"I’m just used to it," Joey said, shrugging. "I’m never cold."
"How do you do that, Fatone?" Chris grumbled. "It’s fucking freezing!"
They were in Amsterdam, and it was December, and they were all tired and cranky and convalescent, and Joey was wearing a thin sweater as they sat in the chilly hotel lobby. "You’re wearing cotton, you idiot! What happens if you get sick again?"
"I won’t," Joey replied. "I’ve had the ‘flu, and I’m over it. I don’t mind it being cold – it reminds me of home, a little."
"Home is Orlando," JC observed, huddled in his parka. "Orlando is not cold."
"Home is Brooklyn. I mean, Orlando’s great, but it’s fucking Florida, you know? Florida is no one’s home."
"If you say so," Justin muttered. "But any place this frigging cold is my idea of hell. I want sun and sand and bikinis – forget the canals and the ice, man."
The others murmured approving noises, then lapsed back into silence.
"Where’s the damn car?" Chris grunted, after a moment’s quiet.
Joey swung around at the sound of Lance’s voice. "You OK?" he asked, softly. Lance’s face was white, his eyes nearly colorless. "You look miserable."
"I’m just cold, is all."
"Come here," Joey murmured, as he always did when one of the guys was cold. More often than not it was Lance, although sometimes it was JC: Chris and Justin were usually too impatient to submit to Joey’s affectionate caresses.
"You sure?" Lance was hesitant, as usual, but Joey simply opened his arms, and Lance leaned in to him, thankful for his warmth.
* * *
They were in Munich, exhausted, and someone had scheduled an extra photo shoot. "I don’t know," Lance sighed, ducking his head. "It all came up last night. We just have to suck it up."
"Shit!" Chris spat. "I don’t wanna move. Fuck Lou."
"You’re gonna have to go," Lance reasoned. "You know that."
"I know that," Chris mimicked. "Yes, Lance, I know that. Thank you."
"It’s not like I want to go—"
Chris was working himself up into a fury. "You’re gonna have to go, Lance. Thank you for telling me, Lance—"
Lance turned away, his eyes suddenly wet. Chris could be a bastard when he was provoked.
"What is it?" Lance was suddenly engulfed in Joey’s comforting arms, and he sagged, resting his head on Joey’s shoulder.
"It’s … just…"
"Shh," Joey breathed, stroking the top of Lance’s head. "It’s OK. Chris is just being pissy."
"Am not!" Chris cried, but his voice had lost its edge, at least for Lance, safe in Joey’s embrace.
* * *
Justin was lying on the living room couch, his feet tucked under JC’s legs. "The Bahamas are supposed to be hot. What gives?"
"Depends on the time of year, I guess," JC replied, his attention on the latest Stephen King.
"Don’t whine," Joey said from his post on the floor, as the room door swung open. Chris and Lance stood there, sopping wet, and the others sat up, startled.
Justin was the first to recover. "What the…?"
Joey said: "I’ll get you some towels."
Lance made a face as he pulled his shirt over his head. Chris kept glancing at him, smirking, until Joey returned with a stack of towels.
"Thanks, Joe," Lance said, and Joey grinned back.
"What happened?" JC asked, when everyone had settled down again.
"We were by the pool," Chris began, "and I was minding my own business—"
"Nuh uhh," Lance corrected. "We were by the pool, and I was minding my own business, when Chris decided it would be fun to push me in."
"Ha ha," Joey said, unsmiling.
"Ha ha," Chris returned.
"But I saw him coming, and for some reason I was quicker than usual—"
"Yeah, you were on fire."
"Shut up, you ass."
Chris mock-saluted Joey. "Sorry, ‘Lance’s body guard.’ Hell, you’re worse than Diane—"
Lance leapt for Chris. "What the fuck is your problem?! You fucking asshole—"
"Hold on," Justin said, wading into the fray.
Joey just touched his shoulder, and Lance pulled away from Chris.
Chris shrugged Justin’s hands off. "Sorry," he muttered. "That wasn’t nice. I’m sorry. Diane is nice. Joey’s nice. It’s all good." He stepped around the others and walked back to the bedrooms.
"What the fuck?" JC sighed. His book had gotten damaged in the fight. "I just bought this. Damn."
Justin glanced over at Joey, who was whispering Lance’s ear. He smiled as Lance turned a little pink.
"Shut up, man," he said. "Chris’ll buy you a new one."
* * *
"I didn’t bring a coat," Joey said, squinting in the winter sunlight. "It’s fucking cold!"
The others had gone on ahead to the car, but Lance had waited for him. "I thought you might forget," he grinned, "so I brought you your leather one. Ta da."
Joey looked around the parking lot. "I love you," he rumbled softly, accepting the jacket. "I’d kiss you if I could."
"I know," Lance replied. "I can wait."