Chapter 10

“Lonely shadow, you call upon me.

Lay by my side,

Fear not tonight.

Lonely shadow, you’ll find a new light.”

            -Charlotte Church, “Dream a Dream (Elysium)”



“Justin, calm down,” JC implored, getting dizzy from watching his friend pace around in the small area of the sitting room backstage.

“I’m trying, I’m trying,” Justin replied. “I’m just kind of worried that, you know, something might happen.”

It was the night of their next concert. And after the disastrous first one, he was on edge. He just couldn’t get rid of that tiny sensation that kept bothering him.

“You shouldn’t worry,” Lance said. “The chances of the lights going off again are slim to none. Just go out and have fun tonight.”

“You’re right,” Justin answered. But he didn’t sound too convinced.

Lillian observed him stride across the floor a couple more times before he finally collapsed next to her against the wall. “We’ve checked all the controls and equipment at least five times in the last few minutes,” she said. “Thompsen’s not going to allow anything to go wrong.”

He nodded stiffly at her reassurance. She hated to see him so upset. All the muscles in his body were tense and alert. His face appeared closed off, and was taut with apprehension. And there’s nothing I can do about it, she fretted. Actually, there is something I can do.

Throwing her caution to the wind, she reached over and lightly placed her hand on the back of Justin’s warm neck. He stilled at her sudden touch, then gradually relaxed as she began rubbing his muscles soothingly. He instinctively leaned into her hand to enjoy the sensation. Lillian smiled warmly, amused to see that he was acting like a very large cat with his eyes shut in enjoyment, and relieved to know that she was helping him.

JC noticed the intimate touch, and quickly nudged Lance and motioned to the pair. He immediately tapped Chris, who in turn kicked Joey. After picking up their jaws from the floor, they all exchanged little grins. Chris realized how quiet the room had become, and he rushed to fill in the silence before things became awkward.

“So JC, about them Redskins,” he attempted lamely.

JC slapped his forehead, not believing how stupid Chris’ comment was, and Lance laughed quietly. JC decided to initiate the conversation himself.

Lillian continued to gently knead Justin’s neck, and he rested his head on his bent knees. Damn, that feels so good. Note to self: be forever grateful to Lillian. And her magic hands.

Joey, after a few more minutes, decided that Justin was being greedy by monopolizing Lillian’s time, and he ran over to receive his own neck rub. “Scoot over, J,” he urged.

Justin cracked one eye open and glared at his friend, annoyed at being disturbed.

“Come on, it’s my turn now!” Joey whined.

In response, he received a shove from Justin, but his younger friend obligingly rose to his feet. “Thanks, Lillian,” he said in his soft southern lilt.

“You’re welcome,” she replied automatically, the polite answer masking her sudden warm feelings.


*                       *                       *                       *                       *


Justin grinned at JC as they crossed in front of each other on the stage, not missing a single word of the song. JC winked back, as hyper as a frenetic hamster, bouncing along to the music. Things were running smoothly. Understandably, they were only ten minutes into the show, but Justin was eager to alleviate his worries.

“Guess what? It’s gonna be me,” they all sang together, stepping perfectly into the choreographed moves.

“Break it down,” JC shouted into his microphone, and they immediately launched into their interlude of dazzling dance moves. The fans screamed, and just as their noise swelled, the sprinklers in the stadium turned on, spraying jets of cold water over the crowd and the stage.

The platform immediately became soaked by the water, and the guys slipped around haphazardly, attempting to avoid the puddles. The band members immediately dropped their instruments, not wanting to risk being electrocuted.

Security quickly rushed out onto the stage, grabbing the guys and helping them backstage. Lillian, along with a few other people from the tech crew, had their hands in rubber gloves and were unplugging all the speakers and amplifiers. Lillian was amazed at the din from the angry and wet audience. She hoped Tim would be able to think of a way to appease them before they were compelled to do physical harm to the stadium or each other.

“Lillian, get backstage and get all the posters and junk you can find. Then have the guys sign everything they can,” another intern told her. “Tim’s gonna promise the audience free souvenirs.”

