JC stood nervously in the hallway with Kyle grasping his hand early the next morning.  He didn't want to take the chance of being late on his first day in court so he'd been up since five thirty showering, shaving and dressing himself.  He only changed his shirt and tie three times before deciding on the one he wore, and it was too late to second guess that now.

            "Daddy Jessi?"

            "Yeah, you're going to stay with Jessica today."

            "And you?"

            "No I have to uh… I have to go to work."

            "I go?"

            "No you get to stay here."

            "And Fank?"

            "Yep."  JC nodded.  "Frank will be here if you want to see him.  Chris is here too so maybe you guys can all go do something fun."

            "See a mokey?"  Kyle giggled as he tugged on the waist of his jeans.

            "Well I don't know about that, you'll have to see what they want to do."  JC smiled and knocked on Jessica's door.

            "Hi."  She smiled brightly as she opened the door and let them in.  “You look nice.”  Jessica nodded as JC shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  The leather shoes were uncomfortable and she wondered if he was wearing a t-shirt under the dress shirt, just to feel a little more normal.

            “Thanks.”  He nodded and unbuttoned his jacket.  “Should I have worn the blue tie?  Is it on straight?”

            Jessica looked at the black and gray printed tie and nodded,  “Yeah, it looks great.  Good job.”  She smiled and reached for Kyle’s hand.  “Good luck JC.”

            “Thanks.”  He nodded and handed her Kyle’s backpack with a shaking hand.

            “You’ll do great.”  Jessica tried to sound reassuring which was difficult when her stomach was plummeting towards her knees.

            “Um, the court closes or whatever at four, so I won’t be any later than that.”

            “Don’t worry about it.”  She shook her head.  “We’re just going to hang out around here today.”

            “If you go out take Frank.”

            “I know.  I’ve got Frank and Les here at the hotel to escort us wherever we go.  But don’t worry; Chris is going to swing by this afternoon to hang out.  We’re not going anywhere.”

            “What if this gets ugly?”  JC asked softly as he sighed and looked down at his shoes.

            “Like a name calling contest or a screaming match?”

            “Yeah.”  JC nodded and she realized how sick he was making himself over this.

            “You won’t let it get that far.”

            “I don’t know Jess…”

            “No… you’re calm and collected.”  Jessica smiled.  “You’re the responsible one here, and you know that.”

            “I don’t even want to go.”  He looked up and concentrated on the ceiling behind Jessica’s head.

            “Did you eat breakfast?”

            “No.”  He shook his head and placed his hand over his queasy stomach.

            “Do you want something light before you go?  I’ve got a granola bar or something around here.”

            “No.  No I don’t want anything.  If I eat I'll barf.”  JC made a sour face and licked his lips.

            “JC you’re going to do great.”  Jessica smiled again and turned his face so that he was looking right at her,  “You’ve just got to go in there and tell the truth.  You know what’s best for Kyle and if the two of you can’t come to an agreement the judge will help you.”

            “I know.”  He sighed.  “If she gets full – “

            “You’re getting ahead of yourself.   Just go in there today and see what this is all going to be about.  Just relax and go with it.  You’ve said it yourself, George is really looking out for you, he’s not going to let anyone walk all over you or Kyle for that matter.”

            “I know.”

            “So go on.”  She patted his shoulder.  “You’re going to be late.”

            JC sighed and glanced in the mirror to his side,  “Are you sure this tie is okay?”

            “It’s perfect.”  Jessica laughed and rolled her eyes.  “Let me know when you’re back and I’ll bring Kyle over.”

            “Okay.”  JC reluctantly took a step toward the door.  “Hey Kyle, come here buddy.”  JC knelt down on one knee and held out his arms.  “Let me get a big hug before I go.”

            “Kay.”  Kyle dropped Elmo on the floor, then ran over to JC and wrapped his arms around his neck. 

            “All right buddy, I’ll be back later, okay?”

            “Kay.”

            “I love you, big guy.”

            “Love too.”  Kyle sighed into JC’s shoulder.

            “All right.”  JC whispered as he patted Kyle’s back.  He released his son and let him get back to playing on the carpet.  “Thanks again Jess.”

            “You’re welcome.  Now quit stalling.”  She gently pushed him out the door by his shoulder.  "We’ll be right here when you get back.”

            JC nodded and noticed George and Les waiting at the end of the hall for him,  “See you later.”  He gave her a little half wave, then turned on his heel to meet the others by the elevator.

 

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

 

            “I can’t believe this whole thing has gone this far.”  JC grumbled as he followed his lawyer up the granite steps to the courthouse.  He messed with his tie as he swore under his breath; he should have worn the blue tie.

            “She wanted to take it as far as she can, and with all of these ‘Mothers Rights’ advocates out there, she had a lot of fuel.”

            “What about fathers rights?”  JC rolled his eyes.

            “That’s why I’m here.”   He smiled and JC ducked his head as they passed a small gathering of reporters.  They walked through the security checkpoint then gathered their things and took the elevator to the second floor where their hearing was being held in courtroom 9.

            “So today is what?  The preliminary or something?”

            “We’re going to go in there and Lori will present her case, then we’ll have a chance to respond.”

            “But we’re not like calling witnesses or anything like that?”

            “No… nothing like that.  I don’t think it’ll actually get that far.”

            "What about a jury?"

            "No, this is family court.  The judge will decide the case."

            “Okay.”  JC nodded and nervously tugged at his tie.

            “Where’s Kyle?”

            “With Jessica.”  JC cleared his throat then ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath.

            “In town?”

            “Yeah, at the hotel.  Why?”

            “If this gets settled today and it goes her way, we’ll have to relinquish him today.”

            JC inhaled sharply,  “Lets think positive.”  George held the courtroom door open for JC and they walked to the front of the court side by side. 

            The judge’s bench was empty and there were very few people in the seats behind where he would be sitting.  “Where is everyone?”

            “Any media will be kept outside.  The people here are from social services to represent the child’s best interests.  Basically, I represent you, Mr. Foley will represent Lori and they represent Kyle.”

            “Okay.”  JC nodded and scooted his chair back to sit at the narrow desk beside George.  He drummed his fingers on the dark wood grain as his watch ticked off the seconds.

            At nine o’clock, just as the hearing was about to begin, Mr. Foley rushed in the doors at the back and up to his desk to the right of JC and George.  The judge emerged from the back a minute later as the bailiff called the court to order.

            They went through the legal mumble jumble then the judge looked over at the prosecutors desk,  “Mr. Foley, where is your client?”

            JC frowned and leaned forward across the desk to look past George,  “She’s not here?”  He whispered.  George shook his head slowly and indicated for JC to sit back in his seat.

            “I’ve been unable to reach her your honor.”  Mr. Foley looked flustered as he shuffled the papers in front of him.

            “Was Miss. Sczlanksy aware of her court date and time?”  The judge asked.

            “Yes your honor.”

            “Would you care to explain why she is not here then?”

            “Like I said your honor, I have not been able to reach her.”  Mr. Foley crossed his hands on the desk in front of him. 

            “When was the last you spoke with your client?”

            “Yesterday morning.”

            The judge nodded,  “My time is valuable, counselor.”

            “Yes your honor.”

            “You let your client know that she will be incurring the court costs for today.  We’re recessed until tomorrow morning at 9:00am.”  He tapped the gavel and looked at Mr. Foley.  “You’ll be sure to have your client tomorrow.”

            “Yes your honor.”

            “Good, I’d hate to throw out a perfectly good case.”  He stood and left for his chambers without another word.

            “W-what just happened?”  JC whispered as George opened his briefcase and shoved his papers back inside.

            “Since she didn’t show up she’s paying the fees for today.”  George explained softly.

            “And we have to come back tomorrow?”

            “Yes.”

            “What if she’s not here tomorrow?”

            “Then the case will default to you for the time being.”  George clasped his briefcase closed and stood up.

            “What does that mean?”

            “You’ll get custody of Kyle.”

            “Forever?”  JC’s heart raced in his chest.

            “Well she can always appeal, but judges tend to frown on people who do not show up for court.”  George shrugged as JC stood up.  “Unless she’s got a really good explanation, she’s not helping her case at all.”

            “Well if she doesn’t show up tomorrow, why can’t they just give me full custody and be done with it?”

            “That’s not the way it works.”  George shook his head.

            “There’s no way for me to get full custody hands down?”

            “If she doesn’t show up tomorrow you’ll most definitely be given physical custody, then we’ll petition for sole legal custody.  That will be hard though, most judges award joint legal custody.”

            “How do I get it?”  JC knew he sounded heartless and vindictive but at that moment he didn’t care.

            “You would basically have to prove her unfit.”

            “Isn’t abandoning your child considered unfit?”

            “JC… lets just wait and see what happens tomorrow.  She may show up in which case you’ve got to be focused for the hearing.”

            "So what now?"

            "Now?  You're off the hook.  Go have fun, relax, hang out grab some breakfast… whatever you want."  George smiled.  "We'll meet up again tomorrow to be here by eight forty five."

            "Okay."  JC nodded.  "I can just leave?"  He didn't want to take any chances.

            "Court was recessed until tomorrow."  George nodded.

            "Okay."  He heaved a deep sigh then followed George out of the courtroom and out to the street to George's car.  They drove back to the hotel where George told JC not to think about court for the rest of the day, then left him on the curb.

            JC shoved his hands in the pockets of his slacks, and sauntered across the almost empty hotel as his dress shoes made tiny taps with each step.  He rode to his floor then walked down the hall to Jessica's room where he hoped he'd be able to catch them before they left for the day.

            JC knocked on the door and reached up to loosen his tie as he heard Kyle chattering from behind the closed door.  He smiled to himself as Jessica opened the door with Kyle in her arms,  "Hey."  He nodded as he took a step inside.

            “What are you doing back?”  Jessica asked with a hint of worry.  “What happened?”  She dropped Kyle to the floor so he could run over to JC and try to climb his legs.

            “She didn’t show up.”

            “She what?”

            “She flaked out.”

            “Jesus.”  Jessica said under her breath as she rolled her eyes.  “So now what?”

            “We’re recessed until tomorrow at nine.”

            “Where was she?”  Jessica asked before she could stop herself.

            “I don’t know.  He lawyer couldn’t even find her.”  JC shrugged and picked Kyle up as he took his tie off and tossed it toward Kyle’s red backpack with the key chains all over it.

            “Real nice.”  Jessica shook her head.

            “So can you watch him tomorrow?”

            “Of course.”   She nodded.

            “Dude, how would you like to go swimming today?”  JC looked at Kyle and smiled.

            “Ina pool?”

            “Heck yeah in the pool.”  JC laughed.  “Maybe Chris can come with us.”

            “And Jessi and Jussin?”

            “Justin is at home with his family, remember?”

            “And Joey?”

            “Joey is visiting his friends in Mexico.”  JC laughed.

            “And Laaaance?”

            “Lance doesn’t like the pool.”

            “Why?”  Kyle asked with a curious look.

            “Because he’s weird.”

            “No sim?”

            “He knows how to swim, he just doesn’t like the pool I don’t think.  Besides, he's in Florida I think.”  JC laughed at how easy “conversations” between him and Kyle came about.

            “Oh.”

            “So you wanna go?”  JC asked.

            “Yeah.”  Kyle nodded and tilted is head to look at JC,  “You simin dat?”  He looked at the dress shirt and jacket.

            “Nope, we need to go to our room and change,”  JC laughed.  “We’ll go call Chris then change and go swimming, how does that sound?”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle laughed and looked at Jessica.  “And Jessi.”

            “Of course Jessica can come.”  JC smiled and looked at her over Kyle’s shoulder.  “Wanna come?”

            "Um, yeah."  She nodded.  "I've gotta make some calls though, so I'll just meet you down there."  She smiled as Kyle bounced up and down .

            "Okay, we'll be down in the far corner kind of… by the men’s room."  He laughed.

            "Oh fun."  Jessica smiled and shook her head. 

            "Yeah well, with the guys outnumbering the girls like, four to one, what'd you expect?"

            "True."  Jessica laughed and watched them head for the door.  "I'll be down in a few minutes."

            "See you then."  JC waved over his shoulder then went across the hall to his room where he changed into his swim shorts and put Kyle in his.  "Dude, soggy diapers suck.  Do we have any more of those swimmer diaper things?"

            "Is geen?"

            "Yeah, the green diaper things.  Do we have any?"

            "Doe no."  Kyle shrugged and ran over to the windows with only his plain white diaper on.  "Emo go sim?"  He asked over his bare shoulder.

            "Nope, Elmo can't swim.  If he gets wet he won't work anymore."  JC shook his head while he dug through Kyle's backpack.  He didn't find the swimmer diapers in there, so he searched in their suitcases.  "Dangit, we've gotta call Chris and Frank too."  JC grumbled as he pulled half of Kyle's clothes out of the suitcase.

            "I caw."  Kyle ran over to the phone by the bed and rested it on his shoulder.  Without dialing or putting the phone to his ear he said, "Hi Fank and Chris go sim.  I sim and daddy bye."  He dropped the phone three times before landing it on the cradle and smiled.

            "You called them huh?"

            "Yeah."

            "Are they coming with us?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and sighed as he walked back over to the window.

            "Good job, can you look in here to see if you can find your green diaper things while I go look in the bathroom?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and bent over the large suitcase.  JC went into the bathroom to look through their little bathroom bag,  "Daddy dis?"  Kyle walked to the bathroom door and held up two swim diapers.

            "Hey, where'd you find those?"

            "In dere."  Kyle pointed to the suitcase that was hanging wide open.

            "I looked in there and I didn't see them."  JC frowned and went back out to the room to change Kyle into his swim diaper and shorts.  "Weird."

            "Ina zip."  Kyle said as JC pulled off his old diaper and helped him step into his new one.

            "Oh yeah!  I forgot I put them in there.”  JC laughed at his own forgetfulness and helped Kyle stand up.  “Right on, you look cool buddy.  Lets call Chris and Frank then get a move on it.”  He high fived the little boy and laughed as he reached for the phone.

 

            Both Chris and Frank agreed to go so they all rode down together and dropped off their gear on their chairs.  JC took a few minutes to blow up Kyle’s water wings under the careful eye of Frank.  “Hey do they make those in adult size?”

            “You don’t know how to swim?”  JC raised an eyebrow at him.

            “I can swim just fine, but I was thinking it’d be cool to just have ‘em on and float around.”  Frank laughed and pulled his gameboy out from his back pocket.

            “You’re gonna play that?”  JC asked as he pursed his lips around the valve in Kyle’s floaty.

            “Yep.”

            “You’re not going in the pool?”

            “I can see better from up here.”  Frank adjusted his sunglasses on his nose and pointedly scanned the empty pool area.  “You know, to keep the fans at bay.”

            “Yeah man, really… they’re getting out of control out here.”  Chris shook his head and fell back on his chair as he too pulled out his gameboy.

            “Daddy go ina pool?”

            “Yep, in just a second.”  JC nodded and pulled his shirt over his head.

            “I go now?”  Kyle took a step towards the water.

            “No!”  JC dropped his shirt and grabbed Kyle by his shoulder.  “I don’t think so.  You have to wait for a grown up to go in the water.”

            “I foat.”

            “No, you wait for me.”  JC said sternly.

            “No I go.”

            “Time out.”  JC pulled Kyle around and knelt in front of him.  “Are you going to argue with me or are you going to wait for me to go in?”  JC asked.  He was met with cold silence as Kyle pouted.

            “I sim.”  Kyle whined.

            “I know you want to swim but you have to wait for me, understood?”

            “Daddy in?”

            “Yes, when I go in then you can go with me, but if I’m not in the water you have to stand right here.”  JC said.  “Don’t move.”

            “Kay.”  Kyle looked down at his bare feet and wiggled his toes.

            “Dang, look at  him pull the ‘dad’ card.”  Chris laughed.  “Man that’s weird, I’ll never get used to seeing that.”

            “Just wait Chris… just wait.”  JC raised his eyebrow at Chris as he kicked off his sandals.  “One day you’ll have one and you’ll know just how this feels.”

            “Not me.  Nope.  I’ll just keep on playing with yours.”  Chris shook his head and popped a new game into his gameboy as JC picked Kyle up and headed for the steps in the shallow end.

            He and Kyle played on the steps for a little while blowing bubbles under the water and splashing at each other.  They were so amused by each other that they almost didn’t notice when Jessica arrived a few minutes later.

            Jessica removed her shorts and tank top then folded her clothes on the chair beside her towel.  The two-piece bathing suit she wore wasn't revealing in any way, but it accented her finer points.  Chris smiled as he watched JC blush and look away just as Jessica stepped into the pool a few feet from them.  "Hi guys."  Jessica smiled and walked over to where JC was holding Kyle in chest deep water.  She ducked under the water to wet her hair, then smiled at Kyle,  "Are you going to swim?"

            "Yeah, I sim ina pool."

            "You can?  That's pretty cool."  Jessica smiled.

            "I foat wawing."

            "You do huh?"  She looked at JC for a translation.

            "He floats real well with his water wing things."  JC laughed and poked at Kyle's bright orange floaties.

            "Ahh cool."  She smiled and reached up to move her hair off her face,  "Can you show me how you swim?"

            "You've gotta catch him."  JC licked his lips and squinted into the sunlight as a small group of girls caught his eye by the far gate.  "Incoming."

            "Hmm?"  Jessica looked over her shoulder and spotted the girls.  "Oops."

            "No, it's okay."  JC shook his head.  "Here Kyle, show Jessica how you can swim."  He laid Kyle flat on the water and gave him a gentle push toward Jessica.  He flailed his arms and legs around in an attempt to get closer to Jessica and finally made it with a huge splash.

            "Wow!  Look at you!  You could be an Olympic swimmer, good job."  She lifted him out of the water and carefully wiped the water from his face.

            "Yeah I sim."

            "Impressive."  She nodded and laughed as JC bent his knees and sunk into the water up to his neck.  His eyes flickered to the girls behind Jessica for a split second, then he stood up and place his hand on his hip to turn around to the chairs where Chris and Frank were playing their hand held video games.

            "Hey!"  He said loudly to get their attention.

            Frank looked up as Chris groaned,  "Dammit, come on, best three outta five."

            "Yeah?"  Frank asked.

            "You guys coming in or not?"

            "Not."  Chris shook his head and scooted the chair deeper into the shade.  "I don't swim."

            "Chris sim?"  Kyle giggled as his teeth chattered.

            "Not today buddy."  Chris shook his head.

            "Why?"

            "Because I'm busy."  Chris laughed.

            "Then why'd you come to the pool you moron."  JC laughed and leaned his arms against the edge of the pool.

            "Because I wanted some fresh air or whatever."  Chris sneezed into his hand as he put his game down.  "But I think I'm allergic to it."

            "You're a wimp."  JC shook his head.  "Chris is a wimp."  He said to Kyle as he walked over to where Kyle sat on Jessica's hip.

            "Peese?"

            "Aww, see Chris, Kyle wants you to come in the water."  JC smiled over his shoulder.

            "He does not."

            "Yeah he does."  JC took Kyle from Jessica and walked him over to the edge of the pool.  "Here Kyle, go tell Chris he's a wimp."  He lifted Kyle up and set him on the warm concrete.

            Kyle walked over to where Chris sat with his arms out at his sides, unable to drop them because of the water wings by his shoulders.  "A imp?"  Kyle laughed.

            "I'm not a wimp.  Dude, don't send the kid over here to call me names."  Chris laughed as Kyle dripped water into a growing puddle by his feet.

            "Peese?"

            "Aww come on man, how can you say no to that?"  JC asked from the pool.

            "I don't want to get wet today buddy."  Chris said as he reached out to pat Kyle's head.

            "Peese ina pool?"  Kyle's teeth chattered as his lips turned purple.

            "Heck no, look at you man.  The water must be freezing."  Chris shook his head and reached for a towel.  "Why don't we warm you up and then you can play gameboy with me and Frank?"  Chris asked as he draped the sun warmed towel over Kyle's shoulders.  "There, isn't that better?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle smiled as a drop of water ran down his nose and plopped on the front of the towel.  "Is code."

            "Yeah it is… come on over here."  Chris bundled Kyle up and pulled him onto his lap.  "Sorry Jace, I've gotta side with the kid on this one."

            "He's a traitor."  JC laughed and shook his head as he pushed away from the wall.  "Are you done in the water Kyle?"

            "Yeah.  I pay."  Kyle smiled from behind the towel.

            "Will you keep an eye on him then?"  JC asked.

            "Yeah, you bet."

            "And take off his water wings."

            "Yep."  Chris nodded and released the air valve."

            "And keep him away from the pool."

            "Yeah dad."  Chris rolled his eyes as Frank laughed.

            "Yeah dad."  Kyle imitated JC and sent Chris into hysterics

            "Oh man… I'm gonna have fun with this Jace, thanks."  Chris removed the plastic water wings and dropped them on the opposite chair.

            "Beautiful."  JC said under his breath as he chuckled lightly.

            "So is pool time over?"  Jessica adjusted the straps on her top and smiled.

            "Just about, yeah."  JC nodded.  "He's got a short attention span I think."

            "Well you guys were in the water for almost two hours.  You don't want him to turn into a giant albino raisin do you?"

            "No."  JC laughed.  "I guess not."

            "Okay then."  She smiled took a deep breath as she dunked under the water and swam to the deep end of the pool.

 

            JC did a few laps in the pool just to keep up his physique; since the tour had ended he'd let himself go in a bad way.  When he surfaced after his final lap Jessica was sitting on the chairs by Chris, Kyle and Frank playing one of the gameboy's and laughing with Frank who was also playing.

            "Sheesh are you guys about done?"  JC asked as he pushed himself out of the water with his tired arms.  He glanced quickly toward the gate and saw that the fans had lost interest and were nowhere to be found.

            "Yeah, just let Jessica finish kicking Franks ass and we'll be done."

            "Daddy I win."  Kyle smiled.

            "Right on."  JC walked over to where they sat, leaving a trail of water droplets the whole way.  He grabbed a spare towel and quickly ran it over his chest as he shook his head roughly.

            "Whoa!  Hey come on now!"  Chris raised his arms to block the spray of water.  "You're like a sheepdog now, man you need a haircut."

            JC ran his fingers through his wet hair and shook his head gently,  "Nah, I like it."

            "We're gonna have to start calling you Cousin It."

            "Shut it."  JC laughed and dried his legs.  "Are you guys about ready to go inside?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed and walked over to sit on JC's lap.

            "Are you hungry?"  JC wrapped his arm around Kyle's shoulders.

            "Yeah."

            "Cool, let's go get cleaned up and grab some dinner or something."  He checked his watch.  "It's a little early but I think we pretty much skipped lunch."

            "Have kaker."

            "You guys had crackers?"  JC asked.

            "I found some in my bag."  Jessica nodded.  "They were starving."

            "We were wasting away to practically nothing."  Chris flung himself dramatically back on the chair.

            "That's attractive."  JC smiled and shook his head.  "Well let's go eat.  Jessica, you wanna come?"

            "Actually, I think I'm going to hang out here and hit the spa."

            "Oooo, wait a jacuzzi?"  Chris perked up.  "Can I hang out with you?"

            "Sure."  Jessica laughed.

            "Leave Jessica alone, she needs some time away from freaks like you."  Frank laughed as he stood up and cracked his back.

            "You're no fun."  Chris pouted, but picked up his gameboy to tuck it in his pocket.  "Okay fine, I'll go get food with the guys."

            "I thought you were famished?"  JC smiled and lifted Kyle off the chair.

            "You're right, I am.  Let's go."  Chris grabbed his unused towel and headed for the door leading back into the hotel.  "Catch ya later Jess."

            "Bye guys."  Jessica waved as the three grown men and Kyle headed across the pool area.  She stretched then gathered her things and headed around the corner to enjoy the spa by herself.  JC and Kyle have some time alone to just hang out with the guys and she could definitely use an hour or two of solitude.  She'd see plenty of Kyle over the next couple days she was sure, so she reveled in the time alone in the steaming hot jacuzzi.

 

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

 

            "Daddy!  Is Laaaaance!"  Kyle wiggled free of JC's arms and took off running across the lobby to where a blonde man with spikey hair was standing at the front desk.

            "Whoa!"  JC said as he took off after his son.  He didn't stop to see if it really was Lance, he just knew that his kid was running up to some guy, ready to body slam him.  Frank and Chris were only a step behind as Kyle laughed happily.

            "I see!"  Kyle laughed as his feet pounded on the cool marble floor.  JC scooped him up midstep and dropped him on his hip,  "Daddy, I see!"

            "Kyle don't take off like that, you're going to give me a heart attack."

            "I see daddy."  Kyle pointed toward the front desk again.

            "Hey… that really is Lance.  Wow buddy, you've got good eyes."  JC smiled as he carried Kyle calmly across the lobby.  "You know, they don't rent the rooms by the hour here."  He said softly as he walked up behind Lance.  Chris and Frank feel in beside him and caught their breath.

            "Excuse me?"  Lance demanded as he turned around with a surprised look on his face.  Recognition replaced the amused expression and he laughed as he reached for Kyle,  "Hey you!"

            "I say I see."  Kyle laughed and looked up at Lance.

            "You saw me?"  Lance smiled and looked at JC.

            "Yeah, he took off running across the lobby and scared the shit outta me."  JC laughed.  "I didn't know you were coming out, you shoulda told me."

            "It was going to be a surprise.  Chris knew."  Lance nodded toward Chris who was leaning on the counter playing with the silver chain on the pen by the guest book.

            "Yeah but you said you wanted to surprise them."  Chris defended himself.

            "I thought we could all go out or something."  Lance shrugged and rumpled Kyle's hair.  "How's it going buddy?"

            "Hi Laaaance."

            "Hi Kyle."  Lance laughed and took his room key from the front desk clerk,  "Thanks."

            "Will you be needing assistance to your room for your bags?"  She asked.

            "Nah, I've got these two pack mules, but thanks."  Lance smiled and tucked the key in his pocket.  "You've gotten bigger Kyle!  How'd that happen?"

            "Doe no!"  Kyle shrugged but looked excited.  "I eat and I sim."

            "Wow, that'll do it."  Lance nodded.

            "Hey, go ditch your stuff then come with us.  We're gonna go get some food and stuff."  JC stifled a yawn.

            "You gonna throw some dry clothes on or something?"  Lance glanced down at JC's damp shorts and dripping hair.

            "Yeah, we're going to change then go out."  JC nodded.

            "Cool, count me in."  Lance nodded.  "What floor are you guys on?"

            "Five."  Chris and JC said in unison.

            "Shit how'd I get stuck on eight?"  Lance grumbled.

            "Did you tell them you were afraid of heights?  Because that usually works."  Chris joked as he picked up one of Lance's bags while Frank took the other.

            "No, I didn't.  I'll have to try that next time."  Lance smiled.  "How's it going Frank?"

            "It's going good.  I forgot how much fun it was to trash Chris on his gameboy games."  Frank laughed and hit the call button for the elevator.

            "Oh dream on pops… dream on."  Chris shook his head.

            JC laughed as they all got on the elevator together.  That little hit of the normal life… of his normal life, was just what he needed.

 

They all went to their rooms to change, then they met up in the hall on Chris and JC's floor with the security guards to talk about dinner plans.  After a few little arguments and Chris vetoing every place that didn't have hamburgers, they finally decided on a little place listed in the hotel's recommended dining spots that advertised a family style atmosphere with ideal views.  The three guys and Kyle sat together in a booth while Frank and Les had a table nearby to keep an eye on the boys, just in case.  The fans had died down and were barely noticeable as they walked in and out of the hotel and restaurant.

            JC let the others dominate the conversations as they sat around for more than two hours cracking jokes and taking their time over their dinners.  By the time they left it was well after dark and Kyle was getting cranky.  He required more action than just sitting around watching the older guys chat.

            "Hey buddy, how about you come to my room and check out some movies or something?  Give your dad a break?"  Chris asked as they loaded into the van.

            "See a mooby?"

            "Yeah, there's one on TV tonight that I know you'll love."  Chris nodded and looked over at JC.  "Can he crash in my room tonight?"

            "I uh… I don't know about staying over, but yeah he can go down and watch a movie or something."  JC nodded.

            "He can't stay?"  Chris sighed.

            "If he falls asleep then sure, it doesn't bother me."  JC shrugged as his stomach flip flopped.  He had court in the morning and he didn't want to miss a chance to spend one more night listening to Kyle snore.  "But uh… he's been kind of cranky."

            "Cranky is cool with me."  Chris laughed.  "You could use a few hours off."

            "I'm okay."

            "I know you're okay, but Lance and I never get to play with him, so let us tonight and you can have him back whenever."  Chris looked to Lance who just nodded.

            "We'll see.  You guys can watch movies, just call me when they're done."  JC smiled.  "What are you going to watch?"

            "The Muppets take Manhattan."  Chris high fived Lance.

            "Epic film."  Lance laughed.

            "You guys need help."  JC shook his head.  "Do you want to go see a movie with Chris and Lance?"

            "Yeah and Lello and Emo?"

            "Sure you can take Lello and Elmo."  JC nodded as they headed back to the hotel.  When they got there they all went to JC's room to get the little stuffed animals for Kyle along with his backpack.  JC gave him a quick kiss before Chris and Lance took him down the hall to watch the movies.

            JC watched until Chris' door shut tight, then he closed his own door and flopped down in the soft recliner chair.  He winced and reached under his thigh to pull out the matchbox truck he'd sat on,  "Lovely."  He smiled and held the truck in his hands to spin the wheels.

            The silence in the room lingered until JC couldn't stand it any more. He reached for the remote on the table to flip the TV on, maybe he'd watch "The Muppets take Manhattan" also.  His cell phone rang just as the picture on the screen came into focus so he snatched it up quickly and turned it on,  "Hello?"  He asked, grateful for the distraction.

            "Hey Jace, what's up?"  Justin asked, sounding a million miles closer than he actually was.  JC broke out into an immediate smile at the sound of Justin's voice and hit 'mute' on the remote to silence the infomercial.

            "Hey Just, not much.  Just hanging out, you know.  It's still early out here on the left coast."  He laughed.  "How about you?"

            "Just getting in."  Justin laughed and checked the clock,  "I called it a night before midnight, can you believe that?"

            "You're getting old."

            "Hey speaking of old, did Chris make it out there?"  Justin smirked.

            "Yeah, he and Lance are here now.  All we're missing is you… and Joey of course."

            "Joey’s partying it up in Mexico and I'll be out there Monday, I've got my ticket and everything." 

            "Cool." JC nodded.

            "How's the whole court thing going?"  Justin asked softly, wanting to know but not wanting to ask.

            "Ugh, it's going."  JC sighed.  "Today was the first day and Lori didn't show up."

            "Like… at all?"

            "Nope, not at all."

            "Well shit, what did the judge do?"

            "He recessed until tomorrow at nine, so I've gotta go back."  JC ran his fingers through his hair and scratched behind his ear. 

            "Where was she?"

            "I've got no clue."  JC shook his head.  "Her lawyer seemed shocked that she wasn't there, so… who knows?"

            "Do you think she'll be there tomorrow?"

            "She has to be." 

            "Yeah well she 'had to be' today too."

            "I hope she does."  JC pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes tight.  "Have you talked to Joey?"

            Justin yawned in JC's ear.  "Yeah, he's going to be back like next Wednesday I think, so if you're still uh… still in LA he'll come on out to see you too."

            "Shit, I hope this doesn’t drag on that long."

            "I hear ya."  Justin smiled.  "How's Kyle?"

            "He's rad.  Chris and Lance are here so it's kinda like old times.  He's completely oblivious, which I guess is a good thing."

            "That's cool.  Is he awake?"

            "Yeah, but he's down at Chris' room.  Chris and Lance are down there watching movies on the TV or something."

            "He's gonna corrupt your kid man."  Justin laughed.

            "Nah, they got 'The Muppet's Take Manhattan' or whatever, they're cool."

            "Talking frogs huh?"

            "Kyle digs it."  JC laughed as he tried not to yawn,  "Anyway, I'll let you go."

            "Alright."  Justin nodded reluctantly.  "So I'll see you Monday."

            "Yep, and I'll give you a call over the weekend or something."

            "Cool, I'll talk to you later then."

            "Bye Justin."  JC smiled and hung up the phone.  With as much time as the five guys spent together, it was strange to be apart for longer than a couple days.

 

            Chris called a short while later with Kyle fussing in the background,  "He's not diggin the movie."  Chris explained.

            "Okay, I'll come and get him."  JC said quickly as he stood up and headed for the door.  "See you in a few."  He clicked his phone off and tossed it toward the bed.

            When he got to Chris' room he knocked and waited for him to open the door,  "What's wrong?"  JC asked Kyle when Lance opened the door with Kyle in his arms.

            "I go bye."  Kyle cried.

            "Come here."  JC lifted him out of Lance's arms.

            "He's fine, he's just tired I think."  Lance said.

            "Yeah, probably."  JC nodded.  "Maybe you can come down and watch movies with Chris tomorrow while I'm at work, huh?  Maybe when you're not so tired?"

            "No tire."  Kyle said as he yawned and rubbed his eyes.

            "Yeah sell that story to someone else."  JC laughed and propped Kyle on his shoulder.  "Thanks anyway guys."

            "No problem."

            "Jessica will have him tomorrow while I'm in court, so if you want to touch base with her and maybe do something, that's cool."

            "Actually we're going to head down to Venice Beach tomorrow morning to do some people watching while we can.  But we'll be back for lunch so maybe later in the afternoon."  Lance nodded as he followed JC out the door to return to his own room.

            "What time will you be done with court?"  Chris asked.

            "Your guess is as good as mine.  The courts close at four so it won't be any later than that."  JC shrugged as Kyle frowned against his shoulder.

            "Well let us know when you get back."  Chris waved.  "See you later Kyle."

            "No."  Kyle pouted.

            "Hey be nice."  JC looked down at his son.  "Tell Chris and Lance good bye, you'll see them tomorrow."

            "See morrow bye."  Kyle sighed and stuck his finger in his mouth.

            "Good night guys."  JC waved with his free hand as he walked down the hall, secretly glad for the extra time alone with Kyle.

            He and Kyle went back to their room and got ready for bed, then read a few bedtime stories before shutting off the lights.  JC waited until Kyle began to snore before he opened the sliding glass door and stepped out on the balcony to breathe in the cool night air.  For the first time since the he found out he was going to court, JC actually felt sure of himself.  As if no matter what happened with the court, he knew he'd be okay and that Kyle would be okay too.

            "It's amazing what a little 'friend support' can do…"  JC whispered to himself as he leaned on the railing.  He mentally went over all of George's court notes for the thousandth time until he was 100% certain that no matter what he could handle himself in that courtroom the next day.  He set out his clothes for the next day then allowed himself to collapse in the bed across from Kyle.  The familiar soft sound of Kyle's snoring sent JC to sleep faster than anything any doctor could prescribe.

 

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

 

            JC dropped Kyle off at Jessica's room on Friday morning, just as room service dropped of her and Kyle's breakfast.  "Just in time kiddo, check it out.  We've got pancakes and bacon."  Jessica smiled and took the backpack from JC.  "You look nice."  She hitched up the waist of her flannel shorts and curled her bare toes in the carpet.

            "Thanks."  JC mumbled as he checked his watch.  "I'm running late."

            "Yeah."  Jessica nodded and smiled at Kyle,  "Uh oh Kyle, did you bring Lello?"

            "He seepin."  Kyle explained as he climbed up on one of the chairs at the table.

            "Lello apparently wanted to sleep in this morning."  JC laughed nervously and fidgeted with his tie.  "I can't wait till this is over so I can burn every tie ever made."

            "If you'd quit messing with it, it'd be fine."  Jessica raised her eyebrow at him then smiled.  "I think we're just going to hang out here and kind of take it slow.  If I have my way we'll stay in our pajamas all day."  She laughed.

            "Man that sounds like a plan to me."  JC smiled and wished he could stay with them.  "I don't know when we'll be done, but I'll call you when I'm on my way back or whatever."

            "Okay."  She nodded.

            "Come here buddy, let me get a big hug before I go."  JC squatted down to Kyle's level as the little boy scampered off the chair and ran over to JC.

            "Daddy have pakays?"

            "Nope, I can't stay for pancakes.  I've gotta go to work again, remember?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed and scratched at his ear.  "I say?"

            "Yep, you get to stay here with Jessica and Frank and Lance and Chris… man you're gonna have fun today."

            "Yeah."

            "Alright kiddo, I'll see you later okay?  I love you."  He kissed Kyle's cheek and held him close for a second.  He just wanted the court battle to be over so he could get on with his life, no matter how it turned out.

            "Love too."  Kyle giggled.

            JC took a deep breath then let Kyle go,  "I'll see you guys later."  He stood up and put his hand on the door,  "Have fun."

            "We will."  Jessica smiled as Kyle bounced back to the table.

            "Jessi have!  An see pakays."  He shouted.

            "I hope things go better today."  Jessica said softly.

            "Yeah, me too."  JC tried to smile.  "I've really gotta go."  He checked his watch again then pulled the door open before he could stop himself.  Jessica waited until the door was closed solidly, then she went to the table to have breakfast with Kyle.

            "So…"  She sighed.  "What do you want to do today?"  She looked at Kyle as she rested her chin on her fist.

            "Ummmm."  Kyle hummed then took a bite of his syrup drenched pancakes.  "I see a mooby."

            "A movie huh?"

            "Yeah.  And Laaaaance."  Kyle smiled.

            "Lance too huh?  What about Chris?"

            "Welllllllll…."  Kyle pondered that for a minute.  "Chris like a mooby?"

            "He might."  Jessica shrugged.

            "You caw lato."

            "Yep, we can call them later.  Right now we can just eat our pancakes and bacon and… oh look at this, we've got fruit too!  Right on, do you like cantaloupe?"

            Kyle shrugged and dribbled syrup down the front of his shirt,  "Is speeko?"

            "No."  Jessica laughed,  "It's not like sprinkles." 

            "I no wan."  He shook his head.

            "Okay, then I'll eat the cantaloupe, you can have the strawberries, how does that sound?"

            "Yummy!"  Kyle giggled and put his sticky fork down on the tablecloth forming a pool of syrup under the tines.  "We have Lello lato?"

            Jessica smiled and sat back in her chair,  "Sure thing buddy, we can go get Lello later."  She watched Kyle eat his breakfast while she nibbled on hers.  "Little guy, you have no idea how much your life is going to change…"  She mumbled under her breath as she sighed and stood up slowly.  Jessica made her way to her suitcase in the corner and shuffled around to find one of the movies she'd brought out just for Kyle.  "Pete's Dragon" was one of her favorites as a child and she knew he'd love it.  She put it in the VCR and got it ready to watch when breakfast was done.  It was barely eight in the morning and she wouldn't even think of calling the other guys until ten, this way they could kill the time and watch a good movie in the process.

 

The end...

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Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn