JC found it one evening tucked into Joey's backpack.
“Hey,” he said in the 'meeting crazed fan' voice; the soft, calm one that said non-threatening, to be used when the group met girls who were so wound up they were ready to snap at the slightest movement, and tossed it on the bed next to Joey.
The TV Guide was ratty around the edges and the 'NSync' had been entirely worn white from handling. Lance stared up from the cover, stubbly-chinned, an odd blue-gray smudge covered with black under one eye. Joey knew if he said nothing JC would shrug and it would never be mentioned again, but he wasn't sure that's what he wanted. So he said, “um, yeah,” and waited for JC to settle back in next to him.
Papers were pushed aside and JC slid over, curled up loosely with his head on Joey's shoulder. The muted television cast a pale watery light over the room and chased odd shadows across the cover of the magazine in Joey's hands.
“That was a wild photo shoot.” His brow furrowed and Joey recognized the look, knew that JC was trying to recapture every detail of that day. “Your hair was kinda funny.”
Joey smiled. “Yeah. Chris looked really hot, though. He needs to wear a collar and eyeliner more.”
“Mmm,” JC agreed. “Remember Justin? He thought he looked like 'Kiss'.” They both shared a quiet laugh and stared at the cover a little longer.
“The color's off,” Joey said inanely, but it was true. Lance's eyes peered hazel at him – nowhere near the odd yellow-green shade they were in real life. It didn't seem to matter; he could still feel the familiar tug in his groin.
“They never get it right, do they? He doesn't complain, though.”
“No.” The silence stretched for another moment, Joey tracing the bruise around Lance's eye with a fingertip. The oil from his hands and the constant fingering was starting to blur the image. JC shuffled a bit next to him, shimmied out of his own sweats, then slid his fingers under the elastic of Joey's pants, brushed them against his erection. Joey sighed and tightened his hold on the magazine, spread his legs a little. The heat of JC's skin burned through the material.
“It's kinda odd, when you think about it,” and JC took him in a light grip, “choosing a bruise for Lance, with his history and all.” Grunting, Joey rocked his hips a bit, tried to get JC to stroke him, instead of just swirling his thumb around the head, but it didn't work. JC always took his time, did it his own way. Joey wanted to close his eyes but couldn't bring himself to look away from the Lance's wrongly colored eyes and chapped lips and blue snakeskin shirt that matched the artificial stain.
“Remember how easily he bruised?” and JC did stroke him then and Joey did remember.
Remembered the very first year, when they practiced flips together and the way Lance's wrists had felt under his hands, the way the tiny bones would shift with the pressure and the pale marks that would bracelet the skin from Joey's handling when they were done with their routine. Thought about how they'd all wrestle until Lance cried out and then peel back his shirt to assess the damage. Joey's hand would press against the redness and they'd all try to whisper away the damage, promise they'd never do it again, or they'd be gentler, but they never were and Lance never said don't.
His breath sped up and JC's hand moved to match it.
“His skin was so pale and it looked like we beat him sometimes. Then he fell off that stage right before we left Germany. God, Lou almost lost it.” Joey moaned and his hips were moving on their own.
When Lance returned from the hospital, he'd undressed in Chris' room and shown them the angry bruise. With its sharp angles and red, bloody edges, it had stretched from shoulder to thigh. That night Joey imagined the flow of blood under Lance's skin, tried to recreate a picture of the moment the tiny vessels broke and his translucent skin had started to darken.
Days had followed like a dream, while Joey fucked his hand in the shower, wondering what Lance's skin felt like, if it was as hot as it looked or as tight and dry. Wondered about Lance sleeping, if he moaned at night like he did when he stretched, lip caught between his teeth. Noticed how erotic the changing color was; the dark red that turned purple-black, then blue-gray to smoke.
The magazine slipped from Joey's fingers. He didn't need the picture anymore; could see with perfect clarity the last time he'd seen Lance in Germany. The communal shower and the bruise had mostly healed except on the swell of his ass and hip, where the fading color matched Lance's eyes exactly and whenever Joey looked him in the face, all he could see was the bruise.
He cried out, on hand tangled in the sheets, the other clutching JC's thigh. Felt the slow burn that twisted his spine and the electric release that left him gasping for air. Cool breath on his temple, JC murmuring endearments against his sweaty skin; sweet words that had no meaning, only comfort, until he turned and pulled the other man into his arms.
“Hey,” and JC writhed a bit, pushed himself back, and looked down. Joey followed his gaze over the hard belly and sharp hips to his thigh. Five smudges marked the line of muscle and Joey recognized his own faint fingerprints marring JC's golden skin. He touched them lightly, feeling the heat beneath his palm.
“Imagine that,” and JC was pliant beneath him.