You know the two of you aren't an all-American love story.
Lance's forehead is shiny, covered in sweat and a bit of dirt from the road, as he comes out of the gas station carrying two slushies and a bag full of bottled water that'll be as hot as the pavement under your car before you get out of the parking lot.
You shift around in the driver's seat, trying to move the denim underneath yourself, trying to find a less damp place to land. It doesn't work; you're soaked through.
Lance opens the car door awkwardly, and hands you your slushie. "It's already half-melted," he warns you, as if you can't tell.
You lift up your sunglasses for a minute, wipe the bridge of your nose off. It feels tight and you know that it'll peel tomorrow. "Who's idea was it to get a car without any fucking AC, huh?"
Lance shuts his door, leaning back against the seats. He looks positively wilted from the heat. "Yours, ass. Now drive."
You back it up, head towards the interstate again. The slushie is flavorless and flat, a little syrupy if anything, but cold, and it slides down your throat and burns in your stomach in just the right way.
At the stop light, right before the interstate entrance, you glance over. "You're burning."
Lance's head is lolling back on the seat. "Probably."
You think about saying something, about warning or nagging or whatever, but then the light goes green and you press the gas and that's it. You're gone.
The convertible, impractical as fucking hell in Florida in July and you both know that full well, is supposed to be a symbol. It's too noisy from the wind rushing past to talk, and neither of you can hear the radio though it's on full volume. It's something to look forward to, the air conditioning in the hotel you booked, the A/C and the bed and the shower and the sleep, with you both bone-tired and sunburnt.
Lance said you were crazy, when you suggested Key Largo for the weekend, but he came.
You hit the hotel at dusk, Lance turning the shower to cold, while you shuck your clothes. "Well," you say, and even though this was your idea, you wonder what happens next.
"So," Lance says, and even though it most definitely wasn't his idea and he was reluctant to come, apparently he does know what comes next, because he says, "Here we are."
"Yeah," you reply, and he stares at you, waiting patiently for you to catch up.
"Let's not talk about this now, okay Joey?" Lance has a white hotel towel in his hand, scratchy and thin because this isn't really a five star resort, you were too lazy to find a five star resort, you settled for three. "Let's not talk about this now because I can't."
You want to be that towel, going into the bathroom with him, wrapped around him when he comes out of the shower, naked and looking at himself, nothing covering him up. "Okay," you say. "Okay, we won't talk about it now."
He doesn't want you to ask about what it was like. He's told the rest of the guys that it's indescribable. He's told you he'll talk about it when he's ready.
That'll be about the sixteenth of never, you figure, as the two of you get into bed for a nap before dinner, and don't touch each other.
You can't wait that long.
"Was it everything you hoped for?" The line's dramatic and out of place coming from your mouth, and as soon as you say it there's regret.
"No." Lance shrugs then, face sheepish and sad, mouth pressed together tightly and trying to smile.
Nothing you love should ever be anti-climatic. You want to say it to him, because that face he's making says it all, everything else. If there's anything to stop him from saying it, to take that look off his face, you'd do it, but there isn't. Lance mutters, "I should have known."
"You can't." There's something there. "You can't learn that unless you do it."
Chris would have argued, Justin would have disagreed. Neither of them like to find out they're ever wrong, fight tooth and nail to keep from admitting it. Lance, though, you think he goes along, never being surprised when he's disappointed even though he never used to expect it.
He shrugs. "I know."
You don't know what to say, now. He knows, and he went and now he's back and that's gone; he's lost it and it's not coming back.
"I-- it's not that it wasn't amazing. It was." He sighs, and you keep playing with the restaurant menu, hoping the polite interest will keep him talking. "It was amazing up there."
"So, what?" You say it carefully.
"I'm like. I'm forgetting it already. I mean, I can't even remember all the details of the view of the earth. God," he says suddenly, face lighting up. "You should have seen it."
Without any malice you say, "I didn't want to."
You know that Lance feels he has nowhere else to go, no other place higher than where he was a few weeks ago. You think it might be the most horrible feeling in the world, what he's feeling right now.
After dinner you suggest a swim in the pool, but instead of being refreshing it's just like getting water-logged. You get back to the room and just want to lay down, in the fake cold air, and maybe give up.
He lays down on the bed, shoes right on the bedspread, and you stand, awkward. "I know you're mad, Joe, but I, I don't."
"I'm not mad." Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe all of your ideas aren't so great. You waited so long for him to come back.
"No," Lance grins, rueful. "You are. You're mad because you think." He sighs. "I don't know what you think."
One time, when the A/C was broken in another hotel room, you and Lance threw water balloons at each other, and then rode the elevators up and down for half an hour. It was back in Berlin, you think, back when no one let you do much so you made your own fun.
"I think," you say carefully, "that you're still out there, somewhere." You wave a hand at the window. The moon rose, while you were eating dinner late, and it's a little sliver. "I think you need to come back."
Lance sits up, then, and gravely takes the medallion off, the one that you gave him. Thoughtfully, he sets it on the table. "It's bad to return a gift." Lance's fist is curled tightly, and then it relaxes, and he sags a bit, lays back down. "But I have to give this back to you."
"Oh." You take a half step back. "Okay."
His eyes are closed. "I don't need it anymore."
You smile, a little, and move forward. He opens one eye to watch you sit on the bed, and pick the little necklace back up. "Keep it anyway," you say, and hand it to him.
Lance squints. He's lying on his back. Sitting beside him, cautiously stroking his arm, you know what's going on. He's got your medallion in his hand, and his thumb is rubbing it, over and over and over. Lance says quietly, "I did this a lot, the weeks before we went up. Just sat in bed and, y'know." He holds his hand out, showing you the rhythmic motion.
"You can stop now."
There's no all-American love story to this, but there's a love. The two of you just said it.
You knew it, the day that the two of you rode Splash Mountain together, and Lance grabbed your hand absently. The tick-tick-ticking as the ride went higher and higher jarred your teeth, and the air was stale. The drop was thrilling and you got absolutely soaked, and you screamed, but as the car climbed steadily, you got to watch Lance's face.
You'll go home in the morning, you can feel it, because the trajectory of everything has changed. It could be all uphill from here, and you wouldn't mind.