Chris was such a sweet heart, when he got up at 7:00 to head out for his day of fun (ha ha ha), he kissed me goodbye, and tucked me back in. Heaven. I was able to sleep until 9:30, when I leisurely rolled out of bed and into the shower. I was cleaned up and dressed in less than thirty minutes.

I sat on the edge of the bed brushing my damp hair, when I noticed a piece of hotel stationary folded in half with my name on it.

"Grace," It read. "We’re going to be gone pretty much all day. The premier thing is at 9 tonight, and we’re leaving here at like 8. I think Johnny said we’d be back at the hotel around 6, so maybe we can grab a quick dinner or something before the thing. I’m not making any sense, I know. Anyways… you’re beautiful when you sleep. I spent more than fifteen minutes just watching you this morning, and if Johnny knew that was why I was late, you’d be on the first plane west. Have a great day, and don’t forget your badge. X’s and O’s. Lot’s of O’s. Chris"

I smiled to myself and placed the note in my bag, I didn’t want to forget it when I went home. I grabbed my purse and called down to the concierge to ask for a taxi. I spent the better part of the day shopping in New York City. People always talk about shopping in the city like it was a fun thing to do, not me. I was miserable. I got lost more times than I could count, and when I finally found a store that didn’t charge $90 for a shirt, it was close to 5 and I was running out of time. I ended up with a pair of shiny black satin capri pants, and a soft bright pink short sleeved sweater. The sweater was on sale, and the whole outfit, including shoes, was less than a hundred dollars. Not bad.

I hauled my bag of goodies back to the hotel and got there just after 6:30. Chris was in the shower when I let myself into the room. The bathroom door was open and steam was coming out. "Lucy! I’m home!" I said loudly as I leaned on the doorframe of the bathroom.

"Hey, did you get some clothes?" He asked from behind the dark green shower curtain.

"Shoot! I knew there was something I was supposed to do today!"

"Are you serious?" He poked his head out of the shower, dripping water on the yellow bath mat, and I saw that he had used a rubber band to secure a grocery bag to his right arm, so it wouldn’t get wet. A good look for him, really.

"No, I went shopping." I laughed as the shampoo dripped down the side of his face.

"Okay good, we’ve got to be ready to leave here in an hour." He smiled.

"I know." I walked into the bathroom and kissed his wet lips. "Ew, soap." I made a face.

"Ew huh? I’ll remember that." He brought his head back into the shower to finish cleaning up.

"Well hurry it up in there, I need a turn too you know."

"I know, I know. Can you call up some dinner so we can eat before we go?"

"Sure, what do you want?" I asked.

"Um, if they have any kind of Mexican food, I want that."

"Okay." I shut the bathroom door behind me and sat at the table. I flipped through the menu and ordered a fajita dinner for Chris and a chicken caesar salad for myself. Chris came out a few minutes later, barefoot in dark gray cargo pants, and a black cable knit sweater. His hair was still damp and he smelled like a forest.

"Your turn." He said as he sat indian style on the bed and turned the TV on.

"Okay, dinner should be here soon." I stood up and sat beside him.

"Yeah? What did you get?"

"Um, some fajitas for you, and a salad for me." I smiled. "Bang on the door when it gets here." I kissed him quickly, then disappeared into the bathroom. I shampooed and conditioned my hair and was in the process of shaving my legs when I heard Chris knock on the door.

"Dinner’s here." He said loudly.

"Okay, I’ll be out in a minute." I finished the task at hand, and wrapped myself in one of the hotel robes. I walked out to the room and sat on the bed beside Chris. He had laid the food out like a picnic and was picking the peppers out of his fajita. "That smells good."

"Yeah but look. You get lettuce and croutons." He said as he poured a little salsa on a tortilla. "I mean, who would want this spicy warm delicious fajita when you could eat grass?"

"Shut up, this is good." I said as I took a bite.

"Hey, I agree." He took a bite of his dinner and rolled his eyes heavenward, "This is the best. Really, you’ve got to try this." He held it out to me.

"No thanks." I laughed and adjusted the robe to cover my legs more.

"Come on, it’s really good." He held it closer.

"No thanks, I don’t like tomatoes." I said, noticing some big tomato chunks.

"You’re kidding, you can’t even taste them." He laughed, and didn’t move the fajita.

"Yeah right." I laughed. "I’m fine with my salad."

"You're the weirdest person I know." He shook his head and took another bite.

"You’ve met Joey, right?" I raised my eyebrow at him. "And JC, the man who can sleep standing up, with his eyes open? And Justin… well he’s pretty normal. So is Lance I guess." I laughed. "But there's no way I’m weirder than Joey."

"Okay, then you’re the second weirdest person I know." He smiled.

"Yeah whatever." I rolled my eyes and we finished our dinner.

"So, is that what you’re wearing?" He looked me over in the small white robe. "Not that I mind you know, but…"

"No, I have clothes." I reached for the bag and headed for the bathroom.

"Well we only have like 10 minutes, so be like the wind." He smiled and stretched his arm over his head. He ran his hands through his hair and kind of played with the ends.

"I know, I know." I shut the bathroom door and changed as fast as I could. When I came out a couple minutes later, JC was standing by the door with a gorgeous redhead. "Wow, hi." I smiled. "Where’d Chris take off to?"

"He went down to uh, Justin’s room. He’ll be right back." JC said.

"Oh, is everyone meeting here again, or what?" I looked from the girl to JC.

"Yeah, and they’re late." He frowned.

"Hi, I’m Grace." I extended my hand to the young lady.

"Angela, hi." She smiled and shook my hand.

"Angie!" Joey shouted from halfway down the hall. "Yay!" He came up behind her and gave her a big hug.

"Hi Joe, how’s it going?" She asked as he shook her from side to side. "Watch the hair."

"It’s going good. I’m glad you guys could come out." He came into the room and looked me over, "Well now that’s the kind of nurse I want to take care of me."

"Hi Joey, you look, um, nice too." I smiled. He was wearing dark blue pants and a long sleeved dark gray t-shirt with a flannel vest over that.

"Where’s everyone else?" He asked, looking back down the hall.

"Late, as usual." JC sighed as we all moved into the hall. Justin and a short blonde girl were walking towards us, with Lance and another blonde followed behind them.

"Where’s Chris?" I asked Justin as he walked up.

"He’s on the phone with his mom, he’ll be out in a minute." Justin said.

"We’re going to head down, we’ll meet you at the cars." JC said as they stepped onto the elevator.

"Okay." I nodded ads the rest of them hopped on the elevator. As soon as the doors shut, Chris appeared at the end of the hall. He turned around and shut Justin’s door behind him before he walked down to where I was. "You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, I was on the phone with my mom. My little sister went to the doctors today and she’s got a real bad chest cold."

"Did they do a chest x-ray?" I asked.

"Yeah, they said it’s clear." He nodded. "But still, she’s got a fever of like, 102. That’s just scary."

"How old is she?" I asked.

"She’s 4." He said as we walked toward the elevators.

"And how long has she had the fever?"

"I’m not sure, they went to the doctors today."

"Well if her x-rays came back clear, then they’ve probably put her on amoxicillan. It’s not pneumonia, so that’s really good." I reached out and touched his arm. "I know it sounds bad, but she’ll be fine."

