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not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment


by Ephemera

Chris dreamed of smoke and sulphur and the satisfying crush and tear of flesh between his teeth. Tension dreams. All the frustration and fear he didn't allow himself to feel during the day, compressed and funneled through archetypes into dreams.

Perfectly reasonable, he told himself, given the pressure they were under. None of them were sleeping well.


"Chris!" Justin startled, sitting upright, with a hand to his chest. "Jesus. I didn't think anyone was up yet."

The kitchen table was covered in papers, Justin surrounded by notes and highlighted sheets. Chris wasn't entirely sure, but he thought Justin was still wearing yesterday's clothes.

"How come you're still up?"

"We're meeting with the lawyers at ten, and I told Lance I'd go through all this stuff to get him to go to bed..." Justin trailed off, waving at the piles of paper, and the archive box of unopened files beside him. Chris worked his way around behind Justin, where he could rest his hands on tense shoulders, squeezing them gently. He massaged for a while through Justin's thin t-shirt, and then when Justin rolled his shoulders and stretched his neck and nothing cracked, finally broke the silence.

"OK—you go and shower, and I'll make a fresh batch of coffee."

Justin nodded and pulled himself to his feet, and Chris was surveying the refrigerator for the fixings for French toast before Justin was even out of the room. Just friends, he told himself. Just taking care of a friend.


Chris dreamed of heat and metal and the cracking of bones jarring through his jaw, the skudder of claws over rock. Tension dreams. Dreams that woke him up, and left him panting into the darkness of another anonymous hotel room.

Just dreams, he told himself. Just a dream. Everything's ok. He took a long hot shower, and fell asleep with the television news flickering in the corner.



The knocking didn't quit, and now Justin had added his name Chris was dimly aware that he'd better show some sign of life pretty quickly, or Justin would get someone to let him in to shake Chris awake. Chris stretched, kicking a pillow off the bed with a soft wumph. When he listened, he could hear Lance further away, no doubt trying to peel JC out of his bed.

"Chris," Justin repeated, with another flurry of knocks. "We've got, like, thirty minutes before this interview. You awake?"

He thought about answering, and then he thought about the way Justin's hand would feel on his skin and about all the interesting things you could do in twenty minutes that weren't getting dressed or eating breakfast. And then Chris shook his head and hollered "I'm up," and listened gratefully to Justin moving away down the corridor.

He'd promised to watch out for Justin, way back when, and the promise still held, he told himself, even when the pervert in question was himself.


Chris dreamed of flames and acid and the agony of torn scales and crushed wings and being trapped. Tension dreams. Dreams which made Chris whimper out loud but that didn't wake him. Dreams which left scars on Chris's back.

An allergic reaction, the doctor told them the next morning, or possibly a flare up of some kind of psoriasis. Something to watch, but not to worry over. The crackled reddened patches were already starting to fade.


"Chris!" Justin's voice was affectionate as well as infuriated. Chris tried to stop wriggling, tightening his fingers on the cool porcelain of the sink and looking into the mirror to meet Justin's eyes.

The knot of unwanted emotions in his chest got worse every time he did that—met Justin's eyes and saw the heat and invitation there. Chris wished that he'd protested more when Justin had offered to help out. He really shouldn't be enjoying the feeling of Justin's fingers on his skin, not if he was serious about stopping thinking about the kid that way.

"Sorry. It's cold, though."

"I know, but the doctor said at least five applications a day, and better cold..."

"Stinky," Chris interrupted.

"Cold, stinky cream than scars or infection or whatever. Did Dean check your harness rig yesterday?"

It wasn't a complete non sequitur. They'd all been trying to come up with a cause for the sudden appearance of the two patches of angry skin high on Chris's back, between his shoulder blades.

"Yeah, and anyway, if it was going to rub, it wouldn't be that high up, would it? Maybe it was cleaning stuff, like on the wall in the shower? Anyway —it feels better now—how's it looking?"

Justin's fingers were strong and gentle, soothing over Chris's shoulder blades, and making his stomach clench. "Better. Smoother, anyway, and the redness is dying down, too. You going to be ok to..."

"Yes," Chris cut him off, tersely, jerking away from Justin's touch. He'd been asked about a million times, and of course he was going to be alright to perform. He certainly wasn't going to cancel a make-up show. "I'm going to be fine."

Justin ducked close, before Chris could move, and brushed hot lips across the nape of Chris's neck.


Chris dreamed of rock shards sharp against his tongue, of metal and bones and desperation. Chris dreamed of falling and failing and broken oaths and broken wings. Tension dreams. Dreams which made him scratch up red welts on his arms and chest.

In the morning, the shower's water stung and smarted, and Chris was grateful for the small mercy that meant he was able to keep his mind from wandering.



He hadn't seen much of Joey—he hadn't seen much of any of them recently, the atmosphere between the group starting to curdle under the strain. None of them seemed to understand why he was tearing himself apart over Justin when the outside world seemed so determined to tear them all apart. Joey was the designated driver when it came to inter-band conflict resolution, though, so it made sense that if anyone was going to come knocking it'd be him.

"It's open," Chris called.

"Chris? Oh—there you are." Joey rocked to a stop, just inside the sweep of the closing door. The snick of the lock was loud.

Chris glared at him.

"Sorry, it's just... Look, can we talk?"

Chris folded his arms. "Evidently."

Joey skipped the preamble, got straight to the point. "He's old enough to make his own decisions, Chris, and it's really not you he needs protecting from."

Chris shook his head. The silence hung heavy between them.

Joey sighed. "Is there any point having this argument again? It has to be your choice too, I know. But, for the record? I think you're a moron."

Chris intended to be firm, to keep his distance, and his pride, but he was so invitingly warm, and Chris was sufficiently desperate, when Joey flopped on to the couch and held out his arm, Chris found himself crawling into the embrace.

"Anyway, how're you holding up?" Joey asked, after a while, and Chris choked on a fractured laugh. "Shit, man." Joey ran his hand up and down Chris's upper arm, and Chris leaned even closer, shivering a little. "Why're you putting yourself through this, huh? You and Justin, that could..."

"Joey!" Chris interrupted. He felt like he was holding on by his fingertips as it was. "You don't see..."

"Yeah, you're right. I don't get it. Everything's going to crap and you're beating yourself up, breaking his heart. He's been in JC's room all day, by the way. I think he's been crying. And you..." Joey ran out of words, and Chris felt him shrug.

He really didn't get it. Chris pulled himself in tighter upon himself.


Chris dreamed of ice and fire and skin splitting and muscles tearing. Chris dreamed of blood.

It didn't hurt until he woke up.



Justin's eyes were huge, and his fingers floated above Chris's cheekbone, like he didn't dare to touch. Chris could feel the heat of them. When he tilted his head to make them connect, Justin's fingertips felt odd scratchy and Justin's sharp inhalation made Chris' stomach tighten.

"What?" he asked, pushing the beginnings of panic away. He'd woken up foggy and sore, full shows and drinking made for an ugly morning after.

"Lord, Chris, are you..?"

Chris lifted his hand, wanting to touch, to try and calm Justin down whatever was wrong, but as soon as he moved the ache of his back muscles became a flare of actual pain. He cursed and screwed his eyes shut.

"Oh fuck."

When Chris managed to open his eyes again, Justin's hand was in front of them, his fingertips dark with something it took a moment for Chris to realize was blood.

It wasn't until he gave in to the urge to lean forward and suck them clean that Chris discovered that his tongue now wrapped around both sides of Justin's finger, and that what he was seeing in Justin's eyes was horror.


Chris slept fitfully, cold to the core and terrified as he was. He didn't dream, but when he closed his eyes he mostly saw Justin snatching his hand away and the hotel door swinging shut.

When he looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, Chris couldn't blame him.

Livid scales circled his eyes and made his cheeks more angular, and his stubby, tattered, scarlet wings were tearing their way out of his t-shirt. The holes confirmed that the clumsy patchwork of scale and skin continued from his arms across the rest of his body, and when he brought one hand up to test the tenderness of his jawbone, where his face was lengthening, the angles changing into something less human, he saw that the ridges running along the lines of his tendons were starting to curve into talons. He was a monster.

He ran a hand over his shorn hair, long nails snagging on the tiny horn-bumps, and told himself that he was glad.



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