ONE OF THE BOYS
“So.” JC parked in Chris’ driveway and looked at Lara. “Thanks for a fun date.”
Lara couldn’t help but smile back. “Yeah, it was definitely fun.”
“When do you leave again?”
“Well, maybe we could get together or something,” JC said.
“Maybe. I’m not sure what Chris has planned, but I’m sure I’ll see you before that.” Lara picked up her purse, undid her seatbelt, and began to shrug out of JC’s shirt. She had thrown her own top on when she got dressed, but he had insisted she wear the shirt over top, as it had been a little chilly when they left Lance’s.
“No. Keep it.” JC put a hand on her shoulder. “You look better in it than I do.”
“Hardly,” she snorted. “But thanks.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then leaned in and kissed her. “I really did have a good time. All night, not just the end.”
“Me too,” Lara said, smiling into his eyes. She kissed his cheek and got out of the car.
“I’ll call you,” JC said as she closed the door.
“I won’t hold my breath,” Lara said, but she smiled as she inhaled his cologne on the shirt.
Chris woke up around noon, frowning when he realized how quiet his house was. He gently knocked on Lara’s door, then pushed it open when he didn’t get an answer. The bed was empty, and he frowned more.
After a quick shower, Chris wandered into the kitchen to put together some breakfast/lunch. As he was sitting down with the newspaper, coffee and an omelet, he heard the front door open. He waited for Lara to follow the aroma of the coffee. She was addicted to it as he was. She soon appeared in the doorway, sniffing appreciatively. “Hi,” she said. “Coffee.”
“Of course.” Chris tried to ignore the fact that she still wore JC’s shirt, though she had her skirt on underneath, at least.
“You’re the best.” Lara poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down with him. “Fuck,” she muttered, rubbing at her eyes. Chris stared at her. Unless she was arguing with him, it was a word she rarely used. “I feel like I could sleep for three days and sleep some more after that, but I know there’s no going to bed now. I’m up.”
“One way you and JC would never work out…he sleeps constantly.”
“I know. It’s his hobby,” Lara said with a grin. “But we’re not going to work out, anyway, so it’s all good.”
“What?” Chris forgot all about himself and the fact that he hated the idea of her sneaking back home after a wild night of monkey sex with JC Chasez. “Did he…are you okay? Did he hurt you or something?”
“Chris…you’re so sweet.” Lara stole one of his pieces of toast. “No, he didn’t do anything. Don’t you think I could defend myself, anyway?”
“He’s pretty charming.”
“Yeah,” she said dreamily, staring into space.
“Euw. Gross. Former coworker and almost brother you’re talking about, here,” Chris said, wrinkling his nose. She giggled a bit.
“I’m sorry. It’s just…we’re not going anywhere, Chris. Last night was amazing. A total dream come true in so many ways. I mean, I’m just a small town girl, nothing special. You know how I grew up. And then last night…I’m at a fantastic party at a total rich hottie’s house, and my date is someone whose every move is liquid sex. And that’s just on the dance floor.” She shook her head and sipped at her coffee. “I feel like I’m gonna wake up from the dream any second now.”
“I’m glad you had fun,” Chris said, trying to ignore the jumping jacks in his stomach that were celebrating the fact that she wasn’t going to keep seeing JC.
“JC is hot. He’s funny and nice. Not unlike someone else I know,” she said, giving Chris a look.
“I’m not nice,” Chris said, and she ignored him.
“He treated me good, and there were sparks between us. But JC’s…kinda like a firework. It’s all ooh and ahh and pretty…and then it fizzles and falls back to Earth.” Lara took a bite of the very end of Chris’ omelet. “I’m not big on the fizzle. Now and then, okay, but I want something more substantial. I prefer a candle to a firework, I think.” She stole another piece of toast.
“God, do you just want my damn breakfast?” Chris snapped.
“No. You probably put icky cheese in that thing. I’ll eat something after I shower.” Lara stood. “Chris, thank you for everything.”
“What wonderful thing did I do now? Make sure and tell my Mom.”
“I’m sure running into me was awkward, and now…you know…me just wandering in after being away all night. Thanks for not making it weird.”
“Everything I do is weird,” Chris said, but her took her hand and kissed it before going back to his paper. “And brush your teeth. You smell like JC and booze.”
“What a great combination,” Lara said with a grin, but she went upstairs.
The rest of her time passed quickly, and before she knew it, she was starting to pack to go back home. Lara frowned as she shoved socks into the corners of her suitcase. Things were not quite normal with Chris, and she couldn’t put her finger on it. She continued to try and ignore the way he had sang to her on the dance floor, because it couldn’t be true. Chris couldn’t…didn’t…like her as any more than his friend, could he?
Lara sat on the bed, socks in hand. He treated her the same way he always had, but she felt him looking at her differently. As if she were some woman he had just met. And THAT was the weird part. He saw her as a woman, and it was like he didn’t know what to do with it. Sometimes he gave her a smile that just seemed warmer, different. And she liked feeling his attention that way, she had to admit. She had struggled through a crush on him for years, and she thought she had those feelings tucked away. But the way Chris looked at her, or held her hand for a moment, or even the softness of his lips on her forehead when he hugged her goodnight every night…it was something she couldn’t ignore.
The ding of her cellphone snapped her out of her reverie. “Hello? Yes, this is Lara Logan.”
Chris was struggling up the steps with a basket of laundry when he heard Lara scream. “CHRIS! Oh, my God, CHRIS!”
“Holy shit!” Chris said, jumping and frantically trying to keep his balance. He regained his footing as fast as he could and made his way up the steps. “What? Are you okay? Holy hell!” Chris almost fell into the basket as he tried to put it down and keep walking at the same time.
“I’m fine, I’m sorry,” Lara said, laughing through her tears. She threw her cell onto her bed and started jumping up and down. Then she got on the bed and started jumping and down ON the bed.
“What’s gotten into you, freak?” Chris eyed her suspiciously. “Did JC get you hooked on drugs?”
“JC does drugs?” Lara stopped jumping.
“No. I’m kidding.”
“Good, because drugs suck and I would have to kick his scrawny hot ass.” Lara continued jumping. “Come jump with me.”
Chris shrugged and hopped up on the bed, thankful that it had a fairly new, strong mattress. “Why are we pretending to be kangaroos?”
“Because I just got a call back from that very first interview…” Lara stopped jumping. “They want me. They want to hire me. As in give me a desk and a phone and a computer and a paycheck.”
“Oh, baby, that’s GREAT!” Chris jumped off the bed and pulled her down into a hug, swinging her around. “That means…that means you’ll be back! You can live here forever!”
“Yes, I will! I mean, no!”
Chris stopped twirling, trying to get his balance. “What?”
“I mean, I’ll have to move HERE, and everything, but I’ll be getting my own place.” Lara tried to focus.
“Of course. That’s what I meant!” Chris hugged her again. “I’m so proud of you! We have to do dinner. Tonight. To celebrate.” Chris dug in his pocket for his own phone. “We’ll call Lance and JC, make them come. One of them will pay.” He looked at her. “That okay?”
“Of course,” Lara said. She had talked to JC a few times on the phone, but they hadn’t made any future plans to see each other. “It’ll be fun. I have another new dress to try out.”
“Good God, the first one was bad enough,” Chris groaned. “You looked…”
“You’ll be safe,” Lara promised, getting back up on the bed and jumping again.
“Lara, you look good enough to eat,” Lance said as she and Chris approached the table. He stood and kissed her cheek.
“Thanks,” she said, blushing. “Just a little black dress. All girls should have one.”
“How many do you have, Lance?” Chris asked, nodding to JC before he sat down.
“Three,” Lance replied immediately.
Lara laughed as she hugged JC. JC hugged her back and kissed her neck in the exact place where he had left the mark before. “You look great,” he murmured.
“Stop,” she said, blushing more. He held out her chair. “GENTLEMAN,” she pointed out to Chris.
“Full of shit,” Chris retorted.
“I ordered champagne,” Lance said. “To celebrate. Hope no one minds.”
“That sounds wonderful. Thanks, Lance.” Lara flipped her napkin in her lap. JC reached over and grabbed her hand, briefly squeezing it.
“Congratulations, Lara. This is really great.”
“My God, JC, you already got her into bed. Do you need to keep kissing up?” The words were out before Chris could stop them.
“Well, if I didn’t already feel like a whore for putting out on the first date, I do now,” Lara said, smiling sweetly at Chris. “Thank you, Chris.”
“What the hell, Chris?” JC hissed.
“Nothing. Sorry. Uncalled for.” Chris couldn’t meet Lara’s eye. “Completely out of line.”
“Damn fucking skippy it was,” Lara snapped in a whisper. Chris began to stab the tablecloth with his fork. “And quit mutilating the table linen. Your pout isn’t that good, I’ll forgive you in five minutes, and you’re acting about six years old.”
“So, if you’re a whore for putting out on the first date, what does that make JC?” Lance asked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Sexy,” Lara said, at the same time Chris said, “A whoremonger?” and JC said, “Damn lucky?” Everyone laughed, and Chris finally met Lara’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said, one last time, and she knew he meant it.
“Forgiven,” she whispered.
The champagne came and was poured. “A toast,” Chris said suddenly. “To the smartest, funniest, wittiest, most gorgeous Pennsylvania transplant ever.”
“A transplant? God, I feel like a disease or something,” Lara said, giggling.
“To one of the strongest women I ever met, because she puts up with Chris, on PURPOSE,” Lance said, clinking his glass against hers.
“You put up with me,” Chris pointed out.
“It was my job. I was paid to be in NSYNC, and paid to put up with you,” Lance reminded him. Chris nodded thoughtfully.
“To one of the sexiest women I ever danced with,” JC said. “Who is definitely strong for putting up with Chris.”
“He’s not that hard to put up with,” Lara insisted. “You guys did it.”
“Paid for it,” JC reminded her.
The waiter came over just in time to keep Chris from making a snide comment about JC. They ordered, and Lance refilled their glasses. “Tell us about the job. When do you start? What’s going on?”
“Well…I told them I need a few months to get things together back home. I mean, I need to pretty much move my life. Get out of my apartment lease, things like that. I expect to be coming back here around the beginning of October, probably.”
“You’ll be here for Lance’s Halloween party!” Chris exclaimed. “It will be even better than this party was!”
“I don’t know…this party was pretty good,” JC said, and Lara blushed.
“The only way the Halloween party could be better than this one is if I get to have sex with Lance,” she said, and Lance choked on his champagne. JC and Chris burst out laughing. “So I guess this party will just have to be the best, then.”
They were halfway through their meals when Lance said, “Do you want me to start making calls for you? To find an apartment?”
“Wow, that’d be great, but Chris…”
“Trust me,” Chris said. “Lance knows someone in EVERY business. He knows a good realtor, thrust me. He probably knows good porn stars.”
“Gay or straight?” Lance said, and laughed.
“Well, as long as you didn’t star in it…” Chris began.
“Chris, keep your ass in line,” JC interrupted, doing a double-take as he looked over Lara’s shoulder.
“Hey, guys,” a voice said behind Lara. She turned around and looked up into the smiling blue eyes of Justin Timberlake. “How are you?”
“Hey, Justin.” Lance got up and hugged him. “I thought JC said you were flying out this week.”
“Things got delayed,” Justin said, shrugging. “Hey, Chris.”
“Hey, Curly,” Chris said nonchalantly. “Good to see you.”
“Curly? Hardly,” Justin said, running a hand over his short hair. “And is this your friend from Pennsylvania?”
Lara stood up, her legs shaking. “Yes, I’m Lara. I know Chris from a long time ago.”
“So I hear.” Justin shook her and smiled into her eyes. Lara felt her knees go weak.
“But she’s not a Pennsylvania for much longer,” JC said. “She’s making the move to LA.”
“It’s a fun city,” Justin said. “I’m sure Chris will get you ALL settled in. Not like you have much else to do, huh, Chris?” Justin laughed.
Lara frowned. “I’m sure he will help me. If there’s anything Chris is, it’s loyal to his friends. Never forgets them.” She sat back down and took a large gulp of champagne.
Lance hid a laugh in his napkin. JC’s eyebrow raised but he simply said, “I hope you have a safe trip back to New York, Justin.”
“Thanks, Jayce. I’ll call you if I need to come back to mix anything else. Have a good night, everyone.” Justin walked away without another word.
“Oh, fuck, did I just do that?” Lara buried her face in her hand. “I just mouthed off at Justin Freaking Timberlake. Who I was just introduced to.” She looked and Lance, then JC. “I’m so sorry…he’s your friend. I had no right.”
“You had every right,” Lance said. “Justin is really good at being a dickhead. He doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.”
“He does,” JC corrected. “He doesn’t always care.”
“I didn’t like the way he said that to Chris,” Lara explained. “I…”
“Still have to fight the bullies for me, huh?” Chris said, but he smiled. “Thanks.”
“Well.” Chris handed over the last of Lara’s suitcases to the man at the check-in counter. “Looks like you’re ready to go. I wish you’d let me sit and wait with you.”
“Yeah, because sitting with you to wait for ANYTHING is such a good time,” Lara said, rolling her eyes. “You have the patience of a…I don’t even know what.”
“I don’t want you to have to sit alone.”
“I’ll be fine. I have my laptop, a good book, and an iPod full of new tunes,” Lara said. Chris had insisted on replacing most of her music with songs from his own collection. “I’ll be great.”
“Call me when you’re home,” Chris said, pulling her into his arms. “I’ll miss you so much. My house will be so freaking empty. You’re loud, obnoxious, messy, ate me out of house and home…”
“That’s YOU,” she said.
“Oh, yeah.” He ran a hand over her hair. “Call when you’re home.”
“Yes, Dad,” Lara said obediently. She looked up into his eyes and froze. There was that look again. That tender depth to the brown eyes that curled around her heart and squeezed. “Chris…”
“Have a safe trip.” His lips brushed against her so gently she swore it was her imagination. “I’ll talk to you soon.” Chris turned on one heel and walked out of the airport before she could say anything else.