i. the crush
I don't know
Do you believe me
After all that's said and done
Justin sees him for the first time at an AIDS benefit, the one that anyone who's anyone shows up at. Not that it's the first time he's ever seen him, of course, but the first time he ever really sees him.
Nick Fucking Carter.
Nick warming up his voice and Nick goofing off with his friends and Nick out there performing his heart out. Nick looking like Nick has never really looked to him before -- tall and broad and confident.
"Do not tell me you're checking out the Backstreet Boys." Chris wraps an arm around his neck and tries to drag him bodily away from the side of the stage, but Justin holds his ground. Chris doesn't stand a chance. They've already performed, already cleaned up, and Justin has nowhere else to be. And no amount of convincing from Chris or anyone is gonna get him to go anywhere other than where he already is.
"Not all of them," he says vaguely when Chris settles down. "Just the one."
"Oh, tell me it's Howie, he's dreeeeamy."
Justin snorts and shoves his shoulder just for suggesting that. "Don't be a jerk."
"Not Howie, then?" he asks, playing the innocent and failing spectacularly. "No, no, wait. I know your type, Timberlake. It's that big, butch, blond Carter, isn't it?"
Justin refuses to blush, not at that, not at anything. "He didn't used to look like that, did he?" he asks, though.
"No, Carter's definitely been a work-in-progress these last few years."
"And tonight's the grand unveiling."
Chris gives him a strange look and tries to put him in a headlock again. "No, I think you missed the grand unveiling and are kinda accidentally walking into the gallery after everyone else has already gotten a good look."
"Are you calling me slow?"
"If the shoe fits ... "
Justin shoves him off so hard he almost trips, but he's laughing and Justin's smiling and it's all okay. Chris shakes his head at him like he's a lost cause and heads somewhere else, back to their dressing room or maybe to find the open bar. Justin doesn't much care, as long as Chris isn't there to get in his way anymore.
He watches the rest of the set from the wings, and when it's all over he ducks away and finds that same open bar Chris has, getting himself a plain Coke so it looks like he's drinking but he can still keep his reflexes sharp. The vast room is full of celebrities, and celebrity hangers-on, and celebrity wannabees, and people who have to work with celebrities and couldn't care less.
Justin couldn't care less either, sipping his Coke and avoiding Chris's eyes and waiting for the moment when Nick would enter the room, making a scene like always. He's so sure he won't miss the moment he doesn't even watch the door, just waits for the inevitable commotion.
He's startled when someone jostles his elbow, and whirls around to raise hell until he sees who it is. He swallows the angry curses that had been ready to come out and just nods his head jerkily.
Nick scowls back. "Don't start any shit, Timberlake, it was an accident," he says. Nick's hair is wet at the hairline. Justin knows this is because Nick showered after performing, can tell because his hair is soft and falling over his forehead, dangling just over his eyes. Still, he imagines it's sweat and he wants to lick it.
"No, I'm not," he says after a pause he realizes is too long, too pregnant.
"Seriously," says Nick, snatching up his drink. It's not plain Coke, Justin can tell that much. "Lay off for tonight? I'm not in the mood." He starts to push past Justin, disappear into the crowd.
"Hey, no, look," says Justin, careful to stop him without actually touching him. "I know that I've said a lot of things and you've said a lot of things and a lot of shit has happened, but we're adults now. So can we just ... not? Anymore?"
Nick is skeptical, it's obvious from the guarded look on his face, the way his eyes dart around the room. But Justin is sincere, and he hopes that's obvious, too. Repressed lust hidden behind animosity can only get you so far. Then Nick laughs suddenly, after studying Justin's face for a long, long time.
"You're for real," he says, like it's the funniest and most amazing thing he's ever heard. "Hell yeah, sure, why not? I'm fuckin' bored already; you can only make this thing more interesting."
Justin makes it a point to do exactly that, for as long as Nick lets him.
ii. the caper
I am the loser
And you're shining like the sun
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"It's a great idea," Justin says as he peeks around a corner to ensure the coast is clear. Even though there are, in fact, people milling around, he steps out confidently, leaving Chris hiding around the corner. "He'll get a real kick out of it, trust me."
"Oh he will, will he? What, are you best friends now?"
"Shut up," ways Justin, reaching out to shove him. Chris stumbles against the wall but he bounces back easily, like he always does. "Remember that thing? A couple weeks ago? We bonded."
"You got drunk on that crappy free champagne and made fun of Slipknot," Chris reminds him as he brushes off his sleeve indignantly. "That's not bonding, that's idiocy."
"We were idiots together, then. We flirted. It was fun."
"If you say so," says Chris skeptically as he holds firm in his position out of sight. "This is the end of the road for me, Justin, you're on your own. May the mission go as well as you hope." He gives Justin a sketchy salute and starts back the way they came in. "See you later."
Justin doesn't wave back, just gives Chris a wink and starts forward. If he looks like he's supposed to be there, people will think he is supposed to be there. That's how these things work -- he's recognizable enough to be able to get in anywhere, any time.
Backstage at a Backstreet Boys concert proves to be no exception. He meets his hook-up, a guy on the catering staff who's in charge of stocking all the dressing rooms, and before he knows it he's lounging on an overstuffed sofa in Nick's dressing room, drinking a stolen soda and waiting for the show to be over.
He's drowsy when he finally hears noises at the door, but he knows that's a good look on him. His hair is mussed and his T-shirt is riding up over his stomach and he lets a smile cross his face as the door opens. Through heavy-lidded eyes he sees Nick step inside, sweaty and flushed and looking so kissable that Justin is surprised by the force of that desire.
"Shit, Timberlake, you just about gave me a heart attack." Justin's smile falls when he realizes that there's someone just behind Nick. Someone with Nick. "How the hell'd you get in here anyway?"
"Pulled some strings," he says vaguely, not moving from his sprawl. "I was in the area, thought you might want to get together."
"Well, that's great, Justin, but -- " Nick reaches back for the other person's hand and Justin gets his first glimpse of beautiful, beautiful boy, black spiky hair and faintly smudged eyeliner and long, slight limbs. "I'm a little busy right now. Another time?"
"But I came all this way," he persists, tilting his own head to the side and lowering his lashes and looking as alluring as he knows he can. The boy may be beautiful, but he's no Justin Timberlake.
At least Nick gives him a sympathetic smile -- not the reaction he's hoping for, but something. "Call next time," Nick advises him. "It'd be cool to get together, but I ain't gonna hold my schedule wide open for you."
If the other cue hadn't been obvious, this one sure is. He finally gets up and crosses to the door as Nick nudges his boy toy's back, encouraging him into the dressing room. They pass each other a few feet from the door, and the boy brushes against Justin's arm. At least one of them notices him.
"I can wait," offers Justin softly as he and Nick meet at the door.
Nick chuckles and as gently as he'd nudged that beautiful boy into the room, he nudges Justin out. "I wouldn't," he says. "I could be a while. After all, I just blew off Justin Timberlake for him. I'm betting he's going to be very grateful."
He gives Justin a wink, then closes the door in his face.
iii. the chase
I'll never stop until you're mine
I can wait forever till the end of time
Cause my heart is in your hands
Don't you understand
When Justin hears Nick is going to be in a meeting at Jive in New York at the same time he's in town for a fundraiser, it only makes sense that he show up there to accidentally-on-purpose run into him in the lobby.
"Hey," he says, looking nonchalant as he eyes Nick up and down. He knows he looks good, knows Nick has to notice that. "I heard you were in town. How's it going?"
"It's going," says Nick vaguely. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I had a thing," he says, waving a hand in the air like saving the rainforest is less important than running into Nick. "Figured I might as well come by, get a few things up to date. Remind people what I look like."
"I don't think people have a problem with that," he says, giving Justin a smile that Justin knows is one of his genuine ones. "Well hey, it was cool running into you. See you around, Timberlake."
"Hey, wait, you wanna get a drink or something? Since we're both here?"
"Sorry, got a lunch meeting," says Nick apologetically, glancing at his watch. "And actually, I'm already late. Another time?"
"Sure," says Justin, faking a smile so well he knows no one, not even Nick, can tell the difference. "Another time. Good luck with that meeting."
"Sure, thanks," says Nick. He gives Justin a little wave, then he's gone.
* * *
Justin knows where they Boys are staying before they even do, and makes sure he and Joey are booked into the same hotel. Not that they probably wouldn't have been anyway, but it can't hurt to play it safe. Just seeing Nick at the charity game isn't the same as running into him in a hotel elevator, already headed up to their respective rooms. They'd just have to pick one.
In the end, though, the only place he sees them is at the game, and he barely finds a moment to even joke around with them, let alone find some time alone with Nick. Joey has to haul him off the court by the scruff of the neck when it's time to get out of there, but even so they're late enough leaving the game that they have to endure the mob of fans. By the time they're back at the hotel, the Backstreet Boys are nowhere to be seen.
* * *
The final show of the Backstreet tour is right in Orlando, and right on a night when Justin has nothing better to do than scam a front row ticket from the label and throw on a loose tee shirt and a ball cap and show up for the concert. When Nick winks in his direction, the girl next to him almost faints but Justin knows it's for him. And he's cool about it, giving Nick a little wave back.
He hasn't counted on the crush of people when he's trying to get out of there, though, and by the time he makes it backstage they're already gone. He knows Nick would have waited for him if he could have. He'll just have to catch him the next time.
* * *
"But you have to come," says Joey, like 'no' just isn't an option. Justin can hear laughing and music and squealing baby in the background. "Everyone's here. We never see you anymore."
"I have a thing," he says as he examines himself in the mirror, adjusting his tight, white tee shirt. "A thing I can't get out of."
"What thing?" asks Joey. "You didn't tell us you had a thing. You've known about this for weeks."
"Sorry, Joey, no can do." Justin makes sure his eyeliner isn't smudged. Yet. Nick likes boys in eyeliner. "But hey, I'll see you guys in the studio tomorrow. You can tell me all about it."
"That's not the same thing," he says faintly, and Justin knows he's won. He could've stopped by for a little while, before he went out, but this way he has a little more time to make sure he looks perfect.
"Another time," he says, fiddling with his hair. "Bye Joey." He doesn't wait for the good-bye in return before hanging up and tossing his cell phone on the bed and turning back to the mirror again.
* * *
They're in a dark club, where the music just throbs and the strobe lights flash and everyone moves together with the beat. Justin is in the middle of the throng, weaving his way between gyrating bodies until he's pressed up against Nick's back, his hands on Nick's arms, then on Nick's waist.
Nick looks back over his shoulder and Justin can't see the look on his face but he imagines it's a lot like his own -- eyes dark and lips parted and cheeks flushed with desire. He dances with him until Nick is pulled away by someone else, a girl in a red dress who looks like she could devour him.
Justin lets Nick be pulled -- reluctantly, he thinks -- away, and heads to the bar for another drink. He has all the time in the world, and can wait for Nick to get tired of her and come back to him.
* * *
"Justin, you've got to fucking stop this."
"You're just jealous," Justin snaps at Chris as he tries Nick's number again. He got it from a mutual friend, and knows it's right because it's Nick's voice on the voicemail.
"Jealous of what? What do you have that I should be jealous of?"
"Nick," he says simply, and leaves another message when Nick doesn't pick up. He's probably in the studio. They have to turn their cell phones off when they're in the studio.
"Justin," says Chris, snatching the phone out of his hand and tossing it away. It lands on the floor with a sickening crack. "You don't have Nick."
"You ass," he says, dropping to his knees and crawling over to pick up the pieces. "How's he gonna call me back if I don't have a fucking phone?"
There's a long silence, and when Justin looks up, Chris is staring down at him. He's so jealous, Justin can see it in his face, in the tightness of his lips and the darkness of his eyes.
"You've got to stop," he says again, and turns around before Justin can answer, before he can even get to his feet. "Call me when you come to your senses. This is pretty pathetic."
"You're pretty pathetic," Justin calls at the slamming door.
iv. the inevitable conclusion
Say that I'm crazy
And I kind of understand
How I wish for this nightmare to end
It's stupidly easy to get in. Like ... stupidly easy. He's been at this hotel before, stayed in their most expensive suite, so they know him here. They're willing to give him everything he wants. This doesn't extend to actually letting him in the room, but they tell him which one Nick's staying in and the maid, who knows only that there's a pop star staying in there and sees how Justin is being treated by the staff, lets him in without question when he says he's forgotten his key.
Nick's a slob, which Justin finds endearing - clothes on the floor and bed unmade, probably at his request, and Playstation games just begging to be tripped over. Fucking Playstation; he's so adorable it hurts.
Justin stays off the bed and sits down in the plush, brown chair in the corner, kicking off his shoes and tucking his feet up under him and making himself comfortable. He bets he's barely made it here before Nick, who has to contend with traffic while Justin just raced here on his bike.
When he hears the door lock click, hears the door open, he stretches and gets to his feet and as soon as the door closes and the lights flick on, he reaches out to take Nick's arm.
Nick jumps. "What the fuck?" he says, whirling around in Justin's grasp. "What are you doing here?"
"Surprise!" says Justin with a wide smile. "I beat you here from the show."
"To surprise you," he goes on. "I thought you'd be happy to see me." Nick's look of confusion doesn't go away, though. Instead, it changes into something else.
"Seek help, Justin," he says, his eyes flashing as he yanks his coat out of Justin's hands and takes a step back. "Get out of here before I have to call security."
"Security? What are you talking about? I just wanted to -- " Justin takes a step closer to him.
"Stop," Nick barks out. "Just stop right there. What the fuck is wrong with you? What makes you, of all people, think it's okay to just come in here and--"
"Shh," says Justin as Nick's voice grows louder and louder. "God, don't freak out, it's just me. I thought maybe you and me could do something."
"Why? Why would you think that? Did I give you any encouragement the last hundred times we've run into one another?"
"Well, no," says Justin slowly, "but I figured that was just because you didn't get it. I'm not just ... I'm into you, Nick. Interested."
"What, you think I don't already know that?"
"You can have me," Justin stresses, to make sure Nick understands. Completely.
But Nick just stares in disbelief, those perfect cocksucking lips slightly parted. "You are some piece of work, Timberlake," he says finally. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"Nothing," says Justin, frowning at him. "What do you mean? So do you want to stay in here, or maybe go out?"
"We're not ..." says Nick, taking another step back, away from him. "We're not doing anything. Get the fuck out of here. And don't come see me anymore. You think I won't get a restraining order? I will."
"But ... I really like you. We could be together."
"No thanks." Nick backs up the other couple of steps to the door, and opens it quickly. Justin can see the bodyguard still lingering on the other side. "You need to go. Now."
Justin doesn't see any other option than to leave, hanging his head and not meeting anyone's eyes. He doesn't want to make a scene, not when there are people there who can make real trouble for him. He probably shouldn't have snuck in to Nick's room and surprised him like that.
He should've tried something else, something less intimidating. It's not every day that Nick gets propositioned by someone like him.
Nick probably just needs a little more time.