By: Chaos and Raven
Chris waits an entire week before going to see Lance. Exactly a week. He started counting from the time Lance disembarked from the airplane. It seemed like it would be enough time to grieve. Not that Lance hasn't been since he found out. But he couldn't do it properly there.
Chris sighs and leans his head against the steering wheel. He has been sitting in the driveway for fifteen minutes now. This, he tells himself, is why you didn't come sooner. With a heavy sigh, he pushes open the door and slides out of the car. It's so fucking hot in Florida. Hot and wet.
He jiggles the doorknob but evidently Lance has started to remember to keep the house locked. Chris digs through his pockets to find his keys. Inside, Lance's house is quiet and cool. All the lights are off. It's something like a mausoleum, despite the Martha Stewart inspired homey touches.
Lance isn't in any of the places Chris thought he would be. He isn't in the living room or his bedroom. He isn't out by the pool or in the solarium. Chris even checks the guest bedrooms and all the bathrooms.
He's about ready to give up when he remembers that Lance's house does actually have a functional attic. The stairs creak as he climbs them, shattering the eerie calm. Chris wants to laugh but it's really not as amusing when he's by himself.
He doesn't see Lance at first because of the scattered boxes littering the floor. Lance is tucked up in the far corner, sitting in the dust and staring out the small window. There is no way he missed Chris's assent.
"You aren't sulking very gracefully," Chris says.
Lance turns and takes a pointed drink from his glass.
"So anyway, it's intervention time."
"Want some?" Lance gestures to the bottle tucked in-between his legs.
Chris tries very hard not to think of the repercussions if he answers that question honestly. He shakes his head. "Nah, I'm good. You gonna cooperate or am I going to have to call in the cavalry?"
"No one seems to understand. I put so much into him--"
"Oh fuck you." Chris interrupts. "Fuck you and your stupid melodrama. I know exactly what you put in. You think I don't know? Jesus Christ. Who did you call Lance? Every fucking time."
Lance ignores him. "I would have come out. We were going to buy a fucking house in Vermont," Lance says angrily.
"So. What." Chris glares. "You are going to sober up and you are going to. Get. Over. It." He holds up a hand to halt any protests.
There is only a two inch height difference between them and if Chris thought it was necessary, he could flip Lance up over his shoulder to carry him downstairs. He starts gently though, because Lance has been drinking fairly heavily and could easily puke at any moment.
He starts crying when Chris gets him into the shower. Fat, silent tears that drip down to his chin. Chris sits on the toilet and breathes through his mouth until his own eyes stop stinging. Lance is the nicest, sweetest guy in the world. He is also cracking into little pieces in front of Chris's eyes.
Lance's eyes are still red-rimmed when he gets out of the shower. Chris towels him off and folds him into bed. He takes out the recycling and writes up a grocery list. There is no food left. He forces himself to stop cleaning a little after one. He managed to scrape off one layer of grime and the kitchen is clean.
Chris wakes automatically at eight AM. At some point in the night, Lance crawled into bed with him and he is lying pressed against Chris's side. Chris slides over a little to look at him.
Lance breaks his heart, on average, three or four times a day. Evidently, he's starting early today. His skin is sallow and there are dark purple shapes under his eyes that make it look as if he's been bruised. His face hasn't really relaxed and he looks angry and sad, even while sleeping.
Joey told him once, ages ago, about the emotional impact of movie characters depending on which side of the screen they were standing on. One side is stronger, one side is weaker. One side is happy, the other is sad. Chris thinks that maybe if Lance could get over to the other side of the screen, things would be okay again.
Chris goes downstairs. He makes himself coffee and flips through the numbers in his cell phone until he finds his housekeeper. She doesn't work today and he knows that, but she likes him enough that she'll make an exception. He tells her not to worry about how much it will cost.
He forces Lance up and into clothes. They sit outside on the patio while the vacuum whirs through the house. Lance sits and stares listlessly at the pool. He has a wicked hangover, but at least he isn't drinking anymore.
"You can't do this, Chris."
Chris shrugs and ignores him. Lance never did know when to quit. When enough was enough. This is the first time Chris hasn't felt responsible for it.
"I can. I am," he replies. "He's not worth it. I don't care how long you guys were together. He isn't worth your pain."
Lance turns away and stares at the pool again.
Chris keeps them out in the yard all day. He briefly entertains the idea of having the rest of the guys over, but they will only ask questions and drag it up again. Chris wants Lance to think of something else. So he tackles him and sends them both sprawling into the pool.
Lance isn't laughing, but the expression on his face is different. Chris thinks that maybe he switched over. Hopes that maybe Lance is on the other side now.
He finds Lance sitting on the kitchen floor when he gets back from the grocery store, blitzed out of his mind. He steels himself and carries the rest of the bags inside. He doesn't want to think about it. Lance is on an edge, hanging from a precipice, and Chris suddenly loves him and hates him more than ever.
He leaves him there on the floor and locks himself in the bathroom. It may be cowardly, but he doesn't know what else to do. He calls JC. It's the first number his fingers can remember. Searching through the address book in his phone is too complicated right now. Plus, JC can't just let the phone ring. He always answers.
"Chris? Is that you? What is it, man? I'm kind of, nngh, busy."
Chris can hear the rhythmic sounds of flesh on flesh. Steady and even, like a metronome. "Can you just. Stop for a minute? I'm kind of freaking out right now."
JC slows but doesn't stop completely. Every five seconds or so, there is a grunt or moan. "Okay, okay. What is it?"
"I can't do this, man. Just. He's drunk again. And I can't..."
Chris hears him kissing someone, wet and hard. "Chris. Chris you need to stop. You love him."
"Jayce, that is so far from the point right now--"
"No. Listen," JC interrupts, "you are freaking out right now. You just, you have to be there for him."
"Why can't you or Justin or Joey be there for him? Why does it have to be me? I'm going to fuck it up, man. I'm going to make a pass at him or something."
"Chris, you love him. You aren't going to mess things up. Go force a few aspirin down his throat. Or y'know, something."
Chris sighs and hangs up without saying good-bye. He waits another ten minutes before going back out. Lance is still on the floor, though he has moved over and is leaning his back against the dishwasher.
"And here I thought you'd already finished off all the alcohol in the house."
Lance smiles hugely. "I. Am a man of many talents."
"You really are." Chris sighs.
Chris makes them dinner that night. Lance sits at the breakfast bar and watches him. His eyes still look bruised and Chris ignores that as best he can. They aren't talking, merely existing simultaneously.
Lance has always been a fortress. Most of the secrets he keeps are his own. It's never been a bad thing the way it is now. He always opens when he needs to. Not now, not anymore. Chris doesn't even know where to start. With everyone else, he just has to listen. Lance isn't talking.
Chris wakes up next to him again, despite the fact that they went to sleep in different beds. It's becoming a somewhat creepy trend. He pushes himself closer, knowing it's a very bad idea. Lance grunts something uncharitable at Chris.
"Why are you awake?" He grumbles.
Chris shrugs. He flutters his eyes open and finds himself face to face with Lance, who -- contrary to earlier belief -- is not sleeping.
"You're in bed with me," Chris says inanely. He can practically count Lance's eyelashes. Dark smudgy outlines on the bruised flesh under his eyes.
"You never... really liked him, did you?"
Chris stills suddenly. He didn't think they'd start to talk about it so soon. At all, really. He shakes his head. "I tried to. But, like, he was never good enough for you."
"You're probably happy we broke up," Lance says ruthlessly.
Chris sighs and pushes himself to a sitting position. "It's not about me being happy," he says slowly. "It's about you being happy. I wanted -- want you to be happy. That's all."
"It would have been different, easier," Lance says slowly, "if we were having problems. I thought everything was perfect. How do you throw away something that perfect?"
Chris doesn't know how to answer that. His perfect thing is his four best friends. They haven't failed him yet.
Lance laughs hollowly. "It was like this big gay fairy tale. I thought we were perfect and forever. Evidently, he didn't agree."
"Maybe it's just the start of your big gay fairy tale," Chris says with a not quite bitter smile. "There is further gayness to be had later in life."
Lance shifts a little, curling in on himself. "I just kind of wanted forever to start now."
He sounds so small. Betrayed. Chris turns over and engulfs Lance in his arms. Lance is two inches taller and has broader shoulders but somehow Chris manages to encompass him entirely. He strokes Lance's back and calls him 'baby,' humming soft soothing noise against his neck. Lance shudders once and his entire body melts against Chris. Chris can feel hot tears sliding across his collarbones even though Lance doesn't make a sound.
He gets up later, after Lance has worn himself out crying, and makes them breakfast. Nothing complicated, just scrambled eggs with cheese melted over the top. He stands in the doorway of the guest bedroom just staring at Lance. He's naked under the sheet, Chris knows, because Lance refuses to wear clothes to bed. Always has. His skin is pale and golden. Chris forces his eyes closed and counts to ten before crossing over to the bed. Lance shifts and breaks into an embarrassed grin when Chris hands him a plate.
"You made me breakfast."
Chris shrugs because he can make scrambled eggs in his sleep, and if that's what it takes to make Lance smile, he'd be happy to make them every day.
"I want to get over him," Lance says halfway through his breakfast. "I'm just not sure where to start."
"That's as good a place as any," Chris replies. "I know it might seem like I was forcing you into getting over it, but I know this shit takes time. The drinking... It was just getting too much."
"I know. Believe me, I know. I just couldn't--"
Chris cuts him off by placing his hands on either side of Lance's face. "It's good. Just-- stop."
He leans in and presses his lips against Lance's. Lance makes an inarticulate sound as Chris pulls away. Chris smiles tightly and concentrates on not fleeing the scene. Lance is smiling, though, and looking down at his hands. That's something anyway.
Later, Lance makes Chris take him to visit the other guys. He sits on the floor with Briahna between his legs and tells them -- as best he can -- what happened. Chris is on the couch next to Justin. He stares out the window so he can pretend he's not paying attention, but really, he can see Lance's reflection in the sliding glass door.
They spend the afternoon at Joey's, and Chris has to admit that this is the best Lance has looked all week. Not that he's bitter or anything, just a little sad that he couldn't do it by himself. Selfish maybe, but Chris has never claimed to be anything else.
He's talking to Justin about maybe hitting the links later in the week when Lance sneaks up behind him. Strong arms wrap around his waist, and Chris thinks it's Joey until he leans back and smells the laundry detergent Lance uses.
"Can we go home now?" Lance asks.
Chris clears his throat. "Yeah, sure. Gimme a call when you figure out what day's going to work, kay Jup?"
Chris drives Lance's 4-Runner back because that's what they came in and Lance wants to rest his eyes. He thought he was getting to the point where Lance would want him out, gone, anywhere but invading his space. Maybe not though. Lance taps his fingers on the arm rest and hums all the way back to his house.
"So." Chris makes no move to get out of the car once he stops the engine.
"I'm so tired. I'd forgotten how exhausting they are."
"Like in a good way though, right?" He asks anxiously.
Lance smiles slowly. "Yeah, it's all good."
They go into the house, sluggish from a long day in the sun. This time, Lance doesn't bother pretending he won't end up in bed with Chris again. He takes Chris's hand, ignores Chris's shocked protestations, and drags him up the stairs. Lance stares at him, challenging him, until Chris gives in and strips down to his shorts. He feels raw, like he should know what Lance is doing but he doesn't have a clue.
Lance curls up behind him in the bed, kissing just below his ear. "Stay," Lance says. "I love you."
Chris takes Lance's hand and curls their fingers together. It's too much, too soon. And he won't be the rebound. Not for Lance, not for someone who could snap his heart in two. So he lies there silent, hoping to god that Lance has finished crossing over.