by Synchronik
by Synchronik

They had all kind of been expecting it, even Joey, who was not at all what anyone would call feminine, so it wasn't really a surprise when the guy came up to Lance in the bar and asked him to dance. Lance glanced over at the rest of them. He had expected it, sure, but he still didn't know what to say.

"Um," he said to the guy. Justin had his arms crossed over his chest and looked pissed: already at sixteen he was used to being the favorite one. JC and Chris were talking about something and maybe hadn't heard. Joey was watching girls. "Um," Lance said again. "Look, I--"

"He's not interested," Joey said, still not looking at them.

"How would you know?" the guy asked.

"Hey, I'm here," Lance said.

Joey eyeballed the guy. He leaned over and flipped the guy's collar with one finger. "I know," he said.

"Fine, jeez," the guy muttered. "Fag."

Justin started laughing as he walked off. "He asked you to dance and you're the fag?" he sputtered.

"Joey's the fag, actually," Lance said, and Justin started laughing again. "Thanks," Lance murmured. Joey smiled.

The thing was, you couldn't plan for it. There would be days when Lance wore his tightest jeans and black t-shirt out to a bar and no one would say a word to him, and then, on some day when he was still sweaty from rehearsal and was just stopping by the Chinese place to get food to take to Chris' house, some guy would say "hey" to him while they were in line and write his phone number on the back of the take-out menu.

"I don't get it," he said, holding the menu out to JC as proof. JC took it, holding it the way an entomologist would a rare butterfly specimen. "I mean, I smell. What was he thinking?"

"He was thinking you've got a sweet ass," Chris said, rooting through the bags. "Did you get duck sauce?"

"I do not." Lance reached into the bottom of the bag and pulled out a handful of packets.

"I'm afraid you do, Bass. I'd fuck you, if I swung that way." Chris leaned forward and pecked him on the mouth. "Delish."

"Jerk." Lance swiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. "What do you think, C?"

JC looked up from the menu. "About your ass?"

Lance rolled his eyes. "No, about why this happens to me. I mean, look how I look."

"That's why," JC said. "I mean, no offense, but you look, kind of. I dunno, fuckable. Or something."

"Who's fuckable?" Justin asked, coming into the room. He was trying to twirl the basketball on his finger.

"Lance," Chris said.

"I am not."

"Oh, I'd fuck him, if I swung that way," Justin said.

"That's what I said."

"You're sixteen!" Lance whapped him on the arm, causing the basketball to bounce to the floor, and ricochet to the end table where it knocked a lamp over. Chris munched on an eggroll and looked unconcerned.

"Sheesh!" Justin said, going after the ball. "I said if."

"If what?" Joey asked. He had a towel around his neck and no shirt on.

"If Justin were gay, he'd fuck Lance," JC said. He leaned over and handed the phone number back to Lance.

"Oh," Joey said, raising an eyebrow.

"You gonna call him?" JC asked.

"What? No!" Lance said, dropping the number on the table. Joey reached out and picked it up.

"He wasn't cute, huh?" Justin said. The basketball whirled on his finger.

"I'm not gay," Lance said.

"Methinks that Lady doth protest too much," JC said. And then, when they all looked at him, "what? I read!"

"I'm not," Lance said to Joey, later. They were sitting by the pool, dangling their feet in the water. Chris and Justin were horsing around in the shallow end, Chris leaping onto Justin's back and tipping him forward like a young tree until his feet slipped out from under him.

"Course not," Joey said.

"I mean, I know I. Sometimes. My mom used to say that I was, kind, um ..."

"You're pretty," Joey said.

Lance tipped his head toward Joey's shoulder, sighing. "I guess."

Joey put his arm around him and hugged him a little. "It's no big thing. Happens to everyone."

"Does it happen to you?" Lance asked. Joey's cologne and the smell of the chlorine was making him a little dizzy. Joey's shoulder shook under his cheek.


"Yeah, I didn't think so."

"It's okay, though, anyway. It happens to Justin all the time."

Lance laughed, watching Justin spring up out of the water. "Sure. That boy's going to be trouble."

Joey squeezed him again. "How much you wanna bet that it happens to JC all the time, too."

"Oh, yeah," Lance said. "With those pants he wears?"

"The brown leather ones?" Joey asked.

"Gay!" Lance declared.

"Not like you, at all," Joey said.

"Yeah." Lance pushed himself up, one hand on Joey's thigh. "Not like me at all."

They were in rehearsal most of the time after that, and Joey and Chris still had part time day jobs, because the money that they had made in Germany was held up in some sort of contract thing according to Lou, and Lance had started to forget about it. Then he went to Gap.

He wasn't even buying anything for himself, but Stacey's birthday was coming up and she loved Gap stuff, and while he was there he noticed they were having a sale on sweaters.

"Those are great," the guy across the table said to him. Lance looked up. The guy was tall, brunette, blue eyes. He had on a nametag that said "Andy."

"uh, yeah," Lance said.

"You're a medium, right?" Andy said. "You'd look great in this one." He held up the sleeve of a black sweater. "This or one of the darker ones. Maybe navy. You don't wear brown, do you?"

"Um, not really," Lance said, wondering how you explained to a total stranger that an old fat man picked out your clothes without sounding like you ought to be on Sally Jesse Raphael.

"Good. Most blondes can't pull off brown. And you have such pale skin," Andy said, and that was when Lance realized he was being hit on.

"Right," he said.

"So, this one and this one," Andy pulled the black sweater and the dark blue one out of the pile and corralled Lance to the back of the store. "Anything else catch your fancy?" he asked, as he unlocked the dressing room.

"Well, I--"

"Wait, I have the perfect thing!" Andy shut the door on him.

Lance sighed, and began to get undressed.

The sweaters did look great on him, although he thought they were a little short. When he lifted his arms up over his head in front of the mirror, his stomach showed a little.

"No, it's sexy," Andy said. "It's supposed to fit that way." He reached around and tugged the hem a little. "Did you try the pants?" His hands were still on Lance's sweater, and his eyes in the mirror were deep deep blue.

"No, um, not yet. No."

"Well, get on in there," Andy said, swatting him on the shoulder. Lance grinned, and got back into the dressing room and took his pants off.

He ended up buying the black sweater, and the pants, and got Stacey a cute windbreaker that Andy had picked out when he mentioned his sister. "Thanks," he said, taking his credit card receipt from Andy and dropping it in the bag bulging at his feet.

"Anytime, Lance," Andy said. "If you need anything else--" he flipped a card out of his back pocket, "--you just let me know."

He couldn't help it, he was smiling back. "Thanks, really."

"Come again," Andy said.

"He actually said that?" Joey asked, turning the card over in his hands. "Come again?"

Lance laughed. "Yeah. He actually did." He brought his feet up onto the couch and shoved them under Joey's thigh. They were in his room in the basement, watching Friends re-runs.

"Was he cute?"

"He worked at Gap."

Joey nodded. He handed the card back. "I don't suppose you're going to call him, either."

"Why would I?"

"Well, he was a nice guy, right?"

Lance shrugged. "Sure."

"And he was funny?"


"And you liked him?"

"Well, I, I mean,"

"No, I mean just like a normal person. Like you like me, or Chris or somebody."

"Oh, yeah, sure."


Lance sighed. "It's not the same, Joey," he said. "It's. If I call him, he's going to think that I, like, like him like him, and that's. I can't. I mean, that's not fair."

Joey nodded. "Okay."

They went back to watching t.v. for a little while, then, during a commercial for mayonnaise, Joey tapped him on the knee.


"Would it be so bad?"

"What?" Lance asked.

"If you, you know, went out to dinner, or whatever, with the Gap guy?"

Lance stared at him. "What are you talking about?"

"I mean, would it? What's the worst that could happen?"

"He could fall head over heels in love with me and I would have to break his heart, when I had to go back out on the road." He poked Joey's shoulder.

"Seriously, Lance."

"Seriously? Seriously, he'd want to kiss me, or something."

"So? You've kissed before."

"Not a guy, Joey."

"Sure," Joey said, and went back to watching t.v. "I gotta go," he said after a minute, standing up and moving behind the couch. Lance dug his feet under the couch cushion; they were cold after Joey'd gotten off them. "I've gotta go to bed."

"Okay," Lance said. "You need me to walk you out?"

Joey smiled and shook his head. "I think I can find it." He reached down and hooked his hand behind Lance's head, squeezing his neck, gently. He stared at Lance for a second, as if he wanted to say something important, but then he just smiled. "Night," he said.

"Night." Lance reached up and patted his wrist. "See ya tomorrow."

They went out on tour not too long after that, and Lance noticed that they spent most of their time on the bus in pajamas, or the boy equivalent, and that everyone kind of smelled. He hadn't noticed that when they were on tour in Europe, but then Europe had been kind of surprisingly small. He'd heard all about it in school, and it was pretty over there, and old, but Lance had expected it to be bigger and was still a little disappointed.

But anyway, being in a bigger country meant more time on the bus, more days when getting up meant rolling out of your bunk and shuffling into the lounge instead of into someone else's room for breakfast.

Lance didn't mind so much, except for Justin's feet, which reeked, and sometimes Chris got a little wild in enclosed places. Lance ended up with a few bruises before he learned not to fight and just let Chris crawl all over him and poke him, and do mock karate kicks at his head.

"You gotta just let him," Joey said, holding ice to his eyebrow. "The real danger is in moving."

Lance nodded. The real danger always was.

"So, what do you think?" JC said, coming out of the bathroom. He was wearing dark blue jeans and a white t-shirt and black boots.

"You look a little like James Dean," Lance said.

"In a good or bad way?"

Lance squinted at him. "What's this for?"

"Just some interview thing. They'll dress me for the photo shoot."

"So this is just for the talking thing."


Lance squinted at him again. "No, it's good. You can definitely wear it."

"Yeah." JC turned around in front of the mirror. "Okay, if you say so."

Lance sighed. "I'm not gay, JC."

"So?" JC ruffled his hair.

Lance ducked his head away. "So I'm sick of you guys asking me what you should wear, and how your hair looks. I'm not some girl or something. I'm not even gay! I'm from Mississippi."

"What the hell does that mean?" JC asked.

"I have no idea." Lance pressed his face into his hands.

"Okay. Then I'm going."

"Good," Lance said.

Part of it, he thought, was that Show Choir had ruined him for acting. Whenever they were in a video or photo shoot or something and the director would say "act surprised" Lance would always find himself overreacting, looking like a mime. Lou always yelled at him about it.

"Kid," he'd say, clamping his hand down on Lance's shoulder. "If you don't quit fuckin' smiling during the sad songs I'm going to rip your lips off your face."

And Lance would always agree to try, and then, halfway through "I Want You Back" would catch himself grinning at the audience. He couldn't help it. After three years in a sparkly vest singing "No Business Like Show Business," smiling, like jazz hands, was an automatic response when he was onstage.

So when somebody smiled at him, even if it was a guy, he smiled back. He couldn't not smile back, or he'd get all flushed and feel like even more of a jerk than he already did.

"You're doing it again," Justin said, one afternoon on the bus.

"What?" Lance asked.


"Am not." Lance focused in on his book, and sighed.

"Are too," Justin said, and stretched a little just to be obnoxious.

"Whatever," Lance said, but it wasn't his fault even if he had been staring. Maybe if Justin wore a shirt that fit once in awhile instead of those old t-shirts that hardly covered up his stomach, then people wouldn't stare at him so much. Jerk.

Their new choreographer, Kenny, was pretty cool. They had had a lot of choreographers over the last year or so, using one for one song and another for the next, but Kenny was the first one who could wear dancey clothes and not look like a total girl in them. That's what Justin said, anyway.

"What the hell does that mean?" Chris asked, wiping his face with a towel.

Justin shrugged. "I dunno. It's just. He looks like a guy. Like, not a sissy."

Chris looked over at Kenny for a sec, considering. "Yeah. I guess. He is pretty cool. He likes Joy Division."

"Who the hell is Joy Division," Justin asked.

"Shut the fuck up, infant," Chris said. "You're hurting me."

"He was in the Army," JC said. "The Rangers."

"Really?" Joey asked. "Cool!"

"I bet he killed a whole bunch of people," Chris said. "He's stealthy."

"You're a freak," JC said, "but you're probably right. I bet he killed like fifty people."

Lance, who had no thoughts on how many people Kenny may or may not have killed, just listened. He thought Justin was right, though. Kenny didn't look girly, even when his sweatshirt had a big cut-out neck and fell off one shoulder like they did in that movie Fame. He was tall, like Joey, and blond, and he also seemed to lack what JC called "an artistic temperment" and what Chris called "screaming til he rupures a blood vessel." In other words, Kenny didn't shout.

Lance particularly appreciated that. It wasn't so much that he was a bad dancer as that he was more of a slow learner. Even back in show choir, he'd had to ask his partner Susan to stay after and go through the routines with him. Of course, it didn't help that Justin and Chris picked every damn thing up the first time, and that JC had actually taken dance, and Joey was just plain good at it. So Lance had fully expected that sometime during the first day Kenny would turn around from the mirror and throw his hands up in the air and say "you're fucking killing me, Lance!" and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen.

Kenny didn't yell, and he didn't make everyone do it over again until Lance got it right, like this was some sort of boy band boot camp or something. Once everyone else had it, if Lance didn't, Kenny would kick them out and slow it down until Lance did get it, and then he'd slap him on the shoulder and say "good job" and call everybody back in.

"Dancing is all about muscle memory," he told Lance once, after Lance got it right. "You do something enough and you'll never forget it."

"Like riding a bike," Lance said.

Kenny grinned at him. "Yeah, like that."

"So, you like him, huh?" Chris asked at dinner that night.

"Huh?" Lance said.

"Kenny. Big guy. Blond? You like him."

"I do not," Lance said.

"Okay," Chris said. Then he made kissing noises in Lance's ear, until Lance grabbed him by the face and pushed him away. "Ow!" Chris said. The rest of them were laughing. "I think you scratched me, you fuck."

"Shut up," Lance said. He had scratched Chris, he could see the red line on Chris' cheek, but Chris had pissed him off, and deserved it. "Just shut up."

"Sheesh," Chris said. "You would think--"

"Shut up, Chris," Joey said.

The next afternoon, while Lance was up near the mirror gathering his towel and his water bottle and stuff, Kenny came up.

"You wouldn't want to go for a drink later, would you?" he said, leaning up against the mirror so that it looked to Lance that he was leaning against his own shoulders.

"I'll go!" Chris said.

Kenny didn't say anything, and kept his eyes on Lance.

"I, um, I'd like to, but--"

"But?" Kenny tilted his head, smiling.

"I'm not. I'm eighteen," Lance said. "I can't get in."

"Me, me! I'll go!" Chris said, grabbing Lance by the shoulders. Kenny's eyes shifted to Chris for a second, then back.

"Okay, sure," Kenny said.

"Joey and I can go," JC said.

"Um, yeah," Kenny said. "I'll meet you at Serge's in two hours?"

"Great," Joey reached out and slapped him on the shoulder.

"uh huh. See you tomorrow, Lance," Kenny said, grabbing his bag off the floor.

"Okay," Lance said.

"We're going out with Kenny!" Chris said, jumping onto Lance's back. "Whooee!"

"Get off me," Lance said, swatting at him lightly.

"You're just jealous because I'm going out with your boyfriend," Chris said. He smooched Lance on the ear, and dropped to the floor. "Out with Kenny!" He grabbed Joey's hand and dragged him out the door.

"He didn't even ask me," Justin muttered.

"Sorry," Lance said. But he wasn't.

Justin was still being pissy when they got back to the house, so Lance left him alone and went to watch tv in the den. He was still there watching Mtv when Joey came in.

"What's up?" Joey leaned over the back of the couch.

"Stupid videos," Lance said. "I wish we were in heavy rotation."

"Someday." Joey patted his shoulder.

"What'd y'all do?" Lance tilted his head over the back of the couch to look at Joey, who put his hands on Lance's cheeks and squished them together, smiling.

"Nothin'," he said. "Some bars, some drinks. Nothing much."

"Sounds 'reat," Lance said through smushed-up lips.

"Yeah. JC and Chris are still out with him. You better watch out. I think Chris has a crush on your boyfriend."

"'e's not by boyfrien'," Lance said.

Joey grinned down at him. "I know."

"I'b nodt gay," Lance said.

Joey chuckled. "I know," he said. His hands on Lance's face were warm and huge. "I know you're not, Lance." He leaned down and pressed his mouth to Lance's, upside down. It wasn't really kissing, Lance thought, because Joey wasn't moving his mouth, just pressing it to his and breathing a little on his face, and his hands were on Lance's shoulders, sliding down to cover his chest for a second, before Joey was standing back, away, his hands clenched in front of him.

"Sorry," Joey said. "Sorry."

Lance scrambled around on the couch so that he was facing Joey. "It's, no, Joey, it's--" he said, but Joey was already gone.

He didn't know what to do after that. He thought about going up to Joey's room and saying something, but he couldn't think of anything to say, so he stayed on the couch and watched Mtv with the volume really low, until Chris and JC came home. Once, he heard the door to Joey's room open, and he concentrated on keeping his hands loose on his thighs and his eyes on the tv, but then he heard the toilet flush and the door to Joey's room again, and nothing happened.

"Hey, baby!" Chris said, throwing his jacket over Lance's head.

"Hey," he said. He shoved the jacket off. JC patted him on the shoulder as he passed by and headed up to bed.

"Your boyfriend is wicked cool," Chris said. "He was, like, a captain or something in Desert Storm. He didn't kill anyone, though."

"Hmm," Lance said. "Can I talk to you about something?"

"Oh yeah." Chris hopped over the back of the couch. "What's up?"

"I." He sighed. "Don't make fun of me, okay?" he said, and he must have sounded serious, because Chris' face changed and he ran his hand over Lance's bare arm.


"Someone kissed me."


"A guy."

Chris pursed his lips, making a thinking face. "mmm."

"I. He kissed me. And, I. Jeez."

"You liked it," Chris said.

Lance nodded, miserable.

"Was it Kenny?"

"No! No. I hardly know him."

Chris smiled. "Sure, okay. Just askin', man. So what's the question?"

Lance sighed. "I just. What do I do now? Am I gay? Am I?" He swiped at his eyes.

"Oh sweetheart," Chris said, squeezing him close. "Shush. You're freaking out."

"Duh!" He pressed his face against Chris' bony shoulder.

"Okay, don't. You're cool." His hand fluttered on Lance's back.

"What do I do, though?"

Chris laughed, and pulled away. "Lance, I don't know. Do what you want. Kiss him back."

Lance sighed. He'd hoped that Chris would be able to say something and make everything better. He did that a lot, especially with Justin, just said something smartass and sharp, and made Justin smile, and Lance had been hoping it would work with him, too, but kissing Joey. Somehow, Lance didn't think that would solve anything.

"Hey, look. I give you shit. Ignore me. I haven't got a fucking clue. Okay?" Chris brushed his fingers through Lance's hair.

"Okay," Lance said. But it wasn't okay at all, really. He didn't sleep very well that night.

The problem was, Joey wasn't the guy from the Gap. He wasn't the guy from the bar, or the parking lot attendant, or even Kenny, who would disappear in a few weeks, until they couldn't even remember who had choreographed the cool flips in "All My Life." Joey was in the band. He would always be around, and even when he wasn't around Lance would want him around because Joey wasn't some nobody who didn't matter in the long run.

Joey was over by the door, peeling off his sweatshirt, tugging his t-shirt down over his stomach. He hadn't said anything besides "hey" over breakfast. Lance hadn't said anything, mostly because he couldn't think of a response besides "I love you," and even if Joey had kissed him, kind of, you didn't just go from "I'm not gay" to "I love you" without some sort of warning. Lance bet even Justin knew that.

So he hadn't said anything, and now he was a little afraid that Joey was taking that as him not talking to Joey, which he was, but not for the reasons that Joey might think that he was.

"Oh, fuck it," he muttered to himself. "Joey?" he said. "Can I talk to you for a sec?"

Joey followed him into the hall.

"I'm just. Lance, I'm sorry," Joey said, before Lance could turn around. "I mean, it was totally not. I'm just really sorry."

"Uh huh, see that's what I wanted. Um." Lance held his hands out and took a deep breath. "Okay. Kiss me again."

"What? No!"

Lance shoved his hands into his pockets. He had kind of been hoping that he would say "kiss me" and Joey would take it from there. "Um, okay. So we should head back, I guess." He tipped his head toward the studio.

Joey grabbed his shoulder. "What the fuck, Lance?" His face was all drawn together, compressed by confusion, and Lance regretted it, all of it. This was a stupid idea: he wasn't gay.

"Never mind," he said. He started down the hall, ready to go, ready to forget all about Joey and his mouth and his hands and everything else, if Joey wouldn't bring it up again.

"Yeah. Fine," Joey said. His shoulder slammed against Lance's as he passed. He didn't hold the studio door open behind him and it almost whacked Lance in the face before he caught it. Lance didn't complain.

The girl Lance was supposed to fall in love with had honey blond hair and smooth shoulders and a sundress on. She reminded him of a daisy. She sat in one of the director's chairs and smiled up at him when they were introduced. She was a little thing.

"Hi," she said. "I'm so happy to be working with y'all."

Lance smiled. "Where you from?"

"Oh, Texas. I'm a Southern girl." Her laugh was light and lovely.

Her name was Marianne, and she was adorable, and Chris, who had gotten the thin snappy brunette who spent all her time off the set smoking and laughing with Joey, came over and said "ask her out, dude. She's completely you." She was. She was Christian, and sweet, and thought Lance was "the funniest thing ever, I swear!" and slipped him her phone number at the end of the day.

He shoved it in his pocket. Two weeks later he would find the scrap of paper in the lint catcher of his dryer and wonder if anything important had been written on it.

The next morning, he punched Joey in the face. He hadn't meant to. He hadn't meant to do anything at all when came in the back doors, hauling his duffel bag over his shoulder. He felt like shit. He'd ordered pizza the night before, and ate in front of the tv, and woke up there with a crick in his neck and the pattern of the remote on his cheek. All he wanted to do was go in, rehearse, and get the hell back to bed. Preferably without seeing Joey, which wasn't likely, but random shit happened all the time, Lance thought. Dare to dream. He rubbed his eyes.

Joey and Kenny were kissing in the hallway.

It was obvious they were just getting started. They were still leaning forward, hardly touching, just Joey's hand on Kenny's wrist and their mouths, but their eyes were closed. Lance wondered if he could just back out silently, but then the door thumped shut and they looked over and he was caught.

"Excuse me," he said. They stepped back to let him by, one on each side of the hall. He turned sideways and stepped between them. As he did, Joey grabbed his shoulder.

"Lance," he said.

It was a single smooth motion, the duffel bag slumping to the floor and his fist coming up, driven right from the shoulder just like his dad had taught him in the seventh grade, hitting Joey in the jaw and slamming him back against the wall. Kenny tried to grab him from behind, but Lance shrugged furiously.

"Get off me," he muttered, and Kenny did. He swooped his bag up and went into the studio.

"Lance!" Justin grabbed at him. "You should have come with us last night, man! There were these--"

Justin kept talking, bobbing his head up and down, and Lance smiled vacantly. His hand hurt. His stomach hurt, too, because there was no way to get out of this now. Joey would have a bruise or something, and JC would want to know why. And then Chris, who thought he was only one who was allowed to get up in people's faces, would get all self- righteous and say "you can't just hit, man." And Justin would want to be all involved, because he always wanted to be all involved. He was like a fourteen year old girl that way, always afraid he was going to miss something.

"Ow," Lance said. Justin had latched onto his hand.

"What? Are you listening to me?" Justin peered into his face. "What's wrong?"

Lance didn't think he would be glad to see Joey so soon, but he was. When Joey leaned into the room and said "Bass, now," jerking his head toward the hallway, Lance was almost happy. At least with Joey he didn't have to explain what had happened.

Lance thought that this was maybe the most awkward moment of his life, including the audition for Lou, when he had fucked up the Star Spangled Banner and blushed so hard he thought he might faint.

"So," Joey said. There was no bruise yet, but Lance noticed that Joey would sometimes reach up and touch his face with just the tips of his fingers, lightly. It must hurt.

"So," he said.

"Look, I'm sorry. Okay?"

"What?" This was unexpected.

Joey rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"For what? I punched you in the face. I should be sorry."

"Are you?"

Lance shrugged. "No. Not really. I mean, kind of. But no."

Joey smiled, then grimaced. "This fuckin' hurts, I hope you know."

"It was supposed to." Lance smiled back.

"Yeah, I figured." Joey touched his jaw again. He was already in his dance clothes, which for Joey meant a t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off and big basketball shorts. His arms looked huge. Lance wondered what he had been thinking when he punched a guy that big. "So I guess this means I shouldn't kiss Kenny anymore," Joey said.

Lance nodded. "That would be good."

"What if I kissed JC? Would you punch him instead?"

"I'd punch anyone you kissed," Lance said. His shoes, his favorite tennis shoes, white on white, seemed to glow in the dim light of the hall. He noticed that he'd missed a loop for one of the laces.

"Yeah?" Joey said. He was closer, now.

"Yeah." He could see the door to the studio out of the corner of his eye. Someone, Justin no doubt, was playing rap music in there.

"Chris?" Joey asked.

"Sure." Lance's nod was small, quick, so that he didn't bump against Joey's shoulder.

"Justin?" Joey's voice was soft in his ear, the way a kitten's purr was soft, just before it dug its claws into you out of love. Lance flinched at the warmth.

"I'd punch Justin just on principle," he said. He was crowded up against the wall, now, Joey's t-shirt against his arm, his other shoulder rubbed on the cool cinderblock.

"Lance," Joey murmured. One of his hands came up and brushed Lance's mouth. It trailed over his cheek, lifted his chin, so that he was staring up, right at Joey, who was staring back, smiling. "You're not gay."

"No," Lance said. "No. I could learn, though."

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