the Whole No. 6: The Car I Drive
The Car I Drive
There wasn't a rule about it anywhere, but at some point along the years Joey and Chris had come to an agreement that they would keep the band together for as long as they could. Not in an evil manipulative way, but by keeping people in love with the band and each other for a long as possible. That had been the hard part for Joey after he and Justin had broken up. Staying together.
He hadn't wanted to break up the group, even then, but seeing Justin everyday, hearing his voice, watching him stand in a room suddenly so unreachable when just two days, eight days, a month ago Joey could have gone up and put a hand on him ... Joey spent a lot of time back then wanting to gouge his own eyes out.
The second hardest part, after Justin, had been Chris, who kept coming by, "just to hang, you know," he said, but Joey knew it was really to check up on him and make sure that he was really not thinking about leaving. He would come in and watch t.v. with Joey for and hour or two, sliding nervous glances his way when he thought Joey wasn't looking.
"I'm okay," Joey said, finally. "I'm not leaving, Chris."
"No, I know," Chris said. "Never a doubt in my mind, baby."
Joey nodded and they went back to watching television. Joey didn't even know what was on. Food Network maybe, or Home and Garden channel. Something that Justin wouldn't ever be mentioned on.
"He's a fool," Chris said after a minute. "And I say that with all the love in my heart, man." He sat down next to Joey and rubbed one hand over his shoulder. "He's a fool and he's going to regret this."
"Yeah?" Joey asked. His throat was thick with tears. Again. He reached for a Kleenex. "How the fuck do you know?"
Chris shrugged. "I know Justin."
"What else do you know?" Joey asked.
Chris shrugged again. "Not a whole hell of a lot."
Chris was right. That had been almost a year ago, and Joey had coped and dealt and went back to Kelly for a couple of ill-fated months and ended up with a daughter and spent a lot of time with Lance, lying around Lance's house just talking about things, letting things out. You could do that around Lance, let things out. He was a good listener. But then, not a month ago, Chris had come up to him and said "would you be my girlfriend?"
"I thought JC was your girlfriend," Joey said.
Chris rolled his eyes. "I'll treat you good," he sang lightly. "You know you hear your friends when they say you should." He glanced across the room, to where Justin was standing, drinking water.
"Chris, you freak," Joey said, shoving him, but he got the message.
Joey looked up at the scaffolding where Chris was getting harnessed in. He had to check it out every time. No matter how many times Tony told him that the set was fine, that everything had been gone over with a fine toothed comb, Chris had to go up there and get buckled in and stand there facing down demons Joey didn't understand. Justin was up there with him. Justin always went up there with him. Justin was fearless.
Justin took a step toward the edge and Joey could hear the Chris' high panicked voice, and then Justin stepped back and hugged Chris. Chris waved. Joey waved back.
Chris was on Justin's side, of course. Chris had to be on Justin's side, and he wanted to be on Justin's side, and would continue to be on Justin's side. He was Justin's best friend in the entire world and it was his job, but he and Joey had an agreement.