nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.


by Amanda, written for Madison

A.J. McLean was to blame.

That much was a fact. If McLean hadn’t been discovered screwing an underage groupie, then the boy band era would have continued unfazed.

A sea of platinum albums and teenie bopper magazines. The end.

But he was caught – in the back seat of her father’s car, no less. And the PTAs of America started burning albums. Music critics and alternative rockers alike pointed fingers, shouting in vindication.

Nsync, who’d just gone Gold in Germany, came home to a frosty reception.

Lou and his people were sorry, but if parents wouldn’t let their teenage daughters fork over the cash, there was nothing he could do.

Better luck next time.

In the end it was a Backstreet Boy who’d made sure the U.S. never heard the likes of Nsync.

“Holy Charlie Brown Christmas!”

Two months ago Chris had appeared at JC’s RV trailer at four a.m. with suitcase in hand and a scowl etched across his features. He’d shoved his way inside with a terse “I’m still mad at you” and hadn’t offered much conversation since.

At the time, JC had stared, still hung over on alcohol and regrets. “You’re mad at me… but you’re staying here?”

“Uh huh.”

He’d figured that was the first foothold of a very mountainous climb to forgiveness.

But now the drama was getting old. The thought of remaining in a rusted-out Volvo for the rest of the night had never been more appealing, but he honestly couldn’t go five more minutes without changing his clothes. He itched just thinking about it.

Khaki. Gack.

Advertising sucked. Unfortunately, someone had to pay the bills.

Although, from the feverish swearing and the maroon RV’s darkened windows, he assumed he forgot the electric company.


If he’d been a lucky man, his wet suit would be hanging on the awning’s arms, his surf board propped up against the trailer’s side, and he could make a run for the waves before his crabby roommate saw him coming. But he’d never been much for luck, especially lately, and it appeared Chris actually decided to pitch in for once and cleaned - neither item was within view.

JC took a deep breath.

And opened the driver’s side door.

Back when they’d stepped off the plane from another continent and the only thing there to greet them was Steve Fatone’s cynical face, they’d cleaned out the nearest liquor store and gone home to lick their wounds.

Justin was the one who insisted they stick with it.

Barely a teenager, he’d already decided he was not give up the group he’d put so much effort into. They’d started off with visions of dominating the Orlando area - why should that change? The other guys eventually agreed, not read to throw out all their hard work and head back to their normal lives.

They’d be ready for their next big break.

Even did pretty well for themselves in the local music scene once they picked up their own instruments and put pen to paper.

But when Justin graduated high school, things changed. Suddenly, Florida was no longer good enough for their youngest member; he was determined that the group was meant for bigger and better things. Much to JC’s chagrin, Justin had decided the answer to all their problems lay in Los Angeles.

He’d seen Britney do it. And Christina. And Kerri.

Now he wanted his turn.

But in his head, all JC remembered was slamming doors and casting couches. He’d be damned if he was going to watch Justin follow the same path he had.

So, for once, he put his foot down. The other guys said they understood, and there was an unwritten agreement that if one member of the group vetoed something then they all vetoed it.

Failing to change his friend’s mind with zealous pleas, Justin had drawn out the big guns: his mother, Lynn. When she’d sat him down and told him earnestly that the only reason she was allowing Justin to head west was because she was relying on JC to watch out over him, he hadn’t had the heart to correct her, to admit her son had lied, and he wasn’t planning on going.

Justin, the little rat bastard, knew that JC felt indebted to Lynn, for all she had provided him with over the years. There was no choice but for him to promise to take good care of her baby, and go pack.

Shortly thereafter, all five guys loaded up and made the trek to California.

JC could only pray LA would be better the second time around.

Later, when the two of them were “saving” the beer from the defunct refrigerator and grilling up the last of the hot dogs by moonlight, JC wondered how he got here. When he was younger it might have been his dream to live on the coast, surfing in the Pacific every morning, but making the trip out to California the second time around had been the last thing he’d wanted to do.

First time around with Tony and Dale had been nothing but uncertainty and rejection; only Justin and his pleading baby blues could’ve made him try again, this time against his better judgment.

Look how that turned out.

“The company’s going to spring for some Laker tickets next week, they’re looking to impress some new clients. You interested in tagging along?” JC was used to talking to himself, but normally he was alone.

The way Chris continued to ignore him, arm stabbing viciously at the unsuspecting dogs, he may as well have been.

He tried again anyway. “Yeah, I know they’re sucking it up big time without Shaq, but it’s still the Lakers, man. Kobe can always teach you a thing or two with the price of admission.”

He took another swig. Since this evening was going so well so far, maybe the liquid courage would provide him the perfect opportunity to broach The-Subject-Never-to-Be-Discussed. He may have been raised a pacifist, but these last few weeks had been pushing even JC’s limits. If he heard one more snide “I’d love to chip in on rent this month, but my livelihood’s been taken away from me” there was going to be a beat down.

JC opened his mouth and prayed for the right words.

The phone rang from inside the trailer.

By all rights it’s his home, he used the last of his Mouse Club salary for the deposit, but it was Chris who rushed inside to answer. JC took another pull at the bottle, this time longer.

Maybe he should have drawn comfort from the fact that he’d found a change of clothes in the dark without killing himself, and left it at that. There was a definite clattering of objects from within, and he didn’t even want to think about what had just been destroyed. As long as Chris didn’t knock over any lit candles, it was all good.

There was muttering, before JC heard, “No hablo ingles!”

The receiver was slammed.


He closed his eyes, took a deep breath - in through the nose, out through the mouth. A second later Chris was back, poking at the dogs on the gas grill as if nothing had happened. JC decided to play along. He asked innocently, “Wrong number?”

Chris met his gaze, held it. “Yup.”

Looking back, JC decided things might not have gone so horribly wrong if Ryan Seacrest hadn’t felt the need to bring along a camera crew and break the news to them himself.

To have him show up at Nsync’s rehearsal studio, a.k.a. Joey’s garage, and inform them that Justin was abandoning the group for a reality show…

Well, it hadn’t gone well.

It had, however, been Chris’s pleasure to physically escort them out and make sure the editors at American Idol would be busy bleeping out expletives for the next month.

“Chris, you hate the guy for taking Top 40 away from Casey Kasem – I get that - but that’s no reason to pass up a perfectly good opportunity.” Justin, being Justin, had tried to charm his way out of the tense situation, forcing a stale chuckle.

It was Joey who replied, incredulous, “Opportunity? For who – you? In case you’ve forgotten, you’re a member of this band, not a solo artist.”

“Guys, you don’t understand what this could mean for us!” Justin was starting to look a little panicked, like he hadn’t expected such a hostile response. “All the publicity we’ll get; think of all the people who are going to see Chris manhandle Seacrest out of here just now!”

Lance shook his head, sighing, “J, you don’t even know that any of us will get on air, and do you understand how tight those contracts are you sign? Simon Cowell and those producers can own you for a decade. A decade, Justin!”

“What. Did. You. Do?” Chris asked, his voice turning ice cold.

JC could tell from his expression that Justin was pleading for him to come to his aid, back him up like he always did. Part of him actually felt sorry for the kid, having been groomed for stardom from a very early age – beauty pageants, Star Search, Mouse Club, whatever Lynn could sign him up for. Coming so close in Germany, it’d hit him the hardest to return home and find nothing waiting for him but high school. Most of the time that was enough of a reason to excuse anything Justin had done.

Not this time.

Chris’ face looked like it was about to blister from heat. “I don’t understand why you would do this, Justin. You’re the one who wanted to keep the band together after Germany – we did. You’re the one who wanted to move to this plastic Barbie and Ken state – we did. We’ve been busting our asses for years now on gigs and go-sees, and now what? You’re just going to dump us to the side for some television show?”


“No! I don’t wanna hear it! Unless you’re about to say ‘Chris, I’m sorry I’m a complete asshole’ or ‘Chris, I fried my brains on mushrooms and forgot who my real friends are’ I don’t wanna hear it!”

“That’s right!” It was Justin’s turn to get defensive. “We have been at this for years now, and what’s it gotten us? Not a damn thing. If I want to take this chance to help us all out, to increase our exposure, what’s so wrong with that? Maybe you’re happy struggling month to month to make rent, but I’m not. You think Joey and his kids are?”

“Hey, man, don’t bring my family into this.”

“Why not? Why not bring all our families into this – you think Lance doesn’t get tired of hearing his mother beg him to come back to Mississippi? Or that JC’s father hasn’t been pressuring him to give college a try?”

Chris opened his mouth, a caustic response on his lips, but it was JC’s quiet voice that interrupted him.

“Can you guys give Justin and me a minute? Alone.”

The neighbors had decided the two of them were lovers.

At least, that’s what Mrs. Schmidt told him when she caught JC fluffing and folding in the community laundry mat. It was quite disturbing, actually, to have an eighty year old women drawl out the word like that.


He would have laughed if she wasn’t studying him quite so seriously.

“Chris is just my friend, ma’am. Honestly.” What the hell. If they were really going to talk about it… how had Chris once put it? “We don’t work like that – we’re both interested in being the do-er, not the do-ee.”

Had he really just said that? Those words had come out of his mouth? Mother would be so proud.

JC watched her closely to make sure the candor of his words wouldn’t lead to a heart attack, sighing in relief when her expression cleared into a grin.

She gave him a pat on the arm gently, conspiratorially. “Good for you. He looks like a hoodlum.”

Two days after Justin’s bombshell announcement, the remaining members of the band had gathered again at the scene of the crime.

There was no logical reason to participate in an anonymous vote; they knew each other’s handwriting as well as their own. But tradition was tradition, so Joey ripped out four sheets from Brianna’s Christina Aguilera notebook and passed them around the circle.

Chris, as eldest member of the band, collected the slips of paper.

“Three for; one against.”

Silence echoed loudly in the confines of Joey’s garage.

The other three had never attempted to change his vote, knowing there was absolutely no point, respecting his decision.

JC appreciated that more than they could ever know.

Lance broke the quiet with a laugh. “Guess Mom’s gonna get her dream of a college graduate after all.”

Just like that, Nsync was dissolved.

“Apparently, everyone in the RV park thinks we’re having hot, wild, monkey sex.” Maybe the grocery store wasn’t the most practical location to be have this conversation, but JC was sure that the delicate sensibilities of the cabbage wouldn’t be offended.

Chris’s reaction was apparently no reaction at all. He continued perusing the melons, stopping occasionally to test their firmness.

“Did you hear what I said?”

“Monkey sex. Got it.”

Whining was not something JC did, it was undignified and childish. Instead, he huffed, resenting the fact that he felt like an overlooked wife. “Could you, just, pretend to be listening to me for a second? Jeez! Mrs. Schmidt said-”

He almost didn’t believe his eyes when Chris cracked the first genuine smile he’d seen in months, almost (dare he say it?) laughing. “C, if you want me to tap that ass of yours, just ask, you don’t have to come up with these crazy ‘rumors’ to peak my interests.”

Sputtering was not anymore dignified than huffing, but his pride was shot a long time ago.


The young mother pushed her infant past with a scowl in his direction, and try as JC might to appear suitably repentant, something inside had shifted, lightened. He saw a glimpse of his missing friend.

It was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. He needed to make sure Chris understood him clearly when he said this.

“I’m sorry, man. For… yeah.”


In all likelihood it should have been awkward - melons and heartfelt confessions - but it wasn’t. Once Chris decided it was time to forgive, that’s it, end of subject. It used to unnerve JC, the way the other man could be so feverishly pissed off for weeks on end, and then the next day he just… wasn’t.

It didn’t take long to realize Chris played by his own rules.

“Now concentrate, Spazz,” a vegetable appeared in each hand as Chris asked, “carrots or broccoli?”

He grinned.

If anyone had the most to lose in breaking up the band it was Joey. With two kids already and Kelly pregnant with a third, Joey not only had to worry about mouths to feed but a mortgage as well. And yet, when JC saw him at the local park with the girls three months after the breakup, his ex-band mate looks the happiest he’s ever seen him.

He almost laughed in JC’s face when he asked if he’d been doing okay.

“Okay? Things have been fantastic, C! Remember those acting classes I was taking at the community college?”


“I’m teaching them now!”

“Joey, that’s great! Congratulations, man.” JC gave his friend a big hug.

“Yeah, the guy they had got a part on a soap, left them high and dry. Me being their top pupil and all, they asked if I wanted to take over,” Joey beamed.

“Kelly must be thrilled.”

“Oh, man, this couldn’t have come at a better time. But that’s me, what’s been going on with you?”

JC sighed. “Not much, still trying to make a go at the whole advertising thing. Company’s got a big meeting with Colgate tomorrow, so I’m trying to find some last minute inspiration.”

“Huh. Never had you pegged as a suit and tie man, C, but if it’s working for ya, that’s great. You talked to any of the other guys lately?” Joey asked.

“What you really what to know is, have I talked to Justin?”

“Well, yeah, I figured if anybody had, it’d be you.”

“Not a word.”


“’Huh?’” asked JC. “What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’d keep that from you?”

“No, no,” Joey paused to watch his daughters playing on the swings a few yards away, before explaining. “It’s just… well, JC and Justin. Justin and JC. You never could have one without the other. You were our Gwen and Tony of the group.”

JC blinked, confused. “Gwen and Tony.”

“Yeah. No Doubt? The band Chris would sell his kidney to be a part of? The two of them were stuck on each other since they were kids; Gwen wrote all those songs about him, how she worshipped the ground he walked on, but he broke her heart. Same thing.”

“Not the same thing – neither of us ever broke the other’s heart. Where do you come up with this stuff?”

Joey pressed on, clearly missing how uncomfortable the subject was making his friend, “Come on, man, the two of you have been jonesing on each other since the beginning. Why else would you be here, in California, a place that you hate?”

Jonesing? Keep Kelly and my future niece away from whatever you’ve been smoking, okay?” Shaking his head, JC stood up from the picnic table, dusting himself off. “Yeah, maybe he had a small crush on me in Mouse Club, but he was barely a teenager – he had a crush on everyone back then! Including you, I might add.”

“Whatever helps you sleep, C. Which reminds me, what the hell did you two do to my garage?”

Now that caught JC’s attention. “Your garage?”

“Yeah, you know, the night you threw us out so you could yell at J in private? There was shit everywhere after that.” Joey was watching him attentively, selecting his words carefully. “You didn’t break him, did you?”

The answering snort was definitely forced. “Haven’t you been watching him on TV – does it look like I did any to harm him?”

“No, but then again, J’s always known how to cover his feelings; something he learned from you, by the way.”

“Tell you what, Joey, it was nice seeing you.” JC leaned over, giving his friend a quick one-armed hug and waving to the girls. “Give Kelly my love.”

His feet couldn’t carry him fast enough.

Though he’d never admit it, JC had a feeling that Chris was almost relieved to put the past – and especially the band – behind him. Their impending demise no longer hung over him like a big question mark, stifling him.

Chris was never meant to place his fate in the hands of others.

The deejay circuit was a perfect fit for him. That night’s turn out was a great testament to the buzz he’d created in the short time DJ Fu had been performing.

The notoriety that came from being thisclose to putting the smack down on Ryan Seacrest on national television didn’t hurt either.

Chris had been receiving free shots all night.

It was the first time JC had seen Lance in four weeks. Some things were different – a new tan, the relaxed posture. It looked like his studies at UCLA were good for him.

Some things were borne-of-an-alternate-personality different.

For example, the girl draped across his lap.

It wasn’t until after Chris had found ten different ways to mock Seacrest’s fashion sense over the mic that The Girl (as JC had already forgotten her name in his shock) finally decided to take a bathroom break, affording him the opportunity to suitably express his confusion.

“What the hell, dude?!”

Lance laughed outright. “Was wondering when you’d crack. Have to give you credit; Chris didn’t even have the tact to wait until she was gone.”

“Still doesn’t answer my question.”

Emerald eyes locked on him intently. “Everyone knows college is a time to experiment. Besides, you can’t choose who you love, C. I would think you more than anyone would know that.”

He couldn’t meet his friend’s gaze, turning instead to scan the throngs of faces from their perch on the balcony.

JC was afraid it would hurt to breathe. Finally, he hedged, gaze instinctively searching out golden curls. “Why would you say that?”

“Aren’t you the king of sappy love ballads? ‘Cause if you mean to tell me you’ve been feeding us a line of bull this whole time - that you don’t really believe in that stuff - I’m disappointed.”

If he’d had a few more drinks in him, JC probably would’ve laughed in his friend’s face.

The inevitable confrontation happened the same night Justin was eliminated from the series, his sub par performance of “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” disappointing judges and audience members alike. JC grabbed a bottle of wine and ventured out for the beach, Chris’ heckles ringing in his ears.

It was at moments like this he wished he had a dog. Maybe a nice golden retriever to chase tennis balls and Frisbees. At least, unlike his current guest, a dog could be house trained.

By the time he finally settled on the name Chia Pet, half the wine was consumed and he was no longer alone.

Justin stood on the dune, watching him warily. It was obvious that he must’ve hauled ass from the studio to get there.

JC wasn’t sure what to say, he was surprised, but he wasn’t. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Justin could make an inquiry with one word.

It was bizarre to suddenly find himself in an uncomfortable stillness with someone he’d never had an awkward silence with in the ten years they’d known each other.

JC held up the bottle in invitation, pretending he wasn’t shivering. “Why in God’s name did you pick that song? That was totally the wrong octave for your voice.” The banter sounded as forced as his smile felt.

Justin settled gingerly on the moist beach, playing along after a moment’s hesitation, “Hey, song selection is not as easy as it looks. The show has to get permission to use ‘em – which narrows the choices drastically -and then they have their crack-ass theme nights. Seriously, how many times can you do disco? There’s a reason that era died in the first place.”

His hair had gotten long and he must’ve had a growth spurt - that’s what JC noticed. He wanted to tell him. Instead, he asked, “Chris give you a hard time? I’m assuming you stuck your head in the RV.”

“Not too bad, considering. Think he feels bad about the elimination; he only gloated for twenty minutes.” Justin turned his head and frowned into the wind. “Did he tell you I was at the club for his gig last week?”

“No, he must’ve forgotten to mention it.”

“Yeah, just like he happened to spin ‘Don’t Want You Back’ the second he spotted me coming towards his booth,” JC can’t help it; he laughed, “and how I’m sure he ‘forgot’ to deliver any of the fifty messages I’ve left for you over the last four months.”

The bitterness hurt JC’s ears. Part of him wanted to do what he’s always done - take Justin’s side, slay his dragons for him. But he also remembered that he was dealing with an adult, one who was capable of handling the consequences of his own actions. He won’t allow guilt to sway him.

He leaned back on his elbows, explaining, “It’s a game Chris and I play; he’s the protective, older brother, and I pretend I’m dumb to his evil ways.”

“Hmm. Hell of a game you’ve got there.”

The silence was more comfortable this time. The moon started to make its presence known.

Finally, JC offered, “I’m sorry about tonight, the show. Thought you were going to make it all the way.”

That made Justin laugh. “’S okay. If I’d gotten one more Guarini comparison I might’ve hurt someone. I’m thinking of shaving the curls, just to make a point,” he added the last part thoughtfully, as if he’d just decided.

“Don’t.” JC reached out, tangling his fingers in the blond ‘fro. “I’d miss them.”

Justin closed his eyes, not in any hurry to leave that moment. Disappointment etched his features a second later when JC remembered where they were, what they’d been through, pulling away. Recovering quickly, Justin asked, “Why is Chris staying with you? You guys were never what I’d call best friends, especially in close living quarters.”

“He says it’s to save money, while the band’s on hiatus.”

“You don’t buy it?”

He’d had a lot of sleepless nights to think about it, someone else’s snoring disrupting his normal routine.

“Chris is doing pretty well with his deejay gigs, especially since the show started airing. My theory is – even though he’s been pissed off at me – a part of him is scared of letting another one of us get too far away. You know, it’s okay for him to be mad and take it out on me as long as he knows I can’t walk out; if I’m in eyesight, he knows how to push my buttons just enough. Passive aggressive little fucker that he is.”

“It was you then? You’re the one who wouldn’t go on with the band?” Justin guessed, suddenly focused on a stubborn hangnail, pretending the answer didn’t matter at all.

JC wasn’t fooled. “Are you surprised? It wouldn’t have been the same without you. Literally – we would’ve been ‘Nsyc.’”

Now, Justin’s interested, defensive. “Hold up - I thought I was the first ‘N’, you think Lansten deserves to be first? That’s not even his real name, it doesn’t count, no one calls him that.”

A lifetime ago, it had been such a big deal: a name that adequately represented them all.

It amused him now that there was still a bit of boy left in his friend, that the difference between first and last in a now defunct band name still mattered. He grinned. “Can’t take the blow to your ego, can you?”

“Whatever.” Justin leaned back, casually spreading his knees to project a better view. “I just thought, considering, you know… what happened that maybe you’d wanna move on without me.”

The guys had always laughed at their baby boy’s less-than-subtle attempts at seduction – JC had even been the recipient of a couple of sloppy gropes in the first few years of the band – but he’d apparently gotten better at it while JC wasn’t looking.

His eyes were so busy drinking in the sight of form fitting blue jeans that he almost didn’t comprehend what Justin said.

What happened.

The mistake had been to ask the others to leave them. JC should have known himself better than to demand an explanation when emotions were running so high.

It wasn’t happily ever after. It wasn’t rose pedals and cinnamon scented candles.

Instead, it was rough and frantic, with barely enough restraint to keep from tearing away each other’s skin.


He’d needed to punish someone, anyone, associated with LA and its betrayals. It didn’t matter if the other man got off, or even if he was adequately prepared.

In that moment, Justin – his friend, his brother - didn’t exist; there was only a willing target for his nails, his teeth, his thrust. Rough hands and shallow breath.

The shame came afterwards.

It still wasn’t something JC wanted to face. His hands twisted nervously in the Leo pendant around his neck.

“And give up the life of nine to five advertisement?” He couldn’t stop the animosity from seeping into his voice. “Why would I ever dream of doing that?”

Justin wrapped his arms around himself, frustrated. “You don’t have to talk a good game with me, C, I know you too well.”

It was the wrong thing to say.

“Yeah? Look what that got me. A kick to the curb, that’s what.” JC could literally feel his blood pressure spike. “You know, Chris can be a real asshole sometimes, but at least I always know where I stand with him, he’d never just toss me, the band, aside.”

“Is that what you think?” Justin hissed crossly, “That I moved on without you?”

As long as they were going to have this conversation… “Tell me this, J, would you even be here tonight if you hadn’t gotten voted off?”

There was no hesitation at all. “No, no I wouldn’t.”

Whatever answer JC had expected, it certainly wasn’t that kind of honesty, but he wasn’t going to show how much it hurt.

So JC pushed back. “I didn’t think so.”

But Justin wasn’t finished.

“Do you want to know why? Because of my Idol-mandated chaperone, that’s why. The same guy that’s been trailing me for months, since I started this whole project. He’s the reason I haven’t been able to see you until now, the reason I kept away from you at the club. Considering the way we left things, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have a conversation in front of someone who’d no doubt repeat everything verbatim to the show’s execs.”

“A chaperone.” He didn’t believe him.

“Yeah. It’s in our contracts, they want to make sure we aren’t poached by any other record companies.”


“Yeah, oh. And how can you think I’d leave you behind? I was doing this for you.”

“Don’t put this on me, you’re doing this because you want to be a star; it’s what you’ve wanted your entire life.”

“Would I like to be known as something other than the Britney Spears’s first kiss? Hell yeah. But more than that, it’s important that you notice me, recognize me as something more than the kid from Mouse Club who broke your guitar strings. You need to stop coddling me when the other guys call me Brillo Head, and wiping my snot when I have a cold.”

“You broke up the band because I’m too nice to you?”

“Jesus Christ, you really are as dense as you appear to be, aren’t you? I’m trying to tell you I want to be your equal, I want to earn your respect, maybe even someday your love.” And then, because he can’t help it, Justin added a satisfying, “Idiot!”

Did he say love? “You’re…” It couldn’t mean what it sounded like.

“Yup.” Justin smiled, no trace of hesitation. “For a while now.”

“So that night…” When he’d been so full of hate and frustration.

The ocean was close enough, maybe he should just drown himself and be done with it.

“Listen, I know I should’ve stopped it, because it meant something entirely different to you than it did to me, but it was so close to what I’d actually wanted for so long.” It amazed him that Justin seemed much more interested in soothing his anxieties than reading him the riot act. “I was selfish. I took what I could ‘cause I didn’t know if I’d ever get a second chance.”

“But I hurt you.”

“It was nothing, a few scratches.” Justin appeared insulted by the thought, adding. “It’d have hurt worse if you’d had no reaction at all, if you’d just let me go. Besides, I know that’s not who you are; if I’d said no, you would’ve stopped.”

“I’m sor-”

“Don’t you dare apologize!” Justin demanded, eyes flashing angrily. “Maybe it was unexpected, but don’t make it into something ugly.”

His friend’s outburst was more than JC had bargained for. Over the past several months, he’d been so preoccupied with his own guilt over the incident, he’d never really considered Justin’s motivation that night; he’d just assumed the kid had been swept up in his own emotions.

It’d never occurred to him that Justin didn’t regret the sex.

Which left him with more than a few unanswered questions.

“Are you sure this isn’t some form of shock? Because you didn’t win American Idol?” JC couldn’t help but ask.

“Who said I wanted to? Halfway through the competition I realized, I can’t be in a band with my best friends if I’m tied up in a contract for the next decade of my life.”

And that’s how it was with Justin: one minute he was winning you over with all the right words, the next he was only out for himself.

It made JC’s head hurt. “So that’s it? You just decide and everything’s wrapped up with a neat little bow. You can’t just toy around with other people’s lives, J, we’ve all moved on to other things. Joey and Chris both have projects they love; Lance is finally enjoying a normal life… It’s not fair to them to just decide you want to go back to the way things were.”

“What about you? Are you happy?”

“This isn’t about me-”

Justin interrupts, laughing loudly. “It’s always been about you, C. Always.”

JC sighed. “Jesus. This is a lot to wrap my head around.”

“Guess my acting skills are better than I thought.”

“So, what now?”

“Now, I go on tour with the Idols for the summer.” Justin shrugged. “When I get back, we’ll take things as they come.”

The idea of spending the entire summer apart didn’t sit well with JC, especially considering they’d just been reunited, but he was smart enough to realize the time apart could do them some good. He had a big decision to make.

“Of course,” Justin continued, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, “knowing you, you’ll end up sticking your head in the sand and avoiding the whole thing. So, I should probably give you a little something to remember me by…”

Whoever had taught Justin to do that with his tongue deserved their pick at the nearest Tiffany store.

JC was breathing heavily when he finally pulled back from the kiss. He waited until he was sure he had full control of his voice before asking, “What if I decide the answer’s no? For you and me.”

“Then you’ll be my platonic buddy, and I’ll continue to pummel your ass on the basketball court,” answered Justin, “Of course, I’m not worried about it, really.”


“Haven’t you heard? I’m Justin Fucking Timberlake.” He smirked. “I always get what I want.”


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