When Lance heard his name he looked out into the stadium to see if he could see who was yelling at him. He didn't see anyone so he lifted Laney into his arms and held her close. He thought he heard his name again, but all he could see was darkness so he didn't stop what he was doing.
"Ready Little Bit?"
She nodded. He had a feeling that she might be a little scared, but she didn't show it so he followed out his plan.
"Lance!" Sydney ran towards the stage as Lance was lifted into the air a few feet with Laney holding on to him. He had his arms carefully wrapped around the wires that were hooked onto his waist so that he could balance and keep her in his arms. He could remember some of the first times when he'd gotten hooked up to the wires back when he hadn't been able to stand upright, but with practice he now could do a lot of things on the rafters that he'd never imagined he'd be able to do.
Lance pushed his wire headset microphone away from his mouth and smiled at Laney. "Wave to your mom," he said with a smile holding onto her tightly.
Laney looked a little scared, but he had asked her before if she wanted to go up in the air with him and she'd been excited about it so he'd brought her up with him. She shook her head no that she wasn't scared and kept a tight hold around his neck.
"You aren't afraid are you?" he asked.
She nodded no and hugged him tighter.
Lance laughed a little and looked out over the empty arena. That night was going to be crazy, but it seemed for the moment that the joy of having his daughter in his arms was enough for him. "Look, you can see everything up there. Look, there's Uncle Johnny and Mike and Wes and Lonnie and everyone. See we're flying."
"Yeah! Like Superman!" Joey said a few feet away from them where he was flipping, literally, head over heels in the air. "I knew that I shouldn't have packed up my cape again!"
Laney watched Joey with wide eyes pressing her head to Lance's neck tightly. "He's gonna fall."
"No he won't," Lance said, "He does that all the time."
Laney held onto him harder.
"Laney honey you're choking me a little. Don't worry. I won't let you go."
He'd spent the morning at breakfast trying to get Laney to trust him more. She'd tried French Toast for the first time and had ended up liking it which had given him the hope that they were a lot more alike than he'd first thought. Sydney had almost had a fit when she poured most of the maple sugar onto her plate, but Lance didn't care. She was having fun and what was a little syrup between father and daughter.
"I know," she said.
"Here, look," he said softly as they stopped about ten feet off the stage. He swung his feet a little and they began to swing back and forth a little like a regular swing. "Fun?"
Laney nodded then looked down a little at her mother. "I think we're in trouble."
"JAMES LANCE BASS GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE!" Sydney screamed.
Lance looked down to where she was now standing almost under them. He saw the fear in her eyes and knew that he should get down. He'd scared Sydney by bringing Laney up into the air with him, that was easy to see. He hadn't thought much about it before that. He'd checked the rigging before he'd taken her up into his arms. Besides, it was safe enough. They'd brought Justin's little brother Jonathan and Chris's little sister, Taylor up into the rafters with them before so he'd figured that it would be ok to take Laney up a few feet and swing a little.
"Damn it Lance get the hell down here. Now!" she screamed again when he didn't move. She stomped her foot and he swore that he saw steam coming out of her ears like in the cartoons. Although he would have loved for her to go completely nuts in front of everyone, he thought it might scare Laney so he prepared to go down by trying to make himself stop swinging.
A loud voice boomed over the sound system in the arena. "What in God's name is going on up there?"
"Ooh…it's the all powerful Wizard of Oz!" Chris yelled from where he was hanging on the far side of the stage. He went into a fit of laughter and had to wiggle around a little to get his balance back.
Justin, who was in the middle of the five flying men, adjusted his microphone in front of his mouth, and spoke to Tim who was no doubt watching them from the equipment platform out in the middle of the arena floor. "Sorry about that Tim! Sydney is having a fit up here!"
"Justin Timberlake you'd better stay up in the rafters!" Sydney said angrily at him.
"Oh, come on Sydney, lighten up. We're just having a little fun," Lance said. "Right Laney?"
Laney nodded and took that moment to bravely wave to her mother. Lance couldn't have asked for better timing, but it still wasn't going to save his butt from the mess he'd created.
"Lance get her down here NOW!" Sydney stomped her foot with her last word.
"We're coming, we're coming," Lance said with a laugh and readjusted his microphone in front of his mouth. She was making him look bad in front of everyone, but there wasn't much he could do. He didn't want her to have any bigger of a fit. "OK guys, get me down."
Slowly they were lowered to the stage and before Lance could get his feet onto the floor Sydney was ripping Laney out of his arms and hugging her tightly to her as if Lance was some kind of a kidnapper and had stolen Laney from her.
Lance slid out of his microphone and watched Sydney's crazy reaction. "Sydney, calm down will ya?" Lance said with a laugh as she hugged Laney to her. "You're gonna strangle her."
"Lance, you leave us alone," she said and started to stormed off.
"Look at her Sydney, she's gonna cry in a--" Before he could continue Laney burst into tears, but the surprising thing was that she reached away from her mother towards him. He clicked out of his flying harness and went after her. He grabbed her up in his arms and held her close glaring at Sydney.
"What did you do to her?" Sydney said.
"Don't fight," Laney said hugging Lance. "Daddy didn't meant to get me in trouble."
"Honey we're not fighting. Your father and I are just having a little…" She stopped and stared at Lance for a moment then looked at Laney.
"Daddy didn't mean it," Laney cried, "Don't fight or Daddy will go away again." A sob caught in her throat and she coughed. "I don't want Daddy to stay away from us."
Everything in the room stopped and it seemed as if nothing could be heard except her crying.
"Laney," Lance said calmly, his eyes still on Sydney, who looked just as shocked as he did to hear Laney call him Daddy. "Laney, honey look at me."
Lance lifted her eyes to his and he watched her for a moment. "Honey, I'm not going to go away again."
"You aren't?" she asked.
He nodded no and glared at Sydney. "What have you been telling her about me?"
Avoiding his eye contact had always been easy for her. She'd done it on numerous occasions back when they'd been seeing each other and he would want to say something to her and she wouldn't want to sneak away from everyone to talk.
"Nothing," Sydney said softly. "She knows that you weren't around."
"I wasn't around because YOU WOULDN'T LET ME BE THERE!" Lance yelled.
He winced when Laney cried again.
"Come on guys. We have to get this rehearsal done!" Tim's voice boomed out. Chris made another Wizard of Oz reference that Lance didn't quite hear.
"Honey, go with your mom and wait and we'll have lunch together later."
After a moment of hesitation Laney wiggled out of Lance's hands and plopped down on the stage floor. "Ok Daddy."
When Laney was out of earshot with her mother Lance felt his knees go a little weak. He walked over to the back part of the stage where the stairs were and sat down.
"You ok Lance?" Justin called down to him from his spot in the air.
Rubbing his face Lance thought for a moment about what had just happened. His daughter knew who he was and it seemed as if Sydney hadn't told her. She'd been just as shocked about hearing their daughter call him Daddy as he had been.
"Come on Lance, get back up here so we can get this done," Chris yelled down to him.
Lance stood up and took a deep breath, calmed himself down and went back to work. Today was going to be a tougher day than he had expected. He just hoped that Laney knew that it wasn't going to be a good thing if she burst out like that about him being her father. He didn't want to deny her of anything, but he knew that the news of his fathering a child was going to be a touchy subject with more than a few people and he didn't want it to get leaked to the press just yet.
"Why'd you do that?" Her tone shattered the momentary silence of the room making him jump a little. He hadn't heard the door open, but there was no mistaking who was in the room with him and that she was angry.
The dread of dealing with her now made him physically sick to his stomach and he let out a groan before he answered.
"Do what?" he asked as he raked the towel over his head to clear away some of the sweat left from the show.
"You promised her lunch and then didn't come to eat with her." She made it sound as if he'd planned things to get hectic that way.
"What do you want Syd? I'm working." He tried to stay calm.
"Well don't make promises," she said firmly.
"I'm sorry," he said softly watching her closely. "It's not like I wanted to break the lunch thing, but I'm working and you know well enough what that means." He pulled the towel around his neck and held onto the ends to keep his hands busy. He knew that if he let them hang loose they would show his nervousness. He didn't want her to know that he was the least bit self conscious about being alone with her.
"Just don't do it again." She turned and began to leave.
Lance let out a huge breath. "I can't do that."
"She's your daughter!"
"I know that!" He took a breath when he heard his voice raise. "I'm saying that I can't promise that I won't break promises to her."
"Well don't make them then." She turned again and left the room.
He pulled the towel from around his neck and threw it at the door letting out a loud yell as it hit the door and fell to the ground. He began to pace back and forth trying to keep himself in the room. He knew that if he followed her out into the hallway they would get into a fight that Laney might see, but would also be in a semi-public place.
A moment later the door opened and Wes stuck his head in the door. "You ok in here?"
Lance was still pacing, but let his gaze fall on Wes. He was mumbling his comments, looking like a crazy mad-man, but he knew if he yelled out half the stuff he was thinking Laney might hear it and he'd made himself a promise not to let her see him like that. If he and Sydney weren't getting along, Laney would be the last person to know about it. He'd seen the way she'd been scared earlier when they were disagreeing and he never wanted to see that look on her face again.
"Jesus!" Wes ducked back out of the room, leaving Lance alone to pace.
When he got tired he flopped onto the lone couch in the room and threw an arm over his eyes trying to block out the light of the room. He was having a hard time keeping his temper with her. He didn't want to lose it, even if he did feel that the situation called for it. He wasn't going to let Sydney be in control again. He couldn't go through that a second time.
Where did she get off telling him how he should and shouldn't act when it came to Laney? She was in no way, shape, or form, in the position to act like the angelic mother after what she'd done. He hadn't had a chance to be a dad to Laney and she needed to know that it was going to take some time for him to get to used to the idea of it. If he made a few mistakes along the way he was sure that it wouldn't be any worse than how Sydney had acted the years he'd been away from Laney. After all, she'd made the worst mistake of all; keeping Laney from him.
When someone knocked on the door Lance wasn't in the mood to receive visitors, but instead of refusing the visit he called out, "Come on in." He hoped that his voice didn't sound too angry.
A moment later Wes pushed through the door carrying a very sleepy looking Laney who was clutching with one arm to Wes's neck and had tucked Mr. Bear to her cheek like a pillow. She wore pajamas and seemed to be on her way to sleep, although when she saw him she smiled and waved.
"Laney wanted to say goodnight before you go and get on the bus."
"Come here little bit," he said and reached for her. He sighed at the sight of her sleepy smile and the way that she unlatched herself from Wes and crawled into his arms, sleeping resting her cheek against his shoulder.
"I don't want to go to bed yet," she said with a yawn.
"But everyone is going to go to sleep soon," Lance said. He looked over at Wes hoping that he would back him up.
"Yeah, we're gonna go out on the bus and go to bed," Wes said. He faked a yawn and said, "We should go find your mom and make sure that she's gonna go to sleep soon too."
"Daddy can I got on the bus with you? Mommy says that I have to stay with her and go to the hotel then go on the bus later, but I wanna go with you."
"I think we can do that," Lance said with a smile. He kissed her forehead and said, "Let me get my backpack and we'll go find her."
Lance was about to put Laney down so he could pack up, but she wouldn't let him so he balanced Laney on his hip and stuffed everything in his backpack. He looked for his phone, pager, palm pilot, and security tags then looked at Wes. "Got everything?"
Wes looked around for a minute then nodded and held the door for them as Lance swung his backpack on and carried Laney out into the hallway.
Sydney was just down the hall so he waved her over.
"You want me to take her so you guys can hit the road?"
"No," he said, "Actually I was going to ask if Laney can come on the bus with us tonight. I mean look at her, she's already tired, might as well get her to sleep as soon as we can."
Sydney stared at him and he knew it was because what he had said had been so responsible sounding. Lance knew well enough, from previous experience with Justin's little brother's and Chris's sisters that getting the kids to bed sooner than later was a good thing.
"So can she?" he asked.
"You sure you want to take her for the night?" Sydney leaned and touched Laney's forehead and then leaned and kissed her.
Lance knew that if they had been a couple he would have leaned and kissed Sydney then. It was a Kodak moment that he wished he could enjoy, but he knew he couldn't. It wasn't in the cards for them to be together, no matter how much he wanted to be there for Laney, he knew he wouldn't be able to stand to be connected with Sydney like that again. She'd crushed him when she'd left and he didn't want to go through that again.
"Yeah, she can sleep in the back bed and watch a movie or something," Lance said then looked at Laney, "You wanna watch a movie with Uncle Joey and me?"
She nodded then returned to her half-asleep position in his arms.
"Well give me a hug first," Sydney said.
Laney leaned and hugged her mother then settled back into Lance's arms.
"Honey, be good ok?" Sydney said, "I love you and I'll see you in the morning. You go to sleep and when you get up in the morning we'll go and get breakfast."
"Can I have pancakes?" she asked.
"I think we can find pancakes," Sydney smiled and made eye contact with Lance for a moment. "Maybe your dad can have breakfast with us to if he doesn't have to work."
Lance made a face at Sydney. He couldn't believe that she was pushing him into another situation like that. She knew he couldn't make the promises, but she was forcing him to do it anyway. "I'll check the schedule before we go to sleep."
They said their good-byes and Lance headed towards the bus that he shared with Joey.
"Hey you two," Joey said licking his lips as he stuffed a piece of leftover pizza in his mouth. He waved and said, "You guys sharing the bus tonight?"
"Yeah," Lance said, "I think though that it's time for Laney to go to sleep."
"I don't want to go to bed," she said.
"Well I need to take a shower so why don't you sit with Joey for a while then we'll watch a movie."
Laney nodded and crawled out of Lance's arms and slid into the bench seat on the far side of the table from Joey. He slid her a piece of pizza and asked her about her day as Lance left the room. He wasn't sure if he should leave Laney with him for too long, but he did need a shower and he didn't need to have her throw a fit or something if he made her go into his bunk right away to go to sleep.
When Lance returned to the front of the bus a while later wearing his sweats and a T-shirt to sleep in he found the room empty except for Wes who was on the phone. The bus had already pulled out and he knew that Joey and Laney had to be somewhere so he turned around and went into the back of the bus to see if they were watching a movie.
"What are you two watching?" he asked as he checked in on them. They were sitting on the big bed in the back watching the television.
"It's a daddy movie daddy," Laney said with a smile.
Lance glanced over at the television just as Adam Sandler's character in Big Daddy asked his roommate's girlfriend about her job at Hooter's. "You can't have her watch this," Lance reached and flipped off the television knowing that it wasn't exactly a kid's movie.
"Hey!" Joey protested.
"Hey!" Laney said mimicking Joey.
"We were watching that!" Joey said.
"Yeah!" Laney said looking over at Joey only to get praised for her comment.
Lance made a face at Joey who faked a yawn and immediately left the room. "I'm going to bed."
Laney looked at him. "Where are you going?"
"I have to get to sleep," Joey said.
"Can we play cards tomorrow?" she asked.
"But of course," he said and left the room.
Lance watched Joey leave then looked at Laney. "Are you ready to go to sleep?"
"No," she said.
"Excuse me?" he said.
She folded her arms across her chest, something he figured that she'd probably seen Sydney do. "No. I wanna watch a movie. You said I could watch a movie."
Lance thought that he could reason with her a little so he tried. "Well honey we don't have any kids movies so you can't watch them."
She pouted. "But you said I could watch a movie!"
"Laney, don't pull this on me. You need to go to sleep and so do I." Lance's day was too long for this. He didn't need to deal with a crabby little kid now.
"I'm not pulling anything," she said, "I wanna stay up and watch a movie!"
"Laney, come on now. I'm going to sleep and you're gonna sleep in the empty bottom bunk."
"I don't want to!" she yelled.
Wes came into the room when her scream filled the air. "What in God's name is going on in here?"
"Lance told me that I was pulling something and that I couldn't watch a movie."
"Laney honey, it's time to go to sleep. I don't think your mom would like you to be up this late. You promised that you were going to be a good girl and I would hate to have her know that you weren't going to sleep when you should. You need rest. You don't want to fall asleep while you're eating your pancakes in the morning do you?"
"No," Laney said as if the threat of her mother and the added pressure about the pancakes had changed her mind.
"So can we go to sleep now?" Lance asked.
"Yes," she said and flopped back onto the bed and curled up to a pillow.
"We're gonna sleep in the bunks."
"I don't wanna," she said.
"Why don't the both of you sleep back here? Everyone else is going to bed anyway." Wes smiled at Lance then at Laney.
Lance wanted to groan again at the thought of how much he hated the fact that Laney was so much like her mother. Laney had gotten her way, but that was going to change soon enough. He might have let Sydney control his life for more than a few years. Laney wasn't going to boss him around that way at all, starting the next morning he was going to make sure that Laney knew her place and that Sydney reinforced the values that he thought she should have.
Lance let his weight lean against the wooden hotel room door as he took the credit card looking key from the electronic lock so that he could push his shoulder against the door to let himself in the room. Normally the action would have been a smile one, after all, the door wasn't that heavy, but that night he had to push a little harder than normal and chose to accentuate the action with a groan, just for good measure.
It had been an extremely long night and an even longer day. He'd checked his watch in the elevator and had found that it was only two in the morning, but it seemed way later than that to him. He'd been up since the crack of dawn, or at least he'd thought it had been dawn. He'd actually missed the sun coming up since he'd left for an interview before the sun actually came up. He'd spent the rest of the day running from one interview to another then had performed the show before he'd gotten a chance to pause for a minute to think and at this point in his evening there was only one activity he could think about. He needed sleep. At five or six hours would do him until he had to repeat that days' schedule the next day.
Lance leaned over and flipped on the light so that he didn't trip over anything in the room. Melinda had informed him on the way up in the elevator that his bags had been brought up to the room and were waiting for him. He'd been trying hard to stay awake as he leaned against the wall, but he reminded himself to not go into the room in the dark. He knew that they would be left either on the bed or at the foot of the bed and he knew that he didn't want to trip over the bags. The last thing he needed was to sprain an ankle on something stupid like that.
He jumped at the sound of the voice and prayed that instant that a fan hadn't broken into his room. Although it had happened to him before, it always scared the living day-lights out of him. He thought about Laney for a minute. He was definitely going to have to make better security arrangements if Laney was going to spend more time with him on the road. He wasn’t going to have her go through seeing a fan attack him. He knew that was definitely something she didn’t need to see.
The light flipped off again and a moment later Lance saw Sydney standing in what he saw was the bathroom doorway. He hadn't really noticed before, but the light in that room was on and it was acting as sort of a night light effect for the bedroom.
Sydney was almost the last person in the world that he would have suspected to be standing in his room. He looked around. This was his room wasn't it? Those were his bags on the bed, weren't they? He squinted at the key in his hand. He'd thought he'd grabbed the right key, but maybe he had grabbed the wrong one. He was so tired they could have given him the key to a broom closet and he would have taken it.
Pulling the door shut behind him, Lance enclosed the room into more darkness again. He dropped his backpack onto the floor next to where he was standing then shoved it with his foot so that it was out of the way. Its final resting place was next to an endtable looking thing that had a lamp on it. "What are you doing in here?"
Sydney moved away from the door and as his eyes adjusted to the dark he saw her standing, leaning against the wall watching him. He could see that she'd been sitting in one of the chairs in the room, probably curled up in a blanket from the looks of it. A lap blanket had fallen onto the floor and there was a pillow laying over one of the arms of the chair. "I asked them to book us in the same room." She didn't sound at all shy about it, which worried him. He just prayed that she wouldn't pick tonight to start to try to seduce him again. He was too tired to play games.
"I had the manager switch my room to be with yours."
"You did?" He asked coming towards her. He wanted to see clearly the look in her eyes. He didn't want to get tricked into something this time. He wasn't going to go through that again. "Why?"
Sydney stepped forward and put a hand on his chest. She moved her head so that she was looking towards the queen sized bed at the far side of the room. He didn't see anything there and it amazed him that she was acting so strangely. "Shh."
Lance stepped away from her, his anger rising a little. He didn't like her being in his room and he really didn't like that she was changing plans that effected him. "Why do you keep shushing me?"
Sydney put a hand up. "Because your daughter is asleep," she said softly.
"So now she's my daughter?" He said with a laugh. "Did she do something wrong?"
Lance slid out of his shoes and kicked them against the wall where his backpack had been discarded. "My mom always used to tell my dad that HIS SON was waiting to get punished if I did something bad."
"No, she didn't do anything bad. Shh. You're gonna wake her up," she said in a loud whisper.
Somewhere in the darkness a small rustling sound came from the direction of the bed then a small voice asked, "Mommy?"
Sydney stared at Lance. "Or at least she was until you woke her up," she whispered and walked towards the bed, getting onto the mattress beside their daughter to comfort her.
"Mommy is Daddy coming home soon?" His daughters voice came again from the darkness.
He marveled at the thought of that. His daughter. He wasn't sure if he'd ever get used to the sound of the label. Not that it was a bad thing at all. It was just almost too amazing to think about.
Lance reached to push the bathroom door further open and the room lit up so that he could now see his daughter laying in bed alone hanging onto Mr. Bear for dear life.
"Hi pumpkin," he said. A smile automatically formed on his face as he made his way over to the bed. He found his voice sounding a little strange. He'd always been fairly soft spoken, but it was as if he somehow knew a certain voice to use with Laney that he didn't use with anyone else, or at least he couldn't remember using with anyone else.
"Hi Daddy." She sat up and groggily hugged him, wrapping her arms around his middle and squeezing him tightly.
"Did you go to work?" She asked. Lance watched her eyes drift open and shut. He still couldn’t believe that she was his. Her eyes matched his to a T and it was like looking in a mirror at himself. It was the one saving grace of all this, that she was part his, well half his.
"Yep," he said and helped her lay back down. He tucked her back into bed then glanced at Sydney. He couldn't see her face well in the darkness of the room since the light from the bathroom was now behind her, causing her face to be a dark silhouette against the wall, but he could almost sense that she was amazed with the way he acted with their daughter.
"Did all the people clap loud?" Laney asked with a laugh.
"Yep," he said with a smile, although he wasn’t sure that she could see him, "My ears hurt from it." He accentuated his words by rubbing his ears.
"Wow," she said and he her yawn. "Didn’t Wes tell you to wear ear muffs?"
"I wear a certain kind of ear plugs, remember, I showed you them?"
"Yeah," she said sleepily.
"Anyway, those make it better for my ears, but the crowd is pretty loud."
"Like when we went to the radio place?" She asked.
"I think it was louder than when we went to the radio station."
"I don’t know," she said with another yawn, "That was pretty loud."
Lance heard Sydney laugh a little at her comment. He prayed that she’d forgiven him for taking her out in that crowd. If he had known that it was going to be that crazy he would have left her in the hotel with a baby-sitter.
"Why don't you go back to sleep pumpkin. I'll tell you about my day tomorrow at breakfast."
"Ok Daddy," she said and he could see her snuggle back into the covers.
Lance glanced at Sydney. "Can we talk?"
There was a long hesistation then he heard her reply, "Sure."
"In the bathroom?" He suggested and pushed himself off the bed.
"Uh, yeah." She got up and followed him into the bathroom. Lance leaned against the counter as he watched her close the door most of the way shut so that they wouldn't wake up Laney again.
"What do you need?"
"First off I don't want you making decisions like that again," he said taking a breath.
"Decisions like what?" She asked.
Sydney moved across the room and sat on the edge of the bathtub. That was when Lance noticed the bubble bath bottle and the small yellow rubber ducky sitting on the far edge of the bathtub. "I'm sorry. Laney wanted to see you before she went to sleep, but it got late and she fell asleep."
"I don't mind that you want to manipulate things so that my daughter can see me, but really you and I don't need to be having this much contact."
"Yes we do!" She said suddenly.
"No we don't," he said, "And keep it down Miss Hypocrite."
Sydney covered her mouth with her hand and stared at him for a long moment before speaking. "We do need to be in contact."
"Why's that?" He was tired and he shouldn't have been that rude with her, but it was hard not to keep the past from creeping up.
He heard her groan loudly then take a huge breath. "Because no matter how much you hate me, and believe me, you haven't at all tried to hide that feeling, your daughter needs to be in your life and that means that I'm going to be around because I'm not going to hand her over to you. Not now or ever!"
"I'm not expecting you to hand her over. I never said that. I can’t believe that you’d even bring that up. I would think that you know me better than that. You know how important family is to me and I’m not going to deny my daughter of her mother."
Lance moved, pushing himself more onto the counter so that he could sit instead of leaning. "We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. I've already put in a call to my lawyer and I'm sure another one can be made and we can settle this in court. I'm sure that your side will be great. After all, you not only didn't tell me about my daughter, but you kept her from me and from the financial means that would keep her--"
"Don't you dare!" She said angrily. "Don't you dare think for a minute that I'm going to let you say that I didn't take care of our daughter well."
Lance chuckled. "Like the way it feels?"
She rolled her eyes. "Like the way what feels?"
"The idea that you aren't in control. You did that once to me Syd and I'm not going to let it happen again and if I have anything to do with it, you surely aren't going to do that to my daughter."
Lance took a breath. It was time to end this for the night. He was in no mood to fight with her and he didn't think that he should have to. "Can you leave me alone so I can get a shower?"
"What?" She asked with an astonished look on her face.
"Daddy! Wake Up!"
Lance's stomach flip-flopped as the bed bounced up and down underneath him. If he hadn't known better he would have thought a whole roomful of WWF wrestlers were using his bed for a wrestling ring, but instead he slowly he opened his eyes and looked up to see Laney bouncing on the bed. She wore her pajamas still, but it didn't stop her from doing her gymnastics routine next to where he'd stretched out across the bed.
"Honey, I love you, but if you don't stop I'm going to puke!" He covered his head with his pillow and tried to keep himself in the sleep coma that he'd fallen into the night before after his shower.
"Laney!" Sydney's voice boomed in the silent room. "Get off the bed. I told you that we weren't going to wake up your dad until after I got my shower."
There was a big bounce and the shaking of Lance's mattress stopped. He opened his eyes to find that Laney was now sitting Indian-style staring at him.
"Yes?" he asked feeling that there was a question coming his way.
"Get up Daddy. It's breakfast time."
"What time is it?"
"It's already seven. It's time to get up!"
"I don't think so," he said rolling over onto his back. He stretched, rubbed his eyes and looked over to find Sydney rummaging through her bag. For a moment, before she'd noticed him watching her, she looked angelic, with a small smile on her face, but when she caught him watching her it faded.
"Please Daddy!" Laney had moved over closer to him and was now using his chest as a drum set beating out some unknown beat onto his ribs.
"Laney stop being a pest!" Sydney said harshly. Her temper seemed to be short that morning, something that Lance remembered from the past as having to do with something troubling her. He knew that it was probably him, but he thought that she deserved a little grief after the way she'd treated him all those years before.
Lance turned his head to Laney suddenly feeling like he needed to make up for Sydney's bad mood. "Honey, why don't you get dressed and let me wake up a minute then we can get breakfast."
"Ok Daddy." Laney hopped off the bed and ran over to a bag next to the window.
Lance watched her begin to pull things out of her bag and throw them on the floor. "Damn," he let out a laugh, "I thought I was going to be the slob of the family."
Sydney rushed across the room and began stuffing things back into the bag. "Laney, you know better than this. I told you that we had to keep our room clean while we were on the road."
Laney frowned, "I was--"
Sydney grabbed up a shirt and a pair of pants and shoved them at Laney, "Honey, go put these on. We have to get breakfast then I have to go to work, your dad has an interview and you have to go stay with Dre."
Laney pouted and stomped her foot. "I don't want to stay with Dre. Dre is big and mean.
"He is not!" Lance and Dre said in unison. They made eye contact and held each other's gaze for a moment then Sydney turned back to their daughter.
"He is not Laney. You spent all that time with him the other day and had fun."
"I only had fun because Daddy saved me. I wanna go with Daddy."
"Laney!" Sydney said again with a harsh voice. "Go get dressed."
"But I wanna go with Daddy!"
"Laney. I told you last night before you went to sleep and when you woke up this morning that your dad is going to be busy today and that you have to stay with Dre," she said, "I don't want to discuss this right now. You know that I have to go to work and you know better than to whine."
"Laney, I'm going to count to five…"
His heart broke when tears came to his daughter's eyes. Lance pushed himself out of bed and went over and stood between them. "Why the hell are you in such a bad mood?"
"Welcome to my life," she said then turned to their daughter. "Laney. Go."
Laney looked at him as if he was going to have the final say in the matter.
Lance glanced at Sydney for a minute then said, "You'd better listen to your mom sweetie."
Laney walked towards the bathroom, holding her clothes in her hands mumbling under her breath that she was sorry. It killed Lance to see her so upset, but he wasn't going to have a parenting discussion with Sydney in front of Laney.
Sydney went about her business, leaving Lance standing there watching her move around the room. "You didn't have to be so harsh."
"She knows better Lance." She paced the room, first going back to her bag to put her things away then she went to the door of the bathroom. She knocked and asked Laney if she needed any help before she went back over to repack Laney's bag, all the time, mumbling, "I never should have come back."
"Why shouldn't you have come back?" Lance asked, "If it's that horrible why did you come back in the first place?"
She stared at him for a long time. "I thought it would be different, but I guess I was wrong."
"Different?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said and stuffed things into the bag, not bothering to fold them.
"What did you expect? For everyone to be glad to see you? For you to be welcomed back like nothing happened? Like your leaving didn't effect all of us? That it didn't effect me?"
"What?" She stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"You come back on tour and think that everyone is going to bow down and thank you because you're back," Lance said angrily. Somehow this gave him the excuse he needed to get all his frustrations out. "I think we all would have been better off if you had just stayed away, but no, you had to drop into our lives and bring Laney with you...which is double trouble as far as I'm concerned."
Lance caught the look in her eyes then turned to see Laney standing there watching them. Tears were already in her eyes. She just stood and stared at him and he knew that he'd really done it now. She was smart enough to figure out that what he had said was directed at her.
"You said you weren't going to fight!" Laney said.
"We weren't fighting," Lance said.
Sydney pushed past him and went and picked up Laney. "Face it Lance. You might as well tell her what you think of me and of her."
"Tell you what I think of you?" he said, "Like the way you told me four years ago...what was it? If I think about it hard enough I'm sure I can quote what you said. I think it went something like, He's a freaking kid! I can't handle babysitting him anymore and…"
Sydney's mouth dropped open as she stared at him. "You were spying on me?"
"It wasn't really spying...I mean you did yell it into the phone. It wasn't hard to hear it," he said.
"You were there?"
"I came to surprise you, but you gave me the surprise that night."
For once Sydney looked a little guilty for her actions four years before.
"Yeah Syd…I heard you. I heard you discount all that we had together to God knows who on the phone. I guess I kept my part of the bargain. I never told anyone about us, but you…you seemed to want to scream it from the roof tops and you seemed to think so lowly of me that you'd call me a child…well you're the little one now Missy."
"Lance, hold on…I can explain."
Explain what? Explain how you ran out of here without saying good bye? Or how you told someone on the phone that you hated babysitting me. IF you were that unhappy you should have said something, but I didn't think that you were that horny to shut up and fuck me all the way to the bank. I'm sure Johnny made sure that you had enough money to get you by."
"Wait a minute!"
"Why? So you can bad mouth me again?"
"I was pregnant Lance! That's why I left! I had to leave and get out of here because I knew that it would ruin your career, ruin you if I stayed!" Tears sprang to her eyes and she looked over at her daughter. "I'd do it again in a minute. Yes, it was bad that Laney hasn't been with you, but you wouldn't have been able to handle all that. I couldn't handle it myself."
"What I can't handle is you making decisions that effect my life without me knowing about it!"
Sydney stared at him.
"Look. I have an interview to get to and you need to get to work. Leave it alone for now…wait until we go to Mississippi and we'll hash this out."
After giving him a once over, Sydney bit her lip, then spoke. "Fine."
"Good, now as for Laney? She can spend the morning with me doing the interviews then tonight she'll stay with Dre."
"Yeah!" Laney celebtrated.
"Now are you going to yell at her again or can I leave the two of you alone so I can get a shower."
"I didn't yell at her."
Lance took a breath and made his way to the bathroom, stopping to grab a pair of jeans and a shirt. "Whatever." He smiled to himself as he made his way to get his shower.
When Lance pushed his way out of the bathroom twenty minutes later he found Laney, acting like his little shadow, at his side as he packed up his bag. "You ready to go honey?"
"Uh huh," she said with a smile.
He put his hand on her head and looked around for a moment, finding that Sydney was already on her laptop working. "Go up and jump up on the bed." Lance grabbed up his backpack and slung it onto his shoulder. He turned and saw Laney still standing where she had been. "What honey?"
She looked over at her mother then back at him. "Mommy said not to jump on the bed."
Lance took a calming breath. He had to remember that she was going to take everything he said literally. "Well I say you can," he said. He pointed to the bed, "Just so that you can get on my back for a piggy pack ride. No jumping, just go and stand up there."
"Ok," she said. She crawled up on the bed and stood facing him. She came up to this chest when he walked over to her. He flung the backpack off his shoulder onto the bed and fixed the straps for a minute then held it out to her.
Seeming to know what he wanted of her, Laney slipped the bag onto her back.
He looked at her with a serious face. "You have to make sure that you don't lose this."
"I won't Daddy," she said with a nod.
He sighed. Here it came. The speech that he had to give even though it broke his heart to do it. "Honey, I need you to do me a favor," he said looking into her eyes. It was going to hurt to tell her this, but he needed to think a while before he let the cat out of the bag.
"Call me Lance," he said looking into her eyes, "Just like I call you Laney, ok?"
He thought she would ask why, but it seemed as if she was being coopertive and wasn't going to put up a fight with this one. She nodded.
"You want Mr. Bear?" he asked looking where the bear was sitting on the bed next to the pillows.
"Uh huh," she said.
"Well go and get him. I think he'll fit in the bag."
As Laney flopped down and scrambled to get her bear Sydney appeared. He hadn't been paying attention to her since he'd come out of the bathroom, but now she was there beside him with a hand ful of books. "Take these with you. She's going to be bored if you don't bring something with you."
"Thanks," he said with a smile.
Laney appeared in front of him again. "Turn around Laney."
She did as she was asked and Lance unzipped the bag andstuff her book and a container of pens and crayons into the bed.
"And these," Sydney handed him a box of breakfast bars. "She'll get hungry."
"Thanks," he said.
"You ready honey?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
Lance turned around and helped her attach herself onto his back. Her one arm was wrapped around his neck and the other one was thrown over his shoulder and Mr. Bear was hanging across his chest.
Sydney figited as Lance wrapped his arm back around Laney to hold her in place. SHe followed the two of them to the door and opened it for them. "Make sure you eat breakfast."
"Ok," he said.
"Give me a kiss," Sydney said.
For an instant Lance thought she meant him, but she didn't.
Laney leaned and kiss her mother and Lance caught a wiff of Sydney's shampoo.
"Kiss daddy," Laney said.
"What?" Lance and Sydney said at the same time.
"You foughted," Laney said, "You have to kiss and make up."
Lance shrugged and looked at Sydney then leaned and kissed her cheek. "We'll be back by one."
"You've got my cell number?"
"Dre has it," Lance said.
"Have fun then," Sydney said. He wasn't sure if she really meant that or if she was just saying it for Laney's benefit.
Lance pushed the door open and could see Joey sitting on the bed. The blaring noise of a video game was filling the room and Joey's eyes were glued on the television set.
"What's he doing?" Laney asked.
"Playing games," Lance said and waited to see if Joey would look over at them.
When he didn't Lance knocked on the door and yelled, "Joey!"
He still didn't move. For all the times that Joey seemed to have ADD when it came to certain things, he was showing great concentration now.
Lance watched in amazement as Laney, with her free hand that wasn't holding onto his land, pounded on the door. "Uncle Joey! Daddy wants to talk to you!"
"What?" Joey called back from across the room. His eyes never left the screen.
"Can you do me a favor?" Lance asked. He’d checked on the other guys and Joey was the only one who was spending his lunch hour doing nothing too important. Well at least in Lance's eyes playing video games for an hour wasn't important compared to Chris doing FuMan business, JC catching up on his sleep, and Justin being on the phone with Britney.
"What?" Joey said not looking over.
Lance took a breath and calmed his voice. He was starting to panic. He needed to get work done. He’d gotten about fifteen messages on his voicemail and he needed to start returning them before more came in. "Can you watch Laney for a minute?"
"I don’t wanna go with Joey!" Laney quickly protested.
Lance leaned down to her level. She’d been his shadow all day long and although he loved her to death, and actually she’d kept everyone in a good mood that morning retelling the story about how Mr. Bear decided that he wanted to be in a boyband. It was all fun and great, but at the same time Lance knew that he needed to make some calls. Just from the experience of the night before and that morning he knew he couldn’t watch her and work at the same time.
"Honey, I just want you to play with Joey for a while so I can make some phone calls. It's only going to take a half hour."
He wondered for a moment if she even knew how to tell time. She wasn’t wearing a watch or anything so maybe she wasn’t old enough to learn stuff like that.
"A haft hour is a long time," she said. He loved the way she seemed so secure of herself. He had been angry with Sydney for keeping her away, but it seemed as if she’d done a good job raising her in the mean time.
Lance reached and removed the backpack that had been on her back for most of the morning. He set it on the carpet next to her and helped her unzip her jacket. "I’m going to be across the hall honey, not gone really."
"I’ll be good," she pleaded. She tried to pull her jacket back on. "I can sit and color. I promise to be quiet."
"Let her color with you!" Joey called from where he sat.
"You’re no help," Lance said and glared at Joey.
"You love me though," Joey said with a laugh.
Lance could have said a hundred million things slamming Joey with insults, but when he saw his daughter looking up at him he smiled at her, putting his hand on her head to ruffle her hair a little. "Well that's true," Lance said, "But sometimes I almost wish..."
"Shush!" Joey said with a laugh.
When Lance’s face didn’t smile back on him Lance thought that he’d gotten the clue.
Joey paused the game and said, "You wanna learn how to play video games Laney?"
"I never played a video game before."
"She lives with a girl Joey. You remember how Sydney used to always hate when we’d play."
"Oh..." Joey looked at him for a minute then looked over to Laney. "Come on, leave your old man alone and come and play."
Laney looked up at Lance, "Is that ok?"
"Sure," he said. He thought for a moment. "Just don’t sit too close to the screen."
"She won’t," Joey said with a laugh as Laney ran across to where he was sitting and flung herself into Joey’s arms. He set her on his lap and handed her the control. "Just don’t hit the red button," he said then looked over at Lance. "I’ve always wanted to say that."
"Just don’t teach her to cheat ok? Little kids aren’t supposed to learn that kinda crap."
"Ooh. Daddy’s said crap!" Laney said in a sing-songy voice. "I’m gonna tell mommy."
"Uh oh!" Joey said with a laugh. "DADDY how could you?"
"Shove it Joey," Lance said.
"I’m gonna tell mommy. You aren’t being nice!"
"Laney," he said as he gathered his palm pilot and phone so he could go find a quiet place to talk. "I’m sorry for swearing."
"I’ll make sure she tells MOMMY," Joey said.
"Yeah whatever," Lance said, "I’ll be across the hall. Twenty minutes tops."
"Don’t worry about it," Joey called.
A moment later, as Lance left the room, the sound on the television got turned up and Joey was trying to teach Laney how to play. He hoped that his daughter didn’t lose her hearing from sitting so close to the television.
Lance glanced down the hallway for a moment before crossing the hall to his room again. He thought that Sydney would be down the hall, but when he pushed the door open to their room he found her laying on the bed. She was facing away from him curled into a ball holding onto the pillow tightly.
He stepped towards her and watched her for a moment then called out, "Sydney?"
He asked. He walked towards her and called out softly again, "Sydney?"
"Huh?" She asked. She rolled over halfway and looked at him, a dazed look on her face. "What time is it?"
"It’s early still. We just got back from the interviews and everyone is going down--" He stopped and looked at her then walked over to her side. "Are you ok?" He asked.
"Yeah," she said and rubbed her eyes. "Where’s Laney?"
"She’s fine. She’s over next door playing video games with Joey." He sat down on the bed and could see the strange look on her face. It was part pain and part anger.
He reached for her thinking that he might be able to help her out.
"Don’t," she said and pushed his hand away just before his hand touched her.
"Sydney, this isn’t an insult, but you look like shit," he said. He made a mental note to work on his vocabulary. Getting caught swearing by Laney made him aware of his automatic use of foul language.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
He reached for her head and touched her skin. "Sydney, Jesus. You’re burning up," he said. He moved his hand and touched her cheek. "What the hell?"
"Lance stop," she said and pushed his hand away. She usually wasn’t this tough with him. He didn’t know what was up, but this wasn’t the Sydney he knew or the Sydney that he’d known before everything had happened between them. "Just leave me alone and let me go back to sleep. I’ll be fine."
"What?" He asked.
"Stop," she repeated and glared at him, "I know how to handle this. Just leave me alone."
"Sydney, you have to go see a doctor or something." He tried to pull her all the way over, but she wouldn’t budge.
"Honey, come on," he said, "Roll over and lets get you up and get your shoes on and we’ll go see the doctor."
"No," she said.
"What?" He said. "Why are you being so stubborn?"
"Lance," she sighed and curled back into her pillow. "Lance I’m fine. It’ll go away. It always has before."
Lance’s hand paused where it was in mid-air. "Before?"
"It’s nothing, I’ll be fine, I just need some sleep." Her voice came out in a sound that was half way between a whine and a groan as if she was not only physically protesting the movement of her from her place as well as her mental anguish of having to deal with a stress.
"Sydney, you’re burning up. You need to go to the doctor."
"I already did," she said and pushed herself up into a sitting position. She stared at him for a moment then her eyes fell onto her stomach.
He looked at her bare stomach, her shirt had been pulled up and there was a tube expanding from her stomach that ran down coiled in her lap and connected to a bag of liquid. "What the hell is that?" He could help but to sound shocked. It wasn't every day that someone he knew had tubes coming out of them. It was thing to meet fans that were in that position. He felt bad for them, but this case was hitting a little too close to home.
"Just leave me alone," she said when he tried to reach for her again.
"What’s going on?" He asked.
"Nothing that you need to know about!" she snapped at him then waved her hand towards the door, "Go and do whatever you need to do. I’m going back to sleep until I have a conference call in two hours."
For the life of him Lance couldn't get his arms to move or his legs to move and the idea of leaving her there alone when she wasn't feeling good really set his stomach in a twist. "What the hell is going on Sydney?"
"I’ll explain later, ok?" She said with a sigh and curled back into her sleeping position. "Just leave me alone right now. I need to go to sleep."
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Last updated: 09/19/04.