Thanks to Fennec and Schuyler for the bunny.
by Lesa Soja
Lance thought the wing was actually sort of neat. It was kind of strange, sure, but it made Chris different, at least, made him special. If it had been him, Lance would have felt lucky. But Chris could get really touchy about it.
The first time they saw it, they all stopped short just inside Chris and JC's hotel room and stared. Chris glared back. The wing stood out from his left shoulder blade, about the length of his arm, the tips of the flight feathers trembling a little in the draft from the open door.
Then Chris stuck his chin out and brought the towel he was holding back up to his hair. Justin's mouth twitched and his eyes crinkled up. "Someone must've dropped their bell," he said, and fell into a fit of nervous giggles. Chris turned towards him, eyes narrowing.
Joey slapped Justin on the back. "Geeze, Kirkpatrick," he said between guffaws, "your ma couldn't afford two?"
Chris punched Joey.
Justin squealed. Joey fell back a step, yelling, "Fuck, Chris!", and Chris, who had been moving in after him, stood suddenly still. "Sorry, man!" Joey said, holding a hand to his nose. A little bit of blood ran between his fingers. Justin grabbed his arm. "…take a fucking joke," Joey muttered as Justin dragged him out of the room.
Chris splayed his fingers out and relaxed them again. He hitched up his boxers and scrubbed a hand across his mouth.
JC went over and touched Chris's other shoulder, left his hand there. "How long have you had it?" he said quietly.
"Since I was about fourteen, I guess," Chris said, because JC was already the sweetest one and none of them, no matter how mad, could snub him.
"It's really pretty," JC said. Chris rolled his eyes, but Lance nodded, because it was. The feathers were dark and glossy, pretty much the same shade as Chris's hair, and the curve of it was clean and elegant.
"Can I touch it?" JC asked.
Chris hesitated. "C… no. I - no."
"Okay," JC said. He squeezed Chris's arm. "We came to get you for dinner. Come down when you're ready, okay?"
"Yeah," Chris said.
"C'mon, Lance," JC said, and Lance followed him out of the room.
Lance couldn't understand at first why they had never seen it before, but watching during costume changes, he saw that Chris could fold it down somehow till it was nothing but a shadow against his back. They saw a lot more of Joey's swollen nose, in fact, than they did of the wing. Joey didn't look pale and wounded, either, like JC had when he came back really late that time with bruises by his ears and his jaw. Joey just looked like a guy who had lost a fight.
No one said anything else about it. Lance had some curiosity, he thought they all must, but he didn't feel up to raising the subject with Chris. And the one time Justin cast his eyes in Chris's direction and opened his mouth, JC lifted an eyebrow at him, and Justin shut it again.
They didn't get another really good look until the summer. "It is too hot," Joey said, and he sat up to pull his shirt off before lying back down again. "Nobody ask me to move till November, okay?"
"Nobody wants to see you till November," Justin said, following suit.
"Not unless you can fix the air conditioning," Chris said.
"You dissin' the Fatone physique?" Joey said, but he didn't even lift his head from the floor.
"It's really hot," JC said. Lance turned in surprise until he followed JC's eyes and realized he'd been talking to Chris.
"Yeah," Chris said, and he crossed his hands on the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. The wing unfolded a little behind him, glistening in the sunlight.
"Better?" JC said. Chris nodded.
Justin glanced over. "Hey, you could make your own breeze," he said.
"I could do a lot of things," Chris said. Justin held up both hands, palm out, and turned away.
JC was studying Chris intently. "Can you, y'know, fly, with it?" he asked.
Chris looked down. "I tried, once. Went up to the roof of our building and jumped."
"I can't fly."
"Oh, Chris," JC said. He scooted over and put his left arm around Chris. His fingers fell on the wing.
Chris sat still.
JC stroked carefully along the leading edge to the primary coverts, and then lifted his hand back to where he'd started and did it again.
Lance wondered how long JC was going to keep doing that. Joey had put his headphones on and closed his eyes. Justin was scrabbling through his bag.
"I'm gonna get something to drink," Lance announced, getting to his feet. "Anybody want anything?"
"Nah, I'm good," JC said. His hand was still moving. No one else answered.
Joey flipped JC too fast, and JC did a faceplant on the studio floor.
"I'm fine," he said, scrambling to his feet, "fine, Joey," and his arm stretched out to keep Joey's pawing concern at bay. There was already a patch darkening under his left eye, though.
Lance watched him carefully for the rest of the afternoon, but JC seemed to be all right. He hadn't jammed his ankles or his wrists breaking his fall, and the bruise didn't appear to be bothering him.
Chris never fell, no matter how much force Lance put into the flip. Lance wondered if the wing did make a difference, somehow, when he was in the air. Maybe it helped with his balance.
"Look," JC said.
Lance looked into JC's cupped hand. It was full of down feathers.
"Those Chris's?" he asked, and then he could have smacked himself.
JC didn't laugh, though. "Yeah," he said simply. "I picked them up off his bunk."
Lance reached over to JC's hand and felt airy nothing, and the warm edges of JC's palm. "Soft," he said.
"Yeah," JC said. He smiled and turned away, lifting his hand to his cheek.
Lance went shopping with Joey and Justin, and they stayed out all afternoon. Justin insisted on trying on fur coats, even though it was the middle of August again. Joey shook his head.
"Lance," he said, when Justin got up in front of the mirrors, "tell Justin he's a moron."
"I like this one," Justin said.
"It's a coat," Joey said. "It's summer, Justin."
"That's the best time to buy!"
"C'mon, Lance, help me knock some sense into this boy," Joey said. But Lance thought the coat did look good on Justin; his shoulders had the right tilt for it. One more thing that came naturally to him.
When they finally got back, they found JC sitting on the couch, bent over his writing notebook. Chris was watching TV, sitting cross-legged on the floor with his chin propped on his hands and his T-shirt lying next to him.
His wing was sweeping slowly from side to side. The primaries brushed JC's shins with each arc.
When JC showed them Space Cowboy for the first time, Lance glanced around the room. But everyone else's expression was as earnest as JC's.
"Chris - " Lance said afterwards, when the others were already out the door.
"What?" Chris said over his shoulder.
"This song - JC's new one. It's okay with you?"
Chris shrugged. "It's a cool song," he said. "It'll make a good stage number."
"Oh, yeah," Lance said.
"One… two… three… four…" Randy counted.
Lance shifted gingerly in his harness, trying to get a feel for how far he could go before he would tip over. Justin struck a noble pose, gazing out into the air with both arms extended. "I bring you the gift of music!" he called out.
"I bring you the gift of Justin shutting up!" Joey yelled back, and Justin stuck his tongue out and began singing a mangled version of the Star Spangled Banner at the top of his lungs.
JC was fooling around, flipping upside down with his ankles hooked around the ropes. Chris hung stiffly.
"Kirkpatrick, try not to look like you're in front of a firing squad," Johnny called. "You'll scare the kiddies."
JC began rocking back and forth, trying to swing himself closer to Chris. "C'mon, Chris!" he said, laughing. "Happy thoughts!"
Chris glared. "Solid ground," he chanted, "solid ground, solid ground…" Suddenly he threw himself forward, shading his eyes with his hand. "Land ahoy!" he shouted. "Tell the captain! Our nightmare journey is about to end!"
JC had built up enough momentum to reach Chris in the meantime, and he grabbed Chris's hand. "Help!" Chris cried. "We've been caught in a tractor beam! All hands, red alert!" But he and JC were grinning at each other.
Lance's ropes jerked suddenly, and he lost his balance and fell dizzyingly backward. His fingers clamped into useless fists above his head.
JC came and stood next to Lance's bed. Lance knew that he was dreaming because JC had wings, two of them, glowing white. They curved up above his shoulders and swept down nearly all the way to the ground. JC smiled. "Lance," he said.
In the morning, Lance told himself the dream was probably really just something to do with Chris.
Lance found himself the first to be dressed, for a change. He hung around in the hallway waiting for the others.
JC came out of his room a few minutes later with his costume on. Lance looked at him.
"What?" JC said. His lips were curved in a slightly smug half-smile.
"You've got, um," Lance said, his voice sounding strange and rough even to his own ears. He gestured towards his face.
JC turned his chin to catch the light. Lance watched his own hand lift up. He brushed the feathers from the corner of JC's mouth with his knuckles, a little harder than he'd meant to.