I. The Bet
Afterward they could never remember whose idea it was. Chris swore it wasn't his, and Lance was just as certain he hadn't come up with it. It could have been Joey, except for the whole sleeping with men thing, and everyone agreed that Justin was so drunk he could barely stand, much less come up with an intricately detailed bet involving carnal knowledge of a pop sensation. No one ever thought it was JC.
There was a lot of beer, everyone remembered that, and a lot of boasting, most of it from Justin, and somewhere in the haze of pot smoke the bet was born.
"Ew," Justin said, lying the length of the couch with his head in JC's lap. "Backstreet Boys? Do we have to sleep with all of them? Cause I'm not sleeping with all of them."
"Nah," Joey said. "Just the one."
"I call Nick!" Chris and Lance said at the same time.
"Little problem there," Justin said.
"We can pull names out of a hat. That's the only fair way," Lance said, reaching for a piece of hotel stationery. "Who's got a hat?"
"Wait a minute," Joey said. "I'm not doing anything until I know what the rules are."
"What's to know?" Chris said. "We each get a Backstreet Boy; whoever can't get his into bed loses."
"I don't know," JC said. "Isn't this kind of mean? We're, like, tricking them. And using them. I don't think it's very nice."
"Believe me, baby," Joey said, "sleeping with me is very nice. Whoever I get ain't gonna have no complaints."
"I thought you were straight," Justin giggled.
"Well, I am. Mostly. But it's a bet, man. My honor is at stake."
"That's a good point," Chris said. "What is at stake here?"
"Yeah," Justin said. "What do I win?"
Chris punched him on the arm. "How about ten grand each? If only one of us scores, it's winner take all. If not, winners split the money. Whoever manages to do it first gets the biggest cut, whoever takes longest gets the least."
"Ten grand?" Joey said. "Justin spends that every month on shoes."
"Do not!" Justin said. Everyone looked at him. "Well, not just on shoes." Everyone kept looking. "I mean, there's shoes, and sneakers, and boots, and, um, shoe-related. Products." Everyone kept looking. "Shut up," Justin said, and JC patted his head.
"I find all this talk of money a little crass," Lance said. Chris hooted.
"What, Bass? You want to bet something else? You looking for a piece of my ass?" Justin said.
"Your ass might be worth ten grand to a fourteen-year-old girl," Lance said, "but it's sure not to me. I know where you've been." He kept talking over Justin's yell of protest. "Besides, it's only the talk of money that I find vulgar. I've got no problem with the real thing. In fact, I think we need to make this about the real thing."
Lance scribbled on a notepad he took from the desk. "I've written a number here, something I think is high enough to make things interesting. You guys tell me what you think." He handed the pad to JC.
JC took one look at it and turned pale. Joey said, "Ouch." Chris whistled. Justin said, "That's a lot of money, man."
"Too rich for your blood?" Lance said silkily.
"Naw," Justin said. "I'm just thinking of you guys. I mean, Joey's got a kid to support. I don't want to hear him whining about how much diapers cost when I take all y'all's money."
"You better worry about yourself, kiddo," Joey said.
"I still think it's kind of mean," JC said. "We're lying to them."
"Look," Chris said, "you're free to tell yours it's a bet, if it makes you feel better. I don't know that it'll make him more likely to have sex with you, but you go ahead if you want."
"That's another thing," Joey said. "How exactly are we defining sex here?"
"Ha! Clinton!" Justin yelled, and pointed at Joey. Everyone looked at him. "What?" he said. "I'm too drunk to make up a real joke. Y'all can just think of one on your own."
"I never thought we'd have to explain what sex is to you, Joe," Lance said.
"But it's a good question," Joey said. "Cause, see, if we're talking about intercourse, I don't know if I wanna play. But if other things count, well then ..."
"I think any assisted orgasm counts," Lance said thoughtfully.
"Oh, that sounds sexy," Chris said. "Any assisted orgasm? Did you read that straight from the manual?"
"Do we both have to come?" Joey said.
"Jesus, Joe," Chris groaned. "Sex with you is sounding more unattractive by the second. Between you being all selfish and Lance's assisted orgasms, you're giving us all a bad name. 'Sleep with 'N Sync for the utmost in cold, mechanical experiences. We're sex machines. No, really. We're machines.'"
"No, it's important. Cause if I talk Brian into giving me a blowjob, I don't want you trying to weasel out of paying me because I didn't do anything to him."
"Joey, if you talk Brian Littrell into giving you a blowjob," Chris said, "I will happily write you a check."
"That brings up another thing," Lance said. "Brian."
"Yeah," Chris said. "We should talk about the Brian issue."
"What Brian issue?" Justin said.
"Well, whoever has him has kind of a harder job. I mean, he's straight, he's married and he's Christian."
"Well, so is Kevin," Joey said.
"Yeah, but somehow Kevin seems less likely to try to have you arrested and/or burnt at the stake if you grab his ass," Lance said. "Also, there's an added incentive with Kevin, besides the money. If you sleep with Kevin, you get to, you know, sleep with Kevin. Whereas if you sleep with Brian -"
"Exactly," Chris said. "We've got to even things out a little for the poor bastard who gets Brian. Maybe you get more time if you get him?"
"We're only here until the end of the month," JC said. "It won't do much good having more time if you're in different cities."
"Okay," Lance said. "Here's an idea. Whoever gets Brian, if they can't do it, they still lose their money, but nothing else. But if they do manage to fuck him -"
"Or whatever," Joey said.
"Fine. If they manage to do whatever with him, not only do they get their share of the money, they also get to sleep with whichever of us loses."
"Oooh," Justin said.
"Hey," Joey said.
"Hmm," JC said.
"Now that," Chris said, "is interesting."
"What if two of you lose?" Justin said.
"Then whoever gets Brian is a very lucky man," Lance said. "And if no one loses, then you're out of luck."
"Wait," Joey said. "That's not really fair to JC and Justin, though. I mean, if J gets Brian and JC loses, that's not really any big deal for them."
"I don't mind," Justin said. "Getting to sleep with JC is always a big deal."
"Oh, sweetie," JC said.
Lance rolled his eyes.
"Hey," Chris said, "I think they're cute. It's nice to know that even after all these years, it's still special when your lover wins you as a sex slave in a deviant drunken bet."
Lance ignored him. "So here's the deal. We pick names out of a hat, we've got till the end of the month, the faster you do it the more money you win. Side bet on Brian to make things fairer."
"What's the proof?" Joey asked. "How will we know if you really did it?"
"We could just say so," JC said. "I don't really think any of us would lie about it."
Everyone looked at him pityingly for a moment, then Chris said, "Underwear, photos, obscene videotape, please God let there be obscene videotape, one of us sees or hears it happening, a signed confession from the Boy himself. Anything like that works for me."
"Me too," Lance said. "Who's in?"
"You're all a bunch of perverts," Joey said. "I'm in."
"Me too," Chris and Justin said.
"I'll do it if everyone else is," JC said, "but I think we should all try and play nice."
"Let's do it," Lance said. He tore up five slips of paper, wrote names on them, and dropped them into a baseball hat Joey tossed him.
"Nick!" Chris yelled. "Woo hoo!" He jumped up and did a little dance.
"Kevin," Joey said. "I can deal with that."
"Howie," JC said happily.
Justin rubbed his hands together. "Come on, AJ," he chanted. "All right! 'N Sync's bad boy gets Backstreet's bad boy."
Chris laughed. "You," he pointed at Justin, "are not 'N Sync's bad boy. I'm not even sure we have one, but if we do it's me or Joey -"
"It's me," Joey said.
"It is not you, Timberlake." Lance and Joey nodded sagely.
"It is too," Justin said. "JC?"
JC was hiding a smile. He shook his head. "Baby, no," he said.
Lance picked up the last slip of paper and crumpled it up without looking at it. "Well, hell," he said. Justin stopped sulking long enough to laugh at him. "You're so losing, Lance," Justin said.
"The bet's started, right?" JC said. Lance nodded. JC pulled out his cell phone and walked over toward the window.
"Who you calling, C?" Justin said. JC waved a hand at him.
"Hi, Howie?" JC said. "It's JC. Yeah, JC. Good, good, how are you doing? Yeah, we like being here a lot too. A little more relaxed than when we're on tour. Right, till the end of the month. Listen, I was wondering. Yeah. Would you want to come over and sleep with me sometime? You all right? Right, yeah. No, that's what I said. Yeah, I don't know - is tonight good for you? Oh. Oh, sure, sure. That's nice though - you'll have a good time. No, sure, Tuesday's fine for me. You wanna come over here? I don't know, how about ten o'clock? Oh, okay, yeah, I could eat. Good idea. Room service okay for you? Great. Around eight would be great. I'll see you then. And have a wonderful time this weekend. Say hi to your mom for me, okay? All right. Bye bye."
JC snapped his phone shut and turned around to see four open-mouthed stares. "What? Lance said it was on."
"Yeah, but. You just called him?" Justin said.
"Well, yeah. How are you going to do it?"
"Don't you think that takes some of the fun out of it? The thrill of the chase, and all that?" Chris said.
"I guess. I don't know. I didn't really think about it like that."
Joey said, "C, you're missing half the fun."
"Hey, lay off him," Justin said. "Cause you know what? If Howie had been able to come over tonight, JC would have had the whole thing sewed up by morning. As it is, he's already set up for Tuesday. How are the rest of us doing?"
"Shit," Lance said, and jumped up. "I've got to get moving."