Chapter 1: Meadow Glenn Inn
Bacon sizzled on the griddle, and pancakes were ladled with practiced efficiency. The smell of coffee drifted underneath the sizzle of breakfast, combining with the morning sun to create the perfect way to start the day.
JC sprinkled blueberries into the bubbling pancake batter and flipped them quickly. Years of practice had made it a mindless task. He could hear the first guests coming down the stairs into the dining room, where fresh fruit and the first pot of coffee were already waiting.
He flipped the finished pancakes off of the griddle and let the cooked bacon rest on paper towels to drain. He carried the first platter out to the breakfast room, calling hello to the couple from Quebec who didn't speak much English and the three ladies from Atlanta on a foliage tour of New England. On the way back, he grabbed the broom and pounded on the ceiling above to send a second wake-up call Megan.
It was the end of leaf-peeper season, and JC was looking forward to the time when things quieted down. The Inn had been busy since Memorial Day, full of couples and families searching for a close-to-home get-away. Only three hours from New York and Boston, the Meadow Glenn Inn in the Green Mountains of Vermont was a popular destination year-round. His only break came now, in the late fall, before the skiers flocked north.
After this morning, there would be only one guest. Justin Timberlake had arrived late the night before, after everyone else was fast asleep. He hadn't said much, only followed JC up the two flights of stairs to the top-floor suite. It was the only guest room with access to the back door, and he'd specifically requested a private entrance. He was paid up through the month, but his agent had said that might be extended. Something about writing his next album and needed to get away from the stresses of LA.
JC knew who he was, of course. The Vermont countryside might not rival the OC, but living with a teenager meant that Justin Timberlake was a household name. He also knew that Justin had gone through a brutal public break-up with the fallen WB star a few months ago, and had been linked to almost every possible leading lady since the split.
He finished carrying the last of the hot platters to the dining room when he heard footsteps on the back stairs. "Hey, get a move on. Grab that coffee and refill the dining room pot before you sit down." The door swung shut behind him, and he smiled at his guests, hoping none of them were allergic to blueberries.
Luckily, they were all eating happily. JC watched the door but his Megan didn't appear. Annoyed, he went back, expecting to find her sitting with a cup of coffee, nose buried in a book.
Instead, he saw a sleepy-looking man in his late-twenties standing at the bottom of the stairs. Justin Timberlake. "Um. What did you want me to do with the coffee?"
Embarrassed, JC flushed. "Sorry. I thought you were my… Megan. She's sleeping in today." He grabbed the broom and gave the ceiling another tap. "Breakfast is in the dining room if you want."
Justin glanced at the door, then down at his plain gray sweatpants and Lakers t-shirt. "Do you mind if I just eat here? I mean, I'm not exactly dressed for a public appearance."
JC stood shocked for a moment before shaking back to reality. "Sure. Yeah, I mean. Megan's gonna be down in a minute and is probably going to MISS THE BUS." He yelled the last three words up the stairs just as he heard her thundering down the hall.
"Geez, can't a girl take ten minutes to straighten her hair once in a while? God knows you spend enough time in front of the mirror." The fifteen-year-old thundered down the stairs in maroon workout pants and a field hockey shirt. "I'm not gonna miss the bus." She went right for the coffee pot and poured a travel mug before turning. JC handed her a plate of pancakes, which she took to the table and sat down.
Then she looked up and choked on a mouthful of breakfast. JC handed her a napkin as she struggled to breath. Justin sat across the table from her smiling.
She turned her head slowly. "JC? Why is Justin Timberlake at our breakfast table?"
"Remember I told you that a singer was coming to stay here? Mr. Timberlake arrived last night."
"Justin," he said, chiming in. "Hi. You must be Megan. You're JC's daughter?"
She snorted. "He wishes."
JC couldn't help but laugh. It was an old joke. "You keep talking like that, you're outta here the day you turn 18."
She turned to Justin with a smile. "He says that now, but by dinner he'll be telling me I'm never allowed to move out. JC's my partner. We own this place together." She took another bite of pancakes and chewed quickly before carrying her plate to the sink. "I promise, I won't be so crazy later. But I wouldn't want to miss the bus." She shot a pointed look at JC before grabbing a stuffed backpack and running out the door.
JC shook his head and began to load the dishwasher. Justin didn't say much.
"Megan's mom was my best friend. We opened this place together. She died a couple of years ago." He didn't usually feel the need to explain their unusual living situation, but somehow, Justin's silence coaxed out the details.
"Oh. That's really good of you." Justin took another bite. "These are really good."
Wiping his hands, JC turned to his guest, leaning back against the counter. "Thanks. It was touch and go at the beginning. Megan's mom did most of the cooking. I had to learn pretty quickly when she got sick."
"Aren't you going to have any?" Justin reached for the syrup and doused the last few bites.
JC smiled. "I ate when I got up. If I don't get a bite in before the guests, I go hungry."
"Right." Justin finished his breakfast and stood to carry his plate to JC. JC was quick to take it from him.
"So, what are you looking to do while you're here? I've got information about a lot of the local sights, if you want. There are maps with some good foliage sites marked. It's late in the season, but if you go into the valleys it's still pretty." When his hands weren't busy, he got nervous, not sure to act around this famous musician in his kitchen.
"Actually, I'm really just here to write."
JC nodded. "Well, anything you need, just ask."
"I will." He smiled, and JC could see why teenage girls were enamored with him. "Ah, Megan. She's not going to tell all of her friends that I'm here, right?"
"Of course. The whole high school will be by around three." He waited a beat for the horror to fully settle into Justin's face. "I'm kidding. She's a good kid. She had to grow up fast, too fast. She'll keep quiet. After all, this place is her legacy too. She's more protective of its reputation than I am."
Justin seemed satisfied with that. "Ok. I'm gonna get to work then. I'll see you at dinner?"
JC smiled. "Enjoy your stay."
Justin Timberlake walked back up the stairs, and JC got to work checking out the rest of his guests and cleaning up breakfast. Not only was Justin Timberlake incredibly gorgeous, but he was friendly and down-to-earth as well. A man could fall in love with that if he wasn't careful.
It was going to be an interesting month.
When Megan came home that afternoon, she thundered up the stairs to their quarters on the second floor. The house was L-shaped. One wing was exclusively for guest rooms. The other housed the kitchen and common rooms on the bottom floor, with bedrooms and a private living room and office above. The third floor had been turned into a large guest suite, where Justin was staying.
Megan dropped her backpack loudly in the doorway, startling JC out of his books.
"Hey!" he said warmly. "How was your day."
"Fine," she answered. "I can't believe you didn't tell me Justin Timberlake was staying here!"
He put aside the account books and smiled apologetically. "I didn't want you to get your hopes up in case he cancelled. I didn't really believe it was THE Justin Timberlake until he showed up last night."
She sat in the captain's chair beside the desk, one leg over the arm of the chair, the other bent up to rest her foot on the seat. "So, he's seriously here for a month?"
He could tell the giddiness was about to boil over. "A month, maybe longer." He watched as she struggled to contain herself, finally giving up, throwing back her head and squealing in glee.
She took a deep breath and looked back at him with complete composure. "And you don't even need to give me the lecture about privacy. I won't tell a soul."
"I never thought you would." JC smiled at her. "No hidden cameras, either."
Rolling her eyes, Megan rose and picked her bag up off the floor. "You're no fun at all, you know that?"
"I mean it!" he leaned back and yelled after her retreating back as she went into her room and closed the door. Music started a few minutes later and he shook his head.
Stuck in house with one of the most famous men in the world and a teenager. It was going to be a long month.
Except for mornings, JC didn't see much of Justin. He preferred to eat in the kitchen, which JC didn't mind. He kept out of the way, sometimes leaving after breakfast and not returning until late at night. Other days he spent locked away in his room, taking a tray for dinner.
He was neat, and didn't travel with a lot of stuff. His suitcases were soft Italian leather, stowed carefully in the closet. He hung up all of his clothes, even his t-shirts and jeans. JC tried not to snoop as he changed the linens and cleaned the ensuite bathroom, but he couldn't help but peek. His cologne was spicy and exotic, and he kept a crime book on the nightstand. The only sign that this was the room of a multi-platinum musician was the complicated sound board in the corner, hooked up to small amplifier and acoustic guitar.
Megan was immensely curious about their guest and tried to draw out information during their five minute breakfasts each morning. JC noticed she'd been getting up earlier and earlier, hoping for an extra minute or two with their famous guest before school. To his credit, Justin answered her questions with a smile and didn't drop names when she hinted at scandals.
A week and a half after his arrival, JC was picking up the remains of the weekend newspaper scattered around the front room when he heard footsteps on the front stairs.
"Hey," Justin said. He was wearing a pair of dark jeans and a thin cream sweater. His sneakers were gleaming white as he bounded down the steps. "Do you mind if I use the piano for a while?"
JC glanced over his shoulder at the ancient upright in the corner. "No, help yourself. We had it tuned a few months ago so it should sound decent."
"Thanks." Justin pulled out the bench and gracefully lifted the key cover. He settled with one foot on the petals and comped a couple of chords. "Sounds good to me."
The music was broken, little bits of songs. Still, it was pretty, and the longer he played, the more it came together. JC continued with the morning chores, eventually heading out to the front porch to sweep the last of the fall leaves away.
It was warm for November, and he settled into one of the rockers with his feet up on the rail. One of the things that had drawn him to Vermont was the quiet. Raised in a DC suburb, with four years of college in Orlando, he appreciated being able to hear the wind. Overhead, a group of Canadian geese honked as they headed south for the winter.
The music faded inside, and JC wondered if Justin had finished his song. It was hard not to think about their guest. He wasn't JC's usual type, but his face held something of an appeal, and his voice was a gift of the angels.
The screen door creaked and JC turned to see Justin standing beside him. "Mind if I join you?"
"No, not at all." Justin settled into another chair and rocked slowly. The squeak of the floorboards was a comforting sound. "It's nice out here."
"Yeah, I like it. Must be different from LA."
"Very." Justin cocked his head and looked at JC curiously. "Your accent isn't New England."
"Nope. I'm from Maryland, originally. Plus a few other places in between." A couple of years in LA, six terrifying months in a studio apartment with three other people in Bed-Sty, and then a month back at his parents' house before he got the call from Anne, Megan's mother, about opening an inn.
Justin just nodded, staring into the distance. "Is this why you moved here?" The Green Mountains rose majestically in the background, creating gorgeous views from the front porch where they sat.
"Partly. It's a good area from a commercial standpoint. People come in the summer to get out of the city, in the fall for foliage, and in the winter and spring to ski. Plus, at the time Vermont was the gay friendly state, so that was part of the appeal." He couldn't believe he just said that to Justin Timberlake. Immediately, he glanced at Justin out of the corner of his eye. Please don't let him think that I'm hitting on him, he prayed.
But Justin only raised an eyebrow. "Oh, right. I guess that would be a good reason." He glanced over at JC and smiled. "So you weren't married to Megan's mom?"
Thinking of Anne always brought a pang to JC's heart. "No. We were best friends in college, and stayed close afterwards. Megan's dad was never in the picture, and when Anne wanted to open this place, she needed someone to run the business side of things. I was in between places at the time and it seemed like a good arrangement." He'd never expected that he'd be running the whole place one day, or raising a teenager on his own.
"That's nice. I mean, to be partners with your best friend." Justin looked almost wistful.
"You're not going to start telling me how lonesome life is on the road, right?" JC teased. He couldn't believe he was sitting on his front porch teasing Justin Timberlake.
A quick flash of a smile, and Justin actually laughed. "I guess you've heard that one before. No, I love being on the road and everything. I'm just sort of getting to the point where I want something to come home to. An empty house in LA designed by some decorating firm doesn't really cut it."
"Makes sense," JC said, and continued to rock. Justin didn't offer any more, and he didn't pry. Instead, he sat until hunger sent him inside for lunch. Justin ate with him that day, and played the piano for the rest of the afternoon. The music filled the inn with a lightness that lifted JC's mood and kept a smile on his face despite the long list of chores to be done.
Two days later, JC was packing up a picnic lunch to bring to Megan's field hockey tournament when Justin came down for breakfast.
"Good morning," he said, trying not to appear frazzled. "I've got pumpkin waffles today, and I can throw on some sausage if you'd like it." He poured a cup of coffee for Justin and mixed in the cream and sugar his guest always liked. He passed off the cup and then filled the thermos for lunch.
Justin sipped the coffee and looked a little bit more awake. "Actually, I think I'll just have something light today. Too many waffles," he kidded, patting his incredibly toned stomach. JC resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Yeah, Megan's big field hockey tournament is today, all day at the high school." He stood back from the soft-sided cooler and took stock. It looked like he had everything needed for a day in the bleachers.
"Sounds like fun." Justin disappeared into the dining room for a bowl and a small box of cereal from the breakfast buffet before emerging back in the kitchen. He helped himself to milk from the fridge and JC watched, slightly amused. He'd had no idea Justin had made himself so at home at the inn.
He stood while he ate, and JC stored the rest of the batter in the fridge and washed up the last of the dishes. It was nice not having to wash up after all of the guests during these slow times.
"So, what's this tournament? Like a championship thing?" Justin scarfed down the rest of his cereal and put the empty bowl in the sink.
"Not really. Just a bunch of towns getting together for a weekend competition. Winner gets a trophy and home-field advantage next year. But Megan got invited to go with the varsity team even though she's only JV, so she's excited."
"Is there any chance, I mean. Do you want some company? If you don't mind. I'm kind of blocked and haven't been to a high school sports thing, well. Ever."
JC laughed at that, a short burst that escaped before he could censure himself. "You've never been to a high school game?"
"I didn't go to high school," Justin explained. "I was in the studio recording at 14, and just had tutors after that. And I can go in disguise if it makes you more comfortable."
"Okay, yeah." JC said. Why not? "I need to leave soon though."
"Give me ten minutes?" At JC's nod, Justin was bounding back up the stairs to his room.
Grabbing his cell phone, JC sent a quick text to Megan warning her that she was going to have one more person in the audience that day. He hoped that she could do some damage control. He had a feeling that high school girls would be able to see through whatever disguise Justin came up with.
The weather had turned and JC shivered in his leather jacket. Justin sat beside him, with a baseball hat pulled low and dark sunglasses on against the late-day sun. Thank God it was sunny. They'd been sitting in the same spot for most of the day, along with some of the booster parents. The official story was that Justin was one of Anne's cousins who'd come up to see Megan for the weekend. So far, no one had questioned it.
They sat in the parents' section, though JC was one of the youngest people there. Only one other couple was his age, Joey and Kelly Fatone, whose daughter was a freshman on Megan's team.
"So I told them that there was no way in hell I was going to sell shit, I didn't care if it was cookies or wrapping paper or condos on the moon," Joey was saying, describing an encounter with some of the over-zealous booster parents. "If they need money, I'll write them a check, but I'm not doing that door to door shit anymore."
"Why do they need money?" Justin asked, inserting himself into the conversation.
"The school's not going to have enough to keep the program going next year if we don't do some fundraising. With the cost of gas going up so much, they can't afford the buses to get back and forth to games, and it just generally tightens the budget for the whole district."
"That really sucks," Justin said. JC and Joey kept brainstorming ways to get funds, but Justin didn't say any more. He cheered when the final match of the day started and Megan came out to the bench with her team.
"So if they win this, they come back tomorrow?" Justin asked, and JC nodded.
He watched for a few more minutes before asking "Is this the weirdest sport ever invented, or is it just me?"
JC and Joey both laughed at that, and JC explained what he understood of the game to Justin. When Justin went off in search of a bathroom, Joey elbowed JC in the shoulder.
"Dude! He's cute! You gonna go for it or what?"
JC almost laughed at the absurdity of the statement. "Right, like that's going to happen."
"Seriously, C. How long has it been since you've even been on a date?"
The fact that he had to think about it gave away how sad it really was. "Um. Tracy's wedding?"
"And how long since you've been on a date that wasn't of the heterosexual pity variety?" He started humming the Jeopardy theme song until JC gave up.
"Okay! It's been a while. But I'm not going to throw myself at one of my guests just because he's there. Besides, he's totally straight."
Joey watched Justin walking back to the stands. "You sure? Cause I wouldn't lay down any bets on that one."
JC just shook his head slightly as Justin climbed the bleachers back to his seat. "Hey. What'd I miss?"
Joey elbowed JC again, not at all discretely, and JC said "Nothing!" a little too loudly. He raised his eyebrows until Joey backed off.
Megan's team won easily, much to JC's dismay. He didn't relish another day in the cold. Still, she was exuberant when she met him and Justin in the parking lot.
"Hey!" She jumped into JC's arms. "We're in the finals!"
"I'm proud of you kiddo." He squeezed her back. She smiled shyly at Justin. "Hey Justin. I'm glad you came."
"It was fun." He was grinning broadly and JC realized that he had really enjoyed himself. He still couldn't believe this had been Justin's first high school sports game. "And no one knew who I was."
"That's 'cause I told everyone that my mom's cousin was coming, and he sort of looked like an ugly Justin Timberlake, but not to say anything because you'd tell all these really dumb stories about how people thought you were the real thing and wouldn't shut up."
JC watched as conflicting reactions passed over Justin's face, relieved when Justin finally smiled. "You're pretty smart," he told her.
She blushed at the compliment, then handed her bag to JC. "Some of the girls are going to Ben and Jerry's for ice cream. Can I get a ride with them and meet you at home later?"
JC hoisted the bag onto his shoulder. "Who's driving?"
"Emily. And I promise to wear a seat belt and be home by nine." She bounced on her toes in anticipation.
"Okay. Nine," he reinforced, and watched her chase after the rest of the team. He and Justin walked back out to his car in silence.
As they slowly made their way out of the crowded parking lot, JC looked over at Justin. "I haven't had time to make anything for dinner. I can pick up something on the way home if you want, or we could eat somewhere in town."
"Anything's fine. But let me treat you."
JC looked over at him, horrified. "You're my guest. You've paid for two meals a day. I can't let you buy dinner."
Justin laughed at that. "JC, not to be rude, but I've got more money than I will ever spend. I'm not counting pennies here. And besides, you brought lunch, so that's two meals. Come on, let me take you out. As thanks for sharing today with me."
The image of the two of them in a romantic, candle-lit dinner flooded his mind, and he hoped his blush wasn't too visible. He studied Justin's face, trying to figure out if this was something worth fighting over. He decided it wasn't.
"Okay. You pay. And I think I know someplace you'd like." Turning away from the center of town, JC headed out into the mountains.
He followed the winding two-lane road up and down the foothills before turning off onto an even narrower country lane. The sun had set, and JC flicked on his high beams as he drove.
"Um. You're not taking me out here to kill me and dump my body, are you? Cause really. I'm getting that bad horror movie vibe."
"Trust me," JC smiled at him. He took a sharp corner before slowing down and turning into a gravel parking lot. Ahead of them was one of Vermont's fabled covered bridges.
"What is this place?" Justin asked, getting out of the car and stretching.
"Over the River," JC replied. "They turned the covered bridge into a restaurant. It's got great food, and you can hear the water beneath your feet."
"That sounds really cool." Justin held the door open for JC. He passed with a smile, then paused when he felt Justin's hand in the small of his back. His hesitation must have spooked Justin, who dropped his hand immediately.
What was that?, JC thought. He didn't say anything though, as Justin moved ahead of him. He watched as Justin talked quietly to the maitre'd and slip him a folded bill. He glanced over his shoulder at JC with a smile, and they were led to a quiet table in the corner by a window.
Justin paused to look out before sitting. "This place is great. Good choice."
"Thanks. It's Megan's favorite special occasion place. She gets tired of my cooking," he joked.
"I think I've gained five pounds on your cooking. I need to start running in the morning. In LA, I worked out for about two hours every day."
JC tried to figure out where he'd get two hours in his day to work out. The time just wasn't there. Then again, he supposed it was part of Justin's job to keep him the toned, muscular physique.
He wasn't going to complain.
Justin scanned the menu, commenting on the notes about organic and locally-grown ingredients. He ordered a bottle of wine without letting JC see the prices on the list, and sipped the Shiraz appreciatively as JC told him a little bit about life in the inn.
It was easy to talk to Justin. He really listened, and asked thoughtful questions. Maybe it was all the interview questions he'd gotten over his lifetime. JC had seen him on MTV a few times when Megan was watching in their den. He'd always been impressed with Justin's thoughtfulness, and was more drawn to it in person.
"What did you do, before you owned the Inn?" Justin asked. "You said you'd moved around a lot."
Embarrassed, JC chewed slowly and swallowed before answering. "Yeah, a few places. I was singing, actually."
Immediately intrigued, Justin's eyes went wide. "Really? What kind of stuff?"
"That was sort of the problem," JC answered. "Stuff I wrote was too eclectic for the market. I recorded a few things, shopped them around, but nothing ever garnered a lot of interest. But, you know, it's cool. I wasn't really happy in LA, and New York was hell, so I think it was a good thing for me to get out of that scene."
He noticed Justin staring at him and immediately balked at what he'd just said. "No offense. I mean, God, I can't believe I just said that."
"It's okay. I mean, hell, I almost quit most days." He smiled reassuringly, and JC felt a little bit better. "So, do I get to hear your stuff?"
JC was glad he didn't have a mouthful, because he surely would have choked. Justin Timberlake wanted to listen to his music? "It's really nice of you to offer, but I don't even know where the CDs are anymore. That was a long time ago."
Justin didn't seem to believe him, but gracefully didn't press for details. "Well, at least I'm glad that you're not some famous rock star, 'cause if you were, I wouldn't be having this awesome vacation and eating those fucking delicious waffles every morning."
JC wondered what would have happened if things had worked out differently. He and Justin might have been sharing this meal on the other side of the country under the glitter of Hollywood. He watched as Justin discreetly slipped a black credit card into the folio and smiled at him across the table.
It was a nice fantasy, JC thought, but he wouldn't have taken that life, not if it meant giving up Megan and the Inn. The image didn't fade easily though. He knew it was a bad sign. Things got worse when Justin smiled at him as they left the restaurant. He felt his heart flutter.
At home, he pulled the cooler from the trunk and followed Justin in the back door of the Inn. Justin paused at the foot of the stairs. "I had a good time today. Thanks."
"Yeah, it was fun." JC dropped the cooler on the counter. He knew he should clean it out now, but it was late. It would wait until morning. "Do you want to go again tomorrow?"
Justin's lips lifted in a half-smile. "Yeah. But I really should get some work done."
JC walked to the exterior door and flipped on the porch light for Megan. "Well, I'll leave some breakfast for you if you're not up when we leave." He started to head upstairs behind Justin when Justin abruptly turned, and placed a hand on his shoulder.
Shocked, and more than a little confused, he watched as Justin leaned down to him and pressed his lips against JC's in an earnest, needy kiss. JC didn't dare to move, but opened his mouth a bit. Justin's tongue swept forward and tasted briefly before he drew away. Eyes half-lidded, JC watched as Justin licked his lips slowly.
"Goodnight," he said, voice high and whispery, and he was gone, pounding up the stairs two at a time.
JC's heart thundered in his chest. Justin had kissed him. Justin Timberlake had kissed him. Slowly, he took the stairs to his room, not quite believing that he'd just been kissed by Justin Timberlake.
In the morning, Megan was sluggish after her night out with friends, so JC had to practically drag her and her gear into the car, shoving a coffee mug into her hands as she went out the door. He didn't have time to think about Justin or the impromptu kiss they'd shared.
At the game, though, he couldn't get it out of his mind. Even Joey commented how distracted he was.
"Hey, what made you say that thing about Jay yesterday?" JC asked. The pseudonym caught on his tongue strangely and reminded him that this was no ordinary boy-likes-boy situation.
"What thing?" Joey asked, focused on the game. He glanced down at JC, who sat a row below him. "Oh, the thing about him batting for both teams? Dude, it's totally obvious. He looked like he was half in love with you yesterday."
JC rolled his eyes. Half in love, sure. Even if there was something there, something that wasn't primarily in his imagination, there was no way Justin Timberlake was falling in love with him.
Megan's team ended up in second place after losing the final game. He knew she was bummed about it, so JC nervously granted her an extra hour on her curfew, despite the fact that it was a Sunday. It wasn't that he really worried that she'd be out drinking or doing drugs. She was a good kid. But there really wasn't a lot for kids to do in the Vermont countryside, and the kids were known to get creative in their search for entertainment.
He drove around anxiously for a while after the game. It was silly, being afraid of his guest. He gave himself long lectures in his head and finally steered toward home.
The house was strangely quiet when he entered. He'd expected to hear Justin's music trickling from the piano or down the stairs from his room. Expecting that Justin had gone out for a run, he turned on the kitchen stereo and sang along with Elvis Costello as he unpacked the cooler. He tossed water empty bottles into the recycling bin and rinsed out his thermos. He started to pull out the ingredients for curry squash soup, something warm on a cold November night. He had just picked up the cleaver to cut open the squash when the door to the dining room opened and Justin walked through.
Justin took note of the giant butcher knife in JC's hands and slowly held up his own. "Backing away slowly," he said, serious look on his face.
JC smiled at him shyly, bringing the knife down to half the butternut squash on the counter. "You're only in danger if you're a vegetable," he promised. He laid the halves into a glass pan and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and oil. "Curry Squash soup okay for dinner?"
Justin's eyebrows rose. "That's sounds fantastic." He pulled a chair up to the front of the marble island counter and watched JC work. "How was the game?"
"They lost, but did better than expected. Megan's pretty upset, though." Glad things weren't awkward between them, JC stuck the squash into the oven to bake and began chopping onion.
"Does that really make you cry?" Justin asked. When JC stared at him questioningly, he only shrugged. "I've never actually chopped an onion."
Shaking his head, JC kept his eyes on his fingers as he worked. "You've led a very sheltered life."
"Yeah." Justin fell silent, mesmerized by JC's quick chopping. "This is like watching Food Network."
"You watch Food Network?" JC asked surprised.
"Yeah. It's one of those things that's always the same, no matter what city I'm in." He watched as JC transferred the onion into a frying pan and tossed them in olive oil. "So, I Googled you this morning."
JC looked up, annoyed. He didn't like people prying into his personal life. "Find anything interesting?" he asked curtly.
"Don't be pissed," Justin said. "I was just curious. You said you were a singer, and I wanted to see if I could find anything. They had some clips from a show at the Mint on YouTube from, like, ten years ago. You were good."
JC knew they were there. He'd had a few die-hard fans who'd attended shows with video and tape recorders. A few of the pieces had made it up onto the internet. His lawyers had advised him to have them taken down, but he really didn't care. At least it was a reminder that someone had listened.
"I get what you mean, though. You had a great style, but it wasn't mainstream. I'm guessing the record companies tried to change that?"
JC turned off the flame before the onions could burn. "I'm not trying to be rude, here, but I really don't like talking about that. Can you just drop it?"
"Sure, of course." Justin was quiet for a minute. "You were really good though."
JC finally looked at him and noted the apology in his eyes. He sighed. "Thanks."
When he didn't say any more, Justin wandered over to the stereo. "Mind if I change this?"
"No, go ahead." Justin flipped through a stack of Megan's CDs before choosing one. Heavy bass filled the kitchen, and Justin began to move. It wasn't quiet dancing, but it was. JC watched fascinated. Justin's hips were lethal, and he was dying slowly.
Justin caught him watching, and JC quickly busied himself in his cooking.
"About last night," Justin began, and when JC looked up again he had come around the island to stand at JC's side. Close at his side.
JC licked his lips and swallowed hard. "Um, yeah."
"I'm sorry if it freaked you out. I just. You're really hot, and sitting at dinner across from you was just. Tempting." He smiled crookedly and JC was glad the counter was there. His knees went weak.
"Justin. I don't. I mean. I thought you were…" he trailed off, but Justin picked up on where he was going.
"Straight?" At JC's sheepish nod, he smiled. "Yeah, that's the point. Of course, when I was 14 and who I was dating first became of interest to the world, I thought so too. A lot changes in 13 years."
JC couldn't believe what he was hearing. All he could think was that Megan was going to be crushed. "So you're not then. Straight."
"No. In fact, I'm very, very crooked." He touched JC's forearm with two fingers and slowly trailed them toward his elbow as he spoke. Even through his thermal shirt, JC could feel the heat of Justin's hand. His heart pounded.
"This is a bad idea," he said, as Justin stepped forward. It really was. He was only going to end up with his heart broken. He knew it.
Justin placed his other hand on JC's cheek. "I don't agree."
JC's eyes fluttered shut. It was getting harder to keep his brain functioning. "Then it's a dream." This couldn't be happening.
"Could be," Justin replied. His lips brushed against JC's softly. "Just go with it." His mouth opened and JC responded. Justin's hand drifted from his cheek to the back of JC's head, massaging touch matching the beautiful rhythm of his lips. The music still pounded through the room as they kissed.
Justin Timberlake was a damn good kisser.
Tentatively, JC rested his hands on Justin's hips, holding him close as his mouth explored. All he could think was happiness as Justin's tongue touched his. He twisted his head to the side and sucked in a breath as Justin's mouth pulled away from his and left a trail of soft kisses across JC's jaw.
JC felt like he was soaring as Justin's mouth did incredible things to his ear. When Justin's mouth came back to his, JC kissed him without abandon, amazed that this was really happening. He pressed forward, twisting back so Justin was pressed against the counter. Leaning into Justin, JC felt his arousal growing.
Suddenly, the oven dinged, rocking JC back to reality. He drew back, breathing heavily. "I need to, um, get that."
"Right." Justin stood frozen as JC stepped away, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I should probably let you finish cooking, and um."
JC reached for him before he could leave. "Stay. It won't take long."
The smile that blossomed on Justin's face was enough to melt even the coldest of hearts. "Sure." He stepped back, sliding into a chair on the other side of the island to watch JC finish dinner. "But we're gonna finish that up later, right?"
"Oh yeah," JC said too quickly, and laughed as he started to chop the squash and dump it into the blender.
He couldn't wait until later.
Justin's phone rang during dinner, and after glancing at it with annoyance, flipped it open and wandered away. JC ate slowly, but when Justin didn't return he started to wash up. He carefully wrapped Justin's remaining soup and set it aside to reheat later if he was still hungry.
Megan beat her curfew home, and moped her way to bed. JC was just about to head up himself when Justin reemerged from the front rooms of the hotel.
"Sorry," he said. "My agent goes postal when I let his calls go to voicemail."
"That's fine," JC said. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's just." Justin ran his hand over his short hair in frustration. "They want me back in LA, and I told them I'd be gone at least a month, so it pissed me off that they're even asking."
JC just nodded. Justin noted how he stood, one foot on the bottom stair. "Are you going to bed?"
"Not yet. I was going to go up and light a fire. Do you," he began, not sure how to proceed, "Do you want to come?"
Tension sloughed off of Justin as he smiled at the offer. "Yeah, that sounds great."
It was only halfway up the back staircase that JC realized he'd never invited someone to the private family quarters of the Inn before.
In the morning, Megan caught them making out by the dishwasher, and the little gasping sounds she made sent them leaping apart.
"Um, I'm gonna, just, um. Bye!" Blushing a furious red, she bolted out the back door.
Justin looked at JC in horror. "She knew you were gay, right?"
JC snorted out a laugh and turned to watch through the window as she raced down the driveway to the bus stop. "Yeah, but she didn't know you were." He glanced back at Justin, who was gnawing on his lip.
"She's not going to say anything, right?"
JC shook his head. "I don't think so. She didn't tell anyone you were here, right? I just. I wish I'd told her first."
Justin came up behind him and rubbed his shoulders, pressing a kiss to the side of his neck tenderly. "Do you need to like, go get her at school?"
"No," JC turned. "We'll talk when she gets home tonight. Besides," he said, turning back to the remaining dishes. "I've got to get a room ready for guests arriving today."
Justin scowled at him. "Guests? Who's coming?"
"A couple that's been here a few times before. They like to come up and do Christmas shopping at the local craft shows for their moms about this time every year."
Justin didn't look appeased. "Are they gonna be here long?"
With a laugh, JC realized what was bothering Justin. "Only two nights. And you can go back to hiding in your room. I'll bring you food so you don't starve."
Shaking his head, Justin wrapped his arms around JC. "It's not that. But I just realized," he said with a kiss, "how good it is," and shared another kiss, "to do this. And you invite company."
JC laughed, tracing a knuckle down the scruff on Justin's cheek. "I didn't invite them. It's an Inn. It's how I earn a living."
Sighing, Justin leaned his forehead against JC's. "It's just so comfortable here. I guess I'd hoped it'd last a little bit longer."
"Tell you what," JC said with a grin. "You work on your album during the day. I'll play the good host. Come down for dinner, and back up to my rooms tonight."
"What about Megan?" Justin asked. His concern touched JC.
"I'll talk to her." He knew she wasn't upset as much as shocked, probably worse than he'd been the night Justin had first kissed him.
Kissing Justin briefly, JC stepped back. "I've got work to do."
"Right." Justin let out a long sigh. He started humming as he walked away, and JC soon heard a new melody traveling from the piano in the front room.
JC was waiting for Megan when she got home that afternoon. Sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, he smiled at her as she came in the door and dropped her bag.
"Hey Meg." He tried to gauge her expression, but she took her time taking off her coat and hanging it in the closet.
When she finally turned, she smiled at him. "Sorry about this morning."
"Nothing to apologize for." He kicked out a chair for her to sit in. She curled one foot under her as she sank gracefully. "I'm sorry I didn't warn you. It's sort of. I don't even know what it is, but it took me by surprise."
"Yeah, me too." She studied him carefully. "So, what, he's gay?"
"He says that he is. He hasn't said much about it except that what the media reports isn't always true. But he, um. He made the first move." He was blushing, not really comfortable having this conversation with a fifteen year old.
"Duh." She looked at him patronizingly. "JC, I've known you almost my entire life, and I've never known you to even talk to a guy like that, let alone make a move. And I mean, that's with normal people, not super-famous megastars."
He smiled at that. "He's a good person. I don't really know if this is going to go anywhere, but." He shrugged, not knowing how to explain. "It's not a groupie thing," he finally said, hoping that would be enough to convey the idea that it wasn't all about sex.
Megan seemed to get it, and reached across the table to wrap her hands around his. "Just promise me you won't let him hurt you. Cause he'll have to deal with me if he does."
He squeezed her fingers and smiled. "I promise," he said.
A car door slammed outside, and two male voices began bickering. "I think Chris and Lance are here."
Megan smiled at that. "Do you think they brought the dogs?"
JC secretly hoped they hadn't, but he sent Megan outside to check and help them with their bags. He gave them each a hug as they came in the front door in a whirlwind of energy. They were both short, but that's where their similarities ended. Lance had carefully trimmed blonde hair and biceps that could rival Justin's. His jeans were designer, his zip-front jacket right off of the runway. Chris looked like he cut his dark hair with a lawn mower, and was proud of his beer belly under an old band T-shirt and thermal. Thankfully, there were no dogs.
JC loved when they came to stay. They would sit up laughing in the main room, full of tales of life in the city.
Justin kept out of site on the first day of their visit. JC knocked on his door, but he hadn't answered. The guitar music trickled furiously down the stairs as JC left a breakfast tray and gathered the remains of the previous night's dinner.
Humming to himself, he went about cleaning the window panes in the front room. They were doing well enough that he could contract with a cleaning service, but he didn't want to incur a lot of unnecessary expenses. He studied the open space out the side window. Someday, he'd like to try a vegetable garden there. He spent a fortune at the local farm stands, and growing his own might save enough to justify having someone else vacuum and dust.
JC was just about finished when he felt hands grab him by the hips, scaring him enough to make him jump.
"Jesus, Justin." Letting his heart rate come back to normal, JC settled back against Justin's chest. "You scared the hell out of me."
"Yeah, you were daydreaming." Justin kissed him softly on the cheek. "Do you know what you were humming?"
JC tried to place the melody but couldn't put a name to it. "Just something I've had stuck in my head."
Softly, Justin started singing, gently lyrics about the many ways that love would change but never fade away. JC recognized the melody of the chorus was the same song he'd had stuck in his head for days. "What is that?"
"The song I was writing last week," Justin answered, slowing stepping back to spin JC in his arms. "Hearing you humming along to that just totally made my day."
"Hmmm." JC kissed him deeply, realizing that the 24 hours since their last kiss had been too long. "Want to see if I can make it even better?"
Justin's eyes lit up, but he glanced around guiltily. "What about your guests? Megan?"
"Megan's at school. Chris and Lance went out antiquing or something. They shouldn't be back until dinner." He pressed closer to Justin, hoping he would get the hint.
Justin studied him for a long moment, and JC was suddenly worried he'd moved too fast. What if Justin wasn't as confident in this as he'd seemed. What if he really had been straight up until now, or at least pretending, and had never been with a guy before. He started backpedaling, quickly. "I mean, we could just."
Justin quieted him with a kiss. "We could just go upstairs to my room and have sex."
JC gulped. "That was my idea, yes."
Justin drew back and took him by the hand, guiding him through the dining room and kitchen to the backstairs. They made it up one flight before Justin turned and pressed JC against the wall.
"My room's closer," JC panted, but Justin was undeterred, leaving sloppy kisses along JC's neck as he started up the stairs again. JC let himself be dragged along behind.
"I've got a bigger bed," was all he said, and JC managed not to trip up the stairs the rest of the way up. At the top, Justin flipped the deadbolt lock on the door and pulled his shirt over his head in one fell swoop.
JC was a romantic at heart, and if he'd thought this through ahead of time, he probably would have done it differently. But it had been so long since he'd done this, his body was operating on overdrive. He pulled his shirt off too, tossing it to a chair in the corner before tugging Justin back to him. Bare skinned, Justin was flawless, and JC bent to taste the cut line of his collarbone and the dark tinged nipple on his smooth chest. He toyed it into a tight peak with his tongue, then sampled the other until Justin was panting heavily. When JC stood to kiss him again, Justin's eyes were hooded and dark with arousal.
He pushed JC back forcefully until his thighs were at the edge of the bed. The high mattress meant jumping up to sit, and Justin's hands were busy at his belt before he'd even settled. He lifted his hips helpfully as Justin tugged away his jeans and boxers, watching as Justin's own dropped before he jumped up with JC.
He'd only gotten a second to really look, but the image of Justin standing nude before him burned into his brain, unlikely to ever be forgotten. If he wasn't hard before, that sent his arousal to astronomical levels.
Justin's grip was strong as he held JC's side and kissed him. JC bent a knee, letting Justin's body rest against his hip. They curled together, Justin thrusting down onto JC's pelvis, his erection hot and wet where it crushed against JC's.
"How far do you want to go?" JC whispered as Justin's hand moved north to trace the contours of his chest. He hissed in a breath as the back of Justin's fingernails raked across his nipple.
"Do you bottom?"
Justin wouldn't look JC in the eye when he said it, which was a little concerning, but JC managed a shaky "Yeah."
Justin kissed him again with renewed forcefulness, and JC felt himself teetering on the brink of explosion. It had been too long, and wasn't going to last. "Condom?" he asked, hoping Justin carried protection. There was no way he wanted to dash downstairs right then.
Justin was off the bed in a shot, practically leaping into the bathroom and back again with a box of condoms and what looked like a brand new bottle of lube. He got one on in record time, and JC slid back so that his head was propped up by the mountains of pillows on the bed.
"Like this?" Justin asked, kneeling up between JC's thighs. JC couldn't help but reach for him, stroking him gently until Justin moaned. It was a sound more beautiful than his music.
"You've done this before, right?" JC was a little nervous that Justin was going to thrust in as if he were a woman. He hated to pause when his body urged him to stop thinking.
"Yeah. I mean, a while ago." He popped the cap on the lube and drizzled some on his fingers, stroking gently. As he leaned forward, JC pressed a hand on his chest to hold him back.
"Fingers," he panted, leaning up to kiss Justin. He could tell that nerves were rising. Justin kissed him back feverishly, pulling away only when he ran out of breath.
JC felt one finger teasing at his entrance, pressing inside. It had been so long, he tried not to clench and at the same time to remember to breathe. When Justin added another with a twist, JC could have sworn he saw stars.
"Enough," he cried, and Justin pulled back with alarm. JC opened his eyes and smiled. "No, I mean. Enough of that. I'm ready. Just go slow."
Justin shuffled forward on his knees and pressed in slowly. JC's breath hissed out between his teeth at a stretch of pain. It had been too long. He pulled at Justin's neck until Justin leaned down for a kiss, giving him time to accommodate to the intrusion. When the burning faded, he slid a hand to Justin's hip and urged him forward.
The pace was unfathomable. JC's mind was reeling as Justin fused their lips together, lifting one of JC's legs at the knee so he could press deeper inside. He felt an explosion building inside him, leaving him dangling on the precipice of control.
It was Justin who came first, muscles in his arms straining, stomach muscles quivering as he thrust deeply with a long, soulful groan. JC panted as Justin's thrusts slowed, only to gasp when Justin's hand clenched over his dick. He tugged and twisted for only a moment before JC felt the pulse of orgasm.
His heart beat madly in his chest as Justin slowed his hand and finally slid away, disposing of the condom and reaching for a fistful of tissues from the nightstand. They cleaned up without speaking. Justin collapsed next to him, head sharing a pillow.
He turned to look at JC with a goofy smile on his face. "I really hope that's not part of the standard hospitality here."
JC laughed, rolling and reaching for Justin. "Only for our extra special guests."
"Well. Maybe I'll just have to stay, then." Justin's eyes were big and sincere, and JC gave himself a moment of hope before scoffing.
"Right. Give up everything to stay here in Vermont. Get serious."
"I am." Justin almost pouted that JC didn't believe him, which only served to annoy.
"Justin, you can't stay here. As much as I love having you around, this isn't your life."
"You gave everything up," Justin accused.
"Justin, I sang in bars and lived below the poverty line. It's not exactly the same thing."
He couldn't argue with that, so Justin only rolled over on his back, sighing as he stared at the ceiling. "It's not fair that I met you and I have to leave."
"Life's not fair, Justin. Let's just enjoy the time you're here, okay?" He traced circles on Justin's shoulder until Justin answered with a heartless shrug. JC pressed a kiss to the curve of his bicep and tried to smile. "Up to another round before company comes back?"
That got a smile out of Justin, who turned with a wicked gleam in his eye. "How do you feel about the shower?"
Dinner that night was a raucous affair. JC served his favorite apple pork chops, and dined with Lance and Chris, who were full of stories about their day.
"So, Chris decided to fuck with this guy and starts screaming with this awful accent 'It is not Louis XIII! Louis XIII would NOT have had such terrible taste!' And the guy had no idea what to do, cause the other customers were getting suspicious of what they were looking at, so the guy finally gave him 15% off just to shut him up and get him out of there."
JC laughed, and Megan was almost doubled over giggling. Chris puffed up his chest and mimicked buffing his nails on his shirt. "I feel it's my purpose in this world to annoy the geriatrics until the unfortunate time that I become one."
JC only rolled his eyes, taking another bite of Parker House roll. "You guys need to come up here more often. You keep things crazy."
"You just need the money. It's dead here. But hey, who's the mystery guest?" Lance asked.
JC almost choked on his wine. "What?"
"The car in the parking lot. Unless Meg aged double last year and started driving." He winked at Megan, who flushed at the attention.
"Um, just some guy who wanted to get away for a while. He's in the third floor suite, you know."
Lance and Chris exchanged a look. "Some guy, huh? And prospect?"
Megan barely contained a giggle, and busied herself clearing the empty plates. JC tossed his napkin on the table and rose quickly. "It's nothing like that," he said, hopefully sincerely. "Just give me a minute and I'll get the dessert."
He noticed the look they exchanged as he escaped back to the kitchen, but thankfully they didn't say a word.
Chris and Lance left the next morning, and JC busied himself cleaning out their room. Justin was waiting for him in the kitchen when he returned from the laundry.
"Hi," he smiled, amazed at how beautiful Justin was. Though he'd grown used to him every day, he was still marveled at the tug in his stomach when Justin was near. He was afraid once Justin left that he'd never get that again. "Do you need me to change the linens in your room?
Justin laughed at that. "Yeah, I came hunting for you because I wanted clean sheets." He caught JC in his arms and kissed him sweetly. "I'm getting really sick of those four walls and was hoping for some piano time."
JC kissed him once more before stepping away. "Absolutely. It was weird not having you there playing all the time." He went back to work, happy to have Justin's little pieces of music filtering through the house.
It was more of a song, now. JC loved the twisting harmonies that he heard. He sang a long, recognizing a few strands of words, as he prepared lunch for them both.
He called to Justin as he pulled the grilled ham and cheese sandwiches off of the grill, scooping a small amount of salad onto the side of the plate. Justin came in and took the plate, and together they sat at the table.
Justin smiled at him around a mouthful of cheese. "Dude, this is so domestic."
JC swallowed and wiped his mouth on a napkin. "Must seem pretty boring to you."
Justin stared at him across the table. "Do you remember what I said that day on the porch?"
JC thought back, but he couldn't pinpoint one thing in particular. When he didn't answer, Justin continued. "I said the one thing I really wanted, the one thing I didn't have was a home. And it's not just that I feel that here. It's you, JC. There's something about you, from the first time I saw you the night I got here, then you all efficient serving breakfast and just. There's something there, JC."
JC stared quietly at Justin. "There's something there. And not with the person I used to see on television, but with the guy who staying here and writing this gorgeous music, and going to Megan's field hockey games. But Justin, you're leaving. And I don't want to spend your last week here arguing about that."
"Maybe I'll never finish the album," Justin said, forking a huge bite of salad into his mouth. JC didn't say anything, so he continued. "Maybe I'll just have to stay here working on it forever."
"Would that make you happy?" he asked. "Is that what you really want?"
"I want you," Justin answered. "I thought you wanted me too."
JC sighed and set down his fork. He rested his elbows on the table and folded his hands. "It's not that I don't want you. I want you too much. You know," he said with a laugh, "after Megan caught us in the kitchen that morning, she warned me not to get my heart broken. I think I'm almost at the point where that could happen."
Emotion welled in Justin's eyes. "I think leaving here is going to be the hardest thing I've ever done."
JC slid to the seat beside him and took his hands. "We'll figure it out. But no more crazy ideas about giving up music, okay?"
"Do you ever regret it?" Justin asked quietly. JC looked up from their joined hands and tried to smile.
"I miss the music. But I don't miss the way the industry made me feel about myself. I'm happier here." Happier with you, he thought.
Justin kissed JC's fingers lightly. "Do you think you could help me with something this afternoon?"
"This song is almost done, but I want to hear the harmony. Do you think you'd sing with me?"
It was hardest thing he could have asked, but JC would have given him anything at that moment. "Of course I will."
Together, they walked to the piano, where Justin had scrawled messy sheet music for the harmony. He pointed out the line and began to play, singing along. JC came in where noted, and their voices blended into something heavenly.
That night, JC took the stairs up to Justin's room and slept peacefully in his arms. All was right in his world, if only for a little while.
Justin came with him to Megan's last game of the season. The weather had turned bitterly cold and the first snow had fallen. Justin shivered in his borrowed parka. The 'winter coat' he'd brought wasn't warm enough in sub-freezing temperatures.
Joey and Kelly had saved them seats in the crowded bleachers, and they squeezed in just before the game began. Joey bounced with energy, nudging him excitedly.
"Dude! I told you!"
JC shot him a look that clearly said "shut up." He continued to grin as Justin cheered when Megan took to the field.
Two days later, he found Justin packing and knew it was all over.
"My agent called," Justin said as he pulled shirts down from their hangers and folded them neatly. "Basically, I'm in deep shit if I don't get back to LA in the next 24 hours."
"Oh," JC breathed. He sank to the bed beside Justin's open suitcase. "Do you need a ride to the airport?" he asked dully. It couldn't be over, not so soon.
"No, I've got the car." He stacked another shirt, then walked around the bed to stand between JC's thighs. "I don't want to leave, you know that right?"
JC let out a sigh. "I know. But this is just the way things are. And you can come back, anytime. If the Inn's booked, you can stay with me."
"Deal." Justin looked at him for a long time before pulling him into a hug. "This album's gonna be the best I've ever done, because it's from the heart. And it's because of you."
JC nodded gravely and tried to smile. "I should let you pack." He tried to get off the bed, but Justin wouldn't step out of the way. "Justin," he breathed.
Justin took his face between his palms and kissed him deeply. JC felt a fissure in his heart and knew the worse thing possible was coming true. "Don't say goodbye," Justin whispered. "I don't think I'll make it out the door if you say goodbye."
Slowly he pulled back, letting JC slip out of the room. In the hallway, JC leaned against the wall and banged it futilely with his fist. He'd waited so long to love someone, and it hadn't been enough. He needed more time.
Justin was gone when Megan got home that afternoon, and she was extra helpful to JC, cleaning out Justin's room so that he didn't have to go in there and be reminded of what he'd lost. JC tried to busy himself in the kitchen, but he burned the chicken he'd pulled out for dinner, scorching it beyond edibility. Frustrated, he threw the entire pan into the sink and gripped the edge, trying to win back some self control.
The phone rang once, and he figured Megan had answered it in the office. She yelled down for him a moment later.
"Take a message," he called back. He wasn't in the mood to deal with guests right then.
"I think you need to take this," she responded. Gritting his teeth, he picked up the extension in the kitchen.
"This is JC Chasez."
"I'm hoping you have a room available next weekend." A familiar voice traveled through the phone, much lighter than the last time he'd heard it.
"Yeah. You didn't think I'd be able to stay away for long, did you?"
"But I thought your agent needed you back in LA." JC stood up straight, confused. A part of him was just happy to hear Justin's voice again. The more rational part told him that dragging out their parting would only hurt more in the end.
"He did. He does. I'm on the plane right now. But when we land, I'm gonna deal with the stuff he's complaining about and then I'm gonna come back."
"Justin," JC began, but Justin cut him off before he could continue.
"I'm not being irrational. I can work out of New York just as well as I can work out of LA. I'll do the mixing for the album there. It's only a few hours away."
JC couldn't figure out a response. "Are you sure?" was all he could answer.
"I'm sure. Are you sure? The paparazzi will find me there eventually. It's going to complicate your life."
JC imagined reporters camped out on the front lawn, or following him to the farmers market with a laugh. "Justin, you're not even out."
"I will be. Eventually. I'm not going to have some sort of grand public announcement, but it'll come out. And I'm okay with that. I want to bring my mom. She's gonna love the Inn as much as I do." The happiness in his voice was infectious, as hope began to bubble.
Mind spinning, it all started to click in to place for JC. "Justin."
Chapter 2: Epilogue
“What time is it?” Megan asked, looking up from her calculus homework at the kitchen table.
“Seven fifteen,” JC said as he dried the last pot and stowed it in the drawer under the stove. “Ten minutes after you last asked me.”
She smiled at him. “Am I that pathetic?”
“Nah.” JC hung up the dish clothes and leaned back against he sink. “I’m clock-watching just as much as you are.”
Megan’s eyebrows bounced up and down, making JC laugh. “Get your mind out of my love life and back on your homework. Dartmouth doesn’t want slackers.”
Her smile grew even wider. “I still can’t decide what to take next fall. I mean, getting core classes out of the way is probably a good idea, but I really want to get started on the business classes too.”
“You’ll figure it out.” JC glanced at the clock again. Six twenty. A car drove by, but when JC glanced out the window, it was a pick-up truck. Not Justin.
Megan slammed her book shut and declared “Done!”
“Now, see, all of your homework is done on Friday and you can enjoy the weekend.” JC watched her stuff her books into her backpack.
“I never understood why people say that. I mean, homework is a pain, but it’s not enough to ruin the weekend.” She smiled at him as she dropped her bag into the back hall under the coat rack.
Another car rolled down the road, and JC turned just in time to see Justin’s black Mercedes turn into the driveway.
“Is that him?” Megan asked, and JC nodded. He watched as she grabbed her jacket and a paper off of the counter and run outside to meet Justin.
JC followed, sliding his arms into a denim jacket. He watched as Megan showed Justin the acceptance letter, and Justin swept her up into his arms, spinning her around in excitement. He dropped her to her feet and grabbed his bag from the trunk. Justin kept an arm around Megan’s shoulder as they walked up to the house together.
“So, Dartmouth, huh? We’re gonna have to keep this brat around on weekends?”
Megan giggled and JC grinned. “Guess we’re gonna have to go ahead with that addition after all.”
“With a studio for Justin, right?” Megan grinned, still holding her acceptance letter proudly.
“Right. Hey, go in and heat up that plate for Justin, okay?” As she ducked into the house, JC reached out for a hug. Justin came into his arms. “She’s been waiting to show you that for three days.”
“I’m so happy for her,” Justin said. “And hey, I’m getting closer to getting the band here for her graduation.”
“Nice.” JC took the bag from Justin and stepped back, letting him in the door. “Hey,” he said, as Justin passed by. He captured him in a kiss, warm and sweet. “Welcome home.”