"Mommy!" Tony screeched from the bedroom doorway. Alyssa jerked awake and sat up quickly as the room spun around in her head.

"Oh… baby shhh." Alyssa held her head and brushed her hair out of her eyes.

"Mommy!" Tony tried again, this time in a whisper. "Santa left presents!"

"He did huh?" Alyssa smiled and squinted into the light coming from the hallway. She looked over Joeys sleeping mass and cringed. Five thirty was way too early to be functioning.

"And I got a bike with a real helmet!" Tony crawled up onto the bed and tugged at Alyssa’s hand. "Come on mommy I’ll show you! There are lots of presents!"

"Okay, just a second sweetie." Alyssa rubbed her eyes and stretched, then smiled. "Hey, why don’t you wake your daddy up so he doesn’t miss anything." Evil. She was pure evil. "I’ll go make some coffee." Alyssa quickly kissed the top of his head and stood up.

Tony stood up on the bed and jumped up and down, "Daddy! Santa came in my house last night! And there’s presents!" He plopped down on Joeys shapeless figure and bounced lightly.

Alyssa laughed as she heard Joey groan and mumble, "Dude, watch out for the nuts."

"Uncle Jason can’t have nuts, he’s lergic."

"Great. Wonderful." Joey grumbled as Tony bounced off of him and crawled to the head of the bed.

Tony laughed and pulled the blanket away from Joey’s face and said, "Santa came, you have to come see!"

"What time is it?" Joey yawned.

Tony looked at the clock and shrugged, he didn’t know how to tell time so he just said, "It’s about breakfast time so get up."

"Is it still dark outside?" Joey asked.

"I don’t know." Tony shrugged again. "Come and see what Santa got." He grabbed Joey’s hand and shook his whole arm.

"Go look out the window and tell me if it’s dark." Joey buried his face in his pillow and pulled the blanket back up to his shoulders.

Anthony jumped off the bed and padded around the bed to the window on the other side of the room. He pulled the curtain to the side and pressed his nose to the glass, "It’s kinda… it’s not all the way dark because I can see outside but it’s kinda a little dark and the lights are on by the cars."

"Oh man." Joey groaned and closed his eyes tight.

Tony shut the curtains again and ran around to Joey’s side of the bed. He leaned down so that his face was only an inch or two from Joey’s and said, "Joey, I think you have to go see what Santa bringed."

"I’ve got coffee." Alyssa said from the doorway as the smell of coffee filled the room.

"Did you see my bike?" Tony ran over to Alyssa and pulled her hand. "Daddy isn’t going to come and see cuz it’s dark outside still."

"Come on Joey, its Christmas."

"Yeah. I’m up." Joey mumbled as he pulled himself into a sitting position.

"He’s four." Alyssa said as a means of explanation.

"I know… I know." Joey ran his hand over his head, trying to tame his hair. He quickly pulled his jeans and sweater back on, then followed Alyssa out to the living room. "Wow Tone, check it out." He tried to sound enthusiastic as Tony pulled the helmet off the handlebars and tried to place it on his head.

"And cars!" Tony laughed and sat on the floor near his pile of gifts.

"That’s so cool. I love cars. Let’s see what you’ve got here." Joey sat on the floor beside Tony and yawned. He pulled the big case of matchbox cars onto his lap and carefully opened it.

"There are a hundred lots of presents mommy." Tony looked up at her with his helmet in place.

"I see that. Are they all for me?" She asked with a surprised look. She warmed her hands around her mug of coffee and sat on the couch behind Joey and Tony as they continued to play.

"No, they’re all for all of us and even some for daddy." Tony laughed and shook his head.

"Wow, that’s pretty cool. Why don’t we make some breakfast, then open some of these presents?" Alyssa yawned and shivered.

"I have an idea." Tony said as he jumped up and ran over to the other side of the tree, "Let’s open them all now and then eat breakfast."

"Let’s get something warm in our stomachs first." Alyssa gave Tony the "mom" look, then laughed at the sight of him in his helmet.

"Can’t we just open a couple?" Joey asked as he bounced his knees up and down and looked at the brightly lit tree.

"Why don’t you guys open up presents and I’ll slave away in the kitchen and make breakfast?" Alyssa raised an eyebrow at the two "kids" in the living room.

Tony and Joey looked at each other for a second before they both shrugged and said, "Okay."

"Nice." Alyssa laughed and shook her head, then disappeared into the kitchen.

"Hey kid, we should go help, huh?" Joey asked as Tony grabbed a small present off the pile under the tree.

"I don’t know how to cook." He said as he handed the gift to Joey.

"Yeah… well maybe we can make toast or something."

"I want to open presents." Tony pouted.

"Yeah, me too. But let’s go do that first, so your mom will be happy." Joey pushed himself up off the floor and reached down for Tony. He scooped the child up and tossed him in the air, "And then we can open presents all day long!"

"Yeah!" Tony screeched with delight as Joey sent him back on the floor. Tony ran into the kitchen and pulled the step stool over to the counter where Alyssa was breaking eggs into a bowl.

"Aww you’re such a good kid, are you going to help?"

"Yeah, and then so we can open presents." Tony pushed the sleeves of his Pokemon pajamas up to his elbows and reached for the big wooden spoon.

"Cool." Alyssa smiled and tossed the eggshell into the trash. "Mix those up for me, and I’ll make some bacon, how does that sound?"

"I like bacon." Tony said as he slowly "stirred" the eggs.

"What do you want me to do?" Joey asked. He reached into the cupboard over Tony’s head and grabbed a mug for coffee.

"I don’t know, do you guys want toast?"

"With peanut butter?" Tony asked.

"If you want." Alyssa nodded and shut the refrigerator. "You wanna do that?"

"Sure." Joey nodded and the three of them stood in the small kitchen making breakfast. Joey moved Tony to his side of the counter when Alyssa started making the bacon, to keep his tiny hands away from the stove.

When they were done, they took their coffee out to the living room and sat on the floor in front of the tree. "Okay, let’s open some presents!" Alyssa smiled, her and Joey were both a little more awake after the coffee and breakfast.

"Yay!" Tony cheered and bounced around the tree. "Me first?"

"Do you think there are any under there for you?" Joey asked.

"Yes." Tony reached for the nearest present and handed it to Joey, "Is this one for me?"

Joey looked at the tag and said, "Nope, that’s for me." He set it beside him as Tony pulled another out from under the tree.

"This one?"

"Nope, that’s for your mommy." Joey smiled, and handed the present to Alyssa.

"This one is for me." Tony beamed as he picked up a small rectangular gift.

"Let’s see?" Joey reached for the gift, "Nope, that one is for Sam."

"Who’s Sam?" Anthony frowned at the present, then set it beside Joey.

"I don’t know." Joey laughed and watched as Tony searched for one of his own presents. Alyssa laughed to herself and watched as Anthony presented Joey with two more brightly wrapped gifts.

"How come none of them are for me?" Tony began to pout.

"I’ll be that one is." Joey pointed to one that he had brought with him. It was poking out the top of the bag close to the door.

"That one? It’s for me?"

"Well go get it, let’s see." Joey smiled and leaned back against the couch. Tony carried the heavy box and put it at Joey’s feet.

"Is this one mine?"

"Yeah, I think so." Joey bent over and read the tag. "Yep, it says ‘to Tony’, that’s you, right?"

"Yeah!" Tony laughed and plopped himself on the floor beside the gift. He tore into the wrapping and threw it to the side. "Oh mommy look!" He held up the box with wrapping paper still stuck to it, "It’s a dog!" He showed Alyssa the box with a picture of a remote control dog with a "leash" cord.

"A dog? Right on." Alyssa smiled and looked at Joey, "A dog?"

"Well I figured you’d freak if I got him a real one." Joey laughed as Tony sat down to tear the box open.

After a few minutes he sighed and handed the box to Joey, "I can’t get it out."

"I’ll get it going for you so you can open up some more." Joey took the box and untwisted the twist-ties that held the silver dog to its base while Tony started in on the other gifts.

They sat on the floor surrounded by discarded wrapping paper and empty boxes as Tony unwrapped toy after toy and a half dozen outfits. Joey and Alyssa opened their gifts also and after an hour Tony collapsed in a heap on the couch. "There’s so much stuff!" He sighed.

Joey laughed and started wadding up the wrapping paper to make it easier to throw away. "Sort of, anti-climactic, huh?" Alyssa laughed.

"Yeah, I don’t remember it being this tiring when I was a kid." Joey yawned.

"You’re an old man now." Alyssa copied his yawn and smiled. "Okay Tone, what do you say?"

"Thanks for all the presents!" He said, trying to sound enthusiastic through his tiredness. Tony climbed off the couch and squeezed Alyssa’s neck, "Thanks mommy."

"You’re welcome angel, and thank you so much for the sweater, it’s so pretty!"

"Welcome." Tony smiled then flopped into Joeys lap. He wrapped his arms around Joey’s middle and said, "Thanks daddy."

"You’re welcome, I’m glad you liked everything."

"I love everything and my dog!" Tony laughed and reached for the little remote control for the dog. He pressed a couple buttons and the dog sat and barked at the three of them.

"That’s such a cool little dog." Alyssa smiled at Joey as she pulled herself off the floor. "But it makes noise."

"Hey… it’s staying here." Joey laughed and followed Alyssa to the kitchen. He placed the breakfast dishes in the sink and leaned back against the counter as she re-filled her coffee cup. "So you guys are coming out on the 30th, right? To New York?"

"Yeah." Alyssa nodded and stirred sugar into her coffee. "We’ll be there for New Years, and we leave on the 1st in the afternoon."

"Cool." Joey smiled. He reached out as she walked by and pulled her to him, "So you’ll come with me to our New Years party?"

"Sure, if Tony can come." She smiled sweetly.

"I think I can talk my parents into watching him, if you wouldn’t mind."

"We’ll see."

"They’d love to, Lyss. That way we can celebrate the New Year together."

Alyssa paused and looked at the floor, "Do um, you told the guys about Tony, right?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded, "And the security and management teams, because they need to know."

"Okay."

"What? What’s wrong?" He tilted her chin up to face him.

"I don’t know, I can just picture Tony calling you daddy or something in front of everyone, and I know you don’t want that."

"Lyss, it’s not that I don’t want that…" He thought about how to word this right, "It’s just… this isn’t about me Lyss. I don’t want you guys exposed to everything that would come with making that public, you know? For me, not much would change." He shrugged, "But you’d be in the spotlight, you and Tony and I don’t want that. I know you don’t either."

"No, I don’t." She shook her head.

"Maybe we can explain to Tony that when you guys come out and see me he has to call me Joey. Make it a big secret or something."

"I don’t want to confuse him."

"He’s a smart kid, I think he’ll get it." Joey smiled and kissed her quickly. "Speaking of the smart kid…" Joey leaned around the corner and peeked into the living room. "He’s crashed, check him out."

Alyssa leaned in front of Joey and laughed, "Ahh, he’s in heaven." Anthony was sound asleep in the middle of his pile of toys, with his arm wrapped around the mechanical dog Joey bought for him.

"So can we go take a nap now too?" Joey asked hopefully.

"You can go take a nap if you want." She nodded.

"You aren’t tired?"

"I’ll sleep well tonight." She smiled. "What time do you have to leave?"

"Not till later. I’m flying into Chicago and I think my flight leaves around 7. The van is picking me up at my house at 5."

"At your house?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded and stifled a yawn.

"Go ahead and take a nap, I’ll clean up in here."

"I can help." Joey reached for the dishwasher door and pulled it open. He stood beside Alyssa as she rinsed the dishes and he stuck them in the washer. When they were done Joey smiled and sighed contentedly. "I don’t know what I was so afraid of…" He said mumbled softly as he leaned against the doorframe on the way to the living room.

"Hmm?" Alyssa looked up as she pulled her hair out of the scrunchie. She hiked up the waist of her flannel pajama bottoms and smiled, "What?"

"Nothing." Joey smiled and shook his head. "I uh… I love you Lyss."

"I love you too Joe." She smiled, almost confused.

"I really mean it." Joey said as he looked at his bare feet.

"Well I… I really mean it too Joey. Are you okay?" She walked over to where he stood and took his hand.

"Yeah… yeah I’m okay." He smiled and looked her in the eye. He had no doubt that right here was where he was supposed to be. Staring into the amazing green eyes of the half asleep, wild haired, coffee smelling woman in pink and blue plaid pajama bottoms, a "got milk" t-shirt, and not even a hint of make up covering the freckles across her nose.

He squeezed her hand then kissed her before tucking her hair behind her ear, "Okay, how about that nap?"

"How about a movie?" Alyssa laughed softly and pulled him toward the living room. She slid a movie into the VCR as Joey flopped down in the corner of the couch. Alyssa snuggled up next to him and smiled as "While you were sleeping" started.

