by >>Jae

There was only one thing of Justin's that Lance ever really wished was his own.

Lance sighed as Justin eased his way around him, phone tucked beneath his chin. Lance stepped forward, out of his way, and felt Justin's hand graze his hip briefly. Justin opened the refrigerator and crouched in front of it, nodding as if whoever was on the phone would be able to hear him.

"No," Justin said, "no, yeah, I'm still here." He tipped his head and mouthed something Lance couldn't understand, then turned back. Lance rolled his eyes. "What? No, I said I'm listening. Right, like you'd ever hang up on me. You can't fool me, Kirkpatrick. I know you love me."

Lance leaned against the counter and sighed again. Without looking up or pausing in his confident chatter, Justin lifted the orange juice carton over his head. Lance plucked it from his hand and poured himself a glass. He took a sip and almost choked when he sighed again.

Of course, there wasn't much that Justin had that Lance didn't have too, or couldn't get if he wanted. There was nothing stopping Lance from buying nine cars or two hundred pairs of sneakers, after all. Nothing but good taste and a sense of proportion.

Sure, a while ago, years and years ago, he'd wanted Justin's voice, Justin's leads, Justin's pretty curls and Justin's pretty mouth. But he'd come to terms a long time ago with his place in the group, even thought he had a better deal than Justin and JC, all the fame with fewer hassles. And a few years of being able to twist his hands in Justin's pretty curls and feel Justin's pretty mouth close around him had convinced Lance that maybe God really did have a plan for everything.

Still, Lance thought as he watched Justin hang up the phone, a familiar lift in his step, a familiar light in his eyes, there was something Justin had that Lance would always want. Always want, and never have.

Lance was loved. He was. He was loved and he was known and that was a gift, really, he told himself that all the time. It was a gift to have people who knew your deepest flaws, your pettiest thoughts, your worst habits, and who loved you despite them. Because of them. He was loved, with a fierce real gritty love, a love that jostled and pinched and rolled its eyes at him. He was loved, with a love as real and homely as the quilt his mother had made for him that he still slept under every night. He kicked against it sometimes, when it got too hot or too itchy, but he always ended up tangled in it. It kept him warm, and he was grateful for it.

"Scoot," Justin said, reaching past him, and Lance shifted down the counter so Justin could throw out the empty orange juice carton. Just once, he thought, just for one day, he'd like to walk through the world the way Justin did, cradled in a love that smoothed sharp corners for him, that curved itself to fit him completely.

He knew he shouldn't want it. He knew, more than anyone, how hard it could make things for Justin. He was the one who listened to Justin whisper and worry, late at night, about the expectations he might not meet, about the hope that lifted him so high he couldn't see the ground anymore. Justin was afraid that he would fail, and then love would fail him. He was afraid of falling.

Lance had never been afraid of falling, because he had never left the ground.

He wanted to.

He wanted to, and he knew he never would, and it made him angry. Lance watched Justin hoist himself up onto the counter and grab an apple from the bowl next to him. Justin tossed another apple to Lance and chewed with his mouth open as he told a long, boring story about something Chris had done the night before.

See! Lance felt like yelling, at God or the world or whoever doled out love in portions that never seemed quite right, at least to everyone in the world who wasn't Justin Timberlake. He's not perfect. He chews with his mouth open and he tells boring stories and he has really bad taste in porn and he picks his nose.

But the thing was, everyone knew that. Everyone who mattered, at least, and sure, it probably took a little longer to find out about the porn, but everything else you learned about Justin pretty quickly. Lance didn't understand it. Justin was obviously, embarrassingly short of perfect. And still he floated through life, buoyed up by love, while Lance trudged along dragging love behind him like a heavy package.

It wasn't fair.

"Dude," Justin said around a mouthful of apple. See! Lance thought. He says dude! Unironically!


"You're not listening to me."

"I am."

"What was I saying?"

Lance had no idea. He looked at the ground foolishly until Justin laughed. "Thinking deep thoughts, huh?" Justin said, and Lance looked up at him. Justin's laugh faded to a small, secret smile, and something in his eyes made Lance want to look away. He didn't. Justin kept watching him and smiling.

Something about that smile made Lance want to shout. Look, I'm not perfect. I'm petty and I'm mean and I tell lies for no reason and I have an enemies list that I keep on my laptop and update every month. It's cross-referenced! But he couldn't bear to say it and see that smile slip from Justin's lips.

"C'mere," Justin said, and Lance walked over and stood between Justin's legs. As he crossed the room, his feet didn't touch the ground.

Justin kissed him lightly and then rested his forehead against Lance's. The look in Justin's eyes made Lance feel like he was floating, like he was flying, like there was nothing tying him to the world, nothing but Justin's small secret smile.

"I threw out your shirt," Lance said suddenly. "The one you loved, with the alien on it? I threw it out because it was ugly and I blamed it on the maid."

"I know," Justin said. He was still smiling. Lance had to bite his lip to keep from babbling out another confession, minor sins and major bitchiness, all the reasons why Justin should be embarrassed to look at him like that. All the reasons why Lance didn't deserve to be loved like that. Lance stopped, because Justin knew them all. He stopped, because he knew they didn't matter.

There was no defense for love, or from it.

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