we invented the remix 5

way of the world by silveryscrape: the birds and unexpected bridges mix by k

Nothing was unexpected about Chris finding himself in Justin's back yard again, frowning at the birds, knocking. The birds flew away quickly when Trace swung the door open with a flourish, and he followed quickly after them, though with a fancy SUV instead of wings.

Justin was curled up like he was doing one of JC's yoga poses and his voice was careful when he said, "Hey."

The first day after the interview, Chris spent fifteen minutes Googling "justin timberlake best friend." Eight times out of nine, the results were about Trace. The other two were spam and porn and only one was even about Justin. Chris left his laptop open to a picture of Trace and Justin at the fashion thing and, like singing the first notes of a song he knew by heart, drove over to Lance's without shoes, his socks sliding lightly over the brake pedal when he stopped at the red lights.

Chris drove all the way across town only to remember that Lance was useless, full of cryptic smiles and gold-blond hair, and Chris was glad he didn't wear any shoes.

Joey's version of useless was more palatable-- booze and grease and Chris still didn't have shoes, but wasn't like he needed them to down a six pack of cheap beer, three-quarters of a bottle of Patron, and insults about Justin's mother.

JC wasn't just useless, he was infuriating-babbling about self-preservation and talking to Justin and some other nonsense-- and Chris wished he was wearing shoes so when his foot connected with JC's shin it might have actually hurt. But JC didn't even flinch, and it made all the hand-waving and avoidance feel even more like a performance designed to make Chris get in touch with his emotions.

What JC's spastic psychic abilities should have told him, however, was that Chris had spent a lifetime stubbornly ignoring any emotions he might have, so after summarily hanging up on Trace, Chris spent the rest of the day practically chewing a hole through his lip and at sunset when he finally did go talk to Justin, it proved the most useless thing Chris had done since he picked up that damn magazine in the first place.

Justin's back yard was always full of birds. Little brown things, fluttering and staring at Chris with eyes like pebbles. Sparrows, or wrens, maybe. Not that Chris knew anything about birds. He definitely didn't know why Justin hired somebody to keep the little vine-covered feeders full-weren't you not supposed to feed wild animals? Something about them becoming overly dependent on human kindness.

Trace's SUV pulled away, the first verse of "Gold Digger" trailing behind. Chris waited until he couldn't hear it anymore before going in to find Justin curled up Indian style on the rug in front of his sofa. Justin's hair didn't bounce when he nodded his head anymore, but Chris could still see the curls when Justin said "Hey" in his careful-don't-hurt-me voice.

The image of Justin's grin folding into a pout lingered for awhile, but every time Chris looked at the glossy pages still spread across his coffee table, he'd mutter "best friend? bullshit" and force himself to forget the whole thing. It wasn't as though Justin didn't know exactly what to say in an interview and how to say it, so there was no reason for Chris to just let it go and there was also no reason to sit alone and drink all of the bottle of the expensive bourbon his "best friend" gave him last Christmas. Instead, Chris showered and pulled himself together and went on playdates with all his other best friend, like a very big boy indeed.

"I think Lindsay's doing cocaine again, but she has to do press for that album, so they've got her on some kind of crazy detox diet-all seltzer water and kale or something." Lance put his fork down and squinted into the sun at Chris for a few long seconds before finally pulling his sunglasses back over his eyes and saying, "She's fucking her agent, you know." Chris didn't know and he didn't care, because he was avoiding all the tabloids these days in case his so-called best friend should show his face, but he pretended interest and Lance pretended he wasn't more than a little disgusted.

"There are, I kid you not, forty-seven Fatones here." Joey waved his hands around the yard before handing Chris a beer. "All of them pure New York Italian and at least one-third of them ready to set you up with their delightfully unmarried daughters. Or, uh, sons." Chris grimaced and downed half the beer in one sip, rationalizing that it wasn't pathetic if he was drinking with forty-seven Fatones. Joey laughed and slapped Chris on the back, nodding as a woman headed their way, waving what looked like an NSYNC notebook. "Oh, this is going to be fun."

"If we buy the Egyptian cotton in blue, then we can get that brown and cream duvet cover for the guest room," JC's hands were still waving, but this time they were wrapped in fabric swatches. "And then paint the walls blue to match the sheets." Chris shrugged and handed over his credit card, figuring if he ever did give up and decide to just stop leaving the house, at least it would look nice. JC took the card and smiled, saying "I'm so glad we're doing this-I feel better already," like he was the one who needed cheering up.

Chris didn't call Trace this time, cutting the usual patterns off before they lead him the wrong way and after a few weeks, he finally closed the magazine on the coffee table and pretended for a solid fifteen minutes that he'd never heard of Justin Timberlake before opening it again. It fell right to Justin's interview and there was a little grease stain on the corner from Chris's finger-he'd been eating pizza when he read it the first time.

In the middle of everything, Chris hung three bird feeders on his back porch and spent two hours waiting for something to happen, but nothing did.

"So I know this is an interview about the clothing line, but can I ask a few 'Justin' questions?" The interviewer shoots Trace a sympathetic grin. He rolls his eyes and flips open his cell phone to start texting someone.

Justin sighs, pulls one leg up on the hard plastic seat he's been sitting on for three hours and forty-two minutes and opens his hand as if to say, "go ahead."

The reporter, whose name is Carol or Michelle, Justin can't remember which, stares at her paper for a few seconds, biting her lip in thought. Justin sees Trace roll his eyes and closes his own, counting to ten before opening.

"So, you've done the time off thing, the acting, and now fashion-" Justin nods, just in case she needs him to verify that she's correctly read the fact sheet his publicist gave her. "Are you ready to go back to music?"

Justin is practically too stunned by the originality of her question to answer, but he somehow pulls it together in time to say, "Music is my first love and I'm always going to go back to that. It's like-" And he pauses, leans forward to rest his chin on his knee. "It's like, Chris is my best friend, right and I haven't talked to him in awhile, but when it's the right time, we'll go play golf or something."

Trace does a passable attempt at covering his laughter with a coughing fit and Justin casually angles his leg enough to the right to kick him in the shin.

Car-elle frowns down at her paper and makes a quick note. Justin checks his watch, wiping some dust off with his index finger. There's no way she has enough time to ask for clarification, so he stands up quickly. "Thanks, so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this-press is really important to the launch."

She frowns and Trace stands, too. "Exactly-I completely agree with everything he said and you can quote me."

Justin and Trace are outside in the hotel corridor fast enough that Justin figures poor Mich-rol hasn't even had time to stand up.

"What the hell was that bullshit about Chris?" Trace is still texting as they follow the bodyguards to the elevator. "You think he's gonna read-what the hell magazine was that, anyway?"

Justin shrugs and watches the numbers light up as they plummet to the parking garage.

Chris dismissed Justin's self-protective pose and careful voice as easily as he had the barely threatening coos of the birds that he'd been watching in the backyard before Trace had let him into the house. "Oh, don't even," Chris said, and Justin smiled.

Chris watched Justin stand up and wondered if he knew this was where the road was headed when he started spouting random bullshit about Chris in interviews ten years ago. Chris realized now that just like everything he'd done since the interview, he'd pretty much always known what would come next, even if he hadn't been able to figure out what it meant, exactly.

So he hadn't been surprised to find himself back in Justin's backyard. And he hadn't jumped in shock when the birds took off after Trace with a scream of beating wings because it felt like Chris had done it all before.

Inside, Chris and Justin spoke for a minute or more in random illogical sentences that in JC's hands would have been lyrics. Chris was, of course, never surprised that Justin was all sorts of hot when he crossed his eyes and grinned like a vaguely retarded child.

"You're not really my best friend," Justin finally said, eyes still crossed, face pressing closer until it landed against Chris's. "I was just talking shit."

"I know," Chris said, before they finally finally finally kissed, even though despite everything, he almost didn't know at all.

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