Uh, in the morning. Now I must sleep.
The cat's already gone to be for goodness sake.
Not Beta'd. Not spell check'd. Not well.
And the timelines are all shot to fuck, but work with me here.
"HAPPY NEW YEAR JC"
JC took a while to settle into this ‘hiatus’ thing. Found himself wandering around looking for…something. Anything. To keep himself busy.
He started things. Projects he thought he wanted to throw himself into, only to abandon them when distracted by something else.
He needed something to keep him busy. Keep him totally focused, distracted.
He was back and forth from the coasts looking for something to replace the…the void he couldn’t seem to fill.
The house in L.A. did it for a while. But he was antsy before long and was back in Orlando…wandering.
He was over his head with happy when ‘schedules’ meshed and he got to visit Lance in Houston. Got to spend a couple of wonderful nights completely distracted.
Seeing Joey in Rent warmed his heart, but made him want to be back on stage.
Getting zany post cards from Chris made him long to be on the road again. On the buses again. Be in a world where it was just he and the guys – in their own little world.
Seeing Justin everywhere he looked left him with mixed feelings. A fierce pride in Justin, seeing him doing the thing he was born to do. At the same time, an underlying annoyance, maybe even jealousy?, at the ease with which the success seemed to come to him.
So he tried keeping himself busy. OnlyArtist.com sprang from Jive shooting down, rather bluntly, whispers of a JC Chasez solo project. Not encouraged to throw himself into anything, he hung out with Tony Lucca. On a lark even performed at a one night gig at the HoB on Sunset Blvd. Who cares if he forgot the lyrics to the second verse. Whatever!
The people at Jive knew about it he bet, but hey, ‘high’-a-tus, dude.
Maybe he was smoking too much weed...Naaaah.
He attended annoying award shows he’d committed to, showed up at openings and ‘events’ he’d promised friends he would. Supported a handful of Celebrity Charities.
Then he hooked up with Dallas and that had done him a world of good. He began to relax enough to write. Dallas was a constant and subtle supporter. Never pushing, never pressuring him to produce material. But the fucker did manage to talk him into writing a song for the soundtrack of his feature film. The guy was good. Even got JC out to do the odd radio thing when the soundtrack ‘track’ news broke. He met Tara through that. She turned out to be a very pretty attraction.
He kept smoking dope, kept back shelving OnlyArtist and spent a lot of time with Tara.
Kept being asked about a solo project of his own. And kept down playing the idea. Jive was powerful. He was unwilling to go up against them on his own. Wind of the Nick Carter/Back Street Boys law suits was a loud enough warning. He’d bide his time.
But despite his own solo project no longer a possibility in the immediate future, songs were accumulating just the same.
A solo project was a strong possibility, just not now, in fact, thinking on the subject many a stoned afternoon, he wondered if he could do what he was watching Justin do.
He decided to hang out with friends and smoke pot instead of looking too closely at that one.
He knew he was talented and probably as driven as his younger bandmate but did he really have that extra push to do it on his own?
He’d tried L.A. on his own after M.M.C.
Did he want to shop himself around alone like Justin? Yes, things were different now but…Maybe he really meant it when he said once in an interview that he was a team player. This solo stuff was not for the feint of heart. The songs he was writing could be used on *NSync’s next album.
The first thing he knew he needed to do was to stop comparing himself to Justin Timberlake. He had to focus on his own thing, his own path. So, he smoked a little dope, goofed around with Tara and…wandered.
He wished it hadn’t been so, but, he felt oddly out of it in New York at the Madame Tussaud thingy. A flash of excitement had shot through him when he realized that the five of them were really all together again after what felt like years instead of just months. He felt awkward, distant, unable to really feel connected. He shuffled along with a vague smile in place unable to process anything going on around him.
Joey saw his floundering and, bless his soul, gently steered him through the media hoops with the rest of them and eventually out a side door to waiting cars.
He let Joey talk him into staying in his hotel suit for old time sake. Slept poorly on the cold leather sofa and left early the next morning for the airport.
Christmas was on him before he knew it and he spent it with his family. It was all so strange and wonderful at the same time that he cried. Joy at being home for the holidays after so long and a deep melancholy of being away from his *NSync family.
Even though he was happy to be home he was restless. Couldn’t sit still, couldn’t focus. JC went out to L.A. a couple of days after Christmas. Tony was playing The Mint at New Years, was working on his set. JC told his mother he needed to be there.
Despite Karen’s disappointment, she understood and agreed that he should go.
She also was on the phone to Chris as soon as JC’s car pulled away from the curb.
"…well, he just left for the airport. He said he had to go back for Tony Lucca's show." She sighed sadly, staring out the window.
"He’s having trouble turning it off." Said Chris setting down his beer feeling guilty drinking while his friend’s mom was on the other end.
"He just seems. Sad. He roamed around the house for three days. Miserable."
"I’ll go see him. Hang out. He’ll be fine, Karen." Reassured Chris playing at condensation on his beer bottle.
"You’re a good friend Christopher." She said blinking back sudden tears.
"So’s JC." He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat.
Karen felt better. She called Bev just to tell her how great her son was.
Chris threw some shit in a bag and booked a flight. Made a few phone calls while he waited until it was time to leave.
"May I speak to Brihanna please." Chris used his best falsetto voice with the odd pubescent voice crack.
"Huh?…ha. Hi Chris." Joey chuckled.
"Just think papa, in a few years, some gangly, pimply, greasy headed raging teenage hormone will be making a call just like that."
"Don't even go there!" crowed Joey shaking his head.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Uh, fine…Chris, you just called me last night, remember?"
"Was that YOU!?"
"HaHa. Asshole. What's up?"
"You. Me. Justin. Lance. Visiting JC in L.A. on the 31st." he said it quickly before he could think that Joey would never go for it.
"Dude, I've got plans." Groaned Joey, feeling guilty and/or regretting the idea of hanging out with the guys on New Years.
"Can they be rearranged at all?" and he held his breath.
"Why? What's wrong?" asked Joey, detecting a strange tone in Chris' voice.
… … …
"Cancel your plans for the 31st if you've got any." Chris bubbled a little too excitedly.
"We need to be in L.A. on the 31st."
"Why? What's happening in L.A. on the 31st? Why the 31st?"
"We're having an intervention."
" A WHAT?!"
Chris thought he heard ice cube tinkle dangerously.
"Just kidding. I think we should all go surprise JC."
"Dunno," he shrugged and settled deeper in the love seat, "uh, actually he's not really taking to this 'time off' idea too well."
"Oh? He seemed fine to me."
"When did you see him?" asked Chris suspiciously.
"Hello. Wax museum. A couple of weeks ago…"
"Oh, yeah, right. You had time to notice anything? We were shot through there like shit through a goose. 'Sides, I just think it would be nice, y'know."
"I've got plans." Lance said flatly.
"Cancel them." Chris said as flatly.
"I don’t' want to."
"Rearrange them?" it was dripping in syrup.
"Why are you trying so hard? Are you up to something?" asked Lance suddenly suspicious.
"No…Alright, if you must know…Karen called me."
"Why?!" Lance still wasn't sure.
"She's worried about her baby, what can I say." Chris tried to make light of it but Lance heard the genuine concern in his voice.
"That doesn't sound good." Said Lance thinking about his own m-
"Remember when your mom called Lynn about that-!"
"Shit! YEAH. Okay, okay. Gimme a couple of days to get things squared away. I'll get back to you…And I was like seventeen! When that happened."
"Seventeen…Riiiiight," laughed Chris, "I'm flying out this afternoon. Call my cell."
"You call Joey and Justin?"
"I already called Joey. I'll call Justin when I get to L.A."
"Okay, I'll hook up with you in a couple of days." Said Lance reaching for his laptop.
"Hey..." He was finding it hard to swallow again.
Mental note: LAX; not a place to be between Christmas and New Years! Thought Chris as he shuffled through security with the rest of the first class cattle.
He'd slept on the plane and was all cotton mouthed and groggy. In perfect condition to be spotted by the press…whatever, he was on hiatus.
… … …
He checked into the hotel smoothly and went up to his room. He tipped the bell man generously, it was the holidays after all, and threw open the drapes. He looked out at the Hollywood hills in one direction the sign staring down at him like teeth and looked out at the endless expanse of the Pacific in another. Nice room he thought kicking off his shoes and scrunching his toes in the carpet's thick pile. He remembered times in Europe when they would all stay in the same room, the five of them sharing two lumpy double beds. Sometimes it was to stay warm, sometimes it was because they'd spent a little too much of their per diem money calling home because they were homesick or buying snuck-in beer. They were a lifetime away from that now.
Sometimes he thinks he'd like it if they were still living that way.
He shook himself from his reverie and got a beer out of the honour bar.
He flopped down on the king size bed and picked up the phone.
Took a long swig of cool beer listening to the phone ring at the other end.
"Hey gimpoid! Clear your hectic social calendar on the 31st."
"Hey! Chris! Uh…I’m fine thanks for asking, how are you?"
