ࡱ> ^`]` jbjb $Ddd.......42424242 @2D]9222222228888888,:Re<69.2222298..2298882f.2.288BT6....2888..82 42388-90]98<8<88. On The Bus 3 by Synchronik

On the Bus 3
by Synchronik

Joey thought it might be called "the crack of dawn" because if you were up to see it, your head probably felt like it was splitting wide open. His sure did. He'd been out late after the show, too late, probably, and had gotten back to the bus just in time.

"Joey, man," Lance had said, laughing as Joey tried to catch his breath. "We thought you were gonna get left behind."

"Were you gonna sing my part, Bass?" Joey grinned, peeling off his red leather coat.

"Ain't no replacing you, Fatone," Lance had said.

"We could try," Chris had said. Joey'd cuffed him.

He'd fully expected to sleep after that, sleep until two or three in the afternoon even, or until the guys grew too bored with the tv and the video games and decided to harass him. He'd crashed, hard.

And yet, barely three hours later, he was up. That happened to him sometimes, when he'd had too much to drink. He would get up to pee, and the alcohol would leave his system, and he'd be up no matter how late he went to bed. It sucked, but there was nothing to do but to wait it out. He grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge, and settled down on the floor in front of couch to watch the sky grow light.

He woke up three hours later, to the feeling of someone curling up against him. He lifted his head.

They were all crammed into the small open space in between the couch and the tv. The person who had moved up against him was Justin, curled on his side, looking half his normal lanky height. Chris had his head on Justin's stomach, and a pillow in his arms. Lance and JC were slumped on top of each other, resting on Chris' legs like puppies in a box, foreheads touching. JC was wrapped tight in a blanket. The tv was playing static.

They had come out here to check on him, probably Chris or Justin first, and put in a video when they couldn't get back to sleep. And then, maybe the noise had woken Lance, or JC, and then, one by one, they had fallen asleep.

"Fucking goofballs," Joey murmured, snagging a pillow off the couch and lying back down.

It would have looked weird to someone else. Hell, Joey thought, it would have looked weird to him before the group, but it got lonely on the road, and they had learned early on that there was comfort in numbers, in the simple heat of one another. Like this.

Joey felt his face heat up a little.

There had been other times, too. Times when maybe curling up together hadn't been enough, and other things had happened. Once or twice.

Like that night in the back of the limo when Lance, blond and charmingly drunk, leaned up against him, one hand on his thigh. The kiss had been slow and lazy and rum-flavored, and Joey had not forgotten it.

He had also not forgotten JC shimmying up behind him in a club in Miami, sliding his hands into Joey's waistband. "Hey, Joe!" JC said, laughing in his ear.

"Hey, yourself, JC," he'd said. They'd danced for a minute and then JC was off to someone else.

Or Chris, leaping onto his back in a moment of supreme silliness, and whispering in his ear, "I could climb you like a tree."

And it was a silly half-kept secret that whenever Justin had too much to drink he went around smooching everyone. Or that when he was tired, he would sometimes pick the closest one of the guys and curl up on them, just as he was doing now.

And Joey had wondered sometimes, if there wasn't something more there than loneliness and friendliness and the bonds forged under pressure that made them like this. If there was something . . . well, some desire. He looked over at Chris' peaceful face, pressed into Justin's shirt just under his ribs. At Lance and JC so close that their lips were almost touching. At Justin's young face near his shoulder.

Joey sighed. His head hurt too much for these kinds of thoughts. He curled his arm over Justin and rested his hand in Chris' hair. It was probably nothing.

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