for k on her birthday. this is twelve things that never happened to justin and lance because one thing did. it's tracked to "new adventures in hi fi" by REM. all lyrics from that album. the title's from "new test leper".

sad parade


I point my nose to the northern star, watch the decline from a hazy distance

Lance never made it to space.

He never even looked at the stars.  On his porch in Mississippi, it never even occurred to him to bring an old telescope out - one his son had begged for one Christmas but never really wanted - and stare up at the sky, examining the moon, the space stations, the sky.

He never got married in a major way; more a falling into an accident.  He never told his wife, "I don't think this is a good idea," and he never let her know that he didn't love her, that he might have wanted something more. He never let himself want something more.  He never showed her the photos of the moon that someone had sent him on tour ten years ago.  The star that they were bought, he never told her that, either.

He didn't want anyone to know that there was disappointment, filling the cracks.

When he talked to the guys, they never asked him things like "Are you happy," because it was assumed the answer was yes.  He never let them assume otherwise.  He never realized that his life looked better from a distance.

I had to write the great American novel
I had a neutron bomb
I had to teach the world to sing by the age of 21


Justin never wrote anything he was proud to call his own.

you are lost and disillusioned

Lance never knew why he didn't take the offer.

Each and every day, looking around his college apartment, looking around his cramped quarters, looking around his desperately lonely personal space, he never thought to himself, "I'm going to be a singer."

People at the school never asked him to join clubs.  Even if he were to walk past the people protesting, gay rights, anti-abortion, pro-abortion, the Christian League, the coalition for tolerance.  He never signed his name to any of those ideals, no one ever asked him to.  He went on and on, never going to church, never going anywhere that he could see an end to.

Lance never found something, through those four years, to believe in.  He also never bought an *nsync cd.  He didn't want to know if he could believe in it.

brother can you see those birds?
they don't look to heaven
they don't need religion, they can see


Justin never took the Lord's name in vain.

He never missed church on Sunday.

He never thought about going against the tenets of the Bible.

He never brought a boy home.  He never kissed lips that were rough like his own.  He never tingled all over, he never stood at the foot of the bed, staring at someone else's dick, and started giggling.  He never looked up at his momma from where he was sitting on the floor in their hotel room in Bern, and said, "I need to tell you something."

He never licked another guy's cock. He never broke up with Britney.

He never sat, upset and nearly crying, while Lance touched his head gently, after having kissed him for the very first time, not knowing what to say or do or how to feel.  He never went to JC, and asked, embarrassed, what the best kind of lube was.  He never grew into his own skin.

here comes the flood
anything to thin the blood


He never intended to get hooked.

The guys never knew.  Drugs.  Lance never did an anti-drug commercial.  He never ended up getting to an awards show sober.  He never looked into a camera and announced his intention to go into rehab; he never had someone holding his hand at that moment, in support.  He never had the guys ring around him as the press closed in.  He never found his way out.

Justin never told him that he looked better once he got out, and then shyly looked away.  Joey never took him in at three in the morning, crying, finally saying "I think I need something."

Chris never called his mom.

He never said, "I can't believe how much the world has changed, now that I'm seeing it clearly again."  He never held someone's hand and really felt the soft skin, the pure warmth.  He never faded quietly away, happy.

I lost myself in sorrow
I lost myself in pain
I lost myself in gravity


Justin never had it so good.

They were on top of the world.  It was never 2000.  He never dreamed that things could be so amazing and popular and crazy and insane and psychotic and draining and wild and rollercoaster and underworld.

"There's my Justin," he never heard his mother say, "he's always so calm."

Justin never had a moment to himself.  The press never asked about Britney because on the tour he threw himself into singing and only told her "hello" and "good morning" and "nice show".  She never said anything to him except "great show" and "thank you".

He never backed off, he never no-commented a question, he never lied because he had no secrets, he had nothing to himself, he never managed to keep something from the world and so he never had any answers people didn't already know.  He never did anything but work and so no one was on the inside of his skin, and the press was disappointed each time he said, "No, I'm not dating anyone."

"We never regretted any of it." Justin never ended up saying it.  He never would have dreamed it.  He never let himself regret it because everyone around him constantly reminded him how they'd never had it so good.  He never woke up in the morning and found something to look forward to, he never woke up and was excited anymore.  But he'd never had it so good.

He never looked in the mirror anymore, because it always looked like he'd never arise.

well, everybody is young forever

Lance never saw the truck.

The rest of the guys, they never knew what to say to the press after that. Chris never spoke up to mention how much he sometimes hated Lance, Joey never told them about the time in Germany when Lance sat up with him all night, JC never told them he loved Lance and that he'd be an inspiration for the rest of their lives, and Justin never realized until too late that maybe Lance wouldn't be available forever.

"No, never."  The press never stopped honing in on their grief, as if they could catch it from all angles, as if something like that could be broken down into its individual parts to be understood.  "We'll never forget him."

oh my peer
your veneer is wearing thin and cracking
the surface and forms underneath
underneath is lacking

I'd sooner chew my leg off
than be trapped in this


Justin never sat, at nineteen, and heard the judge rule against them in court.

He never answered press questions about JIVE entertainment and the agreement they ended up signing; he never stumbled in on Chris, crying in the dark in his mother's house late one night.

He never said, "Chris, what.  I'll get--"

He never heard Chris say, "No.  Don't.  I don't want anyone else to know."  Justin never had to figure out that Chris, in that moment, had given up.  He never had to know what Chris looked like, defeated.

He never had to work for 344 days straight under the auspices of Lou Pearlman, in order to pay back the damages the lawsuit cost them.  He never had to watch Britney die a little more each day, as the label paid for cosmetic surgery, her skin stretched and cracked and thin.  He never had to see her pushed to throw up in the bathroom.  He never had to listen to her say, "Just once more."

He never had to watch their cds selling dismally, the label refusing to let them write anything.  He never had to swallow his tongue when he was told, "they're good, really," and then, "but not what we're looking for. Why don't you just stick to singing?"  He never had to ball his songbook back up and fling it back into his bag - because he knew they were good, he just never got a chance to show anyone.

He never told his mother, "I can't come home for Christmas this year. They," and he never had to duck out of sight, "they won't let me."

He never had to see Lance in the hospital once a month, Diane and her lawyer arguing hopelessly, their faces pinched and desperate to break free.  He never had to wonder what life would be like if they actually had the freedom to do anything of their own choosing, if maybe they could find what they wanted.

I'll pluck the thorns out of your feet

Lance never told anyone that he and Chris ended up sleeping together because of Dani.

"Can't you tell a joke from the truth?" Chris never said to the guys after Leno, because the guys never asked, because no one asked.  Because that kind of thing, you just *didn't* ask.  Lance never said anything because it was Chris's secret to keep, the way he never found himself as sad as when Dani left him.  His emotions were not on show, and Lance wouldn't contribute to that.

Chris never let him close, though.  Chris never let him close, or let him in.  Chris never let him close, or in, and never let Lance try and fix the damage.  Lance could never tell Chris, "I love you," because Chris wouldn't hear it.

seconal and astroglide
fuck with me and traumatize
don't you see I love your hide?


"Fuck off!"

"Get the fuck out!"

"I fucking love you!"

Justin never told Chris anything about their relationship without swearing about it.  He didn't have the ability to do otherwise.  He never ran his hands over Chris's skin and said out loud the things he wanted to, just felt the hair brushing against his fingers.

They never moved past the stage of fucking.

how could I be so blind, mis-sighted
not to see there's something wounded deep


Joey never saw it.

In seven years, Joey never saw it.  He never looked up, and saw, and - eyes widening in shock, surprise, pleasure, love - said, "yes."

He never saw it, never turned around, never noticed.

Lance never let him.  Lance never let anyone see, and no one forced him to open, like an aperture.  Lance never got around to letting anyone else in.

jet stream cuts the desert sky
this is a land could eat a man alive


The Nevada desert never made a good resting place.

Justin's tour bus never broke down there.  He never looked up into the sky, at a hundred degrees, and watched rolling clouds float past.  He never stood, getting sunburned without lotion, face upturned.  He never let anyone know that he didn't know what he was doing, he didn't know why he was there, and he didn't care whether the bus ever got rolling again.

There was nothing different about the landscape, except that at thirty Justin never saw it coming.  No one knew what made things snap, but the land was harsh and unrelenting and alien forever.  Nothing was to be done about it.

Justin never sent anyone a forwarding address.


you are the star tonight
you shine electric outta sight
you light eclipsed the moon tonight


No one understood.

They saw Justin and Lance holding hands down the corridors, and shrugged to each other.  It wasn't like anyone could come out and *ask* what they were doing, in the beginning, whether they thought it was a good idea.  The guys start off assuming it's an aberration, a fad, a phase, and then it just keeps going.  No one knows what to call it after that, except hesitantly, quietly, maybe, good.

When Justin smiles, Lance never takes it for granted.  He always smiles back, and he always - no matter how irritated he is - manages to find something to say in return.  Because Justin's smiles are always genuine, when they're aimed at Lance, and Lance can *tell*.

Sometimes, they drive around whatever city they find themselves in and sing along to the radio.  The first time Justin felt like he could maybe tell Lance anything, he said, "So, we're permanent here, right?" and Lance turned the radio down, but for the rest of his life he knew that he'd love the old rock station in Portland, Oregon.  The whole trip, Lance can't remember why the hell they were in Portland or where they were before and after, but he knows the station number.

Lance told his mom he was in love.  Lance told *Lynn* he was in love.  Justin just told Chris, because everyone else already knew, Justin just needed to say it out loud.  "That's good," Chris said back, "that's amazing."  He meant it.

Lance says to Justin, "slow down," a lot.  When Justin works himself up, Lance says, "Slow down," and Justin does, wraps himself up in Lance and the two of them calm down.

When Lance sings in the shower, Justin always stops whatever he's doing to listen.  He hears old country, Johnny Cash.  Some new country, and once and a while Billie Holiday.  Some radio hits, only they all sound bluesy, even Missy Elliot's latest, in Lance's low voice and the words completely wrong, ringing out from the bathroom.

No matter what the other is doing, their eyes track each other across the room.  Chris remarks on it once and a while, cracks a joke or two, but it doesn't just stop.  Everyone knows, there are a hundred reasons why it shouldn't work.  They all know that.  But Justin says, "I love you" all the time, and Lance says it back.