Kyle and Jessica spent the day at a nearby mall getting his hair cut and picking up two new pairs of shoes for their trip.  They also went into Old Navy to get him a few more outfits and mix-n-matchable pieces to keep him in clean clothes that fit for the whole eight weeks.  "Mimi hasa Jaxo and Lessi."  Kyle said as they exited Old Navy with several bags.

            "I know she does, we saw them last time I was here."  Jessica smiled and held his hand in her free hand.  "Do you get to play with them a lot?"

            "At work I pay."  Kyle nodded.  "Daddy's work."

            "Oh, you played with them at your daddy's work huh?  That's pretty cool."

            "And we sim."

            "You went swimming too?  Wow, it sounds like you had a lot of fun at work."

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed.  "Daddy works."

            "I know.  Your daddy has a lot of work to do, doesn't he?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle started lagging so Jessica picked him up and juggled him and the bags all the way out to the car.  "I big Jessi."

            "You sure are, you're almost too big to be carried."  She grunted as she set him on the ground by the backdoor so she could put the bags in.  "Uh oh, you know what we forgot?"  She looked down at Kyle.

            "What?"

            "We forgot to get you some more star stickers."  She raised her eyebrows in surprise.  "Should we go back and get some?"

            "Yeah!"  Kyle found an extra ounce of energy and jumped up and down in excitement.

            "Okay!"  Jessica laughed and locked the bags in the car, then lifted Kyle again to head back into the arts and crafts store just inside the mall.  They stood at the wall of stickers and stared for a good five minutes.  "There are so many…"  Jessica said softly.

            "I have one?"

            "We're going to have to get more than one."  She smiled.

            "One all?"

            "You want one of each?"  Jessica laughed and shook her head, skimming the wall again, “I don't think so.  Let's see if we can find some cool star stickers and we'll get those, how does that sound?"

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded and reached for the first set of stickers within his grasp.  "I have?"

            "Nope, those are fish."

            "Yeah, I have a fiss."

            "I thought you wanted stars when you go potty?"

            "I have a star and a fiss?"

            "Well, I guess you could, sure.  Let me tear those off."  She ripped a sheet of fish stickers off and put them in their little basket.  "Okay kiddo, what else?"

            "Have a star."

            "Okay, let’s find some stars."  Jessica scanned the stickers in front of her and picked out a dozen sheets of multi colored stars.  "Check these out, these ones smell like grape!"  She held them to Kyle's nose.  "Isn't that cool?"

            "Yeah."

            "And these ones are glittery, and look at these… these are shooting stars."

            "Is cool Jessi."

            "Yeah, they're pretty cool."  She looked down into the basket.  "Do you think we have enough?"

            "I sink yeah."  Kyle nodded.  "We have anano fiss?"

            "Sure, grab another fish one and we'll get going."  She checked her watch and cringed.  "Yeah, we've gotta hurry.  We have to go pick up your daddy."

            "Daddy is work?"

            "Yep, he's at work and we have to go get him.  We’re going to be a little late though."  She sighed as they made their way to the check out counter.  Jessica paid for the stickers, then picked Kyle up and walked quickly back out to the car.

 

            "Sorry we're late."  Jessica said as she hopped out of the car.

            "It's okay."  JC waved from the picnic bench under a giant tree.  "Where's Kyle?"

            "He fell asleep in his seat."  Jessica left the drivers side door open as well as all the windows as she walked over to where Chris and JC were sitting.  "Hi Chris."

            "Hey Jess."  He nodded as a greeting.

            "Did you guys have a good rehearsal?"  She asked as she sat beside JC, facing the cars.

            "Eh, we didn't really rehearse that much.  We got our customary 'you boys behave' pre-tour lecture and we went over our dates again."  JC shrugged.

            Jessica looked at her watch, “For seven hours?"

            "Yep."  JC and Chris said in unison.  "Johnny likes to talk a lot.  And then he brought in Sean and Sean likes to talk a lot too."

            "So I thought you guys usually spent a couple weeks practicing on a stage and stuff?  You're not going to do that this time?"

            "It's the same show as before, so we don't really need to.  But when we get to London in a couple days we're spending the first three days running test shows on the stage that we'll be using over there.  You know, so we can set our marks and stuff like that."

            "Ahh."  Jessica nodded, pretending she knew just what he was talking about.

            "But anyway, that's work.  We're done working for today."  Chris hopped off the table and took his keys out of his pocket.  "I'll see you guys later."

            "Bye."  Jessica said softly.

            "Can I bang on the window and wake him up to say hi?"  Chris asked as he got closer tot JC's car.

            "No."  JC and Jessica said in unison.

            "He needs his sleep."  JC explained.

            "You're no fun."

            "You'll have plenty of time to play with him when he's awake."

            "True."  Chris shrugged and walked wide around JC's car to get to his own.  "See you guys later!"

            "Bye."  JC and Jessica waved, then he looked at her and sighed, “So did you guys have fun today?"

            "Yep.  We got a few more little outfits, a couple pairs of shoes, some stickers and a hair cut."  She tapped her feet on the bench beside his.

            "Did you just get it buzzed?"

