A Rush of Blood to the Head
a pop story
by dirty diana
For Firequill in Don We Now Our Gay Apparel '04. She requested Trickyfish. Clearly. Last minute mad beta love goes to sf fan and Den, bless.
When Lance broke up with Chris, he brought lawyers. He brought two lawyers, one for himself, and one for Chris, who threatened to set his dogs on everyone.
"We should do this properly," Lance said.
Chris let them in.
The house, everyone agreed, was Chris'. So was the sprawling CD collection. Except for the country section, which was definitely Lance's. The dogs were Chris'. The cars were Lance's, except the blue Cadillac that Chris hardly ever drove.
Sabrina the maid, who had a very thick accent and a knack for getting Kahlua stains out of the carpet, was Lance's. Lance offered her to Chris.
"She likes you better," Chris said, and got up and walked out of the room.
Lance waited, and then he left the lawyers sitting in the living room, staring at each other.
Chris was in the hallway, looking at nothing. His body vibrated with the effort to stand still. Lance looked at him.
"It's for the best."
Chris' mouth twisted. "Lance?"
Lance sighed. He shifted his weight, nervously on the spotless floor, and nodded. "The movers will be here tomorrow, okay?"
Lance took his lawyers, and left.
When the moving trucks came, Chris wasn't there. Lance let them in, and supervised the packing, of his stuff, all the clothes and knick-knacks he'd collected over seven years. He left notes on coloured post-its.
Took most of the books. Didn't think you'd mind.
ad the men move the coffee table. It looks better by the window.
I think that's everything.
And then, scribbled beneath it, scratched out and then rewritten, Call me.
On the third day Justin showed up, without warning.
"Where'd your couch go?"
"It was Lance's couch," Chris answered roughly. "Haven't you ever heard of calling first?"
Justin shrugged. He was tanned brown, nearly black, his hair bleached the blondest that Chris had seen it in years. He dropped his suitcases on the hardwood floor. "I came straight from location. Have you got any money? I need to pay the taxi."
Chris got his wallet out of the hall table, and passed Justin a fifty. "Don't they have money in Marrakech?"
Justin made a face, and disappeared out the door.
He left his suitcases in the guest bedroom, decorated by Lance in hard blacks and blues. When he went back down the stairs, hopping down them two at a time, Chris and a bottle of whiskey had made themselves comfortable on the living room rug.
"You're sitting on the floor," Justin said.
"Lance took the couch," Chris pointed out.
"You said that." Justin sighed, then kicked off green Pumas, and sat down with him. "Is there something wrong with all your other chairs, though?"
"I liked the couch."
"You hated it."
"Please," Justin answered, with quiet certainty. "I was here when Lance bought it. You said that it looked like a prop in a Las Vegas stage show. You also said that he paid way too much money for it."
Chris raised his eyebrows. "What, were you taking notes?"
Justin shrugged. "That's what you said."
"I liked the couch." Chris pushed the bottle towards Justin with the heel of his palm.
"It's five in the morning in Morocco," Justin pointed out, scratching two days worth of stubble as he frowned at Chris. "I'm going to bed."
"Suit yourself." Chris poured another glass.
Justin didn't move. He sat watching Chris, with bright blue eyes. "You and Lance have broken up before," he said.
"He's never taken the couch before," Chris said pragmatically. He drank the whiskey.
"I haven't seen Lance," was the first thing that Joey said when Chris entered his bar.
"Happy to see you too," Chris answered, and tapped on the low mahogany table in front of him. "How's it going? How's business? Kids okay? Can I get a drink?"
Joey frowned at him.
"Stop looking at me like that. Timberlake's been looking at me like that for two days."
"I wonder why."
"Drink," Chris repeated.
Joey raised his hand and gestured, to a pretty woman in a short black skirt, showing a glimpse of bright red underwear whenever she bent over the low tables. "Madison will be your server for tonight.
"Whiskey. Bring the bottle. And it better be older than Madison."
"Stop looking at me like that." Chris settled in to his seat.
"I really haven't seen him."
"I didn't ask you."
"But that's why you're here. Isn't it?"
"No," Chris said. "I like this place. Haven't I ever told you that?"
"The servers are cute."
Joey sighed. He sat. He was holding a clipboard, stacked high with notes on yellow lined paper, that he tapped against his thigh as he watched Chris drink. "You enjoy the band?"
"You want me to call you a taxi?"
"Everyone's trying to get rid of me," Chris muttered.
Joey's clipboard continued moving against his thigh, tap, tap, tap.
"You really haven't seen him?"
"I really haven't," Joey answered. "Not since last week. And if you're about to ask me why he did it, I don't know the answer to that one either."
"Please. That one's easy."
Joey didn't say anything.
"Face it," Chris said. "I was his second choice."
Joey raised two dark eyebrows. He poured two fingers of whiskey into Chris' glass, then picked up the bottle and balanced it on top of his clipboard. "I'll call you a taxi."
"I was," Chris said, and drank it down.
The inside of the taxi was cool, the air close and stale. Chris opened a window, made a face against the sweeping nice breeze, and tried the first speed dial on his cell phone.
There was no answer, so he tried again.
And again, and again.
Lance's voice was a whisper across a crackling line, breathless and low with annoyance. "Chris."
"You said to call you."
"I meant during the day." A pause, to check his watch. "I meant during the day, and I also meant when you weren't drunk."
The taxi had slowed to a crawl, in highway traffic. "You're one to talk."
There was a pause. A rustle of sheets, a low deep voice, maybe two. Laughter, and then Lance's voice came through again, louder now.
"I'm going to call you when I get back to Los Angeles. Okay?"
"Fuck," Chris answered, and hung up the phone.
"Did you know there's paparazzi on your lawn?" JC asked when he arrived.
"They're with Timberlake," Chris answered. "I keep calling the police, but they keep coming back. What are you doing here?"
JC shrugged. "Justin called and said he was in town. He also said something about..."
"If this is an intervention, you can all go fuck yourselves." Chris told him.
JC looked puzzled. He stepped inside, and closed the door. "You think you need an intervention?"
"I think I need everyone to stop judging me with their eyes."
JC frowned, as the look of his confusion deepened, creasing the corners of his blue eyes. "Where's Lance?" he asked. "And what happened to your couch?"
Chris asked, "Seriously? Where have you been?"
"In the studio," JC answered earnestly. "I got this great sample, it's like this obscure Nina song with this great drum loop added, like this..." JC raised his hands, preparing to drum an example against the stucco wall.
Chris interrupted. "Lance left me."
"No, really." JC frowned. "What is this, the fourth time?"
"I stopped counting at one."
"This could be it, though. Four is a lucky number."
"Ni hao ma," Chris answered, which was the only thing that he knew how to say in Chinese.
Justin bounded down the stairs, almost knocking JC over as he grabbed him around the waist in a hug. "Dude. How's it going?"
"Chris thinks he needs an intervention," JC told him.
"A hair intervention?" Justin asked. "He needs to do something about his hair."
"Funny," Chris said, and went upstairs.
Chris didn't answer when Justin knocked on his door. So Justin knocked again, and then walked right in. His denim jacket was half-on, arm pushed into the sleeve.
"Jayce and I are going for dinner," he said. "You want to come?"
"I'm watching The Simpsons." Chris put another overstuffed pillow underneath his head. "There's a marathon on."
"You can pick the restaurant," Justin offered generously.
"You can drive. You could floor it out of the garage, and scare the reporters."
Chris rolled over. "Sounds fun. Take pictures."
"Don't have a cow, man," Bart Simpson said.
Justin stood awkwardly for another moment longer. Then he left, and shut the door.
Lance kept losing tack of his sentences as he spoke. He blinked, staring at the changing notices in the American Airlines lounge, restlessly displaying the time. 18:32.
"Lance?" His secretary's voice radiated raspy concern.
"Jet lag," Lance said quickly. He glanced at the board again. 18:33. He rubbed his eyes. He was tired. "Anything else?"
"I keep receiving calls from Mr. Kirkpatrick. He's been asking where you are."
Lance breathed in. Tired eyes watched the screen of his Palm Pilot, displaying names and dates, appointments he had to keep. "What did you tell him?"
She answered briskly, audibly typing as she spoke. "I told him you were unavailable."
"Unavailable," Lance repeated. "Right." He looked at the clock. 18:34.
Lance went to catch his plane.
Lance got into LAX around eleven pm, Pacific time. His rented house, still cluttered with boxes, had no TV. The widescreen had been Lance's. Lance turned on the radio, then fired up his laptop and opened up a spreadsheet.
When the phone rang, he ignored it.
"You're back," was the only thing Joey said when Chris arrived, on a slow Monday night.
"I told you." Chris sat down. "I like this place."
Justin arrived shortly after. The front entrance was packed half an hour later, with reporters and more reporters, all brandishing cameras.
Joey raised his eyebrows at Justin. "That for you?"
Justin shrugged. He sat down.
"Andre!" Joey turned, and raised his voice, to the thick-necked bouncer who stood watching the entrance to the VIP section. "Can you clear the front?"
Andre nodded his head, and moved off wordlessly.
"There's reporters in my driveway," Chris said. "All over my fucking lawn. They're ruining the grass. Lance is going to be so pissed off when he sees that."
Joey looked at Justin.
"What are you drinking?" Joey asked him.
"He gets service," Chris said. "How come I don't get service?"
"You don't tip well."
"Fuck you." Chris scowled theatrically. "I don't need you anyway. I have Madison."
Joey and Justin just stared at each other.
Chris ignored them both. Madison brought his whiskey.
Then he got very drunk.
Tuesday night was the same as Monday night. Only the band was different, making punk rock noise on Joey's tiny stage. Chris called ahead, and Madison saved his favourite table.
"Do you really have no place else to go?" Joey asked him, by way of a greeting.
"No." Chris didn't look up. "Lance left me. Remember?"
Joey sighed. "Maybe if you had a job. Like normal people."
"So you'd have something to do."
"What for?" Chris asked again.
Then the band started up, and drowned them both out.
"I had to get out of my house." Chris shouted, over the music. "There's paparazzi everywhere. They're driving me nuts."
"You poor thing."
"Seriously," Chris said, "what's so interesting about Timberlake these days, anyway? Does it have something to do with that stupid desert movie?"
Joey stared at him.
"It has nothing to do with the desert movie," Joey sat, suddenly, the keys attached to his belt clinking as he moved. "I think it has something to do with Britney. And Britney's divorce."
"Britney's getting divorced again?"
"Jesus. Do you have any idea what's going on with anyone who isn't you?"
"No, tell me," Chris said. "Britney's getting divorced again?"
"What does that have to do with Justin?"
Joey gave Chris a sideways look.
Chris put down his drink. "For real?"
"That's what the reporters think. Justin's not talking."
"He'll talk to me," Chris said. His glass was almost empty again.
"If you remember to ask him," Joey said with a shrug, then got up and left the table.
Wednesday night, the band was glam rock, with a lengthy name that wouldn't fit on the sign out front. It was Madison's day off. Joey brought Chris his drink.
He'd been there for almost two hours when Lance showed up.
Chris put down his glass, got up, and followed Lance to the back of the bar.
Lance turned around when Chris touched him, looking startled, with hollow eyes.
"You look tired," was the first thing out of Chris' mouth.
"I'm not sleeping properly," Lance said, and then closed his mouth tightly, as if he'd said something that he shouldn't have. He stared at Chris. "You're drunk," he announced.
"That's not news," Chris said, and tried to stand up straight.
Lance shook his head, almost imperceptibly. "What are you doing here?"
"This is my new hangout," Chris told him. "My Peach Pit."
"You better not repeat that to Joey," Lance said, and tried to leave.
Chris stopped him. "I've been looking for you," he said.
"Where have you been?"
"Didn't feel like it."
"I've been around." Lance inhaled, in the dark, vibrating corridor. "So?"
The music wasn't quite as loud in the hall, and Chris could just make out Lance's voice as he whispered. A barely legal girl stumbled by in high heels, on her way to the restroom.
"You were looking for me. What did you want?"
One beat, out of time. "Nothing," Chris said, and kissed him.
Lance tried to pull away. Chris didn't let him go, fingers tight on Lance's arm, for one messy kiss that lasted just one restless moment, wet mouths and tongues as Chris held on.
Lance broke free, breathless. "Chris." Maybe an admonition, or maybe an apology, with the last letter held in his mouth for too long.
"Remember Germany?" Chris asked suddenly. His words slurred. He was shaking.
Lance's voice was rough. "No. Have we been to Germany?"
"No," Chris said. "I mean, remember that time I took you to that bar in Munich? Joey got so mad at me. You threw up in my lap."
"You remember that?" Chris asked, and desperation edged the corners of his voice. Another girl walked by, and Chris got out of her way, closing the distance between them.
"That's not how it happened," Lance said, and shook his head. "I have to go."
The music stopped suddenly, creating near-silence where they stood. Suddenly, Chris' voice was too loud. "Don't," he said.
Lance looked at him, and shook his head. "I was a shitty boyfriend," he said quietly. He'd made no more moves to leave. "You don't remember that?"
Chris shrugged. He swayed slightly, on his feet. "I still remember all of their names."
"Do you?" Lance asked him. "I don't."
Chris kissed him again.
"We can't." Lance said it over and over, as if all other words had deserted him. "We absolutely can't. I decided."
"I miss you," was Chris's only answer. He was standing in Lance's space, quietly exhaling on his skin, standing much too close, eyes wide as if he was afraid to move.
Lance held his breath.
The taxi ride was too long. Chris put his hand on top of Lance's, lightly, fingers afraid to press too hard, and didn't say anything.
The morning sun came up in pieces, streaking across the floor of Lance's hotel room. He'd forgotten to close the blinds.
"Remember the last time that we broke up?"
Lance wasn't awake yet, not really. He watched Chris with sleepy green eyes, and didn't move. "Sure," he murmured. "You threw all my favourite clothes on the front lawn. And tried to start horrible rumours about me on the Internet."
"You started it," Chris answered. He tightened his grip on Lance's left bicep, underneath the sheets. "You left me."
There was a silence that drifted for days, as the sun continued slowly to light up the room.
"You were gone for fourteen days that time," Chris said. "Remember?"
"I remember," Lance said.
"Bet you won't make it fourteen days this time."
"You have to go soon." Lance's voice was low, barely disturbing the stillness. "I have stuff to do.
"Bet you won't."
"Bet I will."
"Bet you won't." Chris' mouth brushed his shoulder.
Lance closed his eyes, and fell back to sleep. On the bedside table, Lance's watch ticked down the minutes, without stopping.