The three of us were escorted into the offices by an overeager intern, our bodyguard following closely behind. I was used to doing print interviews in our hotel room or sometimes by phone like we did a lot of our radio interviews; we didn't find ourselves coming into the head offices all that often.
"If you'd just like to wait in here," she said politely, "Anna should just be a few more minutes." The bodyguard positioned himself conspicuously outside the door, to prevent anyone unauthorized from entering. It was sometimes uncomfortable and intimidating to have them there, but based on our past experiences, it was also necessary.
The room was small, but comfortably furnished. As soon as she'd left, Chris stretched himself out along the couch and laced his hands behind his head. Lance curled up in one of the chairs, but I went over and sat down on Chris's stomach instead of taking the other.
"Hey, I don't need you sitting on me," he said, pushing at my hip but not getting me to budge.
"That's not what you said last night," I teased him quietly. I figured we were probably being overheard by Lance anyway, but at least we weren't being rude about it. I looked over to catch his expression and saw that he was quite deliberately looking away.
"Last night you weren't on my stomach," he said, lifting his body onto his elbows so that I slid down onto his crotch. "Yeah, that's more like it."
"Chris!" I said, laughing a little. "We're in public." I could feel him beginning to get hard against me, and I knew that when he did, I would too.
"Lance isn't public," he argued.
"Yes, I am," said Lance, but he was still looking away and smiling a little.
"No, you're not," said Chris again. "You've seen us in bed together. Justin's public. JC too. But you, you're family."
I watched Lance pale a little as he turned his head to look at us. "I'm not--" he began, but Chris interrupted him with laughter.
"Not that kind of family, Lance," he reassured him. My attention was drawn off Lance completely when Chris pulled me down and planted a kiss on my lips. As brief as it was, it left me tingly.
"Now get off me," he said with a grin, pushing hard against my chest. Right as he did that the door opened and a twentysomething woman walked in. My eyes locked with hers as I landed ass-first on the floor. She smiled a little too knowingly and nodded her head at me.
"Well, it's nice to see everyone getting along so well," she said with a wink at us that I couldn't decipher as either friendly or unfriendly. I think that either she thought we were fighting or fucking, and either one wasn't a good thing. "I want to thank you for coming by here today. I know it was probably an inconvenience."
"No, not at all," said Lance, always the gentleman. I picked myself up off the floor and shoved Chris' feet off one end of the couch so I could sit down. "It's good to do things outside the hotel from time to time."
"I appreciate that," she said. "It's been a crazy week here; half the staff's out with the flu and I've hardly been able to leave the office in days." She laughed reassuringly at Lance's alarmed look. "Don't worry, we're not contagious. Everyone's who's gonna catch it already did, and everyone who did is under strict orders to stay in bed until they're well."
"Must be nice," murmured Lance.
She turned to him thoughtfully. "Well, that's as good a place as any to start," she said. "I know you've had some health problems in the past, and I know that we the public only became aware of the situation when it was serious enough to land you in the hospital. Generally speaking, how do you think you profession impacts your physical well-being?"
Lance was right, this was no teeny-bopper interview that I could sleepwalk through. Maybe none of the hard-hitting questions we started to get during the lawsuit, but ones I'd have to think about so I wouldn't inadvertently give away something I shouldn't.
We let Lance field that question, just throwing in a couple comments where they were appropriate. She mentioned the lawsuit, but just briefly, and as a segueway into how we've changed musically. I swear, the title 'No Strings Attached' was the best thing we could ever have done to draw attention to the direction our music was taking.
I got the impression she wasn't exactly a fan, but she knew our music well and had done her homework on us. I'm not sure why I got that impression; maybe the smug, superior look she shot us at times, especially at the start of the interview. Maybe that was just the way she was. Maybe we just had to prove ourselves in the way we dealt with her questions.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to relationships. It always does, whether someone is asking 'Would you ever date a fan?' or 'How would you deal with an abusive partner?', people always want to know who you're with and what you're doing with them.
"So how do you handle the pressures of dating someone on the road?" she asked. Her tone was innocent, but her glance ran between me and Chris and not to Lance at all. "Is it hard going from place to place, and never being able to settle down?"
Oh God, she did know. I strangled the urge to look at Chris for help and just started answering. "Relationships on the road don't usually work," I said bluntly. "I know I'm not dating anyone right now, and I don't expect to be. That is," and I grinned, "unless that lovely young lady that showed us in here happens to be free." She smiled back at me, indulgently, and Chris cleared his throat.
"Well, I actually am with someone," he said softly. Chris never spoke softly during interviews, unless it was for effect, and even then only on camera. "We've been together for quite some time now and we've managed to work things out so far. Maybe you just aren't trying hard enough, Joe." He said that last part teasingly, but there was a trace of bitterness.
Lance spoke up to salvage the situation. "I'm not seeing anyone either. The last serious relationship I had, if you can even call it that--we were both pretty young--ended because of the pressures of being far apart. So I guess I agree with both of them. Relationships on the road *can* work, but they're damn hard and you have to make sure they're worth it."
"Fair enough," she said, a smile flitting across her face again. "I find it interesting that both of the group's lead singers are otherwise engaged today, so I have the opportunity to speak to the three men whose voices aren't so easily heard. Each sound is critical to the harmonies that you sing, but how do you each feel about your supporting roles, and do you think that the notion of a 'supporting player' carries over onto the fan base as well."
I breathed a slight sigh of relief. We were back on safe, if unfamiliar, territory. Lance was quite eloquent about his role in the group, clearly having already given the notion some thought. Chris was terse, but I knew it wasn't about the question. I guess I'd done something wrong, and I was going to hear about it later.
"I've sung lead on a few songs in the past, in concert," I told her. "I still do from time to time. But I bow to Justin and JC's superior heartthrob status." I grinned at her, and hoped I was convincing. "I know they've got something I don't in that department."
"That's okay, Joe," piped up Lance. "We love you just the way you are." Chris gave me a quick, almost mocking hug.
"Gee, thank you guys," I laughed. "Really, it doesn't bother me. I mean, we all have the greatest fans in the world and we appreciate them more than you can imagine. I just have fewer that are convinced that they're gonna marry me, and those that are are actually of legal age to do it."
Lance laughed. "Watch it, Joey, she's gonna print that!"
"Oops, that sounded kinda bad," I admitted, then shrugged. "Oh well."
The interview wrapped up shortly after that and, after a few good-byes, we left the building. Chris wasn't talking to me. He wasn't exactly ignoring me, but Chris is usually the guy that's always kidding around with me, always helping make everyone laugh. And he wasn't saying anything at all.
I mean, what had I done? I'd done the exact thing we'd talked about doing. We'd both known it was going to hurt a little, denying our relationship, but I thought we'd both been ready to do it. So the first time I do, he suddenly gets all pissy and won't talk to me. That just wasn't fair.
I glared at him as we rode back to the hotel in the limo, starting to get a bit angry. I mean, what right did he have to be pissed off at me for trying to protect our relationship? And that's what I was doing, right? If I hadn't said anything, she might have printed that she suspected that we were together, and then what?
When we got up to our floor, Chris went into our room and closed the door before I even got halfway up the hallway. I paused and stared at the door, almost reluctant to go in.
"Lance?" I said. He'd paused, too, and was waiting beside me.
"What did I do?" I asked.
He sighed. "Shouldn't you be asking Chris that?"
"Chris doesn't want to talk to me right now," I said stubbornly. "I can tell. But you know, don't you."
"I suspect," he said. "Only Chris knows."
"Then what is it, because I sure as hell can't figure it out. I thought I did everything right!" I glared at the door and alternated between being angry at Chris for acting the way he was and being confused, for the same reason.
He sighed again, and seemed reluctant to get involved. "I think you just need to choose your words a little more carefully," he said. "Look, why don't you and I go downstairs and get some dinner. Give Chris a little time to cool off."
I nodded. "I still have to go inside the room and get changed," I said.
"Joey, he's not going to bite your head off," he assured me. "I'll meet you at the elevators in fifteen minutes."
"Sure," I said, and opened the door to my--our--hotel room. Chris was sitting on our bed watching TV. At least, he was staring at the television set. I wasn't sure he was actually watching anything.
"Um, for what it's worth," I said quietly, closing the door behind me. "I'm sorry."
"Joey," he said, equally quiet and not sounding angry at all. "Please don't tell me that until you know what you're apologizing for."
"Okay," I said, still comfortable enough in his presence to strip off my clothing and go hunting for something else to wear, even though we were arguing. "I'm going to dinner with Lance to figure that out."
"You do that," he said. "I'll be here when you get back."
"I pulled the slightly-worn T-shirt over my head and hoped that we were going to the café downstairs and not the formal dining room.
"Thanks, Chris," I said, daring to go over and drop a kiss on the top of his head. "I'll be back soon."