Placing a hand on the wall Serena took a deep breath.  The door was cracked and she could see Lance sitting in the wooden rocking chair facing the window and holding his arms in a manner which told her that Roselyn was still in his arms.  She had pretended not to notice those types of things over the last few weeks, but seeing his arms the way they were, the shoulders scruched up as if he was afraid that if he relaxed that she would fall away from him, she knew that she needed to talk to him, needed to make a move, and needed to help him deal with the things that she should have faced when Roselyn had been born.

That afternoon, the fight that they'd had was definitely the starting point.  She hadn't meant to ruin things with him, but the more she tried to help out the more things got worse for them and as his mother had stated, it was going to hurt Roselyn the most.  She didn't want that.  She'd never wanted that.  True she had been punishing Lance for some of the things that had been going on, but she never had intended for Roselyn to feel the effects of her depression.

By the time she stepped into the room tears had filled her eyes.  She felt the effects of that time away from her daughter.  She didn't have a clue where anything was, what clothes were in the closet, even what song played on her daughter's little mobile that hung of her head at night.  She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand and quickly moved her shirt and her jeans into place.  She didn't feel like she belonged in the small space, but this would be her chance to change that.  Her place in their lives was on the hook.  It was a defining moment, a moment that she paused to take in.

You can reach me by sailboat, climb a tree and swing rope to rope
Take a sled and slide down slow, into these arms of mine
You can jump on a speedy colt, cross the border in a blaze of hope
I don't care how you get here, just- get here if you can

She had heard him singing something or other from the kitchen where she'd escaped his earlier tyraid, but had been ignoring it while she finished the dishes.  She had wiped her hands and had found a seat on the couch, but the sound of his voice had found her all the way down in the living room.  She'd gone as far as to put her hands over her ears, but nothing would make the sound go away.

When she cleared her throat his head whipped around.  "Did you  need something?" he asked.

She didn't trust her voice.  She knew that even if she could find the words to say to him that her voice wouldn't let her say the words.  She nodded and looked between his face and their daughter's face.  Despite the many times that she'd been forced to take care of her, Roselyn's face was completely a mystery to her.  She hadn't spent enough time looking at her to even be able to recognize her as her own.

"I wasn't singing too loud?"  He asked it with a smile, that smile that he'd only been using for Roselyn these days.  He'd faked enough for her sake, but the only times she'd seen it that wide was when he had her in his arms or he was speaking about the little girl who was now staring up at her father while holding onto his pointer finger.  He looked back down at Roselyn and spoke using a deep base voice that reverberated through the room.  "Roselyn here doesn't like the newer stuff, but I found one she seems to not scream at.  I'm a little rusty on my Oleta Adams, but it seems like for once I'm trying to get the girls not to scream at me."

"None of the girls are screaming at you," she finally said sounding more like a Budwiser frog than the voice she usually projected to people.

"I beg to differ," he said, "At least my mother wouldn't agree with that remark."

"Well there's at least two girls that aren't going to be yelling at you," she said bravely.

"Two?" he asked lifting an eyebrow to look at her.

Roselyn began to fuss and her face pinched up and she started to turn red.

"Is she ok?" Serena asked looking down at her.

"She's probably going to start crying here in a few minutes.  If she's gonna bother you I can take her for a walk, you know, take her out back or something.  That ususally works to keep her busy for a minute and get her calm."

"Does she need a bottle or something?"

"Yeah," he said, "I could get her one."  He pushed himself up expertly and moved over to her crib and started to put her down which totally made her start to scream more.

"Lance go get the bottle," she said snapping at him.

He started to move Roselyn and she moved over and put her arms around Roselyn.

"What are you doing?"

"Holding her," she said and tried to smile.  "I tried to do this before, but you wouldn't let me.  Go get her bottle.  We'll be ok for a few minutes."

Roselyn screamed again in Serena's arms and she almost wanted to give her back, but she knew if she didn't hold her now, too much time would go by before she would hold her again.  "Are you sure?"

"Yes," she said, "Please go get her the bottle.  She's gonna lose her voice in a minute here."

Lance looked more startled than she thought he would.  "Sit down and rock her.  That should help and try to burp her.  I'll be right back."

"I'll be fine with her for a few minutes."  Her body moved across the room to the room to sit in the rocking chair.  She moved slowly until she got comfortable with her daughter's weight in her arms and then looked over at Lance.  "Just go."

His eyes didn't leave her until he was completely out the door.  She felt bad that he didn't trust her with Roselyn.  She might not have been participating in their lives for the last few weeks, but with the now smiling girl in her arms she knew that there probably wasn't much she could do to the girl that would ruin her before Lance got back.


Lance grabbed out the bottle and when he went to go back up the stairs he heard only silence from the second floor.  For an instant he thought that maybe Roselyn was hurt or something, but when he reached the doorway he heard Serena talking to their daughter with a sweet voice that she hadn't heard in a long time from her.

"And then Mommy and Daddy decided that they loved each other and we decided to have you and James and even though James isn't here with us any more he's going to be out little angel and make sure that nothing else bad happens to us anymore so that we can be happy and so that Daddy can sing you songs every night until you get to be a big enough girl to sing with him--"

He watched her pause for a moment and he moved closer, watching her fingers play over the blondish brown hair on the top of her head.  "Roselyn, I don't know if I can ever make it up to you what I've done, but I'm not going to do it any more.  I was sad for a very long long time and that's because I was a sore loser.  I thought that I had the rules and the game figured out, but it wasn't until your daddy came along that I figured out that I was all wrong.  I didn't even know what game I was playing."

Lance coughed and moved closer to the two of them.  "Sorry I took so long."  He reached a hand down to her.  "Do you want to take her?"

"No," she said and he watched her pull her arms more around Roselyn.  "Let me do it."

"Are you sure?"  He didn't want to make her feel paranoid about it, but he wasn't sure if she knew what she was doing.

"Honey you look tired.  Why don't you go and take a nap and I'll wake you up whenever?"

"Are you really sure?" he asked.

"I'll be fine.  I'm gonna sit right here and hold her and rock her--"

Lance tried to break in and tell her that she needed to remember to burp her.

She tried to remember what she'd seen Lance do with her before he'd put her to bed before.  She'd seen enough movies to know that there were other things that she needed to do before putting a baby to bed.  "I'll burp her and put her to bed."


She nodded and took the bottle and started to feed Roselyn.

After having all her attention being diverted away from the little girl he was suspicious that all of a sudden she'd be all about her.  Lance didn't trust it.  He wished that he could, but there was no way to be that comfortable with someone being with Roselyn, when he'd been the one to take care of her for so long.

He gave her a chance, but instead of leaving her totally alone he closed the door and then found a seat in the hallway so that he could look through the crack and watch them.  His heart went out to  her, but at the same time there was part of him that wanted to run in there, grab Roselyn away from her and yell at her for being so selfish.  He'd spent the last few weeks with them in the house and she hadn't shown any interest at all in the little girl.  Roselyn might not know the difference, but he wasn't going to let her walk back into their lives so easily.  He'd let her make her apologies to Roselyn, but he wasn't going to accept her words for a while.  She'd have to show him that she was going to be there before he let himself relax.


Orlando had gotten extremely hot.  Lance had fallen asleep and found himself lying flat on the floor in the hallway, face on the carpet when he woke up.  The air conditioning was on probably full blast, but he could feel the sweat in his hair and felt a few drops slide down his cheek as he pushed himself up.  His back protested as he finally got to his feet.  He twisted to the left and the right and tried to think relaxing thoughts, but the silence got to him before he could do anything to ease the tension in his lower back.

"Serena?" he called out.  He looked around for a moment.  "Serena!"


He heard the voice and for a moment almost didn't recognize it.  "Mom?"

There was a sound of pots and pans and then his mother's voice came out of the silence.  "I'm in the kitchen honey."

Lance made his way down to the first floor loudly trying to make it known to his mother that he wasn't at all pleased that she was in the house.  He found her in the middle of the kitchen, treating the appliances and the food as if it was her own.  His mother seemed to be elbow deep in pots and pans, cooking God knows what on all four burners on the stove and something was sitting in the lighted oven that looked to be pot roast.

"What are you doing here?"  He walked past her to close the back door that was open and letting the heat of the day inside.  "I'm not cooling all of Orlando here Mom."

"You need some fresh air in here.  It's stuffy in the house."

"Can I ask again what you're doing here?" he asked the rhetorical question, still wondering why his mother was standing there acting like this was her house.

"I'm making dinner."  She was rinsing a head of lettuce and cutting cucumbers to put in a salad and didn't look up.

"Where's Serena?" he asked looking around thinking she might be out on the back porch.

"She went to take Roselyn to the doctors."

"What happened?"

"Nothing," she said, "Don't start assuming things.  It's her check up day."

"Her check up day is tomorrow," he said scratching his head with one hand as he reached for a glass in the cabinet.

"No," she said, "Her check up was today.  You fell asleep yesterday and stayed asleep all night and all this morning.  I told her that we should wake you up and put you to bed, but she insisted that you sleep through whatever you needed to sleep through."

"I've been asleep for twenty four hours?"

"Yes honey,"  She looked up and frowned at him.  "You must have needed it honey or you wouldn't have slept that long."

"I probably needed a few hours, but I haven't been sleeping lately--"  His head began to hurt a little and he looked around.  "What are you doing here?  I thought you and Serena weren't talking to each other."

"No," she said, "Serena and I have said what needs to be said to each other.  The only reason she went over to Kelly's today was to make sure that we got time to talk."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Well I do," she said slamming the cleaver into the cutting board.


"Don't Momma me," she said, "James Bass you better sit your bottom on that chair and listen to what I say because I swear to go above if I have to tell you this again it'll be on my--"  She took a cleansing breath and removed the cleaver.  "You need to hear what I have to say and after this, if you don't go and find your wife I swear that I'll never speak to you again."

"Momma, she's not my wife."

"No," she said, "But she should be.  She should have been months ago, but you two let me and everyone else stand in your way.  I didn't raise a son that shies away from things that challenge him and I know that I was hard on you and I know it was confusing, but this needs to stop."

Lance took a seat and left his cup empty on the counter.  

"I know I've been difficult and haven't been the most open person,"  Lance knew that his mother must have been thinking about this a lot because it sounded almost rehearsed.  "I don't know if Serena is the right one for you."  She put a hand up.  "Let me finish before you start to protest.  I do have a point to this and you'll hear it here in a minute."  She ran her hands through her hair and sighed.  "I don't know if you know how to love someone the way that Serena loves you.  And don't say that she doesn't love you because I've seen it in the way that she looks at you when you don't see her.  She's put up with everything that the world and I have thrown at her and she still loves you.  At first I was worried that you were going to have your heart completely shattered by her, but now I think that if you don't be with her that you're going to have enough regrets for two lifetimes.  The worst thing will be that your daughter will be the one who is effected by it the most."

His elbows leaned against the counter and his heads cupped his chin to keep his head up.  "I can't talk to her Momma.  She and I just rub together wrong.  It's like magnets and we're to the same to attract."

"Honey you have to give her a chance.  She thinks right now that any mistake that she makes is going to end it all.  For her it's sudden death overtime with a tie game and she thinks that you have the advantage."

"Advantage?" he asked, "What advantage could I possibly have?  I've been a single father for a few weeks now and all she's done is cry at me because I'm spending time with our daughter."

"Baby," she said.  She walked over and tipped his face up.  "You have to love them both and you have to trust enough in that love that no matter what happens you'll always be together."

"How can I trust that though?"  He let his eyes tear up.  "How can I trust that something isn't going to happen to Roselyn, that something isn't going to happen to her.  I mean--I didn't even get to see James really and he died and I feel like--"  He started to try to pull in a breath but couldn't breathe.  "He died and all the money, all the fucking shit in the world that I have, all the love that I have couldn't save him."

"Baby calm down," she said, "Please calm down.  What happened to James wasn't anyone's fault.  It wasn't you or Serena or anyone's.  He died and you know what we'll all miss him even though we barely knew him, but you have to get over this.  You've been given everything and more in life and--"

"If I could give it all back just to have him live I would."

"That's not what I meant honey.  I just know that you've had a great life and maybe this may sound corny, but with luck like you have, you have to know that bad things do happen to even you."  She hugged him and rubbed his back as he tried to pull air into his lungs.  "Your test now is to not let it get you down.  You need to dedicate yourself to a woman who loves you and a baby who needs you."

"How do you know what I need?" he asked pushing her away.  "You don't know what it's like--"

"I do know.  I know good and well what it's like.  I had a baby die Lance.  I had it happen and your father and I almost lost ourselves in that, but he stood by me and I had you to redirect my energy on.  Why the hell did you think I made such a fuss about you joining the group in the begining?"  She sighed.  "I didn't want to let you go.  I didn't want something to happen and me not be there to save you because I had that happen and I couldn't bare to let that happen again."

His jaw fell a bit and he stared at her.  "What?"

"You heard me," she said.

"Momma?"  His eyes began to water and for a moment he thought he wouldn't be able to see her as he pulled her towards him.  "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I didn't mean to be upset with Serena.  I didn't mean to do everything that I did.  I just wanted things to not be hard on you.  I've tried my entire life to make things that way and with the Pearlman--"

"Momma don't bring that up."

"Yes," she said, "It's important.  I couldn't save you from that Bastard and this time I wasn't going to let anyone else blind-side you.  I knew from the begining that she was out to make trouble for you."

"Mom.  I volunteered."

"Volunteered?" she asked.

"Momma she wanted a baby and I wanted her and so she got what she wanted and I got what I wanted and now Roselyn is going to have parents--"

"What she has at the moment now honey is nothing.  She's got a shell of a father, who clearly hasn't been sleeping enough and a mother who is so afraid of disappointing you that she'd rather push you both away rather than try to love you like she knows how."

Lance went and found a seat in the living room.  "I know it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, but at the moment I don't know what to do.  I was in control of it all, but somewhere along the way it got totally out of hand and I think that it's going to spiral and I'm not going to have another turn at this game--"

"I've never known you to give up on anything.  You need to fight for her because if you don't she's gonna give up on you and it's only going to hurt all of you in the end."

"I can't do it though," he said, "I love her and she hates me and I can't live like that."

"Baby, she doesn't hate you.  She loves you and she's afraid to let you down.  She's afraid that at any moment you may leave her alone."


The Fatone house was quiet that afternon.  When Serena had arrived Joey had been on his way out to go over to one of his friends house to watch a football game or baseball game or something and basically waved hello and good bye to her in the same wave.

She'd felt bad about just dropping by after Roselyn's check up, but hadn't a clue where else to go.  She probably could have gone over to WEG and hung out, but if she'd been over that way she would have had to explain more about why she and Lance weren't getting along.  Everyone seemed to know at this point that they were have disagreements, but there wasn't any more information out about what was really going on.

"So she's over there with him?" Kelly asked.

"Yeah," Serena said making sure to hold Roselyn's head as she rocked in the chair in Kelly and Joey's living room.  "She came over, basically kicked me out, and said that she and Lance needed to have a talk.  I've tried to make him talk to her and she must have got fed up with the stalling.  I've never really know her to be outwardly mean.  I mean sure I must have--"

"Was this or was this not the woman that probably caused your premature--"

"Kelly please don't," she said, "Please don't make things worse.  His mom and I talked and we've settled our differences and she wants to settle everything with Lance before he and I work things out."

Kelly took the glasses of ice water that she'd poured and came over to where she was sitting in the living room.  "And you left them there?" she asked taking a sip of her water as she moved Serena's glass close enough so that she could reach it."

"Yeah," Serena said, "What was I supposed to do?  I tried to get them to talk, but it wouldn't work and so now she's the one in charge."

"You're a brave girl to leave them alone together."  Kelly smiled.  "Joe and his mother have had a few heart to hearts and believe me they were better off when they were over because in the middle of them I wasn't sure who was better off."  She reached and touched Roselyn's hair for a moment.  "I wonder who'll still be standing when it all gets over with."

"At this point I'm almost rooting on his mother," she said with a sigh.  "I know I should side with him, but I think that maybe she'll actually make some progress with him.  I've tried my hardest to do what he wanted me to do in the last few days, but it seems like no matter what happens we just butt heads."

"Lance is still being a jerk?" Kelly asked and reached for a glass that Brianna was about to knock over.  "Brianna where's your book.  Why don't you get it and we'll read to Roselyn and Aunt Serena."

Brianna toddled over to a basket full of toys at the end of one of the couches and pulled out the one she wanted before turning to the two women.

Serena moved a little in her seat and watched Brianna for a moment then looked at Roselyn's closed eyes and prayed that she would grow up to be at least somewhat like the little girl in front of them.  "At this point something needs to change and if his mother tells him what I think she'll tell him I'm in for a new Lance to come home to."

"That big?" Kelly asked.

"I just want it to be over.  I want us to get along and for him and his mother to get along.  We've been in limbo for so long now that I just feel like if we don't step out of this little tornado we're in then we're going to be here forever and I know everyone around us is going to get pulled into it.  I don't know what it's going to take, but the last two days have been great for me.  Lance fell asleep on the floor--I told you that right?"

"Yeah," she said, "Joe does that every once in a while.  I found him asleep on a raft in the pool one day and it scared the hell out of me.  I thought he was going to roll off the damn thing and drown himself."

"See," she said, "That's what I want.  I want things like that to not be a crisis, but just another funny story we can tell our friends."

"It will be," Kelly said, "Lance is just stubborn.  He just needs to learn how to rely on you.  He's been kind of the man of the family for so long for them.  He started making more money than his parents about six months into the group and he's kind of been the responsible one.  He just needs to relax enough with the idea that you guys are a team and that you're going to be there for each other and that as cliche as it sounds, you're not going to run away from him at this point."

"Is that how it works for you and Joey?" she asked.

"It's different for me and Joey.  We've got history way back before the group, before any of this.  We made our own way and so do you and he, but whatever way you make it, you need to make it together."  She smiled.  "I knew you'd be a natural."

"A natural?" she asked.

"You hold her like you've been holding her all along."

"I've learned it all from Lance.  That's what is so amazing about him.  He never left her when she needed him.  He was there and maybe I was--"  She took a deep breath.  "--Maybe that messed me up.  Hell, ok, it did mess me up, but at the same time I'm glad that he was the way he was.  I'm glad that he was there for her because I knew that I couldn't be."


Her hand reached out to catch the door as she came through it, but when she looked back she saw a male arm and hand placed on the door to keep it from hitting into her.  "How are my girls?" a soft voice asked.

"Fine," she said and moved into the kitchen.

She'd been gone all day and knew that his mother had been there, but from the look of the house it seemed as if Diane had never been there.  She noticed that a few of the tomatoes were gone from the carrier and that there were two plates in the sink, but other than that the place looked cleaner than when she'd left it.

"How was your day?" he asked.

"I went over to Kelly's house.  I thought your mom--"

"She told me," he said and pulled the carrier from her hands to set it on the counter.  He removed the blanket that was hung over Roselyn's head and smiled down at the sleeping baby.  "How was your visit?"

"What's going on?" she asked, "Why are you yelling and mad at me?"

"Cuz I'm tired Serena--"

"You just slept for a day."

He turned towards her, but kept a hand on the carrier to make sure that it didn't move.  "I meant I'm tired of  fighting with you, tired of the way things are going, and tired of trying to pull this family apart when clearly it's meant to be together."

"What?" she asked.

He looked her in the eyes and for the first time in weeks she could see the pain that he was in.  "I want us to be family.  I want to get past whatever bullshit that has kept us from doing it so far."

"Fine," she said, "You win.  If that's what you want."

"This isn't a competition," he said, "This wasn't supposed to be you versus me.  It was supposed to be us against everyone else, hell not even that.  It's just supposed to be us."

"I don't know--"

"No," he said, "Don't say it.  Please don't say it.  Just say that you'll try.  Just say that you love me and you love our daughter and that you'll try.  I talked to my mom today and she told me too many things for me to even comprehend.  All I want to know right now is that we love each other and we love Roselyn."

"Of course I love her and you and of course I'm going to try.  I've been trying for weeks."

At that moment Roselyn chose to cry out.  They both turned to her and found her turning red and crying.  Their hands hit as they reached for her and to Serena's surprise she found him backing away.  "You hold her and I'll get her bottle."

"Maybe you should."

"No," he said, "Team work ok?"  He moved across the kitchen quickly.  "You rock and sing, I'll get the bottle and next time we switch."

"Next time?" she asked.

"Yes," he said and leaned and kissed her.  "I expect that Mr and Mrs. Bass should take turns."

"Mrs Bass?"

He moved and put the bottom part of the bottle into the microwave for a programmed heating session of twenty seconds.  "That's going to be your name isn't it?"

"What?" she asked, eyes wide trying to understand everything that was being thrown at her.

The bottled stopped it's heating cycle and he put a nipple on the bottle.  "You're still going to marry me right?"

Her head swam with details and information and when his lips met hers yet again she bolted awake.  "Yes."

"Yes what?"

She moved away and kissed Roselyn's head as he moved the bottle into place.  With her holding and him feeding they moved across the room and took a seat.

"Yes what?" he asked.

"Yes everything."

"Good," he said.  He moved to find a seat and hugged Roselyn and Serena against him.  He leaned his head back, still with his hand holding the bottle.  "Did you think this would be the prize?"

"The prize for what?" she asked.

"We've played the game well.  I didn't think that this would be the prize that we'd win."

"I love you too Lance Bass."

"I love you Serena almost Bass."  He looked down at Roselyn who hiccuped.  "And I love you too Roselyn Bass."


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