JC listened to Jessica’s footsteps retreating down the hall as he closed his eyes tightly, mentally kicking himself in the pants. "Dammit." He mumbled under his breath as he ran his hands through his short hair, pulling it lightly.

"Mr. Chasez?" Another female voice asked from the doorway.

"Yeah? Yeah, hi." JC opened his eyes and dropped his hands to his sides.

"Hi, how are things going up here?" Dr. Herzog asked as she smiled down at Kyle.

"Uh, good I guess. He’s just sleeping."

"Did Dr. Martinez give him a sedative?"

"Yeah, when we brought him up here. He was pretty freaked out you know."

"Yeah, I know how that goes." She nodded and looked at the chart by the foot of his bed. "Ah ha, viral meningitis. In a weird way that’s a good thing. Of all the things it could have been that’s going to be the best recovery, you got lucky. Is he going home tomorrow?"

"Probably." JC nodded. "They said he had to stay flat and still for like eight hours after the spinal tap, then Dr. Martinez wanted his fever to come down a little too."

"Yeah, we wanna make sure this little trooper is well before we send him home." She smiled and glanced around the room, "You got his stuffed dog huh? Those things come in handy."

"That’s Lello." JC smiled.

"Very cool." She nodded. "Well I’m going to be heading home here myself, I’ll be back in the morning to check him out. I’d like to do a neuro exam just to make sure the intracranial pressure didn’t do any damage. I’m sure it’d be apparent by now if it had and it wasn’t that high… but better safe than sorry, right?"

"Yeah." JC nodded. "What uh… what kind of exam do you have to do?"

"It’s pretty basic. Nothing intrusive, no needles or anything like that. What I’ll do is watch him walk, check his balance and how well he tracks things with his eyes. I’ll also check his reflexes and coordination. The whole thing will only take a few minutes, it’ll be real informal."

"Okay." JC nodded.

"How are you holding up?"

"I’m okay." He forced a smile and ran his hands through his hair for the hundredth time that day. "I know he needs to stay here and everything… but all I wanna do is wrap him up and take him home, you know?"

"I know." She nodded. "He’ll be home and running around soon enough." Dr. Herzog reached out and affectionately patted Kyle’s foot; "I’ll see you guys tomorrow."

"Thanks."

"You’re welcome." She nodded and stepped back into the hall.

JC arched his back, relieved to hear the hollow 'pop', as the tension seemed to leave his shoulders. He stood slowly and walked to the window where he pulled the thick green drapes back and stared down at the parking lot below. The window was cool as he rested his forehead against it, the rain had stopped a while ago but the black pavement was still shiny with puddles.

Any other time JC would have felt alone, painfully alone. He didn’t like hospitals at all and having to spend that much time in one would have sent him into a frenzy, if it wasn’t for Kyle. JC didn’t feel the loneliness of standing at a hospital window looking out onto gray skies and a half-empty parking lot; instead he felt the need to protect what was inside. To make sure that Kyle was safe and healthy. Nothing else mattered, and he felt stronger as he thought of the hospital as his fortress.

JC let his mind wander for a little bit, but was snapped back to reality with a muffled whine and a shifting of the blankets. "Mommy?" Kyle turned his head to the side and bent his leg, then sighed and frowned in his sleep.

Strong was no longer a word JC could relate to. His heart seemed to crumble as his son asked for his mother, "Hey buddy." JC whispered as he tore himself from the window. He sat in his chair and slid it closer to the bed as he reached for Kyle’s hand, "Go on back to sleep."

"Mommy?" Kyle whined again as his eyes fluttered open, then immediately shut again.

"I’m here buddy, Daddy’s here." He placed his hand on Kyle’s side and rubbed gently.

"Daddy?" Kyle kept his eyes closed, and JC wasn’t sure that he was really awake.

"Yeah Kyle. I’m right here."

"Mommy?"

"No… no buddy, she’s not here." JC said softly. Fury rose from the pit of his stomach and into the blush on his cheeks. He had been confused and frustrated with Kyle’s mother, but now he was just angry. His little boy was sick and scared and yet all he wanted was his mother. The same woman who left him behind, was the one he wanted at that moment.

JC tightened his jaw and shook his head to force the anger from his mind, "Go back to sleep, kiddo. I’ll be right here when you wake up." Kyle’s face relaxed as he sighed and turned his head to face JC. He took another deep breath then fell silently back into his dreamland.

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

When Jessica returned to the hotel she let herself into her room and took a long shower to clear her mind. She wrapped herself in her thick green Victoria’s Secret robe and tore open a bag of M&M’s. She lay on her stomach across the bed as she turned the TV on and poured the M&M’s in front of her to separate them into piles by color.

Once they were in their own little piles she started with the orange ones and picked up her cell phone to call Amy, she needed girl talk.

"Hi, so hey. JC kissed me." Jessica said as soon as Amy picked up. She picked up a yellow M&M and popped it into her mouth, "What do I do now?"

"Hang on, he kissed you?" Amy asked.

"Yeah."

"When?"

"Today at the hospital."

"Hospital?" Amy sounded confused. "Start at the beginning."

"JC took Kyle to the hospital this morning, he has viral meningitis so they’re keeping him overnight. But I went over this afternoon to check on him because they forgot Lello and I thought JC was pretty much incompetent. I ended up staying for a little while and before I left he kissed me."

"Wow."

"But he has a girlfriend and now I’m confused. I mean, maybe it was just because of all the stress or because I took care of him or whatever."

"You think he kissed you because you take care of Kyle?"

"No because I took care of him today. JC I mean. I brought him lunch and stuff and just hung out with him."

"So you jumped in and played mom?"

"Amy…" Jessica sighed.

"And he doesn’t have a girlfriend."

"Yeah he does, that Ali girl." Jessica shook her head.

"They broke up."

"What?! When? Why?"

"Basically because of Kyle, so about a week or so ago."

"She broke up with him because of Kyle? That’s crazy, he’s a great little boy."

"He was conceived just after they started dating or something." Amy pointed out.

"Oh." Jessica blushed. "Oh I see."

"Yeah. So she’s pissed." Amy nodded. "But he kissed you?"

"Yeah, he kissed me." Jessica sighed. "But… but then it was weird."

"What’d you do?"

"I left."

"You left?"

"Yeah." Jessica shook her head. "I don’t know, it was weird. But what do I do now?"

"Do you like him?"

"I don’t know. No?" She bit the red M&M in half and picked the candy shell off the piece in her hand as she sucked on the other.

"Then don’t worry about it."

"What if I said yes?"

"Then you’d have to talk with JC."

"What if it was just some random thing because of all the stress he was under and was more or less seeing me as safety line or whatever for being there?"

"Then that’s it and you move on." Amy shrugged. "All I know is that he was dating Ali for something like three years, that’s a lot to get over. That’ll take some recuperation time."

"I know." Jessica nodded. "Shit."

"Don’t sweat it. JC’s a straightforward guy, if he’s got an opinion about it he’ll let you know."

"You think so?"

"I know so. Don't read too much into it."

"Okay." Jessica sighed and furrowed her brow. "Thanks Amy."

"You're welcome." Amy smiled at the crunching sound in her ear, "What are you eating?"

"M&M's." Jessica laughed lightly. "I had stuff on my mind."

"It's okay." Amy laughed. "Chocolate fixes a lot of things."

"Yep." Jessica nodded and ate two orange ones.

"All righty, well I'll let you get back to your candy fix. Give me a call later okay?"

"I will, thanks again."

"Anytime." Amy smiled and hung up her end, leaving Jessica holding the silent phone to her ear. She sighed and clicked the "end" button then tossed it toward her pile of clothes and clicked the TV on.

"You've Got Mail" was just beginning so she made herself comfortable and settled in to watch the chick flick, to try to take her mind off of Kyle… and JC.

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

Dr. Martinez came in to check on Kyle that night before he switched duty with another doctor, "Would he be more comfortable in a crib?" He asked. "Or would you be more comfortable with him in one? We usually put toddlers in a crib, we just didn’t have one this afternoon."

"No, no he’ll be fine."

"Okay." Dr. Martinez nodded and reached for the guardrail, "We’ll just put this up to keep him where he is."

"Thanks." JC nodded and yawned, it had been a long day.

"You’re welcome, I’ll see you in the morning."

"Alright."

"If you need anything, ring a nurse."

"I will."

"He should be able to go home in the morning, his fever has come down real well."

"Great." JC forced a tired smile and waved as the doctor left the room. The cot had been brought in several hours earlier but JC remained in the cushioned seat, laying his head on Kyle’s bed. He kept the little boys hand in his own as he let his eyes drift closed and he let his exhausted body fall asleep.

Twice during the night nurses came in to check Kyle’s temperature and IV fluids, unintentionally waking JC each time, "I’m sorry love." The older woman whispered as JC jerked his head up.

"It’s okay." He mumbled, "What time is it?"

"Only a little after twelve dear. Would you like a pillow for the cot?" She placed the ear thermometer in Kyle’s ear and clicked it quickly. Kyle flinched away from the intrusion and frowned, but never woke up.

"No, I’m okay." JC stretched his back then lay his head back on the bed.

"You're going to have a horrible kink in your neck if you sleep that way." She scolded, sounding more like a concerned grandmother than anything else.

"It's okay." JC smiled slowly. "I've slept in worse places."

"You kids…" She shook her head and made a note on Kyle's chart.

"What's it temp?"

"102." She checked again. "That's not too bad."

"It's coming down." JC agreed as he covered his mouth to yawn.

"That's a good sign." She whispered as she pulled the curtain open and swooshed out of the room without a sound. JC reached out to hold Kyle's hand, then lay his head back in his arms to go back to sleep.

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

"Daddy?" Kyle croaked the next morning, waking JC out of a deep sleep. "Daddy seep?"

"Hey buddy." JC pried his eyes open and sat up straight, flinching at the spark of pain between his shoulder blades. "Yeah I was sleeping, are you okay?"

"Owie daddy." Kyle picked his hand up off the bed a few inches then let it drop.

"Yeah, that IV must suck huh? That gives you medicine to make you all better." JC yawned and stretched his arms out in front of him. "Man what time is it?" He mumbled to himself. He was able to focus on the small clock after he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and yawned again. "Six ten? That's even early for you." JC shook his head.

"Is dok."

"Nope, the doctors not here. He'll be in to see you in a little bit though. Maybe after some breakfast. Are you hungry?"

"No, dok." Kyle looked toward the window.

"Oh! You're right, it's still a little dark." JC pulled the little curtain back to show Kyle the still pale sky. "It'll be light soon."

"I see?" Kyle tried to push himself up.

"Whoa, hang on there buddy." JC took one long step back to the bed, "Just a second there Kyle, you've gotta stay in the bed. The thing in your hand will bet pulled out if you move too much."

"Take off." Kyle frowned and fell back onto the bed.

"I can't take it off. The doctor has to do that."

"Go ouside?" Kyle looked at the window again.

"Later." JC nodded.

"Well good morning! Look who's up." A petite nurse walked in carrying two trays with metal covers. "I thought I heard you in here." She smiled and set the first tray on the little rolling table beside Kyle's bed.

"He just woke up." JC nodded.

"Well that's a good sign." She laughed. "I thought you might be hungry too. It's hospital food, but it'd better than the vending machines downstairs."

"Thanks." JC nodded as she set the other tray of food at the foot of Kyle's bed. "Is Dr. Martinez here?"

"Nope, he doesn’t come on until seven."

"Oh, okay."

"He'll be in to make his rounds right around then. Is there something you need now?" She asked.

"I was just going to see if we could get his IV taken out." JC said softly.

The nurse looked at Kyle's chart; "I think so." She smiled and reached into one of her many pockets, "Let’s just check your temperature." She quickly clicked the thermometer in Kyle’s ear before he could protest and tracked the change. "Yep, it’s down to 101. Let’s get that icky IV out, what do you say sweet heart?" She smiled down at Kyle who just watched her with wide eyes.

"Does that hurt?" JC asked as she made her way around the bed.

"Nope. Just a little stick when the needle comes out, but that’s all." She smiled and reached for Kyle’s taped hands.

"No ow." He frowned.

"Oh no sweetie, this won’t hurt." She smiled and patted his back before reaching for the latex gloves above his bed. "When we’re done here then you can eat your breakfast and maybe watch a movie." She kept talking as she checked the fluid level in the IV bag; "Do you like Scooby Doo?"

"Dog?"

"Yep, he’s a dog. Kind of like your little dog there." She nodded at Lello who was flung over his pillow, then reached for his hand. "What’s his name?"

"Lello."

"Lello huh? That’s a great name for a dog." She smiled and carefully removed the IV and placed a cotton ball over the puncture. "What kind of band aid do you want big guy? You were so brave, how about a Superman band aid?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded slowly; he hadn’t even flinched as she removed the needle.

"Right on, here you go." She opened the bright blue band-aid with the big red ‘S’ logo on it, and taped the cotton ball in place. "You can take that off after a few minutes if you want. Or you can leave it on all week." She said to JC as she patted Kyle’s shoulder. "There may be a little bit of bruising, but that’s normal."

"Okay." JC nodded and yawned. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." She smiled and scooted out of the room leaving the thin curtain billowing behind her.

"Are you hungry kiddo?"

"No." Kyle scowled and turned away from JC. "I go."

"We can't leave yet. The doctor needs to see you first."

"No doka." Kyle pursed his lips and frowned like only toddlers can, with his lip sticking out and his good arm crossed across his chest. He left his bandaged hand laying flat on the bed.

"Don't pout, come on… let's eat some breakfast." JC couldn't help but smile.

"No egg."

"Fine, you don't have to eat any eggs." JC lifted the cover off of Kyle's tray and removed the small plate of eggs. "Yum, check it out, you've got some bacon there. There's a little bit of fruit too. You want some watermelon?"

"Gape."

"Sure thing, here's a grape." JC held out a green grape to Kyle who took it and took a small bite out of it.

"No eat."

"Yep, you have to eat so we can go home." JC yawned.

"Go bye?"

"Yeah, you can't go home unless you eat some breakfast." JC heard the little fib slide from his lips, scaring himself with how much like a parent he sounded. Kyle sighed softly and reached for a piece of bacon from the plate.

JC leaned his elbow on the edge of the bed and took the top off of his tray to find the exact same meal. He picked at his eggs for a minute before his cell phone began to play a melody from the bedside table. JC clicked the talk button and held it to his ear as he placed his bacon on Kyle's plate, "Hello?"

"Did I wake you up?" Joey asked quickly before he cleared his throat.

"Nah, I'm up. How come you're up this early?"

"Press thing at seven."

"Press thing? What press thing?" JC frowned.

Joey yawned loudly into the phone; "Johnny put together this thing so we could explain to Cleveland why we weren't there and to announce the new date for the show."

"Oh man, I should be there for that. Can you do it later?"

"I don't know. It's cool though. At least this way it'll look true, I mean, since you're there with Kyle." Joey rubbed his jaw.

"It is true." JC sounded more defensive than he should have.

"Yeah I know, I'm just saying it'll look it. You know, for the fans and everything." Joey explained. "How’s the lil dude?"

"He's okay. He's eating breakfast which is good."

"Right on." Joey nodded. "What's he got there?"

"Bacon and grapes."

"That's what they're feeding him?"

"No, that's all he's eating." JC shook his head.

"Interesting." Joey cleared his throat again, "So when will you guys get to leave? Is he okay enough to go home?"

"Yeah, the doctor said he'd probably be able to leave this morning, but he wants to come see him first." JC nodded.

"Cool, when's that?"

"I don't know, some time after seven." JC broke his piece of toast in half and spread jam on a bite.

"Cool, well I’m glad he's doing okay. He's pretty cool."

"Yeah." JC nodded. "Hey Kyle, you wanna say hi to Joey?" JC held out the cell phone to Kyle as he took a bite of another grape.

"Hi Joey." He said with a pathetic whine.

"Awww." Joey laughed. "He sounds like crap man."

"Yeah, he's lookin like a zombie right now." JC nodded. "The doctor said he'd be feeling kinda gross for another couple days to a week."

"Oh man."

"Yeah." JC sighed and broke off another bite of toast as his phone beeped in his ear, "Hang on." He looked at the caller ID and shook his head; "I gotta go Joe, that's Sean."

"Alright, I'll see you later, okay?"

"Okay." JC smiled as he clicked over to speak to Sean. He asked about Kyle and showed the proper concern, then jumped to discussing travel arrangements. Sean was willing to postpone the second Cleveland show if Kyle wasn’t going to be able to travel, but JC assured him that driving by bus would be fine, all Kyle would be doing was sleeping.

"So what’s with the press thing?"

"It’s nothing. We’re just letting them know what’s up."

"Why?"

"Protocol."

"Nu uh Sean, you don’t pull press just because we skip a show." JC shook his head; he didn't buy that for a second. There was more to that and Sean didn't want him to know.

Sean paused for a second wondering how to tell JC without making him freak out, "There were some rumors flying around that because of Kyle the group was breaking up so that you could go be a father. Guess when the rumor hit? The day before yesterday. So when we missed Cleveland the press and fans went ape shit." He sighed. "All we’re doing is calming the waters and letting them know exactly why the show was postponed and that the group is secure."

"Shit Sean, you know Kyle isn’t gonna make us break up." JC sighed and rested his forehead in his hand as he watched Kyle take a tentative bite of the cooled eggs, then spit it back out onto the plate.

"I know that, that’s why we’ve gotta let them know." Sean took a deep breath, "Listen, you know we’d change dates for as many shows as you need to get Kyle okay. Just say the word. We’ve got a person to handle press, in fact that’s all he does. You don’t need to worry about that, you just make sure that Kyle’s okay."

"I know." JC sighed. "He's gonna be okay."

"Glad to hear it kid. I'll see you back here at the hotel whenever you get here okay?"

"Yeah." JC popped a grape into his mouth and chewed. "Thanks Sean."

"No prob Jace." Sean smiled then hung up his end.

They finished up their breakfast then JC changed Kyle’s diaper and clicked the TV on to kill time before Dr. Martinez came around to let them go home. After only a few minutes there was a soft knock on the door, "Yeah?" JC asked.

"Hi guys." Dr. Herzog poked her head around the curtain, "Are you awake?"

"Yep." JC smiled as she walked into the room.

"Glad to see it." She tapped Kyle’s foot, "Hey tough guy, how are you?" Kyle didn’t answer he just nodded and leaned his head back against the pillow. "Did you get to eat your breakfast already?"

"Gapes."

"Oh yum, do you like grapes?" Dr. Herzog smiled as Kyle nodded. She looked at JC and asked, "Would you mind giving me a hand here? I’d like to do the neuro exam so that when Dr. Martinez gets here you guys can just go home."

"Okay." JC stood up, "What do I have to do?"

"Not much, just hold him in your lap so I can check his eyes and neck." She sat at the foot of Kyle’s bed. "If you hold him I think he’ll be more calm."

"Yeah." JC rounded the bed and sat beside Kyle, "Hey buddy, we need to let Mrs. Herzog look in your eyes, okay?" He pulled Kyle onto his lap and smiled at the doctor. "He’s decided he doesn’t like D-O-C-T-O-R-S very much."

"Understood." She laughed lightly and took her opthamoscope out of her coat pocket. She looked in his eyes and had him follow the light up and down and side to side, then she shone it on the wall to have him follow it there. "Okay Kyle, you’re doing great." She smiled and lifted Kyle off of JC’s lap and stood him on the floor. "Can you walk to me?"

"No." Kyle pouted.

"Aww I bet you can. You’re a big two year old." Dr. Herzog stood by the door. "Can you just walk toward me? I have a surprise in my pocket if you can." She knelt to his level and watched as he took a few tentative steps toward her.

"It’s okay Kyle, walk on over and see what she’s got." JC coaxed him from the bed.

Kyle walked over to the doctor without missing a step and tried to peek in her pocket, "You have?"

"I have this, look." She took a little plastic frog out of her pocket and dropped it on the floor, "Uh oh, can you pick that up for me?" Kyle bent and handed her the frog. "You can keep that if you want." She smiled.

Kyle managed a tired grin, then looked back at JC, "I have."

"I see you've got that little frog, that's cool."

"Hey Kyle, can you make a face at me. Can you go like this?" The doctor squished her face up and made a silly noise. Kyle did his best to imitate her and passed the little frog from hand to hand. "How about this?" She made a surprised expression and put her hands on either side of her mouth.

Kyle laughed lightly and did the same expression, "Scary." Kyle made the scary face Joey taught him and growled.

"Oh my goodness, that sure is scary." Dr. Herzog stood up and put him back on the bed, "Okay big guy, one more real fast. Can you push my hands away?" She held her hands in front of him and pushed against his palms.

"Have toy?"

Dr. Herzog laughed and shook her head, "Nope, I don't have any more toys." She looked up at JC and smiled, "He's looking a lot better." She took the chart from the foot of his bed and scribbled her notes.

"You're done?"

"Yes."

"That's it?" JC frowned and looked down at Kyle who had curled back up with Lello in the crook of his arm and the plastic frog in his hand.

"That's it." Dr. Herzog nodded, "As soon as Dr. Martinez gives the okay you guys can go home."

"Cool." JC scratched at his arm and tried not to yawn. It had been a long night and all he wanted to do was get on that bus and go to sleep. "Thanks for coming by to check on him."

"Not a problem. I just wanted to be sure he was 100%." The doctor smiled again then waved as she left the room.

JC and Kyle watched a little more TV while they waited for Dr. Martinez to come by, and after an hour of Sesame Street, he did.

"So it looks like he’s all set." Dr. Martinez smiled as he set Kyle’s chart on the bed. "I see the IV was removed before breakfast so I’d say he’s ready to go home."

"Yeah?" JC gave Kyle a worried look.

"Yep, he’s doing good."

"What about his fever?"

"It’s low enough that you can medicate it from home." Dr. Martinez smiled. "Dr. Herzog signed him off for his neuro exam this morning, keep him on Baby Tylenol for the next five to seven days as needed. If anything comes up feel free to call here and I’ll take care of it, or you can go to any local hospital. But really, I don’t think you’ll have any problems."

"Okay." JC nodded and shoved his hands into his deep pockets. "I’ll uh, I’ll have to call for a ride, what time do we have to leave?"

"Take your time." Dr. Martinez shook his head. "He’s officially discharged, just check out at the nurses desk before you go."

"Okay."

"We go now?" Kyle asked as he pushed himself up to a sitting position.

"Yeah buddy, we’ll get going here in a few minutes."

"Now?" Kyle asked again as he tried to climb off the bed.

"Nope, hold tight buddy. I need to call Chris." JC placed his hand on Kyle’s shoulder.

"No go now." Kyle set his frown and tried again to climb off the bed.

"We can’t go right now Kyle, we don’t have a car. I need to call someone to get us, and then we’ll leave. I promise."

"Ina minnit?"

"Yeah, in just a minute okay?"

"Minnit we go?"

"We’ll go in a minute." JC nodded.

"Kay."

Kyle settled back in the bed as JC looked up apologetically, "He just wants to go home."

"Hey I can understand that." Dr. Martinez smiled, "I want to go home too pal." He ran his large hand over Kyle’s head.

"Thank a lot, for all your help and everything." JC said softly.

"No problem. He’ll be good as new in a week or so."

"Okay." JC nodded as the doctor patted Kyle’s leg then left them alone in the room.

"Lello sick too?" Kyle picked is dog up and bounced him across the blanket.

"Nope, Lello’s doing good. He came here to make sure you were okay, how cool is that? Your little doggie was worried about you."

"Yeah." Kyle nodded.

"Everyone is worried about you buddy." JC rested his arm on the bed behind Kyle as he sat up. "Remember who called this morning?"

"Lello?"

"Joey called this morning." JC gave Kyle a surprised look and smiled, "He called to see if you were coming home soon so you can play video games with him, doesn’t that sound like fun? You said hi to him, remember?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded slowly as he rubbed his eyes.

JC sighed; he just wanted Kyle back to his usual energetic self. "Okay kiddo, let me call the hotel and have someone come and get us, okay?"

"Kay." Kyle nodded and hugged Lello to his chest as he lay back down on his side. JC used the phone by the bed to call Sean’s cell phone and arrange to have a van meet them at the hospital in a half hour, along with a security team and car seat.

JC changed Kyle’s diaper then put his pajamas back on and grabbed the soft fleece blanket they’d brought with them. Les called the room when they got to the patient pick-up area in front of the hospital, "Okay Kyle, let’s get the heck out of here." He picked Kyle up and rested the tired boy against his shoulder. They checked out at the nurse’s station and signed the three remaining forms, then stopped at the pharmacy to pick up the Baby Tylenol. Les met them at the entrance of the hospital and escorted them down to the curb where the black van was waiting.

"How’s he doing?"

"He’s gonna be okay." JC nodded. "He’ll just be kinda blah for a couple days."

"Yeah, I know how that goes." Les laughed and ruffled Kyle’s hair, "Ready to get outta here kid?"

"Go bye." Kyle said softly as he tried not to yawn.

"You betcha." Les smiled and held the door open for JC to lean in and strap Kyle in his seat, then shut the door behind them then climbed in the passenger seat himself. "Jessica filled us all in last night with what the doctor said and everything. I’m glad the little dude’s gonna be okay."

"Yeah." JC nodded and busied himself with Kyle’s blanket to hide the sudden blush that had rushed into his cheeks. He’d thought about Jessica a lot since she left, and he knew he’d have to talk to her.

They drove the rest of the way to the hotel with only the radio to distract them as Kyle dozed off and snored softly.

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

"Hey! Kyle buddy, what’s up?" Joey asked as JC stepped off the elevator with Kyle in his arms. His Raiders blanket dangled from his hand almost sweeping the floor while Lello was locked firmly in his grasp.

"Hi." Kyle didn’t even raise his head off of JC’s shoulder.

"He’s still kinda tired." JC explained.

"Are you pooped kiddo?" Joey ran his hand over Kyle’s short hair. "You’re looking good though. You’ll be ready for some video games here pretty soon, right?"

"Yeah." Kyle sighed.

"How’s he doing?" Joey asked softly.

"He’s alright. Just a little tired and stuff, he’s gonna have to take it easy for a couple days."

"Cool, does he still have a fever or whatever?"

"Yeah, a little. It was 101 when we left."

"Okay." Joey nodded.

"How’d the press thing go today?"

Joey shrugged and averted his eyes; "It went alright. You know how prickish they can be." He sighed. "But it’s cool… that PR dude fielded most of the questions, what’s his name again?"

"Cooper." JC nodded. "What time does the caravan leave this afternoon?"

"I don’t think we’re going."

"Yeah we are, I talked to Sean this morning. We’ve got the second show in Cleveland tonight." JC explained.

"Well yeah but I thought we’d be postponing it."

"No, we can’t do that. Not after the press from yesterday." JC shook his head and adjusted Kyle on his shoulder.

"Jace, we don’t have to." Joey shook his head.

"It’s alright." JC adjusted Kyle on his shoulder, "Kyle will be asleep the whole time, he’ll be fine."

"Yeah but what about you?"

"Me? I’m fine." JC gave him a weak smile and pulled the card key from his pocket. "Don’t worry about it Joe, we’re cool."

"We just don’t want you to push yourself too far."

"Nah, can’t happen." JC gave Joey his standard confident smile and pushed the door open. "Okay kiddo, we’re back in the hotel now. All your stuff is here, look." JC reached for the Elmo doll on the bed. "See? Elmo’s here."

"Emo?"

"Yep, see? He’s just waiting here for you."

"Kay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah."

"Are you tired?"

"No." Kyle shook his head but didn’t wiggle to get down like he usually did.

JC crossed the room and set Kyle on the floor beside his big red backpack and his new little suitcase filled with more clothes and toys. Kyle set Lello by his knee and reached for the Elmo doll with a yawn. "Check it out buddy, do you like Tigger?" JC flipped open the little movie book. "We can watch ‘The Tigger Movie’, how does that sound?"

"Kay." Kyle nodded and pulled on Elmo’s nose.

"Okay." JC sighed and flipped the channel. He had to give Kyle his medicine and he wasn’t sure how to go about that. He’d never given a kid a pill before but he didn’t imagine it’d be an easy task. "You’ve uh, you’ve gotta take some medicine… let’s do that before the movie starts."

"No." Kyle shook his head. He didn’t say it forcibly or with any kind of emotion, just a flat out statement. No.

"Yep, it’s gonna make you better." JC opened the small bottle and shook out a tiny pink pill, then read the directions on the side of the prescription. He grabbed his water bottle and crossed the room to where Kyle as sitting.

"No my hand." Kyle shook his head and placed his tiny bruised hand under his leg to hide it from JC as his bottom lip began to tremble.

"Oh… no, not in your hand." JC’s chest tightened as he saw how scared Kyle was. "No Kyle, I’m not going to put it in your hand." He sat on the floor beside Kyle and pulled him into his lap. "Did that hurt?"

"My hand."

"It hurt your hand?"

"Yeah." Kyle nodded and sniffed quietly.

"We won’t do that any more, okay?" JC kissed the top of his still warm head and wrapped his arms around him. "All you have to do is chew this up."

"No." Kyle shook his head.

"Yep, it’ll make you all better." JC nodded and put the closed bottle on the floor by his foot. "It’s yummy."

"No eat."

"It’s really important that you chew this up and swallow it, it’ll make you feel better."

"I betta fries."

JC smiled and shook his head; "No fries won’t make you better. But hey, if you eat this for me, I’ll order up some fries for you. How about it?"

"No eat."

"Please?"

"Daddy no."

"Pretty please?" JC smiled and patted Kyle’s tummy. "It needs to go in here."

"In baten?"

"No, not in your belly button." JC laughed lightly. "In your mouth and down to your tummy."

"No you tummy." Kyle sighed and leaned back against JC.

"If I eat one then will you eat one?"

"No you."

"This is your medicine. See? Right there on it, it says ‘Medicine for Kyle Chasez’." He showed Kyle the orange prescription bottle. "So here you go, chew this up and swallow it." JC placed the little pill in Kyle’s hand.

"Eat?"

"Yep, eat it up then I’ll get you some fries." JC nodded and watched as Kyle put the pill in his mouth and chewed it with an odd expression on his face. "Is it good?"

"No." Kyle shook his head.

"Does it taste nasty?" JC smiled.

"No apo."

"Apple?"

"Yeah."

"It tastes like an apple?"

"Yeah." Kyle chewed a little more then reached for JC’s sports bottle of water. "Go bye."

"The pill is gone?"

"Yeah." Kyle’s eyes drooped slightly as he pushed himself up to a standing position and leaned onto the bed. "Up?"

"You want to go to bed?"

"No seep."

"You don’t have to sleep." JC shook his head and stood up to lift Kyle onto the bed. "We can just hang out here and watch the movie, okay?"

"Kay." Kyle shimmied up to the pillows and lay sideways to see the TV in the corner. He lasted only a half hour into the movie before he was sleeping again.

"I it wasn’t kidding when it said it would cause drowsiness." JC whispered as he moved Elmo closer to Kyle.

"The Tigger Movie" played softly as JC carefully stood up from the bed. He moved Kyle closer to the center of the bed without waking him, then stretched his sore back. Sleeping in such an odd position the night before had given him knots and kinks in places he didn’t know he had.

JC quietly shuffled to the door and stepped out in the hall, hoping to find someone wandering around, "Chris?" JC called softly, spotting the older man walking toward his room.

"Yeah?"

"Hey can I borrow you for a second?"

"Sure, what’s up?"

"Kyle’s asleep, but can you just sit in here with him for a minute? I uh… I need to go talk to Jessica." JC held the door open with his foot as he leaned into the hall.

"Yeah, sure." Chris changed direction and pushed JC’s door open. "He’s sleeping?"

"Yeah, he’ll be down for a little while."

"Okay." Chris nodded. "You’re not gonna split for like an hour are you?"

"No…this should only take a couple minutes."

"I’m gonna hold you to that." Chris gave him a warning glance warmed with a smile.

"Don’t worry." JC smiled quickly, "Thanks Chris."

"Sure thing." Chris waved as JC stepped out into the hall. He checked with the security team in the common room to find Jessica’s room, then hopped down the hall to her door. He knocked softly and shoved his hands in his pockets as he waited.

When he heard her footsteps approaching the door he looked anxiously down the hall, wondering how obvious it would look if he ran away right then. Before he could get his feet to move she opened the door and blushed, "H-hi JC. I didn’t know you guys were back."

"We just got back about an hour ago." JC nodded. "Listen I uh… I just wanted to thank you for coming by yesterday, that really meant a lot."

"It was my pleasure." She said with a slight nod.

"Can I come in?"

"Oh, sure… sure." She held the door open for him and stepped to the side to let him by. She was pretty sure she knew why he’d really come by and her stomach did cartwheels at the thought.

"Jessica… you… you really mean a lot to Kyle, and to me. I mean, you’ve practically raised him for the last couple weeks and you opened my eyes to what kind of asshole I’d been and all that. But I… I shouldn’t have…" he stopped and frowned, creasing his forehead and pressing his lips into a perfectly straight line. "I’m sorry about yesterday, I didn’t mean to."

"It’s okay." She blushed quickly and fought the urge to open the door and push him back out to save them both from the uncomfotableness that was sure to follow.

"No, it’s not." He shook his head. "I was just really… shit I don’t know what I was. I was so worried all day long I was making myself sick, and then you showed up and things got better, I mean… we found out Kyle was going to be okay and all that. I was just so relieved and you were just there." He shrugged then ran his fingers through his hair. "That came out wrong, and I don’t mean it like that. It wasn’t just because you were there…"

"No, I know." Jessica’s cheeks turned bright red.

"It’s just… I just broke up with Ali and I’m still trying to get used to having Kyle around and then there’s the tour."

"JC, it’s okay. You don’t need to explain anything." She shook her head and put her hands in her pockets to literally keep herself from making him leave. She didn’t want him to go she just wanted the whole scene to be over.

"I just don’t want things to be weird between us."

"They’re not." She shook her head and gave him a half smile. "It’s okay, really."

"Because if things were di – "

Jessica held up her hand and cut him off, "I understand that you were emotionally exhausted and your stress was peaked. I felt the same way, so believe me I understand why you uh… why it happened." She quickly looked away and hoped that the pale light in the room hid her cheeks that were still burning. "It’s not a big deal."

"Okay, I just… just wanted to make sure, you know?"

"I know." She insisted. She quickly cleared her throat and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, "How’s Kyle?"

"He’s okay. He’s asleep right now, I think the medicine knocks him out."

"Yeah, probably." Jessica nodded. "He’s just on Tylenol right?"

"Uh huh, the baby kind. He just chews it up, it’s pretty cool."

"And he took it okay?"

"Yeah, he ate it like candy."

"Make sure to keep that put away though, so he can’t get it. If he thinks it tastes like candy he may want to eat them all."

"No, I know. It’s in my bathroom bag on the counter, he can’t reach it."

"Just be careful."

"I know." He nodded. "We have a show tonight."

"Yeah."

"Can you keep an eye on him? I mean, Sean would usually watch him while he’s sleeping, but I think I’d feel better if you could watch him. Since he’s sick I mean."

"Oh yeah… yeah that’s no problem at all." Jessica shook her head. "In fact, I'm leaving on the crew bus in about a half hour, so by the time you guys get there I'll be done setting up and I can just take him. We can go back to my bus and hang out there."

"We’re leaving right after the show for St. Louis."

"We can work something out." She nodded.

"Okay." He nodded and looked down at his feet. "Thanks." JC looked up quickly and smiled with tired eyes, "I’ll see you later then."

"Yeah, just give me a call on my cell when you get to the venue and I'll meet you in the dressing room."

"I will." JC brushed his hair out of his eyes and reached for the door.

"Hey uh… have you heard anything more about his mom?" Jessica asked cautiously. It was none of her business really, but she was curious.

"No. Not yet." JC shook his head, remembering that he needed to talk to Sean about that. "I’ll see you later." He left quickly then walked down the hall to Sean’s room.

"What’s up Jace? How’s Kyle?" Sean asked as he pulled the door open.

"He’s okay, he’s sleeping." JC slid his hands into his pockets and tried not to yawn. "He’s gonna be okay, it’ll just be a couple days."

"That’s really good to hear." Sean nodded.

"Yeah." JC fidgeted as he stood in the hall. "Hey, have you uh… have we heard anything more about his mom? I mean, I know you and Johnny were working with that investigator guy, but… has anything come up?"

"No." Sean shook his head. "I was gonna pull you aside tonight to talk about it. He’s only been on it for a few days now, but he’s done a shit load of work man."

"What’d he get?"

"Nothing." Sean shook his head. "Lori Winter is a stage name, the theater in Boston doesn’t keep records of stage and real names because almost all of the actors there have stage names. The theater didn’t pay the actors for "Sheer Madness" they just hosted the performance for a local acting school. The acting school has since closed and there are no records to speak of, other than financial records. He got a hold of the old owner who has no idea who Lori is or was, there were more than a thousand students there and he can’t remember them all." Sean sighed. "The search in New Jersey turned up nothing because without a last name or city to go on there’s not much they can do. They searched for caucasian baby boys born on Kyle’s birthday in Jersey and checked them out, none had the name Kyle for a first or middle name, or mothers named Lori."

"Shit… it’s a complete dead end?"

"He’s still working on it though." Sean said hopefully. "The lawyer I spoke to said it might be a good idea to get a second investigator out there looking."

JC made a sour face, "You think it would help? I mean, we seriously have nothing to go on. No name, no current description, no city… no nothing."

"It’s your call." He shrugged.

"Okay." JC sighed. "I’ll think about it. Thanks for letting me know."

"No problem kid."

"So what time is the caravan leaving?"

"Um, we pull outta here at noon to hit the venue by three and do the arena pre-show. If you wanna wait and come over later that’s cool. We can have you do an abbreviated sound check as late as five or six."

"No, I can go over with everyone." JC shook his head.

"No one would think you were slacking off if you waited." Sean said a second later.

"I know." JC nodded, though that was more or less what he’d been thinking. "I just want to give Cleveland a great show, you know? Since it was my fault they missed out."

"Don’t worry about it Jace."

"I’m not." JC shook his head and forced a smile. "I’ll see you downstairs at noon."

"Take it easy." Sean nodded and watched as JC sulked back down the hall to his own room to relieve Chris of his babysitting duties.

Kyle was still sleeping and Chris was kicked back in the chair reading the hotel menu when JC walked in, "Thanks Chris." He said softly.

"No problem. What's Jessica up to today?" Chris asked.

"She's leaving with the crew to head over so she can get her stuff done before the show. She's gonna watch Kyle for me tonight."

"That's cool." Chris dropped the menu onto the table and swung his feet around so that they were resting on the floor.

"I talked to Sean about the investigation thing." JC dropped himself into the chair beside Chris. "This is so fucked up."

"Why, what's up? How's it going?" Chris asked.

"Shitty." JC sighed. He filled Chris in on what Sean had told him about the investigator that Johnny had hired.

"Damn." Chris shook his head. "So there’s like… no way to find her?"

"Nope. And we were just assuming that Kyle was born in New Jersey but the letter said she moved all over the place… there’s nothing else we can think of to search for."

"Isn’t there a way to search all of the birth records for a mom named Lori and a kid named Kyle?"

"I don’t know." JC shook his head. "I’m sure if there was this investigator would have done that."

"Sheesh…"

"Tell me about it." JC shook his head and sighed.

"What happens if you don’t find her?" Chris asked after a minute of silence.

"I don’t know." JC answered softly. "I don’t know." He shook his head and hoped he’d be able to find Lori. But even if she was found, he didn’t know exactly what he’d say.

 

 

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Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn