FIREWORKS


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.


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