When they came back from shooting the movie, Joey was smooth-faced.

They had all decided to meet up at the Compound, and there were hugs and manly slaps on the back and some teasing of Lance, who was suddenly a brunette, so they were all to caught up to notice at first. Chris only noticed the lack of facial hair when Joey grabbed him up and buried his face in Chris' neck, muttering something like "I missed you, munchkin," and he didn't get beardburn.

He pulled back and looked at a grinning Joey mouth and big happy Joey eyes that were full of light and like...glowing, right at him. But then he looked at the space around Joey's mouth and right under Joey's chin, that part he used to lick, liking the burn it gave his tongue.

He shivered a little, and then tried to smile back, and finally just gave up and scowled. But he gave Joey a little peck on his smooth cheek and tried not to miss the beard, and then went to give Lance hell about his hair again, even though it looked kind of hot.

Joey didn't try to kiss him until later that night, and by that time he had sort of gotten used to looking at it. But it was still weird to feel it against him, so he squirmed a bit and said, "Dude, you're crushing me here," until Joey rolled off him and sighed.

"You don't like it, do you?" He didn't sound pissed, exactly, just a bit disappointed. And Chris didn't blame him, because he'd been missing warm Joey arms around him at night, and now it just sucked that a little thing like no beard would make him go all non-horny.

And he felt like a bitch now, so he rolled on top of Joey and smiled, then licked his smooth jaw. Hard. "Not really," he murmured into Joey's neck, feeling his breathing speed and his hands run up Chris's back to lace in his hair. "But maybe I can learn to."

* * *

The next day Johnny reminded them about the lame TRL thing, and reassured them that it was a via satellite thing, so they could just chill at the Compound. The cameras were already set up in some room they never used, and someone had worked extra hard to make it look 'homey.' Or something.

Lance's hair was still dark ("fuck fuck fuck," said one of their handlers) and Joey was still clean-shaven ("double fuck" said Chris, but he said it to himself) so Chris decided he wanted something new too. He had someone go out and buy him some purple dye at a punk store, or a poser-punk store, but whatever, because dye was dye right? And Joey knew dye.

But Joey refused to do it at first, because it meant that Chris would be gelling it again and not letting it stick up "all cute and elfish." Chris hated it when people called him elfish, even though Joey said that it was cool, because his pointy ears were nice to nibble on.

So Chris smacked him on the chest, which just made Joey laugh and raise his eyebrows, but then he leaned up and cupped Joey's cheeks in his hands, letting his lips just barely brush Joey's. "It means you get to watch me shower," he said against Joey's lips.

Later he was sitting in the bathtub and Joey's hands were in his hair, massaging conditioner into his scalp, and he thought about the feel of Joey's smooth skin against his hands. Well. It didn't give his neck beardburn, which was bad. But it didn't give his tongue beardburn either, which was actually pretty good, considering that it felt good when he did it but not so good later on. And Joey really seemed to like it when Chris ran his fingerss or his tongue over the surprisingly soft skin. So he could probably get used to it.

Later, when Joey was planting wet kisses on the back of his neck, he suddenly realized that it was almost like being with a whole other person, because Joey had had the beard for as long as they'd been ostensensibly "together". And the thought made him feel really hot, and then a little bad, but mostly really good as he felt Joey's smooth cheek against his back.

By the time they actually did the TRL thing it was growing back, and Joey let it, and the scratch of stubble was just as new and exciting as Joey's smooth cheeks had been, but it was different. He liked his new Joey, the beardless version, who could kiss him wherever the hell he wanted, without Johnny or someone else bitching at them about "obvious to anyone over twelve" and "maybe a bad idea."

So maybe he liked it because it was hot, or maybe he liked it because he loved Joey, and now there were no boundaries put on that, or maybe he liked it because it was Joey and pretty much anything did, Chris could love him for. He just knew he wanted his new smooth Joey to stay.

In the next interview they gave someone asked Joey if he would grow the beard back. Joey rubbed his chin and said "Yeah, probably," but when he saw Chris's pout he smiled. "But maybe not for awhile."