(“You think you’re in love like it’s a real sure thing. But every time you fall you get your ass in a sling…” --Aerosmith)
JC, you decided, was just overreacting. He couldn’t have been thinking clearly when he got up in your face and screamed that if you loved Chris, you should just fucking go to him, already. He clearly didn’t have all his faculties intact when he slammed out of the room in a tantrum worthy of a soap opera, muttering about sacrifices and needs and loyalties.
He was overreacting. You were sure of it.
You probably should have thought things through before you decided to talk to Chris, because if you were completely honest, Chris was part of the problem, and even though his advice was the most sound, he probably couldn’t be objective in this particular circumstance.
It was just…Chris was so understanding. Chris knew you. And Chris had put up with so much of your shit because you put up with so much of JC’s.
Chris didn’t really mind that you dated JC, even though JC had a girlfriend and was doomed to forever suffer under the public eye whether in fashion or females. It upset you, just a little, that JC was so cavalier about his relationship with you, or that he made no secret about his very public dalliance with his so-called girlfriend.
“She’s just a fling, baby,” He’d murmur in your ear after the two of you finished making love, and you would offer him a pinched smile, pretending to understand, and tell him you loved him.
Chris understood where you were coming from in relationships, and how sometimes you just needed to take affection where you could get it, even if it was in unhealthy places.
Chris was the one who made you smile, the one who somehow played on your level, instead of dragging you down to his or trying to rise above yours. The cards were all from the same deck when you played with Chris, and it’s something you appreciated more than you ever let on.
He was there the time your blood sugar got a little too low, and you found yourself on the floor, head in your hands, black spots swimming crazily before your eyes.
“Call an ambulance,” He barked, sending interns scurrying everywhere, and a second later he pressed a cool glass of juice to your lips.
“Drink this,” He whispered soothingly, and greedily you gulped the liquid down, grimacing at the tart taste of orange, coughing as you swallowed too quickly.
You pushed the glass away, full, but he just brought it right back to your mouth. “Your sugar is 36,” He snapped. “Finish the fucking orange juice. Now.”
If you hadn’t been drifting in and out of consciousness you might have been surprised at the stern tone in his voice, but obediently you gulped down the juice and waited for the sugar to take effect. Slowly you felt your body return to normal, your pulse rate slowing down, body cooling from the sweat that had surfaced.
“JC,” You croaked, and you missed the hurt look that flashed in Chris’s eyes as he turned to see the younger man standing in the doorway.
Once he was sure that the immediate danger had passed, JC was all over you, drawing you up in his arms and petting your head like a prized kitten.
“I was worried, sweetheart,” He mumbled into your hair, but you were looking for Chris, trying to thank him. He had left without a trace.
The following day JC professed a profuse interest in your diabetes, which you shrugged off as just passing fascination.
“What’s your sugar now?” He’d demand over and over, and you’d roll your eyes and make up some number just to please him, because you knew he wouldn’t want to watch you perform the actual test.
“That’s….just…I mean…you have to…” He sputtered as you pressed the needle into your stomach, injecting your body with insulin. “That’s sadistic! I mean, how can you give yourself SHOTS?!”
“I’ve been doing it for over fifteen years,” You replied wryly. JC just wrung his hands.
Sometimes, you think, you shouldn’t even be with him. After all, the two of you have very little in common. You pride yourself on being down-to-earth, even though you know you’re a little materialistic. You know you’re talented at what you do, and sometimes you think JC resents you because of your occupation. He’s been trying to gain respect as a writer for years, but you gently remind him that what you do is a different breed of writing, and it placates him…sometimes.
You and Chris like to make fun of JC’s girlfriend when she’s not around. Chris likes to call her “the professional,” which he quickly shortened to “the pro” before disintegrating into “the probe.” You settle for less-than-flattering terms when you’re being charitable. You’re not quite sure why you resent her so much, beyond the obvious reasons. Granted, she’s got a temper and is glaringly superficial and rather nasty to JC’s fans, but the fact is that you’re both in the same field and you probably should be helping each other out. Except she doesn’t know about you. You think.
You ask Chris about it one evening while you’re waiting for JC to come back from a “dinner meeting.” At first, Chris won’t answer your questions, but eventually he caves and says, in a very gentle voice, “sweetie…she has to know about you. I mean, she has to. JC isn’t one for keeping secrets.”
It bothers you.
