Many thanks to Georgina for helpful comments.

by Lesa Soja

Joey tried really hard to get to sleep, but it was no good. He had too much crap circling around in his head. He got up instead and found Lance sitting out on the couch in the lounge. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," Lance said. "What's goin' on?"

"You still up?"

"Yeah," Lance said. He was frowning. "I, just. Just need to finish these." He waved a packet of stapled papers in one hand and scrubbed the other over his eyes.

Joey sat down and swung his legs up onto the couch. He sprawled across Lance and rested his head on Lance's shoulder. Lance put that arm around him and turned back to the report.

Joey closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against Lance's T-shirt. Lance was breathing from his diaphragm, so his chest was barely moving. Every so often his arm would tighten across Joey's back as he reached to turn a page. Joey was feeling better already.

The next time Joey opened his eyes, the papers were lying in a loose stack on the floor and Lance had his head tipped against the back of the couch, snoring delicately. Both of his hands were resting on Joey's back.

Joey didn't usually spell it out to himself, but on some level he knew what he was doing, letting himself go to Lance like this. In a way, it wasn't really very fair to Lance, and Joey knew that too. So he only did it when things were really bad, because it seemed like he sort of deserved it then, a special dispensation, something good to make up for the sheer amount of shit he was wading through. The rest of the time, Joey mostly tried to steer clear of Lance's solid shoulders and warm thighs, his steady hands. Because that could get messy really fast.

It wasn't like he'd never looked at the line of Lance's neck and wanted to lick it, because he had. More than once. But he was sort of afraid that as soon as he did that, Lance might start expecting him to stay in at night, to know when Stonewall had happened and which states allowed second-parent adoption, maybe get their families together for dinner. Or else things could get all weird and distant, the two of them hiding out on opposite ends of the bus and avoiding each other's eyes during rehearsals, and everything would be shot all to hell. Joey didn't want that. His relationship with Lance was warm and cozy and comfortable, and the shape of Lance's lips was just a loose thread, Joey thought, that he had no intention of pulling on.

He lay there for another minute or so and then eased himself off Lance's lap and went back to his bunk. Lance didn't wake up.

Joey didn't go to Lance again for several days. Then he had a screaming match with his mother about Kelly and what he should be doing for the baby, and as soon as she hung up, he went straight to the quiet room and threw himself down next to Lance. Lance had been staring rather glassily at the wall, but he looked up when Joey sat down and gave him a small smile. "If it ain't the Magnificent Fatone," he said.

"The one and only," Joey answered. He wrapped his arm around Lance's shoulders and pulled Lance in against him. He could feel his pulse gradually steadying under the heft of Lance's body. He was a little afraid Lance was going to start asking questions, because he really, really didn't want to talk about it anymore, but Lance was blessedly uninquisitive. He shifted a little to settle more comfortably against Joey's side, and then they didn't move again till they were called for soundcheck.

Joey hadn't really had that much to drink, considering, but his head was pounding and he was sick of making small talk about the industry. He wanted to scream. This was bad enough to count, he decided, so he got himself a fresh glass and wandered the rooms till he found Lance, who was standing in a corner nodding politely at a woman in a black strapless dress. Joey hoped she wasn't someone important - he didn't know half of Lance's contacts - but what the hell. Lance looked kind of out of it, anyway.

"- what I'm saying, Lance," she was insisting as Joey came up to them.

"Sure," Lance said, and he nodded again.

"Hey," Joey said, putting a hand on Lance's arm. "I really hate to interrupt, but I need to borrow him for just a minute, if you don't mind." He flashed her a smile.

"Certainly," she said. "I was just telling Lance how great it is how you all stick together."

"No better brothers in the world," Joey said.

"Indeed," she said. "So, Lance, just keep that in mind, then, all right?"

"I sure will," Lance said.

Joey forced himself to grin at the woman again before he led Lance out of the room. He opened doors at random until his luck kicked in and they found a balcony overlooking the darkness of the interior courtyard. They rested their elbows on the railing.

Lance had pushed his sleeves up, and Joey could feel the smoothness of Lance's skin where their forearms brushed together. It was only a small point of contact, but it was enough. His mind began to clear.

After a while, Lance said, "The air's really nice."

"Yeah," Joey said.

"I wish we could stay out here all night."

Joey sighed. "Guess that means we better go back in, huh."

Lance made a face. "Guess so," he said.

They went inside and headed back towards the thick of the party. Someone pulled Lance away while Joey stopped to get another drink, and he lost track of Lance after that. But at least now that his head was better, he felt more up to schmoozing again.

He turned around and found the woman Lance had been talking to at his elbow. "Joey," she said. "I was hoping I'd get a chance to talk to you tonight, too."

The black dress really showed off her curves. Joey leaned his hand on the wall above her shoulder. "Then this must be my lucky night," he said.

The show was hell. Joey's leg was killing him, and he fucked up nearly half his cues one way or another. He stumbled through The Game Is Over and Bye Bye Bye, and would have been relieved to get offstage if that hadn't simply given him more time to feel guilty about the shoddy job he'd just done.

He took one shower at the venue, and another, longer one at the hotel, and then he went down to Lance's room, knocking before using the card to open the door. "It's me," he called.

"Yeah," Lance answered. The TV was on, but he flicked it off when Joey looked around the corner of the doorway. "Hey, Joey!" he said. "C'mon in." He patted the pillow next to him.

Joey went and lay down there, with his face on Lance's shoulder and his arm thrown across Lance's chest. Lance's hand came down and smoothed softly over the edge of Joey's forehead before beginning to move through his hair. They lay for a while in quiet.

Finally Lance cleared his throat. "You know, Joe," he said. "Um. It's not that I don't appreciate it, and all. But you don't - you don't have to keep trying to cheer me up like this. I'm really okay."

Joey's mind was blank. "You what?" he said. He sat up, pulling away and back to look at Lance. "What?"

"I'm okay," Lance said. "Or, y'know. I will be."

Joey stared. Lance didn't look any different than he always did. Or at least, how he'd looked the last few months. He looked focused - determined, even. Set. Serious.

Thinner. Drawn.

Something was wrong with Lance, and Joey hadn't realized it. He bit his lip. "Lance," he said.

Lance's eyes dropped. Before Joey found anything else to say, though, they lifted again, and a faint smile began playing over Lance's mouth. "Unless," he said, "you had another reason for lyin' on top of me all the time?" His face was still calm, but his eyes were shining.

His hips fit perfectly into Joey's hands, and his mouth was already open when Joey reached it.

Joey felt like he'd dived into a sunlit ocean. He wanted more, he wanted Lance's hands and thighs and skin, and it was really real at last, his tongue on Lance's neck, Lance under him, moving. Joey was drenched and drowning. Lance was kissing him, Lance's mouth was fucking amazing, and Joey came back to it again and again. He never wanted to stop.

He thrust once against Lance's stomach, but then he had to flinch back fast. He wished he could just yank Lance's legs over his shoulders, but there was no way he could put any weight on his knee. He leaned down next to Lance and put his arms around him, kissing his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his chin, and then rolled both of them over onto their sides. He was kissing the back of Lance's neck now, licking up under the ends of his hair. He shoved the T-shirt up, it was crazy there could still be anything in the way. He tugged, and Lance pushed, and finally they were both naked, and Joey could run his tongue over Lance's shoulder blades and his palms over Lance's ass.

"Joey," Lance muttered, "ah, oh, Joey." He was pulling away, getting up, where the hell was he going? But then he was back, handing Joey a condom and lube. Joey got ready, and Lance was, if Joey had ever seen ready in his life, that was it. He held Lance to him, pulled on his shoulder till Lance twisted his head back and Joey could see the smile splitting his face. Lance kissed him, and Joey kissed Lance one more time for good measure. Then Lance straightened and pressed back against him, and Joey pushed inside.

Afterwards, when they'd caught their breaths again, Lance shifted in Joey's arms, turning to face him. Joey kissed him again, lingering on the slow slide of Lance's tongue. Then he let go and let his head fall back onto the pillow. They grinned at each other. Joey felt incredibly good.

"You know, sometimes… "

Joey blinked his eyes open. Lance was smiling down at his own hand where it was stroking along the bend of Joey's hip.

"- sometimes, I thought you weren't ever gonna do this."

Joey drew breath to answer, but he couldn't say anything. He breathed out, and in again. Then he dipped his head to Lance's shoulder and mouthed the skin there instead, once, twice, three times, wetly and as hard as he could, as if he'd never meant to do anything else.

[Now with a ficlet sequel: so proud] | [smile]