It's like a conversation, Justin thinks. That makes it easier for him to understand it. He's never been too articulate. He's okay in interviews and things, of course, it's not like he's JC or anything. But he's always been more comfortable with movement than with words. His body has always been fluent.
It's a language no one outside the group knows. Or rather, everyone else knows it, but no one understands it the way they do. It makes sense, when Justin thinks about it. Their lives are so strange, surreal, so unlike anything he could have imagined before. They defy description. They are beyond words.
No words exist that could convey the desperate ecstasy on JC's face when he bursts onto the bus after a show, switching on the radio and spinning wildly across the room. There is nothing Justin can say, nothing he can do but jump up and join JC in his frenzied dance, arms twining around JC's neck, hips grinding against JC's. JC sings loudly, gibberish, the Chasez version of the lyrics. Justin swallows nonsense words when JC kisses him. JC's voice licks around him, beautiful and meaningless, as Justin slides to his knees and opens JC's pants. Even with Justin's mouth on his cock, JC still sways in time to the music. When Justin runs his hands up JC's thighs to hold him still, he can feel the rhythm vibrating in JC's body.
When JC drops down beside him and murmurs, "I love this song," into Justin's neck, lips moving warm and soft against Justin's skin, Justin knows exactly what he means. But not because of JC's words.
It's not always him and JC. When JC is tired and slumped on the sofa, his body curved into a cry for comfort, it's Joey who answers. As Joey carries him off to bed, face hidden against Joey's shoulder, Justin and Chris look at Lance and then at each other. If Lance's shoulders threaten to tense, Chris will leap on him, holding him down and licking the strong line of his jaw. Under Chris' expert tongue, the hard shell of Lance's anger cracks and splits into strange low-pitched giggles that shake his whole body. His laughter only subsides when Chris thrusts into him.
Some nights Lance doesn't tense but softens, sagging back into his chair. The wistful way he watches the door close behind Joey calls Justin from his seat. Lance doesn't say a word as Justin straddles his lap and kisses him. Lance tastes like the German chocolate, forbidden because of their complexions, that they smuggled into their room once upon a time, on nights when the others went out clubbing. Nights when Justin truly thought they'd invented it, invented each other, Lance's voice sinking into his skin until he could see it shimmer when he moved, Lance's hands on his ass urging him deeply inside. Justin walked in on Chris and JC a few days later, JC backed up against the wall with a leg slung over Chris' hip. JC had beckoned him over and kissed him, slow and dirty, over Chris' shoulder, and Justin knew that Lance wouldn't be his only. But he was his first.
He and Lance don't have much in common these days. They don't have much to say to each other. But every once in a while, Justin slides into Lance's lap, lets Lance kiss him until they're dazed and drunk on it. Lance's lips find the secret place just beside the hollow of his throat, the one that still makes him gasp and squirm like he did the first time Lance licked it. He knows they're both remembering nights they've never talked about. Nights when they tangled into each other, caught in something sweeter and more forbidden than the chocolate that lay neglected beside their bed. Lance tastes like nostalgia, Justin thinks, sweet and slightly bitter on his tongue.
Joey is Justin's friend. They're all friends, of course, but with Joey it seems purer somehow, simpler. Something about Joey's sturdy frame makes him think of that word, friend, short and solid, strong and full. Joey and Justin have a tacit agreement. There's one thing Joey never talks to him about.
Joey is the only one. JC scolds and begs. Lance has threatened to call Justin's mother. Even Chris has warned him about it, voice flat, eyes on the ground. "You can't keep doing this, Just." Justin can't seem to tell them that he knows, that he's ashamed and afraid and overwhelmed by it, the mean streak that surfaces every once in a while with fans. He doesn't know how to explain it, even to himself. It's a little bit anger, a little bit fear, a little bit arrogance, a little bit something he's never been able to name. So Justin just stares at the wall and lets them talk until they're tired, his face burning, his lips sealed shut.
When the others have talked themselves out and left him alone, feeling meaner and angrier than ever, Joey puts a hand on his shoulder. That's all it takes to make Justin fling himself onto Joey, knocking them both down to the floor. Justin growls and bites and grabs, and Joey meets him, matches him, never lets him go too far. Justin never says a word, but Joey always knows when to wrestle him down and pin his wrists above his head. If Justin struggles, Joey slaps his ass hard, hard enough to bring tears to his eyes, until Justin stills and spreads his legs for Joey's fingers. Joey fucks him slowly, ignoring Justin's fingers scrabbling over his back, his desperate whines of "faster, please, faster." Joey drops his head to Justin's ear and croons to him, the words contradictory and quiet. Sweet cruel soft hard bitch beautiful. Not one of them means as much to Justin as Joey's warm sweaty skin against his cheek, Joey's hand against his ribcage, anchoring Justin to the ground.
They never talk about it. They've never needed to. They all know their roles, their responses. It's JC when he's wired, Lance when he's lonely, Joey when he's mean.
It's Chris every other time.
That's what's starting to worry him.
It never bothered Justin before. It seemed natural. Chris is his best friend, his partner in crime, the one person Justin can talk to for hours and never run out of things to say. But lately Justin thinks they've been drawing together a little too closely, pulling away from the others a little too much. When he counts back, he realizes it's been a while since he danced with JC, since Lance dropped a chocolate bar onto his lap, since Joey sparred playfully with him, working off the pent-up energy of days on the bus. Justin's just concerned that the others are hurt or angry. After all, this conversation has been going on a long time.
And it's not like he made a conscious choice to spend all his time with Chris. It just happened, before he knew what was going on. It's like he and Chris have embarked on a tangent, one that once ran parallel to the conversation but has since led them far afield. Justin has seen JC's eyes flash with fear in interviews when he gets lost in a tangent, looking around desperately for someone to pull him back. Justin is a little afraid of how far out he's gotten. He thinks it might be time for someone to pull him back.
When the show is over that night, he goes to JC's room. JC opens the door before he can knock. JC is surprised to see him. Justin asks if he can come in, and JC looks at him strangely for a moment before saying, "I'm going to Joe's room, J. Why? Where's Chris tonight?"
Justin goes back to his room to wait. Lance doesn't like him to come over till later. Lance has things to do. He hears voices from Lance's room, and thinks maybe he's waited too long. But he shrugs, and knocks anyway. When the door swings open, he hears JC's laugh.
Lance is looking a little rumpled. "You need something, Justin?" he asks, and Justin grins. "You guys partying in there without me?" he says, and tries to brush by Lance. Lance doesn't let him in.
"No," Lance says, "I mean, yeah. It's not anything special. I'd invite you in, but we were kind of. On our way to bed." Lance smiles at him. "I saw Chris headed toward your room a few minutes ago."
Justin looks at him in disbelief. "You saying I can't come in, Lance?"
"No," Lance says, "no, of course not, if you want to. Did you want to talk about something? Is anything wrong?" He opens the door a little wider, but before Justin can walk in he hears Joey's voice.
"What the fuck is the holdup, Lance?" Joey says as he approaches. He's not wearing a shirt. "Hi, Justin."
"Um, Justin wanted to come in," Lance says.
"We'll hang out in the morning, okay?" Joey says. "'S bedtime, J."
"I don't mind," Justin says, and presses up against Joey, slips an arm around his waist. Joey laughs and gently removes Justin's arm.
"Go play with Chris, J. Unless your problem's gonna kill you tonight, we'll talk about it in the morning."
"I don't have a problem," Justin says.
"Well, good." Joey laughs again and puts a hand on Justin's chest. He pushes him, fondly but firmly, into the hallway. "Good night, Justin," Joey says, and closes the door.
Justin heads back to his room. It doesn't look like he has any other choice. When he gets there, Chris is in his bed. "Where the fuck have you been?" Chris says mildly. Justin doesn't answer him. He sits on the couch and turns on the TV.
Chris gets up out of bed and sits beside him. Justin ignores him. It's hard to ignore Chris under the best of circumstances, but it's even harder when Chris is naked. Chris picks up the remote and starts flipping through the channels. "I was watching that," Justin says irritably and grabs the remote back.
"You were watching the news?" Chris says incredulously. Justin shrugs, and Chris mumbles, "Fine, we'll watch the news."
Chris slips down to the floor and sits with his head against Justin's knee. Justin thinks that Chris sucks at taking hints. Chris slings an arm over Justin's legs, and Justin jerks and knocks it off. His knee hits Chris in the head too, but that's mostly an accident.
"Yo, watch it," Chris says. He turns around and kneels up. He looks at Justin for a long moment. "What's your problem?"
"You," Justin mutters, and Chris' lips twitch. Looking at Chris, Justin has a hard time keeping a straight face as well. It was kind of a stupid thing to say. "Look," Justin says, "I just don't want you to do that. Is all." Chris looks at him for another moment.
"I see," Chris says, his voice silky with menace. He moves over so he's kneeling between Justin's legs. He puts a hand on each of Justin's knees. "Is this what you don't want me to do?" Justin starts to get up, then Chris runs a hand up Justin's thigh and starts unbuttoning his jeans. Justin sits back in the chair. "Yeah," Chris says, his breath warm against Justin's cock, "I didn't think you'd mind me doing this."
Chris teases him, mouthing the tip of his cock, licking the underside, dawdling, taking his time in a way he knows Justin can't stand. Justin shifts a little in his seat, sighs, and Chris grins briefly. Justin freezes and bites his lip to keep from making any more noise. He tries to concentrate on his annoyance but Chris picks just that moment to slide his lips down Justin's cock and Justin whimpers. He can't help it. He grips the arms of the chair, not so much to keep from pulling Chris' hair as to maintain his own dignity. He doesn't want Chris to feel him twist and tug and come apart.
Justin looks down. He can see the curve of Chris' back, his pale skin glowing as the light from the TV licks over it. He can see Chris' hard cock. He whimpers again. Chris' hands come up and circle Justin's wrists lightly. Justin's breath hitches, once and then again. Chris' thumbs rub gently against Justin's skin, tracing delicate patterns in time with the motions of his mouth.
After Justin comes, Chris smiles up at him. For just one moment, that smile is devoid of smugness, of snarkiness. It's sweet. It's so unlike Chris, and yet at the same time so completely like him, that Justin can't help sliding down into Chris' lap and kissing him. Chris cups the back of his head in one hand. "Sure, now you're in a good mood," Chris mumbles against his lips.
"Well, duh," Justin says, and Chris laughs. "Get up," he says, pushing Justin away lightly. "I'm too old for all this rolling around on the floor, especially when there's a bed right there."
Justin loses his jeans and T-shirt on the short trip to the bed, and he's naked when he crawls on top of Chris. Chris runs a hand over his ass, then stops. Justin pushes back against him. "What was all that about, Just?" Chris asks.
"Sorry," Justin says, and dips his head to worry at Chris' nipples. Chris slips a hand down under Justin's chin and lifts his head back up.
"No," Chris says, "I don't mean that, I just wanna know."
Justin rests his head on Chris' chest and looks up at him. "I don't know. It's just - do you think we spend too much time together?"
Chris repeats, "Too much time together?" and Justin flushes.
"No, I don't mean it like that." He doesn't. Chris looks at him. "I just mean - do you think we spend enough time with the other guys?"
Chris chuckles. "I spend eighteen hours a day with them, Just, I'm not really missing them right now." He pauses for a moment, then says, "Are you missing them, Justin?"
"No," Justin says. He's not. He's not sure what it is he's trying to say. "Do you think they're mad at us? Cause we don't, you know, hang out with them as much?"
"Justin, we hang out with them all day -" Chris stops and smiles. He watches Justin again. Justin can't tell what he's thinking. "I don't know, Justin," Chris says. "Why don't you ask them?"
"Oh," Justin says. It's a simple solution, but for some reason it doesn't seem like a solution at all. Chris laughs. His hand strokes up over Justin's back.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Just," Chris says, "but you're a little slow sometimes."
"What's the right way to take that?" Justin grumbles, but he lifts his chin to let Chris kiss his neck.
When Justin wakes up the next morning he feels a little lost, even with Chris' arm draped over his hip. He puts on his pants and goes to find the other guys.
He asks Joey if he's mad, and Joey sighs. "Look, if this is about last night, I'm sorry. We were just in the middle of it, you know, and you said you didn't have a problem, so -"
"No," Justin says, "I just thought you might be kind of mad at me. Cause I'm, like, off with Chris so much lately."
Joey looks at him for a minute, then punches him lightly on the shoulder. "Dumbass," he says affectionately.
Justin finds Lance working at his laptop. "Do you think I'm not spending enough time with you?" he asks. Lance doesn't even look up.
"Not that I've noticed, J," he says. "In fact, if you don't mind, I'm kind of trying to get this done."
Lance calls, "Thank you," as Justin walks out the door.
He curls up next to JC on the couch. "C," he says, and puts his head on JC's shoulder. JC rubs a hand over his scalp.
"What was all that about last night?" JC says.
"I was gonna ask you the same thing."
"Did you and Chris have a fight or something?" JC says. "I guess you made up, though, cause he looked awfully happy this morning."
"No," Justin says, "we didn't fight." He thinks for a minute. He's not sure what he wants to say. "I just. Do you think it's kind of strange. That I'm with Chris all the time now?"
"You're with me right now," JC says, and Justin pushes his head back against JC's hand. "We see each other all the time."
"No," Justin says. "I don't mean like this." He pauses again. He doesn't know why he can't say it. "I mean, like, at night."
JC pulls away from Justin, just a little, just far enough so that Justin can see his smile. "Oh, Justin," he says, "we all understand."
Justin wishes he did.
He's feeling cooped up and crowded that afternoon, although he spends most of it watching TV alone in his room. They brought the bikes on this leg of the tour, though, and he's glad. He tells Lonnie he wants to ride before it gets dark.
When Justin goes down to get his bike, Chris is already there, helmet in hand, pretending to listen to Lonnie's laundry list of warnings. "Hey," Justin says, "how'd you know I was riding?"
"Lonnie told me," Chris says, and Justin turns to Lonnie. Lonnie looks at Justin, then at Chris, then back at Justin.
"Was I not supposed to?" Lonnie asks.
"Do you want me to stay here?" Chris says patiently.
"No," Justin says. He doesn't.
When they're on the road Justin ignores Lonnie's warnings and takes off ahead of Chris. There's a fire road cutting across the highway, and he follows that until he comes to another, smaller road that branches off. He doesn't know where it goes. Justin turns off onto the smaller road and rides fast, like he's being chased. He goes farther than he intended. When he finally stops there are a lot of trees around him, and no highway noise. That's not a good sign. He feels lost.
Chris catches up to him, gets off his bike and saunters over.
"I think we're lost," Justin says.
Chris shakes his head. "Nah," he says, and swings a leg over Justin's bike. He straddles it, facing Justin. Chris kisses him. Justin leans back, and Chris hooks a finger under Justin's collar. Justin sways forward even before Chris pulls him in.
"Um, I don't think this is really a dealer-recommended activity for this motorcycle," Justin says.
"No," Chris breathes. "And when they get wind of what I'm about to do to you, Harley-Davidson will ban us for life. They won't even let us buy T-shirts." Chris reaches down and grabs a fistful of Justin's jeans, lifts until Justin's leg rests over Chris' thigh. Justin's other leg mimics the same movement without Chris' prompting. Chris grins and curls a hand around Justin's belt, tugs until Justin slips down the seat and settles tight and hot against him.
"Seriously, Chris," Justin says. He tries to squirm away but there's not much room. His body seems to misinterpret the squirming as Chris' hand brushes against his ass. "I don't know where we are. I think we're lost."
"We're not lost," Chris says. He slides his hands to Justin's hips and holds him still.
"You know where we are?" Justin can feel his body relax under Chris' fingers.
"No," Chris says. He kisses Justin again. "But we're not lost."