Cyanide Torres had a secret.
A dark, shameful secret.
A secret so dark that it tore away at the very fiber of his soul and emerged in dreams he could not even bear to recall in the light of day.
No, not *that* secret, you people. He was all fine with *that* one. This one was *worse*, okay?
This story is about that secret.
"Dammit, Cy, can't you drive any faster? We're going to be late to the concert!" A very agitated Harley was trying to peer over Cyanide's shoulder at the speedometer of the aging minivan.
"Ok, Harley, A)," the drummer replied calmly, "We have plenty of time. B), this is my mama's minivan and I don't think it goes any faster without pieces falling off. And C)," and here he let himself sound a little annoyed, "We wouldn't even *be* late if you hadn't taken so long hunting for a goddamn guitar pick!"
"It's my lucky pick," Harley said sullenly. "And seeing as this is our *first* *big* *show* *tonight* *ever*, I kind of thought it was maybe *important* that things *go* *well*?"
"Whoa mon," said Rasheequa, "You try to put any mo' emp'asis in dat sentence, you gonna sprain someting."
"And since when are *you* a literary critic?" Harley turned to her and snarled.
"Um, actually, Harley, she is a literary critic, remember? English/Political Science double major?" Skids put in helpfully.
Rasheequa grinned at him, and he smiled back, and she beamed back, until the reflected amplification of the smile gave Cy a glare in his rear view mirror.
"Dammit, can't this bus go any faster? We're going to be late to the concert!" A very agitated Justin was pacing up and down the aisle of the bus.
"Just, we have plenty of time," said Joey reassuringly. "Plus it's a bus, not a BMW," added Lance. "Plus, *dude*," said Chris, "Exactly who held us up at the hotel looking for, oh, ooh, what was it this time, Justin?"
Justin scowled at the wall of the bus.
"I can't heeeaar you, Justin, ooh, you're not losing your voice right before a concert, are you, that would be terrible," Chris said, wide-eyed.
"My lucky bandanna, OK?!" he snapped.
"You know, Justin," Chris said, "I don't remember you even having that bandanna, oh, last year, however did you get by without it?"
"I think if Justin feels like he performs better with his bandanna, then he should perform with his bandanna," said JC, smiling hopefully.
"Yeah," Lance and Joey chimed in. The three of them grinned at each other while Chris and Justin matched glares.
Bus in the left lane, minivan on the right. A spot opens up in the center lane like the parting of the Red Sea. They both try to cut in. There's a bang, a clang, an ungodly squeal. Frantic swerving and a smash as they come to rest.
And then came the collision.
"I'm fine," said Skids.
"Oh my god they hit us we could have all died - um, I'm fine," said Harley, breaking off mid-squeal.
"I'm..." said Cyanide weakly.
"Cy!" "Ohmygosh are you okay I'm so sorry I should have been driving if I could drive - "
"Ok, ev'rybody stay calm. Where you hurt, mon?" Rasheequa said efficiently.
"I... think I... need mouth to mouth..." he whispered. Harley bent over him.
"Not from you!" Cyanide said in a normal voice, sitting straight upright.
Rasheequa hit him. Skids just gave him a little smile.
"And thus, boys and girls, we see the importance of the passenger's friend The Seatbelt."
"Dude," said Justin, "You were *not* wearing a seatbelt."
"No," said Lance. "But damn do I wish I had been. Ow."
"Dude," said Skids in amazement, "They totalled our car."
"Dude." said Cyanide angrily, "They totalled. Our fucking *car*."
"Dude!" said Chris, impressed despite himself. "We totalled their car.
"Dude," said Joey reproachfully, hitting him, "We *totalled* their *car*."
"So right," said Rasheequa, whipping out her cellphone, "We're going to need an accident report, so I'm going to call -"
"Already on it," said Lance, pointing with his free hand to the phone at his ear.
Cy started rummaging in the glove compartment for the registration and insurance information. A small flurry of lost homework, mittens, and food wrappers appeared over his shoulder and began to build up into a drift on the seat.
"Wait," said Justin. "We can't stand here and wait for the local cops to show up, we have to get to the concert! What the hell are we doing?!"
"What the hell?!" yelled Harley. "First of all, we have a concert to get to too, second of all, *you* clearly hit *us*, this is all *your* fault, and if *anyone* has to stand here waiting, we *all* have to stand here."
"We have people for that," Justin said patronizingly. "Do you have any idea who we are?"
Joey groaned and put his hand over his eyes. "You did not just say that, man. Tell me you did not actually say that."
"Could you all shut up," said Lance, "I'm trying to give our location."
For the first time, they actually took good, hard looks at each other.
And then double took some of them.
"No *way*," said Rasheequa.
"Me cago en la tapa del organo y me revuelco encima de la mierda," said Cyanide. Rasheequa looked at him dubiously. "Fine, I got it off the internet," said Cyanide, annoyed. "No fucking way in hell."
But Skids was... bouncing. "Wow!" squealed Skids. "We get to meet NSync!"
The other three members of Boy Band groaned and put their hands over their eyes.
"We have people" showed up at about that time in two black cars each of which let forth a swarm of some six people in neat black suits, all of whom were carrying cellphones. "Ok honey," one murmured, fussing over JC and checking for injuries. "It's all going to be okay." Another started talking to Lance. A woman in a very severe black suit said, "Ok, we can put them in one car and squeeze in Bob and call for taxis for everybody else." And a very large, very lawyerly man smiled sharkishly at Harley.
"Ok, son," he said in a voice that could make Rosa Parks believe she preferred to sit in the back of the bus. "I think we can all see pretty clearly that the accident was your fault, but we're not going to push the point, we're perfectly willing to agree to downplay your part when the cops get here."
"Rasheequa?" said Harley. "Cellphone." She handed it to him.
"Nice try," she said to the large, lawyerly man. "Asshole."
He punched in a familiar number. "Mik?" he said. "I need a lawyer, a car, and a hug. And not necessarily in that order."
Justin Timberlake had a secret.
A very private, unspeakable secret.
A secret secret, you might say.
Readers may recall that Cyanide Torres also has a secret. Particularly clever readers may have formed a guess about the nature of that secret.
Justin's was very different.
The cops insisted they all come down to the station to give statements.
"Look," said the black-suited people menacingly, "Do you have any idea how much revenue our clients will lose if they have to cancel their concert? Do you want to be responsible for unlawfully and unnecessarily detaining them?"
This was the wrong line to take. Like granite boulders, or perhaps a lump of bubblegum still stuck on the bottom of your shoe when the rubber has worn away around it, the local cops were impervious to outside influence, every attempt to influence them only sticking them tighter to their routine.
They were sitting at nine different desks (five of which were periodically approached by sheepish cops holding pieces of paper and mumbling about their daughters) when Mik showed up with a pair of black suits in tow.
"Mik!" Harley yelled mid-statement, and ran to him.
They embraced in full view of the entire station.
Most of those watching rolled their eyes.
At least three (and as many as six) of the watchers were jealous instead.
Mik's black suits flashed sharkish smiles at the other black suits and asked if there was somewhere they could talk. They ended up in one conference room.
The band members ended up in the other.
"So now what?" Justin asked. "We're just supposed to sit here and wait?"
"There seems to be some question about reckless endangerment," Lance said.
"I don't really see where that's a question," said Cyanide, at the same time as Justin said "But the *concert*! It's supposed to start in half an hour! We're not going to make it!
Joey murmured at him reassuringly.
"I'm glad you admit you were driving recklessly," Lance replied to Cyanide. "If you'd just admit that to the lawyers we could all get out of here."
"You think *I* was... Cabron! My van was smashed between your bus and the barrier!" He held up his hands. "Van. Bus." The bus hand smacked into the van hand and pushed it over. "How could that be my fault!"
Skids put his hand on Cyanide's shoulder. "Hey, Cya, it's okay."
"But the *concert*," Justin said again, apparently unsatisfied with Joey's comforting murmurs.
Harley, cuddled against Mik, looked up suddenly.
"Yeah, well, we're not going to make it to ours either, and while you may have a whole tour, Stan's Bar and Trill is our one big gig."
"Oh, I'm sure nobody will miss you," Justin said in what was possibly meant to be a reassuring tone.
Joey smacked him. "So you guys are a band?" he asked loudly and cheerfully. "What kind of music do you play?"
"We were starting out once too," he hissed at Justin, "Even if you were too young to remember it now."
Justin glared at him.
"All sorts of stuff," Skids chirped merrily. "Punk, rock, covers that we just thought would be fun."
"That's cool," Joey said. "We're doing some Beatles covers this tour."
Cyanide looked up, incredulous. "You're covering the Beatles?" he said, voice dripping with scorn. "Do you think you're their successor or something? What would that be, the pre-fab five?"
Chris snickered a little. JC looked up, frowning. "They're fun to sing," he said a little sadly.
Justin glared righteously at Cyanide. "Yeah, asshole, and people are gonna pack the stadium to hear it, too."
"Wait," said Harley, grinning at Cyanide, "You're playing at the *stadium*? The acoustics in there are terrible, how is anybody going to be able to hear your music? Oh, I forgot, you don't play any."
"Wait," Justin replied, "So you're playing at a bar? How are you going to fit your fans in there? Oh, I forgot, you don't have any."
Mik started to laugh and turned it into a cough as Harley scowled at him.
"Look," said Harley, with an edge in his voice. "Here's how it is. In the world of music, you guys are like McDonalds. No, you're more like Burger King and the Backstreet Boys are McDonalds."
"And O-Town is Jack in the Box with an E. coli outbreak?" Skids put in helpfully. Harley ignored him. Lance let out what would have been a giggle if it wasn't so deep.
"We're more like the little taco shop down the block. Nobody's ever heard of it. And it's not the best taco you've ever had. But everybody who works there *loves* food. They keep trying other people's tacos and experimenting with the sauce. And someday, they'll have the best taco recipe in the country, and you guys will still taste like the same old shit."
"We try a fair number of tacos ourselves," Justin snapped. Joey and Lance looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Oh yes," Lance hooted, "You've sure tried your share of tacos, haven't you Justin."
Rasheequa crossed her arms and sniffed. "I am not appreciatin' dis conversational theme, mon."
All nine men rolled their eyes.
"Um," Harley said. "Where was I. Music... sucking... right, Cyanide?"
"Uh, right," he said.
"Well," said Justin peevishly, "If you hate our music so much I'm only sorry we can't make you listen to it."
"Uh, whoa, Justin," Joey murmured, while Chris said, "Actually, Justin, we do sing acapella, remember?"
Justin's eyes lit up. "Could we? Would you guys? Sing right here, since we're missing the concert?"
"Need your fix?" Lance chuckled, but JC smiled at Justin. "Sure, Justin, we could sing right here. I bet some of those cops wouldn't mind a free concert."
Justin glowed, but dimmed it for a moment to look hard, and smugly, at the Boy Band members.
Odds are good that several other characters had secrets of their own. Lance, for example. Rasheequa had several.
None of these secrets figure into the story.
So the Whos started singing. Mik had had a secret worry that as a Grinchy sort he was going to be oddly moved by the sound of harmonizing, and that whole heart-enlargement thing could be inconvenient. Much to his relief, he wasn't.
He wasn't really sure what to do, though, and from the looks of things neither were the Boy Band members. Even if NSync weren't the friendliest people in the world, it still seemed rude to talk while they were singing.
Mik decided he might as well take the opportunity for a good long stare. That Lance was sure cute, if you were partial to boyish blondes. Which he most definitely was.
Boy Band seemed to be following his example in directed contemplation. Rasheequa and Skids had tipped their heads together and were having a whispered conversation... he wasn't sure, but he thought they might be saying how much more appealing Joey was in person than Justin.
"Now dat he's singin' he's pretty hot though," Rasheequa was whispering.
"Yeah," Skids said, "He looks so happy."
"I t'ink he's starin' at JC," Rasheequa observed.
Skids smiled. "Shibby."
Harley was looking back and forth as their voices traded off. He had no idea what they were singing... some sort of treacly ballad, "drecktacular", as Cyanide might put it, but it was sort of interesting to sort out the voice parts.
All of a sudden a sixth voice joined in wordlessly and they all stopped in confusion. The sixth voice continued on for a very exposed second before cutting off as well. Nine people stared at him: Cyanide had started humming along.
"Dude," Harley and Chris said simultaneously, "Were you humming along?"
"Actually," JC said, "It sounded good; do you know this song?"
They all stared at the competing expressions of horror and mortification that crawled over Cyanide's face.
"Dude," said Harley disbelievingly, "You know this song?"
"Aaaaaagh!" Cyanide howled abruptly, leaping up and covering his face with his hands. "It's awful!"
"It's not my fault," he wailed, falling at Harley's feet imploringly, clutching at his Op:Ivy shirt. "My sisters... MariFer and the twins... they play. It. Constantly. All day. All night. Every waking hour. It gets into your ears. It gets into your head!"
"It's moooore than I- can- stand," sang out Skids.
Harley turned his glare on his lover. "Dude, did you let him watch Moulin Rouge *again*?"
Mik shrugged. "It has Ewan McGregor," he said helplessly.
"Hear hear" said JC and Lance.
Cyanide was still sitting on the floor in a small heap of boyband-appreciating shame.
"It's not my fault," he said again. "But... it sort of..." He looked down at the floor and spoke in a very small voice. "Itsortofgrewonme." He looked up again. "Like a corrosive acid, man. Your songs just eat away at good taste."
"Shibby!" Skids said. "Now I can play my NSync CDs when you're around!"
Cyanide nodded feebly.
Everyone half-turned to Justin, expecting him to gloat. Justin was instead, surprisingly, looking rather forlorn.
"Okay, dude," Chris said. "You've been Mr. Moodswing lately, what gives?"
Justin looked around.
"I don't want to talk about it *here*," he hissed.
"We're in a police station," Chris said, "What better place for a little criminal investigation?"
"Dude, I'm not *on* anything," Justin said crossly. "It's..."
"It's something to do with JC, right?" Skids said.
Justin's look was a hair pleasant of loathing.
"Cyanide had to share his," Skids said calmly.
"Fine," Justin muttered. "It's just... it'sliketheonlytimeIcanreallybewithJCiswhenwe'resingingtogether."
"Huh?" said JC. "I'm with you all the time. We live on the same bus."
The other nine people rolled their eyes.
"I don't think he means like that," Lance said.
"Like it's the only time I don't have to pretend," Justin said. "How I feel about you."
There was a long pause. A very long pause. There was more eye-rolling.
"Oooooh!" JC said. And flung himself forward and kissed Justin even more soundly than Mik had kissed Harley. (But two fewer people were jealous this time.)
"Right," Rasheequa said, "Of course now dat *dat's* settled I don't suppose you boys have any incentive to go do your show."
"Actually," said Chris, Joey, and Lance together (JC and Justin were still otherwise occupied), "It's not *just* sublimated sexual attraction. We really are a band."
"That's fine, no sublimated sexual attraction here in our band either," said Cyanide, Skids, and Rasheequa quickly.
"If JC and Justin still have vocal cords when they finish, er, whatever," amended Chris. "But anyways, uh, Cytosine. About the accident."
"That's Cyanide," Cyanide clarified. "I ain't no half a pair."
"You bloody wish," Mik mumbled. Cyanide looked daggers at him.
"*Anyways*," Chris said, "I think - "
Lance coughed at Chris cautioningly.
"Dammit," said Chris. "It's pretty clear that our lawyers think you guys are trying to soak us and your lawyers think we're trying to stiff you."
"Apretados," Cyanide muttered.
"Oh, chinga tu madre," Chris said. "Look, we'll buy you a new van and both waive all other damages, okay?"
"Excuse me," said Lance. "We aren't just going to - "
"No, excuse me," said Chris, "Yes we are. This could drag on for *months*, none of us need the expense or the hassle, and any one of us could probably afford to write the check to replace the car that, as mentioned earlier, we totalled."
"But the lost concert revenues," said Lance.
"Do *you* want to be the one to try to calculate the lost *opportunity* for *them*?"
"Sure," Lance said, pulling out his Palm Pilot. "If we figure that - "
"Hey, whoa, forget I asked." Chris said hastily. "Let's just go rein in our lawyers and get out of here; that good for you?" He directed this last at Mik, who was clearly the pocketbook of Boy Band.
The tall, deep-voiced Russian looked down at his short, squeaky counterpart. "Sure," he said. "You're just in time."
"How's that? They'll already have cancelled the concert."
"Just in time to not face worse trouble," said Mik, "Smell that?"
They all sniffed the air and noticed a faint scent of sulfur building up.
With a sudden pop, a red-eyed woman appeared in the middle of the room.
"Hey Mik, I got your note," Tabitha said. "I could hardly let my favorite tenants be - " she broke off. "Oh my gosh, are you guys NSync?"
They nodded nervously.
"But you're supposed to be playing down at the stadium!" She frowned. "Well, this will never do, I'll have to send you back in time to get the the concert on time." Boy Band all started coughing like tuberculosis had gone into fashion. "Oh, you guys too, while I'm at it."
The eleven-person herd started moving out to round up the lawyers, five of them carefully edging around the new arrival.
"That's terribly kind of you, ma'am" Lance said cautiously.
"Oh, cut that out," she said, "I won't bite. Mummy *loves* you guys! And would you all give me your autographs?"
"Your own blank paper, not in blood" Harley and Cyanide suggested quickly.
While they were at it, Cyanide got autographs "for his sisters". But Skids noticed he got eight sets.
The new minivan and its improved speed capabilities enabled Harley to take even longer looking for random but according-to-him-vital items before shows.
Justin and JC announced that they were Going Out. Justin was still a whiny brat before concerts.
Later that year, Boy Band introduced a punk cover of "I Thought She Knew". Cyanide did the vocals.