can I find myself an idol
Somebody that I can look up to
Be big enough to hold me close in their arms
And never let me down.”
- “Idol,” Amanda Ghost
never letting JC drive again.”
Lillian smiled up at Justin. “It’s okay. It all turned out fine.”
He sighed and looked down at the girl he held against his chest. “But
it could have turned out worse. You all are just lucky that you got lost in a
nice little neighborhood, and not South Central.”
She snickered. “Yeah, I’m sure we wouldn’t notice accidentally
driving into South Central. You know you’re worrying over nothing, Justin.”
She poked his ribs. “You’re just bored and you want something to argue
Justin grinned. “Yeah. Arguing with you turns me on.”
Lillian sat up and rolled her eyes. “Well, let’s go find something to
stop your boredom.”
He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
“No, not that. You have to mellow out, Hormone Boy.”
“I’m not Hormone Boy! That’s Joey!”
“Then you’re his sidekick, Horndog,” she shot back, laughing.
Justin stood up and pretended to look furious. “Horndog?! Did you just
call me Horndog? You are gonna get it now, Princess.” He began advancing
threateningly towards her.
Lillian stuck her tongue out at him and bolted to the hotel room’s
door. “You couldn’t get me if you tried, Horndog.”
She reached for the doorknob but it turned in her grasp. She jumped away
from the door as it swung open, narrowly missing hitting her.
“Hormone Boy!” she exclaimed, seeing Joey standing in front of her
and looking confused. “Help me!”
“What help who now?” he asked, lost.
Justin grabbed Lillian’s arm before she could run out into the hall and
held on firmly. “Get her other arm, Joe.”
Joey obeyed. “Why are we accosting Lilypad again?”
“Because she called you Hormone Boy and me Horndog.”
“I didn’t call Joey Hormone Boy. That was you, Justin,”
Joey laughed. “Horndog. That’s funny.” Lillian began laughing along
Justin glared at both of his immature friends. “Come on, Joey, it’s
time to give Princess her comeuppance.”
Joey shrugged. “Alright. I have nothing else to do. Stupid rules. No
They proceeded down the hall, dragging Lillian behind them easily.
“This isn’t fair!” she protested. “I’m smaller than you! Ugh,
JC is going to hear about this.”
In response, Justin clamped his hand over her mouth. “Don’t force me
to get the chlorophyll.”
She jerked her head away from his mouth. “Okay, first of all, it’s chloroform.
Chlorophyll is the photosynthesizing pigment in plants. And second-“
Justin put his hand back over her mouth. “This is what I get when I
kidnap MIT students. Quiet, girl!”
They climbed into the elevator. To Lillian’s relief, there was no one
else inside to witness her ‘kidnapping.’
“So what are we going to do with her?”
Justin thought to himself. “We’ll…embarrass her…somehow…”
Joey laughed. “Great plan, Horndog.”
Justin glared. “You be quiet or you’re joining her.”
They got off on the lobby floor and began making their way to the indoor
pool, but were interrupted by a shout behind them.
“Hey, what are you two doing!”
All three turned around to see who was addressing them.
“Oh, hi Johnny,” Justin greeted sheepishly. He took his hand away
from Lillian’s mouth. “We weren’t doing anything.”
“Sure, J. And I’m having an affair with Halle Berry,” Johnny
replied sarcastically. “Now I’m sorry to interrupt your little escapade
here, but we need Lillian in the conference room to help with some computer
glitch. She is here on an internship, you know.”
Justin sighed, watching his manager and his girlfriend heading down the
hallway towards the hotel’s many conference rooms.
“I’m so bored!” Joey exclaimed, grabbing his head. “Where is
Justin paused to remember where everybody had gone. “Let’s
see…Chris is on a conference call, going over some FuMan business. Lance is
with Jace. I think they went to try on their clothes for the performance.
Actually, Hannah went with them, too.”
“Great. We’re the only ones with nothing to do,” Joey complained.
“No women and no beer make Joey a dull man.”
“I guess we can pop in on the fitting session,” Justin suggested.
Joey perked up. “Yeah, we could! Besides, it’s always fun to laugh at
the outfits they always make Lance wear. I swear, they’re out to get him.”
