JC and Kyle spent the weekend relaxing around the pool and enjoying the last of the warm weather.  Florida had an unseasonal heat wave so they used it to their advantage.  The rain and storms would be starting soon and the pool would be useless.  Lori made her call on Saturday, but didn't have any more details as far as he trip out went.  She told Kyle that she would see him in a week and he was excited about that.  JC watched as his face lit up and he bounced in the chair he was sitting in.

            When Kyle seemed that excited about seeing Lori all of JC's doubts faded slightly.  He knew that Lori wasn’t the most responsible person he knew, but seeing Kyle happy like that was worth the trouble she put them through.  He'd do anything to keep Kyle happy, even if it meant dealing with Lori on a regular basis.

 

            Monday morning JC rushed around the house getting everything ready for the day.  He got himself showered and dressed, then fed and dressed Kyle before tossing his backpack together.  "I go a school?"  Kyle asked with a confused and groggy look.  They'd been up late the night before and he wasn't quite ready for the morning.

            "Nope.  You're going to go see Amy today."  JC grumbled as he tossed Kyle's sack lunch into the backpack along with a box of animal crackers.  His sister had called the night before to tell JC she was sick with a bad flu that was probably what he had the week before.  In a panic he'd called and arranged to have Amy watch Kyle all week.

            "Mimi?"

            "Yep."

            "Why?"

            "Because I have to go to work."  JC explained as he bent to tie Kyle's shoe for the second time that morning. He secured it with a double knot and stood up.  "Come on, we need to get a move on it."

            "I have Lello?"

            "Lello is in the backpack.  Let's go."  JC practically ran to the garage door and pushed it open.  "Come on buddy, I'm running late."

            Kyle stood rooted in the hall with a frown, "I say here?"

            "You can't stay here.  You're going to go hang out with Amy and the dogs.  It'll be fun."  JC waved for Kyle to follow.  "I'm serious. We've gotta go. Chop chop, let's move."

            "Peese?"

            "I don't have time for this this morning Kyle.  Let's talk about it in the car."  He juggled Kyle's bag and his own stuff into one hand then went back to pick up Kyle and carry him out to the car.  "You'll have fun at Amy's.  I promise."

            "But Candy?"

            "Candy has to stay here.  She'll be so excited to see you when you get home.  We'll have to go outside and play with her a lot tonight."

            "She can come?"

            "Nope, she has to stay here." JC dropped Kyle into his seat and all of their bags on the seat beside him.  "Okay, let's go." He strapped Kyle in and gave them a good tug before he shut the door and climbed in the driver's seat.

 

            They made it across town to Lance and Amy's house in record time, but were still ten minutes late.  "I shoulda told you to be here at seven." Lance laughed as JC jumped out of the car.

            "Uh huh.  You try getting ready with a thirty pound kid hanging off your arm."  JC lifted Kyle out of his seat and reached for the bags.  "We won't be late."  He tried to convince himself.

            "I know.  Don't worry about it."  Lance laughed and walked out to help with the bags.  "Are we car pooling?"

            "Sure.  I've gotta come back here after anyway."  JC shrugged and set Kyle on the ground.  "Go see Amy."

            "Daddy you go too?"

            "I'm going to work with Lance."  JC shook his head.  "Hi Amy." He smiled up at her as she appeared at the front door.  "Come on buddy, take your bag and go see Amy, I'm running late."

            "Late?"

            "Yeah, Lance and I have to go to work."  JC knelt down and gave Kyle a quick hug and a kiss.  "I'll come and get you later okay?  Just like school."

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded and looked up at Amy.  "Is like Miss Misow?"

            "Sure, I can be like Miss Michelle."  She smiled and led him into the house with the dogs running ahead in excitement.  “I’ll see you guys tonight.”  Amy took the bag from Kyle and waved as JC and Lance climbed into Lance’s car.

            “Be good!” JC shouted as he rolled down the window.

            Kyle laughed and waved from the front door, then turned and ran after the dogs.  “They’re going to have a great day.”  Lance laughed as he started the car.

            “I know.”

            “Come on man, it’s like leaving him at school.”

            “I know.”  JC nodded, but didn’t take his eyes off of the front door as Lance pulled out of the driveway.

            “You’re really that attached to him?”  Lance chuckled quickly, but stopped when JC glared over his shoulder.

            “He’s my son.”

            “Yeah I know but… I mean, you’re just going to work.  You leave him at school all the time.”

            “Not all the time.  Three times a week.  This is different.”  JC shook his head.

            “Yeah but it’s Amy.”  Lance reached over and patted JC’s shoulder between shifting gears.  “You can call him on lunch and stuff.”

            “I’m fine Lance.”

            “I know.”  Lance tried not to laugh as JC looked out the window.

            “I just… I can’t explain it Lance.  It’d be like if you left your house and left your right foot at home.  You just wouldn’t feel right.  That’s what this is like.  I don’t know how parents do it.”

            “They all do.”

            “I know.”

            “You do too.  You’re a good dad Jace.  I don’t know if we’ve ever told you that… but you are.  You’re an amazing dad.”

            JC blushed slightly and peeled his eyes away from the window to look at Lance. “Thanks.”  His smile was genuine and he seemed to relax into the seat.

 

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

 

            The next day they made it to Lance’s house on time and JC seemed a lot more comfortable leaving Kyle with Amy all day.  He still grumbled and complained about the long hours and not being able to have dinner with Kyle every night, but he was getting better.  On Wednesday morning Kyle practically danced into the house and JC was all smiles.  “Jessica will be here this afternoon to get him.”  He told Amy as he leaned against the kitchen counter; they were early for once.

            “Right on, what time?”

            “I think she said her flight comes in at like, one?  So shortly after that.” JC smiled and tried to keep his feet still.

            “Who’s picking her up?”

            “She’s taking a cab.”

            “No… JC, I can go get her.” Amy shook her head and poured more coffee into JC’s half-empty mug.

            “No see this way she can take my car home and Lance can just drop me there after we’re done.”  JC explained.

            “If I pick her up she can still take your car.” Amy laughed.

            “Oh yeah.”  JC frowned.  “Oh well, I think she was counting on taking a cab but if you want to give her a call and arrange to pick her up that’s cool.  I’d call but I’ve already bugged her like, four times this morning.”

