by Cody

Lonestar, where are you out tonight?

"Hiatus," is what the official press release calls it. When you look that up at five a.m. one sleepless night that's turned one sleepless day, feeling stupid at the sudden urge to know exactly what this means, you find it in your dog-eared Webster's:

a gap or break, as where a part is missing.

And you think of Mark Twain-- you've always felt connected to him, because he had a pseudonym. Mark Twain, who was Samuel Clemens and was not Samuel Clemens. Like JC who is Josh Chasez and is not Josh Chasez. You know it's awfully pretentious and silly of you to feel a bond because you both have stage-names, but unspoken thoughts are where you're allowed to be pretentious and silly. Who's gonna stop you?-- that quote of his,

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

And you think "Hiatus" is the lightning.

A gap.

A break.

and missing parts.

This feeling I'm trying to fight.

He's been busy, you knew he would be. You expected that. Busy writing, recording, producing. You've been.

You've been not so busy.

Sleeping in late, going to bed early. Sometimes going out; sometimes staying in. Just being lazy.

Just waiting?

He doesn't call. Well, he calls. But not often. And when you do talk, it's of unimportant things. Like everything that's keeping him too busy to talk to you. And then someone interrupts or he has someplace to be and the conversation is cut short. If you could call it a conversation. It's more of, what? a list of excuses; a song that plays during the credits of a movie, when everything's already over and there's no reason to laugh or cry anymore, when the only thing left to do is walk away.

You tell him, "I miss you," and you're shocked at how much you mean it.

You never missed him so much before, even when he was dating Britney and never spent time with anyone unless she wasn't available. And it seems shallow, that you miss him for being physically absent, moreso than when he was mentally distant.

Maybe because back then, he could talk on the phone with her all day long, but it was your side he leaned against while they spoke. And he could write songs about her all he wanted, but it was your hotel room door he knocked on late at night to make you listen to him sing them. It didn't seem important that she had his heart, because you knew you were in there, too. You held your own special place, and you could reach out and touch him and see him smile and that was what she could never do.

She was someplace far and you were right there, and you wouldn't trade making him sigh wistfully for hearing him do it.

And now she's out of the picture and you're.

waiting for the phone to ring.

and the saddest part is that you know that even if it does, you won't be satisfied.

Its dark and I think that I would give anything for you to shine down on me.

You go to visit Lance while he's in Houston training at NASA, because it's not like you don't have the time. And you miss him and you want to support him.

And because maybe it'll take your mind off of what you've been trying not to think about.

Lance is Hardcore, Joey always says. And it sounds funny-- it is funny-- but it's also true. If he doesn't know you, Lance will kiss your ass and convince you that if you have a single fault, well, he can't see it. But if you're his friend, if you deserve his honest side, he's the person to go to for an opinion. Because he will tell you the straight, harsh, awful truth. And he's smart and perceptive enough to make those truths worth hearing.

Still, when he says, "Are you in love with him or something?" you think maybe someone spiked his Tang.

"In love with him?" disbelieving, because really, "No. God, Lance, why would I be in love with him?"

He shrugs and tells you, "It just seems like you might be."

So you tell him, "Well, I'm not."

And he says, "There are no endings. Only beginnings."

And you say, "Yhea fucking right."

How far you are, I just don't know the distance I'm willing to go.

It's just that you've always loved him, in so many ways, for so many reasons, through so many years. He was a crazy, endearing kid, with that gangly body and more talent than he knew what to do with. All arms and legs and goofy curly smiley head, such a friggin' dork but trying so hard to be cool. And then as a teenager, both dazzling and achingly normal; beautiful and adored, with pimples and crushes and a raging ego. Who seemed as afraid and confused by the world that was being presented to him on a platter as he was born ready own it. And now, as a man. Now he was still crazy, and endearing, and talented, and dazzling and achingly normal, and beautiful and adored.

But he was all those things far away from you. and you just wanted him to be near again. Because you were used to it, and you loved him. But that didn't mean you were in love with him. Just because you missed being close to him, the feel of his skin and listening to him breathe.

It didn't, did it?

I pick up a stone that I cast to the sky, hoping for some kind of sign.

You're only in Houston for four days, and save that first-night conversation there is no more discussion of whom you might or might not love. When Lance answers his cell on the third day, while the two of you are half-watching porn and half-gossiping about who in the industry you think has had plastic surgery, you start to get up to go to the bathroom

and then Lance says, "Oh, hey, J," and you sit back down. Sit tall and still and intent, listen to Lance's side of the conversation and the murmur-buzz of Justin's voice through the line. You can't make out Justin's words, but when Lance says, "Yhea, he's here with me...just watching movies, right now," you go lax, slouch back against the couch under the weight and release of conflicting emotions. If Lance notices, his expression doesn't betray.

After he hangs up, he puts his phone back in his pocket and asks you if you think Michelle Pfeiffer's had Botox? and you smile and remember why you call him your brother.

That night you drive to Galveston, because it's only an hour away and you feel like seeing the ocean. Lance has a rental car, a 12-pack of Budweiser, and a big bag of cherry Twizzlers going for him, so you take him along. He makes you drive but you don't mind. It's a weekday so there aren't many cars there, and that plus your jackets and hats and the very dark night make you feel safely anonymous. You park near a dock that no one else it at and climb the steps up, walk out onto it.

"Watch for fish guts," Lance says, setting down the beer and taking one out for each of you.

You don't bother answering, just pop open your can and take a long, long drink. Feel it run from the corners of your mouth, down your chin and neck and wet your shirt. You don't care.

You sit in silence for some time, maybe twenty minutes. The waves are enthralling, gorgeous and complicated and wild. Lance hums a song you don't recognize; you try to hum along anyway. After a while he says, "What are you gonna do this whole time?" And you'd been waiting for that, because you're all workaholics, and he's probably wondering how the hell you've gone this long without doing anything mildly productive.

You finish your beer, belch, grin, shrug. "What is there to do?"

"You could make music," he says. "You want to."

"Why do you always think you know what I want?" you argue, but you can almost hear the songs already.

He slaps at his arm, studies his hand. Slaps at his neck and then again at his arm. Grabs the case of beer and stands up. "I'm getting fucking bit; let's get out of here."

"I don't want to go yet," but you're following him down the dock steps. He goes to sit in the car and you walk out on the beach, not close enough for the water to touch you, because Galveston water is fucking dirty, but the waves are

so beautiful.

and you just want to be closer.

Beneath your feet is the crunch of sea moss and driftwood and litter, the slide of seashells and rocks. You stop, and the toe of your right shoe is pressed against a stone. You nudge it, reach down and pull it out of the sand, let it sit in your palm and roll your fingers around it.

You're looking up at the sky, at the stars that are brilliant but unreachable. And the vision crosses your mind of someone standing on the beach, right here where you are and tossing dreams up at the night. And of those dreams burning bright so far away, unable to be realized by a human touch ever again. Because they were let go. But look how eternal they shine, and wouldn't it be selfish to hold onto them and keep them from such a glorious destiny? And maybe they drift back down to the dreamer in due time? Or must they be pulled?

Do stars fall on their own? you wonder.

And then Lance is honking the horn and flashing the headlights at you, and you laugh.

You throw the stone up at the night, out over the waves. Then turn and head towards the car and don't look back to see where, if, it lands.

You'll wait and be surprised.


for Joie's Norah Jones Songfic Challenge

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