Chris wandered in, more perturbed than was usual, lately. "Our problem child is being problematic," he announced, and collapsed onto the sofa. The absence of melodrama was an ominous sign, even if the wailing from across the hall was becoming a daily soundtrack.
"What now," JC said, not looking up from his notebook. Chris turned on the TV and slumped across a pile of cushions. Lance looked at Joey. Joey looked back and glared. "I'm not doing it either," he snapped.
"Well, I'm fucking off duty," Chris snarled, flipping channels with white knuckles, "so it's one of you."
Lance shifted uncomfortably in the silence. He didn't see why they couldn't just let Justin do whatever the hell His Highness wanted, but he wasn't in the mood to be called callous. "Just do it," JC told him, with that perfected art of making Lance feel guilty and lazy for doing what he thought they should all be doing--nothing.
"Fine," he said through gritted teeth, and got up.
He followed the shouting to Justin's suite and didn't bother asking if he could come in. That was everyone's first mistake, he thought--standing outside pleading with a door while Justin got his rocks off, withholding their permission to come in and help him though his self-inflicted bullshit. So Lance walked in and was met with shrieked outrage. Justin was a red-eyed, snot-nosed mess, pretty lips red and swollen, cheeks stained pink and shiny with tears, hoarse voice greeting him with shrieked obscenities.
"Shut the fuck up," Lance said, and sat down. "What's wrong?"
"Fuck you," Justin shouted. "You know exactly what's wrong."
Lance let the barb fly right past him. He'd ached with guilt for interminable weeks, months, before caving to the inevitable. He'd let Justin exacerbate it for all of five days before the illusion of grief imploded and he'd seen what he saw now--a spoilt brat whose tears were over losing something he'd had, not over losing something he'd loved.
"What," Lance said with sarcastic patience, "is wrong at the moment? Coffee not sweet enough? Room temperature too cold? Did somebody use the wrong gel on your hair?"
"Fuck you," Justin said again, still vicious, but now more sullen than outraged.
"Tell me what it is and I'll fix it," Lance promised, leaning forward to catch a ringlet of hair, letting it loop greedily, gratefully, around his little finger.
Justin sighed and leaned into the touch. "I'm lonely," he sighed, staring up through lashes spiked with tears. "I know you think I didn't care and maybe I didn't know I cared but--" he twisted around until he was kneeling between Lance's legs, and then placed warm hands on Lance's thighs. "--But I miss it so bad and it never stops hurting." His hands exerted gentle enough pressure to spread Lance's legs apart, and Lance caught them and pushed them back. Justin knelt there, clutching Lance's hands to his chest. "You're so cruel," he said, pitifully.
Lance rolled his eyes. "You're a fucking prick," he said. "You don't get what you want, this time."
"I--" Justin's lip trembled and his eyes filled.
Lance stood up. "Tell me what the problem is, and I'll fix it. Or don't tell me, and I won't fix it. Or fix it your fucking self, if it bothers you that much."
With a slow sinous ripple, Justin stood up, newly-long body towering over Lance's. "You're not going to win," he promised.
"I already have," Lance said. "So you might as well get over yourself."
"I won't," Justin said, and laid himself back on the bed. "Go back to your new boyfriend."
"And who," Lance asked, "do I send in for the next tantrum?"
Lance shook his head. "JC's exhausted. Do you want Chris or Joey?"
Justin's eyes glittered. "Well, in that case... I only want JC, for the rest of the week."
He won't break me, Lance repeated to himself. He will not get to me like this.
"You think I can't break you," Justin sneered up at him, arranging his long legs in an inviting sprawl. "But if you let me break JC instead, which one of us is the worst?"
Lance shook his head again. "You are."
Justin smirked. "You started it."
"You tell yourself that," Lance said weakly, and walked out.
He had to pause outside the door to his and Joey's suite, breathe calmly and put his hands in his pockets until they stopped shaking. It was the right thing to do, he told himself, for the thousandth time. The consequences of doing it had proved he was right to do it.
As usual, the fact that he'd been right about Justin was little consolation.
He knocked twice and slipped inside. Chris looked up from the TV, face less stressed than it had been. "It's quiet. Amazing."
Lance shook his head. "It won't last long."
"I'll go next," Joey promised, but Lance shook his head again. Joey held out his arms and Lance fell into them, gratefully. "It was my fault," Joey insisted, another statement repeated so many times it was meaningless.
"Leave him to me," Lance insisted, looking around the room. "Leave him to me for the rest of the week, okay?"
JC looked at him with red eyes, trying to hide his relief. "Are you sure?"
Lance nodded. Joey tugged on Lance's waist until they were nestled tightly in the corner of the sofa. "It's worth it," he whispered into Lance's ear, a mere breath of warm air. "No matter what," he said, lips warm and gentle against taut skin, "I'm glad I broke up with him."
Lance nodded tiredly. "It was the right thing to do," he repeated, heart heavy.