Author's Notes: This is one of the stories that I got inspired to write while in Hawaii. There are going to be a whole bunch of them. Some are just ideas that hit me in the new environment. Some of them are inspired by moments during the trip. And some of them are actual events that happened to me. This is one of those. I'll admit, Lance is a Mary Sue here, because everything he thinks and feels is what I thought and felt when it happened. However, I don't think he's out of character, so please forgive the Mary Sueing. The only part of this fic that didn't actually happen (to me) is JC's part.
Lance sat on the beach, in the shade, decked out in hat, sunglasses, bathing suit and sun block. There were definite disadvantages to having pale skin, and burning easily was one of them. A little ways down the beach JC was stretched out on his beach towel. Predictably, he was sleeping, a shirt thrown across his eyes to block out the bright sun. He'd probably wake up burned, despite the sunscreen he'd slathered himself with. Well, mostly himself. He'd had Lance do his back, which had been a sweet kind of torture that Lance strongly suspected would be reappearing in his fantasies.
The other three guys were swimming. The five of them - minus bodyguards for once, since the beach was well hidden and deserted - had hardly hit the sand before Chris, Justin and Joey headed for the ocean. "You can catch sun anywhere," Justin had said as he ditched his towel, "when do we ever get to swim in the ocean?" Which sounded silly, because they lived in Florida and were surrounded by ocean. The thing was, all the beaches in Florida were public and well occupied. Crowds plus fame do not equal a relaxed day at the beach, so Justin had a point.
Out in the sea Chris was trying to teach Justin and Joey to bodysurf, without much success. They didn't seem to mind, though. Every time a wave rolled them they'd pop up out of the swelling water and splash each other playfully before attempting to catch another breaker. "Hell with it," Lance muttered, standing. "If I burn, I burn." He hadn't been swimming yet, and today was their second to last day off. So what if he always seemed to burn worse under water? He was missing an opportunity. Besides, he was wearing SPF 30.
The waves surged and ebbed around Lance's ankles as he walked into the water. The little wavelets had a surprising amount of pull, but he resisted them easily. The water got deeper surprisingly slowly. Even out where the guys were bodysurfing Lance found he could still stand on the bottom. Except when a wave lifted him, of course. Then he'd be pulled off his feet and tossed around a bit, but it was easy enough to keep his head above water if he remembered to keep his back to the breakers.
Chris spotted him and yelled something Lance couldn't make out over the crashing of the waves. Chris' gesture was clear enough, inviting Lance to join in the lesson. Lance gave it a shot, but the waves kept breaking over his head and drenching him with an uncomfortable volume of salt water, so he gave it up and swam aimlessly for a while.
Reaching down with his toes, Lance felt the sandy bottom but couldn't quite keep his feet. He was getting tired of treading water. "Better swim in," he said to himself. "Don't want to get too tired out here. These waves are strong." Stretching, he found the bottom and pushed forward a couple of steps. The wave that had been building crashed around Lance's shoulders and he gasped, spitting out the saltwater that had invaded his mouth. "Gotta keep and eye on those things." Struggling forward, he suddenly found himself almost immobile. The water was sucking backwards to build a new wave, pulling hard against his tired legs, preventing him from approaching the shore. "It's not that far away," Lance muttered to himself, a little irritated by his slow progress. He tried lifting his feet from the bottom and swimming for shore, but that was even worse. Without any anchor the retreating waves had their way with him and it was hard to get a clear lungful of air above the undulating surface.
Regretting the lost steps, Lance put his feet down and tried to walk again. His legs really were tired now, that weak kind of tired that he'd wanted to avoid out here. Glancing up, he felt kind of embarrassed at his struggles, but prepared himself to ask one of the guys for a hand.
He was alone.
Searching the coastline, he finally spotted them almost a quarter mile away, still bodysurfing. "Shit," Lance muttered, trying not to think about the fact that he was alone. "How'd they get all the way over there?" Eyes on the beach, Lance realized that he couldn't find their spread of blankets, which mean that he was the one who had drifted. "Reasons why they make you swim with a buddy when you're a kid," he said to himself, ignoring the little voice that was wishing he had a swimming buddy now.
A wave crashed over him. For a moment all Lance could see was green water and white foam. He hadn't had a chance to take a breath - his lungs burned. Fighting upward, pushing against the bottom that seemed cruelly ephemeral to his feet, Lance broke the surface and gasped in air for a moment. The ocean was already tugging at his legs again, warning of a new wave. Not thinking, Lance glanced over his shoulder and caught it right in the face. Sputtering out seawater, he gasped for air for a moment, trying to move forward at the same time. Again the dragging suction on his legs. "No," Lance moaned quietly, anticipating the burning lungs, the panic when his feet lost their grip, the pull out to sea. He took a deep breath at the last moment but the desperate lungful didn't seem to relieve the tightness in his chest. Lance fought his way to the surface once more and cast a longing glance to where three of his bandmates swam, oblivious.
Deadly suction pulled on his legs. "Not again!" Lance cried, but no one heard him. He walked hard, feet flat on the sand now, though the waves still lifted him. His heart was pounding. He was breathing too fast to satisfy his body's craving for oxygen and every wave threatened to drown him. Lance wanted to call for help, but it seemed so stupid to cry out when he could still touch bottom. 'Don't they see I'm having trouble?' he thought, gasping in the aftermath of another wave. Suction on his legs. "Oh, God," he moaned, dreading the crash of surf. His legs felt too tired to hold on. No sooner had he gasped in a lungful of air than the water was tugging on his legs again. Were the waves coming faster?
Lance's legs gave out. The wave snatched him up and rolled him. Where was the bottom? 'Oh God,' Lance panicked. 'Where's the bottom? Where's the surface? I can't breathe. I'm gonna drown. Oh, God, I'm gonna drown.'
Just then two things happened. Lance's toes snagged the bottom and a warm arm slid around his waist. A moment later his head broke free of the surf. Lance gasped in the air. The arm around his waist anchored him, helped him ride out the next wave while he calmed down. Glancing over, Lance saw it was JC and would have laughed in relief if he hadn't been fighting tears. "Jace," he gasped, but couldn't say any more.
"Come on, Lance," JC said, "We've got to get back to shore." Nodding, Lance put his own arm around JC and together they fought against the waves and the pull of the retreating water. Minutes later the water only surged around their ankles, but it didn't even occur to Lance to stop and rest until the sand was dry beneath his feet.
Finally secure on the shore, JC half holding him up, Lance started trembling. Embarrassed, he couldn't bring himself to look at JC, but he couldn't stop shaking either. "Hey," JC said quietly, "It's okay." He put his other hand on Lance's shoulder, an arm still around his waist, and turned Lance towards him. Lance gave up. He rested his forehead against JC's shoulder and leaned into him, not crying but shaking violently. "Shh," JC murmured to him, "it's alright. I've got you." For a long time Lance just let himself be held.
Eventually he pulled back. "Thanks," he said, a little embarrassed still, but needed JC to know how much it meant for him to be there when Lance had been so scared.
"Any time," JC smiled a little.
"How did you know?" Lance asked after a moment. Glancing down the beach he could see their bandmates still swimming. "How did you know to come, I mean."
JC shrugged and started walking back towards their towels. "I woke up and couldn't find you. I got kind of worried, which was probably stupid, because just because you're not in my line of sight doesn't mean you're in trouble, but I was worried anyway. Then I saw you a long way from everyone else, a wave dunked you, and I just started running..."
Lance put an arm around JC and hugged him sideways. "Thanks," he repeated. He pulled his arm away reluctantly, afraid to linger too long but needing to touch JC, to know he was there. A moment later he felt JC's hand resting in the small of his back. JC caught his sidelong glance, smiled somewhat sheepishly and shrugged but did not remove his hand. Lance leaned back into the touch for a moment and felt an odd little thrill that JC seemed to need contact as badly as he did.
They reached the beach towels just as Chris emerged from the surf and plopped down on hi. "Hey," Chris greeted them, smiling. Then, to Lance, "Have fun?"
Lance blinked, wondering what Chris meant by the question. "Not really," he responded bluntly.
"Yeah, the waves are pretty strong," Chris commented and stretched out on his towel, apparently finished with the conversation. For a moment Lance was still. Then he snatched up his towel, shoved his feet into his flip-flops and stalked off through the trees fringing the beach.
JC, who'd been taken by surprise, caught up with him just as he reached the cars they'd brought. "Lance?" JC asked, concerned. Lance said nothing, just slid into the driver's seat and hesitated a moment, silently inviting JC to join him. JC got into the passenger side and waited out the ride to their hotel.
Lance was silent, even once they got into his room and he'd thrown himself down on the bed. "Lance," JC tried again, "I'm sure he didn't mean it to sound like-"
"It doesn't matter what he meant!" Lance exploded. "He saw me and either didn't notice or didn't care that I was in trouble!"
JC lay down on the bed next to Lance, propping himself up on one elbow so that he could watch the younger man. "Chris knows you're a strong swimmer, Lance. He probably thought you'd be fine."
"Maybe," Lance allowed, "but it was almost worse to be alone out there than it was to think I was going to drown. I was scared, Jace. Hell, I was terrified. I was alone out there and I didn't think I was strong enough to make it. When you put your arm around me I just relaxed, even though I couldn't breathe yet, because at least I wouldn't be alone when I went...Jace?"
Lance rolled onto his shoulder, reached out and caught one of JC's tears on his fingertip. "Jace, what's wrong?" he asked, scooting closer so that JC could lean up against him.
"You weren't the only one who was scared, Lance," JC admitted, and buried his face in Lance's chest.
"You were fine out there," Lance replied, confused, but stroking JC's back soothingly. "I was the one too tired to-"
JC shook his head against Lance's chest. "No, no, no," he broke in, his words muffled, "I wasn't scared for me, Lance. I was scared for you. God, running down that beach all I could think was 'What if I don't get there in time?' What if the next time you went under you didn't come back up?" Lance, stunned, could only hold JC closer as he went on, almost babbling now. JC slung an arm around Lance's waist and couldn't seem to stop talking. "Half a dozen times I thought I'd lost you. I thought 'I'm gonna lose him to a fucking nap.' I thought I had forever, you know? I thought I could afford to wait to tell you, and every time you went under I cursed myself..."
"Jace," Lance murmured, head bent, speaking into JC's hair, "tell me what?" JC stilled in his arms. "Jace?" Lance became concerned. The question had been almost casual. He hadn't expected it to strike a nerve. "Jace? Tell me what?" he stroked the back of JC's neck unconsciously.
JC lifted his face from Lance's chest. His eyes were red rimmed and his cheeks tear stained, but his expression was an odd mixture of determination and fear. The arm he'd looped over Lance's waist tightened in the moment before he spoke.
"I'm in love with you."
And then he waited. He made no excuses, no pleas, he just laid his head down on Lance's shoulder where they lay and waited.
"Jace?" Lance was whispering.
"I love you, too."