nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

An Empty Cardboard Box

Inspired by the strange mating of a Calvin and Hobbes sequence and this story.
Thanks to Jaciesplace and Madame_D for the swift and helpful betas.

"Where's your key?"

Why, Justin asked himself, had he volunteered for this particular duty? He hadn't been the only one available, and escorting a giggling drunk wasn't exactly his idea of a fun time in Vegas. Hell, if he'd realised this was in the cards, he'd have gone somewhere else. At the very least, to a different hotel.

A quick, efficient frisking brought the key card to light, and he opened the door and hauled his wobbly charge through.

Lance staggered towards the bed and collapsed onto it, face down. "Thanksh."

"Oh, for fuck's sake." Justin moved closer, and prodded Lance in the ribs. "Get up. You can't fall asleep now. You have to get those clothes off." He tugged, and Lance, groaning, fought his way into a sitting position.

"Justin?" Lance looked up, huge green eyes bloodshot and weary. "Sorry. Really sorry."

"Yeah, well, you should be."

"Sorry. Sorry. Haven't got Liar any more. He wouldn't have done it. Stupid."

Justin thought about asking what the hell Lance meant by that, but decided it wasn't worth it. He dropped to his knees instead and wrestled Lance's expensive shoes off. "Come on, genius. See if you can take your own socks off."

"You know who's a genius? That Bill... Bill what, what...?"

"Bill Gates?"

"No, no!" Lance waved angrily. "Bill Watterson! Genius! Duplicator."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yeah, you do. Must do. Calvin and Hobbes. Funnies. Calvin gotta big empty box, turned it into a duplicator. Made lotsa Calvins. Genius."

Calvin and Hobbes. Right. Justin didn't think he'd ever seen Lance quite this drunk. He really, really wanted to get out of this room and back to the sanity of the casino. But even though he was still somewhat pissed at Lance, he couldn't leave him alone in this state. And, sigh, Lance was still rambling on.

"Duplicator, man. Really works. I did it. Way back."

"Sure you did. Come on, get those pants off."

Lance giggled, inevitably. "Not tonight, honey. 'M a bit drunk."

"No kidding."

"Justin?" Lance grabbed him by the shoulder and looked into his eyes with inebriated earnestness. "Didn't mean to, though. Really. But 's only this me left. Sorry."

Justin sighed. "It's okay. Just, you know, next time, think before you post that shit." What did Lance need to bother with a MySpace account for, anyway? It was just asking for trouble.

"Yeah. Try to. But. Party Guy doesn't really, you know. You know."

"No, I don't know. Fuck, Lance, it's not much to ask, is it?"

"He went to Russia, you know. The clever one. Math Geek. And Stubborn Dancer, think he went, too. Huh. Should have taken Mr Organised but. Forgot. Or something. Didn't work out. Nobody wants Math Geek, and nobody wants Stubborn Dancer. No more dancing now."

"No, no more dancing. Don't worry about it."

"Not worried. Nobody wants to dance, only me. I can't, but. Doesn't matter anyway. Only Party Guy left, and he can't do that stuff. Sorry. Maybe Dreamer didn't fly away, maybe."

"Dreamer?" Justin was uneasy about this.

"Dreamer. Duplicate. You know. Told you, I made a duplicator. Wrote it on the closet, sat in the closet. Hee! Closet! Lance in the closet, lots of duplicates came out. Hee!"

Dammit. This wasn't ordinary drunk, this was weird shit and no mistake. Justin wished, for the first time in... in a long while, that Chris were here. Chris might have a clue what Lance was talking about.

"One to do the smart stuff. One to be what y'all needed. One to make things work. One to tell lies. One, um, can't remember. Others. You know." Lance was looking up at him expectantly, like he thought Justin would understand. Justin thought maybe he was beginning to understand, and he wished he didn't. This was more than too much vodka. If Lance was saying what it sounded like he was saying, Justin was way, way out of his depth here, like he'd been ambling along in the shallows and dropped off the continental shelf.

"Sure," he said helplessly, patting Lance on the shoulder. "But y'all are drunk right now, so, um, you should drink some water. Y'all will feel better in the morning."

"No, no, 's just me now. Trans—trans, thing. Used it. You know? Like Calvin."

"TransCon?" Help! Justin thought wildly.

"No! Trans, transmogrifier! Yay! Thassit. Put them in transmogrithingy and they turned into birds and flew away. Math Geek and Stubborn Dancer and all that. Them." He looked woeful. "Just Party Guy left now. I do stupid stuff. Like a puppy. Sorry." He raised an unsober, uncertain hand to touch Justin's cheek. "Love you, man. Didn't mean to, you know, fuck up, but 's only me now, and I don't, I'm not much..." He fell slowly back onto the bed, eyes closing. "Maybe shoulda kept... but nobody wanted them, didn't need..." His features loosened into sleep. Asleep, Justin thought, Lance looked whole, like the strong, self-confident friend who'd sung and toured with him and aimed for the stars. Awake...

How could this have happened? And he hadn't known?

Still on his knees by the bed, Justin wiped a tiny thread of drool from Lance's mouth, blinked furiously to dispel the moisture gathering in his eyes, and wondered what the hell to do.



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