He likes art, and you pretend, for his sake, to know what he's talking about when he stands before a Picasso and chatters softly about technique and period and medium. He buys it, of course, so many zeros on the check it makes your eyes cross, but he loves it, and hangs it over the couch in the living room.
You watch him staring at it, the slow focusing and unfocusing of his eyes, and wonder what he sees in the distorted faces on the canvas, if they touch him in ways you can't even comprehend. His teeth worry at his bottom lip as his head cocks slightly to the side, one heavily-veined yet delicate hand rubbing thoughtfully at the back of his neck.
"I dream like this," he murmurs, blinking hooded eyes. "These colors, these shapes."
You wonder how he could possibly remember what he dreams about, when he never seems to sleep.
He's gone when you roll over in the middle of the night, soft creak of the floor in his studio and faint smell of turpentine. You stretch out, rubbing your face into his pillow, and the light that slices under the door is as cold as the cotton under your cheek.
It's hours before he comes back to bed, when the sky is golden and blue and dark around the edges.
You think he moves the way the painting looks, bright bursts of color and smooth curves and lines.
He uses the wrong senses sometimes, trying to feel scents and taste colors. He tried to explain it to you, once, that it helped him remember the crazy kaleidoscope of his dreams and the way nothing and everything made sense in the first half-second he was awake, when he saw whole worlds that never existed.
He fills the backyard with gardenias and night-blooming jasmine, and the honeysuckle that grows up and around the telephone poles tangle with the blossoms in the magnolia tree, a bizarre and soothing rainbow of colors and textures and scents; paradise, for him.
He spends hours strolling barefoot and shirtless through the yard, rolling the blossoms between his sweat-soft palms while you sway lazy-slow in the tire swing. The waxy gardenia petals slide between his fingers, shredded and falling and forgotten as he reaches up to pluck a magnolia from the branch above his head, and the stretch of skin and muscle above faded denim is heartbreaking.
The honeysuckle vine is arm's length away from you on every backswing and you reach out, tugging sharply until you've got a handful of sweet white blooms crushed in your palm.
"Sweet," he whispers, leaning down to cover your mouth with his, and he tastes like honeysuckle, like sugar and tea and lemon, and his palms are warm and smooth on your face, soft and heady with the smell of magnolias and gardenias and jasmine.
It doesn’t matter that they spend almost every waking hour together. Somewhere along the way, Chris blinked too slow or slept too long, and JC became a beautiful stranger.
And Chris doesn’t trust strangers. Because the last time he did, it cost him more money than he can fathom, more dignity than he even thought he had, and maybe just a little of his soul.
At first, Justin followed the moon. It was a cold, tiny sliver in a starless sky, and he rolled down the windows, kept the radio low and murmuring. But then he rounded a curve in the road and the moon was behind him, and he had nothing to follow but street signs and instinct.
He found himself, somehow, on I-95, heading north, not sure of anything except the wind in his face and the horizon stretching out into forever.
The miles and hours slipped away behind him, and Justin ignored the grittiness creeping underneath his eyelids, ignored the rumbling in his stomach and the slowly slipping gas gauge. He ignored the static on the radio and concentrated on the static in his head.
"North Carolina?" Joey asked, raising an eyebrow.
Justin shrugged. "Who the hell's gonna find me here, right?"
Joey's hand rested on the back of Justin's neck, massaging away the tension there, and Justin bowed his head until his forehead touched Joey's. "I did, J."
Justin closed his eyes, pressed his cheek into the hand that slid over it. "You weren't supposed to."
"I'm sorry." Joey's mouth brushed Justin's, warm and sweet, and it was so hard for Justin to pull away.
"Do you even know what you're apologizing for, or is it habit?" He slapped away Joey's hands, backing up to lean against the wall.
"Habit," Joey said softly. "Mostly."
Justin turned toward the window, gazing out at the tangerine sunset. "I didn't come here to be found, Joe. I came here to hide."
"I think so." The sun dipped lower, turning the treetops crimson and gold, like licks of fire. Justin thought he would give anything, at that moment, to feel heat again. "Yeah." He rested his forehead on the cool glass of the window, teeth working at his bottom lip. "I think that I wanted to get lost for a little while."
"I think," Joey said quietly, "that you've been lost for a long time."
Justin closed his eyes and nodded, shivering at the brush of warm skin as Joey slid his hands up Justin's arms, the tickle of warmer breath against his neck.
"I want to come back," Justin whispered, and it hurt to say it out loud, to admit defeat like that, so naked, so far from safe. Justin turned and ducked his head to Joey's shoulder, his hands curling into helpless fists at his sides. "But I don't know if I can."
He roars into your driveway at four a.m. on a Thursday, waking you up with a playful shove and "C'mon, J. Get up. Take a drive with me."
"Now?" you mumble, still half-floating in dreams.
"Yeah, now. Pack a bag and let's go."
"Where?" You throw back the blankets and wince as your feet touch the cold wood floor.
"I miss winter," he says. "I miss snow."
You groan and pull yourself back under the blankets. "Take JC, then. He loves the snow. I hate the cold, you know that."
He curls up behind you, all heavy heat, safe and solid. "But I don't want JC. I want you. Come on, J, please?"
You turn over and there's the sweet, easy smile that you can't help but return. "You're a shit, Fatone."
I've also got about four pages of a JC/Chris that was supposed to be for jchalo's birthday last year, but um. Yeah, that didn't quite happen. Still need to clean that one up a bit before I give it up for adoption.