"Sooo," Billy said as they made their way to hospitality.
Serena cringed. She didn't like the way things were starting out. This wasn't at all the way she pictured her dates to go. It was her fault for the strange circumstances, at least in Billy's case, but she also blamed Lance for throwing her into the situation. She hadn't meant to have things turn out so tense but having a blind date dumped in her lap wasn't a way to promote stress relief with her.
They walked along for a little while, along the hall and around some buses before she finally spoke to him. She didn't at all know what to say or how to explain things to him. "Billy I'm--" She stopped and looked at him and realized that she hadn't given him much more than a glance before that. He wasn't that bad looking, not a model, but not someone you wouldn't want to be seen with in public. He wore jeans and a T-shirt with a leather jacket over it and she could see by the tips of his shoes sticking out from his jeans and he wore black cowboy boots. It was a nice change of pace after seeing the Hollywood Glam types for so many weeks on end.
"No, Serena, it's ok." He took a deep breath and actually looked a little embarrassed, something she didn't imagine happened to often with him considering how red his face turned. "I thought Lance had warned you about this and I can definitely see that wasn't the case," he said, "I know that this wasn't the way you thought you'd be spending your evening. You've made that perfectly clear."
Serena squinted and then reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose. She hadn't noticed, but her head had begun to ache. She wasn't sure if that was from the fact that she needed to eat or that she was dealing with this drama, but she knew she needed to get her hands on some aspirin or something. "Yeah well that's the thing--"
"No," he waved his hand at her. He reached and touched her arm as they squeezed between two parked cars on the way to the tent. "No expectations other than we have a great dinner and enjoy the show."
Serena looked at him a little sideways since he was behind her. The look on her face was also of confusion. She never thought that she'd hear someone talk about hospitality like that. "You haven't eaten in the hospitality tent lately have you?"
"No," he said with a laugh, "Actually I haven't."
"It's not that bad, but enjoying the food after so many days of having it in a row is going to be a little difficult for me, even with my present company," she said, "I'm sorry about getting you mixed up in this. I don't have a clue what Lance was thinking when he did this."
Billy shrugged. "It's not the first time he's done this. He didn't mean any harm by it."
"He's done this before?" she asked.
"Yeah," Billy explained putting a hand through his hair as if he was pausing to recall the details of another moment for her. "Fun times with that guy. Like the time that he sent me to Nashville to meet Meredith Edwards, one of his artists and well I love the fact that he didn't want her to go to this party thing alone, but she's like my little sister. I mean come on…I'm not that big of a social reject that I need to start dating my sister."
Serena would have thrown in a comment about southern people dating each other, but decided not to considering that she was already in enough trouble as it was. "So instead of the lady in waiting you're the guy in waiting?"
"Yeah," he blushed, "Something like that."
They made their way into the hospitality tent, got plates of chicken and mashed potatoes and went and found an empty table away from everyone. Serena knew that she should probably sit with some of the other crew members to keep up relations with them, but she didn't really want to have to explain to anyone why she was having dinner with Billy.
When the opening acts started up the boom of the sound system startled her and she almost dropped the forkful of chicken into her lap that she'd lifted to her mouth. She caught it with her hand and immediately threw it onto her plate and grabbed for a napkin.
"You ok?" Billy asked with a laugh.
"Yeah," she said, "I have an eating disorder or something…I can't get the food into my mouth." She wondered if she turned red when she said it. It was pretty embarrassing that she was so on edge that she couldn't even eat correctly.
They sat for a moment eating then Billy looked up at her and moved his chair a little closer before asking, "So how long have you known Lance?"
"Only a few weeks," she said, "I worked on their last video and Chris saw some of my designs and hired me to tour with FuManSkeeto for six months."
"Wow," he said, "Talk about a nice way to turn a short term deal into a long term deal."
"Yeah well it's only for six months," she said, "I don't think I could handle much more than that."
"I know what you mean," he said, "Vacationing here is stressful. It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here."
"Yeah," she said pushing her hair back behind her ear as she lifted another bite of food to her mouth, "I'm just renting...I don't want to buy just yet."
"That's a good one," Billy said with a laugh.
Serena smiled, "If I fail at a designer I could always go be a comedian."
"I have a feeling that you're a good designer," he said.
"Why's that?" she asked.
"One because Chris hired you and two because you stink as a comedian," he said with a laugh.
"What?" she asked in between chews.
Billy laughed, "Never mind. I was going to say something about you not quitting your day job or whatever and it just came out all wrong."
"You're the one who shouldn't quit your day job," she said with a laugh then finished her bite, wiped her mouth and asked, "What do you do for a living anyway?"
"You'll fall on the floor laughing if I told you," he said and sipped his drink.
"No I won't," she promised.
"I'm a tractor salesman," he said.
"A what?" she coughed a little.
"I sell tractors."
"Are you kidding me?"
"Hey, it's a respectable way to make a living," he said, "At least in Mississippi."
Serena frowned, "I didn't mean to offend you…" She smiled and reached across the table and held onto his hand for a moment, "I've just never met a tractor salesman before. I mean you know that they are out there, but when you live in LA and New York and well not tractor friendly places you never meet anyone who actually sells them. So do you sell John Deere's or something?"
"No," he said, "Catepillar. We do more industrial type things than anything else. We have a lawnmower type division, but I sell to construction companies and to big farms."
"Really?" she said.
"Ok," he leaned back in his chair and pulled his hand away from her, "You don't have to pretend to be that interested in it."
"I'm sorry Billy. I really am. I didn't mean to make fun of you--"
"Let's just drop it," he said, "Oh and while we're on the subject, I don't have any dead bodies in my closet…just so you know."
"Crap," she sighed out, "You heard that?"
"Yeah well it was hard to miss."
"I'm really sorry. This is such a mess."
"Can we just start over?" he asked and downed the rest of his drink. "I'm going to get a refill and when I come back we'll just start over…ok?"
Serena watched him retreat to the buffet table, fill his cup from the protable cola dispenser then turn and walk back to her. This time, before he spoke, he put down his cup, pulled a baseball hat from behind his back and shoved it on his head. "Hi Serena," he said, "I'm Billy and I'll be your escort for the evening…if all goes well we won't insult each other too often and we'll get to see the show."
Serena nodded and stuck out a hand, "Nice to meet you Billy. Sit on down."
He sat down and they burst into laughter.
"I don't think that helped, but at least we can start over," he said.
"So tell me about selling tractors," she said and leaned towards him a little.
The sound of their voices in the hallway echoed into the room that Lance was staying in that night. He hadn't meant to really eavesdrop, but at four am it was hard not to hear someone talking and laughing in the dead silent hallway. It definitely was hard since that certain someone was supposed to be sharing a room with him that night since he was a guest and the other certain someone hadn't shown her face since right before the show started which had worried him.
The door into the hallway cracked open and he saw, through squinting eyes, as he leaned out that they were down a few doors standing by her door talking. Billy had her hand in his and it was clear to anyone alive that they were flirting with each other. Lance might not know her THAT well, but there was no mistaking the little lean and the smile on her face.
He sighed. That smile was amazing. He'd never seen her looking like that and he wondered what Billy had done to put that look in her eyes.
"OH MY GOD!"
Lance's eyes snapped in their direction and he stood motionless like a deer caught in headlights as she came over to him. "What happened?"
"What?" he said and backed up a little into the room as she barged in after him pulling Billy with her, flipping on the lights as she went. He hadn't really thought about the shape of his room, but now that she was in there with him he almost felt embarrassed about her seeing all his stuff.
"Your face," she said with an accusing tone.
Lance kept stepping back until he almost tripped on the pair of running shoes he'd left at the end of his bed. "What?"
Her hands reached for his face and he held still trying to avoid looking in her eyes. "What happen to your eyes?"
"What?" he asked squinting.
"Lance you're face is really messed up," Billy said.
"Thanks Billy," he said. Normally he wouldn't have taken the comment so seriously, but with the recent turn of events he wasn't sure if Billy was just trying to push him around or if there was something wrong, "It's the middle of the night or didn't you guys get the memo."
"I'm serious Lance," Serena said, "Look at yourself!" She thrust him towards the mirror and he finally saw what she'd been freaking out about. His eyes were completely puffy and red and so were his cheeks. He looked as if he'd been hit in both eyes and he finally let a swear word out of his mouth.
"What did you eat?" she asked.
Lance was still half-asleep and he wasn't sure what was going on. "Huh?"
"What did you eat?" she asked, "It looks like it's a food allergy. Are you allergic to anything that you know of?"
Lance stepped away from her and went and leaned over the table towards the mirror. "What the hell is going on?"
She moved on without acknowledging his questions. "Do you have any Benadryl or anything like that?"
"Why?" He pushed her hands away from his face.
"It will cut down the reaction. Also you should get a washcloth and try to keep the swelling down." She didn't wait for an answer, she went into the bathroom, ran water then placed the washcloth from the hotel under it then walked back into the bedroom and went and placed it over his eyes instantly. The cool fabric against his face was like throwing ice cubes down his back. He jumped away from her and tried to make sure that she didn't get her hands on him again
"Go over to the bed and lay down."
"I can't see," he said.
"Fine," she said. "I'm gonna go get some ice for your face…lay down and Billy you try and search around for some Advil or IB profin to get the swelling down."
She rushed out of the room and Lance was left standing there staring at his friend.
"I've got some Advil or whatever," Lance said as he made his way over to the double bed on the far side of the room. "Sit down or something before I get all paranoid."
"Should I call someone or tell someone or something?"
"Billy sit the hell down and shut up. You're acting like a fan right now!" Lance snapped then went over and lay down. It was funny how things could get so out of control in the matter of a few moments. He actually felt sick to his stomach now that he'd seen his face.
A moment later there was a knock on the door and Serena was back with a bucket of ice. She came into the room, ignoring the both of them then went into the bathroom and grabbed up a towel and came back out again. She wrapped some ice in the towel and shoved it at him. "Put it over your eyes."
Lance did as he was told, but made sure that he could still see. He watched her sit down on the edge of the other bed then pull the phone that was on the night stand over to her. She dialed and soon was speaking. "Yeah Anthony," she said quickly, "What room is doc in? No…no. It's nothing too serious, not life threatening anyway, but I think someone should look at Lance. He's having an allergic reaction to something."
Lance watched her face. He wasn't sure if she could see him, but he was glad to see that she was focused back on him and not on Billy. He didn't know why exactly he felt so jealous about the situation, but hopefully this convenient reaction to whatever would help his case a little. He wanted it to look like he was helping, but he was pretty sure that when it came down to things he wouldn't want her going off with any other guys. He wasn't sure about the whole baby thing, but that could always be figured out later. For the moment he just wanted the girl.
"Ok," she finally said, "Yeah. He's got company tonight, but yeah I can sit with him if need be. I mean if it's something more than an allergic reaction we don't…ok…I'll see you in a minute."
Billy slid out of his jacket and kicked off his boots and scooted back onto the far bed from Lance a little. Lance saw Serena hang up the phone then turn and look at Billy. "I'm sorry about this, but--"
"Don't worry about it," he said, "I should go get changed and try to get some sleep tonight. I've got a flight out in a few hours."
Billy moved away from her and soon disappeared into the bathroom. Lance moved the icepack a little from his face and looked at her. "Did you have a good time?" he asked
She leaned and lifted the ice from his face and watched him. "You need to keep these on tonight and I'd cancel whatever you have tomorrow. It might be stress or something like that. Anthony is going to have Doc come down here so I wouldn't be surprised if he drugs you up or something."
"Stress?" he joked, "Me with stress? Never."
"Lance." Her tone was that of a mother talking to a child that being caught in the act of misbehaving.
"I know," he said, "I know, not funny." He watched her for a moment, "So did you have fun?"
She looked at him for a long time. "Yes," she finally admitted, "I did, but I really don't think that right now is the time to discuss this."
"Well can I make an appointment?" he asked.
"No," she said.
He heard the shower start in bathroom and just as he was about to relax a little he heard a knock at the door. He placed the ice back over his eyes and let her get it.
"What's going on?" Doc asked.
The two of them walked into the room and when Lance pulled the ice away from his face he was being bombarded by the tour doctor and felt a little claustrophobic with her standing over him. "He's having a reaction to something. His eyes are puffed up like he ate something crazy."
He lay back and let Doc do his thing, looking in his eyes, poking and prodding and basically making a bigger deal about things than was necessary.
Billy returned to the room wearing shorts and a T-shirt and laughed at the way Lance was being fawned over. It seemed now that word had gotten out and everyone came to see what was wrong with him.
"Are you done now?" he finally asked looking at both Doc and Serena trying to hold his tongue so he didn't piss off either of them.
"Yeah," he said and handed over some allergy medicine, "I want you to get some rest tomorrow…I know you have sound check, but other than that I want you in your room keeping a low profile. If this IS stress related the rest will do you good and if it's not stress related, it'll do you good anyway."
"Fine," Lance said and got up, "Just leave me alone for now." He escaped past the people in the room and closed himself into the bathroom. He wanted to be alone, away from everyone and without much sleep the night before and the interrupted sleep that night he knew he was going to blow up at someone if he didn't get some air soon.
Strange looks bounced around the room as everyone waited to see if Lance would come out. The door hadn't exactly slammed shut. She watched the back of his head disappear into the other room and she felt horrible. It had been her fault that everyone had gathered in his room and she hadn't meant for it to drive him away. The action of removing himself from the group of people got its message through. The Lance show was over and everyone needed to leave.
Finally, when no one seemed to make the first move, Serena moved to clear everyone out. She didn't know why she was the one doing it, but at least it made up for the fact that she'd brought everyone down there to his room.
When it was just her and Billy alone in the room she went to lean against the bathroom door. "Hey Lance?"
"What?" he snapped.
"Everyone is gone. I'm gonna grab you some more ice for your icepack…I'll be back in a minute or two then I'll leave you alone for the night."
"Actually," Billy said. She turned and looked over her shoulder to see him looking at his watch, "My flight leaves in about three hours anyway so I think I'll just change back into clothes and head out…Lance needs to have some downtime."
Lance pulled open the bathroom door and Serena fell into him. He caught her with one arm, but his other arm let go of the towel holding his icepack to slip around her to ssteady her and the ice went flying to the floor. After a moment of correcting her balance, pushing against his chest and trying to grab for the door handle she stood up straight between the two men. She looked at Lance, then at Billy, straightened her shirt and grabbed up the ice bucket and walked towards the door to the hallway. "I'll get the ice and be back."
She held her breath until the door closed behind her then looked down the hall in both directions before heading back towards the ice machine. It hadn't been that long since she'd gotten the first batch of ice and the stuff that was left in the bucket wasn't even melted, but she had needed the excuse to get out of the room and it had worked well for her.
"Serena!" She almost dropped the ice bucket as Justin came up behind her and began to try to tickle her. She whipped around to find him standing there in a wife beater and Adidas track pants with the leg zippers all the way zipped to the open position making his pants look like bell-bottoms. He wore no shoes and looked almost as if he had just woken up. "How'd the date go?"
Her eyes only went wide with shock for a moment. "What are you talking about?"
"Your date with Billy boy?" he asked reaching to scratch his arm, which she so conviently noticed he flexed before he made contact with the opposite hand.
"Do you ever wear clothes?" she mumbled.
"Yes," he said.
"You know they do make shirts with sleeves on them," she said.
Justin crossed his arms over his chest and stared at her. "Stop stalling…how was the date?"
"It went fine," she said and prayed that the conversation would go on to a different subject. "Shouldn't you be asleep or something?"
"I was on the phone with Mere," he said.
"Does your Mom know about three am and four am calls to your woman?"
"No," he said, "And she doesn't need to. I don't know why you seem to have become my parent all of a sudden."
"You need supervision," she said, "I knew it the first time I met you."
"It's a lie," he joked, "A conspiracy!"
"Whatever fro boy," she said.
"How come you get to call me that huh?" he said looking sideways at her, "I'm sure that in your world you're allowed to be that familiar that fast, but you should really watch your mouth."
As if by a miracle, Justin's cell phone ringer went off. She wouldn't have even noticed that the phone was in his pocket, but she recognized the Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head song as his personal alert system coming from his pocket. "Excuse me," he said with a sarcastic tone and reached for his phone.
"'ello?" he said. There was a small pause then his face broke into a huge grin. "Merebear, what are you doing calling me? I thought you were going to bed…Oh…I miss you too honey, but you have to get up tomorrow and well I should be asleep…no I'm out in the hallway…this crazy thing happened to Lance…"
As he rambled on to his girlfriend, who Serena had yet to meet, but wanted to half strangle and half hug, Serena made her escape, or at least started to. Meredith was a huge part of Justin's life, even though she had yet to show her face to the group since Serena's arrival. She was in college and couldn't get away most of the time so Justin's daily phone calls to her and her calls back seemed to basically announce each hour of the day like a chime of a huge grandfather clock. Half the time Serena was glad to hear the couple's song playing from Justin's phone. The alarm meant that Justin would be kept occupied and out of everyone's way, but it was becoming a hassle to have to get the song out of her mind at the end of every day after hearing it about twenty times in a four hour period.
A moment after she began to walk away a hand grabbed around her arm and pulled her back. "Meredith wants to talk to you."
"What?" Serena asked looking at him.
"She wants to talk to you for a minute," he said and held the phone towards her.
Serena took the phone from him. "Hello? Meredith? What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm glad that you're dating Billy. He's a nice guy."
"Whoa…ok?" Serena said, "First off I'm not dating him and well second off…who told you about it?"
"Everyone knows everything on tour and since Justin usually is on the phone when things happen I heard about it too," she said with a laugh. "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to pry…I just think that Billy is a really cool guy and I love that you two are dating."
"Well thanks on his behalf, I guess," Serena said then looked at Justin who was looking at her strangely. "Here's Justin back…Oh wait…when are you coming out to visit? Your boy looks a little lonely right about now and well I'd love to meet you." She smiled at Justin when he gave her a thumbs up sign.
"Don't tell him ok?" she said, "But I'm going to be out in Vegas with you guys in about a week."
"Really?" Serena said and sighed, "That's too bad. Oh well maybe when I get a break Justin can drag me down to Orlando to meet you."
Justin frowned then reached for the phone.
"I guess I'll talk to you later," Serena said quickly, "Bye."
Serena escaped to the ice machine, got her ice then rushed back to Lance's room. She didn't know how long she'd been in the hallway, but she ran into Billy coming out of the room when she went to knock on the door.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
She noticed the suitcase in his hand, "I should ask you the same thing?"
"My flight leaves in about two or three hours so I thought I'd go grab breakfast then head out."
"Well I should…" She looked at Lance's door and knew that although she wanted to go eat breakfast with him she should check on Lance. He shouldn't be alone in his condition.
"Look," Billy said, "Lance has my numbers…if you want to call me then go ahead, but if you don't I'll understand."
"Why wouldn't I want to call?" she asked.
Billy shook his head for a moment then took a deep breath, "Never mind."
"It was nice to meet you and our date was really fun," she said and curled a free arm around to hug him and leaned and found herself kissing him lightly on the lips, "Fly safe…ok?"
He nodded. "I will. I had fun today."
"So did I," she said.
"Well give me a call sometime, ok?"
She nodded and they parted ways, him leaving for the airport and her going back to check on Lance.
She would have walked right in, but she found that Lance's lights were off and when she let the door close behind her she was lost in the complete darkness of his room.
"Did you get ice?" his voice asked in the darkness.
"Yeah," she said, "How are your eyes?" she asked.
A moment later the light by the bedside flipped on. "They'll be fine I'm sure," he said and waved her over to him.
When she approached him she could see that his shirt was off and he'd been laying with the icepack on his face.
"Are you ok?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, "I just should rest or something, but I'm not tired now."
"I'm really sorry about throwing the circus into your room."
"It's ok," he said.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yeah. I know you were just looking out for me so it's ok." He reached into the ice bucket and added ice to the pack that was lying on a towel next to his side on the bed.
"So Billy is going home?"
"Yeah," he said, "We were talking about you earlier."
"SO that was what that burning sensation in my ears was."
"Can't you be serious for a minute?" he asked.
"No," she said with a laugh.
"Come on Serena," he said, "I just want to know that he likes you a lot."
"That's all great and dandy, but he lives in Mississippi and I live in New York…that isn't the best way to start out a relationship."
"No it's not," he said, "But I think he's worth it…I mean you two match up well."
"You barely know me and I barely know him so I don't think anyone should be hooking me up with anyone." She pushed herself up to leave, but Lance grabbed her arm. "Don't go, I didn't mean anything by it."
"Look, just don't push me on this issue," she said, "Please."
"Fine then," he said, "Truce?"
"Want to sleep in here tonight?" he asked.
She nodded no. "I should go."
"But you told Johnny that you'd stay with me and I think I need a guardian."
Serena looked at his face and laughed, "You're too much, ya know that Lance Bass?"
"Of course…" He smiled at her with a wide grin then wrapped up the ice and lay back and put it on his face. "Will you turn out the lights?
Despite being fully dressed, Serena moved across to the other bed and made herself comfortable, kicking off her shoes and slipping out of her sweatshirt before she lay back in bed and turned out the light.
"Night Serena," he said.
"I'm glad you had fun tonight."
"Lance go to sleep."
Silence filled the room and for a moment she listened to the sound of him breathing before she fell asleep.
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Last updated: 07/09/04.