|On the Bus
They didn't have a shower on the bus. Again. Lance wasn't sure whose stupid oversight it had been this time, not to have a shower on the bus when they had spent so much time bitching about that fact on the first leg of the tour, but they still didn't have one, and it was starting to drive him crazy.
It was particularly bad after the shows.
They almost never had showers in the dressing rooms, and even when they did, they almost never had time to use them. That was one of the prices of fame--they had to get on the bus and get the hell out of the arena before the 45,000 people in the seats did or they'd be sitting in traffic for hours. So tonight, in . . . Philadelphia, Lance believed, they had stripped off the costumes and yanked on warm-ups and ran ran ran for the bus. Lonnie always counted them off into his radio as he stood by the door. Tonight, Lance had been number four.
"Four little birds," Lonnie had said into the radio as he slapped Lance's hand, and Lance had grinned. With Lonnie, it was always something. The night before, in Cleveland, Lance had been "the third noel," and the night before that Lance had been "fourth peanut."
Regardless of what he was called, though, he always smelled after a show. They all did. They sweated buckets under those lights, in those clothes, and then they climbed on the bus and tried to calm down, and the sweat dried and if they weren't going to a hotel, but were driving on to the next city right away, then they all ended up reeking until the next day. Lance didn't know how the bus driver could stand it.
"You guys need the bathroom?" he asked, standing. They were all lying around, too jazzed to go to bed, but too tired to move, in various states of undress. Joey only had one shoe on.
"Why?" Chris asked. "What are you going to do in there, Lance?"
Lance felt himself blush and hated it. He loved Chris, but the guy could always get to him.
"Nothin,'" he said. "Wash up."
Chris winked at him. No one said anything else. Justin seemed to be asleep already on the floor in front of the t.v.
In the tiny bathroom, Lance peeled off his shirt and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell, but in a good way, like he'd been rode hard and put away wet as his dad would say. He felt good. Dirty, but good.
He turned on the water in the sink, and let it run until it almost scalded him. The soap in the little dispenser was good, not too flowery. He had requested that himself. He lathered it up in the washcloth, and wiped his face down first, feeling lighter already. He ran the washcloth over his face and neck and back up again until it cooled. His skin felt fresh, open.
Lance rinsed the washcloth and squirted more soap onto it. He would have preferred a real shower, but standing here in the steamy bathroom with the he felt a strange sense of camaraderie with his band. They were out there, collapsed, making do, living together under the strangest circumstances, and it made them closer. Lance felt as if he could hear each of their individual heartbeats through the door. He wiped down his chest and under his arms, rinsed out the cloth, and did it again.
He jumped, banging his hip on the end of the sink, and his elbow on the wall.
"Sorry." It was JC, in his wife beater and jogging pants and stocking feet, leaning in the doorway.
"You need in here?" Lance asked, catching C's eyes in the mirror.
"Nope. I just came in, um. You need someone to do your back?"
Lance stared into the mirror. "My what?"
JC smiled an embarrassed smile. "Your back. Do you need someone to wash your back?"
"Oh. Oh, um, yeah. Sure. Thanks."
JC stayed there, leaning against the door frame. Lance kept staring into the mirror, unsure of what do, frozen by this strange offer. JC was . . . looking at him, not at his face, not at his reflection. At him.
"You might want to hand me the wash cloth," JC murmured.
"Um. Okay." Lance ran the cloth under the water. He twisted it between his hands, hard, feeling it collapse under his fingers. "Here." He passed it over his shoulder.
JC took it, still regarding Lance with an appraiser's eye. He reached out and folded one hand over Lance's shoulder. "Hold still," he murmured.
Suddenly, holding still seemed like the hardest thing anyone had ever asked Lance to do. He braced himself with fingertips on the edge of the sink, and bowed his head, closing his eyes. JC's hand on his shoulder was warm and solid. The first brush of the wash cloth was tentative, just a swipe over his shoulder blades. JC leaned in and ran the cloth over his back again, more surely. Soon, JC had developed a rhythm, the warm damp cloth, his hand on Lance's skin, his breath sometimes rushing over Lance's moist shoulder. It was wonderful.
"Here," JC said, just as the cloth was beginning to get cool. He handed it over, and left his hand hanging over Lance's shoulder, waiting for it to come back. Lance freshened it and passed it back. After a minute, JC was done, throwing the wash cloth in the sink, and patting his shoulder. "You're good."
Lance lifted his head. "Thanks. I feel better." The water was cooling on his back, but he felt warm, flushed.
"Mr. Clean," JC said, smiling.
Lance shook his head. "I should not be allowed to talk in public."
"I think I'm going to crash." Lance grabbed his towel from the rack and turned, thinking JC had stepped back, their business finished. He hadn't. Lance ended up elbowing him, and slamming up against his hip. "Oh, god, JC. Sorry."
"Ow! Fuck, Lance! Way to thank me." JC hunched over, holding his stomach.
"Sorry, sorry." Lance rubbed JC's shoulder. "You okay?"
JC leaned back against the door frame. "Yep. You're sharp."
Lance smiled. "Sorry about that."
"Uh huh, you said that."
"What? You want a kiss to make it better?" Lance asked. It was a joke. Of course, it was a joke. But the strange flicker that passed across JC's face, and his sudden flush, and the awkward silence weren't the kind that usually followed a joke, and Lance hesitated. "Oh," he said.
"What?" JC was looking down the hall now, his face turned away.
"Okay," Lance said. He leaned in. First his hips, then his chest met JC's. He put his hand on JC's waist. JC did not turn his head, but looked at Lance out of the corner of his eye.
"What are you doing?" he murmured.
"Thanking you. Or apologizing."
"Do you want me to kiss you or not, JC?"
JC sighed. "I. Yeah."
Lance leaned in further, lifting his head a little, although JC wasn't really taller than him. It was a soft kiss, long enough for Lance to taste the peppermints that JC sucked all the time for his throat, but chaste. Mostly. He felt JC's hands on his back.
"Hey, LANCE!" Joey yelled from the lounge. "Are you almost done in there?"
Lance pulled back a little. JC was staring at him, at his mouth. JC was breathless. Lance smiled. "Yeah, Joe," he said. "Yeah, I'm done here."