Scrutiny: 8

by Miss Kitty E

Something keeps moving under my arm and it better fucking stop it. This one, simple thought reaches me in the nexus between sleep and consciousness but it's enough for my brain to latch onto, and slowly all my senses return as well as more coherent thoughts. Still, I keep my eyes closed, just hoping that this nasty thing called wakefulness will go away. No dice, because the thing under my arm is now speaking as well as moving.

"Lance, baby, we gotta get up." Joe's voice. Joe's early morning husky whisper. That makes things a little better.

"No," I tell him, clamping down my arm, pushing my face further into the pillow. "The wake up call hasn't come yet."

He pinches me, "Then you must not have asked for one, because we're late. It's almost seven."

"Fuck," I mumble, rubbing my side. It is time to get up, my mind has accepted this, but my body still fights it. He slips out from beneath me, and I move into the pool of body heat he left. Eventually, I roll onto my back to watch him dress, just throwing on clothes because he's only making himself decent for the trek to his room down the hall where he'll dress in new clothes. "You should have gone back last night," I tell him.

"Didn't want to," he tells me, pushing his feet into his sneakers but not tying them.

It takes me a second to remember why that would be, and when I do, I don't say anything more. He picks up his sunglasses from the nightstand and I catch his hand, pushing my face up to his. It's a lazy kiss, closed mouth, because I can taste the morning breath. Joe says it's because I sleep with my mouth open, which means he's watched me while I slept. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing.

A knock on the door interrupts our good-bye kiss. "Hey Lance?" Justin calls.

Joey steps back, and I have to clear my throat before answering. "Yeah?"

"You seen Joey? We can't find him."

I look at Joey and he nods his head. "Yeah," I say absently. Joey pantomimes eating, and I'm able to add to that quickly enough. "I think he went down to get something eat."

I can hear Justin's sigh through the door, "We already looked in the restaurant."

Oops. "Maybe you missed him coming back up," I offer.

"Whatever. He's late and so are you."

"Love you, too, Sunshine!" I think I'm just angry that my body has finally let go of any hope of curling up and sleeping another twenty hours, give or take a few. I get up.

Joey whistles, which is both flattering and annoying because now I feel all self-conscious. I can only look him in the eye after pulling on some jeans, but when I do his smile seems out of place. He doesn't seem like the same guy I had to hold last night until the tremors of old fears subsided. He must have called his parents before coming to my room because suddenly all he could do was whisper about lies, and expectations, and how he wished everything would just stop so he could be with me. It worries me, if he could hide his distress about that now, how could I could ever know that something else was bothering him?

"Hey," I say, softly. I move to him, and slip an arm around his waist. Sometimes I wish I were bigger than him, tall enough to tuck him under my chin and be confident that any threat to him and his smile would be small compared to me. Just as often I'm glad that he can do that for me, so it's an even trade. "You gonna be okay?"

He nods, "It just hit me hard last night. Mom was talking about how cute it was that Nana was still worrying about me, wanting me to settle down."

I wish there was something I could say, but I don't know what would be overstepping my bounds as the guy Joey sleeps with. I kiss him quickly and then shove him away gently. "Look your best today, huh? We got an interview."

He looks indignant, "Don't I always?"

"No," I tell him, nonchalantly. I pull on a sweater and when I can see again I find him flicking me off. I try to dodge when his hand darts out but still it finds my hair, scrubbing hard. I grunt and pop him one against the meat of his upper arm. By way of apology, the harassment becomes a kind of caress but when our eyes meet in the quiet he turns away, reaching for the door.

"I'll see you on the bus."

I nod, and choose not to watch him go as I think of what else he might have said. It's easier to focus on getting ready quickly, and I manage to be the third person on the bus. Justin and Joey soon follow, and when I take the corner seat on the couch, Joey sits beside me. We have a ways to travel, from Austin to Houston where we have the interview this afternoon and another performance tonight, so it isn't too long before Joey settles in, which in this case means curling up on his side, his cheek resting on one of the fleshier spots on my thigh. No one gives us a second glance, and what the guys think of this, I'm not sure.

I wouldn't mind telling them, if only to get around the half-lies and whispered words, but Joey refuses. Perhaps that is a bit unfair, I've never really asked him to tell the others, but as many times as the opportunity arises, he never does, and so I keep quiet, too. Instead, I do what I can to make him see. As often as possible, I show him that they've been pretty cool with my sexuality, making cracks about Nick from 98 Degrees when Chris is joking about 'Christina Jailbait.' He sees, and says nothing. I try to get the guys to say something, putting my arms around Joe's waist, my head on his shoulder, touching his hands whenever I feel like it, and they see, but say nothing. I guess I can understand, but it bothers me. I'm afraid that unless he really says it, it will never be real to him, and that this will make it easier to break. I don't know, maybe I'm the one who needs to be convinced it's real.

I look down at him, partly because he's in my thoughts, but mostly in annoyance. I'd really like to move, shift a little lower and cross my legs, but I don't because I want him to stay. I look around and everyone seems so absorbed in their chosen tasks that I don't feel too conspicuous to comb my fingers through his hair. I'm glad I'm still watching him as he turns his face slightly, pressing his lips to the denim covering my leg. I wish I could tell him how that made me feel, but I can't, so I look away.

I find JC, smiling tiredly at me, and once again I wish we had found a way to talk about it. Even now, two months after Chris' party, four months after I figured out JC had some sort of feeling for me, I wish I had been able to say I was sorry, and I wish I knew if he resented me, or was ever hurt by what didn't happen, if maybe he's just moved on and really is happy for me. Most of all, I wish I could talk to him about Joey and me, because he just knows, but rather than do any of this, I smile back and continue stroking Joey's hair. It's purple now, by the way, which I hate, but the length pleases me.

As much as I worry, as much as my peace is disturbed by the thought that Joe is still hiding, only now not from himself, this has been good for me, because I'm happy now and whatever follows this can't negate that. In the end I'm sure it will have been good for Joey, too, and that's probably all that matters. So I don't press. Maybe that little something more I keep wanting will come on it's own.


It was a good interview, one of the better we've had in a long time. It isn't any problem with the band, if there was a fatal flaw in the group's dynamics it would have shown up long ago; rather, it's the interviewers. Suddenly, it isn't about 'how did you guys get together,' or 'isn't it wild you're so successful?' It's 'So, Justin, you were noticeably absent as Britney's escort at the so-and-so charity function, what's up with that?' followed by several minutes of us trying to calm the tension before Justin walks out. Or it's 'the album isn't doing that great, huh? Do you think this signals the end of the Pop Invasion?' and we have to explain that just because it's not doing as well as the last album, doesn't mean it's a flop, but with someone nodding blankly at you it just seems to be another lame excuse. If they realize how fucking uncomfortable these questions are, they don't care.

This interview, I suppose, was really just like the others, save one very good, very beautiful thing that Joey said. I really need to talk to him about it, but we're stuck outside the bus, signing autographs, and being personable. A moment later, I decide I can't wait, though I know we should stay out longer, I tug on Joey's sleeve, nodding my head towards the bus. After finishing up a brief conversation, he follows me, and the other guys remain outside. I hesitate a moment and Joey sits back on the small couch, waiting. Finally, I decide that to do this, I have to be close to him, and the simplest way to do this seems to be to crawl into his lap. I don't care that the other guys will be getting on soon, let them think what they will, I've fought long enough to be able to do this when I please.

"Hey there," he says softly, resting his hands on my hips.

I smile, and press my forehead to his, "Say it again."

"Say what again?" he asks, his eyes move over once to the door, but return to me. "Hey there?"

I pause a moment on how best to explain it, deciding to try for sickeningly cute. "So Joey," I begin, and he looks at me oddly because I rarely call him anything but Joe now. "Dating anybody?" I ask with a waggle of my brows that interviewers use to assure us that, though we just met and will likely never speak again, we really are friends.

He seems to understand me now, and begins to slide his hands up and down my sides as if to sooth me. "Yes."

I smile, "Really? Is it exclusive?" I feel my stomach dip already, because I know the answer. I heard it just now during he interview with the magazine, I just want to hear him say it again, this time to me.

"Very," he says, smiling back.

"What do you know? Me too," I murmur, moving my hands from the cushions I had anchored myself with to him, one clutching his shoulder for balance and the other cupping the base of his neck.

I hear the "thump-thump-sigh" of one of the guys getting on the buss, and feel Joey tense, but I only hold him tighter. He lets me, crossing his wrists over the small of my back with a small sigh, and never asking me to move even when the other two follow. Someone lingers, probably Justin, eating quietly in the kitchen area but the other guys have left us to our moment, retreating to their bunks in the back. I really want to kiss Joe, but I won't, this is more than enough. The bus begins to move, slowly at first, taking us away to another place that isn't home. The venue, probably.

I think he understands what this means to me, I mean, we're dating. For all he and I said when this started, what we had was never clear to us because we never worked within a normal relationship. We already knew each other so well, and spent so much damn time together, who was to say it was serious? Well, now I know, he's my boyfriend and I'm his. Not his "close" friend, not his fuck buddy, his honest to God lover. It feels so good I want to cry, but don't. It feels good enough that even though we're going out means that we'll eventually break up, it doesn't bother me, because it doesn't have to end now, you see. I don't have to wait for him to tell me we should stop fooling around because he's found someone he wants to be with, because he's already found me.

When I pull away to sit normally- everything below my knees is going numb -I do kiss him, because I've forgotten, because I don't care, just two quick shows of gratitude, affection, and ownership. He smiles almost bashfully, looking over at the kitchen where Justin is watching the TV.

"You shoulda said something," he tells us when he sees he's been acknowledged.

"Not always that easy," Joey replies.

He shrugs, "Whatever. Just be cool about it."

"We'll try," I say, sarcastically, wishing he would either leave or say something more substantial. He chooses the first option, going back to either lie down or tell the others.

I settle into the safe, warm place I always find in the circle of Joey's arms. "It's all good?" I ask him.

He nods, and smiles like it's not a conscious choice, but something he just couldn't hide, "Yeah. It is."

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