we invented the remix 6

walk like a camelidae by lise: the doctor dolittle talk talk mix by terri

Lance wakes, thinks, bathroom-sleepy-bathroom-now-now-now. He goes to roll over in bed, to push himself up out of the tangle of sheets and comforter.

Then stops.

He opens his eyes, tiredness replaced with dawning horror because he's got no arms, and his legs are spindly, thinner than Justin's even, and he's covered in hair and he's kicking and thrashing and can't seem to get up.

Breathing hard, he closes his eyes, tries to calm his breathing. In out in out. Slow breaths because this is just a dream, a horrible fucked up dream, like that time he dreamt JC had announced that he wanted to try something new, and had turned up in Lance's bed with a vat of lube and Dirk. A horrible, traumatising dream brought on by watching the Discovery Channel and a late night supper of cheese.

When he opens his eyes again he'll have normal legs and arms and no snout and everything will be fine.

Lance opens his eyes and tries to scream.

It takes almost an hour to get off the bed. Thirty minutes of hyperventilating and ten of trying to get his stupid spindly legs to move in sequence until eventually Lance flops inelegantly to the floor. He lies still, sprawled on his side, and his head is under the bed because it seems his neck is about ten fucking feet long and when he curls it around he sees dust bunnies and a purple vibrator, a pile of scripts and eventually, his own body. Huge and brown and woolly.

Which is when Lance realises he's a llama. It says it all really, because normal people would turn into dogs, or cats, or even a horse, but no. Lance is a llama, one wearing a silken pajama jacket even – and doesn't that go well with his with curly brown hair, flaring nostrils and legs that don't want to work.

Head spinning, Lance tries to pull himself together. He's in a boyband, his bullshitting, dancing and singing skills are second to none. He can work out how to stand.

Slowly, he pushes up with a front leg, and lists immediately to one side. He swears, and okay, it seems llama swearing sounds like a lot of hissing, which is kind of cool.

Lance brings up another front leg, so he's caught in a kneeling, lying down position, which is so close to standing that he scrambles his back legs until he has purchase on the wooden floor. Finally he stands.

Once he's upright Lance realises that for a llama he's kind of small. Not that he's a llama expert or anything. In fact his llama knowledge is limited to photoshopping Justin's face onto pictures of alpacas, which are sort of llamas. Like the way Lance is apparently sort of a llama now, in that while his mind is very much human, his body isn't at all.

Ten minutes while Lance just stands and freaks that he's a fucking llama, and then finally he moves. He cringes at each clop of foot against his hardwood floors, trying his best to walk carefully toward the bathroom, because he still needs to piss like crazy and llama or not, he's not about to go on the floor.

Of course the bathroom presents its own problems. For one, the tile floor is slippery, which leads to an undignified leg splay nose dive moment that makes his heart thunder and a whole shelf-full of bottles to fall on the floor.

Then there's the actual bowl, which isn't made for a llama at all.

Turning in a circle, Lance considers using the tub. It should be easy to climb inside and pee like that, but as he's heading in that direction, he catches sight of something horrific. Lance looks down, moaning out loud, his legs shaking when he sees his feet, and the horrible-looking toes.

Yet another reminder that he's a llama, one with hideous feet and musty-smelling wool and Lance wants his mom.

An undetermined time later Lance forces himself to move. Deciding against the tub, he heads for the toilet, determined to use it like any normal man.

As he backs up and turns and lifts one stick leg, Lance vows to contact the manufacturers as soon as he has fingers, because the design is obviously a blatant discrimination against llama bathroom habits. Still, in the end he manages by squatting and aiming and hoping for the best. It's not like his cleaning service hasn't had to mop mystery liquids of the bathroom floor before.

Bladder empty, Lance looks at the handle, trying to work out how he can flush. He could use his mouth or chin, but really, that's all kinds of gross. For a moment he contemplates using his tail, but when he bends his long neck he sees his tail is small and squat, which isn't any help at all.

Of course, he could leave it, he's a llama, he's got an excuse, but his momma didn't raise him to be that kind of llama-boy, and Lance carefully balances on three legs, bending one of the front ones up to knock his toes at the flush.

It works; sort of. The toilet does flush, but Lance overbalances, and before he can even think about throwing himself to the side he's got one foot stuck down the bowl and toilet water is soaking his leg. It's humiliating, and Lance bows his head, neck curving as he sighs.

Allowing himself a minute to mope, Lance starts to pull back his leg, tugging hard. Because no way is he going to be found like this. Being a llama is bad enough never mind being one that's so clumsy he got his foot stuck in a toilet bowl. Lance would never hear the end of it.

A last pull, and his foot pops free, and Lance skids along the floor, collapsing in a heap of bent knees and tangled limbs. He hisses with annoyance, and then stands, pulling his dignity back around him as he clip-clops from the room.

Which is when he has to decide what to do next. On one hand he could collapse on the floor in a mopey woolly pile of patheticness and wallow, or he could try and contact someone for some help. But who? It's not as if any of his friends are llama experts, or even experts in the art of turning into animals. Though there was that time with Chris and the…. No, Lance shakes his head, cutting off that thought. Chris isn't who he needs right now. In fact, there's only one person who he needs to call.

Lance knocks at his phone with his head, making it clatter to the ground. Then he bends his ridiculously long neck and sticks out his tongue, hoping desperately that he can hit the speed dial before he makes the phone inoperable with llama spit.

He does, and miraculously Joey answers, even if he seems pissed off when Lance tries to talk. Not that Lance blames him when his words are little more than groans and bleats. Which reminds Lance he's a fucking llama, a fucking llama that can't talk and when Joey hangs up the call Lance wants to kick something, that's if llamas can kick because right now they can't seem to do much except stagger on stupid legs and have stupid woolly hair that falls in his stupid llama eyes.

Which is when Lance gets really mad, because it's bad enough that he's a llama, but Joey, Lance's best friend Joey, should be able to recognise Lance at any time, and he should especially be able to translate a series of grunts and hums and snorts, god knows Lance has heard the sounds coming from Joey's bunk enough.

Annoyed, Lance uses his tongue to jab at the buttons again. And again. And again. Until at last Joey stops hanging up and says, "fine."

Which; finally.

Lance leaves the phone and clomps toward the landing, stopping at the top of the stairs, because when you're on four legs and looking down they're steep. They're also curved and made of wood, which looks great, but causes problems when you've been llamafied.

Still, Lance isn't about to stand at the top and wait to be rescued. He loves this kind of adrenaline rush, something he reminds himself of as he puts a tentative foot on the first step.

Immediately his body tips forward. He imagines slipping, plummeting to an undignified death, which would suck because no one would recognise him and he'd probably end up being buried in a landfill somewhere and not the Bass family crypt.

It's a terrifying thought and utter terror freezes Lance in place, images of death and destruction filling his mind. He has to move eventually though, and Lance slowly brings down his next foot, and then a back leg, and somehow he gets a rhythm going so he's actually going downstairs. Slow, sure, but he's getting there, that is until he hears a car pull up outside. Distracted, Lance pricks his ear – which, cool – and listens to the crunch of footsteps followed by a knock at the door.

Of course, that's when Lance falls.

He's only four steps up so he's not hurt exactly, more shocked than anything and stuck on his back like some stranded turtle. Humiliated, he heaves himself to his feet and waits for Joey to let himself in.

"Lance!" Joey yells, and he runs his hand through his messy hair, yawning as he steps into the hall. When he sees Lance he freezes in place, mouth still open as he stares. He obviously doesn't recognise Lance. Which is annoying and rather upsetting and Lance makes a mental note to Google llamas because if llamas are always this emotional no wonder they bite and spit.

Lance draws the line at spitting but he's tempted to latch onto Joey's arm and bite down, especially when he mentions AJ's clinic, which makes no sense at all. What's Joey going to do, check in a llama? Or maybe he wants to check in himself, that makes more sense. Joey probably thinks he's hallucinating, but a llama this time and not a giant pink bunny with mean red eyes.

Lance narrows his own eyes and taps his foot on the ground, pleased when Joey takes a step backwards and holds out his hands.

"There's no need for that, I'm a friend of Lance's."

Lance snorts and taps his foot again. Joey is a moron and obviously thinks Lance has brought a llama into his house for some depraved llama-related activities. He can see it in the way Joey is looking around the room and inching toward the door, like he expects Lance to tumble out of a cupboard wearing leather chaps while holding a riding crop. Which is stupid, because Lance never makes the same mistake twice.

"That's a good llama, you just stay there, I'll call Lance."

Joey's almost to the door when Lance acts. Deliberately he knocks over the picture of himself he keeps on the mantle, then runs forward and butts Joey hard in the belly. He stands still then, looking up through his eyelashes and waits for Joey to catch on. If he doesn't Lance is going to bite his balls.

"Lance?" Joey says, slowly, and he's looking down at Lance. His mouth is slightly open and Lance sees the exact moment that he understands. "What have you done?"

Lance stomps his foot again, because it's not like he changed himself into a llama on purpose. If he was going to transform into an animal it would be a horse, not a stupid woolly haired llama.

"Sorry, sorry." Joey rubs his fingers through the wool of Lance's head. "I know you wouldn't have done this on purpose. It's just, you're a llama."

Lance rolls his eyes and would doubt his idea about calling Joey, except Joey's hand is sure, comforting against Lance's head.

Joey crouches slightly so he can look Lance in the eye. "I'm going to call someone."

Lance nods and keeps his body plastered against Joey's side, listening as he calls Chris, Justin and JC. It takes a while to get them to agree to come to the house, but Joey makes his scrunched up concerned face and repeatedly says, "It's Lance…." Doom written in his tone like Lance is ODed on the bed or tied up with a hooker or has been caught cross-dressing and dancing down the street.

"They're coming," Joey says and he shuts his cell, shoving it into his pocket. His mouth is curled down and it's that expression that distracts Lance from his annoyances – because seriously, like he'd do anything as stupid that would warrant that tone. Lance butts his head against Joey's side and tries to tell him things will be okay.

"What?" Joey frowns and rests his hand against Lance's back. "I don't know what you're saying."

Lance tries again and manages a low garbled sound. He closes his eyes before he has to see Joey not understand again.

"I'm sorry," Joey says. "Do you need a drink? Or something to eat? Or to go outside?"

He heads for the door but Lance catches hold of the hem of his t-shirt, biting down hard. He doesn't want to go outside, and he doesn't want to eat. All he wants to do is be him again, and if that can't happen, he'll make do with standing still, Joey where he's supposed to be, right at Lance's side.

He stays there as the others arrive in a succession of cars, all tumbling through the door with their best blank expressions changing to shock when instead of the police or fire department they're faced with Joey and a llama.

It doesn't take long to convince them that Lance is a llama, especially once he demonstrates with some tricks. A revealing of a Fuman t-shirt and a video game and they're all crowded around him. Just another surreal moment in the life of an internationally famous co-dependent boy-plus one llama-band.

If he could Lance would smile. As he can't he tries to nibble on Justin's fingers and licks a stripe over Chris' hand and then looks at JC, who looks right back at him, his head tilted slightly to one side so he looks like a big-eyed puppy begging for a treat.

"That's rude."

Lance flicks his ears when JC frowns. There's no way JC can be talking to him, it's probably another of his one-sided imaginary conversations, something the others seem to agree with as none of them are paying JC any attention at all.

"I don't have imaginary conversations."

Lance blinks and cranes his head to look at JC, because this is just weird, especially as JC isn't even moving his lips. He's just standing looking at Lance, looking-sounding as if he's disappointed.

"That's because I am," JC says – thinks, because he's still not talking, but at the same time, Lance can hear every word.

"That's because you don't talk to animals with your mouth." JC folds himself down and perches on the edge of the coffee table. "It's more a subconscious thing, like, we're communicating on a different level."

Which is such an understatement that all Lance can do is keep looking at him, trying to make sense of the fact that apparently JC can communicate with llamas. Which yeah, nothing he's ever suspected before, though it does explain the friendship with Justin

"Not just llamas," JC thinks. "I'm all inclusive; I'll talk to every animal out there, even the creepy shiny pillbug things with the nippy little claws."

Lance rests his chin on JC's shoulder, trying to make sense of the fact that JC is some kind of Dr Dolittle, but more amazingly, has managed to keep this a secret.

"I know, but it's like. If people knew I'd be translating all the time, there'd be no time for music if I'm like, passing on messages from spiders. So I just keep it to myself"

JC's grinning happily, but it's impossible for Lance not to think of all the spiders he's killed in his time. He sighs in JC's ear.

"No, man. It's okay. They've got like, tiny little brains, enough to walk around and spin and stuff. So while, like, they're still god's creatures it's not like they've an important message."

Which isn't an actual excuse, because if it were allowable to cull the dumb, Trace would have been a goner years before.

"Hey," JC says, and he tugs at the wool on Lance' back. "Be nice." A command that would have had more impact if JC wasn't hiding a smile behind his own hand.

"Lance, you're too freaky for us, dude. We're going to call Johnny, see if he knows what to do," Chris says suddenly. He's obviously raided Lance's fridge, because he's waving a slice of pizza, a circle of pepperoni threatening to fall off and land on the floor. Lance hisses because it's bad enough that his beautiful floor is getting scuffed, but grease too?

"I'm not calling." Joey's holding the phone at arm's length, his mouth screwed up as he passes it to Justin, who immediately passes it to JC. JC who seems to be having an involved conversation with a butterfly that's hovering next to the French doors.

Eventually, with an excess of eye rolling and declarations of everyone owing him big time, Chris calls.

Unwilling to listen to another round of explanations, Lance tunes in on JC's conversation. Not that it's interesting as it seems Lance doesn't speak butterfly. However, he does speak Joey, and it only takes a nudge of the pizza box and some significant looks and Lance is chewing on his own slice as Chris clicks shut his phone and says, "we need to go to Johnny's."

It's like a joke as they figure out transport. How do you get four men and a llama in a car? The punch line being, you don't. Especially when Justin is standing in front of his car muttering about dirty hooves and wool on his upholstery. Offended, Lance stalks to JC and butts him against his side and starts to hum.

"Llamas don't have hooves, they have toes," JC says, and he scratches his fingers into the wool of Lance's neck. "And even if they did, this is Lance, he doesn't have dirty feet."

"He normally doesn't have a woolly back, spindly legs and a ten foot tongue, but he's got them now." Justin presses himself against the back door of his car and glares at them defiantly. "He's probably got llama germs, it's not like he can wash."

Lance eyes Justin and lets saliva flood his mouth, instinct making him want to spit. He swallows it down. Now is not the time. Instead he waits and nibbles at a flower as they argue over trunk size in relation to a llama body. Lance doesn't mention that they could just take two cars. They don't work that way, if someone is in trouble they stick together, it's just how it is.

In the end they take Joey's car. It's got seats that fold down and take-out bags crunch under Lance's feet as he clambers into the back. Neck bowed he folds down and rests his head on the back of the remaining upright back seat.

A quick game of rock-paper-scissors later, and Chris is riding shotgun, with JC and Justin jammed together in the back seat that's not folded down. Lance laugh-hums because Justin's sitting perfectly still, his body tense. Lance decides to relax him by running his tongue down the length of Justin's neck.

"Gross!" Justin tries to push Lance away without actually touching him, so Lance presses his tongue against Justin's wrist. It seems like the right thing to do. "Lance, I swear. Do you know how many germs will be in llama spit? Millions, trillions even and you're touching bare skin. They're probably already in my blood stream. Fuck, what if I turn into a llama too!?"

Sensing Justin is seconds from a full freak out, Lance lets go and twitches his ears, because ow, Justin can get high-pitched at times.

"You won't turn into a llama," JC says, his voice soothing. "At least I don't think so." He turns to Lance. "Have you been licked by any llamas lately? Or maybe you licked them?"

Licking llamas. Licking llamas! Maybe in JC's world people go around llama licking, but Lance is normal, Lance is….

"A llama," JC says. He points a finger close to Lance's nose. "So stop with the insults." A last wag of his fingers, and he turns back around. "And there's worse things you could have on you than llama spit. I mean, he could have peed on you. Unless you're into that sort of thing, because it is kinda nice, warm and soothing you know?"

"No. I really don't know," Justin says, sounding horrified. He pinches his arm, hard. "This is a dream. I'll wake up and Lance won't be a llama and JC won't be talking about disgusting pee stuff and things will be fine."

Lance snorts, because if anyone should be hoping this is a dream it's him, and it's not like JC talking sex is something specific to dreams anyway. He does it all the time.

"Hey!" JC twists back around. "Sex is important, if more people talked about it the world would be a better place. Make kinky love and not war and all that."

"Not that I disagree," Chris says, looking at JC in the mirror. "But why are you talking sex with Lance? It's not like he can reply."

Worried that JC's about to say something he shouldn't, Lance creates a distraction by pulling back his lips and making like he's a rabid llama, something he thinks Chris will appreciate.

"Dude, Lance, you look like you've gone nuts."

Lance preens. He knows his friends well.

"Rabies." Justin sounds faint, and he's almost completely in JC's lap in order to get as far away from Lance as he can. "He could be rabid. Did anyone check for foam?"

Joey glances back. "Of course, it was the first thing I did once I realised my best friend was a llama. Had some coffee, chatted a while, checked for foam."

"There's no need to be such a bitch about it," Justin mutters.

"Well stop freaking out, it's still Lance."

Joey sounds deceptively calm because he's gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles are white. Lance sighs, his hot breath misting the window. He loves Joey for being so protective, but there's no need.

Ignoring the warning signs, Justin leans forward. "Think about the group, he's got four legs and can't speak."

"Justin," Chris says, sharply.

Justin slumps back against JC. "He's a llama and can't sing, which means we can't either. It's not Nsync without Lance."

Touched, Lance turns his head toward Justin, but stops moving when he holds up a hand.

"No offence, but you're still gross."

In reply, Lance licks Justin's cheek, giving him some llama love.


Lips pursed, Johnny circles Lance. "It could be worse; at least you don't need a tank."

Lance appreciates that he doesn't appear freaked out, in fact, Johnny seems remarkably calm, like this is something he deals with every day. Which maybe he does, the life of a boyband manager is a strange and varied one.

"I'm going to make some calls. You…" Johnny throws up his hands. "Go do llama things, but keep out of the house, I've just had the floors cleaned."

Lance snorts, as if? He's not going to stay outside when there are comfortable couches and carpets inside. Plus, he's bored, because being a llama just isn't fun.

"We could go watch TV. Jerry Springer should be on."

Chris deliberately looks around. "Talking to the invisible men again, JC? Or are you getting conversations beamed from space?"

"Close," JC says, ignoring the teasing with the ease of long practice. He rests his hand on the wool on top of Lance's head, petting gently. "Lance says it'll be starting soon."

Lance curls his lip, he's said no such thing, how can he when he doesn't know the time? It's not like llamas wear a watch. Still, if JC says it's nearly time it must be, and Lance does enjoy the show. There's something deliciously seedy about watching people air their dirty laundry, especially when Chris always champions the unwed moms and Joey the players and Justin anyone that isn't wearing an ugly outfit. Lance isn't sure what JC likes the best, but he does tend to look interested in the fights, excessively so at times.

JC bends and pretends he's tying the laces of his sneaker. He makes a complicated bow and looks up at Lance and says, quietly defensive, "It's a perfectly natural reaction; it's inbuilt, like the urge to fight or flee."

Which, right. Lance swishes his tail and twitches his ears and twitches his nose when he smells something new. He's getting used to having a keen sense of smell, like how he can tell Justin used coconut shampoo this morning and that Chris had been eating pretzels, but this is different, more organic. It's familiar, but at the same time not, and it's just getting stronger.

"Come on, they're getting the best seats."

JC stands, and Lance is faced with an eyeful of Chasez crotch.

"Stop looking," JC hisses. Which is okay for him to say, but he's not the one who has to smell arousal. Tossing his head, Lance clips clops away, heading inside.

He finds the others in one of the lounges. They've already switched on the TV and Justin and Chris are sprawled over one couch, Joey sitting at the edge of the other. He pats the cushion when he sees Lance. "Come sit next to me."

Lance does. It takes a little bit of thought but soon he's laying down, his head resting on Joey's knee. It's comfortable, nice, and if Lance closes his eyes he can even forget that he's a llama. For a moment at least.


"You're okay with this, right?"

Joey's sitting on the kitchen island. He keeps banging his heels against the cupboard doors and normally Lance would be annoyed. But his kitchen looks like a disaster zone anyway, especially the floor with its trailed-in dirt and scuffs.

"It's just. I know how much you've wanted to go to space."

Lance stands and his toes click against the tiles as he walks. By stretching a little he's able to rest his chin on Joey's lap. Puffing air from his nose, Lance tries to tell Joey that it's okay, he understands. And he does, they need some cover story for him being away. Still, space. Even if it is only space training it sucks that he's not getting to go.

Lance breathes in the scent of Joey – fabric conditioner and coffee and syrup – it makes Lance hungry, but last time he'd tried to eat pancakes he'd ended up puking on the grass for hours. It seems no matter how much he wants certain things this body isn't designed to take them.

It's one of the things he misses the most; real food and showers, because while the others are trying their best, greens and a wash down with the hose just aren't the same.

"You're really down about this aren't you?"

Joey's threading his fingers into Lance's wool, kneading along his spine. Lance closes his eyes and hums. He's always fighting this body, trying to make it work like the one he had before. It's why he constantly aches, muscles tense and strung tight.

It is getting better, as Lance's brain catches on to the fact he's changed. It should be a good thing, but all Lance can think is things are slipping away, and he's scared that one day he'll wake up and not remember he was once human at all.

"How about I cook some of those vegetable shishkebabs you like? We can sit next to the pool to eat."

Lance lifts his head and butts the end of his snout against Joey's chest. Eating by the pool sounds like a good idea.

Joey slides off the counter, and Lance heads outside. He picks up one of the big cushions on the way, clamping his teeth as he pulls. It drags along the ground, fabric catching, but eventually Lance drops it next to the pool.

When he looks at the house he sees Joey standing next to the grill, turning dials and settling into his ritual for cooking the perfect shiahkebab. It means Lance has time to go to the bathroom. Not the one inside, but the one they were forced to set up at the side of the house.

Lance hates going there. He always feels exposed, it's why there's a screen around the area and why he waits until there's no one around before slipping inside. Going to the bathroom outside. His momma would disown him if she knew.

Business done, Lance scrapes his feet against the ground and flicks his tail before heading back to the pool. Settling down on the cushion he rests his head on his legs and watches Joey cook. He's singing as he places the kebabs on the hot grill, the sizzle of vegetables becoming part of the background song.

It's instinctive to join in. Lance starts to hum and when Joey hears he grins, giving Lance a thumbs up as they sing.


"They're really good for the garden. Like it's the, um, nutrients and stuff," JC says, rattling the box he's holding.

Lance suspects that under his wool he's blushing, because it's bad enough that he has to go outside, now JC's scooping up his dried pellets. The indignities of being a llama never end.

"Oh hey, no. Don't be ashamed. It's all natural, giving back to the earth, the circle of life and all that."

Which is all fine and well, but it's not like JC's out throwing his shit all over the flowerbeds.

"No, I would. It's just, like, inconvenient, in principal though..." The contents of the box rattle as JC drops his hand. "I think it depends on what you eat too. I mean, I could be like, adding concentrated alcohol to the ground?"

Lance is sure it doesn't actually work that way, but on the list of subjects that he's willing to debate, how much alcohol is filtered out of your shit is way down at the bottom.

"Fine," JC says. "Dropping the subject." He stops walking then, head tilted to one side. "Justin and Chris are here."

Lance pricks his ears. He can't hear the others, but there's a blackbird on the roof, its chirp sounding clear in the air.

Leaving JC to his one-sided conversation, Lance walks toward the patio where Justin is already stretched out on a lounger. He's wearing shorts, exposing his long skinny milk-white legs and his feet are bare, a pair of sneakers neatly tucked in the shade. He sits when he hears Lance approach, drawing up his knees as he looks around.

Seeing him so obviously nervous makes Lance sad, because he can't seem to get Justin to understand that he's still him. That he may have a llama body, but it's a wrapping, that's all, and has nothing to do with the inside.

"Lance, hi." Justin waves and inches over so he's on the very edge of the lounger. Lance snorts and rolls his eyes because this is ridiculous. Deciding action has to be taken, he walks close and lies down, chin propped on Justin's foot.

He hums when Justin tries to pull away. Keeps humming when Justin stops.

"Are you humming Bye Bye Bye?"

Lance nods, feeling relieved when Justin just looks at him, as if Lance has just done the most amazing thing ever. To Justin he probably has.

"Lance, buddy, hi!"

Chris is carrying a stack of glasses and a tall pitcher filled with something unrecognisable, and very blue. Sitting next to Lance, he cups his hand and says, "You want?"

Lance does. While he's got no tolerance anymore, and that's a night he doesn't want to remember, he still likes the taste of cocktails. He waits as Chris pours out a small amount, then licks from Chris' hand, enjoying the taste of vodka and juice and the salty background tang of skin.

It tastes great, and Lance gives a pleased nod of his head before sitting, tucking under his legs as he waits for Joey and JC. It takes a while, apparently the black bird has a lot to say, and Joey's brought out a second jug, this one pink, before JC finally joins them.

Folding himself to the ground, JC sets his box on the lounger and accepts a cocktail. He takes a long drink and looks around. Everyone looks back at him, waiting, because while it's Lance who wanted this meeting, it's JC that's called it.

"Well?" Chris says at last. He seems pale under his summer tan and Lance knows he's been steeling himself for JC saying they'll have to take a break. It's the only logical conclusion, because Lance can't stay in space training forever.

Lance doesn't want to stay in training forever, even if it is on paper. The fact is, he wants to be seen for who he is, which is why he wants to come out.

"I've been talking to Lance, and he wants to admit that he's a llama."

There's silence, and then they all talk together.

"That's insane!"

"Llamas can't talk, how can he tell you anything?"

For a long moment they all talk over one another. Annoyed and trying to attract attention, Lance pulls back his ears and spits. He's aiming for the wall, but Justin picks that moment to move, and suddenly llama spit is dripping from his forehead, sliding over his brows onto his nose.

"Lance just spat in my eye," Justin says, slowly. He sounds shell-shocked, and doesn't move when JC scrambles to his knees and uses the edge of his t-shirt to wipe at Justin's face.

Lance bows his head. He hadn't meant to hit Justin, but none of them were listening and this is important.

"Lance hasn't seemed that happy lately," Joey says suddenly. He reaches out and curls his fingers around Lance's toes. "I think we should listen."

Chris wipes away his tears of laughter and deliberately turns away from Justin. "The problem being, he can't actually talk."

"He could spell," Justin says. He keeps rubbing at his face as he stands and hurries into the house. He comes back with his bag and takes out a six pack of hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes and finally, the note book he uses for his songs. Ripping out the blank pages, he finds a pen and writes the alphabet, arranging the pages around Lance.

In theory it should work, but Lance's head is aching at the thought of saying what he needs letter by letter. Still, it's not like he doesn't have time. He reaches out a leg, points to an N then an O.

Chris jumps up, yells, "Nose! I knew he was thinking about getting it done."

"It could be nob, he could be missing sex," Justin says. He looks around. "What?"

"One, knob's spelled with a K. Two Lance isn't British. Three, it's obviously no."

Lance hums happily; at least Joey's got some sense, though why JC didn't say something is a mystery.

"Sorry, I was hoping you meant knob." JC smiles and waves away Lance's irritated roll of his eyes. "It's a good word."

Which, maybe it is, but Lance hasn't ever used it and he's not about to now. He stretches out his leg again, taps against an S, a P, an A.

"No space?" Joey says. He sounds confused, brows pulled together in a frown. "You want us to say you're somewhere else?"

Tail twitching, Lance starts to spell out words. J. C. K. N. O. W. S.

"Wait, you're saying JC can really talk to you?" Chris asks.

Lance lifts his leg, stomps repeatedly on Y.

"I always knew you were a freak, C." Chris takes a drink and slides close to JC. "So, Busta, does he ever say anything?"

Immediately JC starts thinking memories. Love-love-love. Walks in the dark. Running in the grass, and some things that Lance would really not know at all.

Justin looks warily at JC. "Never mind Busta, can you read our minds?"

Immediately JC scrunches up his eyes and presses his finger-tips against his temples. "I can see that you're freakishly attached to your mom, had cereal for breakfast and spent last night counting your sneaker collection."

Justin goes white and Lance hums laughter when JC looks his way and winks.

"Chill, J. I can't read human minds." JC shrugs and rubs the back of his head. "I get headaches when I try."

"So you're like, some kind of mutant?" Chris asks. He moves next to JC and starts patting him down. "Have you got wings? Or a tail? Can you fly?"

JC bats at Chris' hands. "No no and no. All I can do is read animal minds."

"There's no all about it, that's awesome."

JC beams at Joey. "It is kinda cool. Mom thinks it's genetic because when she found me in the flower patch I was surrounded by rabbits and crows."

"Wait." Chris holds up his hand. "Are you telling me Karen found you in a cabbage patch? Please be telling me that."

"A flower patch, it's not like I was left by the stork." He pokes at Chris' knee. "Lance is getting antsy."

Ears lowered, Lance narrows his eyes at JC, because finally, he needs to tell them already.

"I'm doing it now, keep your wool on." JC takes a drink and waits until everyone is listening. "So, Lance wants to come out as a llama. He thinks living a lie is unfair to our fans who should know it's okay to be different."

"But, how will he sing?" Justin says, tapping his foot. "Or dance."

Chris looks at Lance and grins, bright and wicked. "Well he didn't really dance much anyway."

Lance hums. It's true.

"He doesn't fit in our demographics and how is he supposed to do gags when he hasn't got opposable thumbs?"

"Calm down, J. It'll be fine. Here, have some raisins." Chris pushes the metal box toward Justin, and before JC can say a word, Justin scoops up a handful and throws them in his mouth.

He chews and all Lance can do is watch, his mouth hanging open. Then Justin starts to cough, chewed up pellets spraying from his mouth. "What the fuck? These taste horrible."

Red-faced, JC wipes at his eyes with the back of his hand. He tries to speak, but all he can do is laugh and it's Joey who gets up, looks in the box and says, "Erm, Justin. I think these are dried llama pellets."

Eyes wide and hand over his mouth, Justin runs for the nearest bush and starts to gag, leaving Lance with three men hysterical with laughter, and a coming out speech left in tatters.


"You look fantastic," Joey says. He kneels and rests his forehead against Lance's side. Joey smells of aftershave and toothpaste and a healthy dose of nerves. Lance hums and turns his neck, nuzzling reassurances against Joey's cheek.

"We're ready to go."

Chris is holding onto Justin's wrist, his fingers wrapped tight. They both look nervous, like they were so many years before, when press-conferences were something new. Now they're veterans, have learned to handle the most hostile intrusive crowd, but they've never had to announce one of their group is a llama before. None of them knows if it'll go well.

They've no idea if anything will go well. If they'll even have any fans left once they've given the announcement.

Still, Lance reassures himself that at least it's just him. If it had been Justin or JC it would have been a disaster.

"Stop that!" JC walks away from the curtain, letting it close. "You're not less important than me or J and things will be fine. You have to have faith."

Lance nods, and then starts to walk.

The crowd of journalists fall silent when Lance appears. There's a table at the front of the room, name plates saying, Chris, Justin, JC, Joey and Llance, the second L drawn in with black pen.

"Chris got Lonnie to do it," JC says, leaning over to whisper in Lance's ear.

Lance llama-smiles, it seems appropriate somehow, and he has a spring in his step as he takes his place at the side of the table.

As they pass, each one of his group pets Lance's woolly head, and he stands proud as they sit, and the audience whisper. Then Justin stands. He's holding Lance's speech, translated by JC and now Justin is going to say his words. Lance hums softly, a song of friendship and love.

Justin stands, looks around and says, "Ladies and gentlemen, before I go on, let me present Lance."


The chaps are specially made. They glitter when Lance walks and are tied to his legs in a series of careful knots. He looks good, feels happy, but he can't help worry. The support has been amazing, from letters and emails to the delivery of hay that had arrived at his house the day before, a gift from a group of fans. But how will the fans react when they come for Lance Bass and instead are presented with Llance?

"They're going to love you, man," JC says. He wearing matching sparkly chaps and they flap around his ankles when he walks close to Lance.

"Yeah, they're pre-teens, they love fluffy critters, they'll eat you up. It'll be the start of a whole new thing, in fact, we should release Giddy Up, I could ride you," Chris says, and he jumps aside, out of the way of Lance's snapping teeth.

Laughing he joins JC, waiting for Justin and Joey to leave the dressing room. They do, and Lance bleats when he notices that Justin's holding a hackey sack.

Justin worries at it with his fingers and looks at Lance. "I figured you could start us off with your mouth."

Lance nods, he can do that. Opening his mouth, he blows hot air on Justin's hand, amused when Justin immediately jumps back.

"Ass," Justin glares and holds the hackey out again. This time Lance takes it in his mouth, and he tastes sweat and dirty material and it should be disgusting. It's not. It's family, and Lance tosses his head, sending the hackey through the air.

Joey kicks, then Justin, then JC and Chris, and for the first time ever they've achieved a hackey on the first try.

"That has to mean something, right?" Justin sounds cautious, like finally he's starting to believe things will be fine. Because they will. They have Lance's old voice on backing track and the new song, Chris, JC, Joey and Justin singing, and Lance humming along.

"Let's do this," Chris says, looking determined as he heads for the stage. Justin and JC follow, but Joey holds out his hand, stopping Lance. He crouches so they're face to face.

"I know you're still Lance." Joey presses his face against Lance's neck and Lance isn't JC. He can't hear thoughts or internal words, but that's okay. He knows what Joey's saying anyway.


Panting, Lance stands, his head bowed toward the ground. Chris, JC, Joey and Justin are standing at his sides, their arms out, beaming as the last notes of Bye Bye Bye begin to fade and the confetti filling the air begins to drift toward the ground.

The song ends, and Lance looks up, tired but happy as he looks at the crowd. Thousands of fans, glow-sticks held high, and the banners. I love you Llance, Llamas Rule. I want to be Mrs Llance Bass.

Lance can't help a hum of joy.

The support has been amazing, from letters and emails to the delivery of hay that had arrived at his house the day before, a gift from a group of fans.

"Come on. We'll be doing it again tomorrow," JC says then. Sweat drips from his forehead and darkens his shirt, the same as it does for them all. Even the skin under Lance's wool feels damp.

He curls his neck when he feels something touch his back, and butts his head against Justin's arm.

"You were fantastic." Justin's beaming, and his hip bumps against Lance's side as they walk off the stage. "You took your hum solo to the next level. Way to make me look bad."

Lance wiggles as he walks, strutting a little because he's pulled this off. They've pulled this off.

"You need to go. Go go!"

Lonnie is yelling directions as he stands next to the doors. They're open wide, letting in cool air and outside Lance can see the buses, one of which has a ramp leading inside. He runs toward that bus, unsurprised when the others follow, all four piling in behind him.

Time together is exactly what they need.

"They loved you." Chris says, running his fingers over Lance's ear. He grins wide, says, joking. "Obviously not as much as they love me, but they loved you."

Tail twitching, Lance pushes his nose into Chris' hand and then clips toward the special llamafied part of the bus. Which truthfully is an area where part of the couch has been removed, leaving room for a soft blanket and a pillow for Lance's head.

He settles down, watching as the others strip off their shirts and towel dry their hair. They're all sweat-soaked still, and Lance curls his nose at the smell, but still. It's them. His group, his friends. Lance may be a llama, but that hasn't changed.

"Princess Bride?" Joey says suddenly, and he's already putting in the DVD. Pressing play, he settles on the ground, back against the couch, his hand on Lance's back. Quickly the others gather around too. Chris and Justin lying on the floor, their feet between Lance's front legs, JC on his side so he can rest his head on Lance's flank.

They'll all move soon, peeling away for showers and food, but for now, they're in one llama-centred pile, feet and arms and hands against Lance, showing he still belongs.

Lance fucking loves his group.

JC shifts then, lifts his head so he can see Lance's face, smiles and says, "We love you too."

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