"I'm sorry Jace."  Lance said quickly as the meeting ended and they all stood up to leave.

            "No, it's okay." JC shook his head and tried to force a smile as he reached for Kyle.  "Come on buddy, let's go home."

            "No."  Kyle's frown hadn't changed at all.

            "You don't want to go home?"

            "I see Jaxo and Lessi."  Kyle said into Lance's chest.

            "We can't go see them right now."

            "Yeah."

            "Nope, let's go see Candy.  We can give her a treat."  JC put his hands under Kyle's arms.

            "No!"  Kyle shouted and swatted at JC with his good hand.

            JC stopped suddenly and looked at Lance with an even deeper blush.  "I…"

            "Do you want me to put him in the car?"  Lance asked quietly.

            "Uh… yeah.  Sure."  JC turned and disarmed his car to unlock the doors.  "There.  He's in the back behind my seat.

            "No.  I go wiss Laaaance."  Kyle protested when Lance opened the car door.

            "You've gotta go home with your daddy."  Lance shook his head as he tried to put Kyle in his seat.  Kyle's fingers held tight to Lance's shirt as the tears started.

            "I doe like!"

            "You don't have to like it pal, but you've gotta go."  Lance pried Kyle's hands loose and set him in his seat.  Kyle's feet lashed out and kicked wildly at the driver’s seat in front of him as he continued to throw a fit.

            "I'll strap him in."  JC stepped in, as Lance looked helpless.  "Thanks."  He smiled quickly at Lance to let him know he wasn't upset.  "Kyle.  Settle down."

            "No!"

            "Yes."  JC remained calm as he held Kyle down and strapped him into his seat.

            “I doe like you!”  Kyle shouted with a deep-set frown.

            JC sighed and ran his hand through his hair as he shook his head.  With the little boy still kicking and crying, JC shut the car door to block out the sounds.

            "Whoa.  What was that?"  Joey asked from the door of the studio.

            "He's having a little fit."  JC shrugged and tried to look like it didn't bother him while inside his mind was reeling.

            "He doesn't like you?"  Joey tried not to smile.

            "Apparently not."  JC cleared his throat and pursed his lips.  "But… you know… he's had a rough couple days."

            "He doesn't mean it."  Lance said softly as Joey walked over to where they were standing.  "I mean, all kids say that."

            "I know."

            "But hey, who wouldn't like Lance better?"  Joey laughed and slapped Lance on the back.

            "Shut up Joe."  Lance said softly but smiled nonetheless.

            "I'd better get going.  I've gotta finish dealing with this."  JC nodded toward the car.

            “Good luck man.”  Joey smiled and shook his head.  “You know what that is right there?”  He asked Lance.

            “Hmm?”

            “Birth control.”

            “Hey.”  JC frowned as he reached for the driver’s side door handle.

            “Don’t get me wrong man; I love the kid more than anything.  But he reminds me that I’m definitely not ready for anything like that.”  Joey shook his head and laughed.

            JC smiled back and sighed, “I hear ya.”

            “Good luck.”  Lance waved as JC braved the wild unknown and opened the car door.  Kyle’s howling was amplified once the door opened and both Lance and Joey winced.

            JC shut the car door then turned around and said something to Kyle before starting the car.  “That’s gonna be a long ride home.”  Lance sighed.

            “Yeah it is.”  Joey laughed and slapped Lance on the back.  “Oh well.  See you tomorrow, right?”

            “Yep, one more day till the weekend.”

            “You got plans?”

            “Amy does, yeah.  I think we’re doing wedding stuff.  She said it’s a surprise… but she’s been talking to caterers all week.”

            “Did you set a date yet?”

            “Nope.”  Lance shook his head.  “But apparently you don’t need a date if you’re just looking.”

            "Man… I'm glad it's you and not me." Joey laughed and squeezed Lance's shoulder.  "Seriously. Amy's great and all, but man…"

            "I know."  Lance smiled and blushed.  "I'm glad it's me too."

            Joey leaned back and gave Lance a look that said he must be crazy.  "You're hooked."  He said finally.

            "Yep."

            "Well I hope it's not catching." Joey quickly removed his hands and laughed all the way to his car.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

            "See ya."  Lance chuckled and opened his car door as he looked down the long driveway wondering just how far JC and Kyle had gone and if JC was still holding it all together.

 

            From the time they pulled out of the driveway until they were halfway home, Kyle screamed in the backseat.  First he wanted to go see Lance, then he changed his mind and he wanted to go play with Justin.  When JC explained that he couldn't do either because they were going home, Kyle kicked it up a notch and started in with the blood curdling shrieks.  For a few minutes JC drove in stunned silence.  How was it possible that a child so small could make such a racket?

            JC could feel his blood start to boil when Kyle began to kick the back of his seat and shout that he wanted out of his seat.  Having remained relatively calm for the first part of the drive, JC came to the end of his rope.  "What is wrong with you?!"  JC shouted to be heard over his son.  He cranked the car stereo up as loud as he could stand it, but somehow Kyle was louder than that.  "You are making me insane!"  Kyle gave one final kick to the back of JC's chair as he flailed his fists in the air and stared JC down in the rear view mirror before slowly sticking his tongue between his lips.  The defiant look he gave his father was enough to spring JC into action.

            JC jerked the steering wheel to the side and pulled over on the shoulder of the highway.  He turned on his hazard blinkers, set his emergency brake and took the keys out of the ignition before he stepped out of the car.  Kyle’s screaming followed him outside so JC leaned back into the car and shouted, “If you keep this up I’m going to send you to live with your mom!  Do you want that?!  Do you?!  I’ve about had it Kyle.  One more minute of this and I swear to God, you’re on the next plane to LA.  ALONE!”  He slammed the car door and walked quickly to the back of the car where it was safer. The sound of traffic drowned out the sound of Kyle in the car and somehow calmed JC down enough so that he didn’t literally pull his hair out.

            He tore his hands through his hair and puffed out his cheeks as he blew out his breath.  His words echoed through his mind like some horrible soap opera and he couldn’t believe they’d come from his own lips.  He hadn’t meant a word of it, but anger took control and offered up the cruel threats without his consent.  A dozen deep breaths later JC’s pulse slowed to an almost normal pace and he was able to think about what he should do next. There was a voice in JC’s head that told him he needed to call someone, anyone, to have them come and get him; but his phone was in the car and he wasn’t at the point where he thought he could go back inside and remain level headed.

            “I am losing my mind.  I am seriously losing my mind.”  JC grumbled to himself as he looked around at the cars zipping by and the clouds overhead.  “I’m going crazy and I’ve probably just scarred my kid for life.  Great.  Good going Jace.”  He paced behind the car as he talked to himself.

            After a solid ten minutes of watching cars rush by and staring at the sky to clear his head, JC finally took one last breath and went back to the driver’s side of the car.  Before he opened the door he could hear Kyle crying inside.  JC opened the door and climbed in quickly.  “We’re going home now buddy, and when we get there you’re taking a nap.”

            “NO!”  Kyle shouted from the back seat as his breaths came in short, hysterical bursts.

            “Yep.”  JC carefully merged into the traffic and headed home.  Somehow he blocked out Kyle’s screaming and focused only on the road ahead of him.  Two exits before their house, JC noticed that the car was quiet, only the sound of the tires on the pavement could be heard above the engine.  JC frowned and looked in the rearview mirror to make sure Kyle was okay.

            The little boy was slumped over in his seat with damp cheeks and sweat soaked hair.  His breaths came in short, wet hiccups and JC’s heart skipped a beat seeing how innocent and sweet Kyle looked when he was asleep.  “Great.”  JC ran his hand through his hair again then drove the rest of the way home in silence.

            He left Kyle in his car seat in the car with the windows and the door to the house open so that he would hear if the little boy woke up.  JC licked his lips as he walked into the kitchen, he needed to hear a grown up voice and he needed to know that he had done the right thing.  He called the one person he knew who would tell him what he needed to hear and waited anxiously as the phone rang a thousand miles away in Jessica’s Connecticut home.

            "Hello?"  Jessica asked with a hint of annoyance.  She'd taken a half dozen hang up calls while she tried to rest on her couch.

            "Hey you."  JC smiled.  "Are you okay?"

            "Yeah."  She smiled quickly, glad to hear his voice.  "We've had like a hundred hang up calls today and I was getting tired of them."

            "Ah, I bet."  He nodded and sighed, "So what are you up to?"

            "Not much.  I'm lying on the couch watching 'Felicity' reruns on the Women’s Entertainment Network."

            "I've never seen that show."  JC smiled as he felt himself relax into the small talk that she was so good at.

            "It's good.  She's involved in this Noel and Ben love triangle.  Actually, right now she's getting ready to try to have sex with Noel but she's going to light the Christmas tree on fire instead."  Jessica smiled and put the remote on the table in front of her.  "It doesn't work out like she hopes."

            "I don't imagine that it would."

            "But anyway, I'm sure you didn't call to get the 'Felicity' synopsis for today."  Jessica tucked her feet under her and pulled the blanket over her legs.  The TV was already muted so she watched the action with no sound.

            "Nah, I was just calling to say hi."

            "How was work?"

            "Work was good.  I took Kyle with me because I just don’t think he's ready for school yet.  With his finger I mean.  But he had a complete meltdown after."

            "Uh oh.  A meltdown over what?"  Jessica asked carefully.

            "He wanted to leave but we weren't done yet so I told him we had to wait a minute."

            "Uh huh?"

            "Well apparently he doesn't like me."  JC chuckled under his breath softly.

            "Oh man."

            "Yeah.  So he told me he doesn't like me and he went and sat with Lance for the rest of the meeting."

            "Ouch."

            "Yeah."

            "Was he okay after?"

            "Not exactly.  He wouldn't let me carry him to the car so Lance had to put him in his seat.  Then he kept on kicking and screaming and everything."  He slowly worked up to the real reason for his call as his hands began to sweat.

            "Wow, the terrible twos are coming late for him, huh?"

            "I guess so."  JC sighed.  "Man, he's had fits before but this time it was just like… I don't know.  The stress from the last week or whatever, with Lori, has just… it made me nuts."

            "You?"

            "Yeah.”

            “Are you okay?”  Jessica asked slowly.

            “I...”  JC paused before he said ‘yeah’.  “I’m uh... well when we… on the way home he was screaming so loud my ears were ringing so I pulled over on the freeway and told him if he didn't stop screaming I was going to send him to live with his mom."  Once he started, it came out in a rushed river of words.

            "JC…"  Jessica whispered as she closed her eyes and rested her head in her hands.

            "I know."

            "You shouldn't threaten him like that."

            "I know."  JC shook his head as he rested it in his hands.

            "I mean…"

            "No, I know."  JC sighed.  "I can't believe I said it, trust me.  I mean, the last person he should be afraid of going to live with is his mom.  Even if I don't like her, you know?"

            "I know what you mean."  Jessica bit her lip and continued to frown.

            "I was just… mad I guess.  I've never wanted to spank him hard before but I was so close to my wits end I felt like I could have."  Jessica kept silent on her end of the phone.  "I didn't spank him or anything, but I let him freak out in the car while I stood outside and took about a hundred deep breaths."

            "On the side of the freeway?"

            "Yeah."

            "Well… that's…"

            "I did the right thing though, right?"

            "What do you mean?"

            "I mean, I gave myself a time out or whatever.  That was the right thing to do, right?"  JC asked softly.  "I know I shouldn't have left him alone in the car while he was freaking out, but I didn't go far.  I was right there."

            "No, JC that's fine."

            "If I stayed in the car I was going to drive us off the road."

            "JC, you did the right thing." Jessica lowered her voice and tried to sound reassuring.

            "But have I ruined him for life?  Or something?  I can't believe I told him I'd make him go live with his mom if he didn't stop screaming.  And I really can't believe I almost completely lost my cool with him.  Damn Jessica, I've probably traumatized him."

            Jessica tried not to smile, "He's a great kid JC, but even great kids have their moments.  You did the right thing by pulling over to cool off and I doubt he'll even remember your threat to send him to LA."

            "Jesus, I hope not."  JC rested his head in his hands.  "I still… I just can't shake this feeling.  My stomach is all in knots."

            "Is he okay now?"

            "Yeah.  He was still crying when I got back in the car but he fell asleep like, five minutes later.  He's in his car seat sleeping it off."

            "Well wait and see how he is when he wakes up."

            "What if he freaks again?  What... what do I do?"

            "I don't know."  Jessica answered honestly.

            "If he cries for Lance, do I call him and have him come over?"

            "You can."

            "But what if he just freaks out and just keeps screaming again?"

            "JC, I don't know honey.  I haven't dealt with that before."  She wished she could be there to help, but she wasn't sure what she could do that JC couldn't do on his own.  "You can always call your mom, I'm sure she'd know."

            "Are you implying that I was a screamer?"

            "I'm sure you had your moments." She smiled.  "Kyle will be fine, JC.  Kids are resilient.  I'm willing to bet he'll wake up in a much quieter mood."

            JC sighed with relief, "Thank you.  Really, I was freaking out here.  I seriously can't believe I lost it like that though.  I'll have to apologize."

            Jessica smiled and pinched her bottom lip, "Yeah.  You could do that."

            "But if this is how he's going to be next week while we're traveling, I might just have to send him to my moms or something."

            "Just wait and see.  He'll probably be fine."

            "I hope so."

            "And don't worry so much, I'm positive you didn’t ruin him for life."

            "Thanks."  JC laughed softly and ran his hand through his hair.  "That's good to know."

            "You know… not to scare you to death or anything, but this is basically nothing. He's two.  Just wait till he's fifteen."

            "Oh man.  I'm not even going there."

            "And he asks to borrow your car…"  Jessica laughed.

            "Never."

            "To take a girl out on a date…"

            "Stop."  JC laughed and felt himself relax a bit.  "I get the picture."

            "You've got plenty of time to stress over Kyle.  This is the first major freak out session, but definitely not the last."

            JC sighed and licked his lips; "I don't know how parents do it.  How can you be a good parent when your kid is screaming bloody murder in the backseat for no good reason?"

            "You know what good parents do?"

            "What?"

            "They pull over and put themselves on a time out."

            JC's stomach flip-flopped in a good way and he smiled, "I love you."

            Jessica laughed softly, "I love you too."

            "Damn, I wish you were here."

            "I just left."

            "I know."

            "And I'm going to see you next week in New York."

            "I know.  But still… that's not right here right now."

            "It's only a few more days."

            "Blah, blah, blah.  I still wish you were here."

            "I will be soon."  She laughed and turned the volume up just a bit.  “In fact, I should probably go pack.”

            “You probably should.”  JC agreed.  “You leave Monday?”

            “Nope, you guys leave Monday but I won’t be there until Tuesday afternoon.  I’ve got stuff to do around here.  And stuff.”

            “And stuff?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Okay.”  JC sighed softly.  “But then you’re staying with us until when?”

            “I’m going to San Francisco with you.”

            “Really?”

            “Yeah.  We leave the same day but my flight leaves after yours.”

            “And you’re flying home to…?”

            “Here.  Connecticut.”

            “Okay.”

            Jessica smiled, they’d already been over her plans twice but she knew he’d call again and ask about them one more time before she was slated to leave.  “You’ll get undivided Jessica attention for almost two weeks.”

            “Wow.”

            “You’re so lucky.”

            “I am.” He said softly.  “Very, very lucky.”

            Jessica blushed and took a deep breath, “So you’re doing okay now?”

            “I’m fine.”  JC licked his lips and realized he actually was a lot better with Jessica on the phone.

            “Okay, then I’m going to let you go.”

            “You’re gonna go finish watching ‘Felicity’?”

            “This is a good one.” Jessica laughed, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

            “I’ll take your word for it.” He laughed with her again and sighed.  “Okay hun, well I’ll see you in a couple days then.”

            “Yep, I’ll see you Tuesday.”

            “I’ll call you before then though.”

            “Okay.”

            “Love you.”

            “Love you too.” Jessica smiled slowly and waited until she heard him hang up before she clicked her phone off and set it aside.  She turned the volume up on the TV and settled in for the rest of the show while her mind wandered back to JC as always.

 

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

 

            Jessica watched the rest of the ‘Felicity’ marathon and didn’t get to packing until the next afternoon while Katie was at work.  She stood in her closet and sighed.  It’d been four hours and she’d already done a load of laundry and organized her closet twice.  Packing was her least favorite thing to do so she stalled as long as she could.

            “Okay fine.  Moving on then.”  She pulled a box down from the top of her closet and put it beside the still empty suitcase.  Within minutes she’d torn her closet apart again and began packing things she rarely used.  “It’ll eventually have to be packed anyway, right?  Whether or not you move in with him.”  She grumbled to herself as she shoved her bathing suits into the box beside her sundresses that she hadn’t worn in more than a year.

            “Jessica?”  She heard her room mate call from the front room as the door slammed.

            “In here!”  Jessica shouted back.

            “What are – “  Katie stopped in the doorway and frowned at the clothes strewn everywhere.  “You're packing?"

            "Yeah.  I'm going to New York with JC."  Jessica nodded.

            "And you need your bathing suit?  And your rollerblades?"  She watched as Jessica put the rollerblades on top of the box.

            Jessica sighed and sat back on her heels.  "I…"  She didn't know how to say it; she wished Katie could just know.

            "Oh my God.  You're moving in with him?!"  Katie's face practically burst with a smile.  "Are you serious?!  When?!"

            "No, I - " Jessica stopped and stood up slowly.  "I've… he asked me to move in with him, yes.  But I haven't told him yes or no yet."

            "What?!  Jessica, you're nuts."

            "There's more to… to the whole thing.  It's not just moving in with a boyfriend."  Jessica shook her head.

            "No, it's moving in with your incredibly gorgeous and rich boyfriend who just happens to one of the most famous people in the world."  Katie rolled her eyes.

            "No, but he's got Kyle and issues with his mom."

            "JC's mom?  She always seemed so nice."  Katie frowned then bit her lip in concentration.

            "Kyle's mom." Jessica corrected her.  "Listen, you can't say anything.  I haven't really decided yet, but if I do move out it'll probably be after the New Year."

            "The New Year?"

            "Well yeah.  I mean… I'd want to spend Christmas here… with my family and everything."  Jessica shrugged and put some of her other shoes in the box next to her rollerblades.  "And I still have to think about it."

            "But you're packing."  Katie smiled at the boxes.

            "Yeah."

            "So you're seriously thinking about it."

            "Yeah."  Jessica smiled though she tried not to.  "Yeah.  I want to.  I know I do… but I just…"  She sighed, "… I just don't know for sure yet.  If it was the right time there'd be no question."

            "Okay.  Fair enough." Katie smiled.  "Just give me fair warning though, because if you move out I'm gonna have to find another room mate.  But shit, the chances of me finding one who pays half the rent and is gone for months at a time are like, slim to none."  She laughed and leaned into the room.

            "I'll give you plenty of warning." Jessica nodded and felt her stomach tighten into a knot.  "As soon as I know what I want to do, I'll tell you."

            "Okay."

            "But in the meantime, I do have to pack for New York."  Jessica sighed and looked down at her empty suitcase.  "I have way too much junk."

            "Just focus on the stuff you need for New York and ignore the rest."

            "I don't know what I want to take though."

            "Well what are you doing there?"

            "I don't know."

            "Are you there for fun or for work?"

            "Um… both kind of.  The guys are there for work.  They're recording I think.  So I'll be kind of working with them, but then in their free time JC was talking like it'd be a mini vacation or something."

            "Hmm."

            "So, jeans?"

            "That'll work."  Katie nodded.  "But bring something nice too, just in case."

            "Okay."

            "And warm clothes."

            "Of course."  Jessica nodded and turned back to her closet.  "Ugh, I don't want to pack.  I'm tired of looking at clothes."

            "Do you want me to pack for you?"  Katie smiled devilishly and eyed Jessica's closet.

            "No thanks, I'll do it."

            "When are you leaving?"

            "Tuesday morning."

            "You'd better get a move on it then."

            "I know." Jessica laughed and sat on her bed.  "I need a vacation.  A real vacation.  I need to go to the Bahamas or something and just be by myself.  I swear, I feel like I've been around people non-stop for the last year."

            "You have."

            "I know.  I need three days to just be alone."

            "Well, you're not gonna get that here.  I'll be here all week."

            "That's okay."  Jessica smiled.  "We never get to hang out anymore.  We should go get a movie or something."

            "Yeah.  But first you need to pack and stuff."  Katie pointed to the suitcase.  "But only New York stuff."

            "Got it."  Jessica put her hands on her hips and sighed.

            Katie paused for a second then shook her head, "I can't believe you're moving in with him.  So, so, so many girls are going to hate you."

            "So many already do."

            "Yeah but seriously.  If you move in it's going to be nuts.  You're going to officially be his ‘live in girlfriend’.  And dude, I can say I know you!"  She bounced in the doorway and tried not to giggle too much.

            "You can say you know me now.”

            “Well yeah.  And don’t think I don’t tell people I know you now.”  Katie grinned and shook her head, “Of course most people I know don’t care really.”

            “And most people probably won’t care after I move in either.”

            “Hrm.  Well I’m going to have to go make some teenie friends then.”  She laughed then stepped out of the room.  “Anyway, I’ll leave you to pack.”

            “Thanks.”

            “Do you want me to make some popcorn or something?  Are you hungry?”

            “No thanks, I’m good.”

            “Diet coke?”

            “Ooo, actually that’d be great.”

            “Okay.”  Katie smiled and went to retrieve the drink for Jessica.  When she returned Jessica drank half of it in one shot then set it down on her dresser to pack up her clothes for New York.

            She sighed heavily and stared at her clothes.  With the weather varying from New York, to Toronto, to San Francisco, Jessica had a packing dilemma.  She stared at her clothes for a few more minutes, then started pulling them out and laying them on her bed in a haphazard way with pants in the middle and tops in different categories around them.

            After more than an hour she still hadn’t put anything more than her under things and pajamas into her suitcase and she wasn’t looking forward to tackling the rest.  But with the clothes covering her bed, she’d have to finish up before it got too late or she’d end up sleeping on the couch.  Her cell phone rang on the nightstand and she dove for it; any excuse to stop packing for a moment was good enough for her.  Seeing JC’s number on the caller ID panel only made her smile broader.  “Hey baby.”  Jessica laughed and fell back on her bed, wrinkling all the clothes she’d just set out.  “Perfect timing.”

            “Uh oh, what are you supposed to be doing?”

            “I’m packing and I hate it so you’re saving me.” Jessica laughed.

            “Ahh, I see.”

            “Are you packed?”

            “Yep.  I did that this morning.”

            “You’re amazing.”

            “I keep telling people that.”  JC laughed.

            “So how’d work go?”

            “Good.” He shrugged.  “We just went over the plans for the next few weeks, stuff like that.  Last minute changes.”

            “Changes?”

            “Nothing major.  We just flip flopped some meetings and appearances.”

            “Okay.”  Jessica sighed and pulled her folded jeans from under her ribs.  “How’s Kyle?”

            “He’s fine.”

            “No more screaming?”

            “No.”  JC laughed and ran his hand through his hair.  “No, I’m hoping yesterday was an isolated event.”

            “You’re optimistic.”

            “Yeah… well…”

            “Did he choose Lance again?”

            “Nope.  He hung out with Frank all day and practically ignored everyone else.”

            “That’s good then.  He’ll be hanging out with Frank a lot over the next few weeks, won’t he?”

            “Yeah.  Frank and you and me.  Just like old times.”

            “Fun.”

            “It will be, yeah.”  JC sighed.  “So I was just calling to say hi and see how your day went.”

            “Well hi.”  Jessica smiled.  “And my day went well.  I just…” She looked around the room at the three boxes of packed things that most certainly were not going to New York with her.  “I packed a little.”

            “It’s taken you all day and you’re not packed yet?”  JC laughed and shook his head as he relaxed into the corner of the couch.”

            “Hey.  You have your methods, I have mine.”  She blushed and tried to change the subject.  “What are you doing this weekend?”

            “Um… Joey’s having a cook out thing at his house again.  So I think we’ll all be over there tomorrow.  Then Sunday?  I don’t know.  We’ll probably just kick back around home and get things ready to be gone for two weeks.”

            “Is Heather coming to watch the house?”

            “Yep.”

            “That’s cool.”

            “Yeah, well now that we have Candy I need someone to play with her and feed her and everything.”

            “True.”

            “I’ve gotta tell you, she’s the best thing I’ve done in a while.”

            “What?”  Jessica laughed.

            “I mean…”  JC laughed and blushed though she couldn’t see him.  “I mean buying her.  That was the best thing ever.  You know what I meant.”

            “Well I wasn’t sure.”

            “You’ve been spending too much time with Chris and his dirty mind.”

            "No I haven't."  She laughed with him.

            "You need to go pack."

            "I know."

            "And I need to go do dishes."

            "Okay."

            "So I'll let you go."

            "You don't want to talk to me anymore?"  Jessica pretended to pout.

            "Nope.  You're too weird for me."

            "Oh stop."

            "You are."

            "You love me anyway."

            "Well yeah of course I do." JC smiled slowly.  "I'll see you Tuesday afternoon."

            "I'll call you when I'm on my way."

            "Call before that."

            "Okay."

            "Call tomorrow."

            "Yes sir."

            "Now that's what I like to hear."  JC laughed and ran his fingers over his bottom lip.  "Good night babe.  I'll talk to you soon."

            "Good night."

            "I love you."

            "I love you too.  Give Kyle a kiss for me."

            "I will."  JC blew a kiss over the phone line then sighed as he waited for her to hang up.  Tuesday couldn't come fast enough for him.

 

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

 

            "Hey baby."  Jessica did a terrible Butthead impression when JC answered his cell phone Tuesday afternoon.

            "Hey!  Where are you?  Are you here yet?"

            "Nope, I'm at the airport."  Jessica smiled as she leaned into the payphone area and dropped her voice.  "Are you ready?"

            "Absolutely."  JC laughed.  "I can't come to the airport to get you, but Sean will meet you at the gate."

            "Sean is there?"

            "Yeah.  He's only staying with us while we're in New York.  But anyway, he'll be there to get you and bring you back here; to the hotel."

            "Sounds good."

            "Do you have a lot of luggage?"

            "Not really, just the one suitcase.  Why?"

            "Just asking."

            "I'm planning on doing laundry while we're running around."

            "Cool.  See?  That's why you get paid the big bucks.  You think to wash the clothes where I just throw them away when I'm done with them."

            "You're strange sweetie."  She laughed as her flight was called.  "They're starting to board the flight so I'm gonna go.  See you in a few hours."

            "Two?"

            "Something like that."  Jessica smiled.  “The flight is one hour and ten minutes I think.  Once we take off, and land and get my luggage then drive to the hotel, yeah… about two hours.”

            "Okay.  Fly safe."

            "I will."

            "Tell the pilot to."

            "Okay.  I'll pass that along."

            "Good."  JC smiled.  "Love you, see you in a few."

            "I love you too.  Bye." She hung up and tried not to bounce around like a teenager in love as she headed for the gate.

 

            The flight into New York was quick and uneventful, but Jessica’s stomach was still in knots as she stepped off the plane.  She looked around for Sean’s’ familiar face and started to worry when she didn’t see him right off the bat.  With her backpack in her hand and her carry on duffle bag over her shoulder she stood off to the side and tried to look comfortable as she scanned the crowd.

            Within minutes the waiting area cleared of all but a few people and Jessica was left standing there looking out the windows as she wracked her brain to try to remember what hotel they were staying at.  “Jessica!”  Sean yelled from fifty feet away.

            Jessica looked in the direction of the person calling her name and smiled, “There you are!”

            “I’m sorry I’m late.  I forgot about driving in the city and parking here.  It’s crazy.  Have you been waiting long?”  He slowed to a fast walk as he got to her and took her bag from her.

            “No, not long.”

            “Good.  I’m sorry about that.”

            “It’s okay.”

            “So is this all?”  He looked at her two small bags.

            “No, I have a suitcase.  I pack light, but come on…”  She laughed and put her backpack on over her shoulders.  “Where are the guys?”

            “They’re actually back at the hotel until about seven or seven thirty when they’ve gotta run down the street to the studio.”

            “The studio is just down the street?”

            “Yeah.  The guys love it because they can walk outside, but it’s a security mess.”

            “I bet.”

            “And taking a car like, two blocks is just stupid.  That’s such a diva thing to do.”

            “Well, you know Sean, they are five little divas.”

            “Honey, don’t get me started.”  Sean laughed as he stepped on the escalator.  They got her bag and trudged out to the rental car.  He loaded all of her bags into the back seat then drove across town to the hotel.  A pack of girls were crowding the sidewalk which was normal, and the one sure way to identify which hotel the guys were staying in.

            “Oh joy.”  Jessica bit her lip nervously as she looked out the window on their first drive by.

            “Yep, tell me about it.”  Sean sighed.  “We’ll valet the car and go in as quick as we can.”

            “Okay.  There’s no side entrance huh?”

            “Nah.  But no one knows us.  We’ll be safe.” He laughed and pulled up at the valet stand.  They got her luggage on a hotel cart then walked in quickly.  Jessica kept her eyes low and tried to ignore the comments from the fans close enough to hear.  They might not have recognized Sean, but several recognized her and commented on how that was JC’s girlfriend going into the hotel.

            “Hang on.”  Seas said once they got inside.  He flipped open his phone and dialed quickly.  When the person on the other end answered, Sean smiled and said, “The eagle has landed.  In the lobby.  Okay, I’ll distract her.” He laughed and hung up.  “JC wanted to know what you got here.”

            “The eagle huh?” Jessica laughed and ran her fingers through her hair.

            “Yeah, he’s coming down.”

            “Fun.”  She looked over her shoulder at the girls standing by the wide glass doors.

            “We can go wait out of sight.”  Sean nodded to the bellhop to take her luggage up, then lead her around the corner to where the elevators were.  They stood for a few minutes before the elevator dinged and JC stepped off.  He grabbed Jessica from behind and kissed her neck, his light covering of stubble scratching at her jaw.

            “Hey baby.”

            “Hey you.”  She laughed and turned around to hug him properly.

            “I missed you.”  He kissed her quickly then turned to Sean.  “You too big guy.”

            Jessica laughed and shook her head, “Let’s get out of here.  You’ve got half your fan club out in the street.”

            “I know.”

            “Where’s Kyle?”

            “Hanging out with Frank in our room.  He’s wasted, he didn’t get a nap today.”

            “Oh man.”

            “Yeah.”  JC sighed and laced his fingers through hers.  “I’m so glad you’re here.”

            “Me too.”

            “Okay come on kids.”  Sean stepped onto the elevator and held the doors open.  “Let’s go.”

            They rode up to the floor and headed for their own rooms.  “So what did you guys do today?”  Jessica asked.

            “Well when you called we were on our way to the radio station to do this little promo thing there.  Me and Joey did that.  Then after that we went to this designer’s studio thing to get fitted for some clothes or something.”

            “Anthony Caputo?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Cool.  I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to fit you in this week.  I’m glad Cassie got you in.”

            JC nodded, “So that was fun.”

            “I can’t wait to see.”  Jessica smiled and gave his hand a squeeze, she was happy to see him too.

            "Jessica!"  Justin shouted as he ran down the hall, surprising JC and Jessica.  He ran up behind Jessica and practically jumped on her back for a piggyback ride.

            "Ugh, get off me boy.  You've got a good eight inches on me and another fifty pounds."  She grunted and patted his leg that was at her hip.

            "Justin.  Come on."  JC frowned and thwapped at his head.

            "I'm just so glad to see you!  I need your advice on these pants I wanna get.  Joey says they're too girly, but you'd be the one I trust."  Justin reached for her hand.  "Come look."

            "She's not here for work you freak."  JC shook his head and sighed.

            "You're not?"

            "Not exactly."  Jessica shook her head.

            "Oh don't tell me you came all the way here to see JC."  Justin made a face, then laughed.

            "I came all the way here to see Kyle actually."  Jessica smiled back as JC put his arm around her waist.

            "I bet you did."  JC kissed her cheek and let his stubbly chin rub her neck just the slightest.

            "Yeah I see how it is.  We finally get a wardrobe girl that kicks ass and Jace goes and claims her all for himself."  Justin shook his head.

            "This isn't new Justin."  Jessica smiled and gave him a look.

            JC looked at her and shook his head slowly; "He and Chris had cinnamon rolls for lunch then chased them with red bull and Pez I think."

            "Uh oh."  Jessica looked worried, but amused.

            "Not Pez."  Justin shook his head.  "Those… those dot things.  On the paper.  Buttons?  Whatever they are, those sugar dot things."

            "Those are just as bad." Jessica laughed.

            "So they're a little high strung.  We have the day off though, so we don't have to put up with them."

            "BONSAI!"  They suddenly heard Chris' voice from inside one of the rooms.

            "Oh man."  JC sighed and pulled at Jessica's hand.  "We'd better get out of the hall."

            "Chris!"  Justin took off running down the hall as Jessica and JC ducked into the room on the right.

            "Hey guys."  Frank looked up from his seat in the wide recliner chair.  Kyle was curled up on his lap with an open picture book on his lap.

            "Hi Frank, how are you?"  Jessica smiled and set her bags down.

            "I'm good, how about you?"

            "I'm doing great, thanks.  Hey buddy!"  Jessica reached out to mess Kyle's hair.  "I've missed you."  She lifted him off the guard's lap and gave him a hug.

            "Hi."  Kyle wrapped his arms around her neck and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

            "He's tired." JC explained softly.  "Trust me, this morning he was bouncing off the walls when I told him you were coming."

            "Are you tired sweetie?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle yawned.

            "Well my goodness, why don't you go ahead and lay down in the bedroom for a little bit.  Do you want me to take a nap with you?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded and left his arms around her neck.

            "Okay, that sounds good."  She smiled at JC and whispered, "I'll stay till he's asleep."

            "Okay."  JC whispered back.

            Frank stood up and placed the book back on the chair then patted Kyle's back.  "I'll see you later, buddy."

            "Bye Fank."  Kyle smiled and waved as he rested his head on Jessica's shoulder.

            She carried him into the bedroom and laid on the bed beside him, sharing his grown up sized pillow.  “Are you having fun in New York?”  Jessica whispered in the near darkness.

            “Yeah.” Kyle whispered back.  “I hava owie.” He held up his still bandaged hand.

            “I know you do.  We’ll have to take that off here pretty soon.”

            “Yeah.”

            “Go to sleep for a little bit, okay sweetie?”

            “Kay.  Anen we see Jussin?”

            “Yeah, maybe we can see Justin after you take a little nap.”

            “Kay.”  Kyle smiled and sighed, then let his eyes droop closed.  Jessica waited until he started snoring, fighting off several yawns herself, then she went out into the main room.

            JC was standing in front of the TV flipping channels with a frown on his face.  “There’s nothing good on.”

            “It’s the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, all you’ll find is trash TV.”

            “I know.” He flipped the TV off and turned to her with a smile.  “He’s sleeping?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Good, he’ll get a little nap in before we have to go back to the studio.”

            “That’s right, Sean said it’s just right up the street, right?”

            “Yep.”  JC sighed and wrapped his arms around her waist.  “We had to take a break this afternoon because of technical difficulties, so we’re going back for a little bit.”

            “Fun.”

            “This is the life… let me tell you.” He kissed her lips once quickly, then again not so quickly.  “But until then I just want to sit down.  I’ve been on my feet all day.”

            “Poor baby.”  Jessica gave him a pouty lip, then laughed.  “The couch looks comfortable.”

            “I wouldn’t know, I was waiting for you.” He laughed then fell into the corner.  “Ooooh man, heaven.” He patted his lap, “Wanna try it?”

            “Do I ever.”  She fell into the opposite corner and placed her feet in his lap.  “Oh you’re right.”  She stretched her arms over her head and smiled.  “Heaven.”

            “Feet in my lap… yeah that’s heaven.”  He reached over her legs and grabbed her elbow.  With one firm and swift movement, he pulled her around so that she was nestled up next to him, right where he wanted.  “Much better.”

            “So how has Kyle been?  Any more fits?"  Jessica asked as she stifled another yawn.

            "Not really.  Nothing on the scale of the first one."  JC shook his head.  "I talked to my mom about it last night and she said that Heather used to scream and then hold her breath till she passed out, so all in all I think I've got the better end of the deal."

            "She'd pass out?"

            "Yep.  The doctor said to let her do it a few times and she'd stop."

            "Wow."

            "Yeah, so I'm just glad he doesn't do that."

            "No kidding."  Jessica laughed lightly and sighed.  She was so much happier around JC; it was comforting to have his hand on her hip.  Something that small was enough to completely relax her.  "So does Lori have a calling schedule for while you're on the road?" Jessica asked, though she hated to bring up the subject.

            "Yeah.  She's calling at the same times as before but she's calling my cell phone instead."

            "That's good, that way she'll always be able to reach you."

            "Yep, that’s the plan."

            Jessica nodded and smiled, "At least Kyle will still have that part of his routine to be used to."

            "Yeah, that's what I was thinking.  She's gotten better about calling too."  JC shifted his weight on the couch and leaned closer to Jessica.  "It's like she goes through phases where she'll do really good, then for two weeks it's just like she's forgotten that she's got a kid, then the next week she's back on track."

            "Hmm."

            "It's annoying, but…" JC shrugged.  "It's better than not calling at all, you know?"

            "True."

            "I'm gonna see if she wants me to call her once or twice a week too.  Kyle I mean.  Because twice a week just doesn't seem like that much."

            "That's what she chose though, right?"

            "Well yeah, but that was before."

            "Maybe you should leave that up to her."

            "I will leave it up to her.  But I want to put it out there so she knows the option is available."  JC smiled and kissed her cheek.  "Just like with you."

            "With me?"

            "With my offer?  I'm leaving it up to you, but you know it's out there."

            "Ahh."  She blushed.  "Yes, I do."

            "So see?"

            "I see."

            “And I don’t bug you about it.”

            “Anymore.”

            “Anymore.”  He laughed and nodded slightly.  “So… what do you want to see while you’re here?”

            “I’ve already seen everything I think.”

            “Where do you want to go back to then?”

            “Um…” Jessica thought for a minute.  “Rockefeller Center.”

            “Okay.”

            “Can we go?”

            “I think we can work that out.”  JC smiled.  “Do you want to go out to a nice dinner or anything?”

            “Sure.”  Jessica nodded.  “I’ll never turn down a nice dinner.”

            “A date.”

            “A real date.”  She pretended to swoon.  “We haven’t had one of those in a while.”

            “I know.  We should.  I’ll check with the power that be tomorrow and see if we can do that.”

            “Cool.”

            “And we’ll let Kyle’s uncles watch him for the night.”

            “It’s the least they can do.”  She laughed and shook her head.

            “I think so.”  JC sighed and pulled her close.  “So what about Toronto?  What do you want to see there?”

            They spent the next hour and a half talking about things to do in each of the cities they were going to, then JC pulled out his schedule to see where they could fit everything in. They would be busy most of the time, but they knew that once they got to Thanksgiving they’d be off completely until after Christmas.  A whole month to do absolutely anything they wanted without having to worry about meetings, studio time or making appearances.

            Kyle woke up and stumbled out into the main room as JC was putting his schedule binder away, “Hi daddy.”

            “Hey big guy.”  JC slid the binder into his backpack and scooped Kyle up.  “Did you have a good nap?”

            “Yeah.”  He used his bandaged hand to brush his bangs out of his eyes.

            “When do his stitches come out?”

            “We can take him in anytime.  They had to stay in for like, six or seven days and today it’s been a week.”

            “You’re keeping them clean and dry?”

            “Yep.”  JC nodded and looked at the bandage.  “As clean as we can anyway.”  He set Kyle on the floor and patted his behind.  “He’s a little rascal.”

            Jessica smiled and ran her hand over Kyle’s hair.  “Can you just take him to any doctor to get them out?”

            “Yeah.  We’ll have to do that, won’t we?  Hmm.”  He frowned and thought of the schedule he’d just put away.

            “I can take him if you want.”  Jessica offered.

            “Yeah… yeah that might be a good idea.”

            “Find out where I can take him and let me know when.”

            “Perfect.”  JC leaned over Kyle and kissed Jessica quickly.  “I need to get ready to go now though.”

            “Jessi can see my mamimals?”

            “Your animals?  I’d love to see them sweetie.”  She smiled as Kyle took her hand and pulled her into the bedroom.  “I’m going to go see his animals.  Let me know when you’re ready to go.”  She said to JC with a smile.  Kyle took her to the bed by the window where his menagerie of stuffed animals was laid out across the pillows.  “Wow, look at all those!”

            “Yeah is a jungle.”

            “It sure is.”  Jessica laughed and pulled Lello from the pile.  “There are dogs in the jungle?”

            “Yeah Lello.”

            “He’s a brave little doggie then.”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle sighed, then took Lello from her and set him back in his place between a teddy bear and a small grasshopper.  “I pay wiss my mamimals.”

            “I’m sure they’re a lot of fun to play with.  Can I play with them too?”

            “Yeah here.”  Kyle handed her his stuff crocodile, Dill, and a pink flamingo.  “You have one and two.”

            “That’s right, I have two.  Very good.”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle grabbed Lello and the teddy bear and crawled up onto the bed to stand up and face Jessica eye to eye.  “I a big boy and I count and I say one and two and free and four and five and seben and a hundred.”

            “Wow!”  Jessica looked shocked as she high-fived Kyle, “Did you learn that in school?”

            “Yeah.”

            “You’re pretty smart.”

            “Yeah.  I free.”

            “You’re not three yet.  Soon though.”

            “Soon?”

            “In January.”

            “Kay.”  Kyle nodded and sighed, then flopped down on the bed and bounced Lello around the bedspread.

            JC came into the room and disappeared into the bathroom to change his clothes and get himself ready for the studio.  Since it was just the guys he didn’t have to look presentable so warm up pants and a plain t-shirt was his uniform for the evening.

            “Hey.  Do you guys just want to hang out here?”  JC asked as he stood in front of the mirror and pulled at his shirt.

            “As opposed to what?”

            “Fighting the crowd to walk down the street.”  JC caught her eye in the mirror and smiled.  “I just think it’d be easier.”

            “I… sure, we can stay here.”

            “It’s just, you know, with the crowds and everything.”

            “No, it’s fine.  Kyle and I will hang out here until you get back.”

            “Thank you.”  JC turned and leaned over to kiss her quickly.

            “When are you leaving?”

            “Um, like now.”  He glanced at his watch and licked his lips.  “How do I look?”

            “Fine.”

            “The pants?”

            “Perfect.”  Jessica nodded then stood up to straighten his shirt.  “It’s the hat I’m worried about.”  She frowned at the trucker hat in his hand.

            “It’s just for the walk down the street.”

            “You think the hat will make you unrecognizable?”

            “No.” He smiled.  “But it can’t hurt.”

            “If you say so.”  She kissed him then shoved him toward the door.  “Get to work.  Go bring home the bacon.”

            “I’m going.” He reached into his back pocket and tossed his tiny silver cell phone at her.  “Here, keep that for when Lori calls.”

            “Wait.  What?”

            “Lori’s calling at eight thirty.”

            “I – “

            “It’ll be fine. She’s gotten better and all you have to do is hand the phone to Kyle.”  JC smiled quickly then kissed the top of Kyle’s head as he sat on the couch with his Tonka truck.  “See you later buddy, I have to go to work.”

            “I say wiss my Jessi?”

            “Yep, you get to stay with your Jessi.”

            “Kay.”  Kyle sighed, then smiled up at his father.  “Bye bye.”

            “Bye bye buddy.”  JC smiled and looked up at Jessica.  “We’ll be back before midnight.  If you need to reach me, call Justin’s phone.”

            “Okay.”  Jessica frowned, “But JC, I don’t think – “

            “It’ll be fine.”  He insisted.  “Trust me.”

            “I trust you, it’s just that I don’t know if I can be nice to her.”

            “Try.”

            Jessica sighed in response and shook her head as JC left her and Kyle alone in the room.  “Kyle… sweetie.  Your daddy makes me nuts.”

            “Yeah.  He a nut.” Kyle sighed softly then slid off the couch.  “And you a nut and me a nut and Chris a nut.”

            “I guess you’re right, we’re all nuts aren’t we?”

            “Yeah.”  Kyle giggled and headed for his suitcase full of toys in the corner.

            “That’s not very comforting.”  Jessica sighed and smiled, then went to sit with Kyle.  They pulled out his collection of cars and trucks and made a little raceway on the carpet in front of the TV.

 

            JC's phone rang at eight thirty and startled Jessica.  She held the cell phone in front of her to see the caller ID and blushed; it was a LA number and undoubtedly Lori.  She sighed and licked her lips as it rang for the third time.  She clicked 'talk' and closed her eyes.  "Hello?"

            "H-hi.  I'm sorry, do I have the right number?"

            "Is this Lori?"

            "Yes.  Who is this?"

            "This is Jessica.  JC is in the studio, so…"

            "Oh.  Okay.  Is uh… I'm actually calling to talk to Kyle."  Lori said softly.

            "Of course.  He's right over here, let me go get him."

            "How's uh… how's he doing?  I mean, JC always say's he's doing fine, but… anyway, how is he?"

            "Kyle?  Or JC?"

            "Kyle."

            "He's doing fine.  Really." Jessica nodded as she stood up and crossed the room to where Kyle was bouncing his stuffed crocodile around the chair.  "He's… well he's hitting the terrible two's I think.  He's had a couple tantrums and his new thing is that he tells people he doesn't like them."

            "Oh man."  Jessica could hear the smile in Lori's voice.  "I'm sorry, that's not funny… it's just, well I guess it is funny.  Kyle loves everyone."

            "I know."  Jessica smiled and wondered what supernatural being had taken over Lori's body.  They were having a decent conversation and if it weren't so surreal, Jessica would have been concerned.  "It's a phase, I'm sure.  But it's thrown everyone for a loop."

            "I bet."

            "Anyway, here's Kyle."  Jessica knelt in front of Kyle and offered him the phone.  "Hey sweetie, your mother is on the phone."

            "Is my mommy?"

            "Yep." Jessica held the phone out to him.

            "No I pay wiss Dill anen I say hi mommy."  Kyle shook his head.

            "You can play with Dill when you're done."  Jessica shook her head.  "Your mom is on the phone right now so you need to say hi.  She's calling from far away."

            "I doe wan."

            "You have to sweetie.  She misses you."  Jessica pulled Kyle onto her lap and held the phone to his ear.

            Kyle sighed and dropped his racecar to the ground.  "Hi mommy I pay wiss Dill."  He talked to Lori for a few minutes while keeping his eyes on his toys.  When he was done he blew a kiss into the phone and slid off of Jessica's lap.

            "Hello?"  Jessica asked into the phone, unsure of what JC usually did.

            "We're done."  Lori said softly.

            "Okay, well uh… I guess we'll talk to you later."

            "Yeah.  I'll call again on Saturday."

            "You uh… JC said that you could call more often if you'd like."

            "Yeah, he told me."

            "Okay."

            "I just… I can't afford to really and I'm busy during the week so… so Saturday works better."

            "I can see if JC can call you if that'd be easier."  Jessica offered.  Out of nowhere she almost felt sorry for Lori.

            "That's okay.  I'll call again on Saturday."  Lori said quickly.  "Thanks, bye."

            Lori hung up before Jessica could respond and she was left with an uneasy feeling in her stomach.  Jessica tried not to dwell on the mixed feelings as she dropped the phone on the bed and slid to the floor to play with Kyle and his stuffed animals.  She’d tell JC about the phone call when he got home, but until then she put it out of her mind, though she was unable to ignore the cold lump sitting in the pit of her stomach.

 

 

 

Next...

 

 

 

Copyright 2002, 2003, Amy Lynn