I came out to the rest of the guys in the band when I was sixteen, to my family when I was fifteen, and to myself when I was twelve. I guess I'm one of those lucky people who just always knew. Not that there wasn't the requisite amount of angst or anything, but I never had the 'maybe it's all a phase' phase.
"Lance, you with us?" Justin called from the other side of the stage.
"Yeah, just thinking," I replied absently.
"Well, less thinking and more dancing. We've only got a couple more hours to work on this stuff today." He turned back to look at his own feet, perfectly executing a complex piece of footwork without even the music to back him up.
"Yeah, sure, Just," I said, tugging momentarily at the hem of my shirt, then snapping my head back up and trying to pay attention to the rehearsal. "Just anxious to get out of here today."
"Ooh, someone's got a hot date," called Chris from the back.
"Date?" repeated Joey, suddenly attentive to the conversation. "Cool, who is he, Lance? Is it that new guy who works on our lighting? He's kinda cute."
Joey thinks every new guy that comes on to the tour is cute. Or at least he tells me so. I thought at first that it was just his way of dealing with the fact he was uncomfortable that I was gay, but as time passed I realized that it was just the way he was.
"Okay, I'm starting the music now," announced JC. "Lance, if you're not with us I swear I'm chucking one of my socks right at your head."
That was definitely a big enough threat to get my attention. I didn't have a date; they were wrong about that. I just wasn't overly fond of spending all day in rehearsal. I wasn't great to begin with, and as I got more tired I messed up more. I was way better than I was when we started out, but rehearsals were still among my most hated days.
"So where are you guys going tonight?" asked Joey when we next took a breather about an hour later.
"I don't have a date." I tried to laugh, but it came out sounding bitter. I didn't want to sound upset by the fact, especially in front of Joey. I wasn't in the mood to be cheered up.
"Well, we could hang out tonight if you wanted," he offered. I was bent over, leaning on my knees to catch my breath; he knelt so he could look me in the eyes.
"Thanks, Joe, but I know you guys are going clubbing tonight. I think I'm just going to take it easy, maybe watch a movie or something."
"Well, if you're sure," he said, raising an eyebrow as a silent repeat of the earlier offer.
"I'm sure," I told him, standing up straight and stretching out my back. "Unlike the rest of you, my life doesn't end just because I don't have a date."
"That's what you always say," he said, rolling his eyes as he returned to his position, but he accepted the answer. It's not like I gave him much choice.
I leaned over on my knees again, but not to catch my breath. It was just the easiest way to watch JC stretch on the floor in front of me, his sweaty T-shirt clinging to his body as he leaned from side to side. Yeah, I had a crush on him. It wasn't even a secret crush--he knew, and he was cool with it.
"Come on guys," said Justin, clapping his hands together. "Let's get going. I'm ready for more." He began dancing to the music in his head again, flawlessly.
"You know," said Chris, pulling himself to his feet. "One of these days you're going to wake up and be my age..."
"Nuh uh, cuz you'll always be older than me," he said brightly. "Besides, you always say you're only as old as you feel. Or, uh, is it as old as you act?"
"If it were act, then Chris'd be five," said JC, getting to his feet as well. "Okay, let's give it another go."
I stood in the shower for a long time after the rehearsal, just letting the hot water flow over my body after a while. I was sharing a hotel room with JC this time, and he took it upon himself to bang on the door every five minutes to ask when I'd be finished. I wasn't even jerking off, which is what I'm sure he expected me to be doing, especially after his display at the rehearsal. Hell, I'd gotten that over with within the first five minutes, before he even started knocking.
Finally I just gave in and turned off the water, wrapping a clean, white towel around my waist and vacating the bathroom so he could get ready for his night out.
"Lookin' good, Lance," he said, eyeing me up and down as a walked past, then winking broadly. He closed the door to the bathroom, and I was left wishing he'd meant more than he had with that comment. Which I'm sure he knew I was going to do, too, the bastard. I grinned to myself and went to my suitcase to pull out something comfortable to lounge around in.
He was back out within five minutes, and like me he'd come out in nothing but a towel. Of course I couldn't keep his eyes off him and he noticed that. He just winked again and picked up the shirt and pants he'd laid out for himself, bringing them back into the bathroom to change. Sure, he'd tease me, but there was no way the guy was going to change in front of me.
"You sure you don't want to come tonight?" he asked through the half-closed bathroom door.
"Yeah, I'm sure. I'm tired," I told him. Another night I would have been right there with them, clubbin' the night away, but my body was weary from drilling a half-dozen different dances into it today and it was demanding I take a break. A couple Advil had taken care of the headache, but only rest would take care of my poor, overtrained muscles.
"Okay," he said. "I'm late, so I'll see you when we get back in. Have a good night." He dropped his wet towel on the floor by his bed and grabbed his leather jacket off the chair by the door, dashing out and probably hoping that they hadn't left without him. I guess I could have given him the first shower, but he was still probably ahead of Justin, who needed the extra time just to tame his hair.
The sound of a shoulder banging against my hotel room door woke me up, then there were too-loud-for-three-am voices, then someone managed to actually slide the keycard in so that the door would unlock for them.
"Lance, you sleeping?" came someone's whispered voice. Then there was a giggle.
"Okay, we'll be quiet then." I'm pretty sure that was JC talking in that harsh, trying-to-be-quiet-but-failing-miserably whisper. He was drunk, as was whoever was with him that just bumped into the end of my bed and sent me shifting out of the warm spot I'd created.
I sighed and lifted my head. "What on earth are you guys doing?"
They both looked up at me guiltily. "Um, I'm going to bed," said JC, still in that whisper. "Chris, what are you doing?"
"I'm helping you to bed, C," he said, trying to sound indignant but slurring his words slightly in spite of himself. "What did you think I was doing? You're drunk."
"No, you're drunk," said JC, poking him in the chest and narrowly avoiding lurching forward.
"You're both drunk," I muttered, resigning myself to the fact that I was going to have to climb out of bed and help them both. I was just glad I'd decided to sleep in my boxers after all. "All right, JC, just sit down and wait for me, okay?"
Obediently he tried to sit down, but ended up falling onto his side, diagonally across his bed.
"Good enough," I said and took Chris' elbow. "Okay, Chris, we're going back to your room now. Do you have your card?"
"Don't need your help," he said, pouting. Then he tripped over the carpet and almost went sprawling head first into the television.
"Yeah," I said, "I think you do."
I got him safely into bed--dressed, because I just didn't want to deal with that--and headed back to my own room where JC was waiting. He probably hadn't even moved.
"Lance?" he said as I tried to softly close the door. I'd actually hoped he'd already be sleeping and I could just let him lay across his covers all night.
"Yeah, JC?" I walked over to his bed and helped him to sit upright again. He looked at me intensely, then reached up and stroked my face with his hand. My breath caught in my throat and I could hardly move.
"There's something I want to talk to you about," he said, articulating his words carefully. I wanted so bad to let him--touch, talk, whatever--but he was clearly still drunk and I couldn't let him try.
"Tomorrow," I promised him. "Let's get you to bed, okay?"
"No," he protested, trying to fend me off as I went to unbutton his shirt. "I drank those beers so I could talk to you. I'm not giving up now."
"Whatever it is, C, we can talk about it in the morning, okay?"
"I won't be able to talk about it then."
"I'll remember. I'll make you."
He thought about that one for way longer than it should have taken, then nodded. "Okay," he said sleepily. "Make me talk t'morrow. B'fore we see the guys."
"Hang on, buddy," I told him as he started to drift to sleep. Or pass out. "Let's just get your clothes off and then you can get a good night's sleep, okay?" JC just mumbled something incoherent as I stripped his shirt off. The pants were going to be a little harder; I tipped him back into the bed and managed to get them unbuttoned without feeling him up, then pulled them quickly down his legs and dumped them on the floor. "Good enough," I said. But how the hell was I going to get him into the bed?
"JC? JC, you gotta stand up for a second, okay?" He mumbled something again, which was encouraging. "Get up, C," I half-helped, half-lifted him to a precarious standing position and pulled the covers back. "Okay, into the bed." He crawled under the covers like a little kid, pulling them up around his neck.
"Night, JC," I said, but he was already asleep. In a few minutes he'd start snoring gently, if past experience was any judge. Still, I smiled a little as I watched him, before getting back into my bed and hoping for at least a few more hours of sleep before morning came.
Justin invaded first, inviting himself in as Lance opened the door and turning the television on. Then it was Joey, looking a bit worse for wear--but with Joey it was so hard to tell, he wore 'scruffy' so well. Then Chris came stumbling in, looking half-asleep but still mobile. All before JC managed to get showered and dressed.
"What the hell?" he said, coming out of the bathroom shirtless, but thankfully not pantsless.
God, he looked good. Even when he was feeling like shit, he was hot. I was glad the rest of the guys were facing away from me or they would have seen more than I wanted them to. It was common knowledge that I had a crush on JC, but I didn't want to be advertising it every time I got turned on.
"We gonna do something today?" asked Joey, looking up from the television.
"No," said JC shortly. "At least, I'm not. Couldn't you guys meet in someone else's room?" He had been pretty hung over when he'd gone into the bathroom, and something told me he wasn't much better now.
"And might I ask," I added, "that someone stay sober next time you go out?"
"Hey, I was sober," protested Justin, leaning backwards to look at me.
"Then why was I the one that put Chris and JC to bed, then?" I asked. Justin'd probably gone straight to his room when they got back, not even worrying about how everyone else was going to make it.
"You put me to bed?" said Chris.
"After you and JC stumbled into my room at three in the morning, yes, I did," I told him. "You owe me one."
"Thanks," said JC quietly from beside me, low enough that the rest of the guys didn't hear him.
"I want to get some food," announced Justin, standing up. "Are you guys coming with me or not?"
"I am," said Joey, standing up as well. "I'm starving. Chris?"
"As long as they serve toast," he said darkly, looking a bit queasy at the thought of food. Served him right for waking me up last night.
"I'm staying here," I told them. "I had breakfast a while ago."
"I'm, uh, not quite up to eating yet," admitted JC. "You guys go ahead without me."
"Listen, Justin," I said. "How about we all meet in your room at noon and figure out something then, okay? We leave for the arena at five." I hoped they would take me up on it; the last thing I wanted was for them to converge on my room again once they'd gotten their fill.
"Okay," he said. "Let's go." He let Joey and Chris out of the room; I could hear their animated conversation almost as far as the elevators.
I looked back at JC and was about to say something when he opened his eyes wide with alarm.
"I think I'm going to be sick," he said and lurched towards the bathroom.
JC started looking like himself again at around two. I'd convinced the rest of the guys to go out without us and had spent the last two hours making sure JC was kept supplied with water, helping him to the bathroom, and rubbing his back soothingly.
"Thanks, Lance," he said, coming out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth. He'd stripped the shirt off again after getting it wet and was leaning against the doorframe in only a pair of sweatpants. "You're a really good guy."
"Yeah, well, anything to get an afternoon alone with you," I joked, lounging back on my own bed, finally. "You feeling better?"
"Yeah, a lot," he said. "Remind me not to do that again."
"That's what you said last time," I reminded him. "You know you will."
"Well then next time you have to come with us to keep me out of trouble," he said.
I was surprised when he climbed up on my bed to sit with me instead of returning to his own. He knew what it did to me when he was shirtless. One time, when we'd both had just a little too much vodka, I'd told him in great detail what it did to me when he was shirtless.
"I think that's actually Bobbie's job," I told him with a bit of a smirk.
"Yeah," he agreed. "But she can't be here all the time. You can."
"Um, oh." I said intelligently. "JC...there was something you wanted to talk about with me last night."
"Yeah, there was. I told you we'd talk about it in the morning and you made me promise I'd force you to talk about it. Something you said you were drinking to work up the nerve to do." Recognition slowly dawned in his eyes as I talked. "Well...it's not morning anymore, but this is me, forcing you to talk about it. Any clue what it was?"
"Um, yeah," he said. "I'm kinda working up to it."
I waited patiently, but silently, wondering what it was he was trying to do, or say. Obviously it was something important to him, the way his face was suddenly serious, his hands were fiddling with the quilt.
"Lance, I know you like me, right?"
"Yeah, well, you're pretty damn irresistible," I joked. After all this time, was he suddenly bothered by it? He knows I'd never do anything he didn't want me to.
"Yeah, well, so are you."
"Um, what? You're joking, right?"
"This is gonna take a bit, so promise to hear me out, okay, Lance?" I just nodded; I had no idea what to say. "You've been a really good friend for a long time, and I've always been just really flattered that you thought I was attractive. After the initial shock of it anyway. I mean, it was fun."
"Are you asking me to stop?"
"Lance, please," he said, and for the first time I saw just how nervous he was. "I need you to hear me out."
"I guess I've been thinking...for a long time now...I mean, I guess I've been curious. Fuck, this is coming out all wrong. Lance, what's it like to be with a guy?"
"Ummm..." We'd always sorta joked about my sexuality, me and JC, ever since a week after my coming out. I'd never had a serious discussion about it with him, in all the years since. "That's not an easy question. In what way?"
"In all ways, I guess. Lance...I think I might be starting to feel things, and I'm curious, and you're the only person I can ask. And I almost didn't."
"Because you like me," he confessed. "And I don't want to lead you on."
My lips twisted into a parody of a smile. "So you're saying you're not interested in me. JC...I've always known that."
"No...I'm just. I don't know, Lance. I don't know about any of this, and I want to try and figure it out. Bobbie knows...I told her about it a while ago. She's been pretty understanding. Actually, she's been pretty encouraging. She doesn't understand, but she knows it's important to me to figure it out, and she knows I still love her."
"So...what is it you want? Do you want me to tell you what it's like?"
"Tell me...show me...I'm curious, Lance. I want to experiment, you know, figure this whole thing out. And...I trust you. I want it to be with you." He took a deep breath and let it out again, slowly, waiting for me to respond.
"Oh, man," I said, running my hands over my face. "C, do you know what you're asking?"
"Yeah, I do," he said. "So feel free to say no. I'll understand."
"No? Are you kidding? Do you know how long I've wanted you?"
"Yeah, I do," he said. "I just don't want to break your heart, Lance."
"I'd have to fall in love with you for you to break my heart," I said with a grin. "And JC, you're hot, and I love you, but I'm not in love with you."
"Okay, good," he said, breathing a sigh of relief. "So can we fool around now?"
The guys figured out what was going on after about a week. Or, at least they thought they did. I got lectured by Chris about trying to break up JC and Bobbie and got a few dirty looks from Justin, too. So I got the five of us to sit down, and JC explained what was really going on.
They pretended to understand, but I think they still wondered. I know they did.
It was Chris, standing behind me in the doorway to my hotel room. The one I still shared with JC, who was down in the pool. I'd thought the rest of the guys were with him.
"Hey," I said cheerfully. "What's up?"
"Can I talk to you?"
"Of course." God help him if this was another lecture about JC and Bobbie.
"Do you know what you're doing, Lance?" he asked softly. Me? He was concerned about me?
I just laughed. "Of course I do, Chris," I said. "I'm helping out a friend, that's all."
"Are you sure that's all it is?"
I sighed. "Look, Chris, if you have a problem with what's going on between me and JC, then maybe you should try talking to him about it."
"Lance, I don't have a problem with it," he said, but it was unconvincing. "I just...I have problems with the way he's using you."
"Using me?" I had to laugh at that. "Chris, you don't need to worry about that. He's just curious, and I'm convenient and a friend. What kind of friend would I be if I didn't help him out with this? I know what he's going through."
"I know," admitted Chris. "You're the only one who can do this. But...I see the way you look at him, Lance. And I know that he doesn't look back at you that way. And I feel so God damn bad for you that he doesn't, but...it's true."
"Chris..." I began. "I know that JC is only experimenting. I know that. He has a great girlfriend who loves him very much. Right now, I guess he just needs this." I sat down on the couch by the wall and sighed. "It's something I wish I could have had, when I was first figuring it all out."
He smiled and sat next to me. "You were seriously jailbait when you were figuring this same stuff out, Lance."
"True," I admitted. "But still...to have had someone to talk to. To have had someone to mess around with. It would have meant a lot."
"Just be careful, okay? You'll find someone someday, I promise."
"I'm being careful."
"You taste so good," said JC, kissing my throat enthusiastically.
The guys were at a movie. We were alone. The door was locked. We were naked. It was just the way I liked it.
"You taste better," I said, capturing his lips with my own. My hands roamed his back, sliding slowly downward until they finally reached his ass which I grabbed and held onto as he rolled on top of me.
"Do I?" he said mischievously. I knew by the glint in his eye what he wanted, and was only too happy to oblige. He let me flip him over onto his back, both of us thankful for the sheer size of the bed, and I kissed his chin, his throat, his chest. He moaned loudly. I'd learned since we started fooling around together that he was a real moaner, which I liked. I liked to hear what I was doing to him.
"Oh God, Lance, please suck my cock. Please! I'm begging you!" He also talked a bit dirty, which was cool, too. I wouldn't have expected that from him. "Oh yeah, that's it. Yeah....yeah....oh God that's good..." I had my mouth wrapped around him and was sliding up and down, lapping at the sensitive head with my tongue. "Fuck...I'm close already...don't stop..." I stopped.
"Do you trust me?"
"What? Yes! Of course I trust you!"
"Okay, good." My mouth descended on him again, and I let one hand snake between his cheeks to touch at his hole. He said he trusted me, and I was holding him to his word. It was going to be worth it.
"Oh man, you're so wonderful, you're so good...." I could feel his balls begin to tighten, feel him almost get ready to come, so I smoothly slipped one finger inside him. He came so hard I could feel it hitting the back of my throat. "Oh my God," he gasped. "What did you just do?"
"Prostate," I said simply, kissing the tip of his cock as I made my way back up to lie beside him. "One of the reasons gay sex is so damn good. He just nodded, his face still slack with ecstasy. I was thrilled I could make him feel that way, make him look like that, make him understand what this kind of loving was all about.
It wasn't just sex with us, not all the time. We'd been talking so much this last while, not just him asking me questions, but about all sorts of things. Music. Politics. Life in general. I felt like I knew him better than I've known anyone before, and that was such a warm feeling.
"Love you," I murmured against his neck as we both began to fall asleep.
"5, 6, 7, 8," Justin counted off. Just as he reached the final number, JC's cell phone rang. "Fuck."
"Hello?" he said, walking to the side of the stage and standing there. It was far enough away for the illusion of privacy, but the four of us could still hear every word. "Bobbie! Hi!"
I squashed my budding resentment of Bobbie as quickly as it came up. She'd been wonderful to me, both before JC and I started his little 'experiment' and since then. We hadn't seen her at all, but she'd called and spoken to the both of us. She let me know that it was okay with her, which meant more to me than hearing JC say the same thing as her proxy.
"On Friday? That's great! It's been ages, baby."
That giddy, excited tone could only mean one thing. Bobbie was going to meet us on the road for a visit. It was really a good thing, I mean we all got along with her and JC would be so happy to see her, but...he'd never used that tone when talking about me. Maybe because we saw one another all the time. Maybe because I was taken a tiny bit for granted.
I wasn't jealous of her. Well, maybe a little. I just wanted to be treated a bit differently than the rest of the guys. Special. Maybe not as special to him as Bobbie, but something. The relationship that we shared, though, was almost entirely behind closed doors. When we were with the guys, nothing much had changed.
"Yeah, I love you too. Bye."
I knew he loved her. But it still hurt a little to hear it.
"Great news," he said to the rest of us, a broad smile stretching across his face. "Bobbie's gonna make it up for the weekend."
"Cool," said Justin. "Can we get on with rehearsal now?"
I saw Chris shoot me a look--was it sympathetic?--but I just shook my head at him and brushed the whole thing off. We had a long rehearsal ahead of us, and I had enough things to worry about without bringing JC's girlfriend into the mix.
"Hey Lance," said Joey, throwing a casual arm over my shoulders. "You coming out with us tonight?"
"I don't think so," I said, my mind running through all the things I already had planned out for the night, the last night before Bobbie was here and JC'd be sharing his bed with her. I wondered idly if the shop downstairs might carry whipped cream.
"Oh," he said. He shifted uncomfortably for a moment "Would it change your mind if you knew that JC was coming with us?"
"He is?" I could almost see my fantasies dissolving around me.
"Yeah, it was his idea. He said he's probably gonna be cooped up indoors all weekend, if you know what I mean, so he wanted one last night of freedom." He looked me up and down, a unexpectedly concerned expression on his face. "You okay? You look pale."
"I don't feel well," I said. It wasn't even a lie. "I think I'm just going to stay in my room tonight."
He pressed his palm against my forehead for a moment and frowned. "Take care of yourself," he said. "I don't want you getting sick again. None of us do."
"I'll be fine," I promised him. "I just need some rest. I might as well take advantage of it while I can."
He nodded. "I'll tell JC you're staying behind to catch up on some sleep," he said. "I don't want him to be worrying about you all night. I'll be doing enough of that."
"Don't worry. I'll probably be sound asleep before you even reach the club." I gave him a brave smile and a wave. "Tell JC to have a good night for me."
"Will do," he said with a mock salute. "I'll see you tomorrow."
I lay awake on the bed for a long time before I admitted that I wouldn't be going to sleep any time soon. It should have been an easy sleep, knowing that tomorrow JC was going to see his girlfriend, knowing that he was going to be happy, knowing that I'd played a big part in making his life easier for him. But I wasn't, I was being selfish.
I wanted JC.
There, I admitted it. Wasn't that supposed to make it feel better? Wasn't that supposed to change things? But there was nothing that was going to change the fact that tomorrow he was going to be back with the person he loved. And sure, when she was gone he'd probably come back to me--it wasn't like he wasn't enjoying it--but the truth was always going to be hanging over me that I wasn't the one he wanted. I truth that had always been there, but that I'd been able to ignore for a long time.
I heard the door unlock and looked at the clock. It was only midnight. JC had the only key to the door.
"Lance?" he called softly. "You up?"
"Yeah, I'm up," I told him. I found I didn't have much else to say. "I thought you were going out tonight."
"Um, we did," he said awkwardly. Something was up. "Chris kinda talked to me on the way there." Oh. "Lance, can we talk?"
"We can always talk, C."
"I hoped you would say that," he said. "I hope you still say that when we're finished this conversation."
I sighed sadly, suddenly having a very good idea what he was about to say. I'd known it was coming. I just hadn't known it was coming so damn soon.
He took a deep breath. "Lance...I love Bobbie."
"I know that," I said softly.
"Do you?" he said, but the question was almost entirely rhetorical. "I...I never meant this to go as far as it did, at least not at first. I thought we'd just fool around for a bit and that would be that. But after a while...I even thought maybe we could work it out, that I could be with you and be with Bobbie at the same time. But I can't do that, Lance."
He looked at me sadly, and I found I wasn't able to say anything at all.
"What Bobbie and I have...it's lasting. And of all the things that you and I are together...I want it to be our friendship that endures. If I hadn't been with her, then maybe...I mean, it's not as if I'm not attracted..."
"Don't give me maybes, JC," I said, rubbing my temples with one hand. "Please don't."
"I didn't know how you felt, Lance. I swear I didn't. Not until Chris said something to me. If I had...well, I guess maybe we would have been having this conversation sooner. Maybe we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with."
"I didn't mean to break your heart," he told me softly. Gently. Honestly.
I knew that, JC, but sometimes it just happens anyway.