It's clear the moment the words are out of my mouth that the news has hit him hard.  Its such a powerful sentence for being so short.  Hard is a relative word.  It's forced him literally away from me--in this case comparable to being hit by a Mack truck--sending him stumbling back a few feet.  His expression falls from worry to depression in a moment's notice.  All the color drains from his face and his legs wobble.  He licks his lips and let his eyes stay open, unblinking, seeming to refuse to close until everything was explained to him.  His voice is low and shallow when he speaks, his breath catching with the emotion welling up in his chest.  "She did?"

"Yes."  I nod and sigh.  This is such a mess.  How did this get so out of hand?  Where does it say in the grand scheme of things that my life has to be this complicated?  I found him, fell in love, and while I know that my love life has never been considered normal, why do I have to be tortured this way?  I guess true love is never easy, but this is starting to wear thin on my nerves.  I love him.  It's that simple, yet everything outside the two of us is so complicated I'm starting to wonder how I'm supposed to live like this.

"Do you want me to talk to them?" Lance asked.

As much as the gesture is appreciated, I have a feeling that the conversation would do more harm than good.  Timothy is a stubborn man.  I've known that for years and as much as I would want Lance to defend me, I'd rather have his rath directed at me instead of at Lance.  TImothy already has enough animosity aimed towards Lance.  No need to add fuel to that fire.  "I don't know," I say with a sigh.

"She really said that?"  He repeats himself.  He looks as if he's been smacked in the face.  I can see his mind trying to wrap around this and it's not working well. 

I don't know what has gone on between Delaney and Lance, but somehow he seems to be extra shocked that she would do this.  "I thought she was on my side."

"I thought she was on MY SIDE too."  He finally blinks and takes a deep breath.  "I just talked to her--just had a really good conversation with her about us being together and--and--"

Shock seems to be the only acceptable emotion for the moment and again I'm hit with it.  I didn't have a clue that he and Delaney had spoken.  "You talked to her?"

"When I dropped Tad off."  He looks down at his hands and closes his eyes.  "She said the exact opposite of what they seemed to have just said to you.  I keep wondering what the hell is wrong with them or me to make this so complicated.  She told me that they approve of the way I've been handling this stuff so far, but I guess changing that is what has pissed them off."

My stomach churns and I move to sit down on the bed.  I take a deep breath and lie back on my back.  "I hate him...them."

"Seven." My name comes out as a groan more than a sigh.  He shuffles towards me and sits down.  "Baby don't say that.  You may be frustrated with them and may want to pull your hair out over this, but you can't hate them.  You can't hate family.  I won't let you."

"Well I do," I say.

"I think you're just stressed out about this right now.  We both need a rest.  There have been too many people here and too much sun for the both of us and we need to relax.  This is supposed to be a vacation for the two of us."

"I'm sorry for ruining this," I find myself saying.  Logically I know this isn't my fault, but I have to take some kind of responsibility for the way things are going.  There are a lot of different reasons for the complications in our lives, but the main one is the opposition of my brother towards this relationship.  If my brother wasn't such a jerk over this I'm sure both my stress level and Lance's stress level would be lower.

"Seven."  He moves to lay beside me and turns to face me, placing an arm around my waist to pull me close to him.  This is exactly what I need right now.  Him.  I don't know how it happened, but over the last few months, even with him traveling a bit, just having him next to me giving me that sympathetic smile can fix anything.  Or well at least almost anything.  "There isn't anything that we can do about it so I don't know why you're apologizing."

I'm perfectly at ease.  He's on my side.  He's fighting with me, instead against me which might not seem like a big thing since we are a couple, but it's nice to know that it's us against my family, instead of just me against my family.  Actually it's not even the whole family.  It's only Timothy that has the issue.  Of course Dalaney has her concerns, but I understand those.  She's a mother and she's looking after her kids.  If it were me I wouldn't want to put the kids through anything either.

"I just feel bad because your life is already so hectic," I say softly.  My hand moves to his face as he leans towards me.  "I know that there isn't much I can do about my brother and all that, but I feel like I'm adding stress and that's the last thing I want to do."

Pulling me against him I'm hugged even tighter.  "You're the last thing on my list of stresses right now."  His breath tickles my ear as he moves to kiss my temple.  "I know sometimes our relationship stuff seems pretty big, but really, as long as you and I are on the same page as to where we stand with each other then I'm less stressed."  His lips move to touch against my forehead.  "I know that having them shut down your visitation rights to your niece and nephew will kill you and THAT stresses me out, but I'd hope that we could figure a way out to make sure that you can have both me and your family in your life."

I sigh and wrap my arms around him and hold on.  "I don't know what I'm going to do if they do that."

"Well for the next day or so there isn't much we can do about it...it's corny to say put it out of your mind, but really you should just try to relax and have some fun and we'll go over and see them when we get back and discuss this with them face to face.  Ok?"

"Ok," I sigh.

"Now," he says moving his lips to my neck.  "Let's go take a shower and get ready for bed.  We've got tons of stuff to do tomorrow and watching a movie on the boob tube seems like what we should be doing right now."

I nod.

"We--"  I stop breathing for a moment.

"No Tammy.  This discussion is over for now," he says, "I'm not going to keep you from those kids and your family.  I'm not going to give myself that kind of priority in life.  For some things I can ask for you to compromise, but those kids are your heart and I'm not going to be the one to keep you away."  His head moves and he stares me in the eyes with the most serious expression I've ever seen come from him.  "There are certain things I can sacrifice for my career, certain things I can ask other people to sacrifice, but you aren't going to put up with that.  I can't let my career do that to you.  I'd regret it forever if I let that happen."

Silence filled the room.

"If Dalaney keeps you from those kids I'm not--"

"No," I say instantly.  "No.  We're going to do this.  I want to do this."  I put my hand to his lips to stop him from going on.  I know that he's going to be concerned if something happens, but at the moment I want this.  I want to be in love and be proud to walk next to him and if that means juggling the way I act with my niece and nephew then I'm willing to do that.  "I'll deal with it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," I say with a nod.

"If you're sure."

"I am."

"Ok,"  He took a deep breath and smiled, "Tomorrow--"

"Yes," I say, "Tomorrow."

"We're going to go to services in the morning then I told the people at church that I'd help them with the easter egg hunt and then mom and dad are going to have lunch for us."

*****

Standing in the bathroom the next morning shaving as I listen to Tammy shower was the only place I want to be.  I let myself sing under my breath as I lift the razor to my cheek and while watching the outline of Tammy through the mostly fogged glass of the shower across the room.  Everything seemed perfect, that was until the phone rang.  He left shaving cream on his left cheek and went to grab the phone.  "Hello?"

There was a short span of silence before a cough filled the line then a strong male voice on the other end.  "How is she?"

"Excuse me?" I look towards the bathroom as the hairs on the back of my neck raise up.  I turn and look around the room.  Calls like this kill me.  I immediately think that someone is watching  me.

"How's my sister?" Timothy's voice came across the line in a firm manner.

"Why are you calling me this early?" Why was he calling this early?  It's two hours earlier in California than it was there.

Another cough.  "I wanted to make sure that she's ok."

I sigh.  As much as I hate the guy I can't help but feel sympathetic.  "She's fine.  She hates you and Dalaney for being so rough on her about me, but I'll make sure that changes."

Timothy's voice waivered as he spoke,  "You have to understand Lance."

"I understand the over-protectiveness."  I make my way over to the back window and try to stay calm.  Talking to him like this is nerve-wreaking enough, but doing it behind Tammy's back isn't the way that I want things done.  "If that causes your sister pain I don't think I can accept your reasoning."

His sigh fills the line and I know that this conversation is a lot more serious than I thought it was going to be.  "You don't understand Lance."

I sit down on the bed and take a deep breath.  If this is ever going to get fixed I'm definitely going to need more information and from the sound of her brother's voice there definitely is something more than needs to be said.  "Well then make me understand."

"The kids are important to me and Dalaney and I know that they are a big part of Tamara's life--"

"They are."  I nod.  "That fact shouldn't drive a wedge between the five of you."

"Let me explain."  He paused.  "Tamara--"  He sighed.  "Tammy is my baby sister and I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep her safe."

"You called her Tammy," I say.

"That's her name."

"You never call her that though," I said.

Timothy sighed.  "Is that really the issue right now?  There are more important things that we need to be talking about right now."

"It really is a safety issue isn't it?"

"You have no idea, do you?"

"Idea about what?"

"Not a lot of people know about this, but there have been some stalkers that are following some of the pop groups."

"What?"

"Some crazy guy has been going after Britney Spears and from what I hear from Western Security and Atlanta Guards and the New York Crew The Undertakers--"

"Undertakers?"

"They all have crazy names," Timothy explains.  "I'm not saying that one of them is following you, but I feel like I need to keep Tammy away from that group so that she doesn't get involved in it.  For the most part when she's working for the company I can have a few people keeping an eye on her when I can't, but when she travels with you or goes to an event where we're not working I can't guarantee her safety and--"

I sigh.  "So I'm a hazard to her health?"

"In not so many words:  Yes."

"I'm sorry Timothy, but I can't let something like that come between Tammy and I.  I know that it's important, but I travel with security and truthfully I'm not that worried about stalkers."

"So you don't care about her safety?"

"I never said that,"  I snap.  "I just said that I'm not going to change my life to give into some crazy person.  I'm not going to be changing my life to meet some other person's way to live."

"Well you should."

The line went dead and the buzzing of the line rings in my ear as I hear Tammy getting out of the shower.

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