For Bad Elizabeth, in the 2003 Don We Now Our Gay Apparel secret santa.

Stick Around
by Lesa Soja

Chris went to see JC in St. Louis, and he was fabulous. Chris had meant to go in and talk to JC before the show started, but his plane was delayed, and he and Big Mike only just ducked into the balcony as the spotlights started flashing over the stage. And JC was amazing, the show was amazing, so Chris hied away as soon as the encore was over to tell him so.

"Chris!" JC said, and pulled the sweatshirt in his hands down over his head. When he reemerged he grinned hugely, kissed Chris's cheek, and grabbed his wrist. "C'mon, man!"

Chris let himself be dragged along the corridors and out into the parking lot without saying anything other than, "C, C, you're insane! Totally fucking insane, dude! I mean it!" But when JC pulled him over, not to a car, but to a bus, Chris stopped and reached for JC's arm with his free hand. "JC," he said. "You're driving already? I thought you had a night here."

"Nope," JC said, towing him up the steps of the bus. "We found out we could add another show in Chicago, tomorrow night, so we gotta hit the road now." He high-fived the driver and continued on to the lounge, where he threw himself down on the cushions with his arms spread wide, finally letting Chris go.

"But, JC," Chris said. JC turned laughing eyes on him, and Chris blinked. "Um - Mike," he said.

"He can ride with Lonnie," JC said. "Now, tell me things."

So Chris told him about the latest song Justin was writing, and Briahna singing 'Happy Birthday' to Joey all the way through by herself, even though JC had heard all about that from Joey already, and then in the middle of Lance's fabled new massage therapist, Chris's mouth cracked open into an enormous yawn. JC put his hand on Chris's arm.

"You've been traveling all day," JC said. "You must be wiped."

"'Cause the show left you fresh as a tulip," Chris said.

"Mm," JC said, rolling his shoulders backward and forward. "Let's go to bed."

Chris would have said something back, but then he just hid his mouth behind his palm and followed JC through the narrow doorway to where the bed was set up. "You got a shirt or something I can borrow?" he said, thinking of his suitcase sitting in a hotel room somewhere back in Missouri.

JC looked up from his shoelaces. "Sure," he said. He rummaged in a duffel bag and tossed Chris a plain white T-shirt. Then Chris stretched out on top of the comforter to wait while JC went to brush his teeth.

When Chris woke up, the bus was standing still and he was alone in the bed. He threw off the sheet that was draped over him and went out into the lounge, where Mike was sitting with a newspaper.

"Hey," Chris said.

"Hey, Kirkpatrick," Mike said. "Just so you know, JC told me not to let you go anywhere. So you might as well make yourself comfortable." His bland face did not quite hide the shape of a smirk in his mouth.

"You're taking orders from JC now?" Chris said, scratching the back of his neck.

"He's a pleasure to work for," Mike said.

Chris stuck his tongue out. "So, what - we're stuck here on the bus till he comes back? Is that the deal?"

"If you're a good boy," Mike allowed, "I might take you in to see the show later."

"Eh, been there," Chris said, waving his hand. Then a new yawn hit him. "I think I'm gonna go back to sleep," he said.

"Knock yourself out," Mike said generously. As Chris turned away, he saw the corner of Mike's grin before the paper rose to hide his mouth.

JC was even more awesome that night. Chris's earplugs barely blunted the fans' screams. He stared down at the spotlit stage and found his own knees twitching when JC whirled and lunged.

"Hey, C," Chris began when he caught up with JC afterwards, but before he could go on, JC turned around and clapped his hands.

"Tonight!" JC announced. "Tonight, we are going out on the town."

"Damn - and me without my tap shoes," Chris said.

JC's eyes crinkled up. "I've been missing you, cat," he said.

"And I'm all torn up without you," Chris said, "but seriously, C, I got nothing to wear."

"Hm," JC said, studying the pants Chris had flown in and the white T-shirt that Chris had decided was still cleaner than his own shirt. "Okay. I'll find you something."

JC came back from the wardrobe dragons with something silver and suspiciously airy, which Chris put on without examining too closely because he had no choice and there was no point in knowing the worst of it. It flashed a little in the bottom of his vision when he glanced down, so he kept his eyes mostly trained on JC while JC wiped off his stage makeup and put on club makeup.

"Okay!" JC said when he was done. "C'mon!" He wrapped his fingers around Chris's and pressed once, warmly, before they set out for the car.

Chris went to fetch them some water as soon as they got to the club, because he knew how thirsty you got after a show. As he came back to the table, he saw a girl lay her arm around another girl's shoulders and whisper something in her ear. JC was looking out at the crowd when Chris reached him; Chris followed his gaze and saw another couple of girls dancing close together. Chris rested one of the chilled bottles on JC's shoulder, against the bare skin of his neck, and watched in satisfaction as JC flinched.

"Oh, thanks," JC said when he twisted around to face Chris. He accepted the bottle and lifted it to his mouth, drinking down half the water in one long pull. His eyes stayed warm and bright on Chris's. "Hey, d'you wanna hit the floor?"

"Sure," Chris said. He followed JC through to the next room, where a more hiphop groove was pumping. Here, too, though, girls glanced over at them and then slid up closer to each other. One of them dipped her eyes at JC as she licked a long swath up her friend's neck.

"Man," Chris said. "They're, like, everywhere, now. Wherever you go."

"Yup," JC said. He surveyed the dance floor with a smile.

"You fiendish bastard," Chris said.

JC grinned. "Remember when Joey said he liked Jello?" he said.

"Ah, good times."

"I'm just sayin'," JC said. "Sometimes, it pays to say what you want."

Chris laughed. The girls were swaying together, sideways and back.

"Let's go dance for a while, okay?" JC said. Chris nodded, and closed his eyes a moment to listen for the beat.

It hardly seemed like any time at all before Lonnie tilted his head at them for curfew. "I mean, I don't wanna make you go back too early, though," JC said. "I have to be up on time, so, like, I better. But."

"No, no," Chris said. "I'm coming with you."

"Cool," JC said.

They began making their way back to the entrance. "JC!" they heard high-pitched voices call as they moved towards the passageway. "JC, over here!" They looked over and saw the girls from before, one now holding the other's hips in her hands from behind while a third girl ran her finger over the middle one's lips. JC stopped by them and kissed the first girl on the cheek. "You look great, honey," he said. "Really great." Then he smiled at them, took Chris by the wrist, and went on. Chris glanced back and saw the girls' expressions shift down into blankness. He resisted the urge to shrug and just went out the door after JC.

At the hotel, Chris paused briefly in the lobby. "Do you think I can still get a room?" he said. "Is it too late?"

"Don't be silly," JC said, laughing, and led Chris toward the elevators.

Upstairs, Chris checked his messages while JC took the first shower, and then got in the shower himself. When he came out he turned out the remaining lights and slid into the bed next to JC.

"Night, JC," he said.

"Mm," JC said. He turned without opening his eyes and curled up with his nose against Chris's shoulder. Chris wasn't all that sleepy yet, having napped all day, so he lay awake a while longer. JC didn't stir again.

It was a bit surreal, having hotel coffee and scoping out the venue and joking with Chantal and doing soundcheck and signing autographs and playing Halo in the dressing room and harassing JC through stretches and warmups and watching the show from the seats. Chris tried to remember visiting Justin's tour; Justin had danced like a madman, and squeezed the breath out of Chris's lungs, and, they'd hung out with Christina, he supposed. That was about all he could recall. He looked across the blank sea of heads to JC writhing in circles of red and gold light, and couldn't see the sweat he knew must be filming JC's temples.

JC had another driving night, so Mike took Chris right back to the bus after the show, just so they could get out of there faster. JC got on a few minutes later, changed into clean clothes but still flushed and hot.

"Lance called," he said, settling himself against Chris's side as the bus started moving. "He and Joey are gonna come meet us in Cleveland. Isn't that great?"

"Lance," Chris mused. "Lance... Joey? Nope, doesn't ring a bell. Sorry."

JC thwapped him in the side of the head. "Also, I asked Anna-Maria and she said they'll have your bag here by tomorrow morning. Or, in Cleveland, I mean." His fingers were still moving in Chris's hair.

"Oh," Chris said. "Cool. Thanks."

"Wanna watch the news before we go to bed?"

"Sure." Chris picked up the control and thumbed through the channels while JC rested his head on Chris's shoulder. The broadcasts were full of election coverage, speculation about the primaries and the debate that was being arranged. When the commercials came on Chris turned his head to say something, but JC had already slipped into sleep, warm and remote in the circle of Chris's arm. Chris pressed his lips together and turned back to the TV.

Chris tried to stay out of the way during sound check the next day, hunkered down in one of the side aisles while JC flashed dazzling smiles at the crew guy.

"All day long, I dream about sex - no, I think that's still not quite enough. Could you give it just a little more?"

"How about now?" the guy said shyly.

"And all night long, I think about sex - oh, that's perfect, Dave," JC said. "Thank you so much."

"No problem, JC," Dave said, going a little pink. Chris got up to check out the acoustics from the other side of the theater.

The show did sound great that night. JC was tightening up the pacing, Chris noticed, moving a little more easily over his patter as he worked out more clearly what he wanted to say. Chris and Mike made their way slowly backstage afterwards, and then Chris saw Eric and Dre ahead of them in the corridor.

"Chris!" Joey said, when Chris stuck his head in the door. JC was folded in between Joey and Lance on the futon next to the dressing table. "Does my boy not rule? Did he not rock tonight?"

JC smiled giddily. Chris opened his mouth, but then Lance was saying,

"Yeah, JC, that was really super." He tousled JC's already wild hair.

"Aw, lay off, you guys," JC said. He was practically bouncing. "It's so cool of you to come out for this."

"Special favor," Joey said, grinning. "Out of the goodness of our hearts."

"Well, out of the goodness of my heart," Lance said. "Joey really just came along for the ride."

"To see the scenery, yeah," Joey said. "Brush up on my Midwestern geography. That kind of thing."

"Sounds very educational," JC said politely, but he quickly lost his prim face when Joey started tickling his stomach.

"So," Lance said over JC's squeals, "we going out?"

Chris at least had his own clothes to wear this time, but otherwise it felt remarkably like the night in Chicago. The girls were out in full force here, too; Chris saw a couple of them actually kissing, quite convincingly, giving themselves away only by the glances they cut at JC. JC was gyrating in the midst of them, smiling at all of them but whirling too fast to let any get closer than arm's length. Lance was next to him, doing some more sedate moves but watching the girls as well. Chris watched them for another moment and then turned away and took another drink from his bottle.

"Crazy, huh?" Joey said.

"Crazy like a fox," Chris said.

Joey laughed. "How's he doing, though? Is he okay?"

Chris glanced up at Joey. "Uh. I guess. He's fine."

"Cool," Joey said comfortably. "You ready to go bust a move, then?"

"Sure," Chris said shortly.

Joey and Lance hugged them goodbye in the private parking lot, in the predawn chill. Then the two of them went into the hotel, while JC and Chris got on JC's bus for the drive to Philadelphia.

Chris napped fitfully on the way, his mind full of heavy beats and dance steps. He turned to look at JC every time he woke up, and turned back every time he saw JC's profile, still and serene in sleep.

The Philly show wasn't quite as energetic as the previous ones had been, though you wouldn't know that, Chris thought, if you hadn't seen them to compare. JC danced just as hard as ever, and it was only the tighter angle of his arms that showed how effortful it was this time. He went to bed as soon as they got on the bus afterwards, giving Chris a quick hug and then going in back without saying anything else. Chris sat up a while longer watching TV before he went and got in the other side of the bed.

JC looked better the next morning. "Justin's coming tonight," he said over breakfast, and Chris remembered that Justin was in New York for the TRL retrospective. Johnny had tried to get Chris to do it too, but Chris, feeling he'd paid his TRL dues, had declined. Still, it would be cool to get extra time with Justin.

"Sweet," Chris said. JC grinned at him over a brimming coffee mug, and Chris couldn't help but smile back.

Justin slid into the loge right before JC came on, elbowing Chris in the side. "Hey!" he whispered.

"Hey, punk!" Chris whispered back, and Justin grinned. Then JC stepped onto the stage, and they both turned to watch.

After the show they picked up JC, who hugged Justin fiercely and said, "I'm so glad you came, cat." Then they all three went back to Justin's hotel together.

"Cam with you here?" JC asked before they went into the suite.

"Nah, not this time," Justin said. "It's, uh, good, though." He smiled. JC tugged on the ends of Justin's slowly growing hair. "What about you?"

"Oh, you know," JC said vaguely. "Same old."

Justin tilted his head sympathetically at JC and went to pour them all drinks. They settled on the sofa, where JC leaned against Justin's shoulder and put his legs across Chris's lap. "So what'd you think?" JC said.

Justin grinned. "It's wild, man. You're totally out of control."

JC laughed. "Totally," he said, and he and Justin began to go through the show, number by number. Chris folded his hands over JC's shins and listened to the cadence of their earnest voices. The ice in his glass melted slowly into his drink.

When Lonnie knocked on the door an hour later, JC got up regretfully and hugged Justin again. "See you next month?" he said.

"You know it," Justin said.

He hugged Chris next. "I'll see you when I see you," he said snidely, big hands warm on Chris's back.

"Look out for falling asteroids," Chris answered.

"I always do," Justin said. Then JC and Chris had to go.

The bus set out for Boston, but JC, apparently still in a mellow mood, didn't head for bed yet. Instead he flopped down in the lounge and patted the cushions next to him. Chris toed off his shoes and sat down.

"Now tell me things," JC said, curling in across Chris's lap.

Chris rubbed JC's shoulder. "You got all the news first-hand, now."

"You still haven't told me your news," JC said.

Chris paused. "Not so much to tell, really. Besides my ongoing research in Antarctica, and the Nobel Prize ceremony, anyway. Played a little golf last month... I haven't been blanketing the airwaves like you roadrunners."

"You still enjoying it? Being on vacation?"

Chris thought about that for a moment. "Yeah," he said. "It's fun, actually. Having some breathing room."

JC nodded. "So, good," he said.

Chris let his thumb sweep in a small arc over JC's back. The rumbling hum of the engine and the wheels rose and fell in his ears.

"JC," he said.

JC lifted his head, resting his hand against Chris's chest. "Yeah?"

"I haven't said yet, uh. I keep meaning to tell you." JC's palm was hot through the cotton of Chris's T-shirt, and his breaths were soft and quick. "How great you are. I mean, your songs. The show. It's really amazing."

"Thanks," JC said. The pressure of his hand increased momentarily as he pushed himself back and sat up. Then it was gone, and Chris felt a cold patch over his lungs.

"What - JC," he said. "Are you pissed off about something?"

"No," JC said. He scrubbed one hand through his hair, pushing it off his forehead. "Or, actually, yeah. For fuck's sake, Chris. How long's it gonna take?"

"Till what? What the hell do you want from me?"

"Isn't it obvious?" JC was looking out the window.

"No," Chris said. "I mean, you keep on keeping me around, you drag me around with you, and, and, why?"

"I like having you around," JC said heavily. "I like you."

"Sure, C, and you like Joey and Lance and J, too, but you let them go, so why -" Chris lifted his voice and forged on as JC tried to interrupt. "- why's it different, really? Or Carlos, or Dave, or that other guy, you seem to like them all right, or hell, all those girls, you sure love having them around to brighten up the scenery for a couple hours, so why, how - how am I any different from them?"

JC was staring at Chris with shocked eyes. "It's - that's just - for fun, Chris, come on. You -" He bit his lip. "- I wanted you to stay. I want you - I thought you wanted to."

"I do," Chris said.

He and JC looked at each other. Chris cleared his throat.

"JC," he said. He lifted his hand from the couch and held it out, and JC wrapped tense, tight fingers around it. Chris tugged a little, and JC came forward easily into Chris's arms.

"Okay?" Chris said into JC's ear.

"Yeah," JC said. His breath on Chris's neck set all of Chris's skin prickling and itching. He was live and electric, still wriggling and shifting around against Chris, and Chris tightened his grip until he realized JC was trying to look at his face. "So -" JC said then, and he tilted his head carefully and kissed Chris.

After so many days of having JC sprawled innocuously across him, Chris felt the kiss like a jolt. JC's lips met his without hesitation, JC's tongue pressing in to Chris's, their mouths separating and homing back in again immediately. JC swung one leg across Chris's thighs and knelt over him, grinding his hips down. Chris groaned without intending to.

"See," JC said, kissing him again. "Like this."

"Uh huh," Chris said. JC laughed a little, hitched back to give himself room and dropped his hand to cover Chris's cock through his jeans. Chris sucked in a soundless breath and ran his palms down JC's back to his ass. JC was already moving again though, sliding down through Chris's hands and off the edge of the couch, pressing Chris's knees apart.

"JC," Chris got out.

"I have been waiting," JC said fiercely. So Chris kept his hands light and stroking on JC's arms while JC unzipped his jeans and opened an incredibly agile mouth over Chris's dick.

Chris forced his eyes open, looking and looking, and still could hardly fathom the sight of JC's dark head in his lap; could barely connect the idea of JC with the heat straining and sucking at his cock, thrilling through him, pulling rough sounds from his throat. Chris let his hips thrust forward, and JC made a harsh noise of his own. He lifted his eyes to Chris's face and bore down even harder on Chris's dick. It was exactly right and too much and went on forever and Chris came suddenly, hard, jerking fast and wordlessly under JC's grasp.

"Oh," he said when he could. JC gave him a sleek grin.

Chris hauled JC up and kissed him, licking at his mouth. JC twisted against him, and Chris shoved his hands up under JC's shirt, pulling it off when JC lifted his arms. Then Chris just kept going, stripping JC of his pants and underwear, kissing the fresh skin as he bared it, and laying JC out on the couch when he was done.

He took JC's cock in his hands first, for several good squeezing strokes, and found it was getting easier to comprehend that this was JC, easier with every "please, Chris, please," that JC hissed down at him. JC's hair was bedraggled, his eyelids fluttering, and his face strangely tensed in the lamplight. But Chris was feeling more and more sure of himself, and when he fitted his lips around JC's cock and began sucking in earnest, it was only a matter of time before JC came, shaking and gasping, in his mouth.

JC kissed him afterwards, slower and more deeply this time, stroked his hands over Chris's back, and then twined his arms and legs through Chris's before finally stilling against him. A few minutes later JC shifted again, stretching an arm out to pull the afghan from the arm of the couch down over them. Chris kissed JC's lips, and JC blinked at him and kissed back, smiling. Chris slept.

He woke up to a hand shaking his shoulder and light shining in his face. "Mnngh," he answered, countergrabbing at the offending arm till a lean weight tumbled on top of him. "Stay. No moving. Ever," and he locked his arms around broad shoulders and closed his eyes firmly. Then a fat wet kiss smacked his mouth.

"C'mon, Chris," JC said, laughing. "It's time to go. We're here."

So Chris let JC up, and went with him.