Singing as Justin was pretty easy. Chris just opened his mouth, and the right sounds came out. Justopher had a lot more trouble, because he kept stealing Christin's lead.
"I thought we were all equals," he shouted, when he realised his longest solo was only eight bars.
"Wake up and smell the favourite," Christin said. JC was apologetic, but Lance and Joey didn't try very hard to disguise their amusement.
Chris made Joey explain the situation to Dani, since it was Joey's fault and all. Five minutes after he took her aside, she stormed into the games room and slapped Justopher's face.
"Of all the cowardly ways to dump me," she screamed, "that is the most stupid, pathetic, lame, chickenshit--"
"Hey, back off!" Justopher shouted, holding his cheek. "I'm not your boyfriend."
"We were together for a year and a half, you miserable piece of slime, and you have to get one of your friends to tell me some bullshit story about some fucking green acid--"
"Dani," Chris begged, "baby, please, listen to me!"
"You stay out of this, kid."
"It's me!" Chris shouted, pulling at his curly hair. "It's me in here, okay, and I love you, and I'm not dumping you, and I need you to help me figure out what to do."
When she finally believed him, she started crying, and then broke up with him, "because even if I could learn to deal with you in that. that. body, there is no way," she rubbed her eyes furiously, "no way to make this work with the press watching Justin and Britney's every move."
Chris couldn't think of a comeback for that one.
"It sucks being you," he told Justopher the next day, on the bus.
"You like the rest of it well enough," Justopher said, and went back to Tekken.
"Justin!" the girls always screamed at him, grabbing his clothes, his hands, his ears. "Justin! Justin!"
But Chris couldn't make Justopher understand that all the adoration meant nothing to him.
"Vice squad," the policeman at the door announced, holding up his badge. "We're looking for Dale Smith and Dacey Jones."
"They're not here," Joey told him. "Can I take a message?"
"You're a lying little scab, JC," Dale said, coming out of wardrobe with a yellow sequined shirt in her hands. Dacey trailed out behind her, arms full of fur and plastic.
"Oh. I guess they are here."
Then the cop arrested them for procurement of one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars worth of hallucinogenics, and funding a hi-tech drug lab in a basement in Nevada.
"It's not what you think," Dale told him, sighing and holding out her arms to be handcuffed. "There are extenuating circumstances."
"Stop picking my goddamn nose," Justopher said to Christin.
"Not until you stop scratching my ass," Christin said to Justopher.
"If you'll accompany me, ma'am," the policeman said.
"Chris," Dacey pleaded, as they led her away. "Tell them your licence plate numbers!"
"We brought you back a present," Dale said three days later, when the legal guys had finally got the charges dropped. There was so much evidence against them, they'd had to borrow some lawyers from TransCon.
"It's for your next video," Dacey said, and threw them each an orange prison uniform.
Joey and Lance and Justopher and Christin cringed.
"Guys," JC cried, hugging them. "That is so cool!"
Rosie rested her hand on her chin and giggled girlishly. Gross, Chris thought. She was so obviously hot for Justin, and he had to take it.
"So," she said, giggling again. "I hear you guys have a running bet."
"Uh, yeah," JC replied. He was their designated bet-question reply-er, but still looked shocked that they had been asked about it. "We were just fooling around and, um. And we made a bet."
Lance rolled his eyes. He'd told Dale that Joey should answer it, but Dale had no faith in Joey's ability to answer interview questions without adding some kind of obscene sexual connotation to the subject.
Rosie consulted her notes. "You all have to call Chris 'Justopher', and Justin 'Christin', is that it?"
"Yeah," JC said. "That's the bet. It's been ten days now, and nobody has screwed up yet, so, uh. Yeah."
Then she made them play some stupid name game, trying to trip them up. Since Justopher was inclined to hit anyone who called him Chris, and Dacey had put them through two gruelling days of faux interviews, they were well-trained enough not to fall for any of the trick questions.
Justin's hair was the bane of Chris' existence. No matter what he did with it, it stuck out from his head like a halo of rusting steel wool.
"Here," Justopher said, rubbing gel between his hands, and scrunching it roughly. "Don't fight it, just let it do whatever."
When Justopher did it for him, it looked okay for about an hour, and then went rank again.
"Stop running your fingers through it," he shouted, slapping Chris' arm down.
"But it itches."
"Yeah, well, you've got chronic dandruff now," Justin said, chewing on his third candy bar for the day. "Use that blue shampoo."
"But it stinks."
"Nuthin' I can do about that."
Oh, for fuck's sake, Chris thought, and got one of the bodyguards to shave it off for him. Justopher didn't take the change all that well, if the way he threatened to beat Christin to death with a baseball bat was any indication.
"No, I like it," Chris told him, and refused to swear he'd grow it back. "But you're welcome to beat yourself up if it makes you feel better."
"Okay. You know what? Fine. Just you wait," Justopher said. He dropped the bat and told catering to bring him two extra-large supreme pizzas, with double salami, and triple cheese.
"Hey baby," Britney said. "Surpriii-ise!"
"Ag!" Chris said, covering his eyes. "Guh!"
"It's been so long, so very, very long."
Chris peeked out between his fingers. Yeah, she was naked. "Urg."
"What's the matter, baby? Cat got your tongue?"
"I'm, uh. Huh." He checked again. Definitely naked. "Okay, there's, um."
"What?" and there was a rustling of sheets. "Why won't you look at me?"
"Brit, I. Oh. Hoo, boy." Chris dropped his hands, and was relieved to see Britney covered, if a little -- okay a lot -- pissed off. "I've, uh. Changed."
"What?" she demanded. "Dammit, Justin, do you wanna fuck or not?"
"Sorry, but. There's. I've. I can't?"
She pouted, fetchingly.
For a moment, Chris was very tempted. "I really can't--" Very. Very. Tempted, to do a very, very, very bad thing. She smiled, and dropped the sheet she'd been holding to her chest. "Because I've found Jesus!" he shouted, and ran out of the room.
That night, deeply ashamed, Chris made out a check for ten thousand dollars, and wrote "it was you or Britney" on the back. He couldn't face Justopher in person, so he slipped it under his door.
Five minutes later, Justopher came into his room and handed him a check for ten thousand dollars. "I already, uh."
"You're so fucking horny," Justopher complained. "And I seem to have this thing for blondes now, and Christina came up to me at the Jive thing and said she'd heard you'd broken up with Dani, and, uh."
"Christina? As in, Aguilera?" Chris repeated, stunned.
Justin shuffled his feet. "Yeah."
"Came onto me?"
"God dammit," Chris said, and punched the wall.
"Should we, like, make another bet?"
Chris sighed. "No, don't bother," and Justopher smirked.
"You like what you're getting now?"
"What. Shut up."
He kept smirking.
"God, okay, fine. It's a nice body. So what?"
"Yours is kinky," Justopher said, and Chris covered his ears.
"Don't tell me about it, I don't want to know what you know."
Justopher sat down on Chris' bed. "I told Britney."
"Yeah? What's the deal gonna be?"
He sighed, and took his phone out of his pocket. "I don't know. I'm still waiting for her to stop laughing."
"How's the bet going?" Larry King asked them.
"Six weeks and counting," Joey said proudly.
"Got any other bets happening?" the host of Top of the Pops inquired, live via satellite.
"Ow!" Joey said, and glared at Lance to his left, and JC to his right. "Uh. No. No other bets." Then he looked at Justopher and Christin, and started laughing. "Not any more."
The next day, Dale hit Lance over the head with a rolled-up newspaper, and re-appointed JC as the bet-question answerer.
"Check it out," Justopher said, parading around the room in pants that wouldn't do up. "Twenty pounds in two months."
"I'm fucking begging you, Timberlake."
"Grow back your hair and we'll talk, Kirkpatrick."
Chris had discovered, after eating nothing but KFC for a month, that fat simply melted off Justin's body. He'd managed to lose some of Justin's muscle definition through painfully prolonged inactivity, but not enough to force Justin's hand.
Lance tapped his arm. "You could get a tattoo," he whispered, sotto voce.
Justopher shrieked. "No, no fucking way are you inking my body!" He turned on Lance. "Whose fucking side are you on anyway, you smug little cunt?"
Lance smirked. "I'm on the side of being in a group that isn't butt-fucking-ugly, you stupid moron."
"What do you think," Chris asked the room. "A naked mermaid chick? A Guns'n'Roses logo?"
Joey laughed. "You are sloooow. Justin would want you to get a heart with 'Mother'."
"Tattoo his ass," JC suggested, "and he won't even know what it is until he gets the body back."
Justopher put down the Big Mac, glowering.
JC was the one who noticed that Lance was increasingly quiet around Justopher and Christin.
Justopher was merciless. "Who is it?" he demanded, cackling gleefully. "Me or him?"
"Well, it's sure as hell not you!" Lance shouted finally. Justopher was so pissed off that he flirted with Lance constantly, just to make him squirm.
"I'm sorry," Lance said, next time he got Chris alone. "It's not that I, um. didn't like you before." His face turned slowly, excruciatingly red.
"No, it's just that now I've got this whole new face," Chris said, not wanting to have this conversation.
"No," Lance stammered. "You're different now. I mean, you're still you, but it's like you've. grown up. or something."
"Oh. Gee, thanks a lot," Chris said.
Lance stopped speaking to both of them, but that didn't stop Justopher. After the Janet Jackson thing, Lance took Justopher aside. "I've got something to tell you," he said, and punched him right in the mouth.
Girls started making signs which said "I Luv Christin," and, "Justopher, light my fire." The Backstreet Boys shook their heads in disbelief when asked about The Bet on MuchMusic, and tried to turn the topic back to their new single. Erik from O-Town used it as an excuse to tell NME that 'N Sync were such imbeciles that they'd needed Lou to tie their shoelaces for them.
Eventually it got shortened to Justy and Christy, which Justin and Chris didn't mind too much, because at least it sounded like their real names. JC and Joey were relieved, because it made it easier to talk about things Chris and Justin had done in the days when they really had been Chris and Justin.
Lance didn't like it, after Letterman introduced them as 'Jo-EE, Just-EE, Christ-EE, Jayc-EE, and. lance."
"Come work out with me," Justopher begged. He was starting to panic, because he'd only lost ten pounds, and the rest wasn't budging.
Chris tried it, and to his surprise, it felt... good. It felt good to have a body which thrived on being exercised, rather than thriving on having its energy exorcised.
They ran together in the mornings, and worked out most days after soundcheck. Justopher's moods improved, too--he apologised to Lance, and stopped being bitter at losing his heartthrob status.
"This body needs discipline," he told Chris, stretching against a wall. "Or it's just out of control."
Chris personally suspected that the body needed to get laid, but Justopher hadn't responded well to his hints. Chris had his theories, by now, as to why that was. He'd found, in Justin's body, he had a sudden desire for dark-haired women, and an insistent urge to. well, to fuck men. Submissive, dark-eyed, dark-haired men. He'd seen Howie D across the room at the Grammy party, and sauntered halfway over there before he'd realised what he was doing.
On the other hand, Chris had found, he no longer had the urge to roll over and present his ass to Joey.
Justopher, no doubt, was freaking out of his toppy repressed little mind.
Whatever it was, though, Chris thought, watching Justopher do stomach curls, his body had never looked better.
At fourteen weeks, Lance called Justopher "Chris" in a TRL appearance, and the ensuing chaos was replayed on every entertainment show in the country. "I was just testing you!" he insisted, but they rolled him on the carpet and poured Dr Pepper over him, and mashed Twinkies into his hair. The audience went wild.
The New York Times did a feature article called 'Boys will be boys', about how 'Nsync were consistently on top of the boyband heap because of, not in spite of, their refusal to take themselves seriously. Forbes Magazine, when announcing 'N Sync as the world's most profitable entertainment act for the second year running, described The Bet as "the decade's most inspired piece of marketing genius".
They had a group meeting, and voted unanimously to share the leads on the next album.
Dale and Dacey stopped looking for the source of the green acid.