nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

how many ways will you miss me

by jae, written for kaelie

Waking up in unfamiliar places was an occupational hazard for musicians, Justin knew, but he never quite got used to it. He lay on his back blinking hard at the ceiling. He could've sworn he'd gone to sleep in his own bed the night before.

Justin rolled over and stretched out, then sat up in surprise. He could've sworn he'd gone to sleep with Cameron in his bed the night before, too. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He must've done some drinking last night, although he couldn't remember that either. He was definitely going to cut back, starting today. He had a tour to get ready for, after all. He rubbed a hand over his head and then froze.

It wasn't like Justin had never awoken after a night of debauchery to find that he'd cut off all his hair, but this was different. He'd never heard of anyone growing back all their hair in one night, no matter what they'd had to drink the night before.

Throwing the covers onto the floor, Justin raced for the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror, watching his mouth open and close in shock. It wasn't that the face looking back at him was unfamiliar. Oh, no, it wasn't unfamiliar at all.

Justin tore his T-shirt off and shoved his boxers down, turning around slowly in front of the mirror. He peered over his shoulder at his back, and then slapped his hands against it as if he'd be able to feel what he couldn't see. "Holy shit," he whispered. "Holy –"

"Wakey wakey eggs and bacey!" Chris yelled as he burst into Justin's room. "It's time for all good little boys to – Jesus!" he said as Justin walked slowly out of the bathroom.

"Chris," Justin said.

"Dude, could you put some pants on? Nobody wants to see that. Well, actually, there's probably quite a few girls and a not insignificant number of boys who'd pay good money to see that, but I'm not one of them, so do you think you can find some clothes there, or at least try and cover up with your hands or something? Come on, make a little bit of an effort to pretend you're listening to me, at least – well, I was going to say throw me a bone, but –"

"Oh my God, Chris," Justin said, because it was. It was Chris, there was no mistaking him, it was Chris just as Justin remembered him, but not like he'd been the last time Justin had seen him. The last time Justin had seen Chris he'd been drunk and loud, hugging Justin tight when he first saw him and then drifting out into the party. Chris looked younger now, and thinner, a toned-down scrubbed-up version of the Chris who'd smiled and lifted a glass every time Justin caught his eye but who always kept his distance so precisely that Justin had known it was on purpose. "Chris –"

"J," Chris said, and Justin threw his arms around him. Chris rocked back a step and then patted Justin's hair. He didn't seem surprised to find it there. "All right now," Chris said. "Let's just sit down here on the bed and put some pants on. Some of us are going to start going a little easier on the tequila, and by some of us I mean you, because I can hold my liquor. And even when I can't, I'm not quite as given to weepy hangovers, so I –"

"I'm not hung over," Justin mumbled into Chris' arm. "I'm not – Chris, I'm not what you think."

"Oh, I think you're hung over," Chris said. He stood up and grabbed Justin's bag off the dresser. "God knows you should be. Or – oh, fuck, J, you're not still drunk, are you? There's all that promo shit this morning, they're going to kill us –"

"You're not listening to me," Justin said, and oh God, this was so familiar, this conversation, this room, this life, and Justin had to put his head in his hands for a moment before he looked up and said, "I'm not who you think I am."

"I think you're Justin Timberlake," Chris said.

"Okay," Justin said. "I am who you think I am, but –"

"Yeah, we got places to be," Chris said. He tossed a pair of jeans at Justin.

"No," Justin said.

"Then find your own damn clothes, but get a move on."

"No," Justin said. "Listen, I'm not – I mean, I'm me, but I'm not – I'm a different me."

Chris crossed his arms over his chest and looked sternly at Justin. "What did you do last night? You might as well just tell me now, because I only bought that evil twin routine the once, and I was younger and more importantly, a whole lot drunker than I am right now."

"What year is it?" Justin said.

"Oh, Christ," Chris said. "Listen, how many times do we have to go over good drugs versus bad drugs? I swear, I'm going to get you a little card to put in your wallet. I'm gonna laminate it, even –"

"Shut up," Justin said, and Chris must have heard his desperation in his voice, because for once Chris did. "Okay," Justin said. "Chris, I'm – I'm twenty-five."

"Justin, you're – you're not."

"No, I mean, my body isn't – I mean, my real body is, but this isn't my – I mean, this is my body but not right now, or, yeah, I guess it is right now but I shouldn't be in it, not this one, I mean –" Justin looked at Chris and took a deep breath.

"Chris, I'm from the future."

Chris laughed. It started off as a real laugh, a regular laugh, and the warm rich sound of it was so familiar that it squeezed Justin's heart, and then Chris stopped laughing and looked at him, a look so familiar that it caught Justin's breath.

"Okay," Chris said slowly. "If this is some kind of joke, you should tell me now, because I don't even understand what you're saying but you look the way you look when you're telling the truth. So I'm about to believe you, so if this is a joke –"

"It's not," Justin said, and Chris sat down heavily on the bed next to him. He didn't say anything for a minute, and then he patted Justin on the leg and said, and oh, it was so familiar that Justin could've mouthed the words along with him,

"It'll be okay."

Chris stood up and Justin said, "Where are you going?"

"We need reinforcements," Chris said. He ran to the door and yelled, "JC!"

The racket brought Joey and Lance running, but Chris wouldn't tell them anything until JC finally emerged from his room, his hair wet and pushed straight back and his forehead creased prissily in a way Justin hadn't seen in years. "What is it now?" JC said.

"Justin's from the future," Chris said, pointing, and the accusation in his voice and the annoyance in JC's eyes made Justin shake his head, before he remembered that he actually was from the future and he nodded.

"From the – from the good future?" Joey said.

"Yes?" Justin said, and Chris laughed. "I – uh, I don't actually know how to answer that question."

"That's because you're not from the future," Lance said. "You look the same as you did yesterday."

"Well, my body's not from the future, dumbass. Just – you know, my mind. And I guess my soul, or my spirit, or what have you."

"What have you indeed," Chris said.

"From when in the future?" JC said, and Lance snorted and said,

"Seriously, you're asking him?"

"2006," Justin said.

"Okay, does that even count as the future?" Lance said. "I mean, I think anything less than ten years is just –"

"Why?" JC said. When Justin looked at him blankly, he said, "Why are you here?"

"Seriously?" Lance said again. "Seriously, we're just acting like this is for real?"

"Justin," JC said, "is this for real?"

"Yes. God."

JC shrugged and when Lance snorted he said, "Well, he's not lying to us."

"I wasn't thinking he was lying," Lance said. "I was thinking he's, you know –" he twirled a finger next to his head – "cuckoo."

"I'm right here!" Justin said.

"Oh, are you?" Lance said. "Because I thought you might be back in the future."

Before Justin could answer Joey said, "Look, there's an easy way to settle this. Tell us something that you'd only know from being in the future. Who's gonna win the Oscar for Best Picture?"

"Who's up this year?" Justin said. "I don't remember –"

"Hey hey hey no no no," Chris said. "Apparently no one but me has ever seen a movie, but you cannot tell us things that happen in the future! You can't tell us what happens and you can't do anything differently while you're here, because you might rip the space time continuum and change the future permanently, and I kind of like the future we're working up to now where I'm an internationally famous crazy rich sex god, and I don't want you to win Joey's Oscar pool for him and accidentally steer us into the future where I'm, I don't know, the thirty-five-year-old manager of a 7-11 in bumfuck Iowa."

"Assistant manager, actually," Justin said, and Chris stared at him, mouth open in horror, until JC laughed.

"Also," Chris said, giving Justin a dirty look, "just as a minor point, if we were going to ask him something, which we're not, maybe it shouldn't be something we'd have to wait a long time to find out if he was right about."

"Well, that's convenient, isn't it?" Lance said. "That there's no way for you to prove it –"

"You know, something's gonna happen in the future that makes you a lot more relaxed," Justin said, and Chris said,

"Shut the fuck up! Space time continuum!"

"All right," JC said. "What if Justin tells us something small from the future, not something super big and important but some little thing that we could check right now, and hopefully it'll be small enough that it won't rip Chris' space time continuum?"

"It's all of our space time continuum," Chris grumbled, but he looked expectantly at Justin along with the others.

"It's hard to think of something," Justin said, and Lance said,

"Cuckoo, I told you." Justin punched him in the arm, then closed his eyes and thought hard. Then he opened his eyes and looked at JC.

"You're thinking of changing your hair," he said.

JC smiled wide in delight, the way he always had when Justin surprised him with something, a song or a dance move or a joke he hadn't been expecting, even a joke that was on him. "Good for you, J," he said, and Justin smiled back at him, the way he always had.

"Changing it how?" Joey said, and Lance said,

"Seriously you're asking him?"

"Should I?" JC said, but before Justin could answer Chris clapped his hand over Justin's mouth.

"Space time continuum!" he said, but Justin grinned and gave JC the thumbs-up. "Look, you fuckers might think this is funny but I'm not going to let you screw this up. You don't tell us anything that happens, future boy, and you don't do anything different from how you did it the first time around, and maybe we'll get through this okay."

"But he'll have to do something different," Joey said. They all looked at him. "I mean, isn't that the point of the whole quantum leap thing? You have to do something you didn't do the first time, or not do something that you did do that you shouldn't have done, so you can fix whatever's wrong in the future."

Justin bit Chris' hand hard to make him move it.

"Nothing's wrong in the future," he said, and walked into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.

"I don't know about you, but now I feel just great about the future," Justin heard Chris say through the door. He turned the water on in the sink to drown out any other sounds from the room. Then he sat down on the floor and listened to the water rush down the drain.

After a long while he turned the water off and listened hard, but he didn't hear anything from the bedroom. When he opened the door, JC was sitting on the bed.

"I kicked them out," JC said. "Do you want me to go?"

"I'm going to sleep," Justin said. "Maybe I'll wake up and I'll be where I belong."

"Maybe," JC said. "Do you want me to go?"

"I'm going to sleep," Justin said, and lay down on the bed and pulled up the covers. Before he closed his eyes he saw JC sit down in the chair next to the window. He was looking out at the gray sky like there was something there he'd never seen before. "You can stay," Justin said softly once his eyes were closed.

When Justin woke up the sky was still gray and JC was still in the chair, but now he was looking at Justin. "You look the same," JC said.

"Yeah," Justin said. "It's inside that I'm different."

"I know," JC said. "I know it's stupid, but I can't help thinking you should look different. I keep looking to see all the ways you're not the you I know."

"You know me," Justin said. He sat up against the headboard. "Even in the future you still know me. It's not like –"

"Shh," JC said, one finger to his lips. "Don't tell me."

"Oh, right," Justin said. "Space time continuum."

"It's not that so much. I just like surprises."

"I remember," Justin said. He smiled, then leaned forward and said, "But, I know, space time continuum and all, and I know you don't want to know, but there's something – I want to tell you …"

JC unfolded himself from the chair and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling one leg up underneath him. "What is it?"

"There's nothing wrong, in the future. What Joey said – there's nothing to fix, nothing I want to change. There isn't – I don't – "

"All right," JC said. "I believe you."

"Why?" Justin said suddenly. He couldn't help himself. "I mean, about the whole thing. I'm not sure I'd believe me, if I weren't, well, me."

"You would," JC said, "if you were me." He laughed. "Besides, when you think about it it's not all that unbelievable. I mean, we live in a world where Chris Kirkpatrick is an internationally famous crazy rich sex god. I'm telling you, strange things happen."

"You don't have to tell me," Justin said, "I'm from the future," and JC laughed again and held out a hand to pull Justin up.

After Justin had showered and changed, JC said, "We've kind of got to decide what to do here."

"I could eat," Justin said, and JC smiled.

"No, I mean, we're in the middle of a tour."

"Yeah, I remember it," Justin said.

"So do you want – should we go home? We could figure out something, take a quick break –"

"No," Justin said, cutting JC off. JC raised an eyebrow. "I mean, space time continuum and all, we can't risk it."

"So you think you're ready to get out there tonight?"

"Oh, fuck. I think I'm going to need a refresher."

"Why don't we tell everybody Chris has laryngitis and postpone tonight, and get you all ready to go for tomorrow?"

"Why not just tell everybody I have laryngitis?"

"Because it's funnier when Chris can't talk," JC said.

In the rehearsal room JC cued up No Strings and then leaned against the wall, arms crossed.

"Okay, I know it's been a while but I don't think that was part of the choreography," Justin said. "Aren't you going to show me?"

"You remember," JC said. "Just get out of your own way and let yourself remember."

"That sounds familiar."

"Yeah, it was usually you telling me. Doesn't make it less true, though."

"C, it's just – it's been a while, you know? I can't even think what comes next."

"Don't think," JC said. "Just – I know you remember. You'd be surprised what your body knows how to remember, even when you thought you'd forget. Even if you wanted to." JC bent down and fiddled with the CD player, his face turned away. Justin didn't know, as he watched the long curve of JC's back away from him, if he recalled this from the past or the from the future. He knew there were parts of JC he'd never been allowed to see but he couldn't remember when he'd first learned it. It was the type of thing he would have thought he'd remember.

"Come on," JC said impatiently, and Justin remembered that from the future and from the past, from the very beginning, and he closed his eyes and listened to the music and tried to get out of his own way.

Justin would have said that the steps came back to him, except that it didn't feel that way. It didn't feel like they came back but like they were always there, somewhere inside him, just waiting for him to want them again. He would have blamed it on his old body, the muscle memory fresher there, newer, but he felt it in his head, too, and someplace deeper. JC played song after song and Justin didn't stop. He didn't have to struggle from one step to the next, picking his way carefully, but felt them flowing through him, easily, eagerly. Every once in a while he made a mistake but they were the same mistakes he'd always made, and even the way JC called out, "no, right," or "it's turn, step, why is that so fucking hard," was the same as it had always been.

Finally JC turned the music off and said, "Good for you, J."

"I thought you knew I could do it," Justin said.

"I did."

"But that's what you say to me when you're surprised at something."

"Is it?" JC said. He smiled. "I guess you can know something's coming and still be surprised by it."

"I think you don't know what surprised means," Justin said. He waited for JC's smile to widen into a laugh but instead it grew smaller, quieter.

"Yes, I do," JC said. He slapped his hands against each other, as if he was brushing something off his skin. "I think you're good to go, J."

Justin was good to go. His first few shows were a little rocky, but that wasn't because he forgot what he was supposed to do. It was because Chris, Lance and Joey slowed down around him, trying to cue him or catch him when made a mistake. Only JC flew past him confidently, sure that Justin would be where he belonged. After a few nights, though, the other guys got used to him and everything went as smoothly as it always had.

Offstage, too, things soon settled back into a normal routine. Joey accepted the fact that Justin was from the future the way he'd accepted that Justin wouldn't eat mustard or had to sit next to the window, and only once tried to get Justin to look at his Oscar picks for the Fatone family pool, "just for fun, J, no pressure, I just really want to beat my dad this time." Lance sometimes watched Justin out of the corner of his eye like he was sizing him up for a straitjacket, but if Justin was honest with himself, Lance had always looked at him like that. It took Chris the longest to adapt to Justin, but soon his constant cries of "space time continuum" whenever Justin opened his mouth shortened to a snapped "STC" every once in a while, as it took its place in the long litany of private jokes and phrases that Chris and Justin shared.

JC didn't seem to have a period of adjustment at all.

Justin did, though. Everything was utterly familiar to him, exactly the way he had remembered it. He loved the same things he always had, the way it felt to be so close to four other people, the way Joey changed the channel just when Justin was getting sick of the show, the way Chris laughed late at night on the bus, quiet so he wouldn't wake JC. He hated the same things he always had, the way their lives were so open and closed at the same time, the way they answered the same questions the same way in city after city, the way Lance whispered into a phone that clapped shut whenever anyone else came close. He loved the same things and hated the same things and they were the same things, every day, exactly the same as the first time around. Exactly the same as he remembered.

That was what was so wrong.

One day Chris slammed a helmet against Justin's stomach and said, "Come on, we're taking the bikes out." There was no point in arguing with Chris when he was in that kind of mood, Justin remembered that all too well, so he followed Chris out the door.

The reason there was no point in arguing with Chris at times like this, Justin thought, was because he was always right. There was no headset in the helmet Chris had given him, and Justin didn't know if it was on purpose but it was just what he wanted, no voices in his head, not even his own, the wind rushing up to meet him, to surround him, crowding him until there was no room for anything else. They rode a long time, and when they pulled off the road Justin was sweaty, his lips stinging from salt and from the wind and he didn't feel any better than he had but he felt different.

"So what's your damage?" Chris said finally.

There was no point in arguing with Chris when he asked questions in that tone of voice, so Justin didn't. "I want to go home," he said. That was his damage.

Chris laughed a little, but not like he was laughing at Justin. "Same old song," he said. "I've heard you say that a thousand times in a thousand cities, and every time you suck it up and do what you have to do."

"That's the thing," Justin said. "I don't know what I have to do! I mean, I'm here, and I'm doing what I'm supposed to, every day, and I keep doing it and I still don't get to go back to my life and it's not fair. Because it's not like I didn't remember what it was like, being with – it's not like I told myself I hated it or that it sucked all the time or anything, I didn't, but still I'm here and I have to keep doing it over and over even though I already did it and I remember it."

"Okay," Chris said, "what I'm about to say is nothing I'd ever say out loud willingly, and you should take the fact that I'm even going to try as a sign of my great love for you. But do you think maybe you're not supposed to, you know, just do whatever, sing and hang with us and whatever, the same as you did before? I mean, maybe you being back is the universe's way of telling you to, I don't know, to be open to things or to look at things differently or –"

"If I punch you in the nose," Justin said, "do you think that's the universe's way of telling you to shut the fuck up?"

"That's fair," Chris said, holding his hands up in front of himself, "that's fair. I'm just saying, you know, you're acting like this is some kind of, I don't know, punishment –"

"And I don't deserve it," Justin said bitterly. "I didn't do anything that I should be punished for."

"I know, J," Chris said.

"You say that now," Justin snapped, and then shut his mouth so hard his teeth clacked together. Chris closed his hands into fists and let them fall to his sides.

"Yeah, I say that now," Chris said, and Justin said,

"Listen, I didn't mean –"

"I say that now," Chris said, his voice tight, "and I'll say something else now, too, because apparently in the future you forget it." He tapped Justin's chest, hard enough to sting even through Justin's shirt. Justin put his open palm over the sore place. "I know your heart, J, and I'm never gonna want you to do something that feels like a punishment." His voice twisted over the last word and Justin bit his lip.

"I know," Justin said, "I know, but you don't – you don't know what's gonna – what might happen –"

"J," Chris said, and Justin remembered his smile. It was the way he smiled when he got something he hadn't wanted but that he'd expected, the way he smiled sometimes over a hand of poker and made Justin go all in, "baby, you ain't that subtle."

Justin looked down at the ground. His hand was still open over his chest and he curled his fingers in the collar of his shirt, twisting his fingers in the cotton until he felt a raw slide of pain.

"Anyway," Chris said, and his voice was softer, "what I been trying to tell you is I don't think this is a punishment, you being back. I think maybe it's more like – a chance at something. Maybe you should try thinking about it as, I don't know, a reward."

"What kind of reward?" Justin said, his fingers still trapped in his shirt.

"I don't know. But isn't there something, maybe, that you wanted, back in the day – well, back in this day – something that maybe you wouldn't let yourself try to have?"

"I don't know," Justin said.

"Well, maybe you should try opening your fucking eyes," Chris said, but his voice was soft. "Try getting out of your own way."

"People keep telling me that."

"That's the universe's way of telling you to fucking listen," and Chris ducked when Justin swatted at him.

When they got back Justin tried to open his eyes and get out of his own way, but it was harder than it sounded. The thing about trying to get out of your own way was that it was like trying not to think about pink elephants; suddenly, everywhere you turn, you're tripping over yourself. It wasn't that he didn't want to try anything, everything, that might help him get back to his own life, but after a few days all he had to show for his best efforts was eyestrain and a bruise on his leg from where he'd fallen over his own feet. He decided that as long as he was stuck there, he might as well sit back and enjoy the ride. For the second time around.

It wasn't that easy, though. Justin was surprised to find that it wasn't the tricky moments with the other guys that bothered him the most, the times when Lance edged away from him a little after he'd said something perfectly innocent or the times when he caught Chris studying him when he thought Justin wasn't looking. It was the times Justin remembered as the easiest that were the hardest. They brought in new costumes one day and Justin remembered, just before it happened again, how Chris' pants had split right down the back and Joey had fallen over laughing. He almost laughed when he remembered it but as it happened he found himself watching the others for their reaction, watching them the way he watched people when he debuted a new record. He barely even heard the music, he was watching so carefully for their reaction. He didn't mind, of course, because he'd already heard the music so many times before. He didn't mind, of course, because it was his job to watch how they liked it. But as Chris swore and the others laughed, Justin minded. This was his life, and he didn't want to watch.

Soon Justin found himself avoiding the other guys, evading the constant reminders that he'd already done what they were just doing, that he knew what they were still waiting to find out. The only person he could stand to be around was JC. JC was oddly restful, maybe because he was always so out of it that even the first time around, Justin had seen things first and then turned to watch JC's reaction. There was nothing new about that. Things with JC were just the same as they always had been.

Maybe a little too much the same, Justin thought as he threw himself down on the sofa next to JC. He sighed loudly and then sighed again, even more loudly, until JC shook his head and put down his magazine and said, "What's up, J?"

"Have you ever felt like there was something that you wanted, but you didn't know what it was that you wanted, but once you knew there was something you wanted all you could think about was the fact that you wanted it?

"I'm not sure I followed that," JC said. "Could you run that by me again?"

"Have you ever felt like –" Justin stopped when JC started laughing. He threw a pillow at him, and JC caught it and tucked it behind his head.

"Sure," JC said, his voice serious. "Yeah, sure, I've felt like that."

"So what do you do?"

"Well, I guess sometimes you can just … I don't know, wait it out. I mean, you and me, we tend to be people who know what we want. So if we don't – well, I don't know. Maybe it means it's something you shouldn't really have, something you won't let yourself know because deep down you know better than to want it."

Justin rolled over and propped himself up on his elbows. "So you think I should just wait it out?"

"No," JC said thoughtfully. "I think, you know, I think it's always better to know. Even if maybe you don't want to know, I think it's still better to know, you know?"

"Yeah," Justin said. "Yeah, me too." He sighed again, louder than before, and let his chin rest on JC's leg. "So how do I do it?"

"I don't know, J. I mean, I always think it's kind of like dancing, you know? When you get in trouble is when you start thinking about it too much. That's when you start forgetting shit and fucking up and falling over yourself. Sometimes you've just gotta trust that somewhere deep down you know where you're supposed to be, and just kind of follow yourself. Even when you don't know where you're going."

"Okay, so if we were dancing that'd be great advice."

JC tangled his hand in Justin's hair and shook his head lightly. "I don't know, J, don't be an idiot. You say you don't know what you want, but you do. You remember."

Justin pulled out of JC's grasp and let his head bang against JC's knee. "I don't know," he said without looking up.

"Yeah," JC said. "You do." He tangled his hand in Justin's hair again and lifted his head up. JC bent down and for a moment all Justin could think about was the odd sharp angle of JC's shoulder as he leaned toward him. Then JC kissed him.

JC kissed him, harder and faster than Justin expected, than he would have thought he wanted, and when JC pulled away Justin pushed his hands against JC's leg and arched up to kiss him again. Just before Justin's lips reached him JC made a small sound in his throat, half a laugh, and Justin knew that sound, remembered clearly JC in the studio one day when they finally tried it JC's way and he was right, JC had been right all along, and Justin couldn't remember when that day was, if it had happened to JC yet or if he was still waiting for it to happen, if it was something that had only happened to Justin in the future.

Justin pulled back and the force of it knocked him backwards onto the floor. "Nice," JC murmured, with more than half a laugh.

"No," Justin said, and JC slid down to sit with his back against the couch.

"It's all right," he said, "J, it's all right –"

"No, it's not," Justin said. He sat up and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. He hadn't meant anything by it but JC flinched like Justin had hit him. He flinched, but then he steadied himself and said,

"I know," he said, "I know I'm not wrong about this. I know you want –"

"I won't," Justin said. Both of them worked with words; he knew JC would hear the difference. He did.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"I've been – JC, I know what happens," Justin said. "It's, it's like you said – we both know what we want, and I – I get what I want. I get what I want, and I know, I know I'm lucky and I work hard but I do, I do, and the thing – the thing about always getting what you want, the terrible thing is that it means that when you don't have something, it means you didn't want it, and – JC, in the future we don't – in the future I don't have, I don't want –"

JC's voice sliced sharply through Justin's. "Do you want it now?"

"You're not listening, JC, I'm telling you, I know how it ends and we won't – I won't –"

JC leaned forward on one hand and slid his other hand around Justin's jaw. To someone else it might have looked tender but Justin knew it was so he couldn't turn away from JC's eyes. "Do you want it now?" he said again.

"Yes," Justin said, and JC half-laughed again, the way he had before, and let his hand skim from Justin's jaw down his throat to his chest, pressing him to the floor.

"Then I don't care about the rest," JC said, and didn't wait for Justin to arch up to kiss him.

It was his body, Justin thought, his newer younger body that made him spark and simmer from the simplest touch, that made him moan helplessly when JC licked delicately across his shoulder. JC shoved Justin's shirt up, out of his way, and the sudden silver scrape of the carpet against his back made him claw at the floor with his hands. "Hey," JC said, "hey," and Justin felt that too, soft against his ear, and then JC tangled his fingers in Justin's and pulled his arm up above his head, the back of Justin's hand against the floor.

"Hey," JC said again, and Justin turned his head and caught the end of the word in his mouth. He wrapped his free hand around JC's back and pushed up against him, trying to roll them over. Suddenly JC lifted his body from Justin's, balanced on his knees with mouth open just over Justin's, just over Justin but none of them touching except his hand pinning Justin's to the floor. Justin gasped and lay beneath him, quiet, waiting.

"I thought so," JC said, laughing again but breathless, and unbuttoned Justin's jeans with one hand.

When JC's hand closed around Justin's cock he gasped again and drew his legs up tight around JC, his heels slipping against the carpet. "Yeah," JC said, "yeah," and kissed Justin again, his mouth quick and hot and like nothing Justin could remember. When JC pushed into him Justin bit JC's lip till he tasted blood and JC laughed again, breathless like before. Above his head Justin could feel JC's fingers twisting in his own, clutching tighter and tighter. When JC came he flung his fingers open wide. He would have let go of Justin's hand but Justin's fingers still clasped tightly. He didn't let go until JC rolled off of him and lay on his back, breathing hard.

Justin turned onto his side and brought his hand up to his mouth. He rubbed his lips against the patch of red skin on the back of his hand just to feel the burn. JC watched him.

"Do something for me," JC said suddenly, his voice hoarse.

"Something else?" Justin said, and JC laughed.

"There's something – I've been wanting to know since you, since you came back. I've been wondering, but I didn't want to, I wouldn't let myself … " he said, and Justin looked at him expectantly, his hand still moving slowly against his lips. "I want to hear one of your songs," JC said.

Justin's hand stopped moving. "How do you know I even – I still –"

"You always have songs, J," JC said.

Justin swallowed hard and then closed his eyes. He started singing, a song he hadn't sung for anyone else yet, a song he'd only sung for himself. It was the last one he'd written, the latest one, and that was what he wanted JC to hear. It tasted so new against his raw lips.

When he was finished JC didn't say anything. Justin opened his eyes and JC rolled onto his side quickly, but not before Justin saw his face. "Don't you like it?" Justin said.

JC's laugh sounded like it hurt him. "It's not fair," he said, "God, it's not fair that you should sound just the same as always right now, when just a minute ago– "

"You don't like it," Justin said again, his voice smaller than he wanted it to be.

"No, God," JC said, turning back to face him, "it was good, it was more than good, it's amazing, of course I – but that's not the point."

"It's kind of the point."

"Justin," JC said, "I don't know who wrote that song."

"I did," Justin said. His lips stung when he said it.

"Not the you I know," JC said. "The you I know didn't write that, couldn't write that. All this time I kept thinking, it was stupid and I knew you weren't – weren't you, not the you I know, but so much of you is the same and I just, I just thought. But I was wrong. I don't know you."

"You will," Justin said. "You do, you will."

"But I don't want – to know you now, like this, it's not the same. It's a shortcut, it's like we're skipping everything in between, and I don't want … I don't want it like that."

"You don't want me?" Justin said, and JC pushed his hair straight back away from his face and looked at Justin wildly. Suddenly Justin remembered a night two years ago when JC's father had had a health scare, it ended up being nothing but Justin remembered the way JC had looked when his mother had first called, that grief and pain and fear. Justin remembered that and for JC it still hadn't happened. It was like watching a movie, Justin thought stupidly, like watching a movie you'd seen before with someone who hadn't. They got caught up in the movie and you watched them watch it, waiting for them to get to the good parts.

"J," JC said, helplessly.

"I know," Justin said. He put his hands over his face.

"It's not you –"

"I know," Justin said. "That's the problem, isn't it? I'm not me. At least, I'm not your me."

"J," JC said, and then he didn't say anything else. After a while Justin got up and put his clothes on. "You were right," JC said as Justin walked toward the door. "I'm sorry. You were – you were right."

"That's the thing about being from the future," Justin said. "You're always right. It's a big fucking comfort." He went to his own room and climbed into bed and shut his eyes.

Waking up in unfamiliar places was an occupational hazard for musicians, Justin knew, but he never got quite used to it. He lay on his back blinking hard at the ceiling. He never quite got used to waking up in unfamiliar places, but he never thought it would feel strange to wake up in his own bed in his own house.

Justin rolled over and Cameron smiled at him. "How are you feeling this morning?" she said.

"How long have I been gone?" Justin said.

Cameron looked at him and then laughed. "Oh, I'd say about seven, eight hours. All that drinking really put you out." She got up and headed for the bathroom, and Justin lay in bed and wondered if there was anything in his future that he'd managed to change.

He found his phone on the nightstand and hit the speed dial. "I always knew you were a mean, mean person deep down," Chris said. "It's just plain mean to call me this early."

"What time is it?" Justin said.

"That better not be why you called."

"No, I was wondering – Chris, do the words space time continuum mean anything to you?"

"Oh, it is way too early for this shit. Call me in three hours," and Chris hung up on him. Justin thought about calling someone else and then closed his phone.

Over the next few days Justin looked for something, anything that was different in his life, but everything was the same. He talked to each of the guys and they were all the same, nothing was different. He ran into JC at a party and JC smiled and talked to him with his hand on Justin's arm, and Justin knew JC didn't remember Justin's heel sliding down the back of his calf, JC's mouth hot along Justin's jaw. JC was the same. Everything was the same.

Everything but one thing.

"You're different," Cameron said to him, pain in her voice, and Justin couldn't explain, couldn't do anything but agree with her. He was different. That was what he'd managed to change.

A few days later as he was walking into the studio JC fell into step next to him. "Hey," Justin said, "are you –"

"Aren't we?" JC said. "Wasn't that today?"

"Sure, I mean – yeah, " Justin said. JC looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Hey, are you doing something different to your hair?"

"I'm growing it out," JC said, and he was just the same as he always was.

"Cool," Justin said, and didn't reach to brush it out of JC's eyes.

Inside JC took off his jacket and sat on the arm of the sofa. Justin leaned against the wall and kept his distance. "What do you want to start with?" he said.

"I don't know," JC said thoughtfully. "Why don't you play something of yours first? I could use a little inspiration."

Justin had dozens of songs he could play for JC, but he didn't want to stand there and watch while JC listened, didn't want to hear something he'd heard before while JC came to it new. "I have – there's something I've been working on," he said. "I don't have – it's new," he said, and shut up before he lost his nerve.

"I'm always up for something new," JC said, and Justin looked down quickly before he had to see JC's smile.

It was the same song he'd sung for JC before, but he'd changed it since he'd been back. He was different now. This time he kept his eyes open while he sang. JC's eyes were closed. When Justin had finished, JC waited a long minute before he opened his eyes. Then he smiled, wide and delighted.

"Oh, J, good for you," he said. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

Justin turned his head away suddenly. He had to swallow and swallow before he thought of what to say. "Surprised I had it in me?"

"Yes," JC said. "And no. I mean, it's good, J, it's so good, and I didn't – I didn't know before that you could … But it sounds like you, you know? When I heard it, I thought, that's J, right there, so I guess it wasn't that much of a surprise after all." JC laughed. "Can you know something's coming and still be surprised at the same time?"

JC was still laughing when Justin leaned down and kissed him.

"I guess the answer's yes, then," JC said when Justin tried to pull away. He twisted his fingers in Justin's shirt and arched up to him, kissing the side of Justin's throat and his jaw before he caught Justin's mouth again. He tightened his grip and started to drag Justin down onto the couch, but Justin shook his head and took a step back. "No?" JC said, and Justin slid to his knees.

"Well, okay," JC said, and then he didn't say anything when Justin opened his pants. Justin rubbed one hand up JC's thigh and when Justin's mouth closed on him JC tangled his fingers through Justin's. JC made noise as Justin sucked him, Justin made sure of that. He wanted JC's voice in his ears, only his voice, surrounding him, crowding out everything else, every thought that Justin might have about what wasn't different, about what was the same. Then JC brought their joined hands up to his mouth, his lips hot on Justin's skin and there was nothing to drown out Justin's thoughts, nothing to lose himself in but this moment, this moment that had never happened before. When JC came he clutched tightly at Justin's hand, pulling it close to his mouth, his nails and his teeth sharp in Justin's skin.

"Where'd you learn to do that?" JC said breathlessly when Justin let go of him and wiped his mouth against JC's leg. "No, wait, don't tell me."

"That was different," Justin said before he thought about it. He said, "That was new."

"You sound surprised," JC said teasingly.

"Yes and no," Justin said. He looked up at JC. "Are you surprised?"

"Yes and no," JC said. He bit his lip and let his hand skim easily over Justin's head. Justin watched him and waited. JC looked down at Justin like he'd never seen him before and Justin knew he hadn't, not like Justin was now, not like this. They were different. "I mean, it's not like I was expecting it before, but now, you know? Now I feel like I've always been waiting."



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