Midnight. The green digital clock above the DVD player read midnight. Just midnight. Not one, or two or three am, just midnight.

So why do I feel like I've been up for twenty-four hours?

They'd stop in Arcata, California in an hour for gas and she planned on getting out and running around the bus at least five times before she went to sleep just for good measure. She'd been sitting on her butt for most of the 16-hour ride already and was having a hard time dealing with the claustrophobia. If she was going to last the last six hours she needed a definite change of scenery.

Her deep sigh could be heard even over the sound of the engine as she pulled the laptop from her lap and set it on her make shift desk. She was in her production office, with laptop and phone readily available, but to the naked eye it looked like she was sitting at the table of a huge motor home, which technically was the case.

The black Eagle 45-foot Model 15 bus (Click Here for Pictures) had been their home for the last three weeks and they had about another two months until they could go home. At one point she'd known how many days it was, but at this point in the tour-hopping schedule she'd lost track.

She leaned against the small wooden kitchen table propping her chin on her hand to look out the window for a moment. It was pitch black outside, but she knew that they were just over the California State line. They were coming south from British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon with the final destination of Network Coliseum in Oakland, California to continue on to the next part of their summer tour schedule. This time they'd hit it big, being on the road with NSYNC was not only going to be a highlight for Farzana's career, but would also be a break for the rest of them.

"It's your age." A huge man coming in from the back part of the bus as they rolled along on Highway 101 answering the unasked question. He came out from the back bunk area and closed the door that separated the front section of the bus from the bunks.

She twisted around and smiled at him tiredly, "Hey Rodney."

"What are you doing up boss?" he asked with a smile using the title of boss in a sarcastic manner as he took a seat on the couch just beyond her messy and very occupied booth.

"Last time I remembered I did have a name," she said.

"Sorry Patty," he said taking a deep breath as if starting the conversation over, "What are you up to Miss Patty?"

"Work," she said rubbing her face. She leaned to stretch her back and closed up the laptop, unplugging its power cord. She used the job of winding it back up as a distraction. "Or at least I think that's what they call it...they should say slave laborer instead of Artist Representative."

"You work too hard," He laughed, "I just hope you get paid for it."

"One day," she said with a smile, "One day it'll pay off."

When she leaned over to put the power cord in the laptop's carrying case Rodney leaned over and slid a small box onto the tabletop and returned his hand to his lap.

She went to reach for her computer, but stopped when she saw it. "What's this?" she asked.

He shrugged in a shy manner. "Happy twenty-sixth."

The words caught her off guard. Am I really that old now? Just yesterday it seemed like I was still in high school.

Her hands were quick with the bow and when she popped open the box she saw the Claddagh Ring sitting there staring up at her. "Where'd you get this?" she asked plucking it up from its holder to look at.

"Gabby was saying that you had one back in high school and when Reese and you...well anyway...you had it and then you had your wedding band and I figured you'd might want it back now that..." Rodney was visibly nervous about broaching the whole Reese subject. She couldn't see his hands in his lap, but the shoulders of his white Dallas Cowboys Football T-shirt moved indicating that he was rubbing his hands together like he always did.

"Thank you Rodney," she said ending his torture as slid the ring onto her recently bare ring finger. She wore it on her right hand, crown turned inward as the lore told her to do. It was a Scottish sign that showed that her heart was yet to be occupied, or in this case her heart was open again.

She felt for him. She knew he'd put up with her these last few months and someday she was going to tell him how much she appreciated the company and support. She moved to get up and hug him, sitting on his knee like she was visiting Santa as she hugged him, "It means lot to me."

"Oh stop," he said with sarcasm breaking the tense mood as only he could then he looked out the window. "Hey Oakley!" Rodney called out in a soft yell.

"Yeah R?" the driver called from the front seat averting his eyes from the road for only a moment.

Rodney moved her into the seat next to him and leaned and looked out the window. "When are we gonna stop?"

"In about an hour," he said.

"Damn," Rodney said.

"What's up?" she asked, "Why do you need to stop?"

"Taco Bell for dinner," he said leaning back and putting a hand over his stomach, "Not a good thing."

She playfully hit at his shoulder and laughed, "That's gross R, that's really gross. Trust you to do something so sweet then have to make farting noises or some stupid diarrhea comment to ruin the day."

When the laughter settled down between the three adults Rodney moved and went to get a drink then disappeared into the back room again and she moved up to the seat next to Oakley to ride the rest of the way to Arcata with him.



The mumbling noise across the room made him look up from the screen of the laptop. He looked over at the couple across from him and went to speak then looked at the clock. It was twelve-thirty. Isn't it past their bedtime?

"Oh please you two," Lance said with a groan holding the phone away from his mouth for a minute. He happened to be on a personal call at the moment, while going over his schedule so he could upload it onto his palm pilot, but they'd been sitting there distracting him all evening. "I don't have time for this--" He stopped and shook his hands at them. "Rent a freaking room or something. You do know that we do have a room on this bus with a door!"

Slowly Justin lifted his head from where he was kissing Meredith and looked over at Lance with a sneer, "Watch it buddy or I'll tell on your mommy."

Even though Justin was trying to joke around with him, he wasn't in a joking mood. He hadn't been in a joking mood for about a week now. The tour was catching up with him and with the movie production schedule and his schedule conflicts with Meredith's small summer tour had his mind was feeling a little raw and his temper right on the verge of being snapped. He had too many things to do and having them sit there in front of him making out like the teenagers they were was driving him crazy. Especially since the back room was unoccupied.

"Chill out," Justin said, "That vein over your eye is gonna pop."

"Justin," Lance said angrily then stopped. It seemed as if all the blood in his body rushed to his head. He could hear it in his ears and could feel it zooming through his head, right over his right eye where migraines tended to settle in for him.

The urge to scream bloody murder at them welled up in his throat and he knew he needed out. If he ended up yelling at them more than he had just done it would turn into something he didn't want to deal with, so he bit his tongue and stopped what he was doing. He slammed his laptop shut and then moved from the small table of the tour bus and stormed into the back away from the two love birds who had taken up residency on the couch that night. He knew that he was going to regret sharing a bus with Justin, but he only recently realized how much.

"Oh come on Lance," Meredith said from her seat next to Justin, "We're sorry. We'll be quiet."

The only response she got was an angry stare. It's not that he didn't like Meredith, actually he liked her a lot more than any of the other girls that Justin had ever dated, but being a single guy and having to hear the two of them together every night was horrible. Didn't they know that those curtains on the bunk weren't sound proof? It took all his concentration to go to sleep and night and all his strength to keep from yelling at him every other moment of the day when they were together.

"Crap," he sighed as he set down the laptop across from him and took a seat on the U shaped couch. He felt horrible for taking the Lord's name in vain, but he couldn't help it. His whole week had been a mess and he needed a break.

"What's wrong?" the voice on the phone said into his ear.

"Sorry Carrah," he breathed deeply three times before continuing while trying to level off his adrenaline rush. He was already dressed in his pajama bottoms that he wore to sleep on the bus, but he was wide-awake, which killed him. It seemed these days that every time he needed to be awake he wasn't and when he needed to be awake he was asleep. "I just can't stand the two of them out there like that." He glared at the door even though no one was there to see the reaction.

She laughed a little, "You're just jealous. When was the last time you got laid?"

"Crap Carrah, don't bring that up," Lance said tiredly scratching his chest through his white T-shirt. He'd felt a pain in his left shoulder the last few days and that evening it had been getting slowly worse. It wasn't a good sign for him to be hurting like that, but he couldn't do anything about it at the moment. He had other things to do. "I'm surrounded by 13 year olds all day, not to mention you know my feelings on the subject."

"Ok," she said harshly, "That's the cue for me to hang up now. I don't know about you Lance, but my job title isn't whipping boy...ok?"

He leaned forward and put a hand on his forehead. "It's all just this big blur right now and I feel like I'm--" He took a breath and let it out slow counting to ten; a procedure that he'd adopted in the last week to keep himself from snapping someone's head off. "--I'm sorry...why don't you head onto bed...I'll call you tomorrow."

"Ok," she sighed, "I'm gonna be out of town tomorrow...leave me a message and I'll try you back tomorrow night."

"I've got a concert then I might go out, but I'll call you around eight your time," Lance said finally finding that his heart rate had gone down and that his breathing had returned to normal. "I'm really sorry girl."

"Ok...Just chill out a little until then," she said. Her voice had calmed from the harsh tone before and he could see her with a sad smile on her face, that sad smile she always gave him when he was stressed out. It was a wonder that she hadn't abandoned him years ago, but that wasn't like her. Carrah and he and known each other forever and he had a feeling that they would know each other for forever.

Lance ran his hand over his face a few times, took another deep breath then leaned over and opened the sliding class window. They'd be to the hotel in about an hour, from what he could tell, but until then he needed a little fresh air. He opened up the sliding glass window...The wind through the screen made him shiver so he closed it a little. "I will."

"Love ya," she said and hung up the phone.

Lance clicked his phone off and threw it in front of him. He leaned over and curled up on the cushion, bringing his feet up so that he could stretch out a little. His arm curled under his head and he stared across the room and out the window as the streetlights whizzed by. Instead of counting sheep that night Lance decided that it was time to count lampposts. They'd be at the hotel soon, but at least a little bit of a nap would help him. He still had his schedule to look over for the week before he went to bed for good that night, but a rest for his eyes would do him some good.



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