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* E! Online - August 1, 2008 *


No Same-Sex Dancing for Lance Bass

Will Lance Bass be a contestant on the next season of Dancing With the Stars? And if so, will he have a male dancing partner?

Veteran DWTS professional hoofer Cheryl Burke says she'd love to see the former boy-band singer on the show, but she predicts we won't be seeing same-sex footwork anytime soon.

"I don't think that would happen," Burke said at Maxim magazine's Extreme Sports party last night at the Stork in Hollywood. "I don't think America is ready to watch two men dancing."

However, gay media watchdog group GLAAD thinks ABC could decide to go there, because the network has a good history of pushing the man-on-man envelope. "ABC has shown an admirable commitment to representing gay people on many of their most popular shows," a GLAAD rep said in a statement, "and we hope they continue to build on that in the future."

[excerpt from an article by Marc Malkin; http://www.eonline.com/news/21820/cheryl-burke-no-same-sex-dancing-for-lance-bass]

 

 

* Joey Fatone and Lance Bass - August 1, 2008 *

 

"Oh my god!" Joey said with so much enthusiasm that Lance was fumbling for the volume control on his headset before he'd even gotten to 'god.' "Oh my god!"

In the background, Briahna chimed in with a joyfully loud, "Oh Em Gee!" and Lance was maybe just a little disturbed that seven-year-olds used textspeak. Sure, he used textspeak himself, but it still gave him an itchy feeling like he owed the world a Reading Is Fundamental PSA or two.

"I am so jealous of you right now!" Joey said.

"It's not official yet. We're still in talks."

"It's totally official! JC is the newest judge of Dancing with the Stars! And you're going to be--"

"We're still talking it out. It's complicated. And they haven't made the official announcement yet about J--"

"Oh my god! I would have totally won if JC had judged my season. He would have been all 'Joey Fatone just keeps getting better with age! Ten! Ten, ten, ten!'"

"Are you sure? That's not quite the way I remember him..."

"He loves me 'cause we go way back. I've known him longer than like anyone. He'd be all 'Joey, you're fantabulous! You're so butch and manly, you put the buckle in swashbuckler.'"

"The 'buckle in...' That doesn't even make sense." Lance was still a little sensitive about all the swishbuckling jokes after Joey's Rumba. He wondered how many people thought it was his fault, since he had "assisted" Kym with Joey's rehearsals that week.

"I know, right? That's exactly how he talks, though. You have to go with the feelings and gist, 'cause if you pay too much attention to the words, it's all 'Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Brain failure imma... um. Imminent.'"

Lance snorted at that.

"You're calling the kettle black there, Mr. Pot."

"No, I'm not! He's totally like that. Don't you remember?"

"Hmm, no. But then, you know him a lot better than I do."

"But Lance, no one really knows JC. I mean, I've known him forever and he's still like one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe."

 

 

* 'N Sync - November 1998 *

 

"'N Sync is rather unusual, isn't it? How did you come up with that name?"

Lance was glad that they were all stuffed like sardines together on one couch, because he only had to turn his head slightly and his sigh was completely hidden by Joey's shoulder. Would they never tire of that question? He would pay good money, not that he had much of that, to never hear it--or their ridiculous scripted answer to it--again.

The cameras had been cut for a commercial break, but the interviewer kept going. Some shows were like that; they were all about pleasing the live studio audience, especially when the audience members were handpicked to be the most excitable teens and preteens in all creation.

"It's our initials," Justin said in his best I'm earnest and adorable voice. "Only our first initials didn't make a good name, you see?"

"JuJaTaCkLe," Chris said.

"Gesundheit," Lance murmured. That was his line, after all.

"Gobbledygook," Joey chimed in.

"I still think we could have made it big with that name," Chris said. He squirmed around until he was turned towards the loudest corner of the audience. "JusTa'JaCkaL has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

The girls shouted their approval, and Justin clapped his hands over his ears. The girls roared louder for a moment before Justin hopped up from the couch and took a few steps closer to them. Then the sound was absolutely deafening.

"Don't listen to him," Justin begged the girls. "'N Sync is totally better. Right?" He waited a few beats through the din of their response, and then continued. "'N Sync is the last letters of our first names, see? And I'm JustiN, the first N."

Justin smiled prettily, and Lance was certain the interviewer was regretting his choice of doing this off camera.

"Okay," the interviewer said. "I get the JustiN and the ChriS and the TonY, but I don't--"

"I'm the Y," Joey said, and Joey was awesome because he said it for the four hundred zillionth time with the same laugh and smile that he'd had the first time. "I'm the JoeY."

"And I'm the C," Tony said, and Lance loved Tony because Tony suffered through being the C in the same way Lance suffered through being the stupid second N.

"We call him 'Luc,' Joey said. "Like 'Lucky.'"

"Because he's Lucky Lucca," Chris said. "Lucky in--"

"Because we were all so lucky when he joined the band!" Justin gushed, ruthlessly cutting him off.

Chris liked to say 'lucky in love,' which bothered Tony because his on-again/off-again relationship with Keri was more off than on these days, or 'lucky in cards,' which upset their management. No one wanted another lecture about not glorifying the non-management-approved vices. Gambling is bad, kids. And so are drinking and smoking and drugs. Coveting and lusting are okay, though, as long as you buy 'N Sync merchandise while doing it. Wink, wink.

"We were in MMC together and--"

"And that's why I'm lucky to still be working with Justin--" Tony hurried to say.

Tony didn't like to dwell on their shared MMC days in public, and Lance appreciated that. It was like Tony missed all of his MMC friends so much that he hated that they weren't all here on the crazy 'N Sync ride with them, while he also liked his non-MMC bandmates so much that he didn't want them to feel any less special.

"--and the rest these guys," Tony said. "Even though none of them pronounce L-U-C correctly. It's pronounced 'Luke'--"

"Like Luke Skywalker!" Joey said.

"--like Jean Luc Picard," Tony said.

And Lance smiled as their conversation devolved into a debate on the relative merits of Star Wars and Star Trek. Their geekiness wouldn't win them any more fangirls, but any interview without the horrible 'Lansten' bit was a win in Lance's book.

*

After their interview and a performance of "Tearin' Up My Heart," they were hurriedly packed into the van for the ride back to their hotel. But then they had to wait and wait because there was a crowd of girls outside of the studio's garage, and they weren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Chris and Justin were in the front, fighting over a Gameboy or something. Joey was sprawled in the middle with his headphones on. Lance usually sat with him, but he knew that Joey hadn't been sleeping well lately. So he thought that he should give Joey his space and let him konk out for a while. That way, the wait wouldn't be a complete waste for all of them, and Lance didn't mind sitting with Tony. He liked Tony, although sometimes Tony was so quiet that Lance really hated to disrupt his solitude.

Tony smiled when Lance climbed into the back seat with him, but it was one of the closed-lip smiles that was more about acknowledging someone else than about really being happy. He had a book out from his bag, but he wasn't reading it. He was just holding it and rubbing his thumb over the dust jacket, worrying at a tear in the glossy paper.

"Does it bother you?" Lance said, and then he felt really stupid when Tony looked down at the book with a frown between his brows. Lance had sounded like he was asking about the stupid hole in the book and he hated that. He had this image of himself in his head where he was smooth and professional, and he always spoke clearly, and he was really someone to look up to and admire. And he really hated that he wasn't like that yet, because there were a lot of kids looking up to him now and it felt sort of really, really wrong.

Tony dug his thumbnail into the cover and tore the hole there a tiny bit wider.

"The stupid 'Luc' story or the story behind the story?" He didn't pause for Lance to answer. "The stupid story bothers me a lot. Because it's stupid and unnecessary, and I'm not crazy about how much lying we have to do."

Something felt tight in Lance's chest. Tony had understood him and he hated the lying, too. "But--" he managed to say, and his throat closed up on the rest. He wasn't even sure what was trying to make its way out. A complaint? But we have to lie. A confession? But I'm lying more than the rest of you.

"But," Tony said, "I do understand that we need to lie a little. That we have to be a little misleading at times, if only to preserve what's left of our privacy and sanity--"

"Hey! Speak for yourself!" Chris cut in. "I left all of my sanity back somewhere around Dusseldorf, I think."

"Shut up, Chris," Tony said.

"Tony, Tony, how many times do I have to tell ya? If you didn't bring enough conversation to share it with everyone, you should keep it to yourself."

"Aww, come on, Chris," Justin said. "Let's just play the game, okay? You know I hate it when you and Tony have the Mr. Buttinski argument."

"Aww, you're just jealous because you're still just a little baby Buttinski. Come here, baby, let--"

"Ah! Get off!" Justin flailed as Chris tried to put him in a head lock.

Tony leaned in closer to Lance. "Where was I?" he asked, more quietly than before.

"Something about preserving our sanity."

"Yeah... it's probably too late for that. But our privacy is still important. But just because we have to lie about some things, that doesn't mean we should lie about anything and everything. I don't even see the point. What could it possibly hurt to just say, 'You know, Justin and his mom came up with the name when they thought two other guys were going to join the group. They based it on Justin, Chris, Joey, Jason and JC, but you know what? 'N Sync is still an awesome name, and we're all really glad that we're not so overloaded with J's.'"

Lance laughed at that. "Yeah, because Chris would start saying that he was going to change his name to Jiss or something. Jhristopher?"

"Jizz."

Lance's face went hot. "What?"

"Chris would say, probably on Nickelodeon or something, that he wanted to change his name to 'Jizzedallover' and then we'd be up to our necks in lawsuits and recriminations."

"Oh," Lance said. "Oh my god, you're right. He'd totally do that to us. Well... probably not on Nick, but maybe on MTV... to Carson Daly."

Tony laughed and tapped Lance's shoulder gently with his fist.

"Yeah. See? Exactly. So that bothers me, but I'm not bothered at all that Justin wanted JC in the band instead of me. I get that. I understand people like Justin. They end up going farther in life than the rest of us because they're so focused, but it's also like they have tunnel vision. He didn't even see me as an option. JC was one of his friends on the set. I really wasn't. Not 'cause I didn't like him or anything, but I wanted to hang out with the older cast members and play guitar and stuff instead. So, of course Justin's going to think of JC first and of course it's going to come as a shock to him when JC thanks him but refuses."

"Why did he?" Lance said. "I remember seeing him on the show. He sang really well, except for when they made him try to rap." Lance had always felt really, painfully embarrassed for JC whenever they made him do that.

"Yeah," Justin said. "What was up with that? They totally should have let me have those parts."

"Are you still listening in?" Tony said.

"Um, yeah..." Justin answered. "Isn't that obvious? You were saying good stuff about me, like how I'm going to be a superstar. Of course I'm going to listen."

"There was a clip," Lance told Tony, "with both of you singing with just your acoustic for back up. That was really good. I liked that a lot."

"Thank you. Yeah. I liked singing with him. He..." Tony looked toward the front of the van.

Lance looked, too. Justin and Chris were wrestling for possession of the Gameboy again, but he didn't believe for an instant that they weren't listening.

Tony sighed.

"Really, let's just talk about it, okay? It was four years ago and it's not a big secret, and I'm really tired of treating it like one. Justin's not a little kid anymore. Lance ought to know because he worries about it. And Chris probably figured it out a long time ago."

"That's okay with me," Joey said.

"What?" Justin shouted. "You big faker! Pretending to be asleep! I'm the only sleep-ninja around here!"

"Oh my god," Lance said.

"I was sleeping," Joey said. "But then there was some wild flailing and some sleep-ninja yanked my headphones out of the jack."

"Oh. My bad. Sorry, dude."

"You've got arms like a howler monkey," Chris told Justin.

"I can't help it. I'm sorry."

"And a voice like a howler monkey, too," Joey said.

"Now that's uncalled for," Justin said. "I said I'm sorry, so shut up. You're messing up Uncle Tony's Storytime Revue."

"I'll start at the beginning," Tony said, "which is really the ending."

"Boring," Chris said.

"Shut up, Chris," Tony, Joey, and Justin said. Lance was a bit amazed by that. Justin rarely joined the Shut-Up Chris Chorus.

"Okay," Tony said. "So. We knew the show was ending well before the last day, and that's really all we talked about. The future and what we would do, and we're all 'Oh, I'm going to LA, going to try to break into acting.'"

"But you were actors," Lance said.

"Real Hollywood actors," Justin said.

"Sort of like the difference between us in Germany and us now," Tony explained. "And other people were saying, 'How do you get a recording contract? Maybe I'll go to Nashville--'"

"Or Memphis," Justin said.

"And you could tell that they were dreaming big, but they were also sort of shit-scared beneath it all, because no one really wanted to go back to being a normal kid."

Justin nodded in agreement with that.

"And then," Tony said. "Then JC was like, 'Great! Now I have time to study ballet. I've had an instructor lined up for ages, but he wouldn't take me if I couldn't give one hundred percent.' And we were like... 'JC, you big freak, what? You want to be a ballet dancer?' And he was all, 'No. I'm going to be a modern dancer, but I need a stronger foundation in the basics before I start doing things my own way.'"

"But that sounds good to me," Lance said. "I mean like good/smart. He had a more solid plan than some of the rest of you."

"Oh, yeah. Totally. But it was also like 'Where did this come from? Doesn't he want to sing?'"

"And I was saying, 'Come home to Memphis with me. We're going to sing. Just come home with me, C. Even my mom wants you to come.'"

"And JC had this whole big thing about how he figured he really only had two choices. He could make music or he could be the music, and that given a choice, he'd rather embody the music, because dance was a more liberated medium than singing, because you could dance without vocals."

"Huh..." Lance said. "That's um--"

"That's so much BS," Chris said.

"No," Lance said. "That's really sort of deep--"

"Like a big ol' pile of manure," Chris said.

"--but it's also a little... I dunno. We sing and dance. Why did he have to choose one or the other?"

"Now, see," Joey said. "That's why I like how you think. That's exactly what I wanted to know. Why was he excluding musical theater? Who doesn't want to star on Broadway? Right?"

"So one day," Tony said, "we're hanging out together. Just the two of us. And I'm playing my guitar and he's humming along, not dancing at all, and I said, 'Seriously, JC, you like singing just as much as you like dancing, so what gives?' And he said, 'I'm tired of being a Disney kid. And I know people make it big in this world, this world run by Disney and companies like them, but I don't want to be big if it means giving up being me.'"

"Wow," Lance said.

"Yeah, whatever," Chris said. "I think I like you better, Tony."

Tony ignored him. "And then he said, 'I just turned eighteen. I'm legal and I'm gay, and doing something that I--'"

"Wait. What?" Justin said.

Lance said nothing, though his heart was beating really fast.

"He's gay," Joey said.

"Really?" Justin said.

"Really."

"And you can trust Joey on that, Juju, 'cause our Joey knows flaming."

"Shut up, Chris," Tony said.

"Really?" Justin said again.

"Really," Tony said.

"Huh. I did not know that."

"Yeah," Tony said. "Yeah, Justin. I really sort of figured you didn't. But you're okay with it, right?"

"Yeah, I think so... but..."

"What did he say?" Lance asked. "He said, 'I'm legal and I'm gay and...' what?"

"Oh. Sorry. Uh... He said that doing something that he loved--and that he was really good at--in a field where like eighty-five percent of the men are openly gay sounded like a much better deal than doing something else that he also loved--and was also really good at--in a field where he could keep his damn mouth shut."

"Oh," Lance said. And he was certain his eyes were bugging out. "Oh!"

"But he still should have come to Memphis with me," Justin said. "I don't care if he's gay. We could've still sung together."

"Um," Chris said. "Juju... I really don't want to--"

"I miss him," Justin said.

"Um..." Joey said.

"I told him that he could still sing if he wanted to. I said, 'There are gay singers! There are even famous gay singers!'"

"And even more famous closeted ones," Chris said.

"And he laughed and told me, 'If you were gay, I'd totally be an Indigo Girl with you, Tony.'"

"Oh my god," Chris said.

"That's so sweet," Joey said. "I can totally see you as an Indigo Girl, too."

"So we have to be gay to sing with him?" Justin said.

"I think," Tony said, "that JC was really non-confrontational about most things, you know? I think what he was trying to say was that even though he was brave enough to go off on his own and be himself and see how far being himself got him--and I've got to say that I think that's really brave and I'm not going to judge him for that--"

"Of course, you're not," Chris said. "Because half the time you wish that you'd done the same thing."

"Wait," Justin said. "Is Tony gay, too?"

"No," Chris, Joey, and Tony said.

"I'm just checking! It's okay if you are, Tony. I'm here for you."

"You're on Planet Delusional, that's where you are," Chris said.

"I just think," Tony said, "that JC knew that he wasn't the pioneering, trail-blazing type. That he understood what his limits were and he made the best decision he could in light of those limits."

"I still think he should have considered musical theater," Joey said.

"I don't get it," Justin said. "Why are we talking about Pilgrims now?"

"Oh my god," Chris said. "Pilgrims."

"It is almost Thanksgiving," Joey said.

If anyone noticed the deep silence that had fallen over Lance by the end of that discussion, they never mentioned it to him. And Lance kept that silence all to himself, except for sometimes, when he was all alone and it was safe to imagine himself leaning in close to share confidences with another boy who was a lot like him, awkward and big-nosed and floppy-haired, but also a lot braver than Lance could picture himself ever being.

 

 

* E! Online - August 8, 2008 *

 

Move Over, Bruno! DWTS Adds Another Chair to the Judges' Table

Dancing With the Stars is throwing in a few twists--and pivots--to keep its seventh season as fresh and exciting as its first. Yesterday they announced the biggest of these changes: the addition of a fourth judge.

How much more room will the judges' table need?

Perhaps not very much. The fourth judge is a mouse...

... a former Mouseketeer, that is. Although JC Chasez has been dancing since he was four years old, he didn't come into the spotlight until he joined Disney's MMC at the ripe old age of fourteen. He's become much more famous as a favorite choreographer of fellow MMC alums, Justin Timberlake and Tony Lucca (both formerly of 'N Sync), Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. If you don't recognize his name or his face, you may still recognize him. His bare torso and gyrating hips have featured prominently in no less than five of the Pop Princess's music videos.

We met up with the new judge at his West Hollywood dance studio to ask him his thoughts about the new format and his fellow judges. (To our deep disappointment, his world-famous abs stayed under wraps for the entire interview.)

"I think the move to four judges is a very intelligent one. Dancing's parent production, Strictly Come Dancing, has always had four judges. The format has proven to be really robust. And as a fan of Dancing With the Stars myself, I cannot help but want to increase its audience appeal and longevity."

We asked the 32-year-old choreographer (Today is his birthday!), if he thought he was being brought onto the show to help counterbalance what the American viewing audience sees as head judge Len Goodman's overly traditional tastes.

"Oh, not at all. Len is brilliant. They're all brilliant. I do think my age played a part in the decision, though. The judges' ages now span over forty years, so that may bring in more younger viewers while continuing to appeal to the older audience that has made the franchise such a success."

Then Chasez throws back his chestnut locks and laughs (and I'm certain I heard our camera girl's heart go pitty-pat). "The production managers have been saying that I'm as flamboyant as Bruno [Tonioli] and as pretty as Carrie Ann [Inaba]--which is crazy. Have you seen her? Mami is gorgeous. But I think they're going to find I have a lot more in common with Len than they expect. I have a secret fuddy-duddy side. I think it's going to be a blast."

To join in on the fun, tune in to DWTS's Season 7 Premiere on Sept 22nd.

 

 

* Tony Lucca and Lance Bass - August 10, 2008 *

 

"So an odd thing happened today," Tony said.

Over the last few years, Tony had dropped the habit of using standard greetings. Lance thought that good manners were a really strange habit to break, but he suspected that it was an offshoot of the "storyteller" part of Tony's new indie singer/songwriter persona.

"Uh huh," Lance said, because there was no point in saying hello if Tony wasn't going to.

"One of my womyn friends--" And yes, there was totally a Y in that. You can't hear 'I'm the JoeY' and 'I'm not the TonY' several million times without developing a supersensitive ear to over-pronounced or misplaced Y's. "--called because she's buying tickets for next month's Indigo Girls concert--"

Lance laughed. "Oh my god, Tony. Stop stalking them already. You missed your one and only chance to be one of them, okay? It's over now."

"Aw, shut it. You know my love for them will never die."

"Yes, so. One of your lesbian friends asked if you wanted to come with when she spends an evening with the Girls. That hardly qualifies as odd or unusual."

"And then we spent over an hour debating whether or not this guy named Lance Bass should be allowed to dance with a man on Dancing With the Stars and the political implications of such a decision."

"Oh my god," Lance said.

"Apparently it's a really hot issue. Have you heard anything about this?"

"Ha, ha. Yes, I have. I'd like to say that it's being blown way out of proportion, but maybe if it's opening dialogue..."

"Have you said 'yes' to them yet?"

"Um..."

"Lance."

"It's complicated."

"It's not complicated. The whole time Joey was doing it, you were wishing you could do it, too. You think it would be a whole lotta fun and you should tell them 'yes' already."

"Joey didn't have to dance in front of JC."

"Joey would have been flipping cartwheels and jumping over the moon for a chance at that. He's such a fangirl."

"Well, yeah. Actually, you're right. He's insanely jealous of me right now, but he shouldn't be. I can't do it."

"Lance..."

"I'm not that great a dancer, at least not when I don't have the four of you supporting me, and I'd like to see you put yourself up for endless weeks of scrutiny from someone you once had a massive crush on who never ever really--"

"Lance..."

"--noticed that you existed."

"Oh my god, Lance, will you please take a deep breath and then go hug one of your dogs for me, please?"

Lance laughed a little at that. "Which one do you want me to hug?"

"I don't care, just go get yourself a quick dose of unconditional love and affection, and then listen to me."

"I'm listening."

"I haven't heard you hug a dog yet."

"Oh my god," Lance said. "Really? You're actually making me do this?"

"Well, I can't force you. But I very strongly advise it, and I'd be feeling pretty sad right now, if I were Dingo and Foster and knew that Daddy didn't want to hug me..."

"Oh my god. I'm going, I'm going. I'm heading for the den." At this time of day, there was usually a big sunny spot right on the sofa that the boys took full advantage of through serious, hardcore napping. "Please don't guilt me with being a bad doggy-daddy, that's so wrong."

"But it works."

Yep, the boys were right where he expected them. He wasn't going to wake them up just for hugs, though. He carefully fit himself in at the end of the couch and rested his hand on Foster's shoulder. He sort of melted a little, just from touching his dog. He mouthed Good boy at Foster and settled more comfortably into the sofa's embrace.

"Okay. I'm listening."

"Okay. So... a couple of things. First of all, I didn't know that you had a thing for JC."

"It was blindingly obvious."

"I don't think so. Lance, I think you were so scared about letting us all down or something before you came out that you were, like, way hyper vigilant. You probably felt a lot more obvious than you ever were."

"I don't--"

"And, you know, JC definitely knew you existed. He liked you and he worked with you a lot. And I really don't know what JC's type is, and I really don't want to know, though you'd be really sort of sweet together if somehow you got together--"

"Tony, are you coming to a point any time soon?"

Tony sighed.

"Just. Hey, maybe he didn't notice you like that back then, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. You've really grown into your looks and you're way hotter than you were then. Even my lesbian friends think so."

"Oh, that's a giant relief."

"And maybe he did notice you then, and hey, you weren't out. Someone like JC, who's made the life decisions he's made, isn't going to spend a lot of time making passes at men who aren't openly gay. And, even if you had been out back then, he was working for us. I think he's way too much of a professional to make a pass in a situation like that, especially when working for us was such a huge step forward for his career. I think he would have found that really off-putting."

"Okay... yeah. I get that."

"And then you have to keep in mind one more thing. It's the most important."

"What's that?"

"Maybe he'd be into you, maybe he wouldn't. Maybe he's not even single right now, though I think I would have heard if he were in something really serious. Whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is that it would be really fun and Joey would be totally jealous of you. So you should do it."

Lance laughed. "It's always about Joey, isn't it?"

"That's right. What's the point of having brothers if you can't make them suffer through terrible pangs of envy every once in a while?"

"Wow," Lance said. "One of these days, I'm going to finally figure out why everyone thinks you're the nice one."

"Ha. Yeah, good luck with that, buddy."

 

 

* 'N Sync and JC Chasez - March 2000 *

 

At first, Lance didn't recognize him.

They were all in Orlando, meeting at Johnny's compound to hash out the first few details of their upcoming tour for No Strings Attached. Justin had said that there was a choreographer that he wanted them all to meet. They didn't have to hire him if they didn't like him, but Justin thought he was really great and would they please just meet him and give him a fair chance?

Lance should have known something was up when Justin didn't give the guy's name. But Johnny didn't press Justin for his name, and that had to mean that Johnny had already pre-screened the guy and he was leaving it up to all of them to decide. That felt so refreshing after their years with Lou that Lance didn't think too hard about Justin's little mystery. Let Justin have his fun, because there were more important things to focus on. And there were more things--many, many more things. It was exhilarating and more than a little intimidating, to suddenly be this free and able to make their own creative choices. He'd had no idea just how many decisions went into something like putting together a national tour.

Justin disappeared for a while during lunch and when he returned, he was doing a lousy job of hiding his excitement. He was twitchy and his voice actually broke when he said, "Hey, guys, here's... uh... here's someone I'd like you all to meet."

Justin held the door open a little wider and this... this tall, dark, and beautiful someone walked into the room. There was a long moment where Lance just couldn't move or breathe or anything because the guy was just that strangely and startlingly beautiful. He was all blue eyes and long, dark curling hair--and it was waves, like the world's most sexy case of bedhead, not tight, sheepy curls like Justin's--and he was... just... mind-boggling. He was so undeniably masculine, with strong features and long muscles that completely put Tony's and Justin's to shame, despite all of the pretty curls and all of the pink. And who wears pink flip-flops and a tank top to a job interview?

And then Tony and Joey were jumping out of their seats and rushing to him, and the guy was beaming at them and hugging Joey and even kissing Joey, in a way that maybe would have been unremarkable in Europe, but made a sharp stab of something shoot through Lance's gut. Then the guy laughed, and--oh my god--it clicked.

That was JC.

For a moment, it felt like he was having an out-of-body experience, like he was actually watching himself and seeing that tiny, secret torch that he'd been holding for seventeen-year-old JC--the lovely, awkward, floppy-haired boy--sputter and die. The image of JC that Lance had cherished had so little in common with this real JC that it simply turned to ash and blew away.

Joey and Tony's excited exclamations wore down, and JC turned to Chris and Lance.

"Hello. It's great to finally meet you."

He held out his hand to Chris who studied it like he really wasn't sure if he wanted to touch it. JC smiled and left his hand out like that wasn't terribly awkward.

"Maybe it's presumptuous, but I feel like I've known you for years since I've listened to you so many times. Chris, I love your voice. Your tone and range, it's like beauty and heartache. Like something pure and true that turns in a flash and cuts you deep. And it kind of suits you, yeah? Mind like a quicksilver knife or that's the impression I get from Justin. I know he can exaggerate when he really likes someone, so..."

Chris took his hand and shook it then, though the look on his face was a priceless mix of 'Flattery won't get you anywhere, buddy' and 'Seriously? What planet are you from?'

"And Lance," JC said, and Lance's hand was in his before he could even blink. "Now I really love your voice. It always sends shivers up and down my spine, but, you know, in a good way, not like, 'Ah! Spiders! Get them off!'"

Chris laughed at that, and Lance stood there, with his hand in JC's warm clasp, and tried to pull words from his brain.

"Hello," Lance said.

"Hey," Justin said. "If you're handing out compliments about everyone's voice, where's mine?"

JC squeezed Lance's hand before letting him go.

"Justin, your voice is very strong and ideally flawed."

"What! I'm not flawed!"

JC smiled. "Trust me, it's better that way. It's a bit rough, like the hooked side of Velcro. It slips into people's heads and isn't easily forgotten."

"Ooo," Justin said. "That's kinda cool. I'm like Velcro."

"You sure are," Chris said. "And your head is totally the loopy side of the Velcro."

While Justin chased Chris around the room, Joey asked, "Are you going to be our choreographer?"

"Yeah," Tony said. "Can we keep him, Johnny?"

Chris and Johnny had a few objections to that, but it was only a few days before JC's contract was finalized. Lance steered clear of most of the negotiations because he had the hardest time keeping his eyes off JC if they were in the same room together. If he stared enough, he sometimes caught a glimpse of that other boy. The light would shift for a moment and suddenly it was obvious that yeah, his nose was still really big, but then the light would change again, and really the size of his nose didn't distract from his prettiness at all--except for how it made you think about the possible size of other organs...

It made Lance feel uncomfortable and like he'd been plucked out of his life and stuck down as a bit of stage dressing for a surreal performance of the Ugly Duckling. Only this time, the duckling wasn't a confused little swan, he was... something truly remarkable, like maybe an incognito Swan Prince... from Outer Space.

Seriously, anyone would be equally disconcerted by that, right?

 

 

* JC Chasez and 'N Sync - April 2000 *

 

By the end of their second day, JC knew that he had a serious problem. Well, 'N Sync had a problem, or really 'N Sync had a whole slew of issues that were manifesting as a choreographer's worst nightmare. But when JC had signed on with them for this, he'd meant it wholeheartedly. He was standing with them. Their success was his success. Their problems--at least the ones that affected their dancing--were his problem.

This was a huge opportunity for him, like once-in-a-lifetime, most-people-don't-get-chances-like-this huge. But even the sheer amazingness of this opportunity was overshadowed by the amount of trust that Justin and the others had placed in him.

No one gave choreographers as young and un-established as himself chances like this. Oh, he knew that Johnny Wright had allowed this, at least in part, because he figured JC couldn't mess things up too badly and he could pay JC a lot less than an established choreographer would demand. But that didn't diminish the fact that he had this chance primarily because Justin, Tony and Joey all loved him like a brother. Well, he loved them, too. And that's why he was going to have to bring out the tough love tomorrow.

Ah, he hated that. He really hated having to put on the bitch pants, even though he could totally rock the bitch pants. It just wasn't who he wanted to be.

But Justin was already showboating like crazy, probably just in his excitement to show JC everything he'd learned since their MMC days. But it was setting the others off, and it was wasting Justin's energy that he should be focusing on strengthening his weak points.

Tony and Joey were both solid, dependable dancers, just as JC had known they would be. They were game for almost anything and willing to work hard, but Tony had no real love for dancing and Joey, man, Joey loved dancing, but he stopped working hard the moment anyone else did. And really, Justin's showboating was just a fancy form of slacking off and Joey sensed that. So Justin started his thing, and then Joey started cracking jokes, and it was fun, but they only had four weeks, and Chris would join in with the jokes for a while and then suddenly snap and turn into a spikey little ball of discontent.

JC was a bit wary of Chris. He suspected that there was a big heart buried under all of those spikes, but Chris was very mercurial and incredibly short-tempered at times, particularly over what he saw as his own shortcomings. JC needed more time to work with him. He was certain there was very little that Chris couldn't actually do, but he needed to be guided into discovering that for himself. And JC couldn't do that with their limited time if Justin and Joey kept eating up everyone's attention.

And then there was Lance and really, there had to be a story there, and it was probably a really ugly one, too. Lance was so sweet, with this undercurrent of a secret, biting wit. He did weird things to JC's senses, too. He made JC think of Cinnamon Red Hots so much that sometimes JC could taste them just by standing next to him.

But JC knew Lance had a story, because someone as talented as he was did not come by such a high level of insecurity naturally. It was a problem, because dance was more than just bodies moving, it was an expression of your whole being. If something inside of you kept telling you that you sucked, well... it just made everything that much harder.

When JC worked with Lance one-on-one, he didn't see a bad dancer. He saw someone who was slow to pick things up in the way that they were usually presented. He was a different sort of learner than most dancers were. Perhaps he saw everything a little bit differently, but that shouldn't be a problem, because JC had a whole lifetime of experience in seeing things differently than everyone else did. But, again, he needed more time to work with Lance and time was in very short supply.

JC sat in his hotel room that night and bit at his nails, which was neither how he preferred to spend his nights in hotels nor good for his manicure, but he was too wound up for much else. Normally he'd go dance it out but he didn't have full access to Johnny Wright's studio, or he'd go shopping but Orlando was hardly a fashion mecca, or he'd have sex but... when he'd started to take care of things himself a little earlier, his mouth had filled with the taste of Red Hots again and he'd felt inappropriate and dirty in a bad way and he just wasn't feeling that urge anymore.

*

Lance nearly tripped over himself when he walked into the studio that morning. He'd thought that he had a pretty good handle on what JC was like, at least sartorially. Sure, he'd only seen JC a handful of times, but so far, he'd been all about tank tops and capris. Maybe he was a little too fond of pink, but his clothes were comfortable and somewhat practical... for a dancer in Florida. This morning, though...

Well, Lance couldn't think of any practical reason for skin-tight pants with naked ladies on them. ... Unless it was for an anatomy lesson? A really sort of backasswards anatomy lesson where the naked ladies were actually being much more modest than the guy whose package was so... (oh my god, big) ...immodestly covered.

JC couldn't actually dance in those pants, could he?

With effort, Lance tore his gaze away from JC's pants and checked out the rest of the room. What he saw was almost as unexpected as JC's clothing selection. Tony was sitting on one of the big blue floor mats, reading a book and sipping from a mug. Joey was standing in a corner, helping himself to something out of a big white pastry box and staring at a couple of cans of Coke and Mountain Dew like his soda selection was a matter of utmost importance.

"Um?" Lance said.

JC smiled. "Hey, Lance. Make yourself comfortable. We're doing something a little different this morning and we can't get started until everyone's here."

"There's doughnuts," Tony said.

"There's really freaking good doughnuts," Joey said. "Like these are real, proper bakery doughnuts, not like the regular Craft Services ones."

"Why are there doughnuts?" Lance asked.

"Who cares?" Joey said. "They're doughnuts."

"I brought them," JC said. "They're like a Mary Poppins thing."

Tony looked up from his book at that. "What?"

"You know. 'A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.'" JC didn't say any more but he continued on by humming the 'in the most delightful way' bit.

Joey tore his half-eaten doughnut out of his mouth. "What the fuck? 'C, did you put something in these doughnuts?"

JC laughed and walked over to him and gave him a little half-hug. "Come on, Joey, you know I would never do that to you. ... Now, there may be some sedatives in the ones I set aside for Justin and Chris..."

There was a long beat of silence until Tony stood up and stretched and said, "Wow, I sure am glad that I wasn't hungry this morning. You wanna tell us what's up, JC?"

"Nope. Let's just wait until we're all here."

After another moment of silence, Joey shrugged, stuffed the rest of his doughnut into his mouth, and grabbed a can of Coke. Lance went over and picked out a doughnut, too, just to have something to do that wasn't staring at JC. He tore his pastry into little bits and wondered what JC had planned. Why were they waiting?

Lance knew that the last two days hadn't gone as well as everyone had hoped. In the past, they'd had choreographers yell at them. Well... mostly yell at him. But they had never gone out of their way to bring food first. Nor did they wait to start yelling. They'd been just as content to tear Lance to pieces in private as they were to do it in front of everyone. And he didn't really think JC would be like that, anyway. Joey and Tony wouldn't like him so much if he were, so... it had to be something else.

When Justin and Chris arrived, and they were all pastried to their liking and settled on the mats and waiting, JC clapped his hands together.

"Okay. Great. We're going to have a little talk this morning before we begin, because I'm pretty sure we're all on the same page when it comes to not wanting to keep wasting your precious time like we've been doing for the last two days."

"Isn't this wasting--?" Chris started to say, but JC held up his hand and by some strange magic, Chris actually stopped speaking.

"I had a chat with Johnny first thing this morning, briefed him on the issues, and his advice to me was to remind you of the Kindergarten rules. When teacher--that's me--"

And JC actually waved at them, and Lance remembered that dorky move from several MMC episodes and that was sort of distracting, because it made him feel warm inside, that another tiny bit of that other JC was still alive.

"--when teacher is speaking, everyone else's mouths go shut. And their ears open wide."

"Hey. We're not like three-year-olds," Justin said.

"Kindergartners are usually five," Tony told him.

"And," JC said, "here's the really good part. Johnny also said that he'd give me a ten-thousand-dollar bonus for every minute of teacher's time that you waste this morning. He promised that he'd be really creative in how he made you regret blowing your tour budget, too." JC smiled broadly. "So let's just listen, okay?"

"He's not serious," Justin said.

"Are you willing to bet on it?" Tony said.

Lance looked over at Chris, amazed that he wasn't objecting loudly. Chris was staring at JC with a really intrigued look on his face... and it wasn't even the sort of look that was saying, 'What the fuck is up with those pants?'

"Great," JC said. "Now. You probably don't realize this, but there are really only two types of choreographers in the world.

"There's the type who has a really great idea and he's totally, one-hundred percent invested in his vision. He really doesn't give a fuck about his dancers. His dancers are tools. Now this guy may sound like a real shithead, but it is a legitimate style of choreographing, if he's like the dance master and he can hire and fire his dancers at will. Sometimes this guy can't do that, though, but he still thinks that way. If the dance doesn't match his vision, then obviously, it's the dancers' fault. What's the guy to do? Maybe you can turn a pig's ear into a silk purse, but no one can work miracles with that pig's droppings."

"Um..." Justin said.

"Not now, J. I'll open the floor for discussion later." JC brushed back his hair and began to pace a little. "I've worked for guys like that. They're not all bad, but personally, I don't think they have any business working with dancers who aren't full-time, professional dancers.

"The other sort of choreographer starts with a vision, too, but it's more of a collaborative effort. He believes that the other dancers are partners with him--even if he won't personally be dancing in the final production. It's a team effort, and he knows that he won't look good unless his dancers look good.

"His dancers have to work just as hard as the other guy's dancers do. Maybe they even have to work harder, because they are all participating in the creative process. And they have to be totally committed to both trying their hardest and to knowing and communicating when they've hit a boundary or an obstacle that they just can't get around on their own. They bring the problem to everyone's attention and maybe the group figures out a new way to approach that boundary or maybe the choreographer maps a new path, because there's no point in the choreographer trying to drag everyone to places they can't go 'cause like... he's an artist, not a pack mule. Okay?

"Now, I understand that you haven't had any choice in choreographers before now and you've been stuck with what you've been given. And I'm sorry for that. But we're starting over with a clean slate. There is no best dancer in 'N Sync. There is no worst dancer in 'N Sync. You succeed together or you fail together. You are a team, and you are here really to do only two things. You're here to give your fans the best damn show you can give them. And you're here to help your four other teammates shine."

"Um..." Justin said again.

"You're not here to work on your own shine, J. You have four other guys who are doing that for you. And the second you start thinking 'ooo, I can do this here' or 'oh, I wonder how it'll look if I do this,' the second you turn your focus inwards, you let down the four guys who are depending on you, and you let down your fans, because maybe you can't see it, but they can. They can tell.

"You start losing respect for each other and stop supporting each other, well then they're going to go home after the show and they won't be talking about how great it was, they'll be gossiping. 'Oh my god, did you see that? They must be fighting. What do you think happened? Maybe Joey slept with all of their girlfriends!'--sorry, Joe--"

Joey just laughed at that. "Hey, that's okay. That could totally happen."

"'--And they're shunning him now. Maybe they're all really mad at Justin--'"

"I'm not sleeping with anyone's girlfriends!"

"He's not even sleeping with his own girlfriend," Chris said.

"The content of the gossip isn't the point."

"Yeah," Tony said. "The point is either we have each other's backs or we look like shit and the fans tear us apart."

JC nodded. "Yes! Well. Maybe not like shit. You're all good dancers... for a bunch of singers. But you won't look cohesive, and if you don't look cohesive then you're really wasting your time with all this fancy scaffolding and stage work and dancing. You should give it all up and just sing in a studio somewhere 'cause man, your voices are seriously beautiful, but I really don't like what I've been seeing the last few days."

"Are you finished?" Chris said.

"Not quite."

"Are you being paid by the minute for your speech or just for our interruptions?" Chris asked.

"Just your interruptions, unfortunately. I'm a bit sad that you haven't made me a fabulously wealthy man today... though mostly I'm appreciative of your attentiveness.

"And the last thing is simply this: I need to work more with some of you than I do with others of you. The time I spend with you has no correlation to your actual skill level. It's simply a reflection of how long it takes me to learn the way you learn best. And maybe also how long it takes me to learn how to speak your language 'cause yes, I know, Chris, that you totally think I'm from another planet."

"That is so, so true, Space Boy."

JC laughed and then clapped his hands again. "Great! So, I think we're finished with the talky part of today's agenda, so... are there any questions?"

"Will we be paying you a bonus per question?" Joey asked.

"Only if you really want to."

"Great," Joey said. "My first question is: Are there any doughnuts left?"

"Really?" Chris said. "That's your question? I think I have a much more pressing one 'cause, oh my god, JC, what is up with those pants?"

"You have to ask that?" Tony said. "I think those pants make it blatantly obvious exactly what is up in them."

"Oh my god," Justin said. "Stop talking about them! The more you talk about them, the harder it is for me to un-see what I have seen."

Lance sympathized with Justin, though he privately thought that it was a little too late to ever un-see what he'd seen today. And he wondered if it was also too late to un-learn what he had learned before, to truly start again with a clean slate.

He really liked what JC had said, though he doubted that it was going to translate into an instant improvement in their teamwork. But it left him feeling a little hopeful, though... or maybe a little anticipatory... and that was different. He'd never looked forward to another day of dancing since pretty much the first time he'd danced in front of Lou.

 

 

* E! Online - August 25, 2008 *


Bass Puts On His Dancing Shoes

The rumors were partly true: Lance Bass will be among the celeb hoofers on the forthcoming seventh season of Dancing With the Stars.

His pro partner, however—much to the chagrin of the blogging public—will be of the fairer persuasion.

Bass leads the roster of 13 for the latest installment of ABC's hot-stepping hit, a group of contestants cobbled together from the worlds of music, acting, reality TV and, in a bit of perfect timing, Olympic-caliber sport.

[excerpt from an article by Gina Serpe; http://www.eonline.com/news/25715/bass-kardashian-braxton-put-on-their-dancing-shoes]

 

 

* Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer - September 2008 *

 

On the morning Lance was scheduled to meet his new dance partner, he made a special point to stop and hug both of his dogs before he left.

"I hope you don't mind," he told Dingo while giving him an extra scritch behind the ears, "but I'm stealing some unconditional love and affection from you right now. Okay?"

Dingo wiggled excitedly like he always did whenever Lance bent down to his level for hugs and pets. Foster took advantage of the moment to sneak up behind Lance and poke his nose between Lance's legs.

"Ah!" Lance said. "Sorry, sorry. No. That's not the sort of affection daddy wants from you, buddy."

He hugged Foster, too, then took a moment to brush the worst of the dog hair off of his shirt. He headed out the door, then turned around for a quick visit to the shelf where all of his 'N Sync bobbleheads lived. "Eat your heart out," he told Bobble!Joey and set his head bobbling for good luck.

He was just a bit nervous. He didn't know anything about this girl, except that she was new to the cast and if they did well together, they'd potentially be a thing for months and months. There was the show and then the tour... if they got along. It felt like there was a lot riding on this, and he wondered what she thought about it. Was she thinking 'OMG! 'N Sync!' or 'OMG! Not the gay one!'? Whatever she was thinking, they'd be catching it all on camera, so really, what he had to do was just walk in there like it was his best friend waiting inside.

Well... maybe he should tone it down a little. Joey was not your average girl after all.

He paused outside the door, and then threw it open wide, stepping in with a grin and an "Oh my god!" And half a second behind his rehearsed OMG, his brain echoed with a real one. Oh my god, she was so cute and so freaking young, like a sixteen-year-old rocker girl with multicolor extensions in her hair.

"Oh my goodness!" she said, beaming and bending over like she was having trouble holding herself back. "No way!"

"Hi!" he said.

She laughed and stomped her feet and shouted, "Get over here!" And before he knew it, he was giving her a hug 'cause really, this was all going to work out just fine. She was adorable, and he was going to have a blast.

That night, before he collapsed exhausted into bed, he paid another visit to the bobbleheads. "Eat your heart out," he told Bobble!Lance and gave him a friendly whack upside the head for being such a drama queen over all of this.

 

 

* E! Online - September 15, 2008 *


Lance Bass Talks Marriage, Kids and Same-Sex Dancing

Lance Bass wouldn't mind dancing with a man on a reality competition show, but he doesn't think ABC's Dancing With the Stars is the right place for fancy same-sex footwork.

"I think it would be so silly that it would just overshadow everything else going on," Bass tells me. "It would just be like making fun of something. But if it was another show with all guys dancing and all girls dancing, that's a different story. I think that's sexy."

Hard to believe, but Bass is the first openly gay dancer—professional or celebrity—to appear on DWTS. "I think it's so important for me to do this," he says. "But my biggest concern is I just hope it doesn't hurt the gay community in any way because, you know, we definitely can be scrutinized and picked apart. I definitely feel a responsibility of making sure I represent well."

With countless hours now spent rehearsing—DWTS has a three-night premiere starting Sept. 22—the 29-year-old Bass is one tired puppy. "When I go home, all I wanna do is just sleep and eat."

Bass did, however, make sure to find the time (and the energy, for that matter) to appear on Saturday night at event producer Tom Whitman's West Hollywood fundraiser for No on 8, a campaign to fight a November ballot that would ban same-sex marriage in California. "I'm definitely not political," Bass explains. "But I know what's right and wrong, and I know that's wrong. So I'm going to speak up about it. It's just common sense."

He imagines he'll marry and have kids some day. "I think everyone dreams of that nice romantic wedding," he says. "And I love kids. I want to adopt and I want to have my own."

[excerpts from an article by Marc Malkin; http://www.eonline.com/news/29089/lance-bass-talks-marriage-kids-and-same-sex-dancing]

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 1 - Cha Cha Cha and Quickstep *

 

When JC heard that Lance Bass was under consideration for being one of this season's stars, he wondered if there would be any trouble over it. There shouldn't be any trouble over it; he felt a wave of nostalgic fondness for Lance whenever he thought of him, but their relationship had never been anything beyond what was strictly and properly professional. But still, everyone knew that 'N Sync had given JC his first big break, and that was bound to generate some chit chat about biased judging.

But the producers surprised him by being quite excited about his 'N Sync connection.

"Joey Fatone drew a ton of new viewers to the show during his season. We're already planning to take full advantage of that, reference Joey whenever we can, see if we can't get him back here for a special appearance or two. Not that Lance isn't also very popular in his own right, but the more times we can draw the interest and commentary of another independent blogger or DJ or talk show host, that's another bump in our ratings.

"We think the same strategy will work with your 'N Sync connection, too. I mean, you're already going to bring us a nice ratings spike just by being gorgeous and such a close friend to Justin and Britney. But we can play with this, too. We'd like you to make some statements along the lines of 'Of course, I'm an impartial judge, but Lance really has his work cut out for him because I know just how much he's capable of.'"

And that was a little weird, wasn't it? It was absolutely true, but the way they were prepping him to say the truth made it feel like a lie.

He just nodded and assured them of his deep commitment to remaining impartial, and really, he didn't anticipate having any trouble with that. He was already going to be on his very best behavior, anyway. Sometimes it felt as if half the world was at least passingly familiar with his work, but very few people knew him as the man behind his work. He didn't want anything to make him look unprofessional here, because it would have repercussions far beyond whether he would be asked back to judge another season.

He had his first inkling that maybe it wouldn't be quite that easy when they started to play the introductory video package they'd prepared for Lance. It was a little freaky, because it started with a maybe two-seconds long clip of the Pop video, and really? Really? What were the chances that they'd play two seconds where JC was plainly visible, dancing right up next to Lance, while dressed and made up to look like Joey? Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe they really didn't know the story behind that video. But all across America, die-hard 'N Sync fans were probably breaking out into a frenzied fannish glee over the choice of that clip.

And that was only the first few seconds of their video. The rest was very eye-opening for JC. He'd known, of course, that Lance had come out about two years ago to a great deal of media fanfare. But he hadn't paid much attention to it.

He'd been happy for Lance, but the hoopla had reminded him so strongly of the fears he'd faced in 1994 and the reasons for his decision to go into dance. He'd never regretted that decision, not even for an instant. The dance world had treated him very, very well. But he'd felt such a strange twist of pride and heartache for Lance in the days after he came out. He sincerely hoped that Lance hadn't ever regretted his decisions--both to enter into a career field that could be so cruel to gay men and to come out so publicly.

And watching that video nearly overwhelmed JC with the sense that he had never actually seen this young man before. He had this bright, huge grin and he spoke with such happy openness about himself. His sense of humor wasn't tucked away so that only the bright, sharp edge of it showed, and he was... just so giddy at the prospect of dancing with Lacey. JC had never seen Lance be so excited to be dancing. And he was just... glowing and gorgeous with it.

Okay, well, yeah... JC could deal with this. A little thing like a sudden infatuation with a totally adorable and happy Lance Bass wasn't going to shake his impartiality... much.

Lance danced the Cha Cha Cha to "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and Len, of course, didn't like it because it was too young and modern. Bruno and Carrie Ann were quite taken with it, though. They seemed to be in the same boat with JC. If he hopped up from the judges' table to give Lance a hug simply because he was so adorable and energetic and irresistible, well, he knew he'd have to fight them both for the privilege of getting to Lance first.

Tom Bergeron asked, "And JC? What did you think?"

"Well, first of all, I just have to say: Lacey, hey. Great shirt. I have that same one at home, though... mine doesn't look so good artistically torn and tattered and draped around my hips."

Lacey slid her hand down her altered Lance-face T-shirt skirt and laughed along with the audience. "Thank you."

"And Lance... there was something you said in the clip--"

Lance winced ever so slightly at that, and JC was glad to see him do so. Lance knew damn well that he was in trouble for resurrecting that whole 'worst dancer in 'N Sync' thing. JC wasn't going to address it now, but he was glad that Lance knew he'd gone wrong there.

"--You said, 'The most important thing with couples in dancing is the chemistry.'"

Lance nodded.

"You were really high energy and you played the audience well, but there were moments out there where you missed golden opportunities to connect with your partner. Now, I see our buddy, Joey Fatone, out in the audience tonight. Yes, Joey, hi." He exchanged a little hand wave with Joey. "Don't worry. We do see you there.

"If you really want my advice, Lance. I suggest you go back and rewatch all of Joey's season four footage. He was remarkably skilled at connecting with the audience and then always returning over and over again and reconnecting with his partner. I'd like to see that from you. Chemistry with us and chemistry with your partner."

Lance nodded and smiled, and then they were off the floor, and JC took a deep, calming breath. Yeah. He'd done it. That hadn't been bad at all.

*

The following night, Lance and Lacey danced the Quickstep to the Cure's "Close to Me." Lance's forearms were bared and his bowtie was undone and he had two chains looped for no apparent reason in his belt. He looked sexy in an understated and tasteful way, and that was just way too distracting. It forced JC to think wildly inappropriate thoughts about Lance's possible taste in bedroom antics, because, hello, inexplicable chains just sort of demanded that one's imagination fill in the reason for them.

The dance wasn't Len's cup of tea.

"I find that really odd," JC said. "I mean, isn't it? We all heard Lacey's names for the dance moves--and I applaud you for your creative thinking there, Lacey. There was 'a gingerbread man, a gingerbread man,' so it should taste great with a cup of Len's tea."

"There was also," Len said, "a 'peeing on the fire hydrant.' Pardon me, but that's not what I want in my tea."

JC laughed. "Yeah, okay. I have to give you that one." He looked down at his notes then, so he wouldn't look too long at Lance.

"Well, Lance. I'm very partial to the Cure... and to the chains. It was very enjoyable. You looked good out there, like you were having lots of fun, but something was really off about your eye line. What were you looking at?" Ah, he felt like such a hypocrite saying that right then. "It wasn't your partner and it wasn't us--the audience--either. That's something you need to be more aware of."

And that was one week down, with an unknown number still to go.

And when JC found himself thinking about Lance and chains when he was alone in bed that night, well... obviously it was time for him to call in some backup. He needed some emotional support, someone to help keep him strong. Good thing he knew just the girl for the job.

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 2 - Paso Doble *

 

As fate would have it, JC really didn't need help staying strong after Lance's third dance. The whole thing seriously ticked him off. Well, there was one positive note. Lance went sleeveless and his arms looked seriously great, but JC could only really enjoy them in retrospect.

It wasn't entirely Lance and Lacey's fault. Obviously some producer thought that he was much more clever than he actually was. Sticking the pair with Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" was pretty much setting them up to fail spectacularly, and that's what really got JC burning with an anger that he couldn't entirely take out on the couple.

"Well," JC said when it was finally his turn to speak. "I'm not a fan of staged kisses, but I can't really blame you for going for it. Someone upstairs was being overly cute--" Bruno's hand was suddenly on his thigh, out of sight under the table, and it took JC's brain a ridiculously long second to go from 'Whoa! I knew Bruno was frisky, but I wasn't expecting that!' to realizing that Bruno was trying to signal him to be more careful about what he was saying. "--when, um... when they picked that song, but I can't mark you down for that.

"However, the Paso, out of all the dances on this show, demands that you tell a story. Len would have you stick to the traditional story and there's nothing wrong with that. It's a good story. And Lance, there's nothing wrong with putting a twist on that story, either. You said it yourself in the package, that you were going to keep the traditional moves, but tell your own story. That would have been great. The problem, Lance and Lacey, is that your dancing didn't tell any story at all. You forced the lyrics to carry the entire story. And that's--I'm sorry--but that's unacceptable."

He got a little booing from the audience at that, and Tom tried to smooth it over with the crowd, and JC tried not to see the hurt behind Lance's eyes. JC really wanted his bitch pants back right now. He wanted to shake his fist at the producers and also kick a little sense into Lacey. Yes, she looked adorable with Lance, but as a choreographer, she'd let him down big time this week.

It was hard not to think about how Lance had looked when JC had criticized them so harshly, but it was also difficult not to dwell on how much JC had hated that kiss. He hated it for political reasons just as much as for all the 'yuck, Lance's lips shouldn't have been subjected to that!' reasons.

JC pretty much felt like shit for most of the show, until he looked down at one point and saw that he had a text from Britney. He glanced over to where she was seated in the audience, and she waved at him. He pulled his silenced phone closer and hid it from view while he read her message.

Lace's dress. WTF. Looks like some1 threw up a Barbie store on her

You're one to talk, he texted back.

was paid millions to wear Barbie vomit. Shes not that fabulous. And i think she likes it

He felt a bit better after that.

 

 

* E! News - September 30, 2008 *

A very pregnant Britney Spears was spotted in the audience of last night's Dancing With the Stars. The Prince and Princess of Pop are expecting their fourth child in November. We weren't able to catch a moment with Momma Britney, but our E! correspondent did spend a few minutes with the very proud godfather of Lyn, Angel, and Jean-Katherine Timberlake. He's a familiar face: the new Dancing With the Stars judge, JC Chasez.

[broadcast changes to an interview clip]

E!: Hi, JC. It was a great show tonight.

JC: Yes. Hello. Yes, it was.

E!: I know it's early yet, but do you have any favorites--?

JC: That's really not appropriate. As a judge, I'm looking at each performance individually. There's really no room for favorites when you're watching the dancing like that, but then, that's where America's voting comes into play.

E!: Well... That's good to hear. There's no swaying the judges... at least when it comes to the dancers. However, I think we all spotted one of your favorite people in the audience tonight.

JC: Britney? Yeah. It's always great to see her, but don't get too excited. I'm pretty sure she'll be back again next week.

E!: That's great. Now, is she here to support you or Lance Bass? She's a close personal friend of you both?

JC: *laughs* Well, I certainly hope she's here for both of us--

E!: I understand that you're godfather to all of the Timberlake girls? Do you think you'll be for baby number four as well?

JC: I hope so. I love my baby Timber-Spears, but that's really up to Justin and Britney.

E!: There's talk that Britney has said that she wants to have your babies.

JC: Oh, god. Taken out of context, that always sounds so bad. Yes. Britney loves babies and she's offered to be surrogate when and if I want children of my own. But I really wouldn't count on that happening.

E!: You don't want children?

JC: I'm a big advocate of adoption. That's not to say that I'd completely rule out surrogacy as an option, but I know Britney. She wants a big family. I think she and Justin are really aiming for a von Trapp family of their very own.

E!: Uh... a Von...?

JC: Really? The Trapp Family Singers? The Sound of Music? Normally, this is where I'd add a joke about giving each new baby a tiny little pair of sparkly lederhosen, but... the point is, I think Britney already has a very busy schedule with her own babies. Plus, it would be kind of weird. Justin's babies and my babies all coming from the same place? I dunno. Things could get a little strange.

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 3 - Viennese Waltz *

 

It was really hard to motivate himself to go into the studio the next day. Lance actually pulled up Lacey's contact information on his phone and stood for a long time with his thumb hovering over the screen, ready to call her and cancel. If he cancelled for only one day, she couldn't hold that against him for long, right?

But then he thought about her and how his actions could negatively affect her career. She was new. The longer she and her partner managed to stay on the show this season, the better she would look to the producers whenever her contract was up for renewal. That was more important than Lance being allowed to wallow for a day.

His next thought was to call Joey or Tony and ask for JC's number. That was even more tempting, but what would he do with it? He couldn't call JC up and say... what? 'I'm sorry. Please don't be disappointed in me? I'll do better!'? That would be sad and pathetic, and also... he really shouldn't do anything with JC that he wouldn't feel comfortable doing with the other judges--and he certainly wouldn't ring Len up for a chat.

Lance hadn't even taken the opportunity to talk with JC during the rare times when the stars and dancers could mingle a bit with the judges. JC was keeping his distance from him, and that was only right and fair. Lance was going to do the same, even if it made him feel a bit desperate, like he was one of those dogs in a yard with an invisible fence. He wanted to run smack dab up against the invisible boundary around JC and then stand there begging and barking for attention. Well... maybe not actually barking.

Lance sighed and put down his phone. He changed into his rehearsal clothes, gave his boys pats and a belly rub, and then stopped by the bobbleheads. He gave Bobble!Joey and Bobble!Tony a poke to set them nodding, but he didn't have anything uplifting to tell them today.

"Wish me luck, guys?"

They nodded agreeably, and he left the house.

*

"That was really painful," he told Lacey. "I don't ever want to do that again."

"That's okay. I'm pretty sure the Paso won't come up for us again."

"Not dancing the Paso. I mean, having someone I really respect and admire, someone whose opinion matters to me beyond the scope of this competition, tell me that my dancing was unacceptable. That's what I never want to do again."

"It wasn't that bad," Lacey said.

"It was awful! You don't know what JC is like, but I've never heard him be so dismissive of someone like that. I mean. He's critical, he's demanding, but he's a 'build people up' sort of guy, not a 'take people down' one."

"That's not what he said. He didn't say you were unacceptable. And even if he did, you know how they all were that night. There must have been something in their water. They were rude to a lot of the dancers. It wasn't personal."

"But JC gave me a six!"

"And Len gave you your third six in a row. If we're going to worry about somebody, worry about him. JC was just... Well, you heard him. He was just being cranky. He didn't like the song, so that got his panties in a bunch. And then you kissed me, and he was probably jealous. You know there's lots of guys hating on me now. Probably a lot of girls, too. You're hot stuff, they know it, and they're jealous. Don't let it get you down."

Lance didn't think that JC would do that. Jealous or not, retaliatory rating wasn't his style. But it was sort of thrilling, imagining that he might have been jealous. Lance used that feeling to bolster himself up.

"If he gave me a six, I deserved it. But I'm never going to deserve another six from him ever again, okay?"

Lacey jumped up and down like cheerleader. "Great! That's the spirit! But I still think we should focus on Len this week."

"But--"

"No buts! We have the Viennese Waltz. It is the perfect dance to tailor to Len. We dance it beautifully, we dance it traditionally, we make Len happy. And we can work on that thing JC's always harping about, too. Okay? The waltz is a good dance for 'connecting' with your partner."

"Okay," Lance said, "Let's do it!"

*

There was a surprise waiting on Lance's doorstep the night before the show.

"Oh my gosh! Mom and Dad! Hey!" He ushered them in and tried to keep the dogs from tripping his parents right there in the hallway. Dingo and Foster yapped and ran around excitedly while his parents set their bags down and hugged him.

"Hey," he said again. "I wasn't expecting you. Are you staying for the show? Do I need to get you tickets?"

"We're all set," his mother said, and then she stepped forward and hugged him again. "That one's from Tony."

His father gave him a second hug, too. "And that one's from Joey."

"Oh my gosh," Lance said. "I love you guys. It's so good to see you."

"Now is there any particular reason why your friends would think you needed 'more love and affection than your dogs could give you' this week?" his mother asked.

"Ah... Um... Not particularly, no."

His mother gave him the sharp-eyed 'I don't believe you for an instant' stare, and Lance couldn't help but wince and step back away from her.

"Hey, I never need an excuse for wanting more of your hugs 'cause you guys are the best. You know that!"

And Joey and Tony really were the best, too. The alumni of the three-man-bus were just the best ever. No offence to Justin or Chris, but... yeah. Lance knew that Joey and Tony would always have his back, no matter what.

*

It felt right, dancing the Viennese Waltz with his parents in the audience. Lance felt a certain light joyfulness about it. There was a moment when Lacey was in his arms and all he could really see was her dark hair, left long and wavy for the night, and out of the corner of his eye, just a glimpse of his parents smiling. He knew, he just knew right then that he was going to dance this waltz at his wedding. But then in the next moment, he managed to shake most of that feeling away before he made a total sappy fool of himself.

They hadn't sparkled enough for Bruno, but Carrie Ann was very complimentary.

And then JC was saying, "First of all, you both look really gorgeous in that shade of gray." Lance smiled at that, and smiled even wider when JC gestured to his own gray leather jacket. "Yes. Very tasteful, very pretty. Lacey, if you're not keeping that dress, I totally want to make a sweater out of it, okay?

"But more seriously, you looked lovely out there. It was well done. Lance, right at the end, you connected so well with your partner and that made it much more poignant, that you had that connection, and it was at that moment that she leaves you behind."

"Well," Bruno said. "Lance has had a lot of practice saying 'bye, bye, bye.'"

JC laughed. "Yes, true. Well done, Lance."

Len's complaints about his flat-footedness and pigeon toes were a lot easier to take after JC's compliments. And then Len topped off the evening by finally giving them a seven, which might not seem that much better than a six, but from Len it felt huge.

It was a fabulous night, and Lance was glad that he had stuck it out... with a little help from his friends... and his family... and his dogs. Well, really, whatever it takes, right? He was blessed to have them all.

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Elimination Night Video Clip - October 7, 2008 *

 

[Footage of Lance and Lacey's Viennese Waltz]

Tom Bergeron: [voice over] The rebels restrained themselves as Lance performed a prim and proper waltz.

[Footage changes to a clip from the judges]

Bruno: I think Len will be very pleased but I like to see the sparkle between you two that you had last week.

[Lance and Lacey in front of the red curtain, speaking directly to the camera]

Lacey: Do you see our outfits? [laughs]

Lance: I'm covered in sparkles--

Lacey: Half of them are mine--

Lance: There's fairy fart all over us.

Lacey: A fairy. A fairy farted on us, Bruno.

Lance: [mimes an explosion of sparkly fairy gas aimed at his face]

Lacey: How can you not see these sparkles?

Lance: [laughs]

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 4 - Tango *

 

Everyone loved their Tango to Rihanna's "Disturbia." Lance had felt great about it going in, and while they danced, he could feel a difference in the energy of the audience. They were loving it, and not just because they were his fans. He and Lacey had finally gotten a dance really, really right.

That should have been the highlight of the evening, his favorite moment to replay to himself later, that rush of knowing and affirmation and adrenaline. But it wasn't. What happened during the judging was even better.

Bruno was the first to give feedback. He was so enthusiastic that he kept jabbing the judges' table with his index finger to emphasize his words. "Quirky, with a gothic twist, and yet [tap] always a Tango. [taptap] Plus you managed to control it. You start to emerge as a leading man. You should be always this assured because you've got [tap] what it takes [tap] to get [tap] to the final [tap]."

By the time he finished speaking, JC and Len were grinning broadly. Len. Grinning. Broadly. Lance hadn't realized that Len's face could even do that. He wasn't sure if they were grinning in reaction to Lance finally stepping up his game or because Bruno was only a few taps away from turning into a woodpecker and they were about to tease him about it. At that moment, it really didn't matter. Their high spirits were contagious.

JC said, "I agree with everything Bruno just said. It was great. However, I know you're sick of hearing me say this, but... you really could have used more eye contact with your partner. And it wouldn't have ruined the quirky, gothy-- I'm not sure if you're sexy zombies or Morticia and Gomez--feel. It's a tango! You can bring so much more passion into it with the right sort of eye contact. And if it needs to be creepy passion, you play a little and you can find just the right angle to convey--" Bruno jumped up and swept JC into a clinch, which was pretty impressive given that JC was several inches taller than him. "--whoa!"

JC stared into Bruno's eyes for moment and then laughed. "Okay, yes, this will work. Can we have some creepy, sexy Tango please?"

The band started up instantly, and it was maybe only thirty seconds of dancing, but it was very intense. Bruno held JC in a tight frame and basically stalked JC across the dance floor while JC was, at the very same time, a magnificent siren luring Bruno to his death with every step. It was weird and hot, and they never seemed to break eye contact, but they must have, because they ended up perfectly positioned in front of the stage steps, where they ended with JC dipped so low that his curls brushed the steps.

They held the position for a long moment, Bruno supporting JC, but looking for all the world like he was the one who was captured and ensnared, and he couldn't care less about his dire predicament, because the long, bowed arc of JC's body had drawn his complete attention. Lance's own breath caught and he felt as if he'd been drawn under the spell as well. He wanted to go to them, he wanted--

The music stopped and JC started to laugh. Bruno pulled JC up, and Len started speaking, "Well, I'm not sure I want to do any judging now that their flamboyance has exploded all over the stage--"

Lance didn't catch the rest of what Len said, because as JC passed him on his way back to the table, he slanted a look towards Lance that Lance would have taken as a sexual invitation in pretty much any situation except for this one. But surely he was reading it wrong. JC wouldn't... would he? In front of everyone?

No. No, of course not.

JC was simply giving him another demonstration of 'connecting' through eye contact. This realization left Lance feeling devastated, yet also, ever so slightly-and reluctantly--relieved.

Lance had a lot to think about.

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 5 - West Coast Swing *

 

The next week was more exhausting than any of the previous ones. Although, it was maybe, just slightly less physically demanding than the previous weeks. Lance thought that was mainly due to his muscles recovering from their initial shock of 'oh my god! What is this new torture you're putting us through?'

The biggest challenges that week were mental and emotional, and they drained every last ounce of energy out of him. One of the nights, he was seriously about ten seconds away from simply dropping to the floor in the entryway and sleeping there for the night. Cold, hard tiles? Not a problem. Dingo and Foster were the only things that kept him from doing just that.

At night, his dreams were filled with JC. Sometimes it was simply JC giving him that come-on look. Sometimes JC stalked him through a Disturbia landscape. Sometimes JC was floppy-haired and seventeen, standing barefoot in the sand and giggling over something that Lance had told him. And sometimes, JC was like the Mad Hatter, only he didn't have a big crazy hat. Instead, he was naked, save for a pair of skin-tight, Technicolor trousers, and he fed Lance possibly drug-laced pastries while promising him that he would reveal all of the secrets to the universe if Lance would only stay and take another bite. Needless to say, Lance wasn't sleeping well.

And during the day, things weren't going well with Lacey. He adored Lacey, he really did, but she did not take criticism well, not even constructive criticism. For several days, it felt more like Skirting Around the Edges of a Fight than Dancing With the Stars.

*

They'd been assigned West Coast Swing, and Lacey was ecstatic.

"That's my specialty!"

"You're the world champion," Lance agreed. "This is our dance. We're going to own it!"

"Absolutely! Well... the easiest way for me to teach you how to do a West Coast Swing is to go straight to the source who taught me, which is the King of Swing... who happens to be my daddy!"

She took Lance to meet him and get some pointers, and it was great. Lance almost always had a blast meeting people's parents--unless they were the parents of someone he was dating. He thought the world of his own family, and he thought it was so great watching how other people's faces lit up in the presence of their families. And it was always inspiring to meet someone who was a master of their craft.

Buddy Schwimmer was this great big, smiling guy, and he was easy to talk to and he made it easy for Lance to pick up the basic steps and style of his art. He told Lance, "I see you have a lot of potential, but you really have to believe in yourself to make this work, okay? Show the judges you believe in you."

And Lance believed.

"Okay, I promise. Confidence is going to just come out."

And Buddy high-fived him, and everything was fantastic until they got back to the studio where they rehearsed. They started working on their choreography, but it was different than it had been before.

Lacey didn't even pause for a second for their usual conversation about how they were going to make this dance their own. And Lance sort of got that, he did. She was a champion and he had no problems learning from a champion. Heck, who wouldn't want to learn from the very best instead of from some average Joe? But... he really wasn't learning anything, because Lacey wasn't really teaching him.

He let it go on for a day, because maybe he was wrong. Maybe they were both tired from their visit and things would turn around with the new day. But it didn't. And Lance was starting to lose that inspired feeling he'd gained from Buddy.

He went off on his own during lunch to mull over the problem. But he found as he ate his double order of cheese fries--oh my god, so bad, but so, so good--that the difficulties with their West Coast Swing wasn't at the top of his mind. Instead, he was thinking again about last week's spontaneous Tango explosion.

He was certain that Bruno and JC had never danced together before. That hadn't been in any way practiced or planned. And it had been mesmerizing. Why had it been? Beyond the obvious oh my god, sexy reasons? They were both extremely good at what they did. But even two masters couldn't just come together and create something like that instantly... not without a sort of extreme awareness of their partner... allowing them to communicate their intentions so quickly and seamlessly that it appeared instantaneous. And it hadn't just been a matter of JC expertly following Bruno's lead, even though JC had been dancing the 'female' part. They'd been equal participants as they stalked and lured each other across the floor.

Pushmi-pullyu, Lance thought. But instead of an animal with two heads, they were a couple, a single unit on the dance floor with two bodies.

What he and Lacey were doing right now in the studio... Heck. He wasn't even sure how his part had anything to do with her part. Sometimes they reacted to each other, but they were never in concert... They were never... Oh god, JC's favorite word... 'connected.'

Lance finally got it, and it had taken five whole weeks for him to do so. Ugh. For half a second, he felt unbelievably slow and stupid, but then he remembered another long-ago lesson from JC. The time it takes has no correlation to your skill level. It's simply how long it takes for me to learn how you learn best, and how long it takes for me to learn how to speak your language.

Well. Apparently Lance's language was Creepy Sexy Tango-ese.

Great, now all Lance had to do with what remained of this week was: learn how to say, "Stop. This isn't working. This is Dancing With the Stars, not Dancing Around the Stars," in Lacey's language, work with her to create their own version of Swing, get all of the steps nailed down perfectly, remember to be mindful of his eye lines, and go out there and prove to everyone that Bruno and JC had been right when they said he was emerging as a leading man.

Oh yeah. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. He'd just get right on that.

Yeah, or maybe he'd just drop dead from exhaustion when he got home tonight. He hoped Joey would come right away and adopt his poor, orphaned puppies.

*

A few hours before the show, one of the producers called JC in for a meeting. It was unsettling because JC had been sure that if they'd been angry over last week's impromptu demonstration, they would have reacted right away. And he'd thought, once a day had gone by and he'd heard no complaints, that maybe they hadn't minded his and Bruno's little display at all. As long as they didn't make a habit of upstaging the competitors, it sort of made for good television, right? It had definitely created a buzz out in blog and radio land.

He walked away from the meeting even more unsettled. They weren't angry about the dance. But they wanted to give him a heads-up about tonight's show. Because they were going to do something that would surprise him, but they didn't want him to be too surprised--which sort of made him want to say, "Hey, you can't have your cake and eat it, too," even though he hated that saying, because come on, it was cake. Cake existed to be eaten. To not eat the cake was to rob the cake of all meaning. Um... Wow. He really needed to focus. When he got unsettled, his thoughts got unsettled, too.

So. JC was supposed to act normally, but in the case that he found any of the video packages tonight to be emotionally overwhelming, they wanted him to abstain from awarding points until he regained his balance. If he did so, the dancer would receive an average of the other judges' scores. What in the world could they possibly be planning? They'd hardly show a dancer kicking kittens or something.

Oh... ugh... maybe they were going to show someone getting DWTS tattooed on their butt. If they showed the needles, JC might really have to leave before he threw up. Ugh. Who would do that? Maybe Warren? Or Maurice?

He really hoped that he wouldn't have to wait long for this 'surprise.'

*

Lance and Lacey were the first couple to dance tonight. Lance's video began with fairly typical clips of Lance and Lacey rehearsing. It seemed like they were playing around a little less than usual, but it was hard to tell for certain, because they were all without audio. The audio was simply Lance doing a voice-over. At first it seemed as if he were just doing a voice-over introduction, but then it continued to get longer and more like part of an interview.

"Last week was definitely a breakthrough. I think there was a huge burden of expectation on me at the beginning of this show. Just because I was part of 'N Sync, people expected a lot from me.

"I've always felt self-conscious about my dancing because I've always been known as the 'worst dancer in 'N Sync.' And that really does get to you, you know. You hear that all the time and ah... you start believing that.

"When we first got a record deal... uh... the record label... didn't want me in the group. They wanted to kick me out of the group because my dancing skills were so bad. That really hurt me. Uh... I think that really started a whole downward spiral of me never believing in myself."

JC could barely believe what he was hearing. Oh, he was certain that Lance was telling the truth, but really? Seriously? How did tone-deaf morons even get jobs with record companies?

He'd known even back in his MMC days that there were assholes in the industry, but he hadn't imagined that they would think of doing something so stupid. One kid's ability to dance didn't sell records. But a kid's voice could. And Lance had a great voice and it blended perfectly with his bandmates' voices. You didn't just throw something like that away.

Although they hadn't thrown him away in the end, had they? No, they'd done something worse. They told him that he couldn't dance and then kept shoving choreography at them like dance steps were something like 'one size fits all.' It didn't fucking work that way, and Lance had been too young and new to the game to know that the assholes were wrong and setting him up to fail over and over again.

It made him so mad. He wished that he could take his bitch pants and go back in time and teach those assholes a thing or two. Or go back and get to Lance before all of those other choreographers had. He wished that Lance could have heard from the very beginning just how talented he was.

And he hoped that revisiting this old pain wasn't going to turn around and hurt him now. If Lance did poorly this week, people were going to turn this confession into something to mock him about. And no one would stop to wonder if his dancing had suffered because old wounds were haunting him. God. He really hoped that Lance was going to come out here and show everyone the dancer JC knew he could be. That would be... that would be so affirming for him.

"This was... I was just a teenager. And while they were wanting to kick me out from a group of guys who were already becoming like brothers to me... I ... I was growing up and starting to learn the things about myself that all teens do. And in my case... I was realizing that maybe I was gay... and that was scary to me.

"And I was hearing 'you're not good enough' from the record label... and hearing 'you're not good enough' coming from inside me... from the voice of my own fear... And I had several really bad years... though I liked to think I faked being okay well. But that sort of thing takes its toll... and it was getting harder to keep faking.

"Really, I'm not sure that things would have ever turned around for me, if 'N Sync hadn't totally lucked out by hiring an almost unknown choreographer for one of our tours--"

"Oh my god," JC said. He could feel, as if from a great distance, that his hands were shaking. He tried to press them against the table, but that seemed to only make the rest of him shake, too. Bruno grabbed his hands then, and helped him hold them still.

"--Hiring him was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions we ever made as a band. He didn't just teach us dance moves, he taught us about team work. He taught us that the soul of dance is communication, and with his help we learned that what really made us a team is truly listening to each other and trusting that they are doing the same for you.

"It took a while for us to really master what he taught us... and for me, it took years of continuing to work on my confidence. I still have to work on it, as you've seen, but... I can't imagine having the life I have now without having taken his lessons to heart. I certainly can't imagine that I ever would have had the courage and confidence to come out.

"So... this week, with our dance, I really hope some of the things we're able to communicate are... uh... 'Thank you for everything that you've taught me' and 'yes, finally, we're both listening... to you and to the other three judges.'

"But this intro has been kinda long, so maybe we should just come out and tell you all that in person."

"Oh my god," JC said again.

And the producers were right; he absolutely could not put a score on that dance. Lance and Lacey came out and they were amazing. They owned that dance. They weren't perfect, and Lance even slipped at one point, but that didn't matter. It was like watching a completely different couple than who they had seen before. The difference from even last week's very good performance was remarkable. If last week's dance had been a breakthrough, then they'd leveled up again and broken through yet another barrier.

JC had no idea what had finally done it for them, but he was so honored by Lance's message--both the spoken one and the one being delivered on the dance floor--and so thrilled for him that he was crying before they were even halfway through.

They received a standing ovation, and when the applause finally died down, JC wiped the worst of the tears from his face and looked quickly to the other judges and then to Tom. "Um... Can I hug him?"

Tom nodded after a second, and JC flew around the table and into Lance's arms for a very brief, not too unprofessional hug. Then he squeezed Lance's hand in his, sniffed back another threatening batch of tears, and said, "Thank you. Your dance was very well spoken. I'm so... It was a privilege to be able to work with you then... and now."

 

 

* Joey Fatone and Lance Bass - October 21, 2008 *

 

"Oh my god!" Joey said with so much enthusiasm that Lance was fumbling for the volume control on his headset before he'd even gotten to 'god.' "Oh my god!"

"I am having the strangest sense of deja-vu right now," Lance said.

"Oh my god, I am like... man, I am so in awe of you right now that I can't even be jealous of you. You were amazing! Do you even know how amazing you were? You were like Super Man, out of this world amazing."

"Isn't it usually Spider Man who gets called amazing?"

"Don't even try to make a joke out of it, Lance. You're the man. Everyone thinks you were amazing. Everyone's talking about it. Here, I can read you this thing from E! I think the dude who wrote it thinks you can dance on water or--"

"No, no. Don't tell me."

"But you've got to hear about your Super Dancing Powers! It's so awesome, I want--"

"Joey, no. Please no. I really appreciate it, but what I did last night... I did it because I had to. I don't care what anyone else thinks about it, not even you. Heck, I don't even care what my mom thinks about it. It was... Well, that was yesterday and this is now. And all that matters now is dancing, and doing it right for JC--for the judges. I mean, doing it right for the judges."

Joey laughed. "Really? Are you sure? For the judges?"

"Yes. Who else would I be dancing for?"

"You can dance for me, big guy. Go out there and win it all, so you can bring back the trophy and give me half of it like you promised."

"I'm going to do it."

"You totally are. I'm clearing out half a space in my trophy room right now."

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 6 - Jive *

 

So many people wanted to congratulate him or ask him questions about JC, 'N Sync, and his experiences growing up gay in a boy band that Lance felt like he was living in a flashback of the days immediately following his coming out announcement. Sure, it wasn't on quite the same scale, but Lance had no time to deal with it all. He and Lacey needed time to perfect their next dance. They were both very much in the spotlight now, and Lacey was just as determined as he was that they were going to show the world that last week hadn't been a fluke.

Lance finally turned off his phone so they could get some work done, and that's how it was Lacey who announced that they were going to Orlando.

"Wooo!" she cried, running circles around Lance with her arms up in the air like a Super Bowl champion. "Lacey Schwimmer, you are going to 'N Sync Land! Woo-hoo!"

"Oh my god," Lance said. "You're crazy."

"They said it's the studio 'N Sync used when you were preparing for No Strings. Do you know what that means?"

"Um... yeah. It means that I won't get lost driving us there."

"It means I'm going to be like... in the same room where Justin and Tony and all of you guys worked and sweated and--"

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that's really not the treat you think it is."

"It's going to be awesome! How can you not be excited?"

"Maybe because I know that Tony and Justin didn't sweat magic and rainbows. They were just guys. Rank, smelly guys."

Lance thought it was a great idea, though. He hadn't spoken to JC after their hug when JC had thanked him, and Lance thought... well. It was probably for the best that he hadn't. He felt like, if he were face-to-face with JC now, he'd just be horribly self-conscious and he'd psyche himself out. He needed to like... win this thing and then he would have no excuse not to get JC's number and really talk to him and just... really get to know the guy he admired so very much, for so many different reasons.

But until he could talk to JC, being in a space that would so strongly remind him of JC, and his pink capris, and his naked-ladies pants, and all of the time and care he'd taken to help them be the best that they could be... well. That could only be a good thing. It would remind him of lessons learned and motivate him, too.

Joey and Chris met them at the studio. They got some great footage of Lacey freaking out in fangirl bliss over the two of them, and Lance was happily surprised to see Chris. He didn't hear from Chris nearly enough these days.

"What?" Chris said when Lance expressed his surprise. "You couldn't possibly think that I would pass up on a chance to see you? Not when you've come to my own backyard."

"You do know that all of Orlando isn't actually your backyard, right?"

"Well," Chris said, "not yet. But it soon will be. Mwahahahaha!"

"Geezus," Joey said. "What the hell was that? Chris, you've really got to work on your maniacal laugh, man. That was pathetic. I'd only give it, like, maybe a six."

"Really?" Chris asked. "I think you need to clean your ears, Fathead. That was at least an eight. Don't you think so, Lace?"

"Umm..." Lacey said.

"Don't worry," Lance told her. "He may sound scary, but he's actually quite harmless."

"Unless you feed him after midnight," Joey said.

*

Without the distractions of LA, their Jive shaped up quickly. And they were lucky that they'd drawn it for their dance this week. It was a style that really suited Lance.

"It's a great way to showcase everything that I do. Because Jive is just fun, campy, cheesy. And that's pretty much--"

"You," Lacey said.

"Yep. It's me. If 'Lance' were a dance..."

Lacey laughed. "Oh, shut up, Mr. Dancealot."

"Hey, that's Sir Dancealot!"

*

They worked pretty much straight through two days. On the third, Chris met them at the studio again.

"Hey," Chris said, before they could get to the room they'd been using. "I wanted to talk to you guys for a moment."

Lance wasn't born yesterday, and he knew to be highly suspicious whenever Chris tried to delay or stop you from entering a room.

"Oh?" he said.

"Yeah. You guys have really been turning things around, and I think you're going to do great, and I'm really proud of you."

Lacey beamed at that, but it made Lance's Tricky Sense tingle. Chris was being way too nice in front of a camera. Chris definitely had his amazing and genuine and super-awesome big brother moments, but he saved those for off camera.

"But," Chris said, "I was thinking. There's something the two of you are still lacking, and it's really important."

"What's that?" Lacey said.

"A good luck ritual. Like... 'N Sync had a hacky sack, right? You need something like that. You can't be superstars without a good luck ritual."

"But we actually really sucked at playing hacky sack."

Chris gasped. "What are you thinking, Bass? There's no way I'd give you guys the hacky. The hacky was 'N Sync's. The hacky is sacred. You need something that is Lance and Lacey's. Something that is... shall we say, Quintessential Lace and Lancey."

"Ooo," Lacey said. "I like the sound of that."

"I thought you would," Chris said. "So I took the liberty of buying you a little something." He held up a little jar of... something. "It's... Please use this responsibly. It is a controlled substance, after all." He carefully handed the jar to Lance.

"What?" Lacey said. "What's that? Let me see!"

Lance looked down at the little jar and read the handwritten label. "Oh my god," he said. "It's Concentrated Fairy Farts."

Chris nodded sagely. "Yes, indeed, my young padawan."

Lance hugged him. "You're so weird, but I love you. You know that, right?"

Chris squeezed him tight for a second, and then pushed him away.

"Stop it. You're embarrassing me, you sappy thing, you. Why don't you just go in there and practice, okay?"

He shoved Lance through the door, and then there was a moment of dawning, amused terror as he realized that, oh shit, Chris had held Lacey back from entering the room, and his fairy farts were just a distraction from his real prank, and oh my god, he couldn't believe he'd still fallen for it.

He grabbed for the door handle, meaning to yank it back open, but a familiar voice stopped him.

"Hey, Lance."

Oh my god!

Lance turned around, and for a moment, he couldn't let himself look at JC. No, he had to check--

"There's no cameras," JC said.

"Yeah?" He chanced a look at JC, and oh my god-- "I... I can't believe those pants still fit you."

JC laughed. "Naked ladies never go out of style. Or so I hear. I mean, they're really not my specialty."

"I can't believe you're here," Lance said. He still hadn't moved away from the door. "Why are you here?"

JC took a step towards him. "Well, officially I'm here because Len is concerned about your flat-footed, pigeon-toed dancing, and he wanted to give you some pointers on that."

"Len did."

"Yes."

"And why are you here?"

JC took another step towards him. "Well... Unofficially... I thought if one of the judges was going to help you out... If there was maybe a chance that one of us was going to get our hands all over you--um. In a totally professional and non-pervy way, of course."

"Of course," Lance said, and he couldn't help but smile a little because there was no way JC would be drawing this out so long if he was being totally professional.

"I thought, if that's going to happen, that judge is gonna be me."

"Oh, that's good," Lance said, and he took two steps forward and swept JC into a clinch that was almost but not quite a Tango hold. He'd have to give props to Bruno later, because that really wasn't easy to do to a taller man.

JC's laugh of surprise turned into something more like a purr when Lance locked his arms into the perfect hold and drew their bodies together.

"It's lucky, then," he told JC, "that there is no one whose hands I rather have all over me."

JC's tongue darted out to moisten his lips and he looked directly into Lance's eyes. And yeah, that sense of connection was electric.

"I admire you so much," JC said. "And I am so wildly attracted to you."

"I could tell you the same. Or--" Lance licked his own lips. "I could try to say it in your language."

"Oh," JC said, and he turned almost molten in Lance's arms, like his body became more languid and at the same time, more irresistible and magnetic, pulling Lance into him without seeming to move a muscle. "I would really like that."

It wasn't exactly the Tango, but Lance definitely stalked JC right up against a wall, and JC definitely demanded that Lance give into him with every step that drew them to that wall. They were kissing before JC's back hit the wall, but Lance couldn't say which of them had taken that final step. Not that he really cared, because this was so obviously mutual that it simply didn't matter.

For a wonderfully long time, Lance wasn't aware of anything beyond press of their bodies, the heat of JC's mouth and the drumbeat of his own heart in his ears. But slowly he began to realize that JC was smiling into their kiss. He nipped at JC's bottom lip and was rewarded with a little breathless laugh.

"What?" he said, without moving away, letting his lips tease JC's with the word.

"Cinnamon toothpaste?"

Lance did have to back away a little at that. "What?"

JC smiled and shrugged. "I just... it makes me happy. More happy. 'Cause I knew you'd taste like this."

"Oh, really? Just how thorough are those Dancing dossiers? What else did they tell you?"

"There are no dossiers. I just knew it. I knew it in this very room, back then."

"No, you didn't."

"I totally did."

"You were not thinking about what I tasted like eight years ago."

"Nope. I wasn't thinking about it, I just knew it. Just like I knew you were amazingly talented and worth all the time I could give you."

"Wow," Lance said. That was... sort of overwhelming. He wasn't sure he could think about that right now. "Wow, that's... I'm not sure what to say to that."

"That's okay. There's plenty of time for us to figure that out later... I hope. I mean. If you want to figure that out with me."

"Oh my god," Lance said. "Of course I do."

"Great! That's really... thank you. I'm like... really looking forward to it. But, uh... unfortunately..."

Lance's breath caught in his chest, and JC shook his head.

"No, no, it's not anything bad, I swear, it's just-- there's going to be cameras in here any minute now and um. As soon as they come in, I have to. I can't. I can't be alone with you again until this is all over and you've won this thing and proven to yourself just how freaking awesome you are."

"Not alone together at all?"

"It wouldn't be appropriate."

"Until I've won this thing. What if I don't--?"

JC scoffed. "I have no doubt of that. What's going to make you a winner is believing in yourself, and you know what?"

Lance shook his head.

"I really need you to believe in yourself. And I know you, I know that when one of your team really needs you to do something, really trusts that you'll do something, you'll do whatever it takes to make sure they get it. So..." JC kissed him, quickly and sweetly this time.

"So," he said again, pressing his forehead to Lance's. "I trust you to believe in yourself."

And Lance thought, 'Oh my god, I could so fall in love with you,' but that was something better left for another day, so what he said was, "I will, JC. But... I have one question."

"Yes?"

"You said you need to be appropriate once the cameras come in."

"Yes."

"On what planet are those pants deemed appropriate? And not just appropriate, but appropriate for national television?"

JC laughed, and then twirled around in a pirouette before striking a pose.

"On Planet Don't Dis My Bitch Pants if You Ever Want to Get in 'Em, Mister."

 

 

* Joey Fatone and Lance Bass - October 30, 2008 *

 

Lance turned down the volume on his phone before he told Joey. He was feeling pretty great: their Jive had earned solid 9s all around, he hadn't had time yet to really suffer for not being able to be with JC until it was appropriate, and he was fully prepared for Joey's enthusiasm.

"Oh my god!" Joey said. "Oh my god! 'He trusts you to believe in yourself'? Do you know what this means?"

"That my soon-to-be boyfriend is incredibly sweet and knows me really well?"

"No! ... Oh. Well, yes. That, too. But no! It means he's totally Jedi mind-tricked you into winning! There's no way you're going to lose now. Woo! Hey, B, baby. Daddy's going to have a new trophy!"

"Hey, hey! You're only getting half. Don't forget."

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 7 - Rumba *

 

JC: Very sexy.
JC: But I would have awarded another point if you lost the overshirt.
JC: Your Body is a Wonderland. Show it off.

LB: Pretty sure John Mayer not singing about me

JC: Check your voicemail.

LB: God. You're amazing
LB: How can you dance like that & then sing like that too
LB: I could listen to you every day

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 8 - Foxtrot and Samba *

 

JC: I think Bruno has a bit of a crush on you.

LB: Pot. Kettle. You & Bruno make beautiful creepy tango together

JC: I will save all of my creepy Tangos for you.

LB: If I save all my samba hip rolls for you?

JC: No. Your hip rolls should be shared with the world.
JC: Always loved it when we could convince you to really go for them.
JC: PS. Lacey's dress? Looked like a chicken. Just saying.

LB: PS: naked lady pants. 'nuff said

JC: Bitch, please. Don't even.

LB: LOL

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 9 - Mambo and Jitterbug *

 

JC: Hot. I can't even
JC: You almost made me embarrass myself.
JC: I think maybe other dancers may touch you, but
JC: no one else should run their fingers through your hair.

 

LB: You didn't mind her grabbing my butt?

JC: Oh, please. She's slapped your butt how many times already?

JC: BTW. You and your granddaddy? ADORABLE.

JC: Wish I
JC: Sorry. Just miss you.
JC: Want you.

LB: youre killing me
LB: one more week till I win

 

 

* E! Online - November 24, 2008 *

 


Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer's Dancing Dust

This might explain why Lance Bass and Lacey Schwimmer are so in sync.

It seems the dynamic Dancing With the Stars duo, who will be competing in tonight's final three finale, have a preshow ritual that simply, well, sparkles.

"He has this little tub of glitter," explains Lacey. "A fan gave it to him and it's supposed to be his good luck dust. So what he does is, he takes it, throws it in the air and stands under it. Ever since we started doing that, things have been looking up for us."

The prancing pair have also taken a bit of a shine to each other's respective rumps--it's part of their preparation before stepping onto the ballroom floor each week.

"We slap each other on the butt," adds Lacey. "It just kind of gets us laughing and more at ease."

Not to mention it helps spread the glitter around more evenly.

[excerpt from an article by Peter Gicas; http://www.eonline.com/news/70356/lance-bass-and-lacey-schwimmer-s-dancing-dust]

 

 

* Dancing With the Stars, Season 7, Week 10 - Finale *

 

In the end, it was very, very close. Warren was good, but everyone agreed that the battle between Lance and Brooke was the one that was keeping everyone glued to their screens, or on the edge of their seats, if they were lucky enough to be in audience. Or at least, one liked to assume they were on the edge of their seats due to their enthusiasm over the fierce competition, and not because they were all craning to get a look at the spectacle that was the group sitting in the corner closest to the judges' table.

It was the closest thing to a full 'N Sync reunion that anyone had seen in years. And there were those among the audience who thought that Britney Timberlake-Spears was a more than adequate replacement for her absent husband. There would be rumors hitting Blog-land before the night was over that Britney would start planning a world tour with Tony, Chris, Lance and Joey the instant Baby Timberlake #4 made its debut. And Britney, busy texting away, did look like she could be planning something.

BTS: How about Jancey?

JC: Why would you do that to a child?

BTS: Its totally cute!!!
BTS: Oh... you prbably want me to save it 4 you & lance's 1st baby?

Tony was busy trying to explain why he really wished that they hadn't sat all together. "We're drawing a lot of attention. If we split up, we wouldn't be such a draw."

"Gee," Joey said. "I sure miss those golden days when our buddy Tony wasn't ashamed to be seen with us."

"Oh my god," Tony said. "That's not. Joey, you know that's not. I'm always your brother, you know that it's true."

"Hmm."

"I'll just lose my cred with my womyn friends if I'm spotted in the audience."

"Tony, get a grip," Chris said. "You were a straight guy in a boy band. You have no cred with any womyn."

"No, I totally do, it's awesome. 'Cause get this, they believe we're all secretly gay."

"Oh!" Britney said, looking up suddenly from her phone. "Don't worry if you lose your cred with your womyn friends, Tone. Most straight girls think you're all secretly gay, too."

"Oh, snap!" Joey said.

"Huh? What? No," Britney said. "I wasn't making a joke. Honest."

*

In the end, no one could have predicted the outcome. Many people had picked the right star for the win, of course. But no one would have guessed that Len Goodman, who had given Lance a hard time all season, particularly over Lance being too fresh and modern, was secretly a Run-D.M.C. fan and his overwhelmingly positive response to Lance's Freestyle Hip Hop routine would sway the vote a crucial degree in Lance's favor.

"Oh my god! Oh my god!" Joey shouted, jumping up and down and hugging everyone he could get his hands on. "That's my boy! Lance Bass is a winner! And half that trophy is mine! All mine!"

"Man," Chris said. "I don't know why you're so excited about Lance giving you half a ball."

*

Tonight was so incredible. A part of Lance still couldn't believe that he'd won. It wasn't that he hadn't believed in himself. He had. But he'd known that Brooke believed in herself, too, and in the end there was always an element of chance.

He felt ready to burst with pride. Not so much because he'd won, but because he hadn't let his supporters down. He hadn't let Lacey down. And most of all, he hadn't let JC down. And speaking of JC... where was he? The end-of-season after party was large and crowded, but JC tended to stand out in a crowd.

Lance tried to shift around the room, trying to get a better view of the crowd. It was difficult. Everywhere he went, people wanted to congratulate him, and if he wandered too far from the center of attention, Lacey came to drag him back in.

Dammit, he just wanted a few moments with JC. Even if he couldn't be alone with him yet, no one would think it odd to see them talking together now. He'd been waiting so patiently. That day in Orlando seemed like years ago.

"Lance!" someone shouted. A lot of people had been doing that, but that girl's voice was very familiar. He turned around and saw Britney determinedly making her way to him.

"Oh my god!" he said, hugging her. "Haven't you popped yet?"

"Hey," she said. "You should be nice to me. I may be the future mother of your children."

"What?"

"I'll explain later." She leaned forward, as close as she could get to him around her belly, and whispered. "Your boy is back on the set. It's empty and dark, and he tells me it may even be sort of creepy, if you like that sort of thing."

"Oh... do you think I can... No one's really letting me slip away."

"You totally can. I'm going to go over there, see?" She pointed. "And in about five minutes, I'm going to fake some labor pains. Nobody will be looking for you for... um... maybe twenty minutes or so."

"Oh my god, you're the best."

"I know."

"Thank you."

"Just tell JC that you really like the name 'Jancey.'"

True to her word, Britney started her distraction just a few minutes later, and it was easy to slip out the door. He walked down the empty corridors to the set, anticipation adding a bounce to his step. Once he stepped onto the set, he had to pause to let his eyes adjust. It was dim, but not entirely dark.

"Hi," JC said, coming up from behind him and wrapping his arms around him.

"Hi," Lance said, smiling and happy to be able to share even the simplest conversation with JC after so long.

"Would you care to dance?"

"Mmm," Lance said. "Creepy Tango?"

"If you wish, though I was thinking maybe more along the lines of the Paso Doble."

"You didn't like my Paso."

"I didn't like it because there was really very little of you in that Paso."

"Someone suggested that it was because you were jealous of Lacey."

"Maybe. A little bit." JC leaned forward and nuzzled at Lance's temple. "Mainly though," he said so quietly it was like he was making a confession. "Mainly, it was because I already thought the world of you. And I wanted to see you shine the way I knew you could.

"And then Britney showed me some photos of your back. And all I could think of was stripping you out of your shirt and dancing a proper Paso with you. Want to try? Me versus the Taurus?"

"I don't know. I'm a dancing champion. Are you sure you're up to the challenge?"

JC started working the buttons of Lance's shirt open. "For this challenge, I think I would be willing to try a thousand times."

"I could live with that."

"Good," JC said. "Now shall we begin?"

Lance looked deep into JC's eyes. Yes, he thought. Yes, I'm ready. And JC, reading the answer in Lance's eyes, smiled and they began.

*

JC waited a good ten minutes after Lance had returned to the celebration before stepping out of the empty studio and straight into Bruno.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going. I'm so sorry."

"That's okay," Bruno said. "It's a big night. End of your first season. Bound to be some excitement."

"Yes. It's been exhilarating. I'm... It's been great to be a part of it. And I was just saying goodbye to where all the magic happened."

JC started to walk away. Maybe he couldn't spend more time with Lance yet, but Britney and the others would be waiting for him.

"Oh," Bruno called after him, and JC heard a few quick footsteps coming up behind him. "Oh, JC."

"Hmm?" JC paused, ready to turn around and inquire after the problem, but before he could, he was shocked by a nice, firm slap on his butt. "Whoa!"

JC had always known that Bruno was a little feisty, but that was more than little unexpected. "Did you just--?"

"You have sparkles all over you," Bruno said.

"Really? Oh, that's strange. I wonder how that happened?"

"Hmm, yes. Well, the studio has been infested with a pretty nasty batch of gaseous fairies this year."

"Yes, I've heard a few rumors about that."

"I wouldn't worry about it. I like to see a little bit of sparkle. It keeps things lively, much like you have. I look forward to working with you again next season."

"Thank you. It would be my pleasure. But... I may need to sit on Carrie Ann's end of the table next year. My boyfriend's a bit jealous."

"Oh, please. You're very pretty, JC, but you can tell Lance that I prefer blonds."