How does it happen?
Lance doesn't know. Sometimes, when he thinks about it, he thinks maybe it's because Joey's so kind, always reaching out and slapping him on the shoulder, or shoving his hand through Lance's hair, or hugging him not in a guy way with slaps on the back, but in the way that Lance has always dreamed he would be hugged. Tightly.
That's not true. The hugging part, that's true, but it's not true that it's Joey's fault somehow that he and Lance sit too close or sometimes sleep in the same bed or, occasionally, kiss. With tongues. And their shirts off, but their pants on. That has nothing to do with Joey's smile or his big hands or the way he throws his head back against the seat and rolls to the side and stares at Lance with his brown eyes. Or maybe it does.
This is why Lance tries not to think about it too often.
JC catches them.
Or doesn't really catch them, because there's nothing to catch because they're not together, him and Joey, they're not anything.
But they are kissing when JC walks onto their bus looking for extra batteries.
"Um," he says.
Lance looks up. He can feel Joey's hand on his back under his shirt; he hadn't noticed it before. Now, it's warm and reassuring and Lance does not try to get up off Joey's lap they way he always thought he would if they ever got caught. "Hey, C," he says.
"Hey." JC looks at them, his eyes going from Lance to Joey and back again. He looks confused, and maybe. Hurt. "So. You guys."
Joey laughs. "Oh no, man." He lifts his hand from under Lance's shirt and waves. "No, it's. No, man."
"Oh," JC says. "Okay. Um. I just wanted batteries."
"Okay." Lance gets up and rummages through the drawer. "What size?"
"Um. The little teeny ones." He holds up his fingers to show him, but Lance doesn't think that they make batteries that small. Lance hands him triple A size and JC slips them in his pocket without even looking at them. "So, you two," he says softly.
Lance shakes his head and smiles. "No."
"And that's, you know. Cool," JC says.
Lance regrets the one time in Florida when he told JC about how he was sort of in love with Joey. JC remembers everything. "It's cool," he says.
It is cool.
Lance has never had friends like this before. That's not super surprising, considering that he had just started high school when he joined the group, but his relationships with them, all of them, have the special sheen of precious metal anyway. These are the best friends he will ever have, ever, and he knows it.
Comparatively, what he does with Joey is just. Gravy.
Really good gravy.
"You know you're my best friend, right?" Joey says to him one afternoon.
Lance looks up from his newspaper. "Dude," he says.
"No, I know," Joey says. Later, while Lance is microwaving soup, Joey comes up behind him and squeezes him so hard that Lance can barely breathe. He tips his head back against Joey's shoulder and thinks maybe he doesn't need to.
So because JC knows, obviously it's only a matter of time before Chris and Justin know. JC is really good at keeping secrets (like, for example, Lance's tearful confession that he loved Joey over five years ago that JC apparently has never told anyone), but he's not good at figuring out what a secret is unless you tell him "this is a secret" or "please don't tell anyone," so it's only natural that Justin comes running up to him when the buses pull into the hotel turnaround and says "holy shit! Are you and Joey fucking?" in a harsh whisper right in Lance's ear.
"No," he whispers back. He can feel the blood coagulating in his face. Fucking Justin.
"Dude, JC said --" Justin says, but Chris is already there, grabbing him by the arm and saying "not in the fucking parking lot, idiot," so Lance doesn't have to answer any more questions about it right there under the lights.
Instead, he gets to wait until he's safely ensconced in his room, with the connecting door to Joey's room wide open. Joey's in the shower, singing, when Justin walks in.
"Knock much," Lance asks. Justin makes a face. He's clearly scoping for signs of sex, but there aren't any because Lance and Joey aren't having sex, a fact that makes Lance feel superior and smug. Which is stupid, he realizes, because "ha, ha, I'm not having sex" just isn't as clever a retort as it seems like it should be.
"Dude, really?" Justin says, after Lance explains it to him. "Y'all are just friends."
"That's." Justin stops, and his eyes are wide with genuine wonder. It's finally happened -- Lance has done something that has amazed Justin Timberlake. Lance wonders what the temperature of hell is right now. "That's just really cool. I wish I could do something like that."
He leaves Lance sitting on his bed, sort of speechless.
His friendship with Joey is maybe the most precious thing he's ever had. He thinks sometimes about it ending, what it would be like if he and Joey weren't friends anymore. Would he have to give back all the stuff of Joey's that he's appropriated over the years, like Joey's worn Disney t-shirt and his Brooklyn baseball hat? And would they still share a bus, just guys who work together, or would they make JC move, or would they get separate buses for everybody? And what would it be like to go a whole day without saying Joey's name? Lance lies awake in the dark listening to Joey's gentle snores across the aisle and tortures himself with the thought that he'll never lean his head against Joey's shoulder again. That he won't see Brianna, ever. That Joey will stop speaking to him entirely.
He hates the way these little fantasy hells make him feel, dizzy and sad and lonely, but at the same time, he can't help himself. Secretly, he thinks that maybe this way it won't be so hard when it actually happens.
Then Robert asks him out.
Robert is one of the financial guys from the record company. They met him during the lawsuit. He was the youngest guy on the financial team, the one designated for the four am phone calls Lance made, delirious from lack of sleep, sharp with rage and despair. He's the one who explained to Lance that it would be better to give Lou the smaller residual over the longer period of time, because even though it meant that Lou would be making money off of them for seven years instead of four, "let's face it," Robert had said to Lance, somewhat apologetically, "the kind of audience that's going to buy your album isn't going to wait until it goes on sale."
Lance hasn't seen him since those awful days, but he runs into him in the hallway one afternoon coming out of Johnny's office.
"Mr. Bass," he says as he passes, and Lance looks up, remembering the voice from the late night phone calls. It's a very comforting voice.
"Hey, um," Lance says. He can't remember the guy's name, but he remembers his laugh from the phone.
"Robert," Robert says.
"Yeah, Robert! Hi." Lance smiles. Robert, he notices for the first time, is slightly taller than him, and narrower. He's wearing khakis and a bright orange button down shirt, the record company version of a suit. He's carrying a box.
"Hi," Robert says. "Good seeing you again."
"Robert," Lance says, although he's not sure why. He wants to say "thank you" for the warm voice on the phone, but that was years ago and Lance is sure that they said thank you at the time. Still, there's something incredibly touching about the memory of Robert's groggy "hello." "Goin' somewhere?" he asks, gesturing to the box.
Robert looks down. "Funny you should ask," he says. "Today's my last day."
"No shit?" Lance says.
Robert smiles. "No shit. I'm going to run the department at Arista, actually."
"Wow, great." Lance isn't sure what department Robert means, but it doesn't matter. It's pretty clearly a promotion, so good for him.
"Yeah." Robert smiles. He shifts the box to his other arm and Lance can see that it's got some papers in it, and a phone headset. "So, um."
"Oh, right." Lance waves his hand. "Well, good to see you. Good luck at Arista."
"Thanks." Robert shifts the box again. "Have a good day, Mr. Bass."
"Lance," Lance says. "Didn't you call me `Lance' before?"
Robert blinks behind his wire rimmed glasses. "Sure, but. You know. You meet a lot of people."
"Call me Lance," Lance says.
"Okay." Robert pauses, looking into his face for a second. Lance is a little uncomfortable with the scrutiny. "Lance," he says finally. "Would you like to go to dinner tomorrow?"
He goes to dinner. He doesn't tell anyone about it, just pulls his nicest casual pants out of the closet and gets dressed and goes, before anyone can call and ask him what he's up to or if he wants to come over and have spaghetti or anything.
At first it's really weird talking to Robert. Lance isn't used to talking to anyone for an extended period of time who isn't in the group and as a result all of his answers sound like answers he'd give to a reporter. "Sure," he says, for example, when Robert says he heard that everyone in the group is huge fans of Nelly. "I like Nelly. I think his music is really original and unique." This is a total lie. Only Justin really likes Nelly. Everyone else just likes him better than Eminem, who was Justin's last rap crush.
Eventually, though, something in Lance's brain clicks and he remembers why he liked Robert in the first place. Robert's not full of shit.
He's funny, in a quiet way, not like Chris or Joey, and he's super smart. Smarter than anyone Lance has actually talked to before with the exception of the astronauts at space camp. When he talks to Robert, Lance finds himself using words like "ameliorate" and "reticent" -- words he's always known that he knows, but somehow never used before.
He thinks he falls in love when Robert mentions that he hopes the move to Arista will be "advantageous."
The night ends in Lance's driveway. Roberts pulls up and stops, pulling the parking brake but not turning off the engine.
"This was really cool," he says. "Thanks."
Lance nods at his own knees and smiles. It was really cool. Robert is really cool.
"So, whenever you're in L.A. or something, you should give me a call and we'll do it again. My cell number'll be the same."
"Okay, sure," Lance says. If this were a date, now would be the time when he would lean over and kiss Robert, but he's not sure what this is. Robert is cute and asked him out to dinner, but he doesn't seem gay and he doesn't seem to know that Lance is gay and he's not really giving off --
Robert leans over and kisses him and pulls back so fast that Lance is still trying to figure out what happened when Robert says,
"wow, sorry. I. I probably should have asked first. I just. I hope that --"
"You wanna come in?" Lance asks.
Robert is tall and lean and would probably fold his clothes when he takes them off if Lance would let him, but Lance won't. It's been a really long time since he's had sex with someone he actually liked as a human being and he's not about to let it slow down and get all awkward, so they both come the first time while they're still half in their clothes, Lance's free hand flat against Robert's belly, up under the blue dress shirt he's still wearing. Robert even still has his glasses on.
The second time is slower and better. Lance likes to kiss while he's fucking someone and Robert apparently does too; he comes with Lance's tongue in his mouth, breathing high panting gasps around it.
Afterwards, it's not awkward at all, although Lance expects it to be. He lies on his side, one hand resting on Robert's chest, and waits for him to say that he has to get up early. They always have to get up early, at least all the ones Lance actually likes do. The ones he just fucks seem to stay longer. Instead, though, Robert says,
"This sucks," folding his hand over Lance's so that Lance knows he doesn't mean "this" but something else.
"Hmm?" Lance says.
"I move to L.A. in a week," Robert says.
"Yeah." Lance tips his forehead until it's pressed against Robert's shoulder. "That does suck. We should have done this sooner."
Robert laughs. "I couldn't," he says. "I worked for the company."
"Well, you should have quit sooner, then," Lance says. Robert's shoulder tastes slightly salty when he kisses it.
"Come visit me," Robert says. "Or. Am I being stupid?"
Lance leans up on one arm and looks at him. Lance can tell just from Robert's expression that he's wondering if Lance even wants to come visit him or if this is one of those fucks of convenience that famous people are so good at. "You're not stupid," Lance says. "Plus, you can't never come back to Florida again."
Robert smiles and closes his eyes. "It is a great vacation spot."
Lance lays back down. "Sure. Disneyworld. Epcot."
"Good weather," Robert says, and Lance is asleep.
Joey comes in with doughnuts about an hour after Robert leaves. "Hey," he says. He smells good, like soap and shampoo and maybe it's his smell or his smile or the fresh memory of someone else's skin against his, but Lance puts his hands on either side of Joey's face and kisses him. Joey's surprised -- his hands come up around Lance's wrists -- but he kisses back.
"Hey," he says, pulling away after a minute. "What's all this about?"
Lance shrugs. They don't usually do it like this, kiss right away. They let it happen "naturally" if that means inching towards each other until Lance thinks he can feel Joey with every cell in his body. "Nothin'," he tells Joey. "Just, hi."
Joey smiles. "Hi," he says. He tilts his head to the side. "Lance Bass," he says, and his smile gets knowing and devilish. "Is that a hickey on your neck?"
Lance claps a hand over his neck. He can feel the blood rushing to his face. Joey's affectionate laugh echoes in his ears.
Joey spends the night just like he always does, in Lance's bed with a heavy arm over Lance's waist. Before he gets in, he makes a joke about Lance changing the sheets, but other than that it could be any other night.
Except for the fact that Lance lies awake and waits for something to stop the racing in his head. Eventually, he thinks that, no matter what Robert said, what happened is no big deal. It's a one-night thing -- guys have them all the time -- so it's no big deal that Lance is lying here next to Joey the very next night. Robert probably won't even remember his name, let alone call. And he lives way out in L.A., anyway, so who cares if he does call. It isn't like it's going to work out. It isn't going to work out, Lance thinks, and that thought is enough to get him to sleep.
Robert calls the next day.
Robert's in the middle of packing up his entire life and moving it, so Lance invites him to stay over for the rest of the week.
"Are you sure?" Robert asks, looking over his glasses at Lance in a way that Lance already finds adorable.
"Sure. I mean, it's not like I don't have the space. And it's just. You can't stay here." He waves his arm around at the heaps of clothes and piles of boxes in Robert's living room. Robert has more clothes than Justin. Almost.
"It does suck," Robert admits.
"It's no Florida," Lance says.
"You hardly know this guy," Joey says when Lance tells him.
Lance laughs. "He's not moving in forever. He leaves on Saturday."
"Sure," Joey says. "He says that, but once he gets settled in at your house the job will fall through. I can't believe you're buying this shit, Lance."
"He's leaving to be the Vice President of Artistic Development at Arista, Joey."
"He says." Joey rolls his eyes.
"Joey, this is Robert. Robert from the lawsuit. You know him!"
"You keep saying that," Joey says, "but I don't remember him at all, Lance. He's just another suit."
That makes Lance mad, although he can't say why. Robert isn't just another suit, though. He's not now and he wasn't then. "Well, fuck you," Lance says. "Chris remembers him."
Chris does. He spent even more time on the phone with Robert than Lance did. Robert has told him that Chris tracked down his personal cell number and called him at his mother's birthday party once. Lance imagines Robert standing in a back yard near the corner of a white house, smiling bemusedly into the phone while Chris' high pitched wine comes out of the receiver.
"Whatever," Joey says.
"Yeah," Lance says. He leaves, goes out the door and gets in his car and backs down Joey's driveway and doesn't even wave when he sees Joey standing in the doorway.
Robert leaves on Saturday. Lance takes him to the airport, but he doesn't go in and they don't kiss in the curb lane. They do hold hands below the dashboard for a second, and Lance can hear all the commotion going on around him, passing him but not touching him. Robert does that for him.
"Okay," Robert says. "I'll call you."
Lance smiles into his own lap. "I've heard that before."
"This time I'll do it without moving in," Robert says. "I really appreciate that, by the way. That was really nice of you."
"It was," Lance says. "I'm a nice person."
"You're." Robert squeezes his hand and doesn't say anything else. "I'll call you, okay?"
"Okay," Lance says. Robert gets out of the car and Lance drives away. He doesn't even wait to see if Robert gets inside.
His house is empty without Robert there, even though he only stayed five nights, if you count the first night, which Lance does. To make matters worse, Robert hasn't left anything behind, not even a shirt or a sock, so Lance can't even hold it in his hand while he stares at the television screen without noticing what's on. He accidentally watches an hour of the tv guide channel while considering the unfairness of his situation.
Robert calls at around eleven (eight California-time, Lance thinks when the phone rings, before he even looks at the caller i.d.).
"Hey," Robert says.
"You didn't even accidentally leave a shirt or anything," Lance says.
Robert laughs. "Sorry," he says. "I'm a good packer."
"Yeah, well. Work on that," Lance says. "How was your flight?"
The flight was fine and Robert's fine and Los Angeles is as fine as it can be under the circumstances and two days later a gently worn t- shirt comes to Lance's house Federal Express.
"Long distance?" Joey says, his eyebrows halfway up his forehead. He looks incredulous and angry at the same time. His face is red.
Lance shrugs. "We just figured what the hell, you know?" he says. "I mean, it's not like we really have a choice or whatever."
Joey slaps his forehead. "A choice? Of course you have a choice. Dump this loser!" He turns to Justin, whose house they're at. Justin's carefully turning steaks on the grill while Chris bounces around behind him making worried noises. Justin is a crap-ass cook, but since it's his house, there's nothing they can really do about it. "Justin, tell Lance he should dump this loser!"
"I dunno," Justin says, swatting at Chris' hand. "It might be helpful, you know. To, like, have an in with a suit at a different label. We could, like, get insider information and shit."
"What!" Joey says. "What?"
"Dude, I can't believe you don't remember him," Chris says. Chris finds it unfathomable that people don't have the same memories he does. To him, it's completely unbelievable that everyone didn't watch the same television shows and go to same junior high and like the same sports teams he did. It's part of what makes his relationship with Justin -- who has none of the same childhood memories as Chris -- completely inexplicable to Lance.
"I don't remember him," Joey says. His eyes are black.
"Well, dude, you should. Robert's, like, awesome. He completely helped us out. Plus, he's a total babe, right Lance?"
Lance smiles. Chris' version of supportiveness is to tell Lance all the guys he dates are hot while Lance is dating them and then, after they break up, confess to Lance that he never liked the turds in the first place. "Right," he says.
"Oh my god, he is not!" Joey shouts then goes inside to get another beer before anyone can say anything.
"Well," Chris says after a minute. He looks over at Lance, his glance saying something Lance can`t quite figure out. "Someone's a little pissy."
"Seriously," Justin says. "Hey, bitch!" he shouts. "Bring me a beer!"
Lance knows, empirically, that dating someone long distance sucks. He knows this because, truthfully, that's the only way he's ever really dated someone if you don't count the two weeks he went steady with Betsy Hannigan in the seventh grade. The despair that overwhelms him after he hangs up the phone with Robert every night is almost enough to make him say "fuck it" after all, just to end the anticipation.
Robert's job has turned out to be much more involved than he thought it would and he's had to cancel a trip out to Florida twice and Lance has had stupid scheduled things spaced one or two days apart for the last two weeks, which sounded like a good idea when he agreed to them, but now seemed like nothing but pains in the ass that kept him from catching the next plane to L.A. and staying in Robert's mostly empty apartment.
"Come out as soon as you can," Robert says one night, and Lance wants to so bad that when he hangs up with Robert he calls Wendy and tells her to book him on the first flight in the morning.
"Lance," she says, but Lance hangs up before she can say anything else. He knows what she's going to say, and he doesn't care.
Joey shows up while Lance is getting ready for bed. Lance looks up from the kitchen sink where he's rinsing out his ice cream bowl and Joey's there in the reflection in the kitchen window.
"You're going to give me a heart attack one day," Lance says, although he isn't really surprised. Wendy would call Joey.
"Hey," Joey says. He looks tired. He's wearing an old stretched t- shirt. "Look, I know you're all excited about this guy or whatever, but you can't --"
Lance starts crying.
He doesn't mean to, but he misses Robert, he misses the feeling that someone's there waiting for him and Joey's mad at him for some reason and he knows he can't actually go to L.A. in the morning because he's got a television interview for the local news and a hospital thing for Challenge for the Children, but he wants to. Really bad.
"Shit," Joey says. He sounds disgusted and sad and that just makes Lance cry more.
Joey comes over and puts an arm around him and pulls him close. His shoulder smells of baby shampoo. His arm is hot across Lance's back. "Stop crying," Joey says in his ear. His hand runs up and down Lance's spine.
"Sorry," Lance says. He doesn't move, though. Joey's arm and his heat and his breath are too familiar and comforting for him to pull back.
"You want me to do your appearances?" Joey murmurs. Lance nods against his shoulder. Joey squeezes him, then pulls back, his hands on Lance`s face. "Okay. You packed yet?"
Joey leans in and kisses him. Lance kisses back, perfunctorily, thinking that this can't go much further, thinking Robert. Then something shifts, in Lance's head or in Joey's kiss, and they're pressed together, hard and desperate and Lance thinks Joey and it's like he's never thought anything else.
Joey's body is no secret to him. Even before they started making out on a regular basis, Joey's body was almost as familiar as his own. Lance knew how it looked, how it felt, how it smelled. So it was funny, now, how nervous he was sliding his hands under Joey's t-shirt and pushing it up over his head.
"You okay?" Joey asks, a faint glimmer of his smile showing, and just like that, he's fine.
They do it on the living room rug, Joey bearing down on him, smiling, sweat beading at his hairline. It's fantastic. Afterwards, Lance's feels loose limbed and flexible and incredibly sexy. Joey is sprawled across him, squishing him. He kisses Lance's shoulder and rolls off him.
"Baby," he says.
Lance smiles at him. "You still have to do my appearances."
Joey eyes him. "Fine," he says, not sounding entirely happy.
"I have to tell him in person," Lance says. "I mean, come on."
Joey rolls his eyes, but he's agreeing. He pushes himself up and yanks up his pants. "C'mon. You've got to get to bed. You've got an early flight in the morning, Romeo." He grabs Lance's hand and pulls him to his feet. They go upstairs and take off their clothes again and slide into Lance's bed. Lance falls asleep with his head on Joey's arm.
Robert meets him at the baggage claim. He's wearing a blue shirt the color of his eyes and looks tall and neat and perfect and Lance feels like an asshole for what he has to say. He hugs him and kisses him and tells him in the lounge area, away from where anyone can hear, that he's really sorry but there's someone else.
"I wanted to tell you in person," he says.
"It's Joey, huh?" Robert says. He has his hands shoved in his pockets and looks both angry and upset.
"Huh?" Lance says.
"Well, last night when I talked to you, there wasn't someone else, but now, this afternoon, there is. So it's Joey."
"Well," Lance says, but what? He's supposed to deny it? So he doesn't. "Yeah. It was sort of a surprise."
Robert looks at him. "He hated me. He was jealous."
Lance blinks. It hasn't even occurred to him that Joey's strange animosity towards Robert had something to do with him, although he's not sure what else it would be about now that he thinks of it.
"Robert," he says.
"Well, it's not like we really had a chance anyway," Robert says. He's looking over Lance's shoulder, past him, on to the next thing. "Plus, you can't ever be out, at least not for a while. So. You know."
"I'm real sorry," Lance says.
Robert holds up a hand. "I appreciate you coming out here, Lance, but I can't make you feel better, you know. Go back to Joey for that."
Lance is surprised by how much that hurts, but he can`t really blame Robert for being pissed. He gets on the next flight and tries to be excited about seeing Joey again, but somehow he's not. Robert's anger has seeped into him, settled in his stomach. He looks out the window of the plane and feels like he's no one, going no where.
Lance gets off the plane and through the airport with a minimum of trouble. He didn't even pack a bag so there's no luggage to pick up. He's home in half an hour.
He gets a glass of water and sits on the couch and holds it in his hand until it starts to drip water through his jeans. Then he sets the glass on the table and goes to bed.
In his dreams, Joey smiles and the sun glints in Lance's eyes and he wakes with the sound of waves crashing in his ears.
The waves turn out to be Joey, in his shower. Joey grins over his shoulder when Lance opens the door. His hair is plastered flat to his forehead and he lifts his eyebrows suggestively. Lance tries to smile back and shuts the door so quickly that he's sure Joey knows, can tell something's wrong, but Joey doesn't know. He gets out of the shower and towels off and smiles and kisses Lance while he's still damp and doesn't notice a thing, which is somehow worse than him knowing, Lance discovers.
"Welcome back," Joey says, sprawling on the bed. The towel breaks over Joey's thigh and Lance sort of wants to touch his damp leg hair and forget about everything that Robert said in California.
"Thanks," he says. He brushes his fingers over Joey's knee. He can't look up past the swirl of dark hair. He can see the pores where they go in, where they're joined to Joey's flesh, where they become him. He can't see anything else.
"Hey," Joey says.
"Hey," Lance says.
"No, hey," Joey says, jiggling his knee so that Lance has no choice but to look up. Joey may not have noticed before, but he notices now and sits up and leans against Lance's shoulder so that Lance can feel his damp heat. "Dish, Bass," he says.
Lance is confused and maybe sad and so he says something really stupid: "Robert and I broke up."
Joey chuffs a little. "I thought that was the idea," he says softly.
Lance shrugs. "Yeah," he says. "I guess." He stares at Joey's knee some more. Maybe he'll memorize it, so that no matter where he goes or what happens in his life he'll always be able to remember the way Joey's right knee looks. It's almost a reassuring thought.
"You guess," Joey says.
"I mean, no," Lance says. "It was. But, I don't know, Joey."
Joey touches his shoulder. "But what, Lance," he says. His voice is low and steady and Lance wishes he knew Joey less well so that he could think that Joey was okay.
"But why?" Lance says softly, hoping that Joey doesn't hear. But, of course, Joey does.
For a second he's perfectly still. Lance doesn't think he's even breathing. Then he sighs. "Lance," he says.
"Because I was just wondering. You know, if. We did some of that stuff before, but it wasn't, it didn't mean. You know. Whatever. And now it's just like. Now, it's supposed to, which is cool, Joey, really. But. I don't know."
Joey's eyes are dark dark brown. They always have been, Lance has always known this about Joey, since the very first day he met Joey, but it seems important now, looking at them, that Lance remembers this. Joey's eyes are brown, he thinks to himself, while Joey looks at him.
Joey takes a breath. "Lance," he says. Then he's up close, kissing distance, leaning into Lance with his hot damp skin. A drop of water falls from his hair and lands on the shoulder of Lance's shirt. Joey kisses him, on hand on his face, one hand on his knee. Lance kisses back.
He thinks maybe he shouldn't, maybe Robert was right and Joey never wanted him until he couldn't have him, and then he thinks do I care? and discovers as Joey's tongue presses into his mouth that he doesn't care when it started for Joey because it's here now. He smiles into the kiss, and Joey notices.
"What?" he asks softly, kissing before Lance can really answer. "What's so funny?"
Lance shakes his head, still smiling. "It's just. Fuck Robert," he says.
Joey grins. "You did."
"Yeah," Lance says.
"He really liked you, you know," Joey says, pulling back, putting his serious face on for a second.
"No, I know," Lance says. He does. Robert's a good guy. But he's not the right guy and Lance opens his mouth to say that when Joey speaks again.
"That's why I had to tell you. You know. I figured I should say something before you fell in love with him and it was too late."
"Tell me?" Lance says.
Joey nods. "I figured if I didn't, like, declare myself, you'd fall in love with him."
"Declare yourself," Lance says.
"Uh huh," Joey says. They stare at each other for a minute.
"You didn't," Lance says.
"Dude, I totally did," Joey answers. "That night before you went to California to talk to Robert, when I was all. When we. I totally said it!"
Lance shakes his head. "You totally didn't. And I wouldn't have believed you anyway, saying it while we were doing it."
"What? I haven't said it during sex that often!"
Lance laughs and flops down on the bed and Joey flops down with him, his naked thigh pressing against Lance's. Lance shivers with happiness. "You're full of crap," he says to Joey.
"But you believe me now, right?" Joey asks. His eyes are serious again.
"Yeah," Lance says. "I believe you now."