It stopped raining just before Justin heard the knock. Looking back, it was probably a sign. But that didn’t cross his mind as he set down his drink and opened the door. And he definitely didn’t expect to be thrown back onto the bed before he could even see who was standing in the hallway.
“What the hell -“ Justin started, then looked up to see “Lance! Dude, what are you doing here?”
Lance grabbed Justin’s hand and pulled him off the bed, wrapping him into a tight hug. “Joey said you were in London and, you know, since I was on this side of the Atlantic anyway, I thought I’d stop by and see you.”
Pushing Lance away, Justin surveyed his friend. “You look fucking fantastic. What happened to you?”
“Um, thanks. I think.”
“No,” Justin said, walking around Lance, “I’m serious. You’re . . . different.”
Lance raised one eyebrow. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Hmm. I haven’t decided yet. You want?” he asked, indicating the contents of the mini bar.
“Found one already.” Lance winked and picked up Justin’s drink from on top of the television. He took a seat under the window, his left leg stretched out in from of him, one arm flayed across the back of the sofa and sipped on the drink. “So, what are we doing tonight?”
Justin stopped pouring his new drink and stared at Lance. “We? Well, you just got here. I was gonna go out tonight, but I don’t know. Do you want to, like, tell me about what the hell you’ve been doing for the past five months?”
“Go out? That sounds good to me.” Lance pushed himself up off the sofa.
“Um, okay,” Justin said, grabbing his hat and jacket and following Lance out the door.
Outside the hotel, Lance greeted fans and signed autographs on the way to the car. Justin followed at a distance, his hands shoved in his pockets, watching Lance.
“I’m telling you, it’s not right. There’s something going on,” Justin whispered to his bodyguard Randy as they entered the club. He couldn’t take his eyes off Lance, who was working his way around the perimeter of the room, stopping to chat with anyone and everyone.
Justin wandered around in a daze, carrying the same drink all night, watching as Lance danced with numerous partners. “Lance doesn’t dance,” he muttered, to anyone who might be listening.
“And he doesn’t do that,” Justin told Randy, shaking his head, as Lance left the club with his arm around a gorgeous man.
* * * * *
“Are you dead yet?” Chris asked, poking the back of Justin’s head, which was lolling over the back of the seat.
“Eh? What?” Justin stirred, rubbing his eyes. “Where are we?”
“Dude, I think you passed out. Wake up, we’re almost at your house. You may have partied a little too hard.”
“Thanks for coming tonight. I’m really glad you were there,” Justin told Chris.
“Yeah, like I’d miss the release party of your first solo CD? Idiot. Even if I did have to fly all the way from Orlando.”
“Lance didn’t show up,” Justin said. “I mean, I’ve only talked to him a couple times since he’s been back, but . . .” Justin sat up straighter. “Have you seen him lately?”
Chris turned his head slowly to look at Justin. “Yeah. I’ve been at his house a lot. He’s teaching me how to cook borscht. I keep telling him, ‘beets are gross, man.’”
Justin started to laugh, then put his hands on his head until it stopped spinning. “Have you noticed anything different about him?”
“What do you mean different?” Chris asked.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.”
Chris leaned against the car door and put his feet in Justin’s lap. “Good different? Or bad different?”
* * * * *
Justin was on his way from the MTV studios to his hotel room to get ready for another performance when his cell phone rang. “JC, man. What’s up?”
“Are you dead yet?”
“Hell no. You know I live for this shit. I’m just tired of the same questions. You know, like always.”
There was a pause on JC’s end. “Um, Justin? Are you stressed about something? Like, is there something bothering you?”
“Why?” Justin asked.
“Well . . . I just saw Lance. He said he called you yesterday and you wouldn’t talk to him.”
“What? He called and he said that he’d be up here in New York next week and that he’s made plans for us. I told him that I’m supposed to be in Canada then and could I please talk to him later cause I was on my way to an interview. He just laughed. What the hell is up with him? You’ve seen him. He’s different. What’s going on?”
“Different how?” JC asked.
“Ughhh,” Justin moaned. “I’m too fucking busy to think about this.” He snapped his phone shut.
* * * * *
“Cheers,” Joey said, handing Justin a beer and dropping onto the couch next to him. “Thank God for days off, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Justin replied.
“I’m sure you could use one.” Joey patted Justin’s shoulder and took a drink. “You look wrecked, man. Just tired?”
After a long pause, Joey said, “And distracted, huh? What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Justin answered, sipping his beer.
“So, uh . . . Lance was at the show last night. It was good to see him. I’ve been so busy and he and I haven’t really talked since he came home. He looks good.”
“Yes. Yes, he does. So, maybe you know. What is different about Lance? Why the hell can’t I get him out of my mind?”
“What do you mean different?” Joey asked.
Justin jumped off the couch, his energy suddenly returning. “I don’t fucking know. But I sure wish someone could tell me. It’s like, like he’s really . . . sexy or something.”
Joey choked on his beer. “Sexy?”
Justin let his head fall forward. “I have no idea. I. Really. Don’t. Understand.” Justin punctuated each word by kicking Joey’s coffee table.
“You shouldn’t do that without shoes, you know.”
Justin looked straight into Joey’s eyes and kicked the coffee table one more time, then fell on his ass.
* * * * *
Justin had been holed up in his hotel room for a few days. The doctor had told him bed rest was best for his broken foot. No going out, no dancing, no working for at least a week. And he was bored out of his fucking mind.
So, he was happy to hobble to the door, even though he had no idea who would be knocking at this time of night. He was a little less happy when he opened the door to reveal Lance.
“No,” Justin told him. “Go away. You’re the last thing I need right now. I can’t talk to you.”
“Dude, don’t freak out. Just go lie down and rest your foot. I brought you some soup.”
“Yeah,” Justin said, making his way toward the couch. “Maybe I should lie down.”
Lance sat across from Justin in the armchair and unwrapped the container from the deli. “Are you doing okay? You need me to feed this to you?”
Justin just snorted.
“Okay, just asking.” Lance slid the container toward Justin. “Speaking of asking, I heard you’ve been asking about me lately.”
“What? No, I - what?”
“It’s okay. I hear that you think I’m sexy. I’m flattered, really.” Lance stood up and crossed to the couch, to sit next to Justin. “I think you’re pretty sexy too.”
Before Justin knew what was happening, Lance grabbed the soup spoon from Justin’s hand and lowered it to the table. Justin felt, more than saw, Lance’s hands coming toward his face. And suddenly he was kissing Lance.
“That!” Justin yelled, pulling away. “That’s different!”
Lance shrugged. “You don’t like it?”
“Well, I didn’t say that,” Justin replied, leaning toward Lance.
* * * * *
Justin rubbed his eyes, his breath coming in pants. “Now that. Was different.”
Lance smiled, bent over and licked across Justin’s eyebrow to his ear. “Good different or bad different?” he whispered.