Title: Grow Old Along With Me
Pairing: Future!JC & Future!Justin
Summary: JC and Justin grow old together
Warning: Schmoopy love stuff. Romantic thoughts. Character death.
Note: I was inspired to write this by hearing Mary Chapin Carpenter's version of "Grow Old Along With Me." Has a bit of "The Notebook" to it as well. This story hit me so hard last night I almost got up at midnight to write it. I cried as I wrote it, and have cried reading it.
GROW OLD ALONG WITH ME
JC slowly made his way through the living room, carefully picking his way across the minefield of boxes and piles of junk. He grabbed an empty box along the way, making sure to line it with some old towels. He stopped in front of the wall full of photos and sighed, smiling a bit. His shaking hands reached up to touch the first one. His hands always shook now; it was something he had finally accepted. His fingers probably would have shaken anyway, they always did when they reached up to touch even a photo of the face he loved. So young, not even old enough to grow peach fuzz on that smooth chin. The curls were a false gold, but he loved them anyway. Platinum, natural dirty blond, dark brown, red. He’d always loved them, no matter what.
He’d known that smile for most of his life. At first it had flashed across the face of a child, a child so eager to be loved and accepted. JC had accepted him as one accepts a puppy that nips at your heels, but after a few years, he had accepted him as an important part of his life. Justin became one of his best friends, even with the five-year age difference. He had missed Justin after the Mouse Club had dissolved, and he was overjoyed to find Justin coming along for the ride of his life that *NSYNC ended up becoming.
JC carefully took the small framed photo of Young Justin off the wall and wrapped it in a towel before placing it in the box. The next photo made him smile even bigger. The five of them, leaning against a wall in Europe somewhere. Chris with the horrendous braids, braces and proud smile. He’d brought them all together. Joey, his smile wide and full of fun. He’d already found too many places to get into trouble. Shy, awkward Lance, leaning against Joey as if to gain strength from the confident young man. The sun glistened off Lance’s terrible yellow hair, and it was obvious he wasn’t comfortable in his own skin. That comfort wouldn’t come for years. And at the end, next to each other, JC and Justin. Justin had his head tilted so it almost lay on JC’s shoulder, and he was laughing long and hard at something. JC’s own hair was nothing to brag about, and he winced as he looked at his younger self. They were so eager then, so hopeful. And JC had been eager and hopeful in another way, waiting for Justin to get old enough. Old enough to have a serious talk, old enough to maybe feel what JC had been feeling at that time.
JC took down a few more pictures from the wall, carefully padding the box as he placed them inside. He froze as he removed another picture and stared at it. He and Justin, holding hands, their foreheads pressed together as they stood on the beach in Hawaii. Justin was 30, JC 35. They’d been together for four years by then. It had taken many stumbles along the way to get to that point. JC had known all along that Justin was what he wanted, but he had never pushed, never tried to force things. Justin had always looked up to JC, trusted him to fix things that went wrong, to explain things he didn’t understand. Justin had always thought that maybe he liked men AND women, but JC refused to try and lead him one way or another. And his patience had paid off. There had been girlfriends, boyfriends, but finally their paths had come together on a beach in Hawaii, in front of their families and friends.
“What’s that?” A voice said over his shoulder.
“Oh, just a picture.” JC wrapped it and placed it in the box.
“You’re taking all of these?”
“I couldn’t just pack them away. They’re our history. It’s important,” JC said softly. He took the next picture down and grinned. “God, I love this one.”
“Oh, Dad, really?” The woman took the picture from him. “I look like a bowling ball with red hair.”
“You were beautiful. ARE beautiful.” JC looked at his daughter and smiled, kissing her cheek. The picture was from the day they’d brought her home from the hospital, a roly-poly nine pound, fifteen-ounce bundle of joy with a shock of red hair. Justin was holding her in the picture while JC stood behind him, his arms around Justin’s waist. “That day was one of the happiest I can remember.” It was also one of the scariest. Even at 40, he hadn’t felt ready to become a parent, though he knew it was something he’d always wanted. Justin had been terrified as well; at 35 he still felt like a baby sometimes. But that day was the first day of a new chapter in their lives, and they had both adapted at lightning speed.
“You’re such a sap.” His daughter kissed him back. “You okay, Dad?”
“Yes.” JC put the picture in the box. “Jailynn, I know you’re not happy about all this. I appreciate you coming over to help.”
“Dad, it’s you I’m worried about. You don’t need to go. You’d be fine here on your own.” Jailynn frowned. “We could check on you and he…”
“He needs me. My place is with him.” JC’s blue eyes looked over his daughter’s shoulder and he smiled. “You okay?”
“Fine. This one’s helping me.” Justin made his way through the maze to his favorite chair, which was still by the window. “I should be doing something…” he said vaguely.
“Grandpa, please tell us a story.” A little girl with blond hair climbed into his lap. “Please?”
“We’re done helping.” A little boy of about eight sat on the floor by the chair. “Tell us about the puppets, please.”
“Yeah! When you and Geepaw were puppets!” The little girl exclaimed, bouncing up and down.
“Okay,” Justin chuckled, mussing up her hair a bit. “We were excited about being puppets…it was a great way to start the show. Uncle Chris, though, he didn’t like the idea at ALL.”
“How’s he doing?” Jailynn asked JC, taking down a few more pictures and handing them to him.
“He’s having a good day today. Had one yesterday, too,” JC said with a sigh. Justin looked at him and grinned the same sunny grin. The wrinkles around it were deeper, but it was one of JC’s favorite things in the world. “He was a little confused about the move, but since I’m going along, I think he’ll adjust.” JC put his hands on his daughter’s shoulders. “I need help, Jailynn. More than you can give. You have a life of your own. I can’t…do what needs done for him.” JC chuckled and ran a hand through his thick white hair. “I grew old and didn’t notice.”
“You’re not old, Dad.”
“I have grandchildren. I’m OLD.” He shrugged. “That’s how life goes. Now quit talking, and get this stuff packed up.”
“Some things NEVER change,” Jailynn muttered, but she smiled as she went over to grab another empty box.
“I’m going to go downstairs and get something to drink,” JC said, swinging his legs out of the bed. He gave himself a few minutes before slowly getting to his feet. “Do you want anything?”
“You,” Justin said with his old sly grin.
“Justin Timberlake…you horny dog.” JC leaned over the bed and kissed him. “We’ll see how you feel when I get back up here.”
“Right.” Justin rolled his eyes. “I’ve been with you over forty years, Joshua Chasez, and never ONCE have I stopped wanting you.”
JC smiled down at him. “I know. And I feel the same way. I’ll be right back up.”
“I’ll wait up for you.”
“If you’re tired, go to sleep, Justin.” JC rolled his eyes and carefully made his way down the steps.
In the kitchen, he leaned against a counter, drinking orange juice. The kitchen was almost empty, as was the refrigerator. He read the dry-erase calendar still up on the fridge. “Monday, Justin, doctor’s appointment. Wednesday, Justin, physical therapy appointment.” JC smiled at his daughter’s neat handwriting. Like she didn’t trust him to take care of things, take care of Justin. He always had. Their daughter was a mixture of the both of them in some ways, yet in most ways, she was nothing like them at all. Music did not interest her at all, never had. She was pure business and structure and organization. She didn’t feel the pull of the arts the way JC did, and she couldn’t carry a tune to save her life, which made her other father wince repeatedly. Jailynn had ended up in law school, and now, at 37, she worked for a prestigious environmental law firm. Justin once said she had more of her Uncle Lance in her than anything else, and JC agreed. What JC had said was true, she WAS busy. Busy with her job and husband and two beautiful children. But she was happy, which is all they’d ever wanted for her.
JC sighed. This move was something he was looking forward to, though he’d never admit it to his daughter OR Justin. Justin’s health had started to deteriorate about eighteen months prior. First his mind started to wander a bit, he’d forget things, nothing big. Then he’d had a mini-stroke, and while he was mending physically, his mind would never be what it was, and things were slowly getting worse. JC was afraid to leave the house some days, not only because he feared for Justin’s physical safety, but also because he was deathly afraid that if he left Justin’s sight, for just a moment, Justin might not remember him when he came back. And that would kill him.
So they were moving into an assisted living facility. At 77, JC was doing well physically. He walked two miles a day on their treadmill, and he wasn’t having any serious problems. But he agreed to move into the facility with Justin. They had the money, and the facility had the space, and there was NO way he wouldn’t be with Justin. They’d be rooming together, though they had to sleep in separate beds. That hurt JC, and Justin had complained when they’d explained it to him, but what JC didn’t tell him was that Justin was restless throughout the night, tossing and turning. It was probably better for him to sleep alone.
JC put his glass in the sink and turned to leave the kitchen. He stopped in front of the refrigerator and picked up a snapshot that was tucked behind the calendar. The five of them, looking very different from the picture that had hung on the wall. The picture had been taken four years earlier, at Lance’s 70th birthday party. Lance didn’t look a day over fifty. His face was barely wrinkled, and his green eyes hadn’t lost their sparkle. He had worked hard to get himself a good reputation in the industry, and had finally retired from running his very large and very well respected record label. Justin and JC hugged each other at the side of the group, Justin’s blue eyes still clear and lucid. Joey had his arm slung around Lance. At 72, his dark eyes still held that boyish charm and love of life, even though he’d been a widower for almost twenty years. And Chris. Leaning against Joey, his face happy and bright. They’d lost Chris two years after that party, at the age of 80. He’d died in his sleep, his body finally giving out after years of living hard and enjoying everything life had to offer.
JC took the photo back upstairs with him, wanting to make sure it didn’t get thrown away accidentally. He found that nostalgia was becoming a bigger part of his waking thoughts; he guessed that’s what life was all about. When he got to the bedroom, the TV was on, but Justin was fast asleep, one arm thrown up over his head like always. JC smiled and turned off the TV, climbing under the covers. “Love you,” Justin murmured, not fully awake but not exactly asleep.
“Love you, too, baby boy.” JC kissed the lips that were still as red as strawberries before snuggling down next to him.
“But why are we going again?”
JC sighed and sat down on the steps with Justin. The house was empty, Jailynn was waiting out front, and it was time to go. But Justin was fighting it. He looked lost and confused, and through his exasperation, JC’s heart went out to him. “I told you, baby. We need to move somewhere where we’re not alone all the time. In case something happened.”
“But what would happen? Where are we going?”
“Someplace we don’t have to lift a finger.” A thought occurred to JC. “Remember how it used to be? When we lived out of a suitcase?”
“Yes.” It was amazing how Justin could forget what he had for breakfast that morning, but never forgot being a member of *NSYNC and living their dream.
“Remember how we didn’t do anything for ourselves? We asked, and it happened. That’s how this will be. Like back in the old days.” JC took Justin’s hand and kissed it. “No chores, no yardwork, nothing but enjoying our time together. Won’t that be great?”
“Yes.” Justin looked a little calmer, and he smiled at JC. “I love spending time with you, JC.”
“I love spending time with you, too, and I plan on spending every last minute of my life with you.” JC stood and helped Justin to his feet. “C’mon, old man. Let’s go. Jailynn’s waiting, and Ella has a new song to sing to you.”
“Ella?” Justin stopped walking and JC’s heart sank.
“Right. Ella.” Justin nodded. “Let’s go.”
JC let Justin lead the way, sighing as he watched the shuffling steps of the man who used to be able to light up a stage with his dancing.
So they settled into their new lives. JC remembered when people used to wait on them hand and foot. This was the same thing, but it was a lot harder to handle. He could take care of things, could take care of Justin. He always had. But this…having someone follow them around everywhere at the beginning, to make sure they could simply walk to and from the restroom, that was difficult. Justin didn’t seem to notice, though he DID throw a fit the first night when he realized they wouldn’t be in the same bed. They’d talked about it repeatedly, but of course, he didn’t remember. “I cannot sleep without you next to me, JC,” Justin pouted.
JC had to laugh out loud. Some things never, EVER changed. Justin worked the pout no matter HOW old he was. “Baby, I’m right here. Across the room. And you know you’ll sleep better without me elbowing you in the stomach.”
“You don’t do that,” Justin protested. “I don’t like it here, JC. I want to go home.”
“Justin, we don’t have a home anymore. Not like that. We had to sell the house.”
“We sold our house?” Justin stared at JC. “Why?”
“Because we can’t go back,” JC said. His eyes filled with tears. “This is our home now. And that money…it’s safely put away for Ella and Devon’s college funds. It’s a good thing, really.” He wiped at a tear.
“Don’t cry, JC. I’m sorry I yelled at you.” Justin carefully sat down on the bed next to JC. His eyes were big and blue and trusting and beautiful. “Besides…it doesn’t matter.” His smile was childlike and innocent and JC gaped as the years washed away from Justin’s handsome face. “Wherever you are, that’s home to me. Doesn’t matter.”
“I love you, Justin.” JC tenderly kissed him. Justin ran his hand up through JC’s hair, kissing him with an intensity JC hadn’t felt in ages.
“I love you, too, JC.”
Life quickly became routine at the facility, but JC wasn’t complaining. He could finally enjoy his time with Justin without worrying that something might happen that he couldn’t handle. Justin seemed happy enough, though the days that he looked around him in confusion happened more and more. JC would gently remind him of things, or suggest memories to him that Justin soon thought he’d come up with on his own. The family would visit every Sunday afternoon, and while Justin might forget his grandchildren or their father, he never forgot his own daughter. His face would light up as soon as she entered the room.
They were in the sunroom, and Justin was at a table coloring with his grandchildren. Jailynn sat on a sofa with JC. “How are you, Dad? Really.”
“Good. It’s…hard, sometimes. I won’t lie.” JC rubbed at his forehead. “I miss our home. I miss our yard. I miss our bed. I miss…privacy. For so many years, we never had privacy. Then we had it, and I didn’t realize how much I valued it.”
“You could still…”
“I’m not leaving him,” JC interrupted. “I promised to love and cherish him until death, Jailynn. I meant it.”
“The love you have for him…” Jailynn shook her head. JC was surprised to see the tears in her eyes. “Dad, I remember wondering if I’d ever find someone I could love like you love Pop. Nowadays things are so different for same-sex couples…I know what you had to fight against back then. And I know that you’ve loved him so much longer than he’s loved you.”
“I’ve just had a lot of practice,” JC teased. “Doing it for so long.”
“You’ve sacrificed so much for him. You could just let go.”
“I will never let go until one of us stops breathing,” JC said adamantly. “That boy…” He smiled at the word. In his eyes, Justin would always be the beautiful boy of twenty that took everyone’s breath away. “That boy is my heart, Jailynn.”
“Oh, Dad.” Jailynn leaned her head on his shoulder.
“He’s slipping away, Jailynn.” JC whispered the words that scared him to his very soul. “There are days where he gets up in the morning, and for a split second, he doesn’t know me. It’s only a second, and then he’s back. But what am I going to do when it’s five seconds, then a minute, then an hour?”
Jailynn raised her head to look at him. “That won’t happen, Dad. I know it. He loves you too much.”
“Hey. Why do you two look so sad?” Justin tilted his head as he looked at them. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Pop.” Jailynn stood up and hugged her father tight. “Whatcha got there?”
“Ella colored it. It’s me and JC.” Justin held up the picture so obviously drawn by a five-year-old’s hand. “I told her the hair color.”
“She got it just right,” JC said, grinning at the shock of yellow hair on the one stick figure’s head.
“We’re holding hands,” Justin pointed out. Heart bubbles filled the sky above the heads of the figures, and JC laughed.
“Looks like we’re in love or something,” he teased.
“Aren’t we?” Justin asked, confusion flitting over his face.
“More than anyone I know,” Jailynn interjected, and Justin’s sunny smile came out.
“Good.” He kissed his daughter’s cheek and limped back to the table.
“His limp is getting worse,” Jailynn observed. She hated saying these things to JC, but he always wanted honesty.
“I know. He had a bit of chest pain the other day, too,” he confided, and her eyes widened. “It’s fine. They’re keeping an eye on him,” JC promised. “If something happens, I’ll let you know.”
They had a light lunch, and then Jailynn was herding her family to the car. She got the kids in the backseat, and turned to Justin. “Pop, I love you.”
“You are the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said suddenly, and she blinked. She knew Justin loved her, but JC was much more open about his emotions and always had been. “After JC, of course. You are everything I could have wished for in a child. I’m so damn proud of you, Jailynn.” He hugged her long and hard. “Thank you for being such an amazing daughter.”
“You’re welcome, Pop.” Tears streamed down her face and he lightly tugged at her red ponytail. “Everything I am is because of you two, you know that, right?”
“Of course,” Justin said, with a ghost of his old cocky smile.
She hugged and kissed JC. “Please take it easy, Dad. Try and relax, okay?”
“What else do I have to do?” JC said, shrugging and laughing. “I’ll call you later in the week.”
“Okay.” She slid into the car but didn’t start it. She sat for a moment, watching JC slide his arm around Justin’s waist as Justin’s head dropped onto JC’s shoulder. In some ways, age had not changed a thing. She’d seen many pictures of them in just this pose. “Love you guys,” she called out the window.
“Love you, too,” JC said, waving as the car slowly pulled out of the lot.
“I’m going to miss her,” Justin said with a sigh.
“She’ll be back next week, Justin,” JC reminded him.
“Yes,” Justin said simply, and started walking back inside.
That night, when JC came into their room after washing his face, he saw Justin snuggled up in his bed. “Are you lost?” JC asked.
“Yes. I need you to come find me.” Justin patted the bed. JC slipped out of his robe, lined up his slippers under the bed, and climbed in with him.
“It’s a tight fit,” JC pretended to complain.
“I doubt it.” Justin poked JC’s stomach. Neither one of them had ever put on much weight, though Justin had to fight it a bit more than JC. “Don’t you want me here?”
“When did I EVER tell you to get out of my bed?” JC wanted to know.
Justin pretended to think. “Maybe that one time when you had the flu…in 2026…”
JC laughed. “We’ve slept in smaller spaces than this together.”
“Done other things, too,” Justin said slyly. He began to laugh. “Do you remember that time in the bathtub…”
“WHY do you think I insisted on having that huge tub put in when we built the house, J?” JC said, laughing along with him. He moved a bit until his arm was under Justin’s head, and Justin’s face was pressed against his chest.
“I’m so tired,” Justin said, yawning.
“Busy day,” JC agreed.
“I’m so glad you fell in love with me,” Justin said suddenly. JC didn’t know what to say. “All those years ago. You had the patience of Job, JC, waiting for me to get my head out of my ass.”
“It was a cute ass,” JC said simply. “Still is.”
“Hardly. It’s an old man’s ass now. If I shook it, I might break something,” Justin said, and JC laughed out loud. “Seriously, JC. I had never looked at the person I was with and thought, I can spend forever with them. Not until you. Seeing forever with you was so easy.”
“That’s because we’re made for each other,” JC said. “That’s it.”
“Right.” Justin nodded. “Forever with you has been better than my wildest dreams.”
“Mine, too.” JC kissed Justin’s forehead. “If you’re so tired, shut up and go to sleep, Justin.”
“Okay.” He tilted his head up and gave JC the sweetest kiss he’d ever experienced. “I will love you until the day I die, Joshua Scott Chasez.”
“I love you, too, Justin.”
A few hours later, something awakened JC. He wasn’t sure what it was, and would never have the time to find out. He pulled away from where his head had been tucked against Justin’s. All the rooms had nightlights, and the dim bulb barely illuminated Justin’s face. “Justin?” JC whispered. Something was different.
Justin’s eyes fluttered open with effort. “I love you,” he whispered. JC pulled back a bit more, placing his hand on Justin’s chest. He felt a flutter, and a sudden intake of breath.
“Justin,” JC said. Justin’s eyes closed, and his last breath expelled against JC’s hand. “Justin. JUSTIN. Baby, wake up.” JC pulled Justin against his chest, rocking him. “Justin…don’t…don’t go…” He kissed the top of Justin’s head. “I love you. I love you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you GOD for giving him to me.” He kissed Justin’s head, squeezing him tight.
JC sobbed against Justin, gasping for breath as the pain shot from his hear to his shoulder. He laughed against the pain. So this is what a broken heart feels like, the stab of pain that twists outward from your soul. The thrust that moves from the heart outward. JC gasped again, smiling against Justin’s skin as he held him as tightly as he could.
She slowly turned at the familiar voice. “Uncle Lance.” She threw herself into his arms and sobbed against his chest. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“Hey, honey. It’s okay.” He rocked her and let her cry, not caring that her tears were wetting the front of his silk suit. His arms were strong around her, reminding her of her Pop. “Let it go.”
“Thank you for not telling me not to cry,” she said against his chest.
“Who would be stupid enough to tell you that?”
“Uncle Joey,” she said, and laughed through her tears. Lance drew back and traced her cheeks with his thumbs. “It’s so good to see you, Uncle Lance.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here sooner.” Lance settled her against him, kissing her head.
“You made it for the service. That’s all that matters.” Everyone had left the cemetery, and she was standing alone at the gravesite. “They would be glad.”
“How are you? Holding up?” Lance knew she’d pull through. She was so like him in many ways. They were both able to hide the emotions, keep them pushed down so they powered their survival, instead of holding them back. Sometimes he wished she was his daughter. He’d never had children of his own, and was often jealous of the tight family unit in the Timberlake-Chasez household.
“I’m thankful I’m a lawyer. That way I can manage the estate and get things taken care of,” Jailynn said, pulling out her already soaked handkerchief. Lance handed her his without a word. “They had things pretty well organized, though.”
“And who do you think advised them?” Lance gently teased. “Not Uncle Joey or, God forbid, Uncle Chris.”
“Uncle Chris,” she giggled, shaking her head. “I miss him.”
“Me, too.” Lance looked down at the stone, glints of silver flashing in the grey. Music notes ran along the edges of the stone. Both names were engraved, two birthdays, but only one date of death. “I can’t…I can’t believe…together.” He shook his head, then shrugged. “Actually, yes I can.”
“There was no way Dad was going to exist on this planet without Pop,” Jailynn said, and Lance nodded. “Pop was in his arms when they found them. It…it couldn’t have happened in a better way.” Tears ran down her face.
“Are you going to be okay?” Lance turned her to face him. “Is there anything you need?”
“I’m fine. I have the kids, I have Drew…” Jailynn smiled. “I love him more than anything…but it’s sure not like what they had.”
“Nothing’s like what they had,” Lance said. He bent down and touched the stone, then stood. “I’ll walk you back to the car.”
“Devon’s dying to see you,” Jailynn said as they started to walk away. “I think you’ll be the one he runs to now that Dad’s gone.”
“I can’t wait,” Lance replied, putting his arm around her waist. They both turned around and gave one last tender look at the grave, then slowly walked on.
Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be…when our time has come, we will be as one
God bless our love, God bless our love
Grow old along with me, two branches of one tree, face the setting sun, when the day is done
God bless our love, God bless our love
Spending our lives together, man and wife together
World without end, world without end
Grow old along with me, whatever fate decrees, we will see it through, for our love is true
God bless our love
God bless our love