Not Exactly Coping
by Calico

Feb 03

Thanks: Another that slayed me with the writing. Extensive thanks to Georgina for saving me a million times, Mia for helping me conquer the Evil Third, and Julad for the final run-through. It's been a loooong year. <curls up, exhausted>

Apology meme: Oh, JC. I don't think there's anything I can say.

Notes: advised siren refresher course, free of charge, for those in need.

Chris was a pretty hot guy, Joey knew, and many people - at least twelve, Chris had once assured him - would pay good money to find him almost-naked in the corridor outside their hotel room with conspicuously bulked-out boxers, glitteringly intense eyes, and an asylum demand.

Joey also knew that all twelve of those people had less complicated lives than he did, and that actually Chris looked pretty fucking dreadful when he woke Joey up by hammering his door with the heel of a Doc Martin.

There again, Joey looked pretty fucking dreadful as well. It was, after all, only 5am.

"My knuckles hurt," Chris explained, when Joey raised a sleepy eyebrow at the boot, and Joey shrugged that that made a Kirkpatrick sort of sense and held open the door. Chris started to walk past him, then stopped dead, moaning.

"Uh," Joey said, confused.

"He's at it a-gain," Chris whimpered, and crumpled against Joey's shoulder, growling piteously against his neck. "He's fucking fucking with me," he hissed, eloquent as ever, and Joey could feel hot quakes like a fever as he steered him inside, "christ, Joe, I can't even knock on a door--"

This, Joey thought wisely, did not sound good. "You want me to make coffee?"

Chris threw himself onto the bed, bounced, and groaned again. "I want you to jerk me off," he muttered, and Joey froze.

"Nice," he said, after a moment. It wasn't like that between him and Chris.


He was pretty sure it wasn't.

"For chrissakes, man, make the coffee," Chris growled, looking up from Joey's rumpled bed with eyes like wet diamonds, and Joey stared at him for a full three seconds before nodding, turning on his heel, and stalking to the tiny kitchen.

Forget 5am. Chris looked like the kind of hell for which no early morning could be blamed.

"He makes me wanna fuck everything I see," Chris was saying miserably, steering the steam from his coffee in both hands. They were sitting on Joey's bed, Joey halfway down, Chris sprawled desultorily against the headboard. The reflected light from Joey's bedside lamp hitting the window threw Chris' eyelashes into razor-blade relief. "I had to get the hell away from the mirror," Chris added, mouth quirking. "My reflection's scarred for life as it is."

Joey didn't chuckle. He would've, if Chris had opened with that little disclosure, but he'd already heard about JC making sexnoises for hours, and screaming blue murder until Chris had a pissed off Lonnie at the door, and the new torment that basically boiled down to telepathic projection traditionally worthy of incubi. He felt somewhat past the realm of laughter. Lust, maybe, if this was a cheap B-movie. Sympathy, definitely. Amazement that Chris'd managed so long on his own.

"I'm going out of my mind," Chris said, and gave a hoarse laugh. "Hell, I wish I would. Discovering I've got a thing for watching JC fuck Britney while Justin watches is not what I had planned for last night."

"JC's fucked Britney?" Joey said faintly, and Chris made a pathetic little noise like despair.

"No one's fucked Britney," he said, "just, JC picked it out some part of my brain I never even knew existed and threw it back at me like a great big wetdream from hell. While I was awake." He looked at Joey imploringly, eyes huge. "From the next room, with the door locked, but it's hot, though, right? yeah? I'm not crazy as well as perverted and weak?"

Joey thought about Justin stretched out on his side next to JC, Britney on top, looking down at them both with smudged Cleopatra eyes. "It's hot," he confirmed, and felt a flash of worry when Chris exhaled pure relief. He stroked Chris' knee. "C'mon, man, of course it's hot. Three hot people in bed? Yeah, huge turn-off."

"On your kitchen table," Chris said, in a tiny voice, then sipped busily at his coffee. Joey stared for a moment, as the figures rearranged themselves in his mind, then cleared his throat.

"Well, whatever." Pretty... strong image, there. Imagining the tiles, and stuff. Apparently JC didn't take prisoners. "It's out of the realm of possibility," Joey said, half to himself.

There was a long pause.

Joey's pulse felt clipped and fast. He took his hand off Chris' knee, suddenly over-conscious of the heat beneath his fingers.

"JC said," Chris said eventually, in the same tiny voice, "it wasn't. And that I could watch too. And--"

"JC's making this shit up," Joey interrupted, pretty sure he didn't wanna hear any more.

"You think I don't know that?"

"You could try and stop listening," Joey said lamely, trying not to wonder what JC would promise him, and then Chris was yelling,

"He's in my room," slamming the coffee down on Joey's bedside table, eyes wild. "He's in my room and my head, Joe, and you got no idea what that's like, and I've been hard for the last six hours and it doesn't matter that he's making the shit up because it's potent, and I just--" He scrubbed his palms against his eyes, then slid them down his cheeks and peered through his fingers. "You just got no idea what it's like," he said wearily, and glanced at the coffee. "You want me to clear that up?"

"Yeah, well you just got no idea how much I wanna hug you right now," Joey said, taking a deep breath. It was too early for this. He felt light-headed, hot-eyed.

Chris made a strangled noise. "I'm tellin' ya, you don't really want a hug," he mumbled. "Not unless you want a conspicuous stain on those nice clean boxers of yours."

Joey coughed. "Charming," he managed, but the image of Chris trapped beneath him, wriggling like a wild thing, grinding frantically against him-- could JC project through walls, did they know?

Chris poked sadly at his erection, and Joey looked tactfully away. Tactful, yeah. Not that it was wiser not to look; not that he wasn't forcibly trying to stop his brain theorising about how that must feel to Chris' fingers right now. How warm, firm-- yes. Better not to look.

"Six hours, huh," Joey said, and whistled.

Chris gave half a chuckle, breath hitched up like a sob. "We could bottle him, make a mint against viagra."

"So lemme get this straight," Joey said slowly, "You're hard for six hours and JC's driving you out your mind, so you come in here looking for sex?"

"Refuge," Chris corrected, then grinned sheepishly at his palms. "...cunningly disguised as sex."

"I see," Joey said, then rubbed his jaw with his thumb, feeling the drag of early morning stubble, trying to sound casual. "Why didn't you go to Lance?"

Chris made a low noise in his throat, closing his hands. "He... would've."

"I might," Joey surprised himself by saying, and Chris glanced at him in alarm.

"Don't be saying shit you don't mean," he warned, and visibly forced a laugh. His hand was flat against the bulge of his cock. "I'm feeling kinda Mr Potential Daterape right now."

Joey snorted. "I'm not exactly the type to let you grope me in the theatre and then cry wolf when you get me to bed," he said, then swallowed when Chris closed his eyes and muttered,

"onet'threefourfivesixsev'nnineten," clutching his crotch like it might just jump up and smack Joey across the jaw if he didn't keep it forcibly restrained.

"Ah, jesus," Joey growled, leaning across and touching Chris' wrist, and Chris' eyes snapped open, mistrust and hope mixed within them like glass and inky sand. "C'mon," Joey said, lifting Chris' hand onto the bed, "let's just - c'mon, man, I'm not gonna let you suffer through this," and Chris exhaled hard, then slithered closer, like he was moving blind.

"You better not be kidding," he mumbled, and Joey put a hand on Chris' cock and Chris arched, and Joey smiled helplessly and kissed his temple, then found he couldn't stop, couldn't drag his mouth away from Chris' warm, smooth skin.

"If I find out you're making this up for a lay, Kirkpatrick," he murmured, kissing Chris' ear, then nuzzling his neck, and Chris laughed distractedly,

"no fear," then practically curled around Joey's hand when Joey eased it under the waistband and reached inside. "Shit," Chris hissed, muffled where his face pressed into the side of Joey's arm, and Joey started beating him off fast, flicking his thumb twice over the head of Chris' cock, half waiting for a clever retort before he realised he wasn't about to get one.

Chris was - gone, helpless, practically insensible, and that was a mixture of horrible and scorching. Joey swallowed and concentrated on keeping his hand moving, trying to feel uncomfortable about the way Chris was clutching at him, about the little pained noises being huffed out against his arm - but it was hard, okay, because Chris was just hot like this, silken and demanding and lithe.

Just possibly, Joey thought dryly, he should be uncomfortable about touching a second cock in as many days, what with never having strayed into an all-male horizontal ballroom sober before - but it was difficult to hate the addictive damp warm force of Chris' cock grinding into his fist, difficult like nothing Joey'd endured in months.

JC's attention hovered at the back of his brain, sunstroke-warm.

Go on, JC's voice came, get him naked, get at that skin, and Joey gritted his teeth and squeezed harder, belatedly acknowledging his own erection when Chris groaned. No, JC, he thought distractedly.

No reply.

Chris' hands flexed hard, wrenching away from Joey's arm and working their way to his thigh, and Joey wondered if he'd done something, triggered something, then clued in that if he could hear JC then there was no reason Chris couldn't too.

And-- shit, he thought, as Chris started whimpering, palming Joey's cock with a pressure that felt way too perfect to be uncontrolled: looked like they were having that three-way after all.

He got a hard, vicious image of JC stalking naked into the room, taking Chris by the hair and sliding his cock sleekly into Chris' mouth, kneeling on the bed with his back to Joey and those lean thighs invitingly wide.

Chris groaned against Joey's thigh, the sound reverberating through the pictures in Joey's head, providing an achingly husky backdrop to the concept of holding JC's hips still for the moments it would take to force his own cock slowly inside. JC would tip his head back onto Joey's shoulder when Joey withdrew, and he'd be palming the back of Chris' head to stay firmly in Chris' throat, and Chris would be quaking at every inch as Joey pushed back inside.

Chris groaned again, and Joey realised his grip had twisted hard, and God, for someone so desperate, Chris sure was managing to wring out every last thrust, and then Chris was panting, "I'm sorry, I need-- ah," and for a moment Joey thought Chris was gonna beg to be fucked.

Whoa, he thought, and didn't people do that a lot these days? and maybe having JC like this wasn't all bad--

--and then Chris was ducking and mouthing Joey's cock through the taut cotton of his boxers, and it occurred to Joey slowly that Chris almost certainly had the same images pounding his own mind.

Chris started scrabbling, literally, at Joey's waistband, fingers shaking like withdrawal about to take an illegal hit. They should lie down, Joey thought, trying to catch his breath, failing as Chris' mouth glanced against naked skin.

Easier said than done, he thought, a moment later, finding he had to promise himself it would only be for a second to avoid his brain dismissing the concept of moving point blank. It was insane to stay this contorted, though, and it'd be beyond humiliating if they wound up injuring each other in their haste; better to smooth Chris backwards and straddle his thighs, so he did, kicking off his boxers as he went.

Chris made a noise like some indignant Siamese's howl.

Whoa. "Whoa," Joey heard himself whisper, pressing so their cocks could meet and slide, and sparks fluttered at the edge of his vision, until the stretch of Chris' body beneath him seemed gilt and precious-toned.

Chris licked his lips, rocking up against Joey's cock with a gasp, then whipped his head from side to side and leaned up a little and grabbed Joey's hips, raising him just high enough off Chris' body for Chris to scoot right down.

Right down, down until his mouth was brushing at the base of Joey's cock, and Joey hissed and fell forwards and caught himself on his hands, and felt a faint dart of anxiety when Chris just lapped and smiled. Christ, JC. Someone's gonna get hurt.

"Sit... back off, and," Chris muttered, glancing up abruptly, "I wanna taste," and it was the most incredibly surreal moment of Joey's week to obey, to shift backwards and tilt his hips until the damp head of his cock could test at the seam of Chris' mouth again and again.

And Chris-- wasn't-- opening, was just moving his lips a little, warm dry slides against the crown, nothing short of adoring. "Please," Joey heard himself say, staring down at the intense pornographic curves of his damp cockhead pushing Chris' lower lip askew to his teeth, "please, then, open your mouth, c'mon," and Chris whispered,

"make me," with the tiniest flick of his tongue, and Joey had to bite back a snarl.

"Please," he said, and Chris hummed, eyes closed like bliss, hands restless against the base of Joey's spine. His palms were actually pressing, Joey realised faintly; pressing, encouraging him to force the issue, working rhythmically like vibration direct from Joey's veins.

He wasn't sure how Chris was coping without a hand around his cock anymore. A JC-flavoured thought arched through his brain again, silvered with the idea that sucking cock was enough, that getting his mouth around Joey's dick would be amazing enough to get Chris off on its own. Contact, added JC's voice, like an afterthought, and a surge of hunger almost dissolved the muscles in Joey's arms.

Yeah. Contact, contact with warm eager human skin-- and, in particular, contact with the inside of Chris' mouth, ah, yes.

Joey shifted his weight onto his knees and Chris licked his cock once like a reward and then wriggled back up the bed.

"Hey," Joey protested, bracing himself in the dizziness of sitting up, in the sheer tingling frustration of getting that mouth open against his cock for a moment too short to appreciate it.

"I don't want you to break my neck," Chris said distractedly, dropping to all fours and nuzzling Joey's cock with his closed mouth, and Joey bit back a groan and stared at Chris' back, at the long trackmarks of fingernails that he didn't remember making.

"No," he said slowly, and got a quick nasty flash of Chris' neck snapping as Joey wrenched his head at an obscene angle to accommodate his dick. He'd remember that after, he was pretty sure, and who exactly was Mr Potential Daterape right now? "Shit," he muttered, and then, when Chris ignored him, "stop," weakly.

Chris' gaze flicked up, one eyebrow delicately raised. "Freaking out?"

Words being muttered against the crown of Joey's cock were not conducive to the whole stopping thing, especially when Chris steadied himself with a totally unnecessary hand folding against Joey's thigh. "Kinda," Joey managed.

Chris stroked his fingers up and down, fantastically unsubtle. "Don't," he said, then flicked his tongue and added, "it's all good," and Joey gave a slightly strangled laugh and let his hands stumble their way to Chris' hair. Chris was on his hands and knees in front of him, JC's voice reminded him sharply. It was all good.

"Okay," Joey said, almost a question, and he couldn't remember why he'd ever wanted to stop.

Chris nodded under his fingers, humming happily against his cock, and frustration arched sweetly in Joey's stomach even as he pressed firm insistent hard and felt Chris buckle and shiver and--

yield. Yield, Chris' mouth easing obscenely slowly, Joey managing incrementally deeper nudges until the whole head fit inside, and then, shit, Chris' lips closing velvet-firm, and the back of his mouth was just another place Joey's cock could go.

"Fuck," Joey breathed, the intense wetness of Chris' tongue sending shockbolts direct to his balls, and Chris made a noise like a choked whimper and rocked Joey deeper with little gulping slides.

Joey thrust before he could really help it. It just-- Chris was sucking, okay, and his thighs were never told about that when they took up this supporting gig, never told that Chris might have a mouth like a desperate wet demon and no compunction about using it to the full. There was nothing to do but thrust, luscious-deep, and then again with a tug and a twist and he was there, wrists resting against his own hips, because Chris' nose was against the base of Joey's belly and Joey's cock was in Chris' throat.

"Shit," Joey said, voice shaking badly, and Chris was still nudging, rocking infinitesimally closer, the grip of his throat shifting rhythmically until smoky heat started to curl right down towards Joey's toes. "You-- shit," he added, afterthoughts be fucked, and JC's voice wrapped over every nerve in his brain:

C'mon, not time to move?

This time, the curse dried on Joey's tongue. He shifted his hips hopefully, and Chris twisted his head, teeth a vague pressure behind the shield of his lips, sensation mixed like sin and satin and oil.

Deeper, JC's voice came, and Joey could almost feel him behind them, feel the mattress shift as JC crawled close, breathed hot promises along the length of Joey's spine. He shivered, guided Chris' head to draw back a little, then bit his lower lip hard and pushed back inside.


Yeah thanks, and hurt him, Joey thought sharply, a thread of sense in the overheated chaos of his brain, and then Chris was twisting resistance in Joey's hands, building a rhythm of his own. A rhythm like push, and push hard, and push fast, and push now--

"Fuck it," Joey whispered, snapping his hips, and Chris gagged a little and rode it and forged closer again, like aggressive nuzzling except for the way that it wasn't funny at all. Joey groaned, JC's invisible hands slipping between his thighs, and then he was just going for it, leaning in and fucking Chris' mouth and jerking as his cock shoved deep again and again.

Chris can't breathe, he thought, surely, surely? and then JC was back in his head, observing that Chris almost seemed to like choking on Joey's cock, and then Chris slipped one hand between Joey's legs and curled his fingers up hard.

Fuck. "Sorry," Joey gasped, ingrained response to coming in someone's mouth, as the tides turned silver and his balls glowed liquid sharp and he shuddered, sweaty and depraved. Shots rang in his ears, once, twice, over and over; and Chris, he realised faintly, was still at it, sucking him dry, and jesus fucking christ but that capped it all.

Chris gave him a final sharp suck and then pulled off and keeled sideways, gasping like a rescued swimmer when his head hit the flat of the mattress; Joey flexed his hands gingerly, finding the muscles of his palms half-fused. Fuck.

"Are you," he tried, and had to clear his voice. "Jesus, man."

Chris threw an arm over his eyes. "Not a problem," he said faintly, licking his lips, and Joey expected to feel another spark of heat, didn't at all. Apparently, JC had left them to their afterglow. Joey's head thudded dizzily, almost like pain.

"JC's gone," he said, testing, shifting carefully off Chris' chest and collapsing onto the bed beside him. Chris nodded.

"Bastard's probably asleep." His voice sounded weak, but not as if Joey had been pounding his voicebox from the inside for the last few minutes, and the violence of the image left Joey's mouth dry. This was pretty heavy, when you stripped the man-made lust away.

Siren-made, his brain said, after a second or two. "So he. Does this mean I've slept with him twice?"

Chris shook his head hard, sharing a sour little laugh, "better not, after the trouble I went through to stay pure for Jup," and Joey rubbed his eyes and realised for the first time that Chris' stomach was shiny and wet. God. JC was right about everything and as for himself: slow, much, today?

He got out of bed, staggered, wound up sitting right down again. "Man. I gotta sleep," he said faintly, and Chris laughed again, then paused and touched his adam's apple cautiously, clearing his throat.

"Mm," he said. "I'm hearing that a lot these days."

Joey thought about JC, then wiped him deliberately from his brain, swallowing. His dick was gonna kill him if he wound up getting aroused again any time soon. It'd be illogical, too, anyway. JC'd be sleeping his special sleep right now; no way Joey fitted into the picture when JC wasn't actively looking for someone to use.

He wandered through to the bathroom, not quite able to keep a straight line, and asked his reflection if he was losing it. His reflection gave a laugh like a smirky hiccup, and Joey agreed that whatever was going on, he couldn't really be blamed.

He didn't start accepting responsibility until at least after breakfast, and right now there was no way it was later than 5.30 am.

The reflection in the bathroom mirror looked pretty fucking tired. Joey swallowed, went through the motions of cleaning his teeth, wiped himself down with a flannel. Chris was softly asleep in his bed, and that, he'd slowly realised, meant four-fifths of Nsync had taken a post-coital nap there since yesterday morning.

Somehow, he couldn't see Justin curling up on his pillow any time soon.

"Remind me to change the sheets again," he called, and Chris gave a disgusted laugh, well-muffled. "Shut up," Joey protested. "That'll be three sets in two days. Reception's gonna think I've got bladder issues."

"Serve you right for not sucking me off," Chris called, and Joey felt a little burn of guilty indignation before Chris added, wryly, "actually, screw that. Neither one of us was in the driving seat, so."

Joey felt around in his brain, tentatively; a few cheap fragments of JC's voice floated around, but they were probably just memory. Certainly nothing new.

"Your bed's the sluttiest one of us all," Chris was saying, and Joey tuned in with a blink. "They'll have to burn the mattress once we're gone."

"Or sell it," Joey said, telling himself to get a grip. He wandered back into the bedroom with a flannel in each hand. "On," he said deliberately, and Chris half-opened his eyes and smirked at him and chimed in perfect:


Joey laughed, then felt the amusement sweeten unpleasantly because ha, Justin was the one who originally pointed out shit like that, and again with the not coming near Joey any time soon.

Chris grabbed the flannel gratefully, shifted over so Joey could sit down. "Thanks, though," he said, in an entirely more refined tone of voice. Joey glanced at him, but Chris was wiping himself with slow deliberation.

"Any time," Joey almost said, but he didn't mean it, and didn't want Chris to recognise that. "Well," he said instead, "like you said. We weren't exactly driving."

"Lance would've meant it," Chris said, and it felt like something from a conversation he'd been having before Joey was even in the same room. Which figured, really.

Joey grinned lightly. "That's true," he said, crawling onto the bed and getting under the covers, the glow of really fucking good sex finally getting the better of his uneasiness about being used. It was, his dick pointed out sleepily, pretty cool use, all things told. He yawned, felt his grin go wicked. "At least I know it's just the influence of a supernatural sex demon."

Chris nodded, balling up the flannels and pitching it at the open bathroom door. "Right."

"And I'd never do this normally," Joey added, as Chris lay down next to him, stealing half the covers.

"Yes," Chris said, sounding as exhausted as Joey suddenly felt. "Exactly."

Joey yawned again. "Because you're not my type," he said, eyes closing blissfully, the steady pressure of Chris' knee against his leg like brotherhood and nothing more.


"So it has to be JC."


"I mean, I hadn't even considered before--"

"You can shut up now."

Chris gave a sleepy smile when Joey rolled over and bumped into him and shocked himself awake. "Shower," Chris mumbled, and Joey watched him scamper unsteadily into the bathroom, kicking the soggy heap of flannels as he went. "Gross."

"Not my fault," Joey called, stretching out blissfully as the door snicked shut. Chris was a cool guy, especially in the way he didn't roll over like some people when he was wearing a breastplate of his own spunk. He heard the water tumble on, faintly, and wriggled a little. He was in a pretty good mood, considering it couldn't be more than 10am.

The phone started ringing, and he felt the edge of his contentment immediately start to fray. Gotta be Lance or Justin, since JC was still-- oh, fuck. Still in the bathtub, probably frantic with hunger by now; another appetite to add to the list. Crap.

He picked up the phone, gingerly. "Hello?"

"I can't find Chris," Lance said urgently, and Joey swallowed.

"That'd be because he turned up at mine, asscrack of dawn," he grumbled, forcing his voice as calmly irritated as he could, and waited hopefully.

There was a pause, then, tightly, "Can you put him on the line?"

"Love to, but he's showering."

"I didn't... interrupt anything, did I?" Lance said, voice even tighter, and Joey laughed in a relief of honesty.

"No way. He just - he couldn't cope with JC, had to come somewhere totally platonic," he said, and the explanation turned worried in his mouth. "Seriously, I think we've got a problem. JC's got some sort of telepathy thing in his arsenal now."

Lance made a short noise. "I figured something like that," he said, "yesterday. Was Chris okay, out of range?"

"Not totally, but he said it wasn't as bad," Joey said, and the truth bent obediently for him, obedient like a willing-- hmm, Joey thought, shortly. JC must have woken up.

"My room's further," Lance was saying, puzzled. "Why didn't he--" He cut off, then continued, softer, "well, anyway," and it sounded suspiciously like he could be smiling, "do you wanna come to mine, sort out a battle plan?"

Battle sweaty growling bloody army cocksucking soldier knaves, Joey thought, and recognised the hard flash of lust as disturbingly familiar even as he recognised that only JC would use a word like 'knave'. He coughed. "I wanna grab a shower, first." Turning up smelling of male sweat wasn't the best way of calming the atmosphere.


"And - we should probably check on the prisoner too," he said, like a joke until his head filled with images of JC panting in chains.

"Um," Lance said, voice going faint, "yeah."

Joey swallowed. Forget facing him sweaty; he didn't want to face JC at all. "Can you feel that?"

"I can feel something," Lance said, and Joey shivered at his voice, then again as a groan came tight through the bathroom door.

"I hate him," Chris was calling, "hate him, hate... fuck..."

"I'm gonna... shower," Joey said, calling up his bravest face.

Lance laughed shortly, strangled feline. "Okay, man," he said. "You just make sure it's cold."

Chris dipped into his room on the way down the corridor, then emerged with a packet of Twiglets and opened it as they continued down towards JC's room. "Peace offering," he explained, when Joey raised an eyebrow.

"Uh huh. And you're opening them because...?"

"Gotta make sure they're not stale," Chris said sagely, as Lance joined them. "Can't have a stale peace offering, can I?"

"Nope," Lance said confidently, taking a twiglet and crunching on it. "Be an insult."

Joey looked around to share a grimace with Justin, then remembered that Justin was the last person to be exchanging glances with him right now. Twiglets were weird, weird potato chips made out of grain or something, that looked, well, like twigs, and tasted like Marmite and possibly wood. Lance had discovered them in Ireland and promptly gotten Chris and JC addicted, and Joey and Justin had bonded over a shared hatred of the damn things.

Joey shook his head and left them to it, telling himself not to be such a fucking loser as to get mushy over snackfood, and hurried down the corridor; when he glanced back, pausing at JC's door, Chris was holding a twiglet between his thumb and forefinger, drawing it a little further away every time Lance tried to take it between his teeth.

"Here goes," Chris called, to Joey, nodding at the door's lock. "Prepare to-- hey!"

Lance had grabbed Chris' wrist out the air. "Aha," he crowed, biting the twiglet so that Chris' fingertips brushed his mouth, and Joey wondered if JC was controlling them or. or.

"Here goes," he agreed, concentrating on the keycard, feeling a little dizzy already. He tried not to imagine Lance licking crumbs of salt off Chris' fingers. Too late. "Okay."

"He might be asleep," Chris said hopefully, as the door swung open, and Joey felt a wild slap of angry desire and almost stumbled. "Okay," Chris said, somewhat fainter. "Or not."

"Anyone else vote to send Justin in instead?" Joey heard himself ask, and Chris pulled the door quickly shut again, nodding even as Joey wondered who he was speaking for.

"You know I think that's a great idea?" Chris said, nodding and nodding, and Lance's eyes narrowed dubiously, and he laid a hand against the door.

"It can't really have been that bad last night?" he asked.

Joey almost laughed.

The first time Justin opened the door, he slammed it shut again straight away.

Wordlessly, Joey and Lance stepped aside, and Chris cleared his throat and knocked again.

The door cracked open. "I can see you through the spyhole, you morons," Justin said, and shut the door again.

"Okay," Chris said brightly, "that's gonna get really annoying, really soon." He looked at Lance. "You guys wanna wait somewhere else?"

"Sure," Lance said, and glanced uneasily down the corridor. "Um."

Chris looked at Joey. "Possibly better downstairs, in the - yeah, in the lounge," he said, and nodded firmly. "Yes. Nice and far away from the screaming and the yelling and stuff."

"And public," Joey said, and saw guilty relief in Chris' face.

"Yeah, don't you guys screw on the breakfast table or anything!" He said it exactly right, Joey thought, impressed: perfectly hearty and casual and a big big huge joke, haha.

Lance laughed. "Don't worry," he called, starting to draw Joey down the corridor to the elevator, "he's not my type."

Joey kept quiet about how that didn't actually seem to matter these days.

Lance had stolen the Twiglets, and offered them to Joey as they rode down to the hotel basement; Joey shook his head, and wondered if JC was okay. Lance dumped the Twiglets in a shiny silver trashcan as soon as the doors opened, and dusted off his hands.

Normally, JC would've wanted Lance to save them. Joey swallowed, a confusing combination of hungry and nauseous, and wondered when they could start calling things normal again.

"You think we should take him some food?" Lance said, suddenly, and Joey smiled sourly. Great minds. Or, y'know. Freakishly obsessed ones.

"I think that's a great idea," he said, lowering his voice as they stepped into the plush red-gold breakfast bar. "Blowjobs and bacon, sounds like a plan. Let's go."

Lance winced. "No, I know," he said, making straight for the bagel corner, handing Joey a plate, "but, I mean. Chris survived the whole night in there, before he came to you, right, and he still managed to calm down, so a really quick dash-- No?"

Joey was shaking his head. "You won't believe the things I've seen," he sang, softly, "far beyond your wildest dreams," and resigned himself to having The Spooks stuck in his head all day.

Lance sighed, staring at a counter of bagels and assorted bagel paraphernalia, holding his plate with both hands. "Yeah, okay," he said. His voice was tight like earlier, almost scared. "I did some calculations," he said. Definitely scared.

Joey frowned. "And?"

Lance blinked and straightened his shoulders, and Joey watched the seamless transition from real-Lance into business-Lance with a nasty, sinking feeling in his gut. Business-Lance tended to turn up when Chris bitched about solos, or Johnny wanted them to get up three hours early during Hell Week to sign shit for fans. He never sounded scared, and he said the things real-Lance didn't like saying.

Joey had a strong feeling he didn't want to hear this.

"Basically, Justin has to go back to him, because as it is we're... all screwed," Lance said, and gave Joey a wry half-smile, "in a figurative and also very probably literal sense, of course."

"Right," Joey said.

"Or," Lance added, calmly spooning scrambled egg onto his plate by his bagel, "Justin can get over himself, and let us do the screwing, and things should be back to normal by the end of next week. That might be the better idea, actually. Between us, we'd be able to keep him busiest, I think."

"Not if Justin cuts our dicks off," Joey pointed out, trying not to choke. Business-Lance had a way of making insanity sound like a totally reasonable option, to the point that Joey had no perspective at all. "Look, hey. That's not gonna happen."

Lance shrugged, moving along the breakfast bar, pausing to select three glistening pink bacon strips, then passing the tongs to Joey. "I can't see Justin going back to him," he admitted.

Joey frowned. "Yeah, but I even less can't see him letting us get merry on his boyfriend."

Lance balanced his plate on one hand and poured OJ with the other. "Yes, but this is going to keep happening every year," he said, and glanced at Joey with serious dark eyes. "I'm sorry for Justin, y'know, but I don't want the group to split up. And in that case, something's got to give."

The phone rang, and it was Chris telling Lance to come on up.

"Apparently, Justin says he's not promising he won't yell," Lance said dryly, and Joey managed half a smile. He hadn't been as hungry as he'd thought, and the eggs curdling on his plate were really depressing.

Of course, he thought, when they arrived at Justin's door and Chris ushered them furtively in, the eggs were really only a little crooked part of the bigger, uglier picture. The really depressing thing was the way that he honestly didn't know which he'd rather Justin chose, and the way that sex was linked pretty strongly with anger and guilt right now, and the way that business-Lance kept popping up to say things like, "fair enough, but realistically, whores could be an option faster than you think".

Joey'd rather concentrate on the yucky eggs.

Conversation here, away from the breakfast bar, wasn't much better; was, in fact, pretty much a brewery for headaches. Justin still wasn't speaking to him, of course, which actually put Joey one rung higher on the ladder of disdain than Lance, since Lance was now being yelled at. Joey had a vague memory of thinking that having JC like this wasn't all bad. He'd been right, and, unfortunately, right now that felt desperately, desperately wrong.

Chris was in the good books now, because Chris had Resisted. Chris was a Good Friend. Over breakfast and then a whole lot of coffee, Lance had told Joey exactly how Good a Friend Chris had been, with the ass-groping and the inviting Lance to join them and the general prolonged making out against the door. There was also the whole secret sucking-Joey-off thing, but since Joey definitely couldn't mention it to Lance then it became kind of a moot point.

Although actually, hell, Joey thought ruefully, switching tracks: Chris had managed to pull back, at least when JC was actually in the room, and he hadn't bolted under last night's onslaught until 5am. That was pretty Good Friend-ish. Maybe he did deserve to sit on Justin's right hand.

And while they were getting it on with the pornolicious biblical imagery, Joey smirked, a moment later, then Lance could escape from Justin's righteous wrath, and fewer headache pills could be consumed all round.

Lance was riding it pretty well, considering. Joey would've been tempted to crack Justin's head into the wall by now.

"He's worse now he's not with you," Lance was saying, voice so tight that Joey thought maybe Lance was thinking about the wall and the head-cracking, after all. "He told me."

"Before or after you fucked him?" Justin demanded, and Lance set his jaw, and Justin's eyes narrowed. "Or during," he said slowly, and Joey pretended to be very interested in his knuckles, and then Justin yelled, "for chrissakes, Lance!" and Joey winced and looked up again.

"It doesn't matter," Lance was saying determinedly, while Justin paced to the window and then stood there, tension loud in his back. "Now the telepathy thing's involved, it's only going to get worse, so you better make a choice now. If you went with him, it'd all be calmer, but if not, Justin, you've got to accept we're gonna have to do it instead."

Have to, Joey thought, flatly. 'Cause they'd need so much persuading.

"Let him sweat it out," Justin said shortly, and Lance raised his eyebrows.

"What, so JC gets a month off each year? Because there's no way on earth we can work with him like this."

"What, and he's working now?" Justin demanded. "Looks more to me like he's chained to a bathtub, ready to pounce on the next dick that walks in--"

"He's got a point," Chris said, and Lance frazzled him with a glare, and Chris made a zip-up-mouth motion with his fingers.

"--or, oh yeah," Justin was growling, "asleep, all afternoon, and tonight he'll go prowling again, and tomorrow he'll sleep and then seduce a random waiter and then go sleep some more." His eyes flashed. "All in all he's got a pretty winning formula, wouldn't you say? Getting a whole lot of singing in."

Joey decided it was about time he stepped in. "If we weren't resisting him, he'd have pretty regular sleeping patterns, he said," he said, and he was lying because actually JC hadn't said, but Lance'd said he'd been calculating all night, and it apparently made sense to him.

Justin folded his arms. "And the singing?"

"Everything should go back to pretty much normal," Lance said, sounding like someone talking to a child with a fever. It'll be fine tomorrow, sure it will. "It's just crazy now because we're not giving him what he needs, and he hasn't, uh, been with someone since you--"

"until yesterday," Justin reminded him, with horrible sweetness. "He's been, what, making up for lost time since then? How much can one guy need?"

Joey had a feeling they were going round in circles. "Last year it was like normal, wasn't it," he said reasonably, "I mean, we didn't even notice. So we know it's possible," a stab in the dark, then tried not to feel awful when Justin froze.

"Last year?"

Shit, Joey thought, and looked at Lance. Surely Justin had done the math already; surely he couldn't have been up here all this time without getting suspicious and counting back? Joey swallowed. "It's every year, right?"

Lance was watching Justin. "Every, um. thirteen moons, he said," he said, "but last year was the first one, something about plumage coming of age," and Justin stayed absolutely still, then shook his head, dangerously slowly, and turned away.

"Asshole," he said softly, and pushed on the wall hard enough to flush his fingernails white, then rested his forehead against the back of his hands. "I can't believe he. fuck."

"We need an answer, Justin," Lance said quietly, and Joey glanced and saw it was business-Lance, and cringed inside.

Justin punched the wall with his open hand. The base of Joey's thumb tingled sympathetically.

"Easy, now," Chris murmured, like gentling a horse, and Joey thought, what a pointless thing to say, then realised Chris was speaking to Lance. "He's not--"

"Guys, I need you to fuck off right now," Justin interrupted, and Joey ran a hand unhappily through his hair. He needed a shower. And uninterrupted sleep. And, possibly, a merciful castration.

"Not until you answer," Lance said. "We need you to make the decision, or we're going to have to make it for you," he added, and Joey kind of admired his relentless qualities, and kind of hated them.

"Resist him," Justin said, and Joey bit back a frustrated laugh and said,

"It's not exactly that simple--"

Justin's eyes flashed. "I don't want you touching him," he said, and his voice was blazing with quiet fury. "Fucking exert some control."

"It's not that simple," Chris put in, apologetically. "It's really not."

Justin covered his face with his hands. "Please," he said. His voice could've made a statue flinch.

There was a moment of utter stillness, then Lance opened his mouth and Chris shook his head curtly and Lance closed his mouth again with visible effort.

Joey swallowed, increasingly black inside.

"It's really difficult," Chris said, quietly. He wasn't particularly looking at Justin. Justin was stood apart, his fingers spread over his face, his eyes closed, his eyebrows and mouth drawn. Joey actually found it trainwreck-ly difficult to look away.

"We'll try," Joey heard himself say, voice helplessly gentle, and nodded at Chris to make for the door.

Outside, Lance wheeled like anguish and leant against the wall. Joey thought about the spyhole, then chided himself: there was absolutely no chance Justin was interested in their movements right now.

"Fuuuuck," Lance groaned, pressing his fists against his temples, and Joey winced.

"It'll pass," Chris said, unconvincingly.

Lance didn't appear to believe him. "I hate you," he whispered, voice wry but not exceptionally so, and Joey checked, and yeah, Lance was talking to him. Well, duh.

"Nah, you did good," Chris said softly, patting Joey's arm, and Joey leant into him instinctively and then found instinct suggesting he put his arm round Chris' waist, and realised the instinct seriously wasn't his.

"For the record," Joey said, steeling himself and helping Chris peel Lance off the door, "I want, '*he tried*', on my tombstone."

"Dude, we're going to JC," Chris muttered. "You really think your body will ever get found?"

"I haven't slept all night," JC whispered accusingly, kneeling up and craning round as Joey came through Chris' bathroom door, and that was a lie, yeah, but fuck, somehow a hot one.

A hot lie?

A hot lie about insomnia?

"Please," JC added, and Joey found himself believing it all over again.

"Shit," Lance breathed, and pushed past Joey, sinking dreamlike to his knees and setting their procrastinatory plate of chicken sandwiches on the floor in favour of touching the metal of the handcuff with his fingers spread wide. "Oh, Jayce."

And Lance hadn't gotten off, Joey realised, sickly, as JC tipped his head forwards without another word, as Lance sucked at JC's lower lip with something like a breath-stripped groan.

"Jayce," Lance repeated, tilting his head, "baby," and Chris swore a cheap rainbow and grabbed Joey's shoulder with one hand. Joey wanted to look at him, send a little sympathy in that direction, but there was tongue, man, wet flashes of JC's tongue slipping into Lance's mouth, and he truly believed he couldn't look away.

Or breathe. And - he didn't want to stare and remember JC's hands and Chris' mouth, right, but that was like not wanting to think about food when he'd just eaten gourmet and already felt hungry again. He swallowed hard.

"Yeah," Lance said, almost a hiss, scrambling into the bath, and Joey blinked because it should've been absurd but, but. Lance's hands were in JC's hair, and their mouths were open and clashing like wild sex and then getting it right, JC's free hand cupping Lance's chin, tipping his face up to receive a kiss like a dark spell.

Joey could almost feel it against his own mouth, then realised, shakily, that the silhouette of sensation falling against his lips and tongue probably was a wayward echo from JC. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and JC's mouth slipped to Lance's throat, and Lance started honest-to-god whimpering as the handcuffs stuttered against the bath.

"Stop," Joey tried to say, but his heart wasn't in it, and he was pressing forwards against the ghostly trail of JC's mouth against his collarbones, cotton-candy frustration blooming beneath his skin. Lance sure didn't seem to believe him, or even realise he was in the same universe. Chris' fingers were probably going to leave marks in his shoulder. The pressure of his hand was making Joey hard.

"I'm so... so," JC muttered, shifting restlessly, finding Lance's little silver crucifix, licking it with increasing urgency, taking it in his mouth until Joey felt dizzy with watching the glint of metal slipping across wet pink.

"So," Lance agreed, tipping his head back, hands insinuating their way up JC's sleeves and then getting stuck and raking back and finding JC's chest instead, pushing under his shirt-- and it was all blind instinct, Joey realised sluggishly, and Lance was barely even in the passenger seat right now.

"You, yeah, let him," JC mumbled, and then gasped and jerked Lance against him one-handed, and Joey felt strange twin sears against his chest and realised it was Lance's nails on JC's skin. He couldn't see Lance's hands any more, obscured by Lance's body and JC's clothes, but shit, the sense-images, they came like wasps, pierced right through beneath his skin.

Let him? Let Lance, Joey guessed, thoughts paddling to him against a strong undertow of lava, and yeah, of course they should; why stop Lance, why would that ever be in question?

Lance pressed his face against JC's shoulder and Joey could hear - could feel - him breathing JC in. "Baby," JC muttered, "yeah," and Joey felt ghost wrenches of Lance's fingers against his belt even while he watched Lance's biceps flex as his hands wrestled unseen.

"Stop it," Joey heard, a wretched whisper behind him. Just his imagination, he concluded instantly, and melted back into the sublime exoticism of watching Lance's teeth work at JC's jaw. "Really," the voice managed, and JC's eyes opened vicious-fast.

"Let him," he growled, and Joey felt Lance forge forwards and those ghost fingertips brushing exactly where Joey wanted, becoming a ghost-grip, exquisite silvery insubstantial pressure closing from all sides on his cock, and Joey felt a very real groan slide up his throat even as JC hissed and bit Lance's shoulder, hard.

"You, no," the voice shouted, and Joey reeled as something warm against his skin became a violent shove, reeled sideways and shuddered because JC was screeching in outrage and Chris had plunged forwards and manhandled Lance out of the bath.

"Fuck," Lance gasped, stumbling to his knees and thumping Chris' legs over and over, not a single punch pulled, "you bastard, you fucking--"

"Let go of him," Chris yelled, and he was clearly insane and Joey had to stop him and now now now Joey, now, now-- "Don't even," Chris growled, whipping round fast, and Joey sucked in a hard shocked breath and forced his hands back down to his sides.

He'd... been about to strangle Chris. About to, and his palms still ached for it, tingling inside his fists, itching to slide across Chris' shoulders and find that pale soft neck and yank down hard.

"Let. them. go," Chris was warning, impossibly loud, keeping a pace away from the bathtub, and Joey grabbed Lance's struggling arms and tugged him backwards, away as far as possible, never taking his eyes from JC. Fuck, this was getting insane.


JC's eyes were half-closed and he had a sheen to his skin, the sort that gets reported in eye-witness accounts of happy pregnant women and working murderers and the recklessly drunk. Not an afterglow, Joey thought frantically: a before-glow; a during-glow. This is JC on the job. He made Chris' throat feel good being closed beneath my hands.

"Let go," Lance hissed, catching his breath as soon as Joey's back hit the wall; Joey shook his head, holding on tight, and Lance bit Joey's wrist, his teeth hitting bone a millimetre in and forging on regardless. Joey barked a protest and flicked his hand hard, barely aware of Chris shouting in the background, and Lance's head rammed against his kneecap and reduced them both to childlike gasps.

"...don't understand," JC was yelling, and Joey blinked and squinted through acid-washed eyes to see JC surging to his feet and making to attack, to see Chris pin him mid-leap with a well-timed fist and shove him back into the bathtub, to see JC's head bouncing off the tiled wall.

JC's eyes went cloudy, and he started breathing hard, cupping the back of his head with his free hand, tugging frantically against the handcuffs and making a horrible, trapped-animal noise.

"Stay away from him," Chris muttered, and Joey realised he'd taken a step forwards and completely abandoned Lance again, and shit. shit. He tried to see if there was blood smearing JC's palm, just craning his head a little and maybe shifting his weight to his front foot because dude, he couldn't see, and then Chris made a strangled, frustrated noise and grabbed his arm and hauled him out the bathroom.

"Hey," JC shouted, voice breaking. "You don't, you can't just--"

Lance pulled the door hard until it clicked, then leant against it. "Fuck," he whispered. His eyes were utterly miserable. "Fuck. Fuck."

That summed it up pretty nicely, Joey thought. He felt clear again - and they all knew how reliable that was, now, oh yeah. He cleared his throat. "You okay?"

"Sore head," Lance said, without opening his eyes.

"Sore leg," Chris said, without a smile. "You?"

"Kneecap," Joey said. And missing a few vital senses, like reason and control. And we just had to slam his skull into the wall to make him stop - y'all saw that, right? Yeah? Just checking.

"We need ketamine," Chris said, and Joey snorted, and Chris glanced at him.

Joey swallowed. "Oh," he said.

Lance shook his head. "We're not the right people to get hold of horse tranquilizers," he said, completely straight-faced.

"Where's AJ when you need him?" Chris murmured, and Lance gave him a distracted half-smile, then grimaced and took a couple of painstaking steps away from them. His hands curled tight.

"Get in front of the door," he said.

Joey frowned, but moved, because Lance's eyes brooked no argument and his voice had turned soft and strange. He stood with his back to the door, one hand testing the handle, wishing it didn't lock from the inside. Weird, not trusting yourself to keep out of danger, to want to baracade yourself out instead of the other way round.

"Thankyou," Lance said, and breathed out a shuddering breath, squeezing his eyes shut. "Don't let me back in there. I don't want to do that to you. or Justin. fuck. Okay? Whatever happens?"

"No fear," Chris said, folding his arms. "I think we need to get Justin here, show him exactly what we're-- Lance?"

Lance had sidled up to Joey again. Joey gave him a confused smile, then felt himself falter as Lance's gaze adhered to his mouth. Um. Lance?

"Do you mind just... stepping aside?" Lance murmured, trailing his fingers up Joey's chest.

Joey heard himself laugh, incredulous. "Um, yes?"

"Hey," Chris said, homing in on Lance and patting his cheek. "Stay with us."

"Mm," Lance said, and side-stepped Chris' hand with a little swerve of his chin. His hand was still moving over Joey's chest, fingertips sweeping and circling, dust-light.

Joey gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to smack him. "Cut it out," he said.

Lance glanced over at Chris, gave him a helpless smile. "Fuck," he confessed, warmly, "I wanna go see JC."

Joey caught Lance's wrist and yanked it clear of his body, ignoring Lance's soft little gasp. Looking at Chris, he saw his own peculiar rigid fury mirrored in Chris eyes. "That's not about to happen," he promised, and then wasn't particularly surprised when Chris didn't look like he believed him.

"I'll do anything," Lance whispered, swaying close to him, lifting his chin and closing his eyes. "Anything--"

"Okay," Chris said suddenly. "Is he working on you, or just Lance?"

Joey winced, putting the sunflower adoration of Lance's gaze as far out of his mind as he could. He didn't really want to know. "I'm not sure."

"Do you guys wanna discuss this in the other room?" Lance said, with languid innocence. "We should really get that food to JC. Oh, I know! I could--"

"I need to know if I can trust you, Joe," Chris said, voice fraying quietly at the edges. He was watching Lance now, his eyes bright. "He's not bothering with me now, but you..."

Joey swallowed. There were no ghost sensations, just the all-too-real trembling of Lance's body, devastatingly within reach. "I'm afraid to relax," Joey wanted to say, but Chris didn't need to hear that, didn't need to know that Joey was scared shitless beneath the anger right now.

"I could take JC some food," Lance murmured, like a seduction, and Joey felt like he needed to pour bleach into his ears, burn out that syrup-silk drawl. He looked at Chris, swallowed again.

Okay, JC, let's see what you've got.

Slowly, slowly, he untamped his control.

Okay, he thought a moment later. This was good. His hands didn't move to grab Lance, which had been his chief fear, and his mind didn't fill with insidious erotica, and basically, as he gingerly tested each evolving thought, he found no JC-traces at all. A sudden, insatiable curiosity took hold of him, akin to licking a wobbly tooth, tasting each suspicious angle, worrying at the corners of his mind until he could warily tell himself there was nothing out of the ordinary in there.

Thank god. "Just Lance," he said. "I think he's given up on me. He let go when you, um. when he hit his head."

"Good," Chris said shortly, and Lance hummed, fitting his body against Joey's chest, nudging with his hipbone until Joey realised he was being bodily shifted out of the way.

Joey dug his heels in, shook his head. "It's not gonna happen." He tried to feel better, knowing he was only going up against his own weakness, not competing with any of the telepathy shit. He didn't feel a whole lot better, all told.

"Please," Lance breathed, falling against him, hands twisting free and clutching Joey's shoulders. "Please, let me through, I've got to--"

Chris met Joey's eyes, and Joey felt a rush of gladness for the support. Even without JC in his head, it was difficult having Lance sprawled across him like this. He'd gotten sort of used to taking whatever he felt like, these last couple of days. "Not today."

"Yeah, but I've got to go in there," Lance confessed, persuasively, running his hands up Joey's arms, twisting against Joey's crotch, voice hitching as the unmistakable ridge of his cock slid against Joey's hip.

"No," Joey said. Because it would break Justin. Because it would break Chris.

"You've got to let me," Lance said, and then his eyes snapped clear, and Joey realised just how glazed they'd been. "Or," Lance said, shifting against him, hands creeping back down Joey's arms, playing with his wrists, "you could do it, you know."

"No," Joey said, and looked desperately to Chris. Chris' arms were still folded, and he was glaring miserably at the back of Lance's head. "Not on your life," Joey added, wanting to keep talking. "Not a cha--"

"Someone will have to," Lance said, and Joey could feel the direct open shamelessness of Lance's gaze on his face and concentrated on not looking at him. "C'mon," Lance breathed, squirming until the pressure became something akin to Chris' throat except dry and raw and somehow even more obscene. "Don't you remember how this feels? It's torture, Joey. I need you guys."

"I'm sorry," Joey said, and Lance moaned softly and pressed his face against Joey's shoulder. Joey held his hands clear of Lance's warm, pliant body, and raised them at Chris in the universal plea for aid.

"Please," Lance chanted, the damp heat of his breath edging through Joey's shirt. "Please, please, just get me off, get me away from this. please, guys. please."

The meaning ebbed from the word, and it was just Lance, unhappy against his shoulder, appealing for help. Joey tried to think it through without making himself vulnerable to JC, and felt a roll of hatred that he couldn't even trust his own head right now.

"Maybe. you should," Chris said.

Joey blinked. "What?" he said quietly, as if that would stop Lance hearing, despite the fact that Lance had frozen against him, fists tight at Joey's sleeves, patently involved in Chris' answer.

"I won't be a part of this," Chris said, "but you could. I mean, you're less involved. I don't think I can... bear it, knowing he's not himself, but you. Could you?"

Joey swallowed. "Well," he managed, trying not to sound like a class-a asshole who didn't recognise the difference between casual and not-at-all-casual sex, "probably."

"Maybe you should," Chris repeated, staring sadly at Lance pressing quietly - thrumming - against Joey's body. "It'd be just to help him" Chris said, "nothing lasting," and it sounded a tiny bit desperate.

"Please," Lance whispered.

"Chris," Joey warned, "if you don't want this--"

"No, it's fine," Chris said, like he was ploughing through some internal script. "He's right, someone's gotta. And better you than JC," he added determinedly, and Joey wondered who he was trying to convince.

"Please," Lance mouthed, staying absolutely still against Joey except for the rabbit-pat of his heart.

"Just do it, okay," Chris whispered, and Joey's hands found themselves on Lance's hips before he could tell himself it was still a bad idea.

Lance trembled strategically, tipping his head back, breathing hard. "I want," he said, reaching for Joey's hands, dragging them to press against his crotch, "yeah, you, please," and Joey swallowed and tried not to press forwards and especially tried not to close his eyes and indulge in any thought that might catch JC's attention.

"This is crazy," he said, and Chris was biting one knuckle, quite clearly hating every passing second a little more.

Lance pulsed his hips against Joey's palms, making tiny noises and clutching with both hands, and Joey reluctantly felt his own blood speed up, his lungs tightening, Pavlovian and confused.

He slipped the tip of his thumb into the tiny gap at the top of Lance's zip, all too aware of the heat beneath, and Lance nodded hard, panting, pushing up on his toes.

"Yeah, now, hurry--"

"I don't," Joey started, and Lance lifted his face sharply and kissed him with a swiftly opening mouth, and Joey almost bit off his tongue before realising that sex was sex and this was the way sex goes.

It didn't hurt that Lance kissed like he was already being fucked-- and then it did hurt, because Joey was being shoved sideways for like the sixteenth time this morning, and his hands were suddenly full of empty air and his lip was tingling with something worryingly like a bitemark.

Ow, Joey thought. Chris might just have cottoned on that this was reality.

"But it's not about JC," Chris was saying, his hands at Lance's waist, shaking him carefully until Lance cocked his head and stared with slightly less unseeing eyes. His hands folded over Chris', guiding them to finish the job Joey had begun.

"Mm," he nodded, then made a low dismayed noise when Chris brought his hands up to Lance's face again.

"It's not about JC," Chris repeated, enunciating like hell. "Lance, look at me. I'm not touching you 'til you tell me you're not--"

Not JC, Joey thought.

"--thinking about someone else."

Joey cleared his throat, his skin prickling uneasily, and Lance looked quickly over and then bit his lip, pressing his cheek against Chris' palm. "Joey," he complained to Chris, "come back here," and Chris laughed like Joey's hands were round his throat again.

"If you want," Chris said, "but it's him or me," and Joey swallowed in the short, terrible silence that followed, told himself he didn't notice the fear in Chris' eyes.

Lance glanced over at Joey again, frowned, then touched Chris' mouth with two fingertips. "You," he said, like it was obvious - which, Joey supposed, it was - and then Lance was leaning in like caramel melting into chocolate--

--and then moaning indignantly when Chris shied away.

"What?" he demanded, sliding his hands behind Chris' head, tugging until Chris faced him, staring him directly in the eyes.

Joey watched Chris blink a couple of times. The room pitched and sighed with some fizzing energy that Joey couldn't identify right now. "It's, um. Anyone or me, actually," Chris said eventually, and Joey caught his breath, because Chris was taking a fucking risk, saying intense things with Lance practically insensible, and maybe Chris had some sort of plan but right now it all felt horribly raw.

Lance's hands fell abruptly to Chris' shoulders. "It's you," he said, and his voice wasn't soft or luxurious or seductive at all, and Chris stared for a moment and then cleared his throat and grinned, fierce and goofy-sharp.

"Not JC," he said, and Joey felt the frightening sweetness of it pass, felt the air charge into something potent, knew that Chris had had some plan all along.

"Not JC," Lance agreed, and then hissed softly. "JC's not so, um, happy about that though--"

"Fuck him," Chris breathed, and kissed the corner of Lance's mouth. Joey watched Chris' hands glide over Lance's back and for an awful moment sort of felt the pressure on his own skin, and then he recognised it as simple healthy jealousy, because his friends were getting their freak on and this was one party he definitely wasn't invited to.

"JC won't be happy," Lance said, following Chris' hands like flowing water rubs against stone, and Joey saw a competent peace spread over Chris' face, like Lance was responding exactly as planned.

"There's nothing he can do," Chris said.

Lance swore softly, and Joey saw Chris' hand slipping into Lance's pants, falling quickly to a rhythm that made Lance squirm. "He's gonna... try something," Lance gasped, "I can feel it, seriously," and Chris picked up his pace and grinned again.

"There's nothing he can do," he drawled, "because you're doing this for me, aren't you?"

"yeah," Lance said, voice modulating into a volley of broken sighs, "but, I mean--"

"With me."


"and you'd be doing it even if he wasn't here; you'd be in my room, against my wall," Chris suggested, and Joey almost raised his eyebrows at the possessive pleasure of Chris' tone.

"Yeah," Lance nodded, kissing Chris' mouth, his cheek, his throat, rolling his hips against whatever magic fingersmithing Chris had got going on down there.

"And if he came out here, if he asked you face to face, you'd still--

"Choose you," Lance gasped, head falling back, and Joey couldn't look away from Chris' hand, the fast hard rise and fall of it, the way that every stroke fed into another hitch in Lance's breath, the pure basic hotness of cause and effect--

--and then Chris' hand faltered, and Joey got a solid, stark image in his head, of Chris pinned beneath him, naked and sweaty and wild.

"Stop that," Lance muttered, clutching at Chris' arm, guiding him to stroke faster again.

Joey shook his head to clear it, then felt the gathering buffet of another image, this time of Chris on his hands and knees, shockingly real, Joey's palm snug at the back of his head, Joey's cock pushing in and out of Chris' mouth.

"Shit," Chris growled, slamming his fist against the door. "Cut it the fuck out," he yelled.

"He's fucking with me," Lance said, and Chris kissed him messy-hard, and Joey recognised a distraction technique when he saw it and felt his stomach twist in unpleasant new ways. Get out of here, his brain said, but that would look like guilt right now, plus he wasn't sure he could actually move. His vision was swerving dramatically from layer to layer, an almost-transparent Chris blowing him superimposed over everything else he tried to look at.

Not exactly conducive to walking a straight line.

The mental-image-of-Chris took him in his throat, Joey's demanding fists in his hair, and Lance flinched, breaking the kiss, turning his face away. "He's fucking cruel, says this is from last night," he hissed, and Chris shook his head, eyes narrow and hard.

"Ignore him," he said firmly, and kissed Lance's cheek, then spoke again against the skin. "Just you and me, okay? Fight him back. It's just you and me."

In his mind's eye, behind the gleaming smooth flesh of Chris' back, Joey could see the black of the window by the bed in his room, the sprinkle of city lights an all too familiar constellation. There was a fierce sensation of heat through the image, and Joey's mind became full of the awareness that the cocksucking Chris just came; JC must be getting this from both of us, he thought numbly, because he hadn't noticed that at the time.

"Shit," Lance choked, baring his throat, eyes squeezed closed as Joey saw himself fuck Chris' mouth more ruthlessly than he could stand in any porn. "I can't stand it--"

"Don't," Chris said frantically, "please, fight it, just fight it," up on tiptoes in a blatant attempt to make Lance look at him, his hands urgently cupping Lance's face.

Lance went still. "What, because fighting worked for you?" he whispered, and Joey realised Lance knew, knew this was real and no coincidental montage and that Chris had avoided him and that Joey had lied.

With excruciating slowness, JC's vision melted away.

"No, wait," Chris was saying, and Lance made a noise like disgust chopped with pain, and broke away from Chris' hands with creative murder in his eyes.

Business-Lance, Joey thought distractedly, but he could see properly now he wasn't having high-grade porn imposed upon him, and actually that was just regular Lance zipping himself viciously back into his pants and storming out the room.

"Fuck," Chris shouted, punching the bathroom door, then gasped loudly and sank knuckle-cradling to the ground.

It was lunchtime, Joey thought. Lunchtime, and the afternoon loomed ahead of him in a great plume of rock-bottom brightness, and they might have to take Chris to get his hand checked, and send someone to stop Lance killing anyone or, worse, quitting, and he just had to hope that JC would have the sense to eat those sandwiches, because there was no chance Joey was going back in there to make the suggestion.

First things first, though, Joey thought, watching Chris' mouth move against his fingers. "Lance will've gone to Justin," Chris said.

Joey had a feeling that, more than any of them, Chris would know. "We'd better follow him, then." He nodded at Chris' hand. "You okay?"

"I really don't wanna talk to Justin right now," Chris muttered, and Joey had a feeling that was all the answer he'd get.

"No," he agreed, walking to the door. "It's not exactly top of my list."

"It's not exactly anywhere on my list," Chris said bitterly, following, "but if it keeps on going like this, man, I'm not gonna cope."

Joey held open the door. "I hear you," he said, and he set off down the corridor, half-hoping Lance had gone to Justin because at least then he wouldn't have to do the talking. And then - it would have to be over, somehow. It had to be.

Joey wasn't stupid. He wasn't about to tell Chris that most people had a different word for the way they'd managed so far.


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