They were all bored, and in the same hotel room for lunch. The photoshoot that morning had been particularly irritating, with uglier than usual clothing and a boring photographer. The rest of the afternoon was going to be pretty dull: a radio interview, maybe two, and then another show that night.
Justin was stuffing his face with a ham and mustard sandwich when Lance announced, "I've taken up with the black arts."
There was a pause where Justin choked on his sandwich and Chris looked at Lance like he couldn't believe what he'd just heard. Chris thumped Justin on the back, and then asked, incredulous, "Who says 'taken up' anymore?"
Justin blinked, trying to process what they'd said last. Maybe he'd hallucinated it.
Lance shrugged, and took another bite of his turkey and mayo sandwich. "It's a good phrase."
Chris put his Coke down and answered, "The last person that said 'taken up' was on 'Little House on the Prairie'."
Justin sat up straighter, trying to interrupt Chris. "Didn't anyone else hear the 'black arts' part of that?"
Chris railroaded right over him. "And besides, the black arts is so 80s."
Lance eyed him, even as he grinned. "Hey, little man, you grew up in the 80s..."
"And I have a fine appreciation for the Ramones."
Justin blinked again, and waved his arms in the air. "Is no one paying attention to the important part here? Magic?"
Lance raised an eyebrow, and said to Chris, "Like that's gonna earn you any points."
Chris jumped up, annoyed. "The 80s had a lot more going for them than the 90s, boy! Name one good punk band to come out of the 90s." He had his hands on his hips, and looked smug.
Lance rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on. Name one good punk band period."
Chris looked indignant, saying, "Blashphemy!"
"Yeah, exactly! Blasphemy!" Justin's eyes were wide, as the two of them stared at each other. He was getting the crazy-people feeling again, so when JC and Joey wandered in, Justin latched onto them. "Guys!" he said, a little desperately. "Lance said--"
Lance looked at him as if he'd only just noticed that Justin was in the room, and then turned back to JC and Joey. "Oh, hi guys. I've taken up with the black arts."
JC had sat down on the couch, next to Lance, and looked deep in thought. He finally said, "Aren't you supposed to call it wicca, now, not magic or the black arts? Isn't that the right word now?"
Joey frowned a little. "Shouldn't that be 'taken up the black arts', not 'taken up with'?"
Lance was shaking his head while Chris answered, "No, wicca is that New Age shit that people do with crystals. The black arts are all about thick eyeliner and punk, and Laura Ingalls Wilder."
Justin clicked his teeth together once or twice. "Did nobody hear what he said?"
Joey nodded wisely, and for a minute Justin thought that sanity would be restored. Then he came up with, "That chick had to be doing some weird mojo to keep that show on the air so long."
"Mojo is voodoo... though, I guess that counts too." Chris looked thoughtful. "Hey, yeah. You'd better watch your soul, Lance, or you'll meet Laura Ingalls Wilder in hell,"
JC chewed his lip. "I think 'taken up with' is right. Because it's like, a love affair with magic, you know? 'Taken up with'. Hey, that could be a really cool lyric--"
"YES!" Justin took a breath. "Magic. Is no one listening?"
"--no wait, C, because Ricky already did that song, with the--" Joey looked annoyed. "Damn, I can't remember. The girl that's voodoo and stuff. So it's already been done."
Chris sighed, looking completely exasperated. "Ricky Martin has nothing to do with the forces of darkness, guys. The Misfits, the Damned, Mucus Membrane. Those were the days."
Joey snorted, saying, "Ricky's got voodoo too," and then giggled.
Justin looked around. JC was smiling dreamily and saying he liked 'Little House on the Prairie', which Chris answered was no surprise. Lance had started ignoring them ten minutes ago in favor of checking his email. Justin looked pained, and put his head in his hands. The crazy-people feeling was getting worse.
Justin gulped down some water, and approached Lance cautiously. He asked finally, "Dude, are you really... you know?"
Lance looked at him. "Am I really what?"
"Into magic." As soon as Justin said it, he felt more foolish than when he'd asked if Chris was 'really gay, or kinda gay, or like JC gay?', and he'd probably squeaked less then, too. Even despite the bizarro conversation they'd all had this morning, it was still the stupidest thing in the world for him to have said.
Lance grinned at him, and answered vaguely. "Oh, you know."
Justin wanted to say, 'No, I don't,' but instead he watched Lance go up to Wade and say very clearly, "I'm taking off for the rest of the day. Later."
Which was completely against the rules of conduct: no one took off early from a choreography meeting unless it was life and death. Justin suddenly twitched, wondering if maybe, since Lance was all, you know, maybe this was life or death.
As soon as he thought it, he felt more foolish than before -- more foolish even than he'd thought he might actually have a chance to play professional ball. Still, Lance got out of rehearsal and he was still here.
Justin glared at Wade. Wade glared back.
In a break one day, Joey walked in on Lance, cutting up a picture of Carson Daly and chanting something that sounded like Russian, except with more Z's than usual. Joey leaned against the wall, and said, "Hi."
Lance looked up. "Oh, hi."
Lance answered, "Oh, I'm trying to hex Carson's karma-- kind of like putting a knot in his mental energy? Basically I want him to cry on television. But it's not working." He blew a puff of air out his nose, glaring balefully around him. "I must admit. I'm very vexed."
Joey laughed, kicking a few of the pieces of Carson's face with his toe. His nose got a scuff mark on it. "Who says 'vexed' anymore? I swear, this magic stuff's gotten to your brain, man. You're walking around like you're from the 1800s."
"My mother says 'vexed'," Lance replied.
"Well there you go," said Joey. The picture began to glow a little.
Justin leaned over his shoulder, peering at the little action figure in his hand. "What's that?"
Lance frowned in concentration, tongue sticking out of his mouth just a little bit. "Nothing." It was a Kevin Richardson action figure from Burger King. Lance said suddenly, "Don't tell anyone, okay?"
Justin shrugged, trying the calm and collected approach. "Yeah, whatever." He wasn't gonna tell anyone that Lance had little pins sticking into a Backstreet Boy. No one would believe him.
They were relaxing after a rehearsal when Joey asked, "So how'd you get into magic?"
Lance shrugged. "We communicate with lesser regions of hell every day, just calling our management. It was a small step."
"So, the Moulin Rouge video... Christina's hair--"
"Ahhh." Lance smiled, looking incredibly self-satisfactory. "That was my first real curse. It worked like a charm."
Carson cried on television. Lance taped it.
They were rehearsing, and Wade had gone over to talk to his assistant Robin when Lance leaned over and said to the rest of them, "He's the spawn of Satan."
Chris and Joey both snorted. "Been there, done that, remember?"
Justin looked at Wade. Wade was his friend. He should probably defend him. He said uncertainly, "I know that he pushes us hard, and stuff, but that's no reason to insult him."
Wade looked right at Lance, and waved. Lance waved back. JC asked conversationally, "So you've got some big plan, right? What's Wade's part in it?"
Lance leaned down, stretching his calf muscle. "He's the best choreographer we've got. Why," he asked JC, grinning, "Do you have plans for him yourself?"
JC blushed bright red. "No!" He coughed, and lowered his voice. "I mean, no."
Justin kept stretching, watching Wade out of the corner of his eye. Once or twice, he thought Wade looked a little... weird. But they were under fluorescent lights, which made anyone look weird.
"I bet he's the apple of your eye," Lance said, and leaned over to tickle JC. While JC was squealing, Lance was saying teasingly, "I could get you a potion to catch him, you know. Or some candles, maybe. You could make Wade fall in love with you!"
Joey was laughing, clutching his stomach, saying, "You're so from the pioneer era, Lance! 'Apple of your eye'? What is this!"
Chris came back in the room, and Justin focused on getting all the steps right and not looking at Wade.
"Johnny says that Kevin's not gonna make it to the party tonight," Lance said casually.
Justin widened his eyes. "What did you--"
Lance looked at him oddly. "Me?"
"Um, nothing." Justin could feel the beginning of a blush forming. "Why isn't Kevin coming?"
"Oh. He hurt his back skiing or something. Nothing serious, but you know. Sore as hell. Can't dance." He wandered away.
Chris danced up to Lance. "Did Junior see your voodoo doll?"
"He know that Nicky took Kevin skiing?"
"Does he know that Kevin can't ski and that putting him anywhere near a mountain makes his muscles tense up so badly that Marga, the Swedish masseuse, can't get the kinks out?"
Lance's mouth twitched, wanting to smile, but holding back. "Nope."
Chris grinned wide. "You're putting one hell of a hex on Justin, you know. He's started praying for you."
Lance looked serious for a minute, eyes a lot darker. "I'm grateful."
Chris was uncomfortable. "Yeah, well, he'll also probably hide from you for the next four days because of Kevin's skiing 'trauma'." He eyed Lance for a minute. "You didn't have anything to do with that, did you?"
Lance looked innocent. "Who, me? All I did was do a favor for Nicky, and made the reservation for them."
Chris almost choked on his martini. Lance looked serious again. "Don't tell Justin."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Chris leaned his chin on Lance's shoulder, and chewed his lip. "Hey, man. You gotta teach me some of this stuff."
"Magic in your hands? I don't fucking think so. You're hyper enough already."
"No!" Chris waved his hand around, almost spilling his drink down Lance's shirt. "Just, the simple stuff. I wanna learn. Come on, teach me? I'll be like, your apprentice or something."
Lance hesitated, but finally went back to grinning. "What the hell, I guess. See, It's all in the delivery."
Justin swallowed. Wade was his friend, and as such, he'd probably laugh out loud, and then smile at him and never let him live it down... but he wouldn't get him locked up in a mental institution, at least not for sure, so that was a plus. He went into the practise room.
"Do you ever wonder why! This music gets you high!" Wade was pacing through new steps, and Justin cleared his throat. "It takes you on a ride-- Hey Justin!"
Wade liked to sing along. Justin made a face. "Okay. I'm gonna just ask you something. And I know that the guys are all playing some kinda trick on me, some long involved joke, and I know they've got you in on it, but I gotta ask anyway so that things can get back to normal around here and I know that Lance isn't really doing magic but areyouandLanceincohorts?"
Wade watched him spit it all out, and then started to laugh. Justin sighed. "I knew this was all one big, stupid practical--"
"Who says 'cohorts' anymore!" Wade managed to choke out.
Justin blinked. "What?"
Wade was bent over, trying to gulp in enough air to speak. "Cohorts. Who says that anymore? It's as bad as 'taken up with', for Chrissake--"
Justin blinked again. "What?"
Wade walked over, and patted Justin's shoulder, still trying to catch his breath. "Oh, man. Justin."
"I don't quite. What?"
"What did he tell you?" Wade snorted. "Did he tell you I went to him? Cause that's totally wrong, you know. When you hired me, you hired the best damned choreographer out there."
Justin opened his mouth a few times, and closed it. He tried again, saying slowly, "And no one's denying that..."
Joey and Chris came in, interrupting the incredibly akward moment of Wade staring at Justin. Justin was grateful, because he was starting to get the feeling that he'd swallowed a bug or something. Wade turned to them, "Oh, you'll never believe what Justin just asked me..."
Chris grinned, saying "What?" as Justin said, "Wade!"
Wade answered, "He asked if Lance and me were 'in cohorts'!" He started laughing again. "Can you believe it!"
Chris snickered. "It sounds like an episode of Batman from the 60s! Come on, J, who says that anymore?"
Wade replied through giggles, "That's what I said--"
and Justin worked his mouth, gaping a bit like a fish but not at all willing to say anything else, just in case someone made fun of his grammar or slang anymore. Cause that's the important part of the conversation. Yeah.
