what do you get your co-writer? for kel. lyrics from "don't make me come to vegas" by tori amos. half the scenes that kel and I were going to write already, and this will probably be cannibalized at a later date. whatever.

slip through your net



don't make me pull you out of his bed


Lance came to the strip club mostly because he didn't have anything better to do. Justin secretly hated strip clubs, mostly because he couldn't ever separate these girls from their stage presence, he couldn't happily lick whipped cream off their tits while Lance slipped hundreds down their G-strings because he always pictured them at home, with a baby, or a biology textbook, and it ruined the fun.

"But they've made enough tonight," Lance argued, and took another drink, "to pay for a whole semester of tuition. I made sure of it. Just--"

"it's, shut up," Justin said. He grinned. "I dunno why."

"You just don't know how to not see real people on stage." Lance finished his drink. Another beautiful girl - he flashed a huge smile - brought him another instantly. "You don't know how to not be a real person on stage," and Lance finished his drink again, one swallow.


Justin was dragged out of bed at six in the morning the next day by Chris and JC. "come on," they kept hollering. "Come on."

Lance was already in the shower, but Justin was gratified to see that he looked nearly as unhappy. "So, junior," Chris said, doing his best to look angry, "are we happy now?"

JC layed a hand on Chris's arm, and Chris backed off. Justin looked between them. Lance, coming out of the room, his duffle slung over one shoulder, had a little crease between his eyes. "Oh god," he muttered. "The shower was swaying."

"Someone was out too late," Chris said loudly. Justin, being closest, hit him.

Lance said, "thank you," and then they all ended up going to the busses, and somehow Chris and JC manoevered Justin and Lance onto the two man bus. Lance dumped his stuff, and rubbed his bloodshot eyes. "I think," he said, "that Chris and JC think we need to talk."

Justin sat gingerly on the sofa, getting ready for the drive to Denver.

"If it's all the same to you," Lance added, with a tired smile, "I'm going to go back to bed."

Justin didn't say no, and he didn't really see how talking about sleeping together would get anything accomplished. They had slept together, they had seen strippers. It had been just another Vegas show.


i am vigilant that it will not be you on the menu he's serving up for his friends


Justin spent a whole two years dodging the Question.

Lance didn't come out to visit him a lot, because that might look suspicious. It would also link Justin even more heavily to nsync when he was trying to do himself a solo career. "It's like this," Lance said to his speaker phone, the pasta on to bubble already. "We haven't kept in touch that much, you know?"

Justin's voice sounded tinny and far away. "I know," he said, "that's why I called. I mean," and his stupid tinny echoey voice faltered. "I can't believe you didn't know Cameron and I had hooked up."

"There are rumors about you daily," Lance said, and started to stir gently. "I don't have the inside scoop anymore on which are true."

Justin didn't say anything for a minute. "Janet Jackson was. Alyssa wasn't. Kylie and her sister, sort of. Define true. Christina, was. Christina's dancer was. That guy from Flesh, he was."

"I appreciate it," Lance said. His meal was starting to burn.


"It'll be fun," Chris said, and from somewhere long off, JC's voice was shouting. "We'll go out and see one of his shows together. It'll give the crowd a treat."

Lance shook his head, even though he knew Chris couldn't see it. "I'm not gonna feed into all the shit that people are saying, he can't get away from nsync, he can't break away. I'd. I mean. He deserves recognition on his own."

"Joey was gonna come," Chris said quietly, "on his one day off. What are you doing that's so important?"

Lance looked at his calendar. He had "meet Rosie for lunch" in red on the day in question. "I just don't think it's a good idea."

JC's voice, abruptly in the foreground instead of shouting at Chris in the background, added, "Maybe he's right."

Chris said, "What? I thought you were all for this!"

"Well, Lance has a point." And Lance knew exactly how JC's pondering face looked, as he held the extension in Chris's house. "Justin, I mean. I want to see the show as much as anyone," JC said, "But people are going to comment if we go."

Lance said, tired, "Why don't you go?" and then made some excuse to hang up. Lance told himself that it was because he didn't want Justin's new friends making fun of his old ones, and that it was probably best. The sad part was, he was probably right.


athena will attest


The three of them first walked in on Chris and JC making out in Germany, way the hell back when. From then on, Chris and JC always locked the door - Lou, Lynn and the press made it more and more important. So then only the three of them could walk in, which they did.

"Jesus, hang a, something--" and Joey politely covered his eyes. Lance stared openly, at Chris's cock covered in lube, slick, and JC, bent over. They were kind of hot, Lance knew, but.

"You should be wearing a condom," Justin said, echoing Lance's unspoken thought from behind him.

Chris had glared at them until Joey closed the door. "They should be, y'know. Using something," Justin had mumbled, as the three of them went to whereever they were going alone.

Lance nodded, but Joey said, "I think they've. you know. They haven't been sleeping around on each other for a while now. So."

It came as a complete surprise, and then Lance realized, it probably shouldn't have.


and the jacaranda tree is telling me of the trouble you're in


Lance and Justin first drove through Nevada together when Lance was probably sixteen. For some reason JC really really really had to get out to Los Angeles, and Lou gave them two weeks off in a row - not including stupid press coverage and a parking lot concert they had to do along the way - to do it.

Lance had only just got his driver's licence, and it was a Florida licence instead of Mississippi because he and his mom had moved out not two months before he passed the test. The guys made fun of the picture, but they let him drive the long boring stretches of road in Texas where there was nothing to look at at all.

They made the detour up to Las Vegas, even though Chris was the only one legal, because Joey knew people in Santa Fe they could stay with anyway, and Lance and Justin wanted to see what it was like. JC put up with the sightseeing well enough, but when they asked him what he wanted to do he said, "I've been here before."

JC refused to let anyone drive in southern California. Chris relinquished the wheel of the van easily enough, but only to JC. Lance didn't like driving much; you couldn't stretch out and you couldn't get comfortable at all. He and Justin spent a lot of time in the back, asleep, or staring out the tinted windows at the dry and dusty landscape. Justin thought it was beautiful. Lance mostly thought it was hot.


"How much did you lose?" JC said again.

Joey scratched his head. "Uh."

"How much?"

"Look--" Justin started feebly, but Lance had had enough. It was their fucking money.

"Look," Lance said, walking past JC and Chris, "if you two weren't upstairs fucking, maybe you could have stopped us, but maybe we wouldn't have let you. So whatever. It's our fucking money."

Chris didn't say anything, and Lance was grateful. Lance thought maybe Chris knew that the three of them weren't nearly as desperate to stay wealthy. Chris, Lance knew, was more used to being impoverished and alone than not.


just by the way she bends remember dancing and wondering


Britney told Justin she'd always love him, and then slammed down the phone so loud they could all hear it through his mobile. "Um," Justin said.

"Well," Chris said, "you kind of deserved that."

Justin proceeded to try and tackle Chris to the floor of the bus, but Lance knew he was right. Britney would love Justin forever, but it didn't excuse any of his behavior. It kind of made it worse.

Lance nearly called Britney back, and apologized. He didn't know for sure that Britney knew about Justin and him sleeping together, but it was a pretty good bet. He didn't call, because he didn't know how to say "I'm sorry I disregarded your feelings and slept with your boyfriend because I was bored," and that wasn't much of an apology.

He also knew that she wasn't really angry with him. Britney never got angry with the other people Justin fell in with. She didn't even really get angry with Justin. Mostly, she got angry with herself for allowing it, for believing it.


"what will be will be" over my dead body


"You actually hit on Chris?" Lance said, and started to giggle.

"Shut up," Justin said. He was stretched out, naked, under the hotel sheet. "Haven't you?"

Lance tried to decide whether telling Justin that he had slept with Chris would be a good idea or not. He said carefully, "not exactly--"

and Justin said, "oh, you cunt. You slept with him," which pretty much sealed the deal. Lance kept brushing his teeth. "So how was he?" Justin finally asked, nervously.

"What," and Lance spat toothpaste out into their sink. "What?"

Justin said carefully, "how was he?"

"Well," and in the reflection of the mirror over the sink, Lance could see Justin's open mouth, open mouth and fingers picking at the threads in the sheet. Lance coughed. "He was. Chris. He's, you know him."

"I bet," Justin said finally, "you and JC are the only guys he's ever slept with."

Lance started flossing. "Uh," he said. Truthfully, he didn't really care whether he and JC were the only guys Chris had slept with. Chris had been fun, but nothing to write home about; fabulous, but it hadn't stuck or anything. "Why didn't he sleep with you, then?" Lance asked.

Justin kept picking at the sheet, and finally said, "he told me you couldn't force the issue," and then, "but I don't get it, so, I dunno."


and as healer of men, they called him the prince


The one guy Lance had actually never slept with was Joey.

He went out to see all of Joey's plays, after, and he applauded in each one. Every time Joey danced, or smiled, or kissed Kelly, Lance wondered why he hadn't taken the opportunity to sleep with Joey when Joey might have been willing. But it's too late now, and it's too bad.


prince of black jacks and of women and of anything that's slipped into his hands


After Chris threatened to call the Enquirer and leak some photos, Lance finally caught one of Justin's club shows.

Lance was, a little uncomfortable, because people kept staring at him and wondering who he was. He didn't really have an answer for them about who he was, so he left early, and called Justin's phone to leave a message. "The show was great," Lance said, driving back to his hotel to change, "and if you want to meet up I'll be downtown having drinks with--" and then Justin's phone beeped and died.

Justin called him to blow him off. "It's just, we're getting a really early start," he said, "and--"

"That's cool," because Lance was at a table in a club with a bunch of buddies, and Justin probably would have hated all of them, so really this was probably best. "Look, the show was cool."


"Yeah." Lance nodded to the other people at the table politely, mouthing, 'Justin. done in a minute.' "Tell Christina she was awsome too."

"Oh my god," one of the guys said, "Justin, you're beautiful."

Justin's laughter came from the earpiece. "Did I just hear Howie tell me I'm beautiful?" he asked.

"It wasn't Howie," Lance answered, "and he was lying. Talk at you later."

Justin hung up, because that's how they'd been hanging up the phone for years. "Justin," and the same guy put a hand to his heart. "You were really on the phone with Justin Timberlake."

Lance rolled his eyes. "Come on now," one of the ladies said. "how is he? You can tell us."

Lance had had a lot to drink, but there probably wasn't enough rum or tequila in the world to spill that one. "Come on," he said lightly, "do you think I would know that and not be sharing on the six o'clock news?"

They seemed satisfied - albeit disappointed - with that answer, and Lance tried not to think about fucking Justin into the mattress while Justin was on the phone to his mother, that one time in St. Louis. It didn't work.


It wasn't that Lance was jealous of Justin's success, really. Not really. It just surprised him that no one had managed to catch a photo of him at the show. Then he realized, well, no one really did care. But that was okay, he thought, and ordered another martini.

Justin's show was good enough to deserve it, he knew. Of course, Lance wasn't sure whether that made it bad or worse. He toasted Justin, in his head, while everyone else clinked glasses to partying until the sun came up. To Justin, Lance thought. To Justin. To Justin. Why not. Everyone else wanted him.


"and the ranches and the mustangs"


Justin dragged them out to Reno that last tour, saying, "it's beautiful country!"

Lance sighed, and put his cowboy hat on. Chris and JC refused, flat-out refused, to go with them, so Lance and Joey followed Justin around as Justin asked question after question of the real-estate agent. The agent, probably having nothing better to do, offered to get Justin a helicopter fly-over of two of the properties Justin was most interested in. Lance and Joey figured that they'd be able to bow out, but actually not, so that's how Lance found himself strapped into a helicopter, whirring gently over scrub and red dust.

"This property," the lady yelled over the blades, "is only on sale for another month. The owners are desperate," she continued, "something about debts."

Justin shook his head, watching the horses walk around, bored. "That's so sad." The agent nodded, and Justin yelled again, "That's so sad," and then, "to come to Vegas just to get debts."

They flew for maybe five minutes, and came to another ranch. "This one," and the lady held onto her hair as if that would help protect it from the rushing, rushing wind, "you see the barns? Those open into underground tunnels. No idea where they go," she said. The rotor blades continued to fan out, making too much noise.

Justin yelled, "is it occupied?" and when she shook her head, "how long has it stood empty?"

The agent answered, "about six years," and that's when Lance knew Justin would buy this one. Justin didn't want anything of anyone else in his houses. This stupid desert, this stupid ranch, it was deserted. This, Lance knew, would be the one.

Lance said, "can we go back now?" and, "I'm starting to get nauseous." It was mostly a lie. He was bored of staring at the same god-forsaken scenery for the last two hours.


and the way you said "you can have all this, except for me--"


Lance never asked Justin to be faithful. He, unlike everyone else that wasn't in the band, knew that Justin didn't have the stomach for it. He couldn't make himself settle when he knew so many other people wanted a piece. Not because he was selfish, but because he really was selfless and giving; he tried to let everyone have as big a piece as they wanted.


and the jacaranda tree is telling me it's not over yet


"What do you want?" Justin said, and scratched his ear. They were en route to Denver. "I mean, I know that we--"

"Listen," Lance said. "Do you want to talk about our feelings? Honestly?" Justin sat there. Lance put his book down. "I like you, Justin, I do. But are we connecting on some cosmic level here?"

Justin allowed himself to grin. "We aren't, I guess," he replied finally.

Lance raised an eyebrow. "Come on. We're not JC and Chris here."

Justin's grin fell off his face, but Lance knew it was an accident.


All five of them knew that the Celebrity tour wouldn't be the end of the band, even if they never made another record in their lives. Being part of a band was kind of like joining the Mormons; you couldn't get away, it was with you forever. Only someone else in a fringe religious community or another band could possibly understand.

See, Lance could remember throwing water balloons off the balcony in Germany at fans, that one time, with Chris and Joey. He could remember the very first time he met JC. He could close his eyes and envision Justin, ten years into the future, and it was the same, they were still a band. Whatever the outcome, they'd always still be a band.

Somewhere on that first road trip they made with JC to L.A., Justin made them pull over. He heaved himself out, and dragged himself over the side of the road at a rest stop, throat working. "Sorry," he managed to gasp, "I just, really, yeah."

It was the one and only time any of them got carsick. JC and Chris were used to travelling long distances already; Chris had clocked almost a hundred thousand miles on his car over the years himself. JC rode Greyhounds everywhere. Joey had a naturally iron stomach, and Lance--

"Are you okay?" Chris asked, gently rubbing Justin's shoulder.

When Justin was sick, Lance didn't have time. When Justin wasn't sick, Lance didn't feel sick either.


you said "i'll know that it's you by the taste on my lips, bet on the desert's kiss"


Lance took ballroom dancing classes once. He was maybe twenty five, and he'd already faded utterly, so down in Orlando the old ladies he practised with hardly recognised him other than "that cute blond boy."

JC came with him once, and Lance didn't ask about Justin. "How are you?" he said to JC.

"I'm good," and JC smiled. "I'm really good."

Lance meant it completely when he said, "Good."


He can't quite remember now, but Lance thinks JC needed to go to Los Angeles that one time to pick up all his things.

When he moved, Lance thinks, JC left most of his stuff behind with a friend, maybe Tony. Because he really wanted to do his own thing, and he was adult enough at seventeen to know it. So his stuff was still in Los Angeles even though JC had moved to Orlando, and he needed to pick it up because his friend was moving too, or something.

What show biz teaches you, Lance has learned, is that Los Angeles is a place very few people stay.

"I'm sorry," and JC was actually nearly wringing his hands, "but I really really, I just." He looked close to tears, and it was probably the only time Lance would see him like that.

Lynn patted his shoulder. "We'll get it sorted out, sweetie." JC looked relieved immediately. If Lynn said she'd get something done, then she would. They all knew that.

How they managed to drive across the country without Lynn, and with no one but Lonnie, Lance also can't remember. He can remember JC's face when they finally crossed the L.A. county line, the desert mountains just barely lit up by pre-dawn. JC hadn't been happy to come back.

Justin's face was pressed against the window, looking for a glimpse of something. Lance hadn't ever been this far west, so he didn't know what to look for, what JC was afraid of or what Justin was hungry for.

Chris, driving, said, "all right, boys and girls," and pulled over at a gas station. "Last stop until Death Valley," and handed the keys to JC.


don't make me come to vegas


Lance found himself in Las Vegas at forty for no particular reason, except for all the reasons that came before. He didn't want to admit it to himself but he couldn't look away.