Little Bit of Heartache: 3

by Miss Kitty E

It was a while, maybe two or three days too late, before Lance went and apologized to Justin. Not because he wanted to, not even because he felt obligated to, but because JC was stressing over the new rift between his two closest friends. The more time that passed the more painfully obvious it became that Justin wasn't about to come to him, and the futility of waiting for him to realize that it was all his fault was starting to come into a clearer focus. It didn't take much really, to get Lance to go first, just the look in JC's eyes and a guilty conscious that had taken to battering him with his mother's voice. Swallow your pride, Lance, you don't need it. You'll go so much further without it to weigh you down. Mama Bass raised her children right, apparently, because Lance found himself shuffling up to Justin one day and mumbling his apologies with only a minimal effort, courage summoned up as he stood in the doorway.

"Justin. About the other night," he took a deep breath. "About JC. I shouldn't have, you know, been like that. I just, can't help it sometimes. I get protective and all Southern... about all of you –but JC especially, he's got so much going on in his life right now." Lance paused and tried to order his thoughts, they had stopped somewhere after 'JC especially.' He looked up at Justin, "It's easy to forget that I'm not the only who's trying to help him, so... I'm sorry. It wasn't right to try and blame you like that."

Justin looked him up and down, not so much suspicious of Lance's motives as simply waiting to the inevitable "but." None came because thankfully Lance did know better than to make an apology turn into another argument. He just wanted to get this all said and maybe hear something said in return.

"It's cool," Justin said when the silence became a little awkward. "I know JC means a lot to you. And I know us getting along means a lot to him, so don't worry about it. Like, at all." Justin smiled, unsure, but trying to make some semblance of peace so he didn't have to worry about feeling guilty. He stood around like he didn't know what he was supposed to do, and Lance couldn't bring himself to hug Justin, even though he'd intended to, to show "just how much" he meant this. Instead, he smiled back, just as weakly, squeezed Justin's shoulder and left.

Justin didn't move for a second, then moved a little slowly over the couch, kicking it to jostle Chris who was stretched out across it watching The Price is Right. "Get up, I wanna sit here."

"I'd like to, Justin, but I'm too comfortable to move," Chris looked up at him with a sly smirk.

"Well, lemme fucking help you then."

Justin grabbed Chris' hand and pulled, rearranging the smaller man like he was a rag doll. When they were both settled and laughing softly, Lance noticed their hands were still entwined. He didn't think too much of it as he went to sit with JC. They sat in amicable silence, JC was relaxed, almost smiling, and Lance knew that he was, at least, a little happier. It made up for everything, even the fact that Justin had given no apology back when Lance felt for sure he deserved one. He let it go, he was big enough to humble himself if it would make JC feel better, it wasn't his problem that Justin wasn't.

JC looked up at him suddenly, "You want to see?" He handed over his notebook with waiting for an answer, and Lance looked it over, his half smile becoming a grin as he read it. It was a very cute song about a girl's first time.

"For the girls," JC explained, meaning Wild Orchard.

Lance nodded, and handed it back, "You're such a big, gay perv, Jayce. I like it, though. It's cute."

JC ducked his head down, shyly. "Thanks, man. Um, I'm glad you and Justin..."

"We're good," Lance smiled sincerely after that because JC sighed in relief. "How are you handling, the um... is it withdrawal? Or is it just a craving?"

"A little bit of both," JC said softly. He sighed and closed the notebook. "If I think about it, I shake, but that's all really. It's hard... I'm so tired now."

"You seem fine on stage," he wished he didn't sound so suspicious. He tried to fix it with, "How do you do it?"

JC shrugged and squinted a little, "You just do. You can't sit down, you can't call time so you keep doing the moves and wait for a slow song."

"If you just ate you'd have the energy." He knew better than to say things like that, Lance didn't know why he let it slip. "I'm sorry," he said before JC can speak. "I'm sorry, I know you try."

"I do," JC insisted. And Lance wondered how true that was. So he 'tried something' for the first time in almost six months.

He didn't think that he should be the only one to try and help JC because he thought he knew best. There was just this vague feeling that Lance just knew more about JC than anyone else. Joey had know him longer, much longer, but JC only went to Joey went he didn't want to think about it, when he wanted to sit back with a couple of beers and watch TV, when he wanted to go to a concert, to a club. JC trusted Lance to be there for him when he couldn't hide from it any longer. He downplayed everything in front of Justin, never giving the younger man any reason to think it wasn't all right to just dismiss it, and get back to focusing on himself. Chris was frightened, just too scared to get involved in the kind of emotional quagmire that surrounded JC. Outside of the band there were few people who had much sympathy for JC's problems, doing it themselves, or even fucking admiring him for being so good at it. If people would just give him and JC a wide enough berth they could work through everything together.

Lance had always been the best at making sandwich, being slow, methodical, a perfectionist, and a neat freak. His sandwiches never dripped, and they never consisted of only meat, cheese, and mayonnaise. He put in lettuce, and a nice sliver of red onion if they had some, and was liberal with tomato slices. He had special mustard ordered for the bus fridge. No one made a fuss when he took over the narrow little kitchen and made two roast beef sandwiches, wrapping one in a paper towel and holding the other in his hand. He went and sat next to JC, and offered him the second sandwich.

JC stared at like he didn't really recognize what it was.

Lance started eating his own, watching the television play afternoon cartoons. It was the new version of Batman, and Joey and Justin had revived an age old debate over who was better, the Dark Knight or the Man of Steel. It was a lazy argument with farfetched and specific examples, like whether X-ray heat vision was really better than having six different bat vehicles.

JC could eat the sandwich or not, Lance wasn't going to say or pressure him into anything. But the choice was there now, and if JC really, really wanted to be well, he would eat it, and not feel bad because Lance was eating the exact same sandwich. Lance tried not to smile when JC took the first bite. They ate together in silence, and Lance eventually stole a corner of JC's paper towel to wipe his mouth.

JC sat next to him complacently, and ripped the rest of his towel to shreds, and then smaller shreds, and then finally into nothing but white, fuzzy confetti. He stood up without a word and went to the back of the bus, closing the bathroom door quietly. Lance let himself smile, let himself feel good about what he had done until JC took too long to return. He felt cold suddenly, when realized what was going on, what was going on right in the fucking bathroom five feet away, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn't stop JC, couldn't bang on the door, or rip the door open, or plead for JC not to do it, because it was already being done, because then JC's problem would be so big they'd have to stop the tour and send him away.

Eventually, JC returned, the rush of water in the sink cutting off just a second before he opened the door. He kept his head down as he walked, and sat back down next to Lance, leaning back against his seat. Lance looked at him for a long time, at JC's closed eyes and long lashes, wondering if he would cry. JC never did, but he blinked them open and saw Lance staring.

"I'm sorry," Lance said automatically. "I'm so sorry, I'll never do that again. I'm sorry."

JC waved his hand dismissively and covered his eyes, "It's not your fault really. I just couldn't handle it."

He knew that JC must feel like shit right now, but didn't know what to say to make it even a little bit better. He'd fucked up. Bad. "You need to tell me to fuck off sometimes, JC. I swear to God, if you would just tell me I don't have a fucking clue I wouldn't..."

"It feels good to know you care."

"But it's not enough." The ache in Lance's heart and throat was spreading like a cancer. It hurt so bad it was like something was physically wrong with his body, a heart attack, a stroke. Too much feeling was being poured into him and the pressure against his lungs was unbearable. "I'm sorry," he said again as he stood, and ran away to hide in his bunks until he could handle it again, the look of defeat in JC's eyes, the complacency of his hands, like he didn't fucking have a choice at all.

He was scared suddenly, that JC would never get better. He'd end up dead and broken and it would be all Lance's fault because he didn't know how to fucking help him without hurting him. He was going to start crying soon, if he kept this up, and somehow that was just unacceptable. If he cried now, it would be all over, he'd be admitting he wasn't strong enough to be there for JC. Lance shut his eyes and chose sleep as his best escape.

Part Four - Fic Index - Main