            "Yeah, same as before kind of.  We left a little more on top because his little bangs are just too cute."  She laughed.  "But yeah, I had them clip it all around."

            "How does the back look?"

            "Well you cut it pretty short."

            "Can you still see it?"

            "A little, yeah."  She laughed and crinkled her nose at him.  "It'll grow out within a couple weeks though, I promise."

            "Great, poor kids gonna have a big bald spot at the back of his head thanks to me."

            "Well you didn't put the sucker there did you?"

            "No."

            "Then it's not your fault."  She laughed and jumped off the bench.  "Let's get going though.  You've still got to finish packing and everything and I'm sure you're going to have some last minute things that need to be done around the house as well."

            "Yeah, man… I hope not."  JC hopped off the table and followed her to the car.  He took the keys and jumped in the driver’s seat, careful not to wake Kyle as he shut the door.  "How long has he been asleep?"

            "About twenty minutes.  He crashed right after we left the mall."

            "Okay, cool.  I guess a late nap is better than no nap, huh?"  JC turned the car around in the narrow parking area and pulled out to the main street.  They stopped by KFC for dinner, then took it home and ate on the back patio as the sun set in the cloudless sky.

            They spent the rest of the evening packing up the remaining suitcases and trying to get everything situated while they made plans for Saturday.  "So we can get up a little early and head to the beach around nine?"  JC asked after he put Kyle to bed.

            "Yeah, that works for me."  Jessica smiled.

            "Cool.  We won't have to spend all day or anything.  We'll get there around ten and hang out for a couple hours.  He'll be beat by noon probably, then we can come home and relax by the pool or something… get even more sun.”

            "Okay."  She laughed and dropped herself on the couch beside JC.  "So are you guys all ready to go?"

            "Yeah.  All of our gear and stuff has already been sent over, so on Sunday when we go we've just got our personal luggage and ourselves."  JC nodded and dropped his arm over her shoulders.  "We get there at about nine in the morning Monday which will be about four in the morning our time, so they're giving us the rest of the day to get acclimated.  Then on Tuesday we start work."

            "Cool, I can't wait."

            "Me neither."  JC kissed her temple and sighed as she settled against him.  He was just getting used to living at home and being the kind of family man he never new he wanted to be, and in two days he was going to be thrust back into the crazy time spotlight of the career he'd chosen for himself.  Part of him was going to miss the quiet and lazy days he and Kyle had spent together over the last couple months, but another small part of him twinged with excitement at the thought of standing on that stage with a crowd of 20,000 fans screaming in front of him.

            If there was a way he could do both, he'd do it in a heartbeat; but instead he tried to enjoy each situation as it came up.  Including this one.  He kissed Jessica's temple again and hugged her tight with a deep sigh.  He definitely enjoyed this situation.

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

            Early the next morning JC got everyone up to get ready to go to the beach.  Kyle was like a little chihuahua on speed as he ran around the house finding his swim shorts, a collection of towels and of course his buckets and shovels.  JC chased him around smearing sunscreen on any part of him that wasn't moving and hoped for the best.

            "He must really like the beach."  Jessica laughed as she watched Kyle run from the back door to the garage with a plastic starfish mold in his hand.

            "He loves the beach.  Insanely.  The pool and sand box are one thing, but putting them both together at the beach is just his little version of heaven."  JC laughed.  "If he could have just one wish it would be to live on the ocean with a never ending supply of peanut butter sandwiches and chicken nuggets."

            "That actually doesn't sound too bad."  Jessica adjusted the strap of her bathing suit under her shirt and slid her feet into her sandals by the door.

            "Tell me about it."  JC rolled his eyes.  "I've actually thought about moving closer to the water but…"  He shrugged.  "I don't know, the thought of packing all this stuff up and actually moving it.  Ugh."

            "You could always get professional movers."

            "Yeah, well… I'd still have to put it all away when we got there.  Basically I'm too lazy to move."  JC smiled.  "Besides, I like this house.  It's big enough to be comfortable and small enough to be a home.  The secure community is great and the backyard rocks."

            "Yeah it does."

            "I think it's a good place to raise Kyle.  If we moved to the beach I'd have to get a big old alarm system and barricade off the house and everything.  No thanks, I'll stay here.  The drive isn't that bad anyway."

            "That's true."  She put her sunglasses on then went out to the garage where Kyle had already climbed into the open car and seated himself in his car seat.  "Wow, you're ready to go."

            "Daddy hasa bako."  Kyle frowned and looked at the straps lying at his sides.

            "Here, I'll get that."  JC loaded the ice chest into the back of the car then came around to buckle Kyle into his seat.  "There you go buddy, all set.  Do you have your shades?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle held them in his hands, getting finger prints all over the plastic lenses.

            "Cool, put them on and let’s get outta here."  JC laughed and slammed the back door shut.  He and Jessica climbed into the front and they headed east for the shore.

            Kyle sat in the back seat chattering up a storm and singing along to the silly song tapes that JC played back to back.  "The sad thing is that I know all the words to these songs now."  JC laughed softly as he leaned his elbow on the little arm rest between his and Jessica's seats.

            "You do huh?  Well sing along."  She nodded toward the tape player.

