JC stared at the phone in his hand for a few silent minutes before he took a deep breath and turned it on. It was another three minutes before he managed to dial all ten digits of Ali’s phone number. He waited in anticipation as it rang and for a moment he hoped she wouldn’t answer. She had been okay when he told her that he was going for the DNA tests, but he could tell she was already counting backwards in her head and trying to figure out just when this might have taken place.

Just as he was reaching to turn the phone off she answered, "Hello?"

"H-hey babe." He stuttered.

"Jace?" She asked. "What’s wrong? You sound weird."

"I’m on my cell." He explained, as if cell phones could mysteriously make his voice crack and shake.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah… yeah I’m… well kinda." He stumbled over his words as his heart raced in his chest. "The lab called this morning with the test results." He said softly.

Ali paused for a second, "Oh?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and handed Kyle the second cracker in the tiny pack. "Uh… yeah." He said softly.

"And?"

"And I uh… I am." JC said slowly then waited for her response. "Say something." JC whispered as he listened to the deafening silence coming from Ali’s end of the phone line. "Ali…"

"What JC? What do you want me to say?"

"Something… anything." He rested his head in his hands as Kyle toddled toward the open door. "No Kyle, stay inside buddy."

"Kyle? That’s his name?" Ali asked with a shaky voice.

"Yeah." JC nodded. He waited for her to say more but she had nothing to say, "Ali… come on. You have to say something."

"I don’t think I’m the one that has to say anything. I think you’re the one who has some explaining to do."

"Ali I don’t know. There’s nothing to explain."

"You have a two year old son, that’s a damn lot to explain." She fumed.

"Yeah but Ali, its not like I knew and didn’t tell you." He tried to argue.

"He was conceived while we were dating. You know what Jace? You’re right. You have nothing to explain. Nothing you could say right now would make things okay…"

"Ali it’s not like that."

"It’s not?" She asked sarcastically.

"No, Ali it was nothing. It was just one night. One night that I didn’t even remember."

"You’re not building your case here JC. That’s not the way to smooth this over."

"Ali… it meant nothing, absolutely nothing. Less than that."

"That’s a shitty thing to say about the night that created your son." She said softly.

JC sighed, "You know what I mean."

"How many other one nights of ‘nothing’ have there been?" She asked with a tone that JC recognized. There was no right or wrong answer here, she’d made up her mind and there was no changing that.

"Ali…" JC rubbed his temples and reached out for Kyle as he made another go at the door, "You have to stay inside Kyle."

"Ouside." Kyle frowned.

"In just two minutes we can go outside, right now you need to be inside." JC tugged his arm back gently and stood up to shut the door. He went back to Ali, "Sorry."

"You’ve got your hands full there. Why don’t I just call you later?" The bite of sarcasm was sharp in her voice.

"No Ali… listen, I’m sorry. For all of this, I just… I need some help here."

Ali’s sudden laugh was not what JC expected, "You want me to help you?"

JC’s heart sunk, there was no recovering from this one, "Please Ali, let’s just talk."

"Not now JC." Ali sighed. "We’ve both got some thinking to do and I don’t think I can deal with this right now. I’ll call you later." She hung up before he could respond.

"Shit." JC tossed his phone down on the bed and stood up angrily.

"Go ouside?" Kyle asked as he placed his hands on the glass door.

"Not now." JC clenched his fists at his side and took a deep breath. His heart rate returned to normal as he closed his eyes and let his head fall back. JC took a minute to collect his bearings then turned back to Kyle, "Did you eat breakfast?"

"No ouside."

"We can’t go outside." JC sighed and pressed his eyes closed.

"One minute?"

"No Kyle, we're not going outside." He snapped.

Kyle's bottom lip began to quiver as he reached for his stuffed dog. "Kay." He took the dog over to the bed and laid his head on the crumpled up bedspread with his face turned away from JC.

"Shit." JC said under his breath, "I'm sorry kid, come on. Let's go get some grub before we have to go." He held out his hand to Kyle who didn't move. "Let's go."

"No." Kyle said into Lello's back.

"Yes. I'm not fooling around here."

"No." Kyle insisted as he buried his face deeper into Lello's fuzzy fur.

"Kyle." JC took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. "Let's go get some breakfast." He was met with silence as Kyle shifted his weight from foot to foot, never raising his head from the blankets. JC was completely lost, he had no idea what to do with a kid that didn't want to move. "I'll bet Lello's hungry." He heard himself say. He would have kicked himself in the butt if it hadn't worked.

"Lello eat?"

"Yeah, come on kiddo. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I suck. Let's go get some grub before we're late."

"Yeah." Kyle stood up and walked slowly toward the door. "No ouside." He said sadly.

"We'll go outside later, okay?"

"Later." Kyle nodded and waited by the door for JC. He remained quiet through breakfast and only cheered up when Chris walked into the room as they were leaving.

"Hey! Kyle my man. What up dog?" Chris laughed and flung Kyle in the air.

"He just ate man, don’t make him puke." JC glanced down the hall looking for Sean or Jessica.

"Oh man, you won't puke will you? Puking's for dorks. Kyle's too cool to puke." Chris laughed and tickled Kyle's sides. "Is he coming with us today?"

"Not if I can help it." JC mumbled.

"Hmm?" Chris looked up, he'd heard him but he wanted to give JC the chance to say it a little louder.

