Chris could tell if Lance and Justin were fighting just by the way they sat. For example, whenever Lance got super comfortable and lounged around, he and Justin were fighting and he was trying to make Justin jealous by flashing his crotch at people. When Lance was only half-lounging and making smart-ass comments, he and Justin weren't fighting and Lance was in a good mood. When Lance sat forward with his hands on his knees or his legs crossed, he and Justin had just done it: sex made Lance more comfortable with himself, and Chris thought it was pretty fucked up how he could tell all that just by Lance's posture.
But it didn't even cross his mind that knowing so much about his best friend's boyfriend's posture was just as fucked up. He didn't think about that.
"Dude," Justin said, knocking on the open door to Chris' study. "We should go riding."
"Uh huh," Chris said. They had just faxed him the financial statements for the company and he was trying to compare them with the sample financial statements in the books he'd gotten from Lance to see if he could make sense of them. There were a lot of minus signs. That didn't seem good. "Aren't you supposed to be with Lance?"
"Eh," Justin said. "Business stuff."
Chris held up his papers. "Business stuff," he said.
"Fuck you," Justin said, smiling.
Chris squinted at the papers some more, turned another page in the book. "Yeah," he said after a minute. "Fuck me."
"Your jacket's in the front closet," Justin said, pushing himself up off the door frame. Chris went and got it. They left.
"So, what's up?" Chris asked when they were safely parked outside a dive bar off the highway. The bartender, Mel, waved to them when they came in. Chris smiled at her. He loved being known as a regular, a normal, everyday person who just came to one spot a lot.
Justin shrugged. "He's just. I don't know."
Chris nodded. "Hey, Mel," he said.
Mel smiled her brilliant smile and set their beers down. She wasn't pretty, but she had great thick brown hair that hung from her head in a sleek pony tail and a perfect white smile. She was the owner's daughter, and had been working behind the bar for as long as Chris had been coming. Her husband had left her after her baby was born, a fact he knew after asking about the picture of the blond little girl tucked into the bar mirror. "Hey baby," she said. Chris didn't even know if she knew his name. "Hey kid," she said to Justin.
Justin smiled at her. "Oh, he's 'baby' and I'm just 'kid', huh?" he said. "How's that fair?"
"He's a better tipper," Mel said over her shoulder.
"Fucker," Justin told him.
"What can I say? The ladies love me."
"Yeah," Justin said. He stared into his beer. "I dunno."
They'd been having this conversation for as long as Chris could remember, which couldn't be true because Lance and Justin had only been together for two years. Still, it seemed like forever, Justin sighing into his beer, Lance casting unreadable glances over the top of his newspaper. They loved each other most of the time, Chris thought, but it didn't seem like that was going to be enough. They should have known better, like he and Dani had. Lance and Justin were just too different to be forever.
"So," Chris said.
"So, I don't know," Justin said. "God, I love him."
Chris nodded. He loved Lance, too, although not in the same way. There was a lot about Lance to love.
"It's just. I dunno."
Chris nodded again. He remembered that feeling from his last months with Dani, when they were so desperate to stay together that it was inevitable that it would end. "You should get it over with," he said.
"You should shut up," Justin answered, but it was without heat. Justin talked a good game, but he was just as caught by Lance as Lance was by him. Hence, the beers.
"So you wanna play some pool?" Chris asked. Justin nodded, relieved.
He woke up the next morning to his phone ringing over and over and over again. It was JC, breathless and incoherent on the other end.
"Can you come get me?" he asked. "I would, but I can't, I'm just too. It's too weird and I, please Chris. Joey's not answering."
"Dude." Chris rolled over and looked at his digital clock. 9:07. Not too early, but not late enough. "What the fuck?"
"To go over to Justin's. Didn't he call you? Did Lance call you? No, not Lance. Please, Chris. Oh! Maybe he's trying to call you now. Please come get me on your way, okay?" JC said and hung up.
Chris stared at his phone. "Oh my god," he said, but he got up anyway. If JC was being that much of a freak, it must be important.
It was pretty important. Lance was a girl.
He sat on the corner of the couch, a pillow under his arm and up against his chest. Other than that, there was no sign that Lance wasn't perfectly calm and fine. Justin paced back and forth in front of him, clenching his hands like he would punch the guy who did this to his boyfriend.
"But how does this happen?" Justin demanded for, like, the nine hundredth time. Chris squinted at him through his headache. Of course, Justin was too freaked out to think about making coffee and Lance, well. Lance was a girl. He probably had more important things to think about.
"I don't think it matters how it happened," Lance said.
"No?" Justin asked. "No? Because, in case you haven't noticed, Lance --"
"I've noticed," Lance said. His voice was still low and Southern, but not as low and more Southern somehow.
"--you're a girl."
"Yes, thanks." Lance rolled his eyes.
Well, this was going great. "Okay I'm making coffee," Chris said, standing up. JC raised his hand timidly, like a school boy. Joey nodded. Justin and Lance glared at him. "Great."
He was looking through the third cupboard wondering where the coffee filters were when he heard the yelling, Lance's yelling, his voice slightly higher, but no less forceful than when he had yelled at someone on the phone two days ago. Chris shut the cupboard and leaned against it for a minute, wishing he didn't have to go out there.
"You act like I did this on purpose!" Lance shouted.
"You act like it's no big deal!" Justin shouted back.
"Why is this all about you? I'm the one --"
"I already have a girlfriend," Justin screamed.
Chris stepped forward and grabbed Justin's arm. "Enough," he said softly near Justin's ear.
Lance didn't say anything. He picked up his tennis shoes off the floor and shoved his feet into them without socks. They were too big: they looked like clown shoes on his new feet. "Joey," Lance said, pushing his hair back off his face. It was longer, Chris realized suddenly, long enough so that it fell over his forehead and into his eyes, but Chris couldn't remember if that was a part of the ... change, or if Lance had been growing it out and Chris hadn't noticed.
Joey stood up and held his hand out to Lance, bringing him to his feet. Joey looked awful, unshaven and pale and dragged out, like he must look, Chris realized. Joey murmured something in Lance's ear, something low and conciliatory, but Lance shook his head once, fast. No.
"No," Lance said. Justin's arm trembled in Chris' grip, but Chris squeezed and Justin kept his mouth shut for a change.
"Lance," JC said, standing, eyes luminous with tears. Fuckin' JC, Chris thought, turning his head before he started getting all worked up, too. This was between Lance and Justin: they should stay out of it as much as they could.
Lance held his hand up. He walked away slowly, like he'd been broken in some way, and Chris thought maybe he was. No one said anything until he and Joey had left, the door shutting quietly behind them.
"Let go of me," Justin muttered.
"No," Chris said.
"Let go of me!" Justin shouted, even though he could have pulled away. Chris was a strong guy, but he wasn't holding on tight and Justin knew it.
"What's the point," JC asked, "if you're not going to apologize to him -- her. Him." JC shook his head and stormed off. He did not shut the door quietly. JC was a total drama queen.
"Well," Chris said, releasing Justin's arm. "You totally fucked that up."
"Shut the fuck up," Justin said. He rubbed his arm like it had been hurt or something. JC was a drama queen and Justin was a baby and Lance was a girl. Quite a morning. "Shut up and get out of my house."
Chris laughed. "Yeah, right. Like you don't owe me breakfast after I had to see that."
"I didn't ask you to come over here."
"Baby," Chris said. "You have so missed the point."
Breakfast was Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker Black mixed with various things from Justin's refrigerator. It wasn't good, but it worked, and Chris made Justin drink until he puked and then cried on Chris' shoulder and then passed out on the couch, his nose pressed into Chris' neck.
Chris groped over his head for the phone on the end table and dialed clumsily. He got a Chinese restaurant, then a young girl who accidentally told Chris her mother was not at home, then Joey.
"How's it goin'?" he said.
"We're drinking," Joey said. "JC's crying."
"Justin's already passed out."
"Ha," Joey said. "I got that beat. Lance has already passed out and woken up again. He's a total lightweight now."
"Chicks, man," Chris said, shifting so that Justin's elbow wasn't digging him in the ribs. Joey chuckled.
"Okay," he said. "I gotta go get JC a Kleenex."
"I gotta go pass out."
"Chris," Joey said, his voice soft.
"How fucked up is this?"
Joey sighed. "I figured," he said.
The sound of Justin swearing woke him up. He hoped it mean Justin was cooking, because swearing often meant that for Justin, but he came into the living room with his overnight bag.
"I'm going to go see Brit," he said, not looking at Chris.
"So that's it?" Chris asked.
Justin shrugged. "I guess so."
Chris shook his head. "Then you better call him."
Justin nodded. "Okay," he said, and that was when Chris knew that it was really over. Justin wasn't even fighting anymore.
Justin came out of the back bedroom, red-eyed and sniffling.
"Happy now?" he asked.
Chris hugged him tight.
Their publicity people told everyone that Lance was going to get launched into space by the Russians and do experiments. It would have been funny if Lance hadn't actually wanted to go.
Normally, Chris loved when they were on break, especially in the summer because then he had nothing to do but lie around his house and watch daytime television or ride his cycle around in an old beat up leather jacket that no one recognized him in or sit by the pool and drink beer. It was his white trash dream life.
It wasn't quite so dreamy while his friends were breaking up because one of them had turned into a woman, but Justin seemed to be doing okay out in L.A. and Joey said that Lance was still living and JC had come over yesterday and spent five minutes talking about how love meant heartbreak and sorrow and then twenty minutes talking about his new song that he was thinking of calling "Freaky for You" and was about the triumph of the human spirit or something, so Chris figured there wasn't too much to be worried about. Then Joey showed up.
"'sup?" Chris asked, shading his eyes against the sun.
Joey mumbled something fast and desperate, shoving his hands through his hair. He glanced over his shoulder. Maybe Joey was an international spy, Chris thought. It would certainly explain all the chicks.
"Dude, hey." Chris waved his hand. "I can't hear you. Are you okay?"
"You gotta take him," Joey said, the words a big blur.
Chris blinked at the sunlight reflecting off the pool. "Lance?"
Lance had been staying at Joey's house in part because he didn't want to risk the photographers that might be lurking in his bushes and take a picture of the girl that looked a lot like Lance, and in part, Chris figured, because suddenly turning into a girl was the type of thing that you'd need your best friend to help you through.
"You gotta take him," Joey said again. He sounded like someone had punched him in the gut. Chris grabbed his wrist and pulled him to the lounge chair next to him.
"Joey, what's wrong?"
Joey squeezed his eyes shut. "Just take him. Please."
"Hey, man. No way. Not if he's freaking out. That is all you, Mr. Best Friend."
"No, he's not. He's okay. Chris. Please." Joey blinked at him. His eyes were red and tired. "Please take him."
Chris sat back, crossing his arms over his chest, trying to figure out the secret. Joey wanted him to take Lance, but Lance wasn't freaking out. Lance was okay. Maybe Lance had turned into something else, like a dog or a dragon or something.
"Why?" Chris asked.
"I, um. I want to spend more time with Kelly and Bri," Joey said. Joey sucked at lying.
"Has he turned into a dog?"
"What? A dog? No."
"I told you --"
"Kelly's in Connecticut," Chris said. He didn't really know, but that was where Kelly usually was, so.
"She's coming back."
"No," Chris said.
"Chris!" Joey grabbed his hand.
"Tell me why."
Joey squeezed his hand so tight Chris thought for a second that it might break. "Fine," he said. "Fine."
"Fine," Chris said and yanked his hand away.
"I want to fuck him," Joey said.
"Whoa," Chris said. "Whoa."
"I know!" Joey said. "Okay, I know."
"You. You want to fuck Lance," Chris said. It was kind of mind blowing, since Joey was really the only one of them who didn't occasionally have sex with guys.
"No," Joey said. Then he sighed. "Just his new body."
"Oh god," Chris said, the humor of the situation beginning to lap at his toes, like waves. This was. "Oh god, Joey."
"Just. Please. Will you?"
Chris wiped the tears off his face. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, sure. Send over the siren. I'll do my best to resist his womanly charms."
"You're the best," Joey said, kissing Chris on the forehead. "I love you, man."
"Yeah," Chris said. "Wait 'til I tell Lance you want his hot ass."
Joey smiled, relieved. "It's more the great rack, you know?" he said.
Lance showed up maybe an hour later, his clothes tucked in one bag. He had on a t-shirt and shorts and his old tennis shoes that were still too big. He seemed to have gotten a bra from somewhere, maybe one of Kelly's old ones. He hair hung flat over his forehead. He did not look like a girl anyone would want to sleep with, let alone Joey.
"Are you okay?" he asked, while Lance was unpacking, setting his small stack of t-shirts on the bed. Lance turned around, blinking.
"I'm okay," he said, finally.
"You need any help or anything?" Chris motioned to the clothes, but really, there weren't that many of them. He wondered what had happened to all of Lance's nice stuff, and then realized it probably didn't fit anymore. Lance was smaller that he had been before, and shaped differently.
"No," Lance said.
"Alrighty then." Chris knocked a little pattern on the doorjamb. "I'll order food for dinner. What do you want?"
"Um." Lance seemed to be thinking for a minute, but then he sighed. "I don't care," he said. It sounded like a question.
Lance kind of disappeared into the woodwork after that. He came around to eat, and sometimes he would watch the game with Chris, holding a pillow against his chest, but he didn't say much and he didn't ask for anything.
Once, Chris woke up in the middle of the night to hear Lance's soft footsteps on the carpeting in the hallway. He thought Lance was just going to get a drink of water or take a leak or something, but the steps receded and then came back and then receded and came back again.
"Lance," Chris called. The footsteps stopped.
"Sorry," Lance said. "Did I wake you?"
"No." Chris sat up in bed. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing. Nothing. I couldn't sleep."
"You want something?" Chris asked. "You want me to make you something?"
Lance came and stood in the doorway, a darker shadow in a pool of shadows. Chris could hardly see him. Her.
"Do you want me to call you something else?" Chris asked, suddenly. "Like. I dunno. Lucy."
Lance chuckled and for a second, in the darkness, he sounded just like himself. "No," he said. "I don't think. Lance is fine."
Chris nodded. "Okay. Well, you need anything?"
"I'm just gonna go back to bed, I think," Lance said.
"Okay." Lance's shadow moved from the doorway. Chris stared at the empty blankness for a minute and then lay down, smoothing the pillow down under his cheek.
Lance, Chris realized, was the same guy he'd always been, except not a guy. He still did the same things, spending most of his days on the computer or the phone, trying to run his businesses without ever seeing anyone. He still liked the same music and watched the same shows on television and laughed at the same jokes when Chris could get him to hang around long enough to listen to jokes. Worst of all, he still wore the same clothes.
"Dude," Chris said at breakfast a few days later. "Is that all you brought?"
Lance looked down at himself. He had a t-shirt on, a blue one, and sweatpants. He looked, in Chris' humble opinion, like a bag lady. A poor bag lady.
"Yeah," Lance said. "None of my other stuff fits."
"Lance, honey, this may come as a shock to you, but did you know you can buy clothes? At, like, stores?"
Lance gave him a slanting smile that normally would have been annoying and snide, but with Lance's pretty new mouth was just charming. There were advantages to being a girl, Chris thought. You could be a bitch all the time and no one got mad.
"Fuck off," Lance said sweetly.
"Nice language, lady," Chris said.
Lance flipped him off, but he agreed to go shopping anyway, putting on sunglasses and his ill-fitting shoes.
They went to the Nordstrom's and Chris corralled a shop lady who was about fifty and wouldn't care who they were except for autographs for the grandkids. Wouldn't care who he was. No one cared who Lance was, anymore, which was a weird thought and a kind of cool one.
The lady, Marguerite, took one look at Lance and grabbed his hand. "Oh honey," she said, smiling. She sat Chris down in a plush leather chair with a Coke and took Lance into the dressing room. He came out almost an hour later with a dazed look on his face and a pile of clothes.
"She asked if you were paying," Lance whispered to him on the way to the register. "I was gonna say no, but my wallet. My cards."
Chris waved him off. "You eat my food, too," he said. "It's cool."
It was over three thousand dollars.
"I'm so taking this out in trade," Chris told him, opening the back door on the SUV. "You owe me, like, fifty blow jobs or something. Three thousand dollars!"
"Hey," Lance said. "That includes shoes!"
"True," Chris said. He opened Lance's door and walked around the car.
"Plus," Lance said. "I needed all sorts of stuff I didn't know about. Did you know you need, like, four different kinds of underwear to be a girl?"
"Nah." Chris hopped into the driver's seat. "You only need two. Thong and crotchless."
Lance shook his head. "I said to be a girl," he said. "Not a frickin' porn star."
"Well, what's the point of being a girl if you're not going to wear crotchless thong underwear?" Chris asked. He smiled over at Lance while he pulled out.
"Gosh, Chris. I don't know," Lance said, one finger against his mouth, pretending innocence. "Maybe to spend all my boyfriend's money on new Pradas." He stretched his leg out until his foot, clad in a Prada slide, was in Chris' lap and wriggled it.
"Hey, label queen," Chris said. He shoved Lance's foot off his lap. "Trying to drive here."
Lance sat back in his seat, arms folded over his chest. For the first time since he'd moved in to Chris' house, though, his smile looked real. Chris slapped him happily on the knee.
"So it's going okay?" Joey asked.
Chris looked over at Lance, who was answering emails, his glasses perched on his nose. His eyebrows pulled together when he answered emails. He looked like he was slightly pissed off all the time. It was pretty cute. "Uh huh," he said. "It's fine."
"She's not crying anymore?"
Crying? Chris squinted at Lance. "Hey," he said, while Joey made protesting noises in his ear. Lance looked up. "Are you crying anymore?"
Lance rolled his eyes. "Fuck you, Fatone!" he called loud enough for Joey to hear. "I told you not to tell anyone!"
"Thanks a lot," Joey said. "Seriously. Any --"
"It's fine," Chris said. "He's fine. She's fine. And I'm fine, thanks for asking."
"So you --"
"No!" Chris whispered. He moved to the far corner of the room so Lance couldn't hear him. "I'm not tempted to nail him, if that's what you're asking."
"So it's just me, then." Joey sighed.
"Yes, it's just you, you pervert." Chris answered. "Why does this surprise you?"
Justin called after about a week and said "let me talk to him" before Chris could even really tell who it is. Lance was gone, out shopping with JC and JC's credit card for a change, but Chris could still taste his desire to protect Lance, coppery on his tongue.
"Why hello," he said. "How are you? Me? Oh, I'm good, thanks."
"Chris, come on," Justin whined. "I know he's there. Joey told me."
"Well, he's here and he's not, if you know what I --"
"I know she's there, then, you ass."
Chris grinned. Nothing like a little annoyed Timberlake to spice up the day. He sometimes thought that he was Justin's best friend just because he was so funny when he was annoyed. Chris was better at annoying people than anyone he knew.
"Actually, I meant he's out with JC. Can I take a message, sir?"
Justin sighed. "No."
"It's California-y," Justin said. "You know. Sunny."
"Gettin' any?" Chris flipped through the paper that Lance had left on the breakfast table.
"Why? Is he?"
Chris laughed. "No. He's not. Feel better?"
"No." There was a long period of silence. Justin was building up to something. "Chris," he said.
"As far as I know," Chris said. It was best not too be too sympathetic to Justin, who would then start making issues out of every little thing. A brusque concern was better, because then Justin didn't get the feeling he was too important.
"I don't think I can get back together with him," Justin said. His voice sounded small and shivery over the line. It was hard for Justin to admit he'd failed at things, especially things like relationships, because Justin was excellent with people. He just wasn't so good with himself, sometimes. Chris felt a little sorry for him.
"No?" Chris said. "Well. Better now than later, then, right baby?"
"I guess," Justin said. "I'm, um. I'm going to stay out here for another week or two, okay?"
"Okay," Chris said. "You know where I am."
"Uh huh," Justin said. "Tell. No. Never mind."
"Okay baby," Chris said. "Later."
Later, he told Lance that Justin called. He didn't tell Lance what Justin had said, besides that he'd asked to talk to Lance, but Lance got very quiet anyway, and dragged his bags of stuff upstairs and didn't come down even for pizza and Trading Spaces. Chris woke up that night to Lance's soft footsteps up and down the hall.
JC decided to throw Lance a welcome party, even though everyone else thought it was stupid, even Lance.
"Jayce," he said patiently for, like, the fiftieth time. "I haven't gone anywhere."
"Yes, but." JC nodded frantically. "Yes, I know. But you're different now, right? And we should, like, welcome you, this new you. Girl you. She should be welcomed to our family."
Chris stared at JC for a second, just long enough to be sure he wasn't going to laugh.
"It sounds like fun," Lance said, suddenly.
"Great! Okay!" JC said and grabbed his phone to call his party planner. He'd only ever planned one party before, because he didn't like people he didn't know coming to his house and he didn't need a party planner for just having them over, but he still called the woman he'd used that once his party planner. He still had her number programmed into his phone.
Chris turned and looked at Lance and mouthed "what the fuck?" at him.
Lance shrugged and didn't say anything, just looked at JC, and Chris understood. Maybe they should have had a party for JC, but no one had thought of it. Sometimes, guys were stupid.
JC's party planner decided that they should have "summer fun" for a theme and set up Chris' backyard like it was always set up, except for tiki torches, and brought food that they could have picked up at the Piggly Wiggly, like hot dogs and shit. Potato chips. Chris did not ask JC how much it had cost.
It was fun, though.
Chris and Joey sent the cook home and grilled the food themselves, and Lance and JC mostly sat around and drank fruity drinks.
"Look how cute they are," Chris said, flipping a burger. Joey looked over at them: Lance held out his hand for JC to look at his manicure, and JC was running his fingers over Lance's new nail polish. "Pearly Pink" it was called, and Chris thought it was a damn good thing he had sisters or Lance would be driving him batshit with his sudden discovery of makeup and nail polish and really expensive shoes. At least he still liked video games and drank beer out of the bottle.
"Yeah." Joey sighed.
"Dude," Chris said. He waved the spatula at Joey in admonishment. Joey blushed a little.
"Okay," he said. He seemed to be getting better about the Lance- lust, though, just on his own and without any threats. He didn't spend all his time staring anymore, at least. And he and Lance had started talking like they used to, Joey offering things up for approval and Lance groaning and rolling his eyes. Things were returning to normal. As normal as possible anyway, which, Chris supposed, wasn't saying all that much.
"So, how's it going?" Joey asked.
Chris smirked at him. "Fine. My dick's still in my pants."
"Fuck off," Joey said, watching Lance. "He's so ..." Joey made a motion like he was carrying bowling balls in his palms. Sometimes it was hard to believe that Joey had even gotten one girl to sleep with him.
"You're so," Chris said, twirling his finger near his ear.
He went into the kitchen for more meat and another beer and when he came out, Joey had Lance by the waist near the edge of the pool. They were going in, Chris could tell, but since there was nothing he could do about it, he just went back to grilling, smiling at Lance's high pitched screeching and Joey's laughter.
The splash was huge, a tidal wave that sent JC sprawling on the lawn at the side of the patio when he tried to back pedal out of the way. Lance surged up out of the water, sputtering and laughing, his hair pushed back from his face, mascara running in dirty streaks over his face.
"Goddamn it, Joey!" he shouted, happy, and pushed a wave of water over Joey's head. "Now I have to take a shower!"
Chris smiled. Normal Lance bitching and normal Lance showering and hamburgers and goofing off and Lance getting out of the pool.
Lance got out of the pool.
Lance got out of the pool. He got out of the pool in his white baby doll t-shirt and khaki shorts, and he had a bra on, he did, Chris could clearly see its outline against the t-shirt, just as clearly as he could see Lance's nipples outlined and tight against the fabric, water sliding over them. Chris' tongue sliding over them, his hands --
"You fucker!" Lance shouted, wringing out his shirt. "Joey's a fucker," he told Chris, coming up to him.
"Um," Chris said. He made sure to only look at the grill, but Lance's breasts were right there, just outside his vision, their white glare on the edge of his eyesight.
"I'm going to change," Lance said, and patted Chris' shoulder with a wet hand.
"Okay," Chris said. He didn't look up until Lance was near the back door, and then he dropped the spatula in between the slats of the grill.
Suddenly, Joey wasn't so crazy anymore.
Lance was a girl. A girl.
Chris stared at his soggy paper plate and his half-eaten hamburger and not at Lance, who had come down in a fresh grey t-shirt and navy shorts and white white tennis shoes. That much hadn't changed, at least; Lance's tennis shoes still had to be perfectly white. Chris let himself stare at the tennis shoes.
He didn't let himself stare at Lance's legs, his neat ankles where they slid into the socks, his perfect smooth bumps of his knees, the space between his thighs when he sat and crossed his legs at the ankle. Chris also didn't let himself look at Lance's breasts under the snug t- shirt, or think about them at all. Or Lance's ass, his wet shorts clinging as he'd wa --
"You okay?" Joey asked, nudging him.
"No," Chris said. "No. I'm, um. Sick or something. I'm gonna go lie down." He set his plate on the table.
Joey pressed one hand against Chris' forehead. "You want anything?" he asked.
"No. I'm gonna sleep."
"Okay," Joey said. "Let me know if there's anything you want."
Chris nodded, but what he wanted Joey couldn't give him.
He was lying on his bed in the dark, hands folded over his stomach. He tried to pretend that he was thinking about things, working things out in his head, but really he was imagining Lance's breasts under his white t-shirt, how they glistened with sheeted water, how they would feel in his hands, heavy, wet, slightly cool from the water, nipples pressed into Chris' palms. He'd just about resigned himself to jerking off, one hand over his cock, warm through his jeans, when someone knocked on his door.
"Yeah," he said, rolling onto his side so that his back was to the door.
Chris squeezed his eyes shut, tight, then opened them and stared at the wall in front of him. "Hey, Lance," he said.
"Hey." Lance came and sat on the bed in front of him, rested one hand on Chris' bare arm. "Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm okay. Tired."
Lance stroked his arm, his cheek. "Yeah?"
"Did the guys --"
"They went home. Just a minute ago."
"I didn't mean to ruin --"
"Hey. No," Lance said. His fingers twined in Chris' short hair. His voice was soothing, low, almost as low as it had been before. Lance was good at this, making people feel better. It was something about his voice or his touch or something. Chris couldn't put his finger on it. He closed his eyes.
"You want anything?" Lance asked.
Chris shook his head just a little. No, he didn't want anything, he couldn't want anything. There was nothing to want. Nothing.
"Okay." Lance touched his hair again, leaned down and kissed Chris softly, near his eyebrow. "Good night, then."
"Yeah," Chris said. "Good night." He kept his eyes closed until he heard Lance shut the door behind him. Then he opened his eyes and stared at the wall and touched himself through his pants until he came. It didn't help.
Over the next week, Lance went from Lance to something Chris had only seen in Penthouse before, his very own living breathing centerfold.
It wasn't true. Every once in a while, when he wasn't expecting it, Chris would get a glance of Lance how he really was, a pretty, nice, sweet girl with beautiful eyes. A girl pretty enough to go out with, but not one that would cause car crashes in the street or anything. A normal girl.
But those impressions only lasted a minute before Chris was dazed again, by the sparkle in Lance's eye, or the shine of his smile, or the expanse of skin from the hem of his shorts to his sandal, or his shoulders.
And, suddenly, Lance always seemed to need his help getting dressed.
"Chris, can you tie this?" he'd ask, holding up the straps of a halter top behind his neck, his whole bare back under Chris' hands. Or
"Would you unzip this?" Or
"Can you reach the buttons at the bottom?" Lance favored dresses and shirts and pants, for that matter, that fastened in the back. Chris saw a lot of Lance's back these days.
Lance also favored shoes, high heels, with ankle straps that fastened with little silver or gold buckles that needed adjusting. "Please," Lance would say, lifting his foot into Chris' lap for help. Chris would buckle or unbuckle or whatever was required and then bolt to his own room or the pool or somewhere else that Lance was not and breathe through his nose until he felt like he could look Lance in the eye again.
"So," he said to JC one afternoon while JC was waiting for Lance to put on shoes so they could go out. "You think it would be rude of me to ask Lance to go home?"
"You want him to go home?" JC asked. He flipped through a Glamour Lance had bought for make up tips. He was still working on getting the eyeliner right.
"No," Chris admitted.
"Well, then," JC said, like that settled anything.
"When are you coming back?" he asked Justin, who called every morning around eleven. Lance was always outside near the pool at eleven, or in the shower getting ready for lunch with Joey or JC. Justin had learned that Chris wouldn't go get Lance so he could call and demand to speak to him with impunity and then he and Chris could have a normal conversation. What Chris didn't tell the snotty little fucker was that he no longer told Lance that Justin called.
"Never," Justin said. "Never."
Uh oh. "What happened?"
"I slept with someone," Justin said. He sounded awful, overcome with guilt and misery and loneliness.
"Well, J, it was bound to happen."
"He's not there, is he?" Justin asked. Lance was, in fact. Chris could see him sitting under an umbrella reading Cosmo and drinking iced tea, but no way was Chris going to call him in to talk to his ex- boyfriend who'd just slept with someone else. It was too nice a day out.
"No, honey," Chris said. "You wanna talk about it?"
Justin did. It was a girl, a black girl named Janice, and she was nice and fun and cool and it didn't mean anything (although Justin was seeing her again that night) and he just woke up this morning and felt so alone, like he should come back to Florida right away because he missed Lance so much, but then he remembered Lance wasn't there, and why they'd broken up in the first place, which had nothing to do with Lance turning into a girl (which was news to Chris) and, and, and. With Justin, every problem was the end of the world.
Chris let him talk, then talked himself, reminding Justin that they were broken up and it was okay to sleep with people, and still okay to miss others, and Justin started sounding more like his own asshole self that Chris loved so much.
"But he hasn't," Justin said, after Chris said he had to go.
"No. Not yet," Chris said and tried not to think about how much he wanted to change that.
"Okay." Silence, while Justin gloated about how he was moving on better than Lance was.
"This has been your Lance Bass Sex-o-rama update," Chris said. "Stay tuned for more news on the hour."
"Jerk," Justin said. Chris understood what he meant.
"Sex-o-rama?" Lance asked, opening the refrigerator.
"Well, you know." He hoped Lance wouldn't ask him what the fuck that meant, because he had no idea. Lance didn't ask, just laughed a little.
"How's Justin?" he asked, pushing his hair behind his ears and sitting down.
Lance nodded, staring at his fingernails. They were blue -- JC had painted them -- and Chris thought it looked like the tips of Lance's fingers were rotting off, but blue was the new red. He'd seen that on the cover of Vogue.
"Can I ask you something?" Chris said.
Lance nodded again, still studying his fingernails.
"Why'd you guys break up, anyway?"
Lance smiled at his fingers, the kind of smile Chris hated because he knew he did it a lot himself, the rueful smile. "Oh, well," Lance said. "I don't think I want to talk about that."
"Oh." He hadn't expected that, although he couldn't say why: it was something Lance would have said even if he were still a boy. "Okay."
"You wanna come to lunch with JC and me?" Lance asked. "We're getting deli food."
"You can't wear that," Lance said.
Chris looked down at his ratty jean shorts and black t-shirt.
Lance waved his hands at himself, his white fitted blouse and flower print skirt that made him look like something from an Estee Lauder ad, beautiful and wholesome and completely fuckable.
"Oh sorry," Chris said. "If I'm going out with two of the prettiest girls I know, I'd better change."
"Into something decent," Lance said. "Not those pants with the hole in the butt."
"I like those pants!" Chris said, even though he couldn't care less about the pants. He liked the fact that Lance had noticed the hole, though, a tiny one right at the corner of one of the back pockets: it meant Lance had been looking at his ass.
"Do I look like I care?" Lance asked, raising an eyebrow. Chris missed Lance, guy Lance, so suddenly that his breath hurt in his chest.
"no," he managed. "You don't care, you mean mean girl."
"I'll get mean mean on your ass," Lance said, and Chris stopped missing Lance and started wanting to fuck him all over again. He sighed. He was such a pervert.
"You want to come and pick out my underwear?" he asked, unable to help himself.
"Baby," Lance said, opening the refrigerator, rooting around for the tea pitcher. "You show me yours and I'll show you mine."
"Kill a guy, why don't you?" Chris asked, but it was a rhetorical question so he said it softly.
"Hey," Lance said. Chris opened one eye to look at him. He was wearing the white bikini, the one that reminded Chris of Marilyn Monroe, even though Lance didn't look anything like Marilyn Monroe besides the fact that he was blond and hot.
"Hmm?" Chris said. He lifted his leg so that Lance couldn't see if there were any new ... developments in the vicinity of his swimtrunks.
"I wanted to say thanks for letting me stay here."
Chris opened both eyes. "Why? Are you leaving?"
Lance smiled. "Wasn't planning on it. But I wanted to say thanks. Joey was getting ... weird."
"Ahh." Chris nodded. "Weird. Right."
Lance laughed a little. "I think the weirdest thing about it was that it was Joey, you know? Like Joey, you know? He's my best friend. And I just couldn't. He's my best friend. It's ... weird." He smiled at Chris.
"Um, yeah." Chris nodded again, feeling like an ass. He was an ass, a big ass. The biggest. Rosie O'Donnell's ass and Oprah's ass combined into one big ass, that was him.
"Joey and I are super close," Lance said. "Not like you and me. We're more. Normal friends."
"Sure," Chris said, thinking of stabbing himself in the eye with an iced tea spoon. "We're friends."
"Right," Lance said. "Of course. But just normal friends. Not best friends. We're not all that close."
"I think we're pretty close," Chris said. That hurt a little bit. He let Lance move into his house and leave his girl shit everywhere, after all. It wasn't like he enjoyed having his bathroom suddenly full of stuff he couldn't even pronounce, especially if he wasn't even getting laid out of the deal. The least Lance could do was pretend they were friends. Just for that, Chris gave a good long stare to Lance's breasts from behind his sunglasses. Take that, he thought.
"We're close," Lance said. "Just not super close." He sat up and adjusted his top. Chris gave the breasts another good hard look, just for good measure. "Just not so close that it would be weird if we did something."
"Sure, we can do something," Chris said. "You wanna see a movie?"
Lance laughed a surprised laugh. "What? No. I can see a movie with Joey, man."
Chris snorted with impatience. "Then what the hell, man," he said. "What can you do with me that you can't --"
Lance was staring at him over the top of his sunglasses, his eyes green and direct.
"Lance," Chris said, slowly.
Lance blinked and sat back. "Oh, no. Sure. Sorry." He pulled his feet up on the chaise and pushed his sunglasses up on his nose.
Chris could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Lance had propositioned him. Lance had come on to him. And he'd fucked it up. "Lance," he said again.
"Chris, forget it, okay? It was just an idea." Lance waved his hand, not even looking at Chris.
"I like the idea," Chris said. "It's a good idea. A great idea."
Lance's head tilted a little, but he still didn't look Chris' direction. "How great?"
"Sliced bread. Power windows. Um, that thing, that speed of light thing ..."
"Einstein's theory of relativity," Lance said, and he still wasn't looking at Chris but he was smiling down into his cleavage, and that was better.
"Yeah, that," Chris said.
"That's a pretty good idea," Lance said.
"Yeah, well. You're a pretty bright guy. Girl. Person."
Lance laughed. "Maybe you should kiss me now, before I think some more," he said.
Chris had never kissed Lance when he was a guy, but if it was anything like the way Lance kissed when he was a girl, Justin was a fool. A full-on fool.
Chris' first thought upon waking up was that he was in a hotel because the sun was shining on his face and his room faced west so that certainly couldn't happen, but he realized after a second that it was just his guest room, the one Lance was staying in.
Lance. That was his second thought.
Chris looked around. Nowhere. But then he heard water running in the bathroom, so Lance was somewhere after all.
His third thought was "Justin," and that was so fucked up that Chris decided to stop thinking for a while.
"So," Lance said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Chris squinted at him.
"Sleeping," he said.
"Okay." Lance nodded. He stayed there, though, sitting quietly on the edge of the bed with his hands folded near his knees. He wasn't dressed, but he'd washed his face and combed his hair and gone to the bathroom and was apparently completely ready to sit quietly on the edge of the bed for eternity if that was what it took. Some things about Lance hadn't changed at all.
"What?" Chris said.
"You wouldn't want to do it again, would you?"
The first time hadn't been that great, Chris had to admit. Not that it was Lance's fault or anything, but it had been his first time as a girl and there were differences and pains and no amount of enthusiasm or prior experience could really overcome those things. Not the first time.
The second time, though.
"God," Chris said, when Lance stopped rocking and allowed Chris to slide out of him. They'd done it with Lance on top because Lance thought it would be more comfortable. Chris didn't know if it was or not, but it was pretty damn hot, especially when he slid his hands up Lance's t-shirt and cupped his breasts and Lance arched into his palms and came, pelvis sliding over Chris'.
"Yeah," Lance breathed. He fell forward until his nose was pressed into Chris' neck. "Mmm."
"I think you're a natural," Chris said.
Lance laughed. "Like riding a bike," he murmured. Chris ran his hands over Lance's back, his ass, his waist. Lance had the best skin, made even better now that Chris could touch it as much as he wanted and not worry that Lance would think he was a pervert.
"So I'm your ten speed?" he asked, and then realized he was still a pervert it was just that he didn't have to be so secretive about it anymore. Lance kissed him.
"Twenty-one speed," he said.
Chris didn't mean to spend the next four days ignoring his phone and staying home and having sex, that was just kind of how it worked out. He was okay with it.
Chris tried, after the fourth day, to take Lance out on his motorcycle.
"C'mon, it'll be fun," he said, but then he started up the bike and Lance climbed on and pressed up against him and unbuttoned his jeans and slid his hand down the front and Chris came right there in his garage, the motorcycle still running between his legs, Lance panting "c'mon, baby," in his ear.
"You could have just said no," Chris said later, wiping the last of the wax off the motorcycle's newly clean tank. Lance laughed.
They spent a lot of time by the pool because it made them both feel like they were on vacation. Lance made fruit smoothies, sometimes with alcohol, and they swam a little, but mostly they sprawled on the lounge chairs and dozed or made out.
Lance was great at making out. He could kiss and kiss, gradually ramping up the intensity, his hands slipping under Chris' clothes, his body surging upward. Lance liked to make out slowly, and he liked to have sex from behind, Chris' hands over his breasts, and he really liked it when Chris went down on him, so much that he'd even ask, something a lot of girls didn't do in Chris' experience.
"Busy?" Lance asked, lifting his ankle to Chris' shoulder. He had on sandals, the kind with straps that tied around his ankles and a skirt and his leg stretched totally smooth and pale before Chris.
"God," Chris said. "God, Lance."
Lance laughed, a low sultry laugh. "You like the shoes?"
Chris slid his hands up the outside of Lance's thighs. "I like all of it," he said.
Lance laughed again, throwing his head back, his hips lifting off the chair. Chris pressed his cheek against Lance's calf and closed his eyes, breathing him in. He smelled like sunshine and salt and sex. "Lance," he said. Lance's skin was so sleek. He kissed it, right near his knee. Lance shifted.
With his eyes closed, there was nothing but Lance's smell and his feel and his motion, the slight shifting in time with Chris' kisses, the soft sighs and the rustle of his skirt slipping up above his knees. Chris licked him under the cord of his knee and heard him gasp. His skin, god, his skin. Chris could hardly tell where his lips ended and Lance's body began. He kissed his way up Lance's thigh, feeling Lance's breath hitch, the solid thud of Lance's knee hooking over his shoulder.
"Chris," Lance whispered.
Chris opened his eyes. Lance spread out before him, his white cotton panties showing, his cheeks flushed. Chris kissed the perfect flesh of Lance's inner thigh. Lance squeezed his eyes shut.
"Okay?" Chris asked.
Chris licked, first Lance's inner thigh, high up, where it dipped into the elastic of his panties. Lance shuddered. Chris licked again, poking his tongue under the elastic, wetting it. He nudged at Lance's legs, parting them further. Damp hair peeked out from under the panties, dark with sweat. Chris touched the curl with the tip of his finger, barely brushing Lance's skin. Lance breathed hard, mouth open, but he didn't move except for his ribcage, heaving with air. Chris slid his tongue over the fresh skin near the elastic, already steamy with his breath, then he slid his tongue underneath, pulling the edge of Lance's underwear back with one finger, and Lance lurched up, pushing against Chris' mouth.
"Oh god," he cried. "Oh god."
His hips came up, surging into Chris' hands. Lance tasted of heat and sweetness, and rocked against Chris' mouth, his voice higher than Chris had ever heard it. He was so. Wet. He moved against Chris' tongue like a flood.
The trick, Chris had learned, was to let the girl do to work, to open your mouth and press your tongue flat and avoid all the fancy stuff. He'd heard stories about licking the alphabet and geometric shapes and a whole lot of other things that Dani had pretty much said was just distracting bullshit to reassure men that they weren't going to do it wrong. "Just ... be there," she'd said, so Chris had been, had learned to be, and now he was there for Lance, feeling him open up beneath his tongue. He thought about writing Dani a thank you note.
Lance's leg pulled him in, and Chris went, hoping Lance's enthusiasm was genuine and not some sort of pity thing. Then Lance grabbed his hand, the hand resting on the chair, and said "oh god oh god oh god" in time to his pulsing hips and that seemed like a good sign.
Chris pulled away when Lance slowed, smiling against Lance's thigh. "Hey," he said softly, kissing, kissing, kissing. He ran his hand over Lance's raised leg, up the inside to his knee, then down the outside to his hip. Lance opened his eyes.
"Damn," he said. "Damn."
"I'm going to fuck you 'til you can't walk," Lance said.
Chris kissed Lance's leg again. He could stay here forever, between Lance's legs, tasting him on his tongue. "Promises, promises," he said.
JC came over the next day while they were lying out by the pool in swim suits and sunglasses, too tired even to get up for iced tea.
"Wow," he said, sitting between their chairs and dipping his feet in the water. "You all look beat."
"Late night," Chris said. Lance smiled, the corner of his mouth lifting.
"Oh, yeah?" JC tilted back on his arms and looked at both of them, his head upside down. JC was sexy, Chris realized. He'd known it before, sort of, but this was the first time he'd really realized it, something stirring in the pit of his stomach when he looked at the long line of JC's neck where it dipped into the front of his shirt. "What'd ya do?" he asked.
"Nothin'," Lance said. "We just stayed up." He shifted on his pool chair, arching his back a little, lifting his breasts. He was gorgeous in his black bikini, arms up over his head, one foot up on the chair. Chris had to look away before JC saw how gorgeous Chris thought Lance was.
"Cool," JC said. "Hey, what's that on your leg?" he asked, touching a red spot near Lance's knee. "A rash?"
Lance lifted his leg, extending it fully, bringing it closer to his eyes. Chris caught his breath. "Hmm," he said. "Dunno. Could be." He lowered the leg back to the chair and smiled up into the sunny sky.
JC stood up. "I'm gonna get a drink. You want?" he asked.
"Water," Lance said.
"Iced tea," Chris said. "You're a cocktease," he said after JC went inside.
"You know it, baby," Lance drawled. He arched his back again, and moaned, softly.
"Fucker," Chris muttered.
They didn't have sex all the time, though. It felt like it, for a few days there, but they did other stuff like -- well, nothing. They didn't do anything but have sex and talk and eat. That was it. They talked about some interesting stuff, though.
Once, they talked about Justin.
"So, um," Chris said. "You and Justin."
Lance, who was lying on the couch on his stomach flipping through a People magazine, lifted an eyebrow at him. He still had the same eyebrows he had when he was a boy, even though his face was sharper somehow and his hair was slightly longer and blonder and fell attractively into his eyes. "Chris," he said.
"Look, I understand the rebound," Chris said. "And I'm in favor of it. Maybe we shouldn't tell --"
"It's over," Lance said. He sat up and pushed the magazine away.
"What? I --"
"Me and Justin. We're over. We were over before this whole thing happened." He waved his hands at his breasts. "He's a prick. He's your best friend and I'm sorry, but he's a total prick and he broke my fucking heart and I hate him. A lot."
Chris blinked. Lance had his legs folded up Indian style and his hands in his lap and he looked. Sad. He looked sad.
"Lance," he said. "Hey. I didn't." He patted Lance's shoulder awkwardly. "I didn't mean anything by it." Which wasn't true at all. He meant "I just want to be sure you and the Jupster are completely broken up because you're the best thing that's happened to me in a long time," but frankly, Lance seemed like he was under a lot of pressure and Chris didn't want to screw things up by saying stuff that was better left unsaid anyway.
Lance shook his head, angrily. "I wasted a lot of time," he said. He grabbed his People. "I'm going to take a bath."
"Um, okay," Chris said. Lance was maybe more like a girl than he'd realized.
Most of the time, though, Lance was fine, even when Chris was talking on the phone to Justin. He'd wave at the phone (although Chris would never pass on the message) or make "jerk off" motions, and once, one unbelievably hot time, Lance had come into the kitchen and unzipped Chris' pants and blown him right there, with Justin thinking it was some random girl, laughing in his ear and shouting encouragement.
"Okay," Chris had said afterwards. "No more of that. It's too freaky."
Lance had nodded understandingly, but Chris still got hard every time Lance came into the room while he was talking to J.
"Hey, why'd you and Lance break up?" Chris asked one morning when Lance was upstairs in the shower.
Justin sighed. "He and I, man," he said. "We were just. He drove me fucking nuts. He never wanted to have any fun, you know? He never wanted to do anything. He was always so serious."
That, Chris thought, was probably his fault. He'd gotten a hold of Justin when Justin was too young to have a real sense of humor and thought Chris was just some sort of comedy god or something. Chris had warped Justin into thinking that the only way to be funny was loud funny, so much so that Justin no longer recognized that Lance, with his sotto voce comments and blatant public lies, was much much funnier than Chris would ever be.
"You dumped him because he was serious."
Justin sighed again. "No, man. It's complicated. I mean, why did you and Dani break up?"
"I wasn't around enough so she slept with someone else."
"See?" Justin said, ignoring his answer. "Complicated."
"But, so you and he, you're not getting back together, you don't think?"
"Hmm." Justin paused, a bad sign. "I don't know," he said. "I haven't talked to him for almost three weeks, which, hey, if you see him tell him to answer his messages the fucker, but. He's Lance, you know? It's hard to not love him."
Lance came into the kitchen, a towel wrapped around him, up under his armpits like a girl, his hair spiky and wet. He blew Chris a kiss. Chris faked a smile.
"Yeah," he said to Justin.
"I don't know," Justin said. "I miss him. Anyway, I gotta go. There's some studio thing, so. I'll talk to you later, man."
"Sure," Chris said. "Later." He closed the phone and set it down on the table. A towel hit him upside the head, and then Lance was straddling him, naked, damp, hot, pressing his mouth against Chris' neck right underneath his ear.
"How's Justin," he asked, grinding on Chris' lap.
"He says answer his phone messages, you fucker," Chris said. Lance had beautiful hips, creamy and round and just touching them made Chris want to bite him, hard.
Lance liked to do it from behind. He liked to be woken up by Chris' hands on his breasts, Chris' cock nudging between his legs, Chris' mouth on his ear.
"That's so kinky," Chris had said after trying it the first time. Lance had nodded, panting against Chris' elbow.
"Uh huh," he said. His smiled was dazed and pleased.
"It's. That's like something a guy would like," Chris had said, amazed. He'd expected Lance to swat his hands away, the way, oh, every other girl had when he'd tried to slip one under the wire while the girl was sleeping, but Lance had sighed and opened his eyes and parted his legs and thrust his breasts forward, rubbing into Chris' hands.
"Uh huh," Lance'd said. He rolled over and threw a leg over Chris' waist. "Old habits die hard, I guess," he'd murmured against Chris' throat.
But so, yes. Lance liked it, liked being woken up with sex from behind. He was the best girlfriend Chris had ever had.
"Hey, baby," Chris whispered so softly that if Lance was asleep he wouldn't wake up. That kind of defeated the point. He kissed the back of Lance's neck, up underneath the soft hair there sweaty from sleep. He rubbed his hand over Lance's hip, over the silk of his underwear. "Hey," he whispered. He slid closer, just near enough that his cock nudged against the warm flesh of Lance's ass. Lance sighed, but didn't wake up.
"Hey," Chris said again, and put his hand down Lance's panties.
And jerked it back out again.
"WHOA!" he said. He wasn't shouting, not exactly. He was just talking really loudly for the morning, that was all. And that was kind of understandable, because, well, Lance was a guy. Lance was Lance again. "Whoa!" he said again.
"Man," Lance said. "If you don't shut --"
Lance sat bolt upright. "Chris," he said. He groped his chest, feeling the flatness under his t-shirt. "Chris?"
"Welcome back," Chris said. He tried to smile. He was happy. He was thrilled. He was happy and thrilled.
"Yeah, um." Lance blinked. "Hi."
"Hi," Chris said. He wasn't sure what else to say, whether he should be happy or sad, whether Lance was happy or sad, so he just kept quiet and looked at him, waiting to read his reaction.
He looked good. Confused, but good. His t-shirt was too small because it was a girl's, but Lance had good shoulders and great arms, so he just looked like he went shopping with JC or something. The sheets had slipped down when Lance had woken up, and Chris could see his panties, girl panties still, navy blue bikinis with just a little bit of lace around the elastic. Lance was wearing girl underwear. Chris smiled. It was cute. Lance was cute. Chris lifted his shoulder so that the sheet shifted further and, yep, there it was. The panties were too small, of course, and Chris had been all upon him before, and there was Lance's cock, half-hard, poking out the top of the panties.
"What are you doing?" Lance asked. Chris looked up. Lance's eyes were dark under the fringe of blond bangs.
"Nothing," Chris said. Then he reached out and put his hand over Lance's cock.
"Chris!" Lance said.
Chris squeezed, gently.
"Chris!" Lance said, but he didn't sound nearly as startled. "Chris, you shouldn't," he murmured. Chris smiled. No, he shouldn't. He shouldn't touch Lance's cock, shouldn't push the panties down so he could touch all of it, shouldn't rest his cheek on Lance's solid thigh and open his mouth and lick Lance with the tip of his tongue. Chris did a lot of things he shouldn't do.
"Chris," Lance said. He was inching down the mattress, his legs spread wide, shoving his underwear down with one hand. "Really?"
"Really," Chris said, rubbing his hand over Lance's flat belly. "Really, baby."
It was surprisingly similar. Lance tasted different, saltier, and there was the cock thing, but he still couldn't keep himself from thrusting up incrementally, his head thrown back, mouth open, legs wide. And he still said "Chris, oh god, Chris," right before he came, although his voice didn't get quite as high. And he still got sleepy afterwards and twined around Chris, although now he was bigger and covered almost all of Chris. And he still said, "god, I love you," his mouth moving lazily against Chris' ear, although this was the first time Chris wanted to believe it.
Justin flew in that afternoon, on the first flight he could get, and threw the door open without even knocking. Justin always knew how to make an entrance.
"Baby!" he said, catching sight of Lance who was standing in the hallway with a sandwich in his hand. Chris had made it for him. It had extra mayo. "I'm back!"
He grabbed Lance's hand and kissed him on the cheek, shyly. "Hey," he said.
Lance smiled at him. "Hey," he said.
"Okay, so," Justin turned, still holding Lance's non-sandwich hand. "We're gonna go talk, okay man?"
Chris nodded. "You want me to hold your sandwich?" he asked Lance, who handed it to him without saying a word.
He was cleaning up sandwich from the living room wall when JC and Joey came in, also without knocking. He was going to have to get locks for his house. New locks. That other people didn't have keys to.
"Where's J?" Joey asked, plopping down on the couch. "And why is there tomato on the wall."
"I threw a sandwich," Chris said. Joey nodded. Chris thought it might be a bad sign that sandwich throwing was considered a normal behavior for him. "He's upstairs talking to Lance."
"Talking." JC laughed and fell into the chair. "I remember when they used to 'talk' for hours." JC would be happy. Lance didn't go stay with JC at the beginning because all they did was make each other cry. JC was a big fucking sap and he should have been the one dealing with his girlfriend fucking his best friend in his house. Life was so fucking unfair.
"Yeah. Ha," Chris said. He took the soggy remains of the sandwich into the kitchen and threw it down the garbage disposal. He felt like shoving his hand down there, too, but that seemed sort of. Stupid.
"So, what's wrong?" Joey asked, when he came back.
"Nothing," Chris said.
"Please," JC said.
"Dude, do not make me kick your ass," Joey said.
Chris snorted. "Like you fucking could."
"Chris, I kicked your ass a month ago when you wanted to take Brianna on your motorcycle."
"She would have liked that!" Chris said. "Besides, I let you win."
"Let me win this time, dude. What's up?"
Chris sighed. "Nothing. It's just. Justin."
"You missed him," JC said. "We all did, but him and Lance --"
Chris laughed. "Yeah," he said. "Him and Lance."
Joey and JC looked at him.
"Oh, no way," Joey said.
"Oh. No fucking way!" Joey said. "You did not!"
"Joey, man," Chris said. "It wasn't. It just."
"Wait," JC said. "You and Lance. You and Lance, really?"
"You fucking bastard!" Joey shouted. "I gave him to you for safe keeping!"
Chris closed his eyes and nodded again.
"If I'd wanted him fucked with, I would have done it myself!" Joey screeched.
Chris opened his eyes. "You can shut up right now, Fatone," he said.
"Fuck you!" Joey answered, and stormed off.
JC stood there for a minute, looking at him, his eyes worried.
"It's okay, C," he said. It wasn't. Justin was upstairs fucking his girlfriend or his boyfriend or whatever, and Joey wasn't ever going to talk to him again, but JC was about to cry so he couldn't really fall apart at this point.
"Are you okay?" JC asked. "Was it while he was, you know?"
Chris nodded. "Yeah," he said.
"But, um. Not before, though?" JC asked. Chris understood.
"No, man," he said. "Not before."
JC blinked. "Oh. So. Are you. Still?"
"Yeah," Chris said. "I thought so. We, um. Did. This morning."
"Oh," JC said again.
They stood there for another minute, looking at carpet fibers. JC cleared his throat. He took a step forward. Then he circled his arms around Chris' waist and pulled him gently until Chris' cheek rested on JC's shoulder. He forgot, sometimes, that JC was taller than him and had very strong arms and hands that knew where to touch you to make you feel better even when you didn't want to.
"Yeah," Chris said against JC's shoulder and wanted to cry.
JC left after a while and Chris went outside and sat by the pool, waiting for Justin or Lance or someone to come and get him, but no one did. When he went in, driven inside by the mosquitoes and the dark and feeling like an outsider in his own fucking house, he discovered they were gone.
There was no note.
"They broke up," JC said when Chris finally answered the phone the next day. "I mean, they were already broken up, but they're still. You know. Broken up."
"You should get a job in radio, C, seriously. That was a great public service announcement," Chris said.
He felt like shit when JC hung up on him and didn't call back for almost an hour.
Joey showed up with beer and pizza. "I'm still mad at you, you know," he said. Chris gave up and let him in.
"So, I talked to Lance," Joey said, after an enormous belch that Chris had to look away from. He was afraid he'd see Joey's stomach lining in the back of his throat.
"Oh yeah? How's he?"
"He told me, you know. How it happened."
Chris just looked at him. How it happened. That was a good fucking question. He wished Lance would talk to him so that he could find that out, because right now he felt like he'd been hit upside the head with a wet towel. "Yeah?" he said.
"So, I know that you didn't, like, let me down, or whatever."
Chris nodded. He knew that this was Joey's apology and he didn't want to fuck it up because he missed Joey. He missed Justin and Lance, too, but Joey was the one who he thought he had the best chance of making up with, and he didn't want to screw it up by saying the wrong thing. "Okay," he said. "Thanks."
Joey slung and arm around him. "You should call Lance," he said.
Chris belched in his ear.
Justin called him two days later. "Hey," he said.
"Hey," Chris said. Then there was two minutes of silence. "Okay, well, this has been great," he said. The sad thing was, he kind of meant it. Just hearing Justin's annoyed breath on the phone made him, well. Upset. Lonely. Depressed, but in a good way, the ache in his heart like the ache of his muscles after he'd worked out. He didn't want to hang up.
"I hate you," Justin said, suddenly.
"I hate me, too."
"Don't fuck him up," Justin said.
Chris closed his eyes and tried to breathe quietly through his nose. "I won't," he said.
Lance opened the door easily enough. "Hey, Joe," he said, then blinked twice. "Hey, Chris," he said.
"Joey didn't think you would let me in."
Lane sighed. Smiled faintly. "Joey's a drama queen. Of course I would let you in." He took a step back and held open the door, a demonstration that he was good on his word. Like Chris would doubt that. "You want some tea or something?"
"No." Chris shook his head.
"Okay." Lance stood in the foyer and looked at him. He looked good, wearing sweat shorts and a white t-shirt and socks. He looked like Lance.
"Okay, yes, please. Tea," Chris said.
Lance smiled. He'd gotten his hair cut, Chris noticed, something that wasn't obvious from the front because it still hung in his eyes. "Very Nick Carter," he said, gesturing to his own forehead.
Lance grimaced around the edge of his iced tea glass. "I was afraid of that," he said. "I'll have Simone fix it tomorrow. So." He set his glass down on the kitchen counter. "Did you want something? Or is this just the courtesy call because you didn't want to break up with me over the phone?"
Chris flinched. "Hey, you're the one who left," he said.
"I had to, Chris. I had to talk to Justin. You could have called me."
"You could have left a note."
"You could have called."
They glared at each other over Lance's kitchen island for a minute.
"Okay, well," Lance said. "You came by, thanks. I'll see you in a week or two when we go back into studio."
"That's it?" Chris said. "That's all. 'Thanks, Chris and I'll see you'? Fuck you, man!"
"Don't you fucking swear at me!" Lance said. He pressed his palms flat against the table. "Don't you fucking swear at me in my own goddamn house, Chris Kirkpatrick. I'll kick your fucking ass."
"You're trying to tell me you still don't hit like a girl, you fag?" Chris crossed his arms over his chest. "Bring it on."
For a second, he thought Lance would, would vault over the table and give him a run for his money, but Lance was nothing if not reasonable and after thirty seconds, he stepped back, pushing himself away from the breakfast island. "Maybe you should go," he said. "Just. Leave."
Chris hesitated. He should go or he should apologize, but he didn't want to leave and he didn't know how to apologize, not in a way that would fix anything, anyway. "I talked to Justin," he said instead.
Lance laughed, a loud hoarse bark of laughter. "Yeah! What, are you two gonna form a club or something? Guys Who Dumped Lance Bass?" He had his arms folded over his chest now, too, but he brought one hand up, passed it over his watery smile.
"He said I shouldn't fuck this up," Chris said. "But, you know." He sighed.
"You always fuck things up," Lance said.
"I don't want to dump you," Chris blurted. "I want you to still be my girlfriend. Boyfriend. Life partner. Significant other. Whatever the fuck you want to call it, Lance, I want you to be it. And please, please say yes, because I suck at these things, at romantic things, like, declarations, and I'm making an idiot out of myself."
Lance shook his head. "You are making an idiot out of yourself," he said. "But maybe you should. You were pretty mean to me."
"What!" Chris took a couple of steps forward. He was being forgiven. Lance was forgiving him. He could hardly breathe. "Me? You bailed on me!"
"You called me a fag," Lance said.
"You threatened to hit me." He took a few more steps, into Lance's personal space. They weren't touching yet, but Chris could feel the aura of heat coming off Lance's body.
"I would have, too," Lance said. "And you would have been hurt." His voice had gotten softer, lower. Chris leaned forward to hear it.
"I know," he said. Lance lifted his face, and Chris kissed him.
"You really talked to Justin?" Lance murmured, uncrossing his arms and re-crossing them with Chris inside. Chris nodded. Lance's eyes dazzled him, like jewels. "And he's okay with this?"
"Okay is a strong word. Not likely to strangle us while we sleep would be a better choice, I think."
Lance smiled. Kissed him. Smiled again. "And you will never accuse me of hitting like a girl again."
"Not unless it involves a softball," Chris promised, trying to look sincere.
Lance sighed, resting his cheek against Chris' shoulder. Chris stroked him, the solid line of his back under the t-shirt. Lance, Lance, Lance. "Fair enough," Lance said. Chris squeezed him tight.