When It's Over
by Cody

When it's over, that's the time you're in my heart again.


JC's the first to arrive at the studio. He sits on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table, shuffling through a folder of sheet music. Justin shows up twenty minutes later holding his cell phone and notebook in one hand and a cup of Starbucks in the other. He takes off his sunglasses and says to JC, "You look like shit."

"I haven't been sleeping." JC watches Justin as he sits on the far end of the couch. "I can't. Even in my dreams you're mad at me." Justin sips his coffee like he's alone in the room. "I love you."

Justin lip curls at that. "You love me?"

"I'll always love you."

He sets his cup down hard. Coffee sloshes onto the tabletop. "Don't."

JC takes his feet off the table so he can dab at the spill with Kleenex. "I know I made mistakes. A lot of mistakes. But that doesn't mean I didn't love you, that I don't still."

"I know you think you love me, but you don't understand what love really is."

"I could try, if you teach me. I could learn." Didn't this prove something: this willingness to be the humble student, taking all the blame?

"I'm too tired to teach you. I'm too tired to be hurt again." And he does sound tired. Exhausted. And very matter of fact, like it's already settled and over. But it can't be. Not while things are still...

"If you could just forgive me, just this one last time..."

A sigh. "I already forgave you."

JC is ashamed of how earnest he sounds, but not enough to stop. "You say you did, but you didn't really. If you really forgave me, you'd give me another chance."

"You don't deserve another chance." His voice quiet and straightforward.

"I know, but...I love you. Doesn't that mean anything?"

"It means I feel sorry for both of us."

They sit in silence until the others come.


All the things that I used to say.


"What's your problem?" And you're not gonna say You are, because that's so juvenile and you know JC already thinks you're a stupid kid and he's just waiting for you to say it.

"You are."

Goddamnit. And he's smirking because he knew you were going to say that, and you want to wipe the smirk off his face by telling him that you knew he knew, but that hadn't stopped you, which maybe means you couldn't help yourself. Which might make you look even more immature, so you just bite the inside of your cheek and hate everything.

"I didn't sign up for this," he says, and you make a face.

"Sign up for what?"

"For this." Waving his arms to engulf the atmosphere. "For you. For the bullshit that comes along with getting involved. I'm not gonna deal with a relationship."

"Nobody's asking you to."

"Oh yhea?" Smirk, that fucking smirk. You want to tell him he looks ugly when he smirks, but you don't. Because. You kind of just want him to not be saying these things. Why can't he be nice like he was in the beginning? Why can't it stay nice? "You obviously want something from me that I'm not willing to give. I told you from the start that I'm--"

"I don't want anything from you." Except, like, maybe a hug. 'Cause you're feeling kind of rotten now, oddly drained.

He's staring at you, half like he hates you and half like he's about to ask if you're okay. After a minute he says, "Fine, then. Good." and leaves the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.


I never knew how much you loved me.


JC wakes up around one in the afternoon and Justin isn't in bed. He goes downstairs and follows video game noise into the den. Chris and Justin are playing some game he doesn't recognize. Justin notices him first, smiles and says, "Sleepyhead."

Chris glances over. "Hey, man."

JC grunts in greeting, trudges to the couch to lay down again, ruffling Justin's hair as he passes. Justin reaches up and touches his leg, letting his hand slide down as JC goes. He stretches out on the couch, dissecting the room idly as he waits for sleep to revisit. Chris's shirt doesn't quite match his pants. He has a hole in the bottom of his sock. The painting by the door is slightly crooked. There's a little brown -twig, maybe?- on the floor. Chris keeps blinking a lot, like his eyes are dry. Justin is eating sour gummy worms; his fingers coated with salt. JC likes that brand of gummies. His favorites are the red and blue ones. They're Justin's favorite, too. The tag is sticking out of the back of Justin's shirt; one curl is overlapping the edge of his ear, tucking into the shell. He keeps sitting really straight for just a moment and then relaxing, stretching his back. JC's eyes close so gradually he never notices it consciously. He's just awake, and then he isn't.

When he wakes up Justin and Chris are gone, the video game is off, the house is silent. On the coffee table, directly at eye-level, is the bag of gummies; the top gaping open at him like a smiling mouth. JC puts one finger in it, pulls down to see if there are any good worms left. There are only red and blues.


You never said you were pretending.


He's all pissed because you're backing out of the beach house trip. You've got Wild Orchid flying in to work on some new songs you wrote them, just found out this morning; it's not like you did this on purpose. He got quiet when you told him. You said he should go ahead and go; no use in letting the deposit go to waste. He said fine; he'd invite Britney to go with him; he was sure she'd be able to make time for him. He got up and left, all calm, but you could tell he's pissed.

You knew this was going to happen from the first kiss. You saw it coming a fucking mile away, and that's why you told him straight up from the get go: You were not looking for a relationship. The kid's apparently hard of hearing.

That's what he is, too; a kid. An immature, bratty, spoiled child. Adorable in the truest sense of the word. He's so preposterously good-looking, charming, you can't help but adore the asshole whether you like it or not. You can't help but want him. Want to have him in your life, in your bed. You dare anyone to resist him; it's impossible. Anyone would break like a high school promise beneath the heat of unmitigated seduction that exudes from him when he's turned on. Eminem would be reduced to giggles by the antics of I'm-Trying-To-Cheer-You-Up!Justin.

You love him, in your own way, but you don't want to be in love with him. You don't have time or room in your life for that. You have too much going on as it is; the last thing you need on your plate is a relationship. For appearances, you have Bobbie. On an unspoken level, you're sure she knows what's up. She gets to be your girlfriend in the magazines and brag to her friends about the places you take her and the gifts you give her, and in return she doesn't call unless she's returning a message. As long as she stays well-dressed and attractive, she's got the part. And after you splurged on those gold frame sunglasses that used to belong to John Lennon, she's not even your most expensive accessory.

You don't begrudge him his own arm-candy, either. Something pretty to smile with for pictures. Britney seems like the perfect choice; he's known her since forever and she's his equal. They're disgustingly well-matched. But the way she acts, you wonder if she's aware of what's really going on. You catch her in interviews sometimes and she looks so sincere when she talks about loving him. His thanking her in the Celebrity liner notes, taking her on vacation. The only reason he didn't stay in LA with you during the break was because you were busy working on side projects. Besides, he brought her mother and sister with them. Not like they were gonna have sex-marathons with Mumsie and Baby Sis in the next room. So it shouldn't bother you. It doesn't bother you.

But you didn't thank Bobbie, and you've never taken her anywhere unless cameras were present.


I'm missing you. I never knew how much you meant to me.


Six rings before: "Hello?"

"Hey, it's me."

"Me who?"

"Me, me. JC." Sharp voice, slightly annoyed. Six rings. He'd almost hung up when Justin finally answered his cell.

"Oh, hey. Sorry, I was..." Laughter. "So, anyway. What do you want?"

"What do I want?" Annoyance approaching Anger.

"Well, I mean. What's up?" More laughter. Britney's cackle in the background; her frantic screams to Die! Die!

"What are you doing?" Demanding.

"Playstation." Video game defeat music and Britney shrieking No! Goddamnit! then asking Justin what he wants from the kitchen. They start discussing what they've got in stock junk food-wise.

"Hey, hello," JC says loudly. "I'm long distance here."

"Sorry, dude." Justin tells Britney to get him whatever. "So…"

"So." JC thinks again about hanging up on him. "So, I guess you're having fun without me."

"Yhea, you know." Which is just rude, really. He should say something like, I miss you, or I'd be having more fun if you were here, or Please, for the love of all that's holy, come save me from the hell of spending time with the incarnation of pure evil that is Britney!

"That's good." In a tone that speaks volumes.

Justin's immediately defensive. "Hey, you're the one who punked out on me, remember? You're the one who told me I should go without you."

"I know."

"Did you want me to come alone and sit here crying for you all week?"

"No." His voice belies the truth, and JC's surprised at himself. Why the hell should he care if Justin's having a good time without him? Justin can do whatever the hell he wants. He can fuck Britney six ways to Sunday for all JC cares. Not that they are even having sex. Because they aren't. Because Britney's waiting until marriage. Or wait, how had she put it? I want to wait until I'm in love before I have sex, and then in a recent interview, I really love Justin. I'm in love with him. I hope we're together forever. "Are you fucking her?"

An incredulous laugh. "What?"

"You heard me."

"My God. You're unbelievable, you know that?"

"You're not answering the question."

"Who are you to ask, anyway?"

"I'm--" JC stops. Who is he now? Now that he's crossed the line of friendship but refuses to step into the role of lover? He's nobody, nothing.

"Yhea. That's what I thought." And then, how do you like that? Justin hangs up.


All the words that got in the way.


Some local boys found the beach house and broke in, stole some stuff. The kids were caught and everything was recovered, but the trip was soured by the mishap and cut short.

You like to think part of his reason for returning early is that he missed you.

Regardless, you're just glad he's here in town and Britney's across the country from both of you. You welcome him with a long, deliberately steamy kiss. "Miss me?"

He smiles as you lead him to the bed. "I did, surprisingly."

"Funny." You push him down onto his back and straddle his legs, your hands slipping under the hem of his shirt to stroke his stomach. "How'd you like the beach house? Was it nice?"

He pushes into your touch. "Yhea, it was. It was very nice."

You start a series of kisses just above the waist of his pants. "I'm actually thinking of buying one around there myself."

"Really? Hmm."

"Hmm?" Stopping to lick a taste of golden abs.

"Well, I was thinking about that, too. About buying a place there."

"Oh, yhea?"

"Maybe we could…" He lifts his hips, but you can tell he's not just trailing off; he wants you to ask. You know what he's going to say.

So why do you ask? "What?"

"Maybe we could…get a place…together."

"Justin." Part of you wanted to hear him say it, and part of you hates him for even thinking it.

He props up on his elbows to look at you. "What? Why not? Why bother buying separate houses? If we go down, we'll go down together anyway, right?"


His face pinks. "What? What, JC?"


"Why the hell not?"

"Buying a house together is too much of a…"


"Yes." You sigh as he pushes you off of him. "It's just…what about when we…"

"Break up? That's the problem with you, JC. You think in whens, I think in ifs." He's off the bed now, looking down on you.

"Goddamnit, Justin, why does everything have to be such a big deal? I make an offhand comment and you flip out."

"You know what? You were right all along. I can finally admit that you're right about us: we aren't going to work."

"What?" You get up on your knees so you can reach him, slip fingers into the front belt loops of his pants. "Are you…holy fuck, are you breaking up with me, Justin? Over a hypothetical beach house?"

"Would you really give a damn either way?"

You give his pants a rough tug. "Fuck, fine. We can buy a fucking beach house together, okay? Will that make you happy?"

"What I want to know is will that make you happy?"

"I'll just be happy when you quit throwing tantrums over every little thing I say."

He takes your face in his hands and looks into your eyes. "JC, do I make you happy?"

You pull away, sit back on the bed. "What kind of a question is that?"

His shoulders slump. "Why are you so afraid of saying forever?"

"Because forever isn't just a word, Justin. Forever is…it's just…" You search for what you're trying to say, finally giving up with another sigh. "Do you want me to say it if I'm not sure I mean it?"

"No." So adamant you're taken aback. And then, right before he leaves, "I want you to mean it."


When it's over, is it really over?


Valentine's Day. JC gave Bobbie pearl earrings. She spent an hour gushing over how beautiful they were. Justin gave Britney a blue zircon pendant necklace. She said, "Oh, wow. Thanks. It's beautiful." Put it on, kissed him, and unpaused the video game they're playing, laughed in his face when she beat him.

JC sneaked a little gift box into the pocket of Justin's jacket. Inside was a pair of diamond stud earrings and the keycard to his hotel room.

When JC came out of his post-concert shower, the box was sitting on his bed and Justin wasn't.


It never ends.

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