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

* ** * ** *

As soon as Justin was gone, Britney called Lance's cell phone. "Hello?"

"Hey!" Britney squealed, "You won't believe this!"

"Won't believe what?" Lance sipped the beer Joey had talked him into drinking.

"We don't have to do your stupid plan anymore!" She sounded thrilled.

Lance frowned. "Wait, my 'stupid plan'?"

"Okay, sorry. Your awesome, wonderful plan. The point is, we don't have to do it! Justin and JC got together!" She was sitting on her bed, holding the phone between her cheek and shoulder so her hands were free to braid her hair.

"They're together?" His eyebrows raised, "Since when?"

"Since they kissed!" Her words were slightly distorted by the scrunchie she held in her mouth, "After y'all left, Justin told me they kissed, and asked me if I'd be his beard again."

"His beard?"

"Yhea, you know, his beard. Like, his cover. His fake girlfriend, so no one will know he's gay."

"Oh." Lance paused, "What for?"

"So the public won't figure out he's with JC!" Britney said it like 'Duh'. "I mean, considering most of N Sync's fans are teenaged girls who think they're gonna marry y'all, I doubt them being outed would be a strategic career move."

"Oh, yhea." Lance felt stupid, "Well, what'd you say?"

"I told him yes!" She finished braiding her hair and twisted the scrunchie around it. "I mean, anything to help out a friend. Plus, it's good for both of us, publicity-wise."

"Yhea..." Lance trailed off into momentary silence, "So, I guess we don't have to pretend to be a couple after all, huh? That's, uh, that's a...relief."

"I don't know," Britney laughed, "I kind of thought it would be fun."

Lance swallowed, "You did?"

"Yhea, kind of," She held the phone in her hand now, "So, anyway, it's late. We better get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow at Radio City."

"Uh, yhea," Lance glanced over at Joey, who had already fallen asleep, beer still in hand, "See you tomorrow."

* ** * ** *

Why does my life have to suck so hard? JC wondered, staring into the dark. I should be sleeping right now. I need to get some sleep. But I can't sleep, 'cause all I can think about is how much My Entire Life Sucks. I'm such a goddamn idiot. I knew I was gonna scare Justin away if I wasn't careful, but I did it anyway. Now he's so freaked out he went running back to Britney. Or, no, he couldn't have, Britney's with Lance. Oh, God, that's even worse! He's Lying. He just wants me to think he's with Brit so I'll back off. That's so Fucked Up. JC pulled on his hair, wanting to scream and kick his legs like a 3 year-old; he was so frustrated. He knew better, and he *still* fucked everything up. Now Justin was resorting to Lying just to try to keep him away.

He rolled onto his side to look over at Justin's bed and was surprised to find Justin looking back. They watched each other for a while before JC said, "Why aren't you sleeping?"

Justin just shrugged.

"I know why." JC couldn't help himself. He was so tired of the bullshit. "Guilty conscience."

Justin's eyebrows raised in shock.

"You lied to me, huh? You and Britney aren't really together." He saw he was right by Justin's expression. "You did it to keep me away, right? God, J, I hate that you feel like you have to lie to me, like you can't trust me to control myself. That's why I didn't want to come out to you in the first place, I knew it'd fuck everything up."

"No." Justin's voice came firm, "I'm glad you told me. I didn't do it cause I don't trust you. I did it because, well, like I said to Britney: It will help everyone involved stay involved."

JC tried to process that, and then it hit him: Justin and Britney "getting back together" had nothing to do with him! They were doing it to keep Britney and Lance's relationship out of the press. Well, of course. It would be a huge mess if people found out. Everyone would be talking about it, making a huge deal about "love triangles" and "stolen girlfriends". It would be a big, embarrassing headache. JC smiled in relief, then sobered. "But, what about earlier? I know you said you want to forget about it, but let me just say this first: It won't happen again. Okay? So you don't have to, like, feel uncomfortable around me. I don't ever want you to feel weird with me."

Justin nodded, tried to smile. "Yhea, I know. These things happen. Nobody's perfect. We all...make mistakes."

JC's insides curled at hearing Justin call their kissing a mistake, but he was just thankful the Britney-Lie had nothing to do with him. He felt better, knowing that even if he had scared Justin away, he hadn't ruined anything. I'll just give him more time. JC though, rolling over again. "Night." He called into the dark.

"Night." Came the reply.

* ** * ** *

Well, that worked, in its own way. Justin thought, watching JC as he lay in the bed next to his. Maybe not the way I thought it would, since JC figured me out in about two seconds, but it still worked. JC's committed to being faithful to Lance and I'm...Oh, shit. I'm going to have to tell Brit that the whole fašade is off. Justin considered calling her now, but decided against it. She needed her rest for the big day tomorrow. And so do I. he thought, closing his eyes and settling onto his back. I'll call her tomorrow, soon as I get a chance.

* ** * ** *

The thing about being a popstar is, you can't wait until you Get Time to make personal calls, you have to Make Time. And amidst dress rehearsal, getting dressed, pre-show interviews and red-carpet interviews, there's No Time at all. Which is why the first chance Justin had to talk to Britney wasn't until they were seated together in the audience at the VMA's.

"Hey." Justin greeted her with a kiss on the cheek, "It's off."

"What's off?" She said absently, adjusting the decollete neckline of her dress.

"Us. Being 'together'. We don't need to do it anymore." He spoke to her, but smiled and waved to the familiar faces around him.

"Too late to back out now." She said as they leaned close for a photo, "My people already released a statement to the press, or are right now. 'Britney and Justin Admit Their Love'. It'll be all over the place by the end of the hour. For the record, it was my idea to keep it a secret and you said I could until I was comfortable having everyone know. I thought that was a nice touch. Me: the Strong, In-Control Woman. You: the Supporting Boyfriend." She stopped talking when she saw the look on Justin's face. "What?"

"Are you kidding? It's already out? But--we don't need to--damnit." He sighed, "Do you know how much bullshit we're gonna have to put up with over this?"

"Oh, shut up." She smirked, "I'm sure all the extra attention is just gonna *kill* you, seeing as how you just hate the spotlight and all. "

"Well..."Justin smiled a little, "I guess what's done is done."

"Now, some last minute Justin-Britney jokes have been worked into the show, so make sure to yuk it up." Britney batted her eyelashes at him, "Starting tonight, we are America's Favorite Couple."

Justin made sure people were watching, then kissed her cheek, pausing as the cameras caught them. "This should be fun."

* ** * ** *

The 2000 VMA's can be safely filed in *Nsync History as One of the Best Nights of Their Collective Life. They won their first, second, and third Moon men, half of the jokes were about them, and they got recognized for their clothes. It felt like everyone was just throwing praise at them, and they were like puppies getting their tummies rubbed.

The after parties were a blur of people and alcohol. Lots of both. Britney and Justin played up the attention they were getting and Joey took everything in high-heels into every private nook he could find. Chris and JC had a break-dancing competition that ended when a very drunk Chris spun right into a wall. Lance spent most of his time swapping business cards and letting girls rub up against him.

They all slept on the way to the airport the next morning, and drooled on each other's shoulders all the way through the flight to Orlando. "Oh, hey." Lance said as they headed to their separate rides home from the airport. "I'm having a barbecue tonight, in celebration of how much ass we kicked this year."

"We got a moon man!" Justin sang happily, "Fuck, we got three!"

"Thanks for not rubbing it in." Britney made a face. "You suck."

"Aw, sorry, B." Justin grinned, "Better luck next year."

Brit rolled her eyes. "That means a lot, coming from you."

Justin grabbed her face with one hand, squishing her cheeks into a chipmunk face. "So young, and yet, so bitter."

She slapped his hand off. "Okay, well, I have a tour meeting at WEG tomorrow, unlike you loafers, so I can come to your little LoserFest but I'll have to leave early."

"Why don't you just stay the night?" Joey suggested in his ever-helpful way. "Lance lives really close to WEG. You can take his car in the morning."

"No! Don't let her drive your car! Not if you ever want to see it alive again!" Screamed Justin, who still had nightmares about scratched Z3's.

"Hey, that wasn't my fault! And it was like, a year ago. Move on." Britney shoved him.

"Yhea, not your fault." Justin nodded, "That pole came out of nowhere, right?"

"I'm sorry," Brit held up her arms, appealing to the universe in general, "but who puts a two-foot pole in the middle of a parking lot?"

"Okay, who cares?" Lance interrupted before Justin could respond. "Brit, you're more than welcome to stay and use my car. Just...stay out of parking lots and away from poles. We'll meet at my place at eight, all right? It's time for some hard-core relaxation."

"I thought he was gonna say porn." Chris laughed.

"I wish he had." Joey said, "I thought he was gonna say drinking."

"I don't have to drink to have fun." Chris said snottily, then amended, "Actually, I kind of do."

"Hanging around a bunch of assholes like us, who wouldn't need a few drinks?" Joey looked at Lance, "BYOH?"

"Only if that stands for Heineken, Hydro or Hash. " Lance half-joked, half-warned. With Joey, you had to be specific.

"Heineken, Hydro and Hash. Much catchier than Crosby, Stills, and Nash." Chris noted. "We should write them a strongly-worded letter."

"And with that, Goodbye." Britney waved over her shoulder as she ran to her awaiting limo.

* ** * ** *

The barbecue wasn't much of a barbecue. The propane tank was empty, and by the time they realized what the problem was, no one was sober enough to drive to the store. They shoved all the meat in the fridge and ordered pizzas. Joey, the incorrigible optimist, raised his beer high in the air and proclaimed, "Everyone come back tomorrow night! The meat will be super-marinated!"

General approval came by way of cheering. Lance, who was currently in his backyard manning the kegs, would be informed of the rescheduling later. His only response would be a smile and a fond, "Fucking Joey."

Chris did a keg stand, then proceeded to do backflips until he threw up in the bushes. Undiscouraged, he washed his head under the hose and went inside to take some shots. Ten minutes later he was back outside, this time shirtless and on Joey's shoulders, spitting grapes at people. Joey, meanwhile, growled like a bear at whoever tried to talk to him. "Congratulations. You guys were great at the VMA's." A gorgeous brunette sidled up to him. He growled, then grabbed her boobs. She giggled and tossed her hair. Yes, PopStardom was Good.

Justin was in the living room, dancing his pretty little ass off. He sang along loudly to every song, stopping occasionally to take a shot or strip off an article of clothing. He had his boxers, pants, and one sock to go. His clothes were everywhere. One shoe behind the couch, another by the TV, shirt on the fireplace mantle, sock in the aquarium, undershirt being worn by Britney, who was dancing on the dining room table in her underwear and Justin's wifebeater, her clothes having been thrown up on and discarded in a bathroom long ago. Luckily, Chris, Britney, a guy named Todd and two blondes were the only upchuckers of the night, and none of them seemed much fazed by it. Except one of the blondes, who'd passed out and been taken home by her date.

JC, after being forced by Joey and Lance to do a keg stand, Chris biting on his shoe and Joey growling the whole time, wandered happily around the house. He danced with Britney for a while, ate a grape he found on a kitchen counter, sat on some random woman's lap in a group of people in the den, hitting their pipe and discussing Saved by the Bell, and then realized he had to pee. He went upstairs, ducking under the yellow police tape Lance put up at parties to keep people out. He knew it didn't apply to him.

Nobody was supposed to go upstairs, so he was surprised when he went into a guestroom and tried to open the bathroom door only to find it locked. Sure, he could try another bathroom, but who was in there? He jiggled the doorknob and knocked. "Hello?"

"Hey." It was Justin. "I fell in the tub."

"Are you okay?"

"Yhea, I'm--" sounds of scuffling. "I'm getting up." Something fell. "Shit!" Justin sounded more frantic than hurt.

"Open the door!" JC jiggled the knob impatiently. "Whadja do?"

"Shit. Shit." Some more noises, and then the door opened. There stood Justin, behind him the shower curtain rod was inside of the tub. "It fell down."

"You pulled it down?" JC went and picked up the rod, pulling the curtain before the rings could slip off.

"Accident." Justin came up behind JC. "Can you fix it?"

"Yhea, just. Fuck." JC moved to one side. "Grab the other end. Don't let the curtain slide off." Justin obeyed. "Now lift it up and push it towards me. Okay, now lift it up, here. Stop. We even? Okay, let go." The rod snapped back into place.

Justin slid the curtain open and gave JC a relieved smile. "Yay."

"How'd you fall in the tub?" JC looked him over. He was wearing pants with an unbuckled belt and boxers that were puffing over the waist of his pants. His hair was sticking up on one side of his head.

"I was like this." Justin stood in front of the toilet. "I went pee, and then I felt like sitting down. So I sat on the edge of the tub like this." He demonstrated. "And then I felt like I was kind of leaning back really slow." Neither of them realized Justin was actually doing it until he landed in the tub with a thud. "Ouch. And then that happened." He lifted his ass so he could rub it.

"How long were you in there before I came?" JC stepped on Justin's foot, the one that was actually on the floor and not dangling in mid-air, and leaned on it a little.

"Ow." Justin moved his foot away. "I don't know. Not too long, I guess."

"You're awesome." JC informed him, pulling the curtain closed. "I have to pee."

Justin's legs, still sticking out, kicked vaguely. "I'll watch."

"No." JC unzipped his pants.

"I can hear you." Justin said.

"Listen up." JC peed.

"Gross." Justin kicked some more.

JC washed his hands and took his time drying them before reopening the curtain. "Let's go?"

"Help." Justin made a pitiful face and held out a hand. JC took the hand, but before he could pull up, Justin pulled him down.

He crashed into the tub, one knee hitting Justin's stomach, the other on porcelain, and his forehead on the shower wall. He groaned, turning so he could sit and rub his head. Justin was bent over in pain, clutching his stomach. JC hit his shoulder. "Jerk."

"I got hurt, too." Justin protested, but he was grinning.

"You think you're so funny." JC scowled, rubbing his knees. Justin laughed, threw an arm around JC and pulled him in so he could laugh in his ear. "Get off me." JC grumped, but Justin just threw a leg over both of JC's and drew him closer, yuked-up laughter getting louder by the, "Ha!" JC tried to push him away, but Justin squished one arm between them and held the other one. JC wiggled the squished arm a bit and pinched Justin's side so hard he yelped.

"That hurt!" Justin objected.

"What, this feels good?" JC looked down at his imprisoned arm. Justin moved away long enough to let JC rearrange himself so his arm went around Justin's back. They sat in silence for a little while. Justin plucked at JC's shirt, rucking it a little higher with every tug. JC watched with mild interest.

"Hey." Justin said suddenly. JC looked up at him questioningly. "We should take a bath." Justin wiggled his eyebrows invitingly.

"Okay." JC agreed.

Justin's eyebrows stopped wiggling and shot up in surprise. "Really?"

"Yhea." JC shrugged, "Why not?" He grinned devilishly, "Sounds like fun."

"But--" Justin stopped, looked confused. "That would be wrong."

"Why?" JC considered. Him and Justin, naked in a bathtub. That seemed pretty damn right to him.

"Because of Lance!" Justin nearly shouted. He said it again, softer this time. "Because of Lance."

Oh, right. This was Lance's bathtub. JC didn't really see the harm in it, though. It's not like it was Lance's master bathroom. And he knew for a fact that Lance had done plenty worse at Justin's house. "So what? He won't care."

Justin looked at JC like he'd suggested they do it on his mom's bed. "What?!"

JC grinned, finding Justin's prudence funny. "Dude, chill. I really doubt Lance would care if he knew, but how's he even gonna find out?" JC leaned close and rasped naughtily, "I won't tell if you don't."

Justin looked downright disgusted. He shoved away from JC, scrambling to disentangle himself and get out of the tub. He stood above JC, his face as red as a Coke can, pointing at him accusingly. "You make me sick!" He shouted, not caring who heard. "You Fucking Asshole!"

"Dude!" JC hefted himself up and followed Justin as he stormed into the guestroom. "Quit freaking out!"

"Quit freaking out?" Justin laughed in amazement. "I should kick your ass!"

"For what?" JC was getting mad himself.

"For Lance!" Justin couldn't believe JC's nerve. "For the way you're disrespecting him! Coming on to me like that!"

"Good God, J. It's a stupid bathtub." JC crossed his arms. "And for the record, I think you were the one who suggested the bath in the first place!"

"Yhea, but I was kidding, kind of, and." Justin paused. "And, yhea, that was wrong of me. But, I wasn't thinking. I mean, I'm a little drunk and you were right there and I just--" He cut himself off again. "But you-- how can you treat Lance like this?"

"Like what?" JC still didn't see what the big deal was.

"Like, you keep hitting on me!" There. He'd said it.

JC waited for Justin to go on. "And?"

Justin freaked. "And?! AND?! And how the hell can you do that when you're with Lance? I mean, what the hell is wrong with you? If you're supposedly so fucking in love with him, why the hell are you hitting on me every five seconds? Don't you have any heart at all? You fucking bastard!"

JC stared at Justin. Shocked Silence. Finally he said, "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Justin, a little out of breath from his rant, had his hands on his hips as he calmed down. "Huh?"

"I'm not in...me and Lance?" JC laughed. "Oh God, me and Lance?" JC hooted, very amused by the idea.

"But you..." Justin was very confused now. He sat on the edge of the bed. "I thought Lance is with Britney?" JC sat by Justin, more than a little confused himself.

Justin shook his head, shrugged. "Is he?" He didn't really give a damn about either one of them right now. He had more important things to figure out. "I don't get it."

"Me neither." JC said. "Why would you think me and Lance...?"

"Well, because." Justin was having some sort of drunken hallucination, he was sure. This was surreal. "You're. You're gay, right?"

JC laughed. "Um, yhea. Last I checked." He pretended to think about it. "Yhea, I'm gay."

Justin smiled a little, then stopped. "You said you were in love with Lance."

"No, I didn't." He scooted closer, so that Justin's arm was against his chest.

Justin leaned into JC, keeping his eyes on his hands, which were clasped in his lap. "You said you were in love."

JC nodded slowly, his lips curling into a smile. "Yes."

The tone of voice was answer enough. Justin's heart leaped into his throat and he waited a moment before he could speak. "So, then...if it's not Lance...who is it?"

JC brought his hand to Justin's cheek, looked into his eyes. "One guess."

Justin grinned. He leaned happily into JC's kiss. He laughed, kissed him again. Two kisses turned into three turned into mouth hands clothes tug skin heat. "Yes." He said to himself, tossing aside JC's shirt as they lay back on the bed.

"Yes what?" JC rolled obligingly so Justin could cover him.

"Yes yes." Justin explained, nipping his way down JC's chest.

"Ah," JC clutched Justin's hair as he took JC's nipple into his mouth. "Yes yes."

* ** * ** *

"Hey!" Chris, who was floating around the pool on a floatie shaped like a fish, used his hands to paddle towards the jacuzzi. "Hey, I have a question."

Joey, one hand guiding the head that bobbed in the water above his lap, grunted.

"Where are our wonderboys, I wonder?" Chris splashed the water with his feet. "I wonder where they wandered?"

The head in Joey's lap came up for air, and Joey let the girl kiss him as she caught her breath. When she was safely submerged again, Joey said, "They're probably off in some room together getting it on."

Chris laughed, then considered. "You think?"

"Haven't you noticed the sexual tension lately?" Joey said, "You could cut it with a-- Whoa!"

The girl came up coughing. "Water came up my nose." She complained, "Can't we do this somewhere else?"

"We can go to the garage." Joey offered graciously, hiking up his boxers as he got out of the jacuzzi. Never let it be said that a Fatone isn't a gentleman.

A few minutes later Dani showed up with Lance. "There you are!" She cried.

"Here I am." Chris agreed.

"I told you to meet me in the living room!" Dani had come to the party late, having had some Fu-Man business that just couldn't wait. "I've been here for almost three hours! Some jackass told me you'd gone to the store, so I was waiting for you."

"Well, what we have here is a failure to communicate." Chris splashed her. "You should've called."

"I called you a hundred times!" Dani sat by the pool and let her feet dangle in, a little past tipsy.

"Well, I left my phone in the car." Chris sounded annoyed. "That wasn't very smart of me."

"Well, I would've looked for you if someone hadn't insisted you were at the store." Dani glared at Lance.

"I thought he was!" Lance defended himself. "He said he was going to the store."

"That's true." Chris nodded solemnly. "I did say that. But it was a lie."

"Why'd you lie?" Lance threw an empty beer can at him.

Chris shrugged, "Why do we ever do what we do? What is the meaning of life? How many licks does it take so get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? The world may never know."

"Let's go swimming." Dani suggested, taking off her dress. "The water feels good." She looked at Lance expectantly, "You go get everyone."

"Who's everyone?" Lance took off his shirt and threw it at Chris. It missed.

"You know. Joey and Justin and JC. And Britney." She swam out towards Chris, "And Justin, too."

"Justin and JC are makin' whoopie." Chris grinned, "Don't go a-knockin'."

Lance gaped at Chris in shock. "What did you say?"

"Yhea, you better believe it." Chris helped Dani onto his floatie. They sank more than a little. "Joey cracked the code. He had a brain fart-- and it smelled like GAY SEX!" Dani slapped a hand over his mouth, giggling and hushing him. Chris bit her hand happily, looking at Lance. "I'm serious, you know. Serious George."

"Curious George." Dani corrected, biting him back.

"I'm curious, too." Chris agreed. "Why are they keeping it a secret?"

"They just got together," Lance said, "I'm sure they're planning on telling us soon."

"Well, you go find Britney and Joey, and make them come swim." Dani ordered, pointing towards the house.

"Oh, um. Just Britney." Chris spit water at Dani. "Joey went to the store."

* ** * ** *

Lance found Britney in the kitchen threading Froot Loops onto a shoelace she'd tied to her navel ring. She smiled goofily when he walked in. "Howdy, cowboy!"

He pretended to tip his hat to her. "Ma'am."

She giggled, held up the string. "Wanna help?"

"Maybe next time." He sat by her on the ground. "You should probably go to bed soon, if you've got to be up in the morning. It's pretty late."

She gave him a look. "Sure thing, Mama."

"No, I'm just saying..." Lance flicked the Froot Loop string. "Never mind. Sorry."

"Just teasin'." She nudged him with her elbow, then put a Froot Loop up to his mouth. He let her feed it to him. She stared at him a moment. "I like you." She said, and then kissed him.

"I like you, too." He said, and then kissed her.

"Well, now that that's settled," she stood up, letting Froot Loops slip off the shoelace and onto the floor. "I'm going to bed."

He watched her leave, listening as her footsteps faded before going about picking up the mess.

* ** * ** *

"Hey." JC stopped Justin from sliding further down JC's body.

"What?" Justin lay on top of JC; they were both naked as the day they were born. Justin really couldn't see what was worth stopping to talk about.

"You know." JC was panting lightly, and Justin wasn't help matters by grinding against him like that. "We're both kind of drunk right now."

"Yhea." Justin mouthed JC's abs, "Okay."

"And." JC fought to remember his point. "And this'll be our first time together if we do this tonight."

Justin kneaded JC's thighs, "Mmm-hmm."

"And I was just--" His breath hitched as Justin slid lower and sucked high on his inner-thigh. "Wondering. Cause. If you might. Want it to be special. Or."

"Oh, it'll be special." Justin assured him, licking the spot where JC's leg and hip met.

"What if we," JC moaned, "Don't remember."

"Mmm." Justin stroked him, "I have an excellent memory." And then took JC into his mouth.

At that point, JC was sure he wouldn't forget a thing, either.

* ** * ** *

When Joey woke up that afternoon, he was face down in Lance's backyard. He got up and stumbled into the kitchen.

"Morning." Dani greeted him.

"It's alive!" Chris screeched and ran in fear.

Joey sat at the table and waited to be fed. Eventually, Chris poured him a bowl of cereal.

Lance came in as he was finishing and got him a refill without being asked. That is why Friends Are Great. "Get any bug bites on your face?"

Joey, much more awake now and feeling almost-human, shook his head. "Don't think so."

Lance ruffled his hair, "Still up for barbecuing tonight?"

Joey grinned, "Hell yhea."

"I have some work to do." Dani announced, jumping from her perch on the counter. "I better get going."

"You always have work." Chris whined.

"Well, we all can't be kept men like you." She got her purse and keys together. "Just sitting at home watching soaps and eating bon-bons all day long."

"Grill goes on at eight. " Lance said, "Be there or else."

"Bring cute friends." Joey added.

"Okay, see you guys later." She walked out the best she could with Chris hanging on her.

Lance turned to Joey, looked at him steadily. Finally, Joey said, "What?"

"How'd you know?" Lance demanded.

"Know what?" Joey smiled.

"Know what?" Lance scoffed. "How'd you know?"

"A little birdie told me."

"Shut up. How'd you know?"

"I'm smarter than I look. I figured it out."

"Shut up. How'd you know?"

Joey huffed, offended. "What, it's impossible that I figured it out myself?"

Lance gave him a look.

"Ha. Okay." Joey held his hands up in surrender. "Britney told me."

"What? When?"

"Last night. I was dancing with her in the dining room and we saw JC going upstairs. She asked me where Justin was, and I told her I'd seen him go upstairs earlier. So she goes, you know," He imitated a drunk girl voice, "I bet they're up there getting it on. Did you know they're together?"

Lance was appalled. "What'd you say?"

"I said that was news to me. Then she made me swear not to tell a soul. But I just told you. Oh, my." Joey made an uh-oh face.

"How'd you know if it was true?" Lance said, "I mean, you just took her word for it?"

"Dude, when someone's girlfriend tells you they're gay, I'll admit it's usually bullshit, but I mean, Brit and J are good friends. I don't think she'd make up shit about him. And, I dunno, the way she said it. Drunken Britney tells no tales." Joey shrugged, "But I didn't really know. Until now. If that's what you're saying."

"Well...what if it is?" Lance didn't know if he should be the one breaking the news.

Joey shrugged again. "I don't care. Do you care?"

Lance shook his head. "I don't care. Do you think Chris will care?"

Chris, Master of Timing that he is, chose this moment to come back into the room. "Care about what?"

"Uh..." Lance and Joey exchanged glances.

"What?" Chris prompted.

"The thing is..." Lance cleared his throat.

"Just kidding." Chris interrupted, "I was eavesdropping the whole time. And for the record: I don't care, either."

* ** * ** *

JC woke up with two armfuls of Justin and a smile on his face. He buried his face in Justin's hair and...

"Dude, are you chewing my hair?" Justin's voice was muffled against his chest.

JC froze. "Um...I thought you were asleep."

"I was just laying." Justin pulled away a little so he could look at JC. "Were you chewing my hair?"

"No." JC's face warmed.

"It sure felt like you were." Justin looked at him funny.

"I was just." JC titled his head to one side, "Munching."

Justin broke into a grin. He bit his lip, eternally charmed. "You. are such. a weirdo."

JC grinned back, letting Justin roll him onto his back and straddle him. Justin kissed him. "So, do you remember last night?"

JC nodded.

"You weren't too drunk and forgot everything?" Teasing tone.

JC started to shake his head, then said, "Maybe you should remind me, just in case."

Justin answered that with a long, deep kiss that ended when JC's hands came to rest on Justin's ass, pressing him closer insistently. "Oh, hey." Justin pulled away. "We should probably go back to my place before we do this again."

"Do what?" JC asked innocently, reaching down to hold Justin. "This?"

"Mm, yhea." Justin thrust into JC's hand, unable to resist.

JC brought his free hand to Justin's neck and guided him into a kiss before putting his mouth to Justin's ear. "How about a bath?"

Justin's eyes opened in surprise and he laughed, moving away. "You're bad." He tugged on his boxers and pants and tossed JC his clothes. "Get dressed."

JC dressed, keeping a hurt expression that faded when Justin said, "I have a bigger bathtub at home." Justin laughed at how quickly JC's face changed and gathered him for another kiss. "Nympho."

JC sighed contentedly, not bothering to argue.

"So," Justin hesitated with his hand hovering over the doorknob. "What are we going to do about the others?"

"Other what?" JC was busy petting Justin's bare back.

"Are you gonna tell people, or." Justin caught JC's gaze. "I mean, the guys?"

Honestly, if he could've, JC would've had airplanes spelling it out in the sky since daybreak. "Um. I don't know. What do you want?"

"Why don't we just," Justin kind of squinted his eyes, "See how it goes?"

"Okay." JC agreed easily. He couldn't give one red hot damn either way. As long as he had Justin, Nothing Else Mattered.

* ** * ** *

"I hear people." Joey said as a bedroom door opened upstairs.

"Hey, my impression of Haley Joel Osmend in his first porno, The Sixth Inch," Chris made a blank little boy face, "I hear gay people."

"Shut up, Chris." Lance felt suddenly nervous. "What should we do?" They were all in the living room, watching MTV with the volume on low so they could make fun of it.

"Um...we should just..." Joey thought fast, "Play dumb."

"That'll be easier for some than it will for others." Chris was stretched out on the loveseat eating grapes. He'd been in a Grape Mood lately.

Joey made a face at him, "Eat a dick."

"It think that JC and Ju--" Chris started, but Lance stopped him with violent shh-ing.

And then there they were. The men of the hour.

"Hey, guys." Justin said, "What's for breakfast?"

Silence.

Suddenly, Chris flung himself at JC, screaming, "You can't have him! He's mi-i-ine!" They landed on the floor with a loud thud. Chris grinned up at Justin proudly, "You'll have to duel me for him! To the death!"

Justin looked at the others. "So, I guess you know."

And they laughed. And it wasn't perfect, but it was a start.

* ** * ** *

The barbecue was starting in half an hour, and they were almost ready for it. Lance, Joey, and Britney sat at the kitchen table cutting vegetables and Chris was filling coolers with drinks and ice. Justin was outside with JC by the grill. JC was wearing a slightly-altered KISS THE COOK apron. Justin had used black tape to turn the second O into a C, explaining, "You are what you eat." And giving JC a wet, nasty kiss. They were now busy pretending to clean the grill as they crammed in as much groping as possible before the other guests arrived.

Britney sighed regretfully as she bit into a slice of tomato. "I wish I could've ben here for the whole coming-out scene. What a letdown."

"It was no big deal." Joey consoled her, "We all already knew by the time they came downstairs."

"Yhea, I know." She shrugged, "But I just feel ripped off. 'Cause, I kind of feel responsible for getting them together, you know?"

Lance snorted, "How's that?"

Britney blinked at him, surprised. "What, you think you did it?"

Lance lifted a shoulder. "They never would've hooked up last night if I hadn't had the barbecue."

She made a little noise of disbelief. "You never would've been trying to hook them up if it wasn't for me!"

"They never would've made a move if it wasn't for the booze!" Piped up Joey, who'd supplied said booze.

"Well, fuck all of you. They never would've met at all if I hadn't started the group." Chris said.

"They knew each other before *N sync." Britney reminded him rudely.

"Yhea, that's stupid." Lance said, "They would've hooked up either way."

Chris, who always enjoyed letting other people make his points for him, just smiled.

* ** * ** *

Justin held JC's waist, peering discreetly over his shoulder into the house. "Don't look now, but we're being watched."

JC, who was far more interested in the man he had backed up against the grill than in anything else at all, nodded absently. "Let's give 'em a good show." Too bad kissing Justin wasn't a paying job. He could easily spend the rest of his life doing nothing besides. JC growled restlessly when Justin broke away. "So, how long before we can ditch our friends and go back to your place?"

"Hmm. Too long." Justin glanced at his wristwatch. "A few hours, at least."

"I'll never make it." JC swore, "I'll die."

"Oh, come on. You can do it." Justin rubbed JC's sides encouragingly. "We'll just find something to keep us occupied."

JC sighed, "Like what?"

Justin looked around, thinking. Suddenly, he brightened. "I got it!"

"What?" JC turned to follow Justin's gaze. He was looking into the kitchen at their friends.

"Lance is jonesin' for Britney, right?" Justin started.

JC nodded slowly, "Yhea..."

"We'll hook them up!" Justin exclaimed, like it was the most obvious, greatest idea ever.

"How the hell will we do that?" JC said, not interested in messing with other people's love-lives.

"Please. We're gonna hook up two of our best friends, who we've known for years and are so obviously meant for each other." Justin poked him, grinning. "How hard can it be?"

"I dunno." JC still wasn't crazy about the idea. "Why doesn't Lance just tell her how he feels? It's so frustrating."

"I know." Justin sighed, wrapping his arms around JC and resting his chin on his shoulder. "Some people are so clueless."

* ** * ** *

-GOOD RIDDANCE-

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