nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

and i work at my job

by donna, written for topaz
Britney and Justin in matching denim

JC’s phone vibrates in his pocket and he pulls it out, checking the caller-ID before he answers. He’s been getting calls lately from some strange number, a number he doesn’t recognize, and what a pain in the ass that is. It means he’ll have to change his phone number again soon, and his mom hates it when he does that.

But this time it’s Tyler, and JC smiles happily when he sees his brother’s name. “Hey, dawg, what’s up?” He swings down the arena corridor after Justin and Chris, Tiny at his back. As he chatters at Tyler, he scrubs his damp hair, then tosses his towel to one of the dressers who’s waiting at the end of the ramp to collect the odds and ends of the night. Lance darts past him, Joey hot on his heels, both of them laughing like loons.

Tyler lets JC ramble on about the concert as he heads towards the buses, probably knowing he won’t get a word in edgewise until he does. JC talks non-stop about the energy of the crowd and how Lance nailed the choreography in Space Cowboy and Tyler should have heard Justin, he sounded so good tonight! The latter sentiment is expressed as JC pushes past Chris, who’s already rummaging around in the small bus refrigerator for a beer. Chris snorts and says, “Did you hear that, Timberlake? C here likes the sound of your voice.”

JC grins and shoves at Chris’s shoulder, making the beer he’d just grabbed slip out of his hand. “JC, you ass,” Chris yells, shoving back at JC. JC laughs as he evades Chris’s hand and snags the beer for himself before it hits the floor.

“Score!” JC crows, and grinning, he throws himself on the narrow couch. “So, dawg, what’s up with you,” he says into the phone, finally winding down and ready to listen to his brother talk. “When’re you coming out?” Whenever Tyler has a break from school, he likes to come hang out on tour with JC. JC likes it when he does that. It makes things feel like home.

“You’ll be home for Christmas before I can get out there, doofus.” Well, JC guesses that’s true, but he misses his brother a lot. Tyler pauses, and there’s something there that makes JC stop playing with the flip top on his beer can and pay attention to his brother’s voice. He waits, although he’s not sure for what.

“JC. I need to ask, um. Have you talked to your mother recently? You know, your birth mother?”

JC stills, the beer forgotten in his hand. “What?” Tyler hesitates and JC prods him. “Why do you want to know that?” he asks, puzzled.

“Because she’s been calling Dad. She called twice last week. I don’t know what they’ve been talking about,” Tyler adds hastily, before JC can ask.

JC breathes into the sudden silence. He focuses on breathing so intently that he shuts everything else out and he almost doesn’t notice when Tyler speaks again.

“Josh.” Tyler’s going for soothing, because he knows how much JC hates this. “It’s okay, Josh. It doesn’t matter-”

“Yes, it does matter,” JC breaks in fiercely. “She keeps-” and then the phone is gently pulled out of his hand and JC turns his head to see that Justin’s come up from the back of the bus and is standing there talking quietly into JC’s phone.

JC isn’t sure how he feels about that and he glares, waving his hand impatiently for Justin to give him his phone back. He doesn’t like being handled by either his best friend or his brother.

Justin smiles at him and says calmly, ”Okay, here’s Josh. Thanks, man,” and hands the phone over.

JC gives Justin one last glare and then says to his brother, ”Yeah, I’ve been seeing a number I don’t recognize on my caller ID. I’ve been ignoring it.” He worries at his bottom lip with his teeth, something he does when he’s unsure of things. Justin sits down next to him on the couch, not trying at all to hide that he’s listening to JC’s end of the conversation.

“Well, Josh, that’s up to you,” Tyler’s saying. “But I think you should maybe talk to Dad.”

“Maybe.” JC suddenly feels exhausted. The post-show adrenaline is long gone, and this isn’t helping at all. This isn’t something he likes to think about, ever. “I gotta go, Ty.” He sighs wearily and Justin’s arm goes around his shoulder, warm and sure. “I’ll call Dad, probably tomorrow. ‘Night, man.”

JC tips his head over onto Justin’s shoulder, sighing again. He knows Justin got the whole story from Tyler in the two seconds he had JC’s phone. Justin’s good at getting right to the heart of things when he wants to be.

The next thing JC’s aware of is a blanket being pulled up over his shoulders, and then quiet voices heading back to the bunk area. He drifts into sleep knowing that Justin is probably telling Chris about how JC’s birth mother is calling him again. He really doesn’t mind, it’s hard to keep secrets when you’re living on a bus.


The unfamiliar number shows up on JC’s phone two more times the next day, and that, coupled with the fact that Justin’s been watching him like he’s about to throw himself off a tall building, makes JC give in and call his dad.

“What does she want?” His voice is either plaintive or sharp, he’s not sure which, and he doesn’t mean for it to be either. He clears his throat. He’s alone in the Quiet Room, but he doesn’t know how long that will last.

“Hello, Josh. I’m fine, thank you. And how are you?” His father is teasing, not reprimanding, but JC isn’t in the mood for either one.


“Okay,” Roy says, relenting. “I know. Listen, Josh, it’s fine. She just wants to talk, maybe see you. It’s been a couple of months, and she wants to talk,” he repeats.

Roy has a tendency to look for the best in people, and therefore doesn’t always see the worst. When it comes to his birth mother, JC can’t always tell the difference. “What do you think?” he asks, trusting his dad to decide for him.

“I think you should decide for yourself,” Roy says, not at all helpfully. “Answer me this, Josh. Why don’t you want to talk to her?”

And JC has no idea. He loves her, he thinks, he’s grateful to her for the decision she made, anyway, but he doesn’t want to talk to her. It feels disloyal, somehow. Disloyal to his Mom. He shrugs. “I don’t know.” He hesitates. “What does Mom think?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” his father says, and there are noises like the phone is being fumbled from one person to another and JC panics and quickly closes his phone. He can always claim his phone dropped the call. He takes a deep breath and looks up to find Justin watching him again.

“What?” he asks irritably. Justin just shakes his head slightly at him.

“It’s time for soundcheck,” is all he says, hooking an arm around JC’s neck and dragging him towards the door. JC ducks his head out from under Justin’s elbow and frowns.

“Quit it,” he huffs. Justin ignores him and puts his arm right back around his neck, tighter this time so JC can’t wiggle away. JC gives up, leaning into Justin as they follow the winding corridor to the stage. It feels safe there against Justin’s side.


Now JC’s dodging phone calls from both his mothers. The buses are rolling again after tonight’s concert, and if JC’s phone rings, he doesn’t hear it. That’s because he turned it off. It’s probably too late for anyone but Tyler to be calling him anyway, but he’s not taking any chances. Somewhere in his head he knows this is a pretty ineffective avoidance technique, but right now he’s too tired to care.

He finds himself on the couch next to Justin, staring unseeingly at the television, not having any idea what they’re watching. “I love this movie, don’t you, C?” Justin says. “Especially the part where the gorilla eats the guy and marries the girl. It’s cool, man.”

JC doesn’t answer him, because he’s not listening at all. He’s really only vaguely aware that Justin’s even talking to him. His mind is miles away, thinking about the time when he was nine and he and Tyler had been riding their bikes in the park near their house and Tyler fell, skinning his knees and trying not to cry, while JC picked him up and they walked their bikes home, JC walking slowly, matching his pace to Tyer’s so Tyler could keep up with him. Karen had cleaned Tyler’s knees with Bactine and put Superman Band-Aids on the scrapes, and then she’d hugged JC tight and kissed the top of his head.

JC’s brought abruptly back to the present when Justin kisses him. For a minute he doesn’t react, and then he pulls back and says, “What the hell are you doing, J?” He means for it to come out all indignant, because, really, a little warning might have been nice, but instead it comes out sounding more confused than anything else.

Justin’s tongue swipes across his own lower lip and JC almost forgets the question. But then Justin whispers, “Kissing you?” as if he’s afraid JC will push him away if he says it too loud.

“I got that part, man, but why?” Justin’s eyes are dark and they’re looking at JC’s mouth. JC swallows.

Justin raises his eyes to JC’s and says, “Because I wanted to. And because you looked so sad. I don’t like it when you’re sad, C.” And he leans forward and kisses JC again.

JC had no idea that Justin ever entertained thoughts of kissing him before, and he feels like there are more questions he should be asking, but Justin’s lips are soft and warm and he’s licking at JC’s mouth and JC sighs and lets him in.

Justin immediately becomes very enthusiastic at this sign of cooperation from JC. His kisses are open-mouthed and wet, and one hand is at JC’s waist, pulling him closer, while the other is on the back of JC’s neck, making sure he doesn’t go anywhere.

Justin finally lets JC up for air, pushing at his shoulders, pushing him back on the couch, shoving his shirt up under his armpits, tugging at JC’s sweatpants while his mouth moves across JC’s chest, leaving hot kisses in its wake. It’s like there’s three of him coming at JC from all sides, and it’s making JC crazy. He’d had no idea how much he wanted this until this very minute, and now he thinks if Justin stops he’ll kill him.

“Justin, god,” he groans, and he’s pulling Justin’s shirt up over his back and Justin stops for an instant to tug it the rest of the way over his head and it’s almost too much, it’s too long for JC to be without Justin’s mouth on him. He frantically pushes his own sweat pants down his thighs and throws his head back with another groan when Justin’s mouth closes over him.

Justin pulls back long enough to say, “Shhh. Chris’ll hear,” before he swallows JC’s dick again. JC whimpers and Justin reaches up and put his hand lightly against JC’s mouth. JC licks at Justin’s hand and two fingers find their way into his mouth, sliding slowly in and out while JC wraps his tongue around them, making an effort to keep quiet. He’s not entirely sure he’s successful.


JC wakes up alone in his bunk the next morning. Well, that makes sense, they’d gone to an awful lot of trouble to hide what they were doing from Chris last night, after all, and it would be silly to let all that subterfuge go to waste by waking up in a bunk together, their naked legs an entangled announcement that they had spent half the night fucking each other stupid.

The tips of JC’s ears feel a little warm at the memory of one of the more inventive ways Justin had employed to shut him up, and what exactly he had done with his fingers after he’d slowly pulled them out of JC’s mouth, warm and slippery and wet with JC’s saliva, ready to just easily slide into –

Chris snorts and his sheets rustle as the alarm on his cell phone beeps. JC quickly closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep as Chris stumbles out of his bunk and heads for the tiny bus bathroom.

“Timberlake – I gotta piss like a racehorse - get your ass out of there now,” he demands. Chris’s morning-on-the-bus voice is usually enough to make JC pull his pillow tightly over his face and try to smother himself, but instead he cracks his eyes open and watches through slit eyelids as Justin comes back towards the bunks, already dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He has no idea what to say, and even less of an idea as to what Justin might say. This is all a little weird, even for JC.

He loves Justin, he does, but he doesn’t think he’s in love with him. Not that JC needs to be in love with someone to sleep with them, not at all. He’s done that lots of times, slept with people he’s not in love with. He doesn’t remember sleeping with any of his best friends before this, though.

Justin’s holding himself kind of tense, his shoulders look tight even in the small space between JC’s eyelashes that he’s allowing himself to peer through. JC frowns and opens his eyes a bit. He doesn’t want Justin to be tense. He wants Justin to be happy and relaxed, the way you’re supposed to be when you’ve just had amazing sex. And it was amazing, JC thinks. The way Justin moved, the noises he made, his face when JC tightened around him -

JC stretches, makes a big show of yawning loudly, and Justin turns away from his bunk, where he’s been shoving extra socks into his backpack, to look at JC. JC smiles sleepily and Justin immediately looks away. JC’s smile falters.

Justin clears his throat. “’Morning, ‘C. We’re going to be in, um, wherever it is we’re going, in an hour.” He goes back to his packing. JC frowns.

“Hey, J,” he starts, but Justin interrupts him.

“Listen, JC,” he says. That’s not good. Sentences that start with, listen, JC, have never been good, in JC’s experience.


“No, JC, let me say this.” JC waits, even though he doesn’t want to. He wants to tell Justin that last night was great and that they should definitely do it again.

“Last night was great, JC, but I don’t think we should do it again.” Justin’s still making serious eye contact with his backpack, and JC wants to grab him and kiss him until he admits he’s being stupid. Maybe then he’d look at JC instead of his luggage. The way Justin is holding himself so perfectly still stops him.

“Why not?” JC asks quietly.

“It’s just not a good idea. We can’t – it isn’t going to be a real thing – it’s just not something we can do, that’s all.” He doesn’t sound all that convincing, and JC is just about to make his move when Justin finally turns around and repeats, his voice more firm now, “We can’t. Now, you should get dressed. We’re almost there.”

JC’s suddenly conscious of just how naked he is under his sheets, and he shifts uncomfortably, waiting for Justin to go away. Last night, being naked for Justin had been a big goal of JC’s, but right now it’s almost embarrassing. He’s disappointed, and something more, something he can’t quite put his finger on. Something like hurt.

As they pile off the bus half hour later, Chris pats his shoulder and gives him a sympathetic smile. That makes JC feel worse than all the rest. Sympathy from Chris means that things are probably hopeless, and also, that Chris wasn’t sleeping as soundly last night as JC had thought.

It turns out they’re in San Diego, and this is the last night of the tour. JC knew that, really he did, he’d just been distracted enough to forget.

It also turns out that Britney is here. She and Justin’s mom spent the afternoon together, and Justin spends the time during lunch, sound check, and the local radio interviews checking his cell and his watch and the doorway of whatever room they’re in pretty much every five minutes. When Lynn finally pokes her head into the Toy Room, Justin practically drops the weights he’s been lifting so distractedly to scurry off and join her. If JC didn’t know better, he’d think Justin was afraid of his own mother.


Justin’s not sure whose idea it is to sing Happy Birthday to Britney in the middle of their last concert, but she’s having a good time playing at dress-up, wearing a wig and glasses, camouflaged to hide among the fans picked to be in the Club during Just Got Paid, so Justin guesses it’s fine.

He’s been avoiding them all day, his mother and Britney, and he’s not sure why. Maybe he’s afraid they’ll take one look at him and know instantly what he and JC did last night. What Justin’s afraid he wants to do again, if he’s honest with himself, which he always tries to be. He knows he initiated it, and he knows JC wants to do it again, too.

He can’t find a place in his head where JC isn’t touching him, where the taste of his skin isn’t right there on Justin’s tongue, and it doesn’t matter where JC is, it doesn’t matter that Justin spends the day pretending JC doesn’t exist. That doesn’t help at all.

“Hey, baby.” His mother’s voice behind him startles him out of his completely unprofitable thoughts, and her hand on the small of his back makes him squirm. He turns to smile at her and she smiles back, a speculative look in her eyes. “Let’s get you something to eat before the show,” she says, taking his arm and leading him off to catering like he’s six years old. He goes, dreading the conversation he’s afraid they’re going to have.

Justin’s half-right. They don’t talk about JC at all, not directly, but they do talk about Britney.

“I’m not saying you have to marry her, baby.” Justin swears a slight shudder goes through his mother’s frame at those words and that makes him feel a little better. “But right now, she’s perfect for you. You’ve known her a long time, she’s in the business, she’s a sweet girl, Justin.” She’s also beginning to rival NSYNC in popularity and power, but Lynn doesn’t say that out loud. She doesn’t have to. Justin is well aware of what an alliance with Britney would mean.

Justin knows his mother’s right. He needs to do this, for himself, and also for the group. It’ll make them all stronger, they’ll be royalty, and no one will be able to touch them.

He mentally squares his shoulders and smiles at his mother. “So, what am I getting her for her birthday?” He concentrates on her face, her approving smile. He doesn’t think about JC’s warm hand palming his hip, urging him over onto his belly, mouth hot and wet on the back of his neck, dick stroking into him, hitting him perfectly every single time. He doesn’t think of JC murmuring in his ear, promising him next time, J, next time I’m gonna make you scream.


It’s not like they’re not busy during the month of December, but after the grind of touring, it’s almost a relief to have nothing to do except attend awards shows and industry parties and whatever other events JC’s being encouraged to be seen at with Bobbi.

The Billboard Awards turn out to be a lot of fun, because he and Chris get to act like idiots onstage, and Justin kind of stands there looking sort of pained by it all, while Kathy Griffin smirks at all of them.

Justin’s busy acting like he and JC have only recently been introduced, and JC’s trying hard not to show how much that bothers him. The half-handshake, half-one-armed hug Justin greets him with before they head to makeup for the Maury Povich Show alone is enough to make him want to punch a wall. Justin is friendly and polite and keeps his distance at all times. JC thinks he’s a little insulted. It’s not like he’s going to jump Justin in public, or try to kiss him under the mistletoe at Johnny’s Christmas party.

It does occur to JC that maybe it’s himself Justin doesn’t trust, but he’s miffed enough by all the avoidance crap that he ends getting completely shit-faced at Johnny’s party, then taking Bobbi home and fucking her until he can’t feel Justin inside him anymore.

He knows he should be ashamed of himself for that, and he apologetically kisses Bobbie goodbye the next morning, ignoring the knowing look in her eyes.

JC finally goes home for Christmas, where his mother is waiting to tell him what an idiot he is.

“So, Josh, Tyler tells me you’ve been screening your calls lately,” she says, as she hands him a cup of tea. For a minute, JC has no idea what she’s talking about. As far as he knows, Justin hasn’t tried to call him, and although JC’s hurt and annoyed, he’s pretty sure that if he saw Justin’s number he’d answer his phone.

He tears his gaze away from the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree to look at his mom. His dad insists on the ones that twinkle, even though his mom says they give her a headache. Right now, they’re just making JC sleepy and stupid. “What?”

Karen doesn’t answer him right away. She studies his face, concern in her eyes, and pushes a plate of Christmas cookies at him. After he’s taken one, she puts the plate on the coffee table, settles back into the couch cushions and says, “You look tired, Josh.”

She’s his mom, so he doesn’t bother to deny it. “Well, yeah, it was a long tour, you know?” He takes a bite of cookie, and it melts sweet and sugary against his tongue.

Karen shakes her head. “It’s more than that. I can see that, Josh. Is it something you want to talk about?”

JC leans his head back against the couch and closes his eyes against the swirling colors of the tree. “I’m not sure what to say. It’s – complicated, I guess.” He has no idea what she’d say if he just blurted out Justin and I had sex and now he won’t talk to me and it wasn’t even my idea, he started it, and now I miss my best friend.

His mom waits for him to say more, and when he doesn’t, she sips her tea, letting the silence settle around them. JC is trying to figure out if there’s a pattern to the blinking lights when Karen says, “Well, there’s one thing I can probably help you straighten out. Josh, call your mother.”

It’s not at all what he expected to hear, and he stares at her in surprise. Right. The unknown number had stopped showing up on his phone and he had totally shoved the matter to the back of his mind.

She smiles at him. “It’s not a problem for me, Josh, it never has been. I thought you knew that.” She gives his arm a shake and JC stares at her.

“I just didn’t want you to think-” he breaks off at her expression and hides his face in his teacup.

“I can never be anything but grateful to your mother, Josh. She gave you to us, and for that I can never thank her enough.” Karen gently takes the cup out of JC’s hand and puts it down. She reaches out and takes his face between her hands and kisses his forehead. “Call her.”

JC nods dumbly, blinking the sudden tears away. He will. He’ll call her tomorrow and say Merry Christmas, at least.

In the next few days, Chris calls to tell him that he and Dani broke up again and he thinks maybe it’s for good this time. Of course, it takes a good fifteen minutes of Chris’s chatter about his sisters and the Steelers and how cool it would be if they make the Superbowl this year, since NSYNC is the half-time show, and what an ass that Timberlake kid is, before he gets around to Dani. That means he’s really upset, and JC spends a lot of time on the phone trying to comfort him and cheer him up without actually being able to say anything comforting or cheerful, because if he does, Chris will hang up on him.

Joey calls to tell him that Kelly’s pregnant. JC is completely freaked out by that, but Joey seems thrilled. JC can’t begin to imagine how terrifying it would be to be a father, but if anyone will be perfect at it, it’ll be Joey.

Lance calls to tell him about his New Year’s Eve party in New York, and to threaten him with all sorts of dire consequences if JC doesn’t get his ass there. Lance doesn’t care what kind of stupid shit is going on between JC and Justin, and don’t play dumb with me, JC, I’m not stupid and I’m not blind and anyone can see Timberlake is in some sort of snit, get yourself to New York. That conversation consists of a lot of um hums and uh huhs on JC’s part, and he’s exhausted when they hang up. Lance on a mission always makes JC tired.

Lance also casually drops it into the conversation that Justin is spending Christmas in Louisiana with Britney’s family, but that they’ll be coming to Lance’s party for sure.

So that’s it, then, JC thinks, and now comes the part where he and Justin have to work hard to get back the friendship they seem to have thrown away for the sake of some really hot sex.

Merry Christmas, JC thinks sourly.


Lance knows how to throw a party. Justin knows Diane Bass can put on quite a shindig when the occasion calls for it, he’s experienced it first-hand, and he imagines Lance as a child, learning the ins and outs of guest lists and a well-stocked bar at her knee.

Britney squeals in delight at the decorations and says, “Now, Justin, honey, aren’t y’all glad we left Louisiana early for this little ole party?” Britney’s accent becomes way more Southern belle than it has any reason to be when there are important industry people around, and Lance’s party certainly seems to have drawn a lot of them here tonight. Justin is impressed.

So is his mother. It’s not really a family party, per se, but it’s not like Lance is going to make Lynn and Paul feel unwelcome when they show up with Justin and Britney. His momma would disown him if he did.

Paul quickly disappears, no doubt heading for a back room with a television set, and it’s left to Justin to procure drinks for his mother and Britney. He figures this out when the two of them, who have their heads together laughing at something Justin wants no knowledge of, turn in unison and look at him expectantly.

“What?” Britney’s mouth turns down a little at the corner and Lynn raises her eyebrows. “Oh. Um, you guys want something to drink?”

After toasting to the New Year with the champagne Justin brings them, Lynn looks around, gauging the crowd that fills the room. She nods her head with satisfaction, then kisses both Justin and Britney on the cheek. “I’m going to find Paul. You kids have fun, now.” She moves away and Justin watches her go, greeting people, laughing at the occasional acquaintance, while her eyes move ceaselessly around the room. He turns back to Britney and she smiles brightly up at him.

Two hours later and it’s almost midnight. Justin seems to have lost Britney in the crush, and he wonders who he’s going to kiss at midnight if he can’t find her. He ducks into a side room, and when he bumps into the doorframe he realizes he’s not at all sober. He may, in fact, be very drunk indeed.

He finds himself in a small alcove, with a couch, an end table, and a small Christmas tree, decorated with green and purple lights and what appears to be the Grinch balanced precariously on top, clutching a silver banner proclaiming Happy 2001. Justin wonders who the hell thought it was a good idea to let Lance actually have a say in the decorations.

JC is sitting on the couch, just closing his cell phone.

Justin tries to back out of the room, but he backs into the wall instead. He really shouldn’t have done those last two shots with his mom. JC looks up, startled, then his eyes narrow when he sees who’s making all the noise.

“Justin.” JC doesn’t move. He looks pretty serious, but there’s something there, some expression that Justin can’t really read. Justin’s heart beats fast and he wishes he wasn’t so drunk. He can’t think what to do.

“Hey, JC.” Justin smiles weakly. JC stares at him some more, then he slowly gets to his feet. He rubs his hands down the front of his thighs and ducks his head before looking back at Justin.

He’s nervous, Justin thinks in surprise. He feels a pang of guilt at that – how fucked up are things that being in the same room as Justin makes JC nervous?

It’s a stand-off, and Justin thinks dimly that later on he can blame the Patrone, because without making a conscious decision, without his body even consulting with his brain, he’s suddenly crossing the room and wrapping his hands around JC’s upper arms, pulling him in, pulling him close, and kissing him. It’s awkward and messy, the way drunken kisses often are, but it’s hot and Justin hadn’t known how much he’d wanted to do this again until his tongue is in JC’s mouth.

JC kisses him back, desperate and hungry, and Justin’s knees almost buckle with the surge of lust that goes through him. Then JC pushes Justin away, shaking his head, leaving Justin staring at him in confusion, trying to catch his breath.

“What the fuck, Justin?” JC’s pissed, anger and hurt on his face. “No way, not again.” And then he’s gone, and Justin’s left standing alone, purple and green lights blinking at him. He reaches up and touches his lips with his thumb, wiping at the corner of his mouth. He feels bruised.


Justin stares in disbelief from his mother to Britney and back again. Surely they can’t be serious. Matching sweaters, worn to a small-town church in Louisiana on Christmas Eve are one thing, but this. This is big. This is the American Music Awards, in LA even, and everyone who’s anyone will be there.

He can only hope that whatever JC and Lance wear tonight will be worse than this. It’s always possible. In fact, Justin can probably count on it.

He looks again at the clothes laid out on the bed in Britney’s hotel suite, and then he closes his eyes in defeat. There’s no way that even JC can top this.

“Don’t you like them, Justin?” Britney asks, her voice sweet, the pure steel almost hidden beneath the sugar. “Go ahead, try it on, darlin’. Your mom gave the tailor your size, but we’d better just make sure.”

Justin walks to the bed and picks up the denim hat, which is sitting there next to a denim suit jacket, denim pants, a denim dress, and a denim purse. There’s a light blue t-shirt, too, and Justin sends up a small prayer of thanks that at least that’s not denim.

It’s official. Baby blue is no longer his favorite color.

He turns back to his mother and Britney, united in their determination. Judging by the expressions on their faces, resistance is probably futile. He sends his mother a look of betrayal, which she ignores as she reaches for the pants and hands them over to him. He gives in and takes them to try on. The only thing worse than him and Britney going to the American Music Awards in matching denim outfits would be if the pants didn’t fit him right.

Several hours later, Chris takes one look at him and explodes with laughter. “Dude, you two look like a Levi factory exploded on you. What the fuck?”

Justin looks around the lobby of the auditorium, checking that Britney is still over talking to Nick Carter. There’s a bar set up along one wall, and people are doing their damndest to get tanked before it’s time to take their seats. Justin is, anyway. He swallows the last of his drink and looks around, hoping another one will magically appear. He’s not exactly legal, but they’re not exactly checking IDs and he could use another drink or five right about now.

“Shut up. Britney picked them out.” Justin looks Chris up and down and blinks at the black…Justin supposes it’s a jacket Chris thinks he’s wearing. “Jesus, Chris. You’re one to talk. I thought you were supposed to be fashion guy, or something. This is what you come up with?”

Chris ignores Justin’s critique of his outfit. “Well, I hoped it was her who picked out those clothes and not you.” Chris pauses, then says, “Have you talked to JC yet?”

Justin deliberately misunderstands Chris’s question. “No, but Lance and Joey are here already. I saw them arrive.” He doesn’t meet Chris’s eye. He’s very grateful to Lance, as well as to Chris, for dressing in an outfit that is ten times worse than what Justin’s wearing. Who in the world ever thought those brown pleather pants were a good idea?

“That’s not what I mean and you know it, Justin.” Chris shrugs. “I’d tell you to get your head out of your ass, but I’m not really qualified to give romantic advice at the moment.” He sounds sad, and Justin reaches out and gives his shoulder a sympathetic squeeze.

The glittering crowd milling around the lobby begins to drift towards the auditorium. “I guess we’d better go sit,” Justin says. He starts to look around for Britney, and she appears instantly at his shoulder, smiling brightly at Chris.

“Ready to go in, Justin?” She grabs his hand and together they walk to their seats. Justin tries to tell himself that all the stares they’re getting are stares of envy and admiration. He’s not really convincing himself.

JC and Bobbi are already in their seats, and they have to stand to allow Justin and Britney to get past them to theirs. Justin steals a quick glance at JC’s face and for a second they make eye contact. Justin’s heart sinks. JC is still really, really pissed.

Bobbi’s eyes widen as she takes in Justin and Britney’s outfits, and there, finally, is the envy Justin’s been looking for.


That last beer was a mistake and JC has to pee. He’s been squirming in his seat for the past fifteen minutes and Bobbi is starting to give him dirty looks. Finally she sighs in exasperation and hisses in his ear, “For God’s sake, JC, go find the bathroom.”

He waits until they cut for a commercial, then he edges his way along the row of seats, stepping on Joey’s foot accidentally and Chris’s on purpose as he tries to get to the side aisle.

The men’s room is surprisingly deserted. There must be an important award coming up. JC hopes it isn’t one that NSYNC is nominated for. He goes into a stall to pee, and when he comes out, Justin is at a urinal. JC tries not to look as he goes to the sink to wash his hands, but he can’t help it. He catches a quick glimpse of Justin’s dick before Justin shakes off and carefully tucks it away, and it makes him want things Justin isn’t going to be giving him anytime soon.

JC waves his hands around under the hand-drier, resisting the urge to wipe them on his pants and get the hell out of the restroom. He hesitates too long, because Justin turns away from the sink, flicking water off his fingers and says, “JC. Can we talk?”

JC shakes his head. “There’s nothing to talk about, man.” JC doesn’t want to hear the brush-off speech, or the one about saving the group, or, even worse, saving their friendship, or-

“JC, how long have we known each other? Seriously, we’ve been friends since I was eleven years old, man.” And wow, doesn’t that make JC feel kind of like a big pervert.

“Justin-” JC breaks off as the bathroom door opens and Joey comes in, followed by Lance.

“If we’re having a group meeting without Chris, he’s gonna be pissed,” Joey says. Behind him, Lance laughs.

JC’s shoulders slump and he says, “No meeting, Joe.” He leaves the bathroom and goes back to his seat.

“Where the hell were you guys?” Chris asks suspiciously. JC just shakes his head and smiles down at Bobbie. When Justin comes back to his seat, JC ignores all his attempts to make eye-contact.

The after party is loud and full of people, as these things generally are. Justin and Britney are holding court in their ridiculous matching outfits, although JC has to admit that Brit does look pretty fabulous. Justin, not so much, even though all the blue does bring out his eyes.

JC and Bobbie park themselves at a table with Chris and Dani, which isn’t awkward at all, really. JC firmly believes that people who break up with each other twenty times a week probably shouldn’t be business partners, but whatever. It’s not his life. Bobbie’s bored, which isn’t anything new, and JC wonders when they can leave.

He’s not scanning the room to see where Justin is. He’s not, and he can prove it. When Bobbie decides she’s bored enough to mingle, which is what she calls it when she works a crowd in an attempt to get a better job than the one at J-14, which JC can’t really blame her for, he tags along without even knowing what part of the room Justin’s presiding over.

They leave Chris and Dani to their discussion of who gets custody of Busta and Kariya and make their way over to the bar. It takes about fifteen seconds before they’re separated by the crowd, and JC breathes a sigh of relief.

Once he’s armed with a drink, JC glances around the room and is immediately waylaid by an adorably inebriated Howie Dorough. Howie talks his ear off for as long as it takes for JC to spot Justin walking his way with a very determined look on his face.

JC nods at Howie, who seems to be talking about the Orlando real estate market, and tries to subtly scoot around so he can keep Howie between him and Justin. Hiding behind someone so much shorter than he is doesn’t really work, though, and Justin isn’t fooled for a minute.

“Hey, Sweet D,” Justin says, coming up and clapping Howie on the shoulder. “I think Nick’s looking for you.” He smiles at Howie, a full, wide-mouthed smile that makes Howie blanch and take a few steps back.

“Hey, Justin,” he says, then turns and practically runs to the relative safety of Nick Carter’s arms. “Later, JC,” he throws over his shoulder as he retreats.

JC glares at Justin. “What?” Justin shrugs. “I want to talk to you.”

“We don’t need to talk,” JC says firmly. “We just need to forget anything happened.”

“What, and see if we can get back to normal? Is that what you want, C?” Justin asks, with a concerned frown wrinkling his forehead. Great, now Justin’s going to get all earnest and sincere on him. JC finds that super hard to resist at the best of times, which this sure as hell isn’t.

“Now you’re asking me what I want? Now, after ignoring me for how long?” JC demands. “Fuck that.” He turns, intending to go back to his table, to see if Chris and Dani

are arguing about something else yet, but Justin puts his hand on JC’s arm and JC freezes. He’s missed Justin touching him. Justin leans in, his mouth next to JC’s ear.

“Please, JC.” Justin’s voice is soft and JC shivers. Before he can respond, Chris’s head pops up between them, his hands on each of their shoulders.

“Secrets again?” he laughs. JC wants to smack him for interrupting, and he meanly hopes Dani gets full custody of Chris’s dogs.

JC smiles blandly at Chris and pulls away, meeting Justin’s eyes for a minute and seeing his own frustration mirrored there. “I need to go see if Bobbie needs anything,” he says, and he walks away.


Justin watches as JC walks away into the crowd, then turns and shoves at Chris’s shoulder. “Thanks a lot, asshole.”

Chris smiles blearily at him, obviously drunk off his ass. “She’s gonna take my dogs, J.” He shakes his head sadly, and almost topples over from the momentum. Justin grabs his elbow and steers him to a nearby table, depositing him none too gently into a chair.

“Stay there.” He looks around and spies Joey, laughing and talking to some blonde girl Justin’s never met. “Don’t move,” he tells Chris and Chris salutes him mockingly.

“Joey, Joey, you gotta come help me with Chris.” Joey kisses the blonde apologetically on the cheek and follows Justin back to the table, where Chris is trying to build a pyramid out of empty glasses. “Can you take him?” Justin lowers his voice and says, “I don’t think giving him back to Dani is a good idea right now. She stole his dogs, man.”

Justin may have had a few drinks himself, which he’ll totally admit to anyone who asks him.

Britney suddenly materializes at Justin’s side as Joey sits down next to Chris and starts helping him with his pyramid. “Are you drunk, Justin?” she asks sweetly.

“No, not at all,” Justin says, staring down into Britney’s cleavage. She’s fine, there’s really no denying that. America’s pop princess.

“Justin. Hi, I’m up here,” she says, rolling her eyes, but she’s pleased, he can tell, flushed with pleasure at his obvious admiration of her charms.

His mother’s going to kill him for doing what he’s decided he needs to do.

Britney takes his hand and it’s apparently time to make another round of the guests at the party. Justin would have thought there had been enough see and be seen tonight to last a lifetime, or at least a week or two, but Brit seems determined to hit up every record producer and video director and music critic who scored an invitation to tonight’s gig. Justin follows in her denim wake, a smile plastered tightly on his face.

It’s not that this shit isn’t important, but Justin is as tired as he is drunk. Tired means he has no resistance to thoughts of JC and how much he wants to be touching him, right here, right now. He’s tried not to want him, he really has, but keeping his distance doesn’t seem to have worked as well as he thought it would.

“Hey, Brit. Can I talk to you for a minute?” The words are out before he means them to be, and Britney looks at him, startled. So does the A&R guy from Jive she’s been chatting up, who’s in the middle of a long dissertation on changing market forces in the coming new year.

Britney smiles sweetly up at him. “Sure, baby.” She turns her smile full-force on the industry guy and his face goes slack for a minute before he pulls himself together and nods. Justin doesn’t blame him. Britney’s a beautiful girl and he’s seen her smile reduce stronger men than this record suit to gibbering idiots. The guy wanders away with a bemused expression.

This is not the time and place for this, but Justin doesn’t care. Well, he cares enough about their careers and their reputations to say, “I’m kind of tired. Are you about ready to head out?” instead of I’m in love with JC and I don’t want to do this with you anymore. He’s not lost to all sense of propriety yet.

Britney frowns. Her frowns aren’t nearly as effective as her smiles, she’s too pretty.

“Brit. Um, here’s the thing. I like you, for serious. And we can keep – you know -” Justin waves his hand around, trying to encompass the public part of their relationship. Britney obviously has no idea what he’s talking about as she stares up at him, a puzzled line between her eyebrows. Justin sighs and tries again. “We work well together. This works,” he says, flapping his hand again, this time at their matching denim outfits. “But -”

“Justin Randall Timberlake, just what are you trying to say here?” And whoa, Britney sounded scarily like Justin’s mother for a minute there.

“I’m in love with JC and I don’t want to do this with you anymore.” Justin resists the urge to clap a hand over his mouth, but just barely, as he peers anxiously down into Britney’s face.

“Do what with me, Justin?” Britney’s eyes narrow dangerously. “What don’t you want to do anymore?”

“Um, can we just, you know, kind of have a fake relationship? Does it have to be, um, real?” And oh, God, how drunk is he? He sounds like a total moron, and it usually takes a lot more alcohol than he’s consumed tonight to make him sound this stupid.

Britney’s expression is the one that means she’s about to start yelling at him, and Justin glances around nervously. Most of the people still at the party are just as drunk as Justin apparently is, maybe even more so, and they’re not paying any attention to the two of them.

But JC is watching them. He’s standing about ten feet away, so he can’t possibly hear what they’re saying, but his eyes are focused intently on Justin’s face. Justin swallows and turns back to his irate, hopefully now-fake girlfriend. “Please?”

Britney considers him. “Does your momma know about this?”

Justin shakes his head miserably. He doesn’t know what she’ll say when she finds out. She wants him to be happy, he does know that much. She’ll just have to be okay with his decision.

Britney nods and bestows a glittering smile on him. “Okay, Justin. But we still do this for business, right?” She cocks her head and studies his face. “You’re awfully cute. I’m gonna miss the sex. Just don’t fuck me over in public.” She stands on tiptoe to brush a soft kiss across his mouth, then turns to walk away, throwing a wink over her shoulder at JC as she passes him.

Justin just stands there, waiting. He doesn’t have to wait long. JC stalks towards him, impatience in every step. He stops directly in front of him and says, “Are you free from your entanglement, Justin?”

Justin nods happily. “What is this, a bad romance novel? My entanglement?”

JC smiles. It’s not a very nice smile, it’s full of promises of dark deeds to come, and it sends a shiver down Justin’s spine. “You know how most romance novels end, don’t you, Justin? With lots of wild, passionate sex. So let’s get a move on and blow this joint.”

JC’s hand is on his elbow, and Justin manages to wave goodbye to Chris and Joey before he’s propelled out into the LA night. He thinks he’s going to enjoy this.

And also, being in the same band, he and JC have a legitimate reason to wear matching clothes.



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