First Knight Part 3

 


NINE

When I got to the hotel the next day I could feel the excitement as I entered the lobby and found a whole crowd of reporters hanging around the elevators and the front desk. Knowing that the album had been released at dawn that morning I took a breath and braced myself for the frenzy that the day would bring. It was going to be an exciting and nervous day for the boys, but for me it meant putting up with screaming fans and the other reporters that would be trying to get last minute interviews with the guys.

I held my breath and pushed on. I wove through the crowd and got to the elevator and was stopped by someone from security.

"Are you a guest of the hotel?" the man asked.

"No. I’m going up to see NSYNC." I tried to push past him, but he caught my arm. I sighed and mumbled under my breath, "Not this again."

"I can’t let you up there."

"Call…" I took a breath and felt like I was going to burst in tears. It was a repeat of my experience a week before at the MTV studios, but I wasn’t at all rested enough to deal with things rationally. After the drama the day before I was in no mood to have a difficult day. "Call Johnny and tell him that Gwen is here."

As the frustration built I felt the tears building behind my eyes. I bit my lip and tried not to cry in front of the guy as he got on his headset and called up to Johnny.

A moment later I was finally let into the quiet elevator. Feeling comfortable in the loneliness of the small room I let my guard down and let tears fall from my cheeks. I hadn’t planned to let it happen, but as my tiredness and my worry about Lance and his ankle grew I felt almost relieved to cry and let out some of my emotion.

The elevator let out a dinging noise as I reached the groups’ floor and I immediately wiped my eyes. I didn’t want anyone to see that I’d been crying. I had work to do that day and I needed to be professional about it considering that that it seemed as if there was going to be more media focused on the group that day.

Stepping off the elevator I was met by the hushed voices of a crowd of people and the distinct smell of coffee as if there were more than a few coffee machines working overtime. Taking deep breaths I slowly walked down the hall feeling very out of place in my jeans, running shoes and Abercrombie and Fitch Lacrosse T-shirt and windbreaker jacket.

Suit-clad reporters turned and stared at me for a moment. They were lining the walls in some sort of an order talking on cell phones and checking camera equipment. I didn’t know what the exact schedule for that day would be other than the trip to TRL, but I figured that the morning was going to be spent doing interviews or some kind of a press conference.

"Hey Gwenie." As I approached the guys’ door Wes smiled at me from his position next to the door. I was amazed at him. How could a huge 250 pound guy dressed in all black look so mean and yet be so nice? He stopped for a moment and tipped his head sideways and looked at me for a moment as if he saw something wrong in the half-smile that I gave him.

"Hey Wes," I wiped my face one last time and forced a full smile then asked, "What’s up?"

"Interviews all morning." He looked tired, but kept the smile on his face.

"How long have they all been here?"

"About an hour now."

I looked around for a moment to check to see if Johnny was around and when I didn't see him I asked, "Is Johnny still pissed?"

"Nah. They got Lance in there with his leg in a bucket. He’s gotten to make a few good jokes about it. Don’t worry Lance explained it all to him." Wes's positive attitude was usually welcomed, but that morning I still wasn't sure if things were going to be as smooth as Wes seemed to think they would be.

"Thanks for the confidence vote Wes."

"Go on in and say hi to them. I think those MTV guys are already in there taping."

"Thanks," I said.

I entered the room careful making sure to take an extra big step over a bundle of wires that were hooked up to a set of lights that had been set up in the living room. Seeing Johnny in the room with them I didn't make eye contact. I moved around him cautiously then found a place out of the way near where Harrison and Zach had taken up a vigil against the wall. Harrison gave me a smile so I mouthed the word "Hello" to them before settling in against the wall to wait for the guys to be done.

"Hey!" Justin said breaking the hushed tone of the conversation that was going on in front of the lights. He was sitting on the couch between Lance and JC. This morning he'd deviated from his normal choice of baby blue and was in a black T-shirt and jeans and the comment which had caused his initial outburst was now leading him to push and shove the others.

"Hey. Be careful," Lance said. I looked over to see him reach down then flick something at the others. I leaned around someone’s head and saw that he was wearing his navy blue Adidas running suit. He had one leg unzipped and pulled up to the knee. His foot was emerged in a tan bucket that I figured was ice water as Wes had mentioned.

"Quit!" JC finally said. He was dressed up that morning in black slacks and a bright red sweater and I could see how he wouldn’t want to get wet.

Chris leaned over from where he was perched on the arm of the couch in a new orange FuManSkeeto T-shirt and got some water from Lance’s bucket and flicked it across at Joey who was sitting on the other end of the couch in jeans and a red Superman T-shirt. Joey had be idle in the fight. He'd joined in by reaching over and hitting the back of Justin’s head. Now, as JC was trying to calm them down, Joey took it upon himself to put bunny ears behind JC’s head.

Trying to stifle a laugh I caught Lance’s eye and gave him a smile. He smiled back then it faded and he stared at me with a worried look on his face.

"Hey Lance!" Joey said.

"I think he sprained his head instead of his ankle," Justin said.

"Good one!" Chris said with sarcasm.

The reporter broke into the playful fighting by asking another question. "So guys, where to after your big trip to the city?"

"Los Angeles," Lance said keeping his eyes on me for an extra moment then he turned to the reporter. "We leave on Wednesday night for an appearance on Jay Leno and to do a few meet and greets for the press and fans out there then we’re going to be going to Japan for a week then England for a few days then back to Orlando."

"Wow. World travelers…"

"Yep. That’s us," Joey said with a smile. "We could write a really good travel book."

"What?" The four others turned and stared at him then started to laugh.

"Ok, never mind." Joey laughed and made a face at the camera.

"Well thanks for sitting with me this morning."

"You're welcome," they said in unison.

A moment later the cameras were turned off and Johnny helped switch off the lights for a moment. "Take a break and get a snack guys. The next interview will start in about five minutes."

Chris immediately dialed his cell phone and was soon over at the table behind the couch chatting away. I figured it was to his girlfriend Danny considering that he didn't seem in the normal business mood that he had when making calls to check up on Fumanskeeto. JC and Justin went over to the counter and were pouring coffee and Joey stretched out on his back on the couch next to where Lance was still sitting with his foot in the bucket.

Anthony, the trainer, came over and checked the water temperature on the bucket by sticking his hand in then said, "I’m going to get more ice."

When he was gone Lance looked over at me and waved for me to come over to him so I slipped by a few people and under a lighting fixture and knelt next to the far edge of the couch from where I’d been standing.

"Hey Gwen," Joey said looking up at me upside down.

"Hey Joe," I said softly.

Joey shut his eyes and bobbed his head a little as if he was singing some kind of song to himself.

I turned and looked at Lance. He seemed to still have a worried look on his face and for a moment I worried that I hadn’t wiped my eyes enough. I’d decided to not wear make up that morning so I knew that my face didn’t look bad from that. Were my eyes more puffy than they’d been that morning?

"What’s wrong?" Lance put a hand on my arm and looked me in the eyes.

I immediately looked away from his stare and looked over at Joey who still had his eyes shut. "Nothing."

"You look like you’ve been crying." The concern couldn’t be hidden from his voice and as much as I wanted to calm any fears he might be having about me I couldn't get into it considering that their next interviewer was just outside.

"I’m fine," I said, "I just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night."

JC and Justin returned sipping on their coffees. "Hey Gwen," they said in unison. Justin pushed at Joey with his knee and waited to sit down as Joey moved over and sat up.

Johnny came back into the room with another reporter. "Hey Chris get off the phone."

Chris did as he was told and I was about to get up and leave when Lance grabbed my arm. "We need to talk."

"Not now," I said looking over at the interviewer who seemed to be staring at me strangely. "Later." I got up and went across the room to where I’d been standing before with a quick apology to the reporter.

Two hours later when they finally took a half hour break Lance took the chance to take his foot out of the water to hobble over to where I was standing with Harrison and Zach. "Can we talk?"

I turned to him, having completely calmed down by this time, and said, "Yeah."

Harrison reached to put his camera on his shoulder and Lance grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the bathroom. Closing us in he took a seat on the counter. "Now, why did you look like you’d been crying earlier?"

"I told you that I wasn’t crying," I said defensively.

Lance slid out of his jacket and leaned back against the mirrored wall. "I know that’s what you told me, but I know that you were."

I sighed and put the toilet seat down and sat on it. "I hate that you know me that well."

The corners of Lance's mouth turned up a little. "So…Tell me what’s wrong."

I took a deep breath and held it for a long time before answering. I waited until I couldn’t hold my breath any longer hoping that I could get through telling him without crying, but found that the action of holding my breath and thinking only made the tears well up in the back of my eyes faster.

"Come here you," Lance said holding out a hand to me.

I got up and took his hand and he pulled me over to him. "What’s wrong?"

"I don’t know. I’m tired from following you guys around and last night really upset me."

"Why? I was the one who got yelled at."

"Its stupid," I said and wiped a tear that I felt coming down my cheek. "I just felt like he was yelling at me."

"Awe Gwennie." Lance hugged me and said, "It’s ok. Johnny isn’t mad at you or anything. You know how stressed out he gets over little things. Remember when JC forgot his shoes that one time for the performance and he almost had a coronary. Don’t worry about it. He’s probably already forgotten about last night."

I relaxed a bit and looked in the mirror. "Damn, not again." I stepped away from Lance and wiped my face.

"Now can we get on with the day?" he asked.

I wiped my face and looked back over at him. "Yeah."

"Have you eaten this morning?"

"No," I said.

"Want a doughnut or a sandwich or something?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Good, can you get me one?" he said with a laugh.

I swung my arm and hit him playfully in the chest. "Meany."

"I’m just kidding."

"Still!" I said and hit at him again.

"Come here," he said pulling me into his arms he held me close for a minute and then hopped off the counter and said, "I need to get back in there. I think we might have some time off later on to hang out."

"Ok." I had a feeling that there wouldn't be any free time later that day, but I knew that Lance needed to get back into the other room. Spending time in the restroom with me would just lead to more drama if we stayed too long.


TEN

Although I'd agreed to go back into the living room with Lance, it wasn't until later that night that I would regret my decision. I should have known to trap Lance alone for as long as I could.

When we returned to the living room, Johnny handed Lance an updated version of their afternoon schedule. The doors to the bedrooms were closed and I could hear the guys joking around, probably while they changed and packed up some outfits for their later appearances.

Trying to stay out of the way I went over and sat down next to where Harrison and Zach were switching tapes in the camera. All the other people in the room had left and I noticed that most of the lighting stands were gone.

"What?" Lance said looking at the paper. Lance wasn't usually the one to make an outburst. From his reaction, the way his shoulders immediately slumped, the updated schedule wasn't going to be easier than the original. I went and looked over his shoulder curiously wanting to know what was causing the sour look that formed over his face.

I put a hand on his back as I read and I could feel his back tensing as his eyes read over the piece of paper again. I leaned my cheek against his shoulder and stared at the white sheet of paper that had no doubtedly just been printed off of Johnnys infamous laptop.

The schedule that already included the TRL appearance, as well as my interviews with them had been padded. An extra CD signing for a radio station as well as a press conference over some strange headlines that had been released about their song Digital Get Down had taken over the spot that had been saved for their free time. A quick appearance on the David Letterman show now replaced their scheduled dinner break.

"Johnny, you've got them working from one to midnight tonight without a break," I said with concern. I made eye contact with Lance and immediately thought of his ankle.

"That's the breaks," Johnny said, "The press conference can't be avoided and the CD signing and appearance were supposed to be done over the weekend, but we rescheduled so everyone could go home."

"Then switch my interviews to some other time," I suggested, "I can get some time with them over lunch the next few days."

"I thought of that, but when I called Carson over it he said that the studio needs them done."

"Needs what done?" JC asked returning to the room.

The guys returned one by one, still tucking in their shirts and adjusting their new outfits. They all wore what I now wanted to refer as "the blue jean outfits" like they'd worn on TRL the week before.

"Look at this shit," Lance threw the paper onto the couch cushion.

My eyes went wide hearing the swear word come from his lips. He wasn't a complete goody two shoes, but normally he only swore during extreme situations.

Joey reached for it as he pulled his Superman logo out from under his new shirt. "What's this?"

"It's the new schedule," Lance explained, "We're going to be out from one until almost midnight."

"Screw that," Chris said. He was pulling on a fresh FuManSkeeto T-shirt, this one with a futuristic cartoon figure on it.

"I'm not doing it!" Justin said with a huff as he read the schedule over Joey's shoulder.

"Don't freak," I said. "We'll get everything done sometime. If worst comes to worst I can always reschedule my interviews with you guys."

Lance grabbed the schedule back and handed it to me. "When?"

Quickly counting the car rides across town and the milling around time in between appearances I counted that I had about an hour and a half of time. "Look," I said, "We can get each of you interviewed. I need about twenty minutes… I'll get Justin when we drive over to TRL, Joey and I can chat on the way to The CD signing…" I looked again and said, "There is going to be at least fifteen minutes when you guys are getting ready to go on David Letterman…"

"Are you sure you can get whatever you need done in that amount of time?" JC asked with a worried tone. I knew that although he and the others wanted their free time, the interviews were important for the special show and they didn't want to have them be done half-assed.

"I think if we can get Harrison and Zach in a spot in the van and you guys promise to be quiet so I can get my things done, then it will work."

I made eye contact with Harrison who gave me thumbs up. I looked around the room at the guys who all seemed to be in agreement over the unorthodox interviews. "Johnny…scratch off my interviews and schedule that time for the guys to have a break…even if they don't get to come back here…they need that time…"

* * * * *

It wasn't until almost nine that night that the guys got their promised two hours of free time. They'd done all the signings and interviews with smiles on their faces, but as we arrived back at the hotel I could tell that they weren't at all pleased with the way things had gone that day. The press conference over the song lyrics had been tense and for most of the rest of the afternoon the guys had complained of not feeling well, but they plugged on.

In the hallway, just as we got to the door of the suite, my cell phone rang.

"Hello?" I asked after putting the phone to my ear.

"It's Carson," the voice said.

"Hey Carson."

Lance turned and looked at me then motioned that he'd be inside. I smiled and leaned and kissed his cheek as I listened to the phone.

"Did you get the interviews done?" he asked. His tone wasn't as friendly as I'd expected.

"Yep." I smiled as the guys went into the room and I decided to stay outside in the hallway for a moment to finish my conversation without disturbing the others figuring that they would all just collapse onto the couches and nap for their hours off.

"Can you bring over what you have to the studio?" he asked.

"I guess," I said checking my watch. "It's already nine though."

"We need to get it all done…the producers want to air it next week while the guys are out of the country."

"Ok, I think I can get over there by about ten," I said.

"Good," he said, "Just come on up when you get here…they're shooting a special in the studio tonight so there should be somebody in the lobby to let you in."

"Ok."

Carson hung up before I could say good-bye. Dreading the next few moments, I took a deep breath and went into the hotel suite as Wes was leaving.

JC, as I expected, was already face down on the couch almost asleep. He hadn't even taken off his jacket. Justin had kicked off his shoes and was now sitting with his feet on the coffee table staring at the television with a dazed look on his face. He and Joey were watching the sports highlights on ESPN. Chris was at the table on the phone with Danny and Lance had disappeared.

"He's in the bathroom," Chris said looking up from where he was scribbling into his palm pilot.

I waited for a moment then soon saw Lance coming out of the bathroom. He'd been limping all day, but now he seemed to be in real pain. He was babying his hurt ankle wincing a little when he did put his full weight on his hurt foot.

When he noticed me looking at him he tried to walk more normally and kept an even look on his face.

"Honey, are you ok?" I tried not to let my eyes spend too much time staring at his foot.

"Yeah," he winced again this time uncontrollably. He took a breath. "What's Carson up to?"

"Nothing much. I have to go down to the studios tonight and work."

"What the…?" he said.

"I know, but I have to get these interviews done."

"Fine," Lance said.

"I'll take Wes with me when I go," I said anticipating his next comment.

Wes returned with the bucket and when Lance had been settled into a seat with his foot in a bucket I kissed him goodbye and left with Wes to get over to MTV.


ELEVEN:

"Hello?" The voice broke the silence of the room like a crack of thunder.

I opened my eyes and peaked out from my covers to watch Paula as she spoke into the phone. I'd gotten in late from editing with Carson and hadn't expected to hear the phone ring that early in the morning.

"Yeah, hold on just a second," Paula said with a groggy voice. I felt something hit me. "It's Lance. He says that he has to talk to you."

I felt around and found the phone. Squinting, I focused on the phone for a moment then held it to my ear and finally spoke. "hello?"

"I'm sorry that I had to wake you up, but it's important." I knew it was Lance. Who else would be calling me? Since I'd come back to school I hadn't made or had many calls that didn't have to do with Lance or NSYNC.

"What is it?" I asked harshly then took a breath before asking, "Is something wrong?"

"Yeah, well no, but yes," Lance said.

"Spit it out Lance," I snapped, "It's too early in the morning for this."

I felt bad about acting that way, but really it was too early to be beating around the bush. I planned, in the moments since I'd said hello to keep the call short and sweet.

"We're leaving town," he said.

I could hear the sadness in his voice and rationally I knew that he wouldn't want to leave New York early, but at that time of the morning and with not enough sleep behind me I felt as if the world had just crashed down around me.

"What?" I sat up and gripped the phone.

"I'm at the airport right now." Suddenly the background noise around him became apparent and I knew that he wasn't lying. They were leaving as in, almost already gone. "We voted last night to start shooting the new video this weekend instead of waiting for the rest of the promo tour so we're on our way to LA."

"You voted?" I asked.

"We all got together this morning and Johnny gave us two options and we took this one."

"When do you leave?" I asked. I hoped that I hadn't been right about my guess about him being in the airport. If I had time I wanted to say good-bye.

"In about twenty minutes," Lance said with a sigh.

"What?" I said softly as tears formed in my eyes. "I'm not going to get to say goodbye to you."

"I know." He paused for a moment and I could hear the emotion in his voice. "I'm sorry, but we have to do this. If we film the video this weekend then it will be done with post production just as the old one is getting off the rotation of TRL."

"Oh."

"I know that this sucks, I hate it too, but we have to do this. Business, you know?"

"I know," I sighed.

"When are you going to be back?"

"Not for a while," he said.

"How long?"

"A month…maybe more," he said with a strange tone to his voice.

She cringed. Lance always knew how long he'd be away. He was the one who practically made the schedules. "A month?" she asked catching him at his half lie.

"We're going to be in LA then going to Japan then we'll be back in Orlando but we're going to be getting ready for the tour. I'm not going to have any free time."

"But--"

He instantly cut her off. "I know it sucks."

She sighed. She hated being the sighing whining type of person, but she hadn't planned on saying good-bye to him for at least a day or so and she hadn't braced herself for the trauma of letting him go--this time as a girlfriend, not a friend. "I'm not going to see you until Thanksgiving am I?"

"Maybe." I could almost see him shrugging as he spoke.

I hated the idea that I had to fly to see him. It was one thing for him to be in town, since New York was one of the big stops around the country that most celebrities visited. If I had been in any other city I would have seen him less than I already did.

"What unless I fly out to a concert?"

"No, unless you fly out and work on the tour," Lance suggested.

"Work on the tour?"

"Yeah." Lance took a breath and let it out. "We're going to move Steve to a new position on the tour and we need a videographer to take shots for the new home video."

"Videographer?"

I was instantly interested in the position, but the thought caught me that Lance might have set the job up for me. He'd tried to do it before, so that the guys and I could be together more, but I'd always turned him down.

I hated myself for that. He was a wonderful guy and he was trying his best to do special things for me, but I'd told him over and over again that my career was important to me and I wanted things to get done because I deserved them, not because I knew the guys. My behavior in the past two weeks would have said the opposite of that, but my crankiness and selfishness had come along with my new relationship with Lance.

"Yeah. You interested?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?" he asked shocked with my answer.

"I have school and all my stuff is here in the city...and, and everything." I tried to sound serious. If I was going to keep my wits about me I needed to be firm with him and not let the fact that we were dating now persuade me in any way.

"It's the perfect job for you. The people from SFX Touring were really impressed with you and I think that if you work on the tour they may offer you a position with the company."

"Whoa!" I said.

"I know…it's crazy." He was smiling. She was sure of it.

"No, I mean whoa you need to slow down here," I said, "I have a lot of things to think about. I can't just skip town and run away to LA."

"Think about it then," Lance said, "We'll be out there over the weekend and next week. I think we leave Monday."

"I will," I said.

There was a noise behind him and instantly I could tell that I was losing him. I could picture him trying to stall while the others waved at him to come along. Maybe Mike or Wes was there too pushing him towards the plane. I'd seen them do that in the past and although I hated to see it, I knew there were reasons for them wanting to be on time for their appointments and that morning for the flight.

"Opps." There was a pause. I thought maybe he was trying to get his things together or maybe he'd switched ears with the phone. Lance sighed. "I have to go."

"Ok," I said.

"What? You aren't going to stop me?" It was nice to know that he wanted me to stop him. It reinforced the feelings that we'd started to explore in the last few weeks.

I took a breath and let it out slowly. "You know as soon as I get off this phone I'm going to ball my eyes out. I'd rather keep my pride, thank you very much. Besides, I know how that me crying worries you so as long as I can get through the rest of this phone call without crying I should be ok," I said, "But I want to make it short."

"Awe Princess," he said.

"Princess?" I asked. I hadn't been called that for months, even years. "You haven't called me that in a while."

"Well I figured it was appropriate."

"Well Lancelot. I'll think about it over the weekend." I took a deep breath. "You have a good flight and call me when you get in to LA."

"I will," he said calmly. "Crap. I gotta run."

"Lance?"

"Yeah," he asked.

"I love you," I said. I shocked myself by saying it. We'd said "love ya" before, but never had I felt that the words I love you meant more then at that moment. That phrase had just changed everything.

He paused for a long time. "I love you too."

"Call me." She suddenly didn't want him to go. She had a feeling that he really wasn't going to hear from him until November.

"I will," he said.

"Bye."

"Bye."

I hung up the phone rolled over and let the tears that had been stinging at the backs of my eyes pour out.

A few minutes later, when silence had fallen over the room, Paula asked from her side of the room, "You ok?"

"Uh huh," I mumbled.

"I take it that the guys are leaving town?"

"Yeah," I sniffed and wiped my face and looked at her. "They wanted me to come with them."

Paula sat up in her bed, "Then why aren't you packing?"

"Lance told me that they want me with them permanently."

"Permantently?"

"Yeah, like leave school. Pack up. Go on the road." I sighed. "It's horrible."

"Sounds serious."

"It is and no matter how much I want to just jump and go I don't think I could."

"Why not?"

I sat up in bed and wiping my face I looked over at Paula who was watching me with a concerned look. "Well for one I'm going to graduate soon."

"School can always be stopped and started again."

"It's not that simple," I said.

"Why not?" she asked. "School is just--"

"School isn't the point," I said, "If I make it in the business I want to make it on my own."

"Well then you're a hypocrite because you got the job with MTV through them."

"That was an internship."

"So?" Her tone was harsh, as if I was acting stupid or something for making such a big deal about the whole job offer thing.

"It's different. This job offer would change my life forever. An internship is just something to put on a resume."

"Your life would change for the better though. You and Lance should be together and if it helps your career along then it'll be good."

"It's not that simple!" I fell back into my bed. "I can't drop everything for him."

"But you already have!" Paula said, "You took off two weeks of school for him. Why not take a few more weeks off?"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore."

Paula must have stared at me for a moment before laying back down. "Fine," she sighed and silence fell over the room again.


TWELVE:

As I lifted a shaky hand and knocked on the door I held my breath and prayed that I could get through the next few moments without tears. I'd practically been in tears the whole way there. Tears flowed not because of my decision. The pressures of my predicament had settled onto my shoulders. I'd just made the biggest decision of my life. It was the kind of fork in the road decision that would not only effect my personal life, but would determine the course of my professional life as well. Everything was riding on the next few moments of my life and for the millionth time that day I found myself praying that I wouldn't regret my decision.

************

"It's going to be perfect!" Paula had said that morning when we'd been walking out of the room. She was following me with a goofy smile on her face, that lovesick, I-wish-I-were-you sort of look.

My decision had taken only moments. As soon as the phone had been hung up I'd known what I needed to do. I found myself lugging my suitcase down the hall with her only twelve hours after Lance and I had spoken. It had taken me that long to pack. withdraw from my classes, call my mother, and. Try to explain why I was running away to join the circus known as the No Strings Attached Tour.

"You're just excited because you get your own room," I said with a sigh. I was trying to make light of the situation to compensate for the sick feeling I had in my stomach. I was about ready to faint from the stress, but I knew I had to stay strong through this. It was the right decision. I knew that deep down, but I wanted to just have the whole trip over with so I could deal with whatever was coming at me next.

"Come on Gwen." She grabbed me and shook me a little. "I know it's getting late, but DAMN GIRL! Live a little. You're about to go off to be with the man you love," Paula said holding a hand to her heart. She was practically swooning. "It's like one of those old movies…you know…all those days without him!"

"It's only been about twelve hours!"

"OK…all those--that day--without him." She threw her hands out and spun around. "I wish I had something like this happen to me."

"You're having more fun with this than I am."

"Hell yes I am." She nodded to emphasize her reaction. "I want this to work out for you…I want an invite the VMAs this year!"

Laughing I held onto my bag and with my free hand hit her shoulder. "I'll make sure you get to come," I said, "After all, who else am I going to hang out with while I hide from the cameras."

"Don't hide Gwen. You need to live a little. Hell! Live a lot…" Her eyes widened with excitement. "Hell live it up girl!"

"I will, as soon as I get there," I said with a sigh.

"When does your flight get in?"

"Around two am our time."

"Make sure you call me and tell me how this all turns out."

"Of course I will." I turned and stared at the empty hallway for a moment and sighed.

"Stop worrying about your stuff. Your mom is coming tomorrow and I'll help her pack up everything that we didn't get. We'll make sure everything gets back home for you."

"Thank you Paula." I sighed. "You really don't know how much this means to me."

"Yeah I do. I know how keeping that secret has been hard on you."

"What?"

"Justin told me about it." She smiled. "He said how crazy your life has been trying to keep in touch with Lance. Justin thinks that you two have been in love for far longer than this whole affair has been going on."

"That big mouthed big haired--" I stopped and stared at her. "When exactly did you talk to Justin?"

"Who do you think I've been online with all those nights?" Paula smiled coyly.

"With Justin?" I questioned with a strange look in her direction. Looking back I should have known that something was up. She'd been online and awful lot and when she'd found out about my being on MTV with them she hadn't been overly surprised--more pissed that I hadn't told her myself.

She stuck her finger at the corner of her mouth and tried to act innocent. "Yes."

"How?"

She relaxed and bounced along down the hallway with me. "He looked my name up. I guess he found my name on something your mom had and he randomly said hi to me one day then later explained who he was."

"So you knew about them all this whole time?"

"Yeah," Paula said. "So go out to LA and have fun for me…for you! You deserve this."

************

"This is going to be fun. I deserve this," I mumbled as I waited for the door to be answered.

When the door cracked open and a sleepy eyed face peered out for an instant I knew that this was going to be an interesting trip. Before I could say a word, the door was thrown open full force, slamming against the wall with a loud thud. "What are you doing here?" He looked shocked and I was shocked to see him even awake. It was three in the morning and only Johnny and Wes had known I was coming into town to be with him.

I shrugged and smiled sheepishly. "Lancelot, you called me Princess."

Lance immediately pulled me into his arms.


[[ THE END ]]

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Last updated: 09/19/04.