A week after the welcome home party, JC called Kelly as promised. He had spent the last couple days thinking about sending Kyle to preschool and he figured it couldn't hurt. Kyle was a smart kid and being in that kind of environment would only increase his vocabulary and social skills, as if he needed help with that. JC also decided that he could use the time alone, no matter how much he wanted Kyle around, there came a time when he just wanted silence for a minute.

JC picked up the phone and searched for the scrap piece of paper Joey had given him with Kelly's number on it. He finally found it tacked to his message board and dialed before he could change his mind.

"Hi, Kelly?" JC asked when she answered the phone.

"Yes?"

"Hey, this is JC. Uh, Joey said I could call you to find out about pre-school?"

"Oh! Hi JC, yeah Joey said you'd be calling. Actually, he said he gave you my number but that you probably wouldn't call." She laughed easily and continued, "Are you looking for pre-school or daycare?"

"Well, I'm not sure." JC sighed and looked at Kyle sitting on his toddler size couch in front of the TV. "I… well, I have a two year old son, Kyle."

"I heard, congratulations."

"Thanks." JC said quickly, "Anyway, we're home for the next couple months and basically it's just the two of us hanging out here."

"I see."

"So Joey got all bent saying that Kyle needed to be around other kids, and I agree with him and everything but I'm just not sure how the school thing works."

"Okay, well… I work at Little Rascals, which is in your neck of the woods I believe. You're near Forester and Jackson, right?"

"Yeah, that's not far."

"That's where we are. Now, I teach the older kids, I have the four to five year olds. But probably what you're looking for is just a couple days a week for a few hours, right?"

"I guess?"

"What I'd recommend is two or three days a week for a few hours in the morning. Maybe from nine, or even eight, to noon."

"Okay, we can do that?"

"Oh sure." Kelly nodded. "My nephew, Chad, goes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and sometimes Mondays from eight to eleven thirty and he's almost three. In fact, he'd be in the class with Kyle."

"Really?"

"Yeah." Kelly laughed. "I'll tell you what, why don't we all get together so Kyle can play with Chad for a little bit and get comfortable around other kids. Then I can take you to check out the school and we can go from there."

"Yeah… yeah that'd be cool." JC's stomach swam as he thought about dropping Kyle off at school and leaving him there.

"Are you busy today?"

"Today?"

"Yeah, I'm babysitting Chad in about an hour so if you're not busy I can bring him over."

"Oh… okay yeah. That'd be okay. Do you know where I live?" JC asked as his palms began to sweat. He would have laughed at his own nervousness if he really stopped to think about it.

"No, but Joey does. I'll have him tag along." She laughed. "Chad usually naps until about two, so why don't we just come on over after that, would that be okay?"

"Yeah."

"Will Kyle be up from his nap by then?"

JC thought for a second, Kyle didn't have any kind of schedule he basically just napped whenever he collapsed. "Yeah, he should be."

"Okay great. Then I'll see you this afternoon and we can talk about the school then."

"Okay, I'll see you later then. Thanks Kelly."

"No problem." She smiled and hung up, now all she had to do was convince Joey to go with them.

 

"Hey buddy. Kyle?" JC shouted as he trotted up the stairs, "Where are you?"

"I hide!" Kyle screeched from his bedroom.

"Uh oh, are you hiding?"

"Yeah!" Kyle laughed and JC saw him laying flat on the ground beside his toy chest. "Can see?"

"Nope, I can't see you. Where'd you go? Kyle?" JC picked up a few of the toys on the floor to look under them. "Oh man, I sure hope I find you soon. You're going to have some visitors come see you today. Kyle? Are you here still?"

"I hidin." Kyle laughed and scooted toward his bed, still laying flat on his stomach.

"Joey's coming over this afternoon with some of his friends. They've got a little boy for you to play with, won't that be cool?"

"He no see me."

"You're going to stay hidden when they come? Don't you want to play with them?" JC pretended to look in the closet for Kyle.

"I scare." Kyle jumped up and made a scary monster face at JC.

"Whoa!" He placed his hand over his heart. "Whoa Kyle, you scared me. I thought it was a monster!"

"Raaaaaaarrrr!" He clawed at JC's legs as he giggled. "I see Joey?"

"He'll be over later."

"Now?"

"No, not now. Later. We're going to go get some lunch first, then take a nap then Joey will be here." JC lifted Kyle into his arms and blew a raspberry on his tummy.

Kyle erupted in a fit of laughter as JC carried him down the stairs and set him on his feet in the kitchen. "What do you want for lunch?"

"Eye keem."

"No way Jose. You can't have ice cream for lunch, are you crazy?"

"You cazy."

"I'm not crazy, you're crazy if you think you're gonna have ice cream for lunch." JC opened the fridge. "How about a bagel with cheese?"

"Bago?"

"Yeah."

"And cheese?"

"You bet." JC held the bagel bag in his hand as he turned to see Kyle making a face. "What's that look for? It's good."

"I have samich."

"A bagel and cheese is kind of like a sandwich." JC pointed out.

Kyle sighed and climbed into his booster seat, "No is like bago."

"Okay Mr. Smarty-pants. I'll make you a sandwich. You're so unadventurous." JC laughed and rolled his eyes as Kyle climbed into his booster seat by himself.

"Daddy you have bago."

"Yeah, I'm going to have the bagel." He got everything out and prepared lunch for both of them, then stood at the counter to eat while he watched Kyle meticulously take the sandwich apart. He ate the bread first, then the piece of cheese and finally he took two bites of the piece of turkey.

"We can swing?"

"You bet, let me just clean up here real fast." JC wiped his crumb-covered lips on his forearm, then reached for the bread and sandwich supplies to put them away.

"No we go." Kyle frowned and grabbed the door handle to go outside.

"I have to clean up first." JC shook his head and sighed, "Don't hang on the door, buddy."

"I no buddy." Kyle scowled and continued to hang on the locked door handle.

"Kyle." JC said sharply, "Don't hang on the handle, you're going to break it."

"I no break."

"Yes you are." JC raised his eyebrow at his son, almost amused that he was arguing back. "We're going to stay inside if you keep hanging on it."

"No, is not break."

"If you don't stop, it will." JC opened the refrigerator and put the lunchmeat away. When he turned back to the door, Kyle was still hanging like a monkey off of the door handle. "Hey, what'd I say?"

"We go ouside?"

"What did I say about hanging on the handle?"

"You say to no."

"I said don't hang on it." He walked over and removed Kyle's hands from the handle. "We're going to stay inside now."

"No, we go."

"Nope, if you won't listen when I ask you to do something then we're going to stay inside."

"I sen."

"You didn't listen." JC shook his head and turned away from the door as he went to sit on the couch.

"Daddy I sen. We go."

"Nope, you need to listen to me when I tell you to not hang on the door handle. We're going to stay inside now. Maybe we'll go out later."

"No, we go now."

"Nope." JC hit the remote to turn the TV on and surfed to MTV to see what was on.

"Peese we go?"

"No." JC shook his head while keeping his eyes on the TV.

"Yes."

"I'm not going to argue with you Kyle, we're not going outside right now because you didn't listen to what I asked you to do."

"I do." Kyle held his hands exaggeratedly away from the handle.

"Too late." JC looked at Kyle; "You can play inside before your nap today."

"I no nap." Kyle crossed his arms over his chest.

This is going to be a rough afternoon, JC thought to himself as he pressed his hands over his eyes and sighed. "Come on kiddo, you can play with your toys over here."

"I no kid."

JC tried not to laugh, "Okay Kyle, why don't you come over here and play?"

"Wan go ouside."

"I know you want to go outside but since you didn't listen to me we're staying indoors for right now. Maybe we'll go out later."

"No now."

"Nope, not right now." JC shook his head and watched out of the corner of his eye as Kyle dejectedly heaved a heavy sigh then stomped around the couch to where JC was sitting in the far corner. He hauled himself onto the couch then nestled into the corner with a large pillow on his lap. He patted the pillow and looked toward the TV where a new music video was playing.

"Whosat?"

"That's Jessica Simpson."

"Is my Jessi?"

"No… no that's not your Jessi. Your Jessica is at home with her friends." JC explained quickly. "She's kind of taking a vacation right now."

"I can see?"

"Yeah, you'll see her again, I just don't know when."

"Lato?"

"Yep, maybe later." JC nodded, he wished he knew when they'd see her again. They sat on the couch watching MTV for a little while before Kyle's tiredness got the best of him and he began to snore lightly from his corner.

JC carried his limp figure up the stairs to his own bedroom and laid him on top of the covers before he went down the hall to the room that was now his storage room. It had been a week since he and Kyle had moved all of his stuff into the tiny room and boxes were piled high. JC took one box and began to go through it, putting things away if he could and loading other boxes into the closet in the corner.

He worked for almost two hours on the room before a loud "thump" coming from Kyle's room startled him. He dropped the lid of the box he was holding and ran down the hall just in time to hear Kyle's cries coming from his room.

"What? What happened?" JC flung the door open and rushed into the room. "What happened?" He asked again as he looked at Kyle on the floor.

"I fall." Kyle sobbed as his tears mixed with his drool on his chin.

"You fell out of the bed?"

"Yeah." He squawked.

"Oh man, come here, let me check you out." JC sat on the bed and pulled Kyle onto his lap. "You look okay, did you hit your head?"

"No my bow." Kyle touched his elbow and started crying again. "I fall."

"I know you fell buddy, but you look like you're okay."

"I no buddy." He sniffled as JC stroked his head.

"Okay, I'm sorry." JC laughed quietly.

"No laugh."

"I'm sorry." JC pressed his lips together and held Kyle in his arms for a few minutes. "Are you ready to wake up now?"

"Yeah."

"Okay cool." JC stood Kyle by the bed then stood up himself. "Joey is going to be here soon with some of his friends."

"Chris?"

"No, not Chris. These are new friends that you haven't met before." JC explained as they headed for the stairs. "One of them is a little boy, but I don't remember what his name is."

"Kay." Kyle wiped at his eyes again and stepped carefully down the stairs as the doorbell rang. "I get?"

"Yeah, let's go get that." He checked his watch; they were right on time. "Hey guys, come on in." JC smiled as he opened the door. Kyle hid behind JC's legs as the new young boy entered the house.

"Hey." Joey nodded as a way of a greeting and shoved his hands in his pockets.

"Hi Jace." Kelly gave JC a one armed hug as she tugged at Chad's hand. "This is Chad. Chad, can you say hi to JC and Kyle?" She asked the little boy.

"Hi." Chad waved, but moved a little closer to Kelly's legs.

"Hi Chad, this is Kyle."

"No." Kyle frowned.

"Come on, this is Chad. He's one of Joey's buddies, you like Joey right?" JC asked softly.

"Hi Joey." Kyle scowled and grabbed onto JC's hand.

"What's up Kyle?" Joey asked as he pulled the backdoor open and stepped out onto the patio. It was obvious that Kelly dragged him with her today, and JC wondered what he'd be doing right then if he didn't have to be there.

"Do you have a car?" Chad asked Kyle as they toddlers sized each other up.

Kyle didn't respond with much more than a sigh and a frown, "Do you have a car Kyle?" JC asked softly as he swung Kyle's hand back and forth.

"No."

"You don't? Well what's that thing you play with out on the grass under the slide?"

"Isa truck." Kyle said softly.

"Oh wow, a truck huh?" Kelly smiled as they shut the front door and made their way through the house. "Can I see?"

"No." Kyle shook his head.

"Don't be rude Kyle, she just wants to see your toy." JC squeezed Kyle's hand and gave him a fatherly look.

"No is my."

"I know it's yours, she just wants to see it."

"No."

JC looked up at Kelly and shrugged apologetically, "He's had a rough afternoon." He smiled slightly and shook his head.

"That's fine." Kelly smiled, "Hey Joey says you've got a whole park in your backyard, I'd sure like to see that."

"Have a slide." Kyle grumbled.

"A slide? Wow, are you big enough to go on it?" Kelly asked as she and Chad made their way through the house toward the backyard.

"Yeah."

"Really?" They all stepped onto the back patio where Kelly looked at the play set in the corner, "That's pretty big, are you sure you can play on that?"

"I can, is my." Kyle's frown deepened.

"Go show her how you can climb up there." JC nodded and let go of Kyle's hand.

"Daddy too?"

"I'll watch you, sure thing." JC nodded. Joey was already sitting on one of the swings in the middle so Kyle ran over and told him to watch too.

"Watch you what?" Joey asked.

"See me slide." Kyle sighed and pulled himself up the stairs. He got to the top of the slide and shouted, "See? I here."

"Wow, that's pretty cool." Kelly smiled and shaded her eyes from the sun as Kyle sat down and slid down the slide to the grass.

"See? I big." Kyle smiled for the first time, apparently forgetting that Chad and Kelly were strangers. "An Joey slide."

"I don't wanna slide, I'm too big." Joey laughed.

"No, you slide and daddy slide."

"I'll only go if I can bring Chad with me." Joey shook his head and gave Kyle a scared look.

The mention of the other boy's name sparked recognition in Kyle's eyes. He looked over to where Kelly and Chad stood on the patio and made a face, "He big?"

"Yeah, I think he's big enough." Joey nodded.

"Only one." Kyle shook his finger at Joey as JC blushed. He didn't realize how much two-year-olds picked up from their parents as far as mannerisms went.

"Okay." Joey nodded, knowing that once the boys began to play together they'd be fine. He took Chad's hand and they walked together to the steps by the slide. Kyle watched with caution as the other little boy climbed the steps and laughed as he sat at the top of the slide. "Catch me?" He glanced over his shoulder at Joey.

"You don't need me to catch you." Joey shook his head. "See? It's just grass down there, you won't hurt yourself."

"Promise?" Chad asked with a smile.

"I promise." Joey laughed and gave Chad a gentle shove. The little boy zoomed down the slide and hit the grass feet first.

He jumped up and laughed as he clapped his hands, "Whoa! Now you!" He shouted to Joey. Joey took his turn then stood off to the side to watch as Kyle positioned himself at the top of the slide while Chad went to the stairs again.

The three adults watched as the children tentatively approached each other and began to chatter among themselves before sliding down the slide.

Within minutes the boys were chasing each other around the play set, running up and down the stairs, sliding down the slide and bouncing on the bridge. "Man, look at that." JC smiled and shook his head. "Sheesh, can I just borrow Chad for a couple hours a day? At this rate Kyle will tire himself out in an hour."

"Which is why he should go to school." Joey pointed out. He sat at the little table and poked at the ice in his cup.

JC looked over at Kelly who kept a close eye on the children; "He'd do really well in school I think. Now that he knows one of the kids, I think he'll adapt real well."

"Yeah?"

"The first couple days are usually rough, but by the end of the first week he'll love it." She smiled and watched as Kyle let Chad slide down first, then went after him. "Man, once you crack that little shell he's got, he's incredibly outgoing."

"He's a people person." JC and Joey said in unison.

"You should have seen him on the road. Anyone who came up was a friend as long as one of us was nearby. Until this morning I don’t think I've ever seen him act shy." Joey laughed as the boys knelt on the grass under the swings to examine something that only little boys found fascinating.

"Well would you like to check out the school? I'm off on Tuesday, but I'm going to pick Chad up, so if you'd like to come with me we can do that."

"With Kyle?"

Kelly shrugged, "You can bring him if you want, but you might want to find a sitter that way you can talk to his teacher and possibly set up a schedule with them."

"Okay." JC nodded, just because he checked it out didn't mean Kyle had to go.

"Great, well I'm going to pick Chad up around eleven thirty or twelve. Do you want me to swing by and get you?"

"I can meet you there." JC shook his head. "I'll see if Lance can watch him, he lives over that way."

"Okay." Kelly smiled.

"You won't regret it." Joey laughed. "Think of what you could do with a couple free mornings a week."

"I have no idea what I'd do." JC smiled and shook his head.

"Anything you want."

"A lot of parents go grocery shopping, or pick up the house, go to the movies, work, make phone calls… you know, those little things you can't do with a two year old hanging off your hip."

"Yeah, that makes sense." JC nodded and looked over at Joey, "How come you look wrecked?"

"Hard night." Joey mumbled under his breath as a smirk played at the corner of his mouth.

"Oh yeah?" JC raised his eyebrow.

"Steve's in town so this troublemaker took the other troublemaker and a handful of their troublemaking friends out for a night on the town last night." Kelly laughed. "He should know better." She patted Joey's knee affectionately. "You're not as young as you used to be."

"Oh bite me. Steve's older than I am." Joey shook his head and brushed her hand off his leg. "I just didn't count on being pulled out of bed at the ass crack of dawn." He smiled and covered his mouth as he yawned.

"Joe, eleven thirty is not the crack of dawn."

"It is when you didn't stumble in until six in the morning."

"That's your own fault."

"I know it is, but it's your fault that I had to wake up five hours later."

Kelly sighed and rolled her eyes, "I swear Joey."

"You guys should just get married and get it over with."

"Hell no." They answered in perfect unison.

"Don't even talk like that." Joey glared at JC then laughed.

"I know him too well to marry him." Kelly chuckled under her breath and turned to look at the two boys in the little bridge.

"We're friends, so just leave us alone."

"I'm just saying." JC waved his hand to emphasize his lost point. "Anyway… I'll meet you at the entrance of the school Tuesday, right?"

"Yep."

"I don't need an appointment?"

"No, I'll be there to sign you in as a guest. I'll introduce you to the teachers and stuff." Kelly smiled.

"Cool, thanks Kelly."

"No problem." She smiled then stood up to go play with the kids on the swings so the guys could talk.

"You look like you need a nap."

"I do. Can I borrow your couch?" Joey yawned again and stretched his arms over his head.

"If you think you can get away with it."

"Man, if she wasn't such a good friend I'd have made her walk over here today. I swear, it's not right to work on five hours of sleep when we're off."

"I hear ya." JC nodded. "I've got my own personal alarm clock that goes off before seven every morning."

"Dude, I'd invest in a lock and a sound proof room." Joey rubbed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

"Don't think I haven't thought about that." JC laughed and watched as Kelly stood between the two swings pushing them at the same time.

A flicker of something new whisked through his chest as he watched her smiling down at the boys with a look of unconditional love and motherly pride. JC blinked several times till the feeling went away, then turned back to Joey who had since dozed off with his chin resting on his chest. "Sweet dreams, kid." JC laughed lightly then stood up and went to the play area to join Chad, Kyle and Kelly.

They played for another hour until Joey jerked awake and started making noise about going home already. JC thanked them for coming, then he and Kyle stood by the front door waving as they pulled out of the driveway and headed home together, looking like a family and causing that feeling to spark again in JC's chest.

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

On Tuesday JC left Kyle with Lance and Amy while he went with Kelly to check out the daycare center for Kyle. He was pleasantly surprised to see the security of the building and how no one got past the front desk without having their ID checked and signed in. All of the classrooms were toward the back of the facility without any access from to the street, though he could hear the children playing from the entrance.

"Chad's head teacher is Michelle, and she has two assistants that come in throughout the day and several high school volunteers as well. Brian is here in the mornings, then Debbie in the afternoon, those are her assistants. I'm not sure what the volunteers names are, they change every quarter but there are three that come."

"Cool." JC nodded.

"Chances are you'll bring Kyle in the morning so he'll get to play with Michelle and Brian." Kelly smiled and led the way down the brightly lit halls with children's artwork hanging proudly against the vibrant colored backdrops.

"How big is the class?"

"In the mornings there are usually around six kids, and around ten or ten thirty it goes up to about ten. They only allow twelve in the class at all, so at any given time there wouldn't be more than that."

"Okay."

"But if Kyle's just here for the mornings, he'll be in a pretty small class."

"Okay." JC nodded like a pigeon and shuffled into the class behind Kelly.

"Hey big guy!" She laughed as Chad dropped his huge cardboard brick and ran over from where he was building a wall with other kids. "Are you having fun?"

"Yeah! I drawed and build a wall."

"I see that, that's great." Kelly laughed, "You're going to come home with me today, how does that sound?"

"Okay." Chad nodded and took off in a gallop toward the wall of plastic baskets in cubbyholes.

