Pattern of the Whole No. 12: Gladly Swap Places
by Synchronik

Gladly Swap Places
by Synchronik

"Look straight in the board room
a modern pharoah's tomb.
I'd gladly swap places
if they care to dive."

When I Fall
Barenaked Ladies

Justin noticed it on the day Joey got hurt. They were all horsing around on the set and he was near the middle of the stage with Chris, drinking water and listening to him talk about how there should definitely not be any flying in this show. Well, pretending to listen anyway: Chris had the same arguments every time and they all really boiled down to flying made Chris feel like he was going to wet his pants and vomit simultaneously. But so, anyway, he was pretending to listen when he heard the most terrifying sound ever.

Joey screamed.

Justin turned, mouth open. Joey was on the floor, his whole and entire voice raised, one of legs gone, just gone.


By the time he got there, though, Lance was already there and Joey's leg had been restored, pulled out of the trapdoor, bleeding sluggishly. He was quiet, both hands folded around the top of his thigh, breath harsh and rapid.

"It's okay, it's okay," Lance was saying. He pulled the fabric of Joey's jeans apart from the small hole near Joey's calf, the hole where the blood came from. Lance ripped the material open with his bare hands. "Hang on." He folded his hands together and bore down on the wound and Joey screamed again.

"Stop it!" Justin shouted, clutching at Lance's shoulder. "You're hurting him!"

Lance didn't say anything, but he stopped pushing, wiping his bloody hands on his own jeans. "You're okay, Joey," he said. Joey's hand reached out and Lance took it, and that was when Justin knew that whatever he and Joey had was over. Done. He didn't even offer to ride in the ambulance.

He sat on the edge of the stage, tapping his feet against it, and pretended he wasn't watching them now. They weren't doing anything, Lance and Joey. Lance was leaning on the railing of the right side stage, hands on the railing, listening to Joey talk. His face was lifted to Joey's. He was smiling. He wanted Joey to kiss him, and the fact that Justin could tell that by his posture was both reassuring and sickening. It meant that Joey hadn't kissed him yet, which was the reassuring part, but it also meant that they were at the very beginning of whatever they were starting, that Lance was just now feeling the rush of adrenaline in the pit of his stomach, the hot thrill of anticipation. Joey was smiling down at him, fondly.

Justin looked away, down at his folded hands, hanging between his knees. He heard Lance's low laughter. He closed his eyes.

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