He walked down the long hallway; the floors glossed in white and reflections of the lights above bounced off the pearlized tiles.
The building was quiet for that time of day. It was only four in the afternoon. Even the studio was empty as he walked inside.
He turned on the lights and entered the enclosed recording area. The large black piano sat in the corner. He sighed as he sat down in front of it and started playing.
The sounds of "Right Here Waiting" were heard throughout the room and the hallway. He sang along with a silent whisper. The soulful and magical voice that was once a part of him, was now gone.
With all the doors open, the ballad had led Justin right to JC's hiding spot. He stood there watching from the opposite side of the glass, staring at a man with a broken spirit. He'd hoped that JC would be able to speak again soon after his accident but it had been eight months and he still had to write his conversations down on a piece of paper.
"JC?" he asked, trying not to startle him.
JC stopped playing and turned around with a soft smile. "Hey, what's up?" he asked with a light voiceless whisper. He rubbed his throat a bit, which since the accident, had become dry and raspy more frequently.
Justin grabbed the water bottle on the table beside him and handed it to JC. "Not much. All the guys are busy. Mind if I join you?"
JC shook his head and moved over on the seat so that Justin could sit down. He took a sip of his water and without much to say, Justin continued the conversation.
"Wanna play? I'll sing."
On instinct, JC started hitting the keys. The sounds were flowing through Justin's ears as he listened to JC express his emotions through the voice of the piano. As he watched JC play, he could tell that he was upset by not having the key ingredient to the song. He had seen him cry a few times but had never told him that he saw him.
"Oceans apart, day after day, and I slowly go insane..." Justin started to sing beautifully.
JC listened to Justin sing and wished that he could hear his own. He was so afraid of never getting his voice back or getting it back and having it to never sound the same again.
"I hear your voice on the line, but it doesnt stop the pain..." Justin continued.
As he played, he thought back to the accident. He was so excited to take his new car out for a drive so he went on a road where he could make a flat run at 130 mph. But, he forgot the "S" turn near the end and sideswiped a pole, rotated in a circle a few times and slid into a tree. The last thing he remembered was hitting his neck on the steering wheel and feeling extreme pain as he crushed his "adam's apple".
JC woke up with a strange heaviness in his throat. He heard people talking in his room but couldn't seem to open his eyes. He didn't know where he was or why he was there. He listened for a few moments to the conversation at the end of the room.
"So, you are saying he is fine? Nothing is broken?" Lance asked.
"His major organs and bones are fine." the doctor replied.
"So, then why does he have those bandages around his throat?" Joey jumped in.
"Why can't he leave?" Justin questioned.
"What I have to tell you is going to not only affect him, but affect all of you." he said calmly.
"What do you mean?" Johnny asked as he jumped in front of all of them.
"Well," he paused. "In medical definition, JC has a loss of impairment of motor function due to a lesion of the neural or muscular mechanism."
"And, the english definition?" Chris asked.
"He crushed mostly everything in his larynx, which includes vocal chords, arytenoid cartilages and epiglottis, resulting in aphonia."
"What are you trying to say?" Johnny said quickly.
"He has vocal chord paralysis. He can't speak or even whisper or let alone, sing."
There was silence before Johnny jumped in again. "You're telling me he can't sing?"
The doctor sighed. "He's lucky if he ever does again. I can't tell if this paralysis will be temporary or permanent. If it is only temporary, then eventually he will speak again. But there is little to no chance of ever being able to sing again."
"Oh my God. What are we gonna do?" Johnny sighed as he turned and walked to the door.
"Everything is gonna be over." Justin said soflty. "Everything."
JC snapped back to reality as Justin was finishing the last note to the song. JC kept playing until the song was over. JC grabbed his water again as Justin stood up.
"Hey thanks, man. That was fun. I gotta get going. I'll see you at the banquet dinner tonight."
JC smiled and waved him off as he walked out the door. He sat and stared at the keys for a few seconds. His eyes became watery as he emotionally started playing "Go The Distance" by Michael Bolton.
The sounds of the piano were again heard loudly while his singing was only heard by himself. In his mind he remembered what Justin said that day in the hospital room. Since then, they had managed to stay in the spotlight but without new music, they would soon become out of popular demand. The others were already talking about doing solo projects within the music business. He knew it would only be only a matter of time until everything fell apart.
He continued to sing to himself until he heard someone's voice. He stopped playing and looked around but no one was there. He shrugged it off and started playing again. It was up to him to save the group. Without him, there wasn't an *NSYNC. He was sick of walking around in silence while the others waited desperately for him to bring the group back to life. He was their oxygen and they have been suffocating for so long.
With a big sigh he heaved out the next line. "It's an uphill slope but I won't lose hope..." He stopped abruptly when a strangers voice came from his mouth. He grabbed his throat and took a quick sip of water. It had been so long since he had heard his voice that he didn't even recognize it.
"Till I go the distance and my journey is complete..." he continued. His voice became as clear as day and sounded as if it had never gone away. It was crisp and fresh and sounded even better than it had before.
He smiled ear to ear as he jumped up quickly. He looked towards the door as Justin walked down the opposite way of the hall.
"He didn't leave yet." he said to himself as he ran to the door. "Justin! Justin!" he yelled. He almost couldn't believe he was hearing himself talk.
Justin slowed down and stopped quickly. He remembered that voice. "I am definately hearing things." he said to himself. But, JC's voice was unmistakable and unforgettable. The smooth and soulful sounds of his voice made girls pass out. There was no other like it.
"Justin! I can talk! Man, I can even sing!" JC yelled as he ran up to him.
Justin turned around to face him. "Holy shit! You're talkin'!" he cursed from excitement.
"I know! I was just singing to myself and all of a sudden it just popped out!"
Justin laughed at his use of words but he said it like it was. "Sing something for me."
JC quickly sang a short line and then stopped. "It sounds as good as the last time I heard it!"
"Wow, this is great! We gotta tell the others! It's time to dust out the cobwebs and start the music again!"
"Ok, ok." JC calmed him down. "Let's not get too excited. I don't want to rush things and lose it again."
"True. But, we gotta go celebrate! C'mon!" Justin exclaimed as he ran ahead.
JC took a breath as he continued to walk after Justin. Everything wasn't going to be over after all. It was going to be a new beginning. He smiled as he opened the door and walked out into the bright sunshine.