Lori called that night as promised, and Kyle talked to her for about ten minutes.  Mostly he just babbled about the ocean and riding in a plane and kept trying to hand the phone back to JC.  "No buddy, you need to talk to your mom."

            "Is done."

            "You're done?"  JC took the phone and held it to his ear.  "You're done?"

            "No, I'm not."  Lori said quickly.

            "Oh, sorry.  Kyle handed the phone back and said you guys were done."  JC reached for Kyle's shoulder and pulled him back to the phone.  "She's not done yet silly.  Talk to your mom."  He held the phone to Kyle's ear as the little boy sighed.

            "Hi mommy."  Kyle licked his lips and held the phone with both hands as he stayed quiet and nodded at whatever it was Lori was saying.  "Bye bye bye mommy."  He giggled and handed the phone back to JC.  "I say a bye bye song."

            "I heard that." JC smiled and cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder.  "So on Saturday do -” JC stopped as he realized he was talking to dead air.  "Well… I guess she's done then." He sighed and bounced Kyle on his knee.  "Okay Mr. Chatterbox, its time for bed."

            "And you?"

            "I have some work to do in the office, but after that I'll go to bed too, you bet."

            "I wok?"

            "Nope, you don't have to work.  You get to go to bed right now."  JC stood up and carried Kyle up stairs to his bright room.  "Which story do you want to read tonight?"  He asked as he set the little barefoot boy on the floor.

            Kyle bolted to his bed and flung himself under the covers before leaning over the side to find his favorite book.  "I sink diss."  He held up his Lion King book and smiled as JC sat on the bed beside him.

            "This is a good one." JC said softly.

            "Yeah is Simba."

            "Yep.  Simba is pretty cool huh?  And Nala and Scar."

            "Ana poobah pig."

            "And Pumba the pig.  Actually, he's a warthog, but that’s okay."

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed and fluffed the pillow behind his head.  "Go now."

            "Go?"

            "Ina book."

            "Okay."  JC laughed lightly and turned the page to the front of the book. He read the short story using the now familiar voices then they said their goodnight prayers before JC turned the light off.  "Good night buddy."

            "Nigh nigh."  Kyle yawned and smiled as JC pulled the door shut halfway.  He stood in the hall and listened for a few seconds before he headed to the office to get some work done before he too went to bed.

 

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

 

            The next morning, JC woke up before Kyle and took advantage of the quiet time by taking a long shower.  He stood at the mirror in his towel after his shower and shaved carefully.  It'd been a while since he'd had more than a few seconds to shave so he always managed to have little missed spots or he'd completely blow off shaving altogether and go for the rugged look.

            "Hi."  A little voice by JC's thigh startled him and he dropped the razor into the water filled sink.

            "Hey, you scared me."  JC smiled down at Kyle, then scooped him up and set him on the counter by the sink.  "What's up tough guy?"

            "I go potty."

            "You have to go potty?" JC fished the razor out of the cloudy water to finish shaving.

            "I go."

            "You went?"

            "Yeah."

            "All by yourself?"  JC raised his eyebrow at Kyle and smiled as he drew the razor over his left cheek.

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled, but yawned halfway through.  "Daddy?"

            "Hmm?"  He shaved his upper lip as he tilted his head back.

            "We see sink day?"

            "The sink?"

            "See sink sing?"

            "What?"  JC rinsed the razor in the water and frowned at Kyle.

            "See sink sing?"  Kyle repeated.

            "Nsync?"

            "Yeah."

            "You want to see Nsync sing?"

            "Yeah."

            "Okay."  JC laughed.  "I have a video around here somewhere; we'll have to watch that later."

            "And Laaaaaance?"

            "Lance is in it, yeah."

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed and watched as JC finished shaving and wiped in face on the towel by the sink.

            "Are you hungry?"

            "Yeah.  You?"

            "I'm hungry, yeah."  JC lifted Kyle off the counter and set him on the floor.  "Let me get some shorts on and we'll go make some breakfast, okay?"

            "Kay."  Kyle toddled out to the bedroom with his pajama bottoms sagging around his butt.  JC laughed at the little boy, then pulled a pair of boxers on and lead Kyle towards the stairs.

            "So what are you in the mood for?  What sounds good?"

            "Ummm."  Kyle paused thoughtfully as they got to the bottom of the stairs.  "Noodo and cheese?"

            "Noodles and cheese? I don't think so."  JC laughed.

            "Why?"

            "That's not breakfast food. Maybe we can have macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight."  JC opened the pantry to make sure they had a box.  "How about…cereal?  Do you want some Cheerios?"

            "No."

            "How about Lucky charms?  That's the one with marshmallows."

            "We have pankays?"

            JC frowned; he didn't feel much like actually making breakfast.  "How about toast?"

            "No pankays."

            "I don't think we have pancake mix." He lied.  "Oh hey, what about waffles?  We've got some frozen waffles I think."  He opened the freezer and smiled.  "Heck yeah, here we go."

            "Is like pankays?"

            "Yeah, it's kinda like pancakes.  You've had waffles before you goof.  You love them."

            "Kay."  Kyle shrugged and pulled himself into his chair with his booster seat.

            "Cool."  JC pulled four waffles out of the box and dropped them into the ever-present toaster, then brought out the syrup and set it on the table.  He poured milk for both of them then put the toasted waffles on plates and carried them to the table.  "Pretty quick, huh?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled as JC leaned over his and cut his breakfast into bite sized pieces before dribbling maple syrup over each piece.

            "Yum."  JC yawned and sat beside Kyle at the table.  He poured syrup on his own breakfast as he looked out into the dew-covered backyard.  As a slow smile spread across his face he looked at Kyle.             "Hey…"

            "Hey?"  Kyle dribbled syrup on his chin and tried to lick it off.

            "How would you like to go get a dog?"  JC asked slowly as he cut his waffle along the row of squares.

            "Dog?"  The little boy dropped his fork on his plate and looked up at his dad.  "Jaxo?"

            "Yeah, like Jackson kind of.  Maybe a different breed, but a dog, yeah."

            "Is my?"

            "Yep, it would be yours.  Yours and mine."

            "Isa bown dog?"

            "I think we can find a brown dog, sure."  JC smiled.

            "We go now?"  Kyle slid off his chair and smiled up at JC.

            "Nope, you need to eat all of your breakfast first, and then we can go."  JC took another bite of his waffles, then stood and put Kyle back on his seat.  He got the phone from the wall and sat back down to dial Lance's number.

            "Hello?"  Lance's deep voice always made JC smile.

            "Hey man, how's it going?"

            "Pretty good."  Lance smiled.  "What's up?"

            "Well… Kyle and I are going to go get a dog today and I was just calling to find out where you got Jackson and Lexi."

            "You're getting a dog?" Lance laughed.  "Right on, it's about time you got that kid a puppy."

            "Yeah, well now that we'll be home for a while I figured it was a good time to think about it."

            "Awesome.  Well hey, I got Jackson from a breeder in Mississippi but we got Lexi at the shelter."  Lance explained.  "I'd go to the shelter first and see what they've got there."

            "Really?"

            "Yeah.  You may not get a puppy, but getting one that’s like, two or three might be a better idea anyway.  Puppies tend to chew the shit outta everything and if they're a little older they'll be out of that stage."

            "Yeah but I don't want one that’s too old."

            "Two isn't old."  Lance shook his head.  "And chances are at that age they're house trained and all that.  We got Lexi when she was almost four and she was perfect.  She was trained to go outside, she didn't go nuts in the house or anything like that.  With a puppy you've gotta clean up little crap messes all over the house and it may be too rough with Kyle."

            "So, alright, which shelter did you go to?"

            "The Woodward Animal Shelter over here by me.  It's like, fifty bucks or whatever, but the dogs are fixed already and have all their shots."

            "I'm not worried about the cost."

            "Yeah but still."  Lance shrugged.  "That's where I'd go."

            "Great, we'll swing by there after breakfast."

            "Cool, let me know what you guys get."

            "I will."

            "And get a female."

            "A female?"

            "Yeah.  Trust me on that.  They're more calm and quiet.  I mean, it all depends on the dog, but females are usually more mellow.  That'd be good to have a mellow dog with the kid."

            "Okay.  Thanks Lance."

            "No problem."  Lance stifled a yawn and said, “Gimme a call a little later."

            "Okay, bye."  JC smiled and set the phone down.  "We're gonna go get a dog today."  He made a face at Kyle and they both erupted with laughter.

            "Yay!"  Kyle threw his hands up in the air and did a wiggle dance in his seat.

 

            They finished their breakfast, then went upstairs to get clean up and get dressed before they climbed into the car and headed for the shelter.  "Are you excited buddy?"  JC asked as they pulled into the small parking lot thirty minutes later.

            "Yeah."  Kyle laughed from his car seat behind JC.  "We hava bown dog?"

            "Yep, we'll look for a brown dog.  But you know... we might not get one from here today.  We might have to wait a little while."  JC didn't want him to get his hopes up but he could tell from the look in Kyle's eye that his hopes were already set on bringing a dog home with them.

            "No daddy.  We have day."  Kyle insisted.

            JC smiled and shook his head; he really hoped they'd find one that day.  He got Kyle out of the backseat and carried him into the brightly lit office.  There was a small crowd of people inside, some with cat boxes and others standing in line with paperwork in their hands.  JC and Kyle stood off to the side for a minute before he spotted a young lady at the information counter on the far wall.

            They crossed the room and stopped in front of the counter.  "Excuse me.  Hi, I'm uh… we're here to check out the dogs?"  JC said as he leaned on the wood paneled counter.  He was very aware of the eyes that followed him around the small room and he tried to keep his voice low.

            "I…"  The young lady behind the counter looked up at him and opened and closed her mouth several times without making a sound.  "The… dogs?"  She managed.

            "Yeah, I want to see about adopting one and I'm not sure where to go."

            "Oh.  Um."  She tucked her hair behind her ear and fumbled around under the desk.  "Just a second.  Hang on."  She ducked down then came back up with a paper in her hand.  "Okay you uh… "  She set the paper in front of him and drew a circle on it.  "You go out here and to the right of the parking lot is a gate and through there are all the little kennels."

            "Oh, okay I must have missed that."  JC gave her his centerfold smile and tugged Kyle closer to him.

            "It's okay."  She laughed nervously.

            "Do I need to fill out paperwork or anything?"

            "No."  She shook her head.  "I mean… no, not right now.  When you… if you uh, if you find a dog you want to see let one of the handlers out there know.  Or me, you could come here and tell me.  Then you can play with the dog in a little closed in yard and if you decide you want to adopt him… or her I guess, then you fill out the paper work.  But you don't need to fill out paperwork.  Now, I mean.  You don't need to do it now."  The girl managed to get all of that out in what seemed like one long sentence.

            "Daddy we go hava dog?"  Kyle asked as he swung JC's arm back and forth.

            JC looked down quickly, then up at the girl.  "Thank you."  He smiled and took the paper, the picked Kyle up and straightened his shirt.  "Yep, let's go take a look at these dogs.  Do you think we'll find one?"

            "We fye ten!"

            "Ten!  That's a lot of dogs." JC laughed as they stepped out the door and into the sun.  "Do you know how many ten is?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded.

            "How many?"  JC asked.

            "I doe no."  Kyle shrugged and giggled at JC.

            "That's this many."  JC set Kyle on the ground and showed Kyle his hands then counted his fingers.  "See?  That's ten."

            "Wow."

            "That'd be a lot of dogs, huh?"

            "Yeah, we have one?"

            "Yep, we're only going to get one."

            "Kay."  Kyle skipped ahead toward the closed gate, then grabbed the chain link door and looked through it.  "Daddy!!"  He shouted.  "Is dogs!"

            "There's dogs in there huh?"  JC laughed as he walked up and lifted the little lever on the door to open it.  They walked inside and saw rows of concrete kennels with chain link fronts to see the dogs inside.

            "They hava cage?"  Kyle frowned as he looked up at JC and grabbed his hand tightly.

            "Yeah, they have to stay in cages here."

            "Why?"

            "So that they don't run around and hurt people."

            "Is mean?"

            "No… no they probably aren't mean.  But they might get a little too excited and accidentally knock little kids over."  JC said softly as they stood at the end of one aisle.

            "Why?"

            "Because they like to get visitors."

            "Anay say ina cage?"

            "Yep, they stay in their cage until we take one out."

            "One?"

            "Only one."  JC nodded and looked down at Kyle who still looked nervous.  "Do you want me to carry you?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle immediately dropped JC's hand and extended his arms to be picked up.  "Ten dogs daddy."

            "There's more than ten here."

            "Yeah."  Kyle's eyes opened wide as JC headed down the first aisle.

            "So… we're looking for a brown dog, right?"  He asked softly as the dogs on either side of him jumped up and ran to the fence that separated them from the walkway.  Kyle nodded mutely and clung to JC's shirt.  "Okay.  Let's see…"  They walked slowly and looked at all of the dogs as he tried to picture them in his backyard.

            The little laminated signs on each of the kennels detailed the dog's breed, age, sex and temperament as well as any additional notes.  "Look at this one buddy.  This is a girl and her name is Roxy.  She's three years old just like you'll be in January.  She was dropped off here because her family moved away…"  He read softly.  "She's pretty isn't she?"  JC knelt next to the kennel front with Kyle on his knee to look at the shepherd mix dog huddled in the far corner.

            "She big."  Kyle whispered as he stared.

            "Yep, she's going to be pretty big.  Let's keep looking."  JC picked him up again and they continued walking up and down the aisles.  There were so many dogs there to look at, but JC knew that when they found the right one they would know.  Kyle loosened up his grip as they went and eventually walked on his own while holding onto JC's hand.  He approached the kennels of the smaller dogs, but stood far enough away that he couldn't touch the fences.

            "This looks like these are all puppies."  JC said as he glanced down the shortest row there.

            "We see a puppy?"

            "I don't think we want a puppy though buddy."  JC shook his head and pulled Kyle to the last row.

            "We see?"

            "We'll go see them later maybe."  JC said softly.  He wanted to find a dog at the shelter so that they would not only help themselves, but the dog as well.  JC was getting a little discouraged that they hadn't found anything right when Kyle dropped his hand and ran up to a kennel on the left.  He laced his fingers through the chain link and pressed his little knees up against the fence.

            "Kyle!"  JC raised his voice and lurched forward to grab the back of his shirt.  He pulled Kyle off the fence as a surge of adrenaline hit his system.  "Kyle, don't do that!  Not all of these dogs are nice, you could get hurt." He scolded Kyle as he held him up by his shirt.

            "Daddy…"  Kyle laughed and wiggled to be set down.  "Isa good puppy."

            "I don't want you to ever run up to these kennels like that again, do you hear me?  You could get hurt."  JC repeated louder than necessary to be heard over the pounding of his heart.

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded and straightened his shirt as JC set him down, then walked over to the same kennel again.  He stood a foot away from the fence and smiled in at the dog.  "Isa good puppy daddy.  She kiss."

            JC looked down at the dog in the kennel to see that she was wagging her tail so hard her whole body shook and she was licking the chain link fence with enthusiasm.  He leaned forward and kept his hand on Kyle's head to keep him back from the fence as he read her information.  "She's about four years old, a mutt and was found abandoned at the beach?  I don't know about that."  JC knelt down beside Kyle and looked at the excited dog.  He carefully held his hand out to let her sniff him and she licked his fingers with a dog grin.

            "She kiss you."  Kyle giggled.

            "Yeah, she seems nice."

            "I sink we have."

            "You think we should take her home?"  JC looked at Kyle.

            "Yeah.  I sink she my."

            "She's yours?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded.

            JC stood up and read over her little card again, then took one of the numbers and tucked it in his pocket.  "Okay, let's go see."  He took Kyle's hand and began to leave.

            "No, we have."

            "We have to go see the people who work here so we can take her out for a minute."

            "No we have."  Kyle said as he tried to pull JC back to the kennel.

            "We're going to come right back."  JC picked Kyle up and carried him over to where one of the keepers was hosing down empty kennels.  "Hi, I was wondering if we could see one of the dogs over here."

            "Sure, which one?"  He turned off the hose and wiped his hands on his grubby coveralls.

            "Um, she's right over here." JC led the way back to the kennel and smiled.

            "Ahh, she's a sweetheart."  The keeper said as he reached for his ring of keys.  "I'll go ahead and bring her over to the play area if you want to head over there.  I'm going to walk her around back so I can brush her first." He smiled down at the dog as he pulled the gate open.

            "Okay." JC smiled as the dog waited patiently just inside the fence.  "Where's the play area?"

            "Back around that way, behind where I was cleaning.  Just let yourself in, I don't think there's anyone in there." He smiled and clipped the leash to the dog’s collar.

            "Okay, thanks."  JC smiled and waved as he took Kyle and walked away.

            "Daddy we have?"

            "We're going to go play with her in the little yard thing first."

            Kyle sighed and shook his head; “I just have my how."

            "I know you just want to take her home, but we need to make sure she's right."  JC explained as he pulled the little play area gate open and stepped in.  There were old tennis balls and several chew toys in there, as well as a few benches and a large tree in the corner.

            After a few minutes of waiting, the keeper walked up with the dog on a leash and opened the little gate.  He followed her in and walked her over to where JC and Kyle were sitting.  "Here you go."  He handed the leash to JC.  "She really in a good dog.   She's been here for a while already; I can't believe no one's picked her up yet."

            "The sign said she was abandoned?"

            "Yeah.  A family from up the street was at the beach for a week and on the first day they found her.  They looked for an owner all week, but the number on her tag was disconnected.  They put up signs with their number here and everything then brought the dog home with them.  Their kids fell in love with her, but their other dog didn't get along well with her, so…"  He shrugged.  "After waiting for another 2 weeks, they finally brought her in here."

            "She gets along with kids?"

            "Yeah.  The family that brought her in had three kids."

            "That's cool."  JC nodded.  "Can I take her off the leash?"

            "Oh sure, you can just play around with her in here for a while if you want."  The keeper nodded with a smile.

            "Thanks."  JC smiled and released her from the leash.  She remained seated with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, making her look like she was making a face at them.

            "Sure thing."  The keeper left the play area and said, “When you're done just put her back on the leash and come find me."

            "Okay." JC waved and looked down at the dog.  "So…"

            "I pay?"  Kyle asked as he looked at the dog.

            "Hang on." JC set Kyle on the bench then took a step closer to the dog who had yet to move.  He knelt in front of her and let her sniff his hands, which she again licked.  JC rubbed her behind her ears and scratched down her back.  "You're a good girl, aren't you?"  She wagged her tail happily in response but didn't stand up.

            JC went back to the bench and watched her lower body shake as she wagged her tail.  "Well come here." He tapped his knee and she excitedly ran over and placed her head on his knee.  "Wow… look at that."  He scratched behind her ears and said.  "Sit."  She obliged and looked at Kyle.  "Lay down."  JC said with a smile.  She looked up at him then laid flat down on her stomach, her tail never stopping.  "You're awesome."  JC laughed and tapped his knee again.  She jumped up and licked his hands.

            "Daddy I pay now?"  Kyle asked.

            "Yeah, let her sniff you first though."  JC took Kyle's hands and held them out for her.  She leaned over tentatively and sniffed, then bumped her nose against his fingers.  "She likes you."  JC smiled.

            "Is code."

            "Her nose is cold?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled as he reached out to touch her back.  She stood still while he patted her back all the way down to her tail.  "Where a ball?"

            "There's a ball over there, you want to see if she'll go get it?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle ran over to the pile of old tennis balls and threw one a few feet.  The dog ran after it, then brought it right back to Kyle's feet where she laid it on the grass and wagged her tail at him.

            "Look at that."

            "Again!"  Kyle shouted as he threw the ball even further.  She ran after it again, then brought it back.

            "Come here girl."  JC stood up as she immediately followed his command.  He sat on the ground in front of her and used both hands to scratch her ears and rub down her back.  After a few seconds of scratching he tried to play rough with her to see how far she'd go like that.  With other dogs they'd get into it and start play fighting with him when he pretended to growl at them.  But this dog just lay on her side and smiled up at him.  She wasn't even going to pretend to be aggressive.

            "Kay we have her home now?"  Kyle asked as he sat down next to her as she lay on her side, then leaned over and draped his body across her stomach.  "Go home and hava nap?"

            "You need a nap?"  JC asked.

            "And she."

            JC laughed lightly as the dog nuzzled Kyle's leg to get him to scoot over a bit, to a position that was probably more comfortable for her.  As soon as he scooted she lay her head back down and sighed as Kyle climbed all the way over her, then patted her side a little too roughly.

            "Not so hard buddy, you have to be gentle."  JC said.

            "Sorry dog."  Kyle patted her gently and touched her floppy ears.

            "She's not exactly brown."  JC said slowly.  She was in fact a little bit of everything.  Her underside was white and her feet were black and tan while the rest of her, including her tail, was a reddish brown.  Her face was almost all black and white except a little patch on her chin that was brown.  To call her a 'mix' was an understatement.  She had to have at least four different breeds in her.  Her tail was like a shepherd, thick and long while her coat was like a retriever, short and silky.  Her face was almost all hound dog though, along with the floppy ears that twitched when her tail wagged.

            "Yeah has bown."   Kyle nodded.

            "You think we should take her home?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed and hugged her neck.  "We go home now."

            "Okay."  JC smiled, the decision was easy.  Kyle had already fallen in love with her, and she'd made two quick friends.  JC clasped the leash back on her collar and picked Kyle up, then went in search of the keeper to tall them they wanted to take her home.

 

            Two hours later they had filled out the paper work, paid the fifty dollars, stopped at the pet store and were finally home.  JC lead her through the house to the backyard where she immediately took off on a sniffing adventure of her new yard.  She spent a lot of time at Kyle's playset, then sniffed around the gate surrounding the pool.

            Kyle sat on the step leading to the lawn with his chin in his hand just watching the dog dart from one spot to the next getting used to all the new scents.  "So what should we name her?"  JC asked as he sat on the step beside Kyle.

            "Ummm, Jaxo."

            "No, you silly.  We can't name her Jackson."

            "Lex?"

            "Lance's dog's name is Lexi; we can't have two Lexi's."

            "I say her Joey?"

            "You're just being silly now."  JC laughed.

            "I doe no."  Kyle shrugged and looked at the dog sniffing around the backyard.

            "How about… Daisy?"

            "No."  Kyle shook his head and sighed.  "We cawin her Candy?"

            "You want to cal her Candy?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled.  "Candy Candy Candy!"  He licked his lips.  "Isa candy bar and a lickris."

            "Oh, like that kind of candy?"

            "Yeah."

            JC looked out at the dog and shrugged, it was Kyle's dog really… he could name her whatever he wanted.  "I think Candy is a good name."

            "Yeah."

            "Candy!  Come here girl."  JC raised his voice to get the dogs attention.  She looked up from her task of sniffing Kyle's playset, and then trotted over to where they sat.  "Good girl.  You're a good girl Candy.  Man, how did we get so lucky?"

            Candy looked up and licked his cheek as her tail wagged even faster.

            "Hi Candy.  I eat a candy but no bye dog."

            JC laughed, “That's right, you can eat candy, but not the dog."

            "Is no real candy."  Kyle shook his head and wrapped his arms around her neck again as he practically sat on her back.  "I pay ball?"

            "Sure, you can see if she wants to play ball."  JC nodded and reached into the pet store bag and pulled out a bright pink rubber ball.  "Here you go."  He handed it to Kyle who lobbed it over his head for Candy.  She took off after the ball, caught it, then sniffed her way back to where Kyle stood.

            JC watched as Kyle and Candy played together like lifetime friends.  She was gentle with him and always careful to drop the ball at his feet so he didn't have to run after it.  When they were both tired out Candy laid in the shade so that Kyle could sit beside her and pat her tummy.  He yawned and eyed Candy's back like a big pillow, then looked over at JC.

            "Are you tired buddy?"

            "Yeah an Candy."

            "Yep, she's pretty tired too.  It's been a busy day for her."  JC smiled as he bent down to pick Kyle up.  "Why don't we go inside so you can take a nap, then when you wake up we can take Candy for a walk around the neighborhood or something."

            "See can see my?"

            "She can see your what?"

            "My nap?"

            "Your nap?  You mean you want her to come inside and take a nap with you?"

            "Yeah."

            "Nope, she's got to nap outside.  This is where doggies sleep, little boys sleep inside."  JC shook his head and carried Kyle into the house.  "Maybe later we can bring her in the house to see if she likes it."

            "Kay."  Kyle yawned again and laid his head on JC's shoulder.  They stopped off at the bathroom before JC laid him in his own bed for his nap.

            "Have a nice nap."  JC whispered from the door.

            "Nigh nigh."  Kyle squished his face into the pillow and sighed softly.  JC smiled with a content sigh, then shut the door half way and headed downstairs.

 

            While Kyle was napping, JC called over to his pre-school to find out about getting back in the half day program since they'd be home for a while.  To his surprise, Kyle's spot was still vacant and he could start the next day.  JC arranged for Kyle to go Tuesday's and Thursday's like before and couldn't wait to tell Kyle.  He loved his little class and going to the pre-school really helped with his vocabulary and behavior.

            With the time he had left over, JC went to the kitchen and made a shopping list.  He'd be needing snacks for Kyle's school, plus the house was pretty bare still.  They'd be home for another couple months, at least until after the New Year, so he knew he could stock up well and not have it go to waste.  He decided to go shopping the next day while Kyle was at school then smiled at how domesticated he had become.

 

            When Kyle woke up a short while later JC told him that he was going to get to go back to school the next day and see all of his friends.  Kyle didn't seem that interested; he was more concerned with going back outside to play with Candy.  JC opened the back door and let Kyle run down the steps to his playset.  He snickered to himself and thought, "This is perfect.  She'll wear him out everyday and he'll go to bed early and take a good nap."

            They spent the evening with Candy, then showed her into the house and gave her a tour to let her sniff around in there.  She finished her day by curling up on the landing of the stairs facing the front door.  When JC carried Kyle upstairs for bed, she looked up then stood to follow them to Kyle's room.  She stood at the door while JC tucked him in, then followed him back down to the living room.

            "Come here girl."  JC sighed as he fell back into the couch.  Candy walked over and put her head in JC's lap so that he could scratch her behind her ears and pet her head.  "You're such a good dog, we really lucked out."  He kissed the top of her furry head then leaned back and turned the TV on.  Candy lay at his feet with a heavy sigh and stayed there until he put her out after eleven when he finally went to bed himself.

 

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

 

            The next morning JC made a big breakfast then got a snack ready for Kyle to take with him to school.  They loaded up his backpack together and made sure to put Lello on top, just in case, before they headed for school.

            When JC pulled up in front of Kyle's school he was worried that Kyle wouldn't want to go or would have a hard time getting back into the swing of things.  But when he opened the back door all of his worry disappeared.

            "My wok!"  Kyle's face lit up as he wiggled his way out of his seat and practically jumped out of the car.

            "Your work?"  JC laughed and held tight to his hand.  "This is your school; do you remember your school?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled.  "Is my."

            "It's yours, yeah kind of."  They walked into the front room and into the office to get Kyle started again.  JC signed Kyle in as the little boy bounced around his feet with his little nylon lunch bag hanging from his hand.

            "We go?"

            "In just a second."  JC nodded as he wrote out a check for the school.  "He's kind of excited."  He smiled apologetically at the school director.

            "That's a good sign."  She laughed softly and leaned over her desk.  "Hey Kyle, right now your class is doing some art projects, do you want to go see what they're doing?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle tugged on JC's hand.

            "Here, let me show you where it is."  She stepped around her desk, and led the way down the hall to the same room he was in before.

            "You remember this, don't you?  Miss Michelle is here, and your buddy Chad."

            "Daddy you say?"

            "Nope, I can't stay.  This is your school.  I have to go grocery shopping."  JC made a disgusted face, then smiled as he looked around the room.  "But check out all this fun stuff you'll get to do.  Wow… look at that." He pointed to the table where the other kids were sitting.  "It looks like they're painting.  Do you want to go see what they're doing?"

            "I pain?"

            "Sure you can paint."  JC nodded and placed his hand on Kyle's head to lead him over to the table.  "Here you go."

            "Hi Kyle!  We're glad to have you back."  Michelle said with a cheerful smile.  "Are you ready to paint?  We're making hand prints today."

            "Yeah.  And daddy?"

            "Well, I think your daddy might have other plans.  But why don't you come sit here next to Tyler and we can make your daddy a very special art project.  Maybe you can hang it on the fridge at home?"

            "Ona door?"  Kyle asked with a look of excitement.

            "Maybe."  Michelle smiled and looked up at JC.

            "Absolutely."  JC said quickly.  "You can make a cool hand print thing and we'll tape it up tonight."  He leaned over and kissed the top of Kyle's head.  "I'll be back to get you in a little bit, okay buddy?"

            "Kay bye."  Kyle waved over his shoulder and didn't even look back once JC headed out of the room.  JC left Kyle's bag and little sweat shirt in his cubby hole, then stood at the door for a second to watch the teacher’s assistant fit Kyle with a smock and roll the sleeves up to his elbows.  He laughed softly to himself, then turned to walk down the hall before he changed his mind.

            Deeps inside JC knew that Kyle would be fine at the daycare, and even have a great time, but it was still hard to be away from him for any length of time.  He walked out to his car with his hand in his pocket, feeling for the grocery list he'd made up earlier.  With that in his hand he headed for the store and spent more than an hour picking up necessities and special treats for himself and Kyle.

            By the time he got home he had remembered how nice it was to have a few hours to himself and he took his time putting the groceries away.  When he was done he lay out on his couch and sighed as he closed his eyes.  He held his cordless phone in his hand and ran his thumb over the numbers as a small smile worked its way across his lips.  He dialed Jessica's number and hoped she'd be home.

            His smile grew when she answered the phone with a short laugh, "Hello?"

            "Hey you."

            "Hey!  Your ears must have been burning; I was just talking about you."  She laughed again and kicked back on her couch.

            "Oh yeah?  Anything incriminating?"

            "Not exactly."

            "Uh oh."  JC laughed.  "So who were you talking about me to?"

            "Sean."

            "Ahh, Sean huh?  He's a trouble maker."

            "I know."  Jessica continued to smile as she sighed.

            "So hey, guess what?"

            "What?"

            "We got a dog."

            "You did?"  She sat up straight.  "You're kidding.  What kind?"

            "She's a mutt; she seriously looks like she's got a little bit of everything in her."

            "Where did you get her?"

            "At the shelter.  She's about four years old, they're not too sure.  She's great with kids though and Kyle loves her.  She's trained and everything, you're going to love her."

            "Aww, that's cute.  What's her name?"

            "Kyle wants to call her Candy."

            "And what Kyle says goes?"  Jessica smiled, knowing that was the case.

            "Well… you know… it's his dog."  JC shrugged.

            "And he's got you wrapped around his little finger."

            "Yeah, that too." JC laughed.  "She really is great though Jess.  She doesn’t come in the house unless I call her, she sits, lays down, rolls over, fetches… she lets Kyle crawl all over her and when she gets tired of it she just stands up and moves away."

            "That's really good."  Jessica took the TV guide off the table and flipped to the right day.   "I can't wait to meet her."

            "Hopefully soon."  JC dropped his arm over his head and sighed.

            "This weekend."  She smiled and dropped the TV guide on the floor.

            "Really?"  His eyes flew open as he smiled.  "You're coming down this weekend?"

            "Yeah, Sean called last night to see if I wanted to take on another project."

            "You get a whole new group of pretty boys to dress up, huh?"  JC laughed and wished she were there with him right then.

            "Girls actually.  It's a new group of four girls.  I think he said they were between seventeen and twenty two, so that should be fun."

            "Yay."  JC rolled his eyes.

            "Yeah, so I get to dress them up like Barbie's for a few events they have to do.  You know the drill."

            "I know the drill all too well."

            "So I was thinking… if it’s okay with you maybe, can I stay with you?"

            "Of course it's okay, why wouldn't it be okay?"

            "I don't know… I mean, I didn't know if you guys were going to be around or whatever."

            "Yeah, we'll be here."  JC nodded.  "But even if we weren't you could stay here."

            "Really?"

            "Yeah, it's not like you don't know the codes and everything."

            "Well, yeah but…"

            "Well yeah but what?  That's what boyfriends and girlfriends do.  They let each other stay over at their house even when they're not there."  JC lowered his voice a bit.  "Of course, I usually like it better when I'm there."

            Jessica blushed and smiled, “Me too.  But anyway, I'll be down there and I can't wait to see you guys.  And Candy too of course."

            "Of course."  JC laughed.  "Kyle will be jazzed."

            "Is he around?"

            "He's at school.  He started back today."

            "Oh cool, how does he feel about going back?"

            "He was excited."  JC laughed.  "You should have seen him; he practically dove out of the car.  He was a little worried when I went to leave, but when he found out they got to paint he was like 'yeah dad, see ya later', he didn't care."

            "Awww, he cares."

            "Yeah I know.  He'll be jazzed to see me when I get there.  Of course he'll be even more excited about putting his art on the fridge.  I swear, he's a budding Picasso or something."

            "Very cool.  He's got good artistic genes."

            "Yeah."  JC sighed and smiled proudly.  "So you'll be out on Saturday?"

            "Tomorrow afternoon actually.  I think my flight comes in at three.  But Sean is picking me up to take me to the compound to meet the girls so I can spend the day Saturday dressing them up."

            "Is there something going on Saturday night?"

            "For them?"

            "Yeah."

            "They're doing some concert thing at Disney and it's like their big coming out party or something.  So I need to work on their press gear for before, and I think he said I was doing performance wear as well but I don't know.  I'm pretty much going to see when I get there."

            "Sounds like fun."

            "Yeah.  I can't wait till you guys start doing stuff again though.  It's no fun hanging around out here in Connecticut with no job."

            "So get a job."

            "There aren't that many cute boybands up here looking for a wardrobe mistress."

            "You could always get a job at a store you know.  A real job."

            "Oh, a real job huh?"  Jessica laughed.  "Yeah I see what you mean.  Forget that.  I manage my money well enough not to need a real job when I'm not on tour.  I kick ass."

            "Sounds like it."  JC smiled.

            "But anyway, tomorrow night when I get done at the compound can I come over?"

            "Of course."  JC nodded.  "In fact, maybe Kyle and I will cruise over there and meet the girls and then you can just come home with us."

            "Works for me."  Jessica said as her stomach growled.  "Man, it must be lunch time, I'm starving."

            "Oh shit."  JC sat up quickly and looked at his watch.  "I have to go get Kyle at the daycare.  Shit, I totally spaced out."

            "What time were you supposed to be there?"

            "I've got like, ten minutes."  JC slid his feet into his sandals and grabbed his keys as he headed for the door with the phone in his hand.  "I'll call you later."

            "Okay."

            "Or I'll see you tomorrow."

            "Okay."  Jessica laughed.

            "Love you."

            "I love you too."  She said softly before she hung up the phone.  JC tossed his cordless onto the couch in the front room then bolted out the door to his car.

He made it to the daycare center only a few minutes late, but Kyle couldn't have cared less.  The class was outside playing with a huge parachute and Kyle was having a blast.  "Hey kiddo, are you ready to go?"

            "No, you."  Kyle laughed and ran under the parachute as it billowed upward.

            "You want me to go?"

            "Yeah I go lato."  Kyle laughed and grabbed on to one of the other teacher's legs as the parachute came down.

            "No, we've gotta go now buddy." JC put his hands on his hips and smiled at the crowd of kids around the play yard.

            "Come on Kyle."  His teacher handed off her section of the parachute to one of the high school volunteers and walked Kyle over to JC.  "You'll be back next week; maybe we can play with the parachute again."

            "Yeah."  Kyle held tight to Michelle's hand.

            "Have you thought of having him come more than two days a week?  I mean, I know you've got a complicated schedule, but he might enjoy it."

            "I…"  JC looked down at Kyle and shrugged.  "I guess we could try that, sure.  I only did two days because he was just starting out and I didn't want him to like, freak."   He explained as Kyle swung from her hand.  "But yeah, maybe now he'd be okay."

            "I think he'd really enjoy it."  Michelle laughed and scooped Kyle up in her arms.

            "Okay."  JC nodded and reached for Kyle.  "Would you like to come see Miss Michelle and your friends more often?"

            "Yeah!"  Kyle cheered as he dove into JC's arms.

            "We'll stop by the office on the way out.  Thanks."  He smiled at Michelle, then he and Kyle waved as they stepped back through the room to get his backpack and his handprint art project.  "You look like you were having fun out there."

            "Yeah, isa shoot."

            "I saw that.  That's awesome."  JC asked more about Kyle's day and they decided to stop by Mc Donald's on the way home to get chicken nuggets.  They stopped by the director's office like JC said he would, and arranged for Kyle to try Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the next week, but still half days.  After seeing how much fun Kyle had in the class and how much he could learn, JC wasn't concerned about him being gone three mornings in a row.

            They left the school and got lunch before going home where Kyle immediately ran outside to play with Candy.  JC threw the ball with them to give her a much needed workout, then laughed as Kyle chattered to her under the slide of his playset.  JC left them alone and went to make a few phone calls while he sat at the breakfast table watching them.

            He called his mom to check in with her and let her in on everything that had happened in LA and when they got home, and also to tell her about Candy.  She was thrilled that he'd finally buckled down and gotten her grandson a dog.  They talked for a while before JC started dinner and brought Kyle inside.  Candy stood at the open backdoor and looked in with her head cocked to the side.

            "Come on in girl." JC tapped his leg and she carefully stepped into the house.  She circled the kitchen once, then found her spot under the bar where she could keep an eye on the guys as they cooked, and still be out of the way.  Kyle crawled on the ground beside her and fed her her dry dog food one piece at a time.  She looked up at JC with a happy expression, then sighed and dropped her head onto her paws.

            JC smiled as he cut carrots for the salad, he felt the same way.  Completely happy and content.

 

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

 

            Justin came over the next day to play with Kyle and to meet Candy, so they spent almost all day in the pool or playing catch with Candy.  For lunch, Justin splurged and bought pizza for them and they sat outside eating it.  They hung out until Justin had to take off for the studio where he was helping some friends record a demo.  "So what are you doing this weekend?"  Justin asked as they walked out to his car.

            "Well in about…"  JC checked his watch, "… two hours or so, we're picking Jessica up at the compound."

            "She's in town this week?"

            "Yeah, Sean called her in to work with some new girl group they've got going."

            "Ahh.  So she's working then?"

            "Kind of.  This weekend she is I think, but she's gonna stay here and I'll see if she wants to stick around for a bit."

            "That's cool.  Well hey if you guys get any free time and want to go out to the beach let me know.  I've got a new little toy."

            "Shit, what'd you get?"  JC laughed.

            "Uh oh."  Kyle pulled JC's hand and looked up at him.

            "Sorry, shoot.  I need to watch my mouth."  JC laughed and winked at Justin.

            "Actually, I've got a loaner now until my custom is finished.  It's a twenty-foot Maxim with a little cabin and everything.  Sleeps six."

            "Wow!  Yeah, we should definitely take that out soon.  When will your custom be done?"

            "Three to four weeks."  Justin made a face.

            "Not exactly boat season."

            "Nah, but I got a killer deal and it'll be cool for next summer."

            "True enough."  JC picked Kyle up as Justin hopped in his car.  "See ya later."      

            "Bye guys!"  Justin waved out the window as he backed down JC's driveway.

            Kyle waved, then wiggled to be set down and ran down the driveway after Justin, waving madly and shouting, “Bye bye bye Jussin!  Bye!"

            When Justin's car was completely out of sight, Kyle came back up to where JC stood and sighed.  "Jussin come gan?"

            "You want him to come over again?  You goof, he just left."

            "Lato?"

"Not today, I think he's all played out.  But lets go get cleaned up so we can go get Jessica."  JC gave Kyle a surprised look as they walked back in the house and upstairs to take baths.

 

            More than an hour later they were clean, but damp, and dressed to go see Jessica.  JC piled Kyle into the car and checked his hair in the rear view mirror.  It was getting long around his ears and he made a mental note to get his hair trimmed again.  He was getting more comfortable with the curls, but having it tickle his ear lobes was annoying.

            They drove across town to the lake where the compound sat surrounded by lights and music playing through the outside speakers.  "Daddy is you wok?"  Kyle asked as they pulled up the driveway.

            "Yep, this is my work.  But I'm not here to work, we're going to see Johnny for a minute and then we're going to pick up Jessica."

            "My Jessi?"  Kyle perked up in the back seat and tossed Lello up in the air.

            "Yep, she's here to meet Sean and some other girls, and then we can take her home."  JC smiled at Kyle in the rearview mirror.

            "At my how?"

            "Yep, to your house."

            "Is cool daddy."

            "Yeah." JC laughed.  "That's cool."

            "Daddy I see my Jessi now?"  Kyle pulled on the straps of his car seat.  "Where's she?"

            "She's inside I think." JC hopped out of the car and opened Kyle's door to get him out.  "Hang on buddy, wait for me."  He called after Kyle as the little boy started skipping toward the studio door.  "Wait for me."

            "No car see?  I see my Jessi."  Kyle said over his shoulder as he looked around the almost empty driveway.

            "Wait for me."  JC grabbed the backpack from the seat, then caught up with Kyle.  He took the little boys hand and together they walked into the studio.

            "So Jessica will be the one picking out your clothes for the press meet tomorrow.  You've had a chance to talk with her tonight about your styles and stuff like that.  Trust me, whatever she picks will be perfect.  You won't be disappointed."  Sean explained to the small group of girls sprawled out on the shiny wood floor.

            Jessica sat on the bench along the mirrored wall and looked up as they walked in.  "Jessi!"  Kyle screeched as he took off running across the familiar floor.  "Hiiiiii!"  He flung himself onto her lap and gave her a big hug.

            "Sorry to interrupt."  JC smiled apologetically at Sean and the girls, then made his way over to the far wall.  "How's it going?"  He asked Sean.

            "It's going good.  Ladies, this is JC Chasez."  Sean laughed.  "Jace, this is Mina, Danielle, Jo and Jillian."

            "Hey." He nodded politely.

            "Hi."  They said with obvious awe.

            "Where's Johnny?"  JC asked.

            "He had to cut out early."  Sean rolled his eyes and laughed.  "He had a conference call he had to be on I think.  He should be in the office though if you need to see him."

            "No, it's cool.  I was just gonna check in and say hi."

            "I'll tell him you stopped by."  Sean nodded.

            "Thanks."  He sat beside Jessica as Kyle climbed off her lap and sat on the floor by her feet to run Lello around in circles.  "Hi."  He leaned over to kiss her quickly as Sean finished up his directions to the girls who were no longer listening.

            "Hi."  She smiled.  "You're distracting Serenity."

            "Which one's Serenity?" He whispered.

            "All of them." She whispered back.

            JC smiled and turned to face the girls.  He moved his finger around in a slow circle and looked at Sean, telling them silently to turn around and pay attention.  They blushed in unison, and immediately turned to face Sean who snickered softly and continued.

            "You're mean."  Jessica laughed softly and bumped her knee against his.

            "No I'm not.  Are you almost done here?"

            "Yeah.  As soon as Sean wraps up I'm gonna say good bye to the girls then we can go."

            "You have to go shopping tomorrow?"

            "Nah, I've got a rack of clothes all picked out.  I know girl fashion better than you think I do."  Jessica laughed and leaned back against the mirrors.  "Just think 'spice girls' without as much flare."

            "I'd like to think Johnny has better taste than that."

            "I mean as far as styles go.  I guessed before I came down here but I was pretty much right on."  Jessica shrugged.  "I'm gonna swing by and see Marian at the boutique tomorrow though and see if she has anything I can snag in case they need to dress up for anything."

            "Sounds like fun."

            "Tons."  Jessica smiled with a glint in her eye.  She really did love her job, no matter who she was dressing up.

            Sean finished up his little talk and told the girls he'd see them back there the next day.  "Jessica?  Are you coming by in the morning or are you gonna hit the shops?"

            "Um, well I've got a rack over in the wardrobe center for us to use, but I'm going to hit The Boutique tomorrow and see about getting some outfits there."

            "Okay."  Sean nodded.

            "I can be here whenever you need me though."

            "Well we're meeting here at nine to go over the performance stuff; we'll have the dance boys here and all that."  Sean smiled.  "We'll be heading over to Disney around three to do the soundchecks and all that before the show."

            "Okay, well I'll meet you here at about noon to go over the wardrobe so they can do a dress rehearsal."  Jessica nodded as she dropped her purse over her shoulder and walked up to the girls.  "I'll see you guys tomorrow, get some sleep tonight."  She gave each girl a hug then walked over to where her suitcase was resting against the wall.  "Bye."

            "Bye!"  The girls waved then giggled.

            "Bye JC."  One of the younger ones smiled broadly and waved.

            "See you guys later.  Good luck tomorrow." He gave them his award winning smile, then picked Kyle up and bounced him on his hip.  "Say good bye to the girls."

            "Bye girls." Kyle said shyly as he buried his head in JC's shoulder.  Jessica laughed and patted Kyle's back as she leaned in to kiss his cheek.

            "I heard you have a new doggie at home."  She whispered as they headed out of the studio.

            "Is Candy."  Kyle smiled, but kept his head on his fathers' shoulder.

            "Wow, I can't wait to see her.  Is she big?"  Kyle nodded and smiled even bigger.  "I'll bet she's a lot of fun."

            "She pay ball."  Kyle lifted his head and nodded.

JC opened up the backdoor and loaded Kyle into his car seat then got Jessica's bags into the far back.  "How long are you here for?"

            "However long I want."  Jessica said as she slid into the passenger seat.  "I have to be here through Sunday for the girls, but after that…"  She shrugged.

            "You can stay as long as you want.  Maybe we can hit the aquarium or something next week."

            "Ahhh, that sounds like fun."  She leaned her head back and closed her eyes as JC climbed in and started the car.  "So where to now?  Home?"

            "Yep."  JC smiled and casually reached over to place his hand on her knee.  Home.  He thought for a moment about how nice that sounded coming from Jessica.  She thought of his house as home, and that just felt right.  "We're going home."  JC leaned over and gave her a quick kiss before they pulled onto the main road to head home.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn