JC tugged his dark blue baseball hat down so it blocked most of his face. The last thing he wanted tonight was to be recognized. Not on one of these nights. These were special to him. Only on these nights could he go out unknown for once in his life.
He told Tony he didn't think he could make it.
It was a lie.
It was always a lie with JC.
Every time JC was in town, Tony would call, so glad to know JC was around. Every time he'd ask him to come and see one of his shows. Every time JC said no.
It wasn't easy for JC to say no. He could feel Tony's happy attitude just melt away every single time it happened. It happened far too often. It made him want to change his mind and say yes.
He never did.
Opening the door to the club, a cloud of smoke, small but visible rolled out. He blindly handed the doorman a 10-dollar bill before walking inside. The smoke stung his eyes but he didn't care. Slowly he moved himself to the bar, all the while searching the room with roaming eyes.
He found him.
He was setting up onstage, wearing that neon sign of a cowboy hat that JC found oddly endearing.
Gripping his beer, he swung it gently between his forefinger and thumb at the neck as he walked over to the chair farthest from Tony possible.
It didn't mean JC never saw the shows though. He told Tony no, but he was always there. Always. Every show that Tony called and invited him to. It was the hardest thing for JC to watch. He'd see Tony onstage singing his heart and soul out and it would tear JC apart with jealously. He didn't want his best friend to see him like that. So torn...
Tony was up there singing songs that meant something. What was he singing about? Oh baby, I want you back? Please. His heart wasn't into that shit. Not that dribble called music that Justin manufactured for himself, to boost his career before the group. To please his millions of screaming prepubescent girl fans.
It wasn't even just Justin that popped out bull and called it a hit song. Hell, he had done that several times by now. Cheap. Pop. Music. That's all it was. Nothing more. Max Martin could slam out something similar, probably better, without blinking. It just put his efforts to shame. Why create something so meaningless and try and convince yourself you're proud of it?
He never wanted to do pop music. He remembered when music meant something to him. He and Tony had plotted to do something together musically if the group fell through. He couldn't help but wish it had.
JC relaxed in his chair, giving a deep sigh. He lifted the bottle up to his lips, wincing at the bitter taste. He brought it back to his mouth, warming himself up to the alcohol. Satisfied, he set the bottle down on the table, the lights dimming at the same time.
There was a soft applause that was neither welcoming nor rude. JC just sat there, resting his elbows on the table, waiting for Tony to speak so he could begin listening.
There he was, winning the small crowd over already when he hadn't even played a note. He had everyone in room smiling and laughing from a little introduction and joke.
Always so fucking polite and humble. That was Tony in a nutshell. That's what made everyone love him and want to be around him. Why couldn't he be a cocky bastard like JC had sometimes gotten a reputation for? Was it the fame? No. Even when they were on MMC, Tony was still so sickenly sweet to everyone. Back then, Tony was the one everyone loved. The tons of girls screamed Tony's name.
All of his life he had played second best. Second to Tony. Second to whoever Nikki had been screwing while he was gone. Second to the untouchable Timberlake. The latter two didn't really bother him though. Not as much as the first anyhow. Tony still got to him. Tony was ahead of everyone. He always had been.
He was the one everyone predicted would do amazing things. Where had those predictions gotten him? Playing in smokey bars, lousy pay. But he was happy...
JC was playing to millions of people at a time. He was making millions of dollars to go with those millions of fans. He was meeting celebrities while becoming a bigger one himself everyday. But he wasn't happy...
He doing his thing, and he didn't find it fun anymore. It was never what he wanted to begin with.
JC started chewing his lip, watching Tony play. Long fingers gently plucking the strings. Beautiful melodies spilled from not only his lips and fingers but from him, himself. He was his own song. So honest and open out there.
The anger. Resentment. Bitterness.
He wanted to be like Tony so much. He yearned to be what Tony was. He wanted to be Tony.
He wanted to be happy.
The smoke was starting to get to his eyes. That's what he told himself. Tony was playing the last bars of some heartbreaking song while JC tipped back the rest of his beer, ignoring the burning in the back of his throat. He got up slowly, vaguely hearing Tony thanking the crowd.
"So fucking humble.." muttered JC under his breath, shaking his head, almost smiling.
JC made his way to the door before turning around to look at Tony.
To see music at it's best.
He had started another song. "Crazy." JC knew all Tony's songs by heart. Tony looked up briefly and directly at JC, before giving a soft, surprised smile.
JC just took off his hat, turned, and walked out of the club.