05: lament, computer virus, eternity, pencil sharpener

by Chris J

Joey looked in the mirror and ran his fingers over the greying hair at his temples. He wasn't used to it yet. Oh sure, it had been there for a few years now, but Josh had finally convinced him to stop dyeing it. Said it made him looked distinguished, whatever the hell that meant.

"You read to go?" Josh's voice floated up to him from the bottom of the stairs. Joey straightened his tie and ran his hands over his hair one last time. He was already beginning to lament his choice of attire, groaning aloud as the noose felt like it was cutting off his respiration, but it was too late to change now. They were already running late, and didn't want to make a bad impression.

"Coming," he called, making it down the stairs only moments after his words. He grinned and straightened JC's glasses affectionately, planting a kiss on the tip of his nose. "Let's go see what Kenny's done this time."

It was the third conference they'd had with Kenny's fifth-grade teacher since the school year had started only two months ago. The first one had been because of a computer virus their son had released into the school's network--the one that managed to set off the fire alarm every half hour for most of a day before they got it purged. The second? A long series of strategically placed tacks. Joey'd heard they were still finding them, from time to time. And now this, the third. Kenny was a good kid, he really was, but he'd certainly always been a handful.

They made the drive in comfortable silence. It was nice, sometimes, just driving with the two of them in the car. It was quiet. They could probably do it for hours, some days, and hardly notice the time pass. Five minutes with Kenny in the car felt like an eternity.

"How long do we have before we need to pick Kenny up from Chris' place?" asked JC as they pulled into the school parking lot.

"An hour," said Joey, looking at his watch. "Less if Dani comes home and sees what they did to her kitchen floor." Joey shook his head and grinned in spite of himself. "I don't know how they're gonna get that stuff out..."

"Then we'd better make this quick. Better hope he didn't blow anything up..." JC dropped the keys into his pocket as they walked side by side into the empty hallways.

"Nah," said Joey. "If he'd blown anything up, we'd have been called to see the principal, not just his teacher. Trust me. I know these things." He waggled his eyebrows dramatically and JC laughed.

"Don't ever change," he said, grinning at his lover.

"Haven't yet," said Joey. "And I've had more than enough time." They stopped at a doorway marked B228 and Joey knocked quietly. The door fell open slightly when he knocked, and he pushed it further.

"Hello, gentlemen," came a weary voice. "I'll be right with you." Mrs. Ford gave them a tight smile and walked towards them. Towards the door. "I just have a few quick things to take care of. Please, sit down..." The moment the cleared the doorway she stepped out into the hall; they could hear her heels clicking faster and faster as she scurried down the corridor to take care of her errands.

Josh cleared his throat. "Guess we weren't late after all," he said, sitting down at one of the miniature desks.

Joey grinned wryly and shook his head. "It's great that you can sit down," he said, eyeing the desks. "I don't think I'm going to even try and fit." Instead, he leaned against the wall and started idly toying with the handle of the pencil sharpened, batting it back and forth the way he had twenty-odd years ago, when he had still been in school.

They were quiet for a moment, then Josh sighed loudly. "What are we gonna do about him, Joe? This is getting out of hand."

"I know," he admitted. "I dunno what to do, though. I don't know what's wrong. He says the kids tease him sometimes, about having former popstar dads, but..."

"How does Justin do it?" asked JC. "I mean, he's got seven, and we're struggling with just the one."

Joey walked over and set his hands on his lover's shoulders, then began rubbing his neck gently. "I'm sure it's just a rough patch he's going through right now. We'll sit down. We'll talk to him. It'll all work out."

"Did you ever think things would be like this? When we ended NSync? I mean, did you even once imagine we'd be right here, right now?"

Joey smiled. "You've asked me that before," he said, "and the answer is still no. I never imagined it then. But now...I can't imagine my life being any other way." He could feel the muscles in JC's neck loosening as they talked. It helped, to talk about it sometimes. Yeah, sure, Kenny had never been an easy child, but they both loved him more than life itself.

"You're right," he admitted. "We'll get through this. We always have before."

Joey kissed the top of his head and moved away, so they could face one another again. "We'll order in tonight. Pizza. And then we'll have a family talk, okay?"

"Okay," he said. "That sounds perfect." He reached out and took Joey's hand, holding it as tenderly as he had when they'd first started dating. They'd been through a lot of rough spots over the years, but they always managed to get through them. Together.

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