by Chris J

Request: Nick/Joey. Something relating to their birthdays.

"It's not really an exclusive club anymore," says Joey, pushing the tinted-dark door open with his ass. "Not that it was ever exclusive in the, you know, pretentious way--"

"I get it, I get it." Nick chuckles as Joey almost trips over the carpet on the other side. The room is nearly as dark as the door, at least until his eyes adjust. He pushes his glasses up his nose and follows Joey past the largely empty tables. "And you were chosen to, what, induct me?"

"No, not chosen," says Joey, heading straight for a booth near the back, but he doesnít explain any further than that. Maybe he thinks he doesnít need to, but Nick is more clueless than that. "Just Timberlake left now, and in another year weíll all have passed the age of no return."

"What would you have done if I had plans?" Nick asks him, prodding for more. "I might not've been free tonight, you know. It is my birthday."

"You were free," says Joey with certainty, a secretive little smile on his face. Nick was, yes, but only because itís a Thursday, and heís having his bash on Saturday. "Hey, if I can be free, you can be free."

"Why *are* you free?" Nick asks, because he knows that Joey has as many friends as Nick does, and a family on top of that, and so no shortage of people to spend his birthday with.

"Because I wanted to be," says Joey. He runs his finger over the flame of the candle, just far enough away that it doesnít burn. Nick used to do that when he was younger, but heís thirty now and heís lived a whole life since those days. "I got your new album. Briahna adores it."

"She does, does she?" says Nick, finally just giving in and smiling. "You let her listen to that stuff?"

"Her mother gave it to her," Joey says, spreading his hands helplessly. "And her stepdaddy approves, so who am I to argue? I just told her she had good taste, and to please not repeat those words in front of company."

Nick laughs, and wonders why he imagined it being be more awkward than this when Joey called him up out of the blue and asked him to dinner. But then, itís been a long time since the last time they saw each other, and Nick doesnít let himself expect too much. Heís been burned before, by people and by circumstances, and heís too old to do anything without his eyes wide open.

Joey, though, Joey was always good to him, and Nick is glad to see him again. Gladder than he expected to be, but it looks like Joey is glad, too, and thatís something.

"Can I buy you a drink?" Joey asks him, and Nick maybe lets himself expect a little, in spite of himself.

For LJ Ficlet Request Meme, for kennedy. January 13, 2004

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