The dressing room that night was her escape.  Normally they had rooms of their own, but with this venue the room was big enough to put them all together.  The lockerroom turned dressing room housed five stations.  One corner for each guy and along the wall across from some offices, JC had streched out in a big orange easychair.  She'd seen it being carted in and out a million times, but never had realized that it was his.

Serena usually never went into the room, unless to deliver a message, but when Diane and Jim showed up outside the room to wait to wish Lance luck she slipped inside and took a seat on the blue loveseat where Lance was putting on his shoes for the night.  It was a comfort for her to be there knowing that even the parents weren't allowed in the room.  The only reason she'd been allowed in was because Eric had been assigned to the door and hadn't questioned her need to escape that night.

"Sweetie are you ok?" Lance's deep voice floated towards her from where he was leaned over to reach his shoes.

It's calming tone was needed that night.  Her heartrate was up and her stomach hurt and she felt as if she hadn't slept in days.  She kept her eyes closed and listened as Justin and Chris talked about a basketball game they'd seen the night before and she heard JC on the phone for a moment talking to his parents about an upcoming vacation.  "I'm fine."  Her voice was shaky, but overall she made herself sound ok, for his sake.

She felt his hand on her forehead and when she opened her eyes his face was close to hers.  "You sure?" he asked.  He looked serious and calm and a little tired, but mostly he looked worried.

She nodded, pushed her hair out of her face and leaned and kissed him.  She looked around for a moment.  "Do you have any food in here?" she asked, "I didn't eat much at dinner and I'm starving."

"I think I can grab you a sandwich," he said.  He leaned over and grabbed up a walkie talkie, "Hey Eric?"

"Yeah LB?" the voice came back.  He was just outside the door, but it was easier to talk to him that way then to stick his head out the door, not knowing who might be out there.

"Can you run over to catering and get me a peanut butter sandwich?"

"No," Eric said.

Serena reached and grabbed for the walkie talkie, but he wouldn't let her get it for a moment.  Finally she put a hand down onto his crotch and she made a grab for the zipper knowing that it would distract him.

"Whoa whoa whoa," he said with a laugh, "Save that for later."  He let her take the walkie talkie away from him.

"It's for me," she said in a sweet voice pressing the button so Eric could hear her.

"Give me ten minutes," he said back. She could hear part of a laugh before the signal cut off.

Lance paused in his routine of getting ready and held her in his arms.  She didn't know that she'd become that dependant on him, but having him hold her like that really made a difference.  She knew that this was just the calm before the storm though, not only of that evening, but of the rest of their lives.  When people found out about their engagement things were going to get even worse and when people found out that she was pregnant her life would be turned upside down.

"You ok now?" he asked in a hushed voice finally moving to look at her face.  He searched her eyes then leaned and kissed her nose.  "I don't want you to get too stressed out over this.  My parents really aren't that bad.  My mom is just over protective and after seeing some things that happened with the other guys she's not too sure about me marrying someone so soon.  If I were normal then it would be a different story, but she's just paranoid that I'm going to have someone take advantage of me."

"Hey LB, who let your woman in?" Chris asked across the room.

She watched him take a breath then spoke to Chris and the others in a careful manner, "Serena isn't my woman...she's my FIANCE and she's going to go whereever she wants to go."

"Excuse me?"

The room became silent and JC even opened his eyes and stared in their direction.  She felt a bit nervous sitting there with all eyes on her, but she had expected some kind of shock from them.

"Fiance?" Chris asked in a shaky voice.

"Lance popped the question this weekend and we're going to get married so that our baby can have the same name as his or her mom and dad," Serena said.

"Dang," Joey laughed, "You'd think she just told us she was dying or something."

"Sorry," they all said in unison.

"It's not a problem," she said with a sigh and sat back.

"So where's the ring?" Justin asked.

"I didn't--"

"She doesn't have it yet," Lance said.  He sounded a little unsure of himself.  Tradition called for a man to have a ring picked out already, but since they'd not really been planning things it seemed right for there not to be a ring just yet.  She didn't know how they were going to react to this and knew that Lance was already nervous about things...he didn't need them bugging him too. "I told her I'd take her to New York or LA to get one."

"I told him that we didn't need to do that," she said.  She pulled her necklace from inside her shirt and looked at him, then turned and spoke to the guys, "We both know that we're engaged and actually it's better for the moment that most people don't know.  I don't want this turned into a media circus."

"So that's why his parents are here," Justin said, "I wondered about that."

"Lance is in trooouble," Joey teased.

"Leave it alone guys," Lance said.

Moments later Anthony stuck his head into the door and pulled them from their relaxed state.  "Show time guys.  You've got ten minutes."

Lance nodded and the five guys got up all at the same time.  She'd never been in the room at this point so she sat back and watched in awe.

"You've got it?" Lance asked Chris.

"Justin had it last," Chris replied.

"I had it last," JC said pulling something from his pocket.

They started to kick around a hackeysack.  It only lasted for a few moments but finally they got it all the way around the group and Joey caught it and threw it over into his back.

"You ready?" Lance asked.

"What was that?" She took his hand and half hugged him.


"The hackey thing."

"Oh that...well we've been doing that since the begining of time.  It's something that we never have gotten out of the habit of doing."

Serena smiled. "That's sooo cute."

"Where are you going to be during the show?"  He leaned to kiss her cheek.

"Where ever your parents aren't."

"Sugar," he spoke with a warning tone, "Please don't be like that."

"Like what?" she asked, "I was just going to go to bed for a while and avoid things until you and I can talk to them together."

"Ok," he said.

"I think a good nap will do me good," she said.

As they exited the room Lance's mom and dad stepped forward to wish him well.  Lance leaned and kissed her in front of them then let her go.  "I'll see you in a couple hours."

"I love you," she said letting her eyes go from his to his parents before she looked back at him.

"I love you too."

The hallway was fairly quiet as she walked out to the buses.  The hum of the crowd cheering could be heard, but there weren't many people around, all of them were on the arena floor, so it gave her a chance to relax a little and let her guard down.

"Serena!"  Loni called.

"Yeah?" she said turning around to face him.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To sleep," she said.

"You ok?"

"I'm fine," she said and rubbed her stomach a little, "I'll be out in the bus hanging out.  I don't need the crowd tonight."

"OK," he said, "Make sure James locks up the door."

"I will," she said.

A few moments later she slipped outside the building and made her way to the bus.  She felt like a theif trying to break into it since everyone who was working at the moment was inside the building or already inside the building.

James opened up when she knocked and sleepily smiled at her, "You're back."

"Yeah," she said, "Sorry for waking you up, but I need to be out here and not inside."

"I heard that the parents were in town," he said.

"I really don't want to talk about it," she said stepping by him, "I just want to go to bed."

"Hey Serena," James said as she went to go into the hallway of bunks.


"Congradulations," he said, "I think you and Lance are a great couple."

"Thank you," she said finding her eyes begin to tear up."

"Night," he said, "I'll see you at the next venue."



He turned his head and looked towards the door.  "Yeah?"

"Your mom and dad wanted to come in.  Is it cool?"

"Yeah," he said with a sigh knowing that they were only going to corner him into a conversation that he didn't want to have.  The others were still in the room, but he could tell that they knew enough to get ready and get out of the room as fast as they could.

"Good luck," Chris mumbled as he walked past.  He opened his phone and started dialing, "I'll see ya tomorrow."

"Night," Lance said knowing that his bus would leave before theirs.

"I'll go check on Serena," Joey said as he walked by.

"Don't wake her up Joe if she's asleep.  She's been tired lately and needs the sleep," he said.  The distraction of knowing that she was out there waiting for him made it hard for him to be patient enough to sit and talk to his parents.

"Honey?" his mom said coming in the room.  Her eyes were closed, "Are you all decent in here?"

"Yeah Mom," he said with a laugh.

"Hey Diane and Jim," Justin said as he walked by, "Bye Diane and Jim."

"Bye Sweetie," Diane answered.

JC was the last out.  He was pulling on his shoes and mumbled to Lance thoughts of good luck and the message to call him before he stood up.  "Hey mom and dad," JC said with a smile, "I hate to leave, but I really must go."

"Goodnight sweetheart," Diane said.

As he slid his clothes into his backpack he looked around to make sure that he'd gotten everything.  He knew that the couch and all the other things would be loaded that night, but if he left anything personal behind he knew that it would end up being sold on Ebay.  He knew that the crews had passed security clearances, but it still made him paranoid to know that people would be touching his things.

Lance rolled his eyes at the quoting of the song lyrics.  It was horrible.  He hated how cookie cutter cute his parents were.  He didn't know when it had gotten all Brady Bunch, but it was getting a little pathetic to see how super sweet they all were.

"What are you thinking marrying this little little groupie?" his mother said as soon as JC was out the door.  They were alone, but he still couldn't believe that those words had just come out of her mouth.  He'd always known that she'd had opinions like that about people, but she never had been so bold as to actually speak them aloud.  He'd heard her once talking to his father when he was taking a nap in their hotel room, but he never thought that she'd say something like that to him.

"Mamma," Lance said in an offended tone.  He couldn't imagine his mom being so rude about things.  He knew that she was protective.  He'd always known that, but this was different.  This was personal and he wasn't sure why she was trying to keep him from someone he couldn't think about living without.  "Why are you being this way?"

"James!" his father said sharply.

"Sorry Sir," he said in a soft voice then took a breath.  He could feel tears in his eyes, but he didn't know if he could keep them in.  He was glad that Serena wasn't there.  She would probably try to step in and make things better, but he knew it would only make things worse.  "Dad I love you and mom to death, but I love Serena too and I don't understand why you all can't get along.  I thought you guys were getting used to the idea of her being pregnant."

"Lance this...this whole situation is out of control.  I'm not going to put up with this.  We raised you right.  This never should have happened in the first place."  His mother was getting hysterial.  She'd done the same thing when he'd wanted to join the group.

"You're clearly not going to listen to me tonight and I need to catch a bus.  If you want to talk about this again then we'll come home and talk about this...but for the moment I need to leave..."  He grabbed his jacket and pulled his back over his shoulder.

"Lance."  His mother sounded desparate now.

Lance sighed with the message that would come next.  He didn't want to say it, but it needed to be said.  "I love you mom...I do, but right now I need to be away from you and away from this conversation."

He passed up giving them hugs, something that NEVER happened and made his way to the door.  Outside Loni and Eric were waiting.  He nodded to them to show that he was ready and started down the hallway towards the bus.

"You ok man?" Loni asked in a soft voice.

"Yeah," Lance said taking a breath as tears started down his cheeks.  He never thought that a fight would happen in his family, but it had and he knew that this would change things forever for them.

"You sure?" he asked.

Lance wiped his face with the back of his hand and dialed to check his voicemail before he got to the bus.  He had a moment of silence before the doors were thrown open so he could go to the bus and when he stepped outside screaming from across the parking lot filled the air.  He looked over at a group of fans and waved at them as they stood watching him then shoved his phone into his pocket again withtout hearing the messages.  He had to look down as Eric and Loni shown flashlights on the ground so that they could make it to the bus without falling.

"Hey there big guy," James said as he stepped onto the bus.

"Hey James."

"She's asleep and Joey is in the back." James seemed to tell him answers to questions that he didn't ask, "It'll be ok."

He stared at him for a moment then moved farther into the bus.  He slid out of his jacket and threw his bag on the couch before he grabbed up a bottled water out of the refridgerator.  He took a deep breath and moved his hand to wipe his face knowing that if he did slip into bed with Serena that he needed to be level headed.

Eric and Loni took seats in the living room and Lance decided it was time for bed.  He opened up the door to the bunks and saw that the dimmer switch had been turned on, but was at a low setting so he shut himself in the hallway then grabbed at his belt and slid it off then kicked his shoes into the lower bunk before he shoved the rest of his clothes in there then moved the curtain back on her bunk.

"Sugar," he sighed out, "What..." His tears welled up again.  "What am I gonna do with you?"

"Lance?" she asked sleepily.

"I didn't mean to wake you up," he said with a soft voice as he pulled the covers back and slid in next to her.

She rubbed her eyes as he shut the curtain, putting them into darkness for a moment before she turned on the overhead light.  "I thought we were going to talk to your parents."

Tears began to fall.  "I talked to them."

He reached up and tried to turn off the light but she wouldn't let him.  She grabbed his hand and moved it away then turned onto her stomach and looked at him.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothings wrong," he lied, "I just wanna go to bed Sugar.  I'm really tired."

"What's wrong?" she asked looking at him.  He could see her eyes well with tears, sympathy for the situation she knew he was in.

"I just..."  His breaths were unsteady and he couldn't help but to cry, "The world is falling out from under my feet."

Her arms slid around him and she held onto him as he cried.  He knew that he was being fairly noisy so it wasn't at all a shock that Joey came by a minute later and opened the curtain.  His eyes were closed, but he heard the clips on the curtain against the bar that held them.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Serena said with a soft voice, tucking Lance's face into her neck, "He'll be ok."  She rubbed his back.  "I'll tell you about it tomorrow...ok?"

"Ok," Joey said, "If you guys need anything just holler ok?"

Lance held his breath and hugged her tightly to him.  It wasn't that he wanted to keep things from Joey, but he couldn't face him, not in that condition.  All he wanted to do was hold onto her and close his eyes and wish that the whole world would go away.

"Thanks Joey," Serena said.

"No troubles," Joey said and shut them in again.


"Hey Serena!"

She jumped at the sound of her name echoing in the long concrete hallway.  She had woken up that morning in the tour bus and had taken a shower in the locker room that was serving as the boy's dressing room before putting on shorts and a shirt to go out to sound check.  She'd stood in the back of the group and chatted with Melinda for a while, only waving to Lance from a far when he noticed her.  She hadn't spoken to him so she had gone to check on him to make sure that he was ok.

"Hi Joey," she said.  He was coming towards her with his phone to his ear, but he looked like he wanted her to wait so he could finish his call and talk to her.  She hadn't seen either of them that morning so she wasn't at all upset that he wanted to say hi.  Since she'd moved onto Lance's bus they had become this disfunctional family, Joey being the brother that she never had.

When he finally hung up she smiled and shoved her hands into her pockets.  She looked up at him a little and smiled hoping that he wasn't going to ask what she thought that he would.  "What's up?"

"What's going on between you and Lance?" he asked in a soft voice looking around as if he was delivering secret codes to the military or something. "I don't mean to pry, but I haven't seen Lance cry like that in a long long time."

"Joey...ask Lance about it, not me."  She sighed and pushed her hair out of her face shivering as the wind blew through the hall.  She'd gotten a little sun that day and needed to go and curl up in a blanket.

"I'm asking you about it because Lance won't tell me." 
"Well then maybe you shouldn't know," she said.  She didn't know how Lance wanted to handle everything.  She knew that her telling him the night before that she'd explain it all, but she wasn't sure if she really had permission to tell him everything.

"Serena please don't snap at me," he spoke as softly as he could without being too silent.  I'm worried, I'm not prying."  His eyes clouded over with concern and she knew that she needed to ease up a little on him.  It wasn't his fault that he shared the bus with them and heard half of their drama.

"I'm sorry Joe, but it's just too much to deal with right now.  Lance's parents and I aren't getting along and now Lance is fighting with them and things are just not going right.  I'm stressed out because this is my fault."  She put her hand on her stomach and closed her eyes for a moment.

"Are you ok?" he asked touching her shoulder.

"I'm fine Joey," she said, "I'm just stressed out and this isn't helping that I'm pregnant.  I've been not feeling well the last day or so and I think that it's--"  She sighed, "I think I'm going to go home for a while.  I think I'm gonna stay in Mississippi or maybe hang out in Orlando."

"What's your schedule for the day?" he asked.

"Joe you're gonna get annoying in a minute," she said.

"Give me a break," he said, "I wasn't around when Kelly was pregnant.  She stayed in Orlando.  I'm just trying to make up for it in some strange way."

"Thanks for the concern," she said and looked at her watch.  "If I don't get back to the bus Eric is going to shit a brick.  I told him I was going to go and see soundcheck and get some sun, but he'll send out the national guard if I'm not back...where are you off to?"

"Lance and I are doing a radio interview upstairs with the station that is doing the publicity for this thing.  Got any messages for him?"

"No," she said, "Ask him to call me when he's done.  I didn't talk to him this morning when we got here so I don't know what his schedule is for the day."

"Gotcha," he said and waved as he went towards the stairs that ran up to the second level courtesy boxes.


The day was going too slow.  He hated when he couldn't through an hour without looking at his watch twenty times.  He hadn't slept well the night before, waking up about ten times to make sure that Serena was still there.  Three times he'd gotten up and gone to the bathroom or gotten drinks, but every time he returned to bed he stared at her wondering for a moment if all the trouble was worth it.  He hated that feeling, but he was starting to think that maybe she was right about it being too much trouble to be with her.

"Lance are you ready for this interview?" Melinda asked plopping down next to him.

"Yeah," he said shaking his head to nod yes.  He'd seen her earlier talking to Serena and he wanted to ask what they'd talked about, but he didn't want to check up on Serena.  "I was just trying to rest for a minute.  I didn't sleep well last night."

"Jet lag?" she asked.

He nodded and took a breath, swallowed and felt his throat close a little, "Do we have any water around here? Or Gatorade or something?"

"Yeah," Melinda pointed to the cooler in the corner.

Lance didn't get up.  He stared at it for a moment.

"It's not going to come to you."

"I know."

When Joey came in the room he was stuffing a sandwich into his mouth, "Call Serena."  He spoke between bites and almost spit something on him.

His shoulders tensed and he took a deep breath.  "Is she ok?"

Joey nodded yes then plopped down on the other couch, on he far side of Melinda.  "She's still not feeling great, but she said to call her when you're done with the interview," Joey said licking some mustard off his thumb.

"She's not feeling good?" Lance asked instantly worried for her.  He knew that earlier on in their friendship he would have worried, but with her being pregnant and now with her being his fiance he was even more upset.  "Is she ok?"

"Yeah," Joey said looking over at the interviewers.  "She's fine.  Just call her after the interview."

Lance looked over at the interviewers and then back at Joey when they weren't paying attention.  He put his hand on his stomach to motion to Joey what he was asking about.

"Kelly and Brianna are fine," Joey said loudly.

"What?" Lance said.

"I said that Brianna and Kelly are fine," Joey said, "You were asking if I talked to them lately to see if they are OK and THEY ARE."

"Ok," he said.

The interview started and was running smoothly until one question came into the mix.  Most of the time Lance went through interviews like this half paying attention.  He knew that it was bad to do, but most of the questions were the same ones that were always asked so he listened to most of the question and almost started the answer before the question was being done being asked.

"Lance, do you feel any emotional connections to the songs you and the rest of the boys of NSYNC?"

Lance cleared his throat.  "Oh definitely! Each song means something different to me. Like "God Must Have Spent." I get so many great letters from fans.  And "I Promise You" is like a really great wedding song now, which is really cool.

Joey had been drinking some water while he was waiting for another question and he coughed spitting water onto his shirt.

"Are you ok?" the interviewer asked.

"Yeah," Joey said, "I don't know what happened there.  I think I have a drinking remember that movie airplane where the guy had a drinking problem because he couldn't get the water in his mouth?"

The distraction of the story gave Lance a moment to think.  Wedding.  The word had brought Joey's reaction, Lance knew instantly, which only led his mind to think about Serena.  If he was going to marry her he wanted it to be something special, not something that was going to cause them to be on the front page of some newspaper.

The interview finally ended and Lance stepped out onto the balcony for a minute to make his call.  He knew that in the concrete building he might not get reception so he stood on the balcony and watched the crew doing the last minute touches to the stage and arena seating.

"Hey babes," he said when she picked up.  He found his heart rate going through the roof as he paced the small balcony.

"Hi," she said sounding like she'd woken from a nap.

Lance tried not to be upset about not seeing her that day.  He should have woken up and told her about his day or at least made sure that she was ok, but he had slept through his alarm and had been pulled out of bed to take a shower so that he could get to the soundcheck and interviews on time.  "Joey said you wanted to talk?"

"It wasn't anything important."  She yawned.  "I just wanted to know what the rest of your day was going to be like."

"My interview is done."  He wished that he could run down to the bus and take an hour to hang out with her, but he knew that if he did he wouldn't be able to eat before the show and that wasn't something he could skip out on.  He'd barely eaten breakfast and wasn't able to grab lunch so missing dinner wasn't an option.  "I was going to try and get something to eat then we've got to meet with some employees from the sponsor before the show starts."


"I'm sorry Sugar."  His voice lowered.  "Come down to the dressing room before the show so I can see ya before the show.  Ok?"


"Are you feeling ok?" he asked.

"I was taking a nap.  I seem to need them these days.  I don't know.  I think next day off we have I might fly home for a few days, see the doctor and maybe try and get back to my normal self."

"See the doctor?" he asked and watched as some fans began to appear in the arena.  He was far enough away for them to not bother him, but he knew that he should go inside soon.

"Don't freak out on me right now ok?" she asked, "I'm fine.  I just want to get checked out to make sure because I've been getting headaches and I feel like I've got the flu.  It's probably something silly."

"Why are you telling me this right now?" he asked, "I'm booked up for the afternoon and I shouldn't be--"

"Lance I'm fine.  Eric is with me and will call you if I need anything, but really I'm fine.  I'm just going to be in the bus," she said, "No work this afternoon.  So go do your stuff ok?"

"Serena?" he said.

"Lance.  I'm fine.  Just go do your stuff.  I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"I'll see you before the show."


[ four hours later... ]

"Serena Radcliff?"

"Yes," she said and let go of Eric's hand.  They'd arrived in the emergency room after Serena had felt faint earlier and now were waiting for blood tests to come back about what might have caused her not feeling well.

"My name is Doctor Tort," he said, "I was looking over these test results and it seems that you've gotten a little dehydrated. Your electorlyte balance is...well it isn't balanced."  He smiled, "Everything else is ok."

"Are you sure?" she asked, "I mean the baby is ok?"

"The babies are fine."

Serena looked at him with a shocked face not knowing if she misunderstood him or if there was something that she should know.  "Babies?"

"Babies," the doctor said, "We took the ultrasound earlier and I looked at them."  He flipped open the folder that was in his hand and pointed to a black and white ultrasound picture.  "There is one baby..."  His hand moved across the picture a little ways, "And here is the other baby."  He smiled, "They don't look like much just yet, but they're there."

"Babies?" she said.

Eric laughed a little, "Excuse her...she thought she was only having one.  This...this isn't something she thought she'd be hearing tonight."

"Twins?" Serena said.  She laughed and hugged Eric.  "I'm sorry.  I thought you were going to tell me something horrible."

"I am going to tell you something you might not like.  It was explained to me that you've been traveling with your fiance and well I suggest that you not continue that after another few weeks.  Most pregnant women would do ok to be traveling, but with twins you have to be more careful.  For the next two weeks I suggest staying as immoble as possible and drinking enough water and eating right."

"She'll do it," Eric said protectively, "When Lance finds out about this I have a feeling that he'll send her home right away."

"Can I go back to the bus?" Serena asked, "I mean get out of here."

"Sure," Doctor Tort said.  He handed her a piece of paper.  "This is a list of suggested things to eat to keep you healthy.  Adding fruit to your diet and drinking water will keep your headaches down.  If you need to take something for your headaches use something mild, like advil."

Serena nodded and pulled on Eric's hand.  "Let's go.  Let's go."


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