JC clicked off the television, silencing the obnoxious Australian women selling Nad's as quickly as he'd seen them appear. His hotel room was a mess, and he made a mental note to straighten it up, seeing as how he was stuck in it for nearly a week while they were in L.A. working on the album. It made more sense just to stay at his home but he wasn't quite done moving it in yet - no living room furniture or food in the kitchen; only a bed and some of his clothes were there thus far - and the truth was that he'd come to love hotel beds and hotel smells after so many years.
"Are you tired?" he heard, and he shifted on his bed to see Lance stretched out beside him, eyes closed but obviously not asleep. Complaining of boredom, Lance had come in around eleven o'clock that night, and they'd spent up until then watching cable and counting all the dead people on the Saturday Night Live reruns that Comedy Central pimped unabashedly. There had been a few beers passed around as well, but neither were drunk enough to even have it show up on a breathalyzer.
"Nah," JC replied, and he stretched out beside Lance. "Bored, still."
He watched Lance smile, and his eyes opened to search the roof. "You're usually asleep by like ten," Lance said. "It shocked the shit out of me when I found you awake in here."
JC grinned, and he picked at the hem of his shirt. "Well usually I can sleep if I'm not bored, but when there's nothing to do I just can't call it a night."
"That makes no sense."
"I know. I just can't go to bed bored."
They stayed quiet for a little while longer, and JC's eyes went to the roof as well in search of whatever Lance was looking for.
"Did you ever see those pictures of Prince when he would write the word 'slave' on his face?" Lance asked. The oddness of the question made JC's brow wrinkle.
"If you could write anything on your body, what would it say?"
Immediately the thought of a tattoo entered his mind, and he shivered just from the visual of it.
"I ain't gettin' a tattoo, Lance," he said, and Lance laughed at the way the thought made his friend shake.
"I'm not talkin' about a tattoo, silly!" Lance said. He sat up then, shifting into an Indian-style sitting position and turning towards JC. "I'm talking about just writing. I read somewhere that in Japan it's considered really sexy to write poetry on someone." Lance shrugged, and his eyes left JC's for a moment. "If you could have one poem written on you, what would it be?"
JC sat up too, leaning back against the wall, and he began to think.
"Well, there was this one sonnet we had to read in high school that I really liked," JC said, rubbing at the stubble on his chin. "It was Shakespeare, but that's too typical. Probably something romantic like McKuen or something."
Lance just nodded and patted his pocket, and he looked back at JC with a slight blush in his features.
"Take off your shirt."
JC blinked at the request. Did Lance plan to write on him? Why has he producing a marker from his pocket, and why was he removing his shirt too?
"Lance, I don't know about this-"
"Relax," Lance said, and he crawled around to hop off of the bed and kneel beside it. JC looked down at his friend, his friend with hopeful eyes and a wide smile. "I just wanna try it, that's all. And you know I don't have a girlfriend or anything, I figured I could use one of you guys."
"Well, why me?"
"Because you've got the nicest skin."
And all of that nice skin was blushing now that JC was removing his shirt.
"Justin's got nice skin too."
For a moment, JC thought that Lance hadn't heard him. The tip of the marker tickled JC's skin with every pass it made on his back, and he could feel Lance's gentle breathing gliding across his back with every breath he took. JC had laughed at first when he saw that the marker was one of those scented Crayola ones, but now he didn't mind the blueberries that littered his back as Lance would write two or three words in each area before moving on.
"And he's got freckles too. On his shoulders. You coulda played 'connect the dots'."
JC laughed at his joke, but Lance didn't. He couldn't see Lance, he could only feel him, hovering inches away from his skin.
"So what," Lance said. "Your skin's the nicest."
JC stood up and went to the mirror, taking a seat on the dresser and craning his head around so that he could read everything that Lance had written. Words and phrases littered his back, simple utterances of whatever Lance had been feeling at the time - ennui, warmth, skin like silk, aren't you ticklish?, this curve is beautiful (and that was written right in the curve of his left shoulderblade) - and right at the bottom of his back, right above the top of his boxers, it read, I love to play in the rain, but sometimes I'm afraid that lightning will hit me. JC burst into laughter, clapping his hands briskly and turning to face Lance, who was pretending not to be embarrassed by JC's laughter even though he was turning bright red.
"Lightning won't hit you," JC said. "You'd just as soon get killed by Russian terrorists as you would get struck by lightning."
Lance shook his head and turned away, crossing his arms over his pale chest. "It was a scare tactic used by my dad to get Stacy and me to come in out of the rain," he explained, and he tossed a smile over his shoulder at JC. "I guess it stuck."
Lance's back was like a clean canvas. Like a fresh piece of sheet music. Ready to be creative on, played with, and produced on. JC hopped up and sat on Lance's thighs, leaning down over his back and taking a moment to enjoy the scent his skin held. The boy smelled like laundry detergent, shampoo, soap. Soon he will smell like blueberries, JC thought, and he grinned as he lowered the marker to Lance's right shoulderblade. Like me.
Lance strained to read every word that JC had written, all much like what Lance had written earlier - peekaboo, you should read the Tao Te Ching, you're ticklish too, I'm hungry - and he had even gone so far as to write one long sentence at the bottom of Lance's back as well: Don't worry about the lightning. It tickles.
To get clean, they both stripped down to their boxers and climbed into the spacious shower of their suite, taking soap and rags and washing each other's backs clean. Lance frowned as skin like silk melted away beneath his washcloth, and he used broad sweeps of his hands to make JC's back the clean pallet that it had been earlier.
"I enjoyed this," JC said as he wiped at Lance's shoulders and arms. "We should do this again."
"Yeah," Lance replied, and he looked over his shoulder and through the steam of the shower to smile big at JC. "Let's do that."
Lance bought several books of poetry the next day - Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Alan Ginsburg and JC's favorite, Rod McKuen - and when JC came back from the studio sleepy and exhausted, Lance told him to lie on his stomach and just go to sleep. He climbed JC's thighs, leaned over him with his books and began to transcribe single lines of poetry onto JC's body, letting, 'Let's walk in the streets of Harlem together,' run from his shoulderblades around and down to his elbow and writing, 'Sunlight still. A little more. The afternoon ahead might not stop or come at all,' right along the edge of his underwear. This time JC would smell like strawberries. When Lance was done, he leaned down and kissed JC's back, then slid off of him and slept beside him.
Before they went out some nights, JC would write 'hung motherfucker' right above Lance's crotch where no one would see it, and Lance would laugh out loud as he wrote 'ghetto booty' on JC's left asscheek.
"What if people see these?" JC asked as they entered a club one night, surrounded by bodyguards and their friends.
"If anyone sees these," Lance replied, "then we've got bigger problems than poetry on our asses."
Lance's entire body tensed when he felt a marker, this one green apple, walking up the small of his back. JC, who was already covered in Lance's innermost thoughts, had never written anything there before, and Lance had not been aware of exactly how sensitive that part of his body was. He could feel JC's free hand resting on his side, sliding up slowly with his other hand as it painted words onto his skin.
"What are you writing?" he asked, and he couldn't hide the shiver in his voice.
"Something original," JC replied, and he leaned over and kissed the back of Lance's neck.
Lance shivered, but his body relaxed then, and JC smiled as the tension left Lance. He continued to write, all the way up to the nape of Lance's neck.
"You've got freckles too," JC said softly. "Right here." He leaned over and kissed right at the bottom of Lance's back, the place he always saved for long lines of poetry until now.
When JC dotted his final I, Lance's eyes were closed, and his eyelashes were wet.
"Shh," JC whispered, and he kissed Lance's neck again. He stretched out on his belly, letting his chin rest against Lance's side as he began to read what he wrote.
Sometimes I blush when my thoughts wander about you
They bathed that night instead of showering. The bathroom was a mess by the time they got out of the tub. Almost half of the water spilled out as they rolled around together, pulling at each other and kissing wildly, their fingers smudging beautiful words that they'd penned on each other's bodies.
JC woke up beside Lance early that morning, while L.A. was just turning bright orange and gold. His boy was painted those colors as well, and JC silently wished that he could make Lance that shade of gold.
He picked up a marker off of the bedside table and removed the cap, grinning at the citrus scent as it greeted his nose, and he leaned over Lance and began to write again.
I love you.
He wrote that along the boy's shoulder.
Sometimes I blush when my thoughts wander about you.
Up the small of the boy's back again.
Do you love me?
That went adjacent to the first sentence.
JC laid back down, sliding himself into Lance's arms and going back to sleep.
JC woke up a few hours later, still in the same position as earlier, and he looked on his forearm and saw one word written there.
JC had never seen Lance smile in his sleep before, but he was doing it right then.