Meg held her shoulder length hair off her neck and examined herself in the mirror. She sighed and let it drop in loose waves around her face. She only had a half-hour before lance was due back from his morning commitments. It was the day of their "not a date" date. Meg had a flock of butterflies in her stomach as she looked at her outfit choice and seriously debated changing her top for the third time.

The phone in the pocket of her jeans rang and startled her out of her fashion trance, "This is Meg." She said as she reached for her hair again, and pulled it up.

"Hey Meg, guess where I am." Lance said softly.

"I hope you’re in the car on the way here." She said with a slow smile.

"Nope." He laughed, and Meg heard a knock on the door to her bus.

"No! Lance I’m not ready. I have another half hour before you’re supposed to be here." She said as she dropped her hair again and reached for the headband on her bed.

"We got finished early. Come on, I found a movie theater we can go to, it’s real close." He said as he knocked again. "Are you going to open the door or not? It’s freezing out here you know."

"I know. Just a second." She clicked the phone off. Her pale green sweater would have to do. She checked her hair in the mirror once more and ran her fingers through it quickly before she pulled the little door open and stepped down the two steps so that she was standing in front of Lance.

"You look great, are you ready?" He asked.

"Yeah." Meg nodded and noticed Lance looking at her weird. "What?"

"You’re bringing that?" He motioned to her phone with the earpiece in her ear.

"Oh. Um, no, of course not." She tore it off quickly and threw it inside on the couch. "Where’s Johnny?" She asked.

"He’s meeting with the pyro people for the show on Friday."

"Pyro huh?"

"Well, it’s the New Year." Lance laughed easily and placed his sunglasses on over his beautiful eyes.

"True." Meg shuffled her feet, "So, where are we headed?"

"To the movies, if that’s okay with you?"

"It’s your time off, I can go to the movies whenever."

"Well we don’t have to go, I mean…"

"No, I just meant that we should do whatever you want to do, because I get plenty of free time." She smiled as they headed towards the back of the bus.

"I haven’t been to the movies since we were in Chicago, so we’re talking months."

"Is there anything good out?" Meg shoved her hands in her pockets as the wind whipped around the corner. They waded through slush to get to the sidewalk and headed east.

"When I called for the times I didn’t recognize any of the names, but that’s only because I haven’t seen a TV with commercials in forever." He laughed. "So I don’t know. I guess we can chose when we get there."

"Okay." Meg smiled and kept her eyes on the snow covered streets ahead of her.

"So… Meg, is that short for anything?"

"Nope." She shook her head. "My dad doesn’t like nicknames, so they chose a name that couldn’t possibly be shortened."

"Just extended." Lance laughed. "Like Meggy Meg, or Megalicious, or Megsley."

"Megsley? Who calls me that?" She laughed and looked up at him.

"I don’t know. No one, it just came to me."

"Megsley huh?" She laughed and shook her head. "What about you? Is Lance really short for Lansten?"

"Nope." He shook his head as they crossed the busy intersection at the corner. "My name is actually James Lance, but I’ve just always been Lance." He shrugged and looked around at the scenery on the streets. Most of the stores still had their holiday decorations up, and that combined with the snow made everything seem magical.

"Does security know you’re out?" Meg asked suddenly, realizing that the usual ensemble of bodyguards was no where to be seen.

"Um, not exactly." He smirked. "I told them that I have time off and that I was either going to rack out on my bunk, or catch a movie. But I never told them what my final plans were. No one will even notice I’m gone."

"I don’t want you to get in trouble." Meg frowned.

"You won’t. Don’t worry about it." He smiled and Meg’s legs just about melted out from under her. "So how was your Christmas?"

"It was okay." Meg forced a smile, remembering the quiet and rather boring holiday at her ancient grandmothers house in Phoenix. She was there for two days and fought with her aunt the entire time. "How was yours?"

"It was nice." Lance smiled and got a dreamy look on his face. "It seems like it’s been forever since we were all together, it was great. My cousin had a new baby last month, and this was the first time I got to see her, so that was fun. My grandma made enough food to feed the whole neighborhood, so I came back stuffed to the gills." He laughed. "There are still left overs on the bus if you want some."

Meg laughed, "No that’s okay. You guys haven’t eaten them yet?"

"Nope." Lance shook his head and laughed. "Well, we’ve eaten a lot, but I was sent back with more than we could possibly finish."

"That’s cool though. We went out for dinner, so I didn’t have left overs at all."

"You went out to eat on Christmas?" He asked, the idea was completely foreign to him.

"Yeah, we do every year. There’s this place by my grandmothers house and she knows the owners."

"I can’t imagine not having a home cooked meal."

"It’s not that bad." Meg said softly as she brushed her hair out of her eyes.

"No… I’m not saying it’s bad." He said quickly, "I just can’t imagine it." He smiled and stared at her for a second, the cold air outside had turned her cheeks pink.

"Oh Lance…" Meg looked up and met his eyes, "Um, I don’t know if I ever really thanked you for the journal. I uh, I write in it all the time. That really was a thoughtful gift." She smiled.

"Well, it wasn’t leather pants…" He laughed, "But you’re welcome. I just hope you’re having fun on the tour."

"I am." She smiled broadly, she could hardly ask for a better job.

"Good, that’s what this is all about you know? Having the time of our lives." Lance sighed as they walked up to the front of the movie theater, only to find that it was closed. "What?! Closed?"

"Oh man…" Meg frowned. So much for her "date" with Lance.

"That sucks." Lance scowled and looked down at his shoes. "Well, I’ve still got three hours to kill." He looked up and down the street. "Would you like to grab some lunch or something?"

"Um… yeah. That’d be great." Meg pulled her hands into the arms of her sweater to keep her fingers warm as Lance nodded down the street at the TGI Fridays on the corner.

"How’s Fridays sound?"

"Good." Meg smiled and they continued down the street.

"I’m sorry about the movies. Poor planning on my part I guess." He blushed slightly.

"It’s okay. I don’t mind." The wind had picked up and her thin sweater didn’t keep much out. Meg hunched her shoulders and tucked her hands under her arms.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah." She nodded quickly.

"You sure?"

"Yeah." She smiled to reassure him as he pulled the door to the restaurant open. Meg walked into the warm interior and shivered. Lance came in behind her and they stood there waiting for the hostess. It was a little early for the big lunch crowd, so there were plenty of empty tables.

"Hey guys, go ahead and seat yourselves." The bartender shouted from behind the thick pine bar.

"Thanks." Lance waved at the guy and led the way to the back of the restaurant. He slid into a booth in the corner and took his jacket off.

"All the way back here?" Meg asked, standing at the head of the table. She looked around and only saw the bathroom and the door to the kitchen.

"Yeah, that way we can keep a low profile. You know, since we’re not really supposed to be here." He laughed softly and motioned for her to sit. "Take a load off."

"Thanks." She said softly as she sat across from him. She breathed into her hands to warm them up a little, "Man, it’s colder out there than I thought it would be."

"Well you should be used to the cold." Lance opened the menu in front of him.

"I should?" Meg asked as she followed his example.

"Yeah, I mean, you’re from New York aren’t you? It gets pretty cold up there."

"I’m not from New York." Meg laughed. "I grew up in San Francisco."

"Well yeah but you lived in New York, didn’t you?" he glanced at her over the top of the menu.

"No." She shook her head.

"I know we picked you up in New York." He put the menu down.

"Well yeah, I interviewed there. But I was only there for a couple days before I left with you guys, and that was a couple months ago, it wasn’t nearly this cold." She laughed and made her decision on the menu.

"I could have sworn you lived there." He shook his head and picked up his menu again. "Well then nevermind, you shouldn’t be used to this cold. Do you know what you’re getting?"

"Yes, the soup and sandwich. I need the heat." She laughed uneasily as the waiter showed up to take their drink orders.

"I don’t think we’ve ever really sat down and talked before." Lance said a few minutes later as he set his menu aside.

"No, you guys are usually so busy. I’m lucky when I can flag you down to let you know of schedule changes."

"Yeah, but I mean, we’re stuck on a moving bus for hours at a time. You’d think we’d know our crew better than we do." He shrugged. "Are you on the crew bus?"

"Sometimes." Meg laughed. "My bunk is on the management bus, but I spend as little time there as I can."

"The crew bus is a lot more fun." Lance laughed. "Joey used to ride on there with them till Johnny found out they were partying too much and Joey was showing up later than usual."

"Yeah, it’s a pretty wild bus, but that’s why I like it." Meg smiled and unfolded the napkin in her lap as the waiter came back with their drinks and took their lunch orders. "But on the other end of the spectrum, the management bus is too quiet. I mean, everyone’s asleep before we leave the venue practically."

"Yeah, I can picture that." Lance nodded, and stared at Meg. "When did you dye your hair?"

"Oh, um, a couple weeks ago." She touched her hair self-consciously. "One of the hair girls did it, after she did Joey’s."

"Is that the same dye?" Lance looked closely.

"Yeah." Meg laughed. "But I didn’t bleach my hair first so it’s not nearly as bright."

"No, it’s not. But I like it, it looks cool." He continued to stare at her hair. Their food arrived a couple minutes later and they ate in silence. Lance continued the conversation when the plate had been cleared away, and they chatted until it was time to head back to the buses. It was over all too fast for Meg.

 

"Well Meg, I’ve said this already a couple times, but you rule." Lance leaned over and gave Meg a hug as they stood outside of the arena. He kissed her cheek quickly and whispered, "We’ll have to do that again sometime."

"I… yeah." Meg said, she was not expecting that. She smiled like a school girl and stepped back as Joey and Justin rounded the corner.

"There you are! Benny’s been looking all over for you. Your hand held mic got twanked in transport and they need you to sound check it so they can completely reset it." Justin said as they walked up.

"Twanked?" Lance laughed.

"Totally." Justin smiled. "Hey Meg."

"Where were you?" Joey asked.

"W- I just went out to lunch and stuff." Lance said, quickly covering for himself.

"How did you manage to get free time too? Justin here just spent the last like 3 hours playing hoops with the stage hands." Joey complained.

"Meg rules." Justin hi fived Meg and laughed.

"Ask and you shall receive." Lance laughed and draped his arm over Megs shoulders. "I just said, you know Meg, I could really use a couple hours off… what’ll it take for you to swing that for me? And she told me it would cost me my first born child and a months paid vacation. So I figured it was worth it." Lance laughed as Meg blushed.

"Well shit, then hey Meg, I want some time off too." Joey said as he shoved Lances arm out of the way and guided Meg into the arena, "I’ll give you all my kids I ever have and… and a year off, if you’ll get me a couple days off."

"I’ll see what I can do for you Joe." Meg laughed and ducked out from under his arm, "But right now I’ve got to go change flight reservations for little miss Bobbee."

"Change them huh? When is she coming?"

"Tomorrow, and she was supposed to stay through the 2nd and then fly home with JC, but now she wants to leave on the 3rd." Meg sighed and headed back towards the door. "So now I’ve got to fight with United to get her a flight. Dammit I don’t even work for her."

"Ahh but you’re wonderwoman, you can do it." Joey laughed and waved as he continued down the hall to the dressing rooms.

 

"Meg!" Johnny shouted as he ran onto the bus.

"Yeah?" She looked up from the book she was reading.

"We need your help." He said as he reached for her hand and pulled her off the couch.

"What? Why? What happened?" Meg followed quickly behind Johnny as they ran back into the arena.

"We’ve temporarily misplaced Justin’s headset. We need someone to go onstage and entertain the crowd for a couple minutes until we can get a replacement." Johnny explained before he opened the door to the arena and shoved her in. Meg was immediately surrounded by the sound of screaming girls and frantic crew men.

"What?! You can’t be serious." Meg shouted to be heard over the noise. "Give him a hand held."

"He can’t use a hand held for "no strings", those are set up for accapella, you know that."

"Get someone else!" Meg refused to move any closer to the stage.

"The rest of our crew is doing their jobs or setting up a new headset and I’m not about to let one of the local hands out there on stage."

"Oh come on, get a rigger, get the light guy! Not me Johnny, no." Meg shook her head and resisted as Johnny tried to pull her toward the stage.

"Meg, you’ve been in front of a crowd before, you wont freeze up and make a fool of yourself. It’s five minutes out of your day."

"There is absolutely no one else who can do this?" Meg asked, pleading for him to tell her this was a joke.

"No one else I’d want to go out there." Johnny smiled and handed her a hand held mic. "You’ll love it."

"What do you want me to do??" Meg started to panic as she stepped up the first step going to the stage.

"Just talk to them, explain what’s going on."

"You haven’t told them? Wait! You go on! You’re their manager!"

"I can’t hear you." Johnny shouted as he shook his head and pushed her up the remaining three steps. She was now officially on the stage. She stood completely frozen. Meg looked out at the audience who could not see her yet, and her jaw hit the floor. There were so many of them!

Meg looked over her shoulder at Johnny standing at the bottom of the steps, he just gave her the thumbs up sign and waved her onto the stage. Meg tapped the mic with her finger listening to the thud echo through the arena. The crowd of teen age girls lost their collective minds.

"Hello hello?" Meg said into the mic as she stepped onto the stage. Lights illuminated the floor around her and half the audience disappeared in the glare. "Hey guys how’s it going?" A thunderous chorus of screams answered back. "It looks like some yahoo lost Justin’s headset, so there’s going to be a short delay." The room groaned, then resumed screaming. "A very short delay I hope." Meg glanced nervously over her shoulder towards where Johnny was standing, but the stairs were empty. She was in this alone.

"So you’re probably wondering who I am right about now, aren’t you? I mean, some chick comes walking on the stage in jeans and a ratty old Celtics sweatshirt when you’re waiting for Nsync? Man, I’d want to know who the hell she thought she was." Meg laughed uneasily, her last words were drowned out because at the mention of Nsync, the crowd went crazy. "Well my name is Meg, and I do all of the scheduling for the boys. You know, if they have a photo shoot or a TV appearance, that’s my job." Meg shrugged. "So why am I out here? Well, like I said, we’ve lost Justin’s headset and we’re trying to get another one, and I was told to come entertain you guys." They crowd didn’t hear a word she said after ’Justin’.

Meg tried to think of something, anything she could do to keep them distracted until the show started. "I know what we can do!" Meg shouted into the mic, she now had their attention. "No one knows more about the guys than someone on tour with them right? Why don’t I take some questions? Yeah?"

The crowd cheered as they all shouted "YEAH!"

"All right, but hey, no screaming into the mic, you’ll blow our ear drums." Meg laughed and walked to the other side of the enormous stage. "Let’s see, who has a JC question?" The arena exploded as Meg laughed and actually began to feel comfortable. She walked over to the edge of the stage and kneeled down in front of a group of girls, "You have a question?" She asked a tall brunette who was practically trying to climb onto the stage. She nodded and Meg asked, "About JC?" The crowd went wild and she nodded, "Okay what is it?" Meg held the mic behind her as she leaned forward trying to hear.

"Does he have a girlfriend?" The girl had to shout it twice before Meg heard it.

Meg laughed and held the mic in front of her, "Does JC have a girlfriend?" Meg laughed again and said, "Well I could break a lot of hearts right now and tell you he does… but I’d be lying." The room erupted in teenage excitement. "As far as I know JC does not have a girlfriend."  That was a lie, of course.  But until he went out and announced it himself, she'd keep up the facade for everyone.

Meg walked to the center of the stage, "Do you guys have a question?" She asked a group of girls with the guys names written on their faces, "You do?" They nodded so she knelt in front of them and held the mic behind her.

"Can we meet them?" The group shouted in unison.

"Can you meet them?" Meg smiled and stood up, "Well I don’t know about that…" Meg shrugged, "But you’ll be able to see them really soon." Meg looked off to the side of the stage where Johnny was now standing with his arms crossed. He gave Meg the thumbs up sign and smiled.

"All right, we can do one more question." Meg walked to the opposite side of the stage and leaned over to one girl who was holding up a stuffed dog. "Who is that for?" She asked.

"Chris." The girl shouted as she wiped her eyes.

"You want me to give that to him for you?" Meg asked. The girl nodded and Meg reached for the dog, "Do you have a question?"

"What does he wear to bed?" The girl asked as she laughed and wiped her eyes again.

"What does Chris wear to bed?" Meg blushed and stood up straight, "Um.. well…" Meg laughed uneasily, "I only know this because I’ve had to drag them off of the bus a couple times. But that’s all! No rumors! Chris sleeps in…" She drug out the pause and played with the crowd, "Absolutely, positively, 100%, not even one single stitch of… okay no I’m kidding." Meg laughed, "I’ve only ever seen him in boxers… I’m pretty sure he’s a boxers man."

The sea of girls continued their chorus of screams as Meg laughed and looked up to see all of the guys in the rigging above her, she smiled as Lance waved, then she addressed the audience, "Well guys it’s been real but I’ve got to- What?" Meg asked as a group of girls by the corner shouted another question at her.

"What’s your name?" they shouted again.

"My name is Meg, and it’s been great talking with you guys! I’d love to stay and chat but it looks like it’s gonna start raining men here in a minute." Meg playfully pointed up as she ran off the stage as the lights in the house went dark.

The Pinocchio music started as Megs foot hit solid ground beside Johnny, "That was great, thanks Meg." Johnny shouted close to her ear.

Meg handed him the mic, "You owe me." She shouted as she headed for the backstage area. She caught a glimpse of the guys descending to the stage as she shook her head and walked down the hall, her body full of adrenaline. She carried the stuffed dog with her to the food room and helped herself to a soda and an apple.

She didn’t wind down from the adrenaline high until more than halfway through the show, now she knew how the guys felt! But she came down quick and headed back to the bus to change into her pajamas and read her book in bed.

She turned her phone off and set it on the little shelf in her bunk, and was sound asleep by the time the show ended and the other staff members boarded the bus to head to Washington DC.

 

 On to the next part…

 

Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn