Better Than Fine
(it’s all good hot tea and afghan wig remix)
“That was awesome!” Justin said, jumping up onto the bus.
“Yep,” Lance said, heaving his bag up the steps and then following it. Chris said nothing. Justin looked back at him. He was clinging to the hand rail, head down.
“What’s up, man?” Justin said. Again, Chris said nothing.
“He’s been like this,” Lance said. “All through the show.”
“He has?” Justin said, feeling like the worst friend ever. Chris shook his head. With a clear effort he pulled himself into the bus, dragging his stuff behind him.
“I’m cool, J. Just a little beat.” His voice was hoarse. Lance grabbed his bag and Chris’s and moved down the aisle of the bus.
“Hot tea,” Justin said. Chris smiled a tired but genuine smile and pushed past him. Justin went to the tiny kitchen and filled a mug with water, putting it in the microwave as he yelled “I’ma call Brit!” toward the back of the bus. He could hear Lance and Chris murmuring together. Then he went to find his phone.
** ** ** ** **
He tried to answer from his position face-down on the couch, but ended up with a mouthful of fuzz. His head was gigantic. He couldn’t lift it. Lance would understand.
“Chris, you want something to drink?”
Chris rubbed his face against the couch as he shook his head. He couldn’t feel his hands and feet. Maybe they had floated away. The couch moved as Lance settled in near his big head.
“Are you okay?”
He rubbed his face against the couch some more. Lance laughed. Chris pulled himself up with an effort.
“I’m okay, Lance. Or, you know. Maybe not.” He nodded. That summed it up pretty well, he thought. But the nodding was a bad idea. His head had come loose. It was floating back down toward the couch. With a groan, Chris heaved himself over and buried his face in Lance’s warm stomach.
“Maybe I’m sick,” he mumbled. He could feel Lance’s body lift a little as he laughed again. It made him dizzy. He wrapped his arms around Lance’s hips for stability. Lance put his fingers in his hair. That was nice.
After a minute, Chris heaved himself back over again, dislodging Lance’s fingers.
“Huh, some best friend,” he said, squinting against the light.
Lance reached out and switched off the lamp. “He’s just. Distracted, lately.”
“Yeah,” Chris sighed. “And he’s being so... Justin about it, too.”
Lance laughed again.
“Whoa. Quit bouncing, man,” Chris complained. Lance patted his chest. “Maybe he should switch buses.”
“Oh, honestly,” Lance said. “How could it be that easy?”
“Yeah.” Chris sighed again. It was all too complicated. He rolled over into Lance’s stomach again.
“Gonna close my eyes for a minute, Lance,” he tried to say, but he wasn’t sure if all the words came out. He could feel Lance’s fingers in his hair again as he drifted away.
** ** ** ** **
“Hey,” Justin said.
“You asleep already? Dude.” Justin burrowed down into his nest of blankets and pillows, propping the phone against his ear. They always talked for a long time.
“Yeah.” His voice was rough and low. “I think I’m dreaming.”
Justin laughed. “You dream about me?”
“I dream about you calling me every night,” JC sighed. “No, wait. You do.”
“You love it,” Justin said.
“So far I take your calls, anyway,” JC said. He sounded like he was smiling.
“Cold, man,” Justin said, then yawned. “Many would kill for the pleasure of talking to me at bedtime.”
“Yeah, they also fantasize about tucking you in and kissing you on the forehead, little man.”
“So cold.” Justin yawned again. “Hang on. I’m making tea.”
“Call me back,” JC said, and hung up.
Justin heaved himself out of the bunk, leaving the phone on the pillow. The water had boiled up over the edge of the cup, but he put a teabag into what was left along with generous squirts of lemon and honey, and carried the cup through the moving bus, watching it carefully.
Lance looked up as he made his way into the tv room.
“What’d you bring me?” he said.
“Nothing,” Justin said. “Unless you’re sick, too. Are you sick, too?” Lance smiled and smoothed his fingers through Chris’s damp, spikey hair. Chris said something into Lance’s stomach, but he was asleep.
“Nope,” Lance said. “But I might be tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Justin said. “Really? I mean, really?”
“Yep,” Lance said. Justin set the tea down next to him.
“Better drink the tea, then,” he said.
** ** ** ** **
Back in his bunk, he flipped open his phone and hit a button.
“Still dreaming,” JC murmured.
“What, J. Did you call me before?”
“Funny. But, dude! Chris and Lance.”
JC snorted. “Duh,” he said. “Where have you been?”
Justin was amazed. “Really? No way! Where have I been? Are you sure?”
JC made a contented noise. Justin could tell he was stretching, probably one of those full-body shuddering stretches of his. He switched the phone to his other ear and put an arm behind his head.
“Well, mostly sure. You know. I don’t know if they’re sure, yet.”
Justin thought about that. “Lance is sure,” he said, slowly.
“Oh,” JC said. “Well, Lance knows everything first.” He was silent after that. Justin could hear him breathing.
“Still dreaming?” he asked. JC laughed quietly, a small exhalation like a growl.
“The best dreams,” he said in a dark voice.
“They think I call Brit,” Justin said, hesitantly.
“I think so.”
“Mmm,” JC said. He sounded sleepy and cozy, but also silky and pleased. Justin pulled his arm from behind his head.
“What’re you doing,” JC murmured. Justin took in a breath.
“JC,” he said. JC laughed again.
“Do it, J. Let me hear you,” he said. Justin made an embarrassing squeaky noise, and suddenly his hand was sliding down his chest.
“JC,” he said again, helplessly. His hand slid over his cock and his spine curved. JC’s laugh this time was wild and triumphant, and Justin answered it with a rough sound of his own and started stroking himself hard. He had been waiting. JC knew that. He had teased and flirted all day long just like always, and every night they talked to each other, JC’s sex noises slipping into his ear, and oh. Justin howled as his spine turned inside out.
“Good,” JC said in the distance. Justin laughed, giddy with pleasure.
“JC,” he panted. “JC.”
“Justin,” JC said in a strained way. “My turn, baby.” Justin came back to himself instantly.
“Now, C,” he said, thrilled, and JC gasped into the phone.
** ** ** ** **
Chris woke up when Lance’s scruff scratched his face. “Quit,” he slurred, giving Lance’s head a clumsy push.
Lance mumbled something into his neck and shrugged, and Chris realized he could feel the shrug all over his body. Lance smelled wonderful, all warm and earthy. Suddenly, Chris felt wide awake.
“Lance,” he said, cautiously. Lance sighed.
“Lance! Lance, wake up.”
Lance muttered “I swear to god, Chris,” but his eyes stayed closed. Chris slid a careful thumb up and pulled on Lance’s eyelid.
“Lance. I’m telling you,” he said, enunciating clearly. “Wake up, because when I freak out it’ll be less of a shock.”
Lance sighed again. “You’re not freaking out, Chris. Go back to sleep,” he said, pulling his face away from Chris’s hand. Chris thought about that for a minute.
“I’m not tired anymore,” he said.
Lance opened his eyes. He looked at Chris from those weird cat eyes, all bleary with sleep. Then he leaned up into Chris’s face.
“Okay, then,” he said, and kissed Chris like he was hungry.
Lance tasted as wonderful as he smelled. His taste and the feel of his tongue were filling Chris up, tingling throughout his body. He yanked his head back abruptly.
“Lance,” he said. Lance smiled.
“You are not freaking out.”
Chris shook his head impatiently. “Lance, duh. Yes, I am,” he said. “You’ll catch my cold.”
Lance’s smile got wider. There was a warmth in his eyes.
“Nope. I drank tea,” he said, calmly.
Chris snorted. “Okay, what? You don’t get to talk to JC anymore.”
“Okay,” Lance said.
They stared at each other.
“Okay,” Chris said, finally. Lance nodded. The smile seemed to be slipping away from his face. He looked serious and also, Chris thought, hungry again. It was a really, really good look on him.
“Okay,” Chris said again, and leaned down to Lance’s mouth.
“Oh my god!” Justin squawked from the doorway to the tv room. Chris lifted his head. He had the vague idea to throw a pillow or something, but then Lance licked his lips. He lowered his head again. Lance met him halfway with his mouth open. In the distance, Justin made another noise or maybe said something, but then Lance rumbled deep in his throat and for Chris everything else was gone.
** ** ** ** **
Shaking, Justin rushed to his bunk and fumbled open his phone. He had to tell JC. True, JC already knew, but this was... real. Somehow, this was real, Chris and Lance, and Justin really wanted to hear JC’s voice right now.
He spoke as soon as JC answered. “Can I come stay on your bus?”
“Why?” JC sounded amused and sleepy, as usual.
“You don’t want me over there? Or what? Dude,” Justin said, exasperated.
JC laughed. “Justin,” he said.
“No, fine. Whatever.”
“Justin,” JC said again. Justin sighed.
“C, they’re, they. JC. You.”
“Oh,” JC said. “Baby. Aww.” He laughed. Justin made an infuriated sound.
“You suck,” he hissed. JC hummed approvingly.
“Come and find out,” he said in that low voice. Justin jumped out of his bunk and yelled for the driver. He could hear JC laughing from the phone he was still clutching in his hand.
** ** ** ** **
He dumped his bag in the aisle of the slowly accelerating bus. Joey came out of the the kitchen and looked at him, blinking.
“Hey,” Justin said.
“Hey,” Joey said, taking a bite out of his apple. “You riding over here for awhile?”
“No, I, uh. Yeah,” Justin said.
“Okay.” Joey picked up his bag and tossed it toward the bunks. “JC’s in his bunk, I think.” He wandered back toward the tv.
“Great!” Justin said, brightly. “I’ll just say hi to him! Then I gotta. Call Brit.”
Joey waved his apple in the air over his shoulder, but said nothing. Justin sighed.
JC was in his bunk. Justin could see his bare foot poking out of the curtain.
“C?” he called, softly. The foot disappeared. Justin glanced uncertainly toward the tv room. “JC?”
He could hear the rustling of covers. Then Justin yelped as JC’s hand shot through the curtain and grabbed his arm, and he was tumbling into JC’s bunk and onto JC.
“Fuck,” Justin said, struggling to free his arm. “What the fuck, man.” It was dark inside the curtain. JC was naked and hard. Justin squealed.
JC was trying to kiss him, pushing against him, making that rough sound from the phone. He couldn’t stop his free hand stroking over JC’s warm, smooth skin. JC arched into his hand and hissed.
“JC. I have to talk to you.”
JC said “mmmm” and pulled the edge of Justin’s shirt up. Justin helped him yank it over his head. JC immediately nuzzled his face into Justin's body, and he gasped at the feel of JC's breath on his chest.
“JC, man,” he panted, winding his fingers into JC’s silky hair. It was hard to let go of his head when he was still doing that humming thing, licking at Justin's nipples, but when JC started fumbling open his fly, he tried to help. JC pushed his hands away. At the sudden slide of his fingers, though, Justin jumped as though electrified and grabbed his wrist.
“JCstop,” he moaned, and then moaned again with disappointment as JC did, his hand stilling.
“Justin,” he growled. “What.”
“Joey,” Justin managed.
JC sighed and pulled his hand out of Justin’s pants. “He’s on his own.”
“But, C,” Justin said, helplessly, unable to look away from the line of his neck and the curve of his lips. JC was just so gorgeous. “Chris and Lance.”
JC threw an arm across his eyes. “You’re killing me, J,” he said in a subdued way.
“I am not,” Justin said. He wanted to stroke the silky hair under JC’s arm.
JC gave him a sour look under his arm. Then he sighed again.
“What’s fucking you up, J? You wanted to come over here, I thought,” he said. He pulled his arm from his face and looked at Justin seriously. “Didn’t you?”
“You know I did, C. I just.” Justin shook his head. It was hard to think with JC sprawled out, all bare skin and fuzzy and hard cock. Justin looked down at him.
“Lance said you would freak out,” JC said. Justin whipped his head back up, shocked.
“Damn, JC!” he cried, scrambling backwards in the tiny space of the bunk. JC watched with narrowed eyes as he grabbed his shirt and half-fell out of the bunk, holding on to the curtain for stability. He snuck a peek toward the tv room. JC snorted.
“He was right,” he said, smiling suddenly. Justin drew himself up as well as he could while crouching, one foot in the bunk and one on the floor.
“I am not either freaking out,” he said with dignity, and crawled the rest of the way out of the bunk.
** ** ** ** **
He rushed to the front of the bus, hugging his bag to him. Maybe he could have his own bus. Yeah.
“Whoa!” Joey said, as he careened off the little booth in front of the kitchen. “Where are you going?”
“I have to, um.” Justin shook his head and motioned to the front of the bus. He started to push on by, but Joey put down the controller to the little tv and grabbed his shirt.
“Get back here,” he said. “Sit down.” He pulled Justin toward the booth. Justin perched on the the edge of the bench with his back to Joey.
“Okay, jeez. No need to get all violent,” he muttered.
“What’s going on?” Joey said. Justin could see him pick up the tv controller from the corner of his eye.
“Oh,” Joey said. “Did you and JC have a fight?”
Justin hunched his shoulders. “What? Joey, man.”
“Justin.” Joey flicked through a few channels. Justin said nothing. Finally, with a sigh, Joey pinched his ear to turn his head.
“Ow, Joey!” Justin cried.
“It’s not polite to keep your back to someone who’s trying to talk to you.” Joey punctuated his statement with a tug on Justin’s ear. Justin whined a little, but Joey just pulled his head back and forth a few times by the ear. Justin gave up. He turned his upper body toward Joey, slightly.
“What,” he said, feeling put upon. He didn’t think he wanted to hear what Joey had to say.
“C seemed pretty jazzed when you called earlier,” Joey began.
Justin felt a jolt of something go right through him. He turned away from Joey quickly, cursing under his breath as he knocked his elbow against the table. He was trembling, for some reason.
“You're freaking out!” Joey crowed with delight. “I have to tell Lance!”
Justin moaned and banged his head down onto his own knees.
"God, Joey!” he said to his knees. Joey patted his back and left a heavy hand on his neck.
“So fucked up,” he said, comfortably.
Justin wanted to moan some more, or maybe get up and storm out, but he felt strangely better. He sat there, scrunched up, Joey patting his neck randomly as he watched some game on the little tv, until his back started to twinge. Then he told his knees, “Lance already knows,” and got up to talk to the driver.
** ** ** ** **
“I’m back,” Justin announced, tossing his bag to the floor next to the couch.
“So it would seem,” Lance said, eying him from his position beneath Chris. “We could hear the driver bitching all the way back here.”
Chris laughed, then choked, then coughed. Justin patted his back absently.
“Whatever. Move over, y’all,” he said.
“Comfortable,” Chris mumbled into Lance’s side.
Justin patted him again. “You’re so annoying when you’re sick! Move.”
Chris pulled his legs up, shifting around on top of Lance, and Justin slid onto the couch next to them. Chris grabbed his knee and shook it.
“The question is, why are you back?” he said. Justin pulled his knee away from Chris’s hand.
“Lance, have you been drinking your tea? I told you,” he said, glaring. Lance heaved a little as he tried not to laugh, but he said nothing. Chris looked back at Justin steadily.
“Dude,” he started, but then lost his battle and started choking again. Lance kissed him on his bright red nose.
Justin clapped a hand over his eyes. “God!” he cried. “Must you make out right in front of me?”
“Yes,” Chris said, smiling at Lance and blowing his nose with a honk. “Why shouldn’t we?” Lance turned his head, clearly waiting for Justin’s answer. Justin wasn’t sure he had one.
“Because?” he muttered in the nastiest tone he could manage. “Because, okay.”
“Not good enough, Spanky,” Chris said, smugly.
Justin sighed and slung an arm across Lance’s shoulders, winding his fingers in Chris’s t-shirt.
“Fine,” he said, suddenly tired.
He rested his head against Lance’s arm. Chris said “yup” in a clogged way, flipping a section of the afghan over Justin’s legs, and it was nice, sitting peacefully with his friends on the couch on the rumbling bus.
After a long, quiet time, Justin pulled away to dig for his phone.
“C,” he said, when he heard the raspy “hmmm.”
He sounded tired, too. Justin’s stomach felt funny. He leaned against Lance, trying to ignore how avidly he and Chris were watching him.
“JC, I.” He couldn’t think of another word.
JC sounded really tired, actually, and maybe a little discouraged. Suddenly, Justin really wanted to see him, to feel his skin. All that would come out of his mouth was a squeak. He bit his lip.
Chris leaned forward. “Your boyfriend’s a retard, JC!” he said in a loud, hoarse voice. Lance snorted. Galvanized, Justin kicked out at both of them, tangling himself up in the afghan.
“I am not!” he protested. “Shut up.”
JC said “Justin” again, laughing in a surprised kind of way, and drew in a deep breath in Justin’s ear.
“You really are, you know,” he growled.
Justin smiled. “Guess what, C.”
“Tomorrow night I’m riding with you,” Justin said, warmly.
“Oh, are you,” JC said, sounding kind of dazed.
“Yes. And Joey’s gonna ride over here on the loser bus.”
“Oh. Is he.” JC sounded sharper, almost predatory. Justin shivered a little.
“Mm-hmm. Because we don’t need an audience, do we?”
He narrowed his eyes at Chris, who immediately turned to Lance, managing to get out “loser bus, as if” before Lance rolled his eyes and kissed him. Justin curled his lip and got up, unwinding the afghan from around his legs.
“Nothing wrong with a little privacy, I guess,” JC murmured as Justin made his way forward to the bunks.
“That’s what I’m sayin’,” Justin said. He climbed into his bunk and sank onto the pillow with a sigh.
“What else are you saying, J? Talk to me.”
Justin smiled. “What do you want to hear?” he purred. JC laughed, breathily.
“Tell me a bedtime story,” he said, his voice shaking, and Justin knew he was touching himself already.
“Well,” he started, stretching into the covers. “Once upon a time there was a really hot guy with a boyfriend who was almost as hot as he was...” He pulled down his zipper slowly.
“J,” JC said, laughing.
“It’s about you, C,” Justin said, sliding his hand into his pants, thrilled at the sound of JC’s happy hum.
“All about you,” he added, his cock jerking in his hand. He moaned into the phone, and JC answered.
** ** ** ** **
Later, he made his way to the back of the bus. Lance was stretched out on the couch, sleeping with a soft look on his face, Chris spread out on top of him. Justin shook his head.
He eased Chris’s shoes off with no trouble. Chris was out like a light, snoring faintly. But when he pulled at the laces of Lance’s Vans, his eyes slid open.
“J,” he said, groggily.
“Go back to sleep,” Justin whispered.
“Okay,” Lance whispered back. “Are you all right?”
“Really good,” Justin said. “Really, really good.”
He pulled the afghan over them and went back to his bunk.