JC woke up early on his day off, stretching and yawning at noon. He saw the sunlight streaming in his windows and groaned. He pulled himself out of bed, got a shower, and tried very hard not to think about how the windows looked. Not that he didn’t trust Justin; if the mannequin wasn’t magic, he didn’t know what was. But JC still felt like he was on some sort of extended drug-fueled trip…except he hadn’t had any sort of illegal substance in years.
JC had errands to run, so he got dressed and hurried out the door. He wasn’t eager to see the window, he told himself. He just had things to do that might possible include him walking by the store. Casually walking by the store. That’s what he’d plan on.
JC went to the post office, went to the store to buy new socks, and stopped and looked at jeans. He was casually strolling down the street, munching on an apple, when he noticed a large crowd in front of Fatone’s Department Store. He tried to keep his pace slow, even though he just wanted to run.
“JC!” He heard a familiar voice shriek. He stopped walking as AJ came running at him full speed. “What the hell…what…fuck, JC!” AJ gasped for breath as he skidded to a stop. “How…what…”
“Um, what’s with the no sentences?” JC asked, laughing. “What are you doing down here?”
“I’m meeting my mom for lunch, and I decided to see how you finished the window. Holy fuck, JC…it’s amazing?”
“It’s just a rainbow and…”
“The fuck it is.” AJ took JC by the arm and dragged him down the street. “TELL me this is just a rainbow.” AJ shoved JC into the crowd of people.
JC took a deep breath and pushed his way to the front. When he could see the entire window, he froze. “Holy hell, Justin,” he whispered.
The mannequins were in place, just like he’d wanted. Justin was on the end, squatting down in his red clothing, his porkpie hat cocked at a jaunty angle. The other mannequins were at various heights, making an arc. JC’s influence stopped there. His painting, the rainbow in the back, actually MOVED. The paint seemed to flow downward, ending at the pile of gold which actually shimmered. But this wasn’t the best part. The best part was the beam of sunlight that seemed to filter in from one corner of the window, while actual misty rain danced through it onto the canvas.
“How did you do it?” AJ asked. JC gulped.
“Well, I had some help, and…”
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the creator of this amazing masterpiece!” AJ screamed, grabbing JC’s hand and throwing it over his head.
The crowd of thirty or so people began to applaud. “Truly amazing,” one man said. A woman said, “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.” Another woman said, “It’s magical!”
“JC!” Another voice said, and JC whirled around.
“I told you, it’s Joey.” Joey was all smiles. “This is incredible! Literally running into you may be the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. Look at all these people!” Joey turned to the crowd. “Folks, everything in this window is available in the store…except maybe the secrets of the window. Feel free to go in and browse.” Joey pulled JC out of the crowd, and JC dragged AJ along.
“Joey, this is AJ McLean…he trained me.”
“I didn’t train him to do this,” AJ quickly pointed out.
“Nice to meet you, McLean,” Joey said, shaking AJ’s hand. “JC, my brother called me and told me I had to get my ass down here immediately, and now I know why. Do I want to know how you did this? And the painting! Amazing.”
“I promise you that everything in this window came from Fatone’s…even the paint,” JC fibbed.
“I don’t care about that. People don’t come here for paint. Hell, they haven’t been coming here at ALL. But this…if nothing else, it will get people talking to their friends, and then they’ll wander down here…maybe even buy something. Wow.”
“Thank you,” JC said simply.
“I can’t wait to see what you come up with next,” Joey said, clapping JC on the back. “See you guys later.” He blended into the crowd.
“I can’t either,” AJ said with a grin. “C’mon. Let’s get lunch.”
“But I thought you were meeting your mom.”
“I need reinforcements, and I want her to meet the man who’s gonna give me job security.” AJ nudged JC. “C’mon.”
JC gave Justin one more look, then followed AJ down the sidewalk.
JC slowly approached the store on his next scheduled work night, half afraid to go in. What if it was all a dream? What if it was a one-time, crazy thing that would NEVER happen again? What if he was going insane…imagining that a mannequin was talking to him?
“Hello again, JC.”
JC stopped walking about a block from the store, wincing at the familiar voice. “Lance.”
Lance wore a sweater and khakis, and still managed to look as sexy and handsome as he had the day JC had fallen in love with him. Lance was standing with a tall blond man with bright blue eyes, full red lips, and a sexy smirk that made JC want to punch him without knowing him. “Oh, this is Nick. We work together at Illustra.”
I bet that’s not all you do together, JC thought, looking at how close Nick was standing to Lance, but instead he said, “Good for Illustra. I mean, nice to meet you, Nick.”
Lance frowned. “What are you doing out and about this late?”
“Going to work. I work at Fatone’s.”
Nick snorted but didn’t say anything. JC’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing over there?” Lance asked politely.
“Design.” JC shoved his hands into his back pockets and decided to get that smirk off Nick’s face. “Have you seen the main window?”
“I heard about that,” Nick said before Lance could reply. “I heard it’s really something…paint sliding off the walls, shimmering piles of jewelry…”
“I saw it this morning,” Lance said. “It’s impressive. The rainbow painting…”
“I did it,” JC said simply, and Nick laughed.
“I did it, “JC repeated. “And not just the painting. I did the whole window. With some help.”
“You…” Lance slowly smiled. “No wonder I liked the painting so much. Good for you, JC.”
JC rolled his eyes at his condescending tone. “Well, I’ll let you two boys get back to whatever trouble you were getting into. Nick, a pleasure to meet you. Lance.” JC nodded at him and continued on his way, refusing to look back.
“So…what’s on the agenda for today?” AJ asked.
“I’m gonna check on things in the main window…make sure it’s all working properly,” JC said. In all actuality, he had no clue what was going to happen next. He hadn’t thought any further than the rainbow window.
JC let himself into the main window, making sure the window was locked behind him. He drew the curtains shut and sighed. “So, what did you think?” Justin stood up and stretched.
JC was proud that he only jumped a little. “It…wow, Justin. You were right. Magic.”
“I saw you out there when you first saw it…with your friend AJ and that other guy? He’s the owner, right?”
“One of the family, yes.” JC sat down on the floor and Justin sat down beside him.
“They loved it, right?” JC nodded and Justin let out a whoop. “I KNEW it. I told you, Josh. I knew they’d love you.”
“No, they love YOU. This is YOU.”
“No, it isn’t,” Justin contradicted. “This was all your idea. I just gave it some pizzazz.”
“Maybe,” JC muttered. Justin nudged him.
“What’s going on?”
“I saw Lance. And he was with some blond bombshell named Nick. And Lance was all, “good for you, JC,” like I’m a little kid or something.” JC knew he sounded childish, but he couldn’t help it.
“Yeah, I saw Lance out there, too,” Justin said, and JC’s eyes widened. “Yes, I know who he is. Don’t ask. He was pretty damn impressed, wasn’t he?” Justin asked, and JC nodded. “Good. Let him see what he let go.” Justin stood up. “C’mon. We need to come up with the next window.”
JC groaned. “Justin, I have NO clue what to do next. I…I’m out of ideas.”
“And, like I told you before, I’m here to inspire you.” Justin kissed JC’s cheek. “Let’s go find something.”
“Let me make sure AJ’s busy…I don’t need you going all plastic and embarrassing me again,” JC said before he thought.
Justin stopped walking. “I thought we cleared all this up before. I can’t help it when I do that.”
“I know.” JC bit his lip. “I’m sorry. I just…yeah. Let me check where he is.” JC darted out of the window. When he was sure that AJ was busy upstairs, he came back to get Justin. “Let’s go.”
“Are you sure you don’t have anything in mind?” Justin asked as they strolled through the store.
“Nothing at all.” JC stopped walking and watched Justin stride through the store. “What do you like?”
“Me?” Justin stopped also. “Well…” He laughed a bit. “No one’s ever really asked. I like…music. LOVE music. In all forms. I love to dance. Love to sing. Love to play. I like sports…especially basketball.” He ran a hand over the sleeve of a suit jacket. “And I love nice clothes.”
“Nice clothes, huh?” JC looked at Justin for a long moment. “Then we will give you some nice clothes.”
“Yeah?” Justin slowly smiled his sunny grin. “Gonna get me naked first?”
JC groaned. “You are nothing but trouble.” JC couldn’t deny that he’d wondered how “anatomically correct” Justin was, if he was more man than mannequin. He’d thought a lot about Justin in that way over his days off.
“I can be. I can be a LOT of trouble.” Justin’s grin was cocky as he advanced on JC. JC backed up until he was against a rack of clothing. “Do you want me to be trouble for you, Josh?”
“I…” JC swallowed hard. Justin’s long body was pressed against his, and he licked his red lips as he moved against JC. “I think you already are.”
“Josh…” Justin froze as they heard footsteps. “I’m gonna get back to the window. See you there.” Justin darted through some racks of clothing.
JC watched him walk away, deep in thought.
“Took you long enough,” Justin said a half-hour later as JC entered the window.
“Holy hell,” JC gasped, staring at the other mannequins. Their clothing was on the ground in a pile, and they were in various states of mannequin nakedness. “This looks like some sort of fetish porn.”
“Know a lot about that, do we?” Justin teased. He helped JC wheel the large cart into the display area.
“Justin, I have a question,” JC said slowly as Justin began unloading the cart.
“Ooh,” Justin said, holding up the burgundy velvet gown and sighing with admiration. “I do love beautiful clothes.”
“That’s not for you,” JC said, and Justin rolled his eyes. “You say you can’t be seen…well…alive, by anyone but me.”
“That’s right.” Justin pulled out the tuxedo and grinned in satisfaction. “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about.” He kissed JC on the cheek.
“I saw you twice out in the real world. You kissed me. And in the coffeeshop…we talked.”
Justin put down the tuxedo and frowned a little. “I know. It’s something I can do very, VERY rarely. It takes a lot out of me. I don’t quite understand the rules, Josh, but every now and then I can bend them a bit.”
“Oh. I was just wondering, you know…” JC busied himself organizing the outfits and looking at the other mannequins.
Justin walked over and took both of JC’s hands in his. “Josh, I wouldn’t lie to you. Everything I’ve told you is true.”
“How long are you here for?” JC asked.
“I honestly don’t know. Until my work is done.”
“You helped me create something special. Isn’t that what your job was?” JC heard a whine in his voice that he couldn’t control. Ever since the moment he’d met Justin, he hadn’t been able to get him out of his mind.
“My job is to be your inspiration. Your best work is yet to come,” Justin said softly, pressing his forehead to JC’s. “That much I know.”
JC pulled back, staring into Justin’s dark blue eyes. “Justin, I…”
“I know,” Justin said softly. He pressed his lips against JC’s. JC sighed and fell into the kiss as if he’d been holding himself back. Justin’s arms wove around him, slowly moving up to fist in JC’s wavy hair. JC’s arms went around Justin’s slender waist.
“Hey, JC, I…” AJ froze as he entered the window.
JC felt Justin harden in his arms, and not in a good way. “Oh, hi, AJ…I know how this must look. I was just…”
AJ held up a hand. “JC, you do not know the things I’ve seen. This is nothing.” But his eyes were concerned. “I just wondered if you needed some help.”
“Yeah, you could, uh, help me dress these.” JC wiggled out of Justin’s plastic embrace and hurried over to pick up some of the clothes.
“No problem,” AJ said.
It was an hour later before AJ finally went out to work on something else. JC had dressed Justin himself, trying to will away his erection as his hands moved over the smooth plastic body. JC was picking up various items and pieces of clothing when the door closed behind AJ. “Josh…” Justin said immediately.
“Don’t, Justin.” JC refused to turn around. He was embarrassed at being caught in such a compromising position. He was lucky AJ was as outrageous and open-minded as he was.
“Josh. C’mon.” Justin slowly turned JC around. “I’m sorry. I…I guess I never should have kissed you.”
“It’s not the kiss, Justin. I enjoyed the kiss.” JC’s eyes widened as he looked Justin over from head to toe. “Wow. You’re gorgeous.”
“I…really?” Justin actually blushed.
“You can’t tell me you’ve never heard how beautiful you are,” JC said.
“I have, but…it’s in your eyes.” Justin ducked his head shyly, then looked up at JC. “JC…I don’t know how…what…”
“I need to go help AJ with the other windows,” JC said, pulling back suddenly. “I guess you have everything taken care of in here?”
“Yes,” Justin said quietly, pulling back. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
JC escaped without another word, his thoughts a jumbled mess.