Can't Be Too Flirty
Joey was hazy on how it started, but kissing Lance became another of the pre-show rituals, before the vocalizations and the prayer, because, Justin said, it seemed sacrilegious to put your tongue in someone's mouth after saying "amen."
"Wait, you're using tongue?" Joey asked, incredulous. He glanced over at Lance, who was being kissed by JC, eyes closed. He couldn't tell if there was tongue or not.
"Duh." Justin shrugged. "What's the point, otherwise?" He rolled his head, loosening his shoulder muscles.
Chris was kissing Lance now, leaning up on the balls of his feet, one hand flat on Lance's stomach. It was quick. No tongue.
"Um," Joey said, remembering the gentle pressure of Lance's mouth moving under his, and how he had actually resisted the urge to extend his tongue, just the slightest bit, and see what Lance would do.
Maybe You Could Be Mine
He didn't do anything, it turned out, except open his mouth slightly and lick Joey's tongue back. After a minute, Justin tapped him on the shoulder. Joey turned his head, but kept his eyes locked on Lance, on Lance's mouth.
"Hey, dude. We have, like, a show." He gestured toward the high- pitched roar of the auditorium.
"Oh, right," Joey said, and let go of Lance's arms. Lance smiled at him, before Justin grabbed his chin and planted one on him.
"How did this start, anyway?" Chris asked, shifting back and forth. He was especially jumpy right before the show, and he was last, because that's how it had started and it seemed to be working, and Joey had learned really early on that you didn't fuck with the routine if it worked. Joey reached out and pressed him to the floor.
"No clue," he said. When he released Chris, who always kissed Lance the same way, by kind of hopping up towards his mouth, always quickly, always not sexily, Chris practically leapt at Lance, like a spring released.
Ain't No Particular Sign
Lance never talked about it. During warm-ups, he would sing blithely along, looking like he always did, energy sliding along beneath his calm surface. They would go their separate ways until about fifteen minutes before curtain, and then Lance would look up from his magazine at Joey, his green eyes cool. Joey would stand up and cross the room, and Lance would stand up. Every time, Joey would be surprised by the fact that Lance was shorter than him. He never thought of Lance as short until he was tilting his head down to kiss him.
Lance's hand would go around his bicep, and Lance would lean up and they would kiss. With tongue. And Joey would pull away, not looking at Lance's face, and step aside so Justin could kiss him.
Justin liked to try different things, like sliding his hands around Lance's waist and pulling him close, or dipping him, or licking him while he was still a few inches away, tongue protruding lewdly while Lance laughed. Joey always thought about trying something new, something different, but he never did. Sometimes, if Justin was trying the kissing for a long time thing, Lance's hands would glide up Justin's arms and hook around his neck and Joey would get busy checking his hair and not looking at their reflection in the mirror.
"Isn't it weird for you?" Joey asked, finally, after about a month. Lance looked up from his laptop, confused. Joey felt himself blushing. Smooth, Fatone. "I mean, the kissing."
Lance laughed. "I've kissed plenty of guys, Joe," he said. "You know that."
"Well, yeah, but ..."
"Is it different kissin' y'all?" Lance asked.
Lance shrugged. "Sometimes," he said.
"Like when?" Joey asked.
"Like, I dunno." He shrugged. "Remember when I was on Seventh Heaven and I had to kiss for my scene?" Joey nodded. "Well, it's kind of like that. Like, it's part of my job, like reading the contracts is now, or learning the dance steps."
"You don't have to read the contracts, anymore. We have--"
Lance waved him silent. "I know, man. I don't have to kiss anybody either, but it's still, like, part of what I do. For y'all."
"Huh," Joey said. "You ever get turned on?"
Lance glanced at his hands, the way he did in interviews when the reporter asked about his love life. "Joey ..."
"You do!" Joey crowed, clapping his palms together, thinking of Lance's hands on his arms. "When? When?"
Lance flushed. "Like when, um. Well, sometimes, Justin, you know. He gets into it a little."
Joey laughed, and was grateful that it came out sounding genuine. "You get turned on by Timberlake? That's fuckin' sick, Lance!"
Lance shrugged. "He's ... determined." He typed a few more words on his computer. "I get, um, you, too," he said, softly, not looking up.
Joey watched him for a minute, but something important must have been going on on Lance's computer screen because he didn't meet Joey's eyes.
That night before the show, Joey slipped one a hand into the small of Lance's back and held him close. He could have sworn that Lance shivered, and when he stepped away, Lance swayed after him, just for a second.
Maybe We Can Do The Twirl
Lance shared a bus with him, and normally that was a soothing experience, because although Lance was anal about his own stuff being folded and clean and put away, he wasn't anal about Joey's stuff being that way (unlike, say JC, who would go around muttering and throwing your shit on your bunk unless he was writing a new song), and he was pretty funny in a quieter way than Chris, and he liked talking about stuff like what he would do if the world were going to end in 24 hours ("call my mom," had been his original answer years ago when they started touring, but lately that had changed to "spend time with people I love" and Joey wondered about the change), and what his dream job would be if he weren't in the band (astronaut, still. Lance was such a kid in some ways).
Lately, though, sharing a bus with Lance had become a silent sort of gauntlet. Lance didn't do anything different, but Joey kept finding himself watching Lance at random times, caught on the pale slope of Lance's neck as he bent over his laptop, Lance's hand resting on his knee while he read, Lance's translucent eyes when he watched t.v.: suddenly Lance was all he saw.
Lance caught him a couple of times, smiling and not saying anything else.
"Hey, Joey," he said, one afternoon, after Joey brought him ravioli in one of his mama's Tupperware containers, and sat next to him while he ate, trying not to stare at Lance's hand on the fork.
"hmm," Joey said, focusing on the television.
"We can, you know, at other times."
"What?" Joey said, turning to look at him, and Lance's mouth tasted like Parmesan and his mother's special homemade sausage blend, and his hand on Joey's cheek was hesitant.
"Anytime you want," Lance murmured.
"Now," Joey said, and Lance smiled.
Rule My World
After that, the bus became a kind of bawdy retreat for Joey. They'd be at some appearance, some mall or radio station or autograph thing, and Joey would look out the window and see the bus and blush.
"It's still there, man," Chris said, when Joey leaned out the door of the recording studio for the fourth time that afternoon.
"No, I know," Joey said.
"What's the hold-up?" JC asked, coming through the soundproof door. Joey had told them he was going to the bathroom, half-hoping Lance would follow, but he'd waited ten minutes, and no Lance.
"Joey's afraid someone stole the bus," Chris said.
"No, I, just, there's something, I left something important in there," he said, hoping they wouldn't ask what, because "my heart" didn't seem like a good answer.
"Jesus, Joe," JC said. "Come on."
Joey shut the door, casting a glance back over his shoulder at the bus. He came into the studio and there was just Justin there, fitting headphones over his ears.
JC rolled his eyes. "Bathroom," he said.
Lance kissed differently before the shows than he did at any other time. Joey hadn't known that. He'd assumed that when he kissed Lance in the dressing room with Justin bobbing on the balls of his feet behind him and JC humming nervously under his breath, that he'd been getting the real thing, how Lance actually kissed. He wasn't.
Before the concert, Lance kissed slowly and well, following where Joey lead for those few seconds, his hands still and calming on Joey's arms. It was a little like what Joey imagined kissing a comforter would be like, warm and soft and non-threatening.
Other times, even though Lance's kisses were still warm and sometimes soft, there was something else about them, something that made Joey shiver. His hands moved, that was the first thing, running up Joey's arms to link behind his neck, or down to touch his waist. He would twine his fingers in Joey's hair and pull gently, or run his hand over Joey's cheek.
Other parts of him moved, too. During the Professional Kiss, as Joey started thinking of it, Lance stood still. Sometimes he leaned a little, maybe. But in private, Lance surged up against him, pressing forward, shifting under Joey's hands, mouth open. He seemed, to Joey's kiss- fogged brain, to fit up against Joey no matter what. If Joey was sitting on the couch, Lance could slide in under his arm and lean on him and kiss him. If Joey was standing with one hip against the doorjamb, Lance would tilt with him. It wasn't so much that Lance was flexible as that he was always able to figure out where he fit, and Joey, who'd never worried about where he fit with girls because he was bigger than them, found Lance's ability to sidle up to him thrilling in some illicit way.
It made him wonder what else Lance knew how to do.
What It's All About
"Dude, it's gonna be great," Justin said, over the phone.
Joey sighed. "I just don't feel like it."
"You never feel like it, lately." Justin was getting whiny lately, Joey thought. He kept calling and offering to go out places, even strip clubs, which Justin usually didn't like to go to because the girls creeped him out. "What if that was your sister, man?" he would ask Joey. Justin didn't have sisters, so they were sacred to him.
"Sorry," Joey said.
"Hey," Lance said, coming out of his kitchen with a beer for Joey. He had a gin and tonic in the other hand. "Is that Justin? He can come over if he wants."
"C'mon, Joey," Justin whined in his ear. "Girls, man. Girls!"
Joey laughed, swigging from his beer bottle. Lance sat down on the couch and slumped against him. "Maybe some other time, Juppy."
"Yeah, right. You always say that, Joe." Justin gave one last final pathetic sigh, and hung up.
"What'd he want you to do?" Lance asked.
"Club." Joey took a sip of his beer and Lance slid under his arm and rested his back up against Joey's side. Joey's arm came down around his waist. Joey switched his beer to the other hand.
"You could have gone, you know. We're not doing anything special."
"I know," Joey said. He did not squeeze. Lance's hair smelled like fake fruit, the smell of expensive hair products.
"Okay," Lance said. They watched Fargo, and when Lance laughed, his belly moved under Joey's hand. Lance didn't move to get up when the movie ended. His fingers were laced through Joey's and he felt boneless and pliable and sleepy against Joey's side.
"Can you stay?" Joey murmured, half-hoping that Lance was asleep and wouldn't answer. That would be sweet; he could nudge Lance awake and pull him to bed by the hand without having to say anything, Lance drowsy and nodding along behind him. Maybe Lance would need help getting his pants off, and would flop back on the bed exhausted, and Joey could climb over him and pull the sheets up around his shoulders and fold him close, and in the morning it would be too late. Lance would have already stayed the night and then there would be no reason not to stay again. Then, in the morning, he could make him breakfast. Pancakes. He was best at pancakes.
"Yeah," Lance said, and that was somehow better.
Have an Attitude
"You and Lance been spending a lot of time together," JC said one afternoon, when Lance and Chris were off doing business stuff and Justin was busy doing Britney stuff.
"Yeah," Joey said.
"He's cute," JC said.
JC shrugged. "Just sayin'."
Your Extra Time
He was cute, though. Joey hadn't thought much about it before, but Lance was cute. He was cute during the promotional stuff, when he would smile at the make-up ladies and the wardrobe girls and say things like "my mamma says not too much eyeliner," and make them giggle. He was cute when he would lie back on the couch with one hand over his stomach and his eyes half closed and smile at Justin and Chris fighting over the Playstation. He was cute in the morning, when his hair was all twisted up in spikes and flat in spots and his smile was lazy and his breath was never too bad to kiss him. He never slept with a shirt on, except on the bus, because the bus got cold at night. He was cute when he was cold. Lance was even cute when he was mad, Joey realized, thinking back to their lawsuit days, to Lance standing up in one of the last meetings with Lou, his eyes dark and luminous, lips clenched tightly with rage.
"What?" Lance said, looking up from his book and catching Joey's stare.
"Joey, you were starin'."
Joey shrugged. "Maybe."
"So what? Do I have somethin' on my face or somethin'?" Lance swiped his hand over his mouth.
"No." Joey smiled. He looked out the window at the click click click of the telephone poles passing by.
"You busy?" Joey asked. Lance glanced down at his book, then back up.
"Nah," he said.
"Wanna make out?"
Lance grinned. "Nah," he said. He set the book down on the table.
I Wanna Be Your Fantasy
Lance kissed like honey, slow and sweet. Joey had kissed a lot of people in his day, a lot of girls, and many of those girls had been very good at what they did, but none of them managed to kiss like afternoon sunshine, like light through rain, like joy. Just Lance.
Sometimes, when they were twined up together, Joey thought about saying something, just to see what Lance would say back.
"I think I'm falling in love with you," he thought about saying. Or "you're never getting away from me." When he was pushing the collar of Lance's shirt aside to lick at his neck, he thought about whispering "forever" to the pale skin there. When Lance's hands closed behind his back and Lance grinned up at him, Joey thought about saying "marry me."
It was stupid, he knew. He was just infatuated with something new, something he hadn't done before. It wasn't like he was really in love with Lance. Lance was just the latest form of the Next Big Thing that Joey knew he always looked for. Eventually, he would get sick of the light scratching of Lance's five o'clock shadow on his skin or he'd meet some pretty brunette and not show up for one of Lance's parties, and that would be that. It couldn't last.
Things like this never did.
In the meantime, though, Joey found himself wearing button down shirts in the hopes that Lance would unbutton them.
Just Leave It All Up To Me
"We have to stop," Joey said, pulling back. Lance tilted his head back against the back of the couch and smiled.
"Okay," he said.
Joey scowled. Lance was always so agreeable. He would stop or go whenever Joey said. Joey bet that if he told Lance that he wasn't allowed to wear clothes on the bus, Lance would strip naked and lie across him in just this same way, smiling, without a care in the world. Once, just to see what would happen, Joey pulled his hand out of Lance's pants right in the middle of everything.
"Stop, stop," he gasped, and Lance had stopped, shifting uncomfortably. His smile hadn't been uncomfortable, though. It had been the same easy friendly smile he always had when he was basically happy. The same smile he had now.
"Do you want to stop?" Joey asked, suddenly frightened by the idea that Lance could take this or leave it when Joey didn't think he could ever leave it, not if someone put a gun to his head.
Lance shrugged. "It's up to you."
"But if it were up to you," Joey said desperately. "If you had to choose."
"Me?" Lance looked out the window for a second while Joey's heart thudded hard against his ribs, then shifted his eyes back to Joey. "I'd never stop," he said.
"No?" Joey asked. Lance shook his head. He trailed one finger over the line of Joey's beard.
"No," he said. His finger slid under Joey's jaw and lured him forward until his nose was against Joey's. He smiled. "If you don't fuckin' kiss me now, Fatone, I'll kill you."
Joey kissed him, relieved.
Dusk 'til Dawn
Joey hadn't meant for it to go any further than it did any other night, some necking, some petting, and maybe, if he was lucky, Lance's slim hand sliding down Joey's belly and under his waistband, and curling around his dick. Once, he'd come abruptly, and he and Lance had looked at each other, shocked, and then burst into laughter.
"Classy, Fatone," Lance had said, laughing, wiping his hand on Joey's t-shirt. "Nice."
"Take it as a compliment?" Joey had managed between breaths. Lance had rolled his eyes and kissed him over and over again until he'd fallen asleep right there on the thin bus couch.
Somehow, though, this time was different. They'd started the same way, kissing, on the couch, but Joey found his hands skimming underneath Lance's clothes very quickly, tugging on his waistband, pulling on his zipper, and then Lance was straddling him, his cock red and slick in Joey's hand, and his breath harsh on Joey's neck.
"I fuckin' love you," Lance gasped, right before he came, head thrown back, profile flickering in the fluttering pass of the streetlights.
"I love you, too," Joey panted, tipping him back onto the couch and yanking his own pants down. Lance grinned up at him, legs spread, and Joey thought he'd never seen anything so hot and beautiful and amazing as Lance, half-naked and panting, and reaching out for him. And that was as far as it was supposed to go--far enough, Joey would think later--but then Lance had fished around in his coat pocket and slipped the tube of lubricant into Joey's hand and turned over onto his stomach and pushed backward, and Joey thought he might just die, because Lance still had his shirt on, and Joey's pants were only pushed down to his knees, but that was all he needed.
Lance was hot and tight and made noises low in his throat, and said, "oh, god Joey, like that" when Joey got into a rhythm, and Joey only lasted a minute, but that didn't matter because Lance lasted less, and when they collapsed in a heap on the extra large cushions of the divan, Lance hooked an arm around his neck and kissed him and said he loved him again before drifting off to sleep.
Joey said nothing, shocked into silence by the heavenly slide of Lance's skin.
Not Your Shoe Size
"I'm not kissing," Joey said, twenty minutes before the curtain. Lance didn't look up from him magazine.
"What?" Justin asked. "What? No. You have to."
Joey shook his head. "I don't have to and I'm not going to."
"Joey, man," JC said. "It's the routine." Joey narrowed his eyes at JC. JC didn't really care about the routine at all, he knew. As far as JC was concerned, they could walk out onstage in jeans with nothing but microphones and he'd be fine. JC only cared about keeping Justin happy before the show.
"Fuck the routine," Joey said. Lance stood up and set his magazine carefully on the couch.
"Bathroom," he said, and left.
"What, did you have some sort of fight?" Chris asked.
"I don't give a shit if they did," Justin said, clearly agitated. He was turning red. "It's fucking tradition and he's not going to fuck--"
"Okay," Chris said, grabbing Justin by the arm. "Here we go." He propelled Justin out the door. JC came and sat next to him.
"So you had a fight, huh?" he said.
"Worse," Joey said, and suddenly it did feel worse, a thousand times worse, because you could get over a fight, you could say you were sorry and that you regretted whatever it was that you had done to make the other person mad and that it would never happen again, but he could never say that, not in a million years, about sex with Lance.
"I slept with him."
JC's eyes widened. "Oh, Joey," he said.
"So, um." JC put his arm around Joey's shoulders. He was trying to be comforting, Joey knew, but JC was better at thinking about emotions than actually having them. It was like being hugged by a robot. A shy awkward robot. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't. I thought. I dunno."
"You liked it, huh?" JC said, shocking Joey. He closed his eyes.
"And he didn't."
"So what's the problem, then?"
Joey sighed. "I guess. I don't know." He didn't. There weren't words for the strangeness that had been this morning on the bus, Lance gathering up his clothes from the floor of the bus, and coming out of the bathroom fully dressed while Joey was still lying on the divan. He wasn't sure how to describe how Lance had dodged the hand he put out to touch his knee as he passed, how he had managed to have a perfectly normal morning conversation with Joey about the show, and the news he was reading from the paper, and where they should stop for lunch all without meeting his eyes once. And Joey couldn't tell JC, he just couldn't, about how Lance's voice had sounded when he said "let me go, Joe," after Joey had cornered him in the hallway. Joey buried his face in his hands. "I don't--"
The door opened. Lance.
"Just do it," he said, stepping forward and closing his eyes.
It was possibly the worst kiss Joey ever had, including Mary Beth Antonio who'd cut his lip with her braces in the seventh grade.
Don't Have To Be Cool
So he kissed Lance before every show for the next two weeks, closing his eyes and pressing his mouth down for the briefest amount of time possible. He didn't wipe his mouth on his sleeve afterwards, but only because Chris would always be watching him with narrow eyes.
Their bus was silent most of the time. Sometimes, after lunch, Joey would go over to he other bus and hang out there all afternoon, going back after midnight when the drivers would stop for a bathroom break. Lance was never up when he got back. The entire bus would be dark and silent except for the flash of the streetlights and Joey would sometimes sit in the broken darkness and wonder what the fuck had happened to the life he was used to, where Lance was always around and always up, and always there. But he never asked though. Lance didn't seem to want to talk about it, and Joey was afraid of what he might say if he was pushed.
The tour ended, and Joey went to his big house in Orlando. He hung out with JC and Justin, and Chris came and stayed with him for two weeks after he got back from visiting his mother in Pennsyvania. About halfway through the visit, Joey realized they were babysitting him.
"I'm not a fucking teenager," Joey said at breakfast the next day.
Chris didn't even look up. "We know," he said.
"Then what are you doing here?"
"Missed you," he said.
Chris shrugged. "I'm in love with you."
"Okay, okay." Chris stood up and came around behind his chair, hanging his arms around Joey's neck. "It's fucked up, right?" he said in Joey's ear. Joey nodded. "So I thought I'd come over here and un-fuck it up."
"And how do you propose to do that, Kirkpatrick?"
Chris kissed his cheek. "No fuckin' idea, man," he said. "You got any suggestions?"
Joey didn't, but he felt better, anyway.
Think I Wanna Dance Now
The next day, while Chris was shooting hoops with Justin in JC's driveway across the street, Joey's doorbell rang. That was unusual, because they didn't allow solicitors in his neighborhood, and everyone he knew in Orlando who mattered already had keys.
"Yeah," he said, swinging the door open, expecting a teenager girl quivering with excitement.
It was Lance. He wasn't quivering.
"Lance," he said.
"You, um. Come in."
Lance came in and stood in the foyer, hands shoved in his pockets.
"Can I get you, um, a beer or lemonade, or um ..."
Lance shook his head. "Joey," he said. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too," Joey said. He was sorrier now, though. It was big of Lance to come here, to apologize and all, but Joey thought he might have liked it better before, when everything was up in the air and unresolved. An apology made it final. Over.
"It was fucked up," Joey said, trying to make Lance feel better faster so he would leave.
"No, I didn't." Lance grimaced, looking around Joey's living room. "I meant I was sorry for this," he said, and shoved Joey up against the wall and kissed him.
He resisted for a second, his hands on Lance's shoulders, and he almost succeeded in shoving Lance away before he realized that he didn't want to shove Lance away, that having Lance on one side of him and the wall on the other, that Lance's thigh in between his, and Lance's hands on his biceps, and Lance's chest pushed tight against his was something to fight for, not against.
He opened his mouth, and let Lance inside.
Talk Dirty, Baby
"I was scared," Lance said, later. Little spots of sun came around the edges of the blinds and made spots on his bare chest that disappeared whenever Joey tried to kiss them.
"Of what?" Joey asked.
"Of you not liking me back."
"What?" Joey lifted his head. "I said it back."
"I know." Lance sighed. "Just, I. I thought you might have been telling me what I wanted to hear."
"You wanted to hear it, huh?" Joey asked, poking at Lance's ribs. He wriggled delightfully. "Why'd you come over?"
"Chris said you loved me."
"You believe Chris, but you don't believe me."
Lance laughed. "Chris is more convincing."
"What'd he say?"
"Somethin' like 'he loves you, dumbass. Get your goddamn Dixie ass over here.'"
Joey smiled and pressed his face into Lance's soft stomach. "Ahh, that Kirkpatrick. What a romantic."
"I'd fuck him," Lance said.
"No, you wouldn't," Joey said, and rolled over on top of him.
A Good Time
"Alright, alright, alright," JC said, clapping his hands and hopping back and forth from one foot to the other.
"Fuck, C, calm down," Justin said, but he was swinging his arms back and forth across his chest like an NBA player. "We've sung at the Grammies before, man. Sheesh."
"Yeah, but this time we're going to win!" JC said.
Lance stood up and grabbed JC, squeezing him close and kissing him hard. With tongue.
"Damn!" Chris said. "You gonna let your boyfriend get away with that shit, Joe?" he asked. Joey grinned and shrugged.
"Hey, hey!" Justin said. "You're not supposed to kiss JC first! What about tradition, man."
"Fuck tradition," Joey said, and kissed him.
So, here are the lyrics to the song (which is sung in a freakishly high voice, but is still a damn good song, yo):
You don't have to be beautiful
You don't need experience
Don't have to be rich
You gotta not talk dirty, baby
I wanna be your fantasy
Don't have to be rich
think I wanna dance
Women not girls
Act your age, mama
You don't have to watch Dynasty
You don't have to be rich