by Chris J

Request: If you wanted to, say, write a little something in the Doppleganger!universe, I would be oh so happy. What happens with Justin and Joey??? I must know!

Companion piece to Doppelganger

It wasn't a happily ever after, really, though it was closer to one than Justin ever imagined they would get. It was strange sometimes, to not have J there to share his every waking moment. They were two halves of a whole, and had lived that way their whole lives, and having J suddenly with someone else, in a way that didn't include Justin the way Nsync had included J... it was weird. It was just weird.

But J was real happy, and that was what was important. Or at least, that was what Justin told himself as he waited for J to call him to let him know that he and Wade were in for the night. While sitting on the couch and eating Doritos and watching the game. He felt like Chris.

"Fucking idiot, go after her already," he said aloud, during a sappy commercial of all things, and threw a chip at the television.

Joey'd said he was gonna come over after he was finished with some meeting about some movie. If he could find the time, if he had nothing better to do, if he didn't pick up some girl and spend the rest of the night with her. Okay, maybe Justin added those last bits, but that didn't make them any less true. Joey wasn't here, and Justin was alone while his brother was out having a life.

"I ran into J and Wade outside the restaurant."

Justin snapped his head around, and saw Joey dangling his keys off one finger. As though Justin needed reminding about how he'd given Joey as set while trying to make like it was nothing. Like he did it for all the guys. "Oh?" he said, as casually as he could. "Is that right?"

"It's why I'm late," Joey went on, swinging the keys back into his pocket and weaving his way to Justin's side. He didn't comment on the mess, but Justin knew he was thinking about it, it was hard to miss. "Had to say hi, chat a little, make like good bandmates. What's the score?"

Justin looked at the screen. He didn't even know. It was pretty sad when he barely even noticed who was playing, let along the score. "Doesn't matter," he said, patting down the mess on the coffee table, looking for the remote.

Joey was on the couch next to him in half a second, reaching for his forehead. "Are you sick again?" Justin thought it was a joke, until he saw the look on Joey's face. "Do you need me to do anything for you?"

"I'm not sick," said Justin irritably, reaching for Joey's arm before he started cleaning or something. "I'm just--"

"Oh," said Joey, and made no more move to do anything but sit there. "You're sulking, then."

"I'm not--" Justin began, then screwed up his face and sighed. "Maybe."

"I thought you cleaned things when you sulked," said Joey. "I distinctly remember many, many times on the bus when I was trying to get some sleep and you were banging around putting things in order."

"No, I clean when I'm upset," said Justin, lifting his feet up onto the couch and tucking them under Joey's leg. The way he might've with J if he'd been there, if he was ever around anymore. "I mope when I'm sulking."

"Ah, right," said Joey. He could've been a little more sympathetic, Justin thought, instead of just... tolerant, or something. "You guys..."

"I don't want to talk about it," Justin snapped.

"No, it's not that," said Joey. "It's not about... that. It's just, you guys are gonna have to go public soon, I think. About the two of you."

"Joey, we can't," said Justin, closing his eyes and fighting the tight feeling in his chest at just the thought of that. "It's gone on too long, gone too far now. It would ruin everything."

"It wouldn't," said Joey, more firmly than he'd ever said it before. "Not unless you wanted to stop, Justin. Maybe you never would have started if it wasn't for J, but now that you're here, as long as you don't want to stop, then nothing's ruined. It all goes on."

Justin kept his eyes closed, squeezed tightly shut. "I didn't know it was going to be this hard," he confessed, his voice as tight as his eyes, his chest. "I didn't think he'd be the one who was ready to leave first."

"Yeah, you always did think of him as your little brother," said Joey, giving his knee a shake. "Not so much anymore, huh, with him and Wade? Funny how that all worked out."

"I don't think it's funny," said Justin. "I'm not... not ready yet. For it to all change. Especially not when J has Wade and I just have... me."

"And what are we?" said Joey, shaking his knee again, shaking it until Justin finally opened his eyes. "Chopped liver? Come on, Justin, you know you'll always have us. Always."

"That's not what I meant."

"I know," said Joey, letting go. "But it's only like that because you're stubborn." Justin opened his mouth to protest, but Joey stopped him. "No, you are, you're stubborn, Justin, you always have been and you always will be. I didn't get that at first, but J--"

"My brother needs to keep his mouth shut sometimes."

"--J set me straight about it. You're so stubborn you'd rather believe what's in your head than see what's in front of you. And for all your ambition, you'd rather sulk than take a chance on something you want." Justin kept his mouth a tight line, and stared at him. To cover for his speechlessness. "Don't be mad at me because I want you, and you want me back."

Justin wasn't mad.

For LJ Ficlet Request Meme, for katienyc. February 15, 2004

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