Baby I Would Take Good Care Of You
by Elina

For Missi and JC, on their respective birthdays, with love.

Chris has - not old man eyes, because you learned a while ago he's sensitive about stuff like that - but wise eyes, liquid eyes full of bitterness and knowledge.

Most of the time you don't know what to do to lighten those eyes, to banish the cynicism and replace it with his old love for life, but every once in a while you stumble on something that works. You crack a joke that's actually funny for once, or you write a harmony line tailored to let him show off, or you insist that he be in the front of a picture when the photographer wanted to shove him in the back, and he looks at you with gratitude and - if you've done it just right - love in his eyes.

Lots of times your efforts go awry, and you're left with half-hearted thanks and a rueful clap on the shoulder. He promises you he doesn't mind when things don't work out the way you planned them, he appreciates the effort, but nothing he says makes up for the loss of light in his eyes. So you buckle down, and try harder the next time, and vow he'll have everything he deserves, if it kills you to get it for him.

So you raise a stink when the terms of the rider aren't met, even though the only thing missing is the bowl of Peanut M&M's, because out of all the wacky things on that list, it's the only thing he truly and seriously wanted. You keep after Wade to work out some choreography that won't require putting a knee surgeon on retainer. You make him see the crew medic, even when he says his wrist is fine, because he's cradling it like a wounded kitten and fighting back tears, and you feel vindicated when the doctor pulls you aside and thanks you for making him do it, because you might have had a serious situation on your hands otherwise.

You make sure he has time with the fans, but not too much, because they take a lot out of him. It's not their fault - all they want is an autograph: "To Missi, Keep smiling! Love, Chris" - but he feels like it's his duty to give them something more, something to make their hours waiting on line worthwhile. He doesn't get that just his presence, just the act of breathing the same oxygen as them for a while, is a bigger gift than some of them will ever receive. So you drop a casual word in Dani's ear, or whoever is responsible for him that day, to make sure he gets out of there on time. If they ask you why, you smile self-deprecatingly and confide that you really need to work on a couple of parts before the next show, and Chris said he would help you out, so you're really just being selfish.

Because he's your brother, and your best friend, and you've known him a million years, and this whole thing was his idea and he had to talk you into it; and even though his smile is rarer and rarer these days, and more and more it comes with a bitter twist to his lips, he's still the same boy - man - you loved back then, and have loved in every different way and shape ever since.

He's Chris, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

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