"I know, I just miss her a lot." He smiled as we stepped onto the elevator and rode down.

"Will you be able to see her before you start on your tour?" I asked as we walked through the lobby.

"Yeah, I think we’re going to get to go home for a couple days when we get done practicing." He sighed and wrapped his good arm around my waist.

"That’ll be good then." I smiled up at him.

"You look really nice tonight." He held the van door open for me, and I climbed in beside Lance and his date.

"Thank you." I blushed slightly and settled myself in my seat.

On the way to the theater, Lance introduced me to his date for the evening, Noelle. She was an art student at Berkeley, and had been friends with Lance for years. We chatted a bit about California and school, she seemed really smart, and very nice.

When we got to the theater, we waited in a long line of cars to be dropped off at the red carpet. "Holy shit Chris, we have to walk the carpet?" I asked. "I didn’t think this was a huge thing…" My eyes were as big as beach balls as I stared at the crowd.

"It’s MTV, anything they do is huge." He smiled and held my hand.

"Oh man…" I whispered as I tapped my knees nervously. Noelle sat looking at the crowd as if it was nothing new. "Have you done this before?" I asked her.

"Yeah, a couple times." She smiled. "All you have to do really is stand back with me, and let them field the journalists."

"Okay." I tried to smile.

"You live in LA with all kinds of celebrities, why does this make you nervous?" Chris laughed.

"Because I have to walk down the carpet." I laughed. "This is so cool."

"You’re nuts." Chris shook his head as we pulled up in front of the carpet. The driver got out and opened the door for us, and Chris stepped out first. He reached in to help me out, then we stood by the curb while Lance and Noelle got out and joined us. We caught up with the other guys who were in the car ahead of us, and started down the walkway.

I held onto Chris’ left hand as tight as I could, and followed Noelle and Lance up the carpet. "Hey hey Miss Gracie." Joey laughed and dropped his arm over my shoulders.

"Hey Joe." I smiled, grateful for Joey’s casualness. "Where’s your date?" I didn’t see a spare girl anywhere.

"Not tonight sweet cheeks, I’m flying solo." He laughed and kissed my cheek. "That is unless you want to get rid of the gimp there."

I laughed and said, "Nah, he needs someone to tie his shoes and stuff."

"High maintenance." Joey shook his head.

"So how come you’re going stag tonight? I swear, girls came out of the woodwork for the other guys."

"Yeah well… I can’t really mingle with a chick on my arm, you know what I mean?"

"Forever the player, huh?" I smiled as we came to the first set of reporters.

"Ha, something like that."

"One of these days Joey… one of these days." I laughed, and followed Noelle's example of stepping back. The guys handled the press while Noelle, Angela, Jessie and I stood back a couple feet, making small talk. By the time we got inside, I was more comfortable with the whole situation, and we took our seats off to the right of the screen.

After a short introduction by the director, the movie started. It was great, but then again, I liked just about everything Kevin Smith did. Afterwards we were escorted back out to the front of the theater where we all waited for our cars to be brought back around. There were still a couple media people out there, and of course MTV news was taking comments and reviews. We stood around outside for a little while waiting for our vans, and one of the VJs came over to us, "Hey guys, what did you think of the movie?" He asked.

"It was good." Justin nodded.

"Kevin rocks man." Chris added. "This was better than "Chasing Amy", I’m going to have to go see it again."

"And what did you think?" He turned his mic on me.

I stood there for a second without saying a word, before I said, "Yeah, I really liked it. It’s going to cause some controversy, having Alannis Morrisette play God, put I really liked it."

"What’s your standpoint on the controversy?" He asked.

I shrugged, "It’s just a movie. If you can’t tell within the first 3 minutes that it’s a comedy and not to be taken seriously, then you shouldn’t watch the rest of it." I smiled, "I mean George Carlin as a cardinal?"

"True." He nodded, and thanked me for my comment, then moved on.

"Ha ha, you’re going to be on TV." Chris laughed as our van pulled up.

"You think so?" I asked. I’d have to call Denise when I got back to the hotel. Whoa, wait. I hadn’t called Dave at all. He was going to freak. "I need to call home when we get back." I said as Lance slammed the door shut and we headed back.

"Okay. Is everything all right?" He asked.

"Yeah, I just, I haven’t checked in since I’ve been here and Dave is going to go through the roof." I sighed. I had explained to Chris all about how Dave was alike a father to me, and how he liked to keep tabs on me.

"Does anyone know you’re here?" Chris asked.

"Well, I called work, so they know I’m in New York. But I don’t think anyone knows how to reach me."

"All right, then yeah, you’ll want to give them a call." Chris laughed.

"Yeah." I nodded and yawned, it was after midnight.

When we got back to the hotel, we all went to our separate rooms and shut ourselves n for the night. Chris sat on the bed and took off his shoes, while I plopped myself down in the chair and picked up the phone. I called Dave first, knowing he’d be the most worried, "Hello?" He answered.

"Hi Dave, it’s-"

He cut me off, "Gracie where are you?"

"I’m in New York." I said softly.

"I got that much when I tried to track you down through work." He said.

"Well don’t get mad." I sighed.

"I’ve been trying to reach you for more than two days, you didn’t tell anyone where you were going."

"I told work that I was in New York visiting some friends."

"Friends in New York?" Dave asked. He knew all my friends, and he knew they weren’t in New York. "You mean Chris and the boy band?"

"Yes." I laughed quietly.

"Are you insane?" He asked, and I could tell he was smiling.

"I think I might be." I relaxed a little.

"Are you having fun?"

"Yeah, we went to the MTV movie premier of Kevin Smiths new movie tonight."

"You dog, are you serious?"

"Yeah." I laughed. "It was really good."

"You still should have called you know." He said a second later.

"I know."

"When will you be back?"

"I’ll be at work on Monday." I said.

"Okay, well let me know when you’re flight is coming in, so I don’t worry about you crashing." He laughed.

"Okay." I nodded. "I’m sorry I didn’t call, it’s just been really busy and stuff."

"Yeah yeah whatever." He smiled. "I’ve gotta jet though kid, some of us have to work tonight."

"All right, give Mel a hug for me."

"I will. Be safe, and stay away from the subway. And stay indoors after dark."

"Okay dad." I laughed.

"Hush. I’ll see you Monday." He laughed I gave him the number to the hotel in case he needed to reach me, then we hung up.

"Everything okay?" Chris asked as he flexed the fingers of his right hand.

"Yeah, he was cranky because I hadn’t called, but he’s okay." I smiled. I picked up the phone and called Denise at home, luckily she was there, "Hey Neecie." I smiled; just hearing her voice made me laugh.

"Holy shit, are you seriously in New York? John told me you went to New York to visit friends, what friends do you have in New York?" She asked.

"Yes I’m in New York, and if you watch MTV you might see me at the movie premier thing tonight."

"You were there? Oh my gosh, you’re with Mr. Boyband aren’t you? You little skank, look at you." She laughed.

"Yeah, I’m here with Chris."

"When are you coming back to work? Are you coming back?"

"Yeah, I’m coming back, I’ll be there Monday for my shift."

"And you’ll fill me in then?"

"Of course." I laughed. "I’m gonna get going though, it’s after midnight here and I’m beat."

"Okay." She smiled. "Oh wait, did you call Dave? He’s called into the ER a couple times looking for you."

"Yeah, I just got off the phone with him." I yawned and said, "I’ll see you Monday."

"I’m off Monday, but I’ll be sure to stop by." She laughed and we hung up.

"Man, I’m tired."

"You got to sleep in little miss Grace."

"I know." I yawned again and lay beside him on the bed. He had taken his shoes off and changed into his sweat bottoms and a t-shirt. "Chris, I really have no idea how you guys do this all the time."

"Me neither." He sighed and fluffed the pillow behind him.

"Tomorrow I need to call the airlines and get a ticket back home."

"Okay." He nodded as I stood up and began to undress to change into sleepwear. "You looked really nice tonight." He said softly.

"Thank you." I blushed slightly and shimmied the pants off.

"Wow, look at you, come here." He reached for me as I kicked the sandals off and folded the pants over the end of the bed.

"Hmm?" I looked up. He reached over and pulled me onto the bed beside him, wearing only the pink sweater and underwear. "Hi." I said, suddenly face to face with him.

"Hi." He whispered as he leaned in and kissed me softly. He ran his left hand up my side and deepened the kiss. I tucked my hair behind my ear, then rested my hand on his chest while I supported myself with the other.

"I thought you were tired." I whispered a moment later when we parted.

"I thought you were too." He smiled, and I knew we weren’t that tired.

 

I woke up the next morning with the sheet tangled up in our legs, and my cheek resting on Chris’s bicep. It took me a second to realize that it was after ten in the morning, and Chris was still there. "Chris? Chris, are you late?" I whispered loudly.

"Hmm? No, we don’t have to be anywhere." He mumbled as he kissed my forehead.

"Are you sure? Because Johnny will kill me if you’re late for something." I frowned.

"I’m sure. It’s Sunday right?"

"Right."

"Then the only thing I’m late for is sleeping in." He smiled.

"Yay." I said quietly, and pulled the covers up over us. I planned on sleeping for at least another hour.

We drifted back to sleep wrapped in each other’s arms, only to be rudely awakened at noon, by a banging on the door. "Housekeeping!" A voice called through the door.

I shook Chris lightly, "Housekeeping is here."

"What? No they’re not." He pushed himself halfway up, almost expecting to see them in the room.

"Housekeeping!" Someone shouted again.

"We’re in here!" Chris shouted back. "Come back later."

"Housekeeping!" They shouted again, jiggling the doorknob as well. Chris jumped out of bed and pulled his previously discarded sweats on, on his way to the door. He opened the door a fraction and said, "Can you come back later?"

"’Fraid not." Justin laughed and pushed his way into the room. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and straightened my hair. "We’re going down to the Hard Rock for lunch, do you want to come?" He asked.

"Um, not now, no." Chris stood there staring at Justin, who seemed oblivious to the situation.

"Well Joey’s gonna come. He’s been jonesin’ for those fries for weeks." Justin sat at the table and looked over at me for the first time. "Hi, Faith right?" He asked with a smile. The smart ass.

"Yeah, it’s nice to see you again… Nick." I smiled sweetly as Chris laughed out loud and shut the door.

"Dog!" Justin laughed and stood up. "Oh come on now, I was being funny, you’re just being mean."

"You weren’t being funny." I laughed and stood up with the sheet around me. "If you’ll excuse me." I walked past Justin and into the bathroom. "Let’s go with them, I’m hungry." I said from behind the shut door.

"I guess we’re going with you." Chris smiled and sat at the table. "When are you leaving?"

"As soon as you guys are ready." Justin pushed the chair back on two legs.

"Cool, why don’t we come down to your room when we’re ready?"

"Okay." Justin stood up and headed for the door. "You know, we’re going on tour for something like 3 months here in a couple weeks."

"I know." Chris nodded.

"You know that."

"Yeah."

"Okay then." Justin looked past Chris into the room. He wasn’t usually the mature one like this, "See ya in a few." Chris shut the door behind Justin and sat at the table himself. He knew they were leaving in almost 6 weeks, and would be gone for a good three months. He knew that, but it didn’t matter. "Grace is different." He said out loud, trying to convince himself. "I won’t screw this one up." He laid his head in his arms and closed his eyes.

"Come on sleeping beauty, go get cleaned up." I said as I ran my fingers through his hair.

"I’m awake." He smiled and opened his eyes. "You smell good." He said as he stood and sniffed around my neck area.

"And you smell all sweaty." I laughed. "In a good way, but still."

"Yeah I get the hint. Is the grocery bag thing still in there?" He asked.

"Yeah, it’s on the counter." I nodded and pulled the robe tighter around me. He headed into the bathroom as I dressed myself. I was in the process of brushing my hair when there was another knock on the door. "Hi." I said when I opened the door and saw Joey standing there.

"Where’s pops?" He asked, walking past me and into the room.

"In the shower."

"It’s about time." He laughed and leaned against the table. "So you guys are going to Hard Rock with us?"

"Yeah, who’s us? You and Justin and me and Chris?"

"And Jessie." He said. "Justin’s little miss thing from last night."

"Little miss thing huh? That’s real nice."

"Yeah well." He shrugged. "So hey, you going home today?"

"Yeah, in fact I need to call the airport and get a ticket home." I said as I headed for the bed. I sat on the edge and reached for the phone, "Thanks for reminding me."

"Anytime." He smiled and played with a button on his shirt. "You know you could call Johnny and he could get a ticket for you."

"That’s okay, my guess is he doesn’t like me much."

"He doesn’t like anyone who could potentially be a distraction. He’d probably be happy to send you home. No offense."

"None taken." I laughed. "I can get my own ticket." I dialed the concierge and he connected me to the United ticket desk. I spent 20 minutes on the phone reserving my ticket home for that night, and ended up with a flight out of New York at 7 and into San Diego at 10. I called Dave to let him know what time and all that stuff, while Joey folded and unfolded the hotel brochure.

"Does he always take this long in the shower?" Joey asked when I hung up the phone.

"Um…" I laughed. "I don’t know, with the cast it is a little harder, so for as long as I’ve known him, yeah it takes this long." I sat at the table beside him and rested my chin in my hands.

"Well I’m hungry and ready to go." He scooted off the table and into the chair across from me.

"When do you guys leave for Florida? Tuesday?"

"Yep." Joey nodded.

"Then you leave for a 3 month tour 6 weeks later?"

"Yep."

"Hmm." I frowned.

"Sucky time to start dating huh?"

"Yeah, it sure is." I sighed. "Of course, I’m guessing for you guys, just about any time is a bad time."

"Pretty much." Joey nodded in agreement and Chris stepped into the room in a towel.

"Five minutes." Chris said as he grabbed an armful of clothes and disappeared into the bathroom again. We waited patiently for him to come back out again, fully dressed.

"Good, let’s go. I’m starved." Joey said as Chris reached for my hand and we left. Joey ran ahead down the hall and banged on Justin’s door, "We’re leaving."

We took a small entourage of 2 security guards with us as we headed across town to the restaurant. We were seated almost immediately in a VIP booth near the back. We weren’t secluded really, but more or less out of site of the front door. We ate with very few interruptions, then sat around and chatted with each other for another hour. By the time we left, it was close to 3, and I didn’t have a lot more time in NY.

"Can we go for a walk or something?" Chris asked as we stepped out into the street.

"Yeah, sure." I smiled. Chris arranged it with the security, and we waved to the others as we walked in the opposite direction.

We walked in silence, hand in hand for a couple minutes before Chris said, "You know we’re going on tour soon."

"Yeah, I know." I said softly.

"I’ve never really done this before. I mean, I’ve never had a… girlfriend, when we went." He explained. He paused for a second before asking, "Do you… well, is this something you think you want to do?"

"What?"

"Stay together while I’m on tour."

"I… I’d like to try." I nodded.

"I feel like I don’t have a right to ask you to wait."

"Three months isn’t that long."

"It’s like, twice as long as we’ve known each other." He laughed quietly.

"I know." I smiled. "But that’s okay."

"You think it’ll be okay?"

"Like I said, I’d like to try. I can’t promise anything, this kind of thing is all new to me too." I stopped and looked at him.

"I know." He nodded. "This sucks huh?"

"Nah, it doesn’t suck. We’ve got a couple more hours today." I swung his arm and we continued down the street.

"I feel better now. I guess I just needed to hear that you… you’d be there. God how needy does that sound?" He laughed nervously.

I squeezed his hand, "You’re in a weird situation Chris, you’re entitled to sound a little needy."

"Thanks." He stopped and kissed me quickly. "Okay, now we can talk about something else."

"What would you like to talk about?" I smiled and squinted in the sun.

"Anything that has nothing to do with me leaving."

"Okay…" I thought about that for a minute. "One time, Tom Cruise was brought into the emergency room after he fell on a movie set, and we had to call in the police and riot control because the entire ground floor of the hospital got over run with reporters and fans."

"Really?" Chris laughed. "Did you get to fix him up?"

"Nope." I shook my head. "They called in the specialists to sew him up."

"Bummer."

"Yeah, you were the first celebrity I got to fix."

"And you didn’t even know who I was." He laughed. "You apologized because "some boy band" was out in the waiting room causing "teenage hysteria"."

"I know." I blushed. "But hey, to this day I’ve only ever heard the songs you’ve performed since I met you."

"Really? That’s cool." He smiled and we continued walking. "What time does your flight leave?"

"Seven." I said.

"Do you have any luggage or anything to check?"

"Nope, everything I have fits in that shopping bag." I laughed. "I don’t have much more than what I have on and my scrubs."

"Those scrubs are cool by the way, they look like the most comfortable thing in the world."

"They are. I practically live in mine."

"I’ll have to get me a pair."

"You can keep that pair if you want." I laughed.

"They’re pink." He wrinkled his nose.

"Oh I think you’re secure enough in your masculinity."

"Yeah okay." He smiled and sighed. We walked along for another hour or so, before we came to the north entrance of the park. We crossed the street and walked in through the high wrought iron gates.

"Wow, I’ve never been here before, this is so… I don’t know, out of place." I looked up at the 30 story skyscrapers bordering the park.

"It’s pretty cool huh?" He asked. "I’ve been here a couple times."

"Yeah." I smiled, "This is pretty cool."

We walked around and goofed off for a couple more hours. I fed the ducks while Chris chased them, we rode the merry-go-round and a little children’s train ride, and we ate warm churros from a street vendor. It was a great way to end my trip to New York, and I reluctantly looked at my watch as the sun began to set.

"We need to get going, it’s almost 6." I said as Chris put his left arm around my waist.

"Okay, let’s get a cab, I’ll go with you to the airport." He said.

"Wait, my stuff at the hotel." I said.

"What stuff?" He smiled.

"You’re right, I don’t really have anything do I? And like I said, you can keep my scrubs."

"Ahhh thanks." He laughed.

"Okay, well then yeah, we need to get to the airport." I sighed as Chris tried to get us a cab.

We got to the airport with just enough time to spare. I went to the ticket counter at the gate and checked in, I had 15 minutes before the plane started boarding. Chris and I found a couple empty seats by the windows and plopped down.

"I had fun this weekend." I yawned and leaned my head on the back of the chair.

"Me too." He patted my knee, then left his hand there. "I’m sorry it was so boring at first."

"No, it was interesting." I smiled. "I just can’t even imagine doing that every day."

"That’s nothing. Wait till the tour starts." He yawned and covered his mouth. "That’s going to be nuts."

"Yeah, but you’ll have fun."

"I know." He smiled.

"Will you call me when you get to Florida?"

"Of course." He frowned. "We’ll be doing all kinds of preparations for the tour for the next couple weeks, so we’re going to be really busy."

"Okay, well, whenever… you know how to reach me." I smiled and played with the zipper on my purse. "Tell the other guys I said goodbye."

"I will." Chris smiled and stood up as my flight was called. I stood beside him and he pulled me in for a tight hug. He kissed me quickly and said, "Call tonight when you get in so I know you made it okay."

"Okay." I laughed.

"I’ll see what I can do about coming out to see you before the tour starts."

I nodded, "Okay or, I mean, I can come out to Florida too. I mean, if you want."

"We’ll see, we’ll work something out."

"Okay." I nodded and smiled. "And don’t forget to keep that arm elevated as much as possible. And flex your fingers too. I promise, physical therapy will be a lot worse if you don’t do this now."

"Yes nurse Grace, I will." He smiled and rolled his eyes.

"Okay." I said softly. "Okay, well… I’d better go." I folded my little boarding pass thing in half.

"Okay." He said softly. "I’ll talk to you tonight."

"Yeah." I said as I tried not to cry. I forced a smile and gave him a big hug and kiss. "See ya." I waved over my shoulder and headed down the boarding ramp.

I called Chris that night when I got home, and woke him out of a dead sleep to let him know I was alive. After that, it was almost a week before I heard from him again. I got home from work at close to midnight and checked my voicemail. "Hey Gracie, this is Chris. Um, I was just calling to say hi, and see what’s up. I’m sure you’re working probably right now. We’ve just been working out all day and stuff, and I wanted to hear your voice and just, you know, say hi." He laughed quietly. "Well, it’s about midnight here, and I’ve got to get up and do this all again tomorrow. And just so you know, my arm is above my head right now because I’m a good little patient." He sighed and paused for a second, "Anyways… I hope you had a good day at work. I miss you. Bye." He hung up and I sighed. I replayed the message a couple more times before I turned the lights off and went to bed.

 

We talked a couple more times before he called to let me know he had gotten his cast off, "I’m serious Grace, I can’t move my wrist at all." He sounded shocked.

"Well, you haven’t moved it at all in what? 8 weeks?" I asked. "You’ll have to start physical therapy soon."

"Yeah, next week. I don’t know how I’m going to do it while I’m on the road though, it’s not like I can just stop and go to the doctors."

"There are excersizes you can do on your own." I said. "How’s the practice going?"

"Man, this tour is going to be crazy. We’ve got fire works and moving stages and costume changes. It’s insane."

"Sounds cool." I smiled and curled up on my couch, watching MTV with the sound off.

"Yeah. I can’t wait for you to see it."

"Neither can I." I sighed. "Hey, I um, have this weekend off."

"You do? Right on, I have to be at practice Saturday morning, but do you think you can come out?"

"Yeah… I think I can manage that." I smiled.

"I can’t promise I’ll be any kind of good host or anything, but you can come out maybe Friday night and watch us practice Saturday. Then we can go be tourists in Orlando for the day or something."

"That sounds like fun." I laughed, I could hardly wait to see him.

"I can’t wait. I’ve missed you so much." He said softly.

"I’ve missed you too." I said.

"So hey, I’ll call ahead and get you tickets, what time do you get off on Friday?"

"Um, I can shift trade with Denise so I can get off at noon."

"Wow, okay." He smiled. "Let me call and make those arrangements. I’ll call you right back, okay?"

"What, you’re going to do it now?" I laughed.

"Yeah." He smiled. "So give me 10 minutes." We hung up and he made his calls. Less than ten minutes later he called me back, "Okay, your flight leaves at 1:30 on Friday, can you make that?"

"Yeah, yeah I can make that." I said slowly. "What do I need to bring? I mean, do I need anything?"

"Babe… all you need to bring is yourself. That’s all I want right now." He said softly.

"That won’t be a problem. Bringing myself is easy." I laughed.

"Good, then you’re set." Chris said quickly. "Wow, I can’t believe I get to see you this weekend. We’re going to have to cram a lot of stuff into these two days, because after that I’m not going to have time to cut my hair, nevermind having guests."

"Okay." I nodded and flipped the channel to something else, leaving it muted.

"So think of something you want to do while you’re here." He said, I was already thinking of one thing I’d like to do. J

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Chris again before I left on Friday. Dave dropped me off at the airport at 1:00 so I had plenty of time to get to my gate. It was a long flight, and of course it didn’t help that I had a flock of butterflies swarming around in my stomach. I was both excited and nervous about seeing Chris again. It had been almost a month… and that’s a really long time.

 

The plane landed in Florida with a bumpy jolt that sent the butterflies in my stomach into action again. Once we stopped I stood and waited patiently to get off the plane. I took a couple deep breaths and smiled, I could hardly wait to see Chris.

I finally made it to the walkway and headed up toward the main terminal. As I reached the crowd waiting for the other passengers my nervousness left me, and all I could think about was how great it was going to feel to finally hug Chris.

I walked through the crowd, looking around for his familiar face, but I didn’t see him anywhere. The apprehension crept back as I stood off to the side to look around. He wasn’t here to get me, and I had no idea where I was going. Panic started to set in as the other passengers left the terminal area and I was left standing there with the ticket counter people and the gift shop guy. It was after 10:00 at night, and I was alone in Orlando…

"Gracie! Grace!" I heard my name being shouted down the corridor.

"Joey??" I asked, noticing the flaming red hair as he ran down the tile hall.

"What – Where’s Chris?"

"He’s… hang on." Joey stopped in front of me and tried to catch his breath. He rested his hand on my shoulder and smiled as he inhaled sharply.

"What happened? Is he okay?" I asked, mental images of car crashes and broken bones clouded my mind.

"Huh? Oh yeah, he’s okay. Retarded but okay." Joey took a deep breath and sat in the nearest chair.

"What happened?"

"He’s been talking all day about how you were coming in tonight, so don’t think he forgot you… but well, he forgot." Joey laughed and sat back in the chair as I sat beside him.

"He forgot?" I asked in disbelief.

"No! No he didn’t forget. Not exactly." Joey explained quickly. "He’s been talking about it all day. All week in fact."

"Okay…"

"Well we were practicing like all day, so after we were done he went to physical therapy and his appointment was at like 8. But he went even though he was super tired." I guess he wanted to make sure I knew he went to physical therapy.

"Uh huh…"

"But then after that he just went straight home because he was exhausted. By the time he got home it was after 9:30 so he took a shower and stuff, and as soon as he got out and dried himself off he remembered he had to pick you up, but by then it was like 10 and your flight was already in and I live closer to the airport than he does so he called me and told me to come meet you. Only he didn’t tell me what flight number or anything, I mean he tells me he took a shower and all this crap I just don’t need to know, but not the flight number. Or airline even. So I’ve been all over this airport looking for you." Joey sighed and leaned his head back.

"He forgot about me?" I laughed.

"He didn’t forget." Joey said quickly. "He didn’t forget, he just… he was really tired."

"So are you going to take me to his house now?" I asked.

"Yeah." Joey nodded and stood up. "You got bags and stuff?"

"Yeah, I have one bag." I nodded and followed him as we walked down the hall.

"Cool, let’s go get that and get the heck outta here. I’m just as tired as he is man."

"And you just ran the length of the airport." I smiled.

"Right." Joey nodded and yawned.

We walked around to the baggage claim and retrieved my bag off the carousel before heading out to the parking lot. Joey weaved in and out between the cars before stopping and putting his hands on his hips. "Dammit."

"What?" I asked as I dropped my carry on by my feet.

"I don’t remember where I parked. Shit, I come here all the time and I always park somewhere different." He sighed and looked around.

"What kind of car are we looking for?"

"A black explorer." Joey sighed and looked around again. "With vanity plates that say Cool Hand Joe. CLHNDJO. Like ‘Cool hand Luke’."

"Okay." I said softly.

"I think that’s me over there." He leaned over and picked my bag up as we headed toward the far corner of the lot. "Yay." He said with no enthusiasm at all. He disarmed and unlocked the car doors with the push of a button, then loaded my bags in the back. We climbed in the front and took off for Chris’s.

"So where does Chris live?"

"In Fletcher Park." Joey said. "About, 40 minutes from here."

"And where do you live?"

"About, 10 minutes from here." He laughed and concentrated on the road.

"I’m sorry you have to go out of your way."

"Nah, it’s cool. He was freaking out on the phone." Joey smiled and turned the radio on.

"Well thanks." I smiled and looked out the window.

"How long are you here for?"

"Just a couple days. I leave Sunday night." I explained. We made small talk and he filled me in a little on what they’d been doing for the last 4 weeks. By the time we got to Chris’s house I was tired, and Joey was running on fumes. "Can you, I mean, why don’t you come in and crash here."

"Nah, I’m cool." He said.

"I just don’t want you to fall asleep at the wheel."

"No, I’m alright." Joey smiled and waved over his shoulder as he climbed back in the car. I stood on Chris’s doorstep with my luggage beside me while Joey looked on.

I reached out and quickly pressed the doorbell, listening to the bells echo through his house. I heard running footsteps coming down the hall toward the door, followed by the clacking of claws on tile.

Chris threw the door open and immediately started apologizing, "I am so sorry. Oh my God I can’t believe flaked like that. I’ve been waiting all week for you to get here and then I turn into a space cadet." He pulled me in for a hug and waved to Joey behind my back as two small dogs skittered around our feet. "Thanks Joe!" He shouted.

"Anytime. See ya in the morning." Joey stuck his hand out the window and waved as he pulled out of the driveway.

"Hi." I laughed as Chris held me closer.

"I’m sorry." He laughed and stepped back. "My brain just took a vacation or something."

"It’s okay." I laughed. "I’m here now."

"Yeah you are." He said as he held the front door open and grabbed my bags. He dropped them in the entryway as I looked around. The house wasn’t huge, but it was nice. I could definitely get used to this. I knelt down and pet the overexcited dogs as they jumped up to lick my face. I laughed then stood up as they ran back to wherever they came from. Chris walked over to me and ran his finger down my cheek to my lips, "Man, I have missed you so much." He leaned in and kissed me softly. Any nervousness or unsure feelings disappeared the instant his lips touched mine. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me closer as I reached my hand up and trailed my fingers up the back of his neck.

"How was physical therapy?" I whispered in a sexy voice.

"Oh there’s a mood killer." Chris laughed, but didn’t let me go.

"Well…?"

"It was fine." He whispered as he leaned in to nibble my bottom lip. "This is more fine though." He smiled and kissed me again and again. When he finally stepped back reluctantly, he said, "I would love to stand here all night and just kiss you all over, but I am seriously dead on my feet. I'm working on about 3 hours of sleep last night, and I have to be up in about 7 hours."

"That’s okay, I’m tired too." I smiled and kissed him quickly. I reached down and picked up my bag and said, "Lead the way."

He grabbed my other bag and led me down the hall to the master bedroom at the rear of the house. He stacked my luggage by his closet door and yawned as he switched the light on. "Sorry about the mess." He said quietly as he picked up a small pile of clothes and carried them to the hamper in the bathroom.

"It’s okay." I smiled and kicked my shoes off by my bags. I leaned over and unzipped my bigger bag and pulled out my little cami and shorts deal to wear to bed. They were light blue with a picture of Cinderella on the shirt and "Princess" written on the shorts. I brushed past Chris as I walked into the bathroom and smiled.

"Tomorrow, Disneyworld?" He asked.

"Sure, whatever you want to do. You’re the one who’s going to be tired." I laughed and continued into the bathroom.

"Okay, we’ll see." I shut the door and changed into my soft cotton pajamas.

When I came out into the room a few minutes later, Chris was in bed with just the bedside light on. I could tell he as doing all he could to keep his eyes open for just a few seconds more, until I laid beside him and he wrapped his arms around me, both arms for the first time. I reached up and switched the light off, and we laid there in the darkness, surrounded by each other for the first time in weeks.

I didn’t fall asleep right away, I lay awake listening to Chris breath deeply beside me. I covered his arms around my waist, with my own and traced my finger around each of his. I could lie like this forever.

 

The next morning, as promised, the alarm beside my head began to wail at 7. I reached over, careful not to crush Chris’s arm, and fumbled around until it stopped. "Chris?" I whispered as I gently shook him. He didn’t so much as bat an eyelash. I rolled over in his arms so that we were facing each other and said, "Chris, it’s 7, you’re supposed to be up."

"Hmm?" He mumbled as his eyes fluttered open.

"Your alarm went off, it’s time for you to get up."

"Okay." He said softly, still not moving.

"What time do we have to leave?"

"Eight." Chris rubbed his eyes and rolled over onto his back. "I need about 6 more hours of sleep." He covered his eyes with his arm.

"Ooh, let me see your wrist." I said as I reached over and pulled his arm onto my lap. I pressed on it and tried to flex it.

"Ouch, ow." He winced and pulled it back. "That still hurts."

"I know it hurts but you have to keep flexing it and moving the joint around or it won’t get better." I said as I reached for his arm again.

"I know, I went to physical therapy yesterday, and he told me all kinds of stuff to do."

"Well you need to do them."

"I know. I am. I will." He pushed himself into a sitting position and swung his feet to the floor. "Dibs on the shower." He cleared his throat and shuffled across the floor to the bathroom as I pulled the blankets up to my shoulder and smiled.

Chris came out a couple minutes later warm and wet from his shower. He leaned over and kissed me quickly, dripping water onto my forehead before saying, "Your turn."

I pulled myself out of bed and into the shower. I got cleaned up and dressed and met up with Chris in the kitchen down the hall. He was sitting barefoot on the counter eating a bowl of cereal with a cup of coffee on the counter beside him. "Hungry?"

"Not really, the coffee smells good though."

"Help yourself." He nodded toward the coffee maker by the stove. I made myself a cup and sat on the counter opposite Chris. "So, Disneyworld?" He asked.

I shrugged, "It’s your day off. I know you’re tired, so really, whatever you want to do. I’m here tomorrow too, don’t forget."

"I didn’t forget." He smiled and raised his mug to his lips. "I’m not as forgetful as you think I am." He raised his eyebrow and set his mug down.

"Okay." I smiled and stirred my coffee.

"I’m not." He laughed.

"Okay!" I laughed and playfully kicked his shin. "So you guys are doing what today? Practicing?"

"Yeah, we’ve got the stage and everything all set up so we need to get used to actually dancing on it." He shrugged and hopped off the counter to set his bowl in the sink.

"Sounds like fun."

"No it doesn’t." He argued. "But that’s only till noon. Then I’m all yours."

"Cool." I watched him rinse his dishes and put them on the rack.

"You about ready?" He looked at my mug and then up at me.

"Yeah, just about." I scooted off the counter and finished my coffee as Chris sat to tie his shoes.

"Man, this is hard to do, even with two hands." He laughed as the shoelace slipped from his fingers. "Its like my hand isn’t mine anymore."

"It’ll take some getting used to. Before you know it, you’ll be back to 100%." I set my cup down and walked over to where he was sitting and tied his shoe. "There you go honey, are you all ready for school now?" I smiled sweetly.

"Shut up, you shouldn’t be mean to me you know, I’m going to be gone for like, 3 months." He pretended to pout.

"Oh, I can’t make fun of you for not tying your shoes but you can forget about me and leave me stranded at the airport?" I smirked.

"Hey now…" He grabbed my arm and pulled me onto his lap. "I said I was sorry." He whispered and leaned his forehead against mine.

"I know." I smiled and kissed him. "I’m just giving you a hard time."

"Yeah you are." He jokingly looked at his lap.

"Oh stop." I rolled my eyes and stood up, laughing. "Come on, you said we had to leave at 8 and it’s getting close."

"Can I call is sick?" He whined.

"No." I laughed, and pulled him to his feet.

"Can I all in horny?" He grinned and pulled me to him.

"No." I laughed again and dodged his lips. "Come on, I’m not going to be the one to make you late, that’s all I need. Johnny already hates me."

"He doesn’t hate you."

"Yeah whatever." I rolled my eyes and headed towards the front door.

"You seem pretty excited to watch me jump around on a stage and sweat with 4 other guys." Chris pouted, but followed me, grabbing his keys off the hall table on the way.

"Hey, who could pass that up?"

We drove out to the arena and parked around back next to a dozen other cars. I followed a couple steps behind him as we entered through a huge steel door and walked around to the side of a massive stage. I saw a couple of the others guys sitting around on the big metal beams that would hold the lights above their heads.

"Hey Gracie!" Justin smiled and jumped down to give me a hug.

"Hey kiddo, how’s it going?"

"Good." He nodded.

"So you came to watch us practice huh?" JC asked from her perch about six feet up.

"Yeah, it’s the only way I get to see this guy." I tugged at Chris’s back pocket.

"Take him man, we’re tired of seeing his smiling face." Lance laughed as he walked up and stood under JC’s feet.

"I’m going to today." I smiled and let go of Chris. "We’re going to Disneyworld, I think."

"We have that thing at MGM." Lance said, looking at Chris.

"That’s next week." Chris said quickly.

"No, I think it’s tonight."

"No way man, no way. I’ve been talking about Grace coming all week, and now you mention we have plans?" Chris threw his arms up in exasperation.

" Wait, no it’s not tonight Lance." JC said as he jumped down and balanced himself with Justin’s shoulder. "It got changed to the Saturday before the tour starts."

"Are you sure?" Lance asked, looking worried.

"Yeah, remember, we rescheduled it because we were supposed to do that charity basketball game tonight, but then that was cancelled so now we have this weekend almost totally free." JC explained.

"Almost?" Chris asked.

"Well, I have a FreeLance thing going tomorrow, and Justin and Joey are taping a service announcement thing."

"But not me?" Chris asked.

"Not you." Lance smiled.

"You’re only commitment this weekend is to take Gracie out and show her a good time." JC laughed.

"Or stay in… you know… whatever." Justin laughed as Joey walked in, late as usual.

"What? What’s so funny?"

"Nothing. You’re late." JC looked at his watch.

"Nuh huh." Joey looked at his and said, "It’s only 5 after. By Joey time, I’m 25 minutes early." He smiled.

"Well let’s go then, we need to warm up." JC jumped off the beam and they all headed toward the stairs leading to the stage.

"Where do you want me?" I asked, looking around for any kind of chair.

He laughed and said, "Now there’s a loaded question." I smirked and cocked my head at him. "Okay okay, I know what you meant. You can sit out front and watch if you want."

"Okay." I nodded and kissed him quickly. "Break a leg." I watched him run up the stairs before I went to sit in front of the stage.

There were about a dozen folding chairs set up about 15 feet back from the stage, so I pulled one a little closer and sat with my arms crossed. I watched for a while as the choreographer came out and danced around the stage with the guys, making a couple changes to accommodate the new stage set up.

I had seen them practice before, a couple times actually, but there was something awesome about seeing them up on a huge stage, moving in unison and singing all together. I sat back and watched as they went through their whole concert, stopping every now and then to make corrections.

They practiced for almost four hours before the choreographer shouted, "That’s enough. Se you Monday."

The guys gave a collective sigh and jumped off the stage. They headed back towards the locker room to shower and change, "I’ll be right back, then we can go, okay?" Chris stifled a yawn as he wiped the sweat from his hairline.

"Sure." I nodded and stood up to stretch my legs. I followed them to the door and stood around outside waiting patiently.

Lance came out about 15 minutes later wearing jeans and a t-shirt, with wet hair, "Chris is finishing up in there." He said softly as he leaned against the wall, "He should be out in a minute."

"Okay." I nodded. "So you guys have to do that again Monday?"

"Yep." He sighed. "We’ll have to do it just about every day from now till the tour starts."

"Ouch." I winced.

"Well yeah, but we’ll be doing a show almost every night so…" He shrugged, "You get used to it."

"I don’t see how you can."

"You get in awesome shape, and you eat lots of carbs." He laughed and ran his fingers through his damp hair.

"So what are you doing with your weekend off?" I asked.

"Well I have a promotional thing with my production company tomorrow, but other than that, not much." He grinned, "This is kind of like our last supper... weekend."

I nodded as if I could possibly fathom what they’d be going through. "Then you’d better make it good."

"I plan on it." He stood up straight and shoved his hands in his pockets, "Well Grace, it was good to see you again, you’ll come see us on the road right?"

"I… I guess I can, sure." I nodded. "If I can get some time off."

"True, well I hope you can."

"I’ll see you in LA for sure." I smiled as he turned to leave.

"All righty then, I’ll see you then." He smiled and waved over his shoulder.

"Bye." I said softly as I watched him go. He looked so tired, and this was just the beginning.

"Day dreaming about Lance huh?" Chris raised his eyebrow as he wrapped his arm around my waist.

"Heck yeah, look at that ass." I laughed and pointed down the hall.

"Oh man, shut up. Lance doesn’t have an ass." Chris laughed and shook his head, "Are you ready?"

"Yep. Are you?"

"As ready as I’ll ever be." He sighed and tried to cover a yawn.

"We don’t have to go today you know. You’re exhausted."

"No, I’m okay." He said.

"Chris…" I frowned. "You can hardly walk straight, lets just go back to your house and veg out for today, and tomorrow when you’re all rested we can go and be tourists, how’s that sound?"

"Well how fun is that for you? I mean you could sit at home and watch TV back in LA." He argued.

"Yeah but here I can do it with you." I smiled and took his hand. "Come on… it’ll be fun."

"That’s a sucky way to spend your weekend." He continued as JC stepped out into the hallway in mid-yawn.

"Hey JC, how are you spending your weekend off?" I asked.

"At home, asleep, in bed." He stretched his arms over his head and yawned again.

"See? It’s not a sucky way to spend the weekend. You need all the rest you can get before you start on the tour."

"I know, but-"

"Besides, I came here to see you, not Mickey Mouse. If I want to see Mickey I can go to Disneyland." I smiled. "Don’t argue with me, I’m a nurse, I know what’s best for you."

"Yeah yeah yeah, you aren’t going to be able to use that forever you know."

"I know." I wrinkled my nose and smiled. "But just this once?"

"Okay, just this once." He laughed and shook his head.

"Good, then let’s go." I pulled his arm and we headed out.

Chris drove us back to his place where we closed all the blinds and drapes to make the house as dark as we could, then we curled up on the couch together and watched a movie that was on HBO. We didn’t really pay attention, but it was on.

We talked a little, made out a lot and slept hardly at all, all day. By the time nine thirty rolled around, we were laying in bed wrapped in sheets and each other’s arms, sound asleep.

We were up by 8 the next morning, so we dressed in comfortable clothes and headed to the Magic Kingdom. On the way we decided that because Disneyworld was basically Disneyland, but on the other coast, we would go to Epcot instead. It didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to spend the day with Chris, and to have a little fun before he left.

Chris bought our tickets then we headed inside, and it was as if we entered a different world. It was so cool, I just could stop smiling, "Look at this, this is crazy."

"Where to first?" He asked, holding the map open.

"I wouldn’t know where to start." I squinted and examined the map. "Oooh what’s that? The ocean thing. Let’s go there."

"Okay." Chris laughed and folded the map to stick it in his back pocket. I took his hand as we walked across the park to the Oceans of the world exhibit and into the air-conditioned building.

We watched the little video there and spent about an hour walking around looking at all the exhibits and hands on things they had to play with. It was a lot of fun, but there was so much more to see.

We went into the other attractions and played with all the toys they had there. We went on the simulation ride where we were injected into a body to fight an infection, which was pretty cool. We had lunch in Japan and ate waffle cones filled with ice cream under the Eiffel tower in Paris. It was a great day, and by nine that night we were pooped.

Chris drove back to his house, where I packed up what little things I had brought, and set them by the door. My flight left at 6 the next morning and I did not want to have to go looking for anything in the morning.

"I’m sorry you have to get up so early tomorrow." I said as I sat on the edge of the bed to take my shoes off.

"That’s okay, I’ll need to get used to it. When we’re on the road we have to be places at 5 in the morning, this is nothing."

"Well yeah, but you should sleep in while you get the chance." I frowned.

"Fine, drive yourself to the airport." Chris leaned down to peck my cheek before sitting beside me on the bed.

"Yeah okay." I rolled my eyes and sighed. "So this is it huh? The last night?"

Chris fell back onto the bed and nodded, "Yep, pretty much. I know for a fact I won’t be able to get to LA before we leave, so unless you can make it back out here in a week and a half… "

"I can’t." I shook my head. "I wish I could."

"Me too." He said softly.

"Are you allowed to have guests while you’re on the road?" I asked a minute later.

"Yeah, we’re allowed to. But there’s not much to do except hang out with the crew. We’re so busy we barely have time to scarf down a sandwich before we’re expected on stage, or at a photo shoot or a meet and greet or a press conference or a charity event."

"Hmm." I said softly. I lay down beside him and said, "I’d say that sucked, if it didn’t sound like so much fun."

Chris laughed lightly and grabbed me by my belt loops. He pulled me toward him and wrapped his arms around me, "It doesn’t sound like fun, but it’s my job." He laughed again, then kissed me slowly. He continued kissing me slowly until we were lying naked in each other’s arms, our clothes carelessly discarded on the floor.

I knew when I woke up the next morning, that I had fallen hard for this guy. All along I had thought I was in the process, but now I had hit rock bottom. I was in love with him. The realization shook me all morning, as I watched him get ready to go, still half asleep. He bumped into the doorframe going into the bathroom and I almost started to cry. Figures… when I finally fall head over heels, totally and completely in love with a guy, he has to leave.

I sighed, and continued dressing myself in the pale dawn light that shone in the window. When I was dressed I laid back on the bed and just inhaled the scent of his pillows. It was totally immature, and kind of insane, but I didn’t care. I carefully slid the pillowcase off one of his pillows and tucked it into my backpack with a smile.

He came back into the room a minute later, fully dressed and mostly awake. "Are you ready?" He asked quietly.

"Yeah." I stood up and bent to pick up my bag. I saw him look at his bed with a confused look on his face. I could tell he knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite place it. "I’m taking it with me." I smiled.

"Hmm?"

"The pillow case." I laughed and looked back at the bed. The naked white pillow stood out like a sore thumb on the dark blue sheets.

"Oh." He laughed softly, "That’s fine." He took the bag from me and we left the house in silence. The sun was just coming over the horizon as we climbed into his car and headed for the airport, 40 minutes away.

We didn’t talk much on the way there, I think everything had been said already, and I for one was dreading getting on that plane. I knew there was nothing I could do about any of this, and I can not stand not being in total control of the situation.

I spent the better portion of the drive convincing myself that it was only for a couple months, and I would be able to fly out to see him maybe once or twice. And he would be in LA in another 2 months… I could wait that long. I’d have to.

We hit traffic when we got near the airport, so by the time we pulled up out front I was running late. Chris still had to fight the traffic out of there and make it to practice in less than an hour, so our goodbye was going to have to be short.

Chris parked on the curb and came around to give me a hug before I had to run inside; I dropped my bag at my feet and held him tight for long while. "Oh man Gracie." Chris said softly. He stepped back and ran his fingers through his hair, I knew that image would be burned in my mind forever, he was constantly doing that. "I don’t know how to leave you…"

"Then…" I stopped myself.

"Then what?" He asked, tilting my chin up to meet his eye.

"I was going to say "then don’t"." I smiled and averted my eyes. "But you can’t, you have to go, I mean that’s not even an option."

"If you don’t want me to go, just say the word."

"And you’ll do what?" I gave a short laugh as a voice inside my head screamed "Don’t go!" I was trying not to fall apart here. "Cancel your tour? Disappoint your four closest friends? Not to mention thousands of fans."

"If it meant not disappointing you… yes." He smiled and traced my jaw line with his finger.

"You’ll only disappoint me if you don’t go." I kissed him quickly, then noticed his frown. "It’s not that I don’t want you to stay, that’s not it. Of course not. If there were any way… but there’s not… and that’s okay. It’s not like I’ll never see you again." I tried to smile, but couldn’t.

"I know… this just sucks."

"I know." I nodded and concentrated on the concrete beneath our feet. "But you’re going to have the time of your life. And you can tell me all about it when you call."

"I’m not going to be able to call that often." He took my hand in his and ran his thumb over the back of my hand.

"Whenever you get the chance… that’s fine." I said softly.

"You deserve more than a phone call when I get the chance."

"Yes, I do. But for now I’m willing to take that. I’ll make do with what I’ve got. Don’t worry about me." I looked up and caught his eye. "Chris, its only three months. Three months is nothing. My dad was in the Navy and he’d be gone for 6 months or more at a time with nothing but letters to hold his family together."

"God, I couldn’t do that."

"So see? Three months will be nothing. You can call anytime you want, we can e-mail and all that stuff." I smiled, a genuine smile. "I’m going to miss you, but it’ll be okay."

"I’m going to miss you too." He said softly, as he held me tight.

"Now get going so you’re not late. I don’t need Johnny to hate me anymore than he already does."

"Johnny doesn’t hate you." He smiled and took a step back.

"Whatever." I smiled and rolled my eyes. "Call me when you get to LA, I’ll come see you."

"I will. I’ll call you before that."

"Okay. And you’d better keep up with your physical therapy, or I’ll break your other wrist." I laughed nervously.

"I will, I will."

"I’m going to be checking up on you."

"I know you will." He laughed, then sighed. "Okay, I’ll talk to you again real soon."

"All right." I hugged him tight and gave him a nice, long good bye kiss.

"Fly careful." His eyes crinkled at the sides as he smiled slowly.

"I will." I smiled and forced myself to turn away and walk into the airport… without looking back.

"Just say good night, Gracie." His smile dropped as he headed for his car at the curb.

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

Chris and I kept in touch through phone calls, and lots of e-mails for the duration of the tour, and I saw him when he came to LA. We had had a nice dinner… alone, and we stayed up most of the night in each other’s arms, just talking. It was wonderful. But then he had to leave again.

After the tour ended, everything became so much harder. He was on the East Coast for 4 weeks with his family, who he hadn’t seen in months. Then the guys went, as a group, to Europe for an 8 week tour over there. It just wasn’t going to work… for either of us. We were both miserable, trying so hard to keep the relationship alive over thousands of miles… so we called it quits, but on good terms.

That was a year ago. We’ve kept in close contact since then, in fact I think we’re closer now than we were before, on a friendship level. Nsync is coming to LA in three weeks on their new tour, well, three weeks, 2 days and about 9 hours (but who’s counting??). Chris knows I’m going to be there, of course, but what he doesn’t know is that I have a proposition for him. I’d like to give "us" another try. I’m not sure what he’s going to say or do, but going by some of our recent conversations, I think things will go well. I think we’re both ready for this now, now that we know what to expect.

He’s told me quite a few times that he loves me and I don’t doubt that he does. I’d just like to see if it’s the same way that I love him, and this is the only way I can think of to find out.

Wish me luck…

The End…?

 

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On to the sequel - "Rings"

 

Copyright 2000 Amy Lynn