Chris could hear the grin in Justin’s voice.
"I *know* you of all people don’t have a date or social life or plans. I just thought I’d say that to make you feel like you had friends or something. How’s the foot, gimp?"
"Shuddup! I do have a social life and the foot’s doing fine thank you." Justin laughed propping the walking cast on his coffee table, "what are you up to now…?" suspecting the master mind was plotting something like world domination or a flight to Chicago for pizza.
"We need a meeting." Said Chris more seriously than he had intended it to. He'd wanted to joke and cajole Justin into it otherwise he might dig his heels in and not do it.
"What’s wrong?! Is it Lance? Is he okay?"
Chris winced as Justin’s voice went up an octave with concern.
"Relax Romeo, your secret crush is fine. He hasn’t quite hit rock bottom yet. He’s gotta wake up with a dead hooker before we start worrying about him. You might want to think about keeping Valentine’s Day open for that though."
There was a long sighed silence before Justin spoke.
"It’s JC, isn’t it?"
"What is it 'this' time?" he asked shortly, plucking fluff off his sweats.
"Ooooo! All those touchy-feely books really do make you sensitive and compassionate don’t they." Snapped Chris in a flash of anger.
"Well. Excuse me if I don’t feel like carrying somebody else’s chip, okay. Call me selfish, but c’mon…"
"Ouch. For you information, it’s not about what your stampeding ego thinks it is. And it’s NOT always about you, you fuck."
"Well, it’s not! He’s just…Look! Karen called me for crying out loud."
"What?!...Gees. His mom?" Justin was worried.
"What’s the plan?"
"Uh, yeah, uh, Tony?"
"Hi. It's Chris, Chris Kir-"
"Hey Chris! How you doing man?"
"Awesome. What up dude?"
"Well, actually, its about JC…"
JC slouched against the kitchen counter absently playing at a curl, staring bleary eyed at the dribbling coffee maker.
He half moaned, half purred as delicate arms snaked around him and soft curves molded against his back.
He could feel her lips smiling against his back.
" 'mmmorning." He mumbled gruffly, stroking her arm.
"Sleep well?" she asked rubbing her nose against his vertebrae
He grumbled low as he subtly shrugged out of her hold and reached for a couple of mugs.
Tara backed off watching his body language silently. He wasn't going to be pleasant company today. Again. She wasn't even going to try and turn it around.
"Uh, look…I've got, like, a million things to do, today. I should…"
"Yeah. Sure. Yeah…" he agreed just a little too quickly.
Their eyes met for a moment. Hers filled with understanding and a little hurt, his a mix of regret and frustration.
"No. No, 's okay. I. Y'know. I gotta go. I'll call you." She waved him off and left the room quickly.
And he just watched her walk out, couldn't be bothered trying to stop her.
He sighed heavily and set the mugs down a little harder than necessary.
He sequestered himself in his studio. Didn't wait for her to leave. Tara knew where the door was. He was behaving like crap. He didn't care.
"…Lance will be getting in later tonight. Joey's just coming through security now." Chris said into his cell phone squinting at the arriving passengers, I need new lenses, he thought.
"Chris, man! Why ain'tchoo all hangin' in my crib?"
"Hello? Hello? I was just speaking to Justin Timberlake. Could you put him back on the line. Hello?…What the hell did you just say?!"
"Dude! I've got this huge place here now. You guys come stay out here with me. Why else did I buy it if not for friends to crash."
"Well, it is the size of an amusement park."
"Fuck off. Check out of your hotel and come stay here. Be like old times, man!"
"Have you talked to JC lately?"
"Hey, T. Why, what's wrong?"
"Tony, he's…" she cut herself off before she started whining.
"He's being such a…a..bitch." she pouted in frustration.
Tony chuckling didn't help.
"Don't laugh. He's just being a miserable cow!"
Tony cleared his throat, stalling.
"Tony….." Tara whined.
"He'll come around. Just give him some space."
"I'll give him all the space he wants. I've got better things to do than get poked by a cactus."
"You might not have to."
"And why's that?"
"Chris and the rest of them are all coming to see him."
The sun was setting like an over ripe blood orange.
JC lay sprawled on the sofa watching it, some shit ass new age music insinuating itself all over the house.
Curled ash hung from a 'rainforest' incense stick as it burned down, its strands of velvety smoke hanging in the air.
He sighed heavily and stared at his big yellow watch. He knew he should be getting ready for the show at The Mint but couldn't get motivated enough.
He'd try and make it to the closing set, he promised himself. A squidge of guilt burned in his stomach but not enough to get him off the sofa and he dropped his arm across his eyes blocking out the last drops of colour bleeding from the sky.
The room was painted in angles and shadows. The horizon hummed a deep indigo clouds skirted in fluorescent magenta.
JC considered ignoring the insistent knocking at his front door because he swore that whoever it was that was pissing the patience out of him was going to regret ever being born.
But with a frustrated growl he hoisted his lethargic ass out of the sofa cushions and stomped toward the door.
He yanked it open hard enough to have it bang against the wall and nearly slam shut again if Joey hadn't bustled forward as soon as it opened.
JC yelled and hopped back as he was engulfed in an octopus of groping arms and sucking mouths.
The others clambered all over him, Chris leapt at him and hung on as they pressed him back into the house.
With a collective whoop they all collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs on the sofa. Justin thumped his ankle and squalled dramatically, rolling off Joey's legs and sitting down on the floor hard.
Lance came up laughing peeling Chris off JC's neck as Joey lay under JC, arms locked around his waist, nose buried in his hair.
"You smell guh-" he started before JC started squirming away from Chris' poking fingers and elbowed him in the liver.
"Ouch! Hey!" whined Justin getting he wasn't sure who's knee in the head.
"Okay. Okay. GUYS!! Time OUT!!" yelled Lance, rubbing Justin's dome sympathetically.
Joey slipped a quick hand up under JC's t-shirt and stroked him before he slid off him. He hoped JC felt how hard he already was.
A moment of grunts and huffs and they were all settled in relatively upright positions across the couch and grinning like fools.
Justin turned and draped a gangly arm across JC's knees and beamed up at him.
JC sat in disbelief looking from one band mate to the next reaching out, tentatively laying a hand on a cheek or a thigh as if for proof they were real and not hallucinations.
"JC?" Justin poked him gently.
JC giggled. The others snickered but stayed quiet.
"…dudes…" he started, trying to form a coherent thought as Joey slung an arm around his shoulder and Chris leaned into him and kissed the corner of his smiling mouth.
"…what… I mean. What…wha…how?" he began gesturing wildly and Chris captured his fluttering hands in his.
"Yeah. Okay." He settled down staring at Chris' thumb as it stroked softly against the back of his hand, "What are you guy doing here?"
"I'm here for the sex." Blurted Joey giving JC's neck a quick tug.
"Me too." Agreed Chris curling his fingertips into JC's palm.
JC laughed and looked at his friends still a little stunned.
"We're here to watch." Added Lance flatly as his fingers unconsciously rubbing slow circles in Justin's cropped hair.
"We thought we could all use a New Years Eve orgy to make it feel like the good old days." Said Joey leaning comfortably into JC, flicking his tongue out at him when he turned to smile at him.
"Oh." Nodded JC.
"Hey Joey, can you see me over here around all this hair?" asked Chris burying his fingers in the tangle of curls and making a fist.
He tugged JC's head back against the sofa with pretense of wanting to see if Joey could see him.
"Guys, uh, I've got plans for tonight." Said JC trying to look at his watch but Chris wasn't letting go of his hair or his hands.
"Well! We better get on with it then." Said Joey sitting forward and rubbing his hands together.
"I want a drink. Hey, C, got any weed? Booze. Something stonger than 'wine'." asked Justin surveying the shadowy room.
Chris was trailing hot lips along JC's jaw keeping him preoccupied.
"Never mind, we'll find what we need. Lance. Come. Help. Me Fnd…stuff." Said Justin pointedly jerking his head toward the hall.
"Uh, ah, yeah. Yeah. Justin and I'll go find, uh… Stuff. Yeah. We'll be back." Said Lance helping Justin to his feet.
They left the room as Joey stretched out across the sofa dragging JC with him with Chris releasing his hands to get him out of his jeans.
JC sighed and stretched, feeling Joey's restlessness against his lower back.
"I want to thank you all for coming out to see us tonight. You're an awesome audience!" said Tony pushing his glasses back up his nose and running his fingers over his freshly shorn hair.
"It's crowds like you that makes what I do such a fucking awesome job!!" He yelled and downed a swig of his beer as the crowd cheered wildly for itself.
"I've been very fortunate this year. And have quite a few people to thank for that."
He shielded his eyes from the stage lights and squinted into the audience.
Smiled when he saw the five men had finally joined Tara at the reserved table.
"I've got a special friend in the audience tonight and I'd like to dedicate this next song to him…his friends ain't half bad either."
JC smiled brightly as Tony strummed the first cords of a song they'd worked on together. They'd sat heads bent over their instruments when Tony was touring with them and collaborated on the song when they had time.