"Yeah, he's coming with us." JC nodded and reached for Kyle, "We've gotta go."

"Hey wait, how'd it go with your parents?"

"Mom's pissed, of course. But I don't know, I think she's secretly happy you know? A grandson and everything." He said softly. "Ali's pissed though."

"I bet." Chris shook his head with sympathy. "How about the officer chick? Did you call her?"

"Yeah." JC ran his hand through his hair. "She said that since I'm… you know, his father and everything… the investigation is pretty much off. They just needed to find a relative to take the child and that's me. I can't just hand him over to the county so I'm keeping him for now."

"What about the mom?" Chris asked softly.

"I don't know. I mean, I could file a missing persons report but I don’t know what the hell she looks like or what her name is."

"So what's next?"

"I don't know." He sighed and reached for Kyle's hand. "I've gotta talk to Sean and the other guys. You know where he is?"

"Sean?"

"Yeah."

"Nope." Chris shook his head. "Last I heard he was meeting up at the studio this afternoon for Leno."

"Dammit." JC shook his head. "Alright, I'll see you later then. If you see Sean have him find me okay?"

"Sure thing." Chris waved as JC and Kyle stepped into the hall.

"Jace! Hey man, how'd it go?" Justin asked as he trotted down the hall with a granola bar in his hand.

"What?"

"Dude, telling Ali and your mom."

"How fast do rumors spread around here?"

"Rumor?" Justin raised an eyebrow at JC then smiled down at Kyle. "Try that line on someone else man, the dude looks just like you."

"He does not." JC scowled.

"Yeah he does. You both look like pouty brats." Justin laughed and reached down to rub Kyle's hair. "He's got better hair though. How's it going little man?"

"Hi." Kyle gave Justin a half smile and hugged Lello to his chest tighter.

"Hi." Justin laughed. "So? How'd it go?"

"As well as expected I guess." JC sighed. "I've gotta go find Sean, I'll catch you later okay?"

"You bet. See ya." Justin took a bite of his breakfast and ducked into the cafeteria.

JC sighed deeply and rubbed his eyes, "Okay Kyle, let's go find Sean. We've got some talkin to do." He tugged the toddler's hand as they walked down the hall in silence.

JC didn't get a chance to talk to Sean until they were done with their first set of interviews and photo shoots that morning. Les watched Kyle for that two hours, but gave him back to JC as soon as they were done. When JC finally got a chance to talk to Sean a little later, he already knew the test results. "News travels fast around here kid."

"I guess so." JC sighed.

"Well I've already contacted Johnny back in Florida. He said - "

"You called Johnny?" JC looked up quickly.

"Yeah." Sean nodded. "He was going to find out sooner or later."

"Yeah but…"

"But nothing. He's already on the look out for a low profile but highly recommended private investigator to see what we can do about locating the kid's mom. If you don't wanna do that or whatever let me know now and we'll call it off."

"No! No I want to do that. Definitely." JC nodded. "But we don’t have anything to go on."

"I know… we're working on that too."

"Okay."

"So what's up with you? You doing okay?"

"No." JC shook his head. "I haven't got a decent nights sleep in days."

"You'll get used to it." Sean smiled. "Are you ready for Leno?"

"Ready?"

"The vans leave here in less than an hour."

"Shit. Already?" JC looked at his watch.

"Yeah, did you eat lunch yet?"

"No, I'm not hungry." JC yawned.

"How about him?" Sean nodded at Kyle. "Are you hungry buddy?" Kyle nodded in response and fidgeted at JC's side. "I'd say he's hungry and he needs a diaper change."

"Beautiful." JC rolled his eyes and headed for his room again. "See you in an hour."

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

Jay Leno always made the guys feel like they were at home, so taping the Tonight Show was like a vacation. The guys each had their own dressing rooms supplied with each of their favorite drinks and snacks. Tom Hanks was the only other guest for the night so the guys tracked him down and got some pictures taken with him.

Kyle hung out with Jessica in the little day care room off to the side of the set and they played with all of the little noise making toys. They had a great time as usual and Kyle was tired out by the time they left the studios three hours later.

They all went back to the hotel where JC took Kyle and went to their room immediately. He ordered up dinner and they ate together at the little table in the corner. Kyle nodded off in the middle of his dinner with his hamburger bun still in his hand.

"I've never seen anyone so tired they couldn't eat before. Kyle? Hey buddy, wake up dude. Finish eating." JC tapped on his little shoulder.

Kyle jerked his head up and tried to focus his eyes, "Tired." He mumbled.

"Yeah I can see that. Eat some more of your burger though. You need to eat."

"No tired." He crawled out of his chair and stumbled toward the bed by the window. After a few tries he made it onto the full size bed and collapsed just shy of the pillows at the top of the bed. He was snoring before JC could reach across the table to pick up the discarded hamburger bun. "Well if you're not gonna eat it…" JC sighed and took a bite of the half-eaten bun.

JC caught a movie on the pay-per-view then he too fell asleep on top of the covers, snoring in unison with his son.

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

By six o'clock the next morning they were all packed up and piled onto their buses to drive north to San Francisco. JC headed straight for the bunks to finish off his ten hours of "needed" sleep while the others spread out around the bus to try to entertain themselves for the eight-hour drive.

Kyle stood by the couch in the front room basically looking lost as everyone got settled. He watched with caution as Lance danced around the little kitchen making a pitcher of juice and ducked out of the way when Justin climbed up on the little couch to pull stuff out of the overhead cabinets.

After the third pass Joey stopped and looked down at Kyle as if just remembering he was there. "Hey." He nodded at the kid. Kyle looked up at him with wide eyes, but didn't say a word. "You okay?" Kyle nodded slightly and stuck his finger in his mouth. "Wanna come hang out with me back there?" He nodded toward the back of the bus and smiled. "There's all kinds of games and stuff back there. Lot's of cool things for little kids… and big kids." Kyle nodded again and gave Joey a small smile. "There's nothing scary back there." Joey made his scary face and tickled Kyle under his chin.

Kyle laughed softly and took his finger from his mouth, "Lello?"

"Is that your dog? Sure, bring him along." Joey nodded and unzipped the red backpack that seemed to go wherever Kyle went. He pulled out the floppy dog and handed him to Kyle. "All righty, it's game time." He held out his hand for Kyle to take and they walked on back to the game area, unnoticed by anyone else.

"You like video games kid?" Joey asked as he leaned back on the couch with a bright green controller in his hand

Kyle just stared up at the TV screen with wide eyes as he nodded, "I see?" He looked at Joey quickly, then went right back to the TV.

"You wanna play with me? I’m not very good though." Joey frowned and handed Kyle one of the controllers. Kyle held it in both hands as he dropped himself on the floor by Joey’s feet. "Here, see? You just push these buttons and make it go." Joey tried to explain.

"I pay?"

"Sure you can play!" Joey laughed and hit the start button on the console.

"And you?"

"You bet, I’ll play too." Joey kicked back and leaned against the big pillows. Kyle watched for a second, then grabbed a pillow off the couch and set it by Joey’s, then sat just like the older man. "Okay, are you ready?"

"Yeah!"

Joey started the game then reached over to Kyle’s controller, "Here, push this like this. Watch up there on the TV, see? Then you push this button and you can jump."

"Rad." Kyle laughed as Joey turned back to play the game.

The controller was too big for Kyle to both hold and press the buttons, so he sat it on the floor and pushed all of the buttons at random. His on screen character jumped, flipped, walked and ran sporadically around the screen.

Joey tried to play the game right but ended up laughing as Kyle got more and more excited at seeing his character move and fly.

"What are they doing back there?" Justin gave Lance a curious look.

"Playing video games." Lance shrugged.

"He’s letting the kid play Alien Resurrection?!" Justin jumped up. "That’ll scar him for life."

"No… Joey got some new games, they’re playing one of those."

"Shit." Justin headed for the back of the bus, but stopped just before he pulled the drape back.

"You’re kicking my butt here Kyle, check it out. Next time I want to be Littlefoot and you can be Spike."

"No I Lifoot." Kyle laughed.

"No, I am. You can be Sera."

"No I Lifoot."

"No way man, you’re Littlefoot this time, next time I get to be Littlefoot."

"No me!" Kyle laughed hysterically.

Joey sighed in resignation then laughed, "Okay fine."

"Fine." Kyle yawned and sat back against the pillows on the floor.

"Hey what are you guys doing in there?" Justin knocked lightly as he pulled the dark curtain aside.

"We’re playing." Joey didn’t take his eyes off the TV.

"What is this?" Justin laughed and saw the animated dinosaurs on the screen running through the jungle.

"Land Before Time – Race to the Great Valley." Joey smiled.

"Joe…"

"Oh come on, it’s fun and he likes it." Joey looked over his shoulder at Justin. "And he’s kicking my butt."

"Where’s Jace?"

"Beats me." Joey shrugged and made his character jump over a puddle while Kyle’s dinosaur kept ducking his head repeatedly at nothing. "Probably sleeping."

"Figures." Justin sighed and shook his head, "Oh well, have fun guys."

"Okay bye." Joey waved over his head and laughed.

"Bye." Kyle imitated Joey by putting his hand over his head to wave also.

"You guys scare me." Justin laughed and shut the little curtain, then went back to where Lance and Chris were making sandwiches. "They’re playing some cartoon game."

"Lovely." Chris laughed. "Want a sandwich?"

"Sure." Justin sat in the little breakfast nook and leaned back. "What’ve you got there?"

"PB&J." Chris held up in sandwich and took a bite. "Yum."

"I’ll take one of those." Justin nodded. "Got milk?"

Lance laughed softly from the table as Chris talked with his mouth full, "Gah Mowk?"

"Swallow what’s in your mouth, that’s gross." Justin laughed and sat across from Lance at the table. He picked up the deck of cards and shuffled, "I hate cards." He mumbled under his breath, but he dealt them anyway. They had a few more hours to kill and nothing better to do.

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

They arrived in San Francisco three hours later and only stopped at the hotel long enough to let Joey out, then the bus drove them out to the stadium where their stage was already set up.

"Do not pass ‘Go’, do not go to the hotel, do not rest, do not collect $200." Chris sighed as he, Justin, Lance and JC filed into the side door of the arena.

"Jace?" Les called from the door. He held Kyle’s tiny hand in his as he held the door open, "We need his bag."

"Shit." JC rolled his eyes and turned around so sharply he almost slammed into Lance. He ran back to the bus and bounced up the little steps to the sitting area. The red backpack was on the floor by the chair so he checked the contents then zipped it and threw it over his shoulder.

JC caught up with the others on the stage and tossed the backpack to Lonnie, "Can you get that to Kyle?"

"Yeah." Lonnie held the bag at his side and watched as the four guys walked around the stage just checking things out. "Where’s Fatone?"

"Getting his eyes checked." Lance tapped at his temple.

"He okay?"

"Yeah, we all have regular check ups. It’s just his turn this week." Lance laughed and sat behind the drum kit.

"Get out of there kid." Steve, their drummer said gruffly as he walked up.

"I’m not touchin anything." Lance laughed, but he did what he was told.

"Okay guys, get your head in the game. Let’s get the sound check started. Today boys." Their stage coordinator clapped his hands and got everyone's attention.

They went through their sound check then headed back to craft to get something to eat before the shows. The venue would be filling up soon, and they didn't have that much spare time. Sean showed up as they finished their dinner and handed Kyle and his bag to JC, "Here you go, Lonnie gave him some dinner so he should be cool."

"Wait, Sean… I've gotta go to hair and make up then get ready." JC complained.

"Well… now you've got a tag-a-long." Sean shrugged and ruffled Kyle's short hair. "See you later kiddo."

Kyle waved halfheartedly and held his stuffed dog close, "Bye."

"Shit." JC said under his breath as Lance walked by.

"Watch your mouth man." Lance frowned.

"Yeah okay mom."

"I mean it. At his age kids pick up all kind of talk and the last thing you want is a two year old cussing you out."

"Yeah." JC rolled his eyes and lugged Kyle out into the hall. He had twenty minutes to be done with his hair and make up and he was already late.

Kyle cruised around the dressing room as the guys got ready for the show a half hour later. They were running later than usual and tensions were running high. Jessica was gone for the evening at a fashion show nearby to check out some designs for some upcoming awards shows, so the guys were on their own as far as their wardrobe went. Everything was set up and ready to go, but if anything major came up they’d have to rely on each other.

"How come my pockets are stitched closed?" Joey asked as he tried to put his hands in the pockets of his pants.

"Jessica said they pooched out too much."

"So what? I don’t care about pooching. Where am I supposed to put my hand?"

"When we’re dancing?" Justin laughed.

"Toss me those scissors." Joey held his hand out to JC who was closest to the blue handled scissors on the roll around.

"No way, just leave it. She can fix it tomorrow." JC shook his head.

"Or I could just fix it right now." Joey sighed.

"You could also cut it wrong and end up having a huge hole in the only pair of ‘patchwork’ pants you’ve got." Lance pointed out.

"Just leave them till tomorrow." JC sighed. "Kyle get out of there." He watched as Kyle reached into the large tub of ice.

"He’s okay." Joey frowned.

"He’ll get ice all over the floor." JC shook his head. "I swear, I never knew kids could make such big messes out of every little thing."

"He’s alright." Justin reached over and picked up a piece of ice. "Here you go bud, don’t drop it okay?"

"Kay." Kyle smiled up at Justin and took the square piece of ice. He held it tight in his fist and smiled as it began to melt and drip on his shoes. "Oh code!"

"Ice is really really cold huh?" Justin laughed and scooped Kyle up to set him in the couch. "There you go, you can sit right there while we get ready."

"Where’s E-L-M-O?" Joey asked, spelling out the creature's name in case he was accidentally left on the bus.

"On the bus." Justin nodded.

"His dog thing is in his bag." JC nodded toward the red backpack at the end of the couch.

"Lello? Right on." Joey unzipped the backpack and tossed the floppy brown dog at Kyle. "There’s Lello, hang out with him while we get dressed, okay?"

"Kay." Kyle watched the water drops run from his closed hand to the couch cushion.

"See? No problem." Joey smiled up at JC who just shook his hand and turned his attention to his racks of clothes.

They five older guys got themselves dressed in their performance gear, then had their hair and make-up done with little complaints. JC sat himself on the couch to double tie his shoes and smiled, "He’s out like a light."

Kyle was curled up in the corner of the couch with his dog hugged to his chest. His mouth hung open ever so slightly and JC could hear a soft snore, for a moment JC wondered if he snored too.

"Jace? You ready?" Lance tapped on the door frame.

"Yeah." JC stood up and left the room without looking back. They had a show to do and he needed to be completely focused on that. He followed Lance down to the side of the stage where they met up with the other three guys. They hyped each other up before they did their hackey, then they took their positions under the stage as their adrenaline coursed through their veins. It was show time.

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

They dropped through the stage again at the end of their show then took off for the dressing room, anxious to release the energy that the show had created. "I can’t believe how loud it gets out there." Chris laughed as he blew out his breath and ran his hands through his sweat soaked hair. "I swear, it gets louder every night."

"Just turn your hearing aid down pops." Justin laughed as he ran by and shoved Chris out of the way.

"Keep it up fro boy." Chris threatened him with a playful smile. He and Joey headed straight for the showers across from the dressing room while Lance ducked away to the now empty green room to call his girlfriend in silence.

JC shook his head and laughed as he pushed the dressing room door open, "Man it’s crazy how every night is that insane." Justin followed him into the room and kicked the door shut as he peeled his shirt off over his head.

