The following are hard when you're Joe Jonas: having brothers, high school, and deciding what to do about prom. Not necessarily in that order. Sometimes he adds "existing" to that list, but only on the bad days. Those days he has a hard time not going around introducing himself to the freshman as Joe, the guy who's dating the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. At the same time. Which is what is making this prom thing such a mess.
Joe is laying upside-down off of his bed in the room that he and Nick share, letting himself be distracted from prom decisions by the feeling of all the blood in his body rushing to his head. "So Zac and V say it's up to me what to do about prom," he tells Nick. Who knows all of this already, but Joe needs to talk it out some more. "I mean, there's still a few more weeks of school. And if I went with them with them, everyone would know. Do people actually come out as being in threesomes? No one on the internet ever mentions what to do when you're in high school."
"Joe," Nick says, "stop listening to the internet for advice."
Joe sits up and immediately gets dizzy. "That's the best you have to offer?"
Nick sighs. He closes his laptop and turns around. "You and Zac and Vanessa have been dating each other like this for six months. Somehow, and I can't comprehend it, no one has figured it out but me. Even though you all three go to Applebee's and sit all on the same side of the booth. Like, if I was one of your other friends, that would have clued me in."
"You only know because you saw us kissing goodnight that one time," Joe grumbles, thankful that Nick swore he wouldn't tell anyone, ever. But Nick's right. Their other friends are sort of dense.
"So," Nick says firmly, "my vote is that you all go to prom together and not care what other people think. If Vanessa and Zac say it's up to you, then they don't seem to have any real argument with you guys coming out or whatever. And I doubt anyone will notice unless you start making out on the dance floor. Just... just don't tell Mom and Dad. Ever."
Joe turns this over in his mind for a while. Then he thinks about how warm and comfortable and awesome he feels when he's with Zac and V, and how there's only two and a half weeks until prom so all the good suits are probably gone already, and then he fumbles for his phone to call them both.
Zac's parents are usually out of town on business, so his place is where they hang out the most at night. Zac and Vanessa skip school sometimes and spend entire days watching movies, but Joe would not only get grounded but have his ten p.m. curfew switched to an eight p.m. one, so those days he walks to Zac's after school and climbs in between them on Zac's bed to watch the rest of whatever they've got on. "So, what did we miss in math?" Zac always asks, but then he usually kisses Joe's neck right where his pulse is beating, and Joe forgets everything that has to do with quadratic equations.
Tonight, though, they're not meeting up at Zac's until after they buy everything that's necessary for prom. Vanessa's rounded up the half of the cheer squad that she's close with, and they're going dress shopping, and Zac and Joe are going looking for suits. Joe assumes this to mean that Zac will make most of the fashion decisions, something Joe is cool with. But Zac is oddly contemplative about the whole thing. "Do you think we should match?" he asks, dragging his fingers over the shoulders of a dozen jackets hung on a rack.
Joe shrugs, watching Zac's hands. Sometimes he's still confused as to why the two most popular kids in the school want to spend time with him, a goofy drama geek. And he's not even that good a drama geek, but enthusiasm goes a long way in a school where there are barely enough interested students to put on one play and one musical a year. It had been after the fall production that he'd been at the same party as Zac and Vanessa, and Vanessa had caught his eye and tipped her head, indicating he should come over to where she was sitting on Zac's lap on the couch.
"I mean, I don't fucking care what people think, but what works on me might not work on you," Zac continues. He flips through the jackets, then glances up at Joe, then flips some more. "Like, you could totally work the edging on this one, dude, but it would look lame as hell on me."
He holds up a gray jacket with lines of black around the edges of the lapels, cuffs and pockets. "That's cool," Joe says, and Zac shoves it into his arms.
"You should try it on."
It turns out that trying it on was basically Zac's excuse to get Joe into the dressing room so they could make out uninterrupted. "There might be video cameras," Joe whispers as Zac laughs, but that doesn't stop him from pressing hard against Zac and kissing back just as dirty as Zac's dishing out.
Vanessa won't show them her dress when they meet up in the food court, where Zac buys a round of nachos and they all share one soda. Sometimes Joe feels like the only difference between being Zac's boyfriend and being Zac's other girlfriend is the fact that he doesn't care to wear skirts or makeup (although Vanessa talked him into trying eyeliner once, and Zac's reaction had been something worth remembering), but that's only when he's having one of his nervous freakouts about the whole situation. He eats his nachos with one hand and holds Vanessa's hand underneath the table with the other, their fingers slipping back and forth together, while Zac traps their feet between his feet.
"It's mostly white," Vanessa says, "and that's all you need to know. Oh, and you can get me a red corsage. One that's got real flowers."
"You're so demanding," Zac tells her. "Joe, our girlfriend is fucking high-maintenance; let's find someone who would just be happy to be in our presence. Maybe one of the JV cheerleaders."
"I bet Miley would kill to go to prom," Joe replies, squeezing Vanessa's hand so she knows he doesn't mean it, but pleased that Zac's scenario still includes him. One of these days it's got to stop being such a thrill, especially since Zac's little hypothetical worlds had included Joe since the first time they'd kissed.
Vanessa rolls her eyes and rests her head on his shoulder for a moment. Her hair brushes soft against his neck. "Shopped 'til you dropped, huh?" Joe asks.
She sighs. "I still need shoes."
"Oh, we are not coming with for that," Zac tells her. Then he smiles softly, and Joe knows Vanessa is making one of her pouty faces, even though neither he nor Zac are won over by them anymore. "We're going home. My parents are in Arizona, I've got the place to myself all weekend. Joe, you don't have to be home until eleven, right?"
It's Friday and Joe's curfew is later on the weekend. "Right."
"Or you could call your mom and ask if you can sleep over," Vanessa suggests. "I have pizza coupons."
"I have all of Star Wars on DVD, a giant television, and the urge to have a marathon," Zac adds.
There's really no question at all. Joe flips open his phone and starts dialing.
"So what did we miss in English today?" Zac asks, because of course he and Vanessa had skipped the last two periods of the day to go back to the house and have sex before meeting Joe at the mall.
"You missed me having to get the hall pass so I could go to the bathroom and jerk off to the voicemail of sex noises you left me," Joe grumbles. "That was so not fair."
Vanessa presses her lips to the underside of his jaw. "Did you get my pictures, too?" she asks, her voice husky, and slides onto his lap.
Joe groans. "Yes. You better hope no one ever confiscates my phone at school. Or steals it."
"V, you'd get suspended for sexting," Zac laughs, like it's the funniest thing in the world. He slips his arms around Vanessa's waist. The backs of his hands press against Joe's stomach. "And Joe would probably be disowned. But he could come live here if that happened."
"Thanks," Joe says dryly, but he leans over Vanessa's shoulder to kiss Zac anyway. "This house is so big I don't think your parents would notice."
"That's true. Just the housekeeper."
Vanessa makes an impatient noise, moving in Joe's lap. "Okay, so you already jerked off once today, how about another go?"
"That's not a question, that's a demand," he replies, and she moves again, making his breath stutter and catch.
"C'mon," she whispers, slipping her hand into her jeans. "Zac, you too."
Zac bites gently at her neck. "Like I wouldn't."
The first time Vanessa had guided Joe's hand underneath her shirt, he'd gotten worked up into a nervous panic and blurted out that he wasn't going to have sex with them, that he was saving that for marriage. They'd both stared at him for a second, then Zac had replied, "That's cool. No big," and had brushed soft kisses over Joe's neck and collarbones until he'd calmed down.
"We'll find other things you're okay doing," Vanessa had added with a smirk.
They hadn't pushed. They still left him voicemails when they had sex, just to drive him nuts, but Joe appreciated that they didn't want to leave him out.
The limo Zac rents picks Joe up first. And Zac, in his navy suit, presses Joe against the seat with a long kiss the second he gets into the car, messing up his hair. Joe bites at Zac's bottom lip and messes up his hair in retaliation, but Zac just shakes his head a few times and it falls back into place. "You're ridiculous," Joe tells him. Zac smirks.
The limo stops in front of Vanessa's house a few blocks away and Joe hesitates. He should let Zac go in and get her, so that her mom doesn't wonder, but he doesn't want to. Zac slides out, then turns and looks at him, eyes bright and questioning. "You comin', dude?"
"Yeah." Joe scrambles out after him.
Zac grabs his hand, lacing their fingers together. "Ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
Mrs. Hudgens answers the door smiling, and Joe and Zac are standing close enough together that she doesn't seem to notice that they're holding hands. "Vanessa," she calls, "your boys are here!", and Zac squeezes Joe so hard it hurts.
He squeezes back. Sometimes he gets so caught up in worrying if he really fits into Zac and V's sure thing that he misses some of the little signs that point to them being happy to have him. "I'll get my camera," Mrs. Hudgens says, just as Vanessa comes down the stairs.
Joe's no good at making sense of girl clothes, but his brain understands short, strapless, and something his own mother would never let a girl out of the house in. It starts out white on top, then it's gray like his suit, then it's navy like Zac's, and it's all sort of wrapped around her in a sash-like way. "Hi," she says.
"Hi," Joe and Zac both chorus. Then they fumble over themselves to tell her how great she looks.
"Smile!" Mrs. Hudgens calls out, and they all beam as the camera flashes.
When they walk through the door, Joe can't help but think that the student council and the prom volunteer committee have really gone all out. The entire lower level of the school is decorated; Christmas lights sparkling amid blue and silver streamers up and down all the hallways. Here and there, tables are set up with water and punch, other tables with trays of snack food. Music is playing over the PA system. "Dude, this is fucking awesome," Zac exclaims. Joe has to agree.
He dances with Vanessa, then with Ashley, and then Demi grips his hand and draws him towards one of the more secluded alcoves. "Joe," she says, "have we or have we not been best friends since grade school?"
"We have," he says, wondering what brought this on. Aside from the fact that they haven't hung out as much as they used to since he started dating Zac and Vanessa.
"You could have told me."
Joe swallows and then spins her around. "Um, tell you what, Demetria?"
She gives him a pointed look. "You walked in the door to your senior prom with Zac and Vanessa, who I know you've been spending almost all of your time with since the wrap party for the play, and they came to every performance of The Boyfriend, except when Zac had a game. Even my parents didn't come to all of our performances, Joe."
"Um," Joe says again, and coughs like it will get him out of this conversation. He knows he's blushing, but maybe the lack of lighting is keeping it hidden.
"Yo, Danger," Zac calls out, and of course he would pick that exact moment to walk up behind Joe and sling an arm over his shoulders. "Come dance with us, I found a spot," he murmurs in Joe's ear. Louder, he says,"Hey, Demi."
"Can I steal Joe for a while?"
"Sure." Demi grins at Joe as she says it, and Joe can't help but smile back. He leans into Zac a little, too, and Zac kisses his temple. Demi squeezes his hands. "If you need me to cover for you, anytime, anywhere, just let me know, okay?" she says quietly. Joe nods, and he doesn't miss the huge grin that Zac flashes Demi.
Zac leads him down the hall to the stairwell at the end. The strands of lights are only wound halfway up the banisters, in an attempt to stop students from going up to the second floor to make out. Once they start going up the steps, Joe can see Vanessa standing on the second landing, coming into view bit by bit. The music is no less loud up here, a slow song, and in the dim light Joe can see Zac's bright smile as he pulls them both close.
Three people dancing is an awkward endeavor, even when you're the star athlete, the girl who's taken dance lessons since she was three, and the guy who picks up the big song-and-dance numbers quicker than anyone else on stage. But they make it work, just like everything else. Vanessa rests her head on Joe's chest, and he leans his head on Zac's shoulder, and they sway back and forth to the music for half a dozen songs, no matter the tempo.
Then Zac ruins the moment by asking, "Did you tell your folks yet, Joe?"
"Haven't they asked why you're getting huge fucking packets from Davis?"
"I always get to the mail first." Joe sighs. "I know I need to tell them, I'm just not ready to break their hearts yet. They've wanted me to go to Fuller forever."
"You don't know how to tell them?" Vanessa guesses.
Joe winces. "I need like, five reasons that aren't you guys being at Berkeley," he says softly.
"Davis is totally cheaper than Fuller," Zac tries.
"And their drama program is better," Vanessa adds. Joe snorts and she giggles. "Um, they have the only veterinary school in the state? You know, your entire reason for wanting to apply in the first place?"
Yet another thing Joe hasn't told his parents.
"You can put your cell on speaker when you tell them," Zac suggests. "Like, we'll be your silent moral support and stuff."
"That's - that's really nice, guys."
Zac's hand comes up and catches Joe's chin, holding firmly. "Joe. Stop second-guessing this." It's a statement, not a request. It's possibly the most direct thing Zac has said in six months. It finally occurs to Joe that he might not be the only one wondering if this is for real.
"Quit thinking you're just some whim for me or for V," Zac continues. "You're not. You're as real deal as I am to Van and she is to me. So just - stop. And trust us."
Joe doesn't think he's drawn a breath since this conversation started. He swallows hard and nods. Zac and Vanessa lean in and kiss him, all three of their mouths pressing together, sweet and hungry and in love.