Middle of Somewhere

by Chris J

The brochure told them each room featured "a magnificent picture window to the south, offering an unparalleled view of the slopes." And so it did. Lance could stand in front of that window and see everything, from the ski lodge to the chair lift to the expanse of white cascading down the mountain.

At the moment he hardly even noticed. At the moment he was looking no further than the base of the mountain and the congregation of brightly clad skiers there. At one in particular, who stood alone looking up the mountain, resting his weight awkwardly on his poles. Lance felt his guts clench violently, felt a wave of nausea rise up in him.

But wasn't that why he was standing here looking out the window in the first place? To satisfy those masochistic tendencies that had been festering since he'd woken? It wasn't until this morning, after all, that the significance of what had happened, of the things JC had said to him, really hit home. It wasn't until he'd woke up alone that that he really understood.

Outside his window a figure in a bulky blue parka skidded gracelessly to a stop a few feet in front of the man Lance had been watching. He was easy to recognize, for Lance anyway, even before he pulled his collar down to expose a slightly frosted goatee. Joey gave JC a smile that held so much promise Lance once again felt physically ill. Mostly because he knew that JC would be giving that same smile right back to Joey.

From behind him there was a beep, then a click, then a swift whoosh as the door to his suite opened.

"Call the front desk for me, would you?" said Justin, bursting in and letting the door slam behind him. "Heat's out in my suite." Lance turned on his heel and stared. Everyone knew Justin had no respect for his personal space, so he should have been expecting something like this, but it still caught him off guard. "Wake up, yo!"

"You can reach for the phone yourself, fucker," Lance said finally, surprising even himself with the venom in his voice. "What am I now, your personal assistant?"

It didn't go unnoticed. "No, it's just your room..." Justin began haltingly. Lance had managed to rattle the unshakable Justin Timberlake. Any other time he might have been impressed with himself.

"Since when has that ever stopped you?" he said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the desk. "Just go ahead. I don't care."

"What the fuck's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing," said Lance breezily, gesturing again with even less meaning this time. "My breakfast was cold, the water pressure in my shower was crap and oh, yes, my boyfriend broke up with me last night. You know, nothing big."

Justin winced. Visibly. "Oh. Right," he said. "It finally happened, huh? I... heard you guys. Before I went down to the bar. You okay?"

The brochure had also claimed "sturdy, thick-walled rooms to ensure your safety and privacy". That, unfortunately, had been a shameless lie. Lance had also heard Justin's room last night, lying awake in the too-large bed. Heard the activity in Justin's room after he'd come back from the bar.

"Finally," he echoed faintly, ignoring the truth of that. "Oh, I'm just peachy. Are you gonna call the front desk or not? Phone's right there."

"I'll take care of it later," said Justin, taking a few steps closer and catching Lance's eyes. Lance didn't flinch, didn't even move. "I'm not in there right now. I'm here, and your heat's working. And besides, I'm kidnapping you and taking you out of here."

Lance didn't think there was much chance of that happening.

"Yes, despite the fact that the rest of my life's falling apart, the heat is just fine in here. Isn't that great?" He turned back toward the window and Justin stopped approaching. In fact, it sounded like he froze right on the spot the moment he lost sight of Lance's face.

"Better than being miserable in a cold room," he pointed out after a moment of thick silence. "They say it's gonna storm tonight. I might have to find another warm bed to sleep in."

"Yes, well, you won't be the first one of us to do that this trip."

"Fuck," he heard Justin mutter, as he'd expected him to. As he'd been baiting him to. "Sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

"I know," admitted Lance with a resigned sigh. He should have been feeling guilty about that, knowing that Justin was trying to be good about this. But he didn't, he just felt numb. "It doesn't matter."

"Whatever," said Justin, clearly not believing a word of it. Justin didn't have a poker face. Never had. "You're messed up. You should be. And I'm still taking you out so you don't mope in here forever."

"I'm not moping," Lance protested mildly, schooling his features. Lance did have a poker face. A good one.

"Oh, don't," muttered Justin. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing; I can see your reflection in the window. We have to pull off I'm-hurting-but-you'll-never-know-it often enough. Just let it out, get over it, and get out of here."

"God, I look do like a wreck." Lance scrubbed at his face as he saw his own faint reflection in the glass. "My hair...my cheeks...fuck, my eyes. I can't go anywhere like this."

"It's just bedhead. And, well, your eyes are red because you've cried, fool," said Justin with gruff affection. "It's not the end of the world. Take a shower or something and you'll be presentable."

"I didn't--"

"You think I didn't notice? S'okay. I would've cried, too, if it was me." Justin didn't even try to meet those bloodshot eyes with his own. Lance was grateful.

"Thanks," he murmured, resting a hand on the windowpane as he continued to stare out, focusing on the snow again. "You're lying, but thanks anyway."

Justin just shrugged and Lance saw his reflection approaching long before Justin was beside him. "You shouldn't stare out there for so long," he said, laying a hand on the sleeve of Lance's thick sweater. "The snow, that sunlight, it'll blind you."

Lance just silently pointed out the sight that was hurting his eyes a lot more than the snow was. They were even closer now, as Joey leaned in to whisper something in JC's ear. Their silent laughter had claws that ripped into him.

"Oh," said Justin softly. "I didn't... I didn't know that part. Shit."

"Yeah, well, shit happens," said Lance. "And shit has definitely happened here. I don't... how many more days are we here."

"Six," said Justin automatically. "It's supposed to be a vacation, Lance, not a jail term. You don't have to dread it. Let's just get something to eat, for a start. Okay?"

"World class dining," the brochure promised them. "Renowned chefs will prepared anything you could possibly imagine." Except bacon and eggs that weren't too salty and too runny and too cold, apparently. "Dine in-suite or take advantage of the splendors of our dining room or the romantic atmosphere of our lounge." Bitter, table for one.

"I guess I have a lot of work I could do," Lance replied flatly. "And a lot of free time to do it in. I may as well make that call for you, since you don't seem to be in much of a hurry to do it."

"Just... just forget about the call," said Justin. "Just forget about it. It's not important. Just... do what you have to, I guess. But don't beat yourself up about it, either. What the fuck good's that gonna do?"

"More good than crying about it," Lance shot back. He suspected it might be a long time before that bitterness finally vanished again. "I'll know better, for next time."

"Don't," said Justin. "That's just stupid, Lance. Don't think that JC breaking up with you is a lesson, it's just... it's just life. And it'll happen again, maybe, and not because you didn't "correct" something. Some people stay together and some don't and that's just the way it is."

"Easy for you to say," he said. "Easy for you to stand there and say that, when your girlfriend will be here tomorrow and you don't have to look forward to days and weeks and years of an empty bed."

Justin sighed and Lance could hear the impatience. Knew he deserved it, too; he was doing nothing more than whining. But he was entitled, this time. He'd earned that much.

"I don't know when we fell apart," he murmured after a bloated pause, since Justin was obviously waiting to hear something, and he wasn't going anywhere until he got what he wanted. "One day we were fine and the next... he was looking for someone else, I guess. It went downhill so fast."

"If you think you're doing yourself any favors by pitying yourself," said Justin after another moment crawled by, "then you have a lot to learn. Just get away from the window already. Stop watching JC's life and get on with your own."

"It's too soon."

Justin grabbed his arm again, firmer this time, and tugged so he had Lance's undivided attention. "Maybe," he admitted. "And maybe you've known this has been coming for a long time, and you just want to wallow a little longer. Either way, you're having lunch with me. No arguments."

Lance didn't have the energy left for any more arguments, he just took a last glance out the window. JC had taken Joey's sleeve and was leading him to the chair lift, and this time Lance didn't have to imagine the smile that he used to know. It was clearly visible on JC's face as he stared affectionately at Joey's.

Neither of them had once, this whole time, looked up at the window they knew was his.

If Lance recalled correctly, the brochure had promised him "the vacation of your life. People choose us because of our dedication to your happiness. Whether you're flying solo, looking for a break from your routine or even joining us for your honeymoon, we guarantee you won't be disappointed".

The beauty of being famous is that you learned to be bitter with a smile on your face.

"All right," he said, and closed the blinds before turning his back on them. "I'm ready to go."

Originally written for wax jism's 2001 Autumn Songfic Challenge. Song: "You Don't Have to be Alone".

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