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not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

An Association with Dolphins

by Pen

While Joey went off to tuck Briahna into bed—because even big girls needed their Daddy to come kiss them goodnight, especially when Mommy was in the hospital—Lance opened the bottle of wine he'd brought, and set out two glasses.

Joey looked a bit less gray when he came back. "Thanks for taking her today, man. Appreciate it."

"Hey, what are godfathers for?" Lance said, lightly, and filled Joey's glass.

"My parents would have, but they've been so worried about Kelly and the baby, I guess we all needed to be there to see with our own eyes that they were really okay."

"Of course you did."

"It's been, it's been such, oh, God!" Lance had been waiting for the dam to burst ever since he got here. He gathered Joey into his arms and waited out the gush of sobs. Incoherent phrases found their way out, so scared, thought I might lose them both, the doctors didn't know. Lance just hugged tighter, made comforting noises, and resigned himself to having a wet and snotty neck. It wasn't like he hadn't cried into Joey's chest a time or two, so.

Eventually, the sobbing slowed into occasional hiccups, so Lance deployed the man-size Kleenex and coaxed Joey into a watery and unconvincing grin and made him sit down and chug about half his wine at one go.

"Sorry, I'm sorry," Joey said, and blew his nose very loudly indeed. "I don't know why I lost it like that."

"Because you could," Lance said. "You've been holding it together all this time, and you needed to let things out."

Joey took a deep breath. "Yeah, I guess. Anyway. Thanks."

"Any time, Joe. Seriously. Any time."

"It's been..."

"Hellish," Lance suggested. "You did great. You kept it together for your girls, and now everything's going to be fine. I think you're entitled to get all Italian and emotional all over me."

Joey made a noise that wasn't quite a laugh but was trying to be one, and blew his nose again.

"So, you want I should heat up one of those dishes from the freezer?" Lance said, practically. By the look of him, Joey hadn't had a proper meal in days. Stale snacks in the hospital, probably. It didn't suit him. He was still a bit grayed around the edges. "It looks like your Mom prepared for a siege."

"You know, I could eat," Joey said, sounding surprised. So they went into the kitchen, and Lance made Joey sit down with the rest of the wine while he boiled water for spaghetti and nuked a vat of sauce. Phyllis's meat sauce was still Joey's comfort food, and as it was spectacularly good Lance was very happy to be eating it again.

Joey succumbed to the sniffles again for a few minutes while Lance grated some Parmesan (Kelly's influence, he was pretty sure; back when they were on a bus together the Parmesan was always from a packet) and ladled generous portions into huge white bowls, but he brightened at the first taste of his Mom's cooking.

Lance judged that Joey probably didn't need to talk it out any more. Maybe later on, he'd want to go through the dreadful months of worry in detail, but for now he was just trying to get back his balance. So Lance told him, instead, all about his and Briahna's day.

"SeaWorld was great. They took good care of us there, and Briahna loved it. I'd forgotten how different it is from the Disney parks."

"I thought she might insist on the Magic Kingdom again," Joey said. "She loves being a Princess."

"Gets plenty of practice, I'm guessing, being spoiled by her Daddy?"

Joey shrugged ruefully.

"Yeah, well, I got in some good godfather spoiling today," Lance admitted. "It's cool to have a little girl to treat, she loved everything so much. And I don't get to see enough of Leighton." He probably shouldn't have said that, he was here for Joey, not to whine about his own family. "We didn't do all the rides," he went on. "She loved the Journey to Atlantis but I think she was a bit intimidated by the big coasters."

"You're gonna want to go back, then," said Joey.

"Oh yeah. I have to try that Manta ride. And I'm guessing Briahna's going to demand you take her back there soon, too, because we didn't get to see all the shows. She totally fell in love with the dolphins in Blue Horizons. The acrobats were cool, and the birds, but she just loved the dolphins."

"She's practically a fish herself, spends so much time in the pool," Joey said with a trace of paternal pride.

"Yeah, you tell your daughter that dolphins are fish and she'll give you a lecture! I bought her a book about them, she was reading stuff to me in the car on the way home. Actually," Lance added, a shade guiltily, "we spent, uh, quite a while in the souvenir store, I think we may have bought one of everything they had. Almost."

Joey took another gulp of wine and sat back. "She deserves it. She's been such a good kid, she's been fantastic. We tried not to tell her, but she knew something was going on when Kelly had to spend so much time in the hospital, and she—she tried to take care of me..."

"Yeah, well, she's got about a ton of stuff now, so I think she's good," Lance intervened ruthlessly. Joey probably wouldn't want to dissolve again, at least not until after he ate his dinner.

"Thanks, man."

"Eh, it's not like I get the chance to spoil her that often." Lance frowned. "I'm probably going to be associated with dolphins in her mind for the rest of her life, though. Seriously, she has dolphin jewelry and a dolphin towel and a dolphin wrap and three t-shirts and a picture paperweight and I can't remember what else, oh, and I got a bunch of pictures of her petting a dolphin, I'll send you copies of everything. And she got a big, well, I guess you saw the plushie."

"Yeah, when you say big, what you meant was, as big as she is," Joey said, and that was a genuine smile now. "It takes up more'n half the bed, it's ridiculous, but she said it was really good to cuddle. And she says she's going to call it Lancefin. So I guess you are going to be permanently associated with dolphins, yeah."

Lance laughed aloud. "Awesome," he said. "See, this is why being a godfather is a good gig. Lancefin! And, hey, did she show you? She bought a little one, with her own money. For her new baby sister."



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