As soon as Lance's mother left him alone in Florida, he jumped into his routine and took control of everything for himself. He monitored his medications and made his own appointments for his doctors then arranged for Chris to drive him to the doctors until he was able to drive himself. It was a lot of work to try to do everything on his own, but he knew that once he got into the groove of things everything would become a lot easier.

The scar on his chest healed to a shiny pink stripe that would forever remind Lance of everything that had happened in the last year. The guys came over as often as they could and even took part in his physical therapy. Joey and JC would walk with him around the block while Justin and Chris would goof off in the pool with him. They discussed the upcoming album and everything was "normal" for the times when they were talking shop.

For Halloween they guys got together to go to MTV Halloween Bash in New York City. They all dressed in wild get ups and partied into the night at the elaborately decorated ballroom. Shortly before midnight Joey dropped himself in a chair beside Lance, "Partied out?" He lisped through his fake vampire teeth.

"I can't understand a word you're saying." Lance laughed and tentatively touched the puncture wound on his neck from his last heart biopsy. He'd wanted to wait until after Halloween to get it done, but instead he had to get it done the day before they left. The tiny scab itched like crazy and it was all he could do to not scratch at it.

Joey reached up and removed the spit-covered teeth from his mouth; "You partied out?" He asked again.

"Yeah, just about." Lance laughed and ran his hand through his hair as he held his hat in his lap. "I haven't been up this late since before my surgery." He yawned.

"Well hey if you wanna cut out and go back to your room or whatever, just let us know." Joey stood on his tiptoes to scan the crowd for the three others.

"No, I'll be okay. I'm not feeling too hot, but I think if I just sit here for a bit I'll be alright." His hand unconsciously itched his neck. "I must look like one of your victims." Lance smiled and tilted his neck toward Joey.

"Yeah, check it out. Did Chris do your make up?"

"Make up?"

"Yeah, your bite marks." Joey laughed and looked at his neck.

"No, that’s from my biopsy."

Joey frowned and leaned closer, "But the blood…?"

"Blood?" Lance sat up quickly and placed his fingers over the puncture then took them away and looked at his hand. The tips of his fingers were dotted with dark red blood and he felt his heart skip a beat. "Fuck."

"What?" Joey sensed Lance's sudden apprehension.

"I've gotta go to the hospital." Lance stood up and dropped his cowboy hat on the chair. "I need a ride."

"Are you okay?"

"No." Lance shook his head and tried to take a deep breath to calm himself. He'd read about this, getting an infection at the biopsy site. "Call Johnny."

"We're not waiting for Johnny." Joey jumped up and grabbed Lance's arm as he frantically searched for the others. "Chris!" He shouted, spotting the only other Nsyncer he could find.

"Yeah?" Chris walked over looking like a stabbing victim; he was covered in fake blood and rubbery stab wounds.

"Go find the other guys, Lance has to go to the hospital. Where's Lonnie?"

"What's wrong?"

"Where's Lonnie?" Joey asked again.

"I'm okay guys, I just have to go to the hospital. Don't freak out yet." Lance tried to remain calm as he looked around for his security guard as well.

"Wait, what's wrong?" Chris looked to Lance for the answer.

"I'm bleeding." He tilted his neck to the side, then pressed his fingers over the hole. "That's like, a direct route to my heart and I can't risk an infection." His brain switched to autopilot as he gave Chris orders, "Here's my room key, go upstairs and go get my meds from my bathroom. My medical card is in a little green plastic thing right there by the pills so grab that too. Joey and I are going to grab Lonnie and Ken and go to - " He stopped and looked at Joey. "What's the nearest hospital?"

"Uh, Beth Israel." Joey licked his lips.

"Okay we're going to Beth Israel, so meet us there with that stuff okay?"

"In emergency?" Chris asked quickly.

"Yeah, that's where I'll be going in." Lance nodded at Joey, "Let's go."

They headed for the exit as fast as they could without causing a scene, while Lance kept his fingers pressed firmly on his neck. They explained to the two guards what was going on, then were immediately escorted out to the cars. "Do you need an ambulance?" Lonnie asked.

"No." Lance shook his head.

