Summer to Fall by Deliberatehips

It can't rain all the time, boyo mix by

August, 1994.
Swansea, South Wales.

People talk about 1988 as 'the summer of love', but Lance had been nine then, utterly oblivious to the appeal of loud music and willing bodies. Not that dance music appeals to him now, but he has a steadily growing collection of carefully annotated mix tapes cataloguing his discovery of metal, goth, and industrial, starting with the Metallica tape Nick had given him over a year ago, back when they were supposed to have been revising for their GCSEs, He's not interested in dance music and E's, but Lance knows the appeal of a crowded dance floor now, of willing bodies and open-handed affection and friends who have your back.

Ever since Lance got the car, things have greatly improved.

Lance's parents gave him driving lessons for doing so well in his exams, and then, after he passed his test, and AS level sociology, a nice, dependable, used Volvo. His father always reminds him to be sure he's got a full tank of petrol before he heads out of town, and his mum reminds him that there's no shame in going below the speed limit, it's always better to be late than be dead. Lance smiles patiently and reassures them before ducking out the door and heading over to pick up Nick on his way to Justin's.

Last summer they had to get the bus everywhere, and endure the stupid comments of the norms — 'it's not Halloween yet, boys', 'fucking poofters', that sort of thing. Lance's mum had always offered to give him a lift over to Justin's, but the thought of his mum pursing her lips, just so, at Lynn's collection of expensive, silly, garden gnomes made ignoring the cat calls much easier. He just put his walkman on and ignored them all, just like he did in the common room at college.

Lance's mum would do more than purse her lips if she knew where Nick lived. Lance pulls up outside the tower block and Nick jogs across from where he was waiting, in the shadow of the stained concrete stairs. His mum must be leaning over the walkway yelling after him, because Nick turns back to the building, looking up to make a rude gesture, before he pops the car door and slides in. Lance looks over, but Nick just shakes his head, telling him not to ask. They're driving past the university sports' fields when Nick unclips his seatbelt to strip off the oversize t-shirt he's wearing, revealing the tight, black, cut-off one he has on under.

"You can't wait to get changed? Want to impress the boy, is it?" Lance smiles, but there's a part of his head that's panicking about driving with Nick not wearing his seatbelt. What if they get spotted?

"'M not changing, Bass. This is it for tonight."

Nick arches up in the passenger seat to tug the shirt out from where it's caught up in the waistband of his worn black jeans, and Lance would maybe tease about Nick looking trashy, except when he pulls up at the lights and looks over he gets an eyeful of Nick's broad pale shoulders. Nick's going to get hold of someone tonight, wearing that. The Bauhaus shirt that Lance sent away for and had delivered to Justin's house, suddenly seems kind of lame.

Justin lives out past the Mumbles, where the houses are just that bit more flash than up by Lance's. Justin's mum got a lot of money in the divorce, as well as a very liberal attitude, which explains why Justin bounds out of the front door when Lance pulls up the drive, wearing shredded jeans and a fishnet top, with his hair gelled in spikes and his eyes dark with liquid eyeliner against porcelain foundation. He's plenty vocal about wanting them to hurry up so they won't miss the first band, and Lynn just smiles and says hello to Lance and Nick when Justin drags them inside. Lance suspects that, next year, Justin will have his own, jet black, car and that Lynn probably won't throw a fit if he puts stickers in the back windows.

Nick accepts Lynn's offer of a cold coke before they hit the road, whilst Justin pushes Lance upstairs to change, one hand firm against Lance's back as though Lance was going to turn round and run. Lance has a whole carrier bag's worth of clothes stashed at Justin's now. His new shirt is still in its crinkly cellophane wrapper, and it's slightly scratchy when Lance pulls it on. Justin persuaded him to order the medium, and it's a little snug across the chest. He takes a moment to look at himself in the mirror, tugging at the hem of the shirt, where it's only just overlapping the waistband of his combat trousers, and then Justin's behind him, looping an arm over Lance's shoulders and grinning.

"You look fine, now come over here so I can do your make-up."

Lance sits on the edge of the bed with Justin kneeling up between his legs, while Justin paints cool, slick eyeliner in sharp points around his eyes, and tries - and fails - to persuade Lance to let him do lipstick too, and then they're off and out the door, piling back into the car for the drive down to the station, with Lance's mix tape turned up as loud as they dare.

They still take the train up to Cardiff, hanging off each other and arguing all the way, because it's fun to watch people's reactions when there's all three of them together, and because it's a bitch to park in town. They wave at Tony, who's working the door, who nods back and lets them by, no questions, and Pink Ali takes their money with a smile and a 'hi, boys', and then they're in. It's only a ten minute walk from the station, but Lance is parched, it's that hot. He can't afford to waste any cash though, so he'll be drinking tap water tonight, unless Justin can get JC, or maybe Chris if he's in an especially good mood, to sneak them some free drinks from backstage. It doesn't even have to be beer or Mad Dog - Lance would be glad of a coke right now.

They're too early for it to be crowded in the small venue, so they wander down to the front, the left hand side where Chris will be helping the bands load on and off stage, and then keeping an eye on the crowd later. He's sitting on the stage, combat boots swinging, deep in conversation with JC. The DJ's haven't even started yet — Justin always worries too much — so Lance can hear what they're saying as he gets closer.

"Chris, Chris. All I'm saying is that you wouldn't even have heard of Marlyn Manson if it weren't for Nine Inch Nails."

"Maybe, but that's like saying if it weren't for Skinny Puppy and Ramstein, Trent wouldn't have an audience: it's all connected."

"Okay, but. Like, it's necessary for musicians to have their own sound, right? — you need to be original. Otherwise what's the point?"

"To make money?"

"Chris, I can't believe you even said that!"

"Sorry, I forgot: your artistic soul would never stoop to such concerns."

JC finger flicks beer at Chris, and Chris laughs and rolls his eyes at JC. JC looks down at his hands, fiddling with the wrist-full of silver bangles, biting his plum-colored lower lip. Lance has seen Chris and JC have almost the same argument every week, about different bands or over different issues, so he knows it's nothing serious. JC will mope for a few minutes and Chris will ignore him, then they'll be joking and kidding like always.

Justin takes advantage of the pause to bounce up next to Chris. "Hey Chris, JC. Any chance we can score some drinks? It's boilin' in here today."

Chris's smile when he shakes his head, all solemn like, makes Lance wonder if really he's a bad person, enjoying seeing someone take the mick out of Justin so much.

"No, No can do. They're for the bands, brat, and you're just not that cool." Chris taps at his wrist band, incongruous neon orange amongst the clutter of leather and silver. "No wristband, no rider."

"JC doesn't have one."

Chris rolls his eyes and turns back to JC, pulling one leg up to twist round on the stage and ignore Justin completely. They start talking again, the earlier argument forgotten already.

Lance can't deal with Justin being all 'woe is me' this early in the evening, so he gives up the idea of saving his allowance this week, and digs out a ten pound note, so he can send Justin off with Nick to get drinks. Maybe Nick can distract Justin for a while, and at least one of them might appreciate it.

He crouches down by the foot of the stage, facing out into the room, but with his head tilted back so he can eavesdrop on Chris's conversation, even though it's really boring now. Something about someone they both know called Howie, and how he's moved up to London now. Lance's ears prick at the mention of Slimelight, but JC seems more interested in Howie's job, so Chris is talking about that. Howie must have graduated already. Chris is going into his final year, Psychology at Swansea Uni. He helps out here at The Cave because he's a SU DJ and he wants to get into promotion. He talks about getting some bands down to Swansea sometimes, although it hasn't happened yet. Lance and Nick only know him because Justin knows JC from music class. JC's older, but he goes to the college, because his band is just getting some recognition and he doesn't want to throw the opportunity away for some meaningless degree, or so he says.

Lance can't see how a proper degree can be meaningless; he's been researching universities since he chose his GCSE's and he even has a few folders full of prospectuses that he sent for, when he got his first predicted grades. When he's at uni he won't have parents on his case about the car and he won't have to hide his clothes at Justin's or make up girlfriends that don't last long enough to bring home for dinner.

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the 80s are over, kiddo, and Bauhaus are dead and gone." Chris reaches down around Lance from behind tugging at the t-shirt, chipped nails digging into the white screenprint. "Were you even born then?"

Lance scowls and twists out of Chris's reach, standing up so he can look Chris in the eye. "Get off. It's not like you can talk." Chris's uniform polo shirt may be black, but it's got The Cave embroidered on the breast pocket in raspberry red, and he's wearing suit trousers.

"Uh huh, kiddo. It's my job to wear this shirt. You've never seen the Kirkpatrick style in full force, is all."

"Please give me warning so I don't faint when that glorious day arrives." Lance feels flushed and prickly, and conscious of his accent. He hates feeling like he doesn't fit in, and between Nick, Justin and now Chris he's starting to get paranoid.

JC kicks his feet against the edge of the stage where he's still sitting and laughs at them, not mean, like, but amused. Just then, AJ, the sound tech, walks by and ruffles JC's hair. AJ is lean and muscular, and has more tattoos than anyone else Lance knows. His eyeliner is smudged and dark, and his earrings form a curl of silver around each ear. There are significant glances between AJ and JC, which makes Chris roll his eyes again, and then JC hops down from the stage.

"Gotta go. But you're coming tomorrow, right?"

The question is directed at Chris, but Lance doesn't even bother to pretend he's not paying attention.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world."

"Great! Oh, um." JC turns to Lance and bites his lip. "We're playing a show, but it's for, um, this fetish night, so it's over 21s, and they're being mad strict about ID. But there's this after party at AJ's. Tell Justin to call me for directions, okay?"

Lance nods and JC grins at him before wiggling past Chris and disappearing.

"Directions to what?" Justin materializes next to Lance, like using his name summoned him, and Lance startles a little. He and Nick are clutching Slush Puppies, which Tony must have let them sneak in from outside. They're also followed by Britney and her gaggle of girls. The girls look kind of cool, with their long hair and tight velvet outfits, but they don't remember the names of most of the bands and Britney always latches on to Justin, which makes Nick irritable and snappy.

Chris pinches the back of Lance's arm, a sharp warning not to mention anything in front of them.

"Nothing, I'll tell you later."

Luckily, Britney is busying herself with adjusting her pony falls and asking Justin what song by The Pixies she would know, which even makes one of the girls that came over with her raise an eyebrow. Lance turns away and sucks on his raspberry drink, which is blissful and perfectly, perfectly cold. Justin was kind of sloppy with it, though, and a few drops of blue slush slither onto his hand, right at the joint between index finger and thumb. He brings his hand up to his mouth to lick it off and when he looks up, he finds Chris staring at him.

Chris has these dark, piercing eyes, and when he fixates his attention on you it's difficult to remember that other people exist. Lance has caught Chris looking at him a few times recently with that intensity, and Chris doesn't even look away when Lance catches him. Just holds him there for a few seconds, until Lance's pulse is fluttering in his neck. He hates that Chris can do that to him, hate it even more because he's pretty sure Chris knows the effect he has.

Chris pisses Lance off all the time, but he's also really cool and really interesting, and really kind of hot. Probably not gay, though. He certainly doesn't act gay. Not like JC, who flames so much he's been in casualty three times since Lance has known him. Lance is quieter about it, but it's not like he hides it, at least, not here. When Justin loudly comments on hot guys, Lance is quick to join in. It's not like he can do that most places, but here, and in a couple of clubs back in Swansea, it's ok. When Chris is in earshot he never comments.

Sometimes Chris will make a joke and flap his wrists around, playing pansy like some of the morons at college do. But not in a mean way. Lance is sure of that, because JC still sticks around and JC has pride badges and a red ribbon on his messenger bag and wears shirts that say, "Hate is Not a Family Value." If he's cool with Chris, Lance knows Chris is just playing at it, that he's harmless.

Still, Lance wishes that Chris was gay, or bi, or would at least stop looking at him and making Lance wish for things he can't have. Chris is a fucking tease. Lance wipes his sticky hand on his combats and avoids Chris's eyes for the rest of the night.

There's no school, which means Lance's mum is willing to be persuaded when Justin gets Lynn to cover for them. A sleepover, which sounds a little gay to Lance, but he figures his parents probably wouldn't think about it the same way he does. To thank Lynn they let her play her old 70s music for them while they get ready, and Lance even grabs a hairbrush and does the low parts, blushing when Justin compliments his voice and tells him to join choir for the hundredth time. Nick looks grumpy at that and Lance wishes he could just sit Nick down and explain to him how he positively has no reason to think Justin might be interested in Lance. It sucks when both your friends have confided in you that they want each other, but are two chicken to actually do anything about it. Lance only keeps himself from spilling the beans because he doesn't want the two of them getting together while he's still boyfriendless. Lance is quietly certain that he's really not a good person.

JC's set was an opener, so even though he was done by half eight, the party isn't going to start until midnight, after the pub's closed and everyone's done. That's after driving curfew for Lance, so they have to drive out there early so they're only in the car for a few minutes illegally. It's only following the letter of the law, but at least Lance can tell himself that he's trying to respect his parents' rules.

Then they spend an hour killing time, throwing pebbles into the incoming waves and enjoying that the night air's finally cooling down to bearable. Nick's wearing another cut-down t-shirt, with silver safety pins across his shoulders, the sides cut low enough that Lance keeps catching glimpses of dark nipple, and then trying not to look. He can't tell for sure in the dim light from the streetlights if Justin's noticed or not. Mind you, Justin can't understand why Lance didn't want to borrow Justin's mesh shirt for the party, because Justin has both a perfect body and no shame at all. The heat helped the other two talk him into cutting the sleeves off his NIN shirt, which prompted a moment of nostalgia, because it was the first shirt that he'd had to hide from his parents, but with its faded crackled print and now it's roughly hacked arms Lance had to admit it made him feel pretty cool, or at least, less like a wanna-be. If anything it's a little shorter than the Bauhaus shirt, so he keeps getting goosebumps across his stomach when he stretches up to really hurl a stone. Just the touch of the night air makes him feel kind of sexy and daring, let alone that he's hanging out on a deserted stretch of beach with his two best friends, on their way over to an aftershow, with a bona fide band. Nick has even managed to get hold of a six pack of beer to bring with them.

The party is still just starting when they arrive, but there are enough people there for it not to be completely awkward. Nick hefts the six pack, and they drift towards the kitchen, sticking close together. AJ's flat is pretty bland, except for posters everywhere, and the dark throws over all the furniture. There are fairy lights looped around the banister and nailed around the windows. Lance is willing to bet that JC put those up. JC's still dressed from the show, skintight jeans, a sleeveless black top with the word "blow" written in sparkles across the chest, and loops of pearls tight around his neck, like he's raided his grandma's jewelry box. He has more makeup on than Lance would ever dare in public, foundation and eye shadow and shading to make his cheekbones stand out: he looks glorious, while Lance feels like he's walking on the wild side with a little eyeliner.

"Juppy!" JC squeals, his drinks splashing dangerously in the bottle as he throws his hands up for a hug. "Have you heard the news? The Cave put us on the bill for next week! You're coming, right? You're all coming?"

"Are you serious!? I've been dying to see you perform, man, of course we're coming," Justin practically bounces in place.

"Killer. Okay, you all need drinks because I'm way ahead of you already."

Lance follows at the tail end of the group and takes the concoction JC offers, not bothering to ask what's in it. It doesn't matter. He's not legal for another nine months, so whatever it is, it's automatically cool. It does burn, though, because he gulps too fast, but after that it's fruity and not half bad.

"Bloody students — it's like you're only here for the free booze."

Lance chokes down the last of his mouthful and glares at Chris, who raises a bottle of K in salutation.

"Like you can talk — I thought you said cider was for girls?"

"Aye, but I'm still a student."

Chris winks and takes a pull from the black bottle. Lance watches Chris's throat work as he drinks and fights a blush. Chris is wearing a charcoal t-shirt, with a logo Lance doesn't recognize, which is much tighter than his uniform polo shirt, showing off a broad chest and soft stomach. He's wearing it with faded black jeans, and proper shit-kicker boots. He looks more casual, but still like someone who could kick his ass, and still depressingly straight.

When Chris's gaze levels on Lance again, he grins. "Are you sayin' I look like a girl, Bass?"

Lance is slightly flattered that Chris remembered his last name, but he tries not to show it.

"You can get bleach for that facial hair problem, you know," Lance fires back and then winces internally at how lame it sounds.

"Says the guy who couldn't grow a beard if he tried."

Lance gives an ironic bow and takes a sip of his drink. Everyone else seems to have wandered off and now it's just him and Chris in the small kitchen. Lance leans back against the counter and licks his lips, trying to think of interesting conversation that doesn't revolve around trading insults.

"So, the gig was good?"

"Oh, brilliant. JC's a trip on stage, you'll see next week at…"

"Kirkpatrick! I thought you were dead!" Some tall brunette reaches over Lance to grab Chris's hand. Lance ducks out of the way and leave them to catch up, relieved. It's much easier to deal with Chris when he doesn't have to worry about impressing him.

The night winds on, the flat gets more crowded. Shots are had, and one of Nick's beers, as well as more of the mystery punch. Justin and Nick disappear somewhere and Lance is talking to some girl with a nose ring he only vaguely recognizes for a while, until he realizes that he has no idea what he's saying and that everything feels really kind of weird. Lance excuses himself and keeps one hand on the wall at all times, while he hunts for fresh air. He secures himself a spot on one of the sagging couches, this one out in the small concreted back yard, and is watching the stars spin gently when Chris plops down beside him.

"You smoke?"

Lance has all of twice, but he nods and takes the joint when offered. He thanks the lord when he doesn't cough like a baby when the bitter sweet hot smoke hits the back of his mouth, then feels incredibly guilty for thinking about god while he's doing drugs.

Chris starts telling some detailed story; something about a monkey, and Lance sinks back and closes his eyes, letting the melody of Chris's voice wash over him. The hand holding the joint falls to his thigh and Chris breaks off abruptly and grabs his wrist, jerking his hand up.

"Fuck, pass or you'll waste it!"

"Sorry, sorry." Maybe it's the pot, or maybe the alcohol. Lance isn't sure, later, what made him so brave, but he leans over and holds the joint up to Chris's mouth, and Chris moves in for the hit, and then all that Lance can register is feeling the wetness of Chris's lips against his fingers. When Chris stops sucking and moves back, eventually blowing out a long plume of smoke, Lance pulls his hand back, and imagines he can taste Chris on the paper, but really the pot and the tobacco overwhelms everything else.

After that, Chris grabs his wrist again, but this time only to use it as leverage to pull their mouths together.

Chris kisses with the kind of intensity Lance expected. Even though Lance knows Chris has his eyes closed, he saw them flutter shut, he feels the same way he does when Chris is staring at him. It's like Chris is looking at him, but deeper, his tongue sliding over the bumps and ridges of his teeth, slick against his own tongue.

Somehow Lance is half in Chris's lap, straddling one leg and leaving his thigh flush between them, up against Chris so he can feel him hard. Chris is warm where the points of their bodies touch, warm everywhere, too warm and Lance feels like he's burning to touch him. Chris's fingers card through Lance's hair, catching in the gel, and his teeth nip at Lance's lower lip, his hips shifting against Lance rhythmically and Lance feels dizzy from it all. His brain can't comprehend everything at once, and he tries to focus just on one part, just the wet slide of lips and pinch of teeth, but even that is too much for him. Chris is overwhelming.

Lance breaks of the kiss, gulping in air, and looks straight into Chris's eyes as he slides his hand between them and presses it against Chris's erection. He wants to be absolutely sure of this. Because he wants, so much it's making it hard to think beyond fuckneeditnowfuckohgod and if this is how sex always is he's never going to last enough to actually get fucked; he's about to come already just from the possibility of it.

Chris holds his gaze, just like before but more so, something in his eyes is hot and needy. Lance presses his palm more firmly against him and shifts his wrist upwards. Chris moans, low, and his head tilts back. Chris is so into this, Lance is positive, and he just wants so much to taste him everywhere that it's overwhelming. Lance braces his free hand against the cushions and slides off the couch and to his knees.

This, this he's never done before, but Chris isn't going to know that. Justin made him and Nick practice on these absurdly large cucumbers last summer, so they'd be used to the sore jaws. This was after they'd all cautiously come out to one another and discovered porn and jerking off in Justin's dark attic. Still, that was the full extent of Lance's experience with another guy's dick, until now. Chris's dick is big, not as big as the cucumber but in a good way, and smoother, and he smells nothing at all like a cucumber, or a condom, but the scent makes Lance's mouth water. Lance pumps it a few times, working the angle of his hand, before bending his neck and taking a cautious lick from tip to base.

Chris shudders, makes a long, drawn-out sort of sound. Lance pulls back, grins a little. He can so do this, no problem. He leans forward on his knees, leveraging himself higher, and takes the head of Chris's cock in his mouth, dragging the loose foreskin with his lips. Chris gasps and Lance tightens his lips, moves his hand up from the base to meet his mouth. Easy, easy, and with every new flick of his wrist or swipe of his tongue Lance has Chris writhing underneath him, making deep, dirty sounds. Lance loves it, pushes the heel of his free hand against the fly of his trousers and twists his body in tandem with Chris.

They both don't last very long, which Lance wants to think is because of his natural skill, but was probably because they were both kind of fucked up and paranoid of someone walking out onto the porch and catching them. Which is also a turn on, the thought of which pushes Lance over the edge and has him coming in his pants even before Chris. That does make it easier to relax his throat and take Chris deep, which is probably what sets Chris off. Lance even manages to swallow without choking. He really deserves a fucking pat on the back and gold star in sex. He wants to do this every day.

Lance rocks back onto his haunches and Chris tucks himself back in and zips up. Lance stands and looks down at Chris. He isn't sure of the etiquette post-orgasm. Should he kiss Chris, even with the taste of come on his lips? Lance really needs to get to a bathroom and try and dry the front of his combats, too, so everyone doesn't know what happened.

Chris pushes his hair off his forehead and exhales, then looks up at Lance. "Hi."

"Hey, uh," Lance shifts his weight and then bends down and quickly pecks Chris on the lips. "I have to go clean up, so I'll, um, yeah." Lance breaks eye contact and heads inside, only glancing back once to see Chris flopped longways across the sofa, forearm over his eyes. Lance doesn't have time to decipher that as regret or exhaustion because he turns a corner, stumbles into the bathroom and right over a green-looking Justin.

"Fuck, Bass, where've you been?"

"Uh, uh." Lance feels like he must be fire engine red, but Nick isn't paying much attention, rubbing Justin's back and murmuring quiet things in his ear. "Is he okay? Maybe we should take Justin home."

"No shit. Okay, come on, baby. Up, up, hold my arm and if you feel sick just tell me." Nick maneuvers Justin up and gets around partiers and out the front door.

Lance is left to let JC and AJ know they're heading off, his hands securely clasped across his crotch. He tries to look around for Chris, but he isn't in the garden anymore and Lance doesn't want to leave Nick and Justin outside alone long.

He's too drunk to drive really, but adrenalin and necessity keep him intensely focused, and they creep back to Justin's with only two stops for Justin to open the door and retch on to the verge. He really is wankered, and Lance is relieved when they get back and Lynn's fast asleep, and Nick volunteers to sleep on the floor in Justin's room.

They're all hung-over in the morning, and if Lance felt less rough he'd probably be amused by the sight of all three of them collapsed in Lynn's lounge, watching The Crow for the millionth time, wearing sunglasses inside and sipping cautiously on black instant coffee. Instead he's just grateful that neither of his friends seemed inclined to ask questions about why he's being so quiet. He feels really stupid about a lot of things — drunk-driving home only being one of them.

Lance doesn't have a way to contact Chris, besides calling JC and asking for his number. But then he'd have to explain why he needed it and he doesn't trust himself to lie believably. Plus, Lance isn't sure what to say to Chris. 'Hi, really liked blowing you, can I do it again?' No, it's better just to wait until next week's gig. By then it will hopefully be less confusing and maybe they can talk, maybe get hold of each other, but Lance isn't getting his hopes up, not really, even if it would be hot if Chris snuck him backstage and maybe pushed him up against some crew boxes or whatever else they have back there. Lance wouldn't know, he's never been backstage before. It's got to be sexy, though, and there have to be lots of places for them to sneak off to, with just enough room to get Chris's pants off and for Lance to bend down ‚

He's not getting his hopes up, not at all.

Lance is a nervous wreck getting ready at Justin's house. He's been thinking about Chris and the party for a week. He tries on every possible combination of clothing he has stashed there, finally settling on his tight black jeans and one of the pairs of cut down fishnet tights that Justin wears as a top, under a Cure shirt that stretches nicely across his chest. He doesn't care which Nirvana shirt Nick's going to wear, or if Justin should do his nails black or purple, and he drops his contacts three times trying to get them in. When Justin suggests lipstick Lance says sure, even though his mum made him help with the gardening, so he's got a band of freckles across his cheeks.

"Okay, man. Something's up, something's been up for a week. What happened at the party?"

"He hooked up with somebody," Nick is sitting on the cross legged on Justin's bed, fingering a rip in the knee of his jeans and smiling devilishly at Lance.


"I didn't, no way, —"

"Jup may have been newted, mate, but I only had two beers. Unless you're telling me you wet yourself…"

Lance goes scarlet and Justin jumps off the desk where he was perched and grabs at Lance's arms.

"Oh. My. God. Who was it, was it Chris? It had to be Chris, of course, oh my god, you got hold of Chris! You slept with Chris?!"

"I didn't sleep with him! We just…"

"Wait, wait." Justin shuts his bedroom door and then pulls Lance down to a sitting position on the rug. "Okay, details. How big was he, like, relative to the cucumbers, and what did it taste like? I mean, the come not the dick, that probably just tastes like skin and …"

"Fuck, slow down, slow down. You're nosy!"

"Well you're the only of us getting any!"

"I'm not getting any. I got, like, barely anything and then I had to drag your stupid drunk arse home so I don't know if I'm ever getting anything ever again."

Justin looks hurt. "Sorry, man. I didn't know, sorry."

"So what are you going to say to him tonight?" Nick finally breaks his silence and Lance twists around to look at him.

"I don't know. Nothing?"

"I think you should," Nick's reply is slow, serious.

"Oh, cause you're the one to give relationship advice. You can't even tell — Never mind." Lance lets that hang in the air for a second before standing up and opening the door. "Come on, let's just get there so I can get this over with. I can't think about it anymore."

They ride the train in silence, and Lance reads the same page of some abandoned Welsh newspaper‚ over and over to occupy the time, even though he can only remember about one word in ten. Nick is slumped down listening to Justin's walkman and Justin is staring out the window. Lance feels like he should apologize, but his stomach is already in knots over seeing Chris again and he can't focus enough to manage it.

Tony lets them into the venue with a wave as usual and Justin quickly pulls him aside and tells him god knows what before they head up to the front. They're a little later than usual, and the DJ is spinning PWEI, but the crowd hasn't fully converged around the stage. Chris is alone by the left-hand side of the stage, arms folded tightly across his chest.

"Hey Chris, can we go back and say hi to JC?" Justin shouts under the music. Lance can see people moving around in the small back room, but Chris is guarding it like there was a proper VIP section or something. Lance stares at Chris, the line of his neck, and then quickly looks away When he looks back he fights to keep his eyes steady on Chris's face, calm.

"Hey Justin, no can do. You'll have to catch him after, okay kid?"

Justin nods and Chris's eyes flicker over to Lance and then away. Lance waits for him to look back, smile, and acknowledge him in some way. Lance isn't sure what to say to him when he does, his mouth has gone dry anyway. He doesn't get the chance, though. One of the bar staff comes over and leans in to say something to Chris, who nods. They move into the back room, and Chris doesn't come back.

Justin pats Lance's shoulder awkwardly. "Hey, it's okay, he probably…"

Lance shrugs him off. "Whatever, it's no big deal. It was just a thing, one time, look turn around or we'll lose our spot."

AJ's on stage now, fiddling with the amp and his guitar, a few random notes making it through the song that's still playing. He's shirtless, wearing bondage trousers with his tattoos and a sheen of sweat, because it's roasting in the crowded club, and you'd have to be dead not to notice him. Joey's behind the drum kit, giving a couple of brief flurries, and then sitting back and spinning his sticks. He's dyed his flat top red for the occasion. The crowd starts to push in. Lance might be feeling uncomfortable around Chris now, but he won't give up his front row spot just because of that. Chris isn't worth that, not when they've been waiting to see JC's new band for so long, and also Justin has his arm linked with Lance's and won't let him leave. Nick's this warm solid presence behind him. The push of the crowd quickly gets too tight, anyway, and they're jostling and cheering before the DJ had dipped the music, and as soon as JC's bassist, a tall guy Lance thinks is called Kevin, hits his first chord the crowd are forming a mosh pit.

Chris's completely in work-mode, scanning the crowd and not even making eye contact with them like usual, and yet Lance can't stop himself looking, torn between the band up in the lights, and Chris, glowering in the shadows.

And then JC throws himself onstage, leaping out to centre stage in a way that ends with him skidding forward on his knees, right to the edge of the stage, arching so his crotch is practically shoved in the faces of the people over to Lance's right, and then bending forward so he's singing 'Mercy' inches away from Tom and Doug. Lance is spellbound.

It's like JC on stage is a whole different creature from the JC Lance knows — feral and a hundred percent sexual, in his tight jeans and billowing open shirt. Justin squeezes Lance's hand, and then releases him, so he can reach out with both arms, and behind them Nick's pressed still closer by the crowd, and Lance can just about hear him singing along to the chorus.

When the song ends, in a flurry of drums and grace notes, Lance cheers and yells along with everyone else, until he looks back down to Chris's position. Being blanked like that is like having a glass of water dashed in his face. None of his plans for how this evening might go involved Chris not even making eye contact with him, and there's a thread of panic working its way in amongst the excitement.

JC introduces himself, says how it's great to be there, and then Joey riffs across the cymbals before fixing a driving rhythm that Kevin echoes. JC's tapping his foot, almost bouncing. Lance feels the crowd sway and doesn't pay any mind to it until he feels the elbow come down across his face and the rip of metal against his skin.

Lance is falling, and Justin's screaming something Lance can't hear.

Next thing Lance knows he's sitting on a plastic chair somewhere unfamiliar, Chris's hand is steady on Lance's jaw, tilting his head back to keep the blood out of his eye. His temple hurts like a son of a bitch. The guy must have had on a spiked bracelet or something. Fucking punks. Lance's mum is going to throw a fit.

"Here, hold that to stop the bleeding," Chris pushes a handful of paper towels against Lance's fingers. "Nick, can you find me one of those butterfly plasters in here? This kit is a real mess." He sounds distracted, tense.

Nick and Justin are with them too, someone must have let them through at Chris's direction. Lance blinks and when he can finally look down he sees that they're in the back room, which looks nothing like he'd imagined, grimy and beat up and distinctly unglamorous. Justin's perched on the arm of a stained sagging sofa and it occurs to Lance that maybe all the important moments in his relationship with Chris will involve knackered lounge furniture. Nick's found the plaster and Chris takes Lance's chin and turns him back, gently taking the blood-soaked papers from Lance's hands.

"Hold still, let me get this on."

Lance looks up but keeps his face still, feeling Chris's fingers holding the skin steady and applying the dressing. Chris tilts his jaw down, thumb against the indention of his chin, and looks into Lance's eyes for a long moment. If Lance moved, he realizes, he could draw Chris's thumb into his mouth, slide his lips against it, graze his teeth along the pad.

"You'll bruise, but probably no scar. This is your first concert-related injury, huh?"


"Not a bad one, a guy broke my toe once, before I started wearing paras. They're lifesavers, you should invest."

Brian, the bar manager, smacks Chris's shoulder as he comes past. Chris draws his hand away. "Fuck, I have to go back to work. You all right?"

"I'm fine," Lance can hear the band playing on, and the crowd sounds boisterous and happy. He automatically looks towards the stage.

"Look, just stay back here and if anyone asks tell them I gave the OK. You can watch from the side." Chris rests his hand briefly on Lance's thigh as he pushes himself up from his crouching position and heads back to the front.

Justin tugs him up and moves him and Nick around so they can watch. Lance's still feels a little dizzy, but he's not going to miss this.

JC is electric. He never seems to stop, jumping all over the stage, dancing even when he doesn't really have to. It's like he can't help but thrust his hips, but then he's singing about sex a lot so that makes sense. Justin told Lance that JC sings this one song about masturbating, and that he practically does it on stage, too. Lance thought that would be the most uncomfortable part of the show, but now he's seen JC on stage not singing about masturbation, Lance is thankful he's out of the crowd, not pushed too close to strangers if they're going to do that song. That would be uncomfortable.

Finally, JC slows it down, gulping down water and then leaning in to the mike stand, swaying so the trail of glittery scarves swings and catches the light. The song is called Build My World, and JC mentions how his friend Tony helped him write it, and Lance can hear the blush in his voice when he says that it's not so relevant anymore but he still loves performing the song. Lance glances at AJ, who's over the far side of the stage, a quiet smile on his face. Lance notices Nick's hand resting at the small of Justin's back and looks away. He is going to be the only one without a boyfriend, and a busted-up face isn't going to help any. Lance feels upset and jealous and he liked it better when he was just uncomfortably turned-on. He bites his lips and let's JC's words wash over him.

Halfway through the song, Lance feels a hand on his waist and he turns to see Chris.

"You okay?"

Lance nods and then the frustration from earlier blooms in his chest. So what if Chris helped him, half an hour ago he couldn't be bothered to even look at him.

"So it takes an injury to get you to talk to me, does it? If I let you fuck me is it going to take a heart attack to do it?"

There's something about the explosive way the word 'fuck' fills his mouth that makes Lance feels adult, reckless. Chris looks like he's been slapped, but he recovers and anger clouds his face. Chris's hand is rough on Lance's wrist, but he follows anyway, off balance from the noise and the throbbing in his head and everything that's going on.

Chris ducks them behind a stack of beer crates. They can still hear the band, but it's muted, and the light if flat and unflattering. There are rough patches around Chris's goatee where he hasn't shaved. It's easier to focus on that than to meet Chris's eyes.

"Jesus fuck, Bass. You have no fucking idea, do you?"

Lance knows he's gaping like a moron, but that was so totally not anything he was expecting Chris to say. Chris drops Lance's arm, and steps back half a pace.

"Lance. Jesus. You're seventeen years old. I didn't fucking know that, ok? You said you were at the college, for christ's sake."

"I am." Lance doesn't trust his voice to give a longer explanation. He's not actively lied about his age, but when people assume he's older he doesn't normally set them right either.

"Yeah, but not up at Tycoch. You shouldn't even be in here, let alone talking to me about getting screwed. Jesus. I couldn't believe it when JC said how old you boys were. I could go to prison for that, Lance. I'm like, seven years older than you. It's …"

"You're not old. And it doesn't really matter."

"Legally, it does."

"That's a bollocks law and you know it. It would be legal if I was a girl. You're not going to knock me up, my parents don't even know I'm gay, so, no announcing you to them…"

Apparently Lance is talking about more than just screwing around on couches, but his heart and his head should really talk about these things before his mouth goes blurting things out. Because now he wants this‚ wants Chris — more than anything.

"And, you want to?" he finishes.

Lance gets brave again, smirking and reaching out to touch Chris's chest. His head's throbbing and there's sticky blood on his cheek and he's parched, but the only thing he cares about is the feeling of Chris's chest rising and falling under his fingertips. He can't excuse it on the drugs this time, so it must be Chris who gets him this way, like he could do anything.


Lance's hand slides under Chris's collar and then around to back of his neck, pulling him closer, and for a long second it's like everything's going to be perfect, and then Chris stiffens and pulls back.

"Maybe, but not enough to get banged up for statutory rape, Lance. I'm not that desperate to get laid." .

"But …"

"But nothing, babe. It doesn't have to be a fair, it's just the law. You might be gorgeous, but … no."

Chris is shaking his head, and Lance feels laid open, and like his face is burning, like he's going to cry, which would just be the most humiliating end to the worst day of his life.

The summer's almost over. The last summer he'll ever have that's like this, with his friends shoulder to shoulder somewhere over to his right, and JC thanking the crowd over their cheers and Chris is turning him down, and it's over, he's never going to be able to come back here again, and he feels sick in the pit of his stomach.

Chris's thumb is gentle, stroking over Lance's cheekbone, on the side that isn't aching.

"I'm sorry, babe. It sucks. I know." And then Chris pulls him in, so Lance's face is buried in the crook of Chris's neck, where he can smell Chris's skin, and Chris's arms are hot and tight around him, and one of Chris's hands runs up and down Lance's back. Lance's arms seem to fall naturally around Chris's waist, and his polo shirt is damp with sweat, but Lance just wants to curl closer.

There's a moment where it passes from being comfortable, natural, to feeling awkward, and they step apart without saying anything. Even the air seems heavy and oppressive.

"So, Bass, when is your birthday? 'Cos, I reckon, some things are worth waiting for."

Lance almost wants to laugh, in a sick kind of way, because he's always been one of the youngest in his class and it's pretty much always sucked, but not as much as it does now. "Not till May." No one would want to wait that long.

Chris's fingers skate along the underside of Lance's forearm. "Okay."

Lance looks up, and Chris isn't exactly smiling, but …


"Yeah. 'S okay. I think I can stand to get hold of you once in a while without letting it get out of hand, and yeah." Chris is smiling when he says that, and his hand moves across to rest on Lance's waist. "Well. We can see how it goes, anyway, right?"

"Yeah." Lance can here the tone of wonder in his own voice, and feel the smile on his face, but it all feels just a little bit distance, not quite real.

"Yeah," Chris nods, and then he ducks his head, and his other hand comes up to cup Lance's jaw, and Chris's lips are gentle, and the kiss just takes his breath away, and Chris's shoulders move under his hands, and Lance is going to the make the most of this brave new him, because right here in this moment, he belongs.