nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

I've Had a Few

by beth666ann, for micha

"You have a wonderful time now, baby," Lynn said, putting the minivan into park and turning in her seat to look intently at him. "Enjoy yourself to the fullest."

"I will, Mama," Justin said.

Lynn smiled very brightly, then looked out the window and delivered her parting shot. "Don't even think, not for a minute, Justin Randall, about the fact that you're leaving the people who love you the most in this world to spend the last week of your spring vacation sleeping on the ground and peeing in the woods. Don't you let that bother you at all."

Justin let the guilt flow over him like water, refusing to let it stick, refusing to let her put a damper on this moment. When she lowered her head to blow her nose and daub at the tears in her eyes, he glanced furtively out his own window, hoping desperately that no one else was witnessing this. Thank god he'd had the presence of mind to have her drop him off at the park entrance. He wanted to walk into the park alone and as an adult, wanted to meet Chris, his camping partner and his friend, and hopefully (if things went the way Justin needed them to) soon even more than that, on his own terms. People's mothers got seriously in the way at times like this, and Justin knew for a fact that Chris would never take him seriously if he could see him and his mother right now—Justin slouching sullenly in his seat, arms crossed over his chest, eyes glued to the floor of the van as he mumbled, "I know, Mom. I get it, Mom. I will, Mom," his mother tenderly patting him on the shoulder even as she also threatened him with a series of vivid and horrible punishments she would visit upon him if he weren't careful and safety conscious on this trip.

After what seemed like forever, Justin reminded his mother that he loved her, convinced her that he would always and forever put safety first (after all, he had packed condoms), recapped the long and impressive list of camping and mountaineering expeditions Chris had been on, reassured her that Chris would drive him back to Crayton Prep after they were done camping, and then, finally, somehow persuaded her to drive away and leave him the hell alone.

He stood motionless in the parking lot as he watched the silver minivan recede into the distance, his breath coming more and more easily the further away it got. A final glance at the parking lot—a couple of people were hanging out there, but neither of them was Chris—made him feel better still, and a wave of giddy joy swept over him. He was going to spend a whole week with Chris!

Chris was a college student who worked part—time as the Student Organizations Coordinator at Crayton Prep, where Justin was a senior. Chris was the one who had helped Justin apply for the funding and get approved for this camping trip, and he was the one who had agreed to come along to save the trip when it turned out that Justin had been the only one to sign up for it.

Well, of course he had been—that was exactly how Justin had planned it. No Crayton Prep student in his right mind would be caught dead traipsing through the woods and sleeping in a tent when booze, babes, and beaches awaited in Cabo, Palm Springs, or any number of the places the student body flocked to for spring break. Chris had been surprised and shocked that no one had wanted to go camping with Justin—he'd gone to public school and as a result was kind of naïve and cute about a lot of things that Justin thought of as perfectly obvious and self-evident.

But he was far from stupid. Chris was a seriously cool guy; funny, sharp, and energetic. He was also hot—or, well, not hot in the usual sense, but hot in a strange, indefinable way that made Justin anxious—the good kind of anxious, the kind that coiled up tight inside of you, waiting for just the right moment until . . .

Well, Justin didn't know what until, but he was determined to find out, even though it sometimes seemed that Chris wasn't interested in being more than a teacher and a mentor to him. He had actually even said that once, right after Justin had, after weeks of planning and longing, made his big move and clumsily tried to—

Justin didn't want to think about that right now. The point was that it had resulted in Chris stepping back, grabbing Justin's wrist firmly but not unkindly, and then saying, "I'm so sorry, J, but I'm not wired like that. There's nothing wrong with it, nothing at all, but it's just not how I am."

Which, okay, that had been pretty crushing, but in the days and weeks that had followed, Justin had begun question Chris's statement, to focus on what Chris did instead of what Chris said—and that had made all the difference. Take, for example, the fact that Chris clearly liked hanging out with him: after all, he wouldn't spend that much time talking to Justin in his crappy little office at the school if he didn't feel something for him, now would he? And even better than that were the looks Chris gave Justin when he thought Justin wasn't aware of it. What did it matter that they were more full of curiosity than lust? You had to start somewhere, and curiosity was a pretty good place to begin.

There had been a whole lot of other stuff, too. And now, Justin had the chance to approach Chris in a neutral environment, outside of school and free of any pressure, a chance to move in carefully and see what would happen if he just—he just—

Suffice it to say that Justin was feeling more than a little optimistic about his seven days alone with Chris in the woods. Suffice it to say that he was looking forward with more than the regular anticipation to his upcoming stay in the Wisterton National Park.

Smiling confidently, Justin hoisted his gear onto his back, then began to make his way to the place where he'd agreed to meet Chris. He felt strong and confident, and he knew he looked good in his hiking gear. This was going to be the best vacation ever.

"Justin, right?"

The voice was low and amused; it sounded a lot like the voice of someone who had just seen Justin get treated like a big baby by his mother. Unable to stop himself from wincing, Justin turned to see a guy standing in front of a truly fucked—up and useless old Caprice classic. It was less than ten feet away from where the minivan had been parked.

God, the car was a seriously lame junk heap, but the guy was reclining against it without any shame whatsoever, a half-smile taking over the lower part of his face. His mouth was, his lips were—well, Justin didn't focus on that, because Justin was thinking about Chris. Justin wasn't interested in other guys.

The stranger's eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, so Justin was unable to read them. The blond streaks in his hair gleamed in the sun, a complicated series of curls and waves that fell to brush the collar of the bright blue North Face windbreaker he'd zipped up to his chin. It fit him closely, outlining his chest and flat stomach. He also wore baggy khaki shorts with a multitude of pockets, and hiking shoes of bright purple. He was a riot of color, tanned skin, and gleaming teeth. He had a weird stripe of hair going down the middle of his chin.

"Hey," he said as Justin approached him. "I'm JC."

"Yeah," Justin said. There was maybe something somewhat interesting about this guy, but he didn't have time to think about it. He didn't want to be late to meet Chris. "Nice to meet you."

JC pushed his sunglasses up into his hair and peered at Justin with strange blue eyes that were just a bit too far apart and thus pretty close to being outright unnerving, totally out of place on the face of a guy who was clearly color blind, mellow, and laid back. These were alien eyes. They didn't belong on some stoner in a national park.

"Nice to meet you too," JC said, then giggled for just a moment at Justin's politely outstretched hand—a high, unearthly sound—before catching himself, squaring his shoulders, and shaking it—a firm grip, strong fingers, no nonsense. Justin hadn't expected that.

"I'm here to tell you—" JC began at the same time Justin said, "Well, I'm here to meet someone else, so I'd better—"

"—that Chris is going to be a little late."

"—get going now," Justin finished, then did a double—take and said, "Wait. What? What did you just say?"

"Yeah, um, I'm sorry—he's not—something came up, and he couldn't . . ." JC looked tense for a split second, then smiled and relaxed again. "So I told him, you know, I've camped and hiked these woods my whole life—I mean, I work as a seasonal ranger over the summers—and I always enjoy the chance to go camping, so . . ."

Justin opened his mouth, then shut it again. A lot was at stake here. He'd spent months planning this trip, months looking forward to it. He finally managed to ask, "He's not coming at all?"

"What? No, no, he's still coming, he's totally still coming, dude. It's just that he and Dani are going to be a little late," JC said. "But you and I—I mean, we can still—we can totally still start off, maybe even set up camp for the first night. I mean, I'm here for a reason, and—"

"But why?" It hurt just to say the words.

JC shifted uneasily. "Well, uh, I like camping, and Chris asked me, and I hated the idea of you being alone on the first couple of days just because—"

Jesus, this guy was an airhead. "Why's Chris going to be late? And who's Danny?"

"Well, uh," JC said, and then abruptly turned around and started rummaging in the back seat of his car. "Look—let's get started, dude, okay? We can talk later."

Justin stared in some amazement as JC extracted a lavender backpack from his car, strapped it on, and then smiled at him.

"God, I'm so psyched to be out here again! North trail okay with you?"

"Um, yeah," Justin said, and then forced himself to follow.


Justin spent the first few hours of the hike in a daze, too disappointed and heartsick to talk, which was probably actually a good thing given the pace that JC had set. He'd seemed lethargic going on stoned in the parking lot, but here in the woods, it was as if he sharpened somehow, his senses and his body shifting into high gear. Justin spent the entire day looking at him from behind—at the muscles in his tanned legs, the curve of his ass, the stupid rainbow stickers all over the girly backpack he carried, the pastel pink sleeping bag he was carrying. Jesus, what a weirdo, but he could hike. The woods were thick and the air was crisp; the leaves had begun to come out, but there was still a bareness to them, and the entire effect was kind of haunting. The terrain was pretty challenging: there was a trail, but it involved lots of inclines and couple of rock faces that they had to ascend—nothing Justin couldn't handle, nothing he hadn't been trained to do, but when he began to go up, he noticed JC watching him like a hawk, not saying anything and not questioning him out loud but clearly checking him out to see if he knew what he was doing. JC himself was agile and compact, no movements wasted, clearly a great climber, totally comfortable and at ease.

They stopped after a few hours to eat some energy bars and drink more water. As the protein and carbs coursed through him, Justin began to feel more like himself again. He wanted some answers.

"So, Chris," he said. "What's going on with him again?"

JC swigged some water, rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand, and said, "Nothing major—just the Dani effect, as usual. You know Dani, right?"

"I actually don't," Justin admitted.

"Oh," JC said, obviously a little surprised. "Well, she's his girlfriend, and she, uh—she's late. A lot."

"Danny is a girl? Chris has a girlfriend?" Justin couldn't keep doubt out of his voice.

JC looked steadily at him, then nodded. "Going on six months now, I think."

"Look, in all the time I've known him, he never mentioned—he never—" As soon as he realized where this train of thought was taking him, Justin cut off the sentence. He didn't want to go there.

JC gave him another long look; this one was searching and perceptive and very close to compassionate, and it made Justin feel exposed and stupid and angry. He tensed, desperately trying to conceal any signs of hurt on his face. Fuck JC, and fuck his sensitive bullshit understanding expression. And fuck Chris too, if this was how he handled himself.

"I guess that makes sense," JC finally said after a while, his voice very careful, his creepy, knowing eyes still locked on Justin. "I mean, he was hired at Crayton to help student groups get organized, not to tell his life story."

"Right." Justin spoke decisively. "You're exactly right. He was there to help the students, not to be their friend."


Ten years later

"You made it," Lance said, smiling as he let Justin into the apartment. "Good to see you, J."

Justin hugged Lance tightly, and then Lance's boyfriend Joey as well, but the three didn't linger to talk.

"I guess things have already started?" Justin somewhat hesitantly asked, and Joey and Lance nodded.

"Well, then—I guess we'd better go in there and listen."

Justin's attempt to sound casual must have failed miserably, because instead of leading him into the living room to join the rest of the party, Lance looked Joey in the eye, had a long, silent conversation with him, and then said, "Okay, right," before pulling Justin into the study for a little talk.

Once inside, Lance motioned for Justin to take a seat in a well-worn brown leather chair, then sat across from him on the matching couch. Justin fidgeted a little, looking distractedly at the magazines on the table, the maps (Joey and Lance were fond of cartography) on the walls.

"Look, J—it's not an orgy, okay? You don't have to look so fucking tense, you know."

Justin looked up in surprise—Lance almost sounded a little wounded.

"Lance, no, I absolutely do not mean to judge. I just—" He shrugged his shoulders, then crossed his arms and sighed. "It's been a while, you know—since I was in the dating game, and I'm just not sure I'm ready to meet new people."

"Which is fine, since this isn't even about meeting new people," Lance reminded him. "These parties are for fun, Justin. They're discreet, safe, and perfectly harmless."

"I know, I know," Justin said. "The thing is, being in a relationship for a long time, you sometimes forget, you know—that the rest of the world is out there. There's just you and your partner, and you get stuck in the same old routine, and the rest of it . . . just doesn't seem to matter that much anymore."

Lance rolled his eyes. "That's only true of some relationships, J, and I have to tell you, I think—well, it's of course not a good thing that you're sad, but really, getting away from the particular relationship you were in was probably a very good thing for you."

Justin stared awkwardly at the floor as emotion welled up in him. Lance was right and he knew it, but sometimes, it still hurt that he and Trace hadn't worked things out.

He must have looked exceptionally pathetic just then, because Lance's expression softened. He reached out and patted Justin on the arm, then said, "And again, J, let me say to you that nothing you see or hear tonight will shock you. It's just a group of people getting together to tell a bunch of stories."

"Anonymous people. Sex stories," Justin reminded him.

"Well, yeah, Justin—which was exactly why you sounded so interested about it all when I originally mentioned it to you, if I recall correctly."

Justin had to laugh then. "You know you do, Lance. You always do."

Lance smiled too. "Come on, you idiot. Let's go out there and listen, then. And for what it's worth . . . I know tons of guys, Justin, more than I can even name right now, who would be beyond delighted to know you. We just have to get you to the point where you're ready to meet them."

"Yeah. Um. But I just want to have fun tonight, Lance, all right?"

"That would be the idea, J."

Justin stood up, but he still felt a bit hesitant. "Um, so, there's a theme, right?"

"Yeah," Lance said, and began to lead him out into the living room. "Tonight's is 'the one that got away.'"

"Great," Justin murmured under his breath, then followed his friend out of the study.

The living room was full of men in chairs all facing forward in the same direction toward the front of the room, where a single man sat alone. He was dressed in a black hooded robe and a mask covering his eyes—he was the Speaker for the moment. Groups of three men went to the back room at the same time to dress up as the Speaker, then came out one by one to deliver their stories—that way, no one knew exactly who was speaking at any given time. The robe and mask were designed to help with anonymity. And even if one could figure out who the speaker was, other protective rules applied: no real names were to be used in the stories; stories about people in the room were forbidden; and nothing illegal or incriminating was to be mentioned or discussed. The goal was to have fun with the thrill of exposure, to get mildly turned on, and to swap tales.

Justin moved to the back of the room by the fireplace, which was unlit because it was summer. It was fairly dark and shadowy in this part of the room, but he could still hear the Speaker's voice, which was perfect. He was feeling a little shy, and it was easier to watch and listen if you were fairly certain other people weren't checking out your reactions. Lance had promised Justin that he would not be tapped to speak tonight, so J didn't have to worry about that, either. Sinking into another one of Lance's and Joey's excellent leather chairs, Justin sat as quietly as possible and tried to take things in. Lance appeared next to him, placed a glass of wine in his hand, and then disappeared again, just as quietly.

Justin was too keyed up to listen very well to the current speaker, so he concentrated instead on the excellent wine and the warm, tingling feeling that spread through his body as he finished it. When the speaker finished, there was a short burst of applause and laughter. Justin chided himself lightly for not having listened and resolved to focus carefully on every single word the next speaker had to say.

You couldn't tell very much about a person in a black robe and mask, but it was possible to see that the next guy who entered the room was graceful and easy in his body, that his fingers were long and elegant, and that he had on very cool shoes. He took the chair without any visible sign of discomfort, then bowed his head a second before beginning to speak.

"The one who got away," he said. "This is a story about something I didn't do, and my everlasting regret that I didn't do it. I'm sure you can all relate,"

A few laughs sounded in the room, and people nodded encouragingly.

"Let's see. This would have taken place about ten or so years ago, when I was in college." His voice was calm and pleasing, and Justin liked the rhythm of it. "At that time, I had this friend—uh, we'll call him Dick for the purposes of this story."

More laughter rippled in the room.

"Dick was one of those classic 'straight but not narrow' guys—the cock—tease version," the guy said, and smiled, and Justin noticed that he had a very pretty mouth with a nice full lower lip. The mask and the black hood heightened the squareness of his jaw and the golden tone of his skin. Justin knew he wasn't supposed to be trying to figure out who this guy was, but something about him appealed immediately to him, and he was eager to hear the rest of what this man had to say.

"What I mean to say is that I sucked Dick's cock most of the way through college—one night here, another night there—even though he never reciprocated. I mean, it was understood that he wouldn't—the arrangement was that he wasn't gay, of course . . ."

"Oh no," someone in the audience said sarcastically. "Of course not."

"Of course not," the speaker repeated softly, then went on, his voice somehow managing to sound both fond and bitter at the memory. "But I was. I was very gay, and I wanted to suck cock, and so I did. And I actually—in some ways, that was a good way to learn, because it was perfectly safe, but at the same time . . . he didn't want to be kissed, held, or touched. He wanted a single service provided, and I provided it. I was young and stupid, and I even—" He paused for a moment, then shook his head.

"I fell in love with him, of course," he added. "I think, you know, the kids today are smarter than to do that, and I'm glad for them. But at the time . . . yeah. That's how it was, sometimes."

Justin nodded in silent acknowledgment and noticed that some other people were as well.

"Anyway," the guy continued with a sharp, gorgeous smile, "none of you will be at all surprised to learn that it took only a few months for this guy to meet and fall in love with a gorgeous rich girl. And none of you will also be surprised to hear that I seemed to be better at giving head than she was, and that he still came to visit me several times a week."

More laughter in the room, and Justin winced. The stupid things people did when they were young.

"Oh, and by the way," the speaker continued, his voice growing a bit harder now. "I just wanted to establish, for those of you who were maybe worrying about it, that this guy, Dick, is not the one who got away. Quite frankly, I'm really pretty glad to have gotten away from him."

A few people applauded, and the speaker flashed them another gorgeous, bitter smile.

"Anyway, so this guy, this Dick, in addition to having a girlfriend and getting head from me a few times a week, also had time to string up another guy, someone much younger, actually, someone still in high school. Dick was working part-time at an exclusive prep school in the area, ostensibly to help out with student groups or something. But the real reason, I think, was that he was, without even knowing it, in search of more admirers.

"And so of course he found one, this really impressive high school kid who was apparently, Dick said, just really gorgeous, really self-assured and smart. And in the course of time, he and Dick became friends. And then, to Dick's utter amazement, he tells me, the kid actually makes a pass at him, which Dick, being so very straight and so very not narrow, of course—and also terrified of a lawsuit from the kid's parents, because these were seriously rich kids—gently rebuffed.

"But the kid was persistent—the kid was determined. And rich kids aren't used to not getting what they want: it's not an experience they've had all that often, and it usually doesn't sit well with them." The speaker laughed. "This is why it's better to get rich when you're older, I think."

Justin bit his lip and sat forward in the chair, then looked up and smiled briefly at Lance, who had come by to hand him another glass of wine.

"So, being rich and unused to losing, this kid sets up this kind of ingenious plan. He forms a camping club or something, then gets Dick to be the head of it and schedules an all-out expedition over spring break. And of course, no one at the kid's tony school signs up for it: I mean, it's spring break, and they all want to go get shit-faced on mommy's and daddy's yachts or whatever. But the kid does sign up, and then tells Dick that no one else will join him, and then apologizes profusely and says that they should cancel the expedition even though it makes him very sad. But Dick being Dick, of course, can't do that, can't let this kid down. And also his ego being what it was, I think he kind of relished the whole idea of getting idolized for a week nonstop. So the camping expedition was on.

"But then, Dick had second thoughts—again, I think he was probably worried about statutory rape charges from the parents, or some sort of liability thing. Or who knows—maybe he was worried about his ability to remain aloof. I mean, this was a seriously great kid. If he'd actually gotten Dick alone that week, who knows what would've happened?"

Justin felt his heart begin to pound in his chest, began nervously tapping his fingertips on the arms of his chair. Calm, he told himself. Be calm. This has nothing to do with you. Lots of people could tell this same story.

"So Dick gets his girlfriend, Jane—who, by the way, he had somehow forgotten to tell the kid about—and me to go with him on this camping trip. I had been working as a seasonal ranger off and on during the summers, and so for me at that point, camping was pretty much the best thing in the world—besides sucking cock, of course."

Everyone but Justin, it seemed, laughed.

"So yeah, I agreed to be the first one at the park, to meet the kid, and to get the hike started before Dick and Jane arrived. And I was also supposed to, casually of course, break the news to him that Jane existed, and then to make sure everything was going smoothly. And I also—I think I was supposed to be the gay role model for him. I mean, Dick never said anything about it, but knowing how he was, I can just—I think that's what he was planning. And I have to say that now, I really wish I would've done something in that regard, would've talked to this kid about something real, tried to help him or whatever—but I didn't, and that's—well, I just have to deal with that now," the speaker said, obviously unhappy.

Justin bit his lip.

"So I showed up, I watched the kid say goodbye to his mom, and then I introduced myself to him, and I just—" The speaker made a small, helpless gesture with his hands. "I wish I could describe him to you, but the whole anonymous thing makes that a bit difficult. Um, let's just say that this was one of the lucky ones, the truly lucky ones, with a face and mouth like an angel, seriously, and the most gorgeous body. He was eighteen at the time, Dick said, and you could see what a gorgeous man he was going to be, but also—well, he was really handsome at the time as well. And he was eighteen—did I say that? Eighteen.

"So anyway, there I am, with a young Greek god in the woods, and I have to tell him something that's going to crush his world, and I don't want to do it, but I do—I let him know about Dick's girlfriend, about Dick coming later, and I let him know he's stuck sharing a tent with me for the seven days coming up. And the look on his face when I did all that—well, that's not a part of this story I really enjoy remembering too much. But he was a pretty proud guy, and so while I could tell he was fairly upset, he did his best to keep that under wraps, which, seriously, showed a poise and strength that I probably don't think I have even to this day.

"So he was great. And so there we are, and we hike all that first day and then come to a clearing and set up camp, and it's me and him in the tent at night. We'd hiked pretty far that day, and it had been pretty grueling, and it was early spring, and it had been unseasonably warm, and god help me, we stripped down to our underwear and slept on top of our sleeping bags, which—is that a porno set—up or not?" He laughed a bit. "But we were tired, and we were young, and we'd hiked all day. I mean, of course, I saw how gorgeous he was—you can't ignore beauty of that kind—but I didn't really have the presence of mind to appreciate him at the time. And he wasn't interested in me, because he was hung up on Dick. And I wasn't interested in him, because I was hung up on Dick. And I just—I really regret, now, that Dick was in the middle of things, because Dick, as you've probably all figured out now, could actually be kind of a dick."

"You know, I looked him up a while back," the speaker said. "He's married, though not to Jane, and I think there were some children. And the thing is—we're all idiots when we're young, pretty much, and I imagine he was confused. And there I was, ready to adore him, and then Jane too, and finally, this fantastic kid. And who would say no to all of that? Who among us would have that strength? So . . . if I don't exactly like the way he handled everything, I can admit that I see where he was coming from. A bit. And even more than that, I wish—I just wish I'd been stronger and more secure in myself at the time, that I wouldn't have settled for what I settled for back then." He paused. "But that's how it goes. You learn, you grow up, you try not to repeat the same stupid mistakes again."

A few people clapped again.

"Anyway, where was I? Right. Uh, the next day, Dick and Jane finally showed up, and the kid met them with some seriously enviable poise; he was really pretty magnificent. He took to Jane at once, was really kind and sweet to her, far more so than I'd ever been. He had a real maturity and grace to him.

"So, we meet, we hike all day, and then go back to camp for the night, and then we do that over and over again for the next several days. And we all get along pretty well."

The speaker lowered his head and mumbled, "And if you're wondering, yeah—I did sneak out there with Dick once or twice, go down on my knees in the woods for him and suck him off, and that's just—that's what it was. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did. The kid didn't know about that, obviously, and he and I got along okay—we didn't talk all that much, but we didn't fight, either. It was pretty harmonious all in all. And so it was almost all right; it was almost a fairly successful trip despite the fucked-uppedness.

"But then, you know, it's the last night before we go back, and we all drank a bit more than we should have that night in front of the campfire. And it was hot that night, and so again, the kid and I strip down to our shorts and just lie there and breathe raggedly in the night. And we had been out there six days—and do you remember how often you jerked off at that age?"

Much laughter in the room.

"Yeah. It was many, many more times than once every six days. So let's just say that all of us were probably in a pretty, erm, interesting state. And so there I am, right? Lying next to this gorgeous kid and it's dark in the tent, and I'm thinking about how hot it is and listening to him breathe and shift and make small noises in the back of his throat as he moves, and I was just about this close to reaching out and touching him; I just—I really wanted him right then. And I can't tell what he wanted, of course, but I was not—I wasn't exactly ugly all those years ago, and so it wasn't totally out of the question that he might have wanted me, too. So I was kind of pulling my courage together, trying to make a move on the cute guy next to me—and then, over in the next tent, it happens: Dick starts making moves on Jane. And it's silent in the woods at night, and the fabric the tents were made of was really thin, and we just—we could hear everything, from her whispering to him that they should stop, to him whispering back that we were asleep and that she should relax, and then to her moaning soft and slow as he coaxed her into it. And one thing led to the next, of course, and so finally, they were just going at it, and the kid and I, again, could hear it all, could hear him sliding in and out of her, could hear him groaning, her them both breathing harder and harder. And it's so fucking hot, right? I mean, it's hot in a real sense—because of the weather—and then it's also hot because the kid and I are both hung up on Dick. And so it was just—weird. Weird and exciting and wrong to listen to him have sex with his girlfriend. I mean, I'm pretty sure we both wished that we were the one he was doing it with, and so in our own little tent, there was some pretty hard breathing and some fidgeting.

And at some point, Dick just gave up totally on the being quiet thing, utterly gave it up and started grunting with every thrust he made. And we could hear Jane trying to shush him, but he wasn't having any of it; he was going for it, and I swear—to this day, I think he did it all on purpose. I think he knew everyone in that camp wanted him, and I think he decided to torture us all in whatever way he could. Some sort of ego thing.

"And so I'm lying there in the tent trying not to lose it, and I'm just stupidly rock hard, hardly able to think, and I'm straining to hear Dick's voice—when suddenly, it dawns on me that it's not just Dick and Jane who are making all the noise. There's panting in my tent now, too, and little sounds, these small little moans, and I can hear the kid, I can hear him touching himself very carefully, very quietly, and seriously, it was just one of the hottest things I've ever, ever experienced. I was too terrified to move, terrified I'd upset him, terrified I'd scare him and make him stop—and yet I also needed to see—my god, I wanted to see. So finally, he gets close—I could tell by his breathing and the sound of his hand—and at that point, I finally let myself raise my head just a little, and I opened my eyes a bit, and—"

The room was utterly silent.

"And well. I can't really—it doesn't feel right to describe how he was. For some things, there are no words, you know?"

"Maybe you can try," someone said in a choked voice, and then everyone but Justin laughed again.

"Yeah. The thing is, I don't want to. It was private. And as I'm sure you can all guess, that's my regret right there—well, part of it. I mean, I regret that I didn't touch him—I really regret that, but even more, I regret that I didn't talk to him. I regret that neither of us ever sat down and had a real conversation. I mean, if we just would have leveled with each other for five minutes, we would've both figured out how Dick was playing us, and we maybe could have done something about it, or helped each other to do something—because on my own, I can say I wasn't doing too real well in that department."

The guy grimaced.

"Uh, what else. After the camping trip ended, the kid pretty much stopped coming to see Dick. I think it probably hurt Dick's feelings a bit, but he never really said much about it. As for me, I finally hooked up with some other gay guys at school—guys who were out—and then things got better for me. Gradually. And I hope that the kid, wherever he is right now, is happy, and successful, and proud of himself. I hope he's done well in his life."

There was a brief pause.

"And that's pretty much it," the speaker said. There was applause yet again, and then he left the room.

For a minute or two, Justin sat perfectly still, shock coursing through him. Then, he let out the breath he'd been holding, struggled to his feet, and walked straight out of the apartment without talking to anyone.


Lance and Joey hadn't known any JCs, but there had been a Josh Chasez at the party, someone Joey worked with at the architecture firm. It had been ridiculously easy to get his address from Joey but ridiculously hard to show up at the guy's apartment building to try to talk to him. Justin had finally simply announced himself as Joey Fatone through the intercom, and JC had buzzed him in. It was an agony waiting for JC to finally open his door, and a further lifetime of agony to see him face to face again. For a moment, the two men simply stared at each other, JC doing whatever it was he needed to do and Justin busy affirming for himself that he had the right guy, that this was really the JC he remembered. And that this JC was still really hot.

"Uh, hi," JC said, obviously discomfited, running a hand through his hair, which was shorter now but still curled nicely.

"JC, right?"

"The eerie blue eyes widened a little. "I used to be," he said quietly.

Justin found that he couldn't speak.

"Okay, Justin," JC finally said. "You'd better come in."

JC led him into a massive living room with high ceilings and floor—to—ceiling windows looking out over the cityscape.

"Joey told me you might visit," he said once Justin was seated on a couch, then sat down next to him. "He also, uh, mentioned that you were at the party the other night."

"Yeah. I was."

JC's face was pink. "Well, then. I want to apologize for telling that story, and for being so, um, frank about you. If I'd known you were in the audience, I never would have done it. I just—I hope I didn't offend or upset you."

"Don't worry about it," Justin told him. "In a way, it was good to get a fuller story."

JC was still blushing.

"So," Justin tried. "You work with Joey at the firm."

"Yeah," JC said. "I do."

"I'm in the music business," Justin told him. "I work with a bunch of vocal artists."

"I see." JC paused as if trying to hold something back, then blurted out the next question anyway. "And you're happy? You're okay?"

Justin thought for a moment. "I'm doing pretty well," he said, thinking of Trace. "Broke up with my long—term boyfriend a few months ago, but other than that, things are good."

"Good. I'm really glad to hear that."

"Yeah, you seemed concerned the other night. About my well-being."

"Yeah," JC admitted.

"And so I wanted to tell you that I'm all right and that you can stop worrying about it, or feeling guilty, or whatever it is you're doing to torture yourself inside. You know, that entire incident—I had pretty much forgotten about it until I heard your story. I mean, I won't lie—there were some tough moments for me on that trip, but really, I have to tell you that at this point, I'm pretty certain you're a lot more torn up about it than I am."

"That's good to know. I think."

Justin grinned. "I never did see Chris again," he added a moment later. "But I don't really blame him. It's like you said—I think he did the best he could given the situation."

"Yeah." JC looked a little sad. "I think we all did."

"Exactly," Justin said. "Okay, there's one more thing I need to tell you."

JC inclined his head politely. He really was so graceful.

"And that thing is—well. Uh. I wanted you to know that it was the same for me that night in the tent."

JC looked puzzled. "The same?"

"Yeah. Uh, what I mean is, I wanted you too."

"Oh. I'm glad to hear that," JC said softly.

Justin sank back into the couch cushions and stared out the windows until he felt calm again. "So I just got out of this relationship, like I said."

JC nodded.

"And you?" Justin prodded, smiling a little.

"Single," JC told him. "For a while now."

"Hm," Justin said. "Well, then. I guess that means you might be free sometime. To get dinner or something."

"Yeah. That, yeah."

"I think it would probably be good for us both. I mean you've got all this guilt and regret to get rid of, and I need to get out and see people again. To be with the world and all."

JC frowned. "You know, you might be overstating that a bit. About my guilt and regret."

"I see," Justin said. "Well, in that case, then, would you like to pick up a teenager and go camping?"

For a long, horrible moment, there was dead silence. Then, finally, JC said,

"Second date, maybe."

"Okay, second date. Or, you know, never."

JC grinned. "It'll be good to finally get to know you, Justin."

"Yeah," Justin said, and tried not to shiver. "You too."


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