Rating: R for language, but there will be some NC17 scenes later
Disclaimer: I don't feel this is true, especially since it's made up. None of what follows is real, it's fiction and I make no benefit from it.
Note: This is an AU story, a mix of Xanadu & Mannequin. My friend Keith calls it "the Xannequin story" :)
JC held his paperback in one hand and a latte in the other. He easily sidestepped trash cans and remembered all the curbs, glancing up occasionally. He did this almost every day.
JC sighed and stopped walking. He placed his bookmark before looking at the car pulling up to the side of the road. “Lance.”
“I’ve told you a million times, JC. You’re going to kill yourself reading and walking.” Lance leaned an arm across the back of the passenger seat. Sunglasses hid his yellow-green eyes, and the grey suit fit him perfectly. “Wanna lift?”
JC’s eyes ran over the black convertible. ‘No, thanks. My days of being a passenger in that car are over.”
“JC, don’t be a brat,” Lance sighed. “I’m trying to be nice.”
“Like when you dumped me and told me I wasn’t good enough for you?”
“That isn’t what I said.” Lance whipped off his sunglasses. JC did his best not to get lost in that green gaze. “I said I felt you weren’t working up to your full potential.”
“That’s what my third grade teacher said on my report card,” JC replied. “I’m not good enough for you.”
“JC, I just feel you could be so much MORE. Where are you working now?”
“Well…” JC fidgeted. “I’m between jobs right now.”
“You got fired.”
“I kinda forgot that a coffeehouse expects you to work at the asscrack of dawn.”
“Come work with me at Illustra, JC. Your eye for detail, all your talent…”
“So I can end up crunching numbers while the stick up my ass grows bigger by the hour? So I can end up just like you?”
“Yes, because having nice clothes, a huge apartment and a hot car are all such BAD things,” Lance said sarcastically.
“I loved you for you, Lance,” JC said, calming down. “I loved the person inside, not the stuff you eventually got. I loved the person who enjoyed life, who let me paint them.”
“I enjoy life even more now, JC. And as for your painting, how’s that starving artist thing working out for you?”
“Still starving…and I still have my priorities straight.” JC smiled politely. “Thanks for the offer…both the job and the ride. But I’m fine.”
“Suit yourself.” Lance put his sunglasses back on and drove off.
JC sighed and started walking again, but this time he didn’t read. He and Lance had dated for two years, and lived together the last six months of those two years. Unfortunately, those six months were right when Lance was moving up in the advertising offices of Illustra Department Store, and he turned into JC someone didn’t recognize. JC had fallen in love with Lance’s soft, seductive, dreamy side, which eventually disappeared altogether.
JC threw away his cup and tucked the book under his arm. Screw Lance Bass. He was going to find a job if it killed him.
JC sighed dejectedly as he left the restaurant. This was the fourth place he’d tried to find a job. He was underqualified, overqualified, or they just weren’t interested. “Fuck,” JC muttered, kicking at the sidewalk. He ran into a brick wall of person. “Fuck!” He yelled, tumbling to the ground.
“God, man, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” A strong hand reached down to help him up. “Here.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” JC said. “Everything seems to be working.”
“Yeah, you don’t have much padding, do you?” The man laughed. “Let’s go up the street to the store. I can at least buy you lunch to make it up to you.”
“Really, it’s okay,” JC protested, wondering if he was being hit on.
“I insist. I hate eating alone. Plus the wife refuses to pack me a lunch.” The man held out his hand. “Joey Fatone.”
“As in Fatone’s Department Store?”
“That’s the one. C’mon…I think Mike made seafood bisque today.” Joey led the way down the sidewalk.
“Wow.” JC obediently followed. Fatone’s was one of the last traditional big department stores in town. It had a small café, coffee shop, gourmet candy counter…everything the more modern stores like Illustra lacked. “You’re Fatone’s Department Store.”
“No, I’m Joey,” he corrected. “My family owns the store. I don’t. I’ve ignored it for years…acting’s my thing. But Pop hasn’t been feeling well lately, so me and Steve, my brother, we’ve been trying to learn the ropes.”
“Sorry about your dad,” JC said. Joey shrugged and slowed down as they approached the store.
“So what do you do?”
JC looked up at the shiny glass windows. Two window washers were hard at work, and the sun gleamed off the glass. Blue sky and clouds reflected off the building. JC sighed. “Beautiful.”
Joey chuckled. “Lemme guess…you’re an artist.”
JC’s eyes widened. “How’d you…hey, look out!”
One of the ropes holding up the window washing platform suddenly snapped into a coiling snake heading for the ground. The window washers hung on for dear life as one end of the platform came swinging down.
“Fuck!” Joey yelled as JC shoved him to the ground. Suddenly people were everywhere.
“I’m fine. I’m fine.” JC allowed someone to help him up.
“Mr. Fatone!” The store doorman helped Joey stand. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, thanks to this guy here.” Joey clapped JC on the back. “Check on those window guys. I need a drink. Come on…”
“JC. JC Chasez.”
“Come on, JC. Let’s get a drink and some lunch.” Joey looked at the doorman. “Larry, can you ask Mike to get some bisque up to the office?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Fatone. You sure you’re okay?”
“Fine.” Joey led the way through a maze of counters and hallways until they arrived at a small office. “Have a seat.” JC sat as Joey went to a small fridge and pulled out two beers. “JC, thank you. You saved my life out there!” He handed JC the beer.
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” JC shrugged.
“The hell it wasn’t. I woulda been knocked down the block by that thing.” Joey looked him in the eye. “Thank you.”
Someone knocked on the door. “Got your soup, Mr. Fatone!”
“Great.” Joey opened the door and took the tray. “Thanks, Mike.” He placed the tray on this desk. “Dig in, JC. This stuff’s amazing.”
“Thanks.” JC pulled his chair closer to the desk. “Mmm…you’re right,” JC said after the first slurp. “Delicious.”
“So, what can I do for you, JC?”
“Do for me?”
“To repay you. I don’t know what my life’s worth.” Joey got a checkbook out of his desk. “My wife might say ten bucks. My kids, they might say more. I figure five thousand is fair.”
JC choked on his soup. “Five thousand dollars?”
“What? No! Joey, no. Seriously. I cannot take ten thousand for knocking you down.”
“I need to do SOMETHING for you,” Joey said.
“Um, I need a job,” JC suggested shyly.
“A job! I can do that,” Joey said. “What are you into?”
“You were right. I’m an artist. Something creative,” JC said, thinking of Lance and his desk job. “Something with the displays, maybe?”
“I can do that,” Joey said again. “Are you sure that’s all you want?”
“Then you’ve got yourself a job.”
After they finished their lunch, Joey took JC down to Personnel. “Mr. Richardson, this is JC Chasez. He’s our new hire.”
The man stood up immediately when Joey entered his office. JC would have thought him handsome if it wasn’t for the look of utter disdain on his face. “New hire? Mr. Fatone, with the current state of affairs here, are you sure this is wise?”
“Mr. Richardson, this man saved my life. I’d say we can find a job for him, wouldn’t you agree?”
“He’ll be working with AJ McLean in the display area.” Joey slapped JC on the back. “That stuff is usually done at night, so I don’t know when we’ll run into each other again, but I’ll be seeing you around, JC. Thanks again.”
“Thank YOU, Joey,” JC said. He smiled nervously at Mr. Richardson as Joey left.
“Mr. Chasez. I don’t know what you’re trying here, but…”
“Mr. Richardson, I just want a job. Tell me where to sign, when to show up, and I’ll be out of your hair.”
It was three in the afternoon before JC returned to his loft apartment. He tossed his things onto a chair and flopped onto the sofa. He grinned up at the ceiling. A job. A job doing something artistic. He toed off his shoes and padded over to his easel. He pinned up a new piece of paper and went to prepare some paint. He stopped to put some jazz on the stereo before returning to the canvas.
JC was really hoping the buzz of positivity running through his body would apply itself on paper. He wanted to try to catch the contrast of blue sky, white clouds and sunshine on the glass of the building. Instead, an hour later, he was shocked to see that the only thing on the paper was a pair of deep blue eyes. Where did THAT come from?