"I'm not crying."
"No. Right, no. Of course you're not."
"I mean, it's a completely different thing."
"It is. Totally. Everybody knows that." JC patted Joey's knee and looked away tactfully as Joey swiped at his eyes.
"They should have a different word for it, you know? Because it's not the same, it's not the same at all when it's because you're all proud and happy and shit."
"It isn't the same," JC said. "They should have a different word. I wonder why there's not?" Joey sniffled, and JC patted and looked away again. "I bet it's like that Eskimo thing."
"What Eskimo thing?" Joey said.
"You know how they say that Eskimos have, like, a hundred words for snow? I mean, they don't all just mean snow, there's like big snow like a blizzard, and new snow, and flurries, and everything. But they've got all these different words because they want to talk about snow all the time. But this would be, like, the opposite of that. See, we don't ever want to talk about people crying, or think about it, so we don't have all the different words."
"JC?" Joey said.
"Are you talking about Eskimos when I'm trying to tell you that my little girl's been walking?"
"Well, the Eskimo thing was just an example," JC said. Joey looked at him. "I mean, no."
"It's just - it's amazing. I can't believe how big she's getting."
"I know. She's like a real person now - talking, and laughing, and walking now, and soon she'll be running. You better watch out. Pretty soon she'll be big enough to run away from you."
"Yeah," Joey said, and JC looked up at the twist in his voice. "Soon she'll be running away, just like her old man. The Fatone specialty."
"Joey," JC said. "I didn't say that. I would never say that."
"Well, you should."
"Joey. Joey." JC turned sideways on the couch, but Joey still wouldn't look at him. "You didn't run away."
"I did." Joey didn't look up.
"You didn't," JC said to Joey's hair. "You didn't, and you wouldn't. Nobody thinks that. I don't think that."
Joey lifted his head suddenly, and JC had to fight not to turn away from his eyes. "I did, C. I got scared, and I ran as fast as I could. As far as I could."
"No, you didn't." JC made his voice calm and firm. All the guys laughed at him, made fun of the way he talked, his tangents, but he knew that was just a front. When JC spoke in a certain tone of voice, all of them listened. "You were scared, and you ran. But you weren't running away - you were running towards something."
"I wasn't," Joey said. "I wasn't."
"Yes," JC said, "yes, you were. You maybe didn't know it at the time, but you were."
Joey dropped his eyes. JC patted Joey's leg again. Joey put his hand over JC's fingers. "I still think about it," Joey said, low, eyes still on the floor.
"You did the right thing," JC said. His voice was steady and strong. "You did the right thing, and I'm so - we're all so happy for you, and so proud of you." He slid his hand out from under Joey's. "You should go tell the rest of the guys about Bri. They're going to be so excited."
"Okay," Joey said. He stood up uncertainly. JC smiled at him. "I - okay."
He left, and JC sat on the couch and blinked at the stripes on the cushion. He traced the pattern with his finger.
It's not the same, he thought. It's not the same at all, when it's because you're happy and proud.
They should have a different word.