FIREWORKS!

(Part Two)


FIVE


"Ok, what the hell guys? It's the middle of the night!" Lance grumbled as he slowly pulled himself from the depths of the best night of sleep he thought he'd gotten in a few weeks. He couldn't remember why he'd suddenly been so relaxed, but he wasn't sure that he should worry about it at the moment.

He'd felt the mattress move and had heard a slight crunching as if someone else was in the bed besides him. He'd spent the last few weeks dodging practical jokes from the other guys as well as handing out a few of his own and thought that the movement of his mattress was one of them coming to play a trick on him. He could just see them putting shaving cream in his hair or writing something funny on his forehead in magic-marker after he'd been the one to steal Melinda's lipstick and put it on JC in the middle of the night the week before.

Much to his surprise he smelled vanilla then opened his eyes to find Nicole on her hands and knees crawling towards him dressed in the flannel pajama bottoms and tank top that she'd been dressed in earlier when he'd tucked her into the other bed. They'd been watching a movie after dinner and she'd curled up and had fallen asleep so he'd done the gentlemanly thing and tucked her into the bed alone.

It had taken all his strength to not curl up with her and go to sleep after she'd been curled up with him for most of the evening, but he had promised himself that things were going to stay under control while she visited. After their flirting in the restaurant during dinner he knew that if he put his hands on her in anyway he might loose his reputation as being the sweet innocent one of the group. He had crawled into the other bed and had lain on his side watching her sleep and praying to God that there would be more nights like that with her.

He was finding himself falling for her in a way he hadn't experienced before which worried him a little since his career had just gone from neutral to light speed in the last two months. He wanted a relationship, a deep meaningful relationship, and wasn't sure that his career would allow for him to have one. He'd heard that one of the Backstreet Boys; Kevin Richardson had gotten married and wondered if he could ever get to that point. It seemed as if in the past he'd tried to date and be with a girl, but his career always had a way of messing things up for him. He wanted his cake and to eat it to, but wondered if this time it would actually happen.

"Move over a little," she said and pulled the comforter out from under him a bit.

It confused him to find her there and for a moment he thought that he was dreaming. He'd had a few daydreams in the last month about her and prayed silently that if it was just a dream that he wasn't going to wake up soon.

"Wha-? What's going on?" he asked trying to make out her face in the darkness of the room. He couldn't see her expression and was worried for a moment that she might be sleep walking or something strange like that. Was she drunk or something? He knew that she'd been a little bolder this evening with their physical relationship, kissing him just as often as she pleased, but did she really want to crawl into bed with him?

"Nothing…I was just freezing to death over there," she said pulling the covers back to slide in beside him. "Sorry to wake you up."

He felt the flannel rub against his leg and froze. He'd worn a pair of gym shorts to bed that night along with a T-shirt, not wanting to sleep in just his boxers, like he did most nights, and was now glad that he'd done that.

He thought he heard her teeth chattering in the darkness and found that it was a cute excuse for her to crawl in bed with him, if it was just an excuse. "Did you turn off the air conditioning?" he asked noticing that it was a little cool in the room.

"Yeah, but the stupid hotel blanket isn't thicker than a tissue," she said, "I'm used to Orlando weather, not the arctic summer that you brought me to. It's ok if I sleep with you tonight, isn't it?"

He didn't want her to think that he was going to kick her out of his bed, but he didn't want her to assume that she was completely welcome there. He'd had a hard enough time keeping his head on straight and his hands to himself through dinner.

"Yeah I guess," he said.

"If you don't want me to just say so and I'll go back to bed over there."

"No," he said. He moved an arm and she scooted over. He expected her to curl up to him a little, but found that she threw an arm across his chest and a leg over his, making it so she was almost on top of him.

"Umm…Nicole?" He took a deep breath, but it didn't help now that her vanilla scent had engulfed him. He moved his leg a little so that she wasn't as close to him as she'd first been. It had been a year or so since he'd been in bed with a woman and was having a hard time not enjoying the situation that she'd thrown him into.

"Yeah?" she said sleepily.

Lance took another deep breath and wanted to swear. She had no idea what she was doing to him, did she? It was clear that she'd gotten into bed with him for the sole purpose of sleeping which frustrated him. "You comfy?" he asked trying to move her again so that she was away from him.

"Yeah, I'm not squishing you am I?" she asked. He felt her lean and kiss his neck.

"No," he said giving into the feeling of her lips on his neck he curled his arms around her he held her close and tried not to think about how she was pressed up against him.

It didn't work. She was pressed against him head to foot and it was killing him to have her be there and not do something about it. It had to stop before it got out of hand. He had to think of something to get away form her.

"Lance, what's wrong?" she asked after a moment. He saw her lift her head and look at him.

Taking advantage of the moment Lance uncurled himself from her scooted over and turned on the lamp on the table next to the bed. Squinting he looked at the clock and found that it was just after two in the morning. He wondered how long he'd been asleep and wondered how long Nicole had been awake.

"What'd I do?" she asked.

He turned back to face her finding her now sitting up in the bed Indian style with teary eyes.

Great, just what I need. Nice guys always finish last, isn't that what they say? He let out a breath and prayed that he could fix whatever damage he'd just caused by pulling away from her.

"Awe Cole," he said. He scooted back over to her, propped himself up on a pillow and took her hand.

"Did I do something wrong?" she asked. Her voice was weak and she was staring at her legs in front of her.

