The Snap Shots Series:  Picture Perfect: Five


Twenty-Five

"So we don't get lost," Lance said as he took her hand the next morning as they walked into the airport.

The day before had been hectic and fun and the whole time they'd pretended to be a happy little couple. She'd come home that night to Lance's house and the pretending didn't stop, although she wasn't exactly sure why. They ended up falling asleep in front of the television watching home movies of him and the guys that he'd told her about during the day. Lance slept on the larger couch and she on the smaller couch and when they woke up that morning they even continued the playing. Somehow it seemed as if neither one of them wanted to let go of the happiness they'd found the day before.

"Good one Lance," Willa said with a smile, "Are you going to tell Tracy you've stolen her line?"

Lance curled his arm bringing her up closer to him. "It's not her line," he said leaning close to her, "I just want to make sure that we don't get separated from each other. We only have a little while until your flight leaves and I don't want you to get lost."

"Sure," she said, "Whatever Lance."

Wes laughed from next to them and Willa watched Lance turn to him. "What's your problem?"

"Nothing," Wes said and winked at Willa.

They were buying it. Everyone was buying it, but she wasn't sure if the two of them could keep it up. She didn't know if it was true or was just playing, but she didn't want to ask and ruin the moment if it wasn't.

"Reporter six o'clock," Wes said in a hushed voice.

Lance pulled his hat down lower on his head and looked at Willa. "You ok?"

"Yeah," she nodded and went along with him to her gate. She'd be leaving at nine and he would be flying out at nine thirty-five so he was going to wait with her at the gate until he needed to leave.

"So Spanky is going to meet you at the gate and drive you home. He's going to be on call. He'll give you his pager number and I want you to use it. If you think that something isn't right call him and he'll come over and get you, ok?"

Willa nodded. "I don't like the idea of calling a grown man Spanky…does he have a real name?"

Lance laughed a little. "Yeah. It's William."

"Good," she said.

They made it to the gate and took a seat near the windows.

"So where do you go from here?"

"Back to San Diego for two days then we're going to be down in Rio De Janero for a week then we're taking off the month for Christmas Break."

"No traveling for a while?" she asked.

"We're going to be recording the new album. I think we're going to record some in New York. Maybe I'll stop by while I'm up there."

Willa couldn't believe her ears. He was actually suggesting that he'd come and see her. She knew that this was an important moment for the both of them especially since there weren't any reporters or cameras around. This was him actually telling her that he wanted to see her again.

"Sounds fine with me," she said, "IF I'm in town. I have shoots all next month."

"What are you doing for Christmas?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said with a shrug. "I took that week off. I thought I'd fly out and see my parents for a while, but I don't know if I'll get out to Seattle this year."

"Seattle?" he asked.

"Yeah, my father and mother work at the University of Washington as professors."

Lance stopped and stared at her for a moment then kept walking. "Professors? And they let you get away and go to New York to model?"

Willa nodded. "Well I started modeling in Washington, then worked my way down to LA then came out this way."

"You've been in this business for a lot longer than I thought," he said.

"I've been working steadily since I was sixteen, back about 1995," she laughed a little. "I remember you guys when you were in Europe way back when. I wanted to catch one of your shows, but my managers wouldn't let me."

"When was that?" he asked. He suddenly seemed way too interested in her.

"Way back when you guys were playing little venues in Stockholm."

"Wow," he said.

"Yeah, I did a shoot for a winter line and we were staying there. I heard your stuff on the radio all the time," Willa smiled.

Wes nudged Lance and they looked around for a moment. They'd gotten caught in their conversation and hadn't noticed that the plane was about to board.

"You should get going Willa," Wes said with a smile to her.

Willa turned and hugged Lance. "Give me a call when you get to LA."

Lance nodded. "I won't be able to probably tonight because we're supposed to go to a movie premiere tonight, but I'll give you a ring in the morning."

She nodded again and for a moment felt like crying, as if this was all real and that she was going to miss him. But as he turned to her and held her hand she realized that she would miss him. Not the guy who'd she'd met at the party, or the guy that she'd kissed in the video, but the one in front of her who was pretending for the moment to be madly in love with her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don't do this Lance. Don't do this.

His head spun as they stared at each other that one last moment before she broke away from him and went towards the gate. Wes and Loni both waved, but he turned away after she entered the small walkway that would lead her to her seat.

"Come on, let's get out of here."

Wes turned to him and caught his arm. "Wait a second."

Lance turned around from where he'd started to walk away and saw her standing in the doorway watching him.

Don't do this Lance. Don't do this. Don't you dare fall in love with her. It's not part of the plan. It's not and don't even think about making it part of the plan.

Lance was about to walk over to her, but she stopped him with a wave. She pointed to her eye, then her heart, then to him.

Not knowing exactly what to do Lance repeated the action back to her, then turned and stalked away from the gate without a word to Loni or Wes. They had to practically run to catch up with him.

He was almost to the gate when his phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Lance?"

Lance thought for a moment. It wasn't Willa and it wasn't his mother or Kerri or anyone else from back home. "Melinda?"

"Yeah," she said in a somber tone.

"Mel, what's wrong?" Lance's mind began to run quickly as he waited for an answer. Melinda usually wasn't the type of person to get upset and if things were wrong they were usually big things.

"Lance, I have some bad news," she said.

"Is it my mom? Dad? Stacy?"

"No honey. It's Tracy," Melinda said.

"What?" Lance said.

"Her mother called me a minute ago to get a message to you."

"And?"

"She died this morning."

Lance dropped the phone and turned around to face the direction he'd just come in.

"What's wrong Lance?"

"I have to stop her."

"Stop what?" Loni asked.

Wes picked up the phone and began to try to figure out what was going on with Melinda, that was until Lance took off for the gate they'd just been at.

Pushing past people and knocking over a rack of advertisement pamphlets for the Orlando tourist scene, Lance wound his way back to the gate, just in time to see the plane pulling back from the gate.

"You have to stop that flight!" he said running up to the counter.

The woman standing there looked alarmed by his actions and some passengers began to stare at him. "Excuse me?"

"I have to talk to someone…" He took some deep breaths trying to catch his breath. "I have to talk to someone on that flight. It's really important."

"I'm sorry sir," the woman said.

"Look," he said and held his breath for a moment. "My girlfriend is on that flight and one of our friends died this morning and she doesn't know about it."

The woman gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sure that this is all--"

"Never mind," Lance said looking at her. Somehow he knew that she wasn't going to help him. "Just tell me when the next flight to JFK airport is."

The woman looked at her computer screen for a moment. "The next one leaves at eleven."

Lance flung his backpack onto the counter and pulled out his ticket. "I need to trade this ticket for one to JFK. Do whatever you have to do. If you bump someone off the flight I'll pay for them to stay in Orlando for the night. I just need a seat on that flight."

Wes and Loni finally joined him at the counter and a few moments later Lance had a ticket to JFK instead of LAX.


Twenty-Six

"I can't let you do this." Wes's urgency about the situation was giving Lance a headache. He was just trying to protect him, but Lance was tired of feeling like a shut-in. He was twenty-one years old and far past the point in his life where he should be listening to people like Wes telling him what to do. His mother could tell him to dig a hole to China and he'd do it, but Wes wasn't supposed to be acting as his parent anymore. Maybe when he was sixteen that's how things had worked, but now all of that was over. Lance was making decisions now.

"I have to," Lance replied urgently slipping away from his grasp to head to the gate. He saw that Wes had his phone and went over and grabbed it from him then began walking again.

He dialed the number quickly and waited until someone picked up.

"Spanky?" he asked in a rushed voice.

"Yeah?"

"It's Lance." He looked around for a moment. Wes and Loni were both watching him, but he didn't care. He figured they were trying to hatch a plan to keep him in Orlando and away from getting on his flight to JFK. He needed to get this call made and he needed to get to New York. "I need you to do me a favor."

"Other than going to pick up your woman from the airport?" the guy asked with a laugh.

Lance didn't find humor in his comment. "Yeah, I want you to stay with her in the airport until I get there."

"Get HERE?"

"It’s a long story, but I have to tell Willa something important and I need to make sure that you keep her in the airport until I get there."

"You aren't going to propose to her or something are you?" Spanky asked.

"No, nothing like that. It's bad news actually," Lance said, "The girl we visited down here in Orlando died this morning."

"Oh no," Spanky said letting out his breath fully.

"Look just don't tell her ok. I need to tell her myself and I want to do it as soon as I get to New York."

"Fine," Spanky said, "I'll keep her in the VIP lounge."

"Thanks a lot Spanky. I should be there by three," Lance said and hung up the phone.

"I'm not letting you fly to New York by yourself Lance. That's like suicide. If someone finds out about you being on that flight there could be a crowd waiting for you and then you'll--"

"Whatever," Lance said. "Spanky is going to get me when I get to New York. I'll be coming back to San Diego on the first flight I can get out of New York in the morning."

"You're gonna die for this one you know," Wes said. Loni nodded from behind him.

"Just tell them that I had stuff to do," Lance said. "I'll call everyone when I get to New York."

"Lance, I'm warning you."

"Look Wes, I know that you are concerned and believe me I hear you, but if I don't do this and Willa hears about Tracy I know it's going to be bad. If I'm ever going to get through to her that I--" He cut off and stared at Wes. "Nevermind. I just have to be there for her."

Wes sighed. "Fine, you call me every hour on the hour and I want to hear from you as soon as you get to New York. I'm gonna call Spanky and tell him to meet you at the gate. I'm not letting you roam around the airport alone. I don't care if no one knows you're going to be there. It's dangerous."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[ Three Hours Later…JFK Airport]

"Hello there Miss Marviani," a deep voice said.

Willa looked up to see a thug-looking man coming towards her.

This has got to be Spanky. Of course he's the biggest black guy in the room who looks more like he's going to mug someone than protect them. She hated that she sounded a bit prejudice about the guy, but it did seem strange that all the secuity guys she'd seen at the VMA's had looked more like street thugs than professionals.

"Spanky?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am," he said with a laugh.

Willa smiled and stuck out her hand. "Nice to meet you."

"Same here," he said and shook her hand.

"I wasn't sure if you were going to be here."

"Well I'm here and I have some bad news," Spanky said.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Well," he said and took her bag. "Lance is on his way to New York and he wants you to stay in the airport until he comes to get you."

"He's coming to New York?" she asked. Her heart rate accelerated. She'd wished and prayed that he would come after her. She'd known that her "I love you" would get to him.

"Yeah," Spanky said. "He should be here by three o'clock. We're supposed to wait for him."

Willa nodded and followed where Spanky led. She wasn't sure if this was all legit, but she knew she should stick around and see if he was really going to come for her.

When they got to the VIP lounge they found a table and Spanky took a seat next to her. They ordered lunch and Willa got out her phone and dialed Amy's number.

"Hey you," she said a moment later.

"Where are you chica?" Amy asked excitedly.

"Well I'm in the airport in New York," she said.

"Are you leaving or coming back?"

"I'm coming back from being in Orlando. I told you I was going down there."

"I just thought you might be going to work again."

"Nope," Willa said with a smile. "I'm waiting her for Lance."

"For Lance?" she asked. "I thought those guys were supposed to be on the West Coast."

"Well they were, but Lance was with me in Orlando and then all of a sudden I get this message that says that he's going to meet me in the airport here around three o'clock and that I need to wait for him."

"Well where are you?"

"The VIP lounge near the United gates."

"I'm going to come out and hang out with you girl. You shouldn't have to wait for his dumb-ass alone." Amy paused for a moment. "Do you know why he's making you wait?"

"No," Willa said, "He just sent a message that says I have to wait for him here. I would guess that it's important or he wouldn't make me wait."

Amy didn't speak again right away. Willa could hear her walking around and figured she was looking for her keys or purse or something. "Oh no."

"What?" Willa asked.

"You actually like this guy again, don't you?"

Willa smiled. "We had a great time yesterday. And we met the sweetest little girl. She's the best little kid I've ever met. I think she was playing match maker yesterday and well it sort of worked."

"Willa no," Amy said with a groan. "This is going to end badly. You said yourself that he's an asshole."

"Well that was before," she said.

"Before what?" Amy asked. "Before he grabbed you in the hotel? Before he announced on National Television that you were dating or before he dragged you to Orlando because he needed you to be there?"

"I went to Orlando because I wanted to do the charity thing."

"Honey, this guy's ruined your life. I talked to Elena yesterday when I was in the office. How could you turned down that shoot with Todd to go to Orlando to see HIM?"

"I turned down the shoot because I had already accepted the invitation to the Make A Wish people."

"INVITATION? Invitation my ASS!" Amy said angrily. "If you hadn't gone down to Orlando everyone would have said that you were a heartless person. And that's Lance's fault! He's totally taken control of not only your social life, but your work life to. I thought I'd never see that happen."

"Look," Willa said with a sigh. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. I know that I've said a lot of things in the past about him, but I've changed my mind. You'll have to meet him to make your own judgements."

"Well I'm going to meet the jerk today. I'll be out to the airport in about an hour."

"Fine," Willa said and clicked off her phone.

Spanky was watching her with a frown on his face.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing," he said and looked away. "Just love to hear that someone isn't blowing sunshine up Lance's ass."

"That's one thing I've never done," she said with a smile.

"He needs that sometimes," Spanky said.

"You and Wes both keep saying that."

"It's the truth. If this guy is coming up to New York to meet you there is definitely something behind that."


Twenty-Seven

It was all happening in slow motion. It was that "Dream-Weaver" Wayne's World sort of hazy vision that makes everything and everyone in your vision seem perfect, almost too perfect.

Willa had seen things like this happen to people in the movies. That moment in the movie where the main character finally gets to find out that the leading man is in love with her. Willa felt it, but had never gotten as nervous watching a movie scene as she was right then. This was the real thing.

He was here.

In New York.

For her.

She caught site of him when he entered the restaurant. He was alone and for the first time she saw some vulnerability on his part. He seemed a little nervous and kept looking around as if someone was going to go and jump out at him since the security crew wasn't with him.

As he approached her, the only sound she could hear was the beating of her heat. It filled her ears and almost got to the point of being annoying, but there were other things to think about so she tuned it out and tried to pay attention. She wanted to remember everything about this moment. The only things she could see were the smile on his face and that twinkle in his eyes that was undeniable. It was love. Nothing else seemed to matter.

"I'm glad I caught you," he said almost breathlessly as if he'd been in a hurry to find her. He pulled her into his arms, fitting her close to him as if she belonged there permanently. It felt good to be in his arms, although she was a little anxious to know why he'd traded his flight out west for one going north. "I have something to tell you."

She leaned back and her heart seemed to pause as if it was waiting to stop forever if he said the wrong thing. "What?" she asked with a smile. She leaned against him and hugged him again. She caught sight of Amy's face and could tell that something wasn't right. When she turned and saw that he wasn't smiling she let her face relax. "What do you need to tell me?"

"Sit down," he said and walked with her around to the booth where she, Amy, and Spanky had been for the last hour.

Amy had arrived as she'd promised and they'd spent their time together discussing the pros and cons of her future relationship with Lance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"He's not an asshole anymore," she stated when Amy started in with her critique of Lance. Amy had the right to bash him, since she'd been doing the same thing for weeks now, but something had changed in her and she suddenly felt like she needed to defend him since he couldn't defend himself at the moment. "I don't know what happened…" She really couldn't help but to wonder if Lance really had been pretending or if it had all been real. She wanted it to be real so badly that she prayed that it really would be. "It's not the same anymore."

"He was nice to you for about twelve hours!" Amy made a face and threw her hands in the air in frustration. "Granted that's got to be a record from him, but it's nothing special! Guys aren't supposed to treat girls like he's treated you. He's practically ruined your life. It was career suicide to get involved with them."

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "I've gotten a lot of work because of him. A lot of work that I wouldn't have gotten without the extra publicity."

"Well I hope that it's worth it," Amy said, "No woman should have to go through all the shit that he's done to you…"

She sighed and sipped her drink then checked the clock, praying that his flight would get their earlier. She needed to prove, not only to Amy, but to herself, that he wasn't the jerk that she'd been fighting for the past few months. He had to have changed. She never would have thought that he would fly to New York just to tell her something if it wasn't something important and if he really cared about her. "He's really not that bad."

"Well then the next time he grabs you and yells at you don't come looking for my sympathy."

"I won't."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Oh," she said and looked around for a moment. "This is Amy."

She felt strange for a moment wondering about the big news he needed to share with her. Spanky had said it was something huge and her curiosity was getting to her. She wanted it to be him telling her that things were going to be ok between them. He'd hinted about it in the airport in Orlando, but she wanted some promises. Promises not for time or for space for them, but just the idea that he was thinking of her as much as she was thinking of him.

Lance spoke to Amy for a moment. She was glad to hear Amy actually being civil to Lance as everyone settled into their seats at the table.

"I have some news…"

"I know. Spanky told me."

"Spanky told you what?" he said suddenly.

"Told me that you needed to talk to me."

"Oh." He took a breath. "I don't know how to say this."

"Say it," she encouraged him.

He leaned towards her and kissed her softly.

She pulled back. "Please tell me."

He leaned and kissed her again. He made eye contact with her and began to open his mouth to speak, then stopped again.

"Just say it!" Willa said with a smile when he seemed to pause.

Lance took her hand and squeezed it as he spoke; "Tracy's dead."

Willa could feel her heart stop in her chest. Her mind raced with crazy thoughts. She wanted him to repeat his news. He hadn't said the right thing. He hadn't. She at first didn't even realize what he had said because her ears were still ringing with the thought that he hadn't said "I love you." The blood drained from every appendage. Her hands went numb and her toes began to tingle and for an instant she saw black. Her smile faded and her breath caught in her throat.

"What?" she finally choked out.

"Her mother called and said that she died this morning," Lance explained. There was a pained look on his face.

She wasn't sure how to take it all in. She'd been expecting good news and what she'd gotten had taken the floor out from under her. This was so not what she wanted to be hearing right now. She'd run the whole thing through her mind over and over while she'd been waiting and this wasn't how it was supposed to be going.

"No." Willa let go of hi hand and looked around. This wasn't a joke. No one was kidding around and certainly no one was laughing. "No."

"Willa?" Lance's concern was evident to her, but she tried to ignore it.

"No!" she said loudly. She got up from her seat and began to collect her things. When she had everything she pushed past Lance, who'd gotten up and was trying to block her exit.

"Willa?" Lance called to her as she started to walk away. When she didn't stop he called to her again then he maneuvered around her and came between her and the door. "Willa wait!"

"Why are you doing this to me?" she asked pushing at him when he wouldn't move. "Do you enjoy seeing the tears? Is that your sick obsession?"

"What?" he asked.

"This is probably some sick thing you like to do. I guess the last day or so we had together went too well. I expected you to ruin it, but this really takes the cake!"

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

"I'm talking about the fact that every word out of your mouth is a lie!" She watched the words sink in. She'd hurt him with that one, but she didn't find herself enjoying the feeling. Not that she enjoyed fighting with him, but at least before she would have at least gotten some sort of satisfaction out of seeing him as confused or hurt, the way she'd been so often. "Why should I believe this?"

She pushed again and stalked out of the VIP lounge and found herself outside a few moments later trying to hail a cab, although she didn't remember exactly how she'd gotten there.


Twenty-Eight

[ An hour later…]

Lance reached and knocked on the door. He held his breath and listened for a moment. He could hear music, but he wasn't sure if it was coming from her apartment or if it was just the television on behind her door.

Though Lance had run after Willa in the airport, she'd given him the slip and had gotten into a cab before he could stop her. Desperately trying to hold onto the last day of happiness Lance found himself grabbing Amy and shoving her and Spanky into the car and yelling at Spanky to get them to Willa's as quickly as he could.

SO there he was at her door staring at the slightly beaten number hanging on the door, praying that when Willa answered she'd invite him in instead of leaving him to fend for himself in the city.

The door cracked open and Willa looked out at him from behind the door. Her eyes were puffy and her makeup was messy. She looked like she was in pain and he wanted to help her. He needed to help her. If he didn't he felt like he would regret it for the rest of his life.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Can I come in?"

"Why? So you can gloat?" she asked.

"Willa! Damn it let me in!" he said forcefully.

The door closed and for a moment Lance tried to think of how he could get across town to the Ritz without being noticed. He turned away from the door, picked up his bag and stood there for a moment trying to think of what to do next. He wasn't going to give up, but he thought he might need to regroup a bit before he tried again to talk to her.

"Lance?"

He turned to find the door open and Willa leaning against it looking at him.

"I'm sorry," Lance said softly as he was let into the apartment.

She placed a finger to his lips and kept it there as he moved out of the way of the door so that she could close the door. "I want to say something to you before you start giving me excuses."

"Excuses?" he asked.

"Just listen to me," she said. She took his bag from him and set it on the floor then walked into the studio apartment's living room and plopped down on the couch.

That's when Lance finally heard the music she had on the radio. "What song is this?" he asked.

"The Last Unbroken Heart," she said.

He stopped and cocked his head sideways to listen to the song for a moment. "Is that Patti LaBelle?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, "It's from a Miami Vice Soundtrack."

"Hello Eighties." Lance thought that the comment might lighten the mood, but saw the look on her face and figured that he'd better sit down.

"Can you be serious for a moment?"

He nodded instead of answering.

"Now," she said and turned to him. "I've wanted to say this to you for months now and I haven't been able to because whatever has come up, but today was the kicker. I don't even know if you weren't there this afternoon, but your news wasn't exactly what I thought I was going to be hearing from you."

"I know. It shocked me too."

"I'm upset about Tracy's death. It's hard enough to deal with that, but it's even more disappointing that Tracy saw in the two of us something that you can't seem to get through your head or if you have let it get through to you, you must keep pushing it away."

"What are you talking about?"

"What am I talking about?" She jumped up and began to pace. "I'm talking about the last forty eight hours and how you've been completely overprotective over me, you've kissed me, and you've acted like you were in love with me. Hell you tell the press that we're in love, but I'm not sure where I stand with you. Hell, I don't think I've ever known!"

"This is about where you stand with me?" he asked with a blank stare in her direction.

"Yes!" she said. "You treat me like an employee and just when I thought that we might be friends or even more you throw something at me that kills me." Tears formed in her eyes. "You got up there and threw out at the press this whole protective thing, that you weren't going to stand by and let them talk about the two of us like they had been, then you act like the words that you said to the press have no real meaning."

"You're confusing me," he said and shook his head.

"Well welcome to my world Lance! I LOVE YOU and as much as I want things to work out with you, I'm at the end of my rope with waiting around for you to tell me anything about the way you feel for me."

Lance stared. He was in trouble now. He knew this was going to happen and he didn't want it to. He wanted love, eventually, but after the hassle that it had brought to him in the past, this wasn't exactly a joyous occasion.

"See, that's what I mean. You just sit there and stare at me."

"Willa, you don't understand. You knew that this was a business proposition. I never said that--"

"I know that's not all that all it has been for you. I know that!"

Lance covered his face. "Oh my god!" He breathed the words out and leaned back.

Willa paced again.

"Sit down Willa," Lance said, "I have something to tell you."

Willa threw her arms up in the air. "As if my day wasn't completely a loss already. More bad news, I'm sure."

Lance glared at her for a moment. "Sit down. I let you yell at me and now it's my turn to say my piece."

Willa flopped down on the couch and stared at him.

"I should have explained this to you in the beginning. I never wanted a relationship. That wasn't the plan at all. I don't want to get into it, but basically I got burned last year from a girl and although I would have loved to leave the serious social scene alone, everyone around me told me I needed to get out. I needed a date, not a romance. I thought you understood that."

"I…" She began to speak and he watched her start to cry. "I hate you."

"See that's your trouble. You can't make up your mind. You love me? You hate me? This is ridiculous."

"Ridiculous is you not answering me!"

Lance watched her. "What was the question?"

Willa groaned. "This is hopeless."

"Willa calm down," Lance said with a laugh. "You act like all of this has to be perfect. Nothing in life is like that. You of all people should know that."

Willa curled her legs up to her chest and buried her head in her arms.

Lance could see how upset she was and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get himself to just leave her alone. He had a feeling that's what she wanted, but there was a part of him that couldn't do it. He'd miss her too much. Even though he knew it was dangerous to keep her too close to her, he knew he didn't want her too far away either.

"I can't do this anymore Lance. I think we need to not see each other. This is too much drama."

"But…"

"No buts. I know that you don't have a place to stay for the night. You're welcome to use the couch, but after tomorrow I don't want to see you or hear from you for a while. I leave for europe in two days and I don't think--"

"I get the picture," he finally said. He was tired and needed some sleep, but he also needed some time to think about all this. "I'm gonna go out for a while. I'll be back." He pushed himself up.

"Wait," she said. She got up and walked over to the table near the door, grabbed her keys and took a key off the ring. "In case I'm not here when you get back."

Lance took the key and left the apartment. He knew that he shouldn't, but he found himself on the street a moment later with no where to go, but at the same time it was almost a relief. He never got to just hang out in the city. He was always there on business.

He pulled his jacket up around him and reached for his phone. He had two calls to make.

"Hey Johnny," he said a moment before.

"I heard about what happened with that little girl. How are you holding up?"

"I'm good. Its really sad about her dying. It's rough to know that I saw that little girl yesterday and now she's gone."

"How's Willa doing?"

"There's just drama going on," he said. "Not just the whole Tracy thing. I think we're gonna break things off."

"That's too bad," Johnny said. "Are you in New York?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Is Spanky there?"

Lance looked around for a moment then lied. "Yeah. No one knows that I'm here. I have a feeling I won't even need him."

"I could kill you for not taking Wes or Loni with you, but since it was an unexpected trip--"

"Thanks," Lance said. "Look, I've gotta run. I'll talk to you later. Will you tell Wes that I'm ok? The guy was on my back today to call him. Like I'm a kindergartener or something."

"Sure, I'll tell him."

"I'll see you guys tomorrow. Wes has my flight information."

"Ok," Johnny said.

When Lance was done with that call he dialed home. He needed some motherly advice about the situation. If anyone would know what to do, his mom would have the answers to his troubles.


Twenty-Nine

Willa opened her eyes and squinted. Her head hurt and her eyes felt way too heavy considering that she'd gone to bed early the night before. She would have thought she might have been sick, but she decided to blame her crying from the day before instead of dwelling on the moment. She let her eyes adjust to the realization that it was morning. She looked around for a moment then sat straight up in bed. She didn't know if Lance was back. She'd fallen asleep the night before and hadn't heard him come in, not that she'd really been waiting up for him, but she had kept an ear open. She wondered for a moment if he had gotten into trouble or something the night before. He probably hadn't called Spanky to take him out with him.

"Lance?" she called out. If he was there surely he'd answer. She didn't know what she was going to say to him if he did answer, but she wanted to know that he was safe.

There wasn't an answer and she found her heart sinking. She thought that he would have at least tried again with her. He didn't seem like the type to give up so easily. He hadn't given up so far. Maybe she had pushed too far. She'd been slightly irrational, not staying around to hear what he had to say about Tracy.

The thoughts of her dead little friend caused her pain and in that pain she knew that the one person in the world who would know what she was going through wasn't around at the moment. It had been her fault though. She began to doubt herself a little. She hadn't wanted to fall for him and she hadn't wanted to rely on him, but now she found herself missing him more than she knew how to handle.

Deciding that she'd better go and see if he was still asleep she made her way out to the living room. He might be a heavy sleeper or he might have stuffed his head under a pillow or something.

What she found in her living room wasn't anything that she could have expected. She expected to find her house empty, but Lance had left her a little bit of a present. "A little bit" was an understatement. The entire floor of the living room was covered in small flower arrangements. She didn't know how he'd done it, but he must have bought out all the flower shops in the area. There were all kinds of flowers all over the place, the main focus being a vase of roses on the table to the side of the bigger arrangement.

As she leaned to smell the arrangement of long-stem red roses that were on her kitchen table she saw a card. She hoped that this wasn't going to be something bad. If he'd given up she almost didn't want to know.

I know you want picture perfect.
It may be something I can't give you,
but I want you to know you already
have the most perfect thing I could give.
My love and my heart.

--Lance

Willa's breath caught in her throat. She could have never expected something like this from him. Just when she was expecting something completely NOT like this, he was acting the part of the romantic. She'd expected him to keep brushing her off or ignoring her for a while, not the lavish present that he'd left her. There had always been this thing about flowers. It was a simple gift, but it spoke volumes.

Now though, that the ball was in her court, she was going to have a little fun with him. She had a plan and was going to try to make him pay a little before he let things settle between them. When he called she was going to make him grovel a little. She wanted him to know that he was going to have to work for it if they were going to be together.

Flowers were always a good start, but after what he'd put her through they were only the start.

Willa picked out a flower and went to go find herself some breakfast. She noticed her answering machine blinking so she went over and pressed the button.

"Willa, this is Elena. I just wanted to call you and tell you that Todd wants to reschedule the shoot you passed up. He found out why you didn't come to the shoot and decided that he'd reshoot with you as soon as you can give him time. I know it's not the most convient thing, but how does Christmas in Jamaica sound? Call me back when you get this message."

The machine beeped and then another voice came on.

"Willa, this is Lance. I hope you like the flowers. I'm boarding my flight in about five minutes. It's just after seven. I have a show tonight, but I want to call you. I think we have a lot to talk about, that's if you'll even hear what I have to say. Anyway I'll call you later."

When the phone rang a few moments later Willa jumped. She reached for the phone. "Hello?"

There was a laugh and a scream then a rushed voice. "Girl what happened last night?"

Willa looked around the room and laughed. "God Amy! You're so nosy!"

"I had to witness the whole Days of Our Lives episode in the airport. You can't leave a girl hanging like that."

Willa folded her arms across her chest. "This isn't some soap opera."

"I'm waiting," Amy said. Willa could picture her with her hands on her hips staring at her from across town.

Willa looked around. How was she going to explain her way out of this one? It wasn't like anyone could understand any of this. "Well I'm standing in my living room and there are about a million flowers around here."

"Flowers?" she asked.

"Yeah."

"Are you guys together still?"

"No, but it's in the works. His people are going to have to call my people."

"Now what are you planning to do?"

"Milk it girl, I'm going to milk it and make him squirm a little before I give in."

"What'd you tell him last night?"

"The truth. I love the guy." She sighed at the sound of that. It was good to get it out. She needed to be happy about it for once. "I can't help that. I want something more though and he's gonna have to work with me if we've got any hope at all."

"It's gonna be like pulling teeth with that guy. He's dense if you hadn't noticed!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Shh…" Lance said and smiled. He dialed the phone and waited as it rang.

Joey stood next to him and counted off the rings.

"Hello?" He smiled at the sound of her sleepy voice. He knew he might catch hell from her to call her this late, but he had to take the chance.

"Lance?" she asked.

"Hi Willa."

"Why do you sound like you're in a tunnel?" she asked.

Lance made a face at the crowd gathered. "I'm not in a tunnel."

"What are you doing? It's past midnight. Actually it's past one." She paused for a moment. "Am I on speaker phone?"

A few people cracked up at that comment and Justin tried to motion for them to be quiet.

"I know its late and I know I shouldn't have called you and woken you up. I just wanted you to hear something."

"Now?" she asked. "You do know there is such a thing as a time difference don't you? I thought you had a show tonight."

Her words were met with silence.

"What's going on?" she asked.

Lance nodded and the guys began to sing. The audience fell silent as the accapella sound of the song "I Thought She Knew" began to flow. It was cheezy and stupid to dedicate the song to her. He had promised himself he'd never do something that silly, but he found that he was at the end of his ropes on this one. He needed something new. He also thought that it might just work. He'd embarrassed her in public once before, but this time he had good intentions behind it and he thought that she'd take that into consideration.

When the song came to an end he didn't hear anything.

For a moment he thought she might have hung up on him. He almost expected that, but deep down he knew that this would get through to her. He wasn't the perfect guy that she wanted and he did need to do some work to try to save things with her, but at least now she would know that he was thinking about her and cared enough to try.

"Willa?" he asked.

"Yeah?" her voice came out weakly. He smiled as the crowd cheered.

It took a moment to quiet them down, but after he got them quiet he held the phone to his ear. He took a deep breath and looked across the stage to where Wes was standing. The man gave him a nod and Lance spoke. "I love you honey, go back to sleep."


Thirty


[ The next day…]

Slamming his hand down on the table Lance looked around the room. He was alone for once which was nice, but at the same time he was getting worried. When he'd called Willa that morning to try to talk to her he couldn't get a hold of her. He'd called Spanky and had him drive by and Spanky had said that she might just be shopping or something.

"You ok Lance?" Wes asked from the open door that lead to the hallway.

"Where the hell is she?" he asked. "I've called her house, I've called her cell. I even called Elena at the agency. It's like she's disappeared. I think I really screwed up this time."

"You called the woman and serenaded her in front of an arena of people. I don't think that there is a woman alive who could resist that."

Lance laughed. "You really don't know Willa then. She'd fight me to the end just to say that she won."

"There's got to be a reason for that fight. I mean really. If she was mad at you she would have stopped talking to you long ago."

Lance rubbed his forehead, "She told me she loves me." He looked up at Wes. "What am I supposed to do with that?"

"Love her back, even if she stops. She'll come around. It's all too perfect not to work out in the end."

"I think that's the problem. It's too perfect and it's gonna get in the way of something normal."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Willa stepped off the elevator and slowly made her way down the hallway. A few doors seemed to be open, but no one sitting in the hall or inside the rooms seemed to notice her. She got a nod from a security guard at the door and a smile when she caught eye contact with JC as she passed what she figured was his room.

When she saw Wes standing in the hallway just outside a door she walked slower and listened to see who he was talking to.

"It's too perfect. How am I supposed to live up to that?" Lance's voice sounded worried and tired. She prayed that he still felt the same way he'd felt the night before. If not her thousand-dollar ticket out west was going to be a complete waste of time and money.

Wes took a breath and turned and noticed her there. She put a finger to her lips and stayed where she was.

"Hey Lance?"

"Yeah?" she heard his voice say from inside the room.

"I think there's something you should see," Wes said.

"Is Chris running around again?" Lance asked.

Willa motioned to Wes to have him take Lance down the hall the way she'd been heading and that she was going to go up behind him to surprise him.

"No," Wes said.

"What is it then?" Lance asked.

"Just get off your but and come here and look at this," Wes firmly commanded.

"Fine," Lance said.

Willa watched as Wes guided Lance along. She snuck up so that she was just behind and to the side of him then reached and grabbed his hand.

"You're gonna get lost if you follow this guy around," she said with a smile.

Lance stopped in his tracks and again that slow motion "Dream Weaver" thing happened.

No lights.

No cameras.

No hallway.

No Wes.

No nothing.

It was just them.

And it was JUST PERFECT.


The End of Picture Perfect...Go back to the Indext for the next story.

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