“You smiled and then the spell was cast

And here we are in heaven

For you are mine at last.”

                        - “At Last”, Etta James




            “So what did you wish for that night after we watched ‘Dracula 2000’?” Lillian asked, gazing up at the sky.

            Justin smiled at the delicate girl in his arms, the feelings of love and contentment almost overwhelming him. He breathed in the scent of blueberries he was used to smelling whenever she was around.

            “Justin,” she said, nudging him. “What was your wish?”

            “What?” he asked, coming out of his stupor. “Oh, I can’t remember. Something stupid, I think. What was your wish?”

            “I wished that we could have stayed like that forever,” she answered, a wistful look on her face. “I guess the wish came true, after some work on both our parts.”

            “Awww, that’s so sweet!” someone cooed.

            “Shut up, JC,” Justin immediately said. “I said that it was a bad idea to let you guys hang outside with us, but nooo, the Princess had to insist.”

            Lillian laughed over the nickname he had come to call her. After experimenting with Lily, Trooper, and just plain Lillian, he had finally settled on Princess.

            “It’s a pretty night,” she explained. “I couldn’t let them stay cooped up inside watching TV.”

            JC grinned. “We appreciate the gesture, Lily, but I doubt Justin likes us sitting here.”

            “Damn straight,” Justin muttered.

            Lance sighed. “It really is pretty tonight. Look at the stars,” he said dreamily, pointing at the sky.

            JC and Justin exchanged a worried look.

            “Um, I think that’s enough fresh air for you, buddy,” Justin decided.

            JC shoved Lance’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go catch some SNL.”

            “Fine,” Lance assented. They got up from the damp grass, waving goodbye to their two friends.

            Justin and Lillian could hear them as they left, their dialogue carrying in the still night air.

            “I love you, Justy-wusty!” JC exclaimed in a high-pitched voice.

            “No, I love you more, Princess!” Lance answered, emphasizing a Southern drawl.

            “No, you!”



            “Oh, just come and kiss me, baby!” Lance burst out, holding his arms wide open. JC gave a delighted squeal and jumped into his embrace, pretending to kiss him passionately.

            Justin grimaced and looked at Lillian. “Now, I know we don’t sound like that.”

            She grinned at him and turned to JC and Lance, who were still acting out their little scene on the front stoop of the apartment building.

            “Guys!” she yelled. “It’s okay, you don’t have to pretend anymore. We can accept the fact that you have feelings for each other. We’re here to help!”

            They immediately broke apart, eyeing each other suspiciously.

            “Ew, man, get off me,” JC demanded.

            “Shut up, just keep your distance,” Lance warned.

            They went inside Lillian and Karen’s apartment, still arguing.

            “Well, now that we’re alone…” Justin said suggestively.

            Lillian laughed as he swooped in for a kiss. She loved him so much.


*                       *                       *


             “Man, that was so good,” Joey said wistfully, looking a little teary-eyed.

            “It’s such a nice message of hope and strength,” JC commented. “I love that movie.”

            The other three guys nodded, all of them suspiciously bright eyed.

            “We got some serious ‘Sound of Music’ fanatics in this room,” Karen observed. “Creepy.”

            Lillian laughed. “Leave them alone, Karen, it’s not bad to indulge in a weepy movie now and then.”

            “Still, they’re grown men. And they’re in love with Julie Andrews,” Karen maintained.

            “We are in the room, and we can hear you,” Chris pointed out.

            “Yeah, and the ‘Sound of Music’ is a classic! Everyone loves it,” Lance defended.

            “Everyone may love it, but that doesn’t mean they know every single freaking word to it,” Karen muttered to herself.

            “What’d you say?” JC asked, her words incoherent.

            “Oh, nothing,” Karen lied. “I remembered that I have a term paper to write. I’ll leave movie night to you guys from now on.”

            They waited until she left the room before bursting into adulations of the movie.

            “The music is genius!” JC proclaimed.

            “And when von Trapp began singing ‘Edelweiss,’ I could have just died!” Chris breathed in excitement.

            Five pairs of blank eyes regarded his outburst.

            “Um, I mean…the movie was okay,” he quickly amended.

            “So when are you guys leaving tomorrow?” Lillian asked, taking pity on Chris’ embarrassment and changing the subject.

            “At seven in the morning, sharp,” Justin answered, groaning. He grabbed a pillow from the couch and buried his face in it. “I wanna stay here!”

            Lance nodded. “And I was getting used to MIT. It’s the only college campus I’ve visited twice.”

            “I’m gonna miss you, Lilypad,” Joey said. “We were reunited!” He threw his arms around her.

