Author: Zarah

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: JC Chasez/Justin Timberlake

Warning: Dark. Angst. Adult content. Graphic male/male sex. I think that just about covers it.

Summary: Wherein JC is, uh,... not JC.

Disclaimer: Okay, so I'm a liar. Doesn't mean that I'll stop writing stories, though.



Over night, JC had gone from being this sometimes goofy, sometimes serious man to some stranger who had taken over JC's body. Sure, the stranger spoke like JC, was spending hours working on a song, chewing at the end of his pen, and the stranger's smile was just as broad as JC's smile had been. But he wasn't JC. Because the stranger's smile didn't reach his eyes, didn't cause those blue orbs to lighten up in joy. Because the stranger didn't fall asleep two minutes after sitting down on some chair or sofa.

Because the only time the stranger showed any feelings was when he was absorbed in his music, writing songs he refused to show to any of them.


They didn't notice it, not immediately, probably because it was the middle of the tour and they were all too busy to slow down for a minute to really look at JC.

The first clue had probably been when JC was the first one at breakfast, bags under his eyes and looking as if he hadn't slept at all. But JC had left the club early the other night, so they just assumed he had brought some girl up to his room, which, of course, would explain the lack of sleep. And so they let it go.

The next clue that could have told them that something was wrong was when JC didn't eat anything, just pushed the food around on his plate, waiting for the others to finish. But maybe JC just didn't feel very well, hang-over being the keyword.

Then there was the fact that JC hardly said a word. But JC had never been a morning person, and a hangover JC was even less of a morning person.

There were other clues, enough of them. And yet it wasn't until after their show the next night that it was even mentioned amongst the other four men of *NSYNC. Justin, being the closest to JC, was the one to bring it up, asking Lance, Joey and Chris to come to his room after taking their showers.


Justin was pacing, his bare feet padding over the white fluffy carpet of the luxurious hotel room. Chris was sitting on the floor, changing his position every five seconds to get rid of the energy his post-show high always provided him with. Although Chris didn't need a post-show high, he just about always had too much energy. Lance, looking slightly worried, was lying on Justin's bed, Joey sprawled half next, half over him.

Suddenly, Justin stopped dead in his tracks, raised his head to look at the rest of them, something resembling desperation on his face.

"Am I the only one who noticed that JC isn't himself?"

"No." Chris answered immediately. Joey and Lance just shook their heads.

Justin started his pacing again. "Okay. JC doesn't eat. JC doesn't sleep. JC doesn't talk. JC doesn't feel. - Anything I forgot?"

"JC avoids looking at us, especially at you." Lance completed, voice calm and collected.

"Me?" Face drained of all color, Justin was staring at Lance.

The Mississippian nodded, and Justin slumped down in the nearest chair.

It was obvious that Justin was no longer in the right mood to lead the conversation, so Chris stood up and looked around at his three assembled friends. "So... Who goes first in trying to get C to talk?"

A rhetorical question, and they all knew it.

No one bothered answering.


JC was writing, bent over some lyrics, and Justin knew that it was a bad time to disturb JC and force him to talk. But then again, lately, every time seemed to be a bad time to talk to JC.

So. pretending not to notice the demonstrative ignorance JC showed upon Justin's entrance, Justin plopped down into a seat in front of JC, staring hard at the top of the brunette's head, wondering just how exactly to start. He knew that they had the privacy, that no one would disturb them for at least half an hour. The other guys had promised Justin to make sure of that.

But somehow, this turned out to be a lot harder than Justin had thought at first.

He had never had troubles talking to JC, they had always confided in each other, talked about anything that bothered them. No secrets. At least Justin hoped so.

And yet, it was incredibly difficult to find the right words to start the conversation. Which was ridiculous, because, even if he didn't act like it, this was still JC, JC with whom Justin had spent four hours trying to come up with the perfect description for the taste of a Mountain Dew. He could always talk to JC. Always.

So why not now?

Because JC wasn't JC anymore.

Feeling fidgety and uncomfortable, something he was absolutely not used to in JC's presence because the older man had always made him feel at ease, Justin let his eyes travel over the dressing room, seeing, but not really registering the old velvety sofa, the wooden desk, the shelf with dusty books that seemed as if no one had ever even looked at them. Which, considering that this was a dressing room and not some office of a professor, wouldn't be all that surprising. What had they thought when this room had been decorated?

By all appearances: Not much.

A lost fly was buzzing somewhere, shaking Justin out of his musings, making the uncomfortable silence between Justin and his supposed-to-be best friend even more obvious, almost as if it was taunting him.

Well, he'd be damned if he let JC slip away just like this!


"What do you want, Justin?" JC didn't look up, stayed focused on his writings.

Which was, in itself, just another clue as the real JC would always pay attention to Justin, no matter what. And the real JC had never, not once, been irritated with Justin, even in their MMC days, when Justin had been following JC around, JC had never been angry or impatient with him.

And now that he was, for the first time in their years-long friendship, Justin didn't know what to do.

He cleared his throat, swallowed, shifted in his chair.

JC scribbled down a few words, not glancing up at him.


"Justin, what?"

"Why are you like this?"

Cold blue eyes stared up at him. "What's it to you?"

"I'm your best friend, Josh. I want to know if something's bothering you. Talk to me. Please."

JC shook his head, directed his gaze back at the sheet in front of him. "There's nothing to talk about. Could you leave me alone now, please? I'm trying to concentrate."

Justin took a deep breath, helplessly looking at the brunette. "You never shut me out before, JC. What's happening?"

For a short moment, almost too short to notice, the blue ice was softening, but it passed just as quickly as it had come. "Nothing."

"Then why aren't you eating? Why aren't you sleeping? Why..."

"Justin, could you leave me alone now, please?" JC's voice was raised and sharp, more of an order than a request.

They stayed in silence for a moment, the fly producing the only sound in the room.

"Why don't you talk to me, Josh?" Justin whispered, not sure if JC had heard him.

If he had, then he ignored it.


The show didn't go well, and it wasn't even JC's fault. Sure, JC wasn't quite as energetic and passionate as he usually was on stage, but the difference could only be picked up by people who really knew him. Joey was sure that none of the fans had noticed.

He was, however, just as sure that all the fans had noticed that Justin was off. The young singer didn't work the crowd the way he usually did, he merely sang his parts of the songs, and his dancing was...

Well, Joey hadn't thought that Justin was able to be a bad dancer even if he tried, but after this night, he had to admit that he had been wrong. Justin's movements were flat, there was no spice, no emotion in any of the young man's steps, and the sex appeal he managed to bring into a simple jump was missing.

Actually, it was Justin who was missing. Justin's ego, maybe. Or, and Joey thought it to be the most likely possibility, Justin was off because of JC, because Justin needed JC to make the show good. It had always been like this, they relied on each other, and now that Justin didn't have his counterpart, didn't have the connection to JC when they were sharing leads, he was no longer able to perform.

So, if not for the group's and their friend's sake, then they had to get the real JC back at least for the fans.


Before the show, there hadn't been enough time to ask Justin if his alone-time with JC had gotten him any results, but when they were ushered out of the backdoors of the stadium, Justin caught up with Joey.

The Italian supposed that the slap on the shoulder and the muttered "Have fun trying to get him to talk." was as good as answer as any.

Pausing at the entrance of the bus he had been rushed to, Joey watched Chris and Lance disappear into the other one of their tour buses, closely followed by Justin. Justin, who looked worn out and tired, and Joey just knew that it wasn't because of the concert.

Now that he thought about it, the most important reason why they had to get the real JC back was because Joey wasn't sure how long Justin would be able to make it without his best friend.

The driver's shout brought him back to attention, and Joey quickly entered the bus, cursing upon having stubbed his knee against the doorframe to the living room because he couldn't make out anything in the darkness. And why was it dark, anyway? Joey knew that JC was on the bus, he had seen him enter.

Still muttering curses, Joey reached for the light switch, blinking until his eyes had adjusted to the light and he could see JC leaning against one of the windows, staring out, not moving at all.

The real post-show JC was too pumped with energy to stay in the same place for more than the tenth of a second.

Joey reached out a hand to touch the other man's shoulder, and JC jerked away, glaring.

"Don't touch me."

The real JC needed physical affection.

"Okay, okay." The Italian backed away and sat down on the couch, watching JC's eyes go back to the cold ice they were slowly getting used to.

The real JC wasn't able to hide his feelings.

The bus started to move, and faintly, there were screams and yells, sounding distant through the thick, bullet-proof windows of the vehicle, as if the fans were screaming for someone else. JC turned back to the window, and Joey considered approaching him, but stayed where he was.

They were leaving the area, and they both could feel the bus picking up in speed, JC's figure swaying slightly when they hit a bump in the road.

"JC, what's wrong?"


This time, Joey got up, glared at JC's back. "You're lying."


The other man shrugged his shoulders, and for a short moment, Joey felt the urge to insult or hit him, anything that would get him a real reaction. Instead, he sat down again, forcing himself to take deep breaths before speaking again, considerably calmer.

"You wanna talk about it?"


And Joey knew to leave it at that.


Lance was the most patient and sensible one of them, had always been, and they all knew it. Lance could sit hours in the same spot, just quietly listening to someone's problems, and although he didn't give any advice, everything seemed to look a little brighter afterwards.

And that's exactly what Lance was doing now.

Only that JC wasn't talking, was not even acknowledging his presence as he had buried himself in some new lyrics. Once again.

The Mississippian couldn't shake off the impression that lately, everything JC seemed to do was either write or stare out of a window. Not because he suddenly had a creativity streak, but rather because it was a way to keep the other guys at a distance.

And Lance intended to find out why exactly JC wanted to isolate himself.

Even if it meant that he had to sit hours on this couch, his eyes leaving JC's face not once.


It didn't take a few hours. It didn't even take one hour. What it took to make JC acknowledge his presence were ten minutes of pointed, unwavering staring.

Although, acknowledge... Somehow, Lance felt as if it was exaggerated to describe the emotionless

"Quit staring, Lance."

as acknowledgement, because, well... If it weren't for the movement of JC's lips, then the order could as well have been said by someone invisible. There was no change in facial expression, not even a glance in Lance's direction that indicated that the brunette was aware of anything besides the pen in his hand and the words it left on its way over the sheet.

Lance leaned back in his chair, casually watching JC. "Why? Is it bothering you?"

The barely noticeable lift of shoulders. "I don't care."

"Then why do you want me to stop?"

"Because you're wasting your time."

Lance raised a brow. "How so?"

This time, JC glanced up, but only for the tenth of a second. The Mississippian felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of icy cold water on him.

"I'm not going to talk to you, Lance. You can sit and stare for two months straight, for all I care."

Lance sighed. "Can you at least give me a reason why you won't talk to us? Did we do something wrong?"

JC's gaze didn't leave the pen, moving steadily across the sheet in front of him.

The silence stretched between them, became thick and unbearable.

Lance left the room.


The interviewer shuffled through some sheets, her eyes scanning over the questions until she settled for one of them.

"Who do you guys go to with your personal problems? You know, if you need advice, or just someone to listen, which one of you is best at things like this? JC?" She looked at him expectantly.

The reply wasn't hesitant at all. "Justin. I always go to Justin with stuff like this."

Justin's head snapped around, turning to look at JC, but the brunette was concentrating on the interviewer.

"Why?" she asked.

"...don't you talk to me, then?" Justin silently added.

JC shrugged. "I don't know. It's just that Justin and I always talk about stuff, he's a great listener, and he gives pretty good advice."

It wasn't until JC flashed one of those toothy fake smiles in his direction that Justin remembered that this was an interview. Most answers had been made up, almost every single one had been talked through with management.

Justin bent his head to hide the sudden wetness of his eyes.


Chris supposed it was the surprise that made it possible. JC had the strength to overpower him, no question about that, so when Chris managed to push JC against the wall, pinning his wrists over the younger man's head to keep him from struggling, it was only because JC was too surprised to fight back.

Then Chris looked up, into JC's eyes, and the look of complete and utter terror caused him to release JC, instinctively taking a step back. JC stared at him, blue orbs wide and shocked, his breathing shallow and erratic. Then JC blinked, and when his eyes opened again, Chris could see that the mask of coldness and indifference had been put back on.

He sighed.

JC crossed his arms.

Chris watched him.

"I'm not gonna talk to you, Chris. So just give up."

Chris shook his head. "I'm not here to talk to you, JC. For once, you'll be the one who will have to listen. And you will listen, even if I have to force you."

"Oh, really?"

It was so tempting. One smack, and the smug smirk would have been erased.

Chris forced himself to relax. "Yes, really. You're about to make the biggest mistake of your life."

Mild amusement. "Am I?"

Breathe, Chris. Relax. Don't let him get to you.

"Yes, you are. No matter what it is, it won't do any good to shut us out, JC. It's not good for you, and it's not good for us. Did you know that Justin's been sleeping in my room for the last two days because he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown?"

The mask crumbled, but only for a moment. Then it was as strong as ever.

JC shrugged, turned his head away.

Chris threw his hands up in surrender. "You're a fool, JC. You throw away your friendships, and then, when you'll suddenly realize that you need us, that you need Justin, it will be too late."

"I don't need you. None of you. And I sure as hell don't need Justin."

"You'll regret it, JC. I know you will. But it might be too late then."

The door slammed close behind Chris.

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