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The door to the small diner swung open and Chris tucked his keys into his pocket as he waited behind an elderly couple who were arguing over their parking spot outside.  It didn't take more than a minute for the hostess to return.

"I can take you to your table now," she said keeping her eyes on the couple.  They darted to his face and he waved to her and she smiled at him before taking the couple across the room.

"Hey Whit," Chris smiled at her when she returned and looked passed her.  "Is my table open?"

"One of them back there is open," she said without looking as she marked something onto a little laminated map on the table in front of her, "You want a menu?"

"Yeah."  He didn't look her straight in the eye.  He knew that she had a crush on him.  He'd heard it from his normal waitress Veronica a million times and didn't want to encourage her.  Being friendly was one thing, but flirting with her would have crossed the line for him.  Funny how in high school and even in junior college he would have prayed for women to notice him, but now he was almost hiding from them.  "A friend of mine is meeting me here so I should get her one."

With that comment Whitney roughly handed him the flat laminated menu and said, "Veronica is working back there so just flag her down when you're ready to order."  He knew that his comment about his friend coming had made it's impact.  He had wanted to warn her of things, but at the same time he wanted to tell her that if someone came in looking for him that he was actually there.  Normally he hid in the back and didn't take "visitors" to his table.

"Thanks Whit," he said and made his way back to his table ducking his head.  He'd been there at least twice a week for the last five years.  Well twice a week any time he was in Orlando.  Everyone knew him there, like his own little Cheers bar, so it wasn't a big deal to get him a corner booth in the back.  He sometimes wished that he could sit up in the window and watch the street like the couple he'd seen moments before, but with his familiar face he'd only cause them trouble.

As he passed a table he could hear the reaction to him.  He wasn't being egotistical when he was thinking that they were talking about him.  That would be more of a Justin thing to do.  He ususally cringed when he heard people talking about him, not wanting to overhear a whispered insult if they chose to use one.  This time all he heard his name and someone asked the other what he was doing there.

Chris sat with his back to the people and pulled out his palm pilot and began to play a card game.  He'd gotten there early trying to make sure that he didn't get Ginni any madder at him so he thought he'd play to keep himself occupied.

"Hey Chris," Veronica said coming up to him.  He set down his palm pilot down as she leaned and gave him a hug then stood straight again.  "How've you been?"

"Fine," he said.

"No Mike or Todd this time?" she asked looking around as if he had forgotten to bring someone to the table with him.

"I'm on vacation for the week.  Joey is getting married so we have no work this week."

"Wow.  That's a great excuse for a vacation.  Tell Joey and Kelly--he's marrying Kelly right?"  Chris nodded and laughed at her hyperness.  "Tell them that I send my congrats."  She laughed a little.

The alarm on Chris's watch went off.  "Can I get a drink?"

"Of course.  What am I thinking here?  Hello're working."  She brought out her pencil and pad.  "What can I get ya?"

"Can I get a raspberry lemonade?" he asked.

"No coke?"  She wrote down his drink order, her eyebrows coming together a little then she tipped her head to the side and looked at him with a different angle.  "Something must be wrong."

"It's nothing."  He picked up his palm pilot and stared at the cards that had been dealt to him.  It was a losing hand so he clicked to the next game then looked up.  "I'm just already hyper from the stuff I had for breakfast.  I put too much sugar in my Frosted Flakes."

"You put sugar on your frosted flakes?" He could see her cringe.

"I was half asleep and didn't realize which box I'd picked up until I was half way through the bowl so I finished them and got hyper."

"Oh," Veronica said, "So can I get you something to eat too?"

"I'm gonna wait a minute or two.  My friend is gonna meet up with me."

"Ok," she said, "I'll go grab your drink.  Give me a wave when you want lunch."

"Thanks Veronica," he said.

"No problem big guy."

Chris went back to his game for a moment until he saw a flash of something next to him.  "Thanks for that drink--"  When he looked over a girl was standing next to him and his face formed into a frown for a split second before he forced a smile onto his face.  She was a fan in a big way.  He could tell by the FuMan shirt that she was wearing.  It was one of the original runs that they'd put out the year before.  

He could see her face light up when he smiled at her and that instantly reminded him of why he was doing what he did for a living.  "Oh my God," She held out a napkin to him then pulled it back looking at it for a moment.  "I don't want to bother you, but I just wanted to tell you I love your clothes sooo much.  I only wear FuMan stuff."

"Really?" he asked with a smile feeling that familiar sense of uncomfortableness come over him.  He reached for the paper.  "Do you have a pen?"  She handed a ballpoint to him and he drew a little picture, keeping his eyes on the paper instead of her.  He hated when people gushed over him like this.  It was easier when he was with the other guys, but at the moment all the attention was focus on him and he felt completely out of place.  It was easier when it was Justin or JC or Joey pulling for all the attention.

"Where's Dani?" she asked then made a face, "I shouldn't have mentioned her.  You two broke up.  I saw Larry King Live.  I didn't know that you really had broken up until then."

His mind went back to that night.  What a horrible thing for someone to say to him.  It was almost a week after he and Dani had broken up.  Larry King had been talking about all the guys and who they were dating and since he'd always been the one to have someone they'd focused on him there at the end, only bringing the focus on the fact that he almost couldn't keep from crying on camera.  He'd spent the whole week before that denying what was going on, but he couldn't deny it any longer and he'd had to admit it on national television that they'd broken up.



TIMBERLAKE: What was the question?
KING: Now, Chris. OK, what about you Chris? Dating anyone? You don't want to reveal it?
KIRKPATRICK: I don't mind revealing it, but...
KING: Who is it, Chris?
KING: How do you think she feels...
KIRKPATRICK: Not anymore. I know she's upset now because I'm not...
KING: You just said nobody.
KIRKPATRICK: Well, it is nobody.
KING: You're not dating any more?



He let his eyes close.  He'd been startled when they'd begun to speak about him and Dani on camera.  Interviews ususally focused on Justin and Britney or Kelly and Joey, but never had touched on his relationships for more than a yes or no question of him dating or not dating.  He'd been dating her so long that no one ever heard drama about them.  They were very good at hiding their fights.  There had been a million days that he remembered being in a fight with her, but they'd agreed early on that they would keep their fights to themselves, that was until she's booted Chris to the curb with no warning.  He felt after her actions, anything was fair now.



KING: I want to get dating when you're big stars -- Joey?
FATONE: Yes, I'm dating someone.
KING: Regular, show business girl or...
FATONE: No, she's a normal, normal woman. Plain Jane.
KING: Does she live in Orlando?
FATONE: Well, she's back and forth, Orlando and L.A., so...
KING: Anyone we know?
CHASEZ: No, wouldn't be anybody you know, but she's great. I love her very much.
KING: So, none of you -- you're the only one -- Lance, you seeing anyone?
BASS: Not right now.
KIRKPATRICK: Lance is dating me.
TIMBERLAKE: "The Enquirer" is watching right now.
KING: I noticed when you mentioned chemistry, he jumped. He said that's interesting. None of you are married. All of you -- so you each of you see steady girls. You don't see anyone else, and you are now playing the field and you are playing the field.
BASS: I date everyone.



Chris's attention faded back to the girl in front of him.  He should have been paying attention better, but he wasn't sure that he could.  He had too much on his mind, too many issues to be dealing with at the moment.

When he saw Ginni coming through the door he stood up a little, as much as the bench seat would allow him and waved to her.  He handed the paper back to the girl.  "My friend is here for our lunch."

"Oh yeah," the girl said, "I guess she must be special if you're sending me away."



KIRKPATRICK: I did have somebody very special.
KING: I know, you said that.
KIRKPATRICK: And she's still very special.
KING: But what happened?
KIRKPATRICK: She's in the army now or something.
KING: She joined army.
KIRKPATRICK: No, I'm just kidding.
KING: Is dating difficult when you're this big?
KIRKPATRICK: Very, that is -- I'm living proof.



"I'm not sending you away," he said trying not to look at her eyes.  They were the give away with fans.  They could always smile their way through him having to leave, but the eyes always got watery.  They could never hide that.  "I just have things to talk with her about so--"

"I'm just kidding."  She took the napkin and the pen and smiled.  "Anyway if you see Dani tell her that I think she's cool."

"Ummm," he said as he signed her poster, "Dani is ummm busy right now, but I'll try.  There's a fashion show coming up and she's working with Monica and Erin and everyone...she'll be out here...well New York a few weeks for the fashion show."

"Oh really?"  The girl smiled, "Thanks for the autograph.  I can't wait to see the fashion thing."

"I think it's only for press, but maybe we'll have a contest on the web site to get some people some tickets to it or something," he offered knowing full well that no fans would be let into the show.  It was a press event and unless someone knew someone there was no chance in hell that she'd be able to get into the building.

"Wow...I love the site."

"Thanks a lot," he said as Ginni approached.  He didn't want to deal with this fan in front of her.  He knew Ginni on a certain level and didn't want to share anything more than he had to with her.  It was true that they worked together, but Ginni wasn't the type of person to give ammunition to.  He pushed out from his seat and waited for Ginni to sit down and the little girl to leave.

"A fan?" she asked looking towards the girl.

"Yeah," he said and slid the menu to her.

She looked at it for only a moment then seemed in a rush to start their conversation.  "So what's good here?"

Chris was putting his palm pilot away and was about to answer when Veronica came back to the table carrying his pink colored lemonade.  "Oh don't ask him that," Veronica warned, "He's no good at ordering here."

"Excuse me?" Ginni said.

"I eat here a lot Ginni."  He tried to use a voice that would calm her concerns.  He could see her instantly getting upset with the waitress for butting into the conversation.  "Veronica knows that I only order one thing."

Ginni looked at him then at Veronica.  "What do you order?"

"All he can eat shrimp," Veronica recited.  One eye squinted shut looking as if she was straining to rememeber. "Lemon and tartar on the side and honey mustard for his french fries."

"Wow," Ginni looked over the menu at Chris and smiled. "You really do come here a lot."

"Yeah."  Chris sipped at his drink and nervously looked across the table at Ginni.  She looked relaxed enough but he still didn't like the idea that they were out and about together.  They worked together and that was fine, but this was a little strange.  He'd had to meet up with her though.  She'd been upset and him and he had to say sorry.

"Yeah well he's a great guy."

"Sometimes," Ginni said under her breath.

Chris caught the comment and saw the shock on Veronica's face.  She'd only known as the nice guy who came in and didn't make trouble and left good tips.  He was sure she didn't need to hear about his issues with other people.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Veronica asked.

"Iced Tea please, no lemon or sugar."

"No trouble.  I'll give you guys a second and come back and take your order."

Chris watched Veronica leave then looked across at Ginni.  "I'm glad you could make it for lunch.  I'm really sorry about snapping yesterday, but I--"

"Chris I don't care if you were in a pissy mood or whatever.  Just don't do it again.  Ok?"

"Fine," he said and shut his mouth, praying now that his little fan would interupt so that he wouldn't be in such a stressful situation.  His hand went to his pocket and he undid the bottle there.  Quietly he pulled his pills from the bottle and cupped them in his hand, faking a cough to put them in his mouth while she read the menu.

The acidy taste of the pills in his mouth almost made him gag so he took a drink of lemonade then sat back and waited to see when Ginni would be ready to order.



"THE END!"  The television was playing the end of The Lion King when Colton finally spoke.  It had been almost twenty minutes since he'd said something to her, having been drawn in by the movie.  For a while she'd thought that he'd turned into a zombie, but he finally snapped out of it.  It was such a nice way to spend an afternoon.  When she'd watched movies with Chris he would always fidgit or be doing other things while they watched.  He never would sit still and watch with her.

"Brianna is sleeping."

Dani reached over and moved the blanket away from Brianna's sleeping face where she lay on the couch then turned back to the young girl's brother.  "You ready for lunch yet?" she asked.

Colton nodded.  "Can we have hotdogs?" he asked.

"Sure," she said the thought about it for a moment.  Kelly had said something about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but she figured that if there was something else that he wanted to eat then she should make him that.  She knew that kids were picky with what they ate.  "I'll make them if your Mom remembered to buy them."

Colton went running for the fridge.  "I saw them in here with my juice."

"Sounds good to me then," Dani said stretching and pushing herself up to go in the kitchen.  She'd been sitting so often these days on her flights that she was starting to feel like an old lady every time she had to get up.  It was getting easier and easier to sit down than it was to run around, another sign that she hadn't been with Chris.  Back when they were dating he'd make her go skateboarding or running or even just go and walk with him around the neighborhood, but without him she'd lost the need to go and be active.  It hadn't showed up on her hips just yet, but she knew another few months would get her really lazy.

"Can we have cheese in them?"  Colton pulled out the hotdogs and then some Kraft cheese singles.  "Mom knows how to cut them in half and cook 'em so that there's cheese in the middle."

Dani nodded.  "Let's cook then.  You can help me since you know how to do the cheese stuff."

"No," he said, "Mommy knows how to do it."

Dani sighed.  Why did this remind her of conversations with Chris?  It seemed like all those times that she'd told him that he was acting like a four year old weren't just in her imagination, because at the moment Colton sounded exactly like him.  "Well I'll try and figure it out and you can tell me if I did it right."


They spent the next ten minutes in the kitchen making hotdogs in the microwave after Colton remembered that they didn't boil the hotdogs.  Dani already had figured this out, but she let him believe that it was his idea not to boil them.  She even made him work a little when she decided she wanted to just wrap her hotdog in cheese.  Colton was strict with his instructions, almost to the point of comedy.  His idea of a cheese hotdog was one that was cut down the legnth so he could stick cheese in the cuts before they cooked them.

The sound of the doorbell ringing a while later made Nikita bark, not that everything else that day hadn't made him bark.  Dani was just sitting down with Colton down to eat so she told Colton to stay put, checked on Brianna, and walked towards the front of the house.  Half way there she sighed.  This whole babysitting was harder than she thought it would be, but she'd offered since Kelly and Joey had things to do that afternoon.

The doorbell rang again and she reached for the door pulling it open to reveal Chris standing there on the other side.

When he saw that it was her, the energy in his eyes seemed to plummet.  "Oh.  Hi.  I didn't--"  He took a breath and seemed to be trying to figure out how to speak to her without sounding dumb even though he'd passed that stage miles back.  "I didn't think you'd be over here--no wait.  That didn't come out right, I didn't know that you--expect that you were going to be here."

She leaned against the door."Don't look so excited."

"Nikita!"  Colton yelled and a moment later the dog and Colton were on the front lawn running around, hotdog still in Colton's hand.

"I'll get him," Chris volunteered.

Dani watched as he ran around after them for a moment, more chasing Colton than the dog.  He'd gotten skinnier this last tour leg.  Maybe he just looked different because she hadn't gone without seeing him that many months in a row ever in their friendship or relaitonship.  She couldn't put a finger on it, but there was definitely something different going on.  He looked a little older, as if the last six months had put a years worth of time on him.

"Hey wait Colton," Chris said finally stopping in the middle of the grass to pant a moment, doing it more for effect than anything else.  He leaned over a little at the waist and looked up at Dani.  She'd been watching with a smile on her face, but became serious when he looked over at her.  Chris seemed to see it, but shrugged and waved at Colton.  "Give me some of that hotdog and we'll try and get him to eat it."

Seeing that the chase still wasn't going to end for a moment Dani finally sat down on the front steps and watched them.  She would have sat there all day in the sun with them, but she thought she heard a noise in the house and decided she should go back in and check on Brianna.

Sure enough she found the little girl sitting in the middle of the floor in the living room, blanket in hand looking like she was about to burst into tears. "Mommy?"  Her voice came out dazed and she looked a little scared.

Luckily Kelly had warned her of Brianna's disorientation when she woke up from naps so she knew exactly what to say to her to get her to stay calm.  "Well hello there Miss Sleepy Head.  Did you have a good nap?" Brianna nodded her head and looked around.  "It's ok." Dani picked her up.  "Mommy is going to be home soon."

Brianna stuck her thumb in her mouth and began to suck on it.  "K."

"Wanna go out front and see Uncle Chris and Colton?" she said.

Brianna nodded.  "K."

"Your Uncle Chris is out front with Nikita chasing him with Colton."

Brianna leaned against Dani's shoulder.  "Kiss is sieey."

There were so many ways that Kelly could say to back up her opinion of her honorary Uncle.  "Definitely."

When they got back out front Colton was in the street with Nikita at his feet and Chris was nowhere in sight.  "Colton!"  Dani yelled and ran down and grabbed onto his hand and pulled him back out of the street.  "Colton what were you doing in the street?"

"He was playing ball," Chris said appearing from the far side of his car.  He threw the small whiffle ball up into the air and caught it then changed expressions as he stared her down.  "Dani let go of him."

"I should have known that you would do something like this.  You're so freaking irresponsible," she said, "Don't think that I'm gonna leave this one out of my report back to Kelly and Joey."

"OOHH!" Chris made a face and started to shake a little, "I'm sooo scared Danielle."

Dani had made it to the door and set Brianna down and told Colton to make Nikita go in then she closed the door and stared at Chris.  "You should be Christopher.  You don't let little kids play in the street.  I'm surprised that Taylor is still living if you treat little kids this way."

"Leave my little sister out of this!" Chris spat at her.  "And don't treat me like a two year old Dani.  I was standing right there.  If you didn't automatically assume that I was an imbasil then you would have seen that!"

"I only see the truth Chris," she said, "I saw Colton in the street which shouldn't have happened."

"Well what about you leaving Colton out here in the first place Dani."

"Whatever Chris."

The door cracked open and Colton put his head out.  His eyes were wide as if he was trying to see the situation before he interupted them.  "Dani?"

"Yes sweetie?" she said in a calm voice.  She turned her back to Chris and bent down a little.

He pointed over his shoulder as he tried to keep Nikita inside.  "Can Brianna have your hot dog?  She says she's hungry."

Dani leaned and touched the top of his head.  "Hold on just a second honey and I'll come and make her one."


The door closed again and Dani turned back to him.  "Was there a message that you wanted to pass along to Joey or Kelly? I need to get back inside."

Chris glared at her, took two deep breaths and she saw him patting his pockets.  "Just tell Joey that I'll do my suit fitting tomorrow and I'll call them later."

"Fine," she said.

Chris called to her as she was going in the door.  "See you at the wedding."

Dani groaned at the way that he was so nasty about saying what he had.  He acted as if it was a threat more than a reminder that they'd have to see each other again.  She slammed the door shut.
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