Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing...—Elizabeth Gilbert
Corey was frowning at Joey. He didn't know precisely why he was frowning at his manager, but he was. The most basic reason was that Joey was scowling at him, but since he didn't know Joey's reason for that, he didn't know what the overall problem was.
"Joey?" he finally asked, rather petulantly.
"Lance?" Joey asked in return. "Why? Why would you do that, Corey?"
"Technically speaking, he did most of the doing," Corey said under his breath. Unfortunately, Joey didn't seem to be partially deaf like the rest of them. And—if his deepening glower was any indication—he wasn't pleased by Corey's comment. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," Corey muttered, crossing his arms and slouching in his seat. He knew it made him look immature.
He didn't care.
Immature was the image he projected anyway.
"Why, Corey? Why did it seem like a good idea?"
"I was horny and he offered, okay?" Corey snapped.
"And the hooker?"
"I'm going to kill him," Corey mutter, clenching his fists. Lance was the only one who could have told Joey, because Lance was the only one who knew. Excepting the hooker, who obviously hadn't talked, since there was nothing in the papers.
Joey made a face. "Corey, he's just worried about you."
"What's the problem with hiring a prostitute, Joey?" Corey demanded. "And don't you go all self-righteous on me, because I know you've gone to hookers yourself."
"Call-girls," Joey muttered to himself as a faint blush tinted usually-colorless cheeks. Corey was relieved when Joey didn't try to deny it. Instead the thirty six year old said, "It's not what you did that worries us, Corey. It's the fact that it's you who did it, rather than Lance or me or Stefan, since we're not looking to settle down. We're worried because… it's too… Corey, you dislike one night stands. Can you see why behavior this out of character worries us?"
Corey shrugged and stood. "Mind your own damn business, Joey. And you can tell Lance to go fuck himself."
He stalked off, leaving Joey behind him with his mouth open slightly. Corey couldn't find it in himself to feel anything even close to guilt.
Neither did he feel the need to explain himself. He had become accustomed to sex at least every other night. Not getting any was making him cranky. Could he be blamed for seeking out someone who could be paid to keep his mouth shut? For sleeping with his best friend when Lance offered?
It was making it easier to cope with the loss of the man he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with.
Or maybe it was just making it easier to pretend that nothing had ever happened.
The next several weeks passed and with each show, singing Nicki's Song got easier. But that was only because, with each show, Corey got more and more numb. He was still drinking more than normal, even though he knew it wasn't helping.
And he slept with Lance again. No matter what the man did, Corey couldn't stay mad at him for it. The only reason he didn't have a problem with that was that Lance could never stay mad at him either.
The second time was even worse than the first time, reducing them to laughter at their idiocy for even trying when they so obviously weren't sexually compatible.
Afterwards Lance asked, "Why do you think sex sucks when it's the two of us?"
Corey thought over his answer for a long time before replying. "I think part of it is that, even though you're open to men, you still prefer women. And you've been with few enough men that you aren't particularly skilled yet."
Corey hesitated until Lance prodded, "And? I can tell there's something else you want to say. We've been friends too long for you to hide it."
"That's just it, isn't it?" Corey sighed. "We've been friends for so long that being in bed together is just awkward."
To Corey's surprise, Lance burst out laughing yet again. Before Corey could ask, Lance chuckled, "Sleeping together doesn't make our friendship awkward, but our friendship makes sleeping together awkward."
"We do have it rather backwards, don't we?" Corey asked. They fell into a comfortable silence. Eventually Corey asked, "Lance? Why did you tell Joey about the hustler?"
Lance's arms stiffened around him momentarily; somehow, in spite of how uncomfortable sex was, snuggling naked afterwards wasn't awkward at all.
Then Lance relaxed and admitted, "It was an accident. Joey was berating me for fucking you because he was worried. And since I was worried too, his agitation sort of ripped it out of me. Forgive me?"
"Of course," Corey answered, content with his friend's explanation. "Thanks for looking out for me, Lancelot."
Lance groaned. "Do you have to call me that? It's not even my name."
"Oh come on," Corey simpered, a transparent imitation of infatuation. "No matter what guy I end up with, you'll always be my knight in shining armor."
"Oh fuck off."
Lance wasn't the only person Corey slept with; he was simply the only one whose name Corey remembered afterward.
The others were mostly fans he half-seduced and was half-seduced by just after shows. None of them were that great in bed, but they were better than Lance at the very least. Corey snorted to himself as he watched the most recent one go. It wasn't exactly difficult to be better than Lance.
The unfortunate side-effect of sleeping with fans was that, inevitably, word got back to the tabloids. Which immediately ate it up, talking about Corey Blake's many love affairs and this and that and the other thing. Some of the people interviewed were telling the truth of course, but some women came forward saying he'd fucked them.
That didn't even make sense. He'd tried to sleep with a girl in high school, for the sake of being absolutely sure he was gay. He had been drunk beyond belief, of course, but he hadn't even been able to get it up.
But he was far too used to it by now. The only person they targeted more than him was Lance, and that was because Lance had many short-lived relationships. Stable relationships and Xander's endless one night stands got boring to read about. And Joey and Stefan were rather adept at keeping the spotlight off of themselves, not that people were particularly interested in the manager, much to Joey's relief.
But it was exhausting him, the tailing of the media. He'd picked this life; he knew that. Nobody forced him to help Lance start the band; nobody forced him to sign the contract he had. That just made it his fault, but didn't make it any easier to deal with.
Particularly upon seeing the interview someone had managed to get from Dominic. It was probably just to get the press to leave him alone; that had always been Nicki's least favorite part of dating him—the fact that, no matter how hard they tried, their relationship had never really been private. It didn't help matters that Nicki had his fair share of fame as well, being the gay son of an electronics tycoon.
So what happened between you and Corey?
Dominic Nunez: We broke up.
I suppose a better question would have been why did you break up?
Nunez: He wasn't willing to reorganize his schedule for me.
What do you mean?
Nunez: My favorite cousin was getting married and I asked him to come with me. He had something that he 'had to do.' It wasn't anything that couldn't have been rescheduled, but Krista's wedding was a one-time thing.
Ah. Do you regret it?
Nunez: Regret what? The relationship, or breaking up with him? I don't regret the relationship. I miss Corey, I really do. I still love him, even. But I don't regret breaking it off, either. I've been less stressed in these past few weeks than I have been for the last two and a half years. I love him, and I like to believe that he loved me, but I can't imagine that we were really right for each other. Our relationship was rocky from the start, and we only stayed together as long as we did by ignoring the issues.
You would often break up for short periods of time before getting back together, correct?
Corey snorted and ripped the newspaper in two. Like the reporter didn't know. The woman had probably written stories on it in the past.
And once the paper was in shreds on the floor, Corey collapsed into the nearest chair and put his head in his hands.
Dry sobs dragged themselves from his chest. He hadn't cried over Nicki yet. He still couldn't. It hurt too much to cry. So tearless, heaving gasps were all he could manage.
That's still what he was doing when Lance and Karen came in later. They had seen the paper as well; they didn't even ask what was wrong, just pulled Corey from the chair and led him to his bed, where they both held him until he had cried himself to sleep.
Once he slipped into oblivion, Lance whispered, "Finally."
Karen nodded. "Repressing it… Corey is good at ignoring problems. That doesn't mean it's healthy." She made a face at Lance. "And with you enabling him."
"Hey," Lance defended himself, "I thought facing the fact that he wasn't having sex with Dom anymore would help. I wasn't trying to make him pretend it never happened."
"Well that's what you achieved," Karen muttered.
"It's the only time I've heard him laugh—really laugh—since the breakup," Lance retorted.
The keyboardist rolled her eyes. "Okay, I'll give you that one."
Lance smirked. "How would your husband feel if he knew you were in bed with two other men?"
Karen snorted. "Well, considering that one of them is a heartbroken gay man and the other is you, I don't think he'd be too worried."
"Hey!" Lance objected. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You figure it out."
Joey poured his lead singer a cup of coffee the next morning. Corey looked bad. Worse than he had even right after the breakup. He looked at Lance and Karen, the two who had led Corey from his room. 'The article,' Lance mouthed.
"You don't have to pretend," Corey said dejectedly. "I know you're talking about me."
Lance shrugged and then said, "The article finally made it all sink in, I think." Karen hit him. "Ow!" Lance objected. "What was that for?"
"You have no tact!" Karen snapped.
"Damn, Karrie. He said it was fine."
"You're his best friend. You should know that it most definitely is not fine," Karen snarled.
"Exactly, Karrie, I'm his best friend. I know him better than anyone else, get it? And us pretending not to talk about him will just piss him off."
"Ding ding ding," Corey said dully. "Got it in one."
He pushed his chair away from the table and mumbled, "I'm going back to bed."
The other three stared after him. "He should not be alone," Karen noted.
Joey sighed. "You two were with him all night. I'll go with him now."
"It may involve cuddling him," Karen warned.
"He may want you to fuck him," Lance added.
Joey shrugged. "Cuddling I can handle. And I've gotten fairly good at fending off a horny Corey Blake. If Dom isn't around, I'm his first target."
"Good luck," Karen called out tiredly as he made his way after Corey.
Joey entered Corey's room to find the younger man lying face down on the bed as though he wished to suffocate himself. With the state he was in, that may have been the case. "Go away," Joey heard.
He ignored Corey and sat down on the edge of the bed and said, "Corey, can you talk to me?"
"What are you, my therapist?" Or that's what Joey thought Corey said.
"Do you want me to get you a therapist?"
Corey sat bolt upright. His eyes were wild. "No."
"Then talk to me, or Lance, or Karen," Joey urged.
"I've talked to Lance," Corey muttered.
"About sex." Joey knew Corey's statement was technically true, so he clarified, "You should talk to someone about what happened between you and Dominic."
Corey jerked back and stared at Joey. He was shaking. Joey immediately began to wonder if anyone other than the media had said Dominic's name in Corey's presence since the breakup.
And then Corey whispered, "He was telling the truth with that article. That's why it hurts so much. I don't even remember what it was I refused to reschedule, Joey. And because of it, he gave up on me." Tears were leaking one by one from Corey's bright blue eyes. Joey could barely hear the boy's—because that's what he looked like right now—next words. "I would give up on me too."
Joey didn't know what to say. Corey was their upbeat, immature vocalist. He wasn't supposed to have self-confidence issues, or whatever this was.
Corey flopped back on the bed and whispered, "And I can't figure out why sex with the hooker was so much better. Better than any sex I've ever had, including with Dominic. Why? Shouldn't sex with the man I love be the best it gets?"
Joey didn't know how to respond. First of all, as far as he knew, Corey only ever told Dominic he loved him when they were alone, the one thing he could do to preserve any kind of privacy in their relationship, and he had never before said it where anyone else could hear. Second, the idea of Corey with a hooker was still just… wrong.
Finally Joey said, "Corey, he's a prostitute. If he wasn't good at making sex good, he'd have a problem."
Corey sagged in relief. He was relieved to know that there wasn't something wrong with him. The whore was just better at sex.
Maybe he should experiment and see if there was anyone he knew who could fuck him as well as the prostitute.
Joey jumped when Corey seized his shirt and pulled Joey down on top of him. Joey struggled against Corey's kisses and wandering hands for nearly a minute before Corey pulled away and said, "Come on, Joey. It's not like I'm asking you to bottom. Pretend I'm a girl if you have to."
"No," Joey said as Corey began unbuttoning his shirt. "Corey, I like women. And even if I did like men, I wouldn't sleep with you just so you could forget. It's not healthy." Joey could only wonder at how easily Lance predicted Corey's behavior.
But Corey finally listened. But when he released Joey, Joey found him crying. Again. "Corey, what's wrong?"
Tears still dripping from his eyelashes, Corey choked out, "No one wants me, Joey. Not Nicki, not you, Lance says sex with me is bad, Karrie is married and a girl, Xander and Stefan are straight, all the fans just want to sleep with a celebrity, my own mother didn't want me. I have to pay someone for them to even pretend that they want me for me."
"Oh, Corey," Joey said. He decided to overlook the fact that he had been grouped with Dominic rather than Xander and Stefan, the gay man rather than the straight ones. "That's not how it is. All the band loves you, we just love you as family, not in a romantic sense. But we do want you around. I can't deny your assessment of your fans or the hooker, but Dominic loved you. It just didn't work out. There are men out there who would love to have you, and not just for the celebrity status."
Joey nodded. "I promise, Corey." He knew it wasn't something he could guarantee, but Corey was a sweet kid, if a bit self-centered at times. But even if he couldn't guarantee his words, Joey did believe them.
And that seemed to be good enough for Corey at the moment, as he rolled over and went to sleep.
When Joey left Corey's room, when he next saw Lance and Karen, Karen asked, "Mood swings?"
Joey gaped and Lance said, "He probably cried, tried to jump Joey, and then cried some more."
"You guys had to have been listening in," he accused.
"Nope," Lance answered. "You just haven't seen Corey after a bad breakup before. The last really bad one was about six months before we met you. He acted exactly the same, except it was my pants he was trying to get into. Corey's pretty predictable once you've known him for eighteen years."
"Why is it my pants he always tries to get into?" Joey grumbled, plopping down on the couch next to Karen.
Karen rolled her eyes. "Joey, you seriously haven't noticed?"
"Oh my god."
"Joey, Corey goes for tall, dark, handsome. He also has a tendency towards older men, if you didn't catch that from him dating a man who was six years older than him," Lance explained. "Although he isn't opposed to men younger than him."
"Six years is different from thirteen," Joey objected weakly.
Lance shrugged. "It's still older. I've got blond hair and green eyes, Joey. I'm not exactly Corey's type. And you're the only other guy he consistently sees who wouldn't hit him for trying to strip you. It makes sense to him."
"So if I punch him, he'll drop it?"
"Joey!" Karen gasped, although she was trying not to follow Lance's lead and just start laughing.
Cooki: Thanks. I'm hope you're still enjoying it! I'm like you, I only very rarely read stories that aren't complete, as I hate getting to the end and having the author never update again. But this one is finished, so no worries there. :)
Astir-Lewis: I'm glad you like Mitch. I like him too. Although (for some unknown reason) Joey is my favorite. And they'll be back in the same area soon. Eventually. At some point. I don't remember when, chronologically. xD
foreveran: Yeah, Mitch really should have them stay with Nick and Alice. But he's too stubborn and independent for that. So we'll just see how things work out from here.
DawnSister: Yes, they have someone to look after them for the moment, although Mitch is too stubborn/independent/proud for it to last long. As for the converging of the two storylines... I think that's the next chapter. Things start out sort of slow with this story... oh well. I'm glad you're still enjoying it!
Vega Nightshade: I know what you mean. In all honesty, this story is more about family than it is about romance. Unfortunately, FP does not have a "family" main category in its fiction section, so I had to make the category romance and the genre family instead of the other way around. But it is painful to think about the fact that there are lots of people out there in situations like Mitch's.
Skyless-11: Yes, it's sort of slow. I think the two sides of the story (Corey's and Mitch's) re-converge at least momentarily in the next chapter. I think. And once that happens things pick up at least a little bit.
This was a bit later in the day than I was hoping for, but the internet was down. Sorry! Thanks for all the reviews/follows/favorites. I appreciate them all very much!
KiyoshiTanaka and Kiyoshi