Alex kicked rhythmically at his carry-on bag, sitting on the floor in front of him. "I'm so fucking sick of this airport."
"Uh-huh." Chris didn't look up from his book. He knew from experience that Alex would keep on talking, regardless of whether he paid any attention or not.
"I mean, all airports are dull, but this one..."
Orlando International Airport was busy, but most of the rest of the TNA guys were already gone. There were a few wrestlers who were taking the same delayed flight, but Alex didn't feel much like talking to anyone other than Chris, so Chris was stuck with him.
Alex slouched down further in his seat. "Don't you think this airport is duller than the average?"
"Maybe it's just because you're so used to it," Chris offered, still not looking up.
"Maybe," Alex agreed. "Maybe it's a good thing we probably won't have to come back to this shithole many more times."
Chris finally glanced up, but only briefly. "You're jumping the gun a bit there, aren't you?"
Alex snorted. "Come on, man, you see how this is heading as well as I do. I don't know. Maybe. Whatever, if it happens, I won't be sorry to see the back of this place."
"You say that now, but you know you'd miss the charming attendants and first class service."
"I assume Bubba dropped you on your head again." Alex glared around himself, hating the place and the people in it indiscriminately.
"Anyway, it's not like you'd have to worry if they canned you." Chris gave up on his attempt to read, closing his book and shoving it into the side pocket of his bag. "Ring of Honor would hunt you down for a start - Cary would cum in his pants at the thought of getting you back on the roster."
Alex smiled wryly. "I notice you made no mention of yourself. You wouldn't be interested?"
Chris shrugged. "They might bring me in for shows here and there, but I doubt I'd be full time like you would."
"You're kidding me, right? You don't think they'd fall over themselves to book you?"
"I was never as over in ROH as you were." Chris grinned, shoving amiably at Alex. "Let's face it, they'd throw me under a bus to get to you."
"You never had the same opportunity to make your mark there, you were already committed to TNA. Anyway, I'd put in a good word for you," Alex said magnanimously. "You got me my first shot there, it'd only be fair to return the favour."
"Thank you, o great and generous benefactor."
"Seriously though, man, they'd book us together."
"Maybe." Chris looked dubious.
Alex stretched and yawned. "There's a whole lot of maybes today."
"There's been a whole lot of maybes since January," Chris corrected him. "I'd still have options if they didn't book me though, I could work more shows for PWG. AAW would have me, and I could talk to Scott about Maximum Pro."
"You've thought about this, haven't you? And you said I was jumping the gun."
Chris grimaced. "After Petey got shitcanned last year, I don't take anything for granted. Especially now."
"Good move." Alex sat forward, looking animated again at last. "Hey, I bought BioShock 2. I can bring it over tomorrow if you like."
"I thought you and Julie were supposed to be doing a bunch of romantic crap tomorrow?"
"Oh. Oh yeah." Alex scratched the back of his head. "Another day then."
"You know, as boyfriends go, you suck. I have no idea why she puts up with you." Chris shook his head for emphasis.
"Well," Alex began thoughtfully, "I'm good looking, intelligent, witty, well-hung, I clean up nice, and I'm a great fuck."
"And you're hardly ever there, that probably helps."
"Probably," Alex agreed with a grin. "Previous girlfriends have been known to voice the opinion that I'm an irritating little fucker if they have to see too much of me. They've all suggested you must be permanently stoned, or you couldn't spend so much time with me without murdering me in my sleep."
"You don't sleep often enough to give me the opportunity. Maybe you can come over for a while in the afternoon, if she can spare you?"
"Maybe. I'm sure I can come up with something. I can always tell her we're planning our post-TNA careers."
Chris laughed. "It might not even be a lie." He sobered a little. "We've made it this far though, I think if they were going to get rid of us, they'd probably have done it by now."
"Maybe." Alex reached over to steal Chris' water bottle, trying to shake his paranoia. "I'm sure you're right, we'd already have our marching orders if they wanted us gone. We'll be fine."
Chris nodded, although he doubted either one of them actually believed that.
Chris was trying to decide what to have for lunch when his doorbell rang. He used to leave his door unlocked during the day, but his mother kept going on at him about it ("You'll get murdered!"), so now he was forced to actually get up and answer the damn thing when someone came over.
When he opened it, he was pleased to find Alex standing on his doorstep. "You're early," he said as he ushered Alex in and closed the door behind him. "How did you manage to slip the leash?"
"It was surprisingly easy," Alex replied, leaning against the wall. "Evidently I am a master of my craft. I've got all day."
"Dude, awesome." Chris led the way into his living room, and Alex followed behind him, shrugging out of his jacket. "I had this great idea for a song. Wanna jam for a while, see what you think of it?"
Alex wrinkled his nose, throwing his jacket over the back of the armchair before slouching down into it. "Maybe a bit later. I'm not feeling very creative right now."
"Okay, what do you want to do?"
"Right now, I think I just want to kill things for a while." Alex picked at a loose thread on the outside seam of his jeans to avoid making eye contact. It was obvious he wasn't in the best of moods, but Chris knew asking him what was wrong would only irritate him.
"Sure, go get us some water and I'll set the console up. Did you bring BioShock 2?"
"Man, I completely forgot. Sorry." Alex smiled apologetically as he stood and made for the kitchen.
"Resident Evil 5 instead then?"
"Works for me."
Alex's odd temper continued, and he neglected to gloat at the zombies they shot up the way he usually did. Chris didn't think too much of it though, and some two hours passed in comparative quiet, apart from the sound effects of the game. Eventually Alex put his controller aside, and Chris assumed their gaming session was done. He noticed suddenly how hungry he was and remembered that he hadn't had lunch yet. He wondered if Alex felt like a trip to McDonalds.
Alex leaned back in the armchair. "Can I ask a favour?"
Chris raised an eyebrow. It wasn't like Alex to actually ask Chris for anything. Normally he simply took whatever he was after, blindly assuming that Chris would be okay with it. "Shoot."
"Can I store some stuff here for a while? Me and Julie broke up." Alex picked at the thread in his jeans again, refusing to look up.
"Seriously?" Chris sat up in surprise. "What happened?"
Alex slouched back a little more. "Eh, she'd had enough of me not being there, and not paying attention even when I was. The usual."
"Sorry, man." Chris didn't know what else to say. He'd never seen Julie as a particularly long-term prospect for Alex, but he wouldn't have guessed they'd break up at this point; things seemed to be going so well for them. On the other hand, most of Alex's relationships fell apart when they seemed to be going well.
Smoothing the thread down against the seam, Alex made an effort to look up. "It's okay, I'm not really broken up about it. Except that now I have to find an apartment and somewhere to keep my shit in the meantime. And do my own laundry."
Chris couldn't decide whether or not to believe Alex's declaration of indifference. "You usually move back in with your parents when your girlfriends throw you out. What gives?"
"Mom turned my room into an office." Alex sounded so offended, Chris couldn't help but laugh. "An office. If it was a games room I could understand, but an office?"
"Do you think maybe 27 is old enough for you to stand on your own two feet?" Chris asked with a smile.
Alex scowled. "That's what Mom said. Don't you people know I'm doing my best not to grow up even a little bit? I'm nowhere near mature enough to be trusted with a house of my own."
"That's probably true. So wait, where are you going to be staying till you find an apartment?"
"I figure I'll just stay in a motel. I don't need much room, and it's only temporary."
Chris shook his head. "That's stupid. You know you can stay here."
Alex looked uncomfortable. "It's nice of you to offer, but I'm kind of annoying. You've probably noticed. I'm sure the only reason you can stand to be around me when we're on the road is because you get time away from me when we're not, and I don't want to piss you off."
"Do you honestly think you're less annoying in small doses? Because I've got to tell you, that's not the case." Chris shrugged. "Anyway, if you piss me off I'll put you in time out in the garage."
Alex grinned. "You really would do that, wouldn't you?"
"Too fucking right I would, I've known you too long not to have a back-up plan." Chris reached over and nudged Alex's leg. "So you're staying here, right?"
"If you're positive it won't be a problem..." Alex said hesitantly.
"Of course it won't be a problem. I'll always have room for you here, dimwit."
"Thanks, man, I appreciate it." Alex favoured Chris with a broad smile. "So, you wanna show me this song idea of yours?"
Chris rose to fetch his guitar, already plotting out the adjustments he'd need to make to his lifestyle if Alex was going to be staying in his house.
"Can we go home now?"
Chris grinned. "No."
There was a pause of around ten seconds before Alex spoke again. "How about now?"
"No. Man, we only just got the tent up."
"I know, and it sucks. It's tiny, there's nowhere near enough room in there for me, let alone for both of us."
Chris shrugged. "The smaller the tent, the less grief it is to carry. It's fine, honestly."
"For you, maybe," Alex said grumpily.
Throwing one arm around Alex's shoulders, Chris gestured around them with the other. "Come on, man, look at all this. It's going to be great. Don't write it off before we even start, huh?"
Alex sighed, reminding himself that Chris had been really looking forward to this stupid camping trip, and that it would be unfair of him to spoil it by being a sulky little fuck. "Fine. I'll try to have a good time."
"And tomorrow we're going fishing, remember?"
"I do like fishing," Alex admitted. "Okay, what are we doing tonight?"
"Nothing really, just hanging out and enjoying the scenery. We can play frisbee if you like?"
"Nah, can't be bothered." Alex pulled a blanket from his pack and laid it on the ground. "I think I'm gonna relax right here and try to adjust." Alex sank onto the blanket, pulling his shirt off and tossing it aside before sprawling on his back. "If you happened to bring some of nature's finest along with you, I dare say that might help ease the transition."
"Why, Mr. Shelley, I'm offended by the very suggestion that I might ever partake in the consumption of an illegal substance." Chris produced a tin from his pack and threw it at Alex. "You roll. And shift over."
Alex obediently made room on the blanket and set about rolling a joint, while Chris divested himself of his own shirt, dumping it with Alex's. The next few hours were lazily spent smoking intermittently and chatting, while Chris occasionally extolled the virtues of being outdoors on this hazy summer evening and Alex didn't care.
Eventually the conversation began to stall. The sun was finally starting to set, and Alex was staring up at the increasingly orange sky, taking the first drag on the joint Chris had just rolled. As he exhaled blissfully, he became aware of Chris sniggering. He ignored it to begin with, but within a minute Chris had progressed to giggling.
"Alright, what's so funny?" Alex demanded.
It took Chris a little while to get himself sufficiently under control to reply. "You have the smallest nipples in the whole universe," he said finally, and dissolved into giggles again.
Alex brought his free arm up to cover his chest protectively. "Man, lay off my nipples. They're not small, they're just... modest. Unassuming." He glared at Chris. "Anyway, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, you're in no position to comment on anyone else's nipples. You have girl's nipples, to go with your fucking girly giggling."
Chris seemed to think the feminine state of his own nipples was even funnier than the compact state of Alex's, and Alex was convinced the noise he made for the next five minutes made certain no wild animals would be approaching their camp that night. It took a while, but Chris' howls of laughter gradually turned back into giggles, and from there to sniggers before finally subsiding, leaving Chris breathing heavily.
"They're really sensitive, actually," Chris admitted with a smile, and an image marched across Alex's brain of himself twiddling Chris' nipples with one ear to his chest like a safe cracker. He blinked at Chris twice before bursting into helpless laughter while Chris chuckled at his amusement.
Alex managed to think straight enough to hand the joint off to Chris to make sure he didn't burn himself, and he let his laughter run its course. It was dying down when, in a flash, the image in his head changed. Suddenly his open lips were latched over Chris' nipple, his tongue rolling over it while Chris moaned breathlessly, his hand on the back of Alex's head. Alex continued to laugh, but it sounded uncomfortable and disingenuous in his ears.
"You're a fucking retard," Chris said, and Alex smiled to mask his disorientation. He watched Chris smoking, shaking his head slightly from time to time as though he believed he could dislodge some of his unnerving thoughts.
Alex didn't sleep too badly that night, although he suspected that was due in large part to the weed. Around the time dawn was breaking, he woke up needing to piss, so he shoved away the arm Chris had draped over him and crawled out of the tent to see to his need. As he clambered back inside, he resented the lack of space; if he and Chris both lay on their backs, their shoulders touched the sides of the tent, and the accumulated body heat was suffocating.
He crawled onto his sleeping bag - both he and Chris had agreed it was far too hot to sleep inside them, instead laying them over their bedrolls so their skin didn't stick uncomfortably to the thin mats - and curled up on his side, facing away from Chris. Chris immediately rolled over in his sleep and threw an arm around Alex's waist, the hard muscle of his naked chest pressed tight to Alex's bare back. Despite the cloying heat, Alex didn't shrug him away.
Although Chris had no objection to fishing, he wasn't wildly fond of it either. It involved a bit too much sitting around for his taste; he'd rather be doing something more active. Alex really liked fishing though - probably precisely because it gave him an excuse to be lazy, Chris thought - so Chris had scheduled it for their first full day in the great outdoors.
He glanced sideways at Alex. He couldn't quite figure out Alex's mood today. When he'd awoken that morning he'd found Alex already outside the tent, staring into space with a joint in his hand. Chris hadn't intended for them to break out the weed so early on, or for them to smoke so much of it, but given that Alex had just broken up with Julie, Chris wasn't about to begrudge him a little herbal comfort. He looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and Chris wished he could help him with it, but he knew this was one burden Alex would have to carry alone.
Alex had been up and down all day, bright and talkative one moment, pensive and brooding the next. Chris watched him staring at the lake in deep thought, and figured maybe it would help him to talk about it.
"Thinking about Julie?" he ventured, and Alex jumped as though he'd forgotten anyone else was even there.
"Huh? Oh. No." He smiled at Chris in reassurance. "I'm okay with the breakup, seriously, it's a logistical hassle, is all. I think Julie and I were never really suited to each other, we were too different."
Chris nodded. "I never thought you two were all that compatible either."
Alex reached over and shoved him. "And you didn't think to tell me this before I took the major step of moving in with her?"
"Dude, you move in with everybody," Chris said reasonably, and Alex laughed. It sounded alien and Chris realised with some surprise that it was the first time Alex had laughed all day.
"I do, don't I?" Alex sobered slightly. "I really do. I wonder why that is. Wonder what I'm looking for."
"I think you just like having some mug to pick up after you, and a guaranteed fuck when you get home."
"Well, okay, that part is nice," Alex agreed, smiling wolfishly.
"Look, I don't mind picking up after you from time to time," Chris said with a grin, "but if you come anywhere near me with that thing we're officially no longer BFFs." He gestured vaguely at Alex's crotch as he spoke.
Alex pulled a face. "Please, man. I admit the work you've put in on your moobs is impressive, but you're still going to have to do a lot better than that if you want to get anywhere with me."
Chris pushed his arms together around his chest to create a cleavage, pouting as he posed, and Alex pondered the likelihood of Chris throwing him out of the house if he pushed Chris in the lake. In the end, he opted to ignore him instead, and since it was no fun if Alex wasn't reacting, Chris went back to watching his rod. Alex managed to be quiet for about three minutes before piping up again.
"Man, I wish I hadn't let you talk me into leaving my phone at home. I wonder what's happening in the real world."
Chris smiled. "You really suck at this outdoor thing, you know that? What's the point of going off to spend some time in the welcoming bosom of Mother Nature if you go and bring a ton of technology with you?"
"What if something happens while we're gone?" Alex countered. "What if, like, Petey's died or something?"
"Then I'm sure he'll probably still be dead when we get back," Chris said patiently. "And if he's not, we'll have had an extra week of life out here before our brains get eaten."
"Petey would make a really crappy zombie. He'd go off at a tangent and forget what he was doing. The rest of the horde would be at the mall, doing impressions of you at McDonalds, and Petey would be too busy making sure nobody ran on the escalators to join in any brain eating. Sonjay would be awesome though."
Chris grinned. "Oh yeah, he'd be amazing. He'd be the one who really enjoys it, the one with bits of brain and skull fragments spread all over his face."
"What about Lethal?"
Chris scratched his chin thoughtfully. "He'd suck. He'd be the zombie that got trampled by the other zombies."
Alex seemed far more relaxed for the rest of the day, as if that one laugh was all he needed to open the floodgates, although Chris suspected it was something else entirely that had changed his disposition. He stopped moaning about the insects, and he didn't even complain about the lack of space in the tent that night, although once again he was outside when Chris awoke in the morning. Chris supposed he must have been telling the truth about the breakup with Julie not bothering him too much, and he was relieved to see Alex starting to loosen up and enjoy their little vacation. He hoped Alex's good mood continued once it was over and they returned to their normal lives.