Early the next afternoon Chris found a few spare minutes and flipped through the hotel guide to find the number for the salon. He stared at it for a few minutes before he picked up his phone and called, "Hi, is Madeline there please?" He asked when the young lady answered.

"She’s with a client right now, may I take a message?"

"No, I uh… she told me that if she was busy to have her interrupted." Chris shrugged. "But I mean if she’s right in the middle of something then don’t worry about it."

"May I tell her who’s calling?"

"It’s Chris."

"Okay Chris, one moment please." She placed him on hold where he got to listen to a selection of elevator music for a few minutes.

"Hello, this is Madeline." Maddie answered a minute later.

"Hey you." Chris smiled and rubbed his eyes; "This is Chris."

"Hi." She blushed quickly and rolled the receptionist's chair over to the desk to sit down, "Are you just now waking up?" She asked as she tried to stifle a yawn.

"No, I’ve been up since seven."

"Ouch." She cringed then laughed. "Well it serves you right. Two thirty in the morning is an ungodly hour."

"That’s right, because I was sitting at the bar talking to myself." He chuckled. "So hey, I know you’re working today, but what are you doing after?"

"Going to sleep." She laughed as she rested her chin in her hand.

"Would you like to get something to eat first?" Chris pulled on his lip and waited with butterflies in his stomach. He’d never really been nervous asking a girl out, but for some reason he felt like he was fourteen all over again.

"Don't you have plans tonight?"

"Well I… yeah." Chris cleared his throat. "I – we have a show."

"Oh well that kind of limits our options doesn’t it?" She laughed.

"I have a little bit of free time today though. What time do you get off?"

"Um, six."

"Oh really?" Chris frowned, that was later than he expected. "Okay, well um… the show starts at seven thirty but I can pretty much hang out till eight. Is there any way you could come to the venue?"

"To see the show?"

"If you want to stay for that, sure." Chris nodded. "I was thinking dinner though."

"At the arena?" Maddie asked as the receptionist tapped on the face of her watch and pointed toward the salon room where Madeline’s client was waiting.

"That sounds stupid huh?" Chris covered his eyes with his hands.

"No that doesn’t sound stupid." Maddie shook her head and frowned at the receptionist.

"Well wait, when do you have lunch?"

"At two."

"Can I come by then?"

"I – can – yeah you can come over. Of course." She blushed quickly.

"Okay." Chris made a mental note to have security bring him back to the hotel before the sound check. "This is a hassle huh?"

"No, it’s okay." Maddie smiled and tried not to laugh. "I’ve got to go though."

"Okay, I’m sorry I interrupted you or whatever."

"Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you this afternoon."

"Yeah, me too. You too. Whatever." Chris laughed and cringed as he realized what a fool he sounded like. "Bye."

"Bye." Maddie laughed lightly then hung up the phone leaving Chris with the phone pressed against his ear.

"Chris! Today, let's go." JC knocked loudly on his door.

"I'm coming." Chris sighed and dropped the phone back on the receiver, then grabbed his cell and room key and left the room.

"We're late." JC said as he turned quickly and walked down the hall.

"No we're not, we don't even have to be there until like, noon." Chris sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "Chill out JC, I swear." Chris yawned and waved at Joey as they made it to the elevator area. "Are we late Joe?"

"I don't know." Joey shook his head and leaned his head back against the wall, looking about as hung over as Chris felt.

"Ouch, you look hurt." Chris smiled and relaxed against the wall beside him.

"I feel hurt."

"Did you go out last night?" Chris laughed.

"Uh huh. Dayna is evil."

"Aww, no she's not."

"She is. She is pure evil. She made me go out to this club and then she ditched me." Joey grumbled in his scratchy morning voice.

"She didn't ditch you." JC sighed. "We waved and told you we were leaving, you weren't done yet so you stayed. That was your call."

"She left me there knowing that I can't control myself." A smile tickled the side of Joey's mouth. "And… and she didn't even invite Jennifer so Dayna is evil."

"Who's Jennifer?" Chris asked.

"Some chick Dayna was going to hook you up." Joey shrugged. "But she wasn't invited last night so…"

"She was invited, she just had things to do." JC shook his head as they stepped onto the elevator. "You need to get your facts straight before you start getting all pissy."

"Yeah well still." Joey sulked in the corner, half dancing to himself.

"Yeah I thought so." JC laughed and shook his head as he faced the mirrored doors of the elevator. They rode together to the venue where Justin and Lance were conducting their interview with a magazine that was focusing on their charity organizations.

They did an online group chat with their fans on Yahoo then headed to the cafeteria for a late lunch before they did their final wardrobe fitting for the night and were allotted two hours of playtime before the sound check.

"You're not eating?" Lance asked as he and Patty sat beside Chris at the little table in the shade of the building.

Chris eyed the food on Lance’s plate, "You are?" He made a gross face and pretended to gag. "I’m going out."

"Yeah right." Lance scoffed and propped his feet on an empty chair, ignoring Chris’ comment about his lunch.

"We've got a couple hours of playtime after the fitting, so I'm going out." Chris nodded.

"For real?" Lance raised his eyebrows.

"Yeah." Chris smiled and bent the tab on his soda back and forth until it broke off. "I've kinda got a lunch date." He smiled and squished up his nose.

"Right on." Lance nodded.

"That's great Chris, is it anyone we'd know?" Patty asked with a smile.

"Nah, she's not in the biz." Chris shook his head. "Hey do you think if I go over now the girls can get me fitted so I can go?"

"Can't hurt to ask." Lance shrugged.

"Rad." Chris tapped his can on the table and stood up, "I'm gonna go see." He smiled and dropped his can into the trash and went to find the wardrobe ladies to see about getting his fitting out of the way.

The wardrobe ladies were happy to get one of the fittings out of the way before schedule. They stood Chris on an upturned milk crate and pinned his pants, "Hey how come you've gotta hem them if I've been wearing them this whole time? If they're too long now weren't they too long last week?"

"These are all new pants."

"Why do we have new pants? That's crazy, there's only like three weeks left." Chris frowned.

"In case you've missed it Chris, you've been in here just about every four weeks getting fitted. You've been through several pairs of pants." The older woman said as she took a pin from between her lips.

"Really?" Chris asked as he looked down at his pants.

"Stop moving or you'll get stuck where no man should ever be stuck." She grumbled with a smile as Chris straightened up and did not move again.

"So how many pairs of pants do I have to be fitted for?"

"Three." She smiled up at him and shoved a pin through the fabric.

"Oooookay." Chris whistled and turned his attention to the ceiling as he patiently waited for the wardrobe mistresses to be done with him.

He left the fitting room intact with no additional holes in his body, then went to find a security guard to take him back to the hotel for lunch with Maddie. He checked his watch as he approached Doug, "Hey, I've gotta go back to the hotel." He said as he walked up.

"What for?" Doug asked.

"For lunch."

"See that room at the end of the hall? That's lunch." Doug smiled and leaned against the wall.

"No, see I have a lunch date and she has lunch at two… so I've gotta go back there." Chris tapped the face of his watch to indicate that he needed to move it.

"You're not supposed to leave the venue once you've checked in here."

"Yeah but I can if I take you and if you check out with David." Chris smiled.

"What makes you think I want to take you?" Doug laughed, there was nothing he liked more than teasing the guys, especially when it came to giving them any kind of freedom.

"Because I'm your favorite." Chris blew him a kiss and laughed. "Come on, you know you wanna get outta here as much as I do."

"I'd be doing you a favor."

"And I'll owe you one." Chris added.

"You'll owe me more than one. I'm sneaking you outta here to hook up with a girl?"

"Who said it was a girl? And we aren't sneaking… we're going to get permission."

"You're a sick dog." Doug laughed.

"Come on, can you please go check out with David so we can split. I'm on a timeline here." Chris bounced around on his toes in anticipation.

"Yeah okay, let me go let him know then we can split." Doug caved and turned to walk to the other side of the room where David was talking on his cell phone. He stood off to the side for a minute to give David some privacy, then started picking at his fingernails as he made himself comfortable against the wall.

