Snap Shots Series: Portrait

THREE


Trips out west to LA usually meant that the guys would be attending some interesting party or event or taping Leno or going to a Lakers game or going shopping. Lance couldn't remember a time when he didn't love the city. That was until now.

This trip though was different; at least it would be for Lance. He'd thought about it when he'd boarded the bus is Las Vegas, he was going to be in the same city as Willa again, and had jolted awake when they arrived in the city limits. He'd been awakened as if he'd somehow known in his sleep that they'd arrived in the vicinity of Willa.

Slowly pushing himself out of his bunk he tugged on a T-shirt and found that everyone was asleep so he tried to make his way out to the front of the bus without waking them up. Everyone's curtains were closed and he could hear Joey's slight snoring and Justin's Walkman still playing and thought that he heard Wes talking in his sleep. The others were probably sound asleep.

"Where I should be," he mumbled and left the back part of the bus. He kicked into a pair of shoes on the floor and almost swore aloud, but kept it in, not wanting to wake everyone.

Normally the guys road on their own buses, or at least on more than one bus. That night they'd all piled into the one bus together and everyone had been too tired to switch buses when they'd gotten out of the Vegas city limits which meant that there were twelve people on one bus instead of the four that usually stayed on Lance's and Joey's bus.

He was glad that they were all asleep, he'd been avoiding talking to them about being in Los Angeles. He could tell that they knew something was on his mind, but they'd left him alone about it since all of them knew that Willa would be in the city at the same time as him.

He'd heard that JC had visited her last time he'd been home, but Lance didn't dare ask him about the trip. It was too much of a temptation for him. He was having a hard enough time trying not to think about Willa without hearing about her and he knew that getting news of her would just make things worse for him. He had to keep his head on straight, Jackie was arriving that afternoon and he needed to act like himself for her. He needed to give her that, even he knew that he might struggle with keeping up the rest o the facade.

Turning on the light over the sink he saw that just the driver James was awake. He stopped in the kitchen to grab a bottled water and also to make some noise so he wouldn't scare James, then he went to the front of the bus. Reaching around he pulled down the little seat that would let him sit near him then patted the guy on the shoulder. "Hey J," he said with a sleepy smile. "How goes the drive?"

"What are you doing up?" James asked as his eyes glanced over at him then back to the road. The huge bodyguard/driver sat in a comfortable chair. He had been asleep all day when the guys had been doing their shows so it was the first chance that Lance had gotten to talk to him since two shows before back in Texas.

He hated that part of his life. He hadn't talked to his mother since the week before despite leaving messages for her and he and Stacey had only had enough time to talk business. He missed his old lie. He needed contact with people other that the guys in the group and he wasn't getting that.

When Willa had been around at least he could talk to Elena or Spanky or some of her modeling friends, but now he was cut off again, especially since Jackie had been acting like a hermit due to her studying schedule. He hadn't talked to her in almost four days and was almost worried about her actually showing up in LA. He knew her flight schedule, but he wasn't sure about the plans to go pick her up. Melinda had assured him that things would be all taken care of but he still wasn't sure about all of it.

"Couldn't sleep," he admitted as he leaned over a little to crane his neck to look out into the darkness. He could see most of the road in front of them but couldn't really see the sky due to the shape of the window unless he leaned a certain way. "Where are we?"

"Just outside of LA," he said, "We should be at the hotel in about an hour."

"Has traffic been that bad?" he asked. He could see water running down the sides of the window and he wondered if it had rained. They were in the middle of the desert area of the country and figured it would probably be just dew on the windows, not rain. What he wouldn't give for some rain. It screwed with shows and the tour, but he hadn't seen rain in a few weeks they'd been in the south, but he missed the rain in the afternoon in Florida.

"Not really," he said, "We're not going to hit commute traffic I don't think so we shouldn't have a problem."

Lance sighed and leaned back and looked out the window. His feet lifted automatically to rest on the dashboard and he leaned against his legs, propping one hand under his chin for support.

"Ok, I'm not going to put up with that sighing. If you're gonna sit up here with me you're going to have to spill the beans or you're going to have to go back to sleep."

"Nothing is wrong," Lance said.

"Sure, sure," James taunted him.

Lance let out a laugh. "Fine James," he said, "Although I'm sure what I have to say will just end up putting you asleep...which could be dangerous."

"Not quite Lance," James said and tapped the coffee cup in the holder next to where his right hand had been on the steering wheel.

"You sure?"

"I already know its woman troubles, so you might want to tell me whether it's your current woman or Willa?"

Lance's eyes widened. He was completely shocked, not that he would accuse him of something so strange, but that because he was exactly right about his feelings towards Willa. How could someone know his feelings even before he could even figure them out himself?

"Why would you think that its Willa?"

"Because boy, you've been different since that all went down."

"Different?" Lance asked and watched as an 18-wheeler flew by them.

"I don't know how--what's her name...you're new lady?--"

"Jackie," Lance supplied and focused back on the conversation.

"I don't know how that girl of yours Jackie puts up with you. Either she is really stupid when it comes to you or she's really tolerant. If I were a woman--"

"You'd be an ugly one," Lance said trying not to let the conversation get too serious.

James gave him a stern look as he grabbed up his coffee cup and took a drink then replaced it. "As I was saying...if I was a woman and was dating a man in love with another woman I wouldn't have stuck around this long."

"In love with another woman?" Lance asked. He distracted himself by scratching his arm and picking at some lint on the running pants he'd worn to bed.

"You and Willa," James said glancing over at him again, "I may only be a driver, but you know that I hear all the news. I mean Wes and I great up together...don't you think that he and I talk about you guys when you're not around?"

"You little gossip whore," Lance said with a slightly hurt tone. He didn't like the idea of people talking about his business. It was one thing when he press did it, since he really couldn't stop that, but having his own crew talking about him. "How the hell do you know that I'm in love with Willa still?"

"So you admit it?" James asked. He stared at him for a long time now making Lance nervous.

"Shouldn't you be keeping your eyes on the road?"

James glanced out onto the road, adjusted his driving a little, "Answer the question."

Lance felt like he needed to reach out and take the wheel from him, but knew he shouldn't touch the wheel. That had been rule number one with the bus. No one drove or even touched the wheel besides James or the other drivers.

"Fine, fine. No. I never said that...I meant, how do you think you know that I am?"

"You're just different man. I've seen you with that Jackie and I can tell that you aren't a hundred percent with her. For someone being so smart, her being a lawyer and all, I would think that she'd be able to figure you out by now. You don't have that look in your eyes that you had with Willa."

"What?" Lance said. He now felt a weight settle on his shoulders. If James noticed his not so warm reception of Jackie, he wondered if Jackie could see it. He'd tried his hardest to be normal with her, but there was a part of him that still wished that it was Willa with him and not Jackie. It really wasn't fair for Jackie to have to put with that, but he couldn't help it and there wasn't anything that Jackie could do to make up Willa's absence to him, not that she needed to do that, but, well basically he was stuck with the situation.

"Lance, admit it," James said with a suddenly low and serious tone, "You're cheating the both of you when you're dating someone you're not in love with."

"Whatever James."

Lance pushed himself up from his seat and went into the living room area as his head began to ache. Pictures of Willa and Jackie swirled in his head and somehow he saw the two of them merging into one vision in front of his eyes. "Wouldn't that be just the thing?" Lance said and rubbed his forehead.

Moving through the bus Lance tried to locate some Tylenol. He'd seen some in the cupboard near the sink but when he looked he had a little more trouble than he'd have thought trying to pull out the medicine.

He was at the sink getting some more water when JC came out into the living room. He immediately turned down the flow of water fearing that the sound of the water into the sink and into his cup had been too loud.

"Hey C," Lance spoke over his shoulder as JC passed him.

"Hmm," JC answered and slid into the booth. He yawned a huge yawn, stretched his arms over his head then scratched at the goatee that he'd been growing the last few days. "I gotta talk to you Lance."

Lance turned and leaned against the counter and sipped at his water. JC looked half-dead and he didn't understand why he was at the table instead of in bed, but it must be something serious. "About what?" Lance asked fearing that it was something serious knowing that JC didn't part with his limited sleep time unless it was something to the point of being almost life threatening.

JC looked as if he was about to start in on a heart to heart when a phone started ringing. The guys' heads shot up and listened to see if someone was going to get it. It was too early for anyone to be just calling so they knew it was probably an emergency. Their families could have been calling from the East Coast, but it wasn't likely that the call would be a social one.

"JC it's yours!" Chris called out from the bunk area.

JC pushed himself up and went in search of his phone. He was gone for only a few moments then came back with the phone pressed to his ear.

"No," JC said, "No I didn't say that."

"Tell Bobbie I said hi," Lance said and leaned back in the couch.

"No, no you didn't--it's not a bother," JC said, "Lance and I are the only ones that are up. No, no. Chris woke up when the phone rang, but really its ok."

Lance turned in his seat and stared out the window again and prayed that things went well with Jackie while she was in LA. He'd been doing fine, actually looking forward to seeing her, but now as they got closer to LA he was getting a little nervous. She knew all about Willa, that wasn't the trouble.

The trouble was that she didn't know about how he was feeling.


"You still there?"

"Yeah," Willa nodded and opened her eyes and stared at the darkness for a minute. She’d been listening to him give her advice and somehow had dozed off a little. "I'm still here. I was just thinking."

"You feel any better?"

"Yeah," she sniffed, "I feel fine now."

"You sure?"

"I was just a little nervous about all of this, but I’m sure I’ll be ok. I mean I’ve got a body guard with me so it’s not like Lance is going to go nuts on me. You should get to sleep. I know you have a busy day tomorrow and I'm sure Lance is going to be a handful to deal with."

"You know him too well," JC said with a laugh. "I wish there was something I could do to make it better. I feel like I need to do something."

"It's ok," she said, "Just being there for me and talking to me is enough...we need to deal with this stuff ourselves."

"If you say so," he said.

"I love that you’re thinking like you need to help, but really. I can handle this myself. I mean I have so far."

"Yeah I guess. So I'll see you tomorrow?" JC asked.

"Yeah, in between the interview with Entertainment Tonight and before you go to sound check."

He'd told her about it the week before and she'd written down the times and places she needed to be. Spanky even had a copy so that they wouldn't miss out on her chance to see the group again. It had taken a lot of convincing on JC's part to get her to come, but after more than a few phone calls, one from each guy except Lance, and one from Bobbee she finally gave in and accepted the invitation to come out to the show.

"Are you sure you’re going to be ok and you’ll show up?" JC took a huge breath and she pictured the worried look on his face. He was trying to be a good friend to the both of them, her and Lance, but she knew that he was also worried that he would ruin everything for them. She knew that he wanted to get them in the same place so that they would be forced to talk and she actually deep down appreciated that fact since she was too chicken to do it herself, but she was weary of seeing him again.

"Yeah," she said. She moved the covers up around her more and patted her stomach. "I've got to see him sooner or later. I guess he should know about his kid before it's born."

"His girlfriend is going to be in town," JC said in a whisper, "Are you going to be ok if you two bump into each other?"

"I’ll manage. I’m sure it’ll be a little upsetting and all, but I have to deal with him and her sooner or later." She felt tears coming to her eyes already at the thought of seeing him with someone else. She'd already seen pictures of the new woman in his life, Jackie, from a benefit they'd both been at a few months before. "I'll be prepared. Plenty of tissues in my pocket and Spanky's shoulder to cry on afterwards."

"I just don't want some huge drama to happen. It's not good for you and its not good for--"

She wanted to laugh at the way that JC had suddenly taken this concerned role with her. He'd kept his promise about keeping in touch with her and had sent Bobbee over a few times to check on her. She thought it was kind of strange for him to be involved, but Bobbee had explained that JC was like that with everyone. He was the fatherly type and worried about everyone the way he worried about her.

"What are you talking about?" she heard Lance say in the background, "What’s Bobbee stressing out over now?"

She cringed at the sound of her voice and if she wasn't mistaken she felt the baby kick at the sound. "Don't get attached just yet sweetie," she mumbled as she rubbed her tummy.

"Nothing," JC said, "It's this interview that Bobbee is doing. She's just a little nervous. There's some controversy over Destiny's Child again and she's having a hard time getting her questions together."

"He doesn't know it's me, does he?" she asked. She found herself whispering although she didn’t know why. It wasn’t like Lance would be able to hear her voice through the phone, but she still was almost afraid that he would.

"No," JC said.

"Tell her to tell them a joke," she heard Lance say.

"Sounds good. Tell them a joke," JC said.

"I should let you go," she said softly, "You need to get some sleep and I should rest up for today."

"Love you honey," he said then paused, "And I mean that."

"I love you too," she heard Lance say in a silly voice.

Her breath caught in her throat and she started to choke when tears sprung to her eyes. "Thanks JC," she said.

"I'll talk to you later," he said, "Call me."

"I will," she said.

"And be brave," he said.

"I will," she said and dabbed at her eyes. She didn't need to start her crying now, she knew she'd be doing enough of that later on that night after the meeting and the concert and all of it.

Willa hung up the phone, wiped her tears and settled back into bed. She'd heard his voice and she hadn’t completely fallen apart which gave her hope about their meeting later. The only thing she was mad at was the fact that he'd been in the same room as JC and she hadn't even been able to gather her courage enough to talk to him. What was wrong with her?

"Sweetie are you ok?" Spanky asked from the doorway. He was half-asleep, but she could see the concern on his face. She loved when he looked vulnerable like that. He tried to be such a tough guy with her, but she’d seen glimpses of the real him, the non-bodyguard part of him.

"I'm fine," she said. She leaned and flipped on the light by her bed and patted the area next to her. "Come here."

Spanky came over and sat next to her. She laughed a little at the way the bed seemed to lean towards his weight. She’d gained some pounds with her pregnancy, but Spanky still outweighed her by about a hundred pounds. "Do I tell you enough how much I appreciate you?" she asked. Tears came to her eyes again.

"Did you eat something crazy before you went to bed?" he asked, "I told you those chicken wings are bad for you."

"I'm serious Spanky," she said, "I need you to be strong for me today. I'm going to see Lance and I know that his girlfriend is going to be around and I don't want to make a fool of myself. After all this time I can’t be balling all over him."

"I've got your back sweetie, you know that," he said, "You know I'll always have your back and if that guy tries anything today I'm going to show him a thing or two. It's such a shame about him not being able to come to his senses and take care of his kid like he should."

"It’s not really his fault," she said.

"Don’t go easy on him. He should know better. You didn’t even get a chance to tell him the truth and he didn’t seem like he wanted to know the truth."

"It was my fault though. I should have stayed and made him listen to me. I should have forced the issue, but--"

"You can’t be stressing out like this Willa. Lance is an adult and shouldn’t have stormed out like that," he said.

"I don't want to talk about him anymore," she said rubbing her tummy, "Hear that baby? If your daddy doesn't come to his senses Uncle Spanky is going to take good care of us."

"As long as you name the kid after me," he said with a laugh and reached over and tapped her stomach.

"I'm not sure that Spanky Marviani is the best of names. My mother would probably kill me for naming it after you and Elena, who of course is your biggest fan would probably have a heart attack on the spot."

"Elena isn’t my biggest fan? What? I’m offended."

"You shouldn’t be," she said, "One day I’ll let you at her and she’ll be sorry."

"You're too silly," he said. He leaned back and looked at her. "You aren't going to give the kid Lance's last name?"

Willa tensed at that thought. She knew that it would be the right thing to do, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it just yet. She didn’t want that kind of a reminder of him. It would be bad enough that the kid would look like him, but she wouldn’t be able to stand to call it a name that would remind her of him every time.

"I'm not sure that I should," she said. Her tears started again. "I've--I've got to just do this on my own. If I do tell him today that this kid is his I'm not expecting to be with him and I don’t think that my kid should have the name of their absentee father." She wiped her face and realized that she was grabbing onto the covers with her hand so she loosened her grip. "If I tell him I'm not going to ask him for anything. He's made I clear that I'm not going to be a part of his life and that's the way it's going to be."

"You can’t be serious," Spanky said, "I know that you don’t want to be with him like in a marriage way, but you should make sure that he pays what he owes you."

"I don’t need his money."

"You don’t need it, but you can’t say that it won’t make your life any easier."

"Spanky. I can’t be relying on him like that. I know that it’ll make my life easier, but really it’ll make me feel like I owe him something. I don’t want to be in debt to him."

"He owes you," Spanky said, "You’ve done this on your own so far, but having a kid is going to be hard. I should know. I have enough kids in my family to have had a little experience. It isn’t easy Willa and you’re going to need not only the friends around to help you out, but that money will come in handy."

"You think I can’t do it on my own?" Emotion was high in her voice. "If you’re going to be that way I won’t be needing you to be around anymore. I can’t have you acting like that around me."

"Calm down," Spanky said. He reached over and took her hand. "I love you Willa, I do, and I’m not going to try to hold you back from what you want to do."

Willa watched him and tried to believe that she could trust him. She hadn’t been able to trust many people lately. After the whole deal with Lance she was a little weary of anyone or anything that hadn’t been around her since she was little. Only her mother and her father seemed to be truly trustworthy.

 


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