"Where’s Kyle?" Justin frowned as JC dropped himself on the couch.

"Huh?" JC covered his eyes with his arm.

"Kyle." Justin looked behind the couch and lifted the small pile of discarded clothes.

"I don’t know." JC mumbled.

"Dude, Jace… he’s not here."

"He was asleep on the couch when we went on."

"And where are you laying right now?" Justin asked sarcastically as he looked around the racks of clothes.

JC thought about that for a second then jumped up with a surge of adrenaline. He looked back down at the couch, certain he’d just crushed Kyle. There was nothing there but the dark brown cushions and JC started to relax a little.

"I’m gonna call Jessica." Justin said as he searched through his bag for his phone.

"Jessica? Why?"

Justin stopped his search and stood up, he’d had about enough of JC’s attitude toward the little boy, "Because your two year old son is missing JC. Shit, wake up man, you can’t keep on ignoring the fact that you’re a father now. Grow up." He tossed his towel at JC and stormed out of the room to find Jessica himself.

"Jess?" Justin asked as he bounced up the steps to the bus she rode on. She turned around in her seat and held her finger to her lips. "Sorry." Justin whispered as he stepped into the little sitting area. Kyle was asleep on the narrow couch wrapped snuggly in a black and white fleece Raiders blanket.

"Where’s JC?" Jessica whispered.

"Inside." Justin knelt beside her chair. "Do you want me to take him back to our bus?"

"No, he’s okay here." She sighed. "We need a system for show nights. I don’t mind watching him, but I have to know."

"He was sleeping."

"He woke up." Jessica looked up and met his eye as she pulled her cardigan tighter. "Lonnie found him wandering around by the cafeteria."

"Thanks for keeping an eye on him." Justin glanced back at the sleeping boy and smiled.

"You’re not the one who needs to thank me." Jessica sighed again and pulled her feet up under her.

"I’m sure JC thanks you too Jess. He couldn’t do this without you."

"He can’t do it period. He has no desire whatsoever to – " She stopped herself and cleared her throat. "Nevermind. Just tell JC I’ll bring him to his room in the morning before my team meeting."

"Okay." Justin nodded and used the back of her chair to push himself up. "Wait, we’re driving tonight."

"You guys check in at six." Jessica sighed. "My meeting is at seven so I’ll drop him off before that, okay?"

"Works for me." Justin nodded. "Thanks."

"Uh huh." She nodded and opened her book again as Justin yawned behind her and bounced back down the stairs.

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

The next morning Jessica stood in the hall with Kyle in her arms as she knocked on JC’s door. "Knock knock." Kyle said with a big smile.

"That’s right. Knock knock on daddy’s door." She said without even a hint of a smile. "I think he’s sleeping."

"He seepin?"

"Yep, I think so." Jessica sighed and knocked again. She heard the sounds of movement from inside and was surprised when JC opened the door fully clothed.

"Hey Jess." He mumbled as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes.

"Here, I have my meeting to go to." She handed Kyle to JC and dropped the child’s backpack by his feet.

"Okay. Thanks." He ran his free hand over his head as Kyle stared up at him in wonder. Jessica turned and walked up the hall as JC shut the door and left them in darkness.

"Seep?" Kyle asked.

"Yeah dude, sleep sounds good." JC nodded and set Kyle down on the bed. He crawled back under the covers and rested his head on the pillow.

Kyle sat on the bed for a minute and watched JC get comfortable, then he scooted to the end and crawled off. He went to his backpack by the door and dragged it over to the side of the bed. Kyle sat on the floor between the bed and the air conditioner and tried to unzip his backpack by himself. After several tries he got it open enough to pull out his dump truck and Tickle-Me-Elmo doll.

The trucks plastic wheels made no sound as Kyle ran it over the carpet, picking up little pieces of discarded paper and strings. "Beep beep!" He laughed as he ran his truck into the leg of the bed. Kyle played on the floor for a little while before growing tired of his truck and picking up his Elmo doll.

Kyle bounced the bright red doll over the floor a few times before eliciting the sound he’d been waiting for. A high pitched giggle came from the doll and Kyle laughed out loud. He squeezed the doll again making it laugh and shake in Kyle’s hands.

"Jaaaycee." He lobbed the doll onto JC’s bed and then climbed up after him. "Hi!" JC didn’t stir as Kyle climbed over his legs and crawled up to JC’s face. He took his tiny fingers and pulled JC’s eyelid up, poking him in the eye in the process.

"Ack!" JC scooted away from the intrusion. "Kyle, dude…"

"Seepin."

"You woke me up to tell me I was sleeping?" JC asked as he buried his head back in the pillow, hoping for another 15 minutes of peace.

"Yeah."

"Thanks man." He sighed and resigned. There was no going back to sleep now. "Okay. Alright I’m up." JC pushed himself into a sitting position and yawned as he stretched his arms over his head. "Well I don’t know about you, but I need some food."

"Have cookie?"

"No, we can’t have cookies for breakfast." JC stood up and cracked his back. "How about bagels? You like bagels?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded as if he knew.

"Cool, let me go to the bathroom first and we’ll go get some bagels or something." JC rubbed his hand over Kyle’s head and yawned as he stumbled into the bathroom to do his business. "Don’t go touching anything out there this time." JC warned from behind the half closed bathroom door. He quickly pulled the door all the way open and looked at Kyle still standing by the bed.

"Hi." Kyle smiled.

"Hi." JC smiled back and shook his head, the disappeared back into the bathroom. He pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that could almost be considered too small, then stepped back out into the room. "Right on. You need some clothes." He looked at Kyle with his hands on his hips.

"Yeah shoes."

"Yeah, we’ve got your shoes." JC mumbled. "Okay, let’s get you dressed." He took the clothes Kyle had on the day before and a diaper and laid Kyle down on the bed. "I will never get used to this." He grumbled as he pulled the diaper out from under Kyle, then quickly placed the new one under his bare butt.

JC dressed Kyle in the jeans from the day before but the shirt was stained with what JC could only guess was spaghetti sauce. He tore Kyle's little bag apart to find another shirt, but only came up with the wrinkled button down shirt Jessica had picked up the other day. He shrugged and pulled Kyle's arms through the holes then buttoned it up and tried to tug the wrinkles out of it to no avail.

"Oh hell, that’s the style right? Slept in? Shit, just look at me." He laughed and took Kyle's hand. "Let’s go dude. We need some grub."

"Lello."

"Nah, leave the toy here."

"But Lello eat."

"Lello can eat here. You can bring something back for him." JC pulled Kyle's hand as they left the room and walked down the hall to where there was a buffet style breakfast set up.

JC yawned as they walked in the door and scratched at his jaw line. The room was half filled with other crewmembers standing around the perimeter, half of which JC didn’t recognize. They walked down the buffet line and JC picked some breakfast then headed for the table by the sliding glass door.

Kyle sat at the little table with a blueberry bagel in front of him as JC poured orange juice for both of them. "Eat up kiddo." JC picked up the huge bagel and handed it to Kyle who just looked at it.

"Damn that’s a huge bagel." Chris laughed and sat across from them. "Can you eat that?"

"Yeah." Kyle lifted the bagel to his mouth and tried to take a bite, but only managed to leave teeth marks.

"Here, let me tear that up for you." Chris held out his hand and Kyle gladly held it out to him. "Eggs are easier man, you shoulda just got him that."

"He likes eggs?" JC asked. "He said he wanted a bagel."

"Did he say ‘I want a bagel’ or did he just say ‘yeah’ when you asked him?"

"What difference does it make?"

"The difference is that he says ‘yeah’ to almost everything." Chris shook his head and tore a few bite sized pieces off of the bagel and handed them to Kyle. "There ya go buddy. Try that."

"Is a baggo." Kyle smiled.

"Yep, that’s a good looking bagel." Chris nodded then stood up and went back to the mini buffet to get the kid some eggs.

Kyle’s little jaw worked intently as he chewed the first bite of the bagel, then he took a sip of his tiny glass of orange juice. "Juice." Kyle smiled.

"That’s juice, yep." JC nodded and took a bite of his own bagel. "Do you like it?"

"Yeah."

"Really?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded and reached for another bite.

"Cool."

"Cool."

"Here you go, eggs. Yum!" Chris set a small plate of scrambled eggs in front of Kyle.

"No baggo?" Kyle asked as he looked at the plate.

"You can have the bagel too."

"Baggo too?" Kyle asked. "Juice too?"

"Yep, bagel and juice too." Chris nodded and took a bite of his cereal.

"Rad." Kyle nodded and reached for a bite of the eggs.

"He’s cool." Chris smiled at JC.

"He’s a riot." JC sighed. "My head is a mess, what time are we meeting today?"

"Eight thirty." Chris checked his watch then looked JC over, "You’re wearing that?" JC’s jeans looked worn and he was barefoot.

"I’m gonna throw some shoes on, but yeah. Why?"

"Well I… no that’s cool." Chris shook his head and ate his breakfast. "What’s Kyle up to today?"

"Um, I’m not sure. He’s coming with us this morning to our shoot and I guess wherever we’re going today. Jessica is meeting with whoever it is she meets with to get us clothes… so yeah, he’s coming with us." JC shrugged with ambivalence.

"Actually he's going to be with Jessica this afternoon." Sean said as he walked up. "You guys are doing a hospital visit and he won't be able to go."

"When does she get him?" JC looked up quickly.

"When we're done with the location photo shoot and People Magazine blurb." Sean explained, and with that the morning routine started.

After a quick lunch at the People Magazine West Coats offices, they stopped back at the hotel to drop Kyle off with Jessica for the afternoon.

"He needs clothes." JC said as he handed Kyle’s bag to Jessica.

"Okay…?"

"Can you get them? Or… or who do I talk to about getting them?" JC asked.

Jessica sighed and tried not to roll her eyes, "No don’t worry about it. I’ll go get clothes and stuff. Is there anything else?"

"No, that’s all. All the clothes he has are dirty so I just… he needs new stuff."

"Got it, new clothes." Jessica nodded and took Kyle’s hand. "Come on buddy, we’re going shopping."

"We go ouside?" Kyle looked up at her and smiled.

"Yep, we’re going outside." She grinned down at the little boy then turned to his father; "We’ll just meet you at the venue tonight. I need to be there at three to set up so we’ll be there when you get there at five."

JC shrugged, "Well you’ll probably have him for the show too, so…"

Jessica shook her head, she had expected as much, "Yes, but from three till five I’ll be doing my job with Kyle tagging along. From five till seven thirty when you guys have to be dressed I need to make some calls and finish fixing Joey’s sequin stuff." She sighed as Kyle danced around her feet. "So from five on you’ll need to find someone to watch him."

"I’ve got a double-time sound check and meet and greet." JC argued.

Jessica just shrugged and gave him a look, "Well, I’m sorry to hear that." She tugged Kyle’s hand and together they left JC in the hall by his door.

 

The children's clothing store was almost empty when Jessica and Kyle walked in that afternoon. Kyle immediately made a beeline for the little directors chairs set up in front of a TV screen playing Disney movies and a box of toys.

"Hi, can I help you find anything?"

"I just need to get a couple outfits." Jessica smiled and flipped through the nearest racks. She was so used to dealing with personal shoppers or designers directly, that it felt almost weird to be talking to this twenty-something sales woman.

"For this little cutie?" She asked with a sugary sweet smile.

"Yes." Jessica returned the smile and held out a little pair of navy blue shorts. "Do you have a bag or something? I think I’m going to end up with my hands full."

"Sure!" The girl ducked behind her counter and produced a whicker looking basket for Jessica.

"Thanks." Jessica took the basket and went to town searching for outfits to mix and match, pajamas, socks and another couple pairs of shoes. She kept an eye on Kyle the entire time, but he was so interested in the cartoons on TV that he barely moved.

Jessica paid for the clothes at the front register and cringed; the child's clothes cost almost as much as her own. "Okay buddy, you ready to go?"

"Minute?"

"No, not in a minute, let’s go now." Jessica held her hand out to him.

"Go bye?"

"Yep, come on. We can go get a hot dog, yum!" She licked her lips and laughed as Kyle jumped from his chair and ran to grab her hand.

"Juice too."

"Juice too, you bet." She smiled and they left the store hand in hand.

They spent the next hour or so getting other kids supplies that she knew they would need, diapers, wipes, little toys and a couple little sippy cups to avoid the messes he had made with regular cups.

Jessica had them back at the hotel to catch the caravan over to the venue by three, then tried to keep Kyle entertained with his new toys as she got the wardrobe racks set up in the dressing room then double checked everything. She hopped on the phone to talk to the boys management team to discuss wardrobe coordination for upcoming performances.

Kyle took his new pop-up book and sat cross-legged on the couch to flip through it. He "read" it out loud, making up words of his own as he went along. The new books and toys kept him entertained so well that Jessica forgot to drop him off with JC at five when they arrived at the venue. It was almost six before she even looked at her watch, "Oh man… honey I'll bet you're starving…" She frowned at her own forgetfulness and bent to clean up Kyle's toys. "Okay kiddo, I don't think this is all going to fit in your backpack though dude. We're going to need to get you a bigger bag to fit all these new clothes and toys." She laughed as Kyle slid off the couch and yawned.

"My toys?"

"Yeah, we need to pack up your toys." Jessica scoured around in the storage units and found a medium sized duffel bag, "This should work." She loaded his gear into it and dropped it by the door where she wouldn't forget it. "All set, let's go eat."

"Yum!" Kyle laughed and took her hand as he bounced for the door with Lello under his arm.

"Do you like pizza? I think that's what we've got tonight."

"Yeah!" Kyle shouted as he pulled her arm.

"Cool." Jessica laughed and quickened her pace to keep up with the energetic two year old attached to her fingers.

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

"Hey Jace?" Lance tapped his fingers on the top of JC’s roll around closet as he got dressed for the show.

"Yeah?" JC looked up with tired eyes. He slid his foot into his shoe then tied it tight while leaning over.

"We’ve gotta talk man… about this whole thing." Lance scooted the metal folding chair closer to where JC was sitting on the bench and sat down.

"Not now." JC shook his head and scratched at his stubbly chin as he tilted his chair back on two legs.

"The other day Chris reminded me about something and I think you wanna hear it. I think we know who Kyle’s mom is. Kind of."

"What?!" JC sat up quickly and almost toppled over. "What?"

"Okay three years ago we were in New York for a couple sh – "

"The note said Boston." JC interrupted.

"Let me finish." Lance gave JC a look that said he had better just listen. "My friend Sheresa was doing a play called "Sheer Madness" down in Boston so I made you and Chris fly down with me. We all went out that night and got a little tipsy. I went back to the hotel with Sheresa…" He cleared his throat. "You left with her friend."

JC’s ears turned bright red, "When?"

"April Fool’s day, 1998." Lance said softly. "We were going to play a prank on Johnny and call him to tell him we wouldn’t make it back for the show the next night."

"You’re sure?" JC tried to catch his breath.

"Yeah." Lance nodded. "We checked the dates with Johnny."

"And we went to Boston?"

"Yeah." Lance nodded.

"So… shit…" JC pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, "So I fucked up?"

"I don’t know Jace… I mean, it’s a safe assumption… you left with her. I mean, looking at the situation now it all comes together."

"Who is it?"

"That’s what I don’t know. I barely remember the night myself, forget about remembering the name of a friend of a friend."

"She would know though, right? Your friend?"

Lance paused, "Yeah… Sheresa would probably know."

"So call her and see." JC said quickly.

"Jace I can’t just call her now after like three years."

"You have to!" JC ran his fingers through his hair. "You have to Lance, we have to find out who she is so I can knock some sense into her."

"I wouldn’t know how to reach h –"

"You keep everything… you’ve got her number somewhere. Come on Lance, you’ve gotta help me out here." JC pleaded.

For a second Lance thought about telling JC that they’d all helped enough over the last couple days, but instead he just sighed and said, "I’ll see what I can find tomorrow. It’s too late to do anything tonight."

"Thanks Lance." JC stood up and affectionately slapped Lance on the back. "I just want to try to figure this out, you know?"

"I know." Lance nodded. "Catch ya later." He sighed and pushed himself up, then left JC alone in the little room.

 

After the show they were shuttled back to the hotel where they all collapsed into bed, they had to be up early again to leave for the next city on their calendar. Another long day on the bus with recirculated air and card games.

JC gingerly laid Kyle on the extra bed in his room and pulled the blankets up to his chin. Jessica had already changed him into some new looking racecar pajamas. JC went to turn the light off when something caught his eye. The expression on Kyle's face made JC's heart skip a beat and his breath catch in his throat. His mind raced back to the old photo book his mom liked to drag out every chance she got. The first picture in the book was of him sound asleep under the Christmas tree with an expression that looked like a cross between a smile and a frown. The exact expression Kyle wore as he slept three feet away.

"Wow…" JC whispered as he leaned closer to get a good look. "Creepy." JC tried to mimic the expression but could only manage the frown half. "Good night." He whispered, the gently placed his hand on Kyle's back in his first loving gesture.

"He's really mine." JC thought to himself as he turned the light off and went to bed. He fell asleep with mixed emotions as the realization sunk in. He was a father. Now what?

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

JC stepped out into the hallway just after five the next morning with Kyle in tow. The little boy was cranky and not at all happy to have to leave that early in the morning, "I tired." He whined.

"Yeah, so am I. You can sleep on the bus when we get there."

"Seep now?"

"In ten minutes." JC sighed and leaned over to hitch up Kyle's pajama bottoms. "She buys you new clothes and they don't even fit." He grumbled under his breath.

"No." Kyle frowned and pushed JC's hand away.

"Stop it, come on. They're sagging and you're gonna trip."

"I fall." Kyle held his scowl and gave JC a look that could kill.

"Yeah, you'll fall. So let me fix them."

"No." Kyle pushed his hand away again and tried to pull out of JC's grip.

"Fine. Fall." JC stood up straight and practically dragged Kyle down the hall toward Sean's room where they were meeting.

"Good morning sunshine." Justin laughed as he fell into step beside them. "Your boy's got saggy drawers there Jace."

"Yeah he likes them that way." JC grumbled.

"He's gonna trip."

"Yep." JC nodded and reached down to hike up Kyle's pants again.

"No!" Kyle said loudly with a deep set frown.

Justin burst out laughing beside them, "My God he's definitely yours. Check out his morning attitude… that's freaky man." He continued to laugh as they all walked down the hall together.

JC and Kyle checked in with Sean then grabbed two security guards and headed down to the bus without waiting for the others. He was in a hurry to go back to sleep and Kyle was thinking the same thing.

There were two spare bunks near the back so JC grabbed two of the cushions off the couch and cornered Kyle in one of the bunks to keep him from rolling out. Once he was sure the kid wasn't going anywhere he climbed into his own bunk and went back to sleep, they never heard the others pile onto the bus a half hour later.

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

They took several breaks on their fourteen-hour drive to Seattle including a picnic style lunch at a park somewhere near Myrtle Creek. They spent more than an hour outside playing a little football and Nerf baseball just to get some fresh air. When they piled back onto the bus they were ready to chill out and take naps in the air-conditioned bunks.

"Hey Jace…?" Lance bumped his shoulder as he stood at the refrigerator putting the left overs away.

"Hmm?"

"Got a minute?"

"Right now?" JC looked over his shoulder as he placed the bag of oranges in the little drawer.

"Yeah, I talked to Sheresa." Lance sighed.

"How’d that go?" JC shut the refrigerator door harder than necessary.

"You owe me. Big time. I’ll go ahead and take a silver Mercedes." Lance cringed remembering their relatively short conversation. The old anecdote about a woman scorned crossed his mind many times during the call and he vowed to never try to contact an ex after three years again.

"Ouch."

"Yeah." Lance nodded and consulted the slip of paper in his hand. "The girl she was friends with on that cast was Lori Winter." He handed JC another piece of paper with a black and white picture on it, "Sheresa scanned and emailed me this little blurb in the program about her. But uh… she said she was pretty sure that Lori was using a stage name, because her own last name was too long or too hard to pronounce, something like that."

"Shit…" JC rolled his eyes.

"The show wrapped about a month after we were there and Sheresa hasn’t heard from Lori since."

"So we’re back to square one?"

"Well… we know her name is Lori something, and she has blonde hair and she’s from New Jersey." Lance nodded at the paper in JC’s hand.

"Better than nothing." JC sighed and looked at the girl staring back at him from the sheet of paper. It was sort of fuzzy and a little dark but he recognized her. He hadn’t thought twice about that night in three years but now it was coming back in quick images and still shots.

JC stared at the picture, looking for hints of Kyle in her but all he saw was her smiling face beaming back at him, and the scattered words of praise for the rookie’s outstanding work in her debut performance.

 

Next…

 

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn