by Elina

Many thanks to Allen Sama, both for beta and for this picture, which made this whole thing happen.


The photographer tells you to lean in closer, and you do it. All five of you hunch in, huddle up together to be in frame. Your arm slips behind JC's back, Joey's arm slips over Lance's shoulder, and nobody thinks anything of it. You never, ever do. This is how photoshoots go. By the end of the day you won't be able to stand the feel of each other, having been pressed up against sides and backs and fronts for hours on end. You are sticky and sweaty where Justin leaned back and down to minimize the height difference, against the front of your shoulder.

It's always been a working hazard, this need to fit five of you in a space really only big enough for one or two. You think it might be this, more than anything else, that'll finally break up the band - when someone decides they can't stand to be squished in even one more time. It was touch and go during the early years, when you all didn't really know each other that well, yet had to spend hours with faces pressed insanely close together for the cameras. Back then, you were lucky to get one little picture on the corner of one page of some teenybopper magazine. You didn't have the luxury of spreading out, of personal space. Now you're the centerfold of those same magazines and they let you spread out as far as you want, but still you find yourself pressing in against your bandmates, running a hand up someone's back, relaxing into the fingers pressed against the nape of your neck out of habit.

You don't realize how natural it feels now until you look up one day and realize you've spent the last five hours in JC's hotel room, curled up on the couch with him and Justin. Joey and Lance have the loveseat to themselves, Joey leaning back in the V of Lance's thighs, and they are studiously watching the movie. Lance's hand is petting Joey's chest, but you're not sure either one knows or cares. JC has you sideways between his legs, your head on his chest, and Justin is asleep on your other side, head pillowed between your ribs and your hip. JC keeps dozing off, even though he really wants to watch the movie, and you know it because he goes soft and pliant, then jerks a little every time he wakes up.

You wonder for a second why you always wind up like this. You all have your own rooms. Doesn't it seem like you should want to be as far apart from each other as possible after days and hours and years of sidebysidebyside? But then JC sighs in his sleep and runs a hand through your hair. Justin shifts and presses his face deeper into your side. You slide your hand over Justin's shoulder, and wonder why you would ever want to be anywhere in the world but here.

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