By Tuesday evening Jessica was done working with the girls of Serenity and had taken all day Monday to relax with JC and Kyle at their home.  Together they walked Candy around the block and to the park, looking more domestic and family-like than JC ever thought they could.  As much as he wanted to bring up the subject of her moving in again, he avoided it and let himself be happy with just having her there for the time being.

            Kyle spent the morning at his daycare on Tuesday, then JC and Jessica picked him up and went shopping before they had a late dinner.  When they got home they went outside to play with Candy a little bit before bed.  It was a good way to wear Kyle out and it was fun for everyone.  Jessica watched them play for a while before she headed back inside to grab a sweater for herself as the night breeze picked up and coated her arms with goose bumps.

            She slipped the thin sweater over her head as she walked through the kitchen and jumped when the phone rang behind her.  Jessica grabbed the phone off the charger and walked to the back door.  "Jace?  The phones ringing."

            "Well answer it."  JC laughed and shook his head as he took the braided knot and threw it for Candy again who took off running and knocked Kyle on his butt.

            Jessica pushed the 'talk' button as she laughed, "Hello?"

            "H-hi… I'm sorry; do I have the right number?"

            "Well that depends, who are you trying to reach?"  Jessica asked with a smile as she sat on the little step.  She brushed grass off her knee and wiggled her toes on the cool stones.

            "I'm trying to reach my son.  This is Lori."

            "Oh… oh yeah, I'm sorry.  You've got the right number; let me get JC for you."  Jessica said.

            "I'm calling for Kyle, not JC."  Lori said bitterly.

            "Oh…"  Jessica said, taken aback.  "Well uh... let me get him for you."  She stood up and held the phone to her side with her hand over the mouthpiece.  "It's Lori, she's calling for Kyle."  Jessica said softly as she walked up to JC.

            "Oh man, is it eight thirty already?"

            Jessica looked at her watch, "Eight twenty five, but that's close enough I guess."  She handed the phone off to JC who swung it by the antenna.

            "Hey buddy, come over here."  JC shouted to Kyle as he ran across the back wall.  "Come on, your mom is on the phone."

            "No daddy, I run wiss Candy."

            "You can run with her tomorrow.  Your mom is waiting."

            "Noooo."  Kyle whined as he begrudgingly walked back across the yard with the dog bouncing around him the whole way.

            "Yeeeeees."  JC whined back, imitating the little boy.  "Come on."  He scooped Kyle up and handed him the phone.  "Say hi."

            "Hi mommy."  Kyle mumbled as he took the phone and held it on his own.  JC carried him back into the house with Jessica following a few steps behind.

            "Do you want me to get a bath ready?"  Jessica whispered.

            "I think I should put Kyle down first before we go hopping in the bath, don't you think?"  JC whispered back as he leaned over and kissed her smiling mouth.

            "How about for Kyle?"

            "Oooooh!"  He exaggerated the word as he rolled his eyes.  "For Kyle… sure, that'd be great.  We'll be up in a few minutes."  JC laughed lightly as Kyle continued to babble into the phone at his mother.

            "Okay."  Jessica smiled and headed for the stairs to give JC and Kyle some privacy for the call.  She ran the bath in Kyle's bright little bathroom and added some bubbles and toys to make it fun for him.  The water was a little warm, but by the time he finished with his phone call and got ready the water would be perfect.

            When JC came up the stairs a few minutes later with Kyle in his arms, Kyle's eyes were red and he clung to JC.  "How'd it go?"  Jessica stood up from her position by the tub with a look of concern.  She tilted her head to the side and bit her lip; if he was that upset just by having to say goodbye to his mom on the phone he had more separation anxiety than she thought.

            "Good."  JC nodded and sat on the toilet with Kyle on his lap.  "Come on buddy, Jessica made you a bath with bubbles, check it out."

            "No owie."  Kyle sniffed and wiped his hand under his nose.

            "Nah, it's perfect.  Lets get the bath done then you can go to bed."

            "Owie daddy."

            "It doesn't hurt anymore; you're just being a drama queen.  King.  Whatever."

            "What happened?"  Jessica asked as she reached for Kyle's shirt to pull it off.

            "When we went to hang up the phone I knocked his knee on the wall.  I think he's just tired though."  JC rolled his eyes and helped with Kyle's sandals.

            "Oh."  She sat on the side of the tub, pulled up her sleeves then ran her hand over the bubbles.

            "Oh what?"

            "I just… I thought maybe he was upset by the phone call."

            JC frowned at her as he pulled Kyle's pants off, a hard task considering Kyle still had his arms around his father's neck.  "He doesn't mind talking to his mother."

            "No, I mean…"  She paused and blushed.  "I mean saying goodbye.  He seems to have some separation anxiety and I thought maybe he got upset when she had to say goodbye."

            "Oh."  JC pursed his lips.  "Come on buddy, help me out here."  He tugged on Kyle's pants and dropped them on the floor before he turned back to Jessica.  "No, he doesn't have a problem saying goodbye to her.  So far it's just people he sees."

            Jessica nodded and reached for Kyle, “Here you go sweetie.  See I put bubbles in there.  You like bubbles don't you?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle sniffed as he sat naked on Jessica's knee.  "I a owie."

            "Where's your owie?  Let me see."

            "Here."  He lifted his leg for Jessica to see.

            Without so much as a red mark to identify the 'owie', Jessica smiled and kissed the top of his knee.  "There you go, all better."

            "Yeah."  Kyle's pout turned into a smile.

            "Magic."  Jessica smiled back and waggled her eyebrows at the little boy.  "Now how about you hop in those bubbles and find all the toys I put in there."

            "A toy ina bass?"

            "You bet."  Jessica lifted him over the side of the tub and settled him into the bubbles that went up to his chin.

            "Thanks."  JC gently rubbed her back.

            "No problem."  She sighed and smiled back.  Jessica refrained from talking about Lori and how irresponsible she was and everything and focused on bathing Kyle.

            "You busy tonight?"  JC asked as he casually bumped Jessica's shoulder with his hip.

            "Hmm?  No… why?"  She smiled over her shoulder as she looked up at him.  "What's up?"

            "I was gonna see if you wanted to have a date tonight.  You know… check out a movie… maybe some popcorn?" 

            "Oo, that sounds nice."  She laughed.

            "Since we can't really go out, I thought I'd bring the date to you.  You know, if the mountain won't come to Mohammed or whatever."

            "Right."  She laughed and shook her head.  "That sounds great actually.  I could use a night curled up on the couch with you."

            "Oh hey, that's even better than what I had in mind."  JC laughed and leaned down to kiss her cheek.  "I'll go make the popcorn." He whispered so that Kyle wouldn't get any ideas.

            When Kyle was done with the bath Jessica wrapped him in a thick towel and carried him down the hall to his room.  He picked out dinosaur pajamas and a pair of thick white socks to wear to bed and sat still while Jessica dressed him and tucked him under the covers.  "It's late buddy.  You're going to sleep real well tonight, aren't you?"  She smiled and leaned down to kiss his forehead.

            "Yeah."  Kyle yawned and shimmied down so his head was at the bottom of his pillow and his hair was sticking up like a crazy man.

            "Right on."  Jessica laughed softly as she sensed JC standing at the door watching them.  "Goodnight kiddo.  Sweet dreams."  She kissed him again and gave him an awkward hug as she leaned over him.

            "Nigh nigh Jessi.  Nigh nigh daddy."

            "G'night buddy."  JC waved from the door.

 

            With Kyle happily tucked into bed, Jessica and JC headed back downstairs to go on their little 'at home' date.  Candy followed them and rested fitfully on the floor by the coffee table, glancing over at the couple who weren't exactly paying attention to the movie or the popcorn in the bowl by her nose.  They enjoyed the two hours alone and uninterrupted in the family room and for once Jessica's mind wasn't tossing the idea of moving in around. She put it out of her mind completely and focused on the moment she was in with her legs draped over JC's lap and his mouth working slow circles across the front of her neck.

            The movie ended and the very last of the credits rolled by on the screen.  "I guess that means we should go on up to bed, huh?"  JC asked with his mouth against Jessica's ear.

            "Mmm hmm."  She agreed, closing her eyes with a happy smile.

            "C'mon."  He slid out from under her and pulled her to her feet.  They walked upstairs together and fell into the bed in the center of JC's room.  Jessica didn't need to look at the clock to know that it was later than she thought, and that Kyle would be bounding into the room in just a few short hours.

            She changed into an oversized t-shirt of JC's and rolled onto her side to face the doorway.  JC shed his clothes down to his boxers and slid in behind her to cuddle their way into the morning together.

 

            Never one to be late, Kyle stormed into JC's room early the next morning and walked around the bed to tug on JC's exposed limbs.  "Daddy?  Daddy?"  Kyle whispered as his fingers trailed up the sole of JC's foot.

            "Stop."  JC frowned, then rolled over as he recognized the little whispering voice.  "What's up buddy?  Go back to bed."

            "Is up daddy."  Kyle laughed and tried to climb up onto the bed, thus starting the normal morning routine.

            "Okay… okay, I'm up."  JC reached around behind him and moved Kyle back to the floor.  "Don't wake Jessica up though.  Let's go downstairs."

            "I see otto?"

            "Arthur?  Yeah he'll be on downstairs."  JC lowered his voice as he swung his legs out from under the covers to stand up.

            "I'm awake." Jessica whispered as she yawned, making her words almost unintelligible.

            "We'll go downstairs.  Go back to sleep."  JC whispered back as he leaned across the bed and kissed her cheek.

            "No I'm up."  She insisted as she rolled onto her back.  "Come on up and watch cartoons."  She held out her hands to Kyle who happily climbed up onto the bed and nestled himself between JC and Jessica.

            "Just remember, you insisted."  JC smiled and stood up.  "I'll go get a start on breakfast, you freaks can watch cartoons."  He clicked the TV on then crossed in front of it to get to the door.  "What do you guys want for breakfast?"

            "Umm… a chocolate chip muffin, a western omelet, apple cinnamon crepes and ooh, some bacon.  Yum."

            "Yeah."  Kyle giggled.

            "How about Eggo waffles and scrambled eggs?"  JC raised his eyebrow in a smirk from the hallway.

            "That's fine." Jessica laughed softly.  "Do you like waffles Kyle?"

            "Yeah.  And raisins."

            "Whatever floats your boat."  Jessica shook her head and used the remote to put the TV on the right channel.  "That sounds good."  She craned her neck to look at JC.  "Thank you."

            "You're welcome."  He smiled and shook his head as Kyle fell back on his daddy's pillow and made himself comfortable as "Arthur" started.

 

            JC served them breakfast in bed and managed to keep the spilled syrup to a minimum.  When they were done he dropped the comforter into the laundry and fetched a clean green corduroy comforter from his closet.  "I'll do the dishes since you cooked." Jessica chuckled as she took the tray with the three small plates and cups off of the dresser.

            "Great, thanks."  JC laughed and straightened the blanket across the bed.  "Take Kyle with you please.  I'm going to shower."

            "Okay, come on kiddo.  Let's go let Candy into the house and do the dishes."

            "Kay."  Kyle ran ahead of her to stop in his room to get Lello before they went downstairs to drop off the dishes and let the dog in for the day.

 

            When JC was done with his shower he went downstairs fully dressed and relieved Jessica of her dish duties.  "The shower is all yours"  He kissed her maple syrup flavored lips and grimaced when it mixed with the minty flavor of his tooth paste.

            "Thanks."  She smiled and wiped a smear of shaving cream from his ear lobe.  "When I get done you can tell me what the plans are for today."

            "I'll be sure to have some by the time you're done."  JC smiled and pushed the back door open all the way so that he and Kyle could go outside and play fetch with Candy who was nothing but energy that early in the morning.

            "Cool."  She turned sharply, then trotted up the stairs back to JC's bedroom where she took her time under the piercing hot spray of the water.  Jessica's fingertips were puckered when she emerged from the shower wrapped in one of JC's many terrycloth robes and stood at the counter to wash her face.

            She heard JC's voice before she even realized he was standing in the room with her.  "I talked to Justin."  He said as he leaned on the doorway to the bathroom and watched Jessica scrub her face with a foamy face wash.  The bathrobe she wore was one that he’d managed to swipe from a fancy hotel they once stayed at in Denver.  At least he thought it was Denver. It could have easily been Dallas or Des Moines, but the logo on the left pocket looked like Denver.

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah."  He smiled at her reflection.  "He wants to take us out on his boat today.  Did you… I mean, I told him we'd go but if you don't want to we don't have to."

            Jessica rinsed her hands in the sink and frowned, "When did Justin get a boat?  How out of the loop am I?"

            "He hasn't gotten it yet."

            "Then how can he take us out on it?"

            "He has a loaner I guess.  They're customizing his boat so they gave him a demo version or something."  JC smiled.  "He's all jazzed about it though and he wants to show off his new toy."

            "Okay."  She shrugged, and then wet the washrag under the warm water to rinse her face.  "I don't care what we do, if you guys want to go out on a boat that's fine with me.  I don't sail though, so…"

            "It's not a sail boat."  JC shook his head.

            "It's a speed boat?"

            "Yeah."

            "What about Kyle?"

            "I'm going to keep him out of school today."

            "I mean about the boat, can he go on it?"

            "Oh, yeah.  Yeah, it's like, 20 feet I think he said. He's got life vests for everyone, I checked."

            "That sounds like fun then.  Is anyone else going?"

            "I don't know.  He was going to call Joey when he hung up with me, but I haven't heard."

            "Okay."  Jessica swept the wash cloth over her face, then rinsed it in the sink.  "What time are we meeting him?"

            "Um, I told him we'd be by before nine."

            "It's eight now."

            "I know." JC smiled at her in the mirror and laughed.  "We've gotta get a move on it."

            "What if I had said no?"

            "Then I'd have to call Justin and break his little heart."

            "Well I can't have that."  Jessica laughed and dropped the cloth into the sink as she released her hair from the ponytail.

            “Nope.”  JC kissed her cheek quickly then patted her butt.  “I’m gonna go get Kyle ready.  Wear something warm or bring a sweatshirt or something.”

            “Okay.”  Jessica nodded and pulled the robe tighter around her as she walked from the bathroom into the bedroom where her suitcase was laid open.

            “Okay.”  He scooted past her and headed down to Kyle’s room to get the little boy ready to go spend the day on a boat.

            Jessica changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, then tied one of JC’s well-worn sweatshirts around her waist.  She sat on the edge of the bed to tie her shoes and was almost done when she heard JC call out from down the hall.

            "Jessica?  Hey, Jessica!  Do you think you can g - OW!  Damn!  Shit!"  JC dropped the plastic cup of water he was carrying as his foot slammed into the corner of his desk.  "Shit."

            "Uh oh daddy."

            "Yeah."  JC squeezed his eyes shut tightly and tried to catch his breath as his toes throbbed.  "Yeah."  He squeaked.

            "My knee wet."  Kyle frowned.

            "What?  What happened?"  Jessica rushed into the office with one shoe on and the other in her hand.  When she walked in she stopped and forced herself not to smile as she saw JC bent over with his hand on the corner of the desk for support and Kyle with his finger in his ear.  "What'd you do?"

            "I walked into the desk.  Damn."  JC inhaled sharply as he tried to bend his two smallest toes on his right foot.  A dotting of blood appeared across the tops and he closed his eyes.

            "Ouch, which foot?"  She walked into the room and placed her hand on his back as he continued to lean on the desk.

            "This one."  He swung his foot around for her to see then sat on the desk.  "Dammit that hurt."

            "Uh oh daddy."  Kyle picked up the plastic cup and held it up for JC.

            "Yeah, hang on to that."

            "Is all gone?"

            "It's on the floor; I'll have to get you some more water."  JC winced as Jessica wiped the little bit of blood away with her finger.

            "Ouch babe, you skinned it pretty good."

            "I broke it."

            "I don't think it's broken."  Jessica smiled up at him, then kissed her finger and tapped his toes.  "All better."  She laughed lightly; hoping that would have the same affect on JC as it had on Kyle.

            "It hurts."

            "Well yeah, you tried to walk through your desk.  I think you just scratched it though."

            "It really hurts."  JC cringed and tried to bend his toes.  To his surprise they bent easily and didn't even hurt when he did it.

            "Don't be a baby."  Jessica said before she kissed him quickly and took the glass from Kyle.  "Come on kiddo, let's get you some more water."

            "I have juice?"

            "Sure, we can get you some juice."  Jessica took his hand as they left the room.

            "No more grape juice.  He had the runs yesterday." JC shouted after them.  “And that would suck on the boat.”  He mumbled to himself as he squinted at his toes and bent them again.  It was going to be a long day.

 

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

 

            They met up with Joey at Justin's house just after nine and rode out to the beach in Joey's car while Justin towed the boat in his truck.  The five boaters stayed out on the water until late in the afternoon when they headed for dry land to grab an early dinner.  Being out in the ocean air all day wiped everyone out, so by the time dinner was done, Kyle was racked out on JC's shoulder and Jessica was half asleep as well.

            Joey helped Justin get the boat back on the trailer then slapped him on the back and told him to call when his real toy came in.  JC, Kyle, Jessica and Joey piled back into his heavy SUV and headed for home.  Kyle crashed out on the way while JC and Joey kept the conversation going about the work on the new album they'd be doing in a few weeks.  Jessica feigned interest for a few miles, then stared at the window and dozed off soon herself.

 

            "Hey."  JC whispered as he placed his hand on her shoulder.  "Jessica?"

            "Hmm?"  She cracked her eyes open and turned her stiff neck.  "Ugh, what… where?"

            "We're home."

            "Hmm.  Oh."  Jessica brought her hand to her neck and massaged gently as she blinked to bring JC's house into focus.  "Man, I must have been tired."

            "You can say that again.  You and Kyle were storming in harmony."

            "I don't snore."

            "You breathe deep, like Kyle."

            "Kyle snores."

            "Okay then."  JC shrugged and laughed as he balanced the snoring Kyle on his shoulder.  "Come on, let's get him inside and lay him down.  It's been a long day."

            "Yeah."  Jessica unfolded herself from the front seat and cracked her back.  "Man, I don't even remember getting to Justin's."

            "You must be tired."  JC grinned and nodded toward the house.  "Let's go in."

            "Yeah."  She yawned and shut the car door as JC hopped up the little steps to the front door.  He let them in and immediately headed upstairs to put Kyle down.  Jessica yawned again and went to the back door to let an over excited Candy in and give her a treat.

            "Did you miss us?"  Jessica asked as she handed the dog a puppy treat from the cupboard.  "There you go girl.  Good girl."  She rubbed behind Candy's ears as the dog wiggled around the kitchen in excitement.  "I wish I had a cool dog like you, but we can't have pets where I live.  All I get is a fish.  He's cool and all, but he's just not a dog… ya know?"  She fed Candy another treat then poured herself a glass of water.  With her eyes closed and a sappy smile on her face, Jessica leaned against the little island and took a deep breath.

            "Your cheeks are all red."  JC smiled from the doorway.

            Jessica cracked her eyes open and smiled,  "So are yours."

            "We should have put sunscreen on."

            "It's actually windburn I think.  Justin's a maniac on the water."

            "I know.  I don't know if it was such a great idea to sell that kid a boat, you know?"

            "I know."  She laughed and handed him the glass of water. He gladly took a sip, then raised his eyebrow at her as he handed the glass back.  She shook her head so he finished what was in the glass and set it in the sink.  "Are you as tired as I am?"

            "Well considering you got a little nap on the way home…"  JC smirked and pulled her by the waist of her jeans toward him.

            "That doesn't count."

            "Sure it does."  He kissed her softly, tasting the salty sea air that clung to her lips.  "Come on.  I'll tuck you in."  He took her hand and pulled her up the stairs to the master bedroom where he helped her out of her warm clothes and into the king sized bed.  True to his word, he tucked her in under the covers and enveloped her in his arms to nuzzle her neck until she fell back asleep.  Her deep breathing settled him into a similar state and they slept against each other all night.

 

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

 

            In the morning JC took Kyle to preschool while Jessica took a shower, then they spent the morning together talking about music.  JC shared some song ideas he had for the new album and blushed when she complimented his writing style and said that she hoped that at least one would make it on the recording.

            "Actually, two of them are.  Justin helped me with that first one and Chris wrote the chorus for that last one."  JC bit his lip and fiddled with the pen shoved into the coils of his notebook.

            "JC, that's awesome."

            "It'll be great having more input on this album, you know?  And not just writing the music, but… everything."

            "That really will be great.  I can't wait to see what you guys pull out for the next tour."

            "It'll be smaller."

            "Smaller?  Isn't that going in the wrong direction?"

            "Nah, smaller is what we need.  Back to the roots of the music you know?  We've been talking about losing the pyro and the fifty million wardrobe changes and all the special effects and things.  We want to keep it simple, you know?  Normal clothes.  Five mics on a stage.  Simple."

            "That sounds nice."  Jessica nodded.

            "Yeah.  It'll be awesome." JC smiled with a far away look in his eyes.  Jessica loved to see him this happy over something he was so passionate about.  And if he was this focused on the writing, the recording and the tour maybe he wouldn't notice that they hadn't brought up moving in together.

 

            For the remainder of the week Jessica, JC and Kyle hung out around the house and took a few excursions to the mall to get Kyle some new clothes.  At his age he was growing out of things left and right and his wardrobe was wearing thin.  Having never spent a winter with JC, they needed to get some warm clothes for him, which in itself was a feat.

            Jessica ended up choosing a bunch of the same things in different colors for Kyle since he was being cranky and JC simply didn't care what she bought.  That method of shopping made everything easier and made shoe shopping a breeze.  With six full bags of clothes, shoes and sweaters they left the mall and headed home.

 

            By Saturday morning they had fallen into a family routine where Kyle would bounce into the room at some ungodly hour to wake them up, then they would sit and watch cartoons together for another hour or so.  At least… Kyle would watch the cartoons while Jessica and JC dozed off hoping to catch another few minutes of precious sleep.

            When the "Arthur" was over they'd roll out of bed and head down stairs to make breakfast and let Candy in for her food as well.  As much as the routine should have scared Jessica, she found it oddly comforting and once again wondered if she was making a mistake by going home instead of just changing her 'home' to here.

            "So what are your plans for today?"  Jessica asked as she leaned on the little island and watched JC make breakfast like a pro.

            "Well, Lori will be calling at ten, and that usually lasts for about fifteen minutes or so.  Then after that we can do whatever you want."

            "Oooh fun."  She laughed and wiggled her bare toes on the tile.  "Then you're taking me to the airport?"

            "Yep.  What time do you leave?  Two?"

            "My flight leaves at two, so we'll have to leave here around, what, twelve thirty?"

            "Yeah, that sounds about right."  JC nodded and flipped the french toast.  "What are you going home for?"

            "I have to go to my house to get ready to drive to my parents on Sunday afternoon to go to my cousin’s baby's first birthday Sunday evening."

            "Oooh fun."  He imitated her.

            "It will be."  Jessica made a face at him.  "Kids birthdays are a lot of fun."

            "If you say so."

            "Hey you've got one now, kids birthdays are going to be a major part of your year you know."

            "I think not."

            "Well you've gotta start planning one here pretty soon."  She smiled and moved around to the other side of the counter to sit beside where he was cooking.  "And I'm sure that since he's in school now he'll get lots of little invitations to a bunch of parties for his classmates."

            "He already got one."

            "He did?  Did he go?"

            "It's next weekend."

            "So are you taking him?"

            "I wasn't planning on it."

            "JC!"

            "What?  I don't know the kid, I don't know the parents."  He shrugged and placed two more pieces on the burner in front of him.

            "The kid is Kyle's friend, and the parents are normal people." Jessica smiled.  "You've gotta let him, go, he'd have a blast."

            "Well I don't know what to get a kid for their birthday."

            "You're just making up excuses now.  If you walk into a toy store with Kyle, he'll point you in the right direction."

            JC sighed, “Fine, okay… I'll RSVP."  He shook his head and leaned over to kiss her quickly.  "You've been into the powdered sugar."

            "Who me?"  She asked innocently.

            "Nice try."  He reached out and wiped a tiny smudge of white powder from her chin.  "Hey Kyle, come on inside.  Breakfast is ready."  JC shouted toward the back door.

            "I eat lato?"  Kyle stopped running and looked toward the house.

            "Nope, it's ready now."  JC smiled and waved him in.

            "Have you always been like this?"  Jessica asked as she sat at the table and looked at the breakfast spread JC whipped together.

            "Like this?  Like what?"

            "This awake in the mornings, making breakfast… like this."  She waved her arm around.  "Because on the road you definitely... I mean... well you weren’t.”  Jessica smiled and shook her head.  “I’m just now noticing that it’s weird.”

            “It’s not weird.  This is life with Kyle.  He’s up early every day, he needs breakfast.”  JC shrugged.  “I’m just doing what needs to be done.”

            “I don’t know, it’s just different.  In a good way of course.”

            “Would you rather me toss cold cereal at him and hope he can find the milk while I sleep in?”  JC laughed as Kyle ran into the house and climbed up into his chair.

            “No.”  She laughed and playfully poked his side.

            “Because I’ve done that before you know.”

            “That’s sad.”

            “I was a beginner.”  JC reached over to cut Kyle’s french toast into bite sized pieces and sighed.  “I’ve been domesticated now.  All I’m missing is June Cleaver.”

            “Actually, you know… if you wore an apron you could be June Cleaver.  Then all you’d need was a man to come home every evening.  You need a Ward Cleaver.”

            “Are you saying I’m June Cleaver?”

            “Well…”  Jessica looked down at JC’s long fingers holding Kyle’s tiny fork in his hands.  “If the dish washing glove fits.”

            “Shut up.”  JC laughed and dropped the fork onto Kyle’s plate.  “Eat up kiddo.  You too.”  He nodded at Jessica’s plate and shook his finger like his mom used to do.  “You need to start your day with a nice healthy breakfast.”

            “You’re crazy.”  Jessica laughed and shook her head, then dutifully took a bite of the breakfast he’d made.

 

            At ten o'clock Jessica checked her watch then stood up.  "I'll just um, go upstairs."

            "You don't have to leave." JC said with a smile.

            "I know."  She smiled back and put her hands in her back pockets.  "But I need to  get dressed and start getting my stuff together anyway."

            "Okay… but you don't have to you know."

            "I know, I know."  Jessica rolled her eyes and laughed.  "Just let me know when you're done."  She headed upstairs to get her things packed up and was done in under an hour.  When the clock showed that it was after eleven, Jessica frowned. She couldn't imagine the call lasting that long and no one had come to get her yet.  With her bags banging down the stairs, she went to see what the hold up was.  She placed her bag by the garage door and walked toward the back of the house.

            "Hey, how'd it go?"  Jessica asked as she stepped into the kitchen.

            JC took a few pieces of Chex cereal from Kyle's largest pile and stuck them in his mouth.  "She hasn't called yet."

            "Wasn't the call at ten?"

            "Yeah."  JC nodded and licked his lips quickly.  "But we're just having a snack while we wait."

            "It's a quarter after eleven, you shouldn't be waiting."  Jessica shook her head.

            "We don't have anything else to do."  JC shrugged.

            "Candy hava petzo?"

            "No, don't give the dog pretzels; it might make her tummy sick."

            "Oh."  Kyle looked down at the dog under the table who was smacking her lips.

            "Did you give her some?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle nodded.  "She no sick ina tummy."  He shook his head quickly and kept looking at Candy.

            "Don't give her any more because if she barfs I'm not cleaning it up."  JC laughed and looked up at Jessica.  "If she doesn't call by noon we'll take off and get some lunch."

            Jessica sighed and tried not to roll her eyes.  "Okay."  She said softly as she bit her lip to keep from saying more.  Lori was more than an hour late and JC was going to gladly wait until she was two hours late before he gave up on her.  While Jessica admired his dedication, she couldn’t help but think that Lori was walking all over both him and Kyle and she couldn’t stand that feeling.  Lori had a lot of nerve to pull this when JC had been nothing but helpful to her since the beginning.

            Jessica sighed again then stepped over Candy and into the backyard where she could swing on the play set alone.  Even from twenty feet away she heard the phone ring five minutes later and JC’s voice answering it with his usual smiling voice.  “Hello?”  He answered as he leaned on the table to make a face at Kyle.

            “Hey, this is Lori.  I'm so sorry I'm late.  I had to take my car in to get serviced and it was only supposed to take a half hour, but it ended up taking over an hour and I just got home."  Lori sighed heavily into the phone.  "Can I still talk to him?"

            "Yeah, sure.”  JC slid the phone across the table to Kyle who caught it and held it with both hands.  “It’s your mommy, say hi.”  JC bit his tongue to keep from making a snide remark and instead forced a smile and crossed his arms over his chest.

            “Hi mommy.”  Kyle said into the phone as he held it up, forgetting about his snack on the table in front of him.  He scooted off of his seat and toddled towards the family room where he sat in the middle of the floor and stared up at the muted TV.

            JC cleaned up Kyle's snack mess and paid attention to the little boy's side of the conversation.  He mumbled a lot and said, "Yeah," after almost every pause.  After only a few minutes Kyle sighed and walked up to JC with the phone in his hand.  "I done."  He shook his head as JC took the cordless.

            "Hello?"  JC asked as he held the phone to his ear.  "Lori?"

            "She say bye."  Kyle said as he took back his place in front of the TV.

            "She's done too?"

            "Yeah."

            "Okay."  JC hung the phone up on the charger and looked out at Jessica swinging slowly on the play set outside.  "Hey buddy… how would you like to go see Justin today?"

            "Now?"

            "Yeah, in just a few minutes."  JC nodded and reached for the phone again.  He wanted some time alone with Jessica and as an afterthought he realized he didn't want another scene when she had to leave.

            "Kay and I pay game?"

            "I'm sure he'll play games with you, you bet."  JC dialed Justin's number then spent five minutes on the phone with him to ask him to keep an eye on Kyle.  Justin of course didn't mind watching Kyle for a little bit, he just had plans for that afternoon and JC had to promise to be back by three.

            "I promise Just… I'll be back by three.  Three will be the absolute latest I'll be back."

            "Because if I have to take him to the club with me, I'm gonna be pissed."

            "You're not going to have to take him anywhere, I told you I'll be there by three."  JC smiled.  "And thanks for watching him."

            "No problem.  He puts on a good game man.  Better than Chris any day, that punk gets all violent and shit, Kyle just plays to play."

            "I… okay."  JC made a face and shook his head.  "So we'll be there in a little bit, okay?"

            "Sure thing.  See ya."

            "Bye."  JC clicked the phone up then set it back in the charger.  "All right kiddo, you're going to Justin's.  How about you go upstairs and find something to wear?"

            "I have?"

            "Nope, not pajamas.  I know how much you dig them but it's like, noon.  You've gotta get dressed to go to Justin's."

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed and headed for the stairs.

            JC watched for a moment, then stepped outside and walked over to the play set.  "It's safe to come back inside."  He smiled.

            "Are you sure?"  She grinned up at him and used her feet to stop the swing.

            "I'm sure."  JC put his hands on the chains and pulled her to a stop in front of him.  "Kyle's upstairs getting his clothes ready, then we're going to take him to Justin's."

            "To Justin's?"

            "Yeah.  I uh… I didn't want him to have a meltdown in the car when you leave… you know.  Just in case."

            "Ahh."  She stood up from the swing.

            "And I could use a few minutes of quiet time."  JC laughed softly and took her hand.  "Are your things ready?"

            "Yep.  I'm all packed and my bags are by the door.  I think I left one of my shirts in your laundry though, but I couldn't find it."

            "That's okay.  You can get it next time."

            "True."  Jessica nodded and entered the house.  She made her way upstairs to help Kyle get ready while JC went to the master bedroom to get himself dressed.  "Wow, what do you have there?" Jessica asked with a look of surprise when she stepped into Kyle's room.  He had a pair of green overalls on the floor and a bright purple tank top halfway over his head.

            "Is cose."

            "I… I see that.  Here, can I help?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle stumbled over to where Jessica was and she helped him pull the tank top into place.

            "This looks like it's a little small on you kiddo.  You're getting too big for this."

            "No."

            "Yeah, it's kinda small.  But that's okay, you can wear it."

            "Yeah I wear."  Kyle nodded and reached for his overalls.  "And diss?"

            "Um."  Jessica pursed her lips and looked into the open drawer of the dressed beside him.  "Sure, yeah you can wear those overalls, but you'll need a long sleeved shirt to go with it.  It's kind of cold outside."

            "Is code ouside?"

            "Yep.  Let's see…"  she dug in the drawer and came up with the long sleeved shirt that matched the overalls.  "Here you go, how about this?"

            "No I have diss." He looked at his tank top.

            "Oh you can wear that too." Jessica smiled and pulled the long sleeved shirt over the tank top.  "See?  Perfect.  Now you won't be cold."

            "Is perfeck."  Kyle smiled and nodded then without warning wrapped his arms around Jessica's neck.

            "Ooof!"  Jessica put one hand back to keep her balance herself and the other around Kyle's back.  "I'm going to miss you kiddo."

            "Miss me?"

            "Yep."  She fell back onto her butt as Kyle stood up and threw her center of balance off.  They laughed lightly as she put her legs out in front of her so Kyle could sit on her lap.  "I'm going to my house today and I'm going to miss you when I'm gone."

            "You can say Jessi."

            "Hrm, well no I can't stay this time.  But I'll be back really soon to see you again."

            "I can go wiss you?"

            "Nope, not this time.  But maybe you and your daddy can come to Connecticut to see me in a few weeks.  That might be fun, huh?"

            "Yeah."

            "Cool."

            "Yeah, is cool."  Kyle nodded and stood up to put his hands on his little hips.  "I hava sando?"

            "Sandals?  Umm, sure.  Go get them and I'll help you put them on."  She pushed herself to her knees then up to a standing position to help Kyle find his shoes.

 

            With Kyle fully dressed a few minutes later, they walked down to the master bedroom to wait on JC.  When he was done they all headed out to load Jessica's bags in the back of the car then they drove over to Justin's.

            "Daddy where?"  Kyle asked as JC unbuckled his car seat.

            "This is Justin's house."

            "Oh yeah.  Is Jussin house."

            "Yep, you're going to hang out here for a little bit."  JC set him on the ground and held his hand as Jessica came around to walk up to the front door with them.

            "And I pay game wiss Jussin?"

            "Yep, you can play games with Justin."

            "And Laaaance?"

            "Nope, I don't think Lance is going to be here.  You said you wanted to see Justin anyways.  If you wanted to see Lance I could have taken you there."

            "No I see Jussin."  Kyle shook his head and hopped up the steps to the door.  "I wing?"

            "Sure."  JC hoisted Kyle up to the doorbell and let him push the button.

            Chimes sounded inside and a few minutes later the door swung open.  "Hey there little man, how's it hangin?"

            "Hi Jussin!"  Kyle's face lit up as he launched himself into Justin's arms.

            "Dude, check it out.  I cracked out the old Nintendo 64 kit.  Are you down for some old school Mario Brothers?"

            "Isa game?"

            "Yep, it's a game.  With my luck you'll smoke me at it too.  I haven't played since before you were born kid."  Justin set him back on the floor and ran his hand over Kyle's raggedy hair.  "You need a hair cut too."

            "Yeah."  Kyle sighed and touched his hair as he looked up at Justin's newly buzzed hair.

            "Come here sweetie, let me get a hug."  Jessica kneeled down and pulled Kyle to her.  "I'll see you soon."  She kissed Kyle's cheek then let him go.

            "I pay game."  Kyle wiggled free of her embrace and took off for the game room.

            "Well that was easier than I thought.  At least he's not freaking out."  Jessica laughed.

            "Yeah but I'd hate to get to the airport and have him lose his mind in the backseat of the car." JC nodded and placed his arm around Jessica's waist.  "Thanks for keeping an eye on him."

            "No problem."  Justin smiled over his shoulder as he watched Kyle stare at the wall of video games.  "Did he eat and everything?"

            "Yeah, he's set."  JC nodded.  "I won't be long; I'm just dropping Jessica off."

            "Okay, don't forget man… I'm outta here at three."

            "I know.  Thanks." JC nodded again and turned Jessica toward the door.

            "I'll see you later Justin."  She smiled and gave him a quick hug before they stepped out the door and walked quickly towards the car.

            "We're late." JC said softly.

            "I know."  Jessica sighed as she looked back at the house before she opened the car door.  It was harder for her to leave him this time and she felt tears threaten her eyes.  She blinked quickly, and then hopped in the car as Kyle ran up to Justin with a game in his hands.  Justin laughed and picked Kyle up before he shut the front door, his lips forming words that were blocked by the closed window as Jessica sat in the car.

 

            JC drove quickly to the United Airlines terminal at the airport, then stopped on the curb between two taxis.  "You seem mad."  JC said as a statement instead of a question.

            "I'm not mad."  Jessica shook her head, but looked out the window as the car slowed in front of her terminal.

            "Just pretend I never mentioned moving in."  He touched her hand softly, assuming that was still the issue.

            "That's not what I'm not mad about."

            "Double negatives confuse me." JC tried to laugh.

            Jessica kept her eyes on the skycaps loading luggage onto carts, but wove her fingers through JC's.  "Lori makes me nervous."

            "Nervous?"

            "She just gives me a bad feeling, I can't explain it.  And you're letting her walk all over you and Kyle."

            "She's not walking all over us Jess.  She was late for one call."

            "It's more than that."  Jessica sighed and turned to face JC.  If she could figure it out herself it'd be easier to explain to JC, but she couldn't so she shrugged and licked her lips.  "I don't want you guys to get hurt."

            "We won't.  I promise."  JC smiled and kissed her quickly as he gave her hand a squeeze.  "I'm glad you came out this week." He rested his forehead against hers as cars behind him blew on their horns.  Jessica dropped her eyes to her lap and nodded briefly.  "I love you."  JC whispered.

            "I love you too."  She brushed her lips against his, then hopped out of the car and pulled her bag from the back seat.  As she walked into the terminal she glanced over her shoulder to see JC waving with a look that meshed worry wish confusion.  Another car blared its horn at him so he flashed a smile at her, then slowly moved from the curb.

            Jessica walked in through the automatic doors and shivered as a gust of cool air conditioned air washed over her.  For the first time she was glad to hop on the plane alone.  She had some serious thinking to do and decisions to make.  JC had said that she didn't have to decide right away and that she could forget he had even asked; but she couldn’t do that.  Not when the biggest part of her wanted to run from the airport and take a cab back to JC's.

            Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander through each of the possibilities, taking into consideration all of the players.  Herself, JC, Kyle… and Lori.

 

 

 Next...

 

 

 

Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn