For three months things went smoothly. The group did their altered routine and within a week it was second nature for them. After each show they were still filled with the same energy as before, but they didn't feel as physically exhausted which was a bonus for all of them.

Lance and his family met with transplant counselors every month to talk about what would happen when a heart became available. He visited his cardiologist and the Coumadin clinic at the same time to do a complete blood work up and EKG to keep an eye on his heart to avoid another heart attack if they could. The other guys knew that Lance was flying home every month to talk to his doctors, and they were as supportive as they could be, but they didn't know of the possibility of the transplant.

They arrived in Tucson almost two hours late and went directly to the venue without checking into their hotel. Everyone was rushed as they tried to eat their lunch while preparing for their sound check; everything was running behind and they had to make up the time somewhere. "We're doing the check right now, let's move it." Matt, their stage manager shouted.

"We can't finish eating?" Justin whined as he picked up his bag of chips.

"Bring it with you." Matt smiled and tapped on the door to the little cafeteria as he left. "Two minutes." He shouted from the hall.

The guys sighed and grabbed their food to go, then reluctantly followed their leader out to the stage area. There was no point in arguing. They only had another three weeks of the tour before they were guaranteed a month off to relax. After that though they were back out for the winter leg of their North American tour, including Canada.

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

"Mrs. Stewart? I’m Dr. Benson." The kind looking doctor extended his hand to the young woman sitting in the waiting room. "Is there someone here with you?" He looked around the tiny waiting room at the four other people nearby.

"Y-yes." She stuttered as she reached her hand behind her. Her cold fingers clasped onto the firm, thick hands of her father-in-law as the doctor cleared his throat. The hot Arizona sun filtered in through the flimsy curtains, but did little to warm the room.

"As you know, Travis was in a very serious accident. Overall his bodily injuries are slight, however the impact to his head and spine are what could be considered fatal." He paused to let that information sink in for a moment. "The swelling in his brain and in the cerebral cortex just at the base of his head caused a break in the flow of crucial blood and oxygen to the brain. The damage to his spinal cord occurred between his 2nd and 3rd vertebrae which is right up here." He touched the back of his neck and slowly shook his head.

"W-what does th-that mean?" Paige asked as she tried to remember to breathe.

"Travis has had severe and irreversible damage to his brain and spine." Dr. Benson took a deep breath and met Paige’s eye; "The best case scenario I can see here is that he might regain some sort of consciousness."

"He might?"

"In that unlikely instance he will have no movement below his chin and very little brain activity… and I feel that would be stretching it." Dr. Benson added.

"Wait, so what are you saying here?" Mr. Stewart asked as he squeezed his daughter-in-law closer with one arm.

"I’m saying that Travis is in an extremely delicate situation here."

"Is he going to die?" His father asked.

"That’s hard to say at this point Mr. Stewart." Dr. Benson looked down quickly then met the older mans eye. "We’re trying to get the swelling down to see what the end results will be. I can tell you right now that the brain is a highly sensitive organ, and cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to it, even if it’s only for a short time… can do terrible damage."

"So he’s going to be a vegetable?" Mr. Stewart asked as his voice cracked.

Paige’s heart pounded in her ears, this could not be happening. She was too young to be a widow; she was too young to have to go through something like this. "Wh-what does this m-mean?" She asked softly.

"That means that right now we're doing the best we can to reduce the swelling."

"What do you think doctor?" Mr. Stewart asked.

"I think we’ve got to see where this goes."

"But what do you think?"

"To be honest, I don’t think I’ve seen a brain injury this bad in the seven years I’ve been here." He shook his head. "It does not look promising, but we’re doing all that we can to bring the swelling down so that we can properly assess the damage." His forehead creased in thought, this was the hard part of his job and he hoped the family knew that they were doing all they could.

The pager on his hip vibrated loudly before he could reach down to silence it. He quickly looked at the numerical code on the screen then up at Paige and Jim, "I'm sorry, I have to answer this." He said quickly. "I'll be back as soon as I can to let you know what's going on with Travis. In the meantime, if you have any questions the nurses station can help you." He said as he headed for the door.

"Thank you." Paige nodded. The numbness had spread across her whole body and she wondered if she'd ever feel anything again.

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

Paige sat alone on the back of the couch staring out the window as the sky began to turn into a kaleidoscope of pinks and purples. Her eyes stung as she took a deep breath and forced herself not to break down again. She had spent her whole afternoon in various stages of meltdown. From the quiet solitude she was in at the moment, to rage, confusion and self-pity. With only her father-in-law to absorb the brunt of it, Paige let him have it.

Jim took the beatings, endless questions and sobbing in stride, he was a strong and sturdy man who had seen everything and could handle anything. "Paige?" Jim asked as he handed her a cup of coffee.

"Yeah?" She whispered without turning to look at him.

"We need to think about what we’re going to do here." He grumbled as he sat on the couch beside her feet and handed her a fresh box of tissue.

"I know." She slid down the back of the couch so that she was sitting at Jim's level with her knees pressed against her chest.

"When Marion died, they said she was too sick and full of cancer to donate anything, but Travis is a young and healthy kid…"

"Jim no…" Paige shook her head as tears spilled over again. "No." She cried into her coffee, hoping that if she denied it long enough it would stop being true.

"It’s something we need to think about."

"Not now." She buried her face in the pale pink kleenex and wondered how she could possibly have any more tears to cry.

"Before it’s too late."

"That’s my hu – " She started to argue before she realized that it was also his son in there, and it had to be twice as hard for Jim. "I don’t want to lose him." She wiped at her eyes as her face crumpled into a sob.

"I know you don’t sweetie… I don’t want to either. You know I’d do anything I could to trade places with him." Jim paused as his own voice shook.

"Even if he’s paralyzed I want him here."

"I do to." Jim nodded and pulled her close, "But… but sweetie if the only thing keeping him alive is a bunch of machines and he can’t open his eyes or anything like that, I mean, what’s the point?"

Paige knew that he didn’t mean that the way it came out, but with Jim’s limited exposure to anything outside the little town where he grew up, that was the best he could do. "Jim, I want him here. I don’t want him anywhere else." She cried some more as she set her coffee aside; she was jittery enough without the caffeine.

"Sweetie I know you do." Jim pulled her close for a hug and sighed, "But we’ve got to prepare in case the news is bad."

"It won’t be." She insisted weakly, her heart fighting though her mind knew she was wrong.

"We need to make some plans."

"Jim… no…"

"I’d like to donate his organs." Jim whispered.

"No… no… Jim no…" She began to sob into his chest as everything became real. She could deny it all she wanted but the fact remained… Travis was not going to survive.

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

"Look at you Mr. Hop-a-long. What’d you do?" Chris laughed as he slapped Lance on the back. They made it through their sound check in record time and were heading back to their dressing rooms to hang out while their opening acts got ready to take the stage.

"Nothing." Lance grumbled.

"Nothing? You’re limping like a gimp." Chris turned serious for a minute, "For real, what happened?"

"I bashed my toe into the corner of the amp, it’s stupid." Lance laughed and blushed as he shook his head.

"Let me see." Chris stopped and pulled Lance’s arm to make him stop as well.

"Chris… come on. I’m fine, it just hurts to bend them."

"Them? You bashed more than one?"

"I’m fine." Lance insisted while he kicked his warm up sandal off.

"Ow, shit look at that." Chris dropped to the floor where he looked at Lance’s toe. "Dude, you broke it." He delicately touched Lance’s second toe.

"It’s not broken." Lance rolled his eyes and pulled his foot away. "It’s just bruised." He slid his bare foot back into his sandal and rested his weight on his uninjured foot.

"We’ve got a show to do in like three hours." Chris pointed out the obvious.

"And I’ll be fine, don’t sweat it. I’m going back to my dressing room to tape it and elevate it so I’ll be good to go. Don’t worry about it."

"I’m serious Lance, I think you broke it. You should go to see a doctor."

"So I broke it? Big deal, you know what they’d do?"

"Hmm?"

"They’d tape it and tell me to elevate it." Lance laughed and hobbled down the hall trying not to wince with every step.

When the show was over Johnny and Chris stopped Lance on his way out the door to the buses, "I understand we might have a broken bone to deal with?" Johnny said with mock anger.

Lance sighed and rolled his eyes, "It’s not broken."

"Thanks Dr. Bass, but as the manager here I’d like to get a second opinion." Johnny smiled and said, "Do you need an ambulance?" He laughed.

"Shit… I don’t even need a doctor." Lance argued.

"Nope, your doc said that while you’re on the anticoagulant stuff even a bruise can turn nasty. You’re going in whether you like it or not." Johnny smiled while Chris just smirked. Lance took a playful swing at Chris' head before Chris ducked away and ran down the hall. "I figure that while they’re stopping the blood from pooling in your toe or whatever, they can tell us if it’s broken."

"The bleeding stopped, the bruise isn't even that bad." Lance argued softly, only to be met with a stony stare from Johnny. Johnny meant business and he wasn't going to budge. "Fine." Lance sighed with resignation. "You’ve gotta make Chris go though."

"Not a problem. I know how scary it can be, you need a hand to hold or whatever." Johnny laughed and draped his arm over Lance’s shoulder.

"No, but if I’m gonna spend three hours at a hospital to have a doctor tell me to tape my toes and elevate my foot, he’s gotta go with me."

"Fine, fine. Chris can come." Johnny checked his watch, "Head on out to the vans, I’ll meet you in five."

"Okay." Lance sighed. "Oh hey Johnny? My medical card thing? Don’t forget that."

"I’ve got it." Johnny patted the planner at his side, proving he was always more prepared than anyone gave him credit for.

"Cool." Lance waved quickly then hobbled out to the vans. His toes were throbbing after all the pounding and bouncing they went through with the show. He sat heavily in the back seat and opened the little window at his side to let in the cool night air.

"You’re an ass." Chris laughed as he slid onto the seat beside Lance a few minutes later. "Just because I told you to go now I’ve gotta tag along?"

"Hey, if my night is ruined so is yours." Lance laughed, secretly glad to have one of the guys coming along with him. He hated hospitals and even though this was just a technicality to check his toes, he couldn’t shake the nervous feeling that had crawled into his stomach.

"No problem. But if they have to cut anything open or whatever, I'm outta there." Chris shook his head as their security slammed the door beside him. The music started as they pulled out of the parking lot and Chris bounced on the bench beside Lance, always in motion no matter where they were.

When they got to the hospital, Andre their security guard went in with Johnny first to get the hospital ready for the two boys in the car. Sitting in a crowded waiting room would not be safe for anyone, so they were promised a private triage area as soon as one opened.

"Shit… I really have to go to the emergency room for this? People are bleeding out of their eyes and I’ve got a bruised toe. Come on, I can’t just make an appointment and come back tomorrow?" Lance complained.

Johnny gave Lance the fatherly look he’d perfected and shook his head, "No, your doctor said to come in if you got a bad bruise. You won’t be seen first, you’ll just be put in a private room. Unless you’d rather sit in the waiting room for a couple hours?"

"I don’t even want to be here." Lance pouted.

"That argument is over. Let’s go." Johnny held the car door open for Chris and Lance and the small group ducked into the emergency room. Lance and Andre went to the head of the line to check in, then doctor met them and escorted the group to a small curtained off ‘room’ in a corner with a promise that a nurse would be with them shortly.

"Can you bend your toes at all?" Chris asked as Lance hopped up on the little bed.

"I can flex them up, but I can’t bend them under." Lance sighed.

"So hey Johnny, if it’s broken does he get a wheelchair?" Chris asked with a smile. "Maybe we can all get one and alter our dances?"

"If we have to." Johnny laughed and shrugged. "You did okay out there tonight, right?"

"Aside from the fact that it hurt like hell, yeah." Lance smiled. "Don’t worry about it. It’s not broken. Besides, no one goes to the show to watch me dance."

"You can say that again." Chris muttered under his breath before a small laugh escaped. "Man how long are we gonna be back here?" He looked anxiously out into the corridor.

"We’ve been here like three minutes." Lance raised his eyebrow. "We’ve got at least another couple hours to go."

"I thought you were kidding about that." Chris slid the drape closed and sat on the doctors rolling stool.

"Nope, not kidding."

"Can't you fake a heart problem or something?" Chris asked, only half joking.

"Chris." Johnny said sternly. "Don't even play around like that."

"You'll live." Lance rolled his eyes and ran his finger over the cool metal grab bar beside the bed. "Or we could just go…" He said hopefully.

"I swear it's like taking care of little kids. You're staying and that's final." Johnny smiled.

"Yes dad." Lance and Chris said in unison as Chris spun around on the chair. They sat in silence drumming their fingers on the railing or picking at their nails for more than an hour. Every once in a while they would talk about the tour or ask Johnny about their plans for the rest of the week, but for the most part they just tried to stay awake.

"Okay, Mr. Bass… let's take a look at your toes." A nurse said as she walked in. Chris jerked his head up and dropped the tongue depressor he'd been playing with as Lance cleared his throat. "Hi, I'm Lisa Rich, your nurse practitioner for the evening." She laughed lightly.

"You're in a good mood, did you just get here or something?" Lance smiled, grateful for someone new to talk to.

"I've been here for seven hours, I think I'm catching my second wind." She looked down at Lance's foot. "All righty, what happened here?"

"I walked into an amp." Lance sighed. "Turns out they're just as hard and heavy as they look." He winced as she tapped against the top of his toes.

"I'll bet." Lisa nodded. "Well, if I had to guess I'd say that you broke your toe. This one right here." She gently touched his second toe.

"That's kind of the secondary reason I'm here though." Lance said as he tried not to yawn. "I'm on Coumadin and my doctor said if I have any kind of bad bleeding of bruising to come in. I know this isn't bad or whatever but… well he said I had to come in." Lance glanced back at Johnny.

"Coumadin? What are you taking it for?"

"I have dilated cardiomyopathy."

"Well isn't that fancy?" She smiled. "How long have you been on it?"

"Um, about a year and a half."

"What's your dosage? 4mg?"

"6." Lance shook his head. "I started at 2, then they upped it to 4… but I uh, I had a heart attack a couple months ago so that's when they upped it to 6."

"When was your last check at the Coumadin clinic?"

"A week ago Tuesday. I think, when we were in Dallas?"

"Last Tuesday." Johnny nodded as he looked at his planner.

"What were your numbers like?"

"Two point two." Lance nodded, he'd held steady at 2.2 or 2.3 for the last couple months which was good for him.

"Are you feeling okay now?" She asked cautiously. She didn't want to overlook anything, especially if he had a heart condition.

"Yeah, I feel fine." Lance nodded and leaned back on his arms.

"Well, the bleeding has stopped pretty well." She examined his foot again. "See it's contained here in your toe and just a tiny bit onto the top of the foot." She traced the small bruise. "Also, the color of the bruise is good, it's not swollen or cracking or anything like that. I'd say the bleeding looks fine."

"Doesn't the medication stop the blood from clotting?" Johnny asked.

"Yes." She nodded. "But in an area this small, the initial swelling does a fairly good job of stopping the blood flow. My guess is that it was pretty swollen at first."

"Yeah, it was at the beginning. Then we did the show and I danced on it." Lance nodded.

"Alright, well either way, it's no longer bleeding in there and that's the main concern when you're on anticoagulant medication. I'd really only be worried if your whole foot was bruising just from bashing your toe."

"No the rest of my foot feels fine." Lance shook his head.

"Okay, then we won't have to worry about that. Of course, if you notice it swelling up a lot, or the bruise getting bigger or darker in the next couple days come back immediately."

"Okay." Lance nodded.

"Now… I'm going to send you down to radiology to get it x-rayed though to see if the break is aligned. If it is then we can go from there, and if not then we'll call in the orthopedic specialist to take a look at it." She smiled. "But… well let's just wait till we get the films back." She made a notation on his chart and handed it to him. "Radiology is downstairs at the end of the hall. Do you need a wheelchair?"

"No." Lance shook his head while Chris answered at the same time.

"Yeah."

"I don't need a wheelchair." Lance glared at Chris.

"Come on, you'll keep your weight off your foot and I can push you."

"It's no problem really. I have one right out there in the hall, hang on." Lisa pushed the curtain aside and wheeled the chair into the small area. "No horsing around." She smiled at Chris.

"Of course not." Chris smiled and looked at the wheelchair like an excited child.

"Johnny…" Lance whined and looked over his shoulder.

"Hey you wanted to bring him." Johnny shrugged and watched as Lance lowered himself into the chair.

"Just don't go nuts." Lance shook his head as Chris carefully wheeled him out into the hall and toward the elevators on the other side of the emergency room.

Johnny followed behind Chris and Lance and kept an eye on Chris, half expecting him to take off running. Lance was seen almost immediately then they waited in the little beige room for the technician to bring Lance's x-rays out to them.

"Can we look at them?" Chris asked as he took the heavy plastic folder.

"I'm sure the doctor will look them over with you." The lab technician smiled.

"Yeah but can I look in the elevator though?" Chris smiled.

"No, you'll get your fingerprints all over them." Lance shook his head from his position in the wheelchair. "Here, just hand them over so you can push." He extended his hand for the folder.

"You're no fun." Chris sighed and placed them in Lance's hand.

"It's something like one in the morning, this is as fun as I get." Lance yawned and rested his head against his hand as he propped his elbow on the armrest.

Lance turned his x-ray films into the nurses desk on their way back to the little exam area, then sat himself back on the bed. He pulled at the frayed edge of his t-shirt and tried to stay awake as Chris bounced his feet off of the wheels on the bed while he sang under his breath.

"So do we get to sleep in tomorrow?" Lance asked Johnny who was dozing in the chair in the corner.

"You have a phone interview at seven thirty, I'll let JC and Joey take that one. Justin can do the calls into MTV so you guys can catch up. We've all got a deal at eleven though, so you've gotta be bright eyed and bushy tailed for that."

"What is it?"

"Presenting the Challenge for the Children check to the Ronald McDonald house, which is actually right across the street." Johnny rubbed his eyes and shook his head.

"Can't we just crash here then?" Chris asked without even a hint of a smile.

"You wish." Lance grinned and yawned as the curtain in front of him was pulled back.

"Well, it’s not broken." Lisa said as she walked into the little room. She slid his x-rays up onto the lighted viewer and showed him the bones of his foot. "You’ve got gorgeous toes."

"Thanks." Lance smiled and rolled his eyes.

"Nice and straight." She pointed that out on the x-ray then drew her finger over the toe in question, "I really thought you broke it, but I had our orthopedic specialist take a look at the films and he said it wasn’t broken." She shrugged and looked back and Lance, "You sure don’t mess around though, because those are some banged up toes you’ve got there."

"Yeah." Lance looked down at his slightly swollen and discolored toe. "So now what?"

"Well, if it was broken I’d tell you to ice it, elevate it and I’d put you in this really attractive boot thing so that you don’t bend your toes when you walk."

"But since it’s not broken?"

"I’m gonna tell you to ice it, elevate it and I’m gonna give you this really attractive boot." She smiled. "I’m guessing that you won’t follow my orders though."

"Yes he will." Johnny said as he looked at a pamphlet on hearing loss.

"It’s hard to dance in the boot." Lisa smiled up at Lance as she reached for his foot again. "I’m going to tape your toes together also, then wrap your foot in an Ace bandage."

"I’m getting all the bells and whistles huh?" Lance laughed as he leaned back on his arms.

"So basically any time he’s sitting down he’s gotta be icing it and keeping it elevated?" Chris spoke up.

"If it’s possible, yes."

"How long do I have to do that for?" Lance sighed.

"Six to eight weeks." Lisa nodded as she tore the surgical tape and reached for the Ace bandage.

"Shit."

"All I can do is tell you what to do. You’re a grown man, you can decide if you want to elevate it or not. But coming from experience and lots of training, you're going to want to do what I say." She smiled as she slowly wrapped his foot in the bandage. "I’m going to run down to orthopedics to get you that boot here in a minute. You’re not going to take off are you?" She looked from Lance to Johnny.

"Nah, I’ll be here." Lance sighed deeply and shook his head.

"Great, I’ll be right back." Lisa said as she stood up and ducked around the curtain.

"Six to eight weeks?" Lance whined to Johnny. "She can’t be serious."

"Your feet are kinda important to the group Lance. You’ll do what she says. It won’t kill you to kick back on the bus with your feet up every now and then."

"Shit I’d break my own toe if I could get time to do that." Chris laughed and patted Lance’s shoulder. "You’ve got it made man."

"Yeah, lovely." Lance tried not to yawn or look at his watch, though he knew it had to be close to two in the morning.

"Mr. Bass?" A new doctor asked as she walked into the examination room. She looked from Chris to Johnny then to Lance.

"Yeah, that’s me." Lance waved from the table and swung his foot gently.

"Hi, I’m Dr. Morgan. I’m the cardiologist on call tonight, how are you feeling?" She asked as she leaned against the counter.

"I’m fine." Lance looked confused. "You’re a cardiologist?"

"Yes."

"I came in for my foot though, what’s up?" Lance asked.

Dr. Morgan looked at the other two men in the room, "Would you like to come to my office for a minute? I have some rather important information for you." She said softly.

"No, no it’s okay." Lance shook his head as worry creased his brow. "The other nurse practitioner lady is coming back with my boot."

"Lance?" Chris scooted his chair closer to the table. He had kidded about faking a heart problem but at that moment he wasn't kidding at all. Chris could tell that Lance was now wide awake and worried, which only concerned Chris more.

"Is it the medication?" Lance asked. "The nurse said the bleeding had stopped so I didn’t have to worry about anything."

"No. No your medication isn't cause for concern, your toes are looking fine from what I understand." She nodded and glanced quickly at his chart. "I understand that you’re listed in your records under James Lance Bass, is that correct?"

"Yeah." Lance nodded and rubbed his eyes.

"Can you verify your date of birth?" She asked.

"What’s this about?" Lance asked quickly.

"I just need to make sure I have the right person." She smiled.

"May 4, 1979." Lance cleared his throat as beads of sweat coated his upper lip.

The doctor’s smile grew and she literally jumped in the air a few inches, "Alright, you came up in the National Recipient List as a patient waiting for a heart transplant." She said slowly as she regained her professional demeanor. "Kind of like the tin man."

Lance’s mouth suddenly turned dry as his heart raced, "Y-yeah."

"Well Mr. Bass… if you believe in God or a higher power, I believe they were looking out for you tonight. We have a match located in this hospital. With your consent I’d like to take you upstairs to begin preparations for surgery."

"For… for…" Lance couldn’t form the words.

"Heart transplant?" Chris whispered, he had never been told that was even a possibility.

"What does that mean?" Johnny asked, speaking up for the first time.

"We have a patient in this hospital that was involved in a fatal accident. The family has decided to donate the organs and when we ran the patients information through the database to find possible matches, Mr. Bass came up as one of the matches in need of the heart."

"The guy is here?" Chris asked as the blood ran from his face.

"The patient is here at this hospital, yes. We contacted your personal cardiologist to attempt to locate you to call you into the nearest hospital, when one of the nurses recognized your name. She apparently checked you when you presented here in the ER."

"That’s too weird." Chris whispered as he sank back in seat.

"I… they want to prep me for surgery?" Lance asked as he tried to catch his breath.

"Yes."

"Tonight?"

"As soon as I can get you upstairs." Dr. Morgan nodded and glanced at her watch. "Preparation for a transplant surgery can take a while, we have a handful of tests we need to run and medications to bombard you with."

"W-when would the surgery be? I have to call my mom and… and we have shows and everything." Lance slid his hands under his thighs and tried to keep his voice steady.

"The surgery would be in the morning or early afternoon, as soon as we could get you in. We have a transplant specialist that’s actually giving a lecture about the procedure in San Diego, he’s on his way here now."

"He’s a specialist?" Johnny asked.

"Yes, he’s one of the top heart surgeons in the country. He is on loan from Johns Hopkins Heart Center to work with our transplant team here." Dr. Morgan nodded. "Do you want me to give you a few minutes to think about this? I know this is kind of sudden… but… but we really need to start the process."

"No I – " Lance stopped and licked his lips and blinked a few times, "Yeah, no I want to do this I just… I have to call my mom and everything."

"I’ll call." Johnny stood up.

"No." Lance put his hand out to stop Johnny. "No I’ll call." He looked up at the doctor as his took a deep breath to try to calm his nerves, "I'll call."

"Here's your hot looking boot - " Lisa started as she walked in. "Whoops, I'm sorry." She took a step back as she saw the other doctor in the room. "Dr. Morgan?"

"Hi Lisa." Dr. Morgan smiled.

Lisa looked at Lance, "Are you okay? You look kind of pale."

"No I'm… yeah… I'm okay." Lance said softly.

"He won't be needing the boot now Lisa, but thank you." Dr. Morgan smiled. "Mr. Bass will be going up to the third floor to begin preparations for surgery."

"Surgery?" Lisa asked as her heart skipped a beat. She immediately thought she had somehow made a mistake along the way that had caused this.

"Heart." Lance exhaled heavily. "I'm getting a new heart." He looked up at her suddenly. "I guess I won't be doing much walking over the next few weeks anyway." He smiled slowly as his damaged heart raced in his chest.

"Lucky you." Lisa breathed a sigh of relief. "What are the chances huh? You'd better thank your toe for bringing you in here tonight." She set the boot on the empty chair and shook his hand. "Good luck Lance."

"Thanks." Lance forced a smile as Lisa turned to leave.

"Okay Lance, why don't we get you upstairs and checked in and everything so we can start the preparations." Dr. Morgan smiled and placed her hand on Lance's knee. "Are you doing okay? I know this is an awful lot to take in right now."

"I'm okay." Lance nodded and licked his lips, a nervous habit he never knew he had.

"I'm going to go get your paperwork filled out, I'll be back in a few minutes and we can go on up, okay?"

"Yeah."

"Do you have any questions?"

"Not right now." Lance shook his head 'no'.

"Okay." Dr. Morgan patted his knee then stepped around the curtain to go to the nurse's station.

"Holy shit." Chris said under his breath.

"Yeah." Lance whispered back.

"You're getting a heart transplant?"

"Uh huh." Lance took a deep breath and blew it out loudly. He looked over and Johnny and shrugged, "I guess this is it."

"Yep, it sure is." Johnny smiled, "Not exactly how you planned to spend your night, huh?"

"Yeah, hardly." Lance laughed nervously and sat back in the bed as his stomach turned cartwheels and a cold sweat broke out on his upper lip. "Man… this is crazy."

"Do you want to call your mom?" Johnny asked softly.

"I will when I get upstairs." Lance nodded.

"She's going to need to leave pretty soon."

"I know." Lance nodded and tugged at his lip, "I know." He sighed as they sat in stunned silence, no one in the room wanted to break the magic spell by talking.

Dr. Morgan returned a short while later with a wheel chair and escorted the small group upstairs to the cardiac unit on the seventh floor. "You're pretty much all checked in, but there's a stack of papers I'll need you to sign."

"Okay." Lance nodded and tried not to yawn as he sunk lower into the wheelchair.

"As soon as we get upstairs one of your nurses will come in and start an IV with some Factor which will help get your blood clotting again."

"You want his blood to clot?" Johnny asked. "What if he has a heart attack again?"

"We can't take him into surgery if his blood isn't clotting, he could bleed to death before we have a chance to do anything else." Dr. Morgan explained. "We're going to give him the clotting factor and some other medication to get him ready for the surgery. If anything happens between the time we give him the medication and the trip to the OR we'll know it."

"I'm going to be hooked up to more machines than you can imagine." Lance mumbled.

"Yes, you are." Dr. Morgan nodded. "If you so much as get excited we're all going to know about it."

"Kinky." Chris tried to joke, but no one laughed. Dr. Morgan stopped at the nurse's station in the small cardiac unit on the seventh floor, then two interns came to take Lance to his room and get him hooked up and monitored.

"I'm sure Lance knows the procedure by now, but let me just tell you what's going to happen right now. He's going to have an IV started in his arm to give him the clotting factor and medication. He will also be hooked up to a blood oxygen monitor to keep an eye on his oxygen levels, a heart monitor, an EKG machine and blood pressure machine. Basically he's going to look pretty mechanical." She smiled. "Once we get the preliminary tests out of the way, his blood work and EKG, we're going to let him rest for a bit before we start on the barrage of other tests and preparations we need to do before the surgery."

"How long will all of this take?" Johnny asked.

Dr. Morgan consulted her watch, "I'd say he'll be completely done and ready for surgery by around ten this morning if all things go well. Right now though, he looks great. He's healthy aside from his heart which will help him a lot."

"Yeah." Johnny nodded, "He's healthy for sure. Tired, but healthy."

"Well unfortunately the tests we're going to put him through will probably keep him awake, but he'll have plenty of time to sleep tomorrow."

"What time will the surgery be?"

"That I'm not sure of." Dr. Morgan shook her head. "The transplant doctor will be back here in about an hour and I know he'll want to check on Lance then get some sleep. It will also depend on the donor and how things go on that end."

Chris bit his lip and tried not to think of the donor, "Can we see him tonight though?"

"Sure." Dr. Morgan nodded. "On this floor though you'll need to wear the sterile coverings and face masks to prevent any kind of virus or infection from spreading to Lance which could put the transplant in jeopardy."

"Okay." Chris and Johnny nodded.

"I'm going to go take him his paperwork before they stick him with too many needles, why don't you all go have a seat in the waiting room and I'll come and get you in a minute?"

"Thank you." Johnny patted Chris on the back and led him down the short hall to where the neutral toned waiting room stood with its door open.

"This is crazy Johnny. I mean, we came in for his toes and now he's getting a new heart? I swear I'm dreaming. I'm gonna wake up any minute here and laugh."

"I wish you were right." Johnny nodded, "I wish this was a dream and Lance was alright." Johnny yawned and stretched his arms over his head, "Hey while we're waiting I'm going to run down stairs and make some calls. We're going to have to cancel the rest of the tour and everything so I've got to let about a hundred people know."

"Okay." Chris nodded. "We're canceling the whole thing?"

"And then some, yeah." Johnny reached for his cell phone and stepped into the hall. "You'll be okay here?"

"Yeah, I'm cool." Chris yawned and slouched down in the chair till his head was resting on the back. He let his eyes drift closed as Johnny grinned and walked toward the elevator.

Chris sat that way for several minutes before there was a soft knock at the door, "Excuse me sir?" A young man asked. "I'm sorry to wake you." He said softly as Chris opened his eyes. "Are you here for Mr. Bass?"

"Yeah." Chris rubbed his eyes and wondered just how long he'd dozed.

"He's all set up and ready. If you'd like to go see him you can check in at the nurses desk and they'll get you situated with your gown and everything."

"Okay." Chris stood up and scratched his belly. "Thanks."

"No problem." The young man smiled and disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

Chris looked up and down the hall to try to find Johnny, then shrugged and went to the nurses station where he signed the guest register and followed her directions on how to wash his hands and put on his sterile yellow gown.

Once he was set he crossed the narrow hall to Lance's room and let himself in, "Hey man." Chris smiled from the door.

"Hey." Lance nodded then looked at the blood lab technician by his side, "Is it okay if he comes in?"

"Doesn't bother me." He shrugged and went back to work removing the new needle from it's packaging.

"So damn, I bet you're glad I made you come in here tonight, huh?" Chris laughed nervously and fell into a chair by the window. The lab tech worked on the opposite side of the bed as he stuck stickers on his dozen vials.

"Yeah, no kidding." Lance closed his eyes and frowned. He wasn't big on needles and watching the guy prepare to drain his blood two feet away was a bit much.

"So uh… I mean, what's going to happen now?" Chris tugged at his sleeve and crossed his legs.

"They're gonna run all kinds of tests to make sure I don't have any kind of infection and stuff. You know, to make sure I'm ready for the transplant." Lance winced as the needle found its home in his arm.

"Then what?"

"Then the doctor will wave his magic wand over my chest and I'll be good as new." Lance smiled with his eyes closed while Chris laughed lightly.

"Do you think I can keep this mask thing? It might come in handy when Joey hits Taco Bell if you know what I mean."

"No kidding." Lance chuckled then yawned. "You think the other guys are gonna be pissed?"

"Pissed? Why would they be pissed?"

"Because Johnny's gonna go there and wake them up."

"Dude Lance, they aren't going to care that Johnny woke them up for this."

"Then because I never told you guys?"

Chris was quiet for a second as the lab tech filled up two more vials. "They aren't going to be upset man, don't sweat it. You've got a lot more to worry about than whether or not JC's panties are in a twist."

"JC wears panties?" Lance cracked his eye open and looked at Chris.

"No comment." Chris smiled from behind the mask.

"I'm glad you're here Chris. I'd be going nuts right about now if you weren't." Lance turned his head away from the man with the needle and sighed, "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Chris nodded and tried not to yawn. "You think if I lay down in an empty bed they'd let me sleep?"

"You'll get poked." The tech said as he placed the last vial in the little holder.

"Huh?"

"Anyone laying down in here gets blood drawn every two hours." He laughed lightly and carefully slid the needle out of Lance's arm. "There you go, you're set for now."

"You draw that much blood every two hours?!" Chris' eyebrows shot up as he saw the holder with a handful of vials.

"Nah, this is the preliminary baseline tests. From now on they'll draw one, maybe two." He shrugged.

"Thank God, man… look at all that." Chris nodded at the little rack the lab tech held.

"No thanks." Lance smiled and looked away.

Johnny walked back into the room as the technician left, "How's it going?"

"It's alright." Lance yawned and winced as he bent his newly punctured arm. "Is everything okay with you? I mean… announcements or whatever?"

"Yep, it's taken care of." Johnny nodded. "Are you guys gonna be cool here?" He asked as he patted Chris on the shoulder.

"Where are you going?" Chris asked nervously.

"I need to go to the hotel to tell the others what's going on." Johnny said softly. He looked up at Lance and gave him a half smile, "I think now would be a good time to tell them, huh?"

"Yeah." Lance nodded and ran his hand through his hair, careful to keep his other hand still to not move the IV.

"Chris? You hanging out here or did you want to come with me?"

Chris looked at Lance then nodded, "Yeah I'll stay here. I mean, that was part of the condition right? If he came for his toes I had to come too."

"Alright guys, Andre will be here as well. I'll be back with the others shortly." Johnny nodded and all but ran out the door.

"Man… he's riding a serious adrenaline high right now." Chris joked.

"Yeah, no kidding." Lance tried to smile but the widening of his eyes gave away his fear. "I've gotta call my mom. She's going to freak."

"Do you want me to…" Chris pointed to the door as he raised his eyebrows in question.

"Yeah, yeah just for a few minutes." Lance nodded and looked down at his lap. "Give me like, five minutes."

"Okay." Chris nodded and patted Lance's knee. "Hang in there, she won't freak out as much as you think."

"Yeah she will." Lance gave him a half smile as he headed for the door.

"I'll see you in a few." Chris let the door swing shut behind him then walked across the nurse's desk to the little waiting room where Andre was sitting under the window.

"How's he doing?" Andre looked up from the magazine in his hands.

"He's alright. He's calling his mom right now and Johnny went back to the hotel to get the other guys." Chris dropped himself into a chair by the door and leaned his head back against the wall.

"She's gonna freak." Andre smiled.

"Yep." Chris nodded, but understood. He felt about ready to freak out as well.

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

Lance picked up the ancient looking beige phone and held it in his hand for a minute as he read over the dialing directions. He began to dial several times before his fingers stopped shaking enough to get the numbers in the right sequence. As soon as the phone rang he wanted to hang up; this was not a call he wanted to make, and he didn't know how to say it without just coming out and saying it.

"Hey mom." Lance said softly when she picked up the phone three rings later. He adjusted the pillow behind his head as he thought about what to say.

Diane checked the clock by the bed and sat up straight, "Lance? What's wrong? What happened?"

"I'm in the hospital mom, but it's - "

"What happened?" She cut him off.

"I bashed my foot into an amp and I thought I broke my toe." Lance began.

"It's the middle of the night honey."

"I know, but listen. When I was here getting my toe looked at the cardiologist found me and there's a donor match here in the hospital. They're prepping me for surgery. I'm going to have surgery. I'm getting a new heart." Lance voice dropped to a level just above a whisper as his eyes filled with tears.

Stunned silence filled the phone line for a moment, "What?" She finally managed.

"I go in at eleven tomorrow morning. I need you to get here."

"Where, Lance? Where are you?"

"I'm in Tucson, at Northwest Medical Center." He pulled at his lower lip to keep it from quivering. "Can you come?"

"I'll be there as soon as I can baby."

"Before my surgery." He said quickly.

"I'll be there before you go in, of course I will. If I have to charter a helicopter I'll be there." She tried to smile as her heart pounded in her chest. "I have to leave right now then Lance."

"I know."

"I love you angel."

"I love you too mom." Lance's voice cracked as a tear escaped from the corner of his eye. "I'm scared."

"I know you are honey." Diane said after a moment's pause. Those two little words were enough to send any parent into a panic. "I'm going to be there as soon as I can. You just hold tight."

"Be careful mom."

"I will sweetie. Bye now."

"Bye." Lance whispered before he hung up the phone. He had hours of preparation to go through still and he was not looking forward to it at all.

With the room filled with silence Lance expected to sleep, but instead he worried about the other guys. Did they know yet? Where were they? And more importantly… how upset were they?

 

next...

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn