by Elina

For Ang, because it's her fault.

So, at the start, there was just me.

Just me, alone, in the back of the tour bus while the other four boys, the ones who were supposed to be my new best friends and my brothers, hung out up front. And I thought, I'm alone, I want to cry. And then I did, because, hey, I was alone.

And then I wasn't, anymore. Joey looked over at me during rehearsal one day, and I guess he saw my sniffly nose and my red eyes that no amount of Visine seemed to fix, and the next break we had he came over and sat next to me and asked me what I was working on and made himself my friend.

And that was it. Once I was Joey's friend, I was their friend, too. Joey never let me be excluded. Joey explained in-jokes so I could laugh, too. Joey made sure I had a few girls talking to me at every party. Joey got me in to see management when I had ideas, and he made sure the guys knew they were my ideas when they were oohing and aahing over them.

Joey was my friend. He did everything a friend could do, and he did it just because that's what friends do.

And then, slowly, the other guys were my friends, too. Justin liked having someone who had to stay home from the clubs like him, someone who knew what it felt like to have your voice break in front of thousands of people, or maybe pop a boner onstage for no reason. Chris liked having a straight man, a slow, quiet voice to play off of.

JC liked finding someone who felt the same way about having goals as he did. It didn't seem to matter what my goals were, just that I had as much drive to reach them as he did his. He liked having someone around who got his sense of humor, which mostly consisted of lame jokes and funny voices and making fun of himself. And he liked being able to talk to someone who didn't either immediately turn the conversation around to himself or crack jokes until he forgot his point.

JC was my friend, then.

Joey was still my friend, too, but I could find my own girls at parties and get management to return my calls and make my own in-jokes with the guys. And then JC became more than my friend, and Joey faded into the background of my life.

When I looked up again, JC and I were a steady couple, Justin and Chris had bonded tight due to the fact that they shared a brain, and Joey was floating around aimlessly. He was still the happy guy, the go-to guy for cheer and laughter and good-hearted knuckling, but he didn't have any of us to be attached to.

Mostly, that was the way Joey wanted it, or at least that's what it sounded like every time he talked about a girl or a friend getting too close, wanting too much from him. But I thought maybe even Joey wanted something to be part of, even if it was only part-time.

So when he turned up at our door, JC's and my hotel room door, drunk as a skunk at 3:00 AM, it wasn't too much of a surprise. He smelled like smoke and clubsweat, and was crying lyrics that sounded like, "If I had the chance I'd ask the world to dance and not be dancing with myself."

"Am I dancing with myself?" he slurred as he stumbled against me, tears in his eyes and a smudge on his face. "Lance? Am I just dancing with myself? I don't want to dance with myself forever." And then there was a very large, very drunk, very passed-out Joey right in the middle of our bed, with no real way of moving him.

JC looked at me, I looked at him, we sighed, and stripped everyone down to boxers for sleeping. Sleeping was hard that night, since we were used to curling up against each other, and didn't want to do the same to Joey, but we managed.

Until the morning, when I woke up curled against Joey anyway. Warm, soft, awake Joey, with warm, soft, awake JC on the other side of him. Watching me, they were both watching me.

"How does your head feel, Joey?" I whispered.

"S'okay," he mumbled. "I, um. Wasn't that drunk last night. Or, I was, but I remember what I said."


"Yeah, said. Or sang. Whichever. So, yeah, anyway. I don't want to be by myself all the time. I want to have something like, uh. Like you guys have, I guess. Only. Not, like, all the time, because I don't want to screw it up."

I looked at JC, got nothing but blanket love from him. It was all me. I thought a second. Joey was my friend. JC was my friend. I loved both my friends.

"Joey, do you want something like what JC and I have? Or do you want part of what JC and I have?"

Joey closed his eyes a second, flushed pretty in his olive cheeks. "Um. That...that second thing, I guess."

I looked at JC again. He nodded, then turned his eyes to the nape of Joey's neck.

"Yeah, okay."

After that it was all soft hisses and exploratory touches and new skin and lips and tongues and fingers. And then it was familiar, loved skin and arms and kisses and whispers, "I love you, this is right," and sighs.

Later, there was awkwardness, the putting on of clothes and the fumbling for room keys and the embarrassed glances. But I didn't like those, so I took Joey's chin in my hand and told him, "You ever feel like you're dancing with yourself, you come to us." And he nodded, and smiled, and I kissed him goodbye.

And then Joey wasn't alone anymore, except when he wanted to be. And Chris and Justin had each other for best friends and brothers, and JC and I had eac