"Alone Together"

by AmyK

 

"So how do I know when they’re ready to flip?" JC grumbled under his breath as he furrowed his brow and concentrated on the off-white circles in front of him. "Hey buddy? You’re sure you want pancakes?" He looked over his shoulder at Kyle who was sitting at the table munching on an apple that JC had cut up for him.

"Yeah."

"Okay." JC sighed and turned back to the stove. "Well… they might not be like the ones at the hotel though."

"Kay."

"Okay." JC nodded and carefully slid the spatula under the first one. He flipped it over and cringed as it slopped over the side of the griddle. "I think they need to cook a little more."

"I cook?"

"No, I’ll cook them." JC shook his head. "You go ahead and eat your apple."

"And Emo?"

"Elmo too. You bet." JC nodded. "So hey, we’ve gotta do some shopping today. Are you up for some shopping?"

"We get toy?"

"I don’t know about toys, but we’re going to get you some more clothes I think, and a bed and a dresser and some other things to make your room look cool."

"A slide?"

"You want a slide?" JC laughed and glanced at the little boy sitting on his knees. He grabbed the pen off the counter and added ‘booster seat' to his growing list of things to get.

"Yeah."

"In your room? That’s crazy."

"Yeah." Kyle laughed and spit the apple peel out onto the plate. "We get pool?"

"Oh hey man, we have a pool outside."

"Is big?"

"It’s huge." JC nodded, then frowned. "I’ll need to have a guy come out and put a cover thing on it though."

"I see?"

"Yeah, I’ll take you out to see it." JC nodded and thought about all the child proofing he’d have to do in the next couple days. "We’re going to have to do a lot of work around here buddy. I've gotta move my office stuff out and clean up the room so we can make it all yours."

"I work?"

"Yep, both of us."

"And Joey?"

JC laughed, "Joey’s on vacation, I don’t think he’ll want to come help us around the house."

"Laaaance?"

JC shook his head, "I think it’ll just be me and you kid." JC flipped the pancakes over again and sighed, they were a little darker than usual, but at least they kept their shape.

"Daddy have juice?"

"Oh man, you know what? I don't think I have any juice." JC shook his head and set the spatula down to look in the refrigerator. "Nope, we don't have juice. We'll have to pick some up when we're out at the store."

"Cawin have juice?"

"What?"

"Caw ina phone."

"Call on the phone?" JC asked.

"Yeah and have juice." Kyle nodded.

JC laughed lightly; "There's no room service here kiddo. I can't just call someone and have them send up some juice."

"No caw?"

"Nope, there's no one to call." JC shook his head and went back to the pancakes.

"Chris?"

"Chris doesn't want to bring us juice." JC smiled and put the pancakes on the awaiting plates. "Alright buddy, are you ready to eat?"

"Yeah."

"Rad."

"Rad." Kyle nodded as JC slid the pancakes onto two plates and carried them to the table.

"Check it out, pretty cool huh?"

Kyle lifted the corner of one of the burnt ones and frowned, "Is wrong?"

"It's not wrong." JC shook his head. "They're just different. I don't really know how to cook them so this is as good as it gets."

"I eat it?"

"Yeah, you can eat it. It tastes just the same as the ones in the hotel." JC smiled and poured syrup on Kyle's pancakes then leaned over to cut them into bite sized pieces. "When we get done here we're going to call Justin and let him know we're home."

"Cawin Jussin ona phone?"

"Yep, on the phone."

"He can pay?"

"I don't know if he can come over and play. We're going to be shopping today so maybe he can come over later this week."

"Yeah lato." Kyle nodded and took a bite of his pancakes, dripping syrup down the front of his shirt.

"Are they good?"

Kyle looked up at JC with his mouth full, but didn't say anything. He swallowed then said; "We have juice."

"That bad huh?" JC laughed and dove into his own pancakes. They weren't as bad as he thought, but they were a far cry from the perfectly cooked hotel pancakes they'd grown accustomed to.

They finished their first breakfast at home and JC took the dishes to the sink. He cleaned Kyle's face with a paper towel then scooped him up in his arms and spun him around the kitchen, "This is your new home, what do you think?"

"Mine?"

"Yep, all yours."

"And you?"

"Yours and mine." JC nodded and kissed Kyle's cheek.

"I say rad."

"Rad." JC laughed, "Okay, let's call Justin and let him know we're here." JC grabbed the cordless and sat on the couch in the family room.

JC bounced Kyle on his lap as they dialed Justin's number. "Jussin ina phone?"

"Yep." JC smiled. "Do you remember what you're going to say?"

"We home." Kyle nodded.

"That's right." JC smiled as they waited for Justin to pick up the phone.

"Hello?" Justin answered with a yawn.

"Hey man, are you asleep?" JC smiled.

"I was, yeah." Justin scratched at his head, "What's up?"

"Here, I have a message for you." JC held the phone out to Kyle.

"We home!" Kyle giggled and covered his mouth. "Hi Jussin!"

JC brought the phone back to his ear; "We're officially home."

"Yay!" Justin mustered up enough energy to sound somewhat excited.

"How was your vacation?"

"It was good." Justin smiled and pulled the covers up to his chin as he sunk deeper into his bed. "What are you guys up to today?"

"We're going shopping. My mom was keeping an eye on the place so I had a little bit of food here, but I really need to hit the store."

"Sounds like fun." Justin yawned. "So hey, the gangs all here. When are you throwing a party for the little guy?"

"Chris is still in LA and Joey won't be back from Mexico until Thursday." JC shook his head, "Besides, it's gonna be a while before we're settled in here."

"Like you need to be settled." Justin rolled his eyes. "How does this weekend sound?"

"This weekend?"

"Yeah."

"That'll work." JC nodded. "I can't promise what kinda state the house will be in."

"You should know by now that no one cares what your place looks like." Justin laughed. "But hey, call me later and we can bang out the details."

"Alright man, I'll talk to you later." JC held the phone out to Kyle, "Say bye."

"Bye bye bye Jussin." Kyle giggled and covered his mouth with his hands. "I say bye bye bye."

JC laughed and said goodbye to Justin, then sighed, "Okay buddy. Let's go get some clothes on and go to the store. We've got a lot to do today."

"Kay." Kyle jumped off of JC's lap and ran down the hall to the stairs. "I go up?"

"Yep, hang on." JC put the phone back on the charger and followed Kyle up the stairs to the master bedroom where Kyle had spent the night with JC. They dug through his suitcase and came up with one of his last clean outfits then dressed him on the bed.

"Alright, now it's my turn." JC sat Kyle on his king-sized bed and flipped the TV on to "Sesame Street".

"I see Emo?"

"Yeah, I think Elmo's on this show." JC nodded and let himself into his walk in closet. "Stay right there on the bed, okay?" He shouted out to the room as he pulled his old comfortable jeans off the shelf.

JC dressed himself in a casual t-shirt and sandals then walked back out to the room, "Daddy see Emo?"

"I see that." JC nodded at the screen.

"No, sit. Daddy see." Kyle slapped his hand down on the thick comforter.

"You want me to watch it with you?"

"Yeah see." Kyle nodded and laughed. JC crawled up on the bed beside Kyle and lay on his stomach to watch the rest of the program with Kyle.

When "Sesame Street" was over, Kyle sighed and slid off the tall bed then went to the door, "Okay we shop?"

"You're ready to go now?" JC laughed and stepped into the connected bathroom.

"Yeah."

"Okay, let me brush my hair and stuff." He reached for his hairbrush and pulled it through his untamed hair, then ran the brush under the water and did it again to try to keep it under control.

"Is wet?"

"Yeah, my hair's a little wet. But that's okay." JC picked up Kyle and tossed him into the air, "Now we're ready to go." He bounced down the stairs with Kyle on his hip and grabbed the car seat from the entryway as well as his keys.

Kyle giggled as JC opened the automatic garage door and disarmed the Envoy that was waiting for them. He loaded the car seat, then Kyle into the back seat and climbed in the driver's seat. "Daddy drive?"

"Yeah, I get to drive." JC laughed and let the car idle for a few minutes to warm up. It'd been a while since he was behind the wheel of his own car and it took a minute for him to get his bearings. He mentally planned out their course of action and which stores they would have to hit before they came back home. "Groceries, Target, the pool place, Toys R Us… man, we've got a lot of work to do." JC sighed as he glanced in the rearview mirror at Kyle who was checking out the new and larger car.

"Daddy is big."

JC laughed, "Yep, it's big." He nodded and backed down his driveway to the street. "We'll be able to fit a lot of stuff in here for your room."

"Mine?"

"Yep, yours." JC nodded and headed for Target, their first stop of the day.

Father and son cruised around the store picking up little things to decorate Kyle's room with. A bright Blue's Clues decal border, a fuzzy red carpet, kid bed linens and a ceiling fan with primary colored blades.

"You like that?" JC asked as he put the fan in the overflowing cart. "I think that'll look cool on your ceiling."

"Go roun?"

"Yep, it'll go around and around." JC nodded and pulled his baseball cap lower on his head. He hadn't been recognized yet, but he couldn't stop the odd feeling he got when he was out in public alone.

They headed for the toddler clothes section next and picked up a few more summer outfits for Kyle so he'd have something to wear when JC did the laundry later that day. "Daddy! Is sink!" Kyle bounced in the cart and pointed up at a large display for Nsync party supplies in a nearby aisle.

"Oh hey look at that." JC said softly as he maneuvered the cart in the opposite direction.

"Is Jussin and Laaance."

"Yeah I see that." JC picked up the pace and ducked between the racks of baby clothes and supplies.

"Daddy can see?"

"I saw it buddy."

"Is daddy!"

"Yeah, I'm there too." JC blushed and turned the corner to where the car seats were on display. "Shhh." He held his finger to his lips to silence Kyle's tiny voice.

"I have sink?"

"No, we can't buy that." JC shook his head and imagined the looks he'd get walking to the register with Nsync party plates.

"Daddy I have."

"Nope. Here, let's get you a booster seat." JC pushed the cart toward where the high chairs and booster seats were set out. "Check these out."

"Me?"

"Yeah, let's get you one of these so you can sit at the table like a big kid." JC changed the subject and tried to get him interested in choosing between the three booster seats that were displayed. "This one is pretty cool." JC picked up the box, "How about it?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded.

"Cool."

"Yeah."

"Are we done shopping here?"

"Yeah go home?" Kyle looked up expectantly and grabbed onto the handle in front of him. "Daddy we go?"

"Not yet. We've got to go to the pool place first and have them come put a cover on the pool and I want to go to the toy store to see about a swing set type thing."

Kyle heaved a heavy sigh, "I say home?"

"No, you can't stay at home, you have to come with me." JC laughed lightly at his son.

"I say Jessi?"

"Jessica isn't here for you to stay with."

"Yeah."

"No, she's not here."

"I say Fank?"

"Frank isn't here either." JC shook his head and tried to turn the cart around in the aisle.

Kyle sighed again and looked frustrated, "Is bad."

"It's not that bad." JC smiled slowly. "We'll have fun, and when we're done with all this stuff you'll be so happy." He banged the cart against the side of the aisle and stopped, "Hey… check that out."

JC moved the cart so that it wasn't wedged in the aisle and reached up to the top shelf. "Dude, its a little kids toilet." Kyle gave it a look that said he clearly didn't now what the heck that could be used for. "See? You can go potty in here, it's small for little kids."

"No." Kyle shook his head.

"Yeah, we're gonna get this. This is pretty cool."

"For you?"

"Not for me." JC laughed and balanced it beside the fan and booster seat. "I don't need a kid toil - " He stopped as the potty training accessories caught his eye. "Get outta here." JC reached for a box of multi colored floating targets. "That's pretty gross." He flipped the box over and read the back.

"We go?"

"Just a second." JC ran his hand over Kyle's hair and continued to read. They were paper-thin floating targets that would sink when the boy's "hit" the target. They were flushable and came in a pack of 100. "We're getting these too, these look like fun."

"For potty?"

"Yeah, they're for the potty."

Kyle sighed, "Kay, go?"

"Yeah, I think we can go now." JC nodded and pushed the cart down the aisle. They stopped a few more times to pick up kid sized utensils, bowls and plates as well as a twelve pack of sippy cups and some big boy Spider Man underwear just in case.

JC paid for his purchases then loaded everything into the back seat of the Envoy beside Kyle, then headed for the Toys R Us that was across the street.

JC went a little nuts at the toy store with Kyle leading the way. They picked up a toddler sized bed, a plastic indoor slide for Kyle's room, a matching dresser and a toy chest to hold the collection of toys Kyle already had, and a few new ones he managed to sneak into the cart.

On their way toward the front of the store to pay for everything, JC noticed outdoor play sets on display against the far wall. "Dude, check that out." JC pushed the cart over as Kyle tried to turn around in his seat, "Whoa! That's awesome. That's ten times better than the rusty old aluminum one's I had when I was a kid." JC ran his hand over the weatherproof material.

"Is too big." Kyle shook his head.

"It's too big? Too big for what? This looks perfect."

"Too big ina room." Kyle frowned.

"Oh no, this wouldn't fit in your room, you're right. How about outside though? Wouldn't that be cool?"

"Have ina pool?"

"We can put it beside the pool, yeah." JC nodded, for the first time he was pleased that his backyard was so huge. He'd complained at first that it was too much to try to keep up but if he put a play set back there it'd be just right. "This is rad." JC placed his hands on his hips as he read the information card attached to the handrail.

Within a few minutes a Toys R Us employee was at his side offering to help JC decide whether or not to purchase the play set. "Do you guys deliver it?"

"Yes, well no. With these three play sets here the manufacturer actually delivers it and sets it up in your yard so that they can guarantee the work."

"Wow." JC smiled and looked it over again. There was a short staircase on the right leading up to a platform with a fireman's pole and a slide, then a wide bridge leading to another landing with a steering wheels and pretend gauges above it to look like you're driving and finally a set of two swings on the far end. "Do I pay for it here?"

"Yeah, you just take one of those tags to the register and they'll ring it up for you and contact the manufacturer to set up a delivery and set up time."

"Okay." JC nodded and tore the little tag off. "Thanks." He nodded and waved as he turned the cart around.

"Daddy we have?"

"We're going to get that one, yeah."

"Ina car?"

"No, we don't have to put it in the car.

"Kay." Kyle yawned gave JC a tired look. "We go home?"

"We've got some more errands to run." JC shook his head. "But once we get this stuff done we won't have to get anything else."

Kyle sighed and rubbed his eyes as they went to the front register to pay for their purchases. The people who would deliver the structure gave him a delivery date almost three weeks out which wasn't going to work. He smiled as he took the phone and talked to the manager himself. He explained that he was only in town for a short while and would be willing to pay the extra costs of having it delivered sooner.

Never one to believe in throwing his name around, he avoided that until the very end when he had to give his name and address for the delivery. "JC Chasez? From Nsync?" The lady asked.

"Yes." JC sighed silently.

"Oh wow, hey listen, I didn't know this was for you. I can have the guys out there this week." She giggled lightly. "I'm sorry, I don't usually get all teeny like this, I'm 28 for crying out loud."

"It's okay. Thanks for helping me out here."

"Oh my gosh, it's no problem! Wow…"

"It's a uh, secured neighborhood so the delivery guys will have to call in from the guards desk when they get here." JC added, to squelch any stalker thoughts she may have had… just in case.

"Okay, okay yeah I'll put that on the notes here." She said quickly.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome! Absolutely… I uh, it looks like they'll be able to get out there on Thursday, is that okay?"

"That's fine." JC nodded.

"I'd try to get it sooner but they've already got the trucks loaded for the jobs this week."

"No, that's okay. Thursday will be fine." JC nodded and placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder to keep him from standing up in the cart.

"Okay."

"Thanks for working this out for me, I appreciate it."

"No problem." She laughed again then they hung up and finished ringing up the other items in his cart.

By the time they got to the pool place Kyle was asleep in his car seat taking a late nap. "I'm sorry buddy." JC mumbled as he lifted the boy out of his car seat and cradled him on his shoulder. They walked into the little shop while Kyle remained sound asleep in JC's arms.

"Hi there, how can I help you?" The man behind the counter asked.

"Hi, I uh… I have a pool in my backyard and I need to get one of those kidproof covers on it." JC explained as he adjusted Kyle.

"The solid one's that you can walk on?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"Do you have a fence around the pool?" The man asked.

"No, no it's just in my yard." JC shook his head. "Do I need a fence?"

"Well… see the problem with getting one of the covers that you can walk on is that little kids his age don't understand when it's gone. So if y'all are having a pool party he might think he can just walk right across it, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah." JC frowned. "I didn't think of that. Do you think I should get a fence?"

"Well now that all depends on your budget and yard and everything like that."

"The cost isn't really an issue and the yard is big enough I think. The pool is kind of off to the side so I could put a fence almost down the middle of the grass and block off that whole side."

"That's up to you." The man nodded. "What kind of cover do you have on it right now?"

"A thermo-lite one, you know… just one of those thin ones that keeps the temperature pretty even. I mean, it wouldn't support any kind of weight or anything.

"No, no of course not." The man shook his head.

"What kind of fences are there? I mean I don't want this huge ugly thing or whatever."

"We don't sell any here, but I can give you a brochure of the company we recommend and if you want to use them you can just give them a call or whatever." The man reached behind the counter and pulled out a folded brochure.

"Great, thanks." JC nodded and carried Kyle back out to the car where they sat in the air conditioning while JC looked over the brochure. He sighed and tucked it into the bag from Target then drove back across town to their neighborhood where he stopped at the grocery store. "Okay Kyle, this is the last stop."

"Go lato?"

"No, we're going to go now. It won't take very long I promise. We can get some juice and popsicle's and whatever else you want to eat."

"Have appo?"

"Yeah, we can get more apples too." JC nodded and helped him out of his car seat. He placed Kyle in the cart and pushed him into the store with a big yawn. They cruised up and down the aisles getting snack food and stuff to make quick and easy dinners. He didn't want to take forever so he just picked up the essentials and headed for the check out.

"Excuse me, hi." A girl said as she got in line behind them. She giggled and nervously dropped her magazine and pack of gum on the conveyer belt behind JC's groceries.

"Hi." JC nodded and pushed his cart through.

"I uh… I really hate to bother you, but can I get your autograph?" She asked softly, so that others in lines nearby wouldn't hear her.

"Sure." JC smiled and looked around for something to write on or with. "I don't… I don't have a pen or anything." He patted his pockets.

"Oh, here." She dug in her purse and came up with a blank post card and a purple ballpoint pen. She handed both to him with shaking hands and couldn't stop smiling.

"Thanks." JC took the pen and post card and looked up at her, "What's your name?"

"Carly. With a uh… C."

"Great." JC scribbled a short message to her then signed his name with a flourish, "Here you go." He smiled and handed her the pen and postcard.

"Daddy have possik?" Kyle asked from the cart ahead of him.

"Hmm? Yeah we'll have a popsicle when we get home." JC nodded and pushed the cart all the way through as the checker scanned the food items on the belt.

"He's adorable." Carly said with a smile.

"Thank you." JC smiled proudly and moved to the side, "This is Kyle. Can you say hi buddy?"

"Hi." Kyle grinned to show all of his teeth then looked at JC, "See have possik?"

"Um… I don't know." JC laughed. "Are you having a popsicle when you get home?" He asked Carly who was slowly calming down.

"I… I think I might." She laughed. "Do you like popsicle's Kyle?"

"Yeah." He nodded and leaned over in his seat to try to grab them off the conveyer belt.

"No way pal, leave those there. We'll have one when we get home." JC removed his hand and scooted forward to swipe his card through the card reader. He punched in his code and waited for the receipt. "Nice to meet you." He smiled and waved as the bagger placed the last of his groceries in his cart and they headed for the exit.

"Bye." Carly smiled and blushed as the checker rang up her purchases.

Kyle crashed in the car on the way home so JC took him up to the master bedroom before he began to unload the car. He brought the groceries in first and put them away, then got the other things in and carried them up to the office that would become Kyle's new room. After a dozen trips up and down the stairs JC was ready for a nap himself, and the thought of diving into the assembly process for the bed, dresser, toy chest and everything like that, seemed daunting.

"Yeah, I think it's nap time." JC sighed and ran his hands through his hair as he went to his room and collapsed on the bed beside Kyle. It was almost four in the evening so he didn't want to sleep too long, but he couldn't keep his eyes opened once his head hit the pillow.

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

Over the next couple days JC had a crew out to put up an ornate wrought iron gate to close off the far side of the yard where the pool was. It cut the grassy area almost in half, but it would be safer for Kyle and any other kids he had over. The play area was delivered and built on Thursday, then they returned on Friday in the morning to make finishing touches. The set up crew worked alongside the fence installers as JC and Kyle transformed the office into a toddler's room. All of the action and people going in and out of the house brought back the same feeling of being on tour and Kyle eased right into the busy schedule, noise and strangers.

JC and Kyle spent most of their time moving everything that was in the office to the little extra room across the hall where JC had all of his Nsync memorabilia on display, then they put together all of his furniture. Well, JC put it together while Kyle napped on the floor in front of the closet where he'd collapsed with Lello in one arm and his new stuffed Big Bird in the other.

When JC was putting the final touches on the toddler sized bed in the corner; Kyle woke up and stumbled over to where JC was tucking in the sheets. "Daddy is my?"

"Yep, this is all yours buddy." JC nodded and looked around the room.

The plain white walls with the crown molding along the ceiling were trimmed with a brightly colored ‘Blue’s Clues’ design to compliment the Clifford throw rug and the Sesame Street toy chest. Kyle chose a car theme for his bed, so his sheets looked like a map while his pillows had car and truck designs on them. The ceiling fan JC chose fit perfectly and gave the room the perfect "kid" feel to it.

"This room kicks butt." JC stood up and smiled as he picked Kyle up. "You’ve got all your toys over there and all your clothes put away. Man… you’re set."

"You have Ciffor?"

"Nope, I don’t have a Clifford rug in my room."

"You wan?"

"No, I’m okay without it. You can keep it." JC smiled.

"I keep?"

"Yep, you can keep it."

"Kay." Kyle sighed and crossed his arms in an almost perfect imitation of JC. "Daddy we go ona bus?" He looked up at JC with a concerned look.

"On a bus? Well, not right now." JC shook his head. "We're going to stay here at home for a little bit."

"Anen we go?"

"We'll be here for a while and then we'll go."

"And a plane?"

"Yep, we're going to fly far, far away with the guys and when we get there we'll be on a bus." JC nodded.

"And Jessi?"

"Yep." JC smiled slowly, "Jessica will be there too."

"Kay." Kyle seemed satisfied with the answer. "Daddy?"

"Yeah?"

"We go on swing?"

"Sure, you want to go on the swings? Let's go." JC picked Kyle up and tossed him in the air then flipped the light off.

"You swing?"

"You bet, I'll swing with you too." JC took Kyle's hand as they walked down the stairs carefully, then Kyle took off out the backdoor and across the lawn to the new swing set in the corner. The manufacturers delivery and set up crew had put their seal of approval on it earlier that morning and Kyle had been itching to get out there and swing.

"I go here." Kyle grabbed onto the toddler swing seat.

"You bet." JC walked over and lifted him into the seat, then made sure he was secure before he pulled Kyle back and let him swing forward.

"Whoa!" Kyle laughed and kicked his feet.

"So how about we talk about using the big boy potty?" JC asked as he pushed Kyle higher and higher.

"No." Kyle shrugged and shook his head, seeming completely uninterested.

"No?"

"No, I no have."

"I know you don't have to go right now, but when you do can you tell me? Because see if you tell me then we can go to the big boy potty and try that." JC smiled.

"Kay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah." Kyle shrugged. "High daddy high!" JC smiled and pushed Kyle as high as the swing would go. The little seat Kyle was strapped into was secure but JC still kept a close eye on him. Kyle laughed and squeezed the chains as hard as he could.

JC stopped the swing and held his finger to his lips, "Shhh, what's that?" He turned his head toward the house and smiled when the doorbell chimed again. "Uh oh, someone's here!" JC lifted Kyle out of the swing and trotted into the house and to the front door.

Joey stood on the porch making a face as JC looked through the peephole and laughed; "It's Joey, should we let him in?" JC asked.

"Yeah!" Kyle bounced up and down and reached for the handle of the door to help JC pull it open.

"Hey guys!" Joey laughed and rushed into the house. "Look at you! Dude, you've grown like a foot." He bent down and picked up Kyle to toss him in the air. "How's it going?"

"Hi Joey." Kyle squealed as Joey launched him into the air again.

"Hey man, did you just get back?" JC smiled and shut the door behind him.

"Yeah, I got in late last night so I thought I'd cruise over and see the kid." Joey laughed and led the way through the house to the kitchen where he put Kyle down. "Damn, you've been busy. Look at your yard man."

"I know, we've got the pool covered and gated off and a huge play set thing."

"I see that. Do you have a slide out there?" Joey asked Kyle.

"Yeah I slide and swing."

"Wow, you're one lucky little dude." Joey smiled then looked at JC, "He's got a full on park out there, check it out."

"Yeah…" JC sighed and looked out at the swing set.

"Crazy man." Joey laughed and jumped up onto the counter. "So when's the party?"

"Tomorrow." JC watched as Kyle stepped out onto the back patio. "Justin was gonna put everything together, but I think we're all just gonna end up over here for a cook out or something." JC shrugged.

"That works for me." Joey nodded. "Will everyone be here?"

"Yep, Chris is supposed to get in today too." JC nodded. "We were just waiting on you two. Kyle's gonna flip out when he sees everyone together again. You should hear him, I swear, he keeps asking when we're going on the bus and where Frank and Les are."

"He's born to tour." Joey laughed and they followed Kyle to the swingset.

"Joey swing?"

"I'll push you, how's that?"

"Kay." Kyle nodded and grabbed onto his little seat. Joey lifted him in and made sure he was secure, then he and JC stepped behind him to push. "He's coming to Europe with us, right?"

"Yeah, where else is he gonna go?" JC smiled.

"True."

"He can't wait, he doesn’t know what to do with himself without a dozen people running around the house." JC leaned against the slide and watched Joey push Kyle.

"How about school? Maybe he should do something like that to get out you know, be around other people."

"He's only two."

"Well yeah but I mean pre-school or whatever."

"Yeah, but… I don't know."

"He can't just hang out with you all day. I mean, no offence Jace, you're cool and all. But he needs kids to play with."

"That what you fools are for." JC laughed lightly and ran his hand through his hair.

"Hey we may act like three year olds sometimes, but really… you should check out pre-schools or something. He's gonna go nuts, hell you'll both go nuts if you've gotta be around each other 24 hours a day. I know I'd come close to choking you if I only had you to play with."

"Thanks." JC rolled his eyes with a slight smirk to his lips.

"Kelly works at a daycare thing like two miles from here. Do you want me to give her a call?" Joey asked of his best friend Kelly.

"Joey…"

"I'll leave you her number, how's that?" Joey wasn't going to let this go.

"This is our time to be alone together… you know, father and son."

"Yeah I know that, and that's cool, you really need to do that without a crew of 200 looking on. I'm just saying that little kids need to be around other little kids. That's why people have more than one kid."

"Yeah what about only kids?"

"They play with cousins or neighborhood kids… or they're messed up." Joey laughed and tickled Kyle as he swung backwards. "Look at Justin. That kid's whacked in the head, why? Because he only hung out with grown ups when he was a kid."

"Justin's alright."

"His best friend is 30."

"No, his best friend is really 15… he's just trapped in a 30 year olds body." JC yawned. "Besides, when did you become an expert on kids?"

"I'm not an expert, hell no." He shook his head and cringed at the thought, "But I've got nephews and little cousins and all that. They need to be around other kids."

"Fine." JC conceded. "I'll give her a call, how's that?"

"That's fine."

"I'm not promising anything though."

"Don't be a punk." Joey rolled his eyes and stopped the swing, "Hey Kyle, you wanna go to school?"

"Kay." Kyle shrugged and lifted his arms for Joey to take him out of the swing.

"See? He wants to go." Joey laughed.

"Hey Kyle, do you want to be a fire truck?"

"Yeah!" Kyle jumped up and down.

"See? He doesn't know the difference." JC laughed and picked Kyle up. "I'll call Kelly this week and see what she has to say about it."

"Cool." Joey nodded and followed JC onto the patio.

"So, tell me about Mexico."

"Okay, then I want to hear about the whole court deal. It sounds like one of those TV movie things." Joey laughed and sat at the little table.

"Daddy I slide." Kyle shimmied down JC's legs and hopped down the two shallow steps to the grass.

"Be careful." JC said softly as Kyle took off across the grass. He turned back to Joey and smiled, "So… Mexico…?"

The two men sat at the small table and shared their stories while JC kept a cautious eye on Kyle as he climbed up the stairs and slid down over and over again. The whole time Joey was talking, JC was sitting back laughing and loving the way Joey told stories. Every facial expression and sarcastic side remark was totally Joey, and JC was amazed at how much he actually missed seeing his friends.

It had only been a few weeks since he'd seen Joey, and they'd of course gone longer between visits, but it seemed like since the last time they were in the same room, everything had changed. It had of course; JC had gone from who knows what to a full time dad in a matter of days.

Joey stayed for a while longer, then excused himself before the sun set. He had dinner plans with some other friends, but he assured Kyle that he'd be back the next day to party with the little guy. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Kay." Kyle nodded as Joey lifted him up, "And Jussin and Chris?"

"And Lance too." Joey nodded. "Everyone."

"An sink?"

Joey smiled and looked at JC quickly, "Yep, Nsync too." He laughed and ran his hand over Kyle's head as the little boy wrapped his arms around his neck and squeezed him tight for a hug. Joey blushed quickly then caught JC's eye over Kyle's shoulder. "You're the luckiest man alive," is what his look said, and JC just nodded. He knew he was.

"Bye bye Joey."

"Bye Kyle." Joey cleared his throat as he set Kyle down in the entryway.

"I see morrow."

"See ya tomorrow." Joey gave Kyle a low-5 then waved at JC as he made his way down the front walk to where his car was parked.

Kyle sighed and leaned against JC's legs, "Daas Joey."

"Yep, that's Joey." JC laughed and shut the front door, "Are you ready to take a bath?" He asked as he and Kyle headed for the stairs.

"Yeah." Kyle yawned.

"Cool." JC scooped him up and carried him up to his own little bathroom to get him ready for bed. He'd had an adventurous afternoon and the next day was going to be just as busy for both of them.

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

JC and Kyle spent Saturday morning picking up around the house. With all of the work they were doing around the house, there were plenty of things out of place. Most of JC's office was being stored in his memorabilia room upstairs, as well as partially in the guestroom downstairs; the glass top coffee table had also been moved to the guestroom as well as anything else breakable from the living room and family room.

The others were supposed to show up that evening but Justin showed up early as usual. He arrived just after three with his hands full of his mom's home cooking, "Dude, take this. My arm is gonna break."

"What is it?"

"My mom heard we were cooking out and she knew we'd only have steak and beer so she made up some stuff." Justin sighed and handed JC the bigger of the two bowls then followed him into the kitchen. "Hey Kyle, what's up buddy?"

"Sup Jussin?"

Justin laughed and turned to face Kyle, "That's cute." He looked up at JC; "Did you teach him that?"

"Ha, you're a bigger influence on his than you think."

"Scary thought." Justin laughed and cocked his head at Kyle, "So is your room done? Does it look cool?"

"Have a slide."

"Are you serious? A slide in your room?"

"Yeah, can see?"

"Heck yeah I wanna see that." Justin took Kyle's hand and smiled at JC, "A slide in his room huh?"

"Yep." JC laughed and took the steaks out of the fridge to make room for the food that Lynn had sent. He did a few little adjustments then put everything back as he checked the time; he still had a while before he needed to fire up the grill.

JC busied himself getting the kitchen cleaned up while Justin and Kyle stomped around upstairs. He could head muffled their muffled voices coming from above, Justin's deeper voice followed by Kyle's rapid child's voice. He let them play for a little while and enjoyed the few minutes alone before he went upstairs to see what they were up to.

When JC pushed open Kyle's door, Justin was on his knees by the bed zooming a little matchbox car over the sheets printed to look like roads, "These are the coolest sheets, I need to get some like this."

"You have?" Kyle asked from the floor as he loaded his other matchbox cars into the back of his large dump truck.

"Yeah, that's be cool." Justin made car noises and ran the car up onto the pillows and squealed the tires. JC laughed lightly from the doorway, Justin was always a master at sounds and he thought about putting his newly discovered car sounds onto the new album.

"Hey, can you do that on beat?" JC asked.

"Do what?" Justin turned around quickly and accidentally kicked Kyle's dump truck.

"Hey!" Kyle frowned.

"Sorry buddy."

"Car sounds." JC nodded at the bright red mustang in Justin's hand.

"Ahh, uh… no."

"Jussin I can swing." Kyle stood up and pushed his truck over to the corner.

"You've got swings?"

"Dude, we've got everything." JC nodded, "Come on, let's go show Justin."

The three boys went downstairs and out to the swing set where Justin stood stunned, "Damn, this is better than anything I had as a kid. For reals, I wanna come play over here every day."

"You can pay?" Kyle looked up hopefully. "Come pay morrow and morrow?"

"Well no, I can't come every day." Justin said quickly. "But this is pretty cool." He put his hands in his pockets and circled the structure, "Dude, there's a fireman's pole and everything."

"We pay?" Kyle ran up the little steps to the little platform then jumped up and down. He couldn't get enough of his new play area and being outside was one of his favorite things.

"You bet." Justin pulled himself up onto the platform and stood up, standing well above the railing. "Is this strong enough to hold me?" Justin asked Kyle.

"Yeah, daddy go up." Kyle nodded.

"Well dang, if it'll hold your dad it'll hold me." Justin rolled his eyes.

"Watch it." JC laughed and shook his finger.

"And Joey go up."

"Joey went up here?" Justin laughed.

"It's built for adults too, relax." JC squinted up at Justin as Kyle bounded across the little bridge. JC jumped up and caught the top bar holding the swings and did a pull up just to show off, then swung his legs up onto the platform and pulled himself up beside Justin. "See?"

"Sweet." Justin nodded and followed Kyle across the bridge.

Joey showed up a little while later and joined them outside, but instead of chasing Kyle around he took charge of the bar-b-que and started the briquettes at the bottom of the grill. When they were heated to perfection he let JC put his marinated steaks on it then checked the time, "What time are the losers showing up?" Joey asked.

"Any minute now." JC nodded, it was after four so technically Lance and Chris weren't late yet.

Just as he spoke the doorbell chimed and echoed through the house, "I get!" Kyle screeched as he left the grown ups in the backyard. He peeled through the house to the front door and hung on the handle. "Daddy I open!"

"Just a second." JC laughed and trotted to the door to help him open it.

"Hey guys!" Chris laughed as he swept into the room.

"Hi!" Kyle launched himself against Chris' legs and tried to climb him.

"Hey little dude, waaaaaaaaaasup?!" Chris laughed and lifted Kyle into the air. "Dang you've grown a foot since I saw you!"

"Have feet?" Kyle looked down at his sneakers.

"Cute." Chris dropped Kyle onto his hip and turned to JC, "Hey man, how's it going?"

"Good." JC laughed.

"How stoked are you man? Look at your house. It's like kid central in here. Ten bucks says you've got a Barney rug in here or something."

"Clifford."

"What?"

"A Clifford rug." JC smiled. "Big red dog, floppy ears?"

"You're scaring me." Chris laughed as they walked through the house to the backyard. "Holy shit! Look at that!"

"Isa swing." Kyle grinned.

"Yeah, and then some. Right on, you wanna show me how that works?" Chris asked as he put Kyle down.

"Yeah." Kyle sprinted across the lawn to the play area with Chris only a step behind him.

"You should just have Chris come over like twice a week, hand out Pixi-stix and let them chase each other around for a few hours." Justin laughed.

"No kidding." JC rolled his eyes and nodded at Joey who was tending the grill. "How's it looking over there Joe?"

"Pretty good. I don't know why you put me in charge of cooking though; I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I can start the grill and all that, but once you put food on it, forget it."

"When they look cooked, poke them with that thing and see how done they are." JC pointed to the meat tester hanging off the side of the grill.

"If you know how to do it then how come you're not over here? I'm standing here getting smoke in my face every three seconds."

"Leave the cover down then." JC shrugged.

Joey dropped the cover into place then sat at the little table with Justin and JC, "You got anything to drink inside?"

"Of course."

"Alrighty then, what'll you have?" Joey jumped up and headed for the door. He took their drink orders then went inside. As he was headed for the backdoor with a drink in each hand the doorbell rang. "I'll get it." He mumbled under his breath as he set the drinks down.

"You're back." Lance smiled when Joey pulled the door open. "How was Mexico?"

"It was sweet, you need to go."

"Maybe next time." Lance nodded.

"Where's Amy?"

"She's out with some friends. I thought this was a guy thing?" Lance shrugged out of his jacket and dropped it on the nearest chair along with his wallet and keys.

"Kinda." Joey laughed and slapped Lance on the back.

"Are there other girls here?"

"Nope."

"Then it's a guy thing." Lance laughed.

"Yeah I guess." Joey nodded toward the back of the house; "We're all out back cooking up some steaks."

"Right on." They walked out to the back and Lance helped Joey carry the drinks out. "Hey guys." He nodded around the table and slapped their hands as they offered them, "Where's the munchkin?"

"He's playing with Chris." Justin laughed and looked toward the play area.

"Damn Jace!"

"He's trying to out do Michael Jackson. Next week he's having a Zoo set up over in the corner." Joey lifted the cover on the bar-b-que and poked at the steaks on the grill. "These look done to you?" He asked to no one in particular.

"Yeah." Justin said without looking.

"Stick them with the tester thing." JC sighed.

Joey grabbed the meat tester and jabbed it into the first steak, "It says medium, almost medium rare." He frowned at the device in his hand, "It can tell?"

"Yep." JC stood up and fetched a plate from the kitchen. "Those are done."

Joey loaded them onto the main plate and reached for more to put on the grill, "Come and get it." He shouted to Chris and Kyle as they chased each other around the slide.

"Hey Lance, can you help me out in here?" JC nodded back inside. "I've got some macaroni salad and stuff."

"You made it?" Lance raised his eyebrow at JC, wondering just how domesticated JC had become over the last week.

"No, Justin's mom did. He brought it with him along with some fruity looking stuff."

"Man, I love her. I need good home mom cooking more often. You think she'd let me move in with her?"

"I'm sure she would." JC laughed and opened the refrigerator. "Problem is you'd have to live there. Curfews and stuff like that."

"Yeah." Lance squished his nose and reached for the bowl of fruit salad. He eyed the concoction and sighed, "But it'd almost be worth it." He laughed and carried it out to the patio for the others.

"Damn, there's like, real food here." Chris bounced Kyle on his lap as he sat back from the table. "If you've got an apple pie back there somewhere, I'm leaving."

"No, no pie." JC shook his head. "I've got popsicle's though."

"I have possik?" Kyle perked up and looked at his father.

"After you eat." JC nodded.

"Dad mode, ON." Justin made a motion like he was turning a key then laughed. He helped himself to the food on the table and the others did the same.

The guys sat around and filled each other in on what they'd been up to for the last couple weeks. Joey and Justin shared separate vacation stories, then JC re-hashed the court drama for those who weren't there. Kyle got bored halfway through and went back to the play set with his tickle-me-Elmo doll and Lello.

"He's still carrying that dog around huh?" Justin asked.

"Dude, that's Lello. Back off." Chris shook his steak knife at Justin.

"Didn't you ever have a favorite blanket or dog or whatever when you were a kid?" Lance laughed and wiped his mouth.

"No." Justin shook his head as Joey looked over at JC with a raised eyebrow.

"See? He's not normal."

"What?" Justin asked innocently.

"Nothing." JC shook his head and ran his finger through the steak sauce on his plate then licked his finger thoughtfully. "Joey likes to think he has a point sometimes."

"Ha." Joey scoffed and shook his head. "Did you call her?"

"No, I'm going to call on Monday." JC said.

"Her? Call who?" Chris asked.

"Kelly." JC and Joey said in unison.

"Kelly?"

"To see about putting Kyle in pre-school." JC explained.

"Ahh." Chris nodded. "Cool, he'd have fun."

"See?" Joey sighed.

"Whatever." JC shook his head and smiled, he knew that going to pre-school would benefit Kyle, that wasn't the issue. He just wasn't sure if he was ready to let Kyle go just yet. His lifestyle had to be taken into consideration and JC wasn't sure if he was ready to let Kyle out of his sight for any length of time, he was still getting used to not having a security guard around him 24 hours a day.

"Daddy! See!" Kyle laughed from behind the swings. He knelt by the support post and reached for the tuft of grass.

"What is it buddy?" JC asked.

"Isa bug, daddy see." Kyle looked up and said, "And Chris see."

"Ahh I see who his favorite is." Justin laughed and stood up to walk inside as Chris and JC headed over to find out what Kyle found so exciting.

Justin walked down the hall and into the bathroom, but when he lifted the lid he stopped. Floating in the water were four red targets in varying sizes. "Hey Jace! What are –" He stopped shouting and tilted his head. "Hrmm." He thought for a second then shrugged and went for it.

When Justin walked out a minute later he had a big smile on his face, "What are you grinning about?" Joey looked at his watch and said, "Less than a minute? That’s pathetic Just."

"200 points." Justin said smugly as gave them a wide, cocky grin.

"What?" Lance asked as he walked in from the back yard.

"I got 200 points." Justin smirked.

"In what?" Lance gave him a look.

"In the bathroom."

"I don’t even want to know." Joey laughed and covered his ears.

"Come on, I’ll show you." Justin nodded toward the bathroom.

"Hell no, I don’t wanna see that." Lance shook his head.

"No it’s cool." Justin laughed and trotted down the hall. "Come on man, you’ve gotta see it. It’s clean."

"Don’t do it Lance! Stay away from the bathroom!" Joey laughed.

"Justin, I swear if I go in there and you've left a turd I'm going to choke you."

"It's just piss."

"I don't want to see it Justin." Lance stopped in the hall outside the bathroom.

"Oh just get in here." Justin reached out the door and pulled Lance into the bathroom. "Check it out." He laughed and pointed into the toilet where the targets were sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

"What is it?!" Joey shouted from the family room.

"What is it?" Lance looked at Justin.

"Targets."

"What the hell for?" Lance's face puckered with a look of disgust.

"I don't know, but dude I got 200 points." Justin laughed and reached for the handle.

"Well wait." Lance put his hand on Justin's arm. "How many points were possible?"

"250, I couldn't get the last one down. It sunk after I was done so it doesn't count."

"You've made rules?"

Justin shrugged and depressed the lever to flush the targets away, "There's a box." He nodded at the little shelf above the toilet and smiled.

"Yeah?" Lance pulled it down and turned the box over to see if there were any directions. "What are these for?"

"Beats me. To be honest I don't wanna know." Justin shook his head and took a few targets from the box and dropped them in the water. "Give it a shot big guy." He slapped Lance on the back as the targets floated in the water.

"This ain't a spectator sport man." Lance looked over his shoulder as he reached for the top button of his jeans.

"Don't cheat." Justin shook his finger at Lance as he backed out of the small bathroom and shut the door.

"I'm not gonna cheat." Lance mumbled under his breath, then sighed and took aim.

He walked out of the bathroom a minute later laughing, "225 out of 275."

"Jesus, not you too." Joey rolled his eyes and stood up. "What's going on in there?"

"Check it out." Lance laughed as he and Justin went back down the hall.

"Did you flush?" Justin asked as he pushed the door open.

"You guys are sick." Joey laughed, but followed them anyway.

"No, I needed proof."

"What in the hell is that?" Joey practically shouted as he looked in the toilet.

Justin laughed and explained the new game and scoring to Joey then flushed and offered Joey the box of targets, "Think you can top that?"

"Shit yeah." Joey dropped 225 points worth of targets into the water and shooed Lance and Justin out of the room.

They went out to the kitchen and got themselves a couple drinks, "So you think you can just buy those things somewhere?" Justin asked.

"I doubt he special ordered them." Lance laughed and dropped a few pieces of ice into his glass then went to the back door.

"Hey." Joey shook his head as he came out of the bathroom, "They're jinxed man, that last one wouldn't go down at all."

"What'd you get?" Justin laughed.

"175." Joey placed his hands on his hips, "I want a rematch."

"You need a stronger stream." Lance laughed and sat on the couch.

"Shut it." Joey thwapped the back of Lance's head that was visible above the back of the couch, then walked out the backdoor, "Hey Jace… what's the deal with the things in the toilet?" He asked as he walked over to where JC was starting to clean up the lunch mess.

"Things?" JC looked confused as he picked up several empty cans from the picnic table. "What things?"

"In the bathroom." Joey laughed.

"In the toilet." Justin added with an evil grin.

"Oh! The targets?" JC blushed and laughed quickly, "Yeah those are supposed to help Kyle want to use the big kids potty but it's uh… well it's not working. He's not too interested in getting points for peeing." He headed for the door then stopped. "Why?"

"200." Justin raised is hand.

"175." Joey raised his.

"225." Lance added from inside.

"You guys need help. Seriously." JC shook his head.

"Wait, hang on. What was your score?" Justin raised his eyebrow and gave JC a knowing look.

JC was silent for a minute as a blush spread from his neck to his ears, "200." He mumbled as he passed Justin.

Justin, Lance and Joey erupted in laughter as JC slid the screen door shut behind him; "I knew it! Those aren't for Kyle you sick-o." Joey shouted after him.

"Hang on, where's Chris?" Justin stood up and scanned the backyard. "Chris!" He shouted, spotting Chris at the top of the slide.

"Yeah?"

"You need to come in and go to the bathroom." Justin waved him into the house.

Chris stood perfectly still with a confused look on his face, "I don't hafta go Just."

"Yeah, come on inside."

"You realize that I'm not three, right?" Chris didn't move.

"I three." Kyle tugged on Chris' pant leg as he shuffled by him on the little bridge.

"You're not three yet tough guy."

"Yeah, I three." Kyle sighed.

"I know you're not three, but you need to come try this." Justin laughed and waved him inside again. "Bring Kyle in too."

"We've gotta go inside kid." Chris reached for Kyle's hand. "Come on."

"We go ina slide?"

"You bet." Chris followed Kyle to the slide and sat down, then lifted Kyle onto his lap and slid down the short incline. They walked into the house where Kyle took off running toward the couch where JC was sitting. "What's up? What's the deal with the bathroom?"

"Target practice, come on." Justin nudged Chris toward the bathroom.

"What the hell do you mean? My aim is fine thanks." Chris frowned.

"We need your score." Lance laughed as he collapsed onto the couch with Kyle's bright green ball in his hands.

"Jace?" Chris cast a questioning look toward JC who was busy tickling Kyle.

"Just do it." Justin rolled his eyes and took Chris to the bathroom. He quickly explained the 'rules' of the game and laughed at Chris' disgusted look.

"You can't be serious."

"You said it yourself, you've got good aim. So let's just see." Justin patted his shoulder, then dropped 250 points worth of targets into the still water of the toilet. "Happy shootin."

"Yeah, thanks." Chris smirked as Justin shut the door behind him

Within minutes the bathroom door opened and Chris stomped down the hall, "250." He looped his thumbs through his belt loops and grinned. "Damn I'm good." He strutted through the kitchen and into the family room where the others were waiting.

"Chris is the pee target master!" Justin jumped over the back of the couch and raised Chris' arm over his head "Rocky" style.

JC laughed and bounced Kyle on his lap as the little boy giggled and covered his mouth. It was after seven and he knew Kyle must be getting tired, but as long as the guys were there, he'd force himself to stay awake.

Which was fine with JC…

As much as he enjoyed the time off, he missed the four other guys, and he knew they all felt the same way. Being crammed on a bus or van was work, kicking back in his living room was play, and he liked this. JC sighed lightly but held his smile as he skimmed the room, he never wanted any of this to change… not a single thing.

 

Next...

 

Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn