ONE OF THE BOYS
Chris pulled into his garage and stared at the wall. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. Lara and JC. They…they were…and she’d told him she wasn’t going to do that again. “Fuck,” Chris muttered, leaning his head against the steering wheel. She was right. What business was it of his? He hadn’t shown her anything but friendship. She had no CLUE how he felt. And just like he wouldn’t have the right to tell Joey or Lance who to sleep with, he had NO right to tell his FRIEND who to sleep with.
“Fuck,” he said again, dragging himself out of the car. He made himself go back in the house, throwing his keys in the direction of the kitchen table. Chris went upstairs, turned on the shower, and peeled off his clothes. He stood under the scalding hot water, trying to burn the memory of Lara’s hurt face out of his mind.
Lara busied herself with cleaning up the apartment. She hadn’t expected Chris to actually show up. She also hadn’t expected him to go ballistic at the idea of she and JC together on the sofa. She crunched a soda can in her hand, almost growling out loud. It didn’t matter HOW Chris felt about her, he had no right to say those things. She and JC were grown adults. They could do what they wanted. Lara was still attracted to JC – how could she help it? But he wasn’t who she wanted. Who she wanted was the person who had infuriated her beyond belief.
“Um, you’re going to cut yourself,” JC said, looking at the can in her hand. He had stayed to help her clean up, and to try to help her calm down.
“Whatever.” Lara shrugged and picked up a few more cans.
“Hey. Don’t get snippy with me. Not my fault, here,” JC pointed out.
Lara sighed. “You’re right. The person at fault better never show his face here again,” she said savagely. “I cannot believe…”
“Let’s not go there again, okay?” JC followed her into the kitchen. Once the cans were in the trash, he turned her to look at him. “Lara, you love him. He’s one of your oldest, dearest friends. You know him well enough to realize that it was emotion talking. Chris was jealous, pure and simple. He had no right to say what he said, but he was only seeing green. You know that.”
“So,” Lara pouted.
“So forgive him.”
“No.” Lara shrugged away from him. “I’m not gonna forgive him for calling me a…slut.” Lara’s eyes welled up with tears.
“He didn’t TECHNICALLY call you a slut,” JC pointed out. “He called LANCE a slut.”
“Shut up.” Lara sniffed and wiped at her eyes. “Thanks for helping me, JC. Go home and get some sleep…I know that’s what you want to do.”
“You okay? Not gonna do anything stupid, are you?” JC asked. She shrugged.
JC looked down into her eyes, still wet with tears. “I know what he sees in you,” JC said softly, and the blue eyes widened. “I’m probably stupid for not going after you myself.” He gently kissed her. “But you two belong together. I mean that.” He kissed her again, a bit more passionately. Lara pulled away, gasping for breath.
“Made you forget for a second, didn’t I?” JC said, smiling. She poked him in the stomach, smiling back.
“I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Early,” the voice on the other end of the phone muttered.
“Joey, I need you to do me a favor,” JC said as he drove out of Lara’s development.
“JC? It’s not even ten yet!” JC could hear Joey sit up. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. There’s been…drama. Chris…” JC shook his head.
“Oh, good Lord. Don’t say anything else. What do you need?”
“Can you call Chris and tell him to meet you at his diner? He’ll know what you mean. Say you want to meet him for breakfast at like eleven-thirty or something.”
“And you can’t call him why?”
“Because he thinks Lara and I slept together and he’s pissed,” JC said, sighing.
“I’m SO glad I’m not involved in this,” Joey said. “Okay. I’ll call him. If he says no, I’ll call you back.”
Chris tugged his baseball cap down lower and frowned as he entered the diner. The LAST thing he wanted to do was eat with Joey, but it was so rare Joey had free time for anyone that he couldn’t say no. There was also the fact that Chris KNEW he’d probably drink himself to sleep if he sat home alone. He couldn’t believe how things had turned around in twenty-four hours. “Two,” he told the hostess when he didn’t see Joey anywhere. “In the back, if you could?”
JC entered the diner at eleven thirty-five, his eyes wandering over the crowded room. He saw a Steelers baseball cap in the far corner of the restaurant, and took a deep breath. He quickly strode back to the table, thankful that Chris was seated far in the back. More privacy. “Don’t get up, don’t yell, and don’t punch me,” JC said as he slid into the booth across from Chris. Chris’ face tightened into a sneer.
“I’m not talking to you, bastard. But I won’t cause a scene, either.” He started to get up.
“That’s why I wanted to meet you in a public place,” JC said. “HER place. You won’t fight here.” But JC looked a little unsure. He put a hand on Chris’ arm. “Sit down. Please.”
“Don’t fucking touch me, JC.” But Chris sat.
“You know if something happened between us, it’s not your business, right?” JC began. Chris glared at him. “Lara and I are adults, and if we wanted to sleep together, we could. You never told her how you felt. She has no clue.”
“If you’re trying to fix things, JC, you’re doing a shitty job,” Chris growled as the waitress approached.
“Uh, French toast and bacon,” JC said quickly. “Coffee.”
“Make it two,” Chris said without looking at her.
JC made sure Chris was looking him straight in the eye. JC’s true feelings were always evident in his eyes. “Nothing happened. We slept together, on the sofa, as in SLEPT. There was no sex, no nothing. At all.”
“You expect me to believe that?” Chris said, looking away from JC’s steel blue eyes.
“Chris, LOOK at me,” JC commanded, and Chris’ eyes darted back. “NOTHING HAPPENED. In all honesty, we fell asleep talking about you, and how you feel about her. I swear on everything I hold holy. Lara…she’s in love with you, man. She said so.”
“What?” Chris’ heart sank even further into his shoes. “She…loves me?”
“Yes.” JC sighed as the waitress served their coffee. “Chris, first of all, she said she didn’t want us sleeping together again without something more. I won’t disrespect that. And then…she finally admitted her feelings. I wouldn’t do that. I also wouldn’t do it to you, knowing how you feel. I’m really really sorry that you walked into what you did, though. I know how it must’ve looked.”
“Fuck me.” Chris rubbed a hand over his eyes. He looked back up at JC. “I’m very sorry, JC. I said stuff to you…”
“Forget it.” JC waved a hand. “Understandable. But…yeah. She’s furious.”
“And hurt,” Chris said, remembering Lara’s face. “God, I really hurt her. I was just…shocked, and it hurt me, too.” He looked up at JC, pain in his eyes. “My best friend, and I said…how am I gonna fix this one, JC?”
“I don’t know, Chris,” JC said, frowning.