Her yelling could be heard before she appeared around the corner. He hadn't seen her yet that day, but after the events of the night before he wasn't sure that he really wanted to see her or that she'd want to see him for that matter.

"No, I'm not going to do that Reese. I'm not going to send my daughter on a plane to London on her own. I know that we decided that she would, but it's not a good time--No...it's not a good time! Either you come out here and get her or find someone that will that we both know and trust."

Lance looked back down at his two-way pager as he pressed his tiny cell phone to his shoulder with the side of his head. He prayed that Patty wouldn't see him.

"Oh, your lovely lady just showing you some love over there?"

"Whatever Carrah, I told you I'm not having this conversation with you," Lance said harshly into the phone.

"What?" she asked with a laugh, "Is the tension that bad over there?"

Lance wanted to scream "yes" and that like every other guy his age, sex was something his brain thought about during a huge part of his day. He wanted love, not lust and even though in his business the opportunity was all around, he wasn't about to start down that road. He'd heard too many stories about paternity suits and illegitimate children to scare him even past his own beliefs.

Unlike other guys his age he wasn't looking for something just to take the tension away and he wasn't at all looking for a woman like Patty. She could make even the biggest guy on tour cringe with her yelling and he'd vowed a long time ago to find someone away from the business.

"You know my thoughts on the subject so lets drop it...if you want a reminder I'm sure I can have someone send you a copy of the articles." He slid the pager back into his pocket and took the phone and switched ears.

"Fine," she said then took a breath and let a little silence fall between them. "Fine."

"Crap," he sighed a moment later, "I'm really messing this up aren't I?"

"You're just being yourself," she said, "I know that you're stressing out over there and you know I wish I could come out there to visit, but I can't. Isn't your sister supposed to be out there?"

"Yeah," he said, "She was going to come out here but Ford got sick so she ditched me."

"He got sick?" she asked, "What happened?"

"He's got the flu or something...nothing serious, but she didn't want to leave him alone," he explained, "Remember last time when he got sick and fell down the stairs and sprained his ankle?"

"I swear your brother in law is pretty clumsy," she said with a laugh.

"He's not clumsy, he's just hard headed like my sister and wants to be the man of the house even when he's got a hundred and three temperature."

"That doesn't sound familiar at all," Carrah said.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know exactly what I'm talking about Lance. I mean a few years ago you practically worked yourself into a coma and--well and that's why I keep calling you all the time. You're working too hard right now and you need a break from it all so you don't burn out."

"I'm not gonna burn out," he stated rubbing his shoulder.

"Don't make me start quoting your mother...speaking of her when was the last time you talked to her?" she asked.

"Yesterday morning, why?"

"She always makes it sound like you never call her."

"It's because I only call every other day now," he said, "But anyway I'm not going to burn out."

"Yes you are," she said, "Just don't come running to me when you do because I'm brave enough to tell you I told you so."

"I know you are."

"Anyway I have some interviews to get to and some other stuff to do. Are you gonna be around later?"

"Yeah. Today is homework day," she said, "Just give me a buzz."

"Ok," he said, "See ya."

"Later," she said and hung up.

Tucking his phone into his pocket Lance sighed when he entered the room. Justin and Meredith were both sitting there. He thought he'd done a good job of avoiding them, but he knew he'd have to be with them sooner or later.

"Morning," Meredith said to him as he took the seat next to him.

"Hey," he said and tried to think about something other than the people in front of him as he took his seat and waited for the meeting to begin.

~~~~~

"So," he said taking a lick of his ice cream while he watched Gabby playing with Justin and Meredith on the video game across the room. "What's up with you and Gabby's dad? I mean I know that he's in Europe or whatever...that must be hard on your marriage."

Her eyes widened. "What?"

"I'm sorry," he said, "I assumed that you're--"

"We're separated," she said and drank from her soda in front of her. She picked up the wax cup and pushed the condensation off the side of the cup.

Lance watched the drops of water fall onto her jeans then tried to get his mind into the conversation and out of the gutter. He should know better than to do that. He needed to keep his mind in the game, not in the clouds. "I figured it was something like that," he said. "You always seem so jumpy when he gets mentioned or she even says anything about him--"

"You wouldn't know anything about it," she said, "Breaking off something like that is hard."

"I'm not doubting that," he said, "I just always am curious about stuff like that since my parents are still together. I mean I know that

Justin's parents have worked out their situation so it fits with everyone, but I'm wondering how someone can really live like that--"

"Look," she said, "Can we not talk about this?"

"Yeah," he shrugged, "You should know though that Gabby does worry about it. She always gets an upset look on her face--"

"You need to mind your own business Lance Bass." She stood and walked away from him then. It wasn't something that he wanted, but it did show him a lot. That subject was off limits.

~~~~~

"Lance, pay attention," Melinda said smacking her hand on the table in front of him, "You have a slew of interviews to do this morning so no time for screwing around."

"Like I'm the one who screws around out here," he said looking across the table at Justin and Meredith who weren't at all paying attention to the meeting and towards JC who was scribbling something into his notebook again.

"You know what I mean," Melinda said with a certain tone that made him look over at her for a longer time than normal.

"Great. I'm the only one who doesn't--," he stopped and took a breath then rubbed his shoulder, "I'll be where I need to be."

~~~~~

[Later...]

"So only a few more questions...I know we're on a tight schedule here."

"Go ahead," he said staring at the woman across from him. He should have remembered her name, but he couldn't so he wasn't even going to try anymore. This was the fifth person he'd spoken to in the last hour. It seemed like every fifteen or twenty minutes a new person was in front of him asking for him the same set of questions that he'd been answering for the last five years.

"So do you have a girlfriend in your life?"

"I'm always looking for Mrs. Right," he said, "I'm talking to a few people at the moment, but nothing serious is going on for the moment."

"I know you get a lot of the same questions and this is probably one that you've heard, but describe your dream girl."

"My dream girl...wow, that's a tough one..." He paused moving his jeans a little so that he could pick off a little piece of lint by his knee. He bit his thumb nail so it looked like he was thinking about it for a minute. He smiled thinking of someone in his life. "She's a girl...well a woman who shares the same beliefs that I do. A Christian, and someone who is innocent, and intelligent. They have to have more than long legs, a tiny waist and big...er...um, shoes. She has to be able to take a joke. I mean when you've got friends like mine, you have to be able to handle anything. But, most importantly they have to be able to put up with me and yet be the one to tell me when she can't put up with me. I've had a few people in my life not be able to tell me the truth when it comes to things and I think that's an important quality...honesty...total honesty."

"Sounds like a good kind of person to have around," the interviewer said.

"Yeah," he said nodded, "I wouldn't want it any other way."

"Does that mean that there is someone like that in your life?"

Lance tensed up. His mind being on her had let that slip and he wasn't about to tell an interviewer about her. He didn't even want to tell the other guys about her. They knew that he'd been friends, but his true feelings hadn't been revealed to anyone, not even really to her and he wasn't about to ruin that. "Well..."

A knock at the door sounded and it wasn't the intrusion that shocked him, but the intruder. He'd expected Tiny or Melinda or someone from management to be coming in to collect the interviewer.

"Lance?" Gabby asked poking her head in, "I know that Tiny is going to beat me up for butting in, but can I talk to you when you're done?"

It wasn't normal for Gabby to be looking for him or for Gabby to be away from Patty for that matter considering the fight that she and Tiny had gotten into that first week of touring with them. Lance got up and walked over to the door. "Where's your mom?" he asked.

"In the bus," she said motioning out in the hallway with a frown, "On the phone."

"Who's this?" the interviewer asked coming over.

"One of the crew's kids," Lance supplied not knowing if Patty would want Gabby in the spotlight, "Do you mind if we end things?"

"Not at all," the interviewer said and disappeared. "It was a pleasure speaking with you again."

"Same here," he said, "See you next time. I'm sure that someone from the security team is out there waiting to take you out to the arena to get your seat."

"Knowing them they'll find me before I find them."

Gabby stayed by the door with an unsure look on her face until Lance waved her over to sit down with him on one of the couches.

As she walked across the room he could tell it was something serious. The normally hyperactive and smiling girl was looking as if she'd just lost her best friend. It was something serious he was about to hear so he moved a little in his chair to get comfortable then smiled at her. "What's up sugar?"

"My mom and dad are fighting again," she said and he watched tears form in her eyes, "I told her to be nice, but she said that she doesn't have to listen to him anymore and that he's--"

He felt like swearing up a storm, but he instead decided to comfort her instead. He could be angry with Reese and that whole situation later.

"Why don't you come with me to lunch? We'll talk," he suggested.

"But Melinda will get mad, and so will Tiny, and my mom said I've gotta stay out of trouble," she said.

"Nope," he said, "Today you're gonna be my guest and Tiny will let you stay with me."

She looked at him with attitude in her eyes, shining just like her mother's. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," he said with a nod, "Call your mom and leave her a message and we'll go eat, ok?"

"Ok," Gabby said and dialed her phone and left a message quickly.

"So are you going to be ok until we can get a meal in you or do you need a Twinkie in the mean time?"

"A Twinkie would help," she said with a smile that he knew was dangerous. That look would make him do anything for her.

"Ok kiddo," he said and went to the catering table that was set up across the room. He grabbed a Twinkie for the both of them then handed her the one he'd picked for her. "Just don't tell your mom ok?"

"Never," Gabby said, "She wouldn't notice today anyway...she's on the phone with my dad fighting again which means she won't miss me for at least until show time."

Lance groaned. He'd sat through more than a few of their conversations and he'd tried to tell her to not talk to her husband, but she didn't seem to ever take his advice.

When his phone rang Lance pulled it out and automatically looked at it. With a smile he pressed the button, "Hey you."

"Hi," he was greeted with.

"Who is it?" Gabby asked as she opened her Twinkie and started for the door.

"It's my friend Carrah," he said.

"Who are you talking to?" Carrah asked.

"Gabby," he said, "She's one of--"

"I know who she is...you told me already."

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"You got time or are you on your way somewhere?" she asked.

"I'm on my way somewhere...kinda important...gotta talk to this little girl for a while...promised her lunch."

"Such the knight in shining armor," she said.

"Oh stop...you'll make me blush...Want me to call you tonight on the bus and we'll have a heart to heart?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, "Please. Do I sound like I need it?"

"A little. Are you gonna be ok until then?" he asked.

"Yeah. I just need some attention tonight."

"I'm your man...I'll call and wake you up okay?"

"Ok," she sighed.

"Give me ten hours then I'm yours until we get to the next city."

"Ok."

~~~~~

When they sat down to eat after Lance had helped Gabby through the line he could see the worried look on her face. He didn't have THAT much experience talking to kids about their problems or worries, but if she could just say something to him at least he could start to try to figure out what was really wrong.

"My dad wants me to go to London to visit and my mom won't let me go by myself," she said as she stuffed her sandwich in her mouth.

"Well the first time I ever went to London I was a teenager and I had to take Justin's mom with me."

"Really?" she said.

He nodded. "Do you want to go see your dad?"

She put her sandwich down and wiped her hand across her face. "I want my dad and mom to be in the same place and since that won't happen it ruins everything."

Lance picked up a piece of apple and took a bite then chewed, "What exactly is that ruining?"

"Everything," she said, "Most of all though is my birthday. It's coming up soon and they aren't going to be here for it."

"Oh."

Lance didn't know what to do. Most times solving kid's problems happened through him sending a check or making an appearance.

This one was going to be a little different. All he could think about during his time with Gabby was how Patty was handling all of this. If he was in her shoes, he'd want to get back together with his spouse, if it was the right thing to do. But then again he wasn't in her shoes, and she didn't seem to matter what he thought.

• Back • Up • Next •