Part Two: "Sparkle"
by Cody

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I.            The asshole of your dreams.

JC's what some might call an Undercover Asshole. He's polite and shy and neat, and that fooled most people into thinking he's a great guy. Not that he's a bad guy by any means, but he had his faults. For example, he could be anal about cleanliness, specifically that of his own apartment. He didn't mind if other people's places weren't spotless, but just try to put a glass in the dishwasher without rinsing it first at Casa JC and see what happened. Angelboy's careless, left dirty dishes lying around sometimes and once spilled spaghetti sauce on the counter and missed a spot wiping it up. For some reason, JC found it endearing.

He'd never found it endearing when Rick had been messy. Actually, Rick hadn't been as bad as Angelboy, but JC didn't remember it that way. "Rick is such a slob," JC'd told Joey upon finding an empty beer can on a coaster in the living room. When Joey found a Snickers wrapper Angelboy had stuffed between the couch cushions, JC had taken and inspected it with a charmed smile. "He always folds them like this. Isn't that weird?"

Joey, taken aback, said, "Wow. He must be really good in bed."

JC didn't blush, another surprise to Joey. He just laughed and teased, "You'll never know."

That's another thing: JC's a smug bastard. Petty, too. He loved knowing something others didn't know; having what someone else wanted. In that respect, as well as others, he was currently Living It Up. He ate it like candy; the way people's eyes went first to Angelboy and then to him, filled with longing and envy. He'd put his hands anywhere he pleased on Angelboy's body, accept the kiss his touch incurred and then look at everyone, his freshly-kissed smile blinding, and silently sing Nanny-nanny boo-boo.

He also hated to lend out his things. Usually wouldn't do it at all, but if friends managed to coerce him into letting them borrow something, he did so with such reluctance and so many conditions they'd end up wishing he'd just said no. He liked to share with Angelboy, though. It made him feel good, reminded him of a picture he'd seen in his Sociology textbook sophomore year at the university. It was of a hand-painted sign on the back of a truck full of fish that said WE TWO ARE ONE. It was actually a slogan supporting population control, if he remembered correctly, but he took it the way he wanted. Not as two people becoming one through the birth of a single child, but two becoming one through the entwining of two lives, two hearts, two souls.

These were thoughts he never imagined he'd share with anyone, so corny and stupid, but he found himself blurting them to Angelboy one night as they lay entangled on the couch watching a Seinfield re-run. Angelboy just smiled, kissed him sweetly for some minutes, and then fell asleep with his head on JC's chest. JC'd lain beneath him, his eyes on the antacid commercial on the screen but his mind on the man that covered him.


But there was too much JC didn't know.

Which summoned to mind another of his myriad faults: Nosiness. You could call it Curiosity, if you wanted to put it nicely. Fuck nice. He's a nosy motherfucker.

II.            Don't want to call my friends, they might wake me from this dream.

As though JC's natural nosiness wasn't enough of a problem, there was Joey, well intentioned but still bothersome with his, "You know I have nothing against Angelboy, but how could you let him move in? You just met him!" and "I'm all for you being happy, but how can you love someone you know nothing about?" Because they were fucking good points, and questions JC forced himself not to dwell on.

Sometimes after spending time with Joey, JC would come home ready to just ask. Feeling as though he couldn't live another second without finding out everything, that it was just plain wrong to be living with and so attached to a person of whose past he knew basically nothing. He would drive home, march up the stairs with a head and heart full of resolution. And then he would find Angelboy curled up on the couch or sprawled across the bed, delicate and vibrant and precious as a dream, and feel he'd rather cut out his tongue than ever introduce unwanted queries to the shells of ears so perfectly shaped.

And it was easier really, to just let voicemail pick up Joey's calls, and not answer his messages.

But it ate at him, sometimes, that he didn't Know.

III.            I want to taste the salt of your skin, the soft dive of oblivion.

It started off great, this day of ill-gained revelation. JC made omelets for breakfast and went to the bedroom to wake Angelboy. He found their bed empty. "Angelboy?" JC called, veering towards the bathroom and the revelatory sounds of tooth brushing. He opened the door and poked his head in, "Angelboy."

Angelboy gave him a frothy grin, and JC laughed. He grabbed JC and planted a kiss on his neck, minty bubbles oozing in its wake. "Sick!" JC protested delightedly, leaning over the sink to clean himself.

Angelboy rinsed out his mouth and said, "You can call me Justin."

JC faltered, caught off guard. "...Okay."

"I mean, if you want to." He put his toothbrush in the holder, next to JC's.

"It's just, I thought you didn't like it, since nobody calls you that." JC felt as though there was a warm ribbon in his stomach, and Angelboy was pulling it out slowly through his belly button. It was a curious, good feeling. He moved closer.

"You could be the only one." Angelboy slid his arms around JC's waist, kissed him.

JC felt the ribbon unfurling so fast it made him shiver. The omelets are getting cold, he realized. But he didn't care.

IV.            Love will make you do things that you know is wrong.

After making out in the bathroom and eating a reheated breakfast, Angelboy settled on the couch to scribble in the black spiral notebook that JC saw him with often. JC sat next to him, tried to peek into it. "Writing in your journal?"

He tilted it toward his chest so JC couldn't see. "Mmm-hmm."

"Whatcha writin' 'bout?" A silly attempt not to smile. It was about him, JC was sure.

"Stuff," said lightly, but clearly not an invitation for further inquiry.

"Secret stuff?" JC persisted.

"Mmm," Non-committal. JC just looked at him. Finally, Angelboy closed the notebook. "I'll finish later."

"No, go ahead," JC got up. "Don't let me get in your way." He went to the bedroom to make the bed. Angelboy had already "made" it, which meant he'd flapped the comforter out over the sleep-wrinkled sheets. JC smiled at the haphazard job and went about fixing it.

He'd just tucked the last corner of the top sheet in military-style when Angelboy came in. He went to the closet and put his notebook in the only bag he'd left unpacked, a gray duffel bag with Kingwood High School Varsity Basketball printed on both sides, before helping JC smooth out the comforter. Then he tackled JC, and they landed on the bed in a whoosh of blankets. "Hmm, hmm, hmm," Angelboy made little noises of approval as he snuffled JC's cheeks and neck. He nuzzled his nose behind one of JC's ears, tickling him. "Mmm," A goofy voice, "Smells good. Good enough to eat!" He sunk his teeth into JC's throat, just a slight pressure.

"Aah! Get away!" JC angled his head to allow better access. Angelboy's tongue licked at JC's skin, his teeth abandoning their hold so his lips could take their place, sucking deliciously. It was quiet, but for the sounds of wet flesh and the pounding of JC's own pulse in his ears. He shifted restlessly, seeking Angelboy's mouth so it could suck on his lips until they throbbed.

And then Angelboy's wristwatch began beeping. The alarm JC had set for him last night. "Gotta go," Angelboy sighed regretfully, rolling off of him.

Five more minutes, JC wished he could say. He'd set the alarm so Angelboy would know when to listen for his ride honking. He didn't want to make him late. Angelboy worked at Retox, a record store that catered to DJ's. It was a pretty good job; reasonable hours and pay, cool co-workers. It was open from three p.m. to one a.m. on Saturdays, but he would only be there from eleven a.m. till open, he was just going in to help with inventory.

"You'll be home around three?" JC asked, wanting to talk a little before he left.

"Should be," A car horn beckoned from outside. "There's Den," He gave JC a quick peck. "I'll find you when I get off."

"Okay. Have fun," JC called after him.

"Yhea, right," He called back as he left.

JC went to the window, watched Angelboy run out to the awaiting Saturn and get inside. He was saying something to Dennis and checking his hair in the rearview as they pulled out. JC waited until the car was completely out of sight before turning away.

Then he went directly to the duffel bag and unzipped it. No use pretending he wouldn't do it eventually, and why waste time? In the bag he found--right there on top, he didn't go digging for it or anything--another notebook besides the black one, a green one. He sat cross-legged on the floor and opened it. The first page was blank. The next had 1999-2000 written on it and nothing else. The next page was blank. The fourth page of the notebook was where it all began.

V.            I cry when angels deserve to die.

JC thumbed through the pages, his conscience kicking in despite himself. He knew it would be very, very bad of him to invade Justin's privacy. Justin, he was still reminding himself not to think of him as Angelboy anymore, and it was something he knew he'd enjoy getting used to. Justin wanted JC to call him by his name, and it was a gift, a token of trust.

Trust that JC was about to break. Intentional Betrayal. The notebook in his hands was fruit from a serpent. But Joey's worries that JC didn't know Angelboy well enough to be living with him, JC's own aching need to know everything about him, overwhelmed JC's better judgment. He had to Know, and that was it.

And this was how knowledge tasted:

8/7/99              I had a girl and she did me wrong.
Second day home from basketball camp and everything is so fucked up I could die. WHEN DID LIFE GET SO FUCKED UP? I wish I'd never gone to that fucking party at Pharrell's, but it was the big End of Summer Bash and everyone was there. I wanted to go. I just didn't want everything to be like this. It's all so FUCKED. It's like I leave for a couple months and everything just falls apart. I didn't know life could be like that. Get so fucked up so fast. When I first got to the party everything was great. I took some shots in the den with everyone and we were catching up and laughing and talking about how awesome Senior Year is gonna be. Then I asked Clair if she'd seen Britney, and I could tell something was up just by her face. She said she thought Britney was in the basement but she wasn't sure. I left right away to find her. I thought she was there with another guy or something, I was ready to kick someone's ass. So I go down to the basement and I stand at the bottom of the stairs, trying to spot her but it was so smoky and dark I could barely see. Then Britney came up to me and she was all sweaty and her eyes kept rolling back in her head and I asked if she was okay and she said she was wigging. I started yelling at her asking her when did she start doing drugs and her face turned all red and she started screaming at me. Half the shit she said didn't even make sense, but she said she'd started bumping and wigging a week after I left for camp and that while I was gone she'd had sex with a bunch of different guys, some she didn't even know that she met at raves. She just blurted it out, no kinda shame or anything. Like she just didn't fucking care. I didn't know what to do. I was so shocked and pissed off, I seriously wanted to hit her. Trace grabbed my arm and took me to the car and made me give him the keys cause he didn't want me driving. He'd driven her there, but we just left the slut stranded at the party. I'm sure she didn't have trouble finding a way home, she probably fucked some loser for a ride. FUCKING WHORE. I fucking loved that fucking WHORE. I feel so FUCKING STUPID for all the times at camp I'd talk about her and tell the guys how beautiful she is and how I wanted to marry her after college. I gave her my heart and she FUCKED ME OVER. Goddamn fucking slut. I hope she got all kinds of STDs from slutting around and she gets big slimy pussy warts. FUCKING SLUT BITCH. Shit, I gotta fucking go. I gotta take Trace to pick up his car. We just left it at Pharrell's last night, and it has to be gone before his parents get back in town.

8/13/99            And if you see her, tell her it's over now.
It's Friday the 13th! A bunch of us are going over to Ryan's to watch scary movies and shit. I know that's lame but what else is there to do? Anyway, I've been avoiding the Slut like the plague. She keeps telling Trace to ask me to call her. I told Trace to tell her to FUCK OFF but he's too nice to say that to a girl. He probably just tells her I don't want to talk to her. Girls like her don't deserve respect. She's a dirty whore and she deserves to hear it.

8/24/99            I smile at the thought of hitting you.
I know I'm not really writing in here anymore, but I just don't feel like it. My last journal is so different, all full of the end of junior year and basketball camp and it says all this BULLSHIT about how much I love the SLUT and how perfect she is. God I was such an idiot! I tore up all the letters she wrote me while I was at camp and flushed them down the toilet because they were full of FUCKING LIES. Now I'm gonna go through my room and throw away everything that reminds me of her. Every note, gift, picture. I want to forget she exists. I won't throw away my old journals though, because that's different. God I fucking HATE her! I wish I could beat the shit out of her! I know I wouldn't really do it even if I could because she's a girl. Even if she is a DIRTY LYING SKANK FROM HELL!

8/28/99            Everything is cool, I wish you were dead.
I'm so sick of people asking me if me and the Slut are broken up and why did we break up and why isn't she ever in school. She's skipping to hang out with her new druggie friends, I'm sure. Me, Trace, and Ryan bought some studio time for September 18th. We're gonna cut our first demo! We all decided that after that we can't change the name of the band anymore, because when we played park shows here, people still knew our band even when we changed our name because they know us, but if we wanna expand we gotta stick to one name. We're all happy with Electric Flying Eggs, though, so it's no big deal. We still need a drummer since Jake moved. I think it's kind of cool that I'm the lead singer and the bass guitarist, I've never heard of another band set up like that. Ryan dyed his hair black and it looks really bad. Trace and I make fun of him all the time and he gets pissed, but dude, he seriously looks like shit!

9/1/99              Well first of all, I'd like to say, "Fuck off."
I forgot about Concrete Blonde. The chick in it was the bassist and lead singer. But anyway…The Slut came by Trace's today while we were having band practice. I don't know how she even knew we'd be there…Ryan's stupid girlfriend probably told her. She looked like complete shit. Her skin was really oily and broken out and her hair was stringy. She looked seriously dirty. She's always been thin, but she was muscular thin before and now she just looks disgusting. She was wearing this little shirt and you could see her tits were smaller and all her bones were sticking out. I didn't even recognize her at first. How could that be the same girl I was with? I would've gotten up and left when she showed up but she looked so different I didn't realize it was her until she was standing right in front of me. She said she needed to talk to me and I told her that I didn't have anything to say to her. Then she busted out crying and told me she's pregnant. Two months pregnant, so it's not mine THANK GOD! I asked her why she was telling me, it's none of my business. She sat down on the floor and started crying harder and I took my guitar and drove home. Nobody tried to stop me. I don't know what Trace and Ryan did after I left, I hope they threw her ass out. What the FUCK did she come to me for? What the Fuck does she want from me? Did she want me to say I'll help her out in some way? If she thinks I still care about her she's WRONG. That BITCH fucked me over and now she comes crying to me for help? FUCK HER! Her parents are gonna kill her when they find out she's knocked up and I'm GLAD. She's getting what she deserves.

9/9/99              It's hard on a girl, when the blood won't come when it ought to come.
I went to play b-ball today at Trace's house, and after the game we were chilling watching TV and all of a sudden he says he thinks I should talk to the SLUT cause she's really depressed and all this bullshit. I can't believe he's feeling sorry for that whore! He said he ran into her at a gas station and she looked shittier than ever and he could tell she was tweaking and she said she still hasn't told her parents she's pregnant cause they'll kick her out. She got a citation for truancy and had to go to court and they ask in court if you do drugs and if you say no they test you to make sure so she just admitted that she smokes pot and her parents are pissed as hell and she's on house arrest. But of course her dumb ass sneaks out anyway and her mom doesn't call the cops cause she doesn't want the Slut to go to jail or for her dad to find out. I bet all of this is really hard on Mrs. Spears. They used to be really close. Trace said he's worried about the Slut and he wants me to talk to her. I told him there's no fucking way I'm talking to that bitch ever again, not for a million dollars. He was quiet a long time, and then he said that even though she cheated on me she really does love me and that I shouldn't ignore the fact that there was a time that I loved her and we have a history cause we've known each other since we were little kids and she needs me right now and all this other bullshit. I told him that it's true, we have known each other forever and she was my first love and that's why I can't forgive her. She broke my heart into a million fucking pieces and she can go to hell for all I care. He just nodded and we went back to watching TV, but I could tell he's disappointed in me. So now that fucking bitch is screwing up my relationship with my best friend. I really do hate her.

9/18/99            Hearing you talk just makes me tired.
Everyone came over to Ryan's house after our studio session to hear our demo. We're gonna burn copies and sell them for five bucks a pop at our next gig. After we listened to the demo, we just hung out drinking and playing video games. The girls started talking about the Slut. They said she's trying to do a bunch of drugs so she'll miscarry because she doesn't want to tell her parents she's pregnant and she's too young to get an abortion without them signing a form. They were talking all kinds of shit about how horrible she is until Trace told them to shut up. The girls didn't know we could hear them, I guess, cause they were in the kitchen and we were in the living room. When they came out they all looked at me like they thought I would say something, but I didn't. I don't care.

9/24/99            Well I get what I want, and I never want it again.
Britney's dead. I can't believe it. I'm in shock, I think. It's just not registering. She killed herself. She told her mom she was going upstairs to do her homework and then she went into her bathroom, spread towels all over the floor, and shot herself in the head. No one knows who she got the gun from, the police ran a check on it but it's unregistered. They found crack in her system, too. Apparently she got fried one last time before she did it. CRACK, how fucked up is that? I can't even believe it. Britney smoking CRACK? That's not something real people do. That's something people on TV do, something you hear about but don't actually come in contact with. Who the fuck was she hanging out with that she had crack and a fucking gun? I wish I knew so I could beat the living shit out of them. Mrs. Spears called and told my mom what had happened and when my mom came in my room crying and told me, my first thought was that she was lying. I kept thinking, "She's lying. Why is she lying to me?" But I mean, I knew she wasn't lying, because #1 Who would lie about that? And #2 She was so upset. But I don't even know. Trace's parents drove him over and he and I laid in my bed and just hugged and cried like little kids. I can't believe it, I feel like any minute Britney's gonna show up and tell me this is all just a big joke to teach me a lesson for being mean to her. I keep wanting to think this isn't real because when I think about the fact that Britney's Dead, I will never see her again, she is not ALIVE anymore, it feels like my insides roll over on themselves and I feel nauseous and just this huge indescribable wrenching PAIN. She is the first girl I ever loved. Really, I didn't hate her, I was just so FUCKING HURT I couldn't even look at her without wanting to rip my heart out of my chest. It's all my fault she did this. I should've listened to Trace when he told me he was worried about her. I see all these people I love grieving and I know it's all because of my selfishness. Her parents and Trace's parents, who are like aunts and uncles to me, my parents, all of our friends, and especially Trace. I let him down so fucking Badly. He tried to tell me and I wouldn't listen. I'll probably go to hell for this, and if I do then I'll deserve it.

9/27/99            You go to my head and linger like a haunting refrain.
At her service they had all these pictures of her up on display with her gymnastics trophies and her old girl scout uniform. There were a bunch of pictures of her and me, and some with Trace too. Photos of us as kids and from Junior Prom and Homecoming. Everyone kept coming up to me saying how sorry they are for me. If only they knew the truth! Then they wouldn't be hugging me, they'd be spitting in my face. Throughout the whole service and later the burial and then the wake, I didn't cry. I just felt completely drained. All our friends and a bunch of kids from school were there, some of them I didn't even know. None of her druggie friends showed up, big surprise. If they had I would've kicked their asses. This one girl from school, I don't know her name, she has red hair. I saw her and remembered how Britney used to do this impression of her cause she has this weird waddle-walk and talks really loud and I don't know how to describe it. I was remembering Brit's impression and nearly started laughing in the middle of the ceremony. Then I felt like crying but I couldn't cause I think I've used up all my tears. After the burial we went to the Spears house for the wake and my family was the last to leave. Mrs. Spears told me to take anything I wanted from Britney's room to remember her by. I don't deserve any of her things as keepsakes, but since I threw out all her pictures I took one from off of her mirror, cause she has a bunch of snapshots taped up on it. I chose this one of her on the beach from the last day of junior year. She's wearing a bikini and standing ankle-deep in water with her hands on her hips. I remember taking that picture and wanting to keep it but she made me give it to her cause she liked it so much. She usually thinks she looks retarded in pictures, so she said she needed at least one good photo of herself to show our grandkids. But I guess it's okay if I take it now, cause she won't be having any grandkids. God, she's too young! She won't ever get to get married or have kids or go to college or anything. She always wanted to go to Paris. We used to say we'd have our honeymoon in Paris. God fucking damn it. It's NOT FAIR. When we left, her parents hugged me and told me they love me like a son. I felt like throwing up. I don't wanna go to sleep cause in my dreams she looks like she did the last time I saw her, all ugly and strung out. I don't want to remember her like that. I want to remember her beautiful. I wish I could mourn her as a boyfriend, or at least as a friend, but all I can do is mourn her as her killer. Someone who doesn't deserve my memories of what it was like to love and be loved by her.

10/10/99            I am the one you know can't look you in the eye.
I haven't been to school in two weeks, and Mom said she thinks I should go tomorrow. I know she's worried about me. Trace started going to school last week and I guess Mom didn't say anything earlier because she knows me and Brit were in love, so she figured I'd need more time. I guess she doesn't realize that I could live forever and I'll never have enough time. Trace and I have talked a few times since the funeral, but I don't know what to say to him. We just make small talk. I can't face him. I know I killed her, and he tried to save her, and I just can't face him.

10/11/99            I don't need an education; I learnt all I need from you.
I went to school today. Everyone treated me so goddamn nice. I wanted to scream at them cause they don't realize that I don't deserve their pity. Coach caught me in the hall and asked if I was coming to practice. I told him I'm quitting the team. I don't think he took me seriously. Because if I quit b-ball then I lose my scholarship to UT. I am serious, though. Because of me Britney will never go to college. She'll never even graduate high school.

10/15/99            We'd like to help you learn to help yourself.
Coach called my parents and told them that if I don't start going to practice he'll have to drop me from the roster. I told my parents to tell him to go ahead and drop me. Then Dad said he wants me to go to therapy. Can you believe it? I wanted to laugh in his face, but Mom was crying so I just said fine. I have an appointment on Monday with a Dr. Couch.

10/18/99            Why do you conclude that you can look right through my eyes, expecting to read what I'm feeling here?
Therapy is pointless. Dr. Couch asked me a bunch of stupid questions and it took me a few minutes before I realized what she was getting at. Finally I said outright: "Look, I'm not gonna kill myself, okay?" and walked out. She called my dad and told him, I think. Can she do that? Either way, he told me he scheduled another appointment for next Friday and asked me to go. I knew that was coming, but he surprised me because when he asked me to go he said Please. I'd been planning to refuse to go back, but when he said Please I was so shocked I said okay. What the hell, who cares? One hour out of my life won't kill me.

10/29/99            He spent all his life saying yes to life until one day he said, "No, I gotta go."
This is gonna be messy cause I'm in a car right now. On my way to Austin. How the fuck did this happen? I had my appointment with Dr. Couch today. I got there early, but it was twenty minutes past the appointment time and I still hadn't been called in by the time I left. In the waiting room I met this girl Christina. She's skinny and blonde and wears too much makeup, but she's really nice. Really, really nice. And I guess I'm just really fucked up in the head right now. I was just talking to her and when she suggested we go to the bathroom I just let her take my hand. It'd been so long since I'd fucked anyone, you know. And the whole time I thought about Britney and I thought about Trace and I thought about how everything is just ruined and nothing matters. I guess Christina doesn't sound that nice, just letting some random guy fuck her in a public bathroom, but she is. After we did it she asked me if I wanted to go get some lunch, and what could I say? She followed me in her car and we went to Schlotzky's and then back to my place to watch TV. She told me the reason she goes to a shrink is cause her parents think she's crazy cause she has two sisters and they're both Really Good Christians and in a sorority, and she's the only one who doesn't give a fuck about that kind of shit. She asked me why I went to a shrink, but I told her I didn't want to talk about it and she let it go. About five o'clock I said my parents would be home from work soon and they were gonna be pissed I didn't go to my appointment and how I hate this fucking town and want to fucking leave and she said "Well then why don't you?" and invited me to go to Austin with her. Just for the weekend, to go to a Halloween party her friend is spinning at and then she'll drive me back. She said "It'll help you get your head together." And I thought, Why the fuck not? My parents are gonna be pissed anyway, and I don't give a fuck. Might as well go and have some fun before the shit hits the fan. So here I am sitting in Christina's car and we've got less than an hour until we get to her friend's place. His name is Glitter. I asked her if that's his real name and she says she seriously doubts it. I feel like an alien, cause this is not something I'd ever do, just drop everything and leave like this. With some strange girl I don't even know to go to some party in Austin. I don't give a fuck, though. As long as I'm away

11/6/99             Living isn't a simple thing for me; I know ways to make it easier.
Wow. So much happened this past week. I don't know where to start. I guess I'll just hit the highlights.

Friday Night
Went to Glitter's, he's really nice but kind of weird. Like, he's so businessman but he dresses wild. It's weird. I don't know how to explain it. When we got to his place there were maybe twenty people there chilling, smoking weed and shit. The friend of Christina's that's spinning on Halloween is DJ Lucky (real name Chris). He's really cool, I liked him. He's really funny and smart. He travels all over the place and he's really down to earth. We got to talking about all kinds of shit and I told him about my basketball stuff, my scholarship and everything, and he was so impressed I felt embarrassed and I didn't want to tell him that I don't care about that shit anymore. By the time we left Glitter's it was morning and Christina and I went to Chris's to catch some sleep and hang out.

Slept at Chris's until late afternoon. Made eggs and biscuits and watched part of this anime movie Utena. It was fucked up but really cool. Then a bunch of people showed up, and we just hung out and smoked weed and drank and there were a couple tweakers but I didn't talk to them. Mainly I hung out with Nick Carter. Isn't that a cool name? I don't know, I just like it for some reason. Anyway, he's a friend of Chris's boyfriend Step (real name Wade). Yhea, by the way, Chris is gay. A lot of the people I met here are gay or bi-, and it's like no big deal. Everyone just does whatever and no one cares. It's cool. So anyway, I spent most of the night with Nick on the couch. He's not a big talker, but it was fun. People came and talked to us, and I don't know. Even though we didn't say much to each other, there was a connection. He just made me feel like I didn't have to think about anything. He's so laid back. It's like, when you're with him you feel like nothing matters, you know? And that was exactly what I needed. I got kind of drunk and I don't remember exactly how it went down but at some point Christina and Chris and everyone was saying they were going to some rave and I didn't want to go. Nick said I could stay at his place and meet up with Christina at Glitter's on Sunday, so I ended up doing that. I slept in his bed with him but nothing happened. We just laid down and passed out.

Halloween! Glitter's party was huge and awesome! I didn't have a costume so I just bought one of those devil kits that come with horns and a little pitchfork. Chris was making fun of me saying I look more like an angel and started calling me Angelboy. Then everyone started doing it and now they won't stop! I don't really care though, because I know they're not doing it in a mean way. Everyone's so fucking friendly. I love it. I was really impressed by Chris's set! He's bad ass! I got really fucking stoned with Nick and some of his friends and then we played some drinking game, I can't remember the name of it. I got DRUNK AS SHIT and ended up barfing all over the place. Nick was really cool about it and took me back to his place and I passed out on his couch. He said I could sleep in the bed if I wanted but I was kind of embarrassed so I said no.

Christina called Nick's apartment looking for me at like 10 a.m. saying she needed to get on the road soon. I was really hung over and didn't want to get up so Nick told her to just go and he'd drive me home later. I finally got up and showered around 4 p.m. We went out to eat and then Nick offered to drive me home but I told him I didn't have to go back right away. I knew my parents would just freak out on me for taking off so I wasn't exactly in a hurry to get home. We hung out with his friends and smoked out. We played Pictionary at some chick's house and it was really fun. I'd never played before and turns out I'm a Natural. We got back to his place at like 6 a.m. and crashed.

I tried E for the first time. It was really…weird and awesome. I don't know how to describe how it felt. It was just like. I felt so FREE and HAPPY and…horny. Like, HORNY. It was me and Nick and some of his friends at his place, but then somehow we ended up in his bedroom just us and next thing I knew we were making out. We made out for a long time in there and then someone came to the door saying they were turning on a movie so we went out to watch it. During the movie (some awesome cartoon called Arabian Night) we made out more, right there in front of everyone. No one cared at all. I love how everyone is so accepting. Afterwards we went back to his room and went to sleep. It was such a great night!

When we woke up, at first I was scared but when I looked at Nick he just kissed me and I relaxed. I like being with him so much. It's strange, because I know I like girls and I never really thought about guys. I mean, I thought about it, but I never thought I'd actually do anything about it. But here everything is different than in Kingwood. It's like a whole new world where I can just be whatever the hell I want and forget about the past. We watched this hilarious movie. It's officially one of my Favorite Movies Ever now, called "Harold and Maude". It's about this teenage boy who keeps acting out fake suicides because he's obsessed with death, and then he falls in love with this like 80 year old woman who loves life. It's hysterical! I LOVE IT! I want to show it to Trace. I know he'd love it, too. I'll call him soon.

Nick and I finally drove home. But on the ride down I was telling him all about Kingwood and how much I hate it. I didn't tell him about Britney, just about how everyone expects something from me and how living there is like suffocating by inches. He said he knew what that was like because he was raised by just his mom, and her boyfriend used to hit him and so he knows what it's like to want to get away. He said I could come live with him if I wanted, get a job and start a whole new life. I didn't even have to think about it. We went to my house and packed up my shit real fast, just threw whatever we could fit in his car, clothes and CDs and my stereo and guitar and amp. I took all my journals, because that's the most important thing along with my guitar, and that's it. There wasn't a lot of room in his car. It doesn't even matter, though. Just getting away's the important thing. I wanted to go by Trace's to say goodbye but I was scared he'd try to stop me or tell on me. Usually I would trust Trace with anything, but if he thought I was making a mistake he'd tell on me "for my own good". He's like that. I feel like shit for abandoning him, but I was just rotting away in Kingwood. I had to get out.

Nick got one of his friends to hire me at Retox, this record store. All of his friends are so nice. Chris and Step came by, and I'm really getting tight with them, especially Chris. I let him listen to the Electric Flying Eggs demo and he said he really liked it. We have a lot in common. Music (most importantly) but also sports and shit. I can see us becoming good friends. I was surprised at his age, though! He's 27! He doesn't look or act it, but still, DAMN! Step's just a little bit younger than me, which makes it kind of fucked up that he's dating Chris but oh well. Like I said before, everyone just kind of does what they want here and no one cares. I get along with Step really well, too. I've always liked dancing and that's basically what he lives for. Chris had turntables in his van (Which is fucking awesome, by the way. It's a replica of the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo!!) and he spun and Step taught me how to do rave dances. He was all happy at how quick I caught on and starting jumping all over me. It was funny and so cool how everyone just laughed and it was no big deal. If people saw two guys hugging and kissing like that back in Kingwood (even though it was just joking stuff) they would get their asses kicked. Now that I've moved in with Nick we're sharing a room. The past two nights we've messed around before bed and it kind of freaks me out how good it is. I know I like girls but I think I like guys a lot better.

Saturday (today)
I'm waiting for Nick to get home. He said he had to go do something and left about…almost 3 hours ago. We're going to a rave tonight and we're getting in free cause Chris is spinning. Step is on his way over right now, he's gonna help me get ready. I don't have any party clothes so he's bringing me something to wear and he's gonna do my hair and shit. He said he'd do my makeup too but I think he was kidding. I don't know how I feel about that! In a way I hope he was kidding, but in another way I don't really care. Things are different here. There are no rules. If he brings makeup, I'll wear it. Why not? Also, I'm pretty sure Nick wants to sleep together tonight. Like have sex. Because he asked me today if I had ever been with a guy and I told him he's the first guy I've done anything with and he said that he felt honored. Then he asked me if I've ever done coke and I said no and he told me how great sex is on coke and how I should really try it. I think that might be what the thing he had to do is about. I never thought I would do coke, but I think I will. Because I'm curious and I've already done ecstasy which is just as bad so what does it matter anymore? And also because I really like Nick, and I want to have sex with him but I'm kind of freaked out to, and maybe if I'm high I won't be so scared. My main thing though, is that before the reason I didn't do drugs was because of sports and school, I didn't want to fuck up my future and I didn't want to disappoint my parents, but it's a little late for all that. All those things are already fucked up now, and if I overdose and die it doesn't even matter. So there's really no reasons not to do it and plenty of reasons to do it. My only priority now is to have as much fun as possible while I can, because when it comes down to it that's all that matters. Life is too fucking short to waste it doing anything but partying.

1/31/00            I tried so hard to cleanse these regrets, my angel wings were bruised and restrained.
Happy Birthday to me. I'm 18 now. There's a party for me at Glitter's tonight. I can't believe I'm 18! I'm a legal adult. In some ways I feel really old, but in other ways I feel like such a kid. And I still can't believe it's the year 2000! How weird is that? I feel like I'm in a science fiction novel or something. I want to send a message back in time to like, William Gibson. "Greeting from the Future, IT SUCKS!" Man, it's been months since I wrote in here. Things got hectic, with work and parties and with Nick. Sometimes life with him is really great and sometimes it's so shitty I could die. Last time I wrote in here I said about how he left for some errand and I thought it had to do with coke? Well, I was right in a way. Ends up Nick sells coke and acid and occasionally opium, too. I was kind of freaked out when I found out but then I realized that if he knew all there was to know about me, I would want him to accept me. Of course, I can never ever tell him everything, but how can I not accept someone for selling drugs when I fucking killed one of my best friends? Okay, so I didn't kill her with a fucking axe or anything, but it was my fault just the same. I can't go pretending like he's a bad person when I'm fucking scum. Besides, I don't want to leave him. I think maybe I might be falling in love with him. We did sleep together that night, and it was seriously incredible. I know now that even though I like girls, I really prefer guys. I can't imagine sleeping with a girl again now that I know how much better it is with a guy. And really, I don't want another girl. I had my girl and she's gone. Maybe that's why she went all slutty and fucked up, because she could tell that I'm whatever. Gay or bi- or whatever. She always did know me better than I knew myself. I always had this really close relationship with Trace, and when I think back I think maybe I was in love with him but I just never thought to do anything about it because we were both guys and I was with Britney. I think if I'd kissed him, he would've kissed me back, but I guess I'll never know. Okay someone's at the door I'll finish this later.

2/3/00             This cliché's what drives my force to you. It's the element breaking us, too.
I forgot to finish this. Nick is out with his stupid dealer friends. They're talking about how they want to make a trip to California to pick up some shit. I think it's a bad fucking idea, but Nick would get pissed if I told him that, so I'm just keeping my mouth shut. The thing is, when I said before that sometimes life with him is so shitty I could die, I meant it. Nick has a nasty temper. He says he got it from his mom's boyfriend cause when Nick was a kid he'd always fly off the handle and hit him. And if I whatever, say something Nick doesn't like or do something he doesn't want me to (like "flirting" with other people, which I never even do, or "talking back" which really just means disagreeing with him, or going out without him) he flips out and says crazy fucked up shit and he's hit me a couple times. Nothing too big, one time he pushed me and twice he slapped me, and he's always really sorry afterwards. He says he can't help it, his mom's boyfriend fucked him up. I feel bad for him but I still hate it. Sometimes I want to leave him but I can't. I slept with him and he says he loves me and the only other person that's ever said that to me is Britney. He's got problems, but I can't abandon him like I did her. I deserve this for what I did to her. This is my punishment. I want to help him like I never helped her. I want to help him change.

2/8/00              I wish I could go back. Yes, back in time.
A lot of times I wish I was dead. I wish I could go home. I miss my parents but I can't go back now. It's been too long, and really I don't ever want to see them or Trace or anybody ever again. I couldn't face them. I still write songs when I'm alone, and it's all that keeps me sane. If I didn't have music I know that I'd be crazy. I wish I could do something with it, I wish I could spend my whole life making music. I wrote a song today about my life before it got fucked up. I started crying when I wrote it because it's so happy. I wish I was happy.

2/14/00            And when it's really bad, I guess it's not that bad.
Valentine's Day. Nick went on the Cali trip. They just left a few minutes ago and will be back in two weeks. I still think it's a dumb idea but I didn't say that to Nick, of course. He doesn't like me hanging around Chris and Step because he gets jealous that me and Chris are such good friends. He says he knows I wouldn't cheat on him but he can't help the way he feels. So I haven't seen them in a while and I'm kind of glad he's gone so I'll get to hang out with them. That sounds horrible, I know, but I really do miss him already. He can be so fucking nice sometimes. He has this silver ring he always wears, his mom gave it to him for his sixteenth birthday, it was the last thing he ever got from her before he ran away. Even though he hates her boyfriend and I would think he'd hate her too for keeping him around and letting him treat Nick so bad, he doesn't. He acts like she's a saint. Back when I first moved in with him I was putting up my guitar and I told him how it and my journals are my most valuable possessions, and that's when I found out the ring's story, because it's his most valuable possession. Or was. He woke me up early this morning so we'd have some time before he left, and he gave me the ring. It's so weird, cause sometimes I almost hate him, when he's freaking out on me or starts breaking shit when he's mad, I wonder why I stay with him. But then sometimes he's so fucking great. When he gave me the ring he told me I was his most valuable possession now, and that giving me the ring meant that he was giving himself to me. I put it on every finger and it only really fits my thumb cause his fingers are kind of fat, but I wear it on my ring finger even though it's loose, because he told me to. I wish he could be like that all the time. I wish he'd quit selling and get a real job. The coke just makes his temper worse and I know I'm a hypocrite because it's not like I don't do my share of drugs, but I don't touch coke or speed cause I hate how hostile I get on it. And I hate how hostile he gets on it, too. He can be so gentle sometimes, and I guess that makes it worth it. Maybe he'll change.

VI.            I need someone to ease my mind.

JC turned the page. Empty. Pinched a section and flipped through it almost frantically. Empty. He snatched up the notebook he'd seen Justin writing in earlier, his current journal, but it started on 8/11/00. No mention of Nick was made, and JC scanned the next few entries and sure enough, Justin was single by that point. So what had happened to Nick?

JC certainly couldn't ask Justin about it. He figured it hadn't been an ordinary break-up, or else Justin wouldn't still wear Nick's ring. And someone as obsessive as Nick seemed wouldn't just step quietly out of the picture. Something must've happened. But what? There was only one person JC could think of that might answer his questions. He got up to call Chris.

VII.            What I really want to say I can't define.

JC was about to get frantic when Chris finally answered the phone. "What's up?"

"Hey, it's me." He wasn't sure how to broach such a subject. "What're you doing?"

There was the sound of sheets rustling, "Still in bed, no plans yet. Why, what's going on?"

"Nothing." JC tried to think. "You wanna get some coffee?"

There was a brief silence, and then, "Just say it."

JC's breath caught. "What?"

"Dude, please. Do I want to get coffee? My mom uses that one, man. You got something to say; so say it."

"How do you know I'm not just in the mood for a frappuccino?"

Chris sighed, "Okay, dude, this is your last chance. I'm about to make you actually take me out for fucking coffee and suffer through thirty minutes of small talk."

Before he could stop himself, JC blurted, "It's about Nick."

Chris's voice was strained, cautious, "Nick who?"

JC couldn't remember his last name, so he just said, "The one who gave Justin that ring."

There was another pause, but this one tense. "What do you want to know?"

And there were a million things, but the most important was, "What happened to him?"

Chris told him flatly, "He's dead."

JC sucked in a harsh gasp, felt like he'd just been socked in the stomach. "What?"

"He died in a car wreck on the way back from a gopher run to San Diego. The law got on 'em; they ran a red light trying to get away and got smashed by a fucking eighteen-wheeler. Four people in the car, all dead," Chris said it like it was nothing, so matter-of-fact. "That all you wanted?"

JC's brain was still trying to wrap around the revelation. "I, um...yhea."

"All right then. I'm going back to sleep. I'll see you later, man," Chris said, and hung up. JC didn't notice until suddenly he found the dial tone pulsing abrasively in his ear.

VIII.            You know I was hungry but not for food.

JC walked slowly back to the closet, knelt on the floor. The black journal Justin had been writing in earlier was laying there, calling to him. His body and mind recoiled at the thought of reading it. He took the notebook he'd read and put both back where he'd found them. And who would've guessed that Pandora's box was an old gym bag?

He went into the living room and laid facedown on the couch, his thoughts a sea under a storm. Emotions crashing like waves, tumbling over each other. Too much to think about, to process at once. And he realized for the first time, My life has been so simple. All the things he'd gone through that seemed so hard at the time now paled in comparison to what Justin had survived. He was so strong and beautiful and so undeserving of all he'd had to deal with at such a tender age. If not for situations he'd had no control over, Justin would be in college right now. Playing ball and performing with his band and living the life he deserved.

I will give him that life, JC decided, Any life he wants. If Justin wanted to pursue music as a career, he'd help him stay focused and afford studio time. If Justin wanted to go to college, he'd help pay for him to attend a few classes at a community college, and study with him, and Justin's grades would be so great he'd qualify for a scholarship at the state university. Or any university he wanted. If he wanted to go to the University of Alaska (Did that exist? If not, how did Alaskans go to college? Did they all have to go to other states? If so, did they have to pay out-of-state tuition? Because that hardly seemed fair, if they had no local state college), JC would transfer and they'd attend together. Share a dog sled and walk around in those snowshoes that looked like tennis rackets. The phone was ringing. JC had left the cordless in the bedroom. He got up and found it. "Hello?"

"Hey," Justin. Sweet, gorgeous voice.

"Justin," JC said, just to say it.

"Chris called me," Casual words, but they wrapped around JC's lungs and squeezed.

"Oh?" He managed.

"Oh?" Justin mimicked. "Guess what he said?"

"Hmm?" JC could hear the blood thudding through his veins.

"He says we must be getting pretty serious," Justin reported coyly. "Because he talked to you and you called me Justin."

"Oh?" JC repeated dumbly.

"JC!" Justin protested laughingly, and JC's heart couldn't help but skip. "Are you hungry? Den and I finished up early, so he's gonna drop me off. We're hitting up Taco Cabana on the way, you want anything?"

"We just ate a few hours ago," JC said. But hey, as long as he's making the trip, "Get me one of those big burritos, and make sure--"

"I know how you like it," Justin interrupted him. "I'll be home soon."

And JC smiled.

IX.            I give you all a boy could give you.

Late afternoon.Dusky orange sunshine pressing against the mostly-closed window blinds, sneaking through the cracks to stripe everything it reached. Upon the bed lay JC, writhing in ecstasy, clutching sweat-damp sheets in white-knuckled fists. His eyes were wide with awe, staring up at

Justin. His hands on JC's chest as he rode him languidly. Slow, like this was all they'd do until they died. Two askew blinds made the light ribbon thick across his skin; his movements illuminating his kiss-bruised mouth before shadowing his lashes atop his cheeks so they appeared fairytale long, first erect nipples and then a tempting stretch of collarbone. The sounds he made were music. His moans and gasps and whisperings a song. Fingernails scraped down JC's torso, dug lightly into his abdomen as Justin's head fell back, and the exposure of his long neck felt like trust.

JC's eyes drank every sip of Justin, from the tips of his curls to the sheen of sweat on his thighs, settling finally on his cock, jutting insistently as though unaware of how precious it was to make love. JC didn't realize he was reaching for it until he had both hands wrapped tight, stroking, rubbing his thumbs over the head. Justin's hands twined into his own curls; his body an endless tumble of gold-dusted skin and flexing muscles. His momentum sped, roughened. The pivot of his hips rolled from luscious to lascivious, the sweetness of his voice twisted wicked.

JC bucked up harder and faster and stronger, his hands never faltering in their effort. The intensity of his emotions, he wanted to share that with Justin, wanted to push it into Justin, fill him with it until he overflowed, until

it spilled over his hands, onto his stomach as Justin cried out, his rhythm stilled. Hardly a chance to take a breath before JC guided Justin onto his back folded nearly in half. JC's eyes stayed open and fixed on Justin; sweat dripped from his face onto Justin's and he leaned to lick it off, then stayed to bite and suck Justin's already swollen lips, red and full and so tender Justin whimpered and tried to turn away. JC's tongue lapped out apologetically, persuasively. Like a kitten with a bowl of cream.

He was still inside, and deep. So deep inside and he nudged forward just to hear Justin groan. Pulled out, each time a little further, went back in, each time a bit more forceful. Justin buried his hands in JC's hair, fingertips pressing firmly, ten anchors. JC grunted; shifting for leverage that allowed his brand of lust. A position that let his thrusts build steadily, at the angle and pace he needed to make him kiss Justin so fervently their teeth ground as he shuddered to his end.

They rested for a moment before rearranging themselves, kicking the soaked sheets to the foot of the bed and lying face to face. JC reached up gingerly; ghosted a touch over Justin's mouth. A bead of blood, delicate cut, his bottom lip had split under JC's fierce kiss. He said, "I'm sorry." Because so many things happened to Justin that he didn't deserve at all.

Justin only smiled at him, so beautiful it was heartbreaking. JC gently pressed the pad of his thumb over the cut, as if his touch would heal it. "I'd give you anything," JC told him, "I'll give you everything."

* ** * ** *

lyrics credits
I.       "Big Star"...Reel Big Fish/"Why Do We Rock So Hard?"
II.      "Here With Me"...Dido/"No Angel"
III.      "How's It Gonna Be?"...Third Eye Blind/"Third Eye Blind"
IV.      "Fine and Mellow"...Billie Holiday/"Jazz After Hours"
V.      "Chop Suey!"...System of a Down/"Toxicity"
                       a. "Tiki God"...The Presidents of the United States of America/"PUSA2"
                       b. "No One Else"...Weezer/"Weezer" (Blue)
                       c. "Bruises"...Majandra Delfino/"Hell and Bliss"
                       d. "Everything Is Cool"...Reel Big Fish/"Why Do We Rock So Hard?"
                       e. "You Don't Know"...Reel Big Fish/"Why Do We Rock So Hard?"
                       f. "Pale Green Stars"...Everclear/"Sparkle and Fade"
                       g. "Sexual Life"...Everclear/"Sparkle and Fade"
                       h. "Miss World"...Hole/"Live Through This"
                       i. "Embracable You"...Billie Holiday/"Jazz After Hours"
                       j. "Miss World"...Hole/"Live Through This"
                       k. "Medication"...Garbage/"Version 2.0"
                       l. "Mrs. Robinson"...Simon & Garfunkel/"The Best of Simon & Garfunkel"
                       m. "Siren"...Majandra Delfino/"Hell and Bliss"
                        n. "Out the Window"...Violent Femmes/"Add It Up"
                       o. "Electra Made Me Blind"...Everclear/"Sparkle and Fade"
                       p. "Today"...Smashing Pumpkins/"Siamese Dream"
                       q. "Siren"...Majandra Delfino/"Hell and Bliss"
                       r. "Heroin Girl"...Everclear/"Sparkle and Fade"
                       s. "Underneath It All"...No Doubt/"Rock Steady"
VI.      "In The Arms of Sleep"...Smashing Pumpkins/"Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness"
VII.      "Santeria"...Sublime/"Sublime"
VIII.      "Love Delicatessen"...The Presidents of the United States of America/"PUSA1"
IX.      "Tainted Love"...Soft Cell/"Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret"

Part Three: "Fade"

Part One: "Glimmer"

Fade Into You Index

Fiction Index