[ two weeks later...]

As they left the hotel room Joey carefully balanced his cell phone on his ear as he pulled his backpack on. He moved his sweatshirt out of the way then reached up to push his sunglasses back on his face as well as to push his hat down before he grabbed the phone. He'd dialed the number as they were rushing out, Mike bugging him because he hadn't been packed on time that morning, and wasn't sure that he'd get to talk long, but he knew he had to call. He handed over his key to the bodyguard with him knowing that he'd give it to Melinda so that they could skip the trip to the front desk to check out. He sighed as he reached down and grabbed up his gym bag full of clothes.

"Ya there?" he asked squinting and trying to hear her. He didn't know why his eyes squinted when he tried to listen, but it seemed to work.

"Let me have you talk to Brianna real quick. She wants to tell you about Nikita the devil dog," Kelly's voice said, "I'll talk to you after the show more babes. I'll call ya when we're back in the bus and I'll sing you to sleep."

"Ok," she said her voice softening from her business type tone that she was using to make sure that Joey talked to Brianna that day.

A moment later after hearing Kelly encourage Brianna to listen to the phone Joey spoke into the receiver. "Hey jelly bean."

"DIDI!" he heard squeaked into his ear causing him to wince with pain from his daughter's high-pitched voice.

"Are you being a good girl?" he asked smiling as Mike heard him talking. He was being escorted through the hallway to the elevator so that they could head over to the venue for a meet and greet and the show.

He'd woken up only a half hour before, enough time to shower and pack and now that there was a lot going on he needed something calm in his life for a moment. He let Mike lead him as he took a moment to call home. They had an understanding that the bodyguards with basically drag them along so that they could concentrate on calls. It wasn't the best way to operate, but it was usually the only time that they got to make calls.

This week he hadn't had a chance to call. The night before the show had ended late and he'd gone straight to bed when his throat had started to hurt so he wanted to make sure that he talked to them even he didn't get to sit down as he did it. He knew that Kelly would never complain about not hearing from him, but Brianna still didn't understand sometimes why he was away so long.

"I good," she said with a happy voice. He imagined her sitting in the living room with Kelly, probably with Barbie at her side and a Barney tape or something on television. Kelly usually put her hair up in pigtails or a ponytail and he could just picture her little hair bouncing around her head as she spoke to him, using the same expressions at least that Kelly said came from his side of the family. "But no Kita. Kita bawking," Brianna said, "Is like dis--" She growled and Joey smiled.

"That's funny jelly bean," he said and looked at Mike who was now standing next to him in the glass elevator looking down at the lobby below them. Joey looked over and saw why he was staring. There were about fifty people waving at them, waiting for them to get out in the lobby. "I have to go work honey. Go play with Nikita and put mommy on the phone."

"Ok Didi."

He could hear her set the phone down and a moment later Kelly picked up the phone. "Hello?" She sounded worried that he'd hung up without saying goodbye. "You still there?" She laughed, "Thank God she isn't turning into a phone hog. Can you imagine her at sixteen? Our phone bills are going to be so low if she keeps this track record up."

"Yeah babes," he said watching Mike's face as he radioed to the others their position in the hotel so that they could get through the lobby safely and quickly. "I gotta run. It's gonna get loud here in a minute, but I'll call you back in a few hours ok?"

He couldn't see her, but he could tell she was having one of those days. Just the sound of her voice told him volumes of how she was feeling and the mood of the day. It had been a long day for her. It was in the way that she sighed that gave that one away. "We're going over to my parents for dinner so if you don't get me at home call the cell ok?"

"Sure babes," he said turning to see that they were almost down to the first floor. Just before the doors opened and the screaming began he took a breath. "I gotta run, but I'll talk to you later. Tell Donovan and Mary that I said hi and next time I'm in town I'll swing by for lunch or something with the kids."

Her voice seemed urgent for a moment as if she thought that he'd hang up on her. "Love you."

"I love you too Kelly," he said, "I'll talk to you later."

When he hung up the phone Mike stared at him for a moment. "Leave it alone Mike," he joked, "I'm in love and right now I don't think I tell her that enough as it is."

"I didn't say a word."


Hours later Joey was not only physically but also emotionally exhausted. As shows went he'd had a good one. His energy had been high, probably not due to the gross meal of pasta that he'd had backstage. It had been the fans and the idea that he was one show closer to going home that really kicked him into high gear. Only yards off stage, he collapsed into the bed in the back of the bus.

"You ok back there boss?" Ron, his driver, called back towards him turning to look at him from the driver's seat. The man barely said two words to him on the road due to most of his time being spent concentrating on the road, so when he asked it meant that Joey looked even more tired than he was.

"Yeah!" he called lifting his head to look down the long corridor as a few other crew members and bodyguards hopped onto his bus with him. His bus was decked out so that he had a master bedroom in the back and there with six other bunks for crew people or family. Most of the time it was just him, Steve, and two bodyguards on it, but that night they were doubling the amount of people so that they could meet up with other buses later that night since the next city was only three hours away. It was strange to him that he couldn't remember the name of the city. Usually someone had to remind him or Kelly would tell him where he was.

He normally would have just shut his eyes, but when he saw Melinda climb aboard and push her way back to the back he knew something was up. She never came onto the guy's buses unless she had something important to talk to him about so he pushed himself up from where he was lying and waved, "Give me a minute to change and we'll talk."

She nodded and slid into a seat in the front of bus and he heard her start up a conversation with Mike and Todd.

Joey pulled the door to the back room closed, shutting himself off for a while before he grabbed up a pair of boxers from his drawer. He looked around and made sure that the drapes were closed then slid out of his clothes and dried the sweat off him before he changed into something other than his show pants. Tonight it was green sweats and a T-shirt that would be presentable enough to be seen going into the next hotel in, but comfortable enough so he could lounge around in for the next few hours.

"Ok Melly," Joey said coming out from the back. He went and grabbed up a bottle of water from the refrigerator then looked at Mike, "You got my phone?"

Mike handed over Joey's bag which contained his phone and wallet and leaned back, "Anything else your majesty?"

"Fuck off," Joey said in a joking tone falling easily into their nightly ritual. He unscrewed the top of the bottle and threw it in Mike's direction before he lifted it to his lips to drink. There would have been more raunchy guy talk, but Melinda was sitting there and he thought he'd better save it considering the look on her face.

Holding onto the phone that was attached to her belt, Melinda stood and stretched. She yawned a little and pointed towards the back of the bus. Despite being in casual attire of jeans and a sweatshirt, she was in business mode. The scowl on her face told him that much. "Can we talk in the back?"

He pulled the open bottle from his lips and looked at her with a serious expression. "Sure," he said wondering what she'd need to talk to him about that would be that important. He didn't like her expression. It was one of those pissed off expressions that he used with only fans.

Normally she was really relaxed and funny, something that people didn't see a lot. She was the best with JC, but even with him she joked around, but he could see that this wasn't going to be one of those times.

Holding his phone in his hand and the bottled water in the other hand Joey threw his backpack over his shoulder then made his way back to his room. He threw the bag in the corner next to a pile of dirty clothes then flopped down on his back onto the top of the blue comforter and moved to put his phone down. He set his water in a place it wouldn't fall over before he pulled a pillow over to lean against. "What's going on Melly?"


"Whoa whoa whoa," he said, "I didn't even know that you knew my full name let alone use it. Just tell me what's wrong right now."

"You're a daddy," she said.

A smiled formed on his face as he thought of Brianna for a moment. "Yes. I know that. Tell me something I didn't know."

"No," she said. She reached in her pocket and pulled out a picture from her back pocket and handed it to him. "His name is Colton Fatone and he's yours."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he asked finding it hard not to notice how much the four or five year old kid in the picture looked like him. He'd seen a million of his own baby pictures over the years and the kid looked almost exactly like him. His mother had always said that his sons would look like him since he'd been a little concerned when Brianna had gotten Kelly's curly hair, but now her prediction was coming true.

"He's yours Joey." Melinda held up a hand to stop him from talking. He'd seen her do it a million times with reporters when she wanted to continue her train of thought. This time though there was something serious in her face, something he hadn't seen in a while. "His mother Yvonne called WEG about six months ago and was trying to contact you about him."

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked dropping the picture onto the bed. He pushed it away from him and wanted to turn it over so he didn't have to look at the little boy's face looking back up at him.

"Joey. He's yours. We did background checks and asked the security crew to verify it and he's yours." She sighed. "We didn't tell you about it at first because we thought that she was lying and when it came time to tell you about it you were dealing with your leg being messed up so we let it go."

"So what?" he asked and winced as he said the next part. "What does this mean? I mean what does this--this woman Yvonne--this liar--his mother want?" He put his hands to his head and thought for a moment about what his mother and father would say. They loved Kelly and Brianna and weren't celebrating that he wasn't married, but weren't partying over it either. They'd known her for so long that she was already family so they'd let it slip when they'd said that they were going to wait to be married. This was something totally different. Yvonne had been a one-night stand that he barely remembered and this wasn't going to go over well with them or with Kelly.

"She doesn't want anything Joe," she said, "She's dead. He's an orphan now if you don't take him."

His stomach churned. He was going to have to explain how he'd been unfaithful. It wasn't something that he wanted to admit, but he wasn't going to be able to get out of it. She was going to be upset, to say the least. He'd been mostly faithful to her for the last six years, but this slip up was going to ruin everything that he'd worked so hard to have with her. He'd had to reassure her over and over that he was going to marry her, but he wanted to do it right, and now it was going to be back at square one.

"Why now?"

[ two mornings later... ]

When the bed shook a little Kelly jumped awake. For a moment she thought that her dream had just startled her awake, but as she looked around she knew that it hadn't been her dream. When she looked she found that her book had dropped onto the floor. She leaned and picked it up and when she reached to put it on the table next to the bed she noticed the lump in the bed next to her. Thinking that she might have not remembered him coming home she carefully leaned and saw that he was still wearing his clothes and wasn't asleep at all. He was awake and staring at the wall on the far side of the bed from her.

"Joe? Joe what are you doing home? I thought you had a show tonight?" She leaned over so that she could see his face in the dim morning light and got worried when he didn't move. "Joe, what's wrong?"

He rolled over and looked at her with tired eyes. She had seen him tired before, but there was something different in his expression this time. He not only looked upset, but he looked physically ill. She'd known him long enough to know that this wasn't some simple cold. He was seriously sick. His face looked a little green and the sloppy clothes that he wore spoke volumes about how he was feeling. "I got off for the next two days because I'm coming down with the flu, but I had to come home to talk to you anyway."

"Awe," she said and brushed a hand over his forehead and leaned to kiss him the way that she did with Brianna when she wasn't feeling well, "I'll make some breakfast for you in a while and maybe some soup for lunch. You should talk a shower and take a nap."

"I have to talk to you first," he said with a pained expression.

She tipped her head and tried to read his expression, but couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with him. "About what baby?"

There was a long pause as he looked over his face. Tears formed in his eyes and he closed them, causing tears to run down his face. "I have some news to tell you." His voice shook and he spoke slowly. "You're gonna hate me when I tell you, but I needed to tell you this to your face."

Just from the look of him she knew this was something huge if he was getting this emotional. The only time she'd seen him this upset was when he'd been late getting to the hospital when Brianna was born. He'd promised her he'd be there and he'd broken his promise. It wasn't really that big of a deal because he got there only an hour after she was born, but the expression he had then and now made Joey look like he'd just lost his best friend.

"I'm sorry," he breathed out.

She knew from his previous statement that she wasn't going to like what he had to say, but she almost didn't want him to say it if it was causing him so much pain. "Joe tell me."

"I cheated on you." He said in one breath.

That definitely wasn't something that she'd expected to hear. After all they'd been through she had thought that she'd never hear those words come out of his mouth. "What?" Her breath rushed from her lungs, blood rushed from her body and she felt dizzy. A hundred times over she heard her mother's warnings about him being too big of a flirt and that one day he'd cheat on her. "You did what? When?"

Joey pushed himself up so that he was sitting against the pillows on the bed. "It was years ago," he explained, taking a moment to wipe his face before he continued. "Right when we were getting together...or at least I assume that."

"ASSUME? Assume what?" she asked trying to keep her voice down knowing that Brianna was a fairly light sleeper and she didn't want her to wake up when they were in the middle of a fight. "Why are you telling me about something that happened five years ago?"

He covered his eyes. "I have a son Kelly." He opened his eyes and made eye contact with her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture and showed it to her. "His name is Colton and he's four and a half and he's coming to live with us."

"What bitch did this?" Kelly demanded not looking at the picture. She pushed it back at him not wanting to see if the kid really could be his or not. "I think you need a DNA check."

"Kelly. It's been done...Believe me. It's been done." He sighed, "His mother died last week Kelly. I'm all that he has."

"I don't care Joey," she spat at him. Her next move was to push her body from the bed. In her heart of hearts she did care about the little boy losing his mother, but at the moment she was consumed with the thoughts of Joey cheating on her and not telling her for years.

Joey sat up. "Where are you going?"

"I don't know," she said feeling very out of it all of a sudden. She went to the closet and grabbed her robe. She stormed out of the room and went to check on Brianna.

Her daughter was still asleep. She felt like grabbing her and running, but there wasn't anywhere that she could go to get away from him. Maybe to her parents house, but he would find her and bring her home. Home. The word made her sick now. Seeing Joey come out into the hall she left Brianna bed and made her way down the steps to the first floor, now with Joey following her.

"Kelly. Kelly wait!" He called out to her. She could hear his heavy feet on the steps behind her and got a little scared. She and he had never really fought. They'd disagreed on things, but never had run away from each other the way she was running now. "Where are you going?"

"Joe." She turned around and stared at him. She noticed her robe was coming undone so she tied up the belt and spoke to him without her eyes on him. "I'm going to leave this house in a minute and go to my mother's." With the tie tied she looked at him straight in the eye and tried to show anger in her expression instead of the hurt that was slowly consuming her. "I need some time to take this in so please tell Brianna that I'll be home this afternoon."

He nodded and looked shocked as hell with what was going on. "I love you."

Her mouth opened to reply to him, but again her mother's voice filled her head saying her warning about him being a flirt. "I can't do this right now Joey."

"Please don't leave Kelly," he said, "We need to talk about this."

"No Joe." She took a breath, "We've talked enough about this. You should go upstairs, wake your daughter up and tell her about her brother and about how her father can't keep his penis in his pants!"

"Where is this coming from?" he asked. He glared at her and anger washed over his face. "You've been thinking all along that I was lying to you about this stuff."

"What?" she asked.

"You don't think that I haven't heard your mother talking about how much of a player I am and that I'd cheat on you."

Kelly tired to calm down, but she couldn't. Tears filled her eyes and she screamed at him now. "You did cheat on me!"

"You know what I'm talking about," he said, "I told you a million times that I wasn't cheating on you, but you still have been listening to your mother."

"At the moment Joe I'm glad that I did!"

She moved out of the house to the garage grabbing her keys as she went. She opened the garage door and pulled out and headed across town, while trying to see through her tears. In a moment her whole world had fallen apart. She couldn't remember feeling this upset about anything in her life and the moments in the last few months when she'd had to tell herself about Joey only flirting because he had to came rushing back to her. She wondered if he ever was telling the truth about any of it.


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