Just a Little: 3
by Miss Kitty E
"Oh hey Mr. Garcia," Joey said as he stepped inside the little office his teacher had backstage. "I just need to use the phone real quick, is that alright?"
Part Four - Fic Index - Main
The director nodded absently as he went over some administrative paperwork. Joey picked up the phone, dialing up his mother and telling her he'd be home early because he was skipping rehearsal.
"You're not coming this afternoon, Joey?" Mr. Garcia asked tiredly when Joey hung up the phone.
He nodded; uncomfortable under his teacher's scrutiny. "Yeah... I have a meeting this afternoon I can't miss. But I haven't missed a rehearsal yet. What, you think I can't afford it?"
Mr. Garcia shook his head, raising his hand in apology. "I didn't mean that, it's just with Jeremy dropping out and you gone it's gonna be impossible to work on the scenes I wanted to."
"Jeremy dropped out?" Joey asked leaning against the doorsill.
"Yes. He found out he was missing a science credit and he's going to have to drop theatre to get in time to graduate."
Joey frowned, to have someone drop out a month into the production, that was just not good. Sure, the fundraiser wasn't usually very impressive, but that wasn't an excuse to do it half assed. "Do you know who's going to take his place yet?"
His teacher gave a taught shake of his head that tossed his salt and pepper hair around, "No. Everybody in the Varsity Troupe is taken... I may just go to the freshman class or the chorus, I'm not sure which yet."
"Really?" Joey stopped playing with the door handle and looked up. "You know who would really be great for it? Lance. He's in the chorus, you know, he's really good."
"I'll look into it," and it sounded like Mr. Garcia meant it. "Thanks for the suggestion. And Joey, have fun at your meeting."
"Thanks, mister." Joey was finally able to leave the office, smiling. He'd have to find Lance before the day was over, to tell him about the role, to see him just once today.
Lance felt a soft tap on his shoulder but when he turned there was no one there. A second tap came, this time from behind, and he managed to turn just fast enough to catch a blur of movement. The third time he was ready, grabbing the hand as it came down, holding it there as he looked over his shoulder.
"Hey Joe," he said finally, letting go of the warm fingers under his hand.
"Hey, guess what?" Joey demanded happily.
Lance waited until he finished zipping up his bag before asking, "What?"
"Mr. Garcia is might give you Jeremy's part in the show."
"What? Why?" Lance closed his locker, blinking up at Joe.
"He had to drop the show, had to drop theatre all together, really." Joey's fist connected gently with Lance's shoulder, "I suggested you for it."
"Oh wow," Lance breathed, readjusting the straps on his backpack. "You really think-"
"Don't get your hopes too high, cause he might just pull someone out of the first-year class, but who knows, right?"
"But you really think I could.... do it?"
Joey rolled his eyes, "Of course you could, man. You've had to sit through him reading his lines as much as I have. You'll do great, Lance, I know it. If you get the role."
A strange kind of desire came over Lance, perhaps not so much strange, as out of place. He wanted to throw his arms around Joey's neck, just to show his gratitude, his affection for this unexpected friend. He almost did it, catching himself just as he took a step forward. It was dumb, he knew, because what if Joey thought he was gay? He didn't think Joey would freak, after all he was so close to TJ, but he didn't want to mess up their friendship with some sort of awkward misunderstanding. "This is so awesome," he said instead.
Joey saw the smile spread across Lance's lips and knew that it was worth anything and everything to receive.
Even in the noise of the hallway, the word "Fags!" and the ensuing laughter were not missed by either of them. Lance's smile faded almost instantly as he looked to the source of the cry, spying a group of rowdy jocks at the end of the hall.
"Don't look at them," Joey said in a hushed, urgent voice. "It's um. That probably wasn't for us; they call each other shit like that all the time, but-" He put himself between Lance and the other boys, hoping his bigger body would keep the blonde mostly out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind, "Lance?"
"It's nothing," he said quickly, running a hand over his hair. Maybe his eyes were a little too shiny, but Joey couldn't be sure it wasn't just the lighting at this angle.
"I gotta get to class. Have fun without me this afternoon, okay?"
Lance looked up quickly, and asked, "Huh? You won't be at rehearsal today?"
He got a tight shake and a soft, "No," for his answer.
Lance tried not to feel so disappointed, but it stuck with him, that tight, crestfallen feeling. "Oh, okay."
Joey pressed his lips together, and decided to admit it even though Lance hadn't asked him to. "I've got an Out Loud meeting, and-"
"Yeah," Joey shoved his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. "It's a support group for, uh, well for gay and bisexual teens." He lost all of his nerves suddenly, and couldn't even force himself to look Lance in the eye.
Instead he saw Lance's feet move a little as the other boy shifted his weight, "Oh."
Joey nodded, kicking the linoleum to watch it scuff under his sneaker, sneaking a peek up at Lance. His eyes were still the same, open and otherworldly, ever focused on Joey, but now there was a little confusion there, too. "I just... I wanted to be upfront with you. I didn't want you to think you'd been misled."
"No, I-" Lance sighed and shook his head. "It's alright, Joe. I mean, ah." Oh, he had no idea what to say right now. Grasping at straws he said softly, and with as much goodwill as he could muster, "It doesn't matter at all, I don't care."
"Good. Thanks." Joey meant it, and he stood up a little straighter. He gave a shrug of his shoulder and laughed uncomfortably, "See you tomorrow, okay?" he turned away this time, raising his hand and letting it fall.
"Yeah," Lance raised his hand as well, "Later, Joe."
Lance was surprised to hear the doorbell ring, his house wasn't exactly one frequented by visitors. It was probably just some kid trying to sell fudge for her school, he decided.
"Lance, honey! There's a friend here to see you."
He stared dumbly at his bedroom door for a moment then slid off his bed. "Comin' Mom." He hurried down the stairs, pausing at the third step when he saw Joey standing, clearly uncomfortable, in the yellow rectangle of light let in by the open door.
He took the last few steps more slowly, wondering what was up. He put his hands on the doorknob, staring at his mother until she got the hint and went into the kitchen.
"What's up?" Lance asked, standing close so he could speak softly.
"Can we go somewhere and talk? About what happened this afternoon."
Lance looked down at his feet and realized he wasn't wearing any shoes. "Um, lemme go get my sneakers," he said softly. He guessed that meant he was going.
"Don't worry about it, I'm not taking you anywhere fancy." Joey looked down at Lance's feet, too, smiling when the other boy curled his toes to keep them from being seen.
"Mom, I'll be right back, okay?" Lance called as he hopped down the doorstep.
"Lance, what-?" The door shut before he could hear anymore of his mother's protest.
The sun was already setting, casting most of the street in shadow and so the black top was only pleasantly warm under Lance's feet as he crossed over to Joey's car.
"Where are we going?" he asked, watching Joey's hands as he unlocked the door for him.
"You'll see," Joey said quietly as he trotted over to the other side of the car.
Joey always drove a little to fast, Lance thought, or else he was just too used to his mother's own careful pace. During the late rehearsals this week Joey had taken Lance out to supper, to burger joints and places like that, then dropped him off at his house. But there had always been other people in the car with them, Hannah sometimes, or Adam, almost always TJ. This was the first time Lance could think of where he and Joey just sat in familiar silence and drove.
When the silence went on a little too long, and when Lance began to fear that Joey would think he didn't want to talk he said, "Mr. Garcia said I could have the role. Gave me the script and the pep talk and everything."
Joey didn't say anything back but when Lance looked over he was smiling, shiny and sincere and Lance was glad- as he always was –to know that he was a part of it.
There was a small city park barely two blocks away from the entrance of Lance's neighborhood. Joey pulled into the parking lot there, taking a deep breath before saying, "Let's get out... I really need a smoke."
Lance followed obediently, sitting against the hood of the car while Joey smoked and paced.
"They said," he paused and started over. "The sponsor at Out Loud said we should talk more about this. In case you had any, like... questions or anything."
Lance nodded, thinking Joey would have more to say. He didn't think he had any real problem with it, but he wasn't entirely sure. He felt funny, confused, when he thought of Joey and TJ maybe kissing, maybe doing other stuff. Somehow, Justin and JC were one thing, he didn't care anymore about that part of them, but Joey something completely different. He just wanted things to be like they were; not like this, where he felt as though he no longer understood Joey, where Joey seemed to be afraid that at any second Lance could decide he hated him.
"Is there anything?" Joey asked nervously. "Anything at all you wanna say or ask me?"
Lance thought about it for a long time; "Have you told many people?" he asked, just wanting to know if he was the last to know, the one idiot who just didn't get it.
Joey shrugged, "TJ knows. He and I got each other through junior high basically. Some of my close friends, yeah, and I guess anyone who managed to... figure it out." He looked at Lance and was torn between feeling the somber apprehension of the present moment or the usual giddy feeling he would always get when he looked at Lance's sleepy eyes and perfect hands.
"Are you and TJ..." he trailed off because he didn't really know how to say it.
"What? Together?" Lance nodded. "No! Oh man, not even once. We're just friends."
It did make Lance feel better knowing that and he smiled shortly up at Joe. His smiled faded a bit as he looked hard at Joe and tried to see it, the difference in him. "You talk about girls a lot," he said suddenly, not meaning to at all.
"Well, um, I'm bi. Bisexual. You know... play both fields and you score twice as much." He sighed heavily and finally sat down next to Lance. "I didn't lie to you, okay? I didn't... hide anything about myself, I promise. That was- is- who I really am. Still Joey," he said meekly. "Still your friend, right?"
Lance nodded sincerely, "I guess it just takes some getting used to. With Justin and JC, I knew like, almost right away, but..." He looked up at Joey, "Don't worry about it. I'm fine."
It wasn't as easy as that though, because Lance apparently had no confession of his own. He waited, hoping to hear it, "Of course it's alright you're bi, Joey. I'll let you in on a secret, too, so am I. Feel free to start making your move." He wanted badly to ask, because he didn't think he'd be able to go home tonight and put away this... feeling. But he kept his mouth shut, just knowing that asking Lance if he'd ever been attracted to a boy (especially the one right in front of him) would cross a line that couldn't be erased.
He sighed, sad and defeated, and suddenly Lance was there; two very timid arms around his shoulders, body heat, and the scent of hair gel. Joey was still for a long moment, raising his arms just as Lance was letting go; it hurt to let him step away without really holding him, but Joey thought that might be a good thing. After all, pain implied healing.
Lance straightened his back, and smiled down at Joey, "Still friends, Joe."
"You don't... it means a lot to me. Thanks." Joey stood and pulled his keys from his pocket. "I should get you back, huh?"
Lance nodded and went around to pull open his door. Inside, Joey flipped open his CD player, connected to his stereo with an adapter, and put in a different CD. A moment later, just as they pulled out of the lot, music blared into life. Lance only vaguely recognized the band, his brow wrinkled as he tried to remember the name, hoping he could impress Joey even a little by pretending he was a big fan.
"What's the matter, you don't like Sublime?"
The game was up and Lance sat back against his seat a little further, "It's not my kind of music, but they're alright."
Joey's nod turned into a subtle bob as he got into the music, "What is your kind of music then? Country?"
"And what's wrong with that?" Lance asked indignantly.
"Oh my god!" Joey gasped, laughing so hard. "Lemme guess, you're favorite one is Garth cause he's good to his momma?" he teased, imitating Lance's southern twang.
Lance crossed his arms over his chest, and tried to sink into his seat, one lip protruding into an elegant pout, "Shut up, Joe."
Joey continued laughing almost until the next song began, wiping imaginary tears as he steered one-handed. "It's too cute," he said finally, and even though Lance had managed to resist it all through Joey's laughter, he blushed.
Needing something else to focus on for a while, Joey started thinking about the show. "You know," he said speculatively. "We'll have to lighten your hair. Shit." The car in front of him was slowing down even though they both could have made the yellow light. He braked and looked over at Lance.
"You mean dye it?" Lance asked, disbelieving. He raised protective hands to his hair as if Joey meant to whip out the bleach right there at the stoplight.
"Yup! Come on, Danny always has a blonde sidekick. You don't wanna confuse people do you?"
Lance bit his lip, "I don't know, Joe."
"I used to bleach my hair all the time, you know, during that 'I'm a punk-rocker' phase. I can do it for you, Friday night you come over to my house and we'll lighten it up, okay?" Joey didn't even wait for an answer hit the gas and went through the light, as always, a little too fast.