nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Skin and Teeth

by withdiamonds, written for deliberatehips

I love you, with my skin and teeth.
Joe Henry

Over, it's over, after all these years, after everything, it's finally over. The words reverberate in Justin's head, until they almost make sense. Finished, over with, enough.

He sees Joey go back up on the stage, sees him drag JC away from what remains of the screaming crowd. He watches impatiently as tears run down JC's face. Jesus, he thinks, it's enough, get over it.

Over. Chris and Lance head towards JC, enfolding him in a protective circle of arms. Joey stares at Justin over the top of their heads, and Justin looks away. Enough, he repeats to himself. It's enough.

In the morning when he wakes up, JC is draped on top of him, a warm weight across his chest. Justin moves away slowly, trying not to wake him, not yet ready to deal with anything more than a full bladder and aching muscles. He avoids his reflection in the bathroom mirror, until he can't stop himself, and he has to look. The bite marks on his neck stare back at him, and the scratches on his chest are red and raw. He studies the bruises that circle his wrists like bracelets, then shrugs and turns back towards JC's bedroom.

JC is staring at him with heat in his eyes.

"I have to go," Justin says.

JC smiles, not very nicely, before he turns away. "Fine."

"JC..." Justin pauses, then moves to the bed. JC's back is stiff against his touch, and that's all Justin needs to make him stay.


Challenge is in Orlando this year. Justin's had some time, and some distance, and enough and over aren't quite as loud as they were before, but they’re still there, echoing whenever it’s too quiet for him to hear anything else.

Lance isn't here for this one. He's on another continent, an ocean away. Justin knows that JC feels his absence deeply, aches with a sense of being incomplete without all five of them together.

Justin doesn't.

The two of them spend a couple of days in JC’s house before Justin goes back. He leaves with a bruise on his lip where JC bites him. Justin lets him reopen the cut every time he kisses him.

Justin wishes he still had his house here. Then he wouldn't be the one to leave. If Justin had a house, JC could walk out of it first, and Justin would be the one left behind. He thinks that might be easier, although he’s not really sure he’s ready to find out.

He knows JC doesn't think so.

Justin practically vibrates with the need to get out of Orlando, to go back to Virginia and Pharrell, to get back to a recording studio where JC isn't pushing him, always pushing him to do things he doesn’t want to do anymore.

Pharrell doesn't push. He sets Justin free, and if he sometimes reins him in, too, it's not the same. Justin doesn't need to struggle against it. He can still hear the echo of enough in his head.

Chris comes to hang out, and he watches Justin with sharp eyes. He doesn't say anything, but he doesn't have to, Justin can read him without even trying.

"I just need..." he starts, but he doesn't bother to finish. It won't change anything, what Chris thinks. It doesn't matter.


Sitting in the theater, in the audience, while Joey performs with strangers, Justin feels envy. He sees the connection Joey has with the cast of Rent, but he knows it’s nothing compared to the chemistry the five of them share, something they share as unconsciously as breathing, even when it makes breathing almost impossible. He wants what Joey has. He wants to be able to breathe again when he performs.

He does at the VMAs, and he flies all alone, soaring over the crowd, everything perfect. He knows it really isn't, but he can't bring himself to care. He's free. It's really over.

He ignores the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Chris is proud, proclaiming to the audience that his boy kicks ass. Backstage, Joey is reassuring, close and comforting when Justin starts to come down from the rush of performing. "You did good, mister. You were great."

JC is silent, eyes hidden beneath his bucket hat.

Justin loses track of them in the crush of post-show press and parties.

JC finds him later, and takes him back to his hotel and fucks him, still silent. As Justin falls over the edge, feeling like he's flying again, JC says, "You weren't that good, you know."

In the morning, Justin leaves before JC wakes up.


They don't talk at all during September and October. Justin knows JC is working on a song, maybe more than one, and he's glad. Dallas is cool, and he's a good fit for JC. Justin spends most of October in London, working, promoting, doing some shows with Christina, and things get crazier as his CD release date nears.

Lance comes to London on his way home from Russia. He looks gaunt and tired, but defiant, too, and with an air of triumph that makes Justin think back to the early days, when once before, Lance was told he wasn’t wanted and proved them wrong. He sends Lance home to Joey, the knowledge that Joe will be there to pick up the pieces unspoken and bone-deep. It’s what they do, and for a moment, Justin wishes it was still something he was a part of everyday.

It's not that he misses them, but he's exhausted without them. He was exhausted with them, he thinks, but in a different way. This is infinitely harder than he thought it was going to be. He spends a lot of time on the phone with Chris. Chris knows him.

He misses JC. He hadn’t known how it would feel to do this by himself. This part, the part where he doesn’t have JC, is almost unbearable. He doesn’t know why that surprises him so much. He thinks he should have known.

At the release party for Justified, Chris shows up with JC in tow. Justin didn't expect that, Chris didn’t tell him, and it throws him off balance. JC is still closed off, tight-lipped and distant, and Justin doesn’t know what to do.

Chris stays by his side most of the night.

Then there's a moment when JC looks at him, and Justin has no choice but to follow him, to the bathroom, a closet, down a hallway, it doesn’t matter where. It’s when he's pushed up against a door, his pants shoved down over his hips, JC on his knees at his feet, that he realizes the words enoughfinished are so silent that they’ve disappeared altogether.

And Justin knows that nothing is really over.

After, JC wipes a hand across his mouth and says, “It’s not me, is it? That you don’t want?”

Justin shakes his head. “It’s not you.”

JC’s eyes devour his face, as if he’s memorizing it, or seeing it for the last time. The intensity of his gaze is hard for Justin to withstand, and he looks away. JC kisses him gently and walks away without a word.

Later, JC doesn’t find him after the party is over. Justin goes back to his hotel alone.


Justin is in New York, hanging out with Chris. They go clubbing, and they decide to hit Suede, even though Joey's not there. Justin’s disappointment at that is almost a physical ache. But Joey’s in LA with JC, and Justin caught the radio interview, he saw the pictures of Dallas's hand-made t-shirt, on the Internet earlier in the day. He’s happy that Joey is there for JC, and he also knows he’s the biggest coward in the world, letting Joey do what Justin should by all rights be doing.

Fuck Jive Hard. As an idea, it has its merits. Justin doesn't know what's going on, but the last thing he wants is for JC to be having problems with Jive. This was never about competition, or outdoing anyone, not JC, not even his own past. It was about being able to breathe.

He really is glad Joey is with JC.

He knows Chris heard the interview, too, but they're not talking about it. Chris knows Justin as well as Justin knows Chris, Justin hasn’t forgotten that. It’s not safe to forget that. They both already know everything that needs to be said. He wonders if Chris knows the details, but it wouldn’t matter. Justin can’t change anything, and JC wouldn’t thank him for trying.

Pharrell shows up at the club, and so does Timbaland, and they all seem to enjoy themselves together. Justin isn’t sure what Chris sees, but after a while, he stops watching them with hostile eyes.


Justin knows it doesn't matter what the first week sales figures for Justified are. There'll be questions and comparisons regardless.

Later, he decides he should be grateful to Eminem for outselling him, for helping to take *NSYNC out of the equation a bit.

Publicity and promo increase at a breathless pace, and it's almost a relief when he breaks his foot. That's not something anyone but his mom will ever know about him. She brings him to Memphis and gives him a place to recharge.

Justin makes his mom answer his phone when Chris calls, makes her tell Chris he’s sleeping.

She goes out for an afternoon, and when she comes home, she has a copy of JC's newly released single with her. Justin listens to it after everyone has gone to bed. It makes him laugh out loud, it’s so good, so very JC, but he still can't meet his mother's eyes in the morning.

He's feeling rested, or at least a little better, and he's almost ready to go back, to face it all again. He thinks he might be able to face JC again, too. He thinks he’s been breathing again for a while now, and his head is clear. So is his heart.

He has just a night or two left at home, and he's dozing in front of the TV when his mother calls his name.

"Justin. Justin, sweetie, wake up. JC's here."


They go up to Justin's bedroom, the one he grew up in, although his mom redecorated it years ago. The first time Justin touched JC was in this room, a lifetime ago, in a single bed with NBA sheets, and both Michaels, Jordan and Jackson, vying for space on Justin's walls. LA had hurt JC, and Justin wanted to make it better. It didn’t matter that they were still children.

He’s never been sure if he made it better or worse, for either of them, but he’s never regretted it, not even for a minute.

Justin studies JC’s face. His expression is shuttered, his posture protective. “Did she call you?” Justin asks.

JC shrugs and stares at his fingernails. Justin does, too. They’re ragged, the cuticles torn and rough-looking. “Does it matter?”

Justin thinks it does. “Would you have come if she didn’t?” He stops breathing.

Time stretches out, and he‘s afraid JC is never going to let him breathe again. “Would you have let me?” JC asks softly at last, and if it’s not the answer Justin wanted, at least now they’re getting down to it.

He looks at JC, stares hard until JC looks up, meeting his eyes for the first time in a long time. “I wouldn’t have been able to stop you, JC. Not for very much longer, anyway.”

“I couldn’t have stayed away for very much longer,” JC says, looking at him steadily, his eyes filled with love and pain.

"It'll never be over, will it?" It sounds like a plea to Justin’s ears, not a protest. And he finally understands that he doesn't want anything to be over at all.

JC shakes his head. "You and me, Justin? Never."

This time, Justin holds JC in place, arms above his head, Justin's fingers encircling his wrists like manacles. He leaves marks on JC's neck, marks of possession that will gaze back at him from the mirror in the morning.

They're in Justin's house, so if he wants to, JC can walk out and leave him.

He doesn't.


December in New York is one of Justin's favorite things. They’re all together to unveil their wax figures at Madame Tussaud's, and afterwards they have a group meeting. Justin sits next to JC, holding his hand, and his thumb rubs slow circles on his wrist, tracing bruises long since faded.

He laughs with Chris, grins at Joey, and hurts for Lance, still pale and sad behind his smile.

He breathes.


Soundtrack- Skin and Teeth by Joe Henry, Congratulations by The Traveling Wilburys, and Two Of Us by the Beatles.

Much thanks to Ashley for dealing with the unending whining, and to Mary for telling me it didn’t suck, and then how to make it suck less. I think Glenda may have listened to some whining, too


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