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The mask is getting heavy. It presses down at Lance's temples and makes his skin feel tight, makes it hard to breathe.

But they won't like what's underneath, they don't need what's underneath, and it's not like there's anywhere to go for another second chance out here.

It's not like he really wants one, when it comes down to it.

But it would be nice to know there's a safety net, if he slips too far. It would be nice to know this isn't make or break.

So Lance smiles, and jokes, and supports. Lance is the crowing sunshine, the midnight sun, always on.

It's not too difficult at first. It isnt a mask at first. This was the when times get tough facet of his personality, old and worn and familiar, the one he'd show to make his mama smile when she has to choose between food and rent, the one that tells his baby cousins that everything is fine, the one that distracts his siblings when they're at each other's throats over something he doesn't understand.

But times have never been so tough for so long before, and this facet has become a mask for the useless tumble of emotions he has become, and the mask is becoming his face.

At night, alone, he lets himself wonder.

Will he ever be able to let it out, all the fear and anger clawing under his skin, or will it remain trapped within, scarring his insides, making him uglier beneath his mask.

It's a vicious cycle, and he tells himself he needs to take it off, but then they'll see, so he doesn't want to, and then it gets worse under there, and then he really doesn't want to, because they'll see.

It's a downward spiral and he can't see the ground but he knows it's coming and he can't stop, so he may as well try enjoy the ride while it lasts.