When this whole thing started, you weren’t all that upset about being the other woman. Your parents had been through a nasty divorce and you saw how the person how plays fair gets fucked over in the end, so why even bother? Why not play dirty and enjoy yourself while you can?
Meeting JC was perfect timing.
The two of you hit it off, and to his credit he admitted his public attachment on your first sordid little “date.” Granted, he waited until you were pressed against your hotel room door and his tongue was in your mouth, but you had to give the guy credit for ingenuity. Slipped that one right under the radar.
You’re happy you met all of *NSYNC at once. It was overwhelming at first, so many different personalities and voices and idiosyncrasies to contend with, but eventually you sorted them all out and grew to form opinions about each of them, separately.
Strangely enough, you bonded most acutely with Chris. He had been sort of distant with you at
first, until he figured out that you were also Pennsylvania-born, which
practically made you family, in his book.
The two of you would spend long hours on the bus when JC wasn’t around,
debating the finer points of Rolling Rock and Yuengling. Chris tried to argue that IC Light was a
decent beer, but you told him you’d rather drink from the Susquehanna, thankyouverymuch. He
gave you a dirty look, and then a hug a moment later, and asked if you liked
JC, you think, resented your relationship with Chris. For all his hype about being low-key and easy-going and mellow, he was a possessive son of a bitch, and often made “suggestions” like “stay in your room tonight, baby…maybe take a bath with that stuff I like.” Such suggestions were met at first with looks of incredulity from you, snickers from the rest of the guys who were pretending not to listen to your conversation, and resignation when you realized he would pout unless you did as he asked. You figured, in the end, it was worth it, because he would come back to your room hard and hot and needy, and that was the way you liked him best.
You weren’t quite sure when you stooped low enough to crave sex more than anything else in the relationship, but somewhere along the line it happened, and you weren’t proud of it. Chris said it was because JC didn’t have a true emotional bone in his body; he was too detached from everything to feel anything at all, but you defended him, saying that he was afraid and didn’t want to get hurt.
“Who’s doing all the hurting?” Chris asked you pointedly, and you didn’t really have an answer for that one.
You tried to talk to JC about it, tried to ask him where your relationship was going and what he wanted from you, but he’d just look at you with that too-blank stare and reach for your breasts, murmuring “fuck me,” in that quiet voice he knew got to you. You gave up and gave in, same as always.
You weren’t used to Chris being the “mother” of the group, not really. For all his hype about being loud and immature and boisterous, he was relentlessly protective of everyone around him, and he’d bustle from person to person, making sure that meds were taken and hugs were given and questions were asked about day-to-day life. Chris became some sort of uncomfortable comfort; his questions about your happiness with JC would make you squirm and ache, alternately, but you wouldn’t feel right if he didn’t ask.
“He’s being an asshole, sweetie,” He told you point blank one evening, after you found JC drunk in your bed, with a hickey behind his right ear. “You shouldn’t have to put up with him.”
“What am I supposed to do then?” You asked morosely. “Leave him?”
“He isn’t yours to begin with,” He replied, in his brutally-honest way of speaking. It made you squirm. “You have nothing to lose.”
But you did. And so you stayed with him.
There were times, of course, where you enjoyed being around him. JC loved to give massages and peppered your spine liberally with kisses when he was feeling frisky. He liked to go shopping and didn’t mind all that much when you wanted to be alone. When he got fed up with his loneliness he would crawl into your arms and beg to be kissed until the two of you were writhing on the plush carpet, limbs wrapped around each other and hips bucking frantically.
He didn’t like to be held after sex.
He got annoyed when he felt you worked too much, or when you would give another artist a little-too-enthusiastic review, especially if he didn’t like them. It bugged him that you had a broader scope of music knowledge than he did, and it drove him up the wall when you went to concerts and the artists knew your name, but not his.
“Groupie much?” He’d grumble, and you’d shoot him an icy stare and drop his hand from yours. The two of you wouldn’t say another word until he found you in the shower and begged your forgiveness as you fucked under the water’s spray.
“Your entire relationship is based on fucking, you know that right?” Chris asked as the two of you scarfed down french fries and giant glasses of Cherry Coke.
”What?!” You sputtered, too indignant to realize he was telling the truth.
“I’m not saying it isn’t good fucking, because the way JC talks,” He smirked as your eyes widened in stunned disbelief, “it is, but you’re too nice a girl to put up with his shit all the time. You need to find a guy who knows how to fuck and stays around enough to care.”
