Pushing his way out into the hallway he found himself not being able to breath. His lungs restricted as if not breathing would keep away the scene that he'd just witnessed and keep the news of Sydney's illness from fully sinking into his brain. He leaned his back against the wall until he heard someone call his name from down the hallway.
He looked up to find Wes watching him. He didn't change the expression on his face. He couldn't let him know what was effecting him so badly. Everyone knew that he hated Sydney or at least he was sure that they knew after the way he'd treated her the last few days. If he started to even remotely begin to care for her he knew that it would break him. He'd thought he'd lost her once before and he knew he couldn't do that again. This time it would be permanent and he couldn't face that. He also couldn't face the fact that Laney might end up really being his. It was undeniable that she was his child, but the thought of him being soley responsible for her upbringing was too much to bear.
Finding strength he moved across the small space between his room and Joeys' and returned to find that Joey and Laney were still playing video games.
"Hi daddy!" Laney called to him with a cheery tone. He wondered if she knew about her mother's illness. He figured that she probably did, but he wondered if she knew how serious the whole situation was.
"Hi," he said, momentarily looking at her before his eyes returned to where they stared at his shoes.
"Daddy what's wrong?" Laney asked.
He soon found her climbing up in his lap. She plopped herself down facing him and tried to look him in the eyes, but he wouldn't let her. He knew that if they did make that contact he would start to cry and he knew he shouldn't. He might not have been father of the year so far, but he knew how upset he got when his parents cried and he didn't want to worry Laney.
When he didn't look her in the eyes she put her hands to his cheeks and pushed his face in place so that he was looking at her. "Daddy what's wrong? Mommy says you should always tell someone what's wrong because then you don't feel so bad anymore."
Lance took a breath and wondered if Laney had learned that because Sydney had been in a doctor's care. It made sense that she might say that to her since little kids always seemed to be afraid of the doctor. If Laney knew that Sydney wasn't afraid to talk to the doctor then it would calm her nerves. He wished that it would calm his nerves.
"Hey. I thought you were going to make some calls," Joey said. He had finally stopped playing his game and was wrapping the cord around the game controller.
"I got side-tracked," he said then looked at Laney. He could see Sydney in her eyes and at that moment he was scared. At first he'd been scared to be faced with such a great responsibility, being a dad wasn't at all going to be easy, but now he was scared that he'd lose the chance to be there for the two of them. He had to admit that he still had some ill feelings towards Sydney, but finding out that she was sick changed everything. It was easy for him to stay mad at her when he thought she'd be around for a long time, but now he knew that wasn't the case. She wasn't going to be there forever and that scared him more than anything in the world. "Honey why don't we play video games?"
"You mean it?" she asked, "You don't hafta work?"
"I'll do that later," he said.
"Can mommy play video games too?"
"No!" he said and grabbed her as she started to slip off his lap. He thought she was trying to go get her mother and he knew that Sydney needed her sleep.
Laney made a face at him. He hadn't meant to yell, but he couldn't help it. "Your mom is taking a nap right now. We should play some games then when your mom gets up we'll have dinner with her."
"No can do," Joey said.
"We've gotta go," Joey said looking at his watch.
"Can I go with you Daddy?" she asked.
"Sure. We've got to go do a sound check for a show tonight. If you promise you'll be good you can come, but you have to stay with Wes while I'm on stage."
"Ok daddy," she said sweetly and leaned and kissed his cheek."
Joey came over to them and Lance stood up and situated Laney on his back for a piggy back ride out to the elevator.
"Can I sing daddy?"
Lance looked over and found Laney holding his hand-held microphone. "What are you going to sing?" he asked with a smile.
"I can sing your song," she said.
"Which one?" he said, "There are a few of them."
"Mommy only taught me one," she said with a frown.
"Come on Lance, let the girl sing," Justin said. He came over and lifted Laney up for a moment then plopped her down on the stage in front of where the band and other guys were taking their break.
"Turn on her mic," Joey said.
Justin leaned down, turned on the microphone and handed it back to Laney. "Don't hold it too close to your mouth," Justin said.
Laney nodded and took a breath and began to sing. Her tiny voice came out on all the speakers in the room and startled her for a moment, but when she realized that it was just her voice coming out a smile formed on her face. Of course it wasn't the perfect pitch or tone and she didn't quite know all the words, but the song was perfect as she sang "I Want You Back". She even did a few dance moves and at the she turned her back on the audience just like the guys did at the end of the song when they sang it.
Everyone gathered around hesistated a little when she finished the song. When she took her bow everyone clapped and Laney skipped back over to where she'd been sitting.
"Was that good daddy?" she asked.
"That was great," he said and pulled her onto his lap. He gave her a hug and said, "I better be careful or you might end up replacing me."
"She does dance better," Chris said.
Everyone laughed and Laney seemed to find the joke hysterical. "You're funny Uncle Chris."
"Finally!" Chris said. He scooped Laney off Lance's lap. "Finally someone with taste!" He leaned and kissed her cheek. "We need more of you little ones around."
"We already have you Chris," Joey said, "We don't need any more."
"Don't be mean to Uncle Chris! Mommy will get mad at you. You're supposed to be nice."
"We were just joking around," Lance said, "Uncle Chris knows that it's just a joke."
"Sure, sure," Chris said and wiped fake tears away.
"See. You made him cry!" Laney said and hugged Chris. "I still love you Uncle Chris."
"Thank God someone loves me."
"You'd better watch it or I'm going to tell Dani that you're cheating on her," Lance said. He stood up and retrieved his daughter from Chris's arms.
"OK boys! Time to get changed!"
The group took the hint from Johnny and headed towards the dressing room. Lance carried Laney with him then handed her over to Wes when they got to the door. "I'll be right back sweetie. Stay with Wes."
"Ok daddy," she said then looked around, "I mean Lance."
Lance leaned and kissed her cheek and left to go change with a smile on his face. It didn't make complete sense, but somehow he felt better knowing that Laney could sing. Somehow knowing that he had that connection with her was going to make things easier for him later on.
Returning to the hotel after shows usually was a rowdy event which including yelling of rude and obnoxious jokes while wrestling each other in the hallways, but that night Lance was severely subdued compared to other nights and the other guys. He lagged behind as the others raced to get ready for a night out on the town as he thought of his plans for the evening. Partly his slow pace was due to the shock of Sydney's illness, part was fatigue from the show and part of his sluggish pace came from the fact that Laney was in his arms asleep and he didn't want to wake her.
As he walked through the lobby someone snapped a picture of the two of them together. Up until that point he'd known that fans had probably taken pictures of the two of them, but this guy looked like a professional. His camera looked too intricate to have him be just someone's father or brother or husband getting pictures for them.
When Loni and Wes immediately descended on the man pushing him backwards by intimidating more than physically, Lance held them back then stepped towards the reporter who could see that he was upset by the way he didn't make eye contact with him.
"I'm not going to break your camera or anything," he said calmly, glancing over to where Laney was still asleep on his shoulder. "I just want you to get your story right so I don't have to sue you later."
"Really?" the guy looked more than a little shocked to hear that news.
"So who is she?" he asked looking at Laney.
"Lance," Wes said with a warning tone.
"It's ok Wes," Lance said.
"This is my daughter Laney," he said. He leaned and kissed her forehead. "Make sure that you print that correctly ok?"
The guy nodded, "Can I ask who the mother is?"
"No comment on that one, just make sure that you write that her mother and I are on good terms and at the moment are friends but are not romantically involved."
"Su-ure," the guy stuttered as he frantically wrote down the information that was being given to him.
"You got a business card?" Lance asked.
The guy fumbled in his pockets for a moment then produced a business card. It looked professional enough, but he had never heard of the magazine the guy wrote for.
"Lance Melinda is going to kick your ass when she finds out that you--"
"Shut up," Lance said then glanced at Laney to make sure he didn't wake her up.
"Let me borrow your pen," Lance said holding his hand out to the guy in front of him. Lance grabbed the guy and turned him around and signed his name on the card using the guy's back as a flat space to write on.
Handing the card over he looked the guy in the eyes. "Print this with the story. It's my signature so people will know that the story isn't gossip."
"Lance are you sure you want to give this guy permission to print that? If Melinda doesn't kill you for this, Sydney is going to beat the crap out of you," Wes said.
"Yeah Lance," Loni finally said, "I think he's right about this one."
"Shut up. Who the hell do you work for?" he asked in a whispered yell, "Me or her?"
He'd never pulled rank on them before and he was sure they didn't know how to handle his comment. Instead they both shut up and looked at the reporter as if they were going to kill him.
Lance chuckled at the show of intimidation and walked towards the elevator.
"Daddy?" Laney said as the ding of the elevator sounded.
"Yes sweetie?" Lance asked repositioning her so that she was more comfortable.
"I wanna go watch Uncle Joey and Uncle Justin on the stage."
"Honey, the show is over," Lance explained moving her hair out of her face. "It's bed time."
"Are Uncle Joey and Uncle Justin going to sleep?"
"Nope," Lance said, "It's not their bedtime yet, but I think that you need to get to sleep."
"I don't wanna," she said and paused to yawn. "I'm not tired yet."
"I think you are," he said and kissed her forehead. She seemed a little warm, but he thought it was probably because she'd been asleep. "I bet if you go to the room and get in bed you'll go right to sleep."
"No I won't," she said then chose that moment to start to fight the action of her eyes closing.
By the time they reached the floor she was fast asleep again.
"You want to do what?" She asked.
Lance had been in the middle of packing up for the day when Sydney had come rushing into the room. He hadn't seen her since the day before when they'd left for the concert. He figured though that she'd probably heard about the plans he made to get another ticket on the flight he was booked on out to Colorado and almost had anticipated the blow up that was about to happen. "So you heard..."
"Thanks for getting my permission," she said.
"I didn't think I needed permission to spend time with my daughter. I want to take Laney on my trip out to Colorado. My parents are going to be out there for the Sundance Movie Festival and I thought it would be a good chance for them to meet." He didn't look at her as he grabbed more of his clothes and went to work on getting them all back into his bag.
"But I have to go to Florida for a meeting with the Jive promoter and with Johnny," she said with a tired whine.
"I know. I thought Laney could come with me so that she could stay out of your hair while you worked. I know that those meetings are stressful and it's going to be hard to get all that work done and look after her. It's going to be a partial vacation for me so I thought it could be a chance for you to have a vacation too."
"I don’t WANT or NEED a vacation from my daughter." She growled at him.
"Sydney...it's just for two days. I thought you needed a little rest from OUR DAUGHTER..." He took a deep breath and watched her or a moment. "You know...since you’re sick and all. You should get some rest."
"Don’t bring that up. You know that I can take care of her and do my job and take care of myself at the same time," she spat at him, "Don't you dare think that I can't. I did it this long and I'll do it after you're out of the picture too."
"I didn’t mean to make it sound like that...I just thought you could use a break." He put his hands to his hips. "And what do you mean about me being out of the picture?"
She squared her shoulders, pushed her hair out of her face, and looked him with a cold expression. "Neither of us needs to be saved by you."
"Fine then," he said, "You tell your daughter then that she can’t see her grandma and grandpa. I told her this morning that she’d get to visit them and from what she said she wants to meet them. She said that she knows YOUR parents really well and wants to get to know Gramma Diane and Grampa Jim."
Sydney took a seat and held a hand to her head. Lance would have gone over to ask her how she was, but she stopped him before he could get to it. "Why the hell did you go and do something like that?"
Lance collected himself and tried to calm down after he threw one of Laney's socks over onto Sydney's bag. He couldn't believe that he was being so nice to her. After all that had gone on, he thought that it was time for him to have some of the power in the relationship. "Because I didn’t think it would be an issue."
"It’s not an issue. You are her father, which gives you some rights, but you aren’t my husband so if you’d like to make decisions about her welfare I’d appreciate it if you’d talk to me first."
"Fine," he said, "Next time. I already made plans with the airline and my parents are expecting to see her so I don't want to disappoint them. After this I promise I'll get your permission, but for now you have to deal."
Sydney got up and went for the door. She pulled it open, went through it and began to close it. "Fine," she echoed back as she slammed the door behind her.
Lance smiled as he continued to pack his bag then thought about what he was going to bring with him for his trip to Colorado. He'd had the flight info already and had checked the weather and thought that even though it was still technically winter that it would be safe for the two of them, with security of course, to fly to the Film festival. He'd called his mother earlier and asked her to be prepared to baby-sit her granddaughter and of course she'd been thrilled about the idea. So it was all set. He'd get to spend time with Laney and he'd also get all the work done that he needed to do while he was there.
"I don't want her on camera!" Sydney said rushing back into the room."
"Too late for that," he said with a shrug. "She got her picture taken last night by a reporter."
"And you didn't steal the film or something?" she asked.
"No," he said, "I told him to print the right story and send a copy to me. I know that you've been away from this for a while, but really you need to get a grip. If I'd stolen the film it would have just caused more trouble than its worth. I gave the guy my wishes and told him the real story and that's that."
"The real story?" she asked. She looked panicked.
"Yeah," he said, "That she's mine."
"You didn't mention me?"
"Why should I?" he threw back in her face. "You've made it clear that I'm not your husband and have basically no connection outside of Laney to you so why would I bring you up?"
"Bastard!" Sydney rushed from the room and Lance sat down on the edge of the bed. He didn't want to fight with her, but he knew that he could make her mad and he was beginning to find it becoming a fun game.
"You have six messages," the mettalic voice said to him as he checked his voice mail. He looked across the car at Laney one last time, seeing that she was still asleep and pressed the numbers that would retrieve his messages for him.
"Lance, this is Tim," the voice spoke at him, "I'm not sure what the deal is, but Sydney was supposed to be on a flight out to Orlando that was supposed to get here at six and well it's six and there is not Sydney. Did she change her plans?"
Lance shook his head and wondered for a minute that she'd probably just missed her flight. He thought that he'd try to get a hold of her after he checked his other messages.
"Lance, this is Johny," the next voice said, "I just got a call from Tim. Did Sydney change her plans and fly out with you? I thought that she got taken to the airport on time."
"Damn," he mumbled to himself.
"You ok Lance?" Loni asked from the far side of the car.
"Yeah," he said, "No one can get anything done without me." He laughed a little and watched as Laney moved around a little in her sleep. She was small enough to use the seat as a bed, but it wasn't that comfortable for her. Lance put a hand out and moved his jacket a little so that she'd have a better pillow.
"You sure?" Loni asked.
"Yeah," he said, "I just need to return some calls when we get back to the hotel.
He clicked off his phone thinking that he'd just leave it until later. He was going to meet up with his parents and he was sure that they would have a million questions for him and a million things for him to do so he needed the small rest he was going to get on the ride to meet them.
Leaning his head back he moved and put his hand on his daughters foot to make sure that she wouldn't fall off the seat then he closed his eyes and tried to rest. They'd had a trying morning, not thanks to Sydney's tearful farewell. Laney had been fine about the trip until Sydney got all over protective of her. She was still looking a bit sickly, but she had enough fight in her to plead with Lance one more time to not take Laney with him to Sundance.
It only seemed like a few minutes later when Loni touched his shoulder and shook him awake. Laney was sitting up rubbing her eyes and looking at him. "Daddy?" She said.
"Yes sweetie?" He said pulling her over to hug her to him.
"Can I call Mommy?" She asked.
"Let's get everything into the hotel then we'll sit down and call her, ok?"
She nodded, but didn't look happy.
"You two ready?" Loni asked.
"Yeah," Lance said. He turned to his daughter and made sure that her backpack was on then pulled her close again. "We're going to get out and there is going to be a crowd again ok honey?" He said.
She nodded but looked a little scared.
"Do you want me to carry you?" He asked looking at her. He wanted her to feel like she was adult enough to make her own decisions about things like that.
She nodded and put her hands around his neck. She snuggled close to him and he checked his watch. It was only five, Colorado time, but it was getting late considering that they were in a different time zone.
Loni gave the signal and a few moments later the three of them were making their way into the hotel. Laney whimpered in his arms and buried her face into his neck the entire walk inside and throughout most of his check in. He tried to let go of her so he could sign for his room, but she wouldn't let go so he balanced her on the counter and held on to her while the desk clerk held the paper and he signed for it.
When they got to their room he finally set her down on the bed and she slid out of her backpack and then her jacket.
"You ok?" He asked.
She nodded then looked at the bathroom. "I have to go potty."
Lance nodded and watched her disappear into the bathroom. He'd wondered if she could go by herself and she seemed to be taking care of the issue. He could slap himself for not paying atteniton to things like that. He didn't even know if she could go by herself.
When she returned Lance was bringing out his shaving kit. He needed to clean up a little then he had a few meetings to attend. He hadn't thought of it before, but he guessed that he would just bring Laney along with him.
"What are you doing daddy?" She asked.
"I'm going to get all pretty then we have to go meet with Grandma and Grandpa Bass then get some dinner," he explained.
"What?" He asked.
"Boys aren't pretty daddy," she said with another laugh.
"Well what are they?" He asked making a face at her.
"They're handsome," she said.
"Wow," he said, "that's a pretty big word."
"It's Mommy's word," she said.
Lance looked at her and wondered why Sydney had been saying that. "When did your mommy say that?" He asked.
"When she said about you," Laney said, "She said that my daddy was the most handsomeest man in the world and that I should marry someone just like him when I grow up."
Lance watched his daughter's beaming face and wondered if Sydney's comment was just for show or if she'd really meant it.
He didn't have time to ask her. A moment later there was a knock on the door and his parents came in and they spent the next twenty minutes explaining the situation. His parents took to her fine, his mother taking it upon herself to talk to Laney, but he could tell that there was some kind of tension in the air when they started to ask about Sydney.
"Let's get you to bed kiddo," Lance said as he pulled off Laney's shoes and socks.
It was just after eleven and she was already asleep. They'd gone out to dinner with his parents and had met with two reporters that night, but now it was time for both of them to get rested up.
He'd thought about leaving her in her clothes, but couldn't see that she would be comfortable if she stayed that way. He felt a little strange at first thinking that he'd have to undress her to put her into her pajamas, but he knew that he couldn't let her sleep in her clothes or his mother would have a fit with him and he was sure that Sydney would have a fit.
