Portraiture by Jksladder

Upper West Side Remix by Crystal Rose

Justin took the finished picture—took it home to Joey.

Lance in an inebriated state was a force that could almost never be controlled—and there he went. JC had managed to catch the him from pitching face first into the ground as he tripped on the last step down the stairs, but the drink was a different story. He had to stand there and watch as half of Lance's bright green Midori Sour jumped the bounds of his plastic cup only to land on the white shirt of the blonde in front of them.

JC pulled Lance back and away, hearing him snicker at his own stupidity. The young blonde before them said nothing, if only because the music blasting through the vast apartment above them was so loud. He only managed a smile, one that said there was no harm done, and nodded his head at JC before walking away. He was wiping at the front of his shirt and out the door before JC had the chance to blink.

Everything was a blur in the streets as JC held onto the front of Lance's shirt, pulling him forward through the night crowd. A glimpse here and a glimpse there of bright green on white guided JC's muddled brain down sidewalks and around corners until he hit a block, void of people, just off Central Park West. There he was, walking slowly up steps to an nondescript building. He turned to face JC as he opened the door.

The soft voice rolled over him. "Why are you following me?"

JC blushed. "I want to paint you."

Lance continued on. "I just want to see you naked, basically."

JC blushed. "He's drunk, I'm so sorry."

The blonde smiled. "Would you like to come in off the street?" He held the door open in invitation. JC had the feeling that if he hesitated it might close and never open again. They walked through a lobby, into an elevator, and stepped off on the roof. JC found himself in a beautiful courtyard, with a wild garden surrounding the rooftop pool. The man that he had followed through the jungle of Manhattan gestured Lance to a chaise while handing him a fresh Midori Sour. JC sat on a love seat, watching. The man was exceptionally beautiful, standing there like a perfect wax doll, despite the stained shirt he still wore. JCís fingers were absently moving on his pants leg, gently shading his mental portrait. His mind was rolling over the colors he'd use to get the eyes.

Eyes that turned on him. "Why should I let you?"

Lance spoke from his supine position. "He captures the real you."

"Can you do that?" There was a flash of something in those blue eyes. "Can you capture me?"

"I'd like to try." JC could feel the gaze on him. "My name is JC."

He didnít come back to JC that night. Or the next.

"Just…just call me Justin." He reached forward to take JC's hand in his, grasping it firmly. His hands were warm and his fingers were long, just aching to be captured on canvas. JC could already see the lines, the curves, everything about Justin's hands in acrylic. He could also see the absolute contrast against his own paint and charcoal stained fingers, suddenly feeling self-concious.

He almost laughed out loud at that thought. Here he was, forcibly dressed by Lance in clean jeans and some borrowed designer shirt, talking and imagining what he could do with this impeccably dressed man in front of him. A man who was probably covered from head to toe in hundreds—probably thousands—of dollars worth of Versace and D&G. It was then that JC noticed Justin was holding a glass, offering him a drink. He took it, once again noticing the large green stain on the front of his shirt.

"I'm sorry about your shirt." Justin shrugged and JC's eyebrows went up as those manicured hands slipped right under the bottom edge of the shirt, pulling it off.

"Do you swim?" JC nodded silently and glanced back at Lance who was smirking at him. He waved forward, indicating JC to get a move on. He turned back just in time to see Justin dive naked into the pool, the light around illuminating his skin before he went under. There was only a moment's hesitation before JC managed to shake loose of his inhibitions and shed his clothing, sliding into the pool behind Justin. When he surfaced, he felt the presence of the young man behind him, his warmth a deep contrast to the chill of the pool.

JC shivered at the quick change in temperature as strong hands held onto his waist beneath the surface. He turned in Justin's grasp and found himself locked in a kiss too amazing to describe. Everything was within his senses—mouths, tongues, hands, moans—and he felt hyperaware of it all. He could feel the air around them vibrate with energy, could feel the cool of the dark night surround them.

Justin's hands were suddenly pushing him away and JC floated back, blinking wildly. We can't do this in the water, Justin's eyes seemed to say. JC let himself be led out of the pool, aware of his nakedness as they stepped back into the elevator, leaving Lance on the roof. They barely touched as the car descended a floor, but as the doors opened and they stepped into the lavish bedroom, JC knew that it didn't matter.

The next week, JC went to the house. It was empty. No furniture. No curtains. No servants. Just an empty house. JC dipped his hand in the pool, his body shaking. It had been too late.

Justin wasn't in bed in the morning. JC wasn't surprised.

"You finally scored a man with some class, C. Amen," Lance greeted as JC arrived back on the roof. He had expected his friend to still be collapsed on the chaise lounge, surprised that he was sitting at a patio table. He was flipping through the Times and being way too cheerful for someone who should be deep into a hangover.

"What are you talking about?" JC asked, sitting down across from him.

"This," Lance gestured towards their position on the building, "is a house. The maid woke me this morning with fresh clothing and some coffee in fine china. If you donít want him, heís mine." The maid walked over to place a cup of coffee in front of JC. He thanked her quietly before taking a sip.

"So was he good in bed?" JC nearly spit out his drink.

"Lance!"

"Was he?"

"Yes." A big, happy smile forced its way onto JCís face.

"He left this for you, apparently." Lance handed him an envelope that had a few strokes forming JC across the front. JC opened it.

C, please stay. You have to be the one to paint me. I must be away, but you and Lance enjoy the house. The staff will get you whatever you need. I hope to see you this evening for dinner.

ĖJustin

JC put the note down on the table and looked up at Lance.

"Feel like being nosy?"

Lance grinned, "Always."

The building was massive and spanned four floors. JC was amazed at the immaculate presentation of the house; everything was modern from the marble floor in the kitchen to the black leather couches in the living room. They rode the elevator from floor to floor, never finding Justin or any clues as to who he was, but seeing more and more sharp, designer furniture and perfectly pressed rooms. Everything was spotless and shining but nothing about it screamed home. There were no personal pictures anywhere, no jackets thrown over the backs of chairs, and no signs of life.

When they reached the first floor, they stepped into what seemed to be a large office. The room was the exact opposite of the modern designs found above them. JC walked by intricately carved pieces of wood furniture, running his fingers over the smooth grooves. He studied the various paintings on the walls, all beautiful men and women from differing time periods. Lance called his name and he turned around to see him holding a silver case he had picked up from the desk in the room. JC walked over to see that it was filled with business cards.

Fatone Industries - J. Fatone - President

"Is Justinís last name Fatone?" Lance asked.

"No, mine is."

JC went back to his loft. There was nothing to do but sit on his couch with charcoal in his hand. He could feel it moving over the sketch pad, but could see nothing except that first night on the street. Could still see the blond boy moving through the crowd, beckoning him to follow.

JC jumped, while Lance quickly dropped the silver case back onto the desk. This was fantastic. Getting caught snooping in someone else's home.

A tall, dark, and handsome man, dressed in an impeccable suit, stood in the doorway to the room. His arms were crossed over his chest.

"You must be the painter, JC. And you must be Lance. My name is Joseph Fatone Jr. Joey, if you please."

"Iím Lance. We wereÖ" No matter how fantastic a liar Lance was, there was no excuse when you got caught red-handed.

"Ahhhhh. Well, why donít you both join me on the patio for appetizers and some cocktails and we can talk about it." They followed the man back up the elevator and onto the roof where the maid began to serve them drinks. Joey leaned forward in this chair to speak to JC directly.

"You see, Justin and I are partners. He promised to give me what I need when I ask for it, and I give him all this."

JC was about to ask what exactly Justin gave when the man in question walked in. JC felt his heart soar and knew—he just knew—that he was head over heels. His hopes were dashed when he watched as Justin bent down to kiss Joey on the mouth, curling into his lap.

"Are you telling all our secrets, Joey? Did I tell you JC was going to paint me?"

"Yes baby boy, you did." His hand curled protectively around Justin's hip as he shot JC a violent glare.

He stared at the sketch in his hands and wondered where it went wrong. When he ran his fingers over the drawing, the charcoal smudged with Justin's likeness smearing over the page. He had had it all planned out. He did.

JC wasn't sure how they had made it through dinner, but right after dessert Justin grabbed both Lance and him, and dragged them into a large SUV. They headed for JC's loft in SoHo. JC tried to get to the painting right away, not wanting to pay attention to Justin's warm hands on his body. He didn't want to be the 'other man.' But JC never did say he was strong. Lance laughed when he found them together on the floor.

"Body fluid portraits are so last year you two," he said. When he disappeared, JC got down to business. He spent hours trying to capture Justin with his pencils on the blank canvas, and it was only at dawn did Justin move to leave.

It was days with JC and nights with Joey.

It was JC and the canvas with no passing time.

It was Justin quiet at times and Justin full of life at others.

It was those life filled moments that disappeared as his portrait appeared on the canvas.

It was the moments before dawn where JC would trace Justin's bruises, always finding them on his neck and against his spine.

It was questions that never got answered.

There was a knock at the door to the loft. JC still sat, ignoring the beacon of hope that coursed through his veins. Even when he heard the key in the lock, he knew it had to be his brother, his mother—Justin was gone.

Lance came by at one point to see how JC was getting along. One glance at the almost finished portrait, and he knew.

"Youíre in love with him."

Justin actually looked at the painting that night. JC hadn't noticed that Justin had never done that before.

"You really are capturing me, JC. I just wishÖ"

"What do you wish?"

"I wish it was you that would have me when you're done. I donít really want to be part of the portrait gallery. I donít want to go away." Justin looked so crestfallen that JC could almost feel the pain in his chest.

"What are you talking about, Justin?"

"Once he has your picture of me, heíll go somewhere else, and you wonít see me again."

JC knew what he was saying. He knew that Joey was aware of what had been going on between him and Justin, but that he was waiting for the next addition to the collection in his office. Then he would be gone, leaving with Justin and leaving JC with nothing. He knew it all, but he didn't want to believe it.

He immersed himself in Justin with all the time he had left. As he put the finishing touches on the painting, he could see that the light was gone from Justin's painted eyes. The glow couldn't be found on his face. The boy in the picture was still beautiful, but the painting wasn't Justin.

Justin took the finished picture—took it home to Joey.

JC turned away from his art and looked up to see who had come in.

"Justin," he said. The sketch book dropped from his hands. The man rubbed a hand over his shorn head and tugged on his sweatshirt. He was so different from the pristine man JC had watched Lance spill alcohol all over, so many nights ago.

"He liked your picture, JC," Justin said, dropping the large backpack he was carrying onto the floor. He moved to sit next to JC on the couch.

"It's not you."

"He doesn't know that. He thinks he has me, but he doesn't. I don't think he ever did."

"But you had everything…" Justin shook his head and took JC's hand.

"I have everything."