Thin Ice
by Chris J

I straightened my shirt in the mirror and examined my front teeth, making sure there was no food stuck in them, or anything else that might get caught on camera. Even just having dinner with the guys was an event worthy of reporters and photographers, not to mention gaping fans. I played with the spikes at the front of my head for a moment, but they were still firm and not likely to fall any time soon. I heard the door to the washroom slam open and turned my head quickly. I'd been cornered in a public washroom once and forced to sign about 50 autographs before security'd managed to pull me out; it wasn't something I was eager to repeat.

"Oh, Justin, it's you."

I turned away again and back to the mirror, giving myself another once-over. My goatee was perfectly trimmed--quite unlike what it had looked like prior to last night's concert--and my skin wasn't looking too bad, even under the fluorescent lighting. I didn't really want to do more than acknowledge Justin's presence. Despite what I'd said to Chris about how young, how rash, he was, it still pissed me off, how he'd made Chris feel.

"What's your problem tonight, man?" he asked, thus ruining my resolve not to directly address the problem. He came up and stood at the mirror next to me, making it clear he'd only come in here to find me.

"Nothing," I lied, knowing how insincere I sounded. I didn't even look at him, other than to glance at his reflection in my mirror and patently avoid eye contact.

He didn't let it go at that, taking hold of my arm unexpectedly. "No, I want to know what I did," he insisted, turning me towards him. I shook his hand off but didn't move away. "People are starting to notice."

"Notice what...that you're acting like a spoiled child?" I regretted the words the moment they came out of my mouth, but it was too late. The surprise and hurt went through his body like a shockwave, starting in his eyes and ending at his fingertips as his hands clenched unconsciously. "Look," I said in a conciliatory tone, but he stopped me with a wave of his hand.

"I expect that kind of shit from Chris," he snapped. "But not from you, Joey." He turned to leave again; this time I was the one to stop him. He turned back, his eyes flashing. I'd seen that look before, too many times, and knew that wasn't going to blow over easily. I hadn't said it aloud often, but dammit, Justin was a spoiled child sometimes, and maybe he needed to hear it more often.

"Well, maybe I don't always feel like sitting back and taking your crap, Justin," I said. It wasn't meanly, but it sure could have sounded that way. As a matter of fact, to Justin I'm sure it did. "You can't just always say stuff without considering other people, or one day you're gonna find yourself in a shitload of trouble over it. All you have to do is think about other people a little bit. C'mon, is it really that hard?"

Justin made a down halfway between a growl and a scoff. "What the hell did I ever do to you?" he asked. "Shit, I treat you four like fuckin' gold."

I wasn't the type to get really angry. The guys have only seen in happen once or twice in the whole time we've known each other, so it was hardly going to happen over something like this, but I do get pissy sometimes. Doesn't everyone? "How can you do that when you don't even know who we are anymore? When's the last time you even talked to any of us?"

"What are you talking about? I talk to you all the time." He hoisted himself up so that he was sitting on the stretch of counter between two sinks and looked at me expectantly. Well, at least he was interested in having a conversation about it, instead of brushing it off. That in itself was a minor miracle.

"Sure, if you call 'hi', 'bye' and 'what do you want to do tonight' talking." Justin and I were usually about the same height, but with him sitting on the bathroom counter I had a slight advantage. "Getting a real conversation out of you is pulling teeth or something."

"By the pool," he reminds me, his voice sounding smugly victorious "The other day by the pool we talked."

"No, we didn't talk, I dragged some answers out of you," I said, trying not to sigh in frustration. "That whole thing by the pool ended up being part of the problem."

"So what's this problem you're talking about, then?" he asked, his eyes narrowing now.

"The way you think you know so much about things that you don't. Like me and Chris."

"So this is about you and Chris, then. I thought so. I'm really fucking sorry if you don't think I'm being supportive of this lifestyle choice of yours--"

I had to cut him off right there before he stuck his foot in his mouth even more. Not that he even would have realized it. "It's me and Chris this time," I told him. "It's been JC before. It's been Lance lots of times. It's been lots of people that we work with. You're smart, Just, but you don't know half the shit you think you know. Sometimes I wonder if you even want to know."

"Now wait a fuckin' second," he said. "You got no right to be talking that shit to me--"

"If not me, then who, Just?" I challenged him. I'd come this far; why stop now? "Who can I get to talk to you who you'll listen to. Gimme a name and I'll get them to do it, cause God knows something has to be done about this." He tried to stare me down, but I was riled up enough to just stare right back.

"I don't know what you're talkin' about," he said finally, staying up on the bathroom counter even though I'd long since expected him to hop down, to try and loom over me, intimidate me. "Just say whatever the fuck you're trying to say, Joey."

"I don't want to," I said honestly. "Every time we tell you something, you just put your own spin on it and then won't let it go. So you go around saying and believing shit that's just wrong. Or you make up things in your head about what's going on and then think that they're true."

"You're not making any fucking sense," he said, shaking his head and frowning. "I'd listen to you if you made any sense, Joey, but you're talking shit here. I just came in here to find out what was wrong with you, not for some lecture. Is that such a bad thing? Is that what I did to piss you"

"Oh, just shut up," I said in frustration. "You're not even trying to listen. I don't know why I bother."

"All right, fine, I'm listening. Now tell me something worth listening to."

I ran my hand through my hair, the spiked strands tickling my palms, and tried to put my thoughts together in a way that would get through to Justin. "Okay, let's talk about me and Chris, then. But don't think that this is the only example."

"Fine," he said, raising his hands in mock surrender. "Let's talk about you and Chris. After all, what else do we talk about these days?"

"A lot," I countered. "Not that you would know that. But...let's talk about it anyway. What is it that you think you know about us?"

"What? What's to know? You and Chris are fucking. And dating, apparently. Look...I told you, I got no problem with that, all right? Just takes some getting used to." His hands were gripping the edge of the counter now; he was poised to leap off at any moment.

"There's a lot to know. Not the least of which is the fact that we're in a relationship. Just him and just me. And we're totally equals, Justin, no matter what position we take when we're 'fucking', as you so delicately put it." I crossed my arms over my chest and gazed at him evenly. "And it doesn't really matter what you think of that, as long as you understand that those are the facts. Shit, gotta start filtering what you say somewhere between your brain and your mouth. I mean, I know I say some stupid shit sometimes, but you really hurt people, and you don't seem to care."

His lips were pinched and his eyes were narrow again. "Are we done?" he snapped.

I sighed. "I guess we are. Get out of here." I should have known that you can't just make someone understand. I probably shouldn't have even tried. "Can you just think about it?"

He jumped off the counter and just stared at me, his eyes still dangerously narrow. "Did I hurt you? Is that what this is all about?"

"You hurt Chris," I said. No, I snapped it. What can I say...I was still pretty pissed at him. "That's even worse. I'm not gonna let anything fuck up my relationship with Chris, Justin. Or anyone. And I don't care if you think of me as some pansy fag for feeling that way, because it's the truth." Funny how I just said to Justin in anger what I'd never said to anyone else in any heartfelt conversation.

He frowned a little, but his anger seemed to be fading. "Should I apologize? 'Cause I'm not sure what I'd be apologizing for."

I shook my head. "Just try and think before you talk. And if you don't understand something, there's nothing wrong with just fucking asking. All right?"

He shrugged. "Well, whatever. I'll try. Okay? I don't think I wanna see you pissed again." He held out his hand to me, and I was surprised he realize he was expecting me to shake it. I took his hand and shook it firmly. "I'm going now. Try not to look so pissed when you come back out, okay?"

It was my turn to shrug back. "I'll try. I don't hold a grudge." He gave me one of those semi-believing smiles and a nod, crossing his own arms. "It's a little fresh in my mind, Just. Me and Chris just talked about it before we came, okay?"

Speak of the devil--almost as soon as I'd mentioned that, Chris poked his head in the men's room door and then stepped inside. "You guys still alive in here?" he asked, nodding when he saw both of us standing there, startled by his intrusion. "JC has his money on a knife fight; Lance is leaning more towards someone getting his zipper stuck."

"We were just talking," said Justin, looking first at Chris, then back at me. "I was on my way back out." He clapped Chris on the shoulder on his way past him, but didn't say anything. Which was probably for the best really; I'd hate to have to explain to Chris just what Justin was apologizing for.

When Justin was gone, Chris looked at me for a more complete explanation. "What exactly did you and Justin find to talk about in the bathroom?" he asked. "You weren't comparing sizes or anything, were you?" He paused for a moment after that, speculatively. "And if you were, I want details."

I loved that Chris made me laugh. "I was just telling him what a spoiled brat he is." I said.

"Liar!" he laughed. "No one would ever say that to his face."

"I did, actually," I said. He stopped laughing when he realized I was serious. "It was an interesting conversation."

"And he didn't go off on you? Those are some special powers you have there, Joey." He gestures at the door. "Do I get to go back out there and tell JC he won the bet?"

I smiled and finally uncrossed my arms, holding out a hand to him. "It went okay," I said, surprised myself. 'I think he might have listened. We can hope anyway." When he took my hand, I pulled him closer and planted a firm kiss on his lips. Inside an empty bathroom, with security outside ensuring our privacy, we were safe for a moment.

"It's nice to know there's hope for the boy yet," he said, kissing me back. It was nice to feel him against me; I'd been certain we'd have to go through the whole evening without touching. "You should head back. They're worrying."

"What about you?" I asked, reluctantly letting him go.

He grinned. "I actually do need to take a piss," he said. "And as close as we are, I don't think I need your help on this one, Joe."

I laughed and kissed him on last time before pushing my way out of the room and heading back to our table.

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