Lance had realized soon after moving from Mississippi that, bjillion Disney employees or no, Orlando was still a pretty small town. Which meant that if there was someone he didn't want to run into, it was overall guaranteed that he would. This basic truth in life worked like a charm in the case of Kevin Richardson a month after the two of them had left an industry event four sheets to the wind and proceeded to screw like monkeys.
Lance was running errands when they met up, stopping at the Prada store between getting his computer's memory enhanced and picking up a quart of milk and some bananas from the grocery store. He wouldn't have stopped in at all, except that JC had told him about some new pair of shoes that would evidently complete his life, and JC generally had pretty good taste when it came to Lance's outfitting.
The shoes, as it turned out, were pretty sexy and Lance was waiting to try on a pair when the door chimed discretely and Kevin walked in. Lance didn't notice him at first, since he was checking out the belts while waiting for the sales clerk to come back with the right size shoes for him. Kevin, however, had evidently come in to look at the shirts, which were a few racks over, directly in Lance's line of vision. Lance stiffened upon looking up. Deep inside he knew the smart thing to do was to keep quiet, pay no attention to the other man's presence. He ignored that knowledge. "You're in the wrong section. Their spring line of skirts is over there," Lance pointed vaguely towards the women's clothing.
"At least I'm not buying sandals to match with my girlfriend's," Kevin eyed the sample shoe sitting next to Lance's sneakers on the floor. It was a sandal, white straps crossing over the top of foot and a strap with the Prada label acting as the ankle support. Lance appreciated the simplicity. And, well, it was kind of pretty.
"Coming from a man who evidently thinks gender is passť, I'll take that as a compliment."
"Yes. Because you delve so deeply into your masculinity so very often."
Lance was both saved from and kept from having to formulate a reply when the sales representative he had been working with brought back the shoes in his size. Lance walked around in them for a moment before handing the guy his credit card.
Kevin whistled lowly, a half-hearted catcall. "Sexy."
Lance curled his fists in tightly and then released them, because really, he would have thought Kevin would have known better than to mention a word derived from the root "sex" at that point. The comment had been made sarcastically though, so Lance allowed himself to feel a bit more relaxed and replied, "Yeah, well, we can't all be me."
Kevin smiled, a quick twist of the mouth that conveyed his superiority in every sense. Lance walked over and signed on the dotted line. He knew how to leave someone wanting more.
The next time they met up was at the United We Stand Concert where everyone was expected to be nice to each other and the very last thing Lance felt like being right then, was nice.
Unfortunately, Kevin didn't seem to be in any mood to play. Kevin, who had just months before condescendingly told "Interview" magazine that he felt NSYNC was finally finding their own style, coming out from Backstreet's shadow and the work that Backstreet had done in paving the other group's way, was acting like the boys of NSYNC were long lost family. Lance was sure Kevin had considered his comments generous.
Chris offered Lance some of his red bull and vodka. Lance, very inconsiderately, drained the rest of the glass. He made it up to Chris by wandering off to find both of them some more. When Lance deemed Chris adequately drunk, he left him to the tender mercies of a couple of radio dj's and sauntered off to find Joey, who could always be depended on to provide thirst relief.
Joey did not disappoint and Lance threw back a couple of beers with him. Joey, though, was actually nice and was enjoying the feel-good atmosphere of the day. He was not particularly interested in getting drunk. Luckily, Lance was well-past sloshed by the time Joey abandoned him.
He found Kevin having a mildly incoherent conversation with Michelle Williams, who seemed sober, but also seemed to be following Kevin's train of thought, so Lance wasn't entirely sure. She got up and went to find the other members of her posse shortly enough.
Kevin looked straight to where Lance had hidden himself near the doorway. Lance looked back. "Tired of this yet?"
Kevin leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. "This?"
Lance wasn't fooled. "That was a neat key you guys found while singing today, what’s it called?"
"JC come up with that shirt on his own?"
Lance's eyes narrowed almost to the point of closing. "Leave JC out of this."
"Leave my boys out of this."
"Your boys, sans Howie, are fair game. My boys, sans JC, are fair game. Nobody sent you a copy of the rules?"
Kevin tilted his head. "Why Howie?"
"Because…because his fucking nickname is Sweet." Lance was too drunk to be explaining things that Kevin should already understand.
Kevin stood up, staying still for a moment so that the room wouldn't weave. "You're soft."
Lance couldn't decide exactly what Kevin's tone of voice implied. It had all the correct sounds of disgust, but felt like it held a bit of amused fondness. He decided he was too drunk and pissy to care when Kevin brushed by him, heading out of the room. Lance shoved him back, kicking the door shut with his foot. He pressed himself up against Kevin, aggressive and surprisingly strong. Kevin's balance was not at its foremost and he fell to the ground with a, "Fuck, ow."
Lance had come down with him, padded mostly by Kevin's fall. He didn't give quarter, squirming his way up Kevin to kiss him, making it hard and angry.
Kevin took it, gave it back two times over.
Lance frowned at the email from Train1071@aol.com. He didn't as far as he knew, have any friends or family at that address, which either meant spam or that a fan had gotten hold of his address for the third time that year and he would be changing it again shortly.
He opened the email in order to find out.
"If you can't be a fairy to your fullest desire with two feet on the ground, going into a zero-gravity environment is only a way of prolonging the realization of failure. -KR"
Lance hit the reply button. The announcement about AJ and Sarah had been circulating for awhile, but he figured that asking about the plants at AJ's residence was kind of in the same territory as Howie. He settled for: "Nick's an exhibitionist, eh? Too bad you didn't handle it like we did and let the kid get it all out when he was sixteen. -LB"
Which engendered: "Ah, yes, because Justin's vow of celibacy and the international pop star conspiracy TM to support it is a healthy construction of sexuality. -KR"
"On the upshot, he's not scarring the minds of sexually underdeveloped women. -LB"
"No, you have Joey and his shirt collection to take care of that. -KR"
"Jealous? We prefer shirts to ink, the evidence is easier to do away with. Your PR doesn't like you very much, do they? -LB"
"They choose to concentrate on bigger issues, like whether we feel the need to write songs pertaining to our 'safe sex practices.' -KR"
"Oh, alright, safe sex bad; promiscuous, outside-the-boundaries-of-long-term-relationship sex good? -LB"
"I wouldn't know, but I'm sure I could ask Kelly Baldwin. -KR"
Once the chain started, neither of them was willing to let it drop. Lance even started it up again from his new email address when the old one was leaked. If nothing else, it made his email, which was usually filled mostly with business, much more desirable to check.
Lance left his cell phone at the hotel after the concert in Phoenix and snuck out to the club that everyone else had decided against. It was as good a place as any to have a breakdown over an identity crisis in one concentrated shot, which was his goal for the evening.
Lance knew he wasn't like Nick Carter, AJ McLean or Justin Timberlake. He remembered life outside of being a pop star. For the most part, he thought he probably wasn't even like JC, who had a hard time recalling much outside of the audition circuit. All things considered though, he had long ago forgotten how to exist outside of the other four guys. It wasn't that he couldn't remember to eat without them around to say something, like JC, or that excess amounts of energy would get him into trouble without someone around to put a check on him, like Chris. It was more that the house that he had built for himself in the place that he had told himself for almost six years still constituted home, had felt like anything but a place to go home to. It was part of why, when he was being brutally honest with himself, he was determined to go to Russia for the six months of training, even if he didn't actually make it into space. Yeah, it was his life-long dream. Yada, yada. Lance knew he'd already gotten his dream with NSYNC, he thought on some level that it was kind of selfish of him to be trying for more. Of course, he wasn't going to say to the reporters that what he really needed was to see if he could learn something new, do something different on his own.
Still, the decision to go through with it had been a big one and left him somewhat unsure of exactly where he stood in the world and in relation to himself. When Justin had mentioned to the group that he was thinking about a solo project, Lance had very calmly filed the information away and informed Justin that he thought that was a great idea. He did, too. Justin lived with performance in his veins the way JC lived with music in his. Having a whole stage to himself, a whole album to work on was ideal for the younger man.
It left Lance feeling as nervous as the fans.
Not about Justin leaving them for a solo career. No, Justin was awful at keeping what he was thinking to himself with the four of them, which had provided for many moments of discomforting honesty on his part over the years. They would know if he had even conceived of the notion of leaving to work on his own for good. Justin hadn't even really wanted to buy the house in LA with Britney. It had taken months of convincing on her part. JC's purchasing his own house out there had probably had more to do with Justin's final capitulation than anything Britney had said. Justin wouldn't forget to eat or get in trouble without them, but he wouldn't get out of bed in the morning, either.
The words "solo project" though, indicated that there was an individual behind the project. Lance was the individual behind his own "solo project," his very-own-space-adventure, as Chris was fond of referring to it as. He just wasn't sure who that individual was. Every time he started thinking about it all that came up were things that Joey had said about him. Or, if he was really tired, JC. It didn't add up to much self-knowledge.
The whole issue had been building up inside of him for months now. He wasn't sure exactly when it had started, but he couldn't remember the absence of it, which meant it had gone on for long enough. He doubted it would change things in the morning, but getting drunk while music was pounding too loudly for him to think and picking up the nearest cute boy sounded like a plan.
His plan was ruined when someone who was not a boy and fell more in the sexy category than the cute one sat down next to him at the bar. His new companion motioned to the bar tender, "Whiskey, neat."
Lance downed his second Jack and Coke. "What brings you here? Another trip to The Meadows?"
Kevin did the shot and requested another. "We heard the circus was in town. Turns out it was just five guys swinging on ropes."
Lance finished off his third drink and stood up from his stool. "Well, if you'd taught Litrell to read in the first place, he wouldn't always report the advertisements back to you incorrectly." Lance moved into the crowd.
He had found himself a suitable boy and was writhing rhythmically against his choice when suddenly the space in front of him was occupied by Kevin. Lance came to a stop. "Look, Richardson, I hate to disappoint, but I came here to get laid and unless you're going to take care of that for me, get the fuck outta my face."
Kevin leaned down a bit. His breath smelled like whiskey and Lance resisted the urge to taste him right then. Kevin spoke loudly over the din of the music, "At least I wouldn't have to sign a confidentiality clause."
Lance wove his way off of the dance floor. Cute boys were overrated anyway.
Lance went back to Kevin's hotel room because it was just AJ and Kevin at their place, as opposed to all five members of the band and an entire tour entourage. It made things simpler, and they both knew it.
Kevin allowed Lance to attack him once they were in his room. Lance went for his neck first, leaving a mark that Kevin knew he'd need to cover in the morning. Kevin steered them toward the bed while Lance kept at it, breaking the buttons on Kevin's shirt in an effort to get at his chest. When they reached the bed, Kevin pushed them back onto it, landing on top of Lance. He caught one of the blond's wrists in each of his hands and pinned them to the bed, hovering over his captive.
After a moment wherein Kevin made no move to do anything to Lance, the man being held down tried to break from the grasp he was in, growing feral when he realized that he was well and truly caught. "What, you want me to beg?"
Kevin shook his head. He seemed to be searching for something. Lance sneered. Kevin waited. Lance sagged into the bed. "Just tell me what you want, okay? I was under the impression that you brought me back here for a reason."
"You go out alone and do random pick-ups a lot?"
Lance's eyes widened, but he said, "Not really your business."
"I'm about to fuck you, indulge me." Kevin's tone was disorientingly without mocking quality to it.
Lance didn't respond.
Kevin sighed, pressing down further on Lance's wrists. "Is this something that your boys would be well within their rights to come after me for?"
"I can take care of myself."
"We all can. And we all do shit that we shouldn't do."
"You won't be needing to pick up the pieces tomorrow."
Kevin considered this for a few moments. He lifted one of Lance's wrists and licked firmly over the area that had mottled in his grasp. Then he bit the inside of the wrist, eliciting a gasp from the man below him. "Fair enough."
Lance snickered when he heard that Kevin had come home for the derby. "Happy birthday to me."
Joey looked at him oddly. "You know whatever this shit you've got going with him is, it's not healthy, right?"
"All of us live our sex lives in different stages of unhealthy, Joe, you should know this by now."
"I do know, but you're working to surpass us all."
"We can't let Timberlake be the best at everything, can we?"
"Lance, Jesus." Joey took Lance's shoulders and shook him lightly. "Stop it, okay? Just, whatever's going on, whatever's got you fucked up from here to high noon, tell us, or figure it out, or something, but stop being mean and stupid and everything that I know you're not." Joey stomped off, his voice having stayed quiet to the very end of his tirade.
They had all learned how to keep things bottled up in one way or another.
Lance found Kevin in the throng of the races. He wasn't yet plastered, but he would be by the time the two of them were ready to head out.
When Kevin began moving to leave, Lance didn't follow immediately, waiting until his actions wouldn't seem to be part of an obvious cause and effect that could be traced back to Kevin Richardson.
He caught up with Kevin as the older man was climbing into his car. Lance wrapped his fingers around the door. Kevin looked at them as though considering shutting it anyway. He didn't. "We're not doing this, Bass."
"I'm staying with my mother."
"I have a hotel room."
"Look, I don't sleep repeatedly with people who don’t like me. I grew out of my need for melodrama years ago."
"I imagine toting Nick Carter around for as long as you have would do that to a person."
"Probably in the same way that being with Joey and JC all the time could sexually warp a person."
"I told you-"
"I know what you told me, Lance. That's a huge fucking part of why this is stopping, now."
"Because I don't pick on the weak? What part, exactly, of sex ed did you miss?"
"Because you're not mean. Maybe a little bit on the verbally bitchy side sometimes, which, I may or may not be known for myself, but not mean. But for whatever reason, you are with me."
"Fuck you, you were the one who started the email chain."
"This isn't about who started what, Lance. It's about the fact that you're drunk now and I'm not. It's about the fact that the only time we sleep with each other is when you're drunk. It's about the fact that you drink as much as you do for reasons that you won't talk about. I know something about that."
"You are not responsible for me, I don't know who told you otherwise, but-"
"I like you. You're funny and smart, you give as good as you get-"
"Shut. Up. Kevin."
"You're a fantastic lay and hot as all-"
Lance reached into the car, ready to pull Kevin out, unsure of what would come next but knowing it would be violent. Kevin wrapped both hands around Lance's and stopped them in their quest.
"Look me up when you can tell me what you like about me." Kevin pushed Lance away from him and shut the door. He buckled his seat belt, turned on the car and drove off, never once acknowledging Lance's confused stare.
Lance hated himself for opening the email, but he had been in Russia for a little over a week and homesick didn't begin to describe the hellish emotion he was experiencing. The only thing keeping him from admitting that he couldn't think straight without the other four guys within easy reach was the stream of emails, phone calls and packages that they had arranged. Or rather, Lance was willing to bet, that Chris had come up with the idea for and the rest of them had been converted into minions with which to carry out Chris's will. Especially considering that most of the packages were full of weird crap that he had no earthly use for. Then again, that very well could have been JC's influence as well.
The email was from KentuckyBoy@msn.com rather than the old address, but it didn't take a genius to figure out who was the sender. Lance pinched himself hard in punishment for what he was about to do, then clicked on the title to open the letter.
"They say Moscow's like LA without the grass or the trees. Holding up? -KR"
"I'm not in Moscow. -LB"
"Things are good here. Thanks for asking. Seems like we may actually get an album out after all. -KR"
"I don’t think I should be here. -LB"
"Of course you should, it was what you wanted. -KR"
"How would you know what I wanted? -LB"
"I'm going on your word here. Your word to a whole lot of reporters, granted, but I haven't got much else to go on. -KR"
"I miss them. -LB"
"They miss you too. They're proud of you. Can't shut up about your big Russian adventure to anyone who will listen. -KR"
"I wish they'd keep their mouths shut. -LB"
"You're not going to fail them. -KR"
"Yet to be determined. -LB"
"You went and you tried. That's more than any of them can say and they know it. They've accepted their inability to function outside of the unit. Justin's solo project is more like the working of a collective with a singular voice to represent it. Even if you don't make it into space, you made it through training. Without them. -KR"
"You are a fantastic lay. Just so you know. -LB"
JC, Joey, Chris and Justin showed up in Russia at the beginning of September. Lance opened his door to the sound of knocking, somewhat mystified as to who could be coming over. All the people from the program generally called before stopping by.
Lance had been told that Joey had tickets for late September, Justin and Chris had already come to visit once in the middle of July and JC had been planning on "stopping by" in October. So the sight of all four of them standing just beyond his threshold caused Lance to blink several times, rapidly and in succession, before sniffling. He rubbed at his nose. "Um, weather changing, you know how that gets to me."
Justin shoved at Lance and pushed his way inside the apartment, "Shut up, yo. We just flew around the world for you."
Lance caught Justin up in a hug, "Hi. Nice to see you."
Justin picked Lance up off the floor for a second. The rest of the guys rushed in. JC shouted, "Group hug" mostly because he knew everyone expected it of him.
They untangled enough that Lance could make his way out of the circle of limbs. Justin shivered. "Do you not have heat?"
Lance walked toward his kitchen. "It's not that cold, wuss."
"I'm not a wuss, I was raised in a fair weather climate. So were you!"
"Yeah, well, it's been cool like this for a few weeks now, I'm acclimating." Lance turned the temperature in his apartment up a touch anyway.
Lance made dinner. Joey wanted to go out, but Lance had to be in early the next morning, so he gave directions to some of the more interesting clubs around and told Joey and anybody else who wanted to join that they were on their own.
JC ended up hanging back. He helped Lance clean the dishes and sat down to watch the evening news, which Lance did more to help his understanding of Russian than to try and figure out what was going on in the world. Russian reporting was not the most unbiased source a viewer could hope for.
JC snuggled up against Lance. "Wanna massage?"
JC's fingers worked skillfully at the tension in Lance's lower back. "You should be warned that our plan is to drug you and take you back with us."
"Are you supposed to be telling me this?"
"Oops." JC was smiling. Lance couldn’t see him, but he could hear the smile in JC's voice. "Seriously, you have to come back. We're missing a limb, or something. Maybe a head. It's not good."
"Let me tell you, it's a lot better being the missing limb."
JC was silent for a long time. "But it's working, right? I mean, you're doing what you needed to do?"
"I dunno. I…I think so."
"We're all really- You're amazing." JC finished the massage and resumed cuddling.
Lance waited while JC found the perfect position. "Thanks."
"Oh, I almost forgot, Kevin Richardson sends a hello."
Lance flipped through several possible responses to that, settling on, "I didn't know you guys were coming, but Kevin did?"
"He asks one of us about you every time we see him, I thought he might like to know."
"Whoa, and nobody thought it was the slightest bit odd that Kevin Richardson, of Backstreet Boys fame, felt the need to ask about me on a regular basis?"
"Don't act like we didn't know you two were sleeping together, Lance." JC sounded hurt.
"We weren't sleeping together, we were-"
"Continuously hooking up?"
"Well, that's closer to the truth than the other description."
"I guess Kevin thinks it was more."
"Don't use that tone of voice."
JC looked up at Lance, his expression one of the purest innocence.
"No, you know what tone I mean. The one that makes me think I should reconsider everything I've ever held true in my life."
JC turned his focus back to the television. "Are those truths making you happy?"
"Stop harassing my boys about me. We're emailing, you know I'm alive. -LB"
"Embarrassed about what they're thinking? -KR"
"You're making JC think we have some kind of grand love affair. He's going to be all heartbroken. -LB"
"JC's a perceptive guy. -KR"
"Poshol na khui. -LB"
"Fuck off? I mean, your Russian is evidently coming along beautifully, but really, I've come to expect more. -KR"
"Found any road kill that will supplement as a hair-do lately? -LB"
"That's the spirit. -KR"
"I thought you didn't like me being mean. -LB"
"That was a vast oversimplification of the issue, used in large part, because you were too drunk to have a worthwhile conversation with. -KR"
"I'm not drunk now. -LB"
"Why are you in Russia? -KR"
"Question of the year. -LB"
"Write me back when you have an answer. -KR"
"Because I don't know who Lance Bass is. I know who Lansten Bass is. But once I stop being the N… I stop being. I'm not some sweet, southern boy anymore. -LB"
"I know the feeling. -KR"
"You think you're the only one I act this way with because you picked the losing straw, or something? -LB"
"You saying you might actually enjoy my company? -KR"
"At least the things you seem to expect from me are different than what everyone else does. -LB"
"Maybe you should stop worrying about other people's expectations and the things they attribute to you. Why are you in Russia again? -KR"
"Maybe to figure out how to do that. -LB"
"Now we're getting somewhere. -KR"
Lance went out with some people from the program on a Saturday night almost a month after the band had visited. The people from the program didn't go out together much, since most of them had families and home lives outside of work. One of the technicians whom everybody liked was having a birthday that night, and seeing as how Lance had helped him to get a date with the girl he was crushing on in the med lab a few months before, he was among the first to be invited. Right after the girl.
The party consisted of about ten of them, all roughly the same age. They had dinner before an evening of bar and club hopping. By the time they reached the third spot -- a club -- Lance was pleasantly buzzed. He was surprised to find that he didn't have much interest in drinking anymore, joining his friends on the dance-floor instead.
Russia in general wasn't known for its queer scene and Lance suspected there was even less of one to look for in Kaliningrad than in the larger cities. He'd taken home women a couple of times since coming to Russia, mostly because it was the only option open to him and Lance knew how to compromise, but those pick-ups just caused him to remember why he preferred his hand and his imagination to anything lacking a Y chromosome.
He almost didn't recognize the look of desire being flashed at him by a guy a few feet across the dance floor when it first crossed his gaze. After a second he caught on, decided he was interested, and returned the look. It was late enough in the evening that Lance didn't have to feel bad about telling his co-workers goodbye and slipping out. The other man met him outside.
Lance paid for a room in a hotel that was ten minutes walk from the club. The sex was fun, but neither of them were all that upset when the time to leave came. Lance caught himself a cab home and hopped in the shower before putting his pajamas on. He was too restless to go to sleep, so he picked up the phone. He thought about calling the guys, but it wasn't even midnight on a Saturday where they were, and he doubted any of them were at home. His mom was probably already asleep. Lance flipped on his palm pilot and started tapping his way through the contacts section. When he found the number he wanted to call, he dialed the country code and seven digit number before he could change his mind.
The person at the other end of the line picked up. "'Lo?"
"The people you pay to be seen in public with you up their rates this weekend?"
"No, but the astrology section of Cosmo told me I would be receiving a special phone call today. I probably should've gone to bed after my brother called, huh?"
"You shouldn't support Cosmo, it's evil. I'd be willing to bet at least a third of all cases of anorexia can be linked directly back to that magazine."
"Evil, but funny. Just the way I like my entertainment."
"I got laid tonight." Lance could not for the life of him figure out why this information might be important to Kevin, but evidently his brain thought it was.
"Congratulations. If you hold on I could run down to the Hallmark by me, I bet they have some nice cards for that occasion."
"He wasn't as good as you."
"You don't seem to be drunk. You're probably not as easy to impress."
"I called to say sorry about that."
The line was silent for a few seconds.
"Uh, caught me a little off-guard. Thanks, I guess."
"And that, I was thinking, maybe, if you want to, we could do it without the alcohol when I got back."
"I dunno, Lance. I don't think that's such a good idea."
"Oh." Lance reminded himself to breathe. "Right. Because, you were pretty drunk those times too, and I'm probably not-"
"No, not like you're thinking. Maybe we could just do coffee or something."
"You want conversation before sex, then?"
"I'm a southern gentleman, if I can't woo then I at least want to be wooed. I demand that wooing go on somewhere in my relationships."
"And this is a relationship?"
"You already know that I like you, Bass."
"I thought you said that because I was falling apart in the parking lot of a horse race on the day before my twenty-third birthday."
"I'm not that nice."
"Yeah, I know," Lance admitted. "It's one of the things I like best about you."
Lance knew there was a leak somewhere in the chain of communication when a congratulatory email arrived from Kevin before Lance had even had the chance to tell him that he was actually going up. He had told the guys, however, so Lance figured JC was still playing matchmaker.
Kevin's email had consisted of an e-card with some seriously screwy graphics and a short note, "See? No failure. -KR"
"Except maybe in being a fairy to my fullest desire with two feet on the ground. -LB"
"Don't make me quote yourself back to you. -KR"
"I wouldn't dare. -LB"
"Honestly, though, congratulations. -KR"
"I haven't done it yet. -LB"
"This is the easy part, and you know it. -KR"
"I feel like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz.' -LB"
"I take it back, you're a fantastic fairy. -KR"
"Asshole. No, because, like Oz is great and all, but…I think I came all this way to find out that I am the N in NSYNC, just not the way everyone thinks. -LB"
"Because, no matter what I do, I'm a part of them. I've escaped a lot of things being out here, but not that. And I don't want to escape it. Just because I'm part of them doesn't mean I have to play a part, at least not for them and they're really the only ones who matter, you know? -LB"
"As it so happens, yes, I do. -KR"
"Right, anyway, the point is, the individual in me can only exist within the group, and that doesn't make it any less. -LB"
"Not at all. -KR"
"So, I'll call you when I get back? -LB"
"The astro section had some highly promising words about an old friend returning from a far away journey. -KR"
"I'll just bet it did. -LB"
A Month Later
Lance jogged up the stairs to Kevin's front door. He was dressed casually and held a white box in his right hand. He rang the doorbell, whistling quietly.
Kevin opened the door with a smile and pulled Lance into a hug, "Welcome back."
Lance extracted himself from the hug after several moments and held out the box.
"Hey, I know how to woo, okay?"
Kevin opened the box, laughing softly at its contents. "A babushka doll?"
Lance shrugged, "I thought-"
Kevin must have sensed the danger, because he cut Lance off, "Whatever is about to come out of that smart mouth of yours, you leave my matrilineal line of descent out of this."
Lance didn't finish what he had been about to say. "So, um, dinner?"
Kevin set the box down on his entry-hall table. "Dinner sounds good."
Lance pursed his lips for a second and said, "I know we're doing the whole actually getting to know each other thing here, but, um-"
"I'm easy. I screw while getting better acquainted."
"My kind of southern gentleman."