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. Joey was smiling sadly, Chris was grinning blankly, JC was smiling, and Justin had a small smile on his face. Justin waved but didn't blow the kisses as was his custom, and his diamond earrings--his trademark--were missing.
Well of course they were, one of them was in Lance's ear.
He'd gotten it pierced almost as soon as his plane landed. He had tried to get both of them pierced, but it was just impossible. He just couldn't do it. The other earring was still in the box, on his dresser, in his room.
Lance's family and friends were thrilled to have him back. He'd been there for a little over a week, and while he missed the guys something terrible, he was certainly enjoying the rest.
"Now, you guys have some really big news. I'm guessing it has something to do with why Lance isn't here?" Carson asked.
"Yeah," JC agreed slowly, smiling weakly. "There's really no easy way to say this, but Nsync is now Lance-less."
There were gasps among the crowd of shock and horror. Lance smiled weakly in his living room, staring at his friends, who all had smiles plastered on their faces.
"Lance was very tired," Chris explained slowly. "This lifestyle just wasn't for him."
"We're still Nsync," Joey spoke up. "And we'll still keep bringing you the same great music. We just don't have Lance with us anymore."
"There's no animosity," Justin added, looking into the camera. "We're not angry at Lance, and he's not angry at us. We miss him, of course, but it's not a decision that was made out of anger. It's been a long time coming."
"And just to show that you guys are doing okay, you're going to be singing one of your songs for us, is that right?" Carson asked.
"Right," JC agreed. "We're going to be singing 'No Strings Attached' after this commercial break."
Lance watched as the tv cut to the commercial. He blinked a few times rapidly to get rid of the tears in his eyes, then gasped when his cell phone rang. His hand snaked out and picked it up off the coffee table, accepting the call even as he brought it to his ear. "Hello?"
Lance frowned. "Chris?"
"Dude, it's been like, two days, and already you forgot my voice?" Chris' tone was teasing, but he sounded slightly hurt.
"'Course not, man," Lance reassured him immediately. "I just saw you guys cut to commercial on TRL."
"Awesome! Hey, guys!" Chris called. "He's watchin'!"
"Right on!" "Good!" "Otherwise we'd have to kick his ass!" That, of course, was Justin.
"Listen, I only got a minute," Chris told him, sounding slightly out of breath. Lance knew that he was changing into his costume. "But we just got word about the Emmy's. You gonna come?"
Lance frowned. "What?"
"The Emmy's," Chris repeated. "You know, the big award show? Are you going to come with us?"
"No, Chris, of course not."
There was silence on the other end.
Lance listened hard. He could still hear Chris' breathing, but that was about all he heard. "Chris?"
"There's no 'of course' involved," Chris finally stated slowly. "Where did the 'of course' come from?"
"W-well, I'm not in the group anymore. It wouldn't be right to confuse your guys' fans--"
"You've only been gone for a week, Lance!" Chris shouted. Lance winced, and a second later, there was a ripping sound.
"JC?" Lance asked, confused.
"Yeah. What just happened?"
"I'm not exactly sure. I told Chris that I wasn't going to the Emmy's with you guys because it wouldn't be nice to confuse the fans, and Chris freaked out on me. Is he okay?"
JC sighed. "Yeah. He's crying on Joey's shoulder." Lance felt tears coming to his own eyes, more out of guilt than sympathy. There was a shifting sound, and JC's voice got low. "Chris? Man? It's o--"
"No it is not okay!" Chris snapped furiously. There was another ripping sound, and Chris was shouting into the phone. "You're coming to the Emmy's with us Lance Bass if I have to fly up there, dress you myself, and bring you down with us!"
Lance flinched. If he went, he might not want to leave. If he didn't go, Chris would hate him. It was a no-win situation. "When are they?" he sighed. He would just have to depend on his own self-control.
Oh god, he was screwed.
"Two weeks. The 12th."
"Not a lot of notice, Chris," Lance growled through clenched teeth. Normally they knew at least a month, sometimes a month and a half, in advance.
"Yeah, well, that's what happens when we don't have you around to keep the schedule," Chris tossed back sarcastically.
The voice was quiet, a gentle reprimand, but soothing all the same. Lance felt better after hearing it, and it wasn't even directed at him. He listened as Chris sniffed, and Justin said in the background, "Someone talk to Lance. I'm going to go get Chris cleaned up."
Lance dropped his eyes, fighting his own tears. Another shifting sound. "Lance?"
Lance smiled sadly. "Hi Joey."
"Hi Lance. Miss us?"
"Yeah. How're you guys doing?"
Joey sighed. "We're handling it. Just not very well, as you can see."
"It's okay," Lance sighed softly. "I'm not handling it very well myself."
"Then come back!" Joey urged, his tone picking up. "Just hop on a plane and come back. We'll go out there and tell them that it was all a joke, that--"
"Joey," Lance whispered.
Joey sighed. "I know, Lance. I know."
"I gotta go. Good luck out there. To all of you. Tell Justin I said..."
"Goodbye," Joey finished softly.
Lance swallowed hard. "Bye, Joe."
Lance ended the phone call and stared at it for a long time. A few minutes later, TRL was back on, and Carson said, "Well, there's been a bit of a mix-up backstage, so the guys are going to come out after our next commercial break."
"Mix-up," Lance scoffed miserably. "Yeah. There was a 'mix-up', alright."
Lance stared at himself in the mirror and frowned at what he saw. He'd recut his hair the day before just for the Emmy's, and for some reason, the black tux wasn't fitting right. If he wasn't mistaken, he was actually losing weight in the three weeks since he'd left the guys. He'd spoken to Chris and JC every day, Joey every other day, and once a week for about ten minutes he spoke to Justin. It was very casual, very basic questions that meant nothing. But hey, at least Justin was being nice to him.
Lance eyed the diamond earring in his ear critically. It went well, actually, with his hair and his tux. He had retouched his blond highlights, letting the roots stay brown, so that was better than it had been. The Mississippi hair had done something strange to it, and it had changed into some weird orange-y red yellow color. It was nasty. But it was all better now, and except for the tux not fitting like an Armani should, he was fairly decent.
Lance stepped out of the bathroom in the men's room. The guys should certainly be at their seats by now. There was still twenty minutes before the show was supposed to start, but no one showed up late to the Emmy's. Fashionably late, yes, but the show started twenty minutes later than it was scheduled, always. It never failed.
Deep breath, man, Lance coached himself. He was used to preforming in front of thousands and thousands of people, but his four best friends made him nervous? He laughed at himself, inwardly of course, because his stomach was filled with butterflies. He was shaking, and deep breaths were not coming. He asked one of the ushers where the guys were, and after looking at his pass, she pointed them out in the 8th row. He turned to look, and sure enough, there they were. They all looked polished and Hollywood perfect, and he was just some rugged hick from Mississippi. They were laughing together, seated Justin, Joey, Chris, and JC. JC had the open seat beside him. Lance's seat.
Lance stared at them for several minutes, then slowly turned on his heel and walked out. He couldn't do it. He'd given this up... He'd given them up. To try and run back would be insane. So what if he promised Chris that he'd go? So what if Chris swore if he didn't show up that he'd never talk to Lance again? Lance was confident that Chris was a bluffer.
"You wouldn't, by chance, be trying to sneak out without your friends noticing, would you?" came a soft southern purr.
Lance cringed, froze, and slowly turned around to see Britney Spears standing before him, looking pretty in... well, ice blue.
"'Course not," Lance lied, flashing a fake smile. "What makes you think that?"
"Because I watched you watching them and then turn around and leave so that no one would see you," she answered automatically. She sighed and slipped her arm through his and began leading him back as she talked. "I know, Lance. I've been talking to Justin every day for three weeks. And Lord, can that boy chatter. It's Lance this, and Lance that, and Lance is gone, and blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong. J is one of my best friends and you know it, but Lord the boy just doesn't shut up!"
Lance frowned and stopped walking. "What're you talking about?"
Britney paused and peered up at him seriously; thoughtfully. "You know what I'm talking about, Lance."
Lance stared at her for so long that he was certain everyone else in the place noticed. Then she nodded slowly at him and began leading him back to his friends. His butterflies were back with full force, still confused and bewildered at Britney's cryptic message.
"Look at this handsome gentleman I found," Britney announced as they reached the four members of Nsync.
They all turned smiles at her that froze on their faces at seeing Lance. Lance stared back, too amazed to be embarassed or nervous. Justin's hair had grown out a bit, and he'd added blond highlights to it. Joey's once-blond tips were now streaked with blue, and he'd shaved. Chris had shaved as well, and he'd added another earring. And JC's hair was spiked differently and he had... Blond highlights?! They looked good!
"Jace," Lance began slowly, smiling warmly at him. "I like your hair, man!"
That was it. In perfect unison, the four sitting jumped up and threw their arms around him. Justin was on the aisle, so Lance ended up mostly in his arms, but the others were hugging him as well. And, to Lance's horror, all around them, people started to applaud.
"The camera's caught that, right?" Sarah Michelle Gellar, the host, asked. The guys looked around, utterly mortified, especially when she flashed them the thumbs up sign. "That was priceless, guys. Let's give them all a round of applause."
They all started laughing and blushing and shaking their heads when the entire building burst into applause.
"This is awful," Lance muttered, looking around and smiling and laughing in disbelief and amusement.
"Nah," JC admonished. "They're all applauding for you anyway."
Lance scoffed at him. "Sure, Jace. Whateva." Joey, JC, Chris, and Justin all exchanged looks, and Lance looked back self-consciously. "What?" he asked nervously.
"Whateva?" they all repeated together, making the same disbelieving expressions at him. He stared at them, they stared at him, and then Lance burst out laughing and hugged all four of them at once. The building's applause got louder, and some people were even standing. As they watched, everyone began standing, and Lance blushed madly and covered his face with his hand.
"Cut it out," Joey ordered playfully, pulling down his hand. "They're all here to see your georgeous face."
"Whateva--r," Lance corrected quickly, watching as his friends all started laughing again.
"Three weeks and your entire vocab has changed," Chris teased, stepping up and hugging him brutally. "Missed you, man."
"Missed you too, Chris," Lance assured him softly, staring down at the ground over Chris' shoulder. He pulled away and smiled brightly first at Chris, then at all of them. "Let's sit down before they applaud anymore, okay?"
They all laughed, and when they went to resettle themselves in their seats, Lance felt a small tug on his ear--on Justin's earring. He looked up quickly and found Justin looking down at him, Justin's eyes on the earring. Justin flicked it with his finger lightly, and Lance blushed. He'd forgotten to take it out. Justin's eyes met him, and Lance smiled weakly, allowing JC to tug him to a seat. He found himself between JC and Chris. Joey was on Chris' other side, and Justin over on the end of the aisle, his expression blank. Something about this was just too familiar, and it was hard to remember that the fans weren't really screaming for him, but for his friends.
He sighed softly, ignoring the looks JC and Chris shot his way. Self-control, he reminded himself. You know, that stuff you have none of? You idiot.
"We gotta go," JC breathed in Lance's ear. "We gotta go preform."
"No problem," Lance assured him quickly. "I'll be here."
JC frowned sadly. "I know," he said softly.
"Jace--" Lance started, his heart breaking at the sight.
"We'll be back soon," JC promised quickly, standing and stepping out past Lance. The other guys all said their goodbye's and waved at him, and then they were gone, too.
Lance sat in that seat for a long time by himself, staring at the stage as people handed out awards. Something sat desperately wrong with him, that his friends had left to go preform and he was left in that seat. He knew he'd signed up for that, but it still didn't make him feel better. He came to the conclusion that he had come to torture himself, when he felt someone dropping into the seat beside him.
"How ya doin'?"
Lance looked over at Britney and smiled gently. "I'm good, Brit. How're you?"
"Well I was okay, except I've been watching you for the past ten minutes staring at the stage wishing you were up there," Britney responded honestly. Lance stared at her, and she smiled gently. "Lance. I know." She took a deep breath. "Did I ever tell you that I quit, once?" Lance's eyes widened in surprise. "Guess not. Justin and Chris know. I bet that's why Chris thinks..." she trailed off and shrugged. "Anyway, last year, after the VMA's, and everyone made such a big deal out of my outfit..." She frowned and studied the ground. "It hurt, Lance. They all called me a slut, and a whore, and yeah, I deserved it. When I saw what I was wearing, that was my first reaction. But it's not my fault. I have management, you know? I have to listen to them." She took a deep breath. "Anyway, so I quit. I said I wasn't going to do it anymore. I was just a southern girl trying to be more than me. I wanted to go home. So I went home, stayed for about a month and a half, and then craved preforming again." She smiled gently. "It's a drug, Lance. You need it. Don't tell yourself that you can't have it because you quit." She lightly patted his arm. "Don't do the right thing just for you. Do it for your friends, too." She nodded at the stage. "They miss you." She smiled wryly. "A lot."
"When'd you get so smart, Brit?" Lance asked her, smiling slightly.
Britney shook her head. "When I had to," she responded sadly. "You guys are lucky, Lance. You've got each other. I've got me."
"Nah," Lance admonished softly, his heart breaking in sympathy. He hugged her tightly. "You've got us too, Brit."
Britney hugged him back, then smiled brightly, blinking away tears. "Now how about I keep you company until your friends come back?"
Lance grinned. "Britney, the pleasure would be all mine."
Britney smiled warmly at him, and they settled in to the seats together, Lance pondering carefully everything Britney had told him. It was certainly something to think about, that was for sure.
"And now, let's welcome our very special guests, they're four of the hottest guys around, Nsync!"
"Lance, this is for you, man."
Lance's jaw fell and he blushed madly, glad for the dark lights. A second later, the lights on the stage fired up brilliantly, blinding the audience, and the guys were there, already into the moves.
"No Strings Attached."
Britney's hand held Lance's tightly as she leaned against the arm rest between them to lean against him. "That was Justin, you know," she whispered in his ear.
He nodded, his eyes dancing across the stage with the rest of the guys. "I know," he whispered softly.
"You know why that was Justin saying it." Lance actually managed to tear his eyes away from his friends to look at her blankly. She smiled gently at him. "Do the math, Lance," she suggested softly, then deliberately turned back to the stage.
Lance frowned at her for a second, then turned to look back up at the stage. They were flawless, perfect, the direct result of hours and hours of work. But there was something different about it... Something wrong...
"It doesn't flow," someone to Lance's right said softly to the person they were with. "They're missing something."
"They're flawless," someone behind Lance breathed. "But it's lacking..."
Lance's jaw fell and he turned around and glared at them. "Do you mind?" he hissed furiously. It was Sandra Bullock, and he loved Sandra, but he was pissed. "They practice for hours and hours and hours and hours to bring you a stupid three minute song, and you say that it's lacking?"
Sandra stared at him. "Why aren't you up there?" she asked, instead of getting mad.
Lance faltered. "B-because..."
"I bet it would work better if you were there," she declared. Lance gaped at her, and she leaned back in her seat, looking at the stage and Lance in front of it. "Yup." She leaned forward. "Can I make a suggestion, Mr. Bass?"
Lance was so astonished she could have done anything she wanted. "Sure," he agreed weakly.
"Get back up there before your friends flop." With that, she leaned back in her seat. Lance stared at her and slowly dropped back forward into his seat, looking back up at the stage with a blank expression. He could see JC frowning at him, and Chris was looking worried. Joey was oblivious, and Justin was working it for the crowd, but at the end, his eyes pierced into Lance's.
They all applauded, and Britney leaned over to speak in Lance's ear. "Exit Britney, stage left. Take care, sweetie, and remember what I told you. I'll see you at the after Emmy party."
"Oh, no!" Lance objected, stopping her quickly. "I'm not going. I'm going home."
She looked at him, then burst out laughing and patted his arm. "Keep tellin' yourself that, Lance," she teased, shaking her head. "I gotta go. Bye!" She lightly kissed his cheek, then disappeared, leaving Lance utterly floored.
20 minutes later, the guys were all back. To Lance's surprise, Justin dropped into the seat beside him, so JC claimed the other, followed by Chris, then Joey.
"What was that all about?" JC whispered to Lance, who was still looking at Justin in surprise. Lance turned quickly to JC, who glanced back at Sandra.
Lance scowled and faced forward, crossing his arms over his chest. "Nothing," he muttered.
"That's why you're pouting, right?" Justin asked, arching an eyebrow at him.
Lance turned his scowl up at Justin. "Anyone ever tell you not make claims about people you don't even know?"
Justin's eyes widened in surprise, then his entire face blanked out as he nodded slowly and faced forward. Lance immediately felt terrible, but he knew what he had to do. He had to go home. He had to get away. And this was the only way to do it.
They had to hate him.
Lance sighed wearily as he dropped down onto his bed, tuxedo and all. He was fairly certain that the other guys were furious as hell at him, and that not only made him want to cry, it exhausted him as well. He'd done everything possible to make them mad, from teasing them about their act to their new personality quirks to their clothes to... Everything. He had made fun of everything about them, until they were glaring at him. At first they had been confused, then hurt, then wary, and then just mad.
But he was not going to cry.
He stripped quickly, discarding the tux on the ground in a rumpled heap before changing into his bed clothes. The guys' speeches when they accepted their awards had been really sweet, but trying to drag him up there had not been. They had all thanked him profusely. They even got the crowd to give him a standing ovation. That was when he knew he had to go back home. Quickly.
He dropped back onto his bed, covering his head with the covers, gasping when something landed on his body. He sat up quickly and stared in confusion at the dog on his stomach, then sighed and relaxed. "Busta. It's just you." He patted the dog on the head, then dropped his head to the pillow again.
Three seconds later he sat up in a flash and stared at the dog. "Busta?!" he exclaimed, astonished. He looked to the doorway of his room to see four very angry Nsync-ers standing there, glaring at him. "Oh shit," Lance muttered, sinking back in bed and pulling the covers over his head, turning away from them.
"Nice try," JC assured him, ripping the covers off of him. "What the hell was that?"
"Me trying to sleep, but now that you've stolen my covers, I'm going to freeze to death," Lance retorted, standing and frowning as he went to the thermostat.
"We're talking about the Emmy's!" Chris snapped. "That wasn't like you at all."
"How the hell would you guys know?" Lance snapped, turning on them. "You didn't know anything about me while we were a group! I'm not even there anymore and suddenly you know my life story? I don't think so!"
"Would you stop being such a jackass?" Joey demanded angrily. "God damn, Lance!" He leaned down and snatched up the tuxedo. "And hang up your clothes!" He threw it at Lance, who caught it as it smacked into his chest.
Lance glared first at it, then slowly up at his friends. "How did you get in?" he asked slowly, deliberately. He carried the tux to the closet and pulled out a hanger, setting it on piece by piece and then placing it back in the bag.
"You gave us all keys when you first moved in," Chris reminded sarcastically. "So you must have trusted us a little bit back then."
Lance turned on him sharply. "I also didn't expect any of you to be in Mississippi ever."
"Well, surprise," JC mocked brightly, then stared darkly at him. "So in other words, Lance, what you're saying is that I've been best friends with someone who isn't you for the past five years?"
Lance shrugged flippantly. "You can be best friends with whoever you want, Jace," he informed him in a tight sneer, then turned to the closet again and placed the bag inside. A second later his shoulder was being wrenched back and he was being slammed against the wall. He cried out in shock and pain, and stared up in disbelief and hurt at Justin, whose angry eyes were boring down into him.
"So much for not hitting me," Lance stated coldly. "Get off of me."
"There was no hitting involved," Justin corrected. "There was touching. There was moving. There was slamming. But no hitting."
"What?" Lance demanded. "You think because we're not in an elevator that I'm not still scared of you? I am, Justin. You scare the shit out of me. You always have, since I was... Since I was at least 15. I have never been more afraid of anyone in my entire life than I am of you. So if you're trying a scare tactic, it's working."
"Why?" Justin burst out furiously, releasing him roughly. "I never hit you, did I? No. Did I ever throw you around? No." He was pacing, now. "I never punched you, I never scraped you, I never touched you violently. And yet you sit there like this small little..." He stared at Lance hard, his hands fluttering everywhere in front of Lance. "I don't know what you are. Like, this little fallen angel or something, and you sit there and you tell me that you're scared of me?" He turned on Lance, whose head was spinning. Did Justin just call him an angel? "Do you know what that does to my psychie, Lance? Are you aware that I'm seeing a shrink because you think I'm dangerous? Jesus!" Justin threw his hands up in the air. "A shrink! Me! I'm seeing a shrink to deal with these issues of you thinking that I'm dangerous!" He stopped pacing and glared at Lance. "Do you have anything to say for yourself? Like, maybe, explaining why you think I'm so violent that you're scared of me?"
"Justin, that's not really the issue," JC started slowly.
"The hell it isn't!" Justin snapped angrily, glaring back at him. "I'm why he quit, aren't I?" He turned back to Lance. "So fine. Tell me what it is about me that's got you so scared and I'll change it. I'll fix it. I'll do whatever it is to make you unscared. But you gotta tell me, Lance, 'cause I really don't know." He began pacing again. "Okay. I've got a temper. Who doesn't have a temper? Granted, mine can get out of hand, but that doesn't mean I'm going to hit someone! And, okay. I like sports. Sports are violent. I'll give you that. But just 'cause I play sports doesn't make me violent, either! There's tons of athletes out there, and they aren't violent! And, yeah, so I went through this stupid phase where I actually thought I was cool and went into like, this gangster shit. So over that! And the girls. The fact that you actually believe that I'm a male slut just throws me through a loop. Britney and I just play around all the time. It's not serious. Do you know that I've only slept with one girl, and it was like, so long ago that it's not even funny? I don't even like girls, I'm fucking gay!"
There was silence.
Justin stopped short, the admission still in the air, and slowly looked up at his friends in the doorway, smiling weakly. "I just said that outloud, didn't I?" The three in the doorway nodded, their eyes wide. Justin slowly let out a deep breath. "Well, it's true. I am." He turned on Lance mistrustfully. Lance was now beyond astonished, he was just frozen. "So now you know the real reason I hated you."
Lance blinked and shook his head. "What?"
Justin crossed his arms and glared at him. "You're the smart one. Do the math."
"That's what Britney said to me!" Lance burst out angrily. "What math?! You're giving me words and telling me to add them up? I don't get it, alright? What the fuck are you talking about? I heard you rambling on about why I could be scared of you, you said you were gay, and then I kinda zoned out! That's kind of big news, you know? I wasn't exactly expecting it!"
"I--" Justin started angrily, then faltered and fell back against the wall, closing his eyes. He looked so small and like a little boy that Lance actually just wanted to hug him. "I fell in love with you. And I hated that I did, because of everything that I told you before, you know? Only I didn't know that I was in love with you until we got stuck in that elevator and you told me that you were scared of me. It hit kinda hard." He let out a soft sigh an opened his eyes. "You were perfect," he told Lance softly, his voice strained and his eyes full of tears. "He loved you to death. He gave me your picture, though I never was sure why, and I understood why he made such a big deal out of you. You were beautiful, and I remember staring at that picture for hours. And I hated you because you were so perfect. Then when we met, and everyone loved you, I hated you even more because of how perfect you were. You made it almost impossible to hate you, but that just made me hate you more." He sighed softly, closing his eyes again. "And I'm sorry that you're scared of me. I'm sorry that I hurt you. I'm sorry that I made you quit. I never really meant it to go this far. I thought one day I would wake up, you'd stop being perfect, and I could have you, only I didn't consciously think about it like that until a few weeks ago. And I'm sorry. I don't know what else I could possibly say--"
Lance kissed him.
Justin made a small sound of shock, and then Lance felt his arms go around his back securely, locking him in place. Lance had never felt so perfect, or so loved before, in his entire life. He was made to fit into Justin's arms. He really was.
When the kiss was over, they pulled back and looked at each other, and then Lance hugged him, resting his head against Justin's chest. Justin's embrace was firm and tight, almost desperate. Lance smiled gently, then held one of his arms out for their friends, who were smiling and nudging each other. They all trooped over cheerfully, hugging and laughing excitedly as Chris called Johnny and told him that Lance was coming back.
"So why are you scared of me?" Justin asked finally, looking down at Lance, who he had his arms around.
Lance shook his head. "Just your temper, man. And you're punching things. Always. Or, smacking them, actually. The side of the elevator, the walls, anything. Loud sounds, big smacks... Scary."
"That's it?" Justin gasped. Lance nodded, and Justin nearly sagged against him. "Jesus. I was ready to turn my whole life upside down and you tell me it's 'cause I hit things when I'm mad." He sighed and hugged Lance tightly. "I'll never hit anything again. I promise."
Lance smiled and hugged him back, then kissed him lightly.
Justin always kept his promise.
That's how it could have happened, too.
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