nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Stomach Ache


He was beginning to get a queasy feeling, doubt and worry tightening in his belly, that hadn't been there when they started doing this. Then it had been all sunshine and confidence, they were going to go somewhere with this, they would be fantastic and famous and rich... and now, the certainty was leaking away and he was starting not to believe it any more.

Worst thing was, it was all his fault.

The guy was his friend, a good friend, but... he didn't have the same fire that was inside Chris, the absolute determination to do anything, everything. He wasn't focused like Justin, with his goal engraved on his heart and willing to give two hundred percent to make sure he achieved it. He didn't have JC's raw, beautiful talent—well, who did, but the rest of them were willing to work as hard as it took to make up for that. Joey knew his own strengths, and he thought he knew his own weaknesses, too, because you had to recognize them if you were going to make it in spite of them. And Joey was going to compensate for not being pretty, by being everything else. He'd never been one to hold back, he always put himself into what he was doing, heart and soul, and he was doing that now. The four of them had got it, they'd got what it took to go all the way, and they'd do it, they could do anything, given a handful of luck to go with all the talent and effort they had between them.

But there were five of them. And the fifth... He was good-looking, and talented, and keen. He just wasn't willing to do what it took.

He was always the one to call it a day. Always the one who said, "That's good enough for now," when Joey knew, he knew, that they could do more. That JC wanted to get it perfect, that Justin would rather work till he dropped than leave anything undone that might in some tiny way bring him closer to his goal, that Chris never thought anything was 'enough', and that he himself wanted to be stone-cold certain that he, they, never went on stage being less than completely sure of what they were doing.

Five people, two attitudes. It wasn't going to work. And it was Joey's fault, because he was the one who'd brought Jason along, he was the one who'd been too stupid to realize that being a nice guy was not enough. There had to be five of them, they needed Jason, needed his voice, needed to make this work. Except that Jason wasn't right. Joey knew it, and the knowledge made his stomach hurt, because it was down to him to put things right, and he didn't know how.

It was almost a relief when someone finally said something.

Jason had gone back home, and he and Chris had a rare day off. They'd expected to spend the entire evening rehearsing, but here it was, not yet nine and they were relaxing, chips and sodas and the knotted feeling of dread in his gut.

"He's not good enough, Chris." JC, clear-eyed and relentlessly honest. "We need someone else."

Chris's face, shaded with worry as he agreed.

"We have to have someone who really wants this. Jason isn't it," JC went on. "We have to tell him he's out."

"But there isn't time!" Justin squeaked when he was anxious. "The Thing—"

"If we do the showcase with Jason, we're screwed," said Chris. "JC's right. I should have done something before now. I kept hoping he'd change, but—"

"We need a better bass," said JC. "Someone who really completes our sound, not just a voice to sing the bottom line. A true bass." Nobody could disagree.

"But he has to be able to dance, too," Justin pointed out.

"He really needs to be able to work," said Joey, resolutely. "Guys, it's my fault, I thought Jason would be cool, but you're right, he has to go. I should tell him."

"Nah," Chris slapped him on the back. "We can get him to leave, no problem." He winked, and Joey understood how it would happen—three, maybe four days in a row of insisting one more hour, let's do that again, and JC nitpicking every note, and a sharper edge to Chris's mockery, and Jason would blow, and pick up his bag and tell them this was too much, they were obsessed, they were crazy, they could do whatever shit they were doing without him, he never wanted to be a trained monkey anyway. Kinder, really, to let him think it was his own decision.

"Meanwhile, we'll be looking," JC said with steely determination. "Chris, what about your Hi-Tones bass-man, is he—"

"No." Chris was definite. "He wouldn't work the way we need him to. Also, he's older than me."

"There's no-one in the Graveyard, either," Joey added. There had been someone back in high school, who'd had a real bass voice, but Joey didn't bother to mention his name. There was an aesthetic element, none of them had mentioned it, but there was no way Mr Pearlman would agree to bring Lucas into the group, even if Lucas was willing to give up on college.

"Maybe Robin will know someone," JC said.

"Or Lou may have some names." Chris sounded reluctant. "We should wait until Jason leaves before we ask him, though."

"And I can ask my old singing—I mean, my vocal coach," Justin chimed in eagerly.

It was crazy, Joey thought as he made his way back home that night. They were about to lose a member, and they had a showcase coming due in less than two months, and they had no idea where they were going to find someone their own age who could sing bass, and yet... his stomach felt better.

This time around, they'd get it right.



Back to Popslash Index
Back to Alternative Popslash Index