|On the Bus
It was late. Late, late, late. So late it was almost early, and that didn't matter, time didn't matter because he was completely not sleeping, and he didn't know why. Chris leaned his forehead up against the cool tinted glass of the bus window and sighed.
The rest of them were back there, asleep, lulled by the rhythm and sway of the motor and the comforting sounds of each other breathing. That had been strange, Chris remembered, the first time they had been rich enough to sleep in separate motel rooms. It had been in Europe. He remembered going into his room, without Joey, without Lance, just shutting the door, and turning off the light and lying down in his too empty room and not being able to sleep because he couldn't hear that sound. The sound of them, asleep. He had slept with the t.v. on that night.
Chris was used to it, now. They all were since the first album had hit three years ago. Even TransCon hadn't been too cheap to give them their own hotel rooms. But it was still nice every once in a while to share a room, or to lie down in your bunk in the back of the bus and know that they were there, within arm's length, if you wanted.
If you wanted.
Chris sighed again. That was the long and the short of it, really. He couldn't be without them, but he couldn't bear to be too close to them, either. Or, not them. Him. Joey.
He had gone and laid down before any of the rest of them, put his headphones on and drifted off to the comforting sounds of Sting in his ears, hoping that it would be enough and he wouldn't wake up later. It hadn't worked.
They had been up front, watching something, and had come back en masse, trying to be quiet, but someone had pushed Justin, who was tired and pissy, and JC was having a stupid giggling fit because Lance was trying to floss in the miniscule space of the bus bathroom, and his headphones had slipped off while he slept so he heard it all, and BAM! he was awake, and Joey was in the bunk below him and Chris knew there would be no more sleep. Not for a while, anyway.
He had waited until he heard them breathe, deep and slow, and almost in unison, Lance and Joey snoring eerily similar snores, before he had slipped out of bed and up to the couch, taking his blanket with him.
It was stupid, he knew. He had a stupid crush and he was too damn old for this shit, and he should know better than to get all worked up because, well, because he was too damn old. Crushes were for their fans, giggly fourteen year olds who didn't know real love yet, or real desire, not for Chris Kirkpatrick, who had loved, and so recently lost, a wonderful girl.
He wanted to blame that, Dani's sudden and aching absence. He hated it. But there was nothing he could do to make her happy, besides quit, and there was no way in hell he could quit. Forget the money, forget the fame, forget the success they had and would continue to have, Chris knew, for some time. He couldn't quit because of them. Because, as much as he loved Dani, maybe he loved them more. So she'd given up, and he'd allowed her to, and now he was alone again, and having a crush on his best friend. The best friend who, when he'd found out about the breakup, had said "oh, shit, man, I'm sorry," and had hugged him so hard that Chris' feet had actually left the ground.
Outside, the ground rushed by in the dark.
"Hey." The soft voice startled him. "It's me."
"I know who it is, Justin," Chris whispered. "I didn't know you were up."
"Bad dream." Justin came over and sat beside him, slumping down on the couch.
"There were all these girls," he said. "And they found out I was married, and they all turned and walked away from me."
"You're married?" Chris said. That would always be Justin's nightmare, he knew. Justin was afraid of not being loved by strangers.
"Fuck off," Justin said, but he was smiling.
"You're not saving yourself for me?" Chris asked, poking him.
"I said fuck off." Justin slapped at his hands, then grabbed at them. Chris allowed himself to be pulled until his arms were around Justin, hands clasped over his breastbone. He dipped his nose into Justin's crazy looped hair, and sighed again. It was this easy, sometimes. Justin had a bad dream, Justin needed a hug, Chris gave him one. There had been so many times like this Chris didn't think he could remember them all. The time Lance got sick and Chris and JC had sat in the waiting room for hours, holding hands and not talking because talking made it real. The time Justin got so homesick in Germany that he literally threw up, and Joey rubbed his back the whole time. The time Lou told Chris to "fucking cut that freakshow hair" and the only thing that kept Chris from punching his fat face was Lance's hands on his shoulders, pushing him back out of the room. So many times.
"Why are you up?" Justin asked, after a while.
"Couldn't sleep," Chris said.
"Too much sugar."
"Too much something," Chris said, squeezing Justin's shoulders. "You're too skinny," he said. It was true. Justin was tall, but he hadn't grown into it yet. Despite what the teenyboppers thought, Chris though Justin still looked like a gangly colt most of the time.
"You're too short," Justin said, laughing a little. He sat up, out of Chris' arms, and turned to face him. "I'm going back to bed. You comin'?"
Chris shook his head. "I'm working things out."
"Okay." Justin looked at him for a moment, then leaned forward, kissing him quickly on the cheek. "Thanks, Chris."
"Least I could do, man." He patted Justin's shoulder.
"If you ever need the least I can do, you'll say, right?"
Chris thought of that, of going to Justin and telling him about Joey, about how just looking at him made Chris' stomach do flip-flops, about how Joe's hands on him, just goofing off, just horsing around, made Chris want to pass out and scream at the same time. Chris thought about what Justin--Justin who was sweet and self-centered and just plain young no matter how much he had seen--would do. And Chris knew it was impossible.
"I'll say," Chris said.
Chris watched him go, disappear into the darkness at the back of the bus. Maybe he would sleep tomorrow.