Joey turned 'Pop' on again, and tilted his head. "You know, you and Wade do good work together. Does this mean you're going to hell too, J?"
Wade looked at Justin's face sympathetically. "Nah. It's not a sin. I mean, in general, I don't go for the sinning much anymore. Sure, I recruit souls for hell, but as a hobby. Choreography is my life."
Justin nodded faintly, realizing that he hadn't moved since Wade had first started talking. He walked to the door of the rehearsal room, very steadily, very casually, and left Chris and Joey arguing about whether liking the video for 'Slave 4 U' could actually be considered a mortal sin, or just dirty.
Once they got on the road for real, Chris and Anthony started bringing up all these really great 80s bands. After the first show, Chris jumped into Lance's lap with a CD, triumphantly. "Got you a present, loser."
Lance looked at him. "What?"
"The first 'White Snake' album!"
"Chris." Lance sighed. "Magic doesn't have to do with the music, honey."
JC answered, "Sure it does. I mean, we're magic."
Justin walked in. "What're y'all doing?"
Chris said, "We're trying to edju-ma-cate Lance into the black arts music scene of the 80s. Anthony helped me. Well, this is kinda cheating, but Anthony swears by it, so I figure, trust the expert."
Lance rubbed his face. "For the last time, Chris, putting safety pins in your nose does not make you a sorceror--"
Justin felt his head starting to hurt, and Chris saying, "I'm not a sorceror, you ass, I'm just a discerning music listener--" didn't make it any better.
Nor did Lance replying, "At least the musicians I listen to can sing--"
and Chris answering, "What kind of black magician listens to Alan Jackson, for chrissake!" made his temples positively throb.
JC patted his curls affectionately. "You okay, J?"
"Yeah. Um." He swallowed. "I'm gonna take an aspirin."
Lance stopped arguing with Chris for a minute. "Headache? I can get rid of that for you. Just pass me that piece of yellow paper and my lighter--"
"No, no." Justin smiled in what he hoped was a friendly manner. "I'm okay."
"Okay," Lance answered easily. Justin backed out. Chris was laughing.
Justin walked in on Chris and Lance sitting on the bed together, staring into a crystal ball. The fact that Chris jumped up, and acted completely normal, made Justin feel worse. He made his apologies and ran away, rubbing his head.
Johnny had taken them out to dinner for lobster, to congratulate them on a successful single and stuff. JC was wiping his mouth daintily on a napkin, and Joey was digging into the calamari.
Lance said, "Pass the salt, please," and when Joey did, he threw a little pinch over his right shoulder, smiling smugly.
Chris looked horrified. "You're gonna give us bad luck for the next seven years!"
Lance said, "That's an old wives' tale. This is real magic, dumbass."
Justin watched Lance's mouth form the words, but didn't believe they were actually coming out. Even after two weeks of the biggest fucking prank they'd ever played, he still couldn't believe when Lance added, "This witch I knew told me that it keeps the spirits of dead food animals away."
"Animals don't have spirits." Justin could have kissed Joey.
JC shook his head, wiping lobster from his mouth. "Sure they do. Lots of ancient cultures worshipped animals. Lots of tribes in Africa--"
"Don't start in on one of your anthropological lectures again, JC--"
"I didn't even know you knew words that long, Chris--"
Lance picked at his catfish. Joey leaned over. "I don't think catfish have spirits."
Lance shrugged. "Better safe than sorry, Mercy said."
"What kind of a name is--"
"Besides," Lance continued, "salt is the universal Flavorer, and it grounds you to the place you're sitting. It's a stabilizing influence."
JC said, "We're in a restaurant made of a houseboat."
Justin finally stopped wringing his hands enough to ask, "Where did you meet Mercy?" He thought it sounded very casual, very accepting.
Lance shrugged again, poking a piece of catfish in his mouth and replying, "Oh, this wicca group I went to when we were in St. Louis."
"Lance, you can't be a witch, because you're not a girl--"
"Well, he kind of is."
Justin tried for the hundredth time to press home his point. He would have thought it was a fairly simple one, but no. "Guys. We're discussing magic here. We're talking about MAGIC. Hello?"
JC considered it for a minute. He just said, finally, "He does have the hips. I think he's kinda girly. Maybe not like, Ashley Angel girly, but he's girly."
Chris nodded. "Ashley would be a witch, yeah, totally..."
Justin pinched the bridge of his nose. Joey passed the salt. JC and Chris got into an argument over whether Ashley would make a better woman than RuPaul; Lance smiled to himself.
Justin waited for the crew of 'Candid Camera'.
"I need a favor, Lance-- someone has to conjure up a PR demon."
Justin thought he'd heard wrong, and sat up. Johnny repeated, a little louder, "I need a PR demon. By this Tuesday. Or Theresa's threatening to quit. She says she can't handle this much of Britney's spin on her own."
Lance looked up from the hardcopy of the budget he was reading. Johnny was waiting for him to answer. "Why don't you call one yourself?"
"Come on." Johnny flipped open a folder. "You know I don't mess with that stuff. My soul's clean."
"So you want me to get one for you."
"Oh, please." He rolled his eyes. "Like you don't have names and numbers for at least three programmed into your phone..."
Justin wanted to cry. He just knew they were waiting for him to say something, could tell it by the gleam in Lance's eye and the patience in Johnny's face. Lance's eyes were definitely gleaming. Justin kept quiet.
Johnny motioned to his new assistant. "Can you take an unofficial memo?" She nodded, pen poised over her scratch pad. "We need a pentagram, some chalk, a pound of those herbs -- Lance'll write you a list-- a waffle iron, and a dedicated videophone line for six pm tonight."
She raised an eyebrow, looking quite disbelieving. Justin smiled at her, trying to be nice. She'd probably quit after this. "It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I've learned to just accept--"
She interrupted. "What's with the waffle iron?"
Johnny went a little pink. "I promised my wife waffles tomorrow morning. She's gonna kill me if I don't make breakfast."
Lance handed the assistant a long list of things with names like 'witches' hazel' and 'oregano' and 'feta cheese'. Johnny clucked his tongue, leaning over to read it. "It's not fair of you to use Marcy as a grocery delivery service."
Marcy smiled. "I don't mind. I like shopping on an expense account."
Justin stood up. He mumbled, "I feel a little dizzy. I'm gonna lie down in the Quiet Room for a while, I think..." Johnny and Lance and Marcy all made appropriately concerned noises.
"Do you think you can hook me up with a succubi or two, Lance?"
Justin threw down his magazine. "What the fuck is wrong with you people! You're discussing the meeting of succubi, and Joey's asking, and when y'all end up in hell, there'll be. With the." He waved his arms in the air.
Lance rolled his eyes. "Do you even speak English, J?"
Justin spun around, glaring at them both. "It's magic. You're talking about using magic. M. A. G. I. C. Grammar ain't really the--"
"It's 'isn't', Justin. Quit with the ghetto slang." Justin started grinding his teeth. In the mirror, he could see his face going very, very red.
They were getting ready to go out for a meet and greet, when Lance came up wearing this sunset Hawaiian button-up shirt and bright blue pants. As they looked at him, he just explained, "I'm meeting a member of the occult and he has to recognise me. Plus, the orange is a warding measure. It's good like that."
They all kept staring. Justin sat down on the table and started counting: one, two three--
"That's the ugliest shirt in the world, Lance."
Lance sighed. "I have to."
Justin shook his head. JC tilted his head. "Is that why you wear so much orange?"
"What kind of occult member likes ugly Hawaiian shirts? And where did you get such a hideous -- oh. Nevermind."
Lance reached over and smacked the back of Joey's head. "I'm meeting this kid -- really powerful, who also happens to be a fan -- and a member of 'Take That'. But don't bring them up. He's-- touchy."
Justin stalked out to their table, and plastered a smile on his face. Somewhere on his face, a muscle was twitching.
"This is Tim, and his uncle John." The tall blond man coughed. Lance eyed him and said, "These are the guys-- JC, Joey, Chris, and Justin's the one scowling."
Joey leaned over and whispered to JC, "I don't remember there being a 'John' in Take That..."
Justin looked away. John regarded him for a minute, and then shook his head. He said to Lance, "Bit of a brat, ain't he?"
Lance laughed. "You have no idea."
Justin sighed, still looking away. "Okay, fine, I get it, you've got me good. Christ, you even have me believing that the reason we were top of TRL yesterday was the fact that you chanted for half an hour in the bus bathroom. Now cut it out. It's not funny anymore."
John lit a cigarette. JC was talking to Tim-- actually, JC was patting Tim on the head and saying, "You're cuter than Harry, for sure."
Tim glared at him. "Fuck off."
Joey laughed. "Much cuter."
John looked at Tim. "Can we go now? This git's wearing a shirt that's blinding me."
Chris piped up, "Because of the warding stuff?"
"No," John replied. "It's fucking ugly."
Tim held out a picture of them, and said, "Wouldja autograph it for me?" When John looked at him, he said defensively, "For Leah!"
They all took turns, and then Chris gave Tim a ride on the golf cart. John looked at Justin. "You're a piece o'work, here. You've got a real live sorceror, and you're still singing and dancing like utter twats."
Justin snapped the ballpoint in his hand. He said calmly, coolly, "This isn't funny anymore. You come in, wearing a raincoat and smoking backstage -- which isn't allowed, by the way, I've asked a hundred times -- with a kid who's got a falcon with him. Lance starts chanting weird stuff at midnight." Justin took a breath, in which JC patted him on the back. "I can't go into my own hotel room for fear that Lance has stashed some occult statue, or rare herb, or chicken feathers, in my dresser, and. and. and."
JC peered at John. "He's wearing a trenchcoat, not a raincoat."
Joey added, "And it's an owl."
Justin started banging his head against the wall. Chris grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him away from the fans, muttering something like "and they call me psycho." They covered for Justin by saying he felt ill; he didn't speak to anyone for over a week.
"That's gonna make it rain, you know," JC said.
Chris turned around. "That's just an old wives' tale." He went back to hanging Joey's jersey out the bus window.
JC peered down the aisle of the bus, where Joey was talking to Kelly on the phone. "Also, aren't you supposed to hang wet clothes out to dry?"
Chris shrugged. A carful of teenagers who caught a glimpse of JC started waving. Chris waved the bright red jersey back.
JC squinted his eyes at Chris. "What are you doing?"
Chris answered absently, "Testing a theory."
When JC made the tell-me-more handsign, Chris sighed. "The first lesson of the ultra-Chi is weather control. If I can make it rain, Lance'll teach me something else."
JC nodded. "So, laundry out the window?"
Chris nodded back, and then stopped as both their heads started bobbing up and down. "Yeah." The car with the teenagers in it drove off. JC leaned on his shoulder, looking out the window. Chris tried not to get annoyed. Lance said the first lesson in a successful conjure was to make sure they thought you were doing a trick, and the second lesson was to make sure you didn't do a trick unless you had to.
JC was watching Joey's shirt flutter. He said, "Aren't you supposed to chant or something? I see Lance chanting all the time."
Chris mentally snorted-- that's because Lance liked the sound of his own voice. He thought quickly. "You can, if you want. It might help."
JC was just about to open his mouth and start chanting when Joey wandered out to where they were, and smacked Chris on the back of the head. "Dork, what're you doing with my shirt?"
Chris said again, "Testing a theory."
Joey grabbed his ear and hauled Chris safely inside the bus. "Test your theory with your own damned shirt." Joey grabbed the red monstrosity and went back to his bunk.
JC asked, "Did it work?"
"Did what work?"
"The--" he waved his hand. "Thing."
"Oh." Chris considered for a minute. "Well, kinda." He had gotten a reaction from Joey, true, but not any water thrown on him, which would have been the first step to making it rain.
JC looked at him and shook his head. "You're taking Lance-lessons."
Chris beamed. "Yep."
JC pranced into the room, smiling his perpetually sunny smile. Chris threw a paper cup at him. "Dude, what the hell are you so happy for?"
He beamed even wider. "I'm going on a date!"
"Oh joy." Chris went back to the interview questions. He crossed out 'what was your first concert' and wrote 'where did you first do it', instead, and then 'what's your favorite singer' to 'what's your favorite position'. They'd never get to answer but someone would laugh at it.
JC sat down right in Chris's lap. "I'm going on a date!" he sang into Chris's ear.
"I fucking get it, man." Chris laughed, and pushed him off. "Your ass is bony. Get off me."
"I know it is." JC looked unhappy. "I actually wanted to talk to Lance about that. I need to know what kind of candle will make him fall for me."
Chris bit his tongue. "What's your favorite flavor?"
"Then try cranberry."
"Really?" JC jumped up, and beamed. Chris thought his face might crack. "Lance is teaching you so well!"
JC kissed Chris on the forehead, and Chris said hastily, "Yeah, well, don't... light it before. um. Seven. And put a penny beside it. The copper's a good. resonator."
JC nodded solemnly. "I won't. --I have a date!"
Chris personally thought that anyone who was confronted with JC's smile would probably fall for him right away without a spell, but the candle was a nice way to make him smile, so it worked in the end.
They looked up to see Justin peering in. A strangled sound came out of his mouth, and then he left without a word. JC frowned. "I wonder what's wrong with him?"
Chris sat down. "Okay, Bass. Spill."
He tossed the Rolling Stone with Britney in her panties in Lance's lap. "Did she have help?"
"I told you." Lance smirked. "I don't conjure and tell."
JC and Joey came in, holding hands. Chris raised an eyebrow. "What's with you two?"
JC shrugged, but his face was smiling so wide it looked like his cheeks hurt. Chris's face hurt just looking at him. JC said, "We thought we'd give it another try."
Joey added, "And Lance man. Thanks."
Chris jumped up. "While we're all here, I think we have a problem with the Infant."
"Oh, yeah?" Joey raised an eyebrow.
JC frowned. "Maybe, do you think he's jealous? Because, we have been pairing off a lot lately... maybe..."
Chris eyed JC. "Who says 'pairing off'? That's like from the eighteenth century. That was old when my grandma was born."
JC sniffed. Lance spoke up. "I'll talk to J."
"Are you still mad, Justin?"
"No." Justin sighed. "I was never mad. But I can't just wake up one day and accept that you... that you're doing magic. Okay?" He closed his eyes, frustrated. "There. I said it, and I said it seriously. You're doing magic."
Lance rubbed his shoulder. "I know that it's hard for you to accept, but this is who I am now."
"I, just. The herbs sometimes really smell. And you've got Chris into it, too!"
"Well." Lance frowned. "Chris wouldn't be interested if he didn't have tendencies anyway. I think a big part of it was the psych classes and experimentation he was into in college."
Justin sighed again. "I know. I'll try not to freak out. It's just, I was raised Christian, and this all seems..." His voice got really quiet. "I still think it's a sin."
Lance nodded, but answered seriously, "Look, I know, Justin, but it'll get easier. Maybe if you ask questions?"
"I want to be a supportive friend."
"You could hold the burning candle, some time."
Justin smiled at him. "Yeah, maybe."
Of course, as soon as Lance left Justin's hotel room, Justin threw himself on the bed and cursed. He was so fucking gullible he actually had a serious conversation about Lance using magic. Justin clutched his head. The crazy-people feeling was going to give him an ulcer. Or a nervous breakdown. Or maybe both. Or maybe already had, and he'd just been too stupid to notice.
"Lance is hot tonight, isn't he?" Chris slurred.
Justin looked at him in considerable alarm. "Chris, what the hell is wrong with you? This is Lance we're talking about."
Chris eyed the dance floor. "Yeah, but." He pursed his lips. "He's hot tonight. It's nothing. Don't worry, J."
Justin didn't feel at all better. "Chris," he said carefully, "Did Lance get you those drinks?"
Chris beamed at him. "You betcha."
He sniffed Chris's glass, which was bright green: not a healty color. He asked quietly, "Do you think maybe. Did Lance put something in your drink, Chris?"
Justin was imagining all sorts of things, lust potions and herbs and spells or whatever, when Chris nodded happily. Justin held his breath. Chris said, "You betcha. Alcoma-- alco. Rum."
When Lance kissed Chris, and hummed, Chris grabbed the front of his shirt, and pulled away. "No magic. No."
Lance raised an eyebrow. "Okay."
Chris laughed. "hah!" He looked right into Lance's eyes. "Your best magic is lying."
Lance lied, "Never."
Chris licked Lance's neck, and then took off his shirt. He didn't really care whether Lance was a magician or a boyband member. He was hot. Chris was hot. Ergo, the formula worked.
They were all watching Buffy, because it was JC's show of the week. Justin watched Willow struggling, and he opened his mouth to say something to Lance, who was holding Chris's hand and reading a book.
Before he could say anything, Lance said, deadpan, "Justin. Let's go over this again. That's TVland."
Justin closed his mouth, and very carefully didn't think anything about anything in Lance's presence.
Chris was playing with Lance's toes while Lance tried to read something before bed. "So this magic thing."
Lance answered absently, "I'm not teaching you the fourteen words to make anyone fall in love with you, dork."
"Oh, I already know those." He looked smug, and started singing, " 'And no matter what I do, I feel--"
Lance clamped a hand over Chris's mouth. "Quit it."
"I knew I was right." Chris frowned a little, and was suddenly a bit unsure. "Did you... did you really use magic to get me into bed?"
Lance grinned at him happily. "Of course!" At Chris's downturned expression, he added softly, "It was the only way I'd ever trick you into it."
The last meeting they had tried to hold didn't really work so well, due to the incredibly unfortunate circumstances surrounding JC and his little breakdown over the lack of pink in their wardrobe. After some pancakes, he was ready to come back to the table and discuss it.
"You've been wearing a shirt that says 'I [heart] you' for the last two months, JC, and now you want pink, too?" Johnny rubbed his eyes. "Do you want to come out on TRL?"
JC snapped back, "Well, yes, actually, but apparently I never will, so let's go back to the costuming."
Lance spoke up. "Magenta pants, scrap the girl-shirt, and we'll flip a coin on those... other pants."
Johnny sighed in relief. "Done."
Joey looked at JC. "You want to come out on TRL, honey?"
"Well. Maybe not on TRL, because Carson's the devil, but--"
Lance interrupted, bored. "He's actually just a slave. Boot-licker."
Chris snorted. "Why'm I not surprised."
Johnny eyed Lance. "Don't hex Carson Daly again. He's not that bad, and the last time, he didn't go anywhere for a month."
"So." Johnny flipped a page. "Justin, you wanted a bit of time off cause Nelly and you have another single you wanna do?"
Justin went into a really long story involving collaboration, which Lance immediately tuned out. Chris tried to listen, but glanced over at Lance and his eyebrows shot straight up. Chris whispered, "How do you tune him out like that?"
Lance looked over at Justin, who was waving his arms in the air and trying to spit out his thoughts all at once, resulting in him sounding completely incoherent. As soon as Justin had heard that Nelly had nothing to do with the occult, the two of them had started hanging out a lot. Lance shrugged. "Magic."
Chris looked suitably impressed. "Show me?"
Lance kissed Chris's shoulder. "All in good time."