“Lance, that looks so good!” Hannah exclaimed, watching him come out
from behind the screen.
Lance examined himself in the mirror. “Yeah, it actually does. What’s
up with that?”
Trish, one of the wardrobe managers, looked up at his question. “Well,
Johnny told us how important this Grammy performance is going to be. He warned
us: no fruity clothes.”
Lance nodded. “Well, I, for one, am grateful for that. Why did we never
wear tuxes for a slow song before?”
“Because it’s damn uncomfortable,” JC answered, emerging from
behind the other screen set up in the hotel room. He fidgeted with his tie,
trying to straighten it out. “Trish, help me with this before I choke
Hannah looked at him and took in his appearance. His tuxedo was similar
to Lance’s, but the designs were different. Josh’s was a white silk, while
Lance had on a dark blue coat with a duller sheen. They both looked incredible.
JC took Lance’s place in front of the mirror. He stood still while
Trish adjusted his tie and another wardrobe assistant pinned back the looser
areas of the tux. Glancing up into the mirror, he caught Hannah staring at him.
He caught her eye in the reflection and winked.
“Like what you see?”
She blushed and darted her glance away. “It looks nice.” Nice?
Come on, Hannah, you mean incredibly sexy.
JC laughed softly at her flustered demeanor. She really was a trip to
Hannah turned back to watch him as he struck up a conversation with
Trish. She knew that he was just playing around, and that she shouldn’t take
his actions and words at face value, but she simply couldn’t. Her emotions
were overriding her usual common sense.
She was still fixated on the way he had been watching her yesterday. His
expression was completely unguarded, and it had made her feel so warm inside.
But he hadn’t mentioned anything since then, not in the car and not today. She
wanted to ask him about it, but she was too scared of what he might say. Knowing
Josh, he would shrug everything off and pretend like it was no big deal. To her,
though, it felt incredibly important.
The door to the room flung open and the occupants inside stared at Justin
and Joey as they burst in.
Joey looked at his two friends in their tuxedos and his grin fell off his
face. “Man, they don’t look stupid!”
Lance rolled his eyes. “Wow, what a compliment.”
“Poofu, you don’t look your usual goofy self!” Justin complained.
“Trish, what did you do to him?”
Trish looked up from her position next to JC’s leg, adjusting the hems
on his pants. “I worked my usual magic. And actually, now that you two are
here, you can try on your tuxes!”
Joey shook his head, backing towards the open door. “Nuh uh. I didn’t
come all the way up here to try on suits! Not my idea of fun.”
“Well, that’s too damn bad,” Trish replied, grabbing his arm and
swinging him behind a screen. She took a covered hanger and tossed it to him.
“Put that on.”
She handed another to Justin. “And that’s yours. Try it on.”
Justin groaned, knowing he was stuck. “This day sucks.”
“Come on, don’t you want to look good for your girlfriend?” Trish
asked, raising her eyebrows teasingly.
Justin raised his chin cockily. “I always look good for my
JC coughed into his hand. “Bullshit! Ahem, excuse me.”
Justin glared and would have attacked but Trish pushed him behind the
other screen before the violence escalated.
Lance and JC sat down next to Hannah on the bed, waiting to see how Joey
and Justin looked.
“What are you wearing for the performance?” Lance asked Hannah.
“We’re getting the clothes an hour before today’s rehearsal.
Sondheim was talking about dark blue dresses for the girls and white shirts and
black pants for the men.”
Joey came out from behind his screen, looking confused.
Lance took one look at him and began cracking up. “What is that?!”
“Trish, I think you gave me Chris’s tux!” Joey whined. He flailed
his arms, showing how the sleeves were a few inches too short.
“Stop moving, you’ll rip it!” Trish ordered, holding his arms down.
“But at least the color looks good on you.”
Joey stared at himself, confused. “It’s black.”
“Hey, black is the year’s new black,” Trish explained.
“Never mind. Just take that off and try this on one.” Trish handed
him another covered suit, exasperated.
Justin walked around his screen, pulling on the double lapel of his deep
gray tuxedo. He looked at his similarly attired friends sitting on the bed.
“See, the difference between me and you…”
He spun around, showcasing his appearance. “…is that I make this look
“Oh wow! And the amazing this is, I totally did not expect to hear him
say that,” JC exclaimed in mock surprise.
“Yeah, the originality of that quip was stunning,” Lance commented
“Shut up, Lansten. You know you were up all night looking up ‘quip’
in the dictionary,” Justin shot back.
“ ‘Quip. Noun. A clever, usually taunting remark. Synonym: gibe,’
” Lance recited, grinning.
“I’ll gibe you,” Justin threatened, stalking closer to the bed.
Once again, Trish had to step in the way and turn him away.
Lance took advantage of Justin’s present distraction and raced behind
the screen. “I get to change first!”
Justin groaned. “No, I don’t want to wear this tux anymore! I mean,
sure, I look hot, but it is choking me!” He paused suddenly, his gaze drifting
over to the unoccupied bathroom. JC saw it at the exact same instant.
“It’s mine!” they both shouted, darting over to claim it.
JC had the unfortunate luck of having to get around the two beds and
Trish. He got to the bathroom just as Justin ran in and slammed the door in his
Trish and Hannah shared an amused glance. “Working with them is like
making little boys play dress-up,” Trish complained. She looked at JC, who was
banging the door with his fist. “Why don’t you just change out here? It’s
not like I haven’t seen it before.”
JC raised his eyebrows at Hannah, questioningly.
“I don’t mind,” she said, answering his silent question. She turned
on the television, trying to distract herself from the image of a near-naked
Josh standing ten feet away.
Get a hold of yourself, Hannah! You are a grown-up, not some swooning
teenybopper. She almost laughed out loud. If Sarah were in the room right
JC quickly got out of the tuxedo and changed into his familiar and
comfortable t-shirt and jeans. “Done,” he said, handing Trish the tux and
walking over to shut the TV off.
“Let’s do something more interesting,” he suggested to Hannah.
She looked up at him. Something more interesting than you undressing? She
felt her cheeks flood with color at her thoughts. “Oh. Um, yeah. That sounds
He regarded her curiously, wondering why she had suddenly begun blushing,
but then shrugged it off. It was Brat. Sometimes she was in a world all of her
They said their goodbyes to Trish and the other guys, who were still
changing. From the noises coming from behind the second screen, it sounded like
Joey was having considerable trouble getting out of Chris’s much smaller tux.
“So what do you want to do?” JC asked.
Hannah nudged her glasses higher up the bridge of her nose. “I don’t
“Let’s look around this hotel. I haven’t even been up past the
tenth floor yet. And I know there are more than conference rooms on the ground
She nodded. “Okay. This is a pretty huge hotel. Probably the biggest
one I’ve stayed in.”
“Nah, it’s all right. Nothing spectacular. There was this one hotel,
in Germany, and it was like a national memorial or something. Our room was like
an apartment. It had everything, even a baby grand next to the balcony. And the
kitchen was…” He trailed off, seeing the look Hannah was giving him. He
smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, I was getting carried away there.”
She smiled back. “No, it wasn’t that. I was just thinking about how
you’ve been to Germany and all around the world, and this is the farthest
I’ve ever been from Maryland.”
“Well, it’s not like I love hotel-hopping,” JC replied. “I live
in hotels for practically ten months of each year. Permanence is not a bad
thing, you know. I miss it.”
“No, permanence isn’t bad, it’s boring. I compare my life to
yours, or to Lance’s or Justin’s, and Lillian’s, and I realize that I
haven’t done anything in these twenty-two years!” Hannah burst out.
“It’s like, what have I been doing while you were out getting famous and
JC shook his head. “No, that’s not true. There are two ways to be
successful, in my opinion. One way is to start off big and end up on VH1’s
Where Are They Now. And the second, better way, is to work hard for it so that
by the time you are successful, you have enough experience to know what success
actually is.” He looked at her. “Guess which one is you and which one is
She stared at him. “Josh, it’s not like that.”
“Well, it feels like it. And every day I am scared that this is the day
it’s all going to end. That’s why everyone calls it a dream, you know.
