nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

doin' this tonight, or maybe in the morning

written for glitterdragon, MTYG 2013

"I'm feeling very warm and loving towards Justin right now."

Joey rose from his couch and crossed the room so that he could lay his hand across Lance's forehead. "You don't seem to have a fever," Joey said. "Maybe I should get a second opinion. Chris, what do you think?"

"He's getting old," Chris responded. "Either that or too much sex is rotting his brain."

The skin rose and fell under Joey's palm as Lance rolled his eyes. "Moron. I do not have a fever, and I am very pleased with Justin. I mean, here we are, all four of us, and we are going to participate in J's big night. Because he asked us."

"I did not expect to be here," Joey admitted. "It is kind of cool."

"What do you think are our chances of keeping it under wraps until the actual performance?" Chris said.

"Zero," Lance said, promptly. "The Internet knows these things. It just does."

"They don't know yet," said JC. "And it's not like any of us is going to say anything. J's working really hard to keep it quiet."

"Nobody's going to need to say anything," Lance pointed out. "Sooner or later, somebody is going to see us all together in the same place and draw the obvious conclusion, and that someone will have a Twitter account."

"Well, I think we have a chance," JC said, firmly. "But it doesn't matter if we're a secret or not. In fact, maybe it's better if people do find out—that way, it won't be the only thing anybody talks about after they see the show. We're not here for Nsync, we're here for Justin."

"You just keep telling yourself that, 'C," said Lance, which sounded a lot more normal than his warm fuzzies for Justin, Joey thought. "I just hope we don't have too much dancing. We only have a few days."

"Dancing?" Chris said. "He's not going to make us dance, is he? Man, my dancing days are so over."

Chris was wrong about that, Joey thought. Justin was going to make them dance. He knew it.

Joey wasn't sure that the secret agent stuff was entirely necessary—everybody getting to the rehearsal venue via a different route or a different cab company, all that stuff. He knew people were still interested in an Nsync reunion, they all did, but seriously, this cloak and dagger stuff was crazy.

He grumbled about it to Lance while the two of them waited for JC and Chris—Justin was there, but frowning over something with the choreographer. "Seriously, you'd think this was a state secret, man. Nobody's gonna be following us around to see if we all end up in the same place."

"Fifty bucks says it's on Twitter by the end of tomorrow," Lance said. Easy money, Joey thought, and doubled the bet.

"This is weird," JC said, three minutes after the five of them were all together. "How do we even do this?" But about thirty seconds later, he and Justin were talking about beats, and Chris was snarking about Justin's hair, and it felt so incredibly familiar that Joey almost got vertigo when he remembered he wasn't a kid any more.

They did have to dance. Of course they did. He wished he'd thought to put money on that, too, because Justin's act was inevitably going to involve Justin doing a lot of dancing, and there was no way Justin had ever been going to let the guys just stand and sing behind a bunch of microphones like Chris had expected.

"You're still in shape, Joey," JC murmured to him while they took a break for Chris to catch his breath and chug about a quart of water. "Looking good, man."

"Half marathons," Joey reminded him. Man, he was glad he was still exercising, even if he was carrying a bit more weight than back in their touring days.

"Looks good on you," JC repeated, and even if 'C had grown up, the scrinched up grin was exactly the same, and the effect it had on Joey was also… exactly the same. JC wasn't showing the strain at all. Somehow, he managed to move that body like he'd never stopped dancing, and even though he wasn't quite the lithe, slender creature he'd been back then, everything was just as fluid. How was that even fair?

"Lance is keeping up pretty good, too." Even Justin had noticed that, and Lance had grinned and looked gratified because despite all his bravado he still cared very much what Justin thought of him. They all did.

"Yeah, I think he got a lot out of doing Dancing With The Stars," Joey said.

"Good," said JC, thoughtfully. "I never realized how it got to him, you know, the way we used to tease him back then. Seeing all that stuff on the show—"

"They edit the shit out of that stuff," Joey said. "Didn't he complain to you about how pathetic they made him look? He said most of the time he was doing just fine and he knew it, but any time he said anything about not being the best dancer in the group, that was the part they used."

"Huh," said JC, looking relieved. "I should have known that. I just, you know."

"You don't need to worry about Lance," Joey assured him. JC had always been in some sense the group's parent, and he hadn't lost that. It made Joey feel… he couldn't really describe it, but it felt right. Everything fitting into its proper place. "C'mon, I think Chris is up for some more."

It was crazy fun, rehearsing together after all this time. There was always a kind of magic to it, to the way the five of them fit together, the way everybody knew what everybody else was going to do, who was going to catch on to the steps first, who was going to turn a split second too fast and whack somebody else on the shoulder, who was going to need just one more time, slowly, okay?

Running half marathons had nothing on dance rehearsals, Joey thought. Though it was Chris he felt really sorry for. Everyone was a lot more conscious of Chris's knee problems than they used to be—it was almost comical how concerned Justin was when Chris missed a move. It wasn't, Man, did you not get it? now, it was Man, are you okay? Are you in pain?

"I'm sorry it's not more, guys," Justin said earnestly when they broke for lunch. "It would have been cool to do Pop, and Gone, and, hell even something from way back, but I just don't think we could keep this on the low down if we had to rehearse it for longer."

"Man, I don't think I could deal with Pop," Chris muttered. "We should have just gone with Gone, we could have sat on a big bed for the whole song. You could have had a refrigerator to make out with," he added, prodding Justin in the ribs. "I don't know, young people nowadays." Then Justin put him in a headlock, and Chris screeched like a banshee, and they were kids again.

It was coming back, surprisingly quickly. That afternoon they ran through the Bye Bye Bye section and turned in perfect synch with one another, only to recognize five seconds later that they'd all of them instinctively done the wrong choreography.

"Muscle memory, what can you do?" JC said, and grinned at them all as the choreographer's fretting washed over him.

Joey was so tired when he got home. "It's way tougher than half marathons," he grumbled to Kelly when he called to say goodnight to Briahna.

"And did you, you know?"

"I—not yet. Not right off. I have to work up to it."

"Make sure you do," she said, severely. "This has gone on long enough."

The following morning, Lance was the last to arrive. As he marched into the room, he announced, "Well, everybody knows now. We're trending on Twitter. Joe, you owe me a hundred bucks."

"How the hell did that even happen?" Joey asked.

"Told you," Lance said. "We've still got fans out there. There's always somebody with a cellphone and a Twitter account. You are so out of touch, Fatone. Now gimme my money!"

It was fun, and it was a little bit terrifying, to think that this weekend they'd be doing this stuff for real, in front of a huge audience. Joey was looking forward to it, sure, but was also conscious of a lot more nervousness than he'd felt years ago when they were still doing this stuff for a living. This show was really Justin's gig. All he and the other guys had to do was not fall over

"I think we can do better'n that," Lance told him.

"It's going to be fine," JC said, serenely. "We're going to do this right because we're doing it for J."

"Man, why did I ever agree to this?" Chris said, and sounded like he meant it. Joey wasn't that nervous.

Oddly, being in New York City seemed to settle everybody down. Joey loved NYC, it had an energy like no other place on earth, and being in the city always felt like coming home.

They watched the video of Justin's dress rehearsal, which was seriously hot shit, except for the part where they had a bunch of dancers just marking time during what was going to be the Nsync section. Never mind the online rumors, they were really taking the surprise element seriously! Joey thought it might make Chris even more nervous, seeing what an amazing job J was going to do, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. JC was perfectly assured about the whole thing, and his unshakeable confidence that they were none of them going to let Justin down was exactly what they needed. Joey had always loved that about JC, the way he always believed in them all.

He really needed to find the right moment to say so.

In theory, Joey thought, he should have found his moment while they were hiding backstage, out of sight of everyone, crammed into a poky little room full of junk. But there wasn't any chance of getting JC on his own, out of earshot of the others, and anyhow, it didn't feel right, springing something like this on JC right before their big moment. They joked around instead, and did some stretches and went through a few steps, more for something to do than because they needed the practice. And got themselves changed, and sneaked through to the under-stage lifts in disguise, just like old times when they did that very thing on their own tours.

And then, at long last, it was their moment, and the brief performance got the most amazing reception, so much excitement, it was like it used to be only somehow more potent, all that concentrated into maybe ninety seconds. It hit like a fireworks display going off all at once, and as he descended back under the stage, Joey was feeling a high like he hadn't felt maybe ever, and as they stepped off the risers he grabbed JC and gave him a big fat kiss on the mouth.

Lance grabbed him for a hug a moment later, and was shaking with laughter as he whispered "Way to go, Joe!" into Joey's ear. Where did Chris get to? Oh, there he was, so Joey hugged him as well, and they dragged one another back down the corridor and straight to the bar, where they watched Justin accept his award. Joey got a little misty-eyed at that part, and when he looked at Chris and Lance, they were the same.

It wasn't until he was on his fourth shot that Joey dared meet JC's eyes. Which, to his dismay, were as serene as ever. Joey didn't think JC should be that calm. Was he, like, didn't he even notice? Joey had kissed him! On the lips! Not, like, a proper kiss, but still. Joey kisses were things that should be noticed.

And then of course the show was over and people came pouring in around them and it felt like everybody wanted to shake their hands and say how much they loved seeing them and it all got completely manic.

Somewhere in the wee small hours, JC pulled him away from the crowd. "Are you ready to split?"

Joey had to take a moment to figure out the answer to that, but, "Yeah. Yeah, I think I'm done here. What a night, man, what a night."

"Yes," JC said, and the two of them managed to slide through the crowd and find a car to take them back to their hotel, and Joey kinda needed to hang on to JC because maybe he had drunk a little bit more than he thought, so he leaned on JC as far as the elevator, and then JC propped him up against the wall until Joey decided that he did not wish to lean on the wall, he wanted to lean on JC, JC was way nicer than an elevator even if it did have mirror-shiny bronzed panels. So JC helped him along to his room, sat him on the bed and undid Joey's shoes for him.

"This is good. Did we have the talk already?" Joey said. He remembered saying all the stuff to JC about love and want and how Kelly thought it was a great idea, only he didn't remember actually saying it when JC was actually there, but if JC was here now and taking his shoes off, he must have done. "I don't think I'm gonna be up for it tonight," he said, sadly. "I'm a bit drunk."

"No, Joey, you are a lot drunk," JC said, but he was smiling his crinkly smile, and Joey loved that smile, it was one of the best smiles in the whole world, next to Kelly and B and now Kloey, and JC had way more teeth than the baby.

"That's nice, Joe. C'mon, pants off. Do you think you can brush your teeth?"

"Gotta have clean breath," Joey said. "For kissing. It's important." JC pointed him towards the bathroom, and he tottered in and did what he had to do, and when he went back JC was there, and JC steered him into bed, set a bottle of water on the nightstand and kissed him on the forehead.

Joey was a bit confused when he woke up. Why was he wearing his boxers in bed? He never wore clothes in bed.

A couple of aspirin and three glasses of water later, he pieced it together. "Kelly is going to kill you," he told his reflection, but he got himself into the shower, and dressed, and texted JC that he was ready for breakfast and could they talk? He was a little bit surprised when JC texted back immediately, then he checked the time and thought, okay, even JC is awake by now. Have breakfast with me, was the message. Room 917.

Joey managed to arrive at the same moment as the breakfast cart, and the scent of hot coffee gave him the courage to say, once the waiter had gone, "I guess we didn't have the talk last night after all."

JC looked at him warily. "It's okay, Joe. I know you were way out of it. You didn't do anything you shouldn't have."

"But I should have!" Joey said, irritated. "JC, I thought you knew I always wanted. You know, you. And if you don't, I'm sorry, and I won't push, but I have to try just this one time."

"Joey, stop."

"Your eyes are so pretty," Joey said before he could help himself.

"Joey, you have Kelly. You've always had Kelly."


"So, you don't get to—I don't, I like Kelly. She's practically like a sister."

"That would be incest," Joey said, getting ahead of himself, which at least made a change from needing to get caught up.

JC choked on his coffee.

"No, listen, JC, listen. Kelly knows I—we talked about this, we really did. Oh, shit, I had this whole speech, it was really good, but my head feels like I stuffed a bucket of wet rags in my ears, and I can't remember what I was going to say. But she told me this would be my best chance in forever, and JC, don't you want us? Because we really want you."

JC sat immobile until Joey began to wonder if he was ill, or suddenly deaf, or something. Then he sat forward, and frowned very sternly. "Are you telling me that you told Kelly you have a… a Thing for me?"

"Well, she guessed, but yeah. We talked about it."

"And she didn't object?"

"Of course not! Why would she?"

"But you're married."

"That's very conventional of you, JC," Joey said. Surely he had explained enough by now?

"Says the married man!" JC started to laugh. "Are you—and Kelly—inviting me to, um, have sex with you?"

"I'm inviting you to have sex with me. You'll have to talk to Kelly about the other part," Joey said.

"This is not at all what I thought was happening last night," JC said. "I heard, I mean, there were internet rumors that the two of you weren't, um.…"

Joey just looked at him.

"Well," JC said. "Joey, I gotta tell you, I kind of got used to not being able to have everything I wanted."

Joey brightened.

"So it might take me a while to get accustomed to the idea."

"How long of a while?"

"Definitely not until I finish my pancakes," JC said, and all of a sudden, Joey's head wasn't hurting at all.


On to the sequel, After Pancakes


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