Title: It's Not the Heat, It's the Stupidity
Couple Notes: Jerrod Niemann is a country singer friend of Chris', Steve Carlson is in a band with Chris, East Nashville is where all the musicians live, and no black button-down shirts were injured in the making of this fic.
The reality of summer and what the word summer means to Chris now-a-days don't quite mesh, like using spare Dodge parts in Fordóit'll do, but it ain't quite right neither. It'll work until something better, something right, comes along or gets found.
Chris thinks of summer in rubbed off pastels all bleeding togetheróblue sky into grey-green water into red clay and green grass. The smell of BBQ smoke in everyone's hair, the feel of a beer can beading with condensation against his palm, the sound of someone's radio off in the distance playing Bob Seger or Garth Brooks. Fishing and canoeing and being in love with being in love.
Chris's summer is actually an endless loop of auditions, shuck-and-jive for record company executives.
He misses out on two romantic comedies and a pilot on Sci-Fi before summer really even starts, pre-Memorial Day, so maybe that's just shaking off a damp spring.
June eases in lubricated by Tennessee humidity and Jagermeister. Not quite right, but not all bad, drinking and partying and pretending that he isn't desperate this time. He's tired of it all and ready to give everything on this one last go at that elusive something bigger. One last time and then he's either gonna have it all or retire back home to the endless horizon and raising horses. Chris' dreams turn chaotic, fuelled by a nameless kind of anxiety and phone calls he keeps expecting and doesn't get. He knows there are people who need him elsewhere, people he misses and should just fucking call himself, but some things are easier left unsaid, some numbers better left undialed. June's a little too break-neck to be what Chris associates with summer.
July's filming another indie in Argentina, people acting "industry" to smooth out the fact they haven't got clue-one what the fuck they're doing. Chris almost feels comfortable with that, with bullshiting, smiling through it and acting along. The Southern hemisphere is strange. The food's all beef all the time, and by the middle of the month, he'd trade Steve for a piece of fried chicken. He writes a couple songs about home, collapses into his bed in the early mornings for dreams about smog and bugs that eat you from the inside out. He spends a little too much time pissed off about nothing in particular and annoyed whenever he sees a black button down shirt or someone asks him about Texas. Chris isn't from Texas, goddamn it. July's devoid of fireworks and cook-outs and sitting out on a dock to "fish."
August is supposed to be downtime, but it devolves into total bullshit. The label's buying out or opting out of everyone's contracts because of the big merger, and Steve's off making an album with his other band, leaving Chris to hit meeting after meeting with people who lie their faces off. It's a traveling carnival act of bullshitting, L.A., NYC, Nashville. No matter who he talks to or what they say, he doesn't believe a damned word of it. Three of his friends with actual albums and radio play got axed, so Chris can't believe in the rhetoric of "solid fanbase" and "crossover potential." He doesn't believe in much, himself included, especially when he looks in the mirror and sees his daddy with longer hair looking back with the strained expression of someone a couple seconds from digging his own grave with his big mouth. August's jetlag and rain and strangling.
The end of August, Chris is sitting on his back porch where he's got a couch and a t.v. set up. Country as hell, and he likes it just fine like that. He's gonna take something back for having to cope with the endless string of getting jacked around all summer, and he happily takes his payment in sitting out on the porch in the middle of a storm drinking Pabst out of the cooler by his leg, flipping around looking for some pre-season ball or reruns of Dallas. Instead, he lights on Jensen's sarcastic smile under too-bright lights. Chris settles back on the cracked vinyl cushions and chortles to himself. Jensen's pissed off, uncomfortable, probably exploding heads in his mind. Good times. The rain starts to blow in a little, threatening the electrical equipment, so Chris slides off the couch, grinning, and unplugs everything, picks up the television and cable box and kicks open the back door to sit it all on the floor and pull on a shirt and some shoes to head over to Jerrod's for a spell.
The first of September finds Chris in the studio dicking around on some tracks he's not fully committed to. He's feeling that end of summer listlessness that he's felt all his life, the unease with the start of a new school year even though he's been out of school now longer than he was in it. He's by himself in Nashville, just kicking around. Jerrod's on tour and Steve's in L.A., but Chris is settling in, just another guy in East Nashville with a record deal and nothing to back it up. He's got a chance, but he's no one special here. His neighbor has three Grammys and no name recognition. The kid at the coffee shop went to Juilliard and plays every instrument known to man. Chris feels small, removed from the L.A. ass-kissing pool, all the people who inflate their self-worth out of the feeling that they're really useless. Nashville is the anti-L.A., all humility and a sense of community.
He takes his dogs to the dog-run and only wears cut-offs and flip-flops and doesn't even bother with his hair, pulling it back with a ponytail holder or a piece of string or whatever's at hand. Really, it's liberating. Nobody expects jack out of him and he appreciates that. He's just Chris, and he thought that'd be hard, to give up being a unique snowflake, but, really, it feels like coming home, a home he didn't even know he had. Fuck it, Chris doesn't know, he's just living his life for the first time in a long-ass time. September looks ok, standing on the edge of it and gazing off towards the end of it with a Bud in his hand, his guitar on his lap, and Jerrod making that stupid Magnum condom joke again for the ten thousandth time. He feels maybe a little too light, a little too free, but maybe that's better than the alternative.
Chris is contemplating hosting a last minute Labor Day party when Jensen shows up outta fucking nowhere with a serious attitude problem and his mouth set in that I'm-fixin'-to-fuck-someone-up line that people only dismiss once. Jensen's standing on Chris's porch with a man-bag or some shit, in a black button down shirt and artfully ragged jeans. Chris is shirtless with three-days' worth of a beard, he curls his toes down into the shag rug on the inside side of the screen door and can't help the smile at the fumes of anger almost visible around Jensen's head.
"Thought you were working." Chris kicks the door a bit with his foot and Jensen reaches for the edge of the frame since the handle on the outside's missing.
"It's Labor Day. Four day weekend." Jensen slings his bag down on the couch with his back to Chris. He's really worked up about something, but Chris isn't gonna ask. Jensen has his own ways about him, and if he wants to spill, he'll spill. If he doesn't that's fine, too.
Jensen flops down next to his bag and throws an arm over his eyes. Chris smacks his belly laughing at the dramatic prissiness. What a little bitch.
"Wanna drink?" Chris shuffles off towards the kitchen, because that wasn't really a question. He hears Jensen behind him. When he lifts his head from pouring the scotch into the Talladega shot glasses, Jensen's leaning against the doorframe with his head against his forearm watching him.
"This summer sucked." Jensen's stripped off the black button down to expose a thin Cowboys shirt that probably fit before he started taking his clothes off for a living and put on twenty pounds.
"No shit." Chris offers Jensen his shot. Jensen crosses the kitchen in two strides and knocks the glass out of his hand. The alcohol and tiny projectile fly towards the fridge and Chris doesn't even get a chance to laugh before Jensen has him pinned to the counter belly to belly.
"You avoiding me?" Jensen presses his face right into Chris's neck and for all his caveman routine, he sags against him, almost drops his full weight onto Chris, and this isn't anger, this is Jensen never being able to reach out until he explodes and someone directs his life for him. No way in hell did he buy his own plane ticket here, and no way in seven hells did Jensen come up with the plan to come to Chris for this breakdown.
"Been busy is all." Been maybe a little too busy, up his own ass, and he knew he was losing touch with people, but Jensen's a grown up, or he's supposed to be anyway. Chris slides his hand down Jensen's spine, set deep in muscle he didn't have four years ago, and under his shirt to maybe apologize, maybe just reassure. He doesn't know how he feels about this, really. Jensen's a fucking minefield.
"Uh huh." Jensen's face turns slightly, voice smothered by his mouth opening against Chris's throat. "Fucking horrible summer," Jensen rumbles, runs his lips up to rub against the stubble under Chris's jaw.
"I know. Didn't get to fish once, goddamn it." Chris smiles as Jensen grabs him in a huge hug, and starts to laugh, rocking them both around and around. Then they're both laughing open mouthed towards the ceiling and shaking the flaking plaster on the walls.
The fall's definitely gonna be better than the summer. Chris knows it like he knows the bourbon and smoke taste of Jensen's mouth and the surly stomp of his foot rattling the plates in the cabinets in the morning.