When Lance returned from dropping the girls off, people were still partying in his backyard.  He laughed as he walked around again, and helped himself to another tiny piece of cake.  Lance knew he shouldn't have it, but it was his birthday and he promised himself to do an extra mile on his treadmill to pay for it the next morning.  All of his friends moved inside when the caterers returned to pick up their equipment and left over food at ten o'clock.  They all sat around telling stories and having a great time until after eleven when almost everyone decided it was time to go home.  When the last guest left Lance looked back at his living room and smiled.  Joey and Justin were lying on the floor, Chris was reclined back in the la-z-boy chair and JC was sitting on the couch with a beer in his hand looking half tired, half drunk.  Somehow it always ended up being the five of them left, wherever they were.

            "That was a cool party kid."  Chris yawned.

            "Yeah, it was cool to see Troy and Rachel and Tony and everyone again."  Justin nodded from the floor as he reached up and took a pillow off the couch to tuck it under his head.

            "Don't get too comfortable there, Just."  Lance laughed and fell into the corner of the couch opposite JC.  "How long have you been nursing that beer?"  He asked as he kicked JC's ankle.

            "This one?  Like, an hour."  JC nodded.

            "You got a ride home?"

            "I'm taking him."  Justin sighed.  "As usual, I've gotta be the responsible one.  The designated driver."

            "Hey, I told you that you could drink and I'd drive you home."  JC laughed.

            "Yeah, like I'd leave my Benz parked here on the street?"

            "I could drive it and leave my car here."

            "Like I'd let you drive my car.  You know... you give me so much shit for buying my nice cars, but now here you are wanting to drive it.  Man, if you want a Benz go get one.  Hock that piece of shit Chevy you've got."  Justin smiled and playfully socked JC in the calf, the only part of his body he could reach.

            "It's not a piece of shit and it's not a Chevy.  It's a Yukon."

            "Same thing."  Justin rolled his eyes.

            "Okay enough of the car comparisons, let's talk about Paige."  Joey tilted his head back to look up at Lance.

            "Yeah, what's that about?"  Justin asked, forgetting all about the car issue.

            "And exactly how far away was this hotel?  You were gone for a while."  Chris kidded from the recliner.

            "I already told you guys, we're friends."  Lance smiled and tried not to blush, but he should have known by then that was nothing he could control.  The tips of his ears turned pink as he took the bottle from JC and set it on the table behind him.

            "Yeah uh huh."  Joey rolled his eyes.

            "We believe you."  JC said sarcastically as he reached for the bottle, then finished it off before Lance could stop him.

            "Just fess up already."  Chris spun the chair around, narrowly missing the end table.

            "There's nothing to confess, we're friends, we've been friends since like, November or so."  Lance shrugged.

            "And you're gonna sit here and try to tell us you haven't put the moves on her yet?  You expect us to believe that?"  Joey laughed and raised his eyebrows at Lance, which looked funny since he was looking at him upside down.

            "I…"  Lance cleared his throat.  "Yeah we've kissed.  But we're just friends."

            "You kiss your friends?"  Justin asked.

            "Hey, I'm your friend…"  Chris gave Lance a flirty, almost sensual look and blew him a kiss.  He kicked the chair back to the fully reclined position again and laughed hysterically.

            "Gross."  Lance made a face and laughed as everyone else chuckled.  "No, there's just a lot of issues here.  She's not ready for anything or whatever."

            "Yeah, uh huh."  Justin rolled his eyes.

            "Stan wants to kiiiiiiiss Wendy Tes-Ta-Buuuurger."  Joey said in a perfect South Park song imitation.  All of the guys cracked up laughing except Lance.

            "Shut up Joe."  Lance laughed and shook his head.  "Listen, you guys know that it's only been - "

            "It's been like two years."  Chris scoffed.  "And yeah, we know it.  It's about time you moved on man, you're starting to get us worried.  If you don't use it you lose it you know."

            "There's nothing to worry about."  Lance shook his head and laughed.  "I haven't lost anything."

            "Unless you start barfing every time you see her."  Joey laughed.

            "Shut up Joe."  Lance repeated as a small smile appeared.  The friendly kidding was something he was used to, and he knew that was their way of showing their concern.  "It's not just me though.  I'm ready to move on you know, to get this whole thing going.  Trust me I am."  Lance nodded and bit his lip.  "But she's got issues too.  She's got her little girl and her husband practically just died.  She wants to just be friends so that's… you know… that's what we're gonna do."

            "Friends who kiss."  Justin smirked.

            "Yeah."  Lance smiled again and leaned back on the couch.  "I guess so."

            "Friends who fu -"

            "Chris!"  Lance stopped him before he could finish his sentence and threw him a warning look.  "Like I'd tell you anyway."

            "Oh man, you wouldn't have to tell anyone.  That cloud you'd be walking on and the twenty-foot glow around you would give you away.  I swear."  Joey rolled his eyes.

            "Just be careful man."  JC rolled the empty beer bottle between his hands.

            "Hey if my heart can take running through those shows, a little action won't make a difference."  Lance laughed.

            "No, I just mean with the girl.  I mean, if she's got issues maybe you should find a girl that doesn't."

            "Does one exist?"  Justin turned his head to face JC.

            "Yeah no kidding, I wanna find one too."  Chris nodded in agreement.

            "No, but I mean if this one is gonna be all sideways or whatever because of her kid or her husband… I mean, why torture yourself?"  JC asked.

            Lance sighed and bit his lip again as he thought.  He knew how he wanted to answer JC's question, he just wasn't sure if he was ready to hear the answer himself.  "Because Paige is worth it.  The issues or waiting or dealing or whatever… I think she's worth it."  He said instead.  Even for him, it was too soon to feel 'love'.  Rationally he knew that, but he couldn't fight that tugging in his chest whenever he thought of her.  He'd have to put all of that aside until Paige was ready… until he was ready.

 

            The next day Lance took Paige and Hope to Epcot and spent the day walking around the different centers and lands.  Lonnie came along for crowd control, but Lance managed to keep a fairly low profile while they were there.  Every time they stopped into a store or to grab a snack he was approached for photos and autographs, but he was happy to oblige them.

            "See Hope, they just get pictures and stuff but since you're my biggest fan, you get to hang out all day."  Lance laughed as he kneeled in front of her stroller to give her a bite of his frozen lemonade.  She made a sour face as drool poured out of her mouth, then she smiled and opened her mouth again.  "So does that mean she likes it or she doesn't like it?"  Lance smiled up at Paige.

            "She probably likes it.  She's a sucker for frozen stuff."

            "Cool, me too."  Lance gave her another little bite and laughed at the faces she made again.  "Id give her this whole thing just to watch her face pucker like that."

            "You'd better not.  She's had enough junk today, she's going to get sick."

            "She is?"  Lance cast a worried glance at Paige as he heard a camera click from not too far away.

            "She's human, if you ate nothing but junk food you'd be sick too."  Paige smiled and pushed the stroller ahead, trying not to look over her shoulder at the teenage photographers.

            "Hrmm."  Lance pursed his lips and thought of all that he had eaten already.  Dr. Matson wouldn't be happy, and his trainers would be livid.  "You're right."  He nodded.

            "Of course I am."  She smiled and sighed as they moved into the Germany exhibition.  They spent the afternoon eating different foods from the different regions, then went into the other centers that focused on the ocean and the body.  By five they were exhausted and Hope was starting to get cranky in the stroller.  "We should get going."  Paige said softly as they sat on a bench to eat chocolate covered frozen cheesecake.

            "Yeah."  Lance nodded as he licked the melted chocolate from his lips.  "I really shouldn't be eating this."  He shook his head and smiled.

            "Neither should I."  Paige chuckled.  "But I figure we did enough walking today to work off a few of these."

            "True."  Lance nodded, and vowed to do an extra half-hour next time he met with his trainer.  He took one last bite, then threw the rest in the trash.  "Okay, let's get out of here."  He smiled over his shoulder at Lonnie who was working on his own frozen dessert, then they all headed for the exit.

 

            That evening Lance had them over for dinner at his house where they had left over bar-b-que from his party and shared a piece of cake.  "I can't believe I'm even thinking about eating this after all that junk we had today."  Paige shook her head, but took a bite of the cake anyway.

            "Tell me about it."  Lance licked a bit of icing from his lips and smiled.

            "This is good cake though."  She laughed lightly and gave Hope a small bite.

            "I know.  I need to have people come over and finish what I have left over or I will."  Lance smiled and patted his stomach.  "I don't need to go putting on twenty pounds before the tour."

            "You'd just work it all off anyway."

            "Yeah but still.  We've got wardrobe fittings next week, I've gotta be in shape for that."

            "What kind of wardrobe fitting?"

            "For our tour clothes."  Lance shrugged.  "We have a designer that chooses all the clothes, then we all get together and try everything on to make sure it all fits and if not there's a team that makes them fit."

            "Hmm."

            "Mostly I think it's all jeans and t-shirts this time around though.  There shouldn't be that many alterations."

            "Probably not.  Jeans and t-shirts are pretty basic."

            "Yep."  Lance nodded, then pushed his cake aside.  "I can't eat another bite.  I'm going to be running my ass off tomorrow with my trainer."  He sighed and placed his fork on his plate.  "Every time we ate something today I told myself, 'hey that's another half hour with the trainer' or whatever, so now it all adds up to about three days."  He laughed.

            "At least you have a trainer.  I'm still fighting with baby weight."

            Lance creased his brow and looked at her as she chewed thoughtfully on the cake.  "No you don't."

            "Yes I do."  She laughed.

            "You have weight left over from when you had Hope a year ago?"

            "Heck yeah."  She pinched at her side.

            "That's nothing."

            "I've got like fifteen pounds that are hanging on for dear life."  Paige blushed and shook her head then gave Hope another bite as the little girl slapped her hands on the dining room table.

            "You look fine."  Lance shook his head.  "You don't need to lose fifteen pounds."

            "Yeah I do, look at this."  She pinched her stomach and produced a little roll.

            "Oh please, you look great."  Lance rolled his eyes and smiled.  "Women are too wrapped up in how much they weigh.  You might not be Kate Moss thin, but who likes that anyway?  You've got the perfect body."

            "Right."  She scoffed.

            "You do."  Lance reached over and placed his hand on her side, then drummed his fingers on her back.  "See?  It's perfect for me to hold, you fit right into my hand."

            "Then you've got huge hands."  Paige laughed and blushed again.

            "No I don't."  He shook his head with a smile, then leaned over quickly to kiss the corner of her mouth.  "Don't change anything."  He stood up and took his plate to the sink.

            Paige bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from smiling and giggling like a teenager.  A small grin escaped as she thought to herself how lucky she was that she had Lance around.  It was impossible for him to say the wrong thing.  "So get over yourself already and tell him."  She thought to herself.

            "So what time does your flight leave tomorrow?"

            "Seven ten."

            "Ouch, in the morning?"

            "Yeah.  You booked it."  She laughed.

            "I know, I just… I forgot."

            "That works out well though, because then we'll get home early enough for Hope to nap in her own bed and we'll be able to get used to home again."

            "True."  Lance nodded.  "So I'll come by and get you around five thirty?"

            "No… Lance, I can't ask you to get up early to drive us to the airport."  Paige shook her head and carried her plate to the sink beside him.  She set it down then picked up Hope who had toddled over after her.

            "I don't mind."

            "I'm going to have to put my foot down Lance.  We'll take a cab, we'll be fine."  She insisted.

            "Don't be crazy, I'll take you."

            "I don't want to argue about this."  Paige shook her head.

            "Then don’t."  He smiled sweetly and leaned against his hand on the counter to keep from brushing her bangs off her forehead.

            She reached up and brushed them aside on her own then tilted her head to the side.  "You've done too much already, you're not picking us up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.  Absolutely not."

            "Paige…"  He sighed.

            "No.  If you show up in the morning I'll be pissed off."

            "I don't mind."

            "I know you don't mind, but I do."  Hope reached up and grabbed a handful of Paige's hair.  "It's your turn to let me do what I want."  She smiled and pried her hair loose from Hope's grip.

            "It's not very gentleman like to let you call a cab when you're only staying like ten minutes away."  Lance protested.

            "Sleep in and enjoy what's left of your time off."  Paige sighed and leaned against the opposite counter with hope in her arms.  "Stop arguing with me."

            "Fine, but just so you know I'm not happy about this."

            "I fully understand that you're not happy about this.  But it makes me happy knowing that you don't have to get up early."

            "This is all about you huh?"  Lance asked playfully.

            Paige thought for a minute then stood up straight.  It hadn't been about her in a long time, so it was long over due.  "Yep, it's all about me this time."

            "Good enough."  Lance nodded with a smile.  His resistance broke down as he reached out and trailed his fingertips from her wrist down her hand to the outside of her pinky finger, then around to hold her hand.  His heart sped up as it always did when he touched her and he smiled, "Thanks for coming out this weekend.  I had fun."

            "Me too."  Paige laughed lightly, hoping it didn't show her nerves as her heart skipped a beat.  "Epcot was a lot of fun."

            "Yeah."  He laced his fingers through hers and took a step closer.  By the way she dropped her chin to her chest he could tell that she was nervous, and he didn't want her to be.  He chuckled under his breath then swung her hand lightly and leaned in to kiss her again.  She was hesitant again, and he expected that, but then her hand came free of his and went to the back of his neck where her short fingernails tickled his hairline.

            Hope took the opportunity and grabbed a handful of Lance's hair to give it a good tug, ending the kiss before it got too out of hand.  "Ow."  Lance laughed and reached up to release his hair.  "Hey, I told her I wouldn't ask again."  He said to Hope as she giggled at the strands of hair she'd managed to take with her.

            Paige licked her lips and bounced Hope on her hip.  "We should probably get going.  She's going to need a bath and I'm sure she's exhausted."

            In Lance's mind he offered up his tub and a spare bed, but instead he simply said,  "Okay.  Can I at least drive you to the hotel?"

            "Yes, I'd like that."  She nodded.

            Lance nodded in silence, then took a step back.  "I… do you want me to grab anything?"

            "Actually, I think everything is in the car.  Her seat and the bag and everything."  Paige nodded as she bit her lip and thought for a moment.  "I think we're set."

            "Okay."  Lance said softly.  He reluctantly lead the way back out to the car where Hope fussed at having to be put back in her seat.

            "It's only for a minute sweetie.  Then we'll be home."  Paige cooed softly.  "Just a few minutes, then you can have a nice warm bath."  She carefully ran her hand over Hope's silky curls and kissed the little girl's forehead.  "No more fussing."

            Hope calmed down and rubbed her eyes as Paige shut the back door.  "You're like magic."  Lance said as he climbed into the car.

            "What?"

            "Well you just talk to her and she calms down, that's awesome."

            "That's the mother's touch."

            "I'll bet you have that kind of affect on other people though too.  You'd be a good nurse or something, you know, because you can just calm people down."

            "Do I calm you down?"  She innocently asked as he backed out of the garage.

            Lane stuttered for a minute.  She most certainly did not calm him down, but it would be inappropriate and embarrassing to say so.  "Y-yeah, I guess.  I mean, if I was getting hysterical you probably could."  He mentally kicked himself and vowed to keep his mouth shut.  There was no need to ramble when the night was going so well.

            He drove them back to the hotel, then helped Paige up to the room with the car seat and the little bags of souvenirs they'd bought at Epcot that day.  He set everything by the wall in the little dining area then sighed with his hands on his hips.  He watched as Paige stripped Hope down to her diaper then let her run around to where her toys were piled up.  She put the little girls clothes in the suitcase then turned to Lance.

            "Thank you so much.  For everything."  She smiled and pulled her lower lip between her teeth nervously.

            "It was fun."  Lance nodded and imitated her lip move before he laughed softly.  "This is your last chance to have me come get you in the morning."

            "Nope."  She shook her head.  "But thank you for offering."

            "You're welcome."  He sighed.  "It was great to see you guys again.  Everything's gonna get kind of nuts for the next couple months, but I'd like to… well I mean, I know I'll talk to you.  I just hope I can see you again soon."

            "Yeah, that'd be cool.  Next time you're in Arizona or whatever."

            "Whatever…"  Lance smiled.

            Paige frowned quickly and took a deep breath,  "Wow, it feels like you're going away and never coming back or something."  She laughed nervously.

            "I'm not going anywhere."

            "I know.  This just… it feels weird."

            "I'm sorry if I'm making you feel weird."

            "You're not."

            "I mean, with the kiss- "

            "No, that's not it."  She said quickly.  "I don't know what it is.  It's nothing."  She shook her head and took a few steps to close the gap between her and Lance.  She tentatively wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug followed by a kiss on the cheek.

            He held her close longer than necessary, because he felt it too.  He didn't want to let go, but he didn't know how to explain it.  His brow furrowed for a moment, then he kissed her cheek softly and took a deep breath.  "Leave before you're not able to."  A tiny voice inside of his head said.  "I'll call you later, okay?"

            "Okay."  She nodded as a handful of Hope's toys crashed to the floor.

            "Bye."  He practically whispered as he pulled the door open and stepped out into the hall.

            "Bye."  She smiled slowly as she leaned on the door and swung it back and forth slightly.  Paige watched as he walked down the hall toward the elevators, then sighed and shut the door to get Hope ready for bed.  "This close Paige… you were this close."  She whispered to herself as she shook her head.

 

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

 

            Lance spent Monday hanging out at his home alone, cleaning up the mess from the party and generally taking it easy and thinking about Paige.  On Tuesday his trainer came to the house, and Lance confessed his weekend splurges.  He worked out more than usual, and promised to do it again the next day, which he did.

By the end of the week Lance felt completely ready to start the tour even though they still had another couple weeks before they would actually get started.  Saturday evening after meeting with Johnny and the guys at Johnny's house, Lance called Paige just to say hi.

            "Hi."  Paige smiled.  "How was your week?"

            "It was good.  I worked off all that cake I had last weekend."

            "You did?"  She laughed and thought of the extra twenty minutes she'd done on her walk every day.  "I did too.  Or well, I tried to."

            "Man, you've got to remind me not to do that again.  On the upside though, I'm ready to get this tour started."

            "Not much longer, right?"

            "Nope.  But first we get to go to Hawaii."

            "Oooh, Hawaii?"  She raised her eyebrow.  "Is that where you're starting the tour?"

            "No."

            "Oh, you mean you actually get a vacation?"

            "Not exactly."

            "More recording?"

            "No, we're done recording."

            "So, you're not going for the tour and you're not recording anything and it's not really a vacation, but you're going to Hawaii?"  Paige asked with a smile.

            "Yep."  Lance laughed and curled his toes around the edge of the glass-topped coffee table.  "Well kind of.  The first week there we're on our own basically, so that's kind of a vacation.  But we have a couple shoots and the whole island will be taken over by MTV people, so it's not really a vacation.  Then the second week we're hosting some MTV shows and stuff, then at the end of the second week we're doing like a little show thing with some of the other guest hosts.  But it won't be a full show or anything."

            "Hey, you're going to Hawaii, you can't really complain, right?"

            "Exactly."  Lance laughed.  "Have you ever been?"

            "Nope."  Paige shook her head.  "We didn't take those kinds of family vacations when I was a kid.  We'd go camping in Yosemite or to Disneyland or something like that.  We didn't fly anywhere."

            "Oh man, you'd love it out there.  One day I'm gonna live in Kauai.  I'm gonna buy me a little house on the beach and surf every day."

            "You surf?"

            "No, but if I lived there I'd learn."  Lance laughed.

            "Good point."  She smiled and picked at her fingernails.  "So when do you leave?"

            "Um, in two weeks I think.  Two and a half maybe."  Lance shrugged.  "I have everything written down but I don't have it here with me."

            "That's okay, I'm just being nosey."

            "Do you want anything?"

            "What?"

            "From Hawaii."  Lance laughed.  "A dashboard hula girl or flower lei or something?"

            "Oh, no you don't need to get me anything."

            Lance sighed,  "Okay, I'll choose something myself."  He smiled slowly,  "Unless you wanted to come…"

            "Don't be silly."  Paige laughed.  "I can't go to Hawaii, you've lost your mind."

            "I'm just saying… if you wanted to, you could."

            "Thank you, but no.  We've done enough traveling this year I think.  With Disneyland and Florida and everything like that, I think we've met our yearly quota."  She laughed softly.

            "If you insist."

            "I do."

            "Okay fine."  He smiled.  "You don't know what you're missing."

            "You can take lots of pictures and show us when you get back."

            "I'll definitely do that."  Lance stood up and stretched his back.  "I've gotta get going.  I'm supposed to call this guy at three and it's like, five till."

            "Okay."  Paige nodded.  "I'll talk to you later then."

            "Yeah, I'll talk to you again before we go."  They said good bye then Lance hung up to take his other call.  Just a few more weeks of work before he'd be able to kick back and relax on the beach with nothing to worry about other than how much sun he was getting.

 

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

 

            The day finally came when the guys go to go to Hawaii, and Lance was more than excited.  "Man, I can't wait.  I love Hawaii."  He said into the phone as he zipped his suitcase closed.

            "You have your medication, right?"  His mother asked.

            "Yeah, I brought all of it with me just in case."

            "And you put it in your carry on right?  In case they lose your luggage?"

            "I put half in my carry on and half in my luggage and I have all of the prescription numbers in my planner, which is coming with me on the plane."  Lance sighed, but smiled.  He knew his mom was only looking out for him.

            "Did you call Dr. Matson and tell her?"

            "And tell her what?"

            "Tell her that you're going to Hawaii."

            "Why?  Does she want me to bring her a pineapple?"  Lance smiled, he loved giving his mom a hard time.  "I'm kidding.  No, I haven't called her but she said I didn't need to call unless I was going to someplace I'd need shots for because I'm more susceptible to infection and stuff like that."

            "Are you sure?"

            "Yeah, I'm sure mom."  He smiled.  "But I think I'll bring her a pineapple anyway."

            "I'm sure she'd like that."  Diane smiled slowly.  "Bring me one too."

            "Of course.  I'll bring you all kinds of things, you know that."

            "Just a pineapple is fine."

            "Yeah whatever."  Lance laughed.  "I'm really excited mom.  This just feels like something special you know?  I can't explain it, it's like… it's like something great is going to happen."

            "Well honey, you never know."

            "I know. That's why I can't wait."  Lance bit his lip and pulled his suitcase to the floor as he cradled the phone between his ear and his shoulder.  "You know… things are going so good for me and the guys right now, I mean really.  We've got the album almost done, we're heading out on tour here in a month, I'm healthy, all the guys are in good shape, we're all happy…"

            "That's a great thing Lance."

            "Yeah… and but I've been thinking a lot about the donor and his family, you know?  It's like… I don't know, like I want to share this with them or something."

            "You could write them a letter."

            "I know, I have.  I wrote one a while back to kind of say thank you."

            "Okay…"

            "But I feel like I should keep them up to date, to let them know how I'm doing."

            "Well it wouldn't take much for them to find out.  I mean, Nsync is practically a household name."

            "Yeah but the letter was anonymous.  That's how it works with the foundation."

            "Oh, I didn't know that."

            "Yeah, you can send an anonymous one, or you can send one that says you want to contact them… but I… well I haven't done that.  But even still, there's no way to know they got the other one, so… I don't know."  Lance shrugged.  "But anyway, I've been thinking about them a lot lately.  I wish they could know what I was doing, without really knowing, you know?  If they didn't want to I mean."

            "I know what you mean."  His mom said, though he was sure she didn't really.

            "Yeah."  Lance said softly with a sigh.  "Anyway, JC's gonna be by in like, five minutes so I've gotta go haul all this junk out to the curb so he doesn't have to wait around."

            "Okay honey, have a great time and call me when you get there."

            "I will."

            "And send postcards."

            "I'll try."  Lance nodded.

            "Okay sweetie, I love you."

            "I love you too mom."  Lance smiled sweetly and hung up the phone.  He sighed, then placed it back on the charger before he grabbed his suitcases and lugged them outside to wait for JC.

 

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

 

            The guys spent the first week in Hawaii relaxing, partying, sunbathing, snorkeling… or anything else they felt like doing.  They had several photo shoots they squeezed in, but even those weren't really work.  "Man, if I could do this for a living, I'd be set."  Chris said as he lounged on a beach chair with a fruit drink in one hand and cool shades resting across the bridge of his nose.  "Oh wait.  I do."  He laughed and took a sip of the drink.  "Now if I could just get some rum or something into this girly drink, I'd be set."

            "Oh wait."  Joey laughed and pretended to get into the photographer's backpack.

            "You got some?"  Chris said up quickly and spilled a little of the juice down his leg.

            "Yeah right."  Joey rolled his eyes.  "Nsync with booze?  Not in this lifetime."

            "Not with a photographer present."  Randi, the photographer, laughed.

            "Hey, I'd let you take my picture with booze if you give me some.  I'm way older than 21."  Chris licked the spilled juice off his hand.  "It's not like it'd be illegal or anything."

            "This is for Teen People."  Randi said with a grin.

            "Ahh, okay."  Chris leaned back in the chair.

            "So wait, it's okay to look like we're having a mai tai, but we can't actually have one?  What difference does that make?"  Justin asked as he sat at the foot of Chris' lounge chair.

            "The difference is that there will be a recipe for the pineapple drink Chris is drinking on the page.  It's Celebrities Favorite Summer Drinks."

            "This isn't pineapple."  Chris made a face.

            "And it isn't my favorite drink."  Joey crinkled his nose.

            "Sure it is, your buddy Lance's mom used to make it all the time."  Randi chuckled and brushed the hair out of her eyes.

            "Oh man, how come it has to be my mom?  Do I need to call her to warn her?"  Lance used the hem of his wifebeater to wipe his forehead.

            "Nah, just tell her to pick up a copy of the next issue."  Randi closed one eye and snapped off a shot.

            "She subscribes."  Lance smiled.

            "I'll bet she does."  JC laughed and slapped Lance's thigh with his flip-flop.  They finished up the beach front photo shoot, then were sent away to a private Luau with the MTV crew before they were set free for the night.  JC and Joey took off for a floating dance party while Lance joined Justin and Chris at a little smokey dive with awesome live music.

            By the time they got back to the hotel they were tired from having been in the sun all day and partying for most of the night.  Lance went to his room and kicked his sandy sandals off before removing his watch and running his hands through his hair.  He could already see where he was starting to get tan, the skin under his watch was fair, and considerably paler than the rest of his arm.  "Lovely."  He yawned and headed for the bathroom for a shower.  It was almost two in the morning when he got out and pulled his boxers on over his still damp body.

            He clicked the TV on and lay diagonally across the bed as he surfed the channels, looking for something to fall asleep to.  He'd had insomnia for three nights and hadn't been to sleep before four in the morning, regardless of how hard he tried.  He pulled the pillow from the head of the bed and tucked it under his cheek.  The next day was a completely free day for him, so he intended to catch up on any missed sleep then.  "I'll work on my tan and sleep at the same time."  He said softly with a smile.

            After a few minutes he landed on "Don't Say a Word" on the movie channel, so he sighed and settled in to watch it.  He hoped he'd fall asleep before it was over, but unfortunately he was still wide awake when the credits began to roll.

            "Dammit."  He grumbled as he readjusted the pillow under his head and reached for the remote control.

            The images flickered by with each click of the button as Lance paused just long enough to decide it was nothing he wanted to watch.  After his third cycle through the channels he stopped it on the Maury Povich talk show.  "Yay, trash talk TV… fun for all."  Lance sighed and fell back onto the bed in the dark.  The light from the TV played shadows on the ceiling and he wished he could just fall asleep.

            "Next we're going to hear from Jonathan Marlowe, a fifteen year old boy who received a liver transplant from a donor in New York.  He's here today to tell us his story but what he doesn't know is that we've got a surprise for him.  The family of the young man who donated his liver is here in the studio with us, ready to make another one of Jonathan's dreams come true.  Stay tuned after the break."  Maury said with a smile.

            "What the…?"   Lance sat up quickly, just in time to see the young mans face flash across the screen.  He sat speechless while the local commercials played in front of him; zoning out as a man hollered about the lowest used car prices in town.

            When Maury came back on the screen Lance had to remind himself to breathe.  Maury introduced the young man and talked about his disease and transplant.  Lance nodded with understanding as the kid talked about the handful of pills he had to take everyday, but how it was all worth it because now he could play baseball.

            Maury waited until after the next break to bring the family of the donor out, but when he did Lance had a hard time focusing on the TV.  That was what he wanted, he wanted the family to know that they did the right thing and that he was making his dreams come true because of them.  He wanted that to be their reaction, for them to be thrilled to tears to see their loved ones in the people they helped.

            As soon as the segment was over Lance jumped off the bed and pulled his backpack onto his lap as he sat on the floor.  He dug around in the old knapsack until he found his worn out spiral bound notebook with the stickers and doodles across the front and ballpoint pen shoved down in the coils.  The green envelope stuck out the top and that was just what he was looking for.

            Lance pushed himself off the floor and dropped into one of the chairs at the little table by the sliding glass door.  The envelope wasn't sealed, so he slowly removed the form and guidelines then read them over carefully.  This was a daunting task for anyone, and Lance wasn't sure if he could do it on his own.  None of the other guys would understand the conflict he was going through, they would just say to go ahead and do it… it couldn't hurt.  But it could hurt.  He needed some real advice from someone who would know.

            His watch read ten minutes to four in the morning, which would make it almost seven in Arizona.  If he wasted any more time thinking about it he'd talk himself out of it, so he picked up his cell phone and dialed her number from the built in address book.

            It rang three times before she picked up sounding hurried,  "Hello?"

            “Hey Paige, this is uh, this is Lance.”  Lance said nervously as he stared at the form in front of him on the little table.

            “Lance?  H-hi.  Where are you?”  She smiled at the sound of his voice and her heart skipped a beat. 

            “Hawaii.”  He cleared his throat to try to get rid of his scratchy morning voice.  “Sorry to call so early.”

            “I… it’s okay I was up.”  Paige slid the high chair tray up to Hope’s chest.  “Here you go sweetie.”  She set a few cheerios on the tray and ruffled Hope’s hair.

            “Excuse me?”

            “I’m giving Hope her breakfast.”  Paige smiled,  “What’s up?”

            “I need some help… I uh… I have the form thing here to fill out and I want to get a second opinion.”  Lance licked his lips quickly as he tapped the pen in his hand on the table.

            “A form for what?”

            “To find my donors family.”  He said softly, as if not wanting her to hear.  Paige was silent on the other end and he thought for a minute that maybe she hadn’t heard.  “Paige?”

            “Y-you want to contact them?”  She asked as she dropped herself at her dining room table beside Hope’s chair.

            “I just want to say thank you.”

            “You can write an anonymous letter.”  Paige’s palms began to sweat.

            “I know.”  Lance nodded.

            “Then why… why do you need to do this?”

            “I just feel like I need to. To show them what I’m doing with my life so that they know their actions were… I don’t know.”

            “Coming from the other side of that spectrum Lance, I...”  Paige tried to keep her voice steady, which was never an easy task when she began to talk about Travis.  "I think I'd be happy just getting their anonymous letter of thanks or whatever."

            “You wouldn’t want to see how you’ve made their lives better?”

            “I don't think so.  Lance, it's still really hard for me, I know it probably shouldn't be but it is.”  She shook her head as Hope cheerfully threw her cereal on the floor.  “As selfish as it sounds, I don't think I'd want to actually see the recipients, that would hurt too much.”

            Lance could hear her defenses come up as her voice took on an edge,  “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to upset you.  I just… I wanted to know how to do this.”  Lance listened to her shake cereal onto Hope’s tray for the second time.  “They don’t have to respond, I’d just like to… to have that out there.”

            Paige knew he was right, they didn't have to respond, they didn't even have to look.  That was all up to them; but she also knew that having that temptation there would almost be too much to bear.  If she knew someone wanted to meet her, she would think about it constantly.  Then again, if she took her name off the notification list, she would never know if something were waiting there for her.

            "I know."  She said softly, almost forgetting he was on the line.  "What… what do you need help with?"

            "The phone number and address stuff."

            "Okay…?"

            "Well do I have to put in my home information?"  He asked.

            "As opposed to?"

            "Like my cell phone or my management office.  That's like the best way to reach me."

            "The form is just for the foundation.  You can call and update or change that anytime you need to, all you need is the donor number."  Paige explained from memory.

            "They don't get the form?"

            "No, the family doesn't get the form.  What you will do is fill out the form and put that in the window envelope that came with the kit so that the foundation address is showing.  Then you can include your own personal letter to the family with your name and uh… and things like that.  There should be an example letter in there as well."

            "Yeah, there is."

            "Okay."

            "So I write a letter and put it in the green envelope and that's all the family gets?"

            "Yes."  She nodded.

            "And if they want to contact me they go through the foundation to get my contact information?"

            "Yes."

            "And if they don't want to contact me all they'll know is what I put in the letter right?"

            "Right."

            "Okay but I'm… well I'm not like the average Joe.  If I say I'm Lance Bass and explain what I do and how the heart has helped me in my life, well they're going to know who I am even if they don't want to contact me."

            "Right."  She nodded,  "That's where you're going to have a problem I think."

            "Should I leave out my last name and what I do?"

            "That's up to you."

            "What if one of the recipients contacted you and it was Tom Cruise or something, would you want to know that it's someone famous that you had to see all over the place, or would you rather hear it was a guy named Tom with a few kids who is in the entertainment industry?"

            "Personally?  Lance I don't even think I'd open the letter."

            Lance sighed,  "Okay."

            "But… I don't know, that'd be your decision to make.  I can't tell you how they would respond."

            "I know."  He nodded.  "Will you read it for me when I'm done?"

            Paige paused and took a deep breath as she closed her eyes,  "That's something personal… I wouldn't feel right doing that."  She shook her head.  "I'm sure whatever you write will be fine."

            Lance bit his lip and sighed, she was right and he said so.  "Thanks Paige."

            "You're welcome."  She said softly.  There was a splash then a soft crash from her end of the phone.  "Ack!  Hope!"  Paige grumbled into the phone.  "I'm sorry Lance, I've gotta go.  Hope just redecorated the dining room with her Cheerios and milk."

            Lance smiled at the image and tried not to let the little laugh he was holding in escape.  "Okay… I'll uh, I'll call you later."

            "Okay, have a good day."

            "You too."

            "And uh, good luck with the letter."

            "Thanks."  Lance nodded, then they said goodbye and he hung up his phone.  He rested his chin in his hands and leaned on the table in front of him, staring at the blank paper in front of him.  A small smile crossed his lips as he sighed,  "I'm always all gung ho about this till I sit down to do it."  He mumbled to himself as he tapped his pen on the table and bit his lip again.

            The first draft of the letter he wrote on the provided stationery from the foundation, but he didn't like the way it sounded, so he grabbed his spiral bound notebook and wrote it out there.  After three more attempts he was pleased with how it sounded, and tore the paper out of the notebook.

 

 

Dear Donor Family -

 

            I wrote to you before to thank you for your incredible gift, I am the heart recipient.  I don't know if you received the first letter I sent, or if you will get this one either, but I just wanted to have this out there… just in case.

            I’m sitting here in Hawaii and I just saw a TV show where they reunited donor families with recipients, which is what sparked this interest to write.  So… I'm sitting here in my hotel room watching the sky turn pink over Hanalei Bay, wishing I could stay here forever.  But I know I'll be leaving this afternoon.  I'm in the show business and I travel almost constantly; in three days I will be in Los Angeles and next week I will be in New York.

            I don't really know what to put in here, it says to tell you about how the heart has changed my life, but how can I express that in words?  It changed my life by giving me life.  With this beautiful and healthy heart in my chest I will be able to dance until I'm 90, I will be able to travel to the ends of the earth, or just across the country, in search of the one person that will make my life complete, I will be able to watch my child's graduation (when I have children), I will be able to celebrate my parents 30th wedding anniversary next year, I will be able to watch my career peak and be proud that I helped bring it there.  There are too many things to list, though I'm sure you've thought of them all from the other side of the fence.

            I know this may sound weird but I feel like if I could meet you, the person or people who helped make all of my dreams suddenly possible, that I would be able to enjoy them a little more.  If you would like to make contact my information is at the donor foundation, and I'd be happy to hear from you if you ever decide you would like to meet or speak with me.

 

Thank you again, for the million possibilities -

Lance - Heart recipient

 

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

 

            The boys arrived in New York nine days later to do one last sweep to promote their tour that started in only another week.  They spent two days doing Rosie's talk show, MTV, Joey and Chris went to Howard Stern's show while the other's made an appearance on The Early Show.  On their second day there they all did the Letterman show and had a great time as always.  Lance talked a little bit about his heart and how he's doing well and appreciated all of the cards and gifts everyone sent, then they dove into tour talk and Justin pretty much took over.  Their third day was spent doing several photo shoots for a half dozen New York based magazines, then they went back to the hotel to collapse.

            Several of the guys went out, but Lance decided to stay in and take it easy.  He hadn't eaten very well all day, so he ordered up a midnight snack of a baked potato and a caesar salad.  Lance sat at the little table by the window in his huge suite and at as he watched the cars weave around each other.  He smiled as he cut his potato into bite sized pieces, even at midnight in New York, there were cars all over the place.

            The reflection in the window beside him gave away how tired he really was as he yawned and stretched his hands over his head.  He finished his salad, then carried the dishes to the tray to put out in the hall.  As the door swung shut again, his cell phone rang in his pocket.  Lance quickly pulled it out and clicked it on,  "Hello?"

            "Hey you, I saw you on Letterman last night."  Paige said softly as she carried Hope to her room.  Hope stayed asleep as Paige jostled her around trying to get the door open.

            "Yeah?"  Lance laughed and ran his fingers through his messy hair and looked at the inviting bed.  "That was pretty fun, I love doing Letterman."

            "It looks like you guys had fun."

            "We did."  Lance nodded.  "Justin talks too much though.  He never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise."

            "True."  Paige smiled and turned the light on overhead, then quickly dimmed it.  "So did you do it?"  She asked as she lowered Hope into her crib.  The phone was cradled between her ear and her shoulder and threatened to fall in with the toddler.

            "Write the letter?"  Lance asked.  He could sense, more than hear, her nod.  "Yeah, I wrote it and sent it.  Kind of nerve wracking though.  I wish I could know if they've even picked up the other one, you know?"

            "There's no way to know that."  Paige shook her head then leaned down and kissed Hope's forehead,  "Good night sweetie."  She whispered softly.

            "I know."  Lance smiled and yawned.  "Man I'm tired."

            "Do you want me to let you go?" 

            "No, no that's okay.  What'd you need?"  Lance kicked off his shoes and reached to remove his socks.  He unbuttoned his jeans and untucked his shirt as he sat in the wide and soft chair in the corner of his hotel room.

            "N-nothing really."  She said quickly.  "I just… I was just wondering if you got that done, I know you were concerned about that and everything."  Paige shut Hope's door behind her then went to her own room to get ready for bed also.

            "Oh, yeah that's cool, it's done."

            "How's the tour thing going?"

            "Pretty good."  Lance nodded.  "We're busy as usual, but it's cool.  We've slowed down the pace a lot and you can totally see the difference in the guys.  I mean, last time we had fifty billion things to do everyday on top of a show every night and now it's just… well it's a lot slower paced.  We're able to sit back and enjoy it.  I just hope that when the actual tour starts we can keep it up like this.  I mean, this promotional stuff is draining, but it's nothing compared to show nights."

            "Sounds like fun."

            "It is."  Lance smiled and bit his lip; he'd given up trying to stop himself as the habit continued.  "You should come out and see us this time."  He suggested as he kicked his feet up on the matching ottoman.

            "If only it were that easy."

            "We'll play in Arizona you know."

            "I know.  But I've also got a one year old I have to worry about."  She smiled.

            "Hope could come."  Lance curled his bare toes over the edge of the cushion.  "We could bring her on stage and let her steal the show."

            "She would too, you know.  You all would turn into baby talking grown men."  Paige laughed quietly as she opened her drawer to pull a nightshirt out.

            Lance chuckled and ran his hand through his hair, worrying unnecessarily if it was out of place.  "Anyway… if you decide you want to, just let me know."

            "I will."

            "You will?"

            "I will let you know."  She laughed.

            "You're no fun.  Where's your sense of adventure?"  He laughed and tried to tease her into coming.

            "I can't promise you anything, but I'll see about it, okay?"  She smiled.  "Will you be here anytime soon?"

            "Arizona?  I don't think so."  He shook his head and reached for his binder with the dates for their upcoming tour in it.  "No, not until closer to the end of the tour."  He sighed,  "But anytime you can come is fine, I'll fly you guys out to wherever we are and I'll make sure you have a good time."

            "You don't have to."

            "I know I don't have to.  And you don't have to come.  But I'd like you to, and I'd like to bring you out."  He bit his lip and hoped she'd just say 'yes' already.  Call waiting beeped in his ear to let him know another call was coming in, but he ignored it.  There was no one else he wanted to talk to.

            "I'll see what I can do."  Paige laughed, she knew there was no saying 'no' to Lance.  "When are you here?"

            Lance grinned and said,  "August 21st.  We'll actually in Phoenix, but that's not too far, right?"

            "A couple hours."  Paige nodded.  "And when do you start the tour?"

            "In about… a week.  July 1st."

            "Hmm."  Paige thought.

            "Oh come on… just say you'll come out when we're in Arizona and I'll quit bugging you about it."

            Paige thought for a minute, then sighed with a smile.  "Okay fine, we'll come see you in Phoenix.  But you have to stop pestering me now."  She laughed.

            "Promise."  Lance laughed with her and started making plans in his mind already.  "I knew I'd wear you down.  I've got this thing about me, I can make women do anything I want."

            "You think so huh?"

            "Yep."  Lance smirked with a small chuckle.  "You're coming to the show aren't you?"

            "Oh stop it."  Paige giggled.  "Okay, now that I've made your week or whatever, I'm going to let you go."

            "You've made my year."

            "You're too easy to please."

            "I'll make the arrangements and everything and let you know.  Did you want to fly, or drive?"

            "Oh no, we can drive.  It's not that far.  But then we'll have to stay in town so I don't have to drive back after the show."

            "Of course."  Lance nodded.  He opened his planner and highlighted the date.  "I'll make sure to plan something special."

            "Okay."  Paige laughed.  "Anyway, I'm really going to let you go now, I know you must be tired.  It's got to be almost midnight out there in New York."

            "Yeah, almost."  Lance tried not to yawn.

            "Okay… I'll talk to you later then."

            "Okay, goodnight."  Lance said softly.

            "G'night."  She whispered back before they both hung up and sighed.  It was great to feel that teenage-like attraction to someone again… it had been too long.

 

 

Next...

 

 

Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn