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"Is this hair in your ears?"

"You know what?" Chris laughed turning his head a little. "You're as bad as Joey's kids sometime.  I thought that Colton's discertation on the reasons that we have snot in our nose was the worst thing I'd heard in a while."

"Discertation?  What a big word we have here."  She laughed.  "This coming from a man who thought that his dog shitting on Justin's bed was funny."

He reasjusted her weight on his back, making her bounce a little to make his point.  "It WAS funny."

"Whatever."  Female laughter filled his ears.  "I think you have hair growing out of your ears."

"Stop looking at my ears," he moved a hand to push her away from his ear, almost tripping as her weight shifted from where he was carrying her.  "I have enough trouble as it is with these things.  Either they tell me I look like a pirate because of the earrings or--"  He took a breath.  "Some kid on the internet said I looked like Fivel Mouse."

Her laughter filled the air yet again.

When she'd begged him to give her a piggy back ride he hadn't expected the girl to get so critical with him.  He knew she was pretty open about her opinions, but that day she'd taken him on as a project and he was starting to get annoyed.  He hadn't woken up in very good mood considering that he'd been alone instead of with someone, a fact that after six months still hadn't gotten to be normal.  "And you wonder why we stopped dating."

She leaned and kissed his cheek.  "Chris, my dear little man, we stopped dating because Ian came to his senses and came back to me."  Her cheek pressed his against his for a moment.  "Don't worry.  We'll get Dani back for you soon."

"New subject," he said with a sigh and moved her around a little on his back so that she wouldn't slip to the floor.

It wasn't a good thing to have a healthy woman pressed against his back.  It had been six months since he'd been with someone and although in the past he'd never found himself craving sex, having her breasts pressed against him and her legs wrapped around him wasn't helping him think unsexual thoughts.  He always thought of himself as a pretty diciplined guy when it came to things like that, but he knew if he let himself think about her being so close to him that he might end up embarrassing himself or the two of them with his reaction to her.

"You really do have hair in your ears," she said with a laugh.

He felt her finger being stuck near his ear so jerked his head a little away from the touch and ended up poking himself in the ear with her finger when he moved his head back.  He hated anything around his ears, there were too many spots that tickled and too many spots that turned him on to safely have anyone touch him anywhere near there.

He hated what she was talking about, but at least it wasn't talking about Dani.  That was a subject that he wished wouldn't come up so much.  It was as if he had never dated anyone else in his life time.  At his age that was ridiculous to think.  He'd only dated her the longest, well the longest time while he knew the other guys.

"Don't insult me."  His voice became rough, but he knew she'd be able to tell that he was still joking around.  The only time anyone ever took him seriously was when... He paused to think a moment.  There weren't many times that people took him seriously anymore.  Even during FuMan board meetings he still got laughed at a little.  "I'm the one carrying your big butt around."

"I don't have a big butt!" she protested tightening her arms around his neck play strangling him.  "I may be a dancer, but my BUTT isn't a JLo butt."

"Well if you don't have a big butt, then I don't have hair in my ears."  He hated when he sounded like a little kid.  It used to be cute and funny, but now he was noticing that it was getting on other people's nerves, something else that Dani had brought to his attention.

"How do you know?  You've never looked in your own ears.  It's impossible."

He laughed.  "And you've been staring at your own ass?"

"At least I can see it," she said.

"So you do admit that it's big."

"Shut up Kirkpatrick," she pouted, "I'm saying it's easier to see your butt than it is to see in your own ears."

"Ever heard of a mirror?" he said.  "All you have to do is lean your head a little and maybe get another mirror to look."

Michele laughed.  "So you are worried about having ear hair!"

"I'm not worried about ear hair," he said, "I'm 30 years old not 50 years old."  He moved her again on his back to shake her up a little more.  "Woman--"  Chris leaned away from where he felt something agains his ear and moved his hand from where he'd been carrying her leg and wiped his ear.  "Did you just lick my ear?" he asked dropping her other leg.

"Maybe," she said laughing keeping her arms around him.  Her front was pressed to his back and she hooked a leg around him.  "My ride isn't over.  I asked to be taken to the kitchen, not the hallway."

"Ride is over."  He wiped his ear with his hand and found spit on it, or what he thought was spit on it.  "You seriously just licked my ear!"  He wiped his hand over his ear again.  "That's gross.  I don't know where that tongue as been."  He wiped his hand across the leg of his jeans.  "I mean you could have been sucking on Ian's--well on Ian's little Ian then you touch my ear?"  He shivered to show that he was disgusted.  "Gross, a dick just touched my ear.  Does that mean I'm gay?"

She laughed some more, "You love my tongue as I recall."  She lowered her eyebrows and looked at him with a sinister look.  "I mean that's what you said last night."

He automatically turned and pressed his lips against her cheek.  "In your dreams baby."

When he leaned back from kissing her he could see the expression on her face.  His eyebrows came together as he tried to figure out what was wrong and that's when he caught movement out of the side of his eye.  He turned her head to find the one person in the world that he never expected to see standing there.

"Hello Christopher," Dani said, "Up to your old tricks again I see."  She leaned and looked at Michele with a strange look.  "Nice to see you again Michele."

Michele moved her arms off of him.  "Hi Dani.  I didn't know you were back."

"Kelly invited me to the wedding so I thought that I should be the mature one and actually show up."  She looked at Chris, "No hard feelings right?"

"None what so ever," he said and straightened his shirt when her eyes moved over him in a critical manner.  He could brush off Michele's jokes about ear hair, but having Dani look at him in his jeans and t-shirt as if he was bum really did set him back a little bit.  He didn't know why all of a sudden she looked at him like some parasite, or maybe she always had, but he didn't notice.  He'd always heard that love is blind.

As he stood between them Chris could see that there was such a huge difference between the two girls.  Michele was shorter and dark haired while Dani looked like a supermodel, tall and blond.  There were other differences too, like the fact that one was a girlfriend that he'd slept with and one wasn't someone he'd slept with, not that it made a huge difference in a conversation, but it did shape the way he looked at both of them.  He knew that Michele was dating someone and would have never looked at her the way he was now checking out Dani.

Dani flipped her hair over her shoulder, adjusted the sunglasses that her holding her hair from falling in her face and sighed.  Her blue eyes blinked a few times, "Well I'll leave you lovers to your conversation--"

"We aren't--" Michele started to speak and even tried to stand on her toes a little to make herself bigger, but as soon as she opened her mouth Dani turned to leave so the last part of her statement came out as soft as a whisper. "--lovers."

As soon as she was out of site Chris found that the anger he felt was overflowing.  He hated the feeling that filled his stomach and threated to strangle him from the inside out.  "Why the fuck did you have to do that?" he asked lashing out the only way he knew how.  He hadn't meant to swear at her, but he couldn't swear at Dani so she was his easiest target.

"Do what?" she said holding up her hands.  Her dark eyes turned very angry and he imagined that if she were a cartoon he'd be toast now due to the fire that would probably have been shot his way.  "I didn't do anything."

Chris's brain was on overdrive as the last few months went through his mind.  He had always done well to contain his anger, making jokes about how he and Dani had broke up and how she finally couldn't put up with him anymore, but in that moment he only felt anger and there was nothing funny about it.  He was getting sick of the idea that people would say or do things to him without thinking that he might actually have feelings.

"You know what Kirkpatrick," Michele finally said probably because he didn't answer her.  "No wonder you're single."  Her voice was very bitter when she spoke.  "You don't have enough maturity to blame the people who deserved to get blamed.  I have nothing to do with your issues with Dani, but consider yourself having issues with me now too."

He reached out to stop her and she pulled away.  He knew that he shouldn't have said what he did, but he was tired of keeping it all in when everyone else around him got to say and do whatever they wanted.  If something like that happened with Justin, it would just roll off people's back because Justin had a reputation for having a bit of a temper and it seemed normal for him to snap at people.

Her eyes were cold when she looked at him.  "I'll get lunch on my own thank you very much!  I wouldn't want to DO anything more to piss you off."

Chris's head began to pound along with the hard footsteps that Michele made as she went towards the kitchen.  His shoulders dropped in defeat as the weight of the moment settled in on him.  If it wasn't bad enough to have his heart being stomped on by Dani's visit, now his conscious was working over time as the guilt of his words to her hit him.  He leaned against the wall for support as he slid his way to the floor, thinking the whole time that he wished that Dani had never shown up.  "Becareful what you wish for," he mumbled, "Or it might come bite you in the ass."



Dani stepped into the dance studio and held her breath for a moment and tried to calm herself.  Being a bridesmaid in Kelly and Joey's wedding was something that she couldn't get out of, being asked like that was something that a person didn't just turn down, but now that she was back in Orlando and actually having to face Chris again she wasn't sure that it had been a good idea to come.  She should have seen him in LA or at least away from his new girlfriend so that her reaction to seeing him live again wouldn't have been that embarrassing.  She shouldn't have let the girl get to her.  She knew that outside of her being the new woman in his life that Michele was a great girl.  It wasn't easy to stand there facing her replacement.


Her head whipped up from where she was hiding her tearing eyes to see the almost-three-year-old running wildly across the room towards her.  She hadn't seen the little girl and her four year old brother since the month before when Kelly and the kids had been out in LA with Joey to meet with a producer on a movie that he was thinking about doing.  In a month's time it seemed that Brianna had grown an inch and had gotten a little better on her feet, even though at the moment her running was throwing her off balance.

"Jelly bean!"  Joey half-yelled, half-groaned in an urgent voice as she whipped past Wade just as he was kicking his foot out showing one of Joey's friend's Luis a dance move.  His eyes closed and he winced almost waiting to see if she'd get kicked or not even as he moved to try to catch her.

Dani watched as Joey covered his face in frustration at the sight of the close call then grabbed up Brianna and hugged her.  "Brianna you need to be careful.  Wade almost kicked you."

"Kick is no," Brianna said frowning.

"I know kiddo," Dani said, "But you have to be careful."

"Brianna," Joey said in a commanding tone coming over to them.  "I told you not to run by Wade and Luis didn't ?"

"K."  The little girl answered.

"Not K," Joey said in a truly fatherly tone, "Are you gonna do it again?"

Brianna pouted, her bottom lip sticking out.  "No."

Joey smiled at her, "You're not in trouble Brianna.  I just don't want you to get kicked."

Brianna leaned and looked at Wade and pointed at him.  "No kick Waye. Didi say no.  Is Baa."

Wade burst into laughter as did Luis and Joey and that's when Dani noticed Colton standing next to her.  He looked liked he'd grown a lot too.  "How are you big C?" Dani asked.

"Good."  He was calm for a moment then widened his eyes and got very excited.  "Wanna see what Chris taught me?"

"Oh god," Dani sighed and looked at Joey.

"It's really not that bad."

"Sure."  Dani set Brianna down.

"You ready?"

"Yeah," Dani said and held onto Brianna's hand when she wouldn't let go.

Colton took a few steps back then a few steps forward then jumped and tried to click his feet together in the air.  While most people would do that move with their feet to the side of them, Colton basically jumped straight up into the air and kicked his feet together loudly before landing and falling over.

"Whoa," Joey said and grabbed his arm to pull him up.  "You ok there big guy?"

"I'm fine Daddy," Colton said.  "Chris--"  He took a deep breath, "Chris said that you aren't hurt unless a bone is broken."

"Don't listen to Chris," Dani and Joey both said together.  They laughed a little and stood there staring at each other for a moment.

"How as your flight?" Joey asked cutting through the tension.

"Good," she said noting the way the converation had totally gotten away from Chris without the kids realizing the sudden need to change the subject.  "Non-stop rocks my world."

"Well Kelly and I are just glad that you could make it."  Joey reached down and picked up Colton and threw him over his shoulder.  "I don't think things would be the same if you weren't here."

"Thanks Joe," she said, "Really."

"So have you seen Kelly yet?" he asked.

"No," she said and looked back towards the hallway.

"But you saw him didn't you?"

"Yeah," she said running her hand through her hair.  She knocked her sunglasses off her head, but caught them.  "How'd--"

Joey sighed and set Cotlon back down and watched him run over to the corner of the room.  "I saw it on your face when you walked through the door."

She laughed, "Well he still has some effect on me."  Her lungs lost all their breath for a moment.  "I guess it's just a different kind of effect these days."  She saw him staring.  "I just didn't realize that he's still with Michele."

"He's not," Joey said.

Dani's eyes shot to his.  "He sure is acting like he is," she said then took a breath.  "Not that I care really.  I just was surprised to catch them in the hallway together.  Anyway Joe.  How've you been?  Getting nervous about the wedding?"

"Not at all," he said and held out his hand.  "See.  No shakes."

"Very good playboy," she said with a smile.  "Real convincing."

"Are you saying something about my little fiance?" Kelly said appearing next to them.

"Never...Girl you're looking so cute."

"Thank God this baby isn't growing as fast as Brianna did.  I can still fit in to most of my stuff still," Kelly said running her hands over her shirt and tugging at her orange nylon Adidas windpants.  "Justin told me the other day that I looked like a traffic cone in these pants."

"Kelly he was joking around," Joey said, "At least he hasn't started the Yo Mamma So Fat jokes."

"Don't even think about it Joe or you'll be sleeping alone until this baby is fifteen."

Dani watched the two of them for a moment and became jealous.  She knew that their life was full of troubles, but she knew that they'd found a way to get past them.  It was all about the two of them.  The two of them and what they wanted, which was family.  She and Chris had never had that.  There had always been the two of them, but they'd never had one thing, one final goal.  They'd worked side by side on FuMan for years, even the focus of what they wanted for the business was different.  It seemed natural that if their work couldn't go in the same direction that their relationship would have ended up in the same disoriented pattern, but they'd still spent almost three years trying to make things work.

"Dani don't get that dazed look on your face just yet," Kelly joked, "We still have to get the fitting done for your dress, get you to the hair stylist to see how you're gonna do your hair, all the while keeping you from partying too much.  The guys have a month left before the new album promotions and I swear that they've turned the compound into their own personal night club."

Joey hugged his fiance to him.  "She won't let me go see strippers anymore so I have to get my party on somehow."

"Joseph Anthony, don't talk about that stuff in front of your children."

"Sorry hon."

"Hey Joe," Wade called over, "Can we get back to work?"

"I'm almost done."

"You're working right now?" Dani asked.

"Yeah," he said and puffed out his chest a little.  "Luis is shooting a video this weekend in Miami and I'm directing it."

"Directing it?" she asked, "Wow Joe.  Is this a new thing or have you always been into directing?"

"It's a bit of a secret hobby," he said, "I've been kind of in the closet about this."

"Is there something I should know?  Something you're not telling me Joe?"

"No," he said.

Just as Dani was going to make another comment Chris walked back into the room.  Kelly saw the look on her face and steered her towards the doorway and leaving the room.  Michele wasn't with him as they walked by, but she still ignored him as they went out of the room.

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