"The hospital isn't that far." Joey licked his lips as he slid into the backseat beside Lance. "I need to call JC and Justin and let them know." He reached for his ever-handy cell phone and began pressing the numbers he knew by heart.

"Do they have their phones with them?"

"Beats me. I've gotta at least try though, or they’ll go through the roof." Joey said as he held the phone to his ear. Justin's voice mail must have kicked in because the next thing Lance heard was Joey leaving a message, "Hey Just, me and Lance are on our way to the hospital… uh… Beth Israel… he's all right and everything, I mean it was his idea to come so he's not like, unconscious or anything. Say hi Lance." He held the phone out.

"I'm okay." Lance said into the phone before Joey took it back.

"So if you get this come on over, and let JC know. I'm gonna call him right now too. Chris knows. Okay bye." He hit the 'end' button then immediately dialed JC's cell phone.

"Where are you?" JC answered the phone halfway through the first ring.

"We're in the van on the way to the hospital, Lance - "

"Chris told me. We can't find Justin." JC said quickly.

"I just left him a message."

"Where are you guys?" He asked again.

"We're on the way to the hospital. We'll be there in like, ten minutes."

"Is Lance okay?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded. "Say hi to JC." He held the phone out to Lance.

Lance took the phone with his free hand and held it to his ear, "I'm okay, my thing is bleeding that's all. I just need to go in and get some antibiotics or something so I don't get an infection." He tried to sound calmer than he felt. This was his first big scare and he was not ready for it.

"Chris is getting your meds and stuff right now, I sent security back to the party to find Justin and as soon as we do we'll be on our way over."

"You don't have to come to the hospital."

"The hell we don’t. Put Joey back on." JC grumbled as Lance handed the phone back to Joey.

"What hospital are you guys going to?"

"Beth Israel." Joey cleared his throat. "We'll see you there, okay?"

"You’ve got security?"

"Lonnie and Ken." Joey nodded.

"Okay, we'll see you in a few." JC clicked his phone off and anxiously waited for Chris to come out of Lance's room.

Joey and Lance pulled up at the hospital a few minutes later then walked quickly in with Ken as Lonnie parked the car. Lance went directly to the check-in nurse and sat in the chair, "My name is Lance Bass, I had a heart biopsy the day before yesterday and I'm bleeding." He removed his fingers to show her.

The girl turned white for a second, then scribbled his info on a form and asked them to wait for just one moment. When she returned a doctor was with her and he immediately ushered the three men back to a triage room.

"Okay, what happened?" The doctor asked.

"I uh, I had a heart transplant in August and I went for my biopsy the day before yesterday and I'm bleeding."

"Who's your cardiologist?"

"Dr. Matson in Orlando." Lance said. "Dr. Porter from Johns Hopkins did the surgery though and he's my transplant specialist. I need to call him." He flipped his medical alert bracelet over and read the number etched in the metal.

"Okay, we'll get on that. Right now I want to clean that up and get your temperature." He looked at Joey and Ken, then back at Lance; "It might be better if your friends wait in the waiting room."

Lance bit his lip and quietly explained their situation to the doctor who nodded and agreed to have them put in another room where they could wait in private. Joey and Ken left the room, and when the doctor returned he began the regular procedure when someone presented with a possibility for an infection like this.

Within a half-hour Chris, JC and Justin were waiting with Joey and their other guards while JC called Lance's mom in Mississippi. He talked softly in the corner as he tried to explain that Lance was fine and that she didn't need to come all the way up here just yet. "We need to wait and find out what's going on first." He explained.

Chris excused himself to the bathroom and returned a few minutes later with his fake blood washed off and his other make-up removed as well. After more than an hour the doctor finally came in and updated them, "He's going to be fine. It doesn't look like he's got an infection but we're going to keep him overnight to monitor his temperature and blood count just to be sure."

"Should his mom come up?" Chris asked.

"Up from where?"

"Mississippi?"

"No." The doctor shook his head. "I don't think that'll be necessary. He'll be able to leave here in the morning so by the time she could get here he'd be out. Of course, if she'd like to that's fine."

"He'll for sure be out tomorrow?" Justin asked.

"If he doesn't spike a fever overnight, then yes he'll be able to be discharged tomorrow."

"Do you think he will?" Justin tugged at his lower lip.

"It doesn't look like he had any kind of access to the blood stream, so I'd say no. What happened was this, when he had the biopsy the other day that left a hole in his skin from the catheter that they used. The hole closes up pretty quick and what's left is a superficial scab on top. Tonight he scratched at the scab and removed that top layer of protection, but the only thing that bled was the top couple of layers. Does that make sense?"

"So when he picked the scab thing it didn't open up that direct line to his heart?"

"It doesn't look like it. But that's why we're going to keep him over night, just to make sure."

"If it did go that deep and if he does get an infection, it'll show up tonight?"

"If he was going to get an infection it should have already shown up. If in twelve hours nothing has changed then he'll be clear to go."

"Can we see him?" Chris asked. He’d had enough of the whole waiting room scene and he needed to assure himself that Lance was okay.

"Sure, sure of course." The doctor nodded. "He’s being moved upstairs right now to be admitted. He’ll be on the sixth floor so if you guys want to head on up there he’ll be checking in shortly."

"Okay, thanks." JC nodded then looked at the guards, "Let’s go."

"We have to call Johnny." Justin tried not to yawn as they all headed for the elevators.

"We can call from upstairs." Joey pushed the call button and leaned against the wall. "Are we staying the night here?" He asked JC, who had assumed the ‘in charge’ position in Johnny’s absence.

JC shook his head and rolled his stiff shoulders, "No, I think after we check on him and slap him around a bit we can go back to the hotel."

"Leave him here?" Chris asked.

"He’ll be sleeping the whole time and we’re leaving tomorrow anyway." JC pointed out. "We’ll see what Lance says."

"I’ll be here." Lonnie added as they stepped onto the elevator. The group filled it to capacity almost as they rode up to the sixth floor.

Once there, they waited by the nurses station for Lance to be brought up and settled into his own room at the end of the hall.

"I’m sorry guys." Lance said as soon as they walked into the room.

"For what? Scratching an itch?" Chris laughed lightly, "Don’t sweat it."

"You guys should be at the party, not hanging out at the hospital with me." Lance smiled and shook his head. "This really sucks."

"Those Dream girls were scammin’ on Justin too much anyway, I think he was looking for a way to escape." Chris reached over and punched Justin in the shoulder.

"Dude, watch out." Lance turned to face Justin and raised his eyebrow. "They’re like, nine."

"They’re not nine." Justin shook his head as he blushed quickly. "But hey, there’s only four of them... Someone's gonna have to go without."

"I’ll pass." Lance laughed.

"Me too." JC crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the far wall.

"I’ll take theirs." Joey volunteered.

"Seriously, they’re under 18." Lance covered his mouth as he yawned; the veins on his neck stood out as his eyes squeezed shut. "So did the doc tell you I’m okay?"

"Yeah, he said they’re gonna get you a flea collar or something so you’ll quit scratching." Chris joked.

"Something like that." Lance nodded. "You guys don’t have to hang around here though. Go on back to the hotel, I’ll be out of here in the morning."

"But we like sleeping in plastic chairs and on the floor." Joey shook his head.

"Yeah right." Lance laughed softly and raised his hand to brush his hair off his forehead. The IV was taped firmly and didn’t move as Lance winced and dropped his hand. "Go back to the party or something, you guys can swing by here on the way to the airport tomorrow or something."

"You’re sure you’re gonna be okay?" JC asked.

"Yeah, I’m cool." Lance nodded and glanced around at each of the guys. "Did you call Johnny?" He asked JC.

"Yeah. He wants to see you as soon as we get back."

"Okay."

"Your mom wants you to call when you get back too. I think she might be waiting at your house in fact, she sounded kinda worried."

"You called my mom?" Lance frowned but laughed softly. "Great, I’m surprised she’s not on the first flight up here."

"She wanted to." JC nodded.

"Shit."

"Well what was I gonna do? Not call her?"

"No, no I know you had to call her." Lance nodded. "But still, she’s gonna get all excited about this." He sighed. "I’m definitely gonna need to rest up for that."

"Yeah you will. Worried moms will suck the life right out of you." JC laughed and tapped the corner of Lance’s bed with his fist. "So get some sleep, we’ll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"You bet." Lance nodded and watched as the other reluctantly headed for the door.

"Don’t do anything crazy like spike a fever or anything." Chris shook his finger at Lance with the warning. "I mean it."

"I won’t." Lance smiled, and hoped he wouldn’t.

"See ya later kid." Chris waved and shoved Justin out the door. "Come on Roman Polanski."

"Who?" Justin asked as they walked out into the hall.

"Oh for Pete’s sake." Lance heard Chris heave a heavy sigh.

Lance laughed and shook his head, imagining the rest of that conversation as the guys headed down the hall. Chris didn’t realize that Justin was far too young to understand his innuendos to scandals that happened before he was born.

He closed his eyes and let the steady tinking of the machine beside him lull him to sleep as the fear evaporated and was replaced by comfort in the dark room.

The next morning the four boys at the hotel had everything packed up and ready to go by ten thirty. JC had spent an hour on the phone with Lance to work out how they were going to go about picking him up. "Well our flight is at one, right?"

"Yeah."

"So just cruise by in an hour and get me. Then we can all get to the airport on time and that’ll be that." Lance tentatively itched at the red spot on his hand where the IV had been.

"Can you be discharged then?" JC asked.

"He said I could leave now if I wanted."

"So why don’t we come get you now?"

"Come get me now? And do what? If you got me now we’d just have to go back to the hotel and hang out in the lobby, or go to the airport and hang out in the lounge. No, just come by in an hour. Take your time getting all your stuff together and grab some breakfast." Lance sighed and stirred his fork around in the rubbery scrambled eggs on his plate. "Sneak me a bagel if you can."

"What kind?" JC asked as he tugged on his lip.

"Right now I don’t care. Nothing with raisins."

"Okay." JC laughed. "So you’re just gonna hang out there for an hour?"

"Yep." Lance looked around the little room. "Yeah, I’ll call the doctor and get all the forms filled out. Lonnie’s here, so just hit his pager when you guys are leaving and we’ll meet you out front."

"You're sure?" JC asked after a short pause.

Lance sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm sure."

"Alright then, we'll see you in an hour. And hey, call your mom."

"Did she call?"

"She called your cell this morning, but she didn't want to bug you at the hospital, so give her a call." JC nodded.

"I will, thanks."

"No problem. See you in a few."

"Bye." Lance exhaled deeply as he hung up the phone and leaned back on the hospital bed. The narrow plastic bracelet on his wrist spun freely as he flicked it and bit is lip. This was is first set back, and it was basically nothing… but it was enough of a wake up call to place a tiny nugget of fear in his stomach.

This time he'd been lucky, it hadn't been anything serious. He might not be so lucky next time, and there would be a next time. Every doctor he'd talked to said the same thing, "Almost every patient has some form of rejection within the first eighteen months. It may not be total rejection, but rejection nonetheless. Be prepared for that."

Lance took a deep breath and swung his feet over the side of the bed and began to get his things ready to go. All he wanted was to get home and back to his routine, where he knew what to expect and had people around who could help him.

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

Before anyone knew it Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years passed in a blur of lights, food and doctors visits. Lance saw his doctor on a regular basis and did his heart biopsies right on schedule. Everyone was delighted with how well he was doing, and was actually surprised that he'd managed to keep up with his medication, physical therapy and everything else that came his way. Most patients his age tended to slack off at one point or another, but he refused to let anything stand in the way of his health.

All of the guys spent the holidays at home but in January they spread out to work on side projects of their own. Lance spent the time off trying to get back into shape. He worked with his physical therapist as well as some of his security guards that were helping him lift weights. In the evenings when he was home alone, he'd put in old Nsync CD's to try to sing his parts just to get used to hearing the harmonies again. It was hard at first, trying to keep up with the vocals and breathing all at the same time, but as he got stronger it became easier.

Justin called to check in after getting back from a trip to New York with his girlfriend. "So how's it going?" Justin asked as he dropped himself across his bed, glad to finally be home.

"Dude, I've turned into one of those 'M.A.S.H.' guys." Lance sighed and muted the TV.

"One of those what?" Justin laughed.

"I watch 'M.A.S.H.' like… constantly." Lance smiled, knowing he sounded ridiculous.

"The TV show?"

"Yeah."

"From the 70's or whatever?" Justin snickered.

"Yeah. Man I seriously can't get enough of it. I've seen every episode at least twice."

"Are you for real?"

"They had a 'M.A.S.H.' marathon the week I came home from the hospital so I watched something like 20 hours of non-stop episodes. From the very first to the very last one."

"Damn."

"Yeah and then last week they had another marathon. So I've seen them all at least twice, plus the regular episodes that come on in the afternoon around here."

"You need help."

"It's fucked up, I know." Lance laughed as he watched the characters on TV with no sound. "I never thought I'd be obsessive over anything, but now it's like I have to be home at 2:30 to watch 'M.A.S.H.'."

"Like Rainman, 2:30 'M.A.S.H', definitely 'M.A.S.H.' at 2:30." Justin laughed.

"I am! I swear. Have you ever seen it?"

"Uh, no."

"You need to watch it. Just watch one episode and you'll be hooked."

"Is it on right now?"

"Yeah, channel 53."

"You're sick."

"Maybe… but don't watch this one. I've seen it a few times, you won't like it. Watch tomorrow." Lance shook his head.

"This is how you prepare for like, four months in the studio? By watching re-runs on TV?" Justin laughed and shook his head.

"Hey, JC cleaned his house from top to bottom to prepare, Chris takes three day road trips to Nowheresville and Joey sleeps for 20 hours straight… don't even get judgmental about my pre-studio activities." Lance chuckled, "Why? What are you doing?"

"Writing, hitting karaoke bars, eating good home cooking and working out." He shrugged. "Nothing special."

"So okay then." Lance laughed.

"I called you last week to say 'Happy St. Patty's Day' but I uh… you must have been out partying or something." Justin cleared his throat.

"Nah, I was at my moms for her corned beef dinner thing." Lance shook his head and changed the channel; this really wasn't a good episode.

"I don't suppose you went out drinking or anything." Justin smiled.

"Nope, wanna talk about whacked out drug interactions huh? Besides, that was part of the conditions on getting a heart, I had to agree to not smoke or drink."

"What, like there's rules?"

"Well, they don't wanna give a perfectly good heart to someone who's going to destroy their lungs or liver, right?"

"True." Justin nodded. "So it's been what? Six months?"

"Yeah, well almost seven." Lance counted in his mind just how many months it had been since his surgery. "I'm ready to move on though. Lonnie's been coming over and working out with me a little."

"Really?" Justin's voice was tinged with concern.

"Yeah, Morgan said it'd be a good idea to work on upper body strength and stuff. I walk a lot and I started jogging with her about a month or two ago. She's more like a personal trainer instead of a physical therapist."

"And that's okay?"

"Yeah. It takes a little longer to get in the groove though, you know. And when I'm done I've gotta stop slow, I can't just stop running and sit down."

"You're not supposed to do that anyway."

"I know, but for me I can't. I really can't." Lance smiled. "You have no idea how much I wanna get back in the studio. My feet are itching, I swear, I just wanna go."

"Next week." Justin laughed. "I guarantee that in a month all you'll wanna do is come home and sit still for an hour."

"Never. This is in my blood. I wanna tour."

"You've lost your mind Lance." Justin laughed again, silently glad that Lance was that enthusiastic about coming back. "Seriously though, are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah." Lance ran his hand over his chin and reminded himself to shave. "I feel great, I've felt good for a while you know? I just can't wait to get back in the studio and plan the tour and everything like that. I feel like I've been on Mars or something."

"I know what you mean."

"Well yeah but you've been in the studio with Brit, and Joey was in there with those guys and JC… well he's always got like ten projects going. Me and Chris have been slacking off vocally I think."

"Yeah well, we're used to it." Justin tried to joke; he couldn't wait for the five guys to be back behind mics again either. Six more days and they'd be home.

"Shut up." Lance laughed. "Hey, 'Clueless' is on."

"You need help."

"She's hot."

"Seriously Lance. You need to call someone, and get some help." Justin laughed into the phone as he reached for his shoes. "Well you go on and watch your little teen age fantasy movie or whatever, I'm gonna go shoot some hoops."

"All right, I'll see you in a couple days."

"You can fill me in on all the M.A.S.H. episodes I missed."

"Right on." Lance laughed and said goodbye.

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

A week later they all met up in the studio and spent the morning going over the music they had to choose from and introduced several new ideas. A brunch was served while they did their talking, so when they got to the studio a little later no one was hungry. They played around with several tracks just to get the feel back, then paused for a break closer to one o'clock. No one was ready for lunch, so they took the break to wander the halls or go outside for a quick breath of fresh air. After the short warm up and re-acquaintance it felt as though they'd never left the studio at all.

"Hey, you doing okay?" JC asked Lance as Justin and Chris laughed their way out of the small studio.

"Yeah." Lance nodded and took a sip of water as his watch beeped at him. "Med time." He walked over to his bag and pulled out his pill sorter, "Yum."

"How many pills do you have to take every day?" JC asked.

Lance held up his finger as he popped three in his mouth and swallowed them all in one big gulp, "Overall? Like…" he thought for a minute, "Sixteen I think."

"Jeez."

"Yeah, but two of those are just multi-vitamins, so they're not really medication." Lance shrugged. "I need to eat something though, is there a snack machine or something?"

"I think there's a cafeteria break room thing up by the front desk." JC nodded as he held the door open. "Seriously though, are you doing okay in there? I know the first week in the studio can be kind of nuts, but…"

"I'm fine. Why? Do I sound horrible?" Lance joked with an easy smile.

"No, not at all, you sound great. I just want to make sure you're okay. If you get tired or anything call time out or something."

"I'm fine Jace."

"I know, I'm just checking." JC smiled and tucked his hands into his pockets as they spotted the break room up on the left.

"Thanks." Lance gave his charming half smile and cocked his eyebrow at JC. "I promise that the first time I feel anything that's 'off' I'll let you know."

"Okay." JC looked relieved as Lance dropped a handful of change in the snack machine.

"Do you want anything?" He asked as he pressed the number and letter combination for the small bag of pretzels.

"I'm cool." JC shook his head.

"These pills make me feel like I'm gonna barf if I don't eat something with them." Lance made a face then tore open the bag. He nibbled on a pretzel as they made their way back to the studio. "Are we definitely keeping those two songs Justin wrote?"

JC shrugged, "I think so. But you know… we never know till it comes time for the cut."

"Yeah, that's true." Lance smiled. "But you know, they were right. This album could really be a big step for us. You know, to branch out and do our own thing. We've got those two Justin did, then the ones you and Chris did. This whole album could be all of our own stuff."

"Yeah." JC nodded. "But I really think ‘Tell Me’ is going to make the cut. That's the one by Max Martin."

"Hell yeah, that one has to be on it." Lance laughed. "Okay other than ‘Tell Me’ it could be almost all of our own stuff. That'd really be awesome."

"Yeah it would." JC smiled and held the studio door open.

"Jace! Hey I've got Wade on the line, he wants to come by this week." Justin shouted as they walked in. He held his cell phone to his ear and hunched over the soundboard.

"For what?"

"To get a feel for the tunes so he can get his little mind working." Justin laughed then addressed the phone, "Shut up dancer boy, I'm asking JC."

"He can come by whenever he wants." JC shrugged. "Are we going to start with the choreography this soon though? I mean, we should probably have some stuff laid down before we start worrying about that."

"Dude, we've only got the demos and rough edges." Justin said into the phone. "Can you work with that? Okay. Rad, yeah cruise on out we'll be here till the end of the month then we're heading out to LA."

"We're going to LA?" Lance asked to no one in particular.

"We're using Jive's West Coast studios to kick out all those WaJeRo collaborations and stuff." JC rolled his eyes at the phone in Justin’s hand.

"How long will we be there?" Lance immediately thought of his doctor's appointment and things that he'd need to do to prepare.

"Um, like… three weeks probably." JC nodded.

"Longer if we can swing it." Joey laughed and high-fived Chris. "I'm all about the California girls."

"I wish they all could be California giiiiiiiirls…" Chris sang as Joey joined in to drag out the final note.

"Are you guys gonna be serious for a minute? We’ve gotta wrap this up today, or no one leaves."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Joey rolled his eyes and shoved Chris into the little studio then dropped his headphones over his ears. "Let’s go! Come on! We’re not waiting all day Shazam." He bounced on his seat and cleared his throat.

"Back to normal huh?" JC asked Lance softly as they stepped into the studio behind Justin.

"Yep." Lance laughed and shoved the bag of pretzels in his back pocket. He swallowed what was in his mouth then used his tongue to get the remains out of his molars, "Ready." He nodded a minute later.

"Let’s do it." Justin did a quick beat box into his mic and the session was back in motion.

Lance looked around at the four men standing in the studio and smiled to himself. He knew that they understood how lucky they were to have each other, but they would never be able to feel what he felt when he looked at them. Before he could control himself, tears threatened at the corners of his eyes as he took a deep breath. He'd contacted the donor foundation more than a month ago to see what he could do about sending the donors family a letter but he'd put off actually writing it. Watching the way the guys all worked together and genuinely cared about each other triggered something within him, without the donor's family he may not have been there to see this. The donor family didn't only save his life, but the four other guys as well. Their lives revolved around each other so much that losing one of them would have devastated the others; Lance knew that. He knew that if it had been any of the other he would have felt the same way.

At the end of their first day in the studio, Lance was beat but he had made up his mind to write the letter that'd been on his mind all day. He'd made it through the day without letting his tiredness get to him, but he knew it would take a week or more before he was able to really keep up with the others. He drove himself back to his house in silence, then fixed a small snack to eat when he took his last course of medication for the day.

The small plate he carried into his family room was filled with sliced fruit and a pop tart, the only things that sounded good at the end of his day. He set the plate on the coffee table and reached for his backpack that was sitting on the floor. He pulled out his familiar spiral bound notebook and balanced it in his hands as he looked at it carefully. A pale blue envelope poked out of the top of the notebook along with a larger white one while a ballpoint pen was shoved carelessly down the spiral spine.

Lance removed the pen and stuck the end of it in his mouth while he chewed on the cap and sighed. He twirled the pen between his teeth then tapped it against his lips in a nervous manner, "Writing it doesn’t mean you have to send it." Lance whispered to himself as he drew a diamond on the corner of the page. He filled in half of the diamond then drew another one beside it. He doodled a whole line of diamonds then he drew 3-D boxes and squares within squares until the entire piece of paper was filled with the labor of his procrastination.

The cell phone on the table beside his snack remained silent and for once Lance wished it would ring incessantly, just to have something to divert his attention. "You don’t have to write this." A tiny voice inside his head said.

"Yeah I do." Lance sighed and turned the page, then leaned his elbow on the arm of the couch and took a deep breath. Then he began to write:

Dear Donor Family,

There’s so much I want to tell you… but I don’t think I can. Let me first express my sympathy and appreciation, even though I know that neither of those can really be expressed in words. I know that in order for me to feel this appreciation, you had to lose someone you cared for very much. A father, son, brother, husband, nephew, grandson, friend… everything he was to you.

But because of your loss I am here today, and I hope that I can live my life in a way that makes it worth the pain. I know we’ll probably never meet and you’ll never know exactly what I’ve done with my life, or how this new heart has changed my outlook on… on everything… but I wanted to write to let you know that I will do everything I can to assure myself and the people around me that this incredible gift you’ve given to me, was not in vain.

I don’t know anything about the man whose heart keeps me going, other than the fact that he was under thirty … I can’t get over how young that is… I don’t know if this will help you at all, but I am a young man myself… in my 20's. I lead a very active life and with this second chance I've learned to slow down and enjoy every second of it.

I hope that someday you'll read this letter. My friends and family wanted to pass on their thoughts and prayers as well as their thanks… but I wanted to keep this short. Thank you for your time… and thank you for loving him enough to want him to go on forever with the help of the other recipients and myself.

Much love always – from my heart to yours –

Heart Donor Recipient

 

Lance re-read the letter to make sure it complied with the donor foundations guidelines of not giving away any personal information. He tore it out of the spiral bound notebook, then carefully pulled the tiny paper pieces off the end to make it look nice. Before he could change his mind he folded it into thirds and sealed it in the stamped and addressed envelope he’d kept in his backpack for the past three months. All he needed now was a mailbox, then he’d be done.

 

Next...

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn