T-minus 120 and counting, and nobody bothered wondering anymore, nobody got upset or ran around or made noises about rescue or cancellation or said what the fuck. Justin looked at JC, a long, slow look, and when Lonnie finally poked his head around the door, JC put his guitar down and got up. “You owe me,” he said, and Justin said, “Yeah, yeah,” but they both knew it would never happen.
He’d managed to get pretty high up — on the sunlight side of the building, of course, and JC had a moment’s irritation that they couldn’t put it in their rider: Hotel must have unopenable windows, at least on the top floors. Whatever; Chris would just find another way. Short of locking him in before showtime or having one of the guys sit on him, there was no way of preventing Chris from getting where he wanted to be.
“Take care,” Lonnie said gravely, and JC patted him on the arm and said, “You know it,” but his guts were knotted up, and he had to psych himself up for a long time before he could push a foot out and feel his way onto the wide stone ledge. Fucking architecture, why would you even — and there was Chris, swinging his legs like he was sitting on a park bench: not just a speck up on top of the world, the street a mile below, 25 stories high, city as far as the eye could see, a spot of blue on the horizon, the Bay? Wind blowing hard. JC felt paralyzed.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yeah, Chris,” JC said, forcing the words out. Chris’s fingers were clamped so hard around the ledge that they had turned white, and his face was filled with an unholy fire. He was –
“Did I ever tell you about when I was a kid, JC?”
He was drunk. Nothing new. “Sure, Chris,” he said, reaching out tentatively, but Chris laughed and scooted over a few feet, swaying sideways and almost overbalancing into midair.
“Well, you’re gonna hear it again, then. Oh, fuck, we’re high up.”
JC’s heart was hammering hard in his chest, and for a minute he couldn’t catch his breath. He had to force himself to look over, but Chris wasn’t looking back at him; Chris was staring into the sun, out over the city, and he was pale and sweaty, still smiling. “Don’t worry, JC,” he mumbled, pressing back against the stone surface of the building, “I’m not gonna — there, right there, did you hear that?”
A couple feet past Chris’s shoulder, Lonnie’s head suddenly popped out and then disappeared again; open window, and he knew Lonnie wouldn’t try anything, would wait for JC to bring Chris back, as usual. “I don’t — I just hear the wind,” he said, distracted — traffic noises, car horns, sirens; far away — wondering if he could keep doing this, if he would have to, how many times. Chris glanced at him, eyes glittering.
“Yeah; yeah! It’s like this.”
He opened his mouth and made a sound.
It was that keening almost-soprano that only he could manage, clear as a bell, but full: somehow fuller now, wailing, strains and tones of something — and the wind rushing through it, carrying the sound away. Beautiful, but JC could barely hear it. Chris started screaming into the wind then, no control at all, just noise, and JC wished he could hear it better, but it was horrible; Chris’s face, turned to the sky, horrible.
“No, it won’t; that’s not –” He hunched over on the ledge, misery in all the lines of his body, “I can’t ever get it, but I — JC,” he said, turning suddenly, letting go, reaching out, “I know you could, oh, shit,” and he was slipping, slipping, scrabbling backwards on the ledge, grabbing — and without thinking JC reached across and had him, hand clenched in the fabric of his t-shirt, pulling him back, hard.
“Fuck — fuck. Why are you doing this, you asshole?”
“Whoa,” Chris said, pushing as close to him as he could get with his back plastered flat against the wall. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Not up here you’re not, you jerk.”
Chris laughed suddenly, shockingly. “Barf from above,” he said, and slid his head sideways until it met JC’s shoulder, and then he was quiet for a long time.
“Why are you doing this?” he said at last, his beery breath warm on JC’s neck. JC thought about that, but when it came right down to it, he had no clue.
“Because you’re letting me?” Chris turned his head away.
The wind was growing a little colder as the sun started to sink toward the cityline, red and gold and blue shadows streaming across the rooftops, and JC almost thought he could hear the roar of the stadium, the fans massed together, waiting for them. Beside him Chris was silent, and JC tried to imagine him as a little boy, full of joy and energy and fear and darkness all at once. He wished he could have known him then. Chris was one of the most complicated, fucked up, and talented people JC knew, and maybe he was a little bit in love with him — maybe that was it. He wondered if that meant he was fucked up, too. Surprisingly, the thought didn’t bother him too much.
“Come on, Ally Sheedy. Time to go give ’em what they want.”
Chris heaved in a huge breath and let his head hang down. “Yeah,” he said, and started to inch his way along the ledge, toward Lonnie’s open window. JC turned his face into the wind one more time, looked out into the light of the setting sun, and then followed him in.