Note: this does indeed have moments in Joey's Kitchen, but it isn't actually a pwp. I know, I know, what's going on, something is clearly wrong with the universe. we have diligent staff working on the case, attempting to put it right as soon as possible.

Anyway. Herein lies, among other things: an anniversary meal, some alienation, and phonesex. sounds like a relationship to me. <g>

"So? Like I care. And it's bullshit, anyway."

"It's true," Lance's voice insists, and JC pauses at the door to collect himself, because damnit even after all this time the first burr of that voice in the morning always unlocks something primal in his brain.

"It's bullshit," Chris repeats, and JC can hear the grin and okay, he can cope with Chris, if Chris is there then it'll dilute the heat fizzing in the pit of his stomach; this is fine.

"Look at the green, though, see?" Lance says, "it's so pale," and JC realises, as ever, that it's dumb to hang out in Joey's corridor, so he goes into the room and coughs.

"Hey, guys."

"Jayce!" Chris calls, looking up from his position on the floor, snug in a crowd of smushed up beanbags. "Okay, good, you're up, you can tell Lance; you don't get ripe celery."

"You do," Lance says, scrambling into a sitting position, grinning earnestly. His eyes are shockingly bright, like he's been polishing them in the sun. He holds up half a stalk of celery. "It's like, you can tell with the, the different greenness and it's, I dunno, fuller or something. heavier?"

"more succulent," JC says, and Lance whoops and thwaps Chris round the head.

"See, see," he crows, and Chris scowls and fights him off and laughs and shoots JC truly indignant glares.

"Encourage him, why don't you?" he says incredulously, and JC shrugs and feels faintly dizzy at the force of Lance's grin, and goes to find some orange juice.

"I'm gonna go call for pizza," Chris grumbles, shaking his head at them. "Leave you two crazy kids to your rabbit food."

"Uh-huh." JC opens the fridge, glancing at his watch; it's way too early for pizza. The thought of bubbling tomato paste and sizzly, elastic cheese makes his stomach turn. "I'm gonna pass."

"Me too," Lance says, and he's walked over to join JC at the fridge, munching his celery, prickly-close to his elbow. "What's in here?"

"Not much," JC says, squinting at the shelves; it's a lie, because there's a lot of food, but none of it's what he'd call breakfast, so he ignores it. Juice, though; that's here. thank God. His mouth is dry, and yeah, it's partially to do with Lance hovering by his shoulder, he's not gonna kid himself on that one.

"Any more celery?" Lance asks innocently, and Chris snorts in the background.

"I don't get it, Lansten," he calls. "What do you want with crunchy water, anyway? And strings! Stringy, crunchy water. Gour-met."

"I like it," Lance says, and JC doesn't know if Chris heard that, though maybe Lance's voice carries. who knows.

"I like it, too," he says, grabbing orange carton and closing the fridge. His voice sounds slightly cracked. Lance tilts his head slightly, watching JC pour juice, and JC concentrates on stopping his hand from shaking.

"You know," Lance says, conversationally soft, and JC hears the click of the door, realises Chris has left to make his phonecall, "celery is like, minus calories."

JC looks at him sharply, and Lance's eyes are brilliantly mild. "You use more energy digesting it than it gives you," he recites, cautiously.

Lance gives him a tiny smile. "Yeah, that's what I heard," he agrees, and then looks faintly diffident. "I keep snacking, is all. so. I figured it was better than grabbing Cheetos all the time."

"I know what you mean," JC says, and looks away because he's really thirsty but can't co-ordinate his drinking muscles under Lance's gaze.

"Whadda mean, we don't got access to the facilities?" Chris demands, poking the hotel manager hard in the sternum, making his eyes go wide and panicky.

"Not you in particular," he says hastily, looking anywhere but Chris' upturned glare and lighting on JC, a mute appeal for understanding. "Everything's closed, I mean, no one gets access, today -- there was this fault with the pipes, so now there's chlorine everywhere. We gotta-- there's another pool on the roof," he suggests, desperately.

"Yeah, okay," JC says, feeling sorry for him, and puts a hand on Chris' shoulder. "Pool on the roof's good."

"You not got another gym?" Justin asks petulantly, as Chris looks at JC narrowly, then rolls his eyes and takes his hand off the guy's chest.

The hotel manager shakes his head, submissive tension rolling off him. Damn, JC thinks. Lance is frowning.

Fucking traffic. The bus is getting claustrophobic, the windows streaming with dull, grey rainwater. Justin is sulking, because he tripped over the Playstation cords and twisted his ankle and Chris had been on level eight, and for once he can't blame anyone.

"Fuck!" Chris had growled, as the screen snapped black. "You killed it!"

"This fucking hurts," Justin had snarled back, limping over to the sofa and flopping down and glowering at everything that dared share his airspace.

Chris had dared. "Level eight!" he'd yelled, "so don't you fucking pout at me, Timberlake --" and at that point Justin could've soothed everything by grinning and making a jab about how he could get to level eight with his eyes closed, but it was fucking Justin, so of course he didn't, he just started singing loudly and off-key right in Chris' face.

"Get me the hell outa here," Lance mutters, pushing past JC with a sour smile, and something about Justin's caterwauling and Chris' low, vicious whispers combine with the three cups of coffee JC's had this morning because they've run out of decaffe, and he grabs Lance's wrist before he's out of reach. Lance turns back, blinking. "C?"

"Just-- take me with you," JC manages, throwing an exaggerated grimace at the scene behind him and trying to forget that fuck, this is Lance's skin soft in his grip, this is Lance's pulse battering his fingertips.

"You'll get wet," the driver points out, when they stand there expectantly pointing out places to park, and Lance laughs bitchily and throws JC private little glances until Matt gives in and pulls over. "You got five minutes. Are the others going out, too?"

JC cocks his head, hearing the thump and tumble from the recesses of the bus and decides firmly that, even though it'd mean Chris and Justin burnt off some of the energy, getting them soggily back on the bus would be more trouble than it's worth.

"Nah," says Lance, and JC catches his eye and grins, which breaks into laughter when the doors open and Lance tugs him out hard enough to almost overbalance them.

"Get us towels ready!" JC hollers back, as the doors close again, and he can just about make out Matt flipping them off, and thinks it's good Justin's not here because Justin gets stroppy about shit like that. His feet sink slightly in the sodden turf, mowed by the asphalt, almost instantly overgrown within a couple of paces.

Lance's hand's slipped down, gripping his fingers instead. It's good Justin's not here, full stop. "I love this fresh air," Lance yells, scrambling up the shallow embankment, pulling JC with him. The mud's slick beneath the wet grass, treacherous with swathes of leaves that JC doesn't recognise, and he trips, pulling his hand free. Damn.

Lance helps him up, then dances across the top of the green, grinning like a maniac and recreating a sodden version of 'bye bye bye'. The hill turns down into a wide slope of long grass, bordered by a fence at the bottom that cuts off an expanse of green fields. He can see the wind at work, sweeping patterns through the grasses, rain falling in grey sheets with slanting eddies all across the sky.

"This rocks," JC tries to say when he reaches him, stumbling over the words when he gets rainwater in his mouth. "Ahh--"

Lance laughs and says something JC doesn't catch, wiping his mouth, cheeks glistening. He looks like-- just incredible. Otherworldly, with those eyes, rain gleaming dully in his hair. The sky's dark grey behind him, and it suits. JC blinks to keep the water out his eyes, feeling it sink through his clothes, brilliantly fresh and heavy.

JC blunders closer, one hand landing on Lance's shoulder, talking directly into his ear. "What?"

"Down the hill -- let's give them a scare," Lance repeats, setting off, hooking one arm round JC's waist and tugging him down.

JC stumbles into him, pulling them off balance and skidding wildly and there's a moment of thorny panic before he's tumbling onto the grass, soft mud under his fingernails, Lance's low giddy laughter throaty in his ear.

"Shit," he whispers, cheek prickling with the cold spiked grass, arms wrapped around Lance's torso, and then he feels a tug on his leg and goes with it, and then Lance's rolled him on top and his cheek still tingles but the rest of his body's tingling more. "Shit," he says again, staring down, and Lance's eyes match the wet grass.

He can feel his hipbones digging into the softer flesh of Lance's stomach. Lance tilts his head, probably smearing mud deeply into his hair, and he's blinking constantly in the rain and his skin looks luminously pale and as he licks rainwater off his lips then fuck but JC can't help dropping his head and touching his mouth to Lance's tongue.

Lance kisses him back, and JC feels a stupid shock of heat go down his body -- okay, so how obvious could two boys be about getting together? and he still didn't get it? -- and then Lance's hands are smoothing across his back, holding him, and Lance's body is vibrantly hot beneath him, and Lance's mouth tastes like someone cooked the rain.

His hands cup Lance's face, thumbs sliding against his cheeks. His fingers work their way up into his hair, tangling with grass and learning the shape of his scull and cradling his head as the kisses fade and stutter and begin again. The rain beats chilly needles onto the back of his neck and across the stripe of skin where Lance's pushed up his shirt to slide cool wet hands under and knead the muscles in his back.

He sucks on Lance's warm tongue and thinks he might just be in love, and then realises distantly that they only came out for a breath of fresh air.

"We'd..." he begins, mumbled into Lance's mouth, and Lance moans softly underneath him and bites his lip, hard enough to burn. JC inhales sharply, pushing his tongue back into the heat of Lance's mouth, tasting the shifting silken curves of it and almost moaning himself when Lance bites again, less hard, more insistent. No, it's not love. It's something far, far dirtier than that. "We'd better get back," he manages, throwing the words out swiftly so it'd be Lance's fault if they got caught.

"I guess," Lance agrees, and rolls them over; JC laughs into Lance's mouth at the yielding sensation of the mud at his shoulderblades, the cold shock of grass on the back of his neck, the sudden flurry of rainfall against his forehead. Lance draws back, rising to his feet and offering his hand, and JC takes it and looks down at himself, abruptly embarrassed.

"I'm filthy," he says stupidly, and Lance laughs and pulls him close again, a quick warm kiss with rain against his scalp this time, water sliding effortlessly down over his eyelids, making Lance's lips slick and cool.

"We're both filthy," Lance tells him, and JC shivers and grins.

"I guess," he says, wiping water out his eyes again. "What are we gonna tell them?"

"What's to tell? We fell, we're dumb, we'll have new clothes with sparkles please," Lance says innocently, and JC laughs loudly and grabs his hand, pulling him back up the slope.

Lance lets go as the bus comes into view again, throwing his arm round JC's shoulders instead and toppling them happily down the little hill.

"I don't care," Lonnie says. "I've got orders."

"He's sick, but it's not the plague," Chris says sharply, and JC wishes again that he'd gotten sick as well, because he knows how this conversation goes, because he had it yesterday and the day before as well.

"If you guys get sick--"

"Please," JC says, while Chris starts ranting, because he can't help it. He wants to see him. He doesn't like the way he's been three days without seeing him and feels more obsessed than ever; he needs proof that he's not going out his mind for no reason, that Lance's worth waking up with dark circles every morning. They haven't even been able to talk on the phone -- Lance's lost his voice, and the word from on high is that "chatting" would not "help".

"...if it was your brother?"

Lonnie rolls his eyes because he's heard this line before, then presses a finger in his ear. Two seconds go by with impossible slowness and JC can almost see the words as they buzz in the wire climbing out Lonnie's collar, and then Lonnie nods. "Gotcha."

"And?" Chris demands.

Lonnie presses his lips together. "You've got five minutes," he admits, and Chris whoops, and JC blinks because oh God oh God this means seeing him and he's behaving like a teenie but hell, can anyone blame him? "One at a time," Lonnie says sharply, and Chris barges ahead.

"Lansten! Where've you been all my life?" JC hears, before the door clicks shut again and he's left in the hallway. He should call the others, he thinks.

He doesn't.

"I, uh. I brought you something," he says, when he finally gets in to see him, feeling incredibly awkward.

Lance smiles at him, and his eyes are exactly the same colour as three days ago, wet sparkling grass set against ghost-pale skin. "Yeah?" he whispers, and the mouth, oh, the mouth.

"Yeah," JC says, and gets a white box out the bag Joey had said was too gay to exist, dude, and feels even more awkward. "Here."

Lance takes it, and his fingers are slim and totally clean. JC wonders how long they tasted of earth, before all traces were scoured away. It took his hands a day and a half, although he'd realised early on he wasn't trying very hard.

Lance laughs softly when he opens the box, breath hoarse in his throat, plucking out a piece of fresh celery and holding it up to the light. JC swallows. It's totally fresh, actually -- he's cut up a new set of sticks every day, determined to recreate the taste of rainfall. He wonders suddenly if that's a bad idea, given that Lance'd probably never have come down with the bug if he hadn't been quite so thoroughly soaked to the skin.

"I didn't, I mean, it's not much," he says, and Lance shakes his head.

"It's great," he whispers, and JC knows that's not true, because God, celery can't be great, can it? but it's good to see Lance happy, so he smiles back.

"I kind of, I, uh. I saw it and thought of you," he says, which is another lie -- he thought of Lance pretty much twenty-four seven, and the celery had been an inspired moment when Justin was griping that Lonnie wouldn't let him send Lance a get-well creamcake.

Lance looks up at him and brings the stick of celery to his mouth, and JC catches his breath because it's oddly erotic, the crisp crunch of Lance's white teeth biting down, the twist of his wrist snapping the stalk free, the shocking pink of his mouth against white-green flesh.

"I remembered you saying, you know, about succulent," JC adds, and Lance chews and nods and holds the stick out wordlessly.

"It's good," he says, and JC takes a bite and smiles, agreeing with him.

"I'm going out of my mind," Lance says, sighing. Lonnie's let up over the last couple of days because the doctor's said he's not contagious anymore, just needs more rest before he's back on his feet, but it's sunny today so the others are at the beach. Lance told him not to come again, but looked suitably happy when JC walked through the door that he felt good he'd decided to anyway.

"Can't you do anything?" JC says, and Lance shrugs.

"I've been working out, some. There's a gym." He grins, wryly. "They're trying to feed me up, and I'm all, noooo, no more jello! for the love of God!" JC laughs, and Lance adds, "so, yeah. I've been trying to shift some of the stodge they're forcing down my neck," and lays a hand primly over his stomach.

"You want me to spot you?" JC says, watching his face. He's just come from the gym, but another session wouldn't hurt. Especially not if Lance's there too.

Lance raises his eyebrows, then nods. "I haven't got much workout gear, though."

JC grins, a hot little thread tightening in his chest. "Oh, you should probably just go half-naked, then," he says, sagely. "Don't worry, I don't mind."

The gym's a small version of a standard one, with a notable increase in the number of safety bars and water stations. JC hauls a few blue mats over from where they've been leaning against the wall, and the slap as they fall on the floor sounds oddly explosive.

The air conditioning's subtle but effective, and that's why he's got goosebumps, yeah. Nothing to do with being in a tee and loose shorts and nothing else and about to work out with Lance, of course not.

"You wanna warm up, first?" he says, going through a few basic stretches and feeling his muscles wake up, then abruptly losing concentration when Lance strips off his shirt and joins him on the mats.

"Sure," Lance says, copying him, and his skin's still that milky gold JC's seen a thousand times in a thousand dressing rooms, and his chest's still got that edge of definition that makes JC's fingers itch and that softness around his belly that JC steadfastly ignores, and for chrissake he's still Lance, familiar buddy Lance, and just because there's been a few kisses doesn't mean he should freeze up at the sight of him.

"Right," JC says, and bends over straight-legged to press his palms into the floor, walking his feet slowly together to feel the burn and trying hard not to think about the view Lance's got now if he chooses to take it.

"Okay, I did most of this stuff earlier -- I'm gonna do pushups instead," Lance says guilelessly, dropping to the floor, tantalisingly just in view. JC takes a moment to wonder if this is staged, if Lance is doing this so he'll be forced to notice the delectably smooth curve from strong shoulders down to the dimples at the base of his spine, and then Lance gets into a slow, steady rhythm and JC stares at the tender muscle bunching and straining and realises distantly that he doesn't much care if it's not for him.

Stretches, he reminds himself, dropping to his knees and leaning back until his thighs ache, not bothering to look away as Lance's breathing gets heavier and JC's brain fills with ideas of exactly how hard he'd have to scratch to leave a mark between those shoulderblades. The mats squeak slightly, and he realises Lance's palms must be getting damp.

He's not far off from breathing hard himself.

"...twenty-four, twenty-five," Lance mutters, and his voice is lower, dirtier, and JC has to force a laugh.

"You'll be putting Justin back on the bench soon," he manages, finishing his routine slightly quicker than usual because he's thinking it'd be really unwise to do stomach crunches just now.

"Yeah, but... Justin... probably does this in his sleep," Lance growls, and JC can see the faint gleam starting in his skin, just enough to make his mouth go dry. "One... handed."

"Heh," JC says, and it tastes dusty in his mouth. "Yeah, okay, I'm finished stretching, I'll get on to, like, a machine," he says, and finds himself at the water station, pressing a flimsy plastic cup under the button and wishing the equally flimsy clear stream would gush rather than trickle.

"...thirty three... Ohhh, Jayce, get me one, could you?" Lance calls, as JC finally drinks it down and feels the coldness settle in his stomach. Not quite a cold shower, unfortunately.

"Sure, sure," he says, tuning out the counting, the breathing, the odd grunt as Lance does something he's pretty glad he can't see. When he turns round, Lance's standing again, face slightly flushed, hair spiked up. He looks... edible. "Uh," JC says, and clears his throat, holding out the cup. "Here."

Lance's shoulders are wide. The gayass shirts do something to disguise it, normally, but...

JC smiles weakly as Lance wipes his mouth -- his mouth his mouth his wet mouth his salty wet mouth -- and heads for a machine, any machine, where he can lie on his front for a good long time.

"That thing hurts like hell," Lance says, as JC slings one leg over an air-pumped machine for thighs and glutes and leans forwards, torso pressing into the pleather-covered horse, clipping the bar into place across the back of his knees.

"Nah, it's okay," JC says, then promptly adds too much pressure and has to release some air or cause major injury to all the tendons in his thighs. "I go on this all the time, normally." He tries to calm himself down, taking a few deep breaths, then almost gasps when Lance's hand strokes slowly up his leg.

"Yeah, it shows," Lance says lightly, appreciatively, and then the touch is gone and JC's stomach's in sweaty knots and jesus christ when did he forget how to use a gym? He was on this earlier, the exact same model as this machine, but can he even vaguely remember how he's supposed to breathe right now? No.

He hears the swish of air coming out a cylinder somewhere and then the slowly increasing rhythm of Lance's breathing, and wonders what Lance's doing now. Something arduous, probably. Something to make his muscles work; something to make his skin glow, all silky-slippery if JC wants to grope him. He wonders what Lance would say if he did, and grimly adds more kilograms to the scale.

The blood starts pumping faster round his system within about eight reps, and his thighs ache almost immediately, and he wonders again where his stamina's gone. It's probably just this machine, of course; probably, it's got some screwed up thing in its belly that's jamming somewhere deep inside because normally he'd be fine--

Normally, or course, he'd be concentrating.

"Wanna swap round for a while?" Lance asks, and the fluorescent lights are burning in JC's eyes and the coating of this thing's unpleasantly slithery through his tee and he can't imagine how it'd feel on bare skin, on Lance's bare skin, for example, and--

"Yeah, uh, I'm just going to the bathroom first," he says meekly, releasing all the air with a hiss and clambering slowly off. "Back in a sec."

"First door on the left," Lance calls after him, and JC hurries into the small starchy room and splashes water on his face and stares at himself in the mirror.

He doesn't look all that bad, all in all.

Apparently, agony agrees with him.

"Why the fuck did you agree to this?" he hums, and the tune bounces back at him from the ceiling tiles, and he realises he must be stressed because he only tends to harmonise with himself when he can't deal with his thoughts straight away raw-style and and and.


What's he so caught up about, anyway? It's not like Lance's never shown any interest in him. The leg, for god's sake. Not to mention sodden groping on the grass verge, and sly glances when the whole group were gathered round his bed once Lonnie relented enough to let them in all at the same time.

He's not exactly sure why he can't just walk back in there with one hand in his shorts and ask if Lance wants a taste, except that, well, Lance might freak, or might not have been wanting to go any further than adolescent-girl style creature comfort, or might even have reconsidered the whole damn thing.

Safer all round to go back in there and work out. Right.

And that's working out, not making out, he tells his body sternly as he pushes back into the gym, even though right now the effect's pretty much the same.

Lance is on a bike, slowing to a halt and smiling as JC comes in. "I'm almost ready to stop," he says, then looks slightly uncomfortable; "I mean, I'm still kinda weak from this bug thing, that's why my stamina's not great," and JC waves him down.

"That's bull," he says, and he's not even slightly putting it on. "Honestly, I'm amazed you can do this much."

Lance clambers off the bike, never losing eye contact, and the smile goes slightly shy. "Thanks," he says, and the aircon sounds louder again as the world stills in JC's head, and then Lance clears his throat and looks around. "I think I'm gonna go climb some stairs," he says, and JC nods a few too many times and realises sickly that the stair-machine has a mirror on the wall.

This time, Lance'll be able to see if he's checking out his ass.

On the other hand, if he's gonna get spotted anyway, might as well get the seat with the best view. "I'll take the rowing machine," he says, feeling oddly pleased with himself, strapping his feet in. "How long?"

"Twenty minutes?" Lance suggests, through the mirror, and JC grins and nods, keying it in, shifting in the hard plastic seat.


"Gotcha," Lance says, moving his weight from one foot to the other, and the reluctant deep grind of internal machinery makes JC feel slightly awed. That must be... level seven? and on a stair machine? Pretty intensive. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he's been thinking Lance was a total beginner.

The air seems to hum as Lance speeds up, and JC tugs grimly on his metaphysical oars and then thumbs up the rowing speed, then watches the primary-colours-only pixelated screen show his little blue opponent paddle off into the distance.

Okay, this one's gonna require some work.

Uh, JC thinks, picking up the pace and wincing slightly as his ass slides forwards and the bones grind uncomfortably against the edge of the seat. Not just hard plastic; very hard plastic, and made for someone with a bigger butt than him. On second thoughts, twenty minutes might be hard going.

He pulls harder, feeling his back muscles kick into gear, and starts to regain some ground -- river? -- on his blue-jacketted opponent. This is okay. By bracing his ass against the edge of the seat and keeping his thighs rigid, he can chew up the waves pretty good without too much bruising.

He glances up, and Lance's got his eyes closed, bobbing up and down on the stair machine. His ass is pulling tight against his pants with each steadily-sprung step, and there's a slight darkness of sweat gathering around his waistband. JC swallows, transfixed by the rhythm, wondering what Lance's cock feels because it's gotta be rubbing, gotta be, and that ass, look at it, working that rhythm--

He finds himself rowing in time with it, stretching his thighs wide on the downstroke, words smashing him over the head like luscious and rounded and rhythmical, so fucking rhythmical, and that's it, this is total perving now, and if it was a woman he'd be turned on and faintly appalled at himself because he's a nice boy, right? but as it is it's just Lance and PG-rated porn and he keeps glancing up paranoid in case the star's opened his eyes.

When Lance does, he looks away quickly, hoping any blush can be attributed to, what's it they're doing right now? yeah, yeah, of course, exercise. Lance's breathing comes deeper, and JC realises the back of his neck's grown wet without him even noticing, and his opponent in the blue-jacket is trailing a few paces behind. He smiles grimly, ignoring the annoying stickiness of his tee shirt because there's no way he's taking it off unless it's to dim the exposure on his lap, and drags harder on his oars. No more looking at Lance, not even though he can hear the hiss of his breath, not even though he can imagine the trickle of sweat down his thighs inside those delicately clinging sweatpants.

Just this, okay, just the rowing, steady and rapid and no he can't hear Lance at all, oh no, and then time blurs into fractured heat, the walls of the gym shifting slightly in the corner of his vision, endless sweat crawling slowly up from deep beneath his skin.

He hears the blurt of Lance's timer about three seconds before his own starts chiming, and then he's counting down the unwind session, hands slippery on the plastic handle, legs floating against the stirrups.

"God, that's a good burn," Lance manages, voice like a shaft of air glittering with dust motes. He's climbed off his stair-machine and stumbled back onto the blue mats, and JC skips the last few unwinding seconds because he can't stand Lance's eyes on him.

Guilt, anyone? Yeah. "Uh-huh," he agrees, kicking his feet free and crawling down to the mats and looking around for his water. Damnit. All gone. "Fuck. I'm blitzed."

"I'll get you some water," Lance says, half-staggering to his feet and weaving across to the water station.

Beautiful fucking telepath, JC thinks loudly, just in case Lance actually can hear him. He stretches out on the mats, feeling adrenaline soaking through his muscles, air settling against him like odd paper. Maybe he's too low for the aircon to reach him, because he can't feel the chill of it, just the endless beat of his heart sending waves of pressure-heat out from his bones to his skin. He can almost see it, thudding at the edge of his vision, crackling white glass.

Okay. So maybe he's overdone it, some.

"Here," Lance breathes, stretching down next to him, and JC imagines he can feel his heat as well, blasting steadily out from that gleaming centre.

He curls up into a sitting position, taking the cup. "Thanks." He doesn't taste the water, just feels the cold shock of it through his quivering system, leaving him breathless all over again. Lance is close, dude. And hot. "Thanks," he says again, sinking back against the mats again, then rolls onto his side, figuring now or never.

Lance is on his back, one hand on his stomach, thumb sweeping across the soft flesh. Relaxed, the definition of his muscles is submerged again. JC watches, morbidly fascinated, as Lance blinks suddenly from staring at the ceiling and looks at him instead.

JC, leaning on his elbow, isn't sure what to say. He feels like he ought to move back, leave Lance to his body and quit shadowing him. "It's not that bad," he hears, which is honest but oh, fuck. Unlikely to be a good move.

"I'm still trying to shift it," Lance says with a small smile, stroking it self-consciously. Impulsively, JC touches Lance's fingers, and they still.

"I'll help you," he says, trailing one fingertip across Lance's knuckles, voice low and earnest. His whole body's tingling, blood racing close to the surface. "I want to help you."

"I want you," Lance blurts, flipping his hand and catching JC's fingers, and his voice's still kinda husky from being ill, and huskiness on top of Lance's normal burr coupled with the actual words-- JC feels dizzy. "I want you to help me, too," Lance says softly, drawing JC's hand down onto the blue mat on the other side of Lance's body, pulling JC over him, looking up with serious eyes. "Jayce? Fucking say something."

JC grins, slipping his leg across so he's kneeling with Lance's thighs between his knees, and he knows his teeth are very white. "You're definitely not infectious anymore, right?"

"That's what they said."

"Oh, good," JC murmurs, twisting his fingers free and moving his hand up Lance's arm and digging his fingers into the mat on the other side and lowering himself slowly onto Lance's body. "Because," he mutters, as Lance's mouth opens easily, the movement gliding into warm slick kisses that make his head spin, "I'd be doing this anyway, but it's nice to know we'll not be jeopardising the group too much," and Lance laughs softly, arching off the squishy blue mats, damply sticky beneath his wandering palms.

Tense, he can feel the muscle in Lance's chest again, and the layer of fat matters a lot less. It's still there, naturally, against the carefully maintained muscle-skin density of his own body, and it's strange, rubbing his cock against unresisting flesh instead of the perfume ad sixpacks he normally chooses to indulge with.

Strange, but not bad, he thinks, because Lance tastes better and sounds better and kisses better than any of those men, and because it's Lance, which sounds shockingly romantic, but blame it on the adrenaline and go with it because damnit, he can't get into that right now.

He moves his hands up to cup Lance's face, rolling them onto their sides and sitting up slowly, sliding his arms round Lance's neck and feeling the undeniable strength in those shoulders, tasting the salt at the edges of his mouth. It's--

"Lance! You got the all clear!" comes Chris' voice loudly, and JC jerks back and claps a hand to his mouth, swallowing as he looks round. Chris isn't in the doorway, thank God. In fact-- "Anyway, ten minutes to lift-off, bay-bee."

"Fucking PA," Lance breathes, and JC looks back at him and ignores the indignant skitter of his pulse to lean back in and kiss him softly on the mouth.

"Fucking PA," he agrees, feeling the wet shift of Lance's lips against his teeth, the gliding brush of Lance's tongue against his own. "Congratulations. And I guess, we've got ten minutes..."

Lance's hand skims up the back of his neck, then down to his shoulder again and pushes him away. "Not even," he says, and turns his mouth down in a parody of despondency. "Ten minutes 'til we leave."

"Ah," JC says, and looks away. And now, the killer question. Is this endorphins and adrenaline on top of relief that Lance's pretty much cured? Okay, so that's extreme, but still. He likes to be honest with himself. Normally, it's the morning after before anyone has a conversation like this. Will we won't we... "I guess--"

"Do you wanna meet up later?" Lance asks quickly, and JC glances at him quickly and realises Lance's focused neutrally on a piece of masking tape stuck to one of the mats. Does he want--

"Yeah," JC says, and Lance throws him a blinding grin and kisses his cheek and then jumps to his feet.

"Neat," he agrees, and JC jumps up and follows him out the door and wants to laugh because this all seems so simple, easier than he'd ever dared hope, so much easier than the endless hedging he'd been expecting. Not that he'd even expected to get a kiss, of course. God bless the gym.

"You not gonna shower?" he calls, as Lance pushes into the tiny medical changing room. Lance shakes his head, and then the door clicks shut behind JC and Lance pushes him back against it and kisses him deeply. JC melts into it, the tropical nastiness of it, the long slow glides of hot eager mouth, the flickering domination of sultry wet tongue. "Okay," JC mumbles, pushing his fingers up into Lance's hair, slippery spikes prickling in his fists, "okay, we can so shower later," and then, when the tannoy beeps warningly again and Lance draws back reluctantly, "I mean, yeah, fuck, Lance. you wanna shower together or something?"

Lance laughs throatily and lets him go, smoothing down his shoulders with firm warm hands, practically beaming. "Race ya to the bus."

"My stuff's here," Justin's voice whines, and JC mentally gives up getting the two-man bus even though they're on their way home so officially everyone's all agreeable right now. Fuckers. Chris would probably move if JC reasoned with him enough, but Justin? When Justin gets stubborn, there's no point arguing.

"Fine," JC says, feeling oddly spiteful. But, really. It's not his fault Lance's mom had called when they'd gotten to the buses, not his fault that Lance disappeared off onto his bunk for like two fucking hours so they're already well on the road without JC getting any chance to sort anything out.

He'd resorted to calling Justin's cell phone, trying to negotiate swapping over because the bathroom here's way too conspicuous for them both to go in and run the water, and Joey doesn't show signs of going to sleep any time soon. When had it become imperative that he could make out with Lance for the entire evening without interruption? He wasn't sure, but something about the way his mouth kept going dry whenever he thought about Lance's tongue made him think, yeah, about four o'clock this afternoon.

"...that JC?" he hears, and he thinks, hey, might as well try and convince Chris. Sometimes, Chris can work magic with Justin that the others just can't. "Jayce, dude," Chris says, no longer muffled. "What can I do you for?"

"Get Justin to swap with us," he says, hopefully.

"With us?" Chris says, and JC almost kicks himself;

"Yeah, well, me and Lance, we wanna" roll around together "finish this song thing, and I can't concentrate. uh, here. I dunno why. It's... so, can we?"

"Mmm," says Chris, sceptically, and JC's about to protest when he adds, "nah, but, I'm playing video games. Your moniter's shite."

"This song could make you millions," JC says, but he knows it's pretty much a lost cause. There's no way Chris' gonna work magic if he doesn't even wanna move himself.

"And, your turntables jump," Chris says blithely. "It sucks." There's a clatter in the background, and Chris bursts out laughing. "Jayce, I gotta go. Jup's behaving like a total moron-- yeah, you," and JC rolls his eyes and hangs up because Chris clearly isn't talking to him any more.

He wonders how the hell long Lance's gonna be, then remembers guiltily that it's his mom, and he doesn't exactly have a right to hurry them up, and gets an odd sensation that he shouldn't fantasise about what he wants to do with Lance just as soon as they got a free shower because again, his mom, that's kinda disrespectful.

He scowls, then jumps when "What's this new song?" hits him in Joey's voice, and he realises he just promised Chris millions without actually having a single line to show for it.

"My iBook's down," he mutters, and Joey frowns and then gives him a knowing little smirk and goes back to channel-surfing, humming Digital Getdown under his breath. "Oh, fuck off," JC growls, only half joking.

"Don't... don't," Lance says, giggling, and JC lifts his face from the slant of Lance's throat that he's discovered is monster-ticklish at even the slightest pressure, and arches an eyebrow.

"Excuse me, Mister I-Prefer-Movies-With-The-Lights-Down," he murmurs indignantly, "or should that be, Mister I'll-Just-Grope-JC-When-He-Can't-Fight-Back-Because-Justin's-Asleep instead? Asleep on my thigh, I might add. You'll find you totally owe me one."

"Justin wouldn't have noticed," Lance says, and he's probably right, but fuck, the risk would have been phenomenal, it being the last night on the bus for three days so they're all piled in together for an all-night video extravaganza, and all.

Justin had fallen asleep early on, but Chris kept checking back to see if he'd woken up, and balancing popcorn on his lips to make him mutter and accidentally swallow it and choke -- fun! apparently -- and Joey kept looking over to make sure that Chris wasn't doing anything too fatal so it wasn't like JC had free reign to do anything at all except shudder quietly as Lance stroked hidden patterns across his stomach and thighs.

"Someone would've noticed," he says, ducking back to carry on exploring the ticklish sweet spot on Lance's throat with his tongue, enjoying the shift and shiver of his body against the rug.

There's definitely something to be said for spontaneous copulation.

"Mmm, no, they'd have thought you were tickling me," Lance mumbles, tilting his head up to give him more access, and JC grins into the taut planes of creamy skin.

"Not with the noises you'd have been making," he drawls, and starts to kiss a wet trail down Lance's chest. Lance wriggles and sighs beneath him, hands skidding lightly over JC's shoulders, and JC wonders how often Lance's done this, if he's ever been blown on the floor, if he's ever been fucked.

Pressing questions.

His skin's almost unbearably salty. There was fragrance at his throat, a tang of unisex mango that made JC grin, but the planes of his chest taste organic, nothing but salt and a few traces of darker flavour, and JC finds he has to keep swallowing. Lance Bass, mouth-wateringly good.

He moves his hands down, aiming for Lance's waistband, sucking on one nipple to see if he can make Lance moan. His hands... stall. He feels the shift of flesh between skin and bone, the way he can gather the silky pinched weight of it in his fingers. He bites his lip, trying not to dwell, but fuck, feels like a whole handful, heavy and pliable, rolling against his fingers and how the hell heavy is he? and he forces himself to carry on, slide his hands lovingly down, before freezing, jerking back, cocking his head in pseudo-alarm.

"What?" Lance asks. He's breathless.

"I think-- uh, when are the others due back?" He pushes himself up, panicky, not looking at Lance, eyes scanning the room behind him instead. "What time is it?"

"Nearly four o'clock, and not for. um. JC?" Lance eases up onto his feet, dusts himself down, then raises an eyebrow. JC tenses, wondering if this is gonna be nasty.


"The door's behind me and so's the clock," Lance explains, "and it's pretty obvious," and touches his mouth thoughtfully. It's red, where JC's bitten at it, but not swollen. JC wonders how it'd look swollen, then imagines everything that goes with that and swallows. Lance's eyes widen, dark-shadowed. "God. I didn't realise it mattered that much. I'm gonna go. I'll see you... around, okay?"

He grabs his shirt off the floor, not looking at him, and leaves before his fingers have dealt with even half the buttons.


The next day, JC's not surprised when Lance calls him.

"Hey," Lance says, neutral.

Does he want -- what, an apology? He deserves one, JC supposes. "Hey," JC repeats, matching Lance tone for tone.

"You doing anything today?"

"Hell, no," JC says quickly; dude, it's not difficult to recognise a second chance like that. "You?" he adds, suddenly feeling stupid.

"Nah." A pause. "Well. I was figuring I might see you at the gym."

Fucking peace offering. Way above the call of duty. Christ. JC realises he's beaming at the mouthpiece. "I'll see you there. What time?"

"From two," Lance says, and it's like yesterday when they were still just kissing; JC wants to get him naked right fucking now.

Pity that's the problem, really.

Somehow, they've ended up on opposite abs machines, so there isn't even the glossy shine of the mirror to take away from the reality of Lance's passively urgent gaze. He looks patient even as his face breaks into a healthy shine, like he'd wait a lifetime or work off a thousand pounds if it'd keep JC's attention.

JC wonders how the hell Lance's fallen so fast -- or, if he's always felt this way, how on earth he managed to keep it secret so long.

Swallowing, he tries again to break the rhythm they've fallen into, trying to strain his muscles to a different pulse-- but it's too hard, the pace Lance's chosen feel natural to him, so he gives in and stares into Lance's eyes, eventually smiling.

Lance smiles back, slipping between fierce and shy.

"I brought you something."

JC looks up. "Yeah?" he asks, and he sounds hopeful, he knows he does, but there's nothing wrong with that, right?

Just because Lance left the gym wordlessly yesterday and didn't come back, and just because JC feels like he's lost two ribs without getting any of Prince's benefits, and just because when they got back on the bus this morning Lance was devastatingly polite without once looking him in the eye, that doesn't mean it's all over, does it?

He knows it was up to him to make the first move. But seeing Lance changing, conspicuous excess, even though he knew he'd been working hard, it was just-- not enough.

Or, had seemed like not enough. Yesterday.

"Yeah," Lance says, and he's got one hand behind his back, and JC tries to look interested and patient and eager and unthreatening all at the same time. Of course, an unpleasant voice in the back of his head says, Lance is a long way from being a slender startled deer--

"Can I see?" he asks quickly, cutting that voice the hell off. Lance is wearing looser-than-necessary clothes, and they actually make him look worse than if he was showing some skin, and JC thinks that he'll tell him that just as soon as they've made up.

Because this is making up, right?

Lance gives him a tight smile and brings his arm round, extending a basket to him. Sticks of celery, neatly cut at the bases but curving up into full frothy leaves, arranged around a white plastic tub of... "cottage cheese?" he asks, grinning, and it's weird but he feels like he might want to give an acceptance speech or something. "You wanna sit down?"

"It's. did you see the label?" Lance says, moving round to sit next to him, and JC lets his thighs fall open more so their knees press together. Lance presses back, and JC imagines he can see a grateful spark to his eyes.

JC looks at the label: less than 1% fat, it cries, red on fluffy white. "It's perfect," he says, shivering suddenly.

Lance's eyes skim lightly down his body. "You don't need to eat it," he says, to JC's flat stomach.

"Mmm," JC says, feeling indescribably self-conscious. "I kinda do." He picks up a piece of celery and bites off the end, snapping it crisply and pulling the stalk away at an angle so the tougher strings peel out cleanly, smiling at the light spray on his skin. "Hand me the trash, could you?"

Lance leans away, reaching over the far arm of the couch. The blue weave of his sweater slides up, and JC stares at the thin cotton tee pulled tight beneath, showing the shallow ridge of his spine disappearing into his pants. Okay, there's definitely still lust in the equation.

"Thanks," he says, dropping the thin tangle of green threads into the bin, and Lance smiles at him. He wipes his mouth, shy, then takes a bite. Lance, his brain shouts, and he grins. "It's good. It's ripe."

"I thought so," Lance says. "The whole plant, it looked whiter than the others. And it's fresh, too."

"Do you want some?" JC says, holding it out to him, and there's something intensely erotic as Lance's mouth opens, as JC pushes the pale green stalk in and watches Lance's white teeth crunch down on it a fraction of a second before his pink lips close.

"Celery makes me think of you," he admits, taking a second bite as Lance dabs the corner of his mouth with one finger. "You, and, of rain. Of rainstorms."

"Rainstorms make me think of you," Lance says, then reaches for the tub of cottage cheese. "Can I?"

"Sure," JC says, watching Lance's fingers work the foil, finishing the stalk right down to the end, crisp and fresh and succulent, even enjoying the caustic bitterness of the leaves, papery between his teeth.

Lance opens the second stick, biting down and stripping it with a practised little tug of his hand, tilting his head. JC stares at Lance's lower lip, compressed behind the strings, and almost kisses him.

"What the hell are you guys doing?" Justin demands, walking in and then stopping dead. "Lance has green stuff growing out his mouth!"

Lance spits it into the bin and laughs; JC can hear that it's forced. "You want some celery?" he asks, feeling oddly unwilling to share. It's his health basket, damnit. Lance gave it him.

And also, the other thing: Justin looks good enough already. He doesn't need the secret calorie-burning magic, and JC doesn't want to give it to him.

"No way," Justin's saying, with feels like it proves something in JC's mind. "Y'all can keep the rabbit food," and that's a phrase he's stolen from Chris, JC thinks, which it kinda even more irritating, actually.

"Where are you going?" Lance says, and JC almost grins. Hinting, much?

"I got a walkie talkie hooked up wit' de other bus," Justin drawls; "me and Chris, we're playing Playboy battleships." He grins, and JC remembers when Chris first showed him that game, how oddly mature he'd felt casually unearthing the unseen nude chick's rack, combined with panic as Chris hit his picture's hotspots one after the other.

"Have fun," he says, and means it. Especially if staring at softcore porn will keep Justin occupied for a good long time in his bunk, so JC can see about exploring his options out here.

"I need batteries."

"My bunk," Lance says instantly; "in the blue bag."

"Dude, you da man," Justin says earnestly, wandering out of view, and Lance scoops up some cottage cheese on the end of the celery stick and offers it to JC.

"Be my guest," Lance says, eyes sparkling, as behind them comes a hopeful, Is this thing on?

JC opens his mouth, tempted to close his eyes but not doing, then feels a shaky swell of diffidence as he realises Lance is guiding the food into his mouth and practically devouring him with his eyes at the same time. He bites down, swallowing as his mouth gets wet, then chews slowly, unable to keep from smiling.

Creamy, guilt-free goodness, encapsulated in, what did Chris call it? crunchy water.

"It's good," he contents himself with saying, and Lance looks just heavenly and so he does kiss him, and his senses are flooded with rainwater, and it's so fucking precious he wants them both, instantly, to get insured. Lance's wet fingers touch his chin, and he opens his mouth wider, sucking gently on his tongue, shivering at the familiar scent of tropical fruit mingled with aftershave.

"Clit! Clit!" Justin cries, and the kiss splits off into giggling, far too soon in JC's opinion, although they do have a whole stick-and-dip thing to finish off, so maybe it's just as well.

Eventually, he throws a small bunch of leaves in the trash and wriggles back against Lance on the couch. His teeth feel squeaky-clean. "You know," he says, slipping his hand under the jumper and stroking his thumb in small circles at the base of Lance's back, "I kinda like you in less clothes than this."

"I thought that was the problem," Lance says sharply, then shakes his head, "sorry."

JC swallows, feeling suddenly like yesterday he burnt the eyes out someone's favourite teddy bear and today he talked about fire-proofing spray, but he makes himself nod, because Lance deserves the truth, at least. "No, I'm sorry," he says, and he is. "I mean, I'm totally" in love with in lust with crazy about fixating on "attracted to you, as you are, but. I mean, it's just me. But I'd be even more attracted if...you lost... but it's up to you," he hurries on, hoping he's not being too abstract.

"I'm more attracted to you than I am to me," Lance says softly, and JC blinks.

Me, too. "That's crazy," he says quickly, then tilts his head, "but if that's how you wanna see it, how about we even it up some," he says, then flashes Lance a quick grin and waves the final stick of celery. "It's good for what ails you..."

"Lance! You ready?" Joey calls, flopping back down on the couch and drumming his fingers on the arm. "C, go and fucking get him, will ya? or we'll never get out. And then no club's'll take us in, neither."

"I'll just use my in-flu-ence," Justin slurs, nodding in time to Chris' tapping foot, slotting in little drunken shimmies whenever he notices one of the others looking at him. "They can't not let us in. We're the band."

Chris' arm slings round JC's shoulders from behind. "If you don't go get him," he whispers, wetly, "we're gonna have to use Juju's influence to get in, and then we'll be laughed outa town..."

JC laughs and shrugs him off, thinking that okay, catching the end of Fifth Element ain't worth that, especially not now Justin's turned the sound down. "Lansten," he calls, pushing open the door to see Lance sucking in his breath and doing up the last button, then tugging his shirt down over the top.

"Hey!" Lance smiles, coming over like he's gonna kiss him, then veering off and spreading his arms and saying, "what do you think?" in a kinda odd voice.

"Your ass looks great," JC says happily, watching it in the mirror. He doesn't ask to grope him, though.

"Thanks," Lance says, glancing behind him, then looks back, head tilted. "I'll be right out."

When he appears, a couple of minutes later, he's wearing khaki combats that offer a lot more movement. They also make his ass look good, JC tells him, sliding up behind him in the men's room and copping a feel.

"I'm sticking with you," JC grins, when they finally get in the limo and the bodyguards stop giving their shiverings nervous looks, "you got more body heat than me. We should huddle more often," and Lance grins back at him and then stops and looks away.

It's stupid not to fuck, JC realises, especially when Lance is giving little shocky gasps as JC jerks him off and spreading his legs with the sort of shimmy even Justin would kill for. It's very stupid, his cock tells him sharply, and that's how they end up christening the two-man bus in the dark, the buttery heat of Lance's body taking him slowly inside, the tangled crescendo of their moaning giving the driver an education JC hopes he won't sell to a tabloid hack.

His cock's happy, and Lance is happy, and JC tells himself he's happy and tries not to covet Justin in his tight little tops, especially not when Chris dumps a whole bucket of water on his head.

It's not that he wants Justin, okay? because he doesn't. Not on any level other than pure aesthetics, because he's not Lance, and JC wants Lance, and JC's fucking Lance, and Lance is even fucking JC sometimes and it's good, so of course he doesn't want Justin.

As the clean sweep of Lance's chest starts tightening under the path of his nails, as his thighs get rigid as they wrap round JC's waist, as Lance starts using the jogging weights Justin leaves all over the place, JC finds himself believing it.

"Y'all are no fun," Justin tells them, shaking his head. Chris comes out the showers and grabs his towel, and Justin catches his shoulder; "Kirkpatrick, you heard these two?"

Chris looks from one to the other, and shrugs. "What's to hear?"

"Yeah," JC says, looking up at Justin's wet hair; "You just been in the gym -- what's so bad about us being in the gym?"

"I haven't," Chris says, proudly. "I have been sauna... saunaing? Whatever. Don't catch me near no stinkin' rowing machines."

"Yeah, but I was only in for one hour," Justin tells JC, then hooks his arm round Chris' neck and hauls him closer. "These two," he says, an authoritative stage whisper, "have booked in for four hours, like they did Tuesday as well, and like a million other days. And they're not gonna come to the beach."

"It's raining, anyway," Lance points out, lamely, as Chris laughs haughtily and pronounces them sadass bastards and wonders who the hell they're trying to impress, anyhow.

"See?" Justin's crowing; "Chris thinks you're insane too. And that's coming from the master of insane--"

"Losers," Chris interrupts, grinning evilly, then declares, "but we still know how to have fun," snatching the corner of Justin's towel and scampering off, and Justin hollers and sets off after him, all lithe damp muscle and strategic tan lines.

JC laughs, and wishes he had Justin's thighs, because, you know, damn. "Boys sure have a lot of energy," he remarks, reaching for his top button.

"Ugh," Lance agrees, pulling off his shirt and folding it. "I wanna be Justin when I grow up."

"Surely that's when he grows up," JC says, but he can feel the twist of his lips plain as day: don't we all.

"Yeah, well. I'd settle for youth and beauty, no brains," Lance mutters, and JC looks up sharply, sees Lance gazing at the neat black drain in the middle of the tiled changing room, hands working sluggishly on his pants.

"Hey," JC says, quietly, and waits until Lance glances up before stepping close, abandoning his half-unbuttoned shirt. Abruptly, there's the crystal apple weight of Lance looking at him, and he has to bury his face in the crook of Lance's shoulder before he can tilt his head up and speak softly into his ear. "Like, you're young, and you've got twice the brains Justin'll ever have. And beauty-wise, well-- I'm fucking crazy about you, okay?"

Lance's arms come up round him, and he's so fucking glad Lance can't see his expression, right now. He can see his face reflected in the mirror behind them, half obscured by brassy spikes, and it's so unbelievably naked even he feels uncomfortable.

"Good," Lance is whispering, stroking his back.

"I am, I'm crazy about you," he says, a faint strobe of the nightmare he has where Justin's dead and the band's torn apart flickering through his head.

"Yeah," Lance agrees, and JC wonders when this turned into Lance settling him.

"Um," he says, drawing back, and Lance lets go instantly, expression shot through with caution. "No, no," he says quickly, catching Lance's hand, grinning at Lance's confusion, "it's just that if the others come back, they might--"

Lance lifts his chin. "Ah."

Fuck. That was supposed to put him at ease. "Wait -- did you want to tell them?" he asks, trying to sound neutral. He's never considered it.

"Do you. Um. Do you actively not want them to know?" Lance asks, and JC tries to hear the undertone, can't work it out.

"I just didn't think it was their business," he hazards, then adds quickly, "like, yet. I figured it was just us two."

Lance frowns, glances at the ceiling, then twists his lips in what JC hopes is a smile of agreement. "I guess," Lance says, reaching to undo the rest of the buttons on JC's shirt, "but I'm thinking in that case, we should get together more, alone," and JC covers Lance's fingers with his own and almost sighs with relief.

"Suits me."

JC looks at the large bowl on the sideboard. "Lance?" he says doubtfully, frowning at the gleaming mound of pasta spirals drenched in a thick white sauce. There are mushrooms in it. And olives, unless Lance's gotten hold of some weird-ass grapes. "Is this... for me?"

"For us," Lance corrects, and JC almost jumps as Lance's arms snake round him, twist black pepper over the bowl. JC stares at Lance's fingers, mesmerised. "I figured, one bowl equals less washing up," Lance adds, chin digging into JC's shoulder when he talks.

"Yeah, but--"

"Try some," Lance says, plucking a coil out the bowl and bringing it to JC's lips. "It's good."

"It's-- mmh," JC manages, almost choking as Lance slips it between his teeth the moment he starts talking. The sauce melts silkily all through his mouth, ocean-tainted, making his stomach tighten with something nervously akin to lust. It's-- melted feta? with wine? and cream?

"Good, huh?" Lance repeats, as he chews slowly, dutifully. JC nods, licking Lance's fingers and seeing the weight-room ceiling unfurl before his eyes. This is gonna require some major compensation.

He swallows. "It's pretty nice, yeah," he says, words tasting dusty in the fading luxury of his mouth.

Lance snorts softly, picking up the bowl and going over to the couch, tugging him along by his wrist. "Pretty nice," he repeats, dry. "Thanks, C."

"What's up?" JC asks, sounding plaintive even to his own ears because hello, of course he knows what's up, and lets Lance drag him down onto the couch and nestle against him, bowl in his lap. It's all whites and cloaked-greys, with muffled little flecks of sweetcorn, and looks... sinful.

Lance smirks at him, knowingly. Fucking Lucifer wouldn't stand a chance. "Damning with faint praise, don't you think?" he asks, catching a piece of pasta in his thumb and forefinger and popping it into his mouth.

JC watches, distractedly wanting to lick his lips, taste the clinging sheen of oil-- then blinks, twisting his head round to peer at the kitchen. "You forgot forks." It looks a long way away. Practically, like, in the distance. But still. Procrastination rules.

"Did I," Lance says, exasperated, and when he looks back Lance's watching him with get-a-clue green eyes. "I guess," he dead-pans, catching JC's wrist and stirring his finger pointedly through the cold, slippery spirals, "you better improvise."

"The couch--"

"Or don't eat -- I don't care," Lance retorts, raising his eyebrows challengingly.

"No, no," JC says, feeling oddly panicky, "I mean, you made it; course I'll eat it--"

"I picked it up from the low-calorie counter in-- thing. shop," Lance says, rolling his eyes. "It's a little deli, a couple of blocks away. They thought I was mad. C'mon, Jayce -- like I got the time to cook."

Oh. "Dude, of course they did -- that's pretty girly," JC says, feeling his mouth slide into a slow grin, and scoops up a few pieces in his hand, tilting it so they can slide into Lance's mouth. Lance chews happily, licking at his palm, and JC can almost taste the sweetcorn bursting brightly over his tongue. Couch be damned.

"Jayce," Lance says, hushed, down the phone, and he sounds like he's in pain or something.

"Yeah?" JC says, and he has to strain to hear him over twin bus engines.

"I'm really. fuck, never mind. Sorry, if I woke you up."

"What," JC says, staring at the faint surface of his bunk ceiling, cord picked out in the green light of his cell phone. "Hey, look, you've called me now, I'll worry if I don't know what it's about."

"I'm hungry," Lance says, and JC winces. "I know we ate, like, recent, but I'm still hungry, and," he says, and then stops. "Sorry."

"Hey, don't worry," JC says, "I know," even though he doesn't, really, because he hasn't felt hunger for months. It's like he's just blocked that nerve, "do you want to. um. eat something?"

"No," Lance says instantly. "I mean, I do, but I don't."

JC wonders if Lance wants him to eat something, so they're even. "Have an apple," he says, remembering there are some small apples on the other bus, probably just sour enough to get rid of hunger pangs.

"I don't want one," Lance says, firmly. "I want you to... to tell me why I'm doing this," he says, words rushed; "I mean, I know why I am, but I want you to tell me, tell me how it'll be, please?"

"You'll look amazing," JC says, instantly. This, he is familiar with. "You'll be at the front of every photo shoot, because you'll look so fine. I'll spend hours between your legs," and Lance gives a choked laugh, and JC smiles at the ceiling, "yeah, like that, but also, just kneeling there and kissing every inch of your hard stomach, your hard thighs, everything, basically worshipping you because God, Lance, you're gonna look so good."

"Then what?" Lance says, voice dropping, and JC feels a shiver of excitement.

"I'll think about you all the time--"

"C'mon, C, distract me," Lance says, husky and impatient, and JC's cock's filling with blood because yeah, everything they say about that voice is true.

"I'll jerk off, thinking about you, all the time," JC says, reaching down, slipping his hand beneath the covers. His cock rears when he touches it, and he inhales sharply, wrapping his hand round its warm, thick bulk, jerking firmly a couple of times. "God, Lance. Can you hear me?"

"Yeah," Lance says, "but I've gotta be quiet. Chris and Joey are still up."

"I can talk," JC says, because Justin's snoring softly a few bunks away. "I wish you were here with me."

"Tell me what you'll do to me, why I don't just go and eat a million bars of chocolate."

"I'll fuck you," JC says quietly, slowly, hearing his own voice drop. "I'll get you on your back, and I'll tease you until you're begging me for it, and then I'll get you to turn over on your hands and knees," and his hips are rocking, mind flaming with the images of it, of Lance laid out in front of him, gleaming with sweat, just waiting to be taken.

"Go on," Lance says, and he's breathing hard, and JC starts stroking his cock faster, matching it to the rhythm Lance is setting, tightening his grip around the warm damp steel of it and using every trick in the book to make himself squirm;

"You're kneeling in front of me," he says, speaking in time with his hand, "and then I'll spread your ass cheeks," and he'd be blushing if he could see Lance, if he couldn't hear the soft panting on the other end of the phone, "one in each hand, spreading as wide as I can, sliding my dick between them to take the edge off for me and then making you wait, until you just feel so vulnerable, because I can see all of you, can wait as long as I like, and you're rocking back, start tilting your ass up, begging,--"

"Please," Lance murmurs, and JC hisses softly because damnit but that gives a whole new dimension to the pictures in his head, "please, your cock, now--"

"Fuck yeah," JC breathes, feeling the heat gather in his balls, wishing he didn't have to hold the phone with his other hand, "And I make you wait until you're desperate, until you're wondering if I'm ever gonna fuck you," and he bends his knees up so his knuckles aren't grazing the covers with every stroke, speeding up again, "and then I start forcing it slowly inside you," and he shouldn't be using words like forcing, because it's too damn vivid and he's gonna come a long time before he's finished talking, "and then--"

"I'm just taking it, and wanting more," Lance whispers, and JC shudders, gritting his teeth. "I've got my fingers inside me right now," Lance adds, "it feels, mm, good," and JC tries to fucking not have that picture in his head and interrupts him harshly,

"And I grab your hips and start fucking you, properly fucking you, so hard it makes you want to scream," and he can hear Lance's breathing changing, coming in ragged grunts, then low whimpers, "as hard as I like until I shoot," he manages, sensation rising, imagination shot through with deep red and silver, "and I'll turn you over again," and he tries to hang on, waiting, waiting, "and get my fingers back inside you," and Lance's breath's shuddering, now, "shoving them really hard while I lick your abs--"


"and your lats--"


"and by your hipbones, those long sharp grooves," and then I'll suck you off, he thinks, but he doesn't have time to say it before he's coming and he can hear Lance growling and then the phone goes dead and he figures, shit, he must've done something right.

"Aw, what?" Chris demands loudly, and JC looks up to see Lance batting Chris' hands away and giggling like a sprite in the sun. "Lansten," Chris says firmly, catching his wrists and holding them out to the side so Lance is immobilised between them, "you are one sick puppy."

"What?" JC calls, pushing up from the table and going to interrupt, goddamn, because he can't stand the way Lance's head is tilted like Chris might possibly kiss him. Chris looks up, totally un-guilty, and JC feels something relax inside him again.

"Boy's never heard of take-out," Chris says, disgustedly, and Lance swivels round in his chair as JC approaches. There's a book in his lap, a jar of huge dried apricots gleaming on the page.

"Leave off," JC says to Chris, intrigued.

Chris looks at him hard, then shakes his head. "You're just as sick," he says gravely; "Maybe, even moreso. or, just stupid. I mean, man, can't you see he's thinking about cooking when he doesn't even have to?"

"Maybe I'm just sick of take-out," Lance says sweetly, tilting his head up, and JC badly wants to fuck his smile.

"Insanity!" Chris pronounces, clamping one hand over his eyes and staggering off down the bus. "Justin, get here now! I'm needing me a normal guy to save me from the cookbook boys, but I guess you'll do too..."

JC moves closer, letting one hand fall on Lance's shoulder, fingers stirring the softsoftcrisp hair at the base of his scull. "What'cha got?"

Lance tilts his head back to look at him, closing the book and showing him the title. 500% flavor, 5% fat!

JC raises his eyebrows, wishing the heat in his groin would go away until they had a chance to get somewhere more private, unhappily aware that that's not happening soon. "Neat."

Lance nods, flipping to the vegetables chapter. "I can eat as much of this stuff as I want, right?"

"Pretty much," JC says, and grins because it's cheesy but he can't resist, "especially root vegetables..." and Lance frowns for a second and then laughs, spreading his knees and tugging JC between them, staring up and resting his chin on the bare skin where JC's shirt rides up, sliding his hands up the back of JC's thighs.

JC catches his breath and looks sharply sideways where, a couple of open doors away, Chris and Justin are tussling on the couch. "Don't," he whispers, looking down again, and Lance's eyes gleam.

"Don't... what?" he asks, slyly, and flashes his tongue against JC's stomach.

"Fuck, Lance," JC says, wishing his cock hadn't started swelling with that warm wet stripe, wishing like hell he could close the door without causing suspicion, "they're right there--"

"Are they looking?" Lance says, and his hands tug JC's thighs apart slightly further, then slide round and start working on his fly.

"No," JC says, and in fact the guys in the other room are only vague shapes, but still. Vague shapes are vague shapes, and vague shapes of guys having their dicks sucked are pretty distinctive.

That thought was not a good idea.

"Then what's the problem," Lance says silkily, and his thumb slips inside JC's fly, sliding up and down the bulge of his cock, and it feels good but God, Lance, look, they're right over there-- even if they just look round right now they're gonna know something's up and shit, what if they're watching already--

JC looks round, and no, neither Chris nor Justin is watching, and the TV's on faintly so maybe they're concentrating elsewhere, and then Lance's hands are pulling the waistband of his boxers away from his body and the head of his cock's sticking out enough for Lance to blow on it gently and then take. it in. his mouth.

"Fuck," JC hisses, one hand flying to the back of Lance's head, cramming him close so his forehead presses hard against his stomach, so the head of his cock pushes totally into his mouth.

Hell, maybe if they look round, they'll think Lance is being comforted, or something.

Lance sucks, swirling his tongue round and round, and JC starts breathing deeply, sucking great rooms of air inside him, hand closing into a fist in Lance's hair, trying to keep quiet to keep quiet to keep quiet--

Lance drags the elastic down further, taking more of his cock into his mouth, sucking with a slow, determined rhythm that makes JC's head spin. With great presence of mind, he unfolds his hand and starts stroking Lance's hair, and something moves on the couch oh God oh God but it's only Justin, sitting up and laughing loudly, still not looking round.

"Please, God, quick," JC mutters, and suddenly he's worried Chris'll notice they've gone all quiet in here, so should he be trying to make civilised smalltalk? except if he does that then Chris might listen and get interested and comment and jesus christ what would he do if he had to conduct a conversation with Lance's mouth working his dick and jesus christ, because Lance suddenly twists his head from side to side and forges downward, hot wet hot wet smooth, and no, absolutely no way; conversation's not on the cards.

He tries to take another calming breath but it splinters on him, shards of hoarse air cluttering the room, and fuck, they're so gonna hear, and he's got his eyes fixed on the shifting shapes on the couch in a whole different room as two of Lance's fingers slip between his legs and brush up behind his balls and stroke back and forth, back and forth--

"Jayce," Justin calls loudly, and JC freezes and almost chokes on his tongue because God God God;

"Yeah," he manages, then clears his throat, and why the hell isn't Lance stopping but he isn't, "yeah?"

"Chuck me another coke, could you," Justin says, and JC bites back a low groan as Lance swallows him down down deep down, and how the hell many cocks has Lance sucked, anyway, because this is deadly, fatal, unreal--

"In a minute," JC says, praying Justin won't decide to come get it himself, praying he won't come, then cursing under his breath as Lance draws back and pants delicately around the head of his cock and realising, distantly, that God really probably isn't interested in aiding boys like him in situations like this.

"Why not now?" Justin demands, and fuck, he sounds pissy, and JC braces his hand against Lance's head to pull him back and get decent right fucking now, but Lance just encloses his balls in a warm authoritative grip and swallows him down again and he's there, hips hunching forwards blindly into the dark, liquid heat, cramming the heel of his own hand in his mouth to prevent a cry as he comes, shuddering, unable to prevent himself looking down and seeing Lance's contented swallowing as he wrings a few more shivers out his shockedexhaustedhappy body.

JC remembers to breathe about the time Lance uncurls from him and sits back slowly, and his hand's smarting with his teeth and he needs to get dressed and doesn't know if he can make his fingers work and then Lance is tucking his cock away and doing up his pants and calling, sweetly, "Busy," and then swipes his thumb against the corner of his mouth, licking it with teeth.

"Busy doing what?" Justin says, and JC finds enough breath to say,

"Get it yourself," and then swivels in Lance's legs and leans heavily on the table.

"You know what I'm gonna do for you tonight?" Lance murmurs, and JC blinks. Right now, he can't even comprehend that he's still got an afternoon to get through with no bones left in his body, let alone a whole night.

"What," he says, and Lance flashes a wicked little grin.

"I'm gonna make casserole."

"It's weird," Lance says, and JC looks up from his book. Lance is staring at the biscuit tin.


"In there," Lance says, and taps the lid of the tin with one finger. "Jafa Cakes," he says, and quirks his mouth. "I used to love them."

JC, who's only ever had two Jafa Cakes in his life, in England, when the orange jelly had made his tongue hurt, steeples his fingers together. "Yeah," he says, cautiously.

"Yeah," Lance says, and looks at him. "They were great. I used to eat the spongy biscuity bit first, peeling off the tangy bit and the chocolate, and the chocolate would crack, so I'd suck it off, and then there'd be this slippery jelly disk that melts really slowly on your tongue. Or, like, you can use it to scare your sister."

JC smiles, despite himself.

"So you'd think it'd be difficult to not eat one now," Lance says, putting the tin back on the shelf.

"It's not?"

"Well, if I ate it, it'd taste nice and then I'd feel guilty for about three days," Lance says, with a wry smile. "So yeah, it's really easy not to eat it." He pauses, then shrugs. "It's kinda fun, almost. I get this airy satisfied feeling, like I've won something."

JC grins. He doesn't really get that any more, but he used to. It's like you've caused something momentous to happen because for the next few days you won't be feeling heavy. Willpower victories. With him, it got so he teased himself with it, little frenzies of testing and taunting until he felt nauseous, and that was when he stopped getting hungry altogether. "Cool. Don't overdo it."

Lance smiles, then looks confused, but JC goes back to his book, because that's something Lance has gotta work out on his own.

At eleven o'clock on days Lance skips breakfast, his skin seems to go translucent and his eyes gleam.

The kitchen on the bus sucks. JC thinks it could easily be three times as big and still not accommodate them all. Luckily, there are only two of them cooking right now.

"It's gonna burn," JC insists, but Lance ignores him, laying out his slabs of red pepper on the grill tray and drizzling a little oil over them and then shoving the whole thing slowly under the flame that looks far too hot, in JC's opinion.

"Is the salmon done?" he asks, and JC shrugs, frustrated;

"How should I know?"

"Lift up the foil," Lance says, and JC crouches down and frowns at the foil package through the oven door.

"Move out the way, then," he says, and Lance moves right away, foraging around in the tiny fridge unit for something or other that JC is sure isn't there. He's been through that fridge three times, looking for tomatoes.

When he opens the oven, the sudden heat's like a dragon coughing. He blinks hard, eyes prickling, and reaches in with the tongs, trying to peel open the foil without piercing it. "What's it supposed to look like, anyway?" he asks, and Lance's footsteps come back.

"Light pink."

"How light?" Is it even pink at all? Looks sort of light brown, actually. "Are you sure it's not supposed to be beige?"

"Lighter pink than it-- okay, look, you chop these instead," Lance says, and JC backs away from the oven and finds an array of green vegetables being pushed into his hands. "I was thinking," Lance adds, dropping to his knees and peering into the oven, "grate the carrot and add a dash of orange juice. This looks pretty good, actually. Three minutes."

JC nods, tipping the whole lot onto a board and getting the grater and hey, where did Lance find tomatoes? He starts slicing at random, getting tomato juice on his fingers and pips in the groove of the board and figuring it's good they're not planning to do this full-meal thing every day. Just, special days, like when Lance wakes him up from where he's dozing on the couch in front of Jerry Springer and whispers, okay, I dunno, but I think six weeks ago today we were rolling around in the rain. There's a sharp smell in the air. Reminds him of vitamins. "Don't we need to check the peppers?"

"Yeah, just a sec," Lance says, and JC realises the smell's oranges, realises that Lance's gotten hold of their flying-saucer novelty juicer and is using it to hand-squeeze fresh orange juice because wasn't it only yesterday JC was saying about how much chemical badness goes into OJ from the shops?

He starts arranging his wheels of tomato and cucumber on a bowl, with torn iceburg lettuce and a load of sleek white beansprouts and, of course, some celery sticks. Different degrees of crunchy water, he thinks, tempted to eat a few beansprouts, feel the refreshing crush of them between his teeth.

"Fuck, okay, could you check the peppers," Lance says, and JC glances up to see him holding about five used orange-halves in one hand. "I'm sticky. I'll get the carrots," he promises, standing on his toes as JC squeezes past.

"Sure, sure," he says, finding the slices of pillarbox red flesh dusting black under the grill. "Are these supposed to be burnt?"

"Just slightly black, so you can pull off the skin," Lance says, and JC pulls out the grill pan and turns off the heat.

"You got a plate for these?" he says, and Lance pushes his salad bowl across the work surface, where the centre's now mounded with glossy shredded carrot.

"Just stick 'em in," Lance says, and JC nods and takes hold of one, burning his fingers as he pulled off the cracked skin, laying it aside like scraps of sooty red tissue paper.

"Fuck," he mutters, because it hurts and he's still got, oh, seven more to do? and then Lance picks up his fingers and licks the shine off them and his tongue on scalded skin is the hottest thing JC has ever felt. "Fuck," he breathes, and then Lance has dropped to his knees, nuzzling his crotch with his cheek before reaching round and pulling open the oven door.

JC wonders about scrapping dinner and moving straight on to a pleasant evening blowjob, but then Lance is crooning something and unwrapping a crackle of silver foil and JC has to admit the gleaming slab of salmon looks pretty good. He had his doubts, when Lance was insisting that Butterette tasted just as good, because he didn't like the taste of regular butter, and then there were more doubts about the lemon because it was the last one and JC usually likes a squeeze of lemon in his morning water because it wakes up the metabolism, but now, looking at Lance's creation, JC thinks it might be a worthwhile sacrifice.

"Okay, you get me a tray," Lance says, and the only one JC can find has pictures of lurid chocolate cakes on it, but that'll have to do so he holds it out while Lance transfers his salmon to a plate and tips the juices collected in the tin foil over it. "This is gonna be so nice," Lance says, and JC wishes he didn't have the tray because he wants to touch him, goddamnit, but then Lance is leading him through to one of the tables by the window, and he sits down and deposits everything and finds his thoughts skimming merrily along to too much coffee and sliding mud and green eyes against a heavy grey sky.

"You serve," he says, because he wants to watch Lance's hands.

He hasn't eaten something so colourful in... months? It's like one of those pictures on the menu for an expensive restaurant, all glossy reds and greens and oranges and whites in a thousand foreign shapes so you don't work out you're eating sprouts until the first mouthful because damnit, they were curlicues, and what kind of psychic do they think you are?

Lance slides a chunk of salmon into the nest of salad on each plate, sprinkling a few grains of salt over it before JC can protest. "It's nice," he insists, and JC swallows down the objection because damnit, Lance has done a load for this, and it does look nice, and smell nice, and taste...

"Wow," he mumbles, because it's almost too hot to taste but yes, yes, it's good, and so damn succulent, buckling artfully under the pressure of his teeth, a glimmering bright arc of lemon and cracked pepper and something else chattering silkily at the edge of his awareness. "That's... that tastes really good."

Lance beams at him, and breaks a corner off the slab on his plate. Steam curls up, misting on his hands, making his skin look like polished cream leather. "I used to put sugar on it," he says, waving his fork around, then spearing the corner and popping it in his mouth. "Hey, it is good."

"It doesn't need sugar," JC says, taking another piece into his mouth, and in fact, sugar would spoil it, because this is fragrant and subtle and savoury and the salt and Butterette works, but only just. Sugar would be gilding a lily with something that would tarnish. "What's in it, with the lemon?"

"Dill," Lance says, "probably." He takes another bite. "It's supposed to melt in the mouth," he says, chewing thoughtfully, then swallowing. "It doesn't, really."

"It does," JC insists, and looks around, then leans across the table and kisses Lance quickly on the mouth. "It's beautiful." He's not sure he can finish it, though. "How much should this serve?"

Lance laughs. "One person, the whole slab," he says, then touches his mouth. "I dunno how big the person's supposed to be, though... I'm thinking, we wash it down with salad. Or, leftovers, we can give them to Justin or someone."

"Yeah, that's cool," JC says, though he's not sure Justin would appreciate it. Still, better than it going to waste. He scoops up some salad, then pauses, a forkful of glistening carrot halfway to his lips. "Is there dressing on it?"

"Just orange juice," Lance reassures him, and JC smiles. His burnt fingers still hurt, but not much. That's okay, then.

"Um," JC says, feeling oddly awkward. "I've got this. thing."

Lance raises his eyebrows. "Thing," he says, flatly. "STD?"

"Mirror," JC says quickly, then bursts out laughing. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, though."

"Pleasure," Lance grins, and JC feels happy he's brought him here, to his house, because they've got a day off and the others are coming round soon to mess about in the pool and of course this whim's a good idea. Of course. "So?" Lance prompts, looking around. "Your mirror."

JC nods, feeling nervous again. "Through here," he says, taking Lance's fingers loosely and leading him through the house, and it's calming, really, the familiar shadowed scents going deep into his lungs because yes, he's breathing deeply, because he's never shown someone this before.

"I haven't been in your house in ages," Lance says, as they climb the wide, elegant stairs.

JC laughs, shortly. "Me neither," he says, and then he stops, halfway between floors, and flashes Lance a quick grin. If it's a day for whims, why not go for it? he thinks, toeing off his shoes so he can feel the luxury carpet massaging his feet, inexplicably delighted when Lance does the same.

"Nice carpet," he says, and JC looks around, at the stillness of the lobby below and all the different grand muted greys and greens and golds and arctic shadows, and then back at Lance, who fits right in, except nothing about him's muted at all.

"I like my carpets to be nice," JC says, "even if it costs a load to have them redone each year," and settles his hands on Lance's shoulders, leaning in and kissing him. Lance chuckles, and JC waits patiently until he feels the brush of Lance's tongue, then angles his head to kiss him properly, taste the carrot juice they pureed earlier and drank with crushed ice in the surprisingly tropical April sun.

Lance sighs happily, hands lighting on JC's hips, and JC feels the floor rushing up dizzily and keeps his eyes closed and it's like they're flying, balanced between earth and sky, balanced between floors, balanced precarious and luxurious and anchored only to each other.

He moves his hands up, cupping Lance's face, thumbs gliding against the shadow of cheekbones, palms cradling the smooth skin where Lance's cheeks used to bulge just enough to piss off the makeup girl.

"You know," Lance mumbles, when JC licks at his teeth to coax a few silvery bites out of the pure velvet murmur of it all, "I really possibly love you more than anyone else," and then he sucks gently and the kiss goes ermine.

JC draws back, eyes opening slowly, and the soaring world flutters gently back into place. They're just boys, on the stairs, in his house, saying foolish wonderful things. "Yeah," JC says, nodding, and Lance's face looks slim and lovely between his hands. "Yeah, I'm there too."

"Show me this mirror," Lance asks, and JC drops his hands and takes up Lance's fingers again, leading him up the rest of the stairs and squeezing his toes happily into the carpet's mossy accommodation. He has them shampooed three days before he's due back in town, because he's an artist, and likes pacing barefoot.

"In here," he says, and he still has an edge of nervousness, but not much. This room leads into his bedroom, and it's all about light, with large windows and daylight spotlights in the ceiling, and one wall jewelled with a huge fine flawless mirror, and a big mahogany wardrobe, and a pale blue carpet on the floor. Justin would dazzle any observer, in here, but JC's never shown it to him.

Lance looks ethereally beautiful, and cautious. "Dressing room?" he guesses, and the acoustics are perfect so his voice makes JC tingle.

"Not exactly," he says, dropping Lance's hand and standing them in front of the wardrobe. "More of a memory room."

"Uh huh. Jayce, this is kinda Dorien Gray," Lance says nervously, and JC laughs because he loves it when Lance is well read, and opens the wardrobe, so the mirror on the inside of the door falls in the best light of the whole room.

Lance's eyes widen. "That's a trick mirror, right?" he says, and JC slings his arm round Lance's shoulders and meets their reflections' eyes and smiles, superior.

The JC-reflection smiles back, but it doesn't look good. Its face is kinda chubby, and its neck looks thick, and its hands are... well, butch is the kindest thing to be said, really. "Yeah, it's a trick mirror," he says, and draws Lance away to the mirror wall, and the familiar icy delight goes through him because that's what he was then and this is what he is now.

Lance is staring at the new reflection. "We look amazing," he says, and JC grins at him.

"This is what we look like normally," he says; "that, in the wardrobe? That's what I looked like three months ago. I had it made, specially. It's got just enough curve that if you get a photo of me three months ago and hold it up, it'll look the same as the reflection." He scratches his stomach, liking the slant of his hips. "It's not totally accurate 'cause you don't lose weight all over at the same speed, but it's pretty good."

Lance frowns, but he can't take his eyes off the mirror wall. "What if you stop getting slimmer?" he says, and JC shrugs.

"Well, then it's just a reminder of what I looked like some time ago. I use it when I'm dieting, mostly, or when I feel, y'know. Fat."

"You don't need to feel fat," Lance says, going back to the wardrobe, and JC knows what it's like, the morbid fascination with how bad he used to look. It's even better naked, but that sometimes leads to feeling depressed about what past lovers accepted and how poor their taste must've been, so he figures Lance doesn't need that yet. "Fuck, Jayce. If I ever look like him again, just shoot me, right?"

JC walks over and closes the wardrobe door, leaning back on it, pulling Lance against him. "Don't worry," he says, kissing his neck, working his hands under Lance's flimsy top and feeling the resistance of new muscle tensing against his palms. He's still got some extra flesh, but it's disappearing nicely. Lance has discipline. "You never will."

"Ew," Justin calls, "this is totally grim," and JC looks up and remembers he forgot to warn them about the marsh.

"Sorry," he says, wondering why the hell Justin's wandered that far down the garden anyway. "Just, like, leave it alone."

"The ball's gone in it," Justin whines, and JC rolls his eyes at Lance and pushes up off of the patio to go save the day. "We were playing tagball," Justin explains, looking mournfully at the green stains on his white Adidas soles. "It's Chris' fault."

"Go get some Vanish Extra from the cleaning cupboard," he says, and steps into the marsh, feeling the green water-slime combination ooze up round his toes. This was a failed experiment in the same vein as the carpets, because in theory it was therapeutic to squidge around in some silky moss while thinking up songs under the wide night sky.

In practice, algae devoured the whole thing within about three seconds. "You need a hand?" comes Lance's voice, and he's standing just where the grass goes dark and moist, looking helpful.

"Nah, I'm okay," JC says, reaching the ball, balancing on one foot to kick it onto the lawn again.

"Thanks, C," Joey calls, and he's running around in swimming trunks, all gorgeous and tanned except for where the waistband of his shorts is overlapped by a swell of fat. Making things worse, a tanline stripes up across the bulge, proving he must've just put on weight recently.

"You wanna swim?" JC says abruptly to Lance, and Lance is nodding when he looks round, eyes darting from JC to Joey and back again. "He'll lose it when we get rehearsing again," JC says, wanting to cheer Lance up. "He's really... like, it comes and goes like that," he says, clicking his fingers. "He'd be fine if he had the discipline."

"It's like he doesn't even care," Lance says, taking his hand ostentatiously to help him out the marsh, squeezing harder than necessary.

"It doesn't matter," JC says, as they walk across the lawn, then lightens the mood by pushing Lance backwards into the pool and jumping in after him and cracking an evil grin. "Hey, and it makes us look great, standing next to him," he whispers, amongst the hissy splashes.

Lance hoots with laughter, as Justin comes wandering back out from the house. "Yo, Jayce," he calls, indignantly. "I almost broke my neck -- what the hell's up with leaving like a thousand shoes on the stairs?"

It took a while, but Lance will let JC tie his arms above his head, now, stretching him out across the bed like a slab of... really fine salmon, JC thinks happily, and yeah, that works, because Lance is definitely succulent, and hot, and certainly doesn't need sugar.

And there's enough for second helpings, JC grins, biting Lance's collarbone to hear him squeak, although there's definitely not as much as there used to be because the fat's melting away, just the thinnest layer remaining, bulked into three dimensions by a slow build-up of muscle that keeps him sleek like a seal and incrementally more strong.

The tie round his wrists creaks slightly, as if to prove JC's point. "You're so fucking hot like this," JC hears himself say, scratching his nails down Lance's flank and swiping the head of his cock with his tongue, making him squirm. "I love it."

"You're killing me," Lance gasps; "please, please, do something," and JC laughs, not sure if he wants to fuck this shuddering, smooth-angled creature or if it'd be more satisfying to take Lance's cock inside himself instead and grind down gloriously until neither of them could stand it any more.

"Yeah, in my own time," he murmurs, sliding up his body again, licking the lines of his ribcage, feeling Lance shiver and growl beneath his tongue.

"Heyyy," Chris smirks, and nods at Joey. "Check out blondie," he calls, and JC feels his eyes narrow before realising, no, they're just admiring Lance in his new shirt, standing in the doorway. He puts his book down -- losing his place, but can he remember the sentence he was reading a moment before? No siree.

Lance grins, shrugs, then turns faint pink. "Yeah, well. I figured, like. It's summer."

Chris wolf-whistles, and JC starts to feel nervous tension in the base of his spine before remembering, no, Lance has never gone for guys like Chris, he's told JC so. The only competition he has here is from Justin.

Joey leans over, nudges him, grinning. "Ain't that your clothes he's wearing?"

"Nope," JC says, feeling insanely proud.

"Nope?" Joey says, and raises an eyebrow, looking comically back and forth between them. "I could'a sworn."

"No way. It looks like fucking dodgy sheep shit, all slime and pellets," Chris pronounces, slamming his fist down on the refrigeration unit. "I'm not having it on the bus. Move along now."

It's lucky Lonnie's already handed over the cash to close the store for them.

"You're a lunatic," JC mutters, making his way down the aisle and scowling at all the squat golden packs of butter behind their glass doors. "What happened to democracy," he adds, for Lance's benefit, whining slightly, then grins because Lance tugs him round a corner and assures him that the moment Chris' past he'll sneak back and grab the cottage cheese anyway.

"White sheepshit, yo," Justin says, looking slyly to Chris for approval. "It's unnatural," and JC wonders how the fuck he can spin from lusting after the Infant to out-and-out hatred and back to mild resentment in the time it takes Justin to choose sides. Just because the little fucker has never calorie counted in his life.

"Albino turds," Chris' agreeing gleefully; "Probably the same nourishment from it, too," and Justin laughs like he couldn't even comprehend why someone might eat cottage cheese if there was any other option available at all.

"Fuck off," JC says, wanting to hit him until he sees Lance sneaking back again, then sucks it up and pretends to notice a sign hanging above the next aisle. "Did you guys say you wanted pizza bases?"

"Lance," Joey says curiously, "have you got-- fuck! you have," and JC's looking up sharply, seeing Joey's hand gripping Lance's shoulder in the dressing room mirror, Joey's face horrified. "You've got fucking bruises on your hips--"

Fuck. "What?" JC asks, turning round, like he's only curious.

"Joe, it's nothing, I promise," Lance is saying, trying to tug his shirt down, and Joey's dropped to his knees and swiped his thumb over Lance's hipbone. "It doesn't hurt or anything. I hadn't even noticed it was there."

"There's more than one, and they don't look like nothing," Joey says accusingly, then rises to his feet again, letting Lance finish getting dressed. "They look like-- well, okay, tell me where you got them, let's see if it's nothing or not," and JC shivers because this is when the fierce Italian roots come out, and Joey's all about family when it comes to them, and yeah, it looks like Lance's been taking it from some unsavoury type who likes to play with blonds...

Worrying close to the truth, JC thinks wryly, as Lance puts a patient hand on Joey's shoulder and says, "for god's sake, calm down. I got them in the gym."

"The gym," Joey says, and now he looks kinda angry at being lied to, and JC hopes like hell that Lance can withstand it because he doesn't want Joey knowing, doesn't want any of them knowing. Not like this.

"...yeah, the gym," Lance says, and begins to look impatient. "Yesterday. It was a crappy place, and the mats were useless. So? Bruises," and then he straightens, folding his arms, voice going sardonic, "why, what do you think it looks like? sodomy?" and Joey inhales sharply and then laughs, shocked. JC laughs too, thinking it'll look like he's relieved for the same reason Joey's shaking his head incredulously right now.

"Aw, shit, Lance," Joey says, slapping him on the arm, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry-- I just, well, yeah, exactly," he manages, and crumbles again. "Sodomy!"

"I'm so sorry, baby, I didn't mean to bruise you," he mutters, kissing the yellow smudges on his fine, elegant hipbones.

Lance laughs softly, stroking the back of his head, letting his legs fall open. "You didn't," he says, as JC ducks to drop fleeting open-mouthed kisses all along the insides of his thighs; "it really was the mats," and JC laughs as well, making Lance shudder.

"That's good to know," he says, starting to lick in earnest.

"Ah, yeah, you're so fucking good to me," Lance says, and his voice is almost at that growl-y stage that makes JC shiver with anticipation, so he stays exactly where he is to see if he can make dirty things happen without using his hands.

They take shelter under a huge tree that's far away enough that if the bomb welded to the exhaust goes off, they won't get hurt. It rains determinedly, like fate's decided it's gonna kill them somehow and drowning works just as well as an explosion, y'know, but the tree's a pretty effective umbrella.

"I want a chair," Chris says, wrinkling his nose at the sky, then wiping his cheek furiously when he gets dripped on. It's oddly cute.

"Yeah, well, I'm fucking starving," Justin complains, and Chris promptly sits on him as payment for the emergency pack of Wheetos kept about his person at all times. JC watches him eat, sulky except for the giggling when Chris tells jokes in his ear, the pout lingering prettily until Chris calls him on it and chucks him under the chin, and eventually he's munching happily and even offering the packet around.

Wonders never cease. "It's okay," JC says, shivering. Lance shakes his head, too.

Joey lends them his coat eventually, because "y'all are actually turning blue."

It's thick, and they discover that if they sit so Lance's leaning back against JC's chest, they both fit inside it. The buttons don't really do up, except for the bottom button through the third-to-bottom hole, making the whole coat askew. It's tight. Joey shakes his head at them, fondly, and JC takes the opportunity to wrap his arms round Lance and rock him gently, and also to firmly imbed the frosty-musk smell of Lance's damp hair into the bottom of his lungs.

"Am I ugly, suddenly," Justin demands, as they pile into the games room while their beds get changed.

"Yup," Chris says cheerily, and gets him in a headlock, chanting "dogface, dogface," and spinning them round the room. Justin protests and laughs and struggles and eventually throws them both down on the sofa, red-faced and panting.

"You fucking fucker," he tells Chris, scrubbing at his hair with one hand and leaning his head on Chris' shoulder. He pants for a few moments longer, then catches his breath, "Fuck," and lets it out again.

Chris wriggles and spreads his legs, like he might be too hot.

"What's up?" JC asks, when he figures no one else's gonna.

Justin opens his eyes slowly, and JC feels another glimmery shot of jealousy go through him, because Justin never seems to do anything to look like that, except like pushups and fooling around with Chris and stuff. Bastard. "I'm thinking, the fan's ain't buying into mah looks anymore," he drawls, raising his eyebrows significantly at JC and Lance.

Joey chuckles. "Uh huh, riiiiight. Like, you'll catch more if you go fish in a stream, Timberlake..."

Justin sits up indignantly. "I'm not," he insists, eyes wide like you'd be a meanie not to believe him; "haven't y'all seen how Lance is centre-stage for every photo just now? I been demoted, I'm tellin' you."

"Bullshit," Lance laughs, and JC glances at him, all elfish and sultry with his fresh dark hair and newly aired bone-structure. Lickable.

"No, no," Chris is saying, looking at Lance appraisingly. "I noticed that, too..." He turns back to Justin, grinning. "you're being deposed. but don't worry, I'm sure Brit'll still love you best."

"See!" Justin cries, and then insists on getting out a load of magazines to show how different it was when he was top dog, and JC wonders whether to feel threatened or delighted while Lance's protesting that there's not been that much of a change.

About the time Chris, sitting in a nest of folded-back pages, starts defending his dreads for the third time, Joey smacks him over the head and declares his wish to drag Justin off to hunt down their luggage and see about some CDs.

"Now Justin, with the cornrows, that was hair not based in reality," Chris says quickly, and Justin rolls up an old issue of TOTP and hits him round the head as well before hurtling off after Joey's back. "Brat! You're just in denial," Chris calls after him, rubbing his head, then goes back to turning old Tiger Beat pages and sighing mournfully over JC's shirts.

JC protests for a while, then gives up, because Chris has a point about the red-and-purple nylon, if he's honest with himself. He lets his hand slip down when Lance comes back from the minibar and sits next to him, the backs of his knuckles touching Lance's smooth warm thigh.

"Coke?" Lance asks, and Chris reaches out thankfully and takes a swig without looking, then chokes and almost spits cola over their March 97 River Shot 32.

"That's. not. coke," he says eventually, and picks up the silver-red can in distaste. "Why the hell are you feeding me this... thing?"

"Now who's the brat," JC mumbles, and leans forwards and swipes it back, taking just a short sip because even though it's not the sugar bomb of Regular Coke, it's still full of aspartame and saccharine and that shit really fucks with the veins. Still, it tastes pretty good. He's not sure why Chris' being so picky about it.

"I'm not a brat," Chris says, still making strange shapes with his mouth as if he'd got a hair caught at the back of his tongue. "Or, maybe I am, but Juju's still Queen Brat." He turns a page, then crows with delight. "Oh, but look at your face! That's brat-tastic if anything ever was--"

"The sun was in my eyes," JC says, swallowing.

When he sets his can down on the table, Lance does the same.

"Yeah, and was it still in your eyes when you chose that... thing. What is that, a magenta dress shirt?" His voice goes affectionately horrified. "I swear, whoever dropped you on your head at birth should've thought better and finished the job..."

"No, no, shut up, I liked that one," Lance says, leaning over and tapping the page; "With the checked dragon thing. It was cool. As an ironic statement, kinda."

JC, who bought the shirt because he liked the colour, nods before realising no one's looking at him. "Yeah," he says, and it comes out kinda husky because Lance's leaning over his lap and the pale blue of his tee's hovering just above the succulent dimples at the base of his spine. He half wishes he could get the coke back, so he could rest it on Lance's warm back and make him jump.

"...knows what irony means," Chris is grinning, and JC frowns as Lance sits back and nudges him, because, what?

"What's that?"

"You barely know what it means," Chris repeats, raising an evil eyebrow. "Your fashion sense definitely doesn't."

"It's ironic that Chris stopped wearing bandannas just as Justin made them cool," JC shoots back, and Lance giggles against him, arm warm around his shoulders.

"Woo, go Chasez! the walking dictionary!" Chris whoops, "fastest tongue in the... well, faster than most of the deep South, anyway," he adds wickedly, then stabs at the page teasingly with his finger again; "Yeah, and, Jayce. Were you and Lance having a thing or something back then, because these pictures..."

JC's fingers ice over and he feels light-headed, forcing a laugh. "What?"

"What are you talking about, thing?" Lance demands, and he sounds better, more casual, but now Chris is looking at them slyly, and JC tries not to blush, and then the warmth of Lance's arm uncurls from his neck and Lance sortof shuffles back and Chris' eyes widen.

"Oh," he says, and JC tries even harder not to blush and wonders how he's doing. "I see."

"There's nothing to, um. to see," he says, and Chris' eyes widen even more, and then he's just Chris again, folding the magazine shut, looking at them evenly.

"You two better hope like hell no one asks in an interview, 'cause y'all can't lie for shit," he says, and smirks. "I'm gonna have to go all out covering for you, I guess."

Lance laughs shortly, but it sounds relieved. "Like with the offshore trust," he says, and then Chris' laughing too, nodding slowly, and Lance's fingers creep over the back of JC's hand, and Chris' eyes follow.

"Exactly like that," Chris says.

"You gonna tell the others?" JC asks, not sure why he's not totally happy at the prospect. It's just-- it's him and Lance. Their closed capsule.

Chris shrugs. "I guess. I mean, unless you got like, an objection or something. I mean, I don't see why you would, but--"

"What about you and Justin?" Lance asks quietly, and JC blinks, because, what?

Chris stares at them for a second, then tilts his head, all curiosity and crooked grin. "Uh huh. Touché. When'd you clue in on that one?"

"Well..." Lance's fingertips push between JC's fingers, and JC realises with a start that yeah, they're actually holding hands in what's basically public, "y'all were pretty obvious," except Chris, Chris isn't public, although maybe he is because he's got something going on and hadn't seen fit to tell JC and, "especially in Texas."

Chris laughs, stabbing the air with one finger. "The redneck bar," he says, like it's the discovery of a lifetime, "like, I thought you were looking at us weird--"

"You were too convincing," Lance drawls, and that's enough, JC can remember now, Justin and Chris flirting outrageously because Chris had said are you guys sick of having minds narrow enough to pick teeth with, and then one of the guys had said at least he could pick fights he'd win, and then Lonnie and Marc and Matt and Alec and Josh and Dean had unfolded themselves slowly and taken up stools around their table and Chris and Justin had made like over-affectionate queerboys while the rednecks looked on impotently and sent them murderous glares.

But, wait. They'd actually been doing it? "But-- ew," JC hears himself say, swathes of rocking flesh unfolding in his mind's eye, and the room falls murderously quiet, and Lance's fingernails dig into his hand. Chris leans back in his chair, runs the tip of his tongue thoughtfully against the glossy white of his teeth, and waits-- "I mean," JC adds desperately, "wasn't he underage? I mean, maybe I'm thinking of a different bar, or. was he?" His heart is shuddering against his ribs.

"Nah," Chris says, slowly, watching him, "I'm pretty sure I waited until it didn't make me, you know, a paedophile."

Fuck, fuckfuckfuck, and JC tries not to cringe visibly, voice curdling in his throat, "yeah, no, of course--"

"Because those guys are pretty sick, you know?" Chris continues, thoughtfully, edged with steel. "Preying on kids? So no, I waited until it was all totally legal before I let all his attempts to seduce me actually work."

"I was thinking of a different bar," JC promises, thinking that Lance's fingernails are gonna leave marks.

Chris twists his mouth in a wry, challenging little smirk, and JC feels the mutated I told you so hang in the air for a full three seconds before Chris rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to Lance and says "You know, I'm a-thinkin' you could be a private detective if this boyband thing don't work out..."

"It was pretty obvious," Lance says, then gives a laugh that sounds pretty much natural, and adds teasingly, "I mean, you let him beat you at Donkey Kong. How obvious can you get?" and Chris grins at the ceiling and shrugs and mutters,

"fuck off. He goes all cute when he wins," and JC wishes he could just disappear because christ, they're talking about Justin, and Justin's like velvet saran wrap over prime beef while Chris, sorry, but Chris could do to lose a few pounds-- and the images are just spiralling, farcical and sickening and he's got to work to stop it showing on his face.

"...dude, fucking thrashed," Lance is saying, and Chris is nodding and leering, then craning round comically to check the doorway.

"Yeah, that was a kickass game," Chris says, stage whisper, and cracks his knuckles ostentatiously; "best lose of my life..."

"I bet," Lance agrees, and his fingernails are rocking gently deeper against JC's skin, message implicit that he's gotta get his act together, okay? because he's been silent too long.

"Fuck," JC says quietly, rubbing his temple with the hand Lance isn't decapitating.

"What's up?" Lance asks quickly, lowering his voice and slipping his arm round JC's shoulders.

JC winces at his lap, figuring he may as well go for gold. "I'm okay," he says, glancing up at Lance and seeing solicitous calculation. Alright, alright; he gets the hint, okay? he'll go. "No, no, I am, just-- man, my head's killing me..."

He hears a fabric-y shuffling, realises Chris is shifting in his seat. "Yo," Chris says, and JC looks up to see Chris holding a packet out towards him. "Caplet thingies," Chris says vaguely, gesturing with the box, "but, you know. Easy to swallow, and they're strong, like, Codine or something."

"Thanks," JC says, smiling weakly, and Lance relinquishes his hand to let him take the little red packet. "I'll just... bed, I think. Sleep it off."

Chris laughs, sitting back. "You two run along, y'hear? Joey's supposed to be bringing me this CD he's mixed, so we'll be waaaay outa earshot," and JC realises it sounds like he's been trying to get Lance away so they can fuck or something, which is the most ironic thing all day.

Still, at least Chris isn't eyeing him up sardonically any more. "Yeah, heh, but thanks for the tablets, too," he says, and hurries out the room.

Lance catches up with him quickly, touching the base of JC's spine with cautious fingers, and JC speeds up. He has to stop to deal with the keycard, though, and Lance tries to touch him again. "Leave it," he says, pushing inside, pretending like he doesn't care if Lance follows him in or not.

The door clicks shut. "Jayce..."

Lance's voice is cautious, and JC wonders why he's still here, even, given clearly Chris is the one he likes goofing around with, comparing notes on Justin -- hell, probably comparing notes on him-- "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't want you to have to think about it," Lance says instantly, and JC wonders if he had the reason prepared. Given that it, uh, actually makes sense, and all.

He looks up, meets Lance's wary green eyes. "Why?"

Lance shrugs, coming and sitting next to him on the bed. It tilts, but not as much as it would have done a few months ago. "It's just kinda gross, when you first think about it," he says, apologetically. "I mean, like, Justin and Chris."

JC tilts his head, refusing to be convinced, because just because it sounds right doesn't mean anything in real terms. "Yeah," he agrees, then points out, "but, me and you, isn't that the same?"

Lance giggles, deep in his chest, and leans in to lick the underside of JC's chin with a firm, hot tongue. "No way," he breathes, as JC shivers. "I mean, I'm okay and you haven't got spare pounds anywhere," and JC giggles back and nudges his head round to kiss him, satisfied they are on the same page.

"Dude, you have gone-off cream in your fridge," Chris announces, holding it aloft in disgust.

"Ew, man," Justin says, plucking it out of Chris' hand and peering in. "There's like, gross fuzz everywhere!"

"Something like your chin, then," Lance shoots back, and Justin laughs and flips him off.

"Lansten, this shit is green," he says, thrusting it under their noses, and JC looks briefly at the mould and wrinkles his nose.

"Grim," he mutters, and Lance shoves him with his elbow.

"Just you wait til April Fools," he says, and JC frowns for a moment before realising Lance is still talking to Justin, who's now saying the use-by date's practically last April and what kind of a slob is he, and then he laughs, while Chris talks about how it's sacrilege to waste like nearly a whole tub of cream.

The cookies have not been made, JC discovers, whatever Joey said about them being on the top shelf of the oven. In fact, the kitchen looks like someone was in the process of making something cookie-ish before they, hmm. ran off? got drunk? It's kinda unnerving.

"Fuck," Lance giggles, staggering round the low island in the kitchen and falling heavily against him, tipping his forehead into JC's shoulder. "I'm drunk."

"I don't mind," JC says, sliding a steadying arm round his waist and tilting his head up. Suddenly, the kitchen seems a much friendlier environment once more. "I mean," he adds, licking a slow line across Lance's bottom lip, appreciating how it looks blaring red, freshly bitten, "I get to take advantage of you now..."

"Mmm," Lance agrees, nudging his head back further in JC's palm, tongue flicking out to lap at the air. JC watches for a moment, enjoying the way he looks helplessly into it, man, and then Lance frowns. "Hey, get on with it."

"I like you like this," JC murmurs, ducking his head to bite the edge of Lance's jaw, feeling him shiver violently. The blood's pushing his cock up, and while he felt like he could wait forever to taunt him a moment ago, he's not so sure now.

"Fuck," Lance whispers, as JC moves down to his throat, "I wanna... God... can't concentrate," and JC laughs, lining their hips up with a deliberate little swivel, enjoying the way Lance leans back further and rocks in his arms, seeking friction in a whole-body-desperate kinda way.

"I like it when you're like this," he hears himself whisper, in case Lance didn't hear him the first time, and Lance makes a little noise that prompts him into finishing the thought; "I'm thinking, you should get drunk more often."

"Yeah," Lance agrees, nodding readily, then hauls himself upright, both hands on JC's shoulders. His eyes don't focus properly, but, JC thinks distractedly, in a good way. He lets Lance kiss him wetly, a clumsily liquid exploration with the sweet burn of something-or-other melting across his tongue, and finds his hands are wandering down to Lance's ass, pulling the sharp edges of his body harder against him.

"Fuck," he mutters, as Lance sways happily in his arms, and detaches briefly, panting, rubbing the sides of their faces together, the clash of their cheekbones and the distant grain of his stubble sending jolts of shivers down JC's back. "Yeah, fuck, like that," he adds hoarsely, as Lance claws briefly at his shoulderblades and then hurries to slip his hands under JC's shirt.

"Yeah, yeah, fuck me," Lance whispers loudly, leaving frantic wet kisses down JC's tingling cheekbone, biting at the corner of his mouth.

"Sure," JC begins, then inhales sharply, because Lance's always had a thing about doing stuff to him the moment he starts speaking, hasn't he, and the lewd little wriggle of Lance's tongue against the corner of his mouth is definitely the best incarnation of this habit yet. He keeps his lips together, fists clenching in the warm cotton of Lance's shirt, sniffing in little hits of fruity oxygen and humming them out jerkily with every twist of Lance's tongue.

Lance's hands dive down, thumbs skimming the muscles of his back, palms ghosting against tingling vertebrae. The corner of his mouth starts burning wetly, and he wants nothing more than to twist his head and push deep into Lance's mouth, tongue-fucking thoroughly while getting lined up for the real thing.

He-- holds still, letting Lance lick playfully at the seam of his mouth and suck his lips and worm the pointed tip of his tongue between them before melting away in a sizzle of frustration, and thinks that Lance's clothes are never gonna be the same again. The fabric's damp in his fists, clinging as he forces himself to let go and slide his hands over the small of Lance's back.

Hot, sleek bone pushes needily under his touch, just enough muscle to gild the way for his fingertips, and he sighs loudly, a circle starting in his balls and finishing with the swivel of his hips, tremendous friction. Lance's skin is damp -- he doesn't break into a sweat now, not nearly as fast as he used to, but the combination of Lance's determined tongue and the burr of heat up and down his back is definitely making JC's skin prickle, so he guesses it's not surprising Lance's going the same way.

They're so similar, after all.

Lance's hands latch onto his waistband, fumbling open his fly. JC exhales loudly, ducking to pull off Lance's shoes, and then Lance is shimmying out his pants and leaning, panting, half-naked against the counter. JC leans against him and kisses him hard, tempted to rim him and get the shattered gasps glancing off the ceiling but they are kindof in a kitchen so he guesses--

"Fuck me, already," Lance says, hooking his arms round JC's neck and standing on tiptoes to sit on the island, sweeping an open bag of flour onto the floor with an explosive mute thud.

"Shh," JC says, looking around hopefully, and yeah, oil pot, that'll work, that's good. He kisses Lance again because he's fucking giggling now, and eases him forwards until his ass is balanced against the edge of the counter. "We better tell everyone not to do any cooking for a while, huh?" he murmurs, dipping his whole hand into the jug, getting oil on his shirt but who cares when Lance's body lets him in so graciously, when two fingers push in to the hilt without a single crease of pain.

"Yeah, hurry, hurry," Lance says, sucking on his tongue until it almost hurts. JC fists his own cock a couple of times, and it's delicious with the oil, almost totally frictionless, just white-gold streaks of pure sensation rivering up his body and making him hum-- and then Lance is wrapping his legs round JC's waist, shifting until JC's cock's butting against his ass, giving JC's tongue one last lick before falling back on his elbows and tipping his head back.

"Fuck," JC breathes, and the wriggling against his cock's driving him crazy, so he clamps down on Lance's hips and presses them hard into the counter, biting his lip, nudging the head of his dick persistently up against his ass until the muscle gives and he's slowly, breathlessly, forcing it inside.

"Joey wants to know, is there raisins in-- fuck! Guys!"

"Fuck! It's Chris!" Lance yells, twisting round frantically, then swooning, grabbing JC's arm, giggling again, sending shocks of heat through the head of his cock. "Help, I'm falling, catch me," he cries, and it sends JC a little deeper, pressure making him want to gasp and swear.

"Lance, shut up," he manages, and Lance shakes his head.

"Don't pretend you don't lurve my voice," he drawls, pouring sex into it, then flails again, slippery against the counter. "Dude, this is insane! I can't keep upright. I've got to stop drinking on an empty stomach."

Chris raises his eyebrows, backing out room. "I'll leave you guys to it, huh?" he calls, and then adds, "sheesh, talk about improvising with baking equipment," and JC laughs, glad that Chris knows, because shit, that could have been incredibly awkward whereas now he can just carry on working his cock into Lance's warm, shapely ass like almost nothing has happened.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Lance is chanting, legs folding smoothly around JC's body, urging him deeper with insistent heels. Now, there is friction. JC stares at him, pressing deeper until he's almost out of his mind with heat, and wonders what the hell he did to deserve such a fucking angel to writhe against him whenever he wants. Maybe God really did appreciate the songwriting.

"You're so. fucking. gorgeous," he breathes, pulling half out and holding it until he thinks he might die with sensual destitution and Lance opens his eyes long enough to preen for him, coy and obvious, before dipping one slender hand into the spilt oil and wrapping it round his cock in a slow, taunting glide.

JC inhales sharply and pushes in hard, and starburst tear through his gut. The air tastes hot, fruit and musk on his tongue, and he starts pushing in and out until he's hammering him, trying to avoid tying his lungs in knots with the gasping but it's difficult, okay? and then he's feeling Lance quake and shudder happily against him with every stroke, exquisite vibrations clutching round his cock and swimming off through his body until he can't think and can't see--

"Yeah, fuck," Lance gasps, coming hard and arching into a slick trembling bow, and everything is heat and heat and fruitandmusk and heat and rhythm, fucking rhythm as Lance starts thrusting back against him again, and that's it, Lance's rhythms always kill him, and this one's looking to set a record, pushing him up up higher higher until until until--

"It's Joey's fucking kid," Chris snarls, hands jerking angrily in the air. JC laughs shortly, incredulous; all they said was they didn't want cake, and since when was that a crime?

"Yeah, c'mon, guys," Justin adds, arms folded, frowning. "You're kinda disrespecting Joey's girl, here--"

Lance makes a wordless noise of protest, and JC looks quickly at Joey-- and Joey's just looking at the plump dark gateaux on the table, like the pebbled chocolate icing's real interesting all of a sudden.

JC shrugs. "I'm just-- not hungry," he tries to explain, directing himself at Joey given he's the supposedly injured party here. Hell, it wasn't like the kid was even home from hospital, yet. And why did they need chocolate cake? How did a slab of sludgy grease and sugar validate a birth anyhow?

"When were you last hungry, huh?" Chris demands quietly, and JC looks at him quickly because that sounds mean, and he's really not feeling up to dealing with that sorta shit today.

"I'll have some," Lance interrupts, and JC looks at him in surprise.

"Have you seen that thing? It's like--"

"Like?" Joey asks, mildly, and JC feels the blood rush to his face.

"It... looks pretty rich, is all," he manages, feeling sick as Lance pushes his plate decisively across the table, as the smeared blade of the knife disappears down slowly, obscenely, carving off an oozing chocolaty segment and tipping it neatly onto what JC suddenly realises he's thinking of as virginal china.

"It's Mississippi Mud Pie," Justin says, handing Lance's plate over, and Lance grins weakly and doesn't meet JC's eye.

"You want some?" Joey asks, neutrally, and JC swallows and nods, because fuck, if they're all gonna put on the pressure, a tiny slice of cake's not worth the trouble.


"Can I get some. uh. water," he says, imagining he can hear the sucking of wet fudge as the knife forges down, pushing up from the table and then freezing when Justin just hands over the water pitcher. "Thanks," he says, feeling like his mouth is full of damp cement. "Uh, yeah, thanks," he adds, taking the fork Chris helpfully offers, sitting down again as slow as he can humanly manage. His thighs actually ache, for a moment.

It's pushed under his nose, dark and accusing.

"Can I get the next slice?" Justin asks hopefully, and his voice sounds oddly distant through the maelstrom of JC's hectic pulse. His hand doesn't shake when he pours the water, and he feels vaguely surprised. One sip, though -- it doesn't help much.

The fork goes in easily, sliding through a dense mix of sponge soaked in chocolate and chocolate icing and chocolate fudge sauce and chocolate flakes crusted on top, and it's warm, he can smell it slickly cloying in the air, and why did Joey cut him such a big slice? it's a conspiracy.

"Mmm," Chris murmurs, a sex noise, sitting across the table. JC glances up, sees Chris' fork digging into his cake again, and his stomach knots sourly as he raises the first bite slowly to his lips.

Yeah. It's warm.

It's warm, and sweet, and rich, and swamps his mouth with unbearably familiar pollution. His teeth touch, so he's chewing, right? but it's like paste, alien and disgusting and making his head swim with unaccustomed sugar.

"It's really nice," Lance says, ankle pressing hard into JC's shin under the table.

"Yeah, thanks, Joey," Justin adds, thickly, and Joey laughs and says,

"No, no -- thank Kelly, she's the one that wouldn't lemme go buy one--"

"Don't you think it's nice?" Chris says softly, undercut with metal, and JC looks up sharply as his fork cuts off another reluctant chunk. Chris' eyes are black, and JC can tell from the way he's sitting that he's got a hand on Justin's thigh.

It's fucking slime, he wants to say; "It's nice, yeah," he agrees, almost gagging on the words. Lance's ankle strokes up his leg, and JC presses into his, and yeah, okay, he knows they've gotta do this, okay. The contact is like a tacit agreement; Lance will help him annul this later.

"You know this position?" Lance mutters, and JC laughs.

"I'm getting... to know it... pretty damn well," he says, then hisses happily, because laughter forces Lance's cock deeper inside him and God but if there's one appendage that feels good fat it's that one.

"Yeah," Lance says, and twists his hips up, and JC sees sparks and almost shoots right there. He's been simmering for... twenty minutes, now? but if Lance's decided to talk, he doesn't think he's gonna last that much longer.

"Go on?" he says, hooking his arms tighter round Lance's neck. Lance's sitting on the edge of the bed, and JC's in his lap, ankles crossed near the base of Lance's back, ass humming like it's split wide open. It's a good position, he's discovered, but he can't think of much more to say than that. The words... aren't available, right now.


"What?" Lance says, and his hips have started making these tiny jolts, not thrusting so much as jabbing, making the sparks resound over and over against the back of JC's eyes. His neck's slippery under JC's wrists, and JC keeps having to clutch at him to keep balance-- which drives Lance's dick even deeper again. A vicious, glorious circle.

"This position. ah. Do that again."

"Like that?"


"I'll... take that as a yes," Lance says, adding a twist to it. JC whimpers happily, and Lance takes a deafening deep breath and then says, "yeah, this position."


Lance grins, wolfish and elfish with eyes that are so fucking clear it's unreal. "I've never tried it before," he says, and JC thinks, that's it? and then Lance's grin widens and he adds, "see, if you're fat, it just looks totally hideous," and JC looks down between them, where his dark cock's rubbing clear fluid against the perfect trembling slant of Lance's stomach, where his own chest and stomach and everything right down to the dark patch of hair looks tanned and smoothly rugged and sleek and, yeah, why not, perfect--

"That is a very good point," he murmurs, and Lance laughs, sliding his hands down JC's back and pressing his fingers into the dimples either side of JC's spine and digging in his nails and thrusting up hard and making JC moan like a girl.

Like a really, really well-fucked girl.

"And you know what else?" Lance adds, and JC shakes his head blindly because shit, he's gonna come in about three seconds, just a couple more of these deep shoving slides and he'll be exploding like a firecracker and melting onto the floor-- "I bet certain people wouldn't even begin to manage it," Lance murmurs, and that seems to be the cue for everything to get nasty, because his grip on JC's hips goes solid and demanding and he starts lifting him, lifting him up off of his cock until he's helpless with only the head hovering frustratingly and then pulling down sharply and driving back inside, and JC groans, fingernails scraping across Lance's broad shoulders as he does it again and again, and who knew he was this strong? and who guessed being used like this'd hurt? and who cared if he'd bruise tomorrow, because he fucking doesn't.

Lance's teeth are gritted and his eyes are closed, and JC manages to unwrap one of his arms from Lance's shoulders and get it between them, jerking himself off once, twice, and then Lance is gasping and coming, wrenching him down and grinding up and moaning hard, and JC finds himself shuddering helplessly with it, heat lashing endlessly beneath the entire surface of his skin.

Yeah, well. He never lasts long once Lance starts talking.

"You know," he manages, slumped in Lance's lap, feeling like he's just gone twenty rounds of electric therapy, "that was a really grim image, back there."

Lance folds slowly back onto the bed, pushing JC's legs carelessly out the way and taking deep, satisfied breaths that make his chest tremble against JC's ear. "Mmm," he says, and JC drags himself up to lie on the bed, then reaches down to pull Lance up after him.

He's surprisingly light, for being that strong.

In Chicago, Lance got a new pair of Levi's.

"I'm not sure they're even legal, babe," Chris tells him, after whistling for like an hour, while Justin stares at his midriff like he'd never seen one before.

JC feels a strange desire to go over and wrap his arms round Lance's waist from behind and claim him. He wants a banner, like some teenage girl, except he doubts many of them would think of proclaiming the twink and his treasure trail are mine mine mine.

"Management isn't letting me wear them out," Lance says, smoothing his hand lovingly over the low, low, if-it-wasn't-low-enough-it's-also-frayed waistband.

"Management doesn't want boyband gang bangin' on the streets of this fine city," Joey says, and JC almost wishes he could get hold of a camera, because 'bewildered lust' is one of the things they've been asked to pose as and they've never got it quite so right as now.

"Mmm, well," Lance says, and the hand creeps up to rest on an artfully jutting hipbone, fingertips idly stirring the frayed pale blue. He's tanned, too, JC realises, so apparently Lance was telling the truth when he said if he piles on enough suncream he develops the healthy glow thing the next day.

"Can you actually get your hands in your pockets?" Justin says, suddenly.

Lance laughs. "Anything in the pockets would totally ruin the silhouette." He swivels briefly on one heel. "Dude, I can't even wear underwear."

"Yowza," Justin mutters, and JC thinks he agrees with him.

"Okay," JC agrees, "but only if you help me through the munchies, okay?"

Lance nods, eyes already dilated. "Sure thing. I'll... distract you," he promises, and JC takes the joint and sucks on it, inhaling deeply and feeling the smoke blossom into dizziness in his lungs. It hits faster than he remembers -- probably because there's less of him to go round, he thinks, proudly.

"What is it?" he asks, after a few drags. "In it, I mean. The stuff."

"Thai," Lance says, and catches the hand JC isn't smoking with, sucking his fingers.

"It's good; it doesn't taste weird after," JC clarifies, then shivers as Lance's warm wet mouth starts trailing over the back of his hand. "You feel like... a good snail," he says, and Lance laughs against him, hot puffs of breath on damp skin.

"That's me," he murmurs, skating his mouth slowly up JC's arm, taking the skin at his elbow and worrying it gently in his teeth.

"Ah," JC says, squirming. "Tickles." His skin starts to glow, the inside of his head rolling on gently breezes.

"We don't want that," Lance says, and bites down harder before letting go and tracing the lines of JC's bicep instead. "I love your skin."

"I love your... almost everything," JC says, then grins, "especially your smell, the one with the thing in it. The red thing. fruit," he hazards, and Lance reaches his shoulder and bites down again, walking his knees round behind him, hooking an arm round JC's neck.


"Maybe," JC says; "I don't think so."

"Mango," Lance suggests, and JC nods, tilting his head back.

"Yeah," he says, and Lance kisses him, slow and liquid and the joint's burning low in his fingers but he couldn't care less.

"It's guava and mango," Lance says, eventually. "From Britain."

"Manguava," JC murmurs, and realises he hasn't had either fruit in months. Weird. They probably wouldn't be that fattening, either. Maybe they could get some in.

"Mangwa," Lance giggles, licking JC's chin. "Gwamava."

"Gwamava," JC says, liking it. "That rules." He ditches the joint and shifts round so he's lying on the floor, and Lance crawls down next to him, a river of heat folding all up his side. "I want some gwamava aftershave," he says.



"Look," Lance says, and he's breathing deeply and staring down at his chest. "It's like a parachute."

JC squints. "Mmm. What?"

"It is," Lance tells him. "Look. All the fibres." He breathes in, then holds it. "See? All the fibres, stretched, yeah?"

JC nods, staring at Lance's chest. His nipples are hard, making little dints in the fabric.

"Okay, and now--" he exhales fast "--it's like a parachute, see? Before it settles." JC watches the material float momentarily before melting back into the shape of Lance's chest, the dimples reappearing over his nipples.

"Yeah," he says vaguely, and leans over, licking at one of the dimples until Lance moans breathily and grabs JC's hand and pulls it down to the hem, tucking his fingers under. "Yeah," JC repeats, pulling the fabric up, returning to lick at the other nipple, tasting the salt and imagining he can taste gwamava as well.

Lance drags in a shuddery breath, then exhales slowly.

"Wow," JC says, delightedly, blinking. "Breathe in again."

"What?" Lance says, and does it.

"Hold it!" JC cries, then traces the slim ridges proudly with his tongue, cleaning the dust of salt from a heavenly stairway. "You've got steps basically all the way from your dick to your neck," he says, sitting back, walking his fingers up them, smooth beautiful steps fashioned of muscle, of bone.

"Steps!" Lance says, wriggling. "How many?"

"You two," Chris says, and JC jumps; when did Chris come in? "are fucked up," and JC looks at Lance and they collapse, together, giggling.

"You can talk, lardboy," Lance whispers, and JC claps his hand to his mouth and almost ruptures something, laughing so hard.

"What's with the old video?" Justin demands, and JC grins at him. Justin seems to hate all footage from Germany. Probably because he was an underage perky kid. JC'd try and wipe that part from his memory, too.

"Y'all can just wait and see," Chris is saying, and JC can see his thumb making circles on the back of Justin's hand. Justin glares for a few seconds longer, then flops down on Chris' lap. "Aaah," Chris protests, and Justin makes a show of spreading out so there's totally no way Chris can see the TV.

"We're only gonna watch it once, right?" Justin says, half-relenting and tipping his head back on Chris' shoulder.

"I still can't see," Chris says, wrestling Justin's hands down, then growls, deep in his throat. "How am I gonna prove my dreads' worth if you're not even looking at the screen?"

Justin kisses the side of Chris' neck, and JC glances at the ceiling, then at the TV, where black and white footage of signatures is racing through in double time.

"Okay, I'm gonna sort you out," Chris says; "Shift up, skinnikins," and he nudges JC in the ribs, and JC heaves a sigh that he doesn't really mean because hell, being all piled up against Lance, it's hardly a chore, is it?

Justin wriggles off Chris' lap, sighing happily between Chris and Joey. It's only really a four-person couch, so it's a tightish fit, but since each of the people is apparently supposed to have a bigger ass than JC or Lance, it's okay.

Lance's fingers slip round his hand. "We gonna watch this thing, or what?" he asks, and JC leans his head on his shoulder, but it's kinda sharp, so he shifts so he's pillowed by the couch instead. Screaming fills the air, and there they are, crooning away while Chris sings about lions. Idly, he thinks mean little thoughts about Chris and Joey being their personal couches.

JC, on the screen, has even worse hair than he remembers.

Chris, on the screen... would not make a good couch.

"Wow," Joey says, quietly. "I forgot you looked like that."

"I'm gonna go back in time and destroy that jacket," Lance says. "What was I thinking, that collar."

"It's hot," Chris says, abstractly. "Don't destroy. You look all... vampire-y."

"And that's good?" JC jokes, but he knows what Chris means. "Anyway, look at the rest of us."

"Yeah, you're the heartthrob, Bass," Chris says, with a sly little grin.

"I'm gonna go back in time," Justin says suddenly, grabbing the remote and rewinding. "Just see if I don't."

"Aha," Chris crows. "You be likin' the dreads, Poptart?"

"I be likin' the... well, shit, you know I did," Justin says, sounding kinda wild, then growls softly. "Why the hell wasn't I legal?"

"Yeah, you weren't even a blip on the radar," Chris teases, as the video begins again. "Nothing, nada, niet..."

"You sure hit a few radars," Joey says, and Lance laughs.

"Yeah, with those cheekbones," he murmurs, then sits up straighter when screen-Chris works the crowd with one hand; "jesus, Chris, you look like some sexy European reggae guy--"

"He's workin' it, alright," Justin says, and JC hears a soft touch of lips on skin. "Damnit," Justin says again. "You look so hot."

Chris laughs. "Oh, thin and miserable," he says, "but, the dreads, the dreads! They rule, right?"

"They rock mah world," Justin agrees, as Joey cuts in with,

"Yeah, the rumbling years. I know exactly what you mean."

JC feels Lance's thin fingers wrap tighter around his hand; we don't. He glances sideways, catches Lance's secure little smile, returns it with one of his own. No, no. He doesn't know exactly what Chris means -- he understands, of course, but he knows Chris is talking shit. After all, just look at Lance now. He's so much happier, they both are; of course they are.

The Healthy Relationship (tm)

phonology: Jayce rhymes with space, right?

squirmy feeling: God, this story was hard to finish. I started out thinking I'd go gleeful and evil, and then didn't, and blinked a lot. um, so, I know everyone always asks for feedback, but I'd really really like to know how this one hit people. yeah? Or, hey, or post a comment in the livejournal. unless it's broken again. muttermutter.

mad bonus points: to, like, the dozen lovely people it took to actually get me to post the damn thing, and to everyone who realised that Justin and Chris were gettin' it on in the other room while Lance was going down on JC in the kitchen. :)