Scenes from a Relationship:
school daze

Joey slammed his locker shut and leaned his back against it, a battered notebook in his hand and a thick textbook under his arm. He had about twenty seconds to get to class; if he started now he would make it just in time. But he didn't move, instead closing his eyes for a moment and letting a fond smile cross his face.

"Fatone!" Joey heard a fist slam into the locker next to him and turned his head to see Dean standing there, scowling. "You didn't call, you ass."

"Oh, shit!" said Joey, his eyes widening. "I hope you didn't worry or anything." He couldn't keep the smile off his face, however, as much as Dean glared at him. "I was late."

"Yeah, no shit," he said. "What the fuck were you doing anyway? You look like--" Dean broke off and gaped at him. "You look like you got laid. You son of a bitch!"

Joey couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, so? It's not like it's the first time." He shoved Dean's shoulder out of his way and started to move past him. "We're late for class, McTavish."

"Hold up," he said, pushing Joey back up against the locker. "You slept with that guy? The tattoo guy. He was fuckin' scary."

"Oh, please. He was a pussycat," said Joey, grinning at him, his eyes glinting. "I'm seeing him again tonight."

"Seeing him again? As in dating? You're insane, have I ever told you that?"

"Repeatedly," said Joey, trying to push past him again. "Hasn't stopped me from doing anything yet, though, has it?" Dean stopped him, again.

"So let me get this straight," he said. "Joey Fatone, playah extraordinaire, has a boyfriend?"

"Fuck you," said Joey, laughing. "I didn't say that. Now get out of my way...I'll see you at lunch, okay?" He successfully pushed his way past him this time, practically running down the hall to his class

"That son of a bitch," muttered Dean, starting after him.

Joey got through English class only half-paying attention, doodling in the margin of his copy of Hamlet as his teacher delivered a talk on the various forms of insanity hinted at in the text. He liked performing Shakespeare a lot more than thinking about it, though, even though he knew that the more he knew about it, the better he could perform it.

When he was done, he realized he'd done a passable copy of the snake tattoo on the back of Dirk's left thigh. He grinned to himself and turned the page to cover it, pretending to be taking notes.

His eyes kept flicking back to the clock, counting down the minutes until lunchtime. He knew he was going to have to tell Dean what he wanted to hear. He should have called--he knew that--but he barely got home in time for church on Sunday morning and after that he just forgot. It had been hard enough keeping his parents from figuring out where he'd been all night.

He'd given Dean the details of his sexual escapades before, just to watch his friend squirm uncomfortably, but not this time. This time he was going to be vague and mysterious and private. Last night had been one of the most amazing nights he'd ever had, both sexually and emotionally, and he selfishly wanted to keep the whole thing to himself.

Finally the bell rang that signalled the end of class and Joey quickly snatched up his books, heading out the door ahead of everyone else. He dumped them quickly in his locker and headed for the cafeteria before any of the rest of his friends could catch up with him. He found Dean at their usual table, far in the back corner, almost hidden by the broken Coke machine.

Most of the rest of their friends had lunch during a different period, so it was usually just him and Dean, and maybe Jeff if he stuck around instead of heading to his girlfriend's place for a quickie, like he usually did.

"So what's your boyfriend's name?" asked Dean, taking a swallow of his drink as he stared at Joey purposefully.

Joey sighed and rolled his eyes. "Okay, I've slept with the guy once, Deano. He's not my boyfriend." He set his own lunch on the table and sat down. "At least...not yet."

"I can't believe you picked up the guy who did your fucking tattoo," said Dean, shaking his head. "That's sick, man. So...uh...what is his name?"

"It's not sick," said Joey defensively. "I like him. And his name's Dirk. And I am seeing him again tonight, no matter what you think of it." He picked at his sandwich, more self-conscious than he thought he'd be.

"Wow," said Dean, sounding sincere. "You really like this guy."

Joey shrugged. "Maybe. Yeah. Ask me again next week some time. Can we just eat our lunches now?"

"Sure," said Dean. "But I'm holding you to that next week thing," he added, shaking his finger at Joey. "And for fuck's sake be careful, okay?"

"Always am," said Joey, thinking that careful was the last thing he was being, that if he fell any harder he was going to end up with bruises. He couldn't wait to get out of class, couldn't wait for dinner to be over, couldn't wait until he could rush over to Dirk's studio and just hang with him again, even if nothing happened. Just hang and talk and get to know the most amazing guy he'd ever met.