Lyrics by Kim Stockwood, Peter Vettess, Abenaa Frempong
performed by Kim Stockwood

I just can't stand the way I feel
I just can't wait until tomorrow comes
So if you care to see my face again
You'll have to be the one to let me know

August 15, 2002

"At least it's good. Not great good, but good."

"Thanks so much for the vote of confidence," he said sarcastically.

"Jesus, Nick, what do you want me to say? You just fucked us all over big time!" came the angry response. "I'm supposed to be all fucking happy about this?"

"No, Kevin, but at least you could try and support me a little here," Nick sighed. "That is all I am asking for."

"Bullshit! What you fucking want is us all to get down on our knees and kiss your ass, while we smile and go on about how we "support" your solo deal. That we don't say anything about how you stabbed us in the back, saying you'd be here to record when you were actually setting up your own god-damned career."

"Gee, Kev, tell me how you really feel. I did NOT backstab you. I told you all time and time again I wanted to do this. I even told you I was going to do some recording when we were on downtime. It's not my fucking fault you all just patted me on the head and didn't take me seriously."

"Oh great, here comes that old whine again. "You just don't listen to me." "None of you care about poor little Nicky." Can't you drop that bit for once? All of us wanted to do solo shit, but you don't see us doing what you did."

Nick rolled his eyes. "'What I did?' What I did was exactly what I said I would. I wrote songs. I recorded them. It's not my fault that Jive took me seriously when you all didn't."

"You're such a child, Nick. When the fuck are you going to grow up?"

'Cause I feel like I'm 12 years old
And I feel like I'm in the cold
And l feel like I'm 12 years old
And my dog just died
And my bike's been stolen again

August 20, 2002

"Brave face, brave face," he murmured to himself as he entered the room. The noise from the party hit him like a brick. He stood for a moment and let the sound soak over him and then plastered on his all-purpose showbiz smile as he was suddenly surrounded by well-wishers all shouting, trying to get their words heard above all the others yelling similar bravos.

He continued to grin and nodded as he moved into the heart of the party, trying hard not to let the desperation showing in his eyes. Finally, his inner posse was in front of him and he could settle into hugs with people who really cared, listen to kind words from people who really mattered and heave a sigh of relief. Someone, Mike he thought, shoved a beer into his hand and he took a deep gulp. He flashed a wide grin at the people milling him and said loudly, "It doesn't get any better than this."

His comment was met with a few cheers, lots of applause and then, as he expected, most people turned away to continue the conversations they'd started before his arrival.

He gave Tony a quick nod and sat down on the oversized couch. He leaned back, arching his back until his head grazed the wall behind, listening for the slight crack that signalled his stretch's success. Tony sat beside him and Mike perched on the arm of the sofa. They were all jovial smiles and laughter until Ron took up his position in front of them, shielding them - somewhat - from view.

"So what's the word?" he asked, trying hard not to flinch as he saw Mike and Tony exchange a quick worried glance.

How can it be that you're so vain?
And how can it be that I am such a pain
Or so you say
Why can't you see this time you've gone too far
Today I couldn't care less where you are


"Spill it. Just give it to me."

Tony sighed. "Well, the good news is that Help Me is number one on the request lines. You're the toast of New York, today. Your appearance really helped."

Nick smiled. "I figured as much. Never had my ass kissed as much as I have since I got here." He leaned forward. "So what is the bad news?"

Tony was silent.

"Just give it to me. One of my so-called brothers diss me or something? Give it to me straight."

"Justin's song got leaked," Mike said quietly. Nick turned to him, his mouth opening dumbly. "At least that is how they say it got out. It wasn't supposed to be out for another week. You know the agreement with Jive: you get this week, he gets next and then we'll see what happens." He shook his head. "Didn't happen. About the same time you were announcing Help Me here, Like I Love You started playing in California."


"Yeah, I know. You can't tell me that wasn't planned."

"Fuck," Nick said again.

"It's worse…" Tony said. Nick turned to him and Tony had to blink as he saw the raw pain in Nick's eyes. "The song… It was played a lot. It was the most requested song out west. I don't know yet, but I think it beat out Help Me in LA."

"I'm really sorry, man."

'Cause I feel like I'm 12 years old
And I feel like I'm in the cold
And I feel like I don't know where I am
And I feel like I'm left behind
And I feel like I'm last in line
Yeah, I feel like I'm 12 years old
And my dog just died
And my bike's been stolen

He wasn't going to cry. He wasn't. Not again. Not in public.

He'd gotten enough flack for weeping when he'd gotten arrested at the beginning of the year. Man, didn't he hear about that one? But he'd been an idiot. He'd been drunk. And he'd been scared. He'd been through so much and the cops had always been on his side… it was a rude awakening to be on the other side.

And here he was again… on the other side.

It seems so juvenile
Feeling like a little child
I guess it never goes away
So maybe I should play
La La La La La …

August 15, 2002

"Don't come crying to me when it happens."

"Brian, come on…"

"I mean it, Nick. I'm sick it. I warned you about this. I told you Jive was just doing this to fuck us over. I told you they'd play you up. I told you they'd pick you over us and then they'd try and make us pay for it. Did you learn nothing from Lou? No, of course not. You just let your Mommy take care of all of that…"

"That is not fucking fair, Brian! I was a minor. And you know how much that bitch screwed me over too."

"Fine. So that one wasn't you. But for God's sake, you heard us talk about it enough. You know how we got screwed over. You knew it could happen again. And here you are: letting them do it to us."

"I'm not trying to hurt anyone." A loud snort sounded through the phone. "I'm not! Look, I want to do my own stuff. Fine. I want to do it now. Fine. I told you all. I told you all I was going to. I told you it wouldn't interfere with us. How was I supposed to know Jive was dicking you around on schedules?"

"If you ever bothered to show up in the studio you would have…"

"Hello? Did it not occur to you that it was a two-way street? They kept telling me different dates! I'd be in Sweden with Max and they'd say 'don't worry, you don't need to be back for another week.' Then when I got there they'd say things had been moved up and I should have been there the week before. I told you that!"

"Ever consider calling one of us and confirming with us?"

Nick snorted. "Right. Like who? You? Leighanne never passes on my fucking messages. We both know that. Aje? He just slams the phone down the moment he knows it's me. No, wait, what he does is look at the caller ID, see it's me then picks up the phone just so he can slam it down."

"He's upset."

"Yeah, well so am I. I thought that my friends would at least support me. Stupid me, hunh?"

'Cause I feel like I'm 12 years old
And I feel like I'm in the cold
And I feel like I don't know where I am
And I feel like I'm left behind
And I feel like I'm last in line
Yeah, I feel like I'm 12 years old
And my dog just died
And my bike's been stolen
I missed the ball
And I dropped my ice cream again
La La La La La

August 20, 2002

"So," he finally said. "Howie was right."

"Looks it," Tony nodded.

"Shit." Nick leaned back on the sofa, closing his eyes. He'd so hoped that the older man had been wrong.

Howie was the only one talking to him: the others were too busy shouting. But Howie wasn't that way. He kept the lines of communication open. Always. Though he'd also calmly and quietly tell you what an asshole he thought you were and how disillusioned he was. They others would rant and rave (or throw things in AJ's case), but with a few soft words Howie would make you feel like the most miserable thing on the planet.

Only this time he hadn't done that. Nick had been bracing himself for it, but instead Howie had just said he didn't like the way things were going and that Nick should watch himself. Howie would still support him, but he had an allegiance to the others too. Nick had really hurt him when he'd announced he was going solo - Nick needed to know that - but that he could understand Nick's need to spread his wings.

Then he told Nick to watch his back.

If Jive could pull a stunt like this on a major-selling group like them… a group that had brought in so much money in sales… what could they end up doing to just Nick? After all, Jive had gone against the Boys when they'd brought N'Sync onto the label. And wasn't Justin doing a solo thing right around the same time?

Nick had laughed, and then chastised Howie for his naïveté. He wasn't a fool, he'd said. He's already worked that out. He had firm promises from the upper management at Jive: Nick was going to be their priority. Sure, he'd agreed to step aside so that Justin got his time in the spotlight, but the two artists would be marketed separately and differently. Comparisons would be made, of course, but he had the full backing of Jive.

Howie has told him he hoped he was right. He really hoped it: for Nick's sake. That the last thing he wanted to see was Nick getting hurt over this.

Nick had told him he wasn't a child. That he knew what he was doing. That it would all end up great, just wait and see. That all of this would just make him - and the Boys - stronger. Howie had smiled, a little sadly Nick had thought, and wished him luck.

Feel like I'm 12 years old
Feel like I'm in the cold
Feel like I'm 12 years old
Feel like I'm all alone

Nick gazed out over the celebration party, looking at the record company flacks, fashionable hangers-on, professional party-goers, and the occasional fan.

Who'd been the naïve one?

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