18: breathless, sassy magazine, screwdriver, lemons

by Chris J

Justin rolled over onto his stomach and moaned, hanging his head over the side of the bed. He never should have had that last screwdriver, no matter how much Chris was calling him a wuss. And none of them should have started on screwdrivers after they'd run out of lemons for those fancy southern girly drinks that Lance had been making them. They were all gonna be paying for it today, that's for sure.

He almost wished he'd blacked out, almost wished he didn't remember what he'd done last night, but he recalled every single moment in living colour...which is why it hadn't been a surprise to him that he wasn't alone in bed this morning. He moaned again as a wave of nausea passed over him, but it wasn't enough to make him vomit. Just enough to make him reluctant to move.

He closed his eyes, and a moment later he felt a cool cloth being pressed against his forehead. "How are you feeling?" asked Joey softly, rolling Justin over onto his side, back on the bed again.

"Like death," he rasped out, his mouth dry and cottony. It certainly wasn't his first hangover, but each time he seemed to forget just how crappy they were. Joey smiled at him and handed him a glass of water, which he gratefully accepted and drained. "You should have stopped me."

"I tried," he said, chuckling a little. "Believe it or not. We were all a bit too far gone for that, though." He stood up and went back into the bathrrom to refill the glass, bringing it back to Justin and pessing it into his hand. "How's your head?"

"Better than I deserve," he admitted, sipping the water this time and wincing as he moved himself up into a sitting position against the backboard of the bed. "How come you're in such good shape?"

"Well," said Joey, sitting down at the end of the bed and smoothing the covers next to him. "After I rolled out of bed at five am to go puke my guts out, I started feeling a lot better." He smiled sheepishly, then looked away. "Justin...do you want to talk about last night?"

Justin set his water glass aside, then didn't even move for a long moment. "I'm sorry," he said finally. He was thankfully that Joey was looking away, because he didn't think he could meet his eye right then. "I put you in an awkward position...so thank you for not taking advantage of that. And thank you for not getting mad."

"I wouldn't do that," said Joey, picking at the covers nervously then finally looking at his friend. "How long have you--?"

Justin interrupted the question with a non-committal shrug of his shoulders. "How about you, Joe?"

"I dunno. For a long time. I just never said," he told him quietly. "Justin...if I'd known about you...if I'd known where you were at right now...I would have said something. I mean that. I wouldn't have let you do this alone."

Justin just shrugged again. "How did you know, Joey? How did you, you know, admit it? When were you finally able to just say it?"

"What, that I'm gay?" said Joey, saying the word aloud for the first time. Justin thought he heard it echo through the room, or maybe it only echoed in his head. "You want to hear my story?" Then he added, more softly. "Justin...have you never said it?"

"I can't," he whispered. "I didn't even know..." He broke off there and shook his head helplessly. "Just tell me? Please?" He looked up at Joey again, his eyes begging him for some kind of contact. Something to bind them together, so Justin didn't feel so isolated. So different.

Joey nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. "It was...right after our first tour in Europe," he said finally. "When we went home and saw our families again and spent some time in our own familiar homes, our own beds, our old lives. I knew I was feeling things...I'd known for a while...but we were busy and I just shoved it into the back of my mind, you know? Something I didn't have to deal with yet."

Justin nodded knowingly, biting his lip and looking down at the bed. He closed his eyes for a moment as another wave of nausea passed through him, but he willed it away quickly. Something was happening here and he couldn't let anything--anything--interrupt.

"So then I was home and I was just sitting around, kicking back, starting to get bored again. My sister Janine used to get something called Sassy magazine when she was younger and she left copies of it lying around all over the house. So I picked one up and started thumbing through it--you know, because there was nothing else to do--and, I don't know how, but it opened right to this one article."

Joey smiled to himself almost disbelievingly and shook his head. "It was by this girl, talking about how her brother was gay, about how it was when he'd come out to the family, about everyone's reaction. Justin...I started crying--don't tell, okay?--and I never cry. I threw the magazine across the room and stomped up the stairs, locking myself in the bathroom."

"I cried, too," said Justin to no one in particular, just needing the words to be said. He looked up and gave Joey a small smile that was returned almost immediately.

"I knew, then. I just knew. And it wasn't that the article had made me feel bad or anything. Actually, it gave me a bit of hope. But it just made everything so real, suddenly. It ripped all my feelings out of the back of my mind and made me think about them. Made me deal with them. So I sat there on the edge of the bathtub for a long time and I just covered my face with my hands and thought about things."

"I just...I had to do something to get it out. I had to do something to connect what was going on in my head with what was outside me, you know? So I stood up and I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and I said it. I told myself I was gay. And that's when everything started to be okay again."

He suddenly realized that he was finished, and looked at Justin for his reaction. Justin was looking down at the covers again, running his palm back and forth over them. Abruptly, he looked up and met Joey's eyes.

"I need to do that," he said quickly, his voice breathless with fear and anticipation. "Joey, I think I really need to do that. Just exactly what you did."

Joey raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Justin, are you sure? Don't push yourself..."

"Yeah," he said. "I'm sure." His hand ran over the blanket again. "Really sure, Joey. Can you...can you help me up?" Justin's head swam for a moment as he first got to his feet, and he was reminded of that last screwdriver again, as well as the three that had come before it. Then he got his bearings and took a tentative step.

"Do you want me there?" asked Joey, steading Justin one last time, then sitting back down on the edge of the bed.

Justin smiled at him and shook his head. "I think I need to do this alone," he admitted. "At least...for the first time." Joey nodded and Justin made his way into the bathroom, closing the door behind him and flipping on the light. He winced a bit at first, squinting at the brightness, but after a moment it wasn't so bad.

He leaned against the bathroom counter with both hands and just stared at himself for a moment, stared at the real him. Stared at a bed-messy and slightly-hung-over Justin Timberlake who was about to start a whole new part of his life. He bit his lip for a moment, then looked into his own eyes and took a deep breath.

"I'm gay," he said, and then he smiled.

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