by Lesa Soja
"Oh, yeah," Joey said, and Lance pushed his finger farther up. "Right there, yeah, yeah. C'mon - oh - "
It was easy to tell when Joey was getting close, if nothing else, then by the way his voice got breathier and breathier as he tensed. Joey braced one arm against the door of the stall, and Lance shifted his knees a little and sucked harder. He knew, now. And sure enough, there was Joey, muttering "aw, aw," and jerking nearly out of Lance's mouth. Lance grabbed onto Joey's hip and held on until Joey gave a last long thrust and straightened out his spine. Then Joey dropped a hand on Lance's shoulder and whispered, "Oh, man." Lance wiped his chin.
"Lance, are you, um," Joey said, while Lance was washing his hands. "Y'know, what Chris said. Are you upset about something?"
"No," Lance said. His lip felt stiff.
"'Cause, you know, if there's anything…"
"It's okay, Joey."
"Okay," Joey said.
They walked back to the dressing room. When they were still at the other end of the hall, they heard voices that got louder as they got closer. Joey opened the door, and they saw JC and Justin standing next to the couch.
"- all the time," Justin said.
JC opened his mouth to answer and then looked at Lance and Joey standing in the doorway and closed it again.
After a minute, Justin said, "I'm gonna go lift." He pushed past Lance and disappeared down the hallway.
"He okay?" Joey said.
"Yeah," JC said. "He's fine."
Chris opened the door. "Hey, Lance," he said.
"I'm, um, I wanted to say I'm sorry," Lance said when he was inside. "About yesterday."
"Yeah, whatever," Chris said.
"No, I mean, I guess I've been kind of, distracted. I'm sorry."
"Whatever," Chris said again, but he seemed mollified.
Lance moved closer. "And I'm - it's not gonna happen again, okay?"
Chris looked at him and gave him a half-smile. Lance put his palm on Chris's chest and kissed him as softly as he could.
Chris's hands landed on his shoulders and shoved him away. "What the fuck, Lance?" Chris reeled back a few steps. "What do you think you're doing?"
Lance let his hand fall to his side. "I just," he said. "I thought."
"You thought what?" Chris said. "You thought you'd, you'd, make it up to me?"
Lance didn't say anything.
"You think that's how you get around people?" Chris asked, his voice getting shriller. "Do you know how dumb that is? That doesn't work, Lance."
"Not on you, I guess," Lance said, and then he heard himself and flinched.
Chris stared at him. "You're fucking Justin, aren't you," he accused.
Lance actually hadn't ever fucked Justin. But Chris looked like he was ready to punch him if Lance said no. "Sort of," he said. His hands were shaking a little.
"I knew it," Chris said. "You little shits."
Lance looked away.
"You know what crap like that could do to us? It was bad enough when Justin started with JC. If JC finds out - "
"Yeah, he knows, okay?" Lance snapped. His stomach felt cold.
"Oh, yeah, right. And I suppose Joey knows, too?"
Lance shook his head, then shrugged. He wasn't sure.
"Wait," Chris said. "You - Are you fucking Joey? Too?"
Lance looked at him helplessly. Chris went on without waiting for an answer.
"You fucking twink! Have you thought about this at all? I mean, have you given a single thought to what you're doing?"
"It's none of your business!" Lance yelled, and his voice slid up into the highest register he had.
"It is if you fuck us up!"
"I haven't fucked up onstage!"
"No more than usual," Chris said.
"Fuck you," Lance said.
Chris's eyes looked scary. Chris moved forward, and Lance thought maybe he was about to get the shit kicked out of him. But Chris stalked past him and opened the door.
"Just leave," he said. "Just - go."
Chris's hand was white-knuckled on the knob. Lance went.
They stayed in good hotels now, and the walls would have been thick enough to block out most of the sounds, if JC's and Justin's voices hadn't been so familiar. Lance turned his pillow over, looking for a cool side, and then shoved it to the floor and grabbed the other one.
He had a headache all the next day, but Chris was in the quiet room. Joey and Justin were playing Final Four and screeching continuously at their teams. Lance wished they would just shut up.
"JC wants you to come over," Justin said. His mouth was set.
"Justin - " Lance said.
"Let's go," Justin said.
When they came into the room, JC was pulling stuff out of his suitcase. He looked up and smiled. "That was quick," he said.
"Yeah," Justin said.
JC came over and kissed him. Lance watched the line where their mouths met; they looked almost still when you couldn't see their tongues. JC's fingers were rubbing up along the inside of Justin's forearm, though. Lance bent his head briefly to pull off his shirt.
When JC let go of Justin, he turned to Lance and put a hand on his shoulder, warm against his skin. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," Lance said. JC kissed him.
JC's lips were wet already, sliding smoothly over Lance's. Lance reached forward and licked them, too. JC pressed down harder against him. It was easy with JC; Lance knew right where to put his hands without having to think about it. He rested his palms on JC's hips, and JC swayed from side to side between them. Lance turned his head up a little more into the angle of JC's mouth. He could feel his own bloodstream running all over.
A hand fell on his back and he turned around, startled, to look into Justin's narrowed eyes.
Justin grabbed Lance's wrist and pulled him towards the bed. He pushed him down backwards, and Lance threw out his arms and legs to break his fall. Justin pressed in between his thighs and reached for Lance's cock.
Justin's mouth was relentless, drawing heavy shudders from him. Too fast, Lance thought distinctly - that's too fast. He found himself almost squirming under Justin's hands, jerking out of rhythm. Justin swallowed him again, and suddenly he needed the next one as much as his hips tensed away from it. Too - too -
JC settled next to them, at the side edge of Lance's vision. His nose rubbed against Lance's shoulder, and his breath was fast on Lance's arm. Lance felt licking on his wrist, on his dick, on his palm, between his fingers, and then all he could do was claw his other hand into the blanket and come.
Justin lurched towards JC and rolled over, dragging JC on top of himself. By the time Lance pushed up on his elbow to look at them, JC was already thrusting into Justin. Justin's mouth was open. Lance leaned over to kiss him just as he was twisting his head in the other direction. Lance tried reaching for Justin's chest then, but got only his elbow. He turned and watched JC for a minute.
Justin said, "J- " in a tight voice, and his shoulders hunched up off the mattress and back flat again. JC's face was drawn into clean, arched lines, strands of hair stuck to the edges of his cheeks. His teeth pressed down on his lower lip.
Lance got kind of cold, sitting there with the sweat cooling on his back, so when he got back to his own room he went into the bathroom and ran a bath as hot as he could stand it. Some water slopped over the side when he got in. He slid down as far as he could without pushing his feet back out again and rested his head against the back of the tub. He closed his eyes.
When the water got lukewarm, he stood up and got out. He wrapped himself in some towels and then went into the bedroom and got in bed, towels and all, and piled the covers up on top of himself.
He slept straight through till morning.
He woke up with a hardon, already a little sweaty because of all the blankets. He pushed them off, stretched his arms out, and yawned, feeling the muscles in his shoulders contract and release. A little bit of sunlight came through the curtains. It was nice lying in bed in the morning and not having to do anything else. He yawned again and reached a hand down to his cock.
At first he rubbed loosely, almost casually. Then he slid his other hand across his throat, his thumb seeking out the line of his collarbone, and his grip on his dick tightened. When he forked his fingers and ran the V of them down from the base, the perfect diamond between JC's cheekbone and jawbone bloomed up in his mind. Lance squeezed even harder. At the next twist of his hips, though, JC's face drifted away again.
Near the end, Lance circled his fingers back around his cock, just under the head, not moving his fingers or his wrist anymore but shaking his whole hand from the elbow, almost holding his breath in between shivering gasps for air, his fingertips clenching down on all the spots he knew. When he came, he let himself groan into the quiet of the room.
Afterwards he shifted a little, resettling the pillow, and gave himself a few last swipes across the head with his thumb. Then he folded both hands on his stomach. The sun coming in the window was stronger now, backlighting the weave of the curtains. He felt relaxed but not sleepy, and maybe just the beginnings of hungry.
A guy jerked me off, he thought, and snorted at himself. His list-keeping days seemed like a very long time ago.
He carried his bag downstairs, and the others were standing in the lobby in close discussion with the guards. Lance walked straight through the middle of them and got on the nearest bus.
He woke up from a nap to indeterminate gray daylight, unsure whether it was even still the same day. He reached for his watch but found it had stopped. He got up and went up to the front of the bus, where Justin was sitting looking out the window.
"Hey, Justin," he said, "do you - "
Justin turned around, and Lance saw that his face was blotchy.
"Hey," he said. "Don't -"
Justin raised his eyebrows.
"Don't cry," Lance said weakly.
"Fuck off, Lance," Justin said. "Just 'cause you never wanna let anything show - "
Justin's nostrils flared, and he turned away again. "Just leave me alone," he said.
Lance went back to his bunk and lay down again.
His phone rang, and he saw that it was his mom. He picked up. "Hi, Mom," he said.
"Sweetie!" she said. "I'm so glad to finally reach you."
"Yeah," he said. "I'm sorry I haven't called you back. Things have just been so crazy."
"Oh, I know," she said. "You boys just never take a break anymore."
"Yeah, I guess."
"So what have you been up to?"
"Oh - " he said. "The tour. You know. What about you?"
He closed his eyes and listened while she told him about the reviews she'd collected, and her new haircut, and Stacy coming to visit.
"Well," she finished, "I know you have things to do, so I'll let you go."
"Yeah," he said.
"You take care of yourself, now, you hear?"
"Yeah, Mom," he said. "I will."
"Oh, hey, Joey."
"Hey," Joey said. He came in, and Lance held still while Joey kissed him. Joey pulled back. Lance looked down.
"Lance?" Joey said. "Do you wanna?"
Lance pressed his lips together. "I think maybe I better not," he said. "Right now."
"Oh," Joey said.
"Joey - "
"No, that's - yeah. I'm gonna - I'll see you later."
"Yeah," Lance said.
He got himself off, though, every morning these days. Sometimes he thought about hands on his skin - not necessarily JC's, just the feel of someone rubbing - and sometimes about breath on his stomach.
He didn't exactly think about what Justin had said, but he remembered it. When JC sat down next to him on the couch, Lance shifted over without looking until his shoulder and thigh were pressed against JC's. JC's body felt warm everywhere they were touching. He glanced over at Lance.
A little while later the sound manager came in to talk to Justin about the beatboxing routine. JC got up and got himself a soda, and stood by the table drinking it.
Justin came running up to the front of the bus. "M - I - C," he sang loudly, and shot a finger at JC. JC jumped up and pointed back at Justin.
"See you in hell!" he declared.
"K - E - Y - "
"Why? Because they paid us!"
and they finished together, "F - U - C - K - U!"
Justin dissolved in giggles while JC pounded him on the back. "Do you remember," Justin choked out, "the look on Keri's face - "
Lance glanced around for someone to roll his eyes at, but Chris and Joey were both bent over their plates at the table. He looked back. JC had started tickling Justin, and Justin was panting for breath. His fingers sank viciously into JC's thigh.
"Are we talking anymore?" Lance said.
"What the fuck ever," Chris said.
"No, c'mon, Chris." Lance paused. "Are you still mad?"
Chris sighed. "You know what," he said, "do what you want. All of you. I don't care."
"Look," Lance said, "you don't understand. If you just - "
"I don't wanna understand," Chris said. "Just leave me the hell out of it, okay?"
"Chris - " Lance said. But Chris had already put his headphones back on.
"I need to pay some attention to Justin," JC said.
Lance looked down. JC studied him.
"He's pissed," Lance said.
"He's okay," JC said. "He just needs, y'know."
"Yeah," Lance said finally.
JC looked at him a minute longer and then said, "Okay. Just so you know."
"Okay." JC turned to go.
"JC," Lance said. JC turned around again, and when Lance got close enough, JC kissed him, his mouth moving softly against Lance's, lips parted but not touching Lance's tongue. His fingers stroked Lance's side. Lance leaned in to him, hands pressed to JC's shoulders. Then JC moved back and put his palms on Lance's cheeks.
"Okay?" JC said, and Lance looked at him. JC smiled and ran his hand over Lance's hair. Then he left.
Lance went to bed, but came awake suddenly at four thirty in the morning and knew right away that he wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. He turned the light on because he could, because no one was going to come in and tell him he was ruining his rest, and sat up in the bed. He thought maybe he should use the time to read some contracts or something. He didn't really like reading, though.
He came into the rehearsal room and found JC stretching on the floor. JC had both hands wrapped over the toes of his left foot, his back curled taut. He looked up without lifting his head. "Hey, Lance," he said.
"Hi," Lance said. He sat down and started stretching too, pulling one arm across his body and using the forearm of the other to hold it in place.
JC switched to his right leg. "Oh, man," JC said. "I am too stiff."
Lance curled his arm over his head, feeling the pull in his side. "Mm," he said.
JC got to his feet, planted a toe on the ground, and began rotating his ankle in clockwise circles. He didn't say anything else until the others came in.
They got fried chicken for dinner four nights in a row, from four different caterers. They all groaned, but they ate it anyway, except Justin, who was just picking at his plate. He looked like a little kid, wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt over a long-sleeved one. Lance went over to him.
"Eat some, Justin," he said sharply. "Or you'll crash later."
"Yeah, right," Justin said, not looking at him. After Lance walked away, though, he turned back and saw Justin pick up a wing and begin taking methodical bites.
Lance hadn't entirely intended, the time he'd turned Joey down, to break off with him altogether. But Joey didn't come over again, and by the time Lance realized that Joey was probably waiting for him to make a move, so much time had gone by that he thought maybe it would be better just to let it go.
He sauntered past Joey onstage and caught a breath of Joey's sweat, and it didn't seem real that his pillow wouldn't smell like that again. But he still didn't go to Joey's room.
"Hey, Lance, can you do my back?" JC said.
Lance froze for a split second, but then made himself take the tube of glitter and squeeze some out onto his fingers. JC turned around and he smeared it across JC's back. His fingers dipped and glided over JC's shoulder blades. JC's skin felt a little cool at the moment, but Lance knew he would be warm enough once they were at the club.
He took a breath and patted JC's neck. "You're done," he said.
"Thanks, Lance," JC said. He reached for his tank top and pulled it on. "Want me to do you?"
"No, that's okay. I'm gonna be wearing a shirt."
"So?" JC said.
"Well," Lance said. JC looked at him, waiting.
Lance took off his T-shirt, and JC's hands skated efficiently across his back. He tried to breathe lightly, to keep from moving.
"There," JC said. "All set."
"Thanks," Lance said.
JC smiled and went to put the glitter away. Lance pulled his shirt back over his head.
Lance sat down on his bed. Then he stood up again and put on their CD. The sound washed over him in long sweeps of clear notes, the steady beats and the voices that could have been anyone's.
First he moved a little randomly, as if it were just something he was hearing. Then he wound up falling into his steps. When the songs began repeating, he tried dancing Joey's part, which was not unlike his, and then Chris's, and JC's, and Justin's. They weren't really that different either. He danced until his legs shook and then stopped the CD mid-song. He lay face down on the bed, pressing his cheek against the sheet.
"Well, we really just, we have our own style, and all, and they have a style, which is, you know, different, from ours, and so really, I don't think of us as, it's not, you know, a competition, or anything," JC said.
JC had the interview flusters again. He looked good, though, Lance thought. The black shirt suited him.
JC didn't get asked a lot else. Joey and Chris just cracked a few jokes.
"No, I'm not dating anyone," Lance said when it was his turn.
Justin got the brunt of the questions, but he was ready for them and answered gamely. They were proud of the album, he said, they were excited about the tour, and they were grateful to the fans.
While Justin was denying that he was working on a solo project, Lance glanced up and found JC looking at him.
He was so exhausted after the show that he crawled right into bed and put on the TV. He watched for a little while, rubbing half-heartedly at his dick, but after listening to the weather forecast for a city he wasn't going to be in and the final score for a team he had never seen play, he turned it back off again.
In the morning, the wake-up call dragged him out of dreams which felt terribly vivid, although all he could remember was that he kept having to park a car. It was almost a relief then to have to get up and get dressed and go downstairs to meet the others.
There was a knock at his door, and JC was standing there. Lance felt his pulse pick up.
"Hey," JC said.
"Can I come in?"
"Oh - yeah," Lance said.
JC shut the door and took Lance's hand before leaning in to kiss him. A small breath escaped Lance's throat. He closed his eyes, put his arm around JC's waist, and kissed back.
After a minute JC paused. Lance opened his eyes again and found JC smiling at him. He wasn't sure what kind of expression he himself was making, but JC raised an eyebrow and dipped his head in for another kiss, short and warm, still smiling. Lance let go of JC's hand and put that arm around JC too to pull him closer. Then he seized on JC's mouth.
JC ran his fingers over Lance's cheek and up into his hair, pushing a little, and Lance tilted his head to the side. While JC was licking his shoulder, he thought about JC saying, I need to pay some attention to Lance, and what Justin's mouth might have tasted like when JC kissed him at the door. But then JC came back up to his lips, and Lance stopped thinking about Justin.
It was a heady, giddy feeling to have JC's tightly strung weight above him again, to catch tremors from the tensed arms bracketing his shoulders - so inebriating that it was hard to let JC shift down, even when JC nuzzled at his hipbone. The brushes of JC's arms against the insides of his thighs brought their own rush, though, and then JC started licking at his cock.
After some swirling minutes of JC's mouth, Lance drew in a sharp breath, and JC looked up as if he had heard something in it. He knelt up and pushed at Lance's thighs with his hands. Lance curled his legs over JC's shoulders and squeezed, JC's hand already sliding warmth across his ass. JC's cock felt dizzying pushing into him. His eyes blinked open every so often, and JC was looking down at him every time.
"Night, Lance," JC said when he was dressed again.
"Night, C," Lance said, stretching.
Lance was staring out the window again, humming to himself. They were driving through someplace flat, Wisconsin or Illinois maybe, where he could see all the way to the horizon.
"What's so fascinating?" Joey asked, his hand over his phone.
Lance looked up. "Sunset," he said. "It's gorgeous."
Joey glanced out the window. "S'okay," he said, and went on to the kitchen, murmuring, "sorry, you what?"
Lance sat and watched the clouds change from gold to orange to pink.
He tumbled down on the bed and gasped as JC sprawled across him. JC pushed up right away and began kissing him again. Lance ran his hands down JC's back and partway back up, lingering just beneath the crumpled-up folds of JC's T-shirt.
JC slid his tongue into the hollow at the base of Lance's throat, and Lance moaned so that JC would come back to that spot. He felt kind of dumb doing it, but it was still a million times better than having to open his mouth like Joey or Justin and say something like That feels good or even Do that again. He didn't know how they managed it.
JC was obligingly licking his neck, though, rasping cool trails across his skin, and Lance dug his fingers into JC's bony shoulders. When JC moved down his chest, he arched his head back and let his breathing go.
Justin threw himself down next to Lance on the couch and put his head in Lance's lap. Lance looked at him for a minute. Then he reached down reflexively and began stroking Justin's head over the bandana, a plain cotton one because they were just on the bus. After a while, he realized that Justin was asleep. He stopped petting again.
Lance stepped up to the front when it was time for his share of the patter. "How're y'all feelin' tonight?" he said, wiping his forehead, and he could physically feel the noise radiating back to him from the crowd. He dropped his voice a few steps lower for "We have a terrific show planned for you," and the screaming deepened into a roar. He smiled. "We hope you're gonna like it."
They went right into God Must Have Spent and nailed it, Justin and JC hitting all their cues dead on. Lance glanced around at the signs while he wasn't singing and grinned to himself. There were a lot for JC. Then they started dancing again. He stepped and twisted and threw his arms out without missing a beat.
When they struck the pose at the end of It's Gonna Be Me and held it, panting, Lance glanced over and caught Chris's eye, just before the lights went down. Chris was glaring.
Lance heard the scrape of the keycard, and JC came in. Lance hopped off the bed and went over to him. "Hey, Jayce!" he said.
"Hey," JC said.
Lance pressed a quick kiss to JC's mouth. "You tired?" he asked.
"Oh, nah," JC said.
Lance grinned, and JC smiled back at him.
"Hey - " JC said then. His hand came up to scratch the back of his head. "Do you wanna get Justin over?"
Lance paused, looking at the tilt of JC's eyes, the outline of his cock, and the way his elbow stuck up in the air. He touched JC's cheek.
"Yeah," he said.