JC is so light you think he might float away.
He never was before. You laughed when Chris called him dense, but you thought it was truer than Chris meant. JC was filled, full to the brim, with songs and worries and love and ideas and fear. He vibrated like a tuning fork, pitched to protect, to pick up concern and caution and radiate comfort and cheer. His skin stretched tight as a drum over a care that even then was delicate, although so heavy it exhausted him, so tense it had to spill out in random chatter and nervous laughter.
JC is quieter now. He's lighter too. He has shed the weight of the world's demands, and yours, until all that's left inside him is a dream. He is down to skin and bone, and you're not even sure about the bone. He shines and shimmers, grace pouring golden through him like light through a gourd that's been hollowed out and placed over a candle.
JC is careless. Almost.
He is more beautiful now than he has ever been. He is more beautiful than you can bear. You're not sure if he's changed physically, or if what you see is simply the idealization of absence, beautiful the way a memory is when it's all that's left behind.
You don't know if the others see what's happening. You don't know if they understand why all of you are compelled to touch him now, all the time, each in his own way. Chris ruffles JC's hair every time he passes. Joey sweeps JC up into bear hugs until his feet leave the ground. Lance pats JC's shoulder as if testing to see if he's still solid. JC smiles patiently through their ardent attentions, as if he knows something they don't. You know.
You have seen the signs. The way his eyes turn toward you and watch something you've never been able to glimpse. The way his spine straightens at the echo of a closing door, as if he is dreaming of what it would sound like shutting behind him. The way the notebook he once thrust eagerly at you now lies buried in his bunk. You found it once, read scribbled songs of heat and desire and darkness that you can't imagine on your albums. When he walks by you now, you hear those words whispered in the soft silken rustle of his shirt.
You know why the others can't keep their hands off JC. They're the last thing, those tentative touches. They're his only care now. They hold JC down, pull him back, anchor him to the group and to the ground.
You know you shouldn't. You see the way his muscles strain in his sleep as you stroke his arm, see him struggle against the only strings that haven't snapped. You know he has lingered longer than he wanted, longer than you should have let him. You know it's time.
But you can't help yourself. You touch him, even though you feel its desperate futility in his feathery breath on your shoulder. You caress his waist, smooth skin slipping easily beneath your palms, empty air hovering heavily over your fingers. You hold his hand, a privilege granted you when he still thought of you as a child and which you won't give back until he takes it. You know he'll never do that. You don't know what you'd do if he did.
What he's going to do is better, and worse. He's going to leave.
JC is ready to fly.