"Daddy."  Kyle whined from the hall as he rubbed his eyes.

            Jessica's eyes flew open as she quickly took a step back and raised her fingers to her tingling lips.  "I - "

            "Hey buddy."  JC tucked his hands in his pockets and licked his lips.  He cleared his throat as he eyes darted from Jessica to Kyle,  "You're gonna be awake now huh?"  JC stepped around the corner of Jessica's bed and knelt to pick Kyle up.

            "Yeah."  Kyle mumbled as he yawned.  The indentation of his pillow was still fresh on his warm cheek.  "Daddy I have possik?"

            "Sure, I think we can find some popsicles."  JC kissed Kyle's temple and stepped out into the hall,  "Want a popsicle?"  He asked Jessica as he smiled flirtatiously.

            "I uh… sure."  She nodded and looked down into her suitcase,  "Yeah."

            "Grape or cherry?"

            "Gape."  Kyle laid his head on his father's shoulder.  JC raised his eyebrow and looked at Jessica, the intended target of his question.

            "Cherry."  She smiled and took a pair of pants from her suitcase.

            "One cherry popsicle coming up."

            "And gape."  Kyle said with a little more enthusiasm.

            "And one grape too."  JC laughed as he and Kyle headed down the short hall to the kitchen.

            Jessica spent a few more minutes unpacking her clothes as her mind raced.  She had arrived more than an hour ago expecting nothing more than a position as his pseudo-girlfriend while Lori was in town and suddenly everything was turned upside down.  She certainly didn't mind that things were changing so drastically, but she wasn't expecting this.

            Her lips still tingled from the sudden pressure and action, and she reached up to touch them again, not quite believing they were still there.  She smiled to herself then ran her fingers through her hair before she took a deep breath and walked down to the kitchen.  "Hey."  She said as she walked up to the backdoor.  Kyle and JC were sitting side by side on the edge of the little patio with their feet on the grass.

            "Hi Jessi have possick."  Kyle turned around to give her with a wide purple grin.

            "Oh my goodness, look at you!"  She laughed.

            "Hey don't laugh."  JC smiled to show his own purple lips, then handed her the cherry popsicle.  "Hurry up before it melts."

            "Ahh thanks."  She took the popsicle and opened it as the red juices dribbled down her hand.  "I'm gonna make a mess."

            "Ona grass."  Kyle giggled as his popsicle dripped onto the grass between his knees.

            "Oh I see.  Good idea."  Jessica laughed and leaned over so she'd drip on the grass as well.  They ate their popsicles in silence as they watched birds launch and land on the fence surrounding the pool.

            When they were done JC took the discarded sticks and threw them away inside, while Kyle took Jessica around the backyard to show her all of his playthings.  "Can go sim?"  He asked as he squinted up at her.

            "Y-yeah, maybe.  We'll have to see what your daddy says."

            "He say kay."  Kyle nodded and pulled her toward the play set.

            "You think he'll say okay?"

            "Yeah."

            "If he does then we'll have to go swimming."  Jessica laughed and watched as he expertly climbed up the ladder to the first landing.

            She and Kyle played on and around the play set for a while before JC joined in and pushed Kyle on the swings to see how high he'd go.  They stayed outside for a while before JC's stomach growled,  "Hey little dude, I think we need to go get some dinner."

            "Have a kickin and toy?"  Kyle crawled out of the swing and landed on the grass in front of JC.

            "A chicken nugget happy meal?"  JC blushed sheepishly.

            "And a toy!" 

            "Sounds good to me."  Jessica smiled and met JC's eye over Kyle's head.  "McDonalds huh?"

            "Yeah we uh… we go sometimes, you know, when we've had one of those days."  JC nodded.  "Usually we stay home and cook though.  Macaroni and cheese or hot dogs or something.  We've got a bar-b-que so we spark that up sometimes."

            "Uh huh."  Jessica nodded, not believing a word he said.

            "We do!" 

            "JC, you don’t have to try to prove yourself to me."  She laughed.  "So you go to McDonalds?  Big deal."  She smiled and shook her head.  "I like McDonalds as much as the next person."

            "Dippin fry."  Kyle added.

            "You dip your fries?"  Jessica asked.

            "He's a ketchup hound.  Who knew?"  JC shrugged and lifted Kyle up onto his shoulders.  "Come on little guy, let's go get some grub."

            "And eye keem?"

            "If you eat your dinner real good, then yea maybe we can have some ice cream for dessert."  JC ducked so Kyle wouldn't hit his head as they entered the house.  "I thought we'd go get it and bring it back here."  JC turned to address Jessica.

            "Sounds good to me.  Do you want me to go get it?"

            "No, it's cool.  We can hit the drive thru."  JC continued through the house to the garage where he ducked again, then took Kyle down to strap him in his seat.

            Jessica followed behind them feeling like a third wheel almost, then climbed in the passenger seat beside JC.  "So Lori is coming in tomorrow?"  Jessica asked as they hit the road.

            "Yeah, she's uh… she actually flies in tonight so she'll be by tomorrow afternoon."  JC kept his eyes straight forward as he unconsciously clenched his teeth.

            "Okay."  She answered softly, not wanting to upset him by talking about it.  They drove the rest of the way to McDonalds in silence, got their food then drove back to the house to eat around the kitchen table.  Kyle sat high in his booster seat and spent more time playing with the mini Tonka truck than he did eating his dinner.  JC had to remind him three times that his chicken was going to get cold if he didn't eat it.

            Finally, after several bouts of bargaining, Kyle finished two of his chicken nuggets and half of his fries.  "I done."  He took a sip of his milk then slid out of his seat.  "Oh daddy, I have big."  He stuck his tummy out as far as it would go then patted it.

            JC laughed and shook his head,  "That's attractive buddy."

            "Have eye keem?"

            "Look at how big your tummy is, do you think you can fit ice cream in there?"  JC raised his eyebrow as Kyle headed for the family room.

            "Yeah daddy."

            "I don't think so pal."

            “I think.”  Kyle nodded.

            Jessica laughed and stood up with her trash in her hand,  "Do you want to go get your pajamas on?  That way we can have ice cream and watch 'Jungle Book' downstairs?"  She threw her bag into the trashcan under the sink then rinsed her hands.

            "He won't last ten minutes."  JC laughed lightly and caught Jessica's eye.

            "Yeah, but it'll be fun."  She smiled back, then extended her hand to Kyle who was already yawning.  “Come on kiddo, let’s go get some pajamas on.”

            “And you?”

            “Yep, I’ll put mine on too.”  Jessica laughed as they walked down the hall and detoured into her room.  She placed Kyle on the huge bed, then took her flannel pajama bottoms and tank top into the bathroom to change.  She pulled a brush through her hair then put it into a quick ponytail before she went out into the room and turned around to model her new attire,  “What do you think?”

            “Is red.”  He shrugged and slid off the bed.  “My jamas now?”

            “Yeah, lets go get yours now.”  Jessica took his hand again and they headed for the stairs.   As they rounded the corner Jessica heard a recorded voice coming from the kitchen area,  “… is Lori, I just landed here in Orlando.  I’m staying at the Holiday Inn over on – “

            Jessica hurried up the stairs with Kyle clambering to keep up beside her,  “I have geen jamas.”  Kyle panted as they reached the top of the stairs,  “Geen and blue.”

            “You do?”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle rubbed his eyes and yawned again.

            "So what kind of pajamas do you want to wear tonight?"  Jessica asked as she crossed his room and opened one of the drawers in his dresser.

            "I dunno."  Kyle shrugged and climbed up on his toy box to peer into the open drawer.  "Have a disor?"

            "A dinosaur?  Hmm, let's see."  She rifled through his clothes and came up with a blue pair that had a big dinosaur on the front,  "Right on, check it out."

            "Right on."  Kyle said softly as Jessica moved the pajamas to the tiny bed.  Kyle got a pull-up out of the bottom drawer and handed it to her as he climbed up onto the bed.  She got him ready for bed, then spent a minute just watching him choose a toy from his toy box to take downstairs with him.

            His diapered bottom pooched out just the slightest bit and his tiny hands wrapped carefully around his fire truck.  "Kay we see a gungle?"

            "A jungle?  You bet, we're going to go watch 'Jungle Book', it's a story about a little boy just like you."

            "Is me?"

            "Yep, kind of.  His name is Mowgli and he lives in the jungle with a big bear named Baloo and a tiger named Shere Khan."

            Kyle laughed and tucked his truck under his arm as he took Jessica's hand.  "A mokey?"

            "Yep, there are monkeys in it too."

            "Cool."

            "Yep, it's pretty cool."  She laughed as they took the steps one at a time down to the entry.

            They joined JC in the family room a minute later where he had the movie ready to go and three bowls of ice cream on the floor.  "I hope you like mint chocolate chip."

            "That's fine."  Jessica smiled and sat on the floor indian style beside Kyle.

            "Cool pajamas."  JC nodded and sat on the opposite side of Kyle.  He pushed the 'play' button and the movie started without any previews or credits.

            JC was right, within the first couple of minutes Kyle was sound asleep with his head tilted back against the couch.  His small bowl of ice cream melted slowly as JC and Jessica finished theirs while watching the movie.

            "He's zonked."  JC whispered as he pushed himself up off the floor.  He reached for Jessica's bowl then carried them to the kitchen where he placed them in the dishwasher.  When he returned to the family room, he put his hands on his hips and looked down at Kyle, who was beginning to fall over,  "Okay dude, let's get you upstairs."  JC bent over and lifted Kyle off the floor, being careful not to give the little boy whiplash.

            “Can I put him down?”  Jessica asked as she stood up and brushed her hands on the front of her shorts.

            “You… sure.”  JC nodded as he stepped over the toys that were out on the floor.  Kyle lay like a rag doll in his arms as he carefully balanced on one foot for a second.  “He’s dead weight.”

            “That’s okay.”  Jessica smiled and slid her hands between Kyle's shoulders and JC's chest.  She lifted him onto her shoulder and adjusted him so that he was steadier.  “I’ll be right back.”  She whispered as she walked slowly down the hall toward the stairs.

            Jessica took the stairs slowly, Kyle had grown since the last time she saw him and he wasn’t as light as he used to be.  When she got to the top of the stairs she peeked into the first room and smiled.  A little red Elmo nightlight illuminated the little corner of the room with a bright and cheery smile.

            The door creaked softly as she prodded it open with her foot and stepped into the dark room.  The light from the hall shone into the room so she wasn’t in complete darkness as she walked barefoot towards the tiny bed on the far wall.  Jessica placed her hand on Kyle’s head to support his neck as she leaned forward and laid him on his back in the middle of his bed, then she slowly pulled the covers up to his chin.

            She sat on the side of the bed and brushed his hair off his forehead, he could use a haircut pretty soon.  The light from the hall fell across his face but he was too far into his dream world to notice.  “You’re one lucky little boy.”  Jessica whispered as she ran her finger over his dry lips causing him to pucker.

            JC stayed downstairs watching the TV on ‘mute’ for a minute before he climbed the carpeted stairs quietly, not making a sound as he reached the landing and stood in the doorway of Kyle’s room.

            Jessica looked up as JC blocked the light from the hallway and smiled,  “Hi.”  She whispered.

            JC raised his hand in a half wave,  “Hi.”  He whispered with a small smile.  He watched as Jessica turned back to Kyle and said a good night prayer for him, barely moving her lips.  As he stood in the hall watching, JC crossed his arms over his chest and sighed.  This was how it was supposed to be, the mom and dad saying good night to their kids after a long day, bedtime prayers and that warm blushing feeling JC felt.

            Only Jessica wasn’t Kyle’s mom… that was the only part that didn’t fit.

            Jessica stood slowly and passed JC to begin down the stairs where they could finish watching the movie.  Just as her shoulder brushed his, JC caught her arm and pulled her closer to him.  She stood motionless, as she looked up at him with a look somewhere between confused and interested.  JC's arm wrapped around her waist and his heart pounded as he brought his lips down to hers in a delicate and unsure kiss.

            “JC, I..." As Jessica opened her mouth to protest JC took that opportunity to deepen the kiss, moving her back two steps to the wall.  She took a split second to get her bearings, but when she did her hand found it's way to his hair and she held him closer with the other hand on his back.

            JC's hunger and desperation surprised even himself as his breath quickened to match his pulse.  He slowly and carefully managed to walk them both to the end of the hall, using the wall as a guide, without losing his place or pace.  As he pushed his bedroom door open he was already reaching for her shirt, anxious to feel the warmth of her bare skin.
            They paused long enough to pull her shirt over her head and toss it carelessly toward the far window, then resumed their kissing as she back stepped to the bed.  As she fell back onto the bed, Jessica held tight to his arms to pull him with her.  He stood up for a moment to pull his own shirt over his head then dropped it on the floor and returned to Jessica. 
            “My God."  He said under his breath as he bent to kiss her again.  Six months was a long time by any mans standards, but for him it felt like an eternity.  He couldn't get her  pants off fast enough, and spent precious seconds fumbling with his own belt in the rush.  She laughed lightly as he cursed his belt before dropping it on top of his shirt, then she pulled him down to kiss his already swollen lips.
            “W-wait."  She said between kisses as he let his hands explore her body.  "Wait, JC."
            “What's wrong?"  JC held his face inches from hers and let his hair tickle her nose.
            “Protection."  She whispered with a smile, though she was completely serious.
            “Y-yeah."  JC bit his lip gently before reaching into the nightstand for the familiar foil packet.
            He smoothed her hair back and looked into her eyes, even though the room was dark.  "Are you sure?"  He whispered, knowing how clich� that sounded.

            She nodded in response, she couldn't have been more sure of anything.  He kissed her again, his hands resuming their exploration of her body.  He tried to take his time with her, but he found it impossible to slow down.  He inhaled sharply as he rested his damp forehead against her shoulder.
            “Wow." She whispered as she tried to catch her breath.  JC nestled his head in the crook of her neck as he lay perfectly still.
            “My God.”  JC rolled onto his side but left his arm resting across her stomach.  He couldn’t believe he’d just gone so completely crazy, but at the same time he felt like everything was finally right and sane.

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

            The awkward feeling in the morning was amplified by the fact that Kyle woke them both out of a deep sleep at the same time.  “Oh man.”  JC said up in bed and pressed his hands over his eyes.  He felt hung over while knowing he hadn’t had a drop to drink,  “I’ll get him.”  He grabbed his boxers off the floor and pulled them on as Jessica lay rigidly on the far end of the bed.

            She pulled the sheet tight around her body as she listened to JC shuffle out of the room.  She wanted to leave, to run downstairs to her room and to forget this whole thing had happened, but that would almost be too weird.  As if the situation wasn’t uncomfortable enough.

            She carefully leaned off the tall bed and found her tank top crumpled up half way under the nightstand.  Jessica blushed as she pulled it over her untamed hair and quickly slid from the bed to grab her pajama bottoms that were by the window.  She was standing by the window tying the waist when JC knocked gently on the door,  “Hey, are you uh… are you up?”  He asked from behind the halfway closed door.

            “Yeah.”  Jessica ran her hands through her hair and turned around as her toes found her underwear hanging from the bottom shelf of the nightstand.  She picked them up and folded them before tucking them in her back pocket,  “Hey sweetie.”  Jessica smiled brightly as Kyle waddled into the room and tried to climb onto the big bed.

            “Hi Jessi.”  He gave her a small smile as she lifted him onto the bed while straightening the covers with her other hand.  He crawled up to the pillows and sat down between the two larger ones,  “See Big Bird?”

            “He uh, we watch Sesame Street in the mornings.”  JC smiled sheepishly as he stood by the door.

            “Oh by all means.”  Jessica smiled, grateful for the excuse to sneak out.  “I’m going to go um, shower… do you – what would you like for breakfast?”

            “Pankays.”  Kyle giggled and grabbed his toes as he sat indian style.

            “Pancakes coming right up.”  Jessica smiled and averted JC’s gaze as she leaned over to kiss the top of Kyle’s head.  “With syrup or powdered sugar?”

            “Raises.”

            “Raisins?  Well… okay.”  She stood up straight and looked down at the floor as she headed for the door.  She’d have to walk right in front of JC to exit the room, but he moved to block the door completely.  “What about you?”  She asked softly as she looked down at her hands.

            “Pancakes sound good to me, I'm sure you'll do better with them than I did.”  He smiled and waited for her to look up at him.  “Jess?”

            “Hmm?”  She looked up and stared at his collarbone.

            “Hey…”  He said as he smiled shyly.  He reached out and tipped her chin up,  “As stupid as this sounds… thank you.”

            “Tha – what?  You – What for?”  She stuttered.

            “Everything… and last night.”

            “I’m sorry about that JC I don’t usually – “

            “Don’t apologize.”  JC shook his head and gave a short laugh,  “If anyone should be sorry it's me.  I don't… I shouldn't have just gone crazy like that.  But I'm not sorry that it happened…”  He smiled slowly.

            “Daddy come see.”  Kyle bounced up and down on the bed.

            JC looked over at the bed quickly then back at Jessica,  “You’re pretty cute when you’re nervous.”  He smiled and looked her in the eye.

            Jessica’s cheeks turned a slightly deeper shade of pink as she tried not to smile.  The corner of her mouth turned up slightly and she said,  “I’ll let you know when the pancakes are ready.”

            “Okay.”  He nodded, then leaned in to kiss her lower lip as she continued to try not to smile.  Before the kiss could turn into anything more, JC took a step back and watched as she blinked a few times, then headed for the stairs.

            Jessica stood in the downstairs shower, reluctantly washing any reminder of the night before away.  She washed her hair with JC’s shampoo and tried to tame the butterflies in her stomach as she rinsed her hair and stepped out of the shower.  She made a mad dash back into her room to dress in clean shorts and a tank top before she went to the kitchen barefoot.

            She busied herself by looking through the cupboards to locate the necessary ingredients for pancakes.  While she was looking for a griddle she saw a piece of paper taped to the message board in the phone nook,  “Lance and Amy’s ranch house of animal loooove” said the note, with a number underneath.  Jessica looked at the yellow sticky note then glanced at the cordless phone on the wall.  She could really go for some girl talk right then and Amy was about the only person who would completely understand.

            Jessica picked up the phone and dialed before she could convince herself that it was too early to call anyone.  “H’lo?”  Lance’s deep voice greeted her and she immediately cringed.

            “Hi, Lance?  This is Jessica.”

            “Jessica who?”  He cleared his throat and she could tell she woke him up.

            “Your wardrobe girl.  I’m really sorry to call you so early but is Amy there?”

            “Amy?”  Lance now sounded confused.

            “Yeah.”  Jessica mentally kicked herself in the butt.

            “Hang on.”  She heard the blankets rustle over the phone, then his voice softened,  “Hey babe?  Ames?  Jessica is on the phone.” 

            “Jessica?”  Amy mumbled as she rolled over.  “Okay.”  She took the phone from Lance and buried it under the covers with her.  “Hey Jess?  You okay?”

            “I’m sorry to call you so early but I didn’t know what else to do.”  Jessica found a large bowl in the pantry and set it on the counter.

            “S’okay.  What’s up?”

            “I slept with him.  With JC.  We had sex last night.”  Jessica said softly as she scooped the pancake mix into the bowl.

            “Get out!”  Amy said in a normal voice.

            “Amy?”  Lance grumbled as he rustled the sheets again.

            “Hang on Jess, let me go to the other room.”  Amy swung her feet over the side of the bed and slid her feet into her snoopy slippers.  She leaned over to kiss Lance on the cheek before she snuck out of the room and left him in the dark.  Amy greeted the dogs in the hall and dodged them as she made it to the living room where she curled up in the corner of the couch.  “Okay, so tell me what happened.”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Ha, liar.”  She pet Jackson as he laid his head by her feet on the couch.

            “No, I mean I know what happened, I’m just not entirely sure how.”  Jessica sighed and measured the milk.

            “Jessica…”

            “You know what I mean.”  Jessica whined.  “I was putting Kyle to bed and JC came up and was watching, then the next thing I know we’re naked and going for it.  It was crazy.”

            “Crazy good or crazy bad?”

            “Just… just crazy.  It was all so fast but it seemed like it was forever, ugh… does that make any sense?”

            “Yeah.”  Amy laughed lightly and turned the TV on with the sound muted.  “So what exactly are you doing here?  Aren’t you supposed to be at home?”

            “Yeah, but JC called and Lori is coming into town like, today.  So since she thinks we’re dating he wanted me to come out and play house or whatever so I flew in yesterday.  But now I’m just like, what was that about?  I mean, we talked yesterday afternoon kind of, and we kissed again, but - ”

            "You talked?"

            "Well yeah."  Jessica sighed and pressed her eyes closed,  "He just said stuff like now that he was home he saw how much I helped him and how much I meant to him and Kyle and everything."  She sighed.  "It was confusing."

            "Well what did you say?"

            "I agreed with him more or less.  I don't know, he brought up the fact that he'd been attracted to me since that time we kissed in the hospital but that he didn't know what to do about it because he had to focus on Kyle or something.  Which is right, I mean, he did."  Jessica mixed the ingredients together to keep her head on straight.

            "Aren't you attracted to him?"

            "Hell yes."  Jessica whispered.

            "So he's saying he felt the same way?"

            "Basically."

            "So you guys are kicking yourself in the ass for taking so long to figure it out?"

            "I guess."

            "And last night you were making up for lost time?"

            "That's a hell of a way to put it."  Jessica laughed and cradled the phone between her shoulder and ear to use both hands.

            “Did he say anything this morning?”

            “He said 'thank you'."  Jessica crinkled her nose and laughed,  "And that I was cute when I was nervous."

            “How cute is that?  Jess, you've gotta give him a chance here, he's one of the best guys out there.”  Amy smiled proudly.

            "Second only to Lance?"

            "Naturally."  Amy nodded and looked down at her hand,  "Speaking of which…"

            "Oh man, I'm sorry.  I know I woke you guys up.  Crap, I'll let you go so you can - "

            "No, no, no… I'm up."  Amy laughed.  "But there's news on the Lance front."

            "Oh?"

            "He proposed on Saturday."  She dropped her voice a little as if she were trying to keep a secret from the dogs at her feet.

            "Are you serious?"  Jessica stopped stirring and dropped the spoon into the batter.  "Amy that's awesome, congratulations!  Why didn't you say anything?  I've been going on about my issues when you had a huge announcement!"

            "Your issues are important too."

            "I want details."  Jessica said as she dug the spoon out and rinsed it in the sink.

            "Lance said they were all getting together over at JC's this week to go over wardrobe stuff so I'll come over with him and I'll tell you all about it."

            "Amy this is really the best news, you're so lucky."  Jessica pretended to pout.  "You get to be engaged."

            "Yeah well you got to have sex with JC."  Amy shrugged.  "Seems fair to me."

            Jessica laughed out loud as JC bounded down the stairs with Kyle in his arms,  "I've gotta go, they're up."  She said quickly.

            "I'll talk to you later."

            "Okay, bye!  Tell Lance I'm sorry."

            "I will."  Amy laughed then hung up.

            Jessica put the cordless back on its charger and spooned circles of batter onto the griddle beside the stove.  "Hi Jessi!  Have pankays!"  Kyle giggled as JC hung him upside down by the ankles.

            "I'm making some just for you."  Jessica smiled and avoided JC's eye.

            "And daddy!"

            "Of course, and daddy too."  She turned back to the griddle and watched as they bubbled slowly.

            "I can help?"  Kyle asked as JC stood him upright.  "Jessi?"

            "Oh no sweetie, I don't need any help.  This is hot up here, I don't want you to burn yourself."  Jessica shook her head and watched him carefully as he danced around the kitchen.

            "Here you go buddy, why don't you hop up in your seat and I'll get you an apple, does that sound good?"  JC patted the booster seat, then helped the little boy up into it.

            "Does he want the raisins cooked into the pancakes?  Or on top?"  Jessica asked as JC opened the refrigerator.

            "On top."  JC laughed.  "Actually, he's going to pick them off anyway, so on the side is fine."

            "He picks them off?"

            "Yeah, he's weird."  JC laughed and pulled a knife from the drawer, then stood with his back toward Jessica as he cut the apple into small pieces.  "You're weird, aren't you buddy?"

            "No you."  Kyle giggled.

            "No, you."  JC laughed back.

            "No you daddy."

            "Okay, I'm weird."  JC tossed the core of the apple in the sink then carried the slices to the table.  "There you go tough guy, dig in."

            "I have pankays and raises?"

            "Jessica's getting that for you."

            "Is good?"

            "I'm sure they're going to be good."

            "Daddy's good?"  Kyle gave JC a worried look as he bit into his apple.

            "Oh stop it, my pancakes aren't that bad."  He reached across the table and messed Kyle's hair.  "A little crispy, but they were okay."

            "Is kay."  Kyle nodded as Jessica laughed from the kitchen.

            She joined them at the table a few minutes later with a plate of pancakes;  "I couldn't find your syrup."

            "It's in the cupboard above the toaster, hang on, I'll get it."  JC stood up and fetched the bottle of syrup, then sat it in front of Jessica.

            "I go see Chad?"  Kyle asked as he popped a raisin into his mouth.

            "Not today."  JC shook his head.  "You'll go to school tomorrow and see him though, how does that sound?"

            "He come?"

            "Yeah, I think he'll be at school."  JC shrugged.

            "In my house?"  Kyle shook his head.

            "Oh, no Chad can't come over today.  But you're going to have another special visitor."  JC cleared his throat and took a bite of the pancakes.  "These are really good."  He smiled across the table at Jessica.

            "Thank you."  She said softly as she concentrated on cutting her own breakfast.

            "Chad speso?"

            JC laughed lightly,  "Yeah, Chad is special but today you're going to have a different visitor."

            "Is Jessi gan?"

            "No, it's not Jessica again you silly.  She's already here."

            "And I see gan."  Kyle giggled.

            "You're a goofball."  JC's eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled and looked at Kyle.

Jessica watched in silence, seeing for the first time how JC and Kyle interacted with each other on their own.  It was amazing for her to see JC in this element, she'd seen him in the 'dad zone' before, but this was a whole new level.  This was a father who knew every last inch of their child, a father who knew what his son was thinking even before the child knew, a father who truly enjoyed the silliness of a conversation with a two year old.

            They finished their breakfast then Kyle took off upstairs to pick out his own clothes for the day, a newfound pleasure he'd only recently discovered.  "So um, what time is Lori coming by?"  Jessica asked as she began to clear the table.

            "I can do that."  JC stood up with his plate in his hand and walked it to the sink to stand beside Jessica.  "She said she'd be by around noon.  She's doing some sort or orientation today that's supposed to be over around eleven."

            "Okay."  She nodded.  "Is she staying here?"

            "What do you mean?"  JC held his plate under the water to rinse it off.

            "For the visit."

            "Oh, yeah."  JC nodded.  "They can play in his room or outside or something." 

            "Okay."  Jessica cleared her throat,  "How do you feel about her coming out here?  I mean, you seem okay about it which is good, but…"

            "I'm okay."  JC nodded.  "I think we've calmed down a lot since LA.  I'm not mad like I was before, I can't be.  I mean, no matter what she's going to be part of my life forever because of Kyle so for his sake I've gotta make it as easy as I can.  She sounds better too."

            "Really?"  She asked with a hint of worry.

            "Really."  JC turned the water off and set his plate in the dishwasher beside the others.  "More mature I guess, just… better."  He shrugged.  "She's almost apologetic you know, and generally wanting Kyle to be happy and to make things go smooth.  She wasn't demanding or stubborn like before."

            "That's good."

            "Yeah."  JC said softly as he turned around to lean on the counter.  "Are you okay?"

            "Me?  Yeah I'm fine, I just didn't know what to expect when she - "

            "No I mean you."

            "Yes, I'm fine."  She dropped her eyes to the floor and wiped her hands on the little yellow towel.  "Have you gotten a hold of the guys yet to arrange a time to come over?"  She asked quickly.

            "They're all meeting here on Friday so you can do your measurements or whatever."  JC smiled as she took a step back.  "Are you sure you're okay?  You look nervous."

            "I'm okay."  She shook her head and looked up to meet his eyes with a half smile.  "I'm fine."

            "Jess, last night wasn't just this thing, you know.  That was something."

            "No, I - "

            "I mean it wasn't just a rush of hormones or whatever."  He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair.  "Okay, it was that too, but it wasn't just that."

            "JC you don't have to explain anything to me."

            "I'm not trying to explain."  He shook his head.  "We're adults, nothing needs to be explained.  I know what happened, you know what happened.  I'm just telling you that for me it was more than just a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am."

            Jessica blushed and cleared her throat,  "I know it's been a while and I don't expect - "

            "See that's what I didn't want you to think."  He shook his head and laughed lightly.  "Yeah it's been a while but I could have waited longer.  I wasn't doing it just to do it… it meant more than that.  That's all I'm trying to say."

            "Well thank you."

            "You're welcome."  He nodded, then tilted his head to the side as they stood in silence.  "You still look perplexed."

            "I'm fine."  She smiled sincerely and briefly touched his hand.

            "Promise?"

            "Promise."  She nodded slightly as her heart picked up it's pace.

            "Okay."  He leaned down and brushed her lips with his to seal the agreement then said,  "I need to go make sure he's getting dressed.  He has this habit of running around naked until I get there which can be hazardous since he's still kinda potty training."

            Jessica laughed easily and shook her head,  "You'd better get up there."  JC paused for a second, then placed his hand behind her neck and kissed her again.  The night before had opened up the floodgates of feelings and he couldn't stop himself from touching her.

            JC ran up the stairs two at a time and Jessica heard him talking to Kyle in his room as she shut the dishwasher and leaned against the counter.  "This is going to be an interesting day… a very interesting day."  Jessica whispered to herself as she laughed softly.

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

            The three of them spent the morning in the backyard playing on Kyle's play set and digging in the dirt. He'd discovered ants the week before and couldn't wait to show Jessica how easy they were to find.  "I love the ants Kyle, those are cool.  It's like you have a bunch of pets in the backyard."  Jessica smiled.

            "As long as they staying the backyard, they're cool."  JC added softly.

            "Yeah, they need to stay outside though."  She nodded.  "Can I - do you mind if I get a drink?"  Jessica asked as she stood up off the grass.

            "Go right ahead.  Make yourself at home."  JC smiled and turned his attention back to the trail of ants crossing the little rock path Kyle had set up.

            Jessica brushed her hands on her shorts, "Do you want anything?"

            "I'm okay, thanks."  JC shook his head.

            "Kyle?  Do you want some juice?"

            "No."  Kyle shook his head like his dad and smiled.

            "No thank you."  JC said softly.

            "No danks you."  Kyle giggled up at Jessica before he stood up and grabbed his huge basketball and walked toward the play set.

            A slow smile spread across her lips as she went back into the house to pour herself a drink.  She'd just filled a glass with ice when the doorbell rang, echoing through the living room.  Jessica took her ice filled glass to the backdoor to let JC know there was someone at the door, but he was too involved with chasing Kyle to notice her.  "Jace?  There's someone at the door."  Jessica shouted as she leaned against the backdoor.

            "What?"  JC laughed as he rounded the corner, not even looking up at Jessica.

            "Never mind."  She shook her head and walked back through the house as the doorbell sounded again.  Jessica looked through the peephole and the blood rushed to her face.

            Standing on the other side of the door was Lori.  She'd only seen her that once at the show when she first showed up, but it was not a face she'd soon forget; Kyle looked very much like his mother.

            Jessica frowned for a second, she should really go get JC to answer the door; she didn't want to let Lori in.  The doorbell sounded again, followed by a few short knocks as Jessica remembered the whole reason she was there.  She was there to play the happy girlfriend who is helping to raise Kyle.  She took a deep breath, then reached for the handle,  "Hi, you must be Lori."  Jessica said as she pulled the front door open.

            "Yes, hi."  She smiled nervously and looked past Jessica.

            "I'm Jessica, come on in."  She held the door open for her as she walked in cautiously and looked around.  "JC and Kyle are in the back yard, straight back through the kitchen there."  Jessica pointed.  Lori looked different than Jessica remembered her, more together and professional looking, as if she'd put some effort into presenting herself.

            "Oh, okay thanks."  Lori blushed quickly and followed Jessica down the hall.  Her thin sandals clacked on the tile as Jessica's bare feet hardly made a sound.  "I'm a little early, the orientation was put off until tomorrow so I uh… well I didn't have to go and I wasn't too sure how to get here.  I wanted to give myself time to get lost, you know?"  She laughed nervously and smoothed down the front of her skirt.

            "It's kind of tricky."  Jessica plastered a smile on her face as she turned around to look at Lori.  "Did you have any trouble at the gate?"

            "Oh, no."  Lori shook her head and reached up to straighten her hair.  "My name was on the list.  Once I got through there it was easy enough to find, it was just getting to the gate."  Jessica pushed the backdoor open and held it for Lori to walk through.

            "Hey guys, look who's here."  Jessica let the screen close behind her as she stepped around Lori and down the little steps to the lawn and play area where Kyle and JC were chasing each other on the huge play set.

            JC stopped abruptly and Kyle almost plowed into the back of his legs.  "H-hi."  JC's smile fell for a second before he found it again and displayed it happily.  "Hey buddy, you have a visitor."  He turned around and lifted Kyle to see over the edge of the play area.  "Look who it is!"

            "Is Jussin?"

            "No, not Justin.  Who is that you silly?"

            "Is mommy?"

            "Yep, that's your mommy.  Why don't we go down there and say hi?"  JC asked softly.

            "No I say."  Kyle hitched up the waist of his new shorts.  They were a little big, but he was between sizes and finding pants to fit was rough.

            "Nope, you need to go say hi."

            "You say hi and I say."  Kyle shook his head and sat down.

            "Kyle, come on buddy."  JC leaned down to pick him up.  "You haven't seen your mommy in a while, I'm sure she misses you."  JC maneuvered down the little steps with Kyle in his arms then set him down on the grass so they could walk over to the little patio where Lori was standing.

            "Hi."  JC smiled and reached for Jessica's hand.

            Lori's eyes trailed from JC's eyes down his arm to his fingers interlocking with Jessica's.  She held her smile as she tore her eyes away and knelt in front of Kyle,  "Hi sweetie."

            "Hi mommy."  Kyle shuffled his feet as he walked over to where she stood.  He let her pick him up and give him a hug before he wiggled to be set down.  "I pay onat."  He pointed over his shoulder.

            "I see that, that's pretty cool."  Lori nodded.  "That's like having your own park in your backyard, huh?"  She blushed quickly and took in the size of the play area.  Her entire apartment could fit in the half of the backyard that wasn't blocked off by the gate around the pool.

            "Is mine."

            "I'm sure it is."  Lori said softly as she walked down the little steps to the grass.

            "Why don't you show your mommy how you play on the slide?  Maybe she'll push you on the swings."

            "And you?"

            "No, I'm going to go inside and see about cleaning up or something."  JC gave Jessica's hand a quick squeeze for support and forced a smile.

            "You can see?"

            "I'll watch you, you bet."  JC nodded as Lori blushed quickly.  He knew she thought he'd be keeping an eye on her, and he would be.  There was no way she could leave the backyard with him without hopping the nine foot walls or scaling the wrought iron fence that sealed off his side yards.  Not that he thought she'd try… but he couldn't be too careful.

            Jessica excused herself and went to the garage where she opened the wardrobes and began to sort through the clothes.  She put them in order from the ones she knew she'd have to alter to the ones she was pretty sure were good as is.  For the duration of Lori's visit, Jessica stayed out of sight and let JC do the nervous watching.  He went into the house as Lori lead Kyle to the play set while telling him about her plane ride out from California.

            JC sat at the kitchen table then leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table.  He took a scratch piece of paper from the stack on the little desk behind him and meticulously folded and unfolded a piece of paper until it tore easily in half.  As he watched Lori and Kyle play on the play set, he continued to tear the paper into perfect halves.  He couldn't hear what was being said, but he could tell by Kyle's body language that he was just beginning to warm up to seeing his mom again.  Kyle kept himself at a safe distance from her and pretty much played by himself, only talking when she addressed him first.

As JC watched Lori circling the play set just trying to see Kyle, he almost felt sorry for her.  She was actually putting forth the effort and Kyle wasn't interested.  Half of him wanted to go outside and tell Kyle to play with his mother, but the other half knew that she needed to see the impact that her leaving had on Kyle. 

            After more than an hour, Kyle reluctantly jumped off the play set and took Lori's hand as they walked up to the patio to sit at the little table there.  Kyle took a drink from his sippy cup and looked up at Lori,  "I go see school."

            "I know, your daddy told me you were going to school.  That's pretty cool."  Lori nodded rested her chin in her hand.  "Do you like it?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and wiped his mouth on his forearm.  "I see Chad and Brian and Miss Shell."

            "Are those your friends?"

            "No Chad is."

            "Chad is your friend?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and fidgeted in his seat.  He pulled himself up onto his knees and took another drink of his juice.  "Where daddy?"

            "He's uh, he's inside I think."  Lori glanced into the house and caught JC's eye through the glass.  "Do you like living here?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle perked up and licked his grape juice coated lips.  "I have a car bed and a toys."

            "Wow…"  Lori's smile dipped at the corner,  "Do you get to go in the pool?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle laughed and rambled on; "Joey can hold me up high anen he BOOM ina water."  Kyle held is hands over his head and imitated Joey throwing him in the pool.  "And daddy say no no owie."  He frowned to imitate JC;  "Joey say daddy a nut."  Kyle giggled and covered his mouth.  "Daddy a nut and Joey a nut and I a nut."

            "You guys are all nuts huh?"  Lori blushed and stared at her hands.

            "Yeah and Jussin and Chris and Laaance and Mimi and Jessi and a doggie."

            "Wow, that's a lot of people."

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed with a content smile.  "Is mine."

            "It's yours?  Your family?"

            Kyle shrugged,  "Yeah."

            "That's uh… that's cool you've got a big family like that."

            "And you?"

            "Me?"

            "Mine?"  Kyle cast her a confused look as he climbed out of the chair.  "Isa mommy and a daddy."

            "Yeah."  Lori said softly,  "I'm part of your family too."

            "Yeah."  Kyle shimmied off the chair and went to the backdoor,  "See my toy?"

            "I'd love to see your toys."  Lori wiped at her eyes quickly, then followed Kyle into the house.

            "Are you guys done already?"  JC asked as he casually stood against the counter in the kitchen. 

            "He wants to show me some of his toys."  Lori nodded at the family room where Kyle was taking his toys out of the box one at a time and setting them on the thick carpet.

            "Okay."  JC nodded and swirled the ice in his cup.  "I'd like to talk to you when he's done with that."  He added softly.

            Lori looked up at him and held his stare for a moment,  "O-okay."  She sat on the floor beside Kyle and carefully examined his toys as he set them before her.  Kyle was thrilled with the new attention for his toys, and told her all of the fun things he did with each of them.  After a half hour, Kyle stood up and looked around for JC or Jessica.  As a two year old, playing with one person for that long maxed out his attention span and he was looking for alternatives.

            "Daddy?  Come see now?"  Kyle asked as he ran his fingers along the cupboards on the way to JC's legs.

            "Why don't you go get Jessica and have her come inside for a minute?"  JC said softly.

            "Where she?"

            "She's in the garage."  JC nodded toward the front of the house,  "Thanks buddy."

            "Jessi!"  Kyle shouted as he took off running down the hall.  His tiny sneakers thumped on the tile of the laundry room leading to the garage as Kyle peeled through the door.  "Jessi can come?"

            "What's that sweetie?"  Jessica swung the door of the wardrobe shut and looked at Kyle,  "Are you done visiting with your mother?"

            "Yeah and you isside."  Kyle ran over and grabbed her hand to pull her back into the house.  "Peese Jessi."

            "I'm coming."  Jessica laughed and let him drag her through the laundry room and into the kitchen.

            "I have Jessi."  Kyle smiled as he let go of her hand and ran over to JC's side,  "I say peese and isside."

            "Thanks buddy, those are nice manners."  JC picked Kyle up and bounced him on his hip.  "Hey honey…"  JC poured it on thicker than necessary as he addressed Jessica,  "Can you take Kyle upstairs for a little bit so Lori and I can talk?"

            Jessica looked mildly stunned for a second,  "Y-yeah."

            "We go bye?"  Kyle asked as he looked over at Jessica.

            "Hmm?  No, we're going to go up to your room I think."  Jessica said quickly.

            "Go see Laaaance?"  Kyle smiled as he wiggled to get down.

            "Um, I don't know.  Jace?  Would it be better if we went to see Lance and Amy?"  Jessica asked, trying to play it off like this was something they did all the time.  Kyle bounced around her feet in a funky dance until she leaned down to pick him up.

            "Sure, if you'd like." JC walked over to the kitchen where the phone nook was.  He scribbled the address and some raw directions on a scratch paper and slid it over to Jessica along with their phone number.  "Thanks."  He whispered as he inconspicuously slipped it into her hand while he brushed his lips over her cheek.

            "No problem."  She whispered back.  "Where are your car keys?"

            "Here."  He reached into his pocket and placed the warm keys in her hand.  "My cell is in the center console thing, Lance's number is stored in there.  Give him a call and let him know you're on your way over."

            "What if he's not home?"

            JC glanced at his watch and smiled,  "He's home."

            "Okay."  Jessica nodded, then smiled at Kyle,  "Are you ready to go kiddo?

            "Yeah I see Laaaance."

            "You bet we will."  Jessica giggled and headed for the hall.  "Nice to see you again."  Jessica said without a hint of emotion as they passed Lori,  "Kyle sweetie, say bye bye to your mommy."

            "Bye bye mommy."  Kyle waved over Jessica's shoulder.  "She go fly?"

            "Not yet.  I think you'll get to see her again in a couple days."  Jessica mumbled as they stepped into the garage.  She buckled Kyle into the back seat before settling herself in the driver's seat, then they headed for Lance and Amy's to give JC some time to sort things out with Lori, once and for all.

 

 Next...

 

Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn