Hey kids, I'm back… So, you know when you've hit a bad run? Well, it seems like I'm having one of those months. It sucks. At this point I think it seems a little futile constantly apologising for the ever-late updates, but I really am sorry. I realise I'm kinda letting you guys down with the slow progress, but I hope you guys understand. Life's a bitch and she's not being my friend right now.

Texas is a blur. I don't know how the hell it happened- I'm going to blame it on too much beer and that fucking hot little blond twink in Houston- but it triggers…something. Something's off. The Dallas gig is pretty flat in comparison to the flaming hot rock the guys have been delivering over the past few weeks, and there's a heaviness in the air as we set up for tonight's show in Austin. Everyone's on edge, even usually jovial Jack, who is muttering expletives as he gives a frustrated kick to the bass amp he's trying rig for Blaise.

"Oi! Fucking watch it, Jack!" Blaise yells, to which Jack responds by promptly flipping him a birdie.

"Fuck off, Blaise!" Jack exclaims. "By all means, please haul your ass over here and sort this shit out yourself if you have a problem."

Blaise is physically bristling as he stalks over to Jack purposefully, a hard look in his eyes.

"Now listen here, you little cu-" Blaise starts, getting right up into Jack's face before Chase cuts him off.

"Can you ladies keep it the fuck down? I've got a bloody head-ache," Chase complains, sinking back down into the sofa and slinging his arm over his eyes to cover them.

Blaise and Jack exchange a quick pointed look before they visibly relax a little, seemingly to mutually decide to just leave it be. Blaise turns swiftly on his heels and makes a bee-line for the dressing-room, but not before gruffly muttering at Jack to "sort this shit out."

Jack immediately comes over to me, still cursing and muttering under his breath about the damn bass amp he's having trouble with. I try to nod along mutely as he complains tersely, not even perking up when Ben comes over with a cold beer for each of us. I flash Ben a grateful half-smile and he returns it before taking a swig from his bottle.

"The hell's up with everyone today, eh?" Ben remarks with a quirk of his eyebrow. Somehow, despite the sluggish mood that seems to have settled over us all, Ben still manages to remain vaguely upbeat- at least in comparison to the rest of us. You've gotta love the guy.

"And what's up with him?" Ben asks, jerking his head over in Chase's direction.

He's still lying flat on the sofa, eyes hidden from view by the arm that is slung across his face. I let my eyes run over his form, almost guiltily, taking in the way that his navy t-shirt has ridden up to expose a sliver of his taut torso, drifting down his slender denim-clad thighs…

I tug my gaze away from Chase and turn to Ben, giving him a shrug.

"Dunno. Headache, apparently."

I quickly flick my eyes over to Chase and see that he's lifted his arm just enough so that I can see his eyes peering out and looking at me.

"Chuck me a beer will ya, Strings?" he asks as he shuffles himself up into a sitting position.

I slowly wander over to him, placing my half-empty bottle in his hands. He gives it a slightly disdainful look but lifts the glass vessel to his lips anyway, tilting his head back to let the cool liquid slide down his throat easily. His tongue darts out to slick over his lips and he turns his hooded gaze to me, offering me the bottle. I shake my head 'no' and he shrugs, tilting it back for another quick glug as I decide to sink down next to him on the couch for a moment.

"You alright?" I ask casually, glancing over to see that he's slumped further back into the almost formless cushions.

He shrugs wordlessly, reaching his free hand out to press at the back of my neck lightly, trying to tug me closer to him. I let him guide me, shifting my weight so that I can turn my body to him, and I close my eyes when I feel the now-familiar pressure of his lips against mine. There's a strange contraction at the pit of my stomach but I push it away and reach a hand out to rest on Chase's thigh. I can feel his tongue pushing at my lips and I part them, feeling the velvety slick as he explores my mouth languorously.

I can't figure out what he's thinking. We've barely said a word to each other since that night in Houston but now he's wrapped around me and I'm letting his hands slide in under my shirt, his warm fingers kneading into my side. I just want to lose myself in the taste of his mouth, ever tinged with whiskey and cigarette smoke, but there's always that niggling ache balling in my stomach and teasing my thoughts away from now.

Chase is just beginning to press me further into the cushions when I suddenly feel a hand clasp my shoulder and I jerk away from him, glancing upwards.

"Hey," Blaise says a little awkwardly. "Uh, you two should probably- ah- take a break. Just got a call from Phil and he's swinging by tonight's show. He'll be here pretty soon, so…"

I get the hint and try to disentangle myself from Chase, who looks more than mildly pissed off by the interruption and the news that their manager is making an appearance. He has yet to release his grip on the front of my shirt and doesn't look as though he's particularly willing to do so. I try to prise his fingers from my shirt, but he catches me off-guard and yanks me fiercely towards him in a rough kiss. I almost let myself melt into him until someone smacks me sharply on the head.

"OW!" I exclaim angrily, turning to glare at my attacker.

Ben's standing there with a little grin on his face, a rolled up newspaper in his hand.

"Ah, good- thought that might get your tongue out of his throat," he chirrups almost merrily. "Blaise was too scared to physically separate you, so I volunteered. Now lovers, if you'd kindly remove your hands from each other's pants… Chase, you've got a manager to suck-up to. Flynn, I think you still need to re-string and tune the guitars before the show. I'd do it for you, but I don't even know how the hell to take out the strings."

Before either me or Chase have a chance to hurl more abuse at Ben, he turns on his heels and disappears behind the amp stacks. Bastard.

I give a sigh and firmly pull away from Chase, getting up off the couch and straightening myself up a bit. Chase is looking up at me with a dark, almost defiant look in his eyes, as if daring me to actually leave. It takes all my strength to break our eye contact and turn away, walking from him and over to the guitar rack. I can hear the tapping of his boots on the hardwood of the stage and try to focus my attentions on the guitar that I'm holding. His presence behind me is difficult to ignore, my nostrils filling with the light scent of cigarette smoke and spicy cologne from the closeness of his body. I drop my eyes and let them skim over the taut metal of the strings, flitting upwards to the headstock and clasping the tuning keys to loosen the strings.

I feel his arm slowly wrap around my waist and I feel my body clench at the oddly tender gesture. Chase leans forward, his lips brushing over the exposed skin of my neck for just a moment, a fleeting touch. And then I feel his tongue flicker out, brushing over my skin before the soft graze of his teeth sends a shiver down my spine. He bites down, just lightly, before I feel his lips resting by my ear.

"You've been avoiding me, Strings," he murmurs lowly.

"No, I haven't," I mutter, shrugging him off me and moving over to perch on a stool, resting the guitar across my lap and carefully threading out the strings.

"I think you have. We haven't fucked in four days."

"So because I haven't fallen to my knees every time I've seen you, I'm avoiding you?"

I try to keep my voice level, careful not to snap at him.

"You're not all het up because of that trick, are you?"

My eyes flicker up to him.

"No. If you can't tell, by the way, I'm actually trying to work right now. You know, so you don't sound like fucking shit tonight."

"We never sound like shit. So, you are jealous about the trick."

The slight twang of the strings makes me realise that I've been turning the tuners almost hypnotically, automatically, and I quickly loosen up a little before they snap. I give them a light pluck and readjust them a little, noting they're slightly sharp.

"I have nothing to be jealous of," I say simply, keeping my eyes fixed firmly on the tuning keys I'm turning.

I can feel him hesitate, lingering by the side of the stool, until I hear the sound of his footsteps retreating. The ball clenched in my stomach sinks heavily.

Phil has everyone on edge. Blaise is pacing up and down backstage, getting in everyone's way as he wafts about emanating a sort of nervous energy that only adds to the prickly atmosphere. Even Fred has been roused out of his usual slumped position in the corner of a couch, instead sitting bolt upright, bouncing his knee up and down restlessly. Jack is a bundle of buzzing energy, racing up and down backstage, arms seemingly always laden with tangles of wires and mics, while Ben just sits sedately in a corner, a picture of zen. Chase is chain-smoking like nobody's business, swigging from a bottle of beer as he leans casually against the wall, shades lowered guardedly.

By the time the gig is done, Chase has gone past the stage of being just 'drunk' and definitely now qualifies as being 'messily drunk'. Very messily drunk. When he staggers off the stage towards me, I catch the look of alarm that unintentionally flashes in Blaise's eyes. With Phil around, I know he's freaking out about what stunt Chase is going to pull and I'm aware that although he's stopped voicing his concern, the thought of me and Chase being caught out by Phil seriously worries him. So as Chase totters towards me, I don't need the little look that Blaise flashes me to tell me to play it cool. Unfortunately, Chase should probably have paid more attention.

He slings his arm around me, yanking me close to him and trying to kiss me. I avoid him deftly, wriggling free of his grasp.

"Aw, c'mon Strings…" he slurs, reaching out for me again.

I can see Phil's gaze swing over towards us, his phone still held up to his ear as he watches, hawk-eyed and suspicious.

"Not now, Chase," I hiss, fixing him with a hard look and trying to make him understand.

"Oh, who fucking cares about Phil- I wanna fuck…" he practically whines, skimming a hand up my bare arm until he reaches the sleeve of my t-shirt, tugging on it lightly.

Phil's eyebrow jerks upwards sharply, muttering a couple of words into his phone before he flips it shut and turns towards us. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Blaise frantically looking over at me and Chase, before his gaze darts over to Phil. As I shrug Chase off me, Phil is making his way towards us and so I pull away from Chase firmly, hurriedly moving towards the guitar rack to busy myself.

Phil is motioning angrily, Blaise seemingly trying to placate him while Chase lolls onto Blaise's shoulder, still puffing heavily on his cigarette. Ben sidles over to me, slinging his arm across my shoulder in an almost overly-friendly manner.

"So…I see Blaise is putting out another Chase-induced wildfire, hmm?" he remarks conversationally. "Want to fill me in?"

"Chase was just getting a little…too friendly with me for Phil's liking. Seriously, what the hell's his problem with the whole gay-bi thing? Do they really think people are going to stop buying their records if people find out Chase's actually likes cock?" I mutter, trying to suppress my irritation.

Ben chuckles, giving my shoulder a little squeeze before he starts to speak.

"Look, there isn't any point getting worked up over it. Phil's a shit manager- he's barely around anyway. And I mean, it's not as though you have to hide an actual relationship. Just try not to fuck in front of Phil and you'll be fine," he says airily, ignoring the scowl I shoot in his direction.

"Yeah. Sure," I mutter.

I can't help but glance over to where Phil has stalked off, responding to his ringing cell-phone but not before shooting Chase a perfectly dirty look. Blaise is rounding on Chase, gesturing wildly and failing to elicit any kind of outward reaction from Chase. He just stands there, coolly puffing at his cigarette, his face a blank mask.

But then he looks up, turning to catch my eye. He drops his cigarette to the floor, stubbing it out with the toe of his boot before he stalks towards me purposefully. His fingers are under my chin, tilting it upwards until our lips are brushing together, his tongue sliding forward to slick over my lips before he parts them gently. His hand instantly reaches up to the base of my neck, fingers tangling in my hair as he holds me there, exploring my mouth. He runs his thumb over my cheek-bone, down my jaw, until his two hands are holding on to the back of my neck and he deepens the kiss. I want to wrap my arms around him, feel the press of his body on mine, but I leave my hands resting at his waist and let him take control. He does it so well. I allow myself the luxury of letting my fingers creep under the hem of his shirt, hooking onto the top of the jeans that hug his hips. My heart pounds in my chest as I fight to push away the turning in my stomach, closing my eyes tighter and pulling his hips closer to mine.

He pulls away slowly, his eyes flickering open and he stares at me through dark eyelashes. I swallow, feeling uncomfortable and dropping his gaze. I can't tell what's in those eyes.

I look back up and Chase is glancing over his shoulder. I can see Phil standing there, a furious look plastered across his face. My eyes dart back to Chase, drinking in the smirk and almost triumphant expression he's wearing.

AN2: Hope that was alright. I could really do with some con-crit, so please do send some my way. At this point, it would genuinely cheer me up –sad face-

2cute4ya14 – I've already said to you but I'll say it again; I am sorry for not replying to your query about Chase and Flynn's relationship…but isn't it the point of the story to just read and find out more? ;p But seriously, all will be revealed with time. It's far less fun to just say outright what the outcome will be; then you guys won't get to see the fun twists and turns, the trials and tribulations, the challenges... On another note, I'm really glad that you feel as though you connect with these characters. As much as I love 'Love Bites', I do think my writing has grown since that (I hope). Have faith in these guys- hopefully they'll pull through for ya!

HeavensOnFire – D'awww, thanks for the love. And hahaha, I'm glad I got your hometown in there! I'm glad you're enjoying reading these two as much as I'm enjoying writing them. If you want my take on Brian and Justin, you should check out one of my older stories, 'Spin Me Around' and the one-shot series, 'Snapshot of Broken Lovesongs' (specifically the first one shot and another called 'Words' which is chapter 8) as those are very much directly influenced by themes and characters from QAF with my own interpretation. Wee mini-plug there for ya… ;p

Echoing Shadow – I'm very glad my replies make you laugh. More importantly, that someone out there finds my weird-ass sense of humour funny. Hmmm… I'll begrudgingly let you hang on to Ben for a little bit longer. Though I am gonna need him back at some point. Who else is going to keep Chase's arse in check? As for 'Strings'… Well, it's mainly stemming from Chase wanting to wind Flynn up and rubbing in the fact that he first started trying to do that by forcing him into the role of guitar-tech. I kinda also wanted to play on the idea of Flynn actually managing to grab hold of Chase's heartstrings (short as they may be). And don't worry, the good old Chase will always linger…at least for now… ;)

The Color Clear – Yay, another Houston…er. I dunno what you call someone from Houston. Was it Houston that's your hometown or was it Dallas or Austin? You and HeavensOnFire should hook-up, you crazy Texans you ;p Glad the advice helped! You, my dear, need to read properly. I've mentioned like, at least five American towns on their tour now, haha! But I can see where you might have assumed it was based in the UK since, yes, I am not American. And neither is Chase. Hope you liked the chapter!

Coco Bean Cake – Haha, I'm glad that the end got you feeling uncomfortable too… Just imagine how poor Flynn felt! I can promise any crazy between-the-sheets action just yet- give me time though, and I'll see what I can do. I've just got to see where these crazy kids lead me with their tension and antics. I have a plot all planned out, but I sometimes feel as though the characters just lead me astray on occasion, so…