you make sure my pretty baby is sittin' right there on my lap
"I wanna drive."
"You always drive."
"So why am I not driving now?"
"You were too hung over." Chris' voice picked up the whiny singsong of Justin's. "You didn't see why we had to leave so fucking early. You just wanted to sleep."
"I can't sleep. It's too hot. I want to drive."
"Well, tough shit. You should have thought of that earlier."
"Seriously, Chris. Pull over. I want to drive."
"Seriously, no way. I'm not pulling over."
"You're telling me you're not gonna let me drive?"
"And they said going to bus school would make you stupid."
"Fuck you," Justin said, but he sounded more petulant than angry. Chris shot a look at him. The kid really had been painfully hung over when he got up, whimpering and begging to be left alone to sleep. Chris would have felt sorry for him, if he hadn't known that all that pathetic pleading would turn to whining and bitchiness in a few hours.
Justin rolled down the window and put a hand on the roof of the car, then pulled it back, cursing. "It's hot out," he said, looking at Chris accusingly.
"I know," Chris said.
"Well, turn on the air, dumbass."
"Bad news, baby," Chris said. "No air conditioning in this car."
"What the fuck?" It was worth spending the morning sweating just to see the look on Justin's face. "Why are we driving this piece of shit anyway?"
"Best they could do on short notice. You said you didn't care, anyway. You said you didn't care what they got as long as everybody left you the fuck alone for a few hours."
"Fuuuck," Justin said, letting the word stretch and hang in the air. "Why didn't you make them get something better? I still don't see why the bus just couldn't have waited. It's not like they can start without us when they get there."
"I don't mind the car - I've driven worse in my day. And the bus couldn't wait because everyone else was ready to go."
"C could have just gotten on the other bus. It's stupid."
"Well, if you had gotten up, maybe you could have made all these arrangements. But you didn't, and C did, and he didn't want to get on the other bus. And so you're in the hot stupid piece of shit car, and he's on the nice comfortable air-conditioned bus, because he didn't stay out all night. He went to bed on time last night, like a good little pop star."
"Poor C," Justin said, smiling smugly. Then he banged a hand on the side of the car. "And poor me."
"No," Chris said, "no. Poor me."
"Well, you didn't have to come. Nobody made you."
"That's right," Chris said. "It's my own damn fault. I thought it might be fun to get off the bus and drive for the day. Just the two of us. I thought it might be - what is it you're always bitching about - romantic." Justin made a rude noise. "Yeah, well, guess I learned my lesson."
Justin grunted and closed his eyes, yawning and slumping down in his seat. Chris glanced over at him. He would have known Justin was hung over even if he hadn't watched him drink all night, even if he hadn't heard him complain all morning. When Chris was recovering from a night of excess, he put on his oldest, softest sweats, something he'd worn so often he barely felt it on his body anymore. Justin, however, seemed to feel that if he dressed in someone else's clothes, the hangover wouldn't be able to find him. Today he'd pulled on an old yellow T-shirt Chris had stopped wearing ages ago, threadbare and ripped at the hem. As Justin shifted and mumbled, Chris watched the shirt tighten across Justin's shoulders and lift up above his navel to expose several inches of taut golden skin. The jeans he was wearing were JC's, probably, although Chris doubted even JC wore them much anymore. His eyes skimmed over Justin's stomach, lingering on the shadowed vee where Justin had undone the top buttons and folded the waistband over. Justin's hand was tucked inside, but a faint dusting of curls peeked out from beneath his palm. There was no way he was wearing underwear.
"Yo, you're in the wrong lane," Justin said, not bothering to hide a laugh.
Chris swore and swerved back onto his side of the road. He shot another look at Justin. The kid might think his Lolita act was impressive, but there was a point where tight clothes shot past sexy straight into ridiculous. He opened his mouth to say so. Then Justin lifted one foot up and braced his sneaker against the dashboard, and a rip just below his ass widened, and Chris saw that yes indeed, Justin wasn't wearing underwear. Chris shut his mouth and pulled back into the right lane again.
They drove for a few miles in silence. A dusty wind blew against Chris' face, too dry to do anything but remind Chris of just how hot he was. Justin bent down and reached toward the radio. Chris slapped his hand away.
"When you drive, you can pick the station," Chris said.
"You're gonna let me drive?" Justin said hopefully.
"Fucker," Justin muttered. He brought his other foot up and slid further down in his seat, letting his head roll against the half-open window. When Chris looked back over, he was chewing thoughtfully on his lip.
"Hey!" Justin said after a few more miles. "Hey, there's a gas station. Pull over."
"I'm not falling for that," Chris said.
"Come on. I'm thirsty. I wanna get a coke or something."
"I'm not pulling over."
"Christ. Look, I just want something to drink, all right? I promise, I'll grab something quick and get right back in. You can leave the car in idle the whole time."
"I promised Lonnie that if he let us drive, I wouldn't stop for anything. No drinks, no food, no bars, no chance to get mobbed or into trouble."
"Oh, and you always do what Lonnie says, right? Who's a good little pop star now? I remember when you wouldn't let people order you around."
"Hey," Chris said mildly, "it's not often I can make Lonnie happy and piss you off at the same time. I've got to take these opportunities when they come."
Justin flipped him off. "Come on, I just want a coke. We're in the middle of nowhere - there's no one here to mob me, and I promise, I'll be a good little boy. I won't get into any trouble. Not that there's any to get into around here."
"There's trouble everywhere, if you look hard enough," Chris said. He drove past the gas station without slowing down.
Justin scuffed a shoe against the windshield. "I hate you," he said.
"Oh, so that's what you were yelling last night," Chris said. "It was hard to tell, what with your face shoved into the mattress and all."
"I hate you," Justin said again. Chris twisted and felt around in the back seat for his bag. He tossed a bottle of water into Justin's lap. Justin opened it and took a long drink, then wiped his mouth on his arm. "It's warm," he said, but when Chris looked over at him, he met Chris' eyes and smiled. Chris smiled back. Justin handed him the bottle and closed his eyes.
It was fifteen or twenty minutes, five songs on the radio, before Justin opened his eyes and sat up. "How much longer?"
"Couple hours," Chris said. "Maybe three."
"We're not stopping for three hours?" Justin said.
"Nobody can say you don't catch on quick."
"Come on, lemme drive."
"I take that back," Chris said.
"Come on," Justin said. He stretched and groaned irritably, then scrubbed a hand through his hair. "I can't just sit here for three hours."
"I don't know what to tell you," Chris said. "Because you're gonna."
"I can't. Seriously, Chris, I feel kind of weird. Funny."
"Well, that's what drinking a fifth of vodka will do to you."
"No, not hung over funny." Chris raised an eyebrow and Justin flushed. "I mean, yeah, I'm hung over, but that's not what I mean. I feel all weird. Hot, and edgy, and. Like my skin's prickly, and too tight. Restless, I guess. Like I wanna - I don't know, get in a fight or something." Chris snorted. "What?"
"Like you've ever been in a fight in your life. Like you've ever hit anyone, or been hit for real."
"Well, not a fight, I guess. Not a real one. But Joey hit me that one time when I made Lance cry. Remember?"
"That doesn't count."
"Why? Joey's a big guy."
"Joey's a big guy who's really into musical theatre. He's never hit anyone for real in his life either. And he certainly wouldn't hit you for real. Besides, as I remember, he smacked you open-handed. Not the same thing at all."
"Hey, it hurt." Chris looked at him. "It did."
"Yeah, well, if anyone ever hit you for real, you'd know the difference."
Justin was quiet for a minute. Chris glanced over at him, his forehead wrinkled in thought, the arid wind shivering through his curls. When Chris looked away, Justin said in a different voice, "What's it like?"
Chris didn't have to ask what he meant. "It's stupid, and it hurts a lot worse than you think it will. Every time. And it's humiliating, walking around with people asking you what the other guy looks like when usually he looks perfectly fine and like he's laughing at you. But mostly, it hurts."
"There's got to be more to it than that."
"Yeah, well, you try it sometime and tell me."
"No, I mean, you used to get in fights all the time."
"I used to do a lot of stupid things."
"Yeah, but never twice. There must have been something you. I don't know, something you li -" Chris looked evenly at Justin until he swallowed his last words. "I mean, you must've had a reason. To keep doing it. You're not a stupid guy."
Chris watched the road slide easily under them, flat and black as oil. He watched the horizon advancing relentlessly in front of them. When he finally looked back over, Justin was picking at a patch on his knee, eyes down. "Sometimes you'll be somewhere, a bar or something," Chris said softly. "Sometimes it's someplace you've been a million times, where they know what you drink and have it waiting by the time you're all the way through the door. Sometimes you've never been there before. Either way, when it happens, the place is always full of strangers." Justin looked up, his eyes dark, and Chris turned toward the road again. He didn't stop talking. "It's like, when it's gonna happen, you can almost see the air around you, hazy and heavy with it, seeping through your skin, into your muscles, your veins. Even though the air's thick, you see better somehow, clearer. Things look sharper, brighter. You know, you just know, something's gonna happen. Something's gonna happen. And whatever it is that's gonna happen, you might not know exactly what it is, but you know it's not gonna be good. And you're thinking, I'm gonna drink up quick, get out of here, because something's gonna happen and I don't want it to happen to me. But at the same time you're doing that, there's that thing in the air, that thing that's in your blood now, just, just singing. Please, please, let it happen to me."
Chris' glance darted over and caught Justin with his mouth open, panting a little, his eyes wide. Sweat shimmered across his stomach where the shirt left it bare.
"And then it happens," Chris said. He heard Justin's breath rasp in his throat. "Then it happens, and it's like something outside you, something bigger than you, just picks you up for a minute, picks you up and shakes you up. And that thing in your blood isn't singing anymore, it's screaming, trying to rip its way out of you. And you're doing whatever you can to let it, swinging and yelling and biting even, swearing. And it's like for that minute, that second, that hour, however long it lasts, it's like you don't have to think about what you're doing, you don't have to think at all, because it's like it's not you. It's just that thing in your veins that wants to get out.
"And when it's over," he heard Justin's breath hitch again, "when it's over, everybody just kind of stands there for a minute. Dazed, a little, and you're all staring at each other, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. It's like one of those tornados you hear about sometimes, that picks up the cow and the trailer and shit and puts them back down, just the way they were, only a hundred miles away. And you can never really explain it after, to the police or the hospital or even just to your friend the next day who's all, what the fuck were you thinking? Because it was that thing in your blood, it wasn't you. Only it was you, because that thing in your blood, it's part of you now. No matter how much you fuck someone up, no matter how much you fuck yourself up trying to get rid of it, it never leaves, not all of it. It's always in you, just a little. It's part of you."
Chris looked back over at Justin again, at his wet open mouth, at the dark heavy line of lashes shielding his eyes. Chris laughed a little. It sounded harsh and brittle in his ears. "It's kind of. It sounds kind of crazy, I guess."
"No," Justin said, "no. I've. Not about fighting, but I've. About other things. About another thing."
"Yeah," Chris said slowly. He glanced back over at Justin. He still couldn't see Justin's eyes, but Justin's lips had curved delicately in a small smile.
"I've felt that," Justin said.
"Yeah, I guess maybe you have."
Chris concentrated once again on the road. Justin was silent beside him, but not still. Chris could feel the air between them strumming with something, something he couldn't name, or didn't want to. He watched the broken white line quiver in the heat. He watched the miles click over on the odometer. When he finally looked back at Justin, Justin had raised a hand to his mouth, the pad of his thumb caught between his teeth.
It was a gesture Chris knew very well. He could remember when Justin picked it up, if that was a phrase that could be used for something that had been so carefully coached. Back in the very early days, almost the first days, Lou had taught it to Justin. Chris had watched. Justin had bitten his nails back then, not a lot, he hadn't worried them to the quick like JC. He just nibbled at them sometimes, when he was bored, or nervous, the way a kid does. Everyone told him to quit, but Justin kept forgetting. Chris had knocked Justin's hands away from his mouth a few times, but he couldn't bear the hurt look in Justin's eyes when he did it. Justin's mom had tried putting soap under his nails, but that just made him spit whenever he bit them. Lou had bitched about how ugly it looked in photos, although they didn't have many photo shoots then, and the ones they did have certainly didn't focus on Justin's hands.
Finally Lou had grabbed Justin's wrist when Justin was gnawing at his thumbnail during a break in rehearsal. Justin blushed and stammered apologies while Lou spread Justin's fingers out and studied them thoughtfully. Chris had stretched his own hand out at the same time. Even back then Justin's hands had been larger than his. Lou had waited until Justin's stuttering faded away, then said something to him, too low for Chris to hear. Justin smiled at him and lifted his hand back to his mouth. Lou had turned Justin's hand until the soft flesh of his thumb slid between his teeth instead of his nail. Chris had watched Justin look eagerly at Lou, red lips pursed around his thumb. He had watched Lou smile back.
Chris thought he had never seen anything so obscene in his life.
When Justin had pulled his thumb from his mouth, it made a wet sucking sound. Lou laughed, and after a moment Justin had laughed too. Chris had watched and felt his stomach turn over with nausea.
Lou's lesson had taken; Justin never bit his nails again. Chris had tried to talk to Justin about it, but Justin had just looked up at him uncomprehendingly. It was long enough ago that Justin was still looking up at Chris. Justin had fidgeted under Chris' gaze and his thumb had gravitated to his mouth. Chris had slapped it away. Chris' eyes had moved from the dark red tooth marks on Justin's thumb to his confused face. Chris hadn't been able to bring himself to shatter that confusion, a stronger shield than any knowledge could be.
That was a long time ago.
Now Chris watched from the corner of his eye as Justin's mouth worked around the tender skin of his thumb, the perfectly manicured nail gleaming between Justin's lips. Chris wasn't sure if he was more disturbed by the kiddie porn origin of the gesture or by the fact that Justin still couldn't stop doing it, years after he was old enough to know just what it looked like.
Justin glanced up and caught Chris' eye. Before Chris could turn back to the road, Justin smiled slowly, his thumb sliding from his lips with a soft wet sound. Chris felt his stomach turn over with something darker and more desperate than nausea.
Chris felt Justin's hand on his thigh, pressing hard as if his whole weight was behind it. When he glanced down, Justin was on his knees, stretching across the gear panel. He hunched over Chris' lap.
"Don't," Chris said sharply.
"I'm bored," Justin said breathily. He didn't move. "I wanna."
"Did you hear me?" Chris said. "Don't. This'd be one fucking difficult accident to explain."
"There hasn't been anything on this road for miles. Who're you gonna get in an accident with?"
"Justin," Chris said. "I said no. I'm driving."
"Then pull over," Justin said. He lowered his head and licked at the buttons of Chris' jeans.
"I already said I'm not pulling over till we get there," Chris said. Without looking down, he dropped his hand to Justin's forehead and pushed him away hard. Justin swore when his head cracked against the steering wheel, and Chris had to let go of him to keep the car from swerving.
"Then drive," Justin whispered, and pulled the top two buttons of Chris' jeans open with his teeth.
"Justin," Chris growled, and Justin turned his head so his cheek rested against Chris' thigh.
"What?" Justin said. "You really want me to stop?"
Chris looked down again, saw Justin's dark hot eyes, his slack wet mouth. He slid a hand over the shining line of Justin's back, damp with sweat, until he cupped Justin's ass, half bare in his ridiculously tight jeans. Justin twisted his hips encouragingly and opened Chris' pants. Chris sighed. How much harder could it be, really, than trying to drive with Justin half-naked and squirming in his lap?
"Oh, fuck it," Chris said, and Justin's mouth closed around him.
It was a lot harder, Chris thought as he clutched the steering wheel with both hands and stared at the road spinning crazily under him. Between the steering wheel and Chris' body, Justin didn't have much room to maneuver, didn't have much room to do anything, really, but suck, which he did, hard, until Chris' knuckles were white with the effort of steering straight and his heartbeat was pounding in his ears. Justin turned his head a little from side to side, rucking Chris' shirt up over his stomach, curls brushing restlessly against Chris' hot skin. Chris tangled a hand in Justin's hair and held his head still. Justin whimpered for a moment, then moaned, his mouth sinking further down on Chris' cock, and Chris howled and gave up and hit the brakes.
Chris tipped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, one hand still on the steering wheel, the other on Justin's head. Justin pushed up against it gently, then harder, until Chris let go. He felt Justin's fingers smoothing his shirt back down, and then Justin's tongue running roughly over his cock before he tucked it back into Chris' pants and buttoned him up. When Chris opened his eyes, Justin was sitting back on his heels, licking his fingers.
"Oh, you bitch," Chris said, his voice shakier than he would have liked.
Justin smiled brightly at him. "What? I asked if you wanted me to stop." He leaned over Chris again, put his hand back on Chris' thigh. He kissed Chris hard, his mouth open. When he pulled away, Chris was gasping and the keys were in Justin's hand.
"Oh, you bitch," Chris said again and grabbed Justin's wrist. He managed to jerk the keys loose, but Justin climbed on top of him, pinning one of Chris' arms against the seat, and Chris could tell how it was going to go. He tossed the keys through the open passenger side window. Justin swore happily and leapt out of the car after them. Chris lifted himself over the gear panel and watched Justin's ass as he searched through the tall grass for the keys.
Justin returned to the car jingling the keys triumphantly and singing softly, a song whose verses and chorus seemed solely comprised of the words, "I rock." Chris watched him move the seat back and flip the visor down. Grinning into the sunlight, singing his stupid song, Justin looked almost exactly the same as he had at fifteen, Chris thought, except for his lips, still reddened and slightly swollen from Chris' cock.
"I'm going to hell," Chris said, slumping in his seat.
Justin's grin slid into something tighter, more knowing. "You been singing that song for years now, old man," he chuckled. "Maybe you ought to find a new one."
"I don't know what you're laughing about," Chris said. "Cause if I'm going to hell, you know you're gonna be right beside me."
Justin glanced over and caught Chris' eye. "You know it," he said softly. He smiled at Chris. "You know it."