Little Bit of Heartache 2

by Miss Kitty E

Things weren't always bad, in fact they got better sometimes. Way back when, during the lawsuits, and the subsequent sense of freedom and new beginnings, JC was actually close to normal. Having a purpose, a mission, a need to protect their careers and their livelihood and while he was reading over what the 20 page legal documents the lawyers produced to shut him up, he would eat, as if not even realizing it. Lance had hoped, had hoped so much but never really believed, that it would last. It didn't, by the time they were on tour again, JC wasn't eating again.

There were little oases in the emotional desert, when some girlfriend, some relative tagged along, and JC's game face was perpetual, flawless. Lance had been fooled the first time, but he learned soon enough that even when JC laughed, and joked, and gossiped liked nothing was wrong, there was, there was always something wrong. This is when JC slept too much, slept like the dead, slept like a person who didn't want to wake up, hiding himself away in his bunk where, Lance suspected, he relaxed his smile and let his insecurities come roaring back. During interviews, JC perfected a false bravado, focusing on some far off point, rambling until someone stopped him so that he didn't have to remember.

The way it was, Lance never really went more than a week without thinking about it. And those were the good times. When it was the bad times, it didn't so much plague his thoughts as remain ever in the background, a distraction preventing any kind of clarity.

There was no downward spiral, but ups and downs like a roller coaster, sometimes things got better, but sometimes they got worse. But there never seemed to be any balance, each bearing dropped in the tray for "bad," seemed to be twice as heavy for the bearings for the "good" side. The worst, the worst since finding out JC didn't eat, and the worst before he found out the last of JC's secrets, were the drugs.

It was an accident in the purest sense of the word, the wrong door, the left instead of the right, JC's dressing room instead of the toy room, even though they were clearly marked, he had his head down, tired, grabbing the handle and pushing his way in, watching in surprise as JC swallowed a handful of pills.

"Sorry, man, I-" he'd said automatically. Pausing, concerned, "You sick?"

"Not..." JC sighed, and waited until he had finished putting the cap back on, "Not really, Lance, I-"

"What are they then?" He already knew, he already knew they were no good. 'God, more?' he thought. Already there was more to contend with, more going wrong?

"Lance, it's not what it looks like," JC said desperately.

"How do you know what I think?" he snapped, not so much angry as horrifically frustrated. He sighed, downplaying it apologetically, "I'm sorry, I just want you to be upfront with me, JC; you said you'd tell me everything. This is part of everything." He took a step forward, "You don't have to tell me, but... please, JC, let me know what's going on with you."

"They're just... they're just something to help me out during shows."

"What are they? Who gave them to you?"

JC faltered, smoothing away goosebumps on his forearm, "They're amphetamines alright? They help me with the weakness and the... you know, hunger."

Lance frowned, "Who? Who gave them to you?"

"I can get this shit on my own, you know." JC threw the pill bottle into his bag and stood in Lance's way when he went for them. "Lance, don't!" He shoved weakly, and Lance took a step back, to look JC directly in the eye. "Please, you gotta understand, they're the only way I can keep going."

"The only way?" Lance asked in disgust, rubbing his face. "Pills are the only way you can keep going? Jesus Christ, JC think about that." JC looked down at his feet, looking sad, and helpless, wasting away. Lance tried once again to control his voice, and said softly, reasonably, "They're helping you hurt yourself, JC, they're not helping you in any kind of good way. It's not good, it's not healthy." He put his hands on JC's shoulders, waiting until JC lifted his head up far enough to look back at him. "I'm not gonna take them away from you, you'd get more, I understand that. I want you to give them to me."

JC shook his head, wishing Lance would either let him go pull him closer, "I can't right now. I can't fall through, not when it comes to the band. It just, it wouldn't work, all this, without them right now. They help me, Lance, they really do. "

"No, they don't, dammit," Lance let him go. "They don't, JC, they're fucking dangerous and they're only letting you stay in a bad place. I'll help you, I promise I'll help you, if you would just ask. Please, JC, give them to me." He sighed when JC looked away. "Give them to me or I'll tell Johnny." He didn't ever like to play that card because JC might confide so much to him if he had to worry about what Johnny would find out. Still, this was something he couldn't just let be.

For a long moment JC stood completely still, and when Lance tried moving around, reaching for the bag, JC didn't stop him. He rooted around for a moment, and then slipped the bit of orange plastic and sugarcoated poison into his pocket. He turned back and looked at JC, "How long have you been taking them?"

JC had to think about it, "Off and on for maybe two months."

Lance winced, that was way too long. "Are you, um, do you think you're addicted? Will you need help not taking these anymore?"

"Um, I-" Suddenly he crumpled; sharp, little shoulders curling first, one hand raising to his mouth to quiet the strangled, painful sobs, while the other crossed his stomach and dug nails in to his side. Lance blinked and watched JC's spine curl, and his knees buckle so that he was bent over himself, shaking, crying; Lance didn't think he'd ever seen someone in so much pain. It scared him, but he knelt next to JC, and put his arms around him.

"It's gonna be okay," Lance said weakly. "I promise I'll be there for you. I'm sorry, JC, I'm sorry."

JC was making pathetic noises, gripping Lance's back with the desperation of someone falling. He shivered and shuddered, exhausting himself after only a few minutes, he lay there in Lance's arms, limp and unresponsive, until the speed kicked in and he didn't want to be touched.

He almost couldn't do the show, and when JC finally got on stage, he was off the entire night. There was nothing Lance could do, nothing he could say because if JC so much as looked him his voice would break. That night during the interview with the radio, JC laughed and said he was sick and felt bad about not giving the fans a better show. The other guys didn't say anything about it, afraid to "pry" because of what they'd be forced to learn. Selective ignorance was bliss, or so it seemed, because Lance knew everything and didn't think he'd been anywhere near blissful for years.

He kept on eye on JC during the afterparty, partly as a guardian angel, partly as a watchdog. Making sure nothing hurt JC, making sure JC didn't hurt himself. He saw Justin meander over to JC, and strained to listen.

"What happened?" Justin asked, tone a little softer than usual, Lance guessed it was because for once he was trying to avoid attention. "Did you take too many?"

And like that a switch was thrown, a levy broke, all of Lance's frustration and anger and fear had a place to go. A place that deserved it anyway, because even though everything was, technically, JC's choice, he couldn't very well yell, and hate, and kick the shit of JC could he? What good would that do?

He wasn't sure it would do much good to hate Justin, either, but he didn't know what else to do.

"You knew," he hissed when Justin let him into his hotel room. "You knew JC had these?" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pills. "Fuck Justin, why didn't you stop him?"

Justin looked surprised, leaning back against the door, "He told you?"

Lance wished he could say yes, "No," he replied honestly. "But I found out just the same."

"Snooping?" Justin sneered. "Digging through his bag or what?"

It took a few slow, deep breaths before Lance could say "No," and not sound too angry. He didn't want to fight just yet, he wanted to find out what Justin knew. "How did you find out, then?"

Justin scratched the back of his neck, pushing away from the door and going back to his bag, shoving the folded, laundered clothes hospitality had laid on his bed. "I suggested it to him," he said.

"What?" Lance went completely still before grimacing tightly. "Fucking hell, you did what? Fucking Christ."

Justin whipped around, "What? What is your problem? Why are you here?"

Lance spread his arms open wide, incredulous, exasperated. "I'm here because you gave a fucking anorexic fucking appetite suppressants. How the fuck is that supposed to help him, Justin?"

Justin was right up in his face after that, and Lance hated it, because Justin wasn't scared of him at all. "How do you think, Lance? You think Johnny would stop the tour for JC? You think JC can just quietly go to Betty Ford and show up two months later, right as rain? This keeps everybody off his back, Lance, when he does well in shows, when he smiles for the camera. It keeps press from fucking speculating, and looking for pictures and the inside tracks and all that shit that JC don't need at all. He'd be fucking pathetic, Lance, if it got out, you know that. He'd be a cheesy fucking movie of the week. He wouldn't get better if everybody knew."

"You can't fucking help him not eat and say you're making him better. You're making it easier for him to do this to himself, Justin, it doesn't fucking work. Now he's gonna be a fucking addict, too." He raised his hands to shove Justin away, but couldn't do it, he turned away instead, pacing. "Are you going to give him more?"

"If he asks," Justin said defiantly. "If he needs it."

"He doesn't need it, he needs help."

"Who are you to fucking decide? When did you become his fucking keeper? You're just his fucking enabler."

Lance recoiled, suddenly the accused, "What?"

"He wants fucking attention," Justin spat. "He wants it from you, and as long as he's fucked up he'll always have it."

He knew it wasn't true, Lance knew JC well enough, had been rebuffed, and shut out enough that it wasn't true, but it still stung. He opened his mouth to say something just as searing, but someone started banging on the door. They both jumped a little, then stood around stupidly wondering who should open the door. Eventually, Justin did, looking suddenly embarrassed. Chris was on the other side, and he pushed his way in and slammed the door. "What the fuck is going on in here? Are you fucking crazy? People can hear you!" he whispered harshly.

Lance didn't say anything, and Justin murmured, "Sorry," softly. They felt ashamed suddenly, and petty because even though they both felt regret they held on stubbornly to their resentment of each other.

Lance didn't want to stay any longer, not with Chris to watch and stick up for Justin like he always did. "Just promise me you won't give anything to him again without letting me know."

Justin shook his head obstinately, "You're not his keeper, Lance. He doesn't have to answer to you."

"Fuck you, I'm doing more for you than anybody else."

"Yeah," Justin said with a vicious smirk. "That's what you think."

"Hey, stop it." Chris was angry, but not hostile. He took Justin's wrist and pulled, Justin shirked him easily. Chris took Justin's hips instead, resting his palms there, pulling him a step or two back, looking at Lance evenly over the hiding place of Justin's shoulder. "Just go back to your room, Lance, you're not gonna get anything done tonight when you're both being unforgivable dicks."

Justin pulled away and sat on the corner of his bed, pouting. Lance did leave the room and wondered why Chris didn't follow him. When he got out into the hall, JC was standing in his doorway, a little boy look of fear on his face.

"You were fighting about me," he whispered and now Lance did feel remorse, all kinds of it, flooding in on him, because the group was everything to JC right now, and every fight was a nail in the coffin.

"I'm sorry, JC, I just-" he stepped up to the door, so he could whisper. "He shouldn't have done that for you, JC."

"It's not his fault," JC insisted. He grabbed Lance's wrist, "He and I, you know, we go way back and he gets mad, he doesn't know how to fix it. He's like you," he sighed softly, when Lance looked disbelieving. "He's you in two years."

"You'll be better long before that," he promised. JC let go of Lance's wrist and didn't look convinced.

Part Three - Fic Index - Main