Soundtrack: based on "you sound like louis burdett"; title and quotes from the same song. Disclaimer: Fiction-ous; no libel or slander intended regarding real people. Challenge: eddie's not-announced Whitlams' challenge.

madness likes him


had a little bit to drink
there's a little thing I want at a do out east

They're on the plane again, and Chris has already swallowed two tranquilizers but that was over six hours ago and he's nursing a drink.

The stewardess looks at him sympathetically, and he smiles tightly. It looks like she's going to ask for an autograph, but when she leans over, all she says is, "Can I get you anything else, sir?"

He sighs in relief, and says, teeth grinding, "I hate flying."

Really, he hates it because he's afraid of airplanes. --that's a new thing, Chris admitting that he's afraid, but after what happened, he's terrified of airplanes. They were never his favorite things, but now they're the bane of his existence and he's already spent three days flying this month, with two more on the way.

She nods in understanding, and takes his nearly empty glass. "Would you like another?"

He grits his teeth, feeling the armrest under his hand. He's going back to New York, to meet the rest of the guys for an MTV appearance, and then he's going back to Orlando, and then later in the month, he has to go back to LA for FuMan and then back to Orlando.

The armrest doesn't bend under his fingertips. He says, "Please."


nothing too emotional, my good miss
I couldn't be serious in a room full of jack-knife eyes

When he lands, there are people ready to meet him.

There are always people ready to meet him, or people ready to usher him somewhere.

His personal assistant, Chris knows, gets over eighty thou a year. He knows this because he pays her himself. It makes him feel good to know that somewhere, her kid -- she's a single mother, he always employs single parents when he can -- is eating gourmet baby food.

She says, "You've got a meeting at twelve, and then the shoot, and then a photo shoot, and then dinner, and then Joey called and wanted to know whether you wanted to go out or die tonight."

He takes it all in, lets himself be ushered into a Lincoln continental.

Says, "This is a really snazzy car."

His assistant smiles at him as he starts tapping on his leg -- she's used to him fidgeting, or tapping, or babbling angrily about the latest annoyance. He yelled once at her, "I'm thirty fucking years old! I don't want someone to tell me that 'Seventeen' magazine thinks my quote was too immature!"

She'd sat there, ignoring him and eating a salad in his house, until he apologized, and then she put her fork down, and said, "Frankly, my dear, Elton would be hard-pressed to put on more of a tantrum right there. I applaud you."

He bought her a new sweater to apologize. She sent it back. He bought her a new wardrobe; she kept it.

A reporter corners him as he's getting out of the car and asks what he thinks the group's chance of getting a Grammy this year are. He says, "I really think that we have a pretty good chance, though I'll be surprised if we win, I really will. I mean, it's a good song, it's a really good song, and a good album, but there are so many other talented people out there, I mean, just look at the competition."

And then some music starts up, in the lobby, and he starts monkeying around with Lisa, his assistant, and she dances with him patiently until the reporter leaves.

Chris is glad. He didn't like the look in his eyes, didn't like the way they surveyed him like he was some kind of tool, or merchandise. He's extremely glad that, now he's rich, he doesn't have to worry about paying homage to leeches too much, anymore.


stop talking 'bout the years - you sound like louis burdett

Joey and his family take him out for a late dinner, because the shoot is too exhausting to go for a night on the town, and he promises that he'll go tomorrow night. Joey understands, patting his hand and making sympathetic noises about the flight.

Around the table with about a million Fatones, Chris is smiling and cracking jokes and talking about a mile a minute, and the rest of the family are keeping up just like that. Joey leans over, pours him some more wine, and says, "Remember the time..."

He tells a story, from the beginning of the NSA tour, when Steve was on their bus too, so Steve jumps in and adds some details like the fact that it was Joey with the water gun, and not Lance, and then Joey makes a face, and Kelly laughs and puts her hand on Joey's arm. Chris drinks his wine, and snarks, "God, Joey, we're talking about 'the way things were'. We're getting old."

To which Joey grins, and answers, "Speak for yourself, old man. I'm in my prime!"

Everyone makes a joke each, and Joey looks bemused under the assault. Chris grins to himself, outwardly bemoaning his age, and sips his wine. Joey leans over, saying, "I know that look."

Chris replies, "I don't mind these years."

Kelly nods at him, politely, as he goes to the bathroom to stare at his reflection. He's thirty. It doesn't feel that different from twenty nine, but it feels a hell of a lot different from twenty. At twenty, he couldn't have ever envisioned making it. He doesn't mind these years. It's the ones before that were the hard part.


and we roll on to my backshed, play some poker, scratch my head
look at the sky and spot the planes, where would I go on holidays?

Chris wakes up, in the middle of the night, and gasps, because he's dreaming about flying. He's staying with Joey, for the night, and then he's running around, spending half the time in the car and the other half in boardrooms. This is what his life is like.

His clock says six thirty. Must have woken up because he heard Brianna's baby monitor.

Chris hears Kelly murmuring, possibly to Joey, maybe to the baby, and rolls over. Thirty is almost too old to be a dad.

"It's okay, sweetie, it's okay," Kelly says, as she drifts past his bedroom door. It's nice to hear. He wants to chuckle.

Last night, he and Joey played poker, and thinking about that helps a little bit, because Joey sucks at cards even after all this time on the road, so Chris cleaned him out, Kelly winning almost as much. The sounds of their domesticity, however temporary and fleeting in reality, were soothing. Are soothing, still, in the pre-dawn.

The nightmare he was having is gone, and Chris can't remember why he was so afraid. Fear. Phobia. Same thing, he thinks in his head, and rolls over. An hour and a half, he has, left to sleep, and then a tasteful boardroom, and then a car ride. He isn't sure why he does it, any more, but he isn't sure what he would be doing instead.


roll with the punches, down the aisles, and down the street the weeks roll by

Chris goes grocery shopping once a month, like clockwork, and always comes back to his house with food he probably won't ever eat.

But he always buys Justin's cereal -- something the kid never grew out of, becoming a man -- and JC's weird fruity juices, and Joey's sandwich making stuff, even if the guys never come to his house.

Lance is the only one he never shops for, and it's because he doesn't know what to buy. But sometimes he'll bring Lance with him, and Lance will buy his own comfort food. He'll buy fried chicken one week, though, and potato salad, and then the next it'll be nacho chips and mangoes.

Lance has always confused Chris.

He's pretty sure that Lance isn't too aware of the inner workings of the Chris-brain, either, so it balances out.

He turns to Lance, executing a complicated tap-dancing step, and says, "You want to go and get the infant his Count Chocula, or should I?"

The nickname isn't unkind anymore, though Justin still isn't fond. Lance picks up a bag of flour, and some sugar, though the last person to bake was Chris's mother and that's just because she didn't want anyone to know that she was making a cake for Heather's birthday. He says, "You get it. I can't tell the difference between those stupid cereals."

Once, Lance had yelled at Chris for half an hour for being unprofessional in front of an MTV camera. Chris had yelled right back, bringing up the drunken Lance on MTV, conveniently forgetting that he'd been almost drunker. Almost. Afterwards, Lance had never apologised and Chris hadn't expected him to. They understand each other like that, at least, Chris thinks, even if they don't know anything else.

Chris says, "Don't get that kind, it's two whole bucks more," and he makes Lance put back the expensive flour.

Lance looks at him, completely confused. "Chris, you have four boxes of frozen peas in your cart that eventually will have more freezer burn than peas, and you're worried about two dollars for flour. That you don't even need, because since when do you bake?"

Chris waves his hands in the air, and pushes the shopping cart into the next aisle, dumping three different kinds of cereal in, just in case Justin drops by any time in the next six months. It's unlikely, but Chris believes in being prepared.

He can't explain why he both needs to buy food, and hates to spend money. When he pays for anything, still, it's always with a little reluctance.

When he pays this time, Lance bags the food up, and they drive away. It's been three and a half weeks since Chris went out for food. His mother's house is full of it, and the thought of that makes him absurdly happy.

He thinks Lance probably wouldn't understand that, and doesn't say it. He says, "Did you pick up anything for dinner?"

Lance laughs. "Chris, this is YOUR shopping trip."

He grouses. "Fine, we'll go to JC's," because he knows that JC will have food, because JC was almost poorer than he was, and JC is even more paranoid about being back there.

If anything bad ever happens in Chris's life, he's always tried to roll with the punches, shake it off, deal with it in a flippant manner. It's worked before.

Putting his groceries away is still a relief.


I'm chewing ice and grinning, I'm spewing up and spinning
it's billiousness as usual in my corner of the kitchen

The amount that the five of them party is nothing compared to the amount that Chris and Joey party when it's just the two of them and Colleen. --oh yeah. Colleen the Dancer. Chris likes her, but he has the feeling that she's not suited for him, not totally.

They end up back at Joey's place around two in the morning, and in two days he has to go back to LA. The three of them flop onto the couch, panting and drunk. Chris wraps a friendly arm around Colleen, and says to Joey, "I fucking hate flying."

Joey pats his shoulder. "It's okay, Chris."

Chris starts to feel a little nauseous, as they dance around the living room. A couple of Joey's friends drop by, and Lance comes by around three. It's like an all-night after-party. Some of the dancers follow them to the house, and Joey starts trying to mix martinis. Chris drinks three, slurping olives and grinning madly, and then feels a little more nauseous, announces, "I think I'm gonna be sick."

He stumbles to the bathroom, that has designer tile and a gold faucet, and throws up quickly. At thirty, he's used to the sensation, and is barely gone ten minutes, just enough to drink a whole handful of water, rinse his mouth, brush his teeth with one of Joey's toothbrushes, and then he's done. Joey claps him on the back. "Feeling okay, champ?"

Joey hardly ever throws up from drinking. It's not fair. "Yeah, I'm okay. You might want to throw out your toothbrush."

He starts to laugh, and gasps out, "that was Lance's toothbrush!" as he spills a beer all over his couch. Chris suddenly, with perfect clarity, remembers oodles -- oodles, what kind of word is that? -- of college parties where the drinking was done at home because they couldn't afford anything else, because that's how college kids are.

He's not packed yet, and at four thirty, it seems imperative to go and pack. His mom's place is so far away that it feels impossible to get there. Chris forgets, for a minute, that he has a driver waiting for him if he wants it, and goes into the kitchen for some water, or more beer. It's a little quieter. He's feeling a bit nauseous again.

Lance wanders by, hands plastered to the boy of the week. Chris hears him, as if he's really far away, saying, "What's the matter, Chris?"

He can taste bile rising in the back of his throat; Lance can probably see him turning green. Chris says weakly, "I think I'm gonna be sick again," and leans against the counter.

Lance detaches himself from his friend, and sticks an arm under Chris to lead him to the bathroom. He mutters fondly, "too bad Justin isn't here."

Chris is violently ill for the next half-hour, and Lance sits and watches him. He feels miserable, until he's done being sick, and then he feels pretty good. It makes him feel like a real rock star, partying and being sick and living all crazy. He hasn't even packed yet. He hasn't even thought about the plane ride. He doesn't know what he's going to carry on to meet Dani.

Colleen comes to collect him, and already Chris is hyper again, ready to dance. He's feeling a little dizzy, but not sick anymore. Lance drifts away. The bile is gone. They're pulling an all-nighter, just because they can, and it feels a bit like a college party again, except the booze is a lot more expensive and there are bodyguards by the door.


hey you, lose that friend before we go anywhere
what? someone might see you alone?

Chris and Colleen are only temporary. She knows it, and he knows it even if she doesn't want to. He gets on an airplane to Los Angeles, swallows three tranqs this time, waves out the window, and sleeps the whole way. His eyes snap open as the plane is landing on the tarmac at LAX, and there's someone waiting for him when he gets off the plane.

He feels like going out, and has none of the guys to call.

Justin, if he were here, would tell him to go out with people he knew, people that could shoulder the burden. Justin, however, is not here, and Chris is, and he decides to go out with the guys from FuMan and dances at a gay club until his feet and head pound. It's crazy, it's a crazy, crazy life and Los Angeles is a crazy town -- he yells it, as him and Dani drive down the freeway back to his hotel in a rented car. Everything feels crazy, and when Dani drops him off, it feels like they're almost friends again, and that's good, because he liked her, too.

Management once yelled at Lance for picking up a boy, and Lance had been very quiet, very attentive, and then said, "fuck off" very succinctly.

Chris still doesn't want to pick up anyone anywhere, in case they end up being the next exclusive in the National Enquirer. That's what's nice about Colleen. It's crazy to think that he's dating a girl just because she's convenient, but she doesn't seem to mind and where else could he find someone anyway.

The hotel lobby is nearly empty, and walking through it in his sparkly jeans and faded teeshirt, those people that do see him probably wonder why he's alone. This is a problem, Chris thinks, but doesn't know what to fix it with.


stop bagging out the band, you sound like louis burdett

One show that they did, last year, Chris was hyped up so much he almost careened into the band in the encore. The band leader looked disapprovingly on, but he could feel the energy in him, and he didn't notice. Every note he hit was flawless. He loves performing. He loves it all.


all my friends are fuck-ups but they're fun to have around
banana chairs out on the concrete, telling stories to the stars
how Gemini's love Wooden Dragons, and how down the street the weeks roll by

Justin is sipping beer, and asking Chris about the latest things in his life. He says, "So what's going on with you and Colleen?"

Chris shrugs. "Not much. Y'know. Busy."

Justin gives him a knowing look, but he knows how quickly time rolls on in their business. Him and Britney secretly broke up because of it.

The second leg of their tour is going to start officially, in about a month, but there's always things to do. Rehearsal, as always, goes on too long and afterwards, the five of them are in no shape whatsoever to do anything but drink a few beers, staring at the pond, and sit on the patio feeling their muscles ache.

The five of them, and Wade, and Johnny, and a few of the other people hanging around, and sometimes a camera for MTV. Chris sometimes hates MTV. He can almost, not quite but almost, remember when MTV started, and because of it, he knows precisely what they're giving up. Chris says, "You think they have any pictures of us last weekend?"

Justin stretches. "Nah." There's no MTV crew today. Chris has his shirt off, having just gotten out of the shower. "Hand me the pizza?"

The pizza is meat-lovers. Chris snags a piece as it's passed around. His feet ache like a motherfucker. The compound, strangely enough, is quiet this night and it really is just the five of them on the patio, though JC and Lance are playing pool and Joey looks passed out in his lawn chair. Justin looks, tired. Chris says, "How's Brit? Heard from her?"

"Not since the premiere." Justin, Chris knows, is one step away from coming out to his friends. He also knows that no one's going to care, and no one's going to be surprised. "She's still promoting the movie."

"The weeks just keep on truckin'?" It's their little code -- Chris thinks they picked it up from some movie, back on a bus, but can't remember from what or why or how. What it stands for, he can't even remember, and Justin grins at him, flicks a piece of pepperoni. Chris is indignant. "Hey! I'm sympathetic, I know where you're coming from."

To prove him wrong, Colleen comes out with a beer, rubs Chris's shoulder, and says she's going home. Justin rolls his eyes. "Yeah, you know where I'm coming from all right."

"Hey," Chris says sternly around a mouthful of cold pizza. "It's not like that."

There's no definition of what it is, and they relax, keep eating. Justin is pretty sure that him and Colleen are going to break up fairly soon. So is Chris. JC wins, and Lance glumly hands over his twenty bucks. It's full dark, the stars out, before Chris feels ready to drive home.

While Chris gets into his car, Justin puts a hand on his shoulder, and squeezes. "Listen, maybe we can go golfing tomorrow."

"Before dancing our asses off." Chris gets in. Everyone he knows, everyone he relates to lately, seems to have something wrong with them. Britney and Justin are confused by years and years of being famous; Lance is himself. JC. Joey. Even Wade, someone Chris barely knows except through Justin, complained quietly yesterday about not being able to go and get groceries because someone recognised him and wanted an autograph. It's completely fucked up.

Chris is afraid, sometimes, of forgetting what life was like before MTV. He calls his mom when he gets back to his place, and they talk for three hours about nothing to do with TV.


the moment the night wears off, the bombsite reappears
they're all asleep but the morning tastes like wine

The next morning, golfing, three people spot Justin and start acting a little funny. They have to bail at the sixth hole, even though it's barely seven thirty and you'd think that the golf course wouldn't have a lot of Nsync fans, at least Chris wouldn't have thought so, but that's how life is.

Everyone else they know are probably asleep still, it being not even eight, except maybe Lance. Chris calls him in the car, but he's busy, so it's just the two of them going to breakfast.

Justin says, "Sorry to ruin your golf game, man," and Chris tells him not to worry about it. The morning doesn't have the slow, easy pace of last night, and Chris wants to do something, something active, energetic. He doesn't know how he ever got into golf -- it's about as energetic as billiards. It's more JC's game.

"We could get pancakes or something." That's vetoed quick, since they'd actually have to eat at Denny's, and the last time they did Justin threw up. Eventually, they end up at the compound, ready and willing to work. The new tour's just about on them.

It's like a bomb shelter, driving up the driveway to the huge house, a haven from the mushroom cloud of people that recognise them. Chris feels a bit of dread, getting out of the car, and covers it up by saying, "I think I hate our music already."

Justin grins, because he knows it's not true. Chris loves it, because it's energetic and because performing absorbs his hyperactivity. Golf is the only thing that Chris does that's not a-mile-a-minute, and sometimes Justin is suspicious that the only reason he does that is because it's something they can do together.

"Ready to work?" JC asks them when he comes in. Chris nods curtly, already bouncing on his toes. He's not afraid of hard work; he's used to it. He knows what hard work is, and though sometimes other people don't want to admit it, so do the rest of them.


it tastes like wine in Tempe
I feel so good I just might wake him up

A week of straight rehearsal, and Chris needs to go out. He calls Lance's house, four times, and then he calls Joey's, and Kelly answers grumpily. JC agrees to meet him to go dancing, and Justin too. He hasn't seen Colleen except in rehearsal for a week, and doesn't care.

When JC brushes up against him on the dance floor, Chris grinds back and grins at him. JC is a good dancer, a fluid dancer, and Chris feels the beat down in his toes. The air around them tastes like wine, even though he's the designated driver.

Justin passes out at Chris's even though his place is just down the street. Chris is still wired, still awake, and stares at Justin for almost ten minutes, hoping he'll wake up. He never does.


pat him on the bald head - tell me about a dream Louis, something
obscene Louis, your life's an open magazine Louis

The next morning Lance calls at the ass-crack of dawn, and Chris wakes up in a cold sweat, dreaming about garbage cans and a train wreck. Justin fumbles around downstairs for a little while, finally showering and going home, and then they're back in the studio, but only for an hour or two, to keep their moves tight.

Johnny has lunch catered, and Chris watches people -- dancers, JC, Wade, everyone -- pick over gourmet salads and chicken and pasta and lobsters, and remembers eating nothing for Thanksgiving, and gets a pang in his chest.

JC comes over, munching a sandwich. "What's wrong?"

Chris looks at Justin, laughing with Joey over his baby. "Nothing." He told himself, a long time ago, that when he made it -- when they made it -- he wasn't going to look back. And here he is, staring at Justin with Brianna in his arms, and looking back, really far back, and seeing a lot of bad stuff.

JC puts an arm around him. "Have some lunch." JC, too, remembers not having much of anything, though it didn't last as long with him. Chris takes his advice, and feels better. He starts dancing around, jumps on Joey's back, and Johnny calls him crazy. Chris agrees.

They analyze, for an hour after lunch, the next magazine appearances. Joey wants back into Rolling Stone, as do they all. Chris doesn't care. He tells Colleen absently that he doesn't mind whether she dates someone else, and she pats his head, in between takes for Seventeen.

"You like the magazine?" the photographer asks him kindly, and he nods. Of course he does. It keeps him in groceries and expensive, ugly cars.


I'm stoned in a bookshop, sober in a nightclub
sex is everywhere but nowhere 'round me

Chris only gets stoned once a month or so.

He calls up all his friends, after smoking a joint, and invites them over, tells them how much he loves them. The walls move a little bit, and his head feels really really heavy.

On the phone to Dani, he thinks he says some things that he'll have to take back later. He thinks Dani calls him a bitch, but affectionately. The other guys from FuMan just laugh and call him amazing. JC is getting laid, and Chris knows, because it's the only time he unplugs his phone.

Lance talks to him for half an hour, indulging in his inanities and ramblings. At one point, Lance says, "talk to Justin last, okay? You'll feel better for it," and Chris agrees.

Chris wants to get laid. There's no chance. He calls Justin, hangs up, calls him again, hangs up. Justin calls him back. He says, "hello?" and then forgets what he was going to say.

Justin says, "Hey, Chris." Chris remembers, quite clearly, Lance saying 'call Justin last' but now that he's on the line to Justin, he can't remember why. Justin says again, "Chris?"

and Chris hangs up, calls back, hangs up. Justin calls him, again, saying, "I'll bring some cake, or cookies or something. Hang tight, I'll be over in a minute." Chris is left holding the phone, and gets a bit of worry in his throat, deep where it starts to choke his vocal chords.

He spends ten minutes on the couch, in deep thought, and then Justin comes over, has a bit of a smoke, and they watch Jackie Chan movies.


by the time she gets to Marrickville we'll be masturbating
never rains in Tempe but the planes remind me of family money and the lack down here

A week until the tour. Chris gets into his shower, jacks off quietly, and gets into his car to rehearse. He knows the steps inside and out, but that's the deal -- they rehearse until they all know them backwards and forwards, upsidedown, and sideways too. It's boring. He wants to go home.

Chris wants it to rain. While they're eating dinner, Lance and him discussing the latest decision by Florida's govenor, a formation of jets goes by, and Chris covers his head instinctively. Lance makes a face. "What?"

"Nothing." This dialogue, really, is old. He goes home to his house, and starts assessing his belongings at three in the morning in case there's a house fire. As a kid, he was never afraid of burglers or house fires.


stop talking frustrated, 'cause I sound like Louis Burdett

Four days until they have to take off to the first date on the tour. The trucks are probably already on their way, packed full of pieces of the stage and lights and magic. Chris is drinking from a bottle, arguing with Dani on the phone about business. In the end, he'll give into her because this is a side-project, and whereas he'll never give in about Nsync, FuMan is different.

He never makes sense, trying to distinguish these two things apart, because he loves FuMan too. Dani hangs up on him, and he stops drinking. He's frustrated. He looks it. His house is big.


most of my friends are very fruity indeed, such fun to have around
terror, like charity, begins at home


Justin rolls over. It's three in the morning and two days before they fly to the first date on the second leg of the PopOdyssey tour. These words roll off his brain even before he fully realizes that Chris is babbling into his ear, because he's been trained to think like a performer. "Chris, what're you--" Justin blinks. "Are you drunk?"

"No, I just, there was, no, nevermind, forget--"

Justin cuts him off. This sounds like Chris at his most incoherent, and there's a bit of terror in it. "Come over, so I can sort this out face to face. I can't translate you," and he hangs up. Chris will come over.

Ten minutes later, of course, Chris is sitting on his bed, sandals getting dirt on the new bedspread that Britney helped pick out for him. His knee is jumping. Justin says, "Tell me what's wrong?"

"You know, dreams are like, these weird creepy things." Justin is exhausted, but he lets Chris babble on about how he'd rather fucking drive himself than ever fly again, and why Colleen should have been painful but wasn't, and that he thinks he owes Dani flowers, but can't remember, and the price of gas. Chris finally runs out of steam, about five minutes later, and finishes with, "and."

Justin tries to figure out where the common thread was in the conversation, and can't. "Right." He rubs his face. He tries again. "I'd been meaning to ask you about the other night, actually. Cause you called me, and we really haven't had time to talk about it--"

"what?" Chris interrupts. "What?"

Justin is a little, that is, he. He says, "You called me, and. You said some stuff."

"I did." That's Chris's heart, in his chest. 'I hate flying,' he wants to say again, as if it didn't sink in the first time. He stands up, and Justin follows him out to the kitchen, where he gets some water, drinks it all, before saying, "what did I say?"

It takes him this long to ask, and then it takes Justin fiddling with the garbage bag, getting ready to take it out in the morning, for him to answer. "You kinda. You were talking about us. I dunno."

"Oh." He scratches his head. "That probably wasn't smart." They carry the garbage out together, and then Chris stares at his car. His chores, when he was a kid, always involved carrying out the trash. He always hated it. Justin puts a hand on his shoulder, and he shudders a little bit. "Was it?"

This question, he thinks, is one he doesn't want answered. Especially since he can barely remember what he said, and especially since the streetlight in this fake neighborhood is giving AJ, next door, a free glimpse into their life. Especially since what they look like is one of many things Chris doesn't know.


Chris don't like madness, but madness likes him
he's got a finger in his chest saying how it should have been

Justin bites his lip. "I can ignore it, if you want."

There's a crease in Chris's forehead, while he stares at the ground. This is an out. He never had an out as a kid. He kicks over the trash can, listlessly, just to watch it fall over.

Justin shakes his head with a grin. "Or you could like, spread crap everywhere."

Chris answers, "Yeah. You can pay someone to clean it up," and folds his hands. He hadn't meant to do it, really, but now that it's done, he can't take it back, and now that Justin commented on it he can't pretend it didn't happen. "I didn't really think about," he says, because Chris believes in being honest. "The devil made me do it."

He doesn't know what he's referring to, but it seems to kind of meld together.

"The devil's name," Justin says, amused, "is Chris, you know." That's something about Justin. He always knows what to say to set Chris on edge. He also doesn't mean to be on edge, but it sort of happens, anyway. This is indicative, Chris thinks, of something.

Chris replies, "I'm just like that, I guess."

Justin comes a little closer to him. "So, do you want to ignore what you said to me or do you want to do something about it?" He puts a hand out to touch Chris's chest.

"I think I'd like some pancakes."

Chris looks down at Justin's finger, smack-dab in the middle of his chest, and feels tears prick his eyes, but he's smiling. Justin is shaking his head, saying, "you're such a fuck-up."

Chris can't disagree. He says, "yeah," and then, "Um," but Justin knows what's coming and kisses him instead.

It's not the first time, but it's still good. Truth be told, it probably should have been done a long time ago. That doesn't change the fact that this is crazy, thirty eight hours before a tour, right in the middle of the busiest, craziest time in their lives. Justin's lips are wet. Chris is terrified.

Most of the things in his life, Chris knows he can't change, he's just along for the ride. This seems to be yet another one, as Justin kisses him with a purpose. He clutches at Justin's shirt, and it bunches up in his fingertips, sliding around as Justin moves, never staying in one place.