Crime and Punishment Mix by Halo
The dares started in Germany, and while they were often funny, they had never been intended to be a game. They were a punishment, a form of discipline meted out within the group whenever one of them did something the other four had a problem with.
The original idea was Lynn's, sort of. When the group first arrived in Germany, the sense of freedom had been heady, especially for the three guys whose parents weren't around all the time. Consequently, things tended to get a bit out of control. The first time Justin said "fuck" in range of his mother's hearing, she suggested that they set up a swear jar, which they did, since Lynn's "suggestions" were pretty much accepted as law most of the time. So they took turns carrying around an empty jam jar, and whenever one of them was caught swearing where someone other than the five of them could hear, the offender had to put a dollar in the jar. Lance, to the shock of everyone, including himself, ended up paying more money to the jar than any two of the other guys combined.
That worked for a little while, but soon they were famous, if only in Europe, and as soon as they started to get a little money coming in, having to put a little bit in the swear jar was no longer an effective deterrent to bad behaviour. And then someone, nobody remembered who, came up with the idea of the dare jar. It worked just like the swear jar, but instead of putting money in, the person who'd been caught in whatever situation was deemed worthy of punishment (there were so many more ways than simple swearing to get in trouble) would have to pull out a dare written on a slip of paper, and then do it.
There were rules, of course. No dares that would hurt their image (like daring someone to streak naked through the hotel lobby). No dares where anyone could be injured (like daring someone to deliberately fall off the stage in the middle of rehearsal). No dares that left anyone permanently altered (like daring someone to get a tattoo). Anything else was fair game. And refusal was not an option.
They spent an entire evening cooped up in a hotel room, writing out dares on little slips of paper, folding them up, and putting them in the dare jar. Most of them were silly things like, dye your hair red or wear one of Lynn's blouses the next time you take a girl on a date. They were remarkably effective, though, and while they all slipped up from time to time, they all kept themselves in line, for the most part.
Time went on, and as their wallets expanded, so did their confidence, and the potential for bad behaviour grew exponentially. Joey, surprisingly, was the one who came up with the idea for personalized dare jars. The original group jar remained in place, and was used for run-of-the-mill infractions, like the time that a not-yet-twenty-one-year-old Justin had to be smuggled through a lobby full of dedicated teenaged girls while very, very drunk. For more extreme violations of the boyband code, like the time Lance was photographed in a gay club with a drag queen in his lap, there were the individual dare jars.
The personal jars contained dares designed to inflict maximum damage upon whoever the jar belonged to. The rules still applied, but there were a million-and-one ways to hurt someone when you knew their deepest secrets.
JC, who had only had to pull a dare from the group jar three times since they started, was the first to be fined with an personalized dare. The other four watched him pluck a folded slip from the jumble inside his jar (an old honey jar that had been washed out and labelled "JC" in bubble letters), and watched his face crumple as he read the dare. Since JC was nothing if not a good sport, Lance knew that they really were into a whole new level of punishment.
As was the custom, JC passed the slip around to the rest of the guys, so that they could all bear witness to whatever task he had to carry out. Lance was the last to see it, and he took the dare from Justin's fingers gingerly, as if whatever had made JC look that way could hurt Lance, too. Bring 'Digital Getdown' to the table at the next album meeting, was written on the paper in Chris's messy printing. Lance didn't know what 'Digital Getdown' was, or why it had upset JC, but he figured it must be something really embarrassing, given that Chris was looking more than a little abashed under the heat of JC's betrayed glare.
'Digital Getdown', it turned out, was a song, and it was really embarrassing, at least for a couple of minutes. Justin loved it, though, and so did Joey. Lance did, too, once he stopped blushing, and the song went on the album, and was included in the set list when they went on tour.
Most of the personal dares, however, did not have such positive outcomes. Over the next year or so, dares drawn from the personal jars resulted in first Chris, and then JC breaking up with their long-time girlfriends, and Joey nearly losing Kelly, who he'd been dating since high school. Justin was forced to publicly own up to his relationship with Britney, and Lance escaped largely unscathed, for which he was profoundly grateful.
In a lot of ways, the guys were closer to each other than ever before. They had to be, seeing as they lived in each other's pockets pretty much twenty-four hours a day. In other ways, though, they'd started to erect barriers around themselves. None of them told each other many secrets anymore, since there was a huge chance that anything they confided would end up being used in a dare later on.
Spending all that time with each other and not saying anything very important got to be a strain pretty quickly, and so it was both a source of terror and a relief when Justin finally cornered Lance after catching him staring at JC again, and made him talk. Because Lance might have, possibly, developed a sort of a thing for JC. A crush-like thing. Because JC was just so nice all the time, and funny, and talented. And really, really hot. And maybe the crush-like thing wasn't really new, but was something that had been happening for a couple of years now. It was just worse, now, because JC was writing songs all the time, and most of them had to do with unrequited love and unrequited lust, and he kept asking Lance what he thought about them, and what Lance really thought was that they weren't helping his own unrequited lust one little bit.
So when Justin finally dragged it all out of him, Lance was glad to finally tell someone. He just wished it hadn't been Justin, who believed in honesty at all costs (fans and reporters notwithstanding). Justin wasn't the kind of person who would tell anyone's secrets outright, but he was absolutely the sort of person who would make someone give up their secrets as a dare.
Suddenly, Lance was the best-behaved member of *NSYNC.
He was so well-behaved, in fact, that the other guys started to get worried about him. When Lance declined to go clubbing for a week straight, Joey quietly asked him if he'd gotten someone pregnant. When Lance burst into laughter and reminded Joey that he was gay, Joey nodded solemnly, and said he was just checking. Joey knew a lot about unexpected pregnancy, Lance guessed.
Chris, the bastard, spent two full weeks following Lance everywhere, trying to catch him doing anything at all outside the rules. Of course, being under such close scrutiny only served to make Lance even more cautious, but it was supremely irritating to have Chris in his shadow every time he turned around. When Lance finally snapped and yelled at Chris to fuck off, Chris's face lit up with glee. Lance guessed that Chris was so desperate for something to call Lance on that he would even stoop to the old no-swearing rules just to get Lance in trouble. The glee was short-lived, though, since it turned out that there hadn't been anyone in earshot besides Chris himself.
JC was, in some ways, the most maddening of all, because he was suddenly very attentive to all of Lance's needs. He kept bringing Lance tea, and cookies, and he would sit protectively next to Lance on the sofa in the quiet room and glare at anyone who looked like they were about to make fun of Lance. It was all very sweet, and Lance was at the end of his rope from the strain of not pushing JC down onto the couch cushions and having his way with him.
Justin just kept pulling Lance aside and urging him to tell JC how he felt about him. Lance thought seriously about making up a secret he could tell Justin about one of the other guys, just so Justin would focus on someone else for a change.
In the end, it was Chris who tripped him up, by having a birthday party. One of the many rules in the boyband code was that if one of them had a birthday party while they were on the road, everyone had to go. And have a good time. Lance tried to get around the rules by declaring himself the designated driver, but Joey put the kibosh on that by reminding him that they had actual drivers, and for the rest of the night, Lance found himself with a drink constantly in his hand. He was tipsy by ten-thirty, and way past drunk by the time they hit the club at midnight.
By then, it had been so long since Lance had been in a club that he found it almost overwhelming. The music pounded over him in waves, thumping bass resonating deep in his chest, and the smoky atmosphere made him want to drink even more. Which he did.
Lance was a chatty drunk, even at the best of times, and it turned out that what he wanted to chat about that night was JC. How talented JC was, how sweet JC was, how fabulous JC's ass looked in the tight red pants from the No Strings tour (those had been another dare that had turned out to be less embarrassing than originally planned). He told Chris how much he loved JC's hair now that it was getting longer. He told Joey all about how good JC smelled when he brushed up against him in the middle of a show. He told Justin—again—how much he wanted to kiss JC. What really got him in trouble, though, was what he told the bartender.
"A direct quote," Chris told Lance the next morning, as soon as Lance had a cup of coffee in his system, and the threat of vomiting was no longer imminent. "This is what you said, to a complete stranger, let me just make that clear. You told a bartender in a crowded, popular club, you said, 'I would really, really love to suck JC Chasez's big, gorgeous cock.' Did you get that? Big. Gorgeous. Cock."
"Oh my god," was all Lance could say. "Oh my god." And then, panicked, "Did JC hear me?"
"No," Chris said. "Lucky for you, he'd gone back to the hotel by that time."Lance relaxed a little, but only until Chris followed up with, "Anyway, get out of bed and into the shower. The other guys are coming over in like, ten minutes for a group meeting."
Lance stood under the pounding water, filled with a sense of dread. Unscheduled group meetings meant only one thing.
"Personal dare," was all Justin said when Lance opened the door to let him, JC, and Joey in, and Lance's heart sank even further. His only consolation was the possibility that the dare he pulled out of the jar might not have anything to do with JC. He'd gladly do anything, take belly dancing lessons, come out to his grandmother, anything rather than tell JC.
But of course, the fates weren't that kind, and neither was Justin. The jar he pulled out of his backpack and handed to Lance was empty, save for one folded bit of paper at the bottom. With a hard look at Lance, Justin nodded, and then turned and walked out of the room, Chris and Joey close on his heels and one hand held up to stop JC when he would have followed. The door shut behind them, and Lance and JC were left alone in the room with Lance's heart pounding and JC wearing a confused expression.
With a shaking hand, Lance pulled the slip of paper out of the jar and unfolded it. Tell him, it read in Justin's only slightly legible writing. Lance closed his eyes in resignation, and handed the paper over to JC, fingers still trembling.
"Tell me what?" JC asked.
Nobody could refuse a dare. It was in the rules. Lance took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and told JC. Told him everything.
Luckily, it turned out to be one of those dares that had a happy ending.