“JC’s around,” You said defensively, but Chris merely countered with, “where is he now?” and you realized you had no idea.
You found him, three hours later, sprawled out on the still-made hotel bed, his so-called girlfriend beneath him. Her legs were wrapped high around his waist, and his head was thrown back, his eyes closed, as he worked his hips roughly. You stared, transfixed, a pedestrian at the scene of an accident. Your mouth opened and closed as you tried to decide what to say.
His girlfriend chose that moment to open her eyes, and when she saw you, she smiled…slowly, nastily…nothing like the photographs she loved to be in.
“Ungh…Josh,” She moaned, and he groaned in response, mumbling “love” and “baby” and “need” before letting go in a high-pitched yelp.
When you showed up at Chris’s door a few moments later, you didn’t have to explain a thing. He simply ushered you in and sat next to you on the bed as you sobbed, rubbing your back soothingly and mumbling soft words of comfort in your ear until you finally calmed down.
“Thanks, Chris,” You said softly, and when he smiled his eyes were so, so sad.
“Anytime,” He whispered.
“Anytime” eventually became “all the time,” until one afternoon as you sat on his bed, wiping your eyes with a wadded-up tissue, he said, suddenly, “I can’t do this anymore.”
You blinked, not quite sure what “this” meant, and began to speak, but he cut you off, words tumbling out of his mouth rapidly.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be a good friend to you or help you out or whatever, but for fuck’s sake I’ve been in love with you for a year now and you don’t even fucking realize it half the time and I can’t sit here and watch you cry and pretend you belong to me when you fucking know you’re too wrapped up in JC and his fucking self-absorbed perfection to realize you could have something good and real and fucking honest for a change right in front of you!”
His face was red and his breathing was rapid, ragged, as he stared at you, into your eyes that watered anew as you processed his statements, your fingers trembling as you realized their repercussions, your stomach sinking as you knew you could never give him what he wanted.
“I’m…um…I’m sorry, Chris,” You muttered helplessly, and stole out the door.
You stood in the hallway for several long moments, heart pounding loudly in your ears, cheeks flushing with embarrassment as you realized you had no place to go, not really. You sure as hell couldn’t go to JC, Lance didn’t give a shit about you anyway, Joey was out at some club, and you knew Justin hated you just enough to fuck you and then go tattle on you to his best friend. And so you gloomily went downstairs and asked if it was too late for you to get your room back, the one your magazine had reserved for you but you canceled in the interest of being economical. The front desk clerk raised an eyebrow but didn’t say a word as she handed you your key, and you trudged over to elevator, head hung low, as you contemplated when your perfect life went so tragically wrong.
When you made it upstairs you could see Joey stumbling down the hall, Dre at his heels, hawk’s gaze fixed on the blonde minx in front of him with her arms curled possessively around Joey. As the three of them approached Joey’s room, you could hear the bodyguard begin what you not-so-affectionately referred to as the “booty quiz,” a series of questions designed to cover their asses should Susie or Ashley or whomever decide that she could sell stories of her little sexcapade to whichever rag wanted to buy them. Tonight’s girl answered each question eagerly, biting her lip as she tried to tamp down her nervousness, until at last access was granted and she slipped silently into the waiting pop star’s room.
You were almost to your door when Dre spotted you, and for a moment neither of you spoke, until at last the gigantic man offered you a small, sympathetic smile and said, “rough night?”
You forced yourself to chuckle as you shrugged your shoulders. “Could be worse, I guess,” You replied. “You wanna go find someone for me, Dre?” You asked, semi-playfully, and he smiled.
“Don’t do guys, girlie,” He laughed.
“Lance does,” You quipped, and disappeared behind your door just as he chucked a playfully-tossed crumpled piece of paper at your head.
The room was silent as you walked in, the kind of cool blue stillness that always feels awkward, even if it’s what you’ve been craving. Slowly, you removed your clothes, stripping down to your underwear as you crawled under the covers, your body shivering despite the heavy blankets. You drifted off to sleep, the evening’s memories firmly emblazoned on your mind.
You could feel strong arms snake around you sometime later, a warm, wet, cheek pressed to yours, moist breathing heavy in your ear.
“I’m sorry,” He murmured. “So, so, sorry, baby…I fucked up. I shouldn’t have…”
“Shhhh…” You whispered, “It’s okay.”
Chris just sighed and cuddled closer. You closed your eyes and tried not to cry.
JC, you decided, might not have been overreacting after all…
© 2002 ~A.