by Miss Kitty E

Lance and Joey touched a lot, Justin noticed, and not in the way they all did. When Lance was homesick he would curl up against Joey on the couch, resting his cheek on Joey's offered shoulder. And Joey would almost always put one arm around him, rubbing his hand over the smooth skin on Lance's bicep, turning his face to smile into Lance's feathered blonde hair because homesickness was nothing to get worked up about, or to let Lance get worked up about. Usually, Lance would start to feel better, leaving the couch to eat or get something done, but sometimes he'd just fall asleep like that, Joey relinquishing one side of his body without complaint, gesturing, eating, flipping channels with one hand. He looked indifferent, but when Justin thought to look, his other hand would still be caressing Lance's shoulder.

And their hugs lasted too long, oh, not suspiciously so, but usually when you grabbed one of the guys for a pre-show hug, you came together only long enough for two firm slaps on the back and maybe an extra affectionate squeeze. But Lance and Joey just seemed to fit in such a way that Lance would always rest his chin on Joey's shoulder, eyes closed as if he were at peace with the world, and Joey's head would dip down, sometimes to whisper things into Lance's ear, sometimes just to be that close. They didn't slap each other on the back either, because Lance automatically looped his arms around Joey's shoulders and Joey would hold him around the waist. Doing it this way meant their hips would be pressed together, too. The whole thing would last four, maybe five seconds, but it didn't seem to Justin that it was a hug that buddies ever gave each other, in some abstract way, they were like boyfriend and girlfriend, only they didn't kiss, and Joey already had a girlfriend.

They did sleep together though, kind of. On the bus or in the dressing room, you'd find the two of them spooned together on the couch, or hell on the floor, Lance hiding his hands somewhere between their bodies because he had long, slim fingers, the kind that were always cold. Justin didn't think he'd ever be surprised to find out that they kissed when no one else was there to see, or that the noises that came from Joey's room weren't the girl you saw him with at the club, but were Lance clenching his teeth and Joey trying to keep him quiet. But he didn't really think about it much. Not until later.

They all thought about it then, tense thoughts they kept to themselves, because they were kind of scary, like maybe there wouldn't be a band next week kind of scary. Lance and Joey didn't touch anymore, instead they had quiet conversations, where nobody smiled and sometimes Lance would disappear into the bathroom for too long, and when he immerged he moved so quickly to hide in his bunk you never had the chance to see if his eyes were red, but they probably were. And Joey would stare out the window looking like he hated Lance for making him hate himself.

Kelly started showing up a lot more, and Justin didn't mind because it meant he got teased less about him and Britney. Even more so when Chris and Dani became a weird kind of "serious" that wasn't really serious at all. Lance had a girl too but he didn't really like her. She was nice enough and thought Lance was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Justin- Justin who knew next to nothing about "real girls" -knew it wouldn't last; Lance would never fight to keep her. When she threatened to leave him, he let her go, Lance didn't even look sad. Well, no more so than he had for a while now.

Out of the blue, Lance and JC started touching. Justin hadn't really noticed them talking more, nothing that would warrant this new intimacy, but they came back from one of the tour's intermittent brief breaks, and Lance just started holding JC like Joey had held him, only it wasn't ever because JC was sad or homesick. Most of the time, JC took the oppurtunity to scribble in his notebook, resting his bony cheek against Lance's fleshy shoulder, murmuring every now and then. Lance would look over when he did, and read what JC had so far, brushing his cheek over and over against JC's hair as he mused about the words he saw.

And they hugged in that same hips-pressed-together, overlong way, fitting together differently than Lance and Joey had, but just as naturally. Only, they hugged whenever they felt like it, not just before shows. When Lance had a bad day at rehearsals, when JC read a bad review, when they hadn't seen each other for more than a day. And then they started making out, on the bus and in discreet corners of their venues, and took all the mystery right out of it. The noises in JC's room were definitely Lance, and annoyingly, were frequently not muffled at all.

Nobody said anything about it, nothing more than, "Lance, tell your boyfriend to shut the fuck up." Joey didn't have the right, Chris didn't have the inclination, and Justin couldn't think of anything he wanted to say. Besides, Lance didn't look so sad anymore and Bobbi came around less. Justin had never liked her, she laughed too much and at shit that wasn't funny, like she was nervous. When he was drunk all Justin could do to keep from saying, "Why the fuck are you nervous? You've been fucking him for a year!" was to toss back another longneck.

So everything was fine and dandy, Joey didn't even get pissy or anything except he talked to JC a lot less. But only JC, Lance was still alright with him for some reason. Their album did alright, not great like before, but alright, and they all kind of breathed a collective sigh of relief when they were invited to the Grammy's again, and not as any sympathetic gesture. Lance and JC thought that night- their last Grammy night because everybody knew there wouldn't be a band after that, let alone an album, unless you counted the alright, but not great songs JC had programmed into his keyboard - they decided that night would be a good night to go public, walking down the red carpet with fingers entwined.

"Why the hands?" some VJ asked. "Afraid you'll get lost?"

The pair laughed like they got the joke and just kept on walking, and after that they were the "hot couple." People thought they were cute and every time they so much as took a piss side by side it was in a magazine. They moved into together, kind of, Lance kept his home in Mississippi, and JC kept his in LA, but they sort of shuffled around their belongings so that it was fifty-fifty. It kept them popular long enough for Lance to get a decent opening for his movie, even when the name Justin Timberlake was being used in the same jokes as Rico Suave, and... that guy who sang "Achey Breaky Heart," whoever the hell that was. But the movie wasn't good, and neither was the soundtrack which JC had a song on, and they stuck by each other, pretending they liked being normal together for a good six month or so. Then JC moved out without so much as a word about it mentioned in the nice magazines, just crap about "why" in the tabloids; some said JC's non-existent drug habit, others said Lance's non-existent escapades in Europe while promoting his movie.

The two of them both out their feelers as to who could offer comfort. Joey wouldn't go to JC and Lance wouldn't ask for Joey, so Justin was relegated to JC who was mad and just bitched all the time, and Chris got Lance who was sad and clearly on the rebound. Justin wondered if Lance would just do it all over again, go to one of them, and touch him a lot until he got what he wanted. He wondered if Chris would give in, even when he had a girlfriend. And all JC did was talk about how Justin couldn't understand, and maybe he couldn't because he suspected JC had done what Britney did, just went and ripped Lance's heart in two because he "wasn't happy."

Fucking Wade. Fucking Britney. Fucking guys not wanting to let him kick Wade out on his ass.

"I know he did you wrong, man," Chris said. "But we should try to be professional, you know? He's still a good choreographer. And the papers are all gonna know why..."

Oh yeah, and every time he came to rehearsal looking smug and talking about how he didn't get much sleep either last night, he'd by saying, "My my my, that Britney just loves to suck dick."

Eventually, they had let him have his way. But they did it when Justin wasn't there. He tried to remember if Lance had played any hand on this but couldn't. So when pictures started showing up of "washed-up duo Chris K. and Lance Bass" at some crappy function, because Lance still loved Hollywood and they were touching, Justin thought it would be okay to ditch JC who would be alright, and go over to Lance's house. He stayed for a week, distracting Lance every time he wanted to call Chris, or asking not to invite Chris along to wherever he was going, he'd rather spend some quality time with Lance alone. And in a week, Justin made up for all the time he hadn't spent with Lance while he was with Joey and JC.

And on the seventh day he kissed Lance, really gently, and Lance started crying just as gently, saying over and over, "I can't, I can't. Not again."

"Shh," and Justin held him until he stopped crying. "I know you, Lance. And for some fucked up reason you think that Joey and JC and Chris and me are the only people you can really trust to know you and love you. You're partly right, I'll take sloppy thirds, but I just dunno how much would be left after fourths."

Lance didn't seem surprised or offended, "If you just wanna fuck, Justin, say so."

"I'm not gonna fuck you like Joey, okay? Or JC. I'm not gonna leave."

"Yeah?" Lance asked, kind of tiredly resting his cheek on Justin's shoulder, liking the way Justin stroked his hair.

"Yeah." And the thing about Justin was that he was just crazy enough to mean it.

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