the Whole No. 4: The Sun Sometimes
The Sun Sometimes
"I don't mind the sun sometimes
Lance had joined the group fully expecting to hate Justin. Justin was the kind of kid everything came to: he could dance, he could sing, he could charm the pants off of just about anyone, and he had a smile like a ray of sun on a cloudy day. Lance, who was still in what his mother liked to call "an awkward phase," believed that he would hate Justin Timberlake with all of the fire of a thousand suns.
He was certain that he'd hate Justin during those dark days after the lawsuit. That was kind of funny, because everyone else had been so happy, giddy almost, after the settlement had some through. They walked around for days after that with stupid smiles on their faces, like someone had smacked them with the silly stick as Lance's grandmother would have said. Lance had felt that way, too, especially at first when Joey had grabbed him by the shoulders and held on tight, breathing "thank you, thank you, thank you" into Lance's hair and almost crying. That feeling -- the feeling that his heart was so light it could flutter away if it weren't imprisoned behind his ribs -- disappeared the instant he saw Justin come around the corner wiping at his mouth, grinning, his one hand still in Joey's.
Lance's heart had dropped like lead.
Joey had seen him and had the good grace to look a little embarrassed, but he didn't know, not really, because Lance had never told him. Lance would never tell him, ever. Justin had waved. Lance had thought "this is it" and anticipated the burn of the hate surging up through his truck, rising like bile in his throat.
He waited for the hate to come the night Joey showed up at his hotel room, eyes blurry and bloodstained from crying.
"Lance," Joey'd gasped and collapsed against him, and while he was rubbing Joey's back and handing him Kleenex, and feeling the hot drops of Joey's tears soak through his t-shirt, Lance thought "finally," because what better time for the hatred, now that he had a reason to hate Justin, now that he was justified.
He kissed Joey for that first time that night. Nothing important, a gentle friendly kiss after he put him to bed. Lance kept his eyes open, and saw the crystal shimmer of the tears on Joey's lashes. When he sat back, one hand on Joey's shoulder through the sheet, Lance closed his eyes and hoped for the dark course of hate in his blood.
He sat at the picnic table next to the stage and picked at his fingernails, pushing the cuticles back slowly. It never happened. No matter how much he wanted to, no matter how much Justin deserved it, Lance never hated him. He didn't know why. He hated other people; Lou for one, and Eminem, and that fucking Vanity Fair reporter who laughed at him when he said she should do a profile of them. Oh, and Don McMahon, who'd punched Lance and called him a fag in the tenth grade. Lance had punched him back, but hated him still. So he knew he was capable of it, and he knew Justin deserved it sometimes, and he just couldn't do it. Not to Justin.
He was Justin, was the thing. He'd liked Lance from day one, because Lance was young and Southern and didn't call him "baby." He'd spent hours going over dance routines and singing the melody so that Lance could learn the harmony. He brought Lance into his practical jokes on the other guys. He stayed up late at night and talked to Lance about stuff he hoped to do with his life and his money and his fame, and most of it didn't have anything to do with selfishness.
And it hadn't stopped when Lance had started fitting in. Not a week ago, Justin had come to his room with a bottle of food coloring and said "dude, we gotta put this in C's shampoo." They had, and then Justin had sat on his bed for an hour afterwards talking about how he thought maybe he should switch Challenge for the Children from a general charity thing to a focus on one particular school at a time, "to have, like, the most major impact," he'd said, looking at Lance down his long body. His laughter when JC had come in with green hair had been raucous and beautiful, like the braying of a donkey.
Lance had wondered then, the way he wondered most days, what it must be like to live in that perfect body with that perfect voice and have a life free from just about every care a normal person could have and still not be happy.
He sighed into the palm of his hand. His nails were mostly perfect: he'd just gone to Lucita and gotten a manicure a day or two ago. He ran his fingertip over them one at a time, searching idly for imperfections. There was just something about Justin, something so vulnerable underneath his hard candy coating. It showed only rarely now -- as Justin had grown older he'd gotten better and better at masking himself -- but Lance could see it sometimes in the watery flash of Justin's blue eyes, or in the slight twitch between his shoulder blades, or the way his smile seemed sad occasionally at the end of the day when everyone was going home and Justin had to go back to being his plain old self again. Nowadays, Lance thought, scratching idly at a rough edge of his nail, that happened when Justin saw Joey.
Whatever special power Justin had, it worked. Lance couldn't hate Justin, even when he was standing not ten feet away with his arm around Joey, smiling up into his face, longing for his kiss.