by Lois Lane
For Wax, who first planted the idea of punktastic Chris in our heads.
They liked it when photoshoots were fun, when they were more than just a muted backdrop in a loft with echoes and big windows open to the city they probably wouldn't see much of. Sometimes, the photographer didn't even know their names, yelling for "the one with the hair" to move over this way, and "the pretty guy with the hips" to crouch down by "the kid with the really big nose." It didn't do much for their ego, not just to be unknown, but to have their flaws pointed out in a snotty French or Italian accent.
So when the T.V. Guide called them in, giving them each their own cover, and promising cool ideas like glam-rock costumes, glittery makeup and torn clothes, they could hardly wait. Joey went around singing KISS songs, doing the Gene-Simmons-tongue-thing in everyone's faces. He only stopped when JC tackled him, pinched his face between his hands, and bit him.
"Thuck!" Joey said, his tongue sticking out, patterned by JC's front teeth.
Chris, sitting nearby, burying laughter behind a comic book. "That's sick, man," he said.
"Yeah," said JC, licking his lips. "Kinda, yeah?"
"Thuckin' bathard," said Joey.
Lance was worried about the shoot, the only one who was.
"They always make me look pretty," he said to Justin, while they watched 'Beaches' on cable in a hotel room. When they "You are pretty," Justin said.
"Fuck off, no I'm not. I'm a guy."
"Guys aren't pretty."
Justin looked at him. "You're pretty, Lance."
"Fuck," said Lance, passing Justin the Kleenex, because the movie was almost over and he was about to cry.
When the day of the shoot came, though, and Lance saw the Urban Decay makeup case, and the clothes from Antique Boutique and Religious Sex on St Mark's Place, he knew they wouldn't make him look pretty. He'd be wearing leather pants, for one thing.
Justin ended up freaking out a little, when they were done with him. The fishnet top and thick glitter smeared on one eye made him look a little less like their lead singer and more like one of their fans. JC called him Mary Sue.
"Shut up," Justin said.
"All that's missing is a baby-blue halter top," said Joey.
Lance fluttered his hands at Justin's face. "We should get a marker and write 'I Heart JC' on his forehead."
Joey decided that Lance did not look pretty. He looked sexy, and mean. They'd faked a bruise under his eye, and a black tear. He had on a Zeppelin shirt, which was funny because Lance had once complained about never having heard "Stairway To Heaven," and Chris had sung it to him. Lance hated "Stairway". But the shirt looked good.
In the wig and cowboy hat, and see-through shirt, Joey looked a little like a misplaced cowboy from Mars, and he knew it, so he ran around crowing "why-yi-yi-yippee-yi-yay" at JC, who was not letting the makeup artist put any shit on his face. He wore a white shirt and red jeans, because Helen and Nic decided it was a good idea for him to "dress down" for that shoot.
"I promise not to wear anything with laces," JC'd said to them, on the phone a week before the shoot. He nodded. "No feathers, right. Nothing that reveals my feet, either. Okay."
Joey was explaining to Lance how he should put baby-powder on his legs before wearing leather pants under the hot lights, and Justin was picking glitter out of his eye, and JC was arguing with Nic on the phone again, when Chris came out and everyone shut up.
Maybe it was the spiked collar, or the eyeliner, or the single, white-trash braid glued to the back of his hair. Joey thought it might be the mesh sweater, and the white wifebeater under it, but Lance decided it was the whole thing together that made Chris really, really hot. All of a sudden, like.
He was quiet, too, which was weird, and as he crossed the room in front of Lance, he gave him a smirk. It wasn't like Lance hadn't seen that smile a million times before, but it was after, now. After Lance had seen him in the eye makeup.
They got in front of the cameras, jockeying for position, being jostled and shifted by assistants, and then ushered aside when it was time for the portraits. When it was Chris' turn, he did a few calm, almost serene poses. The other guys watched, from folding chairs by the window.
"He's really pretty," said Justin, suddenly.
"That's Chris, man," JC said. "Chris can't be pretty."
"Fuck that." Lance spoke up. "He's beautiful."
Joey just stared.
Then the photographer asked Chris to "vamp it up, a little," so Chris turned toward the camera and growled. A real, deep, guttural noise, opened up his mouth, snarled right into the lens. The photographer shouted approval, and Chris kept going, snorting and scowling like the ghost of Sid Vicious had crawled under his skin.
When he stuck out his tongue, Joey thought about how it might look pierced, and then he wondered how it would feel against his skin.
Three weeks later, Justin noticed Chris was wearing a dog collar, a real one. The spikes were hard and pointy, and it barely showed under his sweater, but it was there.
"Dude." He pointed at Chris' neck.
"What?" asked Chris. "Oh. Um, yeah." He reached up and fingered the collar for a moment, running a thumb over one of the spikes. "I don't know, it's kinda cool."
Justin nodded, slowly, watching Chris' hand move. "Yeah. It's cool."
"Yeah. Thanks." Chris tugged at the collar, smiled at him and went into the Quiet Room, to find Joey.
Watching him go, Justin licked his lips.
Ten minutes before a show, Chris came out into the hall where JC already was, rolling around on a Razor scooter. "Hey."
"Hey," said JC. His eyes flicked once over the dark, exaggerated markings under Chris' right eye. Then he noticed that there was more makeup than usual. "You wearing eyeliner?"
"Yup," said Chris. "Sonjia thought it looked pretty good. She saw TV Guide."
"I like it." Chris adjusted one of his gloves. "She said it made my eyes look bigger."
"It does," said JC. He looked at him again, and Chris' eyes were suddenly hot and bright, like JC was already on stage.
Chris got his tongue pierced.
Joey found out when they stopped at a roadside Hardee's somewhere between Memphis and St. Louis. It was three in the morning, and Paul the driver needed coffee. The others were asleep, so Joey and Chris went in and got sandwiches, fries and Cokes. They weren't hungry, it was food for boredom.
It was when Chris bit a French fry, and chewed for a moment, that he winced and swore. "What?" asked Joey, watching Chris' throat ripple with eager swallows of icy Coke.
"The salt," said Chris. "It hurt." As he spoke, Joey saw a flash of silver in Chris' mouth.
"You got it pierced?" Joey asked. "When?"
"New Orleans." Chris took a delicate bite of his chicken sandwich, chewed carefully. "When you and Lance went to see Better Than Ezra? I went with Ed, to this place on Decatur."
"Ed? He's a rigger, right?" Joey nibbled on a French fry, licked the salt from his fingers. Imagined the sting of it against the open wound in Chris' mouth.
Chris nodded. "Cool guy, yeah. He got, like, his millionth tattoo. He's a walking canvas." He snickered, suddenly. "I click when I talk," he said. "Can you hear that?"
"Yeah," said Joey. He was suddenly, ravenously hungry, but when he looked at the sandwich in his hand, he didn't think it was for that.
Lance did something about it. He knew the other guys looked at Chris and wondered, and he did, too, but when Chris got on the bus in a ripped-up New York Dolls shirt, with purple hair, Lance put his book down and got up. Went over to Chris.
Chris looked up, tossed the bag he was carrying onto an empty seat. "What's up?" he replied.
"You look good," said Lance. "I like the hair."
"Hey, thanks," Chris said, smiling and running one hand up through black-and-purple. "Did it last night."
"Cool," said Lance, and he followed Chris' fingers with his own, twisting the hair between his fingers, letting them curl at the back of Chris' neck. He felt the collar, gave it a quick yank. "Got a leash to go with that?" he asked.
"Um," said Chris, and then he didn't say anything else. Lance leaned forward, licked at the corner of Chris' mouth until it opened, and he could slide his tongue inside. He tasted coffee, some kind of chocolate, and cold metal. He backed off, laughing softly.
"I just wanted to know if Joey was shitting me," he said, letting Chris go. "About the piercing."
He didn't know how it happened. They were playing pool in the Toy Room. Joey had looked over, and he'd seen that Chris had gotten a third earring in his left ear.
And then they were in a locked dressing room, naked and twist-turned upside down on a couch, sucking each other off.
The tongue stud felt amazing when Chris licked the underside of his cock.
Chris sang while he dressed, and it was usually stupid showtunes, Barry Manilow or the Judds. Stuff he knew would piss people off.
Justin came in looking for socks and found Chris with his back to him, hunched over and tying his shoes. Between his shoulderblades was a recent tattoo, a snake eating its tail. Justin thought he knew what it were called, but he couldn't think of it. He couldn't think.
Chris was singing The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Suck My Kiss."
When his shirt was on the floor, and Chris' pants were undone and open, and they were sprawled across the dressing room couch and he had his teeth at Chris' back, tracing the tattoo with one finger Justin remembered.
It was an ouroboros.
JC picked up Chris' bag by mistake, and he didn't realize it until he was in his room. He started unpacking, looking for the Right Guard, when he found the vibrator, not even hidden but right up at the top, under a pair of boxers.
At first, he didn't want to touch it, because he didn't know where it'd been. It was big, thick and made of black rubbery stuff, and when he was brave enough to turn it on, it sounded like the stealth bomber. He turned it off.
The luggage tag had a "4" on it. That was Chris' number. JC zipped the bag up again and went down the hall.
"Yours," he said, when Chris answered the door. JC held up the bag. "I thought it was mine, but then I, um. Found out it wasn't."
"You opened it?" Chris asked, but he didn't sound nervous. JC nodded.
"Yeah, I thought it was mine, and I was looking for something, and. Um." He looked at the carpet.
Chris laughed. "You found Big Ed."
"Yep." He nodded JC inside, and closed the door. "Better'n your right hand, lemme tell you. Women shouldn't put up with men's shit at all, these things are better."
"I don't think they could be better," said JC. He took the bag from Chris and tossed it on the floor. "It's just plastic."
"Better than nothing," Chris said, reaching up for JC's shirt buttons as he stepped closer.
"I'm better," JC said, and he licked at Chris' ear. There was a new little round ball stuck in the upper cartilage.
Later, JC thought maybe the vibrator wasn't such a bad thing, but only because Chris knew how to use it.
Lance was last, because he was busy most of the time, and the other guys were impatient. They didn't look at Chris the way they used to, anymore. Now it was knowing smiles, slaps on the ass and loose kisses in passing. Lance didn't say anything about it. He'd get around to it, eventually.
They were in New York City, and Chris had gone out alone to see some band at CBGB. Triple-J had gone to a club on Bleecker called Life, and Lance stayed in. He liked to sit in the middle of his huge bed, order ridiculously-overpriced room service, and jack off to pay-per-porn. It wasn't pathetic at all. It was relaxing.
With his hand on his cock and his head thrown back, Lance should have been startled by the door opening, but he wasn't. He was coming, in a series of short little breaths and curses, and whoever it was who'd burst in waited politely until he was through, before coughing gently, to announce his presence.
"Sorry," said Chris, averting his eyes as Lance reached for the Kleenex. "I'm, um. Sorry, dude."
"It's okay, I guess." Lance tucked himself back into his shorts and pulled the blankets up around him, a shield from embarrassment. "You're back early, is all."
"Yeah." Chris passed by the bed, going into the bathroom, and Lance smelled cigarette smoke, and beer. "Got bored, band was shit, and the bouncer was a fuckin' retard."
"He give you shit or something?" asked Lance, flexing his left hand, to keep it from cramping.
"Yeah," said Chris. His voice bounced around the tiled bathroom walls, and there was splashing. "But it's all good, I just." He came out, face glistening west, eyelashes sticking out like spider legs. "I wanted to come back, see what's going on here."
"You saw what's going on, here," Lance said, smirking, gesturing toward his crotch. "Unfortunately."
"Yep." Chris sat on the edge of the bed. "And the funny thing? You make the same face that you do when we do the flip, you know? When you have to lift me over? Your face scrunches up just like that when you, um. You know."
Lance nodded, and he wondered why he didn't realize before that Chris hadn't been waiting for him to finish, he'd been watching him come. Maybe wishing it was for him, not knowing that in Lance's mind, it was.
Lance stuck his tongue out at him, and Chris' breath hitched at the sight of a little silver ball, glinting like a pearl in the light.
On the bus a week later, Joey heard a funny noise.
"What's that?" he asked. Justin looked up from the paper.
They listened. "I hear it," JC said. It was almost inaudible, but definitely there. A ticking sound.
"It's nothing," said Justin. "Just some part of the bus. This thing's probably about to explode, or something. Whatever." He went back to the comics, and Joey and JC played cards again.
And maybe he was nuts, but Joey thought the clicking noise he heard sounded like metal hitting metal, and that it was coming from Lance's bunk.