Jessica used JC's cell phone to call over to Lance's house when she hit the main road a ten minutes later. "Hey Lance, this is Jessica."

"Hey, how's it going?" He smiled.

"Good, you?"

"I'm good." Lance chewed on his gum. "Do you want me to get Amy?"

"No, no that's okay." Jessica shook her head. "First of all though, congratulations, I heard you popped the question over the weekend."

"Yeah, thanks." Lance blushed quickly.

"You're welcome, you guys are really lucky." Jessica laughed lightly, "Also, I uh, I have Kyle with me and I was wondering if you were busy right now?"

"Right now?" Lance looked over at Amy relaxing on the couch flipping channels on the wide screen TV. "No, not really. What's up?"

"It's a long story, can I come over and explain it there?" She glanced at the little map JC had drawn and turned at the next light.

"Yeah, sure." Lance furrowed his brow, "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine." Jessica nodded.

"Where's JC?"

"He's at his house with Lori." Jessica cradled the phone by her ear as she turned onto Lance's street, then slowed down. "I'm on your street now though, I think. Which house are you?"

"All the way at the end of the road. Just past the ranch looking house with a barn."

"A barn huh?"

"Stable really. They have a couple horses, mine is the driveway right after that on the left." Lance yawned.

"Thanks, I'll be there in a few minutes." She clicked the phone off and concentrated on the houses around her.

"Jessi see Laaance?" Kyle mumbled from the backseat as he rubbed his eyes.

"Yeah, we're going to see Lance."

"And Mimi?"

"Amy? Yeah I'm sure she's there too." Jessica nodded.

"And Jaxo?"

"Jaxo? Who's that?"

"Jaxosa puppy."

"Oooh, I didn't know they had a puppy, is he big?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded and pressed his hand against the window.

"This car is huge, I don't know how your dad drives this all over the place." Jessica leaned forward in her seat as the ranch house came into view.

"I see! Is Laaance and Mimi and doggies!" Kyle perked up in the backseat as they pulled into the long driveway. "Jessi see? Have one and two doggie!"

"Wow, they have two doggies huh?" Jessica drove slowly as she steered the huge car up the bumpy driveway. She pulled to a stop in front of the front door, then jumped out to help Kyle get out of his seat.

"Hey Kyle." Lance smiled as he trotted out to the car. "What's up dude?"

"I see mommy."

"You did? That's pretty cool." Lance took Kyle's little hand in his then smiled at Jessica, "Hi Jess."

"Hi Lance." She smiled back, then slammed the door shut and followed him up to the front door where Amy stood just inside.

"Hey you." Amy laughed as the group walked in. "Do I get a hug before you go play with Jackson and Lexi?"

"Yeah." Kyle let go of Lance's hand and dove for Amy's legs. She scooped him up and gave him a big bear hug and a noisy kiss before she set him down and watched him take off through the house to where the dogs were waiting in the living room.

"Thanks for letting us come over." Jessica sighed softly from the entry.

"No problem." Lance nodded quickly then headed for the living room as Kyle squealed and the dogs began to bark.

"So what's the deal?" Amy asked as she and Jessica followed the noise.

"JC wanted to talk to Lori alone, so we took off and this was where Kyle wanted to come."

"How'd the visit go?"

Jessica shrugged and sighed again, "I don't know. Good I guess. I was out in the garage arranging the clothes and stuff for Friday." She paused for a second, "Are you coming on Friday?"

"Yeah, I should be back by then. I'm leaving early tomorrow to go home to Mississippi for a couple days, but I'll be back Friday morning." She waved her left hand in the air, "Mom wants to see the ring and hug her baby, you know how moms can be."

"Oh! Let me see!" Jessica took her hand and admired the simple, yet elegant gold ring on her finger. "It's beautiful." Jessica whispered. "Lance has good taste."

"Yeah he does. I can't believe I didn't have to pick it out myself." Amy beamed as she looked at the ring. "This is exactly what I would have chosen though."

"It's gorgeous." Jessica pulled her in for a quick hug.

"How's JC?"

"He's okay."


"Yeah." Jessica nodded and caught Amy's eye. "Things are okay. We talked a little."

"Good." Amy laughed lightly as they entered the living room where Kyle was rolling on the floor between the two excited dogs.

"Now that looks like fun." Jessica laughed as Kyle crawled over the dogs lying on the floor. They gently played with Kyle as if they knew he was just a kid, and were careful when they stood up to go outside. Once they got to the wide back door, Kyle looked over his shoulder, waiting for Jackson to follow then the three playmates ran out to the backyard to play ball.

"Man, they're really good with him." Jessica sounded surprised.

"They really are great dogs." Lance nodded as he stepped out into the backyard to keep an eye on them. "I keep telling JC he needs to get one, but he's a stubborn mean old dad."

"Yeah he is, I'll have to see if I can sweet talk him into it." Jessica sat on the couch and sighed, assured that Lance would be watching Kyle. "So what did you guys have planned today before I barged in on your lazy afternoon?"

"Nothing." Amy shook her head and sat beside Jessica. "We were just kicking back so it's cool you came over. Kyle has a lot of fun here and we really like having him. JC lets us baby-sit sometimes…"

"Yeah?" Jessica raised her eyebrow.

"Yeah, we get to play house every now and then." Amy smiled sweetly and looked out to the backyard. "It's good practice for when we have kids I guess." She looked over at Jessica quickly, "My God how scary does that sound?!" She laughed and put her hand over her heart. "Man its still weird to think about stuff like that…"

"You guys will make great parents someday."

"Yeah… someday. Not any time soon, I can promise you that."

"Just keep using Kyle and returning him at the end of the day, trust me… you'll like that much better."

"That's for sure." Amy laughed. "He's a great kid."

"Yeah he is." Jessica nodded.

"I'd take a dozen like him."

"Oh me too." She smiled again and turned to watch Kyle bend to pick up the ball then laugh. She sighed softly and whispered, "Me too…"


"You didn't have to make her leave." Lori said softly as she played with the fringe on the edge of the pillows on the couch.

"No, it's okay. We need to talk." JC leaned against far end of the couch, trying to keep his distance while still being able to maintain eye contact.

"Okay." She looked into her lap like a scolded child.

"Thank you for coming out here to see Kyle." JC said before he could change his mind. He had decided to put the past behind them and focus on their future because that was what mattered, but it was still hard for him. "He needs to see you and I can't always get to LA."

"I…" Lori looked up quickly, expecting it to be a joke. "Well I… thank you for letting me see him. I know you don't have to, so…"

"No, I don't have to. But you're his mom and that's important. I mean, you raised him for two years by yourself, that's got to say something." JC paused for a moment. "I don't agree with some of the things you've done but at the same time I know that I could have reacted differently too. I'd like to start over as far as Kyle is concerned. I can't get those years back, and you can't get those months back." He stuck his thumbnail in his mouth and ran it over his bottom teeth. "I don't think he really understands what's going on right now but eventually he will and I want him to be able to look back and think that we did the right thing. We're his parents - " JC's voice caught on the word 'parents', it was such a foreign term when referring to him and Lori. " - and we're pretty much all he's got. There's only one thing that I'm going to ask of you."

"What?" Lori asked softly.

"That you be there for him whenever he needs it. That you don't forget that no matter how far away from him you are you're still his mother. I don't want to make a big mess about this, but I need to know for his sake that you're not going to up and disappear again. Because he's a great kid and he doesn't deserve that. I'd rather have you leave right now and never come back, then get his hopes up and have you take off in another year or whatever."

"I'm trying JC."

"I know you are, which is why you even get the choice." He didn't mean for it to come out sounding nasty, but he could tell by the look on her face that's how she received it. "I just meant that… Lori, I know you're trying. You're here, you called… that's a big difference. If you hadn't bothered to do that that would have been the end I think. I know that you've changed even in the last month."

"I have JC, I really have."

"I know." He nodded, then paused for a minute. "But I can't settle for 'I'll try' when it comes to Kyle. It needs to be all or nothing. You're either committed to him or not. He's going to be taken care of and loved more than anything regardless of whether or not you're in his life, but when he's grown up and he asks I want to be able to give him a good reason why things went the way they did. Good or bad."

"I want to be in his life JC. I'd take him back with me tonight if I could."

JC's cheeks flushed as she mentioned taking him and his defenses immediately flew up, "I don't think so."

"No, I didn't mean it that way. I know that I can't take him… and that's my fault. I'm just saying that if I could, I would. I want to be in his life full time."


"But short of me moving out here, or you moving out to LA, that can't happen so I have to settle for seeing him every chance I get." She nodded. "That's all I want JC… to be able to see him, or call and check up on him… just… something. Anything. I can't just not know."

JC paused for a minute and contemplated her plea, "We're going to Europe in another couple months and we'll be there for a while, but then we'll be back. I don't know if you'll be able to come out this way before then but if you can, you're welcome to see Kyle. If you can't then when we get back I'll make a point to come out to LA for a couple days."

Lori caught her breath as she felt her pulse quicken, "I… JC… thank you."

"You're welcome." He nodded.

"I really don't think I'll be able to come back out here, once the training is done I'll be working full time and I… I won't be able to afford to take the time off of work. But can I… can I call?"

"Of course." JC nodded.

Tears rose in Lori's eyes, she knew she'd just received her second chance from JC, "I know that I messed up JC, and I know that I really made a huge mistake with the whole court thing." She sniffed and wiped her eyes quickly. "I love Kyle though, and I'll do anything I can to stay in his life. I can do that now."

"Good." JC nodded slightly and smiled. "You and I need to get along for his sake and I think this is a good place to start."

"I think so too." She wasn't going to complain at that point.

"I don't want to have to go back to court again, I think that we can work this out by ourselves." JC said softly before he added, "But I will if I have to."

"I know." Lori had no doubt that he would not only take her to court if he had to, but he would win. "I don't want to either."

"Okay." JC nodded. "Then we're cool."

"Yeah." She looked up at him with a small smile. "Thank you JC."

He nodded slightly, "You're welcome." JC put his hands on his thighs and pushed himself to a standing position. "You have the number here, right?"


"Okay, let me get you my management number as well, just in case you need to reach me when I'm on the road."

"O-okay." She stood to follow JC to the kitchen and took the paper with the number on it. "I'd like to come back this week to see him, if uh… if that would be okay."

"That's fine, do you know when?"

"I'm not sure. I should have time on Wednesday, but I won't know until tomorrow."

JC nodded, but didn't meet her eye, "Just give me a call and let me know when you can make it. I - we don't really have any plans this week so it doesn’t matter when."

"Okay." She tucked the paper in her purse then took a deep breath, "I should get going." JC nodded and headed for the front door, "JC he - " She paused for a second, "He seems really happy here. Honestly, I've never seen him so outgoing and just… just happy."

JC felt a pang of sadness, if this was the happiest she'd ever seen him, what were the first two years like? "Yeah he's a great kid, he's got lots of people that love him to pieces. There's a lot to be happy about."

"I didn't realize how bad I was for him until I saw him here." Lori's voice caught as she lowered her tear filled eyes.

"You weren't bad for him." JC said softly. "You just made some bad choices, and right now is when you can change that."

"I will." She nodded and wiped her eyes. "I'll uh… I'll call you later and let you know when I can come back this week."

"Okay, I'll talk to you later then." He held the front door open for her as she left. JC watched Lori get into her car and back down his driveway. He was pleased with the way the visit and the talk went, but he wouldn't go so far as to call her a friend. They were on speaking terms and had even reached an understanding, but he would forever feel cautious around her.

As the car turned the corner at the end of the street, JC turned slowly and went back into the house to call over to Lance's house. "Hey man, what's up?" He asked when Lance answered.

"Not much, how'd it go?" Lance laughed and JC heard his dogs barking in the background.

"Eh, it went." JC shrugged though Lance couldn't see. "Is Jessica there?"

"Yeah, they're outside with Amy and the dogs."

"Well um, Lori's gone so let them know they can come back now."

"Oh they're allowed to come back now huh?" Lance smirked. "I'm kidding. Hey listen, we were talking about going out tonight, you know, to grab some dinner or something to celebrate."

"Celebrate?" JC ran his fingers over his brow.

"Yeah, what'd I tell you I was doing this last weekend?" Lance asked softly.

"Huh?" JC wracked his brain then it hit him, "Oh shit! You did it huh?" He laughed.

"You bet I did." Lance nodded. "So anyway, Kyle's having a great time here and Amy's enjoying the chick chat stuff so why don't you cruise on over and we can hang out here then go?"

"Jessica has my car." JC shrugged.

"Jessica has a car… you've got at least one spare over there." Lance laughed.

"Yeah but then we'd have two cars over there and that's pointless." JC argued.

"So hop a cab." Lance laughed and opened the back door to where Amy, Jessica and Kyle were playing 'catch' with the dogs.

"Why don't we do something this weekend with the other guys?"

"Because I wanna go out tonight and we're having fun. Don't be such a drag." Lance smiled and sighed into the phone. "I'll be there in twenty minutes. Get yourself cleaned up and be ready."

JC sighed in resignation, "Okay."

"Okay then." Lance smiled, then they said goodbye and hung up. "That was JC." He said to Jessica as he leaned on the door.

"Is he ready for us to come home?"

"I'm actually going to go get him." Lance nodded. "He's trying to be a stick in the mud but I'm making him come out and celebrate tonight."

"Cool." Jessica smiled and looked over at Amy, "You see that? The man of the house is already making executive decisions. We're going out tonight."

