JC has been in bed all of a minute – his knees bent, his hand tucked under his cheek – when he hears someone rap softly at the door. It's tempting to pull a pillow over his head and ignore the persistent knocking. It's been a long day, and JC's tired; all he wants to do is burrow into his blankets and sleep.
Justin, it seems, has other ideas.
The door opens slightly, and a thin beam of light slices through the darkness, making JC squint and half close his eyes. Looking through his eyelashes, he watches as Justin slips into the room, his curls messy and pyjama pants riding low on his hips. In this light, unguarded and off show, he looks impossibly young. JC closes his eyes and tries to breathe through the guilt.
"JC," Justin says, and his voice is hushed, but his movements sure. "JC, I know you're awake."
JC keeps his eyes closed but he can feel that Justin's close. The air itself has energised somehow, charged particles that entice the songs out of JC's head. The ones that make him scribble in his notebook and then slash through the words with red pen.
"I meant what I said."
There's a soft thud, the bed dips and something brushes against JC's arm. He keeps pretending to sleep. That way there will be no more awkward conversations, excuses and denials to someone who sees through his lies.
"I think you're being stupid, but I'll wait."
The sound of breathing, easy, matched to JC's own, and he knows it's no coincidence. He continues to feign sleep as Justin leans in and brushes a kiss against JC's cheek.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of guilt, wrongness and shame.
JC watches as Justin gets ready for his date– leather pants and roll-necked sweater – sitting on the edge of the bed and pretending to read. It's an article about global warming, and JC tries to take in the tips about recycling, about how even the littlest effort will help, because this is important, JC thinks he may even write a song.
Justin, it seems, thinks that's a good idea.
"Because the environment is a precious thing, yo, we need to protect it," Justin says, as he sprays hairspray over his curls. He puts down the tin and picks up his gloss, slicking it over his lips. He smacks them together, looks at JC in the mirror. "What rhymes with toxic?"
JC thinks, runs rhymes through his head, loving this process of exchanging ideas with Justin, the connection of songs. Then looks away as Justin bends to buckles his shoes. Thinks about tooth pick, gastric, car sick as Justin's sweater rides up and exposes skin, the line of Justin thigh and ass.
"I think maybe…"
JC stops speaking when someone knocks at the hotel room door. Security looking in first, before Britney steps inside. Her hair is loose and her lips are pink, shining almost as bright as her thigh length dress. She smiles at JC then turns to Justin, her grin widening, happiness obvious in the way she runs forward into Justin's waiting embrace.
The sound of her lips against Justin's, his soft murmurs into Britney's ear, his face buried in her hair. JC turns away, gives them as much privacy as he can.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of loss, jealousy and regret.
JC jumps in place -- sweating, thirsty, his outfit drenched – and runs a towel over his curls. There's a problem with the buses and they're having to wait, hopped up on adrenaline, the sounds of the crowd still ringing in JC's ears. He takes a robe from one of the runners, drapes it over his shoulders and heads toward the exit.
Justin, it seems, got there first.
He's got a towel over his head and his pants are soaked at the knees. He laughs when Chris leans in and says something JC can't hear, their heads close, looking at something outside. Inexplicably JC feels excluded, because he knows he could go over there and be welcomed. To an extent anyway.
It's nothing overt, nothing mean. Just they've been best friends for what seems forever now, when before, Justin used to be JC's. Which is a ridiculous way to feel, JC knows that, but it doesn't help when he watches Justin grab a water bottle out of Chris' hand, holding it above his head.
"Freaky long-legged bastard!"
Chris laughs and jumps and Justin drains the bottle before beat-boxing a victory song while shimmying in a circle, his hips moving, bumping against Chris's side.
The sound of feet scuffing against the floor, carefree laughter and whispers between friends. JC pulls the towel forward so it shades his face, walks toward the open door and fresh air.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of loneliness, detachment and old friends.
JC allows himself to be steered into the car –soft leather seats and tinted windows – and settles back in his seat. He yawns, the sun warm against his face, his stomach grumbling and protesting breakfast being so many hours before. He looks outside.
Justin, it seems, is in the other car.
He's talking to an assistant from the last show, charming her with his wide smile and perfect manners that make her blush and look at the floor. JC knows how she feels; when you're the focus of Justin's attention it's like you're facing the force of the sun. Basking in the heat, but knowing if you get too close you'll get burned.
JC wants that attention, but he doesn't want the burns. It's why he keeps that last distance. Pretends he doesn't know what Justin means when he looks at him in a way that says more than words.
Not that they have time for many words. Not the important ones anyway. Their time is taken up with singing, with endless interviews. They all know each others favourite colour, favourite food, what they'd want to be if they didn't perform, empty sentences captured on paper and tape.
Those words aren't important at all.
JC smiles when Joey slides into the car, scoots over so the next journalist can sit with them too.
The sound of her bag opening, paper rustling, the purr of the car. JC watches as Justin's car pulls away, waves in return.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of nervousness, want and fear.
JC swallows, blindly walks away – tears in his eyes and an aching chest – and heads outside. He can't stay here, not now. He can't listen to the excuses and justifications when all he wants to do is scream. No! No he doesn't want a hiatus, he doesn't want that at all.
Justin, it seems, does.
He's announced he needs more time, wants to concentrate on his solo career, and while JC doesn't begrudge him that at all, JC doesn't want Nsync to end, and it has. He knew that as soon as Justin sat at that table, looked at them all and said, "I'm sorry."
It wasn't a surprise, not really. It doesn't mean it hurts any less and JC needs his own time. Space to walk away and remind himself he's got his own plans, his own dreams, and maybe it's his time to soar.
"Want to travel back with me?"
JC looks back over his shoulder, see Lance following, cell phone in one hand, already open to make a call. He sounds subdued, but JC knows Lance has already dealt with crushed dreams, this is just one more. It's why he stops walking and waits, slings his arm over Lance's shoulder and says, "sure."
Lance ducks his head, smiles and clicks shut his phone.
The sound of footsteps against the tiled floor, the doorman ushering them outside, horns blaring and engines as JC waits for their ride. He looks back inside and sees Justin standing still. Chris is furious, fists clenched as he glares then stalks away.
JC catches Justin's eyes, tries to smile.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of inevitability, grief and broken dreams.
JC runs his fingers along the keys – cascading notes and perfectly tuned sound – plays a short melody, something calming, as opposed to the nerves that he'd hidden deep inside. He turns when he hears footsteps, twists around so he can look at Justin walk into the studio, picks up his notebook from the ground.
Justin, it seems, has been writing too.
He's holding a notebook, pages marked with bright tabs, labels neatly printed on each one. He doesn't look nervous, but JC sees the way his smile is too bright, too perfect, the celebrity meeting his fans.
JC smiles back, but stays sitting, because recording together is just that. The both of them, not Justin with JC looking on. He waits for Justin to pull a chair close, clear his throat and pass over the folder, already opened to a page. JC reads.
He glances up, says, "Are you kidding?"
JC keeps reading, looks at Justin, and he can't help himself. JC starts to laugh.
Justin raises an eyebrow, and JC bites the inside of his cheek, but he has to be honest and he tells Justin, 'you are kidding, right?'
It's obviously not what Justin expected to hear, and at first JC thinks he's going to get up and walk away. He doesn't, instead Justin relaxes, reads over his words and admits.
"I guess it's not my best work."
"We can make it better," JC says, and swings back to the piano, shifting over so Justin can sit at his side.
The sound of disjointed tunes, random words, and crumpled paper as Justin throws away the first song.
Happiness blooms, and JC plays extra loud, Justin following him all the while.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of mending fences, reconnection and starting again.
JC waits, unexpectedly nervous – thumping music and glittering lights -- as the guest list is checked and he's finally allowed inside. His stomach churns, but it's matched with a smile, because this is something important, he can tell. Impatient, he looks for Justin.
Justin, it seems, is impatient too.
He's waiting close to the door, glass in hand, chatting to people who hang onto his every word. When he sees JC he makes his excuses and leaves, eases through the crowd. Justin takes JC's wrist, steering him away without a word.
Years of patching relationships and finally they're where they were before. JC laughs when Justin walks across the dance floor, movements easy, singing along to the songs, smile unguarded as he unexpectedly spins them in place.
"How many have you had?" JC jokes, knowing the answer even before Justin looks at him and says, "none".
They step into a private room, Justin apparently uncaring that he's leaving his own party, and JC knows this is it. He's waited long enough, and this time, when Justin asks, JC will say yes.
The muffled sound of the party, the thumping of JC's heart.
"Can I kiss you?"
JC rests his hand on Justin's arm, looks at him and says, "yes."
Warm heat, the feel of Justin's hand, his back against the wall, pressed back with Justin's body, held still as Justin slid his tongue over JC's lips, deep into his mouth, and it was everything JC expected. It was everything and more.
Justin has always been music for JC. Songs of happiness, friendship and love.