Phaethon by Music Diamond

Post-Pop Remix by Naiad

Time really does heal all wounds. A star-studded awards show recently provided a chance for former club-mates to reunite. On-lookers were expecting fireworks, as post-solo relations have been decidedly cool, but a little social lubrication goes a long way. One could almost say that further lubrication may have been required had one of the gentlemen not recalled his equally high profile boyfriend and put a stop to proceedings.

Justin doesn't think his smile can stretch any bigger. He reads out the name on the envelope and sees JC's jaw drop. JC really didn't think he was going to win. Was happy just to be nominated, according to the clip Justin watched, mesmerised, in his hotel room. Justin laughs as JC clambers out of his seat and climbs past the seat warmer sitting beside him. When he gets to the podium, Justin pulls him into a tight hug and whispers, "I knew it was yours, C. Best production for an album. There wasn't anyone better."

JC tightens the hug for a moment and then steps away to give his thanks. Justin watches him from the side of the stage. He makes a vow to really talk to JC this time, to clear the air and start anew.

He's the hottest behind-the-scenes man in music, but sources say he'll soon be the talk of the business. Now that he's no longer living under the spotlight, this fella is keen to pull some secrets from the closet. Word is, if someone asks, he'll tell his sexy secret like it is, but no announcements either. Except for this one, of course.

Justin isn't sure when he started using assistants to organise meetings with his friends, but it feels wrong to see JC's name listed on his schedule next to '10 am' and 'business meeting'. JC may be coming to his house, but it's not a social visit. He hasn't seen JC for months. Justin taps his fingers against the edge of his chair.

JC is typically late. Fifteen minutes after he was meant to arrive, Justin finally gets word from security that JC has passed the gates. He stops tapping and starts pacing. When the bell rings, he's on top of the door, swinging it open.

"JC. Hey, man." He reaches out and tugs JC into a brief hug, before stepping back. "How's it going? Come in, come in."

JC laughs at him then. "Chill out, dude. It's only me." He drops his bag to floor and starts walking inside. "I've wiped your drool from my shoulder, man. It'll take more than you using a PA to set up a play date to get rid of me."

"I know." Justin's laugh sounds nervous to his own ears and he hates it. "I just—want this to be official. Professional." There's a little frown on JC's face now, so Justin rushes on. "I know we talked about it before, but I wanted to ask officially."

"Ask what, J?"

"I want you to produce my new record." Justin takes JC by the hand and pulls him in the direction of the living room. "What do you think? I'm fairly flexible with dates, as long as we're ready to release in February."

"You've redecorated." JC has stopped to look around the room.

"Yeah. You want a tour?"

JC nods. "Sure."

They're halfway up the stairs before JC speaks again. "Will I be paid?" He's smirking.

Justin snorts and pushes at JC's shoulder. "No. No payment. You'll work for free and you'll like it." They laugh together and Justin slings an arm across JC's shoulders.

"New decorator too?"

Justin nods.

"I like it. It's more real. The vibe is better. You." At the top of stairs, JC comes to a stop. "When did you buy this?"

He's talking about the painting. Justin had known it would capture his attention. "A month or so ago. It's not the original."

JC's hand is hovering near the edge of the frame. He touches the paint briefly and steps back again to take in the picture. "Phaethon. I love this piece."

Justin smiles, proud. "I know. I remember you telling me the story in that museum. It was beautiful."

"It's tragic, J."

Justin drops his arm and slips his hand around JC's. "Beautifully tragic. I bought this, not the decorator."

JC glances at their hands. "Justin."

"I had the studio re-done as well. Let me show you." Justin lets his hand fall from JC's and leads the way back downstairs.

The studio is Justin's baby and he grins at JC's appreciative hum. "Cool, huh?"

"This is fucking incredible. Almost better than mine."

Justin hits JC on the arm. "It is better than yours, JC. Deal with it."

JC's looking around now, running his hands over the boards, tweaking here and there. When he's done testing things out he looks back at Justin. "You want to record here?"

"That's what it's for." He smiles at JC. "It'll be relaxed, the right atmosphere for the sound." Justin moves closer, until he can feel the heat radiating from JC's body. "If you'd prefer to use your studio, we could negotiate."

JC turns his head. "Here's fine. I can stay with Nick."

"Right. Of course." Justin takes a step back. "I'd forgotten you don't have a house here anymore."

Here's one that's not so blind. Pop sensation Justin Timberlake is finally ready to record that much anticipated sophomore album. Surprisingly, the producer is rumoured to be none other than former band mate, JC Chasez.

"That was cool, J, but let's try it once more." Justin watches as JC's fingers flutter in front of his face. "Yeah, um. Ok. This time hit the bridge a little harder. Growl it out."

Justin sings the track again, letting the music roll through him. When he's done, JC nods and Justin pulls the headphones from his ears. He swings the door open and flops into the chair next to JC. JC doesn't say anything, just hits the playback.

They sit, Justin's voice crowding around them and Justin notices that they're bobbing their heads in time. This will be the one they use. JC turns his head and grins.

"This is it, dude. It's perfect." JC ruffles a hand over Justin's hair. "You're going to blow them away."

Justin smiles. "Not just me. There are two Grammy winners right here."

JC laughs. "Whatever, cat. I'm not the incredibly hot superstar in the room." He glances at the clock on the back wall. "Let's put this together."

This is the part JC loves, Justin can see it in the concentration on his face. "JC?"


"Do you ever miss performing?"

JC stops fiddling with the bass and looks at him. "Yeah. Sure. But I love what I'm doing. It's like a big jigsaw puzzle that you have to get absolutely perfect, 'cause if you don't, people won't listen."

"But the singing?" Justin doesn't quite know how to ask the questions he wants the answers to.

"I still sing, J. I just don't get paid for it anymore." JC bumps Justin's knees with his own. "I like things the way they are now. There's less pressure to be something—someone, else."

