The next day was their first full day on their own, so JC made it a special one.  They drove into the city and spent a few hours at Disneyworld.  Frank came along for assistance, though he seemed to have just as much fun as his charges.  They rode all of the little kid rides and hunted down Mickey Mouse so that Kyle could give him a hug.  Fans were frequent and JC was surprised at how calm they were.  He signed autographs and posed for pictures while Frank held Kyle, then they were on their way.

            They went to bed early that night to prepare for school the next day.  JC just wanted to get back into Kyle's regular routine for the short amount of time that they had left.  After he put Kyle down he stood in the kitchen and packed Kyle's little snack for the next day.  He made sure the backpack was stocked, then set it by the door and settled into the couch to catch up on MTV shows he'd missed.

 

            The next morning Kyle woke JC up by climbing into his bed, squishing JC's stomach in the process.  "Daddy, hi."  Kyle mumbled as he patted JC's sleeping head.

            "Hey."  JC mumbled as he rolled over.  "What time is it?"  He asked in his scratchy early morning voice.

            "Time?"

            "Is it still dark outside?"  JC didn't even bother to open his eyes as he felt for his watch on the nightstand.

            "Daddy is time."

            "It's time huh?"  JC cracked an eye open and looked at his watch.  "Dangit, you're right.  It's time to get up so you can go to school."

            "No."  Kyle shook his head.  "Have a bago."

            "You want a bagel."

            "Bago and cheese and apo."

            "Wow, that's a lot.  Are you sure you can eat it all?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle smiled and slid off the bed.  "Lesso daddy."  He tugged at JC's shirt until the older man stood up and hobbled along behind him down to the kitchen.  JC made Kyle's breakfast as he brewed coffee and poured orange juice for both of them.

            "I need to wake up buddy, I'm tired."

            "No, you wake and me bago."

            JC laughed and shook his head as the toaster dinged.  "Yeah, I'm awake enough to make you a bagel."  He nodded and placed a slice of cheese on the bagel and stuck it in the microwave to melt it just a little.  "Here you go, eat up."  He set the plate in front of Kyle, the returned to the coffee maker to pour himself a cup.  "Yum."

            "I have dat?"  Kyle looked at JC's mug.

            "What?"

            "I have dat?"  Kyle asked again.

            "What?  This?  My coffee?"

            "Yeah."

            "No, coffee isn't for kids."  JC shook his head.  "It might hurt your tummy."

            "I see?"

            "Sure."  JC walked over and held the mug down for Kyle to peer into.  "See?  It doesn't look very good, does it?"

            "Is hot?"  Kyle looked up at JC, ignoring his previous comment.

            "Well it's warm.  It's not too hot, no."  JC shook his head.

            "Daddy I try?"

            "You won't like it."

            "Peese?"

            "Just a tiny bit, okay?"  JC held his mug to Kyle's lips and tilted it gently.  Kyle took an abnormally large swallow then his eyes flew open and he looked up at JC.  "See?  I knew you wouldn't like it."

            "Yucky daddy."  Kyle made a face and shook his head, then went back to his orange juice.  "Is too yucky daddy."  He continued to make a face as he tore a bite off of his bagel and stuck it in his mouth.  He sniffed, then wiped his nose on his sleeve while JC cringed.

            "Wanna talk about yucky huh kid?  I think snot on your arm is as yucky as it gets."  JC reached for a napkin and squeezed it over Kyle's nose.  "Blow."  He said, sounding so much like his mom that he had to laugh.  "Gross."  He tossed the napkin in the trash and leaned against the counter to make himself a piece of toast.  "Okay buddy, hurry it up so we can get going."

            "Where we going?"

            "To school."  JC checked the clock on the microwave.

            "And you?"

            "Well I'm gonna take you, yeah."  JC nodded as he reached for the remnants of Kyle's bagel.  "Are you done?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle slid off the chair and headed for the stairs.  "Les go going."  JC laughed again and tossed the bagel in the trash before he hopped up the stairs to Kyle's room.

            They chose clothes for him to wear then made a quick bathroom run before Kyle committed to getting dressed.  Kyle coughed as JC pulled his baseball t-shirt over his head.  "Hey buddy, don't get sick."  JC mumbled, that was the last thing he needed.

            "Kay."  Kyle sniffed and looked up at JC.  "Daddy we go see?"

            "Go see what?"  JC reached for Kyle's pants and pulled them up over his big boy undies.

            "See Jussin?"

            "Nope, we're not going to see Justin."

            "Peese?"  Kyle sniffed again as JC buttoned his pants and sat him on his bottom to put his shoes on.

            "You're going to school to see Chad and Miss Michelle."  JC explained.

            "Lato?"

            "Later?"

            "Lato see Jussin?"

            "Yeah, maybe later we'll go see Justin."  JC tied Kyle's shoes then stood him upright and ran his hands over the toddler's hair.  "I think you need another hair cut."

            "Kay."

            "Unless you want to grow your hair out like me."  JC smiled and pulled at his own hair.

            "No."  Kyle smiled and shook his head.  "I cool like Jussin."  He brought his hand up to his head and patted his short hair.

            "Yep, you've got cool hair."  JC laughed,  "Okay buddy, let's get going.  You don't want to be late to school."

            "Get a cut?"  Kyle asked as they hopped down the stairs.

            "Yeah, I'll take you to get a cut this week maybe."

            "Now?"

            "Not now you goof, it's time for school right now."  JC laughed and held the garage door open for Kyle, then got him situated in his car seat and they headed for the school.  "This is our last week to goof off kiddo.  Next week I have to get back to work and then we leave for Europe."  JC sighed and glanced in the rear view mirror.  "The next couple weeks are going to suck for you, there's not much to do at the compound."

            "Who dere?"

            "Who's at the compound?  Everybody will be there, but we'll all be working."

            "I work?"

            "Yeah, you can work too."

            "Day?"

            "Not today, next week."

            Kyle sighed and reached for his toy on the seat beside him.  The action figure's mechanical voice roared behind JC as Kyle bounced the half man half bear figure up and down his leg.  "We stop?"  Kyle asked as JC slowed down.

            "Stop?  No we're not stopping yet, the light is green."  JC looked up at the light to double check, the continued around the corner.

            "Stop and have cheburg?"

            "A cheese burger?  For breakfast?  I don't think so buddy.  That's not a good breakfast, besides you already had your bagel and cheese."

            "Go simmin?"

            "We can go swimming this afternoon if you want, after your nap."

            "Now?"

            "No, we can't go now you silly.  We're in the car we don't have a pool in here."  JC smiled at Kyle in the rear view mirror.

            "At home?"

            "Yep, we have a pool at home so this afternoon when you get up from your nap at home we can go swimming."  JC nodded.  "I'll get your swim suit out and your water wings and everything, so they'll be ready to go."

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed and looked out the window as he yawned.

            "Okay."  JC said under his breath as they pulled into the school's parking lot.  They walked in together and JC signed Kyle in then headed for the classroom at the end of the hall.

            "Daddy?"  Kyle stopped walking and grabbed onto JC's pants

            "What's the problem Kyle?"  JC asked softly as they stepped just outside of Kyle's classroom.  "What's up with this?"  He tried to pry Kyle's hands from his jeans with no luck.

            "We can go."  Kyle whined.  "Now?"

            "You like school, what's going on?"  JC knelt to Kyle's eye level and gave him a concerned look.  "Don't you want to see Chad?"

            "Say hi?"

            "Yeah, let's go say hi to Chad."

            "Anen we home?"

            "You want to say hi to Chad and then go home?"  JC frowned.

            "Yeah."

            "Why?"

            "I see Joey."  Kyle pouted.

            "Joey's not at home."

            "Yeah."

            "No, he might be at his home but he's not at our home."  JC shook his head and reached to smooth down Kyle's hair.  "I thought you liked school."

            "I like."

            "So how come you don't want to go?  Look.  See?  We're here.  Your teacher is waiting for you, and so is Chad."

            "And Jessi?"

            "Jessica?"

            "Yeah."

            "No, she's not here at school.  She's at her home."  JC shook his head again.  "Look at all your friends in there, they're waiting for you to go play with them."

            "For minit?"

            JC sighed and picked Kyle up and he stood up,  "What's the problem kiddo?  How come you don't want to go to school?"

            "Just want Joey."  Kyle sighed and gave his father a pitiful look.

            "How about if I call Joey and see if he can come over this week and maybe bring Kelly and Chad?"  JC asked as they stepped into the bright room.

            "Now?"

            "I'll call him when I get home."  JC nodded.

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded, but he didn't look pleased.

            "Okay kiddo, I'll be back in a few hours to get you, okay?  Make something really cool for your project today, okay?"

            "Yeah."

            "Bye bye Kyle."  JC picked him up to kiss his cheek, then set him down and watched as he walked over to where Chad and a couple other children were playing with books.  He stood there for a minute just watching, then turned and left the room.  He had work to do at home and he wanted to do it when he had peace and quiet.

 

            JC spent almost the whole time in his little makeshift office that was cluttered with all of the stuff that used to be in Kyle's room.  His old lazy boy recliner was in the center of the room so JC pulled up his old keyboard, put his headphones over his ears and grabbed his notebook.  Since Kyle had started at his pre-school, JC had spent at least a few hours a week in his little room fiddling around with melodies and lyrics.

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

            After school and his nap, Kyle decided he didn't want to go in the pool so they played on the play set and had dinner outside under the little wooden bridge.  JC picked up their trash then took Kyle back inside for a bath and to get him ready for bed.  "I don't know about you buddy, but I'm tired."

            "Yeah, I tire."  Kyle yawned and held his feet up so JC could pull his pajama bottoms on.  "I pay for minit?"

            "You want to play for a minute?"  JC smiled.

            "Yeah."

            "Downstairs?"

            "Yeah, pay and see shek."

            "I think we can do that.  Shrek is already in the VCR so we're ready to go."  JC pulled Kyle to his feet then they went downstairs to relax in the living room.  The movie started as Kyle pulled his train and train tracks out of the toy basket and began to set them up on the carpet.  He played in silence for about twenty minutes, completely ignoring the movie playing behind him.

            "Okay daddy I seep."  Kyle sighed as he stood up and put his train back in his toy basket, then he headed for the hall.

            "Hey… come here for a second."  JC frowned as Kyle wobbled by like a drunken man.  "Are you okay?"  He reached for Kyle's arm and pulled him onto his lap.

            "Yeah."  Kyle said softly.

            "Whoa, you're warm kiddo.  I think you've got a fever."  JC licked his lips and blinked rapidly,  "Okay… I can do this." He whispered to himself as he ran his hand over Kyle's forehead.  "Where's my book?"

            "No read."  Kyle frowned and rested his warm head on JC's shoulder.  "Daddy I seep."

            "I need to read my book for a second so I'll know what to do."

            "Go seep."

            "No, you can't go to sleep yet." JC walked to the phone alcove in the kitchen and looked through the drawers there for his "What to expect: the toddler years" book.  Once he found it he adjusted Kyle on his shoulder and set the book on the counter to flip through it to find the "fever" section.

            JC read the few paragraphs and calmed himself down considerably,  "Does your throat hurt?"  He shook Kyle a little to make him open his eyes.

            "No."

            "Does your nose hurt?"

            "Yeah."

            "What about your ears?"

            "No."  He whined and squished his face into JC's shoulder.

            "So you're just kind of stuffy?"  JC looked at Kyle with a concerned expression as a trail of clear snot ran from one of his nostrils.  Kyle sniffed then coughed, answering JC's question without speaking.  "Okay, let's go upstairs and take your temperature."  JC's tucked the book under his arm as they walked upstairs to Kyle's bathroom and took the ear thermometer from the medicine cabinet.  He prayed that Kyle's fever wouldn't be high as he placed the little monitor in his ear.  After having meningitis earlier that year he knew how easy it'd be for him to get sick again and JC knew he didn't want to do that again.  Spending the week at the hospital wasn't JC's idea of a good time and he wasn’t sure he'd be able to hold it together again.

            JC depressed the button on the thermometer as instructed.  It beeped, and JC sighed with relief,  "One oh one point three.  That's not too bad."

            "I good?"

            "Yeah, you're going to be okay."  JC flipped the book open on the counter and read what to do next.  "Okay, since it's only one hundred we don't have to go to the doctors… that's good.  We don't need a cool bath, good.  We don't need to do much of anything except sleep."  He looked down at Kyle.  "Are you tired?"

            "I seep daddy."  Kyle yawned and rested his head on JC's shoulder.

            "Okay, cool."  JC kissed the top of Kyle's head and carried him to his room.

            "No daddy, you."

            "Me?"

            "You bed."

            "You want to sleep in my bed?"  JC looked down at his son as they stood over his little car bed.

            "Yeah.  And you."

            JC sighed and conceded,  "Okay."  They went down to JC's room where he set Kyle on the bed and pulled the blankets up to his chin.  "I'll be right back buddy."  JC went back to Kyle's room and got Lello off of the bed, as well as Kyle's own pillow and a truck.

            When he got back to his room Kyle's eyes were already half closed and he'd kicked the blankets off of his legs.  "Here you go buddy."  JC lifted Kyle's head and slid the thin pillow under him, then tucked Lello under his arm and crawled into the bed beside him.  "I have a truck here too if you want it."

            "No."  Kyle yawned and rolled over onto his stomach.  "I seep."

            "Okay buddy, you go to sleep.  I'll be right here."  JC laid his head on his own pillow and clicked the TV on.  He adjusted the volume and placed his hand on Kyle's warm back as the little boy fell asleep.  JC watched movies on cable until he fell asleep beside Kyle.

 

            They slept through the night and in the morning when JC woke up, he took Kyle's temperature as he slept.  "One hundred point five."  JC sighed and looked down at his sleeping son.  "You've got a bug or something kiddo."  He sighed before he set the thermometer on the bedside table and pulled out his trusty book.  It said that as long as the child was eating regularly  and taking fluids, then all he would need was plenty of rest and fluids.  His glands weren't swollen, he wasn't lethargic or any of the other tell-tale symptoms of something more serious, so JC ran downstairs and brought a juice box up with him.

            "Daddy?"  Kyle asked as JC hit the top of the stairs.

            "Yeah, I'm coming.  I brought you some juice, how's that?"  JC said softly.

            "Me?"

            "Yep, it's all for you."  JC popped the straw in the opening and handed it to Kyle as he rolled over onto his back on the bed.  "Do you feel any better today?"

            "I feel my nose."  Kyle said as he grabbed it with his free hand.  "Is ow."

            "Yeah, I need to see about getting you some kids version of Dayquil or something, you'd like that."  JC watched carefully as Kyle drank down some of the juice, then he took the box and put it back on the table.

            "Daddy?"  Kyle mumbled as he rolled over and kicked JC's shin.

            "Yeah buddy, I'm here."

            "I go potty."

            "You have to go potty?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle pushed himself up to a sitting position and rubbed his eyes.  "Peese?"

            "Hang on a second, you can go in the big boy potty."  JC rolled out of bed and rushed to Kyle's bathroom down the hall.  He returned with the toddler-sized toilet and set it beside the regular one in the bathroom.  "Okay buddy, here you go."  JC helped Kyle out of his pajamas and let the little kid do his business.  "You know what?  This is gonna be cool that you're using the big kids potty before we go to Europe, but it's gonna suck that I've gotta lug the thing around."  JC sighed as he stood in the door.  He tilted his head to the side and looked at Kyle standing near the standard sized toilet,  "Maybe…"

            "I done."  Kyle stood up and reached for his pants.

            "Hang on, let's try this."  JC picked Kyle up and sat him on the big toilet.  Kyle's hands came down to his sides and he held himself up using the toilet seat.  "There, see you kinda fit on there."

            "Is big."

            "Yeah, it's big, but this is the kind of toilet we're gonna have in Europe."

            "We no go."  Kyle shook his head and leaned forward to help balance himself to keep his tiny little butt out of the huge hole.

            JC laughed, "We have to go."

            Kyle sighed and held his hands out to JC, "Daddy I done."

            "Okay, okay."  He lifted Kyle off the seat and helped him pull up his pajama bottoms.  They went back to JC's giant bed and crawled under the covers to set the tone for the rest of their day.

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

            JC and Kyle spent the next two days curled up in JC's bed or downstairs on the couch as Kyle's temperature slowly went back to normal and his sniffles subsided.  They watched hours of "Winnie the Pooh" movies and "Veggie Tales" while eating lots of soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  Any other time JC would have felt like he was wasting time lying around on the couch for days on end, but right then he felt like he didn't want to leave.

            They'd be leaving for Europe in a few weeks and he knew that once they got started there it would be so chaotic he probably wouldn't have any real time with Kyle alone.  The hours of napping on the couch in his pajamas with his son seemed to sink home the fact that they were bonding more and more each day; more than he thought was possible.  The two years that JC didn't know about Kyle seemed to vanish in JC's mind as he pulled his socks off on the third day and stood up by the couch. 

            "See Chad?"  Kyle yawned as he squirmed off the couch to stand beside JC.

            "Nope, no school today, today is Friday."  JC shook his head and scratched at his unshaven jaw.  "Are you feeling better?"

            "Yeah."

            "No more runny nose?"

            "Nose here?"  Kyle touched his nose to assure himself it wasn't running.

            "Cool."  JC stretched his arms and looked around the family room.  "How about we get dressed and go get some McDonalds?  Are you ready to get out of the house?"

            "Now?"

            "Yeah, I think you're feeling well enough to go out."

            "And have kickin?"

            "Chicken nuggets?  Sure, if that's what you want.  I just need something else besides soup."  JC sighed and nodded for the stairs.  "Let's go get cleaned up a little bit, I need a shower in a major way."

            "Yeah."

            "Yeah?  You think I need a shower?"

            "Yeah." Kyle giggled and followed JC.

            "Do I stink?"  JC sniffed at his armpits.

            "Pee eww daddy."

            "I don't stink."

            "Yeah you sink."  Kyle made his way slowly up the stairs.  "And I sink daddy.  I sink and need a sower."  He stopped at the top of the stairs and put his hands on his hips.  "My nose need a sower."

            "Your nose does huh?  Well we'd better hurry up then."  JC held the door open to Kyle bathroom and started the water.  He bathed Kyle and dressed him in clean but comfortable clothes, then set him on the bed to watch TV for fifteen minutes while he cleaned himself up.

            They went into town and got Mc Donald's then sat in the heavy plastic booth to eat in the corner.  Kyle chatted through the whole meal and JC knew he was feeling a hundred times better.  His nose had stopped running and he hadn't coughed in more than a day.  "So hey kiddo, how would you like to go see your grandma and grandpa?"  JC asked as he wadded up his trash.  He reached up to pull his hat down a little lower and scooted closer to the wall.

            "I see?"

            "Do you want to?"

            "I do?"

            "I'm asking if you do."  JC smiled.  "You met them before, back when we were in LA."

            "Kay."  Kyle shrugged and stuck a fry in his mouth.  He shoved his chicken nuggets aside and stood up in the booth to take a drink of his orange soda.  "We can go now?"

            "Not right the second no, but I thought we would go spend the weekend with them?  Just a couple days."

            "Kay and I bing Lello?"

            "Of course."

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded.  "But no Jussin and no Joey and no Jessi."

            "That's right."  JC nodded.  "Are you done with that?"

            "Yeah."

            "Eat three more fries."

            "Two?"

            "Three?"

            "I have two."

            "You can eat two, but then you'll have to eat another one.  I want you to eat three."

            "I no hungry."

            "Yeah you are."  JC sighed and smiled.  "Eat three more fries then we can go home and get things ready to go see your grandma and grandpa."

            "Daddy?"

            "Yeah?"

            "I have two."  Kyle picked up two fries and put them in his mouth, then slid off the seat and carried the rest of his fries to the trash.  And that was that.  Kyle truly was a smaller version of JC's stubborn self.

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

            They spent the weekend at JC's parent's house and had a great time while they were there.  Kyle told them how much fun he was having in school and JC shared some of his potty training stories.  His mother had a good laugh picturing JC trying to hold Kyle over the big toilet while not getting pee all over himself.  "It was a mess."  JC shook his head and laughed.

            "I go potty on daddy."  Kyle added with a little giggle from his seat on the floor by the couch.

            "Yeah you did, you nailed me."

            "And daddy say ahhhhh!"   Kyle made a shocked face and screamed loudly.

            "Shush, don't go telling everyone I screamed."  JC blushed and playfully covered Kyle's mouth with his hand.  "I'll pee on you, let's see if you scream."

            "No!"  Kyle shouted from behind JC's hand as he continued to laugh.

            "Yeah!"  JC shouted back.  He took his hand from Kyle's mouth and began to tickle him.  "I'm going to pee on you and see if you scream too."

            "No no daddy!  Is yucky!"  Kyle laughed hysterically as JC tickled his sides.

            "You guys are sick."  Karen shook her head and smiled as she watched her son and grandson goofing around on the floor.  She managed to keep her tears of happiness back while her heart almost burst with pride.  JC was doing a phenomenal job with Kyle, even though he was still figuring it out.  Considering the situation she never would have expected JC to fall into the role of "daddy" as fast and as well as he had.

 

            JC promised his parents he'd call from Europe as often as he could to touch base, then he and Kyle headed for their own home.  When they got there JC carried Kyle inside and up to his room.  He lay him on the bed in his clothes, then went about taking his shoes and pants off before pulling the blanket up to his chin.  JC kissed Kyle's forehead then whispered his night time prayers that he was trying to teach Kyle before ducking out the door and going down to the kitchen.

            The red light on his answering machine flashed and he debated putting the messages off until the morning, but instead he hit the play button and grabbed a soda from the fridge.  "Hey hey Jace!  This is Joe, in case you couldn't tell.  Listen, I know you're probably out playing at Chuck E. Cheese or something, but gimme a call when you get in.  I wanna see about getting one of those lap top DVD player things for the plane and Just said you were lookin' at them last year so I wanted to find out which ones are the best.  I called Chris but he's pretty much useless.  He dives into that techie talk and completely loses me.  Anyway, call me when you get back.  As long as it's not like, six in the morning.  Bye."  JC smiled and a second later Joey's voice came back,  "Or seven in the morning.  Or before noon.  Okay Bye."

            The machine beeped and moved to the next message.  "Hi JC, hi Kyle.  This is Lori, I was uh, I was just calling to say 'hi' and to see how you were doing.  I'm back in California now; they had me running all over the mid-west for other training classes and stuff.  So anyway, I know you're going to be leaving to go… to tour Europe… but I don't remember when you said you were going.  If you could please call me back and let me know, I'd appreciate it.  I don't think I'll be able to get back out to Florida before then, but I'd like to talk to Kyle on the phone if I can.  Thanks JC.  I'll talk to you later… uh… bye."  She hung up then the next call was a telemarketer with a 'very important message regarding your life insurance'.

            JC skimmed the last of the messages and deleted all of the sales people and hang-ups.  He checked his watch and counted back three hours; it was barely seven in California.  He dialed Lori's number and let it ring through to her answering machine, then left her a short message in return.  He included his cell phone number since they would be at Johnny's for most of the next week.  When he was done he called Joey back, knowing that there was no way He'd be asleep before midnight.

            "H'lo."  Joey answered on the first ring.

            "Hey Joe."   Joey always brought a smiled to JC's face.

            "Hey, what's going on man?  You just now getting in?"

            "Yeah, we spent the weekend with my parents, you know… before we go to Europe and all that."  JC explained.

            "Right on."  Joey nodded.  "Well listen, I'll see you tomorrow, right?"

            "Yeah."

            "Cool, then can you tell me about the things then?  I've got people over."

            "People?  Or a girl?"  JC smirked.

            "People, more than one.  But yes."

            "More than one girl?  You're a dog Joe."

            "Yeah whatever Jace.  It's my mom and Janine and Kelly.  Hardly what I'd call an orgy."  Joey rolled his eyes and JC heard two of the ladies laugh and slap Joey.

            "You need help."  JC laughed and felt almost nostalgic as he looked at the toys strewn across his living room floor.  "I'll bring you the stuff I printed tomorrow.  You'll be there at eight, right?"

            "Uhh…"  Joey paused.  "Yeah, close to then."

            "You've gotta be there at eight."

            "I know, I will."  Joey said quickly.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

            "Bye Joey."

            "Later."  Joey hung up the phone and left JC holding the mute handset in his hand.

            "He's gonna be late…"  JC smiled and shook his head.  The 'real life' he'd known for so long was getting replaced with this new one that included Kyle, yet somehow things were still just the same.

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

            They got an early start on their morning the next day, and were at the compound by a quarter till eight.  There were already a few cars parked out front, but the only other Nsyncer there was Justin.

            "Daddy out."  Kyle strained at the straps holding him into his car seat and tried to pull himself free.  "Daddy out!  I see Jussin!"  He smiled as he caught sight of Justin getting out of his car a few feet away.

            "Kyle!  Hey there buddy what's up?"  Justin smiled as he slammed his car door.

            "I suck."  He pulled at the straps again.

            "Oh that's no good."  Justin walked over and nodded 'hello' to JC as he stood on the other side of the car throwing things into the familiar red backpack.  "Can I get him out?"

            "Yeah."  JC grabbed Elmo from the seat and shoved him in the bag making the little red animal giggle and vibrate.  "Can you take him in for me?  I've gotta run up to Johnny's office to drop off his passport."

            "You got it?"

            "Yeah, we had to pull some strings I guess, but we got it."  JC patted his back pocket as he slammed the passenger door shut.  "I'll see you in the studio, Kyle listen to Justin, okay?"

            "Kay."  Kyle shouted after JC while Justin fumbled with the nylon restraints. 

            "Where's the button thing?"  Justin asked Kyle softly.

            "Is dere."   Kyle pointed to the bright red button between his knees.  "And you push."

            "Got it."  Justin pushed the release and Kyle darted into his arms.  "Hi Jussin we go."  He wiggled to the ground and started walking up to the house.

            "Wait for me though buddy, there are cars."

            "Cars?"  Kyle looked around the wide empty space that was used as a parking lot.  "Where?"

            "There may be cars."  Justin corrected himself.  "Here, hold my hand."  He extended his hand out for Kyle, then they walked hand in hand around the house to the back where the dance studio was set up facing the lake. The door to the studio opened easily and Justin reached in to turn the bright overhead lights on.

            "Don't be touching anything in here Kyle."  Justin warned as Kyle's eyes lit up.  The stereo equipment in front of the mirrors lured Kyle toward the wall as Justin followed close behind.  "I'm serious kiddo, if you touch that you're going to be in trouble."

            "No can touch."  Kyle shook his head and put his hands behind his back as he looked closely at the stereo.  "Is a song?"

            "Yeah, that plays music."

            "I see?"

            "We'll turn it on in a minute when everyone gets here."  Justin pulled his sweatshirt over his head and tossed it toward his duffel bag in the corner.  "Did your old man bring you some toys or something to play with?"

            "I dunno."  Kyle shrugged as he continued to stare at the stereo at his eye level.  "Jussin?  You touch?"

            "Yeah, I can touch it."

            "I see?"

            "You want to see me touch it?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle stepped back and leaned against the mirrored wall.  Justin laughed as he reached out and touched the side of the stereo.  "Uh oh."  Kyle whispered with a frown.

            "Uh oh?  What?"  Justin asked.

            "It no wok."

            "It works."

            "You touch and no song."  Kyle shook his head.  "You boke."

            "I didn't break it."  Justin laughed and shook his head.

            "Yeah."  Kyle laughed with him, then took off running across the shiny wood floor to the opposite wall.  He turned around to run back and watched his reflection in the mirrors as he ran.

            "Waaaaasup?"  Joey shouted as he walked into the room and threw his bag into the corner with Justin's.

            "Hi!"  Kyle wove his way over to Joey and grabbed his leg.  "Jussin bake no song."

            "He what?"

            "He bake."

            "He baked?  What'd he bake?  A cake?"

            "Cake?"  Kyle gave him a peculiar look as Joey walked with Kyle hanging onto his pants.  "Have some a cado?"

            "I have no idea what you're saying."  Joey shook his head and looked at Justin for a translation.

            "He was saying that I broke the stereo because no music came out."  Justin offered from the floor where he was stretching.

            "Oh, he's gonna be in trouble.  No one's allowed to touch that."

            "I no touch."  Kyle shook his head.  "Jussin he touch and no song."

            "Justin's not supposed to touch it either."  Joey raised is eyebrow at Justin.  "Did you touch it?"

            "Yeah I touched it Joey, like this."  Justin placed his finger on the side of the stereo again.  "I didn't go messing with the settings again so just relax."  He rolled his eyes.

            "Good, because Wade just about had a fit when you tweaked his EQ last time."

            "I just told you I didn't touch anything."

            "Yeah… this time."

            "Jussin say no."  Kyle shook his head.

            "Yeah, see?  I told him no."

            "Anen he touch."  Kyle sighed and sank to the floor.

            "He's a tattletale."  Justin pointed at Kyle as JC walked in.

            "What's the problem?"  JC asked, only half paying attention as he set his duffel bag and Kyle's backpack on the bench across the room.  "What?"  He stood up straight and sighed.

            "Kyle's a tattletale."

            "Did you do something wrong?"

            "He say no an he touch."  Kyle shrugged.

            JC laughed and looked at Joey,  "Was he touching stuff he wasn't supposed to?"

            "Justin was, yeah."

            "Justin…"  JC gave him a fatherly look then burst into laughter.

            "Shut up, I touched the stereo like this."  Justin leaned over again and put his finger on the side of the stereo.  "That's it."

            "After you told Kyle not to touch anything?"

            "Yeah."  Justin sighed.  "Okay fine Kyle, come here and touch it."

            "No."  Kyle shook his head.  "Say no touch."

            Joey and JC laughed and high-fived Kyle as the little boy ran by.  "You guys suck."  Justin complained as he dropped his bag on the floor and got in it to change his shoes.  "Where's Chris?"

            "He's outside on the phone."  Joey nodded to the exterior door.

            "He's turning into Lance."  Justin rolled his eyes and pulled his shoes off.

            "Something like that."  JC nodded.  "Hey Kyle, come here for a second."  JC sat on the floor and opened his bag to put his sneakers on.  Kyle walked over and sat next to JC, then took his own little sandals off just like JC did.  "We have to practice our dancing today so I need you to hang out in here, okay?"

            "I dance?"

            "You can pretend to dance over here by the bench."  JC nodded to the corner.  "But we have to dance for real out there."  JC looked toward the center of the floor.  "So can you stay over here?"

            "And Joey?"

            "Joey's going to be dancing with me and Justin out there."

            "And Laaaance?"

            "Lance and Chris too, yep."

            "Is sink?"

            "Yep, we're Nsync."  JC smiled.

            "He doesn't know we're Nsync?"  Justin asked.

            "He knows who we are and he knows that Nsync exists, I just don't think he gets the fact that we're all in Nsync."

            "I sink."  Kyle nodded.

            "Yep, you can be in Nsync too."  JC smiled and ran his hand over Kyle's head, inconspicuously feeling for a temperature.  Assured that there was none, JC tied his shoes then grabbed his and Kyle's sandals and stood up.  "You need to stay where I can see you."

            "Ouside?"

            "Nope, you can only go outside with me or Frank."

            "Laaance?"

            "Lance will be dancing with me."

            Kyle heaved a heavy sigh,  "All them?"

            "Yep, all of the guys will be dancing.  You'll have to either watch or play with Frank."  JC nodded as he leaned on the bench to stretch beside Joey.

            "Amy will be here tomorrow I think."  Lance said from the doorway.

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah, so maybe she can take him around and show him the game room and stuff like that."  Lance shed his windbreaker and rolled his shoulders.  "You have fun with Amy, don't you Kyle?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded as he stood up.  He looked at his image in the floor to ceiling mirrors and laughed as he began to run around in circles.

            "You know… I had a dog that used to do that."  Joey said softly as he looked over his shoulder at Kyle.  The others guys cracked up laughing but JC just smiled and shook his head.

            "Shut up Joe."  JC laughed and threw a fake punch at Joey's cheek.  "But see, Kyle doesn't shit on the floor."

            "True… very true."  Joey laughed and slapped JC on the back.  "You've got a point there."

            Wade rushed into the room just then with Sean only a step behind.  "Okay ass monk - "  He stopped short when he saw Kyle running around.  "Is that the new guy?"

            "That's Kyle."  Justin reached out to stop Kyle with his arm.  "Come here you little rascal.  Say hi to Wade."

            "Hi Wade."  Kyle giggled as Justin held him upside down.

            "Hi Kyle."  Wade nodded at the child and looked at Justin,  "Who's he belong to?"

            "Me."  JC raised his hand.  "Haven't you heard?"

            "I thought it was a fu - a rumor."  Wade cleaned up his language for the sake of Kyle.

            "Nope, no rumor."  JC shook his head.

            "Unreal."  Wade smiled and reached out to touch Kyle's hair.  "How's it going?  You like to dance?"

            "No."  Kyle looked at Wade upside down.

            "You sure he's yours?"  Wade smiled at JC;  "He's cute."

            "Thanks."  JC laughed.  "Hey Kyle, what's your favorite song?"

            "Is rocket dow."

            "No what's your favorite song that I sing?"  JC asked.

            "A teepo?"

            The guys laughed, but kept quiet.  "What's your favorite song that I sing with the guys on stage?"

            "You sing to bye bye song."

            "How does it go?"  JC asked with a proud smile.

            "No no lie baby bye bye bye bye bye."  Kyle wiggled as Justin stood up upright on his feet.  "No daddy you sing."

            "I'll sing it a little later."  JC laughed.

            "That's sick man, don't be teaching him our songs.  He'll really start looking like a mini-me."  Joey shook his head and smiled at them in the mirror as he stretched his legs.

            "We just gotta teach him to dance, then hand him over to Johnny and have him market him as the next Aaron Carter."  Wade poked fun at the guys as he went to the stereo to get things started.

            "I'd sooner burn in hell."  JC grumbled under his breath, but he was silently happy to have everyone enjoy having Kyle around.

            "Yeah we'll work on that Jace. Let's get started, are you guys ready?"  Wade asked.

            "Yeah." Came a chorus of answers.

            "Kyle, you ready?"

            "Yeah."  He laughed and ran over to the corner where his backpack and snacks were set up.

            "Right on, let's do it."  He clapped his hands and hit the stereo to turn the music on.  The familiar music blasted from the speakers and without any prompting, the guys dove into their usual routine.

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

            When they were done running through their performance for the thousandth time the guys were beat and ready to go home.  "Anyone wanna drive my ass home?  I'll pay you…" Justin paused to pull his wallet out of his pocket as he lay flat on the hardwood floor.  "Nineteen dollars."  He tossed the cash on the floor and set his head down.

            "Just your ass?  What am I gonna do with your ass at home?"  Joey asked.

            "I can think of something you could do."  Chris smirked.

            "You're sick."  Joey shook his head.

            "Perv."  Justin said without looking up.

            "Can I drive your car?"  Lance asked.

            "Huh?"

            "If I drive you home can I take your car?"  He asked again.

            "Hell no."  Justin turned his head to look at Lance.  "Mario Andretti can drive my car before you can, you're a maniac."

            "I'm not a maniac."  Lance argued.         

            "Joey?"  Justin asked for back up.

            "You're a maniac."  Joey shook his head.  "You need a ride?"  He asked Justin.

            "I can't feel my legs."  Justin mumbled.

            "Come on wimp, you're the young guy.  You should be able to go for another couple hours!"  Chris laughed and pulled at Justin's arm.

            "Joey make him stop."  Justin whined.  "Grab my foot and kick him with it."

            "Jussin!"  Kyle ran across the floor and plopped himself down on Justin's stomach as the older man lay on the floor.  "Jussin dance?"

            "I'm done dancing."

            "Gan?"

            "I'm not dancing again."

            "Morrow?"

            "No, I'm not dancing tomorrow.  I'm going to go home and lay on my couch and never get up."  Justin laughed lightly as he pulled Kyle to his feet to relieve the pressure on his abdomen.  "Can you help me up?"  Justin asked as he reached for Kyle's hand.

            Kyle pulled on Justin's hand with all over his weight before Justin used his free arm and pushed himself up.  "Thanks man, I was almost stuck on the floor."

            "You get up."  Kyle laughed then looked over at JC who was leaning against the wall with a bottle of water.  The first day back at practice after any kind of a break was always the hardest.

            "We done here?"  JC asked.

            "Yep.  Get your lazy butts outta here.  I'll see you tomorrow."  Wade laughed as he fiddled with the stereo.  "How is it possible that you guys get so out of shape in just a couple weeks?"

            "We're not out of shape we're just tired."  Justin whined.

            "Yeah, tell that to the floor man.  Rest up tonight then, no tired Nstinkers tomorrow."  Wade laughed and hit play to make the music come on again.  He was one choreographer that had no problem telling the guys what to do, even if they were all older than him.

            "You don't have to tell me twice.  See ya."  Joey picked up his bag and ducked out the door before anyone could say anything.  Lance followed close behind and Chris fell down on the bench against the wall to load his stuff back up in his bag.  He talked to Wade for a minute about the music as Justin doggedly dragged his feet toward the door.

            "Do you really need a ride?"  JC asked as he and Kyle headed for their car.

            "No, I'm cool."  Justin smiled while JC suppressed a yawn.

            "Okay, see you tomorrow."  JC raised his hand in a half wave and opened the back door to get Kyle into his seat.  "Come on kiddo, let's go home."

            "We go ina pool?"

            "No, I don't think we're going to go in the pool today."

            "Yeah."

            "No tonight Kyle.  I'm tired.  I think we'll just go home and eat dinner then watch a movie."

            "Afer ina pool?"

            "Nope.  We're not going in the pool."  JC strapped Kyle in, then slammed the door and climbed in the driver's seat.  "Oh damn."

            "No pool?"

            "No Kyle, no pool." JC sighed.  "I forgot that I have to go to the store before we go home."

            "No."  Kyle whined.  "We go home."

            "We have to go to the store first, we don't have any toilet paper or milk."

            "No daddy, go home."

            "I need to get that stuff otherwise we'll be in trouble.  We need toilet paper for the potty and milk for breakfast tomorrow."

            Kyle sighed and scowled as he looked out the window.  "No wan a potty and a mowk."  He uttered under his breath with the perfect little pout settled on his lips.

            Once they were in the grocery store, Kyle's mood did not improve, and neither did JC's.  They immediately headed for the back to get the gallon of milk, then while they were there JC picked up some more cheese and looked at the yogurt.  He figured they would finish it before they left for Europe, so he picked some up then went in search of the toilet paper.

            "Have cookie?"  Kyle asked as they passed the Keebler Elves display.

            "No, we don't need cookies."  JC shook his head and kept moving.

            "One?"

            "We don't need even one cookie, no."

            "Peese?"  Kyle tried his foolproof tactic.

            “Kyle.”  JC sighed.  “Just… just stop it.  Come on.”

            “Daddy peese?”

            “No.”  His voice took on a harsh tone as the stress of the day collided with the whining.  "Listen to me, I already said we don't need the cookies.  We have cookies at home."  JC closed his eyes and for a second wished Kyle would just disappear for five minutes.  He tuned out Kyle's whining and without warning thought about his life before Kyle and how he would never have even been here if Kyle hadn't been left with him.  "Dammit."  JC cursed himself and pinched his eyes closed even tighter.

            "Sorry?"  Kyle asked softly, sensing his father's mood.

            "It's okay buddy.  I'm not mad at you."  JC hugged him awkwardly in the cart and took a deep breath.  "I'm sorry."  Guilt crept up on him for wishing Kyle would go away.  He was sure every parent felt that at one time or another, but that didn't make him feel any better.  "I suck buddy, let's just go home."  He lifted Kyle out of the cart and carried him back out to the car, forgetting about the groceries he was leaving behind.

 

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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn