Flowers For Your Table, Daisies, Wild Blue

An NSYNC story by Genee Li

I don't want to fall in the first wind.
There are laws against this sort of thing
so choose a place far enough out
that you can't find it again.
  - from After I Die by Nancy Pagh


Notes: This is fiction, all made up. Written for Mosca's Free Verse Challenge, with many thanks to Carleen, without whom this story simply wouldn't be.
Visit Genee's stories here.


Chris thinks it's complicated, just being who he is. So much has changed, everything, and he remembers himself, sort of, how he used to be, before. He's different now, changed, on the outside and on the inside maybe, too, different, but not so deep down that he doesn't see who he is when he brushes his teeth, even with the curtains drawn and the mirror all steamed up.

He falls asleep easily now, and that's different, too, but he wakes up startled, his heart racing, fingers scrabbling over the sheets, one foot on the floor, memories and dreams and the soft scent of Lance sleeping, warm and salty and so not there. Chris thinks this is the hardest part, waking up like this, dreaming he's someone he isn't, someone he isn't anymore. He thinks it's his favorite part, too, because Lance seems so close when he sleeps, so close, but so complicated. And he has to remind himself about that, too, because his dreams are shifty like that, like sense memories, back and forth, Lance's skin still jailbait-smooth, his hair tipped blonde, platinum, spikey, laughing. Always Lance is laughing in his dreams, deep and throaty and Chris just can't, because maybe they're just dreams, he woke up alone, and he just can't, he won't, not today.

That's what he's thinking, making waffles, measuring, sunlight streaming through his windows, flour dancing in the air, ghost-like, and he's thinking, not today. He's thinking, it's a simple thing, really, making waffles from scratch, simple, more of a promise than a plan. He doesn't remember whose recipe this is, not his mom's, it's not a childhood memory, making these waffles, warm buttermilk and rising yeast, time like honey, a luxury, and they didn't have those when he was a kid. Fresh eggs, so delicate he can almost see the soft parts inside, almost, and that's another luxury Chris isn't used too, this haze of memory, almost safe, caught between now and then. He draws these moments out, flour floating through shifting light, eggshells beneath his fingers, fragile, so still and Chris remembers he rarely is, perpetual motion, another habit he's learning to undo.

He mixes, stirs in broad circles and twisty figure eights, measures and mixes, butter and salt and it's all so simple, easy, strawberries in the colander, rinsed, hulled, ready to be sliced. Heart-shaped without even trying, bright flesh, textured, like the eggshells, like the bumps on his tongue. Chris can do this, his waffle iron heating on the counter, he's done this a dozen times, a hundred, maybe more. Maple syrup and melted butter, a dull ache in his arm and the batter stirred smooth, Jamaican coffee in the mill, ground fine and waiting to be brewed.

His kitchen smells like his memories now, buttermilk layers, sweet and tangy. Lance in blue jeans, his eyes sparkling, red-carpet bright and shiny; Lance sniffling, impossibly young, holding his momma's hand, a teary good-bye; Lance half a world away, star charts and flight suits and Chris's heart like spun gold. He remembers magnolia blossoms, Lance sun-bronzed and salty, powdered sugar sand and warm turquoise water, slick slow fingers and Lance's cock in his throat, deep and so, so good. He remembers how they fit together always, soft angles and tight muscles, perfect, almost from the start.

Later, Chris remembers Lance in LA, weeks, years, Chris isn't sure, only knows he was in Miami then, playing dj at some club, flashing lights and swollen beats and after, the wind in his hair, his bike hot and thrumming between his thighs. He remembers waking up with an IV in his arm and his hands reaching across scratchy sheets, the feel of Lance's body against his own, different now, solid and sleepy and faraway, memory pulsing through his skin.

An accident, wet roads and a sleek convertible, kids out too late and Chris on his bike, warm rain, wide-open to the night. An accident, and accidents are something else he remembers, part of life a where he's just Chris and shit just happens and he doesn't have handlers and schedulers and sixteen people buzzing around him, making everything okay. Chris remembers accidents, broken windows and bruised knuckles and faded jeans patched at the knee.

But this, this is new, this time just to remember, soft and unhurried, dripping tap water from his fingers, listening to it sizzle in the iron's hot grooves. And this, too, seeing reflections everywhere, knowing he's made waffles before and the first few won't come out right, the iron is ready, and he's made waffles before and still he knows the first few just won't be right. He pours the batter anyway, slowly, measuring with a souvenir glass he uses just for this, Universal, and he remembers that, too.

There's nothing to do now but wait, the sun rising in his window as he slices strawberries and listens to the waffle iron steam. A deep breath, and he sets the table, whole cream and real butter, maple syrup in a ceramic jug. Chris throws the first waffle away, doughy and pale and he isn't worried, he knows the next one will be better. Seasoned, he thinks, though he doesn't know why, humming under his breath, a flash of Lance all punked out in a kilt, a brown-haired pretty boy by his side, pictures and openings and there he is again, this boy, familiar, and Chris thinks, not today.

Another waffle and this one's starting to brown, Chris can smell the difference, warm water running over his hands, soapy, eggshells down the disposal, jagged and perfect, reminders of who he used to be. There's a rhythm to making waffles, and Chris sets the second one aside, it's almost edible, and he thinks there should be pugs playing at feet, another deep breath and he pours more batter, closes the iron, waits. His fingers on the handle, face turned to the sun, there's a song in his head, lyrics and music and he remembers this, dreams this, waffles piled high and golden and this one is perfect just like those. Another, light filtering through his lashes, another, daydreams and dogs barking, strawberries in bowl and hot coffee in hand-thrown mugs, simple and perfect.

A million memories and a million mornings, time rubbing around the edges, footsteps and the back door snicking softly shut. Sunlight streaming through the windows, a melody, sweet and lowdown, ghosting in his ears. Lance's breath warm in his hair, strong arms wrapped around his middle, holding him close, and Chris can't open his eyes until he sure Lance is real. Really real and right here, small dogs scritching across tile floors, paw prints and cold noses and Lance laughing, just like he remembers.

"Mornin', darlin'," and Lance sounds just the same, so much has changed but not this, Lance's voice warming goosebumps on his skin, Lance's arms around him, the softest sort of strength. "You're makin' my momma's waffles?"

Long fingers in the strawberry bowl, green eyes smiling in the sun, and Chris smiles, too, bats Lance's hand away. "I guess I am," Chris says, laughing, thinking that of course this is Diane's waffle recipe, who else's would it be? "I wasn't sure," he says, softly, meaning so much more. "There was a boy this morning? Dark hair, funny ears?"

"That's Jesse," Lance says, laughing again, and Chris feels the rumble in his bones. "He's in LA still, working. Don't know what Wendy would do without him."

Chris swallows hard and thinks, simple, so simple, golden waffles and fresh cream and Lance is here, warm and real pressed against Chris's back. Lance is smooth and solid and he still smells sleepy, like his sheets and his dogs. "Lance," he says, and it's simple, so simple, a promise, and Chris can do this today, he remembers how. "All my memories start with you."

Lance smiles, turns Chris in his arms and Chris's heart beats wild blue. "Brought you flowers, darlin'," Lance says, and his right hand slips from Chris's hip, gesturing to the daisies on the table, white and gold, green stems in a glass vase, sunshine pouring through. "I love you, Chris. I'll always love you."

"I love you, too," he says, Lance's lips on his, warm boy and maple syrup and Chris doesn't remember everything, but he remembers this, and this is perfect, and he wouldn't want it any other way.



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