The logical side of Lance, the one that had memorized the multiplication chart a week before anyone in his second grade class and won his fifth grade spelling bee, that side knew that a month wasn’t terribly long to be apart from someone and that the panic he was feeling was an overreaction of ridiculous proportions.
The emotional side of Lance, the one that loved JC even when he was sick and whiny and leaving tissues everywhere on a small bus, or when he forgot to take showers and smelled mysteriously like wet dog, that side didn't care that he was overreacting.
It couldn't be helped of course, the separation. JC still had fans waiting with forty dollar tickets to see him in thirteen states and Lance had classes starting in two days and there was no way for either of them to get out of those commitments. Which didn’t stop Lance from wondering if Mina would take notes for him all month in Advanced Macro Econ. He could catch up in his other three, no problem. Right.
JC, who was being rather uncooperative by dint of his not being sick or smelly or irritable or any of those things at the moment, snuck up behind Lance and clung like an overgrown child. "You sure you need to go back to school? You could totally be my kept man."
That was a switch, since only yesterday Lance had been offering to become JC's PR management (the guy Jive had assigned was a complete ass) and forget this whole college thing. At which point JC had poked him in the stomach and said rather forcefully, "Two more years and I have myself a boyfriend with a Bachelor's of Arts in Business. My mom will be beside herself. If you think you're doing anything to screw that up, think again."
JC kept talking, "Or we could fake my death and I could go back to Florida with you. I mean, being dead isn't such a big thing. I just have to stay out of the way for a while."
Lance was tempted. Not being able to go out meant that he would have JC to himself, every hour of every day. "That would be really bad for your career."
"I love you more."
Lance squirmed until he was facing JC enough to kiss him. "But you don't really have to choose, I think, is the issue. It's just a month, C."
"That would be so much more convincing if you didn't say it like you were warming up to sing soprano in Mozart's Requiem."
Lance laughed a little, pressing his smile to JC's lips. His, "Work with me here, yeah?" was a little muffled.
JC obviously understood, because he ran his hands up the length of Lance's back and asked, "Why do you always want so much of me? Why?"
Lance thought about saying he had high standards, or because the magazines always made JC out to be such a sweetheart, or because he liked to make Justin jealous. He whispered, "'Cuz my faith is always well-founded."
JC took him to bed and held him down without the aid of rope or ribbon or knotted sheets. At the end of the two days, he let Lance go. Lance could still feel the air keeping him where he lay. He pushed against it with all his might, pushing even after he got back home, back to their apartment, back to where he should have felt a pull toward.
French toast was the only thing Mina could cook with great results and conveniently, one of Lance's very favorite foods. She accompanied him back to the apartment after their first macro class, fried some up and said, "Look, mind someone else joining the study circle?"
Still only three days out from having been with JC as much as he wanted when he wanted, Lance's concentration was at rock bottom and having corralled it all to survive class, his only response was, "Huh?"
"Third. Study. Buddy." Mina chewed in between words.
"Oh, right. Whatever. I mean, who is it?"
"Sean Onegan, he was sitting a few up from us, but I'm pretty sure you weren't paying a lick of attention. Anyway, we're fucking, so I don't know how long he'll actually be in the group, as I sense he might have a streak of drama queen in him and that's just not going to go well at all when it starts flaring up."
Suddenly, Lance was in the conversation. "Uh, Mina-"
She caught the warning tone, because she waved him off. "Chris knows. We're doing an open relationship thingie, since he's not here and I'm not wherever the fuck he's always off to, and when he is, it's not so open, since really, I'm feeling pretty amazingly good about him and he seems to return the sentiment, but otherwise. He likes details. He's kind of kinky."
This fact had not passed Lance's attention before now. Chris, however, was as good as his older bother, so Lance said, "I'm eating, babe."
Mina grinned and took another bite. "Me too, what's your problem?"
Lance didn't deign to respond, instead flipping back the cover to his shoulder bag and pulling out his notes. "How were you doing on actually understanding the lecture?"
"Better than first days in previous years. I got sorta lost when he was doing the whole breakdown of relational economics, or whatever the fuck that was."
"Oh good, that was the part I actually understood." Lance smirked, but with his brain only being half his property at the moment, everything was coming considerably slower.
Mina asked, "When's he get back?"
"But who's counting, really?"
Lance didn't draw attention to the large black marks on the wall calendar he had bought strictly for the purpose of marking off the days.
JC called. "I'm coming back."
Lance looked at the calendar. "In twenty-two days."
"No," JC was insistent, "tonight. I'm calling for a ticket as soon as we get off the phone."
Lance tried to figure mentally how long he would need to keep JC on the phone before this patch of rebelliousness against his career and future was overcome. Probably four hours plus a bout of phone sex at the end to put him right to sleep. Or at least, spark him into writing for so long that it would be dawn before he knew it and his crew would be all over him, reminding him that he had responsibilities. Not that Lance minded being on the phone with him for four hours. He minded having to talk JC out of something he wanted just as badly. "Sounds like a plan."
"You always say that when you plan on doing something to distract me from it."
At least nobody could say they didn't know each other. "How was the show tonight?"
"You know the kind that start out well but slowly disintegrate?"
Lance knew all too well. "Ouch. Anyone notice?"
"I did." JC changed the subject. "How are classes?"
"Pretty much the same as always. I like the stuff I wanna be taking, despise the stuff that's credit toward graduation and not much else. Mina's taking too many hours and is totally insane, plus, her prediction that Sean wouldn't last too long is being played out spectacularly, and whoa, she wasn’t underestimating when she called him a drama queen."
JC giggled. "Worse than J?"
"You have no idea. J is the vaudeville to Sean's Hollywood. If he could market that kind of thing, sell it as a weapon to small countries and arms dealers, we'd all be up shit creek and paddling with our arms for lack of anything else."
"I'm sorta having the same problem over here. Two of my roadies decided a little summer fling would be a good idea, but forgot to extend the contract till the end of the tour."
Lance winced, there was nothing worse than having crew members squabble. It meant trouble for everyone. "Lemme guess, Mark and Aurora?"
"How'd you know?" JC quipped. The two had seemed like a bad idea from the beginning and everybody but the two of them had known it.
"Psychic ability. I think I even know what you're wearing right now." It wasn't a hard guess, since JC hated being all filthy from shows and invariably showered directly after and changed into his PJs. Lance knew every pair of PJs he'd taken, so from there, it was a hop, skip and a rather tiny jump to what JC was lounging around in.
It was also one of the oldest and easiest segueways into a little bit of casual phone sex. Lance slid a bit lower in the chair where he was sitting. "Yeah."
Lance had carefully taught JC how to use the camera on his phone, to download the pictures and email them to Lance so that he could have a visual connection to the tour as well as the one provided by JC's nearly nightly phone calls.
It was by the pictures that Lance knew Chris had shown up on the tour, since Chris's presence caused JC to miss a night of calling, but not posting the photos. It was an easy guess from there that Chris would probably be out Lance's way soon, and Lance asked Mina if she had any news.
Mina shrugged. "Like he ever tells me shit in advance. I don't know that he even tells himself stuff in advance. He just goes. I have to admire that, since I'm the complete fucking opposite."
Lance knew that there were times when Chris hoped or dreamed, but she was right, planning was simply against his nature. He had learned too long ago not to believe that plans would ever go the way a person had intended them to. "Fair warning then, I'm guessing he's gonna show up any day now."
This cheered a considerably stressed Mina. "Good, because if I don't have an orgasm caused by an outside party in the near future, there's going to be Armageddon to pay."
Lance believed her. Sympathized, even. He still had sixteen days to go.
Luckily, Chris did the predictable thing (not always a thing to be counted on with Chris) and showed up. Mina stopped yelling about every theoretical situation she didn't understand right off the bat and Lance said, "Tell me how my other half is doing."
Chris said, "You talk to him all the time," but it sounded like he understood all the same.
Lance tried, "Is he eating?"
"If I said Victoria, would you know who I was talking about?"
"His costume lady?"
"Otherwise known as the Empress of the Backstage. She makes him eat."
"I wonder if she likes jewelry."
Chris snorted. "I should start doing you small favors. I've been wanting new golf clubs for a while now."
"You could just buy them, you know, seeing as how you're sitting on several multi-million dollar accounts. Just saying." Lance really was just saying, since he knew that Chris would never buy anything like that until he really needed it, rather than just wanted it. The knowledge was helpful, since Lance had been a little bit boggled as to what to get Chris for his upcoming birthday anyway.
"Eh, the ones I have are just fine." Then, with typical Chris fluidity, Chris segued, "He misses you. His shows are kinda…the angst, it floweth. Well, that and the sexual frustration. Everybody in the world knows he's not cheating on somebody, they just don’t know who."
Lance couldn't help the grin that escaped. "I wish the emotions on this side were equally helpful in an academic setting."
Chris shuddered, evidently aware of what that felt like. "You want me to stay until he gets back?"
Knowing it was selfish, Lance didn’t even take a breath before saying, "Yes."
Chris said, "Thanks, I was trying to figure out a good excuse to be around Mina this long anyway."
"Because you know, just fucking pulling your balls out of your stomach and admitting that you like being around her would be too much to ask."
Chris said, "We're not all you and Chasez, Bass."
Truthfully, Lance responded, "And for that, I pity you."
Twelve days to go and Lance had a nervous breakdown in the middle of writing a paper on the sociological implications of declining funding for public schools. He called JC six times while well aware that JC was performing and left messages that consisted mostly of, "What made us think doing this was going to be okay? I mean, seriously, did we decide this while we were getting high? Next time, we have to rethink any decisions made under the influence of illegal or legal but mind-altering substances. Because this is crazy. Crazy like drinking hot-chocolate outside in a Mississippi August crazy. And I can't talk to Chris about this because he's not here and he won’t answer his phone and obviously you won't either, but at least I know that you're probably not having sex right now, which is more than I can say for him."
JC called him less than ten minutes after he would have gotten off stage from the encore. "Babe, go have a beer and then pour yourself a shot of whiskey for when we get off the phone."
JC was generally not a huge advocate of drowning one's sorrows, so Lance didn't argue, just marched himself right to the kitchen, decided on a Killigans, and chugged. In his ear, JC said, "Slowly, Lance."
Lance slowed down.
JC said, "It would be better if you could stress out about things as they were building up, instead of just exploding all at once," but he didn't sound truly put upon, just concerned.
"I always think if I wait long enough it'll pass. In fairness to myself, I got pretty close."
JC laughed softly. "Yeah, pretty close. But it wasn't like I didn't know. Saying something couldn't have hurt anything."
"You seemed like you didn't really need that from me."
It was an argument they'd had before, but Lance sensed they were both too tired to do much fighting at the moment. JC said, "I need you. You don't get to pick and choose the parts of the person you need, it's the whole packet and sometimes there are things that aren't ideal but that's just the way things are."
"I always want things to be better for you."
"That's because you're an emotionally stupid boy," JC put the emphasis on boy, the way a thirteen year old girl would, as though disparaging a completely separate species.
"Oh yeah, well what does that make you?"
"The boy who's in love with you."
And well, there just wasn't a much better constructed argument in the history of rhetoric to make Lance agree with anything that JC had said before.
Eight days to go and Chris asked, "Do you guys ever talk about after you get the degree?"
All the time, but saying that to Chris would only give rise to accusations of girliness, so Lance said, "We've considered it. I still haven't decided if I want to do a masters, so everything's pretty much in limbo."
"A masters? Jesus, Lance."
Lance shrugged. "I can afford the tuition, and it would be taking more of the classes I like. I don't see why not. I was thinking I'd apply places out near LA, possibly, there's about a trillion schools out there. Then C can have the studio he actually wants to record in and I can have my two years of academic hell and we'll decide what's happening after that. I'd like to get in with somebody like Dreamworks, somewhere that I can make a shitload of decisions and do things that matter without having to be the person everybody looks to at the end of the day."
"What does C want? Other than the studio?"
"What doesn't C want? A house together, dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, maybe a kid or two. Sometimes he's so middle-class American even I feel like a raging radical next to him."
"What’s he gonna do, take the kids on tour with him, raise them on the road?"
"I haven't found the right time to ask him whether he's going to choose the career he loves or a lifelong dream of his," Lance said, "I'll tell you when I find out."
"I worry." Chris said it softly, not an apology, but then, none of the five of them much apologized to each other.
"So do we, in our own way, but." Lance put a finger to his lips, tapping for a few moments. "If we ever left each other, what I'm living through right now is what I'd have to live through every day of my life. I'll quit my job and become his stay at home dad before I accede to that eventuality."
"There's probably a better solution."
"And we'll probably find it. C and I can come up with some amazing ways of living life when we put a little effort into it."
"I've noticed. It's oddly and frighteningly inspiring."
Lance shrugged. "It is what it is."
Lance told JC, "I can count the number of days you'll be home in on one hand."
"I can think of better uses for the hand."
Lance wrinkled his nose. "I think I'll wait."
"I think you might be overestimating the amount of pent-up energy I'm likely to be able to handle." JC sounded exhausted. The last leg of a tour, parted from one's significant other or no, was always the hardest part. Or rather, the beginning may have been harder, but they each had their own type of difficulty, and the physical strain of the last part could leave a person useless for days if not weeks after the end.
"Eh, you can sleep while I go to."
"Ew," JC said.
Sadly, Lance agreed. "Chris is still here."
"You did ask him to stay."
"I'm pretty sure I thought he'd flake out after a few days." Lance hadn't thought this at all, Chris was only flaky when it suited a purpose and only moved around when he had good reason either to go or not to stay. Even so, with JC not there, Lance was finding it hard to remember that anybody could be. Lance had discovered earlier in the month that he was at the juncture of love that he was well aware represented a complete leave of mental health and yet couldn't be bothered to be concerned over that issue. Which he was pretty sure was an issue in and of itself.
"Nah, he's in for the long run now, he has to be there to say hi to me, or I'll send my psi warriors out to kill him while he's sleeping."
"I've been using my extra time to develop telekinetic abilities. I wanted to learn sword fighting, so that I could be all Aragorn for you, but the crew seemed a little wary of that idea."
While Lance could generally read JC's voice, JC had the tendency of mixing fact and fiction so often that there were times when Lance had no idea what was true and what was the biggest fish story in the world. "How's that coming along for you then? And you're hotter than Aragorn." Painful for Lance to admit, but true all the same.
"Slow progress. The revenge by Blue Ethereal People will probably have to wait a bit."
Chris would probably be there, so the point was most likely moot. "All things in good time."
"Five days, to be exact." Evidently, JC had used his fingers as well. Or maybe his toes. He liked them better.
"Sounds kind of the same as forever, doesn't it?"
"Forever plus one day."
Lance was reassured. If he was going to be sappy, he preferred someone take the ride with him.
Lance sent Chris to the airport not because he didn't want to be the first one to see JC, but rather because he knew that if he was, there would be no peeling him off JC, regardless of time or place, and so Lance took the high road and avoided the situation. Which meant that JC hadn't even properly made it in the door before Lance was on him like a vampire on a giraffe.
Behind them, Chris nudged JC further into the apartment so that him and Mina could squeeze past and shut the door. Lance managed, "How was your flight?" in between several kisses.
JC said, "Mmm," into his mouth, which Lance interpreted as "I'm still alive," and figured that pleasantries had now been taken care of. From the kitchen, Chris called, "Mina and I are ordering pizza, and if you don't stop smooching and tell us what you want we're gonna order all of your least favorites."
Even if this hadn't been a completely inane threat due to the fact that Chris didn't like most of the things that Lance didn't like, it wouldn't have been enough to draw him off of JC. After a few seconds, Chris yelled, "Fine, be that way!" but Chris had gotten to spend time with JC all the way on the car ride back, so Lance didn't feel too badly.
When they finally stopped to take a breath and because if they didn't Chris and Mina were going to walk in on something they probably didn't need to see, JC leaned back slightly and said, "Are you losing weight? I think there's less of you to hold."
Lance's eating habits were hit and miss when he was stressed or when he didn't have JC (whose eating habits bordered on the miss) to watch over. "You're hardly Mr. Chunk yourself, babe."
JC looked down at himself. "Hm. I see your point. Think we'll manage to choke down this horror of a pizza Chris is ordering?"
As though submitting to a grand self-sacrifice, Lance said, "We'll just have to, there's energy to be acquired."
JC nodded. "Taking one for the team, as it were."
"Or two or three."
JC smirked and grabbed Lance's hand. "I missed touching you."
Lance's eyes swept JC from the ground up. "I missed watching you."
JC whispered, "I missed hearing you. You, not phone you, it's different."
Normally, Lance would have made fun of JC for using the term 'phone you' and purporting that to be different than the person on the other end of the line. One month of nothing but phone communication had taught him the difference though, and he just nodded. "I missed sleeping with you."
They were kissing again when Chris came into the room and said, "Guys, seriously, the pizza guy's gonna be here any minute."
JC drew back and batted his eyelashes. "Seriously?"
Lance laughed, shivers rising up from his stomach. He pulled JC to him and told Chris, "Nothing's more serious than this."