Sometimes I want to call you baby, just because I know how much you hate it. Youíve been the young one, the cute one, the baby, for far too long, and youíve become increasingly intolerant since it first started. You were the one with the curls, the wide white smile, the huge blue eyes. Babyface, wet mouth. Cherub curls. I recognized it in you the first time I saw you, and so did the rest of the world.

You always react to it somehow; you can never just ignore it. At fifteen, laughing it off, making a joke of it. At sixteen, masking frustrated tears with a sneer. At seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, sighing like its just another part of your job that you hate, but canít avoid.

And now, you, at twenty, more of a man than any of us, spitting fire when you get called the baby. When Britney called you her baby you threw a lamp and didnít speak to her for three months, and when you finally called her up it was to call it all off. She should have known better, she should have known you better, she should have known.

We know, and we donít ever call you anything but Justin. Thatís why youíll never leave us, no matter how many offers you get, asking you to put out a solo cd. The ones who offer are the ones who still call you the baby, but we never do, and so you stay.

Youíre still the baby of us, in many ways, but in many more ways, you are the most mature. Youíve been surrounded by the smog of celebrity since you were just a child; you have grown up with it and it has stunted you, like a kid who has inhaled Mommyís cigarette smoke and still coughs at twenty-five. It has carved you from a soft thing into a diamond wrapped in black velvet. Pretty, pretty sheen, sharp edges, cloaked in softness and darkness.

I get to see the darkness. I get to see the softness.

I get to see you, but Iím not even sure if you want me to see you, or if youíre just so used to me that itís like being alone. Maybe youíre only so naked with me because thereís no way to cloak yourself from me. Iíve known you forever; we were baby celebrities togetheróyou and me and Britney and Christina.

Itís almost ironic. Back then we were so adult, so mature, all of us jaded child stars, and they forced sweetness and innocence down our throats. All-American dreams, all of us; big smiles and mouse ears. Now we are weak, vulnerable, naÔve, shielded from reality by the golden gleam of fame, but they force high-heeled shoes and sex onto the girls, making them child strippers, tiny Lolitas. They turn us into fresh-faced teenage wet dreams with dark sides, our hips touching the stage as we drop to our knees.

Britney tries to be exactly what they want her to be, without the smokescreen. She gets caught drunk on camera; she swears a blue streak when she knows they can hear her; she gets her tits done and shakes them on a table at a nightclub where photographers are. Christina just gets tinier and tinier, retreating back into that place, into that person she was before. Smooth, flat lines of no hips beneath the fishnets; hair bleached the platinum that only five-year olds have naturally.

And us? We cope with it by doing this, exactly what weíre doing right now. Youíre lying in my arms, naked in more ways than one. Your sweat is rubbing off on me; my cum is coating your stomach. We are breathing the same air.

You have a faraway look on your face. I hope youíre thinking of me, but Iím pretty sure that youíre not. Maybe Iím just a distraction to you, a method of being the opposite of how they want you to be, but I might be more. Weíve known each other forever. In many ways I am you. Iíve been here since I was a kid, too. I still cough at twenty-five.

Youíre the baby, but Iím the childlike one; the one who keeps hoping.

I always hope for more from you, and you always give it to me. But now I want something else.

I want to push my boundaries with you. I want to know how much youíll let me get away with, how much youíll put up with, how much you love me.

I want to call you baby, but I donít want it enough to lose you.


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