nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

What Lies Beyond

by mixedsignal, written for Kid Sinclair

The sign in front of the ramshackle house was hand-painted and attached by a rusty iron nail, long tufts of drying grass clumped haphazardly around the base: “Guided lake tours. Cheap.” Justin Timberlake looked on with horror at the brightly-colored pontoon boat that bobbed merrily on the water, “Starlit Sunshine” painted gaily across her stern. Quickly, he popped the latch on his smartly-tailored briefcase and withdrew a carefully-folded piece of paper printed earlier that morning:

Chasez Tours.

Your Guide to the Lake Country.

See what lies beyond.

Justin scrutinized the printout until his contacts began to blur, but the name on the boat and the writing on the sign didn’t seem quite as crisp and pristine as they did in the photographs, even though the address and the phone number matched exactly. For a brief moment, Justin entertained ideas of jumping back into his rental (Ford, he thought grimly) and driving back to the airport, but he had promised himself (and his mother, for that matter) rest and relaxation and he was going to have it. Squaring his shoulders, he started to look around, hoping to find the owner of the establishment, but a merry voice saved him the trouble.

“Man...for someone who’s here for a good time, you certainly don’t look too happy!”

The voice was cheerful, and Justin quickly whirled in its direction.

“JC Chasez, Chasez Tours. Nice to meet ya.”

Right hand outstretched, the tall stranger (handsome stranger, Justin thought absently) looked expectantly at Justin, an amused smile gently pulling at his lips.

“Um. Justin. Justin Timberlake. Nice to meet you as well,” Justin said finally, offering his own hand a beat later.

An awkward silence settled over the pair as Justin quickly re-assessed his surroundings. JC was dressed casually at best, khaki capris ending a few inches above a pair of tattered Teva sandals. A sleeveless t-shirt that at one time might have been white but was currently splattered with paint rounded out the ensemble, a pale strip of tummy barely visible above his waistband. A pair of reflective sunglasses were half-buried in the messy curls atop his head, but JC’s smile was genuine and his handshake warm and firm and Justin could feel himself begin to relax slightly.

“So...you a virgin?” JC said casually, and just like that Justin could feel his muscles tightening.

“Wh...what? What?” he sputtered, and JC held his gaze for one long moment before bursting into laughter.

“Relax, dude. I’m just teasing you. What I meant was have you ever been on a boat?”

“I’ve been on a boat. Yes. Plenty of times,” Justin said defensively, though if he was being honest he wasn’t sure that the Staten Island Ferry counted.

“Good,” JC said warmly. “It’ll be nice to have someone experienced around for a change. We don’t get many like that around here any more. Mostly it’s city slickers and rural farm boys who just want to...um...look at the scenery.” JC stopped speaking abruptly as a faint blush colored his cheeks, but he recovered quickly. “Um. Anyway. Welcome aboard. Justin Timberlake, meet the Starlit Sunshine.”

Justin stepped carefully onto the wooden dock, arms grasping the railing tightly as he made his way to the boat. Ahead of him, JC bounded onto the ship’s deck with effortless enthusiasm, ducking underneath the heavy sail and making his way toward the bow, bright sunlight catching in his curls.

“C’mon now, J–I can call you J, right?–time’s a-wastin’! You only paid for three hours, so let’s get going!”

Justin nodded, lips pressed into a thin line as he cautiously stepped off the dock and onto the boat. Below him, he could feel the gentle rocking of the waves and hear the water lapping at the ship’s sides. In spite of himself, he began to relax, and as JC quickly untied the heavy rope that served as an anchor, the first real smile of the day began to grace Justin’s lips.


“So...whaddaya do?”

Twenty minutes had passed, the shoreline’s battered dirt roads giving way to thick, low-hanging trees and grasses beyond the edges of the river that lead to the lake. Justin had been enjoying the ride so far, basking in the kiss of the warm sunlight and the gentle call from the gulls overhead. Somewhat startled, he turned to JC who was stretched out along the railing, long legs splayed wide in front of him as he slouched comfortably.

“I’m an insurance salesman,” Justin said quietly, words carefully measured. “I sell insurance.”

JC looked at him quizzically, head cocked to one side. “Insurance?”

“Yeah,” Justin said, and then, a beat later, “why?”

“You look like you’re some kind of lawyer or something, with that fancy suit you got. Why the hell would you wear a fancy suit to go sailing anyway?”

“It’s important to make a good first impression,” Justin said automatically, and then flinched. “Sorry. It’s just my momma’s always saying...”

“Whatever you say, Forrest,” JC said, laughing. “You don’t need to tell me anything you don’t want to, man. I was just curious. When you showed up you looked like you could use some kind of relaxation or a good time, and I just figured you were some kind of lawyer. Or a stockbroker looking to drown himself. Or something.”

“Yeah, well,” Justin trailed off, “sometimes selling insurance has it’s own stressors.” He sighed, closing his eyes, imaging the heat from JC’s intense stare on his face, before forcing himself once again to relax. “How ‘bout you? You just do this? Or do you have a real job?”

“This is my real job,” JC said evenly, leveling Justin’s stare for just a moment before breaking into a wide grin. “Nah, I work here in the summertime and in the wintertime tend bar. Passes the time and keeps me connected with the people around me, y’know? And then sometimes I play, just local stuff, nothin’ really-”


“-Music. Just guitar and vocals and stuff. A local guy ‘round here’s got a band, but I’m not too much into the group thing anymore. I’d rather be off on my own. But yeah. Just foolin’ around, here and there.”

“Oh...” Justin’s voice was wistful, and a small, sad smile perched on his lips as he stared at his hands. “I used to play once...long time ago. Before this, I mean,” he gestured expansively with his hands, then stared out over the water. “I always liked to play...”

Silence, thick and awkward, hung between them as the boat slowly swayed until JC stood up, stretching his arms skyward and arching his back. “Well, no time like the present then, huh?”

He offered Justin a smile and then walked the brief distance to the front of the boat, where he pulled a heavy black case from inside a small cabinet.

“Oh! Oh, no. No, I mean...you don’t have to, I mean, no...” Justin stammered as JC approached, guitar hoisted neatly on his hip. “That’s not what this was for. I mean, I just wanted a few hours of quiet and...”

“Y’like Dylan?” JC’s voice was casual, but there was an undercurrent of steel in his words, as though he’d run through a laundry list of other artists if Justin declined. Justin nodded helplessly, smiling in spite of himself as JC made sure the guitar was in tune. Then, a moment later, he began strumming a simple chord progression, and Justin found himself humming softly as JC sang the opening bars of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Sweet and low, JC continued singing, his fingers plucking easily at his guitar as he moved through the melody, and before long Justin’s hum had blossomed into a soft harmony that gently blanketed JC’s notes, and when the song ended, JC looked up at Justin with a fond smile on his face.

“You’re pretty good,” he said quietly, feeling heat stretch across his own face as Justin’s cheeks warmed in a blush, “you shouldn’t have given it up.”

Justin said nothing, twisting his fingers absently as he studied the floor. When he spoke again, his voice had lost some of its luster. “I ran out of money,” he said flatly. “I came to Nashville when I was eighteen to try to make it big, but apparently someone ‘my age’ and with ‘my good looks’ is good for one thing and one thing only. So...I tried. I failed. I left, and joined my step-dad’s insurance company. This is the first time I’ve been south of New York City in almost ten years. I wanted to see if I could make it feel good again,” Justin trailed off, eyes glazed, miles away. “I just...I had to see, y’know. Sometimes it’s too much. And then this thing with Lance and being single again and having to deal with all the shit that goes with it...and...oh...I’m sorry.” Justin looked up apologetically at JC, who was studying him intently, eyes inscrutable.

“Nothin’ to be sorry about, man. We can stay out here as long as you want. It’s on me,” JC said quickly as Justin began to protest. “‘Sides, I usually only sing in the fall when there’s tourists. This’ll be like a free rehearsal, y’know?”

And once again, Justin began to relax.


The Starlit Sunshine sailed for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening, until the bright circle of the sun had been neatly sliced by the orange-blue line of the lake horizon. Content, Justin smiled, drinking strong strawberry wine from an unmarked bottle JC had offered hours earlier. His entire body suffused with warmth, Justin smiled, staring unabashed at his companion as he fiddled with the settings on the boat, consulting his compass though it was evident he knew exactly where they were.

“You never told me ‘bout you, JC,” Justin said lazily, giving him a sidelong glance. “I told you all about Lance and my woes and my breakup and that whole Vegas incident, and yet I barely know anything about you.”

“Would you remember if I did?” JC teased. “With the way you’re suckin’ down that wine, you’ll be lucky to remember your damn name tomorrow!”

“Eh, wine,” Justin scoffed. “S nothin’. ‘Sides, turnabout’s fair play, right?”

JC smiled, and came to sit next to Justin on the deck. “Right. And really, there’s not much to tell. I’ve been single for a while now...got my heart kicked around by a few girls. A few guys, too,” he said quickly at Justin’s narrowed eyes. “But yeah. Single. Occasional hook-up in the bar. Occasional kiss on the boat,” he said, grinning slyly. “But nothing crazy.”

Justin held his breath, felt the alcohol steeling his nerves, and against his every inclination to the contrary, went with the instinct he’d been fueling for hours.

“These kisses in the boats,” he began lightly. “How occasional are we talking here?”

Silence, once again, but JC’s stare was unwavering, lust and excitement appearing in equal turns.

“Dunno. Sometimes it just happens...not even time to...”

His words were swallowed by the warm press of Justin’s lips, sweet and firm against his own. He could feel the shy sweep of Justin’s tongue gently prodding at his lips, and both men moaned softly as those lips parted and their tongues met. Justin sighed as JC dusted slow, careful kisses against the edges of his mouth, biting back a groan as he took his time deepening them, making them last. He tangled his hands restlessly in JC’s hair, guiding their mouths even closer together, shifting so they lay sprawled against the cool wooden deck of the ship.

“Justin,” JC whispered, and pulled back just far enough to stare into his eyes, “Justin...”

Then their mouths met again, and their words floated away.


“So...um...I kept you quite a bit longer than three hours,” Justin said nervously the following morning, squinting into the bright sunshine that sparkled off the water, “I mean...I feel like I should offer you more cash, but I can’t quite figure out how to do it without seeming like a total perv...”

JC laughed, head thrown back, arm braced against his belly as his shoulders shook, “oh, Justin,” he said, laughing harder Justin’s confused face, “I already learned all about your perverted...”

“Hey!” Justin said defensively, crossing his arms and trying his best to glare.

“Not that it’s a bad thing,” JC continued, still laughing, “but no, you don’t owe me any extra cash. I already told you it was on me. And after last night,” he said, raising his eyebrows flirtatiously, offering a leer of his own, “well...”

Justin finally laughed, his whole body relaxing as he leaned forward into JC’s body, hips cradled against JC’s, face nestled in JC’s throat. Sighing contentedly, he pressed a heated kiss against the warm skin of JC’s neck, letting his lips linger, his tongue coming out to tease. He could feel him shiver against the brush of his lips, and when he pulled away, JC’s eyes were hooded and lazy, appraising him carefully.

“I wish you didn’t have to go,” JC said quietly. “I’d take you back inside and...”

“Don’t tell me that!” Justin groaned, even as JC’s hands settled firmly on his hips. “Don’t even make me get on the plane with those kind of thoughts...”

“Well, y’know...you’re always welcome here. Come back whenever you want. I’ll show you the house...the woods...the far end of the river,” JC’s voice was barely audible against Justin’s jaw, kisses falling just as sure as promises, and the pair stood pressed closely together for several long minutes before Justin finally pulled away.

“I’ll come back. You know I will,” Justin said gently, “and thanks. This was...well...it was...”

“It was,” JC agreed, smiling, “it was.” Then he leaned forward and kissed Justin gently again before taking his hand and leading him silently to his car.

As the Ford pulled away, dirt and gravel flying up from the road, Justin could barely make out the ragged lettering of the hand-painted sign on the ratty wooden post.

See What Lies Beyond.

“I will,” Justin murmured. And smiled.


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