For steph, in the 2006 Don We Now Our Gay Apparel secret santa. Many thanks to northernveil, _ducks, and marej for awesome beta action.
In Control Curious
by Lesa Soja
Britney was hanging out with Lance in his room the day of Justin's visit, curled up in the curve of Lance's arm while she aimed the remote at the television, and Lance was in the middle of laughing at her when Justin stuck his head in the door.
"Hey, Lance," he said. "You got my girl in here?"
"Don't know about that, Timberlake. I've got our soprano," Lance said gamely, but his arm felt suddenly awkward with Justin looking at them. He pulled it away and patted Britney on the back instead, and she sat up to lift her face to Justin's kiss.
She made no move to get up and take Justin to her own room, though. "Scoot over," she said, turning back to Lance and shoving at his shoulder. "Make some room already."
"Um," he said, but he slid over to the far edge of the bed and felt the mattress shift as Justin settled on Britney's other side. Justin's arm wrapped so far around Britney that his hand was practically on Lance's shoulder, and Justin's long legs stretched out down the length of the bed.
"What are you watching?" he said. It was a good thing Britney answered, because Lance was staring right at the screen and he couldn't have said for the world.
The thing with Justin was that he had pretty much always been around. Britney and JC had worked with him on the Mickey Mouse Club, and Joey had known all of them back then too, going to the tapings with the kids from his school. And Chris had met Justin in Orlando as well, at a club, so they said, although the story sounded kind of sketchy to Lance; what kind of club would the two of them both have been at? Still, the fact remained that Chris and Justin ran around racing scooters and stockpiling water balloons together the whole time Justin was opening for their tour. So the only one in the group who didn't know Justin was Lance.
And it wasn't like Justin didn't become familiar, first over the course of that tour, and then later on when he started coming over to visit Britney on breaks from his own schedule. But Justin was amiable and earnest and not easy to get to know. Lance thought maybe it was because Justin had to do all his interviews by himself. No one else ever covered for him, so he got used to covering for himself. Lance thought that must get lonely sometimes.
"What's the matter with you?" Britney said, poking Lance in the arm, after Justin and his bodyguards had left for the airport. "You hardly said anything all afternoon."
"Nothing," Lance said. "I guess I just, I didn't want to be in the way. You and Justin didn't really get any time alone together."
"Silly," she said. "You weren't in the way at all. We both like hanging out with you. Didn't you have a good time?"
"Sure, I did," Lance said. And it was true, he had, which went a long way towards squelching his lingering uncertainty.
"Lance," the interviewer said, tucking her hair behind her ear, "I'm sure you've heard about Kevin Richardson claiming that Nsync's success is all based on copying the Backstreet Boys. What's your response to that?"
Lance smiled pleasantly. "Well, that's totally wrong. For one thing, we're not a boyband like them. Of course we do pop music, but we have much more of a mix of voices. And even though we worked with the same manager, our styles are just really -"
"Right, yes, definitely," the interviewer broke in, and Lance shut up abruptly. Everybody asked that question, but nobody wanted to hear the answer. "Now, Britney," the girl went on, looking much more alert, "rumor has it that you're dating Justin Timberlake. Is that true?"
Britney colored up prettily and said, "We're friends, actually. We've known each other forever, so we're real close."
"Uh huh," said the interviewer, "I see." Lance leaned back on his elbows, waiting to hear if she would press Britney further on the subject. Britney put on a winning but close-lipped smile, however, and the next question went to Joey.
"Come in," Lance called in response to the knock on his door, and in they came, Britney and Justin, holding hands. "Um, hi," Lance said, glancing from one of them to other.
"Hey!" Britney said. "Justin got the tape of that Bond movie in prerelease. Wanna watch it with us?"
"Sure," Lance said, still a little bemused. "Why not."
So Justin climbed onto the bed, and Britney after him. Lance thought he could almost feel the warmth of Justin's leg close along the length of his thigh. He tried his best not to be distracted, but he couldn't help sneaking little glances over at the two of them from time to time. Or really, if he was honest, pretty much mostly just at Justin. Justin was focused steadily on the screen, leaning forward a little when the action got going. Once he caught Lance's eye and gave him a smile, a little slower and thicker than his photo shoot grins. Lance raised an eyebrow and looked away, hoping he wasn't blushing.
The movie was barely half over when they heard a commotion in the hallway and then Chris's voice, loud and clear, right outside the door. "Lansten and Britney Jean!" Chris yelled. "Getcher asses out here right this minute! Interview time!"
Britney rolled her eyes but clicked off the TV and started putting her shoes on. Lance slid his feet into his own sneakers and wondered why Chris hadn't just come into the room, or at least stuck his head in. What Chris thought could possibly be happening, and whether he realized Justin was there.
It was a while before Justin could visit again, but Britney's bounciness at breakfast left no doubt when the day had finally come. "Yes, we know your fairy prince is riding into town today," Chris said. "These pancakes have been flipped enough already though, so settle down, missy, and stop shaking the table."
Britney stuck her tongue out at him, and Chris stuck his out right back. Lance looked at Joey and rolled his eyes. Joey just looked amused.
Lance was playing Street Fighter later on when Britney and Justin came into the toy room.
"Hey, Lance!" Britney said.
"Morning," Justin added in his rich, warm voice.
"Hi," Lance said, still trying to finish off the guy he was after. Before he could look up he felt the couch shift, and they sat down, one on either side of him.
"How's it going?" Justin said.
"Not so good," Lance said. "Damn!" He sighed and set down the controller to stretch out his hands.
"Aw, honey," Britney said. She put her arm around his shoulders and gave him a comforting squeeze.
"Two-player, next round?" Justin asked.
"Sure," Lance said.
Justin got up to fetch the other controller, and when he sat back down, his knee pressed against Lance's. Lance thought maybe he should make a little more room on the couch for Justin, but Britney was still draped over his other side so he didn't really have space to move.
"Oh, good shot!" Justin said, and he nudged his shoulder against Lance in congratulation. He didn't move away again afterwards, either, just stayed there, solid against Lance's side, his arm brushing Lance's as they jumped and attacked, and his elbow tucked neatly against Lance's waist. It was strangely comfortable. Lance could feel as well as hear Justin's breath catch at the height of the battle, and a spike of adrenaline went through his own muscles. Fortunately his jeans were loose enough that he didn't think Justin could tell he was starting to get hard.
It wasn't till a few weeks later that Lance started thinking about all Justin's visits, and a suspicion unfurled itself in the back of his mind. The shiver it gave him made him think he'd better have it out with Britney right away, or else it would grow and twine and choke all his thoughts, and he'd never be able to deal.
So he followed her onto her bus after the next show and sat down on her clean blue couch. Britney stretched out and put her feet in his lap, and Lance wrapped his hand over her toes. "Babydoll," he said, "I need to ask you something."
"What?" she said.
"You and Justin."
"You, uh... Do you..."
"Are you looking to have a threesome with me?"
Britney laid her head back and laughed out loud.
"You are too funny," she said when she was done. "A threesome! Holy shit!"
"Well, a person might be excused for wondering," Lance said, nettled. "Y'all have been awfully cozy with me lately, when I woulda thought you'd wanna spend the time with each other."
Britney propped herself up on her elbows to look at him.
"Honey," she said, "you know we're not really dating, right?"
"What?" Lance said.
"It makes good press, and stuff, and it keeps people off our backs. But that's all."
Lance blinked at her. "But," he said.
Britney sat up a little more and rested her elbow on the top of the couch. "Like, Johnny said otherwise people might get freaked out wondering if I was gonna hook up with any of y'all. I mean, we know you're all, like, my big brothers, but other people were starting to say stuff, about me living with four guys all the time on the road, and shit like that. So we decided we'd drop enough hints to make them think me and Justin are together instead."
Lance thought that over, rubbing his fingertips over the soles of her feet. "I guess that's smart," he said. She nodded and shifted back to lean her head against the cushions. "But, wait a minute," he said. "That's all great for you, but what about Justin? What's in it for him?"
"Oh, it's good publicity for him too," Britney said, closing her eyes. "Gives him an excuse for why he keeps on coming around here."
"Keep doing that," she said firmly.
Lance pressed his thumbs down obligingly and cast a glance sideways at her small, sharp smile. A new thread of doubt began spinning itself out in his mind.
The TV in the suite's living room had been left on MTV, and when Lance came in to grab a hoodie, he saw Justin on the screen and paused to listen for a minute.
"Now, your tour is going on for, what, another month?" Carson said, and Justin nodded.
"Yeah, four weeks left on this leg. Then I'll take a little break" - Justin had to pause there for the audience's croons of disappointment to die down - "just a little break, y'all, two weeks of downtime, and then the next leg kicks off in Seattle."
"Got any plans for your vacation?" Carson asked. "Going to visit anyone, maybe?"
Justin laughed. "There's plenty of friends I'd like to catch up with, sure."
"Oh, come on! You mean to say there's no special someone you'll wanna see? Don't be holding out on us, now."
"Man, there's nothing to tell yet," Justin said, grinning. "It's early days. Early days."
"Early days and late nights," Carson said to the camera, "that's how it goes. Thanks to Justin Timberlake for being here with us today. Now, coming up next..."
Lance stared at the screen with narrowed eyes while the promo played.
"Lance?" Lynne said behind him, and he jumped, startled. She came farther into the room, and he glanced around for the remote. "Did you find your jacket, honey? Lonnie and Mike are watching the lobby, but it's starting to fill up a little, so we should get out of here as soon as you're ready."
"Yeah, I'm ready," Lance said. He grabbed a gray hoodie off the sofa - it looked like it was probably one of JC's - and finally discovered the remote underneath where the hoodie had been lying. Before he could click the TV off, though, the commercials ended and Carson came back on.
"Now we've talked to 98 Degrees, we've talked to Justin Timberlake, and next up is a video that fits right -"
"After you," Lance said a little too loudly into the silence. Lynne smiled at him, much too genteelly to call it a smirk, and turned towards the door.
Lynne's expression came back to him when he was trying to fall asleep that night, the knowing look in her eyes so exactly like Britney's, despite her greater composure. Lance tugged aside his bunk's curtain to peer at the door to the living area, and saw with relief that the crack beneath it was still yellow-warm with light. He grabbed a sweatshirt and went through to find Joey sprawled in front of the TV.
"Hey," Joey said.
"Hey," Lance said. He sat down and pulled the sweatshirt over his head and then leaned back and stared at the screen.
"You okay?" Joey asked after a while. "You look kinda worried."
Lance sighed. "Not worried, really. Just." He hesitated, and Joey lifted an eyebrow. "Do you think it's a good idea for Britney to pretend to be dating Justin?"
Joey shrugged, lifting one hand in a resigned gesture.
"I mean, she explained why Johnny wanted her to, and it makes sense and all. It's just, it kinda means she can't date anyone else."
"Well, not publicly, anyway," Joey said.
"Oh," Lance said. "Right, yeah."
"Don't tell me you're switching teams for her."
"What? No, you dork." Lance grabbed a cushion and swatted at Joey's head with it. After a minute of wrestling Joey managed to knock the cushion out of Lance's hand and tugged Lance's head down to rest on his shoulder.
"You should be sleeping, Scoop," Joey said.
"Mm," Lance said, "so should you, Supe."
"Yeah," Joey said. He picked up the remote and clicked off the TV. Neither of them made a move to get up for quite a while longer.
The uneasiness wasn't entirely gone, though, and it took Lance a while to track JC down where they could talk privately. Finally he found JC alone in the quiet room and sat down kitty-corner from him at the table. JC glanced up and nodded, and then went back to studying his notebook.
"Hey, C," Lance said. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure," JC said. He flipped the notebook shut with his finger marking the page and looked up at Lance.
"When you and Brit were on the Mouse Club, were any of the kids there gay?"
JC stuck the end of his pen between his teeth and then took it back out again. "What makes you ask that?" he said.
"I just. I was wondering what y'all thought about that."
JC nodded. "Well," he said, "me and Tony had a thing for a while, and nobody ever seemed to have a problem with it."
"Oh!" Lance said. "I didn't know that. That's cool."
"Yeah," JC said. "I mean, I'm with Bobbie now, and all, but yeah, we had that."
"And -" Lance felt a bit strange pushing the point after what JC had said, but he still really wanted to know. "- Were you the only ones, do you know? Or were any of the other kids, too?"
JC pursed his lips. "That's really, you know, that's not for anyone else to say, except for them themselves."
"Right, of course, no," Lance said. JC was still looking at him dubiously, and Lance bit his lip. "I -" he started to say, but just then the door opened and Chris and Britney came in. Britney was looking rather gray around the edges.
"Hey, you guys," Chris said. "Will you take some time out of your busy schedules and help me convince this one she needs a nap?"
"You should sleep while you can, Brit," Lance said obediently. "You won't get that many chances, hanging around a spazz like him."
Chris stuck a haughty nose in the air while he sat down on one of the couches. Britney pulled a face too, but settled next to Chris willingly enough and stretched out with her head on a pillow in his lap.
When Lance glanced back at JC, he had opened up his notebook again. Lance wished he'd been able to get more answers out of him, but from the way JC was gazing down at his page, Lance guessed the subject was pretty effectively closed.
Lance could still have tried Chris, he supposed. But when he thought about it, the odds that Chris would give up any new details about that club, or that they would be either true or useful if he did, seemed fairly slim. So there was really only one person left to go to.
Accordingly, at the next visit Lance waited till Justin and Britney had had a good amount of time to catch up, maybe half an hour or so, and then he went and knocked on Britney's door.
"Hey, Lance!" she said. She and Justin were sitting cross-legged together on her bed, with a bouquet of yellow roses lying next to them.
"Hi, Brit," Lance said. "Listen, there's something I need to talk to Justin about. Would you mind..."
"Sure, come on in," she said. Lance came into the room and scratched his forehead.
"Um. Do you think, if we could talk privately?"
"Oh!" Britney said. "Oh, sure thing. You got it. I'll just, uh, go put these in some water." She gathered up the flowers and bustled out of the room, giving him a sidelong glance as she went by that he couldn't quite read.
When the door closed behind her, Lance took a breath and looked over at Justin. Justin was sitting up against the headboard with a thoughtful expression.
"So," he said, "you ready to ditch the chaperone?"
"Chaperone!" Lance said in a surprised huff. On second thought, though, he figured that wasn't the most important thing to clear up right then. He crossed over to the bed instead to kiss the amused curve of Justin's mouth, and a whole new surge of intoxication overwhelmed him. When Lance started drawing back, Justin wrapped a hand around the nape of his neck and kept on kissing him until the flood of it drowned out whatever questions had been rising in his mind.