The Baby Game:  Section Ten
TWENTY-EIGHT:


The movement of the bed woke her from her nap.  She felt a chill run over her body and realized that the warmth that she'd been wrapped in was now gone.  Normally she would have just gone back to sleep, but this time something bothered her and it was more than the goosebumps that now covered her arms.  "Lance?" she said opening an eye to find the room slightly light.

"I'm not going anywhere honey," he said with a yawn, "I just am going to go to the bathroom and call Billy and tell him that we're not gonna make it over there."

She pushed herself up from where she'd fallen asleep.  "No....We should go over there...Billy needs our help tonight."

"You need to sleep," he said rubbing his eyes, "You look exhausted."

"Thanks," she said rolling her eyes.  "You look bright eyed yourself."

"You know what I mean Serena," he said, "For a while there I didn't think you'd stop crying and I know that tires everyone out."

"I was only crying because you made me," she said.

"I just spoke the truth," he said, "I don't think you've believed me up until now that I really am in love with you and although the road might pull me away, I'm never going to leave you."

Tears formed in her eyes.  "You asked me a question before and I wasn't sure how to answer," she said slowly seeing that this was the opportune time to answer him properly.  "But now I know my answer so if you asked me again I might give you a different answer."

Lance's eyes widened then a smile formed on his face.  "You mean you decided that Parrish is a good name for the baby?"

Serena smiled and looked at him, turning her head to notice the sweet look on his face.  She hadn't noticed before but he was really excited to be a father.  "As long as her last name is the same as her dad's AND her mom's then it's ok."

He took a deep breath, not that he didn't understand her comment.  He acted as if he didn't know what to say to that.  "Are you sure?" he finally got out.

She nodded and sat up, putting a hand over her stomach, "I know it's not exactly what I wanted out of this, but so far the things that you've suggested to me haven't turned out that bad, so I'm hoping that this won't turn out bad either."

"It won't," he said then frowned.

"What?" she asked.

"I didn't get a ring...I mean I didn't even ask right--"

"Lance it's ok," she said moving a hand towards him, to reassure him that she meant what she said.

Lance jumped up from the bed.  "Hold on," he said.

"What are you doing?" she asked as he rushed to his dresser and started to pull things out of the top drawer.

"Lance, you're making a mess," she said.

"It's ok."  His hands kept moving in the drawe, but he looked over at her for a moment with a look on his face that spoke volumes.  He was completely excited to be there and be with her.  "I just remembered something and I have to find it."  His hands still rummaged around as Serena got up off the bed, then sat back down again when her head got light.

"You ok?" he paused to ask.

She nodded and watched him.  "What are you looking for?"

"Found it!"  He rushed back over to the bed and sat down next to her.  His hand was curled around whatever it was that he'd found in the drawer.

"What is it?" she asked.

He opened his hand to reveal a cufflink in the shape of a small cross.

"A cufflink?" she asked.

"It's a--"  He paused and looked at her.  "My grandmother gave me cufflinks for my sixteenth birthday...I know that my sister has some rings from her, but I thought--" he scratched his head, "I thought that this would at least have some sentimental value to it.  I'm gonna get you a ring when we go to New York or something, but until then you can wear this one..."  He opened his other hand and revealed the match to the set, "and I'll wear this one."

"You want me to wear a cufflink?" she asked looking at him unsure of how that was going to work.

"There is a hole in it," he said, "You can put it on a necklace and I'll put mine on a necklace too."

"Oh," she said and nodded, looking at the cufflink in her hand.

"It's stupid," he said, grabbing it up from her and moving away.

"No Lance," she said.  She walked back over to the dresser and found her make up case.  She opened a drawer in it and pulled out a necklace that she had.  She removed the tiny paintbrush pendant and brought the empty necklace back to the bed where Lance was waiting.  "Put it on here."

Lance did as she asked and moments later the tiny cufflink was hanging around her neck.

"Thank you," she said.

"No trouble," he said and leaned and kissed her, "My little fiance."

The word made her stomach jump, but this time it was more from excitement than from nervousness.

"We should go over and hang out with Billy," she said, "As much as I'd love to keep you here, we should go and visit."

"I can show my little fiance off," he said.

"Yeah you can," she said.

"Lemme call Billy and tell him we'll be over in a while," Lance said leaning over and picking up the phone.

"You do that...I'll be in the shower."  She smiled and pushed herself up from the bed.  Her head was light as she walked across the room, but she made it to the doorway ok.




TWENTY-NINE:


As they walked around the corner of the house to the backyard, as Billy had told Lance to do when they showed up at the house, Serena held onto Lance's hand.  It was something strange, to hold onto him like that, as if she was truly connected to him.  She hadn't felt truly connected to him until that moment.  He was guiding her, not only physically, but emotionally towards something that she wanted, but couldn't find on her own.  He was family, and this was the life she needed to lead.  No more games, just them.

She didn't have to wait long to figure out how their engagement would be revealed to the public.    She wasn't sure exactly how to explain her choice of jewelry.  She didn't know what the other guys would think about things and she wasn't sure how they were going to handle telling people.
 
Once in the backyard Lance and she made their way over to the barbeque where Billy was already cooking.  Lance had his fingers woven together with hers, while her other hand swung every so often then would automatically reach up to touch the cufflink around her neck.

It seemed as if Lance was on a mission when they got out of the car.  His straight path across the yard, up onto the deck, to where Billy was standing in a small cloud of smoke cooking in the small backyard was startling.  With a determined look on his face Lance punched Billy's shoulder with his free hand then pulled her up against his side.  "Where can a guy get a beer around here?" he asked.

"Funny one LB," he said with a laugh trying to keep his balance while still putting barbeque sauce on few pieces of chicken that were already cooking next to two huge steaks, "At least let me introduce you to Addriane first before you get drunk and start to let you and your girlfriend tell sloppy stories about me."

"Fiance," Lance protested.  She could see the nervous look in his eyes as he said the word.  She liked the sound of it coming off his lips and the smile that slowly formed there when he finally had the word out in the open.

Billy dropped the tongs he hand in his hands onto the grill and turned around, "Fiance? whoa whoa whoa, when did this happen?  This morning I thought that you guys were going to--"

"Yeah," Serena supplied seeing the shocked look on his face and the way that Lance seemed to get caught on the words about him being engaged.  She didn't know how Billy would act when he heard the news and she wanted things to go smoothly since so far things have been rough.  "We got engaged today."

Billy finally blinked, "WOW."  He leaned over and hugged her and Lance.  "That's great guys."  The tone of his voice was celebrative, but he seemed a little concerned.

"Isn't it though?" Lance said happily as hugs were exchanged.

"So where's the ring?" Billy asked grabbing up her hand.  She wanted to pull away.  She didn't want him to see that her hands were shaky and sweaty.  She was confident about her and Lance, but at the same time there was so much outside interfearance that could mess them up, "I wanna see."

Serena's hand went up to touch the cufflink hanging from her necklace and looked over at the girl that was watching them from a seat a few feet away from the barbeque.  She'd noticed her when they'd walked in, but she'd avoided eye contact until now, not knowing what her reaction to Lance would be. "Introduce everyone then we'll tell you about it," she said.

Billy nodded and turned, "Guys, this is Addriane."  He waved her over and she came to stand by his side, hugging herself up to his arm, as if she was a little shy about meeting them.  "Addriane.  This is Lance and his fiance Serena."

"Congradulations," Addriane said hesistantly, pushing her long brown hair over her shoulder.  She smiled as she shook their hands.  "It must have been spur of the moment if Billy was so shocked."

"Yeah," Lance said hugging her, "Our next order of business is to get up to New York and pick out a ring."  He laced his hand through hers and held up their hands as if to show that her hand was empty and he wanted to fill that spot there for her.

"Lance," Serena said, "We don't need to go to New York for a ring."

"Take advantage girl," Billy prompted, "Lance is fairly stingy when it comes to presents.  You should find the biggest one you can, just to make up for all the cheap ass presents he's gotten me over the years."

"You know you get treated well," Lance said, "You know you got your loan on this place cuz I co-signed."

"Whatever Lance," Billy said, "I got it because I got my loan officer tickets to a concert and a meet and greet for her kids."

Laughter broke out between them and Serena moved away from Lance towards the sliding back door.  "Billy, do you have any juice to drink?" she asked, "Or is it all beer in there?"

"Yeah," he said, "There should be some apple juice in the fridge and maybe some lemonade left."

"Ok," Serena said and moved towards the house more.

"I'll come with you," Addriane said following her, "I told Billy I'd make salad dressing for him so I'll do that and let the boys do their barbeque."

"Ok," Serena smiled and the girls went into the kitchen.  "Have you ever been here before?"

Addriane looked at her startled, as if she'd asked some super personal question.

Serena smiled nervously, "I mean have you been here in that--do you know where I can get a glass and stuff?"

"Sure," Addriane said, "I've only been here a few times, but I think I remember where everything is."

"I hope he has juice or it's gonna be water for me tonight," Serena said putting a hand over her stomach.  She'd chosen jeans and a t-shirt for dinner that night, but she felt as if she was going to have to switch clothes sizes because they were getting tight already.

"When are you due?" Addriane asked moving to grab down some oil from a cabinet and the vinegar from the refridgerator.

"Excuse me?" she asked.  She wasn't sure what she should be saying about her condition and she wasn't sure if she wanted to discuss it with someone who would talk to Billy.

"Billy told me that you were going to have a baby.  I didn't think that it was a secret or I wouldn't have mentioned it."

"No," she said, "It's alright.  I'm just not used to the whole thing yet.  I only found out a few days ago so it's still kind of strange to say that I'm going to have a baby--"  She took a breath, "I'm gonna be a parent."

"Are you ok?" Addriane asked.

"Yeah."  Serena went in search of her juice.  "I'm still letting it all set in.  I'm still a little shocked about it all.  I mean who would have thought that I'd end up here."

<hr>

Lance leaned his head back against the front seat he was in and looked over at Serena.  "I'm really not drunk you know," he said, "I can drive us."

"Honey," she said leaning over.  She kissed him, "You smell drunk and I'm not letting you get us into trouble for driving drunk."

"I'm not drunk," he said.

"Honey, just relax ok and tell me if I take a wrong turn home," she said.

"Home," he said, "That sounds good."

"We still need to talk about that stuff," she said, "We have to have one home Lance, not two or three whatever like we have now."

"Wherever you are is where my home is," he said and closed his eyes for a moment, thinking about his conversation earlier with Billy."

<center>*****</center><i>

"Are you sure you wanna do this?" Billy asked.

"What?" Lance asked finding his question to be very rude considering all things.

"Are you sure you want to marry her?" Billy repeated, this time making himself more clear.

"Of course I wanna do this," Lance said angrily, "I love her and I don't understand--"

"That's all I needed to hear," Billy said, "If you love her then go for it.  I just wanted to make sure that you had the right reasons for doing what you're doing."

"What are you talking about?" Lance asked.

"I just wanted to make sure that you're doing it because you want to and not because you feel you have to."

"Billy I swear to God above.  If you and are going to continue to be my friend I don't want you to ever bring that up again."

"I wasn't trying to cut you down Lance," he said, "I think it's greatthat you and she are happy together.  She loves you a lot and you love her.  That's something I wanted to make sure that you both know.  This isn't a game anymore."

"A game?" Lance asked.

"I thought for a while that she was going to try to play you for your money," he said, "She--e"

"I don't want to hear it Billy."

</i><center>*****</center>

"Lance?"

His head turned and he found that they were sitting in driveway of the house.

"Where is the garage door button.  I can't see it," she said.

He lifted his hand and pressed the button giving her the access to the garage then let out a sigh as the car moved into it's parking space.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing."

"I know it's got to be something.  You've been silent the whole ride home.   It's not like you to be that way."

"It's nothing," he said, "Just...I don't know...you love me right?"

She seemed shocked that he would ask.  "Yes," she said, "What did Billy say to you this afternoon?  I know that you two talked for a while and don't think that I saw the pissed off look on your face."

"Calm down," he said, "It's nothing.  He reminded me that I need to tell you that I love you more often and asked me if you loved me.  I know that you do and I shouldn't have asked and made it sound like I didn't already know that."

"Lance," she said slowly, "I'm--I'm in love with you...I love you more than any other person I've ever known...and I'm not sure exactly why...I mean maybe it's because you put up with my shit or that you agreed to have just a little of me when I wouldn't give you all of me, but mostly I think it's just that you love me no matter what I do or say or look or feel or eat or whatever."

"That's the thing though Serena," he said, "I love you for those same reasons.  I know its harder than hell to deal with me.  I know that I'm not the perfect one for you or that I should even be in your life most times, but you love me anyway."

Lance leaned and kissed her, then rested his forehead against hers, "We'll figure this out.  Ok?  I know that you're worried about it, but we're gonna make it through all of this."



THIRTY:


Serena took a deep breath and grabbed up her sketch book and moved towards the window of the bus into a sunny spot that had made its way through the curtains that normally were closed when they were parked.  She was getting restless, but she was too tired at the moment to do much else than sit.  They'd met up with everyone from the tour and had celebrated the engagement and now the boys were on stage for their third show that week and she was trying to get some work done, while taking care of a stomach that had suddenly become very sensitive.

"Fuck!" Serena pulled the page from the notebook and threw it onto the ground.  "I'm bored."

A chuckle broke from the man's lips across the small room.  "Serena, you crack me up."

Serena was sitting at the kitchen table again moments later working on yet another blank sheet of paper when Eric's radio went off.   Her hand jumped across the page and she swore under her breath as she pulled the ruined page off and wadded it up.  She had just been working on a design for a new t-shirt dress for the women's line, but with a blaring black line through the page, the thing was ruined.

"We've got visitors," the deep crackling voice said, "Diane and Jim are here.  They're on their way to the bus with Todd."  There was a pause.  "They don't look happy.  I don't know what's going on, but you might want to find Lance."

Eric held his hands up and waved as if he was overjoyed with the prospect of having to deal with Lance's parents.  He took a breath and she knew why.  Any time other people were on tour with them their jobs got even more complicated.  More people meant that there were more ways for things to go wrong or people to get lost.

"Are they supposed to be here today?"

Her hand reached up and touched her necklace nervously and wanted to reach for her phone on the table to call him, but she knew his phone was off.  They were doing sound check and then would be at an informal photo shoot.  "I don't know," she said, "I hadn't heard anything from Lance, but there are some things that happened while we were home that might be the reason."

"Like what?" Eric asked.

"We got in engaged," she said quickly and picked up her pencil to draw again before he could stop her.  She knew that news like this was a big deal and no one had been let in on the secret that day.  They'd gotten back the night before and Lance had promised to tell everyone, but the chance never came.

"ENGAGED???"

"Don't you think he should do the right thing?" she asked ducking her head.

"Oh shit!"  Eric stood up a little and said, "Here they come."

A few moments later a knock was heard on the front door and Eric went to open the door.  When he backed up a little and said a quiet hello to them Serena took the moment to put her necklace inside her shirt.  She figured that the cufflink would be recognized and since it was something that his mother probably would have seen she didn't want to have to explain

"Are you busy Serena?" Diane said with a cold tone.  She knew instantly that she knew and that things were going to hit the fan.

"I'm actually working right now Mrs. Bass, but I was about to take a lunch break so maybe we can go grab some lunch," she said holding back tears that were threatening to form.  She didn't want to talk to Diane.  Just the look on her face scared her and she didn't want to have to face her alone.

"That'd be great," Diane said and forced a smile.  "Jim and I needed to talk to you."

"Ok."  Serena pushed her books back and slid out of the table area.  As she walked towards them she kept her eyes low and faked a yawn trying to think of some excuse for her to not be very talkative.

"How are you feeling honey?" Diane asked.

"Tired," she said, "This traveling is getting to me.  I'm getting a lot of work done and having a lot of fun, but it's crazy to be in and out of a place in like thirty six hours."

"You went home this weekend?" Diane asked.

"Yeah."  Her tone was cautious knowing where this conversation was going.  She kept walking to the door hoping that they would run into someone--anyone--who could change the topic of this converation.

They stepped off the bus and Serena squinted in the sun before she turned to find Diane and Jim behind her.  Todd joined them as Eric went to lock up the bus.  The Bass family were nice people and she was sure that she would have loved to be a part of their tight group, but under the circumstances she knew that they weren't pleased with Lance and her.  She'd thought she'd gotten over this with Diane, but the news of the engagement probably had set off some motherly trigger in her.

"Did you have fun?"

Serena finally turned around.  Eric was following the group.  She paused for a moment and took a breath, "Is there something you specifically wanted to talk to me about or is this just a general interrigation?"

"Interrigation?" Jim said with a soft voice.  He looked at his wife then back at her and smiled, "Serena, we're worried about our son and we wanted to know what happened this weekend that would cause him to suddenly propose."

"Then you need to be speaking to him and not me, because the last time I checked your son is an adult and what happens between him and I is just that...between him and I."  The smile on Eric's face gave her courage.  "I'm not sure what you've heard about me, but your son loves me.  Loves me more than anyone in my life and I've put him through hell and he doesn't seem to be leaving my side so--"

"Our son was a very level headed guy until he met you," Jim said.  "The only thing that he's done that was irrational in his lifetime was trying out for this group and we thought that's the only crazy thing he'd ever do--"

"Mamma?"

Serena's back had been tense for the last few moments, but when she felt arms curl around her and Lance slide up behind her to hug her she let herself relax.

"What are you doing here?"

"We need to talk."  His mother's arms reached out and pulled him away from her for a moment where she pulled him into a hug and spoke to him, although Serena could hear her, "We need to talk to you alone honey."

"I can't Mom," he said, "I've got a photo shoot to do.  I just came down here because I heard you were here."

"Well it can wait," Diane said in a sweet voice as Jim hugged Lance.  She kept a hand on her son as if Serena might snatch him up and drag him away.

Lance moved away from them and stood next to Serena.  He stared at her for a moment then pulled her into a half hug.  "How are you doing?" he asked in a low voice, "You didn't take that nap did you?"

"No," she said.

"Are you kids sure that Serena should be on the road like this?" Diane asked making it sound like she was concerned for her health.

"She's fine," Lance said, "We flew home the other day and flew back real quick so the jet lag is getting to us."

"I don't think you should take chances like that on your health," Diane said.

"If you'll excuse me," Serena said looking at Eric and Todd, "I'm not feeling well.  I think I need to grab a little lunch then take a nap."

Eric followed her further into the arena leaving the other four people standing there watching her retreat.

Around the corner from where the others were standing Serena broke out in tears.  Eric pulled her into a hug immediately, "Don't cry girl.  It's going to be ok."

"You know I thought it was, but after that I feel like packing up right now and leaving the state."

"What?"

Lance's voice startled her and moments later she was pulled into his arms.  She didn't like how she was being manhandled these days, but she didn't protest when he rubbed her back and hugged her to him.  "My mom knows."

"Ya think?"  Her sarcasm couldn't be hidden in her comment.

"Don't get nasty Serena," he said, "We need to talk to them later, but for the moment come upstairs and hang out ok?"

"I'm sorry," she said, "I just--"  She hiccuped and rubbed the remaining liner from her eyes, "I just am tired and all this stuff is being thrown at me.  I think I'll just go back to the bus--"

"My parents are in the bus," he said, "Why don't you come upstairs and take a nap for a half hour or so."

"I'm causing so much trouble," she said.

"No..." he said, "No...you're fine.  Come on up with me and we'll get you a nap..."

She took his hand a took a deep breath and finally removed her necklace from under her shirt and rubbed the cufflink for good luck.

"Maybe next weekend we can fly up to New York and see about that ring," he said.

"Sure," she forced a smile to her face and took the stairs with him up to where she knew the group had taken over the skyboxes for the afternoon.

Thanks goes out to Bean on this one...thanks for the ideas girl!!!