Lost Not Found
by Icebun &Pablo

When Justin started on the Mickey Mouse Club, he didn't think he'd ever fit in. He always thought he'd be 'the baby'. The kid from Memphis who they all just tolerated, but really nobody wanted anything to do with him.

More than anything, he desperately wanted to belong. To be one of the 'cool' kids.

After the first day when he cried on his mom's shoulder, she told him that it was only a matter of time before the others accepted him. That he was a special person, a good person and that soon they'd all see that and they'd love him. That they'd see in him what she did.

She always knew just what to say to make him feel better.

The only other person who made him feel better was JC. He just didn't seem to see Justin like everyone else did. When JC talked to him, Justin felt like he was the only person in the room. JC had this really intense gaze and he really listened. He made Justin feel like he was important. That he wasn't the new kid, the annoying brat; the momma's boy that all the other kids seemed to think he was.

He also smiled at Justin. Really smiled. Justin got used to seeing the difference between JC's real smile and his fake smile, the one cultivated for the cameras. The difference was that when JC really smiled, he'd get those crinkly lines and his eyes would totally light up, like gleam somehow.

The fake on-camera smile seemed genuine on the surface, but really it was superficial and hollow. The fake one didn't give Justin shivers up and down his spine and knots in his stomach like the real one did.

JC also had the most beautiful voice he'd ever heard. Strong, soulful and he performed like his life depended on it. Nobody felt it like JC did. The first time Justin heard JC sing it made him gasp. He could feel the hairs on his arms stand up, like he had goosebumps. It wasn't just the singing though, JC could move like nobody else either. Fluidly, languidly, like he was melting. Justin felt like he could watch JC for hours.

Justin thought that maybe it was a little wrong that he enjoyed watching JC move as much as he did.

Some of the other kids seemed to not like JC much. Not so much the older ones, but the ones who were around Justin's own age. They were always talking about him behind his back, laughing about how much of a dork and how intense he was. Justin couldn't understand it at first and when he asked his mom about it, she said that it was probably jealousy, that it was only natural for people to get jealous, and when they did, they got mean.

Justin promised to himself that no matter what, he would never be jealous of JC and there was no way in hell that he'd ever talk about him like the other kids did.

He couldn't believe just how easy it was to break that promise.

Even with the best of intentions, it was so easy to forget who his real friends were.


There were a lot of good things about being on television at that age; being constantly monitored however, was not one of them. Justin still wasn't used to it; the way that he didn't really have any time of his own but the thing that really got to him was being told what to do.

Especially when it was what he could or more importantly couldn't eat.

So when they'd been offered ice cream cones, one day after rehearsal Justin was pretty sure that like a lot of things, the offer applied to everybody but him. That he couldn't have one of the chocolate- dipped cones, because at his age even eating one bad thing could affect his skin. The last thing Justin wanted was to break out and for all of America to see the reason why he shouldn't have had ice cream in the first place.

So he'd been surprised when he was offered one.

It was the first time Justin could remember eating ice cream in so long and with that first bite he realised how much he'd missed out. And how much about his new life that was so very different. He closed his eyes as the sweet cool ice cream filled his mouth, it was sweet and creamy like nothing else he'd had and he realised that it had to be some fucked up kind of world that somebody Justin's age wasn't allowed ice cream.

He could feel himself smile, it was warm inside the studio and the ice cream melted and dripped down the side of the sugary cone. Before it could escape; Justin trapped it with his tongue and licked his way back up the cone; a piece of chocolate bitten off at the top, chewed in his mouth.

He was almost lost in that taste and for a moment didn't notice a couple of the others standing in front of him laughing. At first they were being subtle about it but he could hear the laughter and could feel his cheeks burn with embarrassment. He didn't know why they were laughing; all he knew was they were laughing at him.

Justin thought about saying something but all he could think to say would have meant that he would be told off again. Not that anybody really cared if they all swore, everybody but Justin that was.

Out of the corner of his eye, Justin saw JC walk towards him. Cone in his hand and Justin didn't fail to notice the way the tip of JC's tongue was flicking out of his mouth and lapping at the ice cream. He looked like a cat as he licked. He seemed to be making even more mess than Justin and one trail of white creamy ice cream snaked its way down the V of his hand.

Without thinking JC moved his hand to his mouth and Justin stared rapturously as JC pressed his tongue flat against his own skin and licked the ice cream off in one flat stroke. Returning once, twice to ensure there was no more left.

Justin wasn't sure, but he had a pretty good idea that he shouldn't be noticing JC do things like that.

The others all fell quiet, like they always did when JC approached, and after a moment they scattered. Christina dipped her head and walked straight past them out the door that JC had just walked in and Matt and Ryan turned their backs on them.

When JC looked up, straight into Justin's eyes he smiled. And Justin found himself smiling too. When JC smiled, Justin felt like he was melting. He could feel it all through his whole body and, yeah, Justin was certain he shouldn't be noticing things like that.

Justin licked his ice cream once more because he suddenly wasn't quite sure what was the right thing to say. He wanted to say a lot of things but he had a good idea none of them were right.

"Hey, J."

Straight after he'd finished speaking, JC laughed at him.

This time it mattered that somebody laughed at him. It mattered a whole lot more than when all the others had been doing it.

Justin suddenly didn't feel hungry anymore. The cone in his hand was cold and his fingers sticky. He didn't want to be there but he couldn't get past JC without pushing him. The others seemed suddenly interested again and Justin felt even more stupid than he had a few minutes ago.

He wanted to tell JC to stop fucking laughing at him and to just get lost but he didn't. Instead he said nothing and held the cone in his hand so tightly that he was scared he'd break it. That it would snap and all that was left of his ice cream would melt in the heat of his hand.

"Dude, you've got ice cream on your nose."

Justin didn't really hear him at first but then JC reached out, held his chin still and wiped Justin's face with his hand. JC still held the cone and not one drop of ice cream spilled. When JC touched him Justin was surprised at how warm his hand felt against his face, even though he'd been holding an ice cream.

JC still laughed at him, even when Justin pulled his face away from JC's hand.

"Don't worry, J, it looks cute."

Justin was even more embarrassed now, he could see the others laughing at him and knew that's why they'd laughed before.

"You don't have to make fun of me, man!" Justin's voice was loud, even over everybody's laughter and it cracked slightly at the end, which only made Justin blush even more. At least JC had stopped laughing and now only smiled at him.

"I'm not laughing at you, I'd never do that."

JC was still smiling but that didn't stop Justin from feeling like an idiot, first for the ice cream and then for how badly he'd reacted.

Justin pushed past JC, he could feel JC's hand brush his shoulder as he pushed past him but he didn't look back. Instead he walked down the long corridor past door after door until he hoped that he was alone.

He leaned against the wall and tried to get his breathing under control. Only then did he realise that JC had said that he'd looked cute.


Even though months had passed since he was the wide-eyed newbie and he no longer spent hours crying on his mother's shoulder; Justin still, more than anything, wanted to fit in. Still wanted to be one of the popular kids, the one that made everybody laugh and made everybody secretly jealous because of the way they sang. Or just for no reason at all.

Justin wanted to be that kid.

He always made the effort to be someone when the others were around. He didn't have to bother when it was just himself and JC, because JC didn't care how Justin acted. It didn't really make a difference to him and Justin kind of liked that too.

Just not as much as he liked being accepted.

Justin had a pretty good idea all he had to do was make them all laugh with him. That way they wouldn't be laughing at him. Justin wanted to avoid being laughed at more than anything else.

He didn't want to stand out from the rest of them, so when they laughed at JC he did too. It happened a lot, JC always seemed to be the one that wanted to go over their songs one more time, to practice their moves again even though everybody was exhausted and restless. He was always the one that closed his eyes tight while he sang and really felt the music.

Justin really liked that about him, but the others didn't seem to.

In fact they took turns to make faces at him.

JC would sing; one hand balled tight into a fist and his eyes would be scrunched close as he tried to reach a particularly high note. Ryan would poke his tongue out when JC couldn't see and all the others would laugh.

Justin always tried not to laugh along with them. Or at best for JC not to see him doing it.

This meant the others tended to avoid hanging with JC, everybody except Justin. As much as he wouldn't admit it to the others Justin really liked it that he and JC spent time alone. At least that way he wouldn't have to try not to laugh and he wouldn't have to pretend not to notice the way JC looked at Tony when he thought nobody else was looking.

It was very much how Justin thought he himself looked when JC wasn't watching him.

Justin spent more time with JC than anybody, which of course meant that Justin knew how JC would react. Or more importantly how he acted.

"I know, I can't believe him sometimes." Britney sounded bored, like Justin always thought she did. She, Ryan and Christina were talking in their usual group and Justin inched closer.

"I mean what exactly is JC thinking? What is with the faces he pulls?"

They all laughed and Justin joined in, tried to blend his voice with the sound so that nobody would notice.

Justin wasn't exactly subtle and as soon as Britney saw him they all fell silent. Justin swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to smile. They all seemed unimpressed with him.

"Yeah, JC, he's such a dork."

Justin was surprised that his voice sounded so calm as he spoke. He'd expected those sorts of words to tear their way from his throat like they were covered in thorns but once he'd said it he'd been amazed at how easy it was to continue.

"The way he holds his hand in the air and closes his eyes up, like he can tell that somebody's farted."

Britney's laughter shocked him; clear, like the sound of the bell that would ring on a Sunday morning when he went to church with his mother. When he'd kneel with his eyes closed and beg for forgiveness.

Justin thought somehow it should be harder to say things that he didn't really believe.

Her smile grew even wider and that was more than enough encouragement.

"What a loser." Justin sang a few bars and pushed his hand in the air, a pitiful attempt at mimicking the way JC sang and Justin knew that this wasn't the way you talked about your friends. But the way he was surrounded by everybody, laughing with him, like he belonged, drowned any of those thoughts out.

Before long the others had all joined in with the laughter.


Amazing how everything could change in a heartbeat. If Justin had really stopped and thought about it he would have known that it was all bullshit. That the only reason Britney and the others were even bothering to talk to him now was because he'd proven himself.

And what had he really proven? That he could stab his best friend in the back? He couldn't even think about that because every time he did, he got an aching knot in his stomach that seemed to grow and grow until he could hardly breathe, couldn't swallow.

Guilt so thick that he could taste it in the back of his throat, bitter and caustic like bile.

But he'd push that down. Wouldn't allow it to take over, because now he was getting what he wanted all this time. To belong. And no, he couldn't allow himself to think about the cost.

If his mother ever found out she'd be ashamed of him and rightly too. Like he should be of himself. He knew this wasn't what she meant when she said everyone would see what a good person he was.


It'd been a really long day and everyone was tired. Everyone that is, except JC who was bouncing around like he'd had too much sugar.

Justin understood JC. Understood that for him, performing was everything and it was almost like he worked himself up into this complete frenzy where nothing else existed.

It was just unfortunate that he seemed to be the only one who did understand it.

Justin merely closed his eyes as he heard them all start in on JC. What was it he heard his mother say to a friend once? Kids can be so cruel. Well, yeah, she was right and as much as he wanted to stand there and yell 'Leave him alone!' He didn't and that made him feel like a big liar, a fake.

"JC is such a freak."

"I know. And he acts like he's the only one around here who can sing. Yeah, whatever. Personally, I'd take Tony any day."

"I dare you to say that to Keri."

"Oh please. Like I have a deathwish?"

"Hey, Justin! Come over here..."

Britney's voice was unmistakeable. All the others tended to blend into one, but her voice was bright and clear, with that permanent giggle. Almost like a chime or a bell. Not at all bored sounding like he'd thought before and Justin thought that she was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen.

"Justin, do your impression of JC. You're so perfect at it."

He swallowed. "Uh... I don't..."

She touched him by the arm and whispered in his ear, "Go on." So despite how sick it made him feel, he did it anyway. Imitated JC's dancing and the way he was bouncing around earlier and the way he closed his eyes and gestured with his hands when he was singing.

They were all laughing a lot louder than usual, which Justin thought was kinda weird, but he was the centre of attention again and he liked it. As much as he hated himself for doing it, for making fun of JC again, he joined in.

It wasn't until he turned around that he realised exactly why they were all laughing so loudly.


When Justin saw the hurt and disappointment written all over JC's face, he didn't think he'd ever laugh about anything ever again.

His body felt like it was being torn inside out, that he was melting. Like ice cream.

Justin's heart was beating so fast that he thought he was dying. He wanted so badly to just reach out and tell JC he didn't mean to do it, but he felt like he was frozen to the spot and by the time he felt like he could move again, JC had already walked away.

He could hear Britney talking to him, but he couldn't take in what she was saying, all he could hear was humming, almost like white noise because all he could think about was running after JC to make everything right.

But how could he? How could he ever make it right?

Britney could see Justin's eyes moving away from her, following JC out of the green room and she pulled his face back towards hers. "Don't worry about it, Justin, I'm sure he'll get over it. Anyway, what do you care what JC thinks?"

Justin wanted to say that he cared more than she'd ever know. Wanted to scream to anyone who'd listen that JC was worth ten of every other person he knew and that he couldn't believe that he'd just humiliated him like that.

But all he could do was mumble some sort of excuse as he ran from the room.


When Justin finally tracked him down, JC was sitting on the set by himself. Hands pressed to his mouth like Justin knew he always did when he was thinking about something important.

"JC?" Justin's mouth was so terribly dry and parched that he couldn't swallow. He was surprised he managed to get that much out because his tongue felt so thick in his mouth and he didn't think he'd be capable of making any kind of sound.

"Hey, J. What's up?"

Justin could feel JC's eyes on him, practically boring into him and he felt like he couldn't breathe.

"Uh. I'm really sorry... about before, I mean. I didn't mean to..."

JC stood up and moved across to where Justin was standing. He squeezed his shoulder and told him that it didn't matter, that he knew it was just a joke and Justin didn't have to apologise.

And then JC smiled. But it wasn't that real smile that lit up his face. It was the fake one, the one he used when they were filming.

The one that didn't cover up the sadness in his eyes.


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