Sleep, Interrupted
by Elina

Joey startled awake at the shrill beeping of his alarm clock. He sat up and blinked owlishly at the digital display across the room until he regained enough brain power to realize why he couldnít focus on the numbers. Reaching behind him, he fumbled for his glasses on the bedside table, avoiding by instinct the hazardous substances that had collected on the tops of plates and insides of cups. He was glad for the return of normal vision as he retrieved the silver wire-frames and slid them on. Waking up this early in the morning was hard enough without being half-blind in the bargain. And now that he could see, he took a closer look at the - "Aw, shit."

He crawled clumsily toward the clock. Heíd forgotten to turn the damn alarm off. Rehearsal had been yesterday; today was supposed to be his day off. Damn it. He leaned across the gap between the bed and the dresser and slapped off the alarm - taking sleepy, vicious pleasure in smacking it extra hard.

Once the room returned to blissful silence, Joey sat back on his heels, contemplating his options glumly. It seemed almost blasphemous to get up this early on his one day off before the tour started, but he knew if he lay back down now he wouldnít get any true sleep. He would toss and turn; and if he did somehow manage to slip away, he would have odd, disconcerting dreams, followed by a nagging headache. He sighed, bowed to the inevitable, unfolded himself from the bed and padded to the door. He didnít bother to get more dressed than his normal worn-out T-shirt and boxers. The only person who might see him was Chris, and he wouldnít care one way or the other.

Pushing his glasses further up his nose with one hand, scratching his stomach with the other, Joey yawned mightily and made his way downstairs. He thought there might be some O.J. stashed in the fridge, unless it had gone the way of the science experiments next to his bed. Still scratching absently, Joey rounded the bend in the stairs, intent on the kitchen until flickering light from the living room caught his eye. He stopped in his tracks.

"Chris?" The slouching man on the couch jerked his head in acknowledgment. "What are you doing up, man? Itís oh-dark-thirty. Itís the ass-crack of dawn. Why are you out of bed?" As Joey moved closer to the couch, he tried to see past the TV glare that bounced off Chrisí lenses. When he caught a look at that thousand-yard stare, he felt a suspicion there was more at work here than an insatiable urge to watch - Joey turned to check out the TV - "My Happy Pony."

On mute.

Hell, just the fact that Chris was wearing his glasses, instead of putting in contacts, was a clue something was up. He usually felt more comfortable with lenses in his eyes, not in front of them. Not like he has some childhood trauma from being forced to wear old-lady glasses or anything, Joey thought wryly. Even so, it was rare to see him in his black wire-frames, especially since he was - sort of - watching TV. As Joey had found out during a game of "This Bus Trip Is Endless So Letís Tell Every Little Thing About Ourselves," Chris didnít actually keep his prescription current on his glasses - another reason he usually wore contacts, even on the bus. Joey always thought that was a stupid reason, frankly, since his own contacts bothered him after just a few hours, and he was much more comfortable in his glasses. But it was just Chris being Chris, and it didnít really mean much anyway, right? It just made him less likely to be curled up on a friendís couch in pajamas and glasses. Except that now he was. Well, not in pajamas, exactly, more like a gray T-shirt and black sweats; and not curled up either, slouching instead in the middle of the couch; but definitely in glasses.

Joeyís sleepy brain processed this as quickly as it could, making its usual detour into wishing Chris would wear his glasses more often. Because, when you got right down to it, he looked pretty cute in them. This pair, especially, did right by him. He looked ... professorial. Joey bit back his grin as he plopped down on the couch and tried to sound casual. "Whatís up, Chris?" Chris shifted so Joey could get comfortable, then sat forward, elbows on his legs, hands dangling between his knees. He stared at a spot on the floor below him and shrugged, a listless twitch of the shoulders.

"Couldnít sleep."

"But ... you were asleep when I went to bed. I know you were. I heard you snoring from out in the hall. Dude, have you ever thought about using those little breathing strips?" Chris smiled wanly, but didnít turn to look at Joey. "Just a suggestion. So what disturbed your beauty rest?"

"Oh, I had a dream ... " Chris swallowed hard. "I dreamed I was chasing Dani but I couldnít catch her. And then I was chasing you ... all, all of you, and I couldnít catch you either." He snorted. "It doesnít seem so bad, now that Iím awake. But - Iíve been trying not to think about her, trying to move on. Having her just turn up in my brain like that really threw me for a loop." He paused and closed his eyes for a moment before he wrapped his arms around himself and continued, "And then, when you guys kept walking further and further away, it felt like when I was a kid, and all the cool kids on the playground ignored me. Lonely, you know?" He finally met Joeyís scrutiny, face shadowed with sadness.

"Yeah, I know," Joey replied as he wrapped an arm around Chrisí shoulders. "But you donít have to worry about that. No way are you getting out of our sight long enough to have to catch up." He smiled, but noticed neither of them mentioned the deeper implications of the dream. It didnít seem like the time to discuss Chrisí fears about the bandís future, though, or his future with the band. Instead, Joey offered all the comfort and support he could. "And as for Dani ... you donít have to chase her anymore, remember? You got yourself out of that crap when you broke up with her. Means you donít have to drive yourself crazy over her, man." He jostled Chrisí shoulder affectionately.

Chris chuckled weakly and relaxed against Joeyís side. "I know, I know. But sheís a hard chick to get out of the system, you know?" A bit of the usual spark returned to his eyes. "Especially when you guys wonít let me have any fuuuun," he whined.

Joey grinned. "Thatís because your idea of fun usually gets us banned from hotels and/or radio stations, and we canít afford that." Trying to offset his chiding tone, he rubbed Chrisí arm. As Chris sank further into the curve of Joeyís shoulder, Joey remembered he hadnít gotten much sleep last night. He settled back against the arm of the couch, trying to shift his body so both resting and being rested upon would be more comfortable. For his part, Chris willingly let himself be stretched out next to Joey.

A few minutes passed quietly, each man lost in his thoughts, Joey petting Chris absently. Suddenly he was distracted from his musings by a deep snuffle. Looking down quickly, he realized Chris had finally managed to go back to sleep: firmly ensconced on Joeyís chest, glasses on his face. Joey couldnít help smiling affectionately at the picture of little-boy charm Chris made, but he knew sleeping in glasses would ultimately be uncomfortable. He hooked a finger around the black wire bridge and slid them gently off Chrisí face. He set them on the table in front of the couch, then realized his own dilemma: how to disentangle himself from Chris without waking him up.

He made a couple of futile attempts to shift Chris off him, but stopped because the other man twitched and grumbled as if he were about to wake up. Finally, he gave up and abandoned himself to the lethargy that had been stealing over him since his best friend decided to use him as a pillow. He sighed, slipped off his own glasses, set them on the table next to Chrisí, and settled down for a nap. A smile drifted across his lips as he decided he liked the feel of warm Chris curled up in his arms, draped across his body like a blanket; then drifted away as he succumbed to slumber.

Minutes later, two light snores floated through the quiet room. The TV flicked its cool glow over the forms on the couch as they slept on, oblivious.

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