For the hero of Slash Sparkle Pop, the archivist they call Jain.

Headings from Justify My Love, written by Lenny Kravitz, additional lyrics by Madonna.

Cross-Country Train
by Lesa Soja

Madonna's cunt tastes like chamomile and salt. Britney curls her arms under Madonna's thighs and hitches forward on her stomach to push in closer. She has girl all over her nose and her cheeks, and she sweeps her tongue lower, back up, and lower still, seeking the source of that taste. When Madonna's hips tremble and arch, Britney knows she's in the right place.

Wanting, needing, waiting

It's easy to say no to Justin because it's the right thing to do. Britney likes the kissing because that's something definite, that means something. And she lets him touch her breasts over her shirt, sitting patiently under his groping hands, because what can happen while they've got their clothes on? But when he runs his fingers down her sides and tries to slide them back up under the hem, she says, "Honey, no," and puts his hands aside. They're not married, even if maybe one day they will be, and she is waiting. It just wouldn't be right.

Before long, Madonna makes a more insistent sound and turns in Britney's arms. "Britney," she says thickly, and Britney swallows hard. Her gaze drops away from Madonna's eyes, skims across the slight swell of her stomach, and comes to rest on the fine hair between her thighs.

I want to know you

"Guess what?" her mom tells her on the way to Sweden. "Guess who wore one of your T-shirts at her live show in New York?"

Britney can't guess, so she just says, "Who? C'mon, momma, tell me."

"Madonna!" her mom says. "Now that's good publicity, honey."

"Wow, yeah!" Britney says. "The best."

Justin always brags about opening for Janet Jackson, and his voice gets all high and hushed. Britney rolls her eyes when he does that, but when she calls to tell him about Madonna, she can hear her own voice rising to a squeak. Justin laughs at her.

"You've got a fan, baby," he says. "It's happened before."

But she can't explain to him how she feels about Madonna, that incandescent voice, the resilience that sloughs off image after image and remains unshaken on the scene. She doesn't just admire that; she wants it. She wants to have it for herself.

When Madonna sets the glass down, before she can turn around again, Britney scoots forward and presses her face against Madonna's back, nuzzling the nodes of her spine. She touches her lips to the warm skin, breathing quickly, and then her tongue. Madonna sighs a little, letting her head roll forward. Then Britney moves her hands out and around, slipping them between Madonna's arms and sides, and cups her little fingers under Madonna's breasts. She brings her palms up slowly against their yielding weight.

What are you gonna do?

Britney makes a request when they get back to London, and they find her a shirt pretty quickly. After the wardrobe assistant leaves, Britney stands for a moment in her bra, just looking at it. It's a good picture, she thinks. Then she pulls it on, down over her breasts, and tugs till the hem sits properly at her hips. It's perfect.

"Oh, that's good," her mom says when she comes in. "Good thinking, honey, that'll be terrific press." Britney doesn't contradict her, and sure enough, a few days later the clippings roll in. Britney wonders if Madonna will see them too.

After Britney stills, Madonna crawls up and kisses her damply on the cheek. Britney curls an arm up and turns Madonna's face with her fingers in order to reach her lips. They kiss lengthily, leisurely. When Madonna pulls back, Britney can feel herself grinning like a fool. Madonna smiles broadly and touches Britney's neck for a moment. Then she turns and sits up to reach for the water glass on the nightstand. "Want some?" she asks. Britney shakes her head against the pillow.

Are you scared?

Justin leans back against the desk in his hotel room in Los Angeles and pulls Britney in close, between his legs. "Justin," she says hesitantly, and his big hands on her hips lift her up against him. He kisses her then, lips open on hers, and after a moment she tries to kiss back.

A loud volley of knocking interrupts them. Justin sighs and lets go of Britney to answer the door. Chris and Joey are there, and Justin holds a hushed argument with them in the doorway. Finally he turns and says, "I'm sorry, baby, this won't take but a minute."

She waves her hand. "Don't worry," she says, "go ahead."

She goes into the bathroom and fixes her hair and her lipstick, and then she goes to Lance and JC's room. Lance has Cartoon Network on. She curls up next to him on the bed, and he wraps his arm around her.

"You okay, honey?" he says.

"Yeah," she says, and rests her head on his shoulder.

Britney turns her head to the side and back, tensing her stomach, almost holding her breath. She tries to buck, but Madonna holds her hips hard, thumbs digging in next to the bones, and her tongue never falters. Her strokes get shorter, quicker, till there's no time for the flares to subside between them. They build and flash, build and flash, and Britney gasps, pushes, strains again, again - and then for long seconds she is only shuddering against Madonna's still working mouth.

I don't wanna be your mother

Lynn Harless invites her out for lunch, just the two of them. That's new, but Britney knows Lynn likes her, so she's not nervous. In fact they have a good time and everything is going fine until Lynn says, "Listen, Britney honey, I wanted to talk to you for a minute about Justin."

"About Justin?" Britney echoes, because that could be going a ton of scary places and it seems safer to let Lynn show her hand first.

"Yes, well. It's just, I know what boys are like, at his age - " Lynn flashes her a grin. "And I know what Justin's like, when he's got his mind fixed on something. And so I worry that when you're together, he might put pressure on you to do stuff you're not ready for."

Britney stares at her water glass, at the bits of pulp drifting free of the lemon slice. She doesn't want to look up, but she knows Lynn is watching her.

"You don't have to worry," she finally says. "I'm, I'm waiting. We're waiting. Nothing's gonna happen."

"No, I know," Lynn says. "I understand. All I mean is, if someday you change your mind and you do choose to have sex, just don't decide while he's in the room. You know? Decide sometime on your own, when he's not there."

Britney blushes furiously. Itís like Lynn didn't hear a word she just said.

Lynn reaches over and touches Britney's hand for a second, gently. "And now I've said my piece, and I'm done," she says. "So tell me about Rio, it's coming up real soon, isn't it?"

Lynn's smile is warm, engaging, infectious even, and Britney can't be mad at her after all, can't help smiling back. It's not surprising, really, she thinks later. Justin had to get that from somewhere.

Madonna kisses Britney's knee, and the inside of her thigh. Her lips are wet and soft, but Britney's waiting for one thing now, and she shifts a little restlessly, moving her leg farther out to the side. She looks down the length of her own body, and Madonna looks up at her with laughing eyes. The light coming through the blinds gleams in her hair, on her bare arm and shoulder. Then she bends down and puts her mouth on Britney's clit, and Britney's eyes fall closed.

Tell me your stories

"Hey, Britney, got some news for you," Johnny says. "We might be able to set up a duet with Madonna. That'd be cool, wouldn't it?"

"Totally!" Britney says. "You think, you really think she would?"

Johnny leans against the back of his sofa and lifts one hand, temporizing. "She likes you. I'll get someone to talk to her people. We'll see what we can work out."

Britney almost doesn't dare hope, but a few weeks later she is walking into a restaurant and sitting down at a table with Madonna. She's afraid it's going to be weird - after all, Madonna was already singing, touring, performing, when Britney was a baby. What can Britney say that Madonna doesn't already know? But Madonna smiles at her and says, "So what'd you think of Europe?"

"Well, it was cool," Britney says. "But I was so wiped by the end."

"You had a tough schedule," Madonna says, nodding. "I don't think I ever hit that many countries in that short a time. You really worked hard."

Before Britney knows it, she's talking about the vegetable game, the local manager in Italy who walked in on her and Jen and Tina saying "ashparagush, ashparagush, asparagush," with their lips drawn over their teeth, how he turned on his heel, looking horrified, and walked right back out again. They hadn't been able to stop giggling, and Madonna laughs, too.

"Ashparagush," she says experimentally. "Zhucchini. Shelery."

"Domato," Britney says, and they're just sitting there, laughing together. They talk about rehearsing and dance steps and tour buses, and concerts and photo shoots and video shoots, and Britney is totally taken by surprise when Madonna finally sets her napkin on the table and says,

"Damn, time flies. I'm really sorry, but I think I have to get going."

"Oh," Britney says. "Yeah, of course." They didn't talk about a duet the whole time, not at all. She blew it.

"So I'll set up some studio time for us," Madonna says. "So we can try it out, okay? How we sound together."

"Oh!" Britney says. "That, um, yeah. That would be awesome."

Madonna takes Britney's hand and presses it between both of hers. "This is gonna be cool. I'll see you soon."

"See you," Britney says. Madonna holds onto her hand a moment longer.

Madonna laps softly at the top of Britney's breast, down to the nipple, around it, across it, and Britney shivers. A long swirl, a series of rapid flicks, a silver line drawn out. She bites her lip and arches her shoulders. Then Madonna's mouth closes over that nipple while her fingers twist the other, and Britney moans, and shudders, and loses track.

I don't wanna be your sister either

"Come on, let's take a break," Madonna says. She takes Britney's hand and tugs her over to the couch, where they fall back against the pillows dramatically. "So, what do you think so far? Do you like it?"

"Yeah!" Britney says. "I think, uh, you know. I think we work pretty well together."

"We do," Madonna says. They both smile, leaning against the cushions, their faces turned towards each other. Madonna looks really happy, and Britney knows a moment ahead of time what they're going to do. She leans forward, and Madonna kisses her.

They can't stop smiling. They kiss and kiss. Once or twice Britney has to pull back to brush away some strands of their hair that get caught between their mouths. They grin a little, and then fall back together and kiss some more. Britney cups Madonna's cheek in her palm and kisses her lower lip gently. Then she wants to draw her teeth across it, and does.

They slide towards each other on the couch until their thighs are pressed together. Madonna runs her fingers along Britney's arm, up to the edge of her cap sleeve and back down again. Britney closes her eyes and nearly trembles under that light touch. She wants to have more skin free to feel it.

Britney's phone shrills behind her, and she jumps about a mile. Madonna moves back on the couch while Britney digs the phone out of her purse and says, "yes, thank you, I'll be right there."

After Britney ends the call, she turns back. Her arms feel cold suddenly. She bites her lip.

"You're so amazing," Madonna says. She reaches over and touches Britney's face, her neck. "When can I see you again?"

Britney smiles.

She tugs her skirt straight as she walks to the car, and her thighs feel loose and warm.

Britney walks Madonna backward the few steps to the bed, and Madonna pulls Britney down next to her. Britney drags her mouth away and kisses Madonna's cheek, her temple, the slightly dry skin beneath her eyes. "Can I?" Britney says, her fingers hooked under the hem of Madonna's shirt, and Madonna nods, lifting her arms. Before Britney can do more than look, though, Madonna reaches for her top. The clinging Lycra has to be rolled up over Britney's breasts, and the bra peeled away. Then the sheet is cool under Britney's back as Madonna leans over her.

So now what, so now what?

Justin calls on Britney's off day, but she doesn't pick up. She doesn't want to talk to him - not yet.

She's going to have to have a conversation with him, and she isn't looking forward to it. Justin will be angry, and sad, and she just. Doesn't want to face that. But she knows she'll have to tell him sooner or later. She doesn't think she can sit still under his kisses much longer.

Madonna hasn't mentioned Guy, and Britney hasn't asked. She's almost afraid to. For now, she thinks, just for now, it doesn't matter.

Her phone rings again, and she grabs it off the table.

"Want to have room service lunch with me?" Madonna says.

"Where're you at?" Britney says, reaching for a pencil.

"So," Madonna says, standing up from the little table. Britney sits back in her chair. She can't help smiling. Madonna saunters over and straddles Britney's lap. Britney wraps her hands over Madonna's hips. "So," Madonna says again, and watches Britney carefully. Britney shifts her thigh, a minute, deliberate movement against Madonna's ass. Madonna looks gleeful. "Can you stay for breakfast?" she says, leaning forward so that her hair falls across the side of her face. Britney looks up at that clear smile, lit by afternoon sunlight, and it's easy to say yes.