"Oh come on, this is a chick flick." Joey complained as he rolled his eyes.

"You’re going to nap anyways, so shut up." Alyssa laughed and lay her head on his chest.

"True." Joey smiled and let his eyes drift shut. He wrapped his arms around Alyssa and let her warm him from head to toe.

The boys napped for a few hours in the morning, then they spent the afternoon playing with and putting away all of Tony’s new clothes and toys from the morning and the night before. He was getting spoiled rotten, and he loved it.

Joey ordered a pizza to eat before he had to leave, and they ate it on the floor in the living room while Joey helped Tony set up his new Hot Wheels racetrack. "Hey Tony, you know when you come out and see me in a couple days?"

"Yeah, we get to fly to see you at your show." Tony smiled.

"That’s right, to New York." Joey smiled and snapped part of the track together. "Well you get to come see me at my work kind of, and there are going to be a lot of people around." Tony just nodded and spun the wheels on his little car. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Yeah." Tony looked up at Joey cautiously. Alyssa was in the shower, letting Joey and Tony have some time alone.

"Okay good, this is a big one though."

"Okay." Tony dropped the car and scooted closer to Joey.

"When you come to see me you have to call me Joey. We can’t tell anyone that I’m your daddy, it’s got to be a secret, okay?"

"You are Joey."

"Yeah, but you can’t call me daddy."

"But you’re still my daddy?"

"Yeah buddy. I’m still your daddy." Joey pulled Tony onto his lap and reached for another section of the track. "I’ll always be your daddy, but it’s a secret from other people. I’m going to tell them later, but it’s going to be a surprise… so we can’t say anything when you come, okay?"

"But when there’s no body there you can be my daddy?"

"I’m still going to be your daddy, Tone. But can you just call me Joey when you’re in New York?"

"Yeah, I can call you Joey. That’s your name." Tony laughed as if to say, "You idiot!"

"I know." Joey laughed, "But only for New York, okay? Anywhere else you can call me daddy. Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah." Tony nodded and crawled out of Joey’s lap. "I’m going to be a surprise for everyone when you tell them that you’re my daddy. But not till later so now you’re just my Joey."

"Right." Joey laughed lightly. "You’re a smart little kid."

"I know." Tony smirked and handed Joey the loop that went with the track, "Can we put this in now?"

"You bet." Joey took the loop and popped it into place on the track. "This is gonna be cool."

"Yeah, and now we can race."

"Okay, but I get to be the red car." Joey said.

Tony sighed and rolled his eyes, "Red like your hair, I know."

Alyssa piled Joey and Tony into her car to take Joey back to his house for the van to pick him up that evening. They pulled up at the same time as the van, and Alyssa parked on the curb. "Okay, I’ll see you guys in a couple days." Joey said as he pulled his duffel bag out of the backseat. He leaned over and muffled Tony’s hair then leaned between the seats to kiss Alyssa quickly, "You have your tickets and everything, right?"

"Yeah." Alyssa laughed lightly.

"Cool, fly safe. Tone, don’t forget the secret."

"I won’t." Tony smiled from his booster seat in the back and waved as Joey slammed the door shut. They watched him run up the driveway to the full van, then followed the van back to the freeway to go home.

"What’s the secret?" Alyssa asked.

"Joey is going to surprise everyone and say he’s my daddy but not until later so when we go to see him at his show I can only call him my Joey and not my daddy."

"Ooooh." Alyssa smiled and glanced back in the rear view mirror at the little boy. "You think you can keep that a secret?"

"Yeah." Tony said. "Because his name is Joey and that’s what I’ll call him."

"Good plan kiddo." Alyssa laughed and asked, "Did you have a good Christmas?"

"Yeah. We got lot’s of good presents, huh mommy?"

"Yep."

"And we got to have daddy there too."

"Yep. That’s really special."

"Yeah." Tony sighed and looked out the window. "I like Joey."

"Me too." She said softly.

"I know you do mommy. That’s why he’s my daddy." Tony laughed and reached for the action figure on the seat beside him. For Tony it was just that simple – Joey was his daddy because they liked him. The innocence of his comment kept her smiling the whole way home.

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

"Mommy my ear hurts." Tony complained as they descended into New York five days later.

"I know sweetie, it’s because we’re in the airplane, it makes your ears pop kind of. Pretend like your yawning, that’ll help."

"It doesn’t mommy." Tony whined and opened his mouth wide to yawn.

"Do you want some gum?" She reached into her backpack and pulled out a pack of rainbow gum. He nodded with a big smile as she handed him an extra large piece of grape gum.

Tony stuck it in his mouth and chewed loudly as the grape scent traveled around their seats. "It still hurts mommy."

"Okay, well it’ll be better when we get off the plane, sometimes it just takes a couple minutes." She explained as they began their landing. "It’s going to be really bumpy for a second when we land."

"I know." Tony said as he tried to look out the window. "There are lots of stores there mommy!"

"Yeah, look at all those buildings. They’re huge."

"Which one is ours?"

"I don’t know." Alyssa said. "We’re staying in a big hotel though."

"Maybe it’s that one." Tony pointed out the window at the New York cityscape.

"Maybe." Alyssa smiled and sat back in her seat as the plane touched down and taxied to their gate.

When the plane stopped Tony unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up in his seat, "Do we get to go off the plane first?"

"Nope, we’re going to have to wait like everyone else." Alyssa sighed and unbuckled her belt. She brought the backpack onto the seat beside her and loaded up the little toys Anthony had been playing with on the plane, as well as his snack wrappers and his sweatshirt. "Okay kiddo." She strapped the backpack on and picked Tony up onto her hip. She struggled her way down the aisle and up the walkway into the airport.

"Is my Joey going to be here?" Tony asked as he wiggled to be set free.

Alyssa sighed and set him on the floor so he could walk, but kept a firm hold on his hand. "Um… no. Probably not." Alyssa looked out over the sea of faces looking for… she didn’t know who she was looking for. Joey had left out the little detail of getting to the hotel.

"Why? I want to see my Joey. Mommy we’re s’posed to see Joey when we get off the plane." He whined.

"We’re going to see him here in New York, not right when we get off the plane." Alyssa explained, pulling Tony out of the flow of traffic to stand off to the side.

"I have to go potty." Tony started to do the pee pee dance beside her.

"Okay." She sighed and glanced around at the people standing around.

"Mommy I have to go now."

"I know." Alyssa spotted the bathroom off to the right and pulled Tony toward the ladies room.

"Alyssa Carnes?" A man in a suit asked as they walked by.

"Excuse me?" Alyssa asked.

"Mommy he said your name." Tony said quietly at her side.

"My name is Jack, I was sent here to pick you up and take you and your son to Madison Square Garden." He explained.

"Oh. Um, okay. We have to make a little pit stop first." Alyssa smiled and glanced down at Tony who was shifting uncomfortably.

"Certainly. I’ll just wait right here. Do you have luggage?" He asked.

"Yeah, we have one bag." She nodded. "We’ll only be a minute." She tugged Tony’s hand and went to the ladies room.

"No Mommy, that’s for girls."

"Honey you have to go in with me."

"I can go by myself." He pouted.

"Tony, you’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m going to let you go into a bathroom, in the airport, in New York… by yourself." Alyssa stopped and stared down at the little boy.

"But my ear hurts." He stuck out his bottom lip.

"I’m sorry babe, come on." She pulled him into the ladies room and let him go to the bathroom. She helped him wash his hands after and noticed that he was still frowning. "Does it feel like there’s water in your ear? Like you can’t hear?" She asked.

"No." Tony shook his head and they walked out to meet Jack.

"Thanks for waiting." Alyssa smiled and took Tony’s hand as the three of them headed down tot he baggage claim area. Jack grabbed their little bag and carried it out to the awaiting limo at the curb.

"Mommy look at our car!" Tony gasped as Jack put the bag in the trunk.

"A limo, wow." Alyssa smiled and watched as Tony climbed into the backseat. She slid in beside Tony and shut the door.

"They have a TV and some ice." Tony laughed and touched the buttons on the front of the TV.

"I see that. We don’t need to watch TV though, look at all the buildings, Tone." She pointed out the window as the driver shut the trunk and climbed in the front seat. "Are we going right to the arena?" Alyssa asked.

"Yes."

"Um, do I have to carry my bags around then?"

"No, I’ll be taking them to the hotel to have them sent to your room." Jack smiled in the rearview mirror and pulled away from the curb.

"This is exciting, huh kiddo?"

"Yeah." Tony fell into the seat beside Alyssa and she strapped his seat belt over his lap. They didn’t bring his seat with them, so that would have to do.

They stared in awe at the tall skyscrapers on the way to the arena, then at the massive crowd of girls crowded around outside in the parking lot.

"Whoa mommy! Look at those people!"

"Yeah, there are a lot of people here tonight, Tony. You need to stay right next to me, okay?"

"Okay." He nodded slowly as his eyes opened wider. "They’re going to see my Joey on the stage??"

"Yep." Alyssa laughed and waited as Jack parked the car at the side entrance, and came around to open their door. "Thanks." She smiled as they stepped out of the limo. Alyssa took the laminated badges out of the backpack and dropped hers around her neck then tucked Tony’s into her back pocket. He’d only lose it. Alyssa threw the backpack over her shoulder and took Tony’s hand as they started toward the entrance.

About halfway to the door, Ben appeared at her side and took her backpack, "Sorry, I was supposed to meet the limo, but you’re early." He smiled. "Hey Tony, what’s up kid?"

"Nothin'." Tony smiled up at the tall man and waved.

"Right on." Ben smiled and held the side door open for them. "The guys are doing their meet and greet right now, they’ll be done in a couple minutes, if you want to sit in on that."

"Oh, um, sure." Alyssa nodded. "I’m not sure where Joey wanted us."

"Eh, doesn’t matter. He’ll find you guys. I’ll take you to the meet and greet and you can see them for a little there. Then they have to get dressed for the show and everything."

"Okay." Alyssa followed him through the backstage area, through mazes of halls and past countless security guards. They stopped in front of a pair of huge double doors and Ben pushed them open slowly.

"Whoa, it looks like they finished up early." Ben said as he looked at his watch. The room was filled with a few dozen fans and reporters, but the boys were nowhere to be seen. "Wait here, I’ll see if I can find out where they’ve disappeared to." Ben said quickly.

"Um, okay." Alyssa smiled down at Tony who immediately turned shy. Ben took off down the hall and left the two outsiders standing alone in the hall. They stood in silence watching the stage crew walk back and forth with mic stands and what looked like hundreds of feet of cables.

"Tony! Hey buddy!" Justin shouted as he trotted down the hall to where Tony stood shyly holding Alyssa’s hand.

Tony flinched and held Alyssa’s hand tighter as he tried to hide behind her leg, "It’s Justin, baby. You remember Justin."

"Justin?" Tony asked softly as Justin knelt in front of him. Justin ran his hands through his hair and pushed up the sleeves of his black patchwork concert jacket.

"Yeah, hey how’s it going buddy? Are you gonna check out the show tonight?"

"Uh huh." Tony said shyly. "What’s… why do you have that on?" He asked.

"What? These silly clothes?" Tony nodded and continued to stare at Justin. "They make us wear these like a costume. It’s like Halloween kind of."

"For you to play on the stage?"

"Yeah, in fact I have a whole bunch of costumes I have to dress up in for the show. Wanna come see them? I have one, and the pants light up! How cool is that?"

"That’s cool." Tony smiled.

Justin stood up and smiled at Alyssa, "Hey, how’s it going?"

"Good, are you guys about ready?" She asked as they followed Justin down the hall.

"Yeah, just about. The openers go on in about… I dunno like a fifteen minutes or so." Justin laughed and pushed the dressing room door open. "Hey guys! Look who’s here!"

"Tony!" Chris shouted as he jumped over the back of the couch to greet them. Tony cowered behind Alyssa and chewed on his fingernail.

"He’s a little shy." Alyssa smiled and smoothed down his hair. "This is all so overwhelming."

"Yeah, I bet." Justin laughed and squatted in front of Tony again, "Do you remember Chris?"

"Yeah." Tony whispered.

"And Lance and JC?"

"They’re your friends." Tony nodded.

"Yep, they’re my friends. Chris came trick-or-treating with us, remember?"

"With Taylor?"

"Yep, Taylor’s his little sister." Justin smiled. "See, you know everyone here." He stood up and put his hands on his hips.

"Do they have pants with lights too?" Tony asked softly.

JC laughed from his corner, "We all have pants with lights." He pulled some off his rack and flipped the little switch on the waist to turn them on.

"Check it out!" Justin laughed as JC brought the pants over.

"Look at those pants, those are crazy." Alyssa smiled.

"Yeah." Tony laughed shyly and reached out to touch the lights. "And you can wear those on the stage?"

"Yep, we have to wear those on the stage. See, they turn all the lights off so it’s dark, and then we put on these pants and dance so all you see are the lights." JC explained as Justin disappeared into a back room to get his shoes. He came back and sat on the couch to work a knot out of the laces.

"It’s dark?" Anthony frowned and looked up at Alyssa.

"A little bit, but not for very long." She smiled. "I’m going to be holding you though, so you’ll be cool."

"Okay." Tony said slowly. "Where’s my Joey?"

"Joey is getting you a little surprise." Chris smiled and sat on the couch to tie his shoes.

"A surprise?" Tony smiled and shook his mom’s hand. "I get a present?"

"Wow, I guess so." She laughed.

"There’s my big guy." Joey said as he rushed in the door. "Check it out!" He tossed a t-shirt at Anthony and he caught it expertly.

Tony let go of Alyssa’s hand long enough to unfold the bright red t-shirt, "It’s the Bulls!" Tony’s face lit up as he showed his mom the shirt.

"Cool!" She knelt in front of him and held it up to his chest, "It’s a little big, but it’ll fit. Do you want to put it on?"

"Yeah!" He smiled and reached out his arms for her to slide it on.

"Wait, look what it’s got on it." Joey smiled and reached for the shirt. "Michael Jordan signed the back, you know who Jordan is?"

"Yeah, he’s cool." Tony said softly.

"Jordan signed that?!" Justin jumped up and snatched the tiny shirt out of Joey’s hands.

"Hey." Joey frowned and grabbed it back.

"Wait, come on, let me see." Justin whined, and pulled it back. "When did you have him sign this?"

"When we were in Chicago like 2 days ago." Joey explained. "You were there too you know."

"Well yeah but I didn’t get an autograph." Justin mumbled.

"You didn’t ask." Chris pointed out.

"Yeah, how retarded would that look? Oh my God it’s Michael Jordan!! Can you sign my shirt, my arm, my underwear! Anything!" Justin shook his head. "No way."

"I just said I knew a little boy who would love his autograph, no problem." Joey smiled.

"Maybe I should try that next time we’re in Chicago. Just tell him hey I know this 20 year old kid who would love your autograph, can you just sign my shirt and I’ll give it to him." Justin laughed. He looked down at Tony and handed him his shirt back, "You’re one lucky little dude."

"Yeah it’s a Jordan shirt." Tony smiled and reached up so Alyssa could pull the shirt over his head.

"It’s a signed Jordan shirt." Justin explained. "Don’t let him lose that." He said to Alyssa.

"I won’t." She smiled and gave Joey a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thanks."

"Anytime." Joey laughed. "Are you guys ready for the show?"

"Yeah, you look great." She smiled.

"Don’t be fooled, this is after an hour of prettying up." Joey laughed as someone knocked on the door.

"Guys, you’ve got 10 minutes." A girl said before she shut the door again.

"I thought the show didn’t start till 8."

"We have pre-show stuff we have to do." JC explained as he and Lance headed for the door.

"Why don’t you go on out front and get your seats, then after the show you can just come on back and we can all ride to the hotel together." Joey said as Alyssa picked Tony up and rested him on her hip.

"Okay, you ready to go sit out with all those girls?" Alyssa asked.

"Yeah." Tony laughed and asked, "Do I – can I go on the stage with you?"

"Um… I dunno big guy." Joey glanced at Alyssa who just shrugged. "I’ll see what I can do, but I’ll wave at you, okay?"

"Okay, and then I can maybe go play with you up there?" Tony asked.

"I’ll see what I can do." Joey leaned in and kissed the top of Tony’s head then kissed Alyssa quickly. "Have fun, don’t lose your badge." He flicked the plastic laminated badge around her neck.

"I won’t." She smiled and dropped it down the front of her shirt.

"See you in a little bit." Joey smiled and jogged after Justin as he left. "Oh hey, do you know how to get out to your seat?"

"Um… no." Alyssa shook her head.

"Just go down this hall here, to the end. Either Ben or John will be waiting there, just let them know you need to go to your seats and they’ll take you there."

"Okay." Alyssa nodded. She and Tony waved as Joey left, then she grabbed her purse and followed Joey’s directions to get to their seats.

 

 

Next….

 

Copyright � 2000, Amy Lynn