JUST ME Part Eight

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[[Twenty-Two]]
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As she watched the clouds below them EJ let out a sigh. She was becoming more and more depressed the closer they got to home. Coming back from Hawaii was a let down for EJ in more ways than one. Not only was she going back to her normal or at least semi-normal life, but she also knew that once back in Orlando she wouldn't see Lance as much as she had during their vacation. The word from management was that their vacation was soon going to come to an end and they would be back in rehearsals for the new tour.

"You ok?" Lance asked. He'd been working on his laptop for a while and she'd been reading a book despite the late hour, but now he'd put it away and he was stretching a little like he might try to take a bit of a nap.

Seeing that his eye was on the armrest she moved her hand from where she'd been tapping it against the plastic and metal between them and tucked her hair behind her ear and adjusted her bag by her feet. "Sorry," she said.

Lance rubbed his eye and stretched a little, switched off his overhead light then leaned so that both of them could see each other under her light. "What's on your mind sweetie?"

"Nothing," she said putting her book away.

Lance turned his head and leaned against the headrest and looked at her. "You sure?"

"Can't we stay on vacation forever?" she asked with a sigh.

"As much as I'd love to spend forever with you in Hawaii, we both have to work sometime," he said.

EJ leaned over and put her head against his shoulder and turned her face up. He turned towards her and kissed her lips quickly then said, "What are you going to do when you get home?"

"Other than doing laundry and checking on Pop's to make sure everything is set for the morning, nothing," she said.

"Want to have a sleep over?" he asked with a smile.

Knowing exactly what he was asking she decided to joke about it when she saw Loni watching them from across the isle. "I think I'm a little old for sleep-overs."

Putting his lips close to her ear he spoke in a low voice, "You know what I meant."

His breath tickled her ear and she curled her neck into him to stop the sensation. "I know. I know."

"So?" he asked pulling her arm across his chest so that he could hold onto her hand.

"Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"If you take me to Pop's so I can make sure everything is ok there then I'll consider it," she explained sitting up a little.

"I can do that," he laughed.

"Good." She nodded and leaned against him and closed her eyes. They were due back in Orlando within the hour and she was going to take advantage of the few minutes left for her to snuggle with him.

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"So are you tired yet?" Lance asked sarcastically. She'd been quiet for most of their drive to Pop's and he was starting to get a little worried about her.

A change had washed over her from the moment they'd stepped off the plane. He'd noticed it the moment they were fully into the airport when she let go of his hand and crossed her arms over her stomach. It was a clear motion that the line had been drawn and he couldn't cross it. They were in the real world now and it seemed to him that EJ thought that things would end now that they were back home.

"EJ are you going to be this cold to me all the time or just when we're in Orlando?" he asked as he walked her up to the apartment.

EJ sighed and put a hand to her forehead. She suddenly looked like she was going to cry, which angered him. That's all she'd been doing that whole vacation. She'd spent the day acting fine with him, but it whenever they began to talk she seemed to burst into tears. It was way past their bedtimes and although he didn't want to fight with her he felt like he needed an explanation for this one since he hadn't really been arguing with her in the first place.

"I'm sorry," she said and tears formed in her eyes.

"Whoa, whoa," Lance said and put the bags down on the step. One fell over, but he didn't reach for it. Instead he reached for her and hugged her to him resting her head against his shoulder as he smoothed his hands down her back. "What's wrong? Don't cry on me now."

"I'm sorry," she said pressing her cheek against his shoulder, "I just have this feeling that I'm never going to spend time with you like we had when we were in Hawaii."

"Where did all this come from?" he asked, "I'm not going to disappear now that we're back in town. I mean I still have to come and get my hot chocolate in the morning or burn my tongue on the green tea."

EJ laughed a little, "You still owe me from stiffing me those two dollars."

"See…I totally have to stick around so I can pay you back because well a vacation in Hawaii isn't enough," he said squeezing her.

She backed away a little. "I didn't mean it that way," she said.

He kissed her forehead, "I know you didn't." He smoothed her hair out of her face and smiled, "Are you going to be ok now?"

"Yeah," she said.

"Want me to help you check on Pop's before I go home?" he asked.

"Can I stay with you tonight?" she asked in a small voice.

Lance let her out of his arms, "Sure, but we should get going though because I have a meeting at eleven tomorrow. If that's not going to be too early for you then you're more than welcome to come over and spend the night."

"I have to be back over here at noon to work anyway," she said.

"Well lets get going then, ok?" he said and picked up the bags.

"Are you sure this is going to be ok?" she asked.

"I'm not going to disappear EJ," he said, "Believe me."

She nodded and turned towards the door and Lance took a deep breath praying that things would go a little easier for them.

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[[Twenty-Three]]
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"I need to take a shower," Lance said with a groan as they walked into his room. He had locked them securely into the house and had taken her hand on the way up the stairs. She'd been right there with him until he entered the room. Now she stood at the doorway watching him a little nervously.

Seeing her reaction he went over and took her overnight bag from her and set it on the floor byt he door. She'd pulled together some clothes to bring over, but didn't look like she was going to stay over now that she was there.

"You ok?" He asked turning his head a little to the side. He was trying to be compassionate and not passionate at the moment, but he'd gotten it into his mind on the way over to his house that he needed a shower and that she would need one too. It was the perfect romantic situation. Not only because they probably really did need a shower, but because of the possibilities that might come from the encounter.

Her answer came out as a yawn and a nod. "I didn't think that I was that tired," she said with a laugh.

"Come on," he said pulling her with him towards the bathroom.

"What are you doing?" She asked.

Lance began to pull on her t-shirt, finally getting it up so that her stomach was showing he ran his hand across her stomach, "You want to take a shower with me?" He tried not to seem to excited about it, but now that the idea was in his head he wanted to start the festivities.

"I'm tired Lance," she said and he thought he caught her looking towards the bed.

When that happened his brain went into overdrive. Almost as if he'd forgotten about the bed his mind went into a whole new array of possibilities. There could always be both sets of fantasies come true.

"Come on," he said and tugged on her hand. He leaned and kissed her lips. "I'll make it worth your while."

"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked.

"Just come on and I'll show you," he said with a low voice.

Luckily she followed him into the bathroom. The light being turned on in the bathroom made them both squint a little but they were ok after a moment. Lance dropped her hand then kicked off his shoes and pulled off his shirt then began to unbutton his pants. It wasn't something that he normally did, but he figured that she had seen him naked over the vacation and he wasn't about to be embarrassed now.

When he looked over at her she still had her clothes on and didn't look like she was getting undressed. He pointed at her then wiggled his finger a little. "The whole concept of a shower together is first that we're there together and second that we're in a shower. Take it off girl," he said.

She giggled and watched him walk across the room to the shower stall. He turned on the water the slid out of his jeans then leaned and slid his socks off and looked at her. She was sliding out of her clothes so he kicked his clothes across the room then went and stepped in the shower.

"This will totally make you feel better," he said, "Jet lag is a bitch."

He ducked his head under the water then felt cold air on his back when she stepped in next to him.

The surprising thing was that he didn't have to turn around. He felt her slide up against his back and her arms go around him and soon he felt her body against his back, naked breasts plastered against him and her cheek resting against his shoulder blade. Her arms ran lightly over his stomach and chest, moving the shower water all over him.

"EJ," he groaned out as she reached past him and grabbed the bar of soap from the holder. "What are you doing honey?"

"You said that you wanted a shower with me," she said with a laugh. She rubbed her fingers against the bar of soap then put a finger behind his ear. "I'm just hear to make sure you don't forget any spots."

"What about me?" He asked, "What's my job description?"

"Just relax," she said, "You're on vacation until you have to get back to the studio on monday."

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The alarm that went off early the next morning grated on her nerves. She opened her eyes when she felt Lance's arms leaving their protective embrace around her.

"Stay put sweetie," he said and leaned and kissed her lips.

She smiled as Lance slid from the bed tiredly and walked naked over to the little intercom box. "Who's there?" he said as he pressed the talk button then coughed. As she watched him he shivered a little. She never would have thought that she'd be laying there after such a night watching her boyfriend standing naked as if she wasn't even in the room. It was a strange experience.

Remembering some scene in a movie she'd once seen EJ thought quickly and pulled the sheet off the bed, wrapped herself in it then walked over to Lance. Once she got over to him she unwrapped herself and scooted closer to him, huggin him so that he was also enfolded in the sheet.

A metallic voice came out of the wall. "Lance?"

Trying to ignore the voice EJ pressed a kiss to the back of his neck. "Who the hell is at the door?"

"Who is it?" Lance pressed the button and asked the person as he wrapped his around back around her.

"Lance, it's Alayna," the voice said.

EJ's mood dropped and she immediately dropped her hands away from Lance. "What is she doing here?" EJ asked angrily.

"I don't know," Lance said.

"You said that she only hangs out with you in Hawaii so what is she doing at the front door?" she asked.

Lance scratched his head then sighed. "I. Don't. Know."

"Lance I know this is crazy, but Nick had me come out to Orlando, but he's not home and I don't know where else to go."

EJ wanted to say a million things to him but instead she went and began to collect up her clothes.

"What are you doing?" Lance asked watching her. He turned back to the intercom and pressed a button then spoke again to Alayna. "Come on up to the house. Ring the bell. I gotta get dressed."

"OK."

"What are you doing?" he repeated.

"I'm getting dressed," she said calmly as she pulled her shirt over her head.

"You look like you're about to run out of here," he said.

"No," she said.

"I'm going to go let her in. Why don't you take a shower or something or go back to bed or something and I'll figure out what's going on?"

EJ sighed and looked at him then pulled her shirt off again and began to walk across the room towards the master bathroom.

"EJ?" Lance said.

She ignored him for a moment trying not to cry. SHe didn't know what was going on, but it was ridiculous for her to think that Alayna being at the gate was a coincidence.

"EJ."

"What?" she asked. SHe turned and looked at him. He'd pulled on his boxers and a pair of sweats and was struggling into his shirt.

"What's with the attitude?" he asked.

"What's she doing here Lance?" she asked. Forgetting that she was naked she finally crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him.

"I don't know," he said, "I totally don't know."

"Well go figure it out," she said, "I'm going to take a shower and get changed." She hated to pull an attitude, but after the night they'd spent together she wasn't at all expecting to have Alayna be their wake up call. It had definitely killed the mood.

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[[Twenty-Four]]
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An annoying laugh erupted from behind her and she looked out the window trying to curb the urge to roll her eyes and say how pathetic Alayna was. Actually it was probably more pathetic that EJ had been in the car with them this whole time and no one had even spoken to her. They were telling jokes and singing along to the radio like they were on some road trip to no where while EJ tried not to cry. It wasn't that she wanted to be the center of attention, but at the moment she felt like a wall flower

"The third wheel," she mumbled and pushed her hair out of her eyes. Lance had his window open and although it had been hot outside, the cool air through the car had caused her to get goose-bumps.

She'd never been in that position before, but all of a sudden she was starting to think that it might become her title from the way Lance was treating her that morning. She’d sat through breakfast with the two of them, sitting next to Lance, but not being acknowledged, then when Lance finally got in touch with Nick she'd ridden along with him to take Alayna to Nick's house.

"Are you ok?" His voice was its normal low tone, but the volume couldn't hide the worry that she heard there.

"I'm fine," she said looking over.

His hand reached and touched her thigh and for the first time she hated that he was affectionate with her. It didn't seem right for him to be acting so cold one minute then be putting his hands on her the next minute.

EJ stayed in the car when they arrived at Nick's. She made an excuse that she was sick, but Nick didn't buy it and came to the window while Lance brought Alayna's bag into the house.

She didn't want to roll down the window, but when he knocked for a third time she finally opened the door finding that the windows wouldn't work without the engine being on. "What do you want?" she asked.

"What's with the face this morning?" he asked as he moved around and stood in the opened doorway.

"Nothing," she said turning so that her feet were hanging out the door.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"I'm just tired," she said.

"I'm really sorry that Alayna bothered you guys this morning. My car wouldn't start and I had no way of getting in touch with her."

"It's ok," she said not looking him in the eyes. He knew that she'd been over at Lance's, but she didn't want to acknowledge that fact. It was too embarrassing already to have to deal with everyone…dealing with gossip would send her over the edge.

"You shouldn't frown like that EJ," he said, "It's not flattering."

"Thanks Nick," she said rolling her eyes, "That makes me feel SO much better!" She pulled on the door, knocking him out of the way and shut herself into the car again. Her arms automatically folded across her chest and she pouted as she waited for Lance. This wasn't the way she wanted the day to turn out like.

Lance finally came out of the house and stood with Nick for a moment talking. They spoke then looked at her then spoke again and EJ felt the tears welling up in her eyes. She had this extreme sense that everyone was ganging up on her all of a sudden. Normally things like this wouldn't bother her, but when love and emotions came into the picture she turned into a mess.

Finally Lance and Nick separated and Lance got in the driver's side. He closed them into the car and stuck the keys in, but didn't move to turn on the car. "Nick told me you're kind of upset about Alayna…Are you ok?"

The question was simple, but EJ couldn't think of a simple answer to give him. She wanted to tell him that everything was ok and that she wasn't upset about Alayna being in town, but how could she betray her own feelings just to keep their relationship on even ground?

"So the silent treatment again?" he asked.

"No," she said with a sigh.

Lance turned in his seat and looked at her, "What is your problem?"

She looked over at him with tired eyes and said, "Can we please just not talk about it? I'm really tired and I need more sleep before I deal with this."

"Deal with what?" he asked, "Deal with the fact that you've become this totally jealous and obsessive person all of a sudden?"

"Take me home," she said instead of continuing the conversation.

Lance sighed and turned back in his seat and stared straight ahead. "Your stuff is over at my house."

"Leave it there," she said, "I'll get it from you later. Just take me home."

"Running away again?" he asked as he started the engine.

"You have no right to talk to me like that," she said.

"I have every right when I don't know where all this is coming from," he said, "I thought we'd gotten past all this and now we're sitting her fighting again. I don't know what's wrong, but please tell me because I don't want to have to spend our time together fighting like this."

"Well maybe we don't need to spend time together then," she said.

"EJ," Lance said, "Don't be ridiculous--"

"So now I'm ridiculous?" she asked.

"That's not what I meant," he said.

"Just take me home," she said.

Lance shut up and EJ stared out the window. It was strange to have things end this way, but it seemed that neither of them were in the mood to discuss the situation.

As he drove her to Pop's she tried to keep her cool, but after that days events she was about ready to just cry the rest of the summer away.

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When they arrived at Pop's Lance tried to think of a way to get her to stay in the car with him and go back to the house, but her mind seemed to be made up. She'd looked out the window most of the trip over and he wasn't about to step in her way. If she was going to escape he thought that he should let her go. It was in her hands now.

"Call me later and I'll bring over your bags," he said softly.

Foregoing the acknowledgement of his comment she slipped out of the car and moved around the car towards the front door. She didn't look back or even pause. She just pulled the door open and disappeared inside. Despite the glare on the windows he saw her say something to some people at the counter then disappeared into the kitchen for a moment before she came back out and made her way up the stairs again.

Lance would have driven away right then, but something caught his eye and he soon found himself, inside and standing at a table full of three older men. He didn't know at all what had brought him to be standing at that spot, but he felt like he needed to investigate a little. He didn't want EJ to be upset with him and he thought that her father might know something more about what was going on.

"Mr. Bellerman?" he asked.

"You must be Lance," her father reached out a hand and shook his quickly then introduced the others at the table. "My daughter was saying that she had a great time in Hawaii when I talked to her the other night."

"Yeah," Lance said nervously and rubbed the back of his neck, "I was going to talk to you about that…" He looked at the other men at the table.

"Don't worry," he said, "These old farts are like her uncles. Nothing you have to say to me needs to be kept from them."

"Well I was wondering," Lance said, "I know she just came rushing through here and went upstairs…I must have done something, but I don't know what and now she won't talk to me. Got any hints on how I can fix things?"

"Let her cool off," he said, "My daughter has been known to have a bit of a temper when she wants to and I think at the moment she wants to. If she rushed in here and came home without her bags it was probably something important, but I think that if she were through with you, she would have brought her bags with her."

Lance nodded and looked at the other men at the table for a moment. "So do I past the test?"

They all laughed. "What test would that be?"

"I don't know," he said, "Whatever test fathers put their daughters dates through when they come to call on them."

"Come to call on them?" Quincy said with a laugh, "For someone who is so into the latest things…according to my daughter…you sure have a mean southern gentleman's attitude hiding in there."

"I didn't mean to sound so old fashion…I guess it's due to the fact that my mother was around over the vacation. It does me good to be reminded of my manners every once in a while."

Lance pushed himself up, "Speaking of that, I should let you all get back to your conversation and I should get out of here before I step on someone's toes."

"I'll make sure that she calls you Lance," EJ's father said.

"Thanks," Lance said then moved away from the table, but didn't leave. He turned back around, "Nice to meet you all."

With that comment he was back outside and out to his car.

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