Sleeping Beauty
by Chris J

He makes these little faces in his sleep sometimes. Not the kind of faces that you make when you're reacting to a dream, but the faces you make when your muscles relax and your skin takes a more natural form. I'd never really noticed that before, in all the years we'd been sleeping in such close quarters. I guess I just never took the time to look.

I leaned up on my elbow and watched him sleep next to me. We were still on top of the covers but the room was warm and neither of us seemed to mind much. I hadn't slept more than an hour or two before waking again and managing to move us both up the bed until we were at least lying on the pillows. Chris isn't a big guy, but he's damn hard to move when he's fast asleep.

I couldn't stop thinking about what Chris had said. Not that the words had been a surprise or anything. Well...maybe they had. Maybe I hadn't realized just how seriously he was taking everything, and just how ready he was for it to be something more. He'd just never said anything before.

Wanting to find someone to share your nights with, and actually having that person beside you, turned out to be two entirely different things. I knew that I wanted this, wanted the constant companionship, the partnership, the sex. Oh yes, definitely the sex. But it wasn't something I'd ever had before, and I had no idea what to do with it.

Did it change things, if I acknowledge that Chris and I are together? Did it change *me*? Did I become one half of a couple, instead of just being the Joey Fatone that everyone knew and loved...or did I become half a couple in addition to all the rest? And, if so, was that such a bad thing?

I had this absurd notion inside me that I could have everything I wanted, all the love, all the friendship, all the companionship, and not have to change the way people see me. And still be the flirt, the funny one, everyone's good bud. I still wanted my freedom...but I wanted to be Chris' lover too. I wanted to be safe and wanted and held, all the time.

I knew damn well I hadn't seen anyone else since the first time he and I'd had sex. I hadn't brought anyone home from the clubs, hadn't gone for any quickies in the bathrooms or alleys outside. Hadn't wanted to. That was the key. I didn't sleep with Chris every night either, but that I did want to do. I wanted him in my life. I wanted us to be together.

"Shit," I said aloud, running a hand over my face. My heart was racing as I thought about what that was going to mean.

"Joey?" said Chris sleepily, reaching out to where I should have been sleeping next to him. His hand landed on the mattress only a few inches from my chest.

"I'm here," I whispered, laying my hand over his. He smiled a little and blinked his eyes open.

"What are you doing over there?"

"Thinking."

"About?"

"Us." His smile wavered a bit, but stayed on his face.

"Come up with anything?"

I took a deep breath. "Yeah. Kinda. I think so." I took my hand off his and used it to stroke the hair out of his face. "I've been kidding myself. We've been together since the moment you asked me to come back with you to the hotel, haven't we?"

He nodded slightly. "Yeah, I think we have. But...don't freak, okay?"

"Freak?"

"Yeah," he said, stifling a yawn. "I mean...nothing changes because of this. It's all exactly the same, we're just kinda admitting what's been going on all along."

"I thought we could keep it casual," I admitted to him. "I thought I could have you when we needed each other and nothing would change."

"Joey," he said, waking up a little more with each passing moment. "I told you...nothing changes."

"Things have already changed," I argued. In front of everyone else I'd tried to pretend that everything was the same, and in some ways it was. It was on the inside that I was changing the most.

"How?" he asked me, not challenging what I was saying but trying to get me to explain what I meant.

"Chris," I began. "There's only you for me now...and I think there's only me for you. Right?"

"Well, yeah."

"Well, maybe not much has changed for you, then, but that's a damn big change for me. It's...it's not as easy as I imagined it would be."

"The stuff that's worthwhile isn't always easy, Joey," he said softly.

"I'm a little scared."

He probably didn't know how hard it was for me to admit that. He'd been in serious relationships before. Hell, he'd been an adult for years before the group had even gotten started. He'd been around. I'd never felt the age gap between us more keenly than in that very moment.

"What are you scared of."

"I...I'm not sure." I shrugged helplessly. "A lot of things. You remember that first night, in the club, when you told me about breaking up with Danielle?"

"I'm not likely to forget that night," he replied with a smile.

"Well...we talked about how all our relationships fail, Chris. I guess I don't want us to fail."

"I can't promise we won't," he said quietly. "But I can promise I'll try my hardest to make sure we don't, if you will. If this is what you want."

"It won't be easy."

"I'm sorry--"

"Don't be," I interrupted him. "It's what I want. You're what I want. It's just...different. What I imagined a relationship would be with someone who's there all the time is different than what it is. I mean, this is all the time. We're not just together when you manage to catch up with the tour, or when we get time off...you're there when we're on stage, and when we travel, and when I wake up in a lousy mood..."

"All the time," repeated Chris. "It's not something I've had much experience with either, Joey. Not in a long time."

"I want it," I said.

"So do I."

"Good." I leaned forward and kissed him on the lips.

"We stop beating around the bush now, right?" he said. "I mean, from now on, you sleep with me? None of this once-in-a-while stuff?"

"Yeah," I agreed, kissing him again. That was something I was more than happy to agree to, even if it meant more curious glances, more assumptions, more questions. Falling asleep with someone in my arms was one of the best feelings there was. What was happening between us might have been huge, but the whole thing came down to a series of little moments like that, that made us so happy to be together.

"'Bout damn time," said Chris, snuggling down and beginning to fall asleep again. "Bout damn time we talked about this."

"I'm going to get up," I told him quietly. "Just for a bit. I need to clear my head."

"Come back to bed soon," he mumbled, closing his eyes.

"I will," I promised him, getting up and walking softly into the bathroom. I closed the door and leaned against the bathroom counter, staring at myself in the mirror. I was almost expecting to see a different person there, someone who wasn't me anymore.

"Was that so hard?" I asked myself aloud. A shy smile crept across my face, even though I was trying to have a serious conversation with myself. "Was it so hard to admit what it was you really wanted?" The fool was still grinning back at me.

I looked down and dragged my finger back and forth through the patch of water that had pooled in the bottom of the sink. So the next time one of the guys referred to us as being a couple I was just going to let it go. I wasn't going to deny it anymore, and try and convince anyone that we were just fooling around. Least of all myself.

It had been a while since I'd really believed it anyway. If I ever really had.

Well, that was one thing dealt with, as much as it was going to be at this point. At least by me. The other stuff that Danielle had mentioned...maybe that was something all five of us should talk about. After me and Chris did, of course. It was easy enough to tell myself that no one should have to worry about it but the two of us, but that was na´ve. We would all be affected if something happened.

I'd never really worried about it before when I picked up guys--not that I'd done that often. Just once in a while, when it was the only thing I really wanted, when nothing else would do. They were all one-night-stands, no more to me than Justin's endless stream of willing women were to him. And I knew I was the same to them. If they'd wanted less or more, they wouldn't have made it back to my hotel room. Not the one that was next door to the rest of the guys, of course, but one I'd gotten myself for just this purpose. And that was all the secrecy I'd needed to worry about.

They'd never been around when there were fans. They'd never been around when there was press. They'd never been around when a hundred different support personnel--some just temporary and not under any kind of confidentiality agreement--were bustling around us. It was different with Chris. We were always together, but we couldn't be seen as together.

It had been easy before--the only affection that we'd shown one another was behind closed doors. We didn't even do anything in front of the other guys. If we were gonna be together, just him and me, in a relationship, then that was going to start happening. And when we started getting comfortable with that, everything else was just going to get harder.

I sighed and looked up at myself in the mirror again, sticking out my tongue briefly. Now I knew why I didn't want to have to deal with all this before. With David--God, that was so long ago now--none of this had mattered. No one knew us in the States, then, and that was where the heteroboy image mattered most.

There was just one question I hadn't asked myself yet. And I knew the answer to this one as well as I'd known the answers to all the rest. Was it worth it? I opened the bathroom door and peeked out at the bed; Chris had wrapped my pillow in his arms and was fast asleep.

Yeah, you're damn right it was worth it.

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