When It's Over

Such a let down, now that it's all over. JC says so, but he can't tell if Chris is listening.

"That's a breastfeeding term," Chris says. "Did you know that?"

JC shoots him a look, but Chris refuses to wither in place. He's remarkably heat resistant, a quality that's seen them through a lot in the last nine months or so, JC has to admit.

"I do know. I read the books, unlike some people."

Chris makes a "whatever, Miss Thing" face, which is hilarious and JC has to laugh in spite of himself. But then the real Miss Thing makes a noise like "yip" and the look on Chris's face is replaced with poorly concealed panic. JC feels the same old frustration.

"Here. Take her," he says abruptly.

Chris says "yip," too, but he takes the baby when JC puts her into his arms. He fumbles her around, which makes JC want to snatch her back immediately, but after a second they settle down together on the couch. Chris looks like he's holding a sack of nitroglycerin.

"It's just, all that freaky stuff, having to hide out and pretend my career... having a baby, Chris, god. And now, here we are."

"Is she... I don't think she's happy with me holding her, dude," Chris says. JC glances at her. The baby's eyes are closed.

"I mean, now what? No career, no... I can't even... I don't sleep, how am I gonna write songs? I don't... my friends don't even... " He's getting teary-eyed, fuck. So sick of that.

"JC," Chris starts in a tone JC hasn't heard in so long, forever, but the baby says "yip" again, only louder, and he stops. He eyes the baby as though she might bite him. JC sighs.

"Give her here, man," he says, defeated. He'll put her down and go have a nice, embarrassing cry. Maybe jerk off. Whatever.

"No, I can... okay," Chris says, as JC takes her. He frowns, and it's such a familiar sight anymore that JC turns away and heads for the door.

"JC," Chris says, before he reaches the hall.

"What."

"You need to call Joey."

JC attempts another withering look, then takes the baby to the solarium to find his cell phone.

** ** **

"Chris told me to call you," JC sniffles. "He's such an asshole."

"Yes, clearly, a total fucker." Joey's voice is soothing. JC sighs.

"Joey, what the fuck am I doing?" he asks for probably the 40,000th time in the last year. Joey answers the way he always does.

"I have no idea, JC. I still don't know what I'm doing," he says. "But I wouldn't trade it, I'll tell you that."

"I know," JC says, wiping his nose.

"You know, of course you know. Hey, how's my sweetie angel doing?"

JC sighs again. "She's wonderful. Yesterday she sang to me. And then she burped. Chris says she's obviously gonna be a punk rocker."

Joey laughs and JC feels a million times better as usual. Joey just gets it and Chris... is not always an asshole.

** ** **

Logically, he knows why he's all weepy and freaked out. He did read the books, he knows about hormones and life changes and stuff. But the books never quite got to the part where he's some kind of fucked up genetic mutant with a maybe-not asshole of a boyfriend who can't stand the baby and won't touch him, either.

It's even enough to make him miss Justin, who called him "mom-boy" for six months until JC threw a pizza at him. Who hasn't called him in three days, the punk. JC listens for a minute, but all he can hear is Chris humming in the kitchen. He digs out his cell phone again. Justin'll get a kick out of the singing and burping, too.

** ** **

Later on, security buzzes the apartment. Chris goes to answer, coming out of the media room with an expression so closed up and dark that JC thinks maybe he wasn't as quiet as he thought, jerking off. Well, fuck it. So sorry if Chris doesn't want to think about that anymore. JC can't not think about it, lately. He's hot all the time, going nuts since the baby was born. Chris started avoiding him before that, but it hasn't mattered until recently, not really.

When Chris comes back, Joey's dragging him down the hall in a headlock. Lance slouches along after them.

"Look who's here," Chris says, his voice muffled by Joey's armpit.

JC jumps up and flings himself at Lance. It's so fucking wonderful to see him, it's been forever, and he pulls Lance to the nursery to see the baby.

"How's my girl!" Lance says, scooping her up from the crib as she makes a series of delighted noises. It's adorable, but the sight of them together makes JC's chest hurt. Behind him, he hears Chris make a sound. He turns. Chris looks away.

"All right. Ready?" Joey rubs a hand over the baby's head and raises his eyebrows at JC.

"What?"

"You're going out," Lance says.

"Right," JC laughs.

"You need to get out, dude," Joey says. "I could hear it in your voice."

"And you flew out here just to take me to lunch," JC says to Lance.

Lance snorts. "No, dumbass," he says, handing the baby to Chris, who looks like a wild animal in the headlights but takes her without his usual reluctance. He bounces her, maybe a little too roughly, but judging by her babble she doesn't seem to mind, and Chris isn't frowning at all.

"Well," JC says.

"Good!" Joey says. "Don't come back until tonight." Lance nods.

"Wait, what? Aren't you..." JC turns his head back and forth between them.

"Chris, any food in this place?" Lance asks, and Chris takes the baby to the kitchen behind him. JC looks forlornly after them, and soon he's out blinking in the sunlight with a security guy he doesn't know, and everybody's back in the apartment, probably just fine.

** ** **

Joey doesn't pick up for a long time.

"What, JC," he says.

"Joey..."

"Don't you dare ask me if everybody here is okay. Especially not one specific everybody who is just fine and I am hurt you would even ask," Joey says. JC can hear Lance laughing in the background.

"No, Joey," JC says humbly. "You don't understand. I don't... what do I do?"

Joey is silent for a minute. "Oh, honey," he says warmly, and JC feels a little less like a loser. "You are so overdue. Okay. Starbucks? And find a park. Ask the driver."

He hangs up. JC closes his phone. The driver's looking at him in the rear view.

"Um," JC says.

** ** **

After the driver drops him off, patting him on the shoulder, and the security guy goes off somewhere to be subtle, JC finds himself sitting under a tree drinking something Venti. It's like liquid gold and the sun is sparkling on the water of the pond, but he can't get comfortable.

Joey doesn't pick up.

He tries Lance, then, and gets his voicemail. JC thinks for a minute, then hits another button on his cell phone.

Chris answers immediately. "I have four little sisters, you know," he says abruptly, and hangs up.

JC holds his open phone in his lap for a long time, watching the water, listening to air move through the leaves over his head. Eventually the need to pee overwhelms him and he looks around for the poor security guy. Maybe he'll go shopping, he hasn't done that in a while. And food actually sounds good, maybe that Mexican place Chris likes. He can bring home some guacamole or something, later.

He wipes his eyes and climbs to his feet.

** ** **

Lance and Joey are gone when JC gets home. The security guy helps him bring in all the pastel bags and gives him a hug. They had a nice dinner and JC heard all about the security guy's kids, which was surprisingly interesting. JC doesn't think he whined about stuff too much, but who knows.

The apartment is quiet and dimly lit. The baby is asleep, her mouth open, one small fist resting above her head. JC tucks the purple mouse he bought into the head of the bed, so she won't roll over and smother on it or something. Then he takes a deep breath and goes off to bed.

Chris is awake, sitting up in bed reading.

"Hi," JC says.

"Hey."

"I... Chris." JC says, unsure how to continue. Chris puts down his book.

"Did you have a good time today?"

"Yeah. I brought you some guacamole," JC says. Chris looks pleased, thank goodness.

"Awesome," he says.

They look at each other for a minute.

Chris reaches out to tap JC's wrist. "She missed you."

"Thanks," JC says, touched. "Was... like, any problems, or whatever?"

"Nope," Chris says, smiling slightly.

"Oh," JC says. "Okay. Good."

Chris would never do any less than his best, for anyone. He's an honorable man. JC climbs into bed and picks up his book with a sigh.

** ** **

After a while he can feel Chris looking at him.

"JC," Chris says. JC turns his head to catch a fleeting look of surprise on Chris's face.

"Yeah?"

Chris clears his throat awkwardly. "I guess I've been wondering," he says, and trails off.

"What," JC says.

"Like, don't kill me for asking. Are you sore or something? I mean, you didn't. You don't. Uh, your ass, I mean?"

JC stares at him, amazed. He's beet red, but he meets JC's gaze defiantly.

"You were in the operating room with me, fuckhead. Did you see a baby come out of my ass?"

Chris shrugs, but JC can tell he's trying not to smile.

"I couldn't look," he says. "There was blood. And I, you... you were holding on to me like a vise. I couldn't get a look if I wanted to."

"I remember," JC says, overcome by a rush of love. Chris had been so... he couldn't have done it without him.

Chris lights up. "I do, too! Mostly."

JC laughs, because Chris really had been a maniac in the delivery room, talking a mile a minute, asking the nurses and doctors a million questions, holding on to JC like he might fly away once the baby popped out.

"JC," Chris says slowly. "Okay. I know she didn't come out of... okay, here's the thing. I wanted to make sure, because you jerk off, like, all the time, but you don't want me near you, so I didn't, uh. Know. I mean, I know it doesn't, I don't, I wouldn't... I'm going to go now."

Back to beet red. He gets up from the bed and heads across the room, and JC is so stunned he almost lets him go.

"Chris," he manages, finally. Chris stops.

"I don't want you near me?" he says. Chris turns back warily, biting his lip.

"JC, you... I come near you and you freeze up. I didn't think..."

"You don't come near me, though," JC says bleakly.

Chris looks blank. "What?" he says.

"Nevermind," JC says. "I understand, actually."

Chris stares at him for a minute.

"You do," he says, edging toward the bed.

"Yeah," JC says. "You know what? I don't even blame you. Freaky guy with a freaky... baby, I'd stay away, too. And I know I don't look... I'm all, with the surgery, and..." He can't go on. No more fucking tears. As he tries to control himself, Chris settles on the covers next to him.

"JC, are you kidding me?" he whispers. "You are, you're so."

He stops. The look on his face, like he can't believe it... a look of wonder, JC realizes. He feels a hopeful warmth bloom in him. Chris is gorgeous, dark circles under his eyes and unshaven. JC loves to look at him, and maybe Chris... maybe.

Chris reaches over and brushes his fingers over JC's face, and it's so nice to be touched like that. Chris looks nervous, oddly, and he doesn't seem to be breathing. JC thinks about that for a minute while Chris slides his hand down to cup his neck, and it's so much like old times, but so new and careful, that he smiles and moves closer to Chris on the bed.

A tiny, sad cry comes down the hall.

She's hungry. Fuck. JC closes his eyes for a second, then pushes away and starts to get up. That's just how it is, like his mom explained in a moment of extreme embarrassment, but he didn't realize... so tired. Chris makes a tiny noise of his own.

"I could..." he says hesitantly, and JC opens his eyes and looks at him.

"No, I got her," he says, and Chris rolls over and looks at the ceiling.

"Okay," he says. Strangely, he doesn't sound relieved.

JC makes his way down the hall to the nursery, and someone is looking at him brightly, just so sweetly happy to see him. He sighs, smiling. The little faker. He picks her up, and she makes the most hilariously pitiful sound and snuggles in.

The rocker in the corner's where they usually sit during these night time dates, his gramma's rocker, but for some reason tonight it doesn't look inviting at all. After he gets the bottle from the kitchen, he finds himself drifting back to the bedroom.

** ** **

Chris is still watching the ceiling.

"Hey," JC says. Chris turns his head.

"Hey."

"We came to bug you," JC says.

"Oh," Chris says, his face relaxing. "Good."

JC sets the baby on the bed and crawls in next to her with the bottle, gets her settled in between them. Chris is looking at him like he just turned green and sprouted horns, but for once, JC doesn't mind. He thinks maybe he's starting to get it.

They lie quietly while the baby nurses. Chris strokes her black hair, so much like his, while JC watches.

"We should totally gel up her hair tomorrow," Chris says sleepily. "I bet I could make it stand up all over her head like a dandelion."

JC snorts. "I bet you could," he says. Chris has a smug little grin on his face, the happiest he's looked in a while. It's good to see.

After she's asleep JC puts her back in her crib, patting her tummy to calm her when she grumbles. Then he heads back to their room, realizing he's nervous.

** ** **

"Well," Chris says.

JC slides back into bed with him. "Well," he says, and wiggles down into the covers.

"Mad Dog get to bed okay?"

"I wish you wouldn't call her that." JC stretches a little against the sheets.

Chris rolls his eyes. "Fine. Miss Shiny Lala Princess Fairy get to bed okay?"

"That's better," JC says, and suddenly they're smiling at each other like idiots, real morons.

"JC," Chris says.

JC closes the gap between them, looks into Chris's eyes, breathes into his mouth. "What," he whispers.

"I... what?" Chris says in a strangled voice, and kisses him.

** ** **

JC takes a long time to wake up. He can feel himself floating, just rising up through layers of comfortable muzzy consciousness. Rubbing his face into the pillow, he has a feeling he's forgotten something.

Then he's up and out of the room like a shot, careening down the hall.

The crib is empty.

JC stares, trying to process for the longest time, but he can only come to one conclusion. Chris is the most wonderful man alive.

** ** **

Chris and the baby are face to face on the couch in the solarium. JC clears his throat gently. No one pays any attention.

"What are you looking at," Chris says to the baby, frowning.

"Chris," JC says.

"I know you're not looking at me," Chris says. "You lookin' at me? Huh?"

"Chris."

"Shut up, JC," Chris says. "She's looking at me."

JC rolls his eyes and gets up from the couch. Maybe he'll get some coffee and hide in the studio for a bit, maybe play around with the tune Chris was humming yesterday. He can see how it's going to be: big daddy Chris with his little partner in crime, terrorizing the town, making his life hell.

Sounds like a pretty good deal.

September 2004