For the thousandth time JC looked over his shoulder toward the doors of the courtroom.  They remained shut and still as they had for the last ten minutes.  “Where is she?”  JC whispered as he leaned over to George.  His lawyer just shook his head and tapped his pen on the desk in front of him.  “It’s after nine.”  JC had checked his watch every thirty seconds since he sat down and was growing increasingly nervous.

            “Just wait.”

            “How long will he sit up there?”  JC whispered back as he looked up at the unhappy judge.

            “Until he’s ready.”  George turned to glance at JC and gave him a look to tell him to be quiet.

            JC sighed and tried to keep his nervousness at bay.  He drew squares on the waxed table with his finger and kept his head down to force himself not to look back again.  He sang nonsense songs in his mind and mouthed the words silently as his feet tapped out the beat.

            “Counselor?”  The judge spoke up, breaking the silence of the courtroom.  Lori’s lawyer looked up suddenly with an expression of defeat.  “Your client has held up my courtroom long enough."

            "Yes your honor."  Mr. Foley nodded slowly.

            "Mr. Chasez, is the child in your custody?"  The judge turned to JC.

            "Y-yes sir.  Your honor."  JC stumbled over his words.

            "How long has he been in your custody?"  The judge flipped through the papers on his desk, then looked down through his bifocals at them.

            "Four months.  A little longer than four months."  JC stood up slowly, unsure of what he was supposed to do.

            "The child was abandoned with you four months ago here in Los Angeles?"  The judge asked, though he of course knew that was the case.


            "In that four months how many times did the mother contact you?"

            "Um, she didn't contact me at all until a few weeks ago when she showed up at the arena where I was - where we were playing.  Since then she's contacted me a couple times."

            "Have you been the primary caregiver for the child for the last four months?"

            "Yes." JC nodded.  "I've uh, I've had some help though.  From my friends and my security team.  But that's only because we weren't prepared to have a kid… a uh, child on the tour with us."

            "I understand you're planning on leaving the country on tour?"

            "Yes your honor."  JC blushed and wanted to explain that they'd cancel the tour if they had to.  "We will be leaving in about three months to spend eight weeks in Europe."

            "Who will care for him during that time?"

            "I will."  JC nodded.  "And for the times when I'm performing I will have one other person who will care for him.  Now that we have time to plan him into the tour, it'll go a lot smoother."

            "Where are you going on your tour?"  The judge asked with a smile as he set the papers down.

            "Oh, um… we're going to London, Paris, Hamburg… I'm sorry I don't have the dates in front of me, I - "

            "That's fine."  The judge held up his hand and turned to Mr. Foley.  "Mr. Foley, in a case like this I need to weigh the pros and cons of each household and generally try to accommodate the child as best as we can.  I don't see how this is possible in this case.  Your client has filed for custody of the child in this case and has proven herself unreliable.  I would be remiss if I granted custody to someone who was not here."  He paused to let that sink in for a moment.  "I am a firm believer that children should remain in the care of one or both parents if it is at all possible.  While Mr. Chasez' lifestyle and celebrity status may not be the best suited for a child, I'd have to say that in this city I have seen celebrity parents do far worse.  I see no evidence or accusations against Mr. Chasez' for wrongful behavior or child endangerment so at this time I find it appropriate to release the child to the present parent."

            "Yes your honor."  Mr. Foley's chin dropped to his chest in defeat.

            "I am forfeiting this judgment to the defendant, Mr. Joshua Scott Chasez for the time being.”  The judge spoke loudly.

            JC looked up as his heart soared,  “What does that – “  He began to ask George.

            “Where is the child now?”  The judge asked.

            “He is with my clients security team at their hotel your honor.” George spoke up and held out his hand to silence JC.

            “I am relinquishing physical and legal custody of the minor to Mr. Chasez, the father in this case.  Without objection or argument from the mother in this case I see no alternative.  Should she magically reappear she may file an appeal and hope she doesn't land in my courtroom again.”  He leaned forward across his desk,  “Mr. Foley?  Your client will be held responsible for the court fees today as well.”  He tapped his gavel,  “Adjourned.”  He stood and left the courtroom without making a sound.

            “Wh-what just happened?”

            “You’ve been awarded legal and physical custody.”  George said with a surprised look.

            “I what?”  JC asked in disbelief.

            “That’s what she was suing you for, he forfeited the judgment to you… you got what she was asking for.”

            “So I don’t… that’s it?”

            “That’s it.”  George nodded with a smile.

            “No more court?”

            “Well… she could always appeal.  If she ever shows up she most certainly will.”  George shrugged,  “She’ll have to go through the courts to arrange a visitation schedule.”

            “But for right now…?”

            “Right now?  Kyle is all yours.”

            “He’s… really?”

            “Really.”  George nodded and extended his hand to JC.  “It’s been a pleasure JC, congratulations.”

            “Holy shit.”  JC said under his breath.  “Where are – I need documentation.  I want to see this on paper, this is too good to be true.”  JC ran his hands through his hair as they began to shake.

            “I’ll wait here until the papers are drawn up.  You can go ahead and head on back to the hotel.”

            “No way man, I’m not leaving here until it’s official.  Just my luck I’d leave and she’d show up.”

            “It would be too late.”  George shook his head, but he knew where JC was coming from.  Mr. Foley collected his things on the small table in front of him and headed for the back of the courtroom without so much as a glance at JC or his lawyer.

            JC could hardly contain his excitement as his feet tapped under the table,  “I’m gonna wake up soon.”  He said softly.


            “This is all a dream man, there’s no way this can be happening.”  JC shook his head as he leaned forward onto the table.  “There’s just no way.  All of this man.  I’m gonna wake up and this is all going to have been a dream.  Seriously, all of this.”

            “The court?”  George laughed.

            “The court, Lori… heck… even Kyle.  It’s all just too unreal.”  JC started to laugh and worried he may never stop.  “Stuff like this just doesn’t happen to me.”

            “It’s real.”  George nodded.  “But like I said, if and when she shows up she can… and probably will sue you for visitation rights, if not shared custody.”

            “I don’t even care.”  JC laughed again as all of the stress from the last couple weeks vanished.  He felt a case of the giggles coming on and there was no way to stop it.  “Right now is all I’m worried about.  As soon as I get those papers man, I’m on the next plane to Florida.  I want to take Kyle home.  To our home.  I’m not even kidding, that’s the first call I’m gonna make.  United Airlines or whatever, two first class tickets to Orlando.”


            Les tapped on Jessica's door and waited patiently for her to answer,  "Hey Jessica."  He smiled as she pulled the door open mid-laugh.

            "Hi Les, what's up?  You didn't go with JC?"

            "Nah, he's cool."  He smiled.  "Hey, you've got Kyle right?"

            "Yep."  She laughed and looked over her shoulder as Kyle jumped off the bed with a pillowcase pinned to his shirt.

            "I have cape!"  He shouted as he ran over to the door.

            "Yeah you do buddy!"  Les laughed and gave him a hi-five.  "Well uh, he has some visitors here that would like to see him."

            "No."  Jessica shook her head as she suddenly became serious.  "He's not supposed to see anyone without JC's consent."  Jessica's heart picked up the pace as she tried to remember if JC was expecting anyone.

            "It's cool."  Les smiled and leaned into the room.  "It's his parents.  JC's parents I mean."  He said quietly.

            "Oh!"  Jessica's eyes flew open.  "Oh my God, wow… they're here?"

            "Yeah, they flew in to see JC and Kyle… it was supposed to be a surprise."  Les laughed and picked Kyle up to toss him in the air.

            "Well it is a surprise."  Jessica smiled,  "But should we wait for JC to be back?  Have they met Kyle at all yet?"

            "No, they haven't met him yet."  Les shook his head.  "You think we should wait for JC?"

            "I don't know.  I mean, if they haven't met him yet they might want to talk to JC, or JC might want to see their faces or something."

            "On the other hand… they have never met the cutest grandson ever in the world."  Les tossed Kyle in the air again.  "I think we should take him down there."

            "Do you want to?"  Jessica suddenly felt uncomfortable.  As if introducing JC's parents to Kyle might be over stepping her boundaries, when none were ever really set.

            "He might be more comfortable with you."  Les shrugged.

            "O-okay."  She nodded as her stomach toppled.  "Let me at least get him cleaned up a little… and dressed."  She reached for Kyle who was still lounging around in his pajamas.  "You need a bath Mr. Stinko."

            "I sink?"  Kyle asked as he squished up his nose.

            "You sure do, peee eww."  Jessica made a face.  "What room are they in?"  She asked Les.

            "Room 559, just down the hall a couple doors."  Les pointed toward the far end of the hall.  "If you want some back up or whatever, give me a call."

            "Thanks Les."  Jessica smiled and tried to think of ways to stall, for purely selfish reasons.  She shut her door and looked down at Kyle,  "Okay buddy, you need a bath."

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed and walked into the bathroom where he tugged on his pajamas.  She started the water in the tub and added a capful of bubbles to make the bath time a little more fun.  Jessica pulled Kyle's shirt over his head and helped him shimmy out of his bottoms and socks.  "My cape?"

            "It'll be right here when you get out of the tub.  I promise."

            "And I fye?"

            "Yep, you can pretend to fly with your cape."

            "Yeah I ten."  He nodded and looked into the tub.  "Wow!"

            "Check out the bubbles dude."

            "I see."  Kyle laughed.  "Is hot?"

            "It's warm."  Jessica nodded and stuck her fingers in the water.  "In fact, it's perfect."

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and leaned into the tub to touch the water.  "I in?"

            "Sure thing."  Jessica lifted him into the tub and tossed his big plastic cup in there with him.  She took her time soaping him up with the baby wash stuff that smelled heavenly, then washed his hair and let him play for a little while.

            "Cawin Laaaance?"

            "Oh, uh… no.  No we're not going to call Lance I don't think."  Jessica thought for a minute.  Lance and Chris definitely knew JC's parents; maybe she could call them and have them take Kyle down to meet his parents.  Kyle was just as comfortable with Chris and Lance as he was with her,  "Actually honey, I'll go call them now."  She ran from the room and grabbed her cell phone then ran back into the bathroom where she sat on the floor by the tub.

            She didn’t know the hotel's number off the top of her head so she called 411 and got the number, then asked for Chris' room number causing twice as much hassle than necessary.  She let it ring through until the operator came back on to say the guest was not answering.  Jessica sighed and tried Lance's room number and waited as his line rang through as well.  "Dangit, okay thank you anyway."  She sighed as she turned her phone off.  If she'd had thought to bring her tour book with her she'd have their cell and pager numbers, but she didn't.  "Okay kiddo, bath time is over."  She pushed herself off the floor and put the phone on the counter.

            "Kay."  Kyle laughed and splashed in the bubbles, sending them floating into the air.

            Jessica removed Kyle from the bath and dried him off with the thick hotel towel and carried him to the bedroom to dress him in the clothes JC sent over with him.  "Let's see what your daddy picked out for you."  Jessica unzipped the bag and pulled out the little pair of blue jeans and a dark green t-shirt with matching socks and hiking boots.  "Not bad."  She smiled and set the clothes out.

            "Is my shirt."  Kyle giggled and held his towel tight.

            "Yep, let's see about putting it on huh?"  Butterflies took off in Jessica's stomach and she really didn't want to take Kyle to see his grandparents.  That was so far from her job description, she'd never met them herself and she felt completely out of place even pondering introducing them to Kyle.  She sighed then reached for a diaper and laid Kyle on the bed; if she stalled long enough maybe she'd think of a convincing argument to make Les take him.


            JC waited in the empty courtroom for George to come back with the official papers stating that he was the custodial parent of Kyle.  Until he had those papers in his hand it didn't feel real, and as soon as he got them he read them over word for word.  "I don't know what all this lawyer speak means, but this is good right?  This is legit?"

            "It's legit."  George smiled.

            "Sweet, then get me the hell outta here."  JC reached into his pocket for his cell phone, then true to his word he dialed the airlines to buy two tickets to Orlando.  He still had to get things settled at the hotel and pack everything up so he arranged for them to be on the morning flight the next day.  Two first class tickets, worth their weight in gold.


            JC practically danced through the lobby as he walked rapidly toward the elevators.  He hit the call button repeatedly, as if that might make the elevator arrive any faster, all he wanted to do was get up to his room to get Kyle in his arms.  When he finally got to his floor he ran down the hall to Jessica's room and prayed that they hadn't left for the day yet.

            JC tapped a wild beat on the door and could barely keep his feet still.  He had picked up the phone to call her a dozen times but he didn’t want to say anything over the phone, he wanted to have Kyle in his arms.

            “Who do you think it is?”  He heard Jessica ask through the closed door.

            “Daddy?”  Kyle asked as the door opened slowly.

            “That’s right.”  JC scooped him up in his arms and squeezed him until Kyle gasped for air.  “I’m sorry, is that too tight?”  He laughed and spun around in circles in the hallway as Jessica leaned against the wall.

            “No way…”  She said softly as a slow smile creeped across her lips.

            “Way.”  JC laughed and tossed Kyle up in the air.  “Way, way, way.”  He laughed.

            “He’s yours?”

            “Signed sealed and delivered.”  JC stopped spinning long enough to include Jessica in their embrace.  “Thank you.”

            “You’re welcome.”  She mumbled into his chest.  “It’s so early…”

            “She didn’t show.”  JC frowned for a split second before smiling again,  “She flaked again so the judge forfeited the judgment to me.  Sole legal and physical custody.”

            Jessica’s jaw hit the floor,  “Sole custody?”  She whispered.  “You’re kidding.”


            “Wow…”  She laughed and covered her mouth with her hand.  “Oh my God, that’s crazy!”

            “I know!”  JC laughed and hugged her again with Kyle in between them.

            “I go ouside?”  Kyle asked.

            “You bet we can go outside.”  JC nodded.  “How about swimming, do you want to go in the pool?”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle smiled and pulled at his t-shirt.

            “Would you like to join us?”

            “I think you’d better go say hi to your company first.”  Jessica nodded down the hall back toward the elevators.

            “What?  Who?”

            “You’ll see, room 559.”  Jessica smiled, knowing who he’d find when he knocked on the door.

            “Is it the guys?”

            “Nope, go see.”  Jessica shook her head.  “Just go knock on the door.  I'm sure they weren’t expecting you this soon but they’ll be thrilled to see you guys.”

            JC gave her a confused look, but he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face,  “Okay… me?  Or me and Kyle?"

            "You and Kyle."  Jessica nodded.  "I'll see you a little later."

            "Okay."  JC kind of half smiled as he picked up Kyle and bounced him on his hip.  "Do you know who our visitor is?"

            "I doe no."  Kyle shrugged and giggled.  "Is Laaaance?"

            "No, it's not Lance I don't think.  Should we go see?"

            "Kay."  Kyle smiled and shrugged again, he was up for anything.

            JC walked down the hall and did all he could to contain himself.  He wanted to dance down the hall and toss Kyle in the air, shout at the top of his voice and laugh until his stomach hurt.  He found the right room and knocked on the door as he smiled down at Kyle,  "Wow, I wonder who it is?"

            "Is Emo?"  Kyle giggled and buried his face in JC's shoulder.

            "Coming!"  He heard a female voice call from inside.

            JC frowned for a second as he tried to place the voice, then his jaw hit the floor as his mother pulled the door open,  "Mom?!"

            "Hi babe!"  She smiled and pulled him into the room for a hug.  "Oh my goodness, who is this precious little boy?  Is this Kyle?"  She had the perfect grandma voice already.

            "I Ky."  Kyle nodded.

            "Well hello there."  Her smile broadened as she kissed JC's cheek, "Surprise."

            "Wow… I just… you're here."  JC stumbled over his words as he looked around at his father sitting on the corner of the bed.  "Oh man."  Tears welled up in his eyes as he laughed and set Kyle on the floor.  "Oh man… I can't believe you guys are here."  He hugged his mom tightly again, then reached for his dad.

            "We didn't expect you until this afternoon, are you on a break?"  His dad asked.

            "No I… courts over."  JC shook his head.  "Lori didn't show up so the judge defaulted the judgment to me and…"  JC sighed and wiped at his eyes.  "I can't believe you guys are here."

            "So you won custody?"  His mom asked.

            "Yeah, completely."  JC nodded as a fresh bout of tears rolled down his cheeks.  "Man, look at me."  He laughed and sniffed as he reached for a kleenex.  "I don't know what's wrong with me."  He smiled and sat on the edge of the bed to pull Kyle onto his lap.

            "You've been emotionally peaked for a long time babe, this is a big relief to you."  Karen smiled.

            "I know." JC smiled and wiped his eyes again.

            "Daddy kay?"  Kyle asked softly.

            "Yeah, I'm okay buddy."  JC nodded.  "This is my mommy and daddy.  They're your grandparents."

            "Daddy you."

            "I'm your daddy, and this is my daddy."  JC nodded toward his own father.  "Pretty cool huh?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and scooted closer to JC.

            "He's kind of shy sometimes."  JC explained apologetically.  "But wait till he gets to know you, then you won't be able to get rid of him."  JC laughed lightly as he wrapped his arm around Kyle's shoulders.

            "Are the boys here?"

            "Um, Chris and Lance are… yeah.  Joey's in Mexico, I still need to call him.  Justin was planning on coming out next week so…"  JC shrugged.  "I need to call him too, tell him to cancel him plane tickets or whatever."

            "Well we'd like to take you out to celebrate."  JC's dad smiled.  "Why don't you call everyone you need to and we'll make plans to go out?"

            "Lance and Chris are here… and Jessica.  Plus Les and Frank."  JC half frowned.  "If we go out I'd like them to be able to come to, they're a huge part of this."

            "Of course."  His parents said in unison.

            "We'll make reservations for dinner for everyone, then if you'd like the four of us can take off for the day."  Karen smiled.  "That way we can get to know Kyle a little better."

            "Okay… that sounds like fun."  JC smiled, he still couldn't believe his parents were there in LA with him.  "It sucks that you're only here for the day though.  It seems like a waste of money."  He frowned.

            "Not at all."  His mom smiled,  "We were set to stay as long as you needed, and personally?  I'm glad it's over sooner than later."

            "Me too."  JC sighed with a content smile,  "Me too."

            Kyle slowly worked his way off of JC's lap as Roy made a few calls and set up reservations for the whole group that evening at a local restaurant.  Kyle wandered over to the mini refrigerator stuck beside the table, replacing the full mini kitchen they had in their room.

            "Wassat?"  Kyle asked as he squatted in front of it.

            "That's a refrigerator… a small one.  We have one just like it in our room."  JC said from the bed.

            "I see?"

            "I don't think there's anything in it."  JC shook his head.

            "Is mine?"

            "No, it's not yours." JC laughed.  "It belongs to the hotel."

            "Oh."  Kyle looked up at Karen standing nearby.  "I have Lello."  He said softly.

            "You do?  What's that?"  She smiled and knelt down to his level.

            "Is doggie.  Fye agator."  Kyle mumbled as he looked down at his shoes.

            "It's his dog, they find alligators together sometimes."  JC explained.

            "Oh that's right, I saw that on that TV show you guys did."  She nodded.

            "You saw that?"

            "Of course."  She laughed, as if she'd miss her own baby on a show.

            "Daddy we go?"

            "Nope, we're going to hang out here for a little bit, then maybe we'll go outside and take a walk or something."  JC explained.

            "Ina sroller?"

            "Yep, in the stroller with Frank."  JC nodded.

            "And Laaaaance?"

            "Nope, Lance and Chris went to the beach this morning, they'll be back later."  JC smiled.  "I think today we'll just hang out with my mom and dad."

            "And Jessi?"

            "Nope, I think we'll give Jessica the day off."

            "Refresh my memory, who's Jessica?"  Roy asked as he stood up and stretched.

            "She's… well she does our wardrobe on the tour, but she's helped out with Kyle since the beginning."  JC blushed quickly,  "She's actually done more than just help, she's been a lifesaver."

            "She stayed with you out here for this whole time?"

            "No, she went home for a while, but George said that we might need her out here to testify or whatever because she basically raised him for the first couple months and because she saw how pitiful I was at the beginning and how much I've changed."  JC took a deep breath,  "Also I wanted someone here to watch Kyle… someone he knew and would be comfortable with."

            “That makes sense.”  Karen smiled.

            “So, anyway…”  JC cleared his throat.  “What did you guys have in mind for today?”

            “I don’t know really, we were just going to hit the tourist spots because we weren’t expecting you back until later this afternoon.”  His mom shrugged.

            “Well that’s cool, we can do that.”  JC nodded.

            “Are you sure?”

            “Absolutely, that’s what strollers are made for.”  JC laughed and looked down at Kyle,  “Let’s go get your stroller buddy.”

            “Go bye?”

            “Yep, we’re going bye.”  JC nodded.  He took Kyle’s hand and they went to their room to get the stroller and to let Frank know that they were going out with his parents.  They met up in the lobby and rode over to Hollywood Boulevard to park and walk the strip.


            JC and Kyle spent the afternoon with his parents doing the tourist thing in Hollywood.  Karen pushed Kyle in his stroller up and down the street with Frank by their side for security if it became necessary.  Mann's Chinese Theater, Ripley’s believe it or not, the stars on the walk of fame, all of the tourist traps like that were hit by the family as they chatted and got caught up on everything that had been going on for the past couple months.

            JC's mom let him know that she'd stopped by his house at least once a month just to air it out and dust a little so that it wouldn't be full of cobwebs and stale air when he finally got home.  He was grateful for her taking the time to do something he hadn't even considered.

            "Are you going to use the guestroom downstairs for Kyle?"  She asked.

            "No, I'm going to transform the office I think."  JC nodded.  "I'll move that downstairs or into my room or something, it's not like I use it much."

            "Are you sure you want him using the stairs that much?"  She asked.

            "I just want him nearby."  JC smiled.  Now that he was able to take him home he wasn't going to let him out of his sight.

            They finished up their walk and headed back to the hotel as the sun began to set into the ocean.  JC called everyone on their way back to let them know about the dinner plans, then called Justin in Florida and Joey in Mexico to share the good news.  Both Justin and Joey were just as excited as JC was and Joey promised to stop by JC's Florida home as soon as he got back from Mexico.


            The entire group got together for a celebration dinner at a nice little restaurant on Via Rodeo, not far from the hotel.  They shared wine and some of their favorite Kyle stories.  In such a short time they each had a few stories that they loved to tell which helped Karen and Roy feel like they knew Kyle a little better.

            Karen sat back and watched JC interacting with Kyle, cutting his food and making sure he ate what he was supposed to, and she was amazed.  Her little boy was a daddy, and a good one at that.  Kyle was an amazingly well behaved little boy and while she waited for the fa´┐Żade to wear off and the little terrible two terror to come out, she completely fell in love with his "scary" face and the way he spoke so animatedly with his whole face.

            "JC, I can't believe how good he's being."  She said as she laced her arm through his while Lance balanced Kyle on his shoulders for the walk back to the hotel.  "Are you sure he's yours?  You were a holy terror at two."

            "I was not.  I was and always will be, a little angel."  JC batted his eyelashes at his mother while everyone around him cracked up laughing.

            "For the record, Kyle has had his moments.  Joey has a scar or two to prove it."  Chris laughed.

            "Oh yeah!"  JC's hand flew to his mouth.  "Oh man I forgot about that.  Yeah, Kyle has his moments.  He went off on Joey a couple months ago I guess and bit him."

            "Uh oh."  Roy raised his eyebrow.

            "Yeah but he doesn't do that any more, right Kyle?'  JC turned around and looked up at Kyle as he sat tall on Lance's shoulders.  "We don't bite, right?"

            "No bye."  Kyle shook his hand.  "Only shark."

            "Yeah sharks sometimes bite."  JC nodded.

            "And I bye noodo."

            "Yeah."  JC laughed.  "You can bite noodles.  You can bite your food but that's all, right?"

            "No bye."  Kyle shook his finger.  "Is no no."

            "That's right."  JC nodded and high fived the little boy.  "He's learned what flies and what doesn't around here."

            "I ten fye."  Kyle nodded.

            "Hmm?"  Chris looked up at Kyle.

            "I ten I fye."  Kyle repeated.

            "He pretends he flies."  Jessica said with a smile.  "When he wears his cape he likes to fly around the room." 

            "Oh right on."  Chris laughed.  "You know who else has a cape?"

            "Supman."  Kyle giggled and grabbed onto Lance's hair as he almost lost his balance.

            "So does Joey."  Chris said as he positioned himself behind Lance, just in case.

            "No."  Kyle laughed and shook his head.  "Joey no fye."

            "He pretends with his cape."

            "No Joey big."

            "Yeah he's big, but he still pretends."  JC laughed.

            Kyle sighed,  "Joey silly fye."  He shook his head.

            "Yeah, Joey's pretty silly." 

            "I dow?"  Kyle leaned down to talk directly into Lance's ear.  "I tire."

            "You're tired?"  Lance stopped walking and reached up to bring Kyle down.  It was almost ten; it was no wonder the little boy was tired out.

            "Here, I'll take him."  Roy reached out for Kyle and rested him on his shoulder.  Kyle didn't object at all to the warm body and secure arms holding him close.  He rested his head on his grandfather's shoulder and let his eyes blink slowly. 


            They walked back to the hotel and rode up to their floor where everyone said goodnight to each other and headed for their own rooms.  Roy handed Kyle off to JC in the hallway, but Kyle slept through it all.  "See you guys in the morning."  JC smiled as he leaned in to kiss his mom.  "I'm gonna go put this little dude down."

            "Congratulations Jace."  Lance smiled and patted his back as he took his own room key out.

            "Thanks."  JC continued to smile until he thought his face would crack.  He unlocked his door as everyone in the hall went to their own rooms to rest up for their flights home the next day.  JC dropped Kyle's backpack just inside the door then turned on the mini kitchen light to brighten his way to the bed. 

            He turned the bedside light on and laid Kyle in the center of his bed.  He carefully removed his tiny shoes and pants, leaving Kyle in his t-shirt and diaper, suitable pajamas by anyone's standards.  The cell phone in JC's back pocket played a high pitched melody as Kyle fidgeted against the pillow.  JC quickly pulled the phone from his pocket and flipped it open,  “Hello?”  JC whispered as he pulled Kyle’s blanket up to his chin.  Kyle squished up his face in a deep frown then flopped over onto his back as he relaxed and began to snore.  JC yawned and thought about climbing into bed himself in a few minutes.  The excitement of the day was still coursing through his body, but he could feel himself winding down slowly.

            After a few seconds no one responded, so JC repeated himself a little louder,  "Hello?"

            “JC?”  Lori’s voice was the last he expected to hear right then.

            “L-Lori?”  JC stood up straight and switched the bedside light off.

            “I’m sorry.”  She said quickly.

            “What – what… what are you doing?  Where are you?”  JC asked before his thoughts could be figured out.  He headed for the door of the hotel room, just wanting to get away from Kyle, knowing that this could be explosive.

            “I’m at a friends house.”  She said softly.

            “Hang on.”  JC dropped his hand to his side and propped the door open with Kyle’s backpack.  He stepped across the hall and tapped on Jessica’s door, hoping that she was still awake.

            He heard her shuffling around in her room for a second before the door opened a crack,  “JC?”  She asked as she squinted at the bright lights in the hall.

            “Hey.”  He nodded.  “Can I use your room?”

            “Where’s Kyle?”  She asked as she rubbed her tired eyes.

            “He’s asleep.”  JC looked toward his room.  “Lori’s on the phone and uh… this may get heated.  I don’t want to – “

            “No… no don’t worry about it.  Of course…" Jessica pulled her robe tighter around her waist and stepped out into the hall, noticing the cell phone in JC’s hand as she pushed his door open.  “My room’s a mess.”

            “It’s okay.”  JC mumbled as he stepped into her room and brought the phone to his ear.  “Okay.”  He said to Lori.  “Still here?”

            “Yeah.”  She said softly.


            “JC, I don’t know where to start.”  Her voice sounded as though she was on the verge of tears.

            “I don’t see why you think you have to.  Your skipping out on court spoke volumes, I don’t think there’s much more to say.”  If he took the time to think about what he was saying he might have used a more gentle tone.

            “JC I didn’t stand a chance.”  Lori’s voice wobbled.  “You’ve got all this money and a big powerful lawyer.  All I’ve got is this court appointed guy who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.”

            “That’s not my problem.”  His hands began to shake slowly as his lips turned cold and his heart raced.

            “I couldn’t go in there and have you tear me apart JC.”

            “I wasn’t going to tear you apart.”  JC sighed and sat on Jessica’s rumpled bed.  He rested his head in his hands and closed his eyes trying to calm his nerves.  He knew this was all too good to be true.

            “Yes you were.”  She insisted.

            “Lori, all I want is what’s best for Kyle.  You were the one going for the big guns taking me to court.  We might have been able to work something out before, but as soon as you started throwing lawyers and subpoenas around it stopped being friendly.  Yes, I wanted custody.  I honestly believe I can give Kyle a more stable home than you can, and you’ve proven my case beautifully.”

            “I have a stable home now.”

            “You have an apartment with a friend, and you’ve been there for two months.”  JC rolled his eyes.

            “I have to start somewhere.”  Lori cried.  “You haven’t helped at all.”

            “If you’d have come to me at the beginning, I could have helped you.  I can’t help you at all when you drop a two year old in my lap then take off for four months.”  He tried to keep his cool.

            “Can I see him?”  Lori asked softly.

            “Not right now.”  JC whispered.

            “It’s late… I know.”

            “No, I mean not now.  I don’t know when.”

            “You can’t do this to me.”

            “I was granted legal and physical custody.”

            “What?”  Lori’s voice was so soft he barely heard her.

            “The judgment defaulted to me.  I got what you were asking for because you didn’t show up.”  JC explained.  "The case you were bringing to the court protested me having custody.  Without you there to protest, the judge didn't really have a choice but to leave Kyle with me."

            “No…”  Lori cried.  “You can’t do this, JC please.”

            “Lori…”  He sighed.  “If the judgment had gone the other way, you’d be the one with custody and I doubt you’d have been complaining then.”

            “This all got so out of hand.  All I wanted was to see him.”

            “Then that’s what you should have asked for.”  JC shook his head.  “I was willing to work something out.  If we could have sat down and talked about this before maybe we could have worked out some sort of visitation schedule.  But before we could even talk about it you slapped me with a custody case saying you wanted full custody.  What was I supposed to think?”

            “I was just mad.”  Lori sniffed through her tears.

            “Well so was I.”

            “C-can we work something out now?”

            “Now that you’ve lost the judgment?”

            “JC I didn’t stand a chance in there!”  She practically shouted, stating her case again.  “I told you, you were going to tear me apart.  You’ve got the two-parent style home life, the cars, the toys, and the big house with his own room, the big shot lawyer.  JC, all I had was this asshole of a lawyer, one room in this shoddy apartment and a friend who could watch Kyle while I worked if she wasn’t working herself.”

            “Lori.  Stop.  I wasn’t going to tear you apart.  Sheesh, I didn’t know enough about you to use it against you.  All I wanted was to keep Kyle, just like you.”  JC stood up and paced back and forth at the foot of Jessica’s bed.  He’d forgotten that Lori thought he and Jessica were raising Kyle together.   “My lawyer told me that if I went in there asking for everything I could end up with nothing.  We both took that chance and I got lucky.”

            “All I wanted was to have Kyle back, I didn’t want to make it so you couldn’t see him.  Why would you do that to me?”  She started to sound hysterical.

            “You asked for sole legal and physical custody, which means I would have to fight for visitation Lori.  And I would have, believe me.  But if we could have talked about this maybe we could have shared custody or something.”

            “My lawyer was a prick, he told me that I would definitely get full custody though.  I don’t know anything about the system so I let him decide and he screwed me over.”

            JC shook his head; he had to agree with her there.  “But that’s not my fault.”  JC sighed as she continued to sob.  “I tried to talk to you before and you pulled out the big guns, the only way to get through to you was to do the same.  But you made it easy; you made it real easy when you didn’t show up at all.  That’s what I don’t understand Lori.  You say you just want him back or just want to see him or whatever… but you didn’t even show up.  Your lawyer didn’t tell you not to, you can’t blame that on him.”

            Lori cried quietly on the other end of the phone as JC’s heart and mind collided.  Mentally he knew that Lori had essentially screwed herself by not showing up for court, by not even trying to get her son.  That’s what pissed JC off the most, the fact that she’d given up so easily.  He would have fought to the death for Kyle and she hadn’t even bothered to show up.

            But his heart broke hearing her cry over her son.  JC knew that she had to love Kyle just as much as he did.  She raised him for two years, they went through hard times together and through all of that Kyle had turned out just fine.

            “I just… I can’t see you right now.  I need to have some time alone with Kyle, to take him home with me and to just be us.”  JC sighed deeply and pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead to try to stop the pounding.

            “JC please…”

            “No.  Lori, not now.”  JC tried to sound assertive without flying off the handle at her.  “Unless you have an apology for Kyle in there somewhere, I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

            “JC I – “

            “Bye.”  JC pressed the ‘off’ button and sat heavily on the bed again.  “Fuck.”  He whispered under his breath as he inhaled deeply.  He took several more deep breaths before he stood up and crossed the dark room to head back to his own.

            He crossed the narrow hall and searched the pockets of his pants for his room key but he didn’t have it.  He knocked softly and waited for Jessica to pull the door open,  “I forgot my key.”  He said softly.

            “It’s okay.”  She shook her head.  “I… is everything okay?”

            “That was Lori.”

            “Yeah.”  Jessica nodded as she held the door open for him.  JC stepped back into his room and let the door close gently behind him,  “Is she okay?”

            “She’s fine.”  JC whispered and leaned against the wall.  “I mean I guess she is.  She was crying.”

            “Well…”  Jessica shrugged.  Of course she was crying, she’d just lost her son because of her own stupidity.

            “Yeah, I know.”  JC closed his eyes and let his head fall back.  “Is he still sleeping?”

            “Yeah, he’s out like a light.”  Jessica nodded.  She wanted so badly to sit down and find out what was said and why she didn’t show up at court for two days, but she knew it would be out of line for her to ask.

            “God… she wants to see him and I… I don’t even want her to.”  JC grumbled in a whisper.

            “JC I… I understand that you’re upset and everything.”  He looked up quickly,  “And you have every right to be mad.”  Jessica held out her hand to calm him,  “But you’re going to have to let her see him eventually.”

            “Not unless she takes me back to court.”  He shook his head.  “But judging by her actions, I don’t see that happening.”

            “What about when Kyle is older?  What happens when he’s twelve and asks why his mom isn’t around?  Will you be able to tell him that she wanted to see him but you kept them apart?”

            JC took a deep breath, as his frown deepened, “No.”

            “It might be hard to let her see him now… but JC… in the long run I think it’ll be better.”  She couldn’t believe that those words were coming out of her mouth.  She couldn’t stand Lori and honestly thought the world would be a better place if the woman just disappeared, but she was Kyle’s mom.

            “I just need some time alone with him.”

            “Then let her know that.”

            “I did.”  JC nodded.

            “You told her she’d be able to see him again?”

            “I told her she couldn’t see him right now, but I didn’t say she’d never see him again.”  JC sighed and wished he could go back in time six months to when his life was normal.  “Shit.”  He sighed and slid down the wall so that he was sitting on the floor.  “This is supposed to be a happy day.”

            “I’m sorry.”  Jessica shook her head slowly.

            “No one should be given this power.  I mean, I could say that he and I are moving to Spain and she pretty much couldn’t do anything.”

            “Well, I don’t think you can leave the country.”

            “Yeah I can.  I checked.”  JC pinched the bridge of his nose as he squeezed his eyes shut.  “But I just… I can’t see doing that to someone.  No matter how upset I got.”

            “This is tough.”

            “Tougher than you know.”  He nodded.

            “Can you call her?”

            Can I?  Yeah.  I just don’t want to.  Why do I need to?”  He glanced up at her as he lowered his voice.

            “Just to let her know that you’ll let her see him again in a few weeks or whatever.”

            “I can’t call her right now, I just hung up on her.”

            “Well not now… but maybe when you get to Florida?”  Jessica knelt beside him and placed her hand on his arm.  He didn’t respond or look up at her and she knew she’d crossed a line,  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be telling you what to do.”  She blushed and removed her hand.

            “This sucks.”

            “I know.”  Jessica nodded,  “But you’re doing good.”

            “You think so?”

            “Of course I do.”

            “I feel like I’ve let everything fall apart.”

            “You haven’t.”  She laughed lightly.  “Just work through this crap, get Kyle home and settled and into the flow of things.  You’ll be back to normal before you know it.”

            “I wouldn’t recognize ‘normal’ if it came up and bit me in the ass.”  JC shook his head and stood up.  “Thanks Jess.’

            “You're welcome.”

            “For everything, really…”  He bit his lip nervously and reached down to help her up.  “I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without your help.”

            “No problem.”  She blushed quickly.  “Of course, I’d like visitation rights too.”  She joked.

            “You can come by whenever you want.”  JC smiled, and hoped that she would.

            “I’ll let you guys get settled.  Besides, I’ve got my own life I’ve got to figure out when I get home.”  She rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips.

            “It’ll be so much better once we get home I think.” JC nodded.

            “When do you leave?”

            “Tomorrow morning, ten fifteen.”  JC yawned and looked over at Kyle still sound asleep on the bed.  “How about you?”

            “I’m on the eleven o’clock flight to Hartford.” Jessica smiled.

            JC sighed and shoved is hands into his pockets;  “I guess I’ll see you in the morning then.”

            “Okay.”  She smiled and cleared her throat,  “If you need anything once you get home though, don’t think twice about calling.”

            “I won’t.”  JC laughed.  “I’ve gotten better about that you know.”

            “What?  Admitting that you don’t know everything?”

            “Yeah.”  He laughed

            “That’s a good thing.”  Jessica smiled, then covered her mouth as she yawned.  “I’m gonna go back to bed now.”

            “Thanks Jessica.”

            “You’re welcome.”  She nodded as he pulled her in for a tight hug.  He held her longer than normal and that fact didn’t go unnoticed.  It would be so easy to just turn her chin up and kiss him right then, but she stopped herself.  “This isn’t the time or place.”  She thought to herself.  "Good night."  Jessica took a step back and reached to rub her lower lip.  "I'll uh… I'll see you in the morning."