nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Some Time To Kill

byescapist_xbq, written for Silveryscrape

We are two mariners, our ships' sole survivors
In this belly of a whale.
Its ribs are ceiling beams, its guts are carpeting -
I guess we have some time to kill.

Justin feels a sharp, sudden sting on his lower lip and realizes that his teeth are biting through it. His nostrils flare; the air is dank and laden with fish-scent, heavy and damp on his shoulders. He can feel it settle into his hair and his dripping clothes. His cheeks are wet with salt-water; the ocean or his tears, he isn't sure which. Both, perhaps.

Not tears of sadness, though, oh no. There's a bitter sea of joy rising high in his breast, washing up into his throat, elation so pure he can taste it on his tongue.

Chasez is in here.

Justin wouldn't have laid odds on a flintbox surviving, but nonetheless, a dim light flickers ahead. With one hand, he carefully follows the jagged edges of the mast, one sodden foot in front of another – he mustn't think about what he's stepping on, the softly undulating pulse of the whale's stomach. He mustn't think about the greasy, squishing slime of sea-creatures half-digested, mustn't think about the possibility of meeting the remains of his shipmates.

No. Chasez is in here. That's all that matters now.

For a few dreadful minutes, he had thought himself dead and in some hell, some terrible limbo where everything stank and swam, until he had heard the frightened cry – a sound he had recognized, for he had cried out similarly when the great wave had surged him past the whale's gaping maw.

He had tumbled helplessly, down, down, until he had thought he would heave for all eternity, still clinging like mad to the broken scrolled railing of the ship's deck, certain beyond measure that the ropes would fray and tear. Chris's knots had been masterful, his face drawn and fearful as he had lashed Justin's wrists, don't you let go now, don't you dare lose your grip –

Justin swallows down the thought of Chris, bites harder on his lip, blinks his eyes rapidly to clear the ocean spray. Just spray, just water from the sea, that's all. There is nothing now but the only thing left to him, the only thing pushing him his whole life, the only thought left in his head.

The roughened mast beneath his fingers leads him to where the sputtering shadows begin, ghostly images of black and red against the wreckage of the deck, splintered planks piled high. Behind the low flames, Justin catches sight of the outline of a figure, hunkered down and huddled in on himself. His head is bowed and his curls lay sopping wet against his neck; his shirt is ripped halfway down his lean chest, and even in his sorry state, he is a beautiful man. Chris had told Justin as much, that he was as pretty as ever, but Justin is still surprised.

Aware of the gravity of this moment and more than ready to face it, Justin straightens his back and squares his shoulders. He releases the mast, runs his fingers through his tangled hair, and steps forward into the dim firelight.

"Captain," he says, and the man's head whips up faster than a hound to the whistle. His eyes are wide with shock, wide and bruised-blue, and Justin thinks that if any bastard could be redeemed by beauty, that bastard would be JC Chasez.


You may not remember me; I was a child of three
And you, a lad of eighteen.
But I remember you and I will relate to you
How our histories interweave.

"I don't know you, boy," Chasez repeats, shaking his head ruefully, "although I tell you, I wish I did." His eyes rake over Justin's body for the fourth time in as many minutes – what sort of man makes propositions at a time like this, in circumstances like these? Justin can barely control his shiver of disgust, but it is mistaken; Chasez's gaze softens and his face grows gentle, the half-leer slipping away into concern. "Please, son, sit by the fire. You'll catch your death – although I suppose that's barely something to be worried about now, eh?" There's good humor in his tone, and Justin cannot track his changes, cannot measure him. He's carried a picture of Chasez in his mind for so long, his temperament and his manner, and he grows aware now that the years since he last knew Chasez may have wrought changes upon him – but he doesn't care.

"You do know me," he says staunchly, folding his arms around his body, trying to regain some footing, "although it's fitting that you have forgotten me. I was younger then, but I think you are much the same."

"You were younger . . . did we . . . but that's just fantastical."

"This is no fantasy."

"No, I mean . . ." Chasez laughs, twists his fingers in the ends of his curls. "You were on the other ship, yes? But what are the odds! A former lover-" and Justin flinches back so sharply that Chasez's hand stills in his hair, " – and one I've hurt, I see. One who won't even sit by the fire with me, here, in this . . . my god, the damned gut of a whale. Can this be real? Are we in some story, reunited at last in this oddest of places?" He laughs again, but it sounds hollow to Justin's ears.

"I was no lover of yours," he says stiffly. "You never claimed to love me."

"I never claimed to - oh, won't you sit?" Chasez implores him impatiently. "You can tell me all about it, the whole tragic tale of our acquaintance; I can see you're dying to."

Justin's fingernails bite into his arms. Trapped in a living graveyard he may be, but it's Chasez who will be dying first.

He lets out a breath. He has all the time in the world now. He can do this exactly – well, not exactly as he imagined. But it can be sweet enough. He takes a step forward, lets the firelight hit his face. "Certainly, I will tell you." He smiles, feels the stretch of his cheeks. "Certainly, I will sit. And certainly, although you have not asked for it, I will tell you my name, and then perhaps you will know me better."

The confusion on Chasez's face makes Justin chuckle, almost warmly. He searches out some broken planking, nearly dry on the upturned side, and pulls it over the side of the fire. Chasez turns towards him, a delicately attentive dip of the head, and Justin remembers the first time he ever saw those curls fall so cleanly over the line of that jaw. He shivers again, and Chasez moves slightly, as if to put an arm around his shoulders.

"You wish to comfort me?" Justin asks quietly.

"I wish you to be warm," Chasez responds lightly. "Is this a long tale?"

"No. It's just long enough."

Chasez frowns and keeps his arms to himself. Justin is glad; he doesn't want Chasez touching him, he tells himself. There is nothing about this man that he wants to be touched by.


At the time you were a rake and a roustabout,
Spending all your money on the whores and hounds.

You had a charming air, all cheap and debonair
My widowed mother found so sweet.
And so she took you in, her sheets still warm with him
Now filled with filth and foul disease.

"His name is Joshua," Mama confided with a smile, "but he asked me to call him JC. Oh, Justin, what do you think? He's calling again next Thursday for tea."

Justin grinned; Mama's eyes hadn't sparkled so bright for such a long time. "What did you talk about?"

"Oh, so many things! His horses – he has horses, Justin, wouldn't you love to ride again, just like at the old house? And he's a patron of the opera. He has box seats. Box seats, can you imagine?!"

Justin had never been to the opera. Mama loved playing her old wax recordings, and Justin knew every one by heart. He sang to her sometimes, when her cough was particularly bad and her color was pale. It seemed to make her feel better, although he wasn't sure he was pronouncing the strange languages correctly. He used to think maybe he could learn, maybe he could go to Conservatory one day and learn to sing of all Mama's favorite songs perfectly. It would make her so happy.

"Did you see his carriage? His own carriage. Oh, Justin, wasn't he lovely? Your father would never take me to the opera."

"Papa didn't like the opera," Justin responded automatically, his smile fading.

"Don't be like that. Your father was a fine man-"

"A good man."

"A good man," she allowed, "and he did the best by us that he could." She tugged anxiously at the coverlet, tucking it snugly under her legs, and it seemed to Justin that she was avoiding Papa's portrait, hanging sternly over the fireplace. He felt the weight of Papa's stare himself, as if he was watching his widow and his son from the shadowed, dusty confines of paint and varnish. "But your father never had his own carriage, now, did he?"

"He had horses," Justin muttered. "At the old house, we had horses."

"Well, that was a long time ago." Mama plucked at the coverlet again, her fingers trembling and distressed, and Justin heard her breath catch thickly in her throat. He sighed and covered her hand with his.

"Mama, you'll start coughing."

"I won't, I feel well." But spots of red were starting to bloom in her cheeks, angry and mottled against her pallid skin. Justin started to rise, to fetch a glass of water, but she stopped him, turned her palm within the clasp of his fingers and squeezed gently. "I'm well, I am. And you haven't said what you thought of JC."

Justin had seen him when he walked in the door, and when he left. JC was tall, although not the tallest man Justin had ever seen. JC had been finely dressed, in clothes that fit closely to his lean legs and long torso. JC had laughing blue eyes and rich brown hair streaked with gold, caught back in a tail with loose tendrils of curls escaping at his temples and the nape of his neck. JC had an open smile and an easy laugh, and a soft speaking voice that had resonated sharply in the pit of Justin's stomach. Justin had been able to imagine JC singing arias, his fine-boned hands gesturing with each glissando and crescendo, his face reflecting every emotion he sang.

"He's young," Justin said finally, ignoring the strange pull of sensation he felt in his stomach upon remembering the lilt of JC's laugh. "He's too young for you, Mama."

"Oh, Justin," Mama said - it seemed to be Mama's favorite thing to say, lately. "He's nearly twenty."

"That's only four years older than me."

"Four and a half," Mama said quickly. "Almost five. You're fifteen for months yet; don't be so eager to grow up."

"He's still too young for you."

"He's old enough to pay his way. He's a man by law, and he likes me, Justin, he wants to see more of me, and he –" Mama cut off, coughs rattling up from her chest, and Justin hurriedly pried his hand loose, hastening for the pitcher of water on the side-table.

He stood by Mama's side, rubbing her shoulder as comfortingly as he could as she choked on mere mouthfuls of water and air, trying to stand tall, to set her at ease. Her cough was worsening, even he could see it, and they could barely afford the doctor, much less the medicines he was sure to prescribe. Mama claimed to feel strong, but Justin could feel her shaking beneath his hand as her lungs rebelled against her.

He blinked back sudden tears. He remembered being a small child, watching Mama and Papa prepare for an evening out – not the opera, perhaps, but dinner and dancing, and talk and drink and the lively whirl of the social world that he knew Mama missed so much. Everything changed. Justin knew that was the way of the world, but there was a part of him that wished he was a child again, ignorant of change and the cold reality it so often brought with it.

If JC could pay his own way, Justin thought fiercely as Mama's coughs subsided, perhaps he could pay their way as well. His pretty face and gentlemanly way might have caught his mother's eye, but Justin had to look at the big picture now, consider every avenue. Perhaps JC could fit into their lives – as long as they fit into his.


As time wore on you proved a debt-ridden drunken mess
Leaving my mother a poor consumptive wretch.

And then you disappeared, your gambling arrears
The only thing you left behind -
And then the magistrate reclaimed our small estate
And my poor mother lost her mind.

He wasn't at the saloons, he wasn't at the docks, he wasn't at the stables, he wasn't at the whorehouse – and Justin's cheeks burned at the memory, the shrill laughter still ringing in his ears, the lewd stares and one girl's spread legs, her hand dipping down between her thighs as she licked her lips and watched Justin try to choke out his question.

"We know JC, but he ain't here, little boy," she had crooned, smiling, nodding at the catcalls of the other girls, "little boy, little boy, you want to be a man?"

Justin's tongue had tripped in his mouth, sputtering apologies, turning on his heel and racing outside to the fresh air – fresh, but not refreshing, for the spring night was unusually humid, and Justin could feel the weight of everything pressing down on him. It seemed even the moon was glaring accusations at him.

He had tried to explain to the judge why he was appearing in debtor's court in Mama's stead, how Mama was too ill to leave the house, too ill to even do patchwork for neighbors, and how the wages he earned as a day-laborer barely kept food in the larder – newly sixteen and with no apprenticeship to a craftsman, his pay scale was the lowest on the ladder. He had argued, negotiated, and finally pleaded, but the stern, unyielding judge had rapped his gavel and given them 'til midnight Saturday to pay the debts incurred with markers bearing the Timberlake name – incurred by no Timberlake, but funded by what was left of Papa's estate. And now there was next to nothing, and whey-faced, dangerous men behind round glasses came knocking at the door every day. They spoke of law and responsibility and the word that Justin could not bear to bring up to Mama's room – forfeiture.

Justin bit back curses with every echo of his steps on the cobblestones beneath his feet. He had wanted so much to like JC, at the beginning when JC had seemed like the answer to every one of Mama's prayers. He had still felt that JC was too young, too risky, too much of an unknown – and perhaps, his mind had whispered, too good to be true, too pretty to be anything lasting. But over the weeks and months that followed, his initial wariness had given way to acceptance, and even hope, when he had heard Mama laugh like he hadn't heard in years.

After a time, JC had all but moved into their home. Their paths rarely crossed – Justin would leave the house before dawn to queue up in the labor lines, and by the time he arrived home, dusk had fallen and more often than not, JC would have already gone out for the evening's pleasantries. "He has friends," Mama had explained quietly and without rancor, "I can't ask him to stay here all the time. But he's taking me to the opera next week, he promised."

JC's box seats at the opera had turned out to be a legacy from JC's own late father, as had the horses and carriage. The carriage had been the first of JC's many fancy possessions to be sold at the auction block. "I can't just leech off your mother, you know," he had explained cheerily to Justin in one of their few conversations. "I've got to contribute to my own demise; it's only right, don't you think?" At the time, Justin had laughed.

Even now, with hatred for the man running through his veins, a small part of Justin still stubbornly wished that their conversations had been more frequent, that he had gotten to know JC better, that he might have counted JC as a friend of his own. There was something captivating in the way he gave Justin his full attention when he looked at him, something thrilling, something that sent hot, aching tendrils of . . . Justin didn't know what, but it raced through his stomach and curled his toes, and more than once had woken him from sleep, drenched in sweat and hard beneath his sheets.

He could still picture it clearly in his mind, not terribly long ago, walking down the hallway in the very early morning. JC must have just returned from his evening out, because the door to Mama's room had been slightly ajar. Justin had eased silently forward, his hand out to pull the door closed, but the flames of the wall lantern had been flickering still, sending a dimly golden strip of light into Mama's room, enough to toss a blanket of velvet shadows around the pooled sheets and the bodies twisting above them. It had been enough to see the sweat shine and glisten on JC's back, the long, smooth muscles working all down his body as he hefted Mama's leg higher, straining forward with a steady rhythm that Justin could feel echoed in his own pulse.

He had watched JC fuck his mama, hard and purposeful and demanding. He had watched his mama clutch JC's shoulders, her nails raking thin lines over the backs of JC's arms, her body flushed and open beneath the force of JC's thrusts. He had watched open-mouthed until he heard JC's low groan of release and saw his mama wrap her legs like a vise around JC's waist and rock upwards. He had walked away then, his cock hard and throbbing, and the husky deep sound of JC's orgasm had stayed in his ears all day.

Justin had slept with girls from the school across the harbor, with daughters of the laborers he saw every day, but he had never carried the sound of their girlish cries with him. He had never wanted them longer than the time it took for him to empty himself into them.

He had never wanted anything in quite the way he had suddenly found himself wanting his mother's lover.

And now, all he wanted was to find the son of a bitch before midnight and force him to hand over the money he had taken from them, slowly and surely. Justin hadn't heard JC's step on the stair in over a week, not since Mama started coughing blood regularly, not since her mind had started wandering in a way that made Justin worry more than ever before – not since she had started calling out for Papa.

Justin pulled his cloak tighter around his body, even though the night was still stickily, unpleasantly muggy. Not long 'til midnight, and what then, what consequences would they face? What ruin might lie in wait for them if JC could not found? Justin feared, and his fear would drive him through the town on his search until the sun began its reluctant ascent over the harbor.


Then one day, in spring, my dear sweet mother died
But before she did, I took her hand as she, dying, cried:

"Find him," Mama said thickly, and spots of red dotted the corners of her mouth.

"Sssh. Don't talk, rest." The handkerchief in Justin's hand was creased and grimy with sweat; he had tried to rinse it out, but the pauper hospital had no fresh water, no clean rags, no doctors without bleak faces and slumped shoulders. His finger was cleaner than the scrap of cloth in his hand, so he bent over his mother's wasted form and wiped the blood away. "Just rest now."

"I want you to . . . I want you to bind him," Mama choked, the spittle flying from the force of her effort to speak, "he stole . . . what he stole . . ."

"I know, Mama, ssh."

No hope, the doctor had said, none at all, and she was lucky to have lived thus far. Justin wouldn't call it lucky. He had watched Mama wither and sicken, faster and faster since they were forced into the streets. He'd had to abandon his day-labors in order to care for her, had taken to singing on the streets for their food. Snippets of the arias that once brought such pleasure to Mama's face, and now strangers tossed him a penny or two for his songs.

Had it been winter, he thought dully, it might have been merciful, quicker, her life sucked out of her by the wind and the snow. But the spring was warm and unforgiving, and Mama's once-golden curls had faded and fallen around her sunken face, and her cough had made it nearly impossible for her to even speak. Justin had finally allowed that there was no choice but the hospital, the dingy, dark building that the street brats had told him was no place of healing, but the last stop before death for the wretched of the city.

With no home and no money, Justin had had no choice. He had carried Mama in, for she had been too frail to walk then. He had laid her down on a cot, and she had not risen from it in five days. She barely recognized Justin now, though he never left her side but to scrounge a scrap of food from the nurses. Mama wouldn't eat. Couldn't eat. The food rotted beside the cot, and Justin felt no hunger pangs of his own. Grief had swallowed everything.

But tonight, with the lighting of the candles in the overcrowded ward, Mama had opened her eyes and there had been a fading, furious knowledge in the muted blue of her stare. She grasped Justin's hand so tightly now that he could feel the bones crunch. She fought for breath, and every word was a battle.

"He . . . ruined us . . . said he loved . . . he never . . . never, Justin . . ." She pressed even harder and Justin bit his lip.

"Doctor," he called out, but he knew no doctors patrolled this ward at this hour. There was no help coming. His mama was dying and there was nothing he could do. He reached out to stroke the damp, matted hair off her forehead and she coughed again, violently, the cot shaking beneath her.

". . . should tie him to a pole and . . . break his fingers . . ."

Justin closed his eyes. "Mama, ssh, no –"

" . . fingers to splinters . . . " she hissed wildly. "Drag him . . . dragged us down . . . drag him . . ."

"Please," Justin pleaded softly, "please, Mama, hush, you're sick, please just rest –"

". . . to a hole until . . . until he wakes up . . . wakes up naked . . ." The blood pooled again on Mama's lips, and Justin's face twisted. ". . . naked, clawing . . . at the ceiling of his . . . of his . . ." Mama's eyes bulged as the air in her throat froze, and she scratched like an animal at Justin's hand, scrabbling frantically, strangling on the blood in her lungs.

"Mama," Justin wept, wrenching his hand free, trying to lift her, trying to ease her up so she could breathe, "Mama."

Her eyes rolled back in her head, her tongue protruding from the corner of her mouth – she looked grotesque, like a dried-out husk of the woman she had been. There was nothing in her of the mother Justin loved. That woman had gone when Chasez had gone – Justin could not bring himself to call him "JC" in his mind. It was too familiar, too gentle for the man who had taken all parts of their future with him when he had disappeared. He had left them destitute, cold-hearted and cruel, without as much as a word of explanation, without a single goodbye. Mama had checked their letterbox every day until she was too weak to make the trip by herself, but no word ever came.

She had stopped speaking of him, hadn't mentioned his name in weeks. But her crusted lips were forming the shape of his name now, and Justin stroked her back through her soaking shift, trying to soothe her, anything to stem the rising tide of sorrow within his breast.

". . . ceiling of his grave," Mama managed, "you promise me now . . . his grave . . ."

"Yes, ssh, please . . ."

"No," she spat coarsely, blood oozing down her chin. "Promise me . . ."

"Ssh, Mama, Mama –"

"I said promise . . ." she was wheezing now, the words scratching roughly, and the pain of speaking was etched starkly on her face, "you'll find him . . . you promise to find . . . must pay . . ."

"I promise," Justin whispered against Mama's cheek, his tears mingling with hers, "Mama, ssh, I promise, he'll pay. He'll pay for what he did to us, Mama. I'll make him pay, Mama, I swear it, I swear."

The vow, once uttered, settled heavily around the two of them. Justin could feel the weight of it, the burn of it like a brand in his heart, searing cold fire. Mama sighed deeply, the air rattling in her chest. She turned her face up, parted her lips as if to speak.

She never spoke again.


It took me fifteen years to swallow all my tears
Among the urchins in the street.
Until a priory took pity and hired me
To keep their vestry nice and neat.

Justin rose from his knees, brushing at the linen of his pants, even though he knew there was little dust to knock from them. He had swept the chapel so thoroughly that young Father James had laughingly dared him to lick the floor – "for a cake, Justin, won't you do it for a cake?"

"Father," he had demurred, feigning shock, "that's temptation! How can you be so evil?"

"All men are evil," Father James had grinned, his green eyes dancing. "Good men of God repent of their evil. Sorely do I repent of the temptation I offer you, and I am grateful that God loves me enough to forgive my sins when I ask Him – but come now, even God needs a laugh now and then!" Justin knew some of the brothers found him irreverent, knew they had bristled with resentment when he had been named to the post of prior, knew it grated upon some of the brethren still.

He had been appointed a bare year after Justin had been hired on at the order - only twenty-six, Justin knew, just two years older than himself, and the youngest prior anyone had ever heard of. "God has a plan for us all, Justin," he had said that first day in his humble office. "We'll learn our places together, you and I."

Justin left the chapel and headed out into the garden. The sun was setting over the white-washed walls, and dusk was spreading low and lovely shadows across the neatly-trimmed grass. Justin took a deep breath, then another. He was proud of the humble work he did here, and he felt that his mother would have been proud of it as well. He prayed for her soul's rest nightly; after eight years, the pain of her death had faded to a dull ache in his heart, one sad memory amidst many he carried with him now.

The evening meal would be finished by now, and Nickolas would be washing up after, but Justin dallied for a minute. Father James found such peace in this garden, he always said, something about the works of God and man and harmony, and Justin tried to let that peace enter him. He watched the breeze rustle the leaves of the oak trees, and he listened to the light chattering night song of the birds. Sometimes, when his mood was light, he would try to mimic the birds, trilling high and melodic, aware of the brothers' ears turned towards him.

He only sang birdsong now, and the melodies that the nightingales' calls inspired in him. Nothing fancy or foreign, nothing he might have sung on a street corner, dirty and begging, always an eye out for the watchman who arrested boys and threw them down in the conscription cells.

He had wearied of the streets by his nineteenth year; he had seen too many friends knifed by their enemies, or raped by their customers, or starve out of hopelessness. Besides, he had made a promise, and staying in the city that had been so unkind to him would never help him fulfill that vow. He set his mind on scraping together enough money for good shoes, then enough food for a weeks-long walk, and half a year later had seen Justin heading south on the Highway, the great, winding road that would take him along the coastline to the factory cities. There was great money in the factories, and money was where he felt sure the trail would lead.

But he had not found work in the southern city; he had been forced to sing for his supper there once more - years of singing, sometimes with other street dwellers, but mostly by himself. He had no need of the protection that a gang would afford him – he had friends, because no one could survive the streets without them, but as he had grown, he had remained solitary, the strength of his promise shielding him from the depths of loneliness. He had grown tall, gained lean muscle, and the whores on the street were calling to him daily, praising his hips, his wild tangle of golden curls, his broad chest and shoulders. He would take the cleaner girls to bed, but he never let them stay.

Still poorer than dirt, still hungry every night, still no closer to any goal he had ever set, it was three years before Justin had finally thrown himself on the mercy of the abbot, who had given him a penny every day since he had started singing underneath the church window. He had ignored the sneers of the brothers in their fine, white robes and humbly asked permission to see the abbot, who had let him in and listened to his story, stroking his chin thoughtfully before telling Justin of a priory, a small order outside the city, in need of an honest worker.

"I shall send a letter of recommendation, but if word reaches me that my letter proves untrue –"

"It won't," Justin had assured him hastily. "I'm grateful, your Holiness, so grateful . . . anything I can do . . ."

"What you can do, my boy, is serve God." The abbot had gazed at him sternly. "You've a troubled way about you. Perhaps honest work and a meal every night will ease your spirit."

"I'm sure it will," Justin had said, the lie tasting bitter on his tongue.

The sun had set and the night was growing chill; Justin shook himself from his reverie. Honest work, darning the brothers' robes, waited for him in his room, and then a night of sleep well-earned. Another day past, but Justin felt as troubled as ever, and wondered if he could ever find the peace Father James held so dear.


But never once in the employ of these holy men
Did I ever, once, turn my mind from the thought of revenge.

Hot mouth, hot and silky tongue, trailing down the back of Justin's neck. He arched, his head thrown back, and the tongue traced along the curve of his neck, up behind his ear.

"I'm sorry," JC's voice whispered like a caress, and hands wrapped around his shoulders. They pulled him backwards and fit him against a narrow chest, then gently smoothed down his sides to his waist, holding him so close he wanted to cry, but what he did instead was take one of those hands and tug it down farther, between his legs.

Sweet pressure, delicious friction, and he rocked backwards, his arm lifting to twine around JC's neck, pulling his mouth down to kiss him as he was stroked, JC's clever hand around his cock like it belonged there.

JC's mouth tasted even hotter than it had felt on his skin, and Justin moaned wordlessly, every inch of him licked by slow flames. JC's hips thrust against him as his fingers dipped down to cup Justin's balls, then back up to grip his cock, steady, slick motion, his fist pumping, coaxing, his tongue eager in Justin's mouth.

Justin's hand was tangled in JC's hair, but he managed to turn, JC's hand slipping from him to wrap possessively around his hip, then around his ass, kneading, groping hungrily. Justin could feel the insistent, wet push of JC's cock against his stomach, and as JC recaptured his mouth fiercely, he brought his hands to the sharp planes of JC's face, his thumbs stroking over his cheekbones, holding him in place.

"I'm sorry," JC mumbled again into Justin's mouth, "I loved you, I loved her, I'm sorry, so sorry," and his lips were salty with sweat and tears.

"I know," Justin told him as his hands slid down around JC's neck. He could feel the flutter of JC's pulse, the drum-like beating of his heart. JC's eyes were closed, his face a flushed with arousal, grief-stricken with atonement. Justin kissed him tenderly. He looked exactly the same as he had the last day Justin had seen him.

"I didn't mean to," JC whispered, clutching Justin to him.

"I know you didn't," Justin said. "I forgive you." And his hands closed around JC's neck like a noose, squeezing and strangling, JC silent beneath him, harder and tighter until –

- Justin came awake, gasping, his orgasm nearly painful in its intensity, his own hands wrapped around his throat.


One night I overheard the prior exchanging words
With a penitent whaler from the sea;
The captain of his ship who matched you toe to tip
Was known for a wanton cruelty.

"Nickolas tells me you're not eating much these days," Father James said quietly. "Here, give me one of those."

Justin's brow furrowed, but he passed over a cleaning rag without a word. If the prior wanted to soil himself with the cleaning of the vestry, it wasn't Justin's place to tell him otherwise.

Father James wrung out the cloth over the bucket of water and began to scrub along the bottom edges of the vestment cabinet. Justin glanced over at him, but he seemed intent on the work. When he next spoke a few minutes later, his tone was offhanded. "He also tells me you have nightmares. That you toss in your bed at night. He didn't seem surprised when I told him you had said nothing of it to me."

Justin shrugged, his jaw set.

"I don't expect your confidence, but I had thought . . . well, I had hoped . . ." Father James sat back on his heels, sighing deeply. "When I first arrived at the order, Father John told me of you, how you had come to live and work here. He was concerned for you then. He would not speak in detail of your past. Perhaps he did not know, as I do not. But he told me then that there seemed to be a shadow around you, something haunting you, some memory or deed. I told him you were too young for demons so great, but I did not know you then." He put out a hand to stop Justin's cleaning, forcing him to look up. "I have come to know you, and I have come to see that Father John was right. You work hard here, good work, and when you sing – yes, I see you sing – I can see God in you. But your demons eat at you, Justin. I wish you could let them go."

Justin concentrated on breathing, pulling air into his lungs for a count of five before letting it go. When he spoke, it was in a careful, controlled voice. "My past is mine to live with, Father. I would not lie to you; there is something I have yet to accomplish before I can live without the weight of my past, and I can't let myself forget it, not ever."

Father James nodded a trifle sadly. "If you cannot forget whatever it is, I urge you, look within yourself and find the capacity to forgive."

"Forgive?" Justin snapped. "I beg pardon, Father, but some things, not even God would forgive."

"Justin," Father James admonished gently. "God forgives all who ask for it."

"I'm hardly God."

"I ask it for you."

Justin bent back to the floor, scrubbing violently. "That's your decision. I can't stop you."

Father James sighed and rose to his feet. "Come; put aside your work for a bit. It is nearly time for lunch, and there's someone I'd like you to meet."

The vestry was only half clean, but suddenly Justin didn't feel like being left alone with his thoughts. He took Father James's hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.

Together, they crossed the garden to the dining hall, where a dust-covered stranger was waiting with a broad smile on his face. "Would you look at Your Holiness?" he called out to the prior. Justin glanced over, and Father James was grinning at least as widely.

"Please, Joseph, save the propriety for the company of the brothers."

"You'll be lucky if they get propriety from me, you bas-" Joseph stopped himself. "Heavens, would you listen to me? Propriety indeed! Don't encourage me, Lance, or I'll forget you're a priest now, even in those robes. It's easy to forget," he said affably to Justin, "he liked to wear dresses as a child, you see."

"If you ignore two-thirds of everything he says, you'll always get one-half of the truth," Father James said, and Justin found himself laughing along with him.

"Lance?" he asked.

"It was the name I went by in my youth," Father James explained, "before attending seminary. Joseph lived in the boarding house next to my parents' home; we grew up together."

In the dining hall, Father James invited Justin to join him and Joseph at the high table, and Nickolas looked so happy when Justin accepted a full tray that he didn't seem to mind being left to serve the brothers by himself. It was more than Justin had eaten in one sitting for a long time; over potatoes and rice, he learned that Joseph had joined a merchant's sea crew after Father James had joined the seminary, and the lengthy letters they had written each other had kept their friendship kindled over the years. He listened to their banter, their easy conversation and their trading of memories, and even joined in with a story or two about Father James that made Joseph laugh so hard he spat his milk out on the table, drawing more than a few sniffs from the brothers seated around them.

Justin couldn't avoid helping Nickolas wash up after lunch, and by the time they had finished with the dishes and the pans, Father James and Joseph had disappeared. Drying his hands on a cloth, Justin wondered what it would be like, having a friend who remembered you from so long ago, someone who remembered you happy and carefree. Justin couldn't even remember himself that way.

It was late afternoon by the time Justin returned to the vestry, determined to finish cleaning the room out before evening services. He went through the side gate – Father James was hearing confessions from the neighboring villages that day, and he didn't want to disturb the sanctuary. The bucket of water and pile of rags were right where he had left them, and he set to work immediately, humming under his breath as he finished the floor and began polishing the lamps.

Twilight was falling outside the round window by the time Justin had finished. Evening service would start soon, and Justin had only to set out the lamps and light them. His work at the priory was rarely strenuous – a new fence around the little cemetery, whitewashing the chapel walls every other season, trips into the city to secure new hymnals for the brothers (and to keep an ear out for reports of a tall, good-looking gambler), but mostly his duties were confined to these light chores. Those, combined with his talks with Father James, kept his mind busy enough, although lately, he had started looking through the hymnal and thought briefly about trying to learn the strange language of notes on the neat, black lines.

Justin picked up a lamp and took it out into the chapel, setting it on the floor and digging out his flintbox, when from the confessional in the corner, he heard Father James speak, muffled slightly, his tones low and soothing. Joseph's voice answered him, pitched slightly higher and frenetic, agitated, speaking louder than one usually did in confession.

With only the faintest niggling of guilt, Justin sidled closer and held his breath, listening.

"-wouldn't believe unless you were there, Lance –"

"Joseph, at this time –"

"James, yes, Father James, I'm sorry, but hell . . . oh, hell, Lance, I'm sorry, grant me absolution for the sins I'm committing here, but to see it . . . to see it, to make it happen . . . I helped make it happen, you know that, you see? I helped.

"I know," Father James said soothingly. "It must have been a burden, following orders you thought –"

"I didn't think, not until it was too late. He ruined him, Lance, and he made us a part of it, made us help him, I've never sailed for a captain that callous, that bastard, he knew just what running those routes would do to Lucca's outfit – "

Justin knew the name of Lucca. He remembered a young apprentice of his father's, dark-haired with a wide smile. He had come to dinner several times, and had taught Justin a few chords on the small guitar he had always carried strapped to his back. He had sent lilies when Papa had died.

" – knew what it would do to the man – his friend, Lance, you should have heard how Lucca spoke of him before . . . before . . ."

"It's said that business and friendship don't mix."

"Not for Lucca, it didn't. He'll be speaking no more." Joseph's voice shook with rage and disgust. "He slit his wrists. He was ruined, not a single ship left to his name, the best man I knew, and he killed himself, gashed his arms open right there, and because of the man I was sailing under. I've never seen anything as cruel as what Joshua Chasez did."

The blood drained from Justin's face. He blinked, and then blinked again.

"I'll never call that man Captain again. Kirkpatrick broke with him straight away, it was outright mutiny – yes, mutiny, and I was glad of it!" Joseph continued. "To do to a man what he did, drove him to ruin and drove him to suicide – oh, at the end, he was denying it up and down, begging us all pretty to hear him out, but he ran in the end, stole a ship and escaped. He knew we would bring him in and discredit him before the guild, you see, we'd have made it so he'd never do business again. And now he's a pirate, he runs spice, and I tell you, he knew what he did when he was doing it, with never a speck of remorse. It turns my gut even now. When I close my eyes, I can still see Lucca's blood on my hands."

"It sounds as if this Chasez is the one who must seek absolution," Father James said gently.

"But for my part in it, I ask you. I ask for forgiveness for hastening Lucca's death, for the part I played. I beg you; absolve me, as I pray for his soul nightly." Joseph's voice was dissolving in tears. "For being so slow as to let him steal a ship, I ask forgiveness. For letting Chasez live, and for wanting him to die, I ask forgiveness."

Justin heard Father Lance begin the rite, but there was a pounding in his ears – it was his heart, he realized, he could feel it thudding madly against his chest.

He turned to the altar and whispered a quick prayer of thanks. God, it seemed, was looking out for him after all.


The following day I shipped to sea with a privateer
And in the whistle of the wind I could almost hear:

"Find him, bind him, tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters, drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up naked clawing at the ceiling of his grave.

There is one thing I must say to you
As you sail across the sea -
Always, your mother will watch over you
As you avenge this wicked deed."

Justin leaned out, as far as he could, and closed his eyes. The salty sea spray felt wonderful on his face. The sun beat relentlessly down, and Justin knew that when he opened his eyes, the glint of the light off the endless blue of the ocean would blind him. There was a remarkable comfort in knowing what opening his eyes would bring him.

He listened to the rushing slip-crash of the waves breaking against the wood of the hull, to the creak of the boards beneath his feet, to the frequent calloos of his shipmates as they went about their business.

"Hoy there, Infant!" A sudden slap to his back jolted him badly and he nearly lost his grip on the railing. He turned to glare at his assaulter, but the glare turned into a grin when he saw the captain smirking up at him. "Getting sun-addled, are you? That was sloppy guard! I could have knocked you right into the briny deep! Davy Jones' locker could have sealed your watery fate! Thought I trained you better than that, kid."

"You did," Justin retorted, and quick as lightning, he gripped Chris' wrists and spun him towards the railing, pushing him with his hip until the captain's balance was off and he teetered precariously.

"Hey! Hey! Treason!" Chris hollered frenziedly, squirming like a crazed cat. "Danger to the captain! All hands! Assist! Assist!"

"You hold him out there 'til he gives us a raise, Timberlake," called out the gruff, good-natured voice of the bo'sun.

"I'll raise you!" Chris screeched, breaking free of Justin's hands. He took three steps towards the laughing crew members who were watching the spectacle, then stopped and bent over, overcome by laughter himself. Justin waited with a smile on his face. Once recovered, Chris straightened his shirt and cuffed Justin on the back of the head. "Trained you a little too well, huh? That's it; unlearn everything I ever taught you."

"Guess I won't be checking the long guns tonight, then." Justin stepped back with a salacious wink. "Or those long guns either."

"Hey now, I didn't teach you about those." Chris made as if to touch Justin's arm, but then seemed to remember that a handful of sailors were still watching. "Ahem, yes. About your business, Infant, no more lolly-gagging about. There's rigging won't mend itself." He ran his hand over Justin's close-shaven head before striding off importantly towards his cabin. Justin fondly watched after him, ignoring the knowing nudges that the crewmen were giving each other.

The small man with the twinkling brown eyes and vicious sense of humor had initially harbored reservations about hiring Justin on – "No sea experience at all, you say?" he had worried, his fingers playing with the silver rings in his ears. "We run a fast and dangerous clip; you'd have to learn fast."

"I will," Justin had promised fervently.

"Why're you so eager to sign on with us?" Chris had asked shrewdly, sensing Justin's intensity – he had been Captain Kirkpatrick back then, before Justin had gotten to know him and his crew.

Justin had considered spinning a story, making something up about loving the sea, or loving the thrill of the chase, or loving something enough to want to sail with a privateer's crew – but he had found himself telling Chris, simply enough, what he had never been able to tell Father James.

Chris's lips had thinned at the first mention of Chasez, and his face had grown stonier with every minute that Justin spoke. When he had finished his story, his cheeks burning with emotion, Chris had been silent, his fingers steepled thoughtfully in front of his mouth.

"I've got to find him," Justin had said forcefully, throwing all the hatred and sorrow he had into the words. He hadn't mentioned the dreams that followed his slumber even now; he hadn't mentioned the storm of confusion that actually picturing Chasez's face, Chasez's body, Chasez's pleas for forgiveness, conjured in him. "My mother . . . Captain, my mother was everything to me. The way she died . . . because of him . . ."

"I know something of that," Chris had said quietly.

"I've got to find him," Justin had repeated. "I've got to find him, and you're my best chance of finding him, aren't you?"

Chris had taken him on; out of pity or out of fellowship, Justin wasn't sure. He had taken on the task of training Justin himself, claiming it was too important a job to leave to the first mate, that it was crucial that Justin learn how to handle himself as quickly as possible. But Justin had soon noticed the looks Chris gave him, when he thought Justin wasn't watching – a strange mixture of sympathy, compassion and anger. He went out of his way to make sure all the crewmen met Justin, spoke with him, and got to know him. Justin would normally expect such gentle treatment would merit him more than a few enemies among the crew – but every sailor to a man was fiercely loyal to their captain.

"We call him Chris; he's our captain, but he's our friend first," the first mate had explained, and Justin hadn't asked, but he knew that every man on board had been a part of Chasez's crew and had taken part in the mutiny that had led to Chasez's eventual running from the arm of the law. Word of his own history with Chasez had gotten around, and he had the feeling that every man on the Mariana looked at him as a little brother.

Every man save one, of course. Justin had often followed Chris back to his cabin, those first few months, begging for tales of Chasez – how he looked, how he acted, the way he dressed, the way he walked, every detail Chris could remember. He would wring stories out of Chris until the moon had passed its zenith in the sky; the first night Justin spent in Chris's cabin was the night Chris had told him that he had been Chasez's lover for a time.

"But I didn't know the sort of man he was, Justin," Chris had said, holding Justin's hand in his, looking away when Justin had studied his face.

"You're a better man than he," Justin had told him, and had stayed when Chris had stumblingly asked him to stay.

But every night he stayed with Chris and every night he didn't, the dreams continued to haunt him. He was always JC in Justin's dreams, always with the kind smile and ready laugh Justin had first known him to have, always with scorching hands and mind-fevering kisses that Justin had first imagined of him. He always came to Justin, his face sorrowful and sweet, murmuring heartbreakingly sincere words as he pressed Justin to him, as he pressed Justin down beneath him and opened him and tasted him.

"I didn't mean to," he would cry beseechingly, "if I could take it back, I would." He would hold Justin tightly; he would stroke Justin's back, entreating belief. "I loved her, I loved you, I love you, oh love," as he licked down the curve of Justin's spine, his hands trembling over Justin's skin as if it was precious to touch.

At first, Chris had only told Justin what he had wanted to hear about Chasez; the cruelty he had shown toward his old friend, the lack of regret he had shown when Lucca had killed himself, the heartless way he had pursued every endeavor only for his own means. But with time, Chris's stories began to include Chasez's humor, the gentle way he had with his own crew, his constant beauty and his undeniable intelligence – "the man I thought I knew," Chris had sighed.

And with the telling of these stories, Justin's dreams had turned as well. He no longer found himself strangling JC in his dreams; he would embrace him deeply in return, hold him as he was held. He would spread JC out before him and accepted his repentance before lowering his mouth and kissing the insides of JC's thighs, the smooth dip of his hipbone, the leaking tip of his cock. In his dreams, Justin forgave JC. In his dreams, Justin loved JC back.

Justin still awoke from these dreams in a cold sweat, Chris's sheets soaked through. "Another nightmare?" Chris would ask sleepily, and Justin would nod dazedly.

"It's my mother," he would whisper, although often as not, Chris would have fallen asleep again. "It's Mama, watching me. Punishing me. I made her a promise." And his pillow would be damp when he laid his head down; not from sweat, but from his bewildered tears.


And then that fateful night we had you in our sight
After twenty months at sea -
Your starboard flank abeam, I was getting my muskets clean
When came this rumbling from beneath.

"Let me go, damn you, let me go!" Justin screamed, the wind whipping his words away into the black sky. He struggled wildly, but Chris's grip was like iron, hauling him away from the rigging.

"You're not going up there!"

"I can see him!" Justin cried. "He's within range, Chris, please!"

"You can't hit him from here!" Chris's scowl was even darker than the roiling sea beneath the ship. "You can't hit him, and there's something . . . can't you feel it?"

At the moment he spoke, the ship lurched sickeningly under their feet, the prow dipping low and the waves crashing up on the deck. Justin could hear the men yelling around him, could see them running by, but ever since the white-sailed ship had appeared on the horizon, all Justin could think was That's him, that's him, that's him.

It seemed like only minutes had passed since the oars had come out; Chris's voice had lashed sternly over the bent backs of the sailors, urging them onward, harder, faster, reminding them of the reward in store for them when they captured Chasez. The grim set of the men's faces had told Justin that they needed no such reminder, that they knew Chris had every intention of allowing Justin to do whatever he wanted with Chasez

Capture him? Kill him on sight? Justin hadn't been sure which would bring Chasez the most pain; pain to properly avenge his mother's death. As the Mariana had closed in tight and tighter on the ship that Chris had recognized instantly, Justin had taken advantage of Chris' preoccupation to climb to the crow's nest with a spyglass. High in the air, the breeze stinging his cheeks, the roll of the ocean beneath him, and the crimson glow of the setting sun sinking beneath the waves, Justin lifted the spyglass to his eye and saw Chasez for the first time in ten years.

He was standing on the deck of his ship, his arms crossed tightly over his chest, pensive and turned towards the Mariana. His face at this distance was a pale, shadowed blur, but Justin could see that his chin was held high, as if he knew there was no chance in hell of outrunning the approaching vessel.

They would be upon him in moments.

Justin had sucked in one long, unsteady breath and gone scrambling down the mast for his musket. As he had climbed down, shaking, the sun finally vanished, and night seemed to rush in on him. The wind had picked up, icy cold and howling around his ears. A particularly hard gust threatened to pull his hands free from the ropes, and he had clung dizzily, desperately, dimly aware of Chris' voice below him.

Chris had grabbed him as soon as he had hit the deck, and now he was trying to drag Justin towards the cabin, Justin fighting him every step of the way.

"Don't you feel it?" Chris screamed again over the wind, and the ship rolled again, water crashing up sudden and cold. Justin opened his mouth, but a great, deep sound rumbled from beneath the ship, and Justin felt the bottom of his stomach drop out.


The ocean shook, the sky went black and the captain quailed
And before us grew the angry jaws of a giant whale.

Lightning and thunder and the booming of the ship's hull breaking beneath them –

Crack of light – Chris's eyes wide and fearful, Chris's hands pulling Justin to the railing, tying him to it, don't you let go now, don't you dare lose your grip –

Crack of light – a monster, a beast, broad and dark as the night sky above, its body crusted with barnacles, rending the ships apart, its teeth, oh god, its teeth –

Crack of light – and everything span, the water surging up, and Justin was drowning, the men were screaming, the wood was cracking, the world was spinning, spinning, spinning.

Justin fell endlessly, and all went black.


Don't know how I survived - the crew all was chewed alive -
I must have slipped between his teeth.
But, oh! What providence! What divine intelligence!
That you should survive as well as me!

The flames of the pitifully small fire are licking low at the scraps of planks and railings, and the sound of the ocean is a dull, massive roar, just beyond the dark walls of the whale's belly.

"So you see," Justin concludes, "we know each other after all. It's funny, isn't it? Ending up here? After everything? Yet we are together. A wise man once told me that God has a plan for us all. I didn't believe him then, but I'm starting to believe."

Chasez stares at Justin, mouth slack with awe. Justin glances at him, wishing he would say something. He knows now that Justin will kill him, that there is no other way for this story to end.

And yet, as Justin looks at Chasez, he feels that familiar tugging in his stomach. He shoves it down relentlessly.

Chasez lifts his hand to his brow, pushing his hair from his face. His eyes are dark with sorrow, and Justin shivers once again – he has seen those eyes in his dreams, and he is suddenly afraid of what Chasez will say.

"In my youth," Chasez begins, his voice trembling. He stops to compose himself; Justin searches for the artifice in it and can find none. "In my youth, I led a life that no one would be proud of. I made decisions that I have always regretted – you must have done so as well, it is the folly of youth to do so."

"My youth was different from yours," Justin bites out, taking pleasure in Chasez's wince.

"It was, of course it was. And that is my fault. Your mother –"

"You do not speak of her."

" – your mother," Chasez continues doggedly, "was a great lady, and too kind to a boy who was over his head in the heady joys of independence, and I used her, I know I did – "

"Shut your mouth."

"And I'm sorry -"

"I don't believe you."

" - I am sorry for what I did to her, and what I did to you."

"I said shut your mouth," Justin growls, and suddenly he is standing, looming over Chasez with his fists clenched by his sides. "Your apology means nothing, your words change nothing. You're sorry, my god. Sorry for killing her, are you? You're sorry. Are you sorry for Tony Lucca as well?"

Chasez swallows. "What happened to Tony . . . I knew him, you see, knew he had worked under your father, I had wanted to know him and befriend, to hear word of you, if he had it, but what happened, I swear, I didn't know, I didn't mean –"

"Must everything you touch wither and die?" Justin hisses. "His blood is on your head, just like Mama's, just like mine. How many others have perished at your hands, how many others have you ruined and murdered and abandoned –"

"I meant to return for you," Chasez cries, "I meant to hurt no one!"

"It doesn't matter, don't you understand? It doesn't matter what you meant, it only matters what you did." Justin advances now, the rage bright and boiling in his blood, his vision hazy and red. "I have searched for you," he snarls, "You have haunted me –"

"And you me, I swear it –"

"I have hunted you across the sea, and by god, you will pay for what you did to me, what you did to her, and she will be at rest and so will I –"

Chasez's eyes are closed, tears cutting fresh paths through the grime on his cheeks, and they drip onto Justin's wrists when his hands close around Chasez's throat at last. They begin to tighten, deadly and sure.

"If I could take it back," Chasez whispers brokenly, "I would, believe me. I loved her."

Justin's hands freeze.

"I loved her," Chasez breathes. "I loved you."

This is the moment. There is no other moment. There is no time but right now. Justin's hands quiver. There is only right now, and the deed, and the duty, and his mother's ghost is crying lonely in the darkness.

Justin leans forward and nothing makes sense anymore, because everywhere is so cold, but JC's lips are warm.


It gives my heart great joy to see your eyes fill with fear-
So lean in close and I will whisper the last words you'll hear . . .

It's just like his dreams; the dark around them, the heat of their bodies a light in the shadow. Justin's hands are hard in JC's hair, tangling and twisting and pulling his face close; JC grabs Justin, his arms like iron around his waist. He mutters words into Justin's mouth and Justin can barely understand them, can barely understand anything.

"My god, so sorry . . . oh please . . . I beg you, I beg you, I didn't know . . ."

He pleads for his life, Chris says sardonically in Justin's mind before Justin banishes him, because he doesn't believe it.

God forgives all who ask for it, Father James says softly, and Justin wrenches JC's head back, his lips burning a trail of mercy down the line of JC's neck.

Find him, his mother rasps as his hands find their way past JC's shirt to the smooth skin underneath.

"God, I am sorry," JC cries as Justin's lips brush his collarbone, and his hands smooth over Justin's hips, over and over. "I am not that man, I am so sorry." His breath hitches in his chest as he pulls Justin to him.

Justin lifts his head and shoves JC, sending him sprawling backwards. He crawls forward, straddling him, his hands tracing the lines of JC's ribs, his palm finding the secret place where JC's heart beats. JC's hands clasp his hips, fingers weeping bruises as he whispers his regret, his remorse, his repentance.

For ten years, Justin has wanted to kill the man beneath him. For ten years, Justin has wanted the man beneath him.

"Justin," JC says. He lifts a hand to cover Justin's, over the thudding of his heart. "For what I have done to you, I am yours to judge."

"You are mine," Justin repeats. It sounds honest to him, and suddenly, there's so much more than this moment stretching before him.

He pushes his hands down, down to the fastening of his breeches, fumbling and clumsy, and JC licking hotly into his mouth all the while, as if he was a starved man shown his last meal. He kisses his way down JC's chest, over his flat stomach, the sharp bone, and when he takes JC's cock into his mouth, he feels JC's cry more than he hears it, the fierce and powerful rush of reality becoming dream, dreams turning real.

He sucks at the head and slides his mouth down, firm and wet, and JC's fingers twist in his hair. JC is hard in his mouth, salty and bitter like Justin's memories, and each delicious push past Justin's lips feels like a release. He digs his fingers into JC's ass, pulling him upwards, encouraging him to thrust, and with a whimper of need, JC thrusts. His hand brushes tenderly over Justin's face, his hips arching hard, and his cock pulses on Justin's tongue.

When JC comes, he whispers words of love, and Justin swallows them along with the thick spurts of seed. When Justin guides JC's legs up and over his shoulders, he bends gracefully, eagerly, and when Justin sinks urgently into him, he lets out a low moan that Justin remembers.

"You are mine," he says again, punctuating the words with every drive of his hips. JC grips his arms tightly, rocking up against him, hot inside, everything Justin had dreamed. "You are mine."

"I am yours," JC gasps, tightening on Justin's cock, and Justin exhales, shudders, crushing down to claim JC's lips again as he pushes deep inside and stays there, grinding forward, until JC's nails scrape at his back and the sensation throws him hurtling over the edge.

Justin comes with a sob. He's flying, he's weightless. At last, he's free.


Nothing seems bleak. Nothing seems lost. Justin looks within himself and sees everything he thought he didn't have. He sees the past and he sees the future. Finally, finally, finally, he sees that peace.

Find him, his mother wails faintly. I have, he answers her, and turns to kiss JC.


*The Mariner's Revenge Song is on the album Picaresque,
by The Decemberists.

Many thanks to jchalo for the encouraging beta, and to jewelianna and topaz119 for hand-holding extraordinaire.



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