Alyssa followed Joey into the living room and sat across from him on the couch, "So…" She sighed, not looking forward to the conversation they were about to have. "What… what do you think?"

"I’m not sure."

"Well what are your plans?" Without cause, she was getting defensive. He’d just told her baby that he was his daddy, and now he wasn’t sure what his plans were?

Joey stared at her for a long time with a sad look on his face, he tilted his head to the side and asked, "My plans? I’m his father, Lyss. My plans are to be the best father I can be right now."

"What do you think that includes?"

"Loving him." Joey said simply, with a shrug. "And doing everything I can for him."

"I don’t need your money Joey." Alyssa crossed her arms over her chest.

"I’m not offering money." Joey looked into his lap and shook his head, "I’m offering me."

Alyssa was silent for a minute, then sighed, "Joey, if this is something you can’t do right now, I’ll understand. I don’t want to pressure you into anything."

"Alyssa…" Joey looked up at her slowly, "It would be a lot easier if you wanted me to be a part of his life."

"I do Joey, I do."

"Then act like it. You keep saying I don’t have to and that you don’t want to pressure me, like you’re trying to talk me out of it."

"That’s not it at all Joey."

"That’s what it seems like." He frowned lightly, he still hadn’t completely gotten over the shock.

"I just don’t want you to do this because you feel like you have to. I want you to do this because it’s what you want."

"It is." Joey nodded. "Now it is. This is what I want." He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, then laced his fingers together and held them against his lips, "I leave tomorrow you know, for New York. Then I have the tour for three months."

"I know." Alyssa said softly.

"I… I’d like to come visit." He said hopefully.

"Oh Joey… of course you can."

"As often as I can." He nodded, "We get free days every now and then and I’m going to fly back here every chance I get."

"Okay." Alyssa nodded.

"I’d um, it would also be cool if you guys could come see a show. So Tony can, you know, see what I do and stuff."

"I… are we, I mean, are you going to tell everyone?" Alyssa asked nervously. The last thing she wanted was Tony’s face all over the tabloids.

"Yeah." Joey nodded, then saw Alyssa’s face fall, "No, I mean… I’m going to tell the guys and my uh, the management people who need to know. But other than that I uh, don’t think we should. Right now. You know?"

"Yeah." Alyssa breathed a sigh of relief. "I just don’t want this to get blown up, you know?"

"No, I know. I didn’t mean the media. There’s not going to be a press release or anything like that." He laughed lightly.

"Okay." She smiled quickly and fidgeted in her seat.

"Do your parents know?" He asked a minute later. Alyssa gave him a confused look, "About me."

"Oh, um… yeah. They do." She nodded.

"I’ll have to tell my parents tonight." He said as he glanced at his watch. That wasn’t a call he was looking forward to. "They’re going to want to see him you know."

"I know." She nodded.

"He’s their uh, only grand son."

"Yeah." Alyssa nodded.

"So maybe you guys can come to the show in New York."

"Sure…"

"Or before that." Joey shrugged.

"We can work that out. Whenever they want to see him."

"Okay." Joey nodded and stood up.

"They’re going to hate me." Alyssa said softly.

"No." Joey shook his head and smiled against his will, "They like you a lot Lyss, just from what I’ve told them, and what they knew of you before. They will be happy once the shock wears off." He cleared his throat and said, "I’ll call you on Sunday, before we leave."

"Okay." Alyssa followed him to the front door, still feeling uneasy about the whole evening.

Joey stood facing the door with his back to Alyssa, He felt like his world was spinning all around him, and he didn’t know how to stop it, or even if it was stoppable. "Lyss, I…" Joey started, then shook his head without turning around. He opened the front door and began to step out. Tears rose in Alyssa’s eyes as she watched him start to leave.

"Joey wait." She said softly. Joey turned around, and without saying a word pulled Alyssa into a tight hug and lay a hand protectively on the back of her head, "I’m sorry."

"God, I want to be mad at you." Joey said softly. "I want to get angry and scream and storm out of here… but I can’t."

"Joey…"

"You should have told me four years ago." He whispered as she began to cry.

"I know." She nodded and sniffed quietly. "I didn’t know how."

"I love him Alyssa."

"I know you do Joey." Alyssa was grateful for that, no matter what, Joey loved Tony.

"Are you going to be okay?" Joey asked a second later, noticing that she was still teary eyed against his chest.

Alyssa laughed softly, he was always taking care of her, "Yeah." She nodded and wiped her eyes as she stepped back.

"I uh… I really have to go."

"I know. I’ll talk to you later."

"Bye Lyss." Joey leaned in quickly and briefly touched his lips to her cheek.

"Bye Joey." Alyssa sighed as she watched Joey walk slowly down the path to the driveway. He’d arrived here that afternoon as a carefree single guy, and was leaving now as a father. "What a difference a day makes…" Alyssa couldn’t help thinking. She smiled to herself then shut the door. Overall, it hadn’t gone as bad as it could have.

 

Joey called Sunday to let Alyssa know that everything was set with the tour and that he wouldn’t be able to fly back to Florida for 3 weeks. He gave her the date that he would be there to visit, and she marked it on her calendar so that she’d keep the day free for Tony.

Joey filled her in on the conversation he’d had with his parents, and he had been right from the start. They were shocked to say the least, and at first a little upset. But when Joey explained the situation, and that he knew for a fact that Tony was his, they relaxed a little. His father was leery that Alyssa might be out for the money, but Joey had assured him that she wasn’t, in fact she had refused any help he’d offered. They would warm up to the idea in due time, but for then he’d promised to talk to Alyssa about sending photographs and to see when she might be able to take Tony to New York.

"Can I talk to Tony?" Joey asked as he and Alyssa wrapped up their conversation.

"Sure, hang on." She said. She set the phone down on the arm of the sofa and walked down the hall to Tony’s room. She had just put him to bed and was sure he wasn’t asleep, "Hey kiddo, guys who’s on the phone?"

"Granna?" He asked excitedly from his bed.

"Nope… guess again."

"Uncle Jason?"

"Nope…" She smiled.

Tony gasped like only a four year old can, "Is it my daddy?"

"It sure is." Alyssa’s heart fluttered at the sound of Tony’s little voice saying the word "daddy". "Come on, he’s waiting to talk to you."

"Is he coming over?" Tony asked as he crawled out of his bed. He padded barefoot across the room and hitched up the waist of his Pokemon pajamas.

"No, he’s working far away, remember?"

"Oh yeah." Tony yawned and shuffled out to the living room. He sat on the couch and made himself comfortable in the corner before he picked up the huge phone. "Hi daddy!" He smiled.

Joey’s breath caught in his throat, that kind of reception would take some getting used to. "H- Hey big guy." He smiled and rested his chin in his hand. All of the guys were on the bus, but Joey was lying in his bunk by himself.

"Where are you?" Tony asked.

"I am on a really big bus that’s going to drive me all over the place."

"At night?"

"Yeah, it drives all night and all day sometimes too. But there are some beds on here and a TV and video games and even a bathroom, pretty cool huh?"

"Yeah! That’s cool." Tony laughed.

"So how was your day? Did you go to the pool?"

"No, we stayed inside because it was raining and wet and then we watched "Lion King" and Dalmatians and had soup."

"Wow, that sounds like fun."

"Yeah." Tony shrugged and pulled the blanket from the couch over his legs.

"I’m going to come and see you in a couple weeks, how does that sound?"

"Good." Tony nodded. "Mommy telled me you get to sing and play on a big stage and with lights."

"I sure do." Joey smiled and played with an empty CD case, opening and closing it repeatedly. "With JC and Chris and everyone."

"And Justin?" Tony asked.

"Yep, Justin too."

"Me too what?" Justin asked as he leaned into his bunk across from Joey’s.

"You get to sing and play on the stage with lights." Joey smiled.

"Uh. Yeah." Justin gave Joey a look and grabbed his walkman. "Who is that?"

"It’s uh, Tony." Joey said softly.

"Hey Tone-master!" Justin took the phone from Joey’s hand.

"Hi." Anthony said shyly.

"This is Justin, what up dog?"

Tony laughed quietly, "What’s up dog?"

Justin laughed and said, "You gonna come see us sing and dance?"

"I don’t know." Tony looked to Alyssa. "Mommy am I – can I go see Justin dance?"

"Um… you bet." Alyssa smiled.

"Mommy says you bet."

"Sweet!" Justin laughed.

"Yeah it’s sweet." Tony smiled, he loved talking like a big kid.

"Right on, well I’ll put um… Joey back on the phone so you guys can hammer out the details, okay?"

"Okay." Tony nodded and yawned loudly into the phone.

"Hey Tone." Joey smiled, "Are you tired?"

"Yeah." Tony said sadly.

"Okay, well go back to bed, I just wanted to say hi."

"Are you gonna come see me?"

"I sure am, but not for a couple weeks, I’ve got lots of work to do." Joey yawned himself and kicked his shoes off. "But have your mommy put it on the calendar so you can see, okay?"

"Okay."

"Okay, go on back to bed now." Joey said as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"I love you daddy."

"I love you too punkin."

Tony handed the phone back to Alyssa, but didn’t move from the couch. "Hi." She said softly.

"Hi." Joey sighed. "Um, so anyways… I’ll uh, be out in a couple weeks to see Tony and stuff. I told him you’d mark it on the calendar or something."

"Yeah, I did already." She nodded.

"And if you guys want to come out and see the show, that’d be cool."

"Okay." She nodded. "I’m sure Tony would like that."

"So you know, whenever you want to come out just let me know, and we’ll work something out."

"Well whenever is good for you will be fine, just as long as it’s a weekend."

"Okay, I’ll send you a copy of our tour dates and you can decide when you want to come out."

"When will you play Orlando?"

"Not till the end, we’re wrapping it up in Orlando."

"Ahh, okay." Alyssa ran her hand over Tony’s hair. "We’ll definitely come see you guys then."

"Me too?" Anthony asked.

"Yep. You too." Alyssa smiled.

"Cool, well hey, I’m gonna let you go. I know it’s getting late and Tone needs to go back to bed." Joey glanced at his watch.

"Yeah."

"I’ll uh, call you later then, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks."

"Okay." Alyssa nodded and they said goodbye. "Okay kiddo, back to bed with you." She scooted him off to bed and in the morning they began the countdown until Joey would arrive.

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

Three weeks later, after dozens of phone calls, Joey showed up right on time. He carried with him a happy meal from McDonalds and a couple big mac meals for him and Alyssa. "Hi Joey!" Tony screeched as he ran to greet Joey at the front door.

Joey set the bags of food down and scooped Tony up in his arms, "Hey there Tone! How’s it going?"

"Good." Tony laughed and wiggled out of Joey’s arms. "Did you bring me a happy burger?"

"Yep, it’s in that bag there." Joey nodded to the bright colored bag on the floor. Tony picked it up and ran towards the kitchen as Joey picked up the bags and smiled at Alyssa, "I hope you’re hungry too."

"I am, thanks." She smiled uneasily and followed Joey through to the kitchen. "What do you say to Joey for bringing you dinner Tony?"

"Thanks." Tony smiled up at Joey as he took the toy out of the small plastic bag. "This is sweet." Tony imitated Justin, his new hero.

"Yeah it is." Joey laughed and they all sat around eating the dinner and talking about what they’d been up to. Joey invited them out to see them in St. Louis the next month. That was their halfway mark for the tour, and it was on a weekend when Joey would actually have a little free time.

Alyssa of course agreed to it, and Tony was thrilled. They marked it on their big wall calendar and counted how many days they had to wait. It was going to be a while, but Joey would be out again in another 2 weeks, so that made the waiting easier.

"It’s time for bed tough guy." Alyssa smiled as Joey and Tony played cars on the big rug.

"Awww mommy, now?"

"Yes now, it’s after nine. You got to stay up way late tonight." She smiled and leaned against the door.

"Okay." Anthony sighed and parked his dump truck at the foot of the bed. Joey stood up off the floor and pulled the covers up over Tony’s shoulders. "How would you like to go see the "Pokemon" movie tomorrow?" Joey asked.

"Yeah!" Anthony cheered from his bed. Joey looked over his shoulder at Alyssa for approval. She nodded and smiled, then walked slowly into the room to say good night to Tony. They said their prayers then, Joe and Alyssa walked out to the other room.

"Are you uh, staying at your house tonight?" Alyssa asked.

"Yeah." Joey nodded and stuck his hands in his pockets. "I’ll check on the movie times and come by in the morning. I have to leave at like, 1 tomorrow so it’ll have to be an early show."

"That’s fine." Alyssa covered her mouth as she yawned.

"I’m going to see about having my parents come down to visit… you know… for Christmas? I usually go up there, but I’d really like them to spend it down here at my house. That way they can meet Tony and everything."

"Oh, um, okay." She nodded. "I actually talked to your mom the other day. They were talking about coming down to visit before then. You know, do the whole Disneyworld thing."

"Really? Well that’d be cool. You’ll have to let me know."

"I will." She nodded. It was still kind of uncomfortable between them, and neither one knew quite what to say.

"I’d better get going. I’m a talking monkey right now, I swear I’m running on empty." Joey sighed and turned toward the front door.

"Okay, well I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah." Joey smiled, "Hey, what tape is that that Tony was playing in his room?"

"Um, Kenny Loggins… I don’t know the name of the album off the top of my head. It’s a kid songs thing." She laughed. "He insanely loves it."

"That’s cool. A music fan." Joey laughed lightly and blushed. "Get em started young."

"You know it." Alyssa laughed and leaned against the wall.

"I’ll have to check it out." Joey opened the front door, then turned to hug Alyssa, "I’ll see you tomorrow Lyss."

"All right, drive careful." She hugged him tight then watched him walk out to his car. She waited until he pulled away before shutting the door and locking it behind her. Alyssa cleaned up the trash from dinner then got herself ready for bed. She sank into the deep blanket on her bed and drifted away.

The next morning Joey showed up early to pick up Tony so they could go to the movies, "The show is at 10:30." Joey explained. "I didn’t know they had movies that early."

"Me neither." Alyssa smiled and tied Tony’s shoes in a double knot. "Are you sure you going to be okay with him?" She asked cautiously.

"Sure, we’re just going to the movies, right?"

"Well yeah, but Joey you can’t even walk into 7-11 without getting mobbed. Maybe I should go."

"Nah… no one will be expecting to see me anywhere near Florida, and certainly not with a lil dude." Joey waved off her worry and adjusted the backwards baseball cap on his head. "I’ve got it covered."

Alyssa sighed and helped Tony to his feet, "Just… just keep a real close eye on him. He’s four and he likes to wander."

"We’ll be cool, right Tone?"

"Right. We’re cool." Tony high fived Joey and pulled the heavy front door open.

"We’ll be back in about an hour, it’s a real short movie." Joey smiled as they stepped onto the porch.

"Come right home after, okay?"

"We will." Joey rolled his eyes and followed Tony out to his car with the child’s booster seat under his arm.

"Do you know how to get that in right?" Alyssa asked, forever the worrier.

"Yeah." Joey nodded and looked at Tony, "Is she always like this?"

"Yeah." Tony sighed and nodded. Joey laughed and opened the back seat to help strap the seat it. He got it right on the first try, then buckled Tony in and shut the door. He waved over the hood before he got in the car and drove away.

Alyssa watched nervously from the porch as they drove off. She waited anxiously in the living room for the next hour and a half, jumping up at each passing car to see if it was them. When they finally made it home, Joey was carrying a Sam Goody Music Store bag in one hand, and holding Tony’s with the other.

"I told you to come right home." She said quickly.

Joey smiled and held up the bag, "We walked next door to pick up a CD before we came home. Relax Lyss, we’re fine."

Alyssa sighed and relaxed a bit. She’d never let Tony leave with anyone other than family before, so she was on pins and needles the whole time. "So what’d you get?"

"That CD that Tony loves, so I can listen to it too, and we also got our first album for Tony to listen to. That way he can hear what I like and I can hear what he likes, right Tone?"

"Right." Tony smiled. "Hey mommy guess what!?" Tony shouted excitedly as bounced excitedly my Joey’s feet. Joey looked down quickly and shook his head, giving Tony a look that spoke volumes.

"What?" Alyssa asked, looking from Tony to Joey.

"Nothing." Joey shook his head, "It was a great movie huh Tony?"

"Yeah." Tony laughed and let go of Joey’s hand.

"No no no, what happened?" Alyssa asked in a motherly tone.

"Nothing, it’s cool." Joey said.

"Joey let me drive." Anthony whispered softly as Alyssa bent to pick him up.

"Oh he did, did he?" Alyssa looked at Joey with an accusing look. "You let him drive huh?" She smiled and shook her head at Joe.

"Just a little, in the parking lot." Joey said with a small laugh.

"You drove all by yourself?"

"Yeah, and Joey pushed the gas." Tony smiled. "And then we heard him on the radio and he said a bad word."

"Oh really…" She glared at Joey and shook her head as she smiled.

"Yeah, he said – "

"Whoa, hey… I don’t think so." Joey reached out and covered Tony’s mouth before the obscenity could escape.

"No, I’d like to know." She laughed.

"I said the S-H word." Joey said. "And that’s not a word you need to be repeating." He looked down at Tony and laughed.

"We’ll have to wash Joey’s mouth out with soap, what do you think Tony?"

"No." Tony’s voice was muffled against Joey’s hand.

"Heck no!" Joey protested. He released Tony and the little boy ran down the hall to his room to get the Pokemon figurine he’d promised to show Joey.

"Did you guys have fun?" Alyssa asked.

"Yeah." Joey laughed. "He talked through the whole movie and never stopped moving, but it was fun."

"Welcome to a four year olds world." Alyssa smiled and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Did you know that those stupid Pokemon things don’t say anything at all besides their names? They just stand around shouting ‘Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiika! Pikachuuuuuuuuuu’ I mean, what is that?"

"That’s Pikachu." Alyssa laughed. "I figured you knew all about Pokemon."

"No… I didn’t." He shook his head. "You coulda warned me."

"And risk losing my 2 hours of quiet? Not a chance." She laughed again as Tony appeared with his arms full of Pokemon toys.

"Lookit, this one is Pikachu, and this is Charmander."

"That’s cool Tone." Joey kneeled in front of him and checked out the little plastic figures. "Just like in the movie huh?"

"Yeah, and this one flies really so high and has fire come out of his tail." He said, holding up another one.

"Wow, that’s pretty cool."

"Yeah." Tony nodded.

"Hey, I’ve gotta go get on a plane now and go back to work." Joey said softly.

"Okay." Tony nodded, "Will you come over again tomorrow?"

"No, I can’t, not for a couple weeks."

"But I want you to come soon." Tony pouted.

"Well I want to come back soon, but I have to work. Remember I have to ride that big bus all over and sing and dance with Justin and Chris and everyone like that?"

"Yeah, but the bus can take you here." Tony juggled the toys in his arms.

"Man, I wish it could." Joey frowned and reached out to mess Tony’s hair, "But you can call me all the time, right? And listen to my music?"

"I just want you to come over."

"I’ll be back in two weeks, I promise. And then after that guess what?"

"What?" Tony asked softly, not looking at Joey.

"You get to fly on a big huge airplane and come see me, how cool is that?"

"I get to go on a plane?"

"Yep." Joey nodded.

"By myself?" Tony asked, getting all excited.

"Well no, your mommy’s going to be on the plane too."

"That’s cool, can I fly with you right now?"

Joey shook his head slowly, "Nope, I’ve got to go by myself. You’ve got preschool and stuff during the week, but in two weeks I’ll see you. I’ll be here in time to tuck you in and then the next day we can go get Mc Donald’s, okay?"

"Yeah." Tony pouted.

"Did you put it on your calendar?" Joey asked.

"Yeah." Tony sighed.

Joey looked at his sad son and frowned, "Okay… I’ve really gotta go kiddo. Can I get a hug?" He asked. Tony carefully set all of his toys on the floor then stepped over them to wrap his arms around Joey’s neck. "I love you Tone, and I’ll call you tonight, okay?"

"Uh huh." Tony mumbled into Joey’s neck. "I love you too daddy."

Joe kissed Tony’s cheek and let him go. "I’ll call tonight, okay?" He asked Alyssa.

"Yeah, that’d be great. Do you have a show?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded. "So I’ll call you before."

"Okay." She nodded and pulled him in for a hug, "Thanks for coming, we’ll see you soon."

"All righty, love ya Lyss."

"I uh, I love you too Joe." Alyssa said softly before kissing his cheek lightly and stepping back.

"I’ll talk to you tonight buddy." Joey forced a smile and waved at Anthony as he headed for the door. Tony turned away from Joey and ran down the hall to his room, where he shut the door tightly.

Joey looked almost stunned as he looked from the now empty hallway to Alyssa, "He’ll be okay." Alyssa said softly.

"Is he… he’s mad at me?"

"He just doesn’t want you to go." Alyssa tilted her head to the side.

"Shit…" Joey said under his breath. He put his bag on the floor and walked quickly down the hall and pushed Tony’s door open. Tony was sitting cross-legged on the floor holding a WWF wrestling action figure in his hands. "Hey Tone… I’m sorry I have to go." Joey said softly as he sat beside him. "I really wish I didn’t have to… but I do." Tony didn’t say a word, and didn’t look up at Joey. "How about if I stay for 10 more minutes?"

"Yeah." Tony whispered.

"But then I really have to go. My boss will be really, really mad if I don’t get there on time."

"And you’ll get in trouble?"

"Yeah, I’ll get in trouble." Joey nodded. He pulled Tony onto his lap and asked, "Who’s that?"

"This is the Rock." Tony sighed and moved the figures arms.

"Cool, what does he do?"

"He kicks other guys but it’s pretend."

"It is?"

"Yeah. Because it’s not… you’re not allowed to kick people really." Tony explained.

"That’s right." Joey smiled and kissed the top of his head.

"Is it loud when you work?" Tony asked a minute later.

"Yep, it’s really loud." Joey nodded. "But they give us these things to go in our ears so our ears won’t get hurt."

"When I go can I put them in my ears too?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded. "We’ll get you some ear plugs so you won’t hurt your ears."

"And mommy too?"

"Mommy too." Joey smiled. They played on the floor for a couple more minutes before Joey glanced at his watch, "I really have to go now buddy."

"So you don’t get in trouble?"

"Right." Joey nodded and stood up slowly, putting Tony back on his feet. "Two weeks, that’s all, then I’ll be back."

"I know." Tony nodded and hugged Joey’s leg, "Bye."

"Bye bye Tone." Joey ruffled his hair and walked out to where Alyssa was still waiting by the door, "I’ve gotta run."

"Okay, thanks Joey. For hanging out another couple minutes and everything."

"I hate leaving him here, it’s like I want to stay and make up for lost time." Joey smiled and sighed. "As soon as I get off tour we’ll hang out a lot more… and uh, talk about how that’ll work."

"Um, okay." Alyssa shuffled her feet nervously. "Well get outta here, I don’t want you to miss your flight." She smiled quickly and hugged him before he headed out the front door. He tooted his horn as he backed out of the driveway and was gone before Alyssa shut the door.

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

 

Joey fidgeted in his seat in the MTV studios, the interview had already run more than a half-hour over and he had a flight to catch. He checked his watch for the second time in 5 minutes and cleared his throat. He hadn’t been back to Florida in two weeks, and he had promised Tony he’d come to visit tonight. Tonight was his only free time, they had a show the next day so as it was he would only get a few hours there. If he made his flight.

"Are you late for something?" Carson Daly asked with a smile.

"Oh, um, no." Joey smiled and dropped his hand to his side. "My butts just falling asleep, I need to stand up for a minute." Joey stood up by his chair and stretched his arms as the girls in the crowd screamed.

"We’re so used to moving all night when we don’t move we get stiff, right Joe?" Justin asked.

"I sure do!" Chris chimed in as everyone laughed.

"I mean… our muscles." Justin blushed and shook his head, laughing.

"Yeah my-" Chris started.

"Okay okay… I think we get the picture." Carson laughed and tried to keep the interview at it’s PG rating.

"If you don’t use it, you lose it." Chris laughed and high fived JC over Lance’s head.

Joey just laughed and shook his head, wanting this interview to be done with. He had ten minutes before he absolutely had to leave the studio in order to make his flight. He tried not to look at his watch, but it wasn’t working.

A few minutes later Carson signed off and the boys were free to go. JC led the way off the stage with Joey only a half step behind him, rushing to get to the car waiting outside. "Oh my God, Joey can I get a picture?" A fanatic girl asked with tears in her eyes as others swarmed around them in the tiny studio.

"Yeah, yeah of course." Joey put on his plastic smile and draped his arm around the girl’s shoulders. He was handed a stuffed pooh bear, handfuls of personal notes and a small bouquet of flowers, which he somehow managed to hold while scribbling his name of any flat surface they offered him. He posed for a half dozen more pictures before he leaned over to Lance and said, "I’ve really gotta get outta here, I’m meeting you guys tomorrow at the hotel."

"You going home?" Lance asked as he quickly signed a girls t-shirt, then gave her a hug.

"Yeah." Joey smiled and raised his arm above the crowd to wave.

"Everyone say bye Joey!" Chris shouted over the buzz in the studio. The fans all turned and shouted bye to Joey as flashes went off, blinding him for a second. He ducked out the stage door and took off down the hall towards the stairs, his security guard close behind.

"Joey! Hold up there bud." Natalie, the stage director shouted from the end of the hall.

"Nat, I’m really late." Joey sighed, but stopped nonetheless.

"Well hun, you don’t need the battery pack or the mic do ya?" Natalie laughed and reached up under his shirt for the pack. She smiled and patted his shoulder, "All right, you’re free to go." She unclipped his mic as he smiled and continued down the hall.

"Dude, we’re going to miss the flight." Joey frowned as he and Ben climbed into the back seat of the waiting limo.

"Nah, we’re cool." Ben sighed and rolled the window up as the fans on the street started screaming.

"Shit…" Joey said under his breath. He dropped the gifts and notes on the seat beside him and placed the flowers between the seat and the door as he leaned back in the soft leather seats.

They sat in traffic for another 20 minutes just trying to get to the airport, Joey was going to miss his flight, no question about that. By the time the pulled up at the United terminal, Joey had 6 minutes to get on his plane before it took off. It wasn’t going to happen.

"Joe, hey don’t forget these." Ben jumped out of the car behind Joey with the gifts in his arms.

"Come on Ben, we gotta move." Joey dropped his sunglasses and hat into place as he headed into the terminal. Ben followed close behind as Joey went up to the ticket desk, "Flight 3490 to Orlando?" He asked quickly.

"Just left." The girl answered.

"Shit…" Joey swore under his breath, "Do you have any other flights going to Orlando tonight?"

"Um… let me check." She said as she tapped into her computer. "No, nothing else until tomorrow and the earliest I have then is 6:35am."

"Do you have anything that will get me anywhere close to Orlando tonight?" Joey asked as Ben set the Pooh bear on the counter beside Joey.

"The closest I can get you tonight, is Jacksonville."

"Close enough, when does it leave?" Joey asked.

"In thirty five minutes." She said, "Would you like me to book you on that flight?"

"Yes." Joey said, "I have – had, a seat on the Orlando flight."

"Name?" She asked.

"Um, Joe Fatone." He said softly.

"How do you spell the last name?" She asked, without looking up. Joey spelled it for her and sighed, "Okay, we can go ahead and change those reservations over. I showed you traveling with a Benjamin Sparkes?"

"Yeah, he’s with me. He’s here."

"Is he going to Jacksonville also?" She asked.

"Yeah." Joey nodded.

"Okay." She took a deep breath and did some clicking on her computer then smiled, "You’re set."

"Okay um, is there uh, the VIP lounge?" Joey asked softly as he noticed a small group of girls entering the airport.

"For you?" She asked.

"Yeah, it should have been on the original reservation. I’m Joey Fatone from Nsync, and I only have my one security guard with me." He explained softly.

"Ahhh, sure, let me get that for you." She said quietly. She reached under her cabinet and came out with a little pass after checking in the computer. She handed him the pass and said, "You know where it is?"

"Yeah, thanks." Joey waved shortly and grabbed the stuffed animals. He and Ben headed through the crowded terminal to the VIP lounge to wait for their flight.

They were the only two in there, so Joey had the silence he wanted to make his phone calls. He first dialed Dana their date keeper to let her know of the change of flights and that they now needed a car at Jacksonville instead of Orlando. He then called Alyssa to let him know that his flight had changed, "Hey Lyss…" Joey said when she answered.

"Hi Joey, how’s it going?" She asked as she stirred the spaghetti sauce on the stove

"Um, it’s all right, busy you know." He smiled. "I’m running a little behind tonight. I missed the flight to Orlando so they have me flying into Jacksonville in about twenty minutes, then I’m going to drive on over." He said softly.

"Oh… okay." She nodded slowly glancing at the clock on her microwave. It was about a 2 hour flight to Jacksonville, and another two to three hours in the car. That put him at their house at a little after nine. "That’s getting kind of late, Joey."

"I know." He sighed and closed his eyes. "Do you think, I mean, can Tony stay up till I get there?"

"You’re driving from Jacksonville?" She asked.

"Yeah, unless there’s a connector flight, shit, I’ll have to check that." He waved Ben over and scribbled a note to him to see if he could check on that.

"I’ll see what I can do Joey, but he didn’t get a nap today." Alyssa looked out at Tony playing in the back yard with his little friend from across the street. He was wide awake now, but it was only 5:00pm. "You’ll be in town till tomorrow though, right?"

"Yeah, I leave from Orlando at 1."

"Well you can always see him tomorrow, I mean… if you can’t make it tonight."

"I know…" Joey sighed. "I just, I haven’t seen him in like 2 weeks, and I promised him I’d be there tonight."

"He’ll understand, he knows you're busy."

"Yeah, but I still want to be there." Joey smiled.

"I’ll try to keep him up." Alyssa smiled and turned the heat down on the stove.

"Thanks Lyss, and if I get that connector flight I’ll let you know, okay?"

"Sure." She smiled. "Be careful Joey."

"I will… I am." He smiled at her concern then hung up. Ben was on the phone checking on connecting flights, but it didn’t look good.

Joey and Ben boarded the flight fifteen minutes later and flew in first class all the way down to Jacksonville. There wasn’t a connecting flight that would get them to Orlando any faster, so they opted for the car. Ben climbed in the driver’s seat to let Joey snooze on the two and a half hour drive south. Joey pulled the stuffed pooh bear out of his bag and used it as a pillow against the window. He put his headphones on and listened to the childrens songs CD that was actually becoming one of his favorite CD’s to listen to when he was flying or driving.

"Hey Joe." Ben said as he parked along the curb in front of Alyssa’s house almost 3 hours later. "You want me to stick around?"

"Hmm?" Joey cracked his eyes open and lifted his head.

"Do you want me to stick around and take you home tonight? Or are ya just gonna crash here?"

"Nah, go on home man, I'll crash here." Joey yawned and opened the passenger side door, carrying his bag and stuffed pooh bear with him.

Joey trotted lightly up the path to the front door, holding the small stuffed bear in his hands. He stopped on the porch under the yellow glow of the old porch light and looked at the bear. Joey sighed and knocked softly on the door, then waited.

Alyssa jumped at the sound of the door and muted the TV. She flicked the light on as she padded across the carpet to unlock the front door. "Hey…" She said when she saw Joey standing there.

"Hey Lyss, sorry I’m late." Joey frowned as he stepped past her into the house.

"Tony’s already asleep." Alyssa shut the door behind Joey and followed him into the living room. "I tried to keep him up but the little guy was pooped."

"I… that’s okay." Joey sighed and stood there with the bear in his hands. "Can I just pop in and say good night? I won’t wake him up or anything."

"Yeah, you couldn’t wake him up anyway. He sleeps like the dead." She smiled and sat back on her couch to finish watching ER.

"Okay." Joey whispered, then headed down the hall. He pushed Tony’s door open slowly and stepped into the dark little room. A nightlight lit up one corner of the room with a Dolphins football helmet. Joey could hear the child breathing deeply from across the warm room.

Joey walked quietly across the room and sat on the floor beside the small bed. He rested his elbows on the edge of the bed and just stared at his sleeping son. Anthony’s hair stuck up in a mad cowlick off to the right and his mouth was closed tightly against his Blue’s Clue’s pillow. A large stuffed cucumber with an animated face was snuggled against his chest and he was half way covered with his thick comforter.

Joey placed the Pooh bear on the bed beside Tony and reached out to smooth down his hair gently. The little boy was warm to the touch, but didn’t stir at all. Joey ran his finger over Anthony’s eyebrow and his little nose. The similarities were so apparent now that he was looking for them.

He smiled slowly and rested his cheek on the sheet beside Tony’s hand, smelling the maple syrup scent that little boys seem to have lingering on their pajamas. Joey sighed and stroked the little bear with his thumb as he sang softly,

 

Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon
But I've wandered much further

Today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way
Back to the Wood

So help me if you can I've got to get
Back to the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised there's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of

Christopher Robin and Pooh

Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose
He came to me asking help and advice
And from here no one knows where he goes
So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear


So help me if you can I've got to get
Back to the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised there's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of

Christopher Robin and Pooh


It's hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, I kissed him
And as I was going
I swear that old bear whispered,
"Boy, welcome home"

Believe me if you can I've finally come
Back to the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin


� Kenny Loggins

Alyssa heard voices in the room and thought that Joey had wakened Tony and they were talking. She muted her TV again and tip toed over to the hallway where she heard Joey singing softly. She had heard the song before, many times. It was one of Tony’s favorites when he was a baby, and she knew he would be thrilled that Joe was singing it for him. Whether or not he heard it in his sleep was another story.

Joey finished the song and leaned over to kiss Tony’s forehead. He smoothed the little boys hair again, then stood up slowly, his legs aching from all the dancing he’d been doing and the three hour car ride.

Alyssa sighed from the hallway, unnoticed by Joey. This was a lot harder on Joey than she thought it would be… a lot harder on both of them.

 

 On to part six…

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn