When the got home Kyle ran through the house to the backdoor shouting for Jessica to open the door. "We can see Candy!" He bounced around as he hung on the door handle. "Come Jessi, see!"
"Okay, let's go see her." Jessica laughed and dropped her bag in the living room. "Can she come in the house?" She asked JC.
"In a minute, yeah. Let her run off her excitement first." JC smiled and reached above Kyle's head to unlock the backdoor. "There you go buddy, show Jessica how you can play ball."
"Candy!" Kyle shouted as he ran out and patted her warm back as her tail wagged crazily behind her.
"Hi there." Jessica extended her hand to let the excited mutt sniff her fingers, and was given the happy lick of approval. "What a sweetie." She smiled up at JC who had followed them outside.
"Yeah, she's great." He knelt and picked up a ball to hand it to Kyle. "Show Jessica how you play ball."
"Candy get." Kyle shouted as he threw the ball. The dog happily bounded after it and brought it right back to his feet. JC and Kyle took turns tossing the ball to help her run off her excitement. When she calmed down a bit they all went back inside and left the back door open so Candy could go in and out as she pleased.
She came in the house with the others, walked in a big circle then finally assumed her position under the table and looked up at JC with happy and expectant eyes. "Okay, okay." He sighed and smiled back, then pulled a dog treat out of the pantry. "Here you go cutie." He tossed it in her direction and she gobbled it up before he could turn around.
Do you want some help with dinner? Jessica asked as she leaned on the counter and tried not to yawn.
Nah, Ive got it. JC smiled and kissed her cheek. If you want to go unpack or whatever now would be the time to do it.
Eh. Ill do that later. I wanna hang out with Kyle for a little bit. I didnt realize how much I missed him, crazy huh?
Weve missed you too. He kissed the tip of her nose as she crinkled it and laughed. Okay go play then, Ill come and get you when dinner is ready.
What a good little wife. Jessica patted his head then spun around to summon Kyle from the floor beside Candy. Come on Kyle; lets go see what kind of trouble we can get into in your room.
In my? Kyle scrambled to his feet and sighed. You see?
Yeah, come on and show me your room. Jessica extended her hand and waited for Kyle to grab it before they made their way up the stairs. JC pulled the making for dinner out of the fridge and smiled as he listened to his two favorite voices in the room above him.
JC busied himself with dinner and phone calls while Jessica and Kyle bonded a little more by playing some 'Kyle's rules' game on the floor of his bedroom. He didn't ask the details, but when he went to let them know that dinner was ready they were both on their hands and knees crawling around on the floor laughing about the tickle monsters under the bed.
"Are the tickle monsters going to come eat dinner with us?" JC asked from the doorway.
"No!" Kyle shouted as he scrambled to his feet and pulled his shirt back into place. "Day say."
"They stay here?"
"Yeah." Kyle ran past JC into the hall and down the stairs as Jessica pushed herself off the floor as well.
"That kid has got a very wild imagination for a two year old." She laughed and stretched her back. "I think I'm going to be sore tomorrow." With a smile and a slight cringe she placed her hands on the small of her back.
"Nothing a hot shower and massage won't help." JC said softly.
"Oooo, are you volunteering?"
"You bet." He put his hand around her waist as she went to pass him in the doorway, then pulled her close and kissed her. It was their first 'alone' moment since she arrive and he wasn't going to let it pass him by.
A flutter passed through Jessica's stomach as JC's fingertips rested on her ribcage and his tongue moved slowly across hers. Flashbacks of their first time in the same hall appeared before her eyes as she touched the back of his neck, feeling the heat creep up beneath her fingertips.
JC's eyes flickered open as he left another tiny kiss on her lips and leaned back. They crinkled at the sides as he smiled and moved his hand around to her back to tickle her spine, Are you hungry?"
"Yes." Jessica said, though her voice was shaky.
"I made pizza."
"Sounds good." She whispered, still unsure of her voice. Her heart skipped a beat and she smiled, he still had that affect on her and she loved the rush of having him near.
"We'd better go down before Kyle eats it all."
"Yeah." She nodded and licked at her swollen lips, but he didn't move away from her, his hips still pressed against hers. A little laugh escaped as she imagined just skipping dinner, Come on, before it gets cold." She reached behind her and took his hand in hers as she side stepped into the hall. As much as she wanted to stay right where she was, she was hungry.
They walked downstairs blushing like teenagers as if someone might notice, but the only one there was Kyle. He was sitting in his booster seat with Lello across his lap looking bored. "Daddy I have?" Kyle asked when they walked into the kitchen.
"Yep, let's get some dinner." JC went about getting the pizza out of the oven where he was keeping it warm, then sliced it and served everyone.
While they ate Jessica got caught up on everything Kyle had been doing in his class. He showed off the art projects he'd brought home which JC had proudly displayed them on the refrigerator and on the inside of the pantry door. Rainbows, handprints, puppies and houses disguised as scribbles and the letter 'K' in shiny aluminum foil.
With food in his stomach and a big day behind him, Kyle began to fade fast after dinner. JC gave him a bath while Jessica got her things situated in the master bedroom, then they went downstairs to feed Candy and throw the ball for a little bit before bed. That was becoming their nightly routine, and both Candy and Kyle thoroughly enjoyed it. JC wasn't immune to the playfulness either, and would usually go back outside to play after Kyle was tucked away in bed.
"Okay buddy, its time for bed." JC scooped Kyle up off the floor and tossed him over his shoulder.
"Ahhh!" Kyle squealed and wiggled. "No daddy!" He laughed as JC tickled his sides. "No daddy! Jessi!"
"But I like to tickle you." JC kidded with Kyle as they headed for the stairs.
"You want me to tickle Jessica?" JC raised his eyebrow and turned around to face her as she followed behind them.
"I don't think so." She said with a smirk and a warning tone.
"No Jessi my bed." Kyle said as he wiggled down from JC's shoulder to sit in his arms.
"No way Jose, she's not sleeping in your bed. You're crazy." JC tickled him under his chin and added softly, She's sleeping in mine."
"JC." Jessica blushed and laughed as they went up the steps.
"Jessi my bed. Me." Kyle pointed to his chest and wiggled to be out down. JC set his little bare feet just outside his door and laughed as Kyle ran across the Clifford rug and jumped into bed.
"He's amped." Jessica laughed from right behind him.
"Yep." JC chuckled softly and stepped into the room to get Kyle's favorite bedtime story off the little bookshelf.
"Daddy " Kyle sighed and rolled his eyes as he pulled the covers up over his legs.
"Whaty?" JC rolled his eyes right back.
"I wan Jessi."
"Oh!" JC sounded surprised. "Oh, you want Jessica to put you to bed?"
"Yeah." Kyle squirmed under the sheets to find a comfortable position.
"You don't want me to say good night?" JC pretended to pout and cry.
"Nigh nigh." Kyle maneuvered around to sit on his knees and kissed his daddy's cheek, then slid back under the blankets.
"Aww, thank you buddy." JC leaned down and kissed Kyle's forehead before running his hand over the little boy's short hair. He looked up at Jessica standing in the hallway and said, "You've been summoned."
"My turn huh?"
"He wants you to put him to bed. Man, he's choosing favorites."
"Well who wouldn't like me better?" Jessica smirked childishly and kissed him quickly in passing. She sat on the bed beside Kyle and patted his hip. "Hey kiddo, is this the book you want me to read?"
"Yeah." Kyle brought his arms out from under the covers and put them over his head in a lounging position JC had perfected years ago.
Jessica laughed softly; seeing his father in him for the millionth time, but still surprised. "You're such a cutie."
"Yeah." Kyle licked his lips and closed his eyes slowly.
"And you're all your dad." She looked up at JC and winked before she turned the front page back and began to read Kyle's bedtime story. When she finished the last sentence Kyle yawned and snuggled deeper into his blankets. A slight movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. As she looked over quickly, JC shifted his weight from one foot to the other and grinned at Jessica. He blushed though she couldnt' see in the darkness, and he was glad she couldn't read his thoughts.
"Good night sweetie, have happy dreams." She whispered as she leaned down to kiss Kyle goodnight. "I love you."
"Love too." Kyle yawned and rolled away from the obtrusive light of the doorway.
Jessica stood up quietly and placed the book on the floor by his bed before tip toeing to the door where JC smiled and took her hand. "You're good at that. You did the voices and everything." He whispered, willing himself not to say, "I'd want a dozen more kids if I could stand and watch you say goodnight to them forever."
"Thank you." She kissed him quickly, and then headed for the stairs. It was early still, and he still owed her a massage.
Saturday morning JC, Jessica and Kyle had a quiet breakfast in the living room while watching cartoons and goofing around. When they were done Jessica went upstairs to get ready for her day of shopping and girl bonding. After starting a movie for Kyle to watch while he lounged on the floor with Candy, JC tip toed upstairs and snuck into the bathroom with Jessica. "Hey." He smiled and nuzzled her neck from behind.
"Hey you." She smiled and tilted her head to the side, enjoying the way his curls tickled her cheek. "So... what are you doing today?"
"Nothing." JC said softly as he rested his chin on her shoulder. "We might go down to the compound... you know... see what's going on." He cast his eyes heavenward with an innocent look.
"Yeah right." Jessica laughed and raised her shoulder to bump him off. She tied her hair into a ponytail and straightened it in the mirror. "I don't know when I'll be done today."
"That's okay. Joey's having some kind of a thing at his place tonight, but we can show up whenever."
"I won't be that late. Maybe like, four. Maybe?" She frowned in the mirror and sighed. "Are you guys really coming to the compound?"
"I was kidding." He kissed her cheek. "But we can if you want us to. Like I said, we've got nothing planned for today. Kyle and I do a whole lot of nothing when you're not around." He laughed softly and leaned against the counter to face her.
"You're no fun."
"Nope. I'm boring. I'm a boring old dad who would rather veg on the couch and watch Dora's Adventures or whatever."
"I doubt Kyle minds."
"Nah. He's so much like me it's scary. He's content just sitting in his bean bag looking at a book or something." JC shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest as Jessica smoothed lotion onto her cheeks. "We have our moments though. Get some sugar into us and we're doing WWF in the sandbox outside."
"I'll bet." Jessica's eyes crinkled when she laughed at the mental image of the two boys wrestling in the back yard. She reached out quickly and touched her fingers to JC's elbow; something about being in the same room with him made her want to touch him. There was something so magnetic about him; she sometimes found it hard to stop herself from just resting her hand on any available part of him.
JC pulled her to him quickly and kissed her as she relaxed against his body. He tasted the fruity flavor of the Chap Stick she'd used and recognized the lotion as his favorite brand of sunscreen. "Have fun shopping today." He said with a smile when he leaned back.
"I'll call Joey this afternoon and find out what time he wants us there." He left his hands on her hips then squinted at her. "Did you bring your cell phone?"
"All righty. I'll call down to Sean then if I need to reach you."
"Okay." Jessica laughed, she loved the way he could be so paternal, even with grown ups. "I can't wait to see the other guys."
"It'll be fun." JC nodded and wiggled his hips against hers in an almost sexy way. He dropped his chin slightly but kept eye contact with Jessica as he gave her what he hoped was a sultry and provocative look. "When do you have to go?" He asked softly. The magnetic feeling was mutual and as a man he felt the physical need more than he thought was possible. After seeing her daily for two months, going a few weeks was practically painful for him and he didn't want to let an opportunity pass him by.
Jessica smiled and tried not to laugh as she quoted "Pretty Woman". "I appreciate this whole seduction bet, but let me assure you. I'm a sure thing." She stood on tiptoe and kissed him again, pressing his butt into the sharp corner of the counter behind him. "But I'll have to take a rain check." Jessica left one last baby kiss on his lower lip and stood up straight. "Tim will be here at to pick me up so I have to be ready." She stepped out from between his legs and bounced through the doorway into the master bedroom.
JC dropped his head back and exhaled sharply as he squeezed his eyes shut. She was going to kill him, he was sure of it. "Wait." He jerked his head up and went into the bedroom. "Wait, Tim our security guy? When did you I mean, he's coming here?"
"Yeah, he called this morning while you were making breakfast. He's going to drive me over to The Boutique to see Marian, then cart me and the clothes to the compound to meet with Johnny, Sean and the girls."
"Why's Tim taking you? I have my car here, you could borrow it or I could take you."
"I didn't want to borrow it because then you'd be stranded here. This way it'll just be easier and you don't have to play chauffeur." Jessica laughed and slid her bare feet into her sneakers. "I'll be running around a lot today between the stores and the compound and Disney." She sighed. "This way you can just come and get me when I'm done and we can go straight to Joey's. See? It's perfect."
"I don't mind driving you around."
"I know you wouldn't, but really Jace, that wouldn't be fun for Kyle. You guys can hang out here today, and then we'll go party down at Joey's tonight."
"It's not a party really."
"It's Joey's." She raised her eyebrow at him as she reached for her duffel bag of tricks she might need that afternoon.
"True." JC laughed and kissed her again before they walked downstairs to wait for Tim.
"Daddy!" Kyle shouted from the living room. What he lacked in urgency he made up for volume.
"He's got a set of lungs on him."
"We've been practicing." JC laughed and looked over his shoulder. "Yeah buddy?"
"Come here so you don't have to shout." JC laughed and pulled the front door open.
"Daddy is sink." Kyle said as he ran into the foyer. "We go bye?" He frowned at the open door, then saw Jessica with her bag. "No Jessi." His eyes filled with tears as he clasped onto her bare leg.
"Honey, I'm not leaving." Jessica knelt down and wrapped her arms around him. "No, sweetie I just have to go to work."
"You're going to stay here with your daddy. I have to work for a little while, but then you're going to come get me."
"I get now?" Kyle's tears continued to fall as Jessica held him close and looked up at JC with a confused look. For as long as she'd known him, Kyle had never been clingy like that.
"We're going to pick her up when she's done working." JC placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder and tried to carefully pull him off of Jessica.
"No say." Kyle protested.
"I can't stay sweetie." Jessica slid her bag off her shoulder and stood up with Kyle in her arms. "What's wrong Kyle? I'm not leaving for good; I'm just going to work like your daddy does."
"Honey I can't stay." She shook her head and attempted to speak around the lump in her throat. "Tonight we're going to go see Joey and everyone. We're going to have a lot of fun "
"Not right now. I have to go to work, but when I'm done we'll go to Joey's, okay?" She kissed the hair just above his ear and sighed. "Is this new?" She whispered to JC, who just shrugged and shook his head. He hadn't seen Kyle like that before either.
Tim's Jeep pulled up in JC's driveway and the security guard beeped his horn as he rolled to a stop. "Come here buddy. Jessica's ride is here."
"No daddy no. Jessi!" Kyle tried to grab onto Jessica's shirt as JC held him under his arms.
Concern flashed in Jessica's eyes as Kyle's crying turned into almost hysterical sobs as he kicked and wiggled in JC's arms. "Jace ?"
"It's okay. Go."
"But if he -
"I've got him." JC forced a smile and tried to wave without dropping Kyle. "It's okay Jess, just go. He'll be fine in a minute."
She nodded quickly and said, I'll see you tonight Kyle, you can come and get me okay? I love you sweetie." She took a step closer and ran her hand over his hair as she tilted her head at JC.
He just nodded and adjusted Kyle in his arms, Call me when you get there."
"I will." Jessica turned quickly and hopped in the awaiting Jeep.
"Is he okay?" Tim asked as he looked back at the front door where Kyle was still screaming and trying to free himself from his fathers firm grip.
"Y-yeah." Jessica tossed her bag in the back and clasped her seatbelt into place. "He's just he's two I guess." She leaned her elbow on the windowsill and stared at the street as Tim backed out of the driveway.
"Johnny wants you to come to the office first so you guys can talk about the stuff for tomorrow before you go shopping."
"And uh... I think he said the girls wanted to go with you. Or something."
"I don't take my clients on wardrobe hunts with me." Jessica shook her head and frowned out the side window. She wasn't upset at the thought of having to take the girls with her, her mind was still stuck on the image of Kyle clawing at JC's shirt as she left.
"Yeah well " Tim shrugged and maneuvered the car through traffic as they headed across town.
They pulled up at the compound a short while later and were met with the danceable beat coming from the open door of the dance studio. Jessica recognized the song as one of Britney's and wondered what the pop princess was doing at the WEG headquarters.
The music stopped suddenly as two of the girls laughed, then stepped outside. "Jessica! Hey, we were just getting warmed up." Jo said as she bounced on the balls of her feet.
"Hi guys." She waved quickly then looked over at the main building that housed the offices. "Is Sean in there?"
"No. No one's in there." Jillian shook her head. "They're in the office still I think."
"Okay. I'll see you guys in a few." Jessica handed her bag to Tim and nodded to the studio. "Can you drop that in there? I have to make a call."
"Sure thing." He smiled and ambled toward the studio as Jessica shoved her hands in her shallow pockets and headed for the offices.
Sean was seated in Johnny's office laughing with the older man when Jessica poked her head in. "Sean? Hi, I'm sorry to interrupt."
"That's okay Jessica, how can we help you?" Johnny asked with a broad smile.
"I uh can I use your phone?" She asked Sean.
"Sure. Absolutely. Down the hall there on the right." He nodded in the right direction. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah. Kyle was just kind of upset to see me go this morning so I wanted to make sure everything was okay back home, you know?" Jessica tried to smile as Johnny stood up.
"I haven't seen the little dude in a while. Tell Jace he needs to bring him in every now and then." Johnny reached for his cell phone and pager and clipped them both to his waistband.
"I will." Jessica nodded, then smiled at Sean. "Thanks." She muttered before she practically ran to his office.
Jessica picked up the new age looking phone and dialed JC's number from memory, then saw it programmed into the speed dial buttons on the keypad. She smiled slightly and shook her head as the phone rang in her hand.
"Hello?" JC answered on the second ring.
Jessica breathed a sigh of relief when she didn't hear Kyle crying in the background. "Hey." She said softly. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah yeah he's okay." JC lowered his voice and she could hear a door shut. "He's inside with Candy."
"He's not still crying is he?"
"No." JC shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. "I'm sorry about that. He's not usually so well he doesn't usually freak out like that."
"I know what was that?"
"Separation anxiety I guess. That's what the book says. But I don't know."
"Does he do that when you take him to school?"
"No." JC shook his head and looked back through the window at Kyle sitting on the floor with the dog. "He's cried when I dropped him off before, but just a little. Not like full on hysterics."
"Is he feeling okay?" Jessica leaned against Sean's desk and frowned.
"Yeah, he seems okay to me." JC bit his lip and pulled at his torn belt loop. "I think " He sighed and stopped.
"No, what?" Jessica insisted as Sean appeared in the doorway. "Two minutes." She whispered to him as she covered the mouthpiece. He nodded with a worried look and mouthed the words, 'you okay?'. Jessica nodded back and tried to smile. "JC what were you going to say?"
"Nothing really, I just I think maybe he's confused."
"Confused how? I mean, you leave him to go to work all the time, he should know that going to work means that you're coming back."
"I mean about you."
"What about me?"
"But " Jessica tried to argue but found that there was nothing she could say.
"Youre his favorite person in the whole world. Half the time I think he likes you more than me." JC laughed softly.
"No, I know." He licked his lips and stepped out onto the grass. "So I was thinking, you know, that it's going to be hard when you actually have to leave to go home."
"So maybe you shouldn't."
"Keep coming here for a few days, then leave again."
Jessica's heart skipped a beat, her mind immediately going to the worst of two meanings. "I you don't want me to come out anymore?"
"No!" He said quickly. "No, God Jess that's not what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?"
"I meant " He sighed and furrowed his brow. He was going to be asking a lot here in about two seconds. "I meant that maybe you shouldn't leave."
"Well I can't just stay here for - She stopped. "You mean move down here?"
"I mean move in."
"And Kyle." JC nodded as his heart raced.
Jessica was silent. She held the phone a few inches from her ear as the logical side of her mind tried to comprehend the facts and weigh her options while the romantic side immediately pictured the picket fence and rose border. With both sides of her mind fighting Jessica couldn't put her thoughts together to make sense. "I have to go to work JC."
"Okay but -
"We'll talk later." She interrupted him. "I love you." She added as a quiet afterthought.
JC paused for a second and she didn't know how to feel about that. "I I love you too." He nodded, then clicked his phone off, praying he hadn't just freaked her out but knowing he probably did.
He and Kyle spent the day just hanging around as usual which they both seemed happy with. Joey called to make sure they were all coming before he ran to the store to get the meat for the night, then told him he expected everyone to be there by so that they could actually see the backyard before it got dark. "You're gonna dig it man. Really. You're gonna want to move in and live in my yard."
"Yeah don't hold your breath." JC laughed before he hung up and called Jessica to see if she'd be ready to go by five so that they could make it to Joey's on time. After checking with Sean she told JC that she could be done by then and that she'd meet him at the compound. She'd be spending her day with the girls and that meant bopping back and forth between Disney and the compound trying to get their wardrobes coordinated and keep everyone happy.
By the end of the day she was tired and ready for a relaxing evening at Joey's, catching up with the guys and just kicking back for a little bit. At she was sitting on the studio floor flipping through a new catalogue she'd picked up at The Boutique that morning. The girls were at Disney getting ready to take the stage in their brand new outfits that Jessica was finally happy with, and she was beat.
She looked up quickly as she heard feet running across the waxed hardwood floor. "Jessi!" Kyle ran over to her and climbed into her arms.
"Hey sweetie." She kissed his cheeks. "How was your day? Did you have fun?"
"Yeah and I get you." He smiled and put his hand on the side of her face.
"Yep, you get to pick me up. And guess where we're going now?"
"To Joey's!" Jessica looked surprised as she looked for JC. Kyle had appeared out of nowhere and it was odd to see the little one without his six foot counterpart a step behind.
"Yeah!" Kyle threw his hands in the air and giggled.
"Okay kiddo; let's go find your old man." She stood up, then picked him up and headed for the door.
"Yeah, he's old." Jessica kissed his forehead and squeezed him close. "But that's okay, so am I."
"You're not old."
"I diss." He held up four fingers.
"Nope, you're this." She folded down two fingers and showed him the two remaining. "You're two years old but soon you'll be three."
"Yeah." Kyle nodded. "And you?"
"I'm a lot more than that. I'm this." She opened and closed her hand a dozen times quickly. "That's a lot huh?"
"Yeah. And daddy too."
"Yep, your daddy is a lot too." Jessica laughed and spotted JC leaning against his car talking to Johnny.
"There they are." JC smiled as they walked up.
"Wow, look at how big you're getting!" Johnny gasped when he saw Kyle. "Dang kid, he looks just like you."
"Say hi to Johnny, Kyle."
"Hi." The little boy immediately turned shy and laid his head on Jessica's shoulder.
"Hey there kiddo." Johnny reached to mess his hair. "It's crazy how fast they grow huh? It's only been about a month since I saw him, but damn." Johnny shook his head and beamed at JC who, to his surprise, had turned out to be a great father without letting it change who he was.
"Yeah, he's growing every day." JC nodded. He put his hand on Jessica's back and sighed, Are you ready to go? I told Joe we'd be there by like, ."
"Joey's having a party?" Johnny asked.
"Eh, kind of. He's having people over to tear up his new backyard or something. He had a guy come and build a bar-b-que into the wall. I guess he wants to have people there in case it's faulty and blows up. Who knows, it's Joey." JC shrugged and laughed.
"He could just be celebrating the fact that it's October." Johnny laughed and put his hands in his pockets.
"No kidding." JC rolled his eyes.
"Well hey, don't be a stranger kid. I know you'll be taking off for the studio in another week or so, but swing by and see me before you do."
"I will." JC promised. He and Johnny talked shop for a few minutes while Jessica got Kyle into his car seat, then stood on the far side of the car to wait for JC to be done.
"Anyway." JC smiled and sighed a minute later. "I'll catch you later." He waved to Johnny and pulled his door open.
"Bye guys. Thanks a lot for your help Jessica. You've been a lifesaver."
"No problem." Jessica grinned and meant it. With the windows rolled down the crisp evening air came in and cooled her sunburned skin.
They pulled onto the main road and JC sighed heavily as they headed for Joey's house. "Did you get drinks or whatever?"
"I got some chips and salsa. No one ever remembers to get that, and it's what everyone craves when we do these things." JC laughed. "So I've got enough to get us through a couple days at least."
"Yum." She licked her lips as her stomach growled. She hadn't eaten anything since that afternoon when she and the girls stopped for Subway sandwiches.
"I hava chip?" Kyle asked as he leaned as far as he could in his seat to grab Lello off the seat beside him.
"When we get there you can have chips, yeah." JC nodded, then reached back and handed Kyle his stuffed dog.
"Maybe, I'll have to see how hot it is."
"No, not hot like that, hot like spicy." JC explained.
"Yeah, salsa can be spicy and make your mouth hurt."
"Oh." Kyle frowned and looked at the dog in his hand. He bashed Lellos' nose against the window then swung him by his ear.
"Were you able to - JC started.
"Just a second Kyle." JC glanced in the rear view mirror. "What I asked this morning, have you given it any thought?"
"What you asked this morning, you mean -
"Daddy I see Joey?"
"Yep, we're going to Joey's house." JC nodded.
"About moving?" Jessica asked.
"What you asked me about moving down here?" She asked again.
"What?" JC looked into the back seat.
"And Jussin and Joey?"
"Yeah, Justin will be there too. Chris and Lance too, everyone will be there." JC explained to Kyle, then turned to Jessica. "Yeah have you given it any thought?"
"Actually I've -
"Daddy we see a dog?"
JC sighed and looked over his shoulder quickly. "Yeah, Joey has a dog so we'll probably see him. Where's your book buddy? Can you read your book?"
"Why don't we talk about this later?" Jessica smiled as her stomach turned into knots. She had in fact thought about his proposal all day and it distracted her from her work on more than one occasion. "Here kiddo." She turned around in her seat and pulled his book out of his bag. "Why don't you read this to us and tell us what the pictures are."
"A cake huh? What kind of a cake?"
"Big cake and geen."
"A big green cake huh?" Jessica laughed and looked over at JC. "Did you have a good day today?"
"Hmm? Yeah. Yeah we just hung out and stuff. We walked up to the park and saw some of our neighbors there."
"How about you? How was your day?"
"Pretty good." Jessica nodded and looked out the window.
"Isa red dog! Daddy isa red dog." Kyle squealed from the back seat as he flipped the pages in his book.
Kyle continued to read the book for the rest of their trip to Joey's house, while JC sat in the drivers seat wishing he could get Jessica alone to talk about what had been on his mind all day. When they pulled up in Joey's driveway Kyle dropped his book and clawed at his straps.
"Kyle!" Joey shouted as he ran out to the passenger's side door.
"Joey! Daddy is Joey!" Kyle laughed and struggled to get out of his seat.
"I see that." He unlocked the power locks and let Joey pull the door open to get him out.
"Hey my man, how's it hangin?" Joey lifted Kyle from his seat and spun him around before setting him on the ground.
"Justin's inside, he's been waiting for you. Guess what he has?"
"He brought his video game thing, go check it out."
"Yeah, he's inside." Joey nodded toward the house and gently pushed Kyle in that direction.
"Who's here?" JC asked as he watched his son walk into the wide open door.
"The guys and then like, I don't know. Kelly's around here somewhere, and her cousin. Then Trent, Jim, Julian and Heather. They're here. You know everyone." He nodded to reassure JC.
"Cool." JC got out and pulled the food he brought from the seat beside Kyle's car seat. "I'll take this stuff inside. Is someone cooking already?"
"Yeah, take it on back." Joey nodded and slapped JC on the back. "Glad you could make it."
"Anytime." JC smiled and headed inside.
"Hey Jess!" Joey exclaimed as she walked around to the front of the car. "What up girl? What are you in town for?" He pulled her in for a tight bear hug, scratching her cheek with his day's growth of beard.
"Not much, I'm here to work with a new group." She smiled into his shoulder as he squeezed her again before releasing her.
"You're ditching us huh? Out with the old, in with the new? Hey Chris! We've been replaced!" Joey shouted towards the back of the house.
"No you haven't." She playfully punched Joey's chest and blushed slightly. "This is just for the weekend, and maybe a few days down the road. You guys don't need my expertise right now anyway."
"Yeah I see how it is. A weekend here and there. Then a full tour then all of a sudden you're O-Towns wardrobe girl and we're stuck wearing last falls pants with this springs jackets." Joey sniffed and dropped his arm over her shoulder.
"I can promise you, that will never happen. The day I see you guys in something awful, I'll drop what I'm doing and rush to your aid." She laughed and let him guide her to the back yard. "Besides, it's a girl group this time. They don't compare at all."
"They're underage Joe."
"Most of them." She nodded as she giggled. "Just say 'no'. It'd be a bad career move."
"Are you taking over as our career consultant thing now too?"
"If you even think about it, I'll bring back those nylon pants with the mirror things on them." She shook her finger at him, but could tell he was already formulating how to work his way over to the compound to meet these girls. "Joey "
"Okay, okay. I'm not. I won't." Joey furrowed his brow in concentration. "Is uh they're working with Johnny, right?"
"I'm just asking!" Joey raised his hands up innocently, then laughed and shook his head.
"Yeah right." Jessica laughed and looked around the backyard. "This is beautiful Joey, really." She changed the subject as they stepped outside.
"Thanks." He smiled and looked around.
"I need a drink though, where are you hiding them?"
"Like a drink drink?"
"Beer's in the cooler over there then Lance brought some harder stuff, its inside at the bar."
"Ummm " Joey looked around the backyard. "I think I have some in the fridge. Nothing diet though."
"That's okay." Jessica laughed and turned to go back into the house. She grabbed a Mountain Dew from the top shelf and popped it open as she stepped out onto the patio.
"Jessi have here." Kyle said as he ran over and pulled on her free hand.
"Have here what?"
"No Jessi, here." Kyle hung on her hand and dragged her over to where Joey's dog was hiding under the table. "Isa Candy dog."
"No that's not Candy. That's Joey's dog. What's his name?"
"I doe no." Kyle shook his head as he squatted to be at the dog's level.
"Is he nice?"
"Yeah he seepin."
"Oh he's sleeping? Jessica squatted beside him and lowered her voice. "We should be quiet then, huh?"
"Yeah." Kyle whispered.
"Where's your daddy?"
"Umm." Kyle stood up and looked around. From his height she was sure he couldn't see much, but he shocked her. "Dere." He pointed to where JC and Chris were talking animatedly with their hands, as if acting out some weird scene in an action movie. They both cracked up laughing at the same time and almost spilled their drinks on each other.
"Your dad is strange honey."
"Yeah." Kyle sighed as if that just wasn't news to him, then he headed off in their direction leaving Jessica standing by the dog alone.
"Hey you." Lance sidled up next to her and tapped her hip with his. "JC said you were coming out but he didnt say for how long."
"I'm not sure how long. A uh a couple days at least." She shrugged and smiled as she bent the tab back and forth on her can. "Where's Amy?"
"She's going to be there a week?"
"Well, she'll be back next Friday, so yeah. Almost a week."
"You didn't want to go with her?" Jessica smiled and tried not to laugh. She knew that Lance was tight with Amy's immediate family, but the extended family was a completely different story. They were as Amy put it, 'different'.
"Um, no." Lance laughed and
shook his head. "Actually, I've got some
work to do around here and I'll be in
"Ahh, I see."
"Really. I have work." Lance blushed quickly and took a sip of his beer. "But anyway, yeah. She's in
"I'll have to give her a call then this weekend and see what she's been up to."
"She's been busy." Lance nodded then looked down as Kyle walked up. "Hey little man. Where have you been? I haven't seen you in forever!" He lifted Kyle up and tossed him in the air before finally hugging him and balancing him on his hip.
"Hi." Kyle giggled and reached up to touch Lance's scruffy facial hair with a frown. "Uh oh, you have."
"Yeah, I didn't shave today." Lance squished up his nose and laughed. "Amy hates it when I don't shave so when she's gone I let it go all Grizzly Adam's like."
"Nice." Jessica laughed and made a face, unable to picture Lance as Grizzly Adams.
"See Mimi?" Kyle asked.
"Nope, Amy is on vacation. You'll have to see her next weekend or something."
"Kay." Kyle nodded and rested his head on Lance's shoulder. "My Jessi now."
"Yep, you can see your Jessi now." Lance laughed softly. "Did you show Jessica your new dog?"
"Did you show her Candy?"
"Yeah. See run wiss us."
"She ran with you guys huh? That's pretty cool." Lance pressed his cheek o the top of Kyle's head. "Do you play ball with Candy?"
"Yeah. And Jaxo and Lex."
"That's right; you play with Jackson and Lexi too."
"Nope, not now. They're at home sleeping right now. Where's Joey's dog?"
"He's sleping too?"
"I doe no." Kyle shrugged and wiggled to be set down. Lance set him on his feet and sighed, Did you get some cake?"
"Yeah." Kyle tugged at his shirt and looked around at the small crowd of people. "Jessi see?" He used both hands and grabbed onto one of Jessica's.
"See what honey?" She took a step to follow him, then smiled over her shoulder at Lance. "I'll talk to you later."
"No problem." He laughed and watched as Kyle pulled her across the yard to where Chris and Justin were trying to balance two beer bottles neck to neck.
"Jussin is my Jessi." Kyle said with a giggle as he released Jessica's hand and climbed into the empty seat beside Justin.
"Yep, that's Jessica. And who is this?"
"And who's that?" Justin pointed into the house.
"And who's that?" Justin pointed towards JC.
"Is my daddy." Kyle laughed and placed his hands over his mouth.
"Okay this is a hard one, who's that?"
"No, not Lance. Who's standing next to him?"
Kyle squinted and looked. "I doe no."
"Man, neither do I. I was hoping you knew. You know everyone." Justin laughed and kicked his feet up to rest of the arm of Kyle's seat. "Hey how come you're his Jessi, and I'm just Justin?"
"I don't know." Jessica shrugged and leaned against the table. "He's just I guess he's always called me that."
"Weird." Justin reached over to rub Kyle's hair. "You're a weird kid."
"No Chris." Kyle's eyes danced as he looked over at Chris who had stopped trying to balance the bottles and was instead peeling the labels off.
"You think I'm weird?" Chris raised his eyebrow at Kyle and stopped what he was doing. "That hurts my feelings." He stuck out his lower lip and pretended to cry, which only made Kyle laugh even more.
"Yeah weird." Kyle laughed and slid out of his seat to stand in front of Chris. "Chris? Chris? Chris weird?" He bent at his knees to try to see Chris' face as the older man put his elbows on his knees and covered his face.
"I'm not weird, you're weird." Chris said, pretending to cry.
"No." Kyle laughed even more and tried to pull Chris' hands from his face. "You kyin? Chris? Uh oh." He tried hard to pull at Chris' hands. "Chris?"
"Ahhhh!" Chris dropped his hand and screamed as he made a face and startled Kyle.
"No! Chris weird!" Kyle shouted and shook with laughter.
"You two are freaks." Justin shook his head and picked Kyle up to hold him upside down in front of Chris.
"You all scare me." Jessica smiled and took the empty bottles with her as she headed back to the house. They stayed at Joey's house, catching up with each other as if they hadn't seen each other in months, and mingling with friends they really hadn't seen in a while. As it got later and Kyle got tired, he shadowed Jessica more and more.
"Are you tired sweetie?" She asked as she picked him up, checking the clock on the wall as she did. "Oh man, it's after your bed time."
"No, I pay." Kyle yawned and rested his head on her shoulder.
"I think you're all played out. Why don't we go find your daddy and start to say goodbye?"
"Daddy ina potty."
"Ina potty." Kyle yawned again.
"Oh." Jessica looked up slightly amused as JC stepped out of the bathroom in the hall. "Hey Jace?"
"Hey." He smiled and placed his hand at the small of her back in the most familiar way. She instinctively leaned back against the warm pressure and smiled. "He's partied out huh?"
"Yeah." Jessica nodded. "It's almost ten, I'm surprised he lasted this long."
"He had a good nap today, but yeah. Okay, let's go say goodbye and head home." JC nodded as he took Kyle from her and hoisted his effortlessly onto his shoulder. "Come on big guy, let's go find the guys."
"Kay." Kyle rested his cheek on his father's shoulder and looked over at Jessica with tired eyes. They walked out to the backyard where Joey, Lance and Justin were standing in a circle with bottled tilted to their mouths, obviously racing.
"You let your son be around people like this?"
"It's rootbeer." JC laughed softly, reading the label as he tilted his head. "They know better." He winked playfully at her. "Most of the time."
Jessica and JC stood there for a minute until they were done and Justin was labeled the chug master of the night. "Yeah that's the third time I smoked them." He high-fived JC and patted Kyle's back. "Oh man, his battery has died."
"Yeah, we're gonna get going. He needs to go to bed and we've still got to drive home."
"You can lay him down upstairs if you guys want." Joey tapped his palm across the top of the bottle to make a slight popping sound.
"Nah, I'm kinda beat too. We're just gonna go home." JC explained with a smile as he tried to make himself look more tired than he was.
"Wus." Chris rolled his eyes and handed Joey his bottle. "See ya later Kyle."
"Bye Chris." Kyle said without raising his head.
"Say bye to Joey and Justin too, we're going home buddy." JC said softly.
"Bye bye Joey and Jussin and dog." Kyle mumbled.
"Did he just call Lance a dog?" Chris snickered into Justin's shoulder, proving that they'd both had a little more to drink than rootbeer.
"He was saying goodbye to Joey's dog." Jessica shook her head and gave Justin a hug before moving to Chris. "Walk us out." She nodded toward the door while smiling at Joey.
"Yeah, okay." Joey set the bottles on the short concrete wall and led the way through the small crowd back to the house. "Bass, come on. They're leaving." He called to Lance as they passed through the living room. Lance looked up from his conversation with two guys that involved drawing a sketch of something on a napkin.
"You guys are leaving?" He asked as he put his hands in his pockets and followed the group outside.
"Yeah." Jessica nodded. "We're beat and this little guy has had enough fun for one day."
"Yeah, I heard you." Lance nodded. "I should get going soon too."
"No way, there's a limit on tonight. No one leaves before tomorrow, so forget it." Joey socked Lance in the shoulder. "They're an exception because they've got the kid."
Jessica blushed at the way that sounded, but no one else seemed to notice. They walked out to the car and JC unlocked all the doors to get Kyle into his car seat behind the driver's seat. "Come on buddy, we're going home." He said softly as Kyle protested the straps that went over his shoulders. "Let's strap you in."
"No." Kyle whined.
"Yep." JC kissed his forehead and made the buckle click.
"Good night guys." Jessica said softly as JC shut the car door. She hugged Joey and Lance goodbye and lingered for a minute in Joey's arms. "I'm serious Joey. Don't go to the compound."
"I'm just going to say hi." Joey whispered into her ear.
"No." She whispered back as she grabbed a handful of his hair.
"I can say hi and not want to bang them."
"Joey. No. Next year maybe, when they're not so green."
"Promise you that you suck?" Joey laughed and took a step back but left his hands on her shoulders. "I promise, you suck."
"I'm going to call Sean."
"I'm not going to go, sheesh. I've got too much shit to clean up around here because I'm friends with slobs." Joey raised his eyebrow at JC and smiled. "Your girlfriend is persistent."
"Yeah, I know." JC pulled the drivers side door open and slid into his seat. "You coming?"
"Yeah." She leaned in and kissed Joey's cheek and said, "If I find out "
"You won't." Joey shook his head and patted her butt as she walked away.
"Tell Amy I said hi and I'll talk to her this weekend or something." She said over her shoulder as she pulled the passenger side door open.
"I will." Lance waved then sighed and headed back into the house. "Let's go clean." He dropped his arm over Joey's shoulder as they stumbled up the walkway.
"Those guys " Jessica said softly as she shook her head with a smile. Kyle was sound asleep in his car seat and Jessica thought how nice it must be to sleep anywhere and anytime he wanted to.
"They're pretty strange."
"Yeah." Jessica nodded. "But you've gotta love them."
"You don't have to, but it makes life a lot easier if you just do it and get it over with." JC laughed softly as he craned his neck to back out of the circular driveway since Lance's car was blocking the front exit.
They drove all the way to the main street in silence before JC cleared his throat and looked over at Jessica for the fiftieth time. "Hey uh " He started, then turned his attention back to the road.
"Hmm?" Jessica tried not to yawn as she looked away from the slightly damp window.
"Do um are you ready to talk?"
"Well you said we'd talk later and I just wanted to see if this was late enough for you." JC tried to smile, but it faltered at the corners of his mouth.
"Oh ah, about me moving down here?"
"Oh." Jessica said again as she looked back toward the window. "Yeah this is later." She nodded and brought her right foot up to rest on the seat with her knee at her chin. With one swift move she reached over and turned the radio off and the heat up. "I well its no secret that I love you Jace. You and Kyle."
"We love you too."
"I really appreciate the offer and I -
"It wasn't an offer. I wasn't offering to let you stay here Jess; I was asking if you would. There's a difference." JC explained softly without sounding defensive. They kept their voices low as Kyle snored on the back seat.
Jessica ran her fingers over her ankle and sighed, "I appreciate you asking then. And the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. I've thought about it all day in fact."
"It's a huge step Jace." She pulled her lip between her teeth as her brow creased into a familiar worry line. "I've thought of this place as home for a while, I mean not as my home, but just I don't know. Home. I love it here; I love everything about the house and the people in it and how it feels and everything. But this is big. I need to think about it."
"It doesn't have to be such a big deal."
"Yeah it does. Moving here would be great, really it would, but it would mean uprooting my life and bringing it down here with me."
"You can just pretend I didn't ask." JC turned the heat down and the radio back on.
"No, I don't want to do that." Jessica's frown deepened as she shook her head. "I don't want to forget that you asked, I just want to think about it."
"Just pretend I didn't ask."
"Are you taking away the offer?" She asked after an uncomfortable silence.
"It wasn't an offer."
"You know what I mean."
"No. I'm not taking it away." JC said softly. "I'm just saying to pretend like I didn't ask. I don't want you to be upset."
"I'm not upset. I just need to
think about it a little. This is a big thing. Moving in together is a huge step, and for me to
"Yeah." JC agreed reluctantly. He didn't want her to have to think about it, he had hoped she would just say 'yes' and make it easy. Thinking about it would make it too easy for her to find an excuse why it wouldn't work and that would be the downfall of their whole relationship. He was finally thinking about her as someone he wanted to spend his life with, and she might not feel the same.
"So yeah. I just need to think a little bit. But thank you for asking."
"You're welcome." He whispered almost inaudibly. He bit the inside of his cheek and turned the music up a notch, letting the easy jazz music fill the front part of the car and make the silence of their voices a little easier to take for the rest of the ride home.
When they got home JC carried Kyle upstairs and tucked him into bed after peeling his clothes off. He shut the door carefully then almost ran into Jessica in the hall. "Hey." He nodded as he took a step back to let her pass.
"Are you okay?"
"Me? Yeah." JC nodded and covered his mouth as he yawned.
"You looked like someone kicked you in the stomach." She whispered as she placed her hand on his arm.
"I feel like it." He nodded and turned to talk to the master bedroom. He striped down to his boxers and brushed his teeth before sliding under the covers. Jessica stood at the doorway watching his unchanging routine, wondering how to fix things.
"JC " She started as he lay on his side with his back to her. Jessica reached behind her and pulled the door shut softly behind her. "JC, come on."
"Don't be mad." She sat on her side of the bed fully clothed with her heart racing. "I know that asking me to move in here with you was a big step on your side too. I know that you didn't ask just to ask." He didn't say anything or move. "I'm not saying 'no' JC. This isn't me rejecting you. I love you Jace probably more than I should this early in the game. We're still so new and your whole life has done a complete turn around in less than a year. I just it scares me to think of throwing one more curveball into your life." She took a deep breath. "Because that's what it would be I know that you like having me here when I visit and I love being here. But full time is something else. We just I need to think about it."
"JC please "
"It's fine Jess." He pulled the blanket up to his shoulder. "I'm not upset."
"Then what?" She placed her hand on his arm and rolled him to his back so she could see his face. "Come on, I'm being honest here, please do the same."
JC ran his hand through his hair then propped himself on his elbow. "Honestly? I'm just thinking that if you sit there and think about it you'll come up with all these reasons why you don't want to live with me. And those reasons will be the end."
"The end of us?" Jessica's eyebrows rose at the thought.
"Honey " Jessica smiled and leaned over to kiss him. "The only reason I'm even pausing is because I'm not ready to take the next step in here." She tapped her temple. "Not here." She placed her hand on her heart. "I love you, and if nothing else mattered I wouldn't even go home this week. But moving in here means leaping into the next stage of the relationship and I've never gone there before so it's scary. I just need to think about it. And I know that I sound like a broken record, but but that's what I need."
"But " JC frowned and Jessica couldnt stop herself from kissing him.
"No 'buts' Jace. This isn't about you at all. I love you."
"I love you too." His arms wove around her waist. "I just want you here all the time."
"You'll think about it?"
"I love you." He whispered as he kissed her again, smiling into her lips.
"I love you too." She used her finger to brush a curl off of his forehead. "Are we okay now?"
"Really." He kissed her again and pulled her on top of him. "I'm sorry I freaked."
"I'll drop it. Whenever you're ready you just let me know."
"Thank you." Jessica whispered and placed her forehead against his as her hair fell around his shoulders. For a split second she almost said, "Forget it. I'm never leaving." But again, the rational side kicked in and she knew she had to think about it. "I need to brush my teeth."
"Ha." She laughed and rolled off of him then went to the bathroom to change and get herself ready for bed. When she returned only ten minutes later, JC was lying sprawled on his back and fast asleep. He had one arm over his head and the other resting across his stomach with his fingers resting on the waistband of his shorts.
"I must be crazy." Jessica whispered to herself from the bathroom doorway. For what seemed like an eternity she stood there watching him breathe in and out, his chest rising and falling with a look of complete content on his face, his lips slightly parted and soft looking.
Fighting back tears that came from out of nowhere, she climbed into the big warm bed beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. She placed her hand on his chest and one leg over the top of his, absorbing his warmth and sighing into his chest.
In his sleep, JC's arm lowered from above his head to her shoulder to pull her closer. His lips closed unconsciously and he sighed heavily, his breath rattling in his chest beneath her ear passing his contentment on to her as she closed her eyes. As long as they were touching, everything was right in the world.
The next morning when they woke, it was as if nothing was amiss. They made breakfast and got ready together then got Kyle dressed and goofed around for a bit before Jessica had to go to work. Rather than have a repeat performance of the day before, JC and Kyle drove Jessica to the compound to finish up her work with the girls. They sat on the picnic benches as Jessica and the girls sat under the tree to talk about the events they had coming up and what kind of clothes were, and were not, appropriate. Jessica had gotten a detailed list from Johnny and since he knew they'd listen to Jessica about the clothes, it was her job to pass that information along.
After an hour Kyle was bored and wanted to go home and play with Candy. "Okay, let's head home." JC nodded and stood up with Kyle's backpack in his hand.
"And my Jessi?"
"Jessica has to stay here and finish working." JC shook his head.
"Oh." Kyle frowned and seemed to re-think leaving.
"If you want to stay here, we can." JC said. He'd gladly sit there all afternoon if it meant saving everyone from another hysterical display.
"Can get lato?"
"Jessica? Yeah, we're going to come and get her later." JC nodded.
"Yep, she has to work right now."
Kyle sighed and kept his eyes on Jessica. "Kay." He scooted off the seat and began to walk toward the car, looking over his shoulder every few steps as if making sure she was still there.
"Come on buddy, we'll pick her up when she's all done, okay?"
Kyle sighed and climbed into the backseat. "Yeah, we get my Jessi." He leaned forward against the straps to look around JC's shoulder at where she sat with the others. Kyle waved as JC shut the door and climbed in the front seat, then he too looked over his shoulder at Jessica, to make sure she was still there.
Copyright © 2002, Amy Lynn