October 11-12 (November 2002)

Disclaimer: But that was in another country. For Georgina, who rocks in many ways, and with thanks to Shoshanna, who also rocks in many ways. Do not archive this story without permission.


It was only once.

Justin knows it was only once, and that's what makes it okay. Or not okay exactly, but something he can forget about, put behind him, totally ignore. When things only happen once, it's almost like they didn't happen at all. Except for big freaky accidents and death and stuff. But other than that.

Only once. Except they kind of did it two times. Or, not did it, did it, not that kind of did it; Justin doesn't think he really wants to do that. Or think about that. And he's not thinking about this, and it was only once. And what do people expect, anyway, he thinks, not specifying who "people" might be, sticking the kids together and telling them to entertain themselves, each other, whatever, and there's nothing on tv. Even Nick Carter might start to look good after a couple of hours.

Not that he does, of course. Not that he did then, either, talking and complaining and making fun of the German commercials with nearly naked people in them and drumming on the upturned wastebasket with a couple of pencils and pushing his hair out of his eyes every two seconds. When Nick lifts his eyebrows and smiles a tiny little secretive smile he looks almost kinda like a girl. Justin wonders if Nick plucks his eyebrows, like Lance does. Only Nick doesn't really look like a girl at all, because he's taller than Justin and bigger than Justin and he has just a very little soft blond stubble that feels like—

Justin doesn't plan on ever being that bored again.

He doesn't think about it. Not about Nick's hands, hot and fumbling. Not about the way one of the seams in his t-shirt tore. He's put that t-shirt down at the bottom of his big sports bag, and he's not going to take it out ever again. Maybe to throw it out one day, when he doesn't remember any more why the left sleeve is almost falling off.

Stuff happens, Justin knows that. Stuff happens, and then you move on, that's the way life is. That's the way things work. That's the way it has to be.

It was only the one time that Nick looked at him like that, like he knew something and he wasn't going to tell Justin about it, and Justin wanted to know. And now he knows a lot more than he did.

He knows that the blue flickery light from late-night tv can make things look almost like porn. He knows that Nick will use his mouth anywhere, his tongue, like there's nothing weird about it. He knows what rug burn feels like.

It was only once, and he hasn't seen Nick since then. Or thought about him.

At all.

Only once.

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