California by mira

My Favorite Place (The Schizophrenic Perspective Remix) by


Chris' shout rings through the bus in the middle of the night, or more likely ass-o'clock in the morning, waking me up. I'm going to kill him.

"California! We're in California!" He's shouting like the lunatic he is and bouncing around the bunk area, for God's sake. I don't know what Chris is doing awake, but Justin and I are sleeping.

Or we were, I should say.

I hear Justin swat at Chris, blindly, still half asleep, the sound of the hit just a dull pat at Chris' thigh or something. Then I hear the curtain to J's bunk get ripped back, rings clattering on the rod. It makes me think of "Psycho" or some other slasher flick where the serial killer pounces on his sleeping victim. I'm willing to bet Chris has an appropriate expression for that on his face; no doubt Justin's probably blinking and squinting at him the same way.

"Ah, the infant's awake." I hear Chris clap his hands together brightly, primly, like he's got his fingers at right angles to each other, snooty European style. "Rise and shine, young boy." Yup. Psycho-Butler Chris, God help us.

"Chris, the fuck?" Justin murmurs, totally gabberflasted. He's probably got one confused hand up in front of his eyes, even though there's no light shining in his face.

"We're in California," Chris says brightly, like he hadn't just shouted it at the top of his lungs to wake us up in the first place.

"Chris, I don't care what fucking state this is, Alaska or Nevada." Justin's voice is raw and thick, exasperated and not willing to deal. "I can't put up with your shit right now. Let me sleep!" I hear Justin's bunk creak as he rolls over, no doubt away from Chris.

Like that'll help him.

"Californiaaaaa," Chris whines, and I can tell he's trying to sound hurt. "California, J." There's a split-second of silence, which means Chris is doing something to force J to pay attention to him, probably touching him. Tickling him or something, which he really ought to know better than to try. Chris knows J doesn't do mornings until he's had his cereal, and it's time for sleeping now, not breakfast. Not that Chris cares what time it is, obviously.

"Jay. Justiiiiin. Get up. C'mon, let me show you—" Chris cuts himself off with a screech, the curtain rings making just enough noise to be heard over Chris as he jerks away. "Ow. That fucking hurt!" I didn't hear Justin snarl, so he most likely clawed Chris, not bit him. Chris was either smart enough or lucky enough to not have his fingers near J's mouth. I'm betting on the latter.

"'t was supposed to," Justin slurs, then I hear cloth slide; J's dragging his blanket over his head. "Go bother JC and leave me alone," he mutters, voice muffled in his pillow. Gee, thanks J, pass the buck. Oh well. Not like Chris was gonna pass me by. He's been doing this weird distance thing lately, but that doesn't mean he's going to pass up a chance to bug the hell out of me, especially when he's already woken me up. If there were any dead bodies on the bus, he would've woken them up at this point.

"Well, fine," Chris pouts. "See if I ever get up for you to kick your ass at Playstation again."

Justin doesn't hear him, or he would've bitched; he's already snoring. Back to sleep in under five seconds: Justin's like that; one of his many talents. The guys tease me for sleeping anywhere anytime I get the chance, but I do that 'cause I can never fall asleep until I'm ready to pass out wherever. Timberlake goes out like a light bulb, lucky bastard.

I don't hear Chris close J's curtain, not that I expected him to. He'll leave it open to be mean, hoping the sun wakes Justin when it comes up. And gaaaaah, sunrise. Which has to be way too close now, but if Chris is abandoning Justin, that means...

…My curtain rattles back on its rod.

I knew he would come to me after he got done bugging J, so I'm just lying flat on my back. Maybe if I look like a corpse his inner serial killer will be satisfied and he'll go away quicker. I hear him draw breath to yell "Calif—" again, and I cut him off before I even finish hearing his cry in my head, much less start hearing it for real.

"Don't even think about it," I tell him, knowing it will catch him off guard. I wait for his response, knowing it will take him a second to decide what to say or do next. I know he won't give up, not right away, but I'm not any more willing to get up than Justin was, even if I'm more polite about it. Or less violent, anyway. Things have been a little awkward between us lately, and it's like Chris can't figure out why. It's kind of silly of him, we always got along just fine in the past, but lately he's been…almost shy around me. Which is ridiculous, but it makes me self-conscious around him. We'll be laughing and goofing around like normal, and suddenly we're jumping apart, almost literally, and I don't know how to talk to him about it.

Though now may be an opportunity, once Chris works the crazy out of his system.

"California, California!" Yup, right on cue. I still haven't opened my eyes, but I hear Chris jump to avoid Justin kicking at him. And he'll still go right back to sleep, fucker. Then Chris pokes a finger in my side. "C'mon, C, please," he begs. "J won't—"

"Yeah, and I won't, either." I curl up to turn my back on Chris; obviously, the previously-murdered-victim look isn't going to help, and I don't want Chris deciding that tweaking my nose or nipples is the next best plan for getting me to cooperate. They're probably good ideas in Chris-Land.

"But Ceeeee." Chris isn't done pleading yet, there's a surprise. "It's California." Now he's poking my hair, touching it, anyway. Well, better petting my bed-head than poking me in the side. Or worse. I find myself wondering if Chris is figuring his distance out and trying to close it…no, he's still bouncing with California energy; he's just trying to get me to give in because sometimes I like to be petted. That would be more likely to work if I were struggling to get to sleep, not when I've been woken out of it. Well, fine, if he's not going to get a clue, he needs to go away so I can get some rest. I just have to convince him of that.

"And you wake me at," I crack my left eye a slit and squint at my alarm clock in the corner of my bunk, "half past five to tell me that. Okay, Chris, I get it, you're insane. Please move away from me now." Chris can wink, but he can't just open one eye, certainly not a slit. I could open my eyes, he's woken me up, damnit, but I do the eye squint just to fuck with him because he can't figure out how I do it. Maybe if he's the receiving end of the being-fucked-with, he'll go away.

"Fine!" he says, trying to snap at me, but I can hear the pout. His hand slips out of my hair at the same time, suddenly. I hear the motion; he's probably thrown his arms up in the air in an exaggerated pout, even though nobody's seeing it.

"Call Lance," I suggest into my pillow. Maybe Chris will be willing to expend his crazy on the occupants of the other bus. They don't have to put up with nearly as much of Chris' insanity as J and I do. Sure, I normally find it cute, and Justin is just as bad, but not at five thirty in the morning. "'m sure he's already up and working." The two-man bus are the early birds; J and I most certainly are not. Chris doesn't count; his schedule is just as nuts as he is.

"But—" Chris tries to protest. I'm done; if Chris just wants to be crazy about California, he can do it without me. I reach behind myself and slide my curtain closed, or at least mostly. I can almost twist my arm that far. It's like the final word of the discussion.

There's a moment of silence while Chris contemplates; he's probably debating whether or not to actually call Lance or Joey. Eventually he huffs like a kid determined to have fun even when his friends tell him they don't want to play, and that's kind of funny because it pretty much is what just happened. Most friends don't want to play at half an hour to six freaking am. Chris marches to the front of the bus, closing the folding door kind of hard but not slamming it. I could go back to sleep now with a little effort, except Justin's snoring louder than ever; kid has to be on his back again with his mouth wide open.

I lay there for a few moments, thinking, listening to hear if Chris actually manages to distract himself calling Joey or Lance, or if he's actually settled down to watch TV quietly or something. Timberlake is snoring like some sort of badly-maintained lawn equipment, and if Chris actually is being quiet, calm now, then maybe this is a good time to talk to him after all.

I get out of bed and pull on some sweats and a tee shirt.

When I quietly open the door to the living area, Chris is slumped on the couch, either channel surfing, lost in thought, or both. He must have spent a minute looking for the remote though, because I know Justin tried to hide it from him behind the VHS tapes that are just plain bad, not even cheezey. He hasn't noticed me though, so he's been flipping channels long enough to get lost in it, at least. I decide a tiny bit of payback is only justifiable, and snarl "Hey" at him at the same time I snap the sleeping area door shut. Well, I don't snarl, but I do clip the word. I'm still annoyed with Chris, and he should know it.

I restrain the urge to smirk with satisfaction as Chris jerks around from the TV and looks at me, the screen finally settling on a channel when his finger slips off the remote button.

"Oh, hey, Jayce," he says with just a touch of surprise.

"I hate you, you know," I tell him as I cross to the kitchenette, giving him a glare. He just looks at my shirt like it's too bright. Sure, it's one of my rainbow tie-dyes, but it can't be that bright when the only light is the TV. Which is playing the video to "It's Gonna Be Me". Weird.

"No, you don't," Chris tells me.

"Whatever." I wave a hand at him dismissively. I can feel my hair not only standing up but wiggling, bed-head eleventy ways from Someday, and Chris is looking at the bags under my eyes like he almost feels guilty. I sigh at that. "At least you made coffee," I tell him, but he shakes his head when I hold up the pot to offer, so I only pour myself a mug. When I take a sip, I realize Chris didn't make coffee; this is almost a day old and even more bitter than it is black. My face wrinkles up as I mutter "Gross." I normally take milk and sugar, a fair amount of each, but I'll drink my coffee black when I'm hungover or need to wake up. If I'm going to make this conversation happen, I want to be awake. And Chris still hasn't changed the channel again yet.

"Aren't you tired of that yet?" I ask.

"Huh?" Very eloquent, Chris. I don't bother telling him that, just nod to MTV's display of our plasticified selves getting beat up by some generic GI Joes. Chris looks.

"Oh, um. Yeah, I guess." Chris quickly turns the TV off and sits up, suddenly looking lost, like he's not sure where to look now that the screen is blank. I chuckle.

"You don't seem too sure. Maybe you should put in one of the tapes they do at rehearsals. I surely haven't seen enough of Justin swinging his hips like he's staring in a porn movie yet." I tease Chris just that little bit; I can't help it. But he doesn't respond, doesn't say anything. The silence gets uncomfortable, but now that we're here, perfect time to talk, I'm not sure where or how to start. I lean against the counter and drink my coffee, hoping for Chris to say something, start the conversation moving, but he just picks at loose threads from the couch and twists them up with his fingertips. Then he looks up and sees me watching him. He thinks for a second, of something to say.

"So, you decided to keep my company, after all?" He says it like he should be smirking, poking fun at me for giving in and doing his bidding when I was protesting ten minutes ago, but the tone and the look on his face is more like he wanted it to come out smart and witty, and he realized too late it was only sarcastic. Whatever he meant, he sure didn't get it to come out right. I can relate, goodness knows I can have trouble expressing my thoughts coherently, the guys have assured me of this numerous times, but damnit, that's why I wanted Chris to start. I'm awake, but I'm still tired, and frustrated, so I snarl, baring my teeth at Chris.

"I. Couldn't. Sleep." I sneer each word through my teeth without unclenching them, glaring at Chris for good measure. He doesn't have the good grace to look chagrined or remorseful, just amused.

"What happened to Mr. Joshua I-can-sleep-anywhere-anytime Chasez?" he giggles at me. Giggles.

"Somebody woke him up, Mr. Christopher I-can-annoy-my-bandmates-anywhere-anytime Kirkpatrick. And I wanted to go back to sleep but couldn't. Though I tried, counting little lambs springing over fences and all. But Justin's lawnmower sound in the background was kind of disturbing," I inform him sharply. There. Now he looks regretful.

"I'm sorry?" he offers weakly.

"You should be," I tell him, but I say it lightly, not like I'm holding a grudge. I want him to talk to me, so giving him the silent treatment or a brush-off wouldn't help. I put the empty coffee mug in the sink but remain in the kitchen corner, tapping my fingers against the counter. I'm waiting for him to speak, but he's not taking the opportunity. Fine, I have no idea what the California thing was about, but maybe I can use it to get the conversation started. "So, you want to tell me something?" I smirk at him.

"Wha—What?" he stammers, looking like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights. Bingo, direct hit. I press on.

"C'mon," I say, winking. "I know you're dying to spit it out." Ohhh, the look on his face is priceless. I'm getting revenge and making Chris have the talk he needs at the same time, score. Not bad for pre-six am.

"Uh, I don't know what you're talking about." Chris is starting to blush and struggling not to.

"Yes, you do?" I suggest, grinning hugely and insincerely, but the encouragement behind it is real. Chris just looks at me, lost and maybe embarrassed. I give up, give him the escape he's so desperately looking for. "The California thing?"

"Oh," Chris says, the dummy. Again, quietly, "Oh." The relief floods his face and bounces off the couch at me, arms already gesturing before he's even started telling his story. I cut a smile short as the words start pouring out of Chris' mouth. "So I'm standing right where you are now, drinking my coffee and cursing whatever woke me up—"

"How very much like me," I interrupt, as sarcastically as I can. Chris pauses in mid-stride to give me a dirty look, but I just smile back. He so deserved that one.

"—And all of a sudden there's this sign zooming by. I go to the driver and ask him, ''scuse me, are we in California yet?' and he's, 'sure kid, just crossed the border'. I can't believe he still calls me a kid. He's only like, dunno, ten years older than me?" he rambles on. I grin evilly again; I can't help it, if he's just going to keep handing me ammunition like this….

"You are a kid, Chris," I tell him. I smirk more when he proves it by flipping me off.

"And I was like, oh my god, I have to tell the guys. Only that the guys didn't seem much interested," he finishes with a frown, crossing his arms over his chest at me.

I sigh.

"What do you expect, Chris? It's barely six o' clock. In the morning. And I still don't understand what you're making all this fuss about. Everytime I'm exited about something you just stare at me like I'm out of my mind."

Chris just looks at me. Like I'm crazy, which just proves my point as far as I'm concerned, excited or not.

"A, I don't act like a fucking butterfly who has found a new flower, fluttering here and there and tell everybody how happy I am, and B, it's California! Don't you get it? California is great. There's so much cool stuff in California." He looks at me earnestly, like it should all make sense now.

"Like Disney and Universal?" I smirk at him. All the 'comforts' of home. "And I'll ignore the butterfly comment."

"No! Yes. Oh, fuck you. There are great cities, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Sacramento, Palm Springs…." he goes on. I decide not to point out the number of times we've been to California or the fact that I own a house there.

"Chris, we don't even get to see half of these cities." There. That was a safe thing to say. I think.

Chris just rants on, "Death Valley, Yosemite and Sequoia Park, Lake Tahoe…." I purse my lips for a second, safe or not-safe proving irrelevant when He's not even paying attention. I decide to fix that.

"Oh, oh," I exclaim in stupefied realization as I hop off the counter. I grin as wide as I can again; he's asked for it, then I plant the heel of my palm on my forehead as I move to the fridge. "Now I get you. Suddenly everything's so clear. You're right. California is soooo cool," I declare, not even bothering to look at Chris as I open the fridge. I need water, or juice, or something. That coffee could strip paint.

Chris plops back on the couch with a frown. "Now you're making fun of me," he says, pouting.

"Now, would I ever?" I laugh at him from behind the fridge door, grabbing a water bottle. It's one of the ones with a pull-up top, and I squirt some in my mouth to swish around as I straighten up.

"I just happen to like California. The Sunshine State," Chris declares.

I do a huge spit-take, protesting "Dude," even as I whip my head around to look at Chris in my disbelief. "You did not just say that. That's not California, man. That's Florida!" I tell him, laughing as I slam the fridge shut. "You live in Florida, Chris!" I insist, waving my hand for emphasis. Good thing it's a squeeze bottle, or I'd be watering the kitchen. I'm still laughing; I can't believe he just said that. He meant it!

"You know, I can put you back into bed, I'll even sing you a lullaby, if all you can do is laugh at me," Chris tells me bitterly, folding his arms in a huff and turning his back to me.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I tell him. I didn't mean to laugh, but I couldn't help it either. I stop laughing with a cough from the water in my throat, take a deep breath, and school my expression into something serious. I move to the couch and watch Chris feel the cushions dip as I slowly sit down next to him, or behind him, the way he's got his back turned. "Hey. Hey. You're not seriously pissed, are you?" I'm pretty sure he's not, but asking is the polite thing to do, and I'll feel like an ass if I barrel on like I think he's not and he really is.

"As a matter of fact, yes I am," he snaps, but I can tell just from that he isn't. Not really.

"Hm," I murmur, touching his shoulder. That's one of the things I miss. Not just that our suddenly being uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable, but the touches and hugs that went with the previous comfort level. Chris misses it too, if the way he leans into my hand is any indication. "C'mon, you wanna tell me what's up?"

Chris' head twitches just the tiniest bit, like he almost turned to look at me. I realize if he had, he would have said, "You," that I'm the problem, or at least that it's this thing between us that is. Chris still hasn't figured it out, but he is aware that something needs to be addressed and that he only has a short period of time before the tour ends to do so.

"It's nothing," he finally mutters.

"Mhm. Sure," I answer, hooking my chin over his shoulder. My breath flows over Chris' ear and along his cheek when I exhale; Chris closes his eyes and leans his head against mine. This is better. I wrap my arm around his waist, holding up the water bottle in a mute peace offering. Chris takes it, but only to keep his hands busy, twisting the bottle back and forth in one and unscrewing the pull-up cap off and back down again with the other. We haven't touched like this in a while, a fair while, so we just sit and enjoy it. Eventually, Chris starts to talk without any prompting.

"I just thought. You might like it, you know." He's still messing with the bottle cap, looking down at my fingers on his shirt. "California is a nice state. We have a little free time here, it's nice, it's warm, it's—"

"—the last state of the tour," I finish for him, knowing that the tour ending, all of us splitting up again, is one of the things that bothers Chris most.

"Yeah," Chris agrees softly.

"Yeah," I repeat, and I nod. The way my head is hooked over his shoulder, my mouth almost touches Chris' earlobe. I purse my lips just the tiniest but and they make contact, but it's lost instantly when it makes me smile.

After a second, Chris goes on.

"I mean, I love being on tour, even if I have to share a bus with two beauty queens—"

"Hey!" I protest. I may be a slave to my unique fashion sense, but Justin is the beauty queen.

"—and I also love being at home. See my family and all. It's just." Chris trails off, helplessly.

"You'll feel lonely," I tell him, knowing that it's exactly what he means, letting him know I understand. "You won't know what to do with yourself."

"Yeah," he admits, like it's a confession. My arms are already around him, so I squeeze.

"Chris, you won't be alone. You've got your family, you've got your friends, and a call to any of us, and we'll be there in an instant. Tell you what, we can all spend New Year's Eve together, just the five of us. What do you say?" I say, but Chris doesn't hear me.

"You too? Will you come, too?" he says softly. "When I call you at 3 am and whine about being lonely?"

"Chris," I say, shaking my head, "you don't whine. That's Justin, remember? But I'll come, sure."

Chris takes a deep breath, like he's firming his resolve to do something. I don't say anything, don't do anything, just continue to hold him. He's finally gotten himself to the point where he can ask, even if he hasn't figured it out, hasn't realized it for himself yet, so I'm not going to do anything to scare him away.

"JC, what's with us lately. I mean, you're so…distant. And. I don't want to blame it all on you, 'cause I'm probably just the same, but—" I cut Chris off before he works himself up to really worrying with all the concern and confusion in his voice. This talk is about resolving that confusion, not agitating it.

"I know." It's all I say, but it's enough. Enough to grab Chris' attention, bring him back to the here and now and keep him from giving himself an ulcer by imagining every worst case scenario under the sun and a few from the dark side of the moon to boot.

"You know?" he asks, like he's surprised I have an answer for his question.

"Sure. You thought I didn't notice that there was something up between us?" I ask, surprised myself.

"Well, yeah," Chris says, like he thinks I don't notice the world around me just because I can get caught up in my music or ideas or whatever. Everybody thinks that, but that doesn't make it true. I'm 'the professional one', 'the father figure of the group', right? "So, if you knew what was up, then why didn't you—"

Ah, so that's it. He believes me, but thinks I knew all along and kept it secret. Dork.

"Oh no, I said I knew that there was something but I didn't know what exactly. I only figured it out about a week ago," I explain.

"You did?" Chris seems to be losing more and more ability to think the more surprised he gets. Also, he's suddenly flushed. I can work with that.

"Mmhm," I murmur in answer, dragging my mouth along the ridge of Chris' ear for real, touching it with my tongue as well as my lips.

"Jayce?" Chris croaks. I can feel his heart pounding under my right hand. "Wha—" he starts to ask, and I think it was going to be "What are you doing?", but he changes it to "—What exactly did you figure out?"

"I figured…," I whisper in his ear, slowly, softly, "…that you like me."

"I do?" He's doing that surprised question thing again, and I can see he's blushing, even in the dark; he's blushing that hard. I press the fingers of my left hand into Chris' belly just a touch more firmly.

"You do," I confirm for him. Finally. "See, that wasn't the hard part. The hard part was figuring out if I liked you, too."

Chris barely dares to ask, "Do you?", with almost no voice at all. I chuckle just a little in answer.

"I'm going to kiss you now, okay? Because I've wanted to do this for a few days, and I think you're just fucking cute right now."

Chris is blinking and surprised as I turn him around to kiss him, but not because I'm turning him around to kiss him. He looks more like he's surprised I called him cute, like he thinks I should be the cute one. Whatever. We can both be cute. I lean in and kiss the corner of his mouth, don't want to overwhelm by going full on right away, not when we've just finally gotten here….

Chris kisses back, shifting the angle of his head to meet my lips with his as he tries to wrap his arms around me, the water bottle making a soft thud as it hits the floor.

Kissing, lips, mouth, tongues, teeth, my tongue on Chris' teeth…. Chris is struggling to turn around all the way, so he can hold me back, without interrupting the kiss. He growls in frustration when he can't make it work and we have to separate. I grab at him, dropping my hands to his hips to help him roll over in place on the couch, but my fingers get caught in his shirt. Chris grabs my hands and gets the cloth untwisted from around them, but he keeps his fingers linked with mine, pushing me back, crawling over me as I lay down.

"You always have to be on top, don't you?" I say with a laugh. Chris sits back and gives me a teasing look.

"What. You complaining?" he says as he swings his right leg back over me, putting his foot on the floor like he's going to leave.

"Nono," I protest, laughing harder as I grab his arm. "Come back. Come back," I insist, sliding my hand up his arm to wrap around the back of his neck and pull him back to me. He falls against me, and I'm glad the couch is wide enough—we're lying on our sides, together, and we fit just right. "Good," I tell Chris, meeting his eyes as I keep my fingers in his hair. "Can I kiss you for real, now?"

"Mmhm," Chris murmurs, which is the clearest response he can make with our mouths already pressed together, but really, that's an answer all by itself, isn't it? We kiss slowly, I let my mouth open just a little, and Chris uses his tongue to spread my lips further, slipping inside. I can't help but moan at that and clutch Chris tighter, squirming until I get my other hand up to hold Chris' head in both. He slides an arm around my waist and pulls me closer, fingers slipping under the tight cloth of my tee shirt to touch my skin. He strokes softly as I nip at his lower lip, gently, and sigh. Chris' mouth tastes just faintly of that nasty coffee he had earlier, and I'm sure mine must be worse, stronger, but Chris is kissing me like he's hunting for sweetness beneath the bitter.

I lean my head back when Chris drags his mouth down over my chin. Chris happily accepts the improved access to my throat, licking so eagerly I'm amazed he doesn't start nipping. And then he does, softly, but it's a bite, and it's so good, so good Chris shivers. And he's kissing me, again, and again, and more, and more until finally I tug him back by his shirt, not because I want to stop but because I have to breathe.

We separate, just the slightest bit, reluctantly, just enough to pant for breath. I'm staring at him I can't help it, but I'm staring because he's gorgeous, all I can see through heavy eyes, breath panting coolly over my parted lips. Chris leans in and licks them, quickly, before meeting my half-covered gaze and asking a question.

"You weren't really unable to go back so sleep, were you?" he says, and it's ridiculous.

"Hell, no!" I yell, softly, throwing an arm up and letting it drop back onto Chris' hip. My hand fits there like it belongs. "You really bought that shit?" I tell him with just a little surprise. But it's not true, I was mad and wanted my sleep back at the time. "No, I wanted to, at first. But I've been waiting the whole week for a moment to talk to you, and now seemed a good one, once I was halfway awake."

"I'm glad you sacrificed your precious sleep for me." Chris grins at me, the big crazy one, and he glances out the window at the pink of dawn on the horizon, smile spreading as he starts to sing. "California," he sings softly,

"California, here we—"

"Oh no," I groan, rolling my eyes. "Not again."

"—come. Cali—mmphm." Mercifully, the singing stops when I plant my hand over Chris' mouth. I lean in so that I'm looking directly into his eyes from only inches away as I speak.

"Shut up," I whisper, my lips against my own hand because I'm so close. "shut. up." I move my hand when Chris tries to bite it. Without my hand in the way, we kiss a little more, until a shout makes us both twitch violently in surprise.

"What the fuck!" Justin is leaning in the doorway to the sleeping area, one hand over his chest. "Holy shit. And I thought you had probably strangled each other since it was so quiet." I can feel the blush rising up my face and try to hide it in Chris' chest, still holding onto his neck.

"Justin, it's…," Chris begins, but he obviously doesn't know what to say, since it's totally obvious what we were doing.

"Yeah, whatever," Justin's voice brightens on the last word, like he's spotted something far more worthy of his attention than Chris' feeble protests. I hear him moving toward us or maybe the kitchen, and then I feel Chris moving, leaning away from the aisle, from Justin, and suddenly there's another arm clumsily holding me, and I can tell Justin is trying to hug Chris at the same time. "I'm happy for you guys," he says, then moves away, and I can hear the carpet making squishing sounds against his bare toes. Chris must have had the cap unscrewed when he dropped the water bottle. "And I love you both to pieces, but if I ever have to go through the last weeks again, I'm going to kill you," Justin says.

"And it might interest Lance and Joey that you finally got your shit together and realized what's going on. They have a bet going. Just saying," his voice continues as he returns to the bunks.

When the folding door closes, I dare to look up at Chris, hiding my eyes behind their lashes in embarrassment. A bet? I'm trying to decide which of my three bandmates that are not currently in the room with me I want to kill first, but Chris just grins and kisses my forehead. I sigh and relax my grip on his neck, flopping back onto the couch fully.

"What's wrong?" Chris asks, suddenly confused.

"Nothin'. Just tired," I reply, and it's true. I was caught up in the moment, for a minute, but then J interrupted and my body decided it still wants its sleep and that lying on the couch is just as good as lying in the bunk. My jaw proves its point by yawning.

"Now that's some way to boost my ego, man," Chris tells me, but he's smiling. "Nobody ever fell asleep while making out with me."

"'m sorry," I murmur back, closing my eyes, "'s nothing personal."

Chris rolls us over until I'm on top, sprawled over him, a living blanket, but he's keeping me warm, too.

"C'mon, little sandman. Sleep."

"You sure?" I mutter into his chest.

"Yes." Chris curves an arm around me and kisses the top of my head.

I feel Chris move his head, changing its angle to look out the window and watch sun rise, and I fall asleep on his shoulder, my last conscious thought that Chris is right and California is my new favorite place ever.