Happy birthday, Georgina!

In His Kitchen
by Lesa Soja
 

Chris spent almost the entire ride to the stadium ragging on Lance, calling him a traitor and a deserter, a twenty-first century Benedict Arnold, and a weirdo Backstreet-loving freak. JC felt kind of bad for Lance, but Lance himself didn't seem especially bothered.

"It's all for a good cause," he said.

"You're a fucking loser, Bass, and you deserve to be booted from the group."

Lance smiled. "Actually, Chris, I believe I was on the winnin' team last time."

Chris threw his glove at Lance's head, but Lance ducked and the glove hit the window and fell into Justin's lap. "Chris, man, you got little hands. This is way smaller than mine," Justin said.

"You have an outfielder's glove, kiddo," Chris said. "Real men don't need gorilla paws to catch a ball." He stuck out his tongue at Justin. Justin returned the favor and then threw the glove the short distance to the side of Lance's head. Everyone laughed. JC bit his lip.
 

When Lance walked over to his teammates, though, he got high-fived all around, swinging his hand up swiftly to meet theirs. JC stood and watched. Chris and Justin had turned away to talk to the real players who were filling out the rest of their team.

"We gonna win today, Chasez?" a voice said behind him.

"Oh, uh, yeah," JC said. "Sure."

"That's the spirit," AJ told him. He slapped JC on the shoulder.
 

JC tried to pay attention to the game, but it all seemed to move very slowly, and often it took the noise of the crowd to tell him something was happening. He didn't get to bat for quite a while, and when he did, he struck out.

The Flyers were spending a lot of time on the field, and not very much in the dugout. The afternoon was pretty warm. A few balls came out in JC's direction, and he picked them up and hurled them back in to Joey. When he checked the scoreboard, they didn't have any runs at all.

"Hey, C," Lance said, when JC stepped up to the plate the second time. Strapped into a mask and shin guards and chest protector, Lance was almost unrecognizable, but JC thought he was grinning. "Good luck."

"Um, thanks."

The ball rushed towards him, looking as if it would graze his chest, and JC flinched and missed. Lance stood up and threw the ball back to Kevin. "One more time," he said.

JC nodded and bit his lip to concentrate. Kevin's hand flew out and the ball was sailing, sailing, floating through the air. JC swung his arms and there was a sweet crack of leather on wood and he jumped, startled, and dropped the bat and ran.

"Good job," Brian told him at first base. JC smiled cautiously.

It was Joey's turn next, but he struck out. Then AJ came up and hit the ball hard, and JC took off running again. He nearly paused at second, but Howie was still turned around toward the outfield, so JC just went on. "Slide! Slide, you idiot!" he heard Chris yelling, and he threw his hips down and his feet forward and slid hard till he hit something solid, just before a heavy hand swiped across his shins.

"Safe!" someone yelled.

"Nice move, Chasez."

JC looked up. The sun outlined Nick's shoulders and threw the shadow of his visor across his face.

He held out a hand, and JC took it and let himself be pulled up. "Y'know," Nick said, "you're the first guy who's come to see me all day. I'm gonna start thinking you're the only one who likes me."

JC glanced at him, and he was smiling. JC was still breathing hard, from running. "I, uh, um. I guess we're not doing so good," JC said.

Nick shook his head. "It's cool," he said. "We all got a lot of money for the kids today."

"Yeah."

Nick's eyes slid downwards. "You've got dust on your ass."

"Oh," JC said. He slapped a little at the back of his pants. Nick watched him, grinning. JC's face felt hot. He turned back to watch Chris walking up to home plate.

Chris hit with audible ferocity but got thrown out at first base. Brian threw the ball back to Kevin and looked across the field, crooking two fingers forward. JC glanced at Nick, who was making the same gesture back. "We always play on the road, when we get the chance," Nick said, seeing JC looking.

"Oh," JC said again, although the explanation hadn't really helped.

Justin was next, and he popped the ball high up into the air.

"I got it, I got it," Howie yelled, and the inning was over.

Nick touched JC's shoulder. "See you later," he said, and jogged away across the field.

JC didn't get on base any more, though, and when the game ended they were given three minutes to shower before they were packed into a car to go to the airport, Lance smiling benevolently every time he caught Chris's eye, and JC didn't see Nick again.
 

"Have you seen the thing Wade has me doing now?" Britney asked. "The, hit the floor and snap up, spin, thrust, and then right down on the other side again?"

"It sounds cool," JC said. He twisted his glass between his fingers. His arms and legs still felt twitchy from the one song they'd done, near the end of the ceremonies. It hadn't really been enough.

"It's a bitch," Britney said. She glanced down and then away over JC's shoulder. Her mouth curved up, and she put a hand briefly to her hair, pressed her lips together to even out her lipstick.

"Hey, Britney," Nick said. "Hi, JC."

"Hey, Nick," Britney said. "Nice job up there."

"Thanks."

"You going to Johnny's afterparty?"

"Maybe," Nick said. "I'm not sure what the other guys are doing."

"Solidarity," Britney said. "I like that in a man." She lifted her glass and swallowed the rest of her drink.

"That's what everybody likes," Nick said.

Britney laughed and then drew a hand across her forehead. "Oh, man. These things are always such a crush," she said. "Well, nice to see you, JC."

"Yeah, uh, take care."

Britney looked at Nick.

"See ya," Nick said.

Her eyes narrowed. "Bye," she said, and walked away.

"So, you giving me the silent treatment?" Nick said.

"No! I - um, I mean - Hi."

"Hi." Nick was smiling at him. "How've you been?"

"Okay," JC said. Every time he looked at Nick's mouth, he felt at a loss. "How are you?"

"I'm good." Nick did look good - relaxed, even happy. "Congratulations on the, y'know, thing."

"Thanks," JC said, still studying Nick's face. Then he realized that might have sounded too brief. "You, um," and he remembered just in time that he couldn't say you too, and bit his lip. "Thank you," he said again.

Nick's mouth quirked up slightly. JC glanced down at his drink.

A heavy hand landed on his shoulder. "Well, angels," AJ said, his other hand on Nick's shoulder, "I hate to interrupt this spirited debate, but the time has come. Kevin and Brian said if we want a ride back with them, we better get our asses in the car."

"Fuckers," Nick said, but he was grinning. He looked at JC. "Why don't you come back with us for a while?"

"Oh, I - I can't," JC said.

"Oh, come on," AJ said. "Be a rebel, Chasez."

"Come on," Nick said. He reached over and touched JC's arm.

"Okay," JC said.
 

He found himself scrunched in between AJ and Kevin in the limo, not even trying to follow the conversation of hoots and laughter that took up most of the trip back to the hotel. He kind of wished Lonnie could have ridden in the same car with them. When they got there, everyone trooped down the hall together, and he trailed a little hesitantly after them. Then they all went into a room, and Nick and Kevin and AJ sprawled on a bed. JC wound up sitting on a couch between Howie and Brian.

" - but did you see Carson glaring when Fred went up and -" Brian said.

"- 'never been a more powerful force in the world of music' -" AJ said.

" - shit, man, thought I was never gonna be able to keep a straight face -" Nick said.

Howie caught JC's eye and smiled.

"It's fucking late, guys," he said. "Kevin, weren't you gonna give Kristin a call still tonight?"

"Oh yeah, me too," Brian said, getting up as well.

"Better hurry, Kevin, or the line'll be busy," AJ said.

"C'mon, AJ, I'll tuck you in," Howie said.

"You wish," AJ said, and the door closed behind them.

JC glanced over at Nick. Nick had rolled onto his stomach and was looking at him.

"If I wasn't so lazy," Nick said, "I'd come over there and kiss you."

JC took a deep breath and tried to think. "Shame to be lazy," he said finally.
 

Nick's mouth was hot and JC clutched at his shoulders, reeling, his lips opening under Nick's tongue. There were fingers in his hair, and at his hip, stroking, and his legs felt weak. He ran his hands down Nick's back and kissed for all he was worth.
 

"JC -" Nick said against his throat.

"mmh," JC said.

One of Nick's hands slid into the small of his back, and the other pushed at his shoulder. JC let himself be lowered to lie flat on the couch, a shower of sparks prickling through him. Nick's fingers brushed across JC's ass, rubbed over the bared skin at his waist, and then pushed the shirt even farther up. JC put his arms around Nick's neck and pulled him down until they were kissing again.
 

Nick's palm lay warm against JC's stomach, and his mouth had slowed against JC's chest. JC stretched comfortably under it.

"You look sleepy," Nick said quietly. JC smiled down at him. "You wanna go to bed?"

"I -" JC said, and then he opened his eyes wide. "Shit," he said. "It's late! I have to get back."

"Someone waiting for you?"

"No! No - I mean, just, everyone - they'll be wondering - I can't - where I am -"

"Yeah, okay," Nick said. He moved back and let JC sit up.

JC pulled his shirt down, tugged on the shoe that had somehow gotten kicked off, and ran his hands through his hair. Then Nick put a hand on the back of his neck and kissed him again.

"JC," he murmured.

JC closed his eyes. "I have to -," he said.

"Yeah."

JC pressed his mouth to Nick's one more time before Nick opened the door. Nick smiled at him, and JC went out.

It was very bright in the hallway. Lonnie stood up and walked alongside him.

In the elevator, JC glanced over, took a breath, took another. "Would you, um. Could you, not say anything about this?"

Lonnie looked at him. "Sure, JC," he said gently.
 

"C. JC. JC," Justin said. "Aren't you gonna answer that?"

"What?"

"Your phone, doofus. Apparently some fool wants to talk to you."

JC fumbled for the phone. "Hello?"

"JC?" Nick said.

"Hey!" JC said. Justin looked at him half-curiously. JC turned around and lowered his voice. "Hey. Hi."

"I'm glad I got you," Nick said. "I was afraid I was gonna have to beat Jonathan up for getting me a dead number."

"Um," JC said. "I was, just. Sorry. Yeah."

"So listen, do you want to have dinner with me sometime?"

"But we don't have shows in the same city for the rest of these tours!"

Nick didn't laugh, but his voice was rich with amusement. "Is that a fact."

"Uh -"

"What if there were magic machines, that could move people from one city to another in a couple of hours? Then would you have dinner with me?"

"Yes," JC said. Then Nick did laugh.

"You have an off day on the twenty-fourth, right? I can get away for a little, I could come see you then."

"Um. Maybe - I'm not totally sure -"

Nick paused. "Or, y'know, you could come here," he said.

"Oh, yeah," JC said. "That'd be cool."
 

Nick's arms closed around JC, and the door fell shut with a click. Nick's tongue slid across JC's lower lip. JC pressed against him, trembling. He was spinning in his head and whirling, and his cock was rubbed up against Nick's hip, and they were very close to the bed.
 

He could feel Nick leaning up over his back, and Nick took a deep, shaky breath.

"Yeah," JC said, "okay, now, yeah," and Nick began to move.

The angle changed again when Nick shifted his weight and stretched a hand down over JC's hip. His fingers curled tightly around JC's dick.

JC squeezed his eyes shut, and his body moved and jerked and shivered.
 

He traced his fingertips wonderingly over the inked skin on Nick's calf. Nick lifted his head to look down at him. "It's called a tattoo," Nick said.

"Yeah," JC said. "I mean. I know."

"Why don't you have any?" Nick said.

"I don't like needles."

Nick laughed. "Scaredy cat," he said.
 

"Oh," JC gasped, and Nick's tongue inched further down his stomach. JC's hips pressed upwards, but Nick wrapped his fingers around the base of JC's cock and held it steadily away from his mouth.

When Nick finally started sucking, JC didn't have enough air to make a sound.
 

JC tugged a pillow under his neck and let his eyes close.

"Oh, hey, you hungry?" Nick said. "Want some dinner?"

"Maybe later," JC said. He could feel the smile stretching his face.
 

JC went to the studio with Nick the next morning for his rehearsal. "I wanna hear you sing, really singing," JC insisted, when Nick tried to make him stay and sleep in. Nick rolled his eyes but let him come.

They got there right on time at seven, but no one else was there.

"Fuckers," Nick said. He scratched at his schedule printout with a fingernail, and underneath the whiteout was an eight. "I’m gonna kill them!"

JC bit his lip. Then Nick flashed him a smile.

"C'mere, then," he said, and JC let himself be pulled over to a couch, sliding down snug between Nick's knees. It didn't take him long at all to get Nick shuddering against his tongue.

Nick looked up while he was fitting his mouth over JC's cock, slanting his eyes up without lifting his head, and the mischief in his face made JC's whole body sing with glee.

Afterwards, they stretched out on the couch together. Nick's fingers slid into JC's hair.

"So did you get as much shit about this visit as I did?" Nick asked.

"What?"

"You know. Howie gave me a bottle of lube, Brian gave me candles…"

"Oh," JC said. "Well. Not really, I guess."

Nick's hands stilled. "JC, are you even out to them?" he said.

"Of course," JC said, and he felt he deserved the indignant note in his voice, after having had to sit in front of the others and listen to Chris say, "Uh huh," and Justin say, "Really?" and Joey say, "Huh," and Lance say, "That's okay." Even if no one had said anything else about it since then, they did know.

"Okay, okay," Nick said. "I just wondered."

The strokes of Nick's hands were warm and steady. JC closed his eyes, not sleeping, really, just drifting.

The door clanged and voices filled the room. JC tensed, but Nick's arm held him in place.

"Sucker!" someone yelled. "Having a good morning, Nick? - Early bird gets the worm! - Was there a nice sunrise?"

Nick's hand left JC's head momentarily. "We," Nick said, "are having a terrific morning. We've gotten a lot done already."

"Yeah," Howie said. "Super productive, looks like, Nicky."

Nick pulled two handfuls of JC's hair into pigtails on top of his head. "Highly productive," he said.

"Well, maybe if Pebbles and Bamm Bamm over there can tear themselves away from each other, the rest of us can get some work done, too," AJ said.

Nick laughed and unwrapped his arm from JC's ribs. "Jealous much?" he said.

"Which one of us is which?" JC asked, sitting up. Nick and AJ cracked up. Then Kevin and Brian and Howie did too, and finally JC had to join in, the laughter was so contagious. It stayed in his ears during the whole plane trip back.
 

JC almost told Lance, one day when he came in to breakfast and Lance was the only one still there. "Hey," JC said.

Lance looked up and smiled. "Mornin', C," he said. "D'ye sleep well?"

"Mm. Yeah." JC sat down and poured himself some juice. "You?"

"Yeah, fine." Lance put down his paper and speared a cube of cantaloupe. "Have some of this, it's good." He pushed the plate towards JC.

JC ate a piece and nodded. Lance had another one as well. He didn't say anything else, but he didn't start reading again, either.

JC tore a section off a bagel and chewed for a while, looking at the strip of sun dividing the table and thinking about the spotlight falling on Nick's hair.

"You've gotta smile like that at the photo shoot," Lance said. "What's got you so happy?"

JC's cheeks went warm. "Oh - I," he said. He looked at Lance, who was grinning. He took a deep breath. "There's - I -"

The door opened, and Joey leaned in. "Lance, you coming? I got the balloons."

"Yeah, I’m ready," Lance said. "You wanna get started, I'll get some ice?"

"Cool," Joey said. "Let's fill 'em in my room, though - Chris and Jup might come back here."

"Want some help?" JC said.

"Nah, C, you just take your time here," Joey said.

"Sorry, JC," Lance said. "You're not a wartime consiglieri." He flashed JC a smile before following Joey into the hall.

Then JC was glad he hadn't said anything.
 

"Nice interview, Justin," Lance said in the car. Chris flicked his hand forward and made a cracking noise at the roof of his mouth.

"Hey!" Justin said. "I am not -"

"Oh, please," Joey said. "Could you have talked about her any more? 'Britney's got a new single, and Britney's got a new movie, and I'm taking Britney to the islands again for our next vacation…'"

"Hey," Justin said. "They wanted to hear it. They eat that shit up. And, like any of you had anything interesting to talk about."

"Well, we can't all date hot international pop stars, can we," Chris said.

JC looked down and smiled a fierce, secret smile.
 

JC wasn't short, but Nick was even taller than he was. He thought that if he spread himself out flat on top of Nick, Nick's body would outline him on all sides.

Then Nick flipped them over and covered JC entirely. JC sighed with delight, holding on to Nick's shoulder. The afternoon sunlight streamed through the cracks in the blinds.

"If you had blue curtains, you could pretend that was the ocean back there," he told Nick.

Nick rolled his eyes. "Cute, Chasez," he said. He kissed JC again, and JC wound up forgetting to tell him the rest, about the rolling waves of the folds and the shadows chasing each other like fish.
 

JC got up early, and when he went in for breakfast only Chris was there. JC nodded to him and ate a little bit of toast quickly. Then he stood up, already sliding his hand into his pocket for his phone.

"Tell Carter hi," Chris said around a mouthful of doughnut.

JC stopped.

Chris looked up, twisting one eyebrow. "Or don't, if it's gonna be, like, a burden, or something. Geeze."

"No - I mean -" JC said. Chris went on looking at him. "Um. Sure. I will."
 

Nick picked up right away on the first ring. "Hey, you," he said.

"Hi," JC said. He curled comfortably up against the headboard, pushing his toes into the sheets.
 

Later, when Nick was about to go, JC said, "Oh - um. Chris says hi."

"Hey, thanks," Nick said. "Tell him hi back."

"Okay," JC said.

"Tell the rest of them, too," Nick said. His voice sounded harder suddenly.

"Uh. Okay," JC said.

After hanging up, JC sat still for another minute. His heart started to pound. He got up and opened the door to the suite's living room and cleared his throat. "Nick said to tell you hi," he said loudly when everyone was looking at him. Then he shut the door again and leaned against it.

"Who?" he heard Justin say.

"His honey, you idiot," Chris said.

"You mean, his… boyfriend?" Joey said.

"Nick?" Lance said. "Like, Nick?"

Then no one said anything for a while. JC figured Chris must have nodded or something, but apart from that he could only imagine what their faces looked like.
 

JC woke up and heard footsteps pounding down the hallway and Nick shouting. He didn't know where Nick got his morning energy from. Nick said, "Fuckers are goin' down!" right outside the door, and Joey laughed and yelled something back.

JC opened his eyes and sat up.

He pulled on his sweatpants and peered out into the hallway. Chris came running past, screaming, "Die, sons of bitches!" He was carrying a Super Soaker. Nick stepped out from behind the corner and aimed a blast of water at Chris's face, and Chris's scream changed into a yelp.

"JC!" Nick said while Chris was wiping his eyes. "You're up!"

JC rubbed his forehead. "Um. Yeah," he said. "Hi?"

"Hi," Nick said. He came over and kissed JC. His free hand covered the back of JC's neck and stayed there.

"What are you doing here?"

"Thought I'd surprise you."

"Oh," JC said.

"Chris! Chriiis!" Justin yelled, rounding the corner. "Did you - oh. Who got you?"

"Nick," Chris said.

"Joey got me," Justin said. "Where the fuck is Lance?"

"Think he was heading towards the north stairwell."

"C'mon, Nick, we can still catch him!"

"You guys go ahead," Nick said. His fingers rubbed down over the top of JC's spine.

Justin shrugged. "C'mon, Chris!"

Nick backed JC into the room and let the door fall shut behind them. "Morning, sleepyhead," he said. His hands slid along JC's sides to his waist.

JC had had more things in mind to ask, but Nick kissed him and pressed a thigh forward between JC's legs. Then the questions flaked away, and JC started scrabbling under the hems of Nick's shirts until he found some skin.
 

He was kind of nervous after Nick left, but no one said anything about the visit. Eventually he relaxed again, as much as he ever did. It was nice not having to try to find an empty room every time he wanted to call Nick.
 

"The opera?" Chris said. "Why the hell would we want to do that?"

"I just thought it would be a good experience," JC said. "To hear the singing. Because, you know, it's a kind of culture, we could maybe learn from, and stuff."

"'Cause we don't hear enough singin' ," Lance said.

"Well. You don't. We don’t have to, I guess."

"JC, you freak," Joey said. His tone was light, but JC looked over at him, and it would have been a stretch to call Joey's expression affectionate.

JC decided to go take a nap.
 

"Hey, when's Nick coming again?" Justin said. "We could use another guy in the NBA Shootout tournament."

"I don't know," JC said.
 

JC knew perfectly well that Nick's fridge usually had next to nothing in it, but somehow whenever they were at Nick's house for long enough to get hungry, he wound up looking anyway. He found a carton of orange juice and opened some cupboard doors, trying to remember where the glasses were.

Nick came in, wrapped his arms around JC's waist, and kissed his cheek briefly. "What time's your meeting?" he asked, letting go.

"I don't wanna go," JC said.

Nick began opening some of the other cabinets. "Got some cheese for that whine?" he said. "I mean, yeah, they're boring, but -"

"No, it's not. I mean." JC sighed. "It's just, sometimes I don't really wanna be around the guys."

"What?"

"Well. Sometimes it really seems like they do have these, um, divisions, or something, and I kind of feel -"

"For crying out loud, JC," Nick said, turning around.

JC shut up.
 

Nick laid his hand against JC's back, pressing forward, but JC slithered out from under it and slid off the edge of the mattress. He turned and pushed Nick's thighs apart.

"JC," Nick said with a smirk. JC ignored it, opened his jaws and relaxed his throat.

Nick's legs were quivering, and his hand clenched on JC's shoulder. JC drew in some air through his nostrils and attacked again.

Nick made a high-pitched keening sound when he came.

"Fuck," he breathed. His hair stuck damply to his forehead, and his half-focused eyes were turned to the ceiling.

JC wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
 

JC played second base because they only had enough players for one outfielder, "and we can't have Chasez wandering around back there all by himself," Kevin said. "No offense, JC."

JC's mouth started to tighten. He caught himself and quickly changed it into a grin, curling his lips away from his teeth.

He got through a number of innings fairly uneventfully. He still couldn't hit very well but he had no problems throwing.

Nick seemed to be on base every time JC looked. He slapped JC's ass when he arrived at second. JC turned and looked at him. Nick laughed.

AJ sent a ball cleanly over the fence, and Nick came around to score ahead of him. When JC's team finally came up, Kevin got a hit, but nothing more came of it, and they went back on the field. Before JC knew it, Nick was on first again.

Kevin wound up and pitched. Brian stood straight up suddenly behind home plate and the ball tore towards JC. He flung his glove up, the ball smacked into it, and there was motion in the corner of his eye. He stepped sideways and shoved his cupped hands down, stumbling over something tangling with his feet. "Out!" someone yelled behind them. Nick was sitting in the dust in front of the base.

JC stepped clear and lobbed the ball back to Kevin.

"Damn, JC," Nick said. JC turned and grinned his new grin down at him.

After a moment, Nick grinned back.
 

[smile]