"No," he said. He played with her fingers, finally lacing his fingers through hers and looked her in the eyes. "You were doing everything too right."

"What?" she asked, "Too right?" She seemed to be just as confused as he was about all this.

"Cole you're killing me here," he sighed. He took a deep breath. "You and I…we can't…"

"Oh my god, I've just made a total fool of myself haven't I?" she said, "I just wanted to--"

"Nicole, quit," he said. He reached over and wiped a tear from her eye. Her face was pink with embarrassment and her eyes wouldn't meet his. "I…" He watched her cry and it broke her heart.

"I'm sorry," she said.

Lance sat up straighter and pulled her close to him for a moment. He scooted her legs across his legs and settled her into his lap carefully making sure that she didn't find out by touch what his feelings were for her. "Nicole look at me for a minute," he said. She lifted her head and looked him in the eyes. "I just don't want to go to fast. It would be easy for me to take advantage of this situation…you know…love 'em and leave and all that, but I don't want to do that with you."

Nicole stared at him innocently. "I…guess I assumed after tonight--"

"You didn't assume wrong Nicole," he said, "Believe me…" He widened his eyes as she moved her weight in his lap for a moment. "I, I, I definitely have feelings for you, but I'm not sure just how to go about dealing with them since we're so different and because my job puts so much space between us."

"I understand about your job," she said.

"I don't think that you do," he replied.

"But I do," she said, "You don't know how much I do."

"What because you spent time with Boo and the other girls today?" he snapped.

He saw the shocked look in her eyes and bit down on his tongue literally.

"Look, I'm sorry," Lance said with a sigh. He put a hand to her cheek and made her look at him.

Nicole held her breath. "Its ok," she said. Some sort of confusion played out in her eyes as he held her close.

"It’s not ok. Nothing is ok," he said as tears formed in his eyes. The fatigue of the day was catching up with him and having her being there with him was somehow weakening whatever armor he'd put up in the last few months. The guys and he were close, but there were some things that he didn't even talk with them about. He'd told his mom about a few of his frustrations about his life, but there wasn't really anything anyone could do to change things for him.

"I can't believe that my life is so damn complicated," he said angrily. "I find someone that I think I'm…" He took a breath then leaned and kissed her hard on the mouth and pulled her against him. When he pulled back he tried to control his breathing as she stared at him with her pink lips staring at him in shock. He hoped he hadn't been too forceful with her. He wouldn't want to have her mistake the passion that he wanted to show her for something else.

"Ok," he said softly, "Ground rules…" If they were going to be together that night there had to be some sort of line that couldn't be crossed. He was a virgin still, although he'd done most everything except losing his virginity and he wanted to keep it that way. He did still have the morals he'd grown up with, despite his lifestyle and there were certain things that he didn't want to have happen before his wedding night.

"Uh-huh?" she said leaning to kiss his neck.

"We can't do anything too extreme," he said.

"Uh-huh," she said and moved around so that she was straddling his lap.

"Oh my God," Lance said ripping away from their kiss he moved her away from him a little.

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

"What'd I do?" she asked.

Lance was looked at her with this extremely shocked look on his face and she wondered for a moment if she'd squished his leg or something, but when she stopped for a moment she knew that it was something else.

"Are you purposely trying to make me forget that I'm a gentleman?" he asked with a smile.

"No," she said then realized what he'd been talking about when she looked down and saw where she'd been sitting. She backed off a little, sitting so that her butt was more towards his knees than his lap. She knew that she was bright pink now and wasn't sure how to handle the situation.

"Nicole, You have to…" he trailed off and watched her with an anger in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said laughing now. "I didn't realize…I mean I did realize…" She shut up before she bumbled herself out of a boyfriend.

"Look," he said. He took a deep breath and said, "Let's start this over."

"Take two?" she said with a smile.

"Yeah," he said. He leaned over and turned off the light.

In the darkness she felt his hands move to her hips. He lifted her off of where she was sitting and placed her next to him on the bed. Nicole waited, trying to make out his silouette in the darkness, but soon found him resettled himself on his side.

"Lay down Nicole," he said with a soft voice and she lay down so that she was on her back and he was on his side next to her.

As she settled herself onto the mattress Lance propped himself up so that he could look down at her and put a hand on her stomach. "Slow," she heard him whisper as he leaned towards her and found her lips in the darkness. They'd french kissed before, but the passion in this kiss was something new for Nicole and took her by surprise.

While he was throughouthly exploring her mouth with his hand curled under her tanktop and rubbed circles on her stomach. Nicole hadn't been that intimite with a guy in a while and she hoped that he didn't notice the way that his hand was tickling her, making her stomach jump a bit with his touch.

Nicole had one arm around him and was rubbing his back while her other hand gripped the sheets on the bed in an attempt to keep herself from floating away.

"Warmer?" Lance asked pulling back from their kiss. He trailed kisses along her cheek then down her neck, stopping just along where her tank top covered her.

Nicole nodded in the darkness, still in shock by the feeling of his hands on her then swallowed and licked her lips before replying verbally, "Uhhuh."

"Good," he said leaning to kiss her again he started his hand rubbing against her stomach this time making a path from one him to the other making a small circle around her bellybutton.

Before she knew what he was doing he moved down to kiss her stomach. Nicole pulled away with laughter after a moment then tried to recovered, "Sorry…" She looked and could finally make him out in the darkness. He was looking at her waiting for an explanation. "It tickled."

She could hear his heavy breathing in the darkness. "Again or no?" he asked.

Calming her giggling fit she took a breath and braced herself. "Again." Her voice came out calmly as if this sort of thing happened to her everyday.

She still couldn't believe that she was in bed with Lance. For a moment it crossed her mind that the next morning and next few days were going to be strange after this, but she pushed the thought from her head as she closed her eyes to enjoy the feeling of his lips meet her skin again.


SIX:


Nicole felt cold air wash over her and opened her eyes to find Lance sitting up in bed. He pushed himself off the mattress and crawled out from under the sheets. She hadn't remembered falling asleep and was a little confused to see him, half-naked, dressed only in shorts, stumbling towards the bathroom. Swearing softly under his breath, as he kicked his foot into a chair, she heard him walk a few feet before the sound of the bathroom door clicking closed echoed in the room and the light spilled out from under the door.

Nicole rolled away from the direction of the bathroom door and pulled the sheet closer to her for warmth as she caught a glimpse of the sun coming up just outside their window. She gathered up the sheet around her and made her way over to the glass, finding that she was dressed only in her underwear and Lance's T-shirt. Somehow she'd lost her pajama bottoms and tank top the night before.

As she rubbed her eyes Nicole could feel herself blushing as she remembered how the two of them had stayed up for almost three hours kissing and…

Just the thought of how intimate they'd been made her blush, but at the same time she was proud of herself. She'd never been the "throw-yourself-at-a-guy" type of girl and was glad that she'd gotten through the night without totally making a fool of herself. He'd been gentle in his loving of her and had been the one to remind her that they had to keep some sort of boundaries.

The sound of the bathroom fan turning off and the click of the door opening a moment later cut into Nicole's thought before she could get caught up in further memories of the night before. She heard Lance making his way back over to her and could almost feel him behind her before he slid his arms around her.

"Watcha looking at?" he asked in a low rumble as he pulled her against him so that her back was against his chest. He kissed the side of her cheek, then her neck, then her shoulder through the T-shirt.

"The sunrise," she said softly snuggling into the warmth of his arms.

The sky lit up a little more as he rested his chin on her shoulder and held her close. She normally wasn't a girly-girl when it came to being cold, but having his arms around her definitely was better than the coldness she'd felt a moment before. She'd never really noticed it before, but he was a little hot-body. A hug from him was like being back in the Orlando heat for a moment.

"Isn't this great?" she asked with a whistful tone to her voice.

"I've seen so many sunrises, all of that is sort of lost on me," he said with a sad tone.

"Ooh," she said, "Poor baby. You know I love ya though." She shivered when the word love came out of her mouth. She hadn't meant to really say anything like that, but she let it out of her mouth anyway.

"You still cold?" he asked tucking the sheet around her, so that she was tucked against him in a mummy wrap. She was glad that he hadn’t made a big deal about the love word.

"Not anymore," she said and turned in his arms. She curled her arms around him holding the sheet around them as she pressed a kiss to his neck.

In response to her kiss his arms slid around her waist and with a tired groan that rumbled in his chest he softly commented, "Wasn't there some mention last night of sleeping in until the sun was in the sky?"

Nicole laughed and leaned back a little to kiss him. "You tired Ricky?"

Lance let a breath out leaning against her as if she was the only thing to hold him up then smiled. "Just a little, but its not all your fault," he said.

"Hey, I was the one who wanted to go to sleep at three, you were the one who wanted to…" she paused to lean to kiss him again then smiled, "…to stay up until four."

He laughed and buried his face in her neck for a moment, kissing her and making her giggle before he pulled back to look her in the eyes. Nicole still couldn't believe that they were so comfortable with each other. Every other time she'd been even remotely intimite with a guy she'd always felt nervous and out of place with the guy the next time she saw him, as if whatever connection that she'd made was only present for those few hours. She also was surprised at the way she'd bonded with him so quickly. She hadn’t really connected with anyone in such a deep manner since she was little. Other than having Sara as a best friend and having a few close friends, she had been almost alone from age fourteen on.

"What time is it now?" he asked turning to look at the clock.

"Too early to be up…" she said softly, "Go get back in bed. I'll be right back."

Pulling herself away from the comfort of his arms she walked towards the bathroom careful to avoid the chair in her way and closed herself in. She didn't want to leave his side, but nature called.

After she'd washed her hands, Nicole stared at herself in the mirror for a moment as a smile formed over her face. "Oh my god," she whispered to herself, "Oh! My! God!" She wanted to laugh and shout and celebrate the evening that she'd just experienced, but knew Lance might hear her and she didn't want to have to try to explain what she was doing. It was bad enough that she was that excited about not having sex.

Nicole let herself out of the bathroom and walked back into the room. Lance lay on his back with the sheet only half over him snoring softly. "Lance?" she asked in a whisper just to see if he might be awake. He wasn't so she carefully crawled into bed next to him hoping that this time she wouldn't wake him up.

When he mumbled something and pulled her closer into his arms she hugged him, quietly slipping back to sleep with a smile on her face.

 

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

 

Lance heard a dull knocking sound and opened his eyes. He'd woken up a moment before, but had been enjoying the feeling of the mattress too much to ruin the moment. He found that it was light in the room now and tried to make out the time on the clock, but couldn't focus on the face of the digital clock, when he realized that he was alone. Although he swore he remembered Nicole crawling in with him again, the sheets were tossled next to him, but she wasn't there.

Still trying to remember what part of the night before had been a dream and what had been real He looked around. He heard the knocking at the door again then saw Nicole coming out of the bathroom wearing jeans, a white v-neck T-shirt and sneakers. She was brushing her hair as she went to the door.

"Is he awake yet?"

"I'm not sure…" Nicole said softly.

Lance recognized JC's voice at the door and wondered again what time it was. Knowing that JC wasn't the type of person to wake up before he had to on days off Lance knew that whatever JC wanted must have been important.

"What'd you want?" Lance called out. He pushed himself out of bed. They turned and looked at him as he walked towards the door.

JC was already dressed in jeans and a long sleeved shirt and sneakers and was holding onto Boo, who was wearing one of her flirty outfits, as the couple stood in the doorway.

Nicole turned and looked at him with wide eyes. He greeted her with a smile then watched as her cheeks flushed into a pink color. He kept his eyes on her for a moment, watching the sparkle in her eyes before directing his attention to JC and Boo in the doorway again. He knew if he didn't stay focused on whatever JC was going to say that he'd never hear the end of it. JC wasn't the one who would tease him for something as simple as not paying attention, but the news would get back to Joey, Justin and Chris who all were ruthless with things like that.

"We were going to go get lunch and I wanted to know if you were going to come down. I gotta talk to you about some stuff," JC said.

"What stuff?"

Lance ran a hand through his hair, looked over at Nicole who was leaning against the door now looking from JC to Lance's face. He crossed his arms over his chest, too keep himself from reaching towards her and stared hard at JC. He wondered what JC was going to talk to him about. They hadn't made any plans to do anything as a group over their vacation and had thought that he wouldn't see JC for the hours that Boo would be in town.

"Meredith's new album. I think I have a good song lined up for her," JC said, "I want you to take a look at the lyrics and maybe tonight we can pull the tune together tonight."

"Oh God honey, no," Boo said with a sigh from next to JC. "Please no studio stuff tonight."

Lance knew how much Boo hated when JC went into his studio-mode. JC was a perfectionist when it came to recording and writing which was a good thing to have when trying to put an album together, but he became a hermit if he got onto a good project which seemed to sever any kinds of friendships he had. Lance was surprised that she'd stuck around so long.

JC leaned and kissed her with a smile. "It would only be a little while." His voice was quiet and Lance wondered how many times that morning they'd repeated that same conversation. If a person could point out one flaw in their relationship it was that JC's first priority was his music and not Boo and Boo's priority list for him was the opposite.

"You promised," she said with a whine.

JC leaned and whispered something in her ear, which seemed to put her complaints to rest then they began to kiss again. Lance watched with wide eyes as the two of them kissed. JC was practically groping Boo again which made him think of the night before and how he'd had his hands on Nicole. His eyes drifted to her. She seemed nervous again. She had her finger in her mouth and was chewing on her fingernail.

"Sounds good," Lance said trying to break JC and Boo from their kiss. "Let me grab a shower and get dressed."

"Ok," JC said, "We'll be downstairs."

Nicole closed the door as two left to go to lunch. She turned around and Lance smiled at her.

"Good morning," he said leaning to kiss her cheek he slid his arms around her hugging her close.

"Afternoon you mean."

"What time is it?" he asked.

"Just after noon," she said, "Let me finish doing my hair so we can get lunch. I'm starving."

"When did you get up?" he asked.

"A while ago," she said.

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"You needed the sleep," she said. She leaned and kissed him. "You were snoring so I let you alone."

"I was not snoring," he said.

"Were too," she said, "Now go and take your shower so we can go eat."

Lance followed her into the bathroom and watched her brush her hair for a moment before he softly announced, "I'm gonna jump in the shower."

He slid back the shower curtain, stepped into the shower sliding the curtain closed again before stepping out of his shorts and throwing them over the partitian between them. He heard a laugh a moment later and said, "I didn't hit you did I?"

"No," she called to him.

Lance turned on the water, a little cooler than he normally would have liked, and began to sing as he soaped off. He'd had a Clint Black song stuck in his head for two days.

 

"When I said I do,
I mean that I will,
for the end of all time."

 

He heard a laugh and he stopped singing and stuck his head out from the shower. He'd just put shampoo into his hair and squnited so that it didn't get in his eyes. "What? Was I off key?"

"No," she said with a laugh. She had her hair up in a ponytail again and came closer to him. She leaned out and kissed him quickly, "Do you always sing in the shower?"

"Always," he said. "Care to do a duet?"

Nicole's smile faded as she backed away. "No thanks," she said.

Lance could see a stressed look cross her face. "What'?" he said, "What'd I say?"

"Nothing," she said.

He could see it was something. No one made such a sour face about nothing.

"I just don't want to get wet."

He flicked water at her and returned to his shower. "You know what? I don't think I've heard you sing before."

"You're the performer not me," she said.

"Oh come on," he said.

"You aren't going to make me sing are you?" she said, "I have stage fright."

"That’s not what I mean." He ducked his hair under the water then turned off the water. He pulled back the curtain a little and grabbed a towel and wiped his face before continuing, "I've never heard you sing before…I mean most people sing along to the television or get songs stuck in your head."

"Whatever," Nicole said, "Hurry up so we can go eat."

Lance wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the shower to face her. She was putting lotion on and after he secured the towel he stepped towards her and picked up the lotion bottle that read Victoria's Secret.

"Victoria's?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, "Vanilla."

"I'll have to remember that one," he said and left the room feeling that if he reached out and touched her that they'd never make it to lunch.


SEVEN:

 


While Chris, Dani, Angela, Joey, and Justin enjoyed their day off by escaping the confines of the hotel, Lance and JC had pulled together the rest of the lyrics to the song that JC had showed them while they'd eaten lunch. After a quick meal together they'd been escorted to the ballroom after JC had asked the person at the front desk if they could use the piano. Mike and Wes had been sitting next to the door guarding the place as the four of them played in the room.

"You know what we need?" JC said with an exited tone that had worn on Nicole's nerves in the last three hours.

"To get out of here," Boo said softly.

No reaction came from JC, but Nicole couldn't help but to groan at her attitude. Boo had been upset from the time JC had pulled out the lyrics he had written during lunch up until she'd fallen asleep in the corner of the room about an hour before relieveing them from her bitchiness for a while. She'd woken up though when the music had stopped and Lance had left the room for a moment.

"What'd you got in mind C?" Lance asked coming back over to where the piano had been pushed into the empty ballroom. He'd gone out to tell the man at the front counter that they'd be done soon.

"We need a girl to try this song out on," JC said.

Nicole opened her mouth to say something, but shut it again knowing that it wasn't her place to step in and volunteer for a job that she wasn't qualified for. She'd felt uncomfortable enough just sitting in the room with the guys as they worked out the song on the piano. She could have escaped back up to the room, but knew that she wanted to at least be in the room with Lance even if he was busy. She had months and months to be away from him and needed to take advantage of the time that she had with him.

"I can call Meredith and have her sing it over the phone," Lance said pulling out his phone.

"Don't look at me JC," Boo said, "You know I don't sing."

Nicole turned to see how JC was looking at her with a pleading sort of look.

Finally, just before Lance hit the "send" button on his phone, Nicole took a deep breath and spoke. After listening to JC and Lance figure out the rest of the lyrics and begin the melody she jumped at the chance to sing it. She'd been itching to help with the music too, but wasn't sure if what JC and Lance had in mind was what she would have done with the song. It was now or never for her. She'd been feeling bad all morning about not telling Lance the truth about her and after their conversation while he was in the shower she knew it was time to tell the truth or at least let him hear it for himself. "I'll sing it."

"You told me that you don't sing," Lance said turning off his phone.

Nicole took another deep breath and prayed that she wouldn't have to explain everything in front of JC and Boo. If she was going to tell him the whole story she needed for them to be somewhere more private because she knew if she did start to tell her story, tears would soon follow. "I just said that I didn't sing in the shower."

Her comment got strange looks from both JC and Boo, but Nicole ignored them and moved to sit on the piano bench next to JC.

"Play it again Sam," Nicole said with a laugh.

JC laughed at her quote and began to play the melody that they'd been going over. They hadn't written the music to paper, but JC seemed to have memorized what they wanted the song to sound like. His fingers sailed over the keys without him having to look at them. He seemed to be one with the piano and it showed in how relaxed he seemed to be compared to how nervous Nicole was as the notes played.

Nicole listened to the notes for a moment then counted down slowly before opening her mouth to sing at the correct part after receiving a nod from JC.

 

"I'd like to watch you sleep at night,
to hear you breathe by my side
and although sleep leaves me behind,
there's nowhere I'd rather be

and now our bed is oh so cold,
my hands feel empty, no one to hold
I can sleep what side I want,
its not the same with you gone
Oh if you came home,
I'll let you know that…"

***All You Want--written by D. Armstrong, P. Herman, R. Armstrong sung by Dido***

 

Nicole had been watching JC play, but turned to see Lance's expression and found him staring at her with his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide. Nicole stopped singing. "What?" she asked looking at Lance with an innocent look as if she didn't know that it was her singing voice that had shocked him into silence. She looked over at JC who had stopped playing when she'd stopped singing. "Was I off key?"

"No," Lance said visibly shocked by her singing. "It was fine."

"Then what is it?" JC asked Lance.

Lance leaned against the piano with a hurt look on his face, as if she'd done something or said something wrong. He was chewing on his lip and picking at his finger trying to avoid answering the question. "Nothing," he said with a sad tone.

"Maybe I shouldn't sing," Nicole could see the way that the excitement had flown from his eyes and knew that she might be able to cure whatever wound she caused if they got away from JC and Boo so that they could talk. She knew it was because of the singing. She knew that if she were him, it would have upset her to find out something like that in such a way.

JC stared at the both of them for a moment then looked at Boo who was still looking bored. "Fine, we should head out of here anyway," he said softly.

Nicole watched Boo jump for joy, throwing her arms around JC while squeeling, as they packed up the pieces of paper they'd been using and JC pulled the cover over the keys of the piano.

As Lance headed towards the door Nicole slid an arm through his arm and hugged herself to his shoulder as they walked. "What was that all about back there?"

"Nothing." His voice was low and sad still.

She stopped in her tracks. "Lance?" she asked. He stopped and turned around and looked at her. "What'd I do to piss you off?"

Lance sighed and jammed his hands into his pockets as Boo and JC left the room. "You didn't tell me that you could sing like that."

"And?"

"It's nothing," he said rubbing his face. He sighed heavily. "Let's just get out of here and go relax."

In the hallway on the tenth floor Mike stopped Lance. "There's a new tabloid report out that Johnny wants you to take a look at."

"Crap…more fucking drama," Lance hissed out under his breath.

Nicole kept walking down to the room figuring that Lance had business to deal with. She didn't want to interupt him so she figured she'd go and keep herself busy until he joined her again. She was cleaning up a few of her things when he came into the room, let out a huge sigh and looked at her with a frown.

"Are you going to act this way the rest of my visit?" Nicole asked getting frustrated with the silent treatment.

"No," he said flopping down on the nearest of the two beds in the room. He flipped on the television with the remote and settled in as if he was going to be watching for a while.

Nicole went and stood in between him and the television with her hands on her hips. At the moment she wanted him to ask what was wrong and for her to tell him the whole story. She needed to tell him, but didn't know how to begin the story of her life.

"Will you move?" he asked leaning around her.

"No," she said, "Not until we get this settled. I refuse to spend the rest of my vacation with you in silence."

Lance laughed a little. "Why are you getting so hyper over all of this?" he asked.

"Ugh!" she stomped her foot and turned around and flipped off the television.

"What?" Lance looked up at her with a confused look.

Nicole found herself with teary eyes watching him stare up at her. "I need to tell you something important."

"What is it?" he asked. His expression softened and he held out a hand to her.

Brushing his hand away she began to pace going from where he sat closer to the door over to the window and back again.

"There's a reason that I don't sing anymore," she said. She returned to the window as tears started to fall from her eyes. "When I was a kid…"

A knock at the door sounded and Lance got up to get it. "Hold on a second, let me see who it is."

Johnny was at the door wearing a frown. Nicole watched him hand the piece of paper to Lance, who looked at it, looked at Nicole, then came back into the room without a word to Johnny shutting the door behind him.

"Former Broadway Star Sings New Tune," Lance read and handed the piece of paper to Nicole and continued to read over her shoulder. "NSYNC star Lance Bass has been linked to former Broadway singing sensation Nicole Day. The two were sited two months ago when NSYNC packed up for their summer concert season and the relationship was confirmed this week when the two had dinner in a Midwestern Hotel on one of the NSYNC tour stops."

The title that Lance read belonged to a tabloid article. It was accompanied not only a picture of the two of them at dinner the night before, but somehow had a picture of them in the parking lot when Lance left for tour as well as a picture of Nicole from her Broadway debut of Annie.

"Oh no," she said letting out a breath. She sank into a sitting position on the bed and covered her face. "Anything but this…"

"Former Broadway singing sensation?" Lance said with a strange tone to his voice that she'd never heard before.

"That’s what I was trying to tell you," she said looking up with teary eyes. "I don't sing anymore because…" She looked down for a moment at the rest of the article, scanning it to see if the rest of her story had been printed. Sure enough, the rest of the story was there in print, from her first brush with fame to the court case that dragged on for weeks when she became an amancipated minor. Every detail of the trial seemed to be staring her in the face bringing back the harsh memories of being on the stand and telling her parents to leave her alone.

The article even included a recent interview with her father, who seemed all too happy to spill the beans about her life. A quote they included even mentioned how her father thought that Nicole was Gold Digging and was only with Lance to get back into the music business.

"Lance, I…" She handed him the article and with a choked voice said, "Read it…what they've printed is fairly true, except the part that my father said."

Lance looked at the paper and read it and after a moment looked up at her. "You divorced your parents?"

"That’s why I was so nervous about your mother and father coming to visit," she said, "I've only had bad experiences--" Her shoulders slumped and she cried, as if the dam that was keeping in last nine years of pent up anger and sadness broke in one moment.

Lance dropped the sheet of paper to the floor and pulled her into a hug, but she shrugged off his arms. "Don't," she said and went over to her bag. "I should go home--I mean back to Orlando--you don't need this kind of drama."

"Cole?"

Nicole looked over at him and with a frown saw the concerned look on his face. "If I stay I'm just going to drag you into another battle with my parents. You don't need to be a part of that."

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

Lance stood and stared at her. She was visibly shaken by the article and was now moving towards her bags, as if to pack. Lance's mind reeled with the thoughts of losing her. He knew that if he let her leave the hotel that she'd be gone forever. "Cole, look at me."

She didn't turn to face him, but she did stop folding the shirt that she had in her hands.

"Nicole," he said with a sigh. When she didn't turn to face him his tone changed to a more forceful one, "Damn it, look at me."

She turned and he watched her cry for a moment before he went to her and pulled her into his arms. She was rigid in his arms, trying not to cry. He finally pulled the shirt in her hands away and hugged her tightly. "Cole, I don't know the real story or the whole story, but what I do know is that if you go home I have a feeling that you're going to be out of my life forever and I can't have that. I won't have that."

Nicole softened and leaned against him to cry. She curled her arms around him and held onto him as the storm of her emotions took over. He had to admit that just standing there with her made him want to cry. He wasn't sure exactly what had caused the sudden outburst, but he was glad that he could be there to help her through it.

"Cole, let's sit down," he whispered. She nodded taking huge shaky breaths as they settled onto the bed. Lance cuddled her in his arms and pushed her hair out of the way when she took it out of her ponytail.

Lance sat with her that way for almost an hour before she finally had cried herself to sleep. When he felt her stop shaking and heard her begin to breathe more deeply he slid his cell phone out of his pocket and with a free hand he dialed his mother.

"Hey dad," Lance whispered when his father answered. "Is mom there?"

"What’s up son?" his father asked.

"I just need to talk to mom," Lance said. He and his father were close, but trying to get advice about what to do with Nicole seemed like it would come easier from his mother.

His father turned away and called out to his mom and a moment later his mom got onto the phone. "Hello James."

"Hey mom," he whispered.

"Why are you whispering honey? Is JC sleeping?"

"No," Lance said. "I need to talk to you…you got a second?"

"Sure," his mother said, "What’s wrong?"

"There was a tabloid published today about Nicole and me…" He went on to explain the whole situation all the way up to the part when she burst into tears.

"Oh honey," his mother sighed at the end of the explanation.

"I know. It's crazy. I'm used to this kind of stuff, being around the whole Justin and Britney conspiracy all the time, but Nicole doesn't know how to handle this kind of stuff. She leaves in two days and I'm not sure she can handle the aftermath of that article by herself, but if I keep her here with me it might just make things worse," Lance said, "What do I do?"

"I don't want to pry into your personal life honey, but really how do you feel about Nicole?" His mother asked. "I think you need to figure that out first."

"I don't know mom." Lance looked down at Nicole's sleeping face pressed against his face and melted. "I like her a lot, but I'm not sure if I can put another person through all the crap that someone has to go through to be with me."

"You love her then honey, because if you didn't you wouldn't think twice about that stuff," his mother said.

Lance stared at Nicole again lost in his thoughts. He couldn't imagine what he would do if she went home and he never saw her again. He'd hate his house and his life in Orlando if he knew that she was there, but not with him.

"Honey, I think you have your answer," his mother continued, "If you want I can always come down and stay with Nicole for a while until this blows over."

"You're the best," Lance said into the phone then leaned and kissed the top of Nicole's head. "I don't think you need to come down, but if Nicole gets hassled over this maybe you could come for a week or so, just to keep her company."

"You ok now?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Good, now keep in touch ok," his mother said, "And don't just call us when you have troubles."

"I won't," Lance said, "I love you."

"We love you too," His father said. "Be safe. We'll see you at the New York shows, ok?"

"Ok," Lance said, "Talk to you later."

Lance hung up the cell phone, placed it on the table next to the bed and hugged Nicole and settled into take a little nap figuring that Nicole might be out for a while considering how hard she'd cried earlier.


EIGHT:


 With her face pressed to the mattress, Nicole awoke to an empty bed, an empty room and a pounding headache. After trying three times, beat back by the pain of her sore head, Nicole finally got the strength to lift her head and noticed a note taped to the television screen.

Pushing herself out of bed, she walked across the room and grabbed the note off of the television screen. Written in big black marker was a message from Lance.


Honey--

Went to breakfast and to a quick meeting. I'll be back around eleven. I think Dani and Boo and Angela will be around in case the meeting takes longer. Hope you slept well.

Love,
Ricky.


Nicole smiled at the note and placed it on top of the television then went to take a shower, hoping that a little hot water could help the pounding of her head subside enough so that she might be able to function for the rest of the day. She had no clue what she and Lance would end up doing, but she knew she didn't want to be sick.

In the bathroom Nicole stripped down and got into the shower. Trying not to think about the events of the day before she turned the spray on high and let the warm water wash over her head letting the sensation of the water and the heat sink in. She wondered where Lance had disappeared to. She'd thought that the group had the day off and wondered if something might be wrong since they were having an unscheduled meeting.

"Hey Cole?" Lance's voice boomed in the tiny room making her drop the bottle of shampoo she had in her hands. A moment later she heard his voice again, "Cole you ok?"

"Yeah, you just startled me."

"You want to get lunch with everyone?" he called, "We’re planning to go out somewhere."

Nicole wondered if he had really needed to come into the bathroom to ask her that or if he was checking to see if she was crying, like he had when he'd left Orlando.

"Yeah, I'll be out in a minute."

Nicole finished her shower then remembered that she hadn't brought her clothes into the bathroom. Tucking the towel around her she exited the bathroom finding Lance sitting on the bed with Justin talking. The two were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Lance had on black that day, which made the blond highlights in his hair stick out. Justin on the other hand wore a baby blue T-shirt underneath a University of Carolina Tar heels Basketball jersey. They seemed relaxed in their chairs although the looks on their faces seemed serious, as if she'd walked in on an important conversation.

"Oh no, my virgin eyes," Justin called out placing a hand across his face. He laughed hard while Lance turned and gave her a smile after looking her up and down from head to foot.

Controlling her embarrassment with a laugh, Nicole held the towel to her and hurried over to her bag. She pulled out a pair of jeans, a fresh shirt and underwear and bra and hurried back into the bathroom. After getting into her clothes on she brushed through her hair quickly, leaving it down for a change, and returned to the room.

"Not again!" Justin called out.

"I'm dressed now Curly." She pulled out a pair of socks, grabbed her running shoes and sat down next to Lance to put them on.

Lance reached out a hand to her back and rubbed it for a moment. "You sleep ok?"

"Yeah," she said with a half smile.

"So where are we going to lunch Lanceten?" Justin asked.

"It's nothing special," Lance explained, "It's some fifties style restaurant that one of the radio DJ said was good. Mike called over there and we have a table for all of us."

Nicole finished tying her shoes and flashed a smile to Justin. "I'm ready if you guys are."

"Let's hit the road," Justin said pushing himself out of the chair he led the way out the door where they met up with everyone.

Joey, Angela, and Justin led the way to the elevator, walking like The Monkies, stepping in front of each other while singing: "Here we come, walking down the street..." JC and Boo walked along slowly behind them with Chris and Dani.

Nicole started down the hallway, but Lance pulled her back. "You feeling better?" he asked in a hushed tone.

"Yeah," she said, "I'm sorry for acting so psycho yesterday."

"Cole, it's ok," he said, "I know that all of this is crazy, but I want you to know that I'm not upset at all about this. I'm gonna do whatever I can to make it better."

Nicole nodded trying to keep back her tears. She couldn't believe that he was being so sweet to her. She'd brought with her to their relationship, a whole array of drama that he didn't need in his life and instead of pushing her away, he was telling her to stay, which she didn't quite understand.

"You two guys coming??" Chris yelled down to them.

"Yeah!" Nicole yelled back giggling at her outburst. She slid her hand into Lance's and they joined the others.

In the elevator Nicole stood next to Dani who leaned over and whispered, "We all saw the article, just so you know."

"I can't believe that they printed all that," Nicole said pausing a moment to stare at her shoes.

"Don't worry about it, we all think you're cool," Dani said with a smile.

"That means a lot to me," Nicole said finding a tear in her eye. Again she was shocked at how everyone was being so nice to her.

 

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

 

The group and security had had a meeting that morning going over the details that surrounded the latest tabloid scandal. Mike had told the guys that reporters would be in the lobby when they went to go out to lunch and that the guys should be cautious of their actions because they didn't want to spread anything more into the news.

The elevator stopped at the lobby level with a slight jolt sending Chris into a fit of laughter. Lance ignored his friend's immature sense of comedy and concentrated on Nicole. He leaned and kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand. "I'll meet you in the car." He made eye contact with her for a moment and found some solace in seeing that she relaxed after he spoke to her.

Lance let go of her hand and as expected found himself caught up in a whirlwind of activity as Security surrounded the guys and pushed through the reporters to get the guys to the front of the hotel. Nicole waited with the other girls while the guys were hurried along towards the door. A group of reporters surround them instantly snapping pictures of Lance. He held his head up and tired to stay calm and not put his hand over his face. He didn't mind the flashes and the picture taking after all these years, but wished he could be a few feet back holding onto Nicole's hand.

When Lance got to the van he seated himself in the middle seat and watched out the tinted windows as the reporters seemed to crowd around Nicole.

Reporters took pictures and shoved tape recorders in her face brutally attacking her with quesitons.

"Miss Day do you have any comments to make on your affair with Lance?"
"Do you plan to get married?"
"Have you and Lance slept together?"

Feeling a little threatened by the prying quesitons Lance grabbed the seat in front of him and pulled himself up so that he was standing. At the moment he wanted to jump out of the van and deck the person who'd asked the question about sex.

Nicole was surrounded by the aggressive reporters and looked a little panicked as they jostled into position around her to get the story. Lance gripped the back of the seat hard and jumped over Joey to get a better postion. If one more reporter bumped into her he was going out there.

"Hold up!" House said putting an arm across the seat as if he knew what Lance might do. "Mike's getting her, so just sit down."

Lance stared at House with worry and anger in his eyes. "Come on man, they're killing her out there!"

"Sit down!" House boomed at him.

Lance was about to fight his way out of the van when Mike finally reached Nicole. She'd been stopped by the reporters, but with Mike's help soon pushed through the crowd to him. A moment later she was settled in next to him in the seat and he found himself putting an arm around her just to make sure that she was ok.

"I'm ok," she said with a shaky voice. She leaned against him and he kissed her forehead.

"You sure?" he asked. He looked in her eyes and watched her blink a few times before he let her sit back and relax. She nodded finally and athough her face looked a little pale, he felt the tension in her shoulders subside as the van moved out from where it had been waiting.

"She's fine," Dani said giving Nicole a smile. She reached out and held onto Nicole's hand. "You did good out there."

"Thanks," she said breathlessly.

"You did ok," Boo said without much joy or sincerity to her voice.

"You did better than I could have," Angela said.

He hadn't meant to leave her that morning, but when Justin had come knocking on the door that morning with the others in tow he slid out from next to her in bed and had left her there alone. She was asleep and hadn't moved so he ddidn't want to wake her up.

"Praise the Lord for stupid tabloid stories!" Justin called out in the back of the van when they were away from the frenzy in front of the building.

After initially jumping at the sound of the sudden outburst, Lance turned around and gave Justin a death stare which immeditely made Justin shut up. He couldn't believe that Justin would do such a thing, after seeing the state that Nicole had been in that morning when they'd left for their meeting.

"Sorry guys, but it does feel good to have those guys in your face and not mine for a change." Justin's tone wasn't at all mean, he was simply stating his feeling on the situaiton, which Lance really didn't blame him for.

Nicole turned around and Lance thought for a moment that she'd be mad, but she laughed. "Yeah right…like our one story compares to you and Britney getting engaged, married, living in some home together in the middle of nowhere…but hey…they did have those B-day pictures of you. Need I go on?"

"No," Justin tucked his chin down to his chest.

"Why doesn't everyone shut up about the tabloids!" JC yelled from next to Boo. She turned and gave him a mad look since he'd yelled it next to her head and he leaned and kissed her forehead before looking back out the window.

"Good idea, let's just get through the next few days and we'll be home free," Lance said hugging Nicole to him.

"Sounds good to me Ricky," she said softly.

"You sure you're ok?" Mike asked from next to them.

"I'll be better when everyone stops asking me if I'm ok."


[[ Back To The Index ]]


© 2000-2001 Pit Pat Productions