“It’s a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow comes to cover the ground...it’s the time for play, it’s a whipped cream day, I wait for it the whole year round...” Chris sang as he pelted Justin with a snowball.
“Dammit,” Justin growled. “Be ready for a face wash, Kirkpatrick.” Chris yelped and took off as Justin chased him.
“Are we there yet?” Lance moaned as they trudged through the snow.
“Just a few yards more,” Joey promised. “Chris’ cabin is really nice.” Joey looked back at JC. “You okay, Jayce?”
“Yeah,” JC said through chattering teeth. Mittened hands shoved his hat down tighter over his long brown hair. “Just c-c-cold.”
Chris turned in circles in front of his large cabin. “Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly in the arms of the evergreen trees...and the sun is red, like a pumpkinhead...it’s shining so your nose won’t freeze!”
“Chris, unlock the door!” Lance snapped.
“Who wants to make a snowman?” Chris asked cheerfully.
“Chris, I’m gonna make a snowman AROUND you if you don’t unlock the door,” Lance continued.
“Or a snowfort,” Chris suggested.
“Snowforts are cool,” Justin agreed.
“Chris, JC doesn’t have a heavy coat OR boots on,” Joey said.
Chris stared at JC. “Jesus, JC, why didn’t you say something?” Chris quickly unlocked the front door and they stumbled inside with their bags.
“I’ll get a fire started,” Justin offered. He went out to the abundant supply of firewood. Joey stood at the window and laughed.
“What the hell are you watching?” Chris asked.
“Justin. We should help him.” Joey laughed again as Justin almost dropped a log on his foot.
“Yeah! Maybe we can start our fort!” Chris tugged his gloves back on.
“You guys okay?” Joey asked Lance.
Lance pushed JC onto a sofa. “We will be as soon as Justin gets that fire started.”
“Right.” Joey followed Chris outside.
“JC, you brought more clothes, right?” Lance asked.
“Right,” JC said lifelessly.
“There’s a bathroom around here somewhere.” Lance handed JC a pair of jeans and a sweater. “Go get into dry clothes.”
“Okay.” JC struggled to his feet and found the bathroom.
“The world is your snowball, see how it goes,” Chris sang once more. A snowball smacked him in the back of the head.
“That’s how it goes, whenever it snows,” Justin sang gleefully.
“Will you guys quit it for a second?” Joey said angrily. “Jayce is freezing. He needs a fire.”
“Why the hell didn’t he dress warmer?” Chris asked.
“To impress Lance,” Justin said before he thought. Joey and Chris stared at him. “Uh, let’s go in.” Justin picked up his wood.
“What?” Chris asked.
“Yeah...uh...it’s a new jacket and new shoes,” Justin stammered.
“What?” Chris repeated.
Joey went over to a window and peeked inside. “What the hell are you watching?” Justin demanded.
“I was trying to see if Lance was sexing JC,” Joey replied.
“WHO’S sexing JC?” Chris gasped. “You guys!” He whined, confused.
“But he’s just playing on his damn computer,” Joey finished. “I don’t see JC.”
“He’s always on that damn thing,” Justin muttered. “No wonder he never noticed.”
“Let’s go start a fire,” Chris said devilishly. He picked up his wood and began to sing again. “The world is your snowball just for a song...so get out and roll it along...”
“Here.” Lance handed JC a pair of thick socks. “Wear these.”
“Aren’t you cold?” JC asked as the others came back in. Lance shrugged.
“I’ll be fine once they make a fire.”
“Whatcha writing?” Chris asked, sitting next to Lance.
“Nothing.” Lance snapped the laptop closed and shoved it into his bag. Chris tried to grab it and missed.
“Lance, can’t you put that thing away for five minutes?” Joey asked as he and Justin bent over the fire. “We came here to hang out TOGETHER before we go into the studio.”
“Really? I thought we came out here to give JC pneumonia,” Lance replied, standing up. “I’m gonna go put on dry clothes. DON’T touch my laptop.”
“Hey, it’s not MY fault JC didn’t dress for winter. I TOLD him there was snow!” Chris said.
Lance scowled at Chris and smiled at JC. “Sit in front of the fire,” he ordered, then went back to the bedroom. JC sighed and sat down in front of the fireplace. Justin draped a blanket over him.
“I’ll unpack your stuff, Jayce,” he said softly. “Where are the bedrooms?” He asked Chris.
“Up those stairs,” Chris said. Justin grabbed his things as well as JC’s. Joey grabbed his bags and Lance’s, making sure to leave the bag with the laptop where it was. Chris led the way up the steps. “Only four rooms,” he said over his shoulder. “Someone will have to double up.”
JC looked at the bag with Lance’s laptop in it. He stared at it for a long moment, then went to one of his own bags that Justin had neglected to carry.
“Are you doing better?” Lance asked JC softly. They were on the floor in front of the fire. Joey was cooking a big pot of vegetable soup, and Justin and Chris were out playing in their snowfort. JC nodded.
“JC, why are you so down? Are you feeling okay?” Joey called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just...this was stupid,” JC said softly. “I thought I could prove something by coming out here...roughing it, so to speak...and I just made an ass of myself. I practically caught frostbite wearing those shoes and that coat.”
“It was a really nice coat,” Lance told him, and JC blushed slightly. “I really like it.”
“Thank you,” JC whispered. “At any rate, I’m just sick of trying to be something I’m not, or act like something I’m not.”
“Sorry,” Lance whispered, rubbing JC’s leg under the blankets he was under. JC smiled slightly.
“Okay, so, I wanna know when the wedding is,” Chris said, popping a graham cracker into his mouth. Everyone looked at Justin expectantly. He blushed.
“Not anytime soon. I’m still a kid, for God’s sake.” Justin looked at Joey. “YOU should be next.”
“I know. I...it scares me,” Joey said softly.
“Sometimes you need to do the thing that scares you most if you ever wanna be happy,” JC said to him. Justin snorted. JC glared at him.
“Take your own advice,” Justin muttered under his breath. Lance glared at Justin as well.
“I wish you guys would stop picking on him. You practically made him freeze to death on the way up here,” he said angrily.
“Hello...HE’S the one who dressed to impress instead of dressing to stay warm,” Chris said angrily. “And since when do you need to be JC’s knight in shining armor?”
“Since I’m the only one who seems to care about him anymore.”
Everyone was silent. “You know we care about you, right, Jayce?” Chris said softly. JC smiled and nodded.
“Of course you do. I worry about all of you...and Lance takes care of worrying about me.” He sighed. “I’m going up to bed. Good night, guys.” JC slowly stood.
“I’m going, too.” Lance didn’t say goodnight, just made his way up the steps, carrying his laptop.
“It’s a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts...take a walk with your favorite boy...” Chris sang softly. “It’s a sugar date, what if spring is late...in winter it’s a marshmallow world...”
“Hey! Where’s my stuff?” Lance asked angrily. He poked his head into three of the bedrooms before arriving at JC’s.
“In here,” JC said sheepishly. “Guess we’re sharing.”
“Yeah,” Lance whispered, looking at the one large bed. “You mind if I work for a bit?”
“No. The light won’t keep me up,” JC said. “I forgot to brush my teeth. I’m going downstairs.”
“Okay.” Lance sat on the edge of the bed and turned on his computer. He was shocked to see a message telling him someone had changed one of the files. “Chris, I am so gonna kill…” His eyes widened as he saw the word document, titled “Pure.” He opened it and bit his bottom lip.
“Lance…I know I shouldn’t have invaded your space, your precious computer, but I had to tell you this once and for all. I feel things will be different with this album, even with this studio time. We’ve grown. Not apart, just…up, I guess. And we will do great in the studio, I mean the songs that we have are fabulous, but I see this as a beginning of the end. But it’s also a new beginning for me. The beginning of me being the real Joshua Scott Chasez. No more faking and lying. Just honestly me. No more hiding that I love wine and art and silly things like gourmet hot chocolate. No more hiding that I don’t have a girlfriend because I don’t want one. No more hiding that I love someone close to me, so much that I hated coming on this trip and being close to them. I love you, Lance. I’m IN love with you. You can hate me or whatever…just don’t turn away from me before this studio thing is through. I’ll never forgive myself for ruining this album for Chris, Justin and Joey. For me, I’d like it to do well, because it will have my songs on it, but no longer will I live my life for the Billboard Top 100. But I’m babbling again. I’m in love with you, Lance, and this trip has deepened that love. The way you looked out for me on the trail…hell…the way you gave me your heavy socks. Thank you, Lance. And just know, on your deepest down days, that someone loves you and thinks you’re special. Love always, JC.”
Lance stared at the computer screen for a long moment. He saved the document in an encrypted file, closed the laptop, and set it out in the hallway. “Chris? You can have my computer if you want,” he called down the stairs. He returned to the bedroom and waited for JC.
“Your computer’s in the hallway,” JC observed when he returned.
“Yes, it is. I’m done with it.”
“Oh,” JC said softly. He pulled on sweatpants over his long underwear pants and climbed under the blankets.
“I liked that jacket,” Lance said suddenly. “Think I could borrow it sometime?”
“Sure,” JC said curiously. “If you want.”
“Why’d you wear it?”
“Because…” JC opened his mouth, shut it, then opened it again. “I thought you’d notice.”
“JC, you didn’t need to freeze yourself to get me to notice you,” Lance whispered, leaning over JC and running a finger down his cheek. “I’ve noticed you since day one.” He kissed JC’s nose, smiling at the way JC’s eyes were open wide with awe. “And you will NEVER have to freeze like that again. Not while I’m around to keep you warm.” His lips met JC’s, and suddenly JC felt warm all over.