nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Upside Down (You're Turning Me)

by Topaz119, written for Phaballa

Tyler was the first person to know, but Chris was the first person JC called. After everything settled down and things were more or less normal, Chris always rolled his eyes and said that of course he was the first person C called, who the hell else would have just gotten on a plane and flown out to California without having hysterics or calling the loony bin to come and cart him away. Things always got a little muddled at that point, because JC liked to go off on tangents about what kind of drugs they might have given him and how fucking cool would that have been, cat, and Justin tended to get pissy when people insinuated that he would have had hysterics, but generally, that was the truth. Who else but Chris Kirkpatrick would take a call that basically said, "Dude, I woke up and I'm a chick," with nothing more than a "No shit? Rack and all?" and some bitching about the price of last-minute airline tickets.

So, yeah. One morning JC woke up and was a girl and Chris flew across the country to hold his hand. It was something not everybody would do; JC freely admitted that, except Chris kinda sucked at the hand-holding part. Ten seconds after he got to the house, he wanted JC to flash him, so he could give a proper opinion of his new tits, and then he wanted to know why the hell JC still didn't have any decent pool cues.

He and Tyler went out to buy some new ones and JC sat in his house and looked out over the canyon and tried not to completely freak out. He mostly felt the same, but his center of gravity was off and he kept expecting his arms to be longer. When he looked in the mirror, it was his face, only not quite. He didn't have exactly the same bone structure--which at least meant that his nose was smaller--and his jaw was different. His eyes were the same though, and that was the only thing that made it easier to breathe. Other than that, he was shorter and he didn't have many curves but that seemed to be the right translation for how his body had been as a guy.

He definitely needed to let his hair grow out.

When he sat down at the piano, his hands still remembered how to play, but he didn't have quite the reach so he messed up on some chords. He still knew all the choreography from all the songs and his voice was maybe only an octave higher in range. Somehow, that was the biggest relief--he still had his voice, even if he didn't have a dick. When Chris got back and settled in for some nine-ball, like it was a normal visit, JC tried to explain, but Chris looked so pained at the mention of JC's, er, loss, that he gave up. But he still felt better when he was singing.


Joey was the next person to know. JC had been pretending to have the flu and talking in raspy whispers to Eric, because, like Chris said, who the fuck knew how long he was going to stay like that and there was no sense in getting people all freaked out. Joey was in town for some promo on his TV show and, of course, had just shown up, because he and Joey were like that. If you were in town, you came by, no matter which town they were talking about, Orlando or LA. So Joey walked in one morning, right as JC was waking up and since JC still hated having clothes on while he slept, Joey got the message loud and clear and very, very graphically. JC was a tiny bit offended by how Joe clapped his hand over his eyes and stumbled into the wall, because it wasn't like he hadn't ever walked in on JC jerking off before—tour buses had zero privacy—and this was exactly the same, except for the part with no dick.

Chris had a bottle of scotch he kept for the freak-out moments—-they all had them, periodically—and once Joey'd had a shot, and then another one, he was better. He asked for a third one, but they'd all agreed that after two, you were beyond the medicinal stage. JC worried sometimes that they'd had enough experience to have worked out basic rules, but then what wasn't weird about this whole thing?

Joey had to tell Kelly, of course, and JC thought it was sweet, really, the way she believed him. That she didn't even ask him to repeat himself spoke good things of their love and trust, he told Joey. Joey rolled his eyes and handed JC his cell phone so Kelly could tell him herself how she would castrate all of them if this was their idea of a joke.

"With a dull knife, Chasez. Dull. Knife," she added.

Joey looked a little sick at the thought, and Chris got bitchy after the second time JC mentioned it, but it wasn't all that big of a deal to JC. He assured Kelly that he wasn't screwing around. When he swore on his mother's not-yet-occupied grave, Kelly hmmmm'ed thoughtfully and said she was coming out as soon as Phyllis and Big Joe could come over to take care of Bri, because God knew somebody with more sense than Joe and Chris needed to be there.

JC thought it was probably a good time to see how a little feminine bonding went and Kelly wasn't going to rat him out to the tabloids, so he left her to her plans and went to tell Chris and Joey that they should probably call a cleaning service for the house. Tyler had told his regular housekeeper that JC was sick, and not to come so she wouldn't get infected and the house was pretty much trashed. He didn't think Kelly would actually be surprised by it, but he wasn't sure if there was some new expectation that came along with the new body parts.


Kelly turned out to be great, which was not a surprise, given her long association with Joey and Steve and Chris. She got out of the cab and surveyed the situation, then found some stuff that didn't hang too badly on JC's new, shorter frame (they'd worked it out that he'd been about average height for a guy before, and so now he was average height for a woman, which was fine, but meant he was way shorter than he used to be) and shoved his car keys in his hand. She took him to a custom lingerie place, because, she said, even if he didn't have big boobs, a properly fitting bra was important if he didn't want what he had to be sagging in a year. She picked up a few things for herself while she was there, and JC definitely thought Joey was going to be in for some fun when she got him alone.

There was a little bit of a roadblock when they got to other stuff, because JC absolutely did not see the need for $50 panties, and thongs were so not going anywhere near his ass, but they compromised on a few nice sets of matching bras and bikinis and then they went by the outlets and bought an armful of Hanes Her Way French-cut cotton. After that, it was pretty much fun. JC liked shopping, always had, and women had way more options, so he happily spent the rest of the afternoon in and out of the shops on Rodeo Drive, trying everything that caught his eye on and letting Kel pass judgment.

The next morning was seriously less fun, but Kelly was right: he really did need to see a doctor, to make sure everything was okay. It wasn't how he'd planned on spending his day, but it was done and over with and the doctor didn't notice anything weird, so JC supposed he was definitely, officially, a woman. He didn't mention it to Kelly but he was pretty sure this new body wasn't a virgin, which, in a way made sense. His old body sure as hell wasn't one, not in any sense of the word. So, that meant that whenever he figured things out enough to be ready to get a little for himself, he wouldn't have to worry about coming up with reasons why he was a thirty-something virgin. Not that there was anything wrong with that, he assured himself. It just so wasn't who he was.


Once Joey knew, it was only a matter of time before Lance would know, too. JC expected that, but it was still not something he wanted to think about. He and Lance… there probably wasn't a good explanation for what he and Lance were. Friends, yes, but JC had never shaken the feeling that there had been more on Lance's side. "Dude, I know you really weren't dealing with being gay back when we met but, were you crushing on me anyway?" wasn't really something you could say to a friend. They got through it, because that's what they did and sometimes denial was the best policy, but that wasn't really working as a lifestyle choice for JC these days.

Joey went and told Lance personally, and then brought him over to JC's house. JC changed clothes four times before he settled on a white blouse-type thing and a pair of black capris that had little mirrors embroidered down the outside seams--classic but with a little extra zing for courage. Lance stood in the doorway for a long time before he came and sat next to JC on the couch. They sat there, not talking until Lance's phone rang. JC thought it might have been an excuse, something Lance set up so he could leave without a big scene, but Lance only answered a few questions about his schedule and hung up.

When he looked at JC again, he said, "Are you sure you're okay?"

Joey asked him that sometimes. JC had a good stock of automatic replies, but instead, this time he only shrugged. "I kinda have to be, y'know?"

Lance nodded and they sat quietly until Chris came in and chased them down to the media room.


JC knew he had to tell Justin—he'd known it from the second he'd hung up the phone that first morning with Chris, because he could dance around telling everyone else, but as soon as one of the guys knew, pretty much all of them had to know. It was a given. And he knew the longer he waited, the more difficult it was going to be to explain, but, seriously. What was he supposed to say?

For a couple of weeks, he held out hope that Chris would go do it, like Joey had with Lance, but Chris and J... they were in one of their difficult phases and it was probably too much to ask for Chris to break tradition and be the first one to make the call, just because JC's DNA had taken a trip on the freak-mobile. He thought about it a lot, looked in the mirror and met his own gaze while he rehearsed endless variations on, "So, dude, you aren't gonna believe this one..." but what ended up happening was Chris was bored out of his skull and dragged JC up to Vegas for some new ink and a couple of days in the casino and while Chris stretched out over the artist's table, getting the part of the design that twisted up and over his shoulders and the back of his neck, JC ended up calling Justin, because it turned out that needles still freaked him out and he needed a serious distraction after seeing the first few inches happen.

He didn't actually tell Justin anything then, because it really wasn't something you said over the phone, even when you were freaked out and babbling, but Justin got the point that there was something JC needed to talk to him about, enough that he made JC promise to come over to his house as soon as they got back. JC ended the call and decided that since Chris was still inside, and looking to be occupied for at least another hour, it was probably best if JC went shopping. He could go play blackjack or something, slots, even, but given how nervous he was, it was probably cheaper to go hand over money in the stores. At least this way, he'd have something to show for the cash.

He found a pair of jeans that did amazing things for his still-almost-nonexistent ass and a pair of wicked, killer boots to wear with them and when Chris called him, buzzed off the endorphins, he could tell himself that he was fine, everything was fine. He almost believed himself, too.


Justin didn't know what the hell was going on, but he hadn't heard JC so freaked out in years, not since the lawsuit. First had been the nearly incoherent phone call, apparently from Vegas, which JC was excusing on the grounds that he'd accidentally seen a couple of minutes of Chris getting another tattoo and spazzing over the needle. He was almost desperate in his insistence that that was all it was, so Justin was going along with it, but he didn't believe it for a second. Then came the call to figure out when Justin was going to be in LA, followed almost immediately by one that tried to feed Justin a total line of BS that JC was sick and he knew how much Justin hated to be exposed to germs so he'd just talk to Justin later.

Something was up, for damn sure—there was something off about C's voice—but Justin was about to be in Prague for 15 weeks, running around and playing spy games with Jason Stedham and Eric Bana and Michelle Yeoh, which had him more or less nervous enough to throw up when he thought about it, so he maybe got a little pissy at JC's voicemail. "I'm not fucking in the mood, C. You want to talk to me, you know where I live. And if you call me before you drive over, I'll even give you the goddamn security codes for the gate, too."

Of course, JC didn't call, not until he was actually at the gate and Justin was tempted to ignore him completely, but then he figured JC was probably counting on him doing exactly that, which was for damn sure enough to get him to pick up the phone and snap out the code. He waited until he saw the familiar silver Mercedes make the final turn to pull up to the house, and then he went and got a beer. JC knew his way around and Justin hadn't been kidding about not being in the mood. JC wasn't a drama queen in the sense that he got all riled up about any little thing, but once he got going, it was out of control. Justin always felt as though he had those little angels and devils sitting on his shoulders, one firing off ways to help and the other listing out all the ways Justin could shut JC the hell up. There were footsteps in the hall and he was metaphorically saying hi to the current angel/devil combo when JC stepped into the kitchen and Justin was suddenly grateful for the counter at his back because there was no way he'd have been standing otherwise. JC stared back at him, his eyes wide and dark and serious. Her eyes?—shit, what pronoun was Justin supposed to be using anyway?

"It's me," JC finally said, and oh, Justin thought. No wonder his voice had sounded weird on the phone. JC, but not quite. "It just...I dunno. Happened." Justin nodded, mostly because it felt like he needed to add to the conversation and he had no idea what to say. JC took another step into the kitchen and Justin resisted the urge to shake his head, clear his vision. Embroidered jeans and flip-flops and bunch of bracelets and necklaces--everything all the same, except for the slight curve of cleavage and a little swell of hips.

"Shit, C," Justin finally managed. "Warn a guy next time."


After they stood and stared at each other for a while, JC produced a brushed steel hip flask from the depths of his messenger bag. After the first shot, Justin coughed past the burn and, flailing weakly at any conversational topic that wasn't 'holyfuckinghell, what the fuck happened to you', pointed to the Betsey Johnson logo embossed on the leather. "I thought your heart belonged to Prada."

"Anything decent-sized was just, way too over the top." JC's voice was prim. "Just, too much, y'know?"

"Sure," Justin answered, and if he sounded a little feeble, well, too fucking bad. He held the little shot cup out for more. "Too much. I got it." JC looked him over but poured him a second shot. Justin felt marginally better, at least until JC capped the flask and held his hand out for Justin's cup.

"It's the rule," JC said, and Justin had to close his eyes against the head-rush of that familiar, intent expression on the subtly different face. "I know two shots really aren't enough, man, but trust me, it's better to stop now."

"Says who?" Justin asked, clutching the cup tightly.

"Chris," JC said, sighing. "And Tyler and Joey and Kelly, too. But mostly Chris."

"Chris Kirkpatrick said it was better to stop drinking?"

"We, uh, kind of didn't there for a while." JC pried the cup out of Justin's hands and got the flask back into the messenger bag before looking back up and shrugging. "It's still all fucked up when you wake up the next morning and it's a lot worse if you're hung over."

"Yeah?" Justin walked over to the locked cabinet where he kept his stash. "You got any rules about weed?"

"Oh," JC said, smiling slowly as Justin grabbed the baggie with the really good shit Tim had left the last time he'd been over messing with some beats in the recording studio out back. Justin definitely wasn't thinking about why that smile—big and wide and familiar—was making him so happy. "Nah, cat; we totally don't."

"Excellent," Justin said. "Let's see if you can still roll a joint."


Justin had to get up for his flights way too damn early the next morning, so he didn't want to get totally fucked up, but the situation definitely called for some kind of mood-altering substance, and since he didn't think he was going to be having much opportunity to be hanging out and smoking up on this movie set, a couple of joints was exactly what the doctor ordered. So to speak. Pot still got JC all lazy and loose-limbed, still gave him that helpless gasping laugh and it sure as hell helped Justin cope with the whole insane situation. The night was warm and dark, perfect for lying around out by the pool. After the first joint, JC got kind of sad, insisting that Justin turn off all the lights except for the really small, underwater ones that didn't do much more than give the shape of the pool some definition.

"Sometimes, it's easier in the dark," JC murmured, but Justin didn't think he was supposed to have heard that. He fumbled with the switches and tried not to trip over his own feet on his way back to where JC was stretched out in a chaise. By the time he dropped into his own chair, JC had the second joint going and Justin could take it and pretend it was a normal night.

"Everybody's been cool," JC said, into the silence. "I mean, not very many people know, but they've all been cool." Justin kind of hummed, in an encouraging way, he hoped, or at least in a good-for-them kind of way. "I haven't told my folks yet. I keep hoping it'll go away, I guess."

"Yeah," Justin said. It was a pathetic answer, but JC didn't seem to mind, just took the joint back from him and took a hit, the lit end glowing brightly in the night. Halfway into the second joint, JC decided the "melancholy shit was stupid," and announced that he was going swimming. He was up and moving before Justin's brain even engaged.

"Oh, hey, C, wait—" JC hit the water with a quiet, controlled splash, leaving Justin all tangled up and trying to get off the chaise. "JC!"

"Cat, what?"

"I, just...we're kinda high," Justin said, feeling stupid. "Maybe you shouldn't get in the water?"

"J, be serious. We split a couple of joints. I'm not gonna drown." The water lapped against the sides and the steps, as though JC had rolled over, and if Justin concentrated and looked really hard, he could make out a darker shape in the water. "It feels awesome, though. You should come in, too."

"C--" Justin started to list out all the reasons why this was a bad idea, not just that they were high, but that he needed to get up at ass o'clock and catch a plane, but then he heard himself and wondered when he'd become middle-aged. "Yeah, okay."

"Yeah?" JC laughed, and if it was a little bit higher-pitched than it should be, Justin still recognized the sound of JC getting his own way and being happy about it. He shucked off his t-shirt and shoved his jeans down and slid into the water in his boxers. JC was right; the water did feel great, silky and cool against his skin. He ducked under the water and pushed toward the opposite wall, grinning as he came up for air. "See?" JC called across the water. Justin laughed and leaned back to float and look up at the sky.

JC was sloshing around; Justin didn't really pay any attention until a hand slid down his side, stopping at his hip. He jerked and went under, coming up choking.

"Dude," JC said, exasperated. "You're still wearing clothes."

JC was right there, right next to Justin. They weren't touching, except for the hand on his hip, but Justin could feel JC's breath dancing across his skin.

"It's not the same with clothes." JC's voice was softer now, lighter. Intimate. "For real, man."

Justin shivered a little, but he went with it when JC's hand tugged his boxers down and kicked them the rest of the way off himself. "Does it feel different?" he heard himself asking, his voice not much more than a whisper. "Your body. Does it feel different now?"

"A little," JC whispered back. "Less than you'd think, though." JC's hand was back on his hip. Justin took a deep breath, and then another, trying desperately to clear his head, but JC was right there, taking Justin's hand and bringing it close; bringing him close. "Does it feel different to you?"

Even Justin could have figured out how to answer that--truthfully, where JC had put Justin's hand, right along the curve of his ribs, felt like any other time they'd touched, but right above that, he was pretty damn sure it would definitely be different--JC leaned in and kissed him and everything else went right out of Justin's brain. JC tasted smoky and sweet, like the pot, maybe, or something more. Justin leaned in closer, opened his mouth and let JC taste him, until he had to stop to breathe.

"J?" JC tugged gently on Justin's hand, pulling him toward the steps, and Justin followed willingly. He shivered a little as the night air struck cool and breezy on his skin; when JC hesitated at the chairs, like they should stop there and get back to whatever it was they were doing, Justin kept them walking. He stopped right outside the door that went into his bedroom, pulled JC close and ran his hands slowly down to where JC's waist flared out a tiny bit more than Justin remembered it, into small but definite hips.

"You're right," Justin whispered, tipping his head down for another slow kiss.

"What?" JC breathed.

"A little different, but not so much." Justin dragged his hands back up, tracing the same path as before, but let his thumbs brush lightly along the soft curve of JC's breasts, smiling at the catch in JC's breathing. He'd heard that before, too; not from anything he'd done himself, but all the times (four) that they ended up in the same hotel room after random shows and parties, JC and him and the random girls JC could always find.

"Inside," JC said, pressing right up close to Justin, running his own hands down Justin's back, curving them over his ass. Justin groaned, the sudden contact like a raw current across his nerves, and barely managed to let go of JC long enough to reach behind his back and get the door open. Getting to his bed was a blur; he thought JC must have steered them, but he never remembered anything from the time he first felt JC against him until he found himself on the bed, flat on his back and JC swallowing his cock with a practiced ease. He whined high in his throat as JC pulled off, shuddering as JC crawled up over him and leaning up to catch JC's mouth with his own.

"J," JC whispered as he rocked against Justin, slick, wet heat against Justin's cock. Justin slid his hands up long, to hold JC's hips steady; his breath stuttering as JC moved slowly, slowly down onto his cock. He held himself as still as possible, let JC set the pace, even when he ended up biting through his lip at how much he wanted to be moving. "So good," JC said. "God, so good, so fucking good."

Justin kissed him again, mouth and jaw and neck, licking lower to suck and bite at first one nipple and then the other, again and again, until JC dug his nails into Justin's hips and came, shaking and panting, around him. Justin touched him, long, slow strokes along his spine, until JC stopped trembling, and then he rolled them. He wanted to go slow and take his time feeling JC under and around him, but JC arched up against him, legs wrapped tight around Justin's waist and Justin lost the last of his control.


JC had always been able to sleep anywhere, that much of the joke was true; the flip side was that he could wake up in a flash, too. Justin tried to slide out of bed as quietly and gently as possible—nobody should have to get up at four in the morning unless they absolutely had no choice—but JC rolled over and sat up, too.

"The car's coming at five," Justin mumbled, letting JC lead him, stumbling, toward the shower.

"My timing sucks." JC ducked his head under the water, leaning back and humming a little as the water soaked through the short curls before he pressed close to Justin.

"It could've been better," Justin agreed, panting as JC pushed him back until he was braced against the wall. "Then again, you could have wimped out completely."

"No wimping out," JC muttered, getting one leg up around Justin's waist.

"Okay," Justin gasped, his dick sliding deep into JC. "Whatever you say."


"It'll be fine," JC mumbled, in between kisses on the kitchen table. "C'mon, J, the car's gonna be here any minute."

"You swear you'll clean this up?" Justin swept cereal and bowls and milk out of their way.

"Yes, Justin. I swear I won't leave this for the cleaning service to find." JC lay back and braced his heels on the edge of the table, rolling his eyes and dragging Justin closer. "C'mon, man; fuck me."


Intellectually, Justin knew JC liked sex. He'd even had those close encounters with the concept. Totally different than the actual reality, he thought, collapsed in the back of the SUV that was taking him to the airport. Totally different.


Prague was ... intense. Almost every shot was outside, so they were hostage to the light, and Justin had never been in a situation where he felt more pressure to get it right the first time. The others were cool, and all of them had reputations of doing all but the most dangerous of stunts—though Justin wasn't too sure that Michelle couldn't out-do any professional in anything—but they were under the same gun, too, so Justin tried not to take up too much of their time. What worked best, he found, was to stay in character as much as possible. After a couple of weeks, he felt vaguely schizophrenic, but putting on The Kid's mannerisms and attitudes from the second he stepped out of make-up and wardrobe helped keep him from fucking up on camera. He thought people might think he was being pretentious or acting like a diva, but apparently, Greengrass always ran such insane sets, nobody so much as blinked at one of the actors asking to be addressed in character.

They had occasional off-days, which were just enough to remind Justin that he wasn't a punk kid brother, desperate to prove that he was every bit as good at the family business as his older brothers. He usually tried to talk to his mom on those days, and make sure nothing had blown up with Jive, but by the halfway point, Rachel was pretty much taking care of everything. She said she didn't mind, and that she loved the city, but he still called Paul and made sure she had access to money and stuff, in case she had an emergency while he was off playing spy games.

Once, when storms shut down production, Michelle insisted that everyone meet up at a tiny jazz club. It was awesome—amazingly good music and food—but Justin almost felt schizophrenic, being himself around all the people who were usually his cues to be someone else. They stayed for hours at the club, and then Jason dragged them all to a disco. It was the only night Justin got recognized the entire time he was in the city; he ended up signing autographs for the DJ and manager while they hustled him out the back. Everyone else thought it was hysterical, though, so it didn't mess up anything on-set. He thought about JC every night, but that night, he broke down and called and left a rambling message on voicemail.

JC didn't call back but Justin was sucked back into The Kid's life and he only remembered that JC hadn't called on the occasional ride to and from the set. It was all going well, or at least what passed for well on a Greengrass set, right up until the day they were all hanging off the stonework on the front of a 15th Century building that nobody quite knew how they'd gotten permission to film on and Justin overbalanced and felt his arm pop out of the socket. His ropes held and the training they'd all gone through kicked in even through the haze of pain and he managed to get himself to the street, Michelle and Eric rappelling down to kneel next to him. He remembered Michelle's face, serious and concerned, but calm, and breathing in quick, sharp pants. He had his jaw clenched tight enough that it hurt the next morning, but he didn't trust himself not to be yelling if he relaxed. He didn't even answer anything other than nodding once when Michelle asked if she could put his shoulder back in for him. Eric held him down and Michelle did it in one quick, strong movement. Justin might have grayed-out there for a couple of seconds; when he could breathe without wanting to howl, Paul was there and the good news was, Justin stayed in character long enough for them to get the shot, a long tracking Steadi-Cam one that probably would have had to have been scrapped otherwise, because they never would have been able to match the light conditions. The bad news was, they didn't really have time for him to let things heal. Nobody said that, of course, but Justin wasn't stupid and he wasn't going to miss out on this part. When Paul asked if he thought he could keep going, he didn't hesitate. They sent him home in one of the crew trucks; as the car pulled away, people were in a huddle, brainstorming how to work The Kid being injured into the story and listing out scenes they'd have to check for continuity.

JC called right after the doctor had left, right as the Vicodin was kicking in. "C," Justin mumbled, concentrating really hard on talking without moving even his mouth, because everything fucking hurt. He probably could have hung up, but it was JC and they hadn't talked in what felt like a lifetime. JC's voice changed to a low, soothing hum. Justin thought he heard JC talking about being sorry, about it not being the best time to dump shit on Justin. "Love you, man," Justin said. "Really. Love you."

JC answered, Justin knew that, but he was never sure exactly what he said.


The production company asked all the actors to do a little PR as soon as they were done shooting; it was easy enough for Justin to stop by the MTV studios in Italy and England before he left for home. Everyone knew about the accident, of course—someone with a camera-phone had posted a grainy, blurred video almost before he'd gotten to the ground. It made for great buzz on the film, even if Justin was sick and tired of talking about it. He ended up spending a week running around, which wasn't bad—it let him ease back into being only Justin again. On top of the extra month filming had taken, though, he'd been away for almost five months. Johnny had been dealing with the suits at Jive, but if Justin was reading him right, they were about ready to have the proverbial cow, so he flew straight to Orlando from his last stop in London.

It really only took a couple of hours of face time to put everyone back in a good mood--which Justin defined as anything that meant they weren't going to be bugging the shit out of him or Johnny for a couple of weeks--but being Justin Timberlake again wore him right the fuck out. He sat in the parking lot, the AC running in the rental, and thought about checking in to the hotel Johnny had booked for him. He was tired, yeah, but twitchy, too. He could go out to the Compound, no problem, but that was a little too close to how he'd spent the entire day. In the end, he found himself in front of the gates at Joey and Kelly's. Phyllis came down the steps to meet him, clucking at him when he went to hug her, fussing about his shoulder like it had just happened yesterday.

"They're out at JC's, sweetie," she said. "Kelly, too. Briahna and Joe are making me dinner." Her smile lit up her whole face. "There might not be a kitchen left, but what's a little mess when you're having fun?"

Justin thanked her and got back on I-4 heading up to JC's before he actually thought about how they hadn't really talked since they'd ended up in bed together, because you couldn't really count a conversation where one party was whacked out of his fucking mind on Vicodin, and how showing up uninvited might not be the smartest thing to do. He never stopped driving, though, because when it came right down to it, it was JC, and after seven years on a bus together, they'd done stupider things than fuck a couple of times and it'd always been okay.

He reconsidered that when he walked up to the house and Joey opened the door with a completely freaked-out look on his face. Justin almost turned and ran—and he kinda thought Joe was about to give him a push to get him started—but then JC was right there. "For fuck's sake, Joe, move." JC's hand smacked Joey's shoulder, hard, and Joey started to give way, glaring at Justin, meaningfully, in that way that said Justin better not fuck this up, except Justin didn't know what exactly he wasn't supposed to fuck up. He smiled and nodded as reassuringly as possible. Joey sighed and stepped out of the way.

Justin did not fuck it up. He thought that was an important point to make, even if he was making it himself. He looked at JC, and his brain wanted to explode, but instead, he looked again, head to toe, and the first thing out of his mouth was not holyfuckingshit, you're PREGNANT?, but rather, "Oh, hey, I like your hair long."

It was worth it, just for the look on Joey's face.

JC stopped short and stared, then started laughing, that helpless giggle that hadn't changed in fifteen years. "I don't know who trained you better—Disney or your mom—but way to deflect the 800-pound conversational gorilla, dude."

Joey snorted and rolled his eyes. Justin shrugged. "What? I do like it longer." When they'd been... together, JC had really only started letting it grow; now it was shoulder-length, a wild mass of waves and curls. Justin's fingers itched to see if it was still as soft as it had been before. "But, uh, since you brought it up, and before we actually get down to it... Is there a liquor limit on talking about this 800-pound gorilla, too?"

"You know it." JC smirked. "None. I don't get any; nobody gets any."

Justin sighed. "Then can I at least come in? Or are we gonna talk about this with the door wide open?"

Kelly was in the media room, bolts of fabric and catalogs strewn across every horizontal surface. "You can sit here." She pointed to the one clear spot on the couch. "Or you can drag a bar stool in from the kitchen. But do not mess anything up or I'll strangle you with the curtain samples." Her voice was perfectly pleasant, but Justin didn't doubt her for a second. He remembered JC going through at least three decorators every time he bought a house; he actually thought Kelly was fairly calm, considering.

"Kel," JC said. "Can we have a minute?"

Justin sat cautiously on the very edge of the couch, while JC swore everything would be okay and a decision on the nursery was close. "And then we can do it for the place in LA, too!"

Justin would have thought Joey would have been running for cover at the thought of it all, but he had that semi-indulgent look JC had always brought out in him. He snagged one arm around Kelly and said they'd go down and have a little cuddle by the lake, and then promised not to do anything that would have the neighbors calling the cops or hauling out the video cameras. Kelly smacked him, but she was laughing as they went.

"Okay," JC said, once they were alone. "So."

"Yeah," Justin answered, on a sigh. "So, uh. Wow?"

JC laughed, not quite the manic giggle, but still a mostly happy sound. Justin was surprised at how relieved he was to hear it. "Wow," JC agreed.

"Is it—are you—" Justin didn't want to look like a freak—everybody else barely seemed to be blinking at this, though he guessed they'd had some time to adjust, judging by how noticeable JC's stomach was—but there were about a million things that could be wrong, or go wrong.

"I'm fine; the baby's fine." JC reached over and covered Justin's hand with one of his own; Justin turned his own hand over so he could hold onto JC, even if only for a little while. "Nobody who didn't know anything before knows anything now. Like a club, or something. Chris is ready with secret handshakes and passwords, but until he finds a secret decoder ring that'll fit on my hands, I'm holding him off." JC smiled; Justin smiled back, even though he thought JC maybe looked a little tired and stressed underneath it all. "The doctor thinks I'm just another thirty-something woman who decided to go the whole baby thing alone rather than wait."

"Okay, good story." Justin squeezed JC's hand. "Kinda boring though, so I'm guessing Chris didn't come up with it," he added, mostly so he could hear JC laugh again.

"Nah, but he's okay with it. He says the reality is weird enough for him." JC wasn't letting go of Justin's hand; at some point Justin was maybe going to have to tell JC how happy that made him, but for right now, it was more important to pay attention to everything he needed to catch up on. "Oh, and it's Kelly's doctor, so I'm not going to a quack or anything. And they have midwives as part of their practice, and dude, those women are amazing..." JC was off, words tumbling out at high speed, never finishing a single sentence as far as Justin could tell, but it didn't really matter. Justin settled back and tried to listen and didn't let go of JC's hand.


Justin didn't mean to doze off, but he was still on European time and he hadn't slept much on the plane. With the meetings at Jive added in on top of everything else, it felt like he'd been up for a week straight. He jolted awake when Kelly and Joey came back in to find JC curled around him, mostly keeping him off Kelly's decorating paraphernalia, at least enough that Kelly didn't immediately leap for this throat. She was giving him the evil eye, though. JC just yawned and waved his hand at all of the mess and swore he'd make a decision soon. Kelly's smile was only a little bit forced, but she said she'd leave everything and check back with JC later. Neither she nor Joey seemed surprised to see Justin still here and they didn't act like they expected him to be leaving with them.

Justin still figured her promise of slow death was in effect if things got messed up, so as soon as JC came back from seeing Joey and Kelly off, he took JC's hand and walked down the hall to the master suite. It looked mostly the same—clothes thrown all over and shoes spilling out of the closet. Most of the clothes weren't even all that different. If anything, JC seemed to be wearing a little bit less pink than he used to. Justin stopped in the middle of the room and kept holding JC's hand.

"When you called me," he started. "In Prague..."

"This was why," JC said, smiling and putting Justin's hand on his stomach. "I'd just gotten the test results and I was a little bit crazy when I called, but—-"

"I was higher than I've ever been, legally or not."

"Yeah. I could have told you I was tap-dancing on the moon and you would have told me you loved me." JC tugged Justin over to sit on the bed, shoving the familiar electronic keyboard out of the way. The bed was still made up with crisp white sheets and at least twenty pillows, everything with the Pratesi border. JC wore cheap underwear and drank cheap beer, but when it came to bed linens, he was the most extravagant person Justin had ever met. Depraved, even. "Sweet, but it made me stop and think and I didn't want to be telling you over the phone. Of course, you were supposed to be back months ago."

"Yeah, things got complicated," Justin said, his shoulder twitching. "Next time, I'm adding four months to whatever they tell me." He took a deep breath. "I meant that, though. What I said on the phone. High or not."

"I know—"

"No," Justin interrupted. "I meant it. I mean it.

"I mean, yeah of course—oh," JC said. "Really?"


JC smiled then, slow and brilliant, and Justin smiled back.


Epilogue—8 months later

JC knew it had happened as soon as he woke up. His body felt different—longer, denser. Even his bones felt heavier. He rolled onto his back and focused on his breathing. In and out and in again, keeping himself calm. Centered. Over the monitor, he could hear Jackson, babbling to himself like he'd taken to doing ever since he'd turned three months old and figured out that his voice had a volume switch. The shower was running; Justin had meetings all day at the Compound, putting together wardrobe and sets for his next tour. Chris was supposed to be coming over later in the morning to hang out, and pretend that it wasn't all a ploy to try and convince JC it was okay to take Jackson out on the lake. JC wasn't buying it, but Chris was never one to give up on a crazy scheme just because JC thought it was a bad idea. JC kind of loved him for that, but there was still no fucking way Chris was getting his kid out on a boat, at least not until the little guy could sit up on his own.

Right on cue, the happy, "oh-wow-look-at-those-cool-things-at-the-end-of-my-arms" noises coming out of the monitor shifted into the "YO-lonely-here" fussing, and JC rolled out of bed, moving automatically. Justin had dropped a t-shirt and sweatpants on the floor; JC grabbed those, instead of the smaller, Disney princesses sleep shirt Lance had sent him. He staggered a little as he went out the door, his body working to find its center of gravity again, and grabbed at the sweatpants to keep them up. He wondered if he could find a larger size in the princess shirt because damn, that thing was comfortable.

JC got to the nursery right as Jack worked his way up to a full-throated, indignant yell that clearly communicated how very displeased he was with the level of service he was getting. It didn't hit JC until he'd crossed all the way over to the crib that Jack might not know him. He froze for a second, his blood almost literally running cold, but forced himself to keep moving, to bend down and scoop Jackson up.

"Morning, little man," he whispered, exactly like he said every morning, even if he couldn't quite find his voice and his heart was pounding hard enough he thought it might jump out of his chest. Jack stopped crying as soon as JC touched him, right in mid-yell. He hiccupped twice, blinking big blue eyes at JC and then snuggled in to his shoulder. JC had to sit down right there on the floor next to the crib Kelly had helped him find. His legs wouldn't hold him up.

Justin found them there a little while later, deep in conversation, JC telling Jack his latest song lyrics and Jack laughing at his voice. JC thought Justin's steps might have faltered but he kept coming, until he could crouch down and tickle Jack.

"Hey, Little J," Justin murmured. "Hey, baby." JC dragged his eyes up to meet Justin's, shrugging helplessly.

"It happened again," he said.

"I noticed." Justin traced his thumb over JC's cheekbone and JC let himself lean into the touch, just for a second. When he pulled away, Justin went back to playing with Jack.

"Jack..." JC took a deep breath. "I was afraid he would think I was a stranger." Justin nodded and reached up to snag a clean diaper and some wipes off the changing table. "He didn't though," JC finished, in a rush. "He didn't care."

"I don't either, C," Justin said, stripping Jack out of the Ramones onesie that Chris had found somewhere. He looked up and JC used to be better at keeping his thoughts off his face. Justin shook his head. "JC. I didn't go through with telling your parents and mine just to bail now."

"J," JC sighed, rubbing at his eyes, because Justin still had that earnest look, the one that had been such a huge turn-on right from the start. "I appreciate it, man, I really do, but..."

"But, what? Guys aren't my thing?"

"Well. I mean. Yeah."

"Says who?" Justin still had the blinding grin. "Really, C. I'm serious. Who ever told you that, straight up? 'Cause whoever it was, they were lying through their teeth. Or in denial." He was still smiling when he leaned over and kissed JC, a quick, soft brush of his mouth on JC's, followed by one that was deeper and harder and no less possessive than the last kiss JC had gotten. It still twisted JC's gut up tight, made him want more rightthefucknow, even as Justin was whispering the same thing.

"It's not that easy—" JC started.

"No shit." Justin snorted. "What about this ever has been?" His hands moved quickly, deftly; old diaper and wipes and new diaper and a quick raspberry on Jack's belly that had them both giggling. Justin was still grinning when he handed Jack back over to JC. "Do you want to get into this now? Because I can cancel on Johnny, no problem."

"No," JC said, finally. "It'll just make things crazier next week. Go do your stuff and we'll hang out with Chris. See if me changing back blows his mind more than changing the first time did." He stood up and tucked Jack into the crook of his arm.

"C," Justin said, standing up, too. "There's, yeah, stuff that we need to talk about and figure out what we're gonna do, what we tell people, but we can do that, right?"

"Yeah." JC nodded. "We can do that."

It really wasn't fair that Justin's smile still got to JC like it did, but then again, since it almost never stopped coming out for JC and Jack these days, JC thought he could live with it.


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