Because you have to wake up sooner or later.”
“That is not true,” she argued. “A dream is before it happens. What
you have now is accomplishment. You have success. And success doesn’t just
stop one day.”
“I don’t have success,” JC said cynically. “Maybe Justin has
success. And Lily definitely has it. But I am not successful. NSYNC, really,
“Why is that?” she asked, bewildered. “The last time I checked, you
are successful when you are happy and satisfied. When your dream comes true.”
He mumbled something in reply.
“I said, what if you’re not happy,” he repeated softly. “What
would you call that?”
She gazed at him. “I would say you’re lying to yourself.”
He looked up, suddenly angry. “You know, you can’t just tell me that
I should feel a certain emotion. It’s how I feel. I can’t change that
to satisfy you.”
She was taken aback at his outburst. She expected him to stalk away any
minute now. But Josh continued to walk alongside her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
“No, it wasn’t your fault. I’m sorry for being so depressing,” JC
answered. He laughed. “How did we get to this topic, anyway?” He looked
around. “And how are we standing in front of the elevator? I thought we were
going to look around.”
“We looked around this hall, if that helps,” Hannah replied lightly,
disguising her concern. She wanted to know how long Josh had been feeling like
this. And she wanted to know how to fix it.
He shook his head, bemused. “Whenever we talk, things just don’t turn
out the way I expect them to,” he told her. “And I don’t know if that’s
good or bad.”
“Thanks,” she muttered.
He laughed again. “The same old Brat.” He stuck his hands into his
pockets and realized that his cell phone wasn’t there.
“Shoot, I forgot my cell phone in Trish’s room. Let’s do this
exploring thing later, okay?” He headed off before she could reply.
Hannah jabbed the elevator button, feeling a surge of frustration but she
couldn’t explain exactly why. Maybe it was because Josh was in the habit of
abandoning her on a whim. Or perhaps it was due to his retreat just as the
conversation was getting interesting. Or maybe she was so upset simply because
after twelve years, the two of them hadn’t made any progress after all.
I hate this. I am so sick of it.
Lillian read the note for what seemed like the thousandth time. ‘It’s
almost time. You or him.’ And
that was all. Almost an exact repeat of the last note.
“I hate this!” she burst out, crumpling up the note and throwing it
across her hotel room. She had hoped that whoever was writing the notes would
lose interest or maybe even forget, but after a few days of peace they were back
at it again.
She hated feeling threatened and scared. She hated how this person knew
where she was and how to contact her. And worst of all, she hated having to keep
it all a secret from Justin. She wished she could throw all her faith over to
him and let him handle it, but that would endanger him. She knew she would die
before seeing him hurt.
‘Almost time.’ Time for what? Nothing big was happening in the
next several days…except the Grammy’s. Comprehension finally dawned on her.
The person was going to make their move at the ceremony, and maybe even during
the band’s pivotal performance.
That realization infuriated her. Justin and the guys had worked so hard
for Grammy night. They worried themselves sick over critical approval and
recognition. And now this psycho was trying to stop them. By threatening her.
“That is it,” she said out loud, jumping up from the bed and storming
over to the door. She knew what to do now. She would show this freak how she
responded to threats against the people she loved.
Justin rolled over, burying his face into his pillow.
“Justin,” Lillian whispered. She had let herself into his and JC’s
room with the key he had lent her. She was finally done with everything.
He frowned, still half-asleep. “What?”
“I love you.”
“Joey, if that’s you, I am going to kick your ass,” he mumbled,
finally opening his eyes and squinting at the person next to his bed.
“Princess? What are you doing?”
She smiled in the darkness. “Just came to visit?”
Justin moved over on the bed, lifting the covers. “Climb in. Be quiet,
though, Jace is sleeping.”
She obeyed and immediately snuggled against him. “I do love you.”
“I know. I love you, too. Now go to sleep.”
She listened to the slow, steady beat of his heart under her cheek. He was so innocent and adorable when he was sleeping. Like a little boy. She could feel him drift off to sleep again, and she gently stroked the short hair at the nape of his neck. She would take care of him.