Joey grits his teeth at the sounds of Janice in the other bedroom. Chandler's in there with her, and Joey wants to set himself on fire just so he'd have something else to think about. This shouldn't bother him so much. He had three years to be honest with Chandler and tell him how he felt—how he feels—but instead he'd wasted it on pretty girls. He's only got himself to blame, really.
Maybe that's why it hurts so much, because it could be him in there instead of Janice if he'd only said something.
God damn it, Janice is loud. Joey growls through his teeth and grabs his Walkman from underneath the bed, hoping to block out the noise with something more melodious. Commercials. Commercials. Shitty song. More commercials. Damn it, it's like radio DJs think no one's listening at three in the morning. The A.M. stations are either criminally boring talk radio or creepy ghost and alien stories, and while fear is a preferable emotion, Joey settles on a random station playing a commercial for a car dealership, because he'd honestly rather hear that than Janice moaning "Oh, Chandler" over and over. Why the fuck are the walls so thin in these apartments?
Joey dozes off, blinks himself awake during a poppy rock tune about jealousy, and, holy shit, that is absolutely the last thing he needs right now. He shuts the radio off with an angry flick of the switch. Why did he think listening to music would be a good idea? Half of all songs are about being in love, and the other half are break-up songs. Not the best salve for his emotional wounds, in retrospect.
Joey decides to try the five-year-old-child method and covers his head with his pillow to muffle Janice's caterwauling. But, fuck, that doesn't really help because he can still hear it and know what's going on and—
He throws himself out of bed and pulls on a pair of jeans hanging from the hook on the door. This is bullshit, this is bullshit, this is not right, God damn it. He finds a clean shirt, hastily pushing the buttons through the clasps, and shoves his feet into his shoes as if they've personally offended him. He grabs a coat off the coat rack and slips out, locking the door behind him.
Joey doesn't know where he's going, but anywhere is better than here. He wraps his coat tighter around him when he steps out into the crisp night air. Almost immediately, he recognizes the familiar scent surrounding him—this is Chandler's coat, not his own. Joey chuckles to himself. His luck is terrible tonight; maybe he'll get hit by a car or attacked by an angry flock of pigeons.
He walks a couple blocks, his mind a tumultuous mess of confusion and displaced frustration. He should just tell Chandler, Janice be damned. Chandler's broken up with her, what, twice? Three times? Clearly, he's only with her now because he doesn't think he can do any better; Joey could be better—at least, he'd like to try. Chandler just doesn't know his options. And, okay, maybe Joey would be a little heartbroken if Chandler still picked Janice over him, but at least it would be an informed decision.
Joey stares up at the night sky, seeking answers in the stars. Will Chandler hate him if he's honest? He's not totally sure. Part of him feels like Chandler would be repulsed, because Chandler has way too many issues with his father to see things clearly. But...Chandler's the best friend Joey's ever had; that has to mean something, right? Chandler could still love him as a friend, as a brother, even in the face of Joey's affection, couldn't he?
He strolls around aimlessly for a while, feeling the cold against his face and breathing in the mix of Chandler's cologne on his coat and the aroma of exhaust, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and knishes in the air. He thinks about buying a slice or two of pizza before remembering that he didn't bring his wallet.
He's still waiting for that pigeon attack.
When he gets back to the apartment, it's quiet, serene, and Joey breathes a small sigh of relief as he hangs his coat up on the rack. He pours himself a glass of water from the tap.
Chandler's pushing a hand through his hair as he stumbles out of his bedroom. "Joe? Is that you, or am I being really friendly to a burglar?"
Joey chuckles. "Nah, it's me."
"What're you doin'?" He blinks, getting an eyeful of Joey's attire. "Why are you fully dressed?"
"I went for a walk."
Chandler spazzes, looks at the red neon numbers on the microwave. "At four in the morning?"
"I couldn't sleep," Joey answers, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
Chandler moves closer and sits at the kitchen counter. "Joey, be honest with me: are you a drug dealer? Sneaking out late at night, being suspiciously vague about your whereabouts..." Chandler gestures in a way that Joey thinks is supposed to mean something.
Joey has to laugh. "No, I'm not—it's nothin' like that." He places his hands on the countertop for a moment and stares at them, unseeing, before blurting out, "You should be with me," before he can talk himself out of it.
Chandler blinks in surprise, and Joey can see the way his brain's trying to fit those words into his world-view. "What?"
"You should be with me instead of Janice," Joey says, and he's amazed he got it out a second time. He may or may not be having heart palpitations right now.
Chandler stares at him for a long moment before he just says, "What?" again—Chandler's massive vocabulary at its finest.
"We're perfect for each other, and you know it." Joey's being way more candid here than he'd hoped for, but Chandler seems to be in a state of perpetual shock, so he's probably going to have to spell things out. "C'mon, how much do you and Janice really have in common? Does she drink beer and watch Baywatch with you? Does she even know how to play foosball?"
Chandler's mouth drops open in a way that makes Joey want to kiss him. "You—you want to be with me? Like...as a couple?"
And Joey thought he was slow on the up-take. "Why not?"
Chandler closes his mouth, opens it again, struggling for words. "I'm not gay," he finally says, and it sounds like an excuse.
Joey shrugs. "Neither am I. I still like women."
Chandler looks at him with agonized eyes. "Are you in love with me?"
"Maybe I am," Joey says. He doesn't even know if it's a lie.
Chandler glances down, his lower lip quivering a little. When he looks at Joey again, his eyes are a little harder. "How long have you been in love with me?" He spits the words out like bullets.
Another shrug. "I dunno. A while." Because there's no goddamn way he's admitting everything here.
"How long is a while?" Joey glances off and doesn't answer, but he doesn't need to. Chandler reads his expression perfectly. Fury crosses his face. "Why didn't you ever tell me? Why did you wait until now?"
"I thought you wouldn't wanna be friends anymore," Joey shoots back, and he hates how childish and stupid he sounds. He lets the words ripple out and crush Chandler beneath their weight.
Chandler looks as if Joey's just said the saddest fucking thing he's ever heard in his life. "Joe..." His face goes through some sort of angry wince. "This is all because you don't like Janice, isn't it? Why can't you just let it go? Why can't you let me have this one nice thing?"
Joey bites the inside of his cheek to keep the next verbal jab at bay, but he gives it voice anyway because, fuck it, Chandler isn't playing fair, so why should he? "Do you have any idea how hard it is to hear you in there with her?"
Chandler scoffs and shakes his head, turning his back on Joey to head into his room. "I can't have this conversation with you right now."
Joey grabs Chandler's arm to stop his escape. Chandler looks at him with wide, fearful eyes. "Fine. Then just let me have one kiss. If you don't feel anything, then fine, that's it. I'll never bring it up again, and you and Janice can have a wonderful life together."
Chandler studies his face for a moment; Joey wonders what he sees there, what thoughts are racing through his head. "Alright, fine. One kiss," Chandler grates out. "But you're not allowed to put your hands on me or touch me in any way."
Joey frowns at the stipulation, because he's fantasized about cradling Chandler's face in his hands as he pulls him in for a kiss. But, okay, whatever, he can do this without using his hands. He's a great kisser.
Joey nods, steps a little closer. Chandler sort of scowls at him, and Joey places a kiss over the bow of Chandler's upper lip. Chandler's body goes stiff while Joey tilts his head and sucks a kiss into the corner of Chandler's mouth. Chandler makes a quiet little gasping noise; Joey uses that to glide his tongue in through his uncoupled lips. He licks at Chandler's lower lip, capturing his mouth again. Joey jumps when he feels something tug at his chest. He opens his eyes, sees Chandler's hands fisted in his shirt, pulling him closer. Joey just grins and kisses him harder.
Chandler moans around his mouth, his hands reaching up to cup around Joey's face. His fingers drag through Joey's hair, his mouth capturing Joey's over and over with hungry kisses. His teeth nip at Joey's bottom lip, and Joey pushes forward and crushes his mouth against Chandler's one last time.
Chandler's blinking in frightened succession, his mouth hanging open in a way that makes Joey want to kiss him again. He wets his lips, his gaze flicking down to where his hands lay over Joey's chest. Blood pools beneath his skin, tinting his cheeks a luscious pink.
"I didn't touch you," Joey reminds him, low and breathy.
Chandler does that half-smile thing and lifts his hands away, taking a step back to distance himself from Joey. Panic colors his voice when he says, "That—that was a fluke."
Joey laughs. "Face it, Chandler. You want me."
"No! No, I don't! You're just a really good kisser, okay?"
"You think so?" He's never kissed another guy before—at least, not like this. Not when it actually meant something.
Chandler opens his mouth to answer, stops himself. He rubs the back of his neck and looks away. "Y—yeah. Maybe you could—maybe you could kiss me again? I mean, just to make sure it's a fluke."
Joey grins. "Can I use my hands this time?" Chandler just glares at him. "Alright, alright." He steps closer and presses his mouth over Chandler's. The reaction is almost instantaneous; Chandler reaches up and takes Joey's face in his hands, and Joey decides, fuck it, he's going to cheat a little too. He lets his hands settle on Chandler's hips, and Chandler hums contentment against his mouth in a way that Joey can feel in his bones. "Do you always get handsy when you kiss?" Joey asks with a breathy chuckle. Chandler just curls his fingers tight in Joey's hair. "Tell me you don't feel this," he whispers over Chandler's mouth before he goes in for another kiss.
"I don't feel anything," Chandler says, his voice quivering like a fault line.
Joey glances down between them. "Well, I'm feelin' somethin'."
"Of course you are," Chandler scoffs, "you're—" He stops, follows Joey's line of sight. His face loses all color when he realizes what Joey's looking at. "Oh."
Joey chuckles and grinds his thigh into the line of Chandler's erection. "Lemme guess: I'm just that good of a kisser, huh?" Chandler's blushing scarlet now, but he's not pulling away. He can't seem to stop staring at Joey's mouth. Joey's hands follow the line of Chandler's body, sliding up his shirt and skimming the curve of his ribs. Chandler's skin is hot underneath his hands. "You ever wonder how good I am at, uh, other stuff?"
Chandler opens his mouth, breathes out some sort of shuddery sound as his gaze rises up to meet Joey's eyes. He wets his lips, his skin trembling under Joey's touch, when a shrill voice from Chandler's bedroom makes them both jump: "Oh. My. God."