Steam billowed out of the bathroom when he returned to the living room twenty
minutes later. He hadn't meant to be gone that long, but the time alone and
the shower had been an indulgence and he knew that he needed to take full
advantage of it. He'd been on the bus the night before and no matter how
many cool things the bus had on it, there was no substitute for an actual
shower, even if it was in a hotel room.
"EJ?" he said quietly when he didn't see her right away. He looked around
for a moment then noticed her sleeping form on the couch. He should wake
her up, but instead he went over to where his luggage had been delivered,
grabbed up his bag and went to the bedroom to unpack. He hadn't changed back
into his dirty clothes, but he figured that he should put on more than a
towel if he was going to be walking around. He had more clothes on the bus
and he'd be in uniform stuff for most of the weekend, but at the moment his
grubby pair of jeans and a T-shirt sounded just about right.
"Lance?" he heard a sleepy voice call out a few moments later.
"Hmm?" he said loudly as he pulled out a few shirts and threw them onto the
bed. He had gotten a little anal about folding his clothes and putting them
in his suitcase so he didn't at all mind throwing them down on the bed. He'd
just fold them again later. He found the one he wanted at the bottom of the
pile and turned towards the door, absent-mindedly grabbing for a pair of
boxers that had been revealed in the process.
Just as EJ got to the door he was pulling his boxers up. He whipped the towel
off his waste and threw it onto the bed before looking at her. "Have a good
nap?" he asked as he took in her tousled appearance.
"I'm sorry." She paused to rub her face. "The flight sucked. Remind me never
to take a red eye flight again."
"I won't." Lance twisted his back to crack it then rubbed the tender spot
just to the back of his ribs before shuffling over to her with a sad flirty
frown on his face. He felt bad for her having to fly out, but it was the
only way that he would get to see her that many days in a row. "I know sweetie,
"Your back bothering you?" she asked as she leaned against the door jam.
"Yeah," he said, "Joey and Justin were wrestling yesterday before the show
and of course somehow everyone else around them got into it."
She put a hand on his back, sliding her arm around him for a moment and rubbed
the spot he was rubbing then a look crossed her face and she stepped away
from him. "I was worried there for a second that Chris had body slammed you
"So you watched The View interview?" he asked with a smile. The interview
had been taped about two weeks before, but had just aired a few days earlier.
"Flop the little guy I believe is the term that Chris used?"
"I taped it," she said with a laugh, "I tape them all now. I haven't seen
you in three months and as much as I hate to say it, and to make your ego
bigger than it is...I missed seeing your face so I've become a tv-a-holic."
"WOW," he said, "That's devotion for you."
He moved to put his arms around her and she stepped back. The action caught
him off guard and he had to admit hurt him a little, but he pushed it out
of his mind. He turned and reached for his jeans and pulled them on, the
whole time thinking about how he was going to only get a few hours of freedom
with her and he wasn't going to spend those hours arguing with her. "So what
did you want to talk about?" he asked as he reached for a pair of socks.
"Why did you make an offer to buy Pop's?" she asked in a flat tone.
He caught her transformation out of the corner of his eye. Her expression
turned cold for a moment and her shoulders tensed up. She looked as if she
was ready to go into battle with him.
While the question completely changed her, it was like a blow to the ribs.
He hadn't wanted her to find out about that. He'd made the offer the night
that he'd spent with EJ after finding out about her dad being dead. He hadn't
wanted to mettle in her business, but he knew how much that place meant to
her and he vowed that he wasn't going to let her lose that. He found out
later, when they went to the lawyer's that her father's savings would be
enough to keep the place open for a few more years so he'd backed off on
the offer for it.
"I--" he turned around to face a very unhappy looking woman. "I- I- I made
that offer the night you spent at my house. I wasn't sure that you'd be able
to keep the place and I knew how much your father loved being there and that
you worked there and well I thought I'd make sure that--"
Her frown and the way she crossed her arms over her chest weren't at all
Finally he stopped trying to explain and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Why didn't you tell me all that?" she asked.
"I don't know. I just wanted to make sure that you had the place..." Lance
sighed, "I was going to eventually tell you about it, but I didn't want someone
to come in or the bank to take it away from you."
"Lance I told you that if I was going to be with you that I have to do these
things on my own." She seemed to relax for a moment then tensed up again.
"I know that you have the money to help, but my father didn't take charity
from anyone and I'm not about to do that either."
"It's not charity," he said with a sigh. "I would have sold it to you for
a good price."
"Lance," she said with a warning tone. "I mean it. Don't go behind my back
and do stuff. Ok?"
"Ok," he said then looked at her, "Are we done fighting now?"
"Yes," she said and leaned and kissed him. "Thank you for trying to help."
"No trouble," he said.
He watched her walk back into the living room. He should have gone right
after her an asked her about the whole thing about her pulling away earlier,
but he didn't. He just wanted to enjoy his time with her. "Your burger should
be here in a while...I figured you'd be in there for a bit so it should be
coming up in just a minute."
"Thanks sweetie!" he called to her then shoved his clothes into the dresser
drawer and went out into the living room to find that EJ had already reassumed
her position on the couch.
"I charged lunch to the room," she said, "That's ok isn't it?"
He nodded and followed her to the couch, "So you didn't sleep on the flight?"
"Yeah," she said, "I was tired as hell, but I was kind of nervous about things."
She wanted to tell him desparately that she had almost not gotten on the
plane the night before due to her nerves, but she didn't want to worry him.
It was bad enough that he would see the fatigue in her eyes and in her lazy
expressions, she didn't want to add anything else into the mix. "Maybe I
should list the things I wasn't worried about...that list might be shorter."
"That bad?" he asked, "How's the shop going?"
"Pop's is always fine. I signed the last papers for my father's estate and
so now everything should be boring for a while."
Lance smiled and put a hand out and hit her foot lightly, "It's never boring
"You're the only one who makes it crazy around there," she said, "Mostly
it's been really dead..." Her voice cracked a little with the realization
of what she said. She hadn't meant to bring that up, she'd done a good job
of forgetting it for the most part, but now it seemed to be just under the
surface, as if it was waiting for something to trigger a reaction.
"Sweetie," he said and scooted over to her.
She pushed his hands away from her. She took a deep breath cleansing breath
and stared at him without blinking, "I'm fine. I mean I can't avoid that
"Emma stop it," he said.
"Stop what?" she asked.
"Stop pushing me away. I'm not going to sit here and watch you be upset.
What do I need to do to make you happy again?"
EJ finally blinked and tears began to fall down her cheeks. "Give me my dad
Lance immediately brought her against him, pulling her into his lap to hold
her close while she cried. She'd been doing this for weeks now, but somehow
it felt worse crying in front of him. She'd been trying to assure him that
she was all better and that her father's death wasn't effecting her, but
when she looked in his eyes and when he pleaded to let him into her little
messed up world she couldn't hide her emotion.
"Emma," Lance said, "I know this is hard and there isn't a word that I could
say to make it better, but please promise me that you'll come to me when
you feel like this. I know that you've been brave with me on the phone, but
I could tell today when I saw you that you haven't been sleeping well and
eating well, which I'm going to change--"
EJ nodded her head and looked up at him. "I missed you sooo much," she said.
"I missed you too," he said.
A few minutes of silence passed between them. "Can I ask you something?"
EJ finally said breaking the silence.
"What's that sweetie?" he asked pushing her hair out of her face. She loved
when he did that. He looked at her with this concerned look and it made her
always feel overly protected.
"Can I sleep with you tonight?" she asked, "I know that there are two beds
and--" She sighed, "I haven't slept well since that night at your house."
"Three months without sleep and you're just now telling me about this?"
"I knew you'd worry."
"I'm always going to worry about you sweetie, so get that idea out of your
head," he said, "You need to tell me everything."
"Everything?" she asked. "You mean that I can't have any surprises?"
"You have a surprise that you don't want to tell me about?" he asked.
"Kinda," she said with a smile.
"I haven't booked my flight home yet so I thought I'd stay with you for the
Vegas part of the trip then fly out at the end of next week from San Francisco."
Lance's eyes went wide. He acted like he expected her to say that she was
going to go home early sometime that night. From the way she'd been acting
after their initial greeting she wouldn't have blamed him. This news seemed
to be the best thing he'd heard all day. "Really?" Lance squeezed her against
"Yes really," she said with a smile at him, "That's ok, isn't it?"
Lance leaned and kissed her. "Of course it's ok. It's more than ok. I just
have a question for you."
"What's that?" she asked.
"What changed your mind about coming to visit?" he asked, "not that it really
matters, I was just curious though."
She let out a sigh and leaned and kissed him, "I missed you AND Marty said
that she was going to quit if I didn't go away."
Lance couldn't help but to burst out in laughter when he heard that comment.
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Last updated: 07/07/04.