            “Four times?”  She laughed and shook her head.  “What for?”

            “I don’t know.  Stupid stuff.  Just to bug her.”  JC shrugged and laughed as he took another sip.  “Hey buddy, don’t forget that Jessica is coming today, so you have to be extra good.”

            “Kay!”  Kyle jumped up and down and around in circles around Jackson.

            “I mean it.”  JC smiled.

            “I know daddy. I good.”  Kyle looked up at JC and nodded.

            “Right on.”  JC reached down and ran his hand over Kyle’s hair.  “Where’s Lance?”

            “Getting ready.” Amy shrugged.

            “Getting ready how?  He’s gotta throw on warm up pants and a t-shirt.”  JC walked into the hall and looked up at the ceiling.  “Bass, come on.”

            “I’m coming!”  Lance appeared around the corner tying a sweatshirt around his waist. “Ready?”

            “Baby, I was born ready.”  JC playfully dropped his arm over Lance’s shoulder.

            “You lie like a rug.” Lance laughed and removed JC’s arm. “Ames?  Did you give Jace his coffee?”

            “Two cups.” Amy nodded with a broad smile.

            “Dear God, help us. That’s a lot of caffeine for Mr. High-strung, don’t you think?”

            “He wanted it.”  She shrugged with a quick laugh and quickly dumped the rest of JC’s coffee in the sink.

            “Yeah okay fine.  Let’s go.”  Lance planted a quick kiss across Amy’s lips then waved at Kyle who was watching Teletubbies on TV.  “Later Kyle.”

            “Lato Laaaance.” Kyle looked up quickly, then jumped up and ran to hug JC.  “Bye bye daddy. I see you lato?”

            “Yep.  Jessica is going to come here and get you and take you home so I’ll see you there, okay?”

            “Kay.”  Kyle gave JC a wet kiss on the cheek then squirmed to get down.  “Bye.”

            “Bye buddy, love you.”   

            “Love too.”  Kyle giggled as JC and Lance headed for the door.

            “Okay Kyle… what are we going to do today?”

            “Wass the Teletubbies wiss Jaxo and Lex.”  Kyle sighed and dropped himself onto the floor beside the dogs.

            “All righty then.” Amy smiled and started the water to do the dishes; the Teletubbies didn’t interest her at all.

 

            The two of them, and the dogs, spent the morning watching a little TV and then walking up to their neighbors house to look at their horses. Kyle was fully impressed, but wanted to eat the apple instead of feed it to the horses so Amy took him home and made him a cheese sandwich for lunch.  They watched movies in the afternoon and napped a little while waiting for Jessica to arrive.

 

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

 

            When the cab pulled up in front of Lance and Amy's house the first thing Jessica saw was JC's car parked in front.  She frowned, then pulled her duffel bag out of the trunk and paid the driver.  "Thanks."  She grumbled and squinted as the sun reflected off the windshield.  "What are you doing here?"  Jessica whispered under her breath as she lugged her bag up to the front door and rang the bell.

            As soon as the first chime sounded inside the house she heard the dogs barking and running for the door.  "Back up mutts."  Amy's voice laughed through the door.  "Kyle honey, come here.  Over here."  The door opened and the dogs bounded out to greet Jessica.  "Hey!  Hi!"  Amy stepped out onto the porch and hugged Jessica as Kyle cheered and jumped up and down.

            "Jessi!  Jessi! Jessi!" He grabbed Jackson’s backside and used it to balance himself as he jumped.

            "Hi sweetie!"  She laughed over Amy's shoulder and reached to place her hand on Kyle's head.

            "Hi Jessi!  Look is two doggies!"

            "I see that."  She stepped back from Amy's embrace and smiled broadly.  "Is JC here?"  Jessica asked as she stepped into the house, dodging the two dogs and Kyle at her feet.

            "No, he left his car here though.  Lance drove."

            "Oh."

            "He left the keys too."  Amy laughed.  "So you can take Kyle home or whatever."

            "Ahh, okay."  Jessica smiled and took a deep breath.  "It's good to see you."

            "You too."  She patted Jessica's back and gave her a little smile.  "You know, this little guy has been talking about you non-stop all day."

            "He has?"  Jessica knelt to pet the dogs and kiss Kyle's cheek.  "Have you been waiting for me?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle tore his attention away from the dogs and crawled into Jessica's arms.  "Daddy say Jessi day."

            "Oh your daddy told you I was coming today?"

            "Yeah and I good."  Kyle nodded seriously.

            Amy laughed softly;  "JC told him that you were coming in today so he had to be really good."

            "Aww, you're always good, aren't you?"

            "Yeah."  Kyle laughed and covered his mouth with his hands.  "I good."

            "I know you are sweetie."  She kissed him again and sighed.  "Has he had… did you guys have dinner yet?"

            "No, not yet.  I'm calling in for pizza later though, that's all Lance has wanted the last couple nights so I thought I'd indulge him."

            "That actually sounds good.  Will he be home soon?"

            It was Amy's turn to laugh, "No, not hardly.  When they're in the studio they put in long days.  I don't expect Lance back until seven at least.  Probably closer to eight."  She sighed and tucked her hands in her pockets.

            "Really?  That's a long day."

            "Yep.  But the more work they do on it now, the sooner it will be done and the sooner they can get back home and relax before the tour planning starts again."

            "They're touring after this?"

            "Of course."  Amy nodded.  "The album will probably come out in the first quarter next year, which means the tour will start either in March or April… May at the latest."

            "Wow."

            "Yeah.  So they'll be gone for another couple months right when I'm trying to plan a wedding."  She rolled her eyes and laughed before fighting off a yawn.

            "Have you set a date yet?"

            "Nope.  But it will be next fall.  We've been talking about late September in Mississippi.  It's still warm there and that’s my favorite time of year."

            "That would be nice."  Jessica smiled and bounced Kyle over to her other hip so she could set her bag down.

            "Yep.  But… you know, we have to wait until we get the tour dates locked down and all that to make sure Lance will have time."

            "Have time to get married? Man that sounds bad."

            "Time for the honeymoon.  He could fly home any weekend and get married."  Amy laughed.  "But I want him to have a few weeks after that so we can really get a good honeymoon in."

            "Ah ha, very true.  You can't forget the romantic honeymoon." Jessica cast a dreamy look heavenward and laughed.  "Do you have any idea where you're going to go?"

            "Lance keeps saying he wants to go to a deserted island."

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah, but I'm thinking something not so deserted.  Maybe Martinique or the Caymans or something."

            "Nice." Jessica nodded.  "It's secluded enough to be private, but they've got a spa and a resort."

            "Exactly."  Amy laughed and shook her head.  "But I'm sure you guys want to get home.  He had an early lunch today, we made english muffin pizzas and they didn't take as long as I thought they would."

            "Okay." Jessica looked at Kyle, "Are you ready to go?"

            "I see my daddy?"

            "Well we're going to go home and your daddy will be home later, okay?"

            "Kay."  Kyle nodded.  "Bye bye Mimi."

            "Bye Kyle, thanks for coming over today."  She laughed and waved as Jessica and Kyle headed for the door.

            "I'll see you later."  Jessica said as she took JC's keys from the little table by the door and headed out to the car.  She put Kyle in the backseat with his bags, strapped him in then got in the front seat to adjust everything so she could see.

            When she was settled she waved through the windshield and took off for JC's house.  It took a while for her to get used to the hugeness of JC's car but by the time she pulled into the driveway she felt like a pro.  She got Kyle and his stuff out of the back seat and yawned as she disarmed the house and went in through the garage.  Kyle immediately went to the back door to let Candy in.  The dog spent the first few minutes sniffing at Kyle, getting all of Jackson and Lexi's scent off of him before she wagged her tail on over to Jessica to say hello.

            Jessica pet the big dog's head and scratched behind her ears, then offered her a dog bone and turned to Kyle.  "Okay buddy, are you hungry?  Let's see if your dad has any food around here."  Jessica pulled the fridge open and crinkled her nose.  Two pizza boxes and a handful of left overs lined the shelves along with a gallon of milk, some juice and a two liter bottle of seven-up.

            "I have kickin nugget?"

            "No way Jose, no chicken nuggets tonight.  I'm going to make a real dinner."

            "Noodo?"

            "Noodles?  Maybe…" Jessica shut the fridge and looked in the pantry.  "Let's see if we have noodles."

            "Yeah we have."  Kyle scooted his chair over to the counter and climbed up onto the island.  "Jessi see me." He laughed and spun around on the tile countertop.

            "Whoa, hey I don't think so."  She wrapped her arm around his waist and set him on the floor.  "That's dangerous.  Here, come over here and help me find noodles or something for dinner."  She nodded to the open pantry door.  Kyle walked over and picked things at random from the shelf while Jessica found spaghetti noodles and a jar of garlic cheese sauce.  She set them on the counter then shut the pantry door with a sigh.  "Okay kiddo, we've got noodles."

            "Yum!"  Kyle clapped his hands together and gave a little jump.

            "Right on." Jessica laughed and began her search for a pot big enough to make it in as the phone rang.

            "I get it!"  Kyle ran over to where the phone was charging and removed it from the charger.

            "Here honey, let me have that." Jessica closed the cupboard and took the phone from him.  "Hello?"

            "I uh… who is this?"  A soft female voice asked after a moment's pause.

            "This is Jessica."

            "Oh.  This is… this is Lori.  Kyle's mother."  She explained, as if she needed to.  "Where is JC?"

            Jessica raised her eyebrow at Lori's sharp tone.  "He's not here right now."  She said after a short pause.  The 'jealous female' part of her came out in full gear.

            "I see."  Lori nodded.  "Well I was calling to ask him about the visitation thing.  What time will he be home?"

            "I'm not sure.  They're in the studio today so it could be - "

            "Will it be after five?"  Lori interrupted.

            "Five our time, or your time?"  Jessica looked at the clock over the stove and saw that it was already a quarter to five.

            "My time."  Lori said sharply.  Jessica flustered quickly as she tried to count the time difference in her head.  "Hello?"

            "I don't... it shouldn't be that late, no."

            "Can you make sure he calls me before five?"  Lori asked.  "Five my time."

            "I'll leave him the message, yes."

            "Have him call."

            "I can't promise he'll call, but I'll be sure to relay the message."  Jessica frowned and used all of her self-control to not 'tsk' at the girl.  She didn't need anyone talking down to her, nevermind Lori.

            "I just bet you will."  Lori sighed before she hung up.

            "What a bitch."  Jessica muttered as she clicked the phone off.  She thought for a minute then dialed JC's cell phone.  She had expected to leave him a voice mail there so that she wouldn't forget to let him know Lori called, but he answered on the first ring.

            "Hello?"

            "Whoa, hi.  I was going to leave you a message."  Jessica stuttered.

            "Well now you've got me live." JC smiled.  "What's up?  Are you here?"

            "Yeah… yeah I picked Kyle up from Lance and Amy's place and we're home now."

            "Cool."  JC smiled.  "So what were you going to leave me a message about?"

            "Lori called."

            "Yeah?"

            "She's a bitch Jace."

            "What happened?"  He asked quickly.

            "She's just… I don't know.  She's talking to me like I'm a mistress or something."  She shook her head and sat at the kitchen table.  Jessica sighed softly and said,  "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know she called and she wants you to call her back."

            "What'd she say?"  JC sounded worried.

            "She wants to talk to you about the visitation thing."

            "That's what got you upset?"

            "No."  Jessica shook her head.  "It's just… she told me to make sure you called and I told her I'd pass the message along, but I couldn't promise you'd call and she got all bent and was basically saying I wouldn't pass the message on to you."

            "Jess…"  JC pinched the bridge of his nose.  "Just ignore her.  She's had a busy week and she just wants to get the details down for her visit this weekend."

            Jessica's eyebrows shot up in surprise, he was defending Lori?  "Having a shitty week doesn't give her the right to be a bitch."

            "I'm not gonna argue right now, I've got work to do.  We can talk about this tonight or something."  JC sighed.  He didn't want to get into anything while he was working.

            "Okay."

            "Okay.  I'll see you tonight."  He bit his lip.  "Bye."

            "Bye."  That was not how she wanted to start out her visit.

 

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

 

            Jessica spent the afternoon cheering herself up with Kyle and Candy, then made dinner and bathed Kyle.  She had no idea what time JC would be done, but she didn't think it would be as late as it was.  At ten after eight she was almost ready to take Kyle upstairs to put him to bed when they heard the garage door open and JC's soft curses as he dropped something in the hall.

            "Hey, guess who's home."  Jessica whispered loudly so that JC could hear down the hall.

            "Daddy?"  Kyle whispered back as he looked over his shoulder at Jessica.

            "Yep."  Jessica laughed lightly.

            "Lucy!  I'm home!"  JC called as he slammed the garage door behind him.

            "Daddy!"  Kyle clambered up off the floor and tripped over Candy as he took off for the front door.  "Daddy!  Jessi here!  See!"

            "I know Jessica's here."  JC swept Kyle into his arms and dropped his bag by the door.  "What are you still doing up?"

            "We waitin for you."  Kyle giggled as Jessica rounded the corner with a smile.

            Her heart sped up like it always did when she saw JC and her smiled grew, "Hey."

            "Hey."  He smiled and pulled her in for a quick hug with Kyle still in his arms.  JC gave her a quick kiss, but held on for a little longer.  "How was your flight?"

            "Fine."

            "And how was your afternoon?"

            "Good."  Jessica smiled and licked her lips.

            "Did Lori call back?"

            "No."  Jessica shook her head, adding "Thank goodness" silently.  "You'll have to give her a call though."

            "Yeah.  I will."  JC continued to smile as he bounced Kyle to his other hip and yawned.  "I am exhausted."

            "I'll bet, you put in what… ten hours at the office?"

            "Almost thirteen."  JC ran his fingers though his hair then kissed Kyle's cheek and set him down on the floor.  "We started a little late today actually since we had to make travel plans."

            "Where are you guys going?"

            "New York for four days, then up to Toronto and out to San Francisco.  We'll be gone for two weeks."

            "Wow."

            "Yeah."  JC rubbed his eyes.  "Wanna come?"  He laughed softly.

            "Uhh, no thanks."  She laughed back.

            "Seriously."  JC lowered his hands from his eyes.

            "When do you leave?"

            "Umm…"  JC pursed his lips and sat at the dining room table where Kyle climbed up on his lap.  "A week from Monday.  The eleventh."

            "You'll be gone over Thanksgiving?"

            "No, we get back the Saturday before Thanksgiving."  He leaned back in the chair as his stomach growled.  "What'd you guys have for dinner?"

            "Spaghetti.  Do you want me to heat some up for you?"

            "Oh man, that'd be great."  JC put his hand on his stomach and slid Kyle off his lap.  "Did you have spaghetti for dinner?"

            "Yeah."

            "Was it good?"

            "Yeah.  Is hot."  He waved his hand in front of his open mouth and climbed onto his chair across from JC.

            "Okay, I'll be careful."  JC nodded at Kyle and looked over at Jessica.  "So really, if you want to come out with us you can."

            "You'll be working."  Jessica made a face though he couldn't see as she dished the cold food onto a plate.

            "Yeah, but not all the time."

            "You're pulling ten and twelve hour days here, you think it'll be any different when you're traveling to record?"  Jessica put the plate in the microwave and set the time for two minutes.

            "I don't think it'll be that bad."

            "What are you going to do with Kyle?"

            "What do you mean?"

            "Are you taking him with you?"

            "Yeah, of course."  JC nodded and frowned.  "Why wouldn't I?"

            "You'll be recording."

            "Yeah.  We're recording now though and he's here."

            "And you have Amy watching him all week while you work.  What will you do when you're in Toronto recording all day and you don't have anyone to watch Kyle?"

            "I…"  JC paused and thought for a moment.  "I don't know."

            "Maybe you should see if your mom can come down and watch him here while you're gone."  Jessica turned back to the microwave.  "Or maybe Lori can take him."

            "Yeah right."  JC snapped back a little too roughly.  "No… no I'd rather try to find someone to help watch while we're recording."

            "She's his mom Jace."

            "And she's in Los Angeles working.  She'd have to put him in daycare anyway… so no."  JC shook his head as Kyle yawned.  "You need to go to bed buddy."

            "No lato."  Kyle frowned and lay his head on the table.

            "As soon as I'm done eating we'll go upstairs and get you ready, okay?"

            "Kay."  Kyle sighed as JC looked back up at Jessica.

            "So if I came I'd be his babysitter?"  She didn't know why she was suddenly in a bad mood over everything, but she couldn't stop the words from leaving her lips.

            "No Jess, that's not why I asked you to come."  JC leaned forward and rested his head in his hands.  "And that's not why I asked you here this week either.  Believe it or not I want to see you.  To be with you and just… just have you here."

            "I know."  Jessica sighed as the microwave beeped.  She checked the temperature of his dinner, then grabbed a fork and set it on the table in front of him.  "I just… it's hard not to think that."

            "I know."  JC watched as she sat beside him.  "But you know that I want you here all the time, not just when Lori is coming out or when I have to work."

            "Yeah…"  She blinked back tears that came out of nowhere.  Kyle took a deep breath and closed his eyes, which gave Jessica something else to look at as she held her breath.  "hey buddy, let's go get your pajamas on."

            "No lato."  Kyle mumbled against his arms.

            "If you don't want to come out with us, that's fine.  It's not often that we're all recording at the same time so there should always be someone to keep an eye on him.  And maybe my mom or Heather will be able to come out or something.  I'll figure it out."

            "No, I'm…"  Her lip burned between her teeth as she bit almost hard enough to draw blood, anything to keep the unwanted tears at bay.  "It's not that I don't want to go, I just…"

            "You don't know what you want."  He finished for her.

            Jessica blinked rapidly for a second then nodded, "Right."

            "That's okay."

            "Can I let you know this week?  I'll have to call Katie and my parents and everything to see what they've got planned and if… if I can take off for a couple weeks."

            "Don't feel like you have to.  I just thought it'd be nice."

            "It is.  Thank you for asking."  She stood up and picked Kyle up out of his seat before he began to snore.  "Come on buddy.  Lets go get you in the bath so we can clean you up before bed."

            "No I wan daddy to."  Kyle whined.

            "I'll be up in just a minute.  I have to eat my dinner first."

            "Now?"

            "In a minute."  JC nodded and took a bite of his too hot dinner.  He breathed around the noodles in his mouth and dripped sauce on his chin.  "Ooo, it's hot."

            "Yeah is hot."  Kyle giggled.

            "Lets go."  Jessica adjusted Kyle on her hip and headed for the stairs to leave JC alone in the kitchen.

 

            He finished up his dinner as he listened to Jessica and Kyle talk in the bathroom above his head.  The ceiling muddled their words, but their giggles were distinct and he knew that having Jessica around was so good for both of them.  JC rinsed his dishes in the sink then walked lightly up the stairs to spy on his two favorite people in Kyle's room getting his pajamas on.  Kyle's hair was still damp and made his pajama top stick as Jessica fought to pull it over his head.  "Uh oh!  You're stuck."

            "No Jessi fix it."  Kyle laughed as his head popped through the hole.  "Wow!  I was suck!"

            "Yeah you were.  I saved you though."  From the corner of her eye she saw JC lean against the doorway to watch quietly, a small but genuine smile crossed his lips.

            "Yeah."  Kyle laughed and pushed his arms through the long sleeves of his pajamas.

            "So Kyle, what are you going to dress up as for Halloween?"

            "Joey."  Kyle sighed.

            "You're… he's dressing up as Joey?"  She looked up at JC standing in the doorway.

            "He thinks he is."  JC rolled his eyes.  "Tell her what costume we got for you last week.  Remember?  We went to the store."

            "I hava Joey cossume."  Kyle pouted and pulled his soft pajama bottoms on.

            "There is no Joey costume.  How would you dress up like Joey?"

            "Ina cossume."

            "Joey wears regular clothes like everyone else… kind of.  How would you dress up like him, you'd look just like a regular person.  No one would know you were Joey."

            "I tow dem I Joey."  Kyle sighed and looked at JC like he was stupid.

            Jessica suppressed a laugh and asked, "Well what costume did you guys buy?"

            "A bobobee."  Kyle shrugged.

            "A bumblebee."  JC smiled.  "With a stinger and wings and everything."

            "Wow!  A bumblebee huh?  That sounds so cool!"

            "And I fye."

            "You can fly?"  Jessica looked surprised.  "That is so neat Kyle, I can't wait to see what you look like in your bumblebee costume."

            "He looks cool in it, I already had him try it on."  JC smiled.  "And what do you way when you knock on peoples doors?"

            "No daddy."

            "He's a little shy about going up to people's doors."  JC explained.  "What if you knocked on the door and Jessica answered, what would you say?"

            "I say Bzzzz."

            "Bzzzz like a bumblebee, that's right!"  Jessica laughed.

            "What else would you say?"

            "Ticker teet, smow my feet gimme sosing goody."

            Jessica burst out laughing and JC just shook his head.  "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat?  Who taught you that?"

            Kyle sighed and pulled the covers back,  "Joey."  He said as he flopped onto his back and pulled his blanket to his chin.

            "Figures."  JC chuckled under his breath.  "I swear, sometimes that kid looks at me like he can't believe I'm this stupid."

            "Sounds like Joey is his new hero."  Jessica snickered as they stepped out into the hall a few minutes later.

            "Yeah, something like that.  I'm gonna have to have a talk with him."

            "Joey?"

            "Kyle." JC laughed.  "I need to tell him to stop listening to Joey all the time.  Joey's gonna end up teaching him something that's gonna get him in trouble at school or something."

            "I'm sure he already has. Kyle's just holding on to it to use it when you least expect it."

            "Shit, I can see that.  Four letter words uttered on Christmas morning in front of my parents.  That'll make the Holidays grand."  JC laughed and wrapped his arms around Jessica's waist.  "Speaking of holidays, what do you have planned?"

            "For Christmas?"

            "And Thanksgiving."

            "Thanksgiving I'm going to my grandparent's house."  She smiled as he leaned his forehead against her.  "I haven't missed a Thanksgiving since I was six and had the chicken pox."

            "Impressive."

            "You?"

            "I'll probably go to my parents.  They suckered me into hosting it last year but that was a mess, so I think we'll be at their house."

            "Cool."

            "You're welcome to come if you want."

            "Thank you." Jessica nodded.  "And you're more than welcome to come on up to Connecticut to my grandparent's."

            "Thanks."  JC kissed her quickly.  "How about Christmas?"

            Jessica shrugged, "I haven't decided yet."

            "You won't be with your family?"

            "We do Christmas stuff like… the week before. My parents usually go on vacation for the week of Christmas."

            "Vacation?"

            "Yeah.  Alaskan Cruises, ski trips to Aspen, you name it."

            "Hmm."

            "Hmm."  She mimicked him.  "Hey… I'm sorry I got all edgy downstairs."

            "It's okay."

            "It's just that with Lori calling today and everything I think… well I think I just got my feathers all ruffled and started doubting why - "  She stopped herself and licked her lips quickly.  "Doubting a lot of things that I shouldn't."

            "It's okay, really."

            "I'm just being all girly."  Jessica laughed softly and dropped her forehead to his chest.

            His hands rubbed her back gently with his fingers trailing up her spine.  "Girly is what I like."  He chuckled under his breath.  "You're welcome here anytime… you know that.  You can come when you want, and stay as long as you want.  Whether I'm working or not, whether it’s a holiday or not… it doesn't matter."

            "I know."

            "As for traveling with us, I just thought it'd be fun to see those cities together.  Kind of like old times with the guys and everything.  It won't be all work."

            "I'd like that, but like I said, I'll have to check in with everyone."

            "Well just let me know when you do and I'll make arrangements.  You can come for all of it, or only for a few days… or not at all.  Whatever you want.  I'm easy."

            "So I've heard."  She joked, as she looked up to kiss him again.

            "Oh really?"  He laughed and pulled her by her jean pockets.

            "Yep."

            "Yeah we'll just see about that."  JC laughed and tugged her toward the bathroom.  "But first I need a shower, I'm all funky."

            "Fun."

            "Wanna watch?"

            "I'll pass."  She laughed and blushed slightly knowing that she wouldn't have to use too much of her imagination to get that picture in her head.

            "Wanna join me?"  He raised his eyebrow in the most sexual and flirty way he knew which might have worked if he didn't yawn in the middle of his suaveness.

            "You're tired."

            "So?"  His shirt was off before she realized he moved and his hands were at the waist of his warm up pants.

            "So…"

            His fingers dropped the ties at his waist and circled her hips, darting up under her shirt to try to pull it off.  "We can kill two birds with one stone.  So to speak."  He kissed her and dropped her shirt on the floor just inside the master bedroom.  "You'll like it.  I promise."  He tickled her side and led her into the bathroom where he reached into the shower and turned the water on hot, never taking his other hand off her back.  Jessica didn't fight at all as he unclasped her bra and tossed it toward the bedroom, and voluntarily shed the rest of her clothes to join him in the steaming shower.

            While under the hot water and covered in soap and shampoo, JC didn't seem nearly as tired as he did just a few minutes earlier.  He expertly shampooed Jessica's hair and practically purred when she washed his.  They spent the next half hour under the water killing at least three birds with one stone, erasing any of the bitter or confused feelings from earlier in the evening.

            When they finally emerged from the slippery shower into the steam filled bathroom, JC wrapped a towel around his waist and stepped into the bedroom to collapse onto the expertly made bed.  Jessica tucked a large towel around her body and secured it under her arm as she brushed her teeth then went to work on her hair.

            "Hey, did you call Lori?" Jessica asked as she brushed her hair in the mirror.

            "Damn.  No, I forgot."  JC made a face from the bed where he was lounging.

            "You forgot?"

            "Partly."  He smiled at her then rolled onto his back.  "I didn't feel like dealing with her tonight."

            "She's going to think I didn't give you the message."  Jessica sighed and set her hairbrush down.  "Make me look like the bad guy why don't you?"

            "I'll tell her that you gave me the message and I forgot."  He sat up and scooted over to give her room.

            "JC…” She sighed and sat on the bed beside him.

            "Don't worry about her. I can handle Lori."  JC reached over and squeezed her shoulders in soft, rhythmic circles.

            "I know, but I told her you'd call."

            "And I will, but it's too late now."

            "It's not too late in California."

            "It's too late here."  JC kissed her neck and wrapped his arms around her from behind.  "Come on, I'll call her tomorrow.  I promise."  Jessica sighed, but melted into the warmth of his arms.  "It seems like forever."  His voice dropped and rumbled against her ear.

            "I was just in the shower with you."  She smiled and closed her eyes.       

            "I know."  JC laughed lightly as he pulled her down beside him and pulled the blankets up to their shoulders.  "But still…"

            "Long day?"  Jessica maneuvered herself as JC pulled the towel from around her body and dropped it with his over the side of the bed.  The heat from the shower still radiated from their bodies and warmed the cool sheets.

            "Longer than you know."  He yawned, then kissed her neck just under her hair.  "And this is only the first week."

            "How much - "  Jessica started, but JC interrupted her.

            "I love you Jess."  He pulled her tighter to his chest and sighed softly into her hair.  "No work talk tonight.  No talk at all, okay?"

            "Okay."  She whispered and placed her hands over his on her stomach.  She could easily live with that.

 

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

 

            Jessica rose early the next morning with JC and Kyle and helped JC get out of the house on time.  Without having to worry about packing Kyle and his gear up, he actually had time to have a warm breakfast.

            "So are you carpooling with Lance today again?"

            "No."  JC shook his head as he took a bite of his toast.  "I'm gonna see about taking off a little early today so no.  Besides, I don't have a reason to go over there this morning."

            "True."

            "Thanks for watching him."

            "No problem."  Jessica smiled and leaned on the counter as she waited for the water to boil for Kyle's oatmeal.

            "Actually, do you want to take me to the studio so you can have the car today?"

            "No, I think we'll just hang out around here.  We can play with Candy since I'm sure she misses her play buddy."

            "True."  JC nodded and popped the last bit of toast into his mouth as he stood up.  "Okay guys, I need to get going."

            "I go see Mimi?"  Kyle slid off of his chair.

            "Nope, you get to stay here with Jessica."

            "Wiss my Jessi?"

            "Yep."

            "And you?"

            "I have to go to work."  JC explained as he picked Kyle up to kiss him quickly.  "You get to  hang out in your pajamas and play with Candy and eat oatmeal and all that good stuff."

            "Kay."  Kyle giggled as JC set him down.

            "Don't forget, it's Halloween."  Jessica said softly when he came over to say goodbye to her.

            His lips brushed against hers as he said, "I know," and kissed her like he meant to.  "If I'm not home by like, six or seven… can you take him up and down the street?"

            "You think you'll be that late?"  Jessica's brow knit into a frown.

            JC shrugged and kissed her forehead.  "I hope not, but it'll depend on what we get done today.  If we want the Holidays off we've gotta pull a lot of work out before that."

            "Okay."

            "I'll call though."

            "Okay." Jessica smiled and kissed him again as the kettle on the stovetop began to whistle.  "Have a good day at work."

            "I will." JC laughed and reached around her to move the kettle to a different burner.  "See you later."  JC raised his voice and waved at Kyle sitting at the table.

            "Bye bye daddy."  Kyle blew a quick kiss, then turned his attention back to Candy as she whapped her tail against the legs of his chair.

            "Bye bye."  JC laughed as his footsteps echoed down the hall.  Jessica heard the garage door open and shut, then the big garage door open and JC's car start.  A little tug pulled at her heart and her stomach did a flip-flop.

            "This is what it'd be like if I lived here."  She thought to herself.  "Like we were - "  She stopped that train of thought and smiled, surprising herself.

            "Jessi?  I have oh meal and you have oh meal?"

            Jessica blinked to snap herself out of her partial daydream and sighed, "Yep.  Let's have some oatmeal and get all warmed up before we go outside."  She smiled, and dished up their breakfast before sitting beside him.

 

            They spent the morning playing in the wide back yard with Candy, then came in and got dressed to play indoors and take a little nap after lunch.  Jessica pulled Kyle onto her lap and they dozed on the couch with "Beauty and the Beast" playing on the TV softly.  When the movie was over she carefully moved Kyle from her lap and went to the kitchen to start dinner so that Kyle could eat before they went trick-or-treating.

            After looking through the cupboards again, she decided to make JC go grocery shopping that weekend.  In a tupperware container in the freezer she found what looked like left over lasagna with cooking instructions on the top.  She found a baking pan in a dusty drawer and turned the oven on to get things started.

            Kyle woke up a short while later and helped her make garlic bread and toss a salad.  "I sure hope your daddy gets to go trick-or-treating with us tonight kiddo."

            "Yeah.  And I have candy?"

            "Yep, you'll get lots of candy tonight.  Will you share some with me?"

            "Yeah."

            "Can I have one of your chocolate bars?"

            "I doe have."  Kyle shrugged and frowned.

            "No, after you get done trick-or-treating tonight.  You'll have lots of chocolate I think."  Jessica laughed.

            "Yeah you have some and daddy."

            "Ohh, that's a nice boy, you're going to share with everyone."

            "Yeah."  Kyle smiled and sat on the kitchen floor by Candy as she snored softly.  "And Candy?"

            "Nope, dogs can't have chocolate.  She'd get very sick and we'd have to take her to the doctors."

            "I doe like dokors."

            "They're not that bad." Jessica cut up a carrot for the salad and popped a few pieces into her mouth.  She heard the big garage door open and her face lit up.  It was just after four and the only person it could be was JC.   "Hey, look who's home!"  Jessica cheered as JC came through the door hours before his usual time.

            "Daddy!"  Kyle peeled down the hall and leapt into JC's arms.  "Daddy is hoween."

            "I know its Halloween, that's why I came home so I can take you trick-or-treating."

            "And my Jessi?"

            "Yep, Jessica is going to come too."  JC nodded and kissed Kyle's temple.  "Hey." He smiled as he noticed Jessica leaning casually against the back of the leather couch in the front room.

            "Hey." She laughed delicately in response.  "We've been waiting for you."

            "I bet."  JC propped Kyle on his hip and kissed Jessica hello before going through the house to the kitchen.  "Did you have dinner yet?"

            "Not yet.  I'm making some of that lasagna you had in the freezer.  I'm assuming that the date on it was right."

            "Yeah, Amy sent me home with left overs when we went for dinner last week.  She's a real good cook."

            "It looks like it."  Jessica sniffed the fragrant air and licked her lips.  "How'd Lance get so lucky?"

            "I've been asking myself the same thing."  JC laughed and shook his head.

            "Hey, I'll have you know that I made the salad and bread from scratch."

            "Oh good, so you're not totally useless in the kitchen."

            "Not totally."  She laughed and turned the over light on to check the progress.  "And I like how she put the instructions on the packaging.  Heat for thirty minutes at 350 degrees.  She's on her way to being a mom."

            "Oh hey… don't say that.  You'll freak Lance out if he hears that."

            "Ha."  Jessica rolled her eyes.  "Not what I've heard.  He's the one all gung ho about having kids."

            "Not yet though."  JC shook his head.

            "Yeah, well sooner than Amy was planning I think."  She clicked the oven light off and checked her watch.  "Anyway, that's their business.  In the meantime I'll gladly take her left overs."  She laughed and reached into the cupboard for clean plates.

            "Hey."  Kyle said as JC put him in his seat.  "I a bobobee and I fye."

            JC laughed and studied his son; the long days he was putting in meant less time for them to spend together and he was starting to feel it.  "Yep, you get to be a bumblebee."

            "And you?  You a bobobee?"

            "Nope, I'm not dressing up."

            "You're not?" Jessica asked.  "You're not worried about being seen?"

            "In this neighborhood?  Everyone who's here knows me already."  He shrugged.  "It's not like we'll be wandering the streets or whatever."

            "True.  You'll probably stay on this street, huh?"

            "Yeah.  Actually, I told the guys I'd swing by and say hi and all that.  So Kyle can show them his costume."

            "Where are they going to be?"

            "At home." JC shrugged.

            "At their own homes?  So we've gotta hit four different houses?"

            "Uh huh.  Justin and Joey have parties they're going to so we've gotta be there by eight."  JC nodded.  "But yeah, they all wanna see him."

            "Kyle, you've got the coolest uncles in the world." Jessica shook her head as she pulled the dinner out of the stove feeling more motherly than ever before.

            "Yeah.  Is sink and is my unkow."  Kyle nodded and shook salt out onto the table.  "And Jussin and Laaance and Chris."

            "What about Joey?"

            "And Joey."  Kyle said as JC reached over and took the salt from him, then brushed what was on the table to the floor.  "And Jessi?"

            "Jessica's not your uncle silly boy."

            "She my Jessi."

            JC paused for a second while Jessica waited to hear what he'd say.  "Yep.  She's your Jessi."

            "And you Jessi."

            "And my Jessi too.  Sure." JC grinned and glanced up at Jessica with a soft laugh.

            "You guys are silly."  She shook her head and set the dinner on the table in front of them.  "Eat up so we can go get you in your costume kiddo."

            "I have dinno anen I have candy?"

            "You know it.  You have to eat a good dinner, then tonight you can have some candy."

            "Cool."  Kyle smiled as Jessica dished up his dinner and cut it into small bites.

            "Yep, cool." She laughed and sat back down to enjoy the meal with JC at her side.

 

            When dinner was done, JC offered to do the dishes so Jessica could take Kyle upstairs and get him dressed in his costume for the night.  "Go get all bumble bee'd up kiddo.  I can't wait to see!"

            "Yeah I a bobobee."  Kyle laughed and ran toward the stairs.

            "Thanks." JC planted a kiss on Jessica's cheek as she walked by.

            "No problem."  She raised her eyebrow in a flirtatious smirk, then followed Kyle up the stairs.

            JC laughed to himself and rinsed the dishes in the sink.  He placed them in the dishwasher then dried his hands on the towel and looked at the phone.  As much as he didn't really want to, he had to call Lori back.  If she weren't arriving in town the next day he wouldn't have bothered, but she may have had a change of plans and he would need to know.

            Reluctantly he picked up the phone and dialed Lori's LA number from memory.  He listened nervously as the phone rang in his ear.  "Hello?"  Lori answered just before the machine would have picked up.

            "Hi Lori, this is JC."  He said softly.

            "JC?  Oh that's right, I called you yesterday."

            "Yeah, I'm sorry I'm just now getting back to you."

            "You should get an answering machine.  They're a lot more reliable when it comes to delivering messages."  She said sarcastically.

            "I have a machine."  JC bit his lip.  "And Jessica did give me the message yesterday.  In fact she called me as soon as she hung up to let me know and reminded me when I got home.  I just didn't feel like calling last night because I'd had a long day and I was tired."  JC's head began to ache and they had barely started their conversation.  She almost always had that effect on him.  He sighed softly and said, "So... what time do you land tomorrow?"

            "Not until like nine at night."  Lori shook her head.  "So I'd like to come by on Saturday."

            "Okay, that's fine."  JC nodded and looked at the calendar though he didn't need to.  He'd cleared it as soon as Lori said she was coming out.  "Do you know what time?"

            "No."  She sounded almost annoyed.  "I don't know what time I'll get up or whatever.  I'll just call you in the morning and set something up."

            "I... okay."  JC bit his lip to keep from snapping back at her.

            Just then Jessica walked into the kitchen with Kyle in his yellow and black costume hanging upside down and laughing.  His hair was damp and water dripped from the spikey ends.  "Daddy you uhsye down!"

            "You're upside down!"  JC laughed as Jessica reached down and tickled him under his arm making him giggle like a hyena.

            "Is that her?"  Lori asked.

            "Hmm?  Yeah, that's Jessica and Kyle."  JC said into the phone.

            Jessica blushed and brought Kyle upright.  "Sorry."  She whispered and tried to get Kyle quiet.  "Who is it?"  She whispered with a look towards the phone.

            "It's Lori."  JC said.

            "Oh."  Jessica did her best not to roll her eyes, but didn't quite pull it off.

            "So she's raising him now?"  Lori asked quickly.

            "She's been helping me since you left him, that's nothing new."  JC explained.

            "Yeah well it seems like she's just itching to jump in and take my place."

            "Take your place?"  JC shook his head.

            "She's barely seen him in the last year, where's her 'place'?"  Jessica asked softly.

            JC held up his finger to silence Jessica and turned to the phone,  "Jessica and Kyle get along and I trust her with him.  She's not trying to be his mother."

            "Oh no?  You guys looked all lovey dovey when I was out last time."

            "She's my girlfriend, what do you expect?"

            "He's my son."

            "Lori… come on.  I know that.  We all know that.  She's not trying to take your place, she's just helping me out as a friend.  As my girlfriend."

            "Even though I'm more of a mom than she is."  Jessica grumbled.

            "What did she say?"  Lori asked, though she had heard Jessica's snide comment clearly.

            "Nothing." JC said quickly.  He covered the mouthpiece and gave Jessica a look,  "Stop."  He whispered.

            "It's true."

            "Jessica, stop it.  Don't go there."  JC took the phone and headed for the hall.  "Don't worry about what she's saying, all of this is between you and me."

            "And our lawyers."  Lori snapped.

            "Shit."  JC whispered under his breath.  He closed his eyes and pressed them shut,  "Come on, there's no reason to get lawyers involved again.  We've already had this conversation."

            "I don't want Kyle around her."

"News flash Lori, I have sole legal and physical custody.  I can have him around anyone I want and take him anywhere I want."

            "Don't start that."

            "What is this about?  Why are you mad all of a sudden?  I mean, you came out a couple months ago and you were fine with Jessica then…"

            "Well now I'm not."

            "Why?  What's changed your mind?"

            "Nothing."

            "Lori."  He sighed with exasperation.  She could really be too much to handle sometimes.

            "I've been talking with some of the girls I work with and we all agree that this is bullshit.  I should be able to see him whenever I want."

            "You can see him."

            "Whenever I want."

            "Lori, you're going to be here tomorrow.  I've already told you that you can come here anytime."

            "I can't see him whenever I want if he lives 3,000 miles away."

            "You can always move here."  JC said briskly.  As soon as the words left his mouth he regretted them.  The last thing he wanted was for her to move to Florida.

            "Or you could move here."

            "Why would I move to California?  I'm happy with things the way they are.  If you're suddenly unhappy you can move."  He raked his hands through his hair, tugging harder than necessary.  "Listen, you'll be here tomorrow and we can talk about this then or something."

            "Fine."  She answered back sharply.  "I'll call when I land."

            "Great."  JC nodded and bit his lip.

            "Bye."  She hung up without waiting for his response.

            JC carefully slid the phone back onto the cradle and looked out at the living room where Jessica was helping Kyle get his bumblebee wings on.  He sighed, then walked over to them as Jessica smiled and patted Kyle's stinger,  "Okay kiddo, run upstairs and get your candy bucket thing."

            "Candy!"  Kyle shouted as he ran for the stairs with his wings flapping behind him.  Hearing her name, the dog jumped up from her resting spot by the front door and followed him up the stairs with her tail wagging all over the place.

            "What is your problem?"  JC whispered to Jessica as he heard Kyle thump around overhead.

            "What?"  She asked innocently.

            "You know what."  JC frowned.  "I have enough trouble dealing with Lori without your little sarcastic remarks and everything.  She's going to be here tomorrow.  I don't need this right now and you're not helping."

            "What have I done?"

            "Jessica, she's jealous of your relationship with Ky - "

            "I can't help it that she ditched him."  Jessica lowered her voice as she interrupted him.

            "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm saying she thinks you're trying to take her place and then you go antagonizing her with that.  That's not helping anything."

            "Well I am more his mom than she is."

            "But you're not."

            Jessica looked up quickly and exhaled slowly,  "You know what I mean."

            "I don't think I do."  JC shook his head and leaned against the wall with his hands in his pockets.  "Out of nowhere you guys have flipped out on me.  She's all jealous of you and you - "  He stopped for a second as a look of pure confusion crossed his face.  "You're jealous of her?"

            "Don’t be crazy."  Jessica shook her head and looked away.

            "No wait… you are.  This all started when she called yesterday and stepped on your toes."

            "JC, why would I be jealous of her?"  Jessica crossed her arms over her chest and looked up at him.

            "I don't know."  He shook his head slowly.

            “I’m not.”  She said after a moment’s pause, which proved to them both that she was.

            JC didn’t answer, he just nodded quickly as Kyle bounded into the kitchen with his little plastic pumpkin in one hand. “We get candy now?” He asked.

            “Yep.  Let’s go.”  JC reached for Kyle’s free hand.

            “Come on Jessi!”  Kyle giggled and tugged on JC’s hand to get him to hurry.

            “Yeah, come on Jess.  Let’s go get some candy.” He gave her a half smile to call a truce while they trick-or-treated. The rest of their conversation would have to wait until they got home, but it would continue.

 

 

 

 Next...

 

 

Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn