“Whoa…JC…you okay?” AJ caught JC as he stumbled around a corner.
“Yeah.” JC rubbed at his face. “Not enough sleep. I was up late…I mean, early…I was up painting.”
“Do you want me to do anything in the window? You could take a nap,” AJ said with concern. “I could…”
“No!” JC said quickly. “I mean, not that I don’t appreciate your help, Aje, but I can handle it. Just forget about me…get the other stuff done. If I get done early, I’ll set my cell alarm and snooze for a bit.” He smiled. “Thanks, though.”
“Don’t run yourself ragged, man,” AJ warned. “It’s just a job. I love Fatone’s as much as anyone else, but I don’t think you need to be killing yourself to save it.”
“I’m not,” JC promised. “I was painting, like, for myself. My own stuff.”
“Cool,” AJ said, nodding. “I feel that. Come find me if you need me,” he called over his shoulder as he walked away.
JC went to the stockroom and grabbed one of the large carts. He whistled as he walked through the store, grabbing everything from clothing to musical instruments to posters from the décor area. Even though he was indeed exhausted from lack of sleep, at the same time he felt wonderfully awake and excited. He knew it had everything to do with the…man…waiting for him in the window.
JC forced himself to be calm as he unlocked the door, wheeled in the cart, and carefully shut the door behind him, leaving the cart in front of the door. He drew the curtains closed, took a deep breath, and turned around. Justin was leaning against the far wall, wearing the jeans and tee from the night before, an arrogant smile on his face. “Miss me?” Justin asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Nah, I was busy,” JC said nonchalantly. “Painting…sleeping…you know.”
“Ah.” Justin sauntered over. “So…”
“So…” JC repeated. He grabbed Justin by the curls, fisting his hand in them as he brutally kissed him.
“Fuck,” Justin gasped when JC let him up for air.
JC whirled him around and pressed him back against the curtained glass. “Just in case you wanted to know…” JC’s hand made quick work with the snap on Justin’s jeans. “I made sure AJ knew not to disturb me in here.”
“Really? Th-that’s nice,” Justin stammered as JC slid down his body to his cock.
“Did I miss you?” JC asked, smiling sweetly as he stroked Justin. “That is the DUMBEST question I’ve heard in forever.” JC licked one line, from balls to head, and Justin’s head hit the window with a thud. “I thought about you when I was painting. I thought about you in my dreams, for the few hours I was asleep. I thought about you…” JC took Justin deep into his mouth a few times. “…in the shower…”
“Fucking tease…” Justin’s hand grabbed at JC’s hair.
“I could be…but I want you coming down my throat too bad to stretch this out,” JC said, and got to work.
By the time Justin regained his brain, JC already had two of the other mannequins undressed. “What was that?” Justin demanded, and JC chuckled.
“What? Can’t an artist give in to the need to blow his incredibly sexy muse?”
“Well, um, I guess, uh, yeah,” Justin said, shaking his head and getting himself together. “Hell, Josh, that…wow. Didn’t see that coming.”
“Good,” JC said with a grin. “Okay, so, everyone’s going to dress casual. I’m thinking like a street corner, people hanging out? I got you these great jeans…they’re tight but not too tight…”
Justin grabbed JC’s hand, holding it up to look at it. “Tell me about the painting.”
JC blushed at the stripe of blue between his ring and pinky fingers. “Ooh. Guess I missed that. Yeah, I was…it was crazy…I was…and the stuff just FLOWED out of me, know what I mean?”
“I think so,” Justin said with a laugh. “Tell me something,” he said, growing serious. “Do you think it’s good?”
“I can’t remember the last time I felt the way I did this morning,” JC said softly. “It was…they’re not too bad.”
“Well, if that’s the best I’m gonna get out of you,” Justin teased, releasing JC’s hand. “I wish I could watch you create.”
“I wish I could watch you do whatever you do in here,” JC said wistfully. “The magic.”
“You make magic, too, Josh.” Justin took both of JC’s hands in his. “These hands are magic. Trust me. I’ve felt them, remember?” JC blushed. “But no more not sleeping, Josh. It’s not good for you.”
“I know. But I couldn’t stop,” JC insisted.
Justin went over to dig through the cart. “So…what can I do here?”
JC walked up behind him and wrapped his arms around Justin’s waist. “Just stand there, looking good…”
“I do that all day in the window, Josh,” Justin said with fake patience, then laughed a bit. “Let me be useful.”
“I could make you useful,” JC growled, nipping at Justin’s ear. He turned back around. “I guess you could work on the floor.”
The phone rang at nine the next morning. The phone rang at ten the next morning. The phone rang at eleven-thirty the next morning. “FUCK!” JC grumbled, finally fumbling for his phone. He had done as Justin had ordered, going to bed immediately upon reaching his apartment. Aiding him in his quest for sleep was the mind-blowing orgasm Justin had rewarded him with just before he’d left the window. “WHAT?”
“Is this Joshua Chasez?” At least the asshole said his name right.
“If you’re selling something, I’m broke. I also work nights, and you have me really pissed right now,” JC snapped.
“Mr. Chasez, this is Christopher Kirkpatrick.”
“Good for you,” JC said into his pillow. “I bet YOU don’t work nights.”
“I run the FuMan Gallery?”
JC sat up straight. “Oh, um, yes. Good morning, Mr. Kirkpatrick.” Had he sworn at the man? He really hoped he hadn’t sworn at him.
The other man chuckled. “Please, call me Chris. I apologize for wakening you. I should have known that you worked nights at the store.”
“It’s okay. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
“Understandable. I was wondering if I might be able to meet with you about your work.”
“Yes. You don’t just do incredible windows, do you?”
“Uh, no. I don’t. I mean, yes, I do other work.” JC wanted to yank his brain out and reprogram it.
“Are you free later today?”
“Yes…I’m off at the store.”
“How about we meet at Baylee’s Pub…around seven?”
“That would be great. I’ll see you there, Mister…I mean, Chris.”
“Wonderful. I’ll be sitting at the bar.”
JC hung up, wondering what was going on. There were three art galleries in the city, and FuMan was the newest and most interesting. From what he’d read in magazines and the newspapers, Chris Kirkpatrick only showed the most avant garde, innovative works. JC yawned and stretched. There’d be no sleeping now. He wished, more than anything, that he could share this news with Justin.
JC dressed in a pair of worn jeans and a dark green shirt before hurrying out to see the window. If he couldn’t TALK to Justin, at least he could see him. JC grinned as he turned the corner onto the block where Fatone’s was located. He could barely make it down the sidewalk. People were lined up to see the window.
“Chasez!” A voice called, and JC whirled around.
“Joey, hey.” JC held out a hand and Joey shook it.
“Another masterpiece,” Joey said, shaking his head. “We’ve been here for a half-hour, just watching the people line up to see your window…and most of them are going into the store.”
“I’m Joey’s brother, Steve,” the man next to Joey said. He looked a lot like Joey, though he didn’t have Joey’s good looks. “Since the fathead wasn’t going to introduce us, apparently. Thanks for everything you’re doing for the store.”
“Well, it’s just a job,” JC said modestly.
“I know you probably are made for better things, JC Chasez, but I’m sure glad you ran me over that day,” Joey said. “Why don’t you go meet your adoring public?”
“Well, I’m not…I just wanted…” JC realized he couldn’t say he was going to check out the window for himself. They assumed, of course, that he’d created it. “I could do without the public,” he finally said, and they laughed. He waved goodbye over his shoulder and nudged his way through the crowd.
He smiled with satisfaction as soon as he saw the window. Justin had captured his idea exactly. Five of the mannequins sat in a circle on folding chairs. They were all dressed casually, Justin wearing blue jeans, a tight tee, and a powder blue bandanna wrapped around his curls. One mannequin held a guitar, another held a set of bongos, and their mouths were open as if they were singing. The magic was in the notes that hung in the area. Black notes danced through the air, coming from the mouths of the mannequins as well as the guitar.
“JC.” He felt hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, Lance.” JC was so full of pride he could even be gracious to his ex. “What do you think?”
“Remarkable,” Lance said. “How about we grab that coffee now? I have time.”
“I…oh, why not?” JC gave one last admiring glance at Justin before following Lance down the sidewalk.
Lance led the way to the closest coffeehouse, a few blocks down the street. “This okay?”
“Sure.” They entered the busy shop, and JC noticed an empty table in the corner. “Get me a chai with honey, I’ll grab that table.” JC sat down, trying not to fidget. It had been months since he’d sat down and had a civil conversation with Lance, and the last time they’d tried, it hadn’t ended too civilly.
Lance returned about ten minutes later with JC’s tea, his own coffee, and a basket of muffins. “I figured you probably haven’t eaten yet.”
“You figured right,” JC said, tearing into a lemon poppy seed. “Thanks.”
“Your windows are incredible, JC,” Lance said. “I’m so…well…it sounds stupid, but I’m proud of you.”
JC looked into the yellow-green eyes and saw nothing but sincerity. “Thanks, Lance. That means a lot.”
“I always knew you had talent, but, whoa.” Lance shook his head and laughed. “Feel like sharing your secret?”
“You’re the enemy, Lance,” JC said, and Lance’s eyebrow raised. “You work at Illustra, I’m at Fatone’s.”
“OH, right.” Lance sipped at his coffee. “Don’t suppose I could entice you into coming to work for the enemy.”
Lance lowered his voice into what JC had always called his “porn register,” and JC almost whimpered. “No, I’m happy where I am, thanks.”
“Oh, well, thought I’d try.” Lance smiled. “I’m glad things are going well for you, JC. Really.”
“Speaking of things going well, Chris Kirkpatrick called me this morning. I’m meeting with him tonight.” JC watched him carefully
“Really?” Lance looked surprised. “Well, I can see that…you’re quickly becoming the next big thing here in town. Why wouldn’t Kirkpatrick want you?”
“Isn’t that why you want me, Lance?” JC asked, and Lance choked on his coffee. “I mean, you were over and done with me. You have your new little bedbuddy…what was his name? Nate? Nick? And then I started doing well with the window. People are starting to know my name, even if they don’t know my face. And that’s EXACTLY the kind of thing that gets you hard.”
“JC, I wasn’t…”
“Don’t, Lance. Please.” JC dug for his wallet and threw some money down. “See, I found someone that loves me for what I AM, not what I can be. It won’t last, but it’s what I want. Good luck, Lance, finding that someone who can be everything you want.” JC strode away without a backwards glance.