He'd been sitting there staring through the plastic casing of the incubator for four hours straight now.  His hand had snaked its way into the little plastic bubble that his daughter was in and his fingers were touching her shin.  When he'd first put his fingers there on her skin she'd moved away from him.  Something like that was normal considering that the temperature of his hand was cooler than the air the baby was sleeping in.  A nurse had seem him move his hand out again and came to help him.


"I know this seems strange," she said, "But put your hand under the lamp over there and warm them up then touch her leg again.  She's really sensitive right now to heat levels.  She's gotten better in the last few days, but she's gonna need to be bundled up a lot more than you'd think a norm--"

Lance sucked in a breath of air.  How could it be so strange that the word normal would scare him?  He had never been normal, or hadn't been normal at all since the early nineteen ninties.  It was normal to be strange and unique, but to hear that about someone else he knew made it seem bad.

The nurse paused a moment.  She coughed and cleared her throat then smiled nervously.  "How can I say this?"  She took a deep breath and smiled.  "Most newborns like to snuggle.  Your little one is going to be a big snuggler."

"She gets that from me," he said trying to think of how to make the nurse feel better.  He'd had a knack for making his nervous or crying fans calmer and he guessed that this nurse was probably feeling that same nervousness too, "Her Mommy is the independent one of the family."


He closed eyes eyes and leaned against the plastic to watch her.  Her eyes were covered with a white band of material that looked like those little shades that they let you wear on international flights.  He could see that the material was attached to what looked to be a piece of velcro that was glued to the side of Roselyn's head.  She had tubes and wires coming out of her head, chest, neck and arms and even though she was lying on her back and looked to be sleeping, he knew that she'd be comfortable somewhere else.

"Mr. Bass?"

His head turned to see the doctor standing next to him.

"Time's up," the doctor said.  He looked at the chart at the end of her bed and made a few notes then smiled, "She's doing better, if that makes you feel a little better."

Lance slid his hand away from his daughter's leg.  His fingers went cold in the temperature in the room and he moved to stick his hand under his armpit to warm the cooler skin.  "Do you know when I can take her home?"

"We just need to give her a little more time."  The doctor looked at the paperwork again.  "She's been through a lot and I know that you want her home and we want her home to, but we want her to go home and stay home so we're being careful."

Lance nodded.  He sighed as he kissed his fingertips and moved his hand back to his daughter's leg to place the kiss there.  His hand came back out again and he moved out of the chair he was in and leaned to the far end of the incubator to look at his daughter's head.  She was turned off to the side away from him but he spoke to her.  "Roselyn, Daddy's gonna go and hang out with Mommy.  You tape a good nap and be a good girl while I'm gone ok?"

As he moved from the room the doctor smiled at him.  He pulled his medical gown from his chest and began to walk towards where he remembered he'd parked the car.  Going home wasn't what he wanted to do, so he thought he'd take a walk and see if he could get himself a little tired so he could go home and go to bed.


[the next morning...]

"What are you doing?"

She jumped and dropped the glass onto the floor scaring herself in the process as he slammed the door to the garage shut and moved towards her.

His eyes went wide and he seemed to jump towards her.  "Don't move."

She kept her hands in the air and kept watching as his running shoes crunched across the glass on the floor.  His arms swung around and he half leaned down so that he could gather her up in his arms and carry her to the couch in the living room.  It was the total knight in shining armor move, but she wasn't in the mood for romantics at the moment.  She hadn't slept well the night before and she'd woken up in the morning to find Chris lying on Lance's side of the bed, popcorn still in his hair from a popcorn fight they'd had the night before.

She'd convinced him to go home, but it had taken making him breakfast to get him to leave her alone.  She loved that he was worried about her, but she wasn't in the mood to have someone standing over her shoulder.  She was still recovering from giving birth and needed to move around, but at the same time she just wanted to be able to sit on her butt in a corner and not have Chris ask her if she was ok.

For a moment she felt his arms holding her and comforting her.  His fingers curled into the pajama bottom material that covered her legs and as her shirt was pushed up her back a little she could feel the heat of his palm against her skin.  If she'd been in right mood for it, the actions that he showed her would have led to something warmer, but it seemed that as soon as her body started to react to him that her brain began to protest to him.

"Let me go."

He tipped a little as she began to struggle.  His hand found a new grip on her leg and instead of letting go he brought her closer to him to keep from dropping him.  "Hold on."

A lump formed in her throat and she felt like throwing up.  She'd never been one to be claustraphobic, but having him be that close made her skin crawl.  "Let me go!"

"Hold on baby," he said and pulled her close again.

Her fingers of her right hand, her stronger hand formed into a fist.  She felt her fingernails dig into her palm and tried to bite down on her lip to keep from screaming.  She didn't understand at all why him being this close was making her worse rather than better and she was trying to think of anything else that would keep her calm.  She tried to think of some place calm, but it always came back to him, which caused her to think of the stresses in their lives.

Fists hit at his shoulder in rapid sucession.  She felt the side of her hand hit his collar bone and his shoulder then his upper arm and then neck.  "Let me go.  Let me go."

"Did you get any in your feet?"  He moved away to lean down a little.  He started to put a hand towards her bare foot.  "Is there a piece of glass in there?"

"There isn't anything in my feet."  She kicked her foot at him and he backed up more.

His eyes moved to hers.  She could see the fatigue in his eyes and old felt worse when his eyebrows moved together to show the worry he had for her.  "What's wrong?"

Feeling like the look in his eyes would make her cry she moved back more and half leaned into the arm of the couch.  "Don't call me baby."

His hands that had started to reach for her again fell to his sides.  She could hear him pull in a breath and heard it come rushing out.  Every sound in the house seemed to stop and stood there staring at each other as if their lives had been paused and they were both waiting for someone to push the play button again.

His mouth started to open to say something, but he stopped.  He ran his hands over his face, pulled in another breath of air then pushed it out of his lungs.  "Ok," he said, "Ok."

Strangely enough he moved away from her and went up to the second floor leaving her standing in the living room wondering what to do next.


The sound of the phone ringing caught his attention and he moved away from the sliding glass door that lead to the backyard.   He'd come back downstairs after taking a shower and had found that Serena had locked herself into the spare bedroom.  He'd knocked and asked her if she was ok and she yelled at him to leave her alone so he decided to go down to the kitchen and get something to eat.

He took a deep breath and looked at Caller ID.  It was Justin on the other end, probably in his car driving somewhere with the radio turned up way too loud.  How could Lance be so jealous of someone because they could actually relax on their vacations.  He wanted that feeling, but he knew it would be a while before he could calm his head and heart enough to actually enjoy being home.

"Call your mother."

"Hello?"  Lance was confused by the message.  If they'd been in some conversation it would have made perfect sense, but to open with that instead of hello really set him on edge. "What?"

He heard a car horn honking in the background then Justin spoke louder.  "Can you hear me?"


"Good," he said with a forceful voice as music now filled the background.  "Call your mother."

"What?"  Lance's pulse was beating rapidly in his head causing a not so painful headache to instantly turn into pain that felt like a migraine.  "Why?  Nothing's wrong is it?"

The wind blew for a moment across the mouth piece of the phone thinking for a moment that the line had been severed due to the static sounds that filled the air.  "Unless you think throwing your mother out of the house and man-handling her is a normal thing, then yes there is something wrong.  She's really hurt by what you did yesterday."

"What I did?" he asked, "You really don't know what you're getting yourself into Justin.  I know you're ready and able to stick up for someone in a fight, but really this is one you don't need to be in.  I know that what I did and said to my mother was harsh, but you don't know enough about things to choose sides."

"Your mother brought you into this world.  She can take you out.  I can't believe that you'd do something like that.  I could see maybe if you were drunk, but you were as sober as could be.  That's not like you.  You've never been this--"

"What about her?  How freaking insensitive can one person get?  She totally threw that party in Serena's face and--"

"Maybe she was trying to make up for the drama in the past."

"No," Lance said, "No.  That was a deliberate thing she did just to make me miserable and make Serena go out of her mind."

"You act like your mother is some evil person."

"You don't know how evil she is when it comes to Serena.  She hates her for some stupid reason and she has been giving her a hard time since we started dating.  Its bad enough when your mother dislikes your girlfriend, but I told my family that I was going to marry her and now all hell has broken loose.  She's been trying to make the girl go crazy over the last few weeks."

"What are you talking about?"

"She accused Serena of wanting to abort the babies.  A sane person. A sane LOVING mother doesn't do that to her children or her children's significant others."

"I still think you over-reacted."

"I still think you need to mind your own business!"

"Wait!"  Justin screamed into the phone.  "I want to talk to you for a minute."

"Aren't you on your way somewhere?"

"Yeah," he said, "We're going to play ball right now."


"Yeah," he said, "I know that you've been in that hospital for too many hours in the last few days and you need a break.  I'm perscribing at least two hours of hoops.  It'll make you feel better."

"I suck at basketball though Justin so how is that make me supposed to feel better?"

"It's gonna get you out of that house and put your mind on something else."

"The only thing that my mind will be on is killing you for suggesting something so stupid."

"Whatever works for ya then."

Lance growled into the phone and heard Justin hang up.  It was a few moments later that he heard Justin's music and saw the car pull into the driveway.

He reluctantly grabbed some running shoes and took the stairs by two's.  As he passed the living room he saw Serena lying on the couch watching television.  "I'll be back later.  Justin and I are going to play ball."

He didn't expect an answer from her so he was already out the door before she could answer.

Justin had the convertible out that day and waved him over, turning the volume down two notches as Lance jumped into the car.


Her pencil flew out of her hand and hit into the wall across the room.  If he'd thrown it any harder it probably would have stuck into the wall,  but it hit wrong, leaving a tiny black stain the wall from the charcoal tip. She didn't care.  It was useless, hopeless and utterly depressing that she'd been sitting there for more than two hours now staring at the blank pieece of paper without finding something to draw.  Chris had told her that this would make her feel better, but all it was doing was making her feel worse.  She never had this trouble, even in the worst of times she would doodle,  but even that didn't seem to be coming easily to her that morning.


Her heart sank when she heard him call her name through the door.  She hadn't heard much out of the rest of the house since she'd locked herself inside and had hoped that the day would slip away and that it would be time to go to bed before she'd have to talk to him again, but no such luck. "What?"

"You ok in there?"

"I'm fine," she said and moved to get her pencil.  It didn't seem to matter that he was on the other side of the door.  Knowing that he was there made her feel claustrophobic.  The more rational parts of her mind laughed at her for feeling that way.  She'd just spent a few weeks without him and instead of wanting him to be there with her like she had when he was in Europe, all she wanted now was him to leave her alone.

"I'm gonna make dinner then head back over to see Roselyn."  He took a deep breath, she could hear his fatigue even through the door.  "Do you want something to eat?"

"No."  She tried to sound normal, although that wasn't going to be very convincing considering that she was locking herself into a room alone.

"I'm--"  She didn't know how she was.  She only knew that she wanted to stay in that room for another few hours before she had to deal with the outside world again.  "I'm fine."

She thought for a moment that he was gone.  She'd moved back over to  where her drawing pad was and settled herself down into a seat, but wasn't  there long before she heard his voice again.  "I don't want to start an argument or upset you, but I wanted to know if you wanted to come over and see Roselyn with me."

Silence filled the air between them.  She didn't know what her answer should be.  There was the true answer that was screaming around in her head, but she wasn't sure if that was the right answer.  She wanted to say yes and go with him, but at the same time she was almost sure that she would completely freak out if she did see the little girl.  She didn't want that to happen in front of Roselyn and she didn't want anyone else to see it either.  

Being at home seemed to be the safest place for the moment because she knew no matter what happened, her friends and Lance wouldn't tell anyone outside the group.

"She's doing better."  Lance sighed again and she heard the floor  squeak a little.  "The doctor said she had a little bit of a cold and wants to make sure that she's totally over it before I--we bring her home.  Kelly has been helping out.  She stayed over there last night and is helping me-us with her."

Serena closed her eyes and rested her head against the door.  "I want to go--"  She heard him move around as if he was going to stand up or move so the door could be opened.  "I want to, but I don't think I should."

"Why not?" he asked, hurt and anger clearly showing in his voice.

"The press Lance," she said, "I don't want to get caught up in the middle of that.  I will eventually see her, but I can't face them right now.  Too much is going on in my head and I'd rather not have my picture thrown around and rumors started."

She knew what he was thinking.  She could almost see his mouth open to start to tell her that was she was doing was starting just as many rumors, but he didn't.  He wouldn't do that.  He might have been upset and confused about the whole thing, but it seemed as if he'd learned how to play the game with her and wouldn't insult her or cause her any more drama than was going on without him in the mix.

"Fine," he said, "I'll respect that Serena, but you have to be there when we bring her home.  I don't care what happens on that day, but you have to promise me that you'll be there."

"I will," she promised.  She wasn't sure if she could keep her word, but she knew that he had to tell him something.

"Just one more thing," he said.

"What's that?"

"Melinda is planning something for James's--James's funer-funeral.  You don't have to go to that if you don't want to, but I'm planning on showing up."

She shook her head and moved away from the door.  She hadn't thought about him in the last little while and was upset that Lance had reminded her of something that she'd actually gotten good at trying to forget.  "I don't want anything big made out of this."

"It's nothing big Serena," he said, "Melinda is planning something private, probably just me and you and the guys and Johnny and maybe my mother, but nothing out of the ordinary."

"Can we talk about this later?"

"Sure," he said, "I'm gonna take a shower then go over to see Roselyn.  Do you want me to call Chris to come over or maybe Kelly or someone?"

"No.  I don't need a baby sitter."

"I wasn't saying that Serena."  He sounded a little panicky about things, as if she was going to fight anything that he had to say to her.  "I just don't like you being over here by yourself--I mean not that anything is going to happen.  I just don't want you to get lonely because I'm gone."

"I'll be fine Lance," she said, "I was planning to take a shower and maybe clean up the house today and maybe try and draw a little."

"Ok," he said, "I'll have my cell turned off, but call Chris or one of the guys if you need anything.  I was thinking of having Eric come down here for a few days and stay--"

"I really don't need a baby sitter," she said.

"I mean for you and Roselyn."  He seemed jumpy now and was definitely starting to sound like he was rambling.  "I'm not sure that I trust the general public with you two.  I mean look at Brian Littrell.  They stole his freaking dog out of his house."


"Never mind," he said, "I'm gonna jump in the shower and head out.  Call any of the guys if you need anything.  Ok?"


There was a pause outside the door.  "Serena?"


"I love you."

She closed her eyes and didn't answer him back.  It wasn't that she couldn't return his love for her, but at the moment hearing him reassure her that he still loved her, brought tears to her eyes and choked her up so badly that she wouldn't have been able to say anything to him let alone those three words.


Taking a shower helped Lance relax a little, but the time alone left him also with the time to think about how Serena hadn't answered him back when he'd said he loved her.   The scene kept repeating in his head.  He hadn't been able to see her face and it scared him that there was silence when he'd professed his love for her.  He'd been worried the last few days because she'd been pulling away and he didn't want to push her about that since he figured she was trying to deal with everything in her own way, but he was getting tired of having to step around her feelings while also trying to step up and take on the huge task of worrying about their daughter.  He wasn't one to shy away from responsibility, but he wished for once that he'd been able to have the time to wallow in his own feelings.

When he stepped from the shower he wrapped himself in a towel and moved to the closet to get some clothes.  He hadn't thought twice about walking around in something like that, but instantly felt as if he should cover himself when he walked into the bedroom and saw  Serena lying on her side in the bed.  He backed up a little and let his eyes linger over her body for a while.  He hadn't had enough time to really look at her the last few days.  He hadn't noticed he sunken look in her eyes.  Even with them closed he could tell that she was stressed out.

His feet led him to the bed and he slid into his place next to her, careful not to touch her.  For a few minutes he wanted to just sit and be with her and not have her protest or run away and lock herself into the other room.  He could tell what she'd been drawing that afternoon.  Her fingers were wiped clean of the charcoal pencils she liked to use, but she must have not realized that she'd touched her forehead before she wiped her hands.  There was a small mark across her brow.  He wanted to run his finger across it to remove it, to make her perfect, but he couldn't bring himself to touch her and break the spell that they were in.

His eyes began to drift close and he let his breathing go to an even pace, listening to her breaths until their inhaling and exhaling were the same.  He'd sat earlier in the day and done this with Roselyn.  As corny as it sounded, being in sync with them as they breathed made him feel closer to them.  He couldn't be with either of them in the way he wanted to at the moment, but that pattern of breathing, that relaxing sound of the two of them in his ears as he rested made his short naps that day and the night before seem like a night with twelve hours of sleep.

"I wanted to tell you again that I was serious about my offer the other night."

"I know you were, but I'm not sure you know what that means," she said, "I'm not trying to trap you into something.  I don't think that YOU are the one that should be trying to help me right now considering who you are."

"What does who I am have to do with anything?" he asked angrily.

Serena plopped down on her bed and fell onto her back.  "Lance you're one of the most famous people in the country...I'm not screwing up your life."

"You wouldn't be screwing up my life," he said, "You want to be a mom and I want to be a dad...what's wrong with that?"

"You know that I don't want the father in the life of my kid," she said, "I told you that."

"Don't you think that you should--"

"Lance please don't ask me about this," she said finding herself again fatigued with everything.  She needed to sleep and figure things out, not argue with him over this. "YOU can't be the one to help me with this."

"Why?" he asked.

She sighed and sat up a little to look at him.  "Because I've fallen for you and if we were to have a kid I'd start to think that this was all real and it's not so just leave it alone."

"Why can't it be real?" he asked.

"Because you can't be a dad right now.  You can't--"  She was almost pleading now.  If he didn't ask then it would make it better for her and if the question wasn't asked then she wouldn't have to make a decision and she wouldn't have to move on with things. "I wouldn't want you to be one."

"If you love me then why couldn't I be?" he asked.

"You're talking crazy," she said.

"Why is it crazy?" he asked.

She sighed.  "Because you don't love me."

"Why do you assume that?" he asked.

"Because it's true," she argued.  "Because you feel bad for me.  Everyone feels bad for me.  I'm a charity case like no other.  I'm just--"

"Why is it so crazy  that I might love you?" he asked sitting down next to her.  He put a hand on her leg, but moved it when she looked at him warning him to move.


"Can you start a sentence without using the word because?" he asked with a smile.

"Please don't do this," she said.

"Don't do what?" he asked.  The smile on his face showed that he knew exactly what she was talking about, but he wanted to hear it come from her mouth.

"Don't love me," she pleaded.

"Too late," he said which only sent her mind into overdrive.  If what he'd said just now was true she was in a lot more trouble than she'd thought she would have been in it.


His eyes came open when he started to get hot.  He'd been wearing just his towel when he'd fallen asleep, but when he opened his eyes he saw that Serena had moved across the bed and was now curled in his arms.  It was heaven to have her there with him and for those moments he pretended that everything was ok before he moved away from her.  It was useless to get comfortable there.  He knew if she woke up that she would be upset and probably push him away so instead of waiting for her to do it, he moved away from her, dressed in jeans and a shirt and slid into his shoes before he leaned and kissed her forehead and left the house to go see Roselyn again.

to hold her?"

"You want to hold her?"

Lance felt the hand on his back and relaxed as the nurse came around the front of him.  He normally would have jumped if someone he didn't know were to break that little protective bubble around him.  "Hold her?  I thought she was too small yet to be holding."

The nurse checked the chart.  She flipped a few sheets of paper.  "The doctor wrote on her chart earlier that she can be held a little now.  He's limited her time out of the incubator to about two hours, but I figure that you're the only one that should hold her.  I mean of course her mother--"

"Serena's having a tough time.  We lost Roselyn's twin and I'm not sure that Serena is ready to see Roselyn."  He smiled and looked at his daughter and sighed.  He felt himself start to want to cry and tried to think of something else.  "She's gonna wait and see her at home.  There's too much press outside and I just think she's a little paranoid about all of this."

"Well soon Roselyn will be strong enough to get out of here.  She's gotten a lot of sleep today and probably will sleep the whole time you hold her, but it'll be good to get her out of there for a while.  She needs some fresh air or she's gonna start to think she's John Travolta."

Lance's eyebrows drew together.  "John Travolta?"

"You know that movie about the kid in the bubble--?"  She shook her head and tapped his arm that had snaked inside the incubator again.  "Get your arm out of there and we'll get Roselyn ready to be held."

"Ready?" he asked looking at all the wires that were still connected to her.  He knew that she was ok there on her own, but having all those wires still attached to her scared him.  He didn't want to have something come unconnected and hurt her.

"We're going to bundle her up and make sure she's warm enough then we'll have you sit and rock her a little," the nurse smiled, "I know that you're a singer, but I'm not sure if she knows any songs just yet.  They say that babies can hear through the womb though so she may hum a long."

He leaned and looked at Roselyn who was asleep on her tummy.  "Well if she wants singing lessons I'm gonna have to send her to her Uncles or something.  I'll get her a career when she learns to sing, but for the technical stuff I'll send her to the professsionals."

The nurse smiled at him and opened up the case that was covering her.

"She's so tiny," he said moving away from the stool he'd been sitting on.

"She's gained about a half a pound in the last few days," the nurse said, "She's about the same size she's always been."

"Are you sure that glass isn't magified?"  Her little feet were covered with pink booties and a tiny hat was pulled over her bald head then little gloves were put over her fingers before she was lifted onto a baby blanket that was then pulled around her to keep her warm.  "Look at her little fingers."

"Don't worry about it.  Once she gets out of here and is home  I'm sure she'll gain weight really fast.  People always are amazed that their kids grow up too fast--You should be glad to have her be a baby for a little longer than most."

Lance watched the woman gather Roselyn up into a bundle then motioned for him to sit down in the rocking chair that was between her incubator and the next.  He felt like an idiot not being able to sit down and be comfortable.  She instructed him a little with just looks on her face and moving her own shoulders to show him a more comfortable position.  "Have you held a baby before?"

"Not a really tiny one in a while."  He looked around nervously thinking at any moment the nurse would realize that he wasn't ready to be a father and report him to the police.  He'd been doing his best for Roselyn so far, but she'd been asleep most of the time.  He couldn't mess up her life if she was asleep and he could barely touch her.  "Joey has a daughter, but she's big now, maybe two now so it's--"

"Ok."  He wondered for a moment if she was being nice to him because of his star status or if he was this happy and gentle with all the new fathers that came into the NICU.  "I want you to curl your arm across your chest and I'm going to lay her into your arms ok?"

Lance moved his arms a little trying to find the right place to put his arms.

"Move your arms like you're holding a football or something," she said.

"Football?" he looked at her with skepticism in his eyes.  "I thought that was just some line they said to dad's in the movies."

"Well it seems to be the most natural and common thing--"  She moved Roselyn into his arms and moved hte blanket a little and the tubes before she stepped back.  "See.  It's like riding a bike.  Once you do this once you won't forget how to do it."

Lance looked at Roselyn's face then looked back at the nurse.  "Can you take off her little blindfold thing?"

The nurse smiled and removed the blindfold sleeping aid.  "She'll have to wear this until she leaves, but those little patches on the side of her head where the velcro is will basically wash off.  Just think of it like elmers glue.  If you get it wet enough it dissolves away."

He nodded and looked down just in time to see Roselyn open her eyes.  "This better be the only time I ever see you getting over a hang over girl."  He laughed as she blinked a few times.  Her lips making a sucking noise and he took his free hand and stuck the end of his finger in her mouth.  He didn't know where he remembered about that, but it seemed to work.  The motion was slight, but she soon began to suck on his pinky, closing her eyes again as if just those few moments being awake had tired her out.  "I know the feeling girl.  I've been there more than a few times."

The nurse stood over him for a few minutes making sure that she was secure in his arms.

His eyes never left her.  He hated to stare at her that way, but he couldn't believe that he was holding her.  He'd thought most of his life about having kids and she was finally there and finally his.  His eyes began to tear up as he watched her little mouth and little nose.  When she fell asleep he removed his finger from her mouth and moved the blanket a little so she was warmer before he pushed his foot alittle against the floor and rocked the chair that they were in.  He didn't even realize it, but he was soon humming along to some song he'd probably heard on the radio and praying that time would slow down so she could stay in his arms longer.


Serena's hand shook as she dialed the phone.  She thought about calling Lance for a moment, but knew that if he was anywhere inside the hospital that his phone would be turned off.  Figuring that it was too early to call Chris, since it was his suggestion to draw and see if that would feel better and it had only been a few hours, she dialed Kelly's number thinking that maybe she could give her some advice on how to deal with what was happening to her.

She'd started to cry about a half hour before and now seemed to not be able to stop.  She thought that maybe it had been the room she'd been in so she'd moved her drawing to the back porch only to find that the pool and the yard only reminded her of how big and empty the house was.  Moving into the kitchen hadn't helped.  Her food cravings were still there and that only reminded her of her pregnancy.

Sniffing she wiped her nose on a napkin that she'd grabbed.

"Hello?" Kelly said with a laugh.

"Kel-kelly? Serena choked out.

"Who is this?"

"I can't stop-"  She hiccupped.  "I can't stop crying."

"Serena?"  Kelly's voice went from calm to completely frantic in just moments.

"I can't stop crying.  I was ok a while ago, but now it's like everything in this freaking place reminds me of something that makes me cry."

"Take a deep breath girl or you're going to hyperventilate."  The smooth tone of her voice would have been helpful in most instances, but Serena was so far into hysterics with her crying that it wasn't making any kind of improvement.  "Where's Lance?"

"At the hospital.  He told me to call the guys if I needed anything, but I didn't want to cry all over them-I don't want to cry all over you or anyone. I just can't stop-"  She wiped her nose and took a breath.  "What can I do to stop crying?"

"What were you doing when you started crying?" she asked.

"I was drawing.  I haven't done it in a while and I know it's something that usually takes my mind of things, but I kept thinking of this time when I was drawing this little baby-"  Tears broke out and she stopped speaking.  "-It was one of the first times I talked to Lance for more than a minute and it just makes me cry."

"Girl you need to get out of that house."

"I can't go out."

"Yes you can," she said, "I doubt the doctor would want you stuck over there in that house."

"I can't," she whispered.  "I haven't even been to see Roselyn.  If I'm out and about on the town people are going to think I'm crazy because I can't see my daughter, but I can go all over the place on my own."

A sigh was heard over the line, which only made her cry more.  It wasn't clear if it was a pity sigh or if it was a sympathy sigh, but Serena wanted to hang up the phone anyway.  She'd already caused too much trouble as it was and now she was just spreading out the reign of terror that she seemed so easily seemed to share.

"I'm not saying to go party it up," Kelly said, "Why don't Brianna and I come over and visit and maybe take her to the park.  Getting out like that is probably just what you need.  You need some sun on you and need to get out of the house.  I know that place is big, but I remember feeling a little claustrophobic after a while when I had Brianna."

"I hate to be soo needy and whiney right now.  Are you sure you want to put up with me for the afternoon?"

"It'll be good.  I was going to take Brianna on a walk anyway since she and I have been vegging a lot in front of the TV since Joe got home.  I'll be over in like twenty minutes and we'll go on a walk and clear your head.  Do you think you can hang out until then?"

Serena nodded and sniffed.  "Yeah.  I think I can do that."

"Well go wash your face and take a few deep breaths.  You'll be ok."

"Ok."  Serena sniffed again, blew her nose and made her way up to the master bathroom.  She found a clean washcloth in the cupboard, one that didn't smell of Lance just yet and washed her face before taking all the towels into a bundle to put in the hamper.  She moved a new set into place then decided to change clothes.  She'd lost a few pounds in the last few days and was glad to see that some of her smaller clothes were now fitting her.  "At least something is going right," she said aloud in the empty room.

Tears hit her face yet again as she made her way down to the first floor again and slid into her socks and shoes.  Her stomach was still a bit sore and she had to rest in between getting her socks and shoes on, but when she pushed herself up a moment later to see about getting a glass of water she actually felt a little bit excited about leaving the house.

She was wiping her face when she heard a small knock on the door.  Thinking that it was just the house settling she listened again and heard another knock.

When she opened up the front door Brianna was standing on the steps looking up at her, with her little bouncy pigtails and a huge cool-aid stained mouth.  The girl was just going to be turning two, but had already learned all the names of everyone that the group hung out with.  "Hi Aunt Rena."

Before she could say anything she crawled down the little front step and waddled her diaper clad behind back towards the front of the house.

Serena followed her and found Kelly pulling out a sporty looking stroller from the back of Joey's Escalade.

"He gave up the car for you?" she asked with a laugh.

"I told him that if he was going to sit on his butt all this week that I got to drive his car."  She smiled.  "Sesame Street's greatest hits plays really well on the system he's got."

Serena let out a laugh as Kelly pulled the back end of the car down and started to pick Brianna up.  She moved the girl into her seat, making sure that the stroller wasn't going to roll down the street then pulled the sun shade over her daughter's head before standing up straight again.  "How are you doing?"

"A little better," she said.

"Come on.  A good walk will tire you out and we'll gossip along the way. I've got some great Britney horror stories I don't think you've heard just yet."

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Last updated: 07/09/04.