She thought that was a good idea, and she rushed off to look for anything a Sharpie marker could write on. As she left the stage she carefully avoided running into other people sliding around in the water, and then ran backstage.

Lance sat with his friends in the sitting room, still wet from the sprinklers. The atmosphere among the five was solemn and disbelieving.

“What the hell is happening?” groaned Justin into his hands.

“Maybe BSB is getting revenge for having all their fans stolen from them,” Joey joked, but his attempt at humor fell flat.

“I just don’t understand,” JC said uncertainly. “That’s three times already. The stage lights, the blackout, and now the damn sprinklers. What’s causing this? Lillian said that Thompsen rechecked everything, more than once even.”

The door swung open to admit a harried looking Lillian. Upon seeing her friends’ gloomy expressions, she was crestfallen.

“Oh, guys, come on, don’t look like that,” she begged, dropping ‘N Sync paraphernalia on the floor and rushing over to console them. The closest person to her was Lance, and he opened his arms to hug her to him, not caring about their wet states. She could feel that right now, they just needed some support. She clutched Lance to her tightly, patting his back reassuringly.

As soon as she let go, Joey was in his place, his sad face looking for his own encouragement. She smiled softly at him and pulled him down for a hug. “Joe, don’t let yourself get down over this.”

She went over to grab Chris’ hand and squeeze it comfortingly. He smiled tiredly in reply, and ruffled her damp hair affectionately. Then she turned to JC and rubbed his shoulder encouragingly. Finally she went to stand in front of Justin. He examined her with his doleful blue eyes before stooping down and holding onto her firmly.

Lillian thought she detected a drop of moisture in his eyes, but it could have been some water dripping from his hair. It doesn’t matter. I can help them right now.

“Shh, come on now,” she murmured in his ear, hearing a suspicious sniffle from him.  “You can get through this. You’re a strong person, Justin. It’s alright.” Her own eyes began to tear at seeing his emotions. He finally released her, whispering a quiet thanks. She gently brushed the water droplets from his curls with her hand, before leaning down to pick up the things she had dropped earlier.

“Tim’s promising the audience an extended meet-and-greet, and also free souvenirs. He wants you guys to sign as much as you can,” she explained, putting the posters, pins, and CDs on the table in the center of the room.

Justin was relieved at the distraction, and quickly took one of the markers Lillian held out to them. Don’t think about the tour. Don’t think about the accidents. Just do what you can do. He grabbed a poster and signed his name, then passed it on to JC. Soon, the five had calmed down and were pacified by the familiar routine. When Joey attempted another joke, they all laughed.

Lillian stood near the door, the expression on her face caring and happy, now that they were happy. Even though she was the youngest one in the room, she felt as if they were the ones who needed assurance and protection, at least in this instance. I hope Security finds out what’s going on. I want to attack whoever’s sabotaging the tour. They should be hurt for worrying my friends like this.

They had all given up on their false hopes of all the odd occurrences being simple “accidents.” There was no question about it; someone was out to harm ‘N Sync and the tour.

She watched her friends protectively from the edge of the room, not knowing that a deep love shined in her eyes, particularly when her gaze fell on a certain person, and it was apparent to anyone who cared to look closely enough.


*                       *                       *                       *                       *


“I didn’t think a meet-and-greet could last so long,” Joey complained. “Was the whole audience there?”

“No, but it sure seemed like it,” Lance replied. “It’s okay, though. I’m sure they were just as upset as we were about the whole thing.”

“That’s true,” Joey agreed. “If I were at a Janet concert and some freak accident happened, I’d be pretty pissed too.”

There was a light knock at Lance’s hotel room door before Lillian came in, freshly showered and looking tired. It had taken the crew forever to clean up all the water and check for any electrical damage.

“Tim and the rest of the tour managers are doing a massive background check on everyone’s files,” she informed them. “I’m glad I don’t have anything bad in my file, because I’ve never seen anyone so mad. Thompsen was fuming.”

“Finally, we’re doing something,” said Justin. “I will personally kick their ass when we find out who it is.” He motioned Lillian over to the empty spot next to him on the bed. “Sit down,” he offered. “We’re going to start movie night soon.”

She gratefully settled her exhausted body on the bed. Joey came rushing into the room, clutching yet another video to his chest. “This one will be good,” he promised his friends as he slid the tape into the VCR. After pushing the play button, he sat down next to JC on the other bed, nudging Lance’s feet out of the way. Chris had dragged a chair over, and he was sitting between the two beds.

“What movie is it?” Lillian asked, yawning.

“A really good one, trust me,” he answered.

A song came from the TV. It sounded vaguely familiar to Lillian, but she couldn’t place it. However, Justin immediately recognized it.

“’The Prince of Egypt?’” he inquired curiously.

“Yup!” Joey grinned. “I thought that tonight we would need something inspiring, uplifting, and filled with great songs.”

“Good job, Joe,” Justin nodded approvingly. The others also smiled. Joey had picked right. They engrossed themselves in the movie, humming along to the songs at certain points.

Lillian tried to keep her eyes open, but the softness of the bed and the soothing smell of Justin sitting nearby compelled her to close her eyes for just a second. The beautiful harmonies provided by both the movie and her friends lulled her into a light doze.

Lance saw Lillian drift off, and he motioned to Justin to not disturb her. Justin nodded his understanding and after his friend turned back to the movie, he shifted his gaze to regard her. She had nestled into the pillow beside him, with her head lying on one hand. Her other hand was lying near his waist, its palm facing up. The sight of her sleeping peacefully was hard to resist. This can’t be the same person who shouted at me when we first met. Lance was right; I was an ass.

He took her free hand in his larger one and gently massaged it, returning the favor from before. His response was a slight sleepy moan, and she shifted closer to him. He stroked her hand as he watched the remainder of the movie.

After the ending credits faded into a black screen, he finally let go and nudged Lillian awake. She peered up at him with her quiet eyes.

“Come on Lillian, the movie’s over,” he told her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” she immediately apologized, sitting up and stretching.

“That’s okay,” Lance offered. “We know how tired you are.”

“I’ll walk you back to your room,” said Justin, getting up and pulling his shoes on.

“Oh. Okay,” she agreed quickly if a little surprised. Why is everyone grinning at me like that?

“I have to talk to Elaine,” Justin explained.

Well, that makes sense. Don’t be silly and get your hopes up over nothing, Lillian.

They walked together out of the room, Lillian trying to ignore the smiles stretching across everyone’s faces and Justin too involved in his thoughts to notice.

Tonight’s the night. I’m gonna tell Elaine that it’s over. In fact, it had never really started. I’m sick of all the crap she gives me. This is it.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Lillian asked when they stopped to wait for the elevator.

“You already did. Go ahead,” he smiled.

“I thought you were going out with Britney Spears,” she said cautiously, noticing how his jaw stiffened.

“That’s not a question.”

“I know, it’s just that everyone thinks that your girlfriend is Britney, but then you’re with Elaine a lot too,” she explained.

He didn’t know how to express into words his unique situation. He was supposedly going out with the woman millions of men lusted after and millions of little girls idolized, but he fooled around with one of the girls from makeup. I completely forgot about Brit. What the hell is wrong with me?

“I don’t really want to talk about it, okay,” he finally said curtly, effectively ending their conversation.

Lillian nodded, a little disappointed that even though they were hopefully friends now, he didn’t trust in her enough to share his problems.

“Okay,” she whispered, feeling discomfited.

They arrived in front of her room, and she unlocked the door to let him in so he could find Elaine. But her roommate was nowhere in sight. Some of her clothes were scattered around the room, but the bed was still perfectly made.

“I guess she hasn’t come back yet,” she offered, spinning back around to face Justin.

“It doesn’t matter,” he answered, already turning towards the door. “I forgot what I wanted to say, anyway,” he lied, and quickly left.

She went to the door and locked it behind him, confused by what had happened. And now their relationship had become awkward again. All because of her question. It had been too personal. She would remember to not try to overstep her boundaries again in the future.

That night, her sleep was troubled and dark.



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