twenty-one by stubbleglitter

the three-for-a-dollar, get-'em-while-they're-hot remix by sarahq

"Come on, come on, come on," JC says, pushing at the air with both hands.

Chris shakes his head. "That never works, and you know it."

The eleven ball, oblivious to JC's pleas, rolls to a stop just short of the corner pocket.

Sighing, JC crouches down until he's eye-level with the table. "It's taunting me."

"Sure looks like it." Chalking up his cue, Chris considers his options. The three in the side pocket is the obvious choice, but Chris knows himself, and he knows his game. He'll scratch that shot better than half the time. Sinking the seven will mean shooting down the entire length of the rail, but what the hell. It isn't like he's got money riding on this.

"It's my birthday," JC says. "I should be exempt from taunting. I should get one free accidental-on-purpose hip check."

Chris snorts. "Not when you're playing with me, you don't. I doubt the nice three-hundred-pound man working the register would appreciate your messing with his tables, either." Leaning down, he lines up his shot.

The solid clack of the cue ball against the seven is viscerally satisfying. Chris doesn't believe in past lives, but if he has lived before, he hopes he wasted it in a dive like this. What it lacks in class and decor it makes up in sheer utility; half past midnight on a Friday and nearly every table in the place has been claimed.

JC sighs as the seven drops into a corner pocket. "You want another beer?"

"What, you don't want to watch me kick your ass?"

"Humiliation," JC says, with one hand outstretched, palm up, "or beer." He turns over his other hand as well. "Humiliation. Beer. Gee, that's a tough one."

"Heineken," Chris says.

"Got it."

There'd been an official party earlier in the evening at the hotel, a combined celebration for JC, for finishing the video shoot, and for the summer that's winding down to a close. They'll be on a plane to Germany in two weeks. But the point of a twenty-first birthday, as close as Chris can figure, is to go out and get carded.

Justin, tipsy and well on his way to completely drunk, had protested. "Like we don't have enough to drink right here. Stay, C."

"I don't get why the U.S. has to be so fucking backwards," Joey had said. "I can drink in Germany. I can drink in England. I can drink in Canada, for fuck's sake."

"You need to drink when you're in Canada," Lance had pointed out.

At that point, Justin had decided to play his trump card: he slid off the side of the bed and wrapped an arm around JC's legs. "There. You can't go now."

"Okay, that's just pitiful," Chris had said. "Someone get a camera, so I can remind Timberlake of this moment for the rest of his life."

Chris had tried to pry Justin away, but in the end it took JC crouching down to say something low and earnest to Justin before he let go. Joey, promising to make sure Justin passed out in a bed and not in a hallway, shooed Chris and JC out of the hotel.

Finding the pool hall had been an accident. JC had rejected the first bar they'd passed on the grounds that the live band on the tiny stage was named "4x4" and sounded suspiciously twangy. Chris rejected the second after the bouncer demanded a fifteen dollar cover. Per head. Chris rolled his eyes and dragged JC away from the door.

"But I like that song," JC had said.

"Buy the album." Chris trudged over to the next block, then doubled back when they passed the door to a place that had clearly seen better days.

JC frowned. "Not here."

"Yep." Chris had held open the door. "Come on. We'll shoot one game, then see if we can find better."

One game turned into three, and as soon as Chris sank the eight ball, he intended to rack up a fourth. It turned out JC had a vague idea of what he was doing, which complemented Chris's rusty game surprisingly well. The $2 bottles weren't hurting, either.

JC is grinning when he returns and hands over Chris's beer. "What?" Chris asks.

"Nothing." JC looks like a dip when he grins like this, but he looks like a dip most of the time. "Just those girls. At the bar."

Chris squints through the haze of smoke that blurs the air. Two girls in jeans, wearing enough fabric between the two of them to make one respectable shirt, are sitting on barstools and giggling at each other.

"They think we're. You know." JC says.

"Playing pool?" Chris says, even though he does know, and damned well. Chris rolls the cue ball to the other side of the table. "Your turn to break."

"You know." JC lays his cue across the table and walks over until he's standing too close to Chris. Chris has to fight the urge to lean back.

"It's a good thing I'm used to your skinny ass getting in my face," Chris says. "Or I'd be wondering what you had in mind right about now."

JC runs his hand over Chris's hip, tucking his fingers into Chris's back pocket. "Just didn't want to disappoint a couple of cute girls."

Chris raises an eyebrow. This is brave of JC. Chris has made a casual move in JC's direction before, more than once, mostly to see what JC would do. JC always laughs and flirts back and plays clueless.

"Hell of a reason to be a cocktease," Chris says.

JC grins and pulls away, right on schedule.

It's a pity, Chris thinks, watching JC line up for the break. It's entertaining enough, this little back-and-forth that JC plays at every now and then. Chris likes to be entertained. But he also likes an honest fuck, good and thick and bitter. JC's too sweet for his taste.

They all are. Which is why it's safe to tease them; it never amounts to anything.

It's a good, sharp break, and JC sinks a couple of balls. He makes two more decent shots before completely flubbing an easy chance to pocket the two.

"Okay, no." Chris snatches up the cue ball before it banks off the rail. "That sucked."

"Gee, thanks. What're you doing?"

"You're trying that again. And no, it's still my shot. But you rushed that and you're going to do it again. Properly." Chris sets the cue ball down where it had been before JC's last shot.

JC rolls his eyes, but leans across the table. It's an awkward angle, but there's no reason for him to be choking up on the cue like that.

"No, come on." Chris grabs JC's waistband and tugs until JC's feet are flat on the floor. "No tiptoes. Here. Crouch down, get your line of sight down into the plane of the table…"

JC looks bemused, but complies. There's something to be said, Chris thinks, for a career that teaches a boy how to take direction.

"And stretch out that left arm. Yeah, there. You've got to be grounded for this to work. You feel the difference?"

"Mmm," JC says. "Yeah."

It's a nice shot. The swing of JC's arm, the report of the cue ball against the two, the way JC follows through, slow and easy: it's a very nice shot. JC's grinning again when he stands up.

"Much better," Chris says, then scoops the two out of the pocket and replaces it on the table.

"Hey!" JC says. "What was wrong with that?"

"I told you it was my shot," Chris says. He gives himself permission to pat JC's ass as he walks past. "Don't worry, baby. The first time's always the hardest. You can do it again." Chris grins. "And again, and again, and again…"

JC snorts. "Like you'd know."

Chris comes close to running the rest of the table, but then there's the matter of an eight ball that's trapped behind two of JC's solids. They trade shots back and forth, neither making much progress, but Chris isn't in any hurry. JC, eyes bright from the steady drinking, circles the table like he owns it, brushing past Chris, making regular runs over to the bar to make sure they've both got a cold one at hand. And they need it in this weather, in southern California on an August night, in the heat of this dim room where there's only the ceiling fans to keep the cigarette smoke circling.

And halfway through their last game, JC strips off his shirt to reveal the sleeveless tee he's got on underneath. It should be a cliche; Chris has seen this movie before. He stands against the wall and watches JC sink the eight. "Ta dah," JC says. "Game over."

Chris hangs both their cues back up on the wall. "Birthday's over, too."

"Has been for a while, I guess, if you're going to go by the clock." JC stretches, his body one long, lean, twenty-one-year-old line. "But my mom always says holidays last until you go to sleep."

"That's not true," Chris says. "If that were true, you could make anything good last by staying up all night."

JC grins, but there's something a little smoother about it now, like the late hour or the alcohol has polished up the edges. "I'm willing to try if you are."

"You don't really mean that."

It's hard to tell if JC's flushed from the heat, from the beer, or from something more. But JC isn't laughing it off.

Chris is very entertained.

"Yeah, I do," JC says. "I mean it."

Chris shrugs and heads for the door, trusting JC will follow. While JC hovers in the background, Chris settles the tab and thanks the guy behind the register.

The air outside smells like exhaust and salt and hits Chris's face like a slap. When he looks over, JC is blinking like he's just surfaced from a dream.

"Tell you what," Chris says.

JC is fidgeting with his shirt sleeves, but looks up. "Yeah?"

"If you still mean it when we get back, then I'll make sure you don't sleep until dawn."

JC's eyes get wide, but he nods.

They're less than a mile from their hotel. It's not far enough to be worth a cab ride, even if they could find someone willing to pick up such a short fare. And Chris likes this. He likes the way JC walks a few steps ahead, then drags his feet until they're walking together again. He likes the way JC brushes up against him when he dodges a signpost.

It's not a very long walk at all.

JC's quiet in the lobby, and quiet in the elevator. It's not until Chris is unlocking the door to his own room when JC says, "Um."

Chris turns around. "Change your mind?" JC shakes his head, but Chris presses on. "You know you can laugh and pretend you've just been kidding around. Maybe you're a little drunk. Act like you don't remember any of this in the morning."

"I'll remember," JC says.

Chris holds open the door.

JC is walking around the room like he's never been in a hotel before, like he doesn't have a mirror-image room of his own right across the hall. Chris is beginning to wonder if he shouldn't have left it at flirting, kept things where they were harmless and easily forgotten. Then JC sheds his shirt once again.

"You move fast once you make up your mind," Chris says.

"You seemed to like it the first time." JC drops the shirt on the floor. "I thought maybe you'd like it where you didn't have to pretend you weren't looking."

"Oh, I was looking." Wherever this JC came from, Chris hopes he's planning to stick around.

JC rubs his hands over his arms, even though it's not cold at all. He fidgets with the hem of his tee, then settles for shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. This has the unintended effect of baring a strip of skin just above his waistband.

JC cocks his hips and, okay, maybe it wasn't so unintentional after all. Given the amount of time they've spent rehearsing in front of mirrors, it'd be a crying shame if JC had never noticed the things he can do with his own body that make boys like Chris sit up and pay attention.

JC rocks back on his heels. It's nice enough to watch, but it's not exactly what Chris had in mind. "What're you waiting for?" he asks.

"Excuse me?" JC looks as determined as ever, with his jaw set and his eyes dark and serious. Chris has known him to look like this when about to walk into a room filled with record executives, or make a pitch to Jan or Johnny about a change in the stage show.

"Assuming you've done this before—which I hope like hell you have, because I wasn't planning on treating you like china—then you should know it works better when you're not halfway across the room."

JC narrows his eyes. "Now you're just trying to piss me off."

"Is it working?"

JC walks over to where Chris is sitting at the end of the bed, cups a hand around the back of Chris's neck, and leans over to kiss him. It's exactly the way Chris thought JC would kiss. He just never figured JC would find the balls to try it with him.

"That's better," Chris says when JC pulls back to breathe. "I was beginning to wonder if I smelled bad."

"Shut up."

Chris would say something just to be perverse, but it's a little difficult when JC's mouth is on his, all chapped lips and tricky, tricky tongue. JC's got polite hands, hands that skim down Chris's back and brace his neck, fingers that curl into Chris's hair.

It's very sweet. Under the right circumstances, Chris might even find it endearing. He laughs against JC's mouth.

JC is licking at his lips. "What?"

"Nothing," Chris says, right before he grips the backs of JC's thighs and hauls him into his lap.

JC yelps, but he's too well-trained to lose his balance. "Fuck, you could've asked if you wanted me to—"

"You're not paying attention," Chris says. "I don't want to ask."

This is better, almost immediately better, because not only has JC gone from holding Chris to holding onto Chris, his arm slung around Chris's shoulders just to keep upright, but now JC is tight up against Chris's belly, hot and heavy and squirming.

Chris runs a hand down between them. He can add hard to that list, too. Once you learn how to open someone's jeans one-handed, you never forget.

"Oh, fuck." JC's head is thrown back, his throat begging to be tasted. Chris mouths along the line of JC's jaw, biting the places JC didn't catch when he shaved this morning. "Fuck me."

"Yeah, I will," Chris says, even if he's almost certain that wasn't a request. When Chris slides his teeth down the tendon running from jaw to collarbone, he can feel the sounds JC is about to make before they become audible. "You've done that before?"

"Um. Yeah." JC rocks forward, knocking Chris onto his back. "Yes."

Much, much better. Chris rolls onto his side, taking JC with him. He's going to need his hands free for this. "How long's it been?"

"Chris." JC purses his lips, but his hips lift readily enough when Chris tugs down his pants—and then his shorts, because really, there's no reason to be shy here.

No reason at all. Fuck. Chris could put his mouth on JC and not come up for air until morning. "Tell me. You know you're going to, sooner or later. Save me the trouble of getting you drunk. Again."

"Jesus, you're an asshole." JC strips off his tee, finally naked. Chris bites the closest bit of bare skin as a reward. "I don't know. A year or two. Oh god. More of that, yes—"

"I bet you remember exactly when." Of course JC does; JC will forget his appointments and where he left his backpack and the name of the city he's in, but he wouldn't forget the last time he spread his legs for a boy.

"Still not going to tell you." JC grinds his hips against Chris's belly. "Take your clothes off already. Or do I have to do that, too?"

"Wouldn't say no," Chris says. For a minute their hands are scrabbling at the same buttons and it's not accomplishing much at all. Then JC demonstrates that he knows to strip off someone else's jeans, too, while Chris takes care of the rest of his own clothes.

It's bliss, the first slide of skin over skin. Chris never realizes how much he wants this until he gets it. JC knows how to move, of course, but Chris doesn't take it for granted because he's known people who move like water under the safe cover of their clothes then forget everything they know once they're naked.

It's not until Chris has his hand on JC's cock and JC is dipping his fingers into Chris's mouth that Chris realizes what it is that feels so odd about this. It's nowhere near as clumsy as it should be. There should be more jockeying for position. They should be fumbling for safe places to put their hands.

Then he gets it. He pulls his mouth away from JC's hand. "Never fucked someone I was already living with."

"Mmm?" Grabbing Chris's wrist to pull his hand away, JC grinds their hips together, quick and nasty. Chris can't stifle his gasp. "What're you talking about?"

Chris is short of breath, but he still laughs. "Nothing, baby. Let me up for a second, okay?"

Chris climbs out of the bed, trying not to look at the picture JC makes, lying the way he is in the middle of the rucked-up sheets. It's hard enough to find the lube and condoms in his bag when his brain is otherwise engaged; Chris doesn't need the added distraction.

It's worth getting up, though, just to have the chance to stand next to the bed and take a good, long look at what's waiting for him.

JC grins and moves in a way that can only be described as preening.

Chris snorts. "You should've done that wiggle-thing during the video shoot." He crawls over to JC, running his hands up JC's leg from knee to hip, taking his time in between.

"Ahh," JC says. "Well. It's not exactly the same target audience or anything."

"Lucky me," says Chris.

The bed is warm, but JC's skin is warmer yet. Chris is petting what he can reach, trying not to rush this, but it's only a matter of time before he has to get his hands on JC's cock.

Even before they ended up here, Chris could have told anyone interested that JC would make the best noises when you touched him just right. But he likes having his predictions confirmed.

When JC hikes himself up on his side, it takes them a moment to figure out where all the legs are going to go. Then Chris is grabbing the bottle of lube, slicking up his hands to see what JC remembers.

JC's body remembers quite a lot more than he's telling.

"Jesus." JC lets out a long breath as Chris works his fingers inside. "Man."

Chris licks across JC's lips. "You're panting."

"So sue me. Oh, God," JC says, all bucking hips and quivering legs. His hands clutch at Chris's arms then fall away, over and over.

Chris could stretch this out for hours, just taking in the look on JC's face, the flush creeping down his chest, the way he cants his hips up and back. Fucking beautiful, all of it. It's JC who loses patience.

"Okay. Chris. Okay."

"Okay, what?" Chris knows he's a shit; he knows it. But he's not going to change now.

"Fuck me, you idiot. Come on."

Chris watches as JC bites down his lip, trying so hard to get what he wants. Yes, this is what Chris wanted, too. It's exactly what he wanted.

He slides his fingers out, takes his hand away, and rolls onto his back.

JC shudders, wide-eyed and confused. That expression is hotter than it should be. Chris shifts on the mattress and wraps his still-slick hand around his cock.


"What?" JC's voice is hoarse. "What the hell."

"You want it?" JC's watching him now, like Chris might change his mind and leave. Like Chris has anywhere near the willpower that would require. "You want it, you come and get it."

"I don't—" JC manages to say, right before something clicks behind his eyes. Chris watches it happen. "Oh," JC says.

"C'mon." Chris moves his hand to JC's hip. "Go ahead."

Chris is selfish. He knows it, and he'll admit it if asked, if asked what he's thinking about as JC throws a leg over Chris's hips and reaches behind himself, reaching for Chris's cock. Chris is a selfish bastard and he'll admit it as JC sighs and starts to fuck himself.

"We are so going back on Saturday." Justin, walking backwards, catches his heel on a crack in the cement and falls onto his own porch. He laughs. "Oops."

Chris has got his hands full, what with trying to get the key in the lock of Lynn's front door without benefit of a working porch light while not waking the rest of the house. He'll have to offer to replace the bulb for Lynn tomorrow. It's Lance who bends down and hauls Justin to his feet. "They're not going to take us back if you don't knock it off."

Justin is a temperamental drunk. That the kid's still sixteen, at least until Saturday, and Chris nevertheless knows this is a testament to how very little he cares if Justin gets sloshed, so long as it's only occasional and no one gets hurt. A drunk Justin is easy to keep track of; it's the only time Chris is certain he isn't sneaking off.

The door pops open. "Shush," Chris says. He turns his head to look at Justin. "Your mom's asleep. I plan to keep it that way. So you're going to keep your voice the hell down."

"Don't tell me what to do with my—" Justin's increasingly impressive display of diaphragm control is cut short by JC's hand clamping across his mouth.

"Chris said shush." JC leans close and hisses the words against Justin's ear. "I'm saying it, too. Are you listening?"

Justin nods. Smirking at JC, Chris opens the door and ushers the four of them inside and down the steps to the lower level.

Joey's the last one through the door. "Hey," Chris says.

Joey raises an eyebrow.

"It's half past one. Happy It's-Not-Your-Birthday-Anymore."

Joey snorts. "Great. Thanks."

Chris is thoughtful as he locks up and trails Joey downstairs. Joey's been off all night, ever since dinner at his parents' house. A home-cooked meal, followed by finally getting his 21-plus stamp at Pleasure Island: there was no bad in there. Not unless you count Justin sneaking half of JC's drinks.

In the back corner where the carpet doesn't cover the bare cement, tucked in next to the hot water heater, JC is digging through the old brown Kenmore fridge where they keep the beer and the leftovers and not much else. Real food lives upstairs in the kitchen. When Chris and JC shuffled their way up Lynn's sidewalk with their duffel bags and boxes of junk, she'd smiled and showed them down into the den. She hasn't, as far as Chris knows, come down the steps again in the intervening weeks.

Lynn is good like that. Chris tries to wake up early enough on the weekends to throw together some breakfast and turn the coffee on. As far as tokens of appreciation go, it's not much, but at least he's trying.

JC's bed is a twin shoved up against the front wall; Chris has a double, but it has a higher percentage of wonky springs. It's pretty much a fair situation, especially when factoring in JC's tendency to invite himself over into Chris's bed. It's only been an occasional thing, thank Jesus, because Chris doesn't need any more emotional drama right now. Not given how tenuous shit is, with the album getting ready to drop over here. But Chris doesn't need to be turning down good, dirty sex, either, so JC's twin gets less than its share of attention.

Joey slumps into the couch in the middle of the room and commandeers the remote control.

Chris looks down at him. "The whole time I've known you, you've never been a maudlin drunk."

"Fuck off," Joey says, flipping through the infomercials and late-night movies.

"I get it. It's Timberlake. You wanted his mouth duct-taped shut for your birthday."

"No, that's what I want," Lance says from across the room. He drains his first complete beer of the night. "Gift-wrapped, too."

"Hey!" Justin shouts, earning himself another shushing from JC.

Joey rolls his eyes, but says nothing.

"You want to be the sullen, mysterious one," Chris says, "now that you're an old man like Jayce and me. So you're getting a head start by practicing on us."

Joey flat-out ignores him. Chris gets a lot of that, so he knows it when he sees it. He folds his arms and prepares to wait it out.

"Hey," JC says, leaning over the couch to pass Joey a beer. He hands one to Chris, too, along with a look that promises good things later tonight if Chris stops prodding Joey.

Chris often ignores JC. It's a bad habit. "You want—"

"I'm going to crash here tonight," Joey says to the television screen. "Shouldn't drive."

"I figured you were going to," JC says. He sits down sideways and takes up the remainder of the couch. Chris found him asleep in that position earlier in the week and woke him up with a blowjob.

JC's looking at Chris again, but there's something different in his eyes.

Chris glances over to where Lance is watching Justin ramble on about some Very Important Things they Absolutely Must Do if they're going to take America by Storm. Justin reads too many industry rags. He knows so much about music directors and program managers and the ugly rules of the business that it's a wonder the kid can sleep soundly at night. Lance is egging him on by making pointed comments whenever Justin pauses for breath.

"Lance. Don't tease the chia pet."

"Yo, I'm right here," Justin says, at the same time as Lance says, "But I'm having fun."

"Have fun with him upstairs, okay?" Chris knows Lance is a bright kid. It's only a question of whether Lance will play along.

Lance takes a long look at Joey, and then at JC. He sighs and stretches. "I guess I'm going to crash with you, J."

The look Lance gives Chris is almost as pointed as what JC can communicate without using words. 'I'll remember,' it says, and 'I know.'

Just how much Lance knows Chris will have to make a point of finding out later. That Chris has found JC's company a lot more tolerable in the past six months is their worst-kept secret. Anyone with eyes for how JC carries himself could figure it out if they care to pay attention.

Chris nods at Lance as he shepherds a crashing and mostly pliable Justin up the stairs. Lance deserves some careful thought, and soon.

But tonight, Joey's enough of a concern.

On the couch, Joey is leaning forward, letting JC work the knots out of his neck with one hand. JC doesn't give massages. He does this thing where he runs a hand over your neck then digs his thumb into the source of the ache. It hurts like a motherfucker, but it's worth it when you realize you can rotate your head without pain the next morning.

"You shouldn't be all knotted up like this," JC says. "What were you doing?"

"Nothing," Joey says, letting his head hang down. "Just what everyone's been doing. Working. Catching up on sleep. Waiting for the stupid single to drop already."

"Hrm." JC looks at Chris, who can only shrug in return. "I guess you could've slept wrong." JC braces his other hand on Joey's knee and leans his weight on the hand gripping the nape of Joey's neck.

"Ow," says Joey.

Chris sits down on the rug in front of the couch. "You don't sound like you mean that."

"Ow ow oh God oh." It's easy to tell when Joey's showing off and when he honestly can't help making noises: all the support drops out from under his voice.

"Not exactly sleeping well now that you're back in the old bedroom, are you?" Chris props his chin on his knuckles. Joey's peeking up from under the uneven edge of hair in front of his eyes. "Yeah. Bet your mom's been forgetting you're not thirteen anymore. Has she done that thing yet where she comes in and opens the curtains around noon and tells you it's time to get moving?"

Joey's head drops forward again, hiding his eyes. "If this wasn't the billionth time I've seen your freaky predictive powers at work, I'd wonder when you started knowing what goes on in my house."

"In your parents' house," Chris says. "There's kind of a difference."

"Just a bit."

"You know you can come over here and crash on the couch anytime you want, right?" JC rubs circles down the length of Joey's back. "It's a good couch for that. I slept on it for a week before we snagged the other mattress."

"Hell, you can sleep here permanently," Chris says. It's not like Joey hasn't spent half his time over here in the past couple weeks as it is; it's not like they haven't proven capable of ignoring each other while crammed into tight quarters. "Lynn wouldn't even notice, much less care."

"You'd care," Joey says. "Come on, Chris. It's not like you've been hiding it real well."

Here it comes. And they'd been doing just fine, all of them, at not mentioning the elephant in the room. "Hiding what?"

"Jesus. That you've been fucking JC," Joey says, and then in a calmer tone, over his shoulder, "No offense, JC."

"I think I fuck him more than he fucks me," JC says. "Not that I keep track. Not often. But he's pretty lazy. He likes to lay around and tell me what to do."

"Not like you ever listen," Chris says. Please. Everyone likes to sit back and be catered to. Chris is just more honest about what he wants than the rest of the population.

"This is so fucked up." Joey shrugs JC's hand off his neck and leans back.

Damn. A guy's got to be in a serious funk when he cuts short a backrub. "Okay, I know you're not talking about anything JC and I might be doing," Chris says, "because if you were going to freak out about that, you would've done it the first time you found out about me fucking one of the guys from the park."

"Joey." JC's got his arms around his knees, sitting so close to Joey that his toes are pressed up against Joey's leg. "Is it because we're home again?"

Joey sighs. "I guess," he says. "I'm just tired tonight."

JC punches Joey's arm. "Like hell. You just want to sleep so Chris'll stop trying to use his psych classes on you."

"I have a paper with my name on it in fancy cursive script that says I took a whole bunch of them," says Chris. "I paid good money for them, too."

Joey laughs. Weakly, but he laughs. "'S good to have something to fall back on."

"Sure, because I can always open up an office—" Chris starts to say, before JC interrupts him with, "You don't think this is going to work, do you. The group. You think we're done."

The room is quiet, except for the hum of the fridge in the corner. Chris tries not to breathe, because even that's too loud. Everything about the way Chris lives is loud. That's what's gotten him this far.

"What if it is?" Joey says.

"The hell it is." Chris gets up on his knees, now. He's not going to sit on the floor for this. "Christ, the album hasn't even dropped yet. You don't know how it's going to go."

"Maybe no one buys it," Joey says. Chris could hit him; it's one thing to think shit like that, but it's another to say it out loud. "Maybe no one cares. And then that's it, no more chances. No more point in touring. Then the label drops us, and no more group."

That it's Joey saying this is what Chris can't believe. Joey, who always brushed it off when Lance was doubting way back when. Joey, who always stood right next to Chris and said, yeah, damn, this group is going to be something else.

"Who says you have to have a label to be a group?"

Chris and Joey both turn to stare at JC.

"Jesus, what's the matter with you?" JC continues. "You think that's how this business works? Someone tells you you suck and should go home, then you nod and give up? Jesus." JC's voice is deadly calm. Chris had forgotten JC had this voice. "I can't believe you. I hope we do fail, because you need to learn what that's like. You need to grow the fuck up."

"Fucking think you—" Joey starts to say, but that's as far as he gets before JC cuts him off with a fierce kiss.

JC's got Joey pinned against the couch, a knee digging into Joey's belly and both hands gripping his face. Yanking on Joey's hair, he breaks the kiss. "Shut the hell up," JC says, and then he's kissing Joey again, kissing him so hard Chris doesn't know how Joey can do anything but groan.

Which Joey does. While he watches, Chris reaches down and runs the heel of his hand over the fly of his jeans. Jesus. He should've pissed JC off like this ages ago.

Or he could just be glad he's here now to enjoy what's going on in front of him.

They've never tried to prove it in quite this context, but the two of them are a good match, Chris thinks, as far as strength goes. Joey's not trying to get away—not hardly—but he is trying to roll JC over, lunging forward and trying to bring his leg over JC's hips. JC's having none of it, and he's got the muscle to back it up.

"I recommend giving up and letting him have his way," Chris says. "He does know what he's doing."

Joey flips Chris off behind JC's back. Chris can't help but laugh; he's feeling downright giddy. His life. Sometimes he wonders when the payback's going to come crashing down on his head.

JC's worked his hands under Joey's shirt and seems to be trying to take it off, but has been distracted by something Joey's doing with his tongue. God. It's wet and messy and sounds like both; it's everything porn should be without the annoying soundtrack.

"Why do they even bother with the cheesy music anyway?" Chris asks the room. "Do they not appreciate the way sex sounds when it's done properly?"

JC pulls away, gulping for air. Joey immediately moves his mouth to JC's collarbone. "If you can't sit there and be quiet," JC says, hoarse and commanding and yes, Chris is going to get his share of this soon, "then get up here and help me get his shirt off."

Never let it be said Chris Kirkpatrick doesn't give his all for his group. The couch creaks in protest as Chris perches on the arm, and getting Joey to stop touching JC, even for a moment, is a hell of a thing to ask. Chris knows first-hand how hard it can be to stop touching JC. But through sheer stubbornness and not a little manhandling, Chris gets Joey naked down to his waist.

JC isn't wasting any time. He's got Joey's fly open and a hand down the front of his shorts, the other sliding between the small of Joey's back and the back of the couch. "Fuck yeah," Joey says, too loudly. Then, as if he realizes it would be a bad idea to wake the rest of the house, he says "fuck" again, but this time under his breath.

JC takes pity on Joey and licks his way back inside Joey's mouth. Chris settles in against the cushions. If there's any justice in the world, this could take a while.

Or it could take no time at all, if Joey's going to keep touching JC that way. God, but the boy's got a nice, strong pair of hands, and right now, he's using them to cup JC's ass and pull JC into his lap. Chris isn't sure how he missed noticing those hands before, because fuck, he would certainly have had the decency to incorporate the memory of them into a jerk-off session or three. Either he's getting old, or Joey's just built in such unassuming proportions that it's not the sort of thing you notice until you're watching with intent.

Chris has excellent intentions. "Guys," he says. No one pays attention to him. "Hey! Perfectly good bed over there, much, much comfier and bigger and you can get naked on the way over there. Guys?"

"'M fine right here," Joey says, grabbing hold of JC's beltloops. "Really, really—"

"—fine fine so fine," JC says.

There might be such a thing as being too good with the harmonies. Chris wonders how Joey could've thought they'd just wave goodbye and go their separate ways. "Naked's better," Chris wheedles. "Naked means I can see more."

Joey, bless his soul, cracks up.

Annoyed, JC wings a throw pillow at Chris's head. "I swear to God I'm going to start gagging you."

"Promise?" He's grinning as he says it, but if JC gets up the nerve to start adding accessories to their fucking around, Chris certainly won't say no. Joey clutches his stomach, wheezing.

JC sighs and hops off the couch. The laughter stops abruptly when JC takes this opportunity to shimmy out of his shirt, taking his time, dropping it inside-out and the worse for wear on the ground when he's done showing off. Then he peels down his jeans, slow, slower, slowest, shedding briefs and socks as he goes.

Joey whistles.

"Yeah," Chris says. "It's not a bad set up we've got down here."

"Jesus. I take it back about you two getting nasty every chance you get," Joey says.

"Tips are appreciated," JC says. "Next show's tomorrow at seven. You gonna join me?" He walks backwards towards the bed. The freak. Any normal man would trip and fall on his ass if he tried that.

Joey looks at Chris. "Apology accepted," Chris says.

If Joey's a little quicker at getting his pants off than Chris is, it's only because he had a head start. JC, on his knees on Chris's bed, bounces a little when Joey flops down, flat on his back. "Have at me," Joey says.

"If you insist," Chris says.

Joey shoves Chris. "Not you. JC first." Joey grins and folds his arms behind his head. "JC's my favorite."

"Aw." JC leans over, kissing Joey. "And you're my biggest fan, aren't you, honey?"

"I may vomit," Chris announces, but JC decides he's not yet done kissing Joey, so once again Chris is ignored.

If he's going to have to wait his turn, at least he's got the best seat in the world. Jesus. When JC's straddling him, Chris wonders, does JC's ass clench up like that? Chris rubs his hand over it, listening to JC moan against Joey's mouth.

When JC reaches down to grip Joey's cock, well, Chris knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of those clever fingers. He bites his cheek in sympathy. Joey shoves a pillow under his neck and puts his hands on every part of JC he can reach, a lazy, slow groping that makes JC squirm.

And giggle, too, when Joey hits the ticklish spots under JC's arms and along the curve where his ass meets his thighs. JC, who's never learned to play fair, takes his revenge by doing things to Joey's dick that make Joey's lower lip tremble.

Chris stretches out on the bed, on his side, and licks that lip.

"Oh, God," Joey says, opening his eyes and blinking. "I forgot you were here."

"Shhh." Joey tastes warm and nutty, his stubble roughing up Chris's lips in just the right way. "Go back to where you were. Just let him touch you."

Every few minutes, when Joey makes a particularly choked sound, Chris looks down his body to see what JC's doing. Nice things, to judge by the dreamy look on JC's face. Very nice things, things that involve fingers in wicked places, things that require JC to spread himself over Joey like foam over salt water. Chris reaches down and strokes himself, just hard enough to really feel it.

Eventually, when Joey's fingers are plucking at JC's arms, over and over again, and there's a sheen of hard-earned sweat beading at his temples, JC leans forward and whispers, "Roll over."

Joey shudders, then turns slowly onto his belly.

JC's eyes are dark and hot when he looks at Chris. "I need the lube."

"Are you sure?" Chris is talking to JC, but he's asking them both. "I don't think—"

"He's done this before," JC says. Chris glances at Joey and finds Joey watching him.

"Not with you," Chris asks JC, even though it's really not a question. JC smirks and shakes his head.

Joey shivers as JC scrapes blunt nails down his back, "It's possible I might've told JC some things once or twice. When I was drunk."

"In the future," Chris says, passing the lube to JC, "I expect to be appraised of all such salacious gossip. Assholes. Both of you."

Joey chuckles, just as Chris intended, then arches his back as JC trails slick fingers down his tailbone. "Man. Oh. I think the beer buzz has completely worn off."

"No, baby, you're still drunk." Chris lies back down, close enough to run his fingers through Joey's hair without getting in JC's way. "Maybe not on alcohol, but it's just as good. Just as good."

He's still crooning when JC slips his fingers inside.

Joey's panting, even though JC's hardly done anything at all. Yet. It's the shock, Chris knows, the sheer unexpectedness of it that inevitably hits you even when you know it's coming. Especially when you know it's coming.

"Oh, man," Joey says, breathing out. He twitches.

"That was interesting." JC turns his wrist. "Do that again."

Joey's breath is coming hard against the sheets. He's canting his hips up and back with every push from JC's hands, shifting on the bed like he's not sure if he wants to get closer or run away. The hair at the nape of his neck is getting damp, and smells clean and sharp when Chris presses his face against Joey's neck.

Oh, this is going to be lovely. Chris fists his cock hard once, twice, then makes himself go back to the light sort of handling he knows he can keep up for as long as he wants.

JC pauses a couple times to slick up his fingers and make it that much easier. It's fascinating to watch from this angle, to actually be able to pay attention instead of being overwhelmed by how it feels. Chris realizes just how well he knows JC when he can see him decide it's time, when he can tell by the tightness around JC's mouth he doesn't want to wait any longer. He can knows JC's going to shift all his weight onto his knees seconds before he actually does it, just by the lines of tension traveling down JC's body. Chris tears open the packet before JC holds out his hand.

The fact that JC's watching him, and not watching Joey, as he rolls the condom on and lines himself up, might be the single most disquieting moment Chris has ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

JC braces his other hand on the curve of Joey's waist as he pushes inside. The sound of it makes Chris want to worm down the bed and watch it go in.

"Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck," Joey says, then gulps in as much air as he can and holds his breath.

"Breathe, Joe." The stupid fuck. Chris grabs him by the nape of the neck. "Breathe, goddamnit."

Joey presses his face against the mattress and yells.

"Yeah," Chris says, rubbing the back of Joey's neck. "There you go. You're good, you're good—"

JC fits his hands around Joey's hips and starts fucking in earnest.

It's easy for Chris to forget, when he's spent so much time looking at JC over the past few years, looking at him for steps and cues and looking at him in the way you keep track of your wingman when you're pushing through crowds of strangers, even before this recent habit of looking at JC blissed-out and transported: it's easy for Chris to forget how gorgeous JC can be. He fucks like it's a performance, yes, but for JC, who always sings for himself as much as for the people watching, that's the highest kind of praise.

And if Joey wasn't built for this, well, he's still built for sex. For everything rough and unvarnished and intense and true the way sex is supposed to be. Chris wipes the hair back from Joey's eyes and starts talking to him, voice low and blurred, and maybe he's telling him all these things, or maybe he's telling him what's going to happen next, or maybe he's telling him he doesn't have to worry about what's going to happen out in the real world of album sales and record labels. Chris doesn't know half of what he's saying. But he knows he means it.

When JC comes, the sounds he makes are lost in the swirl of Joey's curses and Chris's words.

JC is gasping as he pulls out. He flops down on Joey's other side, an arm and a leg hanging over the side of the mattress. The bed really isn't big enough for three grown men. "Ohhh. Damn." JC skims his hand down Joey's body. "Damn. That was. Yeah."

Joey's knees give out. He slumps against the sheets, lying flat on his stomach, his head turned to the side. He's staring at JC, but Chris doubts either of them is seeing very much.

Then Joey hikes up one knee and reaches down between his own legs.

"Oh no you don't," Chris says. His own cock, when he reaches down to give it a reassuring stroke, has been very patient and very well-mannered, he thinks. Very. He works his hips tight up against Joey's ass, giving him a good idea of what Chris intends to do, then reaches back to grab a condom off the nightstand. "Told you I was going to take my turn."

"Holy shit," Joey says. He's got a leg thrown over JC's hips, keeping JC from falling off the bed.

JC, brushing aside Joey's hand, has got his hand wrapped around Joey's cock. "Go on, Chris." He sounds stoned and half a second away from laughing. "Go on, fuck him, he's not going to last."

Chris does as he's told.

It's easy, so easy, to push inside when Joey hasn't been empty for long. Oh, yes. Even with the angle, this isn't going to take Chris any time at all.

Except Chris is a stubborn bastard, so he makes it last just to prove he can.

He takes it back, what he thought about Joey not being made for this. He is, or he is and he's not taking advantage of it, and if Joey ever stops fighting with Kelly, Chris is going to pull her aside and tell her about a nice little website he knows about. Kelly's a sensible girl that way. And it'd be a waste, a goddamned crime, if no one else makes Joey take it like this, take it just like this, all hot and slick and slow.

Chris comes, sooner than he means to, when JC reaches over and brushes his fingers over Chris's face. "Oh," Chris says, and realizes he'd forgotten, too, and that's enough to break his concentration.

"This wasn't," Chris says as soon as he catches his breath, "exactly what I'd planned for the evening."

"You had a plan?" Joey asks. He hisses, lightly, as Chris pulls out.

"Yeah. Sorry; I hate that part, too. I was going to get you drunk and find you some hot girl with big tits and not a lot of brains to snap you out of your doom-and-gloom rut."

"Well, I'm hot," JC murmurs. "And you don't have a lot of brains…."

"Ha ha. You're a riot."

Joey yawns hugely. "Even without the tits, I think it worked."

"Yeah?" JC catches the yawn and echoes it. "'S good."

"Yes. It was." Joey sounds contemplative. "That said, let's never do it again."

Chris pats Joey's ass. "Just for that, you're the one sleeping on the couch."

With JC, it was opportunity. With Joey, it was coincidence. By the time Lance's twenty-first birthday arrives, it's deliberate and expected, for all that it's never been discussed.

The tour is only days away but their entire retinue is so flushed, so dizzy from the impossibility that is Strings that when Lance announces they're driving into the city proper, just him and the guys, for one night of revelry in the Quarter, their handlers don't kick up much of a fuss.

Chris thinks they're startled, frankly, by Lance's newfound ability to make demands—and to follow through until those demands are met. It's one more silver thread to the cloud that was the lawsuit, Chris suspects.

Confidence is a good look on Lance.

So's the gas-lit haze of a spring night in the Quarter. Lance is leaning over the balcony of his room on the second floor of a tiny hotel on Royal. They're just high enough to be out of reach, but close enough to hear the shouts of the people wandering the streets below.

It's not unlike being on stage.

"You're a couple months too late for Mardi Gras," Chris says, and Lance turns, arching an eyebrow. "You left your door unlocked. Hope you don't mind the company." He rests his arms on the railing next to Lance, enjoying the heat of the night and the heat radiating from the man next to him. This town will be unbearable by midsummer, but right now, in the calm before the storm that is their tour, it's ripe and lush.

"I don't have any beads to throw, anyhow," says Lance. His voice is low and warm from all the bourbon he drank on the street with that name. Trust Lance not to want something as routine as beer on the night he's finally legal to buy it.

"Best way to get a girl to show you her tits. Cheapest, too."

"Now why would I want to see some girl's tits?" Lance grips the railing and stretches out, one sweet, smooth curve from neck to hips to the swell of his ass.

Deliberate. Expected.

"The prince took the princess and locked their virgin asses into their room for the night," Chris says. Chris wouldn't've let Britney come along, except he knew she'd be a fine distraction for Justin. Justin can damned well wait his turn. Lance certainly has.

"Good for them. He can wake her with a kiss in the morning," Lance says. "Has JC found his way back yet?"

When in New Orleans, JC makes it a practice to have coffee and beignets at least once in every twenty-four hour period; he thinks they taste best between the hours of midnight and four in the morning. "He's in the shower. Washing off the city, he says. He says you picked a good hotel."

"I did, didn't I?" Lance's smile is soft-edged in the streetlights. The people below, meandering back to their own rented rooms, never look up. They don't know the sight they're missing. "I took my time finding it."

"Read all the guidebooks, browsed all the travel sites…"

"Nah, it's just." Lance scuffs his bare feet over the wooden slats of the balcony. "You're gonna think this sounds silly."

"Bass, everything that comes out of your mouth I mock, be it silly or not." Chris might be exaggerating, but not by much. Another of those silver-lining threads, the ones he keeps finding and tugging and tracing back to their source, is Lance's increasing willingness to dish out the snark as fast as Chris can take it. "So just spit it out, and I'll give you a rain check on the sarcasm."

"It's just that I used to come down here, you realize, when I was a kid." It's Chris's turn to raise an eyebrow, and Lance rolls his eyes. "No, not down to Bourbon Street, and not at night. But when we were young, we came down with my parents to see the big old houses. And the cemeteries, and all that. And we came here for festivals when I was in show choir, a couple of times."

"And of course you snuck away from the group."

"Well, they let us walk around, provided we promised to meet up in time for events." Smiling, Lance says, "I was a responsible child."

"Mm-hmm. Little did they know."

"Little did I know. Seriously. I didn't know a thing. But I remember walking around here, looking up at all the balconies and thinking, I'm going to get a place like that someday. And I'm going to keep the windows open, and it's going to have those long, white curtains like they show in the movies, and I'm going to have breakfast out on my balcony every morning."

"You picked out window treatments for your fantasy balcony," Chris says.


"You are so incredibly gay," Chris says.

"Yep." Lance grins. "But I've got my balcony."

"So you do." Chris shakes his head. "Guess you're going to want to have breakfast out here, too."

"Well. To be honest, I'm still a little drunk, so I don't even want to think about breakfast right now." Lance slides his phone out of his pocket and checks the time. "And morning's a long time from now."

Not so long, Chris thinks. Not so long at all, now. "JC's probably done. There's a limit to how long even he can spend in the shower."

"So," Lance says.

But he doesn't go any further with that. Chris waits until the silence starts to itch. "Yeah?"

"So which one of you gets to go first?"

Chris has to give Lance credit: he wasn't expecting the direct approach. "Why, Mr. Bass," Chris drawls, "I have no idea what…"

"Chris. Please." When, Chris wonders, did his deflections stop working on Lance? "I've been waiting on this a while. Don't try to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about."

Credit, and a healthy amount of respect. "Okay." Chris pushes himself off the railing. "You should know, though, that this isn't part of some larger plan. It just kind of happened, with the other two. Some kind of odd birthday luck, which I was fortunate enough to fall into."

Lance squints at Chris. "Are you telling me you haven't been looking forward to this at all?"

"Did I say that? I know I didn't say that." Chris opens the balcony door and motions Lance forward. "Joey."

Lance hesitates on the threshold. "Joey what?"

"Joey gets to go first." Chris trails Lance inside. "That okay with you?"

Lance nods. There's a flush of color high on his cheeks, but Chris doesn't think it's from the liquor. Lance sits down on the foot of his bed.

"Nope. You come with me," Chris says, heading out into the hall. JC's room is one door down. Chris knocks.

It's Joey who answers it. "Hey, I figured—oh, hey. The birthday boy, still standing after the worst New Orleans could do."

Chris walks past Joey, over to the bathroom. He pokes his head in. JC, just drying off, catches sight of him in the mirror and yelps.

"You're pretty enough," Chris says, then goes back out to the main room. The balcony door is shut tight, which won't do at all. Chris props it open with one of JC's sneakers, letting the street sounds drift inside. Then he plops down on the bed.

Joey, still standing next to the door, looks from Chris to Lance then back over to Chris. "So, ah, I thought. Chris?"

Chris smiles at Lance. "Help the man out, birthday boy."

Shaking his head, Lance turns to Joey and kisses him.

JC comes out of the bathroom, towel around his hips. "What? I thought—oh, my." JC sits down next to Chris. "Oh. Hello."

"I thought I'd just bring him across the hall," Chris says, and then they both spend a quiet minute appreciating just how nice, even when caught off guard, Joey looks when he's putting everything he's got into kissing someone.

That the someone is Lance makes it even more remarkable. Joey's got Lance pinned against the wall, one hand cupping his head and the other wrapped around his shoulders.

Lance wasn't wrong: Chris has thought about this. More than once. And yet. "Is it just me," Chris says, keeping his voice low, "or is it really kind of startling to see them doing that?"

"Yes," JC says.

"Because that's Lance. And Joey. And even if it was to be expected…"

"Yes," JC says.

"Yeah." Chris settles back against the headboard.

Chris hadn't anticipated the sounds. He's never seen Lance in a setting quite as sexual as this, no, but he's seen him worked up after a show, or revved up after a late night out, and Lance has never been loud, not the way Chris is, or not the way Justin can be without thinking.

It's not that Lance is being loud, so much as he's being… noticeable. Chris finds he's trying to breathe more quietly just so he can hear every noise that Lance doesn't quite stifle.

Then Lance shoves himself away from the wall, stepping Joey backwards towards the bed, and Chris doesn't have to try very hard at all because Lance is right in front of him. Right in front of Joey, standing between his legs, pulling his t-shirt off over his head and letting all three of them take a good look at his honey-sweet skin.

Joey skims his hands up Lance's chest. "Wow," he says. "You got nice-looking."

Lance smirks. "Thanks for noticing."

"Does the rest of it come off, too?"

Lance shivers, but Joey's not waiting for an answer. He's already working on the button and zipper of Lance's jeans.

JC slides off the bed, leaving his towel behind. Chris bites his tongue at the way Lance's eyes widen as he realizes, yes, he's going to get a turn at that.

JC steps behind Lance, brushing his mouth over the short hairs at the back of his neck. Lance shivers. "Hey, man," JC says.

"Hey." Lance shivers again as JC hooks his thumbs in the waistband of his jeans and helps Joey take them down.

"Now, children," Chris says. Few people wear white cotton as well as Lance can wear it. Joey thumbs the seams of Lance's shorts and Chris has to swallow. "There's more than enough of him to go around."

JC, crouching down to help Lance step out of his jeans, looks up. "I was only helping." He presses a dry kiss against the small of Lance's back. "Joey doesn't mind."

"Joey doesn't mind at all," Joey says. "Does Lance mind?"

"Jesus," Lance says. "I don't care, just… please."

"Please, what?" Joey runs his fingers over the curve of cotton covering Lance's cock. "Please what?"

Lance's grin is more of a baring of teeth. "Son of a bitch," he says, then yanks down his own shorts.

It's a jumble of hands as Lance climbs onto the bed: JC's hands, skimming over Lance's ass and down his legs, stripping away the last of his clothes; Joey's hands, turning Lance over onto his back and then yanking at his own shirt and sweatpants. And Chris's hands, finally, when Lance scoots back until his shoulders come to rest in the vee of Chris's thighs. "Hey up there," Lance says, then closes his eyes as Joey climbs onto the mattress next to him.

"Hey down there," Chris says. "Joey goes first. Right?"

"Uh huh," Lance says, grunting as Joey's hands work between his thighs, testing and touching and petting everything.

"Lucky me," Joey says. "Very lucky me. Okay, so, it's kind of been a while, so feel free to offer suggestions," he adds, before leaning over and putting his mouth on Lance's cock.

"Christ!" Lance would've lunged up, had Joey not had an arm over his waist and had JC not been sitting at the foot of the bed, leaning on his thighs.

Catching his breath, Chris lets out a low whistle. "Shit, Joe."

Joey's too occupied to respond. Eyes closed, he's blowing Lance with the kind of deliberate concentration that confirms that, no, it's hardly usual for him to be on this side of a blowjob. But if enthusiasm counts for anything—and it gets high marks in Chris's book—then Joey's doing just fine.

Lance seems to think so, too, the way his lips are moving without making a sound. He blinks up at Chris, then squeezes his eyes shut.

Chris runs his thumbs over Lance's eyebrows. An old girlfriend of his used to do that when he had trouble falling asleep. "It's okay, kid. Everything's good. You just relax and let it all go, all right?"

Lance nods, frowning.

"There's no one here to see you but us, and we've already seen the bad and ugly. It's just good now. Just good," Chris says, watching JC curl up until he's right next to Lance's hip, close enough to lick Joey's lips.

Which is the first thing JC does. The second thing is to mouth the root of Lance's cock and everything else Joey can't reach.

Lance shouts, pressing his face against Chris's thigh. His stomach is clenching, the muscles fluttering under Joey's palm.

It's a rough, wet kind of blowjob that Joey gives. When he finally pulls back to wipe the spit off his chin, JC takes his turn. "Yeah," Joey says, reaching down to stroke his own cock. "Finish him, okay? Beautiful."

Lance gropes at the sheets until Joey notices and grabs hold of his hand.

"Beautiful," Joey says again. "So beautiful."

Maybe it's the same thing Joey says to his girls, to Kelly and all the rest. Chris suspects it is. But it doesn't make it any less true, and it doesn't mean Joey believes it any less.

Lance comes in JC's mouth, shaking and moaning.

"Man," JC says when he finally pulls away. "I think you needed that."

Lance nods weakly. "Mmm."

"'Cause he wasn't pliable and willing before." Chris brushes the hair back from Lance's face. "Nice, huh?"

"Mmm-hmm," Lance says.

Breaking away from a whispered exchange at the foot of the bed, JC pads over to where his backpack lies on the floor. Joey rubs the tension out of Lance's legs, then nudges them apart and dips his fingers between Lance's thighs.

"Nnn," Lance says, lifting his hips.

"I think you broke him," Chris says as JC returns, handing Joey the lube. "We're going to need him functional for this."

"Shut up." JC trails his fingers down Lance's chest. "How you doing in there, cat?"

"'m good," Lance murmurs.

Joey does something that makes Lance gasp. "That's cold, Joey."

"Sorry," Joey says. "It always is."

Lance sighs, then takes a deep breath. He hikes his hips when Joey twists his hand. "Oh, fuck."

Chris could sit here forever, just like this, with Lance writhing in his lap, and JC whispering little snippets of sentences, like he's trying to imprint this in words in his mind. Joey's intent, focused, and Chris briefly wonders why he never got around to seeing if he could get Joey into bed except on that one night.

And on this one, though this isn't the same. Selfish is one thing, but Chris needs to pay attention to the matter at hand. Because Lance is surging on Joey's hand now, riding it, and Joey's crawling up to kneel between his legs.

"Like this?" Joey asks. He skims on a condom, leaning forward to tease Lance. The bastard, Chris thinks, then reminds himself to do the same to JC next time they end up in bed together. "You want it like this. You on your back, just begging for it."

Lance's hair is damp with sweat where his head brushes against Chris's belly. "Yeah. Yes. I don't know, just fuck me already, please, Joey."

It's obvious to Chris, and must be obvious to JC—and dear lord, how could anyone not know from the look on his face—that Lance has been waiting much, much too long for this. "Jesus," Chris says. "You been saving yourself for Joey?"

"Kind of," Lance says, then groans when Joey snaps into him and freezes.

"No, Lance." Joey's shaking with the strain, the room hot and humid and smelling of sex. "You did not just say what I think you said."

Lance is panting. "C'mon, c'mon."

"No, wait." Joey can't help it; his hips are already moving again. Chris doesn't think he notices.

"Joe." Chris catches Joey's eye, dead serious. "You're not stopping now."

"I'm not a virgin," Lance spits out. "Nowhere near. Except for the actual fucking part." Joey fucks him at just the right angle, sending Lance's voice up a register. "Fuck! Oh, god. C'mon, Joey, if you'd had me blow you instead, then you wouldn't be wondering if I'd done it before."

JC is laughing, part amusement, part nerves. "Joey. Fuck him. I want my turn."

"Oh, Jesus," Joey says, but he doesn't fight himself anymore. And the minute he stops fighting, it's all perfect. Chris runs his hands over Lance's shoulders and down his arms, feeling every quiver, feeling Lance's body lift up as he plants his feet against the mattress and meets every one of Joey's strokes.

It's all a matter of context, Chris thinks, as he watches Joey bite his lip and clutch Lance's hips when he finally comes. It's the context that matters, in sex, in music, in everything. Context, and environment.

JC is stretching out, arching over Lance as soon as Joey pulls away. He kisses Lance gently, then nips at his lower lip. "Open your eyes, honey."

Lance complies, though it's clearly an effort.

"There you go," JC says, low and sing-song. "Want you to watch, want to see those eyes." He sits up, wrapping Lance's legs around his waist. "Hold on, honey," he says, easing his way in.

Joey looks at Chris and shakes his head. "JC," he mouths, then pulls the chair next to the bed even closer and sits down to watch. Chris grins at him.

If JC's all energy on stage, he's all liquid in bed. Against Lance's twisting body, he's lovely to watch. He slides right in reach of Lance's fumbling hands, arches his back to lick a kiss against Lance's mouth. Then he hikes Lance's ass up against his thighs and holds onto his hips and fucks him slow and deep.

And Lance just melts under it, melts like ice in the Louisiana sun. Chris runs his fingers over Lance's mouth until Lance opens up and sucks them in, purring deep in his throat like there's nothing in the world that makes him more content than being filled, filled right up like this.

By the time JC comes, Lance's legs are trembling, slipping on the slick skin of JC's sides, but he's not letting go, and he's looking JC in the eye, and he only lets Chris's fingers go so he can say, "Yes," as JC fights through his last few strokes.

After JC's cries die down, there's silence in the room. Chris listens to an early-morning delivery truck rumbling through the street outside the window, listens to JC hiss as he pulls out. Sighing, Lance curls up on his side.

Chris rubs Lance's shoulders as JC ducks into the bathroom and comes back out with a hand towel damp from the sink. He hands it to Chris, who wipes the sweat away from the back of Lance's neck. "Um," Lance hums.

"I know, it's cold," Chris says, but he holds it against Lance's nape until his breathing evens out.

"Feels good," Lance murmurs. He rubs his cheek against Chris's fly like an overgrown cat.

"Someone tell me why I'm still dressed." Chris wads up the towel and chucks it at JC. "Someone tell me why this boy is acting like he wants more."

"Your turn." Lance's voice is slurred, but that only makes Chris's pulse move that much quicker. Lance pushes himself up until he's close enough to sitting and leans in to kiss Chris. "Your turn."

"You've got an overdeveloped sense of fairness." Chris wonders if he shouldn't just coax Lance into laying back down and sleeping. But Lance's mouth is hot, tasting of salt and sex, and Chris isn't that noble a man.

Lance is alone in the bed for the first time that night as Chris strips off his jeans and t-shirt. The way Lance watches as Chris gets naked—attentive, appreciative—is worth the wait. Chris doesn't understand the point of jealousy, and can't even imagine it here. If a man can look at you the way Lance is looking at him even after being well-fucked, then take it as a compliment.

If the sight of Lance turning over on the bed and the smell of sex in the warm night air weren't enough to make his cock stand up and take notice, the way JC slides into the bed and lies down next to Lance most certainly is. "You're way too fond of watching, cat," JC says as he watches Chris slick on a condom.

"No such thing." Chris runs a hand down Lance's back and over the swell of his ass. It's cliche, Chris knows, but he has to slap it, just to see how Lance will react.

Lance, it turns out, will hitch up his hips and moan. The boy's nothing but a hedonist; Chris feels justified for having pegged him properly all those years ago. "Aren't we just the decadent rock star tonight?"

"You just gonna put your hands on it?" Lance asks.

Bending over, Chris licks up the line of Lance's vertebrae, from tailbone to shoulder. He sets his teeth against the back of Lance's neck. Lance is vocal in his appreciation.

"Careful," Chris says, climbing onto the bed and raking his nails down Lance's back. Lance groans. "They're going to hear you outside. Someone's going to walk past the window and wonder who the boy is up here getting fucked and liking it so much."

"You're not actually fucking me," Lance says. "So I guess they're gonna be wrong—oh Jesus, yes."

Chris has a special fondness for fingering a boy who's up on his knees. Not only is the view splendid, but you can wring out such gratifying reactions when you're not distracted by how good your cock's feeling.

Speaking of. Chris fists his cock once, twice, just to let it know the wait's over. Then he thrusts in and out one last time with his fingers before replacing them with his cock.

Christ. Fucking perfect. This bed, this night, JC watching with eyes wide and black, Joey in the chair with a leg thrown over the arm, idly touching himself. And Lance clutching a pillow, trying to muffle the sounds he's making.

"Oh, no, no," JC says, pushing the pillow away. "We want to hear you." He skims his hand between the mattress and Lance's belly, reaching for Lance's cock.

Chris catches his eye and smiles. JC smiles back.

But then there really isn't any more room in Chris's head for paying attention to anyone else, because the way Lance is moving under him, arching back to meet every thrust, is a model of what Chris wishes every fuck could be. Lance always did learn quickly. When Lance starts heckling him, starts saying, "Come on, Chris, this was all your idea, all yours, you fucking wanted this, wanted me," all Chris can think is yes.

Somewhere along the way, between yesterday and tomorrow, Lance learned how to meet Chris on his own terms.

If it's possible to fuck someone for the first time and feel like you've had them before, then this is it. Maybe it's the feel of JC's fingers as they dip back to brush against Chris's cock; maybe it's a result of the times when Chris, half-asleep, has overheard Lance jacking off in his bunk on a bus. "Conspiracy," Chris says. He hears Lance curse.

Coming inside Lance is one of the things Chris wants to remember when he's dying and his life flashes in front of his eyes.

Thank God for JC, who curls up next to Lance and jerks him until he's shaking and coming again. Chris sure as hell couldn't manage it. It's all he can do to strip off the condom and get himself horizontal without falling off the bed.

"Damn," Joey says.

"Uh-huh." Chris stares at the back of Lance's head. The bed's just large enough for three of them, so long as JC keeps his sheets-stealing tendencies in check. Joey's going to have to go across the hall or make do.

Joey shifts in his chair. "Did I look like that afterwards? And give me a pillow, at least."

"Dunno, man. I wasn't looking at your ugly face."

"Hush," JC says. "He's asleep."

Chris pokes Lance's shoulder. Seeing as how Lance fails to reach around and slap him, Chris knows JC is right. "A typical man," Chris says, yawning. "Remind me to give him hell for that tomorrow."

"Do it where Justin can hear, and I'll give you ten bucks," Joey murmurs.

"Sold," Chris says, then drifts off.

The Bahamas are warm and gaudy and overpriced, just like Timberlake himself. Chris takes a moment to appreciate the irony as he stands in front of Justin's hotel room door.

JC's hand lights on his shoulder, then slides down to rest in the small of Chris's back. "We're here."

Chris looks over his shoulder. Lance has got a fist in Joey's hair and his tongue in Joey's mouth. Now there's a sight Chris has gone without these two years running.

"Knock it off," Chris says. "Save it for the infant."

They break apart. "We got more," Joey says, which sets Lance off into a fit of nervous laughter.

"Hey," Chris says. It's one thing to be on edge, it's another not to take this the way it deserves. "You had your turn."

"No, sorry. I'm good." Lance clears his throat. "Really."

"Mmm hmm." JC is humming, rocking up on the balls of his feet. "Long time coming," he says.

Lance nods. Looking thoughtful, Joey echoes it.

Chris almost lets it slide, but what the hell. No secrets left, not after tonight.

"We would've waited longer," he says, and opens the door to Justin's room.