            JC waited for a second to pick up where the song was, then sang, "Down to the river they would go.  Wibble wobble wibble wobble to and fro.  But the one little duck with the feather on his back, he led the others with a quack, quack, quack.  Quack, quack, quack.  Quack, quack, quack."  Kyle sang something that sounded similar in the back seat, then they all dissolved into a fit of giggles.  They goofed around for the rest of the drive, and were in great moods when JC finally pulled up at the beachside parking.

            "All righty, here we are."  He sighed and stepped out of the car, his feet crunching on the loose gravel beneath his feet.  "Come on buddy, let's go scope out a good spot then we'll bring everything down.  He got Kyle out of the backseat then locked up the car as the three of them headed down to the sand.  They found the perfect place close to the water but still on dry sand.  "Awesome.  You guys hang out here, I'll go get the ice chest and towels and everything."

            "Do you want some help?"  Jessica offered as she kicked her sandals off.

            "No, you need to stay here and guard our spot." JC laughed and removed his hat to run his fingers through his hair before replacing it.  "I'll be right back."  He turned and ran up the sand toward the car, leaving Jessica and Kyle standing in 'their spot'.

            JC trudged down the beach a few minutes later with the ice chest in front of him, the beach bag and a small stack of towels balanced on top.  "Here… let me get that."  Jessica walked up and took the stuff on top to relive him of some of the weight.  "You got it?"

            "Yeah, I got it."  He dropped the ice chest beside Kyle, then they shook out towels and sat down.  "Check it out, this is the perfect spot."  JC pushed his sunglasses up on his nose and looked around before removing his t-shirt.

            "We go ina ossin?"  Kyle asked as he bounced around the towels kicking up sand with each step.

            "Sure thing."  JC smiled.  "Jess?"

            "No thanks, you guys go on out, I'll stay here and get some sun."  She wadded up JC's t-shirt and tucked it along with her own shirt behind her head and laid back.

            "Okay, watch our stuff."  JC kicked off his sandals then reached for Kyle's shirt and shoes.  "All right dude, you're ready to go."  He scooped Kyle up in his arms then they headed out to the crashing Atlantic waves.

 

            They came back in a short while later just as Jessica was getting ready to roll over onto her stomach.  "Jessi!"  Kyle shouted as he ran up and dripped cold water on her legs.  His teeth were chattering but he was smiling from ear to ear.

            "Hey!  Whoa, is the water cold out there?"

            "N-no."  He stuttered as he picked up one of his pails and a shovel.  "I make a ca-caso."  He shivered.

            "Wait a second; let me warm you up a little bit."  She wrapped a spare towel around him and rubbed his arms through the cloth.  After a minute he had stopped chattering and was bouncing around trying to shake the towel off.  "Okay kiddo, now you can go.  But stay right here."

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded as JC dropped himself onto a towel beside Jessica.

            "Is the water that cold?"

            "No, not really.  But he's a little dude; it doesn't take much to freeze him.  That's why we came in, his lips were turning colors."  JC smiled.

            "Well he seems okay now."  Jessica smiled as Kyle stopped five feet away to shovel sand into his bucket.

            "Yeah, the sun will thaw him out a bit."  JC sighed, then stood up again to help Kyle get some water and damp sand to make the castle stick.  They returned a minute later and began to assemble a mud castle by Jessica's feet.

            "Hey… let's go out tonight."  JC said softly as they piled the sand high.

            "Okay."  Jessica smiled as she closed her eyes and leaned back on her arms to let the bright Florida sun shine on her face.

            "I'll get Lance and Amy to watch Kyle for us."  JC lowered his voice and adjusted his floppy hat.

            "Yeah right."  Jessica squinted at JC and laughed as she brushed the sand from her hands and playfully nudged Kyle’s leg with her sandy toe.

            "What?"

            "You want to get them to watch Kyle for you?"

            "They like to, and Kyle has a blast over there."  JC gave her a confused look.  "What?  Why?"

            "Because Amy isn't coming with us tomorrow and as our last night in the states I think maybe they want to spend some time alone together as an engaged couple."  Jessica raised her eyebrow at him.

            "Oh yeah, I forgot about that."  JC pursed his lips, then sighed.  "Okay, well I'll see if I can find someone else I guess."

            "Okay."  Jessica laughed and returned to her sun bathing as Kyle dribbled water and sand across her legs en route to the sand castle he and JC were working on.

            "I see Laaaance?"  Kyle asked, catching only part of their conversation.

            "You'll see him tomorrow."

            "Now?"

            "Nope, tomorrow.  Tonight I need to see if you can hang out with someone else."

            "Mimi?"  Kyle stood up and dropped another shell into his bucket.

            "No, not Amy.  You'll see her tomorrow too though."

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed and looked over at Jessica.  "I see Jessi."

            "Yep, you can see Jessica any time you want now.  You're gonna see a lot of her over the next couple weeks."  JC smiled and winked at Jessica.  “You’re getting a little pink there Jess.”  He reached over to poke her shoulder.  Where he pressed her skin turned white, then immediately went back to pink.

            “Yeah, I’m getting a little sun here.”  Jessica nodded and looked down.  “So are you though.”

            “I don’t burn.”  JC shook his head.  "Your skin becomes immune when you live in Florida."

            "I see."  She laughed and looked around at the bronze bodies up and down the beach.  “Kyle?  Come here buddy, let me make sure you’re not getting burned.”

            “Is hot?”  Kyle looked out at the ocean.

            “The sun is.”  Jessica nodded.

            “I put that waterproof kids stuff on him, its spf 45 so he should be okay.”  JC said.  “I cover him in that stuff and he still gets tanned.”

            “Daddy hasa lossin?”  Kyle asked.

            “I don’t think we need any more lotion, but let me see.”  Jessica pulled him closer and gently pressed on his skin.  “Nope, you look good kiddo.  Your nose is a little pink though.  You’re going to look like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.”

            "Do you want more lotion?"  JC asked, holding the bottle out to her.

            "No, he's okay I think."  She squinted into the sun as she looked back at him.

            "I mean for you."  JC shook the bottle then popped it open and squirt some into his hand.  "Here, come here and I'll give you another coat.  You don't want to have to sit on a plane for ten hours with a sun burn, you wanna talk about miserable?"

            “Thank you.”  She said softly as he massaged it into her back.  He let his hands slide down her shoulders then across to her collar bones.  “I uh… I can get the rest.”  She smiled and blushed quickly.  “Thanks.”

            “Anytime.”  JC smiled and handed her the lotion.  “I don’t want you to burn.”

            “I won’t.”  Jessica applied the lotion to her chest and abdomen, then tossed the bottle back toward the bag.  She leaned forward on her knees and patted sand into a barrier for the castles moat.  They worked on the castle for a while with Kyle adding shells and seaweed for decoration.

            Just before noon they paused for a quick lunch, then they loaded their things into the back of JC’s car and took a walk up the beach to check out the surfers on the north end.  Kyle wasn’t too impressed with the surfers, but he found a whole bucket full of shells so he seemed happy.  It was almost two when they got back to the car with JC carrying Kyle and Jessica carrying his bucket.

            “I think it’s time to head home.” JC said softly as they approached the car.

            “Yep, he’ll be out before we hit the highway.”  Jessica laughed and unlocked the car door for him to get Kyle in his seat.  “I think I’ll be lucky if I make it home in fact.”  She added as she and JC brushed the sand off their feet and climbed into the car to head home.

 

            When they got back to the house, Jessica took Kyle out of his car seat and carried him up to his bedroom to lay him down.  He'd crashed on the way home and continued snoring without a pause as Jessica tucked him in.  She laid him on top of the covers then tucked his Elmo doll by his stomach and left the room quietly.

            JC's voice carried through the downstairs area as he talked to someone on the phone.  Jessica yawned as she stepped into the kitchen and leaned against the counter opposite him.

            "Great, okay thanks a lot."  He hung up the phone and smiled innocently.

            "Who was that?"

            "No one."

            "Liar."

            "It's a surprise."  JC started to smile but ended up yawning instead.  "I'm getting old.  I used to be able to spend twelve hours at the beach and never even think of a nap.  Now here I am after a couple hours and all I can think of is lying flat out on that couch and sleeping for a couple hours."

            "Ditto."  Jessica eyed the couch, wondering if she could make it there before he could.

            "Don't even think about it."  He caught her glance at the couch.

            "What?"  She raised her eyebrow at him, then took three quick steps across the room and jumped over the back of the sofa with JC only a step behind her.  They landed in a heap on the floor beside the couch in a fit of giggles.  "I won, I get the couch."

            "It's my couch."  JC argued.

            “I’m a girl.”  Jessica smiled sweetly, knowing that her ‘girl card’ could beat out any ownership claims he may decide to toss at her.

            “You know, just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you get everything you want.”  JC pushed himself up off the floor then offered his hand to pull her up.

            “I know.  But I don’t want everything.”

            “Oh really?”

            “I just want the couch.”  She smiled and lay down with her head resting on the arm of the couch.

            “How about if I make you a deal?”

            “No.”

            “You don’t want to hear what the deal is?”

            “Does it involve me taking a nap on the couch?”

            “No.”  JC smiled.

            “Then no, I don’t want to hear it.”

            “How about if we move our naps to the guest room down here and sleep there?”  JC asked as he moved her feet to the side and sat on the couch.

            “Because I don’t want to move.  My whole body is tired.”  Jessica complained.

            “You were moving pretty quick when you decided you wanted the couch.”  He raised his eyebrow at her then crawled up so that his hip was resting on her stomach in a really uncomfortable position.  “Come on… please?”

            “God Jace, you’re begging now?”

            “I want to nap too.”

            “So go lay in the guest room.”  She smirked.

            JC gave a defeated sigh and kissed her quickly, “Fine.  I’ll go.  I know when I’m not wanted.”

            “You’re wanted JC, just not on top of me when I’m trying to nap.”

            “Yeah fine, whatever.”  He pretended to pout as he shuffled down the hall alone.  She watched him go and tried not to laugh; it was easy to see where Kyle got his overly dramatic side from.

            Jessica turned onto her side and yawned, it was barely three in the afternoon and she felt like she could sleep straight through until morning.  After only a few minutes she found herself still smiling and thinking about the little pouty 24 year old down the hall.  She stood up and cracked her back, then walked down the hall and let herself into the guest room.  “Are you done being a brat?”

            “No.”  JC said, facing the far wall.

            “Okay.”  She turned and began to shut the door.

            “Okay now I am.”  He smiled.

            “You’re worse than Kyle.”

            “I know.”  JC laughed and rolled over to pat the bed beside him.  “Come on…”

            “I’m really tired JC.”

            “So am I.”  He yawned softly.  He patted the bed again and she fell onto the blanket beside him.  JC wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her to him as he hugged her from behind.  “You smell like coconuts.”

            “I can’t imagine why.  I mean, you only spent half the day putting sunscreen on me… it’s hard to believe I’d smell like it, huh?”

            “Yeah, that’s hard to believe.”  JC laughed quietly.

            “Shush, I’m trying to nap.”  She closed her eyes and settled her head deep into the pillow.

            “Okay.”  JC whispered.  “Is this better?”

            “Go to sleep.  We only have like an hour left until Kyle gets up and I’m serious, I need a nap.”  She whispered back.

            “Then stop talking and go to sleep.”  He laughed.

            “You’re impossible.”  Jessica sighed and tugged his arms tighter around her, becoming more and more comfortable in his arms with his heat warming her all over.  He fell silent and soon they were both dozing silently in the air conditioned room.

 

            An hour later Kyle worked his way downstairs and wandered around the family room and kitchen.  "Daddy?  Daddy where you?"  He called loudly.  "You hide?  Daddy?  I fine?"

            JC opened his eyes at the sound of Kyle's voice echoing down the hallway, then slowly removed himself from the bed.

            "Daddy!"  Kyle shouted again, with a hint of impending panic.

            "It's okay, I'm right here."  JC said softly as he quickly stepped out into the hall.  "Here I am."  He walked around the corner to where Kyle was standing by the back door.

            "You hidin?"  Kyle asked.

            "Yep, I was hiding."  JC smiled.  "Did you have a good nap?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed.  "Daddy we have caso."

            "You're right; we built a castle on the beach."

            "An morrow?"

            "You want to do that again tomorrow?"

            "Yeah."

            "Well we can't tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a very special day."  JC said as he leaned against the counter.  "Oh shoot."  He checked his watch and let out a sigh of relief.  It was only a quarter to four so he still had plenty of time.  "Okay buddy, can you do me a favor?"

            "Yeah?"

            "I've gotta take a shower, so come on upstairs with me and you can hang out on my bed and watch a movie while I shower, how's that sound?"

            "And Lello?"

            "Sure, you bet."  JC nodded as he picked Kyle up and kissed his cheek.  "What movie do you want to watch?"

            "Doe no."

            "How about…"  JC pretended to think.  "How about Arthur?"

            "Kay."  Kyle shrugged his narrow shoulders and sighed.  He didn't really care; he just liked playing on JC's bed.  They swung by Kyle's room first and got Lello and a few more toys, then JC got him set up in the master bedroom.  While Kyle played on the bed JC took a shower to wash the beach off of him and shampoo his hair.  When he was done he dressed himself in a pair of nice beige slacks and a loose fitting white dress shirt.

            "How do I look?"  He asked Kyle as he ran his hands through his hair.

            "Like daddy."  Kyle shrugged.

            "I look like daddy, good… great."  JC chuckled lightly and grabbed his shoes and socks.  "Okay kiddo, let's go downstairs and get you something to eat.  Are you hungry?"

            "Have gape?"

            "Sure, we have grapes downstairs I think."  JC nodded and extended his hand.  "Grab Lello."  He nodded toward the bed.

            Kyle grabbed the floppy dog then followed JC back downstairs to the kitchen where he climbed up onto a barstool and set Lello on the counter.  "We go ina pool?

            "Nope, not today."

            "Morrow?"

            "Maybe… I don't know.  Tomorrow's going to be a fun day though.  Do you remember what we're doing tomorrow?"

            "We go ina pool."  Kyle nodded.

            "Maybe."  JC laughed.  "But we're definitely going in an airplane, remember?"

            "Up high ina coud?"

            "Heck yeah, we'll be up high way above the clouds.  Pretty cool huh?"  JC opened the fridge and took out the bunch of grapes.  "Do you want peanut butter and jelly?"

            "Kay."  Kyle shrugged.

            "Cool."  JC dropped a little bunch of grapes in front of Kyle then got out everything to make sandwiches.  "Strawberry or grape jelly?"

            "Gape!"  Kyle smiled as he bit into a green grape.

            "I should have guessed."  JC laughed and spread the jelly on the bread, trying to think what else he could give Kyle for dinner.

            He heard the guest bedroom door creak open slowly, then Jessica's bare feet on the tile as she entered the kitchen.  "Wow, what's the occasion?  I didn't realize peanut butter sandwiches and grapes called for a collared shirt and slacks."  Jessica eyed his wardrobe down to his slender bare feet.

            "I got us reservations at the Yacht Club again."  JC said as he spread peanut butter on the bread in front of him.

            "For tonight?"

            "Yep, at six thirty.  Which is why I'm dressed like this."  He nodded and placed the bread on top of the jelly covered piece.

            "So wait, who's going to watch Kyle?"

            "I've got a sitter."  JC smiled and set the sandwich in front of Kyle, “Eat up buddy."

            "Who?"

            "I got two sitters actually."  He laughed softly.  "Chris and Joey."

            "Oh my God you're going to let them care for your son?  What kind of father are you?"  Jessica laughed and shook her head.  "They're going to corrupt him."

            "Daddy I have Joey?"

            "Yep, Joey and Chris are going to come over tonight."

            "Wow!"  Kyle looked surprised as he took a bite of his sandwich.  "And Chris!"

            "You're a lucky kid."  JC said softly.  He looked up at Jessica and smiled, "They already have."  He laughed and pulled up a chair beside Kyle's.  "Kyle and I had to have a talk about bad words and things like that.  Right buddy?"

            "No say ass?"

            "That's right, you don't say that."  JC laughed and ruffled Kyle's hair.

            "Oh man… let me guess.  Joey?"  Jessica cringed.

            "Yep."

            "And you're voluntarily leaving Kyle with him again?"

            "They have fun.  I think they're on the same wavelength.  All three of them."  JC smiled.

            "Well yeah, they're only as mature as three year olds."  Jessica giggled.  "But hey, if it's cool with you it's cool with me.  I could use a night out with you before we go to work."

            "Me too."  JC nodded.

            "Me too?"  Kyle asked as he licked his peanut butter coated lips.

            "Nope, you get to stay here and play with Chris and Joey."

            Kyle laughed and shook his head, “Is silly daddy."

            "I know they're silly, that's why you guys are gonna have a good time."

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded with a smile and took another bite of his sandwich.

            "So wait, if our reservations are at six thirty then we'll have to leave here real soon."  Jessica said as she noticed the time.

            "Yeah.  Chris and Joey will be here at like, five."

            "JC, its four thirty."

            "I know."

            "When were you planning on telling me?"

            "When you woke up."  JC shrugged and leaned across the table to swipe his finger across the back of Kyle's sandwich to catch the dripping jelly.

            Jessica sighed, “Okay, well I'm going to go shower and get ready and everything."  She stood up and placed a kiss on top of Kyle's head.  "Is that pretty good?"

            "Yeah, bite?"  He held the sandwich up to Jessica.

            "Oh no thank you sweetie, you eat it all up so you can have dessert later."  Jessica smiled and headed for the stairs in a light trot.

            "I have zert?"  Kyle looked up at JC.

            "Sure thing buddy, you can have dessert with Chris and Joey."  JC nodded then stood up and went to the family room where he'd placed his shoes and socks.  He sat on the couch and put them on while Kyle ate his dinner.

 

            When the doorbell rang at ten after five, JC adjusted his cuffs and walked quickly to the door.  "Hey."  He nodded as Chris and Joey walked in.  "How cute, did you come together?"

            "He was at my house."  Joey shrugged.  "Better than taking two cars and risk getting him lost."

            "I know how to get here asshole.  Who do you think gave you directions?"  Chris dropped his keys, hat and sunglasses on the little table and continued through the house.

            "Watch your mouth man."  Joey frowned at Chris, then laughed.  "See?  It's not just me."

            "I know it's not just you."  JC smiled and shut the door.  "But seriously, don't be teaching him all these creative swear words you guys come up with.  If he calls me a crapweasle when I get home you're both dead."

            "Crapweasle?  I like that…"  Joey smirked.

            "I mean it."

            "Yeah, yeah, we know you mean it."  Joey took his wallet and keys and dropped them beside Chris' stuff.  "So what's the plan tonight?   Do we gotta feed him or anything?"

            "Nope, he had an early dinner.  He can have some cookies or something a little later, but not too many."

            "Okay."

            "Um, there's movies and stuff, you guys know the drill.  Um, make sure he brushes his teeth before he goes to bed.  He doesn't mind doing it but you've gotta remind him."

            "Okay."  Joey nodded as they walked back to the kitchen.

            "I'll have my cell on and the number to the restaurant is by the phone.  All the numbers you'll need are there."

            "Okay."

            "We won't be too late, our dinner is at six thirty so we'll probably leave there around eight and get back here around… I guess nine?"

            "Okay."  Joey laughed.

            "You've gotta be back by ten though."  Chris spoke up as he hung Kyle upside down by his ankles.  "We're going out."

            "Like a date?"  JC laughed and raised his eyebrow at Chris.

            "Yeah bite me."  Chris made a face.  "Joe knows a guy that owns a club downtown so we're gonna go and ring out our last night there."

            "Really?"  For a second JC looked interested.

            "Yeah, and no you can't come."  Chris shook his head and swung Kyle around.  "Don't barf!  Don't barf!"  He laughed as Kyle's face turned red.

            "I not!"  Kyle laughed hysterically.

            "He did just eat though Chris."  JC pointed out.  He looked back at Joey, “We'll be home by ten so you guys can go on your date or whatever."

            "Hey just because we're not taking chicks doesn't mean we won't leave with them, right Chris?"

            "Right.  In fact, I fully intend to leave with a couple."

            "You guys are dogs; don't let Kyle hear you talk like that."

            "He's a guy; he'll figure it out eventually."  Joey shrugged.

