Alyssa applied her mascara heavily and adjusted her tiny black headband in the mirror, "Mommy I don’t like that." Tony frowned as he stood on his stool and played with her bright red lipstick.

"It’s part of my costume, Tony don’t play with that." She took the tube of lipstick from him and sighed. She ran her hands down her perfectly straight hair and frowned. "What do you think?" She looked down at Tony.

"I don’t like that stuff on your eyes." Anthony frowned and tugged at his wetsuit zipper cord.

"Does everything else look okay?" She asked as she looked back in the mirror.

"Yeah." Tony sighed and climbed down, leaving Alyssa alone in the tiny bathroom. She applied a little more blush to her cheeks and smoothed down the pinafore of her dress as the doorbell rang.

"I’ll get it!" Tony yelled as he took off down the hall.

"Ask who it is!" Alyssa shouted after him. She leaned down and buckled the straps on her shiny black mary Janes.

"Who is it?!" Anthony yelled as he pressed his ear to the door.

"It’s Joey, is you mommy home?" Joey said through the door.

"Yeah!" Tony shouted.

"Can I come in?" Joey asked.

"I can’t reach the thing. Hang on." Tony ran back down the hallway almost colliding with Alyssa. "It’s Joey."

"Okay." Alyssa stepped over Tony as he continued down to his room to get his "tanks". Alyssa pulled the door open and took a deep breath, "Hey! Come on-" She stopped mid sentence as her jaw hit the floor. Alyssa covered her mouth with her hand and tried not to laugh, "Nice… nice uh… costume."

Joey stood on her front porch in full Kiss gear. The black and white face paint, the long black wig, everything. Joey smiled and stuck his tongue out, not quite Gene Simmons… "Fun huh?"

"Yeah." Alyssa laughed and held the door open as he stepped in. "Where’s everyone else?" She asked, meaning Chris, Taylor, Justin and his little brother. Joey had asked if they could tag along, and Alyssa of course said that was fine.

"They’re on their way." Joey leaned in close and kissed Alyssa quickly, "I don’t wanna mess up my make up."

Lyssa laughed and shook her head, "There’s a new one."

"Mommy! I can’t get my feet on!" Tony shouted from down the hall.

"Bring them here honey, I’ll help you put them on." Alyssa said as she and Joey headed for the living room.

"But Joey will see." Tony pouted.

"Fine." Alyssa sighed, "I’ll be right back, he wants to surprise you."

"Okay." Joey laughed and sat on the couch with his arm draped across the back.

"And don’t get any makeup on my couch."

"I won’t." Joey leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

Alyssa walked down the hall and kneeled in front of Tony’s bed to help him get his flippers and mask on, "Looking good big guy." She smiled and helped him stand up. "Can you see okay?"

"Yeah. I cad see good." Tony said with the mask covering his nose.

"Okay, let’s go. Wait till you see Joey, he’s got stuff all over his face! He looks cool." Alyssa held his hand as they walked down the hall, Tony’s flippers making slapping noises on the carpet.

"Are you ready Joey?" Alyssa asked before they rounded the corner.

"Yeah, let’s see." Joey stood up and waited as Tony and Alyssa stepped out into the living room. "Right on! Check you out!" Joey held out his hand for a low five and Tony smacked it cheerfully as the doorbell rang again. "I’ll bet that’s Chris and Taylor."

"Let’s see." Alyssa released Tony’s hand and opened the door to see Taylor dressed as duck and Chris standing behind her in a loose fitting black suit and a rounded hat with just a tiny little moustache. "Cute! Come on in guys!" Alyssa held the door open so Chris and Taylor could walk in, Justin and Jonathan followed them in and Alyssa shut the door.

"Buster Keaton?" Joey asked Chris.

"Charlie Chaplin." Chris smiled. "Close, but no cigar."

"Hey Justin!" Tony flopped over to Justin and stared up at him.

Justin, dressed in full drag, smiled down at Tony, "Hey it’s scuba man!"

"What are you? A girl?" Tony asked.

"He’s Britney Spears." Jonathan explained as he adjusted his straw hat. He was dressed as a farmer in ratty torn overalls, a red checked long sleeved shirt and a stuffed chicken under one arm.

"Justin…" Alyssa frowned at him, then smiled, "That’s real nice."

"You like?" He turned around in his catholic schoolgirls uniform, pigtails and huge boobs.

"You’re tactless." Alyssa laughed. "Are we about ready to go?"

"Yeah!" The kids shouted.

"You must be Jonathan." Alyssa smiled at the farmer.

"Yeah, sorry, this is my little bro, Jonathan." Justin draped his arm over the young mans shoulders and smiled.

"Hi Jonathan, this is my son Tony." Alyssa placed her hands on Tony’s shoulders and he waved shyly.

"Let’s go get some candy!" Chris grabbed Taylor and threw her up in the air.

"Yeah, candy!" Joey laughed and headed for the door.

"Nice get up." Justin laughed as Joey walked by.

"You too Miss Thang!" Alyssa followed them out the door and locked up behind them. "Let’s head to the right, we can go all the way around the block and end up back here.

"Okay." Joey took Tony’s hand as the sun dipped below the horizon. The streets were filling up with kids as they headed to the neighbor’s house. Tony had to walk kind of slow because of his flippers, but Joey stayed beside him the whole time.

Justin and Joey took the kids up to all of the houses while Chris and Alyssa waited on the sidewalk. Out of all the guys, Justin and Joey were the least likely to be recognized that night, so Chris let them go up and face everyone.

"I’m glad you guys could come, it’s a lot more fun trick-or-treating with other kids." Alyssa watched as the kids ran down the front walk with their candy bags at their sides. Justin and Joey followed after them laughing at Anthony trying to run in his flippers.

"Yeah, Taylor has a great time with Tony." Chris explained. "Most of the other kids she’s around are older than her, so she likes being the big kid."

"I know the feeling." Alyssa laughed.

They walked along for a couple of blocks, filling up the kid’s bags with mini candy bars and tiny toys. Joey was having almost as much fun as the kids were, and Justin with his endless energy was running up and down the driveways singing "hit me baby one more time" and doing the little dance. He wasn’t doing a good job of not attracting attention. Other teenies on the street were watching him as if he was some mental case, and they stayed away.

"Hey Lyss?" Chris asked as he adjusted his top hat.

"Hmm?" Alyssa watched as Jonathan trotted up the walkway ahead of the others.

"When… I mean, are you planning on telling Joe?"

"What?" She asked.

"Come on Lyss…" Chris gave her a look. "Aside from the fact that he looks like a shorter version of Joey, he just happens to have been born 9 months after we left on European tour?"

"Chris I…" The blood in her body rushed to her toes and for the first time that night she was thankful for the rosy red blush she’d put on her cheeks.

"It’s obvious he doesn’t know."

"Chris… it’s complicated." Alyssa shook her head slowly.

"I’m right though, aren’t I?"

"Yes." She nodded, and looked up the walk as the kids came bounding towards them followed by the two older boys.

"Mommy! I got two suckers!" Tony cheered.

"Right on kiddo." She somehow managed.

"Hey Justin, can you guys go on ahead, Alyssa left her coat back at the house and we’re going to walk on back and get it." Chris said.

"Sure thing." Justin nodded.

"Do you want me to run and get it?" Joey asked.

"Nah, you’re having more fun than the kids." Alyssa smiled tightly. "We’ll be right back."

"Okay." Joey leaned in and kissed her cheek quickly before taking Tony’s hand and heading down the street after Justin and the kids.

"Joey doesn’t want kids…" Alyssa said softly as they turned in the opposite direction.

"Want them or not-"

"It’s not that easy Chris. It may look cut and dry to you, but it’s not."

"I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying that Joey needs to know." Chris explained.

"We’re doing fine without him."

"That doesn’t make a difference. You may not need him to know, but he needs to know."

"It would ruin everything."

"For you or him?" Chris asked, not meaning to sound snappy, but knowing it came out that way.

"For either of us." Alyssa met his eye as they dodged a small group of kids. "You of all people should know … this could really mess things up for Joey."

"I think I know Joey pretty well. I think he’d not only want to know, but he’d want to be a part of this." Chris said softly. "He adores Tony, you know that."

"I know." Alyssa nodded. "But if Joey’s going to step up to this, he’d have to do it all the way. I just don’t think he’s ready for that."

"You should at least give him the chance."

"I can’t do that to Tony." Alyssa shook her head. "I can’t let him get used to a daddy then have him leave."

"I don’t think Joey would do that." Chris frowned.

"I’d hate to find out he would."

They walked along in silence for a minute before Chris asked, "What do you think Tony would want?"

Alyssa’s chest tightened and she practically winced, "That’s not fair. Tony’s only three, he doesn’t know what he wants."

"He’s a little boy Alyssa, he wants a daddy. You’ve got to at least give Joey that chance."

"You saw that whole scandal earlier this year right? That woman claiming Joey was the father of her daughter? Joey does not need this. None of you don’t need this."

"First of all, that was a lie. This does not have to be public knowledge either." Chris stopped walking and looked Alyssa in the eye, "I honestly don’t know how Joey hasn’t noticed the resemblance."

"I don’t see much." Alyssa lied. Ever since Joey had come back around, the similarities were striking.

"Maybe he just never even gave it a thought… I don’t know. But we noticed that first day almost."

"We? You and who?"

"Dani and I." Chris explained. "Lance kind of noticed, but didn’t think anything of it."

"And you haven’t…"

"I haven’t even hinted at it. You need to tell him soon, before we leave on tour."

"Chris, I – "

"If you don’t, Alyssa… I will."

"Not tonight." She said quickly.

"It doesn’t have to be tonight. But we leave for our tour on November 19, you have to tell him before then."

"I will."

"Okay." Chris nodded as they headed back to meet up with Justin and Joey. "I… I didn’t mean to sound like an asshole or anything." Chris explained a minute later.

"I know." Alyssa sighed.

"He just… he needs to know. He loves that kid a lot… and I think he’s falling for you too. I just don’t want to see him get hurt."

"It’s going to hurt him when I tell him."

"Only because he never knew." Chris shrugged.

"I know." Alyssa said softly as she walked beside Chris back to where the others were.

"They gave us yo-yos!" Taylor laughed as they walked up.

"Right on! I’ll show you how to use it tomorrow." Chris laughed.

"Where’s your coat?" Joey asked as he draped his arm over Alyssa’s shoulders.

"Oh… um… I’m not that cold any more." She smiled lamely and took Tony’s hand as they crossed to the other side of the street.

"You okay?" Joey asked softly as they stepped up the curb.

"Yeah." Alyssa forced a quick smile and averted her eyes. "Are you getting lots of good stuff Tone?"

"Yeah! Joey sticks out his tongue a lot and gets candy too!" Tony laughed and adjusted the dive mask on his face.

"Cool." Alyssa laughed, "So are you gonna share or not?" She asked Joey.

"You bet." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of mini snicker bars and a tootsie roll pop.

"Ooh, my favorite." She took a couple of the mini snickers and opened one. "Thanks."

"Anytime." He put the rest back in his pocket and smiled at her. "You look really good tonight, Lyss."

"Thanks." She said softly.

"Really, you do." He whispered as he took her hand and pulled her close for a quick kiss.

"Come on Kiss man, let’s go." Justin tugged at Joey’s sleeve and rolled his eyes.

Joey reluctantly pulled back and smiled, "Time to get more candy." He said softly.

"Candy candy!" The kids cheered as they followed Justin and Joey up the next driveway.

They finished up their trick or treating and headed back to Alyssa’s house. Joey carried Tony half of the way back to the house, the poor kid was just beat. Justin, Chris and the kids left from there, it was getting late and they all still had to drive home.

Alyssa and Joey said goodbye at the door while Joey kept the sleeping Tony propped on his shoulder. He turned and walked back into the house as Alyssa followed with Anthony’s flippers in her hand. Her heart pounded almost the whole time as she thought about telling Joey. She had to do it at just the right time, and when Tony wasn’t around. She was terrified by what his answer could be. He could be upset, he may not understand.

Alyssa continued to frown as Joey dropped Tony on his bed and stood up top stretch his back. Joey took his long wig off and ran his hand through his flattened hair as he walked back into the living room and sat beside Alyssa on the couch.

"Man, that was fun. I haven’t gone trick-or-treating in years." Joey smiled and leaned his head back.

"You looked like you were having a great time. I know Tony had a blast."

"Yeah, that was great. Those flippers though." Joey shook his head and rolled his eyes, "I thought he was gonna fall flat on his face."

"I know… bad idea." Lyss laughed and stifled a yawn.

"Well hey, I’m going to be in the studio for most of this week, but do you want to grab a quiet dinner on Friday?" Joey asked.

"Sure, I think-" She stopped and laughed, "I’m sorry Joey, I just can’t take you serious in that make up."

"You don’t like it?"

"It’s not exactly you." She continued to laugh softly.

"Okay fine." Joey laughed and stood up, walking to the kitchen quickly. "Do you have paper towels?"

"By the microwave." Alyssa laughed and rested her head on the armrest. Joey turned the water on and leaned over the sink as he rubbed the black and white make up off of his face. He tossed the soaked paper towels in the trash then came to sit by Alyssa again, "Much better." She smiled. "Now what were you saying?"

"A quiet dinner, you know, just me and you?"

"Ahh, yeah, I think I can do that." She nodded.

"Friday?"

"Sure." Alyssa smiled and reached to rub off a smear of black make up by his ear. "You missed some."

"You didn’t have a mirror by the sink." He said sarcastically. He leaned over and kissed her quickly, "But it’s getting late, and I’m sure you’re tired." He stood up and reached to pull her to her feet.

"I’m okay."

"Nah, I saw you yawning." He smiled and touched her hair, "I’ll let you go to bed."

"You know, you can uh… stay here." Alyssa said almost shyly.

"I’d love to hun." Joey whispered as he pulled her in for a hug. "But I’ve got to be at the studio by seven, and I don’t think they’d like to see me in this get up."

"I… okay."

"I’d love to Lyss, I would." He kissed her softly and nibbled her lower lip for a second, "But I can’t tonight."

"Okay." She nodded slowly.

"I’ll call you during the week, and I’ll see you on Friday, okay?"

"Yeah." She whispered, trying to keep her composure, which was hard when he was standing that close.

"Don’t eat too much of the kids candy." He smiled and kissed her quickly.

"I won’t." She shook her head.

"Okay, bye babe. I’ll see you later."

"B- bye." She stuttered as he brushed past her and out the front door. Friday she’d tell him, that was the perfect opportunity. A quiet dinner alone with Joey, away from Tony and everyone else. She’d tell him Friday.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Joey called several times during the week, and brought McDonalds over on Thursday when they had a short day in the studio. Tony was thrilled to see Joey again, and the fact that he brought McD’s only made him happier. They solidified their plans for Friday night and Alyssa arranged for Tony to spend the night at her parent’s house.

Friday night rolled around and Alyssa rushed home from her parents after dropping Tony off to change into "decent" clothes. She chose a simple black pleated skirt and a tight-ish dark gray sweater. She paired that with black tights and low heels and she was styling.

Alyssa pulled her hair back with a tiny silver clip and brushed a thin coating of lip-gloss over her lips before the doorbell rang. She spritzed on a hint of perfume before she took a deep breath and went to answer the door. Tonight was the night. She was going to tell Joey tonight, and she couldn’t settle the butterflies in her stomach.

"Hey gorgeous." Joey smiled as he stepped in the front door. Alyssa’s face immediately lit up with a smile as he pulled her close for a quick hug and kiss, "You look nice."

"Thank you, so do you." She smiled and looked him over. He was wearing loose fitting black pants and a button down dark blue shirt. He looked comfortable, but nice.

"So are you ready? I’m running a little late as usual, and we’ve got a reservation for six." He glanced at his watch and took her hand.

"I’m ready, let me just grab my keys." Alyssa took her keys off the little table and handed them to Joey to hold. Joey locked up behind them and led Alyssa out to his car. He unlocked it with the clicker on his key chain and held her door open for her. She smiled and slid in; he could be a gentleman when he wanted.

Joey drove them across town to a posh little restaurant where they were seated near the back at a small dark table. "Have you been here before?" Alyssa asked softly.

"No." Joey shook his head, "But JC says the salmon is great."

"This is really nice." She whispered as she looked around.

"We don’t have to talk so quiet you know." Joey whispered back.

"I know… it just seems so… I don’t know." Alyssa continued to talk softly.

"I know." Joey laughed lightly. "This isn’t usually my style, but I figured you were sick of McDonalds."

"Hey, I like chicken nuggets."

"Well we can always ditch this place if you want."

"No that’s okay." Alyssa laughed and opened the velvety menu in front of her. They ordered some outrageously priced dinners and salads, then sat back and enjoyed an adult conversation without a three year olds interruptions.

"So, do you have anything planned for Tony’s birthday? I know it’s coming up here pretty soon." Joey asked.

"Yeah, the 17th." Alyssa nodded as her stomach did flip-flops. She’d been putting off telling Joey all night; she wanted to wait till the right time, but that time never came up. "He um, he wants a Scooby Doo party so that’s what we’re doing."

"Cool, are you making a Scooby Doo cake?" Joey smiled.

"I’m gonna try." Alyssa blushed slightly and picked at her small bowl of sorbet. "You, you’re um, invited of course."

"Cool, I’d like to come."

"And the other guys, if they want to come I mean."

"I’m sure they will." Joey smiled and reached across the table to take her hand, "What does he want?"

"What?" Alyssa asked.

"For his birthday, what does he want?"

"You don’t have to get him anything." Alyssa shook her head gently.

"Oh come on, I’m not going to come to his birthday empty handed." Joey laughed.

"Joey…" Alyssa sighed, "I don’t know, he likes cars. He doesn’t need clothes or anything, my mom keeps him in fashion pretty well. He likes anything that has to do with sports, or Blues Clues."

"Blues what?"

"Dude Joey, get up to date with your kids TV." Alyssa laughed and pushed her bowl away. "That big blue dog that’s all over his room? That’s Blue. Blue’s Clues."

"Ahh, I need to start watching then, so I’ll be hip to the lingo." Joey laughed and just stared at Alyssa.

"Um… Joey, I-"

"Shhh." Joey smiled, holding her gaze. He softly ran his finger down her cheek to her neck.

"No, Joey I need to tell you-"

"Later." Joey leaned across the tiny table and kissed Alyssa’s words away. "I’ve been dying to do that all night." He whispered, his lips barely touching hers as he spoke. He kissed her again and smoothed her hair down with his hand.

"Joe…" Alyssa heart fell to her knees, telling him now would ruin the night. She’d waited to long.

"Can I… I’d like to stay the night with you, Lyss."

"I… okay, I’d um, that sounds good." She smiled lamely as Joey sat back in his chair, keeping hold of her hand. He paid the final bill and left a generous tip before they headed back out to the car and he drove back to her house.

They made it into the house and almost all the way to the bedroom before Joey pulled Alyssa to him and kissed her deeply, pinning her  to the wall. "Lyss, I have missed you so much." He said between kisses. Alyssa couldn’t force herself to answer, she just kissed him back and ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. She led the way to the bedroom and they fell onto the bed in each other’s arms. She had missed this so much. More than anything she missed having a body to hold all night long, a nice, firm, manly body to keep her warm and safe until the sun broke through the thin curtains. Joey was that for Alyssa, everything she had been missing, and so much more.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Two weeks later Joey brought the guys over to help celebrate Tony’s birthday. They were the hit of the party, most of the kids there were Tony’s age, or a few years older, and most of them knew Nsync. Justin and JC played mini-basketball in the backyard with some of the older kids, while Chris and Dani sat in the kitchen, watching Taylor play ball with Justin out the window. Joey ran around inside with a kazoo in his mouth making all kinds of noise and amusing all the littler kids. Lance sat on the floor by the couch with Lauren, the four year old from next door, on his lap. He held a Curious George book open with one hand and read her the story softly. She giggled and flirted like only four year old girls know how.

"Hey, um Lyss?" Chris asked, sneaking up on Alyssa as she pressed a candle into Tony’s cake.

"Oh!" She startled, "Sorry Chris, you scared me." She laughed nervously and put another candle into the cake.

"We leave for tour in two days…"

"I… I know." She nodded as a blush creeped into her cheeks.

"I don’t want to tell him." Chris shook his head, "That would be a lot worse."

"I know." Alyssa nodded and placed the last candle into the cake. "I know. I’m going to tell him today." She looked up quickly.

"Okay." Chris said a second later. "I… it’s really for the best Lyss. He needs to know before he takes off for three months."

"I know." She nodded again.

"Do you need some help?"

"Telling him?"

"With anything." He shrugged.

"No… I uh, I’ve got it." She smiled quickly and lifted the cake off the counter. "If um, if you could round up the kids and have them come inside for cake, that’d uh, be great."

"Okay." Chris nodded and pressed his lips together.

"Thanks." Alyssa mumbled as she walked out to the dining room and sat the cake down. "Okay guys, cake time!" She announced cheerfully.

"CAKE!" Joey shouted as he herded the little guys over to the dining room. He lifted Tony up so that he was standing on the chair in front of the cake. "Hey check that out! That’s a Scooby cake!"

"Yeah! I like Scooby Doo and mommy made this one all for me!" Tony laughed and scratched his ear.

"Are you gonna share with the rest of us?" Joey asked, looking longingly at the chocolate cake.

"Well…" Tony thought about it for a second. "Yeah, you can have one piece for everyone." He smiled.

"Right on, that looks pretty good!"

"It is, I tried it." Tony laughed and watched intensely as Alyssa lit the four blue candles.

Everyone stood around the table and sang happy birthday to Tony, who then blew out all of the candles and cheered for himself. Alyssa’s mom cut the cake and helped distribute pieces to everyone.

"Joey?" Alyssa asked over the heads of all the kids in the room. "Can we… can you come with me for a minute?" Her heart was beating furiously in her chest and she was very aware of Chris watching from across the room.

"Hmm? Yeah." He stepped over a couple of kids and messed Tony’s hair as he followed Alyssa down the hall to the guest room that was right next door to Tony’s room. "Whatcha need?"

"Joe… I uh… I need to tell you something about Tony’s father." She said nervously.

"Is… is he back?"

"Joey… it’s…" she sat on the edge of the bed and took a couple deep breaths. It was now or never. "You’re his father Joe." She closed her eyes and dropped her head, Joey didn’t say a word. "Say something Joey, please."

Joey’s heart had all but stopped at the sound of those four words. He forced himself to remember to breathe before he uttered; "I’m… he’s mine? My son?"

"Yes." Alyssa whispered.

"What the hell?" Joey gasped for breath.

"Joey, I’m sorry, I know –"

"You’re sure?" He asked out of nowhere. He hated asking, but he knew he had to.

Alyssa looked up sharply, "Yes Joey." Her guilt turned to anger in a split second. "I’m sure."

"I just… Alyssa I mean…"

"You don’t have to do anything." She shook her head.

"I don’t… what?" She was only adding to his confusion.

"I don’t need any help Joe… we’re doing just fine." She said quickly.

"Who are you trying to convince? You or me?"

"We’ve done it by ourselves for this long."

"Tony needs a father, Lyss."

She looked up at him, "He hasn’t had one till now."

"And this is my fault?!"

"No… it’s not Joey. And I’m not complaining. I just wanted you to know."

"You wanted me to know and not do anything??"

"No... yeah… I don’t know Joe. I didn’t want it to be like I was telling you to get something out of you. Like money or whatever. I don’t need it."

"What about Tony?"

"We’re fine Joey."

"He’s… he’s my son." Joey shook his head as tears rose in his eyes. "I’m not going to just walk away Lyss. I can’t. Not now."

"I’m not asking you to."

"You want me to not acknowledge him?!"

"No! Joey that’s not what I’m saying at all. I want you to do whatever you want, I don’t want to pressure you into anything. We’re doing fine on our own, so if you can’t do this right now, then that’s fine. I’m not going to think any different of you Joe. You’ll always be someone very special in our lives."

"I’m his daddy, Lyss. What do I want to do? I want to be that for him. Does he even know?"

"No." She shook her head.

"Does he… I mean…" He looked down at his shoes and shifted his weight.

"He wants a daddy Joey." She nodded, "And he adores you."

"Can I tell him?" He asked a minute later.

Alyssa thought about that for a minute as they sat in silence, "I…. If you want, yeah. He’s not going to understand Joey… not the details."

"I just want him to know that that’s who I am."

"Okay." She nodded. There was another uncomfortable pause as Joey stood with his hands deep in his pockets. "Joey… I’m so sorry I didn’t say anything before. I just… at first I was going to and then everything happened with you and Nsync so quick, I didn’t want to jeopardize that for you. Then everything was going good for us and everything and then you showed up again and it was like... whoa! Now what? I tried to tell you Joey, that first weekend when you came to swim class… and at dinner…"

"Alyssa you didn’t say anything about this."

"I tried Joey. You said there was no way you’d want kids now, and that you still were a kid. Things like that. How was I supposed to tell you after that? That freaked me out for the longest time, I just felt like if you couldn’t do this, then I didn’t even want to put you in that situation."

"But he’s… you should have told me."

"I know Joey… and I’m sorry."

"Why did you tell me now? Right before I have to leave for 3 months?"

"Joey…"

"Why?"

"Chris told me-"

"Chris knew?!"

"I didn’t tell him Joey… he asked me."

"Chris asked you what?"

"He asked me if you knew that Tony was yours."

"So Chris just figured it out?"

"I don’t…. I guess. I mean, since you’ve been hanging around I can see a little bit of resemblance, but I guess… I don’t know, he put two and two together."

"And if he hadn’t?"

"I don’t know Joey."

"You would have let me go on not knowing?"

"Joey…"

"No, forget it Lyss." He shook his head. "Its done."

"Joey, I… I’m sorry."

"Let’s get back to the party." He stood and headed back to the main room. "We can talk more later." Without another word, he turned and left Alyssa standing in the guestroom by herself.

Alyssa composed herself and took a couple deep breaths before going back out to the main room. Joey was standing in the doorway to the kitchen with a blank look on his face. He kept his eyes on Tony playing on the carpet with all of his new toys. He stared like a father seeing his newborn child for the first time, counting all of his fingers and toes, examining every last inch, searching with his eyes for hints of himself. In a way Joey, that’s what Joey was, a new father, seeing his son for the very first time. Alyssa tried to keep her tears at bay as she crossed the living room and stepped out the back door into the fresh air.

She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, taking a deep breath, "The hard part’s over, Lyss." Chris said softly as he leaned against the wall beside her.

"I sure hope so." She whispered as two tears escaped and ran down her cheek. Alyssa reached up and hastily brushed them away as her bottom lip trembled, "Oh man…" She whispered.

"I’m glad you told him." Chris hugged Alyssa tightly as she cried into his shoulder. "He’ll be happier now, once things calm down."

"I know." She said softly.

"He won’t be mad for long Lyss, you know Joey…"

"I know." She took a deep breath and stepped away. "I know… it’s just, I feel terrible." She shook her head. "I mean, yeah, I brought it all on myself, but… it still feels crappy." Chris just nodded and wiped a tear away. "Thanks though, for making me do this."

"You’re welcome." Chris laughed softly. "I’m sorry though, that I had to play the bad guy."

"No, it’s okay. It made me do it, and that’s the important part."

"Yeah it is." He smiled and tilted her chin up, "Friends?"

"Of course." She smiled through her tears and hugged him again, "You’ve gotta be there for Joey right now too Chris, he’s upset."

"Don’t worry about Joey, I’ve got him covered." Chris smiled and opened the back door to go back inside, "You coming in?"

"In just a minute." Alyssa wiped her tears away with the hem of her shirt and tried to smile.

"All right." Chris nodded and left her alone in the backyard to clean herself up.

Alyssa took a couple of shaky breaths and fanned her face quickly before heading back inside to help wrap up the party and send everyone home.

Tony escaped to his bedroom with his pile of new toys as soon as everyone left. Alyssa made the rounds with a big trash bag, cleaning up all of the paper plates and wrapping paper that was lying around the living room. Joey sat at the kitchen table and watched everyone leave then stood up and sighed.

"Lyssa… I um… I have to be in New York first thing in the morning, so I need to leave here pretty soon."

"Okay." She nodded from the living room. She picked up two more plates and dumped them into the bag.

"I’m uh… I’m gonna go talk to Tony."

Alyssa’s heart stopped for a split second and the blood drained from her face, "Um, yeah, okay." She said softly, standing up straight to face Joey. "He’s uh, in his room."

"You and I can talk after." He said matter of factly.

"Yeah." She nodded and sighed, as Joey stared down the hallway, not entirely sure of what he was going to say.

Alyssa dropped herself onto the couch as Joey took a deep breath and exhaled through clenched teeth, this was harder than he expected. He took two quick steps toward the hallway then stopped and looked over his shoulder at Alyssa, "He… is he going to be upset?" Joey asked softly.

Alyssa fought back another round of tears as she shook her head slowly. Joey nodded slightly and walked down the hall to Tony’s room. He pushed the door open and looked around at the Blue’s Clues border and comforter on the bed. Anthony was sitting on the big Bulls rug running a matchbox car around in big circles.

"Hey, can I play?" Joey asked as he sat on the rug beside Tony.

"Yeah." Tony handed him the matchbox car he had been playing with, then grabbed a big Tonka dump truck.

Joey spun the tiny wheels on the car as Anthony pushed the dump truck around making loud car noises, "Hey Tone?" Joey asked after a minute of watching.

"Yeah?" Tony asked, distractedly.

"Did your mommy ever tell you about your daddy?" Joey asked softly.

"Yeah."

"She did?" Joey looked up quickly. "What… what did she tell you?"

"She telled me that my daddy works really hard."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Anything else?" Joey asked a second later, as he drove the little car around in circles on the carpet in front of him.

"That he loves me lots even though he can’t see me." Tony shrugged and parked his truck under his bed, then reached for his motorcycle.

Joey took a deep breath as tears struggled to free themselves, "Wanna know something Tone?"

"Hmm?" The little boy stopped and looked at Joey.

"I do. I love you a whole bunch big guy." Joey forced a smile and placed his hand flat on Tony’s back.

"You want to be my daddy?" Tony asked, his eyes lighting up as he forgot his motorcycle.

"I sure do. Is that okay?" Joey wiped his eyes quickly as Tony nodded and jumped up to throw himself in Joey’s lap.

"Yeah! But what about mommy?" Tony asked, with a look of child-like concern.

"What…what do you mean?"

"Is it okay with mommy?"

"It is. I already asked her." Joey said as he ruffled Tony’s hair softly. He hadn’t asked, but she couldn’t say no.

"Cool." Tony hugged Joey quickly then scooted off his lap onto the floor again. "Can I have more cake now?"

"Nope." Joey shook his head slowly, "It’s all gone."

"Oh man." Tony laughed and pulled his truck out from under the bed. "Hey Joey?" He asked a minute later.

"Yeah?" Joey asked, still trying to control his emotions. He just wanted to reach out and touch Tony, to make up for lost time.

"Can I still just call you Joey sometimes?" Tony licked his lips and frowned.

"You can call me anything you want to." Joey laughed and ran his hand over Tony’s hair. "And I’ll tell you what, you can call me anytime you want too, okay? I’ll have your mommy show you how to call me."

"Okay but I can’t use the phone all by myself."

"She can show you." He smiled. Joey had only known he was a father for a few short hours, but his heart ached at the thought of leaving for three months.

"Okay." Anthony nodded and zoomed his truck around Joey’s feet.

"I uh, I have to get going now kiddo." Joey reluctantly looked at his watch. It was after 8, way past Tony’s bedtime.

"Are you going to come with Mc Donalds again after work?" Tony asked softly.

"No… I um, I have to go for kind of a trip for a while. For a long while actually." Joey frowned and pulled Tony onto his lap again. "But I’m going to come over and see you whenever I can, okay?"

"Because you’re my daddy now?" Tony smiled.

"That’s right." Joey whispered and kissed the top of Tony’s head.

"Hey Tony bear it’s time for-" Alyssa stopped as she hit Tony’s doorway. The scene on the floor in front of her broke her heart, and she knew Joey had told Tony.

"I know, it’s time to go to sleep." Tony said as he stood up from Joey’s lap and climbed onto his toddler-sized bed. "I’m four years old now mommy."

"I know you are. You’re a big kid now." She smiled and leaned against the door jam.

"And guess what?" Tony whispered loudly.

"What?" She whispered loudly back.

"Joey says he can be my daddy now!" Tony’s little face broke out in a huge smile as he pulled his blankets up to his nose.

"Wow! You’re one lucky little boy. You got your birthday and… and your daddy in one day!" Alyssa walked slowly into the room and sat at the foot of Tony’s bed so she could adjust his blankets.

"Yep." Tony nodded and Joey stood up from his position on the floor. "Bye Joey, have a fun trip."

"Thanks kiddo, I will." Joey walked to the side of Tony’s bed and leaned over to kiss his cheek softly, "I love you Tone." He whispered into the little boys hair.

"I love you to Jo- daddy." Tony whispered back. Joey smiled and turned away, wiping the tear from his cheek as he stepped into the hall and leaned against the wall just out of Tony’s view.

"Okay little monster, let’s say your prayers." Alyssa smiled uneasily and switched Tony’s light off. She leaned over and kissed his forehead softly and said, "Now I lay me down to sleep…" Tony’s quiet voice joined hers, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Joey whispered the words of the prayer softly from his position in the hall, and waited as Alyssa tucked Tony in, then came out to join him. She shut the door gently behind her and sighed, "Okay Joe… let’s talk."

 

 On to the next part…

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn