WORK IT OUT 6-10

SIX:

When Kara arrived at the dressing room later so that Monica could do her interview for MTV Johnny quickly waved her out of the way of the cameras then told her that he needed her to go with Kelsey to do another errand. Kara wanted to protest his request, but found that she couldn't really say no. She was working and no matter how much she wanted to stay and hang out with the guys, she couldn't.

She bit down on her lip and nodded at Johnny's instructions, but kept an eye on the guys. They were all in good moods and the joking around that had begun when Monica had arrived in their midst was addictive. She looked over at Lance for a moment who had changed into a navy blue running suit since she'd seen him last and found him putting his arm around Monica. The action was giving Kara a real sense of jealousy, but Johnny literally snapped her out of it.

"Hello?" he said. He snapped in front of her face. "Are you paying attention?"

"Yeah, sorry," she said. She forced herself to keep her eyes on Johnny after seeing the strange look he was giving her. It was hard to do considering that in the short time that she'd known the guys she could now pick out each of their voices as they were speaking. She had to stare at Johnny's mouth as he spoke to block out the only other sound that she heard; Lance's voice. It seemed as if every other sound in the world had been muted and now all she could hear was Lance's laughter in the corner of the room.

"Now, go with Kelsey to get the producer Nigel Dick at the airport then take him to his hotel, get him settled then Kelsey will have directions for you to take him to the dance studio the guys will be practicing at tonight."

"Ok," Kara said.

Johnny gave her a piece of paper, "Here are the directions and the other stuff you'll need to help Nigel get settled in."

Kara nodded then saw Kelsey approaching. She figured that it would be a second until she got there so Kara looked back over at the interview. Everyone had gotten in line to get lunch and the guys were all piling stuff high on Monica's plate while joking around. She watched Lance for a moment and suddenly he looked up and made eye contact with her, which instantly made Kara look away. It was one thing to ogle over him all day, but it was another thing to be seen doing it.

"Ready?"

Kara looked over at Kelsey then they made their way out to where they'd left the car earlier in the day and Kelsey drove them out of the arena and onto city streets again.

It was only one in the afternoon, but it seemed late to Kara. She figured that she'd only had about two hours of sleep the night before. The thought of sleep made her think of Lance…

***** FLASH BACK*****

When they'd returned from their short adventure into the mini-mart the others had not returned to their seats in the back room, but had instead decided to play video games. Lance, however, said he had a call to make so when he retreated to the back room with his cell phone Kara stayed out with the others. She didn't know if Lance wanted the privacy, but she thought that she should keep herself in check. She wanted to be friends with all the guys, but didn't want to end up feeling too comfortable with them too soon, no matter how nice they were being to her.

"Come on Kara," Joey said handing her the video game controller. "You're gonna have to learn to play if you want to survive this summer."

"No, you guys play."

"Come on, everyone's doing it," Chris said with a slightly evil tone.

"That’s ok, I don't know the game and besides, I like watching you guys make fools of yourself."

"Great!" Joey dropped the remote in her lap and held his hands up. "I'm a fool now."

"Like you didn't already know that?" JC said looking up from where he'd perched himself at the table to write in a notebook.

"Thanks C, just remember that I have a good memory and I won't forget that remark."

"Whatever J," JC said then closed his book. "I'm going to bed."

As JC passed Kara he smiled down at her and said a soft good night then disappeared into the back of the bus. Kara could see that the far door was closed and wondered if Lance was going to come out again that night.

"Come on Kara, please," Chris leaned over into her lap and said, "Please."

"Get up Chris," Lance said suddenly in the doorway. "I swear I leave for one minute and all you guys loose all your manners."

Lance suddenly seemed upset. Kara wondered if it was because they were up so late or if it had to do with the phone call he'd just been on. She wanted to return the jesture of concern he'd shown her early, but she thought that it might look like she was prying if she was to ask him about it. She didn't want him to think that she was trying to interview him, but she did want to get to know him better.

"Hey Kara if you want to finish watching the movie I was going to turn it back on." Lance turned around, not waiting for an answer and walked past the bunks and into the back room leaving the door open. A moment later she saw an arm reach out of one of the bunks and the door closed shut.

Kara wasn't sure what she should do. She wanted to spend time with Lance, but he seemed grumpy and she didn't know him well enough to know if that mood would last long or not. Taking a breath and seeing that the guys were getting noisy again she got up and went to close the door to the bunk area figuring that JC would be wanting it closed.

Pausing at the door she went through it, closing it behind her, and paused for a moment then took a few steps forwards and found the other door.

"Hey JC?" she asked into the darkness. Her voice was at the level of a whisper.

"Yeah?"

"Is Lance usually that grumpy?"

"No," JC turned on the light that was above his bunk and looked at her for a moment from where he'd tucked himself into bed. "He probably was talking about his management company. That’s the only thing that can get him grumpy these days. The business frustrates him every once in a while."

"Do you think I should bother him?"

"Go on in and talk to him," JC said then rolled over and turned off the light. "He won't bite."

Lance was sitting crossways with his feet up and was staring at the blank screen of the TV. She didn't know him well enough to be able to tell what was on his mind, but he was definitely doing some heavy thinking.

"Now it's my turn to ask if you are ok," she said.

Lance turned and looked at her. "Why do you say that?"

"Because you seemed so grumpy a minute ago."

"That was nothing," he said.

"Mind if I ask what happened?"

"No, but will ya sit down. You're making me nervous."

Kara plopped down across from Lance and put her feet up next to him.

"Now, why was I angry?" Lance paused as if he was choosing his words carefully. "Well I manage two artists right now and I had a bad phone call from one of them tonight. Meredith is in high school and we were working on a recording contract for her with one of the record companies and it fell through at the last moment. So first I get that call from the record company on my answering service, then I get a call from Meredith and she was crying."

Kara leaned back into the bench seat and watched the emotion play over his face. He looked mad, to the point of swearing, but he it looked as if he was battling to keep himself from exploding.

"Anyway, it just hurts to hear her so upset and it's frustrating to hear about the contract falling through…but don’t worry. It's nothing serious. I just have to go back to the drawing board with that project."

"Oh," she said and stared at the way Lance was looking so tense. He had a different posture to him than he'd had earlier in the evening. He'd seemed so laid back and now it seemed as if there was a different person sitting across from her.

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing." She sat up and said, "Sit on the floor and I'll give you a neck rub."

"What?" he said.

"A neck rub." Her eyes were wide with nervousness, but she didn't want to back down from her offer now. The thought of spending more time with him alone was something that she wanted to make happen. "You know…I put my hands on your shoulders and you relax?"

Lance looked at her for a minute then said, "Ok."

Getting up slowly he moved himself so that he was sitting on the floor in front of her. Kara paused for a moment then put her hands on his shoulders and began to massage the knots out of his neck and back. She worked carefully at first not knowing how hard or soft of a pressure Lance would be comfortable with having on his shoulders.

"So do you have a boyfriend back home?" Lance asked out of the blue.

Kara stopped her hands for a moment then tried to answer without sounding too nervous. For a moment she wanted to lie to him so that he'd think that she wasn't going to be interested in him. Being a little sister type or friend might bring them closer together than if she told him she was single.

"It's an easy question," Lance turned his head to her.

"I know it is," she said.

"So?" Lance kept looking at her.

"I don't at the moment," she said.

"Did you just break things off with someone?" he asked.

"No."

"It sure took you a long time to tell me that," he said.

"Sorry. I was just stunned by your question. Have you noticed at how easily I've become one of the guys with all of you. It's really strange to be that friendly that quickly with people."

Lance turned back around. "Sorry, I'll be meaner next time."

"That's not what I meant," Kara said, "It's just strange to fit in so well with all of you."

Lance took the calm moment to grab Kara's leg that was next to him and tickle her foot. Kara jumped and laughed and they ended up wrestling for a bit until Lance had her pinned against the other couch. "Say it."

"Say what?" she asked with a smile. He'd been tickling her and her face was pink with laughter.

"Say Uncle," he demanded.

"Never." She stuck her chin out and held her ground.

"Fine," Lance said and before she knew what was happening he'd leaned down and kissed her on the mouth. His lips were warm and soft against hers and she liked the feeling of having him have a half smile on his face while he kissed her.

Kara stared up at him after Lance lifted his head up from hers and didn't know what to do next. She didn't at all dislike the kiss, but she wasn't sure how to take it. Lance seemed stunned himself and immediately got up and went over and sat on the other couch. Kara decided that comedy was the only way to get them out of an awkward moment so she quickly thought of something to say. "Gross, now I'm going to have coodies. God knows how many people you've kissed. I mean you are a rock star and all."

Lance didn't seem amused at her joke and got up and left the room without another word to her. Kara didn't quite understand what had happened. It was all going so well until she'd said the comment about kissing.

Kara waited for almost a half hour before finally laying down and going to sleep

***** END FLASH BACK*****

"Kara!" Kelsey's voice finally cut through her thoughts and made Kara turn and look at her. "Help Nigel with his bags, will ya?"

Kara looked around and saw that they were at a hotel. She had been so caught up in her thoughts that she'd sat blindly through picking Nigel up at the airport and now that they were dropping him off at the airport Hilton she was confused.

Grabbing up the lone bag in the trunk of the car Kara followed Kelsey and Nigel into the hotel and twenty minutes later they were off again and driving over to the dance studio.


SEVEN:

When they arrived at the studio practice had already started. Kara slid her way along the back mirrored wall of the room and sat down near the corner so that she'd be out of the way while she watched. The five band members dressed in various forms of jeans and work out wear stood at the far side of the room with Darrin, the choreographer, and nine dancers; four male and five female. They were lined up in a V-formation and Darrin was calling out 8-counts over the sound of the music.

"One and two and three and four and down and up and bounce. Bounce…"

Finally at one point Darrin stepped away from the group and critiqued the performance. "Freeze!" The music stopped and he stared at the group for a moment before yelling, "Take five!"

"Superman!" Joey yelled and zoomed over, using the superman logo on his shirt as an excuse to "fly" around the room. He threw his arms out in front of him then crashed into Chris who was looking into the mirror while doing a dance move.

The fender bender caused a little bit of a fight between the two guys until Joey had Chris in a headlock and Kara finally realized that they were joking around.

Darrin went over to Nigil and stood and talked for a moment then Kara heard him swear. The other dancers and the guys had begun to chat and work on individual moves so Kara watched Lance and his female counter part chatting for a moment. They'd already worked up a sweat, which made Kara wonder how long she'd been day dreaming earlier. It must have been a long time if the guys had gotten through their MTV spot then had gotten to the studio and were already sweaty.

Kara looked away from Lance and tried to take in the scenery of the room. She'd never had dance lessons and was intrigued by the whole process. The front and back walls of the studio were mirrored and there were ballet bars on the other two walls. Someone had brought in a stereo that Wes was sitting next to and had become the DJ of the session. She was scanning the room and caught Nigil pointing at her from where he and Darrin were standing then watched in shock as Darrin marched over to her and said, "Can you do me a favor?"

Quickly pushing her body off the floor Kara stood in front of the slim dancer with a smile on her face. She expected him to tell her to go run an errand for him, but instead he stared at her for a moment. Kara had never been in a beauty contest, but from the way that Darrin was critiquing her with his eyes she felt as if she was about to loose the title, whatever title he was about to hand out. He lifted her arm a bit then let it fall, as if playing with a rag doll. "You can dance…right?"

"Not very well, but…" She started to say. She leaned back against the mirror behind her hoping to get lost in the reflections. She could almost hear his mind ticking and prayed to God that he wasn't going to ask her to do what she thought he might.

"You'll have to do." Darrin grabbed her arm, made her put her backpack on the floor then practically dragged her over to the group in the middle of the dance floor. "Ok everyone back in line!" He waited until everyone was set in their places then shoved her in his spot. "Try to keep up, you don't have to learn the moves really, just move into the formations so that I can see if they are going to work out."

Kara wanted to throw up. She'd always thought of herself as a fairly good dancer, but compared to the rest of the group she was with, it was going to be a slaughter. The guy next to her gave her a smile and JC leaned and gave her a thumbs up sign. It didn't help. On the first beat of the song she went the wrong way and hit into the girl next to her, who proceeded to give her a nasty look.

"Freeze," Darrin said. He stared at Kara for a moment then pointed a hand at her. He looked annoyed and Kara knew instantly that she was in trouble. "What's your name?"

"Kara."

"Kara, the formation goes to the left then the right then back into the V then into the line…Got that?"

Kara hung her head, "Yeah. Sorry."

Stepping slowly through the routine at first she moved to the positions that she'd seen Darrin move to as the lines of dancers went from a V-formation to a line that went out from behind the guys then went into three rows of five.

It took her almost an hour to feel comfortable working through the routine. She made a few more mistakes and at a break Darrin came over and spoke to her softly so that no one else could hear him. "You're really doing well… I just have to be a jerk sometimes so that these guys will respect me. Keep it up."

"That’s a wrap for the day everyone. We'll see you back here bright an early for the ten o'clock practice. We'll be working through lunch so make sure you eat something tomorrow!" Darrin called.

Kara's shoulders relaxed and she felt a strange sadness come over her. She wanted to keep going. She'd almost gotten down the routine and she didn't want to leave until she had it down.

Everyone broke ranks and scattered like children being let out of school for the summer. While most of the dancers headed for the door, the guys hung around for a moment. Kara went and retrieved her backpack from the corner where she'd left it.

"You're pretty good considering all things." Lance was suddenly behind Kara and it startled her for a moment.

"Considering what things?" she asked as she began to shiver as the door of the studio opened and closed as people were leaving.

"Pretty good considering most of the people in this room have been professional dancers for more than ten years."

Kara stepped back, feeling suddenly a little dizzy.

"You ok?" Lance asked.

"Yeah," she said then stepped back again as another wave of unsteadiness hit her.

"Did you eat lunch today?"

"No, I was too busy too," she said. She grabbed at Lance's arm to steady herself.

"Hey Anthony!" Lance called across the room. A wide shouldered bodyguard looked over and Lance continued, "Bring me my sweatshirt will ya?"

Anthony went over to a folding table where the radio had been and picked up a sweatshirt and threw it. Lance caught it with his free hand then took Kara's arm and guided her over to a couch that had been placed against the wall. "Sit down."

Kara did as she was told and soon found Lance putting the sweatshirt over her head for her. She couldn't believe it but he treated her like a child, putting the neck over her head then fished around for her arms and pulled them through the sweatshirt for her. She thought it was ridiculous of him to do, but she liked the attention anyway.

Leaving her on the couch for a moment Lance then brought her back a bottled water and opened it. "Drink it." He stood watching her for a moment. "You're probably dehydrated and that's why you were a little unsteady on your feet. Didn't anyone tell you to eat something today?"

"I was too busy." Her voice came out whining and she tried to stop herself from sounding like a baby. She wanted his attention, but didn't want to push her luck with him.

"First rule of touring…eat when you can cause you never know when you're going to get a chance to next," Lance said. He smiled down at her. "A good thing to do is to get those breakfast bar things and stuff a few in your pockets or in a backpack or something."

"Thanks for the advice," she said.

"You guys ready?" Wes called over.

Lance looked at Kara and said, "Ready to get up?"

"Yeah." Kara lifted herself from the couch and walked slowly to the door with Lance.

"I think we're going to get pizza's for dinner tonight so make sure you get some."

"Thanks."


EIGHT:

When they arrived back at the arena twenty minutes later the guys piled out of the vans and were heading towards the buses when Johnny made a shrill sounding whistle with his teeth then yelled, "You guys all have the night off!"

The announcement brought cheers from everyone, including Kara who thought that she was going to fall over. She wasn't dizzy anymore, but the fatigue that came along with her afternoon of exercise was now hitting her.

"Wait a minute guys!" Johnny said over the chatter that had begun the moment that the announcement had been made.

"What's the catch Johnny?" Joey folded his arms across his dark hooded sweatshirt and a pout formed over his mouth.

"You have to stay here."

"Ah man!" Justin whined loudly, "I guess that means no movie tonight."

Johnny gave Justin a stern look. "Kelsey already called for pizzas and Charlie and Jake pulled out the basketball net. I even rented some lights so you guys can play after the sun goes down. We just can't have you guys leaving."

The excitement level of the crowd plummeted. Kara hadn't really been paying attention to the conversations around her, but somehow she felt as if in the thirty seconds since Johnny had announced the evening off that people had already made plans for the evening that we instantly being broken.

Kara didn't care either way. She was planning to go to sleep, that was, if she could escape into her bunk before anyone found more work for her to do.

"Hey K, want to go get the pizzas with me," Kelsey asked. She frowned when Kara didn't answer right off. "If not I have to go get all twenty of them myself."

"Twenty?" Kara said. "You sure do know how to lay on a guilt trip!"

They headed towards the van and climbed in and just as Kelsey was about to put the van into drive the sliding door flew open and Chris, Lance, Justin, and Joey climbed in noisily.

"What are you doing?" Kelsey asked turning around.

Kara turned around to find all four guys with wide smiles on their faces, as if a trip to get a pizza was the adventure of a lifetime.

"Drive woman!" Chris said.

"Christopher Alan--"

"Just drive Kels or we're going to get caught. You didn't think that you were the only one who was going to get out of prison for the night, did you?" Joey bounced in his seat.

"If I get fired for this I'm going to sue!" Kelsey warned then turned around and began to drive away from the buses.

"Turn on the radio!" Justin called from the third seat in the van.

Kara reached over and found the station that they'd been at that morning. It was playing "Summer Girls" by LFO and suddenly everyone in the van started to sing along.

"Turn it up!" Joey yelled then joined the others when the song was at a higher volume.

"New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits…
Chinese food makes me sick…
I think its fly when girls stop by for the summer (for the summer)…
I girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch…"

Kara turned around to see all the guys swaying back and forth to the music. She thought it was one of the strangest things in the world. She'd never seen any guys in their twenties act so foolish…unless she counted that time that she'd snuck over to the fraternity party at the university…but that didn't count…nothing could come close to the strangeness she'd seen that night.

"What?" Lance said making a face at her when he noticed her staring at him.

"Nothing," Kara laughed feeling suddenly rejuvenated by the group's enthusiasm. She bounced along with the next song as the ten minute ride to the pizza place passed quickly.

Kelsey parked the van then turned in her seat and faced the guys with a face that Kara thought looked like something Johnny would use. "Stay here!"

Her command did the opposite giving Joey the signal to throw the van door open. He hopped out then made his way towards the door of the pizza place. "Let's go meet the pizza people."

"Joey! No!" Kelsey called after him while trying to get unbuckled and get out of the car quickly.

Pushing his way out of the back Justin smiled at Kara, who had yet to move from her seat, and followed Joey. Chris bounced out next singing some song that Kara didn't recognize.

Lance got out of the van slowly and opened Kara's door for her. "Ready for some fun?"

"Are you sure it's safe for you guys to be out here?" Kara looked around for a moment. It was now dark and just that fact made her think that something bad might happen to them.

"Don't worry about it." Lance turned and said, "Piggy back ride?"

Kara climbed onto Lance's back and they walked into the pizza place to find Kelsey trying to pay for twenty pizzas while Joey was already in full flirting mode with the cashier. Kara smiled at Justin and Chris drooling over an arcade game that was in the corner of the small area near the door.

A few people were in the small eating area, but none seemed to be the teeny-bopper age so no one seemed to even notice that the most famous boy-band in America was standing at the counter.

Lance dropped Kara onto the floor again then said, "Let's get a chair…this is going to take a while."

Kara and Lance took a seat by the door in a two-person booth.

"So I take it that you guys don't get out much?" Kara said.

"Well you saw today's schedule…just imagine living that for about two hundred and fifty days a year. It used to be worse, but now that we've switched management we've put in for more vacation hours. We don't always get them when we want them, but we're down to working only two hundred days a year."

Kara caught sight of the pay phone just then and said, "You want to have a little fun and call some of my friends back home?"

"Sure."

Kara and Lance went over and Kara dialed her friend Ellie's number.

"What's up chica!!!!" Kara said loudly into the phone when the other line picked up.

"Oh my god!!!" Ellie screamed. "I thought you fell off the face of the earth."

Justin saw Kara on the phone and grabbed the phone away from her. "Who's this?"

Justin spent the next five minutes joking with Ellie until Kara grabbed the phone away from him.

"Why didn't you tell me that you were going on tour with them?" Ellie asked.

"I didn't know!" Kara explained. "I swear or I would have brought you along."

Kelsey finally had paid and called to the guys to get the pizzas. Kara hadn't said really anything Ellie. "I have to run. Call me." She said the number quickly then slammed the phone down in time to catch a pizza that was falling from the stack that Chris had picked up.

In the car Joey opened a pizza box and looked at it for a moment then yelled, "Cheeze anyone?"

Soon everyone in the car, including Kelsey had a piece of pizza in their hands and were scarfing them down quickly.


NINE:

"Ka-ra…"

Someone was shaking her. She could feel their hand on her shoulder. Kara tried to ignore the person and snuggled into her blankets more. She'd had a long night of basketball playing and dancing around with the guys and Kelsey. She wasn't ready to get up yet.

"Ka-ra…" More shaking.

Kara was now awake, but didn't want to get up yet. She could already feel the fatigue in her arms and legs and didn't want to move. Isn't it the weekend?

The tone of the voice had changed into a more persistent one. "Kara wake up."

Kara opened her eyes slowly to face the voice that had interrupted her night's sleep. She smiled when she saw it was Lance who was poking his head through the curtains of her bunk. He had on a baseball hat and a hooded sweatshirt. He hadn't shaved yet that morning and she could see a bit of facial hair on his chin. He smelled of Ivory soap and toothpaste.

She yawned and rubbed her eyes, stretching for a moment before she asked, "What time is it?"

"It's about eight. We have to go to practice and Darrin wanted you there again."

"Ok."

Lance turned and walked away calling back over his shouler. "Hurry up, ok?"

Kara crawled out of her bunk, leaving the bed unmade then clicked open the bed and pulled out fresh undearwear, a pair of socks, a pair of baggy jeans, an oversized T-shirt and sweatshirt and went into the back of the bus to change. She was dressed and almost ready moments later. She brushed her teeth quickly in the kitchen sink and was pulling her hair out of her face and into a ponytail as she exited the bus.

"Kara!" Johnny yelled from where everyone was piling in the van.

Kara waved, finished securing her hair and ran to the crowd of people Johnny was with.

Lance was up front and as she climbed into the van he handed her three breakfast bars with a smile. She laughed her way back to the back seat to find a space between Wes and Joey. Wes smiled a lazy smile for her then she looked at Joey who looked like a little kid getting ready for a long car trip in his black and red nylon running pants and matching jacket. He had his eyes closed and was leaning against JC, who'd brought along his pillow and was leaning against the window on the far side of the van. JC had on a dark sweatshirt that read BOWIE in red letters across the front of it. He looked uncomfortable in his jeans compared to Joey's running pants.

Kara got settled then opened a breakfast bar and ate it quickly.

"Feeling sore this morning?" Justin asked turning around a bit in his seat. He pushed back his hooded sweatshirt hood and gave her a sympathetic smile. Justin's eyes carried the slightest hint of dark circles but the light in his expression made him seem more awake than everyone else in the car.

"Shut up Justin!" Joey said from behind closed eyes.

"Shut up Joey!" Chris yelled from where he was sleeping against the window in the seat in front of JC. Kara noticed that this morning Chris had on wire rimmed glasses. Kara wondered if he'd been wearing contacts the day before. She hadn't noticed them.

Lance turned around from his seat in the front next to Johnny to see what had caused Joey and Chris to yell. Kara watched him turn back around when he didn't see anything too important.

"Shut up the both of you!" JC yelled.

This time Johnny turned around and stared at everyone in the back seats then turned back around.

Justin stuck his tongue out at Joey then leaned closer to Kara to whisper, "So?"

Kara smiled and lowered her voice before saying, "I'm fine Justin."

"Good," Justin said then turned around.

The rest of the ride was silent until Johnny told the guys to wake up as the van pulled into the dance studio parking lot.

Practice lasted from eight thirty until around noon. By the time Darrin called lunch and a wrap for the day Kara was exhausted. She'd danced most of the time with the guys and again only heard praise form Darrin and the others. She wondered why he'd wanted her to dance again, but didn't question it.

For lunch they ate sub sandwiches that Kelsey had picked up while everyone was at practice, after she'd picked up Nigil at the hotel. The plan was to let the guys rest from noon until two. After that they had a quick round of interviews, sound check, and a quick meet and greet for twenty local contest winners. Dinner would be around five but the guys wouldn't get to sit down. They needed to pack for the trip to Los Angeles and get ready for the show. They were going to do a QUICK OUT that night. A true quick out meant that their bags had to be in the van before the show and they had to be on the road before the last song ended if they were going to make it to the airport before traffic got heavy from fans leaving the arena. Johnny used the word quick a lot, but judging from the schedule the day before he seemed to be trying to disguise the hectic pace of that day's plans past the guys who seemed to be tired.

While the guys rested Kara was helping coordinate the contest winners and the reporters with Kelsey. She saw her father for about five minutes just before the first contest winner was let into the meet and greet room. He'd just finished sound check and told her that she and Kelsey were going to take the guys to the airport after the show that night

Her father looked exhausted and Kara knew why. The day before, while they'd all been at practice, the sound crew had set up the rest of the stage as well as doing an equipment inventory. They were a month into the tour and her father had explained to her the night before that they did the inventory once a month so that they had everything they needed.

"We need to spend some time together once we get to Dallas tomorrow."

Kara was reading over Kelsey's list of people once more and looked up at her dad only for a moment. "Sounds good to me."

"We're going to stay in a hotel for the night so how about having breakfast together around ten?"

"Sounds good," Kara said.

Kara didn't see Lance until right before the show when she and Kelsey went to get their suitcases to bring them to the van. She found Lance standing in the living room of the number one bus wearing black nylon running pants and a blue and green windbreaker. Kara saw that Justin and JC both had athletic type clothes on and figured that was their first wardrobe change for the show. Kelsey had explained that they rotated outfits for the show and during that tour they had four different outfits to wear, which amazed Kara. Kelsey told her that was nothing. The last tour they'd done songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and had changed with each new section of the show.

Lance looked up from where he was zipping up the small black rolling carry-on bag and gave her a smile. "I can carry this if you want."

"You want me to be unemployed?" Kara joked holding out a hand to take the bag.

Lance laughed then handed over the bag. Kara turned around to leave with it and Lance handed her a sheet of notebook paper folded in half. "Read it later."

"Ok," Kara looked at it for a moment then folded the sheet of notebook paper in two before sticking it into her pocket for safe-keeping.

After getting the bags into the vans Kelsey and Kara went to watch the show from the same part of the stage where Kara had watched the last one.

TEN:

"Start 'er up!" Wes yelled knocking Kara back into reality.

She'd come out to the van during the second to last song and had been with Kelsey in the van waiting for the guys to get done. She turned and leaned out the open front seat window to see Wes and Lonnie, another of the guards, standing near the doors of the arena. They'd propped them open and were now standing guard as Kelsey and Kara waited for the guys so that they could go to the airport.

The engine rumbled to a start and a police car, who was their escort for the evening, in front of them also started its engine. Kelsey explained that it was normal procedure to have the extra help, but Kara still felt strange about having the flashing lights spinning red and blue on the car in front of her. Kara turned around and saw Kelsey in the driver's seat, holding onto the steering wheel as if she was very nervous about the whole situation. It was dark and the noise level from the arena was making even Kara start to feel uneasy as she heard the level of the music swell inside.

"We have one…" Wes yelled.

A moment later Chris jumped through the open doors of the van and found a seat. He was wearing only half of his white running suit and a white tank top from the last song. His hyperactivity level was through the roof as he bounced in his seat and yelled, "Woo!"

"We have two and three…"

Kara could hear JC and Joey yelling as they exited the hallway and ran straight into the van. They both gave a wave to Kara as they jumped in. They too were half-dressed and their hyperactivity level was about the same as Chris's.

"We have four…"

Justin was next, carrying a stuffed animal basketball that some fan must have thrown to him on stage. He jumped in and took his seat and the noise level in the van went up a decibel as the guys talked about the show. Kara could hear mixes of "did you see…?" and "wasn't that funny when…?" from the backseats.

"We have five!" Wes yelled.

Wes followed Lance into the van and after they slammed the door shut with everyone inside a police car started to roll forward and Kelsey followed.

The ride to the airport was extremely noisy as the guys chatted and changed into fresh T-shirts. Kara sat up front and gave directions to Kelsey after the police car left them when they made it to the freeway. The guys weren't flying to Los Angeles for another two hours so when they arrived at the airport everyone went into the airport to wait.

"So did you read my note?" Lance asked nudging Kara with an elbow as they walked along side each other. He was pulling his bag with one hand and he'd stopped and had gotten a drink and was holding that in his other hand.

"Oh no!" Kara smacked her forehead and gave Lance a look. "I've been busy all night." She reached into her pocket and pulled it out. "I can read it now if you want to." Kara watched Lance's face turn red. "I take that as a no. I'll read it in a little while."

"Cool," Lance said.

While they waited in a VIP lounge area Justin brought out cards and everyone played. Kara figured that there was some long running debt due to the fact that after the first hand, which Joey ended up winning, he celebrated by yelling, "Finally I'm out of the hole!"

Kelsey began to hysterically laugh then turned to Kara. "That guy has been in debt since ninety-nine."

Kara smiled and gave her cards back to Justin who looked upset that he hadn't won. Kara was surprised at the energy level of the guys. Everyone was on some kind of sugar high. She would have thought that they would have all been ready to go to sleep after the show and that day's schedule. Only JC seemed to be the least bit tired, but even he had joined into the game.

When Lance excused himself to go with Justin to get another drink Kara got up and went away from the group to pull out her note. She unfolded it carefully and began to read it.

***


Kara--

Brace yourself because this might sound strange, but I'm going to miss you while we're in Los Angeles. I don't know how exactly to go about this, but I want to chat with you while I'm gone, if I have time. I have a few things to talk over with you…the first is the kiss that we shared in the back of the bus that one night. Anyway I wanted to call you tonight while I'm on the plane so please leave your cell phone on so we can chat.

L

***


Starring at the paper for a moment Kara took a breath. That was the strangest note she'd ever gotten from a guy. She didn't know Lance well enough to know if he'd gone out on a limb to write her that note or not, but when she saw him returning she closed the paper up and returned it to her pocket. She didn't want to have a discussion about it or the contents of his note in front of the others.

Lance stumbled a bit on the carpet and made eye contact with Kara as he righted himself.

"Don't trip!" Justin warned in a sarcastic tone. When he saw her putting it away and seemed to be instantly nervous around her. He sat down and didn't lean back in the chair and looked at the others with wide eyes.

"Ok guys, we're ready to go," Johnny said coming into the VIP lounge.

Everyone stood up and as they walked out of the room a few moments later Lance was beside Kara. She could feel his eyes on her as they walked, but decided not to say anything about it. She didn't want to embarrass him.

When they reached the gate everyone stopped for a moment and Johnny handed out their tickets. Kelsey made her rounds hugging everyone and wishing them luck then Joey was the first to start Kara around the circle of people noting that: "You're a part of this too!"

She hugged everyone and wished them luck, but when she got to Lance he kept an arm around her for a moment and she whispered, "Call whenever."

Lance nodded and as the others turned their backs to get onto the plane Lance looked around for a moment then leaned over and kissed Kara's cheek. He made eye contact with her for a moment and she gave him a smile. "I'd like to kiss you more, but I have a feeling that I'd get flack for it."

"No troubles," she said.

Lance gave her another smile before he grabbed his bag and followed the others to board the plane. The group was ten strong (with the five guys, Johnny, Wes, Lonnie, Darrin, and Nigil) but luckily they'd be let on the flight first.

Kelsey and Kara immediately left the airport as soon as the plane pulled away. They had to get back to help pack up then they'd all be riding to Dallas that night to spend the next two days.

***


Kara checked the phone four times that night in between packing up some wardrobe things and helping pack some cables for her father. She thought for a moment that the battery had run down, but she'd found it in working order every time she turned it on. She finally had relaxed with Kelsey in the bus and as they were pulling away from the venue the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hey," Lance's low lazy voice sounded just as good over the phone as it did in person.

Hearing his voice Kara immediately curled up and pressed the phone to her ear. "Where are you?"

"Above Vegas," Lance said, "We're going to land soon, but I wanted to know if you were going to bed soon or not. I would have called earlier, but I fell asleep."

"Yeah, I'll be up," Kara said. She looked over to see Kelsey giving her a bad look.

"Cool. I'll call you when we get to the hotel. It should be about an hour and a half from now, if I'm lucky."

"Ok, if you fall asleep though don't worry about it. We can talk tomorrow or something."

"We're going to be filming all day so I won't get a chance to call until tomorrow night."

"Whatever." Kara didn't want to make a big deal about their conversations, but she knew that she'd be disappointed if he didn't call.

"I'll talk to you in a while then," Lance said.

"Ok," Kara replied and a moment later hung up the phone.

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Last updated: 09/19/04.