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Silence filled the phone line as Chris sat up and looked around.  He thought he'd heard something, but he wasn't sure if it was something or if he was being paranoid.  His house had been so quiet that had heard every little creak and crack.

"Are you still there?"

Chris made a shushing noise then sat still.  "I think someone is at the door."

The sound of knocking on his front door startled him and he started to move to go answer it, keeping his earpiece from his phone in his ear as he moved through the room.  It was strange to be walking through the house talking on the phone.  He'd gotten used to the whole cordless phone thing, but now having only an earpiece in his ear and not holding the phone was strange.

"So you're really sorry?"

He'd broken down and called her that morning when he'd gone through the list of people that he knew were in town and they all had told him they had plans.  Kelly invited him over to hang with Joey and Steve and some of Joey's cousins, but Chris declined when Kelly said that the bridesmaids might end up coming over.  He didn't want to see Dani until he had to see her at the wedding.

"Are you going to rub this in forever?" he asked, "I'm sorry I was a dick.  There I said it.  I'm a dick.  Can you please forgive me now so I don't have to kiss ass this whole conversation?"

"Kiss ass?" Laughter filled the line. "I never said you had to kiss my ass...although it doesn't hurt any."


The sudden swear words escaped his gritted teeth and echoed against the four by four set of framed comic book covers and the deep green walls of the room.  His toe had caught on the edge of his black DC skate shoe causing a chain reaction that left him swearing and hurt.

Normally he didn't leave his shoes just lying around, but he'd been tired and hadn't cared.  It was something he was going to be regretting for a while.  He hadn't remembered to pick up that morning when the alarm had roused him from a deep sleep after he'd accidentally hit some button the night before that had set the alarm that usually woke him up for rehearsals.

In the past he had tried to curb his swearing habit, he'd even made it a new years resolution the year before, but that day all he could remember was the pain poking him just above his right eye, the ankle that hurt and the sound of someone at his door.  He'd hadn't taken into account that the dark color of the shoes would blend into the carpet, causing him to trip, which then caused him to twist the opposite ankle when he stepped down.  He now limped towards the door dropping a pill bottle that had been in his hand while he'd been sitting quietly in the corner trying to rest.

He wasn't that clumsy, but he'd had the lights low in the already dark colored room due to a headache that he'd woken up with, hence the glasses that were now sliding down his nose.  He'd gotten contacts early on in life, but the glasses still were pulled out when he couldn't put in his contacts, which happened ever so often, like now, due to the fact that he'd flown back to Orlando from LA at three in the morning.

His glasses had been a part of his life for so long, but it was just recently that he had started to wear them for their looks.  It was yet another thing that had changed since he and Dani had broken things off.  His life had taken an interesting turn.  Some people would say for the better, some would say for the worse, but either way her reasons for leaving were a real wake up call to him.  The sudden independance had left him with a lot of time to take a step back and really look at his life.

One look he'd taken was to try and see himself with another woman, but that hadn't worked out that well.  He dated Michele for a few weeks, something he said he'd never do.  Mixing and business and work on that kind of level wasn't something he'd ever do.  Working with Dani on the business had happened for other reasons, but he'd never dated someone that he worked directly with.  It hadn't taken a long time to figure out that it wouldn't work for them, causing yet another change to his life in the last year.

It didn't take long to decide that he needed a change.  He was over thirty now and he knew that he needed to start to act like it.  Of course there would be the practical joke playing part of his personality that would never truly go away, but the rest of him needed to start acting more mature, if not for his own personal sake then for the sake of the business.

"Are you ok?"

"Sorry for the swearing, but I just tripped over my fu--"  He sighed.  "I tripped over my freaking shoes," he said angrily taking off his glasses for a moment to bend the wire frame a little so that they would stay on his face.

His tiny fat bellied dog almost smiled at him.  It was amazing how in the old days Busta and his side kick Korea could make him smile, but these days troubles were a little bigger and the methods to get him to truly smile again, a little more complicated.  Today though he was feeling a little sympathetic for the dog, since he'd been away the day before, only hours after promising both dogs that he would spend time with them, not that they really cared either way.

"Are you sure you're ok over there?"

"I was trying to go answer the door, tripped and I think I sprained my ankle."

The knock on the door sounded again, then the sound of the doorbell filled the mostly empty house.  Early on in his career he'd thought that by this age he'd be long retired and having an assistant opening the door to the world, but with his schedule it wasn't worth getting an assistant to do his dirty work.  He wouldn't make anyone do what he had to do on a daily basis.

"Yeah, yeah," he yelled as he moved towards the door, pausing only a moment to step carefully over Busta.  He was angry at the dog for being so calm that morning, but he'd never really hurt him.  He'd once stepped on him when he was a puppy and had rushed him to the local vet because Busta had made such a horrible noise when he'd done it.  "I'm freaking coming."  He limped out of his office towards the front of the house.

When he reached the doorway he could see a few people through the etched glass.  "I don't know what's going on," he said into the phone.  "Can I talk to you later?"

"Sure.  Thanks for calling and apologizing to me."

"I didn't mean to be a dick yesterday."

"It's all good," Michele said, "I'll talk to you later on this week I'm sure since I'll be over there practicing with Luis for his performance in two weeks."

"Ok," he said, "I'll call you later if I get a chance."

"Ian is taking me to dinner tonight and Chantal and I are going shopping for the Luis show so call me tomorrow."

The doorbell rang again.

"I'll see ya."

After hanging up the phone, he pulled the earpiece out of his ear and stuck it in his pocket.  He looked at his watch then tried to think if he was expecting anyone, but he couldn't think of anything that had been scheduled.  In the old days his watch reminded him of places that he had to be and now it was the only way to remind himself how many hours until he didn't have to be someplace.  That morning though he wasn't sure what he should think of the people on the other side of the door.  He hadn't slept much the night before due to Dani haunting his thoughts and could barely remember what day it was.

The door opened and Busta was now joined by Korea, who from the looks of her sluggishness, had probably been asleep in the sunny part of the carpet in the living room.  The twins growled at the group of people on the doorstep.  Finally Chris pushed them both back with his injured foot and stepped out onto the porch to talk to the people.  It happened all so fast that it was a few moments before he realized who was on his doorstep.

A camera crew.

A just out of college aged cameraman, an older director, a snotty looking producer, and two other college production assistants.  He didn't need nametags.  He'd seen their type before...they were here to film something, but for the life of him, Chris couldn't remember what.

His chin dropped and he looked at himself.  The sweatsocks, long skater style cargo shorts, and baggy sweatshirt were sure to make an impression on them.  He wasn't normally one to worry about that stuff, but even he knew that he looked like shit.  He'd planned to take a shower just after his phone call came that evening, just in time for his visitor.  He'd put off any kind of shaving, chosing only to brush his teeth due to the fact that that he didn't like that taste in his mouth that was left over from the coke he'd had on the plane.

"Is that thing on?" he asked as he squinted at the bright light outside while motioning to the camera on the man's shoulder.  He hated to ignore the man standing behind the camera, but it wasn't like the camera could be ignored.  No one just ran around with a hundred thousand dollars worth of camera equipment on their shoulder unless it was a big deal.

"Yes," the producer said moving her microphone headset away from her mouth to smile at him.  "We're from MTV's Diary.  We're going to spend the weekend with you..." She paused and frowned at him, "And from the look on your face, your manager didn't remind you of this."

"No," he said shortly, "Lemme make a call real quick..."  He turned back to the door to go inside and thought better of it.  He needed to invite them in or all hell would break lose with the story of how Chris Kirkpatrick was rude to a camera crew.  He turned back and put on a fake smile just in case the camera was still on.  He hadn't seen the director tell the camera to shut off.  "I gotta put the dogs out...hold on."

Chris entered the house, moving to scoop up the two tiny dogs as they tried to get out, then pushed the door shut and limped towards the back french doors.  He opened one door that led to the backyard, set both dogs out then closed the door on them, looking back only quickly to make sure that they were ok.  Both dogs pressed their noses up to the glass door like always so he swung by the kitchen to grab the house phone before heading back to the front of the house.

He'd already dialed Johnny's number by the time he had headed back to the door.  Quickly seeing the orange and white pill bottle on the floor he grabbed it up knowing that if he left it there it could cause trouble.  Not only would the dogs try to chew on it, but he didn't need any outsiders seeing the pill bottle.  It wasn't anything to be ashamed of really, but he knew information about him taking medication wasn't something he wanted to read about on the internet.

He opened up the front door again and shoved the pills back into his pocket.  He looked at the people there.  "Come on in," he said moving the phone to be perched on his shoulder as he half listened to the ringing, "But turn the camera off for me...ok?"

The director nodded and the camera came down off the man's shoulder as the production crew entered the front hallway of the house.  They stood next to the door, but he could already see them looking around.  He hated to be paranoid like that, but he'd never had a crew in the house before.  Most of the photoshoots that they'd done had taken place over at the compound.  He was even surprised that they knew his address and had the access codes to get up to the house.  He didn't have a gate at the driveway, but the community he lived in, just outside of Orlando, was definitely not a place that just anyone drove into...and that had been the reason he'd chosen to live there.  There was a time and a place for fans and once inside those gates he at least knew that the whole world wasn't going to end up on his doorstep, although after today anything seemed possible.

"This is Johnny," the voice on the phone finally said.

"I've got an MTV crew in my entryway...what's going on?"

"Kirkpatrick you knew that they were coming.  I sent you a page and left a message last night."

He remembered that they had spoken briefly about this happening, but that had been two weeks before and he couldn't remember if they had agreed on a date or if it had still been up in the air.  He decided to go with the idea that he didn't remember and he was busy rather than telling his manager that he'd forgotten completely about the arrangements.

"I turned off my phone when I got home," he said curbing his need to use a string of profanity that his mother would have washed his mouth out for, "I wasn't sleeping well last night and it kept ringing and I thought I'd at least get part of my vacation to myself."

"Are they standing right there?" Johnny asked.



"Hey Monica," she said when the line was picked up.

"Hey girly girl," she said with a laugh, "What's up?  How's Calvin?"

"I don't know," she said and looked out the window watching the familiar streets roll by. "I only saw him for like two seconds yesterday.  He was with Michele so left things alone.  I haven't been here in weeks, and it's spooky to be here ya know?  Everything is sooo different, but so the same though...does that make sense?  I think I need a nap...right now I wanna laugh and cry and swear and spit and--"

Monica sighed.  "Girl you said you'd give him another chance."

"No I said I wouldn't kill him while I was out here because I didn't want to upset Kelly."

"You were the one that broke up with him."

"I know."

"Maybe he's changed."

"Thats the thing Mon," she said, "I don't want him to change, but I don't think that I can be with him."  She put her hand to her forehead, "I just want it to be not so complicated anymore.  I just want to be home with him sitting on the couch watching playstation games being played...This is going to be sooo strange.  I mean being back in Orlando again....I mean...Thank God Justin is letting me stay in the guest bedroom.  I know I'll have to put up with him and Meredith being all lovey dovey in their new house, but it's better than being at Chris's."

"I know what you mean Dani," Monica said, "Remember, I've been through all this with you.  I know that this is going to be strange.  I just hope that things turn out well."

"I just wish this was all over.  I wish that my stupid head and stupid heart would get together and have a meeting and make up their--"  Dani took a deep stressed breath, "I'm just frustrated with the fact that I can't just relax about this and play along...I'm just praying that I don't break down in front of him.  I almost did yesterday and I barely said hi to him."

"Then do that Dani," she said, "Don't worry about what it's gonna look like and what people are gonna say or whatever...just go and be with him.  I think you both know that you're lost without each other."

Tears came to her eyes.  "I just don't know..." She took a breath, "Its hard to be--"

"Dani I know you don't want to do this, but just pretend--just pretend that you're friends.  You keep complaining about how he's been looking bad lately...and believe need to get some rest--"

"The man has cartoon characters in his bedroom Monica.  I need a man, not a little boy."  She sighed, "Remember Las Vegas?  Remember how much I hated to deal with him and covering up for him."



[  six months before...  ]

Dani checked her watch again, pushing her sleeve back up her arm to her elbow.  When the time was clear to her she pulled her phone from her pocket and looked back over at her stack of samples boxes.  She dialed the phone from her memory and then held the phone to her ear.

"Hemmo?" a gruff voice spoke back at him.

Dani curbed her urge to scream at him for a moment so that he could at least give her an excuse on why he was late.  "Chris please tell me you're asleep in the limo on the way over here."

"What time is it?" he asked.

"Please Chris," she begged knowing full well that her thoughts about him just being stuck in traffic were now being dashed.

"What time is it?" he asked.


"Dani stop saying my name," he sighed and she could hear noise in the room behind him as if he was moving around in it knocking things over.  "I don't have my contacts in and I can't find my glasses."

"Chr--It's just about two in the afternoon."

"Awe FUCK Dani!" he said angrily.  "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry."  She could hear him get up and move around from where he'd originally been.  "I'm still in Vegas.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I went to sleep last night then got up around two in the morning and went out with the guys...I'm sorry...I came back here and I went to get a shower so I could catch my flight, but I guess they thought I already left because I didn't--I'm sorry."

"Save it Chris," she said, "You should have been here YOU should be here with me for this.  FuMan is YOUR company.  It's YOUR responsibility."

"I know Dani," he said.

"Don't say I know Dani," she said with a sigh, "I quit.  I'm going to go in there and save your sorry butt once again, but I mean it Chris, I'm out of here.  I can't do this anymore."


"No butts," she said and moved herself across the walkway to see if the doorman could get her some sort of cart to bring her clothes up to the conference room.  "It's over...and I don't just mean this way of doing business."  She paused to put her hand to her forhead.  "Chris you need to grow up and until you do I'm not going to take part in this.  I don't just mean the business Chris.  I mean us too Chris."


"Who are you trying to convince?" Monica asked.

Dani took a deep breath as they got to the corner of the Cascade Shores housing area.  The huge sign and fountain out front welcomed her, but she also saw the gates and wondered if she wanted to be locked in or locked out of the place.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You need love, who cares about the package."
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