Mansion on the Hill
ever since I was a child I can remember that mansion on a hill
"I wish you'd told me we'd be climbing a mountain."
"We're not climbing a mountain."
"Because if you'd just told me we'd be climbing a mountain -"
"It's not a mountain, C. It's barely a hill. It's more of an. Incline. A gentle incline."
"Because if you'd told me we'd be climbing a mountain, I'd have worn different shoes."
Justin sighed. It wasn't a mountain, it was a hill. A very small hill. With a wide paved path to walk on - they didn't even have to hike. And he'd suggested, very politely, that JC might want to reconsider Italian leather-soled dress shoes for an afternoon outside in the park, but some days you couldn't tell JC anything. "Look, C, if you don't want to -"
"I didn't say I didn't want to. I just said if you'd told me what we'd be doing, I would have been better prepared. That's all." They rounded a bend in the trail and were faced with a slightly steeper path. "Look. You said we weren't climbing."
"I said we weren't climbing a - never mind." Justin brushed past JC to take the lead. "I'll go first, make sure there aren't any dangerous cliffs or wild animals on our way up the Everest of the South here."
"I didn't say it was like Everest. I just said we were climbing a mountain. Which we clearly are. That's all I'm saying. That, and that if you'd told me we were climbing, I wouldn't have worn these shoes. I look like an idiot out here. None of you ever tell me anything, and then I'm the one who looks like an ass when I'm wearing something that's, that's inappropriate for the activity."
Justin briefly considered asking what kind of activity pants with naked ladies on them would be appropriate for, then sighed again. He started up the path, swinging his hips a little as he went. Sometimes you just had to gently refocus C's attention. Otherwise he'd be on the same topic all day. He heard JC hiss appreciatively, and he grinned. He didn't think he'd be hearing anymore about JC's shoes for a while.
They didn't talk as they continued up the hill. Justin felt a small flutter of excitement in his stomach every time they passed a familiar landmark. By the time they reached the tree with RT carved into the trunk, he was bouncing a little as he walked. He heard JC laugh behind him.
At the summit of the hill, the path opened onto a wide grassy field, dotted here and there with wildflowers. "Oh, pretty," JC said softly, but Justin wasn't looking. He was peering down the hill, scanning the countryside quickly. He hadn't forgotten where it was. He hadn't. He'd just lost his bearings a little coming up the hill. And there was a new development down by the highway that hadn't been here last time, he was pretty sure. That was throwing him off too. Finally he found it, on top of a green curve that looked darker and richer than the lawns around it.
"There it is, C," he said, pointing. JC came up beside him.
"That's it?" JC said. "That little house?"
"No," Justin said. "You must be looking at the wrong one. That one over there, with the columns out front. On top of that little hill over there." He pointed again.
"Yeah," JC said. "That's the one I saw. That little house there."
"It's not a little house. It's a mansion."
"Justin," JC said, and Justin could hear the amusement in his voice. "Both of your houses are, like, twice the size of that one. Maybe it's not a little house, but it's not a mansion."
Justin tilted his head. It did look smaller than he remembered. "Well, maybe it's the angle. Because I'm telling you, it's a big house. I think we're a little higher up than I used to be when I came out here."
"Sure," JC said. "I'm sure that's it."
Justin glanced at him. JC was smiling patiently at him, his face folded carefully into a look Justin knew very well as the "humoring Justin" look. Normally Justin was a big fan of that look; it meant getting the last Coke when he whined and sleeping with his head in JC's lap when he was tired and blowjobs in the back of the bus when he was sulking. But now he felt a quick flare of resentment. JC just didn't listen sometimes. Sometimes Justin was right.
The first time Justin had brought JC up here, the only other time he'd brought JC up here, JC had been humoring him too. JC had come to visit him out of the blue a while after MMC ended. Justin hadn't known he was coming; the last he'd heard, JC was out in LA. Then one day his mother said, "Come straight home today. I've got a surprise for you," and after school JC had been sitting on the steps outside his house, squinting in the sunlight. Justin had thrown himself onto JC, tossing his backpack into the bushes and laughing with shock and delight. He hadn't realized how much he missed JC until JC was right there.
JC had laughed too after a minute, and brushed his mouth against Justin's hair, murmuring something stupid and adult about how Justin had grown. Then he pushed Justin playfully off him. Justin sat on the step below JC and peppered him with questions - Did he have a record deal yet? Had he gotten any acting gigs? Was he going to be in anything Justin could tell his friends about? JC got quieter and quieter as Justin spoke, wrapping his arms around his knees and hunching over a little. Justin looked up suddenly and saw something in JC's eyes, and he knew he'd hurt JC even before JC said in a small voice, "I'm actually. I'm kind of leaving LA, I think. Or. I mean, I've already left. Actually."
"Oh," Justin had said, because he couldn't think of anything else. JC had smiled a little, a twitch of his lips and a flash of white, and reached around Justin to fish his backpack out of the bushes. "So. Um. What are you gonna do now?"
"I don't. I hadn't. I guess I'm kind of. On vacation, right now," JC said, his eyes down as he fiddled with the straps of Justin's bag. There was a small silence while Justin tried to think of something to say, and then JC had looked up sharply. "It's not like you think it'll be, Justin." His voice had been hot and angry, but Justin had heard something scared behind it.
"Come on," Justin had said, standing up. JC looked at him. "Come on, I want to show you something."
"I don't know, J," JC had said. "I think your mom was gonna -"
"Come on. It'll make you feel better."
"I feel -" JC had started, and then his voice faded. He looked down at Justin's backpack again for a second. Then he stood up and smiled carefully at Justin. "Okay," he had said.
He had been humoring Justin. Justin had known it back then, but he hadn't cared. He led JC up to the top of the hill and they sat in the grass until it was past dinnertime. Justin had pointed the mansion out to JC and they had talked about what it would be like when they lived in houses like that. JC was still smiling so brightly when they got home that Justin's mom burst out laughing in the middle of scolding them. "Go get washed up," she had said. "I can't yell at you when you look that happy."
JC had squeezed Justin's shoulder as they walked toward the bathroom. Justin had beamed. He'd known it would make JC feel better.
Just thinking about it now made Justin grin, forgetting his resentment, and JC grinned back at him. "What are you so happy about?" JC said.
"Oh, I was just thinking about how I'm always right," Justin said, and JC raised an eyebrow. "I am," Justin said. "Remember the other time I brought you up here?"
JC's brow furrowed for a moment, and then he said, "Wait. That time I came out here after. This is where you brought me?"
"Yeah," Justin said. "Yeah, don't you remember? I brought you up here, and showed you the mansion -"
"Yeah," JC said. "Yeah, I remember, I just. I remember it being a lot bigger."
"I'm telling you, it's a big house. We were just closer up, that's all. C'mere," Justin said, and reached out and grabbed JC's hand, pulling him further down the hill.
Justin had done that the other time, too, the first time. He had taken JC's hand to lead him down toward the house, and JC had snatched his hand back. "Um, Justin," JC had said, and Justin had flushed. He was in junior high, he knew about the things guys didn't do together, like hugging, and holding hands, and he knew about the things people said when they did. But he hadn't thought of JC as a guy, not like that. He was just JC. Justin had hauled him around the set by the hand all the time, and no one had thought anything of it. Justin had looked at JC, shuffling a little and avoiding Justin's eyes. He had seen the sharp slashes of JC's cheekbones, the broad shoulders, the flat planes of his hips. His gaze had lingered a little on the firm outline of JC's cock beneath his jeans, and suddenly Justin was the one who couldn't meet JC's eyes.
JC had laughed. "I'm being stupid," he had said. "It's just like old times," and he started to slip his hand into Justin's. But Justin had shrugged him off. He wasn't going back.
He hadn't gone back, and now JC laced his fingers through Justin's and raised them briefly to his lips. Justin smiled back at him, and wondered if JC was remembering the same thing.
They walked easily down the green slope. Finally JC stopped and said, "Justin, we're practically in their backyard."
"Just a little further," Justin said. "Nobody's gonna see."
"It doesn't matter, we should still stop," JC said. "How would you feel if somebody snuck onto your property?" Justin looked at him sharply, and JC said, "Well. Still."
"All right," Justin said. He let go of JC's hand and flopped down on the grass. He studied the house. Something seemed wrong. It wasn't the same as he remembered. "It is smaller," Justin said.
"Well, maybe the angle, like you said." Justin didn't need to look back to know that JC had his humoring face on.
"No, I never got this close before. It's not that. It's just. It's smaller."
JC sat behind Justin and wrapped an arm around his waist, tugging gently until Justin slid back and leaned against JC's chest. He put a hand on one of JC's bent knees. "It's smaller, C," he said.
"It's not smaller, baby," JC said softly into his ear. "You just got bigger."
"It's a fucking house, it's not a pair of sneakers," Justin said. "I can't outgrow it." JC tightened his arm around Justin's waist and didn't say anything. Justin glanced behind him and saw something flicker in JC's eyes. He knew what JC wasn't saying. He had outgrown it.
"It used to seem so big," Justin said. Once he hadn't known how to dream of anything bigger.
"Yeah, well, you've seen a lot of big things since." Justin had, he knew. He'd been all over the world, had seen everything there was worth seeing. He wasn't sure why that suddenly made him feel sad. "You remember what you said to me, J, that day you brought me up here?"
Justin shook his head. He remembered, but he wanted to hear JC say it.
JC nipped his shoulder, and Justin knew JC knew he remembered. But JC said it anyway. "You said, 'One day, C. One day we're gonna have houses like that, and everything else we want. One day.'"
"Guess it's one day," Justin said. For some reason, it didn't make him feel any happier.
JC kissed his neck. "Guess so," he said.
"It just. It's not," Justin said. "Is it like you thought it'd be?"
JC was quiet for a moment. "Nothing ever is, baby," he said softly.
Justin swallowed. "I guess everything changes," he said.
"Yeah, well," JC said. His mouth moved in Justin's hair. "Yeah."
Justin didn't say anything. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back against JC's shoulder, let JC trail tiny kisses along his throat.
"It's still pretty, though," JC whispered.
Justin opened his eyes. "Yeah."
"See those blue shutters?"
"They're not blue, C."
"No, not those. On the second floor. See how pretty?"
"Yeah," Justin said. "Yeah. I like those."
They sat together as the sun sank slowly. They didn't say anything. JC's breath grew more insistent in Justin's ear. He let JC ease him onto his back and stared up at the darkening sky. JC pushed his shirt up and licked a careful line down his chest.
Justin had slept with a lot of people, men and women and even men and women together. He'd stopped to count once and had stopped, slightly shocked, when he reached three digits. He had done things that his fourteen-year-old self had never even heard of. But somehow JC could still do the simplest things, brush a kiss against his hip, wrap a slender hand around his cock, and leave Justin gasping and shuddering like the first time.
The first time hadn't been here. Justin had moved away by then. The first time was in the biggest bed Justin had ever slept in, in a hotel room as big as the first floor of his mother's house. JC's hands had been warm and strong on his body then, though, pressing Justin's body against the bed, and he had smiled down at Justin as Justin clutched at his arms and said his name.
"C," Justin said, reaching up for him.
"Shh," JC said, smiling down at him. He pressed gently against Justin's chest. Justin lay back and looked at the sky and clutched at the grass and let JC make him gasp and shudder like the first time.
JC rolled Justin onto his side and stretched out behind him. He ran a hand over Justin's chest. He pulled Justin's collar down a little with his thumb and rubbed circles at the base of Justin's throat.
"C," Justin said.
"Shh," JC said, but Justin didn't listen. Sometimes Justin was right.
"Maybe some things don't change, C," he said.
"Yeah," JC said. "Yeah, maybe." Justin glanced back sharply, sure suddenly that he'd catch JC smiling patiently at him. But JC was frowning a little, looking down the hill, his eyes shadowed. Justin put a hand up to his throat and covered JC's. "Maybe," JC said again. Justin leaned back into him and looked at the little house on the hill.
When it was almost dark, JC brushed a last kiss over Justin's ear and stood up, brushing himself off. "We should take off, J. We've got a flight to catch."
"I know," Justin said. He took the hand JC held out to him and rose from the ground. He had already turned to go when JC tugged him back.
"Look," JC said, pointing. A light went on near the door in the little house on the hill. "They're home from work, I guess." They watched as the lights went on room by room. In the twilight they could see bodies silhouetted against the warm glow of the windows.
"I never saw it like this before," Justin said. "I wasn't allowed out here this late, and then we moved. It looks. It looks really nice."
"Yeah," JC said.
"It just looks really nice," Justin said. He didn't want to turn away.
"Come on," JC said after a minute. "You ready to go home, J?"
"Yeah," Justin said. He didn't turn around. He wasn't thinking of either of his houses, each twice as big as the one he was looking at.
JC put his chin on Justin's shoulder and slipped an arm around his waist. "One day, baby," he said. "One day."
Justin linked his fingers through JC and brought their clasped hands up to his lips. Then he turned away from the house on the hill.