dragon challenge header

not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

digital-age remix, the same old story

by SnarkyLlama

Dragon spoor

To: tr.icky@gmail.co

From: bassman@earthlink.net

Subject: Re: Re: plan C

Fuck off. I'm not going to fuck Chace in some half-assed, crazy Kirkpatrick scheme to save JC from himself. So...

Stop Asking!!

I mean, I would, though the emo bangs just make me want to vomit. (Shut up! My bad hair was NOT my fault and you have no room to talk.) I would IF I thought it would help, but it won't. He just needs to ride his telepathic roads out of the damn closet already. It's great out here and he'd love it =D

Oh! I've got some new Chuck Norris jokes, did I tell you when you were here? And did I tell you they're trying to make this flaming drink with whipped cream? They haven't mastered it yet, but it's amazing ... [editor's note: email transcript cut for length]


To: tr.icky@gmail.com

From: phatone69@yahoo.com

Subject: Re: ABJC

your right. it was really great seeing him at the MTV thing, but..... it fuckin sucked, too. C's putting a good face on thngs but not like the old days........i dont think he knows he's even wearing a mask!!! he was like the same in front of the cameras as he was alone with me!!!! it hurt except i knew he was hurting worse, right?? so I'm in. whatever the plan is, count me in. SuperJoe to the rescue!!!


[transcript, voicemail]

Chris. Yo, Chris, pick up. ... Dammit, man, I know I'm hotter than Cruise, but I can't do this Mission Impossible shit without ... uh... Mr. Pibb? No, that's not... Phillips? Mr. Phil... [muffled] Hey, Jess! Hey, baby, who's the...

[long silence]

Phelps. I know you're laughing at me, shut up. You're Mr. Phelps in this scenario and it sucks that you're never around to hear my reports. Don't make me start like... secretly encoding them in my songs 'cause, yeah... [sigh] Yeah. People will think I'm taking up the whole Britney thing again, man. 'Cause that's what I'm getting here, really strong Britney vibes... No, no, I know it's scary, man, but at least we're not talking K-Fed and evil paparazzi and mental institutions, right? ... He's just not coming out of his house... not even for me...


Chris, what are we going to do?

Knight in shining armor

There's nothing Chris wants more than to protect his family: his mother, his sisters, and his guys--even if three-quarters of the guys are foolish enough to think they aren't under his care anymore. Justin, at least, is smart enough to know better. (Chris knew from Day One that that kid was sharper than anyone gave him credit for.)

It's a fairly easy gig nowadays. His relatives are well-provided for. His mother and sisters are happy. Justin and Joey haven't needed his protection in years, and Lance's crisis has passed, leaving him beautiful and strong and more resilient than ever. Chris could rest on his laurels (or his fat ass, depending on what mood he's in), if it weren't for JC.

JC's in danger. They all know it.

Lance sees the danger as a giant, closet-dwelling, flesh-eating monster. Joey's afraid that "the business" has sharpened its proverbial claws on JC and left him in a back alley somewhere, slowly bleeding out. Justin's closer to the truth, but the specter of his first love still clouds his vision. All three of them are ready to leap to JC's rescue, but Chris knows a whole hell of a lot more about internal demons than they ever will.

They can't battle JC's dragons for him.

(He doesn't tell them that. He also doesn't tell them that some dragons can't be slain. At best, some can only be tricked and charmed and partially tamed. Good thing Chris is one hell of a tricky little bastard.)

Chris makes sure that the guys keep in touch with JC so he knows he isn't alone and forgotten. Then he steels himself to do the only other thing he can do for JC. It's time to drag himself out of hiding.

There's a couple of messages from John Rich that he's been ignoring. John seems like a cool guy. His show can't possibly be the same Hell on Earth that Manband was. (Right?)

Damsel's concerned family


To: tr.icky@gmail.com

From: phatone69@yahoo.com

Subject: whats your problem?!?!!

Jesus, Chris, what's your fucking problem? J says you haven't been out to visit C or anything!! I thought there was a plan and now your all busy with CMT?? WTF?!1 I thought. I thought........ fuck. I'll do it myslef but I think he's started screening his calls.

Local "how to survive a dragon attack" expert


[transcript, text message sent with a series of camera-phone photos]

Look! His ass, his abs... I don't know which side I want to be on!!!



[transcript, voicemail]

Oh, shit, C. It's Lance. I'm sorry. I... look... um... 'My name is Lance and I have a problem.' [nervous laughter] I keep drunk dialing people... drunk texting? Whatever. I. Uh. I didn't mean to send those pictures to you. They were for someone else. Honestly. ... I know it looks bad... like I'm flaunting things, but... you know I love you and would never purposely hurt you like that, right? ... Damn. I'm sorry. Call me... please?

Knight's squire


[transcript, series of text messages]

OMG! Have you seen our Chris?!

I know you're busy, C, but get online. Check for GONE COUNTRY promos.

Have you seen them yet? Awesome, right? 3man bus rules!

Damsel in distress

JC checks his messages and shakes his head. Justin is crazy--but at least he's the same brand of crazy as always. JC doesn't have to worry about him, and that's a relief because JC's already pretty damn busy worrying about Joey and Lance.

All signs point to Lance being an alcoholic, and that scares the bejesus out of JC because he's watched enough episodes of Queer as Folk to understand these things. In his most fretful moments, he wants to wrap Lance up in an industrial-strength body condom and keep him safe. The rest of the time, he tries to figure out how to subtly hook Lance up with AJ McLean. AJ could show Lance plenty of ways to have fun that wouldn't lead to repeatedly drunk-dialing former bandmates.

And Joey...

God, JC doesn't know what's wrong with Joey, but it's definitely something. Something big 'cause Joey's calling like all the time now and being really weird like he's trying to talk at things sideways. It's not natural. JC thinks that maybe Joey and Kelly are heading for a big breakup, and he really wants to help because that would be heart-breakingly awful, but he's not telepathic. There's nothing he can do while Joey's being all weird and evasive and hesitant in turns. Nothing he can do, but worry.

It's a good thing JC's so well-practiced at worrying.

But there are moments lately when he just gets so fucking sick of it. It boils up in him and he wants to slam things around and yell because, damn it, can't they see? Isn't he worrying enough already? He can't get anything done because everyone's so fucking needy and they're going to bleed him dry till he has nothing left to give but fiery rage and--

Well, those moments scare him.

He knows there's something wrong there, something he needs to suppress. So he smokes up--Eric's source has the best shit ever--and locks himself in his studio and pours an ocean of music on those flames till he drowns in it, and drowning is so beautiful that he doesn't really mind that he can't seem to extinguish that last pesky ember.

When the ocean finally spits him out hours--or sometimes days--later, JC's normal again. He checks his missed messages--text and voice and email--decides which ones he wants to deal with, and life drags on.

Rumors of treasure beyond price

Justin's crazy, but he's also enthusiastic and amusing and talking about Chris, and JC's curiosity is piqued. It's been ages since he last heard any Chris news. It only takes a minute to pull up Google, and then he's clicking on a link, and...


Look at Chris.

Chris looks...


JC looks at the picture and is reminded of outfits from long ago--sparkles and bedazzles and shine--but most of all he's reminded of Chris' smile. It's been gone for a long time, muted somehow and made less, and JC feels something ease inside himself--something he didn't even know was there until just now.

He picks up his phone, keys in a number and says, "Chris, hi."

The smile is in Chris' voice when he answers with a simple, "Hey, C," and it gets even louder--if smiles can get loud--when JC tells him that he wants to hear Chris' song.

"You're not going to make me wait till August, are you? That's just cruel."

"You don't even like country music," Chris says. "Lyle and Dwight and--"

JC doesn't hear the rest, he's too busy thinking that he probably likes any music that can be sung in sparkly, purple tailcoats and, no, he doesn't want Chris to send him the mp3, he wants to see Chris and hear the song in person. Or maybe, he simply wants to see Chris, this Chris, glowing, smiling Chris.

It plays like a refrain through his thoughts. This Chris, this Chris.

"I'm coming over," JC says, cutting Chris off in the middle of saying something. There's a brief silence, then laughter, and JC clicks through the entire series of sparkly-coat pictures, each one making him miss Chris even more.

God, how long has he been missing Chris like this? How could he have grown so used to it?

"Seriously," Chris says, "do you even know where I am?"

"Nope," JC says and smiles as he begins pulling up airline websites. "But I'm coming over anyway."

"I suppose this means I need to change the sheets." Chris huffs into the phone and JC knows Chris-speak for I miss you, too when he hears it.

JC types in LAX and ORL, and then asks, "Hey, you are in Orlando, right? You wouldn't let me fly there when you're in like Denver or Nashville or something?"

He doesn't think Chris would do that to him, but he's got to be careful. He's made reservations on assumptions before and he doesn't want to do that now. He doesn't want to waste the time.

"Yeah," Chris says. "I'm home for a few days. It's too bad, though. They change your sheets for you at hotels, even if you're not a pop superstar. I hear they even do it for big country stars."

JC clicks the "Find My Flight" button, then focuses back on the conversation. Chris is still going on about sheets...

Sheets. Sheets for beds, but how many beds?


Or one?

One, something whispers in the back of his head, and JC knows exactly how long he's been missing that Chris, the Chris who shared a bed with him, his Chris--not that he ever called him that. The No Strings Attached tour was a lifetime ago.

JC buys the first available ticket. He's got two hours to get to the airport. He feels reckless and brave. He clicks through the pictures again.

Warm, he thinks, and soft. Vulnerable, but happy.

Holy, fuck, he thinks, his thighs.

One bed, he promises himself.

Preparations at the armory

JC doesn't know how long he'll be gone or what they'll do while he's there, but packing is simple. He knows what to reach for without thinking because it's Chris. Hanging with Chris won't require anything fancy, and the rest is easy. Chris likes eye candy, but he also thinks sacrificing comfort for sex appeal is stupid and pretentious, so... into the bag go jeans that fit like a second skin because JC's worn them a thousand times. Meant-to-be-tight jeans can stay behind.

Finger-tempting textures are better than eye-catching patterns, but a little sparkle and color is still good because Chris is not-so-secretly amused by JC's inner "fashion magpie." He actually called JC that once, and JC spent a week of Pop Odyssey totally pissed off and offended until he realized that he'd heard wrong and Chris didn't think he was a mud pie. And, you know... he doesn't think Chris ever figured out who kept putting dirt in his coffee that week.

It takes longer to reminisce than it does to pack, and then he finds himself fingering the links of a chain belt that he hasn't worn for ages and he feels a little guilty. Lance is out there all alone being... well... Out there, and it's not very supportive of JC to be busy doing his Straight thing while also contemplating what to wear to be sexy for Chris.

But, his Chris thing was never like that. When he slept with Chris, it wasn't a Gay thing. It was a Friends thing and a Comfort thing, and, okay, yeah, let's face it, a Sex thing because JC really digs enthusiasm and there's a distressingly large number of people in the world who apparently missed the "Hey, sex is fun!" memo.

So, yeah... JC should maybe send Lance an email or something before he leaves.

Trumpets sound


To:juppy.back@gmail.com, bassman@earthlink.net, phatone69@yahoo.com

From: tr.icky@gmail.com

Subject: Shazam!

He's on his way here. Wish me us luck!



To: tr.icky@gmail.com

From: bassman@earthlink.net

Subject: Re: Shazam!

Just got the strangest message from C. He thinks AJ and I could make, and I quote, "beautiful music together."

WTF? He knows I only sing.


Good luck... I hope he has at least one marble left by the time he gets to you.



[transcript, voicemail]

God dammit, you just sent that email, I know you're there. If you're screening me, man... I'm going to kick your ass the next time I see you. Yeah, you better write it in your calendar right now: 'Have ass kicked by Timberlake.' Got it? Good. ... Well, I don't have to wish you luck. I know you can do this, man, 'cause you're dynamite and out o' sight! [laughs] Seriously, though. ... [quietly] My offer to dig up dirt on Eric still stands. If there's any to be found, my guys can find it. Okay? [normal tone] Okay. Call me!



To: tr.icky@gmail.com, juppy.back@gmail.com, bassman@earthlink.net

From: phatone69@yahoo.com

Subject: Re: Shazam!

when its all over one of you punks is going to explain this plan to me, right?? comeon, Lance, don't leave me hanging!!!!

And away from the castle on a fine, white steed

There's a moment at the airport when JC almost turns around and goes home.

What is he thinking, being so impulsive? He hasn't checked in with Eric or anything, and it just... feels like there is something seriously wrong.

He keeps glancing over his shoulder and... there's nobody there. No Eric. No Chace. None of Eric's other random guys. And it's not like they even really talk to JC or anything most of the time--hell, who knows if they even like JC--but... they're supposed to be there. He can't remember the last time there wasn't somebody there. He... he...

He almost turns around.

He does stop. He does pull his phone out and flip it open, because he can at least tell Eric what he's doing.

But he doesn't. He doesn't leave, and he doesn't make the call.

When Eric thinks something is a bad idea and he's busy choosing his words before JC's even finished speaking, his lips get all pinched. And it... really kinda creeps JC out. The right side of his mouth tightens up a lot more than the left side, and then it's like... JC's looking into the future and "this is Eric after the stroke." It's really unpleasant, and JC tries to avoid it whenever possible. And if he calls Eric now? He's going to be picturing Eric's pinchy little post-stroke face when all he really wants is to see Chris.

It's not like JC makes a lot of personal requests or anything, so... he's just going to give himself this.

He gets on the plane. He gets a drink from the flight attendant. And, seven hours from now, he'll be getting a hug from Chris.

Stratagems by the shores of a mystic lake

Chris wishes that he actually had a plan.

(Sure, it's good to know that the guys all think he has one. He's been cultivating his reputation as an evil genius for years and he's justifiably proud of it, but his reputation alone isn't much to rely on here.)

JC is on his way. A couple of pictures and the promise of a song, and he's dropping everything--well, okay, "everything" for JC these days isn't much, but still... JC's dropping everything to come see Chris.

It's really... flattering. It makes his heart leap all excited and stupid in his chest until he has to squash it down and remind it that this is just his buddy, JC.

Chris had been trying to draw JC's attention, but he hadn't expected anything like this. It was supposed to be more like a long-distance wake-up call or... an intervention at a hundred thousand paces. Chris would be a bit of a role model, and the other guys would poke and prod JC a little, remind him that there was more to life than his basement and tell him "if Chris can do it, you can do it." And then, eventually, JC would call him. They'd talk a bit, and maybe, if JC seemed open to suggestion, Chris would drop a few hints about therapy.

(He can't imagine JC doing well with any traditional form of therapy, because "normal" for JC looks like "wacko" on just about everyone else. But that was the one advantage to his being in California, right? The Land of Fruits, Nuts and Flakes had more forms of alternative therapies than... than... there were giddy's in "Giddy Up.")

He certainly hadn't expected JC to jump like a fish after bait. And now, he's not sure what to do next.


It's too bad his housekeeping service was in just yesterday 'cause he could have actually gone and changed some sheets. It would kill a little time and help him think, but the only bed that's been slept in is his own and those hardly need to be fresh. JC stopped being interested in that a long time ago.

So, Chris putzes around the house for a bit. After a while, though, he says "screw it." It's hours before JC will arrive, and there's a perfectly good pool going to waste. He changes into trunks, grabs a beer, and goes out to commune with his favorite floaty raft.

It's best to strategize outdoors, anyways. They've done research. Fresh air helps... uh... stir up the gray matter.

An interlude with traveling minstrels

When JC emailed Lance, he saw that Justin had sent him some mp3s. He downloaded them and synched them over to his iPod without question, because that's how things are between the two of them. He'll listen to anything Justin sends because Justin doesn't expect him to edit his opinion. Justin doesn't always like JC's opinion, but that's okay. It would be scary to think just like Justin does.

He remembers the files now as he's ordering his second drink from the flight staff. Mmm, and this one is a sweet honey, too, with dark, dark hair and hot eyes. Mmm, mmm, yeah.

After she disappears from sight, he slips on his ear buds and flips through to his "4JT" playlist. Oh, kygo_1 and kygo_2. Not songs, then, but a radio interview. He idly wonders where KYGO is, while he accepts his drink--and a wink--from the attendant and then pushes "play."

Oh! It's a Chris interview.

He settles back in his seat and closes his eyes. Chris sounds good--really good--but... urg... it's a morning show and the sidekick DJ guy has that annoying asthmatic-hyena laugh that's so prevalent among morning DJ guys. It takes a bit of concentration to filter out the annoying guy--what the fuck? His name is "Mudflap?"--and just focus on Chris, but JC can do it, no problem. He puts the interview on repeat, sips his drink, and lets the cadence of Chris' voice wash over him.

It takes a while before Chris' actual words start sinking into JC's consciousness. He's been lulled into this perfect headspace and then, he hears it: "It's awkward enough to be in a room with another man when I wake up in the morning."

What? What was that? JC fumbles with his iPod.

"It's awkward enough to be in a room with another man when I wake up in the morning."

Okay, okay. What is that? Is that real or is that just saying what needs to be said? JC's all too familiar with the second option, but...

He plays it again and again. Too bad it's not in high-def, maybe he could read Chris' tone better. Chris sounds pretty sincere. JC thinks he knows all of Chris' tells. But it's been a while, maybe he's wrong.

He orders another drink while things churn and crash in his head.

JC knows he's not always the most observant person around, but when things ended between him and Chris, he would have sworn it wasn't because of the Another Guy thing. Maybe he's been really wrong.

Maybe they'll turn the plane around for him...

O'er rugged rocks


It takes Chris all of thirty seconds to realize that JC is drunk, really drunk. It's not difficult to figure out, not with the way JC came bounding out of the gate, cried "Craig! Craig Kirkpatrick!" and wrapped himself around Chris.

Chris shakes his head and backs up a little before JC can kiss him. (Not that he has a problem with JC kissing him, but that's a sure way to end up on YouTube, even if the airport is nearly deserted at a quarter 'til midnight.)

"You've been listening to too many interviews," Chris tells JC and steadies him with an arm around his waist.

JC beams at him. JC has always been a cute drunk--cute and handsy--and yeah, it's best to get him out of public first and then worry about whether JC showing up plastered means that the situation is more dire than Chris thought or simply that the girl serving drinks was particularly hot.

"Got any baggage?"

JC offers up his carry-on bag like he thinks maybe Chris has secret bell-hop tendencies, but Chris ignores it.

"Anything else?" Chris asks.

JC shakes his head.

"They'll deliver it. The service." He waves his hands and then stops, kinda frozen, and looks straight at Chris. "You look good, man. I didn't. I didn't know."

Chris laughs.

"You didn't know I was good-looking?" He tugs at JC to get him moving again. "Come on, let's go get your eyes examined."

Back at home, JC doesn't seem quite as drunk. Even so, Chris brings him a glass of water and tries to get him to go straight up to bed. JC refuses--it's still early and he wants to hear Chris' song. Promises that the song will still be there in the morning don't sway him, so Chris gives in. It was inevitable, anyway. Chris' stubbornness has nothing on JC's, not when he's truly set on something.

They settle in the den, JC curled up on the chaise by the stereo and Chris sitting at the end by his feet. Chris is maybe a little nervous about putting his song on, but only a little. He's pretty proud of it. But it's not really JC's type of music (except at the level that JC lives and breathes music of any kind).

JC listens, and at first, he's so delighted, his eyes are sparkling and he's smiling at Chris and he keeps reaching out to touch Chris, and then he starts really listening. Chris watches him, not to gauge his reaction, but just because he's always loved watching JC like this, watching JC really focus in on something until he's surrounded by it, and it's like he's someplace else entirely, but also completely in the moment. And Chris thinks sometimes that this is as close as he'll ever get to being a religious man. He believes in things, but not like JC does--and maybe that's why JC's dragons have such a hold on him. JC's belief gives them power.

Then he shakes his head, because that's too fanciful for him, and he'd rather just watch JC. And he sees the moment when JC gets his song, totally gets it. And then JC opens his eyes and looks at Chris, and--fuck. Chris switches the music over to something else before he can give into the urge to kiss JC.

With the change in music, JC sprawls out more. They listen a bit and Chris relates a few stories about doing Gone Country. After a while, they're both silent and Chris thinks he ought to try to get JC up to bed again. It's late.

Before he can, JC chuckles and says, "Craig Kirkpatrick."

Chris rolls his eyes.

"It's not that funny, C."

"No," JC says. "Craig Kirkpatrick. No eye."

That doesn't make any sense, and all Chris can think of is pirates and eye patches and--oh.

Crag Kirkpatrick. No "i."

Crag, crag like a rocky mountain. He flicks his fingers hard against JC's bare toes. "Are you calling me fat? Those are fighting words, Stick Boy."

JC giggles and squirms until he's suddenly kneeling right beside Chris.

"No," he says and puts his hand on Chris' shoulder. "No. I'm not calling you mountainous, man. I'm... I'm saying I'd like to climb all over you."

Hoo, boy. And now they've reached the handsy part of the evening.

Chris jumps up. JC watches him and his eyes are so big and he looks so earnest and he's such a beautiful man and he fucks like he listens to music and no. Chris has stopped doing that. He doesn't sleep with drunks anymore--not drunks who are going to regret it in the morning.

"No, C. No. It's time for bed."

JC smiles and unfolds himself (his long limbs aren't nearly as awkward as they should be) and Chris realizes that his "no" wasn't exactly phrased in the best way.

"Okay," he says, trying again. "I'll tell you what. You go upstairs and pick out a room for yourself, okay? You're my only guest right now. And I'll stay down here and... make sure things are all locked up and stuff. Okay?"

JC frowns down at him, but Chris doesn't hesitate in making his strategic retreat.

And into the dragon's den

Chris seems really surprised when he walks in and finds JC in his bed.

JC probably shouldn't have done that. He should have asked first, but... he'd decided to tough it out. Well, "tough it out" in the wimpiest way possible because a truly brave man could have used his words. But crawling into Chris' bed is almost like asking "will you sleep with me again?" And it's not like JC is going to insist on it or anything. If Chris tells him to leave, he will.

Chris doesn't tell him to leave. Chris just stands there like he's been turned into stone.

And he keeps on just standing there.

And that's not cool. JC should leave. He should leave right now, and he bites his lip and he wishes--God, he doesn't even know what he wishes--he just. He just... wants so much right now. He wants to have not fucked this up royally. He wants Chris' smile. He wants to not be such a fucked-up, needy mess. He wants his music to be taken seriously. He wants his fucking band back. He wants Chris to want him again like he used to--

He tastes blood, and he jerks back the sheets, ready to leave.

"The sheets aren't clean," Chris says.

JC blinks and looks over at Chris, and he's still standing there, but he doesn't seem mad or panicked about JC being naked in his bed.

JC licks his lip, tastes blood again, and swallows.

"Are they--" He has to stop and clear his throat. "Are they really dirty?"

Chris shakes his head. "No, that's what the shower's for."

He's smiling a little, so JC smiles back while he's working out what showers have to do with bed sheets and... oh. Oh.

"You only jerk off in the shower now?"

Chris laughs.

"No, but that's what I did last night. So, you know, they're mostly clean."

"Is it, is it--I mean. I thought you just stopped wanting me... like, it happens, right? People move on and that's okay. But. If it was a Guy thing--an Another Guy thing. Well... is it okay? I'm not Lorenzo Lamas, but I am another guy and I won't wear Speedos unless you ask me to."

Chris laughs and sits down on the edge of the bed. JC pulls the sheet back up over his lap while Chris keeps on chuckling.

"Jesus, C. Most people, if they say something like that, then I know they're one hundred percent, completely wasted out of their minds. But, coming from you, that almost made sense."

"Will you sleep with me?" JC asks. "It's okay if you don't want me for like... the long run, but could you just want me for tonight?"

JC's glad he's still a little drunk because he's pretty sure he's never been more pathetic in his entire life.

Chris shakes his head. "C, that's--"

"No, no, that's okay, that's..." JC scrambles away from him. He can go drown himself somewhere, because he's too--

Chris grabs his arm and holds on tight enough to bruise.

"JC, I never stopped wanting you. You stopped asking."

"No, I--"

"You stopped asking."

JC doesn't think that's how it was. But he digs rapidly through his memories and... he can't recall anything to prove that Chris is wrong. Not right now. Maybe later.


Chris pulls him forward and kisses him. It's long and sweet, and maybe not as hot as it could be, but so, so good 'cause Chris still tastes like Chris and there's the faintest hint of copper blood on top of that--which is a little kinky and lots of good--and there's that refrain playing in his head again. Chris, Chris, Chris. It makes him want to spread his legs and arch his back and beg--

Chris stops. He touches JC's lips, and JC accidentally licks him as he says:

"I stopped asking?"

"You did." Chris playfully taps at JC's lips, then pushes him away. "Now scoot over 'cause I'm not sexing you up while you're all liquored up."

"But that's your side of the bed," JC says.

"Nope, not anymore. I sleep on my other side now." Chris shoots him a look from underneath his lashes. "And this is really going to kill your libido, Romeo."


Chris taps on something JC hadn't noticed before. It's some sort of white plastic machine on the nightstand, something boxy with a long tube and... an oxygen mask?

"What's that?" JC says.

"That's my other lover." Chris winks at him.

"No, really--" JC tries to crawl over him to get a better look. "--what is it?"

"That's my sleep apnea machine," Chris says. "And it's really not sexy at all."

"Oh." JC peers at it. It doesn't look un-sexy to him... "Oh," he says again as his brain pulls up a random fact for him. "Sleep apnea. One of the symptoms is a decreased sex drive."

Chris laughs.

"Not a problem. I'm so under treatment, and my sex drive is perfectly fine, thank you. But--" He pokes JC in the side. "--why doesn't it surprise me that you know that?"

JC shrugs.

"Put it on," he tells Chris.

"Turn off the light."

"I want to see it."

Chris sighs and holds the mask in place over his nose and mouth. There are straps hanging down from it that should probably be going over his head. JC tilts his own head and considers it. Chris rolls his eyes at him.

The straps are white... and they kind of remind him of strait jackets and bondage gear. He has to press down on his cock and remind it that Chris has said "no" to tonight.

"That's uh... that's kinda sexy."

"Shut up," Chris says.

"No really. It's a little fighter pilot-ish and a lot... fireman engulfed."

He has to squirm a bit, and Chris glances down at JC's problem and grins.

"You are such a fucking freak."

JC knows I love you in Chris-speak when he hears it, so he just grins back at him.

"Turn off the light," Chris says.

"You're not putting on your mask?"


JC does as he's told and snuggles up along Chris' side. Chris pets his hair and it feels good, so good, and he thinks he could totally sleep now and he doesn't mind at all that they're not going to have sex yet.

After a while, Chris says, "In the morning, I'm going to tell you a story."

JC tucks his face into the crook of Chris' neck. "I like stories," he says, and he breathes in and thinks Chris smells like chlorine and salt and at least half of his favorite memories.

"It's a long story," Chris says. "It's about how I found out I had sleep apnea, but it starts with me going to this really crappy doctor to maybe get some antidepressants--"

JC makes a noise because this is something he never knew about, but Chris' fingers curl around the back of his neck, and he thinks maybe he just needs to let Chris say what he needs to say.

"--and then going to another crappy doctor, and then a slightly-less crappy therapist and then another until, finally, I found one with more than half a brain, and we figured out that a tiny bit of my problem was that I wasn't sleeping right." Chris tugs gently on JC's earlobe for a moment. "But it's a pretty boring story, so I won't tell you now. You'd just fall asleep on me, and then I'd have to go through it all over again."

JC nods and presses a kiss against his neck.

"But it's important," Chris says. "So I'll tell it later, and then we'll do whatever, and then we can fuck."

JC smiles.

"Spelunking," he says. "I'm going to go spelunking on Crag Kirkpatrick."

Chris smacks JC's ass, and a moment later, there's the weird purr of the sleep apnea machine turning on and JC thinks he can definitely get used to it.

The happy ending

JC isn't fixed, but then, Chris never thought that he was particularly broken. They're just a bit scratched and dented, the both of them.

He tells JC this one night, and JC laughs till he can't breathe and then goes to fetch his guitar and a couple of beers. They stay up half the night, drinking and writing a really rousing--and twangy--song about finding their true love amongst the damaged goods at Bob's Discount Furniture. The lyrics are crap (JC won't let him use the "there's a hole in my bottom, you better inspect it" line), but the melody's not half bad. Chris thinks it's only a matter of time before he convinces JC to Go Country with him. They'll never be big, but they don't need to be.

In the meantime, JC shares his bed when he's in Orlando and sees a therapist when he's in LA. (She's an art therapist, which Chris really doesn't get, but then it's not his deal and he doesn't have to get it.) Chris likes it. And sometimes, JC's a snippy bitch--full of fire and snark--and Chris loves it, just like he loves that JC's swimming in his music again instead of drowning in it and that they're all sleeping better at night (JC, Chris, and all their dragons).

(Also? Chris thinks JC's got a point about AJ and Lance.)

Epilogue (the triumphant hero seeks new adventures)


To: bassman@earthlink.net

From: tr.icky@gmail.com

Subject: Re: PUPPY!!!

Great pictures. Very cute. Oh, and the dog's pretty cute, too.

You know who else likes dogs?


And you know who else likes cute boys?

I'll give you two guesses~



[transcript, series of exchanged text messages]

I said subtle hint. /Subtle/


I got the boots and big hat now. That makes ME the bass fishing and hound dog expert. I know BAIT

Bull shit expert. maybe

Kiss my ass

Rain check, baby. I'll be home tomorrow



To: tr.icky@gmail.com

From: its.shazay@gmail.com

Subject: Re: PUPPY!!!

BTW, stop blind-copying personal emails, shitty. It's rude.

See you tomorrow.




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