The sun had been up for almost an hour when Dani closed the front door of the house.  She pulled her bag over her shoulder and took a deep breath and looked around.  She began to tear up thinking about leaving.  She hadn't wanted to leave like this, but when work called she had to answer, especially now.  Before she'd been able to live off Chris's income, but now that she was on her own, her bills were her own skills and strategy.

The car parked on the curb was her destination.  She had about three hours to get to the airport and get the car back and get checked in before her flight left town.  She'd made sure the night before when she'd gotten the call and her flight info that she'd be awake with enough time to spare so she wasn't exactly running away, but she hadn't told Meredith and Jusitn that she was leaving.  She'd left a note on their door with promises that she'd call later.

"Are you sure you can't stay longer?" Meredith asked coming up to hug her as she was standing out by the rental car.

"Nope," she said pushing her bag into the trunk.  She closed it inside and turned around and hugged her friend who was still in her pajamas.  "I'm sorry about last night and making a crying mess of myself in your living room."

Meredith stepped back and shaded her eyes from the sun.  "It's ok.  Every once in a while we all need to break down and cry.  I think you just saved up about two years of issues to deal with all at once."

Letting go of her, Dani stepped back and fanned herself, "How can it be hockey season in this heat?"

"I don't know." Meredith shrugged.  "Those hockey guys are crazy--it might be all those hits to the heat."

"Yeah," Dani laughed.

"Where are you headed?" Meredith asked.

"Out for a few days to Ottowa and Toronto."  She sighed.  "Back to LA before I hit New York again.  I'll swing back down if I get a chance if anything comes up with Tampa Bay, but basically I'm back to work now."

"Did you tell Chris?" Meredith asked giving her a hard look.

"No," Dani said nervously.  She didn't want him to think that she was leaving because of him.  "I'll call him on my way to the airport."

A few moments later the front door flew open and Justin came out of the house, padding across the lawn in his socks and short and t-shirt looking like he'd just run out from a building that was on fire.

"Justin I don't have any food and you can't molest Meredith on the street," Dani said with a laugh.

He made a face at her then looked at the car.  "Are you ok?  Are you all packed up?"

"Yeah," she said, "I know you want to get rid of me."

"That's not what I meant Dani," Justin said, "I just wanted to make sure you didn't forget anything.  God knows that I lose everything when I'm traveling."

"Nope," she said, "I got everything.  I should be fine."

"Ok," he said and pulled her into a hug.  "Want me to tell Chris you're leaving?"

"Why are you guys acting like we're back together.  He and I haven't gotten anywhere in the last few weeks.  He took me out and  I went, but it's not that simple."

Justin moved and stood next to Meredith, "I know...we know...we just wished that you guys could get back together."

"Don't hold your breath kiddo."

"I thought you guys were doing better," he said.  "I know that you completely turned into the Tazmanian Devil last night after your date, but I thought things were ok."

"It's gonna take a lot more than ok to get the two of us back together again."

"I wish it was easier for you guys," Justin said, "I know Mere and I went through stuff like this, but that was--"

"That was stupid," Meredith said.  "Enough said...just like this is.  You'll both sit back and laugh at all this in a few months."

"I'm glad that you have the confidence about it," Dani said moving to give her a hug, "Because after all this I don't think that I do."

*****

Dani sighed and turned on the radio.  She'd been driving for a few minutes and all the things that Jusitn and Meredith had said to her were clouding her thoughts.

"XXL 106FM!"  The DJ's voice came on and Dani stared at the radio for a moment.

She knew that she was getting closer to the freeway exit and even though she had a flight to catch her head told her to turn around.  She had been slated to fly out three days after her date with Chris, but when the NHL announced the trade of three star players she was needed to go up to Toronto to do the interview of all the people involved.  "If it's an NSYNC song then I turn around and go back.  If its O-town I go to the airport and call him.  If it's anything else I go to the interview," she said aloud as she neared the exit for the Orlando International Airport.

"Up next we have a good one for you." The DJ said, "This artist isn't from a local city, but the managment company he's with is based out of here and Mississippi.  He was signed to FreeLance entertainment and this is a song off the compolation CD from the last Orlando Music Awards.  It's a special one from--"

"Come on come on," she said loudly.

"Up next--"  He took a breath.  "Back To Me by a new guy named Ryan Tedder."

Dani's eyes filled with tears as the song began to play and she wiped her eyes as she looked for the nearest exit so she could get to the airport.  She was upset because it hadn't come true then she thought about it for a moment and made an excuse for herself to turn around.

"Six degrees of separation," she said with a shrug and instead of turning to go right towards the airport she turned left and went over the freeway to get back going the other way.  "Ryan works with Lance, Lance works with Chris.  Close Enough."

You have been wondering
What will become of this love
And itís causing you to worry
I can assure you
Youíre the only one I dream of
Youíre safe within my arms
Thru all the times I needed you right here beside me
I knew youíd always be there
With your love to guide me

Climb any mountain
Fly to the heavens
Beyond where the eyes can see
At the end you will find
A road leading back to me

There have been times when
Youíd go out searching for what
You thought you had been missing
You didnít know that the love you had
Was enough to keep the fire burning
With all the pain and heartache
This world can cause you
I will always be there with my love to guide you

Climb any mountain
Fly to the heavens
Beyond where the eyes can see
At the end you will find
A road leading back to me

I would be stranded without you
Like a ship thatís been lost at sea
I know this love will bring you
A road that leads right back to me, to me, to me

Climb any mountain
Fly to the heavens
Beyond where the eyes can see
At the end you will find
A road leading back
At the end you will find
A road leading back
At the end you will find
A road leading back to me

Chris's house looked abandoned when she walked up to the door.  The garage was closed down and there weren't any cars on the street anywhere near his house.  She lifted her hand to knock on the door and waited a moment.  She was about to walk away when the door swung open.

"Please tell me to stay," she said frantically praying that he'd do what she wanted and reassure her that she needed to stay with him and not fly to interview the newest member of the Flyers.  She started to speak when he opened the door, even before he could see outside.  "Please tell me to take my bags out of the car and miss my flight."

"What are you talking about?" he asked.  He was dressed in kahki shorts and a blue Ambercrombie & Fitch logo T-shirt.  He opened the door farther and ushered her inside when the dogs started to attack their feet.

"Please tell me to stay," she said turning around just inside the door, "Because I feel like if I go get on that plane and fly away that I'll never come back here and be able to--"

Chris smiled at her, "Doc I think you've lost it."

"I haven't lost it," she said still feel frantic.  She looked at him.  "Look at you," she said, "You're wearing Ambercrombie and Fitch for god's sake."  She grabbed at his hand and pulled him towards the stairs.

"Where are we going?" he asked, "I thought you were leaving?"

"I'm taking you upstairs to change.  I don't want you wearing that," she said.

"You're--"

"Chris what the hell are you doing?  You're wearing kahki for god's sake!" she fumed.  "I just want you to be normal."

"I think you've really--"

"Well at least tell me that you want me here--"  She groaned at him with frustration like she had done to Jusitn and Meredith the night before.  "Just please say something."

"You know that you're always welcome here."  He moved and leaned against the wall behind him.  "All my friends are welcome here."

"Friends?" she repeated his words with a dazed sound in her voice.  Friends.  They were friends.  It was such a small word and yet it said so much about them.  It confirmed what she'd feared the last few days.  She'd done the wrong thing by wanting him to change himself for her.  Due to her actions, Chris was no longer the man that he'd been.

He'd changed.

Tears suddenly burned in her eyes as she took him in.  He was more casual than he'd been the night before, but without his beard and with his glasses on and his hair actually combed instead of just spiked lazily out in every direction she saw him for who he was.  He was this robotic man that was trying to do everything to be the exact opposite of what he should have been.

"Doc?" Chris spoke softly and moved his hand to her arm, the way he had the night before.  His hand slid down from her elbow, over her wrist and he held onto her hand and gave it a squeeze.  "Dani.  Danielle.  Dani come on.  Don't cry.  I don't know what's going on, but you need to calm down."

Her arm reached and she hugged him and began to cry.  "What did I do?" she asked in a whisper.  "What did I do to you?"

He stepped back and looked at her.  "What did you do to me?" he asked, "What are you talking about?"

Dani stepped back and stared at him.  "I love you Chris," she blurted out.  "I thought that I didn't, but now that you've changed I can't believe I'd ever want someone like that to be--"

"How have I changed Dani?" he asked with a strange look on his face.

"Everything about you has changed.  I don't like it Chris.  I don't like it at all."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Chris held her against him when she fell into his arms again crying.  He didn't know what had gotten her so upset, but she was now almost hysterical holding onto him that he didn't want to push her away and call her crazy, even though she clearly had broken something in her to make her come there and talk to him this way.

As he looked over her shoulder down to where the dogs were sitting he noticed her starting to shake.  He moved back from her, but found her latched onto him tightly.  "Doc," he said in a soft voice, "Come on in the living room.  I'll put the dogs out and we'll talk.  Ok?"

She stepped away and watched him with wide sad eyes.  He held onto her hand and pointed towards the door.  "Go outside guys," he said then started to walk into the living room.  Dani was slow, but she soon joined him.

"Lemme go get these guys out.  Go on and sit down," he said, "Do you want anything to drink?"

"No," she said nodding her head.

The dogs were soon put outside and Chris walked by her and looked at her, "I'll be back in a second.  Ok?"

She nodded and took a seat as he went to go and grab some kleenex from the bathroom to bring back to her.

"You've been robbed!"

Chris came jogging back into the room with the kleenex in his hand.  "What's missing?" he asked knowing full well that the room was empty compared to the last time she was there.

"Please tell me that this is a joke," she said with a panicked tone, "I know you have your contacts in honey..."  She paused for a moment when the word escaped her lips.  "You have to see what's missing.  You know full well this room was full of video games the last time I was here."

"Oh...that," he said and left her the box of kleenex and went into the kitchen to get something to drink.

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON CHRISTOPHER ALLAN KIRKPATRICK!" Dani called out from the other room.

"What are you yelling about?" he asked as he walked back towards where he'd left her.  He tugged at the neck of his t-shirt and drank some water.

"You're house," she said with a frown, "You're--"

"Dani, calm down."  He put his bottle down.  "I moved the video games into the garage.  They were distracting me.  I'm trying to pull the company together a little better and having the games sit outside my office door is too much for me to deal with."

"Come here," she demanded.

"I wish you'd calm down about this," he said with a sigh.  His shoulders slumped and he walked towards her knowing that he wouldn't hear the end of things until she got out what she needed to get out.  "Really it's not that big of a deal."

"Now," she commanded.

When he was standing in front of her she put her hand on his forehead.  He moved his head to the side, but she forced him to sit still.  "What are you doing?" he asked with a smile.  This was the first time in a while that they'd been that close.  If he wanted to, he could have put an arm around her and pulled her close for a kiss, but from the look on her face he could tell that she wasn't in a kissing mood.

"I'm checking to see if you have fever or not," she said placing her hand against his forehead, "This is insane Chris."

"What's insane?" he asked, "I thought you liked change."

"Change?" she asked, "Change is always a good thing, but this...this...this just isn't change...this is destruction."

"Destruction?" he asked, "Why do you say that?  I just want to change some things."

"I don't care.  I don't care about the company.  I don't care about the house, the clothes.  None of it.  All I want is you."  She waved his hand off when he reached for her.

"Dani I don't get you," he said, "What do you want from me?  I act one way you hate me.  I act another and you hate me."

"I want the you that called and rented out a theater so we could watch Ace Vetura for your birthday.  I want the guy who puts sugar on his frosted flakes."

He finally took her hand and pulled her over to the steps.  He sat her down and sat next to her.  "Calm down."  His voice stayed level and clear as he watched her almost starting to hyperventalate.  "I thought that you hated that part of me."

"I did, but at the same time it's you and I can't-- I want the you that will sit with Busta and hug him like a baby and talk to him and tell jokes to him.  I want the you that sits with Taylor and teaches her how to do backflips and how to play practical jokes," She looked scared now.

"Dani please calm down.  You're scaring me."

Her arms reached for him and he took her into his arms when she moved towards him.  "Please tell me that everythings gonna be ok?  Please tell me that you love me."

He'd never seen her this way and it scared him more than a little bit to see and hear how upset she was.  "Dani..."  He moved her into his lap and held her.  "There's not a day that goes by--"  His throat clogged up.  "Never a day goes by and never a day will go by that I won't love you."

He could see the change in her eyes when she heard the words.  He watched her eyes tear up and watched as her cheeks became damp with the tears.  His only reaction was to wipe them away.  He didn't even notice that he was crying too until she moved to kiss his cheeks and felt not only her warm lips against his skin, but the wetness of his crying there too.

"I love you too," she said, "I always did, but I couldn't--

"Shh-"  He quieted her.  His lips found her and in a panic he kissed her doubts away.  He had never told her that his love for her was that intense.  He'd told her he loved her, but nothing as extreme that would show her that every moment of his life was dedicated to loving her.
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