"Works for me." Amy smiled and threw the ball for the dogs again.

"Worksin me." Kyle added from the grass.

"Do you want to go celebrate tonight? We can have a little party type thing?" Jessica asked Kyle.

"Eye keem?"

"Maybe… we'll have to wait and see." Jessica laughed.

"Kay." Kyle reached for the slobber covered ball and laughed as it slipped out of his hands. The girls and Kyle played around in the backyard as Lance drove over to JC's to pick him up.

"So… Jessica huh?" Lance asked as JC slammed the car door.

"Huh?" JC fastened his seatbelt and looked at Lance. "What?"

"What do you mean 'what'? You know what I mean… Jessica."


"Oh don't even play stupid with me Jace." Lance smiled and shook his head.

"I'm not playing stupid, I just don't know how to answer a one word question. Jessica? Jessica what?"

"You know what."

"If I knew what you were talking about, I'd answer you."

"You and Jessica? What's going on there?"

"Oh, see when you speak english it helps." JC smiled and looked out the window. "What's going on there… well…" He shrugged. "I dunno."

"You don't know? Weren't you there?"

"There when?" JC cast him a sideways glance.

"You're such a pain in the ass JC, why all the secrecy?"

"I'm not being secretive, there's just nothing to tell."

"Wrong. When Jessica calls at the ass crack of dawn and Amy's shocked enough by the news to get out of the bed and leave me cold, something's going on."

"She called Amy?" JC blushed.

Lance nodded and gripped the steering wheel, "And of course Amy is as stubborn as a mule and won't tell me anything 'cause it's not my business." He laughed lightly and shook his head.

"Well it's not."

"I'm not saying it's my business, I'm saying I'm curious." He looked over at JC, "So come on. What's going on there? I can probably guess and I'm probably right, and if I am then right on because she's rad, but just tell me."

JC raised his shoulder in a half shrug again, "Yeah, there's a little something there."

"This is gonna be like pulling teeth." Lance mumbled as he pulled onto the highway.

"You're not gonna get details, man. Yeah, there's something there. But she's only been here for like, two days… so I don't know exactly what's going on here."

"Are you hooking up?"

JC laughed and rolled the window down, "You're worse than Justin," was all he said.

"Ah ha, you are. You dog." Lance laughed and tapped on the steering wheel, "I knew it. That's cool Jace, Jessica is a great girl, she'll be good for you. And of course she's into Kyle, you couldn't have found a better girl I don’t think. A better single girl I mean."


"For real, that's cool."

"Don't say anything."

"I won't."

"Lance." JC gave him his best fatherly look.

"I'm not gonna say a word to anyone but Amy, who already knows."

"As soon as we find out what's really going on people will know, but until then I wanna keep it quiet." JC explained. "You know how it is. If people start finding out she'll be hounded from here to next week."

"I know." Lance nodded.


"So yeah, I got it. I'll keep my mouth shut." Lance turned onto his street and they drove in silence to his house.

"Where are we going to celebrate?"

"I don't know yet. Nowhere fancy, maybe just down to Monticello."

"A nice steak place? With Kyle? JC laughed and opened the door. "You're pretty optimistic. You've seen him eat, right?"

"You don't think he'd be good there?"

"I think he's two." JC shrugged and walked around the side of the house to the expansive back yard.

"Well where would be a good place to go?"

"Chuck E. Cheese." JC laughed.

"Oh come on." Lance rolled his eyes and followed JC.

"Daddy!" Kyle threw the slobbery ball one last time then took off running for JC. "I have baw"

"I saw that, you throw that pretty well." JC caught Kyle and picked him up expertly. "Have you been playing with the dogs the whole time?"


"He loves the dogs." Jessica smiled as she stood up. "How'd it go?" She asked softly.

"It was alright." JC nodded. "She's uh... we talked it out and everything. We're starting over more or less, with a clean slate."

"Yeah?" Jessica blushed. She wanted to ask more but she didn't want to pry.

JC nodded, "We have to, for you-know-who's sake. It'll be better this way I think."


"And when we get back from Europe I'm going to take him out there for a couple days."

Jessica raised her eyebrow, "Wow, uh… okay. No, that's good. She needs to be part of his life too." She swallowed quickly and tucked her hands in her pockets.

"Yep." JC looked at Kyle, "So are you ready to party?"

"Yeah." Kyle giggled and looked over at Lance, "Laaance potty?"

JC laughed at Kyle and shook his head, "Why don't you show me how you play ball. Did Lance teach you?"


"Jackson taught you huh?" JC chuckled and sat Kyle on the ground as the little boy took off to retrieve the ball the dog had dropped. The grown ups sat around outside and watched Kyle and the dogs run around the yard as they got caught up. Jessica leaned back on the grass and smiled as she watched the others. They were all familiar with each other and knew where they stood, while she felt like an outsider of sorts. But not for long. She blushed to herself and smiled over at JC. He tilted his head slightly and stumbled over his words for a moment, "I don't th - I uh... I don't think Justin is uh, home this week." He blushed and averted his eyes from hers.

"Well isn't he coming on Friday to get fitted?" Lance looked over at Jessica expectantly.

"Oh. Oh, yeah, I guess he is. Maybe he's home then. I don't know." JC licked his lips and continued to blush.

Lance laughed and caught the look he gave Jessica, "Either way, eventually we want to have you all over at the same time to celebrate."

"Yeah, before we leave." JC agreed as he stood up and brushed his hands off. "Cool. Excuse me." He said as he walked back into the house.

"Wow." Lance raised his eyebrows at Jessica.


"He's flustered." Lance laughed and stood up to stretch. "I don't think I've ever seen him flustered like that before."

"Well meeting with Lori I'm sure - "

"No, I don't think it was Lori." Lance smiled and shook his head. "In fact, I'd bet my hands that it was you."

"You think I make him flustered?" Jessica laughed as she and Amy stood up.

"Um, yeah." Lance looked back into the house. "I'd say you make him real flustered."

Jessica smiled to herself, almost glad that JC was reacting to her in that way. "Well good."

"That's right." Amy laughed. "Men are supposed to get flustered around women. Right honey?" She batted her eyelashes at him and puckered her lips in an insanely cheesy pose.

"Y-yeah. I uh… uh huh." Lance joked around as they walked into the house. "Hey Kyle? You wanna go see some horses?" He shouted as Kyle ducked into the bushes at the edge of Lance's property.

"I see?" Kyle poked his head up and tossed the ball he was going in after.

"Yep, come on."


"Sure, he can come too." Lance waved Kyle in then waited by the door as the girls went to grab water.

Kyle completely bypassed his nap that afternoon so that Lance could take them across the street to his neighbor's stables to show him the horses. They fed them carrots and apples while their owner cleaned the stalls and made small talk. After a short while they thanked the owner and headed back to Lance and Amy's to get ready for dinner.

They decided to get carryout chinese food and celebrate at home rather than try to make an outing out of it. If they went out alone it wasn't usually that bad, but with both of them out it had the potential to draw a crowd and neither of them wanted to call out a security team just to go to dinner.

Jessica and Amy went to pick up the food and bring it back while JC, Lance and Kyle stayed home to set the table and pick up the house. "So how'd it go?" JC asked as he got glasses out of Lance's cupboard.

"What? The proposal?" Lance grinned from ear to ear. "It went good, she was surprised."

"Yeah? Weren't you worried though? I mean… if she wasn't expecting it."

"Nah." Lance shook his head. "We'd talked about it, kind of. I mean, she's been around for as long as I can remember practically. There's never been a doubt in my mind that she was the one though."

"How about when you guys broke up?"

"Nope." Lance shook his head. "We didn't break up because we'd grown apart or anything."

"Then how come?" JC asked.

Lance looked at him for a minute, knowing where he was going without JC having to say so. "Because we were young and stupid and didn't want to really try to make it work." He shrugged. "We were still really good friends during that time so it wasn't like we were angry or anything like that. In fact, that time off was probably when we grew closer. So…" He raised his shoulder and smiled, "So this past year has just been great."

"I can tell." JC smiled and reached for the stack of napkins in Lance's pantry to set them on the table.

"I wasn't worried." Lance shook his head. "I was nervous as all hell, but not worried."

"Yeah?" JC laughed.

"But as soon as it was over I almost wet myself I was so glad it was done."

"It's not done yet."

"No, trust me I know that." Lance rolled his eyes. "The wedding she-devil is about to rear her ugly head I think."


"It's worth it." Lance said softly as he handed Kyle two dog biscuits. "Here you go buddy, can you go give those to the doggies outside?"

"Yeah." Kyle grabbed one in each hand and bolted for the door.

"Be careful." JC shouted after him. "Kyle, put them on the floor and let the dogs eat them there."

"They won't bite him."

"I know."

"But you're a dad and you have to worry?" Lance gave him a half smile and watched as JC leaned over the chair to look out the back window.

"Uh huh." JC said without turning away. He watched as the dogs surrounded Kyle, almost completely hiding him from view. Kyle squatted on the grass and reached out to put the biscuits down, but the dogs were right on top of him. JC tensed noticeably as the dogs lowered their heads, then smiled as Jackson looked up at Kyle with his eyes and carefully licked the biscuit from Kyle's hand. Lexi waited with her tail wagging for Kyle to drop it on the grass, then picked it up and walked to the backdoor to lay down and eat it in private.

Lance laughed softly as JC sighed and stood up, still keeping an eye on Kyle outside. "Come on in buddy. Jessica and Amy will be back in a minute so we need to get you washed up."

"I dirt?" Kyle brushed his hands off as he walked in the back door.

"Yep, you're a mess."

"And you?" Kyle looked up at JC and smiled.

"Sure, I'll wash my hands too."

"And Laaance?" Kyle giggled and tugged on JC's pants.

"Lance?" JC looked up at Lance and grinned, "Are you going to come wash up too?"

"Yeah, you bet." Lance laughed and followed them to the little bathroom by the garage. JC balanced Kyle on his knee as he turned on the water, then they all took turns washing their hands.

"Daddy see babo?"

"Yep, the soap makes bubbles, pretty cool huh?" JC rinsed the bubbles down the drain as the garage door opened and the girls walked in.

"Is Jessi?" Kyle wiped his wet hands on JC's pants and raised his eyebrows at JC.

"Yep, go see what she brought for dinner." JC reached for a towel to dry his hands as Lance moved to the sink.

"Cute." Amy smirked as she walked by, "Group potty time?"

"We're washing up for dinner." Lance laughed and flicked water at her as she jumped out of the way.

"Jessi have dinno?"

"Yep, we've got lots of food here, are you hungry?" Jessica sidestepped down the crowded hallway with a bag in each hand.

"Yeah!" Kyle shouted as he ran down the hall back to the kitchen. He climbed up into his chair with the phone book boosters that they'd used the last time he was over.

Lance and JC finished washing up as Amy and Jessica set the food out on the table. "Ooo that smells good." JC licked his lips as he walked into the little dining room.

"It is good. Mr. Wong's has the best cashew chicken in the world." Lance licked his lips in anticipation as he pulled up a seat across from Kyle.

"Cool." JC got everyone drinks then sat beside Jessica to propose a toast to Amy and Lance. "To two of the nicest and most caring people I've ever known. I can't believe you made her wait so long for this." He said to Lance. "And I can't believe you said 'yes'." JC laughed as he looked at Amy. "No, seriously. I'm really happy for you guys and I know you'll be even happier when you get married, if that's even possible. Congratulations."

"Thank you." Lance and Amy said in unison as the adult clanked glasses. Kyle took a sip of his milk and smiled up at them as he picked at his rice.

"I'll save the big long draw out and sappy speech for the actual wedding." The corners of JC's eyes crinkled as he laughed, as they did when he was truly happy. The fake or forced smiles never elicited the same small lines.

They ate dinner at the table in the center of the dining room then they gathered in Lance's playroom to shoot pool while Kyle played a never-ending game of pinball. By the time the girls kicked the boys butts at pool, Kyle was laying on the couch with Lance's Cat in the Hat stuffed doll under his head. "He's racked out." Lance laughed as he returned the pool cue to the rack.

"Oh man, what time is it?"

"Almost seven." Jessica looked at the clock above the pinball machines.

"We should get out of here." JC sighed and put his hands on his hips. "Man, he must be tired. He's slept through all out noise."

"He definitely takes after you." Lance laughed and racked the balls on the table. "You can sleep anytime, anywhere… regardless of what kind of noise is going on."

"True, very true." JC looked at Jessica, "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, sure." She wiped the blue pool chalk off her hands and licked her lips anxiously.

"Hey thanks for dinner and everything. Congratulations Ames." JC gave her a hug and nodded at Lance as a 'goodbye'.

"Thanks." Amy patted his back and smiled.

"I've gotta go get this kid put to bed." JC stepped back and lifted a very tired Kyle off the couch. "You wore him out."

"He wore us out." Lance laughed.

"Bye guys." Jessica gave them both hugs then followed JC out to the car. "I'll see you Friday, right?"

"Yep, we'll be there." Lance nodded. "What time is everyone getting there?"

"I don't know. Whenever." JC shrugged and pulled the backdoor open to get Kyle in his seat. Kyle put up very little resistance to being strapped in, then immediately laid his head to the side and closed his eyes. "Not too early."

"Hell no." Lance laughed.

"Why don't you count on being there around ten or eleven. We can get the grill going and make up some chicken or something for lunch. How long is it going to take?" He asked Jessica.

"Um, I'm not sure. I'd say an hour each."

"Damn, so five hours?" JC cringed.

"We can do yours before Friday if you want." She shrugged.

"Okay, we'll figure it out." JC opened the driver's side door as Jessica climbed into the passenger seat. "See you guys on Friday." He waved to Lance and Amy as the dogs ran back into the house.

"Bye!" Lance waved as they pulled down the driveway and headed back to JC's house.

When they got home, JC took Kyle upstairs and gave him a quick bath before he dressed him for bed and carried him downstairs. It was too early for him to go to bed, so JC tried to entertain him by bringing out his favorite card game and playing on the floor with him.

"Daddy I seep." Kyle yawned and lay on the floor beside his cards.

"Not yet buddy, help me find the other shoe. Which card here is the other shoe?" JC held up the card to show Kyle the picture, then looked at the face down cards on the floor.

"Dunno." Kyle shook his head and blindly reached for a card. He turned it over and showed JC, "Isa shoe. I go now?"

JC laughed; it was in fact the other shoe. He glanced at the clock on the VCR and cringed, "It's only seven thirty buddy, if you go to sleep now you'll be up before the sun."

"No, I seep." Kyle yawned and curled his arms under his head.

JC sighed as Jessica laughed softly from the couch. "Okay, let's at least get you upstairs then." He picked Kyle up off the floor and rested him on his shoulder. "I'm gonna go put him down."


"Unless… did you want to?" He asked.

Jessica blushed quickly and shook her head, "No… no that's okay."

"Okay." JC smiled flirtatiously and tried not to laugh. "I'll be right back." She didn't respond she just nodded and kept her eyes on the TV.

As JC carried Kyle up the stairs, Jessica helped herself to a soda then sat back on the couch. She pulled the thin blanket from the corner of the couch and covered her legs as she channel surfed and landed on MTV. She watched the re-run of Pink's Diary, wondering if her room mate back home was watching as well. Jessica's eyes fell on the black cordless phone on the far end of the coffee table and she debated calling Katie.

She waited a few minutes until a commercial came on, then she dialed her number back home and listened to it ring. "Hi! You've reached Katie and Jessica's house, only no one's here right now. Jessica is off schmoozing with celebrities and hopefully getting me a date with my dream lover… Jessica if you're listening, don't make me sound like a psycho stalker, just tell him I want to tie him up and do nasty things to him. If this is anyone else, ignore that and keep in mind I'm a Catholic school girl." Katie laughed then continued, "Anyway, neither of us can come to the phone right now, so please leave a message and someone will call you back. Maybe me, maybe Jessica, maybe our neighbor guy Brent. Who knows?" The machine beeped in Jessica's ear as she tried to control her laughter.

"Hey Katie, it's me. I'm uh, well I'm here… I should have called you yesterday to let you know I made it in one piece. I haven't seen 'your man' yet, but he'll be over later this week so I'll be sure to pass your message on then. Anyway, Pink's Diary is on MTV and I thought I'd call and tell you to watch it but you're not home so I guess you can forget about it. I'll be home this weekend; I'll call you when I know for sure what time. By the way, can you pick me up from the airport?" Jessica smiled and almost felt homesick. "I'll give you a call later to talk about the details. See ya." She clicked the phone off and set it on the table.

"Is that your room mate?" JC asked from the kitchen.

Jessica jumped at the sound of his voice, "Yeah that was uh, Katie. Or… well it wasn't her it was our machine."

JC nodded, "Sounded like it." He smiled and dropped himself on the couch beside her. "So who's her man?"

"Oh um…" Jessica blushed and laughed, cursing Katie silently in her mind. "She's got a thing for Justin. I haven't been able to dissuade her." She shrugged and smiled.

"Is she cute?"


"I'm just saying… maybe you should bring her out."

"She'd embarrass the hell out of me, no thanks." Jessica laughed and looked back at the TV as the show came back on.

"Well, you can you know… if you want to. Bring her here, or on the road to visit or something."

"I know, and next time you guys play anywhere near Connecticut, I'm going to hook her up with free passes." She smiled and adjusted the blanket over her legs.

"What's this?" He nodded at the TV.

"It's MTV's Diary of Pink." She turned the volume down a notch. "Have you ever seen this?"

"The show? Yeah, but not this one. It's weird watching people you know on TV."

"You know Pink?"

JC gave her an odd look; "She opened for us."

"Oh yeah." She laughed. "Don't mind me, my brain is on vacation still."

"It's okay." JC smiled and couldn't stop looking at her; "Chris was over here when the Britney one came on, wanna talk about weird? We were like, 'that's Justin's girl right there'."

"Yeah I bet." Jessica laughed as a twinge of nervousness crept up into her stomach. After what had happened the night before, she wasn't sure what to expect from JC. She was interested, to say the least… but she didn't want to just run and jump into his bed two seconds after Kyle went to sleep.

"So what's on next?"

"I don't know." She shook her head. "I didn't see a TV guide around here."

"I'm not home enough to use it." JC laughed and reached for the remote. He turned the TV to channel 99 and watched the automated TV guide scroll by. They watched the show listings for a minute then JC asked, "How about 'Fear Factor'?"

"Works for me." Jessica nodded and chewed a piece of ice from her glass.

"Have you ever seen this?"

"Nope." Jessica shook her head. "But Chris talks about it all the time, I don't know how he managed to watch it last season."

"He's a slacker." JC smiled. "We'd all be out doing promo work and he'd be at the hotel watching TV."


"No, I'm kidding. We'd all be out partying and he'd be at the hotel watching TV." JC laughed again, "Let's see what all the noise is about."

Jessica smiled and noticed him staring, "Okay." They settled comfortably into the couch and JC swung his legs onto the couch to share the little blanket with her.

They spent an hour watching a group of grown-ups do some pretty gross things. Several times they had to cover their eyes to keep from getting sick themselves, but as soon as it was over they laughed and talked about how there just wasn't enough money in the world to get them to eat any kind of animal genitals.

When the show was over they switched over to CBS and watched a few more shows as JC's feet edged closer and closer to Jessica's until they were touching. Jessica extended her legs just the slightest so that her feet were closer to the back of his thighs and his were almost in her lap as she lay on her side.

Their body heat mingled as they watched the news in silence, then when it was over JC stood up and yawned. He stretched his arms over his head, exposing a flash of flesh just above his jeans and sighed, "I need to go to bed, Kyle's got school in the morning."

"Yeah, me too." Jessica smoothed her hair down as she stood up beside him. She reached for the remote and clicked the TV off, cutting David Letterman off in the middle of his monologue.

"You can stay up if you want, I'll keep the rug rat quiet in the morning." JC said softly as he set his cup on the kitchen counter and looked toward the stairs.

Jessica thought for a second, her mind racing trying to figure out where she'd sleep. Just because she'd slept upstairs the night before didn't mean that she was expecting to do so again. A slight frown dashed across her forehead as she decided to sleep in the guestroom downstairs. "No I, it's okay. I'm tired too." She nodded and gave JC a small smile before turning to head down the short hall to the guestroom.

She stopped just outside the door and placed her hand on the handle, "Good night." She called to JC.

"Good night." He said, just a step behind her.

Jessica jumped as her heart leapt into her throat; "You scared me." She whispered loudly as she placed her hand on her chest, "I didn't know you were there."

"I see that." He whispered back with a small laugh. JC reached out and placed his hand on her side just below her bra, then he let it slide down to her hip as he leaned forward to rest his chin on her shoulder, "You don't have to sleep down here."

"I probably should." She looked upward quickly, indicating Kyle.

"Kyle doesn't know and doesn't care." JC laughed lightly as the warmth from his hand radiated through the thin material of her shirt.

"Yeah but I know, and I care." She blushed quickly. "I just don't know what he'd think if he walked in and saw us in bed together."

"Okay." JC shrugged and reached around her to open the bedroom door. The slight scent of cinnamon wafted from the room as he raised his eyebrow and looked in, clearly waiting for her to go first.

He gave her a gentle nudge with the hand at her hip and she stepped into the room. Jessica shuffled her feet in the darkness to feel for the low bed in the center of the room. Her bare toes met the side of her suitcase beside the bed so she knelt in front of it to pull her pajamas out, wishing for a moment that the lights were on.

Jessica took her shorts and tank top into the small bathroom to change and brush her teeth, and was almost surprised to see JC in the room when she came out. "I'm exhausted." She whispered with a nervous smile. It wasn't that she didn't want JC in the bed with her, she could already feel his arms working their way around her waist. But at the same time after what they'd talked about she didn't want to be just that physical side either.

"Me too." JC agreed a second later as he let his lips graze her bare shoulder. He moved to her neck and kissed her once, then pulled the blankets back on her bed to help her under them.

Jessica scooted all the way over to the other side in order to make room for him, but instead he pulled the blankets up around her shoulders then laid on top of them. "I'll just wait for you to go to sleep." He whispered and kissed her lips softly.

He had waited months to get to where he was and he didn't want to rush anything. As much as he wanted to stay and nestle under the covers with her, he could tell she was feeling nervous. He'd matured enough to tell nervousness from anticipation, and she was without a doubt, nervous.

JC's hair fell across his eyes as they adjusted to the dark and he caught her smiling at him. "What?" He whispered as he smiled back.

"Nothing." Jessica whispered, then reached up to brush the hair out of his eyes. Her lips moved slightly, as if trying to say the words she was thinking, but instead she dropped her eyes and licked her lips quickly. "I… JC I'm… I don't know how to say this."

"Just say it." JC's smile wavered at the corner for a second.

"I don't want to freak you out."

"Try me." He tilted her chin up to look at him.

"It's nothing."


"I'm just… I'm really glad that this all happened." She laughed nervously. "But I'm a little worried about Kyle."

"Worried about what?"

"Well he's got to be confused about seeing me and you together, then Lori and everything."

"I don't think he knows what's going on."

"He's not blind Jace."

"I know he's not." He continued in a soft whisper. "He likes you a lot, you're his Jessi. He's just excited that you're here, he's stoked that he gets to wake up and see you right away."

"Well yeah, but I'm going to have to go home soon and then what's he going to think?"

"The same thing he thought last time you went away. That he'll get to see you later."

Jessica sighed softly, laying that close to him and feeling his hand resting gently on hers wasn't the time or place she wanted to discuss this. "I guess I just mean… what then? What happens when we meet up again and go to Europe? He's so young it's got to be hard for him to grow attached to the people he sees every day only to have them taken away after a couple months."

"Yeah, it is." JC squeezed her hand on top of the covers and sighed, his warm breath heating her cheek. "But I hope that after Europe we'll see more of you."

"You hope…"

"That's all I can do." JC leaned in slowly and kissed her forehead, "Go to sleep babe, we can talk more in the morning." He ran his hand down to her side and smiled as their foreheads touched, "Good night."

"Good night." Jessica's eyes smiled as they closed and she settled into the pillow.


Jessica awoke the next morning to an empty bed and a feeling of contentment. Sometime in the middle of the night the feeling of JC's finger tips on her cheek assured her that they were both on the same page, and hoping for the same thing. She rolled herself out of bed and shuffled toward the kitchen at the end of the short hall.

Just before she turned the corner she heard JC half-humming, half singing to himself. "Blue jean baby… LA lady… seamstress for the band…" He bumped around in the refrigerator for a minute as he hummed the words he didn't know. "Tiny dancer in my head…"

"Elton John, huh?" Jessica leaned on the corner of the pantry and watched him spread butter on two pieces of toast.

JC glanced up at her with a smile, "Uh huh." He put the lid back on the butter and opened the refrigerator again, "Hold me closer, tiny dancer… counting headlights on the highway…"

His voice was just above a whisper but it seemed to carry through the house like an amphitheater. Jessica hugged herself to hide the goosebumps that had risen on her arms as he sang and licked a smear of butter from his thumb.

"Did you already take Kyle to school?"

"Yep." He offered her a piece of his toast and kept on humming. "This song has been stuck in my head all morning. It wouldn't be so bad but I don't know all the words so it's driving me nuts."

"Thanks." She took the piece of toast and smiled. "You need to get another song stuck in your head."

"I like this one though." He laughed. "It's your song."

"My song?" She laughed. "How so?"

"You're the seamstress for the band. Kind of."

"I'm not a ballerina."

"You don't have to be." He shook his head.

"Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand." She spoke rather than sang the words. "I'm not a ballerina."

"It's not literal." JC leaned over quickly and brushed his lips against hers, tasting the crumbs and butter from the toast.

"I see." Try as she might she couldn't stop herself from blushing at the touch of his lips. The feeling was so new but at the same time, it was comfortable. "So what do you do while Kyle's at school?"

"Kill time." JC shrugged and took another bite of his toast. "The first couple days were killer, I would seriously come home and climb the walls till it was time to go get him. I even went and sat in the parking lot for an hour just so I could get him right at twelve." He shook his head and smiled as he popped the last bite of toast into his mouth.

"Aww, that's sweet."

"It's pathetic." JC laughed. "But now I pretty much just hang out. Call the guys, turn on a movie, go grocery shopping, clean the pool… whatever."

"You don't have a pool guy?" Jessica kidded him as she leaned against the island in the middle of his kitchen.

He caught her eye for a second and raised his eyebrow; "It gives me something to do."

"Got it." She nodded with a knowing smile. "Is that what you were planning on doing today? Clean the pool I mean."

"I wasn't planning on it, no." He shrugged and hopped up on the counter. "But if you want to…"

"I'll pass, thanks."

"So what do you want to do? We've got another - " He checked his watch, "Two hours."

"Oh jeez, is it really ten? Man I haven't slept this late in a while, thank you."

"No problem." JC unsuccessfully tried to suppress a yawn. "I on the other hand have been up since seven."

"Lucky you." Jessica laughed and went to the backdoor to let in the warm morning air. "I need to start going through all those wardrobes I sent down here." She mumbled half to herself.

"They're out in the garage.'

"Yeah." Jessica nodded as JC came to stand beside her. "What are the chances that you'll let me do you today?"

JC choked on nothing and looked at her as he sputtered softly, "Excuse me?"

"Your wardrobe." She blushed quickly as she laughed. "Do your wardrobe."

"Ahh, I was gonna say…"



"What were you going to say?"

"Well I was gonna say your chances were good, but if all you wanted was to dress me up like a Ken doll, well I guess we can do that instead."

"Tempting." Jessica couldn't believe her boldness as she batted her eyelashes at JC. She'd never been one to make any kind of real advances, she was happy letting the guy make all the moves. "Maybe later."

JC snickered, "Do you want to dress me up first?"

"It'd help out if I could, yeah. That way on Friday I can just go through the others and get it over with."

"Okay." JC shrugged and reached for her hand to pull her back into the house.

"I need my stuff, just a second." She detoured off to her room and got her kit out from under the bed. When she got to the garage JC had already pushed his wardrobe to the front of the line and had it open.

"Man, we're taking all of this?"

"No, not all of it. That's what I've got to do here, weed out the stuff we don't want to take." She reached around him and pushed everything to the side. "Can you turn the lights on?"

"They're on." JC looked up at the two fluorescent lights hanging from the rafters.

"Hrmm, okay then can you help me bring this stuff inside so you can really see it?"

"The whole wardrobe?"

"No, we can just carry the clothes in." Jessica reached for the first three garment bags and handed them to JC, "Can you go put those on the couch? I think we'll have better light in the living room."

"Sure." JC turned and walked back inside as Jessica picked up a few more stray jackets and shirts. She set them beside the garment bags, then got a short stool from the kitchen for him to stand on.

Jessica opened up several of the bags and set the suits and outfits across the back of the couch, explaining what she had in mind for each one, and where they'd be worn. JC offered his input as he slipped easily into "work mode", letting her know which pants he liked and which he would rather die than wear.

They narrowed the clothes down to three categories then she handed him the first suit and instructed him to change into it. Without a second thought, JC dropped his shorts and pulled the clean black pants on in their place.

Jessica averted her eyes like she usually did when the shameless boys got undressed, but she couldn't keep from glancing at his muscular thighs and almost too narrow hips. "Those look good." She nodded and tilted her head to the side; "They need to come in a little though." She stuck her fingers between his side and the waistband to show the excess room. "Hang on." Jessica reached for her pins and carefully slid one in to hold them in place.

"Can't you just get another size?"

"These are your size."

"Apparently not."

"Each designer has a different size scale and they'll all fit you differently. If I went a size smaller in this it'd be too tight everywhere else. Trust me." She looked up at him and went down on her knees to look at his cuffs. "I've been doing this a long time."

"You're what? Nine? How long have you been doing this?" He joked, but held perfectly still.

"I'm 25 and I've been doing this forever. My grandma owns a tailor shop and my mom worked with her so I spent every afternoon in the shop."


"I was making my own doll clothes when I was eight and hemming customers pants in junior high. So trust me… if I go a size smaller they won't fit."

"I trust you." He laughed, and let her go about her work.

Jessica spent more than an hour marking and pinning his pants and jackets while he laughed and held still when he was instructed. "So when are you going to sew all of these?"

"When I get home."

"You're shipping all of these back to Connecticut to sew them, then shipping them back down here to go to Europe?"

"No, I'm shipping them to Connecticut to sew them, then they'll go straight from there to Europe and they'll be there when we get there." She explained.

"What if there was a mistake and they don't fit right when we get there?"

"Are you implying that I might make a mistake?" She held a straight pin in her fingers, daring him to answer 'yes'.

"No, I'm just saying… what if I tack on another ten pounds before we go?"

"I have a little factory that goes with me on the road. A steamer, sewing machine, hand kits… you won't need to worry."


"So on Friday when I get done with you guys, I'll need to make arrangements for the wardrobes to be sent back."


"And I uh… I'm leaving on Sunday." She carefully folded the pants in her hand and placed them on the floor beside the others.

"You are?"

"Yeah. I figure I'll be done here by Saturday at the latest, so that'll give me a day to hang out with you guys before I go home. I'll need a couple weeks to do all of the alterations, which will take me right up to the time we have to leave."

"Hmm, okay." JC frowned slightly and handed her the jacket that went with the pants she'd just folded. He checked his watch and sighed, "I've gotta go get Kyle, do you want to come?"

"Sure." Jessica zipped the garment bags and wiped her hands on her shorts. "One down, four to go." She thought to herself as she lifted two of the bags to carry back out to the wardrobes in the garage.

They rode to Kyle's school and picked him up together, much to the delight of the little boy who dropped his blocks and ran over to Jessica as they walked in the door. "Hi Jessi!" He giggled and pulled at her hand.

"Hi Kyle! Wow, is this your school?" She looked around the room.

"Yeah." Kyle nodded and tugged her hand toward the cubbies.

"This is really cool." She smiled. "Wow, check out the beautiful trees on the wall over there. Did you draw one of those?"


"That's really cool." She followed him to the wall and watched as he pulled his plastic tub out of the cubbyhole. "Do we need to take those things home, or do they stay here?"

"Daddy have home."

"Okay, well I'll carry it for you, how does that sound?"

"Kay." Kyle nodded and took his old red backpack and his sweatshirt out. He handed the backpack to Jessica then held his sweatshirt in his hand. "Go ouside?"

"You want to show me outside? Sure, we can go take a look, but I think your daddy wants to get home." Jessica looked back at JC who just smiled with his hands in his pockets. "Can Kyle show me outside real fast?"

"Sure." JC nodded and followed them out the side door. Kyle ran around the empty play yard and showed Jessica all of the fun things he was able to do there.

"That's cool Kyle, this is even bigger than your play set at home!"

"Yeah, but its school."

"True." Jessica laughed and reached for his hand. "Okay cutie, let's get outta here."

"Have don now?" Kyle asked as he looked up at JC.

JC blushed and shook his head, "I swear we don’t eat at McDonalds everyday." He laughed and messed Kyle's hair. "You're going to make me look like a bad dad."

Kyle just giggled as Jessica smiled and led the way out of the school. "McDonalds works for me, don't worry about it."

"I'm getting tired of it actually, how about pizza?" JC strapped Kyle into his seat then they headed out. "Let's get a pizza and take it home so we can eat it outside."

"Ina pool?"

"Nope, we can't eat in the pool, but we can go swimming after we eat, how's that?" JC glanced in the rear view mirror.

"Kay." Kyle shrugged and kicked his feet with happiness.

They swung by the pizza place near JC's house and took it back to eat on the patio. Just like he promised, they went in the pool afterward and played around until it was time for Kyle to take a nap. Jessica took him inside and laid him on the couch to nap while she and JC spent the afternoon in the pool or lying out to get some sun.

"This is feeling more like a vacation than a work trip." Jessica said with her eyes closed to the sun.

"Good, you're technically on vacation so I shouldn't really ask you to do this anyway."

"I don't mind." She opened her eyes a crack and looked over at him laying on the deck chair in just his swim shorts. "This is nice."

"This is probably the first time I've actually sat back and enjoyed the pool since we got back off tour." JC sighed.


"Yeah, well Kyle doesn't really get the concept of tanning and relaxing." He laughed and Jessica watched the muscles in his stomach ripple.

"No, I bet he doesn't." She smiled, then closed her eyes again. "He will though, eventually. He'll probably be a surfer or a beach comber with as much as he loves the ocean."

"That's for sure." JC sighed stretched his arms over his head. He hadn't realized until then just how much he missed adult conversations. He'd spent so much time alone with Kyle, he'd almost forgotten that grown ups can actually make complete sentences and carry on actual conversations. The guys would come over every now and then, but for the most part it was just he and Kyle home alone.

"Is Lori coming back to visit again before she leaves?"

"Yeah, she's not sure when, but she's going to call."

"Okay." She nodded.

"Thanks for making me contact her. I mean, you didn't make me really, but when we were in LA and you asked if I wanted to have to explain to Kyle that his mom wanted to see him and I wouldn't let her… well that made me really think about it."

"Uh, you're welcome. I'm glad you guys could work things out."

"Me too. Kyle's attached to her, even if he doesn't always show it. Plus, he needs her, you know? When he gets older he will, and I'd feel like shit if I kept him from that."


"Not that it's all about how I feel or anything." He added quickly.

"No, I know what you meant."

JC nodded, then paused for a minute, "Of course, you're probably the one he thinks of as a mother figure. Just because you've been around and everything. So uh, thanks for that too… you really mean a lot to him. To us."

"I'm glad I can be here." Jessica smiled and rolled onto her stomach to let the sun hit her back. She was glad that the summer heat hid her blush as she laid her head down on the towel facing JC.

"Me too." He said softly as he opened his eyes and looked over at her. He was more than glad she was there.


Kyle, Jessica and JC spent the next couple of days together taking day trips to the beach and reorganizing Kyle's room. He decided he didn't want his bed by the window because the lines from the light shining in through the mini blinds made him striped, and he didn't like that.

Lori called every day to touch base with Kyle and say hi. He wasn't thrilled with the phone, but he said 'hi' and told her what they were doing every day, though he didn't seem like he was sure why he was doing it exactly. She wasn't able to come see Kyle again until Friday, the morning she was leaving. She only had a short amount of time so she brought a bag of muffins and had breakfast with Kyle on the back porch with him still in his pajamas. Jessica and JC sat inside and tried not to stare out the window as Kyle picked his chocolate chip muffin apart.

After an hour outside, Lori picked Kyle up and checked her watch. "My ride is going to be here in a minute, but I have a present for you."

"Me?" Kyle giggled as he kicked his feet against her thighs.

"Yep. It's in my bag, should we go get it?"

"Yeah!" Kyle shimmied out of her arms and took off for the front door where her luggage was waiting. She opened her little carry on and pulled out a pale gray stuffed animal.

"Here you go sweetie, do you know what that is?" Lori knelt in front of Kyle to hand it to him.

"Isa fiss?"

"It's a manatee." Lori smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear. "You've got a lot of manatees here in Florida but there aren't any in California."

"You have?" He handed the toy back to her.

"No, that's for you to keep." Lori said softly as tears rose in her eyes. "So when you see it you'll remember that I miss you because you aren't in California either."

"I go?"

"No baby, you can't come with me. You're going to stay here with your daddy and… and Jessica."

"Jessi?" His eyes lit up as he looked over his shoulder to where Jessica was sitting on the couch.

"Y-yeah." Lori nodded as she blushed. "But I'll call you okay?"

"Ina phone?"

"Yep, on the phone. I'll call up and see how you're dong and you can tell me all about your school and everything like that."

"Kay." Kyle shrugged.

A horn beeped outside signaling that Lori's cab had arrived. "That's my ride." She stood up straight and opened the front door before looking back at Kyle who was examining the manatee. "I'll call you next week." Lori said as she stepped outside.

"Okay." JC nodded and lifted Kyle up on his hip. "Say bye Kyle."

"Bye mommy!"

"I'll see you soon Kyle." Her smile wobbled as she took three quick steps back to where they stood and kissed his cheek, "I'll call you and talk to you when I get home, okay?"

"Kay." Kyle giggled.

"Thanks JC." She added softly as the cab blared it's horn from the street.

"You're welcome." He nodded, and meant it.

"Okay, I've gotta go." She blew another kiss as she trotted down the walkway toward the bright yellow cab.

Kyle waved and blew kisses as she got into the backseat and slammed the door. She waved through the window and JC saw her wipe her eyes before the cab pulled away from the curb. "Mommy go bye?"

"Yep, she had to go home." JC nodded.

"I see?"

"Yeah, you'll see her again in a little while. Maybe when we get back from our trip with the guys." JC smiled.


"Yep, she can call you too." JC nodded as he turned and stepped back into the house. "Let's go get ready, the guys are going to be here in a little bit." JC smiled.


"Yep, the guys. Chris, Joey, Justin and your favorite person of all time."


"Laaance?" Kyle giggled and ran up the front steps to where Jessica was waiting.

"You got it."

"They here?"

"They'll be here in an hour. Why don't we go get some clothes on you? Maybe we can help Jessica get her stuff set up." He looked up at Jessica, sensing her sigh of relief now that Lori was gone.

"You bet, I could use a lot of help carrying stuff inside." She reached for Kyle's hand and led him into the house and to the stairs. "But your daddy is right, first thing we need to do is get you dressed buddy."

"Yeah." Kyle sighed and looked down at his pajamas.

The three of them walked up the stairs to Kyle's room and went about getting him cleaned up and ready to go. He was getting better with the potty training so JC let him wear just his Scooby Doo underwear under his shorts with instructions to tell an adult if he had to go to the bathroom. Kyle seemed okay with that as he took off down the stairs to wait by the front door for his buddies to arrive.




Copyright � 2002, Amy Lynn