"With A Little Help From My Friends"
Part 2: "Candlelight, Roses, and Other Disasters"

By Cody

* ** * ** *

The telephone rang. Joey groaned, fumbling to pick it up. "Mmph."

"Hello?" a female voice asked.

"Mmph." Joey repeated.

"Hey, Joe. Is Lance there?" Joey held out the phone towards Lance, who had peeked out of the bathroom when the phone rang.

"Who is it?" Lance asked as he took the receiver. Joey just rolled over, snuggling deeper into the covers. Lance spoke into the phone, "Hello?"

"Hey, Lance. It's me." Britney answered.

"Hey, Brit. Are you okay?" Lance sat on the edge of Joey's bed.

"Yhea, I'm fine. Why?" She was surprised by the question.

"Well, I saw you leave the club yesterday..." Lance didnít think it would be polite to mention he'd seen her crying.

"Oh." Britney paused, "Yhea, I'm fine."

"Good." Lance meant it. "So, what's up?"

"Justin told me he and JC got into another argument last night." Britney said, "He just left to go apologize."

"What about me?" Lance asked.

"What about you?" Britney didnít see where he was going with this.

"I mean, when's he gonna apologize to me?" Lance had been embarrassed last night, getting yelled at in the middle of a club, and felt that he deserved an apology just as much as JC, if not more.

"Why does he need to apologize to you? He told me he yelled at JC." Britney said.

"Well, he flipped out me, too. He got all pissy about me and JC being in Chris's room alone, and then JC came over and Justin started yelling at him and stormed off, and JC acted like it was all my fault." Lance complained, "Everyone was looking at me like I was the devil or something. You know, how dare *I* mess with Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez."

"Well, Justin was upset, and drunk. Don't hold it against him." Britney defended Justin, even though she knew he was at fault.

"I know," Lance sighed, "I guess if he's cool or whatever, I'll just let it go."

"Good." Britney said, "'Cause I've got a plan, and I need your help."

"Oh, yhea?" Lance smiled, "What kind of plan?"

"A 'make-Justin-and-JC-realize-what-oblivious-idiots-they-are' plan." Britney replied, "We're gonna let them figure it out for themselves, we're just gonna give them a little...push in the right direction, so to speak."

"Sounds good." Lance approved, "What do you have in mind?"

"Well, first off, roses." Britney said.

"Roses." Lance echoed. This is gonna be one of those cheezmo girly plans. he thought, rolling his eyes.

"Yhea, we send some roses to their room, and the card will say "To J, Love, J." so each one will think the other sent it." Britney explained.

"Ooh, sneaky." Lance laughed, "I like that."

"It gets better. Then we'll arrange for a candlelit dinner to be set up in their room, so when they get there, they'll see the card in the roses on the table and both will think the other set it up." Britney finished, proud of herself.

"Okay, but what if JC says 'Hey, thanks.' or something, and Justin's like 'I thought you did this'? Won't they figure it out pretty quickly?" Lance pointed out.

"Doesnít matter." Britney answered quickly, she'd obviously already considered that, "They'll already be in a candlelit room with roses and everything, so even when they figure it out, they'll still eat dinner together. Maybe it'll get the ball rolling and one of them will tell the other how they feel. I mean, that's the whole point."

"Well, you've thought of everything." Lance was impressed.

"I know." Britney said modestly. "I already called room service and arranged for the dinner. Now we just have to take care of the roses and keeping Justin and JC out of the room until seven, cause that's what time I told room service to have it ready by."

"Well, I'll take care of that stuff." Lance offered.

"Great. I'm gonna be busy as hell all day," Britney laughed, "Not that you aren't, too, but, anyway...thanks."

"No problem." Lance told her, turning and shoving Joey, trying to wake him, "Wake up, Joe, we got rehearsal." Joey mumbled something incoherent.

"Well, I gotta go." Britney said, "Call me later."

"Okay," Lance shoved Joey again, "Bye, Brit." Lance hung up the receiver and then took hold of Joey's covers. "Come on, Joey, wake up." Joey didn't respond. "Okay, you asked for it!" Lance ripped the blankets off of his band mate.

"Hey!" Joey shouted.

"Get dressed." Lance ordered, grinning.

"Go to hell." Joey made a face.

"First get dressed, and you can come with me." Lance dropped the blankets on the floor. Joey sighed and got up, going into the bathroom and slamming the door behind him.

* ** * ** *

Justin was silently freaking out. He knew he had to tell the group that he and Britney "broke up", but he didnít know how. Worrying about it was ruining his day. He barely tasted his cereal at breakfast, and at rehearsal he couldn't even concentrate on admiring JC's sweaty, muscular body, because he was too caught up in thinking about what he was going to tell everyone. The truth wasn't even an option. Should I say I dumped her? Should I say she cheated one me? No, that would be wrong. Maybe I could just say I'm in love with someone else. But, then, of course, they'd want to know who. Not that I'd have to tell. Maybe I should say she dumped me. She did, technically. Why should I seem like the jerk? She's the one who backed me into a corner, here. Despite himself, Justin was a little pissed at Britney for doing this to him.

"Justin," JC called. Justin snapped out of his thoughts and realized the limo had stopped and was empty. JC stood at the car door, looking at him expectantly, "Dude, you coming?"

"Um, yhea," Justin got out of the limo and followed JC into the restaurant, finding the table where everyone was already seated. After rehearsal they had showered, dressed, and decided to go out for Italian. Chris's girlfriend, Danielle, was also there. The waiter came and took their drink orders.

"Are you guys nervous about performing?" Danielle asked, looking at her menu.

"Yhea, a little." Joey stuffed half a bread roll into his mouth.

"I'm nervous as hell," JC said, "I always get nervous."

"But, you're always great." Justin told him, putting his hand on JC's arm.

JC grinned at him, "Thanks."

"Justin never gets nervous." Chris told Danielle.

"Yes, I do." Justin reluctantly took his hand away from JC's arm.

"What do you get nervous about? You could go on stage and make farting noises with your armpits and the girls would swoon." Lance joked.

Everyone laughed, except JC, who quirked a suspicious eyebrow. I can't help but think he got me and Justin in a fight on purpose last night. Why were they talking about what we were doing in Chris's room, anyway? JC looked at Justin, who was basking in the afterglow of Lance's compliment. Justin, you're so beautiful. I love everything about you. Your mind, your soul, your face, your body, even your ego. I love how you react to an ego-stroke, like a cat being pet.

The waiter returned with their drinks and a bottle of wine. They went ahead and ordered their lunches, and the waiter left. Lance's cell phone rang. He cast the group an apologetic look before answering it, "Hello?" he paused, listening, "Um, yhea, that sounds great...Yes...Okay...Okay, great...Okay, thanks...Bye." He hung up. Everyone looked at him expectantly. "That was a rep from MTV. Just checking up on the seating arrangements. They're reserving ten seats."

"Do they know who we're sitting next to?" Joey asked eagerly, "I hope it's someone hot."

"It is," Lance smiled, "We're sitting next to Britney."

"Ooh," Joey teased, "putting the love birds together. Hey, Curly, no smoochie-smoochie on camera."

"Uh, actually," Justin cleared his throat, "We broke up."

"What?!" Came the unanimous reply. JC felt his heart leap. I shouldn't be so happy. JC scolded himself, Justin's probably upset.

"Yhea, she dumped me last night." Justin said, thinking, Okay, maybe it's wrong to make her the bad guy, but it's the truth. She did dump me. This sure as hell wasn't my idea.

JC looked at Lance and found Lance looking back. JC's eyes narrowed, and Lance's widened. Don't bug your creepy eyes out at me, Albino-Boy. JC thought meanly, Just keep the hell away from Justin. JC resisted the urge to tackle Justin and scream "Dibs!"

"What happened?" Joey asked, just as two waiters arrived with their food. They waited until the waiters left before continuing the conversation, "Why'd she dump you?"

"It just wasn't working out." Justin shrugged. "Look, I'm not really in the mood to talk about it."

"Okay." Joey put up his hands like he'd been told not to touch something. "Let's change the subject."

"All right," Danielle said, looking at Justin, "What the hell did you do to your hair?"

* ** * ** *

"Hey," Lance said as they were riding back to the hotel after lunch. Since Danielle was sitting next to Chris, Lance was in between Justin and JC. He hadn't planned to be, but Justin had gone to the bathroom after lunch, and Lance couldn't stand outside the limo and wait until he got back; that would look weird. So, he'd just slid in next to JC. "Whatís everyone's plans for the day?" He had to make sure Justin and JC would be out of their room until seven.

"I'm going to take a nap." Joey yawned, "Then I'm hooking up with that reporter again later on. She totally wants me."

"Yhea, well, you win by default." Lance muttered under his breath.

"What?" Joey asked.

"Last night she..." Lance glanced at Danielle, and tried to be delicate for her sake, "propositioned me."

"She said she wanted to fuck?" Danielle stressed the last word, just to make Lance blush. She couldn't help herself, he was so easy to embarrass.

Is Lance saying that to try to make Justin jealous? JC wondered, frowning.

Justin noticed JC's change of expression, Is JC jealous over Lance and Dana? Could it be true...were Lance and JC really doing something in Chris's room yesterday?

"Danielle and I are gonna hang out at the hotel," Chris put his arm around his girlfriend, "Get in some quality time."

"I canít say too much about the quality of the time we spend together," Danielle gave Chris a mock-angry look, "We spent last night watching Leprechaun 3"

"That's a classic!" Chris protested.

"I'm going to the studio. I've got some new songs I'm working on with the girls." JC piped up, referring to Wild Orchid, the all-girl group he sometimes wrote songs for. "But I'll be done around seven-thirty."

"I've got an interview." Justin sighed, "I don't even remember which magazine it's for. Cosmo Teen or Boppy Girl or something."

"Is there really a difference?" Chris rolled his eyes, "The only things that change in those magazines are the outdated, crappy pictures of us. Have you noticed they always pick really old, ugly pictures to use?"

"You look old and ugly either way." Joey informed him.

"And you look fat and drunk either way." Chris glared.

" Okay, boys, settle down." Danielle affected a soccer-mom tone, "Or you'll both get put in time out."

"Or we could just shove Chris in the trunk." Joey suggested.

* ** * ** *

Lance waited until Joey fell asleep before calling Britney's cell phone. "Hello?" she answered on the fourth ring.

"Hey, it's me." Lance said.

"Me, who?" Britney didn't recognize his voice.

"Me, Lance." Lance blushed, glad she couldn't see him.

"Oh, hey, Lance! What's up?" She asked enthusiastically. At least she sounds glad to hear from me. Lance comforted himself. "Nothing, just relaxing. JC's on his way to the studio, Justin's got an interview, and I'm about to order the roses right now."

"Great. Thanks. This is gonna be the best!" Britney giggled excitedly.

"Yhea," Lance agreed, then cleared his throat nervously, "So...what're you gonna do tonight?"

"I don't know," Britney said, "Not much, I guess. Maybe get a movie off Pay-Per-View and order a pizza or something."

"Yhea..." Lance trailed off, hoping she'd ask if he had plans.

"What about you?" She asked.

Lance sighed for effect, "Nothing. I'm just gonna sit in my room and stare at the walls."

"That sounds fun." Britney giggled again. He liked her giggle. It was cute. "You wanna come keep me company?"

Finally, the question he'd been waiting for! "Sure." He tried to sound nonchalant.

"Okay, come over at like, seven, or so, and we'll just watch tv and pig out." Some one in the background called her name. "Hey, I gotta go. Donít forget to order the flowers."

"Okay, I won't." Lance promised, "Bye."

"Bye." She hung up.

* ** * ** *

JC sat in the limo with Justin. He was getting dropped off at the studio, and Justin was being driven to his interview. JC watched Justin, who was looking over the songs JC was working on for Wild Orchid. He doesn't seem that upset about Britney. JC thought, So, I guess it's not that horrible of me to be overjoyed...Oh-ver-joyed...Oh-ver-joyed JC sang in his head, smiling to himself.

The limo turned a corner, and JC let himself slide across the seat towards Justin, purposely leaning in closer than necessary. He was so glad to have Justin sitting next to him again. I'd never realized how much it meant to me, something as little as where we sit in the limo, until he wasn't there anymore.

When JC slid closer, Justin looked up at him and smiled, "Hey, I love these new songs."

"Good." JC moved closer, just a little closer. They're all about you.

"I love that line," Justin read from the sheet music, "'There's never been a love like this, I'll give you my soul in a kiss'." Justin looked up at JC, "That's beautiful."

JC's heart melted. Hearing Justin's voice speak the lyrics, hearing Justin say they were beautiful, was just too perfect. JC wanted to tell Justin that he was his inspiration. Those songs were written for you, Justin. If you think the lyrics are beautiful, just imagine my love. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever known, except for you, of course. JC said instead, "Glad you approve."

Justin had turned his eyes back to the papers in his hands and was humming, reading the tune. "Is that it?" He asked JC. JC nodded. Justin sang the lyrics he'd admired, putting such emotion into it that JC wanted to cry. His voice was so angelic, so smooth, luscious, gorgeous. It filled the air like a sweet scent, flooded it like a delicious wine. "I can't wait to hear it when it's done." Justin said, handing the sheet music back to JC.

JC looked at the papers, knowing he could never let anyone sing that song. Not after hearing Justin sing even those two lines from it. The song would never seem right in any other voice. It had been written about Justin, and after being sung by him, it was completely and utterly for him.

The limo pulled to a stop, and JC was halfway out the door when Justin grabbed JC's arm suddenly. JC looked at him questioningly. Justin leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on JC's cheek. It was all too brief, over before JC realized it was happening. "What was that for?" He asked, shocked, confused.

"I...like your song." Justin looked as bewildered by the kiss as JC. "I'm--" Justin groped for words, "I'm glad we're not fighting anymore."

JC smiled, "Me,too." Justin relaxed, returning the smile, and JC got out of the limo. "See you later!" He called as he shut the car door behind him.

* ** * ** *

The limo started moving again, and Justin sat in a daze. Did I just do that? He didn't know what had come over him. The song, he thought, that song was just so beautiful. He writes those beautiful songs, transfers his beauty into music. It was like taking the indescribable quality that made JC so perfect, and turning it into something comprehensible, something Justin could understand. Music. And singing a song JC had written was like...like touching him...like kissing him. I sing songs he wrote all the time. Justin thought, but, somehow, this had been different. Together, alone, so close in the intimate darkness of the limo, Justin singing JC's song was a form of making love. Of having JC inside himself. But to him, it was nothing. Justin realized, his heart sinking. At least he didn't get mad that I kissed him...he just seemed surprised as hell...God, I can't believe I did that!

The kiss was too fleeting, not even a real kiss. It made Justin burn for more, a real kiss, with lips and tongues and exploring hands. He closed his eyes, imagining himself kissing JC, touching those full, soft lips with his own. He moaned out loud, and the sound of his own voice brought him back to reality. He pushed the image out of his mind. I've got an interview to do. Justin reminded himself, It won't be fun sitting through it with a hard-on He reached over to the CD player and pressed play. The CD player had been left mid-song on the 3rd CD. Eminem's voice and the pounding track made the speakers vibrate. Justin, grateful for the distraction, rapped along enthusiastically. "Anti-Backstreet and Ricky Martin. It's instincts to kill *Nsync, don't get me started!" Justin rapped, bobbing to the beat and grinning, "These fucking brats can't sing, and Britney's garbage. What's this bitch retarded? Gimme back my sixteen dollars!" Justin threw back his head as he cracked up, he loved that part.

* ** * ** *

JC stood and watched the limo pull away, touching his cheek where Justin had kissed him. It was too fast, I didn't even feel it... he thought, disappointed but exhilarated nonetheless. Justin kissed me, even if it was just a split-second peck on the cheek! He kissed me! JC knew he shouldn't get so worked up over an innocent kiss on the cheek from his best friend, but he didn't care. He just wanted to savor the feeling of having been kissed by the man he loved, the perfect, beautiful Justin Timberlake. He half-ran, half-skipped into the studio, not even trying to tame his foolish grin.

* ** * ** *

After Lance hung up with Britney, he picked the phone up again and dialed the front desk. "Hello?" A man answered.

"Hi, this is Lance Bass in room 903. I'd like to order a dozen roses to be sent to room 901." Lance said.

"What would you like the card to say, sir?" The man asked.

"To J, Love, J." Lance told him, "And can you set the roses up on the table at the dinner that's been ordered to 901 tonight?"

"Oh, yes, the dinner. Room 901. I recall now. Ms. Spears and Mr. Timberlake are having a special dinner in his room." The man said, "Well, sir, I'll make sure those flowers are delivered. One dozen roses?"

"Yes. Thank you." Lance confirmed, then hung up.

* ** * ** *

When Lance hung up, the man, the main desk clerk, immediately called the florist. "Hello?"

"Hi, this is Ronnie." The hotel got all their roses from the tiny 'Happy Endings Flower Shoppe', which was just a few blocks away and known for their home-grown roses. The staff there knew Ronnie by name. "Hey, Ron, whatís up?" Rhea, the shoppe owner's daughter, asked. She puffed on a joint, rolled from the plants she grew in the greenhouse in the back of the store.

"I need a dozen roses by six-thirty tonight." Ronnie told her, "with a card that says 'To J, Love J'. " "Billed to who?" Rhea took another hit off the joint, wondering if she should stop and save the rest for later. She'd smoked three-fourths of it and was pretty far gone. I am working, after all. she thought, Don't want to get too fucked up. "Lance Bass," Ronnie said, then corrected himself, "I mean, billed to the hotel. We'll put it on his bill."

"Oh, right. Duh." Rhea should've known it was going to be billed to the hotel. I've definitely had enough. She put the joint out and dropped it into her pack of cigarettes. "Is that it?"

"Yhea, that's it, for now." Ronnie replied, "I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, bye." Rhea hung up the phone and went to set aside a dozen roses. She flipped on the radio on her way. Ronnie hadn't specified a color, so she just got red. She added some baby's breath and wrapped it up in tissue paper. A familiar tune was playing on the radio, and Rhea turned up the volume. Genuwine sang, and Rhea sang along, "You're horny, let's do it! Ride it, my pony! My saddle's waiting, come and jump on it!" Damn, this old school shit! Rhea forgot about the roses and danced around the little store, singing loudly. She was so caught up in the song, she didn't hear the bell above the door ring as her co-worker, Jody, walked in. Jody's hysterical laughter, she heard. Rhea stopped singing and went to turn the radio off, blushing. "I didn't hear you come in."

"Obviously." Jody laughed, then waved her hand in the slightly smoky air. "Damn, Rhea, it reeks in here."

"Really?" Rhea sprayed some air-freshener, "You think my mom'll be able to smell it?"

"She doesn't know what it smells like," Jody told her, "She'll just think it's cigarettes."

"Yhea," Rhea went back to the roses she'd abandoned on the counter, "I gotta get these roses done." She looked at the roses. A card. she thought, reaching for a card and card-holder. What was it supposed to say? She tried to remember. A name came to her. Lance. It was 'To Someone, from Lance-Something'. I'll just put 'Love, Lance' She wrote the words carefully, That's good enough. She put the card in the card holder and tucked it into the flowers. She glanced at the wall clock. It was an hour till her next break. Damn! I have the munchies!

* ** * ** *

When the limo came to pick Justin up at 6:45, he was surprised to find Joey and Dana inside. "What are you doing here?" he asked rudely.

"We were out shopping." Joey answered for her, "We're gonna go back to the hotel so we can change and hang out for a while, then we're going clubbing."

"I got a new dress." Dana gave Justin a flirty smile, "Wanna see it?"

Justin shot her a 'you wish' look and pressed play on the CD player. The CDs had been changed, and O-town came on. "What the hell?!" Justin pressed Stop frantically, "Why were you listening to that crap?" Justin looked at Joey in disgusted shock.

"It's my CD." Dana explained, blushing a little.

"Well, it sucks." Justin told her, rotating the CDs. He picked the 6th CD, and the Beastie Boys flooded the limo. "Now, this is my jam." Justin moved to the music as "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" blasted. He looked at Joey, changing the lyrics to suit the situation, "My -friend Joey's- crazy, he always smokes dust, he's got his own room in the back of the bus." Joey laughed, and Justin grinned. Dana laughed, too, and Justin shot her a dirty look.

"You wanna come clubbing with us?" Joey invited.

"Nah, I'm just gonna chill." Justin wanted to stay in with JC, hopefully alone, but pretty much anything would be better than hanging out with Dana. She's the reason me and JC keep fighting, damn it. It was her stupid question at her stupid interview and her stupid idea to go to that stupid club. Justin unfairly blamed her, Fucking Bitch.

* ** * ** *

They arrived and the hotel and parted in the hallway, Justin going to his room alone. He opened the door and saw the couches and coffee table had been pushed out of the way, and a little dining table had been set up. On a dark red satin tablecloth were two silver dome plate-covers, two long, white candles were burning, and in the center of it all was a vase holding a dozen roses. Justin moved toward the table, feeling like he was moving in slow motion, having the strangest feeling that he might wake up at any moment and find this was all a dream. A card was in the roses. He opened it, and blinked in confusion at the words. "Love, Lance."

Love, Lance? Justin's heart dropped as he realized what was going on. This isn't for me...this is for Lance and... Yesterday, in Chris's room... "I knew it!" Justin shouted, slamming his fist on the table. He fought back angry tears, "I knew it!" Are they gay? Are they bi-? Are they...together? Justin fought the overwhelming urge to tip the table over. "How could he?" Justin half-sobbed, half-yelled. He wasn't sure if he was referring to Lance or JC.

His heart ached with pain, jealousy, anger, and bruised conceit. How could JC want Lance when he could have me? He thought of the pale Mississippian with a sudden derision. He'd never really thought of Lance as bad- or good-looking, but now he seemed hideous. His face is shaped weird...he's got that hick accent...his nose is too pointy...he's got no color to him at all...and what's up with his giant adam's apple? He belongs in a freak show!

Justin paced the room, his hands clenched in fists, shaking his head like he was refuting reality, telling the world he refused to participate if this was how things were going to be, if life wouldn't play his way. JC and Lance...JC's in love...no wonder he wouldn't tell us who it was!..and, damnit, I made Lance sit next to him in the limo...bet they *loved* that... A million things were suddenly becoming proof of their secret relationship. Lance arranging for Wade not to be at rehearsal because JC didn't like him, JC and Lance not sharing a hotel room, Of course they didn't share a room, they wanted to throw us off their track! I guess they didn't realize I'd come in and see this! Justin felt a sort of triumph at having caught them, They probably figured Joey would take me clubbing with him, and I'd never know about their little dinner for two...God, how long has this been going on? Justin felt sick, myriad emotions suffocating him. I have to get out of this room. he thought, nearly running into the hallway.

He looked around, feeling lost. He went to Joey's room and knocked. Dana answered the door, "Hey, Justin. Like my dress?" she modeled it for him.

"No." he said flatly, not even looking at it.

"Hey, Curly." Joey called from the bathroom, where he stood in front of the mirror, wearing a neon-rainbow furry sweater and bright yellow pants with dozens of zippers placed randomly along the legs.

"Hey." Justin was too upset to laugh at Joey's ensemble. "I changed my mind. I wanna go clubbing, after all."

"Great!" Dana cooed, "Where do you wanna go?"

"Anywhere that serves drinks." Justin answered darkly, "If you think I was drunk last night, just wait." Dana laughed uncertainly, "Is something wrong?" He looked at her like she was an idiot for asking, "Everything's wrong."

* ** * ** *

Lance checked the time again. 7:15. He'd watched tv until 6:30, and then gone out to rent some movies and pick up some take-out Thai food. He didn't want to show up exactly at seven and seem overeager, but he didn't want to be too late and seem rude, either. He'd decided 7:15 was a perfect medium.

He knocked on Britney's door. "Just a sec!" He heard her call. She opened the door, wearing a baggy t-shirt and sweat pants, make-up free, with her hair pulled back in a messy bun. She smiled at him, "Hey, Lance, come on in." He stepped into her room, feeling stupid for having shaved, changed his clothes, and put on cologne. "You smell good." She told him, taking the movies from him. He grinned. "What kind of cologne is that?" He was about to answer, but she didn't let him, "Justin's always changing his." Lance's grin faded. "So, you got Thai?" she pointed to the take-out bags he was holding.

"Uh, yhea." He held them up, as though to prove it.

"What movies did you get?" she asked, looking at the movie boxes, "Lemme see...Almost Famous, that one was cute. Justin loves Kate Hudson...Ferris Bueller's Day Off! I love this movie! It's Justin's favorite, you know. He always says if he..." She rambled on, but Lance tuned her out, annoyed.

Can't she go ten seconds without mentioning Justin? he thought irritably, I hate when girls can't stop talking about their ex-boyfriends, and he wasn't even really her boyfriend!

"So," Lance interrupted her, "You want to start a movie?"

"Sure," Britney took Ferris Bueller's Day Off and popped it into the VCR. "I remember this one Halloween, Justin..." Her voice was like an adult's in a Peanuts cartoon. "Whomp-whomp, whomp-whomp-whomp" Lance forced himself not to stuff a couch cushion in her mouth.

* ** * ** *

"You wanna order some room service or something?" Joey asked Justin and Dana. "I'm starving to death."

"You're always starving to death." Justin rolled his eyes. Suddenly, an evil thought came to him. He pictured a little angel on his shoulder, saying 'No, Justin, that's too rude. That would be sooo wrong...'. He grinned, mentally bitch-slapping the angel. "I've got some food in my room." He told Joey, "There's a dinner all set up."

"Really?" Joey looked at Justin, surprised, "Why do you have a dinner set up?"

"Uh..." Justin thought quick, "I ordered it yesterday. It was gonna be a surprise for Britney, but since, you know..." he looked down sadly, holding back a smile. Damn, I'm good.

"Since what?" Dana asked eagerly.

"None of your damn business." Justin snapped, then looked at Joey, "There's no use letting it go to waste. Help yourself." He tossed Joey his room key.

"Thanks!" Joey grinned, catching the key, "What'd you order?"

"Um..." Justin panicked for just a moment, then recovered, "I don't remember. Hey, don't read the card in the roses, okay? It's kind of personal."

Joey nodded, leading Dana out of the room, "We'll be back after we eat, and we'll all go clubbing."

"Sure." Justin nodded, "Hey, feel free to make a mess in there. I don't mind." The door shut and Justin jumped on Lance's bed, bouncing high and purposely messing up the sheets. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" he punctuated each laugh with a bounce, his voice sing-song, "Poor little Lancey-poo's romantic dinner, all eaten up!" He knew it was wrong of him, very wrong and bad and spiteful, but he didn't care. He imagined the look on Lance's face when he saw his perfect dinner ruined, and laughed out loud.

* ** * ** *

Joey scarfed down his food and started working on Dana's. She was nibbling on a roll, watching him shove food into his mouth like he hadn't eaten in a week. He finished both plates in less than ten minutes, ending the meal with a long, rumbling burp. "Mmm. That one was for you." He grinned at her.

She made a face. "How sweet."

"Come on, let's mess around." He grabbed her and tossed her onto Justin's bed, pouncing on her.

She squirmed away from him, "Joey, stop it!"

"Why?" he whined, scowling at her.

"This is a brand new dress!" She reminded him, smoothing it down, "I don't want to get it all wrinkled up! Let's go clubbing, then we can go back to my place and I'll take it off and let you do whatever you want."

Joey sighed, but relented, "All right. Let's go get Curly." He took her by the waist and headed back to his room. He opened the door and found Justin laying on Lance's bed. "Hey, Curly, ready to go?"

"Did anyone come while you were eating?" Justin asked anxiously, propping himself up on his elbows.

"No," Joey looked confused by the question, "Why?"

"JC said he was getting back around 7:30." Justin reminded him.

"Oh, yhea. No, he's not back yet. You wanna wait until he gets here and invite him along?" Joey offered, "It's early, anyway, we'll be the only ones at the clubs."

"No." Justin answered quickly, "Let's go now. Come on." He grabbed Joey's arm, pulling him into the hallway. He didn't want to see JC. Not now, not ever. He couldn't face him, knowing that if only he'd told JC how he felt, maybe it could've been him setting up romantic dinners, instead of Lance. He knew if he saw JC right now, he'd cry. He also knew if he saw Lance right now, he'd kill him. I just need some time to cool off... Justin thought, And get wasted.

"So," Dana stood close to Justin in the elevator, pressing her breasts against his arm, "Are you gonna dance with me?"

"Hell no." Justin told her, wanting to put his hand on her forehead and push her away. "Quit rubbing your tits on me."

Dana blushed and moved away, glancing at Joey. Joey just smirked. He was used to the fact that girls only went for him because they couldn't have Justin, or, if he was around, JC. He didn't really care. As long as he got what he wanted, did it really matter?

* ** * ** *

JC glanced at his wristwatch impatiently, waiting for the limo to arrive. It was already nine. He'd ended up staying late at the studio, putting some finishing touches on Wild Orchid's next single. He was a perfectionist; he couldn't help it. Damn it. he thought, I wanted to have dinner with Justin...he's probably already eaten by now. The limo pulled up and JC hopped in. He wanted to yell, "Step on it!" like people did in the movies, but he doubted the driver would hear him even if he did.

He took out his cell and speed-dialed Justin. It went directly to voice mail. JC listened to Justin's greeting and then hung up without leaving a message. Why the hell is his cell off? JC wondered, He always leaves it on. JC had calmed down from the chaste kiss Justin had given him, but he was still in a great mood. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his best friend, just watching tv, talking, anything. He fidgeted, anxious to set eyes on Justin again, as though it had been years since they last met. We've only been apart for a matter of hours, but it seems like forever. I canít wait to just breathe near him. I can't wait to see him smile, to maybe reach out and touch his arm, or his hair, or maybe even hug him...yhea, I'll definitely hug him when I see him. JC decided, If he kissed me, then I can hug him. JC loved, loved, loved that Justin had kissed him. This could open a whole new door of intimacy. Maybe that'll be our thing now, kissing each other on the cheek. Maybe we'll start doing it all the time. Maybe I'll "accidentally" kiss him on the lips. JC giggled like a schoolgirl, flushed with happiness. Justin and Britney were broken up, Justin had kissed him, Justin was, hopefully, waiting for him at the hotel for him. Life is Good. JC thought, grinning.

He felt like singing. There was so much happiness inside of him, he had to let it out. He turned on the radio, 98 Degrees came on. "Don't think so!" JC pressed Tuner quickly. Aaron Carter's voice. "Maybe if I was an eight year-old girl." JC muttered, turning the station again. Dream's latest hit. "Good God!" JC complained, changing the station yet again, "Don't they play anything decent on the radio?" Nsync came on. "Spoke too soon." JC smiled, letting go of the tuner. The opening music of "God Must've Spent", and then Justin singing:

Can this be true?

Tell me, can this be real?

How can I put into words how I feel?

JC closed his eyes, losing himself in the magic of Justin's voice. When JC's part came, he instinctively sang along. He poured his emotions into his voice, picturing himself on stage, looking over at Justin, who would have that adorable expression on his face, that sincere, dreamy look.

The limo slowed to a stop, and JC opened his eyes. He wanted to wait until the song was over, wanted to lose himself in his adoration of Justin, but then he remembered that Justin might be up in the hotel, waiting for him, and he couldn't get out of the limo fast enough. JC bounced happily in the elevator, wanting to do a backflip or something, feeling hyper and happy. He half-ran down the hallway, sliding his card-key through the lock and letting the door swing open. It was dark in the room, and he sighed, disappointed. "Damn, he's gone."

He flipped on the light, and his eyes widened in surprise. There was a little dining table set up, silver dome plate covers upside down, empty plates with crumpled linen napkins on them, candles burnt out, their wax having dripped onto the satin tablecloth, and roses in a vase, with a card in them. A card... JC approached the table slowly, feeling like he'd been punched in the stomach, all the joy of moments before gone. Did Britney and Justin get back together? He picked up the little white card, not wanting to read it, having to read it. He read the words, but they didn't register. He read them over and over, disbelieving. Love, Lance? He sat down heavily on Justin's bed, his mind reeling. What the hell? Is Justin bi-? Is that why Britney broke up with him, because she found out he was cheating on her with Lance? JC cursed Lance, but he cursed himself more for every time he'd wanted to tell Justin how he felt and chickened out. God, I should've told him. If he had known, maybe he would've...Lance knows how I feel about Justin, how could he do this? Why didn't Justin tell me he was bi-? Why didn't I guess? Why didn't I ever tell him...God, it's even worse, to know that I could've maybe had a chance with him. It was better when I thought he just didn't want me because he was straight, but he just didn't want me because...because why? What the hell does Lance have that I don't? He looked down at the bed, noticing the sheets were rumpled. "No..." his voice barely came, a dry croak, "No..." Not on this bed, the bed we slept in together. He felt a rush of anger, jealousy, betrayal.

At least they went to Lance's room. JC thought bitterly, That's considerate of them. He considered going to Lance's room and pounding his fists against the door, and then, when Lance answered, pounding his fists into that ugly albino face. JC jumped from the bed and went to the wall that separated his room from Lance's, pressing his ear to it. He couldn't hear anything. They're probably sleeping. They probably fell asleep after they... JC refused to even think the words. He turned back to Justin's bed, staring at the rumpled sheets, images of Justin and Lance together flashing through his mind, enraging him. He fell onto his knees on Justin's bed and punched the mattress brutally. He punched and punched, the bed shaking from the blows, hot tears streaming down his cheeks. He choked back his screams, but he wanted to scream until his throat bled, he wanted to scream his frustration, his jealousy, his rage, his pain.

Finally, he fell forward onto the bed, exhausted, and curled into a fetal position. He pressed his palms over his eyes, and silently sobbed himself to sleep.

* ** * ** *

It was barely midnight, and Justin was drunk off his pretty little ass. He ran a hand through his hair, surprised at the shortness of his curls, "Where'd you go?" he asked his fro, then remembered, "Oh, yhea, I cut you off." He frowned, "But he didn't want me to. Maybe that's why he chose Dogface."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Dana asked him, "What's Dogface?"

Justin squinted at her, he'd forgotten she was sitting next to him at the bar, "But Dogface doesn't have a fro, either." He argued.

"What?" she asked, not really expecting a coherent answer.

"Dogface is a mutant." He informed her, a serious look on his face, "His skin and hair are the same color...white."

"That's nice." She humored him.

"His mom drank--" Justin started cracking up so hard he couldn't finish.

"What?" Dana smirked, curious to be let in on the joke even though she knew she probably wasn't going to get it.

"His mom drank b-b-bleach," Justin stuttered, his face red with laughter, "when she was pregnant with him! That's why he's so p-pale!" He slapped his knee, shaking his head, like he couldn't believe how funny he was.

"All right, then." Dana gave him a 'you're crazy' look.

"What's so funny?" Joey came up to them. He'd gone to the bathroom and left Dana with Justin.

"I don't know," Dana shrugged, "Something about drinking bleach."

"Did you drink bleach?" Joey asked Justin, which only made the blonde laugh harder.

"Come on, let's go." Dana tugged on Joey's hand, eager to get back on the dance floor.

"Wait. I've got to get him back to the limo. He needs to sleep this off." Joey pulled Justin's arm around his neck and helped him walk to the exit. Dana sighed and followed them. Joey struggled to support Justin, who was leaning heavily on him. "Damn, Justin, you weigh a ton."

"Look who's talking, Fatty-Boom-Batty." Justin slurred.

"Shut up." Joey reached the limo, opened the door, and shoved Justin inside.

"Oww..." Justin bumped his head as he fell onto the seat.

"Sorry, Curly." Joey pulled Justin into a sitting position, "There you go." Joey watched his friend sway drunkenly. "Are you gonna be able to get to your room, J?"

"Yhea, I'm fine." Justin said, then leaned out of the limo and threw up on Joey's shoe.

"Oh, goddamnit!" Joey cursed, shaking his foot, "Oh, goddamn!" He sighed at his soiled shoe, then looked up at Justin, "You feel better now?"

"Yhea." Justin nodded, then threw up on Joey's other shoe.

"Shit! Justin!" Joey took off the shoes.

"Sorry." Justin mumbled.

"It's okay, J. Come on, scoot over." Joey left his ruined shoes on the sidewalk and pushed Justin over so he could get into the limo. Joey looked at Dana, "I gotta take him back, he won't be able to get upstairs alone."

"Fine." She got into the limo, sitting on the opposite side, as far from Justin as possible. She didnít want to get thrown up on.

"Sorry," Joey apologized to her, "But I've got to make sure he gets home okay."

"I understand," Dana smiled, trying to ignore the smell of alcohol and vomit that was radiating off of Justin. "I think it's sweet that you're taking care of him."

"Yhea, well, he's like my little brother, you know?" Joey looked affectionately at the man who was now half-asleep and drooling on his shoulder. "You're like the alcoholic brother I never had." He told Justin.

"Hmm." Justin grunted, dimly aware that he was being spoken to.

"He's not really an alcoholic." Joey assured Dana, "I think he's just upset about Britney."

"Are they in a fight or something?" Dana asked, hoping for the inside scoop.

"Something like that." Joey didn't think it was his place to tell Dana that Britney had dumped Justin. Dana wanted to press Joey for details, but she could tell by the faintly protective expression on Joey's face that he wouldn't reveal anything he thought Justin wouldn't say himself.

Joey woke Justin up when they got to the hotel, and Dana waited in the limo while he helped Justin ride the elevator and walk down the hall towards their rooms. They reached Justin and JC's door and Justin fumbled for his key. "I've still got your key. You gave it to me earlier, remember?" Joey reminded him, pulling the card-key from his pocket and handing it to Justin.

* ** * ** *

"Wait." Joey stopped Justin just as he was about to slide the card-key into the lock, "Why don't you stay in my room?" Joey steered Justin towards the next door, "JC will kick both our asses if you come home this drunk. He'll get all pissy at you for getting wasted, and then he'll bitch at me for letting you." Joey opened his door and peeked into the room, "Good, Lance is gone."

Justin's face crumpled as he remembered where Lance was. He looked at Joey, his eyes filled with tears, and whimpered, "Dogface..."

"Huh?" Joey pushed Justin towards his bed, "Here, you can sleep in my bed, I'm gonna spend the night at Dana's."

"Dogface doesn't have a fro, either." Justin was too drunk to hide his crying, "Not even a little one. I at least have a little one."

"Are you crying, J?" Joey tucked Justin into bed and gave him a quick hug, "Don't cry, dude. Britney'll come around."

Justin wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand, "Britney?" He gave Joey a confused look.

"Okay, I know, you don't want to talk about." Joey sighed, patting Justin's head, "Get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow." Joey put on a new pair of socks and shoes, throwing away the pair of socks he'd been walking around in. "If you're gonna throw up again, go to the bathroom, okay? Or, at least aim for Lance's stuff." He went to the door, turning off the lights as he left. "'Night, Curly." He called, but Justin had already passed out.

* ** * ** *

The credits were rolling, the leftover Thai food was cold, and Lance was stretched out on the couch, snoring. Britney smiled and got an extra blanket from the closet to drape over him. She turned off the tv and got into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. I wonder what they're doing right now. Britney thought, picturing Justin and JC in bed, curled up in each other's arms.

She was happy, and she was sad. Happy for Justin, and sad for herself. JC's a great guy. He'll take care of him. He'll treat him the way he deserves to be treated. She consoled herself, It's what Justin's always wanted. It's what he's always dreamt about. He'll finally be really, truly happy, and it'll be partly because of me. I helped Justin find happiness, and isn't that what love is really about? Making the person you love happy? True love is giving, not receiving. She believed that, but she couldnít stop the tears from falling. She didn't bother to wipe her cheeks dry, she just let the tears run down her face and neck. It felt good to cry, she needed to cry. A door was closing, a door she'd maybe only imagined was ever open. She was coming to grips, once and for all, with the fact that she'd never, never get Justin. She took a long, shaky breath, whispering because she needed to say the words out loud. "I will never have Justin." She'd known that for years, but a piece of her had always hoped, held on to the maybe. She was letting that piece of herself go.

She still loved him. Of course I love you, Justin. How could I not? You're such a beautiful person. I want you in my life forever, even if it's just as a friend. I want you to be happy, and that'll make me happy. I'll try to move on. I'll try to make myself fall out of love with you. I will always love you, but I'll try not to be in love with you. She knew it would be hard, and it wouldn't happen overnight. It was a resolution she'd made before, but this time she meant it. She's dated guys over the years, but always held back, unwilling to let go of her hopes that, by some miracle, Justin might one day return her love. A thought occurred to her for the first time. Do I really love Justin, or do I use him to keep from putting myself out there? It's so safe, loving someone whom will never love me back. There's no risk of getting hurt by others when I'm so busy hurting myself. Am I just using him as a way of pushing others away? The idea shocked her, tainted a love she'd always considered perfect. Is my "selfless" love of Justin really just me being a coward, too afraid to risk a real relationship? She hated these thoughts, but she couldn't deny that there might be some truth in them. If I did use Justin as a safe-guard, I won't anymore. I can't. It's over. It's really, finally over. She closed her eyes, the tears still streaming, and surrendered to truth.

But wait, there's more! Chapter Three: Plan B

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