They'd played it so many times that they knew one another's strategies by heart. Across four continents they'd played it, in buses, studios, concert halls, planes, homes, parties, photoshoots... and like any of the classic games, the more they played it, the better it got.
Chris was the patient one. He laid traps, complete with false starts and double bluffs, and then concentrated on staying alive while his victim was lured, inevitably, towards him. Lance was the sly one; he played it like he played poker, with a baby face and the ability to switch on fey eyes which hinted, falsely, at four aces. Justin had a way of making himself invisible--you'd realise too late that he'd stayed in your room when everyone else walked out of it, and that would be that. Joey played it with seduction, and maybe you'd take a chance and lose, but at least you could enjoy the gig or stuff yourself on the best Thai you'd tasted in months, and not mind too much.
JC was useless at the game. He couldn't strategise, couldn't anticipate, couldn't defend himself if his life depended on it, which in this case, it sort of did. Lance walked in the door and said, "hey, Jace, the mail's here," and JC said "great!" because his roommate was sending a Tim Buckley record he'd left at home, and as he'd taken it from Lance's hands, Lance had put two fingers to his forehead head and laughed too hard to even say, "you're dead".
JC handed over his victim's name--Justin--and settled back to watch the fun. Losing was as good as winning, and the other guys hadn't figured that out yet. Lance was great to lose to, because once you knew what cards he held, you could admire the balls of the bastard as he hunted.
"Hey, Justin," Lance yelled three days later, backstage in LA, and JC could detect nothing in his face or voice to indicate that a play was being made. "Get rid of the girl."
"What girl?" Justin said.
Lance rolled his eyes. "The one in my dressing room, dumbass. Moira? She's got an invitation, it's your writing."
"Bullshit, I did not invite anybody," Justin snapped, and stood up and headed out to deal with it, Lance trailing after him. When they came back, Lance raised an eyebrow at Chris, and JC wondered if somebody had already got Joey, if this was the kill-or-be-killed showdown. Must have--Lance wouldn't have given anything away, otherwise.
For three days Chris and Lance danced around one another, clung like limpets to the other people, wouldn't go into a room alone, ran shrieking away from one another and dived into the other guys arms for protection. Chris had been holding Lance's phone hostage for two days, but Lance wasn't caving. Then Lance stormed out of his room in a towel, dripping wet, holding a bottle of his Bluesca shampoo, with the bleached ends of his hair a shocking peacock blue.
"You fucking cunt, Chris!" he yelled, throwing the bottle at him. "I can't fucking believe you!"
"Holy shit!" Justin said.
Joey chortled. "Man, the Powers will go apeshit."
"Whoa, wait up," Chris said, standing up. "It wasn't me!"
"Fuck you, just fuck you." Lance shoved him backwards. His hair was sticking out in every direction, and he looked startlingly, dangerously, electric.
"It wasn't me," Chris insisted, trying not to laugh as Joey rolled off the couch, howling. "Wish it had been, but I didn't--"
"Bull shit," Lance snarled, pushing him around the corner out of sight. JC sat up. "You're such a prick, you just don't--"
"I swear, I never--" Leaning around, JC saw Lance shove Chris through the door into the next room.
"--have any goddamned respect for--" Lance's voice was getting deeper as he yelled, but Chris' was getting higher, with alarm. Justin looked worried, stood up.
"--did anything to it, it wasn't me!"
"BANG, you're dead!" Lance shouted, and crowed loudly.
Chris shrieked. "Ohhh, shit. Lansten, you suck!"
Lance reappeared, smug and glowing, his hair trickling blue streams down his tanned chest. He did a round of the room, hi-fiving them all.
"So." he said to the room at large, smirking from under the riot of blue. "What do y'all think?"
"Dude," Justin said, applauding. "You rock my world."
"It's gorgeous, Dah-ling," Joey added, blowing kisses up at him. Lance posed and preened, a brightly-spattered supermodel in a wet towel, looking like some kind of postmodern work of art.
"I can't believe it," JC admitted, "but that's pretty classy."
Chris slumped down next to JC and started to laugh. "Okay, he got me a good one."
Joey was snapping polaroids of Lance. Lance's towel was slipping, but he was too busy strutting to notice. Joey was noticing, though.
JC couldn't wait until they played it again.