Damn, Baby (Like Porcelain Remix)
i. discover me, discovering you
Joey would watch him show off.
Long before Joey would do anything else, before he would let Justin do anything else, Joey would watch him. Joey would watch him, and Justin would show off.
It was long before Justin was exactly sure what else he wanted Joey to do, if he wanted Joey to do anything else at all. He liked being watched, though. And he liked showing off. Of course he did, he was a performer, and a natural one, everyone said so and it was true. What made him so good at it was that he understood what performing was all about. A lot of people thought that it was something special, something separate from real life. Even Chris would yell, "Come on, act like it's showtime!" when he thought they were slacking off in rehearsal. But there was nothing special about a stage, after all, nothing magical so that when you stepped out in front of the curtain, that was when the performance started. It didn't take a stage to make a performance. All it took was someone who wanted to put on a show. All it took was someone who knew how.
Justin knew how to perform. He was good at it, even when he was a little boy, and he was only getting better and better. After all, practice made perfect, and Justin was well on his way to being perfect.
After all, he already knew that a good performance, a perfect performance, needed more than just someone who knew how to perform. It also needed someone to watch.
Long before Joey did anything else to him, long before Justin let him, Joey was watching.
ii. one pair of candy lips and your bubblegum tongue
When you weren't onstage when you were performing, people tended to call it showing off. That was what JC called it, anyway, back when he was the one who was watching.
It took JC a while to figure it out, though. Justin couldn't really blame him. It was a while before Justin himself figured out that he was doing it on purpose. He was never quite sure when it started, never quite sure when exactly he started letting his hips slide and grind while he watched himself in the mirror, while he watched JC watching him in the mirror. It was just the choreography, after all. He had to practice it.
And he had to move through it slowly, too, so slowly, so fluidly, catching his tongue between his teeth as he concentrated. He had to brace himself with both hands against the mirror, back arching just a little as he moved carefully, head lowered just enough to see the steps he took and the eyes that followed him, both reflected back from between his hands on the mirror. He had to fall, too, had to stumble and then catch himself, face against the glass, ghost trace of his lips smeared against the mirror for just a second, just long enough to be seen, before he wiped it away.
That was practice, too.
JC was always nicer to Justin after he'd been watching him, sitting across from him and explaining Justin's math homework to him, surrendering control of the radio on the long drives. Justin liked that, too, almost as much as he liked it when JC watched him performing in the mirror. He liked JC poised next to him, three careful inches of sofa between their legs, JC's eyes fixed on Justin's face with a desperate gentle patience, JC's voice almost shaking with the care he was taking. The care he was giving Justin. Justin liked that, too, almost as much as he liked performing.
JC caught him, of course. Justin may have been a natural but back then he was still new to it and he got greedy, watching JC watching him a little too blatantly. In the mirror he saw JC's eyes widen with something he couldn't name but knew he should be afraid of. Before he could wonder why he wasn't afraid, JC's hand was on his back, low and hard, and Justin's face slapped against the glass. JC held him there, his fingers biting into Justin's skin, his face twisted careless and ugly with anger. "What game do you think you're playing?" JC said, and Justin tried to pull away but he was pinned in place by JC's hand and JC's voice. All he could do was slide his face against the glass. The only thing he could see was his own body pressed against the mirror and JC behind him, watching him. It was different than it had been before.
"Yeah," JC said, and laughed roughly. He let his hand fall from Justin's back and stepped away. Justin didn't move. "That's what I thought," he said. "You can quit the showing off, then, until you're old enough to know what it is you're showing." Justin didn't move. He stood still until JC turned and walked away. Even after the door shut Justin stayed where he was for a long time, watching his breath smear against the glass.
