Portrait

By Patricia Brown




~~NINE~~


"You guys going to be ok?" Wes asked as they walked back into the hotel.

By this time all the guys who'd been at the hospital gathered waiting for news were now talking about Lance's big fight. It seemed that Justin got the most joy of reliving the moment he'd missed while JC had fully comprehended the event and had already begun to worry about how it might look in the press. They all knew it had been necessary, but they all knew that it was a serious situation and needed to be handled as such.

In the elevator things seemed to calm down a bit. It was after all in the middle of the night. It had been late when they'd gotten the call for Willa and now after all the commotion it was time to get to sleep.

"So what are you going to tell Jackie?" Chris asked in a small voice that didn't quite sound right coming out of his mouth. He seemed almost serious which seemed to set the other guys on edge. Even Dani and Bobbee noticed the strange vibe of the guys.

Lance looked around at the faces of his friends, "Eventually I'll tell her everything, but for now I'm not sure what I should do."

"Lance," Bobbee said, "You have to tell her what's going on. It's not fair for you to lead her on like that."

"I'm not trying to lead her on. I totally thought that the kid was Brennan's. I never would have started dating her if I'd known, but then again I probably would have been with Willa this whole time if she'd told me."

"I don't think you would have been there with Willa," Dani said.

Everyone gave her a shocked look.

"What?" Dani said, "If you thought that she was lying to you about something huge like that I would have thought you'd have broken up by now. You didn't trust her when you really needed to so how would you trust her in the mean time."

"She does have a point there," Bobbee said.

"Great. Thanks girls. This is really inspiring and all, but you don't know what happened that night, you don't know Willa and obviously you don't know me!"

"Calm down," Wes said then glared at Lance. "Yeah we don't know you Lance. The Lance that we all know would have done the right thing and wouldn't have assumed the worst of someone before getting all the information."

Lance stared at his feet. "Don't you guys think that I feel bad about all this? I mean if I really was an asshole like you all think I am I wouldn't have beat the shit out of Brennan tonight. He completely insulted her and me and my kid…" His voice shook when he realized that he was defending his son. "…I may not have made all the right decisions, but don't you think that I want to make it up to her…to them?"

"Well you'd better get started because once that kid is born and Willa has full custody its going to be harder and harder to win her over." Wes seemed to be the only calm voice in the room.

"I'm going to get it settled," Lance said, "But I really can't do much tonight now can I?" He folded his arms across his chest until they reached their floor then he walked down the hallway quickly, leaving the others behind.

As the light next to the bed flipped on when he returned to the room Lance winced and stepped back a little. He had been trying to sneak back in without waking her. At one point in the elevator thought about sleeping in Justin's room, but found himself going back to his room for the pure fact that he knew Justin was going to chat with him about the fight the way that JC had chatted at him in the emergency room. So he found himself in a horrible mood waking her up, when all he wanted to do was go to sleep and forget about the whole evening. "You're up?"

"Yeah," Jackie said rubbing her eyes. She was sitting up watching him with tired eyes. She looked happy to see him, but there was a concern he saw there that scared him. She shouldn't be thinking about him that much. She needed to know that he probably wasn't going to be around for much longer. "Where'd you go?" she asked smiling at.

The question was a simple one, yet Lance found himself not being able to answer her. He avoided her eyes as he moved further into the hotel room, pulling off the shirt he'd thrown on during his rush to find Willa. He flopped down onto the bed and looked at her, sighing uncontrollably when he saw the sad look in her eyes.

"What happened to your face?" she asked looking at him a little sideways.

Her voice trembled and she looked scared. He wasn't sure what about. It had been two hours or so since the fight. He had expected for her to be concerned, but shaking nervously wasn't something that he'd been prepared to deal with upon his return to the hotel. All he wanted to do was to go to sleep.

"Are you going to tell me?" she asked.

Another simple question with a not so simple answer. How was he going to explain it to her? His heart broke to see the worried look on her face. She didn't deserve any of this and he felt horrible for making her life so complicated. First it had been his schedule, but now it was just his life that was turning hers upside down.

"What happened?" she repeated.

"I got into a fist fight," he said. He actually felt a little cocky about that fact. He had never been one to get into physical altercations, but he liked knowing that he had gotten into one and held his own. At least now no one could say that he hid behind his bodyguards when things got rough. He'd gotten hit a few times, but if it had been a real fight, a Vegas fight, the judges would have sided with him.

"What?" Jackie jumped up from where she'd been in bed and immediately rushed to reach for his face.

"I'm fine," he said and moved away from the touch of her fingertips against his sore right cheek, "It wasn't anything big. Really."

"Sure it wasn't." She rolled her eyes at him.

He had never known her to be so sarcastic. It was a side of her that he wasn't sure he liked. Willa could be sarcastic until the cows came home, but on her it just didn't work.

"You look like you got beaten to death."

"Hey now." Why was he concentrating on being offended by her remark? He should have bee feeling horrible about leaving her earlier that night in such a manner. He guessed that being worried about being offended was keeping his mind from the guilt that he felt. "I was the one who won. You should have seen the other guy."

She stared at him angrily. "And who was the other guy?"

"The first rule of fight club is don't talk about fight club," Lance said with a smile and flopped back onto his back so that he was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling. His head ached a little from his landing, but after a moment of rubbing his temples he relaxed.

"Lance don't joke about this," she said and leaned over him to look at his cheek more closely.

Lance lay still while she looked over his face. He avoided her eyes for the most part afraid that she'd see what he was thinking. He figured that she'd probably see that something was wrong with him, other than the bruised cheek, but didn't want her to see more. He shut his eyes when she stared at the cut near the corner of her eye. Kicking off his shoes, using his feet to push out of each one, he sighed heavily. "I need sleep."

He felt her hand on his chest and she rubbed a soft lazy circle over his ribs and stomach as she spoke to him, "Well come on and curl up with me and we'll go to sleep."

If he hadn't have left earlier to go find Willa he would have been excited by the sexy tone in his voice, but for the moment it only caused him to be more uncomfortable than anything else. He'd just run off to the other woman in his life and Jackie was sitting there accepting him back into her arms as if nothing happened.

Lance opened his eyes and stared into hers for a moment. He could see how she was trying to make sure that everything was ok for him, on the one hand he appreciated it, but on the other hand he wasn't sure that he could let her be so nice to him anymore.

"Actually I was going to take a shower real quick then go to bed," he said pushing himself up. He moved away from her and stared to undo his pants. "Why don't you go to sleep? I'll be to bed in a few minutes."

Jackie gave him a strange look and he could tell that she knew that he was trying to stall or something. He hated that she could tell that he was trying to get out of going to bed. He wanted her to think that things were ok. He had some time between now and when he saw Willa again and he needed to make a decision.

Fish or cut bait, as they say.

Lance moved away from the bed and went into the bathroom. He closed himself in, stripped his clothes off and stepped into the shower. Flipping on the water he stood under the spray of the water and let the heat of it relax him.

*****

"Lance Bass did I hear that you got into a fist fight?"

"Mom?" he asked groggily as he rolled over onto his back, gripping the phone to his ear. He was in bed, although he didn't remember how he got into bed he remembered that Jackie had been with him, but he didn't see her now and the bed next to him was cold when he stretched his free arm.

"No, it's your sister and you better be thanking God that Mama didn't find out about this before I did because she'd be out on the next plane to kick your butt around. What the heck were you thinking?"

"He called her a slut Stace. I couldn't let him treat her like that." He tried to convey his sense of duty to his sister. She knew how he hated when girls got treated the wrong way and he hoped that would be enough of an excuse for her to keep quiet about stuff for the moment. He really wasn't ready to deal with his parents yet.

"Who called who a slut?" she asked.

"How'd you find out about this anyway?" he asked.

"JC called me this morning to tell me about it."

"Son of a bitch."

"Watch your language!" Stacy said, "There is no excuse for you to go all barbarian on me now."

"Barbarian?" he asked with a smile. "Using your big words today sis?"

"Leave it alone and tell me why you got into a fight. Who started it? Please tell me it wasn't you. We can handle bad press, but if it turns out that you started this you're going to be hearing from Mom and Dad and anyone else out here in Brandon when this hits the news."

Lance sighed and rubbed his face. His cheek felt a bit sore, but other than that he felt good. "Brennan called Willa a slut."

Finally there was some shock in her voice when she answered, "Why?"

"Because he said that if Willa would keep to herself more then she wouldn't be confused about who JW's dad is." Lance punched the mattress with the hand that wasn't sore from the night before, "I wasn't about to let him say that about her or make any remarks about JW."

"JW? Who is that?" Stacey asked.

"My son," he said in a soft voice praying that she wouldn't hear him.

"She had the baby already? It's too soon isn't it?" she rambled excitedly, "Wait? YOUR son?"

"Yep. It's official," he shrugged and looked around the room again trying to figure out where Jackie had disappeared. "You're now an aunt to my little boy James Wilfred."

"Me?" she said loudly with a shocked tone. "You mean Brennan isn't the dad?"

"Like you ever thought differently."

"Eww, gross, my little brother had sex," she said with a nervous laugh then took a deep breath. He could picture her rubbing at her forehead already. He knew she didn't do well with news like this and he was sure she'd get off the phone and completely freak out when they were done. "I didn't know what to think. You were so mad at her and so upset that I wanted to side with you."

"Don't get smart with me little brother or I'll break the news to mom before you get home and can do it yourself."

"Yeah right."

 



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"Mo-ther!" Willa walked slowly across the living room and picked up the remote from where her mother had left it on the coffee table next to the bottled water she'd been drinking earlier. She was in the kitchen now probably rummaging through the cupboards trying to find something to scrutinize.

"Willa honey, don't whine," her mother called to her.

"I'm sorry," Willa sighed and looked around for Spanky. It hadn’t slipped by her that he’d helped her into the house that morning and had disappeared into his room, shutting himself off from her and her mother's wrath. She didn’t blame him. In her current mood she wished she could send her mother packing. She remembered why she left to go off and model in the first place. Of course there was the money, but mostly it was the travel away from her parents. When she got in moods like this and when her mother was being "motherly" she needed to escape her. "I thought I wouldn't have to pick up after you when you came to visit."

"Honey, sit down." Her mother was pouring juice into a cup looking at her with such confusion on her face Willa thought she had two heads or horns or something. It was actually a funny look for her mother. She usually was cool calm and collected. The type of woman who’s hair was always in place, makeup was always perfect and dressed something between a nun and June Cleaver. "You don't look too good."

"Why would I look good? My son is in the hospital, his father is out of the picture and I found out last night that my father had an affair and I have a half sister!" Saying it all at once made her light headed and she had to lean against the counter for support.

"Honey, you need to rest." Her mother always made things sound so simple. "The doctor said that James can come home soon and you'll need the energy."

"His name is JW," she said angrily, "I'm not going to call him James."

"Then why did you put it on the birth certificate honey?" she asked.

Willa groaned.

She wished she didn’t have to even deal with her. It was already too much that she’d had to explain it to JC over the phone that morning, but now she had to retell the story every time someone new came within fifty feet of her.

The reporters had found out about the birth and she’d answered a few of their questions including revealing her son’s name to the press on the way to the car that Spanky had brought to pick her up in. She hadn’t really meant to say anything but someone had said the wrong name and she’d corrected them, by instict. Partly it was because the reporter had asked if her son was named ater Brennan.

"Because that's what Lance would want for him," she said.

"Like you need to be taking his opinion into consideration."

"Mo-ther," she whined, "Please leave it alone. I know you love me and all, but Lance and I will deal with this, you don't need to get into the middle of it."

"Lance isn't dealing with any of this. If he was he would have been there this morning to take you home and would have been there for his own son's birth the night before."

Willa held her head and walked out of the room. "I can't talk to you about this. You wouldn't understand."

"What I don't understand is that you slept with him, got pregnant, told him, he abandoned you, you came home crying to me and your father and now here you are back again defending him."

"I'm not defending him!"

"Yes you are. You should hate him for what he's done to you and your son, but somehow it hasn't gotten in your head that he treats you badly."

Willa took a deep breath as tears began to cry. "You don't understand!"

Spanky emerged from the bedroom and joined them in the living room. "You all ok?" He looked at mother and daughter and shoook his head a little as if he was disappointed in the two of them.

Willa nodded and sat down on the couch. "I love him Mom. I know its horrible to say after all that’s happened, but I do. I have since the moment I met him and even though I was mad at him all these months, I loved him then too."

"Honey be realistic. He's got a girlfriend now and you need to move on." Her head shook at Willa. Her eyes showed pity, not sympathy.

Her mother’s tone made her feel weak. She already felt horrible for not being able to stay away from Lance and now having her mother tell her that she was basically pathetic, didn’t help things.

"I can't," she said, "Not yet."

Spanky gave her mother a look and soon they were left alone in the living room to talk.

"I should hate him Spanky," she said giving Spanky a desperate look. She needed his help now more than ever. With JW coming home soon she knew that she couldn't be an emotional wreak or it would affect JW too. "Why can't I hate him?"

Spanky sat next to her and put an arm across her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "Because you two have been in love forever and you need each other even if at the moment it's hard to be there for each other."

"What am I gonna do?" she said, "JW needs a dad and I don't feel right if Lance wants to be in his life, but at the same time I feel like I don't want anyone else there either."

"Lance isn’t a stupid guy. He’ll figure it out sooner or later sweetie." Spanky said.

Willa was almost relaxed again when the phone rang. She went to go answer the phone in the living room when she heard her mother pick up.

"Hello? Willa’s house," her mother’s voice said. She even sounded like an answering service. "No, I’m sorry Lance, she’s not available to come to the phone right now...Yes this is her mother."

Willa grabbed up the phone and pressed it to her ear. "I’m here."

"Willa?" Lance said in unison with her mother on the line.

"Mother hang up now," Willa said trying to sound sweet when all she wanted to do was hold the phone away from her mouth and scream at her mother.

When the click was heard on the line that her mother was gone Willa paused for a moment then asked carefully, "What do you need Lance?"

He was hesistant in his answer. "I wanted to know how JW is," he said, "I’ve been busy this morning and I couldn’t get over there this morning, but I wanted to make sure that he’s ok. I tried calling the hospital, but they said that there is some list on who can have info about JW so..."

"I’m sorry Lance, but I’m not sure if you need that information," she said, "After all, you not really going to be in his life so I don’t--"

Lance immediately began to protest. "I’m his father Willa. I may have messed up while you were pregnant, but I’m not going to mess up my kids life. It’s too important."

"So I’m not important?" She asked, "Just your son is precious to you."

"That’s not what I meant," Lance said.

"Look, JW is fine and will be fine so just leave it alone."

"Willa, please, I’m trying here."

"Well it’s a litle late, like nine months late."

"Willa."

"Lance," she said mocking his tone.

"Fred." His tone changed and he actually sounded worried that he wasn’t getting through to her. "Fred, please don’t act like this."

"How should I act?" She asked angrily. "You know what? Nevermind. It’s not worth having this discussion. I’m realy tired and I want to go to sleep. We can talk about this later."

"When?"

"Whenever I stop hating you."

She clicked down the phone and looked at Spanky.

"Willa you have to stop being so stubborn.

"I’m not stubborn," she said angrily.

The phone rang a moment later and Willa grabbed it up. "Leave me alone!" She screamed into it when she picked it up.

"Well I have the answer to my question already," the female voice said.

"Elena?" Willa croaked out as tears began to fall.

"Yes sweetie," she said, "It is I, your princess in shining armor. I’m jumping on a plane right now to come out there so don’t worry. I’ll be there soon to save you."

"Thank you, thank you," Willa said with teary eyes.

"I take it that you talked to Lance today?" She asked.

Willa sniffed and wiped her cheeks. "Yeah. Just a second ago."

"He called me this morning first thing and told me that I needed to get on a plane and get to you. He’s really worried about you," Elena said, "He said you wouldn’t let him see your baby boy and the hospital didn’t even recognize that he was the father."

"It’s true," she said, "I can’t risk it. He doesn’t need to know the child that he’s had nothing to do with for the last few months."

"I’m not going to take sides here Willa, but he was really upset this morning."

"Yeah well he has Jackie to help him out."

"Not from what I can tell," Elena said.

"What?" Willa asked.

"From what I got out of him he said that you hated him and Jackie left him and he was basically feeling like he’d been abandoned."

"An eye for an eye. I knew that karma would come and bite him in the ass."

"Willa. I know the man hasn’t been the best of guys, but he really is hurting. He might not show it, but this has really torn him up."

"Why was Lance calling you up and complaining to you anyway?"

"Lance wasn’t complaining. He called me up and asked me to call him after I’d seen your son. He just wanted to know if he was ok or not."

"Well tell him he’s fine and that he doesn’t need Lance to come and cause troule for him."

There was a noise behind Elena and a moment later Elena spoke, "Don’t be so harsh on him Willa. He loves you. I’m sure he does."

"Well he has a funny way of showing it."

"He’s a man. They all have a funny way of doing everything."

For the first time in days Willa let out a laugh.



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~~TEN~~



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"Lance! What are you doing here at the hospital?" The first reporter shouted at him, shoving a microphone so far up in his face that he had to move his head back so he didn't hit his chin on it.

"Is it true that you're the father of Willa Marviani's baby?" Another one asked, this was must have seen his reaction to getting the microphone stuck into his chin, since he only put it into his chest.

Lance ducked his head and moved a little closer to Wes as they walked through the crowd. He felt like a shy little kid leaning into his parents' shoulder as they threw more questions at him that he ended up ignoring. He wore a dark colored baseball hat, pulled low on his forehead and sunglasses but he still felt nervous at their attack. He wasn't sure in the first place what his reception would be at his return to the hospital and having the media standing outside taking his picture and yelling at him for comments wasn't at all helping the situation.

Heed already had flowers sent to Willia's house and there had been a delivery made to the hospital earlier in the day of presents for JW, but this was his first appearance in the four days since his son's birth. Elena had flown into LA on Wednesday morning and had left a message that he'd gotten before the show Wednesday night that JW was doing well, but had gotten a little bit of a cold so they were keeping a few days longer than they'd originally said. She said that Willa had been spending a lot of time at the hospital in the ICU ward so by Thursday Lance knew he needed to go and find her.

He'd made attempts to get in touch with Willa, but she wasn't answering her phone herself. He didn't blame her much considering that reporters were probably trying to get a comment from her on the situation, but after getting Spanky as an answering machine three times he hadn't called back. Heed sent his love, but wasn't sure that the message had gotten through.

"You ok?" Wes asked as they entered the sliding glass doors of the hospital. The hallway was definitely calmer than the outside area. Wes patted him on the shoulder, knocking him back into the present from the daze he'd fallen into as they'd made their way to the front entrance.

Lance licked his lips nervously and nodded. He removed the sunglasses and shoved them into the pocket of his jacket then pulled his hands into the long sleeves of his jacket. He knew he probably looked out of sorts, but he felt that way and for once he didn't feel like hiding it from the public. He needed to be there like that, in touch with it all, since he'd been pushing it all away for the last few months. He owed it to his son and Willa to be there even when things didn't seem to quite fit the schedule that had been planned out for him that week.

While the guys did interviews that morning with the local television shows Lance had snuck away with Wes. A statement or two would be made to the press about his whereabouts, claiming that he was going to see an old friend. It wasn't a statement that Lance had wanted to make, but he hadn't discussed how they were going to handle the whole baby situation so he didn't want to announce to the world that his son had been born. Heed barely gotten through telling his parents about it.

Wes steered him towards the elevator and as he reached to press the button he whispered that there were a few people watching him. Lance nodded and tried to look in the reflective metal of the elevator door to see who Wes was talking about, but didn't see anything.

The elevator arrived a few moments later and they loaded onto it. He stood against the back wall, leaning there sleepily as they approached the floor they were looking for.

"Snap out of it Lance," Wes said waving a hand in front of his face. "Willa isn't going to be too happy with you if you show up looking like a zombie."

"I don't care," Lance mumbled, as his eyes stayed focused on the closed door in front of him. The bruise on his cheek was beginning to clear up and, as he pushed his hat back on his hat a little, the scratch marks that he'd seen the day before were now gone.

"Did you ever get in touch with Jackie?" Wes asked.

Lance winced at the mention of her name. The morning after the fight Lance had woken up alone and had been alone since. Jackie had left in the early morning hours and it had taken him two days to get in touch with her but finally they'd talked.

"She's back at school," Lance said, "She told me that if we were going to be together that I needed to get all the stuff that's going on with Willa settled. I think she knows though that I probably wasn't going to end up with her so it's better that she just went home. I've got enough to deal with out here without her around."

"That's harsh," Wes commented.

"Don't start lecturing me Wes," he said with a sigh. "I got the third degree from my parents and Stacey and I'm waiting for a lashing from Johnny and one from Elena, I don't need it from you too."

Wes held up his hands in a surrendering motion, "Fine. I'll leave it alone."

"Thank you," he said.

The doors of the elevator soon parted and the two men made their way down to the nurse's station.

"Lance!"

At the sound of his name he ducked his head a little and watched as Wes was his eyes and took in the situation.

"Hey Elena," Wes welcomed the woman as she joined them at the desk.

Lance quickly turned to face her and instead of getting the cold expression that he thought heed get from the woman he was pulled into a hug. "Congratulations Daddy," she said before he could protest the hug.

"Thanks," Lance said weakly as he pulled back from her. He looked down the hallway and thought he saw Willa disappear into a room.

"She's down there checking on him. We've been here for about two hours and she's just now getting to see him this morning."

Lance felt his voice catch in his throat. He coughed trying to get his words out. "Is he--is he ok?"

"Yeah," Elena said, "He's going to be released tomorrow morning and Willa is gonna take him home."

Elena kept glancing at Wes as he stood with them in the hallway. Finally Wes smiled at her. "Is Spanky around?" he asked craning his neck around.

Elena frowned, "Yeah. He needed a break. He's been dealing with Willa and her mother fighting all week. Thank God her mother decided to sleep in today. He's down getting coffee."

Wes nodded and made his way down the hallway towards where Willa had disappeared. Lance watched as the big guy walked into the waiting room and took a seat. He knew that Wes was tired, the tour had been bad and it was also his day off, but he'd been stuck going to the hospital. For the first time in the last few months he felt bad about dragging him into all his drama. Usually following him around was low key, but since he'd begun to date Willa life had gone into high gear.

Elena surprised Lance again when she curled an arm through his and turned and steered him towards the waiting room down the hall. "How's the tour been so far?" She asked leaning her head against his shoulder as they walked.

Lance leaned away from her a little and took in her expression. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but he was a bit taken aback by the way she was treating him. She was actually being nice, which surprised him. She usually was polite to him, but she actually seemed concerned about him, which was definitely not her normal behavior.

"Fine," he said, "How's New York?"

"Good, good," she said, "Still standing even though my best client is no longer in the city."

As they passed the room that Willa had disappeared into Lance had gotten a glimpse of Willa sitting in a rocking holding JW rocking him. It had only been a short scene to be a part of, but it left a lasting mark on him. He knew that he needed to be there and be a part of things like that.

"How did your parents take the news?" Elena asked.

"Good," he said, "They were upset a little at first but they're praying that JW will be ok."

"He should be fine. You should hear the kid cry though. It's like being at one of your concerts," Elena said with a laugh, "And he looks like the both of you, brown hair and green eyes that just stare up at you with the cutest little stare, like he has a secret and isn't going to tell you."

"Really?" Lance asked. He shoved his free hand into his pocket. "I haven't seen him yet. Justin said that they caught a look at him the night he was born, but I haven't gotten a chance yet."

"Well today should be the day then," Elena said squeezing his arm. "I know that Willa has been mad, but I don't think that it's fair that you haven't been able to see him."

"Is Willa in a good mood?" He asked.

"Yeah," she said, "As good of a mood as someone can be who just had a kid and who has her mother as a house guest for the next week."

"Do you think she'll let me see him?" Lance asked.

"Yeah," Elena said, "I'm not sure that she can keep you away, you're the father after all."

"Is that what she put on the birth certificate?" Lance asked.

Elena nodded as they entered the waiting room and took seats. Wes sat across from them and picked up an abandoned newspaper from the seat next to him to read. "His name is James Wilfred Bass."

"That's good to know." He looked back out the door and down the hall for a moment. "Is she pissed at me still?"

"I don't think so," Elena said, "I heard through the grapevine that you and your girlfriend split up."

Lance let out a sigh, "Yeah."

"That should put her in a better mood," Elena said, "No offense, but your girlfriend wasn't really helping the situation."

"What?"

"She and Willa never really talked or anything other than when you introduced them, but Willa was really worried that she would be getting involved in things that didn't concern her."

"Jackie is a good girl," Lance said, "She would have stepped out of whatever situation that needed to be left alone."

Elena made a face. "Do you miss every single Jerry Springer episode? Having a third party in his isn't really that great for either of you."

"Yeah," he said and rubbed his face.

"How's your face?" Elena asked cocking her head to the side.

"You heard about the fight?" He asked.

"Yeah and so did Willa," she said, "I think you gained a few points for beating up Brennan."

"I wasn't involved in that because I wanted to win her back--"

Willa appeared in the doorway and stood staring at him for a moment before she spoke. "What are you doing here?"

"We need to talk," Lance said.

Spanky showed up with three coffees and after handing them to Elena and Willa he plopped down next to Wes and the two guards struck up a conversation immediately.

"Wanna take a walk?" Willa suggested. She looked like she still wasn't sure if she should talk to him, but that she knew as much as he did that they needed to see each other.

 



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Willa held onto her coffee cup with both hands trying to distract herself from looking at him. She read all the little raised plastic writing on the top then reread them, then counted how many letters were on the cup. When he hadn't shown up the last few days she'd thought that he'd disappeared again and she hadn't made an effort to hold out. She knew that he had things to do with the group, but she had at least expected a phone call out of him. Maybe he'd been too busy with Jackie. That was one thing that worried her. She didn't hate the girl at all, but Jackie sure was going to be an issue that she and Lance would have to discuss.

"You ok?"

Willa snapped out of her temporary daze and looked at him. "Why do you ask?"

"You're really sort of--"

"What Lance?" she prompted.

"Because you look really tired Willa," he said.

She avoided making any comments and turned to leave the room. She didn't wait to see if Lance would follow her, but she could feel him behind her a moment later when they passed the nurses desk and headed towards the elevators.

"Are you ok?" Lance asked again.

"Yes," she nodded and stared at her coffee cup.

She didn’t want him to know how bad she was really doing. She hadn’t slept well since the night of JW’s birth and she wasn’t sure if it was her mother or the reporters were doing more damage during the daytime hours, but she had been on edge for a week now.

"How's JW doing?" he asked, "I got bits and pieces, but I'm not sure what the latest news is."

Willa watched him for a moment and it seemed to dawn on her somehow that he really did care about his son. He was standing there in front of her with a worried look on his face, which could have been faked, but when he reached to press the elevator button his hands were shaking, something she’d never seen from him before. Whether it was nerves or the stress of the moment she didn’t know, but she could tell that he was truly upset about the situation.

"How've your shows been this week?" she asked trying to get away from the serious subject that she knew they needed to discuss.

Lance nodded, "Good so far. We've got one more tomorrow night down here then we're heading up to San Francisco then up on to Seattle."

Willa took a deep breath then took a sip of coffee. In the last week she'd had a chill that she couldn't get rid of. The winter weather in LA was far from cold, but she'd spent the few days wearing long pants and sweaters and had pulled her down comforter out of the closet to sleep with. "Then you'll be done right?"

"Yeah."

"I hear that you're doing a second leg of the tour."

"Yeah," he said, "We've got the month of December mostly off, and then we're going to tour January, February and part of March then go back into the studio for a month then back out on the road again in May."

"Wow," she said, "Sounds busy."

"Yeah," he said and she watched him yawn, "It's busy, but..."

When he hesitated she looked over at him and could see the worry in his eyes. He had a frown on his face and almost looked as if he would start to cry.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing," he said and looked away from her so that he could find his way into the elevator.

"No," she said, "What were you going to say?"

"Nothing," he said and looked at her, "Up or down?"

"Down," she said, "We should get outside a little."

"The reporters are down there," he said.

"We'll go to the garden," she said, "It's cut off from the reporters." She'd escaped down to the garden the day before after a long morning with JW. He had been doing well, but still it scared her. She'd gotten to hold him most of the morning and it didn't hit her that she was really his mother until a few of the nurses, who were mothers themselves, began to share baby stories with her. They made her feel like one of the crowd and calmed a lot of the nerves she'd had.

Lance nodded and settled in for the short ride to the lobby level. She watched him lean against the back wall of the elevator and could see that the act he was putting up was a good one, but he didn't fool her.

"What?" he asked.

"Nothing."

"You sure?" he asked, "I don't remember you having a hard time talking before to me."

"Yeah well I don't remember you being the type to disappear for six or seven months either," she said bitterly trying to keep her cool. It was true. She didn't know what to say to him. Her pride was too great to just stop and tell him that she'd missed him all those months and that she didn't know what she was going to do if he wasn't going to be a part of her and their son's lives.

A silence fell over them as they exited the elevator and left the inside halls of the hospital. They walked out into the garden and wandered around a bit before settling into seats on a bench.

"Willa?" Lance said softly.

"Yeah."

"We need to get over whatever it is between us," Lance said.

Her heart raced. Not in a million years would she have expected him to say those words to her.

"Lance JW is your son and you can't just abandon--"

"Abandon?" he said, "That's not what I meant at all. I meant that we need to get over this tension between us. I never meant that I wanted to end anything between us. Well I want to end the tension, but you--"

"Oh," she said. She put her hand on his arm.

"Why would you assume that I was going to disappear?" He asked.

"You did it once before so I thought you’d do it again."

"That’s not fair Willa."

"Not fair?" She asked, "You didn’t see me for six months. What’s fair about that?"

"Willa I thought that you and Brennan--"

"Don’t mention his name to me again," she said, "I don’t care what you thought Lance. I don’t give at all what you thought. You should have been there for me even if it was just as a friend. I can’t trust you."

She thought that he’d come back with a great answer or at least a rebuttal, but he sat quietly and looked at her with wide eyes. He sighed as he spoke, "What do I have to do?"

"Nothing," she said, "Don’t do anything. I wouldn’t want to put you out." She got up and moved away from the bench, paused for a moment to wipe the tears from her eyes, then left the garden and returned to hallway of the hospital.

A few moments later, as she got impatient waiting for the elevator back up to JW’s floor, she felt to hands on her shoulders. She was about to turn around and hit the person when she felt arms slide around her, hugging her back into a body. She could tell that it was Lance, but that didn’t help her relax much.

"I’m sorry Willa."

Her shoulders began to shake as the last week of tension got to her. She wasn’t sure if it was him or if it was the fact that someone other than Spanky was hugging her, but the contact somehow broke through the wall she’d put up and she broke down and cried.

"I’m so sorry Willa," Lance repeated and pressed his lips to her cheek. "I didn’t mean to mess up like this. I want to make it right, but you need to give me a chance. Do you really think that I would have stayed away if I'd known."

Willa didn't want to answer. She knew that if she did she would lose all her strength. She wanted to tell him that she forgave him, but she also didn't want to forgive him so easily. It seemed like people took advantage of others when they knew their weaknesses.

"Fred. I still love you, you know that?" he said into her ear from where his chin rested on her shoulder.

Fred. She couldn't believe that he'd called her that. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed it. She always hated when he called her that before, but now it meant something totally different. It showed her that he still cared for her and that he loved her.

Willa scooted away from him and turned around to face him making sure that she was far enough away so he couldn't reach out and touch her. She couldn't think if he had any kind of contact with her. "I can't do this right now Lance. I just can't. My son--"

"OUR son," he said.

"Fine," she got flustered with his insistence about that fact since he'd not been there for so long. "Fine, OUR son is up stairs fighting off a cold that might kill him and you and I need to focus on him not us."

Lance watched her closely. She hated the way his eyes washed over her. He knew that she would fold. She could see it in his eyes that he was just waiting to come in and save her and while the idea seemed nice, she knew she'd need to stand strong for a little while longer if she ever thought that she'd be able to stand on her own again.

"Fine." He took a step forward and held out his hand, "Shake on it. We won't discuss this further until JW is out of trouble."

"Fine." She gingerly took his hand, gave it a squeeze and dared herself to look in his eyes. When she made eye contact with him she saw pain there and felt horrible for being so stand offish about their relationship. He did love her. She could see that and he'd admitted it, but she wasn't ready to go back into his world just yet. "Once JW is better we'll reopen this discussion."

"Agreed."



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~~ELEVEN~~



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[Seattle, Washington]

"You ready?" Wes asked in a yell over the slightly muffled sound of the crowd. They were backstage, but it seemed as if the sound of the crowd would have found them anywhere in the building considering how loud the crowd had been that night even after the guys had said their good-byes to the Seattle crowd.

In quick motions Lance removed his in ear monitors and wiped off his face with the towel that had been thrown over his shoulder as he came running off stage. He followed the flashlight trail out of the way of the others, throwing the towel to a stagehand, trading the towel for a fresh T-shirt and a jacket and only stopped when Wes grabbed the jacket from him so that he could pull on his shirt.

"Yeah," he said with a soft voice and rushed along behind Wes down the hallway. "Everything is set?"

"Yeah," Wes said checking his watch and looking around as if he was checking to see if they were going the right way, "The flight down to LA leaves at one, which leaves us enough time to get you to the airport and get a shower before the plane boards."

"Thanks for helping me set this up," Lance said.

"Luck Lance!" He heard over his shoulder and he waved to JC who was standing with the others a few feet away going through the same dressing down.

"See ya in a few days, don’t party too hard tonight!" Lance yelled.

Not waiting for Lance to finish his routine, Wes steered him down to where they met up with a car that was going to take them both to the airport. Everything had been packed before hand and the car was just waiting for the passengers so it could leave.

In the car on the way to the airport Lance thought about calling his mother again. He'd talked to her a few times in the last few weeks since he'd had to leave LA. He'd promised to call her that night before he left on his weekend break, but when he looked at the time and calculated the time difference he knew that he should just leave the call until later.

"I'll remind you to call her in the morning," Wes said reading Lance's mind, "Although I’m sure she’s probably left you a few messages. You know her when it comes to stuff like this. I’m surprised she didn’t fly out to see them too."

"Thanks," Lance said in a dazed manner as his brain began to try to comprehend the events that would happen the next day. He had been thinking about it for weeks now, but now that it was here it was starting to sink in.

He was tired. It wasn't just the tour or even the show. Since he'd found out that he was a father there had been a weight on his shoulders. JW had gotten better and had been at home for a week now and it was time for he and Willa to talk, but he was finding himself scared to have the conversation. He knew that it could destroy everything, but he prayed for the sake of his son that he could get through it intact and be there for his new family. Even if he and Willa didn’t get back together he knew that he would feel responsible for the two of them.

Luckily the airport was fairly empty that night which made the walk from the car to the VIP area a nice one. Usually Lance rushed through airports mostly due to the idea that there would be trouble with the crowds, but he found himself this time enjoying the walk. He guessed it was because some of the people he saw waiting for flights. He hadn't spent that much time around normal people in the last few weeks and it was refreshing to see people who weren't thirteen years old or who weren't screaming his name or one of the other's names every two seconds.

"You ok?" Wes asked.

Lance nodded and followed him into the VIP lounge. Wes grabbed up all the paperwork and signed for everything then the two men were guided to a very small room that looked like a small hotel room except that it didn't have a bed in the room.

Wes sat down at the desk and flipped on the television across the room with a remote while Lance slipped into the bathroom to take a shower.

***

When their flight landed in LA a few hours later Lance knew that he shouldn't have been nervous. He’d slept most of the way and he’d thought that the extra sleep would help him relax, but it didn’t. The plan was for him to stay overnight in the rest of the night in a hotel then go to Willa's house for the next two days and a night before he had to fly out to Orlando again.

"Lance!" he heard when they stepped off the airplane. He looked back over his shoulder thinking for a moment that Wes had been trying to get his airport, but Wes wasn’t even looking in his direction.

"Lance!"

He turned around in almost a complete circle then thought that it was a fan since it was in the middle of the night. He ducked his head. Who else would be there waiting for him?

When he searched the crowd he found Willa standing there with Spanky. She wore a huge coat pulled across her tightly standing there with a huge smile on his face. He thought for a moment that he was imagining it because he hadn't expected her to be that happy to see him. He'd noticed that she hadn't lost much weight since he'd seen her last. It wasn't that she'd been fat or anything, she actually had been a very pretty as a pregnant woman, but he'd expected that she would lose some of the weight that she'd put on during her pregnancy. He blinked a few times just to make sure that he wasn't seeing a mirage.

"What are you doing here?" he asked trying not to smile too widely when he saw that she had a smile on his face. He actually was kind of worried to see her there considering that they'd planned to meet up the next day. He wanted to be happy to see her, but he wasn’t sure what his reception would be like so he didn’t want to assume too much just because she was there to pick him up.

"I had a surprise for you," she said simply.

"Why are you in such a good mood all of a sudden?" he asked. He looked at her sideways trying to figure out how much of what was coming out of her mouth that he could believe.

Willa didn't answer. She just gave him this huge smile that he hadn't seen from her in almost a year and opened up her jacket. At first he was confused by the motion she made with her jacket, but when he looked down he saw hanging from her shoulders, like a backward backpack, a baby carrier and inside, sleeping peacefully was their son. His tiny head was leaned to the side and he was practically drowning in the baby carrier, but he was there with his lips pursed together and his hands in tiny fists sleeping.

He hadn't expected this at all and at the point he was at he was already over emotional from the end of the leg of the tour and everything. He held his breath praying that he wouldn't embarrass himself. His bag dropped off his shoulder and he stood there staring, wide eyed watching him breath softly against her.

"JW told me that he needed to see you." She tugged at the little hat he was wearing and saw him shiver so she pulled the jacket back around him a little. "He's got on a little jumper, but he's too little to be in this air conditioning…Anyway we thought that you and Wes should spend the whole time with us at the house rather than just one night."

Lance's eyes didn't leave his son, he didn't blink as he watched him, but when he did finally look up he saw that she was watching him. He didn't know what to say. He thought he'd have time to think of something to say, but he found himself standing there like an idiot staring at the two of them with his mouth open.

Seeing that he was hesitant about seeing his son she stepped over to him and slid an arm around him and pulled him so that he could see JW's face. She reached for his hand and maneuvered it so that JW could grab a hold of his finger.

Somehow in his sleep his song grabbed onto his finger when his finger touched JW's hand. He smiled and shook his hand a little, but the guy had a death grip on his finger.

"Aren't you going to say something?" she asked softly.

Lance looked at her then at JW then back at her. "He's beautiful Willa." He stepped back from her and frowned.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing," Lance said and looked away.

"Are you going to cry?" she asked with a joking tone.

"No," he said and rubbed his face. He let out a sigh and tried to keep his cool. He was tired still and didn't have a clue about how to react to her welcome. He wasn't sure if he could believe that she was being so nice to him. She'd been civil on the phone with him when he'd gotten a chance to call her each day, but he hadn't ever felt fully welcomed back into her life and he couldn't understand why she would do it now. He looked down the hallway. "Let's go."

When he began to walk away Willa hesitated for a moment then caught up with him. "What's wrong Lance?" she asked. He could hear some sort of anger in her voice.

"Not here," he said sternly and looked over her head at something as if it distracted him from their conversation. She wasn't sure if it was a reporter or a fan or even something more serious than that, but he didn't hesitate in his walk so he could explain. "We'll talk when we get out of here."

Willa sighed and walked along with him with the two guards following them. When they got outside Willa led the way to the car and everyone piled in. Spanky driving with Wes up front and the two parents sitting in the back seat with JW sitting between them in the car seat.

Afraid that he might totally crack the wall that he'd put up in the airport, Lance looked out of the window for most of the ride. Somehow his hand had found it's way to JW and his son was holding onto his finger as they rode.

JW woke up and began to cry only when the car stopped. He'd fussed a little in his sleep when he'd been moved to his car seat. She'd seen the scared look on Lance's face and had to remind him that JW was fine and that he always fussed when he was moved. Her comment was proven when he fell right back to sleep as soon as they'd gotten onto the freeway. He only woke up again and was fully awake when they took him out to take him into the house.

"Come on in boys," Willa said with a smile when everyone came through the doorway. She gave directions to everyone so they could find their rooms while holding JW against her as he whimpered. He tried to steer clear of her in the house. He desparately wanted to hold his son, but at the same time he was scared to death of that thought. His son. It was just too much to handle at once.

When the bodyguards had disappeared Willa looked at Lance who was pulling off his jacket. "You want to hold him?" she asked.

Lance wasn't facing her when she asked and he was glad that he wasn't, because the thought of holding his son scared him. It wasn't that he thought he'd drop him or that he shouldn't hold him. It was the fear that he'd get too attached that made him hesitate. He wasn't sure what Willa was doing and he didn't want her to tease him and make him think those things were going to be ok then pull away or something.

"Uh," he said and straightened from where he'd leaned over to put his jacket on the back of a chair. "Yeah, I guess."

"Why don't you go sit on the couch?" she said.

Lance did as he was told and took a seat.

"Lean back a little and get comfy and he can lay on your chest," she said, "that's how Spanky holds him and he seems to like it."

The thought of Spanky holding his son before he did made him a little angry, but he knew he couldn't help it. Spanky had been in town and he hadn't and when he thought about it for a minute he thought it would be better for Spanky to hold him than Brennan.

Lance leaned back and put one of the pillows on the couch under his arm. It was almost four in the morning and he was tired and hoped that he didn't fall asleep with JW in his arms.

 



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When Lance looked comfortable enough Willa carefully positioned JW in his father's arms then stepped back. Looking down at him she pretended that this was all a normal family scene. She’d been dreaming about this moment for the month and a half or so that Lance had been away and wanted things to go well, but they weren’t going as well as she’d thought they’d go. She had tried to not notice the look on his face, but the fear there couldn’t be hidden.

He clutched the baby to his chest protectively, but he seemed to be holding onto him too tightly. She took his hand and moved his hand over a little so that one was over JW's bottom and one was across his back then laughed a little, "Lance honey, don't squeeze him to death."

She rubbed her hands together when she felt the tingle in her fingertips that had started when she had touched his hand. When she noticed what she was doing she stuck her hands into her pockets.

Lance nodded nervously at her. "I’m not going to squish him."

"Are you sure you’re ok to sit there with him?" She asked making sure that she could leave him alone for a minute. She wanted them to have time together, but she didn’t want to force JW on him.

"He's shivering," he said, "Is that normal?"

Willa could see JW’s chin quivering which ususally a sign that he was upset, not cold, but if he felt cuddled against someone he seemed to quiet down a little.

"What should I do?" Lance asked.

Willa let out another little laugh and went and got the lap blanket she had under the end table. She spread it out over the two of them, leaving the edge down far enough so that JW's head wasn't covered after she tucked it around his toes and body. Her son was now fighting to stay awake and she knew she should feed him, but she wanted to let Lance and JW to get to know each other so she made up an excuse to leave them there alone. "You going to be ok if I leave you two alone for a minute?"

"Where are you going?" he asked immediately.

"I'll be right back." She patted his knee. "I'm going to get JW a new diaper and see if we can't get him changed before I put him to bed again."

"Hmm," Lance said looking down at his son who was staring up at him. She watched as he'd made eye contact with the little boy and it seemed now that their bond couldn't be broken.

"I'll be right back. If he starts to cry just rub his back a little. That usually helps. He likes some of your songs, you should sing to him to. He likes More Than A Feeling."

"Oh no...you pulled out the oldies?" He asked.

"Well we normally listen to eighties music, but he seems to like his dad’s singing more than Richard Marx."

After she saw a smile form on Lance’s face, Willa went around the back of the couch and was heading towards JW's little room when she heard Lance's voice softly speaking to their son.

"You know what big guy?" he said. "I hope your mom stays in this good of a mood cuz I think I could get used to this."

Tears welled up in Willa's eyes and she disappeared into JW's room. She'd remembered to get extra diapers earlier in the day and spent a minute organizing JW's little closet while she had the chance. Most days in the last month had been spent with JW either at her side or in her arms and it was nice to get away for a while. Spanky had been a great babysitter and she trusted him with all her heart, but there was a part of her that somehow felt more comfortable having Lance hold their son than her bodyguard.

When she returned to the living room Lance had changed positions and was laying half way on and half way off the couch with JW on his chest. JW was curled up against him, tiny legs tucked underneath him, butt in the air, with a hand shoved in his face sucking on his knuckles. Lance was fast asleep with both arms around him, holding him in place, one on his back and one on his butt, like she'd showed him. It was such a perfect moment that she had to catch it on tape.

Being a new mother she had of course become a picture-aholic and had taken about 75 rolls of film of her son in the last week alone. Now she grabbed up her camera and went slowly back over to them. Focusing quickly she took a close up so that she could fit the two of them in the picture together. It wasn't an award winning shot, but it was the two of them and that’s all she needed.

"What are you doing?" Spanky asked in a whisper.

Willa whipped around and put a finger over lips and moved across the room and into the kitchen. Spanky followed her and leaned against he counter across from her.

"I don't want to wake him up," she said, "I wanted a picture of them together. Is that bad?"

"Who? JW or Lance?" he asked.

"Both. I can't believe the two of them together. They've totally bonded and they just met."

"This is worse that you were during your pregnancy," he said with a groan, "If you start bawling again all the time I'm going to have to separate the two of you."

"I can't help it, you know?" she said, "I thought it would be good to see them together...but it’s better than I imagined."

"You've really got him confused Willa," Spanky said.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" She asked.

"Don’t play games with this one Willa," he warned.

"I just want to pretend for one moment that everything is normal ok?" she said, "Is that too much to ask for?"

"No," he said, "You need to talk to him and get this settled because with you trying to raise JW and him being on the road there are going to be troubles. You need to get this settled."

"I will," she said, "I'll talk to him when he wakes up."

"So are you going to forgive him and marry the guy?" he asked.

"I don't know about marriage, but yeah I figure that JW needs his dad in his life. I don't want to have my family messed up."

"So is Lance back to being family again?" Wes asked from the doorway.

"Jesus, can I not have a conversation without someone listening in?" she said with fake anger then pushed herself up so that she was sitting on the counter facing the two bodyguards.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I just know that I've been with the guy for the last few weeks and even though you may not know it, he's worried about this. He wants to put things right and you need to give him a chance to do that."

"I'm not putting up the wall. Did you see him in the airport? It's like he couldn't get out of there fast enough."

"That's Lance. Family is something that he holds close to him and dealing with family issues has always been hard on him," Wes explained. "Its because he thinks highly of family matters and he doesn't discuss stuff like that in public. He doesn't want anyone to overhear things that they don't need to hear."

"Well why can't he just explain stuff like that to me?" she asked.

"Plus he'd just gotten off a flight and you knew that he had never seen JW before and while it was a surprise for him to see his son, it was more of a shock. I know him well enough to know that he thought that he was going to have time to prepare to see you and when you showed up like that he was caught off guard. He's not mad or even a little bit upset with you. Believe me. He's been talking about this trip back down here since we left LA the last time."

"Really?" she said.

"The boy is in love with you Willa," Spanky said, "Why do you think he's been paying my check all these months to take care of you?"

Willa turned away from him and busied herself by washing dishes in the sink. "He has?" she asked.

"No offense, but do you think I could just afford to hang out with you?" he asked.

"I thought the agency was paying for it," she said stopping her washing.

"No," Spanky said, "I've been reporting to Lance and his sister since he left in New York. He was mad about the whole situation, but he never would have let Brennan into your life and take over. He knew if I was here that I wouldn't let it happen either."

"He didn’t want Brennan around?"

"Hell no," Spanky and Wes said in unison.

"There’s a clause in my contract that said if I ever got brought up on charges for battery against Brennan Lance would bail me out.

"Really?"

"Please tell me that you aren’t that niave Willa," Wes said, "The guy is in love with you."

"He’s got Jackie in his life."

"Since when?" Wes said, "I haven’t seen that girl since the last time we were in LA. From what I can tell they’ve said their good-byes. She told him that she loved him and he said that he was in love with his son and needed to be with JW."

"He what?" She said. She dropped the glass in her hand back onto the counter, luckily it only shook back an forth for a moment before it rested in it’s correct position.

"HE. LOVES. YOU."

"Don’t say that," she said and pushed out of the kitchen.

"Don’t say what?" Spanky asked in a semi-loud voice.

"Stop it Spanky, you’ll wake up JW and you’ll have to take care of him," she said, "I don’t want to talk about this with you."

A cry of JW filled the room and a moment later Lance came walking towards the kitchen with JW held against him. His eyes were having a hard time staying open, but he could see enough to hold him out to Willa.

"I think he’s ready to see his mom again."

Once his hands were free Lance ran his hands through his hair and looked at the three of them. "What’s going on?"

The three of them stared back at him in silence.



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~~TWELVE~~



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A pain in his shoulder woke him from a deep sleep. Lance didn't remember getting into bed that night so when he woke up in Willa's guestroom he was confused. He wasn't used to waking up in strange places. He was used to strange hotel rooms, but when he didn't see the phone bolted to the dresser next to him he looked around. He rolled over three times, shoving his face into the pillow trying to hang onto his dream before he finally lifted his head from the pillow.

Lance carefully rolled over onto his back to scan the room with his eyes before he tried to move. The place screamed of the same sense of style that he'd seen in her New York place. She had more room here in the house in LA and she’d taken full advantage. He had gotten someone to decorate most of his house, but this was all Willa. The attention to detail would make someone thing that she was a little neurotic about her things, but he liked the way that everything seemed to match. Even though most of the hotel rooms that he stayed in on the road matched, this matched just enough to look nice without looking too planned.

As Lance looked over and saw some pictures on the dresser he remembered falling asleep on the couch with JW on his chest. He could still almost feel his son's heartbeat against him. He touched the spot on his chest where his son and been the night before then immediately he looked around for the missing child fearing that he'd dropped the baby.

His confusion was soon settled when he heard a baby cry from outside the room. He wasn't sure for a moment that he'd be able to stand the sound of his son crying it got to him in a way he'd never experienced before. He’d seen a million people cry at concerts and when he and the guys met them in person, but this was different. This was a part of him; something more personal than anything he’d ever experienced before. He was about to get up and go and investigate when he heard relaxed laughing and knew that everything was ok. That was until he looked at the clock and saw that it was already noon.

"Damn," he breathed out. He started to push himself out of bed and felt like he weighed a million pounds. It usually was this way after a show and normally he'd go and get a massage or something to get his body back into gear, but this morning there would be no massage, no gourmet coffee, no pampering. He was with Willa and he was going to live normally for the next twenty-four hours. It wasn't that big of a challenge really, but he knew that he had to act like a normal person instead of the way he lived while he was on the road.

Pushing himself off the mattress Lance's jointed creaked and cracked before he finally was standing next to the full sized bed. He twisted his body twice to crack his back then made his way to his suitcase and pulled out a pair of wind-pants and a T-shirt and pulled them on over the boxers he'd fallen asleep in. He planned to take a shower a little later, but for now he had this urge to see his son and like he had for the last two months--Willa.

He made it to the living/dining room in his own sweet time trying to massage his sore shoulder. He got lost on the way, but soon found the three of them sitting around the table playing cards. In the fourth empty spot at the table sat a little seat and he could see the top of his son's head peaking out from his vantage point. Willa had a huge smile on her face, one hand filled with cards, the other hand on a small contraption that held his son. The tiny chair contraption bounced a little as Willa gently rocked JW.

"Hey Lance," Willa finally said noticing him. When she looked up at him she had a bright smile on her face and the tension from the night before seemed to be gone. She looked at him like she had when they'd been at the airport and it threw him for a curve. He needed to know what was going on with her and so far he didn't have a clue. One minute she acted one way and the next she acted another way.

Lance ran his hands through his hair and looked down at himself feeling bad about not getting dressed seeing that the three of them were already ready for the day. "Hey," he said greeting all of them rather than just Willa as he came around the table so that he could look at his son.

Willa hid her cards from him. "Don't cheat now," she said then turned her cards down to the table. She made a face when she heard one of the other guys groan then looked up at Lance, "Did you sleep well?"

"I feel like crap," He sighed and winced when he saw the expression on Willa’s face. He knew that JW was too young to pick up on the language he used, but she seemed to react as if he’d been teaching the boy swear words or something.

"Did you not sleep enough?" She asked, "You can go back to sleep if you want to."

"I got enough sleep. I’m just sore from the show last night." He used that moment to rub the sore shoulder that had been giving him trouble that morning.

"Your shows are crazy," she said.

"No," Wes said, "He’s just missing his morning massage right about now."

"You never got massages when I dated you."

"He didn’t need them then," Spanky said.

"Oh my God Spanky!" She said swatting at him. "Could you be any more crude?"

"Yeah," he said with a yawn as he reached out to touch his son's stomach, "He probably can be if you’d give him a chance."

Today JW wore a little jumpsuit outfit, or at least that’s what it looked like--Lance really didn’t know the technical fashion terms for baby clothes--that looked like a baseball uniform with stripes down the front. It even had a small baseball glove stitched on the right chest area. He wasn't much for baseball himself, but the outfit looked cute on him. He didn't know if that was a manly thing to say, but he could see that his son was going to be a lady-killer when he grew up. He was already winning over everyone in the room and would probably only get better at it considering who his family members and extended family members were.

"Better keep you away from Joey," Lance said softly. The baby smiled at him and made a gurgling noise up at him bringing him back to the present. "We gotta teach you to sing big guy," he muttered.

"What was that?" Someone asked.

"Nothing," Lance said and looked at everyone. No one really seemed to be paying attention to him, which was a switch. He wasn’t sure if he liked it or not, but the change of pace was nice. "What's the agenda for the day?"

They hadn't really made plans; just that he would stay in LA with them so he wondered how this was going to work. When he stayed with Willa before they’d be alone for the most part and hadn’t had to have a baby around. It was going to be tricky, but he expected that this trip was going to be eye opening.

Wes and Spanky played their cards and Willa turned and slapped down another one then looked up at him, "No agenda today. I just want you and JW to hang out."

"Yeah," Wes said with a smirk on his face, "You two can bond over Barney."

The three other adults in the room laughed then JW let out a laugh too which caused them to laugh even more.

When he spit up a little Willa automatically reached over and took the edge of a tiny cloth and wiped his face. She acted as if she’d been doing it for a million years instead of just a month or so. "That was JW's way of saying that he'd rather watch the Teletubbies. That Barney dinosaur is a loser."

"Sure," Lance said rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"There's coffee in the coffee maker, but I'd microwave it since it's been sitting out a while," Willa called to him.

"No thanks," he said then walked into the kitchen. He'd gotten spoiled ordering at gourmet coffee shops and wasn't about to pour down Folders, "Mind if I look around?"

"Go right ahead," she said leaning over the backside of the chair. She smiled at him, "I’m too lazy to explain where everything is, but there aren’t any crazy things you could find that would end up embarrassing you or making you sick. Just the formula of course."

"Eww," Spanky said, "Don't even joke about that crap. How they can say that is the same thing is milk is beyond me. The board of health should condemn that stuff not promote it. It tastes like crap."

"Ok, first off I don't want to know how you know that," Willa joked, "Remind me never to leave you alone in the house. I know it may sound silly, but admitting you have a drinking problem is the first step to recovery."

"Ha ha," Spanky leaned over and pushed her playfully. "I got some on my hand the other day and licked it off instead of wiping it off. What the hell is wrong with that?"

"Watch your language!" Willa said.

"Yeah!" Lance added from the kitchen. It was probably one of the most hypocritical things he’d ever said, but he wanted to stay in the conversation.

"Like JW is going to start saying that because I said it," Spanky protested.

"You never know," she said.

"That’s right," Wes said, "We all forgot that Willa is SuperMom now."

Lance couldn’t see her from where he’d stuck his head into the refrigerator, but he could tell that she had turned to JW from the tone in her voice. It was a little higher and sweeter when she spoke. "Don’t you listen to Uncle Spanky Mr. JW. He’s got a potty mouth, but we’re going to work on that."

"Potty Mouth?" There was a laugh, "Is that a technical term?"

Willa laughed, "I’m not going to let my son grow up to be like you boys. I’ve heard all of you together. Not a one of you or Lance’s friends can keep their mouth’s clean."

"I brush everyday!" Lance said with a loud laugh.

Her laughter filled the house.

Lance stopped and listened to her laugh. He wasn't sure but he couldn't remember a time in the last year that he'd been happier. He was back with her for the time being and he was enjoying every moment of it when he wasn't getting completely confused by every other thing that was going on between them. "Thanks for the warning," he called.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Willa watched Lance when he came back into the room. The card game had now been slightly forgotten. Wes was sitting in his same spot and was shuffling the cards, but no one had suggested starting another game so they all waited in limbo.

It had been a few weeks since she’d seen Lance and this was giving her a great opportunity to take a look at him again. She’d seen him on television a few times, before he arrived at the airport and her opinion of him hadn’t changed. He’d been looking well, but being up close to him was so much better than watching a live broadcast of him from an awards show or a taped show on MTV.

Lance balanced a bowl of cereal in the palm of his right hand and a spoon in his left as he pulled back the chair where JW’s little carrier was sitting with a pinkie then plopped down in it. She heard a grunt when his butt hit the seat then saw the winced expression on his face. She wasn’t sure if he was acting this way because he was sore from the show the night before or if it was from just general nervousness, but he looked almost in pain due to his uncomfortable nature.

Wanting the silence in the room to be at a minimum Willa watched him for only a short while then reached over and took a raisin out of the bowl in front of him, "Find everything?" She made eye contact with him as she popped the raisin into her mouth and chewed slowly.

He looked at her with a smirk on his face as he stirred the cereal around a little.

"Yes," Lance said. He leaned over the bowl when she reached again for another raisin. "You’re worse than Justin. I can get you some of your own. I know I didn’t pour out the whole box."

Wes let out a small laugh and tapped the cards on the table straightening them into order and looked at Willa. "You aren’t going to take that kind of abuse are you?"

"Abuse?" She asked.

Wes nodded. "Basically being compared to Justin at a moment like this is a huge insult. You’ve been away a while. Unless you’ve forgotten, Justin is the little piglet when it comes to breakfast. So basically he just called you a pig."

"Piglet?" She laughed, "Is that a technical term?"

Wes held up his arms in a surrendering motion, "I just wanted you to know the meaning behind that. I’ve got more experience with my Lance to English dictionary than you do."

"Did you really call me a pig?" Willa asked looking at Lance as she pushed herself out of her chair.

"Not really," he said, "I mean I did, but I didn’t mean it." He shrugged and looked even more nervous.

Willa went over a put a hand on the top of Lance’s head and pulled his head back so he was looking up at her. "Where can I get a copy of that Lance to English dictionary?" She asked with a smile trying to reassure him that she was just joking.

"I’ll get you a copy," Wes said.

She’d gotten caught in his eyes. It was a dangerous thing to do and she thought for a moment that she could have stayed like that forever. She could have leaned and kissed him then. There was this smile in his eyes, a smile she’d missed the last few months and she wanted to capture the moment, but the other occupants of the room detained her from her goal.

"Thank you so much for dressing for brunch," she said and pushed his head forward, "Being on the road has made you lazy. You aren’t going to throw a rock star fit are you? Where’s my newspaper? Where’s my double latte decaf?" Her mocking tone made everyone laugh.

"Be careful girl," Wes said, "Or we’ll have to take this outside."

"What a nerd," Willa said and disappeared into the kitchen for a minute.

"Are you going to let her treat me like this?" Wes asked Lance.

"I love you too," Lance said sarcastically to Wes in between bites.

"You were the one who said it in the first place," Wes said.

"Well you didn’t have to point it out to her," he said, "I guess I won’t have to buy you that spotlight for Christmas since you seem to be doing fine on your own."

"You love me though," Wes said and was about to throw him the finger when Willa caught his eye.

"Don’t you dare Wes or you’ll be sleeping on the porch tonight. I don’t care if you are his guard. You’re going to need protection if you do that in front of JW."

"He started it," Wes said with a slight mocking whine to his voice.

Willa sighed sitting herself back at the table. "Now boys. I have a few years before I have to deal with a bickering little boy and although I’m sure you think that the practice will be good for me, I don’t think I need to practice something like that."

"Sorry Willa," Wes said.

***

Willa had been sitting on the couch in front of the television with JW resting at her side for almost an hour when Lance finally returned from taking his shower and getting dressed. She barely heard him return to the living room, but when she did feel his presence in the room all the hairs on her arms stood on end.

"Taking a nap already?" He asked.

"I’ve been up since four this morning. JW seems to be living on East Coast time for the moment," she said with a sigh.

"Why don’t you go take a nap or something?" He suggested.

"It’s ok." She watched a smile come to his face when she yawned. "We need to talk anyway."

"Talk?" He asked.

Willa pursed her lips and looked at him, "We have to make arrangements so that you and I both get time to spend with JW."

"Oh." He came around the couch and found a seat next to her on the couch.

"I’ve been thinking about moving back to New York or to Seattle to be near my parents."

"Why?" He asked, "I thought you liked it here."

"It’s ok," she said.

She watched him eyeing where JW was laying on the couch. His hand slowly moved over and rubbed his son’s stomach.

"I thought you wouldn’t want to live with your mother again. I thought she was totally bugging you when she was here last."

"She was," she said with a sigh, "Speaking of that...have you talked to your parents about us."

"Stacey knows about the two of you and I’m guessing that my parents already know. I haven’t heard much out of them, but I’m not sure if that’s because they are upset with me or if its because FreeLance is just keeping them running around."

"Oh."

"You want to plan a trip out to Mississippi to see them in a few weeks."

"Maybe after the New Year," she said, "I’m going to have to go up to my parents for Thanksgiving and I think after that I’m going to have to recover for a while before I go anywhere."

"Come and spend Christmas with me and the guys in Florida," he said suddenly said. He wasn’t looking at her when he said it, but when he turned and looked at her he had this worried look in his eyes as if he was almost scared that she would refuse his offer.

"I think we could do that," she said, "But I would want to do something low key. Spanky has been stuck here with me for the last few months and I was planning on sending him on a vacation for two weeks. I don’t really care where he goes, but he needs a break."

"I’ll make some plans for him."

"You don’t have to do that," she said, "He’s my guard. I’ll arrange it for him."

"I was just going to suggest that he go out to Hawaii for some time," Lance said, "Stacey and Ford have a condo out there now and I thought that I’d offer him the use of it for the week."

"Oh."

"What’d you think I’d do?" He asked, "Just throw money at him or something?"

"No," she said.

The tension between them returned for a moment. It was only stopped by the fact that JW was starting to fuss.

"I should go change him," she said. She gathered the little boy up in her arms and smiled down at their son and said in a cutesy baby voice, "My little pooper needs a new diaper."

Willa began to leave the room and she felt Lance’s presence behind her so she stopped. She was just down the hall when he bumped into her. She instinctively clutched onto JW and to her surprise immediately felt his arms slide around her to steady her so that she wouldn’t drop JW.

"Where are you going?" She asked looking over her shoulder to look at him.

"You ok?" He asked.

She nodded, "So where were you going?"

"To help," he said simply.

"What?" She couldn’t help but to looked shocked at his admission. He had come into town to see them, but she hadn’t expected him to be that involved. Actually she didn’t want to believe that he would be that way because she didn’t want to get hurt again if he suddenly disappeared again.

Lance removed his hands from her shoulders. "I thought that I’d help out. He’s my son and I need to start taking care of him."

"Thank you Mr. After-School-Special," she said with a mocking tone.

"What the hell Willa?" He said angrily.

"Don’t raise your voice like that. You’re scaring JW," she said pulling the baby against her tighter.

"What?" He asked. He sounded exhausted with this little back and forth banter. "I leave you alone and you get mad at me and now I actually want to help out and you get mad at me. Can you please explain your rationale so I can follow the rules?"

Willa blushed with embarrassment. "I’m sorry," she said.

"You know, I know that I was stupid for not being there for JW and you before this, but I am trying to be here. I just don’t know what you want from me."

NEXT

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