Joey nudged Lance in the ribs with his elbow and made a noise, one that Lance figured meant either: "hey look at that hot girl" or "someone wants you to look up and smile." Joey never really paid attention to much else when they were in the middle of meet and greets and hitting him or making a noise like that had become their secret language during times when they couldn't speak openly about things.
Lance glanced up and didn't see any cute girls their age or any cute girls not their age for that matter. He figured that Joey had meant for him to pose for a picture so he found the fan in front of the group who was taking their picture and widened his smile a little waiting for the flash to go off on her camera.
When that was taken care of he glanced down the line of the table. Joey was to his left. He had on his trademark blue jeans and a blue superman T-shirt. Next to him was JC who was half-asleep in orange nylon running pants and a sleeveless black T-shirt. Justin was on the far end of the table with Chris both wearing FuManSkeeto gear, which was causing quite a scene with the fans leaving Lance with the last of the screams and giggles at the far end. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, another typical "creepy" meet and greet so he went back to signing the autographs on the stuff that was in front of him on the table.
Joey nudged him again under the table this time with his foot. Luckily Lance had worn jeans or there would have been a bruise from the kick.
"Stop it," Lance mumbled under his breath and readjusted the T-shirt and tec-vest he'd slipped on earlier on his way from the bus to the tiny make-shift room. It was warmer that day that he'd thought, but he was almost afraid that someone might snatch his vest away from him if he took it off.
Joey repeated the action.
"Hey…quit it!" Lance said and pressed the pen to the CD cover he'd been given to sign.
"Hey Lance," Joey finally said in a low voice leaning towards him so that the people in front of them couldn't hear the conversation. They weren't fooling anyone with the action, but at least Joey wasn't announcing whatever he was going to say to the rest of the roomful of people. "Isn't that Sid?"
"Sid who?" Lance stopped what he was doing for a minute and looked sideways at Joey.
"Over there," Joey said trying to motion with a nod of his head in the direction without drawing too much attention to the action.
Lance's eyes searched the crowd and his eyes soon landed on the not-so-familiar, much older, Sydney McAlester standing with Loni and Dre across the room laughing and hugging them as if she'd done it every day of her life. She wore a v-neck shirt that showed off her cleavage a little more than she used to. He knew her well enough to know that if she turned to the left he'd be able to see the small birthmark that graced the inside of her right breast.
Lance's shoulder's tensed up. It had been almost four years since she'd had that privilege and he wondered what had brought her out of the cracks for this unexpected visit. He was about to look down again at the papers in front of him when she smiled and made eye contact with him. The look in her eyes made Lance's hand slip off the slick CD cover causing the pen to make a wild mark instead of it's intended signature.
He'd thought that he'd put all of that behind him, but it was clear that all those memories he'd pushed to the back of his mind hadn't made it much past the surface…
* * * * *
[[ Four years and six months earlier... ]]
"Whoa there turbo."
The voice startled him and his right hand flinched away from where it was reaching towards her as if her voice had physically shocked him into submission. He hadn't noticed at first, but her arms had uncurled themselves from behind him and were now stretched out into the air so that she wasn't pressed as hard up against him anymore.
Realizing that this might be when they would stop, he also uncurled his left hand from where he had been holding onto the T-shirt material that covered her back. He held his right hand in the air and leaned back a little so that he was lying even farther away from her. He had been laying next to her on his side with a leg curled over hers, but now he almost removed himself completely from touching her.
"Don't look scared," she said in a half-sympathetic, half-patronizing way. She pushed her hair out of her face and gave him a sympathetic smile.
He searched her eyes for a moment wondering if he'd done something wrong. They'd only been like that two times before, but this time their little make-out session was going farther than the other two had. He'd gotten somewhat comfortable with being with her in bed, but he still was a little nervous about the whole situation, considering that at any moment someone could come to the door and interrupt them, which would leave him in a very uncomfortable and embarrassed state.
"And no you didn't do anything wrong," she said in a soft voice. She cupped his cheek with her hand and leaned towards him and kissed his bottom lip lightly, flicking her tongue out, something that he'd admitted the last time had been "nice" for lack of a better word.
"I'm just hot. You mind if I take off my shirt?"
She didn't really wait for an answer from him, but he licked his lips and nodded. For the first time in a long time he didn't trust his voice. He had been so caught up in things that he hadn't even noticed the heat that had built up between them. Lance wiped his lips with the back of his hand and felt that his face was hot.
In his mind Lance swore at himself for being so stupid. He knew he was blushing again, something that he hated, but that she seemed to think was cute, a compliment that he wanted to tell her that he thought only let her further patronize him, but didn't have the guts to do so.
When he didn't move towards her again she sat up a little from where they were sprawled on the bed and pulled her yellow long sleeved T-shirt off, throwing it onto his suitcase across the room. His eyes followed the shirt to it's landing spot then refocused on the shiny bra strap across her back. He felt his blush deepen.
He found himself wanting to reach out to release it, but kept his hand away. He wondered if she knew that having her sitting there in front of him half naked was driving him nuts. Knowing her, this was probably all part of some crazy plan she had in her head. After all, he'd never known her to do anything without a plan.
Slowly she settled herself back against the pillows and seemed to wait a moment for the enormity of her action to settle in. "Much better," she said with a slightly nervous smile when her comments and actions were met with silence.
Lance stared at her face. He'd never been in this kind of a situation before and staring at her body, he thought, would make him look like a pervert. The church had pounded that fact into his brain a million years ago after one of his Sunday school pals had flipped up one of the girl's dresses. He could still see the Pastor standing up in front of all of them giving them their own little private sermon on why good boys and good girls keep their clothes on.
Trying not to let that thought ruin his mood, he leaned towards her hoping that if he kissed her that he wouldn't have to deal with the fact that he was fascinated by her body, yet didn't really know what to do about it. Well actually he knew what he wanted to do, he'd seen enough on television to get the gist of what was going on, but this was definitely a new experience and he didn't want to get too carried away.
He was about to kiss her when he felt her hands reach between them fumbling first with the hem of his T-shirt then with the belt he'd worn with his jeans that day. She hit against his lap once, as her hands maneuvered the belt open. He stopped and moved back, holding his breath.
"What…what are you doing?" he stuttered out. So much for the macho act. His cover, whatever cover he might have thought he still had, was definitely blown with that comment.
"Calm down," she said with a tiny laugh keeping her attention on his waste. "Your belt is poking me…" She got it open and with a smile spoke softly, "That's all."
Lance's eyes glanced over her chest quickly.
"Hey," he said, "What's this?" He let his finger slide across the bronze colored mark that stuck out from behind the material that covered her breast.
She paused in her movement to undo his belt and smiled and touched the skin herself for a moment. "That's…"
Lance felt himself staring at her and looked into her eyes when she didn't continue.
"Nevermind about that," she said and continued her quest to free him from his belt.
Lance's eyes lingered on her birthmark knowing that from then on it would be the only thing that he would think about when he saw her. His went lower down their bodies to watch her hands separate the two ends of the belt buckle then slide the belt out of the belt loops of the jeans. It made a swishing noise as the leather slid against the jean material. His eyes went wide when she seemed to stare at his crotch for a moment before she threw the belt onto the floor. He could feel from the heat that his cheeks were giving off that his blush had gotten deeper. He wondered for a split second if he would blush so hard that he'd end up looking like the blueberry version Veruca Salt in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
"And what are you smiling at?" she asked with a sexy tone to her voice.
Lance turned his attention back to her eyes for only an instant. He took a deep breath and leaned his forehead against hers. "I'm a big dork."
"No you aren't," she immediately defended him. "You just don't..."
"I feel like a charity case," he said.
"Sex lessons for the inexperienced?" she asked with a laugh. "I should be like Sally Struthers." She proceeded to fake cry asking out loud, "Where's the justice in the world when a teenage boy can't get a little? Send just a dollar a day to the Get It On Foundation and help a horny kid in need." She ended with a cheesy smile.
For the first time in the last half-hour since she'd arrived at his door he felt comfortable again.
"Think I need to make an infomercial?" she asked with a smile poking him in the ribs, which she knew would make him smile.
He let out a laugh then stopped short feeling her breast hit into his chest. His eyes went wide as his body strongly reacted to that touch. "Definitely," he replied and scooted his hips away from her a little more.
"Lance honey, why are you backing away?" she asked.
"Umm," he shifted in his jeans a little feeling that they were twisted in an uncomfortable position on his legs. He hated that she had so many advantages over him. She was not only older than him, but she had a hundred times more experience than he did, which was something Lance had never been able to get used to.
"Lance," she said in a slow deliberate tone. "Honey, if you think that I didn't notice…" she paused and moved her hand to touch the fly of his jeans, pressing her palm flat against him. "…you've been like this since we stretched out on the bed."
"Umm," he stumbled over his words holding his breath as she kept her hand against him. "I'm sorry."
She leaned and kissed his neck. "Don't be sorry Lance. Never be sorry for that…it's flattering to know that I have such…" she curled her hand a little, outlining him with her fingers for a moment. "…it's nice to know that I have that effect on you."
Lance reached for her hand to remove it. "Maybe we should stop now."
"Stop? Why?" She let him remove her hand from where she'd had it. "Are you sure?"
"Umm…" He closed his eyes and held his breath for a moment. The tension at that moment made him want to cry. He didn't want to stop. He never wanted to stop, but he knew he would have to if he were going to live sanely with her. He knew that whatever they did after that moment would definitely add to the reasons why he hadn't been able to look her in the eyes when they were working in public together.
"We can stop if you want to," she said. He thought that she would have sounded disappointed by the halt in their explorations, but she wasn't. He watched, in disbelief as she removed herself from where she'd been with him on the bed. She collected up her shirt and pulled it over her head then looked at her watch and said, "I should be going anyway." She looked around the room for a moment. "Make sure that you bring an extra Sharpie to the signing ok? I'll make sure that Dre and Loni have a few pens with them."
She turned and walked out of the room as if nothing had just gone on between.
* * * * *
Lance stared at the pen in front of him then looked at the way the pen had slid off the paper and had made a long streak across the table. He looked up at the girl in front of him nervously. "Sorry about that…my hand slipped."
"No trouble," she said with a giggle. She happily snapped another picture, this one almost blinding him, and moved on out of the line.
"Good one Lance," Joey said with a laugh patting him on the back. "That girl is going to have Justin's signature, JC's, mine, Chris's and llama's signature."
"Get off my back Joey," Lance said shrugging off the hand that Joey had placed on his shoulder.
Joey began to laugh.
"What are you laughing at Egghead?" Lance said through his teeth trying not to let the next person in line see how upset he was.
"I still can't believe that she still has that effect on you."
Joey turned and looked at him with a "give-me-a-break-who-are-you-trying-to-fool" look.
Lance stuck out his tongue at Joey, although he'd wanted to throw the finger at him. He turned and watched Sydney flirt with the security guys. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He couldn't believe she was standing there.
After all that had gone on, he'd thought for the longest time that he'd never see her again. Actually after a while he'd HOPED he would never see her again. He'd mourned her leaving as if she'd died and he'd spent at least a few minutes a day for the last four years thinking about her or asking himself about what she might be doing at a certain moment of the day. In none of those sessions had he imagined her coming back into his life. She'd made it clear long ago that she and he didn't belong together.
"Good one LB," Joey said cutting into his thoughts.
Lance pushed his chair back.
Loni looked over and came over to his side. "What's up LB?"
"I gotta get out of here for a minute," Lance said with wide eyes trying to enforce his decision without making a scene in front of the fans.
"Hey where you going?" Joey asked.
"Out." Lance stared at Loni harder pleading with his eyes to be let out of the now overly crowded room. He'd never been claustrophobic, but it seemed as if being in any kind of confined space with her was too much.
"Sure man," Loni said finally. He turned and smiled at the girls who were standing waiting to see Lance. "Lance needs to go and make a phone call," Loni said with a diplomatic tone to his voice.
Lance pushed past Loni and made his way out of the room. He felt everyone's eyes on him and for a moment he felt guilty about leaving. He decided though that it would be better for him to leave and catch his breath than to break into tears and have a panic attack in front of the fans. Not that he'd ever had a panic attack before, but he felt like he was going to have one soon.
Taking deep breaths Lance slipped behind the section of the hallway that had been made into a little room and found an empty spot just around the corner from where the crew was still hooking up some of the equipment. He placed his palms against the wall in front of him and kicked the concrete with the toe of his shoe while resting his forehead against the concrete.
"Damn it. Why now?" Tears sprung to his eyes as he tried to block out the scenes that kept playing in his head. He'd thought that the emotional roller coaster was over. He'd been there through all the highs, but the plunge had almost killed him, not literally of course, but it had taken more out of him than he had expected it to. It had ripped his heart out to lose her. Some people would have thought that he was foolish and naive, and maybe he had been, but he'd thought he'd gotten over all of that. She'd had so much of an effect over him back then and it seemed as if the nightmare that he'd thought he'd conquered was back to haunt him.
He heard the voice and almost lost it right there. Sydney had followed him, just like she used to follow him when she'd been on tour with the group.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Lance grit out between clenched teeth. He didn't want her to know how much it hurt him to see her there, although he was sure that his actions weren't helping much either.
* * * * *
[[ Four Years and Four Months ago… ]]
"I thought I'd surprise you," she said softly.
"I thought you were supposed to be in Chicago tonight Sydney." He wasn't really excited to see her. He usually had time to prepare to see her, time to psyche himself up for the event, but finding her there left him a little off balance. He but had the feeling that she had more control in their relationship than he did. It wasn't surprising considering that his job prevented him from being spontaneous like that, but because she seemed to know how to manipulate a situation to fit what she wanted and needed more than he had the skill to.
"I was, but I snuck back early. No one will be expecting me until the morning, which leaves me the whole night to spend with you."
"But I'm sharing this room with JC. We're going to get caught," he said softly then watched her walk across the room wearing only the hotel towel as a dress. He'd become more and more careful about his feelings for her. It had been a while since they'd talked and that silence that had hung between them in the mean time had made him see that maybe what they were doing wasn't such a good thing.
When she sat down on the edge of the bed she crossed her legs making even more of her thigh visible. He hated that she knew what he liked and how to use it against him.
"Lance it's been a while since we've hung out together," she said with a frown. "Don't you like me anymore?"
Lance held his breath for a moment and set his backpack down. She'd startled him by greeting him in his hotel room, which had distracted him. He'd been standing there for a few minutes with his backpack still on his back. "Yeah I like you, but JC…"
"I've taken care of that," she said, "I have my ways of arranging things and tonight the guys are all going to be rooming down the hall together. You're the odd man out." She seemed way to pleased about that fact.
"I don't know about this," he said.
"You just said you liked me…so what's wrong?" Sydney watched him from behind heavy eyelids.
"I'm sorry," he spoke softly and kept his eyes off her leg. He felt guilty for not being as excited about the plan as she was.
"I was going to take a shower, want to join me?" she asked.
Lance stared at her for a moment and prayed that if he was dreaming that he wouldn't wake up for a long time. He wasn't sure if he was comfortable with the idea of them being together that night, but when an opportunity like the one she'd just proposed came into his life he knew that he couldn't pass it up. He'd still be back in Mississippi if he hadn't taken chances like that.
The last time they'd been together they'd gotten comfortable enough to be naked together, or rather HE'D gotten comfortable enough to be naked with her, but it had been when they were laying together in bed, with a sheet pulled over them. What she was proposing was an all out explicit show of their bodies to each other, something that Lance was nervous about, but at the same time he was curious enough to put aside his shyness to try out.
It was true that he and she hadn't been alone together in a while, almost three weeks due to hectic scheduling, but he'd never expected to have a reunion like that with her. He nodded slowly and took a step so that she couldn't see how her outfit and her proposal were effecting him.
The last time she'd seen him in such a state of arousal she'd kidded him about it. On the one hand it had been fun experience, since she'd cornered him in a crowded elevator and had openly massaged his jeans, but at the same time it hadn't been fun to have that much attention brought to something that he was having a hard time controlling. The whole time she'd had her hands on him she'd been practically laughing at the way her actions were making him so uncomfortable.
"Good," she said. She got up off the bed and walked towards him then sidestepped him. "I'll be in the shower."
Lance took a deep breath after he'd turned and watched her walk into the bathroom. She dropped her towel onto the floor. He held his breath as he watched her step naked into the shower.
Half of him wanted to just walk away. After that night there would be no going back and no matter what happened he knew that this was going to have an effect on him. They'd agreed to keep things "not serious" but he was having a feeling that he might be falling in love with her, which was something he was scared to death of doing. He didn't want, at his age, to be tied down to someone like that, but he was afraid that it was already happening.
* * * * *
[[ Present Day... ]]
"Lance?" The questioning voice jolted him out of his thoughts.
He stared at the wall and tried not to make eye contact with her. He knew that if he did that it would be over. He'd never be able to tell her no. He never could do it in the past and he knew he wouldn't be able to do it now.
"You look like you just saw a ghost…" she reached out and touched his shoulder.
He flinched away from her touch and took a step backwards. She still could keep him off balance.
"Huh?" he turned and stared at her.
"I know that it's been a long time, but I thought I'd at least get a hello out of you,"
"What do you want Sydney?" he asked with a fierce tone.
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to be on the road with y'all again."
"What?" Hearing that almost made him fall over. Hadn't she done enough? Hadn't she already gotten the last word in? He'd come to accept that, but now he knew that she would be opening the wounds that had taken him years to heal.
"I'm going to be on the road with you and the guys again," she repeated.
"That's great," he said, sarcasm heavy in his voice. His eye floated to where he saw movement behind her. He found Loni standing there looking at his watch, which would his clue to get back to the meet and greet. "I have to go. I'm sure I'll see you around."
"Lance, wait," she called after him.
He didn't pause. He didn't turn around. He blocked out the sound of her voice calling him and walked out of her life the way that she'd walked out of his those long years ago. He'd been seventeen back then and she'd been twenty-five and maybe that gave him the excuse of naievity towards the situation, but it had still hurt when he'd confessed his love for her and she'd denied him of an equal response.
He'd spent the last few years trying to forget everything about the seven months that they'd spent together. He'd gotten good at it, but he'd never thought that it would come back to haunt him all this time later.
"For the girl who has everything…" Lance sang under his breath then checked his watch as he exited the elevator and nodded his head to no one in particular.
The two guards on duty that night, Dre and Mike, were standing by the door, but when they saw who it was they first gave Lance a stern look in regards to his sneaking out then waved him through their make-shift security check. He'd been able to manage a midnight snack before the one a.m. curfew, which had already put him in a better mood than he'd been in earlier that afternoon and was now ready for bed and was pleased to find that neither guard gave him a lecture.
Usually with Lance it was one of those "you know better" speeches. He wondered why everyone thought he was such a goody-goody. He figured that they would have realized long ago that his personality wasn't as sweet as the one that the publicists sent out to magazines when they were first forming the group. After all, hadn't it been his idea to sneak down to New Orleans on their last vacation? He thought he'd get at least some kind of reputation from that experience. He was the one who'd gotten that stripper's number for Joey and got JC a gig at a club to play some jazz.
Either way, Lance had experienced a fairly normal night that night. He'd come back to the hotel after the show, starving out of his mind after being stupid and not eating much before the show. He'd managed to venture out alone, off of his floor at least, down to the lobby to get a snack while the others made plans to watch a movie and play around a little before they were all expected to be in bed.
Taking his sweet time, Lance had eaten a piece of pie, a luxury that he hadn't had in over two weeks, and some cereal in the comfort of the corner of the hotel restaurant before some fans noticed him. So after an on the spot autograph signing session, which he usually found horrible, but ended up enjoying due to three high school aged girls that sang him their own rendition of "For The Girl Who Has Everything" that sounded a lot like JC's food version on the song. He'd had headed back to their floor to bed with a full stomach and a smile on his face hoping that when he woke up in the morning he'd completely forget how most of the day had been completely awful.
Lance was almost to his room, just past Johnny's room, when he noticed the door open. He'd thought that Johnny had gone to sleep early since the guy had to fly out in the morning, so he looked in the room. Although it usually was his better judgement not to eavesdrop he couldn't help but be interested in the conversation that was coming from the tiny hotel room that his manager was occupying that night.
"Johnny, I know it's going to be tough, but really, Laney is the cutest little girl and she'll be good. I raised her well enough up until now."
"Sydney honey, I told you that it was alright for your daughter to be here when I hired you. You don't have to keep praising the girl. I met her this afternoon and I think that she's going to be a good addition to the tour staff."
"So you're really ok with this?" she asked.
Lance didn't think she sounded too convinced, which was the complete opposite of how he remembered her. She'd always been the confident one in everything. Maybe time HAD changed her a little.
"Honey, I need you on the tour. You're the only one I trust after all that crap with the lawsuit. I know that you and Laney have been working hard out there in Colorado, I know you love all that Olympics stuff, but it's time that you get back to your roots. That little girl of your needs some family around her and I intend to be her Uncle, even though you've spent the last few years trying to avoid all of us."
There was a long pause before Sydney spoke again. "You met her?" Sydney sounded worried.
"Yeah, while you were at the meet and greet I came by to see if you'd gotten in yet and Suzy introduced to her Uncle Johnny." Lance noticed how Johnny's voice warmed in tone the way that it did whenever he was talking about someone in his family or extended tour family. He even heard Johnny add a laugh, which meant only one thing. Whoever this little girl was, she'd already gotten to the heart of her newfound "Uncle Johnny".
"So what did my daughter have to say?"
"Well after figuring out how alike you two are. The poor kid is a motor mouth. She proceeded to tell me that her mommy was the tour manager and that she was going to be the assistant tour manager."
Lance listened to Sydney laugh and felt a pain in his heart. He hadn't heard that sound in a really long time.
* * * * *
[[ Four years and a few months before…]]
"Lance stop it," Sydney said sternly to him as he walked by her again and tickled her side. She swatted at his hand as she tried to balance her day planner on her knee while writing something new on the page in front of her.
He'd been teasing her most of the day by poking her in the side when he got close enough to do so, which had been a little too often for her, he was fearing from the reaction that he was getting from her. He'd been trying to flirt without being noticed; something that he still wasn't too practiced at.
Luckily she'd played along for most of the day, but he'd annoyed her this last time when she'd spilled part of a bottled water on her shoe when he'd grabbed her middle as he was heading towards the meet and greet.
"What?" he said, "You aren't ticklish are you?"
"You know that I am," she breathed out in a heated whisper almost hissing out the words at him.
He smiled. She was right. He was more than familiar with her ticklish spots was. He'd found a few of them a couple of nights before when they'd gotten into a tickling match after he'd accidentally tickled her while they were fooling around.
"What was that?" he asked loudly teasing her.
"Nothing," she said then let out a huge laugh as Lance grabbed her around her stomach to tickle her.
"I love your laugh," he said catching her around the middle. He held her tight for a moment, kissed her cheek. The others joined in the tickle-match so instead of it looking like he was involved with her, it looked as if the whole group was ganging up on her, the way they did with all their practical jokes.
* * * * *
He'd committed that moment to memory as it happened knowing full well that there was bound to be a day when he'd be without her laugh. He'd known from the beginning that they'd been doomed from the start, but for those first few months of being with her, there had always been a part of him that hoped that he was wrong about that fact.
That was all in the past, all the good times that they'd had together, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get the image of the two of them or the sound of her laugh, out of his mind. How many days had he wished to hear that laugh again? He'd thought for a while that he could remember the sound, but until that moment, he'd never known how much better the real thing was versus the memory. He'd really missed the light chuckle that seemed to float to his ears and the thought of the look on her face, a wide smile and her pink cheeks shining at him.
Lance leaned and saw Sydney with a hand over her mouth, the way she always laughed when she was nervous. In the past, this action had been reserved for either when someone embarrassed her or when she was trying to be social with Johnny or the other executives. He'd always thought that it was a cute way to express her nervousness. He had the ugly habit of biting his nails, although since the lawsuit he'd gotten over that little nasty habit.
"She gets a little carried away," Sydney said with a light tone to her voice.
"Yeah well, don't worry about it," he said, "She's a bright little kid. I told her that I'd need her help to take care of Chris's dogs."
She let out another little laugh. "You mean he still has Busta?"
"Yeah, actually he has Busta and a new little one Korea," Johnny said with a laugh. "I told Laney that she had to help Mike and Chris walk the dogs since Chris is so busy and Mike is afraid of the dogs."
Lance almost laughed at that comment. Mike was about six-five and weighed about three hundred pounds and there was no chance in hell that he was afraid of a pug dog who's mean streak was about as threatening as his little chubby legs.
"He's not really afraid of them is he?"
"No," Johnny explained, "But I figured if she had a job here at least she won't be bored."
"Well we both thank you," Sydney said with another laugh. "Expect a piece of artwork for your refrigerator as a thank you from my daughter."
"I can't wait," Johnny said.
There was another pause.
"So how have things gone with Lance so far?"
Lance leaned a little closer wanting to know what her opinion of the situation was.
"I think he and I have a lot to talk about, but I think we can work things out."
Oh my God! Johnny knows! Johnny knows all about it! He's going to kill me. He's going to scalp me, especially when he finds out… Lance took a deep breath and tried to turn away from the conversation, but couldn't do it.
Lance jumped at the sound of his name. Cursing under his breath he turned to find Justin in the hallway waving at him with a silly look on his face, as if the kid wanted to rub in the fact that he'd caught Lance listening in on the conversation.
Glancing back in the door Lance saw that Sydney had turned towards where he was standing and was now staring at him along with Johnny. He knew that Johnny would forgive him for the intrusion, but from the look on Sydney's face, he knew he'd just dug his proverbial grave a little deeper.
"Lance get down here! We've gotta show you something!"
"Justin stop yelling!" Johnny called without getting up from his chair. He made eye contact with Lance for a moment as the commanding sound of Johnny's voice made Justin pop back into the room he'd come out of and fall into a laughing fit that Lance could hear four doors away.
"What did you do that for?" Lance asked slipping out of the tension that hung between him and Sydney to enter the hotel room that Justin had disappeared into. He found all four guys stretched out in comfortable clothes. They were situated around the room in the same order as always. Chris was sitting on the floor leaning back against a bed. Wearing his glasses instead of his contacts Chris squinted at the television screen and yelled obscenities at the screen under his breath as he physical jolted left and right as he played a game on the video game system that Justin always traveled with. Justin was settling back into position just to Chris left while Joey sat on the edge of one bed and JC was hunched over his journal sitting at the table, no doubtedly waiting for his turn at the game.
"You were practically drooling over whatever you were watching. I was getting worried considering that it was Johnny's room you were looking into." Justin's comment came out with a laugh and Lance felt for a moment that all the guys had been making fun of him.
Lance looked back at the door and half pointed in the direction of the hallway. "Sydney was in there with him."
"There it is!" Joey said. "Pay up Chia Pet!"
Justin groaned. "I just sat down."
"Now Timberlake! A bet's a bet." Joey insisted
Justin pushed himself up and made his way over to his backpack on the table, pulled out his wallet, grabbed out some sort of dollar bill and threw it in Joey's direction. Joey didn't take his eyes off the screen, choosing instead to leave the dollar in his lap for a moment before he grabbed up the bill and stuffed it in his pocket.
"What was that all about?" Lance asked JC. He was a trustworthy sort of guy and wouldn't try to skirt around the issue when Lance clearly was out of the loop on this particular joke.
"You're blushing," JC said simply only showing a little that he was trying not to laugh. Lance always loved that the guy stayed out of all the petty arguments that happened between them. He just always seemed to turn his attention back to his notebook or keyboard or phone call as if the guys weren't around him at all. Lance wished that he could block out everything like that.
"Are too!" They all yelled out.
Lance looked in the mirror and saw that indeed his face was red, but he wasn't about to say that it was a reaction to seeing Sydney. "Am not…wait…you bet that I was blushing?"
Justin nodded with a huge smile on his face.
"Don't worry about it Lance, you always blush around her. Remember when you first met her. She thought your name was Red for the first week."
"Thanks Justin," Lance said, I still can't believe that all you guys can't forget about that."
"But it was so classic!" Justin called, "You were so embarrassed!"
"Just because I walked in on her when she was changing?"
JC looked up again and laughed again. "Awe come on LB, you know it was classic. You were so young and impressionable back then."
"Like he isn't now?" Chris said.
"Whatever. I hate that woman with a passion!"
"Passion. Yeah, that's what it is," Joey chimed in.
"Whatever it was I think she cursed me forever. She's evil," Lance said, "I mean really. She didn't even say good-bye to any of us. What a bitch!"
"What are you talking about?" Chris asked never letting his eyes roam from the television screen. "You're totally whipped. You always have been."
"What?" Lance tried to play off the comment but nervously wondered if Chris knew the truth about him and Sydney.
Suddenly there was a noise from the hallway. Lance glanced over to see Sydney staring at him with wide eyes and her mouth open. He'd meant to get out some of the frustration that he'd been feeling, but he hadn't intended for her to hear what he was thinking, unlike the way that she'd treated him all those times way back when.
* * * * *
[[ Four Years Before… ]]
Surprising Sydney was going to be great. He'd planned it out for a few days and planned to corner her that night after the concert and take her to dinner, well take her for room service. He wanted to return the gestures that she'd shown him in the past few weeks. Like the breakfast that she'd sent up to his room when he'd been a little out of it with a cold.
He'd planned things perfectly and had snuck away from the others, but when he arrived at her room he'd caught her in the middle of a conversation that he was sure he wasn't supposed to hear.
"He's seventeen for God's sake. He can't handle me hugging him tight. How the hell would he handle that!" She yelled into the phone, but wasn't quite angry. She seemed frustrated.
Lance's breath caught in his throat as the words sunk in. He couldn't believe that she'd just said those words and had said them with such conviction.
The person on the other end of the phone must have said something else. "He's a freaking kid! I can't handle babysitting him anymore and…"
Lance turned away from the conversation and walked down the hall. It was over. After all that had gone on, the year friendship and the six months of the relationship was over and he knew that there was no way to fix the damage that his heart had just suffered. They hadn't said the I love you words to each other, but that hadn't stopped his heart from feeling it, despite the information that was in his head that had told him from the beginning that their relationship wasn't permanent.
* * * * *
Two days later she'd left the tour unannounced and he hadn't heard from her since. For that first month Lance had handled the pain of her leaving. He'd been mad by her comments and until that anger had subsided he hadn't shown any sort of emotion when the whole situation was brought up. He'd been doing well until they'd arrived in Chicago he'd been reminded of the night that she's snuck away from Chicago to come to see him. He'd spent two days sick in bed, not from a physical illness, but from the sickness that had settled over his heart.
He knew, from his own experience that he shouldn't explain to her what he'd been talking about, since she hadn't explained to him, but somehow his conscience got to him. "Sydney!" Lance called after her, but by the time he got out of the room into the hallway she'd disappeared.
"Great," he hissed out.
"See I told you he was in love with that girl!" Justin yelled.
Lance stopped and wondered where she'd disappeared to since he hadn't heard a door slam and she wasn't waiting for the elevator. He hadn't meant for things to get out of control like that. He'd actually hoped that he wouldn't notice her while they were on the road, but it seemed like everything it was over now. Everything was out on the table, or at least it was on the table for the two of them, if not the others.
"Justin! Shut up!" Johnny called from down the hall.
"Hey! Lance yelled first!"
"Curly! Shut it!"
The guys burst into hysterics at Johnny's last comment.
"What's with the kid?" Lance asked as they gathered in the hallway to go to the radio spot.
"That's Sydney's daughter," Justin said then took a bite of the bagel he had in his hand and chewed. "Syd has a meeting and no one is going to be here so we're bringing her along."
"Do you think that's a good idea?" Lance asked.
"What's it to you?" Justin said, "I didn't think you'd give two cents about what happens to Syd."
Lance was getting a headache. Sydney hadn't been there even twenty-four hours and she was already messing things up for them. "J, she's a little kid. Can't we just hire someone to baby-sit?"
"Syd already left Dre in charge of her and he's coming with us so she is too."
Lance watched the little girl holding onto Dre's pant leg like it was a lifeline and wondered why Sydney would leave the poor girl in the hands of strangers so quickly.
"Hey Lance, Justy, can you watch Laney for a minute?" Dre called to them. "I gotta go find Joey."
Justin nodded and went over and sat down on the floor next to Laney. "Want some bagel?" he offered.
Lance watched as the pair shared the makeshift breakfast and he felt this strange sensation come over him. As much as he wanted to hate everything about Sydney, her child was amazing. Once she and Justin had made friends she became a very animated. She told Justin that his hair was too curly and expressed that she didn't like baby blue because she was a big girl, not a baby. It was all very sweet, but he couldn't get this strange feeling out of his heart or his mind. There was something different about the girl and he was determined to find out what it was.
"LB, get over here and meet Laney," Justin said.
Lance made his way over, trying hard not to let it look too obvious that he was dragging his feet. He didn't want to make the kid feel bad because she belonged to Sydney.
"Lance, this is Laney," Justin said.
Lance crouched down next to the girl with the teddy bear. He stuck out his hand. "Nice to meet you Laney."
"You have green eyes like me," she said.
Lance saw that she was right. She had slightly curly brownish blonde hair and the same green eyes that he saw when he looked in the mirror.
"Yep," Lance said, "We do have the same color eyes."
"My mommy says that I have green eyes like my daddy."
"Where is your daddy?" Justin asked curiously.
Lance reached out and smacked him. "Don't ask her that. Talk to Sydney about that."
"My daddy has a busy job and can't live with us," Laney said, "He loves me though. He sends me presents all the time."
"Really?" Lance asked. Lance got chills up and down his arm. "How old are you Laney?"
"Three and a half," she said, "My birthday is in the summer time."
"Wow, you are a big girl," Justin said with a laugh. "You're almost as old as my brother Jonathan and my other brother Tyler."
"Jonathan is five already," Lance said, "Right?"
Laney seemed to get bored with the conversation and sat down Indian style next to Justin's feet where she, to Lance's surprise untied Justin's running shoe. "I can tie my shoes," she said and proceeded to tie up Justin's shoe in a knot that definitely was not the normal shoe-tying knot.
"You boys ready?" Dre called to them.
They got up and joined the others at the elevator. Dre got Laney her tiny Barbie backpack and she put it on then held onto Justin's hand while keeping track of her stuffed animal bear with the other hand. She stared up at Lance from where she was standing which he found made him more nervous than he thought it would. He could face a million screaming girls, but the eyes that this one little girl gave him stole his breath away.
A few minutes later they were rushed through the lobby and out to a van that was going to take them to the radio station interview. Lance watched as Dre picked up and held Laney as they went to the van and he held her on his lap as they drove. Lance tried to ignore the girl since she was making him feel so uncomfortable and chose instead to sing silently along with the radio while the others quizzed Laney about her stuffed animal and her mother.
It wasn't until they got close to the radio station that Lance even remembered where they were going. He knew that they were close due to the crowd volume that went from a few people to a few thousand people in a few seconds. He normally wouldn't have thought about the crowd size twice, but he wondered for a moment if Laney was going to be all right in it considering how noisy it would be. Little kids hated loud noises as far as he could remember.
Moments later as they slid the van doors open Lance forgot about Laney and about the crowd. Mike and Wes grabbed him and Justin and pushed them, along with the others towards the door.
The screams were deafening and although Lance had expected a big crowd to be outside the radio station, the crowd that had now lined both sides of the street was more than a little overwhelming. In the van it was something to marvel at, but now, in the middle of it, he was more than a little nervous. When they surged forward he took a breath and held it hoping that the action would keep him from completely freaking out. It was working until he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
He was standing a few people away from them, facing the other way, but when he turned around and saw immediately that Laney was about to burst into tears. He didn't have that much experience with kids himself, but he saw the way her mouth turned into an immediate frown and she began looking around as if she was looking for her mother. She wasn't the confident looking kid that he'd met that morning. She was scared.
He didn't blame the kid. He'd like to burst into tears himself at times like this, but doing that would only cause more trouble than he was already in. The last time he'd cried the guys had been pissy at each other for almost a week.
* * * * *
[[ A Few Months Before ]]
"What’s wrong with him?"
Lance could hear their voices, but he didn't lift his head from where he'd buried it in his arms. Tears were still coming from his eyes as he mulled over a bad day.
He'd gotten up that morning after a poor night's sleep and had been thrown into a van with the others to go to an interview, which in itself was a horrible thing in itself. Then, to top it off, while they were doing a photo shoot for J-14 and J-17 magazines he'd gotten a call from his mother saying that they weren't going to be able to visit him that next time he got home to Orlando. He hadn't seen them in almost four months, due to his schedule. They had things to do with FreeLance and couldn't make it home because there was an audition that they had to go to in San Diego.
He didn't want the guys to see him crying. They hadn't seen him teary eyed since Sydney had left.
"You ok LB?" JC asked.
Lance nodded, but didn't show his face.
"You sure?" Chris asked.
Lance nodded again.
"Come on LB," Justin said, "Lighten up."
He'd said it in a joking way, but the trivial way that he'd spoken of something that was so serious for Lance really hurt him. Lance's head popped up and he wiped his eyes then stormed into the back of the bus.
Lance slammed the door behind him only to hear through the door that he was suffering from PMS. Sometimes he didn't know why he was friends with them. Half the time they didn't understand him at all.
* * * * *
It was a stressful situation they were stuck in and he was surprised that she'd lasted this long without screaming in horror over the surging crowd that had surrounded them. He was a little scared himself, but knew that at least as his age and size he could fight his way out of it if things went really wrong. Laney, on the other hand, was only three feet tall and although she was in Dre's protective arms she seemed too vulnerable without her mother.
"Mom-my!" Laney began to cry drawing out the words until she was almost breathless. Her eyes went from the wide scared look she'd first had to little slits as tears poured out of them and her lips quivered with fear.
Lance pushed through to Dre, going the wrong direction in the natural flow of traffic, and grabbed for her hand. He saw the fear in her eyes when she grabbed onto his hand with hers. Getting closer to her he grabbed her away from Dre. He swung her around so that she was facing him, and put a hand under her bottom to secure her position then pressed her face against his shoulder to hold her steady as they rocked back and forth with the movements of the crowd. Dre almost took a swing at him, when he first reached for the girl, but when he saw Lance was the culprit of the pulling, Dre seemed to realize that he was free to fight off the fans with both hands, giving the trio more of an advantage.
"Laney," Lance said into her ear with a sweet voice trying not to scare her more than she already was. She was shaking already and he didn't want to make it worse by pointing out that he was scared. "It's ok honey. We're going to be fine. Dre and Wes and Mike won't let anything happen. Ok?"
She nodded against him through her tears and crying and held onto her bear tightly, tucking him between herself and Lance's chest. "You're not scared are you?"
She nodded and cried out again, "I want my Mom-my!"
By this time her face was beet red and she looked exhausted from crying. If she had been on the other side of the crowd control she would have looked like all the other girls in the crowd who were screaming and crying out the guys' names.
"Shh…" Lance hugged her again and moved through the crowd as Dre pushed through the people around them towards the radio station.
Laney smelled of Sydney. Lance figured that she must still be using the same kind of shampoo because the smell of the little girl's hair reminded him of the smell of Laney's bathroom after she'd taken a shower, something that brought back too many memories.
* * * * *
Lance stepped out of the shower and grabbed for a towel then looked over at Sydney who'd already wrapped herself in a towel. She was looking at him from behind heavy eyelids. She yawned, "I'm tired."
"You can't go to sleep yet," he said.
Lance tucked the towel around his waist and reached out for her. "Because what you started in there with the shower gel was definitely not enough."
"Well, well," she said with a smile, "Lance Bass the little hornball comes out finally."
"Hey, it's hard not to think about that…"
His face must have turned red because she kissed his cheek. "You're too sweet honey. You can't even think about what we did without blushing."
"I…I…I've never done anything like that before and when you smell so good," he said leaning to smell her hair. "I think for as long as I live, whenever I smell the type of shampoo you use I'm going to think of you, and this night."
* * * * *
The crowd surged again and Lance paid attention only to whether or not Laney was still securely in his arms. He didn't think twice about where his feet were taking him, but once in the building he walked into the elevator with the guys and they were taken to the floor where the studio was. Laney didn't seem to protest against the hug he was giving her, she seemed to lean into him and rest for a moment, something that he was glad for.
When they got to the green room Lance went to set Laney down, but she cried out and grabbed him around the neck. Lance looked frantically over at Joey and Justin. What if he'd done too good of a job and couldn't get her off him?
"Laney, are you ok?" Lance asked.
She nodded no.
"Honey, I need to set you down. You're to much of a big girl to be carried around," he said pulling something from the back of his head to try to help himself out.
She nodded and unclenched her arms from around his neck. Lance set her down on the couch in the room and sat down next to her.
A young redheaded woman who looked to be one of the station representatives came in and asked the guys if they wanted something to drink.
They refused, but Lance asked if Laney wanted some juice or water or something.
She nodded no.
"OH, she's so cute," the station representative said, "Is she your little sister or something?"
"No," Lance said, "She's--"
"She looks exactly like you," the woman interrupted.
Lance's eyes went wide and again the hair stood up on the back of his neck.
"Are you kidding me?" Lance said very offended in a way that the woman was so openly talking to him about something she had no clue about.
All the others seemed to stop what they were doing and stare in his direction. Lance had been feeling something strange all morning, but with the mention of the possibility that Laney looked like him he turned and stared at the little girl as anger rose in him. He'd wondered why Sydney had shown up after so long and conveniently when they were on the rise now that their lawsuit had been settled and the new album had been released.It would be just like Sydney to hide something like that from him, especially since she'd hidden the fact that she hated him so much for so long.
When they returned to the hotel two hours later Laney was asleep in her seat next to Dre. The drive hadn't been that long back to the hotel, but she'd had a long morning and had joined JC in a nap. Everyone piled out and when Dre lifted the girl out of the car she opened her eyes and seemed startled by the changed surroundings. She looked around for a moment and he saw her frown when she didn't see her mom.
"Where's my mommy?" she asked groggily.
"She'll be back soon," Lance said and brought the girl into his arms for the second time that day. Somehow she seemed to fit, which in one instant he wanted to hold onto forever, but then in the next moment he wanted to drop her and never touch her again. She WAS to perfect and she fit too well in his arms not to be his. She seemed to trust him even when she didn't know him at all, something that gave him goose bumps.
This time her grip around his neck was sweet and he could feel her falling back to sleep in his arms as they walked through the lobby. The heat from her flushed little cheek was right where his heart was and he felt, at that moment that if he never got to feel that at peace with life again he it would be a sorry life to live.
In the elevator Dre gave him a strange look across the heads of the others. Lance smiled and looked down at Laney and in that instant he knew that the little life he held in his arms was his own flesh and blood. They were family and the thing that surprised him the most about it was that he WANTED to be this little girl's daddy.
"You going to watch the Lakers game?" Joey asked loudly.
"Shh," Lance said and looked at Laney.
"Sorry," he said.
"I think that Laney needs sleep. I think I'll put her down."
"Considering you know squat about kids, you seem to baby-sit really well, Daddy," JC said with a laugh.
Lance threw a look in his direction that wiped the smile off JC's face.
"Sorry," JC said.
"Are you going to talk to Syd about her?" Justin asked.
Lance made a cutting motion at his own neck with his free hand. "Not in front of her."
They all gave him curious looks. "I'll put her down for a nap and I'll see from there."
"I don't want to take a nap!"
Everyone burst into laughter.
"You wanna watch the basketball game with me and Joey?" Justin asked with a smile rubbing her back.
Laney looked at Lance almost asking for his permission.
"You can do that," Lance said, "You don't have to take a nap."
Laney nodded wildly. "Can Mr. Bear watch too?"
Lance looked around for a moment. "Laney where is Mr. Bear?"
It was almost as if Laney was following his example when she began to look around on the floor. It was almost worse than watching JC looking for his journal. Everyone always joked around about how JC was only hyper two times in his life, the first was when he was on stage and the second was when his journal was out of his possession. They both seemed to freak out immediately as if losing that thing would ruin their whole life.
"Maybe he's in your backpack," Justin offered and opened up the bag.
All Lance saw Justin pull out was the coloring book, a juice box, and her crayons.
Laney's face contorted into what Lance had seen her face look like when she'd been crying earlier.
"Laney, we'll find him. Maybe he's in the van still. You told me that he liked the plane ride, maybe he wanted to drive around again," Lance said in a calm voice hugging her to him for reassurance.
He still couldn't get over the fact that this little girl seemed to trust him so much. He would have thought that she would be very untrusting considering how sly her mother was. Sydney had always been a doubter. She over analyzed things until she was sure she was making the right decision or saying the right thing.
Laney cried in his arms and he felt his heart breaking. He didn't know what to do again. Most times when he saw kinds crying, like in a crowd he tried not to think about it. He made the excuse that they were just over excited about things and that they'd be ok. With Laney, he knew that she was sad and that she was scared and he knew that he didn't want her to feel that way.
"Laney, calm down," Lance said. He leaned and kissed the side of her head. "I'll go find Mr. Bear and tell him that he can't be in the van anymore."
She leaned against him. "I want my mommy."
"I know honey," he said softly, "She'll be back soon."
They settled in for the afternoon to watch the game on television. Lance and Justin ordered a pizza and some cokes and sat watching the game. Laney sat on the floor next to the window coloring in her coloring book after Dre went and found Mr. Bear in the van.
The sounds of the game echoed off the walls of the small room. They had a few hours off and he had hoped to catch a nap since he'd stayed out late the night before, but he found himself wide awake in the room with Joey, Justin, and Laney. Lance wasn't a huge basketball fan, not like the other two guys, but he usually would at least follow the action. That afternoon he couldn't keep his eyes off Laney, much the way that Justin and Joey couldn't keep their eyes off the game. The obsession was horrible until he thought he saw Sydney in the hallway.
Five seconds later Lance was at her door.
When the door flew open Lance pushed his way into the room without an invitation. He'd seen her walk by and head to her room when she'd returned from her trip and no matter how much he tried he knew that he couldn't sit back and let the tension between them stay there, especially if Laney WAS his.
"So when were you thinking of telling me that Laney is my kid?" he asked angrily.0
"What?" she stepped back a little and watched him with nervous eyes. She closed the door to the room and went and sat on the bed.
"Don't play dumb," he said.
"I really don't know what you're talking about."
"Today, when we got to the radio station a woman in the green room asked if Laney was my sister or something…" He began to pace then he stopped and faced her. "The woman said that she looks exactly like me. Hell, even Laney saw that I have green eyes like hers."
Sydney's usual tough exterior began to crack a little. Her lips moved as she mulled over what to say.
"Syd. I can see it in your eyes, hell I can feel it," he said, "I know she's mine."
"So if you know why are you down here asking me when I was going to tell you?" she said.
"Because now I want to know why you hid her from me for almost four years!"
"I had to."
Lance folded his arms across his chest to keep his anger under control.
"She would have ruined everything," she said with tears falling down her face. "I..."
Lance lost it now. His arms flew out of their folded position and he began to pace again waving his arms wildly. "How can you say that about your…our daughter!"
"She's my daughter Lance," she said firmly holding her ground. "You're her biological father, but that child is mine. You have no stake on her."
Lance was truly hurt by her words. "I'm not that petty Sydney. I'm not going to take her away from you or anything, although I think I should after what you did," he said.
There was a huge silence between them.
"I think she knows that I'm her father."
"Today when we got caught in a crowd…"
"You were in a crowd with Laney?" she asked.
She went into panic mode. The same one that he'd gone into earlier in the crowd. They both had the instincts to hold onto their daughter tightly when something bad happened.
"It was fine," he said.
"Is she ok? Where is she?"
"Sydney, that's not the point. She's fine. She's in with Justin. She came right to me, crawled over to me and wouldn't let go, as if somehow she knew that I wouldn't let her get hurt."
"I swear Lance, she doesn't know anything about her father."
"She's knows some things," he said.
"I told her that her daddy loves…" She stumbled over the words as he watched her. She didn't look at Lance when she continued. "I told her that her daddy loves her and that he has a busy job and that he can't live with us."
"You lied to her and told her that I sent things to her."
"I had to do something," Sydney held her breath and watched her toes for a moment.
"Why didn't you tell the truth?" he asked her. "Why didn't you ever tell me the truth?"
"Can you imagine what the tabloids would have done with this? What they'll do with this?" she asked now visibly shaking. "You were a minor and I was technically…"
"Don't pull that on me. We were both there and as I recall neither of us were unhappy about what happened," he said.
"Then why did you come back all of a sudden?" he asked.
"I had to," she said.
"Do you need money?" he asked feeling that it might be something she would do. He'd had his doubts in the last few hours that she would be that callus, but he'd heard of people doing that to people he knew and he didn't want it happen to him.
"No," she said shaking her head.
"Need a job?" he asked.
"No, no, it wasn't that way at all!"
A knock on the door stopped the conversation.
"Who is it?" Sydney called out to the person outside. She wiped her face and looked at the door.
"It's Justin. Laney just woke up and she wants you."
Sydney got up and answered the door to find Justin holding her daughter in his arms carefully as the girl rubbed her eyes and looked around.
She turned back to Lance with Laney in her arms and held her close. "Did you have fun today honey?"
Laney shook her head no. "There was a big crowd and they were screaming and yelling and they were scary."
"Lance and Joey and Justin and Dre all helped me out," she said.
"That’s good honey. I want you to know that all those guys are the good guys. If you need anything you ask them for help, but not anyone else but them."
"Right, cuz I don't talk to strangers."
"Right." Sydney nodded and looked over at Lance who seemed to be upset still.
"I'll explain it to her," Sydney said to Lance hoping that he'd know what she was talking about.
"Do that," he said, "I have to go make some phone calls home."
"You aren't going to tell your parents are you?"
Lance stopped in his tracks and stared at her. He couldn't believe that she was asking him that. She knew the connection he had with his family. She'd been there through all the times that he'd been homesick and wanted to go home. He couldn't believe that she would forget something like that, especially after all those times that he'd leaned on her.
"I can't keep something like this from them."
"You kept us from them."
"That was different," Lance argued.
* * * * *
[[ Almost five years before… ]]
"You can't tell anyone about us," Sydney said.
"Not even my parents?" he asked knowing full well that it wasn't something that he would do, but that he might as well let her squirm a little since she seemed so nervous about it.
"Especially not them! You want me to go to jail?"
"I told my parents I spend time with you," he said.
"You did what?"
"I told them that we were friends."
"Why?" Sydney began to pace. Something that made him feel more nervous about the whole situation.
He knew that what they had going had to be kept quiet and he knew that he shouldn't tell anyone, but what he had told his mother about her could have never been seen as a description of a relationship.
"My mom was worried about me. I had to tell her something. She kept asking why I was so tired all the time so I told her I hadn't been sleeping well and then she asked what I'd done about it so I had to tell her something."
"What exactly did you say?"
"I told her that you had been a great friend to me and had listened to me when I was upset."
"So they don't know how old I am?"
"They know you're older than me, but they don't usually assume that I am into girls. I mean, the one time I did go on a date when I was home back then was to the school dance."
* * * * *
"Lance, they'll know how old you were…" Sydney argued.
"I have to tell them. This is definitely not something that I would be able to explain my way out of if a tabloid picks up on this story. I'm not a teenager anymore Sydney and I know how things work. I need to tell them because it will kill them if they find out any other way!" he spat out at her angrily.
He could hear his mother now if she picked up a tabloid and read that. First of all he'd be disowned, considering that he'd had sex before marriage, secondly they'd hate him forever if he knew about a grandchild that they didn't know about. Thirdly, he needed time to explain to his parents what had happened so they didn't hate Sydney or Laney because of the situation.
"Shh," Sydney said, "You don't have to yell."
"Look," he said gritting his teeth. "I have to make some calls, but this conversation isn't over and she will know who I am."
Lance stalked out of the room with a scowl on his face hoping that they could get along at least a little bit so that he'd be able to have his daughter in his life.
"You did what?"
His mother's voice was one of half shock and half disgust. He'd just dropped the bomb on her that he'd had a daughter. He guessed now that he should have warned her, but she wouldn't have taken it hard which ever way he said it to her. He knew that it wasn't going to be a great conversation, but even her tone made tears come to his eyes. He'd always tried to be a good kid and it was worse for him for his parents to be disappointed in him than if a million fans hated him.
"How did this happen?" He felt for a moment that he was ten years old again and his mother was chastising him for spilling something on the carpet or knocking over a lamp or something. He thought that her reaction would be different, but it seemed as if she'd jumped passed all that and was now into her old ways of giving him a guilt trip. Except this time she was a few thousand miles away.
"Well it happened a while ago," he said. He wasn't sure if he should explain outright when the actual sex act had taken place considering that his mother would be even more shocked and horrified to know that her high school aged boy had become a man long before she would have expected.
"Why didn't you tell me then?" she asked angrily.
"I didn't know mom," he said sitting up from where he had been laying on the bed. Justin was still with Joey watching the game, which was giving him the chance to talk privately to his mother. "I swear I didn't know. If I had known about her I would have told you right away."
"And how old is she?" his mother asked.
"Three and a half."
"Three and a half!?!" His mother's voice cracked and he could just picture the look on her face. "That makes you seventeen when you…"
"Mom, calm down, please don't be mad." He let tears slip from his eyes. Having her yell at him was getting to him worse than he thought. Besides, the pressure of the traveling and the whole Sydney incident was just now catching up with him.
"Honey, I'm far beyond mad. I passed mad a while back. I'm really disappointed in you James Lance Bass. Haven't your father and I told you time and time again how we feel about things like this."
Uh oh. She used his full name. That meant nothing but trouble for him. "I know, I know. I was irresponsible and it's horrible and don't think for a minute that I'm extremely proud about what I did."
"Wait until your father hears about this." His mother sounded instantly tired as if the stress of the situation was already getting to her. "You better hope that he had a good day at the office today."
"Mom, please, you have to explain it to him." Lance cried for a moment, squeezing his eyes shut for a long time before continuing. "I know it doesn't help much or that it should matter, but she's an angel. I've known my daughter for a day and I've fallen in love with her already."
He could hear his mother crying and it broke his heart almost as much as hearing Laney cry earlier that day. Actually it surprised him that comparing the two sets of crying women that his daughter's cry had gotten to him more than his mother's cry which had been the most heartbreaking thing he'd heard before that day. His mom always cried when he left town or when she was proud of him and no matter how many times he'd been put through that show of emotion, her crying that afternoon was tearing him apart.
"James I thought that we raised you right."
"You did mom," he said with a pleading voice. "I know that I've made a mistake, but you have to meet Laney. She's the best little kid and Sydney has raised her right."
"Sydney!" his mother said with a shocked voice. "I knew that you two shouldn't have been that close when you were so young. I always had my suspicisions about you two. You were seventeen and she was twenty-five something. I knew that I shouldn't have left you alone on tour. Where was Justin's mother during all this? Your father and everyone on the tour said that you two were just friends."
"Mom. It's not Sydney's fault. It's no Lynn's fault either. I knew what I was doing," Lance said seriously feeling like he needed to make sure that his mother remembered that he was an adult. Sometimes he liked that she would forget how old he was and treat him like a baby again, but this definitely a time where he needed to make it clear to her that he was an adult. "I think I'm going to bring them home on my next vacation, but only…"
"Of course you have to bring them home." He could already hear the gears working in his mother's head. He could see her already thinking of questions that his mother was going to throw at Sydney.
"I'll only bring them home if you promise that if you have things to say to me and Sydney that you don't involve Laney. She doesn't really have anything to do with all of this."
"So are you and Sydney dating or anything?" his mother asked.
"Not at the moment and I'm not thinking of starting to again just for the sake of our daughter." He took a breath. "I don't know what is going to happen between us, but for the moment I think I'm going to focus on getting to know my little girl. I'll worry about Sydney later."
His mother started to cry again and he knew that he needed to get off the phone. If she was going to be acting this way he knew there would be no stopping her. He didn't want to talk to her like this. He needed a break from everything for a while so that he could get his own thoughts together.
"I'm going to go mom," he said, "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Your father is probably going to be calling you," she said.
"I'll expect his call." Lance knew that his father's conversation with him was going to be worse than his mother's, but he knew that his father only had his best interests in mind.
"I love you honey," she said, "Remember that ok?"
"I will. I love you too mom," he said softly and hung up the phone.
Taking a breath he lay back in bed for a moment holding back the urge to throw his phone across the room. He was pissed off and needed some time away, but when he looked at his watch he knew he wasn't going to get any. If he hurried now he might have enough time for a quick shower, which seemed to be the only time he had to himself lately. He hoped that the hot water, and the time alone would let him relax a little before he had to go out again.
The shower helped him calm down, but he still wasn't really looking forward to going out that afternoon and evening. They had things to do and life had to be put on hold for a few hours. He just hoped that he could get through the night without making it too known that something major was on his mind.
"You ready?" Mike asked in the hallway when he stepped out into the hallway just on time. Normally Mike didn't wait for an answer, since Lance usually was one of the more responsible ones of the group. This time Mike stopped and stared at him. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Lance said and wiped his face again hoping that Mike would just think that he was tired and hadn't been crying on the phone to his mom. "Where are we going again?"
"Over to a talk show then to a special meet and greet party for the radio station you were at this morning."
"What city are we in again?" he asked looking around. Normally he would have remembered something as simple as that, but today everything in his head felt like jell-o.
"You must be losing it," Mike said, "You're never this forgetful."
"I didn't sleep well last night," Lance said, "And that whole thing with Laney this morning freaked me out a little."
Mike studied him for a moment then shrugged. "Well we're in Chicago and you guys are going to be on Oprah."
"Oh," he said. He looked down the hallway. "Have you seen Sydney around?"
"She's in a meeting with Johnny." Mike nodded down the hallway, in the direction they were heading in.
"Where's Laney?" he asked.
"She's in there with them I guess."
"Oh, ok," Lance said and followed the crowd towards the elevator.
When he got to Johnny's door he stopped and knocked on the door and a moment later was let inside. Mike waited in the hallway after Lance explained, "I think she has my cell phone."
"Don't you have an appointment to keep?" Johnny asked.
"I was going to talk to Sydney for a minute before I left," he said with a calm voice looking over at where Laney was sitting next to Johnny at the desk coloring again. She looked up when he spoke and he waved to her.
She smiled back at him then looked at Johnny, "You like this color?"
Johnny nodded and patted her on the back. "Well I'll keep your daughter company then," he said then turned to Laney, "How about we go show Mr. Bear where the candy machine is." Laney nodded and crawled into the arms that Johnny offered.
When the pair walked by Lance put his hand to his daughter's back. "Make him get you and Mr. Bear some gummy bears. Those are the best." Laney nodded and smiled at him.
When the door clicked closed Lance turned his gaze on Sydney. "Johnny knows?" Somehow he thought that Johnny might have known something since he seemed so excited to welcome Sydney and Laney to the tour, but when he thought back there were other times when he thought that he might be up to something sneaky.
* * * * *
[[a year before…]
"Yes, transfer that amount into the other account," Johnny said into the phone. Lance had walked up behind him and was waiting to talk to him while the guy finished up his business on the phone. "Yes, it's into a college fund account with my name and…the name? Laney McAles…yeah that's the one…"
Lance jumped a little when Johnny swung around in his seat and looked up at him. He seemed shocked to see him standing there.
"Hey Lance," Johnny said sounding way too friendly.
"Hey," Lance said with a smile.
"You need to talk to me?"
"I was thinking of taking…" he stopped and stared at him. "Who were you talking to?"
"The bank," Johnny said. "Gotta pay those bills."
Lance laughed and brushed off the fact that Johnny was putting money into a college account when he had no kids of his own and the nieces and nephews that he had were way too young to be saving money for.
* * * * *
"I had to tell him," she said, "He noticed right off that you two looked alike. He knew about her when she was born too, which is something we need to talk about."
"Look. I have to go do this taping, but I think we need to talk," he said, "Tonight."
"Fine," she said, "Come by when you get done with your stuff. I'm sure I can get Dre to baby-sit or something so we can get things settled."
Lance nodded then looked at her, "I told my mother and she's expecting the three of us to come home to Mississippi on our next vacation."
"Fine," Sydney said then looked at him with a half-scared look in her eyes. "Are they upset?"
"They're probably going to be mad at me for a while, but I told them to leave you and Laney out of it," he said. "My mom wanted to know if we were dating again. I told her we weren't and I also told her that I didn't plan on dating you. She'd be trying to push us together if I told her that I was."
She gave him a half smile as if she was trying to give him a little moral support.
He wondered if she really knew how much this really was going to change his life. That morning he would have considered it to be messing up his life, but every time he looked at Laney he knew that whatever trouble came with that little girl, he couldn't look her in the eyes and admit to anyone that she would be messing up his life.
"You'd better go then."
"Yeah," he said. He looked at her one last time and left the room hoping to God that when they spoke again at least some things might get settled. He didn't like the tension between them. It wasn't good for anyone and especially wasn't good for his daughter to see.
"You ok LB?" Mike asked when he returned to the hallway.
"Yeah," Lance said and looked down the hall to see Johnny walking with Laney back from the vending machine. Johnny had Laney's bear in his hand as Laney was concentrating on carrying a can of soda and a package of gummy worms back to the room.
At the moment he hated Johnny for keeping Laney from him, but he trusted Johnny enough to know that whatever he'd done had been for the good of Laney, Sydney and him. If he had known about her sooner he wouldn't have been able to do much for her. The trial had taken up most of the last few months of his life and breaking away from the company that they'd been with since before Sydney left had taken out a lot. Johnny had probably kept them from him knowing that Lance already had too many things on his plate.
As Johnny asked Laney if she needed help Lance found himself wanting to be there with her to help her. He didn't want to go out to meet the fans. His heart screamed to him that he should be trying to make up for the three and a half years that he'd been away from his daughter, but duty called and no matter what he couldn't get out of being on national television for his daughter. It would have brought up questions and the story about his little family would be all over the papers by the next day. She would be there when they got back, even if they got back late that night he intended to kiss his daughter good night.
"Where are you going?"
"No where," Lance said to Wes, who was sitting in the hallway, as he walked down the few doors that separated him from his daughter. It was quiet in the hall, since it happened to be after midnight. Lance knew that his daughter was probably sound asleep, but he'd made a promise to himself to see her before he went to sleep and he was going to keep that promise.
Knocked lightly with his knuckles he leaned against the wall and looked back in Wes's direction. He was watching him with a strange look on his face, but Lance didn't care.
Hearing movement inside the room, Lance straightened up and stood in front of the door. He wasn't going to smile, but he let one slip when Sydney opened the door and stood in front of him in her pajamas. She had pulled her curly hair up into a ponytail and he found himself watching the stray pieces that had fallen against her cheeks for longer than he should have. He covered his distraction by being a smart-ass. "Still wearing old t-shirts to bed? That's no way to get a man."
* * * * *
[[ Four Years Before…]]
"Give me a break…ok?" she said with a laugh letting him into the apartment. "I didn't expect you here so I wasn't planning on doing a fashion show."
"Well you look…" He let his eyes wander over her for a moment and smiled. "I'm glad that I came when I did, you need some help girl."
"Help?" she asked answering him in a flirtatious manner. It was his first time at her apartment and he was glad that she was keeping things light and easy between them.
"Yeah," he said and pulled her into a hug. I mean, this shirt is just…well it isn't that sexy. You're never going to catch a man in this."
"I thought I already had one."
* * * * *
Sydney had been rubbing her eye, but stopped when she heard his comment. "Lance, she's asleep, leave her alone."
He broke out of his thoughts to glare back at her cocking an eyebrow at her. "Let me in Sydney." It wasn't a question. It was a command.
Sydney stood her ground, "Lance, please? It's late and she's asleep. You're gonna wake her up."
Lance pushed passed her, knocking slightly into her shoulder then motioned for her to close the door. No one in the hallway needed to hear their conversation. He walked calmly over to the bed where Laney, wrapped in tiny pink pajamas along with Mr. Bear, was asleep on her stomach and watched her for a moment. He thought he heard Sydney start to say something when he reached to tuck the blanket around her, but no words came out when he proceeded to lean and kiss his daughter's forehead.
When he was done and satisfied that she was safe he turned back to face Sydney. "I didn't wake her up," he said in a loud whisper. "That's all I wanted to do."
He walked over to Sydney and leaned in towards her. He used a firm voice, but kept it to a whisper. "I want her to have breakfast with me tomorrow before we do our sound check."
She watched him, blinking only twice before she asked, "What time?"
"At eight," he said, "I'll come by and get her." He left her standing there staring at him leaving. It wasn't the most adult-like approach to everything, but needed to make it known that he was going to be a part of her life.
Leaving the hotel room Lance stared at Wes for a moment in the hallway then made his way into Johnny's hotel room, only pausing for a moment to knock on the slightly open door. He went inside without an invitation and closed the door once he was inside.
With a smile on his face, Johnny looked up at him from his place at the desk where he was on the phone and held up a hand for a moment. His smile faded when he saw the look on Lance's face.
"Yeah, that sounds good. I'll have our new assistant Sydney help with the details in the morning. We should be there around eleven and I'll have Sydney call you first thing." He paused for a moment to write something down. "Yeah. By seven. I'll make sure you hear from her. Ok. Yeah. I'll see you then."
Johnny continued to write something on his notebook in front of him as he clicked off his cell phone then looked over at Lance. "You need something Lance?" He used a fatherly tone that Lance found annoying at the moment.
"Why didn't you tell me about my daughter?" he asked. He promised himself that he was going to be calm when speaking to Johnny. He didn't want to burn any bridges with him, but he wanted him to know that he wasn't at all pleased with the way things had been handled.
Johnny began to speak then stopped and motioned to the bed next to the desk. "Have a seat Lance."
"No. I want to know…" he paused for a moment when his voice began to rise as each word slipped from his lips. "I wanna know how after all the crap…all the fucking shit…that went on with Pearlman that you could lie to me like that."
"It was better this way."
"Better for who?" Lance asked angrily. "Better for you? Not having to deal with the press issues? Better for Sydney since she wouldn't have to deal with me? Or was it better for my daughter to not know me?" His voice was almost at a yell by the time he finished.
"Calm down," Johnny said in a soothing tone. "The trial was going on when I first found out that Laney was yours. I didn't want to throw that into the mix with everything else," Johnny said, "You all were so stressed already that Sydney and I decided to keep it a secret. Sydney and Laney have been doing fine, I've made sure of that over the last year. She wanted to tell you about her earlier, but I didn't want her to."
Lance moved from where he'd been standing and took a seat. He leaned over and perched his elbows on his knees and stared at Johnny with a defeated and tired look. "Why not?" Lance found his voice coming out in a pleading tone now. "Why didn't you think that I could handle this?"
"You've had maybe a month off from work in the last year. Between--" Johnny stopped and looked at him. "Lance, I genuinely am sorry for doing this, but--" He stopped again when Lance looked up at him then got up and left the room. "Lance?"
Lance stopped back and looked at him with the hurt he was feeling showing in his eyes. "Look…" He took a breath, "I don't know what you and Sydney were up to, but this is going to stop. Laney is my daughter…" He paused for a moment and let the statement he'd just made sink in for a second. "…if you ever keep anything from me like this again Johnny, we won't be on speaking terms."
Johnny didn't seemed to shocked with his threat and sat back in his chair and watched Lance with a serious look on his face as Lance exited the room.
Three stops down, one more to go.
When he saw Joey's door open he turned to look in. JC, Justin, Joey and Chris somehow had gathered together and were playing cards. He didn't know that they'd planned a poker game, but the four of them were sitting around the table in the small room throwing down cards and insults at each other.
"Your mama's so fat…" Justin started to say then noticed Lance and stopped.
"What's up LB?" JC asked throwing down the sugar packets that the guys were using for chips.
"I have some news," Lance said.
"Shit. Did they cancel our vacation again?" Chris said giving JC a happy look before throwing down his cards. "Full House. Read it and weep."
JC didn't seem to notice Chris's antics. "Spit it out Lance!"
Lance took a breath. "That girl today was right about Laney."
"What?" Joey asked and turned around in his seat to look at Lance.
"Laney is my daughter."
A quiet filled the room. He didn't know what to say so he sat down on the bed. "I'm a dad."
"Holy Fuck," Justin said letting his cards drop to the table. "See I told you that he was sleeping with Sydney back then!"
Lance threw Justin an angry look then flopped onto his back to stare at the ceiling. "What the hell am I gonna do with a kid?"
"You seemed fine with her today," JC said in a soft voice. "Besides, Sydney is going to be around. It's not like she's dropping her off on you."
"Yeah, I mean there are what…fifty or so of us on tour…it's not like you're going to be left completely alone with her or something…" Justin said, "You know how to take care of kids anyway. You always have fun with my brother's and Taylor."
"Damn J, you sound like his mother," Chris said and got up from the table. "Speaking of that? Did you tell your mom?"
"I called her earlier."
"I take it that it didn't go well," JC said.
"Ah yeah, they all celebrated," Lance said.
"Did you tell your dad?" Justin asked.
"Nope, not yet. I hope my mom can explain it to him because I definitely don't want to have to break the news to him."
"You're gonna get your ass chewed!" Chris said with a laugh.
"I don't care," Lance said trying to convince himself. "I've got this great kid and I'm not going to regret having her."
Chris stared at him from across the room.
"You just met her," Chris said, "You barely know the girl and she belongs to Sydney. I never thought I'd see the day that you were happy having Sydney around. After she left--"
Lance sat up. "I know. I hate her, but that's no the point. I've fallen in love with my daughter already."
"What are you gonna do about Sydney?" JC asked.
"I don't know yet."
"Are you going to--"
"I don't know what I'm going to do about her. I know that I have to tolerate her because of Laney, but I don't know if I'll be able to handle her. She's fighting me on everything. I had to force my way into their room just to say goodnight to Laney. I don't want to have to be like that with her. It's not good for either of us or for Laney."
"You are obsessive about this little girl aren't you." Justin stared at him.
Lance didn't like the look in Justin's eyes. It was a cold and empty look, as if he didn't know Lance anymore, that this one little addition to his life had turned him into another person instantaneously. It was scary to see that transformation in his eyes.
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Last updated: 09/19/04.