When the job was done and she was safely tucked into bed he pulled out his phone and went to check his messages again. He sat on the far side of the room, with the overhead lights off and only a lamp to light his way.
"You have fifteen messages," the voice spoke at him.
"Shit," Lance breathed out and went to find what he needed to take notes about his calls. Most of them would be business calls since everyone knew his schedule that day and his parents were already there with him.
Lance spent the next few minutes writing notes in his palm pilot as the phone messages played for him. A few of them were about Laney, but the other ones were reminders for him about the press junket he had to do the next day.
He called Sydney's cell phone and voicemail picked up. He listened to the message then spoke, "Syd, it's me, Lance. Laney and I are safe and sound in Colorado, but she wanted to talk to you before you went to sleep. Tim has called me and so had Johnny. I guess you must have missed your flight or something. Anyway give me a call and leave me a message ok?"
He put the phone down for only a moment when he was done with his call. He immediately dialed up Johnny's number.
"Have you gotten a hold of her?" Lance asked which Johnny answered.
"No," he said with a serious tone, "Have you?"
"No," Lance said and began to pace. "Where could she be?"
"I'll have Teresa call the airport and the airline and search around. I think she might have changed her plans, which is fine with me, but she needs to check in with us. You know?"
"I know," he said softly, "When we find her I'll remind her of that."
"So how was the trip?" He said, "How's Laney doing?"
"She's fine," he said, "She's asleep at the moment."
Johnny paused for a moment. He was probably still working while they talked from the sounds Lance heard in the background. "How'd your parents take the news?"
"They were shocked," he said and sighed, "They're ok. They'll get better with time I'm sure. They just need to get to know Laney first."
"Tell me if they give you trouble and I'll try and help you explain it to them since I was the one who helped Sydney keep her secret."
"Ok," Lance said then yawned. "I should get some sleep. I'll have to get to sleep here sooner or later."
"You do that kiddo," Johnny said, "I'll have Sydney give you a call when we track her down."
"Thanks," he said.
"I'll talk to you later."
"Can I ask you to hold on a second for me?" He asked into his cell phone as he pushed himself up into a standing position.
"Sure," the voice on the other end of the phone said. They didn't seem to confident with their decision to grant his request, but they did it anyway.
"Thanks," he said.
Putting the phone to his shoulder he held it there by pressing it against his shoulder then moved his hand into his pocket to retrieve the small plastic key. He slid it into the door lock and quickly unlocked the lock. Lance cracked the door open and stuck his head inside being careful to not let too much light into the room. He hadn't heard any noise from the room since he'd moved out into the hallway to get on the phone for his interviews that night so he thought that he should check on Laney again.
When he saw that she was still hugging Mr. Bear the way she had been when he'd tucked her into bed after dinner he closed the door again and took his seat back in the hallway. He had been sitting on the carpet in the hallway for an hour now talking on the phone and although he could have easily gone to another room to do the interviews he felt like he needed to be close by incase Laney woke up.
"Sorry about that," Lance said into the phone, "I needed to check on something."
"You're traveling by yourself here," the voice said, "Right?"
"Yeah," Lance said and closed the door and went back to the hallway.
"Your daughter?" The interviewer asked.
Lance hesistated when he answered, "Yeah...she's asleep right now and I had to make sure that she was ok."
"I take it you like being a father?"
"What's not to like?" He asked as a few people walked by. He'd stuck on a hooded sweatshirt that night and had the hood up so he didn't fear for his safety, but he knew that Loni's door was still open just in case something happened. He'd been watching television earlier, but the sound was low and the security for the hotel was tight due to all the stars in town so they didn't really think too hard about letting him stay out in the hallway alone.
"So she travels with you?" The interviewer asked.
"Yeah," Lance rubbed his forehead, "Can we stick to talking about the movie? I don't mean to be rude, but I think that my personal life should take second place to the promotion of my project for the moment."
"But isn't it true that a reporter and you spoke the other night about your daughter?" The interviewer said with a forceful tone.
It seemed strange that the questions about his personal life seemed to take the conversation in a different direction. He'd been happy go lucky in reaction to the reporter's laid back approach to the interview, but now everything seemed to be stressed.
"Yes I did," he said and took a deep breath, "I did that because a reporter had taken a picture of me with her and I felt that it was appropriate to give the man the correct information due to the high potential for rumors to start about the subject."
"What about the mother?"
"That is something that I don't feel comfortable talking about. I've made the decision to make it known that I've got a daughter, but her mother and I haven't spoken about going public about who she is."
"One last question then," the interviewer asked.
"Fine," he said.
"Are you married?"
"No," he said.
"Are you and the mother in a relationship at the moment?"
"You said only one more question," he said.
"So sue me," the interviewer joked.
"Look," he said, "All I can say for the moment is that her mother and I are on good terms and we're trying to work out our schedules so that we can both spend time with our daughter."
"Thank you Lance," the interviewer said, "I know that our viewers will be looking forward to the movie finally coming out."
"Yeah," he said, "Thanks. Maybe the next time we're in New York I'll stop by for a little on-air kind of thing."
"I'm sure that we'll be one of your stops," the interviewer said with a laugh.
"Well I should get going," he said, "It was nice to talk to you again."
"Good bye Lance," the interviewer said.
"Goodbye," he said.
He hung up the phone then got up and leaned into Loni's room, finding that his bodyguard was half asleep watching a movie he waved at him and said, "I'm going down the hall to get a drink...keep an ear out for Laney, will ya?"
"Sure thing boss," Loni said with a laugh and turned the volume even lower on the television.
Lance moved out of the room and walked slowly down the hallway to where he'd seen a drink machine earlier. He didn't necessarily think that he would get anything to drink, but he needed to take a walk beore he went to bed.
When his phone rang he thought about not answering it. He pulled it up and looked at the caller ID. He didn't know the number, but he had this gut feeling that he needed to answer the call so he did.
"Yes?" He said.
"My name is Miraim Williams," she said.
Thinking that it was probably just another interview that he'd forgotten about Lance greeted her politely, "Nice to meet you Miraim."
"Nice to meet you too," she said then hesistated, "I wish I could be calling you on better terms, but I'm a nurse at University of Massachusets Medical Center. We've got a patient here who has you listed as their medical contact."
Lance looked down at his feet and took a breath. He didn't know anyone in Boston so it had to be some sort of joke.
"I'm not sure that I know what you're talking about," he said, "I don't know anyone in the Boston area so I have a hard time believing that I'd be their medical contact."
"Are you sure that you don't know a Sydney McAlester?" She asked.
Lance felt the strength drain from his legs and he found himself stumbling towards the wall. "I know Sydney," he said, "What's wrong? What happened?"
"Sir are you ok?" She asked.
Lance could hear his breath in the phone and quickly moved the microphone part of the phone away from his mouth, "I'm fine. A little shocked, but fine."
"Sydney is fine for the moment, but she asked me to call you," she said.
"What's going on?" He asked, "She was supposed to be going on a business trip. What is she doing there in Boston?"
"She's in surgury here for a tumor that was found last year," she hesistated, "I was under the impression that you knew about this since you were the medical contact."
"Well I'm her closest family memeber I guess, but I didn't know about her condition."
"I'm sorry to hear about that," Miriam said, "Anyway the reason I called was to tell you a message for her."
"What's the message?" He asked.
"She wanted to wish you luck this weekend with your interviews and she'll see you in a few days," she said.
"A few days?" He asked, "How long is it going to take for her to recover from all this?"
"It's a fairly serious surgery," she said, "I expect she'll be coming home in a week or so."
"A week?" He asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Thanks for calling Miriam," he said, "Tell Sydney that I'll be seeing her soon."
"Your welcome Mr. Bass," she said, "I'm sorry that this caught you offguard."
"Lately it's nothing new," Lance said and hung up the phone.
Turning back around Lance dialed the phone.
"Yeah," he said, "I'm sorry for waking you up Teresa, but I need to get a ticket from Park City to Boston immediately...actually I need two tickets. One for me and one for Laney."
"Is everything ok?"
"I don't know," he said, "I don't know...but I'm going to find out."
"What about the movie promotions?" She asked.
"I have something more important to do," he said.
"Lance! Over here! Just stop for a moment and let me get a picture of you and your daughter!"
Lance pulled Laney tighter against him and glared at the reporters angrily. It was too early in the morning for all of this. He didn't even know that reporters would get up at five am to come and sit and wait at the gate for him. He didn't know how they'd gotten the information to know that he was coming into Logan Airport then, but somehow they'd known.
"What are you doing here in Boston?" a reporter threw at him.
"Is it true that the mother of your child was a tour crew member?"
Lance tried not to show that the question had gotten to him, but he found himself stumbling a little on the airport carpet.
Loni tried to take the brunt of the attack against him, but with only one guard, it was hard to do. His main focus that morning seemed to be keeping Laney away from the cameras while getting them through the small crowd.
Luckily Loni had called ahead and an old friend of his had arranged for a car to meet them at the airport so they were soon on their way into the city.
"Laney sweetie, it's ok," Lance said as he settled himself in the back seat of the Lincoln Navigator. She'd been clutching him for dear life, not only because she was still half asleep, but probably because she was scared to death of the crowd that had been waiting for them. It had only been a few people, maybe fifteen at most, but the trauma of having them yell questions while their flashes went off on their cameras had been rough on her. He tried to pull her from his arms, but she wouldn't budge. She just pushed her face into his neck and gripped harder onto his shoulders so that he couldn't move her.
"Honey," he said softly, "Let's just take off your backpack ok?" He moved his hand and pulled one arm away from him so that he could get her backpack strap off her shoulder then reached and pulled the remaining arm away from him so he could get the other strap away from her.
"Where to boss man?" Loni asked.
"Let me make a call real quick then we'll go to the hospital," Lance said.
Pulling his phone from his pocket Lance dialed the number quickly, moving Laney's head a little so that he could talk into the phone unabstructed.
"Hello?" a groggy voice answered.
"Hey Jordan," he said.
"Who is this?"
"Lance," he said.
"Bass what the hell are you doing calling me in the middle of the night?" the voice grumbled at him.
"I know it's early and I'm sorry, but you said if I ever was in a bind and needed a place to stay in Boston that you'd be there for me."
"I made that offer to you about three years ago," he said.
"Yeah well I really need to collect," Lance said.
There was a long pause then a sigh could be heard. "Fine, come on over Bass. You remember the address?"
"Yeah…I've got it in my Palm Pilot. Hey I forgot to tell you I've got some people with me," Lance said.
"Not a party…it's too damn early in the morning," Jordan said.
"No," Lance explained, "I've got Loni and my daughter with me."
"Daughter?" Jordan seemed to be wide awake now.
"Yeah," he said, "Long story, but I'll explain when I get there. I don't know how long I'm going to be in town, but is it cool if we crash with you?"
"Yeah," Jordan said, "I go to New York in a day or so, but yeah that's fine," he said.
"See you in a while then," Lance said.
* * * * * *
The voice at the door startled him and even made Laney look up from her coloring book. They'd been in the waiting room for almost two hours now trying to get news on Sydney, but people weren't being cooperative since he technically wasn't family. He'd been frustrated with the system and had voiced his opinion of what should be done about the situation on more than one occasion citing that if he'd been contacted about her surgery long-distance then having him there in the waiting room shouldn't have made a difference.
"Yes?" Lance said immediately getting to his feet. He didn't like the nervous look on the nurse's face and had to shove his hands deep into his pockets to keep from grabbing her and shaking the information out of her.
"Ms. McAlester is asking for you," the nurse said.
Lance looked over at Loni.
"I'll watch her," he immediately said looking up from the book he'd been reading since they'd arrived.
Laney protested by getting up and attaching herself with a bear hug to his leg.
Her anxiousness that morning was hard for him to handle. When she'd woken up as he'd tried to dress her in warmer clothes for the trip he'd had to explain the situation to her. He tried to be as truthful as possible about the whole thing without adding any more stress to her life, but even he couldn't keep her mouth forming into a frown. "Sweetie I'm going to see Mommy for a minute…I'm not leaving for good."
"I don’t want you to go," she said forcefully.
"You can come in and see her in a little bit," Lance said trying to keep his calm. He didn't need to deal with her insecurities at the moment…he had enough of his own to deal with at the moment.
Laney wouldn't let go of the grip she had on his neck. He was tired and cranky and almost felt like crying at her to get her to stop. Almost anything seemed like a good idea at the moment. "I'll go too."
Loni came over and pulled her off Lance's leg with the ease of someone who'd done the action before. Lance had seen him be pretty forceful with getting fans away from him, but this time he seemed to be gentle with Laney. He pulled her up into his arms and held her so that she was half hugging him and spoke softly to her, "Let's go get you some breakfast. I think they have doughnuts downstairs."
Lance didn't like the idea of bribing her away from him, but for the moment he knew it would have to be the way they handled the situation. There wasn't much else that could be done to keep her from going crazy about being away from him. She'd plastered herself to him when he'd carried her onto the plane the night before. She hadn't let him take his hand away from her for a moment in the airport and in the car and had protested violently when he went to put her down for a minute at Jordan's.
Even now, when they were in a private waiting room trying to occupy themselves while the doctor looked Sydney, she was sitting on the floor next to him using a coffee table thing for a desk leaning against his leg. He was scared for her. It seemed all of a sudden as if she thought he would disappear into thin air if she let him get even a foot away.
"Mr. Bass," the nurse said, "I'll take you to Ms. McAlester's room now."
Lance hated hospitals. As much time as he spent in them visiting patients and with as much money as the group had donated, he still didn't like the idea about being around so many sick people. It wasn't that he was afraid of germs or anything like that, but hospitals always seemed to be so impersonal and just the smell made his stomach turn. He'd rather be anywhere else in the world than there.
The room that Sydney was in was small and quiet and the lights were dimmed. He stood in the doorway, leaning against the door jam. A fluorescent light above her bed shown down on her and he was shocked to see her looking so pale and sickly. He never would have believed, if he hadn't seen her with his own eyes, that this was the woman who had yelled at him only days before telling him that she'd fight him to the death to keep her daughter with her. Now she seemed to even have trouble moving her head to the side to look at him.
When she did his breath caught in his throat. He wasn't sure how to handle the look on her face.
Taking a deep breath Lance pulled a chair up to the side of her bed and sat down. The stool put him at the right height to be able to see her and he spent almost a full minute just looking her over before he reached for her hand. He touched her fingers and tried to take her hand, but saw that they had an IV in her arm. He released his grip and instead put a hand on her arm. His fingers stroked the skin there lightly to try to show her that he really would have wanted to hold her hand if he could have.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"The nurse called me and I knew that I had to be here," he said.
"Where's Laney?" she asked.
Lance didn't like the stress he saw on her face. After so many months of wishing ill fortune for this woman he now had a hard time looking her in the eyes. He wondered if maybe she knew how much he'd hated her all those months and how at the moment he'd give up everything he owned to make sure that she was ok. "She's out in the waiting room with Loni. She's fine. A little worried, but nothing too out of the ordinary…basically the same reaction she has every time you're out of her sight."
They sat there in silence for a long time. Lance looked out the window and at the monitors, anywhere but at her face, until finally she spoke his name weakly. "What's wrong?" she asked.
Lance took a deep breath and looked at her. He took his hand away from her and scooted back a little, holding his hands together in his lap. His posture slouched as he let out a breath. He looked up at her for a moment then looked back at his hands.
The banging of little feet on the hardwood floor only meant one thing. It was time. Lance looked at the clock then down at the papers in front of him again before leaning back in his chair to wait for the messenger to get there.
"James what did I tell you about running in the house!" The stern voice boomed from the other room and he could see the look on his son's face change as he rounded the corner.
"Daddy?" James said in a soft voice as he came into the room. He was panting still from running down the long hallway that connected the converted-garage office to the house. He'd been out there for a few hours now working, and his son had been good about not disturbing him, but it seemed as if now was the breaking point for the little boy.
"Yes James?" he said watching his son with a smile playing over his lips. He still couldn't believe that his little boy looked so much like he did when he was little. He had the same blond hair and green eyes and he couldn't believe that his son's smile could light up the room like it did. He'd always known that Laney's could do that, but now it seemed as if her little brother was matching her sunny personality. It was true that Laney looked like her mother, but James looked exactly like him.
His son's eyes lit up with a smile as he tried to control his excitement. "It's time daddy," he said.
"Are you sure?" he asked, "Did grandma say it was time or did you think it was time?"
"Grandma said it was time."
Lance took a deep breath and pushed away from the desk and straightened his clothes a little then scooped up James in one arm and walked down the hallway to the house tickling the boy as he went.
Thanksgiving that year was special for all of them. It had been a while since the whole family had gotten together so Lance was already thankful, but when he rounded the corner and saw the whole family standing around in the kitchen he had to stop and catch his breath. He didn't know what Heaven looked like, but if it looked anything close to this then he knew he'd be happy to die and go there.
"Honey are you ok?" his mother asked as his father took the turkey from the oven.
Lance nodded and turned James around so that he was sitting in his arms properly. "Have you seen my wife?" he asked.
"She'll be right back," his mother said with a smile, "Little Anastasia wasn't too happy about not being able to have pumpkin pie before her dinner."
Laney entered the kitchen, now a very mature pre-teen, and grabbed James away from Lance then slid closer to her father to hug him. "Stop hogging daddy. He's only home for the week and you already got to go camping with him and horseback riding with him."
"Meanie!" James said madly.
"Laney, be nice to your brother," Lance said. It phased him for only a moment that he was a father and he was responsible for all of them. It was almost too much to handle.
A moment later they were all seated at the table a few moments later and as his father said the thanksgiving prayer Lance looked around the room. The table was long and filled with all his loved ones, but it wasn't until his eyes rested on his wife, his two daughters and his son that he knew that there weren't enough words to express his gratitude for the gifts that he'd been given the whole year.
"Honey," she said softly leaning towards him, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he replied grabbing her hand under the table and leaned and kissed her cheek. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"
"No," she said, "But I know you do."
All it took was the look in her eyes to tell him that she knew and he prayed to God in that instant that he'd never seen any other look in her eyes ever again.
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Last updated: 09/19/04.