Every Letter an Alphabet
JC was dreaming. Justin was sitting on the bed next to him, fully dressed, watching him, waiting for him, and that had happened so many times that he didn't even know which time he was dreaming about. In his dream it felt like the first time, or the last time, or maybe all of the other times layered on top of each other, blurring into each other, or maybe it hadn't even happened yet.
Of course, by the time he realized he was dreaming, he had stopped. He kept his eyes closed though. There was a thin tatter of song threading through his mind, over and over, just a little too low for him to hear it clearly. It had something to do with Justin, he knew that. Maybe it was the [first thing] Justin had ever said to him, or the [last thing], or all of the other things or maybe even something he hadn't even said yet. If only JC listened closely enough, he'd hear the beginning and then he could sing it through, to the end, and finally get it out of his head. If only everything could be that easy.
"Go away, Justin," he said.
"No," Justin said.
JC kept his eyes closed, although he didn't have a hope in hell that Justin would go away if JC lay there long enough. Justin wasn't one to take a hint, unless he was in the mood to take one. After yesterday, JC knew Justin would be in no mood. Besides, this wasn't the first time Justin had said no to JC. He'd said it a lot, [in play] and [for real], and JC could hear both in Justin's voice. Justin was willing to play it off, to pretend that this was a game they were playing, but he was also ready to play it for real, too. Justin liked saying no a lot, but he never liked hearing it. JC only ever said it to him when he meant it.
"Go away, Justin," JC said again. "Or I'll call the cops. I'm completely serious."
"You know what the sad thing is?" Justin said. "You're [telling the truth]." Even without looking JC could tell that Justin had decided to try to bluff his way through. Justin had always had a poor poker face, though, and JC almost felt sorry for him for a second when he heard the way Justin strained to sound light. Then there was a creak that sounded a lot like Justin getting off the bed, and if JC hadn't known him so well he would have stretched back out in bed and sighed in satisfaction. JC knew him, though, so he sat up in a hurry.
He was just in time to watch his phone crash against the wall and fall to the floor in the middle of the hallway. Justin sat back down on the bed and smiled at him, the same fake smile that would lose Justin thousands of dollars in a card game. "Now we won't have to worry about being interrupted," Justin said. "Because I have something to say to you."
"We said it all yesterday," JC said. "Now go away or I'll throw you out myself."
"Oh no you won't," Justin said. "We both know how [that would go]." Justin was right, and JC was very sorry about that. He was even sorrier that Justin had shown up at all, and he wasn't just sorry for himself. But Justin had never been able to [give up], even when it was certain that he was going to [lose]. He'd always been stubborn that way.
"I've got some good news," Justin said, and JC had to turn away a minute from the strain in his voice and that flat fake smile.
"J -" he said, but Justin wouldn't let himself be stopped.
"Don't you want to know what my good news is?"
"Not unless it's that you're going away now."
"No, I said good news."
"That would be -"
"I forgive you," Justin said.
JC said, "[Fuck you]," and watched Justin's face fall, just the way he'd known it would. He didn't like doing it, he didn't even want to do it, but there was no way to make Justin to give up unless you flat out [made him]. JC didn't want to fight, but he knew how.
Justin was still looking down, his big palms rubbing down his thighs, making a harsh rustling sound against his jeans. JC rolled back onto his side, away from Justin, and pulled the sheet back up. "Good night and good-bye," he said.
"It's eleven o'clock in the morning," Justin said quietly. It was his real voice this time, soft and hurt, and it was all JC could do to keep from turning back to him but he didn't. "It's not good night."
"Well, it is good -"
"[JC]," Justin said, in the same quiet voice, and JC thrashed against the bed in frustration, then sat up. Justin smiled, [his real smile] this time, and the sight of it almost made JC roll back over and pull the sheet over his head.
"What? What is it, Justin?"
"It's like I said." Justin put a hand out toward JC's leg, then pulled it back in quick, like he'd just noticed the look on JC's face for the first time. "I've decided to forgive you, for yesterday. I know you didn't mean it."
"Maybe I don't want to be forgiven," JC said. "And I meant every word."
Justin's smile slipped, just for a second. JC saw it go. "I thought you were going to say you hadn't done anything that needed forgiving."
"Who the hell knows, Justin, maybe I did. Maybe I just don't care. Did you ever think of that?"
"No," Justin said, with the [steely-eyed look] that had faced down thousands of reporters. JC might have believed him if he hadn't known that Justin only got that look when he wasn't sure he believed what he was saying. "No, I know you care, which is why I don't understand why you said, yesterday, you said --"
"I know what I said, and I meant it. You didn't understand, but hey, it's not like that's the first time."
"No," Justin said. "It's not like it's [the first time]."
"Yeah, well, let's let it be the last."
Justin didn't say anything for a minute. Then he shifted up to his knees and there was a look in his eye that JC had seen before. He couldn't quite place it until Justin leaned in. He put one hand on JC's arm and another on his bare hip and for just a moment JC thought he was [about to be kissed]. He couldn't quite believe that Justin thought that would work. Apparently Justin didn't believe that would work, either, not anymore, because Justin shoved him.
The floor was very hard and JC was very surprised and Justin looked very angry, and the combination of all those things left JC breathless. He lay back on the floor, panting, until Justin peered over the edge of the bed.
"What the fuck, Justin!"
"Why are you so fucking bad at this?" Justin yelled back.
"Me? Me? You just fucking pushed me off the bed, Justin, are you gonna start giving relationship seminars?"
"At least I'm qualified to. At least I've had relationships that lasted longer than three weeks!"
"What do you call [Bobbie]?"
"Do you want me to answer that?" Justin said. "Besides, I meant with men."
"Oh, do unrequited crushes on rappers count as relationships now?"
"It wasn't unrequited -"
"No, it was one sad little blowjob that neither of you ever talked about."
"We had a [soul connection]!"
"Oh, is that what the kids are calling it," JC said, and stopped when he saw Justin's smile. He crawled over and sat against the wall, pulling the sheet with him. "[Deja fucking vu]," he said, and shook his head. "We're not doing this anymore."
"No," Justin said. He shook his head, harder than JC had. "I mean, yes we are, not this exactly, I mean, but we are doing this, we are -"
"No," Justin said. He shook his head again. "I don't understand why you won't - why we have to ..." Justin's voice trailed off. "I don't understand."
"Well, like I said..."
"I know," Justin said softly, and JC was almost sorry he'd said anything. "It wouldn't be the first time."
"J," JC said, and he was sorry he'd said that, because Justin looked up and smiled at him. It was almost a question. "Oh, fine," JC said, and sighed as Justin scrambled down off the bed and sat next to him.
Justin shoved his hand into JC's, roughly. "Stop making me work so hard," he said.
JC pulled but Justin wouldn't let go. "[Stop working]," he said, although he knew it was hopeless.
"No," Justin said.
With his free hand JC grasped Justin's wrist, gently, and moved Justin's hand away from his own. "You have to," he said. "I don't want to anymore."
"Why?" Justin said.
"We did this already, Justin, we did this yesterday -"
"I don't care. Tell me why."
"I just don't want to, all right?"
"That's not a reason."
"Tell me why."
"[Tell me why], "Justin said again, and JC could see how this was going to go.
"Fine," he said. "Because it's gotten old. It's tired, it's played, and I want something new."
"I'm glad you're taking it so well."
"I'm not taking it at all," Justin said. He leaned in toward JC, slowly, and JC knew without a doubt that Justin was going to [kiss] him. JC knew, too, that he had to let him.
Lush velvet heat, all the cliches had been made for Justin's [mouth], or else Justin's mouth had been made for them, but that never mattered to JC once Justin was kissing him. If he'd made [a list] of the things he'd miss about Justin, kissing would be right at the top. Justin was good at it, better than good, all those years of dating dedicated virgins, and there was nothing Justin liked better than doing [something he was good at]. He knew JC loved it, too, loved kissing for hours until they were [dizzy] and dazed with it, almost [feverish], and JC was wrong, because there was one thing Justin liked better than doing what he was good at, and that was doing [what JC loved].
JC swung one leg over Justin's lap, pushing him back against the wall, and Justin tipped his chin up and smiled, wide and open-mouthed and sudden against JC's shoulder. JC closed his eyes and wished for the first time that he'd never seen that [smile]. Then he stood up and sat back down on the bed.
Justin covered his mouth with one hand, so quickly that it made a noise almost like a slap. JC watched him sitting like that, his breath coming hard against his open palm. When Justin moved his hand away, he wasn't smiling anymore.
"You can't tell me," Justin said desperately, "you can't tell me that felt played, it didn't, it was just like new, like the first time, you can't tell me it didn't feel -"
"No," JC said. "I can't tell you that."
"Then why -"
"It won't always be like that," JC said.
"But it is, it is now, you said, and it can be - I don't understand."
"I know," JC said. He didn't know how Justin could stand to keep saying that. He could barely [stand to hear it].
Justin moved toward him, and JC didn't back away. "Make me," Justin said. He put a hand on each of JC's thighs and knelt between them. The posture should have been pleading, but there was nothing soft in Justin's eyes or in his voice. "Make me understand."
"I can't -"
"Try," Justin said, and it was almost a snarl. "I always try."
He always did.
"I can't talk when you're touching me like that," JC said, and Justin pulled his hands away and put them behind his back but didn't move away. "It just - I don't know if anyone else can understand, or you, but it - it won't always be like that, J, you know it won't, it never is, and I don't - I don't want it, if it's not. And maybe that's selfish or shallow or whatever, but the thing is, I don't want what I don't want, and it won't always be -"
"But it is now," Justin whispered.
"Soon it won't be," JC said. Justin was looking right at him, and JC could see that he [didn't understand], that he [couldn't understand]. He would never understand, and he would [never stop trying] unless JC made him. "Soon you won't be," JC said.
Justin made a noise that JC had never heard, a short guttural cry, as if something more precious than breath had been suddenly torn from him. It made JC angry. He had never been able to stand to see [Justin hurt].
"If it won't always be what I want," JC said, "I'd rather not have it at all."
Justin didn't say anything.
"I'm not - I won't say I'm sorry, because I'm not, not for wanting what I want, but I wish - I just thought it would be easier, now, easier than later, better -"
"Shut up," Justin said.
JC didn't say anything.
Slowly, so slowly that it looked painful, Justin let one of his hands slide from behind his back. Slowly, slowly he let his hand fall open. JC wanted to pull back from him but he forced himself to stay still. Slowly, slowly Justin let his hand [graze] against JC's leg. His touch was gentle, warm and so [gentle], but JC could feel the [force] behind it, force and desire coiled hot and tight just below the surface. He [shivered].
"I remember," Justin said hoarsely, "the first time, I remember, you shivered just like that, it was just like that and it still is, every time, it is and it will be, it always will be, it can, JC, why can't it -"
"You can't," JC said before he knew what he was saying. Justin looked up at him and JC shivered again. He remembered the first time he'd seen someone tell Justin what he couldn't do. "J," he said helplessly, "we're different people, we want different ways -"
"Shut up," Justin said. He put his hand back up over his mouth. He wasn't as careful with himself as he was with JC, and JC could see the mark, white and then red, where his hand hit his skin. He wanted to reach out and [touch it] but he didn't. "Shut up," Justin said through his fingers.
"Every letter," Justin said finally. His lip curled, and he let his hand fall from his face. "Every letter, and every time - God, JC, you're so fucking stupid, we are -"
"What?" JC said.
"Every letter an alphabet," Justin said. "And every time ..."
"You remember that?"
"I remember," Justin said. "That's what you always wanted, even that far back. I remember."
"You didn't - I thought you didn't understand."
"I didn't, but I remembered. I didn't, but now I do. That's how we're different, right? You want - you want everything, the whole alphabet, a through z and the letters we don't even know yet, all of that in every moment, everything in every time, you want that, and me, I'm different."
"Different, J, it doesn't mean worse, it means -"
"Bullshit. You always thought it meant worse, but you were wrong, and I was, too. You know, you know what I always wanted?" There was something in Justin's voice, something JC had never heard there. JC thought it was something bitter and he thought he might be afraid of it.
"Go ahead, say it. You know what I always wanted."
"You wanted - you want to give people what they want. And there's nothing wrong with that, J, I meant it, I mean it -"
"You don't have to tell me," Justin said. It wasn't bitterness in Justin's voice, it was something else, something sharp and knowing and satisfied. JC had never heard it there before but it turned inside him like a key in a lock and he shivered. Justin laughed, and there was nothing bitter there. It was a laugh JC had heard before, Justin's same sweet [laugh], but there was something new in it, something more. JC watched as Justin opened his [hand] again, opened his [hand] and reached for him and JC shivered even before Justin touched him. "Just like the first time," Justin said, and he laughed and ran his [hand] down JC's chest and JC shivered again. "Like the first time and this time, it's the same as ever but it's new, it's more, and I know, I know you can feel it, every [time] I touch you I can feel it, every [time] in this touch, every [time], and you can, you can feel -"
"Everything," JC said, and closed his eyes. "Everything."
"I'm good at it, giving people what they want, maybe I don't understand it but I know, I know how to. No one's better at it than me."
JC looked at him. "You remember that, too?"
"I remember everything you ever said to me," Justin said. "I may not understand it, but -"
JC [kissed] him. He [kissed] him and it was like the first time and it was like it had never been before, all at once together, everything. He [kissed] Justin until he was [dazed] and dizzy with it, [feverish], until the world [blurred] around him and [all he could see] was Justin, sitting back on the floor with his hands braced behind him. JC followed him, and Justin's hands slid slowly over the hard wood as JC laid him out on his back, laid him out and [kissed] him, [kissed] him until Justin broke away, panting, his [smile] wide and open against JC's shoulder. JC let one finger trail against Justin's mouth, just to feel that [smile] break wider against it.
"What do you [want], J?" JC said.
"[You know]," Justin said. "I want to give you what you -" and JC put his hand over Justin's mouth and shook his head.
"You," Justin said, and JC felt the word shiver against his hand, against his skin, everywhere. "You, and everything."
"All right," JC said, and bent his head again to Justin's body.
Justin moved beneath him, with him, like it had always been, like everything. The world blurred around him and time blurred with it, twisting and stretching with the weight of every time before and every time to come and everything. JC didn't know how long it had been before he realized that the sounds Justin was making had resolved themselves into words, thin and tattered, threading through JC's mind just a little too low for him to hear. He laid his head against Justin's chest, still just for a moment, and listened.
"[Every] [letter] an [alphabet]," Justin said, the words a new promise and an old hymn. Justin's voice was shaking with the weight of everything those words contained, and JC traced his lips along the line of Justin's throat to feel the tremble there. "[Every] [time] the [first] [time]."