by >>Jae

He won't ask for what he needs.

He'll ask for a lot, for ridiculous things. You've seen him ask for the firing of a wardrobe assistant because of a split seam, demand the attention of the room as he boasts obnoxiously about exploits you'd doubt if he wasn't who he was. And you've watched the people around him, his family, his friends, your managers, everyone, give in to him, because after all, wardrobe assistants are a dime a dozen and what does it cost them to listen to his bragging. You can't believe the things he'll ask for, and the things he'll get.

But you know the things he won't protest. An interview that presses for more and more details about his spiritual life, his romantic life, his life. A song cut from the album, despite praise and promises, because it doesn't fit his image. Hours and days and hell, years of being surrounded by people who want things from him, and who aren't afraid to ask for anything. He never says anything, but you know when it's too much for him. You don't see it in his face. He knows better. You watch his hands.

They don't twist. He doesn't wring them. Any unsightly movement was trained out of him long ago, so thoroughly that he can't even be ugly unconsciously. You're not even sure he could do it on purpose. His hands trace patterns on the table in front of him, on the arms of his chair, on his own thigh. His long, slender fingers move in quick sharp lines or slow graceful arcs, but to your eyes the gestures always form one word.

You will bully him relentlessly into apologizing to cowed wardrobe assistants. You have mocked his arrogant posturing until he cried, and you felt no remorse. But those gently fluttering fingers touch something dark and hidden inside you. A part of you recoils at the idea; vast isn't a big enough word to describe the chasm between your childhood and Justin's. That part of you, for years well-fed only on bitterness, wants to know what you could possibly find to pity in a 20-year-old with 450 pairs of shoes.

But the message telegraphed by those elegantly nervous hands is too easy for you to read. It's like a private sign language. Very private. You're not even sure he speaks it. You are fluent.

His hands speak to you of longing and of fear. A need so harsh he's afraid to ask, because he can take not having it. He can live without it, but he can't live with knowing that no one will give it to him. He's afraid to find out how little he's actually worth.

Need and fear. You understand him. It's your native tongue.

Those hands always beckon you to action. You laugh and joke and draw the reporter's focus just far enough off him so he can breathe. You dig in your heels and let label execs and tour sponsors and Johnny yell at you and you remain unmoved. You grab those lightly circling hands and pull him into a quiet corner and kiss him urgently and let him mumble soft sweet words that stick like barbs into your skin.

You told yourself at first that you did it to help him. But recently, when his hands rest pliantly in yours after, when he's ready for another round of meeting the world's demands, you think that maybe you're not. Maybe you're like all the others, buying him something to keep him quiet, to avoid disturbing the delicate balance that keeps him, and 'n sync, and you, on top of the world.

But at least it's something he needs, you tell yourself. And you don't pay for it with money, but with your wit and with your willingness to make enemies and with small jagged pieces of yourself you know won't be replaced. It costs you, and you think that has to count for something. You watch him watch his hands, and you hope someone's counting.

You wonder sometimes if it wouldn't be better for him if you weren't there to help him. You worry about what you're doing for him, to him. It was one thing when he was younger, a boy, but he's a man now. Maybe it would be better for him to fall, to fail, to be forced to ask for what he needs or to learn to live without it. What will he do when you're not around?

Then his hand curls into yours, and in its still weight you read your future.

You're not going anywhere.

>>feedback >>home >>stories >>livejournal