nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Something Real

by Sariah, written for escapist_xbq

The tour was ending and the excruciating ailment of exhaustion was slowing settling into everyone's limbs. Months of on the go, work work work, eat sleep dance was slowly dwindling down into a justly deserved break from everything. Even the world.

Home seemed unreachable until the final curtain closed and everyone said their goodbyes. No one ever really wanted it to end, there was nothing like the experience of being on the road. There was nothing more exciting than the screams and adoration from the crowds, the loyalty and reverence that came with unstoppable fame.

Going home would bring everything to reality. Reality was his boxes were packed neat and proper by the door. His side of the closet was empty and his toothbrush was gone from the bathroom sink.

Sometimes going home felt more incapacitating than three straight months of non-stop touring, when going home meant facing what could be the end of something real.


"You going to miss this?"

Justin tried in vain to get his eyes to open but they rallied against him and remained closed. Instead his head gave a courtesy nod in Chris's general direction. "Miss, what?" he slurred in sleep while foolishly attempting to get comfortable in a chair three times smaller than his natural body.

Chris flailed his arms around the bus tiredly. "Everything. All this shit."

Thought rested in his answer. Justin couldn't remember the last time they had a break, the last time he wasn't working. Everything, all of it, this, it was what he knew and sometimes felt he could never live without. It was life. Now that it was ending, his emotions and thoughts were numb as the idea of its end approached.

There was no real answer. Behind the closed eyelids were times of laughter and excitement. There was awe and respect, when he opened is eyes he saw fatigue and bruises, complete and utter exhaustion. "I can't answer that right now," Justin sighed and scrubbed a hand along his head sluggishly. Some times it made his head hurt to thing of such saddening things.

Chris nodded and looked unsettled, JC walked by. Didn't say anything.

Justin's eyes followed his movements, the glide of his stride, the curls of his fingertips along his palm. Justin's fingers twitched to reach out and touch JC, his arm, his hand, the side of his hip that lay exposed by a hiked up shirt. JC didn't look at either of them. He was still mad. Justin could see it in the strong line of JC's jaw. The way his eyes were cold and focused.

The air shrunk with tension and the bus rumbled uncomfortably along the road in resolve.

JC slipped into bed and quickly closed the curtains.

"What the fuck is his problem?" Chris muttered, "Everyone misses steps. His seriousness on all the dancing shit it a little bit psycho." Chris yawned, his own eyes were losing a battle with sleep. He looked ready to slump over and fall onto the floor to let the soothing sounds of the road rock him to sleep. "He's been messing up lately," he yawned. "A lot." He yawned again, "I've noticed and that means it's pretty fucking bad if I can notice it."

Justin knew better.


"I can't believe you're doing this," JC seethed, keeping his voice so low it wouldn't seep though the cracks in the walls.

Justin clenched his fists together to stop from hitting something, maybe even JC. "What the fuck was I supposed to do? They came to me. Cornered me in a fucking office and made the deal." It hadn't happened like that at all. But it sounded better. Justin couldn't bring himself to tell JC just how easy it was to sign it. To make it happen.

He could tell the moment the lies rolled off his tongue it wasn't the best way to break it to him. JC's face tightened, his whole body tensed up, strung tight like a taut chord and he turned his back to Justin. When he spoke it was controlled and fueled by fury. "Your loyalty was to us." The muscles under his shirt twitched in irritation. "You, selfish fuck," he whispered. "We promised," he turned around and the steel in his stare struck Justin down in shame, "when that fat fuck screwed us like his filthy whores, we promised to stay together," his mouth curled at the ends. "Fuck you."

He winced visibly. Justin winced in remembrance of that very promise, made in a dark room where there were shared tears of victory and hugs of triumph. Promises were made, never meant to be broken.

Here they were now, more successful than imaginable. Idols of the media, Gods of the airwaves. And his signature on a solo album contract promised to unravel it all.

There were no words to be spoken; JC knew he wasn't sorry for it. JC knew he'd been contemplating it for years. It wasn't a surprise to him at all. And it made it worse, this wasn't news for congratulations, it confirmed a fear that plagued them all.

Justin reached out but JC looked disgusted. "Don't touch me," he scoffed and shoved past Justin. Before he left he struck Justin with one more blow. "You tell them about this," he pointed accusingly, "you tell them how your own stupid selfishness fucked the rest of us." He opened the door and turned back around. "Justin."

It was hard looking at him, it hurt to see the disappointment in eyes he loved. "Yeah?"

JC opened the door and licked his lips before he spoke, "I was always proud of you. Always." And he left.


There were millions of stars outside and Justin could see them through the tinted windows. Chris was nodding off in his chair.

It was late, concert makeup stained their clothes and Justin stood on his feet, wobbled over to Chris and threw his limp arm around his shoulder. "Come on, man," Justin wheezed and hauled his sleep heavy friend to his feet. "Walk with me," he muttered and the two made their way towards their bunks.

Justin deposited Chris on his and watched him roll and disappear behind his curtains. He started snoring softly.

Putting Chris to bed surged energy through Justin's veins and he found himself grabbing his pillow and notebook, heading back to the couch. He was supposed to start writing, songs that could be on his very own album, but nothing came to him. All he could think about was JC's anger, his pain and disappointment.

The show was a mess. Their concert banter was forced and the guys caught on quick. JC's steps were staccato and angry, and Justin knew even though JC hated him at present time, his flaws and performance mistakes were in the back of his mind, filed, to be taken care of when other matters were handled first.

Matters like moving out, matters like making Justin feel like the worst son of a bitch in the world for branching on his own. JC was good at that. Making him feel like shit. Taking an opportunity for growth and pulling him back, holding him down. But he was never selfish about it. JC didn't think of himself, he thought about the guys, the ones that were oblivious. The ones who were never going to shine brighter than Justin, and Justin hated it, hated that he couldn't hate JC.

He loved him.

More than anything in the world and it ate him up inside. The feeling of having JC so disgusted with him killed him, made him feel sick. He felt guilty and dirty for wanting to do something that could push him away from the guys.

It wasn't fair.

Love never seemed to be, Justin learned, and he needed to make JC okay with him again. Pushing himself off the couch he stumbled when the bus took an angry veer, a quiet apology came from somewhere up front and Justin felt his way towards JC's bunk.

His breathing was soft and consistent. He was sound asleep. Justin moved the curtain aside and the soft light of the bus spilled lovingly across JC's sleeping body in a golden embrace. He slept on his back, an arm around his stomach. He looked peaceful.

As Justin stood there, drinking him in, he remembered JC went to sleep pissed, if Justin woke him up, he'd only wake up pissed. Perhaps letting him sleep was the better idea.

He let him sleep.


Justin woke up to the voice in his head. It was JC's, when he told him he was moving out. When Justin's world came crumbling down.

Justin leaned against the doorway for support. JC moved fluidly between the suitcases on the bed and the closet.

"I don't understand," he breathed completely baffled. He watched helplessly

Everything was folded perfectly on the bed, resting innocently beside the opened suitcase. "It's better," JC told him. "It's better this way, Justin," he said nicely.


Justin couldn't stand how nice he could be about something as serious as breaking someone's heart. "Why are you moving out?" he asked while stepping into what would no longer be their bedroom. It hurt his chest, between his lungs. A deep pain unfurling. "I thought this was a good thing for us."

"It was," JC reached out and touched him, cupped his cheek and ran his tender thumb along Justin's face. He brushed his lips and let his hand drop. "It was a good idea then," he sighed and walked back to the closet. "It's better."

Justin pulled his hair. "Stop saying that!" he yelled angrily and glared at JC's back. "This was supposed to bring us closer, asshole. I thought it was what you wanted."

JC appeared and looked calm. He was used to Justin's outbursts. "It did."

"Then why the fuck are you moving out?" he cried slightly emotional. There was a wetness around his eyes and his mouth tugged down in a frown. He hated looking weak, but it happened all the time. "Why are you breaking us up?"

JC glared in his direction. "Don't be an idiot, Justin. I'm not breaking up with you. I'm just going back home," he told him and put a stack of shirts into his suitcase.

"This is your home." Justin took them out and JC gave him the patient look of a parent.

"Stop it."

"You stop it," Justin muttered and threw himself down across the bed dramatically. He felt weak and drained of energy. "You need to be here to take care of me," he reached out and tugged at JC's shirt. It made JC smile for a second. "Why do I feel like I'm the only one trying to make this damn relationship work?" After a second Justin accused, "Who is she?"

There wasn't much that annoyed JC but it looked like that was one of the things. "You've got to be kidding me," he shoved Justin's prying hand away.

"Well, it makes sense," Justin said softly and fingered the pattern on the comforter, it was a lovely navy with pale blue pin stripes. JC bought it for their bed when they first moved in, Justin never wanted to stop using it. Soon JC would take it with him. "I'm just saying."

"Well you're wrong," JC stuffed his socks in the side pocket. "There's no one else. Its just…" he broke off and frowned.

"Its just?" Justin propped himself on his elbow and looked intently. "Just that I'm too young? Is it cause I'm too young?" he persisted. Age bothered JC even when he refused to admit it to him. But Justin talked to Joey and apparently JC had no problem saying anything to him.

"Oh, god. Justin, stop talking." JC told him and set his jeans neatly beside his slacks. "It's not you, not me, I just feel like I gotta go home. I spent millions on the expensive son of a bitch and lived in it for like a week." The suitcase was full quickly and JC zipped it up, he stole a glance at Justin, smiled softly. "Don't worry, we're fine."

His lips were soft and sweet and Justin got a little tug on a curl before JC pulled away.

"You'll still be my boyfriend even if I'm a couple miles away from you," he laughed and grabbed another suitcase after setting the full one by the door. "I don't plan on breaking up any time in the near future."

And that made Justin feel better.


There were voices floating around his ears, Chris was talking with someone and JC was singing to himself, he sounded close. Really close.

JC was sitting beside him, he could feel him, smell him and Justin didn't want to make him go away. He looked through his lashes and could see JC meddling around through some CDs. He didn't look mad anymore.

"You might as well wake up, loser."

Something sticky and wet hit Justin's face.

"I'm going to kick your ass when I can see straight," Justin threatened Chris and opened his eyes to find JC ignoring him still and Chris laughing at the table, a salad bowl full of cereal, probably his.

"Morning to you too, sunshine," he grinned through a mouth full of food.

JC moved into Justin, but didn't look at him. Justin's attention was successfully averted to focus on JC and for a second he thought everything was okay.

"Get up or you'll have a headache," Justin heard JC say as he set the CDs on the table. "It's late already."

He didn't sound kind but it was something and Justin was willing to take anything from JC but the cold shoulder.

As his eyes forced themselves open Chris threw Justin his cell phone. It landed unhappily on his stomach. "Johnny called, wants you to call him back."

It took no longer than a half second. Justin could feel JC tense beside him, then he moved away and Justin tried to touch him but he stood up too quickly and mumbled something about still being tired.

Chris watched him longer than Justin did, and then made an annoyed face before turning to his cereal. "His attitude lately has been really shitty," he mumbled and finished off the rest of his breakfast then took the bowl to the sink.

There was no point in waking up now. JC was gone, and there was no sign of an oncoming headache.

Justin fell back asleep and dreamt the future.


"I am proud of you, Justin." JC's voice was soft over the phone but very distant. Justin waved his hands at everyone to shut the hell up, when they didn't he got up and left the room, not before throwing his shoe at the crowd surrounding the television.

"You don't sound like you are." Justin worried he sounded bitchy, but somehow didn't care; JC heard worse and for a damn moment he wanted JC to hear his frustration. "You didn't even take a fucking picture with me, asshole." JC was listening but Justin had a feeling he wasn't listening to him. "Don't lie in front of the cameras, JC. They'll always figure it out. I will always figure it out."

The sigh on the other side of the phone was heavy and bothered. "I didn't lie, I am happy for you. I am proud of you. What do you want from me? Do you want me to have this endless rhetoric of your wonderful praise? Do you want me to denounce the Group and everything we've done just so you don't look bad? So your solo album can look better than *NSYNC? If so, Justin, we should hang up right now."

Justin hadn't felt that mad in a very long time. "You're lucky you're talking to me like this over the phone. You're lucky I'm not standing in front of you right now," he controlled his voice with all the power he had within himself. "You fucking, self-righteous, bastard. Don't you ever say anything like that to me again."

"I'm not going to apologize." JC didn't seem affected, rather, almost challenging.

It was hard to maintain himself but eventually he did. "I don't want to fight with you."

"Then let's not fight." And it sounded so simple. Four small words that seemed so uncomplicated. JC's voice sounded tired and emotional. "I'm tired of fighting with you. I'm tired of all this resentment I try not to feel, but I can't help it. I need some space. I need time to adjust."

"You were supposed to be the one who understood me the best. You were supposed to support me, have faith in me. Love me." A soft crack in his voice stopped the rest from coming, drained the anger and enveloped him in disappointment.

This time JC sounded different, weak and torn. "I do love you," his voice wavered for a moment, "and that's why I need to go away for a while. I love you too much to keep hating you."


And Justin woke up with a realization too painful to let linger.

Chris was watching something in the back room and Justin heard a brief offer to play some Grand Theft Auto, but lost the rest after he slid into JC's bed.

He wasn't sleeping but listening to music, staring at the ceiling. Justin's presence startled him for a second until his face melted into a blank stare. Justin didn't care, refused to be hurt anymore. He had something to tell him. He had something to stop before the dream came true.

"Be mad at me," Justin told him and got JC's attention.

"What?" He removed the headphones questionably. The space was cramped and uncomfortable.

"Hate me. Hit me. Punch me, throw things at me, do whatever you want to me." Justin said with so much gravity. It was the time to be serious. It was time to get this over with. There was no room for a clumsy jumble of immature feelings and behavior.

"Are you delusional?" JC propped himself on his elbows, the CD player on his stomach slid to the bed, forgotten. "What the hell are you talking about?" He no longer looked angry but curious and a bit confused.

"I want you to hate me until you're over it. I don't want to settle for this cold unemotional shell you've transformed into. This CD is going to happen, JC. I want you to be happy for me. I want you to be proud of me. I don't want you hating me forever."

It all made sense now, Justin's challenge, his abrupt approach to the situation that had settled into a discreet fog of bitterness between them. It was made clear and JC fell back to the bed, his demeanor shifting again. He reached for the headphones. "Shut up, Justin."

But Justin stopped him quick. "No," he grabbed the CD player and moved it away from JC's reach. "No," he repeated. "We have to talk about this, because we've known each other for ever. And even if this ruins us, I don't want you to resent me for the rest of my life because I decided to do something different." JC tried again to speak but Justin cut him off before a word could slip out,

"I want you to listen to me, right now," Justin searched in JC's kind eyes. "I love being with you, I love you more than anyone I've known and it's not just because we lived with each other or slept together or because we sing in the same group. I know the type of person you are, JC. I know you love with everything in your heart. I know you care about the guys more than you care about yourself. I know how you love me and how it's hard to be mad at me. I know you hate what I'm doing and at the same time want me to succeed, even if it doesn't look like it, but that's because it's you. It's because no matter what, you're the most selfless fucker I've ever known and I love you and hate you for that."

There was a shine to JC's eyes as he listened in rapt attention. He brushed a piece of hair out of his face, a nervous habit he picked up long ago. Justin had more to say though, and JC was willing to hear him out.

"So I want you to hate me right now, get it all out. Yell at me, tear me down, scream until everything you want to say comes out. I want you to."

Justin waited, looking hopeful, perhaps feeling deep down JC would accept this generous gesture. Here he was offering to willingly take a place on the receiving end of hurt and abuse. JC swallowed difficulty looking out the window now, couldn't even bare to look at Justin, which hurt. He was throwing himself in the open now, how could he be refused or ignored?

"I'm feeling things I never expected to feel, Justin," JC shook his head, "I'm a bit torn," he sighed and rubbed his fingers together, watching the tender rhythm. "You do this to me, you do it all the time and I hate it," he finally looked at Justin with controlled emotions, on the verge of getting angry, Justin could see it. But this time he wanted JC to get angry, do it, sock him in the kisser if it would make him feel better later.

Justin took a little breath. "Okay, I understand," he said slowly. He did, he understood that this time it wouldn't take just a smile and shimmy to get JC on his side again.

For some illogical reason, it was those three words that set JC off. "No, Justin. No you fucking don't," JC yelled, and quite loudly. "You don't understand one goddamn thing," his eyes blazed. "Get out of my bunk."

There was no budging. "JC-"

JC flopped on his stomach and ignored Justin as well as he could. But Justin wasn't going anywhere. He wanted this resolved, and if Justin was anything, it was tenacious. JC couldn't ignore him forever.

Forever only lasted five minutes. "I'm really mad, it's best you not be around me right now," he warned as he stared at the wall.

There was no way Justin was going to let JC end it that easily. There was something JC was failing to gasp. Justin wasn't going to let this go. If he needed some prodding, then so be it. "Good, I want-"

JC's face contorted with rage. "You, little shit," he hissed and whipped around to face Justin. "You're so fucking selfish. You want to hear what I think? You want me to yell and tell you exactly what I'm feeling?" he seethed. "You think you can handle it, Justin? You want me to tell you I hate you so much I see red? You want to know how betrayed I feel? Does it make you feel better to know I want to smash your face in most of the day? How I think you're so fucking selfish I feel like I don't even fucking know you anymore?"

Justin stopped wanting this very quickly.

It was warm and it developed the air into an uncomfortable heat that made Justin short of breath. His heart couldn't settle down, it punctuated every terrible thing JC said. His ears were pulsing in shock with disbelief.

What made matters worse, JC wasn't done and the more he spoke the harder it was for Justin to stand it. The more JC spoke a little bit of his heart broke. "And it hurts to look at you because I'm so disgusted with what you did." And he looked away again, his voice deep and hoarse. "I tell myself this is ridiculous, to feel this hurt because I knew it. I saw it coming, you were always headed in this path, but the feelings don't stop. What I feel doesn't go away and the more I look at you, the more I hate you."

It ended there and Justin felt two seconds away from walking into the bathroom and slitting his wrists. His world crashed violently upon him and the tears pushed against his eyes to see who could be first. "Oh," he breathed, painfully.

JC turned around again and looked at the wall. "But," he sighed, "I told you I was torn, and I am," he muttered, sounding a lot less angry. "I can't hate you as much as I should." There was a sad regret Justin caught. "It's you, Justin. And fuck," he rolled on his stomach and stared at the ceiling, "no matter what, I want you to be happy. Your happiness and accomplishments have always been something I could share with you, and I love that about us. It's you and when you're happy, I'm happy with you. I want it just as much. But right now, right now it's different, and I feel different, and it scares me a little."

"I. Um. I didn't. I thought. Uh." Words were unable to form. His mind was unwilling to even generate anything besides the recording of JC's words screaming painfully around his head.

JC nodded solemnly. "I asked Johnny to move me to the other bus," JC spoke cool and guarded. "I need space. I need time. Most importantly, I need to be away from you right now. The stage is unavoidable, but this environment I can control."

He never wanted it to happen like this. This, he never expected, this was unbearable.

"Let me hate you," he said and meant it. "I can't do us right now," he added and touched Justin for the first time and it was painful and beautiful and full of love and devotion. "Right now I need to be away from you," JC whispered, "To get over it. To stop being so mad." Then his eyes glistened like morning dew and his lips quivered ever so slightly, "because I want to be so proud of you, and I want to be happy and excited like I know you are about it," he caressed the warm curve of Justin's cheek, "I want to be able to enjoy it with you. And right now, I can't. I can't." His hand dropped and he turned away quickly.

Even though the contact lasted seconds it started rebuilding Justin's shattered pieces, although slowly. "Okay," he breathed and he stepped out of the hot, dark space. The bus jerked cruelly and Justin fell to his knees. It was whirling, his world, his heart, and tears came silently.

Sometimes going home felt more incapacitating than three straight months of non-stop touring, when going home meant facing what could be the end of something real.



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