"Come on…" Chris whined as his security guard. "Doooooooug, come on. I'm gonna be late."

"Keep whining boy and we'll stay right here." Doug said with his false fatherly tone. His face broke into a wide grin and he shook his head, "You're late for everything anyway, so cool your jets and let me check out."

"I can't be late for this though." Chris jiggled the handle on the door leading to the parking lot. "Can I wait by the car?"

"No." Doug shook his head as David hung up and turned to assist Doug.

"Please? Come on let me wait in the car." Chris persisted. Doug silenced him with a wave of his hand while Chris kept jiggling the handle in anxious anticipation.

After drawing out his conversation with David for as long as he could, Doug smiled and turned around to leave with Chris. "You've got no patience."

"I'm on a deadline here." Chris sighed and pushed the door open as Doug followed him out to the awaiting van. "She only has an hour for lunch and it starts at two."

"That's a late lunch." Doug raised his eyebrow.

"I know."

"What kind of work does she do?"

"She works in the salon at the hotel." Chris secured his seat belt and slammed the door as Doug climbed in the driver's seat.

"Is an hour going to be enough time?" Doug snickered.

"We're having lunch." Chris rolled his eyes. "Don't be nasty." He looked out the window and tapped his feet nervously against the floor. "Besides, an hour would be enough anyways." He said softly.

Doug laughed and pulled out onto the main street to head back to the hotel, "You oughta call Sting and find out about that Tatooine stuff or whatever."

"Tantric."

"Yeah that stuff."

"Doug? There's nothing I wanna do for eight hours straight. Nothing. Except sleep."

"You're young!"

"Ha." Chris shook his head and rolled down the window.

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

"Hey hey Miss Day Day." JC sang as he loudly pushed the playroom door open. "We're going to Subway, what do you want?" He’d just spent fifteen minutes in the cafeteria and couldn’t imagine trying to choke down anything they had to offer.

"We who?" Dayna asked as she flipped the pinball up the length of the machine.

"Me and Justin and I think one of the crew guys." JC leaned on the door and watched her lean all the way to the side as if willing the ball to curve with her. "What do you want?"

"I want the friggin' ball to hit that thing in the back so I'll get 250,000 points." Dayna grumbled.

"And from Subway…?"

"Dammit." She scowled and slapped the side of the machine; "I hate that game." She walked over to JC and bounced up on her toes to kiss him quickly, "Subway?"

"Yeah."

"Um, whatever they've got that's basically a BLT with turkey."

"Bacon, lettuce, tomato and turkey?" JC asked.

"Uh huh." She smiled. "But no mayo. Oh, and a bag of Doritos please."

"Nacho or cool ranch?"

"It doesn't matter." She shook her head. "We've got drinks here I think."

"Yeah, we've got food here too. I'm just sick of pasta and salads." He made a face and tucked her hair behind her ear, "You know what?"

"What?"

"We've only got three weeks left before this whole tour is over."

"I know." Dayna smiled dreamily as she leaned against the wall. "I could really use the time off. You guys are making me nuts."

"Do you have plans for the break?"

"Yes, I'm sleeping."

"Want some company?" JC raised his eyebrow at her and smirked.

"Are you going to supply the white sand beaches and the hammock?"

"I'll even throw in a Mai tai." JC laughed.

"Then heck yeah I'd like some company." She laughed and ducked under his arm.

"I'm serious though." JC turned around and stepped out into the wide hall with her. "I've actually got a few weeks with nothing to do but sleep and veg. Let's go somewhere to relax."

"You don't want to go home? Remember home? That place you haven't been to in months." She gave him a look. "Don't you want to go see if your house looks the same?"

"I'm going to go home." JC nodded. "But I can't relax there. I've got people calling me and everything. I just want a week without phones or pagers or e-mail."

"Well… okay. You can count me in for that, just name the time and place."

"You rule babe." JC pulled her in for another kiss then smiled, "Now let me go get food."

"Yeah bring home the grub like a good caveman." She laughed as he trotted down the hall to find her room and get it organized.

"Where's he going?" Joey asked as he turned the corner and saw JC running away.

"Subway." She shrugged. "He said that he and Justin were picking up lunch."

"Dumb bitch didn't even ask me. I’m stuck sitting around the cafeteria with Lance and Patty smoochin all over each other and poor imitation pasta." Joey grumbled as he dug in the bag of chips in his hand. "How about Chris?"

"He's MIA, I haven't seen him." She laughed lightly and turned to walk down the hall towards the hair and make up room.

"So wait…" Joey ran to catch up with Dayna. "Hold on. Chris is going out with this other chick? The girl from before or whatever?"

"He went out with her last night, yes." Dayna nodded and continued toward her hair room with Joey scurrying a step behind.

"So then he’s not going to use that number you got for Jennifer, right?"

"Well, no I don’t think so." Dayna frowned. "Which is too bad because she’s really cool. Maybe we can all go out tonight though, since we leave tomorrow. You know, all of us and Chris and Madeline or whatever. Since Jennifer couldn't go last night."

"Or maybe I could have her number." Joey smiled and held the door open for her.

"Joey, no."

"No?! Why not? Come on Day, its not like I’d be moving in on his territory or anything. She didn’t even know that you wanted to hook her up with Chris. For all she knows we were meant to be together. Me and her. Together as one. Come on…" He whined.

"You’re pathetic."

"No I’m not." He smiled sweetly. "It’s hard to find girls."

"Open your eyes Joe, there’s an arena full. Besides, I thought you said I was evil?"

"I take that back, but let me rephrase that. It’s hard to find girls who are legal and normal and fun to be around." Joey sighed and leaned on her doorframe, blocking her from shutting the door. "I’ll be your best friend in the whole wide world."

"I already have one of those." Dayna shook her head. "Besides, it’s not like she’s going anywhere. Why don’t we all go out tonight and you can get her number like a normal guy?"

"Because that sucks." Joey continued to whine as she tried to shut the door.

"Joey leave me alone please."

"You can't just shut me out, I need to get in there." He smiled.

"You don't have any reason to be in hair and make-up for another two hours." She placed her hand on his shoulder and pushed Joey away from the doorway. "Go play with Lance."

"Lance sucks." Joey grumbled as the door shut in his face. "And so do you! You're evil." He shouted through the door.

"Joey." Dayna sighed and opened the door a few inches. "It's for your own good. If you ask her out like a normal person, maybe she'll think you are."

"Think I am what?"

"A normal person." Dayna raised her eyebrow at him. "See what the kids are doing after the show, we can all go out after."

Joey sighed in resignation, "Fine."

"You know, you don't have to go."

"Dayna you found all these girls for Chris and fuckin handed them to him on a plate, why can't you throw me a bone here?" He whined.

"What are you? Three? Stop whining." Dayna swung the door on its hinges. "Chris needed help, you don't."

"Yeah I do, I need lots of help."

"Can I quote you on that?"

"Dayna…" He whined.

"Stop it. Get the guys together and make plans for tonight after the show. I'll do what I can there but I won't just hand you her phone number. You know her as well as any of the guys, just strike up a conversation and say hi." Joey sighed but didn't say anything. "You'll thank me for it later." Dayna smiled sweetly then shut the door again.

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

"Hi, I'm here to see Maddie? Madeline?" Chris said as he leaned on the receptionist's desk at the salon.

The girl blushed quickly as she recognized Chris and flipped through her calendar, "Do uh… do you have an appointment? Madeline is out to lunch right now, but I should be able to get you in with Debbie if you want to hang out for a minute. What were you looking to get?" She talked so quickly that it took Chris a minute to process what she said.

"Oh I… I'm not here for the salon. I'm supposed to meet Madeline for lunch. Is she… did she leave?" Chris looked around the front room of the salon.

"Oh! Okay, let me check. Hold on just one moment please." She jumped from her chair and all but ran toward the private rooms down the hall.

"So you're gonna have lunch?" Doug asked.

"Yeah, probably just here in the hotel." Chris nodded.

"Okay."

"You can get a pedicure or something if you want." Chris smiled and looked at the little menu thing. "Or a seaweed wrap."

"Do I look like sushi to you?" Doug shook his head as the door opened down the hall and Maddie walked out smiling.

"Hi." Her cheeks were pink though her eyes looked tired; "You're on time."

"Don't sound so surprised." Chris laughed and shook his head. "So are you ready to go?"

"Yeah." Maddie reached under the front desk and pulled her purse out as she turned to the receptionist, "Hey Laura, I'm going to lunch. I'll be back in about an hour but I'm expecting Mrs. Nielson to call back about her facial. If you can just let her know that I can't do it until tomorrow morning that'd be great."

"Oh uh… sure." Laura nodded and smiled as she sat in her chair.

"Bye." Maddie waved as she dropped her purse on her shoulder. "Okay, do you know where you want to go?"

"Nope." Chris shook his head and followed Maddie toward the door. "I'm at your mercy."

Doug held the door open for them, but stopped as they left the salon, "Hey man, are you going far?"

"Umm…" Chris looked at Maddie.

"We can go to the corner deli if you want." She looked from Doug to Chris.

"Where's that?" Doug asked.

"Strangely enough, it's on the corner." Maddie laughed and pointed to the left, "Three doors down that way."

"That works for me." Chris smiled and looked at Doug, "Do you want to walk us, or are you gonna hang out here?"

"I'll keep an eye on you." Doug nodded to the main lobby doors. Chris and Maddie lead the way and Dough followed a step behind as they exited onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel.

Doug watched from the curb as Chris and Maddie made their way down to the corner deli and disappeared inside. It was a quite weekday afternoon and there wasn’t much to worry about as far as fans went. He watched for another couple minutes then went back inside the hotel lobby to wait.

"So… what do you recommend?" Chris looked up at the numbered menu above the counter.

"I always get the number three with everything but onions." She tucked her hands in her pockets and smiled at the man behind the counter, "Hey Tony."

"Miss Maddie, do I even need to ask?"

"Nope, just give me the regular." She laughed and nudged Chris' shoulder, "come on, you're holding up the line."

"Whatcha getting' kid?" Tony asked as he held his tablet in front of him.

"Um, how about a uh… a number nine with everything."

"A nine huh?" Tony gave Chris a half frown and shook his friend; "I'd go for the fourteen I think."

"Yeah?" Chris looked up and the menu to study the fourteen. It was a completely different sandwich, but it still looked good. "Why's that?"

"Because you won't find a better provolone in the city and the fourteen's got lots of it." Tony smiled.

"Well okay then, I guess I'll get the fourteen." Chris laughed and looked at Maddie as Tony began to prepare the sandwiches.

"Good choice, Tony won't steer you wrong." She smiled.

"How do you get away with getting the same thing every time?"

"He likes me." Maddie laughed. "I baby-sit his kids sometimes, so he cuts me some slack."

"Ahh I see how it is." Chris smiled as they moved forward at the counter to the register. They chose their chips and drinks, then Chris paid and they sat at one of the many empty booths away from the windows.

Their sandwiches were ready a few minutes later so Maddie picked them up and sat back at the table, "There you go, enjoy."

"I will." Chris said softly as he unwrapped his sandwich. "My God look at the size of this thing, it's bigger than my foot."

"It'll be dinner tonight too." Maddie smiled and took a bite of her sandwich. "Heaven."

Chris followed her lead and had to agree. For as many times as he'd been in LA and in that hotel, he'd never come to the deli before. He'd have to bring the guys by when they got a spare minute; they'd love it. "So how's work?"

"Fine." Maddie nodded. "I got to sleep in until almost nine thirty, so that was good. It was pretty slow this morning so I actually got to sneak in a few little cat naps in there too."

"Must be nice." Chris pretended to pout.

"What about you?"

"Well, I was up at a quarter to seven to do a photo shoot down at some pier thing, then we powered down a breakfast and came back to the hotel which is when I called you, then we went to the venue and got stuff done there, I did my fitting for tonight and now I'm here."

"No cat naps?"

"Nope, nothing at all." Chris fought the urge to yawn as he chewed.

"I don't know how you can do that."

"Magic." Chris smiled devilishly and waggled his eyebrows at her, delighted to see her giggle. "How's school?"

"It's good, I'm almost done so I've got about a dozen big tests coming up here in the next couple weeks. I graduate in a little more than a month, so I've got a lot of planning to do."

"What are you going to do after school?"

"Change the world." She smiled dreamily then laughed and shook her head. "I don't know exactly. One thing's for sure, I'm going to relax for a bit and let my mind turn to mush before I do anything permanent, you know?" Chris smiled and nodded, then let her continue talking. He could watch her for hours without saying a word. He nodded when appropriate and ate slowly while trying to keep up good eye contact with her. "If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?" She asked seemingly out of the blue. He took a second to let her question sink in as he realized she'd been talking about how she was always looking for a change.

"Oh I uh… I'd change my height I guess. I'm too short." He was overly conscious of his lips moving. Chris ran his napkin over his mouth to distract himself, and her, then smiled and cleared his throat.

"Too short for what?" She laughed delicately and he knew from the smile in her eyes that she wasn't laughing at him.

"For a guy."

"Well then I guess it's a good thing you're not trying to impress a guy, huh?" She smiled flirtatiously and licked her lips. "I think you're the perfect height."

"I'm short."

"No you're not." She shook her head. "You're taller than me."

"You're short too."

"Yeah but I don't see it as anything I need to change." She shook her head. "Being short isn't bad."

"No, but I'd like to be a normal height. Like six foot or something."

"If you were six feet tall I'd have to crane my neck to see you." She demonstrated by looking up at the ceiling.

"I know." He smiled.

"No thank you." She laughed and rubbed her neck; "I'd spend half my life in my chiropractors office."

"Half your life?"

"I live in denial, or I'd spend my whole life there." Maddie checked her watch for the third time in a minute, "I'm really sorry Chris, but I have to go back to work." She looked disappointed.

"Oh man, has it been an hour already?" He took one last sip of his water before he wiped his mouth.

"Yeah, a little more in fact. My next appointment is in five minutes." She stood up and grabbed her purse from the back of her chair. "I'm sorry."

"No don't be. I'm sorry I kept you longer."

"Are you… you have a show tonight, right?"

"Yeah, I've gotta get back to the arena in fact."

"Okay." She nodded. "And you're leaving tomorrow?"

"Yeah, the buses head out at nine."

"In the morning?"

"Yep." Chris nodded. "I don't even want to go." He said softly as they walked side by side to the front of the restaurant to pay.

"You have to." She laughed and looked up at him with a smile.

"No, I know." He nodded. "But I don't want to."

"Where are you going?"

"I don't know." He sighed and lay their ticket on the counter along with a twenty. "I don't pay much attention to things like that."

"The unimportant things like what city you're in?" She laughed again as the cashier handed Chris his change.

He handed back the bills for the tip, then pocketed the change, "Right." He smiled as they headed for the exit. He held the door open for her then stepped out into the sunny LA weather. "We're wrapping up the tour in the Midwest in like, three weeks… so I'm pretty sure that's where we're headed. Maybe Kansas."

"Now that sounds like fun."

"It is. Sometimes." Chris nodded and reached for her hand. "But I still don't want to go."

Maddie shrugged and looked both ways as they stepped off the curb to cross the street back to the hotel, "You'll be fine."

"Maybe you can come out to see us? On the road I mean." Chris said hopefully as they trotted across the street together.

She was silent for a minute and didn't say anything until they were back in the lobby of the hotel, "We'll uh… we'll have to see."

Chris cringed, the dreaded "We'll have to see" line… "You don't want to see me?"

"No I… it's not that." She said quickly. "I just, when we first went out to see my brother in that play, I told you then that I wasn't interested in the whole dating a celebrity scene. I just think jetting off to some tropical resort to see you on the road is a bit much."

"I promise it won't be tropical."

"Chris…"

"You'll hate the venue." He insisted.

"I just - "

"You won't even have a good time. I promise. I just want to see you again."

"Well I'd like to see you too." She said as they crossed the lobby. "But I just…"

"You just what? Don't like me? I can handle that, but I think you might. We'll be off tour in a couple weeks and I promise I'll be back to normal."

"Then why don't we plan on seeing each other then?" She stopped with her hand on the door of the salon.

"Because that's not soon enough!" The little voice in Chris' head screamed, "Can I call you?" He asked instead.

"Of course." She smiled and looked through the glass door to where Laura was sitting at her desk with her phone headset on talking animatedly. Doug was sitting on the little purple couch flipping through some magazine without stopping to read anything, looking more bored than anything.

"I'm going to be so much of a pest that you'll come out to see me just to get me to shut up." He warned with a devilish smile.

"You think so huh?"

"Yeah." Chris smiled but didn't let go of her hand. "Never underestimate the little guy. I can be annoying."

"I don't doubt that." She laughed and he knew he could never take anything she said the wrong way. "I'm really late though." She reached for the door and pulled it open, causing both Doug and Laura to look up quickly.

"Thank goodness you're back." Laura jumped out of her seat. "Your three o'clock is getting a complimentary hand massage from Ernesto back there in your room."

"I'm on my way." Maddie nodded and turned quickly to face Chris, "I'll talk to you later." She bounced up on her toes and kissed his lips quickly.

Before she could step back, Chris wrapped his arm around her waist to keep her close. Now that he had her there he didn't want to let her go without a proper kiss. Chris was aware that there were other people in the room, undoubtedly looking on, so he kept it clean and relatively quick… but there was no missing his intent.

He reluctantly took a step back and exhaled sharply as he tucked his hands in his pockets, "I uh… bye." He looked down quickly then turned for the door as Doug stood to follow him. Chris walked straight through the lobby without looking back to see Maddie standing by the receptionist's desk with his fingers lightly touching her lips.

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

Chris went back to the arena with an extra special bounce in his step for the rest of the day, but stayed in after the show as the others went out clubbing again, without Jennifer. He crashed as soon as his head hit the pillow and he slept straight through till his wake up call the next morning.

They hopped in their buses and headed out before nine and drove all day for the next two days to their next city, and kept going for the rest of the week. Chris called Madeline a couple times at the salon but she was always really busy. She gave him her home phone number to call, since he had somehow misplaced it from before. Chris added it to the address book on his cell phone, where he knew he'd always have it, and used it every now and then. During the slow afternoons of waiting around, he'd call and leave her messages, knowing that she would be either at school or at work. He had a plan as far as how to get her to come see him, and he put it to use every couple of days.

"Maddie!!" Chris practically shouted into the phone when her machine picked up, "I called to sing you a song, and to annoy you enough so that you'll break down and come out and see me on the road. I've got a United Airlines ticket here with your name on it whenever you want it." He cleared his throat and fluffed the pillow behind his head as his feet tapped against the far end of the bunk, "Okay here you go… ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, you take one down, pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall…" He sang for two minutes when her machine cut her off, then he immediately dialed back, "Eighty seven bottles of beer on the wall, eighty-seven bottles of beer, you take one down, pass it around, eighty-six bottles of beer on the wall…" He continued singing for another message length then hung up.

"What are you doing?" Justin laughed as he pulled the drape back on Chris' bunk.

"I'm singing to Madeline."

"You're singing ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall." Justin said with a concerned look.

"Yeah, I'm trying to annoying tactic."

"I'm afraid to ask." Justin cringed, then laughed. "What's that?"

"Where I annoy her enough to make her come out and see me."

"What if she freaks out and changes her number and gets a restraining order?" Justin raised an eyebrow at him.

"She wouldn't do that."

"I'd do it if you kept calling me singing that stupid song." Justin laughed and slammed the drape shut.

"Dammit." Chris grumbled under his breath as he dialed Maddie's LA number again. "Hey Maddie this is me again. I'm not going to sing this time, I just wanted to say that I'm just bored and I miss you and stuff and that's why I'm calling. Just to be funny, I don't really want to annoy you. I mean, yeah I guess I do… so you'll come see me just to make me stop, but that'll only work if you're interested at all. So if you're not… you know, at all, and my messages really annoy you let me know and I'll stop. Justin thinks you're going to get a restraining order and change your number so… well just don't do that on account of me being stupid. I'm just having fun." He paused for a second and wondered if it were at all possible for him to crawl through the phone line and just steal the horribly embarrassing message tape in her machine. "I'm going to stop talking now. I'll talk to you later, bye." He hung up then hit himself in the forehead with his cell phone. "Hey Justin!?" Chris shouted to be heard in the other room.

"Yeah?"

"How come I'm so stupid?" Chris asked loudly.

"Oh oh! Can I answer this?" Joey piped in.

"Shut up, you guys suck." Chris sighed and rolled over onto his back where he pulled out his gameboy. Nothing like a little Tetris to take his mind off of his own stupidity.

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

Chris sweated through the next day waiting to hear from Madeline, but she didn't call. He frowned through the show and thought about calling her when he was done. It wouldn't be that late in California if he called as soon as the show was over.

Of course things didn't work out how he'd planned, and immediately after the show they were shuttled to a local club to celebrate the birthday of a celebrity he couldn't even remember. They were let into the VIP party and told to have a great time, so since they always did as they were told, they had an amazing time.

By the time they stumbled back into the hotel it was after two in the morning and Chris was exhausted. He somehow made it to his room, but failed to turn the lights on as he walked past the bathroom. Rather than backtrack he undressed in the dark and collapsed onto the bed, untucking the covers as he went.

Chris yawned and pulled the blankets up over his head as he worked his socks off under the covers. His cell phone sat on the nightstand waiting to wake him up in less than five hours, with it's bright green 'message waiting' light blinking.

"What do you waaaaant?" Chris whined as his arm shot out from under the blankets. He pulled the phone under with him and hit the voicemail number then keyed in his four digit password and listened to the mechanized voice. "Yeah, yeah I know I have a new message." He grumbled.

His pouty mood took a turn for the better when he heard Maddie's soft voice on the other end, "Hi Chris, this is Maddie. I got your message from yesterday… or should I say messages." She laughed lightly as he blushed. "You're um, you've really got some time on your hands over there. I didn't get in until late last night, I had a study group with some friends from school and I didn't get in until almost eleven and I… I didn’t want to call in case it was too late or whatever. Anyway, you're not annoying me. In a bad way I mean. You're annoying in a good way, if that's possible. Either way, I'm not changing my number or getting a restraining order or anything like that." She paused for a second. "Wow, your message thing lets me talk forever. Hmm, I'll have to remember that." She laughed then sighed, "Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for calling and to let you know that you don't have to worry about annoying me in a bad way. Keep that ticket handy though, you're wearing me down." Chris beamed and blushed as she continued, "I hope you're having a good day today and I can't wait to see what you've got planned for annoying me next. Talk to you soon… bye."

Chris hit '1' to repeat the message and listened to it three more times before he saved it and went to bed with a satisfied smile on his face, he was getting closer to having her come out to see him and that was all that mattered.

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

"So hey, how's it going?" Dayna asked when she finally got a moment with Chris alone in the chair. It had been more than two weeks and she hadn't heard anything else about Madeline.

"Fine, it's going good." Chris nodded and tried not to laugh. His mood had brightened considerably over the last few weeks and it hadn’t gone unnoticed.

"Yeah?"

"Uh huh." He smiled at her in the mirror, "What about you and JC? He seems almost giddy lately." Chris raised an eyebrow at her and smirked.

"We're doing fine, thanks." She blushed and paid close attention to his hair. She coughed into her shoulder and tugged at his hair, "I haven't hooked you up in a while…"

"Nope."

"Am I lagging? Or was I right in assuming that you've got a thing for Madeline?"

"You're not lagging." Chris shook his head.

"And…?"

"And that's all, you're not lagging." He laughed.

"Oh come on, you're not going to tell me?" Dayna made a face behind him as she snipped around his ears.

"Dayna, I don't even know where it's at right now." He shook his head slightly, keeping an eye on the scissors.

"But if you had your way?"

"She’d be sitting right over there on the couch. Or I’d be in LA letting those four fools out there carry the show." Chris laughed, and she knew he was kidding.

"Oh really?"

"Yeah." He sighed. "I don’t know what the hells wrong with me, it’s like I’ve turned into a girl or something. Waiting for her to call, getting butterflies in my stomach when I call and listen to her phone ring. It’s sick, you’d think I was 12 or something."

"I do think you’re 12."

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah, you’ve got a crush. How cute is that?"

"It’s sick. It’s not right. I’m almost thirty. Thirty year olds don’t get crushes they get married." He shook his head and reached up to brush his hair out of his eyes.

"Don’t touch." Dayna scolded him and brushed his hair forward. "I’m gonna cut it, just leave it alone." She made a few snips then said, "You can’t get married Chris."

"I know."

"I mean, you can… of course you can, but you’re… you’re special Chris. You need to find the right one."

"Which is what you were trying to do for me."

"Well yeah."

"So you did. Maddie is great. But how can I tell if she’s the right one if she’s all the way in LA and I’m out here in Indiana."

"Wisconsin."

"What?"

"We’re in Wisconsin." Dayna laughed and wiped the scissors on her pants to clean off the tiny pieces of hair.

"We are?"

"Yeah."

"You’re sure?"

"Is it really that important?" Dayna looked at him and smirked. "Yes I’m sure."

"Okay but still. I’m all the way over here and she’s in LA. If she is the one the what the hell am I doing here?"

"Working." Dayna nodded as Chris sighed and sunk deeper into his chair. "I’ve never in my life seen you like this. You’re completely manic."

"I’m not."

"You were giddy and giggling when you came in here and now you’re pouting. That’s manic."

"I just want to have her here, right here. Why won’t she come out?"

"Because she doesn’t want to date a celebrity?"

"I can’t help that."

"Well, you know technically you – "

"Shut up, I can’t and you know it."

"So in a week you’ll stop being a celebrity for a little while."

"I know." He nodded. "But a lot can happen in a week."

"Like what?"

"What if she changes her mind?"

"What if she doesn’t?" Dayna challenged.

"What if she decides that this definitely isn’t what she wants?" Chris continued.

"What if she decides she’d like to see this lifestyle?"

"What if I annoy her too much and she completely loses interest?"

"What if she’s swept off her feet?" Dayna asked softly as she ran her fingers through Chris’ hair. "See, it’s all about attitude hun. Think positive."

"Positivity sucks."

"Aww, snap out of it." Dayna flicked the back of his head. "Call her and talk to her and see what’s going on. Tell her what you’ve been telling me for the last five minutes. She’s a chick, chicks dig that."

"Does JC tell you you’re the one?"

That took Dayna completely by surprise and she couldn’t hide the expression from her face, "I uh… we haven’t really… I mean, I see him all the time, it’s different."

"Bullshit." Chris smiled. "It’s not different at all."

"Chris, it’s different." Dayna spun the chair around and pulled Chris to his feet. "Why don’t you call her?"

"Yeah, I could do that. What time is it in California?"

Dayna checked her watch and counted backward, "Like… two thirty."

"Perfect." Chris nodded and headed for the door. "Thanks Day."

"You’re uh… welcome." She nodded; not at all sure what he was thanking her for. She shook her head as the door began to swing shut behind him.

"What’s his hurry?" Lance asked, pushing the door all the way open.

"He's gotta make a phone call." Dayna smiled shook her head as she listened to Chris' rapid steps pound down the hall and turn the corner.

Chris stopped when he reached the furthest corner he could find near an emergency exit door. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped the tiny mouthpiece open so he could dial Maddie's home. At two thirty in the afternoon she'd be either at work or at school, so he mentally prepared a message to leave on her machine that would get his point across but not scare her to death. He wanted to find out if she could possibly be feeling about him the way he felt about her… and he wanted to see her as soon as he could.

The phone rang a thousand miles away and Chris anxiously drummed his fingers on the cold concrete wall beside the door. "Hello?" Maddie answered the phone slightly out of breath. Chris paused for a split second, waiting for the recorded voice to continue with the "I'm not here right no, so please leave a message" message, but instead her real voice said, "Hello?" again.

"Wow, hey, you're there." Chris was surprised when she answered her phone.

"Yeah, only for a couple minutes though, I'm on my way to class. My last final ever in my college life."

"Ah, that sounds like fun." Now that he had her on the line he didn't know what to say, "So I was just uh… well I was calling to leave you another annoying message but you went and answered instead." He thought on his feet. A little white lie was better than laying the "I think you might be the one" speech on someone who was on their way out the door.

"Do you want me to hang up so you can call back? I promise I won't answer." She laughed.

"No, no that's okay." He laughed. "I um, our tour is ending next weekend so I was going to give you one last chance to come out and see what it was about."

"Ahh, what were you going to do?"

"Hmm?"

"On my machine." She smiled.

"Nothing." He smiled. "Would you like - "

"No wait, you always do something crazy on my machine… what were you planning."

Chris sighed and dropped his head into his hand as he tried to come up with something, "I was going to leave you like a ransom message, you know 'I have your socks, and I'm not giving them back.' Type thing."

"Oh come on let me hear it."

"No, it's stupid. And it won't be funny if you're on the phone when I do it."

"Please?"

Chris raised an eyebrow; "If I do it will you come out and see me?"

"Maybe."

"Then maybe I'll do it." He laughed softly.

"What if I said yes, and you did it, and I changed my mind?"

"Then you would suck and I wouldn't be your friend any more."

"Aww you really wouldn't?" She pretended to pout. "You're not very nice."

"Well if you're going to lie to me to get me to do something then yeah, I wouldn't be your friend anymore." He smiled.

"What if I said yes I would and then you did it… and something important came up and I couldn't go?"

Chris sighed with a smile, "Maddie… would you like to come out to see me?"

She was silent for a minute and Chris was afraid she had dropped off, "I can't go anywhere until Saturday." She relented.

"Saturday is our last show." Chris perked up and felt excited for the first time.

"Really?"

"I swear, I'm looking at our dates right now. Saturday night, 7:00pm in Memphis Tennessee." He took a deep breath as he triple checked his schedule. "And check this out, I have most of that afternoon free. Kind of."

"Free kind of?"

"I have a charity event thing with the guys in the morning, then we hit the venue at eleven to do some picture stuff, but from twelve to three I'm free."

"What's at three?"

"The sound check party thing. It's a new thing we're trying out and if it goes good we're gonna - you don't care, nevermind."

Maddie smiled, "I care."

"Well we're trying it out for the last week of this tour and if people dig it we'll use that for our next tour."

"You're already planning your next tour?" Maddie frowned slightly.

"Not really." Chris shook his head. "I mean, we're always kind of thinking of more things to do but we've still got a record to put together and things like that."

"So that's a couple months away?"

"The next tour? Man that's like a year away." Chris shrugged. "So you're killing me with suspense here."

"Hmm?"

"Can you come out on Saturday?"

"Can I ask you a question?" Maddie asked after a moments thought.

"Sure."

"Why is it so important that I come out? I mean, I'd like to see you and everything… but…"

"I don't know. I just want to share this with you kind of. As hokey as that sounds." Chris laughed and shook his head; he knew how lame that sounded. "This is your last chance to really see what I do and I want you to see that and meet the guys and everything."

"But will it make a difference?"

"To me it will." Chris nodded. "Because I'd like to see you again and if sometime down the road I mention something about life on the road, which I'm bound to do with all the talking I do…" He laughed, "I just want to know that you know what I'm talking about. That it's more than just stage lights and microphones."

"I know it's more than that." Maddie sighed.

"I'm not saying you don't… I'm just saying that I'd like you to come see me at work. Hey, I got a manicure, remember?"

Maddie laughed and cringed, "Oh yeah."

"So come on, I've seen you at work, please come see me." Chris said with a smile. Then it dawned on him; he was sounding like an adult. Like a mature guy trying to win the affections of a girl. When the hell did that happen?

"If you can find a flight that doesn’t leave at four in the morning on Saturday, I'll come see you." Maddie sighed.

"Really?"

"Really." She laughed lightly. "You're persistent."

"I'll charter a plane if I have to." Chris smiled and did a mini version of the happy dance in the arena hall.

"You're determined too." She laughed.

"You'll really come?"

"Yes." Maddie blushed and covered her eyes, "But I've really got to go… I'm sorry. I'm going to be late."

"Oh man, no… go. I forgot, go to school, I'll cal you later." Chris said quickly.

"Okay." She laughed and grabbed her book bag. "Bye."

"Bye." Chris nodded and waited until she hung up on her end. He immediately called David and told him, "Hey, I've got a guest coming out on Saturday, how do I make sure she gets a flight out?"

"Give me her name and where she's flying from and I'll set it up."

"Madeline Conner out of LAX." Chris bit his lip.

"Alright."

"But the flight can't be before 4am."

"They don't fly that early." David laughed.

"But she has to be here in time for the show."

"It's not a problem Chris. I'll have the confirmation number on your bunk tonight with your schedule for tomorrow, and I'll have one of the girls put it on your voicemail too."

"Okay."

"When is she returning to LA?" David asked as an afterthought.

"Damn, I don't know." Chris thought for a second. "When are we leaving?"

"You? You're flying out to PA right?"

"Yeah, for a couple days."

"You're leaving at noon on Saturday, the rest of us are leaving at the crack of dawn."

"Can you get her a flight that leaves around the time mine does?"

"I'll do what I can." David nodded.

"Thanks man."

"And she'll be staying with you?"

"With me?" Chris asked.

"In your room?"

"Oh." Chris hadn't thought that far ahead. He didn't want to assume anything, "Yeah, but can I get a double that night?"

"Sure thing." David nodded. "I'll leave all the info for you."

"Thanks." Chris smiled.

"Anytime." David laughed, "Hey, where are you? You're supposed to be here."

"I am here. I'm hiding in one of the halls by Dayna's hair room thingy." Chris laughed. "I needed someplace quiet to call her and then she said she could come so I called you."

"Ahh, I see." David laughed again and said, "Well get back to work kid."

"I will." Chris bounced up and down with excitement as he turned his phone off and took off to find the other guys.

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

Saturday arrived and Chris made his appearances all morning with butterflies in his stomach. He wasn't his usual bubbly and chatty self during the radio interviews and the photographer on their shoot had to keep shouting at him to smile. He should have been smiling all day but all he felt was nervousness. It'd been three weeks since he saw Maddie and he wasn't entirely sure what to expect. He'd built everything up in his mind to be something amazing, where she might only consider him a friend.

Chris had planned on going to the airport to pick Maddie up, but David squashed those plans before they even took off, "What do you mean I can't go?" Chris asked David as he stomped his foot. "Come on David, that sucks. It's like… two hours."

"I can't do it Chris." David shook his head. "We don't have the security to go with you and you've got prior engagements."

"Prior engagements my ass. We weren't supposed to have anything going this afternoon." Chris rattled off the schedule he had in his head, "Photo stuff then nothing until like, two."

"And what did the schedule say when I handed it to you two days ago? And yesterday? And this morning?"

"David come on… how's she supposed to get here?" Chris whined.

"We've got a driver headed out to the airport right now, she'll be picked up and escorted here to the venue where you can meet up with her."

"That's horse shit. Why can't I just go?"

"Because you've got things that need to get done here." David said in a no-nonsense tone. "We've got two Make-A-Wish kids that are coming in an hour, now if you really want to cancel out on that you just let me know and I'll write up an apology from you to them. But I know you don't and you know it won't be that easy. So just accept this for your normal scheduling snafu and go with it. Madeline will be here in two hours, you can visit or do whatever it is you're gonna do then."

Chris sighed and rolled his eyes, David had a point, but he didn't have to like it. "This sucks. Just so you know that."

"I know." David nodded. "Just remember that after tonight no one's gonna hold you to a schedule for a couple months. Live for that man… just get through tonight and it'll be smooth sailing."

"Yep." Chris sighed and shook his head as he turned sharply. He needed to blow off some steam and the best way to do that without hurting himself, was to hit the game room and take on the pin ball machine.

Chris played until his fingers hurt, then joined the others in the main room to meet with the children who wished to see them. As always any bad feelings he had were alleviated as soon as he saw them, and he genuinely had a good time with the children and their parents. The guys took turns posing for pictures and visiting with the kids for an hour, then they were given a little bit of free time before they had to report to wardrobe, hair and make up.

Maddie followed the driver into the arena and nervously pulled on the laminated badge around her neck as she placed her free hand over her stomach. The energy from the gathering crowd was enough to send her stomach into cartwheels and she wondered how they faced this, and more, every night. "W-where are we going?"

"We're going to head to the green room to see if we can find the boys for you."

"Just Chris."

"What?" He looked over his shoulder as Maddie followed a step behind.

"I'm only here to see Chris, none of the others will know what to do with me." She smiled sweetly and desperately wished for some gum.

"Okay then, I'm going to see if I can find Chris for you." He pushed open a door on the far end of the hall and waited as she walked in. "Make yourself at home, I'll see what I can find." He said before the door shut.

Madeline was faced with a room full of bored looking crew people munching on snacks from the vending machine and having their own private conversations. She shuffled her feet and looked down at her jeans and tank top as she made her way to the vending machine. She dug in her pocket for the loose change she knew had to be there, and bought herself a mini pack of Wrigley's gum.

"Double your pleasure, double your fun!" Chris sang softly as he walked up behind Maddie and tapped her shoulder. "Hey you."

"Hey." She smiled and turned around as she shoved the gum in her pocket. "H-hi, wow… hi." She laughed nervously and dropped her hands to her side.

Chris reached for her hand then pulled her in for a hug, "I'm glad you came out so I can stop being annoying." He laughed and inhaled the sugary scent of her shampoo.

"You're going to stop?" She whined, "You're no fun."

"You like the annoying bit huh?" Chris' eyes danced as he tried not to stare at her.

"Well it worked." Maddie squeezed his hand, grateful for something to hold onto. "This place is nuts though, I mean I've only seen a little bit but I feel like a cheerleader or something."

"Ahh, fond memories huh?"

"Very funny." She rolled her eyes. "It's just exciting."

"Are you going to jump in the air and do the splits?" Chris raised his eyebrow as their shoulders touched on their way through the room.

"Not in these pants, no." Maddie shook her head.

"Hey how'd your final go?"

"Good, I think I did alright."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, I mean, they're letting me graduate and stuff."

"That's really cool… you should be proud of yourself."

"I am." She beamed and bounced up and down, "This is so cool, wow… I never thought I'd be all teeny like this."

"Someone laced your free soda on the plane with pixie sticks or something." Chris laughed. "Slow down turbo, you're starting to act like me."

"You get like this too?" She asked as music started in the arena two hundred feet away.

"Oh man, you have no idea." Chris shook his head and steered her toward the far hall. "Hey, I've gotta go change for the show and stuff. The openers will be on in like, ten minutes so I have to shake it."

"Shake it?" She laughed.

"I've gotta be done by then so I can actually have a few minutes to visit before we take the stage."

"Sounds like fun."

"Tons." Chris nodded and looked around for a chair or something. "The uh, we're all in there changing though… so…"

"I can wait out here." She nodded.

"It'll only be a few minutes." Chris said quickly.

"It's okay." She nodded. "I won't get yelled out will I?"

"Nah, you've got your badge. Just tell anyone who asks that you're here with me and if there's still a problem bang on the door or have them get David."

"David, right, got it." She nodded.

"Okay." Chris nodded and licked his lips. "So give me a few minutes." He leaned in suddenly and brushed his lips across her cheek, then slid through the open door to the dressing room.

"All righty…" Maddie smiled and leaned against the far wall to wait as the excitement in her stomach rose. She heard the opening acts go on and perform two or three songs each, then the crowd went wild as the lights went down, then immediately came back on. The backstage area became alive with action as people and machinery moved around to set up the stage for Nsync. Maddie remained pressed against the wall as she checked her watch and looked around for a friendly face.

"I – wh – how – Hi." Dayna stuttered as she walked up to Maddie in the hall.

"Hi." Maddie smiled and sighed with relief, "Dayna right?"

"Y-yeah. You’re Maddie?" Dayna asked the question, though she didn’t really have to. She recognized the petite blonde from before and realized that she and Chris really did make a cute couple.

"Yes, it’s nice to see you again." Maddie smiled and shook Dayna’s hand.

"You’re uh, you’re pretty far from home aren’t you?" Dayna smiled and looked at the sign taped to the door to make sure they were in Memphis.

"Yeah, Chris invited me out for the last show." Maddie nodded. "According to work though, I‘m sick." She faked a cough into her hand and smiled, "If anyone asks."

"Got it." Dayna smiled as the little cheerleader in her head did cartwheels. Chris brought a normal, happy, real girl out to see them on tour. A non-skanky professional and pretty woman that Dayna had found for him.

"Do you uh… do you know where I’m supposed to be though? Chris went in there saying he’d only be a minute but that was about thirty minutes ago." Maddie looked around nervously. "I feel like a dork just standing around out here."

"You can go in if you want." Dayna shrugged as she reached for the handle.

"Into their dressing room?" Maddie blushed and shook her head. "No I don’t think so."

"Nah, the front part is hair and make-up, that’s my department. You can come sit with me so you’ll at least be out of the hall."

"You’re sure?"

"Of course." Dayna pushed the door open and stepped in.

"Hey Day, tell Joey he’s wrong." Justin said as he spun around in her chair.

"Why?"

"Just tell him." Justin sighed as she reached out to stop the chair.

"What are you wrong about?" She turned to face Joey who was sitting in a folding chair by the door leading to the changing room.

"He’s trying to tell me that non-fat milk stays good longer than regular milk." Justin shook his head, then spun the chair again.

"What?" Dayna gave him a look as she stopped the chair. "Knock it off."

"Like if you buy regular milk that expires on July 1st and non-fat milk that expires on July 1st… the non-fat milk will still be good a week later or whatever."

"That’s gross." Dayna made a face. "I don’t know."

"You’re so full of shit Joe." Justin shook his head and sat in the chair like he was supposed to.

"Actually he’s right." Maddie said softly. "Non-fat milk lasts longer than regular milk because what happens in regular milk is that the milk starts to curdle a lot faster. Non-fat milk will go bad, but you’ve got about a week or so longer before it starts to reek."

"I like you already." Joey laughed and jumped up from his couch. "I’m Joey."

"I take it you haven’t met the boys yet?" Dayna asked. Maddie shook her head in response and tried to hide her blush behind her light hair. "Ahh, okay well this is Joey, and the mon chi chi looking guy in the chair is Justin."

"I recognize Justin. The receptionist where I work, Laura, is infatuated with you." She laughed lightly. "She almost choked when you cut your hair."

"Dayna cut it." Justin pointed at her.

"You asked me to." Dayna defended herself.

"So you’re Dayna’s friend?" Joey asked as he gave her his smoothest, most flirtatious smile.

"My God… forgive Joey, he really isn’t this bad usually." Dayna smiled at Maddie. "This is Maddie, she’s Chris’ uh…" She was at a loss for words. Were they officially dating? Were they just friends?

"We’re kind of dating." Maddie explained. "He brought me out to see the last show."

"Then you’re more than just ‘kinda’ dating." Justin snickered as Dayna thwaped him in the head.

"I really do apologize for these guys." Dayna sighed. "Justin, get out of my chair so I can get started. Joey, grab a seat."

"Do him first." Joey whined.

"There’s nothing to do." Dayna ran her hand over Justin’s hair then patted his head. "There. You're done."

"Do you know where Chris is?" Maddie asked as she leaned against the wall, trying to stay out of the way.

"He’s high maintenance." Justin sighed and pulled himself out of the chair as he headed for the back room where the others were changing.

"Joe." Dayna pointed to the chair and gave him a ‘mom’ look as Joey dropped himself into the chair with his magazine.

"Are you going to sexify me?" Joey asked as he flipped through the pages.

"No." Dayna laughed. "I’m gonna Joe-ify you."

"Same thing."

"Yeah." She said sarcastically.

"Chris!" Justin shouted as he held the other door open.

"What?" Chris’ voice echoed through the door.

"There’s a lovely young lady out here who says she knows you. But I don’t believe her because there’s no way she’d be hanging out with riff raff like you."

"Shit." Chris said loudly as he ran into the hair and make up area with his shirt untucked. "I’m sorry, I…" He didn’t want to say he forgot, but that’s just what he did. "I’m not used to having people visit me on the road." He managed to salvage his dignity. "Hi." He walked over and gave Maddie a quick hug. "So you’ve met these guys?"

"Yeah, Dayna introduced me around a little." Maddie smiled and looked more at ease now that a familiar face was nearby.

"Shit, I should have introduced you before. I swear I’m not usually this much of an asshole." Chris shook his head and looked to the others for backup.

Joey choked back a laugh and caught Dayna’s eye in the mirror. They just looked at each other for a minute and refused to laugh, "Of course not." Dayna said with a big smile.

"Oh come on." Chris sighed and reached for Maddie’s hand. "I’m not usually this flaky."

"You were late for our second date." She pointed out.

"That was a … that wasn’t my fault." He tried to argue.

"Well it wasn't my fault." Maddie raised her eyebrow and smiled.

"He's flaky, that's one thing you've gotta know right off the bat." Justin said as he came back into the room.

"And he picks his nose." Joey laughed as Dayna used her fingers to work the gel through his hair.

"I do not." Chris sighed.

"He plays video games until three in the morning without thinking about the other guys sleeping on the back of the bus." Lance added as he appeared from the dressing area in his patchwork suit.

"Are we doggin on Chris?" JC laughed and joined the conversation.

"How many more guys are there back there?" Maddie smiled and leaned to look behind the half way blocking her view of the dressing room.

"No more." Chris shook his head. "This is us, the whole motley crew."

"He's the one the call Dr. Feelgood, he's the one that makes us feel all right, he's the one they call Dr. Feeeeeeelgoooooooood." Joey sang at the top of his voice from the chair as Justin joined in with an air guitar behind him.

"They're a little keyed up, the whole 'last show' vibe is like a sugar high." Dayna smiled apologetically at Madeline.

"I see that." She laughed. "So… you still have to get your hair done and stuff?" Maddie asked Chris softly.

"Yeah, you can hang out in here until we're done if you want."

"Well I'd like to see the show." She shook her head.

"I mean done in here. Dayna can take you out to the seats." Chris looked at Dayna, "Right Day?"

"Yep, I'll be out front tonight." Dayna nodded and playfully shoved Joey out of the chair. "Joey, Justin, go get your make-up done." She pointed to the left where the third small room was set up. She was answered with several foul remarks and gagging sounds as the two boys filed through the doorway to the make up room.

"Hey can you do me up like Kiss tonight?" Justin laughed as he dropped himself into the make-up chair.

Dayna didn't hear the response, but at that point she wouldn't be at all surprised to see Justin walking around in black and white face paint in the next hour. She sighed and got to work on Chris' hair, making it stand up like it was supposed to, then she added a few streaks of black hair mascara that had just a hint of shimmer to it.

"You've gotta get rid of that shit for next time, I'm glittered out." Chris complained.

"It's not glitter." Dayna showed him the little wand. "It's just shiny and it looks really cool under the colored lights. Why do you insist on arguing with me as if I haven't been doing this forever?"

"Because it's my job and you'll be away from us for a couple months so I have to get the kidding in now." Chris smiled sweetly.

"He's all yours." Dayna looked over his head at Maddie, "Enjoy." She shoved him out of her seat to make room for Lance. She did everyone's hair then looked at her watch, "Damn, I'm running behind." She frowned at JC. "I'm gonna be in trouble."

JC smiled at her in the mirror, he was the last one to get his hair done so she'd taken more time than she should have. "You're not gonna be in trouble."

"Really? You've got roll call in six minutes on the south side of the stage." She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Damn." He jumped up and kissed her quickly, "Yeah we're going to be in trouble." He ran next door to the make-up room and sat in that seat, "Hey take Maddie on out to the seats now so you don't miss anything." He shouted.

"Okay, I'll see you after the show."

"Yeah, we've been instructed to come back here for a clean up before we go to the party thing."

"Yep." Dayna nodded, she'd received the same memo. "Sing good." She laughed.

"I will." He chuckled in response.

Dayna put things in order then headed out to the greenroom in search of Maddie. She finally found her in the game room with one of the security guards looking uncomfortable and out of place. Dayna saved her and dragged her to the hall and towards the arena floor.

Dayna and Maddie headed for their seats in the VIP section just before the guys were set to take the stage. Dayna showed Maddie how to tuck her badge away until it was time to show it to avoid the psycho fans that wouldn't think twice about clawing it from their necks. "It's that bad?" Maddie asked with a worried expression.

"Overall the fans are cool, but I'd rather not take any chances." Dayna shook her head as they stepped out into the crowded floor and side stepped up to the VIP section near the sound table in the center of the floor.

As they sat down and made themselves comfortable in their seats, the lights went down and the thunderous cheers of the fans around them caused the room to vibrate. "Holy shit." Maddie stared wide eyed at the stage, and continued to watch with wonder for the rest of the show.

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

"So damn, Chris brought his girlfriend out on the road? How nuts is that?" Justin asked as he fell into Dayna's seat after the show.

"So did Lance." She sighed. Patty had made her appearance in the VIP seating just after the show started, mumbling something about delayed flights and cranky cab drivers.

"Yeah but Chris?" Justin shook his head. "Never thought I'd see the day."

"He had me on the road." She pointed out.

"That's not the same." Justin shook his head and turned in the seat to face her.

"Why do you even come here and sit in my seat when there's nothing I can do except tell you to get out of my chair?"

"Because this is the only time I get to visit with you anymore." He smiled at her in the mirror. "So really, how weird is it that Chris is seeing a normal girl and brought her out on the road? That's just weird."

"I think I'd be more scared if it was Joey."

"The only way Joey could do that is if the world was tilted off it's axis and we slid to a parallel universe." Justin used his foot to turn the whole chair around to face her. "How do you feel about that?"

"About Joey sliding to another universe?"

"About Chris bringing a girlfriend on the road?"

"I think it's a good sign." Dayna smiled and hopped up on the little counter behind her. "He's growing up. Yay!" She laughed and shook her head. "Honestly though? He's been so different these last couple weeks, and I mean different in a good way. It's cool."

"He's not acting like Chris though. It's all your fault Day, you broke Chris."

"I didn't break Chris." She rolled her eyes as he pretended to sob. "Be happy for him."

"I am." Justin laughed. "It's just weird."

"It's cool." Dayna laughed. "So are you ready for the party?"

"Yep." Justin sighed and stood up. "I'm gonna go change my clothes then catch a ride to the hotel." He straightened his shirt and fanned it away form his sweaty body, "Are you going?"

"Of course, why wouldn't I?"

He just shrugged and looked at the door, "I dunno."

"This is the party we live for all tour, of course I'm going to be there." She smiled. "But you've gotta promise to dance with me if they play any swing music."

"I never should have told you I know how to swing." He blushed quickly and pulled the door open. "Besides, this is a dance club, like techno. It's on the roof of the hotel with a complete glass top, how cool will that be? I hope it rains, that would look awesome with all the lights."

"Yeah we'll see about that." Dayna winked as Justin stepped out into the hall. "If you see JC out there can you send him back this way? I've gotta pack up and make sure this is on the buses before I can leave and I don't want him to forget about me."

"I'll let him know." Justin nodded.

"C'mere kid." Dayna held out her arms for a hug and Justin held her tight. "I'm gonna miss you."

"Why? Where are you going?"

"On the break I mean. And David hasn't said anything about renewing the contract for the next tour… so…"

"Oh please, you'll be on. You know he won't offer up the new contract until this one is officially over and technically that's not till tomorrow. Besides, maybe he's re-working it to get you more cashola." He smiled into her hair and she patted his back, she had always wanted a younger brother.

"Thanks Justin."

"Anytime." He stepped back and cleared his throat. "So I'll go tell JC to come get you and I'll see you at the club."

"You got it." Dayna smiled and watched him run from the room.

Everyone made it back to the hotel in time to change their clothes and congregate on the roof for the biggest party ever. It was by invitation only so no one had to worry about impressing the media or watching out for the fans. This was their time to kick back and let loose all of the pressures from the tour and to reminisce about the inside jokes and great times eveyrone had.

The bar was open and the drinks were free so they flowed easily all night long. Dayna danced with everyone but ended up with JC every other time. Even with the drinks in him JC could dance circles around anyone in the club and Dayna sat back and admired him every chance she got.

She sat off to the side after a few hours and absorbed the last few hours of true bliss with these guys. After a two hour show and a day that started at sunrise, those five guys didn't seem to lose an ounce of their energy. But she knew better, she'd been around to know that the first couple days of their breaks would be spent in bed… alone… and probably sound asleep.

The party ended just before the sun rose over Memphis, which Justin argued was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his life. They stumbled down to their own rooms and dragged their luggage down to the main lobby where they stood like zombies by the curb, just waiting for the vans to come and haul them to the airport where they'd get a few hours of sleep on the plane.

They said bittersweet good-byes to those who weren’t going on to Florida, then headed home for two solid months of vacation before they were due back in the studio. "You’re coming out, right?"

"Next Monday, yes." Dayna nodded. "I have to go get my stuff out of my old place and stash it at my parents. There’s no point in paying rent on someplace I’ll never see." She shrugged. David had pulled her aside at the party and invited her back for the next tour. She had of course agreed after making sure he wasn’t drunk. He would be faxing the contract to her parent's house the next day for her to sign, and he assured her, she'd be happy with the changes that he made.

"There’s always my place." JC said softly as he took her hands in his.

"The thought of hauling my crap 2,500 miles across the United States is enough to make me sick." Dayna shook her head. "I’ll pack it up, stash it then fly out. I’ve got my ticket and everything, it’s not like I’m going to back out or anything."

"I know." He kissed her quickly, then again to let it linger. "Have fun."

"I will." Dayna smiled as their lips touched. "Call me when you get there so I know you made it okay."

"I will."

"I’ll see you in a week."

"Five days."

"Five days." She nodded and reached up to brush his hair out of his eyes. "Don’t touch your hair till I get there, I want to cut it."

"It’s all yours." JC laughed and looked over his shoulder. "I’ll call you tonight." He said quickly as Lance tapped on his watch and sighed before he ducked into the van. JC smiled and trotted the few steps to the curb to climb into the backseat beside Lance.

"Bye." She said softly, doubting he heard as he jumped into the van.

"I love you." JC said just loud enough for her to hear.

Dayna’s heart skipped a beat as she smiled, "I love you too." She replied as the door slammed shut in front of her. The van pulled away from the curb leaving Dayna standing there with a dopey smile on her face. She watched until it left the parking lot and disappeared around the corner, then she went back into the hotel to catch a few more hours of sleep before her flight left later that afternoon.

 

Next...

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn