Fiona spent the afternoon online looking up everything she could find on New York City. She knew about the touristy things, but she wanted to absorb as much as she could before she went. It would be the first time she'd been to the city and she didn't want to miss anything, though she knew there wouldn't be enough time to see everything.
As the sun began to set slowly, Fiona put her running clothes on and headed out for a jog down to the beach and back. When she returned JC and Carter were in the kitchen laughing and making a mess instead of making dinner.
"What are you doing?" Fiona asked as she dropped her house key on the table. She wiped sweat from her brow and paused to catch her breath as she bent at the waist to stretch.
"Making spaghetti." Carter laughed and ducked as JC tossed a small mushroom at his head.
"It doesn't look like you're making spaghetti."
"That's because JC is wasting all the ingredients." Carter laughed and picked the mushroom up off the floor to throw back. "Stop throwing food!" He laughed and spun back into the kitchen.
"Oh! Don't even act like you didn't start it." JC grabbed Carter and pulled him into a headlock. "Who threw a stewed tomato at me first?"
"I did." Carter laughed and tickled JC's side as it was the only thing he could reach.
"You're making a mess." Fiona sighed and avoided the kitchen entry as she headed to the bathroom for a shower. "When I get out of my shower you guys had better have dinner ready. I'm starving."
"Hey, how's your nose?" Carter pried himself loose from JC's headlock and straightened his shirt. "Any more bleeds?"
"Nope." She touched her nostrils delicately. "I'm still stuffy, but " She shrugged.
"Finish dinner." Fiona shook her finger at the boys in the kitchen.
"Yes mom." JC laughed and turned back to the stove where a sauce pan was bubbling.
Fiona shook her head and smiled as she stepped into the bathroom. As she shut the door she heard metal clanking against metal and Carter's loud laugh ring through the house. "I'm not cleaning that up." She said softly as she turned the water on as hot as she could stand it.
Thirty minutes later Fiona was washed up and dressed in her pajamas. The table was set for three and the house smelled like a warm Italian kitchen. "Oh my God. You guys are my favorite." Fiona closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "I want to marry both of you." She sat down and flattened a napkin in her lap.
The boys joined her at the table and they dished up the pasta, salad and steaming garlic bread. "JC made the sauce from scratch." Carter commented as he licked a dribble of the sauce off his finger.
"We're a few mushrooms short though." JC laughed and passed the bread across the table.
"Whose fault is that?" Carter raised his eyebrow and laughed.
"Who cares?" Fiona took the bread and helped herself to three slices.
"I ran like, six miles. I can have carbs."
"She can have carbs." JC nodded in agreement and slid the pasta towards her.
Carter sighed and shook his head, but helped himself to the bread just the same. They ate in silence for a few minutes as they enjoyed the wide array of flavors present at the table.
"JC, seriously, this is the best spaghetti sauce I think I've ever tasted." Fiona licked her lips and swiped a piece of bread through the sauce on her plate.
"Thank you." He blushed quickly.
"And I thought you said you didn't cook." Carter gave him a look.
"This isn't really cooking. It's mixing and warming." JC shrugged and took another bite.
"It's delicious." Fiona continued to gush over the pasta and bread.
They ate for another minute in silence before JC wiped his mouth nervously and dropped his hands to his lap, "So uh " He cleared his throat and kept his eyes on his plate. "So Fi, do you like I mean, do you officially have AIDS? Or just HIV?" JC looked up quickly and blushed. "I mean not just HIV, but "
"No, I know what you mean." Fiona smiled and licked bread crumbs from her lips.
"I didn't mean it like that."
"I know." She nodded. "I officially have AIDS. I've never had just HIV. I originally just thought I had the flu real bad when I went to see my doctor but when they did all those blood tests I had them do an AIDS test because I was due." She shrugged and sighed softly. "My CD4, uh, T-cell, count was just below 200 so I was diagnosed with straight up AIDS. Do not pass 'go'; do not collect two hundred dollars."
"So you never had any other kind of symptoms or anything?"
"Nope." Fiona shook her head. "But then I got PCP. That's uh, pneumoscystis carinii pneumonia and that was that. Wow, that was about, four years ago. Four and a half actually. I got PCP almost immediately after I was diagnosed."
"Yeah. The uh the doctors didn't think I'd make it then but Cater told them he wouldn't accept that as an option, so here I am."
"Your count went back up?" JC asked.
"Isn't that rare?"
"Um, it's not rare really." Fiona shook her head.
"Everyone's T-cell count fluctuates all the time though. And just because its low doesn't mean she's sick or whatever." Carter explained. "What's yours at now?" He asked Fiona with his fork hovering near his lips.
"Last time I went it was at like, I think. It was just over three hundred."
"That's good?" JC asked.
"That's pretty good, yeah. For an AIDS patient." Fiona licked her lips. "The normal count is up near a thousand. Anywhere from like six to twelve hundred. But it can be lower I guess. It really depends on the person."
"Whats the lowest yours has been?"
"I was under eighty when I was in the hospital for PCP."
"How low can it go?" JC asked, completely forgetting his dinner.
"Down to zero I guess." Fiona shrugged. "When Greg was sick at the end, his last count was I think, eleven? Something insanely low like that."
"Eleven?" JC's brow furrowed in concern.
"Yeah. It was really low." Fiona said softly. "But but I've maintained over 200 for more than a year now. The medication I'm on is pretty light considering what I'd have to be on if it dropped any lower."
"Man I can't imagine that." JC shook his head. "I wonder what mine is."
"I'm sure you could find out."
"Nah, I hate needles."
"They just prick your finger; they don't do the full on blood test." Carter shook his head and tapped his fork against the plate.
"Well they always take a few vials from me. My doctor likes to run CBC's and a few other tests when I go in. He's really good."
"That's good." JC nodded. "So CD4's are T-cells?"
"Yep. That's exactly what they are."
"I'm sorry to be so nosey it's just this is interesting." JC smiled quickly, and then took a bite.
"It's okay." Fiona smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear. "A lot of people don't know about this, so it's cool that you're interested, you know? It's nice that you're taking the time to ask."
"She just loves to talk about herself." Carter laughed softly.
"Oh yeah, AIDS is my most favorite topic." Fiona rolled her eyes.
"If you don't want to " JC started.
"I don't mind, really." She spoke quickly to reassure JC. "I dont mind." She said again.
JC blushed and looked almost shy to continue. "So do you do like the AIDS walk and stuff?"
"Yep. Every year." Fiona nodded. "I volunteer for most of those events, if I can't participate."
"That's cool." JC nodded. "I do too. I mean. I go and walk or whatever."
"Yeah, I always hear about celebrities being at the walks. That's cool. Anything to help raise awareness, you know?"
"Yeah." JC nodded and cleared his throat. The blush held its place on his cheeks as he looked to Carter and smiled, "So. What do you want to see in New York?"
"Other than you?" Carter's eyes softened as his lips curled into a smile reserved only for JC.
"Nothing." He shook his head and leaned over to kiss JC's garlic flavored lips.
Fiona sighed and rolled her eyes. Their conversation was obviously finished and the boys would be lost in their own little world for the rest of the night. "For crying out loud." She sighed and stood up with her plate in her hand. She carried it to her room and shut the door loudly, shutting out the sounds of JC and Carter laughing and kissing at the kitchen table.
Before she could even sit on her bed she heard a dish crash and she cringed. "They'd better clean it up, that's all." Fiona muttered to herself. She turned her TV on and raised the volume to block out any more interruptions, then sat at the edge of her bed and ate her dinner alone.
The week passed in a blur of packing and squealing like little girls at any mention of New York. Carter and Fiona may technically be adults, but during that week they were anything but. By the time Friday rolled around Fiona had a hard time acting "sick" when she called into work, and thanked her lucky stars when Jamie answered the phone for their boss. "What are you doing there so early?"
"Overtime. Filing." Jamie replied with a yawn. It was barely five in the morning. "Sucks. But I need the money. What are " Jamie stopped and caught himself. "Oh!! Are you going??" Jamie bounced in his seat and lowered his voice.
"Yes, we leave in like, two minutes. Tell Jennifer that I'm sick. I have the flu or something."
"And I'll be back on Monday."
"Okay." Jamie scribbled a note then stopped, "If Jennifer hears that you're sick she's going to worry."
"I know." Fiona frowned.
"I mean, really worry. Worry enough to call you at home or send you flowers or something."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
"Do you want me to tell her your grandmother is sick and you have to go out and help take care of her for the weekend?" Jamie whispered.
"Yeah, that might work."
"She won't have a problem."
"Okay then yeah. Tell her that."
"Okay." Jamie laughed. "So is Carter there?"
"He's doing his hair."
"What a high maintenance bitch." Jamie laughed loudly. "Damn I wish I could go with you guys."
"I wish you could too." Fiona bit her lip and tried to keep her excitement level to a minimum. "But hey, you'll be able to see us on TV."
"Well no. But you'll get to see me!"
"What if Jennifer sees you on TV?" Jamie asked as he lowered his voice again.
"You think Jennifer is the type of person that would watch a MTV awards show?"
"I don't know."
"Do you think Jennifer would know who Nsync was if you asked?"
"I don't know."
"Jamie. The woman flew to six cities across the United States to see Tom Jones in seven shows. She doesn't watch MTV, I promise." Fiona laughed as Jamie came out of the bathroom. "Are you ready to go, Princess?"
"Yes. Who are you talking to? Is that JC? Is he on his way?"
"But JC will be here any minute." Fiona nodded and turned her attention back to the phone. "I've gotta go. I'll call you when we get back, okay?"
"Do you want to talk to Carter?"
"Nah. Just give him a big old slobbery kiss from me. And have fun."
"I will." Fiona laughed and then they said goodbye and hung up. "Jamie sends you a big slobbery kiss."
"Oh joy." Carter rolled his eyes as he dragged his bag into the entry way. "Get your bag. I want to be ready when he gets here."
"I'm ready. Relax." Fiona covered her mouth as she yawned but instead of tormenting Carter and making him have a heart attack, she went to her room to retrieve her large suitcase.
"We're only going for the weekend." Carter frowned as she propped her bag by the door.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry. Are you volunteering to pack my bags for me?"
"Then shut it." She pulled the front door open just as a huge SUV pulled up at the curb. "He's... is that JC?"
Carter leaned over her shoulder and squinted as a large black man got out of the drivers seat, "Unless I'm seeing things I'm gonna have to say that's not JC." He shook his head and bumped his shoulder against Fiona's.
"Well because he's " She stopped mid-sentence as the man trotted up their front steps with a wide grin.
"Hi there! You must be Carter and Fiona." He extended his hand and shook Carter's up and down. "I'm Jackson, how's your morning going?"
"Um. It's uh..." Carter withdrew his hand so that Jackson could shake Fiona's and grab the luggage. "Good."
"Good, good. Glad to hear it." Jackson picked up both Carter and Fiona's bags and headed back to the car. "We're not in any kind of hurry, so if you have anything last minute you need to grab go ahead." His voice faded out as he opened the back of the car and began to load their bags in.
"What...?" Fiona furrowed her brow and looked at Carter for an explanation.
"I don't know." He answered softly.
Just then the back door of the car opened and JC jumped out with his phone against his ear. "We're on our way right now." He said with a smile. "Yeah. Yeah. I'll see you tonight then. When we get there. Okay bye." He flipped his phone shut then hopped up the steps to take Carter into a big hug. "Hey baby." He laughed and kissed his cheek.
"Hey." Carter hugged him tight then looked past JC to the car. "Chauffer?"
JC threw his head back and laughed, "Jackson is security."
"Security?" Fiona asked from just inside the front door.
"Yeah. He's coming with us because when we get there we never know what to expect." JC shrugged. "He's cool."
"I... okay." She nodded and licked her lips.
"Another secret of your lifestyle?" Carter smirked.
"Security has never been a secret." JC shook his head and stepped around Carter to hug Fiona. "Are you ready to go?"
"Are you ready for tonight?" JC raised his eyebrow and gave her a devilish smile.
"I think so."
"She brought her autograph book." Carter snickered softly.
"I did not." She smacked the back of his head then turned to JC, "I did not."
"It's okay." JC laughed. "You'll meet a few I'm sure."
"Five at least."
"Well you guys. I guess that'd be four, since I've already met you."
"You've met Justin and Lance too." JC pointed out.
"Oh you're right." Fiona shrugged. "Oh well. As long as I get to at least stand in the same room with Kid Rock, I'll be happy."
"Kid Rock?" JC made a face.
"Honestly Jace. Ignore her." Carter sighed and reached for JC's arm. "Lock up Fi." He dragged JC down the front walk to the car as he laughed.
"She's got a thing for Kid Rock?"
"Seriously though? Because he'll be there."
"So if she wants to meet him it'll be no problem. I mean, really. All we'd have to do is walk over or whatever."
"You'd be her hero." Crater rolled her eyes. "Like you aren't already."
"I'm not her "
"She's gonna start choosing you over me here pretty soon." Carter interrupted him as he squeezed JC's hand.
"That'll never happen." JC laughed and held the door open. He looked back to the house where Fiona was locking the front door, her backpack slung over her shoulder. She ran down to the car and jumped in the front seat beside Jackson. "Got everything?"
"Everything and the kitchen sink." Carter mumbled from behind Jackson.
"Yes, I have everything. Thanks." Fiona smiled sweetly, ignoring Carter's snide remarks.
"Then we're on our way." JC slapped his hands against her headrest and laughed as they took off. For someone who claimed not to be a morning person, he was beyond awake and even chipper as they drove to the airport and boarded their plane.
The flight was uneventful with JC by the window, Carter on the aisle and Fiona across the aisle next to Jackson. She watched a DVD on the little TV screen tucked into her arm rest and Carter drank his weight in free sodas and water. He saw more of the bathroom than anyone else in first class and JC laughed every time he stood up.
By the time they landed in New York they were ready to breathe fresh air again and all they wanted was to get to the hotel and relax for a bit. Jackson exited the plane on full alert with JC a step behind him. The small entourage collected their baggage before they were met by yet another guard in another black SUV to take them to their hotel.
They dodged the fans by going around through the alley behind the hotel. Security guards were positioned at the front to distract the girls, but they managed to slip in unnoticed. Jackson and Lonnie got them checked in and handed out their room keys before sending them upstairs to their rooms with their laminated lanyards around their necks. "You need to keep that with you." JC nodded at Carter then turned to Fiona. "If you don't have that you'll have a hard time getting on the floor."
"Okay." Carter and Fiona nodded as they both blushed. They'd been thrust into the super-star spotlight and were still whirling from the excitement of the fans outside.
"Our rooms are side by side, right?" JC asked Jackson, who was riding up with them.
"I think so, yeah." Jackson nodded and kept his eyes on the glowing numbers above the doors.
"Cool." JC licked his lips and stood closer to Carter. "Fun huh?"
"Are the other guys here?" JC asked to no one in particular.
"I've only seen Joey, but he was just checking in, he's not staying here." Jackson answered.
"No, I didn't think he would be." JC smiled. "Is he still here?"
"I don't know." Jackson turned to JC as the elevator stopped. "I was told to keep tabs on you this weekend, not Mr. Fatone." He laughed with his deep bass voice as he held the doors open for everyone else to step off.
"Thanks." JC waved to the guard then started down the hall. He read off the room numbers as they passed them, then stopped in front of the room that was to be his and Carters. "Fi, you'll be right next door."
"Oh, cool." She lugged her bag down to the next door and opened it. "Holy smokes." She exclaimed. "I'll bet the bathrooms bigger than the Blue Banana!"
"The what?" JC looked at Carter with a confused look.
"It's from "Pretty Woman", just ignore her." Carter laughed and shoved JC through the door along with their luggage.
JC immediately went to the door connecting the two rooms and opened it. "Hey Fi! Open up!" He called through the door.
Fiona pulled the door open from her side and laughed, "Do I seriously get to stay in this room all by myself? It's huge! You should see the tub!"
"Yep. You do. And I can't wait to take a bath. They've got the best bubble bath here too."
"Oooh, heaven." She laughed and ran her hands through her travel messed hair. "Speaking of which, I need a shower. What time are we leaving?"
"Um. We'll be leaving the hotel in about two hours. We don't have a lot of time to waste."
"Okay. I'll go get cleaned up then."
"Okay." JC laughed and let the door shut between the rooms.
"This place is amazing." Carter said as he stood at the window. "I can't believe I'm in New York City." He turned from the view and smiled at JC. "I can't believe I'm here with you."
"Amazing isn't it? The city I mean."
"All of it."
"Yeah." JC nodded and stood behind Carter. "I can't wait to show you around. We've got all day tomorrow and Sunday."
"We'll never see everything."
"No. We'll have to come back later then. To see all the things we miss this time." JC wrapped his arms around Carter's waist and kissed his neck. "You want to come back again later?"
"I'd love to."
"Or we can stay "
"I have to work."
"Working is over rated." JC laughed into the bend in Carter's neck causing goose bumps to spring up on Carter's bare arms.
"Yeah, that's easy for you to say. You could never work another day in your life and be fine." Carter tried to sound offended but he laughed in the middle.
"Oh, if you only knew." JC kissed Carter quickly then took a step back. "Seriously though. What do you want to definitely see this weekend? We won't have that much time, but I'd like to squeeze in as much as we can."
"I'll have to think about it."
"Talk to Fiona and make a list or something." JC said, not missing the quick fall of Carter's smile. "Oh come on. We can't just leave her in the hotel room while we go out and paint the town."
"No, I "
"She can come with us, but then I'm going to take you out tomorrow night, just the two of us." JC's smile had a devilish tilt to it and Carter knew he had something up his sleeve.
"You brought a suit, right?"
"I " Carter blushed quickly. "I brought dress pants and a shirt. And a tie. But I don't have I mean, I didn't bring a jacket."
"You don't need a jacket. In fact, you don't need a tie really." JC shook his head. "But we are getting dressed up."
"Okay. Where are we going?"
"It's a secret."
"You won't think so after this weekend." JC raised his eyebrow at Carter and laughed.
Right then Carter's stomach growled and broke whatever magic was forming. "I'm hungry." He chuckled softly.
"I can tell."
"I think there must be a vending machine on the floor, right?"
"Usually by the ice machine." JC nodded. "That's on the other side of the elevators."
"Okay. I'm gonna run and get some chips or something. Do you want anything?"
"I'm good." JC shook his head.
"Okay. I'll be right back." Carter kicked his bag against the wall then headed for the door. "I've got my room key."
"Dangit, then I can't lock you out."
"You wouldn't be that mean to me."
JC smirked, "I might."
Carter shook his head and rolled his eyes playfully. "I'll be right back." He ducked out the door and headed down the long hall back toward the elevators.
He wasn't twenty feet from the room when he heard a familiar voice call out to him. "Hey." Justin raised his voice as Carter walked in the opposite direction. "Hey!" He repeated when Carter didn't respond.
Carter stopped and turned around, ready to produce the laminated badge JC had given him earlier but still nervous. "I have a - " He pulled his room key out and held it up for Justin to see. "I mean I'm on this floor. I have a pass thing." He reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet out. "Which I've uh, apparently left in my room. Damn. Hang on." Carter blushed furiously as Justin gave a little laugh. "What?"
"It's okay man. I know you're supposed to be here." Justin extended his hand. "You must be Carter. How's it going? I'm Justin."
"Yeah I - " Carter shook Justin's hand. "I know who you are." He coughed lightly, "So uh I must be Carter?"
"JC told us he was bringing you." Justin nodded.
"It's cool. And you brought your friend?"
"Yeah, Fiona. JC brought her to uh "
"Yeah, to go to the awards and stuff." Justin smiled and nodded. "Got it. Trust me, we know the drill."
"Yeah." Carter said softly as he dropped his eyes to the carpet where his own ratty sneakers looked like trash next to the shiny silver ones Justin wore.
"You known JC long?"
"Um " Carter's ears were hot with the blush that lingered. "Yeah, a uh a month. A little more than a month."
"Wow, more than a month? He didn't tell us that." Justin smiled and lit up the hall. "That's awesome. This is a first."
"Yeah." Justin nodded and brought his large hand up to tug at his bottom lip. "You happy?"
"Yeah yeah I'm happy." Carter smiled for the first time and seemed to relax. "I'm pretty happy."
"Is has JC said anything?"
Justin shook his head and met Carter's eye, "Not much. But he's happy too. I know that much." He spun his wide watch around on his wrist and drew his brows together. "A month, huh? Yeah, I'd say 'happy' would be one way to put it."
"Cool." Carter's smile grew as he and Justin cleared their throats at the same time.
"Well hey; it was cool to meet you. Finally."
"Yeah. Yeah you uh you too."
"You coming tonight?" Justin asked as he slapped Carter's shoulder in a brotherly way.
"Nah, I'll be watching it from my room." Carter shook his head.
"You wanna go? Because I can call -"
"No." Carter interrupted Justin and bit his lip. "No it's cool. JC's you know he's going with Fiona so yeah, no I'm just gonna stay here."
"You can go man. He's just being paranoid and shit. Like always. If you wanna go just say the word. Shit, you can go with me. I'll have like three other guys with me too."
"Thanks, but I think I'd rather stay here anyway. I'm not big on crowds."
"If you change your mind we can have one of the crew guys work it out. They can call me."
"Okay." Carter nodded.
"See ya later."
"Yeah bye - uh bye." He smiled as Justin bounced down the hall to the beatbox sounds leaving his lips. When he disappeared into his room, Carter turned and continued down the hall to his room, since he forgot where he was going in the first place.
"That was quick." JC laughed when Carter walked back in the room.
"I forgot what I was going for." Carter sighed and sat on the corner of the bed as JC buttoned up his shirt.
"You said something about snacks?"
"Oh. Yeah that's right." Carter bit his lip. "I met Justin in the hall."
"Yeah? He's here?"
"Little shit didn't even come say hi? I didn't think he'd be hanging around here. He said he had rehearsals or something."
"He looked like he was leaving."
"He's probably running late." JC laughed and rolled his eyes. "Where's Fiona?"
Carter shrugged, "In her room?" He jerked his head to the right where the door connecting their rooms was closed. "I don't know why you got connecting rooms, it's not like she's not all up in our lives anyway." Carter laughed.
"Because she doesn't know anyone else around here and I wanted her to be comfortable." JC stood up and put Carter in a gentle choke hold. "Because I'm a nice guy and I like doing nice things for my nice friends." He kissed Carter's ear from that position, then released him and kissed him properly. "She needs to be getting ready though."
"She probably already dressed." Carter sighed and let his hands fall to JC's waist. "I'm gonna go down the street to get some postcards and stuff."
"Down the street? I thought you were just going to the vending machine?"
"I want to get postcards. There's that little store on the corner. Like a drug store."
"I don't know what it's called. It's like, a half a block up." Carter's eyes grinned as JC frowned. "Oh don't worry. I'm not going to get mobbed."
"There's a crowd out there."
"Who aren't looking for me. I can promise you that."
"Yeah but still."
"They're not going to want anything to do with scrawny old me. Not when they're screaming for Justin or you or whoever."
"I'll be careful."
"And hurry back."
"And if you get down there and its nuts come back up and I'll send you with Lonnie or something."
"Because that'll make me less obvious." Carter rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay. I promise if I get out there and its nuts I'll come back up."
"Thank you." JC placed a quick kiss on Carter's lips. "Now get on out of here." He smacked Carter's ass and laughed, "Do you need cash?"
"I've got it." He grabbed the badge he'd forgotten the first time and looped the thin cord around his neck.
"There are a couple twenty's on the counter in the bathroom "
"I've got it." Carter shook his head and patted his pocket. "Do you want anything?"
"Snacks for later?"
"Okay. Those are in the blue bag?"
"Yeah. And Rolos."
"You're going to get fat if you keep eating like that."
"I'm hoping you'll help me work it off when I get back." JC lowered his voice and smiled as Carter blushed.
"Ahh. I'll pick up some Reese's peanut butter cups then too." He smirked over his shoulder then ducked back into the hall with his laminated badge hanging from around his neck, at least until he got to the elevators.
JC laughed and shook his head as he moved back to the mirror. "He's asking for trouble." He muttered under his breath. With his shirt buttoned up to his neck and his hair appropriately tousled, he knocked on the door to Fiona's room.
"Yeah?" She called from the other side, sounding miles away.
"Hey, it's me. Are you dressed?"
"Um." She knocked around for a second then pulled the door open. "Almost." She smiled up at him and hid behind the door. "Are we is it time to go already?"
"Not yet." JC shook his head and tried not to laugh. "Come on over when you're dressed and we can just leave from here."
"Okay. Give me like ten minutes."
"No rush." JC licked his lips as she shut the door and went back to getting herself ready for the night.
JC dug through his bag to come up with black socks, then sat at the little table to put his shoes on. The TV was on and some foreign film was playing. He watched carefully, reading the words as they appeared on the bottom of the screen while trying to keep up with the action above them. He was another fifteen minutes into the movie with his shoes still in his hands when the connecting door opened and Fiona stepped into the room.
"Hey is this okay?" Fiona asked as she looked down at the outfit she'd chosen for the night. The dirty denim skirt cut off mid-thigh and was shorter than she usually wore, but it went well with the brown lace up boots and low cut peasant looking blouse.
"It's fine." JC said without looking up.
"That's a guy answer. I want you to look at me, consider the outfit, and tell me honestly if it's okay." Fiona put her hands on her hips and waited for JC to look up.
"Did you bring anything else to wear?" JC asked, keeping his eyes on the TV in front of him.
"No. Not really. Jeans "
"Then what difference does it make?" He smiled then glanced over and looked her over from head to toe. "It's perfect."
"Honest. You look very nice."
"Okay the boots."
"What about the boots?"
"You did it all wrong."
"I did what all wrong? They're boots. I put them on and laced them up."
"You laced them up all wrong." JC swung his legs around and sat on the edge of the bed.
"How is it possible to lace something wrong?" Fiona frowned and looked down at her boots.
"Well there's the regular way and then there's the sexy way." JC smiled and waved her over. "You've got the regular way down pat "
"But they should be sexy?"
"With that outfit? Don't you think so?"
"They're just boots."
"No they're not. They're foot accessories and like any other accessory their only job is to make you look hotter. Here, I can lace them for you."
"You've had practice lacing up girls boots?"
JC laughed and shook his head as she sat on the bed beside him and put her feet in his lap, "Not exactly." He said finally. Fiona gave him a look, begging for an explanation. "Believe it or not, I have a pair kind of like these."
"You do not." Fiona said slowly.
"Yeah I do. Only not not like, heels."
"You have lace up boots?"
"They had me use them for a shoot once and I liked them." He shrugged and wrapped his hands around her left calf as he unlaced the boots. "I don't wear them that often, but they're actually really comfortable."
"I can't picture you in boots at all."
JC just shrugged and smiled as he concentrated on the boots. "I'll have to show you some time."
"Okay." Fiona smiled and leaned back on her arms with a sigh. "Where's Carter?"
"He went downstairs to get postcards or something. Snacks."
"He's probably buying a bunch of cheesy souvenirs."
"Does he collect that stuff?"
"Yeah." Fiona nodded and closed her eyes. "The cheesier the better."
"Hmm." JC pursed his lips as someone pounded on the door.
"Hey! Jace! Put on some clothes, I'm coming in." Joey shouted through the closed door causing Fiona to jump.
JC looked at Fiona and shook his head, "He's bluffing. He doesn't have a key."
"I have a key." Joey said loudly.
"You'll have to excuse him." JC sighed and smiled. "And me. I'll be right back. Don't move." He patted her bare knee then stood up to open the door as Joey rattled the handle.
JC pulled the door open and laughed, "Hey."
"Your lock thing must be broke, my key didn't work." Joey laughed as he came in with a bag of Doritos in one hand.
"Yeah, something like that." JC's face lit up as he pulled Joey in for a hug. "It's good to see you."
"Yeah you too." Joey dropped his bag of chips then used both hands to grab JC's face. He planted an exaggerated kiss on JC's lips then slapped his cheek. "You need to come around more often. This pretty face deserves to be smacked around a little. You're looking a little soft man."
"I'll work on that." JC laughed and returned to the bed. He pulled Fiona's foot back into his lap as she gazed at Joey with her jaw slacking slightly. "Hey Joe, this is Fiona." JC said as Joey tore open his bag of Doritos.
"Hi." Joey nodded in her direction and pulled a chip out. Some?" He offered the bag to the two lounging on the bed.
"No, no thank you." Fiona shook her head and held still while JC laced the boots on her feet carefully.
"Fi, this is Joey." JC said with a small smile. "We're going to see him in 'Rent' tomorrow. You got us tickets, right?"
"Uh huh." Joey crunched on the chips. "They aren't the comped though, they're third row. I charged Jive full price." He laughed and licked the bright orange cheese from his fingers.
"They have comped seats for a reason." JC shook his head.
"Yeah and they lottery them off to the fans who paid for twenty dollar seats. Now wouldn't you rather let someone like that sit up front while Mr. Moneybags over there pays the hundred bucks and can afford it?" Joey raised his eyebrow and put his feet on the edge of the bed.
"Eh. I'm not paying so it's cool." JC shrugged and laughed as he pulled the thin laces through the holes of her boots. "Are you riding with us to the thing tonight?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Is Kelly coming?"
Joey shook his head, "She's in
"I uh " She looked up quickly and glanced at JC. "I'm going with -"
"No, I know. I'm kidding." Joey laughed. "I've been filled in." He looked at JC and took another chip from the bag. "Jen start getting too much for you?"
"Nah." JC blushed and shook his head. He patted Fiona's calf letting her know he was done, so she swung her feet off the bed.
"She start asking for diamonds?"
"No." JC laughed and crossed his arms over his chest. "She started getting all clingy and stuff."
"I thought you liked clingy?"
Joey laughed as JC blushed again, "Not from her, no. I told you man some girls just can't handle that they aren't going to get any."
"Because you're such a stud." Joey rolled is eyes and looked at Fiona. "Watch out for this one, he's a man stallion."
"So I've heard." Fiona forced herself not to smile as JC's cheeks and ears turned a deep red.
"Oh really?" Joey laughed. "You're a dog, you know that? So where is the lucky guy? This I've gotta see."
"Shut up." JC shook his head and stood up. "He's not here."
"Yeah I can see that. Are you keeping him under lock and key?"
"He should be back any minute. It can't take this long to go get snacks."
"Eh, he's a crazy shopper. He's probably debating between which magnets to get." Fiona said as she stood up and straightened her skirt. "Are you sure this looks okay?"
"You look great." JC smiled and tapped her shoulder to get her to turn around. "Perfect."
"That's a great color for you." Joey nodded his approval. "Gay approval, you couldn't ask for anything more." He stood up and rolled the top of his chip bag down. "So seriously, do we get to meet Mr. Wonderful?"
"Yeah." JC said quickly. "Yeah, tomorrow. Or tonight after the awards."
"He's not going?"
"Joe " JC sighed and rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on. Justin brought Trace to like, a billion different things and he maintained his straight status."
"It's different." JC said softly with a stern look at Joey.
"He's not big on crowds anyway." Fiona said softly.
"We'll all hang out after." JC nodded. "You'll meet him."
"Good. He needs the Fatone stamp of approval."
"He'll get it." JC smiled.
"Good." Joey tucked the chips under his arm and left them alone in the room.
JC looked uneasy as he stood up and straightened his jacket. "Do do you think Carter would want to go? I mean because "
"No. It's okay." Fiona smiled. "You can ask, but I think he'd rather stay here."
"I'll ask." JC pursed his lips. "I just don't want him to think " He let his sentence dangle there for a minute. "Well, I just don't want him to be upset."
"He won't be." Fiona shook her head and went back to her bedroom. "Let me know when we're ready to leave."
JC checked his bulky green watch under the cuff of his dress shirt. "We've got a half hour."
"Okay." She smiled then shut the connecting door as the main door opened and Carter rushed in.
"Okay man, you were right. Those girls out there are crazy." He laughed and shook his head as he collapsed onto the bed with his bag of snacks and souvenirs.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah I'm fine." He blew out his breath. "But there are so many of them. How did they find out where you're staying? I mean, I can remember when Poison came to town and Fiona and I tried for weeks to find out what hotel they were staying at and we couldn't get any information out of anyone."
"They've got the internet now though."
"And unfortunately we're creatures of habit. There are only I think, two or three hotels that we stay at when we're in town and they all pretty much know that. So they can just put scouts at all the hotels and wherever we're spotted is where we are."
"Have you guys ever split up? Like three at one hotel and two at another or something?" Carter smiled and stretched his arms over his head to expose a flash of tanned stomach.
"No. But that's a good idea." JC sat on the bed by Carter's hips and placed his hand on the younger mans thigh. "Hey did you I mean, if you want to go tonight "
Carter craned his neck to look at JC, then shook his head. "Thanks, but no. I'll watch it from here. It's live, right?"
"Then that's cool. I'll watch it here and eat snacks and order up really expensive room service and stuff."
"Go for it. The food here is awesome. Get the sliced sirloin with brandy peppercorn sauce. Heaven."
"They don't have easy mac?"
JC made a face then laughed, "I'm sure if you want easy mac they can find some for you." He leaned over and kissed Carter slowly. "I have to go."
"You have to?"
"Yep." JC pushed himself up and stood up straight. "I'll be back soon though."
"Don't have too much fun while I'm gone."
"I'm going to jump on the bed." Carter smiled up at him devilishly.
"Go for it. Just don't break anything."
"Okay." JC kissed him again quickly, then went to the door connecting their room to Fiona's. "Hey Fi, are you ready to go?"
"Yeah." Her voice sounded miles away through the door. JC heard her footsteps as she approached and opened the door. "Hi." She smiled shyly.
"Ooo let me see." Carter jumped up and ran over. "Whoa." He stopped as his eyes took in Fiona's outfit. "Where'd you get that?"
"I've had it." She frowned and looked down at her skirt. "I've just never put them together like this. Oh but the shirt is new."
"I yeah." Carter nodded.
"It's okay though?"
"Yeah." JC nodded.
"It looks good." Carter agreed.
"Are you sure?"
"This could go on all night." Carter laughed as he looked at JC. "You'd better drag her out of here now or you may never get there."
"Let's go." JC grinned and nodded for the other door. He took Fiona's hand and they left together.
Carter waved and sighed as they left, then collapsed back on the bed to turn the TV on. The awards were live and if they were leaving that meant that the red carpet show would be beginning, and he couldn't miss that.
Throughout the awards JC put on his happy face and did everything that was required of him. He actually looked like he was having a good time, but the sideways glances and subtly worried expressions that the guys cast his way let Fiona know that something was off. At the end of the night she slid into the limo beside him and leaned close before anyone else could climb in and invade their privacy. "Are you okay?" She asked softly as flashbulbs went off just outside the open door.
JC reached for her hand and squeezed it as he forced one of his last fake smiles of the night. "Yeah. I just want to get back to the hotel."
"Will Carter be up?"
"I'm sure he will be." Fiona nodded and gave his hand a squeeze as Chris dove into the car in a flurry of black and white and something shimmery and almost translucent.
"What is that?" JC laughed as the door swung shut.
"Christina's wrap thing." Chris laughed and wadded it into a ball before tossing it toward the opposite end of the too long limo. "She was whipping it around and thwaping me in the eye with it all night. I told her if she didn't stop she'd be missing it."
"She didn't stop?"
"Dude. She did it on purpose." Chris rolled his eyes and laughed. "I'll bet she thinks I'm flirting with her."
"Yeah. Well." Chris shrugged and removed his jacket. "If she wants it back she'll have to hunt me down for it."
"Don't think she won't." JC laughed and shook his head. "Are you going back to the hotel?"
"For the moment. Yeah. I think we're going out again though."
"After the golden child gets done with his solo press stuff." Chris ran his hand through his hair and exhaled sharply. "Man. What a night."
"Where's Joey?" Fiona asked.
"Asshole called a cab like an hour ago." Chris grumbled and rolled the window down to let in some fresh air. "He had to go home to check on things or whatever but he's meeting us back at the hotel so we can party."
"Cool." JC nodded and covered his mouth as he yawned.
Chris chattered endlessly about all the people he'd tormented that night and the verbal agreements he'd made with a half dozen other people. By the time they got to the hotel Fiona was giddy with excitement and JC was practically lulled to sleep by the constant hum of Chris' familiar voice. They walked in together, then Chris dragged Fiona by the hand to Justin's room with the promise that he'd watch after her till the other's arrived. Fiona didn't pause to protest as she let Chris lead her down the hall.
JC watched with an almost proud smile, but his stomach did a cartwheel as he slid his key into the card reader on his door. When the lock emitted a soft click, he pushed the door open and sighed. "Hey." He said softly as he flipped the light switch. "Carter?"
"Hmm?" Carter looked up from the bed where he was laying on his stomach. "Hey." He smiled and sat up quickly. "How was it?"
"It was okay." JC smiled genuinely and sat on the bed beside Carter. His hand went instinctively to Carter's neck as he pulled the younger man in for the kiss that he'd been saving all night. "This is better."
"Yeah it is." Carter smiled into JC's mouth and traced JC's bicep muscle with his fingertip.
JC leaned slightly and that was the only hint that Carter needed. He leaned back and pulled JC down with him until JC's body covered his own. JC laughed softly as his tongue lapped slowly at Carter's, letting the longing he'd felt all night come to rest between them. "I'm glad you didn't come with us though. I wouldn't have been able to keep my hands off you." JC smiled and ran his cold hands up and under Carter's sweatshirt.
"Your hands are cold." He said as he flinched away with a flirtatious smile, practically begging for JC to do it again.
JC laughed and dropped his mouth to Carter's collarbone, taking it between his teeth to nip gently as he ran his fingers up Carter's warm skin again. "I need you to come with me for a minute." JC's voice was muddled as he spoke into Carter's shoulder.
"Wh-what?" Carter's breath caught in his throat as JC's cold fingers found his unusually sensitive nipple.
"Just down to Justin's room for a minute." JC continued to nip at Carter's burning flesh.
"Wh-what?" Carter asked again as he put his hand over JC's with his sweatshirt between them. "What for?"
"I want you to meet everyone." JC stopped biting and looked up at Carter with a mischievous grin. "Then we can come back here and finish."
"Jace." Carter sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'm not going down there."
"You have to."
Carter rolled his eyes and moved JC's hand to his jean covered crotch. "If you think I would have embarrassed you at the awards, imagine what they'll say when I walk in with that."
"We'll have a matching set." JC laughed, seemingly intoxicated by Carter's smile.
"Think again." Carter shook his head as JC peppered his neck with tiny kisses leading up to his lower lip. "That isn't going to work this time." Carter spoke, but the end of his sentence was lost as JC covered his mouth with his own.
"It's just for a few minutes. Then I'm all yours."
"Can't I meet them in the morning?" Carter asked as he slid his hand between them in search of JC's belt buckle.
"Now." JC reached to stop Carter's hand. "Then we'll come and take care of that." He raised his eyebrow and looked down to where Carter's hand separated both of their erections.
"And that's bad?" JC asked with insincere shock.
"Jace " Carter hated to resort to whining, but is usually worked.
"Five minutes. Tops." JC smiled and pulled Carter to his feet. "Fiona's down there, she wants to see you too."
"What's she doing down there?"
"Hanging out." JC shrugged and took a deep breath to cool his jets. "Come on." He took Carter's hand and together they headed for the door.
JC literally dragged Carter down the hall. "Come on " He tugged Carter's hand and sighed.
"JC, it's late."
"Oh please. They're probably getting ready to head out to a party. It's not late."
"Can't I meet them tomorrow or something?" Carter stopped walking and pulled back on JC's hand.
"Come on. You've already met Justin. He'd be the only one I was worried about."
"Wait. Worried about? Why?"
"He's got a big mouth and he sometimes talks without thinking." JC shrugged and kissed Carter quickly. "It'll only take a minute."
"I look terrible." Carter self-consciously looked down at his light blue jeans and sweatshirt.
"You look amazing." JC's eyes danced as he smiled. "Two minutes, that's all I'm asking."
"Fine." Carter sighed and gave in, but ran his fingers through his hair one last time.
JC pushed open the door to Justin's room and they stepped in. Fiona smiled up from the floor where she was playing Blackjack with Joey, "Hey there they are."
"Hey guys." JC cleared his throat and waited until he had their
attention. "This is Carter. Carter, this is Joey, Justin and Chris. Lance is still in
"Okay." Carter mumbled under his breath as he tried not to stare at the three other men in the room.
"Hey, how'd you like the show?" Justin stood up and shook Carter's hand with a smile.
"It uh it was good. You did good." Carter blushed and shook Justin's hand.
"Thanks man. Seriously, I was so nervous." Justin laughed and put his hand over is stomach.
"He's cute." Joey said softly to Fiona, keeping any comment he might have had about their rumpled clothing to himself.
"Uh huh." Fiona laughed. "Hey baby. I don't get a hello kiss?" She puckered her lips in Carter's direction and smiled. "How was your evening?"
"Good." Carter nodded and pulled JC over to where Fiona was. Being around her always made him more comfortable.
"Hey." Joey nodded up at Carter and tried not to make it obvious that he was looking him over.
"Hi." Carter smiled, then looked over at Chris who nodded hello when he walked in but that was it. He had a cell phone pressed to his ear and appeared to be in a deep conversation with the person on the other end, one that involved wide hand movements and a lot of eye rolling.
"Is everyone coming to the show tomorrow?" Joey asked.
"Yeah." JC nodded and squeezed Carter's hand. "We are anyway."
"Me too." Fiona nodded.
"Not me. I saw it last night and I've got a meeting tomorrow so I can actually leave on Sunday." Justin explained.
"Hmm?" He moved his phone away from his ear for a second. "Yeah?"
"You gonna go see 'Rent' tomorrow?"
"Sure. Yeah. Are you guys going?" Chris looked around the room.
"Yeah." JC nodded.
"Cool. Yeah, get me a ticket." He smiled then went back to his phone call.
"Rad." Joey set down a straight and jumped up. "Okay I win. End of game."
"You win once and that's the end?" Fiona smiled.
"Yeah." Joey laughed.
"I've been winning all night."
"Yeah and when I win that's the end. I couldn't get shut out by a girl." Joey offered his hand and helped her up.
"Ah I see how it is." Fiona laughed, then gave Carter a quick hug. "Did you have fun tonight?" She asked softly.
"It was alright." He blushed and looked like he just wanted to get out of there.
"Cool." She exaggerated a yawn and stepped around them. "Well thanks guys. I had fun but I'm beat."
"You're not going out with us?" Justin asked as he stood up and stretched.
"Nah, I'm going to bed. I'll see you later though. G'night." She smiled sweetly at Carter and JC, then headed for the door.
"Yeah, we're gonna get out of here as well." JC nodded and pulled Carter closer to him.
"It was nice to meet you all." Carter mumbled.
"Yeah, you too." Joey smiled and came over to shake his hand. "I hope you have a good time in the city. Make this guy take you to the Tavern on the Green or someplace nice."
"Okay." Carter's smile warmed up as Joey slapped his shoulder.
"Well hey, if I don't see you before I leave on Sunday, it was cool to meet you." Justin waved then scratched at his belly.
"Yeah, you too. Definitely." Carter nodded.
"Hang on." Chris said into the phone. "I'll just call you back." He hung up and jumped out of the chair to meet Carter face to face. "Sorry. LA's like, three hours behind us so they don't realize that it's late over here."
"So anyway, you're coming with us to see Joe tomorrow?" Chris asked as he shook Carter's hand.
"Yeah. I uh "
"We're all going." JC nodded. "Me, Carter, Fiona and you."
"Cool, cool. Maybe we can hit the Carnegie Deli this time. Joey keeps swearing up and down that it's got the best cake or whatever, but we've never been able to go." Chris smiled as his eyes darted to Fiona.
"Yeah that'd be cool. I'll talk to Daniel about it and see if we can get the coverage to go before the show." JC nodded.
"I'll talk to him tonight when we go out." Chris shook his head. "You coming with us tonight? We're hitting the clubs. We're gonna do a little dance make a little well you know."
"She's already shot us down." Justin smiled and shook his head at Chris, then turned his gaze to Fiona. "Are you sure you don't want to come with us?" He asked with a slow and sweet smile.
"Thank you, but no. I had a big day today and I really just need to get some sleep. It sounds like tomorrow will be just as busy." She smiled and shook her head.
"You can sleep in like the rest of us and load up on caffeine in the morning." Justin laughed.
"I'd better not." Fiona smiled and shook her head.
"Okay, well if you change your mind "
Carter stared at Fiona and smiled; she was being hit on and she didn't even notice. He wanted to reach in front of JC and smack her arm, but that would have been too obvious. Once they were in the hall though both JC and Carter turned on Fiona. "Dude." They said in unison.
Fiona gave them a look and laughed, "Okay. That was frightening."
"You guys in unison. You've turned into a single being or something." She shook her head as they continued down the hall to their rooms.
"Fi." Carter sighed and put his hand on her shoulder. "JC, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your buddy Justin was hitting on Fiona."
"He was." JC chuckled. "He's sly about it, but he was totally hitting on you."
"No he wasn't." Fiona blushed and reached for her room key.
"He asked you out with them tonight." JC said. "He doesn't do that."
"He was just being polite."
"No, no, no. Justin likes to party but he likes to party alone with the guys. Or with the girls who are already there. He doesn't bring girls with him."
"Chris asked me to go too. You mean to tell me I'm so irresistible that two hot boybanders were hitting on me tonight?" She looked at them both, amused.
"No, Chris wasn't hitting on you. He was just asking to have another person go. Chris is a terrible flirt. If he was hitting on you, you'd have been bombarded with cheesy pick up lines followed by him just admitting that he wants to take you out. He's strange."
"But Justin was flirting." Carter bounced up on his toes and tugged on her hand.
"You guys are both nuts, he wasn't flirting. He was taking pity on me because he knows I'll be stuck with you queens."
"Honey, no offense, but you're not invited back to our room. So if anything you'll be in your room alone." Carter shook his head.
"So he was taking pity on me knowing that I was going to be stuck alone tonight."
"Justin doesnt do pity gestures." JC shook his head. "He was flirting and that's all there is to say about that."
"Yeah. Well " Fiona blushed even deeper as she opened the door to her room. "I'm I'm still just really tired so I'm going to bed anyway. Call me in the morning when you wake up or whatever." She gave Carter a quick kiss on the cheek then did the same for JC.
"Good night Fi."
"G'night." She gave one final smile before shutting the door behind her.
"She's flustered." JC said softly as they walked ten feet to their door.
"I don't think I've ever seen her flustered like that before." JC laughed and fished around in his pocket for the room key.
"She's not around straight guys enough to know when she's being hit on so it's hysterical that we have to point it out to her. Poor kid."
"She doesn't go out?"
"Nope. Not unless I force her to." Carter shook his head pathetically.
"Why not?" JC asked as he pushed the door open. Carter answered with a small shrug and a sigh. "Is it because she's sick?"
"Probably. I mean, she thinks that no one would want to date her because of that."
"No, I know. But she won't even give anyone the chance."
"She doesn't have to tell them."
"She thinks she does."
"But not right away."
"Yeah but then she thinks that she shouldn't lead them on or whatever, then drop that bomb on them. She'd rather tell them right off the bat and deal with the repercussions of it right then and there."
"But being that blunt about it might scare people off. I mean, she didn't tell me the first time she met me."
"And she didn't tell the guys."
"That's different I think. She doesn't really see them as potential friends or whatever. I mean, for all we know she'll never see them again so whats the big deal? If they started hanging out or whatever she'd tell them."
"And if Justin keeps hitting on her he'll find out soon enough." Carter smiled.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." JC laughed and pulled Carter closer. "But enough about Fiona. I have some crispy M&M's to work off tonight."
"And Rolos." Carter laughed into the nape of JC's neck.
"Right. And Rolos." JC chuckled lightly and pulled Carter down onto the bed. They had calories to burn, and all night to do it.
Copyright © 2003, Amy Lynn