The only thing you really regret is that you used to defend her when the others would make fun of her.
Joey would say something like, "What are you gonna wear on your date with Sir Clitney? Got any flannel shirts? You could match."
then Chris would say, "Do you have one that says I'm with Stupid?"
and Lance would say, "How about I'm not gay, but my girlfriend is?"
And you'd say, "Give it a rest, assholes. She's not gay or dumb."
Then she caught you making out with JC and dumped your ass for her choreographer.
Justin found JC facedown on the couch. "Want some Cheetos?"
"No," JC said, "I'm crying."
"Why?" Justin sat on JC's calves. "Who died? Your seamonkeys?"
"Don't joke like that." JC sniffled, "And try Meemaw."
Justin ate a chip. "Well, she was basically a sea monkey."
"Thanks for calling my dead grandmother a seamonkey." JC jostled his legs. "Move, your fat ass is breaking my legs."
"Your fat legs are breaking my ass." Justin pushed his weight down harder. "Didn't Meemaw die like twenty years ago?"
JC was quiet a moment. "Still hurts."
Justin wiped his cheesy fingers on JC's pants.
Wait JC POV
Two weeks now without a word. Not a phone call, not an e-mail; nothing. He's thinking you'll wait, because you always have before. And you will wait. For now.
You play this game, and you play it fair. You won't cut him off without warning. That would be cruel, which you aren't. Or just a ploy for attention, and you're not one for tricks. When it's over, you'll mean it. If you want attention, you ask for it, demand it, get it.
You leave a message: "I hope you think I'll wait forever. Because I like it when you're wrong."
Joey Lance POV
"I love you."
He tells you, but he tells that to everybody. Kelly, and all the girls, and all the men. They know how it feels, the same as you do, to lay next to him and feel so sated and feel so safe and have him tell them that.
"I love you."
And the worst part is that he isn't lying, he isn't faking. He has a heart that big, that much love to give. It encompasses the whole world, and he's so happy you can't help but be happy with him.
"I love you."
And he means it.
Face Justin POV
Sometimes you feel guilty and you think you should tell her.
Maybe she knows, but you. Should say it out loud. to her face.
You meet her in a public place, she's made up so nice and cameras flashing like popcorn popping, she threads her arm through yours and smiles so big and pretty, talks a little louder than seems natural.
Inside the limo, where it's dark and it's just you two, you lean in to kiss her because she deserves that much. Her hand on your chest, gentle but firm. She says, "Don't spoil my face."
So you don't.
Him (Sequel to Choose) JC POV
You think he might understand if you told him that it's him, but you won't, because you know how much it would hurt him to hear that.
Because it's him. Looks so pure, so good while it's there but always leaves you feeling empty. More is available at the right price. It's him.
You keep it hidden; people don't know, but suspect. It's delicious and destructive. No matter how much you get, you want more. You need more. Just like him.
He scared it'll kill you. So are you.
He tells you to choose, and you do.
You choose him.
Choose JC POV
"What happened to quitting?" Little vial in his hand and you want to snatch it and hiss Give me that, because it's yours and he has no right, but you're caught, and this isn't the time to get pissy over intrusion of privacy. You shrug and he insists, "What's this?"
You tell him, "Pixie dust." Stupid question, stupid answer.
"Fuck you." He goes to the bathroom and drops the vial in the toilet. "Me or...that. I mean it. You have to choose."
"I choose you," You say. and wait until he leaves to fish the vial out of the bowl.
Embrace Justin POV
There are no words for what it's like to come home to you after a long day. No words to truly capture you in a warm bath, glowing in candlelight, waiting to soothe my aches.
Jazz wafting like a breeze, more of you and I forget myself in it, stepping into the water and you pull me close, limbs and lips, it's coming home.
To just kiss for hours, press my hands all over you and hold you like this. To let there be nothing else but you, and me with you, to get lost in losing myself in you.
Happened JC POV
I think about you and the way you smile and your laugh and a phone call all those years ago, an invitation to try with you. I think about the music and all the double-edged success. I think about you in my bed and me in your arms, and the way we are together.
And you're the best thing that's ever happened to me.
I think about you and what you've become and what you've always been. I think about your priorities and frail promises and how you'll never change.
And you're the worst thing that's ever happened to me.
Mine JC POV
He's in your arms the minute he walks in. You hate to press him, but have to ask, "What happened?"
He looks so tired. "Don't worry about it."
You look him in the eyes, shake your head a little. His problems are yours now. "What happened?"
His sigh is heartbreaking. "She's getting rid of it."
Your heart stops, everything stops. "Fuck," a whisper, "Fuck, J."
His cell rings. He sees the name on the screen, Wade, and thumbs the Off button. He looks up at you, eyes glossy and red, his voice raw when he says, "It's not mine."
When Justin opened the door and Chris brushed past him and stepped inside, just by the way Justin stood there, didn't lead him further into the house, Chris knew.
He said, "What's up? You busy?"
And Justin said, "Kind of." and Chris knew.
"Oh." He paused, wanted to say things, knew he couldn't. "I'll go." Tried to smile, look apathetic. "I was just bored, driving around..." He shrugged. "Maybe I'll stop by JC's, see if he wants to--"
"I, um." Justin looked away, a flush creeping up his neck and cheeks. "I don't think he's home."
And Chris knew.
Flight Lance POV
Up in outer space, there's no gravity to fall, sung softly under your breath as you exercise. These past few months you've pushed so far past your old limits that you have new ones, and you're out to break those, too. Hard work, it's what you know.
What you don't know is how to react to the e-mail you received last night from Joey.
JC, it said. JC and Justin.
Hurt, betrayed, ofcourse, and also more determined than ever to go. Up there, none of this exists. You think about nothing but leaving, and pretend you won't be coming back.
Chimera Justin POV
You're the flash of a camera. Blinding bright but incorporeal, transient. This is why love can't be enough.
He tells you, "I can't be with you."
And you know but still ask, "Why?"
It hangs in the air and you almost smile at each other because you both know it was said solely to prolong the connection, your greedy hands grasping spilt-second straws, taking all you can as the end envelops and tightens. Crushing you closer than you've ever been even as it rips you apart.
"Because you're not real."
Nothing you haven't known. Still: aloud, the truth is jarring.