nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.


by Kati, written for Megan

Justin rolled over JC and slapped stupidly at the obnoxious sound of the alarm. He swung and hit the snooze button, collapsing against JC and wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep. But the sun reflecting off the still waters of the lake and his body’s knowledge of what today meant sent a surge of energy screaming through his veins like a car coming down the backstretch. He pressed his grin into JC’s naked chest and tried to reign in his excitement. He failed miserably and let his fingers curl tightly around JC’s hips.

“Hey, now,” JC’s sleepy voice made Justin’s grin softer. “I’m not a steering wheel, you know.”

Justin laughed gently and pressed a warm kiss to JC’s belly. “Sorry, baby.”

“Mmm,” JC stretched his legs as best he could with Justin sprawled across them. “What time is it?”

“Nine-thirty.” He ran his hand along the curve of JC’s calf.

“Stop that,” JC laughed and pulled his knee close to his chest, tucking his calf safely away from Justin’s tickling hands. “What time are we meeting Dale and Jr.?”


JC's breath hitched as Justin laid a soft, slow kiss on the inside of his thigh.

“Darlington makes me nervous.” He said a little absently and let his fingers twine with Justin’s offered hand.

Justin stopped and shimmied up the bed. He flopped next to JC and brought their joined hands to his lips. “Why?”

“Because everybody runs balls to the wall on short tracks.” He curled into Justin’s chest as Justin brought them closer together. “You all drive the fuck out of your cars for 3 hours and there’s hardly any room at all…” JC trailed off and sighed. “It’s hard to watch.”

“Jayce,” Justin sighed and kissed the corner of JC’s mouth. “We do this every weekend.”

JC’s brows furrowed and his nostrils flared slightly. “Well, God, Justin. You drive a race car for a living. It’s not some nine-to-five job where I can be pretty sure that you’ll come home at the end of the day.”

“I come home,” Justin tried to soothe him. “I always come home.”

“So far you have.”

Justin rolled JC onto his chest and locked his heels behind JC’s calves.

“You know I love you, right?” JC nodded. “And I love to race, too.”

“I know that, Justin.” JC pulled his head up from where it had been buried against Justin’s neck. “I’m not trying to keep you from it. I’m just saying that it scares the shit out of me. So don’t get mad at me when I freak out every weekend you get in a race car, because I’m going to do it until you stop.” JC paused and then added. “And this is only your first full year of Cup, too. I think I’m doing pretty good.”

“I know, baby.” Justin sighed and hugged JC close. “Did I ever tell you how much I fucking love you for sticking with me all these years?”

JC smiled and rubbed his finger across Justin’s stubbled chin. “You’ve mentioned it once or twice.”


He nodded and pressed his forehead to Justin’s. “Here and there. But it never hurts to hear it again.”

Justin’s eyes danced happily in the late morning light. “I love you so much, JC.”

JC smiled. “Yeah? How much?”

“More than new shocks on my car.” Justin offered and laughed loudly when JC pinched his hip and then got serious. “Ok,” he took a breath. “I love you more than anything. If you wanted me to stop racing today, I would. Every time I get in my car I think of you and knowing that you’ll still be there, no matter how much I might suck on the track or how much shit we take in the press and from the fans…” Justin trailed off and smiled a little to himself. “I really love you.”

There was a pause and then JC cleared his throat and blinked rapidly. “Um. Ok. That was pretty good.”

Justin flipped them easily and kissed the top of JC’s nose. “You think so?”

JC nodded and said softly, “Yeah.”

Justin covered his face in kisses and glanced at the time. “Shit. It’s going on ten ‘o clock.”

“We need showers.” JC wrinkled his nose.

Justin grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. “Race you.” He dove out of the bed and ran, totally naked, towards the bathroom.

JC rolled his eyes at his boyfriend and followed him happily into the warm shower.


JC was standing in the entry way in front of an open door with only half an hour to make it to the airport. He glanced at his watch one more time and tried to keep his blood pressure from spiking any higher.

“Justin! Jesus Christ, hurry the hell up! We only have half an hour!”

An equally harried but muffled voice shouted, “It wasn’t my idea to fuck twice in the shower!”

“Yeah,” JC muttered and began to climb the stairs in search of Justin. “Because I really had to put a gun to your head for that, didn’t I?” JC walked into their bedroom and surveyed the damage. Half of Justin’s side of the closet was on the bed. An open overnight bag lay partially visible under a pile of jeans and Justin was no where in sight. “J, you know how Dale gets if we’re late.”

Justin’s head popped around the frame of the bathroom door, shaving cream dripping down his neck. “Can you pack me something to wear tomorrow?”

JC dug the bag out and began to quickly go through the jeans. “Jeans ok?”

“Fine.” The water in the bathroom came on. “Whatever you can find that isn’t dirty at this point.”

JC shoved a t-shirt, jacket, and a pair of jeans and sneakers into Justin’s bag. Justin came out and slipped his toiletries bag on top, hooking his chin over JC’s shoulder and kissing him quickly on the cheek. JC leaned into the clean scent and took a deep breath.


“I know.” JC zipped the bag and handed it to Justin. “Do you have everything?”

“I think so.” Justin glanced around the room and ran quickly to the dresser. He shoved his wallet into the back of his pocket as a guilty smile spread across his face.

JC could only shake his head. “Are we ready?”

“Yes,” Justin followed JC to the door and downstairs. “My car or yours?”

“Yours.” JC threw him the keys. “My stuff’s already in the trunk.”

Not surprisingly, Justin made what should have been a forty minute drive in only half an hour. JC sat next to him, swaying to the right and left as Justin took corners at ridiculous speeds, trying to calm his nerves by flipping anxiously through some racing parts magazine he found in Justin’s back seat. He still wasn’t accustomed to spending his weekends on helicopters and being escorted around race tracks with security guards while Justin was off smiling for cameras and signing hats. JC had been with Justin since he was racing sprints on dirt tracks in towns barely big enough to warrant a McDonalds. Nobody on earth had been more proud of Justin when he was signed with DEI than JC had been, but even after almost eight years, he still couldn’t get used to Justin climbing into a race car and strapping himself inside.

Justin lived for the weekends and green flags; JC lived for checkered flags and Mondays.

The plane ride to Darlington had been quick, full of shop talk and laughter, and now JC sat next to Justin in a black SUV, rolling slowly towards the garage through a sea of fanny packs, baseball caps, and beer cans. He was thankful the windows were tinted.

He laid his head on Justin’s shoulder. “What do you have today?”

“Driver’s meeting and a couple of meet and greets for sponsors. But I have to go see Chris in the garage before that. Lance is talking about wanting to put a new compound on the tires.”

JC yawned. “Why now? Why not wait until next week when you can practice with it?”

“Lance thinks it’ll be good for the short track.” JC nodded and threaded his fingers with Justin’s. “You watching from the RV today?”

“Nah,” he shook his head. “I’ll probably come and sit with Lance in the pit box.” The car stopped outside the garages. “Did Chris say what Joey was making for lunch?” JC asked as he climbed out of the car.

“Ribeye sandwiches, I think.”

Justin slid his sunglasses on and was immediately stopped by a group of giggling young women for an autograph. JC hurried inside the garage, wary of the few fans that got garage passes and wandered in search of autographs and pictures. He saw Chris, crouching beside the left rear tire with Lance at his side, talking loudly about traction and down force.

“Bass, you know I trust you, man. You know I do. But this compound could really fuck us over today.” Chris reached out and pressed his fingers into the hard rubber. “I just don’t see why we can’t wait until next week when we can run some test laps with it.”

Lance pushed a clipboard at Chris and pointed at a row of numbers.

“Look, CK. Look at the numbers.” His green eyes were piercing and passionate. “This could win us the race today. On short tracks, this compound has been doing unbelievably well. Next weekend is Talladega and then Lowe’s. We should do it here, now.”

Chris stared hard at the tire and then looked at Lance.

“You really think so?”

“Yes.” Lance nodded as confidently as he could. “Besides, he’s 37th on the Pole. What’s it going to hurt?”

Chris stared harder at Lance and then nodded once. “Ok. We’ll do it.”

JC threw his bag on top of a large red tool case and dropped onto a dolly next to Chris.

“Dude,” Chris slapped JC on the back. “When’d you guys get here?”

“Just now.” JC slid back on forth. “We hitched a ride on Jarrett’s plane with him and Jr..”

“Cool.” Chris peered over JC’s shoulder. “Is he around or did he get lost?”

“Some fans wanted a picture.” JC rubbed the wheel well, admiring the new paint scheme. “This is nice. I like it a lot.”

“Yeah,” Chris nodded and waved at Lance as he got up and went over to his team of engineers. “Cost a shitload, but it looks good, huh?”

JC nodded and let his eyes slide over the deep green finish of the paint and the solid black 81 that was blazoned across the door. Starbucks was written prominently and outlined in silver on the side quarter panels between the countless smaller decals of lesser sponsors. The safety net hung free, draped over the door revealing more decals. JC’s mind sometimes boggled at the actual number of sponsors it took to run a race team.

“Chris,” Justin strode into the garage and dropped his bag on top of JC’s. “What the hell did you do to my car?”

Chris pushed himself up and brushed the dirt and bits of tire rubber off his fire suit.

“I made it look better.” Chris replied and shook Justin’s offered hand. “Seriously, what do you think? It looks good, right? The Starbucks people flipped their shit over it.”

Justin nodded and considered the new look. “It’s cool, man. I like it.” He let his fingers comb through JC’s hair. “What do you think, Jayce?”

“I like it, too.” He replied from where he still sat on the dolly. He looked up at Justin. “I like the way Starbucks is written.”

“It’s tight.” Justin agreed and then helped JC up. “Where’s Lance?”

Chris gestured at the group of engineers still huddled around a piece of equipment.

“Fucking around with the tire compound stuff.” He stood with his arms crossed over his chest. “We talked about it, and Lance is pretty adamant and he’s got the numbers to back it up, so I gave him the green light.”

Justin shifted on his feet and scratched his head. “You really think that’s a good idea? We haven’t done any practice runs.”

JC leaned into Justin, recognizing the anxious look on his face.

Chris nodded. “That was what I said, too, but Lance made some good points. It’s a short track compound and the next three weekends are Talladega and Lowe’s, so now’s the time.”

“Chris,” Justin shifted on his feet again and was grateful for the hand that now rested gently at his elbow. “Man, you know it makes me nervous to try new shit out like this. Before we know how anything’s going to react.”

“I know, man.” Chris sounded sympathetic and for some reason, it really irritated JC. He wasn’t the one who climbed inside the car; he wasn’t the one who had to drive it. “But we really think this might put us in the top twenty at least. Maybe even the top ten.”

Justin sighed heavily. “You really think so?”

Chris nodded and glanced at JC. “And you know me and Lance wouldn’t put you in a car that we didn’t think was safe. That we thought might have even a minute safety concern. Trust us, Justin.”

“Alright,” Justin nodded and looked Chris in the eyes. “But if anything feels weird, I’m coming in and putting new tires on.”

“Sounds good.” Chris held up a finger to Tony Sr., Michael Waltrip’s crew chief, and hooked a thumb toward the back door of the garage. “Joey’s out back grilling steaks.”

Justin looked at JC, who nodded. “I’ll be back later. Tell Lance I want to see those numbers if he gets a chance.”

“Ok,” Chris was walking down the garage to Tony Sr., but he stopped and shouted, “And save me some steaks this time, for fuck’s sake!”

The early May sunshine was bright and warm when they stepped outside into the area behind the garage. In the distance, Justin could see the grandstands beginning to fill with fans. The smell of charcoal and steaks was strong as the truck drivers tended the grills and shouted happily with each other and their crews. Joey was standing at the back of the 81 truck, spatula in one hand and a beer in the other, flipping the steaks and pulling french fries out of a small deep fryer. His white apron was splattered with grease and the smile on his face was huge and inviting. Justin slipped his hand through JC's and pulled him toward the picnic table heaped with plates and buns and surrounded by most of his crew.

"Timberlake," Matt held up a fork in greeting as he chomped happily on his sandwich. "We were wondering if you were going to show up to race today."

"We weren't that late." Justin rolled his eyes and grabbed a plate. "Hey, Joe, you got any fresh ones?"

"I don't even get a hello." Joey shook his head sadly and turned to Justin. "Just a 'Give me my damn food.' I see how it is."

Justin set his plate on the grill's shelf. He wrapped his arms around Joey from behind and squeezed him tight.

"I love you, Joey." He squeezed harder until Joey was squeaking with breathless laughter and trying not to tip forward onto the hot grill.

"Justin! You're going to kill us both if you don't let go."

Justin released him. "I can't help it. You're so hot, Joey." He teased him and laid his bun open on his plate. "Now, give me my damn steak, please."

Joey grabbed a pair of tongs and slapped a steak onto Justin's bun. "Fries, too?"

"Of course." Justin nodded and shoved his plate at Joey again. "You're like our lunch lady." He said as Joey dished out a heaping pile of french fries.

Joey turned to JC, who was laughing at something Jack had said. "How the hell do you put up with him?" He asked him and reached for his plate.

JC handed it over and shook his head, smiling helplessly at Joey. "I drink a lot."

"Hey!" Justin looked offended. "I'm easy to love!"

Joey snorted and handed JC's plate back to him. "Whatever." He plucked a french fry from the pile. "Hey," he chewed and swallowed. "What's with the hair, JC?"

"What?" JC ran a self-conscious hand over his hair. "What's wrong with it?"

"Is that a mohawk?" Joey pointed at the tiny peak of hair that ran along the middle of JC’s head. He grabbed another fry. "I can’t really tell. It kind of just looks like you slept on it funny."

“It’s…” He smiled shyly. “I dunno, man. I like it.”

“Well, as long as you like it,” Joey teased and ran a big hand across JC’s head.

“Joe!” JC ducked away, already fixing his hair. “Damn you.”

Joey only laughed and handed JC his plate. “Dude, relax. You can’t even tell I touched it.”

JC took his plate and flipped Joey off easily before sitting down. Justin leaned into him and grinned, running his own hand across the top of JC’s head, fixing his hair and squeezing his neck fondly before pointing his fork at the other men around the table.

"Chris said to save some steaks for him. I think he's considering therapy after we ate them all last weekend."

"Oh, for fuck's sake." Joey rolled his eyes and stabbed his tongs at two steaks on the top of the grill. "I already saved his whiney ass two of them."

They had just finished eating when a short, slender man with graying hair came riding toward them on a golf cart. Ken Sunshine was a PR whiz, confident and business-savvy, attractive and direct. He breezed into a room, worked it to the bone, schmoozing fans and drivers alike. He was loud, laughed too much at his own feeble jokes, and tried entirely too hard to get people to like him.

JC couldn’t stand him.

“Justin,” Ken jumped off the cart and whipped his expensive sunglasses from his face. “Glad you could make it.”

JC fought the urge to roll his eyes at the little man. Glad Justin could make it? He had about 67 different contractual obligations requiring him to show up.

“Hey, Ken.” Justin held out his hand from his place at the picnic table. “What’s going on?”

“Not much, I was just-,” his Black Berry trilled noisily on his hip. He held up a finger and reached to unclip it. “One second, I have to take this.”

JC shoveled a spoonful of baked beans into his mouth in an effort to keep his mouth shut. Justin saw him do it and grinned knowingly, leaning in to kiss JC quickly on the temple and whisper, “Did I forget to mention he was coming this weekend?”

JC swallowed and pouted slightly. “Where’s Allison?”

“She had a wedding or something in Tennessee.” Justin wiped his hands on a napkin and took a gulp of his Gatorade. “Ken flew in to help me out. I’ve got some press stuff in a while and a meet and greet with the Valvoline sponsors.”

“You need help meeting and greeting people now, do you?”

“Starbucks thinks so.” Justin threw an arm around his neck and dragged him close.

“Ok. Sorry about that, guys.” Ken came back over to the table and slapped JC too hard on the back. “JC, man. What’s up?”

“Not much Ken.” JC turned and smiled politely.

“What’d you guys have for lunch?” Ken asked and gestured at the table.

“Ribeye sandwiches.” Justin stood and shifted to the side when JC did the same. “How much time do I have?”

Ken glanced at his Black Berry. “It’s one now, so about twenty minutes. Speed TV wants about ten minutes at one-thirty, and I wanted to go over some stuff with you before that. Do you need to change?”

“Yeah,” Justin nodded. “My suit’s in my RV, so I’ll change and meet you…where?”

“How about I just meet you at your RV? That’ll be less of a hassle for you.”

“Alright,” Justin said and pointed at the golf cart. “Can we steal your cart for a minute?”

“Sure,” Ken gestured at the cart. “Take it. I’ll find another one or walk over to your RV.”

“Thanks, man.”

Justin climbed into the front seat while JC settled himself precariously in the back before the driver took off toward the lot jam-packed with RVs. They zipped past fans and drivers alike on their way, Justin waving to almost everyone. They were stopped for a semi when Justin spotted a large pack of mostly women, all wearing red, gathered around a tall blonde guy near the garage entrance. He reached over and honked the horn on the cart obnoxiously.

“Oh my God, Dale Jr., you are so hot!” He squealed in a comically high voice as the semi cleared the lane and their driver took off again. He turned around and laughed loudly at the trademark grin on Dale’s face.

The driver dropped them right at the door and waited while Justin let JC and himself into the RV.

“What time is it?” He asked JC, kicking off his shoes and shucking his jeans as he made his way down the hallway.

“Ten after. Is your suit back there?”

“Yeah,” Justin replied. “But I can’t find my shoes. Are they up there?”

JC began to rummage around the front of the RV, checking under the table and sofas. Justin emerged from the back in a shiny green and silver fire suit with Starbucks scrawled across his chest.

“Did you find them?”

“No,” JC shook his head. “I called Chris and they’re getting you a pair. You can do the press stuff in your tennis shoes, right? That’s not a big deal.”

“Yeah,” Justin nodded and went back to the hallway to collect his shoes. He sat on the sofa to put them on. “Are they bringing them here or what?”

JC nodded and flopped onto the couch across from Justin. “Yeah, when they find a pair. You’ll be back before the introduction, right?”

“I should be,” Justin stood and grabbed his sunglasses and hat off the table. “Are you just going to hang out here?”

“Probably,” JC nodded and kicked his own shoes off. “Is that ok?”

Justin smiled and bent to kiss JC quickly. “That’s fine. I’ll see you in a while.”

JC watched him dash down the steps and hop onto the cart with a waiting Ken. They sped off across the lot, leaving him in the quiet sanctuary of the RV. He flipped the TV on, turned the volume down, and curled up for a nap before the race.


“We should be back home tomorrow,” JC told his mother and stretched languidly on the couch. He grinned a little sleepily at Justin as he came bounding up the steps of the RV. “No, that’s fine. Just give us a call later in the week about getting together.”

Justin dropped onto the end of the couch and pulled JC’s legs into his lap. “Is that your mom?”

JC nodded and quirked an eyebrow when Justin held out his hand expectantly.

“Wait a minute, Mom.” He spoke into the phone and smiled lazily at Justin. “Justin just came in and wants to say hi.”

He handed Justin the phone and settled against the couch, closing his eyes and listening to Justin talk to his mother about coming down to visit. His lips curled into a gentle smile as Justin began to rub his feet. He dozed happily, the familiar sound of Justin’s voice dopplering in and out of consciousness until he woke to the plastic sound of his phone snapping shut.

He blinked an eye open. “You done?”

Justin nodded and then sprawled on top of JC. “What did you do while I was gone?”

“Slept,” JC pushed breathlessly at Justin and laughed. “Babe, you’re squishing me.”

“What?” Justin asked and laid his entire weight against JC. “I couldn’t understand what you said.”

“Justin!” JC huffed and tried to push the weight off his chest, hands slipping against the slick metallic green of the fire suit. “I can’t breathe!”

“Oh,” he said and slid to the side, wedging himself between JC and the back of the couch. He rested his hand on JC’s chest. “Well, why didn’t you say something then?”

“Asshole,” JC mumbled and turned, pressing his face into Justin’s neck. “How was the press stuff?”

Justin shrugged and ran his fingers through the short hair at the base of JC’s neck. “It was alright. They ask about you and me too much.”

JC kissed his neck in consolation. “Did my mom tell you everybody’s coming down?”

“Yeah,” Justin nodded against JC’s shoulder. “During the next off week, right?”

“Yup. Even Heather and Mike.”

“Cool. When’s the next off week again?” He asked and laughed a little at himself for not knowing his own schedule.

“Six weeks.” JC rubbed his hands up Justin’s back and frowned. “Jesus, baby. You’re tense as hell.”

“I’m fine.” Justin slipped his leg between JC’s. “I’m ok, Jayce.”

“No, you’re not.” JC ran his hands up to Justin’s neck and frowned deeper when he realized the hand behind his head was clenching and unclenching itself nervously. “Here,” he said and sat up, motioning Justin to roll his stomach on the couch. He straddled Justin’s thighs and began to knead the muscles at the base of his back, trying to sooth him. “The tires are going to be fine. Chris and Lance know what they’re doing, and you have to learn to trust them.” He bent down to press a kiss behind Justin’s ear.

“I know,” Justin mumbled and hissed loudly when JC hit a knot. “Jesus, yeah. Right there. I’m just nervous. You know how I get when we tweak the car and run it before we test it.”

“I know,” JC began to work his shoulders. “You’ll do great. I know you will.”

Justin turned his head and peered up at JC. “Yeah?”

JC smiled. “Yeah. You’ll kick all their asses.”

Justin snorted and pressed his cheek against the cushion. “Have you been to any races this year? I haven’t placed higher than twenty-fifth.”

“Well,” JC shrugged lamely. “It’s your first year. You’re working up to the ass kicking thing.”

Justin laughed gratefully, sinking into the couch and soaking up JC’s warmth and strength. JC smoothed the fire suit when he was finished and laid himself carefully on top of Justin, threading their legs together and kissing the back of his neck.

“You awake?” He asked and hooked his chin over Justin’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean to put you to sleep.”

Justin made a contented noise. “I fucking love you, man.”

JC laughed quietly. “Good.”

They lay together like that until there was a knock on the RV door that sent them both racing around the camper. Justin yanked his new pair of shoes on, bitching about how they weren’t worn in, while JC scurried around to find suitable clothes in which to be shown on TV. He finally settled on a pair of khaki cargo shorts and a long-sleeved blue button up shirt that he rolled to his elbows and left un-tucked.

“Jayce, we gotta go.” Justin could hear the PA system blare the fifteen minute mark for driver’s to get to their cars. An impatient NASCAR official sat on a golf cart waiting for them. “Don’t forget your phone,” Justin pointed at JC’s phone at the table as he rushed past.

“Thanks,” JC said and tossed Justin a cold Gatorade as they climbed onto the cart. “Do you have everything?”

“Hope so,” Justin turned around and grinned at JC. The roar of the crowd, the lights, and the frenzied activity were beginning to wind him up. JC loved to watch his cheeks flush and his eyes dance with anticipation. “Did you let Chris know we’re coming?”

JC nodded and hung on tight as the cart took a sharp turn. “I called him while you were putting your shoes on. They’re waiting to wire you.”

The pit was teaming with activity when their golf cart rolled to a stop in front of the tent. The car was gleaming brightly beneath the lights. Chris and Lance stood at the tire rack going over last minute details while the rest of the crew ran around, double-checking tools and fuel cans. JC shivered slightly at the overwhelming level of activity.

Chris looked over and spotted them. “Dude,” he nodded at Eric who stood waiting with Justin’s radio. “Get wired. We’ve only got about ten minutes.”

JC hung back while Justin’s radio was wired, trying to calm his own nerves at seeing Justin pull on the thick, black gloves and tuck his helmet under his arm. The introductions were quick and the announcer was soon calling all drivers to their cars. The roar of the crowd was deafening as Justin approached him, helmet in hand. They met halfway, linking their fingers at their waists, their heads on each other’s shoulders.

“You ready?” JC asked him and pressed himself closer. He felt Justin nod. “Drive hard. Drive safe.”

“I always do,” Came the familiar response.

“Come back to me.”

“I always will.” Justin said softly.

They pulled apart. JC smiled at him as he walked to the car and turned around one final time, grinning from ear to ear.

“Hey, I’m gonna go for a quick drive. Be back in a few.”

JC’s grin matched Justin’s.

He climbed the pit box and took his place next to Joey and Lance as Justin climbed in his car and flipped the switches that started the engine. The crowd roared as the drivers made their way out of pit row and into starting formation. JC pulled on his headset and immediately heard Justin’s voice tell Chris the radio signal was good.

“Hey,” he pulled one earpiece away from his head and turned to Joey. “What’s with the pit tonight?”

Their pit was at the very end of the lane, nothing more than a tent pitched on the side of the road. Chris and the rest of the crew were already irritated as they tried to maneuver the tight surroundings.

Joey only shrugged. “It’s the one he pulled, man.”

“There’s not even a wall,” JC gestured at the black stripe painted on the concrete that represented the pit wall. “This should be interesting.”


“Go high, go high, go high,” Chris shouted into the radio as Bobby Lebonte got into the back of Elliot Sadler in turn three. JC leapt to his feet with the crowd, peering down the straight away at the wall of white smoke in turn three. “Go high, go high,” Chris kept saying.

JC could feel his heart pounding in his chest. “Do you see him?” He asked Joey, watching car after car clear the crash. “God, do you see him, Joe?”

“He’s got it,” Joey nodded confidently. “He was high going into the turn. He missed it.”

A streak of green came charging out of the turn and down the back stretch.

“Clear.” Chris’ voice crackled in JC’s ear. “Caution’s out.”

JC breathed a short sigh of relief and glanced down the track at the standings on the leader board. His chest seized with pride and excitement at the sight that met him. Justin was running 17th with 149 laps to go. The buzz in the pit was almost more than JC could bear. He felt like he was chewing a hole through his bottom lip each time Justin passed another car, each time a caution flag was thrown out. He couldn’t ever remember being this nervous at one of Justin’s races.

“Is it still running loose?” Chris asked Justin and looked down the track at the leaders.

“Yeah, but it’s good. I like it how it is. We’re not messing with it.”

JC looked across Joey’s lap at Lance’s computer and glanced at the one or two readings he could actually understand. From the restrained look of jubilation on both Chris and Lance’s faces, JC knew Justin had a real chance at placing in the top fifteen.

“Harvick and Nemecheck are running first and second right now. The top five are coming in.”

“Where am I?” Justin’s voice sounded calm and focused in JC’s ear.

“Seventeenth.” Chris told him. “We should take this yellow to fuel up and change your front two tires.”

“Ok.” His voice broke up. “I’m coming in.”

JC watched as other cars squealed to a stop in front of their own pits, their crews jumping the wall with tires and jacks in hand, before Justin came flying down pit road behind them.

“Jesus,” JC grit his teeth and glanced at Justin’s speed on Lance’s computer. “Watch it, baby.” He said more to himself than anybody. “Drive smart. Don’t blow this.”

Justin slammed on the breaks in front of the pit and the crew flew into a kind of controlled chaos that JC loved to watch. Eric was popping the lug nuts off the front left side tire less than a second after Justin had come to a complete stop. Jimmy stood beside him, tire in hand ready to roll into place. Adam was tipping the fuel can empty as Aaron ripped the windshield sheets from the car. Eric slammed the last lug nut home and scurried back behind the line while Jason released the jack and slapped the side of the car sending Justin racing back to the track to jockey for a restart position.

“How fast?” JC asked Lance through the radio.

“Ten-point-two.” Lance replied. “Man, this might be our night. God knows we’ve paid our dues.”

JC nodded and stood, suddenly unable to contain his anxious energy any longer. His palms were cold and clammy and his chest felt tight. He heard the engines roar to life as the green flag was dropped and couldn’t stand it any longer.

“I have to go.” He announced and moved around Lance to the short ladder that lead back to the ground. “I can’t watch anymore right now.”

“You ok?” Joey asked him as he began to descend the ladder.

“Nervous.” JC gritted out. “I just need some fresh air.”

Joey nodded and watched him go. JC hit the pavement with a loud clap of his flip-flops and looked around for an escape route or an open area in which he could pace a bit. He was wound way too tight. He laid his radio on the shelf of a large tool chest and spotted a cooler next to the tire rack. He walked over to it and flipped the lid, considering the contents and plucking a bottle of water from the bottom.

He stood and turned, just in time to see a car skidding out of control toward the pit.

JC heard Adam scream his name at the same time he felt the impact of the car against his legs, tossing him like a rag doll over the hood and onto the ground. He lay breathless and confused, unable to focus his eyes or yell for help. When he tried to move his leg, he saw black spots and felt sick to his stomach. He heard himself finally cry out as his fingers scrabbled for purchase against the concrete of the road.

“JC?” Joey swam in front of his vision, blurry and looking as scared as JC had ever seen him. He pressed a hand against JC’s chest and shouted for somebody to call the medics. “JC, you have to stop moving, ok? Just lie still. We’re going to take care of you.”

“Joey,” JC whined desperately and tried to sit up again. He screamed at the fire that raced along his side and fell back against the concrete. “Fuck, it hurts. It hurts!”

“I know, man,” Joey looked around helplessly at the stunned and worried crew. “We’re taking care of you. Just lie still. You have to be still until we know what’s wrong with you.”

JC’s fingers gripped at the collar of Joey’s fire suit. “Justin.”

“Justin’s fine, JC.” Joey assured him and almost shouted with relief when he saw the rescue team coming down pit row. “He’s racing right now.”

“I want him,” JC said in a broken voice. “Tell him I need him.”

Joey locked eyes with Chris and felt his heart flip in his chest. Chris stood braced against a concrete partition at the end of pit row, talking into the radio and staring across the track. Joey didn’t envy him at all.

The rescue team rushed from the vehicles, pushing Joey out of the way trying to get to JC. JC was shivering violently and mumbling about Justin as the team quickly loaded him onto a stretcher and pushed him into the back of an ambulance.

“Does anyone want to come with him?” A female EMT asked from the door.

Joey looked around the crew and nodded once. “I’ll go.” He hopped into the rig.

The door was shut and the sirens began to wail.


Lance stood next to Chris watching Greg Biffle do a victory lap. Justin was elated, shouting happily at Chris on the radio and hurrying to pit row. They’d called in NASCAR security to keep the cameras and reporters at bay as long as possible. Lance was sure they were about to see some fireworks, though not the kind they had hoped for.

Justin rolled to a stop and cut his engines off. He popped his helmet off and pulled the gloves from his hands before releasing the safety net and pulling himself half out of the car.

“Yeah!” He pumped his fist and grinned at his crew. “How ‘bout that tire compound, Bass?” He stepped completely out of his car and unzipped his suit. “I’ll never doubt your crafty ass again.”

“Justin,” Chris was staring at the ground. “We need to talk.”

“About what?” Justin asked dismissively and walked over to Lance, throwing an arm around his shoulders and grinning. “I just got second place!”

“Justin,” Lance tried to get Justin to listen.

Justin glanced around quickly and frowned. “Hey, where’s JC and Joey?”

Chris turned and glared at the reporters, foaming at the mouth and screaming for Justin from mere feet away. He took a deep breath. “There was a thing.”

“A thing?” Justin dropped his arm from Lance’s shoulder and crossed them over his chest. “What thing?”

“An accident, Justin,” Lance got between Justin and the reporters. “Kurt Busch’s brakes went out and he couldn’t stop his car.”

“Ok,” Justin said slowly, not putting the pieces together. “Is he ok? Where’s he at?”

“He hit JC.” Lance finished and tried not to flinch.

Justin was silent for a moment.


“JC was hit.”

“Hit with what?” Justin asked, still confused and refusing to believe what they were telling him. “I don’t understand.”

“JC was hit by Kurt’s car.” Lance explained patiently. “Joey went with him to the hospital.”

Justin’s breath hitched. “But he’s ok, right? Is he ok?”

“No.” Lance shook his head and swallowed. “He broke his leg and maybe some ribs. We don’t know. Joey hasn’t called.”

Justin’s lung-crushing fear was instantaneous.

“I have to go.” He shoved his helmet and gloves at Lance. “I have to go now.”

“Ok,” Lance nodded and pointed at a waiting Suburban next to the tent. “We got somebody to drive you there. Do you want some water or anything?”

Justin shook his head fiercely and took off toward the truck. Lance could hear the click of camera shutters as he chased after him.

“I’ll come with you.”

Justin blinked from his seat but said nothing.


Justin almost plowed through the reporters that waited at the hospital for him, cheeks wet and lips pressed into a thin line as he barreled through the doors and up to the front desk.

“JC Chasez.” Justin voice cracked frantically. “Is he here? Is he ok?”

“One moment, Mr. Timberlake,” The nurse smiled sympathetically and began to flip quickly through a stack of charts on her desk. If Justin was surprised she knew who he was, he didn’t show it. “I’ll get Dr. Hawkins. He treated JC when he first came in.”

Justin stood rooted in front of the counter, barely aware of Lance at his side, and irrationally afraid that something was terribly wrong, that the nurse was going to get the doctor because JC was in a coma or worse.

Justin coughed slightly, trying to fight the tightness in his throat and chest that threatened to spill over in some kind of emotional breakdown he didn’t want to have in front of these strangers and reporters with their cameras. He jumped at Lance’s hand as it came to rest on his forearm.

“He’ll be ok, Justin.” Lance soothed quietly.

“Hi, are you Justin?” A young man in tiny silver-framed glasses came around the counter with a chart in hand. He smiled kindly. “I’m Dr. Hawkins.”

Justin practically lunged at him and nodded. “I’m him. I’m Justin. Is JC ok? Can I see him?” He peered behind the man like he had JC hidden behind him.

“JC’s going to be fine, Justin.” Dr. Hawkins consulted his chart. “We treated him for a fibula fracture in his left leg, two cracked ribs on his left side, and some minor cuts and abrasions. He’ll have to be in the leg cast for at least a full 8 weeks. It’s a pretty nasty break. He was actually very lucky from what the man who came in with him told me.”

Justin nodded slowly, his face almost white with a myriad of emotions: relief, residual fear, and an absolute and overwhelming need to see JC.

“Is he awake? Can I see him?”

Dr. Hawkins snapped the chart closed and nodded. “We admitted him overnight for observation. Abby can get you a room number and find somebody to take you upstairs. Ok?”

“Yeah,” Justin managed to remember his manners and stuck out his hand. “Thank you. Really. And you’re sure he’s going to be ok?”

“I’m sure, Justin.” Dr. Hawkins smiled. “Take good care of him, keep his leg up for the first week or so. He’ll be back to normal before you know it.”

“I will,” Justin promised. “Thanks.”

Dr. Hawkins hurried back behind the counter, dropping JC’s chart into a basket and plucking another one from the pile.

“Justin, come on.” Lance tugged on his sleeve. “I already got the room number.”

Joey was sitting in a hard plastic chair across from JC’s room when Lance and Justin stepped off the elevator. Justin took off, jogging quickly down the hallway and startling Joey when he bypassed him completely and went straight for the room. He could hear Lance and Joey talking behind him as he crept through the doorway and into the dark space. His stomach flipped at the sight of JC, pale and weak against the stark white of the hospital sheets.

Justin went to the bed, grasping JC’s hand gently in his own and letting himself breathe for the first time since he’d been told what happened. He reached a shaking hand to JC’s furrowed brow and traced the fitful lines as he slept. He stood like that, tracing JC’s face with his fingertips until he saw Joey and Lance move into the room out of the corner of his eye.

Joey stopped at the foot of the bed. “Man, he’s out. They gave him the good drugs a while ago.”

Lance came to the other side of JC’s bed and spoke softly. “Hey, it’s late. We’re heading back to the RVs. Why don’t you come with us? You’re still in your fire suit.”

Justin shook his head but didn’t look away from JC when he murmured, “I’ll see you guys later. I’m staying with him.”

“I don’t think the hospital-”

“Ok,” Joey cut Lance off quickly. “We’ll talk to some people about that.”

Lance sighed and nodded, realizing that nothing and nobody could pry Justin from JC. “We’ll get Ken here to deal with the press.”

Justin nodded but still didn’t look away from JC. When Lance and Joey had gone, he dragged a chair to the side of the bed and lowered himself into it. A nurse came and went, checking on JC’s vitals and making a note in the chart at the end of the bed. Justin traced the lines on JC’s palm with his fingers and listened to the steady beep of the heart monitor that mingled with a repeat of the eleven o’clock news.

He turned when he heard the familiar sound of car engines racing at 180 MPH and the overly excited voice of the local sports anchor.

“That’s right, Doug. The Sharpie 500 was packed with action today as forty-five qualifiers took to the short track. Greg Biffle brought home the checkered flag, but the top story on and off the field was rookie Justin Timberlake. Timberlake, the first openly gay driver in NASCAR history, charged the field, driving his way from thirty-seventh to second, his highest placing in a Nextel race to date. But the celebration in the number eight-one pit was stopped short when the brakes on Kurt Busch’s ninety-seven car failed. Busch collided with Timberlake’s partner of eight years, JC Chasez, causing serious injury to Chasez. Timberlake was not informed of the incident until after he had finished the race and Chasez was taken to Wilson Medical Center for treatment. Busch released a statement saying he quote “extends his deepest apologies and most heartfelt concern” to Timberlake, Chasez, and both of their families. No comment yet from Timberlake or his reps. In playoff action, the Lakers-”

Justin hit the power button on the remote that lay next to JC’s arm and thanked every higher power he could think of that he hadn’t brought his cell phone. Chris or Lance would think to call Karen and his own mother, and Justin had no doubt they’d both be at the door by noon tomorrow. But tonight, he was going to wait out the storm beside JC. He laid his head on the bed, fingers still twined with JC’s, until a hoarse whisper startled him out of a light doze.

“Did you do some ass kicking?”

Justin sat up, rubbing at his gritty eyes and blinking in the sickly yellow light spilling in from the hallway. JC lay against the pillow, eyes drooping heavily with an adorably goofy looking grin on his face.

“Jayce,” Justin brought a hand up and stroked his cheek. “God.”

JC leaned into the touch. “What,” he hissed loudly when he took too deep a breath. “What did you place?”

“Yeah,” Justin smiled fondly at him as a tear slipped down his cheek. “’Cause that’s what’s important right now.”

“Tell me,” JC murmured and wished like hell he could slide closer to Justin.

“Second.” Justin pressed a kiss to JC’s palm.

“Are you kidding me?” JC’s eyes got wide. “Justin! God, that’s great! I’m so proud of you. I wish I could have been there to see it.”

Justin smiled a little. “I’ll let it slide this time.” Then he thought a second. “But you know you can’t ever come to another race again.”

“Justin,” JC rolled his eyes.

“Nope.” Justin shook his head. “I’m serious. You’re staying at home from now on. Preferably in a padded room with an armed guard out front.”

JC giggled softly, making Justin’s heart stutter in his chest. “You big dork.”

“Yeah, well,” Justin rubbed circles on the back of JC’s hand with his thumb. “I had quite a scare today.”

JC squeezed Justin’s thumb. “I’m ok.” Justin gave him a disbelieving look and gestured at their surroundings. “Fine,” JC conceded with a smile. “I’ll be ok. Soon.”

“Promise?” Justin laid his head on the bed near JC’s hand.

JC let his fingers thread through Justin’s curls. “Promise.”


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