nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

the passed day will shine Upon my pillow

A Remix of The Commons of Sleep, by Vera, for the Popslash Remix 7.
with thanks to Withdiamonds for the beta

Sometimes JC falls asleep on the massage table. Such luxury it is, the aloof, confident hands on his back, kneading out tension, smoothing in relaxation and warm, unscented oil. His muscles are accustomed to it now, readily unknotted, and he drapes himself pliant under his towel and thinks about nothing. He never remembers their names, the smiling, pleasant professionals whose hands press the daily cares out of his flesh, but he tips them generously and never has to wait for an appointment.

Joey was in LA a while back, radiating contentment. They joked, over lunch, about how prosperous Joey's looking now, and JC confessed to a little extra weight around the middle, though he trains nowadays, disciplining his body in a way he never used to need. Marriage is good for Joey, and fatherhood suits him. JC was careful not to mention his surprise that there's still no tumbling tribe of Fatone offspring, and Joey brought out the photos, Briahna starting Kindergarten, Briahna in the class production, Briahna's Halloween costume, Briahna swimming. JC looked at Joey's hands as much as he looked at the pictures (already shared in countless emails); broad hands, tanned and strong, caressing even the image of his little girl, careful fingers and benign.

They ate swordfish and osso bucco with Sinatra singing in the background, eternally young on CD just like themselves. Joey drummed along, tap, tap, swish. JC let his fingernails dance into a counter-rhythm against his wine glass, and was content.

He knows he still sleeps curled around his pillow, because sometimes the person in his bed mentions it. They pet him and pat him awake and snuggle up, and JC lies there resentfully, and it's always the beginning of the end.

It's hard not to be proud of Justin, though JC's not sure he deserves much of the credit. Justin has grown into himself, grown into his fame just the same as he's grown to fit his own outsize hands and feet. He is the cool guy he always wanted to be, and it's natural now instead of forced, and though it's always a relief when the inner dork surfaces, JC doesn't begrudge that Justin has gotten exactly what he aimed at.

But last week, just for fun, he hummed a few bars of Riddle, and Justin rolled his eyes and swiped at JC's head. "Do not put that fucking thing into my brain, dude."

He doesn't crash as he used to, headlong into his dreams. Some nights, sleep won't come, he has to court it with careful exercises, tense and relax, tense and relax, each muscle group from toes to scalp. Sex lets him drift unhaunted into unconsciousness, if he will, sometimes the best he can do is doze in the dark of the ride home, jolting as he slides sideways on leather seats. He prefers to sleep alone. Sometimes, on his own, he can savor the honied indolence of sleep, feel himself enfolded in soft cotton and ready to embrace the night's visions.

He doesn't see a lot of Lance, except the parts everybody sees, the perfectly honed body and the ready public smile. They meet once in a while at some industry shindig. Lance always did flow through a party like silk, his sleek, perfect handshake distributed with largesse, and nothing to tell from his smile. Lance prepares for these parties, JC was there back when Lance started making notes, those files must be like the FBI's now, what's going on in everyone's life and all shrunk down to fit neatly into his Palm. JC doesn't have notes. He never remembers the conversations long enough to write them down, and he struggles through the parties, conversation snagging on the names and faces juggled randomly in his head and nothing ever goes as smoothly for him, and once in a while he'll glimpse Lance on the other side of the room, smiling.

It's been a while since he awoke from one of THOSE dreams, the ones that have his blood thumping hot in his head and his chest, the ones that leave him gasping for breath and flailing like a netted fish between his sheets.

He doesn't go back. And Chris doesn't come here. Chris despises LA, and his sharp, cheerful phone calls—"Guess who?" as if JC didn't have caller ID and Chris's number scratched into his memory anyway like names on a tree—never carry any suggestion of regret that he stayed behind. Chris, just yesterday, pointedly present from the other side of the continent, laughing abrasively about a tiny news story JC had failed to notice, prodding at the sore spots of JC's insecurities then poking him into reluctant laughter, and after the call ended his absence was palpable as cold water.

Everything unravels, JC thinks, it was wound so tight and suddenly it's gone.

These nights JC's dreams are normal dreams, dreams everyone has, blendered montages of his days and last week's TV and weird conversations with people he's never met or forgotten he knew. His slumbers are soft-handed, light on his mind and shrugged off in the morning. He sleeps only at night, has no need to schedule naps, doesn't drop off when somebody shows up late; there's a tidiness now, order and calm. He no longer has to grasp at every possible moment of oblivion in the frantic press of his life, where a thousand hands line the catwalk, reaching out like a seaful of anemones, drowning in love. Hands everywhere they went, beckoning. Hands tingled by a split-second's touch as he raced along the edge of the stage, waves of energy from the swaying, sparkling crowd.

His sleep is still embroidered with dim dreams of those fluttering fan hands, and sometimes he wakes with an ache, back to his sole self and unsure whether he's fought his way free or been allowed to drop.

These days he shakes hands with the select few. In the studio he settles in front of the boards, familiar under his fingers as a keyboard, he hardly needs to look.

Note: if you think you spotted quotes from Keats in the title and story, you're correct.


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