JUST ME 07-09

A long drawn out yawn escaped her mouth as the polo shirt clad hotel bellhop reached to unlock the door to her room. It had been almost half a day since they’d left Orlando and although it was only early afternoon, Hawaii time, with the sun still high in the sky, she was dead tired. She had forgotten how much traveling could take out of a person. She wondered if things effected Lance this way. He didn’t seem to be at all effected by all the traveling.

She’d felt a little tired in San Francisco when they’d arrived there. The flight from SFO to Honolulu had taken a little more out of her, probably since most of the group had been awake on that flight and she’d been involved in some strange in-flight games, one of which had left her sides and her face hurting from laughing so hard. As they’d made their way from the airport onto the island hopper that would take them to Maui then to the car that would drop them off at the hotel the fatigue at taken its toll on her. In the heat and humidity of Hawaii she was now finding it hard to keep her eyes open at all.

"Excuse me," she said when the yawn was done. Her cheeks ached from the action.

The bellhop smiled at her. "Don’t worry about it Miss. All the mainlanders yawn like that when they first get here."

After spending much of the first flight leaned up against Lance’s shoulder asleep in a strange positon, she was in need of a hot shower and a massage. The right side of her neck ached and the rest of her body felt almost as if she was coming down with the flu. She hadn’t traveled in a while and had been shocked to find out how horrible the fatigue that came along with traveling really was. She never had known that even her fingernails could ache, until this trip.

"Here you go Miss," the bellhop finally announced and let her walk into the room before him. He handed her the key as she passed him.

EJ was stunned into silence when she saw the size of the room she was assigned to. It was almost as big as her whole apartment. She had a small kitchenette, a huge queen-sized bed and a balcony view that looked like it should have been on some postcard not just outside her window. Florida had always been picturesque, but this was amazing. The beach seemed to gleam up at her and the water was softly calling her name.

"Is everything ok Miss?" the bellhop asked. He must have seen the stunned look on her face.

"She’s just stunned," Lance said coming into the room. She glanced over her shoulder for a moment to find him entering the room as if he was completely at ease with the idea of the bellhop helping her with her bags. She watched him tip the man. He’d been next door in his own room for a moment and she’d seen that he’d changed into a lighter shirt, something that she planned to do when she was left alone for a minute. She hadn’t expected it to be that hot. He pulled out a bill from his wallet and handed it to the guy and the bellhop disappeared out the door.

When she turned to face Lance from where she’d been staring out the sliding glass door that lead to her balcony she found them alone for the first time since they’d gotten to the airport in Orlando. She took her hand away from where she’d covered her mouth in his astonishment and said softly, "This is too much. I don’t need all this room, really."

"Nah," he said and came over to her, putting his arms around her. He took the key away from her and threw the keys onto the bed. He pulled her into a hug then held her close, smiling at her. "This is nothing. Believe me. I gave up a lot to get these two rooms. You should have seen the room we could have had."

"Could have had?" she asked.

"Well I traded one of the suites upstairs for these two rooms," he said, "I thought that the Jacuzzi and the private pool were a little much for a first trip together." He smiled widely at her. "I’m too much of a gentleman to assume anything about you and me."

He seemed pretty proud of that fact, which she thought was cute. "Oh you are, are you?"

"Well I figured that you wouldn’t want to share a room with me right off, so I left you the option of sleeping alone tonight. Having your own room sort of relieves some of the pressure."

"Pressure?" She left the comfort of his arms and went over and sat on the edge of the bed. The words "right off" stuck in her mind. She knew now that he expected eventually that they would be together, but for the moment it seemed as if he didn’t want to push her into anything.

"Oh come on EJ," he said with a small laugh. "Hawaii is probably one of the most romantic places in the world. I didn’t want you to think that I brought you here just to seduce you. I mean we have slept in the same bed together, but I didn’t think I should assume that we would be together here in Hawaii."

EJ thought about making a comment about that, but shut her mouth before the words escaped her mouth. She could use a little seducing after the last few days of spending time with Lance. At least if he seduced her she’d know he was paying attention, since most of the time he seemed to be a little clueless when it came to her. She couldn’t blame him, since he was a busy guy, but even he should notice how he’d sort of ignored her.

He had made an effort to try to comfort her in the airport in Orlando, but when they landed at SFO she’d gone off with the other girls to shop when Lance and the others had disappeared into a bar to get a drink. She wondered for a while as she walked along with the other girls, if that sort of thing was general practice. She hoped it wasn’t. She didn’t expect to be the center of his world, but the guy hadn’t even asked her where she’d gone or what she’d been doing when they’d been apart.

There was a knock on the open door and EJ looked over to find an older looking woman and man standing in the doorway looking at the two of them as if they belonged there.

"MOM!" Lance burst out happily and practically ran towards the door. She watched him embrace the woman who EJ could now recognize as his mother. They had the same smile and he seemed genuinely pleased to be in her arms. She hoped that one day she’d be able to feel that way in his arms. For the moment she still had her hesitations. After all, it wasn’t every day that a gorgeous man sweeps a girl off her feet and takes her to a tropical island. It was a bit overwhelming to deal with and she had to wonder what was behind this sudden and unexpected kindness.

EJ’s mouth went dry thinking of how the next few minutes of her life were going to be stressful. After all, it wasn’t every day that she met her date’s parents. She wondered if guys were this nervous when they met her father. It wasn’t as if she’d never met someone’s family before, but this surely was the strangest situation she’d ever been in to meet them. She didn’t exactly know what the deal was with Lance and didn’t want to overstep any boundaries that he might have not told her about.

After a short reunion with both parents Lance turned to face her again almost as if he realized he’d forgotten about her for a moment. "Mom, Dad, this is EJ, my friend from Orlando. EJ this is my mom Diane, and my dad Jim."

EJ stared at Lance. A while ago she’d been his girlfriend and now she was his friend. It was a demotion that stung a little, but she realized that they were his parents and he probably hadn’t wanted to make a bigger deal about her being there than was already being made.

Diane Bass came over to her and EJ was shocked to find that the woman hugged her. "Welcome to Hawaii," Diane said with a smile, "It’s so nice to meet you. Lance told us that you were coming with him. It kind of surprised us, but I can see now why he would want you here with him."

"Thank you," she said trying to be modest. She hadn’t known that he’d mentioned her to his mother, not that he should have told her, but it would have been nice. She tried to think of something else to say. "I wish I would have known sooner that you were flying in. Lance didn’t mention it until we were on the plane. Have you been waiting long for us?"

"Oh, we never wait around for Lance. No matter what happens, he never seems to be here when we think he will be. It’s a side effect of his job. We actually flew in yesterday with his sister and our son-in-law," Diane said as her husband came over and hugged EJ. "We were almost going to leave to go shopping when we saw the commotion in the lobby and figured that you all had arrived."

Lance laughed as EJ cringed. He had seen how uncomfortable she’d been in the lobby with all the fans waiting around and had tried to comfort her, but it hadn’t worked very well. The whole reunion show thing had brought out a lot of people and EJ hadn’t been expecting to be so popular. Not that she was the one in the spot light, but being next to Lance and the others in the lobby had caused her to be in the middle of the storm of affection that the group waded through on their way to their rooms.

"Gotta love those fans," Lance said, "EJ isn’t quite used to being that popular yet."

"Yet?" she asked. The statement spoke volumes, but she didn’t want to bank on anything happening in the future. Things in his life weren’t very stable and she didn’t want to count on something that might not be there when she needed or wanted it to be there.

His father looked at her and patted her back. It was a comforting gesture that left her feeling a little more like family than she had when they first had entered the room. "You’ll get used to it."

"Used to it?" she asked, "I hope I won’t have to handle all that too often."

"The crowds and all that aren’t all that bad. They are this weekend because so many people are going to be showing up for this reunion. We don’t really know most of them, but we thought we’d meet up with everyone and see our son a little since he’s been so busy lately," he said, "Normally the crowds aren’t that bad. But you should see the ones that wait outside the house when he comes home to Mississippi. We almost have to have the police out there to keep them from trampling all the flowers in front."

"They still are picking the grass?" Lance asked. He looked generally concerned for his parent’s and their happiness. EJ didn’t know the history behind the issue, but it seemed as if this was something that was overwhelming for his parents to deal with and Lance seemed to be worried about them handling it ok.

"No, that stopped a while ago, after we posted a sign that we had a security camera outside."

"You put one in?" Lance asked.

"No, of course not, but they don’t know that."

"Anyway we’ll leave the two of you alone," Diane said, "We have to go and do some shopping then we’re going to meet up with Stacey and Ford for dinner…which reminds me…do you want to join us?"

Lance looked at EJ. "I think we’ll see how things go. For the moment I know that the two of us need to take a nap and get cleaned up. If we’re up around dinner time we’ll give you a call."

"Ok honey," his mother said and hugged him. "You know the number."

As his parents disappeared into the hallway EJ flopped down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her breaths were labored as she tried to calm herself. The last few minutes had been stressful. This was going to be a long trip.


When Lance returned to the room after sending his parents on their way he found EJ laying on the bedspread staring up at the ceiling concentrating as if there was something heavy on her mind. She seemed dazed and for a moment he worried that he’d done the wrong thing. He wanted her to enjoy Hawaii, it had been planned as a vacation, but so far she seemed very stressed out about the whole situation. He’d known that meeting his parents was a big deal, but he didn’t think that she’d really be that stressed about it.

"You ok?" he asked as he sat down beside her. He put his hand on her stomach and shook her a little.

She nodded and pulled herself into a sitting position pushing on his shoulder to steady herself. "I need a nap."

"Well go ahead and take one," he leaned back on his elbow and looked at her with a smile. "Don’t let me stop you. This is a vacation for you. No one else is going to stop you."

"Maybe in a while," she said, "So what’s the plan for the evening?"

"Tonight?" he asked.

She nodded and leaned against his shoulder, hooking an arm through his as she used his shoulder for a pillow for the second time that day. He patted her arm and leaned and kissed her temple, resting his lips there for a moment he breathed in the scent of her shampoo and smiled.

"Well tonight is pretty much free, although I have a feeling I’ll be heading to bed kinda early. I have a meeting in the morning then some press stuff to do tomorrow then I have the night off again before the whole mess that comes along with the show." He tried not to sound too mad about being scheduled for things for most of the weekend, but he couldn’t help it. This wasn’t exactly the romantic scene that he’d thought of when he’d thought of bringing her to Hawaii with him, but it couldn’t be helped. This wasn’t really a vacation for him, more of a working holiday. It left him little time for the holiday and too much time devoted to working.

"Do you think we can go out and do a little exploring?" she asked, "I’ve never been to Hawaii before. I’d like to see the sights."

"We can plan something for tomorrow if you want," he said, "Tonight though I thought we’d have dinner then maybe go and take a walk on the beach or something later on tonight, if you’re not too tired."

"Sounds good." She nodded. "Are security going to come with us?"

"Depends on where we go," he said, "Most of the weekend they’ll be around. It’s a side effect of the job, but the guys are pretty great. I’m sure they won’t get in the way."

"Get in the way of what?" she asked with a laugh.

"Of this," he said and leaned and kissed her. He thought for a moment that she might resist him, but she seemed only to lean into him.

"That was worth waiting for."

"Worth waiting for?" he asked. He’d kissed her on many occasions and he wondered what had made that kiss any different than the others.

"Yeah," she said pausing to push her hair behind her ear. "You and I have kissed before, but never in Hawaii."

He laughed. "EJ, honey, you aren’t going to do this every time we kiss in a different place are you? Because with all my traveling you’re gonna be having a lot of anniversaries to remember."

EJ laughed and for the first time since they’d met up to leave for the trip she felt completely at ease with him.

"Anyway, we probably can escape for a few hours tomorrow, I figured that we might go out and drive around the island a little, you know…see the sights and stuff."

"Sounds good to me," she said, "Besides, you owe me a shave ice."

"Hopefully that’s not the only reason you came with me," he said with a laugh. She hoped that they could continue the flirting that they'd started before.

"It was one of the selling points," she said and leaned to kiss him.

Another knock sounded at the door and Lance went to answer it.

"I hate this."

Throwing a sympathetic smile in her direction Lance found himself moving away from the only spot in the room that he really wanted to be in. He never remembered really hating to go to work. He’d said it aloud before, but he’d never really meant it until that afternoon. For an instant it crossed his mind that he thought he might just drop the whole group over her, but then again he knew he didn’t need to let something like that cloud his mind. He straightened his shirt. "I'll be right back."

The distance from EJ to the door wasn't that far, but Lance wasn't taking his chances. He knew that something bad was on the other side of that door and he wasn't about to rush himself to answering it.

Reluctantly Lance pulled the door open and his good mood was instantly covered by a huge cloud of depression at the sight of the people standing in the hallway. He was prepared for the mood swing, but it still got to him. They looked bored and aggitated at the same time, like people waiting impatiently for an elevator that was stuck on the floor above the one they were standing on. What little of a vacation he was going to have that night was already over and it hadn't even started yet.

They didn't even have to open their mouths. They started to, but he held up his hand. "Don’t try to sugar coat it."

He could tell from the cold stares on Melinda's face and Nick statementless look that the party was over. They might have looked comfortable in their Hawaiian-style shorts and shirts, but they were far from looking as if they were on vacation. They were on a mission and he had a feeling that he was going to be in the middle of whatever scheme was going on.

"Give me the W's," he said with a sigh. He leaned against the door and prayed that whatever he was about to hear was going to be something that was going to be quick and painless.

Snapping into action, Melinda instantly flipped open her day planner book and started to read the scribbled notes on the page in front of her. Lance rolled his eyes as he watched her. Some days he felt like kidnapping that stupid book. He figured that without her stupid schedule nothing would get done, which meant vacation for him. "You have a phone interview in five minutes with a local radio station. Jake and Kevin, the local anchors are doing a lunchtime interview. They asked for you and Joey so you guys will be on speakerphone for twenty minutes. They plan to have three callers call to talk to you and they are going to ask about the concert this weekend, the upcoming album and there will be some questions about FreeLance and about Meredith."

"Sounds good." Lance went into working mode. It was amazing how easily he dropped into a working mode. All that day on the plane he'd been relaxed and looking forward to vacation, but now, in the midst of Melinda and her damn schedule he found himself anticipating the next even of the day. He was about to leave the room when he remembered that EJ was inside. "Hold on a second."

"What?" Melinda asked impatiently.

Lance hooked a thumb over his shoulder pointing over his shoulder. "I gotta go talk to EJ for a minute."

"Not now," Melinda said. He knew she didn't mean to be rude, but she was in business mode now and he needed to follow orders.

"I just am going to explain to her where I'm going, I'm not going to hang out," he said and made a face.

Melinda looked at her watch for a moment then looked back at him with a serious look. "You've got about three minutes until that phone is going to ring." It wasn't an informative comment. It came out as a warning.

"Got it," Lance nodded to make sure that she knew that he'd heard her then turned and jogged back into the room to find EJ. "Hey EJ?"

"Yeah?" She said turning back from where she had gotten up and was looking out the door at the view again.

He paused for a moment and watched her. If he was more sentimental he would have mentioned how she looked like an angel in the halo of light that was coming through the sheer drapes around the window. If it was some movie it would definitely be a kodak moment. But he wasn't about to ruin the comfortable situation that they were in by spouting something way too deep and meaningful too soon so he didn't say a word.

"I have a phone interview to go and do. Are you going to be ok if I leave you here?" He tried not to sound rushed, but he knew he couldn't be late for that interview.

"Sure. I'm going to jump in the shower and maybe take a nap." She ran her hands through her hair and he watched her as she tried to cover up for her slight embarrassment of what he figured was coming from her mentioning that she was going to be getting into the shower. "I'll watch a movie or something."

Lance leaned and kissed her quickly on the cheek. "I'll be back in about a half hour or so."

"Take your time," she said and made her way over to her bag.

"I'll be back soon," he said. He backed up a little then when he got closer to the door he turned his back and rushed out of the room.

Moments later he was rushed into a room down the hall. A phone, fax machine, and Melinda's computer were sitting on next to where Lance saw that he was going to take a seat.

"Have a seat," Melinda instructed. While he was settling himself into the chair she handed him a stack of papers. "Johnny needs you to sign these so I can fax them back to Doug Brown."

Lance nodded then looked around. He checked his watch then looked over at Melinda who was already sitting, typing away at her computer. "Can I get a water?" Lance asked. He usually hated to ask Melinda for things like that, but he was thirsty and he knew he wouldn't be able to get up from his seat until the interview was over, which definitely wouldn't be anytime soon.

Lance watched Nick leave the room. "I'll be right back."

Joey came bounding into the room singing a few bars of the Superman theme song. "Hey troublemaker," Joey said loudly.

"Hey," Lance said turning around and bracing himself to get hit by either an arm or leg knowing that Joey had been cooped up all day on the plane and was now ready to break out with some good natured rough-housing and wrestling. He coughed and tried not to sound too out of it, even though his mind was definitely not in the room with him. His thoughts were with EJ down the hall.

Joey grabbed him around the neck and put him in a sleeper hold. "Where's your woman?"

He winced at the sound of that name. He didn’t know what the deal was with EJ and he didn’t want to assume too much. He’d convinced her to come on the trip with him, but he had yet to really discuss it all with her.

Lance pushed Joey off of him. "In her room."

Joey made a face and came around the front of Lance and perched himself on the desk next to where Melinda had taken a seat. He draped an arm over Melinda's shoulders. "She didn't want to partake in the festivities known as the phone interview?"

"Not hardly," Lance said with a laugh as Melinda carefully removed Joey's arm from around her. Lance watched her famous eye rolling with a smile on his face, "She's hanging out for now."

After a moment of taking in Melinda's dirty look, Joey pushed himself off the desk and settled into the seat next to Lance then leaned over and spoke very softly, "You gonna sneak out later?"

"Maybe," Lance said softly glancing over at Melinda. He wanted to tell Joey that he planned to stay in. He wanted to spend some alone time with EJ, not only because he’d seen how she’d freaked out earlier with the crowd, but also because he just didn’t feel like being stared at through a dinner and dancing out on the town. He’d done it before and he’d vowed never to do it again. When he went out to a club with the guys it was one thing. Rumors started, spread, and got back to him, but at least he could defend himself knowing full well that he went to the club a single guy and came home a single guy. When he brought dates with him, life seemed to get too hectic.

"That’s good." Joey smiled and found a seat next to Lance. "I was afraid you were going all goody-goody on me."

"Yeah right," Lance said with a laugh. It was true though. In the last few months he’d been partying a little less and staying close to home a little more, at least when they weren’t on the road. Being on tour was a whole other world that didn’t have the same social rules as the real world.

"You'd better party your butt of while you're here. You’ve been slacking lately. I'm not going to be the only one on the dance floor this trip." Joey reached over and rubbed his knuckles into Lance’s scalp. "You know you have to get out and shake it down Hollywood."

Lance rolled hie eyes. He knew that Joey really loved his long-time girlfriend Kelly, but you'd never know it from the way he acted in public. Joey always partied, always was seen with the most famous Barbie dolls in the world. Lance couldn't blame him really. Their lives were sometimes like one constant party and Joey wasn't about to be a wallflower while everyone else around them were enjoying themselves. "What about Kelly?"

"What ABOUT Kelly?" Joey asked with a serious tone. He paused and stared at Lance for a moment before continuing, as if he was waiting for some rebuttle. "She'll be there, but you know her. I'm allowed to DANCE..." He moved his arms a little dancing in his seat. "I can dance with whoever I want as long as I go home with her. She knows I always end up with her."

Lance smiled. He figured if he asked Kelly about that set up the story would definitely not be the same. "So does she know about this little plan or is this all you?"

"She knows," he said with a very confident tone. He didn't sound too confident. "She knows about it."

"Sure she does," Lance said, "I don't think so Joe."

When the phone rang Lance cleared his throat and picked up the line, by pushing the speakerphone button after giving Melinda a smile.

"This is Lance."

"And Joey!"

EJ had moved from the bed after she’d started to fall asleep. Although she knew she needed the sleep, she thought that if she fell asleep now it would completely screw up her sleeping pattern. She instead went back to staring out the window of the sliding glass door when she heard a thud coming from the direction of the front door. She’d been watching some tourists on the beach learning how to surf. They weren’t very good, but they all seemed to be having fun laughing in the surf and joking around. She knew from her strange knowledge of Lance that he liked the beach and he liked most water sports. She wondered for a moment if he would even get to see the beach that trip. It wasn’t like he didn’t live near the ocean in Florida, but this was Hawaii and they were technically on vacation so she thought that he should have his beach time.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Who is it?" She called turning to look at the door. Since she wasn’t expecting anyone she figured she’d better ask before opening the door.

When she didn’t hear a response she checked her watch and saw that it had only been a few minutes since Lance had left. Despite feeling a sudden urge to act as if she wasn’t home, she went to go answer it. She didn’t have a clue about who was at the door, but if they were coming to find her she needed to answer. It could be someone important and she didn’t want to make a bad first impression.

Pulling the door open she found Nick standing on the other side of the door. He was carrying a bottled water nervously in both hands as if he was a date waiting to be interregated by her father or something.

"Oh," she said sort of startled to see him. She leaned against the door jam to talk, trying to make herself relax. There was something about Nick that made her nervous. He was almost too nice, which coming from Lance was endearing, but coming from him seemed a little suspicious. "Hi."

"You were expecting Lance?"

"Yeah, sort of," she said. She stared at him for a minute then realized that she was begining to zone out so she made herself concentrate. "What can I do for you?"

"I wanted to talk to you." He looked over her shoulder, "Can I come in?"

EJ wondered for a moment why Nick was around her again. She thought that he worked for Lance and the others but so far she didn’t really know what his job was. He seemed to be around all the time, but she had yet to figure out what he was really doing there.

Snapping out of her daze, EJ jumped a little and pulled the door open farther, "Oh yeah, sure, come on in."

"Thanks," he said and walked past her into the room.

She noticed, as she closed the door, how he seemed a little too comfortable in the room with her. It crossed her mind that she shouldn’t be alone with Nick, not that she had any real loyalties to Lance, but she didn’t want to have some innocent chat turn into something more than it was.

Once he’d made himself comfortable in a seat he asked, "So did you think about our date?"

"Date?" She asked. Her eyes went wide. She hadn’t expected at all to be confronted with a topic like that.

Nick smiled, as if that would make the tension between them go away. "You know? You and me getting coffee?"

"Oh," she said and rubbed her face a little trying to get herself to concentrate on the conversation instead of the eerie feeling that she’d had since he’d entered the room. There was some unspoken tension between them and although she couldn’t put a finger on it, she didn’t like it. "I must really need sleep. I can’t think straight." She began to rub her shoulder and the back of her neck.

"Come here."

EJ’s eyes flew to his and she found him looking at her with a great sense of sympathy. "Excuse me?"

"Come here." He held out a hand and beckoned for her to come closer to him.


"Damn you’re jumpy girl. I just was going to rub your neck. You look like you could use it."

"Uh," she said softly, "No thanks."

"You sure?"

"Yeah." She dropped her hand from her neck and stuck it into her pocket, praying that if she didn’t rub the sore spot on her shoulder that he’d forget about trying to give her a massage.

The short silence between them caused her to get even more nervous. She watched his eyes carefully. He never took them off her and for the first time in a long time she felt as if she was some piece of meat. Her appreciation for what Lance went through on a daily basis doubled as she fought the urge to cover her body from Nick’s leering gaze.


"So what?" She asked.

"About our date?"

"Well I can’t go now." She took a breath a quickly glanced at the bathroom door wondering if he would leave if she said she had to take a shower. "I’m going to be hanging out with Lance tonight."

"Oh yeah," he said uncomfortably, "Well of course I didn’t mean to take you out now. I just wanted to know if you were going to--"

EJ took a deep breath, "Look Nick, you’re a nice guy and all, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to go out with you."

"It’s just coffee," he interjected.

"Yeah well still," she said, "I came here with Lance and I feel a little strange about going and hanging out with you."

A smile crept across Nick’s face, not a pleasant happy smile, but one that showed that he knew something she didn’t. There was a twinkle in his eye as if he had a secret and was dying to tell someone about it.

"What?" She asked.

"Oh nothing." His gaze never left her.

"What?" She asked again.

"Nothing," he said, "Just be careful of that guy."

"Careful of Lance?" She asked.

"I don’t want to burst your bubble...I mean you’re a nice girl and all and I wouldn’t want to see you get hurt... but you really don’t know him well enough to give the guy that much credit."

"Excuse me?" She didn’t want to have this conversation.

At the moment Lance was acting...well acting as perfect as could be expected considering that he had a crazy job and consequentually a crazy life. He’d gone out of his way to try to comfort her in the Orlando Airport and although he’d been distant while they were in San Francisco, she had a feeling that he’d had to be considering that all the guys were that way to the girls.

"Look, it’s been fun talking and all, but I think I’m going to..." She walked over to her suitcase and began taking out her swimsuit, "I think I’m going to change and work on my tan. If you see Lance can you tell him that I’m going to be out on the porch."

Nick nodded. His pleasant, happy-go-lucky smile had returned as if he’d not spoken the words that had just come out of his mouth.

"You can show yourself the way out can’t you," she said. She hoped that he didn’t take her hint as her being rude, but really, she thought that it was time for him to leave.


EJ disappeared into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She busied herself with getting on her suit and planned to lay out in the sun until Lance got back. She was going to take advantage of being on vacation, even if Lance couldn’t enjoy the time with her.

A few moments later EJ wrapped a towel around her middle and exited the room.

There was a whistle and Nick said, "Wow!"

At the sound of the voice EJ literally jumped. She almost dropped the towel from around her waste, but last minute caught the fabric with her hand. Narrowing her eyes she looked over to the bed where Nick was sitting watching her. "Christ Nick! You scared the shit out of me!"

He frowned and pouted, "Don't hate me. I'm sorry."

"I thought you left," she said holding a hand to her chest and tried to calm down.

"Sorry," he said, "We never made plans to go and get coffee so I thought I'd hang out a minute."

"Oh," she said with a laugh. She held the towel to her waste tightly and moved to the far side of the room.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

EJ smiled. "How about sometime during rehearsals? Sound good?"

"Sounds great," he said.

"As much as I would love to watch the guys rehearse and make mistakes, I'm not sure that I'll have time any other minute of the weekend."

"Sounds about right," he said, "I'll come and steal you away when they got to rehearse. "I know of a good place down the street."

"Sounds good."

He took a breath, "I'll leave you alone then."

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Hold on a second!" EJ yelled. She looked over at the door then looked at Nick hoping that if she asked him to answer the door that he would leave through it. He was still giving her the creeps and she needed to get away from him for a while.

"Want me to get that?" he asked.

"Could you?" she asked as she made her way out to the balcony.

"Sure," he said.

EJ slipped out onto the balcony, stood at the railing for a moment then took the towel from her waste and spread it out in the sunniest spot on the balcony.

About forty minutes later Lance found himself making his way back to EJ’s room. He hadn’t meant to stay that long in the interview, but it couldn’t have been helped. Sometimes he just had to do what he had to do to get through the day. He hated the responsibility of trying to make everyone happy. That day he’d spent an extra ten minutes, that he knew that his fans would remember for a lifetime. The sad thing for him was that that afternoon would probably be lost with the other memories of interviews somewhere in the depths of his brain.

He hadn’t been pleased with the fact that the staff at the radio station had gotten so many phone calls that they’d allowed five callers instead of three, but there wasn’t anything he could have done about it. He just had to put up with it because it was the politically correct thing to do.

When he got to EJ’s room he knocked. He thought about going in since he did have the key to the room, but he figured she might have really decided to take a shower so he decided to be a gentleman and wait for her. He almost expected to find her half dressed and was a little shocked to find Nick coming out of the room.

"What’s up Cubby?" He asked.

"Nothing," Nick said. He had the bottle of water Lance had ordered at the beginning of his interview in his hands. "Here’s your water."

Lance stared at the water for a minute then laughed, "Got a little side tracked?"

"A little," Nick said not making eye contact with Lance. He pushed past Lance and made his way out into the hallway. "I’ll see you around EJ," he called back into the room.

"Bye!" EJ called to him from inside the room.

Lance thought that it was a bit odd of him to act that way. He and Nick had been friends for a few years now and Nick usually didn’t act that strange around him. Nick was the one person in the world who knew how the guys liked to be treated, which tended to be as normally as possible.

"EJ?" He called out as he entered the room. The two beds were empty and the bathroom door was open and that room was empty too.

"Yeah?" She said loudly.

"Did you have fun with Nick?" He asked. He still didn't see her and wondered why she was hiding.

"Uh huh," she said lazily.

"Where are you?" He asked turning to look in the bathroom again before he walked across the room.

"I'm out on the balcony."

Lance made his way to the door, dropping the unopened bottled water onto the table next to the door before he pushed back the curtains surrounding the door. He stepped carefully out onto the small patio balcony to find EJ laying on a towel sunning herself like she was on the beach and not laying on concrete. He let his eyes run over her a few times, taking in her suit and the rest of her body before he spoke to her.

"Comfortable?" He asked. He let his eyes scan over her bathing suit again, landing for an extra amount of time on the logo that lay just to the side of her breast. She wore a two-piece tank-top style bikini...a tankini, he remembered someone calling them...and had her eyes closed.

She nodded then tipped her head back and looked at him. "Wanna join me?" She asked.

Lance nodded and walked across the balcony to grab a towel off one of the seats out there. He threw his towel onto the ground, spread it out quickly then slid out of his shirt, throwing it across to the table. It landed on the edge of the seat and hung there.

"Good shot," EJ said looking at the shirt. She rolled onto her stomach and looked over at him. "My eyes! My eyes!" EJ joked, turning away from him. "I didn’t know that you were that white."

"Whatever," he said. He pulled one of the towels from the seat of a chair next to EJ’s head and spread it next to hers on the ground before settling himself next to her. "You know you love it though."

"Says who?" She asked.


"Everyone who?" she asked.

"Me," he said.

"So you count as everyone?" she asked.


Lance watched EJ blush and knew that he was in trouble. He had known that she had feelings for him, but he hadn’t been sure about it until just then. He knew from that blush that he needed to be careful with her. Sure it was completely outrageous that he would bring her all the way to Hawaii as a gift, but at the same time he knew he didn’t want anything to happen between them until they were both ready. Hanging out was one thing, but a relationship with him, he knew from experience, wasn’t something that he would consider pleasant. He’d been told, on more than one occasion, that his life was a living hell, a tornado of activity, that pulled people in and spit them out afterwards. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but he definitely didn’t want EJ to be spit out after whatever friendship/relationship they had ended.

"What are you thinking about?" She asked.

Lance turned his head and looked at her. "Excuse me?"

"I asked you what you were thinking about," she said calmly, "Doesn't anyone ever ask you that?"

"Oh. Yeah. Sorry," he said.


"Nothing...everything," he sighed, "I’m tired and I need a vacation and this isn’t exactly how I thought I’d spend it. I pictured a little more free time and I don't think I'm going to get it."

"What are you talking about?" She asked, "You sound like you hate it."

"Hate is a pretty strong word," he said, "I just don't enjoy some aspects of my career."

"But we're in Hawaii," she reached over and shook his arm. "Hawaii!. The beach is right there, a Hawaiian beach, you and I are working on our tans in the Hawaiian sun." She took a breath. "Did I mention that we are in Hawaii."

"I think I got that part," he said with a laugh. He reached over and pushed her hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear.

She made a face at him. "Relax already then."

Lance sighed and rubbed his face a little. Sometimes if he did that it would make him change his attitude a little, but this time it didn’t seem to be working. "I just don’t want you to think I’m abandoning you every time I get up to go and have to go to work."

"You aren’t." She said. "I didn't expect any of this and spending time with you has been great. You and your friends have a great time and just being around them is fun. And believe me if you were I’d let you know if I was feeling neglected." She reached out and tapped him on the shoulder. "I’d punch you or something."

"I have security for that you know," he said.

"I know, but you under estimate my powers of persuasion. Those guys love me and wouldn’t hurt me I don’t think for any reason."

Lance reached over and messed up her hair. "Keep believing that then."

"I will," she said sticking her chin out.

"You do that."

Knock. Knock. Knock.

EJ groaned and Lance joined in. "I'll get it." He stood up and got his shirt and slid it back on as he went back inside to answer the door.

This time it was Joey at the door.

"What's up Joe?" Lance asked.

Joey looked over his shoulder, "What are you doing?"

"Nothing, just hanging out."

"We're gonna hit the town tonight. You wanna come?"

Lance thought about it for a minute. He'd planned to stay low-key on the trip, but he also knew that it wasn't often that he got over to Hawaii. They had some good clubs and he didn't want to miss out on the party.

"You should go," EJ said from behind him.

"You're going to come with me, aren't you?"

"Of course," she said, "I have to get my groove on too."

"Fine then," Lance said and turned to Joey, only to find him staring at EJ's body. He elbowed Joey and said, "Yeah, count us in."

"We're gonna leave around ten, so take a nap."

EJ laughed at that comment.

"Fine," Lance said, "I'll talk to you later."

"Fine," Joey said, "I'll see you guys later."

"Go find your woman!" Lance called after him and shut the door.



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Last updated: 07/07/04.