nsync in black and white

Disclaimer: this is fiction. We made it up.

Under the Surface

by Micha, special bonus story

He feels the vibration of the bus as he rests his head on the cold window. His are eyes half-closed to the yellow, dim lights in the bus, and he is only half-aware of the snatches of things he can glean outside the window. It's dark and wet there, and he watches the lights flashing by. The jazz music he's listening to evokes a shallow feeling of peace.

Justin's face appears uninvited in his mind, and he breathes in deep, blows away the thin, protective layer, and becomes aware of his body.

And there it is, the constriction in his throat and in his chest, the cold burning as the air passes in, the ice in his abdomen, the need to scream. He closes his eyes, feels the humiliation.

Justin. It's such a pretty name. A pretty name for a handsome guy. He's got light skin, blonde curls, and deep blue eyes. JC'd noticed him at once, but it's wasn't really his good looks that caught JC's attention. No, it was his quiet confidence. JC envies him that and wants it, or even just half of it.

Every day JC sits in a classroom with hard wooden chairs, while trying to pay attention to the teacher's and students' words, but he only manages half of the time. Mostly he just looks at that neck, those curls, and those broad shoulders. And he listens to the soft, hoarse voice whenever Justin answers the teacher.

A small smile tugs at the corners of JC's mouth as he thinks about that.

JC answers questions in class, too, whenever he's actually paying attention, and when he's positive he knows the answer. Justin never turns around as he sometimes does when somebody else answers. JC wishes he would.

It's strange, because JC usually doesn't like being looked at. And sometimes it feels like everybody is looking at him, staring at him, secretly laughing at him. He walks fast and pretends not to notice the eyes and the quickening of his heart, his shortening breath, the sweat breaking out, and his spinning head.

But still he wishes Justin would turn those blue eyes to him. Like that one time JC reached the classroom door only a step behind Justin. Justin had pulled the heavy door open, and stepped aside.

"Go ahead, man," Justin had said quietly and JC's stomach had tightened even more.

Furtively JC had glanced at Justin, hoping to meet his eyes, but to his chagrin Justin had been studying the floor. And JC went in, too dumbstruck to answer. Oh, god, why hadn't he said something? JC's sure Justin must think he is rude. He'd obsessed about the rest of the day, didn't answer one question in class. And even now he gets nauseated thinking about it. Oh, god, why?

JC sighs inwardly. Justin probably didn't even notice anything amiss, has probably forgotten all about the whole thing, (yeah, right) but JC can't seem to let it go, and it's been a month. JC wants to bang his head against the cold window even now.

And then there was today. JC takes two quick breaths. "Calm down, calm down," he chants, but the pressure won't lessen. He can't make when he thinks about it, about being a bit late for class and following Justin's hurrying form.

He had wanted so badly for Justin to notice him, almost as much as he wanted Justin not to notice him. What if he opened the door for him again? There there was a tiny, although highly imporbable, chance of Justin looking at him. And as they'd reached the classroom door, Justin did stop and opened the door for him. JC had sneaked a peek at Justin and despite his tenous hope, had expected to find his eyes averted. But this time he had actually met Justin's blue eyes. Blue eyes that sent a painful jolt starting in his chest and rapidly spreading a tinging sensation throughout his entire body. Startled, JC had torn his eyes away, suddenly sweating and shaking.

But it was about to get worse. As they'd reached the stack of handouts, JC had wanted to walk right past, but that would have made Justin think that JC was trying to avoid him, which, you know, was the point of that; and that JC is even more stupid than he probably already thinks he is. Keeping his eyes on the stack of handouts, JC had tried to grab one, but his fingers, surprise, surprise, didn't want to work properly - they'd felt stiff and had been shaking a bit. Then, Justin proffered a sheet, or JC thinks he did. Now, of course, he's not so sure. But he'd snatched it, muttered "thanks" and scurried away to his seat.

And that's where the doubt had surfaced, and he'd started feeling sick. For the rest of the hour, he had stared anywhere but at the curly head, and, fuck, he'd had to ask a teacher to repeat a question directed at him. Everybody had been looking at him, he was sure, even though he was examining his desk. They'd probably been laughing inside, all of them. JC concentrated on breathing evenly.

As he left the classroom, he could've sworn Justin had looked at him and smiled. If so, it was probably a mocking smile, JC thinks.

Any interaction with Justin seems to affect him twice as much as interactions with others.
JC tells himself not to beat himself up about it, even if he had made a mistake -- everybody makes mistakes, right? And he did manage to say something this time, didn't he? Yes? Still, JC can't suppress the nagging feeling of having completely made a fool out of himself. And to think only a few minutes ago, he'd for once managed to reach that tranquil place. Ignorence is bliss and all that.

He sighs, and diverts his attention elsewhere, pulling his shield up. The buss has reached his stop, JC descends, and walks out into the cold night.


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