"Hi Michelle, this is JC. He's looking for morning daycare for his son." Kelly smiled at the teacher nearby.

"Hi JC, it's nice to meet you." Michelle shook his hand and glanced over her shoulder toward Brian. She nodded at JC and Kelly and he answered back with a small wave, knowing he'd be in charge of the class for a minute. "I'm sorry I can't give you a full tour right now, but I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have."

"Thanks." JC blushed.

"How old is your son?"

"Um, two and a half… Kyle."

"Great, we're running low on little boys around here." Michelle laughed and looked back at the room dominated by little girls.

JC smiled uneasily and cleared his throat, "I've never really done this before, I'm not sure what to ask."

"That's okay. Let me start by telling you a little bit about Little Rascals. I'm sure Kelly's filled you in on most of it though." Michelle smiled and launched into a short synopsis of the educational goals and guidelines set up for the facility, specifically for the two to three year old age group. "We do a lot of creative work that also helps them learn colors and shapes. What hours were you thinking of coming?"

"In the morning, like eight or nine." JC shrugged.

"Until noon?"

"Yeah." JC nodded. "I mean, can we do that? Does it matter?"

"Sure you can do that. Half-day rates charge for any four consecutive hours or part thereof. So if you sign up for a half day and only use three hours of it, the cost is the same."

"Okay." JC nodded.

"Were you thinking of every day?"

"No, just a couple days a week."

"Okay, so basically just like Chad?" Michelle smiled.

"Yeah." JC nodded.

"Okay, well for that time frame we'll be doing outside play, story time, a small snack then indoor imagination play or a craft depending on what the lesson plan is."

"Sounds like fun."

"I think so." Michelle laughed lightly and looked over her shoulder at the classroom behind her. "As you can see today we're doing indoor imagination play."

"Could I bring Kyle by to try it out?"

"Of course." Michelle nodded, "You'll have to arrange that at the front desk though, I'm not sure exactly how that goes. They'd be able to answer your questions regarding fees and things like that as well."

"And I can come by whenever I want?"

"Of course, we encourage that in fact. We like to have parents stop by to observe the classroom, it gives them a better feel for what their children do all day."

"What if I can't pick him up for some reason, can someone else?"

"If you know in advance that you won't be able to pick him up, then you'll need to let us know so we can put a note in there as to who is picking him up. If you don't know in advance then what we do is go by your emergency contact list, that's the list of people that you authorize to pick up your child. Unless of course you call in and give us your password and let us know who."

"So if something happens to me and I just call my friend or whatever to come and get him, he can't pick Kyle up?"

"Not unless his name is on the list, no."

"Okay." JC nodded.

"That's for the safety of the child. With the kind of custody battles that are happening out there, we can't afford to let just anyone pick up the children." Michelle explained in a lowered tone.

"No, hey I understand. That's a good thing, trust me." JC explained quickly. "I don't want just anyone to be able to come in here and get him, not even my friends."

"Of course not." Michelle shook her head then looked over to where two little girls were fighting over a yellow blanket. "I'm sorry, I need to go break them up. Did you have any more questions?" She asked as she started across the room.

"No, thank you." JC waved lamely then turned to Kelly, "This place is nice."

"Yeah it is. And I can vouch for the security thing. The first time I had to take Chad home they wouldn't let me leave with him since I wasn't on the list. I'm his aunt and I work here and they still wouldn't do it, I think that says a lot."

"It does." JC nodded. "That's one thing I was worried about, you know? Fans or something… or even Lori."

"Is that his mom?"

"Yeah." He took a deep breath, "I just wouldn't want anything to happen, you know?"

"I know." Kelly smiled, "So why don't I take you back to the front and you can set up a visit with Kyle and talk about pricing if you want? Chad won't be ready to go for a few minutes anyway."

"Okay, thanks a lot Kelly."

"No problem. I hope that Kyle gets to come here, I really think he'd have a good time."

"I think so too." JC smiled as he looked up at the ceiling that was decorated with hanging rainbows. "Yeah, he'd like this."

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

"So… Kyle… what do you like to do?" Lance asked as he put his hands in his pockets.

"Dunno." Kyle shrugged. "We have candy?"

"I uh, we don't have too much candy here." Lance shook his head. "I think we might have some cookies though, how about cookies?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded.

"Wait, did you have lunch?" He stopped quickly and looked down at Kyle.

"Have cookie."

"I don't remember if your dad said if you had lunch or not." Lance said under his breath as he stared down at Kyle, hoping to remember.

"He did." Amy laughed as she walked into the kitchen. "But we don't have any cookies either. We have ice cream, do you like ice cream Kyle?"

"And speeko?" His eyes lit up as he remembered the ice cream fun time he had with Lance before.

Lance laughed and shook his head, "Nope, no sprinkles."

"Ina pool?"

"Nope, we can't eat in the pool." Lance shook his head as he and Amy moved around the kitchen getting out the bowls and ice cream.

"Why?" Kyle asked.

"Because if ice cream got in the water it would make the water all gross."

"Make me gose?"

"No, it won't make you gross. Only the water." Lance caught Amy's eye over the open half gallon of ice cream and smiled. "You're the cutest kid ever, you couldn't be gross." He smiled down at Kyle as he scooped the ice cream into a small ball.

"I gose en I potty."

Amy grinned with a subtle laugh, "Are you going to go there?" She asked Lance under her breath.

He winked at her then asked, "Do you go potty in the big kids toilet?"

"No." Kyle shrugged and climbed up on the chair at the table. "I no have."

"When you have to go, do you go in the toilet though?"

"No." Kyle shook his head. "Have diapo."

"Then how are you gross in the potty?" Lance asked, dodging the stabbing glance from Amy.

Kyle sighed and rolled his eyes exaggeratedly, "Potty ina diapo."

"The potty in the diaper is gross?"

"Yeah." Kyle laughed, "Is pee eww." He made a face.

"Okay, alright kids, enough potty talk." Amy laughed and grabbed spoons as she headed for the table, lightly bumping Lance's hip as she walked by. "You're supposed to be the grown up here."

"I am."

"I grow up?" Kyle asked as Amy set the bowl in front of him.

"Today it looks like you are." Amy laughed, "I hope you like chocolate chip ice cream."

"Yeah." Kyle looked at the bowl with wide eyes then grabbed the spoon and stood up on the chair so he'd be able to reach easier.

"You need a booster seat." Lance frowned and looked around the kitchen, as if he'd suddenly have a booster seat handy. "What can we use?"

"Couch cushions." Amy reached over the side of the couch and grabbed two thick chenille throw pillows. "Here you go sweetie." She set them on the chair then plopped Kyle down on top.

"Tanks." Kyle smiled with a white ice cream moustache.

"You're wel - " She stopped as the pillows shot out from underneath Kyle and his spoon went flying in the air.

"Whoa!" Lance grabbed his arm before he followed the pillows to the floor. "Those are a little slippery huh?"

"Owie!" Kyle cried, more scared than anything.

"Oh man, I'm sorry." Lance loosened his grip and set Kyle on his bottom on the chair. "Here." He rubbed Kyle's back then wiped his teary eyes, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." Kyle lip trembled, "I fall."

"I know, you almost fell out of the chair." Lance glanced up at Amy as she blushed and bent to pick up the pillows. "Let's see if we can find something else."

"I can't remember what my mom used to use." Amy frowned.

"Probably a booster seat." Lance raised his eyebrow with a smirk.

"Don’t be a smartass."

"Watch your mouth."

"Hang on." Amy reached for the phone and dialed her mother's home, "Hey mom!" She smiled when her mom answered, "Remember when we were kids and we couldn't reach the table, what did you used to use like, for a booster seat?" She asked, "No, I just… we're babysitting Kyle and he can't reach his ice cream. I know it's only eleven thirty. He's had his lunch mom. Yes he did. I don't know what he ate, JC fed him before they came over." She sighed heavily and immediately regretted calling her mother, "Mom, JC's his dad and he can feed him whenever he wants. Maybe they get up and have breakfast at five? Come on, I don't control that." She heaved a heavy sigh again as Lance chuckled at the table. "Back on topic mom, what did you use for a booster seat? Really? How many? Okay. Alright. I will, thanks. I will mom. Okay, I'll see you later. I love you too. I will, I said I will. Okay, bye."

"You should know by now…" Lance laughed.

"Don’t feed the child ice cream this early in the day." She rolled her eyes, "There, I said I'd tell you and I did. She used phone books."

"Do we have phone books?" Lance gave her a look.

"I don't know, I don't live here… remember?"

"Amy…"

"Okay, before a month ago I didn't live here." She smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

"I think there's some in the garage, let me go look." Lance stood up from the table wen to the garage to look.

"Lance is nutty kiddo."

"Laaaance?"

"Yep, he's nutty in the head." Amy laughed and ran her hand over Kyle's soft hair.

"Hasa nut?"

"Yep."

"Ames, these ones are from last year." Lance said as he brought three thick phone books in from the garage.

"So? He's not going to use them to get numbers."

"Well yeah, but - " Lance shook his head, "Nevermind. Here you go kiddo." Lance lifted Kyle so he was standing on the chair then slid the phone books against the back of the chair. "Give that a whirl." He plopped Kyle on the phone books and scooted the chair up to the table. "How's that?"

"Kay."

"Is that better?"

"Yeah is beto." Kyle nodded and took the new spoon Amy held out to him. He smiled, then dove into the ice cream as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Amy and Lance joined him and they all finished their ice cream a short while later. Lance took the dishes to the sink while Amy wet a paper towel and wiped Kyle's sticky face and hands, "Is there a kid under all of this ice cream?" She laughed as she wiped his face.

"Yeah!" Kyle giggled and turned his head toward her so she could get it all off.

"There is? All I see is chocolate chip ice cream. Is there a chocolate chip kid under this mess?"

"No is Kyle." He laughed and opened his eyes wide.

Lance stood perfectly still, holding his bowl under the running water as he watched from across the kitchen as Amy continued with the joking, "I don't see a Kyle under here. Are you sure there's a Kyle in here?" She ran the paper towel over his already clean face and laughed.

"Yeah I here!" Kyle reached up and moved her hand out of the way. "See? Is me!"

"Oh my goodness! Wow, look at that! There is a Kyle kid under all that mess!" She looked surprised and turned to Lance, "Do you see this? There's a little boy under that sticky ice cream mess."

Lance shook his head slightly as he focused on Amy with a dreamy smile on his face, "Hmm?"

"There's a little boy under the ice cream mess." She said softly as she noticed the look in his eyes.

"I see that." Lance cleared his throat and set the bowl in the sink. He dried his hands on the towel as he crossed the kitchen and picked Kyle up out of his seat. "He's a cute kid too. I think we should keep him."

"Yeah!" Kyle cheered as he wiggled to get down. "I say here."

"Won't your daddy miss you though?"

"No." Kyle shook his head. "I pay and doggies."

"I think your daddy would be sad if you stayed here with us though. You can come and visit anytime you want, how does that sound?" Lance asked as his dog Jackson walked up and licked a tiny spot of left over ice cream off of Kyle's hands.

"Kay." Kyle nodded then looked up at Lance, "Go ouside now?"

Lance looked over Kyle's head at Amy real fast, then nodded, "Yeah, let's go outside." He took her hand, then opened the backdoor and watched as the two dogs ran across the expansive back lawn in search of the bright yellow tennis ball.

Amy gave Lance's hand a quick squeeze as she smiled and stepped outside as Jackson returned with the ball in his mouth. He dropped it at Kyle's feet and waited anxiously with a dog smile on his lips.

Kyle picked up the slobbery ball and threw it towards the far end of the lawn. Lexi and Jackson chased it the short distance it went then returned with their tails wagging. Lance laughed and watched Kyle play catch with the dogs as Amy stood by his side holding his hand tightly.

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

JC made arrangements at the front desk for Kyle to attend the morning classes beginning in another two weeks, then left to pick him up from Lance's. As he walked up the driveway he could hear the dogs barking inside, followed by a chorus of laughter and a feminine squeal.

The front door burst open as Amy and Lexi rushed through the door with Lance and Kyle in hot pursuit. "Hey!" JC laughed as the dog ran over to his feet. "Hi guys, how'd it go?"

"Daddy!" Kyle wiggled from Lance's arms and ran down the steps to where JC stood petting the dog.

"Hey Kyle." He laughed and scooped Kyle up as the dog bounced around his knees. "Did you have fun?"

"Yeah I owie my head." Kyle frowned and touched the top of his head.

"You hit your head?" JC asked as he looked toward Lance and Amy.

"Yeah he… we had a little mishap in the kitchen." Lance nodded quickly and blushed. "He's okay though, he didn't hit hard."

"Let's see your owie." JC ran his fingers over Kyle's head to feel for any bumps. "Aww, you're made of steel. No bumps, no bruises."

"I have eye keem?"

"You want ice cream?"

"He had ice cream." Amy laughed. "Don't let him try to con some more out of you, he had a big bowl of chocolate chip ice cream."

"Man that sounds good." JC licked his lips.

"Do you want some? We have it inside." Lance pointed back into the house.

"No, it's cool." JC smiled up at them. "So other than bonking his head, how'd he do?"

"He was fine, a perfect angel of course." Amy ginned and wrapped her arm around Lance's waist. "You guys should come over more often."

"Yeah." JC nodded. "Thanks for watching him."

"No problem." Lance shook his head and smiled, "How'd your meeting or whatever go?"

"Good… real good actually. He'll be starting pre-school in two weeks."

"Wow, that soon?"

"Yeah. They had an opening and he could have started tomorrow." JC shrugged. "But I've gotta prepare for this. Psych myself up, you know?" Lance laughed with him, he knew what JC meant.

"He'll dig it though. All those new people? That'll be cool." Lance nodded.

"Yeah, I know he'll have fun." JC nodded. "And it's only for a little while, I mean, we go back on the road here in like, 8 weeks, right?"

"Something like that." Lance nodded and looked at Amy, however long it was it would be too short.

"Rad. I'll see you guys later then, it looks like the little dude is ready to go." He glanced down at Kyle who was dancing on the walkway leading to the driveway. "Thanks again for watching him, you guys are lifesavers."

"No problem." Amy smiled and waved, then blew a kiss at Kyle.

Kyle brought his hand to his mouth then "threw" his kiss at her, "Bye bye Mimi and Laaaance and Lessi and Jacks." Kyle giggled and ran down the walk to where JC's car was parked.

"See you later." JC laughed and followed Kyle as he waved over his shoulder. He set Kyle in his seat then they took off for home. JC filled Kyle in on how cool the school was going to be and how he'd get to play with Chad and a bunch of other children. Kyle seemed halfway interested in the idea of school, but was really more concerned with the fact that Lello was a dog and doggies couldn't go to school.

"I think you can take him." JC nodded.

"A doggie in school?"

"Sure, I think this one time it would be okay."

"He no by?"

"No, Lello doesn't bite. Has he ever bitten you?" JC asked as they pulled into their driveway.

"No, he by lunch."

"Yeah, he bites his lunch and that's okay."

"Lello say home daddy."

"That's fine, you can leave Lello at home if you want. You've still got a couple weeks though, you don't have to decide right now."

"Kay." Kyle nodded and sighed; two weeks was an eternity at his age.

"We need to go shopping this week pal." JC said as he took Kyle out of the backseat of the car. "We need to get you a lunch box and a bag or something for you to take to school."

"I take?"

"Yep, just like a big kid."

"And Joey?"

"No, Joey already went to school."

"You?"

"I already went to school too. This is a school for little boys just like you, and you know what?"

"What?"

"Chad goes to school too so you can see him. Remember Chad?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded. "I eat box?" He asked with a frown.

"You want to eat a box?" JC asked, completely lost.

"Have lunch box?" Kyle gave him a confused look as JC set him on the floor in the entry hall.

"Oh!" JC laughed. "No you don't eat the box, silly. See, what we'll do is I'll make you a lunch and put it in the box so you can take it to school with you."

"What can make?"

"I can make you anything you want."

"A samich?"

"You bet."

"A cookie?"

"Heck yeah we'll out cookies in there." JC nodded.

"And eye keem?"

"Nope, we can't put ice cream in the lunch box. It would melt and make a big mess."

"Is gose?" Kyle made a sour face.

"Yeah, it'd be gross." JC laughed as they walked through the house to the family room where Kyle's little toy box was sitting open in the corner. "Did you have fun with Lance and Amy?"

"Yeah." Kyle sighed. "I go gan."

"You want to go again?"

"Yeah."

"What was your favorite part?"

"See a doggie and Mimi."

"Seeing the dogs and Amy?" JC smiled. "You didn't like seeing Lance?"

"Laaance a nut."

"He's a nut huh? I know that man; we're all a little nuts sometimes. Even me." JC made a silly face and laughed.

"Yeah." Kyle giggled then sighed again as he reached for his toddler-sized piano. "Mimi is like mommy."

JC paused for a second, "Yeah, it sounds the same kind of."

Kyle looked over his shoulder at JC and gave him an odd look that said 'you don’t get it'. He put his piano down and touched one of the keys, "No, is like a mommy."

A blush flashed up to JC's ears for a split second as his lips tingled, "Yeah… yeah I guess she is like a mommy." He nodded slowly with a hint of sadness. As well as he was doing on his own; Kyle missed having a 'mommy' around. Whether it was his or not.

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

They spent a few days picking up little things for Kyle to take with him to school while JC tried to make a list of things he could do while Kyle was gone. His sister came to visit that weekend so they drove out to the beach to spend the day under the sun. Kyle's eyes lit up when he saw the crashing waves and sand; he'd loved the beach so much in California but this was the first time he'd been to the Atlantic Ocean. The three spent the day in the sand then packed it up and went back to JC's house as the sun began to set. After a quick dinner, Heather crashed in the guestroom while JC put Kyle to bed in his own room upstairs.

With both of them asleep, JC grabbed his phone book and sat on the couch with the TV on mute. All day he'd been thinking about Lori and Kyle, he knew he'd have to call her to touch base soon. The last few weeks had opened his eyes a lot as far as how hard it was to raise a child on his own.

He could sympathize with Lori a little more now that he understood what kind of stress she was under. Of course, he had money and a house and everything Kyle could want, so at the same time he couldn't even begin to imagine what it was like for her. So many times over the last few weeks he'd wanted to just go to the bathroom without worrying about what Kyle was getting into, or to take a long shower in the middle of the day, or sleep in past seven in the morning. While he was on the road he had a handful of helpers to keep an eye on Kyle while he did those things, but now it was all on him and he began to truly appreciate the help.

JC's mind wandered from Lori to Jessica and he smiled. A ripple of anxiety raced through his stomach as he thought about calling her. He ran his fingers over the buttons and tried to make up his mind. He couldn't just call her out of the blue for no reason, that wasn't the kind of relationship they had.

"Then again, we don't really have a defined relationship." JC whispered to himself. "Which is really why you should call her and talk to her." He added silently in his mind. JC kept up the internal argument for another minute, finally deciding to think of a reason to call Jessica before they met up again for their tour started.

A heavy sigh escaped JC's lips and he turned his phone book open to the first page where Lori's number was scrawled carelessly in the corner with a bright blue marker. He dialed the number quickly and waited patiently as it rang somewhere out in Los Angeles. The machine clicked on several rings later and announced in a mechanically monotone voice that no one was available at the moment to take his call.

"Hi, hey uh Lori, this is… this is Jay - uh… Josh." He said quickly. He didn’t know who might listen to the message and he didn’t need rumors starting about him out there. "I just wanted to call and let you know that we’re here in Florida and all settled in and uh… and everything. I know things kind of left on a bad note in LA and I… I’m uh, I’m sorry about that." He licked his lips and tried to remain focused, "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that Kyle’s doing great, he’s starting pre-school next week with one of my friends nephews and he can’t wait. If you um… I hope you get this. I’ll talk to you later." He hung up and took a deep breath. That was the first big step into creating a working relationship with her and he was amazed that he could be so normal and mature about it.

JC ran his hand through his hair and sat back on the couch, being mature wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

 

Next...

 

Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn