"Why?" said Joey, looking up from his book briefly. His eyes weren't red anymore, but JC could have sworn they had been, earlier. Not that anyone would have said anything about it anyway; they were all a little thrown.
"It's time," said JC, sighing. "I didn't think it would be such a big shock to everyone."
"Not a shock?" says Joey. There no smile on his face; that alone is troubling. 'How could you think it wouldn't be a shock? And ... I never thought it would be you." He shakes his head, going back to his book. "Chris, I thought. Or Justin, maybe."
"I'm in love," he said, feeling more and more uncomfortable. "What am I supposed to do? I can't lose this."
"I can't lose this either," said Joey. "But I'm not getting a choice."
"We're not talking about the same thing."
"I know," said Joey quietly, staring at his book but clearly not reading. "Is that it, then? Love? You love someone else more than you love us?"
JC hesitated for a long time. "I love someone differently," he said finally. "I'm ready for something else now. I can't be the only one."
"I wanted this to last forever," admitted Joey after another couple minutes of silence crawled by. "I really did."
JC managed to look somewhat guilty, though mostly he was just feeling relief. He handn't wanted to hurt anyone, but he just wanted it to be over. Wanted to have as normal a life as he could, for the first time in too long. To be in love and not have to deal with the shit that came with that, when you were a teen idol. "I'm sorry."
"No, you're not," said Joey, finally sighing and tossing his book aside. "Don't say that. You're doing what you want to be doing."
"Are you?" countered JC. "I actually thought you'd be the supportive one. You know where I'm at, right now."
"Yeah, well, maybe you don't know me as well as you thought you did." Joey kicked idly at the table with a sneakered foot. "What, did you think I would grin and laugh and say 'whatever, man, it's cool with me'? Seriously?"
"You did when Justin said he wanted to do some solo work. You did when Chris said he and Dani were getting married. You did when I came out to you."
"Yeah, well, all of those were positive things."
"You can make anything into a positive thing," said JC. "I know you."
"Not this," said Joey. "Not when the one thing I really wanted - want - is being taken away from me. Ripped away from me. I'm not all smiles and giggles this time, Jace, so don't expect me to be."
"Just a 'you're doing the right thing' would be enough," said JC.
"You're doing the right thing," said Joey flatly. "For you." He wasn't going to capitulate on this, wasn't going to give JC what he wanted to hear, because everything was falling apart around him, and it was all JC"s fault. All his fault.
"Yeah, maybe I am," said JC, gritting his teeth. "Haven't we been doing the right thing for other people just a little too long now? I'm sick to death of it, Joe. I'm sick of all of it."
"Yeah, well I'm not," said Joey. He was about five minutes from his breaking point, a rarely seen occurrence. Never-seen, to most.
Joey was silent for far too long this time. "I liked Justin's single," he said finally.
"You...what?" said JC. What the hell? "It was good," he added finally, shrugging.
"And that part about the wanderer, talking all trash about his hometown but always coming back to it, because it's his only home? That was pretty cool. I didn't know he could write that well." Joey tapped his fingers against the tabletop restlessly.
JC shrugged again. "I think he would have done better with one of his ballads as a first single, but it was an all right song. Strangely catchy."
"You do know it was allegorical, right? Joey prompted him.
"It was just a song," said JC. "Why are you changing the subject? I thought you wanted to talk about this."
"I didn't change the subject," said Joey, rolling his eyes and picking up his book again. "Let's just not talk about this right now. I'm not ready to deal with you."
"I have to do this," persisted JC. "I need you to understand that."
"Well, I don't," grunted Joey. "Maybe if you give me more than two hours to deal with it, I might. Go play tiddlywinks with Chris, or something - he didn't seem to be quite as upset that you're breaking up the group. I'LL come to you when I'm ready."
"And when will that be?"
"When it is," said Joey. "And not before. This is my life, JC...don't forget that you're making the choice for four other people, besides yourself." Joey turned away from him, then, waving vaguely at the door. "I'll talk to you later."
JC stared at him for a long time before turning, slowly, unhappily, and leaving the room.