a reply or name attached.
Imagine my surprise, will you, when a girl from the past crops up on the tour that I'm trying to destroy. This just gets better and better. I was shocked to see you walk by a couple weeks ago in true bodyguard fashion but I recovered quickly enough to smile at you. Do you remember me from the concert? I was the one in the back with all the FuBu jerseys and baby blue shirts. Oh, that's right, that's what the entire audience wears. Well, I'll just have to remain a mystery then. You've probably figured out that I took our web site down but if you keep looking, you'll find it again. Just think back to your worst nightmare and search, it's there. I also noticed that one of the guys in the group is also from our past. Take care of him, my dear, he and I still have issues that need to be dealt with and I plan to see them through, but then so do you and I. Everything will become clear soon enough. Oh and just a warning, I would grow eyes in the back of my head if I were you… I'm always watching, beware.
Erin re-read the letter several times and just couldn't figure out what the guy was trying to convey. He had out enough hints into the letter, but it was just out of reach. She remembered one guy smiling at her at a concert, but she didn't get a good look at him and that was also the night she had gotten shot. The night she was shot?! That's right, that guy had looked familiar. Could it be someone from High School? Her worst nightmare?
JC walked up behind her. He still couldn't believe that they had gotten together after everything that had happened. He noticed that she was lost in thought and figuring that she was writing in her journal again, read over her shoulder to see what things he had written about him. He glanced at the e-mail and then re-read it after he read a couple lines. "Erin? What's this?" He said sharply.
"Huh?" She jumped about a foot in the air. "Oh, you scared me!" She clutched her chest trying to get breathing back to normal.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, leaned hi head down so that he could read it again and asked again, "What's this?"
"Just an e-mail that I found in my inbox. It's probably a crank." She went to trash it and JC stopped her hand.
"No, keep it. It might not be a crank letter. Although, I sure hope it is."
She reached up behind her and lopped her hands behind his neck. "It'll be fine. There's nothing to worry about."
"But, I was even…"
"Josh, It's not hard to find out that we went to high school together. It's fine!"
"Alright, don't get pushy." He kissed the top of her head and headed to the fridge to get some water.
Erin, Mike and Lonny were sitting in one of the dressing rooms, while the guys practiced, reading the letter that she had been sent over and over. "This doesn't sit well in my gut, Erin." Mike said.
"Yeah, it doesn't sound like a crank to me, in fact, it sounds like guy knows you pretty well."
"I know. I just didn't want the guys to worry. I'd really like it if you could keep us working on this a secret for now."
"Anything for you, Erin." Lonny said with a small smile.
"Actually, I was going to say that we should keep this between ourselves to begin with so that it couldn't be leaked out." Mike said, Lonny nodded in agreement.
"OK, then. Now that it's settled, lets try to break down each part of the letter and see if we can find the bastards. Let's start with this "nightmare" portion."
"That's been going through my mind ever since I got it. The only two things I can think of would be to harm any of the guys or something from my past."
"Now that you mention it… I do kinda have a reoccurring dream. It's about my rape and how the guys get out of jail and come after me. I realize that it's stupid cause how could they find me or would even recognize me but still…." Erin looked down and bit her lip.
Lonny wrapped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. "Red, if this is the only way to get these guys, we've got to go over everything. I'm sorry. We'll get through this."
She nudged him with her shoulder. "I know. It's not that it still hurts, well yeah it is, but it's hard to talk about it."
"Sure thing, Erin. Just think of us as your psychiatrists." Mike said and leaned back in his chair. "Tell us everything, dahling. We'll only charge you a 100 dollars an hour."
Erin laughed and tossed a baby blue teddy bear at him that one of the fans had dropped off. "Hey! That's Justin's future wife's gift to the boy. Better not harm it, it might charm him into accepting her marriage proposal."
They all cracked up at that and then got down to work. Lonny reached over and grabbed Erin's laptop, preparing to input everything that she mentioned to see what got brought up. Mike and Erin just sat and talked, throwing out different ideas. "We could start with the hate sites again?"
"Nah, that's where we found it before, it's going to be hidden well, otherwise we wouldn't have had to be given hints."
"Right, Mike. Well, what about violence and NSYNC?"
"Nothing!" Lonny spoke up.
They plugged through site after site for another hour and a half, not even realizing that the guys' practice was over. "Hey, you three!" A voice broke into their work. "NSYNC is being mobbed on stage by about a hundred fans who broke into hotel lobby. The girls have stormed the stage and are trying to take whatever souvenir that they can."
The three bodyguards jumped up and went to run out the door when they figured out who had spoken. "CHRIS!"
All five guys were either sitting on a couch or the floor, just cracking up. "You should have seen your faces…" Justin sputtered out, before giving into the laughter and rolling off the couch onto Lance.
"Har Har. Very funny, guys. I think you just shaved ten years off of us."
"Yeah, but it was great to see you guys run that fast to save us." Chris said, then twisting his face into a look of pure wonder, "And to think, it was all for us. I didn't know you cared that much." He wiped away a fake tear.
Erin couldn't take his smug look any longer. She jumped him, rolling him over onto his back to tickle him. "Take that, Kirkpatrick. This'll teach you to give me a heart attack."
"Why, Erin. I thought all of your concern was for our little JC, over there." Chris got out in between fits of giggles.
"That scrawny thing over there? You know it's you that I love Chris." She said still tickling him.
"Hey?!" JC said. He walked over and through Erin over his shoulder. "I think we need to discuss someone's priorities again."
"Ummm, No I think they're set the way they're supposed to be." She said as he continued down the hall. She looked down. "Boy, you have one fine…"
"No looking. Thought "Chris" was the one."
"Hmmmm, well if he looks this good from this angle…"
He swatted her butt and said "Paybacks, m'dear, paybacks are always fun to dish out."
She swatted him back. "I absolutely love this view. Maybe I should take a picture for all the little teenyboppers…. Nah, they couldn't appreciate the view of such a fine looking…" She looked up when she saw another set of feet. "How long have you guys been there?"
"The entire way." Four identical smiles of innocence flashed.
"Sure, you just want to watch me get… Dear, what are you going to do to m…"
Erin came to the top of the pool screaming. "I can't believe you just did that to me?!"
All five of the guys were laughing at her. Her hair was down in her eyes and sticking straight up in places. They laughed harder after she removed the hair from her face and realized that her mascara was streaming down her face. "OK. You guys have to the count of three before I come after you."
"Only three?" Chris said still laughing.
"1…" She eyed JC. He started to back up.
"2…" She looked over at Justin and he gulped audibly.
"I didn't do anything, Erin."
"3…" She reached the stairs just in time to see 5 guys take off at a dead run down the hallway. She chuckled to herself and headed to the elevator to go to her room and change.
She came out of her room and found a rose and a card at her door. She bent down, grabbed the two objects and read the card.
You grow more beautiful everyday and stupider too. I gave you so many clues in that last letter. You disappoint me. Keep looking darling.
She quickly looked around but didn't see anything. She walked down the hall to Mike's room and knocked. "Come in."
She opened the door to find Mike and Justin playing a vicious game of Mortal Kombat. "Just wait, old man you're going down."
"J, you're going to have to get better moves then that to beat the master." Mike chortled and immediately killed Justin's character.
"Mike, you disappoint me." Erin said staring at the two of them with disbelief in her eyes. "I never knew."
"It's something I don't like to brag about." He said with a smile and stood up. He eyed the rose but didn't comment on it.
"Erin, Girlie, that be a fine lookin' rose you got there. Did my man, JC give it to you?" He nudged her with a wink.
"Secret Admirer, huh, even better. Get JC a little jealous and pay him back for that dunk in the pool."
"Yeah that's it, although all of you guys had better be watching your backs. Who knows when I'll be getting you guys."
"Whoa, Ok, Ill be, uh, headin' back to my room now. She's scaring me." Justin laughed though ruining his credibility and shut the door behind him.
"So, where DID the rose come from."
"Found it outside my door. The note says it's from my friend the watcher."
"Erin, this is getting too weird. Maybe we should take you off the tour for your own safety. The guy knows where your room is."
"No, I get taken off the tour, he'll either still come after me or he'll do something to the guys. Let's get my room changed and move from there. He's getting ansy and he's cocky. We just need to bring him down a few pegs."
"and How do we do that?"
"We find him."
"Once again, HOW?"
"Call Lonny and get his butt over here. Looks like we need to pull an all-nighter with my laptop after the show tonight."
"The show's in the hotel, what if they pull something during it before we can do anything."
"I have a feeling that they won't. They just wanted to let us know that they could if they wanted to."
"Taunting us huh…"
"Alright, meet here at 11 then, while the guys are out."
"Sounds good. We'll get them Mike. We have to." She turned and left the room to go and get some dinner.
"I hope so, Erin, for your sake."
"Step, Step, forward motion guys… OK, jump, jump, single line, body roll." The choreographer called out as the guys danced to "I Want You Back".
"Why does he have to be here?" Joey pointed over to the man. "It's not like we haven't done this routine a million times before."
"Cause he wants to feel important." Lance said.
"Quit talking and concentrate, Lance, you just missed a step." Fred, the choreographer called out.
"Doesn't miss a thing, does he, Scoop?" Justin called out from across the stage.
"Shut up, J." Lance said semi-seriously.
"Five minute break! When you guys get back, I want full concentration. No talking." Fred walked to the back of the arena to get some water.
They all walked over to the water cooler and sat down. "Has anyone noticed that Erin looks really tired?" JC asked. "I don't think she's getting enough sleep."
"No one gets enough sleep in your opinion, JC." Joey joked.
"Yeah, but she's got these really dark circles under her eyes. I always see her napping but whenever someone walks by she's on full alert. I'm really worried."
"Mike hasn't said anything." Justin said.
"Neither has Lonny."
"Does anyone know the status on those kids either?" Chris asked.
"Erin got a crank e-mail the other day." JC brought out his concerns. "She told me it was nothing, but I get the feeling that it's more than she's letting on."
"She was carrying a rose the other day." Justin said.
Everyone looked at him. "She had a card and everything and went to Mike's room. I just happened to be there and was leaving when she came in, figured it was from a secret admirer from the tour."
"So, if it's from the same person, hypothetically, she's gotten two messages from the guy now. Why isn't anyone talking if it's a big deal?"
"Cause they don't want us to worry?" Lance asked.
"Probably. Leave the stars in the dark so that they can perform like little puppets and not burden their heads with the little problems," muttered Chris.
"Anyway, how are we going to find out what's going on?" Joey asked.
"Erin's laptop?" Justin asked grinning slyly.
"J, she ain't going to let us near that thing with a ten ft. pole. Next idea?" Chris said.
"Why don't we just ask them what's going on?" Lance said.
"Cause then everything would be fine and dandy."
"Quit being sarcastic, Chris! It was just a suggestion."
"Erin can't take much more, you guys. She's dragging big time. We need to do something." JC said.
"Back to work guys!" Ken called from the back of the auditorium.
Five similar groans ensued but they all got up and found their marks on stage.
Erin jumped about a foot in the air. What no one knew was that she was receiving letters daily now and they were getting more descriptive and graphic as to what the watcher was going to do to her and then to the guys if she didn't hurry up and figure things out. She couldn't understand why he wanted her to know who he was.
"Erin? You in there?"
"Yeah, Josh, just a minute." She grabbed the latest letter and stuffed it in her drawer with the rest of them. She walked over to the door and opened it. He gave her a quick hug and walked in the room and sat down. He looked over at her and couldn't believe how much worse she looked after he was gone just a couple of hours.
"You need sleep."
"I sleep, we've gone over this too many times now. Drop the subject." She said testily.
"Get it through your thick skull that I'm worried and so are the guys, you need to get some sleep. Why aren't you sleeping?" He snapped at her. This was an on-going discussion between the two of them.
"I dream too much." She said softly. She walked over to the desk and put her head down.
JC sighed and got up off the bed. He walked over to her and started to massage her shoulders. "What do you dream about?"
He reached down and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. "It's alright."
She tossed his arms off her and started pacing the room. "You don't understand what's going on here. None of you do. There's nothing you can do but just leave me alone to do my job."
"Erin, we want to understand but you keep shutting us, me, out. Talk to me."
"There's nothing to talk about." She said shortly and walked to the window and looked out. The next thing that came out of her mouth was something she had decided to do last night and it was for the best. "This isn't working, Josh."
"What isn't working? You not talking, that's for sure. I want to understand what's going on with you but you won't…"
"No, Josh. WE aren't working. I'm sorry."
JC was speechless. "You're doing it again, aren't you?"
"What am I doing?"
"Protecting everyone. You can't protect everyone sweetheart, who's going to protect you?" He mumbled something about obstinate girl
"OBSTINANT?! Why do you automatically assume this is about my job and "protecting you"? This is about US, Josh. I… I don't have the feelings for you that I thought I did. I… I think of you as a friend and that's it." She turned back around to stare out the window again.
"I know BS when I hear it and that is definitely BS, Erin. I don't know what's going on with you but I'm going to find out. Something's up and you're not talking. Why won't you talk to me?"
"Please leave, Josh. We have nothing more to talk about. I thought we could still be friends but obviously not."
"I don't get you!" He yelled at her and stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Erin slumped against the window, tears falling slowly down her face. That had been one of the hardest things she had to do but at least now she wouldn't have to worry about his safety in connection with her own. She walked back to the desk and pulled out the letter.
Tsk Tsk. So many clues, so many hints. AND YOU HAVEN"T GOTTEN A ONE! I am very disappointed. I'm giving you one more chance to confront your nightmare and finally figure this thing out, otherwise… your nightmare will confront you and your dearests and the rest will become history. You and I will pick up exactly where we left off and you better pray that you're left as whole as you were last time. JC, o the other hand, won't be so lucky.
Erin sat at the desk and started crying harder. She couldn't sleep, she was at the end of her rope and all she did was dream of death and Tim and Gary when she did manage to get a few minutes of sleep. The more she thought about it, the more she thought that it had to be Gary. But, how did he figure into all of this?
The next day, Erin walked into the lobby to board the bus and found herself isolated. Every time, she went to talk to any of the guys, they looked through her and acted like she didn't exist. Fine, two can play this game, boys.
She walked over to Lonny and Mike and asked what the agenda was for the day.
"Looks like a concert in LA and then photo shoots and a radio interview for them tomorrow morning and then the last leg of tour before we go home." Mike said.
"Only a few more weeks, Erin. Think we'll make it?" Lonny asked her, concern in his eyes.
"Oh yeah, we'll all make it back to Orlando, just in time to crash in our own beds." She smiled up at the two guys who had been her support for the entire tour.
"We'll ALL make it back, Lonny." Mike added, looking at Erin pointedly.
"So, little girl, any more letters, speaking of safety?"
"Not since that rose." She lied flawlessly.
Mike looked at her closely. "You'd tell us if anything was the matter wouldn't you?"
"Of course." She looked him straight in the eye, but flinched inwardly. LIAR!
"Time to board!" The tour manager called out.
"Let's get these guys on the buses." Lonny called out and headed over to his charge.
Erin walked over to Joey and told him to move it on out. He was talking to a pretty redhead and was writing her phone number down when she had walked up. He turned to look at her and waved her off. "I'll find my own way, thanks."
She grabbed his arm. "I've about had enough out of you guys. What happened is between Josh and I, obviously this isn't going to be handled maturely, so grow up Joe and get your Italian ass on that bus before I throw it on."
The red head had walked off during her little tangent, but Joey didn't even notice. He was too busy drilling nails into Erin's forehead. "This has nothing to do with JC and you. This has to do with your friendship with the group. None of us can stand liars and that's what you've become. Something is going on with you. We can all see it and having you lie to our faces and say 'everything is fine' is a bunch of bull. Obviously, we aren't good enough friends for you to confide in, if at all, and so all of us are merely moving on. Now, Miss Kinsela," he spat at her, "please lead the way and do your precious job correctly. We'd hate for one of the dumb stars to get hurt." With that said, he stalked off to the bus, with Erin hot on his heels, reeling in shock and anger.
Erin was riding on the other bus, due to the circumstances, giving the guys a chance to talk.
"I can't believe she's pushing everyone away." Justin said slumped on one of the couches in the back.
"She's not talking to anyone. I finally got Lonny to fess up to the letter and e-mail but he said she hasn't received anymore correspondance from the guy." Lance added.
"I'm pretty sure she has from the looks of her." JC said worriedly. "Then the whole mess last night…" he shook his head sadly, "she's trying to protect everyone but by doing that no one can protect her."
"I think she's the target." Joe said.
"Huh?" Everyone looked at him. "Why are they coming after us then?"
"They haven't done a thing to us since Erin got shot protecting JC. I think we were initially but for some reason, they've become focused on Erin."
"Now that I think about it, that e-mail sounded like the guy knew her." JC said thinking back to what he had read.
"How could the guy know her?" Chris asked. "They're just kids."
"What if the guy in charge wasn't a kid though."
"Then, quite possibly it COULD be someone she knew."
"If she's not talking though, guys, how can we help?" Justin asked, his head was back against the chair and he looked really tired.
"J, I've got a job for you."
The busses stopped for dinner at a Hard Rock Café and everyone piled out to go inside and eat. Erin was the last one out cause she had been sleeping. She headed to the restaurant and noticed the guys were up front, the first there of course. She didn't notice the shadow that had boarded the bus after she had gotten off though. She walked inside to eat with Mike, Lonny and the rest of the guys.
Justin came in after everyone had ordered and tossed a bunch of letters on the table. No one could see them since they always got a private table in back. "Found these in her bag. The laptop was useless. She hasn't written a thing for almost two months now. I think the last time she wrote was the day she got that e-mail."
They all grabbed a letter or two or three and began reading. The more they read, the more serious they knew the situation was. "This guy is sick!" Chris said adamantly.
"No kidding. What's that line again, "When I get you, I am going to hang your precious little body by the neck and devour…"
"That's enough J, we all read it and don't need it repeated." JC interrupted. How could I have been so stupid and not realized how serious this all was?
"JC quit blaming yourself!" Chris said glancing over at him. "You have a real problem with guilt, I think you should talk to someone about that."
JC looked at him incredulously. "Talk to who? You! I don't think so."
"It was just a suggestion." Chris picked up an onion ring and tossed it at him.
"Well, keep your suggestions to yourself." JC tossed a ring back at him.
"Guys, keep it together here." Justin said frustrated.
"What are we going to do about, Erin?" Lance asked.
"We've got to figure out who the watcher is, how he's connected to those kids and how to save Erin." Chris said.
"And let me guess, oh wise one. You have a plan?" Joey smirked at him.
"Of course!" Chris said dramatically, waving his arms about him, "Don't I always?"
"Lets hear it."
"Erin, wait up!" Erin was headed toward the front desk but the voice behind her made her turn.
"Huh… Oh Hi Joe. What's up?"
"Here's your key. You looked tired so we got you checked in to your room already. Its 234."
"Thanks." Her forehead creased in thought. What's going on, they never check me in.
"No problem. You want me to grab that bag for you."
"I'm fine, Joe, I'm just going to go and lay down."
"Sure thang, sweet thang. We'll see you at dinner then."
"Definitely." Erin turned and headed up the elevator to room 234.
Phase 1 completed. Erin is out of her room. Joey walked over to the front desk and charmed the receptionist. "HI." He looked her up and down, showing how much he appreciated the view from her uniform.
She giggled. "Hi, What can I do for you?"
"Now isn't that a question. But, I won't take it the wrong way. I was wondering if I could get the key to my room."
"Sure what's your name?"
There is a God. She doesn't know who I am. "Aaron, A-a-r-o-n, Kinsela."
"It says here that the room is for an Erin, E-r-I-n, Kinsela?"
"They always misspell my name."
"Oh, well then, sign here and here's your key, Mr. Kinsela."
"Thank you, miss, and have a good day."
"You too." She called out.
He walked over to where JC was standing and told him that he had put Erin in his room and was going to stay in her room; therefore, any notes sent would be received by Joey, and not Erin. Now the next step was to draw the guy out in the open.
"Do you think Erin suspected anything?" JC asked.
"She gave me a weird look but she didn't question it."
"Good, she would've said something."
"Maybe not. She's so tired and run down, I don't think she could battle a fly right now."
"That's true. Although, she still has strength enough to fight me." The star said with a frown. Just last night, Erin and JC had gotten into a huge fight over a fan. A little girl of about 8 had run up to him after the concert and wanted a picture, hug, and an autograph; the works. They didn't have time but JC said that he did have time for a quick picture and had asked Erin to take it. Erin, from lack of sleep, muttered something about it not being in her job description, and snapped it anyway. She then told the little girl to run along cause they didn't have any more time for teeny-bopper fans. She hadn't meant to say that out load, but she had. Once the little girl had run off in shock, JC had lit into her about public decorum and how they must be presented to the public. She just put her hand up, opening it closing it like a mouth, muttering "Blah, Blah, Blah" the entire time he talked, pissing him off even more. When he was done, she rolled her eyes at him and said well done and walked off. He wasn't done with her yet, when she turned he grabbed her arm, and then lost it when he saw the dark circles under her eyes and kissed her. She slapped him and told him that she thought they had come to an agreement and were through and to never touch, kiss or even talk, to her again.
"Yeah that was some fight last night, you two yelling at each other outside the bus for about an hour. Then the kiss, whoo, that was some heat you two were generating there. Even after she slapped you."
"Shut up, Joey."
"Aw man, I'm sorry. You two belong together. I just wish she would see it too."
"She does, she's just being stubborn."
"Yeah, that too."
Erin opened the door to her room and found a vase full of red roses on the desk. She walked over to smell them and noticed a card laying beside the vase. She picked it up and immediately started shaking. Kinsela toughen up! You've gone through things a lot worse than this. Remember the academy, what about that guy at the station, you are going to get through this and not let anyone or anything get to you. The roses are probably from the guys, just being nice after everything, or even just from JC after our huge fight the other night.
She opened up the note and a green ribbon fell out. She slowly bent down and picked it up. When she looked closer at it, she found that it wasn't a ribbon at all but a piece of ripped fabric. It's from my prom dress!
She drew out the note from the envelope and couldn't stop shaking.
I'm tired of playing with you. Here's your final hint. I'm getting closer Erin, you tried to hide from me by switching rooms but I still found you. Time is fading quickly for you. I now don't care about your so-called "boys"; Josh can go to hell for all I care. This is now between you and me. Plus, by hurting you, I'll be hurting Josh… two birds with one stone. Ain't life grand. Watch for me, Erin. I'll get you before you can scream Help.
Erin ran to the door and locked it, deadbolt and chain both. She slid down the wall, hugged her knees to her chest and started crying. How? Why? I? There's nothing I can do… I… Mike… should I tell Mike? He'll be crushed that I didn't tell him sooner. But, I can't tell him, he'll pull me off the team and I'll be an even bigger target. Gary is not going to give up, he didn't before and he won't now. I have to face him myself. I… I don't know what to do. Switched rooms??? The guys switched my room! How did they know something was up?
She stood up shakily and walked over to her bag. She grabbed her 35mm Glock out of the side pocket of her bag, she shrugged off her coat and put on her shoulder holster. She shoved an extra clip into its slot and slammed the Glock home. She was tired of running scared and if Gary was now making open threats on her, she wasn't going to take it anymore.
"Hey, Erin, wake up! Time for dinner."
She approached the door slowly and looked through the peephole. Justin was standing on the other side, looking around the hallway while he waited for her to open it. She put the Glock back in her holster and yelled, "Just a minute!"
She threw a button up shirt over the holster and opened the door. "Hey J, what's up?"
"Dinner, you comin' down with us?"
"Ummm, I think I'm going to stay in and order up some room service. Mike and the Guys will be able to hold down the fort right?" She smiled at him.
He gave her a curious look. "Yeah, but we haven't seen you for so long we don't know what you've been up to. Joe's the only one and that's because you've got to stick to him like glue. Is the reason you're not coming, JC?"
"No, I… I just don't feel like eating down in the restaurant."
"OK. You've gotten out of it this time. Oh, nice flowers!" He glanced into the room and saw the bouquet.
Erin paled. "Thanks… ummm, my mother sent them to me. She, uh, misses me."
Justin looked closer at her. The circles under her eyes were even more prominent. She looks like she hasn't slept in weeks. "Erin, what the hell is going on? Talk to me!"
"Nothing, J. I just can't sleep so don't look at me like that, I know I look bad. Just give me awhile to get back on my sleep schedule."
Justin almost broke down in tears when he saw the hurt in her eyes. "Erin, we all want to help but we can't until you talk to us. If nothing else, talk to Mike, talk to someone. Please." He reached down to give her a hug, when she backed up.
"Thanks for the invite, J. I'll see you later." She shut the door in his face. That was close! He would have found out about my gun in an instant.
Now that was weird. She always lets me give her hugs. Justin turned and went back to the guys' rooms.
The next day, the crew was loading up the buses and Erin was just about to help Joey get on and make sure everything went well, when and arm slid around her shoulders from behind. She screamed and threw the guy over her back on to floor and was just about to hit him when she noticed that it was Lance huddled on the floor. "Oh, Jeez, I'm so sorry!"
"I thought I told you to remind me never to do that to you again." He laughed as he brushed himself off.
"Yeah, well… don't scare me like that. I've just been really on edge and the least little thing gets me."
"I'm sorry. You just looked like you could use a hug there for a minute."
"I… yeah, I guess I could." She reached up and buried her face in his neck as she wrapped her arms around him.
Lance was surprised but glad that she was finally letting some of it out. He wrapped his arms around her back and just held her. He looked up and noticed JC giving him a "Is she all right look", he waved him off and kept holding her until he felt a lump under her jacket. She's wearing a gun?!
Erin finally let go and looked into Lance's face and saw the concern. Tears started to well up but she remained strong. "Thanks, I did need that." She turned around and walked off to find Joey and make sure he didn't try to bring another blonde bimbo on the bus like he had tried last week.
JC walked over to Lance and asked about how she was doing.
"She's wearing a gun now, JC."
"She was shaking the entire time we were hugging and I felt her holster underneath her coat. I don't know how long she's been wearing it but I think things are getting worse."
"I thought for sure moving her would help things."
"Maybe they did and she's just paranoid."
"I don't know. Justin mentioned some roses in her room. Apparently they were from her mom but I know her and her mom aren't on speaking terms still. So that blows that excuse out of the water. I just don't understand how he could have found her when we switched her to another room."
"It was a logical choice to assume, especially if he could have found out which room Joey was in cause he was her charge."
"Yeah, but I…"
"You just want to help. We all do."
"I'm going to talk to her. Someone needs to talk some sense in her and I'm sick of this whole talking around each other thing."
"JC, man, you've got to give her some space. I know how you feel about her but…"
"Lance, I'm scared that if I give her some space, I'm going to lose her."
"Then tell her that. Tell her that you're scared, that you care and want to help."
"It won't help."
"You'll never know until you try."
"Joe! She can't come!"
"Come on, Erin, she needs a lift to our next destination."
"Do you even know where we are going next?"
"No! We're heading back home. We're due in Florida in two days time. The tour only has a week left."
"Oh, I guess I was a week off." He gave her a sheepish grin.
"You, knuckle-head. You knew the whole time. There'll be a blonde in the next town for you, Joe. Let's move." She shook her head at him, smiled a small grin, and started toward the bus with him in tow.
Chris came bounding up behind them and grabbed Erin in a big bear hug. He swung her around, yelling, "We're going home! We're going home!"
She laughed. "I know that, braid boy. Now put me down."
"Nope. I'm not putting you down ever… Erin, why the hell are you wearing a gun?"
"I… I… To… Put me down Chris." She jumped out of his arms and turned to look at Chris and Joey who both wore identical looks of shock. "I can't explain. It's for all of our protection."
"Erin, we're not even supposed to have firearms around us. It's against contract."
"I have to Chris. Don't ask me why. Joe, get your ass on that bus." She turned and stalked off to the bus again.
"Oh boy." Joey and Chris just looked at each other and moved toward the bus, watching her walk steadily and purposefully there.
"Dude, we need to do something and soon." Chris said quietly. Everyone took one look at Erin and didn't even try to get in her way, the guys just followed quickly hoping no one would get in her way.
"Yeah, but what?"
"I don't know. Group meeting again?"
"I'll let 'em know."
"Can we talk?"
"Sure, come on in, Josh."
They were now at their next destination and Erin was seated at her desk when JC had poked his head into her room. He walked over and sat down on the bed. "This sure looks familiar." He said quietly.
She sighed and turned around. "I'm sorry for everything, Josh. For the way things turned out, for you guys having to be on edge every day of the week due to those guys, extra security and never knowing if one of you will get hurt or not. I'm also sorry for putting extra stress on you with our whole situation."
She got up and walked over and sat down next to him. She grabbed his hand, entwining her fingers with his. "Josh, I… I love you. I want to be with you with every part of me being. There are things though that… there are circumstances keeping me from being with you and until I can get them straightened out, its best if we didn't even hang out together."
"I love you too."
She smiled and looked at him. Everything he was feeling was in his eyes. She saw the concern for the amount of weight she had lost, the lack of sleep and also the fear that something was wrong. He knew her too well. "I know."
"Erin, talk to me, please. This is eating me up inside, knowing something I wrong and not being able to do anything to help. I know I can't do anything, you've told me that over and over. But, you do need to at least talk about it, let me be your strength."
"I… I can't, Josh. It's come full circle and I have to deal with it on my own."
"It's Gary, isn't it."
She swung her head around so quickly, he was afraid her head would have flown off. "I'm right, aren't I?"
"It's best if we don't discuss this at all."
"What has he done to you? We all know you're wearing a gun, you jump at the slightest noise, you don't sleep and when you do nap, every noise wakes you up. I'm surprised you haven't collapsed from exhaustion."
"No, you aren't. It's time for honesty, Erin. Justin got in your bag and we read all the notes you've been receiving. Mike and Lonny have been asked to watch out for you as well as for us. We also have been switching your rooms around in hopes you won't get anything more from him. We know what's been going on, we all do. I just wasn't sure until your reaction just now that it was Gary. How…"
"I don't know how he found me. How he recognized me. Nothing. You want honesty, Ok, you've got it. It doesn't matter if you switch my rooms, take me off the tour, change my looks, he'll still find me. He watched me 24 hours a day. I don't where he is but he's always there. I can't sleep, I can't eat. This obsession is eating me up inside because I want him. I want this to end. I'm wearing my gun because I know when he finally gets fed up with the games, he's going to come for me, and I'm going to get him instead."
Erin stood and walked over to the window. "I got a dozen rose from him yesterday. There was a piece of fabric from my prom dress enclosed with the note. He said that time is running out."
"We'll find him and stop him before he does anything to you."
"He already has Josh. Just the waiting is getting to me, the constant knowledge that he's always around. He's took away my self-confidence and my self-worth that night, now he's taking away my peace of mind and my trust in myself."
"I won't let him hurt you."
"You can't stop him. I can't believe that I was the target the entire time. I don't know how he found out I was on the tour in the first place. I think he just wanted to play with you guys when this whole thing first started, to see how I thought and functioned, to see what I would do. Now it's me. It's all me. He knows me inside and out, knows my next move, everything. I can't get away from him. I just have to wait but when the time comes, I'll be ready."
"You sound like this is the end."
"It may be, Josh. I won't let him hurt any of you and he may try that first to break me, I don't know, but if comes after me and I can't stop it, I'll stop myself so that he can't do anything to me ever again."
"Erin, there's another way."
She looked at him finally. "It all depends on how the game ends. I plan to be the winner, but it all depends on the odds. They're in his favor right now but that could all change."
He watched her from his bedroom window and smiled at the agitation that just seemed to roll off her in waves. It's almost time to make my move. Just a few more days and then the finale, dear Erin. You and I will have our last dance just as we did years ago. Only a few more days and then we'll be back home and the stage will have been set to perfection.
"Fort Lauderdale, are you ready to party?" Justin asked the crowd. He held up a hand to cup his ear and screams filled the air. He smiled over at the guys.
"I can't hear you." More screams split the air and JC was glad that they all wore earplugs otherwise they'd probably be deaf by now. He glances over at Erin standing on the sidelines, nervously watching everything around her. Every day since they had talked, she avoided everyone unless they went specifically out of their way to ask her something. She didn't even speak to Joe and she was around him 24 hours a day. She had lost even more weight than before and she was starting to look like a little skeleton. It'll be a lot better for her when the tour is over. She needs sleep and to eat.
JC took his glance off of Erin and noticed that everyone was staring at him. Whoops my line. "Yo, Fort Lauderdale! Glad everyone could make it out to see us."
"Well as you know," Chris broke in. "we are filming out first live pay-per-view show tonight and we're glad that y'all could make it out to be a part of it. Hope you enjoy the show."
"Here… We… Go…"
Erin watched the guys bound around the stage with more energy than she could even imagine. She knew she needed to sleep and she could only eat but a few bites at lunch and dinner without getting nauseous. Thinking too much, Kinsela. She smiled softly to herself.
Joey looked over at Erin and caught her smiling. I think that's the first time I've seen her smile in weeks. He elbowed JC as he danced by him.
JC looked over at Erin and smiled to himself. She's going to be fine as long as we can keep Gary away from her. She's beginning to heal.
Justin noticed her too and put a little extra spring into his step to get her attention. When she looked at him, he gave her a thumbs up. C'mon, Girlie, come back to us.
Lance just laughed at the guys antics, trying to catch her eye.
Chris, on the other hand, wasn't just trying but succeeding. The next song was For the Girl, JC was at the front of the stage talking to the crowd. "…This is a Loooooovvveeee song and it has to things that I bet you ladies out there tonight need. One is love and the next… a seat on the STAGE!" When he said that the guys brought out some girls who had been picked beforehand, Chris' girl was forgotten as he grabbed Erin's hand.
"No, Chris… I…"
All the guys had looks of shock as they saw Erin pulled on stage but there was a little bit of color on her cheeks from embarrassment so they didn't worry. The first time in days, that she had actual color in her face.
"The chairs for the "infamous chair dance" were set up and all the girls were positioned on the steps. "You drive a pretty car. You know how fine you are and…"
Erin watched the guys dance and sing and actually forgot for a few minutes about her stalker, who had no problems hurting her or the ones that she loved. The song ended and the guys stood up to take the girls backstage. She noticed a shadow out of the corner of her eye but figured it was just a stagehand setting up the next song.
"It was good to see you smiling. Do it more often." Chris whispered in her ear and walked back out on stage.
She sighed deeply and decided to just enjoy the rest of the show.
The show was great. The guys were performing better than they had in a long time and everyone on the crew knew it was because they had gotten Erin to laugh during the show. Joey was the total pimp daddy on stage and during Celebration had made a point to go over and kiss her hand. Justin was more pelvic inclined that evening and she kept shaking her head at him and telling him that he was going to make those girls have heart attacks from their racing hearts. JC was his usual high energy self and kept jumping over her spot on stage from the landing above then smiling at her as he turned around. Lance was on the ball too, dancing better than she had ever seen him dance before. He nailed everything. Chris gave her his wig to wear after ABC, 123 was performed and she kept it on and danced right along with them.
Sailing was up next, her favorite song. She saw the guys getting into their harnesses as their U Drive Me Crazy video was premiered. Out of the corner of her eye she saw another shadow and decided to go and check it out. Probably a stagehand but just in case…
"Erin, could you help me with this?"
Erin looked over to JC struggling with his white jumpsuit. "Yeah, Josh, here."
She walked over to him, adjusted his mic on the back of pants, straightened his coat and zipped it up for him. She smoothed out his hair, then ruffled it anyway. "All set."
"Almost." He grabbed her around the waist and twirled her around the room. When he set her down, he looked into her blue, sparkling eyes and gave her a quick kiss on her forehead.
"What was that for?"
"Just for being you."
"I'm always me."
"No, for being yourself tonight, for being able to let go. It's good to have you back amongst the living, Red."
"Yeah, it is nice. I have been a pain, haven't I?"
"Not so much a pain as well… a… you've just worried us a lot. We know you can take care of yourself but we want to help you when we can too, even if its just listening. Although I could probably take the guy out for you."
"Josh, you're out of practice, maybe we should go a few rounds before I let you take the role as my protector, try you out for size first."
They didn't notice that he still had his arms wrapped around her but the other guys did.
"It's about damn time, she got out of her funk and accepted things as they were." Joey smiled.
"Someone owes me ten bucks though. I told you that they would be fighting within a months time."
"You said a week, Youngen, so you owe me money." Chris walked up behind Justin.
"Guys show time." The tour manager called out.
"J, grab JC and lets get going." Lance called as he and Joey started for the stage.
"Not until the youngen pays me."
"I'll pay you after the show, old man. Afraid you'll have a heart attack or something and won't be able to play video games with my money."
"Nope, it’s a down payment on my pacemaker."
"Oh that’s a good one, Chris. Wish Id thought of it. JC, man lets go."
"Comin." He tuned to look at Erin again. "After the show…"
"We'll talk, Josh, and finally figure out where we stand."
"I know where we stand. I just want you to know that's its unavoidable."
"OK. After the show, we'll spend some much needed time together."
"YES, now go!" She laughed and pushed him to the stage.
"Wait!" He turned back around, grabbed her and kissed her hard on the mouth.
"I'm glad you're smiling again." Then he turned and ran back to the fans.
CLAP CLAP CLAP
Erin whirled around at the sound of someone clapping sarcastically. A man was standing in front of her. He looked to be about her age, deep set brown eyes, sandy blonde hair and a full beard.
"What a touching show of affection. I'm almost impressed that your capable of feeling anything after watching you the past weeks."
"At your service." He bowed but kept his eye on her the entire time.
"This is pretty gutsy showing up back here, someone is bound to realize that you aren't a part of the crew and report you."
"Oh but Erin… I am. How did you think I managed to stay one step ahead of the entire time? I first joined up just to have a little fun with the group, maybe hurt one or two of them and scare the crap out of them for their tour. Give myself a little fun for the last few months, but then I noticed this little red head that was a part of the bodyguards and remembered my good friend, Erin Kinsela. Who would have thought that she would also be a part of my favorite boyband's crew? Then watching you with JC, I remembered another good friend, Joshua Scott."
"Stay away from him."
"Oh I don't plan on doing anything to harm him… too much."
"What have you done?!"
"Just made a little diversion for our get-away."
He was slowly making his way toward her as they talked. "After I realized the little botch who had sent me to jail was within reach, I abandoned my plans for fun with the good ol' Spice Boys and directed my attention to you."
"Who were your little playmates at the beginning of the tour?"
"Just some random kids I had met with in an anti-NSYNC chat room. They made the website and the plans, I just showed them the entrances and how to bypass security. The flaked on me after you had been shot though. Told me in no uncertain terms that no one was supposed to have been hurt, it was just a game. Poor pitiful boys. Should never hire a boy to do a man's job."
"You'll never get away with this, Gary. Someone will figure it out. They already know it's you."
Well, they are looking for Gary but he's dead. He died in prison. I now go by the name of Tim."
"Yeah, it was very sad. He and I were beating up a brat of about 18, he was in for rape too but little boys, and we didn't realize that he had already made friends. They got ahold of Tim and made an example out of him. Very Sad."
He glanced down at his watch. "Right on time."
Just then, screams from the arena split the air, not the enthusiastic happy ones from earlier though but scared, panicky ones. "What have you done?"
She whirled around to go and help but Gary grabbed her arm and clamped a hand over her mouth. "Now relax, your boyfriend is just taking a free fall down to the audience but he won't get hurt except for maybe a little bit of whiplash when the rope reached its length. BUT, my dear, by the time they get him all situated and safe and sound, you and I will be long gone before they even realize that you aren't here."
He secured a rope around her wrists and taped her mouth shut. No one noticed as everyone was running to help JC and figure out what went wrong. Gary hoisted her onto his shoulder and walked out the back entrance. No one saw a thing.
After the concert was over and everyone's heart rate had resumed to normal, they noticed that Erin was missing.
"Hey J, have you seen Erin?"
"Not since you were two were looking at each other with goo-goo eyes before Sailing."
"She was supposed to meet me afterwards."
"Maybe she went to the bathroom?" Joey broke in.
"Usually she stands and watches the finale though and I didn't see her even then."
"Hey Mike, Have you seen Erin?"
"Nope, Bounce. Maybe she went out to the bus?"
"I don't think so."
"She's probably in the back rooms grabbing her stuff so she can help load like she usually does." Chris walked over to the group.
"Umm guys, isn't this Erin's?" Lance asked picking up a small gold bracelet.
"Yeah, I gave her that when we were in New York. She liked it while we were walking around and I bought it for her." Justin said.
JC began to get worried. "Everyone look for her, she has to be here."
Chris looked over at Joey. "I don't have a good feeling about this."
"Me either, but I could just be hungry."
Two hours later, she still wasn't found. The guys were all piled into the buses and they were on their way to Orlando for their last concert.
"Should we call the police?"
"We can't issue a missing person's report until they've been gone for over 24 hours."
"She could be dead by then."
"He won't kill her. He'll just keep her hurting her over and over until he breaks her."
JC sat in the corner of the bus, listening to his group mates talk about her. I should have protected her. I should have known. I should have… I should have…
He finally stood up and walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Her bag was sitting there where she had left it and he sat down and pulled out her laptop. He booted it up and logged on.
Over the next hour, JC just sat there and read entry after entry about the tour, the first few months and then the past two months. There were gaps of weeks during the past few months but it picked up again two days ago. He read them again, just so he could feel close to her, reading her thoughts were the only thing he could think of to get close to her again. I hope you're alright, sweetheart. Just don't do anything that will take you away from me.
He feel asleep with the computer turned on and tears running down his face. Justin and Lance found him that way the next morning.
"JC, man, JC wake up!"
They sat down across from him at the table. "Sorry, dude. Still no word."
"She's going to be fine, JC. She's a touch cookie, our girlie there. She'll take care of herself and be back in time for dinner. She's just got a matter of importance to take care of first."
"I hope you're right, J."
"She is going to be fine, JC, we have to believe that."
"I know… I just keep remembering our conversation a few days ago, when I finally got her to talk about it."
"What did she say?"
"That she would do whatever she could to stop him from doing anything to her again, even if meant killing herself."
"You don't think she would, do you?"
"I think she would do whatever she could to stop him, even if it meant taking what he wanted away first. So, in essence, yes I think she would if it would stop herself from getting hurt again."
He put his head in his hands and sighed. Where are you, Erin?
Erin woke up tied and gagged to a bed. She looked around the room and noticed that it looked similar to the hotel room where he had first raped her. So I'm in the Four Season's Hotel.
She started working on the knots to loosen them up, when he walked in the door with a bag from McDonald's.
Her stomach started growling at the smell of the french fries.
"I'll take that as a yes."
He walked over to the side of the bed and ripped the duct tape of her mouth.
"OUCH! DAMN YOU!"
"Tsk Tsk Tsk, keep up with that and no food for the prisoner."
He started to feed her some of the french fries and started in on the sandwich.
"Gary, why are you doing this?"
"Because I can Erin. Because I want to and because I want you. You were the one that got away, it wasn't any fun having you knocked out the entire time so now we're going to take right back up now that you're awake.
"You little ugly weasel, I don't want you nor have I ever. You had better kill me when you're done because I'll kill you if I find you."
"Oh, Erin, what a mouth you have on you." He sighed then backhanded her across the face.
She spit blood onto the front of her shirt. "That’s not enough to faze me anymore, Gary. I'm going to fight you every inch of the way."
His eyes gleamed in the dim hotel light. "That's what I'm hoping for."
"Heard anything yet?"
"Nope. The police said that they would look into it, but since we are already in another city and none of our crew saw anything, they don't really have a case." JC sat slumped in the back of the bus, cell phone resting beside him.
Chris sat down next to him on the couch. "She's going to be fine, man."
"Every hour longer that she's gone, I worry about what he's done to her, if she's still alive, is he beating her? Every hour, I just sit and wait for the phone call saying that she's dead."
"You can't think like that. She's a fighter and she won't give up. YOU can't give up on her, cause I know for damn sure she wouldn’t give up on you nor would she give up on herself."
"I know. I…"
"The waiting is killing all of us, but as all the Greats say, 'The show must go on". She can take care of herself."
"Hey J. What's that you're holding?"
"OH, I found this is Erin's bunk."
"What is it?" JC peered over at what looked like a magazine.
Justin started laughing. "It’s a BOP magazine from when I lost the bet. She must have kept it as blackmail."
"Yeah I remember when she found that in a supermarket." JC said smiling.
"It's J! I have to buy this."
She leaned over and grabbed the magazine. "See, "Justin Timberlake, New Look or Something Else?""
She ripped it open and began reading the article; "Justin Timberlake sported a new look Friday night at their New Orleans show in Louisiana. He marched around the stage handing out cookies to the girls in the front rows, mumbling "C is for Cookie and its good enough for me!" His dyed blue hair and what resembled facial hair stuck out in every direction causing most people to question what he's been watching on TV lately and if the Teen Pop Sensation is starting to find new ways to cope with his new found success."
She closed it with a flourish and yelled, "This is PRICELESS!"
"Erin," JC laughed, "Calm down. We're in public."
She started grabbing all of the magazines that sported a blue Justin on the front and headed for the checkout. "These have to be saved, Josh. Justin only humiliates himself this good once a year."
"She bought them all?!"
"Yup. Don't know what she did with them though."
"Probably sent them to Cosmo or something."
"Wouldn't put it past her."
"Yeah", Chris broke in, "Remember when that girl was latched onto Joey and wouldn't let go?"
"How did you get in my room?" An incredulous Joey stood in the door of his hotel room. A girl stood in his bathrobe in the middle of his room, holding a rose for him.
"I convinced the cleaning lady that I forgot my key."
"Well", he swallowed audibly, "You aren't supposed to be here and I need you to leave."
"I'm not leaving until I get what I came here for." She started to unknot the robe.
"Joe? You ready? Sound check in fifteen minutes." Erin poked her head in.
"OH WOAH! Sorry, Joe, didn't realize that even you were that quick." She smiled at him.
The girl sniffed at her. "Umm, excuse me, Joey and I are busy. Can you please excuse us?"
"Sorry, honey, I'm his girlfriend and stick to him like glue. You and he aren't conducting any sort of business while I'm around, so skidaddle. How old are you anyway? 14?"
"16 actually and I am not…" A knife flew past her head and landed in the wall. Erin stood calmly in the doorframe while the other girl freaked.
"YOU THREW A KNIFE AT MY HEAD!"
Joey just stood there in the middle of the room watching the two females like he was watching a tennis match.
"NO, I threw the knife at the wall, if I had aimed at your head, I would have hit it."
"Now, now such language."
"Joey, call your girlfriend off."
"Joe, gotta move." Erin said looking at her watch. She walked over to the girl, grabbed her by the arm and shoved her out the door, locking it behind her. "Security." She said disgustedly.
"JOE, MOVE IT!" She walked over to the wall and grabbed her knife. She pulled up her pant leg and shoved it back in its sheathe.
"My job, oh and don't tell anyone about the knife, K." She smiled at him, pointed at her watch and walked out the door.
"So, of course, Joey tells everyone about her throwing knives."
"Hey, it was too good to keep to myself, plus I had just about peed my pants when it flew by my face and landed in the wall." Joey said as he and Lance came in the room and sat down. He shook his head. "She's definitely one of a kind."
"That she is."
"Think she's all right?" Lance said quietly.
Everyone was silent, wondering if she was unhurt or lying in an alley bleeding to death. JC looked up from his spot on the couch. "Yeah, she's all right for now."
"Guys? Show in fifteen minutes." The tour manager yelled through the bus' door. "Last one and then we head home."
"Thanks, Orlando! We had a great time tonight!" Justin yelled into the mic.
"This concludes our arena tour, but we'll be out on the road again soon enough. We hope you'll come back to see us then." Lance waved to crowd.
"Our next step is our new CD. We start the second half of recording next week. Thanks for being such great fans." Chris smiled out at the crowd.
"ORLANDO! Thanks for being such a great audience. We had a great time and can't wait to see you again. Thanks for coming out tonight." Joey yelled to the crowd.
"How is everyone?" Screams erupted into the arena. When everyone was quiet again, JC spoke again. "I'm glad everyone is well, but we have a problem. A friend of ours on our crew disappeared two days ago. The police are searching for her but they don't believe that she'll be found." Erin's smiling picture flashed onto the screen. "That's her. We don't know who has her or what exactly happened but a good friend of ours is gone and missed severely. For our last song, we got permission from Gloria Estefan to perform this song without her. Erin, if you're listening, this is for you." JC looked over at the guys and noticed that every one of them, including him, had tears in his eyes as he looked back at the screen.
You'll never know
What you've done for me
Put your faith in me
Has done for my soul
You'll never know the gift
You've given me
I carry it with me
Through the days
That I had to think of days before
You made me hope for something better
It made me reach for something more
You taught me to run
You taught me to fly
Helped me to free the me inside
Helped me hear the music of my heart
Helped me hear the music of my heart
You opened my eyes
You opened the door
To something I've never known before
And your love is the music of my heart
You were the one
Always on my side
Always standing by
Seeing me through
You were the song
That always made me sing
I'm singing this for you
Everywhere I go
I think of where I've been
And of the one who knew me better
Than everyone ever will again
You taught me to run
You taught me to fly
Helped me to free the me inside
Helped me hear the music of my heart
Helped me hear the music of my heart
You opened my eyes
You opened the door
To something I've never known before
And your love is the music of my heart
What you taught me
Only your love could ever teach me
If you got through and the one who reached me before
Cause you always saw in me
The best that I could
It was you who set me free
You taught me to run
You taught me to fly
Helped me to free the me inside
Helped me hear the music of my heart
Helped me hear the music of my heart
"Thank you, Orlando." Justin said wiping his eyes.
"If you see this person, please contact us at 1-800-846-9931, but only if you have any information pertaining to Erin Kinsela." Chris said.
"It's been a great tour, thanks again." Lance said.
"So long, until next time. We are NSYNC!" Joey and JC said at the same time, all five bowed and ran off stage.
"What was that about?" Benny, their tour manager asked. "I thought this whole Erin thing was supposed to be kept hush hush."
JC walked up to Benny. "No", he said softly, you wanted to keep it quiet; everyone wants to keep it quiet, but what about us? We don't."
"JC's right. The longer we just sit on this, the longer it will take it to find her." Lance broke in.
"The papers will eat this up. Crew member disappears."
"Well you know what, Benny, for once, we don't care what the people, the papers, the press, and even you think. We are going to find Erin and make sure she's all right and we are NOT going to sit on our thumbs about it. By doing this, it gets it out and maybe the guy will panic and mess up." Justin said angrily.
"Or, you could have jeopardized the entire police investigation and made the guy freak enough to do her harm."
All the guys turned white. "WOAH, I don't need my stars to faint, even if you are on vacation now. Get out of here and go and get some sleep. She'll be fine, Erin can take care of herself."
"Why does everyone say that?" JC said. "What if she can't?" He stormed to the bus.
"I hope that helped guys."
None of them noticed the crewmember lagging behind them, packing up the sailing equipment, smiling to himself, only to hurry out the back door.
C'mon Erin, only a few more twists and you're free. I can't believe he left me here for two days without any food or anything. BUT, it gives me time to work on these knots. I wonder where he went…
The door swung open. "Honey, I'm home."
"Wonderful." Shit, I was almost there, keep moving, slower or he'll notice.
"Your boys were in rare form tonight. It was actually kind of touching what they did."
"They sang their new song in dedication to you. It was quite pathetic how they begged the audience to keep an eye out for you and they even set up a hot-line number for people to call if they know anything. Poor babies. Don't they realize that you're never going back to them." He walked over to the bed and sat on the edge. "You're so beautiful." He slowly stroked her cheek and ran the back of his hand down the side of her throat and over her breast.
Erin shuddered. "They won't give up and neither will I."
"In time, they'll just assume your dead."
"They WON'T give up."
"Erin, my little idealist, everyone gives up and moves on with time." He bent down to kiss her just as she finished the knot. She swung her arm slamming his head into the headboard.
"I said they don't give up and neither do I. Now, lets try this with a little bit of even ground. I owe you for the past couple of days."
"I waited too long. I should have taken you when I had the chance and broken that damn spirit of yours. Instead, I finished out the tour with those pansies so that no one would notice that two crewmembers were gone and suspect anything. Stupid, Gary, but we can fix it and make it all better."
He slowly began to circle the bed to her side. She couldn't feel her arms very well from being tied up for days but she could use that as an advantage until they started tingling. "I won't be so easy this time."
"I think you will be." He reached under his jacket and grabbed her gun, pointing it at her. She stopped and put her hands in the air, trying to placate him. Her trigger was pretty touchy and she also knew the damage that it could cause.
He motioned her back over to the bed. "C'mon, Erin, I don't want to hurt you."
She snorted. "Yeah right, tell me another one." She made a move toward the bed and "accidentally" tripped, rolled, grabbed her knife, and palmed it in one easy motion.
"Whoops, sorry I'm a klutz."
He was standing silently, the gun trained on her. The look in his eyes said that he didn't trust her and motioned to the bed again. I wouldn't trust me either..
She sat down on the bed and held her hands out for him, knife in between her wrists. He put the gun in the waistband of his pants. "I knew you were a good girl, Erin." He started to tie her wrists up, when she lashed her foot into his face.
He fell backwards from the impact, holding his nose. "YOU BITCH! I think you broke it."
"Good." She placed her knee in his throat as she grabbed her gun from his pants.
She backed up slowly, the gun trained on him, making her way to the phone. She picked it up and dialed 9-1-1. "Hello, Police."
"Hi, this is Officer Erin Kinsela."
"Erin Kinsela? We have officers looking for you."
"Well, I'm not sure exactly where I'm at, so if you could trace this call and send someone to come and get me, that would be great."
"Will do, Officer." Click
"Gary, the game is over and I've won." She had taken her glance off him for a moment and when she looked back, he was gone. Where is he?
He came at her from behind. He had grabbed the fire extinguisher and was holding it as a bat. She pointed the gun at him and told him to drop it. He swung it at her, hit her hand and made her drop her gun. DAMN
"Gary, the cops are on their way."
"I heard the call." He bent down and picked up her gun. "They won't find me here though and you'll be dead."
He pointed the gun at her and pulled back the hammer. "Bye, Erin. You stupid bitch… I just wanted to… I owe you."
She glanced around the room and saw there wasn't any place for her to go. She was caught between the bed and wall and even if she dove down, he could still hit her. There's got to be a way. I've got one chance.
She rocked back on her heels and tossed the knife, just as he fired.
She felt a searing pain in her stomach and doubled over in pain, white flashes of light lit up behind her eyes.
The door flew open and a bunch of armed offices bolted into the room. One ran over to help her, just as she hit the floor. "Officer Kinsela, are you all right? We heard a shot. Oh Sh-! Officer down, she's been hit. Call for an ambulance."
"Call for a body bag too. This ones dead."
JC walked up to the door of room 334 and paused outside. He could see through the window that she wasn't awake yet. Actually, the doctors weren't sure if she was ever going to wake up, but they kept that little tidbit to themselves. Justin had overheard them outside her room two days ago, and watched them walk off shaking their heads. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
He walked over to bed and sat down, his chair still there from the precious two days. None of the nurses had bothered to move it back to the wall since they knew he and the other guys would be back, keeping their vigil on her.
The past two days had been rough on everyone. The call came over the cell just as they were wheeling her into surgery. They had received a 9-1-1 call from Officer Kinsela at the Four Seasons Hotel. She had apprehended the suspect but he had got away from her just after she hung up the phone. A struggle had ensued thereafter and had resulted with her being gut shot right under the diaphragm and the suspect dead from a knife wound to the throat. The guys had rushed over to the hospital and waited five hours while she was in surgery for any news on her condition. She had come through fine but was in a coma. The doctors were optimistic that she would come out of it all right but the longer she was out, the less chance she had.
JC was the first one they allowed in to see her since her parents still had yet to be contacted. Those first few hours, he had held her hand, just watching her sleep, not talking, not singing, just watching her. Justin came in next and told him to go and get something to eat and if she woke up, he'd come and get him. All the guys took turns that first 24 hours, but then the staff had sent them home. They would call if there was any change.
She had now been in a coma for more than 48 hours and the doctors were worried. He reached for her hand and looked at how delicate her fingers were, long and tapered. Hard to believe how lethal they can be.
"Hi Erin. It's Josh. The doctors told me to talk to you. That maybe that would bring you back to us."
He sighed. I don't what to say to her. She looks so still, so pale. I can't lose her.
"Um, well the tour is over. We really missed you those last couple of days but the crowd was in high spirits and that kept me and the guys going, and our minds off of your disappearance. We started recording some more of the album today. It's going to be a really good album, Erin. I can't wait for you to hear it. We've got a song with Ginuwine in the works and Justin and I actually have written a few songs that maybe they'll put on the album and let us record. It could be our big break. You know, us getting out of the manufactured pop and able to perform more of what we want to, instead of what we're told to."
C'mon Erin, just a little movement. I'd give anything just to see an eyelash move or a twitch from a finger. Any indication that you can hear me or just feel me here.
"Joey and Chris were crazy in the studio. They kept trying to convince this new intern that Joey was really superman and that he could fly. Apparently they went so far, as to take her into the stage area and strapped Joey into the harness and flew him around. The girl of course, wasn't stupid and had seen our show and just gave them a disgusted look and walked out. They still got a good laugh at her benefit though, I wonder if she'll be back. If she's tough she will be. Justin and Lance are working on a solo for Lance in Justin's new song. Justin and I talked and decided that we've had it with being the lead singers and think the group should be more rounded so we're working on songs that fall into the other guys ranges. If management doesn't like it, too bad."
JC turned around and saw Lance in the doorway. "Yeah?"
"Who you talking to? Is she awake?"
"No, I'm just catching her up on what's been going on. The doctors said to talk to her, that maybe it would bring her back."
"I just talked to her doctor. He said that her wound is healing and that there isn't any infection, which is a good sign. Do you want me to spot you while you go and get something to eat?"
JC looked down at her still face and sighed.
"NO, I'll be fine."
"You sure, how about if I bring something up. We've got another early morning tomorrow in the studio. You need to eat and get some sleep."
"We're just worried about you."
"I know. I'll be fine, don't worry too much."
"Alright. I'll bring you some coffee at least then."
The door shut behind Lance and JC turned his attention back to Erin.
"The guys and I have been talking about management, speaking of them. Our contract is being negotiated again and it's not looking like we're going to have much say in it again. We still owe them 8 records but we don't get much of the profits and its making us all frustrated to not be able to be involved in our own music. We all feel like little puppets and we're sick of it. We've been lumped into this little category and unless we can convince management to change the contract, allowing us more say, we've been talking about moving on. We'd really hate to do that, Trans Con has been good to us, but…" JC out his head down on their joined hands and squeezed his eyes shut against the flow of tears.
"I need you, Erin. I need your advice, I need your wit, I need you to kick my butt into shape every time that my ego is getting to big for the room or you just need to work off some frustration. You can't leave me."
He looked up to find the nurse standing in the doorway. "Visiting hours are over, sir. She needs her rest."
"That's all she does is rest. What she NEEDS is to wake up."
"In due time, sir, the doctors are hopeful."
He grabbed his jacket and shrugged into it. "Yeah, right. That's why they always avoid our questions. See you tomorrow." He walked by the nurse out into the hallway out to his Jeep.
Days turned into weeks. The guys visited her every day. The room was starting to look like a hot house flower room from everyone sending flowers and cards, with "Get Well" written and "Hope to see you up and around soon." There was a huge teddy bear in the corner that Chris had bought one day because "She told me once that she had never had a teddy bear growing up." Justin and Lance had gone shopping and bought some flannel pajamas for her so that she wouldn't have to be seen in that hideous gown any longer. The two had fought on colors and had finally compromised on baby blue and green checked. Joe was waiting for her to wake up for his gift. He had decided that the minute she woke up, he was taking her out for a good Italian meal to fatten her up. She had lost to much weight over the ordeal and as his mother would say, "nothing that a good home-cooked meal won't fix right up."
Justin and Lance were in her room telling her all about their flubbed recording session that day. Apparently Chris thought it would be funny to sing a half step off all day long and had pissed off the studio people so much, that they had been sent home early. They all thought it was great cause the got a half day off.
JC walked in to see Lance and Justin joking and goofing off in the room. Lance was dancing around the room with the teddy bear and Justin was telling her the story of Lance and the three bears.
"Hey, JC." Justin stood up from his seat and offered it to him. He looked over at Lance and nodded his head toward the door. The two slipped out without JC even noticing him, he was too busy watching Erin and noticing how thin she was compared to the day before. Her skin just kept getting more and more pale and it was really beginning to worry him.
Why won't you wake up, Erin? What are you afraid of?
The doctors had told him that she hadn't hit her head on anything and that her blood count was up, all vital signs were good, and that her wound was healing. She should be awake.
"I don't know if the guys' told you or not but we've accepted an offer from JIVE records and got ourselves a lawyer. Lou's been going off for a couple of say now about how we have betrayed him and some other stuff that I tuned out. I don't know how this is all going to turn out but whichever way it goes, whatever happens, as long as we don't have to work for Trans Con anymore, I'll be happy. We tried to talk to them, but they just wouldn't listen and so we moved on. I'm worried because I'm out of my element. Music I know, contracts I don't. That's why we left it up to Johnny and Lou. What if we get screwed Erin? What if we can't sing anymore? Sweetheart, wake up and tell me we're doing the right thing? Please, I'm getting desperate."
"We just got a call from our lawyer. Trans Con isn't going to deal, in fact they are counter suing us."
"What? What does that mean?"
"What that means is that apparently in our contract we signed away the name NSYNC and its theirs, plus they're suing us for 150 million dollars."
"They can't do that! Can they?"
"I don't know. Our lawyers want to meet with us and Lynn, because she came up with the name. Trans Con says that we are a RCA/BMG act and they have full rights over us and all of our music. We have to move the release of the new album back too."
"We can't do anything until this is all resolved I've been told. Not ours, no music, no merchandise, no TV appearances, nothing."
"What else can go wrong?"
"Oh I'm sure a lot of things can go wrong, but in the meantime we have to be at Lawyers office in ten minutes."
"OK, I'll meet you guys there."
"See ya." Chris closed the door behind him.
"Erin, well it looks like things just got worse. Trans Con is now suing us and so I guess so much for compromising and everything ending on good terms. I'll be back sweetheart." He squeezed her hand and leaned down and kissed her softly on the forehead.
I miss you, Erin. Why aren't you hear when I need you?
The next day, JC walked into find Mike and Lonny sitting around her talking up a storm, in fact they were arguing about a TV show that Erin really liked watching.
"No, Rick Schroeder is a horrible substitue for Jimmy Smits."
"NY PD Blue is a much better show without him."
"The show needs Jimmy Smits."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
JC coughed. "Uh, Guys?"
"Hey, JC. We were just catching Erin up on her favorite show."
"I'm sure she's very appreciative."
"She looks better." Lonny said quietly looking JC in the eye. "I think having everyone come in and talk to her is helping."
JC walked over and looked down at her. "I don't see any change."
He sighed. "She just looks likes she fading away slowly and I feel like I'm going to lose her."
Mike walked over and laid his hand on his shoulder. "She's a fighter. She'll pull thorough, she's just got some last minute issues to deal with."
"I hope you're right, Mike. I don't know what I'd do if I lost her." He looked up at the older man. "I didn't realize how much she meant to me until she disappeared and she wasn't there to contradict me or tell me what a pig I was, but nor what she there to fix my shirt when it was lop sided or to give me one of her smiles when she had just done something to Justin."
"She's going to pull through." He pulled up a chair and motioned for JC to sit. Lonny sat on the bed and patted Erin's leg.
"The reason why she was so tired all the time, was partially from not being able to sleep, but a lot of it had to do with the amount of hours she was putting in down at the gym. She didn't know that we had been keeping an eye on her since the first e-mail and then the flower."
"If you guys were keeping such close tabs on her, how did he get her?"
"Cause in the meantime, we still had to keep an eye on you guys too. How were we to know he was a part of the crew the entire time?"
"I don't know. Gary sure looked different from high school."
"Exactly. We couldn’t pin him down and therefore he got to her. She took care of herself though."
"Not well enough."
"She could have been a lot worse."
JC looked over at her still form, her eyes closed, her breathing shallow. She had been taken off the respirator earlier in the week. She was so pale the freckles stood out on her nose.
"She was ready for him, JC. She was down in the gym every night on the bag, working on her form, routine after routine. She knew it was between her and him. It had to be between the two of them because of their history. I think she wanted to prove to herself that she wasn't afraid anymore."
Lonny broke in. "She couldn't have moved on with you until she had confronted him. His shadow would have stood between the two of you throughout your entire relationship."
"So she risked her life so that she could be with me?"
"I would say so."
JC took a deep breath. He picked up Erin's hands and brought to his lips and gave it s small kiss.
Lonny and Mike looked at each other and gathered up their stuff. "We'll see you back at Trrans Con."
JC quickly looked back at them. "You haven't heard?"
"Lou stripped us of our keys and Ids. We aren't allowed on Trans Con property anymore, well, at least until this lawsuit is all cleared up. We're even recording in another studio now too."
"Damn, sorry JC. Its really too bad that management can't be a little more mature about the whole thing."
"Yeah, it'll all work out for the best though."
"Yeah, well if you need us, we're only a phone call away."
"Will do, thanks again. For everything."
They smiled and left the room.
"Hey Sweetheart. I lied to the guys, you do look a lot better. Are you coming back to me?"
He waited for an answer he knew wouldn't come but still he hoped that one of these times she would answer.
"Well you heard me break the news to Mike and Lonny. Trans Con has kicked us out of the studio until the whole thing is fixed up right and tight. Basically, until we are RCA/BMG acts again. Which we won't be. The guys and I have decided to fight this thing until the end, even if it means losing everything, including our name. NSYNC might be our name but we can perform under anything. We have good fans and they'll stick by us. I talked to your Mom today. She told me to tell you that she loves you and wished she could be here with you. Supposedly she has some meeting, keeping her from flying out here to visit, but I told her not to worry that you had the best care in the nation and more support than you could ever imagine."
He looked down at their joined hands and lost it. "Erin, honey, Don't leave me. Please, I'm begging you. I can't live without you. If you die, I'll never forgive you. I'll… I'll… tell everyone how bad you were at karate and how I always let you win. Justin will go crazy and who will rub it in to him that he's becoming an egomaniac and who will teach him to speak proper english. Not me, that’s your job. Chris will be put in an insane asylum from missing you, Joe will seek solace in some blonde bimbo's arms, probably knock her up and who will save him? Lance of course will come out of the closet and propose marriage to Justin. Mike and Lonny will get trampled by tenny-boppers cause you weren't there to back them up. We'll all fall apart without you. If you don't come back to me… I'll… I'll… go back to Peaches."
He put his head down on her bed and started to cry. "Please, Erin, don't leave me." He said brokenly. "Please."
The door to the room slowly opened. "JC, you OK?"
He wiped his eyes. "Yeah, J."
Justin walked over to he bed and grabbed Erin's other hand.
"Erin, I know you can hear me. I just… I just wanted you to know that I found your stash of magazines and I'm holding them for ransom until you wake up."
"JC, what if she doesn't wake up?"
"She has to."
"But what if she doesn't? It's been two weeks and no movement at all. I'm starting to think she won't."
JC practically leapt across the bed at the young man sitting two feet away from him. "She will. Don't even think that."
"It's a possibility that we have…"
"NO, she will wake up. I'm not giving up. She wouldn't give up on us."
"I… I know. Its just hard, to see her like this, when I know how full of life she is."
"We can't give up. She just needs time."
"You're right. I'm… I'm going to get some coffee. Want some?"
"No, visiting hours are almost over. I should be heading back to my place."
"Yeah, I'll head out with you. Mom's probably expecting me back soon anyway."
"OK." JC reached down for his coat. He leaned over and kissed Erin's forehead again, expecting as usual no response but this time, she flinched.
He jerked upright and looked at Justin, "Did you see that?"
"She flinched! Go get the doctor!"
"OK!" Justin rushed out of the room, yelling for a doctor down the hallway.
JC looked down at her and watched the color start to come back into her face. Her eyelids started to flicker and after a few minutes opened and after another minute of disorientation, focused on him.
"Welcome back, beautiful." He smiled down at her and then slumped into the chair, tears of relief coming to his eyes as he watched her awaken and focus on her surroundings and him.
Erin was just closing her suitcase when the doctor walked in with her release papers.
"Here you are, dear. You just need to sign here and date it here."
She leaned across her suitcase, signed and dated the form, then handed it back to the doctor. "Thanks."
"You're welcome dear, and don't forget, you need to come back to the hospital to get those stitches out in about two weeks."
"Oh I won't forget." Erin smiled and lifted up her shirt. "These beauties won't let me." Under her shirt, the dark, black stitches winked at them and the bruising from surgery was finally starting to fade to a light yellow.
The doctor smiled, waved and left the room.
Erin sighed, grabbed her suitcase and walked out of the hospital and hailed a cab to head home.
The past week since she had woken up from her coma had flown by. All the guys had been to see her everyday and kept her posted on the new album and the lawsuit Trans Con had filed against them. So far, no deals had been made but negotiations between lawyers were still going on. Monday, she had watched Joey and Chris on Total Request Live and she had been shocked to see that Chris had chopped all his braids off. That boy sure looks good when he acts his age.
JC had been by to see her every day and stayed for hours on end, either waiting on her hand and foot or just sitting there talking to her. She didn't know how to act around him after everything that had happened. They had both told the other how they felt, how they loved one another, but she didn't know if that was enough. He had promised to be at the hospital to check her out and drive her home but she wasn't ready for anything yet. That's why she told him she was leaving at three in the afternoon instead of nine in the morning when she checked herself out.
I just need some time to myself to figure a few things out in my head.
"Hey JC! Doesn't Erin get out of the hospital today?"
"Yeah J. I'm supposed to pick her up at three. Want to come?"
"Sure, you better call and make sure that's alright with her though. She might want to be ALONE with you, if you know what I mean."
"I know what you mean, Curly." JC said with a laugh as the two were walking out the recording studio. It was about two so he figured she was done with her final tests and pulled out his cell phone.
"St. Luke's Hospital."
"Hi, Can I be connected to Erin Kinsela's room?"
"One moment. I'm sorry, she's already been checked out."
"OH. Well, thank you for your time."
"Yeah, she checked herself out this morning."
"Yeah, nice of her to let us know."
Erin walked into her apartment to find it exactly as she had left it months ago. She took her suitcase into her bedroom and set it on the bed to unpack. As she hefted it up, it pulled her stitches a little and she screamed in pain.
"OUCH! I guess lifting things is out of the question. I'll finish unpacking later."
She walked back into the living room to check messages. The light on her answering was blinking and she pressed the playback button.
Erin, Lou. I heard through the grapevine that you were getting out of the hospital today. If you could call me back or come in to see me sometime this week that would be great, thanks.
Erin, this is your mother. Sorry I didn't come to see you while you were in the hospital, but you know how things are. Busy Busy Busy. Call me later and maybe we can do lunch.
She picked up the phone to call Lou, but then set it back down. I'll do it later; right now I need to rest. She headed back into her room and lay down next to her suitcase and went to sleep.
She glanced groggily over at her clock and saw that she had been asleep for an hour. Who could be knocking?
"Just a minute!" She opened up the door to find Chris standing there.
"Hey. What's going on? Come on in." She motioned him inside.
"Glad to see you made it home okay, even though JC didn't come and get you." He smiled at her and sat on her couch.
"Already huh. I was expecting an interrogation tomorrow by the earliest. He must really be mad."
"Hurt is probably a better word to describe it."
"So how come they sent you? I was prepared for Lance or Justin."
"Justin can't keep a secret, Lance can, Joey would flirt with you, JC would throttle you, so that left me. Little ol' me to choose whatever way I wanted to go. Come and sit and talk to Dr. Kirkpatrick."
"OK, Chris, I'll sit."
"Seriously, girl. How are you? None of this will get back to anyone, honest. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a thousand…"
"I believe you!" She laughed.
"Honestly… I don't know. I'm doing well despite losing part of my liver where the bullet got lodged and having thread in my stomach, so physically I'm fine. Emotionally…"
"Understatement of the year."
"Have you been able to remember what happened?"
"Nope. Still missing about two and a half weeks of my life due to that damn amnesia. I can remember right up to when he grabbed me and then nothing until I woke up to see JC crying next to me."
"You do know that he was there every day by your side."
"Yeah." She said softly. "I know, I just…"
"I killed a man, Chris!"
"Erin, it was self-defense."
"How do we know that?"
"Because of the bullet that was lodged in you, or did you forget about that too."
"No. I just wish I could remember… remember what happened in that room and to me."
"You mean know if he had done…"
"Yes, know if I was raped. You can't even begin to understand what its like not knowing. Even in death, Gary got the ultimate revenge on me because of my losing my memory. He would laugh knowing I have no idea what he did to me, even though the doctors all say that it doesn’t look likely. What if I'm pregnant?" Tears began to slip down her cheeks.
Chris leaned over and pulled her into his embrace. "It's gonna be fine, Erin. Have faith."
He let her cry for awhile and when her tears subsided, he lifted her head up and wiped away her tears. "Now was that so hard to get out?"
"NO." She said with a small smile, still sniffling.
"Now on to the next issue of why you didn't let JC drive you home."
"How did I know that was coming?"
"Cause I'm predictable and so darn cute."
"How are those connected again?"
"Just shut up and agree."
"I wasn't ready to talk to him yet. I'm not ready for anything. Before I was kidnapped, we talked and both admitted that we loved each other. I'm… I'm scared, Chris." Erin got up and began to pace the room. "Not knowing what happened in that room is eating me up inside and I don't think I can move forward until I know. Until I know if…"
"Until you know if you're still you?"
"No matter what he did to you, Erin, you will always remain you and he can never take that away from you unless you let him. He can't kill the strength you have inside, the strength to move forward despite everything that has happened to you and will happen in your lifetime."
"How did you get so wise?"
"Yeah, you are pretty old."
"Paybacks is all I have to say."
"Chris, go home and let me sleep."
"I'm going, I'm going. But, Erin, Call him or talk to him at least and let him know where you two stand. He realized how precious you were to him and he'll wait. He wanted me to tell you that. He'll wait until you're ready."
Erin took a deep breath as she opened the door. "I know he will. I just hope I'm something worth waiting for."
"You are, sweets. Just remember that. We all think you're worth something." He shut the door behind him, his mission accomplished.
The next day, Erin found herself back at Trans Con studios where everything had started. She felt kind of like a traitor because of everything that was going on between NSYNC and Trans Con/ RCA/BMG but they were still her employers and until that changed, she answered to them.
"Hey Marie! What's shaking?"
"Erin! It's so good to see you up and about. We were all so worried when we heard you were in the hospital. Did you get the daisies I sent?"
"They were beautiful. Thank you. Is Lou available? I got a call that he wanted to see me."
Marie suddenly frowned. "Yes, he does want to see you. I'll page him and let him know you're here."
"Alright, thanks." Erin suddenly felt very apprehensive about the meeting. Hope nothings too wrong…
About ten minutes later, Lou's voice boomed over the intercom. "Send her back."
"He'll see you now, dearie. Good luck."
Good luck? She knocked on Lou's door and entered when he said come in.
"ERIN! It's so good to see you up. I visited you while you were out of it, but you don't remember that."
"Nope, sorry. What did you want to see me about?"
"Well, as you know, your position was only temporary because it was to replace Steven until he was over his case of Mono…"
"Oh, that's right. How is he?"
"Much, much better. Ready to return to work actually."
"Yes… that's the dilemma. I don't want to release you from your position, but I'm sorry, your services just aren't needed anymore."
"I understand. Thank you for the opportunity though." She stood up and stuck her hand out to shake his.
"Sit down, we aren't finished yet."
He reached into the top drawer and pulled out a stack of letters. "These are for you. I'm assuming they are different job offers because they are from police precincts from around the States." He set them down in front of her. "You won't have any problems finding work, Erin. Take those home and give a few of them a call. If you ever need anything… give me a call and I'll use some favors. I know several Captains that owe me some favors and Mike has some ins too if I can't help you, he can. Thanks for such a good job, Erin. You proved me wrong. I didn’t want to hire you in the first place cause you were female but I'm glad I did."
"Thanks again, Lou and as I said earlier, thanks for the opportunity." She grabbed the letters off the table and shook them in the air. "Maybe I'll finally make detective." She laughed, ran around his desk and hugged him. "I don't know what I would if you hadn't given me these letter. Thanks again."
"Get out of here and go call them. You're better suited for that line of work anyway."
"I know." She shook his hand once more and walked back out of the studio.
"Bye, Marie. Good luck with everything. Maybe I'll see you again soon."
"Probably not, dearie, the lawsuit gets settled today and I don't think it looks good for Trans Con, if you know what I mean." Marie and Erin shared a look; Erin smiled, waved and walked out to her Jeep to head home.
When she walked in the door, she immediately sat down on the couch and started going through letters. One was from Washington State, several from DC; one from Oklahoma, one from Maine, several more from various states and the last one was one she was hoping to see, Orlando. She opened the letter up and read the letter, it read that the 101st precinct of Orlando, FL would like to offer Erin Kinsela a job on the police force with the option of promotion after 90 days. 90 days?! Can't get much better than that!
She glanced at the bottom of the letter and reached over for the phone. "Can I speak to Captain Brown, please."
"Sure, just a moment."
"Captain Brown, speaking."
"Hi, this Erin Kinsela, I just received your letter today about the job offer…"
"OH, yes. The job is here for whenever you want it, if you want it."
"Actually, the job sounds perfect. I'll be out of commission for a few more weeks."
"OH, rest up, no hurry. We know about your injury and have been keeping tabs on you I hope that you would accept the position."
"I'd love to accept it."
"Well then, why don't you come in next week and sign the necessary paperwork and we can get you all settled in and show you around the place and also you can start moving things into your desk."
"That would be great, sir. I'll see you next Wednesday then."
"See you then, Officer Kinsela."
"It's great to hear those words again. Good bye Sir."
She hung up the phone and started dancing around the room, laughing hysterically. All of a sudden, she heard clapping coming from the doorway and stopped.
"Leaving your door unlocked is extremely dangerous, you know." JC said softly and shut it behind him.
He turned back to look at her, noting her flushed cheeks and the sparkle in her eyes. "Well at least I know you're alright and not dead or anything."
"I was going to call…"
"I was but something came up."
"What could be more important than letting your friends know that you're alright?"
"Chris should have told you guys that I was fine."
"Chris didn't say a word about you except to say that you would call me."
"I went to Trans Con today…"
"You went where? After all that we've told you has been going on, you went THERE?"
"JOSH! Until today, they were still my employer or did you forget about that?"
"They fired you?"
"Yeah, but Lou handed me some letters from different precincts that wanted to offer me a job and then sent me home. I just got off the phone with Orlando Precinct who wanted to offer me a job. You just walked in on my celebration."
"You get to stay…."
"Yup, isn't that great?" She smiled a big cheeky grin at him.
"Yeah." He said faintly and sat down.
"What's wrong, Josh?"
"I don't know if I can handle you working as a police officer after seeing you in the hospital."
"It's my job."
"I know, but I love you."
Erin just waited for him to continue speaking. "I don't know if I can go through that again with you. I realized how precious you were, how much I needed you to be there in my life. How I needed you to be around for me to go joke with, to give me advice, to smile with, to humble Justin, keep Joey in line, to listen to Lance, and to laugh at Chris. I can't lose you Erin. I feel you pulling away from me again, that's why you didn't want me to pick you up at the hospital isn't it?"
She sighed and sat down. "No, the reason why I didn't want you to pick me up was because I didn't think I was worthy of your love, after everything that had happened. I don't know what happened Josh; I can't remember a damn thing and its eating me up inside. I want to know so I can deal with what happened and move on."
"I… I love you Josh. Every part of my being loves you, but…"
He reached over and grabbed her hands. "There is no but. We both love each other Erin and we are going to work through this. There is no I anymore, everything we do will be us working together through it. I'll be your strength through this, through everything, just like you are mine."
"I… I don’t know what to say."
"If you want to go back and be a police officer, I'll hate it every step of the way, but I'm behind you 100% of the way."
"Well, Joshua, I guess if you can put up with my stubbornness, my job, and my uneasiness until my memory returns, if it ever does, then I can put up with you never being home and your teenybopper admirers."
He laughed and swung her around in a circle. "I don't know what I ever did to deserve you."
"Nothing. We're going to survive won't we?"
"We're soulmates, Red. Two halves of a whole. We can survive anything."
"I love you Joshua Chasez."
"I love you Erin Kinsela"
"What you want more than that?"
"I want a happy ending."
He looked into her blue eyes that glowed with happiness and couldn't seem to pull his own away. He leaned down to kiss her and she met him halfway, wrapping her arms around his neck with a smile on her face the entire time.
"Will the defendants please rise." The Judge asked.
JC, Justin, Lance, Chris and Joey all stood to hear the jury's final verdict on their music career. They had been tied up in court for months, determining whether NSYNC's name belonged to Trans Con or to NSYNC themselves, also there was a little matter of $150 million dollars but they weren't worried about that so much as to who owned their name. JC glanced at Justin to hi right, and noticed that he was twisting his pinkie ring, sure signs of nervousness. He then glanced to his left and saw the rest of the group staring straight ahead but they all had the same glazed and nervous expressions on their faces. Please, oh please Lord, let us get through this.
"We the jury find the defendants not guilty of any of the points being settled today."
All the guys slumped in relief and hugged one another.
"Court dismissed." The Judge brought the heavy gavel down signaling the end to the trial.
JC looked behind him and saw a short, red head trying to make her way through the crowd of family members and friends who were currently congratulating them all on their success.
"Josh! I can't get through…" He heard her muffled still trying to get through. He reached his hand in, grabbed hers and pulled into his embrace.
"That's what you get for being so short." He laughed down at her.
"HA. I just didn't want to hurt anyone by using force, someone might claim police brutality or something."
"Uh huh sure."
"Oh stuff it, Chasez and kiss me." She smiled.
"In public?" He asked with a mock expression of horror.
"NO, in the bathroom." She said giving him a weird look.
He obliged her with a quick soft kiss on the mouth and pulled her into another hug. "I'm so glad this is over."
"Me too. I was starting to get worried that I wasn't going to be able to hear the verdict if they stretched it out any further." She was currently undercover in a big celebrity case in California and would have to fly out back next case.
"How is your case going?"
"Good. I'm not allowed to talk about it though, after we make our break next week, I'll tell you all about it when I get home."
"OK. I trust you."
She stood up on her toes and kissed his cheek, showing how much she appreciated that.
"Hey Erin, Its been awhile, How are things?"
The guys had managed to wiggle there way out of all their admirers to find the two of them in the middle of the throng of people. "Good and yourselves?"
"Yeah, we can finally release the new album and single and start the new tour soon."
"You guys are going to be leaving me again, so soon?" She said with a hurt expression, then glanced over at JC.
"Yeah, we have the new european tour up next and now that this is taken care of, we'll probably be gone in a few weeks."
"OH. I'll miss you guys."
"We'll call and write frequently, girlie." Justin said, scooping her up in his arms for a big hug. "You're coming to the party tonight right?"
"Yeah Mom set up a huge celebration in honor of being able to keep our name. I think its at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown."
"I wouldn't miss it." She said smiling.
"I'll pick you up, Erin." JC said
"Of course you will dear. What good are you to me then, if you don't?" She laughed.
He just smiled and shook his head at her. "Nine then?"
"Sure. I need to get back to my office but I'll see you guys tonight, alright?"
A chorus of "Goodbye, Erin's" rang out from the guys before they were all swept back into the sea of people that were there to congratulate them. She laughed at the mob of people and walked out of the courthouse. It had been four months since she and JC had decided to work things through and both couldn't be happier. Her wound had healed and bits and pieces were coming back to her from her absence with Gary. At least I know that he didn't rape me…
That was the biggest relief and the step that her and Josh had needed to move on in their relationship. She pulled into the precinct's parking lot and smiled, remembering her birthday in LA when the guys had surprised her, dressed all in black and black ski masks so no one would recognize them and blow her cover. They only stayed the night but it was still nice and quite the shock to have them show up on her doorstep, holding roses and dinner.
She got off work and headed home to change. She pulled out a short black dress and laid it down on the bed while she went and showered. She put on a little bit darker make-up than she usually did and clipped her now chin length hair back with dragonfly clips. She
sprayed herself with her favorite Vanilla perfume and just as she was stepping into her heels, the doorbell rang.
She opened the door to fin a single red rose being held out to her. She laughed and took it, holding it up to her nose to smell it. "Thanks, Josh."
"You're welcome." He said stepping into the doorway. "You look nice." Nice? How about gorgous?
"Thanks so do you." What an understatement! He was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and a bright blue tie that matched his eyes. He had put blonde highlights in his hair a couple of weeks ago and the overall look just made her feel lucky to have found someone like him, to have found him.
"Ready, Red or are you just going to stare at me for the rest of the night?"
"Uh, stare." She said with a smirk and then rushed to get her coat.
They entered the ballroom to find it decorated in black, white and silver. There was a huge buffet off to the side and she spotted a bright red head already in line. "Joey's here." Erin laughed.
Table were set up around a dance floor and there was a DJ spinning records for the guests up on stage. "Want to go and find a table?" JC asked.
"I'm sure the guys already have one picked out but sure, why not."
The walked around until they spotted Justin sitting talking to Lance and Chris at a table near the dance floor. "Hey guys, nice of to show up." Justin said when he spotted them.
"Someone here couldn't pick her jaw up off the floor when I got there so we were late."
"Drooling again, Girlie?"
"Always." She said smiling.
Everyone laughed and began catching up with each other. She hadn't actually seen the rest of the guys except JC for almost a month, due to their recording schedule and her frequent trips to LA. "RED! You and JC, here made it!"
"Hey, Joe. I see you already bee-lined it for the food, man."
"Jace, you know me. Food first. Plus," he leaned over conspiratorially to JC, "I've already checked out the women and the food's a better bet."
"Joe, you're horrible!" Erin smacked him.
"But, you m'dear, owe me a dance later." He winked at her.
"Will do, fine sir, I'll make sure I dance with all of you this evening."
Thanks you's were heard around the table but then their talk was interrupted when Lynn, Justin's Mom walked onstage.
"Can I have everyone's attention?"
The entire room got quiet as they listened to what she had to say.
"As you all know, we've had a trying year what with the threat against our boys' lives and then the lawsuit with Trans Con. We couldn't have gotten through this without all of your support. I don't know how many of you know this, but JIVE has decided to release the new album later this month and the single next week to jump-start their career on their new record label. Let's just hope that this one is better than the last one." Cheers were heard around the room.
Lynn held up her hands to quiet everyone down again. "The boy's parents and I would like to thank everyone who got on the bandwagon to help stick it to Trans Con and to help these guys be where they're at right now. I'd also like to thank the support of their crew for coming over with us, you guys are the best. Let's keep these 'NSYNC and on top. They deserve the best. Thank you, everyone and have a good time tonight."
Erin looked over at Justin. "You're mom is wonderful, did you know that?"
"Yeah, she is. I can't believe the support that she's given us through this whole mess and don't even forget the rally she helped set up in front of Trans Con studios. Oh boy, we weren't allowed near that place or even to watch it on TV until it was over. Can you believe that there were over two thousand fans out there in support of us?"
"Actually I can, you guys are pretty special." She reached over and squeezed JC's hand.
He leaned over and whispered, "You want to dance?"
"Thought you'd never ask."
He led her onto the dance floor just as a slow song came on, Ice Cream by Sarah Maclachlan. Erin laughed when she heard the words. "Better than chocolate? I don't think I'd even go that far."
"What? You love chocolate more than me?"
"Of course. You are only around so often, but my one true love chocolate is always there for me."
"Erin, I don't know what to do with you sometimes." He laughed at her little smirk.
"You don't DO anything with me, you should feel priveledged that I even allow you in my presence."
"UH huh, sure, yeah right." He laughed but when he looked into her eyes he got serious. "I love you."
"I love you too." She said pulling him closer.
The guys watched the two of them dance and sighed. "Those two are going to be together forever." Justin said with a smile as he leaned back in his chair.
"Yeah, but I bet they're fighting in two months again." Joey spoke up, laying ten dollars on the table.
"Nah, they'll be fine until we leave for tour and then they'll be fighting constantly on the phone until we get back and then they'll make up." Chris said laying ten on the table too.
"I've got you all beat. They'll be fighting by next week when she flies back to LA cause JC won't want her to go in case she'll be hurt." Justin spoke up while reaching for his wallet.
"Well I say they won't be fighting at all but keeping everything inside until we get back from tour and then they'll explode and Erin will end laying JC on his butt again." Lance said adding his ten dollars into the pot.
"OK, boys, we’ve got a bet."
"What are they doing?" Erin asked when she saw the four of them piling money on the table.
"Betting on us probably."
"Will they ever grow up?"
"Probably not." He smiled down at her and kissed the end of her nose.
The song came to an end and they made their way back to the table. Just as they sat down, Lynn came over to the table and told the guys that the guests were requesting a song. "Sure, mom. I think we could serenade the crowd for one song."
"Oh yeah, Lynn, no problem." The guys left Erin sitting at the table and walked up tot he stage and talk to the DJ for a little bit then got some microphones from the back.
"We just wanted to give a shout out to everyone and say Thank you for all of your support and believing in us through thick and thin. We couldn't have come this far without you guys and just think, we could've ended up as the SpiceBoys if we had lost our names." Justin spoke to the ballroom.
JC spoke up next. "Thanks to everyone. We, I don't know what we would have done without your strength." He looked at Erin directly on that last statement and winked at her.
The guys all looked at each other and nodded. Erin groaned. They are going to do something really cheesy.
Here…. We…. Go….
Here we go one more time
Everybody's feeling fine
Here we go now
Bounce your head to the beat
We've got everything you need
Here we go now
Here we go just one more time
And everybody's feeling fine
Here we go now
If you want to party with us
Just feel free and feel the rhythm
Here we go now
You now the party's here
Sing a long and have no fear
NSYNC is here to make you people scream
Now is the time for us to reunite
Come on party people
There's a party going on tonight
Tonight is the night
Everything's gonna be alright
Just get up feel the flow
And Here We Go
Let's sing it one more time
Everybody's feeling fine
We got the skills
To keep this party pumpin baby
Keep dancin all night long
Until the break of dawn
Come on party people
There's a party going on tonight
Tonight is the night
Everything's gonna be alright
Just get up, feel the flow
And Here We Go
~Here We Go by NSYNC~
Erin started laughing the minute they started singing. Why does this song just seem to fit the mood so well?
When the song was over, everyone clapped, whistled, and stomped their feet showing their support of the guys and pledging their continued support. The guys came running off the stage and JC swept Erin up into his arms. "Red, we're gonna make it. Not just us, but the group as well. I think it just sank in what's all happened today."
She threw her arms around his neck. "I knew it all along."
A familiar tune came on the speakers just then and she pulled JC out onto the dance floor to slow dance. "I can't believe you are making me dance to country, sweetheart."
She ignored him as the opening strains started and leaned her head against his chest.
If you get out in the driving rain
Stand in the eye if a hurricane
And never think twice
If you turn your back on selfishness
And your thoughts are for someone else
Cause they've changed your life
That’s how you now its love
That’s how you know its meant to be
When the span of forever
Just never seems long enough
That’s how you know its love
When your heart insists that you give it all
When you no longer fear the fall
And you just let go
When the past is finally dead and gone
Fate leads to somewhere to the one
That has your soul
That’s how you know its love
That’s how you know it meant to be
When the span of forever
Just never seems long enough
That’s how you know its love
No part of you questions
No part of you doubts
You're only sure this is what loves about
And noting and no one
Can stand in your way
Or keep you from sayin what your heart is dyin to say
That’s how you know its love
That’s how you know its meant to be
When the span of forever
Just never seems long enough
That’s how you know its love
~That’s how you know its love by Deana Carter~
When the last strains of the song died away. Erin looked up with tears in her eyes and said, "that describes us to a T, Josh. I love you."
"I love you too." He bent his head down and kissed her and didn't let go, neither of them noticing the party going on around them.
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