The Bitch
by Betty Plotnick

"Are you scared?" Timberlake whispered in his ear, the heavy fingers of one hand skating under the hem of his t-shirt. JC held himself carefully still, tensing the muscles of his stomach. He was ticklish around the waist, and it was too soon to give that away. He'd hold onto it until some night when he needed a charm, and on that night he would give in and giggle under those fingers - - they'd be bolder by that time, confident of winning JC's approval -- and Timberlake would be charmed by the show of weakness, which he wouldn't call *weakness* in his head, but *closeness* or *trust.*

Not all men were like that, half in love from the first smoke-and-snowfall touch of JC's fingers on theirs. Some of them were just selfish, grubbing bastards -- too many of them, really. But there were always those few who were a little bit special, and they made things easier.

In here, JC had only found the one, but that was all right, that was all he needed. Justin Timberlake was going to make things *much* easier for him.

"Are you scared?" he asked again, lowering his face into the side of JC's neck. His voice was cracking from the strain of speaking so far under his breath, and even so, they could both hear Kirkpatrick shifting restlessly on the bunk above them, and his low hisses of frustration at being kept awake by the slow shimmy of the metal bedframe. Tomorrow, he'd probably want to trade beds with JC, which was what JC had wanted from the very beginning.

Scared? JC chewed his lip, and rubbed his cheek against the warm, velveteen buzz of Timberlake's hair. Scared. Oh, little boy. Yeah, of everything but you.

JC rested a kiss against Timberlake's scalp. "You seem nice," he said, letting his voice grow wistful and his breath puff hot into Timberlake's ear. "I think we're going to be good together."

Timberlake rocked against him again, long legs pressing harder, prying JC's legs open wider. "Oh, God," he said, wet and sloppy against JC's neck. His hand was too big, Timberlake too strong to be truly gentle as he spread his palm across JC's cheek and held him there, but JC swallowed the sea-salt of memories and forced himself to attend to the present moment.

He was new here, but not stupid, and JC had no illusions about his advantages, or his limitations; he would not survive prison if he couldn't be attentive. Mindful, that's what they called it in yoga class, and on the streets, they didn't call it anything at all. For any hustler who lasted, it was a way of life, like having a heartbeat, so intrinsic that it was never named, so essential that if you needed to be taught, you probably wouldn't live long enough to finish the lesson.

JC moved an arm around Timberlake's back and drew his fingernails across his shoulderblade, shocking an oddly high-pitched grunt out of him before he muffled it by biting into JC's shoulder. "Take it easy, honey, take it easy. Hey, relax, all right?" JC let his fingers drift spiderwebs across the back of Timberlake's head until he felt some of the bolting tension ease out of the kid's body. The wet patch of JC's t-shirt where Timberlake's mouth had sealed onto him stung cold against his skin. "Shhh. Shhh. Just tell me what you want to do, okay? Anything you want."

Timberlake put his face down flat against JC's chest and laughed. "Anything I want? Okay, in that case, I want to go home."

"Shhh!" he said, sharper now. Kirkpatrick was awake for sure, and who could tell in the odd slanted light from the guard station outside, but the breathing sounded like at least someone else was -- Bass, from the sound of it, maybe. The first thing he would have to teach this kid was when to keep his mouth fucking shut.

He kept shushing, soothing with voice and the tips of his fingers, until the moment on the edge had passed, and Timberlake's body was moving again along his, in faint but eager pulses. "Ohhh, God," he groaned again, threading his fingers into JC's hair and kissing his rambling way across JC's face. "Yeah, can we -- you mean that? Anything?"

JC had to laugh; he couldn't stop himself. That was how naive he was, Justin Timberlake with his tattoo and the scars on his knuckles and his backwoods accent. Asking a bone-deep bitch like JC Chasez for *permission.* "Anything, sweetheart," JC promised him. "That's how it works."


Back it up.

That morning he was on a bus, not too different from the Greyhound he took from L.A. back to Florida, except that there was a metal grille between him and the driver, and the five passengers were wearing matching orange and shiny steel shackles, and there were other men in blue, armed, and this time JC knew that the place he was going would be just as bad as the place he was leaving. Other than that, it could have been any bus in the world.

JC was the first one on, and he remembered how he had roommates in L.A., and they would tease JC about always being the last person ready to go anywhere. None of them had been there for his trial, or even written a letter to his parents, but that's all right. They probably never even heard he'd been arrested. California was a long way away.

One of the guards walked in front of another prisoner without looking while he was getting on the bus. "Sorry, man," the prisoner said, with the perfunctory but not insincere tone of a person who was polite without conscious thought. JC couldn't place his accent -- not deep South, but maybe Tennessee or Arkansas. He was young, but not a boy -- probably clocking through the last of his teens -- and he was tall and built, but in an active, natural sort of way, the kind of body that suggested a boxer or a basketball player, not the kind that suggested hours upon hours of his life wasted in some dingy gym somewhere.

"Just sit down," the guard said, in a cigarette-phlegm voice, and shoved him. JC saw him tense, and take an automatic measure of the man, and then JC saw him remember that he was chained and helpless. He saw the anger in his eyes, and saw him control it. Proud, JC thought, but disciplined.

If he'd met the kid on the streets, JC wouldn't have bet the price of a cup of coffee on his ability to earn a living. Not because he didn't look like he could make heads turn and dicks stand up -- he did -- but because he didn't look like the kind of person who could settle easily into being someone he wasn't. But JC wasn't looking for another talented whore, subtle and secretive, flexible in more ways than one. No, he needed something else entirely.

It was a risk to choose that particular something. JC had planned to find someone inside, someone who was already established within the system, but of course that meant that he would probably have to fight someone else for access, and his ultimate goal was *not* to fight, not if he had any other options at all.

Once the bus was underway, JC leaned forward as far as he could, resting his chin on the back of Mr. Boyfriend Material's seat. "Are you okay?" he said, because that close, JC could see that he wasn't just staring blankly out the window. JC could see that he was grieving.

"Great," he said bitterly. "Really just...great."

That was worrisome. If the kid was going to fall apart before they even got off the damn bus, then what possible good could he be? "Hey, it's all right," JC said softly. "Are you going for long?"

"Twenty years and I'm up for parole."

Sound investment, thought JC, and tried not to think about when he got to be that kind of person, who measured everyone in terms of risk and benefit. "Sounds like a murder charge," he said, probing the wound as gently as he could.

"Yeah." He sighed a little, his breath staining the window. "Yeah, he's dead, all right."

"Somebody you knew?"

"No. Well. Before I killed him, you mean? No."

"I'm Josh Chasez. But -- well, JC. I've been using JC for a while now." Only with his tricks, because it made him a little nauseous to hear them crying out his real name, the name his parents used when they called to ask how he was, if he was eating well, if he'd found an agent yet, if he was happy. JC was safer. JC was the only acting job he ever got in Hollywood.

"Justin Timberlake. Nice to meet you."

JC almost laughed. Automatic-pilot manners. Probably the kind of hellion hometown boy who called everyone sir and ma'am during the day, then got shit-faced with the rest of his trailer park friends and went out smashing those same people's mailboxes at night for no real reason. "Nicer than you know, maybe," he said, closer to Justin Timberlake's ear. One of the guards was glaring suspiciously at them, but JC ignored him; they hadn't been told not to talk to each other, and two of the others were also talking further back, the blonde one and the short one. Timberlake turned his head to get JC in his line of sight, but that put his cheek almost against JC's mouth, and he jerked away quickly, looking back out the window. "Don't be scared," JC murmured silkily.

"I'm not scared."

"But you're not ready for this either, are you?"

"What, and you are? This is just spring break for you?"

"Sweetheart, this isn't going to be as much of a change in my lifestyle as you might think. It's like everyplace else in the world, right? People are people. They want what they want."

Carefully, Timberlake turned his head back toward JC, staying as far out of range as he could without appearing to try. "Okay, I'll bite. What do they want?"

"They want to stay safe, and they want to get laid."

That made him grin. Much nicer than the broodiness, JC thought. Very nice, in fact. "What, that's it, huh?"

"That's it. That's all. Sex and money. It's basic biology, right? Fuck to make babies, everything else to provide for them. And for you. So you can, you know. Live longer, fuck more, raise more babies. Evolution in action."

"Yeah, well. I'm not going to be doing much of any of that for a while. We're sort of on evolutionary hiatus, know what I'm saying?"

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-one. Huh, you thought I was younger, didn't you?"

JC shrugged. "You're young enough. Young enough that I bet you still spend ninety percent of your life wondering where your action's going to come from next."

His face hardened, and his shoulders shifted back stiffly. "I have a girlfriend."

"Ah," JC said wisely. "You're the faithful type." Timberlake nodded, and JC tipped his head so that his cheek rested on the back of the vinyl seat and his eyes were turned upwards toward Timberlake's face. "That's good. That's what I was hoping for, actually."

He knew that was the moment when Justin Timberlake understood everything, even though Justin didn't admit it for another two hours.


Timberlake used his mouth like this was a wine tasting, lingering over each piece of skin he kissed, touching the tip of his tongue to it experimentally, breathing in deeply. Testing the bouquet, JC thought, looking for motif and undertones of oak and blackberry.

He liked that idea of himself. Undertones of oak and blackberry. Strong, sweet. Splinters and brambles. He wondered if there was a lyric in there somewhere, or if it was, like many of JC's ideas, just too damn weird.

"Jesus," he said on a whimper, when those slick, blood-hot lips found the hollow of his throat.

He twisted his neck under JC's palm, so that his chin was braced against JC's sternum and his cheek was cradled in the curve of JC's throat. "You okay?" he asked, his hand smoothing up and down against JC's side, hidden beneath his shirt. Holy shit, JC realized with a kind of dropping feeling, he hadn't even gotten JC's *shirt* off yet. All of this, the roaring and strobing in his head, the sheet lightning flashing across his body -- all of it was just from Justin's lips on his neck and his face.

"I'm okay," he said hoarsely. "No. 'S good, don't stop."

Timberlake didn't just jerk the shirt off of him; he folded it back as he went, and he was right behind, scenting and nuzzling at the skin and muscle beneath. Somehow JC ended up holding the rolled length of his shirt; he wrapped each end around his wrist and hooked his thumbs underneath, fisting the thin fabric tighter every time the kid's tongue meandered along his body. "Don't stop," JC whispered, almost inaudibly. He let one foot slip off the edge of the narrow bunk, sweeping along the linoleum floor, and wrapped his other leg around Timberlake's waist, pushing the smooth weight of his abs down tighter against JC's hard-on. Justin's mouth fluttered soft and scorching around the outside of one of his nipples, and God, but this was unfair. He'd been ready to need Timberlake, or somebody like him, but not this kind of need.

Curling the tips of just two fingers in the waistband of JC's scrubs, Justin tugged, and the sensation of the film of sweat that had blossomed on JC's hip dissolving into the cool, artificial air raised goosebumps down JC's leg. Justin pulled his body away, his hand still wrapped around the upper ridge of JC's hipbone. Sitting back on his knees, he bent over to fit his tongue into the exposed hollow where bone receded from skin. JC's mouth dropped open, but it was as if he'd been smacked across the room, all the breath forced from him at once, and he couldn't make a single sound.

"Is this good?" Timberlake whispered, kissing along the flare of bone.

JC groped for clarity; there was a script here somewhere, and if he could just think, around the edges of Timberlake's hand on his thigh and his lips climbing toward JC's lowest ribs -- if he could just *think* --

Good. Yes. Does that feel good, baby? Do you like that? You want it, baby? Tell me how bad you want it.... Right, right. JC closed his eyes and got to work.

"Yeah, oh, yeah, that feels great. Right there, just like that. Mmm, yes, you're *good* at this." JC could usually do a little better than that, his moans silkier and his voice more of a purr, but everything was coming out taut and brittle this time, and his tongue was just clumsy enough that acting chops were a pipe dream. Even though the role he was playing wasn't much of a stretch.

"Hey, Casanova," said an unexpected voice from somewhere that JC's staggering brain couldn't quite locate. "Can you hurry up and fuck him so we can all get some sleep?"

"Amen." Bass' voice from across the room, low and weighty with wry humor.

Timberlake stretched out one arm, his tattoo a black-against-dark shape in the bad lighting, his middle finger raised so that Kirkpatrick could presumably see it from the bunk above. "As intriguing as that little threesome would be, I'll take a pass."

Timberlake bent his head again, and JC got a full breath of air, oxygen all the way up to his brain. Bad idea, he remembered, and he caught Timberlake's face in his hand, thumb beneath Justin's chin, the tips of his fingers resting against his lower lip, almost inside his mouth. "Let me," he whispered. "I should be -- you just -- lie down."

He liked the way Justin turned inside the circle of his arms. It was like dancing, ballroom dancing, the synchronized glide of their long bodies as they traded places. He couldn't help the kiss, and the flutter of their tongues against each other was a fainter echo of the throb of JC's blood underneath his skin.

Bad idea, something in JC's skull knew. Huge mistake. He stroked Timberlake's warm face, his palm sticky with sweat and catching against Timberlake's skin. He drew his fingertips around behind Timberlake's ear, fit his other hand into the small of his back, let his tongue press down further into Timberlake's mouth, like he was putting down a taproot and letting it deepen into Timberlake's body.

Huge mistake. Funny how the exact same thing that made hooking so easy to get into at first (because it won't be so bad, because he's cute anyway, and you never know, maybe you'd have gone for him all on your own, maybe if he'd bought you dinner instead of slipping a fifty right into the front pocket of your jeans, your night would have ended exactly the same way) can make it harder and harder as time goes on.

(Because it isn't so bad, because you remember what it was like when hands and tongues and heartbeats meant something, because you never know, and you never will know, which pieces of you turn him on, the smile or the sure thing or the transaction itself or the purity or the body or the friction or serendipity, and because you never seem to get used often enough or hard enough to make you forget that once upon a time you wanted a boyfriend, and you thought it would feel a


Back it up.

Last week, he was wearing a suit and sitting in an office. Everyone around him was older, well over forty -- his parents, his lawyer, the Assistant State's Attorney. He hadn't felt young in years, not really, not until then.

"Josh," his father said, soberly. JC imagined that he heard a break in it, something to match the quiver and break of his own heart, but it might have been just his imagination. His parents had both always been strong. "Are you sure about this?"

"I'm sure," he said. "I'll take it."

His mother began to cry, but she didn't try to talk him out of it. Strong.

The plea was aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, down from attempted murder. If he was lucky, he wouldn't serve more than ten years, although JC tried not to think about that, since he didn't remember himself ever being lucky before and didn't want to start banking on it now.

His lawyer, Mrs. Jefferson, shook his hand afterward and said, "You surprised me."

"Do you think it was a mistake?" his father asked.

She hesitated a moment, and then said, "I wish I could tell you it was. I wish I thought the trial was going our way, but that's not what I'm seeing when I look at the jury. They don't see self- defense. They don't want to believe.... Well," she ended on a sigh.

"It's okay," JC said, and then smiled at his parents. "Really. I'm going to be okay."

He didn't want the trial to go on, truthfully. Somebody stronger than him might get off on the cinema of it, of going in there day after day with his head held high, because of the way he had the truth on his side. But that wasn't JC. He thought it would be easier this way, for everyone.

Easier for his family, who had to find the money somewhere to pay for his defense. Easier for the judge, who had to try to hide the contempt he felt every time he looked at JC. Easier for the jury members, who had to decide who was crazier and more dangerous, a man who looked like their sons or the one who looked like them. Easier for Paul Chamberlain and his family. JC couldn't even hate him now. Too much time had passed, and anyway it was totally different seeing him in the courtroom, surrounded by his family, bearing the scars around his glass eye. He didn't look like the man in JC's nightmares anymore, and it was easier on JC not to have to reconcile the two.

The bailiff chained his hands behind his back when JC was done saying that he stabbed Paul Chamberlain in the eye because he was strung out and didn't know where he was, because he was scared and coked up and confused. It was a lie, but JC almost believed it when he said it, he'd heard the prosecutors say it so many times. That was reassuring; if he was having trouble believing in self-defense anymore, then the jury couldn't possibly have been buying it.

It was almost twenty-four hours later, alone in his cell and waiting to be driven to a maximum- security prison in the morning, that it all really sank in on JC. Not just that he'd been convicted, not that he'd broken his family's heart, not just that he'd been in the newspapers as a junkie whore with violent tendencies. All of that he knew.

He'd never thought, until that moment, about Chamberlain's next trick. And since that moment, in the back of JC's mind, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about it.

When they cuffed him the next morning to walk him to the bus, there was brown blood caked on his fingers, from where JC had chewed them all the way down and then just kept biting.


"I've never," Timberlake murmured, and JC smiled slightly, his mouth brushing against Justin's chin.

"Well, I have," he said. "Plenty. So you just don't worry about anything. Just enjoy it."

"No, no, that's not what I mean." He smiled broadly as JC's palm settled between his legs, curved to match the curve of Justin's hard-on, but he didn't open his eyes. He ran tentative fingers through JC's hair. "I mean, I've never *that* either. With a guy. If that's what you think I -- is that what we were talking about?"

"I...maybe? I don't know, what were we talking about?"

His hips moved restlessly, not a determined grind against JC's hand, but the light, spasmodic twitches of someone whose body has very little patience left. "I just, I don't even know you."

"Well, you're gonna know me a whole lot better by morning," JC said flippantly, and then regretted it when he saw Timberlake frown. "Don't," JC advised, stroking a short line down the center of Timberlake's mouth with one finger. "Look, this is good for both of us. This is a good thing. Please, don't...get all weird about it. It's just a blow job, okay? You'll like it; it'll help you relax. It doesn't mean anything."

"Okay, not helping," Timberlake said shortly. After a startled second, he let his hand rest on the back of JC's neck and kneaded lightly at it. "Sorry, don't listen to me. Go on, it's okay. Sorry I interrupted you."

JC hesitated. He couldn't read Justin's face in the darkness, but he knew the tension in the body underneath him, flesh and bone stretched like a tightrope between desire and doubt. I've never, I've never, this is the first time I've ever, I don't usually.... Well, so what? JC was a lot of guys' first, the first who wasn't free, the first who let them do it like *that,* the first who didn't make them pretend that it was more than it was, or just the first who wasn't a woman. He knew how to handle cold feet. He knew how to handle Justin Timberlake.

His hand worked slowly up the underside of Timberlake's cock, until the tips of JC's long fingers were making soft, inch-long stroking motions back and forth on his stomach. "Hey," he whispered, winding the fingers of his other hand into the narrow shoulder of Timberlake's wife- beater, bowing his head over the dark markings on Justin's bicep so that his nose brushed the skin. "Hey. Sweetheart."

"Stop," he said, low and rough. "Don't -- look. Look, don't act like this ain't what it is. Don't act like you're my fucking girlfriend." His voice broke on the last word.

JC moved a hand underneath Justin's body, letting it slice between damp cloth and burning skin. "But I am," JC murmured, placing a faint, kind kiss at the edge of Justin's lips. He paused a moment and did it again, exactly the same way. "I'm here with you. I'm here for you." He gave Justin another chaste kiss, and his lips came away wet.

Timberlake lifted an arm and dragged it across his eyes. Ignoring his heart, fired up to interstate speeds by his fear (because what if he'd been wrong, what if Justin wasn't strong enough to do this, what if he broke and left JC undefended, and what if JC didn't know when to get out until it was too late?), JC ran his hand over Justin's scalp, pressed his cheek to Justin's, slipped a finger inside Justin's mouth to quiet him. Not that it was necessary; Justin made no sound at all as he cried. JC's breathing was louder, rasping in Justin's ear.

"You want to talk about it?" JC whispered, when he could feel Timberlake's body beginning to relax underneath his. Some men couldn't tolerate any reminder at all that JC was human, but some were as much lonely as they were horny, and JC didn't have any doubt as to which end of the spectrum Timberlake fell toward.

His fingertips pressed into the small of JC's back, and he sighed, linking his legs loosely through JC's. "Yeah, because you really want to hear me talk about my girlfriend."

"Hey, you wanted us to get to know each other. It's not a bad idea."

"Well." Justin was quiet for a minute, his legs moving restlessly against JC's until JC picked up the rhythm instinctively and began to shiver in time against Justin's body. "It's. We went to this summer camp together, when we were twelve. Well, I was twelve. She was eleven. My first kiss, you know?"

"You've been with her for almost ten years?" JC couldn't imagine. People like his parents counted decades together, not kids like this one.

"Nah, nah. But we stayed in touch after that. She wanted -- I mean, she wants to be a singer, and I knew this guy in Memphis, he was my voice teacher, and he could get her studio time pretty cheap, for demos and stuff. So she came and stayed with me and my family, and that's when we kinda hooked up with each other for real."

"How old were you then?"

"Sixteen. Almost seventeen."

"Been together ever since?"

He hesitated a minute, and then said, "Yeah. Yeah, ever since. She came with me when I moved to Orlando. She's my -- Jesus, she's my life, you know? I don't know what things are going to be like. You know. Without Brit. I thought she'd always be there." He took a deep breath, and it came out almost clean and even. "Okay. Now you."

"Now me?"

Timberlake ran his thumb along JC's hairline, his other hand falling idly down to rest on JC's ass. "Yeah, tell me something like that. Something real, about you. Then I can do this. You know, if you're not, like, a *complete* stranger, I can do this."

"Okay." Something real. JC's hand twitched, moving instinctively toward his mouth so that JC could bite his nails, but he made himself stop. Something real. "I guess I, uh.... I don't know. I don't have anything like that. A relationship or anything."

"You've never had a...girlfriend? Or, I guess maybe, boyfriend?"

"Not one that mattered." He used to share a bedroom and a mattress with Tony, back in L.A., pressed against his back while he slept, hand on Tony's waist and nose at his neck. Tony worked as a valet, and he wrote songs and went on auditions, and he only turned tricks very occasionally, in a discreet sort of way that was almost more like networking than hustling. He was late with his share of the rent a lot, but JC always covered him. They only had sex three times, when they woke up mid-morning filling up each other's space, and it was quick and desperate, and JC kept his eyes closed, and they never talked about it later, except for once during a stupid argument over nothing, really, when JC threw in his face that he owed JC two hundred and forty dollars, and Tony said, "Is this something I supposedly borrowed from you, or do you not spread your legs for anyone free of charge anymore?" JC was pretty sure Tony was never his boyfriend, and he'd been the only person JC could remember wanting all that much.

"Anything," Timberlake said, strangely needy. "Just tell me anything."

"There's nothing," JC said, and kissed him, hard. "There's nothing," he mumbled again, his words distorted by the press of Justin's tongue changing the shape of his own. "I've got ten years here. You'd be the first thing that ever lasted for me."


Back it up.

Two months ago, JC got into an Infiniti with a man who pulled up alongside him and laid two hundred-dollar bills on the dashboard, and it made his stomach twist and his skin prickle, and if he'd still been in L.A., he wouldn't have gone, because JC trusted his vibes. But he put it down to stress and sadness, because he thought the cost of living would be lower in Miami and maybe it wouldn't be like this, but even though everything about Miami was different, it turned out that everything about JC was the same, and it was exactly like this.

"Hi," he said, reaching for the seat belt with his right hand and the money with his left. "Nice car. What are you thinking about wanting?"

The man pulled away from the curb without looking at him. "You fuck?" he said after a minute.

JC played with the air conditioning vents and looked out his window at the streetlights. "Sure, yeah. That sounds good."

"I'm taking you to my hotel," the man said. Later on, he told JC that his name was Paul, but of course JC didn't know his whole name until later, when the police read it off his driver's license.

Paul was the kind of guy, JC could tell right away, who didn't think he was buying an orgasm with his money; he thought he was buying JC. As soon as they were in the hotel room, he was touching JC, grabbing him over and over as though all he wanted was to prove the existence of JC. They talked a little bit, stupid things like what's your name and how long are you in town and where are you from, and Paul's hands were on him the whole time, running up and down the back of JC's thigh, gripping under his arm. "Oh, you bitch," he said approvingly, when he slid into JC, and JC smiled up at him. "I want to do something you'll really remember," he said, and licked broadly up JC's face.

"Now, how could you think I wouldn't remember you?" JC said playfully. There was no truth to it, at the time, and Paul smiled at him, nastily, because he knew it.

"Bet you've never done it like this before," he said in JC's ear, and pressed his forearm down across JC's throat, the bone like a lead pipe. JC tried to gasp, and nothing happened.

He tried to shake his head, and Paul's hand came down over his face, the heel of it blocking JC's mouth, the web between his thumb and forefinger closing off his nose. It felt like all his weight was behind it, pressing JC's head back immobile into the pillow.

He tried to lunge, to roll the weight off of him, and his ears started making strange popping sounds, and blood-colored pricks of light danced right behind his eyes. The rest of it was a blur, but JC remembered getting a hand up to Paul's face and jamming his hand against Paul's nose. He remembered a slackening of the pressure, and throwing Paul off of him, and falling off the bed in a tangle of sheets. He remembered trying to stand, and being dragged back down, and Paul yelling at him, words that JC never quite understood, and being pinned back down to the carpet with two hands wrapped around his throat, and a strange man with a fierce, red erection crouching over him.

The butterfly knife was in the pocket of his jeans, which were lying next to where JC had fallen. He'd gotten it ages ago from a transvestite named Suzette who used to have coffee with JC before dawn, but he'd never needed to use it before. Usually, JC's instincts were really good, and usually he listened to them.

"You made the 911 call," one of the police officers said later, in a flat tone. JC was sitting on the floor by the foot of the bed with a sheet wrapped around his shoulders, staring at the blood on the carpet. The paramedics had already left with Paul. "Mind if I ask you why?"

"I don't know," JC said honestly. "He was...screaming, and there was so much blood. Someone had to. I mean...shouldn't I have?"

"Uh-huh," the cop said blandly. He was black, but had green eyes, and he shook his head at JC, not unkindly, and offered him a hand up. "Course you should have. You have the right to remain silent...."

"Do you think I need to call my parents?" JC said, his voice cracking, and the cop said, "Jesus Christ," and touched him very carefully, almost gently, as he put the handcuffs on JC.

He testified at JC's trial, later on. He said that JC seemed disoriented, that he didn't seem scared, and that he didn't say anything to indicate that he remembered how Paul Chamberlain had come to be stabbed. He admitted that JC hadn't said anything about self-defense at the scene. But he was probably in shock, he said, and looked at JC with something like an apology in his expression. The jury had to disregard that, though, because he wasn't qualified to make a medical diagnosis, and so it was just speculation.

Two days after he was arrested, JC realized that the silk cord of his necklace had torn in the struggle. He asked Mrs. Jefferson if she could find out what happened to it, if it was in evidence or something, but he guessed she never did find out. JC didn't know that it had ever really brought him good luck, but he missed it anyway.


"I'm going to fuck you, okay?" Justin pulled his knee up, fitting it tightly between JC's legs. He seemed to get taller -- longer -- as he relaxed, his head tipping back as his hips tilted upward. His hands roamed through JC's hair as though he were reading some kind of markings raised along JC's scalp. "Is that okay?"

"Whatever you want, sweetheart," JC said, although the words *yes yes please come on* were coiling and slithering low in his stomach. Justin raised his head and kissed JC's bottom lip, stroking his hands slowly up JC's sides until he shuddered. "Want, want this," he heard himself mutter. "Want you, God, you feel...."

Justin kissed him harder and rolled him over. JC's shoulder hit the wall as they tried to change places again in the narrow bunk, but the dull ache of his bone colliding with concrete wasn't nearly as attention-grabbing as Justin's hands shoving eagerly down the front of JC's pants. JC fumbled under the mattress for the lube he'd spent his cafeteria time figuring out how to get hold of, but it seemed like every time his fingertips connected with the smooth tube, something in Justin's kisses shifted, and he forgot how to curl his fingers and pick something up. He finally managed that part, but Justin's hand had to skate down the inside of his forearm and take it out of JC's hand before it became useful.

"Over, over," Justin said, his voice hoarse but oddly composed, and he took advantage of JC moving over onto his stomach to strip off the rest of JC's clothes. He pulled his pillow under JC's hips and licked up his spine.

"Mmm," Justin said against his shoulder as he worked a finger inside JC, which seemed like a vast understatement to JC.. "Wow." He laughed shortly, and added, "Cool," and pulled a soft, keening noise from JC just by rotating his finger just a few degrees. "You okay? Sorry, my nails, haven't taken the best care of them lately. We should get gloves, like from the kitchen or something, you think we could? Gloves are good, smooth, like latex or whatever."

"You've done this before. No, fine, you're okay, just. Slow. Slow."

"Sure," Timberlake said casually, and then proceeded to make time stop almost indefinitely with the endless, patient movement of his crooked finger. "Like this? Me and Britney used to be really into the pre-marital virginity thing."

For a second, JC couldn't figure out why he was hearing this now. "Oh," he said. "That kind of virginity." JC was old enough to remember when taking it up the ass was the thing that made you *not* a good girl anymore, but Jesus, if the new generation of good boys could finger-fuck like this, then JC was willing to change with the times. "Yeah," he added, belatedly. "Like that. Just like that."

"Dear Mom," Kirkpatrick said loudly. Someone else's bunk scraped and clacked against the wall as its occupant heaved over. "Camp is fun. The food sucks, but the counselors hardly ever beat us. We have arts and crafts in the morning, and porn at night, after lights-out. The sound quality is pretty good, though, way better than the scrambled channels at home."

Justin was still giggling about that when he thrust forward into JC. Justin didn't call him *bitch,* or *baby,* either, just leaned over his back and laughed breathily, in an uneven rhythm like a shower of coins striking the floor. "Yeah," he said, wrapping a hand around JC's upper arm, and he laughed again. He ran the flat of his fingers up the arch of JC's throat and said, in a whisper that he had to realize would carry, "Give it up for me, huh? Think I can make you come this way?"

"Think -- so," JC gasped, and he heard somebody growl hungrily, but it wasn't Timberlake.

JC's respect for Timberlake's talent in bed was as much professional as personal; he had a precise rhythm, just a little fast for teasing and just a little slow for getting off. He was pacing himself to the slam of JC's heart, or else JC was the one counting time with his own pulse. JC lowered his head and bit indiscriminately at his lip and the sheet; he couldn't say his lines, not in his condition, and he didn't know what would come out of his mouth if he tried.

"No, no, no," he mumbled when Justin stopped moving. JC tried to rock back against him, but he didn't have much room to move. "Please don't stop?" It came out thin and wavering, almost too diffident to be real begging.

He shifted against JC's back, and JC thought he might lose skin, like patches of it would sear off against Justin's body and be stripped away as Justin moved. Justin braced an elbow over JC's shoulder, his forearm sliding under JC's neck. The motion pulled Justin forward, his body draped heavily over JC. "You're so hot," Justin said into his ear, damp breath and the humid hint of a tongue. His other hand brushed JC's cheek, and then settled at his waist. "God, I could be really into you."

That's the idea, JC thought, swallowing roughly to remind himself that he could, that the pressure of Timberlake's arm against his throat was casual, not dangerous at all. JC strained his neck back, tilting his head around until his lips were against Timberlake's cheek. "All yours," JC reminded him, sotto voce. Sensation was running through him like a waterfall, touching every nerve ending in his body in passing, but ultimately smashing down to where the tip of Justin's cock was nudging, and with every fraction of a second that Justin held his position, the noise in JC's body seemed to get more deafening.

He knew he made a sound when Justin started to fuck him again, something achy and jagged that meant something exactly in between *yes* and *no.* JC angled his head down, his chin hooked over Justin's arm, and he pressed his fingers into the mattress until they shook, letting pleasure and panic cascade simultaneously through him. It was hotter when he struggled under Justin's weight, but he wasn't sure if he was doing it to get the friction or to get away, and anyway, he *couldn't* get away, had nowhere to go even if he could've moved Justin's body, heavy with bone and lean muscle. His mouth had started to beg, but no sound came out, and JC bit into Justin's arm, making Justin hiss and laugh raggedly, saying, "Hey -- sonofabitch. Ow."

"Sorry," JC said, just as Justin's hand stroked roughly over his hair and Justin said, "Feisty baby," in an approving tone.

JC came pressed hard into the mattress, his body aching even before the orgasm had ebbed completely out of him. "I love that you like this," Justin said, his fingers sliding heavy and intrusive along JC's lips and in between them. JC twisted his head away, and Justin's long, wet- tipped fingers caught his jaw.

"Please, I can't catch my breath," JC said, hating how thready and fitful his voice sounded. Justin took his hand away immediately, without comment, and braced both of them on the mattress by JC's head. By the time he went solid and immobile, coming in a hot rush inside JC, JC had finally quit tracing the flow of air through his throat and lungs as though he were afraid it was about to stop.

He got dizzy for a second, and then realized that he'd been moved, flipped onto his side with Justin's hand splayed across the small of his back and Justin's lips dancing softly back and forth against his own. "Mmm," Justin said, into his mouth. The way he was smiling pressed JC's lips into a smile as well, and that was really pretty much fine with JC. "Holy shit, I feel good."

"Thanks," JC said, and it was kind of ridiculous, how grateful he was to hear that. He was lying with his hip in the wet spot, but for the moment it didn't matter. Justin kissed him again, hard, and JC leaned into it willingly, sneaking his arm up around Justin's neck and feeling his cock throb pleasantly, trying and failing to come back up. "Told you we were gonna be good together, didn't I?"

"Be right back," Justin said, scuffing JC's hair as he climbed over him to get out of the bunk. JC thought that was kind of unnecessary -- really, where else was he going to go? -- but put it down to more of that automatic Southern courtesy. He took advantage of Justin's trip across the cell to the toilet by reversing his position in bed so that the wet spot was closer to his feet than his stomach.

"Three and a half stars," Kirkpatrick said as Justin came back to the bunk.

Justin leaned his elbow on the top bedframe and said, lazy and satisfied, "Oh, yeah?"

"A predictable script, but some heartfelt performances from a cast of unknowns."

"Oh, the fuck? See, and here I thought you were talking about the view."

The springs creaked, and JC imagined their neighbor raising up on one elbow to cast a critical look down Timberlake's naked body. "Have your people call my people, kid," he said, in a tone that matched Justin's a little too much for JC's comfort. He found himself grinding his teeth.

Justin reached out and did something that made Kirkpatrick say, "Hey, dammit," in a genuinely aggrieved tone -- flicked him in the forehead, maybe. "Don't call me kid," he advised, and let JC's hands wrapped around his other hand reel him back down into his own bunk.

He was singing under his breath when he settled in against JC -- "Do I ever cross your mind anytime, do you ever wake up reaching out for me...." He had a nice voice, and JC flashed unexpectedly onto something he'd heard and let slip past him earlier. Voice teacher.

"You're a singer," JC realized out loud.

"Ah. No, well, not exactly. No, I...." He fell quiet for a minute, brushing his fingers behind JC's ear, but he didn't seem embarrassed. "When I was a kid, you know. I used to do these talent shows and things. I was on Star Search one time."


"Gospel truth. Lost. I wanted to, you know...." He laughed softly, without much humor. "I don't know. I wanted to be Stevie Wonder, right? My mom, she was really great about it. Used to drive me to hell and gone, all over the place, doing these auditions and the talent circuit and all, got me the voice lessons, everything. She was all...You're gonna take care of me when I'm old, you're gonna get everything you want. She's great, my mom. But she got sick, you know, and she couldn't be doing everything for me all the time. We couldn't really travel anymore, and money was bad, know, things change. She's okay now, though. That's why I came to Orlando, though, right? I didn't really know shit, but I figured, Disney World, they must always need people to do the shows and stuff. So that's what we did, me and Britney. We got jobs after high school, at the parks. I teach dancing -- like, swing dancing, salsa, that kind of stuff, to the tourists on the Boardwalk. Well, I did. Britney dances too, right now she's dancing at the Biergarten, with her hair in little Heidi braids and the little skirt and suspenders and shit. So fucking cute." He lapsed off for a minute with a frown, and JC slid a hand up his chest. "She wants to, uh. She wants to be Cinderella, though. At the Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast? That's what she really wants. There's a lot of talking with the kids and stuff involved, and she's really -- she'd be really good."

"You really love her a lot."

"Yeah," he said roughly. "Yeah, sure I do, but you know. I fucked up her life, too, right?"

JC settled the back of his head against Justin's shoulder, letting Justin's loosely curled fist rest in the middle of his chest. It amazed him, how easily Justin could just go on and on, about his family, his girl, his childhood dreams for Christ's sake. JC imagined telling Justin about *his* dreams, about Los Angeles, about Tony, and it was just -- impossible. You just didn't. JC just couldn't. He wasn't completely sure how or why, but he just knew that it had to hurt you somehow, and he was uncomfortably aware that a lot of his own quality of life depended on whether Justin was incredibly brave or recklessly naive.

He'd gone quiet again, with a certain shift in his breathing or his body that JC was learning to sense subliminally indicating that he was brooding again. JC laced his fingers through Justin's, amazed at how his own hand almost vanished when Justin's hand curled around it. "Okay, so, you like Stevie Wonder, you like Brian McKnight. R&B, huh?"

"Oh, yeah. I love that stuff."

"Darling, when the morning comes, and I see the morning sun," JC sang softly, angling his head back to direct his voice toward Justin's ear. "I wanna be the one with you...."

"I know that, I know that one," Justin said, snapping his fingers impatiently. "Shit."

"Just the two of us," JC prompted, and Justin sang the rest of the chorus with him, ending it with a sheepish chuckle. "God, I blanked. That's an old song. That's, uh, Grover Washington, right?"

"There, you got it now. What year, though?"

"Oh, hell, I don't know. No, I don't know years, I'm not good with dates. Tell me."

"1981," JC said. He knew everything printed on the jackets of all his parents' records, even the copyright lines. He must have studied those albums ten thousand times when he was a kid. He started to say something along those lines, but at the last moment, his voice simply wouldn't work, and he said nothing.

"That's the year I was born," Timberlake said jauntily, and JC groaned.

"Infant," he accused, lifting Justin's hand to his mouth, kissing the soft inside of his wrist.

"Nuh-uh. How old are you?"

"Old enough to remember a thing or two about 1981."

Somehow, not that he was complaining, JC ended up with his back pressed to the cold wall, and Justin pressed against him from the front, licking and biting softly up his neck. JC threw a leg over Justin's hip and pressed both his hands to the back of Justin's neck. "Well, just so you know, for an old guy," Justin was murmuring, low and amused, "you pretty much rocked my world tonight."

"That's my job," JC said.

It was supposed to be in that same amusing sort of vein, but it kind of altered the mood. Justin was still and quiet just long enough for JC to reflect on exactly how bad his own judgement was. Already, he should know Justin better than that. Justin shifted away just enough to see JC's face and said, seriously, "So...what do I owe you, exactly?"

"Nothing," JC said quickly, and then realized how fucking self-defeating a lie that was, not to mention obvious. "No, I mean, nothing major, really," he said, garbling it a little as if by lack of enunciation he could change the reality of it all.

"I just, what? Kick the shit out of anyone who tries to fuck with you. Is that how it works?"

"That's pretty much how it works."

He thought about it for a second and said, "I can do that."

JC traced the line of his cheekbone, the slightly scratchy edge of his jaw, underneath his lips. Pretty boy, sweetheart, sweet heart on his sleeve. He wondered how it happened, how Justin Timberlake, who loved his stage momma and his polka-dancing-in-pigtails girlfriend, had murdered some guy he didn't even know, and he wondered if it was something Justin could really do again if he had to.

Hopefully. Because JC had the definite feeling that, good or bad, he'd made a choice that he didn't have it in him to back out of when he chose Justin.

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