Little Bit of Heartache: 4
by Miss Kitty E
No matter how much Lance tried to convince himself of it, he never really believed that his work was all that fulfilling. He read fine print to make sure that his artists weren't getting screwed over, he argued over small numbers to balance a budget and ensure a return on his investment, and he met and acted phony to a bunch of people who acted phony right back at him. In the end, he'd basically waded through a lot of shit to make good on one promise to a friend. Whoop-dee-freakin'-do. And yet, knowing all this, he did it just the same, and did it well.
Fic Index - Main
The gap between the first leg of the tour and the second had left them all with about two weeks to get their lives in order before they shipped themselves off to Europe and Asia. A week and a half in, Lance had already done everything he was supposed to. Gone through them like the routine it was, he'd visited the family, smiled, and said how much he missed them, then made his excuses about how he had just too much work to do to stay for very long. And he'd done his rounds with his friends, taken each group out on the town and shown them a good time on his famous name, and his limitless credit card; they'd served their purpose, and he had served his. Now he'd retreated, for a few days of remembering what it's like to be alone and not be jostled by four other bodies, and six bodyguards, a small army of personal assistants and the ever-present gauntlet of fans outside of almost every door. It was nice to finally have enough time and space to catch up on his work.
But after four days he'd had just about enough of himself and his work. And there was three left to go. He was going to start the tour off on a sour note, he knew it, and it would be weeks before he could catch his breath enough to change his mood. He didn't want to actually break down and call someone, especially not one of the guys, because if they weren't so bored with their own home lives he'd end up a burden. And the only person he could really call was Joey, and Joey was probably romancing the living daylights out of Kelly so she would actually leave him like she threatened to.
The phone rang, and that always seemed less random and more stroke of fate when you thinking about being lonely. He stared at for a second before answering, "Lance Bass."
"Um, hi, Lance. It's me." There was a pause. "JC," he added needlessly.
"I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number," Lance teased.
JC played along, "No, really! I promise I know you, I'm not some crazy fan. You know that group you sometimes sing with? I'm totally in it? Remember me? Kinda tall, dark hair, light eyes, big nose?"
"Vaguely. But I'll give you have a chance," Lance pushed away his worked and sat back in his chair. "How's it going?"
"Badly. I hate my family."
Lance sighed softly, intending to just listen for a while.
"My mother keeps fucking going on and on about Bobbie and about how I don't call, and how look sick, and god. It's just too much. And I'm-" JC huffed, "I'm running out of excuses of why I'm not hungry." He went quiet, but Lance had heard enough.
"Do you want to come stay with me?" Lance tried, thinking that was why JC must have called. "I know you don't have many options on escape, but it's not like I've got anything going."
"What? Seriously?" JC asked.
"Um, yeah?" Lance was suddenly worried he'd overstepped his bounds. Confidant was one thing, maybe safe haven was something else entirely.
"I guess I could," JC said tentatively. "You're not bullshitting me on the 'got nothing to do' thing, are you, because I don't have to. I was just a little stressed after today. I forgot how to live with my parents. Did so fucking little of it in the end."
"No, I'm not bullshitting you. You shouldn't be stressed like this. Come over, we'll do everything and anything you like."
JC still didn't agree right away.
Lance pressed his lips together, "And, um, I'm not trying to lure you over or anything, so that I can try to... try to fix you again. I just... I want to be friends."
"We are friends," JC insisted.
"I want to do something besides worry and nag then. Talk about sex and drink beer or whatever it is real friends do. Promise."
"Sounds good," JC said. He took a deep breath, "I'll see what kind of flight I can get tomorrow, okay?"
"Sounds good," Lance echoed. "Are you alright aside from the shit with the family?"
"Hm? Oh... yeah, it is a bit late. I should probably, you know, I should probably go. I'll call you about the flight tomorrow, okay?"
Lance and frowned, he hadn't meant to run JC off, but he didn't want to make things awkward by correcting him. "Okay. Okay. Bye, JC. Um, sleep well, and all that."
JC laughed softly, "Yeah, you, too."
Lance hung up the phone, and rested his chin on crossed hands, wondering what the hell he would do with JC in his house for two days.
JC had a late flight and drove himself from the airport to Lance's home, knowing the way pretty well. He had a cell and Lance's number at any rate. Lance still had to get up to let him in, welcome him, and fuss over sleeping arrangements for a bit, but they were both too tired to talk. Hugging, and saying a fast goodnight, falling asleep without a pressing thought in their minds.
JC was still asleep when Lance got up. And was still asleep when Lance was finished with his breakfast, and when Lance showered and got dressed. It was eleven before JC shuffled out and drank some orange juice, looked at Lance sleepily and mumble about getting dressed. Lance clicked off the television and went after him.
"JC?" he asked, knocking on the door.
Lance smiled as he leaned against the door, "Listen, I've been staring at my lake all morning I was wondering if want to... go for a swim." The slight hesitation had come from the realization that all it would take was one good fall for JC to bruise or even break something. A swim would be harmless though, cool and refreshing, they could talk, too, about whatever they wanted, Lance had no agenda at all.
"Um, sure?" JC sounded a little surprised, and agreed without really thinking.
Lance left, and changed clothes, and when he got back JC was just emerging in a pair of cut offs and a loose green shirt, feet tucked into a battered pair of Birkenstocks. Lance sighed but didn't say anything about JC looking more ready to go to the grocery store than swimming, just led the way to the still water of his lake. Lance's lake. That he had bought and made, just because he wanted to, just because he could; it was a great source of pride even though his largest contribution to the project had been to throw money at contractors until he got what he wanted.
He threw down his towel and shucked off his shirt, he kicked off his flip-flops at the very edge of the grass with JC gingerly in tow. Lance waded in chest deep, and then ducked his head under, swimming until his feet no long touched the bottom. He swam backwards to look at JC, who was standing only a few yards offshore, water swishing trough his thighs. His arms were crossed, and his eyes followed Lance with a mix of boredom and concern.
Lance swam back, "You know the whole point of swimming is to get your whole body wet."
JC looked down at the water, idly squishing sand through his toes. "I'm fine, thanks."
"If I had wanted to swim alone, I would have let you sleep." Lance started after him, but JC darted so his hands closed on thin air. Thing was, JC didn't know how to run in water, and Lance caught up with him pretty quickly, slipping arms around his torso from behind.
JC screeched as Lance fell back, slapping them both into the water. He wriggled free almost immediately, but he was already soaked. He looked down at his now heavy, sagging shirt with flecks of algae stuck to it. It reeked of lake water and probably always would after today. He launched himself at Lance, but his wrists were quickly caught and a gentle battle ensued, JC trying to get his hands on Lance's skin long enough to tickle, to get a convulsion and maybe the upper hand. He tried slipping his leg around Lance's to trip him, but Lance's balance was better and he ended up tripping himself. Tangled together, they both fell back into the water and the soft ground beneath it.
They drifted further away from shore, trying to dunk each other, and then to hit each other with the biggest splash, just... playing until they were short of breath and it looked like JC had only enough energy to make it back to dry land. Lance made it to his towel first, stretching out, looking up at the deep, deep blue of the sky. It was so clear that day he could almost see the curve to the horizon and beyond, reminding himself that the sky was really just the glass bowl that put humanity on display for the universe. He went from infinity to one tiny, shivering point when JC moved just inside of his vision. He stripped off his ruined tee, and settled down on his own towel, arms crossed over his knees. Lance stared at the white, jagged planes of JC's back, thought it fractured and put together like a cubist painting. He noticed JC shifting uncomfortably and made a pretense of reaching for his sunscreen.
"You're going to fry out here, city boy, if you don't on some of this." He squirted a healthy dollop into JC's hand, and said, "Use that on your chest, okay? I'll get your back."
Lance moved behind him, and smoothed the white cream over the top of JC's jutting shoulders, spread it down the raised spine, and felt birdlike ribs under his hands as he rubbed it all in. He sighed, shakily, seeing clearly, once and for all just how fucking far gone JC was, knew that it could and would get worse if JC didn't find help soon. He passed his hand three times down JC's back to make sure it was evenly coated, and then returned to h is towel. JC smiled halfheartedly at him when he tossed the tube back at him.
"A little color might by nice," he murmured. He lay down and slid on a pair of thick sunglasses.
"Couldn't hurt at any rate." Lance let his eyes travel down JC's body, before looking back up at his face. JC's eyes were open, eyes dark gray under his shades.
JC smiled vaguely, "Yeah." A moment later he admitted, "It's been a while since I've done something this normal."
"Normal? JC you just took a swim in an artificial lake on a private property. That I bought. You didn't have to go to work, or pay a house payment, nothing like that." Lance shook his head, "I'm sorry but you're not quite at normal yet."
"Something this real then," JC clarified, tiredly. "The first time in a while where I've been able to look at myself as I do something and think, 'yeah, this is me.'"
Lance's throat sort of constricted, but with one swallow it was gone. For that, he could feel honest empathy, not just sympathy that verged on pity. "I'm glad you came, just for that. Do you..." Lance paused and reconsidered whether or not he should really ask it. In the end he didn't think it was right to pretend that nothing was wrong, even for an hour. "Do you think if you weren't in show business things would be different for you? I mean, like you wouldn't feel bad about eating."
JC sighed and though it over, "I think the only way I shouldn't have this problem is if I were someone else."
Lance was disappointed that it wasn't that easy, but he was mildly glad that the solution to JC's problem was not to pull him out of 'Nsync and give him back a normal life. He still didn't think performing was helping the situation at all, though. "Do you know why, then? Or do you just know it wasn't fame that caused it?"
JC shrugged, "Um, I don't know. I guess I've never really fit in, you know? And I thought if I looked more... I thought if I looked better people would like me more. It sort of worked, that was the awful thing, but only for a while. By the time I realized I was isolated, just trying to keep everything a secret, trying to make it seem like everything was okay, I couldn't stop. It was the only thing that made me feel good by then."
Lance frowned. "Not the only thing, please, JC, don't say that. There must be something else. Something healthy you enjoy."
JC sat up now, leaning back on the heels of his hands, his arms look as though they might snap in two. "I guess it's not really the only thing."
"Right," Lance affirmed, relieved. "What else?" he ventured. "Tell me."
"Music," JC said, reflexively. "I really do... it's always good. To listen to it, to try to write it, to make it, to perform it, and be praised for it." He went silent, eyes looking over the water as he searched for something else. Lance held his breath, 'JC,' he thought, 'the original starving artist.' "This guy," he said, finally. "I really like him. I like being with him."
"Who?" Lanced nudged JC with his shoulder gently. "You never told me you had a boyfriend."
JC shook his head, "Not really dating. Just someone I like."
Lance didn't know why he was relieved to find out that JC was still unattached. "Tell me about him." JC didn't have that many friends, it shouldn't be hard to deduce who it was, he hoped whoever it may be he was good enough JC.
"I've known him for a while now," JC's mouth quirked. "It makes it hard because we're really tight friends. But... he's really successful, and smart, and well, not really kind, but he's nice to me though. He knows about me and all my shit, and he's strong enough to take it." He smiled a little, "He's cute. Really cute. Beautiful." JC's eyes were leveled on Lance's right now, sunlight slitting behind his sunglasses so that Lance could see the shadows of his eyelashes.
"JC," Lance started. He stopped himself, thinking again about everything JC had said, and about the way he was looking at him right now. He was afraid to even entertain the possibility. "JC, um-"
"I'm sorry," JC jerked his head back to the water, swallowing against regret.
Lance sucked in a breath, okay, so it was more than a possibility. "JC, if it's me, I need to know, right now." He reached out and touched JC's bare, sharp shoulder.
"It's kind of always been you," JC said in one breath. He curled tighter into himself.
Lance loved JC more than anyone he had ever met, but he had never thought to define it past the love of a close friend, or a brother. It was hard to think of making it physical, and he was scared of what it'll mean for them, of what it would do to JC. He thought about what it would do to him. It hurt so much to see a friend suffer, to see his lover going through this might be too much. But it was JC, and he didn't know how to hurt him. If JC really meant it, then Lance could learn to mean it, too.
He sat on his heels and kissed JC's temple, hand now on JC's forearm. He moved down to JC's cheek, and leaned in closer so JC would turn his head just a little. So there was the first kiss, light and restrained because they were both scared and hesitant, but once it had happened there was no reason to be frightened of it anymore. Lance was afraid, though, to pull away, so he didn't, going deeper instead. The inside of JC's mouth tasted like the water he'd accidentally swallowed during their roughhousing, and his hands were running over Lance's upper arms smoothly.
Unfortunately, Lance's legs were getting tired of kneeling, and the muscles in his neck started to ache at the angle. He had to break away, and did with a deep breath, looking at the flush pink of JC's cheeks. He wondered if it was sunburn or a blush, but the skin was hot under his fingertips.
"Let's go inside," he was about to say, when a dry sob shook JC's body. "Oh, what?" Lance asked softly, voice high with concern. "JC, what?"
"It's just a lot," he gasped out, rubbing his cheek against Lance's hand. His eyelashes were wet now, "I never thought you really-"
"I love you," Lance said. He didn't know if he should have, but he felt that maybe JC needed to know that.
But JC shook his head, "That's not the problem. I don't want to hurt you anymore than I already do. It doesn't work like this, when I'm like this Lance, believe me I fucking know. You're not going to want to stay."
"No, shh," Lance put his arms around JC's shoulders and tried not to believe what he'd said. He pressed his face into JC's neck, "It will hurt, but I've stayed so far, I'll still stay. Let's just go inside, okay?"
JC waited until his breathing was slow enough to pass for normal before he nodded. Lance helped him off the ground, and kept their hands clasped as they made their way back to the house. Lance looked back at JC, so thin, and pale, and almost completely gone, and just hoped for the best.