Just a Little 5

by Miss Kitty E

So the weekend wasn't as bad as it might have been. Lance's dad must have told Diane to go easy on him, because when he came down for breakfast Saturday morning she had only a condescending headshake and gentle nag about 'telling them first,' so they could 'discuss these things.' Sourly, he wondered if he should ask her first before he kisses anymore boys, and then spent a good five minutes wondering if that meant he intended to do it again. Suddenly, he couldn't finish his cereal. Josh called him that afternoon, gently prodding him until he spilled, admitting everything but whenever JC asked him a question about how he felt or what he was going to do he found himself unable to answer. The conversation didn't really amount to much, the only thing he felt better about after hanging up was his and JC's friendship.

He spent the rest of the night flip-flopping between desire and fear, trying to figure out what exactly his choices were so he could go ahead and try to pick one. Most of the time he could admit it plainly, he had liked the kiss, he liked Joe, but even so he was never sure that he liked the kiss because of Joey. And sometimes he thought he could do it, call up Joe and say something to the effect of 'I want to try it,' and other times Lance thought he didn't want to ever have to look him in the eye again. No quiet or peace could find him, his thoughts would overwhelm him until the only thing he could think about was the fact he couldn't stop thinking.

Sunday morning brought on a not unexpected, but still unprepared for sense of dread. He wondered as he sat in the back of the station wagon if anybody would be able to tell, if he bore some mark that would make the whole congregation cast him out, but in the end, it was anti-climatic. There wasn't even a sermon about fiery urges from hell, rather some good-natured thoughts on generosity and how "the cup shall runneth over only when you empty it first." Afterwards, while his mother chatted with the other ladies in the parking lot, he almost worked up enough courage to go up to the preacher and ask him a question, any question. He didn't though, because the pastor didn't know Joey and Lance felt that for an honest, useful answer, you had to know Joey, too, not just the "pretty lookin'" kid from Mississippi who's been in your 'flock' for a month. So instead, he went home and slept.

Monday morning was unobtrusive and subtle in it's torture, Lance hadn't set his alarm and so he was twenty minutes late out of bed. He had to skip breakfast and a shower to dress, grab his stuff, and get to the bus in time. Only, the bus was fifteen minutes late, so he stood sweating in the dense morning humidity wishing he could just go back to bed even though he wasn't tired anymore. At school, thankfully, there was a breakfast line and the extra dollar he'd taken from his mother's purse. He waited, cow-like, moving when the others moved, and grabbing a biscuit and a bit of cereal. Stepping out, he swung his head either way looking for an out of the way place to sit, and by chance he saw Justin outside in the courtyard.

Lance walked towards him, pushing the door open his hip. He approached quietly, because Justin was bent over something in seeming fierce concentration. When he sat down and Justin look mildly surprised, their eyes met briefly and each could see that the other had something on his mind. Lance looked down at his food, pouring the milk over the truly pathetic serving of frosted flakes, and Justin bent over his task again, which Lance could now see was scratching graffiti in thick, black marker on the white, concrete table. They might have gone the whole morning without a word had Lance known Justin well enough to be comfortable with his silence.

"Anything wrong?" he asked meekly, ready to be turned down.

Justin nodded, finishing a violent curve on the 'J' he'd been working on. "Yeah. Chris is having second thoughts."

"Second thoughts? About what?"

"Everything," Justin said miserably. "He graduates this year, you know, and then he'll get a 'real job' and have a 'real life'- no school or anyone to tell him what to do. I guess he wants a real boyfriend, too."

"He said that?" Justin wasn't really his to protect, but Lance felt some quasi-brotherly, half-unarticulated desire to make sure that Justin didn't hurt like this again. He figured it was just because the kid was finally showing his age.

"Not exactly. He said he didn't know if being a college graduate with a high school boyfriend would work."

Lance nodded, the rationale made sense. "Well, Justin-"

"I know it can't last forever, okay? Who's asking for that? But it's just... we have so much time left, and I don't want to just up and leave before it's over." In two or three sentences he had used all his bluster, and he spoke now in quiet sighs. "He's mine, you know? Not like... name-written-across-the-forehead mine, but, like. Made-for-me mine."

"Have you told him that? In those words?"

Justin shook his head, "I was afraid it'd only give him ammunition. You know, like, 'see, you're getting too clingy. You're getting attached.'"

Lance shrugged, rubbing the heel of one hand over the palm of the other. "You should tell him that you want to love him for as long as you can, who could say no to that?"

Justin seemed to consider it, but he had nothing more to say about it. He capped his marker and slid it into an oversized pocket. "What about you, huh? Why are you so bummed?"

"JC didn't tell you?" Lance asked, skeptically.

"He said something went down, but he wouldn't say what," Justin cocked his head, waiting.

"You know Joey?" Lance began.

"That guy you talk about? From theatre?"

Lance nodded and moved his jaw around a little as if to see which word it'd accept saying, he settled on, "I kissed him."

"Woah!" Justin was smiling. "Like really? What happened?"

"What do you mean what happened?" he just couldn't figure out this reaction. At least JC had had the decency to be a little solemn.

Justin shrugged, "Well, like are you guys going out now? He likes you?"

Lance frowned, rubbing his face. "What? Justin, no... it's not like that."


"Why?" He had think about that for a long time, "Because it... because I'm not like that."

"Then why'd you kiss him?"

"I didn't," Lance said defensively. "He kissed me."

He shrugged again, "You said you kissed him."

Lance didn't know why Justin had to make this so hard. "We kissed each other, okay? And it was... an accident... it wasn't, um, completely, you know, mutual."

"He forced it?" Now it was Justin to feel a strange desire to protect.

"No! I just... I didn't- I wasn't thinking."

"Oh." Justin pursed his lips, "Have you talked to him?"

Lance shook his head morosely, "I will today."

"What are you going to say?"

Opening his mouth, Lance made an inarticulate noise before realizing he had no answer. "I don't know yet."

"Seems to me there are two choices, yes and no. One of those is good?"

'Yes' he could be with Joey, 'No' he couldn't. Was it really that simple? It wasn't. "No, neither."

"Okay..." Justin tried again, "At this point are you leaning more towards yes or no?"

Lance bit his lip, "I don't know."

Sighing in frustration, Justin leaned back and stretched a little. "Lemme tell you what I know then. For like the past month you've talked about nothing but Joey and how great he is. I don't know him but you seem to like him a lot, you know as a friend, and he certainly seems to like you, so maybe you should give more thought to this than whether or not you like dick."

Lance's green eyes had never been so cold as when they focused on Justin's face after he said that. "You don't get it."

"Whatever, man, you don't get it. You think I woke up one morning and knew and went out and it all came naturally? It don't work like that. You understand?"

Lance nodded dumbly, but before he could say anything more, the bell rang. He chucked what was left of his breakfast in a nearby trashcan. When he turned back Justin had already grabbed his bag. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Justin nodded, "Later man. Um, listen, baby steps. Baby steps in the right direction."

"Maybe," Lance said. "Maybe."


Lance spent the rest of the day a little scared that he would turn around to find Joey there, that he'd have to come up with something to say right then and there. He moved kind of quickly through the halls, head bent, and it worked until lunch, when he looked up to see Joey walking out towards the parking lot. It was apparent he hadn't been seen, but he made no move to hide himself, watching Joey for another pro or con to put down. But it was nothing special, maybe Joey's shoulders were more slumped than relaxed, maybe he didn't usually eat with just TJ, Lance didn't know for sure. When the door finally closed after Joey, Lance let out a puff of breath; he'd been holding his breath the entire time.

At rehearsal, or rather, just outside the door to the theatre, a thick, heavy fear curled around his heart and settled there, making him shiver and sweat a little at the palms. Swallowing, he forced himself to pull open the door, and rush in the same way he had rushed through the halls. Putting his bag in one seat, and taking the other, he pulled his feet up onto the cushion, curled into a protective ball and waited. A few moments later, Joe walked across the stage, and this time he spotted Lance easily.

Their eyes sort of brushed each other, too scared to really lock gazes. Lance didn't like the expression he saw on Joey's face at all when they did, like Joey had recognized the source of all his pain, past and present. Lance wondered what would happen, it was just a work day after all, time to build and paint sets, position lights, and sort props, no need for them to interact. Part of him wanted that way. Sitting curled up like this, barely any thoughts at all in his head, that was easy, going up to Joe would be, what, the hardest thing ever in his life so far? Probably.

But then what would tomorrow be like? More silence, more diverted eyes and painful looks in Joey's eyes; he got up. Joey seemed to sense him as he approached, shoulders bunching up and hands stilling. He turned his head slowly, and looked at Lance's shoes.

"Hey Joey," Lance was surprised his voice could even squeak like that. With his mouth open, he searched for something non-threatening to say, "Smoke break?" he tried.

Joey put down his hammer and nodded, following Lance out the side door. Outside, they simply stood side by side, both facing the parking lot, shifting from foot to foot.

"I haven't really driven you to smoke, have I?" Joey asked, fishing for a few words.

Lance shook his head, "No. Never. You should quit, yourself." He bumped Joey with his shoulder, and Joey bumped back.

"Yeah, I should."

And suddenly there was nothing more to say about that, and Lance was taking deep breaths to see which one of them wanted to lead into the first word. None of them did.

"Do you hate me now?" Joey asked suddenly. "Do you hate yourself? Is that it? What's going on with you?" It wasn't condescending at all the way he asked it, just confusion, concern, so Lance wasn't offended. "I mean..."

"I don't hate you, okay." He turned and rested his shoulder against the brick looking at Joey's profile. "I just, that gave me a lot of stuff think over and I'm still not finished working through it. You must know how it is."

Joey nodded, he did know. Sort of. "What does that mean as far as us?"

"Us?" Lance asked, he kind of liked that word, 'us,' but at the same time it scared the hell out him. "I just can't do this yet, Joe."

"But you want to?"

Lance shifted on his feet again, "A little."

"Just a little?" Joey stepped closer to Lance, rubbing his arm for comfort, and only for a moment.

"I need time," he said sighing. He looked up at Joey, "We gotta start this over again, you know? Where you're bi and I'm curious and we'll see where it goes without all these surprises."

What else was Joey to do except nod? "Okay. I can do that."

"Good. Okay," Lance smiled shortly then retreated back into himself.

"Do I have to ask now before I flirt?" A little rueful, mostly playful.

Lance nodded, but he was smiling, "Yes."

"Sure that won't get annoying? I like to flirt with you, a lot."

"Oh!" Lance exclaimed as if he only now understood. "You mean with me? That's fine, but you still have to ask before you flirt with anyone else."

In the new, more jovial mood, Joey asked what he really wanted to know. "Can I kiss you?"

Lance considered it, "Only when the situation really calls for it. For a while."

"Okay," He put his hands in his pockets. "Are you going to start coming to Out Loud meetings now?"

"I don't know," Lance said softly. "I don't... I'm not ready to-"

"It's twice a month," Joey said. "You can make excuses to your parents. For a while."

Nodding, he said, "Maybe so, then. I'd like to."

"Good," His eyes swept over Lance's face, lips twitching into a smile when a light blush covered pale cheeks and Lance dropped his eyes shyly. He bent forward, nuzzling him a little so Lance would tilt his head back and let their lips meet. It was brief and warm and the inside of Lance's mouth tasted sweeter than it should, like he'd been sucking on candy before.

Lance pulled away slowly, looking around to make sure no one had seen them. "Jesus, Joe," but Joey knew he wasn't angry.

"We should get back inside," he murmured, and they both turned back towards the door. "It's gonna be a good show," he threw out.

Lance smiled, "Yeah, I think so, too."

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