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Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Rabbits' Feet, Kisses, and Invisible Gay Necklaces

by SnarkyLlama, for Withdiamonds

Rabbits' Feet, Kisses, and Invisible Gay Necklaces


Once, when Justin was a kid—

No, shut up, Chris. You're not the one telling this story.



Once, back when Justin was a real kid, not an aspiring pop star working his butt off singing and dancing and sweating away in the sorts of clubs he couldn't even get into back in the States, Trace's mother got sick. Not really sick, but sick enough that Trace came to stay with them for a week, just to give his poor momma a break.

It was pretty sweet, actually, because Justin had always thought that having a brother would be cool and now he got to try it out. They did everything together that week—ate together, slept together, followed Justin's momma around on all her errands together, everything.

It was when they were leaving Piggly Wiggly—Justin's momma pushing the cart and her mind obviously on other things like the rising cost of beef and the merits of 2% milk versus skim—that Trace proved just how very cool he could be. He stopped beside the line of vending machines—the little ones that sold toys in plastic capsules and sheets of stickers and rubber snakes and things for a quarter—and asked, "Hey, Miss Lynn, can we?"

Now, Justin's momma never let him get that stuff. Sometimes, he could get gum from the penny machines or a jawbreaker for a nickel, but his momma said he didn't need any toys that were so cheap they'd break before the day was through. But his momma just looked down at Trace, and smiled and pat his shoulder, and said, "Sure, honey." And she dug two quarters out of her purse and gave them to him.

Trace beamed and said, "Thanks, ma'am," and tugged Justin over to the machines. Trace pressed one of the quarters into Justin's hand, and they studied the machines, trying to find the one with the best stuff in it.

"Hurry up, boys," Justin's momma said.

Trace picked the sticker machine and ended up with a sheet of pirate-themed temporary tattoos. Justin went straight for the machine with the key chains and rings and bracelets and other sparkly stuff. He slipped his quarter into the slot, turned the knob, and a capsule dropped down into his waiting hand. He popped it open and blinked.

Um. What was that? A furry, blue keychain? Maybe Justin's momma was right, these things were a rip-off.

"Cool," Trace said, looking at Justin's furry thing while his momma led the way out into the parking lot. "A rabbit's foot."

"Rabbits aren't blue," Justin said.

"Well, duh," Trace said. "But maybe they dyed it."

Justin poked it and made a face at it and offered it to Trace, because really? If it was a foot? He didn't want it.

"No," Trace said. "You can't do that. It's good luck, you have to keep it."

Justin's momma shook her head and pulled out her car keys. "Oh, boys," she said, opening the trunk. "It doesn't work that way. People make their own luck."

Justin figured his momma was right, 'cause she always was, but he ended up keeping the rabbit's foot because, later that night, after they'd helped unpack the groceries and had dinner and baths and were tucked into Justin's bed together, Trace pressed it into Justin's hand again.

"You have to keep it," Trace said. "I know it was meant for you." And then—

Justin always skipped this part when telling the story.

—and then, Trace kissed him, and it was kind of weird because only Justin's momma and his Grams did that, but it was also kind of nice and different—a lot different—from those other kisses.

So, Justin kept the rabbit's foot just because it was important to Trace, who was maybe a little too superstitious but that was okay, all things considered. He had it all the time, except for once or twice when it got lost in the laundry.

It was probably a coincidence that he lost on Star Search when his rabbit's foot was missing. But when he found it again before his Mickey Mouse Club audition, he was relieved. And when he—oh my god—got on the show, he decided to keep it with him always, just in case.

Trace kissed him a few more times, and then he didn't anymore. Justin's momma explained that it was just a phase some boys went through and it didn't always mean anything. But they still hung out together whenever they could, so it was okay and Justin didn't mind.


MMC taught Justin a lot. Most of it was work-related, but he picked up a few other things as well.

He learned that kisses were definitely nice, but they varied a lot depending on who was doing the kissing. He learned that girls kind of showed you that they wanted to be kissed. At least, he was pretty sure that was what all the hair-flipping and eye-batting—and that weird thing where you thought their necks must be broken because their heads were always tilted funny and they couldn't look at you straight-on—was all about.

He learned that boys pretty much never showed you that they wanted to be kissed and that it was easy to make a mistake—and that Ryan totally punched like a girl.

He learned that Britney didn't wait around acting like she wanted to be kissed. Instead, she kissed him. Her kisses were a lot like Trace's, and he liked that. She reminded him of Trace in other ways, too, and he liked her. Sometimes being around her made him miss Trace like crazy—like when she'd talk about go-kart racing or ask about the most disgusting thing he'd ever eaten and then try to top it with a story of her own. But most of the time, she made everything better.

He also learned that he kind of liked to watch the older guys when they were dancing or playing basketball or tugging up the hem of their T-shirts to wipe off their faces when they were extra sweaty. It made him feel kind of twisty and weird inside, a bit like the moment before stepping in front of an audience. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe... maybe it was because he shouldn't be watching. The older guys probably all packed a better punch than Ryan did.

The feeling was worst when he watched Tony and JC singing. When he told his momma about it, she brushed his hair back and kissed his forehead and sounded a little sad as she said, "You're growing up so fast." She told him that admiration, envy, and jealousy sometimes got all knotted up together, and if he didn't know exactly what he was feeling, maybe he should wait and not act on it until he did. He wasn't sure what she was talking about, he wasn't planning to do anything.

But the most important thing he learned from MMC—the thing he would never forget—was: Good luck might help you get your foot in the door, but that's when the real work began. He'd worked his butt off for MMC, giving everything he had every single day, and that was nothing compared to now.

God, now.

He flomped bonelessly onto the bed beside JC and groaned. JC opened one eye and peered at him.

"JC," Justin said, drawing it out into a whine, which he knew annoyed everyone, but right now he didn't care. "Jay-ceeee, wasn't it supposed to get easier once we got a song on the air?"

"I don't... I don't think it works that way," JC said.

"But it's a good song. We sound good."

"Yeah," JC said. He closed his eyes and smiled a little to himself. "Yeah, we do."

"It takes more than that," Lance said from the other bed where he and Joey were slumped.

"But we're working so hard," Justin said. "Like seriously, I've never worked harder in all my life."

Lance opened his mouth, then shut it, and Justin wondered if he'd been about to point out that Justin was only fifteen and "all his life" didn't amount to much. But Lance didn't say anything and that made Justin feel a bit bad for whining because he knew Lance was pushing himself hardest of all, further and further beyond what he'd ever thought he could do. So Justin sighed and changed the subject.

"Maybe I should've gotten us all rabbits' feet."

Lance snorted and Joey chuckled, and a quick check on JC proved that he was fast asleep. Justin shot a glance towards the other bed, then moved his arm just enough so he could feel JC all sleep-warm beside him.

"I don't need any feet," Joey said. "Well, no, I do, because these—" He raised his feet off the bed and wiggled his toes. "—these are more blisters than feet, I swear."

"I told you to get some band-aids," Lance said.

"Oh, Mama Bass," Joey said and rolled so he was all in Lance's space. "Mama Bass, will you wrap my feet for me? Will you... will you... kiss them better?"

Justin laughed, and Lance pushed at Joey and said, "I wouldn't touch them with rubber gloves and a ten-foot pole, you fucker."

"Ooo, Mama Bass! That sounds kinky!"

Joey laughed his crazy laugh, and they wrestled together until the real Mama Bass knocked on the door and said it was time for Lance and Justin to go to their room and get some sleep. The expression on her face said quite plainly that it was time for Joey to go to bed as well.

Justin was still thinking about luck charms the next day. He wasn't entirely convinced that his rabbit's foot did anything, but... it wouldn't hurt to get more of them. And maybe... well, his was really a gift from Trace, and maybe there was power in that. Who doesn't want friends and tokens of friendship? If he gave each of the guys one, maybe it would give them a tiny extra boost of good will and good luck.

Actually, Wesley talked about that sort of stuff sometimes, didn't he? Justin should totally ask him about it—and, since Justin couldn't go off on his own anywhere, maybe Wesley could get the rabbits' feet for him.

"Mmm, I don't know," Wesley said when he asked. "You are right, in that good will and friendship have a very strong influence on the cosmos, but you must take into consideration the feet."

"What about the feet?"

"You should not take a life to benefit yourself, not in this way. The benefit to your friends would be far outweighed by the karmic debt you would be producing."

"Oh." That didn't sound good...

"Ah, buck up, Justin. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and when has Wesley ever let you down, eh? I will tell you what I will do."

And Wesley explained that he would shop for Justin and find him some charms made by conscientious craftsmen who would only use the feet of rabbits who had lived long, happy lives and died of natural causes.

"There's people who do that?"

Justin didn't want to doubt Wesley, but that seemed like an awful lot of work to put into something that would be sold in vending machines for a quarter.

Wesley smiled.

"Ah, Justin, there are many, many peoples in this world. You can barely begin to imagine all the things that they might do."

That sounded true enough, so Justin dug into his reserve of marks and asked Wesley to buy four charms for him.

A few days later, Wesley brought him the special rabbits' feet. They didn't look particularly special, except they were real-bunny colored—not dyed—which made sense somehow. Artificial coloring probably didn't do a lot for one's cosmic balance.

Wesley was a strange guy, but he was pretty awesome, and Justin hugged him in thanks before rushing off to find the guys.

He found Joey and Lance first. Lance was doing homework while Joey watched television with the volume turned low.

"Oh," Joey said, taking the little white rabbit's foot Justin handed him. "That's uh... Thanks, Just, but you know I don't need this, right? I've already got my lucky shorts." He grinned and patted his crotch, so Justin had no doubt exactly what type of shorts he meant.

"That's gross," Justin said. "Underwear isn't lucky."

"Joey's is," Lance said.

"See?" Joey said. "See? Lance knows."

"Yeah," Lance said. "They're lucky they ever get washed."

Justin left while Joey was sputtering and trying to get Lance in a headlock. He found Chris next.

"Oh," Chris said. The charm was on a little ball-chain and Chris slipped the looped chain over his index finger and twirled it around. "Huh. Well... no offense, Jup, but this is a pretty lame birthday gift."


"Don't I deserve at least a whole rabbit? Or maybe even a Playboy Bunny?"

"It's not your birthday gift!"

"It's not?"

"Your birthday isn't till like... Thursday."

"Great, then you've still got time to hire the strippers."

"Yeah," Justin said. "I'll just ask my mom for help with that, okay?"

"On second thought, I'll get my own strippers."

Justin smiled and Chris twirled the rabbit's foot a few more times.

"So," Chris said. "Why did you get me this?"

"Because it's good luck."

"Oh, huh. I prefer kisses myself."


"A kiss for luck!" Chris pounced and threw his arms around Justin's neck and planted a huge, wet kiss on his lips.


"Ew," Justin said as soon as he got the chance. Chris doubled over with laughter, and Justin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Jesus, Chris. I've been licked by dogs who were less slobbery."

Chris laughed even harder.

"Jesus," Justin said again. "If that had been my first kiss, I would have been scarred for life."

Maybe Chris was part dog because his ears perked up at that.

"Oh? Who have you been kissing, Jup?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," Justin said and raced out of the room.

Chris was right at his heels, crying, "Justin, Justin, you're breaking my heart! Who got to your virgin lips before me?"

The chase led them right to JC. Or more precisely, right into JC. Justin slammed into him, then gasped and twisted and tried to catch him so they wouldn't both crash to the floor.

"Fuck," JC said, breathless.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Justin stammered. They hadn't fallen, but they were all tangled together, and god, he had JC pressed up against the wall and they were the same height and JC had amazing eyes and— "Oh, shit, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," JC said. "It's not like you did it on purpose."

"You guys okay?" Chris asked.

"We're fine," JC said.

Justin carefully pushed away from him, and... what was that?

There was something under JC's shirt where Justin had his hand pressed. Was it another necklace? Justin fought against the urge to hook a finger in the collar of JC's shirt and pull till he could peer inside—just to see it, to find out what it was because he kind of wanted to know everything about JC. His fingers twitched.

JC patted his shoulder like he was a kid and then stepped sideways, away from Justin.

"It's okay," JC said, looking at Chris. "But maybe if some people would start acting their age and remember this isn't a... a monkey house—

"Ah, lighten up, Granny Chasez. All I was doing was asking the kid about his love life."

"No, he—"

"Yeah?" JC asked.

He turned to look at Justin, and Justin shoved his hands into his pockets. Geez. How was he supposed to just stand here when JC looked at him all slow and thoughtful like that?

JC smiled. "Yeah, I remember how it was. Fifteen, almost sixteen..."

When JC was sixteen, Justin had seen him in the hallway with Nikki. They hadn't been doing anything wrong, but they were standing awfully close and talking quietly. Nikki's hand had drifted as they talked and ended up on JC's hip, maybe two inches from his fly. And JC... JC had looked really intense—and a little like he did now—and touched her hair and twined the end of one lock around and around his fingers.

Something twisted hard in Justin's gut and his dick jumped, and oh, god dammit. Stupid, stupid dick, and stupid Chris, and just... fuck.

Justin squeezed the last rabbit's foot tight in his fist, then turned on his heel and left them standing there. This wasn't the right time to give JC his.

Stupid dick.


They had to be in the van and ready to go by nine thirty the next morning, but if JC was true to form, he'd be there early, waiting and impatient, because the sooner they got going, the sooner he could fall back to sleep. Justin figured that his dick wouldn't find the situation appealing if they were both right there in public and JC was cranky. It would be the perfect time to catch him.

He raced through his morning routine, inhaled his breakfast—until his momma told him to slow down and chew his food before he gave himself an ulcer—and flew down the stairs. Then he paused, breathed deeply, and wandered out into the lobby.

JC was there, seated on a low, padded bench and digging through his knapsack.

"Oh, hey," Justin said. "You're ready, too?"

JC looked up and blinked.

"Justin, hey." He started digging through his pack again.

Justin reached into his pocket and touched the extra-soft fur of JC's rabbit's foot. He shuffled his feet and waited, and waited.

"Um," he finally said.

"Yeah?" JC said without looking up.

"I uh... I got you... um. What are you looking for?"

"I thought I had some extra batteries, for my CDs, you know?" JC set his bag down and secured its flap. "But I guess I don't, I'll have to—"

"I've got some!" Justin said. "You can have some of mine." He shrugged his backpack off of his shoulder, then sat next to JC and started unzipping it. "See? In this compartment here. Yeah."

He glanced up and JC was smiling at him, and god, his haircut was weird, but he was still so pretty and... yeah. Justin wasn't going to think about that any more.

He held up a package of batteries instead.

"How many do you need? Four? Maybe you should take the whole pack."

"No, I don't need the whole—"

"Take 'em," Justin said. "I've got enough."

JC's eyes crinkled up, and he took them—and his fingers brushed Justin's. "Thanks, J, that's... You're pretty cool, man."

Justin swallowed and licked his lips.

"I... I have something else for you, too."

"Yeah?" JC grinned. "And it's not even my birthday that's coming up."

"No, it's, it's nothing special. I just thought... uh..." Justin shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out the rabbit's foot. "This is for you."

"Oh," JC said, but he didn't take it.

"It's— I'm not superstitious," Justin said. "It's just... it can't hurt, right? I've had one for years, like since I was a kid, and here I am now, right? In Germany with you."

"Yeah," JC said. "Mouseketeers in Germany, I didn't see that one coming."

"So I got this for you."

JC rubbed his chest right about where Justin had felt that necklace—or something—the night before.

"I appreciate the thought, J, but I don't... I don't really believe in that stuff."

"But..." Justin hesitated. He didn't think 'but I really want you to have it' would be a very convincing argument. "But you don't have to believe in rabbits' feet, just—"

"I don't believe in good luck," JC said.

"What? That isn't—" That didn't make any sense. Good luck happened. It wasn't something to believe in or not. It just happened.

Justin told him that, and JC touched his chest again. It reminded Justin of how his Grams would sometimes touch her cross while they were in church. What did JC have under there?

"I think," JC said. "I think life happens, good and bad, in a mixed bag."


"And you can't just pick out the good bits, you have to take it all. It doesn't work any other way."

"But I... I know good stuff has happened to you. I mean, MMC... us..."

"Hmm," JC said.

"There's no bad mixed in with us! I mean, sure, Joey's dirty socks and Chris after four Mountain Dews aren't exactly my favorite things in the world, but—"

JC chuckled. "What? There's nothing bad about me or Lance?"

Justin bit back his 'no' and thought for a second, then held out the rabbit's foot again.

"You won't take my gift," he said. "That's kinda bad."

JC shook his head. "Even if you believe in it, Justin, it's not going to do any good with... Oh. Hey."

JC cocked his head and looked at the foot, then plucked it from Justin's hand. He turned it over a couple of time, and then smiled.

"You know what? I bet it would do some good, if you held onto it for me."


"You'll take care of it, right?"

"Yeah, but—"

"No, 'buts,'" JC said. He caught Justin's hand, dropped the rabbit's foot into it, and then folded Justin's fingers over it. Justin forgot to breathe for a moment.

"Take care of it for me, and it'll be like... the power of positive thinking. Okay?"

Justin didn't completely understand, but he nodded. "I will."

"Whoa," Chris said. "Are you two holding hands?"

Justin yanked his hand away from JC's, and that was that.


Three days later, "I Want You Back" broke into the German charts. Justin thought that maybe he believed enough in good luck—and hard work—for all of them.

But, well...

He was beginning to think that JC had lied to him. He'd been watching carefully and he'd noticed all the random little moments when JC would touch his chest or rub it thoughtfully. He reached for whatever he had hidden there almost as frequently as Justin reached for the two little rabbits' feet snuggled together in his pocket.

JC had a talisman or something already, and that was why he'd refused Justin's.

"Have you seen JC's other necklace?" he asked Lance.

"What necklace? His Leo? Has he lost it?"

"His other one."

"He's only got the one, Justin."


He asked Joey. "Do you think JC's got a good luck charm?"

"He's got something. Did you see those girls all over him last night? I need to get me some of that."


"Do you think JC would lie to me?"

"Geez, Louise." Chris sighed. "Do you think you could talk about something else? Anything besides JC?"

"But do you—?"

"No, Justin, I don't think JC would lie to you. If you haven't noticed, JC doesn't really lie, he just changes the subject and starts rambling about the fluid dynamics of butterfly wings and things."

"... What's fluid dynamics?"


"Are you sure you haven't seen his other necklace?" Justin asked Lance again.

"What other necklace?" Joey said.

"The invisible one," Chris and Lance said.

"Oh, that one."


They sang "Happy Birthday" to Chris on stage, and after the show, there were drinks and cake set up in the tiny hallway between the men's and women's dressing rooms.

Chris was bouncing around, stealing bites from everyone's plates, and kissing all the girls as they passed, even Mrs. Bass and Justin's momma—and seriously, Chris had better not have slipped his momma any tongue.

"Juppy!" Chris crowed and swung him into a hug. Then he lowered his voice and shoved Justin towards the men's dressing room. "Dude, I just smashed a big handful of cake all over JC's shirt. Go catch him before he's finished changing, 'cause I swear, if you don't stop asking about the invisible necklace, the rest of us will have to kill you."

"I'm not that—"

"Go!" Chris said and pushed him again.

Justin stumbled into the room, and man, this was so stupid. Justin had shared changing rooms with JC countless times. It totally wasn't a big deal.

But the thing about changing rooms was: either you were always too busy changing to really notice anything else or you were one of those weirdos who sat around watching the other guys and that was a surefire way to get mocked or punched or shunned in some other way, and Justin didn't do that. Justin was cool.

And now he was here hoping to catch JC without his shirt on?

No, Justin told himself. No. He was just here to look for the necklace. He'd satisfy his curiosity and—oh.

JC was pulling a black T-shirt over his head, and Justin had a second's glimpse of something pink and silver on a thin cord, before it disappeared and JC was all covered up again and looking at Justin with blue, blue eyes and his hair all wild and messy. And he looked really good like that. Someone should tell him to always brush his hair up off his face like that and...

"Hey, Justin." JC smiled, but seemed a bit distracted as he fussed with the hem of his shirt, tucking it in and pulling it out again.

Justin cleared his throat. "Hey... uh, I think it's supposed to be worn tucked-in."

"Yeah," JC said, "but I hate these pants. I mean... pleated trousers? Seriously? I don't need the extra room, they make me look—"

"Fat?" Justin said, because it was so obviously not true.

"What?" JC smoothed his hands over his flat belly and checked himself in the mirror. "I'm not— No, I just look dorky."

Justin caught himself reaching out to trace the path of JC's hand, so he shoved his hands deep in his pockets and said, "Come on, we're going to go party somewhere. You don't want to miss it, do you?"

"Yeah," JC said. "Twenty-five, can you imagine? I wonder where we'll be when I'm twenty-five—or hell, when you're twenty-five."

Did JC think they'd still be together in ten years? That was so awesome. Justin hadn't known anyone for that long, except for his family and Trace. By then, it would be like he'd known JC forever, for more than half his life. Wow. That was just so...

"What?" JC said.

"Nothing," Justin said. "Come on, let's party."


Joey, Lance, and Chris cornered Justin the next morning, once Chris' hangover had apparently dulled to a muffled roar and it was, actually, no longer morning.

"Well?" Chris said. "Let's hear it."

"Yeah," Joey said. "We want to hear all the dirty details. What was it like?"

Justin had no clue what they were talking about.

"The necklace," Lance said.

"The invisible necklace," Chris said. "Do tell us that you laid eyes upon it and your heart can finally rest easy and I didn't totally waste a piece of cake for you."

"God," Joey said. "You should have seen JC's face when Chris 'tripped' and plastered him with it."

"I thought he was going to kill you," Lance told Chris.

"I wasn't worried," Chris said. He waggled his brows and preened a bit. "I'm too small and cunning for the likes of him."

Justin tried to sneak away. Once Chris got on a roll, he'd never notice.

"Oh, no, you don't," Joey said as he grabbed a fistful of Justin's shirt, trapping him in place. "We asked you a question, so spill it."

There wasn't much to tell. He'd barely seen it, and it was just a rock—or perhaps a crystal—caught up in a fancy twist of wire.

"It was a stone," he said. "I don't know, maybe rose quartz or something? Kinda small and vaguely triangular... like a tooth. Yeah. Like an eyetooth." He roughly sketched the shape with his fingers, a triangle pointing down. "Kind of like that. And it was in this tiny cage of wire or something, but—"

"Wait," Joey said. "What color was it?"

"Pink," Justin said. "Well... pinkish."

"It was a triangle," Chris said. "And it was pink." He shot a look at Lance and Joey that Justin couldn't interpret. It was just a necklace, it hardly merited significant looks.

"Huh," Lance said.

"That's... unexpected," Joey said.

"You think?" Chris said. "JC wearing a pink triangle?"

"Hmm," Lance said.

"What?" Justin said. He hated it when they acted all weird and wouldn't let him in on it. "Tell me."

"It's nothing," Joey said.

"It's... interesting," Lance said.

"Don't tell anyone else about it," Chris said.

"That's stupid," Justin said. He wouldn't. JC wasn't anyone else's business.

"Lou wouldn't like it," Chris said. "'Cause pink's not really in his color scheme for us."

Lance and Joey nodded, and Justin wanted to yell at them because he knew Chris well enough by now to know when he wasn't telling the whole truth.

"I—" No, you know what? Justin didn't need to play guessing games with them. He could figure it out on his own. "Okay," he said. "I won't say anything to Lou."

"Or anyone else," Chris said.

"'Or anyone else,'" Justin repeated, and then he went to find his mother.

"Oh," Justin's momma said when he asked her about pink triangles. She sat down on the bed and rubbed her eyes. "Who was saying something about that to you? Someone here? One of the Germans?"

"The guys," Justin told her. "And they wouldn't tell me, they said it was nothing."

"Ah, baby, come here."

He sat beside her and she hugged him and pet his hair. He hugged her back tight, because she was the best.

"I think," she said, "it's hard for them, sometimes, to know what they should say to you. I think they'd like to protect you and keep you forever just the way you are right now."

"I don't need— I don't want that."

"I know, baby, but... I can't blame them, not when I want the same thing, too, sometimes. You've grown up so fast."

"You're just jealous that I'm taller than you now."

She laughed. "I am not. I am so proud of you."

"'Cause I can get things down from the top shelf for you."

She laughed again, and he rested his head on her shoulder and listened as she explained about pink triangles and concentration camps and how symbols meant to be full of terror and shame could come to stand for pride and—

Justin's heart and mind raced.

"If someone wears one, does that... does that mean they're definitely gay?"

"You still shouldn't make that assumption."

"But they might be." He might—JC might be!

"Who was wearing one?"

"JC was. Momma, do you think—?"

God, if JC was... then Justin was allowed to like him and maybe they could even kiss, and maybe... maybe Justin's dick wasn't so stupid after all.

"Oh, Justin." His momma kissed his forehead, and then pulled away. "Baby, why don't you ask him?"

"Oh," Justin said. "Yeah, I'm going to do that. I'm gonna... um... right now!"

But his heart was pounding and his hands were sweaty by the time he'd gone over four doors to JC's room. He could hardly think, and oh, god, maybe JC was like him and maybe JC would actually like him, and... and...

Justin reached in his pocket to touch the rabbits' feet for reassurance. Okay. Okay, he could do this. He knocked on the door.

"Hey," JC said. "Justin, what's up?" He looked all softly crumpled around the edges and Justin wanted to touch him so bad.

"JC, hi. Um. Do you— Are you— Do you have a gay necklace?"

JC blinked.

"Shit. No, I mean. Fuck, my words are all mixed up. I—"

"Why don't you come inside?" JC said.

JC had the single room and there was a book lying open on the bed, and JC was wearing jeans and a sweater and a really confused look on his face, so...

"I saw your necklace," Justin blurted. "And, and it's a pink triangle, and that doesn't— I know that doesn't have to mean anything, but— But it might and—"

"Hey, hey, whoa," JC said. "Slow down and breathe, man."


"And it's not, it's not a triangle," JC said. He fished his necklace out from under his sweater. "See? It's more of an inverted pyramid, I think."

Oh, god. Justin was so stupid.

"It's supposed to be an efficacious shape, but I don't think it's working."

"I should go," Justin mumbled.

"Oh, hey, no, don't go. 'Cause like, you're interested in the necklace and I've—" JC pointed to the bed. "—just been reading up on it. And it would be cool to talk about it with someone, you know?"

Well... maybe somehow JC had missed the whole gay part of Justin's question. Maybe everything was still okay.

"You have to read about your necklace?"

"Well, it's calcite, right? So it's used in meditation and crystal healing and—"

"You. You believe in crystal healing, but not good luck? Man, that's just... weird."

"Yeah, um..." JC made a face and raked his hands through his hair. "That wasn't really cool of me, was it? I'm sorry I didn't take your foot, but... it seems to be working out okay. You're taking care of it for me, right?"

Justin nodded and JC smiled.

"Great," he said. "So, yeah. It's calcite which is supposed to help with mental clarity and uh... 'opening yourself to new ways of thinking,' but I haven't been feeling it much, so... oh, hey. You wanna sit down or something?"

Justin sat on the edge of the bed, and JC moved his book and sat beside him.

"So I was just reading—like right when you knocked—about how metal hampers the healing effects of crystals and if the stone is surrounded by metal, its effects can be diminished to the point of nothing."

"But your crystal..." Justin reached for JC's necklace, then stopped.

"Yeah," JC said, "it's pretty messed up, huh? Why sell 'healing' crystals to people if you're just going to fuck 'em up by plunking them into silver settings?"

"But—" Justin reached for it again. "Can I?" He mimed taking it, and JC pulled it from around his neck and handed it to him.

The stone was still warm from JC's body heat. Justin tried to ignore the way that made things shift and churn inside him and just concentrate on the task at hand. The silver wires were awfully thin... He rubbed them carefully with his thumb and could feel how easily the wires would give.

"You could take the stone out." Justin glanced at JC. "I could. If you want, I could do it for you."

"Yeah?" JC smiled. "Go for it, man. Be my guest."

It only took a minute to bend the wires and work the stone free. He held it for a moment, then dropped it into JC's hand.

"There," Justin said, "one order of mental clarity 'to go.'"

JC laughed and tossed the crystal from one hand to the other. "Ta da!"

He tossed it again and when he caught it, he looked at Justin and said, "You know, this is pink calcite."

"I know my colors," Justin said. "Like... yo, I didn't go to bus Kindergarten. I do know some shit."

"Mmm, if you say so, man." JC scratched his nose, and Justin thought he was hiding a smile behind his hand. "But, um, yeah, pink calcite. Pink calcite especially focuses on 'opening yourself to opportunities for Universal Love.'"

Justin had no clue what that was supposed to mean, but there was an obvious joke waiting to be made and maybe JC wouldn't notice that he was clueless.

"Oh, so... you're saying you want to forget this pop thing and try to get Joey's old job?"

"No," JC laughed and batted playfully at Justin. "No, no, you idiot."

Justin grinned.

"Hey, don't pick on me. That's what you said. You want to open up opportunities at Universal."

"Hell, no," JC said. "I couldn't handle the wolf suit."

And it would be a shame to hide JC under all that fake fur.

"What I meant," JC said. "What I meant earlier was... that thing you said about the gay necklace?"

Oh, he had noticed the "gay" part.

"Yeah?" Justin said, trying not to cringe.

"It's not— I mean, the necklace isn't gay, but... I— It's complicated."

"It didn't seem very complicated to me."

"No, I mean, the necklace wasn't complicated. I'm... you know it's not always one thing or the other... sometimes it's..."

It was painful listening to JC try to find the words, so Justin decided to just get the whole thing over with one way or another.

"Look," he said. "I know boys don't do this—they just keep you guessing and wondering whether they want to be kissed or if they want to punch you or something, and fine, whatever, that's what boys do, but I'm not going to do that. I just... I'd like you to kiss me... if it's, you know, something you'd want, too."

He bit his lip and looked at JC, and JC didn't say anything. Justin still had the necklace cord, and he wrapped it tighter and tighter around his hand, thinking, 'Fine, fine. I said that and now everything's going to be fucked up, and—'

Damn. He was going to lose the circulation in his hand if he wasn't careful.

He took a deep breath, and then JC said, "Is this another luck thing?"

"No. God, no. It's not about luck 'cause luck kisses are freaky and sloppy, and if I really needed one, Chris would volunteer, and no. Just no." He rubbed his hand on thigh and said the rest. "It's... it's just an 'I like you' thing."

"Oh," JC said, and he looked kinda surprised and pleased and stupid all at once.

"And I... I really hate that you don't believe in luck, C. It's sad. Don't you think it's sad? I want to change your mind, I want to show you not everything's a mixed bag of good and bad. I think, I think kissing me would be all good."

"Oh," JC said again, but now he was smiling a bit.

Justin's heart hopped in his chest and he scrambled around so he was facing JC.

"Don't you think it would be good?"

"I'm sure it would be g—"

Justin leaned forward.

"—Justin, I'm not going to kiss you."

No. No fair.

"Why not? You think it would be good, you want to be open to universal love or whatever. Why not? Don't you like me?"

He was sure, he was sure JC liked him. But maybe JC didn't like him enough.

JC touched Justin's shoulder.

"I like you just fine, but I'm not going to kiss you. I shouldn't. You're fifteen."


"But, but I'm like, the same size as you and I'm all grown up, and I like you, I like you a lot. I think about you all the time, you can ask the guys, and... and fuck it."

Justin kissed him, and after a moment when JC didn't push him away, he wrapped his arms around JC and really kissed him. And JC opened his mouth, and oh god, a second later JC licked at Justin's lips, and Justin really wasn't practiced at this sort of kissing yet, and oh, oh, god, he wanted—

JC pulled him close until he was straddling JC's lap, and god, god, Justin's stupid dick was all happy and rising and pressing into JC's belly, and man, he'd never... He'd never...

"God, JC," he gasped.

Kisses had never been like that. He hadn't known they could be.

"C... JC...


JC licked at Justin's bottom lip again and spread his hands over Justin's back.

"I thought... you said you weren't going to kiss me."

"Mmm," JC said again. "You complaining?"

"No." God, no. "But, but... you said..."

JC pulled back just enough so he was looking directly at Justin. His expression was serious, so Justin tried to drag his attention away from his tingling lips and the sleekness of JC's hair and the press of JC's belly against his dick.

"If you're old enough to not just... wait around moping and hoping that I'll kiss you? If you're old enough to actually do something about it? Then I think you're old enough for me to kiss."

"Oh," Justin said, "cool." And he gave JC his biggest, best smile, and asked, "So... what else am I old enough for?"

JC thwapped his behind and said, "Don't push your luck."

Justin kissed him again, and he promised himself that he'd push his luck every single day as hard as he could, and he wouldn't stop—not ever—because he was going to have it all.


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