            "I'm having second thoughts about leaving him with you." JC laughed and opened the refrigerator to take out Kyle's juice.  He re-filled the cup and set it on the counter.

            "Shut up, we'll have fun… you'll have fun… funness all around."  Joey smiled.  "So where's Jess?"

            "She's getting ready.  It's a chick thing… you know… she has to take three hours to get ready to go anywhere."  JC laughed, slipping back into the 'single guy' mode that he'd avoided for more than six months.

            Jessica cleared her throat from the hallway by the bathroom.  "I'm sorry, what was that?"  She asked as she stepped into the kitchen.

            "Busted!"  Chris laughed.

            "Bussit!"  Kyle giggled as Chris set him upright and watched the blood drain from his face.

            "Smooth Jace, always check the hall before you spout off at the mouth."  Joey slapped his back.  "He's still learning the fine art of 'guy speak'."  He explained to Jessica.

            "Hi."  JC blushed and turned to face Jessica.  "Are you ready to go?"

            "Yeah, and look at that, only forty minutes to get ready.  That must be some kind of record."  She said sarcastically as she checked her watch.  She smoothed down the front of her sun dress and slid her arms into her wide weave shrug sweater.

            JC's ears turned red as he smiled, “Yeah, let's uh… let's go."

            "Hi Jessica."  Chris waved as he plopped down on the floor with Kyle.

            "Hi Jessica." Joey chorused in behind him.

            "Hi guys."  She laughed.  "Thanks for coming over tonight, I know this is your last night as well, so…"

            "They're gonna go get chicks after we get back." JC explained.

            "Have a chix?"  Kyle asked.

            "Nice!"  Chris laughed.  "We're gonna have fun tonight buddy."

            "Let's go before I change my mind."  JC placed his hand on Jessica's back to steer her toward the garage.  "Bye Kyle, be good for these guys."

            "Kay."  Kyle jumped up and ran down the hall to get a hug before JC and Jessica left.

            "I love you.  Have fun."  JC kissed his cheek then Kyle went to hug Jessica.

            "See you later kiddo." She kissed his other cheek and squeezed him tight.  He laughed, then ran back to where Chris was sitting on the floor.  "Bye guys."

            "Bye, have fun."  Joey waved as he sat on the floor beside the other two.  JC and Jessica left quietly through the garage and laughed as they got into his car and pulled out to the main road.

            "For some reason, I think you're going to have to have another talk with Kyle tomorrow."  Jessica said softly.

            "Shit, I know I will."  JC laughed.  "But it'll be worth it.  It's kinda nice having a night out without him.  I mean, God, I love him to death but it's nice being able to talk to someone at eye level, you know?"  He reached over to turn the radio on.  It was a long but relaxing drive out to the shore.  There was no traffic and they were able to talk without interruptions.

            When they arrived at the restaurant they were seated at a table by the window, then promptly left alone so they could have some privacy.  "This is really nice."  Jessica looked around.  "I don't remember it being so small last time."

            "It's the same place."  JC laughed softly.  "But last time we sat over there."  He nodded behind him to where the far wall of windows was facing north.

            "You remember where we sat?"

            "Yeah, of course."  He gave her a half smile and a confused look.  "You don't?"

            "No, I… well that was a while ago."

            "Ahh, I'm just a sentimental sap then, huh?"

            "No comment."  Jessica laughed and flipped the menu open in front of her.  "That's nice though, most guys don't remember the little details."

            "I try to."  JC nodded.  "I've got lots of useless facts up here."  He tapped his temple and smiled.  "So what are you going to get?"

            "Um, well I'm not sure.  Everything sounds good."  She said slowly as she skimmed the pages.  "Have you tried the linguini with mushroom wine sauce?"

            "No, but I'm not a big fan of cwine sauce."

            "Hmm."

            "But you can get it."

            "I think I will."  Jessica set the menu aside and sighed as the waiter left bread on their table along with two goblets of ice water.  "How about you?"

            "I'm going for the lemon herb chicken.  I'm a big fan of chicken."  JC laughed.

            "Sounds good."  Jessica nodded and sighed.  “So what did you guys do while I was up in Connecticut?”

            “Eh, you know.  We hung out, went to the beach.”  JC rolled his eyes and laughed.  “We did some rehearsing; Kyle went to school and all that.”

            “Sounds like fun.”

            “Yep.”  JC smiled and caught the waiter’s eye.  They gave their orders then continued their conversation, “So what did you do?”

            “At home?”  Jessica took a sugar from the little crystal square on the table and played with it between her fingers.  JC nodded and took a sip of his water.  “Well I went to a bunch of movies with my room mate, Katie.  I swear I saw about a dozen movies.”  She laughed.  “Then a friend of ours had her bachelorette party, so we went to that.”

            “Really?”  JC’s eyes crinkled as he smiled.  “How was that?”

            “It was a lot of fun.”  She laughed and blushed slightly.  “We didn’t have a stripper or anything, but we got to go on a scavenger hunt thing with a polaroid camera.  We broke into a couple teams and we had to get pictures of like, a police officer with one of us, then a guy in his boxers… and we had to collect things too.”

            “Like what?” JC laughed.

            “Um, a matchbook, a business card from a tattoo place, a condom, things like that.”

            “Sounds like fun.”   He unfolded his napkin in his lap.  “When’s the wedding?”

            “Next weekend.”  Jessica nodded and bit her lip.  “I gave her my gift before I left and she promised to send me lots of pictures.”

            “Cool.”  JC nodded, than asked a few more questions about her trip home.  After a while the food arrived and they began to eat in silence.  "How's the mushroom wine sauce?"

            "It's wonderful.  Are you sure you don't want to try it?"

            "No, no that's okay."  JC shook his head and made a face.  "Mushrooms and I don't get along."

            "Ahh, I see."  Jessica laughed and took another bite.  "This is really nice, it's almost like we're living a completely normal life, you know?  No cameras, no fans, no kids, just a regular couple having dinner.  It's almost strange."

            "I know what you mean."  JC looked around with a wistful smile.    "Man… things are going to be so different when we get to Europe."  JC said softly.

            "Different how?"

            "Well, I'll be on the tour schedule from hell."  JC smiled and leaned his elbow on the table.

            "It'll be just like last time."  Jessica shrugged and took a bite of her dinner.  "In fact, we'll probably be able to do more sightseeing on this leg."

            "Yeah but this time we'll be dating and that'll be different."

            "True."

            "And Kyle.  It'll be different because we'll be planning for Kyle this time instead of just dragging him around all the time."

            "Yeah… hey, about that… I never asked, but are you going to hire someone to take care of him on the tour?"  She asked, keeping her eyes on her plate.

            "I… no… Sean offered to find someone but I… I didn't think we'd need to."  He stumbled over his words as he blushed.

            "Okay good."  Jessica smiled at his uneasiness.  "Because I wouldn't want him to be thrown in with another stranger."

            "I don't mean that you have to take care of him…"

            "No, I want to."  She laughed lightly and reached across the table for his hand.  "I was just seeing if you had so I could prepare my 'how to take care of Kyle' speech for them if I needed to.  I'm glad you didn't hire anyone though."

            “Nah, I couldn’t do that.  We managed okay last time without any warning; we’ll do fine this time.  Plus he’ll have the routine down in a couple days.”  JC shrugged.

            “He’ll be fine.”

            “Yep.”  JC smiled and went back to his dinner.  They talked more about plans they had when they got back and JC shared that he’d be going to LA to see Lori.  “You know… so she can see Kyle.  She can’t really afford to fly out here all the time.”

            “Yeah.”  Jessica nodded, but couldn’t fight off the sinking feeling in her stomach.

            “So I'm not sure exactly when, I’ll have to talk to her about that when it gets closer.  He hasn’t asked about her in a while so I kinda want to get that going again, you know?  She calls about once or twice a week but I don’t think he gets it.”

            “Do you make a big deal about it?”

            “No.”  JC shook his head.  “Maybe I should so it would be something he looked forward to.”  He shrugged.  “Eh, I’ll figure it out when I get back.”

            “Okay.”  Jessica whispered with a small smile.  She was willing to drop the topic without thinking twice.  “So… Heather is coming to watch your house while you’re gone?”

            “Yep.”  JC smiled, “She’ll be here tomorrow.”  He sighed slightly then continued to eat their dinner followed by a sweet raspberry souffl�.  Jessica could barely finish half of hers, but JC somehow made it through his whole souffl�.  He paid the bill, then they sat and talked for a little while longer over decaf coffee and candlelight.

            When they were finally ready to go, JC took one of the chocolate mints off the table and popped it in his mouth.  Jessica followed close behind as they left the almost empty restaurant and headed for the car.  She reached for his hand when they hit the parking lot and they walked slowly back to JC's car.  "I can't believe we're leaving tomorrow."  JC said softly as he unlocked the passenger door.

            "I know, it's kind of exciting though."  She smiled up at him, then bounced up on her tip toes and kissed him unexpectedly.

            JC tried to kiss her but ended up taking a step back to cover his mouth as he choked.  He maneuvered the mint to the side of his mouth and coughed again, “I'm sorry."  He blushed in the darkness as he wiped his mouth.  "I'm sorry I just uh, I wasn't ready for that."

            "I didn't know you had a mint."  Jessica covered her mouth and laughed softly.

            "I didn't have time to take it out… you're quick."  JC laughed and looked down at the pavement as he carefully removed the mint from his mouth.  He held it between his fingers and smiled, “Okay, let's try that again."

            Jessica laughed and shook her head then kissed him again without the intrusion.  "Much better."  She said when she pulled away; tasting the chocolate mint he had in his hand.

            "Much."  JC smiled and popped the mint back in his mouth.  "Are you ready to head back?"

            "Yeah."  Jessica nodded.  She was having a great time but she still wanted to just go home and curl up on the couch or under the covers.

            "Okay."  JC whispered softly.  He opened the car door for her and waited as she climbed in and fastened her seat belt.  He shut the door behind her, then walked around to get in on his side.  They drove an hour back to JC's house, trying to make it back before ten like he had promised.

 

 

Part 2 of the end...

 

Note from me:  Many thanks to Patty for her inspiration in this chapter :)  The whole date scene just wouldn't have been the same without her creative input!

 

Copyright � 2002, Amy Lynn