IV. Joey: Straight
"I'm onto you, Bass," Justin slurred. "I know you cheated." Lance stiffened. Chris leaned on his shoulder and rolled his eyes sympathetically.
JC plucked the glass out of Justin's hand and put it on the table. Justin picked it back up and drained it. "Baby, you're gonna hate yourself in the morning," JC said.
"Ignore him," Chris said. "He's about five gin and tonics past coherence." It was true. Justin had been drinking ever since they got to the party and found that AJ had skipped it.
"Shut up," Justin said. "I know he did something."
"What could I have done?" Lance kept his voice light and even.
"I dunno. You said something to AJ, or did something, or used some sort of weird hick voodoo mind trick on me. You big fucking cheater."
"Just," JC murmured.
"Oh, you're so full of shit," Chris said, turning a cool eye on Justin. "You're always such a fucking baby about losing. I can't believe you're not embarrassed to act like this."
"He did," Justin whined. "I know he did something. Cause, I mean, I'm losing. I'm losing." Justin's voice was so plaintive that Lance had to look down to hide his smile. When he looked up, JC was smiling too, and shaking his head.
"And of course the only reason the great Justin Timberlake could possibly lose at anything is if someone cheats," Chris said. "You moron."
"Fuck you," Justin said, waving a glass shakily at Chris, "you're losing too."
"At least I'm not blaming it on somebody else. I may be losing, but at least I know why I'm losing, and I know why you're losing too."
"Why?" Justin said, lurching into Chris.
"Because, you idiot, you have no idea how to seduce someone, especially someone like AJ." Chris shoved Justin back against JC. "You've never been to bed with anyone who wasn't already pathetically panting after you."
"Thank you," JC said.
"Why are you losing?" Lance said curiously.
"I like to think I'm not losing," Chris said.
"I like to think you suck," Justin muttered.
"I prefer to think of it as biding my time. Awaiting my moment."
"From all the way over here?" JC said, glancing toward the dance floor where Nick was holding court.
"Well, you see, I put in some face time earlier this evening, but then I decided to make a strategic withdrawal. You always want to leave them wanting more."
"Nick told him to leave him alone or he'd punch him in the head," Justin said, and laughed so hard he fell down.
"All right," JC said, hauling him from the floor, "I'm taking you up to bed."
"What about you, Lance?" Chris said. "You up for a little late night TV with a loser?"
"Don't you want to stick around and see how Joey's doing?"
"I know how Joey's doing. He's been standing against that wall right over there for about an hour, doing nothing."
Lance peered past Chris' shoulder. "Well, at least Kevin's right there doing nothing with him."
"Yeah," Chris said. "Will you look at the two of them? You could take a picture of that and paste it in the dictionary under 'heterosexual'."
Lance laughed. "Man, I thought Joey looked straight, but Kevin there -"
"I know," Chris said. "If you can look straight while wearing vinyl pants and eyeliner, you're pretty much terminally straight."
"Hey, not so fast," Chris said. "If I had to name the straightest guy I could think of, I'd say Brian Littrell. And you managed to get in there."
"Yeah," Lance said. He could feel himself flushing.
"Oh, humble," Chris said, and threw an arm around him. "Anyway, I'm not giving up hope for old Joe there. Maybe some of your magic's rubbed off on him."
"I hope not," Lance mumbled. He felt Chris' eyes on him. He looked steadily at his lap until he heard Chris say, "Oh for the love of God, Joey, what are you doing?"
"What's he doing?"
"Baby pictures," Chris said. "Joey Joey Joey, that only works on women."
"She's a looker," Kevin said. "How old is she there?"
"Four months," Joey said proudly. "She is pretty, isn't she?"
"Doesn't look much like you," Kevin said.
"Nah, she looks like her mama," Joey said, and then, "Hey!"
Kevin laughed. "Just kidding, man. She's real cute, though." They leaned back against the wall, bottles of beer dangling from their hands, and watched the party companionably.
"Pretty good party, huh?" Joey said.
"'S alright," Kevin said. "Beer's good. Kind of dull, though."
"What, no chicks catching your eye?"
"Joey," Kevin said, "I'm married."
"Oh, right." Joey took another drink. "How's that working out for you?"
"Great, it's great," Kevin said.
"Good," Joey said. There was a pause. "So. You must get kind of lonely, touring without her."
"Sure," Kevin said. "But you know, what are you gonna do? You probably miss your. Um. You're not married, are you?"
"No," Joey said. "No. God, no."
"Well, you probably miss Brianna then."
"Oh yeah," Joey said. "But that's a different thing."
"Yeah," Kevin said. "It takes a little getting used to, I'll tell you that. Touring's a whole new world now. I mean, I was never like you were, but I had my share."
"Listen," Joey said, "I'm not even like I was anymore. I mean, I'm getting old, man. I can't keep up the pace. Half the time I'm exhausted, and it's such a hassle with the fans and security and the tabloids and everything. I tell you, I thank God every day for porn."
"I hear you. But even that's a pain in the ass. I mean, you gotta get someone to buy it for you, which is embarrassing, but I don't really wanna wake up one day and read about my heartbreaking addiction to Big Busty Blondes in the Enquirer."
"Hey!" Joey said. "I saw that one. That's a good one." Kevin grinned. "But you're right though, Kevin my man. And hotel porn is so shitty."
"I know. It's like one step above Skinemax, with the soft focus and the curtains wafting gently in the wind."
"Man," Joey said. "Thank god for fans and the advent of the cheap video camera."
Kevin looked at him. "You've got fan porn?"
"What?" Joey said. "You don't?"
"They started screening that stuff out of our mail when Nick was a kid," Kevin said wistfully, "and I guess they just kept doing it."
"Oh, you gotta get them to stop that shit," Joey said. "Cause man, you're missing out. I mean, they still don't let us have some of it; they're so paranoid about the age thing, we don't see anything if the woman doesn't look, like, thirty. But still. You would not believe some of the stuff we get."
"You don't know the half of it." Joey paused. "Hey, you wanna come up and see some of it?"
They stumbled from the elevator to Joey's room, Joey rummaging frantically through his pockets for his keycard. It took him three tries to unlock the door. "Here we are," he said. "Home sweet hotel. I'll make us some drinks, and you set us up with the entertainment."
"Joey," Kevin said, swaying a little on his feet, "I fucking love you, man."
"Me too, Kev. We're buddies. Hey, see that black bag over there? Just grab any tape out of there and pop it in." Kevin knelt down in front of the VCR. "Hey, man, just make sure you mute it, okay?"
Kevin sat on the couch and pushed play. "What? Why? The soundtrack's half the fun."
Joey ran across the room and dove for the remote, but by the time he hit mute, it was too late. Kevin was staring at the TV screen, his eyes glazed.
"But. She was. That. Why?"
"I tried to warn you, man," Joey said. He handed Kevin a beer and sat down next to him.
"But. She has. That's. Look where her hand is, man. I mean, why would a person want to do that - that - while listening to God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You?"
"I know," Joey said soothingly, "I know. We got this one tape, and I don't want to freak you out but there were, like, objects involved, and the whole time This I Promise You was playing in the background. We had to cut the song out of the set for like a month, because Justin couldn't get through it without laughing."
"Jesus," Kevin said, his eyes still on the screen. "They're all like that?"
"Well, no. But the ones that aren't tend to feature a lot of heavy breathing and screaming of Justin's name. Which kind of kills the mood for those of us who don't happen to be named Justin."
"As the fifth most popular Backstreet Boy," Kevin said, "I feel your pain. Oh sweet Jesus, would you take a look at that?"
They watched in silence for a while. Kevin started to shift restlessly in his seat. Joey moved a little closer on the couch. "Hey," he said, "we're all friends here, buddy. If you want to. Um. Get comfortable, you go right ahead. I'm just watching the movie." Joey stole a sidelong look at Kevin. He was blushing a little, and Joey turned quickly back to the TV. He heard the sound of a zipper, and smiled.
Joey put a hand on Kevin's knee, then slid it a little higher. Kevin breathed in, a quick sharp hiss, and then said, "Um. Joey?"
"What're these pants made of?" Joey said without turning to him.
"They're made of. Um. Vinyl."
"Nice," Joey said, and left his hand there. He heard Kevin sigh, and he slid his hand even higher and fumbled his fingers into Kevin's underwear.
"Joey!" Kevin gasped.
"Shh," Joey said, hand curling gently around Kevin's cock. "Just watch the movie."
"Joey," Kevin said in a strained voice, "I'm straight. You're straight."
"That's right," Joey said. "It's nothing. Just helping a buddy out."
"I don't -"
"We do it all the time for each other on the bus," Joey said. "Sometimes you just need a hand." He closed his hand a little tighter, moved it a little faster. "Just concentrate on the movie."
Kevin said, "Oh. Oh," in a small voice. Joey snuck a look at him and grinned. Kevin looked hot and bothered. His head had fallen back against the couch and his lips were wet and parted. The glare of the TV in the dark room lit his face with a stark white glow, accentuating his cheekbones and the line of his throat. He was staring at the screen with a fierce, slightly unfocused gaze. His eyeliner had smudged. Joey looked at him a little more closely, and stopped grinning. Kevin looked - hot.
Kevin said, "Oh," and grabbed Joey's wrist for a minute, then dropped it like he was burnt. Joey started to wipe his hand on Kevin's pants, then grimaced and wiped it on his own jeans. He wasn't sure how you cleaned vinyl.
There was a silence. Joey didn't dare look over at Kevin. Finally he cleared his throat. "Um, Kev?" he said. "You all right?" There was another pause, then he felt a large hand on his thigh. "Um, Kev?" he said again, his voice high and quavering.
"Just helping a buddy out, Joe," Kevin whispered as his hand slid higher. Joey bit his lip and kept his eyes on the TV.
Afterward, Joey turned to Kevin. Before he could speak, Kevin held up a hand. "Joey," he said, "it's nobody's fault and all, but I'm kind of having a little homosexual panic here. If you could do me a big favor and just don't look at me or talk to me for a few minutes, I'd appreciate it."
"Sure," Joey said. "Sure. No problem." He paused a moment. "You know what I like about you, Kevin, is if you need something you just ask. I think the reason I like that is because I'm a straight man, and we straight men like to just flat out say what we mean, like you just did. Which isn't surprising, you know, because of how you are a straight man. Like me. Although," Joey continued thoughtfully, "I don't know that gay men don't say what they mean. Cause God knows Justin has no problem yelling for what he wants, and what JC wants tends to be kind of freaky, but he is pretty straight up about it. So I guess I'm really thinking about women here, which would make sense. You know, because I'm a straight man, and I think about women. A lot."
Kevin took a deep breath. "Joe," he said, "I need you to try a little harder at the not talking to me thing."
"Sure," Joey said. He put a hand comfortingly on Kevin's knee.
"And I should have included this earlier," Kevin said, "but I need you not to touch me right now, too. Sorry. Thanks." Joey put his hand back in his own lap.
Kevin took a few more deep breaths. "Okay," he said. "Okay. Not freaking out. Didn't mean anything. Just something guys do for each other sometimes. Although I've never personally before. But you said you guys do it on the bus all the time."
"Um," Joey said, eyes down.
"That might not have been. Strictly accurate. What I said before."
"You guys don't do it?" Kevin said.
"Well, I mean. JC and Justin do. Probably. I assume. I mean, I don't know. I myself have. Um. Not."
"I can't hear this right now," Kevin said. "In fact, I'm pretending I didn't hear that." He took another deep breath. "Okay. Okay. Still not freaking out. Just a little. Experimenting. Everybody does that sometime or another. Just a little experiment. Little experiment with my buddy Joe. Doesn't mean I'm. Doesn't mean anything. In fact, it's probably a little weird not to experiment once in a while."
"Exactly," Joey said. "I'm a little suspicious of guys who never do. I mean, what are they trying so hard to hide? I don't think a guy really can be straight if he's never had sex at least once with another guy."
Kevin blanched. "Joe," he said, "you're not really helping here."
"Sorry," Joey said.
"No problem," Kevin said. "All right. Okay. It's not the end of the world. I'm still here. You're still there. Everybody's the same as they were half an hour ago. I'm me. I'm straight. I'm. I'm. I'm kind of gross and sticky right now."
"You wanna take a shower?" Joey asked.
"That's not really helping me with the whole homosexual panic thing, Joey."
"No!" Joey said. "I didn't mean. Not together. I mean, you would take a shower, and I would. Not."
"You know," Kevin said, "I think I'm going to do that. By myself."
"Yes," Joey said. "Great idea. I'll just stay out here."
"And don't worry, I won't be thinking about you taking a shower."
"Oh, Kev?" Joey said. Kevin stopped. "If you want to leave your. Um. Stuff. In the bathroom, I'll have them washed and sent back to you."
"You know what, Joe?" Kevin said. "I don't really need them back."
Lance had just wandered in for breakfast when Joey strutted into the room, crumpled blue cotton in his hand. "Got a present for you, baby," he said, and dropped the cloth into Justin's lap.
"Mmm," Justin said blearily as he looked up from his cereal. Then he jumped up. "Oh my God!" he yelled, hitting a note that Chris had trouble reaching. "That's disgusting!"
"No," Joey said. "That's victory." He sat down next to Lance and pushed him over gently. "Make room in the winner's circle, Bass. Those are Backstreet boxers right there."
"My man!" Chris crowed, picking up the boxers and waving them like a flag. He examined them a little more closely. "That's Backstreet something else there, too."
"Oh, gross!" Justin said. He threw his spoon down. "Ew. I can't eat anything thinking about that."
"You know," Chris said thoughtfully, "we should have made Lance and JC snag underwear too. Then we could clone the DNA and make our own army of Backstreet zombies and take over the world." He looked up. "What? Like you haven't thought about it."
"Congratulations, Joey," JC said. He nudged Justin, who mumbled, "Congratulations."
"Yeah, man, way to go," Chris said. "Knew you could do it. Lance there had his doubts, but I had faith in the Fatone charm."
"Lance never doubted me," Joey said, throwing an arm around Lance.
"That just leaves you two then," Lance said, watching Justin frown. "Time's running out, you know."
Chris laughed. "Don't you worry about me. Like I said, I'm not losing, I'm just waiting for the right moment. I've got a plan."
"That leaves you, then, baby," JC said, rubbing Justin's shoulders.
"I know," Justin said. He glared around the table. Lance smiled calmly back at him. Justin crossed his arms across his chest. "It's time for me to get serious."