Justin nods, because he gets that perfectly. JC smiles at him and turns back to the desk. He starts to hum the track they're working on. Justin listens for a moment and then blends his voice with JC's. JC pulls him into a brief, one-armed hug before shifting his hand back to the drum levels and cutting back the snare.

A couple of hours later and Justin's skin is buzzing. Everything is connecting perfectly. This album will be better than Justified, he can feel it. They both can. He and JC are grinning at each other, grooving to the beat, when there's a beep and JC pulls his cell from his pocket.

"Nick's picking me up. He'll be here soon."

Justin stops dancing. "Is something wrong with your car? I thought you drove in?"

"Usually, but Nick gave me a ride today." JC's gathering a few of the things he brought and shoving them into his bag. "He said it was the only way to make sure I'd come home, because I'm, and I quote, 'a nutcase workaholic who'll die in a studio'."

Justin can't stifle the snort that escapes. He doesn't want to laugh, but it's true. JC's always been a workaholic. "We'd better go up or we won't hear him."

JC wraps an arm over Justin's shoulders as they leave the studio. "That track is killer, Justin. You did good."

"Yeah. I did." Justin chuckles at his own cockiness and JC joins him. They reach the living room, and the security intercom buzzes to announce Justin's visitor. He gives them the all-clear to let Nick in and goes to wait by the front door with JC.

As Nick pulls up, JC turns to Justin. "I'm really glad we're working together again, J. I missed this." He claps Justin on the shoulder. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Nick doesn't get out of the car, but he waves when Justin does. "Me too. See you tomorrow, C." He watches JC jog down the steps and pretends not to see him lean across to kiss Nick hello.

Which hotter than hot chart-topper is harbouring a torch for his long-time friend? Seems the ravishing friend's relationship is on the rocks and the chart-topper is just dying to be the knight in shining armour.

JC's phone rings again and Justin sneers at it. "Can't you just turn that off, JC? It's driving me fucking insane and we need to finalise these tracks tonight."

JC looks up from the desk. "What? Did you say something?"

"I told you to turn your phone off, man. It's been ringing off the hook for the past ten minutes."

"Oh." JC scoots his chair over to his bag and pulls out the phone. "Fuck!"

Justin leans over JC's shoulder and tries to see the screen. "What is it?"

"It's Nick. I forgot we were meant to go out for dinner." JC hits the speed dial.

Justin goes back to mixing desk so that JC can have some semblance of privacy, but he can't help overhearing.

"Hey. I'm sorry. I didn't realise—"

Justin can't make out what Nick is saying, but it's loud.

"No." JC says. "No, Nick. That's not it at all. I just lost track of time. We have to get this finished tonight."

JC is quiet for a while, but Nick sounds like he's getting louder. JC interrupts. "Nick. Nick! I didn't do it on purpose. You know how I get when I'm working."

"I didn't realise it was such a problem." JC is frustrated, Justin can hear it and wonders if Nick does. "What? Nick, you know I didn't forget on purpose."

Nick talks for a while and Justin sneaks a peek at JC. He's pulling at the hem of his t-shirt, twisting and untwisting it between his fingers. When he does speak again, he's subdued. "I'm sorry, babe. Really. I know it was special and I can't believe I forgot, but." JC sighs. "But I can't leave. This is too important."

Justin squashes his glee.

"Ok. Ok. Yeah. I'll see you when I get home. I love you."

JC's phone beeps again as he turns it off and throws it into his bag. He sits back down and looks at Justin. "Let's finish this."

Boy band unions are a thing of the past for these two former front men. The behind-the-scenes crooner has transitioned smoothly into life outside the closet, except when his boyfriend is still firmly in it. Or so the story goes. Truth is, the crooner's obsession with professional perfection left his man feeling incomplete and he decided to say bye bye without a word.

JC's phone rings for a long time before he answers it. "Hello?" He's out of breath.

"JC! Have you read your faxes yet?"

"All that stuff goes to my agent first, Justin."

"Right. You don't have a fax at home. Hang on." Justin shuffles through the papers in front of him. "Listen." He picks up the first one and begins to read. "Lost and Found shows a maturity that Justified could only hint at—, Justin Timberlake has done it again, pushing you to get out of your seat no matter how hard you resist—, JC Chasez's production has given Justin Timberlake a new, utterly infectious groove—, if you don't buy Lost and Found you'll be skipping a milestone in music history, the evolution of former boy band members into bonafide artists!" He runs out of breath and waits for JC to say something. Anything. "JC?"

"That's great, J. I'm glad." JC stops speaking and Justin hears him suck in a breath. "It's really great."

There's no rhythm in JC's voice, it's completely monotone. Justin feels like a balloon on the end of a pin. "JC, what's wrong?"

JC doesn't answer, but he's still there. Justin can hear him. "JC?"

"Sorry, Justin. Um. So, yeah. Um. Nick's gone."

"What?" Justin hates himself a little bit right now, hates the way his heart feels like it's about to leap from his chest.

"He's gone. Everything's gone." JC's breath hitches slightly and Justin's grip tightens on the phone. "He didn't say anything, J. I got home from the studio and he was just gone."

"Don't move. I'm coming over."

JC exhales a laugh at that. "Different cities, remember."

"Fuck." Justin hits himself on the forehead. "I'll get on the first flight I can, JC. I promise."

"That's ok. Chris is coming."

Justin grabs his cell off the coffee table and starts scrolling through the numbers. "Good. Great. But I'm coming too." He finds the number he's looking for and hits call. "I'll be there soon, ok?"

"Ok." JC sighs, but Justin thinks he sounds, not happy, but comforted maybe.

Since his boyfriend left him suddenly single, this studiously sexy guy has been living it up. There's hardly a bartender in town who doesn't have a story to tell. Luckily, Studiously Sexy is scrupulous about his health. It's all about the view.

"I get in at two." JC says.

Justin can hear rustling at the other end of the line and he writes the time on the pad by the phone. "Ok. I'll pick you up. We can grab something to eat and work out where's best to start."

"Great. I'll see you then."

The restaurant's crowded, but no one bothers them at all. Justin loves that about LA. He orders the steak and looks at JC. "You look tired."

"Not enough sleep, dude."

Justin clenches his teeth. "Right. Which tracks do you want to start with tomorrow? I was thinking it'd be good to start up-tempo. Basement or Don't Stop."

"Yeah, that's good. I've been thinking about the beat on Don't Stop," JC's hands start tapping a two-step variation on the table. "Something like this."

Justin nods, listens, and then joins in with his own addition.

JC grins at him. "Ok, cat. That's the one we do first." He leans across the table and grabs Justin's forearm. "People had better watch out. If they thought we were tight last album, they won't know what's hit them when we're done with this one."

His hand lingers on Justin's forearm and Justin tries not to read anything into it. Can't read anything into it. He takes a deep breath. Then pauses as their food is placed on the table. "JC."

"Hmm?" JC has half a potato stuffed into his mouth, but he's smiling at Justin anyway.

Justin bites his bottom lip, then goes for it. "There's something we need to talk about."

JC swallows hastily. "Fuck, they haven't brought the deadline forward, have they?"

"No." Justin shakes his head. "I'm worth too much for them to try putting the pressure on this early. Which is kind of related actually."

JC's watching him carefully and Justin swallows again. "The thing is, we've heard some stuff. I've heard some stuff. About your partying."

"What about it, J?"

"I've been getting some pressure—Shit JC, couldn't you have gone to Europe to fuck your way over Nick?" Justin resists the impulse to shove his fist in his mouth.

JC's mouth is hanging open and Justin can see the half chewed salmon resting on his tongue.

"You know how things spread, JC. All it would take is an implication that I'm hitting the clubs with you and half the magazines would be talking about my gay romp in Hollywood."

"Justin, no one—"

"Please, JC. For me. Can you just give it a rest for a while for me? While we're recording at least?" Justin pushes the cucumber out of his salad. He can't look at JC.

JC speaks quietly. He sounds resigned. "Ok, Justin. I'll take it easy for a bit."

A year after they split, friends are wondering if these exes will ever speak again. It's an even money bet, but is anyone really surprised that the former diva is holding a grudge. It's not every day that your boyfriend of three years leaves without singing a word.

Justin pushes the door open, stumbling to a halt as a hand catches it halfway.


Purple smudges mar the skin beneath Nick's eyes and his hair is a dark, sweaty mess. He pulls the door close to his body and steps back to clear the way for Justin.

"Justin. How's it going, man?"

"Good. Crazy busy." He moves inside, but Nick's hand stays on the door. "You here to see JC?"

Nick glances down the hall without turning his head, and Justin follows his gaze. "Yeah. Been here—." Nick shakes his head slightly. "Never mind.

"You all right, dude?" The smile is false. Justin's seen enough fake cheer in his life to know it when he's looking right at it.

Nick smiles again and Justin thinks that maybe Nick is going to cry. The edges of his eyes are already red. "Fine. I gotta—." He waves his free hand at the exit and takes a step towards it, edging past Justin. "I'll see you 'round."

Justin watches as he leaves, watches him kick at the ground and rub a hand across his eyes when he climbs into his car. Nick drops his forehead to the steering wheel and Justin turns down the hall.

When he reaches the studio, JC's position mirrors Nick's, his head on the mixing desk.

"JC?" Justin touches a hand to JC's shoulder. Grips harder when he feels JC take a deep breath.

"I'm fine, J. It wasn't good, but I'm fine."

JC doesn't look at Justin while he's speaking, so Justin drops to the chair beside him and swivels the chairs to face each other. "We can do this later. Get some food and a few drinks first?"

"It's ok, cat. Work'll distract me," JC smiles briefly, "and you can help. Besides, it wasn't anything I didn't already know. It just took longer than it should have for me to realise it. Everyone's always said I work too hard."


"Justin, I know that I put my career ahead of my relationship. Maybe I didn't get it then, but I get it now." JC runs a hand through his hair and a few more frizzy curls poke up. "Hell, looking back, I don't know how I could have been surprised that Nick left the way he did. Even you saw it when we were doing the first album."

Justin grabs JC's knees and the hard bone of his kneecaps digs into the heels of Justin's hands. "He walked out with no warning 'C. You were together for three years and he just stopped answering your calls. Fuck, you haven't heard anything from him in months. You deserve more than that."

"I'm just saying that I understand why." He pauses and sighs quietly. "Nick didn't really need to come and apologise, because I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same. But—talking it out was good. Cathartic." JC pushes back from Justin and turns to face the desk again. "Now how 'bout you get your ass in that booth so we can finish our masterpiece."

"Whose masterpiece?"

"Ours, cat. Didn't you read the reviews for our last album?" There's a shadow of a grin at the corners of JC's mouth.

"Ours? Pfft. I was the one doing all the hard work." Justin hesitates. "Are you sure you're cool, man."

"I'm cool. Now get to work." JC uses a hand on Justin's back to push him into the sound booth.

What is it about those old boy band retirees? One man leaves and quicker than you can say dear goodbye, there's another ready to nurse the rejected soul back to his former glory. No time to cry, this cherubic angel had been waiting for his chance for years, and it wasn't going to slip by. The rejected retiree didn't stand a chance. Word is the new couple are happily mixing business and pleasure.

They did all the recording downtown, but JC's been doing some mastering at home. Justin's home, because that's where he's staying this time. Justin wanders down to the studio to get JC for dinner and pauses in the doorway.

JC is completely consumed by the music. He has one hand over his head phones and the other is tapping against his knee as he sways with music Justin can't hear. His eyes are closed and his hair is just long enough for curls to form around his ears and forehead. He has a beard again. Justin's fingers twitch with the urge to touch.

He steps into the room, close to JC, and lifts a hand that trembles ever so slightly. His thumb drifts across JC's lower lip and JC's eyes fly open.


Justin leans down and presses his lips to JC's gently. Then he steps back to give JC some space. "Hey." Justin can't stop himself from touching his own mouth. "Take-out's here."

JC's eyes are intent and Justin forces himself not to squirm. The room is silent. Finally, JC smiles faintly. "Justin?"

"Something to think about, 'C." Justin crouches so that he's at the same eye level as JC. "If you're not interested, I'll understand. We've always been friends, despite what's happened, but—. I want more. I want everything." He wants to kick himself. JC doesn't say anything and Justin desperately needs to fill the silence, but he can't think of anything to say.

JC's hand strays to touch Justin's mouth. His voice is soft. "I'm not sure it's a good idea, J. I want to—." He drifts off.

Justin nods. "There's time - you know I'm good at waiting for the things I really want." Justin stands and pulls JC up with him. "Let's eat. You can tell me how awesome my songs are."

After dinner, JC kisses him and Justin feels a surge of victory.

Is that record-breaking boy band re-uniting? Chances are slim if the scuffle between two former band mates on a golf course is anything to judge by. Witnesses say the verbal and physical sparring looked anything but friendly.

"You're completely insane." Justin watches as his ball lands on the green and rolls gently backwards.

"You say that because you love me." Chris's shot skews left, right into the bunker. "Fuck." He points a finger at Justin. "I'm still going to win, so not a word out of you."

Justin laughs, a snicker he reserves just for Chris. "Hey, man. Did you hear me say anything?"

"No. But you were thinking it." Chris starts walking and Justin keeps the pace. They don't have caddies or carts. It was, Chris had declared, a day for exercise and then drinking.

"Maybe I was, and maybe I wasn't." Justin does a little shimmy in front of Chris as they walk. Chris swats at him and Justin dances out of the way. "Don't mess with my victory dance, dude. It'll just make me kick your ass harder." Chris swats at him again and Justin runs, knowing he'll follow.

When they reach the green, Justin slows down and Chris lunges at him. They fall to the grass in a jumble of limbs and cackling. Justin gets his breath back a moment later and he says, "I listened to your show again yesterday."

"Oh yeah?"

"Only you, man." Justin shakes his head. A stray piece of long grass tickles at his neck. "Only you would get away with that shit and not have someone come after you with a shotgun."

"It's all about my mad people skills." Chris stands up and holds a hand out to Justin.

"You have no people skills. Just some weird kind of freaky mind control thing." Justin brushes off his shirt and shorts, trying to get rid of the grass. "We left our clubs behind."

Chris swipes a hand across Justin's back, cleaning the places Justin can't reach. "Do you think we could call someone to bring them to us?"

Justin snorts. "Come on, you lazy ass. I'll even let you tell me what it's like to be a radio megastar on the way."

"You're the megastar, J. Not me."

"Whatever. Number one in your slot doesn't equal megastar?" They fall into step, still able to match their rhythm even after years of not performing with each other. But then, Justin supposes, the years spent together probably still out number the ones spent apart. "Seriously though, Chris. I'm glad you found this. I was kind of worried about you for a while."

Chris snorts. "You weren't the only one."

"I know. JC—"

"Was concerned about you as well."

Justin falters in his step, but recovers quickly. "Me?"

"We were all worried about you, dude. You really hooked into that Hollywood lifestyle for a while."

"I was fine, Chris. Just—"

"Riding the wave of the Justified."

Justin looks at Chris. He's smiling, but only a little. "I thought we were over all of this."

"We are. No harm, no foul. I'm just saying that C and I were worried is all."

"You and C."

It's Chris's turn to falter now. "Justin."

"You've never answered my question, you know."

"Justin, don't."

"Come on, Chris. What does it hurt now?" Justin smiles to reassure Chris. "I know JC loves me. I just want to know if he ever loved you."

Chris stops walking. "Only as a brother."

"Did you fool around. In Europe, the first time, I thought—"

"No, Justin. JC and I did not get it on in Europe."

Justin can't help himself, the words keep on slipping out. "What about when I was 'riding the Hollywood wave'?" Chris is staring at Justin now. His eyes are flashing and Justin knows he's pushed too far.

"Fuck off, Justin. You know I never hooked up with JC."

"Do you want to?" Oops.

"What the fuck?" Chris starts moving again, not so much walking as steamrolling. He's yelling too. "This is bullshit, Justin. I've never hooked up with C. Sure, he's hot, but he's my best friend. Me fucking him would be like you fucking Trace."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Justin. Fuck. You need to stop this right now." Chris's voice is taut with tension and he's walking even faster now.

Justin jogs slightly to catch up and watches as Chris takes a deep breath to calm himself down.

"You need to get over this crap, Justin. I don't matter in this equation. If you don't stop worrying about everyone else you're going to screw it up." Chris stops again and catches Justin's forearm. "JC has a past. So do you. Get over it."

"I know, Chris, I do—it's just—. It's JC."

"Justin. If you're happy, none of that stuff matters. You used to know that." He let go of Justin's arm. "Now let's play some fucking golf. Last one to their clubs buys me a beer."

What's the easiest way to threaten a friendship? Well, if you're a popular radio personality with a voice like crystal, it's as simple as admitting you have the hots for a friend's boyfriend. Messy.

JC tilts his head as Justin bends down to kiss him. "Hey. How was golf?"

Justin pulls his shirt over his head and sinks into the sofa beside JC. "Did you know Chris thinks you're hot?"

"What? Don't be stupid."

"I'm not, he told me." Justin wiggles around until his feet are hanging over the end of the sofa and his head is in JC's lap.

JC tugs gently on Justin's short hair. "Did he volunteer this information or did you ask?"

He hesitates, then admits the truth. "I asked."


Justin tips his head back into JC's hand. "I. I don't know, C. He looks at you sometimes and I see it."

"See what, J?" JC moves his fingers in small circles at Justin's temple.

"Desire. Just like that trip to Europe."

"Justin. You know nothing ever happened with me and Chris, right?"

Justin's body is getting heavier as the tension starts to leach out slowly. "Yeah, but."

"But nothing, asshole. Chris is my friend and nothing more. We live together, Justin. This is what I want. You know that."

JC's hands soothe him, but he can't let it go. "Could you maybe not see him so much? I love Chris like a brother. I know he wouldn't do anything, that you wouldn't do anything. It's just. I can't help it."

"Justin. You can't ask me not to see Chris. He's my best friend."

"Please, JC. Just for a little while, until I'm sure." Justin feels JC's sigh through his thighs and bites his lip. It was too much.

"How 'bout we do more stuff with all three of us? Will that work."

Justin rolls over and presses a kiss to JC's stomach through his t-shirt. "Yeah. I think so." He kisses JC again. "Thank you."

Is one of the hottest partnerships in music ready to crumble? This terrifically talented producer has been seen meeting agents and lawyers all over town with the collaboration project still unfinished. Could he be ready for another ride?

JC is trailing soft kisses across Justin's back, pausing occasionally to suckle and nip the sensitive spots that make Justin squirm. At Justin's shoulder, he stops and shifts to stretch his body along Justin's. Everything about JC feels heavy and lax, except for the mouth that's nuzzling at his neck. JC is soft where he's nestled against Justin's ass and Justin smiles. His body is beyond response too. He turns his head and JC presses their cheeks together.

They lay like that for a while, still and quiet. The sun is creeping from the room, but JC keeps Justin warm. He can feel their hearts beating, not quite in time. JC's heart is the counter beat, even though the rise and fall of their chests is perfectly synchronised. JC kisses the back of Justin's neck and slides to the side. Justin rolls back and slides an arm across JC's waist to keep him close. Tilting forward, he touches his forehead to JC's.

JC hums quietly. "Hi."

Justin smiles. "Hey."

"That was—." JC's hand twitches against him and Justin knows it would be waving in through the air if it wasn't trapped between them.

"Yeah." Justin grins. "This never gets old."

JC laughs quietly. "No. No, it never does."

Justin kisses him, licks his lips to savour their taste. "How was your meeting this morning?"

"Ok." JC's head drops back and Justin can almost see the tension seeping in. "They weren't what I was looking for."

"I spoke to Johnny while you were out."

"Mmm. How is he?"

Justin stokes his hand along JC's arm and tangles their fingers. "Good. We talked about you."


"I didn't promise anything, 'C. Just mentioned that you might be in the market for a new agent. Threw the idea out there."

JC slips his hand from Justin's and swings his legs over the side of the bed. His back is facing Justin now and Justin reaches out, but doesn't touch. "I can take care of my own career, Justin. Have been for quite a while, in fact."

Justin sits up and the sheets gather at his waist. "I know. I just thought that we'd be stronger together. A package deal."

"That's not a good idea." JC turns back, takes Justin's outstretched hand. "J. I love you and all, but I told you before that it's better to keep the business stuff separate."

Justin squeezes JC's hand and gives it a small tug. "But."

"No buts, Justin. Promise me you won't try to interfere anymore. I'm the only one who decides who I will work with and who I won't, ok?"

"Ok." Justin tugs again and draws JC back down. "Come back to bed."

This multi-talented boy tried to be a man for his Angel, but sources say he switched his tune even before he was gone. The fair couple ruled Hollywood royalty for years, until someone flicked the switch for Angel and shed light on the true nature of MTB's club reunion. Seems he's sharing more than his house with his very proud long time friend and Angel doesn't like to share.

"Looks like someone's famous." Chris sing-songs as he waves the magazine he was reading in the air.

Justin doesn't look up from the sandwich he's making. It's going to be a work of art. "Newsflash, Chris. We're all famous already."

"True, but no one writes blind items about me anymore."

"That's because you're boring now, Chris. No one cares."

"I am not boring, Chasez." There's a thwap as Chris swats JC with the magazine. "I am a very exciting dude."

"Well I suppose there was that one time."

Justin looks up and JC is beaming at Chris with a twinkle in his eye. He puts the sandwich on a plate and reaches for the magazine. "So what's it about this time? Being a pretentious ass? Demanding insane stuff for my rider? Getting hooked on drugs with Cameron?"

Chris pulls the magazine back out of Justin's reach. "Nope. This time the gossip is actually real."

"Huh." Justin reaches for the magazine again. "What does it say?"

"Well." Chris's voice is a conspiratorial whisper. "Apparently, Cameron found out about you living with JC and dumped you like the sad piece of shit that you are." He pats Justin on the cheek and starts talking at a normal volume again. "Of course, they conveniently forget to mention that Cam already knew."

Justin looks at JC, who grins gently at him. "How obvious is it?"

"Eh. Not too obvious, but pretty clear if you know who they're writing about." Chris stretches a hand towards Justin's sandwich. He reaches slowly, as if Justin won't notice if he doesn't just grab it. Justin slaps his hand. "Hands off, Kirkpatrick. Make your own." He picks up the plate himself and sits next to JC at the table. "I suppose it's nothing to worry about. Johnny was anticipating it really. If anyone asks—"

"You'll have to lie. Date someone." JC finishes for him. "You know I can't, right J? There's no way I'll do anything to jeopardise what you've got going on, I couldn't do that ever, but if anyone asks about me I'll have to tell the truth."

"JC—" Justin hates this and they keep dancing around it over and over and over.

"I can't play those games again, Justin. You remember how it was in the band, and when I went solo. I was dying inside, J. All the games and lies were turning me into someone I hated." JC curls his hand over Justin's where it's gripping the table. "I like things the way they are. It would be stupid for me to try and lie now, you know that. Half of LA knows about me, but hardly anyone knew about Nick, you'll be safe. I promise."

Chris snorts. "Half? You don't give yourself enough credit. I'd say at least 75% have heard considering how much fun you had after Nick."

Justin's hand hurts as the edge of the table digs into his palm. He can barely feel JC's hand resting on top of it. He tells himself what happened then isn't important. All that matters is the way JC is rubbing his back and holding his hand.

"Fuck off, Chris. I had a lot of steam to blow off. I was doing the world a favour and reducing my rage."

"You were doing the world a favour by sharing your fine booty."

Letting go of Justin's hand, JC frowns. "Justin, why do you invite people like this into our home?"

Justin takes a deep breathe and releases his hold on the table. "I'm sorry. He followed me home one day and demanded I keep him. The runt of the litter, I'd say. I pitied him." He starts flicking through the pages of the magazine, searching.

"You realize I'm sitting right here, right?"

"Of course." He flattens his hand against the page. There it is. "It wouldn't be funny, otherwise." His hand curls and the magazine crumples underneath it.

Trouble in paradise? This guest of honour at a recent A-list birthday party was apparently less than enthused by the surprise shindig. The hapless party-thrower tried to do something special, but all he received was a stone cold response. Lucky that cute bartender was up for a consolation ride.

The bass is reverberating through Justin's body as he leads JC past the crowd to the VIP section. They reach the top of the stairs and JC turns to him. "Justin, what is this? Why are we here?"

Justin sweeps an arm in front of them and the crowd yells, "Surprise!"

JC grins and laughs, but when he turns to Justin it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "I told you I didn't want a party, J." He turns back to the guests and accepts the beer that's handed to him.

"I know," Justin whispers in his ear, "but I thought you'd be disappointed if I didn't do something special."

JC shakes another hand before answering. "I would have been have been disappointed, Justin, but special doesn't always equal party. I just—it would have been nice to spend it together, alone. I love you, and I appreciate that you tried, but there are people here who don't know, J. I'm not going to be able to kiss you or even hold your hand. It would have been nice to be able to feel at ease tonight, man. That's all." JC leans in a little closer and squeezes Justin's hand in the shelter between their bodies.

"We can do that later." Justin gestures around the crowd. "And it's good to be public sometimes, man. There're industry people here who can really --"

"Justin." The smile's all gone now. "You know, sometimes it feels like you don't listen to what I'm saying, or you do, but the meaning changes somehow. I told you weeks ago that I didn't want a party. I told you that I wanted to spend time together." JC steps back and slips into the crowd of well-wishers.

Justin moves to follow, but changes his mind and detours to the bar. On his way, a big hand wraps around his wrist and pulls him into a tight, all encompassing hug. He lets himself be held for a moment and then pulls back. "Hey, Joe. It's good to seen you, man." He smiles.

Joey looks at him with eyes narrowed, focus entirely on Justin's face. Then he grins and his eyes disappear. "Justin, dude. You gave me a babysitting reprieve, and for that I thank you."

This time Justin's smile is real. "Is the niece of my heart being a holy terror again?"

"No, but her best friend forever is insane, and kind of creepy." Joey snags two beers from the drinks waiter, giving her a wink as he passes one to Justin.

"You shouldn't say that about a little kid, Joe."

"Don't judge me until you meet her. I told Kel she was a serial killer in training and she just laughed at me. But you wait," Joey wiggles his fingers in Justin's face like they are tentacles, "she's gonna slip up and then everyone'll know she's from the twilight zone."

Justin coughs on his beer and Joey slaps him on the back.

"Where's the man of the hour?"

Justin glances past Joey's shoulder and then over his own. "Mingling somewhere. He's pissed."

"Didn't want the party, huh?"

"No." Justin sighs. "I'm fucking it up, Joe. I waited for him for-fucking-ever, and now that I have him I'm fucking it up."

Joey stops with the beer halfway to his mouth. "Hey, hey, hey. You're not fucking it up, J. You're just holding on a little too hard. You know what JC's like, you need to pull it back."

Justin nods, there is no other appropriate response. "This is one of the hardest and easiest things I've ever done, Joe. Half the time I don't think I have any idea what I'm doing."

Switching his beer to the opposite hand, Joey slings an arm across Justin's shoulders and starts guiding them through the crowd. "The thing with Nick fucked JC up, dude. You know this, even if he won't admit it. You need to just relax. Be the way you were with the others. Cameron and Brit weren't this hard were they?"

"No." Justin swigs his beer and gazes across the crowd. Chris has a hand on JC's arm and their heads are bent close. Justin feels his fingers tighten on the bottle. "I think I want this too much, Joe."

Joey turns them around and pushes Justin onto a stool. "No such thing. Relax, be in love, have fun."

Justin snorts a laugh. "When did you get so wise, man?"

"When Kel threatened to take my balls as a trophy the next time I cheated."

"Fuck." Justin drains his beer and puts the bottle on the bar. "I didn't know that."

Joey puts his empty on the bar as well. "No. I only told Lance. Thing is dude, I was, I dunno, self-sabotaging or some bullshit."



Justin nods and grins. "Of course. Another drink?"

"You bet your sweet ass."

Justin turns to wave the bartender over and finds him already waiting for the order, a cheeky grin directed straight at Justin. He orders the drinks, and indulges in prolonged eye contact with the bartender. He's cute and flirty. It's harmless.

Jealousy is a curse. Especially when your boyfriend is working with the one that got away. Jealous Jake needs to find his cool again before all is lost. If he doesn't tame those tantrums, he and his sexy man won't be making beautiful music together ever again.

Justin hangs up the phone, takes three deep breaths and counts to ten. When his chest stops trying to crush his heart he heads out to the pool.

Naked, JC is draped languorously over a deck chair. His skin is turning pink and his eyes are closed.

"JC." Justin shakes JC's shoulder, not bothering to be gentle. "JC. Wake up."

"Huh." JC opens his eyes, sees Justin, and sits up. "What's wrong?"

Justin straightens so he's standing over JC's chair. "Was Nick here this morning?"

"What?" JC rubs the heel of his palm against his eyes and looks up.

"Did you see Nick this morning?" Justin grinds the words through his teeth.

JC stands and wraps his towel around his waist. "Um. We had a meeting."

Justin feels his hands curl into themselves. "You had a meeting with Nick. Here. In our house."

"Justin." JC moves towards him and Justin steps back.

"Why was he here, JC?"

"I told you. We had a meeting. Backstreet are looking for someone to do the production on their new album. Jive want me. They're willing to bring me in as an independent."

Justin clenches his fists tighter. "Oh, no. No way." He rocks on his heels and starts pacing. "You cannot possibly think this is a good idea."

"It's a great opportunity, Justin. All the albums I've done lately have been solos." JC tucks the edge of his towel in further, stretching it tighter across his hips. "I need to do another group project."

"Find another group. One that doesn't have your ex-boyfriend in it." He spits the words out.

"Justin. You need to calm down. Nick only came by to see how I feel about us working together."

"You've got to be fucking kidding me, JC. I can't believe you're even considering doing this. He left you heartbroken and now you're talking about being in a studio with him for months." Jusitn stops pacing and stands in front of JC again. "How am I meant to be calm about this? I don't want you to do it."

JC's jaw twitches. "I've already said yes, Justin."

"Then tell them you changed your fucking mind. Tell them there's a scheduling conflict!" Justin's shouting now.

"No. I'm not going to do that. This is too important. It's going to give me the power to name my own terms when the next deal comes around." JC curls a hand around Justin's arm. "You need to trust me, J."

"Of course I trust you, JC. It's that other asshole I don't trust."

"Fuck, Justin. Nothing is going to happen, ok? Nick left me, remember. We were over years ago." JC puts his other hand on Justin's chest and repeats himself. "You need to trust me, J, because this isn't negotiable."

JC's hands are warm, but Justin has goosebumps. "Sure. Whatever." He pulls away. "I'm gonna go work-out. I'll see you later."

If partings are sweet sorrow, are reunions a bitter joy? True enough for a certain superstar and his down home friend. Other diners at a scene and be seen eatery were treated to a terse and sometimes strident disagreement between the old friends. Their subject? A third friend who sleeps with one and is managed by the other.

Lance's office is slick and stylish. It smells of wood and leather and suits him right down to the state of the art laptop. Justin sinks into the small lounge in the corner and waits for Lance to get off the phone. When he does, Justin starts to stand, but Lance waves him back down and settles beside him.

"Justin. It's been a while. How are you?" Lance smiles at him and Justin grins in response.

"Great, man. It's been too long."

"And whose fault is that?"

Justin laughs. "Mine, I know. According to Chris I've been too wrapped up in my career, the 'Hollywood scene', JC, and cross-stitch."


"I don't know either. It's Chris."

Lance doesn't laugh, just smirks and nods. "No explanation needed."

"How are your mom and dad? Stacey and the family?"

"Really good. I've been trying spend more time in Mississippi, stay in touch, you know."

Justin hasn't spoken to his mom in three days. He makes a mental note to call when he finishes up with Lance. "That's a good idea, man. I've been feeling a bit out of touch lately. Maybe I can convince C to take a break and come visit my grandparents with me."

"Convince JC to take a break?" Now Lance does laugh. "I'll believe it when I see it. He hasn't taken a break since the early hiatus slack fest of '02."

" I have my ways." Justin exaggerates a wink. "Y'all had lunch on Monday, didn't you?"

"Yeah. JC wanted to run over the terms of his contract and I had some offers to put in front of him."

"JC seemed pretty happy."

Lance nods. "I thought so too. It's going to work out just fine."

"Are you sure about that?" Justin rubs his hands along his thighs. The fabric is soft, but kind of scratchy at the same time. "I mean, sometimes it doesn't work out so well friends working together."

Lance's smile is a hybrid between disbelief and amusement. "Justin. We all worked together for years. If we're still talking after years of touring, then I think JC and I will be all right."

"No. I know. It's just—since we've been working together so much, I thought maybe JC would be better off with my agent. With Johnny. JC can be difficult." He can't look at Lance right now, but he senses Lance tense anyway; knows that Lance's back is just a tiny bit straighter even if he is still slouched down against the sofa.

"Justin. I know what I'm doing. It's been a long time since Happy Place."

Justin sits up and turns to face Lance. "No. No. That's not what I meant." He leans over, resting a fleeting hand on Lance's knee before running it over his scalp. "I'd feel more comfortable if he was part of the same stable, you know? Guaranteed protection by a big company. My company."

"A big company doesn't always mean protection, Justin. You of all people should know that." Lance's gaze is tightly focused on Justin. "Besides, I doubt JC wants protection. Even from you. You know how he is."

"That's why I'm here, Lance. He won't listen to me. Says that he doesn't feel comfortable with the big agents and labels anymore. He's going to get screwed over if he's not careful. You know how hot he is right now."

Lance slides forward to the edge of the sofa and stands up. "Maybe you're the one who needs to try listening, J. JC's a grown man, older than you. He knows what he's doing."

"I don't know." Justin shakes his head slightly and stands as well. "I mean. I know, but."

"You've got to loosen the reins at some stage, Justin. He won't accept you 'looking after him' for much longer." Lance reaches out pulls Justin into a hug. "I have a meeting, so I have to kick you out," he lets Justin go and moves to open the office door, "but we're still on for lunch, ok?"

Justin nods. "Yeah. I'll see you at 2."

Ravishing Randy has been at it again. First he was seen cavorting with staff at a high profile soiree, and now he's bestowing his favours on fitness personnel. His aquatic tryst would certainly be news to the adoring adonis waiting for him at home, but friends won't speak up for fear of being caught in the middle.

Justin speeds down the highway. He's at least thirty over the limit but he doesn't care. The feeling that's been crawling over his skin since the meeting with Lance is clinging to him like a film of dirt. He doesn't want to go home so he drives straight past the house and keeps going.

The gym is quiet. There are only two other guys working out and they both ignore Justin. Relieved, he gets on the treadmill, sets it as high as he can and starts to run. The rhythm is soothing and he runs until he's dripping with sweat and his throat is starting to scratch from sucking in oxygen. When he's done running, he grabs his towel and heads for the weights.

It's easy to work out. Easy to focus on something simple and mindless for an hour, or two, until he's too tired to focus on anything at all.

Justin drops the barbell back into its slot and heaves himself up off the bench. The exhaustion hits like a wall. He staggers slightly. Sweat trickles from his temple as he walks slowly towards the front desk. They have soap for sale and he really needs a shower.

The manager is overly helpful, but hot. He looks a little like JC and flirts with Justin as he leads him to the private bathroom, a guiding hand that strays here and there. Justin doesn't say anything; he doesn't want to reveal how exhausted he truly is.

In the bathroom, Justin feels body heat right behind him moments before a hand slips over his hip and down to cup his cock. He bites his lip, but doesn't move. The hand massages gently. Justin's hard; he leans back and crosses his arms to lift his shirt. He pulls it off and steps away to push his pants down. Naked, he walks into the shower and starts the water. When the manager joins him, he doesn't protest, just closes his eyes and lets the water drown out his voice.

The first kiss is slick and hot and dirty and desperate, and Justin feels something inside him burning.

When he finally arrives home, the house is quiet. The lights are off and Justin breathes a sigh of relief. He needs food and another shower.

Justin crosses the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. When he turns, the carton of juice he's holding drops to floor. It hits with a splat and Justin can hear the liquid trickling onto the floor. "God, JC. You scared me half to death."

JC is sitting on the counter, his hair rumpled and expression grim.

Justin swallows and bends down to pick up the carton. Then he grabs a roll of paper towel and rips sheets off blindly, throwing them down onto the floor. "I'm, I didn't know you were there. You startled me." He wipes at the floor sloppily, using his foot to swipe the towel over the juice. "Why are you sitting in the dark like this?"

JC's voice is soft. "Lance called. I thought I asked you not interfere."

"Oh. I."

"Where did you go?"

Justin can't bring himself to look at JC. Not now. "I went to the gym." He shrugs. "Needed to work out some tension."

JC is still. In the tiny sliver of light thrown from the still open refrigerator, he looks like a sculpture. "Did it work?"

Justin nods, his eyes on the juice. "Yeah. Some."

"Good. I'm glad." He slides from the bench with a soft thump and Justin watches his bare feet as he leaves the room.

All fairytales have an end and this secretive couple have come to theirs, but the question is why? Was it the men on the side or jealousy over the old flame and mutual friend? Both, but don't underestimate that career issue. No one wants to be out shined after all. Now that they aren't making sweet music together, their former band mates may need to choose sides. This one could get messy, so stay tuned.

The engine purrs to a stop as Justin turns the key and pulls it from the ignition. Behind him, the garage door slides shut without a sound. He climbs out of the car and walks through the door leading into the house. Tapping in his pass code, he flips through his keychain and it drops to the floor with a jangle that rings sharply in Justin's ears. He stoops to retrieve them.

As he looks up, he sees the bags sitting by the front door. Justin stands up slowly. JC is in the doorway watching him.

"JC?" A chill creeps up Justin's spine and he feels encased in ice.

"I'm leaving, Justin." JC pulls the front door open and picks up his bags. "I'm sorry."

"Wait!" He takes a step towards JC, grabs his arm. "Why?"

JC drops his bags back to the floor and stalks from the room. Justin stumbles slightly, he can't feel his legs, and follows. When he reaches the living room a magazine hits him in the chest.

"Page 5."

JC's practically snarling and Justin's hands tremble as he flips through the pages.

"Top right."

Justin's eyes move as directed and when he sees the gossip column, his stomach turns to lead. He looks at JC and then at the magazine again.

JC's voice is pure steel. "You went to the gym last week, after lunch with Lance."

"JC, I go to the gym all the time. This isn't me."

"It's not?" JC crosses the room until he's standing chest to chest with Justin. "Your gym routine is like clockwork, Justin. That wasn't a usual workout. You showered twice."

"Fuck." Justin's brain is scrambled. "JC that is not me. You know these things are bullshit 90% of the time. I worked out because Lance pissed me off. I only had one shower."

"I'm not stupid, Justin. Your hair was still wet when you got home, and you couldn't wait to get into the shower after I saw you."

This close together, Justin can see that JC's eyes are red. He touches JC's wrist, and JC pulls himself out of reach. "JC."

"It's over, Justin." All the fight has drained out of JC now. He looks tired and worn down. "I know—. I know I don't do relationships well, Justin. I certainly fucked this one up. But I've never cheated and I don't think I can forgive someone who cheats on me."

"JC, please—"

JC shakes his head. Justin watches as the curls bounce and fall back into place. "No, Justin. It's better this way. We're hurting each other by pretending everything's fine." JC caresses Justin's face quickly. Too fast for Justin to catch his hand. "I'll send someone for the rest of my things."

Justin's frozen. He can't move. He can't speak. All he can do is watch JC walk out the door.

What an incestuous little scene pop can be. There really should be a limit to how many old friends and 'brothers' can get it on. You all know that sexy man behind the scenes, he's something of a regular in this column thanks to his dating exploits - he can't seem to find everything he wants and his heart gets broken over and over again. Well fear no more dear readers, if this wicked pixie has his way, no one will be tearing Sexy's heart up anymore. The Wicked Pixie has been biding his time for years and loyalty has finally been rewarded. Seems Sexy and Wicked Pixie spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year joined at the hip before embarking on a romantic road trip through Europe. One has to wonder how that mutual friend and former boyfriend feels about that? Word is, his next album will tell all.