nsync in black and white

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

Round Dance

or, Four Strangely Convoluted Days on the Path to Perfection
with thanks to Northernveil for the beta

Day One: an unscheduled break

Apparently some moron had sawn through a cable at the venue or something—Lance was a little hazy on the details, he suspected the venue manager was too embarrassed to come clean, and the tale he'd gotten had been very flimsy—but they'd been promised they'd be up and running for the second of their shows here, and had agreed to squeeze in the cancelled one the night after that. It'd mean a bit of run-and-catch-up afterwards, but shouldn't be a problem. So, just a radio interview and the meet and greet that had been set up for this afternoon, then nothing.

It felt weird to have a night off. A jolt in the timetable of the tour. Lance was grateful, because things always got itchy, at this stage. There was a rhythm to the dynamic between the five of them; as the buses crossed the country, they seemed to jiggle out of step, out of harmony, and then settle back in. Didn't seem to affect the shows, the performance rhythm was in a different phase, or something, and in any case was more likely to be affected by the in-the-moment interaction between them and the audience than by any of the offstage business. But right now, things were itchy. Twitchy. Uncomfortable in inevitable ways. Lance did his best to ignore it, to keep his careful balance in the midst of the escalating madness by concentrating on being as normal as he could. Doing what he did.

He kept up with his companies, he checked his email, he made charts.

For reasons Lance didn't really understand, Joey thought that making charts was hilarious. Lance rather liked making charts, but more than that, he liked Joey to be happy, and a little teasing about his own nerdish habits was a small price to pay. So when Lance ran out of actual data that needed to be tracked, he tracked the five of them. Complaints, diva fits, conquests, quarrels, and the rest. Joey loved to mock him for making charts and graphs of stuff, and since Joey was the easy-going target of much mockery from the rest of them, it seemed only fair that Joey should have something to mock, too. And he loved seeing Lance pondering pie charts and bar graphs and what not. Something about a nice clean graphic representation on the computer screen was irresistible to Joey.

So, Lance made charts.

* * *

Fucking Timberlake, taking over again. It was typical, just typical. Of course, every interviewer in the world wanted to know about Justin and his fairytale girlfriend, but Justin should be able to remember he was part of a group, one of the team. Joey was so pissed off, sometimes. There he was, slogging away at the choreography just as much as Justin, more, actually, because there were times J got to wander about singing, while Joey and Chris and Lance and sometimes JC danced about like maniacs in the background. It wasn't like Justin worked any harder than the rest of them. He just got to show off more.

Joey knew he was being unfair. It wasn't like Justin really thought he was better than the rest of them, not really, it was just that by this stage in the tour, his head was permanently full of worship, he never came down from the performance high, and he acted like he was a god, and man, that was tiresome. Joey knew that being Justin had its own problems. He wouldn't swap with J, even if he could, but it got to him sometimes, having so little time in the spotlight himself. How come he never got solos anymore? Hell, he could put a song across too... He wouldn't want to be Justin, but maybe if Justin wasn't quite such an overwhelming presence, the rest of them could get a look-in. Just sometimes.

Oh, the interviewer wanted to know about the rest of them now? That was nice.

* * *

How come Lance always ended up at the far end of the table from him? Was Lance trying to avoid him? Was he deliberately keeping a distance? Or was he reading too much into this?

Lance was beaming up at a fan now. How come he had so many of those smiles to spare for complete strangers?

Better smile at his own fans, now. Smile, say thank you, sign the autographs. Wonder if it would be any better if Lance were sitting next to him. Smiling at complete strangers. Oh yeah, and Joey. He could smile for Joey. Of course.

* * *

"Sorry, 'C. I'm wiped. Think I'll get an early night. I'm about a week behind on sleep. Y'all have fun."

JC frowned slightly. It had not been part of his plan for this evening to go out dancing while Lance stayed in the hotel. "You'll feel better if you come, have some fun with us," he urged.

"Nah, gotta get my beauty sleep." JC didn't think Lance needed sleep to make him beautiful. Lance was seriously hot these days. It was distracting. JC was accustomed to Lance being funny and dedicated and cute in his own peculiar way, like an alien immersing himself wholeheartedly in the strange earthly custom of singing in a boyband. Now he was still funny and dedicated, but he wasn't alien-cute, he was human-hot, and this twitched at JC.

Well, no matter. No hurry. If Lance wanted to stay behind, luring him into bed would have to wait for another day. And it would give JC a chance to say something to Justin about what he was doing with 'Gone'. JC was sure there were improvements to be made, he wished they'd been a little more ambitious, a little more out there, when they started this tour. Challenged themselves more with the music. It all seemed so dull, now, singing the same things the same way all the time, surely it must be boring their audiences? He couldn't understand why Justin didn't put a bit more variety into his solos. JC was always searching for the perfect interpretation, the perfect performance. Sometimes he despaired of ever achieving it.

"Come on, JC! Time to party!"

And if he couldn't convince Justin, which, as Justin already thought Justin was perfect, he probably wouldn't, at least he had a chance of getting laid tonight.

Day Two: scheduled time off

There was a hand sliding over his chest, there was an unexpected smell in the air, a mix of sex and feminine perfume, and someone, someone with a honey-soft voice was cooing into his ear.

As dreams went, this was a distinct improvement on the tumble of spear-waving fans in kilts, talking tigers, exploding yogurt fountains and purple motorbikes that usually populated his sleeping hours. Chris could deal with dreams of horny women, no problem. He lay back with a grunt of contentment and let the hands wander as they would.

* * *

JC woke up alone. Good. It was a relief when last night's lover realized it would be best to leave, discreetly, and got out without waking him. JC stretched between the cool cotton sheets, and settled his hand on his cock, to get the day started properly.


* * *

Justin stumbled out of bed without really bothering to open his eyes. Bit off balance this morning. Need coffee. Must have coffee.


Room service. Bring coffee.

Sit in chair, wait for coffee.

* * *

Joey groped vaguely at the pillow beside his own. Nobody there. Ah, well. No morning nookie, then, but also, no morning tears or tantrums and no need to get out of bed and make toast. Unless she was in the bathroom or something? He eased a bleary eye open and tugged the coverlet down to cock an ear. Nope, not a sound.

Joey snuggled back into the bed to assess the state of the morning. The room seemed a bit bright, but inoffensively so. Hey, he thought, no hangover. And it was probably time for breakfast. Or maybe lunch. Then again, maybe another half hour in bed. He wriggled over to resettle himself on the other pillow. It smelt of, it had a fragrance of, it... didn't smell like Obsession. Joey had a Thing for Obsession, couldn't resist it, Pavlovian response or something, or was that a dessert? Anyway, he couldn't mistake the smell for something else. This was something else. This was... it smelled kinda like, um. Like guys smelled.

That couldn't be right. He burrowed back to his own pillow . Grumbling to himself, Joey took inventory and—holy mother of God what happened to his hair? He hurled the covers onto the floor and peered at his groin. His shaved groin. His... that wasn't his dick.

How could that not be his dick?

* * *

Lance's fingers were a little clumsy this morning, probably the slight hangover he was nursing was impeding his typing. Shouldn't really have had that much whisky, even if it was a night off. But he'd gotten a couple of hours of work done before he allowed himself to get maudlin over what, who, he couldn't have. Not bad, really.

* * *



Really exceptionally cool.

Standing naked in front of the mirror, he was not entirely sure that he was awake, but willing to go along with this dream, if dream it was. Didn't really feel like a dream. Felt real. The slight but perceptible extra bulk of his muscular arms felt real. He flexed a couple of times just to check. Yeah, pretty real. Pretty muscles. The fabulous ripples of his abs felt real. The slight leftward curve of the cock held in his large hand felt real, and felt pretty fine, too. The hair... well, nobody was perfect, and it would obviously be a lot easier to maintain, this short. Looked good, though. Hot. Manly.

JC stared at Justin's cock in the mirror. Stared at Justin's body. Smiled at the image, and saw that devastating I got an audience grin spread over Justin's features. It really was irresistible. Such a pity Justin was straight, that JC would never get a chance to... a chance to get his hands on... to touch, here, and here, and especially here. Pinch, press, stroke. Yeah. Pretty, perfect body. Enjoy it.

Then he took a shower, and masturbated again, because hell, why not?

As he toweled himself dry, he thought he heard a woman scream. Probably a fan got onto their floor. Best lock the door.

* * *

The scream brought Joey out of his daze. He stopped staring at the mirror, and focused instead on the room. No, it wasn't his room. Yes, it was JC's room. So... the person in the mirror belonged in this room. It was just Joey who was wrong. But Joey was, was JC now, with shaved bits where no man in his right mind would put a razor, and was he really freaking out more about the absence of body hair than the fact that he'd woken up in JC's body?

No wonder Suzanne hadn't been in his bed when he woke up. That was probably her screaming, if JC had woken up as Joey and was completely freaked, which, obviously, he would be. Joey thought about going to the rescue, but as he had no idea what to say or do that wouldn't end with him being carted off to a padded cell, he decided to stay put.

If he was going to impersonate JC, he probably should go back to sleep. Yes, that was a good plan.

Maybe he'd wake up, and this wouldn't be happening.

* * *

"I guess I have to be going now, hon," she murmured.

Chris blinked happily and allowed his face to fall into a wide smile. He had much to be happy about. It was beginning to feel like this was actual reality, that he'd picked up a well-stacked, and okay, slutty, but hey, seriously built brunette last night, somewhere he admittedly couldn't remember, but the sex had been just fine. She knew her way around a man's body, all right, had used a spit-slicked finger very nicely thank you as she'd blown him, and giggled at the feel of his beard against her neatly trimmed bush as he returned the favor. He watched as she gathered scarlet satin panties and bra, red dress, and stockings from the floor, and admired the wiggle as she went into the bathroom.

Something was off, but he was still blissfully post-orgasm, and whatever it was couldn't be that important. If the girl was some kind of set-up, hell, he wasn't going to complain. Hadn't gotten laid in way too long. Admittedly, he'd have preferred... well. That wasn't going to happen. No sense kidding himself. Joey was way ahead of him there, so.

The girl—woman, Chris amended with a mental apology—came back dressed, and looking way incongruous in the bright midday sunlight streaming around the edges of the drapes. But sexy, hell yeah. No complaints. No complaints at all.

"So," she said briskly, picking up her purse and jacket. "I guess one of your security guys will call me a cab, right?"

"Oh, uh, lemme give you the fare, um, my wallet's..." he gazed around, vaguely. Something was still not quite right. The room was messy, but...

"Thanks." She'd found his wallet on the dresser and appropriated a handful of notes. "Look, it was great. You were fabulous, lover. I won't embarrass either of us by saying call me, but you know, my address is on that form your guy had me fill out last night, so next time you're in town, if you wanna get together, you know how to find me." She leant over and kissed him lewdly. Chris blinked up at her, amazed. Things never went this smoothly for him, never. "So, this is me, leaving," she said with a wink and a grin. "Bye, Joey." And with a last swing of broad, shapely hips, she was out the door.

Chris processed that rather slowly.

Nah, still didn't make sense. Probably because he hadn't had his coffee yet. Bathroom, then caffeine. He hauled himself out of bed. Stood. The floor seemed wrong, too. Too... something. Far away? That couldn't be right.

But Chris's brain, even pre-caffeine, could process without necessarily requiring his conscious input. It was not the total surprise it might have been when he looked into the bathroom mirror and saw the wrong face looking back at him with a suspicious frown.


Chris sat down on the toilet and tried to think. Whatthefuck, and why, and howthehell, and whattthefuck again, crowded out anything more rational, so in the end he shrugged, went back into his, Joey's, bedroom, dialed for breakfast, picked up and disposed of the—ew!—used condom that squished under his foot (Joey was such a slob), and went back into the bathroom to shower.

Soaping the new territory, Chris mused that he could learn to appreciate a larger, sturdier body than his usual size. Heh! Joey was probably freaking, waking up as Chris, and with no woman in his bed! Yep, Chris was already way ahead on this deal.

And why the fuck was Joey picking up one-nighters, anyway? Now that he had Lance?

He had Lance...

Chris's heartbeat quickened. He had Lance.

* * *

Lance was just one step behind Lonnie, who moved faster than anyone that massive had a right to be able to move when he thought one of his precious charges was in trouble.

There was broken china and a brown stain on the carpet, and Chris was still screaming like a steam whistle. Lonnie charged into the bathroom, prepared to do battle, and stopped dead. Lance ran into him (which Lonnie didn't seem to notice) and peered round the bulk of the bodyguard's mighty torso, to see Chris staring wild-eyed into the mirror.

Chris seemed to run out of breath, or maybe he noticed their stunned-and-beginning-to-be-pissed-off faces, because he turned and stared.

"There better be something wrong, Kirkpatrick," Lonnie growled. Chris had something of a reputation for false alarms, but Lance thought this didn't look like one of his practical jokes. There seemed to be genuine terror in those dark brown eyes. Moreover, Chris had dropped his coffee, so something must have gotten him well rattled.

"Lonnie," Lance said gently, "it looks like Chris is okay. Could you arrange for some more coffee to be sent up, and get housekeeping to clean up the mess?"

Lonnie scowled fearsomely, but Lance knew it was mostly relief. The big guy shot a quelling look at Chris, muttered something about crying wolf, and went back to the corridor.

"C'mon, Chris," said Lance, holding out a hand. The panic faded a little from Chris's eyes, but was replaced by misery, which was worse. Lance hated to see Chris miserable, but he never seemed to be able to do anything to help. He'd have to try, since none of the other guys had shown up yet. "You wanna tell me what's wrong?"

"No, not—uh. Huh. Can't." Pre-caffeine Kirkpatrick. No sense to be had here, Lance thought. "This is a nightmare," Chris whispered.

"It's okay. You're awake now, and there's coffee on the way." Lance put an arm cautiously around Chris's shoulders, and was unreasonably pleased when Chris didn't pull away like he mostly did these days. In fact, Chris seemed comforted.



"You—you're bigger than me."

Okay, probably hungover as well. "Yeah, Chris, I'm bigger than you." Lance braced himself for a joke about his masculinity, but Chris had apparently been a lot more affected by his nightmare than he was willing to let on, because he just whimpered.

"Could you, would you go get Justin? Please?"

Well, great. Lance supposed it was natural enough for Chris not to want him to help him calm down, but he didn't honestly think it was Justin's area of expertise. No, that wasn't fair. Justin was Chris's best friend. They probably bonded in ways the rest of them didn't see, like he did with Joey. "Sure," he said, trying not to sigh. "Um, you should probably have some water, or something. Maybe gargle. For your throat? I know we don't have a show till tomorrow, but still. I'll go get Justin."

As he closed the hotel room door, he heard Chris cursing.

* * *

JC didn't think that was a good idea at all. If Chris was manic at this hour of the day, JC was the last person to be able to calm him down. His usual policy was to keep out of the way. Besides, Chris would be able to tell there was something wrong the minute he dragged "Justin" into a Playstation marathon, which no doubt he would do as soon as he'd had breakfast. JC had never managed to care which button did what. Maybe there'd be some kind of body memory that'd mean he was able to play those stupid games if he didn't think about it, but he wasn't willing to gamble on that. This situation was much too intriguing to waste.

"Look, Lance, can you take care of Chris? I gotta find JC. Got an idea for a song..." There, that was smart! Nobody would question Justin wanting to work on a song with JC. It'd give the two of them a chance to try and figure out how this had happened, and what (if anything) they were going to do about it. JC assumed Justin was now wearing his, JC's, body. And probably not very happy about it, arrogant little squirt, but there was nothing whatsoever wrong with JC's body. It was a fine body, maybe a leetle on the skinny side—he preened, just for a moment, in front of the mirror again, and caught sight of Lance's stony expression. Hah! Lance should be enjoying the view, but he was so inhibited.

"No, sure," Lance said icily. "I'll take care of your best friend while you go play with JC." The door closed behind him with what JC might, had he cared to be fanciful about such things, have described as a huffy click.

He'd better go find Justin. Himself. Whatever.

Really a shame to put more clothes on. JC cocked his head at the perfect body in the mirror, and thought about possibilities.

Then, he thought about solos.

* * *

Rather than go back to Chris with the news that Justin had better things to do, Lance went to find Joey.

* * *

Shit! Shitshitshit! Had he cleared away all the evidence? There weren't any more stray condoms lying about for Lance to notice? Chris sniffed the air. He was almost sure there was still a hint of Obsession in the room, so he dashed into the bathroom and hunted for something, anything, to disguise the giveaway scent. Emerging with Joey's cologne, he found that Lance had let himself in, and was standing in the middle of the room looking bewildered.

"Lance!" Chris exclaimed, and wondered what to do next. If he gave it away, that Joey had had a woman here with him last night, Lance would be hurt, and that would be bad. On the other hand, if Lance knew Joey was screwing around, then he might be amenable to... no. Chris fought nobly with himself on this point, and achieved a draw, for the moment. After all, Joey was his friend too. Damn it.

"Hey, Joe." Lance sat down by the small table that contained the remains of breakfast. "Any moment now a small demon is going to hand me a snowball."


"You've been tidying up." Lance grinned, but Chris was too confused to respond, and Lance shrugged. "Oh well. Look, Joey, can you come with me to Chris's room? He's a bit weird this morning."

"Weird? Chris?"

"Yeah." Lance smirked. "What are the odds? Only Justin says he's too busy, selfish prick, wants to go write a song with JC or something, and you know Chris and me only really bonded over practical jokes."

Justin was too busy to go to Chris in his hour of need? Hah! Chris would get him back for that, once he... once he got back into his own body again. For the moment—hey, no wonder Lance thought Chris was being weird today. Poor Joey, probably woke up alone in bed and thought he'd gone crazy. Chris hoped Joe'd managed to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut inside him by now, or he'd be seriously fucked in the head.

On the other hand, Chris wasn't sure that he wanted to speak to Joey-who-looked-like-Chris-right-now, at least, not yet. Chris didn't want Joey issuing warnings about what he, Chris, was and was not allowed to do while he inhabited Joey's body. Chris was going to do as he damned well pleased, but if he'd had actual instructions from Joe, it'd be a lot harder to wriggle out of things later, when they got back to normal. Which they would. Sooner or later. Not, he hoped, too soon.

"So, Joe? You coming?" Lance looked worried, which was sweet. Sweet that he was worrying about him, Chris, even if it was really Joey, and... shit, this was going to get very confusing. Wouldn't do to let on what was happening, though, because if Lance knew that he was really Chris, not Joey, then he'd never get the chance... Also—and though this was comforting right now, Chris could foresee that it might become a problem at some point— Lance wouldn't believe him. Or Joey. If Joey-in-Chris's-body had said anything like that to Lance—well, no wonder Lance thought Chris was acting weird.

"Sure," he said, doing his best to sound as casual as Joey would. "You're coming with me, right?" That should ensure that Joey didn't say anything about these, um, special circumstances. Chris would figure out later how to avoid him for the rest of the day.

* * *

[AN: You may be feeling a bit bewildered by now. This cheat sheet may help!]

* * *

Justin hadn't anticipated that Lance would bring Joey to see him instead of Justin. Chris. Himself. Justin. But Lance's explanation, that Justin—that the person Lance thought was Justin—had wanted to work on a song with JC, was actually quite terrifying, because it meant, it meant...

Chris would never do that to Justin. Justin was absolutely certain that Chris, waking up in Justin's body, would have been worried about Justin. He'd have been right there. Whereas Justin had an uneasy feeling that he himself might well have brushed Chris off, if he wanted to go write with JC. Which was really, really frightening, because it maybe meant... that though he felt like Justin, maybe he wasn't really Justin at all. Maybe the real Justin was still in Justin's body like he was meant to be, and doing Justin things. So what, or who, was he? Was he really Chris, only nuts? Actually believing that he was Justin, in Chris's body? That was a crazy thing to believe...

Justin thought about that for a bit. He didn't feel like Chris, except that his body was balanced in all kinds of different ways and he really wanted another doughnut. But how could Justin be in Chris's body, and in his own at the same time? It had been bad enough thinking he'd swapped bodies with his best friend, but this was worse.

He really, really needed to talk to... Justin. But instead, here was Lance, all concerned and trying to cheer him up and feed him tea for his sore throat. Which was, to be fair, a bit raw after all the screaming.

And here was Joey, and Joey was a nice guy, but not the one to go to in a crisis like this. Not that there was any established procedure for a crisis like this, Justin thought, because nobody had ever imagined they'd need to know what to do if two of them swapped bodies. Or, he amended, if one of them... if he, Justin, was here in Chris's body and in his own, where the fuck was Chris?

He was seized with inspiration. "We gotta have a rehearsal!" he blurted.

"A rehearsal?" Lance sounded astonished . "But we're half-way through the second leg of the tour!"

"I think that's a good idea," said Joey unexpectedly. "We might be getting, you know, stale. Complacent."

Lance looked at them both like they were insane, which, Justin thought, might be true of at least one of them. But Lance stood up, rolled his eyes, and said he'd see what he could arrange. So Justin leaped to his feet and announced he'd go find JC and, uh, Justin and get them to agree. He had to find Chris. Or himself.

* * *

Joey was enormously relieved at the interruption. He'd never been one for the songwriting, it was a talent he just didn't have, and while that might be a source of vague regret, it saved him a lot of nailbiting and anguish. And here was Justin, wanting to come bond with him, or rather, with JC, over some lyrics, or something, and Joey really, really needed to get out of here. Ideally, to go find JC. Who was most likely still in bed with Suzanne and perfectly happy because now that Joey had had time to think about it, this kind of weirdness was something JC, of all of them, would be able to take in his stride. While he, Joey, was freaked and trying to hand on to normality with his fingernails, JC was probably going, Hey, Cool, or something, and discovering how it felt to be Joey Fatone. With Suzanne.

"Rehearsal? Yeah, I'm up for that," he said eagerly. He'd find a moment to take JC aside for a quiet word. And really, if they were likely to have to perform like this, he'd probably better practice doing JC's solos before he had to get up in front of the crowd with them. Hmm. It'd be fun, singing leads. He could shake this skinny booty, he knew the choreography, he knew the songs...

* * *

Somebody was going mad, and it almost certainly wasn't him.

Lance couldn't believe these guys. What was wrong with everybody? Choreography they'd been doing for months now, and suddenly everyone was out of place half the time, bumping into one another, forgetting to sing on cue... was this some elaborate practical joke Chris had cooked up? Lance was so unsettled, he was beginning to screw up himself now, and he really didn't do that anymore.

"No, no, no!" Chris was screaming. "You can't do it like that!"

"I'll do it how the fuck I want!" Justin screamed back. "It needs a bit of variation, for fuck's sake, I can't sing it the exact same way for the entire tour! You agree with me, don't you, JC?"

"Wha'? Oh, yeah, sure. Variation, no problem," JC said absently. He was still walking through the steps to the number they'd just done, though he must surely have been able to do it in his sleep by now.

"Is it just me," said Lance to Joey in an undertone, "or are they all batshit crazy?"

"Huh? Oh, they're probably crazy," Joey replied, sounding uninterested. "You know, I don't think anybody's going to be able to hear me singing. Probably just as well," he added, darkly.

Lance had heard this complaint before, and there was some justice in it. Joey's line was the most difficult in the harmony, not a standout at top or bottom like Chris's and his own, and never picking up the melody the way JC and Justin did. It was the element least likely to be noticed, and even though Lance always assured Joey that if they didn't have his voice in the harmony, it wouldn't sound right, he knew there weren't that many people who'd be able to tell the difference. It was dispiriting for Joe. "Hey, you just keep shaking that body the way you do," he advised. "You know who's got the sex appeal in this group, right?"

He didn't like the way Joey's face twisted at his words. Seemed like Joey was doubting his own sexiness, something Lance couldn't recall ever happening before. Hell, he'd watched his best friend during their performances; Justin was a medium-rank deity on stage (Lance wasn't going to concede front-rank superhuman status to someone who, once upon a time, he'd had to help with math homework), and JC was fluidly magical, but Joey was rawly masculine. When Joey performed, it was as though he had a flashing neon sign above his head that read 'Sex! Right Here!' with a pair of arrows pointing straight down. He told Joey this, thinking to make him grin, but Joey just looked unhappy.

"Nice to know someone thinks I'm sexy."

"C'mon, SuperJoe, you know you're irresistible!" Lance flung an arm round his shoulders, but Joey shrugged him off after a few seconds, not looking any less morose.

Lance was beginning to think he'd wandered through the looking glass. This was not how his world normally worked.

* * *

"Well, that sucked," commented Chris, scowling as he removed his shoes and began to massage his knees. Justin had not enjoyed the experience of dancing in Chris's body. A body that wasn't tall and toned, that ached in places Justin was never normally conscious of.

"I thought it went okay," said JC, and shimmied his hips with a thoughtful expression on his face. It was fun being JC, Joey thought, being all bendy and such. Plus, solos!

"It'll be fine. You—y'all know everyone's going to be looking at me, right?" Justin giggled. "And I am just fine." Yeah, JC thought, Justin's body suited him quite nicely. And obviously, Justin approved of JC's body—as he should! "Hey, who wants to hit the club again tonight? JC?" It'd be cool to watch his own body dance—hadn't had much chance to appreciate it during the rehearsal. This was the most amazing experience, this body swap. He had no idea how or why it had happened, but it was fascinating, and he was going to enjoy it—who knew how long it would last?

"You are not leaving this building without me, Timberlake," Chris announced. Justin was pissed. Damn it, Chris was taking advantage of being in Justin's body! He was fucking around with Justin's solos. Justin was not going to let his body out of his sight. However stupid that sounded, even inside his own, no, inside Chris's, head.

JC paused for a moment, then stated that he would go too. There was an unusual expression of grim determination on his face. It had just occurred to Joey that maybe something at the club they'd been to last night had caused this, this insane thing to happen to them. And while it was kinda fun being JC, Joey thought he'd rather get back to his own life. Because what was the point of solos, if nobody knew you were singing them? "Anyone else?" he asked. "Lance? Joe?" Surely, surely the JC inhabiting Joey's body would still want to go dancing.

"No," said Lance, firmly. "I have stuff to do. I was planning on getting it done this afternoon, but we had this scratch rehearsal... and y'all suck, by the way. Whatever this is all about, just cut it out tomorrow night." No way was Lance spending another evening with these fuckers! Whatever stupid game they were playing, he had better things to do.

"I'm wiped," said Joey. "Gonna rest in. Watch TV or something." Hah! Lance was not going out! Chris was going to spend a companionable evening in the hotel. In Joey's body. With Lance.

* * *

Damn, Joey thought. He'd assumed JC would be up for clubbing, it hadn't occurred to him that JC would keep Joey's body at the hotel for the night. Now Joey was committed to a night out, and still no chance for them to talk about this.

And why, exactly, was he going to rest in? Watch tv, my ass, Joey thought. He was up to something. JC was a sneaky guy. The veneer of spazziness led people to think he was just ditsy, but if JC wanted something, he went for it, and he generally got it. So what did he want at the hotel? Maybe he'd arranged for Suzanne to come back tonight... yeah, that'd be okay. Joey wasn't exactly fine with that, it didn't seem right that his body should be getting sex while he wasn't there to appreciate it, but it was understandable. Suzanne was worth staying in for... though she wasn't at all JC's usual style.

Hmm. JC's usual style... was to acquire, apparently by chance, the most beautiful person in whatever venue they were at. Women so stunning Joey never bothered to try for them, unless he was completely drunk. Men—well. Joey wasn't going there, not even in JC's body.

However. Might just pick up tonight.

* * *

Finally, something was going right! Chris rejoiced. Dancing in Joey's body was cool, though thank God they didn't do flips any more because he'd be so damn scared of dropping JC on his spacy little head... Singing Joey's parts really sucked, though. Chris had never properly appreciated how much effort Joey put in and for how little reward. When—if—when he got his own ears back, he was going to listen, really listen, to Joey's part of the mix. 'Cause man, it was no fun being in the middle. No fun.

But, back to his hotel room with Lance! The one thing that was going to make this whole nightmare worth while. Well, apart from the sex this morning. But, hey! Lance!

They ordered room service. Ate without much conversation. Lance looked worried. There was a little line down between his oh-so-elegant eyebrows, a little frown quirking at his mouth. Was he thinking about his work, his projects? He’d been doing some data entry stuff on his computer when Chris went to get him, seemed to expect that Chris, uh, that Joey, would care. Chris couldn’t imagine Joey getting excited about a bunch of lines on a graph. It couldn’t have been important, Lance'd been easy to persuade out of his own room. Chris reckoned Lance just hadn't wanted to go out with the others. He had seemed pretty pissed off after that rehearsal.

Half-way through his meal Lance pushed away the plate, got up and grabbed a couple of beers from Joey's refrigerator.

They sat on the bed together, the two of them, with a tape in the video which Chris let slide past his eyeballs without taking in any details. It seemed easier to sit still, somehow, in Joey's big, solid body. To slump back against the headboard with his can of beer on his belly, and Lance lying next to him with his perfect profile and his little worried frown.

Lance heaved a sigh, and—hallelujah!—snuggled close. Tucked himself under Chris's, Joey's, arm, rested his head on Joey's shoulder, laid his hand on Joey's chest, and curved a leg over Joey's knees. Chris slid his, Joey's, no, damn it, his hand over the hand on his chest, and curled his embracing arm close around Lance's shoulders. Smiled to himself. And, after a few minutes, feeling warmth pooling in his groin, Chris brought his hand round to Lance's jaw, lifted his face, and kissed him purposefully.

Okay, something not going according to plan.

Lance struggled, his eyes popping with astonishment as he shoved at Joey's chest, heaved himself backwards and fell off the bed.

"What are you doing?"

Chris could hear overtones of all kinds of expletives in that simple sentence. "You know, just," he smiled hopefully, "making out."

Lance's eyes really were huge. Big green blobs floating in white saucers. Huge and round and, apparently, shocked. This was not good. This was not what Chris had expected.

"What the fuck are you thinking, Joe?"

"I just, I. Um. Just thought."

"Jeez," said Lance, running his hand through his hair until it stood in wild disarray instead of the precisely ordered disarray he was usually so careful to achieve. "I don't. You don't. Why would you think that we? Fuck, Joe!"

"No. We don't. I mean. Sorry?" Okay, so Chris was confused now. Did Lance really mean that he and Joey weren't, that they didn't even kiss? All that two-man bus time and they actually weren't fucking?

"Okay. Yeah. I, uh, I'm gonna go back to my room now, okay? I'll see you tomorrow. We've got that thing at eleven, don't forget." Lance was out of there so fast, Chris half thought he'd teleported.

So. No Lance. No Joey and Lance. Well.

Chris couldn't figure out whether that was good news or not.

* * *

It wasn't until Joey was dancing with a dazzling brunette with a body to die for and red, red lips, that he realized there was a rather beautiful person back at the hotel in whom JC was on record as having an interest.

No, that was ridiculous. Lance would never...

His appetite for dancing suddenly gone, Joey decided to head back. He abandoned the dazzling brunette without regret, and scooped up Chris, who was crouching over his drink like a small, bearded thundercloud. Justin waved blithely from the dance floor, where he was surrounded by adoring beauties, and Chris cursed under his breath for the entire trip back to the hotel.

Joey had no time to worry about whether Chris and Justin had had a spat. He headed up the corridor, determined to intervene in whatever unspeakable scheme of seduction JC might be hatching. Before he got to the door, however, it opened, and Lance emerged, looking as though he'd had the shock of his life, and headed back to his own room at high speed.

Joey followed, and knocked. The door opened an inch or so, a bright green eye appeared. "Are you okay?" Joey ventured. The door opened a few inches further.

"Um. Yeah. I'm fine."

"Because, you know, if there's a problem, anything at all, you know I'm here for you. You wanna come back to my room, have a drink, talk about it?"

Lance did not leap at the offer. His face took on a hunted expression, and the smile he produced was unconvincing. He was obviously off balance. Normally, Lance would be cool and calm in the face of all kinds of disaster.

Was it possible that Lance... wasn't actually Lance at the moment? That what had happened to Joey and JC had also happened to Lance and, hmm. No, that didn't seem very probable. Justin was the center of attention, and Chris was moody for no reason, so, no change there. Joey reverted to the obvious explanation, which was that JC had tried to seduce Lance, using his, Joey's, body. That would have weirded Lance out, no question.

"I'm just going to go to bed, thanks, JC," Lance was saying. "Alone. Um, I mean, yes. G'night."

The door closed. Seconds later, Joey was knocking two doors along. His own face registered surprise at him as he stalked into the room like, like some kind of angry cat. This body lacked the bulk to be truly menacing, he thought, but it was mind over matter, and he had right on his side. He could so do intimidating.

"You! I know what you've been trying, and I won't allow it," he stated, glaring. "I'm going to say this once: leave Lance alone. I know what you want, and you're not going to get it. Not while I'm around. That clear?"

"I suppose that means you want him yourself," the man slumped on the bed replied sulkily.

Joey refrained from shuddering. Ew! Sure, Lance was hot, they all were, but ew! Still, he must not give JC any encouragement. "Let's just say, I have a better idea what Lance wants than you do." This was true. It was perfectly obvious to Lance's best friend that Lance was crushing on Chris. "So leave. Him. Alone." This seemed like a good line on which to make his exit, so Joey went back to his own room, only to realize when he got there that he had totally failed to talk to JC about the bigger problem here, namely, this insanely stupid body swap. On reflection, this was not the right moment, he was too pissed at JC to discuss this calmly. It would have to wait.

Bed was tempting. If this was some kind of supernatural 24-hour flu, he'd wake up in his own body tomorrow. Oh, please, let him wake up in his own body tomorrow. He'd gladly forego the solos if things could be back to normal.

Day Three: the show that was scheduled

Thank the Lord, another hotel night tonight, a room to himself. Lance couldn't have dealt with the bus, and Joey. He was trying not to avoid Joey, who was after all his best friend, and simultaneously trying not to be alone with Joey, who had hit on him completely out of the blue last night despite being the ruler by which straight men could be measured. It was so completely, staggeringly unexpected that Lance hadn't been able even to begin to understand it yet. Or figure out what to do.

Hell of a day, though. Hell of a day.

The interview this morning... Weird. Just weird. Justin was really off, which was strange because Justin was never off, in interviews. But he was quiet, and tentative, and when he couldn't avoid a question he rambled, and kept looking round for help. Joey, too, normally he could be relied on to be charming and funny, but today he kept chewing his lip and gritting his teeth and not saying anything at all. Lance had done his bit, of course, and Chris had been surprisingly sensible, which was sort of a relief, with Justin being weird, but sort of not a relief, because Chris being sensible was eerie and wrong, and they could all have done with the distraction of some off-the-wall insanity. And of all the people to come to the rescue, who would have expected JC to step in there all suave and coherent?

Lance's charts were seriously fucked. They were all being so weird, a whole new level of weird. No, not that—the guys were capable of achieving levels of weird beyond the reach of normal humans on any given day. But... unexpectedly weird.

And the show tonight... it had gone fine, in fact, it had gone well, there was a nervous tension in the air, and a sense of absolute concentration from every one of the guys. Perhaps fucking up that rehearsal yesterday had been good for them, in a peculiar way. And yet... Lance had felt a kind of oddness going on around him. A difference in the way the others were performing. There was JC, who had been a whole new level of raunchy in his dancing. Justin, riffing in so many new directions, it was like each song was being done over, which was exciting, Lance couldn't deny, but frankly a bit more of a challenge than he or the crew really wanted to deal with at this stage of the tour. Joey, overcompensating for his, um, for yesterday, possibly, by turning the sex appeal down a notch but being more manic than usual. Chris, strutting his stuff like he really believed he was the sex god he always kidded about being.

Lance hoped he hadn't let the others down too badly. He'd just been his usual self.

He'd just finished in the bathroom and was on the point of getting into bed when there was a soft knock at the door.

Oh... dear. He hoped it wasn't Joey. He really couldn't deal with Joey right now. And it had better not be JC, because Lance wasn't honestly sure he could resist JC at the moment, not after the way he'd looked on stage tonight. He really didn't want a fling with JC, but... Perhaps he should just not answer the door.

Whoever it was knocked again.

Lance sighed, and padded across to the door, opened it very cautiously. Oh, okay. Better than okay. It was Chris.

"Can I come in?"

Lance stepped back, and let him enter.

"Lance..." Chris just stood, his face tight with unhappiness, and though Lance was over the post-performance high and more than ready for sleep, he could never resist Chris, and Chris unhappy was simply not to be borne.

"What's up? Er, you want a drink?"

"I can't tell you—oh, no thanks—it's too, it's just—What did you think of the show tonight?"

Lance shrugged and sat in one of the easy chairs, motioning Chris to the other. "It was good, I think. A bit, um, unexpected, but. Good. Um. I thought you did great, you were really on."

"Yeah? Huh. What did you think of Justin?"

Lance was a little disappointed by the lack of reaction to his praise, and disconcerted too, he'd have expected Chris to parade around the room shaking his ass and declaiming his own supremeness. "You know, it's funny, I was just thinking about that. I mean, it seemed like he was more into the music tonight, and less interested in the audience. All those new variations, I mean, they were good, but it threw me a bit, and the crew, I think."

"Did you think he was, um, better, tonight?"

"Better?" Lance was surprised by the question. "Don't know. No. No, I don't think so. Not better. Just... different. Like maybe he suddenly got bored with singing everything the same way as before and decided to change things. Sometimes a change improves stuff, but sometimes it doesn't need to be improved, it's fine already, and a change is just, you know, a change."

"Hmm." Chris went quiet. Lance eyed him warily. "Lance, you—you're just like you've always been, right?"

"I... guess. I like to think I've improved some, but—"

"No, I mean, yeah, sure, but I mean, you're not any different to usual. Are you?"

"No..." Lance didn't think he was different. He was reasonably certain that it was other people who were behaving strangely, not himself.

"So, look, do you mind if I, if I sleep here tonight? With you?"

Lance blinked. "You want to sleep with me?" Chris? Chris wanted to sleep with him?

"Is that okay? I mean, you remember how it was back in Germany, sometimes we used to huddle up together when it was really cold in those crappy hotels, and it was nice when you were a bit lonely, having someone to hold on to."

Oh. "Chris, what's wrong?"

Chris bit his lip. "See, I really can't tell you, 'cause if I do you'll think I'm crazy."

Lance laughed. "I already know you're crazy," he pointed out.

"Really not helping."

Whatever the problem was, and Lance wasn't even going to begin to speculate, it was certainly beyond him at this hour of the night. Lance yawned, and hauled himself wearily out of his chair. "Come on, then. Bed." He crawled in. Chris did likewise. Lance turned off the light. "You need a hug?" he offered.

"I think so, yeah," and Chris curled up against his side. As Lance put his arm round his bandmate, he thought ruefully that this was about as far from having his dreams come true as it could be, and still have Chris in his bed.

"Justin, um, Justin had twins last night," Chris said painfully in the dark.

"Now, that does surprise me," said Lance, trying not to snort with laughter.

"I mean, he brought them back to the hotel. From the club."

"Wow. Um, go Justin?"

"No! I mean, he shouldn't do that! I—He has a girlfriend. Why would he do that?"

"Because he can? I mean, he's Justin Timberlake. He could probably have triplets, if he wanted."

"Oh." Chris shifted. "So, you mean, he's like, taking advantage of being Justin Timberlake? I guess I can see that."

"Justin's a good guy. He doesn't do it very often."

"No... It still sucks, though."

"Nah, let him have his fun. It's gotta be tough, being Justin Timberlake."

"It isn't easy being Chris Kirkpatrick."

"Kinda cool, though, I always thought."

A pause. "Yeah. I guess."

Lance sighed. "Go to sleep, Chris."

Day Four: the show that was re-scheduled

He was in bed with someone! Shit, he didn't go to bed with anyone last night. So—no, wait, yes!

Yes! He was him again! He was back! This was his own beard, his own earrings, his own bodaciously beautiful bod, oh, thank God!

So who was—oh shit. Oh shitty shitting hell.

How had his body gotten into bed with Lance last night? If that fucker Joey had taken advantage of his disguise to have sex with Lance—Chris was going to have to kill him. And then come back and have more sex with Lance.


Chris peered cautiously around. No condoms on the bedside table, bad sign. No empty wrappers on the floor, not on his side of the bed anyway. No lube on the bedside table either, or anywhere else. Chris wiggled his ass, in an investigative spirit. Didn't feel sore. Didn't feel used. Damn it. Not that that was conclusive, but... No soggy places in the sheets, not on his side of the bed, and he couldn't see that pernickety bastard sleeping on the sticky patch. Looked like no sex had been had.

So was that good or bad? Good, because it meant nobody else had been him having sex with Lance... no. No. Bad. Bad, because it meant Lance had been willing to sleep with Chris with No Sex. Maybe Joey truly didn't want Lance's gorgeous body. In which case, Chris was totally fucked, in the sense of not being fucked at all, because now Lance would never imagine that Chris wanted to sleep with him in a not No Sex way.

In a situation like this, there was only one thing to do.

Chris sneaked out of the bed and ran back to his own room.

* * *

Odd dream. Odd. Being Justin. Singing the wrong solos. Singing them like he thought Justin ought to sing them, but something wrong. Whass wrong? JC solos, didn't sound right. Wanted to sing his own solos. Get them perfect. Didn't want Justin's solos. Justin did them. Justin was perfect already. Ask anyone. Ask Justin.

Still semi-conscious, JC reached sleepily down. It was automatic. It was nice. It was a good way to wake up.

As he rolled over, a soft curl tickled his cheek.

He sat up, surprised, and put a hand to his head.

* * *

Oh, thank God!

Justin lay between the sheets and savored the feeling of his own body, long, limber, ache-free. Felt the familiar tug of his own grin on his own features. And closed his eyes to pray for a moment. To say thank you, for being given such gifts. In a different body he wouldn't have been allowed his full share of the limelight, he'd never thought about that before, never realized how lucky he was. Hell, last night's performance had been good, Chris had been good in his body, and nobody had noticed that it wasn't really Justin up there, because it had looked like Justin...

He still had a bone to pick with Chris, though. Justin leaped out of bed. Sought about the room for his clothes, caught sight of himself in the mirror, and paused to smile in satisfaction as he glanced over his own face, his own chest, his own stomach, his own—his eyes bulged. What the fuck happened to his hair?

* * *

Lance had arranged for the guys to breakfast in his room. He'd thought it a prudent measure, to try and head off any further weirdness before it got too far. Also, it would prevent an awkward tête a tête with Joey. Or JC. Or, now, Chris.

In theory.

In practice, Joey strode in beaming, bade Lance a strident Good Morning! and enveloped him in a firm Fatone hug, with added noogies. This was a surprise, and a relief, and from the bright cheerfulness of Joey's eyes, it appeared Joey at least had every intention of forgetting all about the unfortunate kissing incident.

Which was a fine plan.

Chris and JC arrived together. JC was grinning his adorable, goofy smile; Chris looked furtive, like an apprentice burglar. Lance, passing him a cup of coffee, took a moment to whisper, "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." It didn't appear to help matters, but it was the best he could do.

The door burst open, and Justin stormed in. "You fucker!" he yelled. Chris boggled at him. "What kind of a best friend are you, leaving me all alone to panic and sliding off with JC?"

"What? Wait, I didn't do that!" Chris protested.

"You did! You know you did. That morning when it, when we, you know. When we switched. Lance went to get you and you wouldn't come!"

"Justin, what the fuck are you talking about?" said Lance, calmly but with menace.

"When I screamed, and I wanted you to get Justin, and he wouldn't come."

"Okay, weirdness still in progress." Lance poured himself more coffee. "Get it out of your systems before tonight, guys."

"But I wasn't Justin," Chris broke in. "I was Joey."

"I was Justin," said JC. "You mean, you weren't me?"

"No, I was Chris," said Justin.

"I was JC," said Joey. "I woke up and I was all—uh, never mind."

"I thought I was dreaming when I woke up," said Chris reminiscently.

Joey stared at him. "Oh, man!" He began to laugh.

"You! You took—you had twins!" Justin accused, scarlet with indignation.

"Had to take it out for a test drive, dude," said JC, innocently. "Like steering a Porsche instead of a Ferrari. See, car analogy! I was even thinking like you! It was so cool."

"And you sang all my solos wrong. And you shaved my—my—"

Joey roared, JC grinned wider, and Chris began to cackle.

"You get your solos back tonight, J. The hair, I guess it'll take a little longer. But you know, you get used to certain things, and it does show off the goods. You should feel flattered, really. Besides, it'll grow back. It's not like I did anything permanent."

"Like get a tattoo, you mean?" Joey broke in. "Damn, I wish I'd thought of that!"

JC looked at him slyly. "You get used to anything while you were me, Joe? Wanna borrow a razor?"

Joey threw a roll at him.

Justin was still spluttering with indignation, while Chris and Joey hooted with laughter. Lance stared at them all in turn. They seemed, as far as he could tell, to be quite genuinely saying they had switched bodies. Lance was aware that this was impossible; however, the bar for 'impossible' was raised awful high these days, and he had to admit, it would explain a good deal. He considered the performances last night. He considered the peculiar interview, and the rehearsal of the day before. He considered a number of interesting anomalies.


Justin seemed to be calming down, and the four of them were eagerly swapping opinions on how and why it might have happened. None of which appeared to make the slightest sense to Lance, but whatever. No wonder his charts had gone haywire. In fact, reviewing them mentally, he couldn’t but wonder why he hadn’t realized what was going on. Joey had kissed him. Except, not Joey. Heh. He ate his breakfast, and tried not to grin.

The excitement around the table grew more and more voluble.

"—doesn't it itch when it grows?"

"—yeah, but you know, you gotta dance it—"

"—just winked and said goodbye—"

"—man, you gotta have some more leads next tour—"

"—sensitivity, and you know, everything looks better—"

"—I mean, thank God I'm sexy, because—"

"—bite my tongue, I just didn't dare—"

“—thought you guys would be calling the men in white coats—“

"—it sounded better, maybe you should just—"

"—trying to write songs, and I'm like, no, man—"

“—never realized dancing was such hard work—“

“—no wonder you kept trying to go talk to him instead—“

“—wasn’t it the coolest thing, though, because—“

“—never been so grateful in my life—“

“—in somebody else’s body, it doesn’t really count—“

“—nobody does me like I do—“

"Enough!" The bass voice outbellowed the cacophony, and there was silence. "Everybody out. I will see y'all at three. Now, go!"

Muttering a bit, they filed out.

"Oh, Chris?" Lance said sweetly, before Chris had made it into the corridor. "A moment of your time, please." Chris turned. "I think you owe me an explanation."

Chris winced. Serve him right, thought Lance, amused. "Uh. Yeah. I was trying to stay in character. You know, behave like Joey. Like you'd expect Joey to behave. I thought you and he, I mean, I got it wrong, but really, you two spend so much time together—"

"What are you babbling about?" Lance advanced, and Chris retreated the few inches he could manage before flattening himself against the door.

"I tried to make out with you!"

"Oh, that. Not important."

"Not? Not important? So what are you—"

"You weren't in my bed when I woke up this morning." Lance smiled wickedly at Chris, and braced his arms against the door on either side of Chris's head. "Have you any idea how disappointing that was?"

"It was?" Chris's eyes were wide as a child's on Christmas morning.

"Mm hmm," said Lance, and kissed him.

* * *

That night's show was perfect.


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