"Lance, are you listening?"
"Yeah, Jim, I'm here," Lance called from across the kitchen as he rubbed an apple off on his t-shirt and took a bite. He wasn't exactly acting professional for a business meeting -- wandering around his house and eating -- but he supposed that that was what tele-conferencing was for, after all. At first Jim had expressed concern that Lance would grow too familiar -- read: lazy -- when it came to FreeLance business, but finally they had agreed to compromise. Jim. 'Dad' at any other point of the day, but 'Jim' for points of business.
Jim went on, and Lance checked his watch as he ate, trying very hard not to become impatient. This was his... what, sixth?... business-related call for the day, and they hadn't gotten any less tedious as the time had gone by. Still, that wasn't what bothered him. No, what bothered him was the fact that he was supposed to meet JC for lunch over half an hour ago, and these meetings were keeping him from that.
And JC had a flight to catch in three hours; he needed to go to LA for a few days and help mix some tracks for another of Johnny's acts. At the moment he was holed up at the recording studio for something else altogether, so Lance hadn't seen him since they'd gotten up that morning. All of this was fine, because what they had planned to do was meet for lunch, and then Lance was going to drive JC to the airport and see him off. But then Lance had had meeting after meeting, and they'd all taken longer than he'd originally planned, and now his schedule was shot to hell.
Tossing his finished apple core into the trash, Lance glanced at his watch again and fought the urge to groan, pressing the fingers of his right hand into his eyes. His left hand rubbed at the nape of his neck as he paced the room. He tried to focus on the details of what his father was explaining to him -- something about a new Flash layout for the FreeLance website, some mention of a writer they'd been trying to get a hold of to compose for Meredith, some producer who wanted to work on Ryan's album -- but it was becoming increasingly difficult.
I can do this, he told himself. I can focus. I am a professional. I am doing my job. Worrying about seeing JC will not get me to him any faster. I am a professional. I can separate business from my personal li--
"Lance!" Jim called sharply over the speakerphone.
"What?" Lance barked in response, then caught himself. "I mean, yes? I mean..." he sighed. Spots swam before his eyes from pressing his fingers too roughly against them. "I mean, sorry. I missed what you were saying."
There was a pause, and Lance could almost hear his father mentally chastising him before continuing.
When they had wrapped that call up -- he rolled his eyes heavenward to offer a prayer of thanks -- Lance had JC's cell on his speed dial even before he'd hung up with his father. Unlocking his 4-Runner, he climbed inside while he waited for JC to pick up.
"You're late, James," JC greeted him, and he cringed.
Why, I love you, too, honey.
"I know; I couldn't get away. Everything went overtime, JC. Everything." His sunglasses were bothering him for some reason, and he tore them off in frustration, choosing instead to squint into the Florida sun as he tossed them to the floor of the passenger seat. He scowled, his mood sour, as he backed out of the driveway.
"One of those days, huh," JC said sympathetically. "And here it's been so boring."
"I'll be there in a few," Lance assured him. "I just wanted to call you and let you know what was happening. Go ahead and have lunch without me."
JC didn't say anything to that, and Lance fought a smile. "JC?"
"I kinda... already got something--but it was just to tide me over 'til you got here," JC rushed to explain.
"JC, it's okay. I ate about a million, like, apples and saltines this morning on the phone."
Lance shrugged. "They're filling."
JC simply laughed. "I'll talk to you when you get here."
"Hopefully we can do a little more than talk," Lance pointed out, arching an eyebrow.
"Point noted," JC agreed, "and I will see you later. And I love you."
"Yes, indeed. Later. And I am nuts about you." Lance hung up and smiled at his phone for a moment, feeling silly but unable to wipe the growing grin from his face.
It was now 'later'. Much 'later'.
JC sounded a little tense when Lance called him back. "You're more late, James."
"I'm stuck in traffic, Joshua."
JC winced. "Ouch."
"Yeah," Lance agreed, snorting disgustedly.
"How bad does it look?" JC asked softly, tracing his fingers down the grooves of the mixer where he sat.
Lance's sigh crackled slightly over the connection. "I...." He sighed again, dejectedly. "I don't know if I'm gonna make it, JC," he admitted, and his voice sounded sad and far away. "I'm sorry," he said simply, after a pause.
"Hey, it's okay," JC assured him, disappointed himself. He knew that it wasn't Lance's fault they wouldn't be able to meet, but still felt resentful towards the forces that prevented them from being together. "You might make it, still; don't count yourself out."
"Yeah," Lance conceded, but he didn't sound convinced.
"You can still meet me at the airport, you know," JC pressed on, cringing at his own words. The airport? That would hardly be satisfying. Even within the relatively private confines of a VIP waiting room they could not enjoy the togetherness they would find if they met beforehand. This day was turning out to be such a bust, and he hadn't had half the day that Lance had had, from the sounds of it.
"Yeah, if I'm lucky I'll make it there just in time to see you off," Lance laughed sullenly. JC could hear him impatiently drumming his fingers against the steering wheel, and searched his mind for a way to prevent Lance from falling into a sulk.
"Talk to me," he blurted, swiveling in his seat and turning away from the mixer.
"I like to hear your voice," JC continued. "Just talk to me. If you can't be here, I just want to listen to you, and it's not the same, but it's the next best thing. If it's all we can do before I leave, just talk to me."
There was another pause as Lance mulled it over. "What do you want me to say?" Then he laughed a little nervously. "God, I hate it when you put me on the spot like this. What should I say?"
JC smiled, ducking his head slightly. "Tell me how your meetings went today."
"How about I don't," Lance chuckled, glancing over his shoulder as he took advantage of a surge in the traffic to change lanes.
"You don't want to keep me updated on the family business?"
Lance gave an exaggerated sigh. "Okay, A, it's not your family--"
"Are you telling me I don't get to marry into the Bass clan someday?" JC interrupted, his smile growing by the minute, taking glee in the teasing.
Lance rolled his eyes, but grinned despite himself. "You tell me. Do you ever intend to become Josh Bass?"
JC made a gagging sound, sticking his tongue out and grimacing. "Oh, I don't like the sound of that. I was kinda hoping you'd be Lance Chasez. No-- James Chasez. Then we can both be JC together, you know?" He didn't even try to keep the mirth from his voice.
"I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that, if I were you," Lance responded, still smiling. He looked out of the passenger side window and noted with dismay that the lane he'd just left seemed to be moving more quickly now that he'd left it. Narrowing his eyes, he slouched further in his seat, the humour in his mood fading. "Anyway. You're not part of the family, first off, and second, I called you to get away from business talk. That stuff's on my mind all the time. I need you to distract me from the fact that I'm stuck on the freeway instead of with you. Gimme a better topic."
"Okay," JC conceded. "Talk about me, then."
"Well, JC," Lance began, his tone light, "it's been great talkin' to ya, but I gotta get go--"
"I was kidding; I was kidding," JC protested, well aware that Lance wasn't going anywhere. He sighed and raised his hand to run his fingers through his hair before dropping his arm to his side once more. "I just wanna fill the silences, Lance... I don't want to feel like a second of this time is wasted. I don't care what you talk about. Really. Talk about anything you like. Anything you care about. Tell a story. Describe the car in front of you. Tell me what our kids would look like if we could have 'em. I don't care, baby; just talk."
Lance had to smile at that, and despite JC's request, he allowed the silence to drag on for a moment. His index finger idly caressed the back of his phone as though it were the hand of the person on the other end. "Our kids would look pretty funny," he suggested finally, cringing as he pictured it.
JC's laughter travelled through the receiver, seeming to carry his energy with it. "I mean, they wouldn't be too tall, I don't think," Lance went on, chuckling.
"I guess they wouldn't," JC agreed, shaking his head in amusement. "And they'd have big heads."
Lance giggled, a sound that never failed to warm JC's heart. "Very. And really weird, light eyes."
"They could have the most amazing metabolism--"
"Or not," Lance put in, rather innocuously, and literally heard the hush as JC quieted himself. He rolled his eyes. "JC--"
"No, I know, it's... go on." JC mentally kicked himself; he knew that it was silly, but he couldn't help but feel slightly apologetic about his build. He knew that Lance envied -- with admiration, not malice -- JC's ability to eat anything and everything without gaining a pound. So while Lance stocked up on skim and non-fat milk, lean meats, and diet sodas just to maintain his weight, JC inhaled as many carbohydrates, starches, and sugars as he could, just to maintain his.
Lance, for his part, didn't resent JC's lithe frame, but rather failed to comprehend his lover's guilt.
His eyes narrowed at the sympathetic look JC gave him as he turned back to the bus's lounge after fishing a Diet Coke from the fridge. "Stop doin' that."
"Stop doin' what?" JC asked him, pulling his feet in so that Lance could sit across from him. Lance chose instead to tuck his feet up under his body as he sat, and cracked the tab open.
"Don't look at me like you're sorry. That's what it looks like you're doing. 'I'm sorry I'm thin and you're not.' You make me feel like you think I'm fat."
"But I don't thi--"
"I know you don't. But it makes me feel like you do. You don't have to apologize for who you are, 'cause I love who you are. So quit it."
And JC tried to do just that. But he was more successful at some times than others.
Lance didn't say anything for a moment, and JC was afraid that he might be angry. He was about to prod for a response when Lance beat him to it, speaking up quietly. "I'd hope they'd get your voice," he said, his voice free of bitterness.
JC didn't quite know how to respond. "Don't say that, baby," he scolded Lance. "They'd be able to sing up a storm no matter who they took after."
"You know what I mean, JC." Lance glanced into his rearview mirror, startled by the blow of a horn behind him, and inched forward. "Your passion and everything... that's rare. I don't have that."
"You don't give yourself enough credit," JC insisted firmly, and from his tone Lance knew that the subject was to be dropped. "We can't have kids, so whatever. Now we need a new topic, or else I'm gonna start up a game of 'I Spy'."
Lance pursed his lips in thought. "That doesn't sound like a bad idea," he mused. Anything to ease the slight tension that had arisen between them. He sat up straight, peering around the vehicle. "I'll go first."
"Go ahead," JC told him, both relief and amusement colouring his voice.
"Okay, um... I Spy with my little eye... something... that is...." Lance's eyes settled on a DelMonte sticker that he'd affixed to the dashboard the other day after eating an apple in the car. Green. "Something that is--" He stopped in sudden realization. JC wouldn't even remember that there was a DelMonte sticker on his dashboard. "JC, you can't play 'I Spy' on the phone," he complained.
"What do you m--oh. Ohhh," JC responded, and this time they shared a laugh. "Sorry about that; fine, pick another topic."
"Oh, okay," Lance sighed heavily, picking at the upholstery on the steering column. "Desperate means call for desperate measures."
On his end of the line, JC was still hooting with laughter. "Uh-oh," he joked. "Lance is bringing out the big guns! You're not gonna tell that story about when you fell off the tire swing when you were seven, are you?"
Lance narrowed his eyes, his lips drawing into a smirk. He raised an eyebrow. "You are gonna be so sorry for saying that when you hear me out."
"Okay, okay," JC gave in, sobering up. "I'm sorry. What were you gonna say?"
"I thought maybe you could tell me what you know about the new Star Wars movie." JC owed him, Lance decided. Breakfast in bed would do nicely. For a week.
"Oh, wow," JC breathed. "You're serious? It's almost wrong to do that to me -- you're like a captive audience."
"I'm a willing audience, JC," Lance told him. "I know you're psyched about it and I never felt like I had the time to hear you out, and I feel bad for that, so... go ahead."
JC drew a deep breath, and Lance let his head fall back on the seat headrest. God, he thought, it's gonna be a speech.
"Well, the way people are talking about it is, we figure the Clone Wars are gonna figure pretty prominently in this one. Or at least there's gonna be a helluva buildup to that, for Episode 3."
"Clone Wars?" Lance repeated. "Is that how Darth Vader gets all messed up?"
"Huh?" JC questioned, then continued. "No-- no, no, Lance, that's not what happens. It has to do with the Sith Empire, which is probably gonna be created by the end of Episode 2...."
Lance was already lost. Mentally, he withdrew just enough to be able to offer an "uh-huh" or "okay" or "I see" where he thought it was appropriate, choosing instead to simply enjoy the melodic rhythm with which JC spoke. He envisioned JC's face, animated as he discussed one of his favourite interests, his free hand gesticulating wildly, forming graceful figure eights in the air.
"Well, what did you think?" JC finally asked him, hands hovering lightly about his body but not touching him, as they made their way to the hotel elevator.
Lance bit his lower lip, considering. "Um... it wasn't really very interesting until that fight scene near the end. I feel like I missed something and everybody was talking over my head."
"Well," JC started, attempting to explain. "You need to understand the context and everything. This is the beginning of the saga, so all that stuff you already saw in the original series, you need to forget for now. They have to set up all the characters; get into all the politics so you understand how things could've gone so wrong by the time you see the old Star Wars."
"I've seen political debates more interesting than The Phantom Menace , JC," Lance argued, knowing that he was baiting JC on. But JC could be so damn cute when he was agitated, and sometimes Lance couldn't resist.
Jabbing the button for their floor, JC sighed, exasperated. "You don't get it, Lance. Look, is there something you need me to explain to you? Maybe that'll help."
Lance leaned against the back wall of the elevator, allowing his eyes to drift part-way closed. "Just explain the point of the story to me," he said, after considering for a moment. "Just this one. Just this movie. What was the point?"
JC was still talking in earnest when the elevator doors opened on their floor.
"Okay," Lance said, nodding agreeably, as he stepped out of the elevator and fished his keycard out of his back pocket, and JC went on excitedly. His eyes shone their faint blue hue in the dim, artificial light of the hallway. Lance watched those eyes instead of where he was going, allowing JC to lead the way to their room.
"Uh-huh," Lance said attentively, absently sticking his tongue between his teeth in concentration as he shoulder-checked and changed back to the lane he'd been in before.
JC waited until Lance had closed their hotel room door behind them before reaching out, taking Lance by the hands and leading him over to their bed, talking all the while.
"I see," Lance said; in response to what, he did not know. JC's dimples only really showed when he laughed; he was generally too self-conscious to give a genuine smile for pictures. But as JC spoke, Lance could see those dimples popping up periodically, in the hollows of his slender cheeks. Lance stared at them, not registering a word coming out of JC's mouth.
"I'm with ya," Lance assured JC, squinting in the sunlight to see the license plate of the car in front of him. South Carolina? No wonder they were going so friggin' slow.
"I know you're not paying attention to a single word I'm saying," JC said softly, resting his chin on Lance's shoulder, breathing against Lance's neck.
"Uh-huh," Lance murmured, not hearing him, his fingers tracing patterns against the palm of JC's hand. The thing he liked about JC's hands was how they looked tough, like workers' hands, yet they did things so delicately; like play the piano and touch him with feather-light caresses that left him weak-kneed and breathless.
"Oh, okay, I understand." Lance frowned. JC was going on and on about some guy named Bobba Fett. Who the hell was Bobba Fett?
"And all this talk of dueling with light sabers has me horny anyway, so I was wondering if you wanted to make out," JC continued, only half-joking, as he leaned closer to press his lips against the crook of Lance's shoulder. "Lance?"
Lance jumped slightly at the contact, turning his head to face JC. "What? I was listening."
JC smiled at him, so widely that his dimples flashed, and kissed him.
Shit, he cursed himself. "Mmm-hmmm, baby?" Shaking himself out of his reverie, Lance checked the clock on the dashboard, and nearly sobbed in frustration; there really was no point in attempting to get to the recording studio at this point. Mentally calculating the best way to get out of this jam and onto the route to the airport, he turned his wheels towards the off-ramp, waiting for the next surge in traffic.
"You know, you can tell me about the time you fell off the tire swing now, if you want," JC said softly.
Lance closed his eyes, smiling slowly. Okay, maybe not a week of breakfast in bed. "No, that's okay. But thanks for offering."
There was no response from JC for a time, and Lance pursed his lips, unwilling to disturb the moment. He started humming to himself, tapping the steering wheel to the rhythm in his head. Something that had happened a few days ago hit him, and he thought to bring it up now, since now seemed as good a time as any. "You know, the other day I saw the--"
"Hang on, Lance," JC murmured suddenly, cutting him off. Lance could hear him moving things around in the background.
"What, am I boring you already? You tell me to talk to you, then you shut me up? Have I told you I love you today, JC?" Lance's voice was laced with an easy sarcasm.
JC shook his head, aware that Lance couldn't see the action. "No," he smiled, turning up the recording volume on the mixer. He hoped that this would work. "Can you sing something to me? I wanna hear you sing something."
"Um... okay," Lance bit his lip. "Sing what?"
"That one you do so well. I love it; the, um...." He could hear JC snap his fingers over the connection, trying to remember. "The Annie Lennox one."
Lance smiled. The Annie Lennox one. He wasn't much of an Annie Lennox fan per sé, but he was a horror movie fan, and Bram Stoker's Dracula was simply classic.
"'Bram Stoker's Dracula: the Original Motion Picture Soundrack'?" JC asked, pausing on the selection in Lance's CD case.
Lance glanced over at him, curled up on their bed, snooping through each item as Lance unpacked them from his suitcase. "Uh-huh. Really good 'creep you out' music. And that ballad by Annie Lennox is the best."
"'Love Song For A Vampire'... I've heard it, and I know I liked it, but I can't remember how it goes." JC laughed. "I usually have such a good memory for that stuff."
Lance laughed as well, striding over to the bed with an outstretched hand. "Well, here; lemme put it in my Discman and you can listen to it."
JC loved it. Put it on repeat. Insisted that it become their theme.
Much later, when the two had retired, JC brought it up again, stroking Lance's hair from his forehead. "You know, I was thinking about that song you played me earlier."
"And?" JC's touch was relaxing, lulling him to sleep.
"I think it would be good for your voice. I think I'd like to hear you try that sometime... like...." He turned, leaning further towards Lance. "Now. You think you could sing it now?"
Lance frowned, trying to blink himself back to wakefulness. Of all the things.... "Um..." He propped himself up across from JC, licking his lips, feeling incredibly vulnerable and inadequate and put on the spot. "Yeah, sure."
He sang. JC closed his eyes as he sang, and Lance couldn't make out his face in the dark.
"Was that okay?" he asked softly when he was finished, not daring to pretend that JC's personal approval of anything he sang wasn't the most important to him.
"Lance?" JC asked him in a whisper, reaching out for him, touching his hand where it lay on the bedspread. "That was.... I don't... I don't want you to play that song for me anymore. I want you to sing it for me, every time. Okay? Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Lance lay his head back down on the pillow, pulling JC into a hug. No, he wasn't sure if he understood JC through the haze of his exhaustion, but the warm feeling that budded from his heart told him that this was a good thing nonetheless. "Okay."
Lance started the song then, his voice soft and lackadaisical, his rhythm too fast, singing as though he were merely demonstrating the song for someone to pick up on its melody. "Come into these arms again, And lay your b--" JC cut him off.
"No, no. No. N--Lance, I'm serious," he insisted. "Sing it like you mean it. Sing it to me. Sing it like it's playing in your head. Sing it like you're not gonna make it to the airport in time to see me off." He thought about it for a moment more. "Sing it like it's the last thing you'll ever sing to me."
"Like it's the last-- JC, that's... don't even say that."
"You know what I mean; I don't mean anything bad's gonna happen, just... sing it like I don't know how you feel about me, and you have to convince me with this one song that you love me, because you don't have anything else." He wouldn't tell Lance that these were the very same thought processes that enabled him to sing with the 'passion' that Lance so adored. Not yet, anyway.
JC waited. He could practically hear the rustle as Lance sat straighter, psyched himself up, drew air into his lungs; then he pulled the receiver from his ear and held it up to the mic of the recording booth.
Lance cleared his throat and began again, the key lower and more comfortable for him, his voice more confident. No, JC realized; not confident. Full of emotion.
There appeared a lump in his throat. It grew. Lance sang, and finished, and he didn't -- couldn't -- trust himself to speak.
JC brought the receiver back to his ear, blinking rapidly against the tears that had sprung to his eyes. "Sing it again," he managed to whisper hoarsely, before replacing the receiver against the microphone. Two versions would be enough; not ideal, but enough for now. He could mix the best of each take together.
Lance laughed a little uneasily. "Okay, JC, you're scaring me." He paused, awaiting a response. "Baby?"
One take would have to do, then, JC decided. "Yeah, I'm here," he answered, making his way back to the production booth and stopping the recording. He would barely have time to mix the recording unless he started now. "Um... actually, I have to..." he sighed, too weary to come up with an excuse. "I have to finish up some stuff, so I'm gonna have to go, all right?"
"W--um... yeah, that's fine." Lance blinked, caught off guard. "I guess... well, bye. Love you," he added quickly.
"Love you, too. I really gotta go, though; I'm sorry. Bye."
It was only after the end of JC's booked time in the studio came and went, after JC should have long been on his way to the airport and yet still hadn't called back, that Lance started to grow concerned. He wasn't even sure if he'd be able to make it in time to see JC off, so he had hoped that JC would at least call and they could talk until his flight took off. It didn't occur to him for some time that he could call JC himself.
Glancing down to see where he'd dropped it after hanging up with JC, he retrieved his phone and hit JC's cell number on the speed dial.
"Well, fuck," he muttered, after being informed that this user had turned off their phone.
He tried to think of what could be keeping JC; he would have called. He would have called. JC loved to talk on the phone. He could have gotten caught up with work; Lance could understand that. But if he was on his way to the airport, Lance couldn't think of anything that would warrant JC turning off his cell phone. Of course, he could have turned it off while he was busy and forgotten to turn it back on. But if he was going to call Lance back, that wouldn't have mattered.
Okay, what if something happened to him, Lance thought, turning to more ominous scenarios. What if he was exiting the studio, preparing to turn his cell back on, and he was hit by a truck? Or fell and broke his leg? Or was mugged? This was getting to be too depressing.
himself to wait until he saw JC to find out his reasoning. Or maybe JC
would call him right now. He stared at his phone for a long moment.
Or maybe not.
And the drive to the airport was so boring. And lonely.
Lance locked his elbows, pressing his seat back until the steering wheel was at arm's length. He slammed his head back into the headrest a few times. Sighed heavily. Glanced out of the side-view mirror. Was nearly blinded by the sun shining into the side-view mirror. Swore loudly and shielded his eyes. Turned on the radio. Punched angrily at a random button. Grimaced at the tune. Punched another random button. Turned the volume way up. He wouldn't be able to hear his phone even if it did ring. Good, he thought. I don't want to talk to him now, anyway.
A minute later he scowled, set his phone to 'vibrate', and shoved it into his pocket.
By the time he got to the airport and JC still hadn't called, Lance had worked himself into a dull, uneasy anxiety. Flip-flopping between genuine concern and stubborn anger was tiring, and caused his stomach to churn and twist into a decidedly uncomfortable knot. He'd spent so much of the day in a bad mood by now that he was convinced he'd miss JC's flight. It would just be perfect, he thought, sulking.
Fortunately, airport security didn't give him too much hassle when he attempted to negotiate his way to the VIP room. Lance was thankful and immensely relieved to find out that JC hadn't left yet, but he wasn't up to politely-yet-confidently begging to be let in without a boarding pass. He didn't feel like turning an 'awww, shucks' smile on anyone and playing nice-nice. Not today.
JC was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the VIP room, intensely examining the strap of his carry-on bag, when Lance entered. The look of concentration on his face, though adorable, wasn't exactly enough to dampen the fretfulness that had settled into the pit of Lance's gut. He almost stalked across the room, but the noise of his arrival brought JC's head up, and such a smile flitted across the older man's features that the first words in Lance's mind -- "You don't look busy; why didn't you call me back?" were quickly forgotten.
"Hey," JC said softly, unfolding himself with a dancer's grace and standing to greet Lance with a hug. His lips grazed Lance's temple as one arm snaked over Lance's shoulder, and in a rush Lance was reminded of the very touches he'd been craving all day. He wanted to pull away, to find out what was going through JC's head; but when he tried to, he found himself looking into those silver-blue eyes and all he could see was sincere affection. So Lance drew JC into a kiss instead, clutching his lover with a desperation that surprised even him.
"Baby? Lance? Lance," JC breathed between kisses, feeling the intensity behind them. He unwrapped his arms from around Lance's body and brought them up to cover Lance's hands where they cupped his face. "We've got, like, five minutes." And aren't you mad at me? he wanted to ask, but didn't. He figured that upset or not, Lance wanted to fight during these last few moments just about as badly as he did. Which was to say, not at all. "Don't you wanna talk?"
He saw the unspoken accusation, and accompanying anger, flash briefly in pale green eyes: "You could've called me and we could've talked then," before those eyes softened, and grew wet -- so it seemed -- in the light. Lance shook his head and drew closer to him, burying his face into the crook of JC's shoulder. "We've talked enough. I just wanna hold you."
JC smiled wryly. "Twist my arm, why don't you," he murmured, closing his eyes, and rested his cheek on Lance's shoulder. They stood, not saying anything, not moving, until the final call for boarding came over the intercom what felt like mere seconds later. Lance was the first to pull away, giving him a tight smile that JC knew he himself mirrored.
Breaking out of the embrace entirely, JC headed back over to his duffel bag, pulling out a cassette and a folded slip of paper and handing both to Lance before slinging the duffel over his shoulder. "Read the note first," he whispered as he passed Lance on his way to his gate, brushing his cheek lightly with his lips; then he continued on his way. He didn't look back.
Lance stood in the middle of the room, clutching the paper labeled with a scribbled 'READ ME' and the cassette labeled with an equally messy 'PLAY ME', and wondered what had just happened. He hadn't even had time to lament over how much he'd miss JC, or how depressing the drive back home was going to be, or how long four days without JC was going to seem. It was as if JC hadn't really left and would simply come back around the corner and really kiss him and really say good-bye. But he didn't. He didn't call; he didn't say good-bye....
Brow furrowed in confusion and, Lance had to admit, feeling a little hurt, he let himself out of the VIP room and navigated his way out of the airport, tossing his packages onto the passenger side seat as he climbed into his SUV. After a moment of deliberation his curiousity got the better of him and he reached over to grab the note, unfolding it with fingers that were cold and slightly shaking. JC's barely legible script jumped out at him from the page.
You're mad at me. I know you are, don't deny it. I didn't call you back when I was done in the studio and I'm sorry. Here's where I say "but wait! I had a really good excuse!" Hear me out, okay?
I got to thinking. Just now I was sitting in the studio, messing around on the piano, and I was thinking about this cute blond with the most amazing eyes. Know him? (I want you to smile now) And I wanted to write you something, write you a song. And seriously, I was getting all excited, because I had all these thoughts in my head about you, and I just KNEW I could pour out streams of poetry and write a friggin concerto...
And I was wrong.
I mean, I got in the cab and everything, and I had the pencil and paper ready to go, and I had the thoughts in my head, but then I couldn't do it. I tried almost the whole way to the airport, and I could've cried, I was so mad, because WHY can I be so creative when it comes to everything else and so stumped when it comes to YOU? But now I know what happened... I can't write the way I feel about you... because it's like that limits it somehow.
How could I write my feelings for you, and then have everybody sing about them every night? If I take the thoughts I think about you, how can I just put them down on paper and force them into words that rhyme, and fit a beat, and just happen to be in Justin's range? Those wouldn't be my thoughts about you -- those would be some tiny little corner of my thoughts about you.
So I wanted to meet you at the airport with a song just for you that you could read and hear me sing, and maybe we'd both feel better about being separated all the time. I'm sorry I couldn't give that to you. I hope this note and what I did on the cassette will be enough.
That's all. Now you get to listen to the tape. It's something to keep you company on the way back home. And you can pretend I'm there.
Don't EVER tell me you don't have passion in your voice again.
I love you
Josh (Bass, if you want. You know if you asked I'd say yes)
Lance was trying very, very hard not to cry. He gnawed anxiously on a well-manicured thumbnail and blinked back tears, gripping the paper so tightly in his fist that it nearly tore. JC was so forgiven. JC had passed the realm of 'forgiven' and now dwelled in the land of 'I'm making this up to you for the rest of my life'. Lance struggled to regain his composure before heading back onto the freeway; the sooner he started, the sooner he'd be home and off of the lonely road. And he hadn't even listened to the tape yet.
He had a growing suspicion that he knew what might be on it, but JC had said that he'd been messing around on the piano, and if he was doing that, then he couldn't have been making some recording of Lance singing. It really was as good a guess as any what JC had been up to once they'd gotten off the phone. Still, he waited until he'd started the car up again and was prepared to leave the parking lot before he slipped the tape in.
The soft strains of a piano reached his ears, with the unmistakably jazzy touch that defined JC's style. Lance smiled, and his breath caught in his throat. He played this for me.... God, JC... The underlying tune was barely distinguishable, but Lance recognized it immediately; JC's improvisation was so intricate that he might not have picked it up had he not just sung it that afternoon. The musical interlude swelled, built to a slow climax, and Lance found his eyes filling with tears once more, if only because it seemed as though the song would end too soon. He began to search for a place along the road where he could pull over to wipe his eyes before he killed somebody.
Then he heard his own voice, and suddenly Lance couldn't pull over quickly enough. Settling for a spot in front of an autobody shop, Lance blindly shifted into 'park' and leaned forward, his face in his hands, as he debated between ejecting the tape and listening with rapt fascination. At first he tuned out the sound of his voice as much as he could and focused on JC's accompaniment instead; how JC had managed to mesh the piano with his voice as well as he had escaped Lance's imagination entirely.
But as he listened, Lance heard something different in his voice as well; in the way he'd allowed his voice to come close to breaking over certain words, in the way he'd crescendoed and decrescendoed, in the way he'd scooped some notes and attacked others head-on. It was that, and the way that JC had somehow captured the emotion in his voice just so, that made Lance feel as though he were admiring a well-crafted sculpture, painstakingly assembled.
Once the song was over, Lance allowed the hiss of the tape to soothe him as he remained still, save for a few deep, shaking breaths. He worried at his lower lip, wiping at his eyes, at his wet cheeks, at his running nose, unsure what to make of it all. The faint vibrations at his hip barely registered for a long moment, until he remembered his phone and sprang into action, whipping the device from his pocket and flipping it open.
"JC," he breathed, drawled, sobbed, sniffled.
"Did you have a chance to listen to the tape yet?" JC's voice was barely audible over the roar of the plane's engines.
"I did, I did, and I--I'm sorry I got mad, I'm so sorry, I--"
JC hushed him. "It's okay, I understand; I would've been madder if I were you, I think. I don't keep that stuff in as well as you."
Lance would have responded, but he was still struggling to stifle his sobs.
"I just wanted to... I didn't say good-bye, so I wanted to tell you," JC went on. "I wanted to say good-bye, and I wanted to make sure you could hear what I hear when I listen to you sing."
A small grin spread its way across Lance's face. "All I heard was your beautiful piano," he managed.
"Bullshit," came the reply. "I know you. I know you surprised yourself. You didn't know you could sound like that, did you? Well, I knew."
Silence. Then, "Is that how you do it? Sing like that?"
"That's how. Every time I sing is the last time, Lance."
Lance felt a fresh wave of tears fill his eyes, and suddenly felt very foolish, sitting in his car crying. "I can't..." He had to go. "I have to get home, JC," he sighed wearily. "I'm no good like this; we'll talk more tonight, okay?"
"I'll call you as soon as I get to the hotel. Love you."
You don't even know; you don't even know how much I love you right now. "I love you, 'kay?" Lance mouthed more than whispered, hanging up.