There's more good news: I think I've decided the whole point of this story which is why I changed the summary into something more specific. I hope you guys like it. :)
Enjoy the update and don't forget to leave me some feedback! :D
"Oh, Howie. I'm so sorry."
"Thanks, Alex," he replied quietly.
"We've been thinking about you guys a lot. I'm glad Hoke's not suffering anymore."
"Yeah, he took a turn for the worse these last few days. It's kinda hard to imagine him not being here. To see me and Leigh start a family..."
"I know, man. Listen, I'm gonna let you get back to them. You'll call me if you need anything? Do you want me to let everyone else know?" AJ offered his grieving friend, it was the least he could do, after all.
Howie sighed. "No, it's okay. Thank you, though. I appreciate it."
"Alright. Take care of yourself. I love you, take as much time as you need. Give our love and condolences to the familia, will you?"
"Of course. Thanks, Alex, bye."
AJ disconnected the phone call and tossed his cell phone on the bed and sat on it. He ran his fingers through his hair and exhaled sharply. 'Gotta go tell Kim the news...get it over with.'
He exited his bedroom and went downstairs to the kitchen to tell her about Howie's father. "Kim?" he said to get her attention.
"Hey, babe. Who was on the phone?" she wondered as she turned around to face him.
AJ cleared his throat. "That was Howie." He took a seat the island and Kim joined him.
"Aw, how is he?"
"Not so good. Hoke passed away in his sleep yesterday morning."
Howie's father had been battling brain and lung cancer for the past three months. They all decided to cancel their four mid-June concerts in South Africa so Howie could spend as much time with him as possible. AJ could only hope that it was time well-spent.
Kim frowned. "Poor Howie...Hoke was such a good man." She had only met him a few times over the years, most recently at Howie and Leigh's wedding in December, but she could definitely see where half of Howie's nickname came from.
AJ gave a small nod. "Yeah, he was."
"Do you know when they're burying him?"
"No, I didn't want to pry. He said what he wanted to say."
AJ took Kim's hand in his and brought it up to his lips to kiss the back of it gently. His eyes were filled with sorrow as he glanced at her for his friend and what he and his family were walking through right now. He had enough experience with death and grief in recent years with his grandmother in 2001, his grandfather in 2003, and Kim's father, David, in 2004 soon after Jordan was born.
Kim noticed that AJ was just looking down at the granite counter top. "What are you thinking about?"
"What Howie and all of them must be going through. God knows we've experienced the same thing..."
"I know," she said softly.
Both of them were lost in their own thoughts of how they related to the situation with Howie's dad for a few moments.
"I haven't been to my grandparents' graves in quite some time..."
"Yeah, it's been a few years," Kim agreed as she tried to discreetly wipe a tear from her eye.
"Hey," AJ tilted her chin up to look at her. "What's wrong, baby?"
"It's just...the whole thing with Howie's dad."
She didn't even have to finish. "Yeah, I know. I feel it, too." AJ stood, still holding Kim's hand. "C'mon."
The two of them went to the couch and just held each other close, with her head on his chest and him breathing in the scent of her hair. AJ brushed his lips up against her temple, kissing it lightly as he let his mind wander. Their stress levels had increased ten-fold since Denise and Jordan's car accident. The doctor's appointments, making sure that they were taken care of, putting themselves last for the sake of their injured loved ones, helping Denise and Tony go back to their own home two days ago...they both needed this time to just unwind and relax. Jordan was at a playdate in the care of a young couple like themselves, their good friends, Jeff and Lindsey, who they'd known for about three years. They had two young sons, so, they knew that Jordan would fit right in the first time they took him to their house.
Yep, all was quiet...no TV on, no dog barking as Bernie was asleep on the carpet next to the couch. Complete and utter—
"Argh..." AJ groaned as he heard the house phone ring. "Get up, babe, I'll get it." She did and he jogged over to the base, answering it after five rings. "Hello?"
"Alex? It's Jeff."
"What's up? Is everything alright?" He usually called if he wanted to get his or Kim's permission to take Jordan somewhere with their boys or if there was a problem.
"It's Jordan. He's not feeling good and wants to come home."
"What's wrong with him?"
Kim sat up when she heard that, anxiously waiting for an answer.
"He says his stomach hurts and he's vomited twice. Lindsey's in the bathroom with him right now," Jeff replied.
AJ frowned slightly. "Any fever?"
"A small one, almost one-hundred."
"Oh, man, I had the same thing a couple weeks back. I'll be right over."
"Alright, take your time. No hurry."
"Okay. See you in a bit." AJ hung up and set the cordless phone back on the base.
"Is Jordan okay?" Kim asked.
"Jeff said he's got a stomachache and he's thrown up twice. Lindsey's with him."
"Awww...he was fine this morning and when you dropped him off, right?"
AJ sighed. "Yeah. It's probably what I had, a twenty-four hour bug."
"Maybe, but I want you to take him to Alyssa just in case it could be something related to the accident. Give me the phone, I'll call her."
AJ didn't really see the point in wasting a trip to Jordan's pediatrician for the stomach flu, but he figured he'd oblige his wife just this once. "I'm sure it's what I had, but here." He knew that neither of them were in the mood for a fight, so, he went upstairs to get ready and came back down just as Kim finished her conversation with Dr. Boone.
"Alyssa said she'll check him out, that it's a good idea to bring him in. She'll be expecting you."
"Alright." AJ gave her a quick kiss. "I'll be back."
As AJ drove to his destination, he couldn't help but feel annoyed that his first relaxing afternoon with Kim since the accident was ruined. He sighed. But his kid was sick, what could he do about it? He just had to make the best of it, he supposed.
Eventually, AJ parked in Jeff and Lindsey's drive way and walked up to the front door. Just as he was about to knock, he was let inside.
"Hey, Alex. Come on in," Jeff said. "Jordan's upstairs," he added and went into the kitchen.
AJ followed the stairs that led up to the second floor. The bathroom was the second door on the right; he stopped just short of it.
"When's my daddy coming?" he heard Jordan whimper.
Then, he heard Lindsey's voice. "He should be here soon, sweetie, try and relax, okay?"
"Knock, knock," AJ announced and poked his head in. "Hey, buddy," he said softly. "Lindsey," he acknowledged with a nod in her direction. The two of them were sitting on the tile floor near the toilet.
Jordan stood and came over to him. "I don't feel good, Daddy..." he said in a small voice.
"I know, J." AJ knelt down and picked him up, gently pressing his lips to his forehead. "You've got a little temperature." He turned his attention to Lindsey. "Thanks, Linds, I hope there wasn't a mess to clean up."
"Ah, that's what husbands are for," she grinned.
"Kim says the same thing." He chuckled.
"But seriously, he hit the target the second time. The first was on the tile, easy to clean."
The three of them went back downstairs, with AJ being careful not to cause Jordan's upset stomach to do somersaults while going down the steps. He just wanted to get him home and into bed ASAP.
Jeff joined them at the door. "Jordan's welcome to come back over when he feels better, maybe Wednesday or Thursday. Feel better, sport." He ruffled his hair a bit.
Lindsey said something similar and opened the door for AJ. "I apologize in advance if Zach or Eric get it," he said.
"Don't worry about it, kids are dirty, sickly little things," she replied with a laugh.
AJ nodded. "Yeah. Thanks for taking care of him."
"Hey, no thanks needed. Give us a ring whenever," Jeff said.
"Will do, see ya later."
"Bye," Jeff said and shut the front door.
After putting Jordan in the car and buckling him up, AJ walked over to the driver's side door and opened it.
AJ looked up.
"His shoes!" Jeff yelled, coming down the walk way to hand off the small pair of Nike sneakers to their proper owner.
"Oh. Right. Thanks, man."
"No worries, drive safe." He gave Jordan a thumbs-up before heading back inside.
AJ got in the car and turned the engine, pulling out of the drive way and going down the road as the Garner residence seemed to shrink in the distance.
"We're going home now, Daddy?" Jordan wondered softly.
"Not quite yet, buddy, we gotta go visit Dr. 'Lyssa first."
"But I'm tired..." he whined.
"I know you are. We'll leave as soon as possible, I promise."
Jordan pouted and was pretty much quiet for the rest of the drive to his pediatrician's office. Once they got inside, AJ signed Jordan in and sat down to wait for Alyssa. About five minutes later, they got called back to an exam room.
"Hi, Alex, Kim said you'd be stopping by. How are you?"
"I'm fine, it's Jordan. He's got a fever, he's been throwing up," AJ replied.
Dr. Boone put on a pair of rubber gloves and bent down to his level on the exam table. "How ya doing, buddy?"
"I feel yucky," he answered with a small whimper. AJ kept his hand on his Jordan's back to keep him calm and to offer him some comfort.
She handed him a small plastic basin. "If you need to throw up again, do it in this, okay?" She pushed down on his stomach gently to check for any abnormalities with his abdomen.
"It's noisy out there," Jordan said, pointing toward the waiting room.
She looked in that direction. "Yeah, it's a little crowded today. Sorry."
"It's alright, don't worry about it," AJ said.
"So, your tummy feels okay?" Dr. Boone asked as she picked up an ear thermometer from its cradle. "I'm going to take your temperature, alright?"
"It hurts a little," Jordan replied, squirming slightly as the device entered his left ear.
"Yeah, I'll bet it does. 100.2." She took a pen light out her lab coat pocket. "Open your mouth, please." He did and she looked inside it to see if his mucous membranes were dry, which meant that he might be dehydrated. "Tongue out. Ah." She put it back in her pocket. "Yeah, I don't think it's anything serious. Your garden-variety twenty-four hour virus. Nothing by mouth for six hours. Then, sips of clear liquids and if he keeps those down, you can try a little bit of toast and applesauce for dinner."
"Okay, thanks, Dr. Boone. That's what I told Kim, but she insisted that I bring him in." AJ picked Jordan up and started to walk toward the door.
"You're just being cautious after the accident, can you really blame her?"
AJ shook his head no.
"Call me day or night if any of his symptoms worsen or if he's not feeling any better by tomorrow, alright?"
"Of course, Alyssa, thanks." AJ smiled lightly and looked at his son. "Let's get you home and into bed, hm?"
"Feel better, okay, Jordan? I'll see you soon." He gave a small wave as he rested his head on AJ's shoulder.
"Bye." AJ said and left the exam room, walking down the small hallway. A nurse named Jeanie opened the door for him and they went past the admit desk, into the waiting room, out the door and into the parking lot. Once the two of them were in the car, AJ began the drive home.
"Now, we're going home, buddy."
Jordan just nodded in response as AJ's cell phone rang. "Hello?"
"Alex, it's Luke."
He could hear the urgency in his friend's voice. "Hey, man, it's been a while. What's up?"
"You said...that if I ever got in trouble I could call you..."
'Oh, God, will this day just end already? Between Howie's dad dying and Jordan being sick—' AJ quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. "Right, I did say that. I'm glad you remembered that. What's wrong? You don't sound so good..."
Luke swallowed hard. "I'm not. I-I...you just need to get to my apartment now."
"Alright, alright. I will, I promise. Listen, my kid's sick, so, I need to get him home first. I'll be there as soon as I can. Just stay put, okay? Stay put for me, Luke, alright?"
He exhaled a shaky breath. "...Okay."
"I'll be there soon. Bye." AJ hung up and seemed to drive faster, watching the green highway signs pass more quickly as he sped along the asphalt.
'God, please let Luke be alright...please.' he prayed silently.
Eventually, AJ and Jordan made it back home with no other distractions. He carried Jordan inside and shut the door behind him. Kim was on the couch and got up to greet them.
"Aw, there's my little guy. So, it's just the stomach flu, then?"
"Yeah. Listen, I gotta go. It's an emergency," AJ said.
"What's wrong? Is it your mom?"
That was all Kim needed to hear. "I'll take him." She reached for Jordan. "Go."
AJ passed him off to her. "Are you sure? I—"
"Alex, he needs you. Go."
AJ took a deep breath. "Okay. Okay. I love you." He kissed her lips before doing so on Jordan's forehead. "You, too, buddy, be good."
He heard Jordan ask Kim where he was going as he pulled the front door shut and jogged to his car. He got in and drove away from his home, praying that he was doing the right thing.
All of these questions and more will be answered in the next update/in future chapters. Stay tuned...
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