"With A Little Help From My Friends"
Part 3: "Plan B"
By Cody

* ** * ** *

Justin was somewhere between asleep and awake. His stomach was dangerously close to revolt, and he wondered if he had anything left in him, or if he would just dry heave if he began to vomit. Neither scenario sounded appealing. He opened his eyes, willing himself not to throw up. I will never drink alcohol again. he promised himself. He made that promise every time he had a hangover, which really wasn't all that often. The past two days of drinking had definitely reminded him why he wasn't a big drinker. His mouth tasted like vomit and alcohol, and he gagged, jumping out of bed and running to the bathroom. He leaned over the sink, his hands on either side, propping himself up. His head dropped down, and he readied himself to throw up, but he nothing happened. He spit into the sink a few times, almost wanting to throw up just to get rid of the feeling that he might at any moment. "Come on," he breathed.

After a few minutes, he gave up and reached for one of the toothbrushes the hotel supplied for the room. He brushed his teeth and tongue, but the taste of vomit lingered somewhere in his throat. He looked at himself in the mirror; he looked like shit. Preternaturally pale, and almost bruised around the eyes. His head ached and his stomach burnt. He knew he should eat something, but the thought of food made him gag.

The hotel door opened, and Justin didnít bother to see who it was. He closed his eyes and waited. "You're up?" Joey. Justin let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding.

"Yhea," Justin opened his eyes, looked at Joey, who was undressing.

"Did you puke again?" Joey grinned, leaving his clothes in a pile at his feet.

"Nah, but I feel like pure shit." Justin leaned against the bathroom doorway, facing the bedroom.

"Well, you look like you feel." Joey went to his suitcase and pulled out a bottle of Advil, "You need some?"

"Yhea," Justin caught the bottle Joey tossed to him and stepped back into the bathroom. He put two pills in his mouth, used his cupped hands to fill his mouth with water, and tossed his head back, swallowing them cleanly. It was weird, he kind of enjoyed taking pills, the whole process. Justin wiped his face with a towel and resumed his position in the bathroom doorway. He watched Joey rifle through his suitcase, "So, did you have fun with that bitch? You get some?"

"Yhea," Joey smiled at his suitcase, "Twice."

"Did she ask for an autograph afterwards?" Justin smirked.

"Shut up." Joey found what he was looking for, a pair of Superman boxer-breifs.

"Oh, shit, today's the last day of rehearsal before the show!" Justin realized, knowing what Joey's Superman boxer-breifs signified.

"Yup." Joey waved the underwear around a little, "I hope we don't fuck up the whole tv-heads thing. We gotta be right-on during that or it'll just look stupid"

"We got it down." Justin assured Joey, but he felt a little nervous. His stomach was still unsettled, and he took a slow breath.

"Get dressed and we'll go to breakfast," Joey offered as he pushed past Justin and went into the bathroom, "I'm gonna take a shower."

Justin was about to agree, when the door opened. Lance walked in, his clothes and hair a rumpled mess. He looked shocked as hell to see Justin in his room. "Hey," he blushed, feeling awkward about having slept in Britney's room. After all the years of thinking of her as Justin's girlfriend, it just didn't seem right. There was an unspoken 'hands off the exes' code among the guys, and even though Britney wasn't really Justin's 'ex-girlfriend', Lance felt guilty.

"Where'd you sleep last night?" Joey grinned suggestively, "You get some ass, Poofu?"

"I, um..." Lance looked at Jusitn, and his blushed deepened.

Justin looked flushed, too, but from anger rather than shame. He seemed about to speak, but then glanced at Joey and thought better of it. He quickly walked out, deliberately side-stepping Lance so they wouldn't touch. He slammed the door behind him as he left. God damnit! Justin thought, leaning his back against the hallway wall, He knows I know...He knows I ruined their dinner. He thought I was gonna rat him out to Joe, but I wouldnít do that to Josh. I'd out that fucking dogfaced asshole in a split-second, but I couldn't out Josh. Justin lingered in the hallway, not wanting to go to his room. He went to his door and listened. The shower was running. Thank God. Now, if he'll just stay in there long enough for me to get my stuff together, I can go to Britney's and get dressed. Justin slid his key-card through the lock and opened the door.

* ** * ** *

Joey and Lance looked at each other as the door slammed behind Justin. Lance held his breath, waiting for Joey to ask, 'What was that all about?' Then I'll have to tell him, 'Justin's pissed because I couldn't wait to get at Britney. I asked her out the same day she dumped him, aren't I a great friend?'

"I got first shower." Joey said, then shut the bathroom door.

Lance laughed in relief.

* ** * ** *

The alarm went off, and a reluctant hand silenced it. JC's neck hurt like hell. He stretched, pain shooting through his back. He felt drained. He couldn't remember his dreams, but he knew they'd been disturbing. Not quite nightmares, but unpleasant. He sat up, then immediately fell back onto the bed. He was sore, he felt like every muscle in his body was tensed and ready to snap. He eased himself back into a sitting position, sliding his legs off the bed. Moving slowly, he managed to get into the shower, sighing as the hot water soothed him.

He didnít know what he should do when he saw Justin. Did Lance tell him how I feel about him? If you'd asked JC a few days ago, he would've said there was no way in hell Lance would ever tell a secret, but now, everything was different. Obviously, I don't know Lance as well as I thought I did. I had no idea he was in love with Justin, and I would've never thought he'd make a move on someone he knew I was in love with. I didnít think Lance was like that...but, I guess All's Fair In Love and War. The clichť struck a chord in JC's mind, All's Fair In Love and War. If Lance wants to play dirty, then that's fine. There's no way in hell Justin would prefer Lance if he knew he could have me. He turned off the shower, and just as he did, he heard a door close. Did someone just come in, or did they just leave? he wondered, quickly wrapping a towel around his waist.

* ** * ** *

Justin entered his his hotel room and froze when he heard the shower stop just as the door closed behind him. Oh, shit. He was not ready to see JC. He thought about running, but decided against it. Why the hell should I leave? This is my room, too. I need a fucking shower. I'll just take a fucking shower, get dressed, and go meet Joey for breakfast. I don't even have to talk to JC. He dropped his jacket and key on his bed, then went to his suitcase and pulled out an undershirt, boxers, socks, a zip-up sweatshirt jacket, and sweatpants. He heard the bathroom door open, and JC walk out. Justin went straight to the bathroom, taking all his clothes with him except for the sweatshirt jacket, which he tossed on his bed. He didnít even glance at JC.

He locked the door behind him for no reason, he knew JC wouldn't try to barge in. He was just locking the thought of JC, the thought of JC and Lance, out. He turned towards the mirror. He looked shaken, and he still felt nauseous. He set his change of clothes on the counter and rubbed his hands over his face, taking deep breaths. You can't avoid him, Justin. He told himself, You're gonna have to be with him- both of them- all day. You're gonna have to perform like nothing is going on. You're gonna have to just grin and bare it. You can do it, you're a professional. He gave his reflection a big, plastic smile. After so many years of being in the spotlight, even his eyes knew how to fake it.

* ** * ** *

JC watched Justin go into the bathroom and close the door. He heard the shower start and sighed, sitting on his bed. Did Lance tell Justin I'm in love with him? Is that why he's ignoring me? Or is he embarrassed that I know about he and Lance are together? Does he think I'm going to be weird about him being bi-? JC chewed on a fingernail, laughing a little at the thought, Me, judging him for being bi-. Little does he know...well, he might know...if Lance did tell him, then he's just ignoring me cause he's not interested...or maybe pissed cause I never told him I was gay. JC got up and dried off, going to the dresser to get some clothes. I'm just gonna tell him I'm gay. If he already knows, then at least he won't be mad at me for not telling him myself. If he doesn't know, then maybe it'll help him feel more comfortable about being bi-. Either way, things can't get much more fucked up than they already are. JC towel-dried his hair and ran a comb through it, not bothering to really fix it. I'll wait for him to get dressed, then we can go to breakfast together and talk things out. JC stretched out on his bed and waited for Justin to come out of the bathroom.

* ** * ** *

Breakfast was tense. The only one who didn't seem to notice the tension was Joey, who ate large quantities of everything and rambled on about the porn he'd watched at Dana's the night before. "Do you guys ever do that? Watch porn during sex?"

No one answered.

"Most girls won't let you, but it's great. Dana was all for it. Shit, it was her idea! She asked me straight up, 'Wanna watch a movie while we do this?' At first I thought she meant a movie-movie. I was thinking, 'If she pulls out Shakespeare in Love or some shit, I'm outta here.' But I was curious, so I said sure. So then she went to her closet and got out this big cardboard box, right? And she's all 'Take your pick, cowboy.' So, I look in the box, and there's, like, I don't even know how many tapes in it. Every kind of porn you could dream of. Straight, lesbo, gay. There's even some of that cartoon porn-- what do you call it-- anime? There was regular porn, and blowjobs, and dildos, ass-fucking, every type out there. It was like Porn Heaven!"

No one told Joey to shut up, and, thus encouraged, he continued, gesturing with a forkful of syrupy pancake, "I mean, looking at Dana, you would never guess she was such a freak, but this girl is the real thang. We've got the movie going, she's all scratching my back and shit, calling me Daddy, and next thing I know she pulls out this fucking huge purple dildo and--" The chunk of pancake flew off of Joey's fork and hit Justin's chest with a wet splat, tumbling down into his lap, a sticky trail of syrup marking it's path.

"Fuck!" Justin yelped, wiping at his clothes with a napkin. Joey burst out laughing, and Justin glared at him, "It's not funny, asshole. Now I have to go change." Justin threw his napkin onto his plate and left.

"What's his problem?" Joey asked JC and Lance, who didn't respond. Lance excused himself to go to the bathroom. During its flight, some of the pancake's syrup had gotten on his arm.

JC watched Justin's retreating figure sadly, He won't talk to me, he won't even listen to me. Is he acting weird because he knows I love him and he's not interested? Or is he just embarrassed that I know about him and Lance? I wish he'd give me a chance, I just wanna know what's going on in his head.

"If Justin's mad cause I got syrup on his clothes, then I should be pissed as shit at him. He ruined a pair of my shoes last night, a fucking expensive pair of shoes." Joey's voice interrupted JC's thoughts.

"How'd he do that?" JC asked, "He tried to put 'em on and stretched them out?"

"I wish!" Joey laughed, "More like he barfed all over them at the club."

"When? Last night?" JC was confused. How was Justin at a club last night, if he was with Lance?

"Yhea, he got drunk and threw up on my shoes. Dana and I had to leave the club early to take him back here. I let him crash in my room cause I knew you'd bitch at me if I brought him home drunk." Joey held up a hand to stop JC from speaking, "Don't even start with the lectures, C. I was on the dance floor, I didn't even know he was drinking. Well, I knew, but I didn't think he'd get so drunk. If anyone's to blame, it's the bartender, for serving so many drinks to an under-aged kid." Joey looked at JC, expecting an argument, but none came.

"Was Lance with you?" JC asked, a quality in his voice Joey didn't understand. He sounded almost happy to hear that Justin had gotten blotto at a club.

"No," Joey shook his head, "I don't know where Lance was. I asked him earlier, but he never answered. Here he comes, let's ask." Joey nodded towards Lance as he approached the table, "Hey, Lance, where the hell were you last night?"

"Uh," Lance glanced at JC, and blushed under his intense gaze, "I had dinner with Britney."

Joey looked at Lance suspiciously. "Where'd you sleep?"

"In her room." Lance admitted, sitting down and keeping his eyes on his plate.

"Does Justin know?" Joey demanded.

"Yhea..." Lance answered quietly. He shot another glance at JC, wondering if he would be angry for Justin's sake. JC didn't look angry, he had a strange expression on his face, but it wasn't an angry one.

"I'm gonna..." JC started, stopped. He stood up. "I'm gonna go talk to Justin." He said, not even looking at them. He walked away quickly, wanting to catch Justin while he was still in the room. As JC rode the elevator, his mind raced. Lance had dinner with Britney last night. That dinner in our room, it was for him and Britney! Britney must've dumped Justin cause she's in love with Lance...and Justin didn't seem too upset about the break-up...I guess he saw it coming, or something. I knew he wasn't really in love with her! Britney is one of his best friends, though; he's probably just happy that she's found someone to love. So, he set up a dinner for her and Lance, to show them there were no hard feelings...that's so sweet of him! But I guess he was kind of upset, he went out and got drunk...but it's only natural for him to be upset. I mean, one of his best friends and his girlfriend were hooking up, that's not an easy thing to deal with, even if he didn't really love her. It's pretty embarrassing, too. No wonder he wouldn't talk to me...he thought I'd want to talk about what's got to be a sensitive subject, or lecture him for getting drunk.

JC reached their hotel door, and was so excited that he slid the key-card through the lock too fast for it to work, and had to do it again. When he opened the door, he found Justin sitting on his bed, his hands on his face. JC went immediately to his side. "It's okay," JC soothed him, wrapping his arms around him, "I'm not mad." JC wanted Justin to know he wasn't upset that Justin had gotten drunk. "We'll just pretend it never happened, okay?"

* ** * ** *

Justin lifted his face from his hands and wrapped his arms around JC, burying his face in JC's neck gratefully. He's not mad... Justin sighed in relief, not realizing the effect his warm breath had on JC. He's not mad that I ruined the dinner. Thank God.

"Justin," JC said, still holding him tightly, "I have to tell you something."

"Okay." Justin braced himself, I know, Josh, you're bi-, and you're in love with Lance. I know, you don't have to tell me. Why do you insist on saying it out loud?

"Justin, I'm gay." JC blurted. Justin didnít respond, so JC kept going, "I never told you before because I didn't want things to be weird between us."

Justin pressed his forehead against JC's shoulder, silently willing him to stop talking. Just stop there, JC. Don't say anything else. I don't want to hear you say you love Lance. I won't let you tell me you love him.

"That's the reason I never told you I was in love," JC continued, his voice dropping to an almost-whisper, "I didn't know how you'd react. I've hated keeping a secret from you, it's been so hard...but I think you deserve to hear it, and I need to tell you...Justin, I'm in love with--"

Justin's hand flew up on its own, covering JC's mouth. He looked into JC's eyes, feeling a wild sort of desperation, "I know, I know. Don't say it."

JC moved away from Justin's hand, "How long have you known?"

"Just since last night." Justin pulled away from JC. "I'm...I'm fine with it. It doesn't bother me. We're friends no matter what. I mean, I was shocked, sure. I was shocked as hell. I wish you'd told me. I hate that you kept a secret from me, but I understand. I'm just gonna need some time to get used to the whole idea of..." Justin trailed off, not wanting to say the words 'you and Lance together'. I'm not fine with this. Justin wanted to tell JC the truth, This does bother me, I don't understand, and no matter how much time goes by I won't ever get used to the idea of you loving anyone butme.

But Justin saw the relief in JC's eyes and knew he would never say any of those things.

* ** * ** *

JC pulled Justin back into his arms, squeezed him close in gratitude. Justin's okay with it. He knows I'm in love with him, and he's okay with it. He doesnít hate me, he's not disgusted or freaked out. He needs time to get used to it; that's fine. That's more than fine. He didn't even say 'I'll never love you back.' Who knows? Maybe he could. Maybe one day he'll get curious, want to take a chance and see if he could love me back. JC knew he shouldn't get his hopes up, but they were soaring. I never even imagined that Justin might be bi-, but after the whole scare with Lance...why not? Who knows? I mean, there's a chance. It's not impossible.

JC knew that now wasn't the time to press the issue, what was important now was making Justin feel comfortable. "Justin, I just want you to know, this won't affect the group, or our friendship. More than anything, you're my best friend. You know that, right?" Soft curls brushed JC's ear as Justin nodded. JC glanced at his wristwatch, the limo would be arriving soon. He gently extracted himself from Justin's arms and stood up, offering Justin his hand, "Come on, we gotta go."

Justin took JC's hand and stood up, then looked down at his clothes, "I have to change first," He looked at JC's shirt, which had gotten soiled during their hug, "and so do you."

JC looked down at his now syrup-smeared shirt, "Oh, shit." He looked back up at Justin, and they both grinned. Without a word, they released hands and moved to change.

* ** * ** *

"So, you spent the night in Britney's room?" Joey asked Lance again, pushing away his plate. The pancakes had gotten cold.

"Yhea," Lance watched as JC disappeared into the elevator. I guess JC's pissed at me.

"Justin knows?" Joey's eyebrows raised, "He pissed?"

"I think so."

"You think he knows or you think he's pissed?"


Joey gave Lance a disapproving look,"That's shabby as hell, dude. I mean, they were together for a long-ass time, and they just broke up."

"I know."

"You don't do that. Bros before hos."

"I know."

"If you know, then why'd you do it?"

Lance didn't answer. He wanted to explain the situation to Joey, but he knew that would be selfish. It wasn't his place to tell anyone about JC and Justin's relationship.

"So, JC's pissed, too, huh?" Joey nodded towards JC's empty seat.

Lance sighed. "Guess so."

"Yhea, well, you deserve it."

Lance wanted to tell Joey to shut up, but he couldn't. From Joey's perspective, Lance did deserve it. Still, he couldn't resist defending himself, at least a little, "Nothing happened. We just slept."

Joey made an odd noise, sort of a cross between a snort and a laugh, "Well, duh, nothing happened."

Lance bristled, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means of course nothing happened." Joey sipped his orange juice before continuing, "If Britney wouldn't have sex with Justin, even after all these years, there's no way she'd have sex with you after one night. Or has this thing been going on longer?"

Lance shook his head, "We're just friends. She's not over Justin."

"Yhea, I figured." Joey pushed back his chair, resting his hands on his stomach. "I didnít think she'd really dump Justin for you."

"Why not?" Lance's eyes narrowed.

"Oh, please," Joey laughed a little, "Yhea, right."

"What's he got that I don't?" Lance heard the clichť leave his lips and felt stupid. Joey was outright laughing now. "What?" Lance demanded.

"Whatís Justin got that you don't? Come on, Poofu. Want me to start a list?" Joey caught the expression on Lance's face and tried to stop laughing, "Sorry, dude, but really...I mean, I'm not into guys or anything, but if I was a girl, and I had the choice between you and him...think of it this way: If you were a girl, and you had the choice between you and him--"

"Okay, whatever." Lance didnít feel like talking about this anymore, not that he had ever felt like it in the first place.

Joey shrugged, "I'm just being truthful."

Lance didnít say anything.

"Come on," Joey stood up, "The limo will be here soon."

Lance followed Joey into the lobby, picturing himself knocking Joey down.

* ** * ** *

Justin sat against the wall of the rehearsal room, his legs sprawled in front of him, and watched JC go through the choreography in slow-motion. He could practically hear JC counting in his head as he practiced the steps. I sat by him in the limo. I probably should've let Lance sit by him, but JC said himself nothing would change, so if he wants to sit by Lance, he's gonna have to tell me to move. He won't do that, though. That would be too obvious. I don't think they're ready to tell the rest of the group about their relationship...yet. Justin dreaded the time when JC and Lance came out to Chris and Joey. He dreaded the time when they would be an accepted couple, unafraid to be affectionate in front of the group. When they would speak in terms of "we" and get the type of consideration given to Chris and Danielle. When it would just be assumed that they would share hotel rooms and sit next to each other in restaurants.

Justin dreaded relinquishing his position as JC's best friend, who always got to share rooms and sit next to him and know all his secrets. Now Lance would be the one to read JC's newest lyrics before the rest of the group, Lance would be the one who hushed the others when JC was sleeping. Justin looked away from JC and down at his own feet, wiggling them a little. JC says nothing will change, but it will. It already has. I want to call him over to sit by me, but I feel weird now, because I know if I call him over, he'll come, but he'll be wishing it were Lance he was sitting by. I should be happy that he's found love, but I'm not. What did he need to find love for? He already had mine. I'm selfish as hell, but I can't help it. I don't want to lose my place as the most important person in his life.

"Hey." A sweaty figure plopped down next to Justin. He didn't even have to look to know it was JC. He knew just from the scent, the presence, even without the voice, he knew JC so well, had memorized JC's existence. He lifted his chin slightly in greeting. They sat in silence as JC caught his breath. "You nervous about tomorrow?"

Justin shrugged, "Yhea, I guess. Not really about the performance, but, you know, the awards, or whatever."

JC nodded, "Yhea, I hope we win something. At least one. That would suck if we didn't get anything." Justin raised his eyebrows in agreement. JC waited for Justin to say something, but he didn't. JC leaned close, nudged the Justin's ribs with his elbow, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Justin was still contemplating his sneakers, "Just thinking."

Justin felt JC stiffen beside him, and then in a low voice, "I thought you were okay with it."

"I am." It sounded unconvincing even to Justin.

JC leaned away from him, "No, you're not. You're freaked out, aren't you? You think it's gross." Now Justin looked at JC, looked him straight in the eye, "No. I don't think it's gross." Justin sighed, looked away again, "I just need some time to think." JC nodded, trying to be understanding, "You need some space?"

"No." Justin answered quickly, his hand going to JC's arm. The last thing he wanted from JC was space. Especially now, when he already felt as though he was losing his best friend. Justin was scared shitless that Lance was going to come between him and JC, the person he trusted and needed more than any other. "I don't want space. Just time."

JC's heat jumped at the contact, and he placed a hesitant hand over Justin's. Justin looked into his eyes, squeezed his arm a little, his vulnerable expression causing a surge of arousal and tenderness to flood JC's senses. JC gulped. "Okay." "All right, boys, break's over!" Wade called, walking back into the rehearsal room. "This is Lance's last chance to fuck this up before tomorrow night." "I'll fuck *you* up." Lance muttered under his breath. Joey caught the comment and laughed loudly. Wade didn't know what Lance had said, but cast him a dirty look, anyway.

JC rolled his eyes at the scene and got up, pulling Justin along with him. They got into their places and waited for the music to cue.

* ** * ** *

JC went through the choreography without having to think about it. Which was good, because it left his thoughts free to wander on to better subjects. Like, for example, Justin. He said he doesn't think it's gross...He doesn't want space...He touched my arm... JC glanced over at Justin, caught his eye, and smiled. The smile was returned, and happiness bubbled within JC. He needs time...which means he doesn't have any definite ideas about it...which means maybe he's considering the idea that he could be bi-sexual...which means I've got to make my move. I can't risk losing any chance I might have, the whole misunderstanding with Lance taught me that. I'd rather regret what I do than what I never did.

* ** * ** ** ** * ** *

"Okay, stop!" Wade yelled, coming up behind Lance, "Lance, damnit, why can't you get that part down?" Wade mockingly affected a hick accent, "You must have-a head full-a Mississippi mud instead-a brains." Lance turned bright red, but didn't say anything.

"Hey, Wade, lay off." Lance looked at his defender in surprise. It was Justin. "He's trying his hardest." Wade shook his head, but relented. Lance threw Justin a grateful smile, and received a small smile of welcome. I guess he's not all that mad about me trying to hook up with Britney. Lance thought, I'm glad. I'd hate to have Justin and JC angry with me. I can't help how I feel about Britney, but if Justin really had a problem with it, I'd back off. Lance saw the quiet acceptance in Justin's smile, the forgiveness. The small smile seemed to say 'you hurt me, but I know you didn't mean to, so I forgive you'. Lance felt a rush of affection for his friend, grateful that Justin was being so understanding.

When rehearsal was over, JC, Chris, and Joey went to the vending machines down the hall, and Lance took the opportunity to approach Justin. He gave him a shy smile, "Hey, J."

"Hey." Justin didn't meet Lance's eyes, but his tone wasn't unfriendly.

Lance offered Justin a towel, "Thanks for sticking up for me earlier."

"Yhea, well, Wade was being an asshole." Justin took the towel and wiped his face, still avoiding Lance's gaze.

"I don't know why I'm having so much trouble getting that move down. Guess we all can't be naturals like you, huh?" Lance appealed to Justin's ego. Justin gave a short laugh, then started to turn away.

"Wait." Lance put a hand on Justin's arm. Justin stopped, looked at Lance's hand, then into his eyes. Lance took his hand away. "Uh...about where I was last night..."

"Yhea?" Justin looked away quickly, ran a hand through his curls, "What about it?"

"I just...I wanna make sure you're okay with it, I guess." Lance finished lamely. He prayed Justin wouldn't say he had a problem with it. I really like Britney, I don't want to have to back off without ever seeing where this could go. Lance waited for Justin to say something, but he seemed intent on studying a spot on the wall. "I don't want this to, like, screw up our friendship or anything. I mean, that's, like, my main concern here. I don't want tension in the group. So, if you have a problem with this...I need to know." Justin kept silent, and Lance babbled on desperately,"Cause, you know, now Joey's giving me shit for this, and-"

"Joey?" Justin looked at Lance in surprise, "Joey knows?"

"Well, yhea," Lance shrugged, "I mean, he asked me where I was last night, so I told him. Joey was kind of upset, but he was more concerned with your reaction. That's why I wanna make sure you're cool with this."

Justin couldn't help rolling his eyes. Everyone thinks I'm a fucking homophobe. Did it never occur to these people that I could possibly be interested in JC? Justin realized something. "So, Joey knows about the dinner?" That sucked. Joey would probably be pissed at Justin for tricking him into ruining JC and Lance's dinner.

"No," Lance shook his head emphatically, "No, he just knows about me."

"Oh." Justin felt a double-layered relief. First, that Joey didn't know about Justin's immature wrecking of the dinner, and second, that Lance and JC were still keeping their relationship a secret. Lance just told Joey that he's gay. I guess they're working up to the whole 'Guess Who's Getting It On?' speech.

"So..." Lance waited. Justin stared at the wall. "Say something."

Justin shrugged, didnít know what to say. "Like what?"

"Say you don't hate me."

"I don't hate you." And he didn't. Well, he kind of did, but not really. No matter what, Lance was like a brother to him.

"Are you...Are you okay with this?" Lance unconsciously held his breath as he waited for Justin to answer.

Justin forced himself to nod his head, "Yhea, I'm just...still getting used to the idea...it just kind of took me by surprise."

Lance couldn't suppress his relieved grin, "So, we're cool?"

Despite himself, Justin smiled at Lance's expression, "Yhea, we're cool."

"Everyone ready to go?" They turned to see Chris standing in the doorway of the rehearsal room, eating a Snickers. Joey stood behind him, in the hallway, eating a candy bar and holding two bags of chips. Lance turned back to Justin, "Well, anyway, I just wanted to make sure you're okay with this. Oh, and, just so you know, nothing happened last night. Nothing physical, or anything." Lance went to gather his things.

Justin stood in place for a moment, shocked and relieved and confused. Why did Lance tell me nothing physical happened? That's not really any of my business. But, goddamn, I'm glad he told me. Thank fucking God.

"Let's go?" JC's voice brought Justin out of his thoughts.

"Uh, yhea." Justin saw that JC was holding both of their jackets. He started to reach for his jacket, but JC stopped him.

"I've got it." JC smiled, capturing Justin's outstretched hand in his own, "Let's go." JC led him towards the door.

It wasn't as though carrying his jacket was a huge inconvenience to JC or anything, but Justin was touched by the gesture. You're so fucking sweet, JC. Do you know how fucking adorable you are? Without really meaning to, he squeezed JC's hand. JC looked at him, grinned. He wanted to push JC against the nearest wall and shove his tongue down JC's throat.

JC let Justin's hand go as they exited the building. They all ignored the photographers staked outside of the studio. With the VMA's going on, the paparazzi were all over the place, worse than usual. They hurried to pile into the limo and head back to the hotel.

JC reached the limo first, but waited to let Justin get in before him. Instead of putting their jackets across his lap, he laid them lengthwise on the seat, so he would have a reason to sit closer to Justin.

"Lance, let me use your cell." Joey tried to pull the phone out of Lance's hand.

Lance wouldn't let go. "I'm waiting for a call. Use your own."

"I forgot it." Joey said, pulling harder.

Lance used his free hand to push Joey away, "Tough shit. I'm waiting for a call." As though on cue, the phone rang. Lance gave Joey a 'See?' look before answering it.

Joey turned towards the rest appealingly. "I just need one for a second. I wanna order a pizza."

"Order it at the hotel." Chris told him.

"No. I wanna order it now. I'm *starving*." Joey said it like he hadn't eaten in months.

Justin laughed, "You can use mine." He leaned over JC to get his cell from his jacket pocket. Justin expected JC to lean back, like people do when you reach across them, but he didn't. In fact, he kind of leaned forward, put his hand on Justin's back and rubbed a little. Justin fumbled to find the phone, tossed it to Joey, and sat up quickly. He looked at JC, who gave him a slow smile. Justin bit his lip, tore his eyes away. JC's with Lance now, he reminded himself. He looked over at Lance, who was talking quietly on his cell, wearing his 'business-face', his pale brow furrowed, his thin mouth set taut.

Justin turned to look out the window, half-smiled, remembering the time he and Lance had gotten high and thrown water condom-balloons from a hotel balcony in Amsterdam at four in the morning. There was no one outside to hit, so they'd just thrown them aimlessly. One had landed in the hotel pool, and they'd laughed hysterically over that, for no real reason except that it was four in the morning and they were rich and young and famous and thousands of miles away from their parents and in a place where they could smoke all the sweet, sticky weed they wanted without fear of punishment.

They didn't realize how loud they were being until JC came pounding on Lance's door. JC bitched at Lance for waking him up until he caught sight of Justin, who was giggly and flushed. Then JC calmed down, laughed when Justin told him what they'd been doing. He'd even stayed and smoked a few bowls, told Lance stories about the MMC days just to embarrass Justin. Justin had told JC to shut up, but he secretly liked those stories. He liked to know that JC remembered those days, that JC was aware of how long they'd been friends. A long, long time.

Then Lance had suddenly started singing, his deep voice seeming hilarious. Out of nowhere, he's just started belting out, "Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on. For, it won't be long, till I'm gonna need somebody to lean on..." And they'd all started singing, their arms around each other's shoulders, Justin in the middle. "You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you'd understand, we all need somebody to lean on..."

Justin suddenly realized that they'd arrived at the hotel and everyone was getting out of the limo. JC was carrying Justin's jacket again. Justin looked at Lance, who hadn't seemed to notice. Justin stood between JC and Lance in the elevator, started humming to himself.

Lance looked up as he recognized the tune. "Lean on me," he sang, grinned, "Amsterdam." He laughed, knowing Justin would understand.

Justin grinned back, made a decision. Feigning a sudden interest in the elevator's emergency call phone, he moved from between JC and Lance.

* ** * ** *

Why hasn't this ended yet?!

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