Lance wasn't sure why Chris had chosen him for this particular escapade, or why it required flying 17 hours to a town in the far north of Norway, and he told him as much. Well, the second part, anyway.
"Because I wanted to get away, like a complete change from every hot and sticky place I've been lately, and every hot and sticky vacation spot I could think of."
Lance thought there was something to be said for hot and sticky as he shivered and pulled his wool coat closer around him, but instead he said "If you wanted cold, couldn't we have just gone to Canada? It's a lot closer, and everyone speaks English there."
Chris just rolled his eyes and put down the suitcase in his hand to unlock their cabin door. "Culture, Bass. I didn't just want to visit the 51st State."
Lance chuckled. "You better not let Karen hear you say that." He tossed his coat on the couch and made a beeline for the thermostat on the wall, then turned to see Chris slowly hanging his own coat in the closet, eyes downcast.
"Um, yeah. About that...."
"Oh. Oh, Chris. I'm sorry. I didn't..."
"Nah, it's okay." Chris shrugged and forced a smile, though it came out a little crooked. "You know how it is. It's bad enough when you're never in the same state, and we were in different countries. I don't know what we were even thinking."
"Doomed from the start," Lance agreed softly.
"Something like that."
So Lance decided that's probably what this trip was mostly about, and he did his best to indulge Chris in whatever he needed to do to forget and feel better, until Chris told him to stop.
"You know," he said over dinner the third day, "you don't have to agree to everything just because I suggest it. This isn't a pity trip."
"No!" Lance was quick to protest. "No, I know it's not."
"And it's not a fuck her out of my system trip, either, so you can stop sending girls over to me in the bars."
Lance choked on his wine and wiped his mouth before saying "Sorry. I'll stop that."
"Really though, Chris, I'm having fun."
And he had enjoyed the Arctic Cathedral they'd visited that morning, especially the huge stained glass window, though he thought the winery tour that afternoon might have been a little more in JC's ballpark. Chris gave him a skeptical look and he rolled his eyes.
"Look, I have no idea what there even is to do here. You've obviously put some reading into this, so I'm happy to follow along with whatever you want to do."
Chris said nothing, merely nodded, and when Lance came out from a shower later that evening there was a stack of brochures on the coffee table. Chris had apparently raided the resort's main lodge.
"Pick something for us to do, man," Chris said from his spot curled in the chair by the fire.
Lance groaned. "Chris...."
"Seriously. Tomorrow, I'm all about you."
Lance read the brochures carefully and tried not to think about why he liked the sound of that so much.
They ended up going on a boat tour. This was apparently a fairly popular thing to do, judging by the number of tours to choose from, so Lance had chosen one from the neighbouring town. It would let them see a little more countryside on the way, he reasoned.
They waited on the dock for the captain to bring them and the other 20 passengers aboard. Lance tugged his toque lower on his forehead when a family with teenaged daughters joined their group, though wearing the hat in the first place had been more about the cold than any need for disguise.
"I'm surprised," Chris said, watching him. "I thought you'd have chosen something indoors, after all your whining about the weather."
Lance smirked at him. "Culture, Chris. Where else would we get to see fjords?"
Chris eyed him for a moment, then decided he was serious and broke into a slow grin. "See, I knew you'd come around. I was going to have us do one of these anyway tomorrow, so I'm glad you picked it. This book I read said the views are different than any you'll see anywhere, and if we're lucky, we might even get to see some whales...."
Lance allowed Chris to guide him up the now-open gangplank with a hand on his shoulder, still talking. Chris kept rambling about everything they saw along the way, guiding Lance to each new view with an arm around his shoulders to point along his line of sight or a hand on his back to turn him in the right direction. Lance soon toned out Chris' actual words and just listened to his voice, happy and excited.
"Lance? Lance!" finally broke through his awareness. He blinked and looked at Chris.
"I lost you there for a minute."
"Oh. Sorry, I was..." lost in your voice "...thinking."
"Thinking? About what?"
Lance shrugged. "It's... Oh, wow, look...."
Chris followed his eyes and grinned. "Whales!"
A crowd soon joined them at the side of the boat to watch the huge animals breaching the surface a few feet away, keeping pace. Chris and Lance leaned shoulder to shoulder against the railing, quiet, Chris apparently having talked himself out, or too awed to speak. Lance missed the sound.
By the fifth night, Lance was getting restless without his laptop, which Chris hadn't let him bring. He managed to get an hour in on his cell phone before Chris took it from him.
"C'mon... Chris..." He reached for it, but Chris was holding it high with one hand while keeping Lance at arm's length with the other. Lance finally stopped scrambling and sighed. "Chris, I have businesses to run."
"And plenty of people back home to run them while you're gone." They stared each other down for a minute or two. "Are you planning on keeping this up for long, because the blood's running out of my arm, and I think I might be dropping the phone soon..."
"Good, I'll get it back then."
"...and I'm not really sure it'd survive a fall from this height..."
"Don't flatter yourself."
"...y'know, it might just break into thousands of itty-bitty pieces, and oh! You wanna bring out the big guns now, blondie?"
Lance glared a moment longer before sighing again. "All right, I won't make any more calls tonight."
Chris lowered his arm slowly. "You'll turn it off and put it away."
"I'll leave it on for incoming calls only." Chris' arm shot back up to full height. "Fine, I'll turn it off."
"That's the spirit, Bass." Chris tossed the phone at him and smiled easily, then grabbed both their coats from where they'd been left on the couch. "Now come outside with me, I'm watching for the Northern Lights."
"Chris, you can't see Northern Lights unless it's dark out, and the sun won't set again for about another five months."
"Hmm, you have a point. You can still sit on the deck and enjoy my sparkling wit while we see how weird it is for it to be light out at..." he checked his watch... "12:35 at night."
Lance shook his head and sat on one of the deck recliners. "The smallest things amuse you, don't they?"
"And yet you still wonder why I like you so much."
Lance just scowled and ducked before Chris could ruffle his hair. They sat in silence and watched birds swoop through the sky, blue overhead but with shades of sunset oranges and yellows at the horizon. Lance checked his watch and admitted to himself that it was kind of neat. The weather had changed that morning so it wasn't quite so cold out anymore, either. He'd never say either out loud, though.
When he heard light snoring from the chair beside him, he went inside for some blankets. He covered Chris with one, then burrowed as deeply as he could under the other, trying to block out the light. The next thing he was aware of were morning sounds in the area and fingertips lightly brushing his forehead.
He blinked slowly and turned, but the fingers left.
"Morning," he heard from beside him.
"Breakfast is ready."
Lance realized he could smell bacon coming from inside the cabin. "Mmm, thanks."
He stretched himself to full wakefulness and nodded through a yawn. "You?"
"Yeah, it was nice. Warm." Chris fingered the heavy blanket still rumpled on his chair. "Thanks."
"Any time." Lance smiled sleepily at him.
Chris gave a tiny smile of his own before heading back inside to finish the food preparation, leaving Lance alone on the deck.
Lance looked around at the bodies dancing throughout the smoky club, feeling more in his element than he had all week. They'd been to a few bars, but no dance clubs. It was one of the most popular clubs in town, as recommended by the resort's desk clerk, and it was also their last night in Norway.
"Two o'clock, red skirt," he said casually as Chris rejoined him from a trip to the bar.
Chris glanced in the direction indicated and shuddered. "I prefer to remain disease-free, thanks."
It was an old game, played in clubs to pass the time. They picked out people as prospective dance partners, suggested take-home dates, or occasionally targets of ridicule.
"Okay," Chris said, "twelve o'clock, blue shirt."
Lance coughed. "I'd hardly call that a shirt."
"Whatever." Chris waved his hand dismissively and prompted Lance to answer.
"She's cute... but the guy she's with is better."
"Oh you think so?"
Lance waggled his eyebrows with a smirk and took another sip of his drink.
"All right, if you wanna go there." Chris scanned the room for a moment. "By the bar, grey shirt."
"Enh, he's not bad. Blonds aren't really my type."
"Not for you, Bass, for me."
"Oh! Uh..." Lance's eyebrows shot up, but he recovered quickly. "In that case, go for it. I think I saw him checking you out earlier."
"You're not just saying that so I'll go over there and make a complete ass of myself and you can laugh at me and have good stories to tell the guys later."
Lance laughed but he shook his head. "I'm serious. I would've said something at the time, but I didn't think you'd be interested."
Chris watched the man. He seemed to be considering, his dark eyes still but his body tensed and leaning forward slightly. After a few moments, he finally leaned back and relaxed in his seat.
"Nah," he said. "He wants me so bad, he knows where I am."
Lance tried to ignore his feeling of relief.
Chris flung himself across the couch, limp but thrumming with energy. He always needed to wind down after a night at a club, Lance knew this, but there was no TV in their cabin. So Lance sat on the other end of the couch and made conversation. Tried, anyway. After fifteen minutes of rambling, he ran out of unimportant topics. He wasn't sure he wanted to try the important ones, but there they were.
"Um. So." He started, faltered, and started again. "Tonight, when you. Well, back in Europe. I mean *before* in Europe, years ago."
Chris sighed and raised an eyebrow at him. Get to the point, his look said. Okay. Lance took a deep breath and got to the point.
"I saw that guy coming out of your room, and when I asked you about it, you said it was just a phase. Were you just trying to protect me, because I was so young? Because I could've handled it, you know. I mean, not that it's any of my business, but-"
"No," Chris cut in to stop Lance's rambling. "No, it was pretty much a phase. Um, just a long phase. Like about 30 or 70 years, I'm thinking."
"And, actually, that might have more to do with Karen leaving me than the distance and the schedules, per se."
"What, she couldn't handle that you like men too?"
"No, she couldn't handle that I liked one particular man."
"See, I thought I was hiding it pretty well, or *denying* it, as she claims, but apparently she saw past my wily ways, and she realized that I wasn't into her as much as I was into this cute blond I know with great eyes and this really deep voice...."
"Oh...." Lance turned a bright crimson, and the butterflies in his stomach felt like they were starting up an aerobics class. He looked at Chris and wondered when he'd moved so close on the couch.
"Hey, don't be getting all embarrassed on me, I never said it was you."
He looked down at his hands, but looked back up again when Chris cuffed him on the side of the head gently and said "Dork". And then Chris kissed him quickly, just a press of dry lips against his.
Lance wondered when his vocabulary had deserted him, but then it didn't seem to matter so much because Chris was kissing him again, with tongue this time, and really, oh.
He finally got a few words together, and he pulled back only long enough to say "So just so we're clear..."
Chris chuckled against his mouth. "Yeah, Bass. It's you."
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