As soon as Jessica got home she reached for her phone and dialed Florida.  She knew she should be calling JC, but instead her face lit up when her friend answered the phone.  "You are never allowed to leave Florida again."  Jessica laughed softly.

            "Well it's nice to talk to you too."  Amy laughed.  "What's up?  What'd I miss?'

            "I just got home from being there all week."

            "Oh man, I miss everything."  She sat on the corner of the couch to let Lance finish making the dinner on his own.  "So how was it and when are you coming back?"  Amy smiled and made herself comfortable; it had been a while since she actually got to talk to Jessica so she wanted to settle in for a long conversation.

            Jessica was silent on her end of the phone.  Biting her lip and taking deep breaths as though she was going to say something, then at the last minute changing her mind.  "JC kind of asked me to move in with him."

            "Kind of?"

            "Well yeah."

            "How does someone kind of ask that?"

            "Well he didn't come out and said, 'move in with me' but kind of."

            "Jessica honey, you'll have to be clearer than that.  Did he just hint at it or what?"

            "No, he said he didn't think it was good for Kyle for me to come down here and leave all the time and then he said maybe I shouldn't."

            "Maybe you shouldn't come down here?"

            "See that's what I thought too and I almost had a heart attack.  But no, maybe I shouldn't leave."

            "Oh."  Amy pursed her lips and sighed through her nose.



            "So?  Amy, you're supposed to offer me some little nugget of wisdom."  Jessica complained as she fell into her dining room chair in the dark.

            "A nugget of wisdom huh?"  Amy smiled and tried not to laugh.  "It's a simple yes or no question.  Do you want to live with him?"

            "It's not that simple.  And yes."

            "So then there you go."

            "But I don't think I'm ready to be domesticated just yet."

            "You're not a cat."

            "I know."

            "Okay well ask yourself this; how do you feel when you're down here visiting?"

            Jessica sighed, that was the hard part.  "I love it.  I really do.  I love JC and Kyle and just… everything.  I'm comfortable and all that, I mean… it feels like home."

            "Jess, I don't see what the problem is."

            "Yeah but when I'm down there visiting I also know that I've got my apartment here to come back to, and that's comforting too.  I mean look at you and Lance.  You guys didn't move in together until you were engaged practically."

            "Uh huh…"  Amy smiled.  "Do you think that's what's on his mind?"

            "Oh shit."  Jessica gasped under her breath.  "Oh shit Amy, I hope not."

            "You hope not?  What kind of a girl are you?"  Amy smiled and looked over at Lance as he drained the pasta in the sink, making a face and turning away as the steam rolled past his face.

            "I'm so not ready for that."  Jessica rested her head in her hands.  "No, that's not what he means.  We've only been together for a couple months, I mean… you and Lance at least had a few years.  No, JC wouldn't rush into anything like that."


            "Not with Lori still having cows."

            "Ah ha… I think you've hit on the heart of the matter."

            "Lori?"  Jessica asked, she'd never really thought about that.

            "Maybe."  Amy shrugged and pulled at her lip.  "What's going on there?"

            Jessica sighed and planned her words carefully to try to remain neutral.  Then as she remembered it was Amy she was talking to she opened up.  "I can't stand her."  Jessica said quickly.  "But see, I can't really let JC know that because he's the one who has to deal with her, not me.  I don't want to get in the middle there or cause any problems for him because she's causing enough of her own."

            "Mmm hmm."  Amy mumbled.  She didn't want to say anything that might derail Jessica's train of thought.

            "If I moved in there then that would throw everything out of whack.  If I wait until things are settled and calm between them, then maybe it won't be such a big thing that I move in, you know?"

            "Well doesn't Lori already think you live there?"

            "Yeah."  The call waiting beeped in Amy's ear.  "Do you have to get that?"  Jessica asked.

            "Nah, don't worry about it."  Amy shook her head, “So?"

            "Well thinking I live there is one thing… me actually living there is another.  I can put up with her and be polite on the few times I'm there to visit when she calls or whatever.  But having that be part of my daily life?  I don't know."  Amy kept quiet while Jessica thought.  "Also… JC…"  Jessica sighed and frowned deeply.  "JC really needs to focus on getting things right with Lori and getting into that routine… plus they'll be back in the studio in a few weeks and everything gets so shaky right around then anyway.  Don't you think adding a live in girlfriend to that would just completely hose everything?"

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

            "I want to be there for him for all of this.  Bu that's hard to do when there's this big 'Lori' wedge shoved in there, you know?  And maybe that's just my whacked out perception of this whole thing, but still."

            "It's okay if that’s your perception, that's what you have to go on really."

            "Yeah.  I just… I really want to live with him, but I want all the pieces to be in place before I do, you know?"

            "You're one of those pieces though Jess."

            Jessica closed her eyes, “I know."

            "Sucks huh?"  Amy said softly.

            "Yeah it does."  Jessica smiled and cleared her throat.  "Thanks for listening to me ramble."

            "Any time."

            "I'm not going to move."  Jessica sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers.  "Yet."  She added a second later.  "When it's right I'll feel it and I just don't right now.  Maybe in a little while or whatever."

            "Okay."  Amy nodded, hoping that Jessica's hesitation wouldn't throw JC off course.

            "So."  Jessica sighed deeply and forced a smile.  "What's going on with you guys?"  Amy happily relayed funny stories from her family reunion the week before as Lance's cell phone rang on the little table by the front door.

            He darted across the room and answered it before it went to voicemail.  "Hello?"  He asked without checking the caller I.D.

            "Hey Lance, its JC."

            Lance laughed, as if he wouldn't recognize JC's voice.  "Hey, how's it going?"

            "It's alright.  Are you at home?"

            "Me?  Yeah I'm making dinner.  Why?"

            "I just tried calling."

            "Amy's on the phone."

            "Oh."  JC bit his lip.

            "What's up?"  Lance walked into the kitchen and sat on the counter as he grabbed a box of crackers from the top of the fridge.

            "Well… okay see I asked Jessica to move in with me last week and she didn't say yes so now I'm like… I'm like 'okay now what?' you know?"

            "You asked her to move in?"  Lance snacked on the crackers as he waited for baked squash dish to be done in the oven.



            "Yeah, why is that so shocking?"

            "It's not."  Lance said quickly.  "It's just so not you."

            "Yeah… well, it's me now."

            "She said no?"

            "She said she had to think about it."

            "Well that makes sense."

            "I know." JC sighed.  "I know she needs to think about it because it's a big step and everything.  But still …"

            "Don't sweat it.  She's a smart girl; she just needs to make sure she's doing the right thing.  You know... the whole weighing the pros and cons things."

            "There are cons?"  JC frowned quickly as a whole new set of worries plagued his mind.

            "Of course there are."  Lance laughed.  "Going from living alone to living with someone you're dating is big.  It took a long time to get Amy moved in here, and we've known each other forever."

            "She doesn't live alone, she has a room mate.  It'd be the same."

            "You need a nap or something.  It's definitely not the same.  Would having Chris move in with you be the same as having Jessica move in?"

            "Hell no."

            "Okay then."  Lance smiled and closed the box of crackers as the scent of the pasta wafted over to where he was sitting.  "So really man, don't worry about it.  When she's ready to do this she'll let you know.  And I'd be willing to bet you won't have to wait long."


            "Yeah."  Lance nodded.  "So what are you and the kid up to this week?  Are you doing anything great for the last week of freedom?"

            "Nah, we don't have anything planned really.  He keeps saying he wants to see animals so I was thinking of flying out to San Diego to the zoo there."

            "We have zoos in Florida you know."

            "Yeah, but I love that one. And they have that other place too, like another zoo but different?"

            "I know what you're talking about."  Lance nodded.

            "So we might fly out there."

            "You could see Lori too."


            "Is that a no?"

            "That's a hell no.  If she wants to see him she's going to have to fly out here.  I'm not wasting my time out there any more."

            "All righty then."

            "Lance, we were out there for like, a week to visit her and she flaked on us.  On Kyle."

            "I know."

            "So the last thing I'm gonna do is fly out there to see her again."

            "I know, I was just saying that since you'll be there anyway."  Lance sighed.  "Never mind."

            "I know what you were saying Lance, and we're not doing that."

            "You don't have to get all upset man, I was just saying."

            JC took a deep breath to release some of his built up frustration that had nothing to do with Lance.  "Sorry.  Anyway, I don't even know if we're going to go.  It was just an idea."

            "It sounds like fun."

            "Yeah."  JC pulled on his lip and frowned.  "So you really think I shouldn't worry about this whole Jessica thing?"

            "I really think you shouldn’t worry."  Lance said reassuringly as the buzzer on the stove sounded.  He turned it off then reached for the oven mitt to take the hot dish out and set it on the stove top.  "Why don't you call her?"

            "Yeah."  JC said softly.  "I guess I should, huh?"

            "Yep."  Lance fanned his mitt covered hand over the steaming dinner and looked over at Amy who was still on the phone.  "Hey dinner's ready over here.  Gimme a call tomorrow if you're still stressed or whatever."

            "Okay."  JC nodded.

            "And let me know if you go to California."

            "I will."  JC smiled.  "Thanks man."


            "G'night."  JC hung up the phone, closed his eyes tightly… and thought about calling Jessica.




            "Hello?"  JC answered the phone as he propped it on his shoulder.  It was Sunday morning and he was just getting ready to get Kyle dressed for the day.  He considered it bad news if noon rolled around and they were still in their pajamas.

            "Hey." Jessica said softly.

            "Hey... hi.  You made it home okay?"

            "Yeah. Sorry I didn't call last night, I was beat."

            “I was… that’s okay.”  JC nodded.  “How was your cousins’ birthday?”

            “That’s not till tonight.  I’m actually getting ready to go to my parents’ house right now.”


            “So, have you decided what you’re doing this week?”

            “Driving up to see you in Connecticut.”  Was what went through JC’s mind but instead he shrugged and said, “Nah, I haven’t given it much thought.  Kyle wants to see animals, so…”  He shrugged again and she heard it.

            “Cool.  There are lots of Zoos and stuff in Florida, maybe you guys could take a road trip and see some of them.”

            “Yeah.” JC smiled.  “That might be fun.  Better than flying somewhere, huh?”

            “Yeah, I think Kyle’s airplaned out.  He’s got more frequent flyer miles than I do.”

            “He probably does.”  JC laughed and pulled at the hair above his ear.  “That’s actually not a bad idea, I’ll have to call around and find some places around here.  That sounds like fun.”

            “Just don’t forget to send post cards.”

            “Or you could come with us.”

            “Nah, you guys need a father and son vacation I think.”  Jessica bit her lip.

            “Do you know how much time we spend alone together?”

            “Yeah but still.  You’re building memories with him.  When he’s your age he’ll be able to look back and remember all these cool things you did with him.  Take Chris or something, that’d definitely build some lasting memories.”

            “Yeah, memories of his favorite uncle Chris holding him upside down over an alligator pit.”  JC laughed and shook his head.  “I’ll see what I can come up with.”

            “Okay.”  Jessica nodded.  “And you start recording next week right?  See that’ll be the perfect way to end your little break thing.”

            “We don’t start until the week after next.  The Monday before Halloween.”

            “Oh cool.  So you’ve got two weeks you can plan to do stuff.  That’s awesome.”

            “Uh huh.  Do you have plans for the next two weeks?”

            “Um, not really.  I’m just going to be hanging around here at home since I feel like I’m never here.  I need to clean up and bond with my room mate and everything.  See the family; you know... that kind of thing.”

            “Ahh, okay.”

            “Sean called and left me a message here at home.  I guess you guys are going to start planning for another tour here pretty soon.  He said you’re going to kick off the tour before the album comes out… so I’ll uh… if I’m joining you guys this time again, I’ll be working on that.”

            JC’s smiled dipped at the corner.  They were both so obviously avoiding the topic of moving in; it was like not talking about the huge white elephant in the living room.  If he could have remembered that story he’d have said something about it but he just bit his lip and sighed.  “You’ll be with us.  Of course you will.”

            “Good.”  She smiled and through the phone line he could hear how false it was.  “Well anyway… I just wanted to let you know that I made it home safe and all of that.  I have to get going though.”

            “Okay.  Well thanks for calling.”

            “No problem.”

            “I’ll talk to you soon.”  He said softly.  “Love you.”

            “I love you too Jace.”   Jessica smiled and meant it as she hung up and sighed.  She looked around at her unpacked bags and wondered if she’d made a mistake in coming home to Connecticut when all she wanted was to be back in Florida.  She sighed to herself and reached to unzip her bag.  “Once I get unpacked I’ll feel more at home.  Come on Jessica, just unpack already.”  She grumbled to herself as she reached for her folded t-shirt.


            JC hung up the phone and smiled.  If nothing else just hearing those three little words made him feel better.  Eventually, he hoped, she’d become more comfortable with the idea and move in with him.  That was all he really wanted and if she needed time, he’d give her time.  All the time she could ask for.




            After a day and a half of planning, JC and Kyle spent the week driving around Florida to see all the different animal parks.  From the Lion Country Safari to the Florida aquarium in Tampa.  Kyle took on a new found infatuation with crocodiles and alligators and added Dill, a stuffed alligator, to his backpack of needed toys right alongside Lello.  They stayed in hotels along the way and made each room into their own little jungle every night.

            They called Jessica a few times and sent out handfuls of postcards to everyone they knew with Kyle adding his own scribble of an animal to each one.  Since they weren't home for Lori to call JC arranged to call her at the regular time so that she and Kyle could still talk, and to his surprise both calls went well.

            With the weather being cool and it being off-season they were able to visit almost all of the parks without the fear of running into a mob of fans.  JC carefully avoided the Disney sponsored parks and stuck to the more unknown animal encounters, which in itself made for an interesting trip.


            They returned to their house near Orlando on Monday evening then had a quick dinner before JC took Kyle upstairs for bed.  Lance and Amy had spent the week between their house and JC's to take care of Candy and play with her.  They left JC a note in the kitchen saying that they had brought Jackson and Lexi over a couple times and the dogs had gotten along well.

            JC smiled then cleared his throat as he folded the note and left it on the counter.  He'd had a little tickle in his throat the whole day and wrote it off to allergies of some sort, but the aching in his head was getting worse so he treaded upstairs and put himself to bed.  Maybe all he needed was a good nights sleep.




            JC should have known when he woke up with his head pounding that his week was not going to be as great as the week before.  The final free week before he chained himself to the studio was not the time when he wanted to get sick.  Throughout the morning routine of getting Kyle fed and ready for school JC fought against the nausea growing in the pit of his stomach.  He took Kyle to preschool and managed to make it home before he threw up in the downstairs bathroom.

            "Dammit."  JC wiped his mouth and flushed the toilet as a chill ran through his body.  "Not now.  Come on man… not now."  JC held his mouth under the faucet and rinsed with the cool tap water while his teeth chattered slightly, which he wrote off to just having lost his breakfast.  JC dragged himself up the stairs to Kyle's bathroom where the ear thermometer was stored in the medicine cabinet and stuck it in his ear.

            "Ninety-nine point seven.  Hardly what I'd call a fever."  He grumbled to himself as he walked down to his room and collapsed onto the bed with a heavy cough.  His eyes burned as they closed and he knew he was going to need a lot more sleep in order to function at all.  JC set his alarm to wake him up in time for him to go get Kyle from school, then pulled the blankets up to his shoulders and buried his face into his pillow.


            When he awoke on his own a short while later, he jerked his head up and fumbled for the clock, sure that he'd missed his alarm and was late to pick up Kyle.  To his relief it was only two hours later and he still had plenty of time.  He shivered again under the covers as he reached for the thermometer and took his temperature again.  One hundred and one.

            "Okay... fever."  JC rolled out of bed and padded to Kyle's bathroom again where he kept the dog eared toddler book for when Kyle got sick.  He flipped to fevers and read up on what to do, then applied it to himself as an adult.  He went to the kitchen and got himself a large cup of water, then carried himself back upstairs to take his fluids and get rest.  Rest was something he wouldn't have a problem getting.


            His alarm went off later signaling that it was time to go get Kyle, so he stumbled downstairs and to the car.  He ran his fingers through his sleep tousseled hair before he went inside to collect Kyle and take him home.

            "Daddy seepin?"  Kyle asked as JC strapped him into the car seat.  He had both of his stuffed animal buddies, Lello and Dill, on his lap when JC slammed the door shut and climbed in the driver’s seat.

            "Yeah, I was sleeping.  I don't feel too hot."  JC mumbled.

            "You hot?"


            "We go ina pool?"  Kyle's eyes lit up.

            "Nope, not today buddy.  I feel like crap so today we're just gonna hang out inside."

            "But I run wiss Candy ouside?"  Kyle kicked his feet to an unheard beat and bopped his head from side to side.

            "No."  JC shook his head.  "Maybe.  We'll see." He squinted into the sun as his mouth filled with metallic saliva.  "Shit."  JC grumbled under his breath as he swallowed several times to fight back the feeling of nausea.

            "We have dono?"


            "Kickin dono?"

            "Mc Donald's?  Not today buddy."



            "Yeah daddy."  Kyle began to whine with his pouty lip protruding.

            "Kyle no.  We're not going to Mc Donald's.  We'll have lunch at home."  JC frowned and hit the accelerator.  All he really wanted to do was get home as soon as possible in case he wasn't able to stop himself from being sick again.


            "I'm sorry buddy.  We'll go later.  Maybe tomorrow or something."

            "Lato morrow?"

            "Yeah, maybe tomorrow."  JC's foot pressed the gas harder as the light turned green and they headed home.  Kyle was quiet the rest of the ride home as he bounced Lello and Dill around on his lap, happily anticipating going to Mc Donald's the next day to get a happy meal.


            When they got home JC got Kyle into the house and made him a quick sandwich before lying on the couch downstairs.  He pulled the throw blanket over his legs and made sure he had a trashcan handy in case he felt sick again.  They let Candy into the house and JC let her and Kyle entertain each other while he flipped through the channels and tried to stay awake.

            At eight o'clock that night, after a dinner of re-heated pizza and a container of pudding, JC herded Kyle into his bed and read him a story.  Without kissing him goodnight, JC turned off the lights and stood by the door. "Good night buddy."

            "Nigh nigh daddy."  Kyle yawned and turned over in his bed.

            JC stood there for a minute until Kyle settled into his sleeping position, then he shut the door halfway and went down the dark hall to his own room.  He crawled under his covers and turned his radio on softly to lull himself to sleep, though it didn't take long.

    Being sound asleep, he didn't notice or care that Lori never called for her Tuesday night call.




            "Daddy?"  Kyle whispered as he put his hand flat on JC's cheek.  "Daddy wake?"

            "Hrmm?"  JC cracked his eyes open and frowned at Kyle in confusion.  "What's wrong?"

            "Daddy I see Candy."  Kyle whispered.

            "No."  JC sighed.  "I'm asleep Kyle, you can see Candy later.  Go back to bed."  He pulled the blankets up to his throbbing head and scowled to himself.  Then a sharp bark from downstairs woke him up completely.

            "Is Candy daddy."

            "She's in the house?"  JC looked up at Kyle with his mad morning hair.


            "Oh shit.  I forgot to put her out last night."  JC carefully threw back the covers and shuffled toward the door.  The dog met him on the landing halfway down the stairs with a look of desperation on her furry face and her tail wagging at lightning speed.  "Yeah, I bet you've gotta go something fierce." JC mumbled as he padded to the backdoor and pulled it open for her.  Candy bolted out the door and made a mad dash for the side yard.

            "I have pankays?"  Kyle asked as he pulled himself up into his seat at the table.

            "Hmm?"  JC turned from the door as he pulled it shut and locked it.  "What?"

            "Have pankays?"

            "Nope.  No pancakes today buddy.  I'm not feeling too good." JC took Kyle's hand and slid him off the chair, then opened the pantry door and grabbed a box of pop tarts.  "Come on, you can have some of these and we'll watch Blue's Clues or something."  JC rubbed his eyes as they went back upstairs and crawled onto JC's bed.

            "I have two?"  Kyle pulled the box from JC's hands and fished out one silvery package.

            "Sure.  Have two."  JC pulled the covers up to his shoulders and buried his face in the folds.  After a minute his arm extended out of the warm cocoon and felt for the remote on the table. He clicked the buttons from memory and tuned the TV to the cartoon channel for Kyle.  "There you go buddy.  Watch that." He coughed into the darkness of the cave he'd created, then closed his eyes and went to sleep to the sound of Kyle tearing at the foil packaging of the pop tarts.


            The shrill ringing of the cordless phone on the nightstand woke JC a short while later.  For the first few seconds he was half asleep and confused.  It was dark all around, but that didn't seem right.  JC frowned and put his hand out where it met his comforter and pushed it away.  The sunlight coming in through the window blinded him as the phone rang a second time.

            "Daddy isa phone.  I say?"  Kyle stopped stacking videos on the floor by the door and stood up.

            "I'll get it." JC croaked before he coughed and reached blindly for the phone.  "Yeah?"  He answered the phone only to stop it from ringing, not because he wanted to talk.



            "It's Joey."

            "Yeah, hey, what's up?"  JC pressed his free hand over his eyes.

            "What are you doing?  Are you sleeping?"  Joey looked at the clock on his microwave.  "It's like, noon."

            "Yeah.  No I wasn't sleeping."  JC shook his head slowly and looked over to where Kyle had returned to stacking his videos up as high as he could.  "Hey Kyle, don't stack those.  Come on… they're all gonna fall."

            "You sound horrible."

            "I know."  JC's voice cracked as he suppressed a cough.

            "You're sick?"  Joey asked incredulously.

            "I've got a throat thing."  JC left out the headache thing, fever thing and barf thing.

            "Well shit, do you want to give it to Kyle or what?  You shouldn't be around the kid if you're sick."

            "What am I supposed to do?"  He fell back onto his pillow then reached under his hip to pull a pop tarts box out from under him.

            "Call someone.  Shit.  It's not like you live in Siberia."

            "I can do it."  JC coughed into his fist and sighed as Kyle threw his beach ball against the wall.  "Buddy, knock it off.  That's driving me nuts."

            "Forget that man.  Ten bucks says you've been lying in bed for two days and the kids been fending for himself."

            "He hasn't been fending for himself."

            "What'd he have for breakfast?"  Joey asked.

            "Pop tarts?"  JC guessed as he tossed the box off of the bed.


            "No."  JC closed his eyes and sighed.

            "Sad.  I'll be over in like, forty five minutes."


            "I'm gonna come get the kid.  You can't take care of him when you're like this and you've got another two days before you're better."

            "I'm fine."

            "For as long as I've known you, you get sick for four days.  You're two down; you've got two to go.  We've gotta be in the studio on Monday and you can't be all sick, so stop arguing.  I'll be there in forty five minutes."  Joey hung up his phone and left JC grumbling into dead air.

            "Daddy is my Jessi?"

            "Nope.  That was Joey."


            "Yeah."  JC shivered as he pulled the blanket up to his chin.

            "I can see Joey?"  Kyle tried to climb up onto JC's bed but slipped on the bed frame.

            "I'm sick buddy; you don't want to be up here."

            "Daddy I see Joey?"

            "He's coming over."  JC nodded.  "I think."  He frowned and licked his lips.

            "I see Emo ona TV?"  Kyle walked over to the pile of movies and picked the bright orange tape off of the stack.

            "Yeah, you can put Elmo in."  JC reached for the remote to control the VCR and waited as Kyle toddled over to the machine and tried to shove the tape in.  "It's upside down pal, turn it over.  Go like this."  JC flipped his hand over to show Kyle how to turn the tape to make it fit.

            "No I see Emo."

            "You can see Elmo, but you've gotta put it in right." JC coughed into his hand and clenched his eyes closed as fireworks exploded behind his aching eyes.

            "Is boke."

            "It's not broke.  Here.  Bring it here."  JC extended his hand for Kyle to put the tape in.  "Okay, put it in just like this."  He handed the tape back to Kyle and watched as he tried again to put it in the VCR.

            "Is boke."  Kyle sighed and shook his head.

            "Damn, there must be one in there."  JC hit play and saw the little reels start to move.  "Yeah, let’s watch this instead."  He rolled onto his side away from the TV and closed his eyes against the brightness of the screen.

            "Is Emo?"

            "I don't know what it is buddy, but that's what we get to watch."  JC mumbled as the Teletubbies theme song started.

            Kyle frowned at the screen then looked back at his father; "I don't wan."

            "This is all I've got buddy."

            "Is Emo."  Kyle handed JC the tape.

            "Oh man."  JC grumbled and took the tape from Kyle.  He swung his legs over the side of the bed and removed the Teletubbies tape from the VCR so that he could put in the Elmo one.  "Dammit.  Don't move."  JC put his hand on Kyle head and made a beeline for the bathroom.

            Some wizard of luck was on his side and he managed to not throw up.  Dry heaves he could handle, but anything else was pushing it.  He had purposely not eaten anything just for that reason.  "Ugh."  He flushed the empty toilet and stood to lean against the wall for a moment.  When his vision returned to normal he walked back out to his bed and fell across it, too hot to be bothered with the covers.  Elmo was playing on the TV and Kyle sat, entranced like only a two-year-old can be.  Secure in the fact that Kyle wouldn't move for another hour or so, JC let his eyes drift closed to catch a much needed nap.


            "Jace?  Kyle?  Dude; don't freak out it just me.  The J to the O to the E to the Y."  Joey laughed and bounced up the stairs.  "Sorry, Justin's got me listening to this rap crap.  Where are you guys?"  He walked down the hall, peeking into Kyle's room and the bathroom.  "Jace?"

            "We're in here." JC grumbled with his head in the pillow as he came awake to the sound of Joey's voice.  He turned his head to the side to check on Kyle who was standing in front of the TV stacking videos.

            "There you are."  Joey appeared in the doorway.  "Jesus, you look like hell."


            "You sound like hell too.  That's great though, because we start recording next week ya know."

            "I know."  JC cracked his eyes open and sighed.  "Kyle… for reals, if you don't leave those tapes alone you're going to go to your room."

            "Yeah right, who's gonna make him?"  Joey laughed and scooped Kyle up from the ground.  "Leave those alone buddy, that's your dad's private collection, if you catch my drift."  He winked at the toddler, then mussed his hair.  "You're gonna come hang out with me today.  Pretty cool huh?"  Joey asked as he tugged Kyle's pajama top down to cover his tummy.  "You need to show me where your stuff is though because you need clothes."

            "I have cose."  Kyle looked down at his pajamas and socks.

            "You've got pajamas.  Let go get you some pants or something.  Good God kid, how long have you been wearing those?"  Joey grumbled as he carried Kyle out of JC's room.  "JC, if you weren't sick I'd go back in there and yell at you." Joey raised his voice from down the hall.

            "You don't have to take him with you, you can stay here."

            "In germ central?  No thanks."  Joey went into Kyle's room and let the little boy show him where his little duffel bag was.  They loaded up a few pairs of pants, a handful of shirts, underwear and socks then put Lello on top.

            "Joey, come on.  You don't have to take him."

            "I know I don't have to but I'm going to anyway."

            "I go wiss Joey?"  Kyle asked.

            "Yep, you're gonna come spend the night with me dude.  It's gonna be fun.  We'll stay up all night and watch porno movies and drink yoo-hoo or something."

            "Joe…"  JC frowned from the bed, but didn't get up to protest.

            "I'm kidding.  That yoo-hoo stuff is nasty."  Joey laughed.  "Give us a call later after you've slept for a little."

            "Bring him back in the morning."

            "I'll bring him back when you're better."

            "Joey, you don't know the first thing about taking care of a kid."

            "I know you don't keep them around when you're sick."

            "You were never around your mom when she was sick?"

            "Not if I didn't have to be.  He doesn't have to be."  Joey smiled and scooped Kyle up.  "Blow your dad a kiss kid, we're outta here."

            "Bye bye daddy."  Kyle giggled as Joey let him slip so that he was almost hanging upside down.  "Bye!"  He held his hand to his mouth and blew a kiss as Joey turned and walked down the hall talking like a pirate who had just captured a thief.

            "Arrrrg!  You're trying to steal my ship eh?  We'll just see about that!"  Joey hoisted Kyle back up onto his hip and adjusted the backpack.  He ticked under Kyle's chin and the last thing JC heard before the front door slammed shut was Kyle's insane giggling.

            JC fell back onto his bed and closed his eyes.  The house was eerily quiet without Kyle around and for a moment he actually enjoyed it.  With as bad as he felt he was glad to have Kyle out of the way for a while, even though a little pinch of something else crept into his stomach.  This would be the first time they were apart since Kyle had shown up in his life.

            He yawned and rolled onto his stomach under the warm covers then fell asleep; putting Kyle out of his mind so he could focus on getting better.






Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn