Rating: Eventually NC17, for a chapter
Disclaimer: This is all made up. Especially because it's AU. I love both these boys, and I don't think this really happened, and I don't think Lance would turn into a business-minded stickuphisass, and...oh...wait...
Note: And then there was Justin. *sigh*
Note #2: And, of course, there are Backstreet Boys, because they always end up in my NSYNC Alternate Universe. ;)
JC slapped at the alarm, groaning as his hand hit flat, empty nightstand. He slowly rolled over to the other side of the bed, slapping at the alarm. He groaned louder as his hand hit nothing a second time. He fumbled for the drawer of the nightstand, finally pulling it open. He yanked out the clock and turned it off. He yawned and sat up, rubbing his eyes. Normally he didn’t take such drastic measures to make sure he woke up, but this was the first day of the new job…or should he say first night. He wasn’t too upset to learn that the decorators for the store worked overnight; he could sleep any time of day. Waking up, however, was another story, at least until he got used to it.
JC pulled himself out of bed and headed for the shower. The shower was quick and barely warm, which was just what he needed to get himself human enough to get dressed. Mr. Richardson had told him he could wear what he pleased, as long as it wasn’t offensive. JC snorted at the thought. Like he was in high school or something. Mr. Richardson was very full of himself. He and Lance would probably get along great. JC tugged on a pair of his favorite jeans and a pink button-down dress shirt. They were clothes that could get dirty, but still looked good. He glanced at the clock and smiled as he realized he had enough time to grab a coffee on his way to the store.
The coffeehouse was crowded, but JC knew the barista well. “The usual, JC?” She yelled.
“Yeah, Frankie, thanks,” he called back. He ambled along the wall, looking at the new flavors of beans, flashy coffee mugs, and other items for sale. He smiled as he reached out for the free download cards. He often found new artists to listen to by using these. His hand collided with someone else’s and he jumped. “Oh! Sorry.”
“No. My mistake. You go ahead.”
JC looked into the most intense blue eyes he’d ever seen. The eyes were set below short blond-brown curls, and above the brightest smile JC had ever experienced. “Uh, it’s all good. You grab one.”
The eyes glanced down. “Oh, I have this one already.” He gave JC an apologetic smile. “Guess I was greedy. You have a good night.” He ambled away before JC could say anything else.
“Fuck me,” JC whispered, watching a long pair of legs saunter away in a pair of tight jeans. “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I say anything?” He quietly groaned to himself.
“JC? You’re ready up here!” Frankie yelled.
It wasn’t until he was walking up the sidewalk, blowing on his coffee, that JC realized those were the eyes he’d painted back in his loft.
JC finished his coffee just as he arrived at the employee entrance of the store. A few of the stock boys were out back, smoking and lounging around. JC nodded a hello and quickly went through the back door. Mr. Richardson had quickly walked him through the employee area, so he knew where he was supposed to clock in. That was all he knew, however, except that he was supposed to find AJ McLean. “Need something?” A big guy with red hair and six tattoos on one arm looked him over.
“Yeah. I’m new…looking for AJ McLean?”
“Do I hear someone taking my name in vain?” A gravelly voice said behind him. JC whirled around. A shorter man with dark brown hair and vines of tattoos on his bare arms grinned. “You the new kid? JC?”
“Yes. That’s me.”
“Good to meet you.” He shook JC’s hand. “AJ. C’mon.” AJ led his way through the maze of stock until they wandered into a room full of mannequin parts.
“This…” JC shook his head and laughed.
“Like some sort of sadistic morgue, right?” AJ laughed. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way.” He hopped up on a table, swinging his legs. “We’ve got some time here. Tell me about yourself.”
“Uh…I’m an artist.”
“Of course you are.” AJ nodded thoughtfully and JC gave him a look. “Oh, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just heard you asked to work down here. NO one asks for this unless they’re creative. I’m creative. I sing…do some ink on the side…” AJ smiled. “Don’t suppose you’d be interested in a free tattoo?”
“Oh, God, no,” JC almost whimpered. “I hate needles.”
“Oh, one of those.” AJ cackled. “If you change your mind…”
“Doubtful, but I’ll remember that,” JC said. “So…yeah…starving artist…I write music, I paint. Haven’t had a job in forever, would really prefer to keep this one.”
“Well, we’ll do our best to make sure you stick around. I’d really like someone normal to work with down here,” AJ said, hopping down from the table and grabbing a ring of keys from the wall. “The last guy was this flaming queen…it was insane. Finally left after he got into a huge fight with his boyfriend.”
“You have a problem with gay people?” JC asked.
AJ stopped walking and turned around. “Of course not. My best friend is bi. I DO have a problem with psychos who come in all scratched up and spend half the night screaming on their cellphone.”
“Yeah, I’d probably have a problem with that, too.”
“Okay, so there are two levels with windows, and they go around three sides of the building. I’m sure you’ve noticed that. All the keys are on here.” AJ jangled the keychain. “This is the main window, on the main drag.” He unlocked a door and led JC inside.
“Wow…this is so weird.” JC put a hand on the glass as he looked out onto the busy thoroughfare in front of the store.
“I take it you’re gay? The way you got all defensive?”
“Yeah.” JC blushed a little.
“No sweat, man. Like I said. All good to me.” AJ stepped back. “So…what do you think?”
“About what?” JC said absently, staring out the window.
“What are we doing here?”
JC turned around. “Um…”
“The window. That’s your job, right?”
“Well…” JC blinked. “I figured you’d just…and I’d help…we would…”
“Is this a normal thing? The whole not finishing sentences?” AJ asked.
“Yeah,” JC said, blushing a bit. “I guess so.”
“Well, we’ll be working together a lot, so I’m sure I’ll learn how to speak JC-ese. We can do whatever we want with these windows. They prefer us to go with something seasonal, I mean, no beaches at Christmas, or anything like that. But it’s late summer. So we have free rein. I normally stay away from the “back to school special” sorta thing. That’s lame.”
“And we can use anything in the store?” JC asked. AJ nodded.
“As long as it’s done by six am. We usually leave the windows up for five days or so. This one is about done, so we’re due for something new.”
“Did you do this?” JC walked between the mannequins, eying them up.
“Guilty as charged.” AJ sighed. “Don’t be polite, JC. I know it sucks. I mean, I can put something together and make it work, but it doesn’t sing. It doesn’t pull people up to the window, and then guide them in the door, ya know? And this place needs all the help it can get.” AJ leaned against the window.
“What’s that all about, anyway? I heard Mr. Richardson say something about the current state of things.”
“Richardson. What a prick.” AJ shook his head. “The Fatones are awesome, man. Give bonuses, you automatically get off the day before your birthday AND the day after…but the new stores are running them into the ground. Old people like Fatone’s. They like the old school feel of things. But the old people die, and we’re not bringing in new business like we should. Fucking Illustra,” AJ snarled.
“Yeah, not a big fan of Illustra, myself,” JC said with a smile. “So, what you’re saying is, we need to give it some…pizzazz.”
“Yeah. Pizzazz,” AJ said slowly, smiling. “Do you have an idea?”
“Yes, I do. When do we need this particular window done?”
“Today’s, what, Tuesday? We need to be able to turn the lights on by six Friday morning.”
“Okay. I can do that.” JC did a double take as he looked at the blank wall opposite the window. “We can do something with this, too?”
“Yes, if you want.” AJ began to bounce a bit. “I’m gonna like working with you, JC.”
“Okay. I need some paper. I’ll need to make a list.”
AJ whipped a small notebook out of his back pocket. “I’m ready.”
“Oh, you’re not…I mean, you shouldn’t, because you’ve been here, and I can really just…”
“Wait. I got this.” AJ thought a moment. “You think I shouldn’t be taking notes for you, because you’re the new guy, and I have seniority.”
“Yeah.” JC blinked in surprise.
“I DO know JC-ese!” AJ yelled triumphantly. “Nah, man, we’re a team. I got your back. Tell me what you’re interested in, and I’ll make sure it ends up here.”
“Okay, let’s go for a walk.” JC led the way out of the window, AJ carefully locking the door behind them.
By five a.m., JC could barely stay vertical. He leaned against a table, yawning so big his head almost split in two. “Get out of here, Chasez,” AJ chuckled, shoving a cart out of his way. “You’re gonna hurt yourself.”
“But we work til…” JC interrupted himself with a yawn.
“It’s all good, man. Stuff’s done for tonight.”
“Okay, so I’m gonna bring something in for the wall, so ignore that, okay?” JC said. “I’ll get up earlier today to start it.”
“But it has to be something from the store,” AJ pointed out.
“I have it at home. It came from the store…or, you know, it could have,” JC hedged, and AJ grinned.
“It was great working with you, man,” AJ said, holding out his hand for JC to slap. “Excellent. See you later today.”
“Yeah, see ya.” JC stumbled back to clock out, and barely made it out the back door without falling down the ramp.
JC took a deep breath of fresh air and slapped at his cheeks. He hadn’t ever fallen asleep walking, but there was a first time for everything. He whistled as he headed the eight blocks to his apartment, occasionally jumping up and down a bit to stay awake. The few early risers out on the street stared at him. JC just smiled and kept going. One elderly woman giggled at him as she walked her dog, and JC gave her a wave over his shoulder as he watched her walk the opposite way. He stumbled over a trashcan, whirled a bit, and walked straight into someone.
“Whoa!” JC blindly reached out and grabbed the person’s biceps, his foot tripping over theirs. He fell forward, his lips colliding with the other person’s mouth. Soft lips pressed against his briefly, then the hands at his waist gently pushed him away.
“Good morning to you, too.” It was the boy with the blue eyes and the incredible smile. The smile was even more blindingly beautiful than the last time JC’d seen it. “Have a nice day.” The man made sure JC was steady on his feet before hurrying down the sidewalk.
JC reached up with a trembling hand and touched his lips, unable to move for a moment. When he finally had the presence of mind to turn around, the man was long gone.