* ** * ** *
"So, what are you going to be for Halloween?" Lance and Justin always went to their lockers after lunch, which were only three apart along the wall reserved for seniors.
Justin gave Lance a weird look. Halloween was still two weeks away; he hadn't even thought about it. "Um. Nothing?"
And Lance had a weird look of his own to hand out. "What? Why?"
Justin shrugged. "Because I'm not six?"
"Oh, come on." Lance shut his locker, went to lean against the one beside Justin's. "Everyone's gonna be wearing a costume."
Justin balanced his texts on one knee as both his hands rooted around for his Math notebook. "Who's everyone?"
"Everyone at the party." Lance plucked the spiral out from behind Justin's big English binder; it was slightly smushed.
"Thanks." Justin shoved his texts back in, grabbed it. "What party?"
"The one Joey and JC are taking us to," Lance reminded him, and when Justin's face remained blank, "Tony's Halloween party."
Justin looked away, down at the notebook in his hands. "First I'm hearing about it."
"Well, obviously they want you to come if they invited me."
"Right. Obviously." Justin abruptly slammed his locker shut, turned on his heel to head for his class. "I'll catch you later."
Lance almost went after him, but he had a test this period and he wanted to go over his study sheets one last time before the bell, so he just called, "Yhea, bye."
Justin handed in his quiz and went back to his desk, crossed his arms and put his head down. He wondered, as he often did during school hours, where JC was and what he might be doing. Anything he wants, he thought, because he's in college.
Sometimes Joey and JC attended their classes and sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they hung out with their friends all day, or went to visit their parents' houses because their families lived in town, or holed up in their dorm room to study and sleep. And wouldn't Justin love to spend all day in the dorms with JC, although their free time together would be spent much differently (better) than JC's with Joey? And wouldn't Justin welcome a home-cooked meal at JC's parents' house instead of cafeteria food? And wouldn't Justin have fun meeting all of JC's friends? Well.
Maybe it wasn't so bad being stuck in school all day.
It's not that Justin was scared to meet JC's friends. It was just. He wasn't sure if they even knew about him, and didn't want to ask; he was afraid of the answer he might get. Maybe: I don't want them to know I'm with a high school kid. And that would hurt, but be too understandable to really get mad about. Because Justin knew what it was like to have secrets.
He didn't think JC and Joey would invite Lance somewhere and leave him out. Normally, he would assume that he was included in any plans made and, not to say for sure since it had yet to happen, probably throw a hissy fit if he was left out. But these were not normal circumstances. This was not weekends at the cabin or sneaking out of the dorms at night to smoke pot behind the chapel. This was a party with JC's friends, whom might not know he exists and JC might want to keep it that way.
The best plan of action was clearly to stay on the offense. One of Justin's rules when dealing with people: Always assume the worst, so there's no chance of disappointment.
JC plopped next to Justin on their usual couch in the lobby. Justin had his head back and his eyes closed; didn't acknowledge JC's arrival. JC elbowed him. "Hey."
Justin moved away, rubbed at his side where he'd been nudged. "Hey."
JC knew there was no way that had hurt. He studied Justin carefully. "What's wrong?"
Justin shrugged, still didn't open his eyes. "Nothing."
"You feeling all right?"
"I feel fine," In a tone that was a little clipped, but not sharp enough to call out.
"Okay." Because sometimes people just got in bad moods, and JC understood that.
They sat in silence for a minute, and JC was reaching for his backpack when Justin spoke up. "Lance asked me what I'm gonna be for Halloween."
JC sat up, let his backpack stay by his feet. "Yhea?"
"I told him I wasn't dressing up."
"You're not?" And he really wished Justin would look at him already, because it was like talking to a somniloquist.
"Why would I? I'm not going out."
And JC didn't get where this was going at all. "You aren't?"
Another shrug. "I don't have any plans."
JC's brow furrowed. "You're not coming to the party?"
Justin didn't lift his head, but looked at him now, eyes intent. "What party?"
"Tony's Halloween party."
Justin's lips pursed, and then very evenly. "I wasn't invited."
"Joey said he told Lance about it."
Justin turned his head away. "Yhea, I know."
"You think we'd invite Lance and not you?"
Justin's eyes closed. "I don't know."
JC poked him. "You want me to send you an invitation or something?"
Justin's head snapped up then, and he glowered, but without any real anger. "Don't be rude."
"Dear Justin," JC mimed writing. "Your presence is cordially requested--"
"Shut up." Justin shoved him, laughter tinged with timbres of chagrin and relief. "I just...didn't know."
JC shoved back; let his hand linger on Justin's arm. "Of course you're invited."
Justin looked down, eyelashes casting shadows on his cheeks. "Oh."
JC squeezed his arm, reluctantly letting go as the warning bell rang. "You're so weird."
"You're weird," Justin said, looking up at JC through his lashes, heedless of the students rushing by to get to the Theatre room. JC knew he should break the gaze or they'd be late...and then Justin licked his lips, a slow drag of wetpink across small, plump lips, and JC thought maybe they could afford to be late, just this once.
"You pick a costume yet?" Another cozy night in the abandoned horse stalls during evening mass.
Lance shook his head at Justin, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket. "Nope. Any suggestions?"
Justin scrunched his nose distastefully at the cigarette Lance offered him. "I don't know. Let's brainstorm."
Lance lit two cigarettes, handed one to Joey. "I thought you weren't dressing up?"
Justin shrugged. "I changed my mind."
JC said, "How about...a vampire?"
Justin said, "I hate you."
"How about a whore?" Joey encouraged people to dress like whores on any and all occasions.
Lance wasn't biting. "Dude, everyone's a whore on Halloween."
"True." Joey thought a moment. "I don't know. A ninja turtle?"
Lance considered it. "Which one?"
Joey shrugged. "Leonardo?"
Lance clicked his tongue dismissively. "Nah. Maybe Donatello."
"A vampire's a good costume," JC insisted.
"No, it's not," Lance said. "That's like being a ghost or a witch or Frankenstein or something."
"I think it's good," Justin reassured JC, and was rewarded by a smile and JC burrowing further under Justin's arm and against his side.
Joey tried another angle. "How about a pimp, instead of a whore?"
"I'm gonna be Donatello," Lance announced.
"You are?" Justin looked at Lance, then at Joey. "Are you gonna be a pimp?"
Joey tilted his head in deliberation. "Maybe."
"Well, what the hell will I be, then?" Justin didn't like that this conversation was helping everyone but himself. "I could be Michael Jordan."
JC laughed, "That's so lame; a basketball player dressing up as Michael Jordan."
Justin raised an eyebrow at him. "Says the vampire."
"Hey!" In a hurt voice, "You said that was good!"
"No, it is." Justin squeezed him closer, jostled him a little. "Help me think."
"Little Bo Peep?" Was Joey's suggestion.
"A cheerleader?" was Lance's.
Justin scowled at them both. "Hey, my fist plus your face. You do the math."
And then Joey, in a sudden burst of brilliance, said, "Neo? From the Matrix?"
"Dude, yes!" JC jumped on it. "I wanna be Neo!"
"What? No!" Justin cried, "We're thinking of ideas for me!"
"Neo doesn't have blonde hair," JC said, in a very bitchy-redheaded-eight-year-old-girl-playing-The Little Mermaid-at-recess move.
"So?" Justin started, saw the excitement in JC's eyes and sighed. "Help me think, damn it."
"You could be a vampire," JC offered graciously, "if you want."
"Oh..." Justin really hated JC sometimes, for the way his eyes got all wide and earnest when he was being nice. So at the expense of wearing a crappy Halloween costume but keeping that look on JC's face, Justin said, "Thanks."
Halloween night. The party at Tony's house. Or rather, Tony and his two roommates' house. They'd arrived just minutes ago and everyone had already scattered. Joey and Lance to who knows where and JC to get some beer. Justin was alone in the living room, standing near the couch and hoping JC wouldn't take too long, when then this guy approached him. This tall, brunette guy dressed as Tarzan. Good looking, sure, nice build, doing the loincloth right, nice face, and even a nice voice as he said, "Hey."
Justin said, "Hey," and kept his eyes on the doorway JC had disappeared through.
"Great costume." Justin could feel the guy's eyes travelling over him slowly, over his tight sheer shirt and tight leather pants. He shifted uncomfortably.
But he flashed the guy a smile, not wanting to be rude to JC's friends. "Thanks. You, too."
"Thanks..." The guy smiled back, put out his hand. "I don't think we've met. I'm Tony."
And Justin had seen pictures in JC's room, but his hair had been dyed blonde and shorter, so Justin hadn't recognized him. "Oh, you look different."
Tony kept his smile, but looked confused. "Different?"
Justin started to explain, "Um, I'm--", but
"Hey, Tony!" JC cut him off.
"C! When'd you get here?" Tony clapped him on the back, squeezed his waist in welcome.
"Just a minute ago. I was just grabbing some drinks." JC held a plastic cup of beer in each hand.
"Oh, one for you and one for your new boytoy, hmm?" Tony leaned close to Justin conspiratorially. "You see, my good friend JC has been swimming in the kiddie pool. He's got a--" voice dropping to a stage whisper, "high school boyfriend."
"Tony--" JC said, but Tony didn't stop.
"Where's the jailbait hiding? I can't wait to see him." He put a hand on the small of Justin's back and confessed, "I've been dying of curiosity ever since Jace told me he was cradle robbin'. Joey says the kid's hot, but I swear to god, C, if it's some twink with a retainer--"
"Tony," JC warned.
"Oh, chill out, man. I'm just bustin' your balls," Tony laughed, and looked at Justin, expecting him to join in.
He was surprised at the lack of humor on Justin's face. "So, you don't like Lance?"
"Lance?" Tony echoed, perplexed. "Lance Bass? He's cool."
"Cool for a 'kid'?" Justin asked calmly, taking a beer from JC.
Tony watched Justin sip the beer, still not quite putting it together. "No, I mean...you know Lance?"
"Tony," JC sighed. "This is Justin."
"Justin...? Oh!" Tony blanched. "Oh, shit." He covered his mouth for a second, embarrassed. "I was just fucking with Jace there, man. I didn't mean--"
Justin shook his head. "It's cool. I get it."
"No, really. I don't have a problem with you being, like..." Tony trailed off, looked at JC for help.
"Yhea, just forget it, okay? It's fine." Justin really didn't want to be having this conversation. He could see the sliding glass doors to the backyard from here; there were people outside smoking. "I'm gonna go bum a cigarette."
"Alright, find me when you're done," JC said, reaching to touch Justin's chest as he brushed by.
"I will." Justin leaned in for a nice, deep kiss. Then without so much as a parting glance, "Pleasure meetin' you, Tony."
When Justin went outside he found Lance talking with some guy dressed as Zorro and immediately went to him, thankful for the familiar face. "Hey."
"Hey!" Lance smiled at him lazily, definitely tipsy. "Johnathon, this is Justin. Justin, Johnathon."
Johnathon smiled, "'Sup?"
"Can I bum a cigarette?" Justin said.
"Yhea." He reached into the back pocket of his pants and pulled out a pack. "Here."
"Thanks." Justin took one, let Lance light it for him.
Johnathon took a sip from the plastic cup he was holding, then tipped it to let the dregs drizzle onto the grass. "I'm gonna go get another beer. You guys want?"
"Sure," Lance said, handing him his own empty cup.
Justin looked down at his almost-untouched beer. "I'm cool."
When he was gone, Lance turned to Justin expectantly. "He's cute, huh?"
Justin made an indifferent face. "Not my type."
"Nice ass," Lance grinned.
Justin said, "What about Joey?"
And Lance said, "He's got a nice ass, too."
"No, I mean..."
"Justin, look. Me and Joey? We're just...convenient. I mean, we like each other, you know? We're good friends, great sex, whatever. But it's like... you know." Lance shrugged.
Justin did know, though he hadn't before. "Fuckbuddies."
Lance laughed at his intonation. "You make it sound so cheap."
"So where's Joey now?" Justin looked around the backyard.
"Last I saw, he was hitting on a nurse and a princess." Lance was so nonchalant.
But Justin was even more shocked by, "Girls?"
"Yhea," Lance laughed again, harder. "I wish I had a camera; that look on your face is priceless. You act like you've never heard of boys liking girls. Hate to break it to you, J, but most of West is into the opposite sex; that includes the staff."
Justin blushed a little, feeling dumb. "No, I'm just...I didn't know."
"Joey's what we call an Equal Opportunist," Lance grinned.
And then Johnathon was back. "Take these, quick! My hands are freezing."
"Poor baby." Lance pinched Johnathon 's cheek as he took his drink.
"Here, finish this." Justin handed Lance his cigarette. "I'm gonna go inside..." And he didn't bother saying he'd see them later.
Justin asked a pirate in the living room and learned JC was in the den and where exactly the den was located. When he got there he found about ten people in the room, lounging on the floor and in armchairs and on two big couches. He went to the armchair JC was in. "There you are."
JC smiled up at him, scooted over, "Sit." Justin did, pulling JC onto his lap, sitting back so JC could lean against his chest. Justin sipped his beer and listened idly as the room discussed some writer he didn't know. They were talking about plays, he gathered, and every time JC spoke up, sounding all intelligent and passionate and shit, Justin squeezed JC's thigh, feeling a rush of pride.
It was all rather pleasant until some chick in tortoise shell glasses ruined it. "Hey, quiet boy," she said, laughed at Justin's Who me? expression. "What're your thoughts?"
"What?" Justin could feel himself heat up to the tips of his ears, and prayed he wasn't as red as he felt. "Oh, I'm not...I don't really know about that stuff."
The girl looked at him as though he'd blasphemed. "You're not into theatre?"
"No, I am...kind of. I'm..." And Justin almost mentioned the Improv Society, but bit his tongue, because then they'd all know he was in high school, if they didn't already. And maybe he could just die right now, or like, melt into the armchair or something. Spontaneously combust. "I don't really...know stuff..."
"Well, you should come sometime to Open Mike night at Metro." She smiled at him encouragingly. "Make JC take you one night when he's reading. His new play is awesome."
"His new play?" Justin looked at JC, who smiled sheepishly.
"Yhea, I'm damn near obsessed with it," The girl gushed, then gave JC a faux-nasty look. "You better finish it soon, C. I'm dying to see how it ends."
"Yhea, I'll go," Justin said. "To the Open Mike thing. I'll go."
JC shook his head slightly, murmured, "You can't."
"Why not?" Justin demanded.
And his voice still soft, "It's a...weekday." Which meant, school night.
"Oh." Justin looked down, prayed she wouldn't ask.
But she did. "You work nights or something?"
And then JC was on his feet. "I need some fresh air. Justin?"
Justin took JC's hand, let himself be led outside, waited until they were relatively alone, near the gate of the fence, around the corner from the crowd before he said, "You write plays?"
JC leaned against the side of the house, still holding Justin's hand. "I mean, yhea."
"You never mentioned." Justin stepped in front of JC, put his free hand near JC's head, propping his weight as he leaned close.
JC lifted his chin, offering his lips. "You never asked."
Justin's gaze lingered on JC's mouth, "I'm just supposed to randomly ask if you happen to write plays?"
JC shrugged. "It's never come up, I guess."
And Justin's eyes tore away from JC's mouth to look at him directly. "You didn't want me to know?"
"Why would I not want you to know?" JC right hand rubbed Justin's waist, stroked under his shirt.
Justin tilted his head to the side, "You tell me."
JC shook his head just barely, nuzzled Justin's cheek. "Honestly, it just never came up. I mean, you knew I was into theatre."
Justin pulled back, his palm scraping lightly down the brick of the house as he straightened, arm finally dropping to his side. "But I didn't know you were a fucking playwright."
JC tightened his grip on Justin's hand, used it to tug him close again, then released it so both of his could cup Justin's face. "Why are you so upset by this?"
Justin took hold of JC's forearms. "Because. It's a big deal. You're a writer. I should know these things."
"Well, now you know." JC kissed him gently. "I just didn't say anything because I didn't think you'd be interested."
"It's important to you, right?" Justin said, and JC nodded. "So, I'm interested."
And JC kissed him again, not so gentle, and told him, "You make a really sexy vampire."
Justin grinned, "I vant to suck your..." He licked at JC's neck.
JC hummed in appreciation, "Blood?"
Justin laughed softly, his breath hot on JC's skin. "That, too."
And Justin moved like liquid, flowed down to his knees in the grass and there were his fingers opening JC's pants and there was his tongue lapping at the thin material of his boxers, before they and his pants were being eased down and, "Justin."
"No, Justin." And JC gave up on trying to form words that didn't come out in moans, "Justin, I don't care."
Justin didn't answer; he was busy dragging his tongue along the underside of-- "I don't care. About..." And JC sounded frantic now, but he needed him to understand, "I don't care."
And Justin took his mouth away and JC didn't want that god he didn't want that but he needed him to know. "JC..."
"No, I mean it." His hands threaded through Justin's hair. "This is what matters."
"Blowjobs?" Justin said, and JC looked down and nearly died at the sight of this boy on his knees before him, mouth swollen and slick and smirking and ready to, and fuck swallowing him, fucking swallowing him and he couldn't help himself.
He grabbed Justin's head and thrust hard, deep as he could and Justin grunted appreciatively and just fucking took it all. And a nose dug into JC's stomach, a hand rolling his balls and JC threw his head back, and it was like this fierce pleasure was being ripped out of him, and he wanted to scream but he could hardly breathe. And he reached for it, begged for it with every jolt of his hips until he was shuddering violently, one final harsh gasp ending in an almost sorrowful moan. And he slid down the wall, into strong arms that cradled him as sex-flavored kisses plied his lips. "Justin..."
And soft in his ear, "JC."
And when it was like this, where was there room in the world for anything else?