            “Reunited and it feels so good,” Chris sang.

            “At least we had one last movie night,” Lillian pointed out. “Lucky for us, we found it before Karen could throw it away in her cleaning frenzy.”

            She carefully untangled herself from Joey’s grasp and stood up, grabbing the bowl of popcorn that now contained only a few unpopped kernels. “What’s next on your schedule?” she asked, dropping the bowl into the sink and coming back to the living room to gather the cups and plates.

            “I think NYU,” Lance replied. “That should be pretty fun. Lots of liberal arts students, they’ll be into the music scene.”

            “And how would you know this, Lansten, Mr. I-never-left-Mississippi-unless-my-mama-dragged-me Bass?” Chris asked.

            “Hey, I read!” Lance responded, shrugging. “I bought one of those college guide books.”

            “Never thought you were one for book-learnin’,” Joey commented.

            “And what’s that supposed to mean?” Lance demanded.

            Lillian rolled her eyes in the kitchen, hearing them begin to bicker in the other room. At least they’d remained peaceful for the full span of the movie, which was an amazing feat.

            She felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her stomach as she finished washing the popcorn bowl.

            “Those crazy kids of ours,” Justin joked, kissing the top of her head.

            She smiled happily and turned around to embrace him. “I’m going to miss you,” she whispered.

            “Me too,” he whispered back. “No letters and unsigned flowers this time. We’re gonna do it the right way. Phone calls, emails, the works.”

            She nodded, stretching up on tip-toe and giving him a quick peck on the lips. “I love you.”

            “I love you too, Princess,” he answered, capturing her mouth for a deeper kiss.

            “Ewww, they’re kissing again!” Chris shouted as he came into the kitchen and saw them.

            Justin broke away and shoved his friend out impatiently before resuming what he had been doing.

            Lillian halted the kiss, suddenly realizing something. “Did you notice that Lance and Chris never pulled a prank on us?”

            “Yeah, so?” Justin asked, reaching out to pull her closer.

            “No, that means they’re going to do it soon!” she continued. “We have to get something ready to counter them with.”

            “You’re right,” Justin agreed, stroking his chin. “The only question is…what?”


*                       *                       *


            Lillian snuggled deeper against Justin’s hard chest, not wanting the morning to have already arrived.

            “What time is it?” Justin mumbled, trying to clear his sleep-fuddled mind.

            “Six thirty,” a masculine voice answered.

            Justin started, then remembered where he was. “JC, don’t scare me like that. I thought Lillian had turned into a man overnight or something.”

            JC’s dark head appeared for a second over the back of the couch. “Sorry,” he apologized before dropping back down onto the small cot Karen had found in the closet.

            “Shut up, both of you,” Joey said, turning over on his aerobed.

            “You guys have to go soon,” Lillian pointed out, rolling off Justin so he could get up from the couch. But he stubbornly remained lying where he was.

            “Justin, come on,” she said, nudging him insistently. “You’re going to be late, and Tim will get mad.”

            “I’ll quit the tour and sleep here forever,” he replied, his voice muffled from the pillow over his face. “Wade can take my place.”

            “But then I won’t have any more bragging rights,” she complained, laughing.

            “Fine,” Justin gave in, standing up and stretching. “I’ll do it for you, baby.”

            “Ugh, shoot me please,” Joey exclaimed. “It’s too early for love.”

            Lillian looked around the apartment, noticing that two people were absent. “Where are Lance and Chris?”

            Justin shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe they already woke up.”

            As soon as the words left his mouth there was a knock at the door.

            “That’s probably them,” he said, going over to answer it.

            But when he yanked the door open, he wasn’t facing his two friends. Instead, it was-

            “’Sending-Love Telegram Services’!” the man in a bear suit proclaimed, pushing his way into the apartment. “Is there a Justin and Lily in the building?”

            Justin closed his eyes in disbelief. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

            “What’s going on?” Lillian inquired, approaching them.

            “Lily, isn’t it?” the talking bear asked.

            She nodded, confused.

            “Well, then this is for you!” he exclaimed, pulling out a card and reading it for her and Justin. “ ‘A special dedication for the L and J connection, courtesy of you-know-who.’ Kinda cryptic, huh?”

            Justin stepped in. “Look, Mister…Bear. We’ll pay you extra money if you just leave.”

            “Oh no, this is my job!” the bear refused. “Now step back, folks, and let me work my magic.”

            Lillian burst out laughing and Justin sighed in exasperation as the bear sang a rendition of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’

            “Did I ever tell you that you’re my hero, you’re everything I wish I could be,” he sang lustily, holding his hands to his chest.

            Joey had stumbled into the front foyer with JC eagerly following him when the commotion had started.

            “What the hell is going on?!” Joey shouted. “Tell that bear to shut up!”

            JC was laughing so hard he had to lean on Joey for support. “Man,” he managed between his laughs, “Lance and Chris got you guys! This is great!”

            “And I, I could fly higher than an eagle, ‘cause you are the wind beneath my wings,” the bear finally finished, taking a bow to the applause of Lillian and JC.

            “Okay, that was wonderful. Really,” Justin assured the man in the bear costume. “Now you can leave. Thanks for coming. So long!” He pushed the man out of the apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.

            “I guess this means Lance and Chris won,” JC said, wiping tears from his eyes.

            “Don’t be too sure,” Lillian argued. “We were prepared for this.”

            Justin disappeared into the bedroom and came back out holding a large garbage bag in his hands, stuffed full with something. “You guys are gonna love this.”

            “What is it?” Joey asked eagerly.

            “You’ll find out soon. Just be patient,” Justin assured him.


*                       *                       *


            “So how’d you like our little singing telegram?” Lance asked, grinning wickedly.

            “It was nice,” Justin answered dispassionately. “Cheesy song, though.” He turned back to the sink to brush his teeth.

            Lance stared at him in astonishment. “It was nice?! That’s all you have to say?” He had waited the whole day to find out about his friends’ reaction, and Justin thought it was only nice! “Come on, where’s the anger, the thirst for revenge!”

            Justin shrugged, spitting some toothpaste out. “It was cute.”

            Lance left the doorway of the small bus bathroom, disappointed. Chris grabbed his arm when he appeared in the bunk area.

            “What’d he say?” Chris demanded in anticipation.

            Lance sighed. “Nothing! He said it was ‘nice’ and ‘cute.’”

            “Man! It was such a good prank too!” Chris responded, frustrated.

            “It’s okay, I guess there’s still time,” Lance reasoned. “But how are we gonna top this! Stupid J.”

            Chris patted his shoulder. “Yeah, it’s okay. Let’s just turn in for the night and think about it in the morning.”

            Lance nodded and they climbed into their respective bunks, pulling the curtains across after them.

            Justin wandered near the bunks, eager for them to discover what he and Lillian had left for them. He mentally began a countdown. Three….two….one…

            “What the hell?!” came the shout from Chris’ bunk.

            “I’m gonna kill Justin!” came the answering shout from Lance’s bunk.

            Justin smiled to himself. Right on time. Lillian’s gonna get a kick out of this.

            The curtains were whipped to the side and both Lance and Chris swung out of their bunks, each running up to Justin and holding blow-up dolls in their hands.

            “Justin, what is this supposed to be!” Lance demanded, waving the large plastic blow-up doll in front of Justin’s face. It had red hair and the proportions of a teenage boy’s fantasy woman. It was dressed in some of the more revealing clothes from the FuMan Skeeto line.

            Justin laughed in delight. “Lillian and I just thought you guys were too occupied with trying to pull pranks on us, so we got these lovely lady companions to take your minds off things.”

            Chris was fuming. “You guys planted these dolls in our bunks! This is not funny!” he declared, throwing his blow-up doll at Justin.

            His friend easily caught it and held it up. “I don’t know,” Justin mused, examining it. It was identical to Lance’s except it had brown hair and different FuMan clothes on. “It’s kinda cute. Plus, don’t you like the little ‘Mya’ tattoo we gave it?”

            “No! I don’t like it at all!” Chris protested.

            Joey and JC appeared from the front of the bus, curious about what all the noise was about.

            “Cute doll,” JC commented, appraising the doll Lance still held in his hand.

            “Shut up!” Lance said, embarrassed. He quickly dropped the doll to the floor. “Justin and Lily hid them in our bunks. How’d you guys find two blow-up dolls, anyway?”

            “We were on a college campus. It’s hard not to find two blow-up dolls,” Justin answered, still grinning in satisfaction.

            Joey sighed happily. “Well, there’s no use in letting two perfectly good dolls go to waste. If you guys don’t want them, I’m helping myself.” He bent down and grabbed Lance’s abandoned doll, then took ‘Mya’ from Justin’s grasp.

            “So long, boys!” he called back, leaving the other four standing there in surprise.

            They looked at each other after he left, then simultaneously burst into laughter.

            “Well, I only have two words for this whole situation,” Chris said.

            “What?” Justin asked, chuckling.

            “Crunked up,” Chris answered, shaking his head in disbelief.

            The other three nodded in agreement.

            “Crunked up.”



The End



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