The poets say that all who love are blind;
But I'm in love and I know what time it is.
The good book says, "Go seek and ye shall find."
Well I have sought and, my, what a climb it is.
Orlando was the last show, Joey realised. Not the last show forever, but the last show in long enough that it was really sad. More than sad, it was loss, a something none of them would get back again, no matter how they craved the break.
In the Quiet Room, Joey cornered Lance and worked his mouth silently, trying to find the words.
Lance put a hand on his cheek. "Joey--"
"Shut up, Lance." Joey held up a necklace with a Saints medallion swinging from it. "They tell me he's the patron saint of astronauts. Well, pilots, but close enough."
Joey put his fingers to Lance's lips, pressing against his mouth softly. Lance could feel his warm fingertips, and Joey kept his hand there for a few moments, until he was sure that Lance wouldn't say anything. Joey kissed the little Saints' medallion, and then put it around Lance's neck, tucking it under Lance's shirt. Lance allowed him, quietly.
Joey said, "Thank you." Lance leaned his forehead against Joey's, and took a shaky breath.
There was a sign, a small sign in the crowd in Orlando, during the encore. It said 'thank you!', elegant, simple white letters on black, and was waved by someone right in the front row by the catwalk. Joey's throat closed up, when he saw it, and he missed a few notes before he could find his voice again.
No one else, save JC, wanted to stay on stage the whole time after the encore while the crew waved to the audience. Justin didn't want to have people see him cry. Chris liked to keep endings abrupt. Lance ran. Joey kept himself rooted in place until everyone else had gone backstage, thinking about that 'thank you' sign. He may have cried, a little, because he knew exactly how the girl had felt.
When Lance had first come out to them - well, not really come out because he was never really in. But when he had first come to them, sat them all down in a group, and said, "I have something to tell y'all," Joey had no idea.
It was the second meeting when he was officially part of the group, happening in Justin's bedroom, and he'd just said it, calmly, and then waited. Justin nodded seriously, chewing his lip, and said only, "I think you're a really brave person."
It surprised Lance, obviously, because he'd snapped his head around to look at Justin, and awkwardly, Justin got up and gave him a hug. The rest of them followed suit because, really, Lance was an incredibly brave person. Everyone else had their, queer sides, but only Lance came out and said it.
Joey pulled Lance aside, and stared at his shoes in the hallway of Justin's mother's house. Everyone else was in the kitchen, eating dinner. He had said, "You should know. JC has had boyfriends, and Chris had, two I think. And me too. Girlfriends and boyfriends all around. And Justin hasn't gone out with anyone yet but we're betting he will."
Lance had smiled at him, and put a hand on Joey's shoulder and squeezed, as if Joey was the one that needed reassurance, like it was Joey who had done something amazing and miraculously brave. Lance said, "JC told me about his boyfriend."
Which made Joey grin. "He's got it bad."
"And that's good," Lance finished off, and raised an eyebrow. Then, Lynn had called them in to eat, and Joey had known that Lance was gonna be okay.
Lance had a surprisingly good sense of humor, even though he didn't say too much and people thought he was shy. But when you started talking to him, he wasn't shy at all. Chris figured it out quickly, and relayed it to Joey: Lance was just quiet. And devious.
Joey told Lance, over burgers, and Lance laughed. "Maybe I can use this somehow."
"What?" Joey poured more ketchup on his fries.
"Like, trick Chris somehow." Lance's eyes sparkled, obviously excited. "Wanna help?"
It was then, probably, that Joey gave up on saying no ever again, and went with yes, because it was usually a lot more fun. They weren't necessarily a solidified front from that moment on. Not necessarily. But probably.
Lance called him from Moscow a lot, paying insane amounts of money for long distance. Joey felt a tightness in his chest every time he picked the phone up.
Eventually, he went out, and picked a girl up, brought her home. He bought her breakfast the next morning, but didn't take her number down. Joey got in his car, and drove back home.
When Lance called him that night, Joey just blurted it out. "I slept with a chick last night."
"Oh." Lance's voice was quiet.
Joey stared out his window, playing with his glass of wine nervously. It wasn't fair to spring things like that on people, but there wasn't anything else he could do except lie, and he wasn't going to do that. He'd been looking for a long time for someone who was good for him like Lance.
"Lance?" Joey said. "What." He cleared his throat. "So I'm very, very sorry, too. Of course."
"Yeah." He was still quiet. "I. Okay. Who was she?"
Joey grimaced, rubbing his face. "I dunno. Some girl."
"Okay." He could hear Lance coughing on the other end of the phone.
Joey added defensively, "You didn't. I mean we didn't say."
"No, I, yeah." Lance coughed again. "Let's change the subject. I got the last batch of tests done."
Joey listened to Lance talk about his medical tests and his psychological tests, and stared out his window. It was dusk, the sky a dark pink. Some time, maybe soon, Lance might end up going up through that sky and then Joey would have to wait for him to come back down. Just like Chicken Little.
Lance finished off saying, "--so I might even get some simulator time next week. If things go well they could put me on this mission. Like, for real."
Joey slopped a little wine on the bedspread. "Shit."
"What happened?" and Joey tried to wipe it up with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Nothing. I just spilled some wine."
Lance chuckled. "You won't get it out if you wipe it. Blot at it."
Joey stopped wiping, with the cuff of his sweatshirt, and swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat, the burning behind his eyes. "You know why I slept with her?"
"I was lonely," Joey confessed. "I was."
"Well," and he could hear that Lance was working very hard not to sound angry. "I think we probably both are. But it's just for a while, and it's not like you're gonna do it again. And think about it. In less than six months, I might actually be off this planet."
Lance sounded oddly disbelieving, as if that fact would equalise out everything else that had happened here on earth.
"I don't." Joey closed his eyes, bit his lip, made sure he didn't say something extremely stupid in the next few seconds. "I don't care when you're going up. Okay? I don't care."
Lance was quiet on the other end of the phone. Joey knew his feelings were hurt. "I just thought you might want to know."
Joey sipped his glass of wine, miserable. He tried to disguise the miserableness in his voice, but the wine wasn't helping and the three glasses he'd already had were his undoing. He said, "I just wanna know when you're coming back."
The movie got awful reviews. Everyone seemed to think the movie was awful, and Joey rubbed Lance's back for two weeks straight, too busy trying to make Lance feel better to feel bad about it himself. Then Lance threw his arm off one night and leaned his head on Joey's shoulder instead. He said, "You've been the greatest, man."
"Yeah." Joey looked down at his fingernails. "I'm kinda. We're both kinda."
Lance said, "Yeah."
It was probably then that they had started kissing, or there might have been more talking first. Joey never remembered. It didn't seem to matter in the long run. Lance's lips were a miracle waiting to happen, an easy falling-into that made even a bus bunk comfortable. Except for the tight confines and the low ceiling and Chris sleeping in the next bunk down.
Joey said, in wonder, "Why didn't we ever do that before?"
Lance had shrugged, against him. "Kelly, me, you. I dunno." Lance had kissed him again, and shrugged, and then they'd gone to sleep. The next morning, everyone knew, of course, because Chris told them. He told them quietly and individually, and that was that.
Joey couldn't help smiling, for ages and ages and ages, and outside the whole world was sunny.
Lance came back with the medallion still around his neck, with a case full of Russian vodka for Justin and stupid tacky souvenirs for Chris and JC. Justin swapped vodka for tacky souvenirs until everyone had an equal share.
Joey waited approximately two hours, while the rest of the guys got details, before pulling Lance to bed. The talking could wait, too. A lot of things were waiting. Joey wasn't one of them anymore.
The sex was great. When Lance called out, "Jesus," and came, Joey grinned softly at him, rubbing Lance's stomach gently. Eventually, Joey said, teasing, "Just one of his aides."
Lance blinked sleepily, letting Joey lay down and pull Lance on top of him. "I think that's going a little too far."
"My name is Joseph." Joey wriggled around a bit, stretching on his back, and then pulled the sheet up over both of them. "And I think that last thing I just did might count as a miracle..."
Lance laid down, curling up on his side, and using Joey as a pillow. He shook his head, grinning. "Blasphemer."
"You're not Catholic." Joey glanced at the clock; seven PM. They had time to get up, get dressed, have dinner if they wanted. So little time had passed since they first came into his bedroom it was eerie. It felt like it should be midnight and later; like the sky should be full of comets and stars and blackness, and yet there was still dim sunshine coming through his blinds.
Lance bit him, softly, and Joey yelped. Lance kissed him, on the same spot of skin. "True." He shuffled around a bit, pulled Joey closer. "You wanna be, like, a saint?"
Joey shrugged, mouth falling out of its grin, despite himself. "Not really. Maybe I could be good at it though."
"But you usually have to die to be a saint, right?" Lance murmured, and kissed Joey's neck. "I watched that movie, I know a little bit." He kissed Joey's ear, and mumbled, "I don't like that part much."
Joey thought back to those months of waiting by the phone, of holding Brianna and eating breakfast with Kelly sadly. Kelly had never really asked, bringing him breakfast and his daughter, their little miracle, and talking about her new fiance. Joey liked her fiance, but sometimes he just wanted Kelly to leave. He had spent a lot of time holding little Brianna on his lap and staring out at the beautiful sky, on his patio, with rye toast and marmalade sitting, uneaten, beside him. Joey could remember clearly his bare feet wrapped around his deck chair, feeling the warm stone under-foot.
He shifted a little, putting Lance a little more firmly onto his chest, adjusting the position of his arm on Lance's shoulders a bit. Joey said, thoughtfully, "I think, I think I did, maybe." He added, slowly, "But I didn't know it, until just now."
Lance chuckled, resting his head on Joey's shoulder. Joey could feel Lance's lips against his neck, when Lance spoke. "You don't have to be canonized for me, Joe."
"No," Joey answered, kissing the top of Lance's head and wrapping his arms around him tighter. "No, maybe. For me."
They went to some theme park one time, back in the very beginning when it was still pretty safe to do so, and rode on all the roller coasters. Joey and Lance sat together, and they climbed to the top of the track, waited in freefall for a minute. Then with a rush, they careened down the other side, like you do with roller coasters.
Lance had clutched Joey's hand, mouth wide open. Joey could remember, still, the sensation in his stomach as he fell from such a great height.