we invented the remix 5

in a room full of people by patchworkdragon: the times it by seven mix by terri

Thanks go to nopseud, vaudevilles, msktrnanny and ephemera_pop for beta duties.


It's hell week squared.

Day one and even though they'd already gone from concepts on a page to frantic periods of dancing in the studio, any delusions Chris had held about being tour ready have been smashed repeatedly into the ground this morning.

The floor feels cool when Chris finally gets to sit, trying to get comfortable, knees bent, heels together, arms behind him and palms flat to the ground. He leans back, letting his head drop back and watches an upside down mini show of Girlfriend as performed by Justin and JC. They're mirroring each other easily, expressions serious as they slip effortlessly into the updated routine. Chris hates them, especially when they end with grins and hand slaps, suggesting changes to the choreographer who's watching them work.

"I think I've gone back five years."

Straightening, Chris looks up, over baggy gray pants and white t-shirt, at the stubbled line of Lance's jaw as Lance looks toward Justin and JC.

"That explains it." Chris absently rubs at his right knee, the silence stretching out as he ignores Lance's questioning look.

"I give. Explains what?" Lance has taken a step closer. He looks huge as he stands over Chris.

"That sound. A million hearts breaking as their gay poster boy dives back into the closet." Chris grins up at Lance. "But you can't have gone back five years, that nose is still here."

"I should hope so," Lance says, his expression composed and his smile wide as he toes Chris in the thigh. "And only a million? You underestimate my popularity as gay-list celebrity of the month."

"That's very true." Chris rests his hand on Lance's sneaker, his fingertips against one bony ankle. "Taking on all those awareness issues does give good copy. How many appearances was it this month? Twenty?"

"Twelve and I planted a tree." Lance holds out his hand. "Come on, I'll buy you lunch and tell you all about it."

"Lunch that's provided for free?" Chris grabs Lance's hand, holding tight as he's pulled to his feet. "With an offer like that, how could I refuse?"

"You couldn't." Lance curls his fingers around Chris', even though they're standing hand-in-hand.

"Are we going to skip and sing songs about rainbows too?" Chris pointedly swings their joined hands. "Because I've left my sparkly pants at home, and it's just not the same without them."

Head tilted, Lance deliberately looks down Chris' body. "Sparkly pants are so last year, you look better in the black with the three buttons."

"Well thanks for that, Miss Fashion."

Chris swings their hands harder and while he enjoys the feel of Lance's thumb brushing against the back of his hand, he tries to forget the fact that apparently Lance likes him in the black pants. Which isn't surprising because Chris does have a great ass and those pants show it nicely; still, Lance isn't supposed to look and they're certainly not supposed to stand in the middle of the dance studio holding hands.

"I need to see Johnny about something." Lance suddenly turns around making Chris take a stumbling step forward. "Get me a sandwich, anything but egg, and some water. Make sure it's cold, and if you remember what fruit looks like, I'll have an apple."

"What am I? Your servant?" Chris scowls and makes a show of rubbing his palm down his thigh when Lance finally loosens his grip.

"My slave maybe," Lance says, and he hurries toward the door before Chris can say a word.

"You all signed off on the clothes last week, adding things now isn't an option."

Johnny deals with JC's crestfallen expression by looking away; scanning through the list he's holding. Justin thinks that that's a good tactic. A woeful JC is a powerful thing, and despite the theme of the tour, matching clothes are something Justin really doesn't want to revisit.

Impatient, he bounces on the balls of his feet, waiting for Johnny to finish talking to JC. When he finally leaves with a nod directed Justin's way Justin automatically smiles back, then leaps forward, grabbing JC's arm.

"Chris was holding Lance's hand and I'm not wearing matching shirts."

"Technically they were holding each other's hands." JC looks over at Chris, who's now staring toward the door. "And matching outfits would enhance the theme of the tour."

"The theme. The theme is good memories; not matching tracksuits and rhinestoned costumes of doom." Justin pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and finger, feeling decades older than his actual age.

"I like rhinestones, and anyway, it's good to revisit memories, it keeps things interesting."

JC grins, and his definition of interesting is something Justin doesn't want to know about.

There are tables set up at the back of the arena. They're covered with food, platters of sandwiches and bowls of salad surrounded by individual packages of cookies and chips. The plates are stacked to one side, and Chris is amused to see each one comes complete with an Nsync napkin. He enjoys that touch, especially when he can arrange a slice of pizza across Justin's face.

Lance walks up a folder tucked under his arm. "I can't see my order."

"I know you've got hands." Chris gestures to the plates then returns to fashioning Justin's mustard fro. It's intricate work: the napkin pictures are tiny and already Joey's head is a soggy mayo mess.

"Use this; it'll give more definition."

Lance has wedged the folder behind a bowl of candy bars. Pulling a tiny flag from one of the sandwiches he hands it over, standing so close their arms brush together as Chris uses the stick to tease out mustard curls.

"They need to be bigger," Lance remarks, pointing at a spot inches above napkin-Justin's head. Lance nods in approval when Chris increases the curls. "That's better."

Satisfied, Chris pokes the stick through the napkin, spearing JC's head. "Yeah, it's perfect."

"No, I'm looking at perfect."

Chris looks up and Lance is just there. Eyes huge, his mouth curved into the smallest of smiles. "Dude, that sounds like a line, and if it is, no wonder you're still single. Talk about lame."

"Maybe." Lance shrugs and he's not going anywhere. In fact, he's moving closer still, his words air against Chris' face. "Thing is, there's more, there's this."

Lance's mouth is soft, his tongue warm as he slicks it across Chris' bottom lip, a promise of a touch as he pulls back.

Chris blinks, his fingers slipping and tearing the soggy napkin. "I retract the lame statement."

"I thought so." Looking satisfied, Lance puts a sandwich on his plate. "Get your food, I'll tell you all about the tree planting."


Waking up involves three cups of coffee, two painkillers, a bagel, and ten minutes rubbing his knees. Chris' doctor maintains that they're fine, battered sure, but unlikely to crumble anytime soon. Which is good, and Chris isn't going to dispute that diagnosis, but still. They ache and he hasn't even danced a step today. It's not a good sign.

After parking at the arena, the first person Chris sees is Joey, or more accurately, Joey's ass where he's leaning through the open front window of Kelly's car.

It's too tempting an opportunity to pass up. Approaching slowly, footsteps careful, Chris puts his fingers to his lips when he sees Briahna watching from the back seat. She's grinning a gap-toothed smile, her curls bouncing as she muffles her giggles behind her hands.

More careful steps, and when Chris is within jumping distance he looks at Briahna and winks, holding up his three fingers. Together they silently count down. On one Chris leaps and yells, a screech of sound that makes Joey jump, hitting his head with an audible thump.

"Joey!" His arms around Joey's neck, his knees pressed against Joey's hips, Chris clings on, squirming upwards, his chin digging into Joey's back.

"Morning, Chris." Kelly smiles, and Chris wiggles his fingers in her direction. "I've been listening to those new songs of yours. They're going to be crowd pleasers."

Shifting position, Chris looks at Kelly over the top of Joey's shoulder, ignoring Joey's half-hearted attempts to dislodge him.

"Yeah, well. I had to do something or we'd end up with more of JC's efforts. They're great and all, but I'm too old and fat for that energetic stuff."

"I'll give you old, but some of us like something to hold onto."

"Joey. Your wife just called me fat, and I think she's flirting with me." Grinning back at Kelly, Chris tightens his hold when Joey starts to back out and straighten up.

"That's because you are fat, and she flirts all the time; she's easy like that." Joey's standing now, his laughter a vibration as he hooks his arms under Chris' legs.

"Hey," Kelly protests, her love for Joey obvious in the way she smiles, how she looks when Joey bends to give her a goodbye kiss.

"Have a good day at school, sweetheart." Joey takes back one arm to blow a kiss toward Briahna, who promptly sends one back. Clutching at the air, Joey presses his hand against his chest, then waves when Kelly starts the car and drives away.

Chin propped against Joey's shoulder, Chris waves too, waiting until they drive out of the gates and out of sight.

Chris clicks his tongue. "Get a move on, Joey."

They move, Joey hamming it up with gasps and buckling knees, but his arms remain solid under Chris' legs, his back straight as they head toward the doors.

Justin holds out his hand, stopping JC. "Joey was giving Chris a piggyback."

"And?" JC pushes his sunglasses back on his nose, he's summery in a yellow t-shirt and shorts and it's like looking at the sun, making Justin squint. He knows that JC's laughing at him despite the lack of visible smile.

"And I think it means something. Holding hands with Lance yesterday, on Joey's back today. He's probably suffering some kind of delayed separation anxiety. Watch, he'll be clinging to you next."

JC smiles, his eyes sparkling behind the oversized glasses. "I'd like to think so."

Frustrated, Justin takes a step closer to JC. "We should have spent more time with him during the hiatus."

"Maybe." JC takes off the glasses, hooking then over the neck of his t-shirt. "Maybe we should have all spent more time together, but we didn't, and you're finding problems that aren't there."

He rests his hand on Justin's arm, then snatches it back. "Wait, wouldn't want you to think I was suffering from separation anxiety."

Justin leaves JC laughing at himself, an annoying sound that Justin can still hear when he goes inside and shuts the door.

It feels like it's a thousand degrees behind the stage, the baking shimmering heat of generators and machines, the smell of sweat and oil and the distinct medical taint of the cream that's rubbed into Chris' knees.

He's only been here a few minutes, but already he wants to move, go back to the empty space of the stage, or the cool shade of the picnic benches set up outside.

"Come back after rehearsals, we'll get those adjustments done." Megan looks in her file. It's full of lists and figures and swatches of fabric that hang from the sides, baby-blues and silvers and Chris tries to remember the costumes he'd signed off on.

"That's it." Megan smiles and shuts the file with a dull smack. She's got a hoop circling her lower lip and blonde hair that hair that falls forward into her eyes. She's sarcastic, attractive in an edgy way and Chris enjoys talking to her, bitching about life as she adjusts costumes and threatens to stick him with pins.

She leaves and Chris is alone, listening to the thump of music behind him, the whine of the mobile mini stages as they begin to move.

"I've been looking for you."

Lance is wearing shorts today. They're baggy, ending just above his knees and one side has slipped down, exposing skin.

"Picked up the wrong clothes this morning?"

Reaching out, Chris tugs at the waistline of the shorts. They slip even lower, and Lance places his hand on his hip, fingers pressed against that expanse of skin. "She's not your type."

Chris stares. "I don't have a type."

"You do." There's no hint of smile or a joking comment, just Lance stepping closer. "You like them with long hair and big chests. Legs up to their neck and barely there clothes. You need a change."

"I do?"

Chris doesn't back away from Lance. He holds his ground, unsure where this is going, but willing to find out.

"You do," Lance agrees, and his hands are on Chris' shoulders, his thigh between Chris' legs as they keep backing up, instinctively falling into step. They stop when Chris bumps into one of the metal supports. He can feel the vibrations through his body, the heavy bass sounds seeping bone deep and Lance is tightening his grip, pinning Chris in place.

They're in public and Chris knows this is stupid, but he can't care when he wants this so badly, when Lance's mouth is against his own. Slow kisses with swipes of tongue and Lance is moving his hands lower, nails scratching a trail over Chris' arms, over his hands and Chris is shivering, clinging to Lance, unable to stop moving against him. Circling his hips, needing to be touched as Lance deepens the kiss, runs his tongue over Chris' teeth, the roof of his mouth. A rush of sensation -- sparking nerves and want -- when Lance bites, teeth digging into Chris' lower lip, tugging slightly before licking away the sting with slows laps of tongue.

"You need a change to me," Lance says, his mouth against Chris' ear. "Now, though, we need to go sing." A last nip of lobe, and Lance is abruptly gone, leaving Chris propped against the support, legs weak and heart beating, torn between the urge to hunt Lance down and demand he finish things, or hunt him down and beat him about the head.


The reunion tour had been agreed without any actual agreements at all. A series of phones calls and I thinks, and I miss its and hesitant hopeful we could make time and suddenly they'd agreed to meet.

A coffee shop in the middle of the day, and Justin was there first, nursing a mug and looking down into the steam. Chris watched him from outside and wondered if he even wanted to do this again. Then he was walking inside, the doubt pushed aside as Justin's chair scraped across the ground and he was meeting Chris with a tight hug that was all long arms and hands. JC arrived next, then Joey and Lance. Together as five for the first time in forever.

It was easy to agree to a tour then. Buoyant on memories and recollections, all confident they could do it again. They are doing it again, but it's harder than Chris remembers and sometimes he wonders why he's doing this when he's got nothing left to prove.


JC folds himself down onto the grass. He's wearing baggy capris with tiny sequins around the hem. They catch the light when he moves; glinting sparks that flash silver as JC pulls off his sneakers, dropping them to one side. Pushing his bare toes into the grass, he lies down, his shirt hitching up as he stretches out his arms, basking in the sun.

He looks content and relaxed in turquoise, half smiling, more the JC of before than the intermediate solo years of sharp suits and sculptured hair.

JC tips his head to one side and opens an eye. "Justin thinks you're suffering from delayed separation anxiety."

"Justin thinks a lot of things. It's a bad habit of his." Crumpling his burger wrapper, Chris zips open his bag and grabs his bottle of pills. Popping two out, he swallows them with a drink of juice, then wipes the back of his hand across his mouth. "He thinks you're a sex obsessed perfectionist maniac who needed an intervention."

JC sits abruptly, glaring across at the picnic benches where Justin's sitting with a bunch of crew, telling some story as he eats his lunch. "He said that?!"

"No," Chris admits, laughing when JC scowls before laying back down. "I'm sure he thought it, though."

Hands back behind his head, JC stretches out one leg, his capri pants falling below his knee as he flexes his foot. "So, while we're on the subject of sex. You and Lance?"

"Subtle, C. Real subtle."

JC shrugs, wholly unapologetic. "You've been hanging together, he brings you food, you throw wet towels at him. It's sweet."

"I am not sweet." Chris pulls at the grass, sprinkling a handful onto JC's exposed stomach. "And if hanging out means you're boning someone, well. You and J owe the world an explanation for a start."

"Maybe." JC sweeps the grass away with an idle pass of his hand. "I'm going to have a nap, wake me in five."

"I'll think about it." Legs straight, Chris enjoys the sun, the sound of muted talking, the fingers of his hand brushing against JC's shoulder, waiting for the painkillers to kick in.

"You shouldn't be encouraging him."

JC wakes up slowly; yawning as he opens his eyes. He feels sticky, sun warm and pliant as something jabs at his arm. Peering up at Justin, he lets himself be pulled up, making daisies fall from his hair onto his lap, joining the others that decorate his body, woven in chains around his wrists and between his toes.

"I told you he'd be clinging onto you next."

Justin is standing over JC now, blocking out the sun, the outline of his body shining bright.

"He wasn't clinging." JC yawns again, mouth wide, not bothering to hide behind his hand. "He was supposed to wake me though."

"He told me to wake you, something about his virtue being in danger because you'd admitted to a sex addiction." The bleeding outline of light dances around Justin as he kneels, one hand on JC's knee. "I didn't think it was a problem, but if you need help…."

JC places his hand over Justin's. "I don't. He's just overcompensating."

"About?" Justin questions, brushing blades of grass off JC's shirt and pants.

"About the fact he's going to have sex with Lance, and before you say a word," JC places his hand over Justin's mouth, "they'll be having sex because they love each other and they're hot. No other reason."

Justin considers, his hand still against JC's thigh. "You think they're hot?"

JC smiles as he stands, prepared to explain just how hot thinking about your bandmates can be.


It's no surprise when Lance suddenly appears. It is a surprise when he grabs hold of Chris' hand and pulls him back to a tree, leading him around the trunk until they're out of sight.

"You've got green fingers."

Chris looks at his hand, the way his fingers are entwined with Lance's. "I've been accessorising JC."

"Yeah?" Lance is smiling, shadows from the branches wavering across his face, his eyes glinting as he looks at Chris.

"Yeah, daisies suit him."

"I'm sure they do." Lance tightens his grip, and rests his free hand against Chris' hip. "I've been waiting for you."

Anticipation curls in Chris' stomach. "So I see. Any reason why?"

Lance doesn't hesitate. "Because I want you."

Pleased, Chris can't help a slight curve of smile. "Not to argue with you or anything, because I know I'm hot stuff - thousands of women have told me so - but my genetics don't stretch to buff."

"Yet they stretch to annoying, talkative and blind." Lance's hand is warm, his fingers brushing upwards, skimming over Chris' stomach.

"I'm not your type."

Lance nips; hard. "I know my type, and you're it. Now shut up."

Matching action to his words, Lance does a hip-bump, twist, kiss maneuver that leaves Chris with his back pressing against rough bark. Despite the awareness that they're outside, Chris can't bring himself to care, not when years of casual flirting and pushed aside want are finally becoming reality. He can lose himself in the feel of Lance's mouth, the taste and warmth as he slides his tongue over Lance's bottom lip, the artificial mint of lip-balm combined with the lingering sweetness of soda.

Lance has moved his hand higher, and Chris' t-shirt is being pulled up, exposing his skin to the shadow-diffused heat of the sun, the scratch of bark as he shifts, trying to get even closer, loving the sounds Lance makes as he licks at Chris' mouth, nipping at Chris' lip, scattering kisses down Chris' jaw.

Chris' hands are against Lance's back, fingers digging in, shivering when Lance sucks at the joint of earlobe and neck, his teeth scraping with just that right amount of pressure.

"I swear, if you leave me again." Thoughts of dire revenge slip through Chris' mind then melt away when Lance squirms an arm between their bodies, sliding down, his fingers easing under the waistband of Chris' shorts.

Breathing hard, Chris sucks in his stomach, creating more room, and Lance's laughter is warmth against his face. Warmth that's followed by a demanding kiss, Lance's tongue sweeping over the roof of Chris' mouth, over his teeth, his lips, and he's caught in sensation, the cold scrape against his back, the nip of teeth against his bottom lip, and a warm hand circling his dick.

The touch is sure, and Chris arches into it, hips moving as Lance adjusts his grip. His mouth is against Chris', and they're breathing together, swallowing sounds and muffled words, as Lance alternates light strokes with harder pressure. Increasing the pace, making Chris clench his hands, fighting for control as Lance teases, gently rubbing a thumb over the sensitive head of Chris' dick, through the pre-come and Lance's hand is warm, his fingers maintaining perfect pressure.

Lance loosens his grip, and Chris is teetering on an edge, wanting to grab Lance's hand, demand that he keeps going, but Lance has pulled his hand free, is bringing it to his mouth, slowly licking down his palm, sucking at his own fingers, slowly dragging each finger from between pursed lips.

Chris watches each finger, and he's panting, needing to be touched. Gasping when Lance's hand returns, slippery heat, matching Chris' thrusts and it's a combination of perfect pressure and the feel of Lance' mouth against his own, the knowledge that Lance wants him this way.

Pleasure coils, tight and sudden and Chris' legs are rubber, everything centred in one area, so concentrated that it's straddling the line of pleasure and pain, and Lance keeps moving his hand, pushing the pace until it's impossible to resist.

"Fuck, Lance." Chris tenses, strung tight, gasping for air, and Lance is so close, urging him on with meaningless words that help push Chris over the edge, breath hitching as he comes.

"You still alive?" Lance asks, crouching so he can wipe his palm on the grass.

"Just." Still leaning against the tree, Chris pulls his clothes back into some kind of order, unable to stop his grin. He gestures towards Lance. "You want me to?"

"We'd better get back inside." Adjusting himself, Lance kisses Chris, a quick touch of lips. "Consider it a rain-check."


They've practiced for weeks, always increasing the pace. Today they've already hit the second full run-through, and Chris is sweating, his t-shirt clinging to his back, his hair damp against his neck. The painkillers he took this morning wore off long ago, and now his knees are burning points of pain. In exactly ninety minutes, he can take more, until then all he can do is dance on. Discomfort and pain are pushed to the side as they repeat the new choreography, running across stage, dancing together, always performing, reality hidden through determination and a smile.

"No, Chris. It's step right on the count of three."

The choreographer yells, mirroring the routine from in front of the stage. She's new, recruited especially for this tour, but she understands that they're all older now, that the flips and excessive stomps aren't an option.

"Justin, take a step back. JC more in front, Lance, stop chatting to Joey and try to look interested at least."

The music stops as they change positions, then starts again, Bye Bye Bye for the third time.

Shimmying past Joey, Chris counts the beats, the song long familiar but the steps that little bit different. Left two steps, right three, his hands dancing in the air.

They end as always, arms out and panting, holding the moment until they run offstage, waving goodbye to an audience of disinterested crew.

There's a pile of towels on a chair, taking one, JC drapes it over his shoulders as he looks back on stage. He's still bouncing, counting steps as he rubs the sweat from his face. "I think we need to up the tempo on the last verse. We're missing something."

"If you speed up the routine we'll be missing a tenor, because I'll kill you," Chris says flatly. He's leaning against one of the equipment cases, his hands on his knees, knowing that if he sits down he won't get up again.

JC stops moving and glances across at Chris. He doesn't ask questions or offer sympathy, which is good, because Chris doesn't want to have to strangle him with a towel.

"Or we could leave it and add more waving." JC moves his arms in demonstration, a swaying movement, combined with swivelling hips and pelvic thrusts.

Justin nods in approval. "That looks good." Counting time by drumming on his thigh, he copies the movements, standing behind JC and ending with a savage thrust of his hips that sends JC stumbling forward.

Laughing, Joey reaches out, steadying JC. "Damn, J. I don't think our audience is ready for you nailing JC on stage."

"I don't know," Lance says, his smile slow and sly. "I think it would go over great."

"You would." Settling against Joey, JC is beaming. "But Justin nailing me? Like that would happen."

"I guess." Suddenly swooping down, Joey throws JC up onto his shoulder, swinging him round. "Come on; let's see when we're getting lunch."

Upside down, JC is laughing, slapping his hands against Joey's ass. Justin beatboxing as he follows. If Chris concentrates he can hear the outline of JC's sexy One Hundred Ways, which is so JC that Chris can't help smiling a little, mouth curling upwards despite the throbbing pain.

"I'm going to get a drink, you want anything?"

Lance is pulling off his t-shirt, using it to rub at his shoulders, over his chest and belly. Chris appreciates the show, the way Lance's muscles flex, the way his skin shines and freckles cover his shoulders. The way his hair is sticking up in messy spikes and his cheeks are flushed red.

Chris straightens, hiding a wince. "I'll have a triple whisky with a beer chaser."

"How about water with a water chaser?" Lance suggests, holding onto his sodden t-shirt, seemingly perfectly comfortable about being topless.

"I'll try to contain my excitement," Chris says, rubbing at his knee as Lance hurries away.

"Lance is talking to wardrobe."

Surprised, JC takes a backward step. Years of fan exposure makes him check his fly with a quick swipe of his hand. He relaxes when he realises it's only Justin waiting outside of the stall.

"Has he come around to my kilt idea because I really…."

"What? No," Justin interrupts, his forehead creased and eyebrows drawing together. "I told you, no kilts." He pauses, stepping aside to let JC past. "Joey's on his cell, his mom says hi."

"Great. Tell her hi for me." Turning on the faucet, JC holds his hands under the hot water, holding them palms upwards when Justin pushes the button for the soap. "Is there a reason I need to know where they are?"

"Well, yeah."

Expectant, Justin looks at JC like he should know the answer.

"This is your way of letting me know you've got us all bugged, in which case. Your level of obsession is freaky." Shaking his hands, JC pulls a paper towel from the holder. "No? I know. Joey's phoning his mom to tell her he's having a wild affair with Lance. Lance is asking wardrobe to alter the latex cut-out suit he bought, because he knows it drives Joey wild."

"You're just not right." Justin shakes his head. "It means Chris is alone."

JC crumples the paper towel, throwing it toward the trashcan. "I thought you wanted him to be alone?"

"Not alone, just not clinging onto people." Justin bends down, scooping up the paper towel from the floor and drops it into the can. "I researched separation anxiety last night. It's a recognised disorder. Dr Phil says…."

"You're diagnosing Chris based on what you read on Dr Phil's website?"

"No." Justin looks away from JC, takes another towel and starts to wipe the counter. "I called him."

"You have Dr Phil's number?"

"Yeah, he called me once, said he could help." Dropping the used towel in the trash, Justin pulls out another, looking thoughtful as he mops up the last tiny drops. "It was kind of out of the blue, and it's not like I needed help, but I had the number so…."

"You called him and confirmed your diagnosis of Chris' problems based on him holding hands with Lance, getting a piggyback ride from Joey and covering me with grass. All things he used to do before." JC looks at Justin's reflection in the mirror. "Just talk to him, J."

"I did," Justin admits. "He told me to fuck off and take my bullshit theories with me. Then he growled and looked for something to throw."

"See, he's fine." Resting his hand on the small of Justin' back, JC gently pushes him toward the door. "I've been thinking about the second verse of Gone, I have some ideas."

Chris hurts. Really hurts.

This break had been a bad idea. This whole tour had been a bad idea. He'd forgotten how much pain he'd been in by the end last time, but he was being reminded now. His knees are red-hot and swollen, and maybe he's been cleared to dance, but knowing that doesn't help when his joints feel like they're grating together if they so much as move.

Suppressing a whimper, he leans forward, repositioning the ice pack over his knees. The cold helps some, taming the heat to a level where he doesn't want to claw at his own skin. Which is still a level he doesn't enjoy, and here he is, exhausted, in serious pain, trying to get comfortable despite the noise and constant flow of people through the room. Joey, Justin and JC dancing again, and if they even think about asking Chris to join them they'll get an ice pack to the face.

"I brought you your water." Lance appears in Chris' view, a water bottle held in his hand. "Do you want your pills, too?"

Chris scowls, lashing out. "You went for water almost half an hour ago. What's the matter? You stopped to blow one of the catering guys?"

"That's exactly what I did. It was good, too."

The bottle of water lands on Chris' chest. Reaching for it, he twists off the top, pushing himself up on one elbow so he can drink.

"Well, pills or not?" Lance wedges himself on the edge of the couch, sitting sideways so he can see Chris' face.

"Not, I'll wait or else they'll wear off before the end of the next torture session." Draining the last of the water, Chris flops back down on the couch, trying to will himself to relax. It doesn't help, and his fingers are tight around the empty bottle.

"I can help."

Ignoring Chris' growl of protest, Lance moves one of the ice packs, and starts to unfasten the brace that's wrapped around Chris' knee. The velcro gives with a tearing sound, and Lance's fingers are cool, his touch gentle as he eases the brace under Chris' leg.

Air hits heated skin and Lance is rolling onto one hip, digging into his pants pocket.

Lance holds up a tube of IcyHot. "I bought this." Unscrewing the top, he breaks the seal, then squeezes the ointment onto his palm. Rubbing his hands together, he places them against Chris' knee, and immediately Chris can feel the tingling cold, seeping into his skin, cooling the inflammation and pain.

Wiping his hand across his eyes, he tries to stay still as Lance carefully runs his fingers down the side of Chris' knee, rubbing in soft circles, easing over tight tendons and over the welts where the brace digs in. It feels good, the pain easing with the increasing heat and Chris wishes Lance could stay there forever, be his personal massage slave for as long as he needs.

"Is that helping?"

"Yeah." Chris looks along the length of his body, at Lance bent over, concentrating on each touch, placing his hands exactly where they're needed.

"I know something else that'll help."

Lance stops the massage, brushing off Chris' protests he stands. Eyes narrowed, he looks around the room, at Joey eating a sandwich while talking to one of the lighting guys, at Justin on his cell and JC talking to one of the crew. When he suddenly smiles and walks away, Chris tries to see where he's gone, but the couch back is too high and he's too tired to try and move, instead he waits, focussing on the throb of his knees.

"I thought we'd try something." Lance is carrying one of the covers from the costume rails. It trails on the ground, making cracking sounds when Lance unfolds it and drapes one side over the couch. When he drops the other side, Chris is inside a mini tent, it's dark and stuffy and he's got no idea what Lance is doing until he feels fingers brushing against his shorts.

"Lance. You can't." Half-heartedly, Chris gropes for Lance's hand, trapping it against his own stomach.

"I can."

A rolling movement, and Lance is under the cover too. Chris can see him through the gloom, eyes sparkling, his teeth white as he smiles.

Lance pulls his hand free. "Relax."

Which is fine for Lance to say, but it's not his shorts being unfastened, or his boxers being eased down. Fighting a gasp, Chris tenses at the feel of hands against his thighs, holding him still as Lance rests his head against the crease of groin and leg. Hair, brittle with gel, scrapes along Chris' sensitive dick and he's ready to reach out, urge Lance to move when he's suddenly sucked deep.

Lance pulls out, slowly, using his tongue, licking with long wet stripes from balls to the head, pressing briefly against the slit and down again, always so slow and Chris is clenching the cushions, nails digging into the fabric when Lance sucks again, increasing the pressure, his hands anchoring Chris, preventing him from thrusting up, leaving him with a rocking motion, desperate for more.

Chris is panting, his whole body tensed as Lance pulls back, his lips tight heat, then he's broken the contact, is looking up at Chris.

"You need to stay still."

His voice is low, deep with sex and need and Chris wants to kiss him, lick the inside of his mouth, taste himself on Lance's tongue. Instead he brushes his hand through Lance's hair, stroking his thumb along the curve of ear, and Lance is humming, pushing into the touch as Chris moves his hand so he's cradling Lance's cheek.

Shifting his head, Lance kisses Chris' palm, then bends once more, pace quicker this time as he sucks hard, hands a heated weight on Chris' thighs, mouth perfect combination of speed and pressure that has Chris breathing hard, head back and eyes closed, fists clenched and his legs are trembling as warmth fills his body, sweeping over goose bumped skin, pooling together, heat growing, swelling with each swipe of Lance's tongue, and Chris presses his hand against his mouth, pressing down as he teeters on the edge, then with one last suck, comes hard. Lights sparking behind his eyes as Lance swallows.

Boneless, his body left far behind, Chris lies still as Lance pulls him right, pulling up his boxers and fastening his shorts. He leans toward Chris then, mouth close, his lips brushing against Chris' cheek.

"Feel better?"

"I feel great," Chris says, content to lie next to Lance and just be.


"It's a beautiful day. Enjoy it." For the first time in days the weather reporter's voice doesn't make Chris want to slam his hand through the face of the radio. It is a beautiful day, and it feels like Chris has broken through some kind of wall. He still hurts, that isn't going to magically disappear, but it's bearable and the dragging tiredness seems to have faded away, dispelled by painkillers, rest, and sleeping almost twelve hours before a lunch time start. He's not dreading rehearsing, and that's such a welcome change Chris can't help smiling to himself, his fingers tapping on the steering wheel as he drives.

He parks in his usual place, near the main doors and close to Justin, Lance and Joey's cars. Relieved he's not the last to arrive; Chris grabs his bag from the passenger seat and steps outside. The heat hits immediately, the air shimmering and the sun creating stunted shadows as Chris locks his car.

Shoving the keys to the bottom of his bag, Chris slings it over one shoulder. Wandering toward the entrance, he waves at Megan who's sitting eating her lunch under the meager shadow of the tree. Chris likes that tree, it's become part of his memories relating to Lance, something to remember when he's old.

Pushing aside those thoughts, Chris enters the arena. It's much cooler inside; the bright heat of the sun replaced by air-conditioning that makes Chris' skin bump as he makes for the front of the stage. The others are already there, sitting in a line on the edge of the main stage, their legs dangling as they read yet another list. Dropping his bag on a chair, Chris goes up to join them, sitting next to JC.

"You flew here today? Your car's not outside." He grabs JC's hand, pulling it over so he can read the rider. It turns out to be their rider for the tour, requests for water and candy and a thousand other things they apparently need.

JC points at the list. "Did you ask for the purple Skittles? Because I don't think they come in all one flavor."

"That's kind of the point, C." Chris vaguely remembers being asked about any requests, joking about purple Skittles and silver painted walls as Justin stuck his huge-ass feet on Chris' lap while bragging about being the supreme champion of all things golf. Which was something Chris couldn't ignore, and after the epic paper-ball-mic-stand-club and cup golf tournament of 2009 he'd forgotten about the rider requests altogether.

Making a mental note to change the list, Chris lets go of JC's hand, swinging his legs until Joey finally slides himself back and stands.

Hand held in the air, Chris looks plaintively at Joey.

"I know you can stand on your own," Joey says, but he still clutches Chris' hand, easily pulling him to his feet.

"Rehearsal's in twenty, we'd better warm up." Placing his list in a folder, Lance pushes himself forward, dropping down to the floor. He looks up then, showing the tempting line of his neck and jaw as he smiles before hurrying away.

"Earth calling Chris."

Chris looks around when Justin pokes him in the side. "What?!"

"I said, did you want to come to my place later for pizza and a movie?"

Chris looks at Justin, wondering at the undercurrent he can feel to his invitation. It's nothing obvious, just a hint of something that Chris can barely read, but still, it's there, and it's annoying. Not that Chris won't go, free pizza and Justin's company is always good.

"I guess, as long as I get to pick. I see enough of you without seeing your movies too."

"Just because you don't understand the subtleties of Black Snake Moan.

"Oh, I understand them okay, especially that hot little sex scene. I like that; it's good to watch when I'm in bed." Chris hides his smile, always pleased to embarrass Justin in some way, especially if it leads to choking sounds and a faint flush of cheeks.

"You don't…I mean." Justin looks over at Chris. "You're joking right?"

Chris stares back, forcing back the traitorous twitch of his lips. "It reminds me of when we first shared a bus, those sounds you make when you jerk off. They're hot.

"I was like, fifteen back then."

"Yeah, but you're not now. You, Christina, some hand-lotion, it's all gold baby." Chris winks unable to stop his grin, and suddenly Justin's in his face, his arm wrapped around Chris' neck and laughing his loud dorky laughter right in Chris' ear.

"You ass. I thought you were serious."

"Like I'd get off thinking about your skinny ass." Nose pressed against Justin's armpit, Chris wraps his arms around Justin's waist, holding on.

"Like I'd want you to, you freak."

There's fond amusement in Justin's voice, and Chris is content to stand a moment, enjoying the resurgence of their easy friendship. It's a moment that doesn't last long, when, tipping back his head Chris licks along the underside of Justin's jaw, then squirms away before Justin can give chase, both of them laughing all the while.

"I heard you're taking Chris home tonight, be careful, people might think you're suffering from separation anxiety," JC says, looking up from where he's sitting on the floor, legs crossed and eating a sandwich.

"Okay, so I was wrong, it happens." Hungry, Justin takes the sandwich from JC and takes a bite. They're dressed and ready for a dress rehearsal and his face feels caked with make-up, thick foundation and lipgloss that tastes waxy against the bread.

"So you admit he's okay?" JC has finished his first sandwich, and is working on a second. There's crumbs on his cheek, next to the glitter that shines as he moves his head, allowing Justin to sweep them away.

"In Chris' case, okay is relative, but I admit, separation anxiety may be a stretch."

"Maybe?" One eyebrow raised, JC uses his sandwich to point, lettuce falling onto his lap. "Face it J. Your theory sucks."

Chewing, JC looks over at the couch, where Chris, Joey and Lance are sprawled together; talking about something that apparently warrants much waving of hands. They're all wearing the first outfits of the show, plain black pants and coloured shirts, a touch of glitter along the edges, coloured to match their socks and suspenders.

Chris has his legs over Joey's lap, and Lance is resting his hand on Chris' ankle, leaning forward, as he says something that makes Joey laugh and Chris scowl. They all look happy and it dawns on Justin that he doesn't have to worry at all.

"I thought…."

JC hooks his fingers through one of Justin's suspenders, pulling it until Justin moves closer.

"You were worried. You don't have to be." He lets the suspender go with a snap against Justin's chest. "Want to come fix my eye make-up?"

Justin nods and scrambles to his feet, hip bumping against JC's as they leave the room.

"Don't tell me, you've been waiting for me." There's some last minute harness thing, so it's late when Chris finally gets to leave. The moon is huge in the sky, and everything seems silvery white, bleached and stark. Lance is standing next to his SUV, leaning against the trunk, ankles crossed and hands by his sides.

"You caught me." Shadows darken under Lance's eyes, across his lips, and his skin seems to gleam as he beckons Chris close.

"I'm going to Justin's, he's buying pizza," Chris says, but he's pulled toward Lance, unable to keep away.

"I know." Standing up straight, Lance uses his hand to cup Chris' cheek and jaw. "I wanted to say goodnight."

Lance's hand is warm, his touch gentle, and Chris needs to touch too, reaching out his hand, resting it against Lance's chest. He can feel the fast beat of Lance's heart, the quickening breaths as Lance looks at him, his eyes huge, pupils wide. He licks across his bottom lip, and Chris can't look away, is drawn closer, their mouths together, pressing close. It's slow movements in the dark, languid and easy and Lance's hands move to press against Chris' back, holding him in a tight embrace.

"I was going to ask you back to my place." Lance's voice is hushed, low. "I guess we'll have to wait."

Chris doesn't want to wait. It feels like he's been waiting forever and now he's got this, he wants to experience everything while he can.

Chris swaps their positions, his hand against Lance's face, running his thumb over Lance's cheekbone, across the rough pull of his stubble, as they kiss running his tongue over Lance's lip, slipping inside before he fractionally pulls back.

Easing his fingers under Lance's jaw, Chris tilts back his head, moving in for another kiss, deeper this time, hard pressure and Lance shivers as he pulls back, inhaling deeply

"You'd better go, otherwise it'll end up with sex in my car, and that's never good." He breathes deep again. "And anyway. It's not like I won't see you soon. Now that we're dating and all."

Chris sits, and looks at Lance. "We're dating?"

Lance hesitates, looking at Chris. "If you want to be dating, then yes, we're dating."

"I thought you were having fun playing the field."

"Well, yeah. The parties were fun, but it's time for a fresh start." Lance sits, legs drawn up as he looks across at Chris. "I'm ready for a relationship again."

"Just to clarify, you mean with me?"

Lance rolls his eyes. "No, I mean with Gladys from catering."

"If I were twenty years older I'd totally go for Gladys." Grinning, Chris holds up his hand. "If we're dating are you going to buy me a ring? Because I like silver. I don't mind flowers as long as they're not roses. Too clichéd unless you're J. I like…"

Lance puts his hand over Chris' mouth. "Go see Justin."

Chris goes, blowing a last kiss against Lance' palm as he goes.


It's approaching midnight when Chris arrives at Justin's. The house is lit by the lamps that edge the drive, creating pools of light in the darkness. Parking, Chris steps outside. It's still warm; a soft heat that lingers in the night air, filled with the scent of the flowers that Justin's gardener has planted by the front door.

About to knock, Chris hesitates when he hears the faint sound of splashing. Listening, he recognises JC's dorky laugh and realises he must be near the pool, and if JC's there Justin will be too. Gravel crunches under Chris' feet as he makes his way past Justin's cars, cutting through the basketball court until he's at the back of the house.

Justin's pool is surrounded by hanging lanterns that reflect off the water in streaks of rippling light. There are damp footprints on the tiles, leading to Justin who's sitting on the edge of a lounge-chair. He's wet, gleaming droplets of water scattered on his skin and JC's lying behind him, smiling slightly as he traces his finger along the lines of Justin's tattoo.

"Hey." JC waves lazily. "Come and join us."

Chris looks at them and then heads for another chair. Stepping over two glasses and an empty jug, he sits, still close enough that his knee is pressed against Justin's leg.

"We've saved you some pizza, but we've watched the movie. Unlike some people, JC likes watching me."

"I'm sure he does." Chris reaches for someone's drink, taking a long swallow. Keeping hold of the empty glass, he rolls it between the palms of his hands as he looks toward Justin and JC. "Something's happened."

"You get busted for public indecency?" JC pushes himself up with one hand and looks around Justin. "It's no big deal, man. Just a fine, but make sure it doesn't get into the press. I'll give you the number of my guy."

Chris' hands still. "What? No, I haven't. Why would you think that, and why would you even… No, don't tell me. I don't want to know."

"I figured you'd been caught with Lance. You guys are pretty obvious." JC shifts forward, his chin against Justin's shoulder, his arms loose around Justin's waist. "You've kept me entertained all week, and night."

He winks and Chris swaps the empty glass for the other, knocking back the contents in one gulp, mortified when he remembers what JC could have seen.

"So, what is it?" Justin prompts.

"I'm dating Lance." Smile wide, Chris looks at JC. "You don't seem surprised."

"That's because I'm not," JC says. "Though I do wonder why you're here when you could be with him."

Which is something Chris is wondering himself, especially when JC presses a kiss against Justin's neck. "You know, I think I'll just go."

JC looks up at Chris, his eyes glinting with amusement. "Stay, I'm going to blow Justin in a minute, and I know you like the public stuff."

Always a fan of playing with Justin's head, Chris considers staying, but only for a moment. "I'll see you tomorrow."

He leaves without a backward look.

The chair creaks as Justin shifts, one arm over JC's back, holding him close. JC's eyes are heavy-lidded, and his mouth is wet, his lips slightly swollen. Justin leans in for a kiss, running his tongue over JC's bottom lip, tasting himself with each slow lazy kiss made heavy with sleep.

"We need to go in. It's an early start tomorrow."

Faces inches apart, JC kisses the tip of Justin's nose. "I suppose. Shower first?"

"You're insatiable." Laughing, Justin stands. "Come on, I'll let you wash my back."

JC uncurls from the lounger, stretching before taking Justin's hand, holding on as they head inside.

Chris has the radio on low, harmonising along with each song as he drives. It takes seven songs to get to Lance's house, then he's parking and knocking on the front door

When Lance finally appears he's dressed for bed, wearing shorts and t-shirt, his hair a battered mess of spikes, but his eyes are wide, and he doesn't look sleepy at all.

Chris wants to touch, so he does, resting his hand against Lance's side. "I couldn't stay. JC was about to get freaky, I barely escaped with my virtue intact."

"Like you had any to begin with," Lance laughs, ushering Chris inside.

"I should resent that remark, but being as you're my boyfriend and all, I'll let it go."

Lance locks the door and looks over at Chris. "I take it you told them."

"I did. They were amazingly unsurprised."

"That's because they've eyes in their head. Unlike some people." Lance drops the key onto the hall table. "I was about to go to bed."

The sound of the TV playing in the den contradicts that, but this isn't the time to point out white lies. Chris takes hold of Lance's hand. "Lead the way."

Lance's fingers are curled around Chris' as they walk upstairs. They're both quiet, and there's a feeling of expectation as Lance pushes open his bedroom door and clicks on the lights, dimming them down until things turn silvery grey.

The bed dominates the room. It's covered with maroon sheets and a pile of pillows arranged against the elaborate iron headboard. Chris has never seen the point of so many pillows, you can only sleep on so many, and Lance has to sweep most to the side, making them cascade to the floor.

Still holding onto Chris' hand, Lance turns back the covers, smoothing them straight. There's a hint of awkwardness as they straddle the jump between the spontaneous making out sessions of before, and the deliberate actions of now.

Still, this is where Chris wants to be.

A jump pull movement and Chris is lying on the bed, Lance above him, heavy and solid and Chris ignores the twinge in his knee as he wraps his leg around Lance's.

"I want the left side," Chris says, following the words with a kiss.

"And what if I want it too?" Lance's eyes are sparkling and he looks so happy that Chris can't help grinning back at him.

"Then we'll have to share the middle."

"Sounds good to me," Lance says, leaning in for a kiss. He tastes of soda, his lips sugary sweet as he licks across Chris' mouth. One hand is cupped against Chris' jaw, holding him still as Lance deepens the kiss.

Chris opens his mouth wider, arcs up against Lance, enjoying the feel of being confined and held down. Lance angles Chris' head to the side, giving access so he can nip along his jaw; tiny bites that make Chris shiver. He squirms as Lance trails down to the join of shoulder and neck. Lance bites hard then, sucking hard, the pleasure pain of it making Chris gasp.

"We should get some sleep. We need to get up in five hours." Lance's words are teasing, but lips are damp, and his words are rough, low in Chris' ear. There's not a chance they're going to sleep yet.

"Then we'd better get on with it."

Taking Chris at his word, Lance pulls off his t-shirt, then flips them over so he's looking up at Chris. He wraps his legs around Chris' waist, pulling him close. Chris responds by kissing along Lance's neck, sucking at the dip of shoulder blade, running his tongue over freckles as Lance moves against him.

It's slow and lazy. Wet kisses and soft sounds and the world has shrunk down to the feel of Lance's mouth against his neck, the pressure of his body under Chris'. They move together, easily finding a rhythm that quickens until they're both breathing hard.

"Chris." Lance gasps his name, and the combination of sound, the feel of Lance tensing beneath him, pushes Chris over the edge, aware of nothing but Lance as he flies apart.

After, they're lying in a mess of cushions and messy sheets, Chris' toes are hanging off the bed, and he's probably suffocating Lance. He doesn't move, just rests his head against Lance's chest, listening to the slowing beat of his heart.

The next morning is frantic. They wake sticky and late, and getting ready to leave consists of a rapid shower and a slice of toast as they run to their cars. Parting with a hurried kiss as Lance throws an overnight bag in his car.

The band is practicing when Chris runs into the arena, but he ignores the pointed looks as he hurries toward backstage. He finds the others near the catering tables, drinking coffee and talking. They fall silent when Chris appears.

"Nice clothes," Justin says, a grin twitching at the corner of his mouth.

JC looks at Joey. "Hasn't Lance got the same t-shirt?"

"He has. But his has a rip at the seam." Joey points at the t-shirt. "Oh, look. So's this one. What a surprise."

Chris tries to scowl at the overly fake surprise, but it's difficult when they're all laughing so hard. Laughter that only increases when Lance appears and stands next to Chris.

Lance's fingers brush against Chris'. "Something funny?"

Still laughing, Justin indicates the t-shirt. "We were admiring Chris' clothes."

Chris wraps his hand around Lance's, knowing they're hidden from sight of the crew. "Just because you don't share clothes with your boyfriend."

"Lance is your boyfriend!?" Joey keeps up the pretence all of five seconds, then they're all laughing again as Chris squeezes Lance's hand, not caring at all.


The tour starts on Wednesday, and they've got one precious day off. Tomorrow they need to do all the last minute things, but today is for resting, hanging out and being together. At least that was the plan.

Chris wakes to the sound of his cell ringing and knocking at his front door. Blindly groping for his phone, he grabs it and flops onto his back, swearing as the ringing stops. It starts again in seconds.

"What!?" Chris says, glaring up at the ceiling as he listens. Snapping shut his phone, Chris drops it on the bedspread and rolls onto his side. "Lance. Lance. Wake up. Justin's outside."

Chris pushes himself up and drapes an arm over Lance' body. Lance looks peaceful, his eyes closed, his face squashed into the pillow. Unable to resist, Chris brushes a quick kiss against his cheek, then flicks Lance hard against his nose.

"Wake up!"

Grumbling, Lance opens his eyes halfway, looking at Chris through his eyelashes.

"I'm sleeping."

"Yeah, well so was I." Chris crawls off the bed and searches for clothes. Pulling on a pair of shorts, he heads downstairs, yawning and scratching at the dried flakes on his stomach, opening the door as Justin's about to knock again.

"Whoa, you look rough," Justin says, grinning like a fool and far too cheery for this hour of the day.

Chris heads for the kitchen, flipping Justin off as he goes. He needs coffee and food and preferably something to club Justin around the head with, anything to stop the snickers.

"Strange, I didn't think we had a vampire problem around these parts," Justin laughs, his hand warm, his fingers tracing along the line of Chris' shoulder blade.

"No touching what you can't have." Stepping to one side and slapping Justin's hand away Chris takes a carton of orange juice out of the fridge and takes a long drink. "You know where the coffee machine is."

Reaching into a cupboard, Justin gets a glass and hands it over to Chris. "Use a glass, and I'm a guest, you should make coffee for me."

"Yeah, right." Poring juice into the glass, Chris leans against the counter, trying to wake up while watching Justin fill the machine with coffee beans and water. He's humming Celebrity under his breath, and Chris would throw something if Justin didn't look so happy.

Still holding the bag of coffee, Justin turns and looks at Chris. They're at opposite ends of the kitchen, but Chris can feel his concern, is easily able to read Justin. It's an abrupt change of mood.

"I was worried about you this week."

"I'm fine, J."

Justin nods, carefully sealing the bag. "I know."

He looks away, busying himself getting mugs from the cupboard. He's humming again, but slower now, and Chris is moving, bare feet padding against the tile floor.

Justin feels warm and smells of sunshine when Chris wraps his arms around him, his hands against Justin's stomach, his cheek resting against Justin's back.

A last squeeze and Chris steps away. "I'm going to go shower."

Grin obvious in his voice, Justin reaches for another mug. "Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but you do kind of stink."

"I do," Chris agrees. "That's what a night of hot sex will do for you; at least I scrubbed some of the dried jizz off onto your back."

Chris runs, cackling with laughter at Justin's disgusted expression as he pulls off his shirt.

"I've got the stuff you wanted." JC holds up a bag and closes the door with a bump of his hip. "I'm sure Chris has food though."

Justin takes one of the bags, looking inside. "Not the right kind, I want to make the Timberlake special."

"Ah, honey and soy covered steaks." JC grins at Justin. "How's the patent coming for that?"

"You're laughing now, but I'll have my face on a jar yet. Me and Paul Newman, side by side on the shelves."

"More like the discount basket." Ducking, JC heads for the kitchen, putting the remaining bags on the counter. "Does Chris even know he's hosting a barbeque? And where is he anyway?"

"He's in the shower, and no, he doesn't. He won't mind, especially when Joey brings over his potato salad." Emptying the bags, Justin lays out the packs of steak, giving a satisfied nod when he's examined each one.

"He was in the shower when you phoned me an hour ago."

Justin looks inside a cupboard, trying to remember where Chris keeps his big bowls. "I know, but I'm not going up to check, he's got Lance up there."

"I'll go." JC starts toward the door, then stops, laughing when Justin glares at him. "I only want a quick look. They'll be cute."

"It's Chris. It's not possible for him to be cute." Finally finding a bowl, Justin quickly washes it out and tries to ignore the thoughts that JC has prompted. Because whatever he says, they won't be cute, and Justin doesn't find the idea of them together hot at all.

Waves lap over Chris' feet as he watches Briahna swim towards him. Her determined expression is so like Joey's that Chris can't help grinning, cheering as she races across the pool. A stroke behind Briahna, Joey touches the side, his mouth curled down despite the smile that lurks around his eyes.

"Told you I could beat you."

Arms in the air and hips wiggling, Briahna celebrates with the patented Fatone dance of victory, then holds up her hand toward Chris. They high-five making droplets spray from between their hands.

"She cheated!" Protesting, Joey gestures to the other side of the pool. "Don't think I didn't see you tell her to set off early."

"I did not!" Briahna says, her hands on her hips, and she's almost believable except for the lurking smile.

"You tell them, Bri." Kicking so water splashes Joey in the face, Chris looks over at Kelly who's walking over, a towel held in her hand. "Back me up here, would I signal Bri?"

Kelly looks between her daughter and Chris, both of who try to look innocent. "You would, and she'd let you."

Chris clasps his hand dramatically to his heart. "You wound me."

Kelly looks down at Chris. "I live with Joey, hamming it up gets nowhere with me." Smiling, she kneels, looking toward Briahna. "Want to help me with dessert?"

"Sure." Hauling herself out of the pool, Briahna wraps herself in the towel, waiting as Kelly leans forward to give Joey a kiss.

Pointedly, Chris puckers his lips, and is rewarded with a quick peck against his cheek.

Chris waves at Kelly as she walks back toward his house. "I think your wife likes me, Joey."

"In your dreams." With one smooth jump, Joey sits next to Chris, making water shower from his body, wetting the tiles. He grins as he shakes his head, causing water to fly through the air, then slicks back his hair. "I'm glad they're travelling with us for some of the tour." He looks at Chris then. "We could still arrange for three buses."

"It's okay," Chris says. It's something he's talked to Lance about, and travelling together full time is something they're not ready for yet. Soon maybe, but for now, part time when Kelly and Briahna are around will suit them fine. It's not like they won't see one another, and Chris likes travelling with Justin and JC just fine.

"If you're sure, but if I see skin I'll be moving to a third bus myself."

There's the sound of footsteps, then Lance is sitting at Chris' side, his legs and feet in the water, as he bumps Chris' toes with his own and looks across at Joey. "Like you never walk around naked."

"My manly physique deserves to be seen, unlike this freak's." Joey jabs Chris in the side.

"You couldn't cope with seeing me naked, not without feeling inadequate anyway," Chris says, and he rests his cheek against Lance's shoulder. "Tell him, Lance."

"How about not telling me." Joey holds up a hand as Chris plants a wet smacking kiss against Lance's neck.

"What are we not telling?" JC asks as he sits down. He's holding three bottles of beer that he hands out, taking his own from Justin who's followed him over to sit by his side.

"About Joey wanting to see me and Lance have…"

Joey clasps his hand over Chris' mouth. "We're telling about nothing. Not unless Chris wants to end up in the pool. Again."

"I've always liked pool sex," Lance says slowly. "Things get so wet."

Joey sighs and pulls his hand away from Chris' mouth. "Two days. Two days you've been dating him and look what it's come to."

"Like you've never had sex in a pool." JC says, and he's smiling wide. "I seem to remember you describing how to go down on a girl underwater."

Joey nods, looking proud. "That takes a lot of skill."

"It does," JC agrees. "Guys are easy after that." He winks at Justin, then holds out his bottle of beer. "A toast to pool sex."

"To pool sex."

They clink their bottles together and take a drink, five friends on a sunny day, about to tour again. With Lance's fingers curled around his own, Chris couldn't be happier.

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