For Nautica, in the 2002 Don We Now Our Gay Apparel secret santa. Many thanks to Tiffany Rawlins, who told me about the perfect place, and to Amber, for much useful information.
by Lesa Soja
Lance needs out, needs to get out, go outside. He doesn't quite mean to hammer on the connecting door, but there is no answer and his hand falls more and more heavily against the wood. "JC?" he calls. "JC! You up?" His blood is humming.
He shifts from one foot to the other, favoring his sore ankle. The stupid song is still stuck in his head: why don't you drive through my heart? Can I take your order?... There is still no answer and he pushes abruptly at the handle. The door swings open easily.
JC's room is quiet and dim, curtains drawn loosely closed. JC himself is an indistinct form under the blankets on the bed. In the corner by the bathroom, the gray T-shirt he refuses to give up to hotel laundries is hung over a chair to dry.
"JC!" Lance says, rocking on his good foot. "Wake up! We need to go out."
JC lifts his head then, at last. "Lance?" he says, slowly. "What's goin' on?" He pushes up on one elbow to look around at Lance. The sheet slips down his bare shoulder.
Lance glances away quickly and waves a hand in the air. "New York, C, that's what. C'mon, get up, okay?"
JC turns, yawning, to sit up properly. Then he looks at Lance and smiles. "We've been here before, you know."
"New York," Lance repeats. He waves both hands this time. New York City and a morning with no interviews, no performances, no questions about Lou and no announcements about the album and this is no time to stay inside a hotel room. They're going out.
He walks over to the window and twitches the curtains open, letting in a swath of daylight. JC blinks a little.
"You're wired," he tells Lance. His smile is fond and calm.
These windows can't be opened, of course, but the skyline outside looks bright and clear and cleanly drawn. Lance can almost feel the brisk air on his skin. "Besides," he says, "this just opened up. It's so cool."
"Mmm," JC says. He tugs his pillow up to the headboard and leans back against it. "Tell me."
"Oh, man. It's. The new Earth and Space Center, at the American Museum of Natural History." Lance starts pacing around the room as he talks. "It opened last month. Less than a month ago, actually. There's supposed to be all these new halls - and the planetarium is in a huge sphere now - and a Space Theater - and glass walls - and this big spiral ramp through the history of the universe -"
"It sounds really neat," JC says.
"Yeah," Lance says. "We have to go."
"Yeah," JC says. He settles a little farther down into his pillow. "Wow. I bet it's gonna be packed. Did you already get tickets?"
Lance stares. He doesn't mind about the crowds; he's been almost looking forward to sliding in among a throng of people, into the heart of that buzz. But he forgot about tickets. Tickets! How could he forget that?
JC is looking at him, quietly attentive.
"Well," Lance says. "Or. There's. We could do anything, we could go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art instead, or the Empire State Building, or, um, the Statue of Liberty, or... I mean, New York!" He sweeps his hand towards the window and trips over a sneaker on the floor. "Fuck."
"Lance! Did you hurt your ankle again?"
"No. It's fine." Lance waves the question away. He's spent long enough cooped up, staying off his feet. "It's much better."
"Let me see," JC says. He scoots back a little and taps the mattress next to him. Lance sighs and goes to sit down there, on the edge of the bed. He swings his foot up onto the sheet too, and JC carefully takes off Lance's shoe and touches the wrap around his ankle, probing with gentle fingers. "Yeah," JC says finally. "The swelling's definitely down."
"Uh huh," Lance says. He is watching JC's thumb move in a tiny arc.
JC rubs his ankle again and leaves that hand there, wrapped warmly over the top of Lance's foot. "You need to start taking care of yourself, Scoop."
Lance glances down. "Yeah. I know."
"Have you eaten yet today?"
"Yeah, I had breakfast."
"Did you finish your toast this time?"
Lance snaps his head up to see JC grinning mischievously. "That was not my idea," he insists for the ten millionth time.
"It was pretty funny, though. A thousand and twenty-five dollars, that's pretty crazy, man."
Lance rolls his eyes.
"Everything's crazy right now, isn't it," JC goes on. His voice is still light and warm. "We're all so hyped."
Lance looks away again, shrugs.
"Is it the album?" JC asks.
Lance takes a breath and then hesitates. It is, and it isn't. It's the new album, it's the new tour, it's the hum of the city rising up to them from thirty floors below. It's the brand new space center he's been dying to see. It's a new contract and canyons of debt behind it, having seen contracts get broken, and two dark suits still hanging in his closet at home. It's the warmth of JC's sheets under his hand.
JC strokes his knee softly and Lance jumps. "You'll feel better," JC says. He doesn't say when, though.
"Yeah," Lance says stupidly. He fidgets with the hem of the blanket, twisting it under his fingers. He wants to get up, maybe pace some more, but JC still has hold of his ankle, tethering him to the bed. JC's hand is too warm and too still, and the mattress is too soft underneath them. Lance steels himself against the thrum of his muscles.
"Lance," JC says again. Lance won't look, doesn't want to see JC sinking down in the bed. JC's legs will cramp if he stays like that too long. "Lance," JC says gently, "give me your hand."
JC has finally let go of his leg, and Lance thinks he ought to get up while he has the chance. JC's hand is extended towards him, reaching towards him, completely steady in midair. Lance lays his fingers over JC's.
JC smiles and shifts his grip to Lance's wrist. He gives a sharp tug, and Lance tips forward. For a moment Lance is poised up on his bent knee, and then his other leg bends too and JC keeps pulling and Lance sprawls across JC's chest onto his shoulder.
"You should give yourself a break," JC says quietly into Lance's ear. "Take things a little easy for a while." His hands move lingeringly over Lance's back.
In his own room Lance felt like he would suffocate in the wide bed, under the blankets. The moment he woke up he got to his feet and got going. Now his head is a little dizzy, and the press of the mattress under his hip is almost comforting. JC's slow strokes hook under his skin and make his throat itch.
Lance tries to collect himself. He didn't want to lie down because he was sick of lying still, sick and tired, and scared. JC is anything but still. His eyes are shining and dancing, and the corners of his lips are twitching with controlled humor. Lance swallows hard under JC's gaze. The air between their mouths feels heavy and charged.
JC kisses him. JC kisses his mouth wetly, and he opens to JC's tongue. JC licks over Lance's lower lip, and laps at his upper one, and Lance's impatience is back in full force.
While JC strokes up his back again, underneath his T-shirt now, Lance levers his hands in between their bodies to scrabble at the blanket separating them. He can't seem to draw back far enough to really pull it out of the way. Finally he gets it shoved down towards the foot of the bed. In the next moment Lance's hand slides down JC's bare side to his equally bare hip.
Lance's lungs fill with heat. The riot in his head is matched only by the answering heat of JC's skin. He kisses JC blindly, and every high, soft noise JC makes in the top of his throat ratchets Lance's pulse even higher. His mouth slips to JC's rough jaw, then the side of JC's neck, and JC gasps at that so Lance digs in and stays there, his own jaw working.
Suddenly there is a shrill ringing next to them. Lance flinches. He lifts his head, almost trembling, to glance at JC's phone on the nightstand.
"Leave it," JC pants. He draws Lance down again with the hand he has wrapped over Lance's nape, and Lance falls eagerly back into the stronghold of JC's arms.
They stay inside all morning.