aj contemplates

Interview #1

Q: So, tell me about your first album.

A: (pause) Do you want the stock answer, or the real answer?

Q: Whatever you feel like telling us.

McLean pauses for a long time, taking long drags off his cigarette as his other hand picks at the hem of his shirt. He seems nervous, almost like a child about to own up to a misdeed.

A: I don't think I've told anyone else about this in some other interview, so uh. You know. I'm in a weird nostalgic mood today, so why not? I wrote all the songs while I was fresh from the breakup with my very first boyfriend. He - it was a really serious relationship. I think we actually thought we were going to be together forever.

Q: But it didn't work out?

A: (wry smile) Uh uh.

Q: So all the feelings, the events described in your songs -

A: (nodding) Are true. There isn't a single emotion or event or fight that I made up in there. Five Times really is about the night we had sex five times in a row, and Blue Eyed Wonder, well. He had the most amazing pair of blue eyes. (laughs) I was young, man. We both were.

Q: The one song that seems to be getting the most attention is Tiger. It's my favourite song off the album, actually.

A: Thank you.

Q: It sounds especially heartfelt, and my girl friends all swear they think you're about to cry in the last chorus.

A: That's because I actually did cry at the end of the recording.

Q: What's that song about? A lot of people have different interpretations of it. A friend of mine thinks it's about the fragility of love, another one thinks it's you singing to your ideal lover.

A: (laughs) Wow, they really think that? That's great.

Q: I've got a bet to settle here, so which is it?

A: 'Tiger' is - it's. It's kinda embarrassing actually. (pause) You know how I said earlier that all the songs were about my ex? That used to be my nickname for my him. I only ever called him that in private. The song's kinda like a combination love letter and apology to him.

Q: Apology?

A: Yeah. I - I did him wrong. I made a huge mistake, and that's why we broke up.

Q: I'm sorry to hear that.

A: (shrugs) Stuff like that happens. People come and go, relationships fizzle out. But I'm very, very happy in the relationship I'm in now. (McLean is referring to his partner of five years, JC Chasez, the prominent music producer that also co-wrote and co-produced McLean's album.) I can honestly say that he completes me, and - there's just a lot of history with us. I can't imagine my life without him in it. It's probably a good thing that we work together so much, at least that way we get to see each other even while knee-deep in work.

Q: How does that work? How do you manage to keep personal and business matters separate then?

A: Yeah, it's a tough balance to maintain. I mean, this album really came about when JC was starting to make a name for himself as a producer. At that time we were living in our tiny, old apartment, and one day JC found me reading over the letters my ex had sent me while we were together. I'd written a lot of songs and poetry after that break up, it was cathartic and kind of like therapy for me. JC read a couple of those and told me "these are really good, you should put music to them". Then he took out his guitar and started strumming, and within two months we had thirteen songs that we both really, really liked, and the rest is history.

Q: Isn't it weird to have your current partner working with you on songs you wrote about your ex-boyfriend though?

A: (laughs) Aw, man. He's going to kill me when he hears about this interview. It's okay, I haven't got anything to hide. Yeah, sure it was weird, but...JC's got a great instinct for knowing when stuff has the potential to be a hit. It's part of what makes him so good at what he does. And I think - I think in a way he was glad to read them, like it almost reinforced whatever we had between us. It shone some light on a part of my life that he didn't really know about before, and with me I - I try to be as honest as I can. What you see is what you get.
aj sincerely yours

FUTUREFIC: Breaking Point

"I don't deserve you," AJ said one night, when they were in the middle of a movie. The lights were turned down and they were snuggled together on the couch, the only one Justin found at Goodwill that could fit into the tiny living room when they first moved in. AJ had long gotten bored of the action on the screen, and his mind had drifted off to thoughts about the day's events. It'd been a pretty normal day, really. After their classes they both went to their favourite pizza place, and then they'd taken a long walk around the park, JC's arm around him all the while. Then they walked past the basketball court, and when they watched a couple of kids try to outdo each other with three-pointers it suddenly hit him.

It'd been six full months since the break up. Six months since JC had moved in -- to take Justin's place, AJ thought -- and one month since he'd told JC he was ready to move on. It'd also been six and a half months since he'd been fucked, but that thought was too depressing for AJ to even dwell on.

"I don't deserve you," AJ repeated when JC didn't respond. "I'm a horrible person that cheated on my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. With someone that he was jealous of because he knew I still had feelings for him. And then I went ahead and kissed that someone anyway."

AJ watched JC's chest rise and fall as he sighed. "AJ, it wasn't your fault," JC said, finally, his voice quiet and neutral. "I was the one that kissed you, not the other way around. I was the one that dicked around with you even when I knew you had feelings for me." He tightened his arm around AJ's waist, drawing him closer.

AJ blinked and looked down, avoiding JC's eyes. He picked at a hangnail as he said "I liked being dicked around by you. I didn't - "

"Don't say that," JC said, cutting him off, and there was definitely an edge to his voice that hadn't been there before. "Don't. I shouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place. I thought. If I'd known just how strongly you felt about me - "

"That's a fucking lousy excuse, and you know it. You knew, JC. You knew." AJ's voice was thick with emotion, and it took all his willpower to choke back the tears that he knew were going to come. "But you weren't ready and you weren't looking for a relationship then, and I respected that. Christ, I pined for you for so long, and - and. Fuck, I loved Justin, I really did, but I couldn't stop thinking about you!"

AJ pulled away from JC then, getting up and moving quickly to the bathroom. But before he took more than five steps JC had caught up to him, catching hold of his wrist and pulling him into a full body hug. AJ gave in, heaving out a dry sob. "I couldn't stop thinking about you," he said in a small voice. "And now I'm with you and I can't stop thinking about how stupid I was to throw away everything I had with Justin and - fuck, Jayce. You don't want to be with me. You're too good for me. I'm a horrible person."

JC curled a hand around the back of AJ's neck, thumb rubbing a steady rhythm into his skin, holding AJ close to him. He didn't move when AJ clung tighter to him, held him until AJ's shuddering breaths evened out.

"Honey, you can't help what you feel sometimes," he said finally. "Hell, it took me years to figure out that it was you I wanted, not all the one night stands. You're not a horrible person. If anything, I'm the one that doesn't deserve you, and you have every right to step away from this right now if you think you can't deal with me. I'm not going to hold anything against you."

AJ lifted his head up slowly. "JC," he said, looking him in the eye. "You know me better than anyone. It's all or nothing with me, I don't want a 'get out of jail free' card."

"So which is it?"

AJ paused. "I don't know," he said calmly, evenly.

When JC next spoke, it was in a whisper so raspy that he hardly recognised it as his own voice. "Are you just using me now, then?"

AJ's jaw clenched. "I don't know."

JC brought his hand to AJ's face, cupping his cheek so tenderly that it made AJ tremble. "AJ, I lo - "

"Don't fucking say it!" AJ yelled, and shoved him away abruptly, a wild look in his eyes. "Don't you dare."

Then he ran out the door before JC could answer.


Justin doesn't do much of anything that first night. He puts his Nikes away, drops his overnight bag on Nick's bed, and spreads himself out on the floor. Nick just lets him, just gets up wordlessly and draws the curtains without having to be told, locks the door, and goes back to fiddling with his laptop.

Pretends to, at least, but Justin's listening for the steady 'plick' of the keyboard, the comfort in their usual routine, and it never comes.

He watches the ceiling in the dark, counting the heartbeats between each breath, onetwo onetwo onetwo until he can't anymore. Until every inhale runs into an exhale, harsh and ragged. Until his vision goes glassy.

Nick slides onto the floor beside him, then, close enough that their thighs are touching, and he can feel the muscle shifting under Nick's arm. "You about done here?" Nick asks, after another second of silence. It's meant to be a brush-off, but his tone is a little too gentle to be convincing. "Do I need to give McLean lessons on how to deal with your post-Trace shit?"

Justin's pulse stumbles and he shakes his head, blindly. "It's not," he says, but he chokes on the words, trying to breathe past the sudden, sharp clench in his chest. Nick is very, very still. "I can't go back there. AJ--" The name is so bitter in Justin's mouth that he snaps it closed. Shakes his head again. He can't talk about this now.

Nick's quiet for a second, then he swears under his breath. "That son of a bitch. I'm going to fucking kill him."

There's a hollow note in Justin's watery laugh, and he's pretty sure that's the only thing that keeps Nick stationary. "Think I need rescuing, Carter?"

"Justin," Nick says.

Justin swipes a rough, angry hand over his face. "Yeah."

Nick anchors a hand on his shoulder, a warm, reassuring weight. "It's gonna be okay."
it's a long way down


Some days AJ still feels raw, raw, raw, and whenever he's out walking from class to class it feels like he's got this big gaping wound that everyone is staring at. He's pretty sure Justin hadn't told anyone other than Nick, and to every one of their friends it just looks like they'd had a fairly normal break up, just like everyone else.

Every one of their friends, except JC.

JC had been remarkably patient with him. AJ doubted if even Justin knew exactly when he needed comfort and when he needed to be alone, but JC always, always knew. He moved back in quickly, without any fuss, once Justin had moved to Nick's place, and sometimes it felt like old times when they'd first shared a room together.

These days though, they spend long hours wrapped around each other in bed. AJ needed the comfort desperately, and JC was always there to provide it.

"It'll get better," he said, once. "And whatever you do, I'm here for you, okay? I - I want this. I still want you. But not until you think you're ready. I don't want to push you."

AJ's response to that had been a sigh, tightening his arms around him. JC just smiled and pressed another kiss to AJ's forehead.
aj hoodie

AJ and Justin Talk. Again.

AJ didn't know what possessed him to say yes.

It'll be fun, Justin had said. We just need to make up the numbers, he said. Hey, you're on my team, we'll win, and I'll tell the guys to go easy on your non-sporty ass, he said.

AJ had never been good at sports in the first place, but he wasn't expecting an on-court collision with one of Justin's teammates, that ended up with him pinned down under him -- pinned down, for crying out loud -- and then it was all AJ could do to grit his teeth and not pass out.

The signs were all there: racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, that undeniable sense of panic, and oh, fuck.

AJ and Justin have Angry Hot Sex.

"No," Justin snapped into his cell phone, as he shoved the door to his room open with his shoulder. "We've already gone over this, and I'm not going to - no. No, I haven't changed my mind. No, it's not open to discussion. Why do you - yes, yes, I'm sure."

He saw AJ sit up on the bed, look concerned. A second later, the TV was turned off.

Justin pinched the bridge of his nose. "Mom, don't - I know. I know that, okay? Do you have to use the boys as an -- Mom. Ma." Justin looked at his cell, disgustedly, then flung it across the room. There was silence, and then Justin shrugged his jacket off.

AJ was still, watching him carefully, waiting for his next move.

"Fuck me," Justin growled, peeling his shirt off as he advanced towards the bed. Two long strides and he was there, hovering over AJ, already fumbling with his the fly of his jeans. "Fuck me, right fucking now."
bitch please

Things come to a Head.

On hindsight, they couldn't have kept it up forever. Somehow both moms found out that Justin had moved into AJ's room, and all hell broke loose. Justin's mom even threatened to drive up to the dorm to find out what the hell was happening, but after much teeth gnashing and yelling over the phone, Justin managed to talk her down. AJ opted for the easier route, and didn't pick up his cell when "Mom" appeared on his caller ID.

To say that things were tense was an understatement. AJ constantly felt on edge, and his usual reaction was to just clam up and keep to himself, but Justin kept on wanting to talk about every damn thing, from what food to get, to how cute Matt Damon was in the latest Bourne movie, to bitching about whatever his teammates did at practice that day.

Mostly AJ just wanted to throw a pair of his beloved Nikes right smack into Justin's face.

AJ and Justin learn to Adjust

It'd been a couple of days since they'd moved in together. The first thing they'd done, after getting everything that needed to be in the room past the front door, was lock it. Then they surveyed the room, looked at the boxes of things that needed to be sorted and put away, and decided to push both the single beds together and climb in and christen it.

That was pretty much what they spent the next two days doing, as well, so organizing had been a tad more delayed than they'd expected. But everything had finally been put in their rightful places - except for a couple of Justin's older pairs of Nikes, which AJ pointed out were not going to fit anywhere but below the bedside tables, and the food, which they were completely out of - and Justin had just settled down to writing out a grocery list when AJ came into the room, carrying a large box of pizza.

"I could kiss you right now," Justin said, standing to greet him with a huge, relieved grin. "In fact, I think I will."