sparsenicjade
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JC had found Kevin by accident that afternoon, backstage at the United We Stand Concert. He had been looking for Chris, or anyone who knew where Chris was, to find out what exactly had been said to the dj's while under the influence of Red Bull and vodka. He was in that stage of looking where the determination to find his targeted object was so strong he missed most of everything else around him. He didn't even notice Kevin sitting quietly -- for the most part out of the way -- until he had tripped over him and landed on the floor just feet from where Kevin was staring at him, trying to figure out what had just happened.

JC had laughed at himself, realizing how ridiculous he must look. "Ah, the legendary grace of NSYNC's, C."

Kevin had chuckled half-heartedly and risen to extend his hand out to JC. "We all have our moments. Goin' somewhere?"

JC had dusted his hands off on his jeans. "Attempting to find Chris. He's MIA. I suspected one of your guys of holding him hostage, trying to sabotage the competition, but then I realized that Chris is really too wily for anyone to keep him trapped for very long. He'd find his way back to us. I know it."

"'Sides, wouldn't make much of a difference now, would it? It's you guys all the way." Kevin had smiled as he said it, gracious and laid back, but his tone was just lilted enough.

JC had tilted his head. "What're you doing alone and sober at this thing? That's gotta violate some silent code of maintaining one's own sanity."

"We split up after we performed, the guys all had people they wanted to scope out. And, uh, I don't drink. I figured it was for the best."

JC's nod had been thoughtful. "I forget that about you. The niceness. I get mad at you because you're a complete shit sometimes and it's easy for me to lose sight of the fact that our formation probably hurt you the most. Not many people would just give something up like that for a friend, though. That's incredible. I don't know if anyone's told you that, but somebody should've."

"What are you getting at, Chasez?" Kevin had practically bristled with defensive barriers.

"You. Or, at least, trying. I'm just…what's destroying you?" JC had seemed to realize what he'd asked a moment later and flushed. "Oh, dude, you don't have to answer that. I mean, I don't like when people are sad, it makes me sad, but we don't know each other that well and I probably sound psychotic to you and-"

Kevin had interrupted the increasingly incomprehensible apology. "What would you do if you woke up one morning afraid to write music?"

JC hadn't even hesitated. "Crawl right back in bed and not come out until the fear went away."

"I'm in bed. Metaphorically speaking."

"You're afraid to write music?"

"No, not that. Since, um, since the attacks, y'know?"

JC had nodded, waiting for Kevin to continue.

"I can't fly. Can't even get near a plane." Kevin had looked away, as if he thought he sounded stupid and didn't want to see JC thinking that too.

JC had pulled Kevin's face back toward him gently. "I'd probably call my guys while I was in bed, to keep me company."

"I can't ask that of them right now."

JC had frowned slightly, but he understood the caretaker's complex and knew a case of one on sight. "Okay, well, I'm probably not the first person on your list, but um, I could crawl in with you."

Kevin hadn't been able to help the small glint of suspicion that crept into his eyes. "Why?"

"Maybe I just want you to feel guilty the next time you get all snarky about my band."

"Or?"

"Or maybe I like you and think you deserve to be able to move on."

"Awfully generous of you."

"Read it however you want, Kevin. I'm sure you know how to find me."

*

JC was in his backyard barefoot, examining his recently planted azaleas, when the phone rang. He debated about ignoring it, but he had brought the cordless out onto the deck due to the nagging feeling that he should. JC tried not to ignore his instincts. He jogged for the phone. "Hello?"

"Hi, JC? This is Kevin."

"Hey. Oh. Hi, how are you?"

"This is the tour from hell."

JC sat down on the edge of his patio, where his feet could rest in the grass. "Yeah, um, that doesn't really come as a revelation to me, or anything. What's going on?"

"It's not…not really anything in particular, just-"

"Just too many stressed people trying to do a job that sometimes requires the superhuman ability to cope?"

"Well, yeah. That's about as good a summation as any."

Kevin was silent for awhile after that and JC waited until things got uncomfortable to say, "It's been really rainy here. I'm sitting outside right now, because it's the first time in awhile I've gotten to go out."

"I hate it when the weather gets like that. I'm not claustrophobic or anything, I just don't like being forced to stay inside. It's like an extended version of the bus."

"Sometimes I don't."

"Huh?"

"When it rains. Sometimes I go outside for a while, puddle jump and shit. Just, y'know, get wet. It's usually followed by a shower and a nap, because I like sleeping to begin with, but it's about ten times better with the rain beating on your windowsill."

"So you really do sleep a lot?"

"Well, not like twelve hours a day or anything, but anything under nine and I'm running on autopilot."

"You must've loved Europe."

JC snorted. "I was a fucking zombie. I have a deeply held personal belief that the reason why I'm not attached to either the Chris-Justin or the Lance-Joe faction is because I slept through all the bonding moments."

"D'you…is it…do they leave you out?" Kevin mumbled the words quickly once he came to a decision on how to phrase the question.

JC switched the phone to his other ear. "See, everybody thinks that, right? But sometimes I think being the one who's not attached at the hip to anyone else gives me the ability to be closer to all of them, y'know? And they're all so protective. I don't think they mean to do it so that I can tell, and I don't mention anything because, really, it's sweet." JC closed his eyes against the sun for a moment. "What about you?"

"Me?"

"You feel left out? I mean, you guys don’t talk about the inner workings much, but I watch and you can kinda be the distant one. I wouldn't be talking to you right now if that weren't true."

"It's not that I'm left out. I mean, Brian gets worried about me if I so much as yawn and Howie's just the best listener in the entire world and is fucking psychic about sensing need. Nick may not be the most astute person in the universe, but he's so damn eager to please and Aje is literally like a little brother, with all the complications implied in that, but he's got the best heart in the world. So, no, not left out. I think just looking for something that I'm not getting from them, maybe. I dunno, I wouldn't want them to hear me say that, it'd kill'em."

JC leaned forward against his knees and rested his head on top of them. "Wow. You're really hard on yourself."

Kevin started to say something defensive and then stopped. "Yeah, a little. Habit from back when everything had to be perfect and everyone was depending on me."

"I'm not really into perfection."

"Really? I've heard differently."

"In the studio, when it's me and the other guys and there's a product to put out, then yeah, I want the best. Out here, watching my garden grow…the burgoenias that aren't just the perfect shade of purple have always been my favorite."

*

JC flew up to Seattle the week that the Boys were performing. He had found someone at Jive to tell him where they were staying and had that person book him a room for the same dates. By the time he arrived, the Boys were already checked in. JC smiled at the desk clerk, "Hey."

She smiled back, even if it was a little more forced.

"Long day?"

She nodded. "You may have noticed the crowd outside."

"Yeah, I work for the same company as the Boys, I knew what I was walking into beforehand."

She let out a breath. "That explains why you're booked on their floor. I thought I was seeing things." She gave him the key and wished him a good day. JC took the elevator up eleven floors. He found his room and set his stuff down before venturing back out. It was a large floor, but that really didn't surprise JC. NSYNC usually rented out floors as well. Tours took a lot of manpower.

He didn't really feel up to knocking on random doors and explaining himself to anyone who didn't recognize him, so he sat outside his door listening to the Hank Williams, Sr. CD that Lance had given him for his birthday in hopes of addicting him. JC didn’t want to admit defeat just yet, so he refused to listen to it anywhere that Lance might find out. Or tell him that he'd bought a few more to supplement it.

More than a few of the roadies came out of their rooms in the time he was waiting and looked at him oddly. Nobody bothered him though, so JC just sang along to himself quietly and forced himself to pay attention to the hallway. It finally paid off nearly an hour later when Howie emerged from his room. He caught sight of the figure sitting against the wall and went to go check it out. He recognized JC immediately, "Hey."

JC got to his feet and hugged Howie. "Hi. I came to see your show."

Howie squeezed back. "That was nice of you. Kevin'll be thrilled."

JC had wondered if the other guys knew how much the two of them had been talking over the past few weeks. He figured this answered that question. At least in regards to Howie. Then again, he had learned that Kevin talked to Howie the most. "I hope so."

Howie turned, motioning with his head for JC to follow. "Coming to soundcheck?"

"Might as well." JC came along with Howie as he went to knock on four other doors, picking up the guys. Kevin's was second after Brian's.

Kevin slid out of his door almost before Howie got a chance to knock. It took him a second before he realized that the third man in the party at his door was not one of his bandmates. His expression upon figuring it out could have rivaled any kid receiving the present he had asked for and not expected to get on Christmas. "What're you doing here?"

"I heard a couple of guys I like were performing, thought I'd, y'know, stop by and check it out." JC shrugged.

Kevin mussed JC's hair. "How do I know you weren't sent to spy?"

"I suppose you'll just have to keep a close watch over me."

AJ had wandered out of his room by this time, confused as to why nobody had come to get him yet. He joined the party in the hall. "And if he does, well, we'll just have to keep him with us forever."

JC could have sworn Kevin's cheeks flushed red for a mere second.

*

Kevin and JC escaped back to the hotel after the show. JC flipped channels absentmindedly while he waited for Kevin to shower. Kevin didn't take long, reappearing in sweats no more than fifteen minutes later, his hair still wet and pulled back tightly against his scalp so as not to flap in his eyes.

He grabbed a water bottle for each of them and a huge bag of M&Ms, the kind that could only be bought at a wholesale club. JC grinned. "Sam's?"

"Costco, you heathen. And if any of the guys finds out about my stash, I'm gonna know who squealed." Kevin set the bag in between them on the bed.

JC grabbed a handful. He waited a few minutes before picking a blue one out and popping it in his mouth. Kevin watched in disbelief as JC actually allowed it to melt naturally before moving onto a red. He shook his head and threw one up into the air, catching it in his mouth without much effort. JC was impressed. "Have lots of free time on your hands?"

Kevin tossed another M&M. "We have our own buses."

"Oh." JC considered the colorful pattern that was forming on the inside of his palm. "Sometimes I get really pissed off at the Wonder Twins and kinda wish that I had my own, but I think I'd get lonely."

"I kidnap Howie a lot. Or ambush Bri when Leigh's not with him." Kevin inhaled shortly. "It was nice of you to come out here."

"You guys put on a really tight show, it was fun to watch."

"But that's not what you came for."

"No." JC crunched down on one of his M&Ms, enjoying the way the shards of candy-shell coating grazed over his tongue. "We own a place, the five of us, communally out in New Mexico. Nobody knows because it really is just for us, a get away, and all. Anyway, it's a good 60 acres or so, I'm not sure exactly the size, because Lance took care of the financial end of things, but there's enough land to use as a take-off/landing strip if you get me directions of how to make something like that."

Kevin blinked. "I can't."

"No, no, you think you can't, right now, which is okay, because everyone's afraid of something and this is probably about as rational as fears come. Not that that surprises me, because you seem like a rational fear kind of guy, but if it's rational it can be fixed. I know that you didn't start calling me because you wanted me to be your own animated self-help book, but this is me and you did call and now you're in deeper than you probably want to be. So you're gonna come visit me in Podunk, New Mexico and the woman who takes care of the house will teach me how to make taquitos for the fifth time and you for the first and we can have lemonade on the deck at night, because it's beautiful there and you can remember how much you love to fly."

"What if I can't remember?" Kevin's eye's gleamed with anger and not the tiniest bit of fear.

"Then I'll relocate my magic hat and pull another bunny out of it. I'm actually quite legendary for my perseverance. You think the guys fell over themselves asking me to put 'Digital' on NSA?" JC rolled his eyes.

Kevin took another handful of M&Ms. "New Mexico, huh? That's like a three day drive from Orlando."

JC smiled. "Make sure to get your wheels and oil checked before you leave."

*

Kevin parked his car at the front of the driveway that extended as far as the eye could see, all the way back out to the dirt road that had led him to the house. JC had heard the car coming and ran out to greet him. He hugged Kevin enthusiastically even as he eyed the plain, charcoal gray sedan behind him in surprise.

Kevin drew back. "What's so interesting about my car?"

"Nothing, it's just, well-"

"Boring?"

"I was going to say normal."

Kevin laughed shortly before shrugging. "It gets good gas mileage, and it'll last forever."

JC had not been oblivious to the fact that he might have a mild infatuation with Kevin, so it wasn't terribly shocking to him that the other man's last comment had catapulted him completely, inextricably into love.

*

Kevin's oldest brother had flown his plane down for him earlier that week. It was a two person plane, painted to look like the classic WWII fighters. Near the nose, the words "'Lil Sis" were painted in bright, defiant blue script.

JC was pouring what looked to Kevin like a considerable amount of random ingredients into a large mixing bowl when he asked, without looking up from what he was doing, "Why ''Lil Sis'? I thought you were the youngest of three brothers. Or the oldest of five."

"That's exactly why. I always wanted a sister. Plus, y'know, plane, feminine."

"Well, you can borrow mine."

"Huh?"

"Heather, my sister. I'm sure she wouldn't mine being a Richardson for a couple of days at a time."

"Oh man, she'd get so spoiled. As it is, my mom -- being the singular female available -- is the center of our universe. We're all total momma's boys."

JC took to stirring his creation vigorously. "Yeah, me too. It took me forever to stop calling her every night."

"You stopped?"

"I can go a few days without it now."

"Two's pretty much my limit."

JC poured the mixture into a casserole pan and set it in the oven. He drifted over to one of several cabinets, opening it swiftly to pull out a canister. Kevin peered at the label and made a sound of surprised delight.

JC shook the can rhythmically. "Dried onions get you all excited?"

Kevin grinned enthusiastically. "You know it."

"Must be your lucky night."

*

Upon waking up the next day, JC padded into the kitchen in jeans that had so many patches on them they only marginally qualified as jeans anymore. He swiped a water bottle from the refrigerator and murmured a cursory, "hello," to Kevin before sliding the glass door to the back of the house open and going outside. Kevin made himself sit at the table with his orange juice for a few seconds. He then crumbled and went to see where the other man had gone off to.

JC wasn't far from the house. Kevin caught sight of the blur of motion that was his rival swinging up into the air and then back again, legs moving in a fluid rhythm to keep the swing going. JC must have noticed that he had company, because Kevin shortly heard, "Come join me!" float at him in uneven decibels as JC got closer and further away.

Kevin made his way out to the swing set. It was state of the art, all hard plastics and right angles and baby blue. He remembered the one in his yard when he was a kid. His father had built it back when his oldest had been born. It had lasted all the way through Kevin. It still stood in the backyard, as weathered and austere as a war memorial.

Kevin sat down in the swing next to JC. He pushed off and let his legs do all the work, leaning slightly back, his fingers curled tightly around chains heated by the New Mexico sun. The sound of JC's breathing was like hearing the wind giggle as the younger man swished back and forth. Without knowing exactly why he was doing it, Kevin worked to reach the same height as JC, grinning at him as they passed one another.

It was almost a half an hour before the adrenaline rush of being flung safely back and forth wore off. JC dragged his legs in the dirt to bring himself to a stop and Kevin followed. They sat there, breathless, rocking gently for awhile before Kevin spoke. "Swing set come with the house?"

JC walked his legs while still in the swing over to where he had set his water bottle out of the way. He picked it up and lifted his legs up, accidentally swinging into Kevin on his return. "Oops, sorry. No, um, Chris asked for it, actually. Evidently he'd always wanted one but wouldn't put one in at home because he didn't wanna have to explain himself to anyone. The color's a concession to Justin, who was being all psychotic about how it would 'ruin the aesthetic of the house.'"

"Well, naturally, because baby blue is so Southwestern."

"No, but Justin's mild obsession with it overrode his one with design coordination."

"Ah."

JC chugged at his water bottle, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand when he stopped. "Did you have fun?"

Kevin held out his hand for the water bottle, more interested in having his lips follow JC's somewhere than the water. He took a few sips and gave it back. "Yeah. I…yeah."

"'Cuz, um, not to ruin it for you, or anything, but you were just flying."

Kevin laughed. "JC, I used to jump out of swings from the height we were going when I was eight years old. We're not looking at a large step for mankind, here."

"Nope, just one small step for man. Baby steps, hon, baby steps."

*

That afternoon, JC jumped in front of Kevin's line of vision, fully dressed with a large backpack slung over both shoulders. "Which car, yours or my rental?"

"Where're we going?"

"Mountain range about thirty minutes away."

"Mine."

"You sure?"

"I trust it more."

JC tugged Kevin toward the door, only detouring so that Kevin could put on some shoes. JC didn't argue when Kevin asserted his right to drive, just placed his cargo in the backseat and slid into shotgun. He pulled a Yahoo!Map with directions out of one pocket and a state road map out of the other. He spent the ride carefully narrating which roads to be watching out for and which direction to choose next.

They made it there having taken only two wrong turns, one because they were both too busy soaking in the scenery and one because the directions were less than perfectly clear about the way one road curved into another. JC had recognized both mistakes in relatively little time. He had bent with his face over the road map and calmly sorted out where they might be. When they were slowly climbing the side of a mountain, Kevin commented, "You have good directional sense."

"My family used to take lots of road trips when I was young. Dad always let me take shotgun while mom and Heather slept in the back. I was his navigator."

It was at the fourth or fifth viewing area that JC tapped his fingers against the window slightly. "I think here is good."

Kevin parked the car. JC got his stuff out of the back. He walked to where the railings to keep people from going over the side of the mountain stood and settled onto the ground. There wasn't anyone around. The mountains were too far away from the touristy area to get much traffic even in season and the only reason there were actual viewing spots was that the range was located on federally owned lands. JC unearthed a large roll of butcher paper, tearing off a piece about six feet in length. He laid this out, pinning it underneath the bag on one side and a cheap paperweight on the other. He dug further into the bag and produced seven jars of different colored Crayola finger paints.

He looked up at Kevin, who was caught between watching JC and taking in the scenery. "Wanna join?"

"What are you doing?"

"Recreating a Jackson Pollack."

"Um, I don’t really know much about-"

JC rolled his eyes. "I'm gonna dip one of my fingers into one of these jars and put it wherever I feel like on this nice, big piece of paper. Think you can handle it?"

Kevin responded by sitting in a pretzel next to JC. He reached for the nearest jar, read "yellow" off the label, nodded approvingly and began to unscrew the top. JC reached for a jar of his own.

JC was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kevin had no fear of getting dirty. Finger painting turned into hand painting, which somehow managed to include elbows at some point. By the end, both of them were spattered with a cornucopia of machine-washable paints. There wasn't much of the six feet of paper that could still be identified as white. JC looked on it in satisfaction. "What'd you paint about?"

Kevin stood up. He walked to the railing, leaning slightly over it. "How close I feel to the sky up here. What about you?"

JC came up behind him. He placed a hand each on the railing on either side of Kevin and stood on his tiptoes to rest his chin on Kevin's shoulder. "Yeah, pretty much the same."

*

The next day, JC popped a CD in the stereo as he set out to do the dishes from lunch. "Is it gonna bother you if I sing along? I can't hit most of the notes worth shit."

Kevin shook his head. It really wouldn't bother him that much if JC started trying to communicate with frogs, so long as he got to listen. "What are we listening to?"

"Turandot. Puccini."

Kevin didn't know much about opera, but JC's body moved easily within the flow of the arias even as he scrubbed the plates and pans. He sang with both the men and the women, cutting off right before any notes that were too high or too low. When the dishes were clean, he floated into the den, his footsteps keeping with the melody.

The last song played on the first disc and JC strove to catch the notes he normally wouldn’t be able to. Kevin, who had followed him into the other room, noted that JC had tears in his eyes as he got up to change the disc. Kevin cleared his throat. JC looked over, smiling sheepishly. "Um, I happy-cry. It's an intensity thing, kinda. Just, the music, it's so-"

"What's he singing about?"

"Oh. Well, there's this girl, right? Of course, there's always a girl. But this girl is the princess, and she doesn't want to marry anyone. So she sets this mandate that if you can answer her three questions, she'll marry you. The downside is, if you get them wrong, death is the punishment. Anyway, this young man Calaf falls in love with her and takes the challenge. He gets all the questions right and she's all horrified because she doesn’t want to have to marry him. He tells her that if she can figure out his name by the next morning she can kill him like all the rest, but if not she has to marry him. She orders that nobody in the kingdom is to sleep until his name is discovered and tortures this girl who's all in love with him, but the girl kills herself rather than tell. Then, they're preparing this big funeral procession and Calaf comforts Turandot over the death, which she's feeling pretty shitty about by this point. Then they kiss and she's all 'oh, wow' and he tells her his name. Then, when the king asks in the morning what his name is, she says 'love' and they live all happily ever after, which doesn't really happen much in operas, so I love it. But yeah, the song. It's Calaf singing about how much he loves her and after just one night she'll be his. One night, y'know?" JC's eyes were bright with leftover tears and he was bouncing on both feet.

Kevin hoped that just this once, there wasn't a girl.

*

JC had attempted to make rainbow pops out of kool-aid. They ended up being more murky than rainbow, but they were frozen and tasted good in the late afternoon heat. JC bit at his gingerly, giggling at the sensation of cold hitting up against his front teeth. Kevin casually sucked at the whole pop and acted like he didn't notice JC spewing melted popsicle all over the table.

*

Kevin made his move when JC got up to go wash grape/fruit punch/some-flavor-that- corresponded-to-the-color-blue stickiness off his hands. JC made it no more than a step before Kevin grabbed his hand and sucked one of the fingers into his mouth. JC didn't make any attempts to get away, so Kevin continued, one finger at a time, scraping gently along the undersides with his teeth as he let go. When there were no more fingers, JC caught Kevin's eyes for a moment, asking silent permission to reciprocate. Kevin let the hand that was grasping JC's wrist fall loose into the other man's grip.

JC was more playful than Kevin. He licked more then sucked, nipped at finger tips, ghosted tiny breaths of air over the knuckles. Kevin just barely allowed him to finish all ten fingers before wrapping his hands around JC's waist and hoisting him onto the table. Kevin stepped in even closer and bent his head to lick all the way up from the sharp point of JC's collarbone, along the curve of his adam's apple, straight to his mouth. JC's lips were already open slightly. He wasted no time leaning into the kiss. He brought his hands up to Kevin's hair, stroking at the same time that he was trying to pull the man in closer to him. The pressure of their lips against each other was so intense as to almost be too much. Neither man was pulling away.

JC finally let go of Kevin's hair in a move to undo the older man's jeans. Kevin batted his hands away and pulled back. JC growled. Kevin laughed shakily. "Not on the kitchen table. I'm a gentleman."

JC hopped off the table. He snatched Kevin's hand and stalked determinedly toward his bedroom. They were barely in the door before he turned around, hands skimming up the length of Kevin's torso and over his head, pulling along the t-shirt Kevin had been wearing as he went. Kevin quickly returned the favor. He pushed JC gently further into the room and down onto the bed. There, he leaned down, licking from where JC's jeans obscured the flesh all the way up his breastbone. He broke off only to move his attentions to JC's right nipple, sucking lightly before blowing over its surface. Above him, JC squealed.

Kevin was glad neither of them bothered to wear shoes around the house as he worked to get all remaining clothes off the both of them. JC was evidently not at his most coordinated when in the throes of foreplay. Eventually, though, they were both naked and enjoying just exploring each other. It wasn't slow and easy, but it wasn't rushed either. At one point, JC rolled over on top of Kevin and reached out to open the bedside drawer. Kevin laughed breathily against JC's cheek. "Prepared much?"

"Don't even try and tell me you weren't hoping to get lucky."

"Touche."

JC kissed Kevin once more, quickly. "Preference?"

"I like getting fucked. Work for you?"

JC answered by ripping open the condom package and putting it on himself. He squirted some of the lube onto his fingers and slipped one inside Kevin. It was a second before he hooked the finger in just the right direction. Kevin gasped and grabbed at JC's hips, his fingers digging into moist flesh, hitting up against sharp bones. "Mm."

JC let out a breath that sounded suspiciously like a laugh and added a second finger. Kevin rolled his hips and made some more incoherent noises. JC leaned over him to lick at his lips. Kevin barely even felt the fingers leave his body before JC's cock was there, pushing smoothly into him. There was a moment of stretching, when Kevin's breath caught against JC's mouth. Then, without any warning, Kevin was watching light burst behind his eyelids. He murmured into the kiss, "Oh, fuck, hello."

This time, JC did laugh. "Hi."

Kevin let go of JC's hips and wrapped his arms all the way around the man above him. JC moved in and out, hands on either side of Kevin's body, close enough to be in contact with the skin. On the down thrusts, when he was all the way inside Kevin, their faces touched. Kevin opened his eyes for a second and noted that the moisture on JC's face was not all sweat. He was crying.

JC brought one of his hands in between them. He rubbed his thumb firmly over the head of Kevin's cock before wrapping it tightly in his fist and jerking Kevin off, using the same rhythm to which he was thrusting.

Kevin came first, throwing his head back, the muscles in his throat tightening. JC kissed the hollow of Kevin's throat as he screamed, tasting the vibration of it. That was all it took to bring him over the edge and he fell onto Kevin, unable to stay up.

They stayed that way for quite awhile, soaking up the feeling of each other's erratic breathing pattern, the too-intense heat of their skin. Finally, Kevin spoke. "I'd forgotten what it feels like to fly."

*

"Take me up with you." JC's whisper smelled like coffee.

Kevin rolled out of JC's loose grip. "You make a whole pot?"

JC dragged Kevin back into the bed, laying on him for emphasis. "You can't have any until you promise me a ride."

Kevin considered this tactic enormously unfair, because the feel of JC's ribs sliding over his torso was not doing anything to help Kevin's morning erection. He was relatively sure JC knew this. "I'm not ready JC."

"When Justin was a kid, a horse threw him. He sailed right over the head of the horse, past the fence that the horse had stopped for and skidded for a bit on his arm before coming to a stop. Then he got up and climbed back on the horse." JC brushed a hair off of Kevin's forehead. "You waited, and now you think you can't, but you can. You just gotta ignore the parts of you that are hurting, climb in the pilot's seat and take me up so I can see the house get all Barbie Playhouse."

Kevin was about to respond when JC moved ever so slightly and their cocks came into contact. "Holy-"

JC thrust again. "Mm."

"You can't…this isn't-"

"I wanna fly." JC paused in his movements.

Kevin reached up and crushed JC to him. "Okay, alright." He kissed JC hard. "Me first."

*

JC wouldn't let Kevin do anything while they were getting ready. He poured Kevin's coffee for him, toasted his bagel, washed his hair and helped him dress. He talked a lot about nothing, not wanting Kevin to think about what he had agreed to do before he was in the plane, remembering what the controls felt like underneath his fingertips.

JC held Kevin's hand as they walked out to the plane. Right before he climbed into the passenger seat, JC took one of the red scarves that he was holding in his other hand and wrapped it around Kevin's neck. He did the same for himself with the other one. Kevin looked confused. JC grabbed onto the ladder. "Snoopy, y'know?" He climbed up without waiting for a response.

Kevin made it up just as JC was about to go back down and make sure that he was actually coming. JC placed a hand on each of Kevin's shoulders. After a few minutes, the engine began to hum beneath them.

JC waited a considerable amount of time before squeezing one of Kevin's shoulders. "Just a little bit further."

JC could take or leave flying. Most of the time, he slept through the flights he needed to be on. As far as he could tell, though, Kevin's take off was smooth. It was rougher once in the air than on a commercial plane, the winds had to be taken more seriously. Kevin took the plane slowly up to his desired altitude, leveling off once they reached it. His whole body was tight, shaking underneath JC's hands. "Kev?"

"I'm-" There was a small, relieved laugh, "I'm fine. I'm good. This is good."

They didn't talk much after that. Kevin was busy relearning about loving the sky and JC was busy learning to do it for the first time. It was almost an hour before Kevin brought them back to the ground, his landing confident, if a bit less than smooth. He turned off the engines and waited a moment before releasing the hatch. He climbed out first and waited for JC to throw his legs over. Kevin grabbed JC's waist and lifted him to the ground, not letting go once he was settled. JC angled his chin up a fraction of an inch in order to kiss Kevin. Kevin's mouth met his, trembling and desperate. They pulled apart when the heat of the cooling plane got to be too much for them. Kevin slid one of his arms around JC's waist and JC tucked a thumb underneath the waistline of Kevin's jeans, right along his spine. They walked to the house like that, connected, both of them still in the air.

*

Kevin woke JC up a few days later, pulled him into a pair of jeans, buttoned him into a shirt and poured him into the car. Kevin drove for almost an hour, humming along to the Dixie Chicks while JC slept. He woke him up when they arrived at their destination, a small ranch that rented out horses to riders. Kevin rang the doorbell to the main house. His transaction with the owner was easy and quick. JC wondered when Kevin had found time to call ahead as he so obviously had without JC noticing.

Kevin saddled his horse while the man who owned the horses took care of JC's. The owner informed JC that the pretty dapple mare he would be riding was named "Guinevere" and that she was a total lady. JC pressed a kiss to her nose. The owner went back to the house. Kevin fed his horse a sugar cube, handing one to JC. JC gave it to Guinevere. "Um, I can't, per se, ride, y'know?"

Kevin mounted his horse, which was dark brown with a white star on its forehead and considerably larger than JC's. "She's trained for beginners. She'll follow Falcor." Kevin ran his hand along the length of the horse's neck.

"Okay." JC placed his foot in the stirrup and hoisted himself onto Guinevere's back.

Kevin started them out slowly, barely trotting away from the barn. He sped up a few minutes later cantering for awhile before letting Falcor into a gallop. Behind him, the sound of JC laughing against the wind was just audible.

When they slowed down, Kevin was breathing as hard as Falcor. JC came up beside him, panting. "Wow."

Kevin nodded. "I did this a lot when I couldn't fly. It's almost as good. Better in some ways." He combed his hand gently through Falcor's mane. "I usually do it alone, like flying. They're the things I do to get away from life."

JC reached out to place a hand on Kevin's thigh, but didn't say anything.

"I'm good at being on my own. It's easy."

"It's lonely."

Kevin was silent for a long time, staring without any appreciation at the New Mexican landscape. "Before, when I would fly, it was perfect. I was above everything, in control, part of a completely different universe in my mind." He blinked and looked over at JC. "But it's never felt like it did with you behind me."

Kevin turned Falcor gently, spurring him back in the direction they had come from. JC allowed Guinevere her lead and she followed.

That night, Kevin curled up on his side in the bed and JC spooned up behind him, making love to him from that position.

*

Against his better judgment, Kevin stood up from throwing his bag into the trunk on the day he was supposed to leave and propositioned JC. "Penny for your thoughts."

JC thought this was spectacularly unfair of Kevin since he had been pretty sure they had reached a silent agreement to just let things go silently. "Pennies I've got."

"I don’t want to leave." Kevin slammed the trunk shut.

"Then why are you?"

"Nick and I are scheduled as presenters at the AMAs in less than a week and I'd be a total shit to make him go by himself. Plus, it's AJ's birthday that night so we're catching up to him at his party afterwards."

"Oh."

"If I invite you to the party, will you tell me what you're thinking?"

JC liked birthday parties, so he figured that was a fair enough trade. "If you had to pick a word to describe us, what would it be?"

Kevin tilted his head slightly. "Complicated."

JC let go of a short burst of laughter. "Take the easy way out, sure."

"Your turn."

"I want to be the thing you were looking for. The thing you couldn't find with your guys." JC didn't rush the words, as much as he wanted to. He fixed Kevin with a glare that dared him to even crack a smile.

"That was more than one word."

"Kevin-"

"I said I didn’t wanna leave, Chasez."

"So what? It's pretty out here, nobody bothers you, that statement could mean a million things."

"I told you that flying was better with you behind me."

"Well, yeah, but you were all on an endorphin high from the ride."

"I'm 30 fucking years old, JC. I don’t make declarative statements to lovers just for the hell of it anymore."

"So I'm going to this birthday party as your date?"

"In a very, 'I'm not ready to come out publicly yet' way." Kevin stepped closer to JC, cupping his cheek in the palm of one hand. "You guys are up for AMA's, right? Were you planning on attending?"

"I told Chris it depended on what was going on out here." JC turned his face slightly to kiss Kevin's palm.

"Wanna hitch a ride? It's only like a day's drive."

"Hitchhiking's not very safe."

"I promise not to ravish you."

JC pouted.


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile