Logs:A Near Miss Is Still a Miss

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A Near Miss Is Still a Miss


Characters: Ian and Lance
Date: 2020-01-26
Summary: A while back, Lance met Ian for drinks. Things almost went a way, but some people can't decide what they want and ice cream turned out better... worse? It's fine, they're confused, too.
Disclaimers: {{{disclaimers}}}

Disclaimer: discussion of sexual themes.
<text> Ian to Lance: So, about that drink?
<text> Lance to Ian: Who's this?
<text> Lance to Ian: Sry I just don't know the number. <upsidedown smiley>
<text> Ian to Lance: The guy whose voice you compared to Christian Blake. ;)
<text> Lance to Ian: Ohhey!
<text> Lance to Ian: Sure where?
<text> Ian to Lance: <insert bar name here>. Would be nice to see a friendly face in the crowd when I go up.
<text> Lance to Ian: Omw 20 min
<text> Ian to Lance: No rush, I'll wait

The bar is a bit of a dive, but it is the /last/ place Ian would be recognized in - they do hard rock here. Ian doesn't fit in, but no one's bothering him yet - this isn't a gay bar, and some of the crowd is a wee bit rough. He's gotten snide remarks, but since he's not stealing anyone's girlfriend, he's probably fine - at least until he opens his mouth later. There's a two-drink minimum, so he's already sitting with a drink made of red slush that smells like fruit punch and whiskey.

--

About twenty-five minutes later (maybe even thirty), Lance is in the door of the bar, fumbling his wallet to pay the cover, flash his I.D. and make it in as quickly as possible. The trouble with public transportation is that it's reliably unreliable. Readily recognizable in his purple and gold letterman jacket and worn jeans, a rip in one knee, Lance hasn't bothered to dress up, but at least he's still easy on the eyes?

His blue gaze is searching the faces in the crowd, and if he's surprised by what he sees, there's only a slight dip to his brows briefly that might indicate that before they land on Ian and a wide smile lights his face. He manages not to be a total fanboy and get that smile under control to something still warm but more reasonable as he approaches the singer. "Hey. I'm glad you texted." The words aren't fancy, but they are genuine, even if his demeanor carries the trace of nerves in small fidgets before gesturing at a seat before helping himself into it. It's almost like he waited to be invited. Almost.

--

Of course Ian is keeping an eye on the door, and he smiles at the sight of Lance. "Hey." A nod of invitation - permission granted to sit - and he straightens up a little. "Two-drink minimum. If you're driving I can drink yours but I'm lightweight." He actually smirks. "Then again, I'd rather not have to be peeled off the floor in this place." Maybe he ought to text Buster too, make this seem like it's not a date... which it's not, but Buster's more interested in his twin than in him, which is fine, and... complicated much? Ian gestures towards the bartender. "Go ahead and order, I'm buying." Unless Lance changed his mind.

--

How does Lance feel about being bought the drinks? Isn't that usually the dude's job? Then again, if Lance's clothes are anything to go by, he's not exactly flush. They're serviceable, but if he has a sufficient sort of income, that income is being sent somewhere that he doesn't have ready access to, or at least, not for nice clothes. There might be a beat of hesitation, but the blonde's chin dips in accent, "Thanks. I'm taking the bus, so." That's fine, though perhaps there's just the slightest touch of a blush as he admits it; buses aren't exactly the kind of transportation a person wants to flaunt to someone they want to impress.

His order gets placed for two drinks when the server comes around - for efficiency, and perhaps for fewer interruptions, but their arrival gives him another reason to look around and squint at the crowd before looking back to Ian. "Come here a lot, Ch-?" He asks, though the tone is mildly skeptical, until he cuts himself off, brows dipping. "What do you like to be called?" At least he's a smart enough blonde to have put together incognito with not using Ian's 'real' name. He never did get it last time.

--

"Ian," Ian says quietly, and smiles in approval. Up on stage, some idiot is droning along to an old Nirvana song. "I have a twin, by the way. His name is Abel. That can be important sometimes." Hmm. He props his chin on his hand and eyes Lance thoughtfully. "Help me think of a good rock song that'll please /this/ crowd with some decent range to it. The Immigrant Song, maybe?"

--

"A twin?" Lance's eyebrows lift and his head tilts a little to look at Ian, drawing his lower lip into his mouth and chewing it over while he shifts his elbows onto the table and folds his arms. "That... yeah, that's good to know. I mixed up twins once. Didn't go well." He shrugs it off though, thinking. "Immigrant Song's good... Zombie's a little down beat, but good." He's still thinking, obviously, but he still asks, "So what do you do now, Ian? When you're not singing for fun. Is that better? For fun instead of for money and whatever?"

--

Ian /grins/ at that. "You'll have to tell me about that twin mixup," he invites, and then answers the question, "I take care of people - and cats. Mostly cats, the people take care of themselves." A bright smile. "I never sang before I came here. Forget what you heard on stage. My voice was stolen from me. It wasn't me up there. It was created to be some... idol, I think." A shudder and he looks away. "Singing is fine, it's just a little like work - but apparently all that stage training paid off." He drags his attention back and sips his drink, then commands, "Now tell me about the twins."

--

Well. That's... okay, it's weird. But musicians are 'creative types,' right? Maybe Ian's speaking in some complex metaphor that Lance just isn't following. He does seem to be distracted from the matter of song selection by trying to work this out. After a few moments, he nods slowly. "Alright." Lance probably figures Ian means that they just autotuned his voice to death and made him sing a bunch of stuff he didn't connect with and-- one thing Mortals are great at is creating their own truth to cover up the unbelievable; this jock is no exception.

"A little like work is probably better than a lot like work. They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, but I'm pretty sure that's just something people say." Look at how many miserable Millennials are out there still searching for their 'true purposes.' Lance doesn't seem concerned though.

His drinks arrive just in time though, because this story requires he take long swallow of the Jack'n'Coke. "I was at this party freshman year. I'd just started on the swim team a couple months before and just had my first win. It wasn't quite an after party, but the whole team was there, celebrating or whatever." He takes another sip. "And I met this girl. Since you said you're queer as fuck," thankfully he drops his voice to say that part, "I won't bore you with the details," a hand does briefly make an expressive curvy gesture to indicate which details he means, "but we start talking and decide to meet upstairs. She wanted to fix her hair or something, so I start heading up and then get talking to my bro about the meet and this chick comes back and starts talking to me, only it was weird because I thought she was waiting for me upstairs," and he was going to probably let her or did let her, rather, since this must have been the twin.

"Anyway, I ended up taking her upstairs and then got slapped by the sister for not realizing. It sort of made my reputation for the semester, which is pretty twisted if you think about it, but thinking about things can get you into trouble so..." Maybe he tries not to? About some things. His blue eyes flick nervously to Ian's face, perhaps trying to gauge if that was an okay story to tell, if it was boring or exciting or-- who knows. Does it help or hurt that he adds, "The sister forgave me after we fucked, though." Time for more of his drink.

--

That whole story has Ian smothering a laugh, one hand over his mouth, his blue eyes sparkling. "Sounds like you're quite the player," he teases. "No wonder your reputation was made." One finger taps his lower lip, then he sips his red slushy drink thoughtfully before adding, "The question is, did you sleep with both of them or was that just everyone's perception?"

--

Lance isn't embarrassed by the story, but maybe he is a touch abashed. His tongue flickers over his lips, wetting them before he takes another sip of his drink and shrugs. "I guess. I mean, I don't really date. But some girls like the way I look and that I'm on the swim team." Who wouldn't like the muscles that gorgeous Lance has in his possession? A blind person, until they touched those washboard abs, probably.

"I'm kind of just riding the wave, I guess." He glances to gauge Ian's expression before he adds, "I mean, they both wanted to sleep with me, sooo..." Who was he to say no? Then he leans just a little toward Ian in the air of conferring a confidence. "I'm pretty shit at talking to people. But I look good fucking up." And he can laugh at himself, so there's something to be said for that. This time he doesn't actually laugh, but he does grin. Then, suddenly, as inspiration hits, "Oh, you know what's a good one? 'Are You Ready' by Disturbed." Back to the song choice.

--

Fucking up? There are some phrases Ian doesn't understand and he makes a mental note to google that one later - but right now he's eyeing Lance speculatively. "The problem is, my musical education's a bit stunted. I don't know that one. I do know the band, though." His brows furrow and Ian thinks about it for a moment. "Down with the sickness... hmm. No, that's not them. Is it?" Lance gets an uncertain glance. How in trouble is Ian right now for not knowing them that well?

--

"It is," Lance's eyes light a little bit as he offers the confirmation, colored with not disapproval, but pleasure - being able to do something or say something smart or helpful is a boost to anyone's ego. "But if not them... Headstrong by Trapt? Blow Me Away by Breaking Benjamin? Jekyll and Hyde by Five Finger Death Punch?" He rattles off a few more options searching Ian's face for any recognition. Maybe the kind of music performed here is Lance's kind of music, judging by his ability to recall names of songs and bands now that the alcohol is loosening his tongue a little. Maybe even more than the Christian Rock of Ian's fetch. "If you were interested, I could send you some recs now that I have your number." He's probably filled in for himself the reasoning behind Ian's lack of familiarity: this wasn't the kind of music he was encouraged to play, so why learn it? Mortals. So good at explaining things to themselves.

--

"Oh god," Ian murmurs, and looks just a bit helpless and overwhelmed - not a single one of those titles hits his recognition. "Uhm. Hang on. Try..." A pause, a thoughtful wrinkle of his nose. "Try twenty years ago." Good mortal, explain it all away - at least until Ian does something truly bizarre. "Send me all the recs you like but unless you've got earbuds, I'm not going to know how to sing them." He winces. "Maybe I should've picked a quieter bar - but this one, nobody recognizes me in." He might be wrong about that, he's gotten a glance or two.

--

"Twenty years ago... Uh." That's not a promising start from the LSU student who reaches into a pocket and withdraws his phone. It's not fancy and the screen is cracked, but hey, it still works, right? Sort of. Lance taps at it ineffectually and then finally it responds and he pulls open a basic browser to prompt him. Even as he searches, he adds, "I do have earbuds," what Millennial doesn't carry a set? "But... I mean, that'd be kind of fast to learn a song on the fly, wouldn't it? Even for someone with talents like yours?" He's not meaning to be insulting, but within the next few minutes would be fast for anyone, right? The search does yield some prompting. "Oh, okay." It's to what he finds on his phone. "There's Linkin' Park. I always liked Crawling even if other people liked other parts of that album better."

--

"Put them in, match the music to the karaoke machine, play and sing along." Ian shrugs just a little, then brightens. "I like that one! I /know/ that one - at least part of the way." Out comes the phone that's the opposite of Lance's - rose gold, no case, stunningly beautiful iPhone. Ian begins digging up lyrics. "This is good, I think I can do this." He looks up and /beams/ at Lance. "Thanks, that was helpful." And then he pops forward to kiss the man on the cheek.

--

Pale blue eyes follow the phone as it comes back, perhaps briefly hinting at a touch of envy, his own getting slid back into his pocket. If Lance is envious of that gorgeous piece of technology, it doesn't show in his voice when he starts to reply, "Good, I'm gl-" and goes still and silent when the kiss touches his cheek. His eyes steal around the room because maybe someone saw that. Maybe someone cared? Does he care if they cared? The conflict trots right across his expression for a moment before he tilts his head enough that those wavy locks hide his face from the greater world, if not completely Ian as his cheeks turn ruddy with blush and he picks up his glass and takes a swallow. What was that mantra of his? 'I'm straight, I'm straight, I'm straight.' It might be going on now even as he steals a glance toward Ian, his lips pressing together lightly. "This isn't a date," right? That's what they said. "Just... making sure I'm not reading into anything." Hello Awkwardness, my old friend.

--

.oO( Ian rolls 7 Dice )Oo...................................................o.
 Roll: Presence + Empathy + 2
 Result: Success (3) -- (10 1 8 2 3 8 6 4)
.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.
<regain> Ian regains 3 points of his Glamour pool.
<spend> Lance spends 1 point of his Willpower pool, for being harvested from.

There's a pause, and then a glance back and a wicked, playful, warm little smile. "What. You helped me, I'm allowed to express my appreciation. Dates are for when things get serious. I'm not ready to date. Sex is a whole 'nother animal." And then he goes bouncing off towards the stage, a spring in his step, to pick out the song from the list of what's available.

--

There's so much in that sentiment that fits right in with Lance's own philosophy about sex and dating that it's pretty unnerving to have it coming from Ian, for whom Lance's feelings may be described as 'mixed' for the simplest terms. Mixed, but now less intense than whatever he was feeling in the moment that's passed. He blinks at the singer. His mouth opens to reply, but Ian's gone, heading for the stage and Lance's Adam's apple bobs as he swallows whatever words he thought he had to say (does he even know what they were going to be?). Maybe looking briefly like a fish out of water was inevitable. He picks up his drink and downs the last of the first before going to work on the second one, though his eyes quickly find themselves drawn back to Ian as he selects his song.

--

.oO( Ian rolls 9 Dice )Oo...................................................o.
 Roll: Presence + Expression.Music
 Result: Success (4) -- (6 10 8 3 6 10 5 1 6 8 4)
.o...................................................oO( success (public) )Oo.
Exceptional because Nightsinger Kith; Lance takes Swooning Condition.

Let's see. Have a little fun with this one. The pitch is varied from the usual notes, about a fourth of an octave lower than normal - which gives Ian something to play with, range-wise, as rather than singing exactly like the original singer, he harmonizes. The original singer's notes /are/ in there, but they're easily explained away as part of the music, because Ian's actually singing two parts at once, and no normal human being can do that, so the mortals' minds tend to eat the weirdness and explain it away as 'that's just the song'. It's a long song, which gives Ian an excuse to play it differently with every rendition of the chorus. By the time he descends from the stage, he's flushed and smiling, sparkling blue eyes hunting for Lance.

--

It's not just the song. It's not. It's Ian singing the song. Lance is no more wise to the sound of two sung parts rather than just the one, but he's exceptionally aware that the reason it sounds so damned good is because it's Ian doing the performing. He probably had good reason to slip out during the song, but he didn't. Once Ian was singing, there was no chance that he was going to leave not during and certainly not now when he's greeting Ian's return to their table with such a warm and wide smile. "That was... amazing." He's inadvertently quoting himself from their first meeting, but that's how things go sometimes. "Great." More self-quotes.

--

Ian actually laughs, but it's not mocking, it's delighted. "Thanks," he says warmly, and extends a hand to Lance to invite the man up. "Let's blow this popsicle stand. Do people still say that? Anyway. I saw a phone in the crowd. Somebody was filming, which means there's going to be a crowd here in a little bit, so we should... go." A gentle tug, his smile gone playful. "Or did you want to stay and finish your drink?"

--

Do people say that? "I mean..." Lance hedges, looking at the hand and downing the rest of his second drink fast (because he can do both, you see?) before he reaches to take it and rise, not really using it to pull himself up, but not letting go once he's up either. "You say it?" So that counts, right? Lance squints a little, because it might be that that's the only person who counts in Lance's book right now. "Let's go." That should be agreement enough, and if it's not, the swimmer doesn't have a problem using his frame to clear a path for Ian to the door, taking his turn to tug the other man in his wake. "Where are we going?" It probably doesn't really matter to Lance as long as it's somewhere with Ian, just a matter of needing to know whether they're going left or right.

--

"That way," Ian indicates the parking lot. There's a black car of a rather recent but luxurious brand nearby - a Genesis, if anyone's curious - with a man seated behind the wheel. "I don't really have a destination in mind but we could just find somewhere else to hang out. Restaurant, movie theater... hotel..." So what if a look slides obliquely towards Lance at that last?

--

Lance's eyes flick to the parking lot, heading that way without any measure of hesitation. "Sure," is vague but positive, as if he might be more focused on making sure that nothing crazy happens to Ian between the bar and the car than really listening to what the singer is saying. But then he stops suddenly and looks back over his shoulder, surprise written all over his face. It doesn't last though, "Yeah," might be a little strangled, "A hotel sounds good. We can... listen to those songs..." OR SOMETHING. It's fine, he's only turning three shades of red and questioning that mantra all over again.

--

The guy driving the car looks back in surprise as Ian slides into the back and scoots over to make room for Lance. "Everything all right?" asks the driver.

"It's great," Ian says with a bright smile. "Bill, this is Lance. Lance, Bill. Bill's been kind enough to help me get places for the last couple of months." His smile is bright. Back to Bill, "Could you take us to a hotel or something? I want to talk to Lance some more but not in public." And then he slides a hand over to Lance to squeeze the man's fingers, flinging a warm and meaningful look at the poor guy he's already sent into a tizzy several times.

--

There's a conflict in Lance's expression. It's nice, you see, to have one's hand held by someone who gives you butterflies. It's less nice when that somehow also makes a person feel an anxiety that has nothing to do with excitement. Lance's eyes only briefly make contact with Bill's for a slight up-nod of greeting. There's a mumble of something that sounds like it would be mannerly if he weren't blurring the words together. His hand is still under Ian's but suddenly flips to grasp Ian's like he's a lifeline even as Lance slouches down into his seat, after buckling his safety belt. EMTs know why this is important.

There might have been awkward silence except after a moment he asks, "You don't drive?" Perhaps for just something to say. It might even be something he's asked before? He probably wouldn't know as flustered as his mind is just this moment.

--

Yeah, Ian should buckle up and hasn't. Someone taught him poorly. Bill doesn't say a word about it, just nods back and turns his attention to the road to head for the nearest decent hotel. "I don't," Ian says thoughtfully. "Never learned." His fingers curl and begin petting the pulse of Lance's wrist, idle and distracted. The texture is a little odd - he lacks that faint roughness of fingerprints. Maybe it's just the lack of callouses. He's probably never worked a hard day in his life. "I probably ought to, but... I don't /want/ to, if that makes sense. I don't want more responsibility."

--

Ian should buckle up. In fact, Lance, upon feeling the drift of the car, unbuckles his own briefly to shift in his seat to reach an arm around Ian and without waiting for any kind of permission. It puts them in quite close proximity for a heartbeat as the jock aims to pull Ian's seatbelt across his body and get it latched at his hip. There's something strangely routine in the motion, as though the EMT knows one (or many) people who don't perform the action and need it done for them for probably a variety of reasons.

He won't linger close unless stopped, resuming his own seat properly and getting his belt buckled back in. "I work as an EMT sometimes," he explains, briefly, "Safety belts are-- they're just important." No need to get into gruesome explanations.

If Ian wants his wrist then for that idle touch, he can have it, even if it prompts a rise of color in Lance's cheeks. He might be digesting the feelings that come with that touch, or just the words Ian's saying, but he does seem to manage to follow, "Some people shouldn't drive. If you don't want to, then you're probably one of them." He's not judging Ian, just stating facts as he sees them. Tact might be nice, but that's not really in Lance's wheelhouse.

--

When Lance pulls back, Ian is just blinking. "Ohh." He sounds a little... breathless. Yeah, that was routine for Lance, but not for Ian. There's a conversation going on, but it lags while Ian's brain catches up to his suddenly escalated heart rate... and then he leans over, impulsive, and lays a soft, brief kiss on Lance's lips. "Thank you." It's murmured so softly that the words should only be audible to Lance himself.

Bill, driving the car, very firmly Does Not Look. Okay, he might've glanced, but now he's just real focused on the rear of the car in front of him and on the GPS and so on.

--

It's possible the response is automatic. When one is kissed, one often kisses back, especially when one is attracted to the person doing the kissing. It's a beat late because of surprise and all the shorter and it leaves Lance's blush creeping into the tips of his hidden ears, his wide blue gaze going to the drive and then darting to Ian before going to his lap.

It's entirely likely that his brain is just not working when he says, "It's fine. My mom never remembers." It's not the example he would have chosen, were he really thinking. He probably would've said something about drunk teammates. His hand moves away from where Ian had it, letting his other hands occupy it with small, nervous motions while he tries to process that. Being seen to kiss another guy. By a stranger. He was, of course, warned that Ian is queer as fuck, and it's not like he didn't agree to go to a hotel when he could've chosen another destination from the suggested list. But it's still confusing. That befuddlment does show on his face, even if the reasons might only be guessed at.

--

Hmm. The obvious answer to that comment is 'So I remind you of your mother?' and a little teasing is probably deserved, but Ian has noticed that Lance probably needs a little less teasing. He scoots in his seat, a little uncomfortable for no obvious reason - the wings are why he never buckles himself - and leaves his hand on the seat in case Lance wants to recollect it. "So," he says after a moment, "What kind of music do you normally like?" There, a distraction.

--

What Lance can't see, he can't account for. SAFETY FIRST, IAN. The Mortal's busy staring at his hands because ahead there's Bill, and looking at Ian right now is absurdly hard. "A little bit of everything, sort of." He probably means a little bit of everything that's popular nowadays, but maybe there are exceptions to even that. He starts chewing his lip, nerves manifesting.

After a moment, he clears his throat quietly and even more quietly, he murmurs, "Maybe a hotel isn't a good idea." Booze has a funny way of taking a stray thought and making a brain latch onto it sometimes, or slide right off. This is the former for Lance and his fingers are twisting in one another. Maybe if he doesn't look directly at Ian, he'll forget that sitting here is making him feel butterflies in the stomach and nauseated. The one could lead to the other, really, but in this case, it's the slow-building anxiety that's providing the latter, much less pleasant feeling. "I mean, if you want to, we can." He doesn't sound so sure now, though.

--

"I mean..." Ian pauses. "I can't take you home. I live at a group home for people who have... safety issues." He eyes Lance a bit intently. "Hotels don't mean sex. They just mean privacy. But we don't have to." In case Lance wasn't clear on what Ian's thoughts there are. "There are other places we could go."

--

Lance's breath catches at that idea and blue eyes dart toward Ian, a little wide, taking in his expression. It's what they've been dancing around, verbally, but something about the word being said puts it out there in a way it wasn't. It's a blurt, but a quiet one, that has Lance saying. "Maybe we should do that another night." He swallows, expression edged with not just apology but guilt. "I'm not even sure I'm... like that." Is he like that? How would he know if he doesn't try? But isn't it about so much more than //just// sex? "Maybe you should just let me out by a bus stop." He mutters, shoulders hunching a little. "Maybe give me time to think about--" If he has time to think, will it make it better? Maybe not.

--

"Hey," Ian murmurs, and smiles sweetly at Lance. All the charm. "No. It's okay. I have a better idea. Hey Bill? Could you run us by Andy's? I want a jitterbug." Back to Lance, a bright smile, "That's a chocolate espresso custard sundae. Let's do ice cream and then we can drop you off somewhere safe, like your dorm, or I guess the park, though I'm not exactly sure that's safe. What do you say?" All. The. Charm.

Lance opts to fail Ian's attempt to persuade Lance to stay when he wants to go, resolving the Swooning Condition.

--

That charm could make all this worse, given the agitation that grows in Lance as all those thoughts go spinning, but instead, locking eyes with Ian's and taking in that expression is somehow grounding. It helps, certainly, that now they're talking about something innocent like getting ice cream instead of something rather less so. The jock's exhale is audible and his nod is quick. It even makes him reach out to take Ian's hand, to (after a moment's pause) interlace his fingers with the singer's. "That sounds good." It might surprise Lance to find that it does, it really does.

There's other questions in his expression, but he doesn't ask them, not until they're out of the car and have ice creams in hand (his is pistachio with maraschino cherries and whipped cream, but small). "So why do you live in a..." Lance frowns, cutting himself off. "I guess if it's about safety issues, I probably shouldn't be asking. For all that he figures that out in time to sort of un-ask, there's something to the student's expression that holds an innocent interest in understanding, and it might be more telling that he adds, "One of my brothers lives in a group home." For different reasons, though, given that he offers none.

--

Ian bumps his shoulder to Lance's. "People want to kill me," he says, quite honestly. "Or find me and hurt me, depends who you ask." A small shrug follows and he tastes his jitterbug with a dreamy look, eyes sinking mostly shut. "But I can't be alone. I don't like it. It reminds me of the bad stuff. So I started a place where people like me can come, where it's safe. That means I have to be careful about who can come there. Regular people can't. Bill can because he works for me. Same with a couple of other people, all of them good. Some of them are therapists. I have people I'm friends with who I couldn't bring there, because they're not 'safe' sorts of people." A sigh. "So I use hotels when I don't want to go home. I probably ought to get something better but... I don't want a house. Or an apartment."

--

Lance takes that in, twirling his spoon in the green ice cream, ducking the tip into that white cream colored with the red dye of the cherries. He looks at the colors as if that has captured his attention, but maybe it's easier to talk about hard things with a distraction. He takes the bite, not quite as invested in the experience of the cold treat as Ian, though he missed that with his inattention or might have appreciated the singer's enjoyment more.

"It's good to have safe spaces. Living alone is hard. Dorm life isn't much better, though, not getting to choose what shitty roommate you get." Those are easy things to say, he starts with those. Then he looks up to Ian, expression thoughtful. "Do you do non-disclosure agreements or something? Is that how getting professionals to come in ends up safe for the people there?" That he is not invited to this safe place isn't something he questions; maybe he doesn't think of himself as safe? Maybe he just knows they don't know each other well.

"Hotels are nice. I mean, if you can afford the nice ones. The shitty ones... well, if that's all you can afford." He shrugs. Clearly he's used them. He's probably had sex in worse places than an hourly motel. "It must be... sort of hard to have people to hang around with, when you're not feeling safe." There's a crease in Lance's brow as if he's just stumbled onto a whole other mental set of questions: could Lance ever bring a friend like Ian to a college party? Quick answer: probably not. But the why is so complicated it might be giving him brain freeze. Unless that's just the ice cream. He hisses, making a funny face while the tip of his tongue seeks that spot just behind the upper teeth to try to relieve the condition that much faster.

--

"Yes, there are NDAs," Ian answers quietly. "And promises. I'd bring you there if I had your promise, but... I'm not sure why you'd want to go." A faint smile flickers wryly past. He takes another taste of his ice cream and leans against a tree, his bare back spread out on the bark without any protection from the rough surface. A merry little smile appears at the brain freeze. "Flip your tongue over. The bottom is warmer than the top. Apply it to the roof of your mouth. It really works." And he takes in another bite of the jitterbug, blue eyes dancing merrily. "I have cats," he volunteers at last. "Four of them. And we're fostering another load of kittens for the humane society next week."

--

The jock will take that advice, humor briefly joining the awkward of brain freeze. Maybe he got brain freeze because his small ice cream was being consumed with rather large (if artistically colored) bites. When he's recovered himself enough to speak, there's a pause for thought while he fishes out the last bite of his ice cream and makes sure none is wasted.

"Safe places are safer when only the people that need to be there are," Lance replies, some flicker of dark memory passing across his expression. That probably goes for the kittens as much as the people living in the center. "We can be..." What are they? What could they be? "Friends anywhere," he concludes, although something about that sits awkwardly in his expression.

"I think I'm gonna walk home. Need some time to think and all that." He rises from the seat, taking his empty container with him. "Thanks, Ian. For..." What? Then Lance just bends down and touches a quick kiss to Ian's cheek before he's straightening quickly and heading off, by way of the trash can, and into the night.

--

Ian looks after Lance, thoughtful and just a little moody... and then turns and begins walking back to meet his driver with a little wave of one glass hand. He got a kiss - several! - and some glamour out of it, he ought to feel better, but... something has him wondering about the whole business, thinking about it, obsessing. Maybe he shouldn't have done this or that, maybe he should've said something differently, and so on. He retreats, back towards safety.