by No pSeud Attached and torch
October 26-31, 2003

It all started on a dark and stormy night... here. Disclaimer: this story contains an excerpt of dialogue from a really good movie. There was a write-in competition and everything. Do not archive this story without permission.

Things to do in Orlando when you're dead

"JC, man." Justin made a face. "Stop dripping bile on the sheets, yo. Do you have any idea how much I paid for them?"

"Moooooooore diiiiiick..." JC moaned, one eye hanging down his face while the other rolled back in his head.

"Isn't that supposed to be 'more brains'?" Chris asked from where he was hiding behind the en suite bathroom door. One of JC's hands was over there too. Every time it crawled too close, Chris putted it away across the tiles with the toilet brush. It looked pretty determined, though.

"Well, I guess it's JC." Justin shrugged, wondering if Rentokil dealt with this kind of thing. "He's already pretty smart, but you know he never thinks he gets enough cock."

JC's hand grasped Chris's ankle and tried to skitter up his calf. Chris jumped two feet in the air and shrieked.

"Dude." Justin threw a condom at him. "My eardrums."

"Cccccoooooooockkk," zombie!JC drawled in a reproving tone.

"Justin." Chris tried to stay attached to the bathroom wall so he wouldn't have to get back on the floor with the hand. "The zombies, with the brain brain brain thing? Traditionally, they eat brains."

"I know that," Justin said. Then he paused with his hand on his zipper and looked at the gleam in JC's eyes, at least the one he could easily see. "Oh. Oh. Oops?"

"Yeah. Oops is right, genius." Chris managed to get a foothold on the top of the toilet, then worked his way over to sit on the sink. JC's hand was quick, in an Alien face-hugger kind of a way, but the little fucker couldn't jump far.

Out in the bedroom, Justin was backing away warily, a pillow held up. With only one hand, Zombie!JC seemed to be having trouble with the length of intestine wrapped round his foot.

Chris gripped the toilet brush more firmly, and looked round. The other hand seemed to have gone. What he didn't notice was the towel rail screwed to the wall between his legs, the end of the thick cream hand towel trailing tempting on the floor below.

"Look," Chris said. "We've gotta be careful. We gotta stay sharp, on our game. Just 'cause zombies in movies are dumb as shit doesn't mean this one is. It''s...ooh. Oh!"

Justin looked round. Chris was perched on the sink, his eyes glazing as the hand balanced on its stump on the towel rail. Dead and separated from their owner, JC's fingers looked to have lost none of their talent.

"Chris," Justin said. "Hey! Danger of death, remember? Eating? Brains?"

"It doesn't have any teeth, man," Chris said with a helpless grin.

For a dead guy, JC moved pretty fast. By the time Justin realised he'd been successfully distracted by the tag-teaming dismembered limb deal, zombie!JC was on him.

Flat on his back, Justin tried an ingratiating smile. "Good JC. Nice JC. Euw, don't drop your eye in my face, man, that's gross."

"Cock," JC said, smiling back, and wriggled down Justin's body, leaving a trail of something that was never gonna come out in a month of dry cleaning.

"Chris! Chriiiiiis!" Justin tried to see into the bathroom, but he only heard Chris make sounds that kept climbing in range, and climbing, and climbing, until he sounded like Whitney Houston on helium.

Zombie!JC ripped Justin's pants open. "Cock," he said happily.

"Yeah, um. About that. I know you have a different kind of relationship with your body parts these days, and I respect that, yo, but my dick? I'm kind of attached to it, and - oh God!"

Chris shrieked, hitting a note that would've seriously endangered Justin's collection of lead crystal, and slumped back against the mirror. After thirty seconds, the faucet started to run, spraying cold water on his ass.

He yelped, more quietly, and jumped down. The hand was washing itself, spinning the soap dexterously between its fingers.

Chris wondered if he ought to offer something in return for the handjob. He liked to think of himself as a considerate sex partner, especially toward his band mates, or parts thereof. JC liked having his fingers sucked, Chris knew that. The greyish tinge to the skin, and the grave dirt under the nails was a bit off-putting, although the later came out as the hand scrubbed its fingertips briskly over the nail brush.

The hand flipped off the water and patted itself dry on the towel. Then it dropped down onto the tiles, bending its knuckles like little knees when it landed, and pattered off into the bedroom.

Chris followed, wondering exactly when his life had turned into The Addams Family, only with gay sex. When he stepped onto the thick bedroom carpet, he stopped dead.

Justin was on his back, JC's mouth clamped firmly to his groin, arching and scrabbling at the scattered bed clothes. It looked like he'd been scrabbling at other things too, because he had a big clump of JC's hair in one hand, with scalp attached, and JC's left ear looked distinctly crooked.

No blood, though. That was nice, Chris thought, still kind of blissed out. He wondered how the inside of JC's throat would feel now. Squishier than normal, probably.

The hand scuttled over, up onto Justin's face, and tried to stick a finger in Justin's mouth. Justin shook his head frantically, spitting everywhere, and the hand flew off, hitting the wall hard.

It lay on its back, curled like a spider, looking stunned.

"Um. Jup? You okay?"

Justin opened wild eyes. "I don't know, man. I don't — he ain't bitten anything yet, but I'm gonna — ohh, fuck — I'm gonna come and I'm gonna get soft and he's gonna get bored."

"Yeah." Chris scratched his beard thoughtfully. "C always gets the munchies after sex."

Justin wailed, but it was more terror than ecstasy. "Chris, you fucker! Do something, please."

"Yeah, okay, all right! I'm thinking, keep your pants on. Off. Try not to come, okay?"

Justin would have rolled his eyes if they weren't already rolling back in his head. "It's JC, Chris. He's really fucking good at this!" Dead or not, dismembered or not, JC still knew how to work it.

The hand rolled over, shook itself, and scuttled back towards Justin. This time, it didn't go for his face, though. Justin's look of panic went from scared of zombie bite damage but wow this feels good to zombie hand in my pants! zombie hand on my ass! zombie hand in my ass! save me!

"Don't worry," Chris said, "it washed before and everything. Wait, I've got an idea." He yanked open the nearest walk-in closet and disappeared into it.

Justin thumped his head against the carpet. Chris had abandoned him. He was going to get chewed to pieces and die a horrible, painful death. Possibly right after a mind-blowing orgasm, but still, he was against it. And whoa, now that JC didn't have to breathe, he was really amazing at deep-throating. Justin whimpered.

"C?" he said tentatively. "I'm not sure if, I mean, I don't know, maybe we should - ohgoddothatagain. Gnnrff!"

"I've got it!" Chris shouted from within the closet. "We're saved! Or you're saved, or something." Chris leaped out of the closet. He was brandishing a giant pink dildo over his head. "Come and get it, zombie boy!"

* * *

"That's." Chris shook his head. "Man. That's..."

"Hot," Justin muttered.

Chris wasn't listening. "Gross beyond belief. And freaky as fuck."

"Really, fucking hot. Whoa." Justin moved round for a better angle. His eyes were so wide Chris wondered if they were gonna copy JC's. "I mean. Hot."

Chris wasn't sure exactly when JC's second arm had come off at the elbow. Possibly as zombie!JC jumped up, and Justin-the-sex-obsessed-idiot tried to drag him back to finish the job. Justin had called Chris a lot of mean things once he discovered that even when dead JC preferred over-sized sex toys to Justin's magnificent dick, which Chris felt showed a severe lack of appreciation for the brilliance of Chris's plan.

He should've let JC bite the kid's dick off. Of course, if the zombie legends were true, that might result in both *NSYNC's lead singers joining the living dead. The critics were harsh enough already.

On the bed, JC had one-and-a-half arms stretched out over his head, his body writhing and twisting so much that Chris worried about other limbs getting detached. Or maybe his head. The hands were both busily occupied.

Chris spent a while wondering where they got the leverage to move a dildo quite that hard and fast. It was better than concentrating too hard on the squelchy noise.

"I think I'm scarred." Chris nodded firmly. "Scarred. In need of major, extensive, expensive therapy. Does my medical insurance cover therapy? I hope so. 'Cause. Dude. That is..."

"The hottest thing I have ever seen in my whole fucking life."

One of Justin's hands crept slyly round Chris's hip, groping him. Chris's cock stirred, but then it had about as much sense as Justin. Chris batted Justin away.

"What are we gonna do with him now?" Chris asked. "Johnny isn't gonna be pleased if we rewrite all the songs with a constant refrain of ccoooccck."

"Cccccooooooooooooooccccckkk," JC agreed from the bed.

Justin's hands slid round Chris's waist. "That really turns me on, man." His voice sounded odd, Chris noted absently. Kind of gravelly. Must be all the girlie shrieking he'd done earlier, the big 'fraidy-cat. Just 'cause he had a zombie attached to his dick. Kids today had no backbone. Except JC, portions of whose backbone were on clear display.

Justin leaned in and bit Chris's ear lightly. "I'm huuuuuuuuuungry," he growled.

Chris suddenly got really, really tense.

"Well, shit," Chris said. "I mean, uh, no problem. We'll get you something. Hang on." He'd been so sure that he'd saved Justin before JC had sucked his brains out - oh. Wait. "So that is where you keep them. Kept them." He patted Justin's shoulder, which was still reassuringly firm. "Why don't you join C on the bed? I'll raid the kitchen for you, be right back. Captain Crunch!"

Justin shook his head. He groped Chris a bit more firmly. "Cock," he said. "Yum."

Okay, Chris thought. That was enough. None of them knew exactly what had happened to JC in the first place, only that he'd disappeared for a week, then risen from under a herbaceous border while Justin and Chris were at his house watering his plants. Chris was beginning to get a suspicion, though. He's always told JC that if he kept sticking his dick in any old place, he was gonna catch something. Maybe Chris had never had this in mind, but the general principle, yes. Totally vindicated.

In Chris's firm opinion, he himself was smarter than Justin, and possibly than JC, so maybe he could survive a zombie mouth on his dick. But he wouldn't risk being turned into a mindless shambling creature driven only by a desire for endless sex. With these two and Joey, the group was already over-stocked.

Optimistically, he pushed Justin away. "Justin! Snap out of it, man!"

Justin blinked. "Uh?"

Was that a good sign? "Listen to yourself! Come on. Do you really want Lance and Joey left carrying all the dance routines?"

Justin's forehead creased as he replayed the conversation. On the bed, JC was slightly quieter, one hand now back on his wrist and wrapped round his cccoooooooocck. The other was still working the dildo.

Although, theoretically, Justin could see there was an icky aspect to the whole scene, he still thought overall it was hot. It was sex, after all. Sex was good. Sex made him hungry. He looked back at Chris. Chris made him really hungry. Chris's shirt had been torn off earlier while they wrestled zombie!JC inside the house and upstairs. His skin was glowing, kinda, like Justin could see how warm it was. How soft. How pliable. How vuuuuulnerable...

Without conscious direction, he found his hands on Chris's shoulders, his mouth angling down to the bright little spot of heat that marked Chris's nipple. Chris backed away, his eyes narrowing.

"Dude. Don't make me slap you out of this with a baseball bat. Concentrate!"

Justin looked round again. There was a pillow on the floor, and that made him a bit hungry, thinking about the ducks the feathers had come from. And the sheepskin rug. And the table, actually, because he remembered the buff young man who'd dropped it off. He'd had a great ass. Justin had signed the delivery note, and the guy had signed the confidentiality agreement, and they'd fucked right then and there, over the still-wrapped table. Just thinking about it made him...huuuuuuuuuuuungry.

Whoa. Where had all the extra vowels in his head come from?

Justin sat down on the floor with a bump. On the bed, JC groaned like something from Night of the Living Bi-Dolls, which was a porn movie Justin had always wished he'd never seen. Now it seemed kinda tame.

There'd been cannibalism in it, though. That was pretty neat. Justin wiped his mouth.

"Chris." Justin looked up. "I don't feel too good."

"Yeah, me either," Chris muttered. Justin's face was taking on a faint green tinge, which could be a good sign or a bad sign, depending on whether it was nausea at the fact that JC was apparently self-lubricating these days, or the next nifty step in the zombification process. Granted, JC's skin didn't appear to be green, but then again, it was kind of hard to tell any more, since JC was more flesh-colored than skin-colored, all over. "Listen, J. Concentrate. Stay with me. Think about unsexy things, like, um," it was probably best not to bring out the old rotting meat and putrefaction stand-by, "flowers and kittens and ice cubes and—"

Justin's eyes shone. "Ice cuuuuuuuubes. Kit-"

"Fuck. No." Chris cut Justin off before he could say anything about kittens. He didn't want to know. "If you turn into a zombie and your nose falls off, you're never gonna make People's 50 Most Beautiful this year."

"Oh." Justin shook himself. "Yeah, okay. Are you sure, though? I mean, look at C. That's just soooooo sexy..."

"No," Chris said firmly, "it isn't." Except that it kind of was. JC was like a particularly perverse life-size sex toy. Some assembly required. "Don't think about it."

"Easy for you to say. You already got off." Justin wriggled against Chris. "C'mon, man, just a hand job? I can't concentrate, and I'm so huuuuuuuuungry...."

"No, you're not. Get a grip!"

Justin started to hump Chris's hip. "I want youuuuu to get a grip, okay? Or I could just join C on the bed, like you said."

That would probably be a bad idea, Chris thought. A double dose of JC's freaky zombie virus would probably mean Justin lost what little reasoning ability he still possessed, not to mention his photogenic heartthrob charisma would drop by about 75%.

"I'm only doing this because I love you," he said, and stuck his hand down Justin's pants.

Then he yanked his hand back out again.

"Hey!" Justin said, offended.

Chris shook the slime off his fingers. "You have. Stuff. in there."

"Well, duh," Justin said. He pushed his pants down his hips a bit and looked down. "Oh. Oh, God. Chris, you have got to help me."

Apparently the zombie infection process started at the point of contact. Justin's dick looked like it was auditioning for a part in a Lovecraft short story. Chris swallowed hard. "So, J. I think maybe you've got a nasty STD there. Got any antibiotics in the house?"

Justin whined between his teeth. "My dick's gonna fall off, I can count JC's ribs from here, and you think you can fix this with antibiotics?"

Chris had to admit that it didn't look good. He closed his eyes and offered up a brief prayer. "I think it's time for us to call on a higher power."

* * *

When Chris explained the situation over the phone, Lance hadn't, actually, believed him, even with Justin shouting a frantic and semi-incoherent corroboration in the background. However, while Lance was 99% sure this was one of Chris's more cracked-out practical jokes, there was a 1% chance it wasn't. Exactly that kind of thing would happen to JC. So Lance came prepared.

On opening Justin's front door, the first thing he saw was a semi-naked Chris backing down the hallway, waving a pepperoni sausage in a futile attempt to distract an entirely naked zombie!JC. JC's arm hung from the banisters, swaying, looking for an opening to leap. Behind Chris, Justin was licking a wall mirror, mumbling, "Pretty boy...soooo huuuuuuuuuungry..." at his green-tinted reflection.

Lance sighed. One percent it was, then. He opened his backpack.

Chris, who'd barely noticed Lance's arrival, stopped waving the salami as the thing skidded down the hall towards him.

It was a giant, horribly realistic dildo, complete with bulging testicles.

Made from rawhide.

JC fell on it with a happy squeak and started gnawing.

Chris looked up. Lance wore a satisfied smirk. "Dude! You saved my life. Um. Do I want to ask how you knew where to find a rawhide dildo on short notice?"

"Chris." Lance reached to one side of the door and starting hauling Joey into sight. Judging by the scrabbling, Joey was clinging to the brickwork. "Chris, Chris, Chris. I know people, who know people, who know everything."

* * *

Chris had a recurring nightmare about Lance. In it, Chris plummeted to the stage after his flying harness broke. Lying there, legs smashed to pieces, he heard the paramedic say, "We can save him!"

Then Lance crouched beside him, stroking his hair like someone patting a run-over dog, and said kindly, "No. Let him go. He's old, he's tired, and it's simply not cost-effective."

While the paramedics prepared the humane killer, Chris's last glimpse of Lance was as he walked away, already calling Johnny to explain why they needed a new band mate, and to start the *NSYNC press machinery rolling to erase Chris from the group's history.

This was why Chris had hesitated to call in Lance earlier. Points for the rawhide, sure, but he knew Lance would go for the drastic solution.

While they talked, Justin paced round the living room, freaking out over his impending conversion to full zombiehood and occasionally trying to eat someone's genitals. Lance and Joey had been warned.

Lance wasn't receptive to Chris's suggestion that they try to carry on as normal while they looked for a cure.

"JC has detachable body parts," Lance said patiently. "People will talk."

"We can sew 'em back on," Chris said. "They still work and everything."

Lance fixed him with an implacable gaze. "His skin is grey. What there is of it."

"Makeup, man."

"He's obsessed with sex."

"So...not actually that different to normal."

Joey nodded agreement. Justin sidled up to Chris and slid a hand into his lap. At least it was one of his own. Chris smacked him away with the pink dildo, which he'd washed and brought down in case of emergencies.

"Cock!" JC exclaimed brightly.

Lance crossed his arms. "He only basically says one word, and that word isn't demographic-friendly."

"Well..." Chris hesitated. "Most of his songs are about cock anyway, in one form or—"


At that, finally, Lance raised his voice. "He eats human flesh! Chris! What if he chews off Carson Daley's dick on live television?"

Joey brightened. "Silver lining, man!"

Lance threw his hands in the air. "Y'all aren't being sensible! Look. We need to burn his body and scatter the ashes. It's the kindest thing."

They all looked at zombie!JC, cross-legged on the floor and chomping happily on the rawhide cock. The still-detached hand was channel surfing, pausing at the hand cream and nail polish adverts.

"Oh, man," Joey said doubtfully. "I really don't think I can do that to him while he's still moving."

"And what about me?" Justin demanded. He waved his finger in Lance's face and Lance backed away, clutching his backpack. "We're not, like, cccoooooooocck..." He paused, swaying, gazed fixed on Lance's crotch until Chris thwapped him across the back of the head. "Thanks, man. We're not, like, c-c-cockroaches you can just stomp on. Think of something else!"

Lance looked as though he would have been quite happy to stomp on Justin, provided he got to disinfect his shoe afterwards, but faced with the pleading eyes of three of his bandmates (and the pleading hand of the fourth, doing a little interpretive dance of cock-now-please under the coffee table and leaving slime trails on the hand-tufted rug), he sighed and nodded.

"All right. None of this carrying-on-as-usual idea, though. All the makeup in the world won't help if he leaves three toes behind in the MTV dressing rooms, and it'd be a pain to try to reassemble him if he's spread all over the place."

Chris had to admit that that was a good point. Playing scavenger hunt across the country with JC's detached body parts was not his idea of a good time. The hand tickled his toes enticingly, and he whapped it with the dildo, sending it flying into the nearest flower pot.

"Nice shot, man." Joey grinned. Then he looked serious. "So what are we gonna do? I mean, what are the non-burning, non-scattering alternatives?"

"There's gotta be at least one," Chris said.

"There's gotta be one now," Justin said, "before my dick takes off on its own and sets up as a serial killer in the next zip code over."

"At least the rest of you would have an alibi," Lance murmured. He opened his laptop. "Give me five minutes to do some research. And someone get JC's hand away from the porn tapes. If the VCR gets slimed up, you'll never get it to work again."

Justin yelped and rushed to save his electronics. The hand abandoned Vampire Vixens and took a running jump at Justin's nipples. Justin squeaked and fled, and the hand chased him around the room.

"Uh, Chris?" Joey dragged his eyes away from JC, who was getting closer and closer to biting the rawhide scrotum right off. "Just a suggestion, but."

Chris shuddered and looked away, too. "Yeah?"

"Maybe you could put some more clothes on? I don't think J and C need the encouragement."

Chris looked down at himself. "Oh. Yeah."

Joey nodded. "Me personally, I'd put on a suit of armor right now if there was one lying around."

Chris went upstairs. He raided the closet for clean, non-zombie-fondled or come-in clothing, picked up JC's left ear that was lying halfway under the bed, and made sure he was all zippered and buttoned before going back down. Justin and the hand were still playing tag around the couch, JC was sitting on the floor taking alternate bites from the salami and the rawhide dildo, Joey looked like he was praying, and Lance appeared to be surfing porn sites. When Chris came into the room, Lance flipped the laptop screen down and cleared his throat.

"Okay," he said, "I think I've got an idea."

They sat down, Justin on the couch between Joey and Chris. Justin had the hand in his lap, petting it. It looked pretty contented, and Chris decided not to think about that too much.

"Monkeys!" Lance exclaimed.

Everyone stared. Even JC's hand, Chris noticed, and that didn't have eyes.

"Monkeys in Africa," Lance said. "When they get sick, they instinctively search for medicinal leaves and roots."

"Did you see this on Discovery, man?" Joey asked. "'Cause, you know..."

Lance tapped the laptop. "It's true. And with the zombie virus stripping away JC and Justin's higher mental functions, they're also acting on instinct. Look how it's affected them. Justin is all I'm huuungry. I'm surprised he isn't humping a box of Apple Jacks."

Justin looked up from tickling the hand's palm. "Hey!"

Lance ignored him. "And JC is all cooooock."

Lance really had the voice for zombiehood, deep, groaning and soulful. Zombie!JC looked round hopefully, then sighed and returned to chewing.

"Monkeys eat leaves, cats eat grass — bottom line is, lower animals somehow know to seek out what they need to cure themselves," Lance finished.

"That sounds — hey!" Justin said again, and glared. His increasingly bulgy, bloodshot eyes made it particularly effective. "Did you just call me a lower aaahnimal, Bass?"

"You're saying they want to eat penis-shaped objects because it'll make them better?" Chris asked.

Lance nodded.

"Right." Chris tugged his beard. "Rather than, say, because the virus is affecting their behaviour so they'll spread it more effectively?" He'd seen Shivers.

"Um. Well. That's possible too." Lance shrugged. "I didn't say it was risk free. You want risk free, I know you got matches."

"No, no," Justin said hastily. "I'm down with it, yo. Especially if it means I get to..." His eyes gleamed.

Joey moaned. "Tell me he ain't looking forward to this."

"'Course not." Justin lifted his hands in denial. "That'd be disgusting. Mm. I mean — eww. Yuck. Having to sinnnnk my teeeeth into a long, thick—"

Chris and Joey simultaneously blanched, and then hit Justin, hard. The hand jumped and tried to burrow into Justin's pocket, a feeble pretext if Chris had ever seen one.

"Question is, man," Joey said slowly. "Whose dicks do we feed 'em?"

Chris crossed his legs so fast they blurred. "Justin, baby, you know I love you, but this? This is me drawing a line, right now."

Lance shook his head. "There are plenty of homeless guys who, for a suitable amount of money, and maybe the provision of an anaesthetic, would—"

"Eww," Justin said. "No way!"

"We'll wash them first," Lance said.

"How about fans?" Chris said. "Like, there must be a few who'd sacrifice a nut for those two."

Lance was shaking his head again, harder. "Publicity, Chris. Seriously. Not good."

Joey frowned. "What, you think it'll somehow look better if they're caught chowing down on some skanky hobo?" He paused. "Did I just say that?"

Justin was gazing speculatively at Lance. "Lance has loooots of fans, yo. Pretty fans. Pretty boys. Young. Tennnderrr."

"My fans? You are not eating my fans, Timberlake! I have, like, a tenth as many as you anyway and now you want to turn them into hors d'oeuvres? No!" Lance was turning purple, clashing horribly with JC and Justin. "Eat your own fucking fans. Chris, tell Justin he isn't allowed to eat any of my fans."

Chris cleared his throat. "Okay. Maybe later would be a better time to work out our professional insecurities."

"He isn't eating my fans," Lance muttered. "I love my fans."

"I love your fans," Justin assured him. "Loooove them. Yummm."

"Burning," Lance said icily. "And scattering."

Justin pouted. JC's hand, which apparently possessed an attention span even shorter than JC, was channel flipping again. It paused on an ER re-run. George Clooney was talking earnestly behind a surgical mask, while on the operating table a donor heart lay on ice, wired up and beating. Alive.

Joey said, "Huh."

"You know," Lance said. "People die all the time. This is Florida. Lots of old people—"

Justin frowned.

"Young people," Lance amended. "Beautiful young men die every day. Like, accidents and what have you. James Dean, River Phoenix..." He flipped open his cell phone and strolled out of the room. Chris was relieved to see he didn't hit speed dial.

"Lance knows people," Chris said.

Joey nodded. "Who know people."

"Who know eeeeverything, yo," Justin finished. And licked his lips in anticipation.

Chris sat on the edge of the couch and tried not to be too obvious about the way his legs were pressed together and his hands were in his lap. This whole discussion had put a happy glint in Justin's eyes, and Chris felt very strongly that there was a limit to just how happy Justin in his current state was allowed to get in Chris's presence. Sure, he felt bad, in an abstract, extra-guilt-for-not-being-more-guilty sort of way for the people who would be making Justin happier, but they would presumably be dead and in no state to complain about it, whereas Chris and his dick were planning on having a long, satisfying life together, thankyouverymuch.

And then there was JC, who happily did not seem to have followed much of the discussion, occupied as he was with shredding the rawhide dildo into tiny, tiny pieces. The rest of him might be falling apart, but his teeth were clearly still in great shape, showing that it paid to floss regularly. Watching JC take a healthy bite, Chris shuddered and wondered if he would ever be able to let anyone give him a blowjob ever again.

That was a very sad thought, and Chris considered whacking JC on the back of the head with a sofa cushion, for saddling him with this totally unwanted new phobia. But JC's head was already missing half its scalp and one ear, and Chris had his suspicions about who was going to have to stitch everything back on when the time came, because Joey was all thumbs, and Lance was all Lance.

"I'm not sure I like this," Joey said. "It just seems really gross, and risky. And risky. Oh, and gross. Did I leave anything out?"

"Morally dubious," Chris suggested. "Totally illegal."

"Yeah, those, too. And gross. And risky." Joey frowned. "Do we have to start trying actual people parts right away? I mean, couldn't we try the dildo option some more, or those joke things made of marzipan, or something? JC seems pretty happy with his, uh, toy, there."

Justin shook his head. "It's not the same," he said. "That's like eating tofu when you want a great big steak. Dripping. Bloody. Rrrraaaaaaaaaaw..."

"Oh, great, now you've set him off," Chris said. He felt safe in hitting Justin on the back of the head, since Justin seemed to be maintaining structural integrity pretty well, so far.

Justin pouted. "Oh, like you've never been this hungry. Horny. Something."

"Sure," Chris said. "But I've never wanted to fuck my dinner." He paused. "Okay, I may have thought about it once, with this cantaloupe that had the most amazing consistency, but—"

"Okay, listen." Lance came back into the room, cellphone in hand. "I'm going to have to go out and see some people, set things up. Chris, you're coming with me."

"No, I'm not."

Lance narrowed his eyes. "Yes, you are."

Chris paled. "No, I'm not."

"Why not?" Joey asked.

"Because he's going to talk to people who can procure body parts from the very recently dead, and first of all I don't want to meet those people, and second of all, what if they say they don't have anything in stock and he tells them to take me instead?"

Lance sighed. "Don't be ridiculous."

"Can't you just make few more calls?" Justin asked.

"No, Justin," Lance said in the tone of voice support techs reserve for people who call to ask them why the internet is broken. "Strangely enough, getting two boybander zombies free access to a morgue full of dead, pretty young men is a bit more difficult to organize than, I dunno, getting them into an all you can eat sushi restaurant."

Joey scratched his beard. "I dunno, I think you'd have trouble getting two zombies in pretty much anywhere."

"Shut up. Chris, you come with me. Justin, get that hand out of your pants. Joey, there's another rawhide dildo in my backpack if you need it."

"Not really that desperate," Joey said. "Be careful, you two, okay?"

"I'm not going," Chris said, and he kept saying it while Joey and Lance hauled him up from the couch and off to the front door. Joey held him still while Lance put his shoes on. "Tell my mom I love her."

Joey shook his head. "I'm gonna be alone in the house with two crazy penis-eating zombies, and you're scared?" He paused, then grabbed onto Lance's shoulder. "Take me with you instead! Chris can watch them!"

"Um," Chris said. "Lance, let's go."

* * *

It was dark now. Chris drove, occasionally glancing sideways at Lance, who stared straight ahead, frowning slightly. Once, his cell rang.

Lance answered. "Mr Bojangles speaking. Yes. No, all of them. Yes, of course all at once." He folded the phone up and sighed. "Why do I have to do all the thinking?"

"Hey! I'm the smart one round here," Chris said. Lance smiled.

They made three stops. The first was at big, expensive house Chris was sure he'd seen before. Lights blazed from the windows, and through the security gates he glimpsed a pack of cars that would send Justin into spasms of lustful envy. Assuming someone threw a bucket of offal over them first.

Chris stood by while Lance talked in a low voice to a group of half a dozen men. Any one of them could have snapped Chris in two with one hand, while ripping Lance's head off with the other.

Chris made out nothing more than an occasional mention of 'merchandise'. He could hear the apostrophes, and his fingers itched to air quote. After five minutes, Lance handed over a large white envelope and motioned Chris back to the car.

"Honestly now, Lance, why am I here?" Chris asked as he pulled away. "Should I have updated my will?"

Lance turned to look at Chris. Honestly — which was such a relative concept — he'd picked Chris because Joey was too soft. This was the part where, if things went wrong, Lance needed to be in the police station with a guy who could take a little slapping around.

"You're my muscle," Lance said.

Chris choked. "Me? Uh, did I suddenly gain a hundred-fifty pounds while I wasn't paying attention?"

"You can do it, Chris. I want you to picture Lou," Lance said, watching Chris's face.

Chris frowned. "Lou Perlman?"

"The very one. Now I want you to imagine that, during one of your many drunken, cock-chasing lapses in protectiveness, Lou took virginal young Justin aside and fucked him six ways from Sun— fuck—"

The car lurched across two lanes as Chris let go of the wheel and punched Lance in the face. Other vehicles scattering, honking furiously. Chris narrowly avoided a sports car full of shrieking teenage girls and swerved back. Lance gave them a dazed smile in the probably vain hope they wouldn't sue.

"Say that again, Bass, and I'll break your fucking neck, got it?"

Chris's face was blank with rage. Lance rubbed his jaw and smiled, listening to the blaring horns behind them.

"See? Keep thinking like that, Chris, and everything will be just peachy."

At the second stop, they waited for half an hour in a deserted sidestreet until an long, heavy, black car pulled up, stopping under a broken streetlight.

Lance leaned over Chris and flashed the car's lights several times. The black car flashed back, while Chris tried to remember Morse code. All he knew how to do was spell rude words. At least he knew no one had actually referred to male genitalia.

"Drive up next to them," Lance said eventually. "Window on my side."

Chris couldn't see anyone inside the car, which he was beginning to suspect might be a hearse. A white-gloved hand extended, however, and exchanged items with Lance. Lance tucked a buff-coloured envelope and a little black cylinder away inside his jacket.

"Drive on. Left at the stop sign."

* * *

It was only at the shadowly, desterted back entrance to the hospital that Chris started to get really nervous again. He was half convinced Lance was about to whip out a bottle of chloroform and hand him over to an eager trainee surgeon for a little unwanted gender reassignment.

Joey was a baritone. Chris was already a counter-tenor. Lance thought of stuff like that.

A stack of empty plywood caskets stood by a pair of swing doors labeled 'MORGUE'. Beside them, a pudgy, pale-faced young man was just lighting a cigarette off the butt of his last one. When they got closer, Chris saw that his little badge read 'Ezekiel Jones'. Chris was still pondering the pointlessness of a name badge for a morgue attendant, when Ezekiel looked up and saw them. He took a deep drag on the cigarette and stubbed it out on the top casket.

"You got my message, then?" Lance asked.

"Yeah, and just what the fuck were you implying, buddy?" Ezekiel folded his arms. He was even bigger than Chris had first thought, and way more muscular, forearms bulging under the softening layer of fat. "I'm sick of this stereotyping shit. Just 'cause I work with dead people, that don't make me some kind of sicko pervert."

"Lord, no. Of course not." Lance smiled his most toothily charming smile. As usual, it made him look like he was weighing up whether to propose marriage or go for the jugular. "Now, fucking corpses — that would make you a sicko pervert."

Hey! Chris almost said, but didn't. On consideration, getting a hand job from your dismembered best friend probably did count as, at the very least, a bit outre.

Lance pulled the envelope from his jacket. "I obtained these from your previous employer, the Happydale Funeral Home and Crematory." Lance slid out a pile of glossy photos. "Where you provided an extremely attentive service to the more, uh, shapely dear departed."

Chris caught flashes of naked flesh — pasty white and greyish white — a champagne bottle, and what looked like black Hawiian leis draped over a metal gurney, then averted his eyes. Like he needed any more mental scarring tonight.

Ezekiel made a grab, and Lance pulled the photos back. "Ah, ah, ah. Anyway, I have the negatives. Now..."

He draped his arm over Ezekiel's beefy shoulders and started a low rumble of instructions. Chris looked round nervously. It was dark back here. And really quiet. A good place for shambling. Chris fully intended never to watch a horror flick again in his life.

"You get the negatives after we've gone in and out safely," Lance said finally, stepping back.

"That ain't good enough," Ezikiel whined.

"I don't think you're in any position to make demands," Lance said.

"Yeah, right," said Chris. "Mr Some-Like-It-Cold."

Something flashed in Ezekiel's hand. "It ain't good enough at all."

Chris thought Oh, my good fucking God, and then he thought, Lou, Lou, Lou, Justin, Lou.

Chris's left hand shot up and grabbed the guy's wrist, stopping the knife dead. Frozen to the spot, Lance stared at the tip, inches from his face, his eyes crossing. Chris dug his fingers in and the blade clattered to the floor. Then Chris's other fist swung smoothly and the guy fell to his knees, groaning and clutching his stomach.

Just as Chris was drawing his foot back to kick, hard, Lance said, "That's enough!"

Chris stopped, blinking.

Whoa. Positive visualisation did work. Chris owed Justin an apology.

Lance bent and picked up the knife. It looked like exactly the kind of thing you would find in a morgue, all hooky and pointy. "Do we have a deal?" Lance asked softly.

Ezekiel looked up, still wheezing, then nodded.

"Go on, Chris." Lance made shooing gestures. "Back to the house. I gotta stay, make sure everything goes smoothly when the 'merchandise' arrives."

Reflexively, Chris made little quotes and Lance rolled his eyes. "Are you gonna be okay alone?" Chris asked.

"Sure. You fetch the others, and let me worry about Ezekiel."

"Justin and JC? How the hell am I gonna get them over here?"

Lance tapped Chris's temple and smiled again. He had even more teeth than JC, and Chris put his hand nervously up to his throat. "You're the smart one, Chris. You'll figure it out."

* * *

When Chris opened the living room door, braced for the worst, he found Justin in front of the TV, watching Driller Killer, with a box of fresh tissues on one side and a heap of used ones on the other. Chris didn't know which explanation would be worse — that he was jerking off to splatter movies, or that they were for mopping up drool.

"Joey, listen up, we gotta—" Chris made it halfway across the room before he stopped dead.

Joey was sprawled on the couch, shirtless, with his feet up on the coffee table, spread wide. He had a beer in one hand and a copy of Playboy in the other. JC's wandering hand was perched on the back of the couch, fingers kneading along Joey's shoulder. Joey's skin gleamed with what Chris fervently hoped was oil.

JC knelt between Joey's legs, and although the remains of his hair hid everything from view, Chris could hear the slurping noises.

"JC — virus — dick — Jup — Joey!" Chris trailed off into a series of gargling squeaks which he hoped conveyed the message What the fuck are you doing?

"Six condoms, man." Joey waved at JC's bobbing head. "I can barely feel it. It's keeping him happy."

"But." Chris shifted nervously from foot to foot. "What if he bites?"

"Justin said he wouldn't bite unless I came. 'Sides, C promised not to."

"He...spoke? Like, more than cccooooooooocccck?"

JC moaned, muffled, and Joey shuddered a bit.

"Well, more kinda gestures, I guess." The hand paused to make a thumbs up, then rubbed up the nape of Joey's neck. He sighed contentedly. "Seriously, C was all cuddly and shit. He massaged my feet. He even put his eye back in when I asked."

Chris shook his head. Joey was the — thankfully still — living definition of easy to get into bed. "Joe, man. How do you plan on getting him to stop?"

Slowly, Joey put the magazine down. "Shit. I didn't think about that."

First things first. Chris grabbed the remote and turned off the VCR. Justin pouted. "I was watching thaaaat!"

"And now you're not. And why you have that movie, I don't even want to know. Listen, Lance has set things up so you and C can, um, get what you need. Unrestricted access. As much as it takes. You're drooling on my shoe, man."

"Cock," Justin said dreamily.

"Right. But for that to happen, you and C need to get out of the house and over to this cosy little morgue I know about, and for that to happen, you have to help me get C away from Joey's dick."

"Sushi buffet," Justin murmured. "Rrrrraaaaaaaww."

Chris smacked Justin's shoulder. It was ever so faintly squishy. "Save it for the morgue, okay? Joey is not on the menu."

Justin blinked slowly. "But how are we gonna get C to let go?"

"We'll just yank him off," Chris said.

"There will be no yanking," Joey said, looking nervous. "Can't you just lure him away?"

Chris shook his head. "Lure him how? Say 'ooh, there's a cock outside the window'? He's already got yours."

"You can stand in the corner over there and drop your pants," Joey suggested. "Wiggle it around a bit."

Justin nodded. "Mmmmmmmmm. You should do thaaaaaat."

"Yeah, great idea. Then I'll have Justin attached to my groin and you'll still be stuck with JC, and I think if Lance has to spend any more time with Ezekiel, he's gonna get testy."

"Who's Ezekiel?"

"He's the waiter at Justin and JC's new favorite restaurant. Justin, grab hold of JC."

"No no no," Joey said. "This is a really bad idea."

"Oh, don't be such a big girl."

"That's kind of the point," Joey said. "I don't want to end up a big girl, okay?"

"Trust me." Chris went around the couch and grabbed hold of Joey. "Now, J! Yank!"

Justin yanked. Chris felt a moment's fear that either JC's head or his legs were going to come off, but a moment later he was falling back against Justin with three of the condoms clutched between his really remarkably sturdy teeth.

Joey had his hands clasped over his crotch and was making a whining sound between his teeth, but it sounded more like terror than pain. JC, on the other side of the room, growled.

"I don't think he's happy," Justin said, holding on to JC's hips with an effort. "And he's strong."

Chris dug into Lance's backpack, got out the other rawhide dildo, and tossed it to Justin and JC. "Here, have a swizzle stick. Joey, man, pull your pants up and help me find clothes that'll cover JC up enough for us to take him outside."

"I got a car," Justin volunteered.

Joey snorted. "You've got like a dozen."

"Tinted windows. It's how he got here. No one will see us. Probably good if C keeps chewing like that... hey, don't I get any?"

Chris didn't personally think that the chewing was going to be their biggest problem if anyone caught sight of JC, but he was willing to believe in tinted windows and luck. Clothing was a more immediate concern. "J, you're gonna have to sacrifice one of your big hoodies."

"Okay," Justin said, surprisingly tractable. "Not the brown A&F one, though. Or the Miskatonic U one. Or—"

Chris snorted, modelling himself on Joey. "You go pick one out, then. And some pants."

Justin slouched off, and Chris started to go over the room for JC-parts. The hand was flipping through Joey's Playboy in a discontented manner. The other arm was busy, holding the rawhide dildo for JC to gnaw on. The ear was on the coffee table. Chris hoped JC wasn't missing anything else, because he wasn't about to get close enough to do a detailed check-over.

Joey had recovered enough to zip up and throw all the condoms away, which was fortunate, as it took the three of them together to get JC into the clothes Justin brought downstairs. They didn't dare to pull or push too hard, in case anything fell off, and JC got extremely unhappy any time someone tried to take his rawhide away.

"You are so buying me a new hoodie," Justin said. "This one's getting all yuckified."

JC grumbled and bit the head off the rawhide dildo. Joey turned a fetching shade of yellow.

"You," Chris said to the hand, "sit in his pocket." The hand waggled its fingers. "And do you know where the ear went to?" The hand pointed, before scuttling up the hem of JC's borrowed pants and settling into the hoodie pocket. "Okay." Chris picked the ear up. "Maybe I need a sewing kit."

"I don't have a sewing kit," Justin said. "Can't you just staple everything on? It's not like the international association of plastic surgeons will come by and complain that you did a sucky job."

"Tape," Joey said. Chris turned to look at him. "Duct tape. I mean, I don't know what's gonna happen exactly, but if C's gonna be himself again, I don't think he's gonna like it if he has staples in his head. And I don't think even zombie C likes needles."

Chris looked at JC, and JC shook his head so hard his eye started to slip out again. "Duct tape it is."

Chris taped and taped and taped. The hand tried to help him until he taped it into place. He got more tape on himself than on JC, but eventually everything was stuck on in more or less the right place. Chris stepped back, and Justin flipped the hood up over JC's head and stuck a pair of sunglasses on his nose, hiding the loose eye, which JC had refused to let Chris tape down.

"Pretty," Justin said. He leaned in closer. "Smells goooooooood."

"Great," Chris said. "Putrefaction for men. J, get your car keys, we're rolling."

There was a bit of a scuffle at the car, because Chris was driving, since he knew where they were going, and he wanted to keep Justin and JC separated so they didn't decide to have a big zombie lovefest, and Joey didn't want to share the backseat with JC after the interrupted blowjob incident. After Chris called Joey a wuss seventeen times, they finally got on the road.

* * *

"Wow, it's actually a morgue," Joey said.

Chris blinked. "You were expecting that sushi bar? This is a hospital."

"Yeah, but. I thought maybe you were joking." Joey shrugged. "Guess Lance really does know people who know people."

Next to Chris, Justin was quivering. "Something smells gooooooood."

Lance and Ezekiel were still outside the morgue entrance. Lance was sitting on one of the empty plywood caskets (at least, Chris really hoped it was empty), reading an old J-14 with deep concentration. Ezekiel stood to one side, looking cowed. There was no sign of the knife.

Lance put the magazine aside as they came up. "Finally. I thought you'd stopped to take in a movie."

Chris opened his mouth to tell Lance at length about the difficulties of taping ears back on to the head of someone who was chewing rawhide at the same time, but then he glanced at Ezekiel and thought better of it. Maybe later. JC was making a growling sound low in his throat, and Justin didn't look entirely stable, either. "Let's just get on with it. Let them in."

Lance nodded at Ezekiel, Ezekiel opened the door, and JC and Justin shuffled in. JC was shuffling really a lot, Chris noticed. He wondered if he ought to go out and search the car for toes.

Lance picked up his teen mag again. Joey sat down on another plywood coffin, pulled his hat down over his eyes, and appeared to go to sleep. Chris leaned against the opposite wall and glared at Ezekiel. He tipped his head back and counted ceiling tiles. He tipped his head forward and counted floor tiles. He glared at Ezekiel again. Ezekiel had closed the morgue door behind Justin and JC, and Chris couldn't really hear anything from in there. Not that he wanted to hear anything. Not that he was trying to hear anything.

Chris was on his third round of counting ceiling tiles when Ezekiel started to fidget. "They should be back out now." The morgue attendant looked at his watch. "I don't know how much longer I can cover for you guys."

Lance looked up from his magazine, which he must have read from cover to cover about sixteen times. He smiled a kind smile. "Then you should go in and tell them to hurry."

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to do that," Ezekiel said, trying to loom over Lance and failing spectacularly.

Lance nodded. "Go right ahead."

Ezekiel pushed the door open and went into the morgue.

A few moments later, there was a scream.

Lance stretched out one leg and kicked the door shut again.

* * *

Chris was on his tenth round of counting floor tiles when the door opened again and Justin stuck his head out. His eyes were clear and bright, and he was smiling. "Is the coast clear?"

"I don't think anyone ever comes here," Chris said. "I saw a spider a while back, that's all."

"Okay, good." Justin pushed the door wider and came out into the corridor, leading JC, who still had his hood up. "I think maybe we shoulda remembered to bring clean clothes."

Chris looked Justin and JC up and down, and then wished he hadn't. "That would probably have been a good idea, yeah."

Lance closed his magazine, folded it, and stuck it under his arm. "Is JC okay?"

"He's fine," Justin said, "he'll be fine. He's just taking a bit longer to readjust than I did. Plus I think he feels freaked out that one of his ears is crooked."

"Hey, I tried," Chris said.

"We should get out of here as fast as possible," Lance said. "Somebody wake Joey up. Let's go."

Inside the morgue, something crashed loudly to the ground.

"Uh?" Joey woke up with a start, and promptly punched Justin, who was just leaning over him to shake his shoulder. Justin staggered back, growling in surprise, while Joey clutched his own crotch with both hands. "Get away from my dick, you penis-eating freak!"

Justin managed to look the picture of wounded innocence, despite the...stuff on his clothes. And the other stuff. And the bit of something that Chris really hoped he hadn't seen caught between Justin's teeth.

Lance muttered something that to Chris sounded suspiciously like, "Damn. A live fucking witness."

"Okay!" Chris said brightly. "Time to go!"

Lance grabbed him by the arm and dragged him through the morgue doors.

Inside, the fluorescent lights were indulging themselves with a little theatrical flickering. Five bodies, covered up in rumpled sheets, lay on gurneys. Chris wondered how JC and Justin had managed with an odd number, because Justin was notoriously bad at sharing.

Chris stepped on Ezekiel's name badge on the floor, just inside the door. His gaze reluctantly followed the trail across the green tiles — uniform jacket, trousers, undershirt, tighty-whities (kinda stained), socks, and finally Ezekiel himself, crouched in the corner behind an overturned instrument trolly and covered in what Chris really regretted he could recognise as zombie gloop.

Chris was seriously surprised the man was still alive. Justin and JC must've been uninfectious by the time Ezekiel went in. Then he remembered that hysterical whimpering and death weren't mutual exclusives any more.

"Um...Ezekiel?" No response. Chris edged closer. "Hey, man. You, um, breathing down there?"

Carelessly, Chris got too close. Ezekiel grabbed Chris's hands, squeezing tight while Chris tried desperately to kick him off. Chris was gonna lose a finger, he knew he was.

"I'm sorry, mamma!" Ezekiel wailed, and Chris froze. "I'm so sorry for what I done before. I never thought they minded, you know?" Now the man was sobbing over Chris's hands. "I always thought they were dead. I didn't know they could...and that they me...and it was...they my...with their..."

"Do as you would be done by," Lance said in a voice of deep wisdom.

Ezekiel wailed again. "Never again! I swear to God! I'll do anything you ask — anything. Just, God, don't let them come back for me, please!"

"Get yourself a different job," Chris muttered, yanking hopelessly on his hands as Ezekiel nodded frantically. "And don't mention this to anyone, ever."

Chris looked up at Lance, who nodded too, and put the hooky, pointy knife-thing down on the upturned trolley. Chris added it to his long list of things he totally hadn't seen that night.

Lance patted Ezekiel reassuringly on the head, then prised Chris's fingers free. They were starting to turn blue.

"Okay, Chris," Lance said, "Let's make like shepherds."

Chris stiffened briefly, in case this was Lance-code for something unspeakably awful, then sagged with relief as Lance turned for the doors.

On the way out, Lance noticed out of the corner of his eye Chris pausing by one of the gurney, his hand reaching out for the sheet.

Lance barely caught his wrist in time. "Chris, no! Don't do that."

Chris squinted at him mistrustfully — with, Lance had to concede, very good reason, even if Chris didn't know it. "Why not?"

"Because..." Lance thought fast. "First of all, I want you to imagine — a bit, not too much — what JC and Justin just did in here. And now I want you to tell me that your life would be improved by having seen the faces of the guys they did it to."


"See?" Lance pulled Chris's hand away briskly. "We're all done in here. Time to go home and clean up."

* * *

Chris squeezed in the back with JC and Joey, sitting between them because Joey was still extremely skittish. Lance drove and Justin sat up front with him. Justin immediately started fiddling with the CD player and bitching about Chris's musical taste. Back to normal there, then.

As they drove away, JC finally pulled his hood back. His eyes seemed darker than usual, and his left ear totally was crooked.

JC's eyes flickered as he caught Chris's gaze, and he put his hand up, tugging hair forward to cover his ear. Chris winced.

"Fuck. I'm sorry about that, man. Like, it's really hard to get tape to stick to" Chris tried to look into JC's eyes without being too obvious that it was an anatomy check rather than loving affection. "Are you okay, C?"

"Yes, Chris. I'm fine." JC's voice was unnaturally calm. "I spent a week buried under my hibiscus, and woke up with an overwhelming urge to kill my closest friends and snack on their dicks. Several body parts I was previously pretty attached to—"

Chris snorted and JC glared.

"I wasn't trying to be funny, Chris. My fucking hands fell off, man!" JC held his arms out, sighting along them. "If you didn't tape them on right, that's seriously gonna impact on my guitar playing."

"They're straight," Chris promised, and crossed his fingers behind his back. "I used a ruler, dawg, I swear."

"Yeah, well, we'll see next time we dance. Don't blame me if you lose an eye." JC poked at his stomach and grumbled. "Thanks to Lance, I ate about six pounds of rawhide and, thanks to you, a whole salami. Which is all obscenely high protein and I was trying to stick to a fruit-and-brown-rice diet. And then." JC swallowed. "Then I ate...some other things. And—" He looked at Justin, who was chattering away to Lance and flipping Chris's CDs one by one onto the floor of the car. "It all went kind of fuzzy for a while, but I think me an' J, we, um..."

"Hey, don't talk about it if you don't want to," Chris said hurridly. Please, he added silently. PleasepleasepleaseGodplease.

JC's skin had turned distinctly greenish again, and Chris hoped it wasn't a relapse. Also, that JC wasn't about to puke into Chris's lap. Chris had enough genitalia of his own down there.

Then JC grimaced and popped his jaw. Chris almost put his hands out to catch it. "Plus I gave head to Joey for an hour and a half, and swallowed three rubbers. All in all, I think today is definitely gonna linger in my mind. For, like, ever."

"Therapy, man," Chris said. "Lots and lots of therapy. We can go together, get a discount."

JC rolled his eyes. "Right. Because it'll be so good for my career if I get myself committed."

"You could always try writing a few songs about it, C," Joey said. "It'd be cathartic."

Justin hooted with laughter. "Yeah, dude! That'd be neat! How about Bringin' Da Cccoooooooooooocccck, yo? Or, no, no, wait, I got it — No Limbs Attached!"

JC yanked his hoodie up again.

Justin seemed to be dealing with the whole cannibalism thing very well indeed, Chris thought. Really, very well. Chris looked up front, where Justin was laughing his head off — bad metaphor, Chris chided himself — between drumming on the dash and making up bad zombie-themed lyrics.

Maybe, Chris hoped, he was suffering inside.

"Ooh!" Justin exclaimed suddenly as they drove past a strip of neon-lit buildings. "Hey, Lance, can we stop at McDonald's? My metabolism is fucked up or something, 'cause, man, I could eat, like, a co— a cow."

Chris made a mental note to change his locks. Or maybe his country of residence.

Lance vetoed McDonald's, on the grounds that JC and Justin both needed a bath, and Justin needed more time to get used to not wanting to eat people. Back at Justin's house, Chris lost a round of rock, paper, scissors and was sent to make sandwiches. He flipped on the TV news, then muted it.

He was slicing bread when a picture caught his attention with a grip like JC on a tasty dildo — the house he'd visited with Lance, the one with the fancy cars. A second later, the caption flashed up, and Chris narrowly avoided having to tape his own hand back on.

No, Chris thought. No way. No fucking way. Lance couldn't have.

Okay, maybe he could, Chris thought a moment later, but he wouldn't. What about the publicity? And Lance would never get into space if he was in jail.

He didn't dare reach for the remote to turn on the sound, in case it drew the others in. It was when the screen showed a hospital, the same hospital where someone had delivered the 'merchandise', that Chris decided not only could Lance do it, but he would. And had.

"Justin's getting very hungry," Lance said from right behind him, and Chris shrieked like a girl and almost jumped over the counter.

"Get away from me!" He brandished the bread knife at Lance, who blinked in surprise.

"Uh...Chris? I'm just saying that right now I don't think we oughta keep J waiting for food. Also, I think it might be smart if we go through his movie collection once he's asleep and take away—" Lance looked over Chris's shoulder at the TV. "Oh. I see. You're watching the news."

Chris knew that voice. It was the voice of nightmare-Lance. Chris was about to be put out of Lance's misery.

"Backstreet is dead!" Chris yelped. "Are dead," he added, because is made them sound like a faceless conglomerate thing, rather than five very deceased people. Sure, Chris might have implied something very much like that in the past, but not now.

"I know. Someone paged me." Lance folded his arms and arranged his face into a sorrowful frown. "It's a great loss to the music world, and so unexpected. They were so young. With so many sales ahead of them. Hmm." He tapped his lips thoughtfully. "No, maybe I shouldn't say that last part. It's kinda tasteless. But. Yes. A tragic accident."

Chris boggled. "Do you expect me to believe that we come up with a sudden and — let's face it — pretty fucking specialist nutritional requirement and coincidentally an entire rival band just happens to die?"

Lance nodded. "I think we need to put out a group message of sympathy, don't you? To help their fans in their hour of need deal with their grief and their newly uncommitted merchandising expenditure."

"Lance!" Chris hissed. "You had a whole boyband offed not only so you could feed their private parts to Justin and JC, but so we can steal their fans?"

"Well if I had, it'd be a pretty efficient use of resources, no?" Lance eyed the bread knife cautiously. "I'm sure they'd do the same thing to us if they had to."

"Not now they damn well won't! And, you know, I somehow have real trouble imagining Nick Carter killing me and feeding my dick to sweet Howie D." Chris stopped dead, because actually, eww, he had no trouble at all. Not, however, the important point. "You had them murdered! And then you blackmailed Ezekiel into letting J and C—" Chris gestured wildly and almost emasculated himself with the knife. "What's gonna happen at their funerals!?"

"Chris, even at an open casket funeral, the corpse traditionally wears trousers. They're just as pretty as they always were." Lance sniffed. "Although, you know, I never thought they were anything special to start with. Anyway—" Lance put his hand on where his heart ought to be. "I promise you there's no way we can be linked to this. It's cool."

"Lance, it's, it's, it's—" Chris floundered. "Mass murder. I don't know how I can explain this to you, but it's not only against the law, it's wrong! It's not a nice thing to do. People wouldn't understand." He pointed to Nick Carter's photo on the TV. "He wouldn't understand!"

"The Lord helps those who help themselves," Lance said with a seraphic smile.

Chris wasn't sure who, if anyone, was providing supernatural blessings to Lance, but whoever it was, Chris was gonna start praying again. Really hard. In any case, the large gold cross round Lance's neck wasn't melting or anything, or causing Lance to spontaneously combust. This also seemed very wrong.

"Listen, Lance," Chris started, then trailed off. Lance was staring over his head, his face a pasty white. "What? Oh!" Chris wagged the knife at Lance. "It that your conscience waking up there? Well, good, Baptist boy."

Lance pointed at the screen, his mouth working but no sound coming out. "Not my conscience," he managed.

The footage had clearly been shot surreptitiously. The phalanx of bodyguards who came out of the hospital first were grabbing anyone who even looked like they might have a camera, potential lawsuits no object. In the centre of the mass of tightly-suited muscle, white-clad orderlies pushed five wheelchairs.

The makeup wasn't bad, but Chris could see where patches had been missed. Brian had a big streak on one cheek, the green skin showing like a really nasty rash.

Kevin and AJ seemed to be strapped into their wheelchairs. Chris wasn't sure, with the jittery camera work, but Howie looked like he really wasn't gonna make People's 50 Most Beautiful. Chris hoped someone had picked the nose up.

As they passed the camera, Nick turned right towards it, his mouth open. Chris grabbed the remote and killed the mute.


A nurse, wearing what looked like a chainmail butcher's glove, slapped her hand over his mouth.

Then a huge brown palm covered the camera lens, and the picture flipped back to the news studio.

In the kitchen there was a long silence. Chris put the knife down and switched off the TV.

"Someone will work out how to turn them back," Chris said finally. "Eventually. Someone will. You'll see, they'll be totally fine. Bit higher pitched, maybe, but fine."

"Do you think so?" Lance frowned, then hurridly changed it to a truly terrifyingly insincere smile. "Of course they will! And that's great, isn't it?" He patted Chris on the back. "Y'all start on the sandwiches, okay? I just need to, um..."

As Lance left the kitchen, Chris tried to pretend he couldn't see Lance already pulling out his cell phone.

* * *

The first thing Chris did when he got home was strip off his zombie-stained clothing and throw it in the garbage. The second was to unplug every phone in the house, and remove the battery from his cell. Unless the world ended — in which case he wouldn't need to hear about it from Johnny — he didn't want to know.

Chris opened the refrigerator door and grabbed himself a beer. In the fridge, the steaks for the barbecue he'd planned for tomorrow sat on a plate. He'd better put them in the freezer. He'd already told the others that if they bothered him at any time in the next week, he'd bite their dicks off himself.

Especially Lance's.

The shock of finding out Lance's plan was fading, though. Admittedly, Backstreet wouldn't be getting their own, um, equipment back, but Chris had faith in modern plastic surgery. Sure, it had created Michael Jackson, but on the other hand there was Cher. Cher was pretty hot, and Nick Carter could probably pull off a fishnet dress.

Chris scratched his nuts through his boxers. They felt kinda tingly. Too much adrenaline always made him horny. Maybe later he'd put on some absolutely-not-at-all-horror-themed porn and jerk off, in the peace and quiet of his own house. Pity that JC's hand was back with its proper owner now. It would've been pretty handy to keep around. Heh. Handy. Sometimes he killed himself.

Taking the steaks out, Chris found the Saran wrap. When he'd done wrapping them, he popped them in the freezer and licked the blood off his fingers. Mmm. He checked out the contents of the fridge again, scratching himself absently. Maybe he should cook himself a steak after all. Nice and rare. He really felt kinda... huuuuungry.

* * *

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