Response to a challenge posted by two very awesome people: Bec and Jules! You two rock!
Disclaimer: Not mine, not true, don't sue!
"I have a heavy suitcase. No one will help me with it. I have a heavy suitcase. It's for me alone to hold."
Lance smiled in amusement at Joey as they waited in the hallway for the elevators. Joey had been singing his little song for about ten minutes, ever since he asked Justin for help with his suitcase and Justin told him to stick it where the sun don't shine. Lance offered to help Joey out, but Joey just smiled at him and shook his head. Lance knew that he wasn't the strongest one in the group by far, but he figured he could at least help Joey out a little bit. But no, Joey was much more content to sing his little song and bounce on his toes as they waited for the elevator to come meet them.
"Oh look, it's Superman and Poofu," an exasperated sigh stated, filling up the small area. Lance cringed. Only one person still called him Poofu, and that was...
"Oh look, it's 'I'm all that and a bag of chips,'" Joey tossed back sarcastically. Lance looked between the red-blond and the dark haired gone blond as they suddenly grinned and laughed at each other. Lance didn't see what was so funny. He had just been insulted, Joey had just been insulted, and Joey had just insulted Justin. But Joey and Justin were laughing.
Lance really wished that the elevator would hurry up.
"What's wrong, Poofu?" Justin asked, sounding annoyed. "Can't you take a joke?"
"Sure," Lance agreed softly, squirming under Justin's dark glare. Nervously he tucked his hands into his back pocket and watched the numbers on the elevator panel tick by. Damn it, they were going in the wrong direction! Come back up, come back up, he pleaded.
"So what're you up to tonight, Curls?" Joey asked, throwing his arms back and stretching. "Or rather, how many hot girls are you up to tonight?"
Justin flashed a grin. "As many as there are hours, baby."
Lance refused to look away from the ticking digital numbers. Please hurry, Lance begged. Or send another elevator. Just get me out of here!
"How about you, Lance?" Joey asked. "You doin' anything once we get back to Orlando?"
Justin snorted. "Yeah. Sleeping! He probably couldn't pay a chick to hit on him."
Lance just kept his eyes fastened to the numbers. Please, please, someone send an elevator. Someone send an elevator! Why does he hate me? Someone send an elevator!
Joey defended Lance when they saw that Lance was remaining silent. "Lance is just so pretty that the other girls are jealous."
Justin made a strangled sound of protest. "Do you mean to tell me that you don't think I'm pretty, Joe?"
Joey laughed. "You couldn't be pretty if you tried, Justin! You're more of that boyishly cute."
Lance glanced at Justin out of the corner of his eye to see how he would react. Justin seemed to be debating Joey's words, then shrugged. "That's okay." He flashed a grin. "The chicks fall for it all the time."
Lance looked away as Justin and Joey began slapping hands, his eyes widening in surprise when an arm was slipped around his shoulders. He gave a relieved grin and smiled up at JC sweetly. "Hey," he greeted happily, already feeling better. If there was anyone in his life that could make him feel better, it was JC.
"Hey," JC returned casually, grinning back at him. "How goes?"
"Elevator's slow," Lance told him, still glad that JC was there.
Justin snorted derisively. "Way to have an acute grasp of the obvious, Poofu."
JC turned on him. "Justin, you know he hates being called that. Cut it out and leave him alone."
Justin arched an eyebrow. "Look, Jace, it's cool if you wanna defend your girlfriend and all, but maybe he should speak for himself one of these days."
Lance cringed as he felt JC's arm around his shoulders tighten. "You're really an ass sometimes, Justin," JC growled softly. Lance turned to the elevators and began rapidly pushing the down button.
"I know, but everyone still loves me," Justin reminded, a smug grin curling his lips.
Please for the love of god come! Lance screamed in his mind at the elevators. Please. I'm begging you. Just come up to the floor, open your doors, and get me out of here!
JC just shook his head and tightened his hold on Lance, laughing softly. "That's not going to make it speed up," he reminded Lance playfully.
Lance smiled weakly and released the button. "I can try," he offered weakly, flushing. He just wanted to get out of there. Couldn't anyone else understand that? He got tired of Justin making fun of him all the time. Especially since he had no idea why Justin hated him. Justin just did. And even though he was egotistical, snobby, conceited, and totally stuck-up, Lance wanted Justin to like him. He didn't know why, he just did. He'd defended himself only one time in five years again Justin, and it wasn't even for himself. It was when Justin had put down his family and friends back home, and that was the only time he had not only responded to Justin's insults, but yelled at him as well.
Justin hadn't spoken to him for two weeks.
There was no reasonable explaination, Lance was certain. He hardly ever spoke to Justin. If Justin wanted something from Lance, Lance gave it to him without hesitation, no matter what. Like when Justin wanted the video game Lance was playing. Lance was on the last level fighting the bad guy, and Justin wanted it. Rather than have Justin all angry, Lance pulled it out of his machine and handed it to him. Justin had retreated with a smile and without a backwards glance.
If Justin wanted something, Justin got it.
The dinging sound that filled the small hallway had never been more welcome of a sound in Lance's entire life. He sighed happily and turned to the elevator behind him, watching as it slid open.
And revealed an elevator packed with people. "Coming on!" Justin announced, pushing and shoving his way onto the elevator. Lance cringed at the sight, then turned away before he could look at any more of the dirty looks that the people on the elevator were giving Justin. At least he was gone, Lance reasoned, as he watched those numbers tick their way down.
Lance visibly relaxed, feeling JC's arm loosen around him as well. JC was always protective when Justin was around. He seemed to be the only one that noticed just how uncomfortable Justin made him. Or the fact that Justin actually attacked him. Justin hated him with a vengance, but no one was sure why.
"Man, Lance, did you hear about Chris?" Joey asked, pushing the down arrow button again and leaning against the wall, holding his suitcase.
Lance frowned in concern. "No. What happened?" He never heard anything in this group.
Joey sighed. "He and Dani broke up last night. Justin was in there with him from like, 10 last night 'til two this morning holding Chris and just letting him sob. Chris eventually fell asleep, and Justin just stayed there with him. Didn't you notice his eyes? The boy hasn't gotten any sleep all night."
It was moments like this that reminded Lance why he wanted Justin to be his friend. He heard from the other guys all the time about how sweet Justin was, but Justin was never that way when he was around. Justin was just a jerk to Lance at all times. But the other guys seemed to think that Justin was this sweet guy, someplace in there. Where, was Lance's question.
"Is he okay?" Lance asked, biting his lower lip. His heart went out to Chris. Chris really loved Dani, and they all knew it. They just assumed that Chris would ask Dani to marry him one day, but obviously this put a damper on those plans. God, Dani and Chris had been together for forever. Lance's faith in relationships was being shaken right before his eyes. How could they break up? They were perfect together!
Joey sighed. "Yeah, but that's why he's in the bus already. He needed to get out of here fast before the fans saw him. Justin probably went to go check on him. That's probably why he jumped onto that elevator when he did." Joey ran a finger along the wallpaper beside the elevator. "But Chris, man, he's just out of it right now. Good thing we're just going home for a few days, huh?"
Lance smiled weakly. "Yeah. Good thing." Inwardly, he was sighing. No one ever turned to him for help. Apparently they all went to Justin. But how they could see some completely different side of Justin than Lance saw just confused him. How could they believe that Justin was some sweet, nice, caring, considerate guy? How could Lance be expected to see it, when Justin only treated him like a nusance, someone that the group had needed because Joey couldn't hit those low bars? Lance loved Nsync, and he would never want to give it up, but sometimes, after one of Justin's particularly brutal jabs, Lance would lay in bed crying himself to sleep and seriously debate leaving. The rest of the guys could be like the Spice Girls. They came back, even without that red head. What was her name? He doubted Justin knew, and Justin slept with her backstage at one of the VMA's that they'd all attended.
The elevator dinged, and happily Lance turned to the one that he'd been staring at all along and waited for it to open. It was empty! With a relieved sigh, he, JC, and Joey all surged onto the elevator and pushed the Lobby button. That was when Joey stopped the elevator. "I forgot to check my room," he groaned. "Man... All this time waiting, and I could have had it done already!"
Lance looked down at Joey's suitcase, his own suitcase, then JC's, and smiled sadly. "I'll do it for ya, Joe," he offered, holding out his hand for the key. "But you gotta take my suitcase down."
Joey perked up. "Really? Man, you're awesome!" He dug around in his pocket and pulled out the thin plastic rectangle. "Room 2013. Thanks, Lance!"
"No problem, Joe," Lance assured him, taking the key and stepping out of the elevator. He didn't mind being by himself. It was when he was with the other guys that he got uncomfortable. Well, mainly with Justin. But the other guys talked about Justin so often that it was hard not to get uncomfortable around them as well. Justin really didn't raise the sun and moon.
But man, if Justin would only be nice to him, Lance would be willing to say he did anything.
Lance found Joey's room easily, as it had been the one across from his, and slid the key back into his pocket as he went through all of Joey's drawers, looked under the bed, searched his hand along the cracks in the couch--more than once Joey had lost his watch in there--went into the bathroom and scoured it, and then gave the room a satsified once over. Joey had done a great job packing. Such was not always the case. The hotels were forever sending Joey's things back.
Lance emerged from Joey's room, quietly shutting the door behind him so as to not disturb anyone on any other floors. He hated it when he heard slamming of doors above or below him all day. The least he could do was extend the same curtousy to other people.
"Always the timid one," came a dark sneer.
Lance jumped and whirled around, to his right, and stared in shock at Justin, who was letting Chris' door slam shut behind him. The sound made Lance jump again, and he stared nervously at Justin. Justin was at his worst when the other guys weren't around. That is, if he wasn't just ignoring Lance and making the air so tension filled that people actually walked away. It looked like today would not be one of those days. Guess lack of sleep made Justin angry.
Lance didn't say anything, as he normally didn't, and just turned and went to the elevators, in the opposite direction of where Justin was. He punched the down arrow and swallowed, his heart racing frantically. "How come you came back up?" Lance asked, trying to start a decent conversation with him. "I thought you went down to go stay with Chris--"
"Chris forgot his earrings in the bathroom," Justin answered coldly. "I came to get them for him."
Lance nearly sighed and just gazed out the window. How Justin could be so nice and so cruel at the same time was still beyond Lance's imagination.
"How's Lynn?" Lance tried again. Maybe some day he would find something he and Justin could talk about without Justin snapping at him.
"Leave my mom to me," Justin ordered, rolling his eyes in disgust. Lance leaned his head against the wall and gazed down at the street below, where their bus was waiting for them to hurry up. There were girls gathered for two blocks, holding signs and presents and whatever else it was that they brought. They were screaming excitedly and waving signs at the bus, and Lance just flinched thinking about trying to go through all those eager hands, wanting to tear his clothes off. Or Justin's, rather.
Lance closed his eyes, remembering when Lynn had toured with them. Lynn liked him. Lynn had taken an instant liking to Lance. He had quickly become her third son--along with Justin, naturally, and JC--and she watched out for him. It was nice, because he missed his own mom all the time. Lynn really took care of him, and occasionally she would call him up and ask him how he was doing, but she was so busy that she hardly ever got the chance, and Lance wouldn't risk calling their house. He knew they had caller id, and the last thing he needed was for Justin to find out that he'd called. Justin would probably call him and yell at him for hours.
"Jesus," Justin muttered, punching the down arrow a few more times, then whipping out his cell phone. Lance watched him in the glass as he dialed a number and waited. "Britney, baby! Miss me?"
Lance sighed and closed his eyes. He did not need to listen to Justin flirt with his girlfriend, who slept with anyone with the right credit line. She and Justin cheated on each other all the time and they knew it, so why they stayed together was beyond Lance. But a lot of things concerning Justin were beyond Lance. He'd given up on him a long time ago.
Though his heart still hoped.
With a relieved face, Lance watched the elevator light up and ding, indicating that it was arriving. Justin chatted easily with Britney the whole time, calling her endearing terms that she always giggled over, like, "Baby," "Sweetie", "Honey", "Darling", "Foxy", "Sexy"... The list went on and on.
The elevator doors swung open to reveal just enough space for one person. With a sigh, Lance sank back against the wall and got ready to push the button again. At least now he wouldn't have to listen to Justin go on and on and on and make him uncomfortable. Justin stepped towards the elevator, then... Waved them down?! What the hell was he doing?! He'd pushed his way onto an elevator that couldn't take even one more passenger, and now he was sending one that had enough room for him away?
Torture. He wanted to torture Lance. That was the only explaination that Lance could think of. Well, maybe he didn't want the elevator to hear him practically have phone sex with Britney. Lance whimpered to himself and pushed the button several times rapidly. He just wanted to get to the other guys. JC would take care of him. JC always took care of him. He didn't care. He just wanted away from Justin. Desperately.
Justin laughed out loud. "Baby, you ain't seen nuthin' yet."
Lance was taking the stairs. Just as he turned to go, another elevator dinged, and he hesitated nervously as the doors swung open.
It was empty.
Justin stepped immediately on to the elevator and pushed the "L" button before Lance was even on. The doors nearly closed on Lance's shirt as he hurried to get on, and with a weary sigh he leaned back against the wall, holding the handrail behind him. Justin was still babbling away, a sound which Lance tried to drown out. He didn't want to listen to Justin's conversation. He didn't want to know. He just wanted to get on the bus and go home for a while. They were only a few hours away from Orlando. It would be a relatively short bus ride. If only they could get onto the bus.
"Baby, when you and I are together again, we're going to--"
The elevator lurched, and suddenly there was only air under Lance's feet. He gasped as his feet smacked back against the ground, looking around in panic at the emergency lights that were flickering on. The cool air flooding the elevator stopped flowing with a kicking sound as it shut off. The lights behind the numbers blinked out, and the only sound that Lance could hear was the pounding of his own heart. Other than that, it was silent.
Automatically Lance looked over at Justin in the dull, artificial yellow-orange light. Justin was glaring at the digital panel that had read the numbers before it blinked out, as if he could make them suddenly reappear with the heat of his gaze. That didn't help Lance at all. Lance was suddenly very well aware of how small the space they were in actually was. And it was getting hot. Already. He was sweating, but he wasn't sure if that was because he was scared or because it was hot.
"Gotta go, Brit," Justin said into the phone off-handedly, then ended the phone call with a long press of the end button. When he finally released it, he looked over at Lance. "What did you do?"
Lance's jaw fell. "I-I didn't do anything!" he protested immediately. "I was just standing here."
"Damn it, you're right beside the god damn panel!" Justin snapped at him angrily, stalking across the small, cramped elevator in two strides and pushing Lance out of the way as he studied the panel. "Jesus Christ, Poofu. Why the hell do I always get stuck with you?"
Lance frowned in bewildered confusion, then gave up and shook his head. He closed his eyes against the tears of panic and fear that were forming, and crossed to the other side of the elevator to nurse the wounds that Justin's angry fingers had caused on his arms. They weren't serious, just a tight grab and some scratches, but they hurt. They'd probably hurt for a few minutes. Combined with the fact that Lance was terrified of small spaces... Lance slowly sank into the corner, praying that he had just done something. Leaned against a button, accidentally pulled or pushed something... Though he knew he hadn't. He had been standing there when the elevator just stopped. He hadn't done anything. Not that it was worth it to try to explain that to Justin, who was muttering nasty things about Lance not-so-much under his breath as he studied the buttons and controls.
Lance dropped his head to his knees and closed his eyes, trying to control his breathing. His chest felt tight and constricted, making it difficult to draw in air. His heart was thudding and pounding in his ears so loudly that he could hardly hear Justin. His stomach felt weak and had knotted itself several times into a large pit. His knees felt like jelly, he was shaking, and there was a cold sweat all over his body. The elevator seemed to be shrinking, and suddenly the distance that had kept him away from Justin didn't seem quite as vast, or as safe.
Wait... He didn't really think that Justin would hit him, did he?
When Justin turned and gave Lance the dirtiest, scariest glare that Lance had ever seen in his life, he realized that he did. He fully believed that if he opened his mouth at that moment, then Justin would seriously hurt him. He panicked and felt his chest convulse in fear. At that moment, he was more terrified of Justin Timberlake than of the compressing elevator.
Justin gave a disgusted snort and turned back to the panel, picking up the phone and waiting impatiently for someone to pick up. Lance tried to squeeze as far into the corner as he could, as if he could protect himself by making himself small. If the elevator closed around him, the less space he took up, the better. Otherwise Justin would probably hurt him. And was the elevator getting black spots, or was that just him?
"Yeah. Hi. Someone help me. I'm stuck in an elevator," Justin's cold voice stated, leaving out all mention of Lance completely. "I don't know what number it is." There was a pause, then, "1123." Another pause. "I don't know. Which one?" There was a snapping sound. "Nope. That didn't work." Another pause, and another snap as Justin pushed the buttons. "Nope. Not working either." Another pause, another snapping sound, and Justin's annoyed, "Damn it, these aren't working! Just get us out of here!"
Lance flinched at the loud, furious tone, his breath involuntarily catching in his throat. If Justin turned that wrath on him... Lance would be better off just crashing to the ground in the elevator. The elevator was small, and it was hot, and Justin's presense was larger than the whole hotel. So was his anger. Lance didn't stand a chance. He was going to die, he knew it. He was going to die in an elevator with the one person who hated him more than anything.
More tears of panic and fear flooded Lance's eyes, which only made him panic more. If Justin saw him crying, Justin would call him a weak pansy and probably kick his ass for being a wimp. The pit in Lance's stomach got even bigger. He was going to die. If not from the elevator closing in on him, then from Justin killing him. He just wanted to be home. He just wanted to go home!
"Oh no. I am not waiting in this god damn elevator for three hours! What the hell is going to take three hours?!"
Lance winced again, pulling his legs so tightly to his chest that his body ached. He was going to die, and he was burning up inside, and he was going to throw up... He was completely nausious, but if he threw up... God, Justin would probably make him... Oh Jesus! The thought made him even more nausious, and Lance began rocking back and forth, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs. No more tears escaped his eyes, thank god, but Justin was going to turn around any second and see him. And then Justin would probably give him a 'toughening up' lesson, which involved Justin kicking his ass.
"Just get us out of here!" Justin screamed into the phone. His shout was so loud that the elevator shook. Lance shuddered and trembled, more silent heaves shaking his body. He was so hot, and so scared... He could feel the sweat trickling down his back and forming on his neck. He didn't want to die like this. He just wanted to go home. He wanted to go home and crawl into his mom's lap.
God, if you get me out of here, I promise that I'll quit Nsync and go home and crawl into my mommy's lap, Lance whispered in his mind, more tears of helplessness and fear forming in his eyes against his knees. Please. I'm just a middle-class southern boy. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I'm sorry I tried to be more than I am. Please, just protect me from Justin and this elevator and get us out of here alive. Please, God. Please.
There was a slamming sound as Justin hung up the phone, and then beeps as he used his cell phone. There was a pause, and then Justin's angry, "JC?" He listened, and when he spoke, his voice was snide. "Unfortunately, yeah. He's with me." Lance cringed. "Oh cut the bullshit for right now, JC, we're stuck in a god damn elevator." There was silence for a moment and Justin's exasperated, "I don't know! He's..." Justin trailed off, then cleared his throat. "He's fine. Look, just get them to get an elevator repair... Whatever, up here. Now. It's hot and I'm tired and I want to go home!" There was silence. "Fuck you, JC," Justin growled, and then ended the phone call.
There was a silence in the elevator in which time Lance was sure he could have heard a pin drop.
"What the hell is your problem?" Justin demanded coldly.
Lance flinched. "Nothing," he answered, his voice muffled by his pants and his arms. "I'm fine. Just hot."
"You're claustrophobic, aren't you?" Justin accused angrily. "Oh Jesus, this is just perfect. Just perfect!" His hand smacked against the wall of the elevator, which not only rocked it, but made Lance moan in fear. That hit was going to be crashing against him soon.
"I'm fine," Lance lied, his voice trembling with fear. He couldn't help it. "I'm fine."
"You lying son-of-a-bitch," Justin muttered. "How scared are you?"
"I'm not," Lance practically pleaded. "I'm okay. Just hot."
Justin's feet came closer and Lance braced himself for the inevitable. He knew Justin was going to hit him. He just knew it. Justin's hand closed around his arm and Lance let out a loud yelp and scrambled to the other side of the elevator as quickly as he could, gasping, "Please don't hit me!" His heart pounded furiously against his rib cage. His breath was quick and fast and hard to gather. The ball in his stomach had never been bigger, and he was trembling and shaking and absolutely terrified. Justin's eyes were wide. "I'll quit Nsync, alright? I'll go home, I'll leave, I'll never contact any of you guys again. You can even have my share of whatever money we have. Just please, leave me alone." He didn't know if his plea would work, but he had to try. He had to. He was so scared that his body was like jelly. He would have no way of defending himself, not that he stood much of a chance before.
Justin's jaw had fallen, his eyes were huge, and he almost looked like he had paled. "Jesus Christ," he breathed, falling back against the wall farthest from Lance. "Are you really that scared of me?"
Lance knew better than to duck his head into his arms. He couldn't take his eyes off Justin. That would leave him susceptible, and he at least wanted to see it coming. Not 'cause he could block it, but because he wanted to see his fate. He couldn't say yes, he couldn't say no in case Justin decided to make him 'that scared of him', so he just looked away, at the ground, and tried to breathe.
"Oh my god," Justin breathed in disbelief, slowly sliding down the corner of the elevator across from Lance. "Oh Jesus."
Well he wasn't jumping Lance, that was a good thing. Lance carefully kept his eyes down. He heard once that meeting someone's eyes was a challenge, and the last thing he wanted to do was challenge Justin.
"You're really..." Justin trailed off. There were some beeping sounds as Justin dialed a number on his cell phone, to Lance's confusion. There was silence for a moment, and then Justin's somewhat pained, "JC? Am I violent?" He listened for a moment. "Would you be scared that I was going to hurt you?" Silence. "Do you think anyone else should be scared that I'm going to hurt them?" More silence. "Oh my god." He cleared his throat and spoke to Lance, whose mind was spinning. "JC wants to talk to you." Instead of moving, he slid the phone across the elevator to Lance, who caught it easily and picked it up with shaking fingers.
"J-JC?" Lance asked, his voice trembling.
"Lance? Has he touched you?"
"Are you okay?"
"Small spaces, right?"
"Oh Lance," JC sighed. The sound was nearly Lance's undoing, and he lowered his head. His shoulders shook with silent sobs as he caught his tears on his knees. "Lance, James, I know that you're scared of Justin. But he's really not going to hurt you. I swear to god, he won't. He just acts like a bastard sometimes. He's really not."
"JC," Lance pleaded, his voice thick with tears. He was scared, he was hot, he was going to die, and JC was telling him that the person Lance was most scared of wasn't going to hurt him. How was Lance supposed to believe him? And why couldn't JC have gotten stuck in here with him? JC would have held him and protected him and watched out for him. But no, Lance had to be on his guard at all times at a time when he was most weakest.
"Lance," JC whispered back, and Lance could hear that JC was crying. "He's not going to hurt you! I promise." JC's voice broke. "If he does, I'll kill him with my bare hands, Lance. I swear to God."
"I just wanna go home," Lance sobbed. "I don't want to be in Nsync anymore! I just wanna go home. I'm sorry that I tried to be more than just me. Please, JC. Please just get me out of here and let me go home. I'm twenty one years old, and I just want my mommy!"
JC was crying hysterically. "Lance, you can't mean that," he begged. "You're not trying to be more than you are! You haven't even begun to touch on your potential! And we don't want you to leave, Lance! We wouldn't be Nsync without you!"
"What do you mean, Lance is leaving?" came an angry hiss on the other side. There was a scratching sound, then Joey's, "Lance?!"
Silence. Then Joey speaking, but to JC, not Lance. "Why is he crying?"
"He's scared Justin's going to hit him and he's claustrophobic," JC answered softly, his own voice thick with tears.
"Justin?!" Joey yelped. "Justin wouldn't hurt a fly!"
Lance's shoulders began shaking again helplessly. "Please just get us out of here," he begged softly. "I just want to go home."
"Home as in Orlando, right Lance?" Joey asked softly.
"No!" Lance burst out. "Home as in Mississippi! Home as in where my mom and my friends are! Home as in where I don't have to be someone I'm not! Home as in where I don't live my life in fear that I'm doing something wrong or that I'm going to do something wrong and piss one of you guys off! Home as in where I can just be me." Lance crumbled into the corner. "Joe, I love you guys. You know that. But I can't do this anymore."
"Are you that scared of Justin? Are you really quitting because of Justin?!"
"No," Lance whispered, feeling his heart aching. "No. I'm just tired, Joey. This was fun for a little while. Maybe a year. I haven't liked it since we got together. I've stayed on this long because you guys liked it and I didn't want to risk hurting the group. But you guys are established now. I can go and slip out and you guys will be fine."
"Yeah, Joe?" Lance asked, trying to calm down. He could hear Joey crying as well, and that just hurt even more.
"Look over at Justin. What's he doing?"
Lance swallowed hard before slowly looking up across to the other side of the elevator. Justin had his legs to his chest and his shoulders were shaking silently. Lance's jaw fell. His eyes widened in shock. Justin Timberlake was... crying?!
"I bet you fifty that he's crying. Am I right?"
Lance swallowed again. "Y-yeah."
"Do you still want to quit?"
He didn't know anymore. He did know that he wanted to know why Justin was crying. "Why?" he asked, hoping that Joey would pick up on it.
"Why am I asking?"
"Oh. Why is Justin crying?"
"Yes." Lance nearly sighed in relief. Joey caught on quickly. He didn't have to risk Justin figuring out what they were talking about.
"Because it's just now occuring to him and all of us that he's made your life so miserable, and we've helped, that you want to quit. Not just quit the group, Lance, but quit our family." Joey's voice cracked. "I just wish we had known you felt this way sooner. I'm sorry, Lance."
"I have to go," Lance said softly, then ended the phone call before Joey could reply. Justin slowly lifted his head, and they stared at each other, both faces tear stained, both hurt. Lance slowly slid the phone back to Justin, who caught it listlessly, his eyes pained.
"I'm sorry, Lance," Justin whispered softly. "I didn't know."
Lance felt bitterness rise inside of him. "It's a little late now, Justin," he returned in tearful anger. "I don't... I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to know you. Before I joined this group, I always wanted to sing. I always wanted to be a preformer. I loved it. And I loved you." Justin's eyes flickered with surprise. "Mr. Vassine raved about you every single time I worked with him. He told me about what a wonderful kid you were, and how sweet, and how utterly perfect. And I swore to myself that someday, somehow, I would meet you. When I got the call asking to not only audition for a group, but to audition for a group with you." Lance shook his head at the memory, remembering how he had jumped around excitedly for the next two days. He had finally gotten the chance to meet his idol, the boy he had never met. Slowly Lance reached inside his wallet and pulled out a picture of Justin, age 14. He flipped it across the elevator. After a moment, Justin picked it up and looked at it, his expression blank. "He gave me that one day. I fell in love with that picture. To think that I was going to meet the boy that I had heard nonstop about, and fallen in love with, without even having met him before was just too much of a dream come true. So I went to your audition, and do you know what the first thing you said to me was, Justin?" Lance's lip curled bitterly with the memory. "'Well, this is certainly a country hick.'" He shook his head, sniffing, and looked away. "I have tried for five years to get you to like me. But I'm tired, now. Now I'm done. I just want to go home."
Justin let out a little choked sound, reached inside his wallet, and flipped a picture at Lance. "Guess you handled hearing about how wonderful someone else was better than I did," he said softly. With trembling fingers, Lance picked up the picture he had given Mr. Vassine when he turned 16. But how had Justin...? Lance looked up slowly at him. Why did Justin still have it? "Ever since I was 13, I heard all about how wonderful you were. How fantastic. You had the grades, the girls, the friends, the money, the life," he nodded at the picture, "the looks, the talent... You had it all. And I hated you. Mr. Vassine never shut up about how perfect you were. When he suggested you for our group, I figured this was my big chance to show that you weren't so perfect. Only you sang, and it was just right, and the next thing I knew, I was stuck in a group with you. And you were quiet, and shy, and so god damn sweet that everyone just liked you instantly. You! The boy I had spent forever hating." He glared at Lance. "Everyone loved you. Perfect, angelic little Lance. My best friend liked you." JC. "He ditched me for you in a heartbeat. My mom tried to adopt you and send me home to your family and keep you instead. Joey and Chris treated you like their little brother, and me like the annoying pest. I hated everything about you, from your voice, to your style, to your green eyes that everyone raves about. I hated that compared to you, I was never good enough." Justin's eyes spilled over with tears. "But it was never you, Lance. You couldn't help it if you were just perfect enough that everyone loved you. I just..." He dropped his eyes. "I just hated that no one seemed to dislike you. I wanted to make sure that you didn't get too conceited, so I grew to hate you even more. But I never really thought you would quit." He leaned his chin on his knees, his eyes on the floor blankly. "I'm sorry, Lance."
Lance just stared at him.
Was it possible? Was it honestly possible what Justin had just said? It didn't make any sense. But it did, didn't it? Lance was so stunned he couldn't even think straight. He couldn't think of anything. He didn't know what to say, what to do, or what to think. So he did the only thing he could do.
He buried his head in his knees and tried not to cry.
"Get them out!" Chris screamed at the woman behind the desk. "I don't care if I have to buy this whole god damn hotel, but get my friends out of that elevator this instant!" He slammed his hands furiously on the counter top, leaning forward and glaring dangerously into her scared eyes.
JC and Joey ran up to Chris, pulling him back off the counter.
"Ma'am, we are so sorry," JC apologized for him quickly, as Chris buried his face in Joey's shoulder. "He just broke up with his girlfriend of five years last night, our friends are stuck in the elevator, one of our members just informed us that he's going to quit... We're all a little frazzled right now."
"Yeah. Especially since we don't know what's going on with Justin and Lance in there," Joey mumbled.
JC turned on Joey unhappily. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, one of two things. Either they're killing each other, Justin is screaming at a terrified Lance, or they're both sitting in silence crying." Joey leaned down and began cooing softly in Chris' ear. "It's okay, Chris. Shh... It's okay. I'll take care of you. Shh... You don't need Dani. She's just a stupid bitch anyway. Shh... And Justin and Lance are going to be fine. They'll work this out, and Lance will stay. Shhh... Don't cry..."
JC gaped at Joey in disbelief, then turned to the woman and placed both his hands on the counter top. "Look, ma'am, I know that you can't make the repair people hurry up. I know that it takes a while for them to figure out what the problem is so that you can get our friends down. But you have to get them out of there! They are not going to come out of there unscathed!" He turned to Joey. "Specifically, Justin."
Joey glanced at him. "Man, where have you been? Justin's been hurt out of all of this way more than Lance. Lance has been unhappy all along. Even I saw that. But Justin... Justin thought he hated Lance. He's getting a really big reality check right now."
JC frowned at him. "How do you know?" he asked in confusion.
Chris was the one who answered, lifting his head and looking at JC. "Because Justin cares about Lance a lot more than he knew."
"Is it getting smaller?" Lance asked softly, swallowing hard as he looked up at the surrounding edges of the elevator.
Justin lifted his head in surprise, probably at hearing Lance talk, and looked around. "The elevator?" he asked, his voice sounding strained.
"Yeah," Lance whispered, breathing as deeply as he could. It was so hot and stiffling in there. They'd been stuck for at least an hour, and the temperature must have risen at least twenty degrees. Lance was soaked in sweat, and the combination of heat and tears just made him miserable.
Justin shook his head, his eyes meeting Lance's. "It's not getting smaller. It's the same size as it was."
"Are you sure?" Lance whimpered fearfully, feeling more tears of panic building up behind his eyes as he looked at the corners of the elevator. He bit his lip to keep from crying, but it wasn't working very well.
"Yeah, man. I'm sure. It's the same size."
Lance released his legs and buried his face in his hands, trying to shield his eyes from seeing how small it was actually getting. "It is smaller," he moaned. "You just can't tell!"
There was a hesitation, then a shifting sound, and suddenly two strong arms were around Lance. Lance froze in shock, but the touch wasn't hurting him, so he didn't move. Actually... If he wasn't mistaken, it was comforting. The arms sat on him a little ackwardly, as though Justin didn't know how to hold him, but after a small shift, they settled perfectly.
"I can tell," Justin assured him quietly. "It's the same size."
"Are you as hot as I am?" Lance whispered hoarsely, terrified to look up at him.
"Yeah," Justin agreed, his voice coming out with his breath of air. "It's sweltering in here." The next thing Lance knew, the arms were gone, and Justin was slipping out of the short sleeved button down he was wearing over his white tee shirt. "Come on, man, take this off." He tugged on Lance's short sleeved shirt to emphasize his point, and while normally Lance would have protested, Justin's voice was soft and gentle and caring. Lance didn't want to risk losing that, so after a hesitation, he slipped his shirt over his head. Then Justin's hands were around him, helping him into the shirt. When Lance went to button it, Justin stopped him, his voice still quiet. "Don't. Just leave it open. It'll be cooler."
The shirt smelled unmistakably of Justin: his shampoo, his body wash, his cologne, and just the smell that was Justin. It was big and airy and soon he felt much better, but he was still hot and still scared. He must have started trembling, because Justin's arms were around him again. This time they slid right into place, locking reassuringly around Lance.
"Why haven't they gotten us out yet?" Lance asked softly, knowing that Justin wouldn't know the answer, and yet he was tired of keeping it to himself.
Justin shook his head slowly. "I don't know. But they will, soon. I bet the guys are downstairs right now screaming their heads off to try and get us out." He laughed softly, almost wistfully. "Probably Chris."
Lance sighed sadly.
"Where the hell are the elevator repair guys?!" Chris shouted loudly. JC and Joey both cringed and patted him soothingly on the back where they sat in the lobby. Chris jumped up, out of their arms, and stalked to the front desk while JC and Joey quickly followed to catch him. "Show me the way to the elevators and I'll get them out myself!" Chris yelled at the manager, smacking his hands on the counter top. "This is ridiculous! I want my friends out of that god damn elevator!"
"Sir, there's nothing we can do--" the manager protested.
"Like hell there isn't!" Chris screamed back. "You can let me up there! I'll eat my way through the metal if I have to! But I want my friends right now!"
"Chris," JC soothed. "They're doing the best that they--"
"Their best isn't good enough!" Chris howled, kicking the desk and causing everyone to jump. He leaned forward and grabbed the manager by the collar, glaring at him dangerously. "If even one hair on their pretty little heads is hurt, I'm going to hold you personally responsible, buy this god damn hotel, and fire you. Understand?"
The manager swallowed.
"Chris," Joey barked, grabbing him and pulling him back while JC apologized to the manager, who was very shaken up. With a sigh, JC joined the other two in the lobby, and they all wrapped their arms around each other, trying not to cry.
Lance looked up at the corner of the elevator and whimpered. He'd been gauging it for the past few minutes, and every time he looked up, the corner came closer and closer.
Justin's arms tightened around him. "What's wrong?" he asked softly, lightly stroking Lance's back.
"The corner's coming closer," Lance told him, trembling. "I watched it." At this rate, they were going to be in a three-foot wide elevator if they ever got out of there. More likely than not, they'd be squished alive.
"It's not coming closer," Justin soothed gently. "Lance, you're brilliant. Can metal actually shrink?"
"In various temperatures it can expand and contract," Lance offered, caught off guard by Justin's compliment and yet too scared to really think about it.
Justin sighed. "Yes, but can it really shrink? Is it possible, scientifically speaking, for the elevator to close in around us?"
Lance sniffed as he thought about it. "N-no."
"Then really, the only place this elevator is getting smaller is in here." Justin lightly ran his fingers through Lance's hair, causing Lance to shudder. Justin's hand was probably soaked with sweat now, but Justin didn't say anything, just hugged Lance tightly. "Did you ever play baseball?"
Lance froze. "Yeah."
"You know how when you're pitching, and the strike zone seems impossibly small? But then you focus on it, and focus on it, and focus on it, and it seems to get so big that it like, consumes your whole vision?" Justin leaned his forehead against the side of Lance's head. "That's like this, man. You're focusing on the corner, so it seems to be getting bigger. But really, it's not. Try closing your eyes and don't look at it for a few minutes, and it'll move back out."
"I can't," Lance whimpered, knowing how pitiful he sounded, but he was too scared to listen to Justin, who was actually making a lot of sense. And being really gentle and patient with Lance, which just confused him further.
"How come?" Justin asked, his mouth still in front of Lance's ear from where their heads pressed together.
"Because it'll close up if I do," Lance admitted. He could just picture himself closing his eyes and the whole elevator contracting immediately on them.
"You close your eyes," Justin instructed softly, pulling his head away from Lance's. "And I'll watch the corners."
Lance looked up at him sharply. That wasn't funny. But Justin wasn't smiling. He met Lance's eyes, and they both paused, studying each other for a moment. Lance tore his eyes away, flushing. "Don't make fun," he told Justin softly.
Briefly Lance met Justin's eyes again, startled to see that Justin was serious, and slowly he closed his eyes and rested them on his knees. Justin's arms around him tightened, and one of Justin's hands began rubbing his back slowly. It was... Nice. Soothing. Not words Lance would have ever thought to associate with Justin Timberlake.
Lance concentrated on his breathing, and when it started to become irregular as he panicked about the walls closing in, he tuned out his breath and listened to Justin's. Justin's was regular, and even, and soft. Perfect, just like Lance had always been told Justin was.
Lance didn't reopen his eyes.
"It's about time!" Chris yelped, jumping to his feet as he caught sight of the repair men. "Get my friends out of the god damn elevator!"
"Sir, we're sorry for the delay, but it's going to take some time to figure out what the problem is."
JC quickly held Chris back. "How long does it normally take?" JC asked calmly, feeling Joey's arms slip around Chris as well.
"On average? 1 and a half to two hours," the man told them almost boredly. Chris took a menacing step forward, but Joey and JC held him back. The two repair men were wisked away by the hotel's manager, who shot a nervous look at Chris.
"They're never going to get out alive," Chris moaned. "They've either killed each other or they're not speaking."
"Or they've become friends," Joey offered. JC and Chris both looked at him blankly, and Joey shrugged. "You never know, guys. You never know."
Lance was aware of several things when he reopened his eyes. One was that he was alive. Another was that there were two very strong, very secure arms around him. Another was that he was leaning against something hard, and something was thudding under his ear. There was a body along side his, and they were both reclining, though Lance was using the other person as a pillow. The other one was breathing evenly, and from the sounds of it, they were sleeping. Slowly Lance lifted his head and found himself staring into the boyish good looks of Justin Timberlake.
Lance's jaw fell.
Justin was definitely asleep. Lance could see that much. But when had they fallen asleep? What time was it? How long had they been stuck in there? Why was Justin holding him?
More importantly, why did he like it?
Suddenly cool air came rushing in over them, the lights came on, the numbers lit back up, and slowly the elevator shuddered and began its decent.
"Justin!" Lance exclaimed excitedly, turning in his arms and shaking him. "Justin, wake up! We're moving!"
Groggily Justin opened his eyes, blinked a few times, then stretched and yawned, smiling tiredly. His arms resettled around Lance, but Lance stood and began buttoning up the shirt. He wasn't going to go out like that. And he certainly wasn't going to let the doors open with Justin's arms around him. It would just be... wrong. It might give the guys hope that Lance was going to stay, and he wasn't. Not even though he had spent the past few hours happily curled up in Justin's arms. Not after five years. He was just too tired.
Justin pulled himself to his feet, rubbing his eyes exhaustedly, and together they waited for the doors to open. The elevator hit the bottom, and slowly the doors open. Justin and Lance faced off against Joey, JC, and Chris, and no one said a word.
Then they rushed each other.
Lance and Justin stepped eagerly out of the elevator. Lance had never been happier to be on the ground before, and swore that he would take the stairs for as long as he lived from then on. He happily hugged JC, then Joey, and then Chris, then back to JC, finally settling in a large group hug. Tears of relief and happiness stung Lance's eyes, and when he looked at all of his friends, he saw that they were teary-eyed too. It was such a relief, for the five of them to be back together again.
"Are you guys okay?" Joey finally asked, studying Lance and Justin.
"Yeah," Lance answered, smiling and swallowing past the lump in his throat.
"Yeah," Justin echoed, a little softer than normal. Lance couldn't bring himself to look at Justin. Actually, he was having a hard time looking at all of his friends. He was going to miss them, definitely, but he had to go.
From the way they all looked at him with tears in their eyes, they knew it, too.
"We'll call you all the time," JC promised, his voice thick. His blue eyes were shimmering with water as he held Lance by the shoulders. "You aren't getting rid of us, Lance."
Lance smiled weakly. "I know, Jace." He hugged his best friend tightly, then moved down the line to Chris, who was crying. "Chris, please don't cry. You guys are going to be fine. The fans love you. I was just the low voice. But Joey... God, man, Joey's got the range down. You don't even need me anymore."
"Yes we do!" Chris sobbed. "Damn it, Lance! This isn't just about music! Why can't you see that? You're my little brother! We're family!" His voice broke. "Nothing is going to be the same without you."
Lance swallowed doggedly. "Justin'll be your little brother," he reassured Chris softly, unable to meet Justin's eyes. "And just because I'm not here every day doesn't meant that I'm not with you." He touched Chris' heart. "Cliche, I know, but it's true. And I'll still be your little brother, just your little brother that lives far away and doesn't travel with you." He hugged Chris tightly. "I love you, Chris. Don't forget that."
"I love you, too, Lance," Chris whispered. Lance stepped back, and Chris fell into JC's arms.
"We're going to miss you, man," Joey assured him softly. "It won't be the same, you know?" Tears slipped down Joey's cheeks. "Who's going to know the schedule? And who's going to be the smart business mind? And who's going to tell everyone else that I'm not as dumb as they think I am? Who's going to actually believe in me?" Joey choked on his words and had to stop.
Lance swallowed, blinking away the painful tears. "You will," he told Joey softly, cupping either side of Joey's face. "You will, Joe. You'll believe in yourself, and you'll know the schedule, and you'll be your own biggest fan. But if you fall, or you forget just how wonderful you are, I will always be there for you." He hugged Joey tightly, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to make the lump in his throat go away. "I love you, Joey."
"Love you too, Lance," Joey whispered hoarsely.
Lance pulled away and smiled tenderly at him, nervously moving on to Justin. "Thank you," he offered softly. "For keeping me from freaking out in that elevator."
Justin didn't smile. He didn't cry. He just looked hurt and sad. "Yeah," he mumbled, looking away at the ground. "Bye, Lance."
Lance smiled sadly, looking away as well. "Bye Justin," he offered softly. He stepped back and studied all of them, smiling. "I'll be your guys' biggest fan," he promised, smiling through the tears that he could feel in his eyes. They all looked at him, and after smiling once more, he turned and hurried to the ticket woman. He couldn't stay one more minute. If he did, he was going to crack.
He was halfway down the ramp when he heard a strangled cry. "Lance!"
Lance turned around quickly to see Justin standing at the head of the ramp. He threw something... A small box, at Lance, who caught it easily. Then Justin turned and disappeared.
Shaking violently, Lance fled down the rest of the ramp, tears streaming down his cheeks as he boarded the plane. He stared down at the little box in his hands, wrapped like from a jewelers, and frowned at it. He turned his gaze out the window, towards the terminal, where Joey, JC, and Chris were all standing at the window, looking longingly at the plane. Justin was sitting down, on the bench behind them, with his head in his hands.
Lance slowly looked back at the small box and cut the tape holding the white top in place with his nail. A small jewelry case looked back at him, and he shook it out, holding it in his lap and studying it for a minute. Then, slowly, he opened it.
Justin's diamond earrings glittered back at him.
Lance settled down in front of the tv with a nervous pit in his stomach. "Today on TRL, we have some very special guests with some very big, very tragic news," Carson told the audience, who made a sound of concern. "Yeah. So, let's welcome, Nsync!"
Lance felt his heart wrench in his chest as he stared at the four men walking out from the back. They were smiling, and waving at the crowd. Justin blew kisses, as was his style, but his earrings were gone.
Well of course they were, they were in Lance's room.
He'd wanted to get his ears pierced, but he was just too freaked out. He just couldn't do it. His mom had been thrilled to have him back, as were his friends and family. He'd been back for about a week already, and while he ached for the guys, he felt better than he had in a long time.
"Now, you guys have some really big news. I'm guessing it has something to do with why Lance isn't here?" Carson asked.
JC cleared his throat. "Yeah, actually. Lance is no longer part of Nsync."
There were gasps and out cries of horror all through out the audience. It hurt Lance's heart to hear JC say it so casually, but he knew it had to be done that way. They had to make it seem like it was no big deal.
Or maybe they just didn't think it was?
"What happened?" Carson asked, frowning.
"Lance had some personal things that he wanted to do, and as much as he loved preforming, he was just tired," Joey explained.
"We're still really good friends with him," Chris assured them all. "In fact, we were talking for him for like, two hours earlier."
"More like two minutes," Lance scoffed, thinking about Chris briefly telling him to turn on TRL because they were going to be on it inbetween his hair and makeup.
"Lance will be missed," JC promised. "But we're confident that our fans will stick behind us. There's no harsh feelings anywhere because of this. It was just something that he felt like doing. He was tired."
Lance wasn't sure if he liked that assessment.
"And to prove that nothing has changed," Justin spoke up. "We're going to preform for you today. That's good, right?" The girls screamed in reply, and Justin flashed a grin.
Lance looked away.
"Well, they sure like that," Carson teased. "We're going to go to commercial, and then when we come back, we'll have a preformance with Nsync!"
The tv cut to a commercial.
Lance knew what they were doing. They were running backstage to go change and get on their mics. Then they'd be coming back out to the stage for the crowds to scream at, and they'd start their little song.
Lance wondered which one they would do.
Nervous anticipation built up in his stomach as he watched the tv. Each commercial seemed to take ten minutes to get through, untl finally, TRL came back on.
"You wanted 'em, you got 'em! Let's welcome, Nsync, everybody, preforming their hit song, 'No Strings Attached'!"
It was flawless.
Everyone was perfect. They were coordinated, and if Lance wasn't mistaken, it was the best preformance they'd ever given. They were excellent in every way, shape, and form, and while it hurt, Lance was so happy for them. He really had been holding them back. But now he was gone, and they were doing fine. They were going to be just fine.
They were all going to be just fine.
Lance smiled as he listened to Joey prattle on and on about what they were going to do. "Are you sure you can't come?" Joey pestered. "You can be my date to the Emmy's! JC's got Bobbie, Chris is going with Dani, and Justin's got Britney! But me, I'm all alone!"
Lance sighed. "I can't, Joe. I'm sorry. Bec's family's in town, and we're going to go celebrate her birthday with them." Lance smiled just at the thought of his girlfriend. She was beautiful, sweet, adorable, funny, shy... She was his perfect match.
Joey sighed. "Hard to believe it's been a whole year, huh?" he asked slowly.
Lance smiled sadly. "Yeah. Sometimes I forget, you know, and I'll wake up and still think I'm in the hotels."
Joey laughed softly. "Yeah, well, we still come into rooms and go, 'Hey, where's Scoop?'"
Lance laughed. Joey was such a liar, but at least he was a nice liar. "Well you guys are doing great," Lance reminded. "The new album's gone, what? Triple Platinum already?"
Joey laughed. "Yeah. Amazing, isn't it?"
"Well you guys deserve it," Lance assured him.
"Thanks, Lance. Oh, hey, Justin and Britney are here. I gotta go."
Lance smiled sadly. "No problem."
"Who's that?" Lance heard Britney ask in the background.
"Lance," Joey answered.
"Lance?" Justin repeated, as though the name were foreign. Lance cringed bitterly.
You know, the guy you spent five years in a group with, Lance reminded mentally, glaring at the ground.
"Yeah, Lance," Joey laughed. "You wanna say hi?"
"We gotta go, man," Justin objected. Lance glared harder at the ground. "But, ah, sure. Hand it over." Lance's eyes widened in surprise. "Lance?"
"Hey, Justin," Lance greeted, his voice strained. God, he hadn't spoken to Justin in, what? Four months? Maybe more? Even that had been a fleeting conversation at best.
"Hey," Justin greeted back, his voice sounding a little strained. "How's it going?"
"It's cool." He hesitated. "So, um, Joey mentioned a girl?"
"Yeah. Bec. She's a sweetie. How's Britney?"
"Oh. Ah, you didn't hear?"
"Hear?" Lance repeated, his heart pounding against his ribcage.
"We're, um... We're engaged, actually. The marriage is tentatively set for winter."
Lance dropped the phone.
"Lance?" Justin asked. "Lance? Are you there?"
Lance stared at the fallen receiver, picked it up, stared at it, and then slowly hung it up. Justin was engaged? And to Britney? And no one had told him?! Bitterly Lance picked up the phone again and dialed a number he knew from heart, waiting with an empty feeling inside as the phone rang on the other end.
"Hello?" a perky voice asked.
"Can you come over?" Lance asked softly.
"Lance? Baby, is that you?"
"Yeah. Can you come over?" Lance squeezed his eyes shut. "I could really use someone right now."
"Baby, I'll be right there!" Bec hung up the phone, and after a moment, so did Lance, laying down face first on his bed.
Justin was getting married? Justin?! For some reason, Lance didn't expect it to hurt this badly. He didn't know what was wrong with him, actually. He just knew that it... hurt. It ached. He loved Bec, he did. He was going to marry her. But he had always loved Justin. His eyes trailed to the dresser, and at the small box on it, containing Justin's diamond earrings.
Justin Randall Timberlake smiled at his beautiful wife at one of their extravagant parties that she liked to throw. He hated them, but they made her happy, so he dutifully threw them every few months.
"Hey!" Joey Fatone greeted, slinging an arm around Justin. "How's it goin', man?"
Justin sighed and tugged at his collar. "It's going," he sighed. "Joey, remind me why I'm celebrating my one year anniversary with a house full of people instead of some private little condo in Jamaica?"
Joey laughed out loud, then grinned as Chris joined them with Dani. "Because you're whipped," Chris teased, then held out a wrapped box. "Here. This just showed up."
Justin looked at it in confusion. "I thought everyone already sent their gifts."
Chris shrugged. "I don't know. Here." He handed the box to Justin, who took it with a frown. He had a strange feeling about this. He carelessly ripped at the wrapping paper, staring at the familiar white box in his hand. With trembling fingers, he pulled aside the table and shook out the little jewelry box.
"Looks like a gift for Britney," Joey spoke up.
Numbly Justin shook his head and lifted the lid of the jewelry box. He wouldn't have... Would he? No... Please God, Justin begged. Don't let him have sent them back. Please, God.
The three surrounding Justin whistled, and Justin opened his eyes, feeling his heart wrench.
His diamond earrings looked back at him, still sparkling and shining in their brilliance.
Justin swallowed and spoke off handedly. "I'll go put these away," he mumbled, turning and fleeing up the stairs as quickly as he could, going into his and Britney's bedroom and slamming the door shut. He knew it would catch attention, but he didn't care as he locked the door and snapped the jewelry box shut, pacing around the room to try and control his tears. Lance hadn't come to his wedding, even though he had invited him. Lance hadn't invited any of them to Lance's wedding, though apparently he had married Bec the next spring. Justin had heard from Joey that it was a private, small ceremony, and that they were expecting their first born soon. Other than the invitation, Justin hadn't spoken to Lance in over a year, even though Lance had sent a gift for their wedding: a beautiful crystal china set that Britney used at every party to the day.
And this... Sending the earrings back... It was the ultimate rejection. At least as long as Lance had them, Lance knew--even if he wasn't told--that Justin loved him. But Lance had sent them back, after all this time... Why? What could have prompted it?
A very miserable Justin Timberlake clutched the small box to his chest as he laid down on his bed and cried.
In Mississippi, at the same time, an equally miserable Lance Bass was doing the same thing.
That's how it could have ended...
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