Joey woke up when his phone started ringing.
It was six thirty on Tuesday morning, and the phone rang three times before he actually registered that he was awake, and another two before he registered he was awake, in fact, on a day off, at six in the morning. He then laid down again, knowing the voicemail would get it at six. He was already drifting off to sleep again when it rang again.
This was repeated four times before he finally got up to answer it. The call display said 'Lance'. Joey answered, and a frantic animal made noises at him. It sounded like a sheep, or a goat maybe, but deeper. And definitely urgent.
"What the fuck? What kind of sick twisted joke is this, Lance?" More bleating. "Okay," Joey said, yawning. "I'm gonna hang up cause either this is Lance getting me back for that joke I played last week, or some sick twist. So bye!"
Joey hung up. Ten second later the phone rang again. And again. And again. "Fine," he muttered as he got into his car. "Fine. You win, Bass."
He didn't expect to find a wooly looking animal standing, terrified, in Lance's living room, wearing his pajama top. He surely didn't expect to see the llama run up to him, nuzzle his chest, and then very deliberately knock over a picture of Lance that he had on the mantle, picking it up in his teeth and waving it around.
"Okay," he said. "I'll just call that clinic that AJ went to." The llama stared at him, and rolled its eyes.
Joey did what anyone would do. He called someone else at six forty five in the morning, and made them wake up too.
By seven thirty Joey had gotten a hold of the other guys and convinced them that they had to come and see something at Lance's house, that it wasn't a joke, and that it was urgent enough to wake up for. Joey wasn't sure he had the ability to actually say 'llama' on the phone, especially since he wasn't completely convinced he wasn't hallucinating the whole thing.
When they got there and confirmed that yes, there was an animal in Lance's house, he explained the situation and then bit his lip.
Chris took one look at Lance and started snickering. He said, "now someone has curlier hair than you, Justin!" Everyone laughed. Justin didn't.
"So," JC said. "You're Lance."
The llama nodded. Chris frowned. "Okay, so now if we're believing this. --no, I'm not believing this. Prove it."
The llama disappeared into Lance's bedroom, bringing out a teeshirt in his teeth. It was one of the first girl FuMan shirts, a yellow quartersleeve top, and he dumped it in Justin's lap. Chris laughed. "Hah! Proves nothing! I'm the one that created FuMan. You just guessed, llama-imposter, and you guessed wrong."
Justin went very, very red. He said quietly, "Um. It's mine. I kinda left it here." He coughed. "Uh. The other day."
The llama looked extremely smug.
"I'm still not convinced," Chris said. With a snort, the llama went to Lance's TV and tried to open the drawer under it, dipping his head to wrap his teeth around the handle. He bleated, annoyed, and Joey went over to open the drawer for him. Joey peered in, the llama clumsily moved a book out of the way to reveal--
"Hey, Chris," Joey said, picking up the video game. "Isn't this your Tekken?"
"Huh." Chris blinked, taking the game from Joey. "You ass. I've been missing this for months."
Justin, who had put the shirt behind a cushion, said, "Okay, so we have a problem. And I want breakfast."
They did the obvious: called someone else.
Joey couldn't handle talking to Johnny on the phone, and so he passed it off to Justin. Justin squawked, and gave it to JC who dropped it into his lemonade.
Chris sighed, muttered, "losers," and called Johnny back on his own cell phone. "Yeah, Johnny, we have something to tell you. No, nothing like that. No, we like you as a manager. No, no pictures or anything. Look, someone will be by in about a half-hour, okay?"
The llama nudged at the pizza box with its nose. Justin wrinkled his nose. "Oh, gross, don't do that. You're all dirty."
The llama sniffed, offended. Joey handed him a slice of pizza, and the llama nuzzled him in thanks.
"Don't tell me."
Joey grimaced, instinctively backing away from Theresa. She was holding a cordless phone in her hand and scowling. Joey knew that any minute he was going to have to duck when she threw it at his head. He smiled at her charmingly, and mentally cursed Justin, JC, and Chris, who'd all drawn the short straws.
She scowled at him some more. "Well?"
He tried to look cute. "You said not to tell you."
"I lied." She clucked her tongue, and waved the phone around. Joey could hear Nathan on the other end of the line, saying something like, 'what the fuck is going on?'
"So tell me."
Joey rubbed the back of his neck. "Well see. We've got this problem..."
"I gathered that," she replied sourly, and threatened him with the phone's antenna. "Paternity suit? More gold lame? Am I going to have an aneurysm? What?"
"Lance is." Joey swallowed, and backed up a little more. "He's kind of." He gulped, then blurted, "a llama."
Joey ducked. The phone smacked against the wall behind him.
Theresa agreed to come to Lance's house and "check out the situation, because this is my job even though I'm stipulating a twenty percent raise and goddamned if I don't get it."
Joey meekly agreed, and took her to see Lance.
Once she'd confirmed that no, they weren't fucking with her and yes, it was Lance, the first thing out of her mouth was, "He can't speak?"
Chris looked at her. "He's a llama," as if that explained everything.
She clucked her tongue, furrowed her brow, and didn't really say anything for a few minutes. Then she whipped out her phone and called someone and started barking orders, like, "maybe set him up a spiritual retreat" and "find somewhere remote, like Thailand".
Lance, Joey noticed, was getting more and more agitated throughout the whole phone conversation, and when she hung up with a "I'll call you with the spin later today", he nudged her elbow.
JC frowned. "He doesn't like those arrangements. It. I mean, this is Lance. He calls all that stuff flaky."
Theresa started to object, asking how the hell JC could be so sure of what Lance meant. JC turned to Theresa. "I went to this workshop, where they taught you all sorts of communication techniques for--"
Theresa looked at her watch. "That's fabulous, JC. Really. So fine, you don't want to go to Thailand." She eyed the llama suspiciously. "What about Tibet?"
The llama shook it's head. Chris said helpfully, "Lance isn't Buddhist."
"Fine, then where do you suggest he go?"
Justin bit his lip. "He always wanted to go into space." They all took a good look at Justin, who shrugged. "Can't you like, pay? Or shit?" They kept staring at him. "What? Like y'all are getting any better ideas."
"Moscow it is," she snapped, and stood up. "Lance is going to Mir then. Fuck, what am I supposed to do, working under conditions like this!"
The llama looked annoyed. JC blinked. "Everyone's going to think he's secretly in rehab."
Theresa pursed her lips, pressing her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose. She closed her eyes. "I'm the one that's going to need rehab."
Someone had to do something useful, now that management was notified and all of that good stuff. Someone had to do something about them, rather suddenly and surprisingly, owning a llama.
"Lance is gonna kill you if you turn his back yard into a petting zoo, man," Justin said. Joey frowned, looking at the fencing he'd picked up that morning -- okay, that he'd had Lonnie pick up for him that morning -- and then at the brand new water trough. Justin peeked over Joey's shoulder at his list. "Joe."
"He's gonna kill you. You're turning his backyard into a petting zoo."
The llama came up to Joey, and nudged him insistently. Joey turned around, and murmured, "what do you want?"
Without another glance, the llama trotted into the house again. Justin grinned at Joey. "Told you he didn't want to sleep outside."
"Shut up." Joey followed Lance into his kitchen, where he was bleating at the fridge. Joey had no idea how a llama could look pissed off the same way Lance looked pissed off when someone put him on hold on the telephone, but this one managed it.
Joey opened the fridge, and Lance picked up the milk carton with his teeth. He looked at Joey, and then looked at the cupboard, and then very pointedly looked at Joey again. "Oh," Joey said, getting a bowl. "Right."
He put the bowl of milk on Lance's kitchen island, and Lance lapped it up. Joey murmured, more to himself than the llama, "you're really still in there, aren't you?"
The llama turned to Joey, eyes soft, and nodded.
Eventually, since Nathan had called back to tell them that llamas needed space, they drove it, in Lance's SUV, to Johnny's place and let Lance loose in the back yard. Lance settled in happily, going into one of the offices to find a place to sleep.
Johnny opened his mouth to complain, once, as Lance trotted down the driveway, but Joey held his hand up. "Llamas need space, and well, you've got the most."
"Joey. I appreciate that I'm your manager, but--"
JC was hanging off Joey's shoulders, leaning against his back. He spoke up earnestly. "We'll take care of him, don't worry. And besides. He's still Lance in there. It's not like he's going to mess up your carpets or something."
The llama turned its head to stare at Johnny, and narrowed its eyes. Johnny held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay. I'll tell people it's the new WEG mascot or something."
JC giggled, as Lance bent his head to sniff at one of the bushes lining the drive. "He likes it here."
Johnny glanced at Joey. "I'll get Theresa on it."
Theresa was not amused. Especially when she was told to find out what kinds of foods llamas ate, what kind of housing they needed, and was told to make all of those things happen by tomorrow. She was especially not amused about how, when she did make all of those things happen, Lance rejected her llama-suitable food and accomodations for the back office couch and New York steak.
They went over to inspect the accomodations, because as Chris said, "this is a celebrity llama. Has to be the best."
Chris and JC found Lance standing in the sauna, happily sucking down a Mai Tai from a bucket. Chris eyed Lance. JC raised an eyebrow, then made a kind of 'oh well' face, or possibly a 'so cute!' face. It was hard to tell with JC.
Chris was staring at Lance thoughtfully. He said, "Think we could get him a saddle?"
Lance was smaller and lighter than most llamas, Nathan had told them, because he was still Lance's weight, rather than normal llama weight. But he still looked like he was probably big enough for a little person to ride.
Lance stamped one foot down, and it made a nice clopping sound, interrupting the soothing steam coming from his hotrocks.
JC giggled, sitting down in the warm air. "Remember when you tried to make Lance give you a piggy back ride in Koln that one time?"
"Sure. He almost broke my head on the table when he threw me off."
"Chris," JC said patiently, "this llama has hooves."
It wasn't quite accurate, because Lance waved a back leg around, threatening Chris with his padded toes -- or at least tried to while he had a huge straw in his mouth. JC cooed. Chris got the idea, though, and stopped wondering if the llama would stay still long enough for him to put on a bridle.
JC loved the new Lance right away. He was soft and he was gentle almost all of the time, and JC could watch him prance around all he wanted. And JC always did like animals.
The four of them ended up spending a lot of time at Johnny's, taking care of Lance. Even though he was obviously intelligent still, and actually tried to play checkers with Nathan a couple of times, they still had to get him fresh water, and bring him food, and entertain him because let's face it, even running around on four legs gets dull if you don't have people around you. And Lance had always been a pretty sociable guy.
The weird part, Joey knew, was that they ended up doing a lot of the things they used to, except instead of Lance doing the cooking, now Justin attempted it with the llama keeping an eye on him from the patio.
They were all watching TV and arguing about what to watch. Chris snatched the remote, and glared at Joey. "Fine, why don't we watch what the llama wants to watch? Jesus, it'd be better than your stupid cooking shows."
"Hey, maybe Justin'll learn something and then next time the burgers won't be burned--"
"Look," Justin snapped, "if YOU want burgers, cook them yourself--"
Joey sighed, rubbing his forehead. "What does Lance want to watch, then?" He didn't like to refer to him as 'the llama' or 'it', using Lance's name.
The question floored Chris and Justin enough that they stopped arguing and Chris let Joey have the remote again. Chris glanced over to where the llama was curled up on a big beanbag.
Lance made a cute little bleating noise, and waved his head a bit.
JC held a carrot up to him thoughtfully, which Lance took. "He's saying he wants to watch the Discovery Channel. There's a special on the space station."
Chris bent his head over the back of the couch, so that he could stare at JC. "What?"
"He wants to watch Discovery." JC shrugged.
Joey glanced over, to where JC was feeding the llama carrot, and cooing at it. He fought down a stab of feeling, and asked, "How can you tell?"
"I went to one of those--"
"Forget it, JC," Chris jumped in with, "we don't want to hear about your seminars--"
"--retreats," and JC glared balefully at Chris, "that told you all about how to communicate with your pets."
It looked like Lance was going to snort at JC, for calling him a pet, but then JC held out some apple -- "Can llamas even eat those, Jayce?" -- and then Lance was satisfied.
Joey went back to watching monster trucks, because Chris had the remote, and didn't watch JC pet Lance. There was something disconcerting about the easy way JC had with animals. Especially since Nathan had told them that apparently llamas needed the companionship of another llama around them.
Justin fell in love with Lance when he bit Carson Daly in the ass. Really, no one could blame him.
They were at a cook-out at the WEG compound, and Carson Daly had gotten an invite somehow, and was chatting up one of Britney's publicists when Lance had sidled up and bit him, ripping a pocket half-off his jeans. As JC took Carson inside for a bandage, Justin dragged the llama away to a corner of Johnny's yard and hissed, "You bit him!"
Lance the llama just bobbed his head daintily. Justin gazed at him in admiration. He said, "I hate that guy more than life itself. You're my hero."
Lance the llama bleated smugly. Justin hugged him tight, and declared, "I think I'm in love with you."
Chris convinced the llama to let it take him for a ride if Chris took it to Animal Kingdom in Orlando that Saturday.
The deal itself involved a lot of negotiations, in which JC was amazed at how stubborn an animal that didn't speak, and Chris, could be. He was doubly amazed when they actually managed to come to a compromise. He was sure that Chris's habit of joking about calling Animal Control, and the llama's habit of hitting Chris in the stomach with its head, would surely have gotten in the way.
But eventually, they came to an agreement. Chris had a five minute ride around Johnny's putting green, the llama careful not to make any divots, looking bored and uncomfortable.
Sadly, the Animal Kingdom staff wouldn't let Chris bring the llama in.
Lance bleated unhappily, and hung his head. Chris petted him, trying to be comforting. "Even if you could have gone in, it's not like you could have gotten to know the other animals."
Chris took him to a petting zoo after hours, instead, and let him loose to nuzzle some other llamas and a few really surprised goats and stuff. It didn't last long. Lance came out of the pen with his head down, still looking lonely, and Chris drove him back to Johnny's.
Though he didn't have to, Chris ended up staying with Lance overnight, and brought the TV out to Lance's office-turned-paddock. After that Chris and the llama had no problems.
Really only Joey missed the old Lance. And now he had to do it in secret, miserably, watching Justin and Lance the llama play soccer akwardly, or else someone would accuse him of having a crush on the animal or something, and that could go nowhere good. It wasn't fair.
Chris came out with a couple of beers. He handed one to Joey, "courtesy of Johnny," and then sat down in a deck chair. "Lance is really getting the hang of dribbling with hooves, man."
Joey sighed. "He's scored on J twice."
"Good for him."
In a break in the game, Justin and the llama came over to where Chris and Joey were sitting. Justin threw himself onto Chris's lap, and the llama licked the back of Joey's neck. Justin was totally grossed out by it, but Joey kind of liked it -- not in a sexy way, but like maybe Lance still remembered who he was.
The more time Lance spent as a llama the more he really acted like one. He seemed to be getting into the groove of having four legs and stuff.
Joey really didn't like how much Lance liked being a llama, no matter how pretty a llama he made. Joey caught him taking a nap outside in the pool house, and decided to take matters into his own hands.
"We have to do something to fix Lance."
Chris giggled while Justin looked horrified and JC vaguely ill. "No, you morons," Joey said, rolling his eyes. "The whole, animal thing? We have to do something. Un-llama-fy him."
They all looked at each other for a minute. The llama chewed on half a pizza that Johnny had thoughtfully bought it.
"So how do we un-llama-fy him?"
Joey paused, looking at everyone else. It was a very good question. It was followed by an even better question. "How was he llama-fied in the first place?"
Chris asked dryly, "How are we only now getting around to asking this?"
It seemed that Johnny had no experts for this sort of thing, so Joey decided that they had to do it themselves. Chris offered to get the shears, to which Justin turned a little green, and then JC interrupted with, "maybe we should go back to the scene of the crime."
They drove over to Lance's house, after leaving him in the capable hands of a personal masseuse and a box of low-fat frozen yogurt.
"Do you even have any idea of what we're looking for, Joey?" Chris scratched the back of his neck. "I mean." He waved his hands in the air, highlighting the relative fruitlessness of the whole search.
Joey shrugged, and felt hopeless. "We have to start somewhere."
JC put a hand on Joey's back, and Justin squared his shoulders. "All right. This is Lance, he's super organized. Let's just, go through his papers and stuff. See if we can find some clues."
Joey smiled at Justin, because it was, all things considered, a damned good idea. Which wasn't necessarily shocking, coming from Justin's mouth, but it was shocking in the wake of your best friend turning into a llama.
Chris and Joey started going through Lance's desk while Justin tackled his computer and JC made coffee. Joey started reading Lance's daytimer. On April 19th, Lance had written, 'fire the old bitch' and a demonic little smiley face. Joey held up the book.
Chris stared at him. "Oh, what, so she went to her secret lab and made up a potion to turn Lance into a llama?"
"Well," Joey looked thoughtful, flipping through the pages. "He had dinner with her on the second of May."
"Oh my god," Chris said, flopping onto Lance's leather couch. "You're serious."
Joey shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. Still doesn't help us de-llama-fy him."
JC peered over Lance's kitchen island. "Can we start using a different term? That's kind of akward to say."
They both turned to stare at JC.
Justin came out of Lance's bedroom, carrying the laptop under his arm. "Well, he lists all of his deliveries, and the only weird thing, that isn't like scripts, or computer games, is one from South America the beginning of the month. The only note is 'exotic urn'. Whatever the hell that is."
Joey put his head in his hands. "We're never gonna figure out why he's a llama."
JC poured a mug of coffee, and handed it to Chris. He gazed off into the distance, looking thoughtful. Chris said, "You getting a signal, man?"
"What?" JC blinked. The sarcasm was entirely lost on him. "Oh, no, I was just thinking about how weird that sounds. I mean. Lance is a llama. Kind of surreal."
They spent all afternoon going through Lance's stuff before Chris hit on the brilliant idea of asking Lance himself. Joey felt pretty stupid about the whole thing.
The llama came into Lance's house, and went straight to the bedroom, laying down carefully on the thousand dollar duvet. Chris mumbled, "Wow, Lance must sure be desperate. Who knew he'd let an animal on his bed?"
The llama opened one eye, and stuck it's tongue out at Chris. Then it laid down again, pretending to sleep for a few minutes. "Okay," Joey said. "It happened when you were asleep. Got it."
Lance got off the bed, nosing the duvet back in place before trotting out to the kitchen, where he demonstrated how he'd knocked the telephone off the wall and hit redial to call Joey.
Justin sighed. "Okay, and we know the story after that. Maybe we need to go back further."
Lance kicked his cabinet with an angry hoof, leaving a dent in his bottom cupboard. Joey watched him, feeling more hopeless than when he was just looking through his personal stuff.
"--just hopeless," Joey heard Justin say, as Justin came down the stairs. Lance the llama had given up and was watching the Discovery Channel with JC. Chris and Justin clammed up, as they spotted Joey, still checking through Lance's email and regular mail.
Joey sighed. They gave up and went home, and Joey didn't visit the Compound for about a week.
At first, Chris had yelled "demon llama!" every time he came by Lance. The llama had gotten into it, Lance's sense of humor, Joey supposed -- he snapped at Chris, baring his teeth, and then let Chris roll around with him for a few minutes until Chris inevitably got bored and started quoting someone else.
This time, when Joey and Chris drove by, Lance snapped at Chris a little harder than usual. Chris frowned. "What's up with you?"
The llama hung it's head, by way of apology. Chris ruffled it's hair affectionately, and went to go try and convince Johnny to let him play with something expensive and irreplaceable.
"Bath-time?" Joey asked, grinning. Lance took off in a trot over to where he had his own little temporary jacuzzi and bathtub. Lance, even as a llama, hated not being able to be clean. Johnny had to hire someone on staff just to soap Lance up every day.
Joey opted to do it himself this time, being careful not to get shampoo in Lance's eyes or anything. It was kind of like washing Brianna -- especially when Lance splashed him. Except Lance had a lot more weight to splash with, and Joey got soaked. He grinned, rinsing the last of the shampoo off. "Fine, fine. I was going in the pool anyway."
Joey changed into his swimsuit, getting into the cool water with a contented sigh. As if by magic, a cold drink appeared by his hand -- Johnny paid people very well -- and Lance the llama stretched out on a huge beach towel, in the grass, beside him. "You comfy, buddy?"
The llama nodded at Joey. "Good."
Joey swam a little bit, but ended up just sitting on the steps of the pool, in the water up to his waist. He suddenly blurted, "I miss Lance," and then felt stupid for saying it. Lance, obviously, was sitting right beside him, drying out happily in the hot sun.
But the llama just looked up at him, waiting for him to continue, so Joey felt a little less stupid. It was what Lance would have normally done; just waited for him to explain himself until he either felt much stupider, at which point Lance would laugh and make him feel better; or less stupid when he actually came to a point, which is when Lance would either agree or disagree seriously.
Joey sighed. "And it's not that I don't like the new Lance." He took another sip and then kicked his foot, splashing the water a little. "It's just I really miss the old Lance. Like, I remember all these little things, and I can't help but think, 'oh'."
Joey sighed, still feeling depressed after everything. "Hand me that towel?"
The llama reached out its neck and grabbed Joey's towel, passing it to him. Joey looked over, as he was getting out, at the llama's face. It looked depressed too. Joey murmured, "It must be worse for you, huh."
The llama seemed to shrug. Joey did too. "Yeah."
Chris dragged Joey away from the pool a little later, saying they were going to be late which, translated from Chris-speak, meant Chris was bored and wanted to find something else to do. The llama just rolled its eyes tolerantly, as if it knew exactly what was going on.
On a psychotic impulse, Joey kissed the end of its nose, when it followed them out to the driveway. There was a tingling in his lips, a little bit, but then Chris broke in with, "Jesus, ew!"
and that was it. Chris said again, "Oh, Joey, ewww!" and put a hand over his own mouth. "Oh, gross! Ewww! That was just fucking disgusting, man." He wouldn't shut up, and Joey was really really tempted to punch him.
Joey answered, "Shut up." But the llama grinned at him, and Joey swore it winked before he got in Chris's car, so he felt a little better.
He got a call in the middle of the night again, which, when he looked at the call display, was Johnny's office. Joey answered, and the first thing he heard was, "Joey, guess what, I'm not a--"
Joey hung up and was in the car by the time Lance finished.
He was the second-last to arrive, which made him incredibly suspicious since he thought Lance would have called him first. But then he remembered that Justin was staying with Chris, and then he remembered how Chris drove, and stopped feeling neglected.
And then, there was Lance, sitting in Johnny's office at ass-o'clock, sipping coffee and looking a little thin, and pretty pissed off. Joey paused in the doorway, hearing, "but I told you, I'm not going to take the rest of this year off just because you fucking set in place this stupidassed story--" He glanced up, and beamed. "Joey!"
Joey's throat closed, a little, and he stared at Lance. Hesitantly, "Hey?"
Lance wrinkled his nose. "No thanks," which set both Justin and Chris off laughing, and they both hugged him, and laughed some more. Joey thought that they were having problems coping, from the slightly hysterical tone to their cackling, but who was he to judge.
JC came in, and his face fell when he saw non-llama Lance. "Oh. Oh hi."
Lance raised an eyebrow, and JC added hastily, "no, no! Congratulations. I just. I got." JC held out one of those things that Joey had seen Peruvian people putting on llamas, one time on Discovery -- they really needed to get satellite TV -- and grinned sheepishly.
Lance took it from JC, and smiled. "Thank you." When JC turned around, he rolled his eyes at Joey, and Joey grinned weakly.
So this was the way it was.
Joey had thought that once Lance wasn't a llama anymore, that things would work out happily ever after. At least, he'd been imagining it. After all, Lance was turned back with a kiss -- mentally Joey amended, probably not, but it was nice to pretend -- and so that's how things were supposed to end. Happily ever after.
And he supposed, approximately, they did. Lance a human, that was pretty happy. Lance seemed pretty happy. The other guys were.
But him and Lance never got a happily-ever-after. Or rather, he didn't get up the courage to tell newly-human Lance he thought maybe he was in love with Lance, and had always known it and just never wanted to change the status quo much. Joey was rather depressed about that, since he thought maybe after that, and Lance confessing love and commitment a minute later, they could maybe have sex.
All of these things having not happened, Joey wasn't too happy. He didn't even get to kiss Lance again.
Theresa and Lance were arguing. "But we've already put out there that you've all but got your name sewn on the flight uniform!"
Lance clicked his teeth together. "Then put something else out there. If there are fucking rumors of me getting to be an astronaut I damned well better be on the flight."
"Lance," she said, rolling her eyes, "there is no way the Russians are going to let you actually go."
"So have me actually taken off the mission, so I can go out in public again."
They argued some more, Theresa having two gin and tonics and Lance downing three Cosmos, before Lance got his way. Johnny, in the same amount of time, had finished off half a case of beer.
"No one will say anything," Lance said, and gestured to Joey to pour him another drink. "It's not like the press ever gets anything right."
Theresa glared at him. Joey wordlessly handed Johnny another bottle, and then got one for himself.
He was sitting by the pool again that night, dipping his toes in, when Lance came over. "Hey, what's up?"
Joey watched Lance crouch, and tried to figure out why he'd never said anything before. "Nothing."
"How come you're not over with the lanterns and the beer then?" Lance meant over by Johnny's patio, where he was throwing a party for Lance's 'dismissal from the Russian space program'. It was a little too happy to celebrate a failure, but no one was arguing because there was an open bar.
Joey shrugged, waving a beer bottle. Lance smiled. "Not what I meant, Fatone. So come on." He sat down on the damp tiles, and crossed his legs. "What's up with you?"
Lance stopped smiling, mouth turned down. "Don't tell me you miss him too."
Joey blinked. "What?"
"Stupid Justin got drunk and started wailing about never finding another llama who could play sports like I did." Lance sighed. "I know he was joking, but like. And JC and that stupid ugly thing, whatever it was. Like, jesus. Everyone seems to miss having their favorite pet."
Joey stared down into the water. "Oh. Um, sorry. No, it's not that."
Joey shrugged. "I just don't know how I could be stupid and like, content, not doing anything about you."
"Joe, you did." Joey bit his lip. "You were the only one that tried to change me back. I mean, just because I had four legs doesn't mean I was blind. The rest of the guys -- okay, they treated me the same, but like. That's no glowing recommendation."
Joey chuckled. "Chris tried to ride you."
"Don't give him any ideas."
Joey drank. "That's not really what I was talking about, though."
"Oh." Lance was quiet for a minute. "Well, if you want to do something, I'm not going to say, 'finally' or 'it's about time' y'know. Cause I didn't do anything either."
"Okay." Joey put his beer down, and turned a little bit. He leaned in, and kissed Lance, and Lance kissed him back. Joey pulled back once, to murmur, "if you turn into a llama, or any other kind of animal, I may need therapy."
Lance kissed him to shut him up.
It would have been a happily-ever-after except Chris and Justin found that they weren't, after all, too drunk to shove both Joey and Lance in the pool, Chris yelling "finally!" and Justin screeching "it's about time!" Which would have made Joey pretty mad, except it also meant that he and Lance had to take their clothes off. Which was pretty happily ever after, in Joey's book.