That Simple
by Cody

Your relationship with Lance is simple. Not like JC and Justin, who are always either fucking or fighting. "Basically the same thing to them," Chris says.

It's not even like Chris and Justin, because there's an underlying tension between them. A silent struggle between the oldest and the celebrated youngest; a dichotomy of mutual respect and resentment. You and Lance have nothing to prove to each other.

It certainly isn't like the friendship between Chris and JC; a strange bond formed through the common importance of Justin in their lives. Chris is his best friend and JC is his…not really sure what to call it. They're weird with Britney. When she was with Justin, they took an avid interest in her, were very nice to her but loved to berate her, each for their own reasons.

JC liked to say stuff like, "I'm not gonna dye my hair too much…I don't want it all fried like Brit's." Then Chris would add something in the way of, "Fried her brain, too, not that there's much of a difference." He used to take such pride in how Dani wasn't just pretty, she was smart, too. Lance told you he thinks that's why Chris put her in charge at Fu-Man and part of why he was so upset when they broke up…because he'd lost that edge on Justin.

Now Britney's history and everyone makes fun of her, but even when they were an item Justin didn't care what was said about her. If it was Chris, he usually just made a noise like, "Who're you to talk, you womanless old geezer?" but when JC said something, Justin jumped on it, crowed, "Ooh, JC's jealous!"

Which earned him a withering diva-glare. "And you love Bobbie?"

"Pfft. You mean Hagatha Horseface?" Then he'd get huffy and want to touch JC for a while; sitting by him and playing with his hair and blowing in his ear. Justin used stereotypical jock-moves you thought were cheesy, but JC seemed to like it. After a few minutes, they'd disappear to find someplace private.

Chris would roll his eyes, say something crude about Britney and how Justin should pass around the goods if he's not planning on using them himself. Lance would have that look on his face he always gets around Justin and JC. Kind of…jealous, but not. You guess he's just lonely.


You always look out for Lance, always stick up for him. Maybe not when Chris and Justin gang up on him, because sometimes that's funny. And you're not above participating in a joke that he's the butt of, but when it counts, you're there for him.

Like when the guys pressure him about dating. Stupid JC is always trying to set him up with this really nice guy, he owns his own gyms or a frickin' hot Asian art dealer who sold me that sculpture in my den. You stick up for Lance then, always, cutting in so he doesn't have to answer JC's appeals. "He's not interested, Jace. Leave him alone."

Because he's your best friend. You look out for him.

But it's not like Lance is a saint, that's for sure. You came over one afternoon uninvited, because you always come over uninvited, and you were surprised to find he had…company. He opened the door for you and you barged in bearing Boston Market take-out. "You hungry, man? Let's watch a movie."

He'd stood there, still holding the doorknob, his free hand messing with his hair nervously. You said, "What?"

He looked towards the kitchen doorway, and that's all it took to send you barreling through it, feeling kind of keyed up, if that made any sense. And you stopped short when you saw him.

A guy.

A guy, sitting at the kitchen table, eating a bowl of buttery grits. Wearing Lance's clothes; a pair of boxers and his Gwar t-shirt.

Technically, your Gwar t-shirt. Lance had never even heard of Gwar outside of their cameo in Empire Records. You'd given him that t-shirt because he liked it. It was worn and faded from black to gray and had a hole near the hem, and he loved it because it was soft. You loved it, too, but you'd let him have it because. Because he'd wanted it.

And now here was this guy, this random grit-eating guy sitting there wearing your soft shirt. And what the fuck? You turned around, bumping into Lance, who'd come up behind you so quietly you hadn't noticed. You brushed passed him roughly and he followed you. "Joey."

You spun on him, and you didn't know why but you think you're angry. "Who is he?"

"No one," Lance shrugged. "Just... a friend."

"Did he spend the night?" You've never been one for euphemisms but you didn't want to say it.

"Yhea, he." Lance looked off at something over your shoulder and above your head. "Yhea."

You didn't say, Where'd you find him? or Do you even know his last name? or anything like that. You held that back. But somehow you let slip, "You let him wear my shirt?"

"I-- I'll," Lance's complexion was doing something weird; his cheeks tinted bright red and everything else even paler than usual. "make him take it off. "

"No, fuck it," you said, because you knew you shouldn't care. You're just being stupid. "Fuck it. Doesn't matter."

"No." Lance shook his head, stepped forward and took the Boston Market bag from you. "I'll make him take it off."

"He's leaving?" That's rude, you know it. You should've told Lance you wanted the guy to stay and watch movies. But you didn't want him to. And Lance's your best friend, you're allowed to be real with him, even when what's real was selfish.

Lance smiled at you, and you remembered why you give him your soft t-shirts. "Wait in the living room. He was just on his way out."

So you went to the living room and spread out on the couch. And convinced yourself that he really was on his way out.


You want Lance to find a nice guy, you really do. You want him to be happy. It's not your fault that everyone he chooses is a jerk. It's not your fault that you see them for what they are. Jerks.

Or just... not right. You see them and know that they're not what Lance needs. There was that redhead who threw hissyfits that put JC's to shame, and the Australian surfer dude who had the IQ of an egg. That one guy from Kentucky with the godawful accent and lopsided butt-chin. The stock broker who said, "know what I'm saying?" every five seconds. The three blondes in a row who all cheated on him. And that last one, he was okay, you guess. But good lord, so scrawny. Who wants a guy that scrawny? From the neck down he looked like Calista Flockhart's long-lost faternal twin.

"You gotta kiss alotta frogs," you tell Lance, when he's sighing into a Bacardi Silver after breaking up with Girlyboy.

"Seems like they're all frogs," he says, leaning against you and tipping his head onto your shoulder.

You reach up and ruffle his hair. "Don't worry, man. I'm here for you." You lift your Budweiser at him. "I'm beer for you."

He laughs, and See? He doesn't need a man to be happy. He's got you.


Lance is there for you, too. Always there to pick you up from wherever if you're too drunk to drive home. Always willing to be your alibi when you stay out all night without telling Kelly ahead of time.

So his place is where you go when you finally leave the hotel Sugar Ray's staying at while they're in town. You're not too drunk to drive anymore, having passed out on the floor and caught a few hours sleep. You don't call Lance until you're parked in his driveway. He answers on the third ring and you tell him where you are. He says, "Come on in."

He unlocks the door for you and you follow him into the kitchen. You plop down at the table and he brings you coffee. You know you reek of smoke and alcohol and indiscretions, but he doesn't ask so you don't tell. He just sits down across from you to read the paper. Then he seems to remember himself and the old Southern manners kick in. "You eaten?" he asks, getting up hastily.

"I could eat," you tell him. "Whatcha got?"

He goes to the pantry to check. "Whatcha want? I could make something."

"Something hot," you say, because the warmth of the coffee feels good in your stomach. "Grits?"

He shows you a box of instant grits, shakes it. "Coming right up."

You pick up the funnies and drink your coffee. It's a good morning.


Grits aren't half bad, really, with maple syrup on top. You scrape your bowl clean and grin at him when he gets up to clear your dish. "Good?" he says, rinsing it out in the sink.

"Yup." You rub your tummy happily. "Can I have some more coffee?" He looks at you. "I mean, 'slong as you're up."

"You're pushing it, Fatone." But he brings the pot to the table with the fake frown he wears when he's trying not to smile.

He leans down to refill your cup and you kiss his cheek, maybe too close to his mouth. He stills, looks at you and you realize you're giving him the puppy dog expression usually reserved for when you've done something bad. He kisses your cheek back, quickly, like he can't help it, and then pushes your face to the side. You move with his hand, letting your head turn like he's slowly slapping you. Then you're staring at him intently, feeling like you're about to pounce. Like you want to pounce. He's staring back, and you're shocked and pleased and shocked that you're pleased that he's trembling, just barely, holding your gaze. He says your name like a prayer.

For a second it's like the whole world's stopped breathing, and then you laugh abruptly, and it's over. He laughs, too, and turns to put the coffeepot back on its warmer, shaking his head and humming; his voice honeyed with amusement. You think about hanging around for a while, but remember you're supposed to take Briahna to the zoo later, so you'd better be on your way.

"I gotta go. Taking the kid to the zoo today," you say, getting up.

"Okay, have fun." Lance turns around, leans against the counter and smiles at you. "Give her a kiss for me."

"I will," you say, and it's just that simple.


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