Lance drove down the highway without really seeing anything.  The lines in the road stood out when his headlights flashed on them, and that was the only thing keeping him on course.  Angry, scared and devastated tears fell, mixing with the rain falling on the windshield to blur his vision even more.  Lance's cell phone rang on the seat beside him, but with a quick glance at the caller ID he ignored it.  The number on the screen was JC's cell number, and Lance was not in the mood to talk to anyone.  He drove in silence to the hotel, then parked in the far lot and walked slowly to the front.  By the time he made it through the rain and to the lobby, his clothes were wet again and water was dripping from his hair onto his cheeks to help disguise the tearstains.

            "Hi, I need to get my room key."  Lance said softly as he stood at the front desk of the hotel.  He put his license on the cool marble counter and sighed.

            "Have you checked in?"  The kid behind the counter asked.

            "My security checked me in earlier, yeah.  Lance Bass.  There should be a key up here for me."  He hunched his shoulders and kept his face down as water dripped from the sleeves of his flannel shirt.

            "It's kinda wet out there, huh?"  The kid laughed as he looked through his files to find Lance's room number.

            "Uh huh."  Lance mumbled.

            "Okay, here you go, room 568 upstairs."  The kid slid a key card across the counter and smiled.

            "Thanks."  Lance took the card without looking at him then immediately turned to the elevators.  He walked into his dark room on the fifth floor and shed his clothes without turning the lights on.  He stood under the hot water of his shower until his skin was bright pink and tingling, but nothing could wash away the feelings coursing through his mind and body.  Guilt, love, fear, sympathy, anger… all of those feelings and not one of them made sense.

            He crawled naked under the thick blankets of the king-sized bed, then reached for his cell phone he'd thrown haphazardly on the bed when he walked in.  Every ounce of his being wanted to dial Paige's number, but he knew better than that.  He dialed Lonnie's number first and let him know that he was in the hotel and safe, and to thank him for his help.

            As he went to dial Johnny's number, his phone rang in his hand.  "Hello?"  He answered, without looking at the caller I.D.

            "Lance?"  Joey asked.  "Dude, where the hell are you?"

            "Joey?"  Lance's heart sank.

            "Yeah, it's me.  Listen, Johnny's running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  He's about two seconds from calling your mom and waking her ass up.  Now where are you?"

            "I'm in Arizona."  Lance said softly.

            "Arizona?"  Joey demanded.  "What the hell is going on here?"

            "I'm in Flagstaff."  Lance pulled the blankets over his head and spoke into the cavelike darkness he'd created.  "I have to stay here for a while."

            "What's going on Lance?"

            "I've gotta call Johnny."  Lance said quickly.

            "You're damn right you do.  But what's going on?"

            "Nothing."  Lance mumbled.  "I'll talk to you later."

            "Wait."  Joey said loudly.  "Are you okay?"  He insisted.  Lance remained silent on his end, how could he answer that?  Physically he was fine, but emotionally he felt like he was falling apart.  "Fuck Lance, are you okay?"

            "Yeah."

            "Screw that.  Where are you?  We're coming out."  Joey said something to someone on his end, then turned back to Lance, “You're in Flagstaff?"

            "Don't come out Joe."

            "Then tell me what's going on."

            Lance sighed, “I have his heart.  Paige's husbands heart."

            "She's married?"  Joey asked, as if that was the important part.

            "Was."  Lance pressed the heel of his free hand to his eyes, “I have to call Johnny.  I'll talk to you later."  He hung up the phone, then used the speed dial to reach Johnny's cell phone.

            Before Lance could think of what to say, Johnny answered the phone with a question.  "What the hell is in Arizona?"

            "Johnny, let me explain."

            "Start talking Lance."

            "There's this girl."

            "I swear to God, Lance, if you left the circuit for a girl I'll kill you myself."

            "No, I - "  Lance took a deep breath.  "It's Paige.  She's the girl I met at that conference.  We've been in touch a lot in the last year and… and we're kind of… I don't know."

            "There had better be something a lot more dramatic coming up here."

            "I have her husbands’ heart and she just found out tonight.  We just found out tonight."  Lance let out a deep breath through his teeth.  He knew Johnny was going to be mad, but he hoped he'd understand.

            "What?"  Johnny asked finally.

            "Her husband was the guy who was in the accident back when I busted my toe.  I have her husband's heart.  He was the donor."

            "Jesus."

            "Yeah."

            "Are you sure it's her?  I mean, maybe there was a mix-up?"  Johnny asked carefully.

            "It's not like they flipped a coin.  There's no mix-up.  They do it by the donor numbers.  I have her husbands’ heart and I can't leave until I straighten things out with her."

            "Lance…"

            "I'm sorry Johnny.  I can't."

            "We've got a tour to run here."

            "I know.  I'm asking for a couple days.  A week, tops."  Lance was too tired to plead, but he couldn't just leave it this way.  "I just need to talk to her and she's real upset right now.  I can't lose her Johnny, I won't.  I don't want to leave until I talk to her.  I just need a couple days."

            "Three days Lance.  Three days and two shows… but on the fourth day you'd better have yourself back here and ready for the show."  Johnny sighed.  "Who do you have with you?"

            "Lonnie's here."  Lance shuddered involuntarily as he thought about the expression on Paige's face when she opened the door that night.  "I have to go Johnny.  I'll talk to you later."  Lance hung up his cell phone, then turned it off for the night.  The last thing he needed was to be hounded all night and bothered by the high pitched ringing of his phone.

            Thunder crashed outside of his window as the wind picked up.  If he were in Florida he would expect a hurricane warning any minute, but he was in Arizona and didn't know what to think.  A wave of nausea washed over him as he curled his legs closer to his body and pressed his eyes closed.  Every time he thought of Paige his stomach turned and his palms sweat.  Something in his mind wouldn't let him sleep no matter how tightly he shut his eyes; all he could do was think about going back to her house to make her see.  But in doing that he may just push her even further away, and he couldn't risk that.

 

            Lance spent the night staring into the darkness deep in thought.  Of all the things on his mind that night, the dominant image was Travis.  The man whose heart was now beating loudly in his chest.  He moved his fingers to his wrist and felt for his pulse, a move he'd perfected in the time since his operation.  The image of Travis's lopsided smile as he grinned in the picture that hung on Paige's wall was all Lance could conjure up when he closed his eyes.

            "What am I supposed to do?"  He asked to no one in particular.  He didn't expect an answer, and didn't listen for one.  That was a question he had to answer for himself, but while he attempted to find an answer Travis invaded his thoughts.

            "I know she loved you."  Lance said, as if Travis could hear him.  "She still does.  She needs your help right now, and I hope you understand that.  I don't want to take your place, I never could."  His lips moved though he didn't make a sound.  "Because of you, I'm here… and because of you I met Paige… and because of you I fell completely in love with her.  Maybe you had something to do with that."  Lance smiled slowly at the ceiling and whispered, “Maybe these feelings came with the heart…"

 

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

 

            When Lance awoke the next morning his stomach was in knots.  It felt as though he hadn't eaten in days, though the thought of food made him queasy.  His eyes hurt as he rolled over and pulled the blankets back up to his shoulders while the phone on the floor beside the bed began to ring.

            Lance reached for the floor and grabbed his cell phone before it could ring a third time.  "Hello?"  Some part of him hoped it would be Paige, but he knew it wouldn't be.  Not this soon.

            "Honey?  Are you okay?"  His mother's concern wove its way over the phone line.

            "I'm fine mom."  He pressed his hands over his eyes and took a deep breath.  He wondered who had finally called her and what they had said.  "I'm okay, I just…"  He yawned then pulled the phone under the blankets with him.  "Remember Paige?"

            "Johnny told me."  Diane nodded.

            "Johnny told you what?"

            "That you have her ex-husbands heart."

            "Not her ex-husband, her husband."  Lance corrected her.  "She was married to him when he died, she still considers him her husband."

            "Oh."  She said softly.  "Are you… have you talked to her?"

            "Kind of.  A little."  Lance ran his tongue over his dry lips and tried not to yawn again.  He didn't know what time it was, but he knew he couldn't have been asleep more than a few hours.  "I went over last night but she's…"  He raised his shoulder in a partial shrug.

            "Honey… are you sure you're okay?"

            "Mom, I'm fine."

            "You don't sound fine."

            Lance paused for a long minute.  "I love her mom.  I love her, and because I had to go and send that letter I may have ruined everything."

            "No… it's not your fault Lance.  You sending the letter didn't make this true.  It was true two years ago when God stepped in and decided for you."

            "But if I hadn't sent it she never would have found out, neither of us would have."

            "You think that it never would have come up?  That your 'new heart anniversary' date wouldn't have triggered a question or two?  Do you think that if you truly loved this woman, you would never talk about the most marvelous day of your life?"

            Lance sighed, she was right of course.  It would have eventually come out, and maybe by then there would have been much more at stake.  "I know."  He said softly.  "But… I just wish it wasn't true.  I wish there was some kind of a mix up or something."

            "There isn't."

            "I know."

            "There's nothing you can do now."

            "Except wait."

            "You can't wait forever honey."

            "Mom… I have to.  You don't understand."

            Diane smiled and paused for a second, “I understand Lance, I do.  Believe me, I understand what you mean."  She sighed softly.  "But you have commitments.  You have a responsibility to the guys and to Johnny… and all of your fans."

            "I don't care about them."

            "I don't believe you."  Diane smiled sadly.  She was used to Lance trying to sound tougher than he really was.  She knew that deep inside, maybe not even that deep; he had a soft heart, and really did care about everything.

            Lance sighed, he should know by now that his mom knew him better than anyone else.  Better than he knew himself practically.  "I care mom, but right now I need this."  Lance poked his head out from under the blanket to get some fresh air.  "I've already talked to Johnny and I'm heading back out in a couple days."

            "That's what he said."

            "Did he call you to have you try to talk some sense into me?"

            "That was probably his intention, yes."  Diane smiled as Lance scoffed into the phone.  "But I'm calling on my own to see how you're really doing.  I know you say your fine, but I'm still worried about you."

            "There's nothing to worry about."

            "Your heart."

            "My heart…"  Lance whispered with a slight nod.  "I'm working on that."

            "I know you are."

            "I'm real tired mom, can I call you later?"

            "Of course."

            "Okay… thanks for calling."

            "I love you babe."

            "I love you too."  Lance clicked his phone off then lay his head back down for another couple hours of sleep.

 

            When he finally pulled himself out of bed three hours later, his whole body ached.  He hadn't slept well, and he knew that he tossed and turned all night long.  Lance ordered up a quick breakfast, then ate and took another quick shower before he put on his clothes from the night before.  "These are gonna get nasty."  He grimaced as he shook out his flannel shirt and hung it in the closet.

            Lance grabbed his cell phone and room key, then bolted downstairs to the little gift shop to buy things he would need.  He picked up a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a little hairbrush to run through his mangled hair.  After he paid he ran back to his room and checked the in-room phone for voice messages, just in case she had called.

            "You up?"  Lance heard Lonnie say through the door as the older man knocked a minute later.

            "Yeah."  Lance dropped his bag of toilet stuff on the bed and pulled the door open.  "Hey."

            "Hey kid.  I picked this up as we ran out yesterday.  I knew you'd need your pills and everything."  Lonnie held Lance's backpack out to him.

            "Oh!" Lance's heart skipped a beat.  "Shit, yeah."  He took the bag and immediately pulled his pill sorter out.  He shook out the right ones then went to the tray and drank them down with lukewarm juice.  "I can't believe I forgot this.  Thank you so much."

            "Just keepin' an eye out for you."

            "Thanks."  Lance said again as he wiped his mouth on his forearm.

            "You doing okay?"  Lonnie asked softly.  Lance shrugged in response and let out an annoyed breath.  "I talked to Johnny this morning."

            "Yeah?"  Lance looked up at him.

            "Yeah, the guys are worried about you."

            "I'm okay."

            "They're still worried."  Lonnie shrugged.

            "Are they pissed?"

            "Nah."  The guard shook his head.  "It takes a lot to piss off those guys I think."

            "Yeah."  Lance said softly.

            "So we're hanging out here for a few days?"

            "I am, yeah."

            "Then so am I."

            "Okay."  Lance shrugged and looked back at the backpack.  "Thanks a lot for grabbing that, really.  I'd be freaking out if I didn't have my medication."

            "Anytime."  Lonnie stepped back out of the door and paused.  "Gimme a call if you need anything, okay?  I'm like, three rooms up."

            "Okay."

            "I'll check on you a little later."

            "Okay."

            "Don't leave the premises without me."  He shook his finger at Lance.

            "I won't."  Lance cracked a small smile as he watched Lonnie shut the door tightly.

            "Lock it."  He heard Lonnie shout through the door.

            Lance walked over like an obedient child, and flipped the dead bolt into place.  Lonnie knocked on the door to acknowledge that he heard it, then Lance was left alone again.

            He sighed heavily, then went back to the table with his pill sorter.  "I can't fuckin' forget these."  He whispered to himself as he re-set the alarm on his watch to go off when he'd need them next.

            The phone on the bed by his bag sat silently, waiting for someone to call.  Lance absentmindedly picked up the phone and dialed the first four digits of Paige's number, then stopped.  She wasn't ready, she had said that much.  But how could he let her know that he couldn't leave until he spoke to her?  He dialed information and asked for a residential listing in Flagstaff for Jim or James Stewart.  He was going on blind hope that Jim lived in Flagstaff as well, and crossed his fingers as the operator looked.

            "Okay, I have a Jim Stewart on Michigan Drive."

            "Okay."  Lance grabbed the pen on the desk and jotted the number down, then dialed quickly before he could change his mind.  As the phone rang in his ear the realization of what he was doing peeked through.  He was calling Travis' father, probably the only other person on the planet who would react the same way Paige had.

            He shuddered involuntarily and reached to hang up the phone.  "Hello?"  Jim's voice boomed through the handset.

            Lance took a deep breath, then brought it to his ear.  "H-hi.  Is this Jim Stewart?"  He asked nervously.

            "Who's calling?"  Jim asked gruffly.

            "Um, my name is Lance.  Lance Bass. I'm a friend of Paige's.  I uh, we met at Hope's birthday party a couple months ago.  I - "

            "I know who you are."  Jim nodded.  "Paige called this morning and told me everything."

            "I'm really sorry."  Lance said softly.  "I'm sorry that you… that Travis… I'm sorry."

            "It's not your fault, son.  It was an accident that killed Travis, not you." 

            "No, I know but… I just feel like…"  He sighed softly; there was no way to explain how he felt.  "I just need to talk to Paige."

            "Paige is a stubborn young lady; I don't think she's ready to talk just yet."

            Lance nodded for his own benefit; “I'll be in town at the Hilton until I talk to her.  I just need to hear her voice before I leave, even if she's just telling me to go."

            "Well now that may be more than she wants to say right."

            Lance nodded again in silence, “I know."  He sighed and tugged at the strings hanging from the cuffs of his jeans.  "I love her though, and I can't just leave like that.  I won't."

            Jim didn't say a word and for a minute Lance was afraid the older man had hung up on him.  Then Jim spoke slowly and deliberately, “I'll pass that along to her.  I can't promise she'll say more than just 'go', but I'll do what I can."  Jim pursed his lips quickly and continued, “Paige is like a daughter to me, she's all the family I have left… her and Hope.  I've watched her go through everything from the day Travis met her to the day she got that letter and the only time I've seen her happy, truly happy since Travis died is with Hope… and with you."

            Lance's heart skipped a beat as he listened to Jim say the words that had to be hard for him.  "You can never take Travis' place in her heart or in Hope's life, but I know that you hold your own place there.  She's too upset to see it just yet, but she will.  You make her happy."  He cleared his throat then said, “So I'll pass the information along, and I'll try to get her to call."

            "Th- thank you."  Lance nodded and tried to keep his heart from racing.  They hung up and Lance sat in complete silence for a minute.  He had found an ally in an unexpected place, Travis' father supported him and that may be the boost he needed to contact Paige again.

 

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

 

            Lance spent his second day in his hotel room, just waiting for the phone to ring, and for it to be Paige.  While Lance sat in the chair he had pulled into the bedroom and over to the wide windows, the other four guys were on their way to the next city on their list.  Though they wouldn't be performing, they still had other commitments in the city.

 

            "Hey.  Is that Lance's stuff there?"  Joey nodded at the extra bag on the hotel lobby floor.

            "Yeah."

            "Is he back?"

            "No."

            "When's he coming back?"

            "As soon as the girl calls."  Justin shrugged.

            "Wait, what?"

            "Johnny said he's not coming back until he talks to her, so I don't know."  Justin lifted his bag onto his shoulder and headed for the elevators.

            "He'll be home the day after tomorrow."  JC said as he yawned, making his words unidentifiable.

            "Don't yawn and talk."

            "I said he'll be back the day after tomorrow."  JC repeated.  "Clean out your ears man."

            "Well is it the day after tomorrow or when the girl calls?"  Joey asked.

            "He wants to stay till the girl calls but Johnny basically told him 'hell no'."  JC shrugged.  "Get your gear, let's go."

            "I'm waiting for Rob."  Joey remained seated on his bag as his brain worked overtime.  He didn't know where Rob was, or whether or not he'd already gone up, but it sounded good.

            "Fine, I'm going up.  I'm going up and I'm going to bed."

            "Enjoy."  Joey mumbled with a half wave as he flipped his magazine open again.  As soon as JC and Justin were out of sight, Joey looked around, then leaned over to Lance's bag.  If he knew Lance half as well as he thought he did, his day planner thing would be right on top.  He unzipped the bag and laughed, the dark green leather planner was right there where he thought it would be.  Joey pulled it out and flipped to the address book.  "Thank God you're so anal."  Joey muttered as he flipped to P.  "And bad at last names."  He scanned the page and found the number he was looking for near the bottom.  He used Lance's handy pen and scribbled the number on the back of his hand before he put the planner back and zipped the bag.

"You comin' up or not?"  Chris asked from the elevator waiting area with three of the guards standing by.

            "Yeah."  Joey sighed and stood up, then picked up his luggage and Lance's and followed Chris upstairs.  Since their show was cancelled for the night they were told to stay in the hotel.  If they were spotted out partying on the town after they had cancelled a show, things could look bad.  Joey wasn't too disappointed though, he had a dozen calls to make and a night of relaxing in his suite sounded pretty all right.

            The first call he made was to the number on the back of his hand.  He didn't check the time or worry about how late it might be in Arizona, he just dialed and listened to it ring in his ear.  "Hi, you've reached Paige and Hope. We're not in right now so please leave a message after the beep."  The recording sounded hollow in his ear, but he waited for the beep patiently.

            "Hey Paige, uh… hi Hope.  This is Joey; we met at Lance's birthday a few months ago.  Anyway, I… well we heard what was going on over there and I'm sorry about that.  We all are.  I'm sure Lance is too.  But listen, he's out there in Arizona and he said he's not leaving until you call him and you've gotta believe me when I say he's stubborn like a mule.  He won't leave till you call him.  We've canceled two shows already, and if we have to cancel any more our manager is going to lose his mind and take it out on the four of us that are here.  So for the sake of saving the group from ourselves, can you please, please, please call him?  Just call him and say 'I called, now go home' or something, because we really need him back here.  I know you're mad or whatever, but that's really all we need… please call him.  Please.  And I know I sound like I'm begging here.  But see?  We need Lance here, but he's all hung up on lov - "  The machine cut him off, but he'd said what he needed to say.  Rather than call back he left the message as it was and hoped that it would work.  He wasn't kidding.  No matter what Johnny said, Lance would do everything he could to stay there until she called, and that could really put a damper on their tour.

 

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

 

            "Hi, this is Lance in room 568.  I'd like to order some uh, some breakfast please."  Lance sat on the edge of his bed in his boxers and pinched the bridge of his nose.  It had been another sleepless night and he was exhausted.

            "We don't serve the full breakfast menu after eleven sir."

            "Oh, it's after eleven?"  Lance frowned and looked at his watch to find that it was closer to noon.  "Okay uh… well what do you serve?"

            "What breakfast items?"

            "Yeah."

            "Any of our omelets are available all day, as well as our baked goods or cold cereals."  The gentleman explained patiently.

            "Hmm, okay, then can I have just the ham and cheese omelet with bell peppers and mushrooms?"

            "Certainly.  Would you care for anything to drink?"

            "Yeah, can I get some coffee and uh…"  He thought for a minute.  "Orange juice.  And a muffin, do you have anything chocolate?"

            "We have a chocolate chip muffin, then we have a chocolate muffin with walnuts in it."

            "Can I get the chocolate one?"

            "Absolutely.  Is there anything else I can get for you?"

            "No, that's all."  Lance shook his head.  "Thanks."

            "Your welcome sir.  It should be there within twenty minutes."

            "Thanks."  Lance sighed and hung up the phone.  He wasn't hungry, but he knew he had to eat.  His morning pills were still sitting in the pill sorter since they had to be taken with food and he'd slept through his alarm.

            Lance did a quick body inventory and decided that the almost four hour delay hadn't done anything bad to his body.  He dug in his backpack and looked for anything that could pass for clean clothes.  There was a yellow t-shirt wadded up in the bottom, so Lance took it out and pulled it on with his jeans to get ready for his breakfast to arrive.

            It was his last day here, and he knew it.  More than anything else he wanted to Paige to call, just to call and say something.  He'd spent two whole days staring at the phone or out the window, or just laying on the bed.  He'd never really been depressed before, there were always ways for him to work around it or get himself out of the funk.  The other guys were great about that.  But for two days he allowed himself to wallow in his depression without so much as a thought about the others.

            His breakfast arrived a short while later and he ate is simply out of need.  Any taste the food might have had was lost on him as he chewed methodically then took his pills.  His phone startled him as he drank down the last of his orange juice, causing it to spill down the front of his semi-clean shirt.  "Dammit."  He grumbled as he reached for the phone.  His heart leapt into his throat like it did every time his phone rang, but it was quickly let down when Johnny's voice greeted him.

            "Lonnie's got your itinerary, your flight leaves at 10:25 tomorrow morning."  He said brusquely.

            Lance bit his lip and leaned his head against the sliding glass door to his side.  "Okay."  Even to Johnny more than a thousand miles away, Lance sounded defeated.

            "How are things going out there?"

            Lance shrugged and sighed, “I don't know.  I haven't talked to her yet."

            "You've had three days."

            "I know."

            "I can't give you any more than that right now."  Johnny tried to sound sympathetic.  "As it is the fans are worried that you're having heart problems."

            "I am."  Lance mumbled.

            "If you are then you'd better get your butt back to Florida or into the hospital."

            "Not that kind of problems."  Lance licked his lips and took a deep breath.  "I just… nevermind.  I'll be on the flight tomorrow."

            "Are you okay?"

            "I've been better."  He said honestly.  The hollow feeling in his stomach was something he could live with, but the ache in his heart was something totally new and something he was unwilling to brush aside.  It was nothing physical, it was completely emotional.  His heart was breaking, metaphorically.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

            "Take care of yourself Lance."  Johnny pulled out his paternal voice for a moment.

            Lance nodded slowly then sighed.  "Bye."  He clicked his phone off and dropped it on the floor beside the chair so he could resume staring out the window.  He wished that for a moment he could just stop his mind from working, even for just a few seconds.  Lance closed his eyes and forced himself to take three deep breaths; he wasn't ready to give up just yet.

 

            By six that evening he'd ordered up another room service dinner and was picking at it as he packed up his backpack.  He'd didn't really have much to pack considering he hadn't come with anything, but there were a few new toiletries and some dirty clothes that needed to be picked up.  When he was done he sat at the table in the sitting room and took a few bites of his now room temperature dinner.  As he chewed, he heard his cell phone ring from its position on his hip and he dreaded answering it.  He'd spent the better part of the afternoon fielding calls from the guys and his parents, he was sure that it was one of them again.

            "Hello?"  Lance answered as he sat back in his chair with his dinner plate on his lap.  He swallowed what was in his mouth as he waited for a response, but none came.  "Hello?"  He asked again.

            Lance heard nothing but a light buzz of static on the line.  "Paige?"  He asked suddenly as he sat up straight and put the plate back on the table.  "Is that you?"  He heard whoever it was exhale and sniff quietly, and he knew it was her.  "Paige listen… I'm sorry.  I had no idea that this was… that this was how it was.  I didn't know, you have to believe that I wouldn't do that to you."  He paused for a second as she sat in silence.  "Please… please just say something. Tell me to go away, or go to hell or… anything.  I can't leave here until I know that you've heard me."  He paused again and listened to her breathe softly on the line.  "Do you want me to leave?"  Lance whispered as he dropped his head into his hands, praying that she wouldn't say yes.  After a few seconds she still hadn't said anything at all, so Lance asked, “Do you want me to stay?"

            A cry caught in her throat as she inhaled slowly and sniffed again, breaking Lance's heart with each breath.  "Please… can I come over?"

            "Yes."  She whispered softly.  It was such a faint sound that at first Lance wasn't sure if he'd heard her right.  Was it an answer or just another sniffle into the phone?  He didn't care.

            "I'll be right over."  Lance hung up the phone and grabbed his flannel as he headed for the door.  On his way down the hall he called Lonnie to tell him where he was going.  He didn't wait for the guard to protest or ask questions before he shut the phone off and trotted for the rental car.

            Lance paid no attention to the speed limit signs as he raced across town, he had only one thing on his mind and that was all he could pay attention to.  When he pulled up in front of her house he was secretly surprised that he had made it there so fast without getting a ticket.  He wasted no time as he bolted from the car and up the front walk to her front door where he knocked loudly.

            For a minute, nothing moved inside the house and Lance was afraid she wouldn't open the door.  Just as he was about to knock again, Paige pulled the door open and stood with her arms crossed over her chest.  Her eyes were damp and her hair looked like it hadn't been brushed yet that day.  "Hi."  She said softly as she stepped aside to let him in.

            Lance's stomach tumbled as he stepped into her foyer.  "Hi."  He managed.  She shut the door and sighed as she kept her eyes on the ground.  "I… I'm really glad you called."  Lance cleared his throat; out of nowhere he felt a cold coming on.

            "I had to."

            "You didn't have to, but I'm really glad you did."

            "You said you wouldn't leave until I called you."  She looked up and met his eye.  Jim must have talked to her and passed the message along like he said he would.

            "You… you want me to leave?"

            Paige let the tiniest of smiles escape and said, “Joey called me.  He told me that you had to come back to work and that you were more stubborn than anything so it was up to me to save the group."

            "Joey called you?"  Lance's eyebrow raised in surprise.

            "You have to go back to them Lance."

            "Not until I talk to you."  Lance shook his head.  "Paige… God, I had no idea."

            "Stop Lance."

            "I swear to you I didn't."  He rushed, thinking she was going to send him away again.

            "I know."

            "You know?"

            "I know that you couldn't have known."  She nodded and uncrossed her arms to tuck her hands in her pockets.  "If you had known, I hope you would have told me."

            "I would have.  It would have killed me Paige, but I would have."

            She took a deep breath then reached to wipe her suddenly damp eyes, “I trust you Lance.  That's… that's the only reason why I even called.  No matter how badly I wanted to be mad at you and think you knew… I couldn't."

            "Paige, I - "  Lance took a step toward her but she moved around him and sat on the couch in the living room.

            "When I went into the foundation the other day and they told me I had a green envelope, I left it there and came home.  I wanted to think about it for 24 hours before I made a decision, but instead I went right back and got it."

            "But… why, why did you open it?  You always said you didn't want to see that kind of information."  He pulled the chair from across the room and set it right n front of her.  He sat down and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, which were only inches from Paige's.

            "I don't know."  Paige shrugged.  "So I could feel sorry for myself I guess.  I was getting too happy and moving on with my life, I guess somewhere in there I thought I didn't deserve that and I needed to be brought back to the reality I had been living in since Travis died."

            "Paige…"

            "I know that sounds ridiculous."

            "No… it doesn't."

            "Yes it does."  Paige nodded.  "After I met you Lance I was secretly grateful to whoever had donated their loved ones heart for you.  I was so, so grateful that you are here.  And because of that I could kind of understand where you were coming from, I mean, obviously I can't possibly totally understand, but I had an idea.  Because of someone else's unselfish act, because someone else made that decision, you are here with me… for me."  She took a deep breath and paused, “So when I found out it was… it was Travis, I was lost.  I mean, how should I feel?  Could I still be grateful?  Grateful for what?  That Travis had died so that I could donate his heart to you to keep you here?  It was okay for me to feel that way when it was someone else, but when it was me?  Lance, I didn't know how to feel.  I didn't know what was right."

            "I know."  Lance said softly, and he did.  He'd thought the same thing.  He would never voluntarily hurt Paige, or anyone for that matter, but as long as the donor was a faceless person it seemed a lot easier to think that it was meant for him to have the heart.  Putting a face, emotions, and a family to the person was completely different.  He knew he could meet the family if they wanted when he submitted the original green envelope, but meeting them once and visiting was one thing.  Falling in love was another.

            "I wanted to love you Lance.  When you said that the other day I was just even more confused. I wanted to, I wanted to so badly.  But it felt like I was betraying Travis to fall in love with someone else.  I couldn't do that."  She sniffed, “And then when I found out you have his - "  She choked softly,  " - you have his heart…"  She placed her hands over her own heart as tears overflowed onto her cheeks, “That just made it seem like even more of a betrayal.  Like I was choosing you over him."

            "But Paige…"

            "When you left that night I stayed up until the rain stopped."  She wiped at her eyes and whispered, “And all I could think about as you."

            Lance blushed and lowered his head.  "You thought of me, and I thought of Travis…"

            "Ironic isn't it?"

            "Yeah."  Lance reached for her hands and held them tight, afraid to let go.

            "Do you know how hard this is?  To make this kind of decision?  I didn't think I could do it.  I really didn't."  She squeezed his hands and dropped her chin to her chest as tears ran shamelessly down her cheeks.  "Not until you walked in Lance… I didn't think I could decide.  But seeing you again…"  She paused to sniff and free her hands from his to wipe at her eyes.  "Seeing you just now made me realize that it's not a choice.  I can't choose between you and him because he's not here, that decision was made for me two years ago.  Loving you isn't betraying Travis any more than him dying betrayed me.  It was out of our control."

            "Paige, I - "

            "Let me do it this way, please."  Paige wiped her eyes again then reached for the collar of Lance's shirt and unbuttoned it.

            "Wait, hang on."  Lance put his hand over hers to stop her.  "What are you doing?"  He was utterly confused by her actions.

            "Lance, let me do this."

            "No, wait.  Paige I don't - "

            "Let me do this."  She repeated as she unbuttoned his shirt more than halfway down.  She pulled it down over his shoulders so he sat there with his chest and arms exposed.  Paige gave Lance an uncertain smile as more tears spilled over.  She carefully reached out and placed her cold fingers on the scar on Lance’s chest.  He had worked out and even tried to get a tan but nothing could disguise the broad scar.  “Paige…”  Lance started to protest, but she didn’t even look up at him.  She kept her eyes on his chest as the tears ran rivers down her cheeks and her hand went flat against his sternum.

            She slowly lowered her head so that her ear was pressed against Lance’s heart… Travis’ heart.  Lance closed his eyes as his breath caught in his throat, overcome with emotion.  He gently placed his hand on the back of Paige’s head while the other wrapped around her in an almost desperate embrace.  "I love you."  He whispered softly, his words echoing through his chest for her to hear.

            "I love you too."  She replied as her tears warmed his chest.

 

            As Paige listened to the heart beating in Lance’s chest, she knew that life would go on… and true love was forever.

 

 

 

 ~the end~

 

 

For more information on organ donation, click here

 

 

 

 

Well, what'd you think?

 

 Back to the completed stories page

 

 

Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn