I woke again because the sun was shining straight through the balcony doors and into my eyes. I squinted and sneezed, then carefully moved away from Chris so I wouldn't wake him up yet. The clock told me it was nine, which was earlier than I'd wanted to get up, but later than I was expecting to. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and rubbed my eyes.
"Morning, Joey," said Lance from a nearby chair. I looked at him blearily, my brain not really processing his presence yet. There was a half-empty cup of coffee on the table next to him, and he was casually flipping through a magazine.
"Hey, Lance," I said warily. "Uh, don't you have your own room?"
He nodded without even looking up. "I woke up about a half hour ago," he said. "Figured you might want to go for a run with me this morning before everyone else got up."
"Run?" I said, taking a moment to puzzle out the meaning of the word. "We haven't done that in weeks."
He closed the magazine and put it on the table, then looked up at me. "I thought you might want to talk; I didn't think Chris would still be here. Sorry 'bout that. But...since you were both dressed and all I figured it'd be safe to just wait around until someone woke up.
I sat in silence for a moment as I once again waited for my brain to catch up with the conversation. "You know."
"I, uh, I know something. I'm hoping you guys can tell me what that something is." He shrugged. "I won't jump to conclusions."
I nodded at him slowly, stalling until I could find the right words. It had been a pretty easy decision when Chris and I had discussed it earlier. To tell the guys, I mean. But we'd never quite determined just what it was we'd be telling them. So the right words just never came.
"I really don't know what the hell I'm supposed to say now," I admitted. "But I know I'm not supposed to be doing it alone." I leaned over and shook Chris gently. "Hey, wake up, man."
He groaned sleepily and rolled over, facing me. "Don' wanna," he said, burying his face in the pillow.
"Chris, it's time to get up now," I said, a little louder. He raised his head this time and, seeing me, he smiled. Before I could stop him he leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the lips.
"Mornin' Joe," he mumbled, leaning up on one elbow and rubbing his eyes with the other hand.
"Uh, Lance is here," I told him.
He paused and turned to look at the man sitting in the chair. "Lance?" he said. He looked like he was trying to make sense of it. "What are you doing here, man?" When Lance didn't answer right away, he looked at me. "What's he doing here?"
"I, uh, think he knows about last night," I said quietly. Chris looked at me blankly for a moment, then nodded and rolled over to swing his legs off the opposite side of the bed. He stood up, stretched, then sat back down on the edge, looking at Lance expectantly.
"What do you know?" I asked.
He coughed politely before speaking. "'Oh, Christ, Joe, fuck me already!'," he quoted, looking down and blushing. Lance tapped the wall behind him. "I'm next door. I kinda heard." He chuckled nervously. "And here I thought I was being clever, moving further away from Justin."
"Uh...oops?" offered Chris. When Lance glanced up, the other man was looking extremely embarrassed, but he was smiling.
"Shit," I swore, standing up and pacing. "If you heard, how many other people heard? I mean, I'm not embarrassed it happened," I assured Chris quickly, "but I don't want nobody listening to us."
"Um, relax," said Lance. "I mean, I was right on the other side of the wall from your bed. And if I hadn't still been up at three am I wouldn't have heard anything anyway. It's not like you were loud enough to wake me."
"And you were alone?"
"Yeah, Joe, as usual I was alone," he said with a sigh.
"By choice," I reminded him, thinking of the thousands of girls who would have been willing bedmates last night. "By choice."
Chris was less subtle. "What about that girl you were with last night at the club? Or did you play the perfect gentleman again?"
He shrugged. "She had a curfew," he explained. "She was just nice to talk to."
"Christ, Lance, you have women all over you, all the time. Why aren't you getting any?" he pressed.
He shrugged again and played nervously with the hem of his shirt. "Not ready, I guess. I know it's dumb."
I slapped Chris' arm before he could say anything else. "It's not dumb," I told Lance. "Lots of people feel that way." It may not have been my choice, but it was a valid one.
It's tempting to think that Lance is innocent, with his looks and his background and his manners. But hell, he's been in a world famous pop group for years. He's seen it all. He just chooses not to become a part of it and, hey, power to him.
"Yeah, well, none of you guys do," he argued. "It's not like I don't want to--"
"Yeah, I know," said Chris. "I've walked in on you beating off enough times."
"--but I want it to be special. I want to be in love first."
"Stop it," said Chris with a grin. "You're making me feel dirty."
"You mean you don't love me?" I asked him with a mock pout.
"Awww, I love you, man," he said, half-seriously, wrapping his arms around me. Then he pulled away, winked, and turned to Lance. "You too!" he said, and wrapped himself around the other man.
"I hope you don't think this means that I'm going to sleep with you now," he replied, deadpan.
I had to laugh at that. Actually, I had to laugh at that a lot. After a moment, they both joined me and Chris and I were both on our backs on the bed again when it was all over. I reached over and stroked his face tenderly before remembering that Lance was sitting not so far away.
"Uh...we haven't asked yet," I said, sitting up a little. "You okay with this, Lance?"
"Okay with...?" he prompted, waiting for us to fill in the blank.
"Okay with me and Chris, you know, messing around and stuff." I thought I saw Chris frown a bit at that, but it might have been just a trick of my imagination.
"Is that what you're doing?" he asked honestly. "Messing around?"
"Well...more than messing around, but less than going together," said Chris, raising an eyebrow at me as though waiting for me to confirm his description. I nodded, first at him and then at Lance.
"Yeah, I'm okay with it," he said, then smiled. "I wonder if JC'll switch rooms with me. I think I'll take my chances next to Justin tonight."
"Hey, we weren't that bad," I argued.
He snorted. "At least with Justin, I can relate to what he's doing."
"You mean listening to him gets you hot and bothered?" said Chris.
"Okay, I do not jerk off listening to Justin have sex!"
"Who said anything about jerking off?" said Chris innocently.
I have to say, Lance blushes a very fascinating shade of red, especially when he's trying to look everywhere but at us. "Oh," he said quietly.
I smacked the back of Chris' head. "Lay off the poor guy," I said lightly. "He does need blood in other parts of his body besides his face, you know."
"Hey, you didn't do anything listening to us, did you?"
"What? No! No way!" he said quickly. "I mean, no offense, but I'm not into that..."
"Hey," said Chris. "Sex is sex, especially when you're eavesdropping on it through a wall."
"Enough, enough," said Lance, covering his face with his hands for a moment. When his face had faded to a more flattering shade of pink, he looked up again. "Can I just ask one thing of you guys, though?"
"Sure," I told him, frowning unconsciously as I wondered what he was going to say. Chris looked at me, then looked back at Lance and nodded seriously.
"Don't go breaking each other's heart, okay? I wouldn't know whose side to take." He smiled at us then and, even though he was serious, it wasn't any huge deal.
"I don't think that's gonna happen," I said. I thought I saw Chris frown again, but it was definitely my imagination. I'd never made that kind of promise before, not to break someone's heart. It kinda made me shaky for a moment.
"Just try," he said quietly.
I wasn't sure if he believed me or not. I wasn't sure if either of them did. I caught Lance looking at me strangely and quirked an eyebrow to see if he'd share his thoughts.
"I guess it's kinda strange thinking about you guys," he admitted. "I mean Joey, we all knew you swung both ways, but I don't think any of us imagined you getting it on with this guy over here."
"Hey, what's wrong with me?" protested Chris.
"Nothing!" said Lance. "Unless you factor in that we all thought you were straight."
"Well, you learn something new every day, don't you," he said with a wicked grin.
"That you do," agreed Lance. He drained his cup of coffee and set it back on the table. "I'm going to go for that run now. I'm guessing that neither of you are gonna join me?"
I shook my head. "Maybe tomorrow?"
He grinned. "I think you just gave me permission to wake you up again."
"But knock next time," said Chris, "or you might get an eyeful."
Lance blushed again, though not as deeply as before, and waved as he slipped out of the room.
I flopped back down on the bed as the door quietly clicked shut. "One down, two to go," I said, to no one in particular.
"I think it went well."
"Might have gone better if we'd been awake."
"Might have gone worse if we'd been awake."
"People are honest when they're drowsy. More honest than when they can think about their answers."
"You think we would have been dishonest?"
"I think we would have been evasive."
"Yeah. You're probably right."
Chris fell so silent for a moment I wondering if he was falling back to sleep. I wasn't used to the silences, the thinking.
"Are we just messing around?"
I thought about that for a moment before answering. He deserved nothing less. "No, we're not just messing around."
"Good. I'm glad."
I had the funny feeling that was going to be a question that would come up many more times before the two of us managed to figure this whole thing out.