DISCLAIMER: SO made up. Made up left and right. Mostly left. For entertainment only.
NOTES: Thanks to Harold Brodkey for the title, sort of. Thanks to all the romantic comedies I adore. Thanks to Shana and Jess for everything. Thanks to N, eternal giggly thanks to N. This one is about canvassing from love and for everyone who knows the end to the phrase "far too fucking common ..." In fic, we get to win, yo.
FIRST LOVE AND OTHER MISCOMMUNICATIONS
I. Boy meets boy and doesn't like boy at all. Lance tried to be excited, tried to dwell more on the things that Hill had told him about the other guys and the importance of this campaign, this initiative. He tried not to think about the fact that he'd just committed to move to Fresno for ten months. Fresno. This was a statewide initiative campaign, he could have been sent anywhere in California, like Los Angeles or San Francisco and Lance got sent to Fresno. An armpit of a city in the Valley, not a major media market, only four other core staffers and it really wasn't exile, no, not at all.
Hill had given him directions and handed him a phone and said, "Talk to Chris." Chris was in charge, Lance's new boss, and that would probably be great. Chris had been doing this for forever, Chris knew his shit backwards and forwards and Chris was a scream, made everything fun. Everyone called him smart in an organization where smart was just a given, so that meant Chris was maybe a genius. Lance had graduated college in June, and he'd only had two real bosses so far so he still felt some trepidation when he had a new one. But Chris would be good.
Lance gripped the steering wheel and ignored the landscape around him, which was easy because he was driving to Fresno, for fuck's sake, and the landscape didn't even merit a two syllable word. He studiously ignored everything that flashed by him because it was all brown, bland and dull.
Chris would be great, and the other guys were all good. They only send the really good ones to the cities that required a lot of work, Hill had said. Lance was pretty sure Hill was full of shit and blowing smoke up his ass because it was pretty clear that all the people being brought in from around the country, the real hot shots from Massachusetts and Oregon and Colorado, they were going to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And all Lance had heard about Joey and JC was that they had done well organizing and fundraising in Seattle. Of course, Lance thought, an emu on acid could do well in Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest where the givers just threw money at you when you walked up the driveway.
Chris, Joey, JC and Justin. Justin, the little prodigy who Hill had raved about when he'd finished talking up Chris. Justin's mom was some hippie activist and she'd happily let him start working the summer he was only sixteen. Justin had dropped out of Stanford after one semester to work for change and he was supposed to be an ace at everything. And was probably more than a little pissed to be stuck out in Fresno. Or maybe that was just Lance.
Lance reached Fresno and he found the office easily. They'd need a new one, right away. It was a crappy location, and they had to be paying too much. Lance thought he'd wait to say that, make sure he didn't offend whoever had found this pisshole. He walked in the door and there were only four people but it was loud. Loud with talking and laughing and Lance thought, shit. Hill had said the other four had worked together before, but walking in the door Lance could see they were all tight already. Ten months in Fresno and to make it worse, he'd be crashing this little party the whole time.
It turned out to be not that bad. Chris was good, definitely smart about people and even though Lance knew he was being manipulated a little, he let Chris draw him into the conversation, joke with him and pull him into the group. Chris let Lance choose the restaurant and they ordered beers except for Justin who rolled his eyes and drank half of JC's beer when the waitress turned her back.
They were all nice, basically, and smart and none of that was surprising. You had to be basically nice in casual conversation to be an organizer and you had to be smart to last your first year, and all of them had more than a year under their belt. Except Lance, his first year wouldn't be over until August but Lance knew he would last, even if they had sent him to Fresno.
Lance decided he liked Chris and Joey and he reserved judgment on JC and Justin. Well, really, on JC. He didn't think he liked Justin much. Justin was tall and pretty and he knew he was good at everything. Justin thought he was hot shit, progressive hipster pin up boy. At dinner, Justin announced he was bi, just another part of his short biography when he introduced himself to Lance. Lance thought, sure. Bi meant Justin had kissed a guy once when he was drunk and so Justin claimed the title because he couldn't change being white and male.
Lance found a better office the next day and spent two days making sure they had electricity, an ISP, and enough phone lines. He didn't ask who had found the crappy office but he was pretty sure it was Joey. Lance found a townhouse and they could move in at the end of the week so they weren't all sleeping in Joey's van or on the floor of some guy Chris knew from college ten years ago. The house was pretty cheap and they could all afford it easily, even if they did have to share rooms. Joey and Lance took the one on the third floor, and Chris had the basement and JC and Justin were in the big master bedroom on the second floor. At the end of two weeks, Lance had everything set up at the office and the house. Chris clapped him on the shoulder and said, good work, and JC started talking to him.
While Lance got everything set up, the other four were already advertising for signature gatherers and starting to make contacts, get the foundation laid for November. The boxes arrived with the petitions and even before Lance had set up the local bank accounts, Justin and JC had already started dropping off filled out sheets.
Lance woke up in the office and heard the other four in the other room. He'd fallen asleep on his desk, on his cheap thrift store desk that he'd had to spend three hours fucking around with to get his computer and modem line and printer on the desk and hooked up and working. The guys were talking and Lance kept his eyes closed because they were talking about him.
"I'm pretty sure he's gay," Joey said. Lance thought, score one for Joey.
"Did he, like, hit on you or something?" Justin said that, and Lance frowned at the little giggle. Stupid kid, he thought.
"No, no. He's cool, you know. I like him." Lance smiled at that, he knew Joey was good people.
Chris piped up then, saying, "Dude, are we sure he's asleep?"
Joey said, "He can sleep through anything. He's out of it." Lance thought it had probably been a mistake to pretend to sleep through Joey's last marathon masturbation session.
JC said with a laugh, "Chill, man. It's not like we're saying anything bad about him."
Justin giggled again. "I will. He's a fucking cold fish. He likes admin, he likes sitting around doing the bills and not, you know, the actual work of canvassing and organizing, man, what do you expect?" Lance gritted his teeth.
Chris, probably Chris, slapped a hand down on the table and Chris said, "That's enough, kiddo. Let's go out and get a drink."
Justin said quickly, "Let's not go to that place where they won't let me in now that they know I'm nineteen."
JC giggled and said, "Let's go there." Lance heard the discussion as the other three teased Justin about his age and crappy fake ID. And there you go, Lance thought, you think people like you but they're perfectly happy to leave you sleeping on your desk and maybe just sleep there all night.
Then Chris said, "We're going, and someone should wake up Lance so he doesn't end up sleeping here."
Justin said, "I'll do it since y'all are ditching me to go to that crappy bar."
Chris said, "You gonna tell him where we're going?"
Justin said, "Nope." Typical, Lance thought. He opened his eyes for a brief second to figure out what time it was and then closed them. When he felt Justin gently shaking his shoulder, he opened his eyes and he'd fallen asleep for a half hour. He wondered what the fuck Justin had been doing and almost felt his back for a kick me sign.
Justin sat on the edge of the desk and said, "The others went to that bar that I can't get into, if you want to go there."
Lance looked at Justin and down at his desk. He said, "Nah. You want a ride home?"
The office was full of signature gatherers every day and every single day, Lance had to bug Justin to get the I-9s and W2s for all the new people they were bringing in for the push. JC and Chris got it, they always made sure Lance got the forms, but Justin was always a struggle. Fucker, Lance thought, because Justin had been supervising for at least a year, he knew Lance had to have the tax forms for payroll and he couldn't blow this shit off. Justin could recruit anyone, and even train most of them to be decent at it, but he had to be a dork about this one simple part that Lance needed.
Lance had tried the calm little speech first, the "we need to make sure we do everything right because you know there's lots of people who would love to shut us down, blah blah" and Justin had nodded and said he'd be better about it. When that hadn't worked, Lance had tried the "I can't pay them if you don't get this stuff to me and then they'll quit and hate you" speech and Justin had nodded again. And now it had been a month of new people every day and Justin never getting the I-9s and W2s to Lance on time and Lance was considering just complaining to Chris. One last try, Lance thought, because if he complained to Chris, which he should do, damn it, Chris would bitch at Justin. It would be one more thing, besides Lance's actual affection and interest in a job Justin judged boring, one more thing that Justin would hold against Lance.
Lance sighed and went into the main room where Justin was doing announcements for the lunchtime crew. He waited until the signature gatherers had started to drift out in smaller groups and just stared at Justin until Justin came over to him. Lance crossed his arms and just said, "I-9s. W2s. Come on, Justin, seriously."
Justin huffed and puffed and launched into a diatribe about immigration laws and how important was it really to verify citizenship with little asides about kowtowing to the Man and people just trying to make a difference. Lance tuned him out and just stared at Justin with rising contempt. Stupid kid. It wasn't kowtowing to the Man to follow the law and pay people and this was all just bluster because Justin couldn't be bothered. Justin sputtered out and flounced out of the office, noting he was off to "actually do something for this campaign." Lance went back to his desk and fumed and made sure the bills were paid and that the lights would stay on.
The next day, Lance got into work later than usual because he'd stopped by the copy shop first to make sure there would be no problems with the account they'd set up there. Lance found a stack of I-9s and W2s on his desk, tied in a bright red bow with a doughnut sitting right on top. He looked over at Justin and held up the doughnut. "Is this some kind of thing? You think I'm fat or I'm some sort of pig or what?"
Justin blushed and looked down. "No, I was, uh. I was being a dork about the thing," Justin actually said very quietly, like he meant it. "I was being a dork and uh, I knew you liked those. So I got you a doughnut. Sorry. Do you, uh, do you not want it?"
Lance sat down and tapped his fingers on the desk. "No. I do want it, thanks."
II. Maybe boy does like boy after all. Campaign sex, Joey had a whole speech about it. On a campaign, and this was a campaign with a specific end date on Election day, one met people and slept with them and it was good. No commitment, comrades in arms later when one met and hugs would suffice. Joey brought home women, volunteers or signature gatherers and they had sex loudly in the next bed. Joey brought home different women every week and he was so nice about it that the women didn't even mind. Lance really regretted pretending to be asleep the first time Joey brought one of them home, because Lance got to hear Joey telling the women not to worry, his room-mate could sleep through anything, right before they would both start panting and moaning. Lance toyed with the idea of pretending to wake up in the middle some time but he liked Joey. Joey would be hurt and so Lance just screwed his eyes shut and wished fervently he wasn't in Fresno where Lance would never, ever meet a guy he could bring home.
So many signature gatherers, so little time, so many forms. Justin was sleeping with this girl, Britney, some hotshot like Justin with a wide smile and an infinite capacity to talk earnestly about campaign finance reform, environmentalism and the importance of citizen involvement. Lance liked her, Britney was incredibly sweet and she always seemed to bounce into the office, ready with a wave and a little cheer as she got her assignment to the day. Justin was never tacky about it, he didn't kiss her in the office or anything, but they always walked out together with their fingers entwined and Lance heard Justin driving Britney home to her family night after night. He wondered if Justin was as loud as Joey, but it wasn't exactly something he felt like asking JC.
"Justin's so good at that shit," Joey said, watching Justin steal fries from Britney's lunch while they both laughed. "Justin, he just charms the fuck out of them, and they're always friends after. Kid's got a list a mile long of exes he emails with all the time."
Lance just nodded, Justin, whatever, he could care less. He had to get the filled out petitions to the main office in Los Angeles, he had to make sure they had money to pay everyone, he had things to do. Lance had to gather signatures, too, even with his other responsibilities and he did two hours every morning, hitting bus stops and grocery stores. Usually Chris went with him since Chris was the only other person in the office who wasn't signature gathering every hour of the day.
One morning a week before the end of the signature-gathering period, Lance was making coffee when Justin clapped him on the shoulder in the kitchen. "Hey, baby. You and me today, you have a quota to meet."
"I thought you weren't a morning person," Lance snarled. He really didn't want to do this with Justin. He couldn't wait until they had all the signatures they needed and Lance didn't have to struggle to find time to fulfill his quota of signatures.
"I'm not, dude, I was up all night. No sleep until we're certified, baby." Justin grinned and perched on the counter, kicking his feet. Lance sighed and gave Justin the first cup of coffee. They drove to a grocery store and Justin grabbed Lance's hand as Lance started to get out of the car. "Okay, okay," Justin said. "See, dude, you're a little bit behind on your quota, and I'm here to help you. Let's review, shall we?"
Lance sighed. "I know how to gather signatures, DUDE. I canvassed."
Justin smiled, an oddly gentle smile. "Signature gathering is different from canvassing. Canvassing is a longer interaction, you have more time to persuade, this is turn and burn. So you gotta have all your focus on that first sentence. Make sense?"
Lance nodded and got out of the car. He found the signature part went a little quicker but he suspected that had more to do with Justin grinning by his side than any specific improvement in his technique. He said as much to Justin, said, "It's because you're here and you're pretty."
Justin just raised an eyebrow. "Right, and I'm also tall, and a guy and built enough to be scary to some people. Everyone's got pluses and minuses, it all equals out. I mean, you'd be kinda fucked if you had a serious scar, or were missing a bunch of teeth, but it's still about you and what you say. See, you've got the accent and the voice, and you're pretty, too, so, I don't see where you think I've got such an advantage."
Lance giggled. "I'm pretty?"
Justin laughed and wiped his mouth. "You called me pretty first, man." Justin gave Lance all the signatures he'd gotten which put Lance over quota for the week so Lance bought Justin coffee at the coffee shop near the office.
They passed their goal for Fresno three days before the end of the deadline and Justin and JC would start all the announcements by reading out the number of signatures gathered in other offices and leading the group in a taunting chant. "Fresno rocks!" would echo through the office even after they had all left. On the last day all the staff went with Lance to the Kinko's for the ceremonial mailing of the last petitions to Los Angeles. They had a big party the next day when they got the news they'd more than hit the statewide goal and were sure to qualify for the November ballot.
Lance did shots with Joey and ending up puking in the bathroom on the second floor. When he walked out of the bathroom, rubbing his stomach, he could see into Justin and JC's room. They'd left the door open, he wasn't looking on purpose, it's not like he wanted to see Justin half naked, fondling Britney. He went upstairs quickly and fell asleep, for once, so deeply he didn't hear Joey come in.
Two days later the office was deserted and they kicked into the part of the campaign focused on media, visibility and fundraising. All the signature gatherers were gone except for two or three who stayed on as volunteers. Of course, one of them was Britney, and Lance actually liked Britney so he didn't understand his vague feelings of annoyance when he saw her every other afternoon, sitting by Justin's desk and answering the phone. It's not like he liked Justin.
They all ended up in the kitchen one night, drinking because they could, because they could even relax this weekend a little, a slow space before the real storms hit. Chris was drunk enough to start the canvassing stories. "Right, so this guy - dude, fucking first day kid, and you know, you take everybody, really. And the spiel had this thing about being a watchdog for the public interest. So, I have the guy say it to me, you know, end of the night, trainer says he sucks, but let's just check. And the guy starts stuttering, he can't even remember the fucking spiel. And he gets to the watchdog part and he stops. And then."
Chris started laughing and he pounded his beer on the table a few times. He composed himself and said, "And he says 'mad dog, mad dog, mad dog, mad dog!'" Chris said it quick in a low mutter and then everyone was giggling. "And I had to be all, huh. You know, not laugh in his face, because can you imagine? He's going to the door, he's out on turf, out in neighborhoods we canvass, saying that! And I have to be professional. Fuck."
Lance laughed. "What did you say?"
Chris snorted. "I said, uh, this probably isn't the job for you."
JC said, "So, when Justin and I were in Austin, there was this woman who worked for us, Cassie." Justin burst out laughing and put his head down on the table. JC continued, "and Cassie. Cassie was older and she wore every article of clothing she owned, no matter what the weather. So one day, one day she was having a rough week and I go out with her, you know, man, to figure out how to help her, and she goes to the door and, man. She knocks on the door, hard. Like rapping it down. And she rings the doorbell at the same time. Not, you know, the knocking on the door and --"
Justin looked up, tears in the corner of his eyes from his laughter, and said, "Waiting with a pleasant non-threatening smile for the person to open the door after a quick knock." Justin started giggling again.
JC said, "But not Cassie. She's knocking on the door, she's ringing the door bell and she's saying, as loud as she can without actually screaming, 'Hellooooooooo! Hellooooooooo! It's Cassie, hellooooooooo!'" JC was imitating the woman, Lance guessed, JC's voice pitched high and trilling. Lance laughed, and Joey was already holding his stomach and trying not to spit up his beer. JC said, "It was all I could do to not run from the door, throw my clipboard away and pretend to be a gardener or something."
Justin said, "Dude, that's not the best one. Cassie -- okay, one time she comes back and she tells me, she says she talked to this woman and the woman was saying how she couldn't afford to give, didn't have any money. Cassie finally gives up and as she's walking out, she sees a penny in the driveway. And Cassie, man, fuck, Cassie picks up the penny and goes back to the woman's door and says, 'I found this penny in your driveway, do you want to donate it?'"
"Fuck, you didn't actually do, like, a form and send that in, did you?" Lance giggled into his beer.
"Fuck," Justin said, "I threw in five bucks cash since Cassie had actually written out the card and shit. That lady was unbelievable."
Joey tapped his beer bottle against the edge of the table and said, "One time, some guy at the door told me I didn't know anything and I said I graduated in the top five of my class at Texas A&M."
Chris spit his beer on the table. "You didn't, though, Joey, dude."
Joey smirked. "I certainly did. I mean -- top five of people getting zoology degrees that year. You know, zoology majors whose last names begin with F."
Justin tapped his bottle against Lance's and said, "Dude. You, uh, you ever have sex on turf?"
Lance blushed and said, "No, no, of course, not. I've never even had an offer. An, uh, offer I would consider."
Justin said, "Right, just chicks, right? You wouldn't take those." Joey started coughing and Justin blushed. Justin looked down and said, "Okay, I'm drunk. I said, I told Brit I would, uh, meet her in the morning, so I'm gonna go to bed now." Justin stood up and muttered "sorry" in Lance's direction.
Lance said, "God. He's so." And sighed.
JC giggled. "He's just, you know. He thinks everyone is like him and the things they don't tell are things they don't want people to know. So, yeah. He assumes you, uh." JC blushed and looked drunk and adorable. "He thinks you're gay and you don't say anything about it so."
Lance smirked and finished his beer. "I, I am gay, but it's not. I mean, whatever. Justin. I know, I know, he's soooo bisexual. Blah, blah. He's kissed a guy."
JC laughed out loud. "Well, he and I fucked for three months last year so he's definitely kissed a guy." Lance stared at JC.
Chris said, "Bass, dude, lift your jaw off the floor." Chris stood up and rapped the table. He pointed at Lance and said, "Gay." He pointed at JC and said, "Bi. Justin, bi. Me and Joey, straight. Are we all clear?"
Lance nodded. Chris said, "Go apologize to the kid, he thinks he pissed you off."
Lance got up and walked up to Justin's room. Justin was already in bed, covers pulled up to his shoulder while he lay on his side. Lance sat down next to him and Justin opened his eyes. Justin said, "Hey."
Lance said, "Dude. I'm uh, I am, actually, gay, but I'm not wigged by it or whatever you think." Lance thought he sounded pretty pissy for an apology but Justin just smiled.
"Okay," Justin murmured. "It's just, you know, you never say anything."
"It's not, I don't list it on my resume, Justin. Joey doesn't tell everyone he's straight, you know?" Lance sighed.
Justin blinked and smiled. "Okay. So we're still friends?"
Lance trailed his finger across Justin's shoulder. "Were we before?"
Justin pulled at his lip. "I thought we were. Didn't you?"
Lance leaned down and kissed Justin's forehead. "Sure," he said. He got up and walked to his room and thought, campaign friends.
The fundraising was fun, Lance liked the fundraising. They did house parties all summer, getting people to invite friends and collecting money from everyone who came. Chris was the best at it, he had a perfect read of people and knew when to pull out the jokes and when to level his serious gaze. Chris had been doing this so long, and he was a wonder to behold when he would pull out just the right anecdote about out of state contributions to state assemblyman races and when to talk about the philosophical underpinnings and the importance of real democracy.
Joey was good at it, too. He lacked the technique but he had a smile that made him look like he could hug the whole world and no one would complain. Lance was good at it and he liked it. He was great at one on one and he raised as much as Chris on any given night. Lance tried not to enjoy that he was better at this than Justin or JC, but it was just nice to be good at something that Justin could actually appreciate. No one ever appreciated the amount of work it took to keep them all with health insurance and steady paychecks that didn't bounce.
They did well with the house parties, but Lance thought they could try a direct mail piece in just Fresno, after getting lists from the local coalition partners. Chris said okay, and Lance did everything. He got the lists, did the database work, cursed the cheap budget that meant he had to do it in FileMaker Pro instead of springing for Oracle, and wrote the letter. He was revising the letter after Chris's first round of suggestions one night when Justin sat down on his desk. Lance sighed and went back to typing.
"Yo, what's this?" Justin picked up one of the books on Lance's desk.
"It's a book. People read them," Lance said and didn't look up.
"I seem to remember something about that. When I was in college." Justin laughed and tapped Lance on the shoulder. "Anyway, we're going out. And you should to, so, c'mon."
"I can't. I need to get to the letter done so we can get the printing done next week and then the stuffing and it needs to go out so we have a good six week window for the initial responses and then we can consider a second mailing if this one works." Lance rubbed his eyes and ignored the impulse to get out of the office. It's a campaign, he thought, no sleep until November.
Justin waved his hand in front of the computer screen. "You won't finish tonight, you need a break, come with us, or I'll, like, steal your books about writing the perfect letter." Lance clapped his hand down on the books and turned to glare at Justin.
"This is serious, Justin."
Justin shook his head. "Yeah, and you being stupid is serious, too. So, stop it, and take a break." Lance decided he wouldn't have much luck fending off Justin and he hated it, he wanted to get this done. But he stood up and saved his work and filed everything while Justin tapped his foot. Justin said, "You'll be back in the morning, right?"
"Of course." Lance frowned and made sure the books were still marked and Justin hadn't fucked them up.
"Right, come on, let's go. It'll all be here in the morning." Lance tried to fix Justin with his glare of death, but Justin shrugged it off. Lance grabbed his jacket and followed stupid Justin and his stupid let's go out attitude out of the office.
When they got to the bar, it turned out to be the five of them, with a goofy cake, to celebrate Lance's first anniversary. "One full year, baby!" JC said, clapping him on the shoulder. And it was a good cake, and a really sweet gesture, but mostly, Lance wanted to work on his letter and not spend a night wiping icing off his face after Justin decided he should wear the cake, not eat it.
The letter was finally edited to Chris and Lance's satisfaction, the reply envelope account set up, the artwork done and everything printed and Lance sprang for pizzas and beer so he could get all the guys to stay up on a Thursday night stuffing envelopes and then sorting them. He thought about asking Britney but she was leaving for college on Saturday morning and he knew she had things to do.
"And we need to stuff them and then sort them by zip code, 'cause, I'm really sorry, but the printer screwed up and didn't print them in order, like I asked them to, so I did get a discount, and if we get them to bulk mail in the morning, then they'll be in people's mailboxes on Saturday -" he got that far before Chris put a piece of pizza in his mouth.
Chris grinned and said, "Lance, we got it. We need to do this. Point taken."
Joey drank too much and finished up three hundred envelopes before passing out in living room. They moved to the kitchen until JC started mixing up zip codes and threw up his hands and went to bed. Chris, Justin and Lance ended up in Lance's room sorting all the stuffed envelopes and when they were almost done, Chris said, "Fuck. Okay, my eyes are welded shut, I'm off to bed. Thanks for the pizza, Bass." Lance nodded and went back to sealing the finished boxes for the first set of zip codes.
They finally finished at 2 am and Lance convinced Justin to help him load the boxes into his car. They leaned against the car and Justin smelled like beer and sweat. Justin grinned over at him and started to say something but then bit his lip.
"What?" Lance was just so relieved this was all almost done. He wouldn't breathe right until he had the stamped receipts in his hand to prove that the mailing had gone out, but for now, he'd take this.
Justin said, "You're just so adorable, with your mailing and getting everything right, it's really adorable." Lance started to roll his eyes and say something but Justin leaned over and kissed him. Justin tasted like beer, too, and it was nice. Justin tugged him closer and Lance thought, okay. He wasn't sure how long they'd been kissing in the driveway, though he was pretty sure he was really enjoying it and not just because it had been nine months since he'd gotten a decent kiss. Nice, nice was an inadequate word because Justin tasted better than beer after a few seconds, and Lance had his hands under Justin's shirt where Justin's skin was soft and muscled underneath, and Lance decided to stick with nice because he was definitely thinking too much.
Justin broke off the kiss and said quietly, "We should do the rest of this inside, right?"
Lance nodded and said, "Okay, okay." Justin grabbed his hand and Lance paused for one second to make sure the car was locked and then followed Justin as Justin pulled him upstairs, back to Lance's room and Lance just thought, the rest of this, yay.
Justin tugged him onto the bed and started pulling at Lance's pants. Lance was kicking off his pants when Justin put his hand on Lance's chest and said, "Wait. Uh, condoms."
Lance reached over Justin to the end table and rifled through Joey's drawer to find the condoms Joey kept, and then opened the drawer underneath to find the lube in what Lance liked to think of as his hope chest. As in, hoping he would someday get laid before he left Fresno. Lance put both things in Justin's hand while Justin said, "Cause you gotta have condoms. No glove, no love and stuff," Justin paused and closed his hand, "and that's taken care of. Also, uh, you've done this before, right?"
Lance pushed up Justin's shirt and rubbed his hand over Justin's stomach, and Lance could feel his own pants still tangled around his ankles. He said, "Yes, I've done this before," and tried to think of ways to get Justin to shut up. Then he couldn't help himself and said, "Justin, you wouldn't do this if I were a virgin or something?"
Justin arched a little into Lance's hand and said, "I'd do it differently. Just, differently." Justin pulled off his shirt all the way and started talking again. "And also, just because I like things to be, you know, all set, there's the top or bottom question -"
Lance surged up and kissed Justin before Justin said another word. He pulled off Justin's shirt, making sure to start kissing Justin as soon as the shirt cleared Justin's head. Justin had already gotten Lance's pants away from his ankles and Lance pushed them onto the floor. Join the shirt, he thought, party on. It took a little fumbling and a few seconds for Lance to figure out that Justin was wearing button fly jeans and stop feeling for a zipper, but then all was well and they were naked. Naked, nice, Lance thought those were his favorite N words.
Justin broke off the kiss and stretched a little. He didn't open his mouth so Lance leaned back a smidge and just looked. Naked Justin. Lance had apparently been drinking deep in the waters of denial because he had clearly missed that Justin was unbelievably hot. Not that Justin hadn't spent half the summer in cut off shorts and tight shirts, but, Lance thought, wow. Long, long legs, and six pack stomach and yup, Lance needed to take advantage of this, campaign sex at last.
He had his hands on Justin's thigh and chest and then Justin said, "You're really hot naked. Like, seriously, you should be naked more, cause, man."
Lance muttered something like, "you, too," but decided his mouth could be better occupied. Lance dipped his head down and licked Justin's cock from bottom to top. Justin gasped and Lance pulled away to say, "Right, less talking, okay?"
Lance looked up to see Justin nodding vigorously. Lance brought his mouth back to Justin's cock to make him gasp again. Happy, happy, nice, nice, Lance thought and licked and sucked his way down Justin's cock. Nice, nice, nice was the little chant in his head as he sucked deep. Warm and thick and sweat everywhere, just a nice little slice of gay heaven, and Lance pulled off before Justin came. "Now, now," Lance said, now nice naked, "I'm gonna fuck you, okay?"
Justin nodded and bit his lip. He grinned and said, "Is it okay if I talk a little?"
"Just, you know," Lance said, prying the lube and condom out of Justin's hands, "not too much. You talk a lot, you know, like even during all this -"
Justin laughed and said, "You're the one talking now, so, uh, get to it." And then a twist of Lance's fingers earned him another gasp from Justin.
Lance said, "Right, no more talking," as he thrust in. Justin bucked underneath him and now that was truly heaven. Happy strong thighs wrapped around his waist, happy bucking boy underneath him, tight around him and really, Lance was pretty much the happiest he'd been since the first time Hill had said "Fresno." Then Justin moved against him and Lance stopped thinking. Everything was just happy, happy Lance's cock thrusting inside happy, happy nice Justin. And something about Justin's cock that fit perfectly in Lance's hand and then bright lights behind Lance's eyes and warm wet all over his hand and Lance fell over Justin with, he was sure, the biggest smile of his life.
Lance threw the condom away in the trashcan by the bed and thought, Fatone, 20, Bass 1. He turned back to Justin and said, "That was nice."
"Nice? I think it was better than nice, man." Justin wrapped his arms around Lance. "Also, you naked more often, okay?"
Lance smiled and snuggled closer. He thought suddenly of Joey waking up on the couch and said, "Do you, uh, Joey. He'll wake up."
Justin let go and pushed himself up a little. "What the fuck," he said, his eyes narrowed, "you ashamed of me or something?"
"No," Lance stuttered and fell back onto the pillow. "I was just, you know, you here and all and the sheets are all and he would know you were, you had with."
Justin shook his head and tapped Lance on the chest. "Dude, you think I? Fuck. I don't sleep with people I'd be ashamed of people knowing about or whatever."
Lance said, "Okay, okay." He turned around again and made sure his alarm was set, there was a conference call in the morning and he had to get to bulk mail and then Justin was tugging at his chin.
"Alarm set, let's sleep, okay." Justin kissed him and Lance fell asleep, wrapped in Justin's arms and sheets he would definitely change in the morning.
Lance woke up and untangled from Justin and stopped for a moment, standing right next to the bed. Sunlight on Justin and yeah, Lance had apparently swallowed the entire ocean of denial not to have noticed before that Justin was beautiful. And beautiful, like nice, seemed completely inadequate and was just about all he could come up with at 7 am. Then Lance shook his head, thought campaign sex, and took a shower. Bulk mail went easy after all of Lance's preparation so Lance nearly danced into the office with his receipt and the bright glow of someone who had gotten laid.
Justin came in while Lance was stuck on the conference call from hell, endless droning from every office about bills and health insurance and Lance cared about all those things, but damn. Justin ran two fingers over Lance's hair and then went to his desk with a small smile. Lance meant to talk to him, but then Britney came for her last day and sat on Justin's lap while she talked about her college plans and driving all the way to Chicago by herself. And right, campaign sex and Justin would write her all the time, she could count on that.
They had a small party for Britney and Lance had written her a letter of recommendation. "Because it might be hard to find us all, and so I wrote it for you now for when you're looking for internships and stuff." Britney hugged him tight.
Over her shoulder, Justin made a sheepish face. "I never would've thought of that."
Lance looked away and then smiled at Britney. "Well, I signed Chris's name since he has the best title, so, you know, work it when you use it." Chris pretended to be pissed but then they all took turns sneaking beer to Britney and telling campaign stories, all the ones they already had piled up, and it wasn't bad at all. Lance left early as Justin was turning down all the beer Joey tried to give him since he had to drive Britney home.
Whatever, Lance thought, and tucked the clean sheets onto the bed. It's not like Britney and Justin were going out or anything, and it would be nice to do it again but if not, whatever. Lance huddled under the covers and breathed in the comforting smell of fabric softener as he fell asleep.
Justin hissed at him, "Wake up" and shoved his shoulder.
Lance tried to bat him away and then gave up. "What do you want, dude? What time is it?"
"It's three a.m., c'mon, we need to talk." Justin tugged him out of bed.
They ended up in the kitchen and Lance could smell sex and sweat on Justin and it was all a little, a little something. Lance frowned and Justin leaned over and said, "Okay, so, yeah. I just wanted to talk to you and make sure we're okay. Right?"
"Uh, sure. Why wouldn't we be?" Lance rubbed his eyes and tried not to yawn.
"Right. I just wanted to check. I like to check things because you never know until you ask, and I didn't see you all day. And, also," Justin said as he grinned and leaned back in the chair, "you know, it was pretty great and I thought, you know, if you were okay with everything, something I would want to do again."
Lance was definitely not awake enough to deal with all of this and he said, "Okay. Not tonight, okay? But, sure."
Justin hugged him and said, "Dude, so couldn't do anything more tonight. So, yeah. Not tonight."
III. Boy likes boy after all. Campaign sex. Campaign sex rocked, Lance thought. He and Justin fucked every night, almost, from that first night for the next two months. Joey walked in on them the third time, said "Oh," and left, so everyone knew. Chris pulled Lance aside at the office and said, "You know, this is Fresno." Lance just nodded, he knew that already. It's not like he and Justin were walking down the street holding hands, screaming about gay pride. They weren't even going out, really. They just had sex almost every night. Campaign sex.
Lance found it a little distracting, at first. He was used to seeing Justin all the time, but he wasn't used to really looking at Justin and knowing what he looked like naked. And Justin looked really good naked. But they were getting more and more busy as Election Day approached and he just didn't look at Justin in the office very much.
They talked more, and not just in bed, and Justin really didn't ever shut up but it was nice. Justin talked about the news a lot, talked about the importance of campaign finance reform and even though Lance heard it all over and over again at the office, he liked to watch Justin's mouth when he talked. Justin, underneath the cockiness and swagger, was just really sweet. And Justin seemed to actually listen when Lance talked about admin things, so maybe they were both learning something.
They started bannering in the morning the week before the election, carrying large signs out to wave at the passing cars on the highway and the busy intersections. Chris let Lance and Justin be a team in the morning and during afternoon drive time, so they held up the big banner between them and called out to the cars for fun. "Gay pride!" Lance would say, only loud enough for Justin to hear him. Justin would giggle and say, "Will suck cock for votes!"
They had buttons and door hangers and t-shirts and they were all about visibility. And it was weird, Lance thought, how manic it all was and in a week it would be over. Four days before Election Day, Lance woke up at 2 a.m., and untangled himself from Justin so he could grab some water or something. Justin murmured a little and went back to sleep.
JC was sitting in the kitchen, doing the crossword puzzle and Lance said, "You're up late."
"Oh," JC looked up and smiled. "I can never sleep right before the end. And I don't have Justin to wear me out, so. Crossword puzzles." Lance blushed and poured himself a glass of water. JC tapped his pen against the table and said, "So, you're off to Sacramento after this?"
Lance said, "I hope so." He'd had an interview with Hill again, the day before. Hill had explained that the California administrative director, Kennie, wanted to leave California and go to Colorado. Hill had leaned back and asked Lance if he was interested in her job. Lance knew how these things worked, you asked for it, you showed you wanted it and he had said, "Definitely interested and I definitely want to do it." He had a phone interview with Kennie scheduled for the next morning after bannering, he was looking forward to talking to her. Lance looked over at JC and said, "Where are you going?"
JC filled in a clue. "Berkeley. And Chris and Joey will be in San Francisco. Back to canvassing, man, it's gonna be great."
Lance said, "You really love it. It's funny, cause some people get so burned out and you and Chris? How many years has it been?"
JC laughed. "I've been doing this for three years full-time, and every summer since I was eighteen. So, long time. And Chris is at seven years, so, long time, yeah. But I do love it. It's hard, you know, and when I first started, I had the technique, man, but it was a struggle. And then I was always so angry, I would canvass from anger and get really angry and every door I knocked on, I was thinking about those corporate thugs and pollution in our rivers and how nobody listened to the voter, really. And I would get so burned by the end of the night, just worn out."
JC paused and penciled in another clue in the crossword puzzle. He sat back and smiled a blissful smile. "And then, one night, we were in Houston -- I remember the zip code and if I didn't hate needles, man, I'd get it tattooed on my arm. 77042. And it wasn't choice turf, we were just cherry-picking in Houston, down for a week and we'd done Bellaire and West U and the Heights and Montrose and we had this last night, so, we tried this area. There was this guy, this old guy and his wife and I knocked on the door and they made me stop and watch ice-skating. They said, 'this is so amazing, you have to see it.' And, man, they gave after that, of course, but it was just this weird revelation. I walked away from that door and I just ruled that turf. I found -- after that night, I always canvass from love."
Lance raised an eyebrow. "You canvass from love?"
"Canvass from love. From love, man, I go out there and I just love what I do, I love the job, I love the town, I love it all. People are so fucking amazing, some of them, you know, and they just want everyone to see championship ice-skating and see how beautiful it is. And I canvass from love, man. And I always do well." JC looked down and said quietly, "Justin's going to Madison, probably, you know that, right?"
Lance nodded. "Yeah. He's excited, I think."
JC looked up and stared at him. "Lance, that's gonna be pretty far away. Maybe, I dunno." JC went back to his crossword puzzle and sighed.
Lance went back upstairs and pulled the covers up over him and Justin. Justin woke up a little and tucked his head against Lance's neck with a little mewl. Lance ran his hands through Justin's curly hair and thought, Madison's pretty far away. Then he thought, campaign sex, and fell asleep.
Election Day Chris sent them all out to be visible in their shirts and buttons, holding their banners. He said, "This is it, this is the day and this is no St. Crispin's Day speech. It's time to make sure that we change the fundamental equation of American civic life from one dollar, one vote to one person, one vote. No more out of state contributions dominating local races, so some dork in New York decides which candidate wins in Fresno. No more millionaires buying candidates with huge contributions, no more money talks, money votes, money rules. It's gonna be about all of us. So go out and make sure real democracy wins!" People cheered and left, but Lance stayed back to make sure the reservations for the hopeful victory party were still on.
He turned to Chris and said, "Think we're gonna win?"
Chris nodded. "Not in this county, but it'll be closer than we thought before we got here. Two days after we win the state, everyone from the Republican and Democratic parties to Emily's List and Pat Robertson's pet PAC will sue and it'll be tied up in the courts for years. Probably go all the way to the Supreme Court, and depending on the composition of the court then, maybe get thrown out. But it's all severable, so we'll get some of the parts and fuck it, it will make a difference, so." Lance smiled and went out to stand with Justin, waving banners.
They drank too much watching the election coverage and cheered until their throats ached when they saw the votes coming in. They lost the county, but by 2 a.m., they saw the first projection of victory for their initiative and Justin hugged Lance from behind so hard Lance thought his lungs would burst. They left when the restaurant closed and Justin started stripping Lance on the stairs, while Joey laughed. Lance slammed the bedroom door and pulled off his boxers and jumped on the bed beside Justin. "We won," he said, laughing, "We really did it."
Justin just smiled like his face might break and pulled Lance to him in a kiss that left Lance breathless all over again.
No one got to the office before two in the afternoon the next day, and all they did was start to pack everything up. There was the statewide retreat on Friday, and they had Wednesday and Thursday to close the office and pack up their house and then say goodbye to Fresno. Lance couldn't wait, really.
Except for Justin, really, and the guys. They put the things they wanted to keep in boxes and in their cars, and Friday they drove to Pismo after they turned in all their keys. Lance took one last look at his bed and thought about Justin tangled up in sheets, bathed in light and told himself sternly, campaign sex. Justin didn't think it was anything else, Lance didn't think it was anything else and it was just something good that had happened.
They had a condo at Pismo Beach, the campaign staff from all over the state had taken over two whole streets of condos by the beach. Kennie had called on Monday and asked Lance if he had any requests, other than the five of them being together. Lance had hesitated, swallowed twice and had said nothing. So Kennie was in their condo and Lance was sharing a room with her, and that was okay. They got in late Friday night and everyone fell asleep on in their own beds and Lance was so tired he only thought for a second how weird it was not to have Justin next to him for the first time in months.
The next day was all about drinking, really. Kennie pulled him aside after breakfast and they walked to the beach.
"So," she said, "You got my job. Someone did tell you, right?" Lance grinned. No one had, but still, his fucking dream job. Kennie laughed and said, "Sit down, have a beer and let's talk about next week. 'Cause I leave for Denver in ten days and we have a million things to go over."
Kennie was cool, and Lance didn't want think about Justin leaving for Madison, so a beer and a cigarette with Kennie was fine. Kennie made sure he met all the people in the Sacramento office and it was after dinner before he saw the guys again. JC, Joey and Chris found him in one of the condos and pulled him out onto the street. It was fucking cold in just a t-shirt and Lance shivered.
"Dude, where you been all day?" Joey said.
"Kennie, I've been hanging out with Kennie. I got the job, I'm gonna be the California admin director." Lance grinned and grabbed Joey's beer.
Chris hugged him and said, "Dude, let's go find Justin and celebrate the Fresno five."
They went from condo to condo and finally found Justin back at their own condo, alone in the kitchen with a half empty bottle of bourbon in front of him. "Guys," he said with a crooked smile, "where the fuck have you been?"
Joey and JC and Chris finished off the bourbon and Justin just climbed into Lance's lap and leaned his head against Lance's while they all talked, over and over, not about Fresno or the campaign but about everything. JC started to nod off and Justin shook his head and got up. He pulled Lance by the hand to Lance's room and pushed him against the door. "Where were you all day, I wanted to see you," Justin said.
"I was, Kennie, I was with Kennie." Lance tugged at Justin's jeans and slipped his hands around Justin's waist.
"I'm prettier than her, and I have a dick and you should've been with me." Justin unbuttoned his pants and pulled off his shirt while Lance laughed. Justin giggled and said, "Less talking, right?"
Naked and under the covers and no one had told Lance that campaign sex sucked because it ends, and at some point there was the last time. He should have kissed Justin more, even drenched in bourbon, kissing Justin was impossibly sweet and he definitely hadn't done that enough. Justin's warm tongue in his mouth, Justin's hand skittering over his ribs and resting on his ass, and it was all the last time.
Justin flipped him over and said, "You have the smoothest skin and you're so fucking hot naked." Lance closed his eyes and thought he wasn't maybe right for campaign sex because he had tears brimming against his lashes. Justin kissed his way down Lance's stomach and then wrapped his hand around Lance's cock. Lance opened his eyes to watch Justin's red mouth, moving up and down, hot wet on him and Justin's finger already moving inside Lance where he couldn't see. Lance wanted to burn all of it in his head forever, the sweat and sour alcohol smell, Justin's intent blue eyes on his, the feel of Justin against him, the blanket pooled around Justin's feet and the tingling all over. Nice, nice, it would never be this nice again.
The door opened and Kennie said, "Okay," a little loudly.
Lance sat up and pulled the blanket over Justin and himself. He said, "Hi, Kennie, uh ..."
Kennie said, "Wow. Oops." She put her hand over her face and said, "I'm gonna, I'm gonna grab my blanket and pillow and be on the couch, you two just keep doing what you're doing."
Lance said, "Thanks, sorry." Justin was already giggling under the blanket and when he heard the door close, he threw it off.
Justin licked Lance's neck and said, "That was special, really special."
Lance grabbed Justin's hands and kissed both of them and said, "It's always, uh, Justin, always." He felt like a dork, and maybe that wasn't right and Justin would be gone tomorrow and it was all, now that Kennie had left, it was all sad. Sad and perfect when Justin pushed Lance's legs up and over his shoulders and moved his fingers slowly inside of Lance. And every thrust made Lance break a little more even as he sweated and moaned and then came as soon as Justin stroked his cock once. Lance watched Justin come and clung to him for a second.
Justin's hand was a little sticky and wet against Lance's chest and Lance said, "I'm gonna -- we're both done for the night, I'm gonna go see if Kennie's up, okay?"
Justin murmured okay. Lance pulled on his boxers, thought they were probably not something he wanted to be walking around in and found jeans on the floor. Except they were Justin's and wouldn't really button, so Lance found a t-shirt and walked out to the living room. Kennie was reading a book, curled up on the couch. "Hey," he said, "We're, uh, done, I guess. I mean, we're just sleeping now, and if you wanted to sleep in actual bed. Yup."
Kennie looked at him and smiled. "Thanks." She grabbed her blanket again and followed him back into the room. Lance waited until she was in her bed and the light was off before taking off his jeans and shirt. He climbed into the bed and pulled Justin close.
Justin tugged off Lance's boxers and snuggled closer. He whispered, "I, I keep meaning to tell you, I just, you're really easy to sleep with. Like, not easy like slutty, but easy like it's so comfortable. And not the sex part, cause that's great, too, but I mean, like, just sleeping."
Lance nodded and said, "you, too." And it was true, because he fell asleep right away, even with everything he wanted to remember and all the things that made him sad.
He woke up with Justin spooned behind him, Justin's crotch nudging against Lance's ass, more like a hello than a come on. "Hey," Lance murmured.
Justin kissed Lance's neck. "Kennie's gone, she had to go to that, uh, she had to help set up the luncheon thing. So, we, uh, we have the room again."
Lance reached back to pull Justin closer. "What time is it?"
Justin said, "Like, uh, ten thirty, or something. And lunch isn't till noon, so we have the room and we have some time." So they fucked again and it was just as good as ever and just as bad, the last time twice. They sat together at the luncheon and Joey kept saying, "and y'all are just as loud as ever," like they'd be doing this forever, like it wasn't the last time. Lance looked at his fries and thought, campaign sex. This is the way this works and he needed to cheer the fuck up. Justin would write, they'd see each other at national meetings and the like and it was just a thing.
Then the luncheon was over and they were all standing outside while some tall fuck leaned against a car waiting for Justin to finish his goodbyes. Justin hugged Joey and then JC and then Chris and said he'd email right away. "Madison, baby," Justin said, as he pulled Lance closer. JC was pulling Chris and Joey away a little and Lance couldn't understand that at all. "Madison, baby, and I'll totally miss you. I'll email you as soon as I get hooked up."
"I'll miss you, too," Lance said, tugged at the curls on the back of Justin's neck, didn't think "last time for that, too," and broke off the hug. "Hey," Lance said as Justin walked to the car taking him away, "Canvass from love!" Justin cracked up and then waved from the back seat of the car until the car was out of sight.
"Did you say anything?" JC asked.
"Say what?" Lance raised an eyebrow. "He's off to Madison, he'll kick ass, he'll write me, this isn't a thing."
JC frowned and said, "Okay. If you insist."
IV. Boy loses boy. Sacramento was great. There was even more than one gay bar and Lance woke up on Kennie's futon with a bright smile that he wasn't in Fresno anymore. Kennie had this beautiful sort of studio apartment with a balcony and hardwood floors and she introduced him to her landlord, so he'd get her apartment when she moved out. Only two hours or so from Joey and Chris in San Francisco and JC in Berkeley and he was in charge of the admin things for the whole state which completely rocked. Kennie was great, great at her job and blunt and after only a week of training they were already friends. She was only leaving because she hated California, and everything was in great shape for Lance to take over.
It was that kind of office, and really, that kind of organization, and when Kennie left Lance could have decorated his office with hot male pin-ups and no one would have said a thing. But pin-ups were tacky so Lance just put up a picture of Justin from the summer. He got right into the swing of things and Sacramento just rocked.
He checked his email every day and it was a week before it really hit that Justin hadn't written. He hadn't changed his personal email address or anything and it was just kinda weird. He remembered Justin emailing Britney the day after she'd left. He thought maybe Justin was too busy settling in or something.
Someone forwarded him a column from Jim Hightower about energy deregulation and Lance thought it was funny, thought of Justin talking about Enron and he forwarded it to Justin with just "How's Madison?" written on top. Justin didn't answer and the email didn't bounce back so Lance really didn't understand what was going on.
After two weeks, Lance looked at his empty inbox and it was late at night and he was really tired. He knew he had the right email for Justin, and he went and got a beer from the kitchen. He looked at his empty inbox again, drank the whole beer and typed up an email to Justin. Something simple, he thought, just "Haven't heard from you. How's Madison? Please write." He hit send, immediately regretted it, deleted the sent email and deleted all traces of Justin from his address book. And then no answer.
He'd just about decided that maybe Justin wasn't writing anyone because he couldn't think why Justin wouldn't write him, Justin always wrote all his campaign flings and it wasn't like they had parted with a fight or something. Chris came by on a Thursday to drop off postcards at a legislator's office and took Lance out to dinner. Chris said, "Dude, sounds like Madison's really throwing Justin for a loop, huh?"
Lance broke his bread in half and looked down at his plate. "Oh, really?"
Chris pressed his lips together and then said, "Hasn't he told you about it?"
"Oh. Well, he hasn't actually, I haven't heard from him since he left."
Chris said, "Oh." And then, "That's weird." And then Chris changed the subject.
So it had been a month and Justin hadn't written him, had written everyone else like JC, Joey and Chris and not Lance. It was time for the winter retreat for all the staff in Salt Lake City and then Park City and everyone was going, he'd get to see everyone he knew in the organization except Justin who was staying in Madison for some reason. Lance ended up in a condo with Chris and JC and Joey again and Kennie, and it was great, hanging out, skiing, and drinking with his best friends. And they weren't campaign friends, they were just friends which was great, too.
The second night he came back from the bathroom and Joey was explaining something to Kennie, saying, "No, he's in loooooooove. He loves Paul, Paul loves him, he thinks, and he says that over and over again. Justin's in love, babe, I tell you, the boy's fallen hard." Lance stood in the doorway for a second and thought, oh. And then he thought he needed more beer, a lot more beer. When Lance sat back down on the couch, they changed the subject again.
Two nights later, the four of them minus Kennie were drunk again when Paul came to the condo. Stupid Paul. Paul, Justin's boss in Madison. Lance had never met him before, only seen him once before when Paul had waited against the car for Justin to finish saying goodbye, but Lance was pretty sure he hated Paul. Stupid Justin loved him Paul walking in, with a bright smile saying, "Justin said I had to find you guys and say hi."
Lance finished his beer in two swallows, looked at the floor and said, "I hate Justin." He was a little dizzy and definitely way too drunk and he did, too, hate Justin for never writing him and falling in love with some stupid tall guy with stupid black hair. He was pretty sure he heard Chris shuffling stupid ass Paul out of the room and then the floor came rushing up at Lance's face. He felt strong hands under his armpits pulling him up and everything was black.
He woke up tucked in a bed and he had to pee. He rolled out of the bed and found the bathroom. When he got back in the bed, he realized it wasn't his bed, he was only wearing his boxers and that was JC next to him. Huh, he thought, but his head hurt and he fell back asleep. Someone poked him and he opened his eyes and it was JC again. "Hey," Lance said, "We didn't, uh, anything, right?"
JC laughed and it was loud and spiky in Lance's ears. "Dude, you weren't even conscious and I look for a lot more response than drool and twitching in the people I fuck."
Lance closed his eyes. "Okay, not that, you know, I would mind or anything. But yeah, I'd like to be conscious."
JC laughed a little, not so spiky this time, thank goodness. JC said, "You were so drunk and we brought you back here. Your room's on the second floor, man. And yeah, I'm not putting the moves on you anytime soon."
Lance opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling. "I loved Justin."
"That's part of the truth," JC said quietly.
"Okay, I maybe still love him. But I'm gonna overcome that." JC rubbed his shoulder and didn't say anything.
So, he had been in love, he was still in love. He told Kennie the whole sad story over brunch before they left Park City and it wasn't really much of a story at all. "Justin Timberlake," Kennie said. "He's a great canvasser, great supervisor, but, yeah."
"He's a great guy," Lance said, "And I'm not just saying that because I love him."
"He is, I'm sure. I've only met him once or twice, but he's pretty young. You know, just seems like no one's ever kicked him in the balls or something and that might be good for him, I think." Lance laughed but it was still a sad, stupid story and he felt all tragic and petty at the same time.
At home, he decided to send Justin a Christmas card. Because Justin wasn't speaking to him for some reason Lance couldn't understand, but Lance didn't want Justin to think the things Lance had said to Paul were true.
"Is he not speaking to you," Kennie said, "or is he just not writing you? Like, have you called him and then he hangs up quickly because it's you?"
"I haven't called him, no, but he writes everyone else. And not me. So I'm gonna say he's not speaking to me." Then they went back to talking about the changes in the 401(k) plan that Lance needed to make for the California employees.
He decided to get over it. Stupid to be in love with someone who wasn't even speaking to you for no reason at all. Stupid. He lived in a great city and it wasn't a campaign anymore, he left work every day around six and went home to his pretty apartment with hardwood floors and his own balcony to sit outside and smoke on. He signed up for an Excel class two evenings a week because he used Excel at work. He joined a bowling league with the consumer advocate and did pretty well. He even went to the local gay bar and got laid twice. Things were officially good.
Joey had gotten back together with his old girlfriend, Kelly, she was pregnant and Joey was gonna go to school in September and become a teacher. "I'm ready to not be canvassing boy anymore, you know?" Joey wasn't burnt out, really, he just wanted a job with more regular hours and better pay. As Chris pointed out, he wasn't leaving to become a corporate raider and he wasn't gonna start working for Archer Midlands or Monsanto, so it wasn't so bad. Chris and JC were lifers, and Lance thought he was one, too, he couldn't think of a single reason to ever leave Sacramento or the group and he loved his job.
And he was over Justin, maybe, almost. He sat in his office one morning and here it was March, so Justin was officially not speaking to him and hadn't spoken to him for four months. Message delivered. Kennie told him sometimes about her interactions with Justin as his admin contact, how he seemed happy, and she even liked him now. Lance looked up at his picture of Justin in his cut-offs and tight t-shirt and thought, okay. He'd leave it on the wall to have something pretty to look at it, but. Over it, over it. He pulled up the long distance bill and started sorting through all the codes, he was sure either someone was using the wrong code or someone was ripping them off. So, over it.
The phone rang and it was Kennie. She said, "Lance, I had to call you."
"That sounds like the prelude to good gossip." Lance smiled and flipped the page to figure out why they had so many calls using the legislative issues code.
"It's not. It's gossip, but damn. You know what? Paul dumped Justin and he's a fucking asshole."
Lance tapped his pen on the bill and swallowed. "I -- you mean Paul's an asshole, right? Cause with two guys and there's the pronoun confusion thing."
"Paul's a fucking asshole. I just heard all this from Trey when I picked him up from the airport and I had to call you. The fucker. Fucking Paul."
Lance put his pen down on the table. "Okay, Kennie, I love you, seriously, but could you tell me more details here, okay?"
"Right. Sorry. So, Trey, you know Trey? He's Paul and Justin's boss, the supervisor for all the canvass offices in my region, based in Denver like me. And he goes out to Madison because Justin's canvassing for shit. And --"
Lance sat up. "Justin doesn't canvass for shit. He's always in the top 10 national list, I see him there every week."
"Lance," Kennie said, "He hasn't been on there the last three weeks, you saw that."
"I thought maybe it was just other people having really great weeks, but he was doing badly? Justin never does badly. He's like, canvass prodigy boy."
"He's averaged twenty dollars a night for the last three weeks. And he's canvassing five nights a week, and he's making nothing. No doughnut nights yet, but his yes rate's single digits and yeah. Stop interrupting me, okay?" Kennie paused and then said, "So. Obviously, this is unusual and Trey can't figure out what's going on over the phone so he goes out there. Paul says he doesn't know what's wrong with Justin, he thinks it's a personal thing. Trey gets nothing from Justin at first, then he gets Justin drunk and worms out the whole story. Fuckin' Paul.
"Anyway, turns out, three weeks ago -- wait, Justin and Paul were living together, did you know that? Well, Justin was renting a room from Paul, but they were basically always sleeping together and so three weeks ago, Paul says, 'this is over, you should move out,' no explanation really. And two days after that, in announcements, one of the canvassers, this girl Diana, stands up and announces that she and Paul are engaged. They've been going out secretly for two months and he proposed and she accepted." Kennie stopped and swore under her breath.
"Did, didn't she know about Paul and Justin?" Lance gripped his pen and pictured driving his pen through Paul's eye.
"No, they were very quiet about it -- Trey didn't know. Anyway, Justin's apparently been trying to be all professional about all this, and he shows up to work and he didn't say anything to Diana, but man. Fucking Paul."
"I'm too far away, Kennie, you have to kill him for me. Okay?" Lance said quietly.
"Don't worry," Kennie said seriously. "Consider him dead. Anyway, Trey talked to Justin and Justin finally asked for a transfer, Justin wants to come back to Northern California," and Lance thought, right, Berkeley or San Francisco and JC, Joey and Chris. Kennie said, "And Paul really doesn't get in any real trouble because, of course, this was just his personal life. And, speaking of how much I dislike Paul, the little fuck had the nerve, when Trey talked to him, the little fuck had the nerve to say that it's not like Justin hasn't made a habit of sleeping with his bosses or other canvassers anyway."
"That's -- that's bullshit. He loves Paul, he told everyone and it was never a problem, like with JC and he's not some sleazy person --"
Kennie sighed. "I know. And Trey gave him shit about it, but, you know. It's one of those things. And Justin's the one who looks bad now, because he wanted the transfer, and there's no places open and it'll take weeks, really and yeah. Consider him dead, Lance. Paul has seriously pissed me off."
"He's averaging twenty dollars a night?" Lance looked at the bill again and the numbers swam before his eyes.
"I know. Justin Timberlake canvassing for shit. Fucking Paul." Kennie said bye and Lance looked at the bill again. There were two problems here, really, someone in the San Diego office was using the legislative code for all their calls and someone in the San Francisco office used the legislative code for an hour long call to Boston. He looked at the phone again and called Chris.
After Chris said hi, Lance said, "Did you hear Paul dumped Justin?"
Chris grunted. "Yeah, I got him to finally admit it after I got the change of address thing. How did you hear about it?"
Lance said, "Admin gossip reaches everywhere, Chris." Then he told Chris the whole story he'd heard from Kennie.
Chris swore and said, "Fuck. That fucker. No one fucks with our boy like that, fucker."
"I just, I know Justin probably isn't reaching out to you guys and he could maybe, yeah." Lance tapped his pen against the desk and thought of Justin canvassing badly. He couldn't even picture it.
Chris said he'd take care of it, thanked Lance for thinking of them and Lance went back to long distance bills.
He didn't hear anything more for the next three weeks, and he wasn't that surprised, he figured JC or Joey or Chris would tell him when Justin arrived at their offices.
V. Boy gets boy back, maybe, sort of. Lance opened the door to his office and Justin, fucking Justin, was sitting in his chair, kneading his hands. Lance said, "Hi," and hoped he didn't sound as dumbstruck as he was.
Justin looked up and smiled, and said, "Hi." Lance thought, okay, speaking to me if I'm right in front of him, that's progress. Justin looked like Wisconsin, somehow, or just not Californian anymore. He wore black Doc Marten's boots and a heavy sweater, and he was pale, leeched of color.
Lance said, "That's my chair. I like to sit there when I work, so, uh." Justin stood up quickly and pulled his knit cap off his head. He'd shaved his head, or cut almost all of his hair, it was just a bare layer of stubble. "Your hair. Wow."
Justin rubbed his head and stood away from the desk. He said, "Yeah, I was drunk and yup."
Lance sat down in his chair and it was warm, and he decided to ignore that. He said to the computer, "I know about why you left, you know, gossip gets around and so. I'm sorry." But it still would have been nice of Justin to write him.
Justin said, "Yeah, good stories always get around. Look, Bethy, is that her name? The lead girl, she said you were, uh, housing. Cause, here I am."
Lance said, "Bethy is her name and uh. Wait, back up? Housing? You're here, you're not just passing through? We have an assistant canvass person, and now we'll have two?" Justin would be here. In the office, every day. But probably not for long, just long enough for something to open back in the Bay area. Lance turned around and looked at Justin, sitting on his duffel bag and pulling at his cap in his hands.
Justin said, "I dunno. I hear, uh, I guess Maria's thinking of moving to one of the advocate's positions? She's not liking canvassing or something. Anyway, yeah, Bethy said find you and you would put me up."
Lance clenched his jaw. Of course, housing meant he was supposed to house Justin and no one had told him Justin was even coming. Great. Lance stood up and said, "Wait a minute, okay?" and walked out to find Bethy.
Bethy explained that Justin was indeed the new assistant canvass supervisor and Lance already knew about Maria and then Bethy said, "You can house him, right? Cause I can't, and you always take people, and he doesn't have a car and you live right near the office."
Lance rubbed his eyes and went back to his office. Justin was looking at the picture of himself on the wall. He smiled when Lance came back in and then stopped as Lance sat down at his desk. Justin said, "You have a picture of me up," and made it sound like a question.
Lance said, "Pin-ups are tacky." Justin pressed his lips together and looked down. "Okay," Lance said, "here's the spare key. I guess you'll be getting in late, with the canvass schedule and stuff and I have this Excel class tonight, so here." Justin took the key without touching his hands.
Justin said, "I don't know where you live."
Lance reached into his drawer and pulled out a copy of directions to his place with the little map on the bottom. "Here. I end up housing a lot of people, so I drew this up."
Justin said, "Thanks. Thanks for everything. And Lance," Justin paused. Lance watched Justin's reflection in his computer screen. Justin said, "I really appreciate that you're being so nice to me 'cause I guess you're probably mad at me for not writing you."
Lance said, "Uh." He thought about saying 'you didn't write me? I didn't notice.' He didn't think he could pull it off so he settled for turning on the computer like he didn't care. Justin was still standing in the doorway, so Lance said, "It's fine. It's okay, Justin, I got the message, I'll see you tonight."
Justin said, "There wasn't a message, it was just." Justin paused and grabbed his duffel bag and said, "Okay. See you tonight." And left.
Lance got nothing done all day and he sat in his Excel class taking notes that looked like nonsense when he looked at them ten minutes later. Fucking Justin. Fuck, fuck.
When he got home at ten there was no sign of Justin, except the duffel bag from this morning was now lying on the floor by Lance's couch, in Lance's sort of living room area. The studio was one long room, but Kennie had left the tall screens she'd bought to put around the bed, creating an almost second room. Fuck, Lance thought. He found the spare sheets and blankets and put them by the couch. He made sure there was a spare towel in the bathroom and pulled on sweats and crawled into his bed. No message in just not speaking to him for four months, okay. It was just that Justin didn't like him that much. Lance had fallen in love, and Justin felt nothing or something that translated to not even making an effort to keep in touch with him.
"Fuck," Lance said and threw the covers off. He was sitting there with his head on his knees when Justin came in.
Justin took off his sweater and carefully arranged his backpack by the duffel bag. Justin was, of course, used to staying with people, sleeping on floors and he was actually incredibly nice about it. Lance had had people stay with him who threw their shit all over the couch like they'd practically moved in. Justin rubbed his head and flopped down on the bed next to Lance. "I had a shitty day," Justin said quietly, "How about you?"
Lance bit back the remark he'd meant to make about Justin not sleeping on this bed, because Justin looked wrecked. Lance said, "Did you canvass tonight?"
Justin closed his eyes. "I'm not calling it canvassing anymore. Canvassing implies I raised money and earned my salary. Well, at least I did more than twenty bucks."
Lance stretched out next to Justin and said, "That's something."
Justin opened his eyes and stared at Lance. "I raised fifty bucks. Maybe I'm burnt, or something, maybe I just suck."
Lance said, "You don't look burnt, you look tired." Justin looked like he hadn't slept in years.
Justin said, "How would you know what burnt looks like?"
Lance said, "Burnt looks like Maria, she's burnt out. You're just tired. You're a fucking natural at this, Justin, you're just. You're just tired and sad and you'll get better."
Justin smiled a little and said, "Thanks." Lance licked his lips, he really needed to kick Justin out of his bed or this would get pathetic soon. He opened his mouth to say something when Justin hooked an arm around Lance's neck and pulled him into a kiss. Their teeth hit and then Lance, thinking to himself, stupid, stupid, opened his mouth. Justin was warm against his tongue and somehow even more pale this close and now that Lance had gone from campaign sex to pity fuck. Lance broke off the kiss and said, "Uh, Justin."
Justin blushed and said, "Right. Right. I'm sorry again, I just." Lance thought fuck it, and rolled over on top of Justin, pinning him down with another kiss. Justin wrapped his arm around Lance's neck again and with the other hand started pulling down Lance's sweats.
Lance pushed himself up with one hand and said, "More naked, okay?"
Justin nodded and pulled off his shirt. He scrambled out of his jeans and boxers and kicked them on to the floor. Lance sat back on his knees and threw off his shirt. He pushed his sweats down and let his pants and boxers pool by his ankles before settling back on top of Justin. Justin had toed off his own socks already because Lance felt Justin's bare feet pushing away the clothes tangled at Lance's feet. Justin still felt warm underneath him and electric, like a little shock everywhere they touched.
They were kissing and Justin arched into Lance, their cocks aligned and rubbing together, and it was all too much, Lance was not going to come from just this. Lance gasped and sat back again. "Okay, uh," he said, grabbing Justin's legs and pulling them up a little. Justin lifted his hips and put his legs on Lance's shoulders. Lance couldn't catch his breath and all the blood in his head was rushing, well, downward. He squeaked out, "Behind you, there's, uh."
Justin turned a little and then pushed the condom and lube into Lance's hand, his fingers lingering on Lance's palm. Fuck, fucking boy was so hot, Lance shuddered and reviewed new tax laws in his head while Justin just made it all worse, lifting his hips and pushing his ass against Lance's thighs. Lance thought of uses for 501c3 money while he put the condom on and then pushed one, two fingers into Justin. And back to nice, nice, Lance thought. So perfectly nice, and he wouldn't think of anything else. Justin moaned and said, "Come on, come on."
Lance lifted Justin's hips and thrust in hard. Fucking perfect and fucking great and Justin pushed back against him and this was pretty much the best sex Lance had ever had on this bed. Justin's heels dragged along Lance's back and nice, just nice and hot and tight. Lance leaned forward to kiss Justin and wrapped a hand around Justin's cock. Justin bent double and clinging to Lance, his tongue in Lance's mouth and they came almost in the same second. Lance rolled off Justin and said, "That was nice, nice."
Justin laughed and he sounded like the Justin Lance had met in Fresno for the first time since Justin had shown up in Sacramento. Lance watched Justin start to push himself up and Lance pushed him down onto his back and pulled up the covers. "I'm not that much of an asshole, Justin, sleep right here."
Justin turned away and said, "I didn't think that."
Lance got up and said, "Okay, I'm gonna lock up and you stay there unless you want to use to the bathroom or something. And in that case, I expect you to come back to this bed, okay?"
Justin laughed a little and said, "okay." Justin was so easy to sleep with, even when he wrapped his arms around Lance and pushed close to him, Lance could fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed.
Justin came into his office at ten a.m. and sat on the floor with a small smile. "Hey, you leave early in the morning, man."
"I work nine to six, now, admin, baby. How are you? Did you find everything this morning?"
Justin nodded. He said, "Uh, I wanted to make sure everything was okay with us. Cause yesterday was sort of highs and lows and yeah. Are you okay with everything?"
Lance looked at his computer screen. Payroll. Justin stopped speaking to him for four months, didn't really apologize or explain and Lance was still sickeningly in love with him, would sleep with him at the drop of a hat and yeah, considering. "I'm okay, it's fine."
Justin said, "Good. Because, right, I have this thing and I didn't want those two things linked. Right. I have this problem, 'cause when, when Paul kicked me out and I got my new place, I signed a six month lease and then I couldn't find anyone to sublet for the full amount and my landlord's an asshole. And my mom and I are still paying off this loan we took out for my one semester at Stanford, so."
Lance cocked his head and said, "You're broke. You can't afford to find a place right away because you couldn't cover rent or the deposit. Right?"
Justin nodded. "I can only afford about a hundred bucks a month for rent for the next two months. So. If you know someone who needs a room-mate or something, I can get out of your hair."
Lance tapped his pen against the computer screen and said, "You can stay with me, if you want. I don't mind."
Justin said, "Really? Seriously? That would be great. And I'll give you rent money and everything." Justin paused. "But, um, let's re-evaluate in a month or something? I don't wanna impose."
Lance nodded again, because that was a good idea. A very good idea, really, Justin was right.
That night, Justin crawled into bed next to him, and said, "Is this okay? I can not, uh." Then Lance kissed him and pulled him closer and that seemed to settle that. Like campaign sex, because they still slept together every night the first four nights Justin was in town, but he never saw Justin during the day after the second day. Except no campaign, and it was really just Justin working out his depression, Lance thought. Then he thought, fuck it and went back to work.
Friday night, Lance fell asleep around midnight. He woke up alone and stared at the ceiling. Welcome to what a fucking idiot you are, he thought. Justin couldn't be bothered to write Lance and now he couldn't be bothered to be faithful or something. Fuck this, Lance thought. He picked up the phone and called Joey. After Joey said hi, Lance said, "Justin's in town and he's been staying with me."
Joey said, "He told me."
Lance said, "We've been fucking every night."
Joey said, "I got that impression from him, yeah."
Lance said, "okay" and hung up. He had gotten a shower and had started cleaning the apartment when Justin came in the door, more than twenty-four hours since he'd left the previous day. Justin's t-shirt was on backwards and inside out. Justin sat down on the couch and said quickly, "Look, I know I should've called, but, I didn't do anything."
Lance said, "I don't care. I'm not your boyfriend or anything, I don't care."
Justin flinched and said, "Well, we've been. And I didn't call. Nothing happened, there was this canvasser party thing and I actually made quota, which didn't use to be something to celebrate but I'll take it, you know? And then I was supposed to get a ride from this girl but she drank too much and I had to sleep on the floor. And it was hot, so I took off my shirt and then as soon as I woke up I was bugging people to take me home and now here I am and nothing happened."
Lance said, "Okay. It's fine. And I have to go now, I have things to do, so."
Justin said, "Are you just avoiding me or do you actually have things to do?"
Lance stopped at the door and said, "I can't do both?"
He drove to San Francisco and went to Joey's. He and Kelly spent two hours going over bridesmaids' dresses from thick magazines while Joey studied for his GRE. Joey closed the book and pulled Lance into the kitchen. "Hey," he said and Lance braced himself for the Justin lecture. Joey said, "All that time in Fresno, man, you're a fucking light sleeper, aren't you? You didn't sleep through any of it, did you?"
Lance laughed and said, "No. Sorry, but yeah, you woke me up every time."
Joey looked at him seriously and said, "You should say something about that kind of thing, man, I wouldn't've been mad."
Lance left after that and sat in a café in Berkeley for an hour. He liked to stay in the Bay area for double the time it took him to drive there and back so the trip felt worthwhile. He watched boys walking back and forth, everything seemed dappled in sunlight like some stupid video and he still just wanted Justin. He wanted Justin and he didn't want to be a doormat and he clearly needed to work on that. He drove home.
When he came in, Justin sprang up from the couch. "I'll have dinner ready in half an hour if you want to eat with me." Lance followed him into the kitchen and Justin said, "I just got everything ready but it still needs to cook." Justin turned on burners, put pots on them. Lance was pretty sure it was the first time most of them had ever been used. And he remembered that Justin knew how to cook, Justin's mother, he remembered Justin telling him, insisted that everyone should know how to cook and iron and sew buttons on, even boys, but Justin had never done anything this elaborate back in Fresno.
"This looks extensive," Lance said.
Justin turned his back to Lance and said quietly, "I used to cook a lot for Paul, when we lived together and we'd get back from work, so, you know."
Lance sighed and got a beer from the refrigerator. He grabbed a second one for Justin and held it out for him. Justin took it and leaned against the counter. Lance cleared his throat and said, "I went to see Joey."
Justin said, "He called. He said it was so nice of you to stop by like that, out of the blue, and keep Kelly amused while he studied."
Lance said, "Whatever," and looked at the floor. He heard Justin putting his beer on the counter and then Justin was against him, pushing him back to the refrigerator.
Justin kissed him hard and then said, "I'm really sorry and I won't do it again. I won't stay out and not call you, okay?"
Lance put his hands around Justin's waist without dropping his beer. "It's really okay, Justin. Man, you didn't use to apologize all the time."
Justin kissed him again and said, "Well, maybe I should've. But, yeah, I'm working to regain the happy here." Justin rested his forehead against Lance's and sagged a little. "I really did love him, you know? And I'd never, it was kind of the first time I'd been with someone like that and knew what it was. And so, really, all of the last five months were just shit, in the end."
"It didn't all suck, right?"
Justin said, "Well, there was the part where I didn't know I was being lied to. Anyway, I should've written you. I just, I didn't know what to say."
Lance reached back and put his beer on the counter by the fridge. He ran his hand down Justin's cheek and Justin shivered. "What were you gonna say, if you wrote me?"
Something on the burner started to boil and they heard the hiss of the food. Justin turned around quickly and said, "Dinner'll be ready in a few minutes. I can set the table, if you want, but really, I'm the one cooking here, so."
And that sounded like Justin should sound, so Lance set the table and they ate and talked about Gray Davis.
Two weeks later, Lance came into the main room at the office and Bethy waved him over. She said, "Lance, this is Diana, she's here for the right to know conference thing. And, I need to talk to you about where to put her up for the next few days. Can you, uh?"
Lance made a face and shook Diana's hand. He said hi and asked where she was coming from. Diana said Madison and Lance started coughing to cover his impulse to say shit. He grabbed Bethy's hand, pulled her out of the room and called over his shoulder to Diana, "I need to talk to Bethy, now, okay? Payroll problem."
Bethy said, "There's a payroll problem?"
Lance said, "No, of course not. But, Bethy. That's Diana, like, you know, from Madison, you remember, Justin?"
Bethy's face fell. "Oh, shit. I forgot. I didn't think. Well, fuck. So you can't house her, huh?"
Lance said, "Well, you know, since Justin's staying with me, I think no." Lance turned and looked at the door. "And I guess no one told Justin, right?" Bethy shook her head. Lance walked over to the door and looked for Justin, who ended up almost walking into Lance. Lance grabbed his arm and said, "Come with me, Justin."
Justin followed him and said, "Is something wrong?"
Lance said, "No, not really. But, well, Diana? From Madison? Is here, for the right to know conference."
Justin's eyes widened and he said, "Oh. Oh, that makes sense. Cause she got my job when I left and she's really interested in that stuff. I recommended her to Trey, you know, she's a great canvasser."
Lance said, "Okay. Bethy wanted her to stay with us."
Justin nodded and said, "Okay. Do you want me to, I can't do that, but I could stay somewhere else, I guess, I could stay with one of the canvassers or something until she's gone."
Lance frowned. "Justin, I wouldn't let her stay with me. Not just because you're there, but, fuck, I don't care, she's never staying with me and I'm not gonna be nice to her."
Justin laughed a little and said, "Dude. It's okay, she didn't do anything. But, uh, that's really sweet."
Justin managed to avoid Diana for the next two days but it still sucked. Justin was just starting to seem happy again, his canvassing was back at its usual extraordinary levels consistently and now Justin had that sad look again. But she'd be gone, she'd be gone, thank God. Lance somehow got roped into driving Diana to the airport but fine, fine, he thought, he'd send her home to her fuckhead fiancée and then Justin would be happy again.
Justin said, "Where you going? We need to get groceries, man." Lance looked at Justin and thought about their empty cupboards. Everything had been so good the last two weeks. A weird kind of stasis where they slept together every night and never talked about their relationship or non-relationship or whatever, but that was still good. Lance knew Joey was right, he needed to say something. Something like, I know you don't love me and you're kinda using me while you get over your boyfriend, but I love you madly and then, and then. And then Justin would move out and Lance wouldn't get laid for a long time because he'd be walking around with a sad little face and Lance didn't want to sleep with people who were turned on by that.
Lance played with his keys and said, "Well. I gotta take Diana to the airport, so I can swing back by when I'm done."
Justin said, "That's stupid. I'll just, I'll go with you. It's fine. Let's go."
Diana sat in the back seat and smiled warmly at Justin. She had no idea why he'd left Madison, and she'd liked him so she was friendly and sweet and Lance would've liked her if she hadn't been engaged to Paul. Justin stared straight ahead and his hands twitched in his lap. Justin said, "How are things back at the office?"
Diana said, "Oh, great. Except. Well, you were there when the post office lost Paul's paycheck, right? Well, it happened again. Kennie was very surprised but he got the replacement one really quick. Still, he was almost late with his mortgage payment. And Paul keeps getting his reimbursement forms sent back to him. Kennie says he's not filling them out right, or something. And it's weird, because she's very nice about mine. And we've had the worst time getting some supplies we need. And Paul turned in some attendance sheets late, and Trey was all over him. So, mostly, weird admin problems, but otherwise, great."
Lance smiled. He made a mental note to send Kennie flowers. He looked in the rearview mirror and then glanced at Justin. Justin was looking at him and trying not to giggle, he could tell.
When they got to the airport and Diana got out, Justin leaned out the window and said, "Diana. It was good seeing you. And, uh, tell Paul hi."
Diana nodded. Justin looked down and said, "And, actually, look, I'm sorry to say this to you, and you're just the messenger, but tell him I said hi and he should fuck off and die. And that's all I have to say to him."
Diana stepped back and nodded slowly. Lance pulled away. After a few minutes, Justin said, "You can call off Kennie, you know, not that I don't appreciate the gesture."
Lance said, "Kennie is a consummate professional. I don't know what you're talking about."
Justin laughed. He looked out the window for a few more minutes and then he said, "I've decided, you know. I'm a lifer, I'm not burnt at all. I was really sad for a while, but now I know I can have that happen to me and still do this. And next time, it'll be better, I'll get over it quicker. Not that I think there will be a next time. But I'm not quitting, like, ever."
Lance nodded and said, "Me too."
Monday Justin came into his office and closed the door, leaning against it and just looking at his feet. Lance moved his hand over his daily planner, he didn't need Justin to see his last action item and said, "Hey. Don't you have announcements?"
"In an hour, man. Bethy's got things covered. I, uh." Justin paused and exhaled. "Okay, I just thought, I don't know, I guess you don't. Fuck, look, here's the thing, I know you're not interested in me, or whatever, but I didn't write you when I left Fresno because I didn't know what to say and I was so fucking confused. And then when I figured things out, I was with Paul and what kind of email is that? I'm gonna write you to say, 'hey, I was completely in love with you and I know that now cause I'm in love with this guy,' and that would be a stupid email. And, then it had been so long. So, I wanted to tell you that."
Lance stared at Justin. Lance started laughing and he said, "You what? You didn't write me because you loved me? That makes perfect sense, Justin."
Justin started to pout and then giggled a little. "Okay, it wasn't that clear, but. You knew I loved you. I mean, I requested a transfer to Sacramento. And --"
"Northern California," Lance said. "Everyone said northern California."
Justin squinted. "I said Sacramento. But, uh, I tried to tell you, that last night in Pismo."
Lance laughed. "Like, when? When you said I was easy to sleep with? Justin, you dork. You need to work on this, you know?"
Justin slumped against the wall and held his stomach while he giggled. "Okay, okay, I haven't been that clear. But there you go, clear as day, I love you, blah blah blah."
Lance said, "And it's just sad, because, you know, I thought when I finally got my balls in gear and told you I loved you, you would run away so fast and --"
Justin moved away from the wall and landed in Lance's lap as soon as he'd finished half of his sentence and he was kissing Lance before he could finish talking. Justin broke off the kiss and said, "You love me? Since when?"
"Since sometime. Since Fresno, I guess. But I didn't really realize until Park City. But I couldn't read your elaborate code of not talking to me, so I thought you didn't care about me." Lance ran his hands up under Justin's t-shirt and kissed Justin again.
"When were you gonna tell me that, since, you know, at what point in the last three weeks we've been fucking?" Justin giggled. "We're both unbelievable dorks."
Lance said, "I was gonna tell you today. It's in my planner, swear to God."
Justin burst out laughing again and pushed the chair around so he could read Lance's planner. Justin read out loud, "Talk to Justin re:, and here you've actually changed to a red pen and drawn a little heart."
"I always use two pens for my planner, one for action items, one for notes on the items, so I had it right there." Lance rested his head against Justin's neck and smiled.
"You're so adorable. You're, like, the most fucking adorable thing in the world. But, uh, what's all this stuff that's more important than me? 401(k), meeting with auditor, phone budget revision?" Justin said.
"I list these things chronologically. See, talking to you would happen after work. But now I can check it off, really." Lance pulled Justin closer still and lifted his head to kiss Justin again.
Justin broke off the kiss and said, "What did you think we were doing the last three weeks? I thought you were just, I dunno, I thought you were kinda taking pity on me. You know, be nice to the brokenhearted dork."
Lance said, "I don't know, I tried not to think about. I just, I guess, campaign sex?"
Justin looked Lance in the eyes and said very seriously, "I told you. No more campaigns, no more short-term, none of that for me, I'm a lifer. You know?"
Lance smiled and said, "Me too. I'm a lifer."
And then they had sex. THE END.
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