It was intermittently bright on the dance floor, with random lights illuminating the milling throng in their peacocky clothes, vivid silks, flashing beads, shiny leathers and velvety suedes. Justin was lost in the crowd, surrounded by breathless admirers; Chris was developing a coterie of his own at the far border of the dance floor; and in the midst of it all, JC and Joey were dancing. Ostensibly with a matched pair of sleek, high-cheekboned girls, but to all intents and purposes, with each other.
Lance looked despondently down at his drink, and sighed to himself. How foolish he was to cherish such hopes. He had lost his heart long ago, looking up into those bright eyes and seeing something so much more than a friend. But only the friend looked back, and Lance had kept the secret hidden so well nobody suspected it, he hoped, and he was content, mostly, to glean satisfaction from those moments of extra attention, but sometimes it was almost more than he could bear, watching him so happy and carefree with someone, anyone, else.
With sudden resolution, he stood, and made his way carefully towards the exit. Before he reached it, he felt the warmth of a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey," said Joey, "you're not leaving?"
"I... have a headache," Lance explained, lamely.
"Do you want me to—"
"No, no, I'll be all right, you stay. Stay and dance with JC." He smiled bravely and went through the portal, and back to the waiting car with his broad black shadow in tow. It would be dull in his hotel room alone, but he would be spared the sight of Joey and JC together.
* * *
It would be best, he decided, to employ his time usefully instead of allowing his thoughts to linger on what could never be. So Lance opened his laptop with a sigh, and immersed himself in the welcome demands of work.
Some little time later, he felt a hand descend to his shoulder, and emitted a surprised yelp .
"It's okay, man, it's only me."
"I - uh, you startled me," Lance muttered, his heart beating a tumultuous rhythm in his chest.
"I thought you had a headache."
"Yes," he said, guiltily.
"That can't be good for you. Did you take something?"
"Yeah, couple Tylenol."
"Oh. Okay. But you should be in bed, not slaving over a hot screen."
"It's fine, it's only—"
"Unless you're checking out the porn sites? 'Cause that might be a headache cure!"
"No!" Lance blushed, uneasily conscious of the fact that he had no need to look at pictures of strangers, when the images his own imagination could conjure were far more effective. "I - I'll shut it down." He saved, closed the program, and turned off the computer. "I should, um..."
"Want a backrub?"
The thought sent a thrill of yearning darting through Lance's body. To have those hands on him, caressing him, working on the tension in his shoulders... no, it would never do, he'd be hard in no time and quite unable to control his own response. "No need," he said as blithely as he could. "I'll just go to bed, um, sleep, and I'll be fine."
"I was going to pack up anyway," he lied. "Didn't think y'all would be back from the club so soon."
"Oh, the others are still there," Joey said, his hand resting negligently on the back of Lance's neck. "I was worried about you. It's not like you to duck out of a party."
Lance shrugged, incapable of rational speech.
"Is there... is there something bothering you?" Joey asked hesitantly.
"Why do you say that?"
"I just... it's just that clubbing doesn't usually give you a headache. I thought it might be something else." Joey sounded almost nervous, the words emerging reluctantly from his mouth.
"What kind of something?"
"Maybe... a someone kind of something."
Lance felt a chill hand of dread trace down his spine. He feigned nonchalance, but feared his moment's hesitation might have given him away. "No, no." He waved an airy hand. "Just, you know, one of those days."
Joey sat on the bed next to Lance, bent over and fiddled with the laces of his sneakers. "Cos I thought maybe, you might have a thing for someone who isn't, um, receptive. Thought maybe I could help."
Lance's brow furrowed. For a moment it had seemed that Joey understood, but his offer of help seemed oddly inappropriate, in the circumstances.
Joey ploughed on: "He's kinda oblivious sometimes, you know. I mean, sometimes he notices stuff way before the rest of us, but other times you just have to give him a kick in the butt to get him to see what's going on."
"JC," said Joey, simply.
"You think I—you think JC—"
"I saw you watching us on the dance floor. Man, I'm sorry - I just, y'know, 'C loves to dance, and I didn't realize, I mean, you could've joined us, you know."
Lance sighed inwardly. JC was not the only oblivious member of the band. But years of observation had taught Lance that Joey was only really unaware of things he did not wish to recognize. Evidently, Lance's feelings fell into this category. He hesitated. He could deny that JC was the object of his affections, but if he did, Joey might press him further for an explanation of his conduct this evening. Whereas if he pretended that Joey had understood correctly... no, better not. It was all too probable that Joey would undertake to administer the kick in the butt, and then Lance would be obliged to explain to JC that it was all a misunderstanding, and heaven knew what complications might arise.
Lance opened his mouth to deny that he had any such feelings for JC, when he heard thumps from the corridor. There was a loud knocking at the door, and a moment later, his three missing bandmates tumbled into the room. They were clearly the worse for wear, all three of them giggling foolishly and staggering a little as they piled onto the nearest bed.
"Brought the party back!"
"Yeah. Can't have a proper party without you guys, yo!"
"Whereas drinks? Oooh, chocolate!" Chris had crawled to the mini-bar and was pawing through its contents, having reserved the not-so-cunningly hidden bag of M&Ms for himself. He tossed miniature bottles casually at JC and Justin, who mostly failed to catch them, but since the bottles landed on the bed, this was unimportant. Grabbing a handful of tumblers, he motioned for them to make room for him, set his glasses out on the mattress, and proceeded to open unlikely combinations of bottles and pour them with more enthusiasm than accuracy into the unsteady row of tumblers.
Lance found himself being presented with a mixture of Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream, and tonic water. He grimaced and set the glass down on the table. "No, really, guys, I just took some Tylenol," but none of them took the slightest notice. Chris and Justin were squabbling over whether to add whisky or rum to the concoction in Chris's glass. JC was lying happily with his head dangling over the foot of the bed, singing to himself and smiling, an opaquely orange drink balanced precariously on his chest. Joey was glowering: there was a glass of murky liquid in his hand, but whether he was glowering at the taste or the interruption Lance could not tell.
Chris and Justin came to an abrupt compromise, added the contents of both spirit bottles to the tumbler, and poured half the resultant cocktail carefully into a spare glass. Lance winced as stray drops spattered the bedspread. As long as it didn't eat through the fabric, he supposed, it didn't matter very much.
"Guys," Lance began again, "look, guys, this is real nice of y'all, coming to cheer me up, but honestly, I just wanna get some sleep, okay?"
"You know what you need?" said JC, surprisingly coherent for one wearing such a very foolish smile. "Sex!"
"Yay! Sex!" echoed Justin. He and Chris began to chant.
"No," said Lance, straining to keep a hold on his temper, "just sleep!"
"But sex makes it easier to sleep," said JC. This was nothing new: JC had a tendency to insist that there was nothing that could not be improved by sex, and his current state of inebriation only made him more dogmatic.
"Thass what we forgot," announced Chris, horrified. "We forgot to bring girls! Need a girl for Lance's headache." He poked Justin in the tiny gap between T-shirt and leather trousers. "Go find a girl for Lance."
"I don't want a girl!" Lance shouted.
"S okay, he don't want one. Doesn't. Said so," Justin explained earnestly.
"Doesn't need a girl. Can have me. I'm good at sex," said JC, proudly. Lance groaned and hid his face.
Joey intervened. "No, JC. You can go back to your own room. Take Chris and Justin with you. You can have sex with them."
There were screams of outrage, and Chris and Justin clung together, wide-eyed and terrified. JC sat up, and frowned. They warded him off with repelling gestures.
JC's face fell. "Nobody wants to have sex wi' me. Silly fuckers. All drunk. 'Cept Lance. Lance doesn' wanna have sex either. Forgot. Hah. Gonna find someone to have sex." He slid off the bed and wobbled towards the door, attempted to push it open, collided with it, pulled it open and went through, closing it grandly behind him.
"Safe!" crowed Chris, and bounced joyfully on the bed in celebration of his deliverance. Justin's face turned a delicate shade of green, and he grabbed desperately at his bandmate.
"Stop that!" ordered Joey, sternly. Justin's eyes were big with gratitude, though Chris pouted. "You can bounce on your own bed, Chris," Joey suggested.
"Don't wanna. 'S good here."
Joey leaned in towards Chris. "There'll be a full mini-bar in your room, Chris."
"Yay! More cocktails!" Chris leaped from the bed. "C'mon, Justin!"
Justin clung to the pillows. "JC!" he moaned.
Chris opened the door and peered both ways along the corridor. "Nah, he's gone."
"If you hurry, you can get to Chris's room before he sees you," said Joey, cunningly.
"Wanna stay here. No sex with JC!" muttered Justin.
"But JC knows you're here. If he can't find anyone else, he might come back."
Justin fell off the bed, grabbed Chris's hand and hauled him through the door. Joey closed it firmly before turning to look thoughtfully at Lance. "I, um, sorta got the impression JC's propositioned you before," he ventured.
Lance looked at the floor. "Yeah," he muttered, crimson with embarrassment.
"And... you said no?" Lance nodded, too mortified to speak. "Because I sorta thought, I mean, I thought you had a thing for... But if you don't, then is it..."
Lance didn't dare look up. How could he possibly admit to Joey that—
He felt a firm hand under his chin, raising his face, but kept his eyes downcast.
"... me?" There was such warmth, such tenderness, in that voice that Lance's eyes widened and he found himself staring into Joey's incomparable smile. A moment later, their lips met, and Lance found himself engulfed in Joey's arms, rapturously surrendering to Joey's kiss.
"Chris left his M&Ms be—huh!" They broke apart and stared. There was Justin in the doorway, his eyes fairly starting from his head, gaping at them. Joey reached across, picked up the little packet and hurled it at Justin, who caught it and fled with a squeak. Joey strode to the door, locked it, and came back.
"You know," he said, "JC isn't wrong about everything. Sex is a pretty good cure for headaches."
"I,um, don't actually have a headache," Lance admitted.