we invented the remix 5

the way of the world by silveryscrape: the all this is mix by etsu

So. The guys have always maintained that Chris and Justin? Sort of like election campaigns. Inevitable, but pretty much a train wreck of catastrophic proportions waiting to happen. Justin's unpredictable, in that you never know what he'll do or say next, but you always know there'll probably be something stupid thrown in the mix. Chris, on the other hand. Chris is an open book once you learn to read his tells.

Joey'd been waiting for the call an hour before it'd happened.

They're at some bar, a quiet place Lance had found while they were on tour here a while back, where no one asks any questions or looks at them a fraction too long. Which is a plus, because Chris is on his fifteen hundredth beer, and he's beginning to babble.

"Best friends, Joe," Chris slurs, beer slopping over the rim of his mug as he sways in his seat. "See, that's just layered with meaning. You know, like, there's best friends, and then there's best friends. And there's always that possibility of being best friends, which is totally different from the other four. Two."

Joey raises an eyebrow, then claps a big, warm hand over Chris' back. "Sure, buddy. Whatever you say."

"But then," Chris muses, and Joey only narrowly avoids having booze spilt down the front of his shirt for the fourth time that night, "Also, you can't forget the other stuff. Like, what about besties? BFFs? I mean, all that's pretty different, innit? All those different levels."

"Uh huh," Joey replies, patiently. "Levels."

"Levels. Exactly." Chris scowls into his drink. "But couldn't he just have, like, I dunno. Picked a different word?" He pulls a face, "Best friends. Fuck. Yeah, Justin, that's what we are. Best motherfucking friends. Asshole."

Joey snorts, then coughs to hide it, and reaches for Chris' beer. "Okay, man, that's it. I'm cutting you off."

Chris looks completely stricken as Joey pries his mug from his hands.

"You're done, Chris." Joey's voice is gentle, but his grip is not, and Chris reluctantly puts the beer down and wobbles to his feet. Joey slips an arm around him, keeping him anchored. "Come on, I'll take you home and call C over, okay?"

It turns out Chris is even drunker than Joey realized, because all he does is nod. Then he bends over, and throws up all over Joey's shoes.

Thankfully, Joey manages to get Chris back to his place without any other mishap - which he considers a feat in itself, because drunk Chris is ten times louder than sober Chris, and about a hundred times crazier. JC answers the front door when they get there, wearing an apron and holding a cookbook in one hand. "Chicken soup," he explains, and Joey stifles a smile.

"Take care of this one, would you?" he says instead, with a helpless nod in Chris' direction. "He's not done reciting the three hundred and eighty-two different definitions of 'best friends'."

JC's eyes crinkle as he grins, and he lets Joey shoulder Chris over, hooking his free arm under Chris' shoulders to keep him from falling over. Sometimes Joey forgets the strength hiding in JC's tiny frame. JC catches him looking, and rolls his eyes with a fond laugh. "He'll be fine. Don't act like I haven't done this before."

It's the truth, too. JC's always in charge of clean-up duty. When they were out of earshot, Kelly used to say, "Babe, are you sure it's safe?" But no one else would volunteer, and JC doesn't even bitch about it in the morning. He's good at it, too, considerate and attentive, perfect bedside manners and that sweet, sunny smile.

They joke about JC being a complete spaz, but it's far from the truth. He's only a spaz when he trusts you, and it makes Joey feel good to know he's earned that much, at least. "I know," he says. "I'll come back to check on you in the morning. I'll even spring for breakfast."

"Waffles?" JC asks, almost hopefully.

"Always," Joey laughs, shaking his head as he turns to leave.

"Hey, Joe?" JC says, and Joey turns back, looks over his shoulder to find JC staring at his shoes. "Is that peanut butter?"

Joey lets out a long, quiet groan and keeps walking. "Don't ask."


Chris doesn't wake up for a couple of hours, which JC is sort of banking on, anyway. Good chicken soup takes time. He's sitting in the armchair beside Chris' bed, a bucket on the floor at his feet and a book in his hands, when Chris sits up.

JC reaches over to touch a hand to his back. "Here," he murmurs, keeping his voice down as he leans Chris over the edge of the bed. "Okay." Chris' skin is warm, even though the fabric of his shirt, and JC makes quiet, cooing sounds as Chris heaves. He hands Chris a washtowel, when it's over, and brings the bucket downstairs to the kitchen. Consuela will clean it up in the morning; even JC's not as brave as all that.

Chris is curled up on top of the covers when JC gets back to the room. "C?"

"Mmm?" JC hums as he settles back in the chair.

"You're, like, an awesome friend, man," Chris sighs. "Not my best friend, 'cause apparently that's Justin's job, but you're pretty close."

JC smiles. Can't live with them, can't breathe without them. "Justin's kind of a dick, huh?" he asks, as he reaches to squeeze Chris' wrist.

"Total cocksucking bitch," Chris mumbles, before he falls back asleep to the sound of JC's muffled laughter.

It's two in the afternoon before Chris wakes up again. Joey's come and gone with breakfast, and JC's making his third batch of soup, because he doesn't believe in keeping food like that overnight. It's not organic enough, packet or no. Chris ambles into the kitchen bleary-eyed, and then collapses on top of the counter. "Chicken soup?" he asks, before he puts his head in his hands.



JC pauses, then throws some parsley into the pot and stirs it. "Mmhmm."

"I fucking love you," Chris rasps.

JC bites back a smile. Chris is fine. "Because I'm your best friend?"

Chris makes a pathetic little noise at the back of his throat, caught somewhere between a whine and a growl. "Don't even."

"Or maybe I'm your best friend?" JC doesn't mean to tease, really.

Chris mumbles a retort into the wood paneling, and JC frowns as he reaches for a bowl. "What was that?"

"I said," Chris grits out, clearly this time, "I need to grow a pair."

JC tries, he really does, because Chris looks like he's in pain and also like he might impale JC's head on a fork if provoked, but it slips out anyway. "For your cocksucking bitch?"

"Shut up."

JC grins as he serves up Chris' bowl of soup, and brushes a kiss over his temple. Then he goes into the other room and gets Lance on the phone. "Hey you," he says, once Lance picks up.

Lance sighs, but even JC can hear that the annoyance is an act. "C, the tour ended six days ago."

"I need backup," JC replies. It's almost apologetic, because Lance made them promise a two-week post-concert contact-free grace period forever ago, and JC's pretty sure none of them have ever kept to it. He doesn't know what Lance does with that time, always assumes it's to do with catching up with the business aspect of things, or family.

"Oh, come on," Lance groans. "Already? What did Justin do this time?"

It only takes a couple of minutes to fill Lance in, and at the end of it, Lance is silent. "Please," JC adds. Ass-kicking is really Lance's specialty, and he does it so expertly, so cleanly, that even Chris has learned when to give in. JC's never really gotten the hang of it. He peers out into the kitchen, where Chris is slurping half-heartedly at his soup. "Desperate times, man."

There's another long pause, but eventually, Lance sighs. "Fine. But tell the idiot I'm setting him a new alarm code when I get there. You can find his actual birthday on the internet."


Despite his protests, it takes less than twenty minutes for Lance to get to Chris' house. It means leaving a thick stack of contracts to be browsed through and signed waiting innocuously on his work desk at home, but Lance has priorities. He likes to get the difficult tasks out of the way first.

JC looks beyond relieved to see him, and Lance raises an eyebrow. JC has the patience of a saint. "Just - deal with him," JC pleads, already inching towards the door. "I'm running low on chicken soup."

Lance nods, passing a slip of paper over to JC before he leaves. "New code," he says, tilting his head at Chris' door with a smirk. "Try not to lose it this time."

"Baby," JC replies, with a grin and a quick peck to Lance's cheek, "S'just another reason to call."

The door shuts almost noiselessly behind JC, and Lance takes a deep breath before heading into the living room. Chris is planted in front of his TV, controller in hand, cackling maniacally as another wild Pokemon bites the dust. Lance blinks, then drops into the seat beside Chris with a too-casual sigh. "Last I heard you were giving the dictionary a run for its money."

Chris doesn't reply. He barely even looks up to acknowledge Lance's presence.

Lance is undeterred. They've been through lawsuits, near bankruptcy, and the traumatic experience of sharing one bathroom between five people. This is barely a blip on Lance's radar. "All talked out?"

Chris grunts. His Playstation character is talking to some guy about a trade off.

"So," Lance continues, "This interview I've been hearing about."

This time, Chris shoots him a look. Drop dead, it says. Or crawl into a hole and try.

Lance ignores him easily, pulling out a copy of the magazine he'd bought on the way over. "So Justin was talking about group dynamics, right? And he said..." He trails off as he thumbs through the articles, stopping only when he's found what he's looking for. "There we go. He said that you're his best friend."

Chris glares.

"Best friend, Chris," Lance repeats, slowly. That seems to help sometimes, treating Chris like he's three instead of thirty. "Which, I don't know, most people would take as a compliment."

"Guess I'm not most people," Chris mutters.

"For fuck's sake, Christopher," Lance sighs. "Either pull your head out of your ass, or suck it up. You outgrew sulky twenty years ago."

"Best. Friend," Chris repeats, as he tosses his controller. He makes the words sound like poison. On screen, his character is killed off by a Bulbasaur.

"Yeah, best friend," Lance agrees. "What else should he have said?"

"He should've said--" Chris bites out, then stops. Lance can practically see the gears turning in his head.

"Exactly," Lance says, putting a warm hand on the small of Chris' back. He goes easy on him, though, because Justin can be a bit of a brat, and totally oblivious, and Chris has looked out for them with all the ferocity and practice of the eldest of five children. Lance likes to think of these moments as payback.

Chris drops his head onto the coffee table, bangs it a couple of times for good measure. "Fuck."

"Think you have a couple of things to do before that happens," Lance notes, and Chris groans into his hands. "Seriously, man. This whole thing? It's kind of pathetic." Chris socks him in the shoulder, hard, and Lance grins as he gets to his feet. "I'm just gonna leave you to wallow, okay?"

Chris mutters a couple of choice words under his breath, but Lance just waves it off. He's calling Justin almost before he's even out of the house.

"What?" Justin demands, in greeting.

"You're being an asshole," Lance retorts. "And also? Rude."

"What?" Justin repeats, but he sounds genuinely confused now, and Lance can hear him turning down the music in the background. "Lance?"

"You're being an asshole." It's not any kinder than it was the first time.

Justin groans. Lance is tempted to hit him.

"Seriously, J," he says, instead. "Quit fucking up. Being a dickwad is hell on your complexion."

Then he hangs up. He has actual work to get back to.


Chris shows up two days after Lance's cryptic phone call. Not that Justin's been keeping tabs, or anything. He's been too busy working on new music to think about the million different ways he could have possibly screwed up enough to warrant all that name-calling. Really, really busy.

So it's entirely unexpected when Chris turns up in his backyard. Kind of. He stands there for what feels like hours, eyeing the house. For a second, Justin's thankful for tinted glass doors. After a small eternity, Chris walks up to the patio, poised to knock, then pauses. Justin watches him, lifts a hand, then drops it. It's strange, how close they are, how little separates them.

It's like being on the cusp of... something.

Dammit, Justin's always been terrible at metaphors.

"Grow a fucking pair," Justin hears Chris mutter, and when he looks up, Chris is finally at the door, banging at it unceremoniously. Justin rushes to open it, because Chris looks like he's going to plow it down if he doesn't, and Justin really, really likes his door.

Chris pauses, mid-knock, fist raised to Justin's face.

"Hey," Justin says carefully, like he hasn't just seen the whole thing.

"Oh, don't even," Chris snaps.

Justin bites back a smile. Chris isn't easy to rile up, not usually, but he's got this look on his face that says be very, very careful. It makes Justin feel like he's been strolling through a minefield. Like he's maybe only just realizing what he could set off.

Unfortunately, Justin's mouth isn't blessed with the gift of self-preservation. "So I hear you've been calling me names," it says.

Chris just stares at him, like Justin might be out of his mind, and Justin thinks, shit. Then Chris seems to shake himself, like something's just clicked, and the world comes right again. When Chris laughs, something comes loose in Justin's chest. It's like he hasn't been able to breathe in days and now he can.

He inhales, sharply, and Chris' gaze snaps back to his face, happy, manic grin still tugging at the edges of his mouth. "You started it," Chris insists, moving forward as he speaks, herding Justin till Justin's got his back pressed up against the wall, the exit behind Chris a whole universe away. He's saying something else entirely, something closer to I'm going to kiss you, you moron, and Justin is surprisingly okay with that.

Justin swallows hard. He may have the rest of the world eating out of his palm, but Chris has years of experience on him, years, and Justin can read all his tells, always could, which means he knows exactly how serious Chris is about this. "So," Chris murmurs. His eyes are bright, and Justin can't stop watching the way Chris is watching his mouth. "Best friends, huh?"

Justin makes a small noise at the back of his throat that could mean 'I'm sorry', or 'yes', or 'please, Chris' or any infinite number of things, but actually means but not. He thinks Chris should understand, but there's an entire week's worth of evidence proving him wrong. It's in their dynamic; Chris an open book and Justin anything but, Chris never listening and Justin not saying enough, and that's going to have to change.

"Didn't actually mean it," Justin says, faintly, anyway.

"No," Chris smirks, actually amused now. Then his palm is warm on the back of Justin's neck, and his mouth is hot, wet bliss, coaxing and nothing close to gentle, like finding heaven in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere. And that's not a simile, or a metaphor, or any of those things. Just the truth.

"Yeah," Justin breathes, when they pull back, wide-eyed and ridiculously happy. "So, that was kind of new."

Chris stares at him, then, saying what kind of fucking retard are you? without actually having to use the words.

"But not," Justin adds hastily, and leans in again before Chris can change his mind. "Not at all."

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