Over the next week JC warmed up to Kyle and started acting more human, while Kyle got used to the hectic schedule they all followed. JC became a little more comfortable with the tiny voice calling him "daddy", but every time he heard it he got a chill.

Before he knew it he found himself being protective of Kyle and not letting just anyone watch him. He’d done an almost complete turn around to where he was bordering on obsessive. Jessica still watched Kyle most of the time but JC was getting better about taking him when he could. The media got a hold of some pictures of JC and the boy walking to and from the hotel, at venues and behind the scenes at interviews and photo shoots. The management and JC released a statement that the child was JC’s and that he’d kept it private for so long because it was personal. The only reason he was going public with the child now was because the mother was unable to care for him at the time and JC was caring for him on his own.

The fans immediately flew into an uproar about how JC had lied to them for two years and how they felt betrayed, but within a week the hoopla had died down and they were once again lining their lockers with his pinups.

JC became less concerned with what city they were traveling to and more concerned with how long Kyle’s nap was and what he had to eat. The guys noticed the difference and were definitely happy to see JC taking responsibility willingly, but they missed the JC who knew their daily schedule down to the minute.

"What time are we doing the Grammy shots?" Justin asked as they piled into the heated van. They had been in Pittsburgh for two days now and as impossible as it seemed it was actually raining harder.

JC leaned over Kyle’s car seat and strapped him in, then fell into the seat beside him. "Hmm? Me?"

"Yeah, do you know what time?"

"For what?" JC asked.

"The Grammy shots." Justin repeated.

"Oh those aren’t till this afternoon."

"I know, but what time?" Justin asked. "I want to see about calling my mom before she goes to work."

"No I don’t know. It’s after we do the Australian interview thing."

"We did that this morning." Justin laughed.

"Then I have no idea." JC laughed and shook his head; "We’re going to the charity auction tonight though, right?"

"Right. For Children’s Hospital."

"Okay, cool." JC nodded. "What are we auctioning?"

"Those shirts we wore for that GQ shot a couple months ago."

"Really?" JC made a face. "Those were tacky."

"Yeah well." Justin shrugged, "I think we’re also doing a tour package thing. Airfare, tickets, meet and greet passes to any show they want."

"Ahh, that’s cool." JC leaned his head back and closed his eyes as the van took off down the highway.

"How’s the kidlet?"

"He’s cool." JC smiled and poked Kyle in the side, "You’re cool, right?"

"Yeah." Kyle giggled and tried to move away from JC’s tickling fingers.

"Who else is cool?" JC asked with a sly smile.

"Daddy." Kyle laughed hysterically and pushed JC’s hand away.

"Who else?"

"Sink." He squealed as JC tickled him from his belly to his chin.

"What about me?" Justin asked as he leaned forward in his seat.

"No!"

"No? I’m not cool?"

"No." Kyle laughed again as JC smiled and sat back in his seat. "Is Jussin."

"Yeah I know I’m Justin, but aren’t I cool?"

"No." Kyle shook his head. "Daddy cool."

"Daddy’s not cool. Someone’s messed with your head kid." Justin shook his head and ruffled Kyle’s hair.

"Sink cool."

"Okay yeah, Nsync is cool." Justin laughed. "You got that much right. But your dad? He’s a dork."

"No dok."

"Yes, he is."

"No no no." Kyle shook his head wildly then looked at JC with a big smile, "Bye bye bye?"

"Dude, you’re teaching him our songs?" Justin laughed at JC.

"He likes to sing." JC shrugged and look back at Justin; "He’s a musical genius."

"Yeah." Justin rolled his eyes.

"Hey, you should see him dance."

"This kid’s made you nuts." Justin smiled and leaned back in his seat.

"Yep." JC nodded in agreement. He was definitely nuts.

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

Their night ended late so both Kyle and JC crashed as soon as they got into their room and didn’t wake up until the next morning when the phone between their beds rang.

JC rolled over to reach the nightstand and knocked the phone off the cradle in the pale morning light, "H’lo?" JC squinted to read the clock in front of him but his eyes wouldn’t focus.

"Hey Jace, you’re not up yet?" Sean asked.

"Hmm?" JC mumbled and turned onto his back. "No, what time is it?" He coughed to clear his throat and rubbed his eyes.

"It’s eight thirty. We didn’t see you at breakfast so I was just calling to see if you were all right." Sean’s voice was tinged with concern.

"Yeah… yeah I’m cool. What time is the caravan leaving?"

"In an hour. We’re just road trippin it into Cleveland today though, so there’s no need to get all dressed up or anything."

"Okay." JC yawned and sat up, it was then that everything sunk in. It was almost nine in the morning and Kyle was still sleeping. He smiled to himself, glad for the extra two hours of sleep that he needed, "We’ll see you down there in an hour then."

"See you then." Sean nodded and hung up the phone.

"Right on." JC whispered as he stood up and went to hop in the shower while Kyle was still sleeping, maybe this time he’d be able to take his time without worrying what Kyle was getting into.

He showered and shaved with the bathroom door open so he’d be able to hear if Kyle got up or started crying, but the child remained silent in the other room. When JC finished dressing he walked over to the bed where Kyle was sound asleep on top of the covers. It wasn’t like him to sleep so late, and with the noise JC had been making in the bathroom he should have been awakened.

"Hey buddy, it’s time to get up." JC said as he sat on the bed, making it sink beneath his added weight. He switched the bedside light on to bring light to the semi-dark room. "Kyle?" He reached out to gently shake his shoulder and he frowned. "Hey… hey buddy." JC rushed his hand to Kyle’s forehead and he caught his breath. He was no doctor but he could tell just by the heat radiating from Kyle that he had a fever.

Panic began to set in as JC moved his hand around Kyle’s head and neck, not entirely sure what he was looking for. "Come on Kyle, wake up." He shook the child again and Kyle slowly opened his eyes. "There you are buddy, come here." He picked Kyle up in his arms and JC felt the intensity of the heat coming from him. "Shit."

"Daddy?" Kyle asked softly with a confused expression on his tiny face. He held his eyes open long enough to look at JC and try to sit up. "No." He closed his eyes again and covered them with his arm.

"It’s okay big guy." JC’s said as his heart picked up the pace in his chest. The sweat from Kyle’s forehead dampened JC’s bicep as he held the little boy close with one arm. He reached for the phone between their beds as his stomach did cartwheels. JC had to dial the tour physicians cell phone number three times before he finally got it right and by then he was feeling the fear creep up in his chest.

"Greg? This is JC… Kyle’s sick." JC spoke quickly as Kyle began to fidget in his arms. "What’s wrong?"

"I don’t know man, he’s burning up though. I mean bad. I’m sitting here holding him and I can feel how hot he is through my shirt."

"Did he throw up?"

"No. No, he didn’t even wake up. I had to wake him up."

"Did he wake up easily?"

"No, I had to shake him and pick him up, he’s still just kind of laying here."

"Does it look like he’s in pain? Is he pulling on his ears or holding his stomach or anything like that?"

"No, no he’s not even moving. Shit Greg… what’s wrong?"

"I don’t know, I’ll come over right now and take his temp, check him out."

"Do we need to go to the hospital?" JC asked as his voice shook.

"Not yet, let me come over. I’ll be there in two minutes." Greg hung up the phone and left JC sitting in silence.

"Come on Kyle… can you sit up for me?" JC lifted Kyle to a sitting position and Kyle started to cry softly. "Okay, okay don’t worry about that. The doctor will be here in a minute." JC rested his large hand on Kyle’s head and held him to his chest. He rocked gently back and forth and sang softly with his lips brushing the top of Kyle’s head, "We’re gonna rock this town, rock it inside out. We’re gonna rock this town, make ‘em scream and – " he was interrupted by a sharp knock on the door across the room.

JC picked Kyle up and carried him like an infant to the door and pulled it open, "Hey thanks for coming over." JC rushed his words as Greg walked into the room.

"Sure thing, let’s check you out kiddo." Greg placed his cool hand on Kyle’s forehead, "Yeah, he’s got a fever. Here, take off his shirt so I can take his temperature."

"His shirt?"

"I didn’t bring a rectal thermometer, that’s what we’d need."

"Yeah but…"

"I’m going to take his temperature under his arm." Greg said as he pulled the thin glass thermometer from his bag.

"What about that ear thing?"

"Batteries died." Greg grumbled. "This works better anyway. Call me old fashioned." He ran his free hand through his prematurely gray hair and smiled.

JC worked with one hand and managed to pull Kyle’s pajama shirt off of his sweaty body. Kyle began to shiver as Greg placed the thermometer in his armpit and held his arm in place. He glanced at his watch to track the time. "Has he been acting puny the last couple days?"

"No, not at all. I mean, he was fine yesterday… I just woke up and found him this way." JC shook his head.

"And he didn’t throw up?"

"No."

"How has he been eating?"

"Fine." JC nodded. "He’s like a dump truck half the time, he eats real good."

"And his bowels?"

"Fine I guess. Nothing weird or anything."

"Has he complained about hurting anywhere?"

"No." JC shook his head as his nervousness grew. "Do you think it’s the flu or something?"

"I’m not sure." Greg shook his head and removed the thermometer from under Kyle’s arm. He held it up to the light and turned it slightly, "We’re going to need to take him to the hospital JC. His temp is 104 and that’s higher than I’d like to see in a child his age." Greg placed his finger under Kyle’s chin and looked at his eyes. "Usually I’d have you give him a lukewarm bath to try to bring it down… but I’d rather be safe than sorry."

"We’re going to the hospital?" JC asked as his heart pounded. "What is it?"

"I don’t know. It could be nothing; it could just be a bad flu or something going around. I’d feel better if a pediatrician looked at him though." Greg reached into his bag again and pulled out a stethoscope. He listened to the little boy’s bare chest and nodded, "He sounds good, maybe a little congested."

"Where do I take him? Greg I don’t know where to go." JC shook his head.

"We’re going to Children’s Hospital."

"I don’t want to go just anywhere, if something’s wrong I want him to see like, the best. Not some jerk off who just graduated high school or whatever."

"Children’s is the best place for him. You’re lucky we’re in Pittsburgh, they’ve got one of the best pediatric teams in the nation. You go ahead and put his shirt back on, then wrap him up in a blanket and meet me by the elevators."

"Okay."

"It’s okay JC. He’ll be fine."

"Okay." JC nodded again and stroked Kyle’s head against his chest. As soon as Greg left JC pulled a clean shirt over Kyle’s head and grabbed his fleece Raiders blanket. JC adjusted Kyle so that he was up on his shoulder, then covered him with the blanket.

"Daddy bye?" Kyle mumbled into JC’s shoulder.

"Yeah, we’re going to the doctor. He’s gonna make you all better."

"Aww better?"

"Yep. All better." JC nodded. "Lay your head down pal…" He grabbed his wallet and room key then headed out to the elevators. They waited for a couple minutes for Greg to come and meet them and in that time Chris came out of his room.

"Hey C, what’s up?"

"Kyle’s sick." JC looked at Kyle’s head on his shoulder. "We’re going to the hospital."

"It’s that serious?" Chris immediately became concerned. He placed his hand flat on Kyle’s forehead and winced, "Damn JC he’s burning up."

"I know. Greg took his temp, it’s 104." JC covered Kyle’s head with the blanket as the little boy clenched his eyes shut against the light of the hall.

"Shit." Chris shook his head.

"Yeah, so we’re uh, we’re going to the hospital." JC's eyes darted from Chris to the boy in his arms. "Can you tell the guys that I'm not gonna - "

"Yeah, yeah of course." Chris interrupted him with a nod. "Which hospital are you going to?"

"Children’s." JC shook his head and looked up the hall again for the doctor.

"Serious? We were just there last night." Chris frowned.

"I know."

"You okay?" Chris asked after watching JC fidget.

"No, I'm not. What's taking him so long?" He adjusted Kyle on his shoulder as the little boy squirmed.

"Do you want me to go with you?"

"No." JC shook his head. "No the caravan is leaving in an hour."

"Yeah but JC… I mean, we can wait."

"No… go ahead and go. We’ve got stuff in Jackson today before the show, you guys can do it." JC cleared his throat as Greg walked up. "Just let everyone know where we are, okay?"

"Call me on my cell as soon as you hear something, okay?" Chris watched with a worried look as JC, Greg and Kyle got on the elevator.

"I will." JC nodded as the doors shut, leaving Chris standing alone in the hall.

Once in the lobby Greg looked at JC, "We need to go out the side entrance, there’s a car waiting."

"Okay." JC quickly walked down the hall to their left as a small crowd of fans in the lobby saw them and gawked. He hoped they would stay put and let them leave in peace, which is just what they did. They watched in awe as JC carried the small boy toward the door at the end of the hall.

"Do you know where we’re going?"

"Children’s." Greg said as he held the van door open.

"But do you know how to get there?" JC pried Kyle from around his neck and strapped him into his car seat much to the child’s dismay.

"He does." Greg nodded at the driver.

"Okay." JC nodded and tucked the fleece blanket around Kyle as they drove away from the hotel. "Are you going to stay with us?"

Greg nodded and watched Kyle fuss in the car seat, "For a little bit, yeah. Just until things get rolling."

"Okay." JC nodded and rubbed Kyle’s head as he let his arm fall across the back of his car seat. "It’s okay buddy, we’re gonna get you all better." He tried to sound reassuring as his anxiety spread across his chest.

When they arrived at Children’s Hospital, the driver dropped them off at the emergency entrance and JC carried Kyle into the waiting area. The room wasn’t as busy as he expected, there were only four other people waiting in the hard chairs watching a Discovery show on tree frogs.

"My son needs a doctor." JC said as he approached the check-in desk at the emergency room. He rested Kyle’s bottom on her desk and let him lean against his chest.

"What seems to be the problem?" The young nurse asked.

"He has a fever." JC shrugged, "I don't know what's wrong."

"His temperature was 104 approximately 20 minutes ago, the child is lethargic and had a hard time waking up." Greg said as he walked up.

"And you are…?"

"I'm Dr. Greg Michaels, I'm the physician on tour with him." He indicated JC.

"Fill out these forms, I'll see about getting a room available." She handed JC a clipboard with a ballpoint pen tied to the silver string then turned and walked down the hall.

"There's like, no one else here and she has to see about opening a room?" JC scoffed as he sat on the hard plastic chairs.

"Here, let me do that." Greg took the clipboard and filled out all the information he could. "Is he allergic to anything?"

"Not that I know of." JC shook his head and stroked Kyle's hair. He answered the rest of Greg’s questions as well as he could then carried the clipboard back up to the nurses station, "Hello?" He asked to no one in particular.

The same nurse stepped out from the back and took his forms, "Thank you. Bring your son on back and we’ll take a look at him."

"Where’s the doctor?" JC asked without moving.

"A nurse will take his temperature and his vitals." She explained slowly.

"No." JC shook his head. "I want a doctor to see him."

"JC – " Greg started.

"No, I’m sorry. Nothing against nurses or interns or whatever, I know you guys work your asses off. But this is my son. I want a doctor." JC stood his ground as he tried to stay calm.

"A nurse will take your sons temperature and then – "

"Then we’ll go to a different hospital." JC stood up straight and looked toward the door.

"JC, let the nurse take his temperature." Greg said. "The doctor will be here soon." He placed his hand on JC’s back and guided him down the hall to the nurse’s station where they took his temperature with an ear thermometer and checked his blood pressure.

"He’s still at 104.4, let’s get you to an examining room and start a cool bath for him." The nurse smiled at Kyle and placed her hand on his neck; "We’ll get you feeling better soon, okay sweet heart?"

Kyle just stared at her with glassy eyes and didn’t even attempt to move. JC’s breath caught in his throat as he carried Kyle down the hall to the little semi-private room with a curtain pulled around the bed.

"Here you go." The nurse nodded. "Go ahead and remove his clothes and leave his diaper on. I’ll be right back with a tub."

"You doing okay here?" Greg asked.

"Yeah." JC rubbed Kyle’s back. "Yeah, I think so."

"You’ll be in good hands here kid, I’m going to head back to the hotel, okay?"

"You’re leaving?" JC looked up with a panicked expression. He pulled Kyle’s shirt off again then tugged at his pajama bottoms.

"I need to go with the crew." Greg nodded. "I’ll let the others know you’re here and I’ll call to check up on you guys." He pulled the curtains back to leave. "He’ll be okay Jace. I know you’re worried, but kids get sick all the time."

"Hi, I’m Dr. Olson… what do we have here today?" An older gentleman asked as he walked into the little examining area.

"This is Kyle, he’s got a fever." JC said.

"Hi, I’m Dr. Michaels." Greg extended his hand to Dr. Olson. "I’m just on my way out."

"Nice to meet you." Dr. Olson smiled. "What have we seen so far?"

"High temp and lethargic, no abnormal bowel movements or eating habits. It could be any number of things." Greg nodded.

Dr. Olson scribbled on Kyle’s chart and nodded at Greg, "Great, thank you."

"I’ll call you later Jace."

"Okay."

"And I’ll see about sending Lonnie or Les over here too, just in case."

"Okay." JC nodded and waved as Greg stepped around the curtain and back out to the hall.

"All righty, Kyle is it?" Dr. Olson looked at the chart. "How has he been the last couple of days?"

"He’s been fine. Nothing out of the ordinary, I mean we were playing around last night right before bed and he was fine."

"Did he sleep well?"

"Yeah, I guess. I mean… I didn’t hear him wake up or cry or anything."

"Would you have? Is his room close to yours I mean?"

"We share a room." JC explained. He took a minute to explain who he was and what he was doing in town.

"What I’d like to get him in the tub and start him on some IV fluids."

"What’s that for?"

"The bath is to help cool his core temperature and the fluids are to replenish any he’s lost. They’ll also give us a direct route to administer antibiotics."

"Antibiotics?"

"Yeah, the fever is trying to kill off an infection of some sort, and antibiotics might help that. If it’s a virus they won’t do any good, but until we find out what it is it can’t do any harm."

"Okay an IV… that’s a needle." JC’s voice shook and his eyes drifted shut at the thought.

"Yes, we’ll go ahead and get that started here in a minute." He looked up quickly as the nurse brought in a small tub of water. Dr. Olson spoke softly to the nurse to tell her which IV he wanted for Kyle, then she left again to get the supplies. "I’m going to have the nurse start the IV before we put him in the water, he’s not going to like either one very much."

"Okay." JC’s lips turned white as he inhaled sharply. "Ooooh man. I don’t do needles well." The nurse returned with the bag of IV fluids and a small kit.

"It’s not for you." The doctor smiled as Kyle clung to JC’s shirt.

"No I know I just… I really don’t like needles. At all." JC averted his eyes as the nurse got the IV ready. She stood beside the examining table and smiled down at Kyle.

"You’re doing just fine. Hold him still for a second and we’ll get this started." She spoke calmly to both Kyle and JC as she prepared the IV.

JC took a deep breath and closed his eyes as she pierced Kyle’s small hand with the needle, barely eliciting a sound from the child, "Oow." He mumbled softly. "Hand daddy."

"I know buddy, you’re being real tough."

"Okay, we’re set here." The nurse taped the IV in place and patted Kyle’s bare leg. "You’re doing good kiddo. Good job."

"Now what?" JC took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair trying to chase the stars from his eyes.

"Go ahead and take his diaper off then put him in the tub." Dr. Olson nodded toward the plastic tub. "He’s not going to like it much, the water is going to seem freezing cold to him." He turned to the nurse, "Thank you Michelle." She nodded then left the room as quietly as she entered.

"But… but it’ll help?" JC asked cautiously.

"It’s the first step, yes. Tepid baths can help to bring the temperature down to a safer lever."

"Okay." JC picked up Kyle who wrapped his arm around JC’s neck while the hand with the IV hung at his side. The doctor helped JC maneuver across the narrow room with the IV poll. "Do I need to keep it out of the water?"

"Yeah, just let his arm hang out of the tub."

"Okay." JC nodded nervously. All of his fears were staring him in the face; hospitals, needles, kids, sickness, responsibility.

JC rubbed his neck and carefully lifted Kyle over the tub. Kyle saw the water below and lifted his knees up to his chest in protest, "No bath."

"You need a bath just for a few minutes." JC lowered him as Kyle tried to climb up his chest. "Just for a couple minutes. I won’t get your face wet I promise." He looked at the doctor, "I don’t have to get his face wet do I?"

"No, no we’re just going to drip the water over is back and torso."

"Okay." JC nodded and finally got Kyle into the water.

"No code." Kyle began to cry softly, as if he just didn’t have the energy to do any more. "Is code."

"I know it’s cold Kyle, but it’s important."

"No potant. Is code."

"Yep buddy, it’s important." JC pinched his eyes closed for a second, and when he opened them he saw the doctor preparing a hypodermic needle, "What's that?" JC closed his eyes again as the doctor reached for the IV tubing.

"Penicillin." He nodded.

"Okay." JC sat back and took a deep breath. "Wait! No! No don’t give him that! Stop!" He reached across the tub, placing his hand in the direct path of the needle, "Wait, he's allergic to penicillin." JC's heart pounded in his chest as he remembered the letter. "Oh Jesus." He whispered under his breath.

"It's a good thing you caught that." Dr. Olson set the penicillin aside and scribbled on Kyle's chart. "Anaphylactic shock is about the last thing he needs right now."

"I know… I'm sorry. I just… I forgot." JC rested his head in his hands as Kyle began to shiver in the tiny tub. His hands shook as he scooped more water and dripped it down Kyle’s tiny back.

"Nurse? Can you please swap this out for erythromycin? Seems we have an allergy to contend with."

"Yes doctor." The nurse took the offending drug away and returned a few minutes later with the correct medication.

"There we go, much better." The doctor injected Kyle's IV line with the new drug then set the needle aside.

"So… what now?"

"We're going to try to get his fever down, this bath should be doing the trick. Let's see where we are." Dr. Olson retrieved his ear thermometer from his pocket and took Kyle's temperature while he sat in the lukewarm bath. "Okay, let's get more cool water in here." The nurse standing nearby rushed to get another bucket of water.

"What? What is it?" JC’s heart raced for the thousandth time that morning. He was glad he was in a hospital because he felt like he might have a panic attack himself.

"His fever is at 106."

"106?!" JC's heart skipped a beat. "What… what does that mean?"

"Any number of things." The doctor watched carefully as the nurse poured more room temperature water into Kyle’s bath. Against his hot skin the water felt like ice and he continued to cry.

"No daddy, code." Kyle tried to climb out of the small tub using JC’s arms and shoulders.

"No buddy, come on. You need to stay in there, its going to make you all better."

"Code." Kyle whimpered.

"I know it’s cold… just a few more minutes." JC wrapped his arms around Kyle, not caring that his shirt was getting wet. Kyle shivered against JC’s shoulder as he took small handfuls of water and dripped them down Kyle’s torso.

Dr. Olson took his temperature again several minutes later and noted that it had dropped to 105, then after another twenty minutes it was down to 103. "Okay, let’s take him out so I can get another look at him." Dr. Olson said as JC lifted Kyle from his seemingly frigid bath and wrapped him in a towel.

"Ow daddy." Kyle cried into JC's shoulder.

"I know big guy… we're trying to get you better."

"Ow daddy ow."

"I know…" JC stroked Kyle's damp hair and carried him back to the examining table.

"Go ahead and put a clean diaper on him, I’ll be right back." Dr. Olson left the room while JC tried to put a diaper on Kyle who was refusing to lie down.

"Help me out here buddy, just let go for a second so I can tape this, okay?" JC said softly as he released Kyle’s arms from around his neck. "You’re being so brave Kyle, you are. You’re such a big boy."

"I big?" Kyle sniffled.

"You sure are." JC smiled and taped the diaper into place, "There you go, all done." He pulled Kyle closer and sat on the examining table with Kyle on his lap.

"Go bye?" Kyle asked hopefully as he looked up at JC with red rimmed eyes.

"Not yet buddy, the doctors is coming back." JC said as the door opened and Dr. Olson stepped back into the room.

"I want to check his throat and neck, if you can set him down over here I’ll take a look."

"Can I hold him?" JC asked as Kyle held tighter.

"Sure." Dr. Olson smiled.

"I just don’t think he’d let go." JC explained softly, leaving out the fact that he didn’t think he could let go either.

"That’s fine."

"So, what are you checking for now?"

"I'd like to check his throat for infection, to see if it's enflamed. He's got something going on in that little body that the body doesn't like, the fever is trying to fight it off." Dr. Olson explained softly as he gently opened Kyle’s mouth to take a look with a little light and a tongue depressor. "Not too red, not enough to warrant a 106."

"Okay now what?" JC asked, as he became more and more nervous.

"Hey Kyle buddy, can you look down at your feet?" Dr. Olson placed his finger under Kyle's chin.

"No." Kyle frowned and jerked away from the doctor, keeping his head up.

"Kyle, I need you to look down at your feet, or your daddy's, can you see your daddy's shoes?"

"No." Kyle said adamantly.

"Guess what socks I have on?" JC tried.

"No…" Kyle whined and buried his face in JC’s shoulder.

"I have Elmo socks on." JC said whispered.

Kyle dropped his chin a fraction of an inch them stopped suddenly as if it hurt. "I see?" He cried as he looked back up at JC.

"I'll show you when we get home buddy." JC rubbed Kyle's head and looked up at the doctors, "What's wrong with his neck?"

"I’m worried that it might be meningitis. With a fever like this and a stiff neck… I'd feel better if I ordered a lumbar puncture."

"Meningitis?" JC's heart dropped to his knees as he looked at his son. "That's… that's really bad."

"It can be, yes. That's why I'd like to test him as soon as possible. The quicker we diagnose it the better his chances are."

JC's blood ran cold, "His chances?"

"Mr. Chasez, I'd like to get that lumbar puncture done as soon as possible. After that we'll be able to narrow it down a little more. If it's not meningitis then we need to locate the origin of infection, and if it is meningitis we'll need to determine if it's viral or bacterial."

"What’s the difference?"

"Meningitis is the swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This can occur due to infection by either bacteria or viruses. Bacterial meningitis is not as common, but very serious. It could result in death or disability if not treated right away." JC's heart skipped a beat. "Viral meningitis is a little more common and is rarely fatal. In general, people with viral meningitis recover fully."

"H-how do you tell the difference?"

"The lumbar puncture will give us a kind of blue print, with the results of that we'll be able to tell by the white blood cell count, measure of glucose and the gram stain."

"Lumbar puncture… that… that's a spinal tap?" JC held Kyle tight in his arms.

"Yes."

"Where would we have to go?"

"Upstairs to neurology."

"Right now?"

"Yes." Dr. Olson nodded.

"Okay." JC nodded and did his best not to think about the needle that would have to be used. He'd made it through the whole IV process, but this was something different. "Let's go."

Dr. Olson escorted them upstairs to the neurology department where he had JC sit in the waiting room with Kyle. JC sat in one of the empty chairs by the front desk as Kyle dozed off in his arms snoring softly. Kyle would jerk awake every couple of minutes to squirm and whimper softly before drifting back to sleep.

It seemed like forever until the doctor came to the door and asked, "Kyle Chasez?" JC would have been upset at having to wait so long, if he wasn’t so busy worrying about all of the possible outcomes.

"Yeah." JC nodded and stood up. He adjusted Kyle on his shoulder and the little boy woke up and whined into JC’s shirt. They followed the doctor down the cold and empty hall to a pale blue examination room with seascape pictures on the wall.

"Hi, I’m Dr. Herzog." She smiled and shook his hand. "How’s he doing?"

"I don’t know." JC shook his head slowly.

"Have you ever had or seen a lumbar puncture before?"

"Uh… no." JC saw stars as he thought about the needle that would be used.

"Okay, well basically what I’m going to do is insert a needle into the space between two vertebrae in Kyle’s lower back to withdraw some spinal fluid which will be tested. They’re going to do a white blood cell count to check for infection and a gram stain to see if it’s viral or bacterial… if it’s meningitis at all. They’ll also check glucose and protein levels."

"If it’s not meningitis will the spinal tap tell what it is?" JC sat in the chair against the wall as Dr. Herzog pulled out a clean section of paper to line the bed.

"No, this will only prove or rule out meningitis. If it’s not meningitis then we’ll have to run some more tests to find out what exactly it is." She shook her head and patted the table. Can you go ahead and lay him up here?"

JC looked at the covered tray beside the table and his stomach took a nosedive, "Hey uh… I'm really, really bad with needles." He explained to the doctor. "Do I have to uh…"

"You don't have to see it." She smiled and shook her head.

"Can you tell me before you take it out? Seriously, I'll pass out."

"You'll be fine. I'll give you fair warning. If you can take his diaper off, or pull it down in the back, that'd be best. You can leave it kind of half on, covering the front just in case." She nodded and stood over the tray with her body blocking JC’s view of the needle and vials as he removed Kyle’s diaper again. Dr. Herzog took several minutes to get everything ready then turned around to face Kyle; "We’re just about ready. Dad? Can you lay him on his side right here?" She patted the edge of the bed and helped to roll Kyle onto his side, "Okay, here's what I'll need you to do. You'll need to kind of curl him into a ball so that his back is tight, like the fetal position? Sort of hug him with his knees against your chest and wrap your arms around his torso to keep him still."

"Okay." JC's voice shook. "Like this?" He leaned over the bed and held Kyle close.

"That's perfect." She nodded. "He's not going to like this, so hold him as still as you can."

"Okay." JC took a deep breath to keep himself conscious. He buried his head between Kyle's shoulder and neck and willed himself not to be sick. "Go ahead." There was no way he could remain standing if he saw the needle.

JC smelled the sharp scent of betadine then heard the cover come off the tray. He took a deep breath in through his nose, out through his mouth. "Okay dad, hold on now. One… two… three."

On the count of three Kyle jerked with a start, "No no daddy no!" He cried into JC's shoulder and began to squirm, trying to arch his back. "No daddy ow ow!" He shouted.

"It's okay Kyle. You’re being real brave buddy." JC tried to sound reassuring as he held his son tight. "Calm down big guy, it's almost over." JC kept his head hidden as Kyle cried heart wrenching tears.

"Daddy no ow!"

"I'm sorry Kyle… I'm so sorry buddy; you're going to be okay. I've got you."

"We're almost done here guys, another couple seconds." The doctor said softly as she shuffled around by JC's head. "You're doing good dad, he's being real still."

"Are you done?"

"Just about."

"Daddy no no." Kyle's screams subsided to softer cry as the doctor pushed the tray away and patted JC's back.

"All done."

"Can I pick him up?" JC lifted his head and rubbed his eyes.

"In just a minute." She wiped Kyle's lower back off and placed a smiley face band-aid over the puncture. "His back is going to be tender for a day or two, and he will probably have a bad head ache."

"Okay."

"Not that he'd be able to tell you. They'll probably give him a sedative when you get him to his room; sleep is really the best thing for him. What room are you in?"

"I don’t know, we haven’t been checked in I don’t think." JC leaned on the bed to hug Kyle close as the little boy continued to cry.

"You haven’t?" Dr. Herzog cleaned up the tray and threw her gloves in the trash.

"No, we came in the emergency room and then Dr. Olson brought us up here."

"Okay, then I’ll call Dr. Olson back and have him get you checked in upstairs."

"Okay." JC nodded and wiped Kyle's cheek with his fingers.

"You can go ahead and pick him up now, just be careful of his lower back."

"How far down is it? I mean, where do I need to be careful?" JC asked.

"Here, I'll show you."

"No! No that's okay." JC began to feel faint at the thought.

"It's just a band aid." The doctor smiled, she'd seen nervous parents before.

JC peeked over Kyle's side to look at his back. There near his bottom was a little neon green band aid, "That's it?" JC put one arm under Kyle’s behind and the other hand on his head to hold him up on his shoulder. He gently rubbed the back of Kyle’s neck and head as he tried to calm him down.

"That's it."

"Do I have to do anything for it? Neosporin or anything?"

"Nope." She shook her head, "It's just a little puncture wound, like when you take blood or get an injection. The needle is a little bigger, but you don't need to do anything special for it. If in a day or two it's red or swollen bring him back in immediately. But these things usually heal on their own."

"Okay." JC’s vision faded on the edges with all the talk about needles. "Now what?"

"Once he gets checked in and a sedative, he’ll be asleep." Dr. Herzog tilted her head and smiled as Kyle’s cries turned into sporadic sniffs and muffled hiccups.

"Okay." JC sighed. "When will we know?"

"The sample I took will be at the lab in just a little bit, we'll expedite the results and Dr. Martinez will know within an hour or so."

"Dr. Martinez?" JC tried to pull Kyle’s diaper back on with one hand but it wasn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped. Dr. Martinez reached over and tugged at one side then gently slid it up and over his new little band aid.

"He’s the pediatrician that will be caring for Kyle after he’s checked in."

"What about Dr. Olson?"

"He’s ER." She nodded. "Dr. Martinez is upstairs where Kyle’s will be checked in."

"Okay." JC nodded and sighed as he lifted Kyle off the little table. Everything was happening so fast he could barely tell which end was up. "Then what?"

"Then he'll take it from there." She smiled and patted JC’s arm. "I’ll come up and check on him tonight before I leave okay?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and wiped the perspiration from his upper lip on Kyle’s bare shoulder. "Can I get him dressed?"

"He’ll be given a hospital gown when you get upstairs so that you don’t have to worry about bumping the IV." She smiled. "You did really good."

"Thanks." JC mumbled and reached for Kyle’s blanket.

"Do you want to sit here for a little until he calms down?

"Yeah, I guess." JC nodded and rocked back and forth.

"Okay, I’ll go call Dr. Martinez, he’ll be down to get you in just a little bit.

"Thanks." JC nodded as Dr. Herzog ducked out the door.

"Go bye?" Kyle whimpered between shaky breaths.

"No we’re gonna stay here for a little bit then another doctor is going to come and take us to a new bed."

"No doka." Kyle’s bottom lip quivered as he began to cry again.

"The doctors are our friends Kyle, they’re going to make you all better.

"Owwie."

"I know it hurt but you’ll feel better soon big guy." JC wrapped the blanket around Kyle and held him flat against his chest as he stroked his head. "Do you want a song?"

"Yeah." Kyle mumbled.

"Which one?" JC asked.

"Boat."

"Boat?" JC asked, "I don’t know a boat song."

"Peese?"

"How about Sting?"

"Yeah."

"Okay." JC smiled as Kyle’s nose ran against his collarbone. "You can play the jack of diamonds, you can play the queen of hearts, you can conceal the king in your hand… as the memory of it fades." He sang the song all the way through to try to calm Kyle down but every now and then he’d still hear a wobbly breath or a soft sniffle.

JC counted the tiles on the ceiling as they waited and he realized that they’d spent most of their day doing just that. Waiting. And he’d continue waiting for the lab results, then waiting for Kyle to get better, then waiting to go home.

 

 Chapter 8…

 

Copyright � 2001, Amy Lynn