Author's Note: Ok, the guys in the chat are making me post this... if you think it sucks, go yell at them... if you think it's good... e-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris stepped regretfully out of his hot shower, wishing he had more time to spend in the soothing steam. Still, he knew he had to get ready for his surprise party.
"You would think," he said to his reflection in the steamy mirror, "that after this many years of giving each of us surprise parties, we'd grow brains. Or at least subtlety."
Chris wrapped a towel around his dripping hair and headed out into the bedroom to get dressed. He'd only taken a few steps, however, before he winced in pain and had to stop moving. `Dammit,' Chris thought disgustedly. His knee had been hurting on and off for the past week, although in the past few days it had begun to be more on than off. The whole thing worried Chris, especially that day- his thirtieth birthday. He was worried that the injury wasn't only temporary, and he was terrified what that might mean for the group. In an effort to ignore it, the dark haired man had begun rehearsing and performing harder than ever, which only served to make the problem worse.
Chris limped over to his suitcase and knelt down gingerly. Sifting through his dirty clothes, Chris finally found a soft knee brace. He looked at it sadly and limped back over to the bed, where he sat and slipped the brace on up over his knee. Chris sat for a few minutes, and when he got back up, most of the pain was gone, so he wandered back over to his suitcase in search of something clean- or at least not smelly- to wear.
Fifteen minutes later, finally dressed, Chris stood in front of the closet mirror, looking at himself critically. `So this is what thirty looks like,' he thought absently, sighing as he put his hand around his middle. The slight paunch he'd always carried had grown a miniscule amount, but to Chris is seemed like he'd gained thirty pounds. Chris had always had a high forehead, and though he hadn't lost any hair, it seemed to him that his hairline had receded thirty miles. Not to mention his knee. For a minute Chris felt like crying, but he held it in.
"I'm fine," he told himself, rather non-convincingly.
Just then Chris heard a knock on his hotel room door and he wandered over to open it, not feeling any pain in his knee, or at least refusing to admit he felt it. He opened the door and smiled a genuine smile.
"Hey Justin," Chris said happily. "How's it hangin?"
"Little low & to the left," Justin said instantly.
"Oh like I really wanted to know that!" Chris cried, scrunching his face up in disgust and trying to ignore that he really did sort of- want to know. `Bad brain,' he scolded himself.
Justin laughed. "I know you did," he said. "That's why you asked. You all set for dinner?"
Chris smiled wider and winked at Justin. "Of course. Just you an me right?"
"Oh of Course!" Justin insisted, his wide-eyed innocence proving to Chris that absolutely nothing had changed and he was indeed heading towards his `surprise party.'
"Oh good," Chris said, slinging his jean-jacket clad arm over Justin's shoulder, ignoring, like so many other feelings he had been ignoring lately, his guilty pleasure at the touch.
"SURPRISE!" a roomful of people yelled as Chris and Justin entered the hotel's posh restaurant.
"Oh My GOD!" Chris screamed, his face widening in shock. "Oh my god I'm having a coronary here."
"Were you really surprised?" Joey asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh you know you were old man," Justin said, poking Chris in the side. "You can't remember long ago enough to establish the pattern." Joey smacked Justin upside the back of the head, but Chris just laughed.
"Child, haven't we been over this enough?" he asked. "Or do I have to take you over my knee?" `If only,' Chris couldn't help but think.
"Bring it on Pops," Justin said, beckoning Chris to him.
"That's enough," J.C. broke in. "Break it up boys, we don't want to frighten our guests."
Chris & Justin simultaneously bowed their heads in apology and regret. "Yes dad," they said meekly. J.C. just shook his head and rolled his eyes.
Chris couldn't believe that as many people showed up for his party as did. He'd only looked quickly and he'd already seen half of Jive and a fourth of Hollywood. Most of it was probably due to their location in Los Angeles, wherein any party was crashable, but Chris was happy to pretend they were all just trying to see him.
Someone tapped on his shoulder, and Chris turned to see Lance smiling behind him.
"Present time," the bass singer said in his mellow tone. Chris smiled back and followed him to a table laden with wrapped gifts.
Just as Chris sat, the lights in the restaurant flickered out and were replaced by the glow of candles. The crowd began to sing, but all Chris could hear was the out-of-tune warbling of the man beside him. Justin was crooning like a wounded dog and Chris winced through his laughter. It was almost a tradition between the group at birthday parties to see who could sing the Birthday song the worst, and this year Justin was taking the cake. Actually, Chris thought it might not be a bad idea if Justin really DID take the cake- to the head. He was singing so damn *loud!*
"Freak," Chris muttered, swatting Justin's face away from his ear.
"Just making sure you could hear me," Justin said sweetly.
"Make a wish," Joey advised. Chris closed his eyes and wished. He inhaled deeply... and blew.
All of the candles blew out, then immediately re-lit themselves. Chris groaned. "Not funny you guys." He said, glaring at the trick candles.
"Pathetic," Justin said, shaking his head. "Can't even blow out single candle."
"Would you like me to put the candles out up your as- um nose?" Chris corrected himself. Justin blushed.
"Open the damn presents," he said.
Chris grabbed a box from the pile and ripped off the wrapping paper excitedly to reveal...
Chris laughed and shook his head, grabbing another gift.
Chris laughed again, but this time it seemed more forced as he reached for the pile. "If this is another gag gift, you all probably do not want to go to sleep anytime soon- or for like the next year."
Joey snatched the box out of Chris's hand. "Uh- I just... I... um This isn't for you," he finished, putting the box behind him. Chris laughed and continued to open the presents.
Chris sat in the corner of the restaurant several hours later, nursing a beer. Lance and J.C. were somewhere, presumably talking music with a producer they'd happened to run into. Joey was probably off looking for a chick.
Chris knew exactly where Justin was however, as he watched the younger man dance around with Brittany Spears, his on again, off again girlfriend. Chris never knew what to make of the couple. A lot of the time he thought they acted more like brother and sister than lovers did, but that could just be his own jealousy.
He sighed, leaning back as he thought of the presents he'd received that night. The first two packages had been rather foreboding, and Chris now was the reluctant owner of a multitude of products for the elderly. Normally Chris would have just laughed these off, but coupled with his recent worries, they only made him feel worse. Not to mention that his knee was hurting like hell again.
Chris sighed. "It can't go on like this," he said softly, reaching down to rub his sore knee.
"Need some help with that?" asked a voice that made shivers run down Chris's spine. Chris froze. He'd never expected to hear that voice again in a million years.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Chris snapped angrily at Louis J. Pearlman.