17: innocence, the fully monty

by Chris J

Justin opened one eye and looked around the room. He could finally hear his mother snoring softly in the other bed, his signal that the coast was clear. Quietly, he slipped out of the uncomfortable hotel bed and planted his bare feet on the floor, careful not to let the springs squeak and give himself away.

He'd been going out on these little excursions ever since they'd started touring--waiting for his mother to fall asleep, then sneaking out of the room to find out what the other guys were up to. They were always having way more fun than he was allowed to, laughing and joking and going in and out of each others' rooms to hang out.

He'd once pushed open the door to Chris' room and had almost caught an eyeful; Chris had been changing to go out clubbing with Joey and was completely naked, his back to the door, rummaging around in his suitcase for a pair of pants. Justin had fled before Chris turned and accidentally showed him the fully monty, ended up in JC's room and playing video games until he fell asleep on the floor.

He slipped a blue T-shirt over his head and carefully went out into the hallway, still in boxers, still barefoot. He could hear voices coming from Chris' room, but he was still leery of going in there. He'd almost walked in on Chris and some girl one time, too, but Chris had remembered to lock the door that time. Justin was fifteen, and it wasn't as if he hadn't been with any girls, but sex was still a bit out of his league.

He turned to his right, instead, towards JC's room, knowing his best friend was probably waiting for him to show up anyway. They all helped to keep his late night excursion from his mother, but JC was still the best. Justin didn't think he could have handled this whole touring thing without him, despite the mature face he gave whenever they were working.

JC's room was quiet and dark, but the door was open a crack so if he wasn't already in there, he would be back shortly. Justin pushed his way in and let his eyes become accustomed to the darkness before looking around to find his friend. His eyes stopped at the sight of JC standing there with his arms around someone else--with his arms around Lance--and their lips pressed against one another's.

In that instant he felt his innocence shattering, falling to shards around his feet.

The light from the open door soon caught JC's eye and he turned his head, catching sight of Justin's frozen body just inside. "Shit," he breathed, moving away from Lance's body to approach his friend. At the first signs of motion Justin fled the room, padding back down the hallway he'd come from and stopping at the end, at a large picture window that overlooked the lights of the city.

He held tightly to the window sill and looked out, trying to calm his thoughts, trying to reconcile what he'd just seen with the friend he thought he knew. JC had been the first person he'd come to when he had questions about girls, and he'd seemed like he'd had all the answers. The world just didn't make sense if JC was gay.

He could hear him coming before he'd even made it halfway up the hall, and tensed himself for JC's imminent arrival. It was almost a relief when he felt his friend's hands on his shoulders, felt his presence behind him. "Justin..." began JC hesitantly. "We were going to tell you..."

Justin sniffled involuntarily, and hated that this was making him feel like such a kid. Having his mother along on tour was bad enough without everyone else treating him that way, too. "Who all knows?" he asked, the bitterness in his voice surprising even him. "Chris? Joey? My mom?"

"No one," said JC, surprising him. "You were going to be the first, Justin. The first person I ever told."

"Oh," he said quietly. "Are you gay, JC?"

"Yeah," he said, sighing quietly after finally saying it. "I didn't want you to find out that way."

"And Lance?" pushed Justin, still staring out the window at the sea of twinkling, soothing lights.

"Him, too," said JC. "We're together. Or...at least I think we are. I'm not sure, Justin. It's all pretty new and we're both a little confused, but...it feels good to be with him. It feels right."

"You can't be gay," Justin blurted out finally. "You weren't gay before, when we talked about all that stuff. You liked girls, just like me. We talked about it, JC. We did!"

"Justin, can you look at me?" he said, half demanding and half pleading uncertainly. Justin nodded slowly and turned around, JC's hands falling off his shoulders and back to his sides again. "I don't like girls, not the way you do. I was confused for a while, but I know that now. But that doesn't mean you can't talk to me about that stuff, okay? I still understand all the feelings and stuff."

"You just have them for boys instead, right?" muttered Justin, looking away.

"Yeah, I do," said JC, sighing again. "Justin...you're my best friend and I don't want to lose you over this. I still need you, too, you know. Are we cool?"

Justin slowly nodded his head. "Yeah, we're cool," he said slowly. "I just need to think about this a little, okay?"

JC smiled for the first time. "I understand," he said, his hand jerking slightly as though he needed to reach out and touch his friend. "Justin...can you not tell anyone else about this? I mean...we will tell everyone, just not yet."

"Yeah, I can keep your secret," he promised. "You guys have been keeping mine, after all."

"Thanks," said JC. "And...maybe you'll want to hang out with Chris tonight? I think Lance and I need to talk."

"I think Chris has a 'friend' over tonight," said Justin with a slight smile, making quotation marks in the air with his fingers. "I'm tired; I think maybe I'll just sneak back into my room and get some sleep." Impulsively, he pulled JC into a tight hug. "You're still my best friend," he whispered.

"Thank you," whispered JC back, holding him close. "Thank you, Justin."

With one last squeeze, Justin let go and moved past his friend, starting down the hall again. His mind was still spinning, but things were starting to fall into place again. Another time, another day, he and JC would sit down and talk again, about girls and boys and everything else. He still had his mother to deal with, but that didn't seem quite so bad knowing he had a best friend he could always rely on.

The other guys were his family, too, and they stood up for him like the baby brother they probably thought of him as, but JC was special. JC didn't see him that way. Whistling softly to himself so he wouldn't wake his mother, Justin slipped back into his room and into his bed, and fell fast asleep with a quiet smile on his face.

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