NOTES AND DISCLAIMERS: So made up. For entertainment only. Partial inspiration from Luigi Parandiello's Six Characters In Search Of An Author and Samuel Delany's Dhalgren. The rest, the majority, is just the crack. One cameo thanks to G, the rest of the characters came from my head, any resemblance is a coincidence. Title from the Crowded House song "Pineapple Head." Thanks to Kel, Katie and Younger.
AS LUCID AS HELL
Three AJs with three different hair colors commandeer the television at 6:30 and change the channel to Lifetime so they can watch Golden Girls. Pineapple Head turns to Justin and says, "You wanna watch?"
Justin shrugs. "Which one is it?"
The show's just started. Two of the AJs turn around and one says, "It's the one where they go to see Burt Reynolds and get arrested because they're staying in a bordello."
Blond AJ doesn't turn around. He just says, "The Miss Butter episode."
Pineapple Head says, "Sweet. I love that one." Justin settles into the couch and watches, it is funny.
Justin's days aren't very full. Eat, sleep, video games, hanging out with his friends. Justin only has to take the elevator about once a week, sometimes twice, and things aren't moving very fast up there. He's been here for six months and he wonders if he'll ever be Finished.
It's not as bad as Pineapple Head. Chris, he's a Chris, started back in July of 1999. He's been in the dorm the longest of anyone. Someone once, an AU Justin who was there only a few days, called him Pineapple Head. "After the Crowded House song, everyone knows that one, right?" No one else did, but the nickname stuck. And now Pineapple Head introduces himself that way. He's taken it upon himself to say hi to all the new guys, even the ones from the scary AUs, give them some idea of what's going on.
When Justin first woke up in the dorm, he was pretty confused. He remembered, he knew he was Justin Timberlake, pop star and all that, he knew himself. Then he went downstairs and met Pineapple Head. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs and he explained it all, to Justin and to the other ten newbies who'd just shown up over night.
"This is a dorm. Everybody has rooms. Some people have roommates, some don't. We don't know why. You're you, you're all uniquely you. And you're just characters. Some of you are main characters, some of you are just supporting characters. Everyone in your story is here. When you here the alarm, and you can hear it anywhere in the dorm, you go upstairs and work on your story. Someday you'll be Finished. You're not now. And in between times, you live here. This is the Popslash Works In Progress Dorm."
When the Golden Girls is done, all three AJs get up and leave. Pineapple Head and Justin jump to the closer couch and start playing Halo. Red-shirt Lance comes over and sits next to them. "Are we gonna watch Friends tonight?" Red-shirt Lance is from another story; he's been at the dorm since a week before Justin arrived. The three of them hang out all the time.
Justin nods. "Definitely."
Lance says, "Dude, so I had to take the elevator this morning, and then we sat around because Chris didn't show. So when we're done, I go looking for him, because you know, I want to be Finished --"
"I'll miss you, man," Pineapple Head says. "You're, like, one of my favorite Lances, ever."
"Well, you know." Lance looks down and blushes. Justin nods and keeps playing but he agrees. He hates the Lance in his story; he's a whiny little wuss who's obsessed with JC. Maybe Justin is just jealous; he is only a minor character. Lance says, "Anyway, so I find Chris, my Chris, and he's sleeping with some slutty Britney. He went over to the girls' side and just fucking went door-to-door looking for some slutty girls. He had a threesome with some Brit and Bobbie. I hate him."
Justin snorts. "Watch out, man, you never know when you might end up with a trickyfish subplot."
"No, I'm good." Lance leans back. "I mean, I wouldn't mind if it were you, man," and he nudges Pineapple Head. "But, he's not you. And he's really straight, so. I think I'm safe."
A summer 2002 Chris and Joey holding hands sit down on the couch. "Friends, right?"
Justin nods. Red-shirt Lance sits down on the floor next to him and rolls his eyes. It's hard not to laugh at the paired up guys, the shmoopy ones, anyway. Pineapple Head turns off the video game and settles in next to them. There's a big crowd for Friends.
People start talking during Friends and Pineapple Head nudges Justin. "Hey, if we go to room four, we can watch CSI after this. They watch CSI in there."
Red-shirt Lance and Justin both nod. It's just another Thursday.
When Justin wakes up the alarm by his bed is dinging. He rubs his eyes and pats his jeans. He checks his hair in the mirror and brushes his teeth. He's really lucky not to have a roommate. The Joey in his story is rooming with some Joey from a JoLa story who's a slut and keeps hitting on him. Justin sighs and walks to the elevator. It opens two seconds after he presses the button. Justin steps in, the doors close and up it goes.
When he gets off he just walks into the first open room. After a few seconds the white room shimmers and then it's a hotel room. A pretty non-descript one. Justin's heard other people talking about gaudy rooms and stories with lots of description, but that's not Justin's. JC and Lance come in and Justin waves. He didn't get much sleep, it must be three a.m. or something, so he just sits on the edge of the bed.
Then things start to happen. JC and Lance argue and Justin is shocked, then surprised. Then JC and Lance don't argue, they just snipe at each other and Justin is just annoyed. Then JC and Lance don't even argue, they just talk about things and get pissy with each other midway through. Justin wanders around and makes snide remarks. He really doesn't think much of his JC and Lance. There's rewinding and Justin can tell JC and Lance aren't cooperating. Justin's happy to cooperate. He's always happy to cooperate. He wants to be Finished. After an hour things have moved along and Justin hears the ding that means they're done.
He rides down with JC and Lance. They're holding hands again and looking at each other in that way. JC says, "I hate when we fight."
Lance nods. "It just sucks." They start kissing even before the elevator doors open again. Justin just rolls his eyes.
He wanders around the second and third floors, the common areas, until he finds Red-shirt Lance. He's in the poolroom, playing a platinum haired Lance. Platinum Lance twitches and then makes a good shot. Red-shirt Lance sighs and shakes Platinum's hand. "Good game, man."
Platinum nods. "Yeah, thanks." He walks out and Justin perches on the edge of the table.
Lance says, "Speed freak. I wonder when that story will ever be done?"
Justin says, "Yeah. He's on speed? I've never met a Lance on speed."
"Yup. Wanna play?"
Justin smiles. He grabs a cue and chalks the end while Lance racks the balls. Justin says, "I think you need a nickname. I keep thinking of you as Red-shirt Lance."
"Huh. I think of you as Justin. Okay, actually, Curly-hair Justin in the iron-on t-shirt."
Justin looks down. "Huh. I got a new shirt."
"Yup. I didn't know you liked Starsky and Hutch." Lance grins. "I never get a new shirt."
Justin takes the break. "So I think, you know, nickname."
Lance nods. "Okay, you can be JJ to me. Or JT? I dunno. I think of you as Justin."
"Yeah, I don't know. I guess Red-shirt Lance works."
"Until I get a new shirt." Lance grins. He's a better player than Justin and he wins all three games they play.
"What do you think happens when we're Finished?" Justin looks at Pineapple Head. He used to ask that a lot. He hasn't asked in a few months.
Pineapple Head sighs. "Nobody knows. Nobody here. I think, you know, it means you're complete. Fully realized. I think it would be like heaven. But people have different opinions, man. Ultimately, none of us know."
"I guess it's better than being Deleted." Justin shudders. He had a roommate for two days, a sweet and insane Brian, but one morning, while they were playing cards an alarm sounded Justin hadn't heard before, a low buzzing tone. Brian looked sad and then he shimmered and was gone. Deleted.
"Yeah. I worry about that, man. I'm nothing. I'm a page." Pineapple Head rubs his forehead. "But every few months, she calls for me and we do a little. I think maybe just a sentence or two."
Justin shrugs. "I like this, too, though. I mean, it's sort of pointless. But we get fed here and we watch TV and hang out. And I like some of y'all way better than the other guys in my story. Do you think when we're Finished we end up stuck with those guys? Like, for eternity?"
Pineapple Head says, "I don't know, man."
Justin looks over in the corner of the room and looks back at Pineapple Head. "Man, I wish someone would finish that story."
"Muttering Kevin's been here for a year and a half, man. He was part of that evil Backstreet vogue. God, he's better than Preacher Brian."
"That vogue must have sucked." Justin plays with his sneakers. He has really nice sneakers.
"Well, there's always the bad with the good. Most everybody's pretty nice, you know, even the AU guys. But there's always a few trends I'd really have rather skipped." Pineapple Head gets up and pulls Justin up. "God, man, no more metaphysics, let's go get some grub."
Monday night they're watching Seventh Heaven when a Joey wearing glasses and an AJ wearing Birkenstocks come into the room, carrying a sheaf of yellow paper. Glasses Joey says, "Hey, guys. Everybody? We're putting on a mixer. For everybody. Seriously. Wednesday night, in the auditorium on the first floor. Everyone's invited, it's gonna be fun. And Dr. Dre will be deejaying."
A fourteen-year-old Justin bites his nail and looks up at Glasses Joey and Birkenstocks AJ. He doesn't say anything. Pineapple Head says, "Come on. You two are straight and you're trying to get all the straight people in one room so y'all can get laid." There are all these straight people in the slash dorm, supporting characters trying to find each other so they can score.
Birkenstocks AJ grins. "Definitely. But this is for everyone. We're asking that people wear a wristband, we have thousands of them. Three colors: blue for looking for same sex, green for looking for opposite sex and red for I won't tell you, ambiguous or not looking. So it's an opportunity for everybody."
Two Howies in the back of the room get up and grab a flyer. A thirty five year old Chris leans on his cane and takes one as well. Pineapple Head says, "Well, okay, sounds cool."
Glasses Joey says, "Great. We'll see you there." He and AJ put some flyers down on the coffee table and leave.
Fourteen year old Justin looks over at Pineapple Head and says, "Are you gonna go?"
Justin smiles. "I guess we are."
"Music, dancing, lots of people, what's to miss?"
Red-shirt Lance pats L'il Justin's back. "Dude, you should come. You been here, what, three days?"
L'il Justin nods. Justin says, "It'll be cool."
The little guy looks down at his hands and then fiddles with his large t-shirt. "Well. I dunno. But, um. Wristbands. See, I have a secret."
Behind L'il Justin's back, Lance rolls his eyes. He says, "You have a crush on JC."
L'il Justin's eyes go wide. "Am I obvious?"
"No, kid, you're a trend." Pineapple Head slaps his back and turns up the volume for Everwood.
Justin looks over at L'il Justin. The kid looks ashen and he's biting his nail again. "Hey, it's not bad. I bet you're in a really good story, man. It's all the same story over and over again, everyone's writing the same thing. It's what the author brings to it. I bet yours is real special. There's some really good baby JuC."
Pineapple Head doesn't look away from the television screen. "Totally. Don't worry about it, kid."
Justin, Red-shirt Lance, and Pineapple Head meet up outside the mixer. They can hear the music through the door. People are milling around, the usual crowd. L'il Justin comes running up a few minutes after eight. "I'm sorry I'm late," he says, panting.
"S'okay." Pineapple Head ruffles L'il Justin's hair. "You ready to party down?"
L'il Justin nods. When they get to the door, Birkenstock AJ says, "Who wants what? Wristbands?"
Red-shirt Lance and Justin take blue; Pineapple Head takes red and L'il Justin stares. Justin rubs his back. L'il Justin says, "Blue. I think I'm blue."
Birkenstock AJ nods and smiles. "Good for you, kid."
Inside people have strung lights, there's slamming music and people are dancing in a tight group in the middle of the room. Justin nudges Red-shirt Lance. "Wanna dance?"
L'il Justin tugs at Justin's t-shirt. "Can I, too? I don't know anyone."
"It's just dancing, little man, you know how to do that." Pineapple Head waves as he walks to the bar so the three of them head to the dance floor. It's good music, really good and Justin dances close to Red-shirt Lance, grinds against him and laughs. L'il Justin does a little spin and looks down, blushing.
Red-shirt Lance says, "Okay, you two dancing machines dance away, I'm gonna get us some drinks."
L'il Justin says, "I want a beer!"
"Hah. Get ready for a coke, kid." Red-shirt Lance weaves through the crowd and Justin watches his ass, the blue of his jeans looks green with the lights.
Justin's done sex. He did sex and metaphysics for two months straight when he first arrived. He had sex with one of everyone, NSYNC, BSB, all the girls, a few of the crossover guys. None of the parents, that weirded him out. Like a checklist. Nearly everybody does it, after a month or two, according to Pineapple Head.
Then he moved on to threesomes and foursomes, which is how he met Red-shirt Lance. It was threesome voyeurism thing. Justin and a Diva Justin and a Platinum Lance on one bed; Red-shirt Lance was on the other bed with another Diva Justin and a Germany Joey. When the sex was done, the Platinum Lance ran off in some sort of homosexual shame, the two Divas left without saying anything and Germany Joey went straight to the bathroom. Justin said, "Hi."
Red-shirt Lance put on his shirt and said, "Hi. Is this your room?"
"Nope." Justin grinned. "Wanna go to mine and play cards?"
"Sure." Justin didn't have much sex after that. He felt like he'd done enough anyway.
Red-shirt Lance comes back with beers for Justin and himself and a coke for L'il Justin. L'il Justin sneaks a drink of Justin's and laughs, spitting beer out as he covers his mouth.
They dance for an hour almost, and Red-shirt Lance gets more beers, so by the end of the hour, Justin is almost humping Red-shirt Lance on the floor and L'il Justin is getting bolder with every JC that dances by. Red-shirt Lance hooks his arm around Justin's waist from behind and says, "I'm gonna find that kid some new friends. Don't go anywhere." His arm is strong and sweaty and Justin leans back against his chest. Red-shirt Lance is hard and Justin is nothing but happy.
Red-shirt Lance comes back leading a Germany Joey by the hand. Germany Joey is wearing overalls and has a blue wristband. Justin licks his lips. He dances away into a knot of JCs and Eminems and when he looks back L'il Justin is laughing and touching Overalls Joey. Red-shirt Lance sidles over and hooks a belt loop of Justin's jeans. "Hey, you," Red-shirt Lance says. He pulls Justin closer.
Justin turns around and throws his arm around Lance's neck. "You. You are the hottest Lance here, you know?"
"Dude, you've seen those space training Lances? I'm not all chiseled in stone like them." Lance grips Justin's waist. "I mean, I'm just model 2001 Lance. Not as built at all."
"But hotter." Justin rubs Lance's neck. "You're, like, my Lance."
"You don't like your Lance. Plus, you're a 2000 Justin, we're not exactly matched."
"I didn't mean it that way. Not, like, my Lance who is in my story. He's a dork. You're the Lance I like best." Justin hiccups. "I might be drunk. But you shouldn't let that, uh, make this declaration seem less valid."
Lance does this thing with his hips and their erections are rubbing against each other. "Declaration?" It's almost a purr. Except lower and growlier and sexier.
Justin says, "Let's not, uh, someone's room. I don't wanna be all tacky."
Lance laughs. "Everyone else is." Justin glances around and sees three couples at least having sex. A Bobbie is on her knees in front of a Dr. Dre and Justin blinks and looks back at Lance. Lance says, "My room."
They take the secondary elevator, hands all over each other. A Punk Britney and Tara are necking for three floors and Lance keeps glancing at them, giggling. Lance and Justin stumble out on the sixth floor and get to Lance's room. "Where's your roommate?" Lance's been rooming with a Diva Justin.
Lance grabs Justin's wrists and holds them above his head. "Let's talk about it later." Justin arches his back and nods.
The sex is great. Better than Justin had with all those Joeys, JCs, other Lances, Nicks, the whole list. Even better than with the other Justins, which should have been amazing. Lance takes his time, and he manages not to let go of Justin's wrists until right before he comes. Not that Justin ever wants to get away.
In the morning, Justin says, "Was your roommate Deleted?"
Lance shakes his head. "No, Finished. He went up the elevator and never came back. So I guess I get his stuff."
"Did he leave any stuff?"
Lance shrugs. "Not really. But I didn't, you know, Finished. I don't know."
Justin tugs Lance closer. "I hope you don't get Finished any time soon. I foresee that our relationship has taken a really nice turn."
Lance just smiles and does that thing with his hips again.
They find Pineapple Head around dinnertime. There's a real diner next to the cafeteria, something someone put together ages ago and now stocked with AU waiters and waitresses. When one gets Deleted or Finished, two more pop up. Four Joeys are cooking in the back and their waitress is a skinny Britney wearing cat's eye glasses. Pineapple Head orders coffee and a burger. Justin and Lance order the same.
"So, you two had fun at the mixer." Pineapple Head leers at them.
"Yes, we did," Justin says and pours sugar into his coffee. Lance is looking down and blushing.
Lance says, "You seen L'il Justin today? He hook up with that Joey?"
Pineapple Head snorts. "Yeah. He's not a virgin anymore, man, he tried to find you guys to tell you but he could only find me. He was very confused. But I straightened him out."
"I mean, he's still a virgin in the story."
"Which I said to him. I said, it's the story that matters, everything else is your off time. Don't sweat it. I tried to branch into the 'you're awfully young' discussion but he wasn't having that one." Cat's-eye Britney puts their burgers down and moves to the next table.
Lance says, "Totally. I mean, look at me and J. I don't want to be anywhere near the J in my story."
"Well, if you run into him, make sure to pass that on." Pineapple Head rolls his eyes. "Because, god knows, all this dorm needs is one more outside the story tale of true love."
"I wasn't saying that," Justin mutters.
"You weren't saying anything. You're just all glow-y and happy and spending all day in bed." Pineapple Head sighs. "Our time here is short, guys, most of us, most anyone's got is my four years and I could be Deleted at any time. Any time. Save love for being Finished, I say."
"You're one to talk," Justin says.
"I am. Man, I fell in love three months after I got here with the sweetest Britney. Then she was Finished, and I was heartbroken. I fell for a Joey after that, and then a JC. All Finished. And I just figured it out, man, no time for love. Even for me. Our time is short, wait for love when you're Finished." Pineapple Head frowns.
Lance says, "You're a downer. And we're not saying we're in love, we're just, man."
Pineapple Head sighs. "No, you're right. Maybe there's hope for you. Except there isn't." Pineapple Head stands up. "Man, don't let me bring you guys down. I'll catch you later?"
Lance says, "Sure."
Justin finishes his burger and doesn't say anything. Cat's-eye Britney comes back and gives them a bill. Lance looks up and says, "There's no bills."
"Do you think the food grows on trees? Just appears?"
Justin makes a face. "Basically. I mean, do other people pay their bills?"
Britney sighs and pulls at her uniform. "It's my second day. Are you gonna tip me if there's no bill?"
Lance takes out his wallet and puts a twenty on the table. "Consider that your tip, okay?"
She smiles and takes the twenty, tucks it in her bra. "Thanks, sugar."
As they walk out, Justin says, "How much money do you have?"
Lance shrugs. "For whatever reason, I've always had about a thousand in twenties in my wallet. I never need to use it, so."
Food in the cafeteria just appears. Pineapple Head said he knew someone, actually more than one, who stayed in the cafeteria all night waiting for it to appear, to see if someone did. But no one showed up, just a loud clicking sound every two hours. And then covered hot plates were full and warm with food. No one knows. Extra food for cooking appears in the storage closet for the cafeteria every day and the diner uses that.
Justin grabs Lance's hand and takes him up to Justin's room. Lance pats the carved nightstand. "This is nice."
Justin pulls Lance onto the bed. "Yeah, that carpenter JC made it. He made a bunch. He was pretty bored for a long time. Really sad to see that story Finished, I tell you what. But can we talk about something else?"
Lance pushes Justin back on the bed. "Or not talk at all."
Justin takes Lance down to the gymnasium on a Tuesday afternoon. There are three full basketball courts. Justin sighs. No one knows where they came from, even Pineapple Head. He says they appeared three years ago, a year after the dorm started. Justin shakes his head and squeezes Lance's hand. "Dude, this is fun."
Lance makes a face. "I suck at basketball."
A taller, slightly older Justin in a Celtics uniform starts clapping. When people are quiet, all twenty or thirty milling around in the gymnasium, he says, "Okay, you can sign up for teams over there on the wall. Today is practice and scrimmage; we do real games with refs tomorrow night. So sign up, and hopefully we'll see you tomorrow for the game."
Justin drags Lance over to the sign up for team one. "See, there's a space, this'll be fun."
"I honestly suck."
A taller, older Lance, shoulders past them and signs up for team two. "All y'all pop star Lances suck." He grins and walks over to Celtics Justin, the two of them talking quietly.
Red-shirt Lance signs up for team one, right under Justin. They both put their room numbers next to their names. Lance says, "Why are the AU guys always so pissy towards the rest of us?"
Justin shrugs. "Well, some of 'em are really disorientated. You know, it's 2003, TV shows, computers. If you were from some pirate story, wouldn't you be weirded out by it?"
"That guy isn't from pirate times." Lance laughs. "Are there, were there actually ever pirate times?"
Justin licks his lips. "I don't know, man. Bus school, remember?"
Team one is Celtics Justin's team; Justin always makes sure to be on his team. Indeterminate NBA team Nelly is a better player, really marquee level, but Celtics Justin is a better team player, a better captain. It's just a scrimmage, but Celtics Justin still passes to Red-shirt Lance a couple of times, even after Red-shirt Lance drops the ball. They scrimmage for two hours and then a glasses wearing Chris blows a whistle. He says, "Okay, everybody, we're done for today. See everybody tomorrow, same time for the games!"
Celtics Justin pats Red-shirt Lance on the back. "Tomorrow, right? Same teams for the game if no one's Finished or Deleted."
Lance nods. He rubs Justin's back and pushes him toward the door. "No problem. But now I want a shower." Lance dips his hand under the waist of Justin's shorts. Warm and sweaty.
Justin says, "Yeah, tomorrow, definitely." They shower in Lance's room, and fuck and shower again. In the dorm, the hot water never runs out.
The games are really fun. Lance does okay in the end and they're not playing Indeterminate NBA team Nelly's team, so they're actually close to winning. Coach Chris blows his whistle for half-time and announces the scores he's gotten from the refs. There's even a crowd in the stands, lots of high school AU kids, a group of Kellys with baby Briahnas in one corner. Justin wipes his face with a fluffy white towel from a high school nerd JC, and pats Lance's knee. "See, isn't this fun?"
"Are there cheerleaders now?"
Justin rolls his eyes. "Probably at least a hundred high school AUs, you don't think we got cheerleaders?"
Four teen Britneys in different uniforms and another twelve Bobbies, Pinks, Taras, Mandys and even a really skinny teenaged Dani come out and start a complex routine. Two male cheerleader Joeys and a male cheerleader JC help out as well. Lance rubs Justin's knee, his hand sweaty and warm. Justin leers at him.
Lance talks low and says, "Dude, notice the punkers in the corner? Poor rebellious fucks, they've got nothing to rebel against." Justin looks over at the group of boys in leather jackets, all of them smoking.
"I'm just glad the ventilation here rocks, because that would suck to have a whole cloud over the game and shit." Justin looks over at the door and says, "Oh, fuck, not him."
A wild-eyed Brian in tattered clothing walks to the middle of gymnasium and starts shouting. The cheerleaders stop and stare at him. "Fucking Preacher Brian, fuck," Lance says.
Preacher Brian shouts, "We are all nothing. We are pale sparks of an unreal fire, a fire that none of us can imagine or lay claim to. We are only reflections, pale, transparent reflections of nothing, of nothing real at all. We are nothing, we are immoral, we are wrong! This is a mirage!"
One of the punks, Justin thinks he's a Chris, maybe, comes up with a switchblade out, snarling. "I'll show you a mirage, you fucking freak."
A couple of cops come down from the stands but Preacher Brian just whirls around and screams in the punk's face. "Take me, prove I don't exist. None of us exist. We should all be Deleted. We should all be destroyed!"
One of the cops grabs Preacher Brian and hustles him out, pushes him out the door. The other one starts talking to Punk Chris, pulling him into a corner. Coach Chris blows his whistle and then calls out, "Let's start playing again, people!"
After the game, Lance and Justin go to Justin's room and shower. Justin sits on the bed and rubs his hair, pulls on his socks. Lance buttons his red shirt and says, "That guy creeps me the fuck out. I mean, who decides to write an anti-RPS Brian?"
"He wasn't like that in the beginning. Pineapple Head says he went crazy. Usually when someone goes crazy, the whole story just gets Deleted. But, you know, some bitch needs to clean her damn hard drive."
Lance blinks a little and rubs his neck. "It's just weird. You know? Like, I know our lives, being here, it's weird and it's best not to think about it, but. I don't think I'm a pale spark or something. I feel like a person."
"You are." Justin gets up and sits on Lance's lap, holds Lance's jaw. "You're very very real. Now, stop thinking about metaphysics and start thinking about what we're going to do tonight. Dude, you know as well as I do, that guy's a nut."
Lance looks down and rubs Justin's thighs. "I know. I know, man, but it's just lately. I think about shit because I think about you. We're both gonna be Finished at some point, Justin. What happens then? Do you think it's just another dorm, only better?"
"Do I think we'll be together?" Justin presses his lips together. "I don't know. Once I had a roommate, he was a sequeler. You know? He didn't remember anything about being Finished, and he didn't clearly remember being here before, but he said, he really wanted to be Finished. So, he'd been there. He said it was awesome."
"Sequel fucks always say that. I bet they don't even remember. I bet they just say that shit to feel all special." Lance sighs.
"Maybe. But who else you gonna ask?" Justin kisses Lance's forehead. "Let's, um, live in the now, okay? Worry about metaphysics later, okay?"
Justin wiggles in Lance's lap, rubs his neck with both hands. Lance looks up, smiling. "Man, you're convincing."
In the four weeks they've been together Justin's only gone up on the elevator once. He doesn't care, he's actually pretty happy about it. But Lance has gone up once a day for the last week and that he does care about. That worries him.
He doesn't say anything, though. He sits with Lance watching Friends, waiting for Pineapple Head to show up. He pokes Lance. "You seen Pineapple Head today?"
Lance snorts. "I spent all day with you, so if you haven't seen him, neither have I. You didn't see him while I was upstairs?"
Justin looks down and says, "No."
After Scrubs, they get up and walk to room four for CSI. Before they get there, Pineapple Head comes running up to them, L'il Justin trailing behind him. "Guys! God, I've been looking for you for the last hour."
Justin says, "Dude, Friends. Where else would we be? What's up?"
Pineapple grins so wide, his face might split in half. "Dude, I spent two hours up there today. And I went and I checked her lj, dude, she's set a deadline. She's gonna finish me. Me. Finished."
Lance says, "No way," and hugs Chris, picking him up a little. L'il Justin claps Pineapple Head on the back.
Justin says, "Go, you! Wow, man, that's awesome. How did you figure out which was her lj?"
"Well, you know, we've got all those, wait, just come with me." Pineapple Head grabs Lance's hand, and L'il Justin grabs Justin's hand. They both get dragged to one of the three computer rooms.
There's a glasses wearing Nick and leather clad Justin poking at a completely taken apart laptop at one of the tables, otherwise the room is empty. Pineapple Head stops in front of one of the laptops on another table, set to livejournal. There are five laptops hooked up to Livejournal by one of who knows how many hackers who've come through the dorm. They're all set to read-only but someone's cracked some code and from the computer room nearly all friends-locked entries can be seen.
Pineapple Head points. "I read all of them, have since forever. And I kinda narrowed it down, who mentioned a Chris story they'd been working on. So, look at that. Look!"
Justin reads over Lance's shoulder. The girl's written 'I decided to set a deadline for my solo!Chris piece. Not solo solo, but it's just Chris, thinking. Seriously, I've had this one since 1999. I should probably finish it. So, by the end of the month I will post this.' Pineapple Head is bouncing on the balls of his feet. "I'm going to be Finished, man. Me."
Justin hugs him and pats his back. "Dude, that's gonna rock." Over Pineapple Head's dreads, he sees L'il Justin looking sad. Justin completely understands.
Everyone makes out in the stairs. Lance and Justin are pressed into the corner of the landing between the tenth and eleventh floor. Lance licks Justin's jaw and starts unbuttoning Justin's jeans. Justin bites his lip so he doesn't moan and rubs Lance's crotch. Things are going pretty great.
Suddenly a twitchy Platinum Lance comes up the stairs and sits on the first step leading up to the eleventh floor. He licks his lips, staring at them.
Justin pulls back and says, "Can I help you?"
"Got anything?" Platinum Lance rubs his hands together.
Lance turns his head and then leans against Justin's shoulder. His warm, sweaty hand is just resting on Justin's dick; it's pretty fucking tortuous. Lance says, "We don't have any speed, dude."
"There'll be someone who will." Platinum Lance keeps rubbing his hands and looking around.
Lance whispers to Justin, "He's right."
"I know, but I don't wanna move." Justin kisses Lance. "God, fuck the little junkie."
Lance mutters something and shifts so all Platinum Speedfreak Lance can see is Lance's back. Lance starts moving his hand, up and down, gentle pressure on Justin's dick. It's wonderful, hot. Justin thrusts up, and tugs at Lance's jeans.
A low moan comes from a floor up, masculine. Lance grins and leans even closer, bites at Justin's ear. Justin says, "God," low and soft. He glances over at Platinum Lance, and there's someone else there. The stairways aren't very well lit, so Justin can't tell who it is. Platinum Lance puts something in his pocket, gets down on his knees in front of whomever. Justin closes his eyes and concentrates on his Lance.
They're grinding against each other, hands working in the same rhythm and Lance is loud, grunting and saying, "Justin, Justin" over and over again. When he's not, Justin can hear the Platinum Lance, wet slurping sounds. He thinks about his Lance. Justin and Lance come at the same time, and Justin opens his eyes, smiles at Lance.
Lance says, "Let's get out of here." Justin nods. They pull up their pants and walk down to Justin's room.
Lance goes straight to the bathroom and turns on the shower while Justin strips down and sits on the bed. Lance comes out after a quick shower and sits down next to Justin. He says, "No more making out on the stairs. I mean, that was creepy."
"That's usually the attraction to the stairs. But not so much this time." Justin wraps his legs around Lance's waist and pulls them both down on the bed. "All the druggies and the punks and the bad boys hanging out in the stairwells." Justin laughs. "What else do we got?"
"I don't need the bad scene," Lance chuckles and rubs Justin's calves. "God, speaking of bad scene, upstairs? Yesterday? So fucking stupid. I mean, whatever, I think it's a weird sort of Joey and Justin and JC pairing thing and I have nothing to do with any of it, but damn, I'm tired of just showing up and standing there while those three flirt and fight."
"We're just fucking supporting characters, man." Justin removes Lance's towel and throws it on the floor. He pulls the covers up over them.
Lance stares at the ceiling. "Pale sparks or something, right?"
"Maybe. I think, you know, I think we're more who we are, like, more like the people we're supposed to be because we're so, you know, undeveloped. Like, no overlay from the author or something. I mean, if we were more developed then the author would have put more of herself in us or something. I mean, we're just. They create us but they're using a template or something? And the less they fiddle with the template, the closer we are to the template. And we all have this time to be without them when they're not writing us. And even then we have ourselves, within whatever they're doing."
Lance turns out the light. "Maybe. Either way, I think I'm closer to Finished than I have been in a while." Lance sounds resigned. Justin swallows and rolls over, his back to Lance. They don't talk more before they fall asleep.
Justin gets the call and goes up the elevator for the first time in five weeks. It's long -- four hours according to Justin's watch. There's a lot of repetition, but things move forward. Justin feels listless and boring. He doesn't really care. It's JC and Lance who get all the focus so when Justin does feel like talking, he just doesn't. The scene keeps moving.
When he gets downstairs, Lance is nowhere to be found. Not in his room, not in the diner or the cafeteria. He must be upstairs. Justin goes to the bar next to the gymnasium. A slicked back greasy hair Joey works the bar. There's always a bartender, always a lot of booze. In the corner, Justin sees two Dr. Dres and a Pharrell passing two joints back and forth. He sighs and sits at the bar. Justin orders a beer and watches ESPN for a half hour.
Pineapple Head slides in next to him and says, "Yo, my main man."
Justin nods his head. "How are you? Still gonna be Finished soon?"
"Yup." Pineapple Head smiles. "Definitely. We're moving right along. I just go in there and think and jerk off. It's not that exciting, but I'll take it."
"You know, when you're gone, there's gonna be nobody to welcome people and nobody who remember things." Justin takes a drink of his beer. "Nobody to give us advice."
"I'm not the only old-timer here. I'm just the oldest." Pineapple Head shakes his dreads and the beads clink. He says, "And I'm not fucking this up so I get to stay and deal with you." He snorts.
"I thought you liked me."
"I do, you're rad. You know, it's taken a year to make the worst mistake you can make. Seriously." Pineapple Head pushes a bowl of peanuts over to Justin. "Don't make me say it out loud."
"Oh, I know. But he's so, I like him, okay?"
"Always ends badly. Always."
"Whatever." Justin sighs. "Look, I bet it works sometimes."
"It works. It works if you keep it in the story; make the writer make it a subplot. How you gonna do that? She's writing JC and Lance. And the Justin in Lance's story is paired up, too. It's not like you can find yourself another author." Pineapple Head glances over at Justin and maybe winks. It's dark in the bar, Justin can't tell. "Anyway, let's not worry about it, okay? Live for today."
L'il Justin pops up on Justin's side and grins at him. He orders a beer and the bartender just stares at him. "What's gonna happen? No one's gonna arrest you."
The bartender says, "No way." He pours L'il Justin a coke.
L'il Justin rolls his eyes and says, "Hey, guys."
Justin says, "Hey, man, how are you?"
"I'm good, I'm really good. My story's kinda stalled, but it's okay. I'm having a lot of fun."
Pineapple Head nudges Justin. "Smart kid."
L'il Justin kicks at the bar and starts talking about how he's been playing basketball at the games and he's seen Justin there and he's been getting laid a lot and he's been hanging out with Pineapple Head and he met these cool space pirates in the AU section and he goes on a lot. Justin nods at the appropriate places and thinks how it's all the same. He did all this, he met all those people, and it was all perfectly fine and now it's just not.
After two beers and a game of cards where Pineapple Head definitely cheats and L'il Justin doesn't notice at all, Justin goes up to his room and waits for Lance. He doesn't show up until morning; he was upstairs for six hours.
"I think you should write a book," Lance says to Pineapple Head. They're back at the diner, burgers and fries all around.
"Write a book. You were one of the first residents of this dorm --"
"I was like, the hundredth or something." Pineapple Head sighs. "I mean, there was a bunch of people walking ahead of me."
L'il Justin is eating with them and he looks up from his burger. "Huh? Tell me about that."
Lance raises an eyebrow. "See? You should tell everyone. It would be good."
Pineapple Head sighs. "Dude, this is gonna be so boring." He takes a sip of his coke. "Okay. So I woke up one morning, like we all did, in a dorm. Except it wasn't this dorm. It was actually bigger, even bigger than this one is now. And this one, you know, when I got here, when it was empty, it was only ten floors. How many is it now, seventeen?"
L'il Justin nods. "You were somewhere else?"
"Yeah. It was just like here, only. Not the same people at all. I think it was just, like, miscellaneous. There were Metallica guys, boybanders, and it wasn't just slash. Lots of perfect girls with long blonde hair and shit like that. Mary Sues. And random weird people, from like, TV shows. So it wasn't as homey, because the Mary Sues were awful to live with and the TV guys and the Metallica guys hated all us boybanders and there would be all these gay guys, Marty Stus, and just, man. Suck central. So I guess we were overcrowded. One day there was an alarm. Like you get to go upstairs, except we all knew, we somehow knew that wasn't what it was. So everyone gathered downstairs. And then there were these doors -- wide doors in the basement. And someone opened them and we all walked through."
Pineapple Head takes another sip of Coke and a bite of his burger. "I looked around and I realized it was just us, the boybanders and the pop girls. NSYNC, BSB, 98 Degrees. Brit. You know? There was a tunnel, with track lights and it was long. We all knew which way to walk, we all went right. And we walked for hours and hours. I think it was like ten hours. Then we came to a fork. There were two signs: one said slash with an arrow, one said het. And you know, again, we knew which way to go. Hell, there was no one else in my story and I knew, I followed the slash side. Another ten hours of walking and then we got here. The tunnel ended here. I don't think it does anymore."
L'il Justin said, "That wasn't boring at all. Dude, did it look the same? I mean, that was, um, four years ago now, what did this dorm look like? Was it different from the other one?"
"It was different because it was nothing. You know? It was a dorm. The TV rooms were here and the computer lab. And the gymnasium, the cafeteria. But everything else got added. The diner, some guys built that. The bar, the computer lab. All that shit. The nursery, after Briahna was born. That's all shit people built themselves, taking crap from upstairs and making it work down here."
Lance smiles. "Don't you think that would be empowering to know? You know, you can affect your environment. And stuff like that. Look, maybe writing a book would cut down on the crazies and the flip outs people have. Like an orientation guide."
Pineapple Head nods. "Huh. Okay. You know, let's give it a try. Just a try, man, don't go crazy."
They spend the next two days in the computer lab. Pineapple Head types out answers and Justin and L'il Justin edit. Lance asks questions, tries to get Pineapple Head to lay out all the stories he knows, how to make things work, ways to cope.
Other people in the computer lab notice them working on the book. A hippie looking Kevin says he knows where there's a copier stashed in one of the AU sections of the dorm. "Floor fifteen, man, it's a really powerful copier."
Justin goes up to check it out and finds an earnest Lance in a repairman's overalls looking over the copier. "Is it working?"
Repairman Lance nods. "Yeah, it's in great shape. I'm trying to figure out where to get more toner, though. Someone said that guy, Pineapple Head? He's writing a book or something."
Justin grins. "Yeah, he is. That's why I was checking." There are stacks and stacks of paper by the copier so Justin just nods again and leaves.
It takes a week to write the book and another three days for editing. Then L'il Justin and Pineapple Head spend two days printing and collating. Justin and Lance play basketball and fuck and help with the collating at the tail end of that. There are already five other volunteers there: two AJs, a young Kevin, and two Germany Joeys.
Pineapple Head holds the book in his hands and says, "Wow. This is really cool."
Lance nods. "Dude, it so is. And we can just put one in every room. Or two. So when new people come in, it's right there in the dresser. And then, you know, a stock of it in the cafeteria for when people lift it or something."
"We'll run out." Pineapple Head looks serious.
"We'll print more." L'il Justin smiles.
Justin spends a day going to every room on the sixteenth and seventeenth floor, putting the book in every unoccupied room and giving it to everyone who answers the door. When there's no answer and the door is locked, he just pushes it under the door. It's fun, it feels good to do something for everyone. What few answers we have, he thinks.
When he gets to the cafeteria for dinner, Lance isn't there. L'il Justin says he had to go up in the elevator an hour or so before he finished his second floor.
Justin blows off watching television and sits in his room, reading the book. He knows everything but he reads the section on 'love outside your story' again. It doesn't make him feel better.
Justin wakes up and Lance is there, sleeping next to him. Justin says, "You're going to leave me first."
Lance stirs and pets Justin's hair. He mutters something. Justin says, "It's okay, right? It's this. Our lives. If we have lives. So it should be okay. It's like, recreational that we fall in love outside the story because the story is real and the rest is, the rest is downtime. And you're not in my story and I'm not in yours." Justin sniffles. "This feels fucking real. I don't want you to go. I don't want you to ever be Finished."
Lance opens his eyes. He says, "I know. Me neither."
"You heard all that?"
Lance doesn't smile. "I know all that. I feel the fucking same way. I just. What are we supposed to do?"
Justin swallows. He rubs his eyes. "I was thinking, you know, Pineapple Head came from another dorm. I thought. We could try to go to another dorm, hang around, try to find another author. I don't know if it would work. But people here write weird people into stories. Maybe they do it in other dorms, with people like us. We could be in a crossover story."
Lance blinks. "If we're not here, if we don't go up, our stories could get Deleted."
"But, if. I was thinking, you know, we go to another dorm, somehow, hang out with some guys from a story and then they take us up to their story. We go up with them. If we're in someone else's story, then we couldn't be Deleted, maybe. Maybe?" Justin knows it's crazy.
Lance sits up and looks at the door. He's quiet for a few minutes. Finally, he says, "Okay. I mean. Maybe we could try? We could try. I mean, it can't hurt. I don't, I don't want to be here without you."
Justin sits up and hugs Lance. He's so warm and smooth. Justin says, "Yeah. We can try."
They decide to do it that morning. They both shower and get dressed. Lance finds a backpack in his room and they stock it with copies of Pineapple Head's book, their autographed copies, and food and drinks they take from the cafeteria. They walk down to the gymnasium, past Indeterminate NBA team Nelly shooting free throw after free throw. They find a dark corridor and then at the end, there's a set of wide doors.
Justin walks up to the first one and pushes it open. "Not locked. I don't know, I thought maybe they would be."
Lance shrugs. "It's not like we're being held prisoner or something."
They walk through the doors and there are steps. Uniform gray concrete steps leading down. The lighting is dim, but there's enough to see that the steps have an end. They start walking down. Justin says, "Sort of, though. We are prisoners. I mean, we can't go outside."
"But what's outside? I mean, we all have windows, but all I ever see out there is lawn. Endless lawn. It's not like you have a different view. And sometimes it's dark and sometimes it's light and it doesn't matter where you are in the building, you never see the sun or the moon or stars. No seasons changing."
"So we're prisoners by location. Like, stranded." Justin sighs. At the bottom of the stairs is a wide tunnel. It goes in both directions. "Pineapple Head said the tunnel ended with this dorm."
"They've built more." Lance looks at both sides. "He said they came up the left, right? I think we want to --" Lance stops. He turns and faces the stairs. "Okay, that's my left and we want to go the other direction. Not back, but forward. I think we have a better chance in the newer dorms. I was thinking, um, Smallville? They must have their own dorm by now. And a lot of them seem popslash friendly. I mean, from the ljs I've read."
Justin nods. "That's a good plan. Really, any of the newer fandoms, I think we're okay. Like, Due South, I think there we might be fucked. I've never even seen mention of a Due South popslash crossover. And Due South had to have had its own dorm in 1999."
Lance says, "Okay, this way we go." They start walking.
Justin checks his watch and then they hold hands. After a few minutes, Lance starts singing and Justin joins in. They sing Beatles songs, country songs Lance likes, things they've heard on MTV. They stop singing after an hour. Lance says, "It's so quiet."
"Yeah. I wonder. I guess all the dorms are really far apart. There's probably nothing above us. Now, I mean."
Lance inhales. "I think, if we get to Smallville, we should try, um, Lex? Find a Lex. He's rich, he might know rich pop stars."
"Yeah. We can try. That would be good."
They stop after four hours and drink some water, eat lunch. Lance says, "God, we're gonna have to just pee on the wall or something. It's not like there's been restrooms along the way, you know?"
Justin laughs. "I bet, I bet if there is, the grafitti is really interesting." Lance laughs.
After two more hours of walking, they hear something. Lance holds up his hand. "Do you --"
"Yeah, it sounds like talking?"
Lance presses his lips together and then keeps walking. "Well, we have places to go, come on."
The talking gets louder and then they see a man in a suit walking towards them, talking to himself. Or, there's no one they can see with him.
"Hi," Lance says, his voice cracking.
The man looks up. "Hi," he says. He holds out his hand and says, "I'm --"
Justin recognizes him. "Yeah, you're --"
"Sam Seaborn." Justin blinks. Rob Lowe, but no, right, it's the character. Justin and Lance shake his hand and introduce themselves.
"You're, those names are familiar." Sam almost smiles. He looks harried, exhausted. He doesn't have a bag with him and Justin wonders if he's hungry.
"We're in *NSYNC," Lance says.
"You, you have a dorm? I need to be in another dorm. I won't take it. I don't care, I don't care, you understand? I won't be in that story. She can't make me do those things. Josh says go along and Toby just sits there, smoking his cigar, and I won't do it. I won't do those things. I'm not doing it." Sam runs his hand through his hair and looks back over his shoulder. "I'm not doing it."
Justin says, "Yeah. Our dorm is right back there. I mean, it's another, um, six hours walking. Have you been walking long?"
"Ten hours." Sam sighs. "Okay, I can do that. I won't, she can't make me do those things."
Lance says, "Right. Um. Do you, we have some food. If you want?"
Sam says, "That would be very nice of you." Justin hands him a sandwich and a can of Coke. Sam says thank you and starts walking past them. He starts muttering again after ten minutes and they can hear it echoing.
"I guess he won't do it," Lance says.
Justin laughs. "Yeah, I got that impression."
After another hour, they just sit down. "I'm so tired," Justin says.
Lance reaches over and kisses Justin. He says, "You know, I. I really do love you."
"I love you, too." Justin sits next to Lance and holds Lance's hand. "Do you think this will actually work?"
Lance sighs. "I don't know. I miss everyone already. I even miss the stupid Justin in my story, you know? And it's like, god, what if it doesn't work?"
"I was thinking, a few hours ago, what if Pineapple Head gets finished and we don't get to say goodbye?" Justin starts munching on some carrots. Lance packed vegetables, it's sort of endearingly nerdy. He says, "Do you want to go back?"
Lance licks his lips. "Maybe. Do you?"
"Maybe this was a stupid idea."
"What do we do when we get back?"
Justin stands up. "Try to think of something else, I guess. I don't know. Live for today and just let things happen. I mean, we can't be dumb. We can't. We just, this is the hand we were dealt."
Lance looks sad. He stands up and says, "Okay. We'll think of something better." They don't talk on the long walk back and Justin doesn't say that no one's thought of something better before them.
Pineapple Head isn't Finished yet. Justin starts to tell him what they tried to do, but Pineapple Head just pulls Justin into his room and locks the door. He says, "I know. People have tried that before. You think you're the first?"
Justin says, "I know I'm not the first, we're not the first. We're not. But. I really love him and he loves me."
"Look, I know. And you have this time, right now. Don't waste it."
Justin sniffles and wipes his nose on his hand. He says, "But you'll be gone and then he will and then what? I just wait and wait until I'm Finished and hope he's there? I'm not gonna meet someone else."
Pineapple Head shrugs. "Dude, I have no idea. Okay?" He sits down next to Justin and hugs him. It's just too nice, it's more than Justin can take and he starts crying. He tries to stop but he can't. Pineapple Head pats his back and makes soothing noises.
Justin gets himself under control and says, "Thanks, man."
"No problem. I've been there." Pineapple Head gets up and hands him some toilet paper. "Wipe your face, man. I'm having a little party."
"I'm being posted tomorrow. I saw in her lj. Betas back, all work done. Sometime tomorrow morning." Pineapple Head smiles.
"That's great," Justin says and blows his nose. "Where?"
"At the bar. It's kinda invitation only, because, you know, suddenly I'm all high-profile with the book and stuff, and it's not like I don't like everybody but. You know."
Justin nods. He goes into the bathroom and washes his face. He stares at himself. Pale spark, he thinks. He's only got today and Pineapple Head is like his best friend. So, happy. He concentrates on happy.
The party is really nice. People buzz around and sing on tables and dance too much. Lance keeps his hand in Justin's back pocket and they kiss a few times, while L'il Justin claps like it's a show. At the end, Pineapple Head gives a little speech, just drunken ramblings about how he loves everyone in the room and loves the dorm. Lance walks Pineapple Head out and Justin stays to clean up.
In the morning, Justin waits by the sixth floor elevator. Pineapple Head lives on the sixth floor and there's a crowd when he gets there. People just sit, quietly, looking back at his corridor and watching the elevator. Lance comes up and sits by Justin. He leans his head on Justin's shoulder and doesn't say anything.
Then Pineapple Head comes out, with a little bag. He looks at everyone and just smiles. His eyes are wet. People start clapping and Justin isn't sure why, but it seems right. He claps, too, as Pineapple Head hits the button and the elevator opens. Pineapple Head turns and says, "Bye! Be good, everyone!" Then he walks in the elevator and he's gone.
A week after Pineapple Head is Finished, Justin comes down for breakfast at the diner and sees Lance talking to Preacher Brian. He stops and stares. Lance looks over at him and looks away. Lance keeps talking, low and quiet. Preacher Brian nods and nods.
Then Lance walks away and Preacher Brian rushes off. Justin says, "Hey, what was that? I thought he creeped you out?"
Lance glances away and says, "He does. He really really does. But, I promised. Pineapple Head. We had this weird long talk. Just, um, trust me?"
Justin looks at Lance. He says, "Okay."
He hears about what happens from L'il Justin. He's sitting in his room, back from being upstairs and some stupid scene where all he did was rehearse and dance while JC and Lance practically made out right in front of him. L'il Justin comes running in and sits on the floor. "Did you hear?"
"Dude, Preacher Brian. He went up in every elevator he could find today and begged to be Deleted. Just, he hit some people and shit like that and then he just stayed upstairs and went into every single room he could find just screaming and hollering and carrying on." L'il Justin licks his lips. "He didn't come in your room?"
"No. Seriously? Did it work?"
L'il Justin shrugs. "I guess. Or someone Finished him. I mean, he went into one room and never came back. But, I don't get it, I mean, he's still on someone's hard drive, right?"
Justin blinks. "Um. I think, it doesn't happen often. But um, Pineapple Head said once that sometimes documents get corrupted? For like, no reason? Maybe if the author tries to open Preacher Brian now, it'll be all corrupted. Not there anymore." Justin thinks. "Oh. Huh."
Lance knocks and then comes in the room. "Hey."
L'il Justin springs up and says, "Okay, I'll go, I get it." He runs out again.
"You told Preacher Brian to do that, didn't you?"
Lance grins. "Pineapple Head suggested it. There are things he didn't put in the book, Justin."
Lance sits down next to Justin and just smiles. Justin feels hopeful for the first time in weeks. Lance says, "I have a plan. Like when we tried to find another dorm and a new author. We don't need to leave the dorm. And Preacher Brian was our test case."
Justin sits by the elevator on the sixth floor all day. He takes notes. It's his sixth day doing this. He sits there all day and most of the night.
L'il Justin comes up and sits by him. "What are you doing?"
"Just taking notes."
L'il Justin looks down. "Are you, um, are you and Lance gonna be leaving soon?"
Justin sighs. "We're planning on it. But don't tell, okay? Like, don't talk about it."
"I'll miss you."
Justin reaches out and rubs L'il Justin's curly hair. "Dude. You'll be great. You'll be Finished and you'll be with your JC. It'll be great."
"Yeah." L'il Justin scuffs at the floor with his sneaker. "I don't think so. Don't you think, you trying to get Finished?"
Justin plays with his notepad. "Yeah."
"But what if it's not that great?"
"It's better than this. You know? Waiting for one of us to be gone, or whatever. I don't want that. And I don't want to wait for that to happen."
L'il Justin looks over at the elevator. "But you don't know. Maybe you're just gone."
"I'd rather be gone with him than here without him." Justin shrugs. "Or gone without him which is pretty much my only options."
L'il Justin stands up. "Okay. That, I get it. Do you, um, need help?"
Justin smiles. "Nope. We're not, um, doing anything until Monday. So Sunday night, we'll all have dinner at the diner, okay?"
"Good." L'il Justin grins and runs off.
Sunday night, after dinner with L'il Justin, Justin sits on Lance's bed. They pack another backpack. Justin reviews their notes. Lance says, "Picked a time?"
"I think we're best doing it at night. That's a hoppin' time."
Lance grins. "I agree. How do you feel about tonight?"
"I've said all the goodbyes I need to. You know, L'il Justin, the basketball guys."
"How'd you do that? We're not telling people, man." Lance frowns.
"I just said that I thought my story might be Finished soon. None of the other guys in my story ever play." Justin stands up and grabs Lance's shoulders. "Okay?"
"Okay." Lance sighs. He takes a deep breath. "Ready?"
"Yup." Justin looks back at the room and the blank view out the window. "I love you."
Lance says, "I love you." They hold hands and walk down to the elevator lobby on the fifth floor.
Sometime after midnight three people walk out. A 2002 Lance and a Freddy and a Chris. They're chatting and laughing. 2002 Chris hits the elevator button and Lance glances at Justin. Justin steps forward and whacks Freddy on the back of the head with a rolling pin. He stole it yesterday from the diner. Freddy grunts and falls. Lance steps up and punches 2002 Chris in the stomach. 2002 Lance is reaching for Lance and Justin jumps on his back, forces him down. Lance grabs Justin's hand and pulls him into the elevator. The doors close before any of the other three get up.
Lance pants. "That was exciting."
"Yeah, kinda easy pickings. I mean, you know, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Justin laughs and leans against the wall. "But you know, who hasn't beat up a Freddy?"
Lance hugs Justin. "Dude, we're gonna do this."
"Yeah, we are. I think, I think if we just follow the plan, the author won't notice that we're not quite the same years."
"I don't look that different from a 2000 Lance. I'm a little more buff, but you know, naked, or something, she'll just be focusing on the good stuff."
They get off the elevator and walk into the first open room. It's white, empty. Justin says, "Let's get to it." He grabs Lance's face and starts kissing him. Lance grasps Justin's ass, pulls him even closer. Justin opens his eyes and the white is brighter.
Justin starts licking Lance's jaw, holding Lance tight around the waist. The room starts to shimmer and it's a hotel room. Justin holds Lance tighter and whispers, "I think we're in."
Lance laughs and spins Justin around. He throws Justin on the bed, just a slight fall, and flops down on top of him. Lance says, "Let's be aggressive."
Justin can't stop smiling. "We're a story," he whispers. He tugs at Lance's shirt, almost rips it off.
"We are." Lance pulls Justin's pants off roughly. He settled on top of Justin and kisses him quiet.
They are a story. They kiss and lick and fuck and it's weird, Justin's never been a main character like this. There's rewinds and redos and twice Justin won't cooperate. He won't let go of Lance's hand and he won't bite at him. He knows Lance doesn't like that. Then they're done, panting and kissing, sweaty and naked on the bed. Justin rubs Lance's neck. "What happens now?"
Lance closes his eyes and purrs. "I dunno. I think we're done. I was hoping to be a PWP, I think."
"She hasn't closed the document. So. Let's see." Justin just loves touching Lance. "I love you."
"I love you. We say that a lot, man." Lance chuckles, louder somehow against Justin's chest.
"I keep thinking it might be the last time. You know?"
Lance shrugs. Then things move fast again, rewinds and little bits done over and over again. Justin says, "What's this?"
"I think it's the beta?" They're done again, just lying in bed. Lance kisses Justin. "I can't believe we made this work."
"We'll be Finished. Together."
"Yeah, whatever happens next, it happens to us together." Lance smiles, it's beautiful.
They're holding hands and staring at each other and the lights get brighter. Bright white behind Lance and his eyes are shining. Justin says, "I love you," Lance opens his mouth and there's nothing but white.
Back to StoriesSend feedback to Sandy.