After that JC didn't watch him any more, looked carefully at anyone, anything other than Justin. He wasn't particularly nice to Justin any more either, and he didn't help him with his homework. Justin missed it, more than he thought he would. Even shows weren't the same, now that he was only being watched by the girls in front of him. He missed it until one night he felt it again, eyes on his back as he danced. He turned around as soon as he could manage it without messing up the choreography, hoping to catch JC watching him again. He turned around. JC wasn't watching him.
iii. bound to be a while
Justin had never thought that Joey would know how to watch him. He'd never thought that Joey would want to. But there was no mistaking the hot lick of electricity that raced up his spine, pooling just at the base of his neck. Night after night Justin would lift a hand just to feel that spark. Then he'd let his palm trail around his throat, rolling his head on the same circuit, as if he were stretching. He wasn't. He liked to feel that humming warmth simmering through him, seeping beneath his skin. He liked to watch Joey watch him while he did it.
If Justin turned quickly, he'd catch Joey looking at him, their eyes meeting with a flare that jolted through Justin's entire body, that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and left him tasting cool metal in his mouth. Justin didn't try to catch Joey too often, though. When he did, Joey wouldn't look at him for the rest of the day.
He wasn't sure if Joey knew he was showing off. He thought Joey probably didn't. Joey was nice to him, too, when he wasn't watching him, although it was different than it had been with JC. Joey would've rolled his eyes if Justin had asked him about algebra, but he would pick Justin up and hold him upside down, spin him until Justin was giggling and dizzy, and then set him down on his feet so gently that Justin felt even more lightheaded. He would pin Justin down, his hands large and careful over Justin's wrists, and tease a soft smile out of Justin's sulkiest moods. Justin would squirm and struggle, embarrassed without knowing why, but he never struggled quite hard enough to get away. Even as Justin swore and smacked at him, Joey would still treat him like glass. Joey would do all that, and still watch Justin when he thought Justin couldn't see him.
That was all he wanted, Justin thought, Joey's easy careful hands and Joey's hot knowing eyes. He thought that for a while. He thought that until he walked out of rehearsal one day, his muscles warm and loose from Joey's gaze as much as from the workout, and saw Joey with JC.
Joey had his hand cupped around the back of JC's neck, pulling him close to him. JC didn't want to be pulled close. Justin could see that in the painful bend of JC's body and the way Joey's fingers dug into his skin. He couldn't hear what Joey was saying. He could only see the way JC tried to shrug Joey's words off, tried to shake Joey's hand off. Joey's grip was too strong for him finally, and JC said, "All right, all right, fine. You win."
Joey didn't let go. He said, "It's not -- I don't want to win, I just think you need --"
"I know," JC said, his smile flashing. Justin watched as Joey's hand slid to JC's shoulder. "I know, so shut up, all right?"
"All right," Joey said, and pushed JC down the hall, so hard that JC stumbled for a few steps. Joey didn't catch him. "Get your ass home," he said, and JC waved and ran off down the hallway. Joey didn't watch him go.
He turned, instead, and caught Justin watching. "J," he said, and took a step toward him. Justin stepped back until he hit the wall. "What's up?" Joey said, his voice softening.
"Nothing," Justin said, because he didn't know how to explain. There was nothing to explain. It wasn't like he'd walked in on something he wasn't supposed to see. He hadn't seen anything at all, nothing out of the ordinary, just something so ordinary he'd never thought about it the thousands of times he'd seen it before. Joey and JC's friendship, ordinary, rough and familiar, nothing that Justin didn't see every day.
"Nothing, huh?" Joey said. He smiled, his eyes hot and knowing, but it was different than it had been before. Now it was like he knew something about Justin. Joey put his hand lightly around Justin's jaw. When Justin turned his head, Joey let him slip through his fingers. Justin turned his head back and Joey's hand closed around his jaw again. This time Justin didn't move.
"Oh, jealousy," Joey said fondly, quietly, and Justin didn't move. He thought maybe he should say something, because he wasn't jealous, he didn't think, not really, or at least not the way Joey thought he was. But Justin didn't say anything, just stood there, his face cradled lightly by Joey's fingers. Joey watched him, and Justin stood there and let him, not performing, not showing off, just watching Joey watch him.
Finally Joey sighed and let go of Justin's face. "Took you long enough," he said, and smiled again, and before Justin could ask him what he meant Joey's hand slid over his cheek and Joey leaned in toward him. Joey's lips brushed over his, easily, carefully, and Justin felt the jolt through his whole body. He shuddered when Joey let go of him, and Joey stepped back considerately, so that Justin could walk away if he wanted to. Justin didn't move. Joey took another step back, and smiled.
"Come on," Joey said, and held out his hand. Justin took it. Joey's fingers curved lightly around his.
"Come on," Joey said again, and Justin went.
iv. I'll use my hands
It was different than Justin had expected. It didn't happen as often as he'd thought it would, for one thing. Of course, they were really busy all the time, with shows and interviews and all they really had were scraps of time torn out of their schedule, never really enough. Never really enough because Joey insisted on lots of time, hours and hours, whole afternoons, weekends even, when they could lock the door of Joey's room and take the phone off the hook and ignore the other guys laughing and yelling from the hallway. It might not happen often, but when it did happen, it tended to be an event.
And there was nothing wrong with that, absolutely nothing, time stretching out long and longing like Justin's back beneath Joey's mouth, stretching and straining until Justin thought that it would never end, could never end, until there was nothing but the two of them in Joey's room, in Joey's bed, nothing but Joey's mouth tender and careful over every inch of Justin's skin, nothing but Joey's mouth, nothing but Joey Joey Joey.
And there was nothing wrong with that.
v. I love the shape you take when crawling toward the pillowcase
Oh, there was nothing wrong with that, absolutely nothing except that it happened so rarely. Justin would have been happy with less, with fifteen minutes in an empty dressing room every now and then, but when he slid up against Joey, his hand slipping down the front of Joey's pants, Joey's fingers closed gently over Justin's shoulder as he moved him away. "No time," he breathed against Justin's ear, and his lips followed softly on his soft words. "No time," he said again, and kissed Justin's cheek sweetly before he walked away.
Justin didn't mind, though, if there wasn't much time. He chased after Joey to try to explain, but by the time he caught up with him their ride to the radio station was there, and then they had sound check and then the show and Joey had to call a couple of people in between and then they had to go out with the guys. By the time they headed back to the hotel it was after two and they had an eight a.m. call and Justin knew Joey would think they didn't have enough time. Justin didn't mind, though.
Justin didn't mind, and he wanted to tell Joey, but despite his best efforts Joey somehow ended up in the other car and Justin couldn't catch up with him until they were back at the hotel. Dre was bringing up a girl Joey had picked up back in the bar, but Justin waved him off. Dre gave him a look but started walking the girl to the elevator. Justin let himself into Joey's room.
"Hey, baby," Joey said before he turned around. Then he said, "Justin?"
"Surprise," Justin said, and kissed him. Joey's hand curved around Justin's cheek, turning his face up gently, and Justin pressed against him until Joey fell back onto the bed. Justin climbed on top of him and kept kissing him.
"Wait, wait," Joey said, and both hands curled around Justin's throat tenderly and pushed him away, just as tenderly. "Baby, baby, you're killing me here."
"Well, not yet," Justin said, and reached for Joey's belt. Joey folded Justin's hand in both of his and moved it away. Justin looked down at him.
"Justin, we don't have time tonight," Joey said.
"Course we do," Justin said. "Shouldn't take us but a couple minutes."
"Thank you," Joey said, and laughed when Justin laughed. But then he moved Justin's hand back onto the bed again and said, "No, seriously, J --"
"But you were gonna -- I saw Dre with that girl --"
"That's different," Joey said. He sat up. "J, you know that's different."
Justin sat up too. "No, I don't. I don't know why you don't wanna --"
Joey laughed again, a little painfully. "Believe me, it's not that I don't want to." Before Justin could climb on top of him again Joey said, "But there isn't time to do it right."
"I don't care," Justin said.
"Yeah, well, I do," Joey said, almost angrily. When Justin looked at him in surprise, Joey reached up and let his knuckles graze against Justin's cheekbone. Justin shivered. "You should care, J." Justin shook Joey's hand off impatiently and Joey let his hand fall into the sheets. Justin picked it back up and grabbed it tightly. Joey's fingers curved lightly around his.
"J," Joey said, and Justin looked at him hopefully. "I don't want -- you know what we're about. I don't want us to be -- you know this shit, that girl, that's just, you know -- that's everyday. That's ordinary. And you're not. We're not. I don't want us to be -- I mean, you couldn't be," Joey said, smiling at Justin. "But, you know, I know we don't get the chance, but when we do, it's perfect, you know? And there's enough shit that's not. God knows we both got enough shit that's everyday. But this -- I don't want to make it something ordinary. I just want one thing -- I don't want it if it's not gonna be perfect."
Justin didn't say anything for a minute. He didn't know what to say. He just sat there, still, trapped by Joey's hand hovering over his, Joey's eyes watching him carefully. Finally he said, softly, Okay." Joey's hand slid away from him as Justin stood up, but Joey was still watching him. Justin got a few steps toward the door, then he turned and said, "Could I just --"
"Ah, fuck," Joey said, and Justin ran toward him. As Joey rolled him gently onto his back, he said, "Knock that phone off the hook, baby. No way I'll be done with you by eight in the morning."
In the morning Justin stood inside the bedroom door while Joey stood outside it, listening to Chris explain in shrill elaborate detail exactly how much of their schedule they'd fucked up. Justin had tried to answer the door when Chris started yelling for Joey, because it wasn't fair for Joey to take all the blame. Joey wouldn't let him, though, closing the door in Justin's face, careful of Justin's fingers. "I'll handle it," Joey said, and he did. When he came in, Joey's face was flushed and his jaw was set, but he smiled at Justin.
"Is everything okay?" Justin asked.
"It's perfect," Joey said, and let his hand drift across Justin's face, his thumb rubbing against Justin's lips until Justin smiled back at him, the way Justin always did, the way Joey wanted him to. "Perfect," Joey said, and it was, because Joey had made it that way. Nothing mattered after that, not Chris' cold anger or the lectures Justin would have to listen to. Nothing else mattered.
Joey overshadowed it.
vi. never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it
After that it happened a little more frequently, but still not all that often. They just got busier and busier, and Kelly came out for a long visit right in the middle of everything and there just never seemed to be enough time for something perfect. But Justin understood now, which made it easier. In the midst of their busy days and nights Joey would smile at him and shake his head and say, "Everyday shit," and Justin would smile back, like it was some sort of secret code. Which it was, their own secret code, and Joey would say it in front of anybody, in front of Kelly even, but only Justin knew what it meant. Joey would say it, and Justin would preen a little, in front of anybody, in front of Kelly even, walking by Joey a little slowly so Joey could reach out and let his fingers trail gently over Justin's waist. Kelly was right there, right next to him, but it never made Joey want to touch him any less.
"Everyday shit," Joey would say, and Justin knew what that meant. All the everyday things, the dirty boring familiar things, all the things Joey had to do, maybe even wanted to do a little but not completely, all the people Joey had to have, maybe even loved a little but not completely. Everything, everyone who wasn't perfect. Everything, everyone who wasn't Justin.
"Everyday shit," Justin would murmur to himself when he got impatient, watching Joey with something else, someone else. "Everyday shit," and he'd let his hands trail over his own body, gently, the same way Joey's hands had. His fingers paused over a small patch of rough skin, just inside his bicep. He didn't remember it being there before. He couldn't remember if Joey's hand had paused there, the last time.
Justin went to JC's room to find some lotion. As he sat on JC's bed rubbing in the Lubriderm, JC said quietly, without looking at him, "What kind of game do you think you're playing?"
"I'm not -- it's not a game," Justin said.
JC looked at him then. "Yeah," he said, "yeah, that's what I was afraid of."
JC ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Look," he said, "this isn't -- I'm not saying he's trying to, but this really isn't -- do you really think this is gonna end up good for you?"
"Fuck you," Justin said, "fuck you, JC, you're just jealous --" and he stopped, breathless, at the pity in JC's eyes.
"Sure," JC said, finally, his voice even and careful, as if he were afraid Justin would break if he heard the wrong thing. "Sure, okay." Then, because he was JC and could never ever let anything go, he said, "I just meant --"
Justin dropped the lotion on JC's bed and ran for his own room.
vii. mine all mine all mine
He didn't say anything about it to Joey, but JC did, because he was JC and could never ever let anything go. Justin heard it, or the end of it, because JC was JC and never really learned that there were some conversations you didn't need to have in public. Justin stood still in the open door of his room and watched JC and Joey in the hallway.
Justin couldn't hear what JC was saying but it wasn't like he couldn't guess. He knew he was right when Joey pushed JC's hand off his arm and said, "Enough. Enough."
"No, it's not enough," JC said, "not if you don't --"
"Look," Joey said, with a snarl in his voice that was never there when he spoke to Justin. Justin had only ever heard it a couple of times, when Joey was talking to Kelly or JC. "You know I love you but you're fucked up about him, you've always been a little fucked up about him so I'm not going to -- just keep that shit to yourself, okay?"
JC folded his arms and looked at Joey until Joey looked down at the floor. "Sure," JC said, "sure, okay," and Joey and Justin both flinched at the edge in his voice.
"C," Joey said, "look, it's just -- you don't understand, okay? Haven't you ever just -- it's just really kind of fucking nice, you know, to have one thing that's just, you know, that's just perfect. Everything else, man, it's so fucking complicated. It's nice to have something that's just easy and simple and perfect and not all fucked up with all the everyday shit. It's nice to just have a little escape, this perfect little break from real life, and that's what he is for me, you know?"
"I know," JC said tightly, but Joey kept talking over him.
"And there's nothing wrong with that, absolutely nothing, as long as it's what I want and it's what he wants."
"Is it?" JC said, but Joey walked right past him.
Justin got the door shut just in time to open it to Joey's knock.
"Hey," Joey said, and Justin's body was already humming, simmering, as Joey's hand drifted over his waist, "where were you going?"
"Where you are," Justin said, and Joey laughed.
"I'm right here," Joey said, "and there's nowhere I need to be going till tomorrow afternoon."
"Where's Kel?" Justin said.
"Somewhere else," and Joey put one hand on the wall next to Justin's shoulder, leaning in to let his lips brush against Justin's.
"Were you -- did you have a fight with JC?" Justin said. "I thought I heard yelling."
Joey froze, his fingers pressing in on Justin's hip for just a second before they relaxed against his skin. "Nothing," Joey said softly, his mouth warm on Justin's throat. "Everyday shit, you know?"
"I know," Justin said, putting his arms around Joey's neck, tilting his head to the side so Joey could kiss him just below his ear. "I know," he said, because he did, and everyday shit, that wasn't what Justin was, that was what JC was for, JC was Joey's for that.
"But I believe," Joey said softly, his thumb sliding up under Justin's shirt, "I believe that we've got a whole eighteen hours before real life starts up again, and you know what that means?"
"I know," Justin said, and took Joey's hand when Joey offered it to him. Joey's fingers curved lightly around his.
"Come on," Joey said, and Justin followed him to the bed, for eighteen hours before their real lives started up again.
Justin was Joey's for that.
part of the [We Invented the Remix 2004] Challenge. Remix of [Damn, Baby] by jawamonkey