10: tru dat, clandestine, index card, catalyst

by Chris J

Joey reached for the almost-empty box of kleenex and blew his nose. Loudly. And then, even though there was no one around to hear, he whimpered pitifully. They'd already had to cancel two concerts because of the cold that was sweeping through the crew; if he didn't get his voice back by tomorrow there was going to be a third. JC and Justin had already recovered from it, but from the sniffles he'd heard last night, it looked like Lance was going to be the next one hit.

He heard the door open and close, but he didn't have the energy to lift his head to see who it was. Instead he just raised his arm and waved half-heartedly. He felt the beginnings of a tickle in his throat and cringed as he recognized the symptom of a pending coughing fit.

"Hey," said Lance, sniffling loudly. "How yu dooin?"

Joey shrugged, then patted the empty spot on the couch next to him. Lance soon planted himself down, reaching for the kleenex and clearing his nose, then tossing it in the overflowing wastebasket.

"Dis sucks," he said, leaning his head back against the couch and closing his eyes.

Joey nodded in agreement. He'd had the stuffy-headed, nasal, hoarse part of the cold yesterday. It was definitely no fun. But it was better than the state his was in now--voiceless, headache, sinus pain...the works.

"Cad I aks yu sometin?" said Lance. "Sins we're alode finally?"

Joey nodded again, and reached out to grab the index cards that Josh had kindly left for him when he no longer had any use for them. Half had the short phrases of 'yes', 'no', and 'get me some pills' already written on them; the others were blank so he could answer the more complex questions. Knowing that Lance wasn't one for the easy questions, he also grabbed a pen.

"Is it tru dat yu wend hobe wit a guy from da bar las' week?" he asked, sniffling again.

Joey hesitated, then held up the card that said 'yes'. Lance nodded. "I din't know yu were gay," he said aloud. Joey paused, longer this time, then held up the 'yes' card again and smiled a little.

"Why din't yu say?"

Joey sighed and picked up the pen, beginning to write. Lance had a long wait before he got to see the answer. Finally, Joey handed over a card filled, surprisingly, with small, precise writing.

"Because I didn't know myself, for a long time," it said. "And I didn't want to say anything before I was sure. And I wasn't sure until I brought Graham back to the hotel last week. Now, since I know you're gonna ask all this stuff next, I'll save you the trouble--you sound like hell, Lance. So no, I'm not interested in any of you guys. At least, not anymore. I was, for a while, but that was more the catalyst to make me realize that I was interested in guys in general. That was part of why I didn't say anything--so none of you would be weirded out about me having a crush on you."

There was still more on the card, but Lance looked up anyway. "Was id me?" he asked.

Joey grinned and held up the card he already had ready. 'No.' Lance grinned back, sheepishly, and continued to read.

"I don't figure I'll be seeing anyone any time soon, anyway," Joey had continued. "I've never been one for clandestine meetings, hiding from the press, never seeing each other. I never have been, even when I was dating girls. So you guys don't have to worry about this getting out or anything."

Lance looked up again. "I'm nod worried, Joe. Dis is about yu, nod dat other shid."

Joey just pointed him back to the card again. Lance flipped it over and began reading the other side.

"I was going to say something soon anyway. I mean, now that I know for sure. But it's not exactly something that flows easily into everyday conversation. So I was waiting until I had a voice...until you asked about it."

That was it. Lance looked up, then put an arm around Joey's shoulders and gave him a quick hug. He cleared his throat and began to speak, but the words dissolved into a hacking cough as he pulled away.

Shrugging helplessly, he reached for one of Joey's index cards and Joey handed him the pen.

"You missed your calling," he wrote, his letters round and full. "You should have been a writer. I think we're going to get you to write in all your interviews from now on instead of letting you talk."

Joey snorted as he took the pen back. "If I don't get my voice back soon, you're going to have to." He smiled at Lance, and understood that everything that needed to be said was already said. That Lance understood. That things were cool. That they wouldn't have to talk about the issue, at least until they both could speak again.

He drew Lance back into a hug as the other man put the pen and paper down on the coffee table again. Despite the cough, and the headache, and the scratchy throat, he was feeling pretty damn good.

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